Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: Christ Took Not on Him an Angelic Nature, But the Human. It Was Men, Not Angels, Whom He Came to Save.
Chapter XIV.—Christ Took Not on Him an Angelic Nature, But the Human. It Was Men, Not Angels, Whom He Came to Save.
But Christ, they say, bare 7138 (the nature of) an angel. For what reason? The same which induced Him to become man? Christ, then, was actuated by the motive which led Him to take human nature. Mans salvation was the motive, the restoration of that which had perished. Man had perished; his recovery had become necessary. No such cause, however, existed for Christs taking on Him the nature of angels. For although there is assigned to angels also perdition in “the fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” 7139 yet a restoration is never promised to them. No charge about the salvation of angels did Christ ever receive from the Father; and that which the Father neither promised nor commanded, Christ could not have undertaken. For what object, therefore, did He bear the angelic nature, if it were not (that He might have it) as a powerful helper 7140 wherewithal to execute the salvation of man? p. 534 The Son of God, in sooth, was not competent alone to deliver man, whom a solitary and single serpent had overthrown! There is, then, no longer but one God, but one Saviour, if there be two to contrive salvation, and one of them in need of the other. But was it His object indeed to deliver man by an angel? Why, then, come down to do that which He was about to expedite with an angels help? If by an angels aid, why come Himself also? If He meant to do all by Himself, why have an angel too? He has been, it is true, called “the Angel of great counsel,” that is, a messenger, by a term expressive of official function, not of nature. For He had to announce to the world the mighty purpose of the Father, even that which ordained the restoration of man. But He is not on this account to be regarded as an angel, as a Gabriel or a Michael. For the Lord of the Vineyard sends even His Son to the labourers to require fruit, as well as His servants. Yet the Son will not therefore be counted as one of the servants because He undertook the office of a servant. I may, then, more easily say, if such an expression is to be hazarded, 7141 that the Son is actually an angel, that is, a messenger, from the Father, than that there is an angel in the Son. Forasmuch, however, as it has been declared concerning the Son Himself, “Thou hast made Him a little lower than the angels” 7142 how will it appear that He put on the nature of angels if He was made lower than the angels, having become man, with flesh and soul as the Son of man? As “the Spirit 7143 of God,” however, and “the Power of the Highest,” 7144 can He be regarded as lower than the angels,—He who is verily God, and the Son of God? Well, but as bearing human nature, He is so far made inferior to the angels; but as bearing angelic nature, He to the same degree loses that inferiority. This opinion will be very suitable for Ebion, 7145 who holds Jesus to be a mere man, and nothing more than a descendant of David, and not also the Son of God; although He is, to be sure, 7146 in one respect more glorious than the prophets, inasmuch as he declares that there was an angel in Him, just as there was in Zechariah. Only it was never said by Christ, “And the angel, which spake within me, said unto me.” 7147 Neither, indeed, was ever used by Christ that familiar phrase of all the prophets, “Thus saith the Lord.” For He was Himself the Lord, who openly spake by His own authority, prefacing His words with the formula, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” What need is there of further argument? Hear what Isaiah says in emphatic words, “It was no angel, nor deputy, but the Lord Himself who saved them.” 7148
Matt. xxv. 41.533:7140
Ps. viii. 5.534:7143
For this designation of the divine nature in Christ, see our Anti-Marcion, p. 247, note 7, Edin.534:7144
Luke i. 35.534:7145
Zech. i. 14.534:7148
Isa. lxiii. 9.
Next: The Valentinian Figment of Christ's Flesh Being of a Spiritual Nature, Examined and Refuted Out of Scripture.
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