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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Hermogenes Held to His Theory in Order that Its Absurdity May Be Exposed on His Own Principles.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VII.—Hermogenes Held to His Theory in Order that Its Absurdity May Be Exposed on His Own Principles.

When he contends that matter is less than God, and inferior to Him, and therefore diverse from Him, and for the same reason not a fit subject of comparison with Him, who is a greater and superior Being, I meet him with this prescription, that what is eternal and unborn is incapable of any diminution and inferiority, because it is simply this which makes even God to be as great as He is, inferior and subject to none—nay, greater and higher than all.  For, just as all things which are born, or which come to an end, and are therefore not eternal, do, by reason of their exposure at once to an end and a beginning, admit of qualities which are repugnant to God—I mean diminution and inferiority, because they are born and made—so likewise God, for this very reason, is unsusceptible of these accidents, because He is absolutely unborn, 6194 and also unmade. And yet such also is the condition of Matter. 6195 Therefore, of the two Beings which are eternal, as being unborn and unmade—God and Matter—by reason of the identical mode of their common condition (both of them equally possessing that which admits neither of diminution nor subjection—that is, the attribute of eternity), we affirm that neither of them is less or greater than the other, neither of them is inferior or superior to the other; but that they both stand on a par in greatness, on a par in sublimity, and on the same level of that complete and perfect felicity of which eternity is reckoned to consist.  Now we must not resemble the heathen in our opinions; for they, when constrained to acknowledge God, insist on having other deities below Him. The Divinity, however, has no degrees, because it is unique; and if it shall be found in Matter—as being equally unborn and unmade and eternal—it must be resident in both alike, 6196 because in no case can it be inferior to itself. In what way, then, will Hermogenes have the courage to draw distinctions; and thus to subject matter to God, an eternal to the Eternal, an unborn to the Unborn, an author to the Author? seeing that it dares to say, I also am the first; I too am before all things; and I am that from which all things proceed; equal we have been, together we have been—both alike without beginning, without end; both alike without an Author, without a God. 6197 What God, then, is He who subjects me to a contemporaneous, co-eternal power? If it be He who is called God, then I myself, too, have my own (divine) name. Either I am God, or He is Matter, because we both are that which neither of us is. Do you suppose, therefore, that he 6198 has not made Matter equal with God, although, forsooth, he pretends it to be inferior to Him?


Footnotes

481:6194

Nec natus omnino.

481:6195

Of course, according to Hermogenes, whom Tertullian refutes with an argumentum ad hominem.

481:6196

Aderit utrobique.

481:6197

That is, having no God superior to themselves.

481:6198

Hermogenes.


Next: On His Own Principles, Hermogenes Makes Matter, on the Whole, Superior to God.

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