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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Strange Account of the Origin of Matter, from the Various Affections of Achamoth. The Waters from Her Tears; Light from Her Smile.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XV.—Strange Account of the Origin of Matter, from the Various Affections of Achamoth.  The Waters from Her Tears; Light from Her Smile.

Well, now, the Pythagoreans may learn, the Stoics may know, Plato himself (may discover), whence Matter, which they will have to be unborn, derived both its origin and substance for all this pile of the world—(a mystery) which not even the renowned 6776 Mercurius Trismegistus, master (as he was) of all p. 512 physical philosophy, thought out. 6777 You have just heard of “Conversion,” one element in the “Passion” (we have so often mentioned). Out of this the whole life of the world, 6778 and even that of the Demiurge himself, our God, is said to have had its being. Again, you have heard of “sorrow” and “fear.” From these all other created things 6779 took their beginning. For from her 6780 tears flowed the entire mass of waters.  From this circumstance one may form an idea of the calamity 6781 which she encountered, so vast were the kinds of the tears wherewith she overflowed. She had salt tear-drops, she had bitter, and sweet, and warm, and cold, and bituminous, and ferruginous, and sulphurous, and even 6782 poisonous, so that the Nonacris exuded therefrom which killed Alexander; and the river of the Lyncestæ 6783 flowed from the same source, which produces drunkenness; and the Salmacis 6784 was derived from the same source, which renders men effeminate. The rains of heaven Achamoth whimpered forth, 6785 and we on our part are anxiously employed in saving up in our cisterns the very wails and tears of another. In like manner, from the “consternation” and “alarm” (of which we have also heard), bodily elements were derived. And yet amidst so many circumstances of solitude, in this vast prospect of destitution, she occasionally smiled at the recollection of the sight of Christ, and from this smile of joy light flashed forth.  How great was this beneficence of Providence, which induced her to smile, and all that we might not linger for ever in the dark! Nor need you feel astonished how 6786 from her joy so splendid an element 6787 could have beamed upon the world, when from her sadness even so necessary a provision 6788 flowed forth for man. O illuminating smile! O irrigating tear! And yet it might now have acted as some alleviation amidst the horror of her situation; for she might have shaken off all the obscurity thereof as often as she had a mind to smile, even not to be obliged to turn suppliant to those who had deserted her. 6789







“Omnis anima hujus mundi” may, however, mean “every living soul.”  So Bp. Kaye, On Tertullian, p. 487.










These two rivers, with their peculiar qualities, are mentioned by Pliny, H. N. ii. 103; [and the latter by Milton against Salmasius.]


Ovid. Metam. iv. 286.






As light.


Instrumentum: water is meant.


Christ and the Holy Spirit. Oehler.

Next: Achamoth Purified from All Impurities of Her Passion by the Paraclete, Acting Through Soter, Who Out of the Above-Mentioned Impurities Arranges Matter, Separating Its Evil from the Better Qualities.

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