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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Sundry Inevitable But Intolerable Conclusions from the Principles of Hermogenes.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IX.—Sundry Inevitable But Intolerable Conclusions from the Principles of Hermogenes.

He cannot say that it was as its Lord that God employed Matter for His creative works, for He could not have been the Lord of a substance which was co-equal with Himself. Well, but perhaps it was a title derived from the will of another, 6208 which he enjoyed—a precarious holding, and not a lordship, 6209 and that to such a degree, that 6210 although Matter was evil, He yet endured to make use of an evil substance, owing, of course, to the restraint of His own limited power, 6211 which made Him impotent to create out of nothing, not in consequence of His power; for if, as God, He had at all possessed power over Matter which He knew to be evil, He would first have converted it into good—as its Lord and the good God—that so He might have a good thing to make use of, instead of a bad one. But being undoubtedly good, only not the Lord withal, He, by using such power 6212 as He possessed, showed the necessity He was under of yielding to the condition of Matter, which He would have amended if He had been its Lord. Now this is the answer which must be given to Hermogenes when he maintains that it was by virtue of His Lordship that God used Matter—even of His non-possession of any right to it, on the ground, of course, of His not having Himself made it.  Evil then, on your terms, 6213 must proceed from God Himself, since He is—I will not say the Author of evil, because He did not form it, but—the permitter thereof, as having dominion over it. 6214 If indeed Matter shall prove not even to belong to God at all, as being evil, it follows, 6215 that when He made use of what belonged to another, He used it either on a precarious title 6216 because He was in need of it, or else by violent possession because He was stronger than it. For by three methods is the property of others obtained,—by right, by permission, by violence; in other words, by lordship, by a title derived from the will of another, 6217 by force. Now, as lordship is out of the question, Hermogenes must choose which (of the other methods) is suitable to God. Did He, then, make all things out of Matter, by permission, or by force?  But, in truth, would not God have more wisely determined that nothing at all should be created, than that it should be created by the mere sufferance of another, or by violence, and that, too, with 6218 a substance which was evil?



We have rather paraphrased the word “precario”—“obtained by prayer.” [See p. 456.]


Domino: opposed to “precario.”






Tali: i.e. potestate.


Jam ergo: introducing an argumentum ad hominem against Hermogenes.


Quia dominator.




Aut precario: “as having begged for it.”


Precario: See above, note 2, p. 482.


De is often in Tertullian the sign of an instrumental noun.

Next: To What Straits Hermogenes Absurdly Reduces the Divine Being. He Does Nothing Short of Making Him the Author of Evil.