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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: The Method Observed in the History of the Creation, in Reply to the Perverse Interpretation of Hermogenes.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXVI.—The Method Observed in the History of the Creation, in Reply to the Perverse Interpretation of Hermogenes.

We, however, have but one God, and but p. 492 one earth too, which in the beginning God made. 6366 The Scripture, which at its very outset proposes to run through the order thereof tells us as its first information that it was created; it next proceeds to set forth what sort of earth it was. 6367 In like manner with respect to the heaven, it informs us first of its creation—“In the beginning God made the heaven:” 6368 it then goes on to introduce its arrangement; how that God both separated “the water which was below the firmament from that which was above the firmament,” 6369 and called the firmament heaven, 6370 —the very thing He had created in the beginning.  Similarly it (afterwards) treats of man:  “And God created man, in the image of God made He him.” 6371 It next reveals how He made him: “And (the Lord) God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” 6372 Now this is undoubtedly 6373 the correct and fitting mode for the narrative.  First comes a prefatory statement, then follow the details in full; 6374 first the subject is named, then it is described. 6375 How absurd is the other view of the account, 6376 when even before he 6377 had premised any mention of his subject, i.e. Matter, without even giving us its name, he all on a sudden promulged its form and condition, describing to us its quality before mentioning its existence,—pointing out the figure of the thing formed, but concealing its name! But how much more credible is our opinion, which holds that Scripture has only subjoined the arrangement of the subject after it has first duly described its formation and mentioned its name!  Indeed, how full and complete 6378 is the meaning of these words: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth; but 6379 the earth was without form, and void,” 6380 —the very same earth, no doubt, which God made, and of which the Scripture had been speaking at that very moment. 6381 For that very “but” 6382 is inserted into the narrative like a clasp, 6383 (in its function) of a conjunctive particle, to connect the two sentences indissolubly together: “But the earth.” This word carries back the mind to that earth of which mention had just been made, and binds the sense thereunto. 6384 Take away this “but,” and the tie is loosened; so much so that the passage, “But the earth was without form, and void,” may then seem to have been meant for any other earth.



Gen. i. 1.


Qualitatem ejus: unless this means “how He made it,” like the “qualiter fecerit” below.


Gen. i. 1.


Gen. i. 7.


Gen. 1.8.


Gen. i. 27.


Gen. ii. 7.






Primo præfari, postea prosequi; nominare, deinde describere. This properly is an abstract statement, given with Tertullian’s usual terseness: “First you should (‘decet’) give your preface, then follow up with details:  first name your subject, then describe it.”




Hermogenes, whose view of the narrative is criticised.






Gen. 1:1, 2.


Cum maxime edixerat.


The “autem” of the note just before this.




Alligat sensum.

Next: Some Hair-Splitting Use of Words in Which His Opponent Had Indulged.

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