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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Chapter VII.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VII.

If the scorpion, swinging his tail in the air, still reproach us with having a murderer for our God, I shall shudder at the altogether foul breath of blasphemy which comes stinking from his heretical mouth; but I will embrace even such a God, with assurance derived from reason, by which reason even He Himself has, in the person of His own Wisdom, by the lips of Solomon, proclaimed Himself to be more than a murderer: Wisdom (Sophia), says He has slain her own children. 8257 Sophia is Wisdom. She has certainly slain them wisely if only into life, and reasonably if only into glory. Of murder by a parent, oh the clever form! Oh the dexterity of crime! Oh the proof of cruelty, which has slain for this reason, that he whom it may have slain may not die! And therefore what follows? Wisdom is praised in hymns, in the places of egress; for the death of martyrs also is praised in song. Wisdom behaves with firmness in the streets, for with good results does she murder her own sons. 8258 Nay, on the top of the walls she speaks with assurance, when indeed, according to Esaias, this one calls out, “I am God’s;” and this one shouts, “In the name of Jacob;” and another writes, “In the name of Israel.” 8259 O good mother! I myself also wish to be put among the number of her sons, that I may be slain by her; I wish to be slain, that I may become a son. But does she merely murder her sons, or also torture them? For I hear God also, in another passage, say, “I will burn them as gold is burned, and will try them as silver is tried.” 8260 Certainly by the means of torture which fires and punishments supply, by the testing martyrdoms of faith. The apostle also knows what kind of God he has ascribed to us, when he writes: “If God spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us, how did He not with Him also give us all things?” 8261 You see how divine Wisdom has murdered even her own proper, p. 640 first-born and only Son, who is certainly about to live, nay, to bring back the others also into life. I can say with the Wisdom of God; It is Christ who gave Himself up for our offences. 8262 Already has Wisdom butchered herself also. The character of words depends not on the sound only, but on the meaning also, and they must be heard not merely by ears, but also by minds. He who does not understand, believes God to be cruel; although for him also who does not understand, an announcement has been made to restrain his harshness in understanding otherwise than aright. “For who,” says the apostle, “has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been His counsellor, to teach Him? or who has pointed out to Him the way of understanding?” 8263 But, indeed, the world has held it lawful for Diana of the Scythians, or Mercury of the Gauls, or Saturn of the Africans, to be appeased by human sacrifices; and in Latium to this day Jupiter has human blood given him to taste in the midst of the city; and no one makes it a matter of discussion, or imagines that it does not occur for some reason, or that it occurs by the will of his God, without having value. If our God, too, to have a sacrifice of His own, had required martyrdoms for Himself, who would have reproached Him for the deadly religion, and the mournful ceremonies, and the altar-pyre, and the undertaker-priest, and not rather have counted happy the man whom God should have devoured?



Prov. ix. 2: “She hath killed her beasts.” The corresponding words in the Septuagint are ἔσφαξε τα εαυτῆς θύματα. Augustine, in his De Civ. Dei, xvi. 20, explains the victims (θύματα) to be Martyrum victimas.—Tr.


Prov. 1:20, 21; see the Septuagint version.


Isa. xliv. 5.


Zech. xiii. 9.


Rom. viii. 32.


Rom. iv. 25.


Rom. xi. 34.

Next: Chapter VIII.

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