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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: A Brief Reference to the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. Their Agreement with St. John, in Respect to the Distinct Personality of the Father and the Son.

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Chapter XXVI.—A Brief Reference to the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. Their Agreement with St. John, in Respect to the Distinct Personality of the Father and the Son.

In addition to Philip’s conversation, and p. 622 the Lord’s reply to it, the reader will observe that we have run through John’s Gospel to show that many other passages of a clear purport, both before and after that chapter, are only in strict accord with that single and prominent statement, which must be interpreted agreeably to all other places, rather than in opposition to them, and indeed to its own inherent and natural sense. I will not here largely use the support of the other Gospels, which confirm our belief by the Lord’s nativity: it is sufficient to remark that He who had to be born of a virgin is announced in express terms by the angel himself as the Son of God: “The Spirit of God shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also the Holy Thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” 8125 On this passage even they will wish to raise a cavil; but truth will prevail. Of course, they say, the Son of God is God, and the power of the highest is the Most High. And they do not hesitate to insinuate 8126 what, if it had been true, would have been written. Whom was he 8127 so afraid of as not plainly to declare, “God shall come upon thee, and the Highest shall overshadow thee?” Now, by saying “the Spirit of God” (although the Spirit of God is God,) and by not directly naming God, he wished that portion 8128 of the whole Godhead to be understood, which was about to retire into the designation of “the Son.” The Spirit of God in this passage must be the same as the Word. For just as, when John says, “The Word was made flesh,” 8129 we understand the Spirit also in the mention of the Word: so here, too, we acknowledge the Word likewise in the name of the Spirit. For both the Spirit is the substance of the Word, and the Word is the operation of the Spirit, and the Two are One (and the same). 8130 Now John must mean One when he speaks of Him as “having been made flesh,” and the angel Another when he announces Him as “about to be born,” if the Spirit is not the Word, and the Word the Spirit. For just as the Word of God is not actually He whose Word He is, so also the Spirit (although He is called God) is not actually He whose Spirit He is said to be. Nothing which belongs to something else is actually the very same thing as that to which it belongs. Clearly, when anything proceeds from a personal subject, 8131 and so belongs to him, since it comes from him, it may possibly be such in quality exactly as the personal subject himself is from whom it proceeds, and to whom it belongs. And thus the Spirit is God, and the Word is God, because proceeding from God, but yet is not actually the very same as He from whom He proceeds. Now that which is God of God, although He is an actually existing thing, 8132 yet He cannot be God Himself 8133 (exclusively), but so far God as He is of the same substance as God Himself, and as being an actually existing thing, and as a portion of the Whole. Much more will “the power of the Highest” not be the Highest Himself, because It is not an actually existing thing, as being Spirit—in the same way as the wisdom (of God) and the providence (of God) is not God: these attributes are not substances, but the accidents of the particular substance. Power is incidental to the Spirit, but cannot itself be the Spirit.  These things, therefore, whatsoever they are—(I mean) the Spirit of God, and the Word and the Power—having been conferred on the Virgin, that which is born of her is the Son of God. This He Himself, in those other Gospels also, testifies Himself to have been from His very boyhood: “Wist ye not,” says He, “that I must be about my Father’s business?” 8134 Satan likewise knew Him to be this in his temptations: “Since Thou art the Son of God.” 8135 This, accordingly, the devils also acknowledge Him to be: “we know Thee, who Thou art, the Holy Son of God.” 8136 His “Father” He Himself adores. 8137 When acknowledged by Peter as the “Christ (the Son) of God,” 8138 He does not deny the relation. He exults in spirit when He says to the Father, “I thank Thee, O Father, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent.” 8139 He, moreover, affirms also that to no man is the Father known, but to His Son8140 and promises that, as the Son of the Father, He will confess those who confess Him, and deny those who deny Him, before His Father. 8141 He also introduces a parable of the mission to the vineyard of the Son (not the Father), who was sent after so many servants, 8142 and slain by the husbandmen, and p. 623 avenged by the Father. He is also ignorant of the last day and hour, which is known to the Father only. 8143 He awards the kingdom to His disciples, as He says it had been appointed to Himself by the Father. 8144 He has power to ask, if He will, legions of angels from the Father for His help. 8145 He exclaims that God had forsaken Him. 8146 He commends His spirit into the hands of the Father. 8147 After His resurrection He promises in a pledge to His disciples that He will send them the promise of His Father; 8148 and lastly, He commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, not into a unipersonal God. 8149 And indeed it is not once only, but three times, that we are immersed into the Three Persons, at each several mention of Their names.



Luke i. 35.




i.e., the angel of the Annunciation.


On this not strictly defensible term of Tertullian, see Bp. Bull’s Defence of the Nicene Creed, book ii. ch. vii. sec. 5, Translation, pp. 199, 200.


John i. 14.


“The selfsame Person is understood under the appellation both of Spirit and Word, with this difference only, that He is called ‘the Spirit of God,’ so far as He is a Divine Person,…and ‘the Word,’ so far as He is the Spirit in operation, proceeding with sound and vocal utterance from God to set the universe in order.”—Bp. Bull, Def. Nic. Creed, p. 535, Translation.


Ex ipso.


Substantiva res.


Ipse Deus: i.e., God so wholly as to exclude by identity every other person.


Luke ii. 49.


Matt. 4:3, 6.


Mark 1:24, Matt. 8:29.


Matt. 11:25, 26, Luke 10:21, John 11:41.


Matt. xvi. 17.


Matt. xi. 25.


Matt. 11:27, Luke 10:22.


Matt. 10:32, 33.


Matt. xxi. 33-41.


Matt. xxiv. 36.


Luke xxii. 29.


Matt. xxvi. 53.


Matt. xxvii. 46.


Luke xxiii. 46.


Luke xxiv. 49.


Non in unum.

Next: The Distinction of the Father and the Son, Thus Established, He Now Proves the Distinction of the Two Natures, Which Were, Without Confusion, United in the Person of the Son. The Subterfuges of Praxeas Thus Exposed.

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