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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: These Heretics Brand the Christians as Simple Persons. The Charge Accepted, and Simplicity Eulogized Out of the Scriptures.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter II.—These Heretics Brand the Christians as Simple Persons.  The Charge Accepted, and Simplicity Eulogized Out of the Scriptures.

For this reason we are branded 6629 by them as simple, and as being merely so, without being wise also; as if indeed wisdom were compelled to be wanting in simplicity, whereas the Lord unites them both: “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and simple as doves.” 6630 Now if we, on our parts, be accounted foolish because we are simple, does it then follow that they are not simple because they are wise? Most perverse, however, are they who are not simple, even as they are most foolish who are not wise. And yet, (if I must choose) I should prefer taking 6631 the latter condition for the lesser fault; since it is perhaps better to have a wisdom which falls short in quantity, than that which is bad in quality 6632 —better to be in error than to mislead. Besides, the face of the Lord 6633 is patiently waited for by those who “seek Him in simplicity of heart,” as says the very Wisdom—not of Valentinus, but—of Solomon. 6634 Then, again, infants have borne 6635 by their blood a testimony to Christ.  (Would you say) that it was children who shouted “Crucify Him”? 6636 They were neither children nor infants; in other words, they were not simple. The apostle, too, bids us to “become children again” towards God, 6637 “to be as children in malice” by our simplicity, yet as being also “wise in our practical faculties.” 6638 At the same time, with respect to the order of development in Wisdom, I have admitted 6639 that it flows from simplicity. In brief, “the dove” has usually served to figure Christ; “the serpent,” to tempt Him. The one even from the first has been the harbinger of divine peace; the other from the beginning has been the despoiler of the divine image.  Accordingly, simplicity alone 6640 will be more easily able to know and to declare God, whereas wisdom alone will rather do Him violence, 6641 and betray Him.





Matt. x. 16.


In the original the phrase is put passively: “malim eam partem meliori sumi vitio.”


How terse is the original! minus sapere quam pejus.


Facies Dei.


Wisd. of Sol. i. 1.


Litaverunt: “consecrated.”


Tertullian’s words are rather suggestive of sense than of syntax:  “Pueros vocem qui crucem clamant?”


Secundum Deum: “according to God’s will.”


1 Cor. xiv. 20, where Tertullian renders the ταῖς φρεσί (A.V. “understanding”) by “sensibus.”




i.e., without wisdom.



Next: The Folly of This Heresy.  It Dissects and Mutilates the Deity.  Contrasted with the Simple Wisdom of True Religion. To Expose the Absurdities of the Valentinian System is to Destroy It.

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