Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Anti-Marcion/Against the Valentinians/VII

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, Anti-Marcion, Against the Valentinians by Tertullian, translated by Peter Holmes
VII

Chapter VII.—The First Eight Emanations, or Æons, Called the Ogdoad, are the Fountain of All the Others. Their Names and Descent Recorded.

Beginning with Ennius,[1] the Roman poet, he simply spoke of “the spacious saloons[2] of heaven,”—either on account of their elevated site, or because in Homer he had read about Jupiter banqueting therein.  As for our heretics, however, it is marvellous what storeys upon storeys[3] and what heights upon heights, they have hung up, raised and spread out as a dwelling for each several god of theirs. Even our Creator has had arranged for Him the saloons of Ennius in the fashion of private rooms,[4] with chamber piled upon chamber, and assigned to each god by just as many staircases as there were heresies. The universe, in fact, has been turned into “rooms to let.”[5] Such storeys of the heavens you would imagine to be detached tenements in some happy isle of the blessed,[6] I know not where. There the god even of the Valentinians has his dwelling in the attics. They call him indeed, as to his essence, Αἰῶν τέλειος (Perfect Æon), but in respect of his personality, Προαρχή (Before the Beginning), ῾Η ᾽Αρχή (The Beginning), and sometimes Bythos (Depth),[7] a name which is most unfit for one who dwells in the heights above! They describe him as unbegotten, immense, infinite, invisible, and eternal; as if, when they described him to be such as we know that he ought to be, they straightway prove him to be a being who may be said to have had such an existence even before all things else. I indeed insist upon[8] it that he is such a being; and there is nothing which I detect in beings of this sort more obvious, than that they who are said to have been before all things—things, too, not their own—are found to be behind all things. Let it, however, be granted that this Bythos of theirs existed in the infinite ages of the past in the greatest and profoundest repose, in the extreme rest of a placid and, if I may use the expression, stupid divinity, such as Epicurus has enjoined upon us. And yet, although they would have him be alone, they assign to him a second person in himself and with himself, Ennoea (Thought), which they also call both Charis (Grace) and Sige (Silence). Other things, as it happened, conduced in this most agreeable repose to remind him of the need of by and by producing out of himself the beginning of all things.  This he deposits in lieu of seed in the genital region, as it were, of the womb of his Sige. Instantaneous conception is the result: Sige becomes pregnant, and is delivered, of course in silence; and her offspring is Nus (Mind), very like his father and his equal in every respect. In short, he alone is capable of comprehending the measureless and incomprehensible greatness of his father. Accordingly he is even called the Father himself, and the Beginning of all things, and, with great propriety, Monogenes (The Only-begotten). And yet not with absolute propriety, since he is not born alone. For along with him a female also proceeded, whose name was Veritas[9] (Truth). But how much more suitably might Monogenes be called Protogenes (First begotten), since he was begotten first! Thus Bythos and Sige, Nus and Veritas, are alleged to be the first fourfold team[10] of the Valentinian set (of gods)[11] the parent stock and origin of them all.  For immediately when[12] Nus received the function of a procreation of his own, he too produces out of himself Sermo (the Word) and Vita (the Life). If this latter existed not previously, of course she existed not in Bythos. And a pretty absurdity would it be, if Life existed not in God! However, this offspring also produces fruit, having for its mission the initiation of the universe and the formation of the entire Pleroma: it procreates Homo (Man) and Ecclesia (the Church). Thus you have an Ogdoad, a double Tetra, out of the conjunctions of males and females—the cells[13] (so to speak) of the primordial Æons, the fraternal nuptials of the Valentinian gods, the simple originals[14] of heretical sanctity and majesty, a rabble[15]—shall I say of criminals[16] or of deities?[17]—at any rate, the fountain of all ulterior fecundity.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. Primus omnium.
  2. Cœnacula: dining halls.
  3. Supernitates supernitatum.
  4. Ædicularum.
  5. Meritorium.
  6. This is perhaps a fair rendering of “Insulam Feliculam credas tanta tabulata cœlorum, nescio ubi.” “Insula” is sometimes “a detached house.” It is difficult to say what “Felicula” is; it seems to be a diminutive of Felix. It occurs in Arrian’s Epictetica as the name of a slave.
  7. We follow Tertullian’s mode of designation all through. He, for the most part, gives the Greek names in Roman letters, but not quite always.
  8. Expostulo: “I postulate as a first principle.”
  9. Tertullian is responsible for this Latin word amongst the Greek names. The strange mixture occurs often.
  10. Quadriga.
  11. Factionis.
  12. Ibidem simul.
  13. Cellas.
  14. Census.
  15. Turbam.
  16. Criminum.
  17. Numinum.