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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Some Hair-Splitting Use of Words in Which His Opponent Had Indulged.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXVII.—Some Hair-Splitting Use of Words in Which His Opponent Had Indulged.

But you next praise your eyebrows, and toss back your head, and beckon with your finger, in characteristic disdain, 6385 and say: There is the was, looking as if it pointed to an eternal existence,—making its subject, of course, unbegotten and unmade, and on that account worthy of being supposed to be Matter. Well now, for my own part, I shall resort to no affected protestation, 6386 but simply reply that “was” may be predicated of everything—even of a thing which has been created, which was born, which once was not, and which is not your Matter. For of everything which has being, from whatever source it has it, whether it has it by a beginning or without a beginning, the word “was” will be predicated from the very fact that it exists. To whatever thing the first tense 6387 of the verb is applicable for definition, to the same will be suitable the later form 6388 of the verb, when it has to descend to relation. “Est” (it is) forms the essential part 6389 of a definition, “erat” (it was) of a relation.  Such are the trifles and subtleties of heretics, who wrest and bring into question the simple meaning of the commonest words. A grand question it is, to be sure, 6390 whether “the earth was,” which was made! The real point of discussion is, whether “being without form, and void,” is a state which is more suitable to that which was created, or to that of which it was created, so that the predicate (was) may appertain to the same thing to which the subject (that which was) also belongs. 6391



Implied in the emphatic tu.


Sine u lo lenocinio pronunciationis.


Prima positio: the first inflection perhaps, i.e. the present tense.


Declinatio: the past tense.






This seems to be the meaning of the obscure passage, “Ut ejusdem sit Erat cujus et quod erat.”

Next: A Curious Inconsistency in Hermogenes Exposed. Certain Expressions in The History of Creation Vindicated in The True Sense.

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