Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: Chapter I
Against Praxeas; 7766
In Which He Defends, in all Essential Points, the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity. 7767
[Translated by Dr. Holmes.]
Chapter I.—Satans Wiles Against the Truth. How They Take the Form of the Praxean Heresy. Account of the Publication of This Heresy.
In various ways has the devil rivalled and resisted the truth. Sometimes his aim has been to destroy the truth by defending it. He maintains that there is one only Lord, the Almighty Creator of the world, in order that out of this doctrine of the unity he may fabricate a heresy. He says that the Father Himself came down into the Virgin, was Himself born of her, Himself suffered, indeed was Himself Jesus Christ. Here the old serpent has fallen out with himself, since, when he tempted Christ after Johns baptism, he approached Him as “the Son of God;” surely intimating that God had a Son, even on the testimony of the very Scriptures, out of which he was at the moment forging his temptation: “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” 7768 Again: “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence; 7769 for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee”—referring no doubt, to the Father—“and in their hands they shall bear thee up, that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone.” 7770 Or perhaps, after all, he was only reproaching the Gospels with a lie, saying in fact: “Away with Matthew; away with Luke! Why heed their words? In spite of them, I declare that it was God Himself that I approached; it was the Almighty Himself that I tempted face to face; and it was for no other purpose than to tempt Him that I approached Him. If, on the contrary, it had been only the Son of God, most likely I should never have condescended to deal with Him.” However, he is himself a liar from the beginning, 7771 and whatever man he instigates in his own way; as, for instance, Praxeas. For he was the first to import into Rome from Asia this kind of heretical pravity, a man in other respects of restless disposition, and above all inflated with the pride of confessorship simply and solely because he had to bear for a short time the annoyance of a prison; on which occasion, even “if he had given his body to be burned, it would have profited him nothing,” not having the love of God, 7772 whose very gifts he has resisted and destroyed. For after the Bishop of Rome 7773 had acknowledged the prophetic gifts of Montanus, Prisca, and Maximilla, and, in consequence of the acknowledgment, had bestowed his peace 7774 on the churches of Asia and Phrygia, he, by importunately urging false accusations against the prophets themselves and their churches, and insisting on the authority of the bishops predecessors in the see, compelled him to recall the pacific letter which he had issued, as well as to desist from his purpose of acknowledging the said gifts. By this Praxeas did a twofold service for the devil at Rome: he drove away prophecy, and he brought in heresy; he put to flight the Paraclete, and he crucified the Father. Praxeas tares had been moreover sown, and had produced their fruit here also, 7775 while many p. 598 were asleep in their simplicity of doctrine; but these tares actually seemed to have been plucked up, having been discovered and exposed by him whose agency God was pleased to employ. Indeed, Praxeas had deliberately resumed his old (true) faith, teaching it after his renunciation of error; and there is his own handwriting in evidence remaining among the carnally-minded, 7776 in whose society the transaction then took place; afterwards nothing was heard of him. We indeed, on our part, subsequently withdrew from the carnally-minded on our acknowledgment and maintenance of the Paraclete. 7777 But the tares of Praxeas had then everywhere shaken out their seed, which having lain hid for some while, with its vitality concealed under a mask, has now broken out with fresh life. But again shall it be rooted up, if the Lord will, even now; but if not now, in the day when all bundles of tares shall be gathered together, and along with every other stumbling-block shall be burnt up with unquenchable fire. 7778
The error of Praxeas appears to have originated in anxiety to maintain the unity of God; which, he thought, could only be done by saying that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost were one and the same. He contended, therefore, according to Tertullian, that the Father himself descended into the virgin, was born of her, suffered, and was in a word Jesus Christ. From the most startling of the deductions from Praxeas general theory, his opponents gave him and his followers the name of Patripassians; from another point in his teaching they were called Monarchians. [Probable date not earlier than a.d. 208].597:7767
Matt. iv. 3.597:7769
Ps. xci. 11.597:7771
John viii. 44.597:7772
1 Cor. xiii. 3.597:7773
Probably Victor. [Elucidation II.]597:7774
Had admitted them to communion.597:7775
“The connection renders it very probable that the hic quoque of this sentence forms an antithesis to Rome, mentioned before, and that Tertullian expresses himself as if he had written from the very spot where these things had transpired. Hence we are led to conclude that it was Carthage.”—Neander, Antignostikus, ii. 519, note 2, Bohn.598:7776
On the designation Psychici, see our Anti-Marcion, p. 263, note 5, Edin.598:7777
[This statement may only denote a withdrawal from the communion of the Bishop of Rome, like that of Cyprian afterwards. That prelate had stultified himself and broken faith with Tertullian; but, it does not, necessarily, as Bp. Bull too easily concludes, define his ultimate separation from his own bishop and the North-African church.]598:7778
Matt. xiii. 30.
Next: The Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity and Unity, Sometimes Called the Divine Economy, or Dispensation of the Personal Relations of the Godhead.
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