Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: The Brazen Serpent and the Golden Cherubim Were Not Violations of the Second Commandment. Their Meaning.
Chapter XXII.—The Brazen Serpent and the Golden Cherubim Were Not Violations of the Second Commandment. Their Meaning.
Likewise, when forbidding the similitude to be made of all things which are in heaven, and in earth, and in the waters, He declared also the reasons, as being prohibitory of all material exhibition 2963 of a latent 2964 idolatry. For He adds: “Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them.” The form, however, of the brazen serpent which the Lord afterwards commanded Moses to make, afforded no pretext 2965 for idolatry, but was meant for the cure of those who were plagued with the fiery serpents. 2966 I say nothing of what was figured by this cure. 2967 Thus, too, the golden Cherubim and Seraphim were purely an ornament in the figured fashion 2968 of the ark; adapted to ornamentation for reasons totally remote from all condition of idolatry, on account of which the making a likeness is prohibited; and they are evidently not at variance with 2969 this law of prohibition, because they are not found in that form 2970 of similitude, in reference to which the prohibition is given. We have spoken 2971 of the rational institution of the sacrifices, as calling off their homage from idols to God; and if He afterwards rejected this homage, saying, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?” 2972 —He meant nothing else than this to be understood, that He had never really required such homage for Himself. For He says, “I will not eat the flesh of bulls;” 2973 and in another passage: “The everlasting God shall neither hunger nor thirst.” 2974 Although He had respect to the offerings of Abel, and smelled a sweet savour from the holocaust of Noah, yet what pleasure could He receive from the flesh of sheep, or the odour of burning victims? And yet the simple and God-fearing mind of those who offered what they were receiving from God, both in the way of food and of a sweet smell, was favourably accepted before God, in the sense of respectful homage 2975 to God, who did not so much want what was offered, as that which prompted the offering. Suppose now, that some dependant were to offer to a rich man or a king, who was in want of nothing, some very insignificant gift, will the amount and quality of the gift bring dishonour 2976 to the rich man and the king; or will the consideration 2977 of the homage give them pleasure? Were, however, the dependant, either of his own accord or even in compliance with a command, to present to him gifts suitably to his rank, and were he to observe the solemnities due to a king, only without faith and purity of heart, and without any readiness for other acts of obedience, will not that king or rich man consequently exclaim: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? I am full of your solemnities, your feast-days, and your Sabbaths.” 2978 By calling them yours, as having been performed 2979 after the givers own will, and not according to the religion of God (since he displayed them as his own, and not as Gods), the Almighty in this passage, demonstrated how suitable to the conditions of the case, and how reasonable, was His rejection of those very offerings which He had commanded to be made to Him.
Titulum. [See Vol. II. p. 477, this series.]314:2966
Num. 21:8, 9.314:2967
See John iii. 14.314:2968
In chap. xviii. towards the end. [p. 311, supra.]314:2972
Isa. i. 11.314:2973
Ps. l. 13.314:2974
An inexact quotation of Isa. 40:0, Isa. 28:0.314:2975
See Isa. i. 11-14.314:2979
Fecerat seems the better reading: q.d. “which he had performed,” etc. Oehler reads fecerant.
Next: God's Purposes in Election and Rejection of the Same Men, Such as King Saul, Explained, in Answer to the Marcionite Cavil.
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