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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Soul and its Origin.: Chapter 9

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 9 [V.]—How Could the Incorporeal God Breathe Out of Himself a Corporeal Substance?

In that he believes God to be truly incorporeal, I congratulate him that herein, at all events, he has kept himself uninfluenced by the ravings of Tertullian. For he insisted, that as the soul is corporeal, so likewise is God. 2407 It is therefore specially surprising that our author, who differs from Tertullian in this point, yet labours to persuade us that the incorporeal God does not make the soul out of nothing, but exhales it as a corporeal breath out of Himself. What a wonderful learning that must be to which every age erects its attentive ears, and which contrives to gain for its disciples men of advanced years, and even presbyters! Let this eminent man read what he has written, read it in public; let him invite to hear the reading well-known persons and unknown ones, learned and unlearned. Old men, assemble with your younger instructors; learn what you used to know nothing about; hear now what you had never heard before. Behold, according to the teaching of this scribe, God creates a breath, not out of something else which exists in some way or other, and not out of that which absolutely has p. 335 no existence; but out of that which He is Himself, perfectly incorporeal, He breathes a body so that He actually changes His own incorporeal nature into a body, before it undergoes the change into the body of sin. Does he say, that He does not change something out of His own nature, when He creates breath? Then, of course, He does not make that breath out of Himself: for He is not Himself one thing, and His nature another thing. What is this insane man thinking of? But if he says that God creates breath out of His own nature in such a way as to remain absolutely entire Himself, this is not the question. The question is, whether that which comes not of some previously created substance, nor from nothing, but from Him, is not what He is, that is, of the same nature and essence? Now He remains absolutely entire after the generation of His Son; but because He begat Him of His own nature, He did not beget a something which was different from that which He is Himself. For, putting to one side the circumstance that the Word took on Himself a human nature and became flesh, the Word who is the Son of God is another but not another thing: that is, He is another person but not a different nature. And whence does this come to pass, except from the fact that He is not created out of something else, or out of nothing, but was begotten out of Himself; not that He might be better than He was, but that He might be altogether even what He is of whom He is begotten; that is, of one and the same nature, equal, co-eternal, in every way like, equally unchangeable, equally invisible, equally incorporeal, equally God; in a word, that He might be altogether what the Father is, except that He actually is Himself the Son, and not the Father? But if He remains Himself the same God entire and unimpaired, but yet creates something different from Himself, and worse than Himself, not out of nothing, nor out of some other creature, but out of His very self; and that something emanates as a body out ofthe incorporeal God; then God forbid that a catholic should imbibe such an opinion, for it does not flow from the divine fountain, but it is a mere fiction of the human mind.



See Tertullian’s treatise On the Soul in The Ante-Nicene Christian Fathers, vol. iii. p. 181 sq. See also Augustin, On Heresies, 86, and Epistles, No. 190.

Next: Chapter 10