Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Anti-Marcion/Against the Valentinians/VIII
Chapter VIII.—The Names and Descent of Other Æons; First Half a Score, Then Two More, and Ultimately a Dozen Besides. These Thirty Constitute the Pleroma. But Why Be So Capricious as to Stop at Thirty?
For, behold, when the second Tetrad—Sermo and Vita, Homo and Ecclesia—had borne fruit to the Father’s glory, having an intense desire of themselves to present to the Father something similar of their own, they bring other issue into being—conjugal of course, as the others were—by the union of the twofold nature. On the one hand, Sermo and Vita pour out at a birth a half-score of Æons; on the other hand, Homo and Ecclesia produce a couple more, so furnishing an equipoise to their parents, since this pair with the other ten make up just as many as they did themselves procreate. I now give the names of the half-score whom I have mentioned: Bythios (Profound) and Mixis (Mixture), Ageratos (Never old) and Henosis (Union), Autophyes (Essential nature) and Hedone (Pleasure), Acinetos (Immoveable) and Syncrasis (Commixture,) Monogenes (Only-begotten) and Macaria (Happiness). On the other hand, these will make up the number twelve (to which I have also referred): Paracletus (Comforter) and Pistis (Faith), Patricas (Paternal) and Elpis (Hope), Metricos (Maternal) and Agape (Love), Ainos (Praise) and Synesis (Intelligence), Ecclesiasticus (Son of Ecclesia) and Macariotes (Blessedness), Theletus (Perfect) and Sophia (Wisdom). I cannot help here quoting from a like example what may serve to show the import of these names. In the schools of Carthage there was once a certain Latin rhetorician, an excessively cool fellow, whose name was Phosphorus. He was personating a man of valour, and wound up with saying, “I come to you, excellent citizens, from battle, with victory for myself, with happiness for you, full of honour, covered with glory, the favourite of fortune, the greatest of men, decked with triumph.” And forthwith his scholars begin to shout for the school of Phosphorus, φεῦ (ah!). Are you a believer in Fortunata, and Hedone, and Acinetus, and Theletus? Then shout out your φεῦ for the school of Ptolemy. This must be that mystery of the Pleroma, the fulness of the thirty-fold divinity. Let us see what special attributes belong to these numbers—four, and eight, and twelve. Meanwhile with the number thirty all fecundity ceases. The generating force and power and desire of the Æons is spent. As if there were not still left some strong rennet for curdling numbers. As if no other names were to be got out of the page’s hall! For why are there not sets of fifty and of a hundred procreated? Why, too, are there no comrades and boon companions named for them?
- We everywhere give Tertullian’s own names, whether of Greek form or Latin. On their first occurrence we also give their English sense.
- Proinde conjugales.
- Of this name there are two forms—Αἶνος (Praise) and ᾽Αεινοῦς (Eternal Mind).
- Or Τελετός (Teletus). Another form of this Æon’s name is Φιλητός (Philetus = Beloved). Oehler always reads Theletus.
- Cum virum fortem peroraret…inquit.
- Tertullian’s joke lies in the equivocal sense of this cry, which may mean either admiration and joy, or grief and rage.
- Audisti: interrogatively.
- See above, chap. iv. p. 505.
- Tanta numerorum coagula.
- The pædagogium was either the place where boys were trained as pages (often for lewd purposes), or else the boy himself of such a character.
- Oehler reads, “hetæri (ἑταῖροι) et syntrophi.” Another reading, supported by Rigaltius, is “sterceiæ,” instead of the former word, which gives a very contemptuous sense, suitable to Tertullian’s irony.