Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Anti-Marcion/On the Flesh of Christ/XIX
Chapter XIX.—Christ, as to His Divine Nature, as the Word of God, Became Flesh, Not by Carnal Conception, Nor by the Will of the Flesh and of Man, But by the Will of God. Christ’s Divine Nature, of Its Own Accord, Descended into the Virgin’s Womb.
What, then, is the meaning of this passage, “Born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God?” I shall make more use of this passage after I have confuted those who have tampered with it. They maintain that it was written thus (in the plural) “Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” as if designating those who were before mentioned as “believing in His name,” in order to point out the existence of that mysterious seed of the elect and spiritual which they appropriate to themselves. But how can this be, when all who believe in the name of the Lord are, by reason of the common principle of the human race, born of blood, and of the will of the flesh, and of man, as indeed is Valentinus himself? The expression is in the singular number, as referring to the Lord, “He was born of God.” And very properly, because Christ is the Word of God, and with the Word the Spirit of God, and by the Spirit the Power of God, and whatsoever else appertains to God. As flesh, however, He is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of man, because it was by the will of God that the Word was made flesh. To the flesh, indeed, and not to the Word, accrues the denial of the nativity which is natural to us all as men, because it was as flesh that He had thus to be born, and not as the Word. Now, whilst the passage actually denies that He was born of the will of the flesh, how is it that it did not also deny (that He was born) of the substance of the flesh? For it did not disavow the substance of the flesh when it denied His being “born of blood” but only the matter of the seed, which, as all know, is the warm blood as convected by ebullition into the coagulum of the woman’s blood. In the cheese, it is from the coagulation that the milky substance acquires that consistency, which is condensed by infusing the rennet. We thus understand that what is denied is the Lord’s birth after sexual intercourse (as is suggested by the phrase, “the will of man and of the flesh”), not His nativity from a woman’s womb. Why, too, is it insisted on with such an accumulation of emphasis that He was not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor (of the will) of man, if it were not that His flesh was such that no man could have any doubt on the point of its being born from sexual intercourse? Again, although denying His birth from such cohabitation, the passage did not deny that He was born of real flesh; it rather affirmed this, by the very fact that it did not deny His birth in the flesh in the same way that it denied His birth from sexual intercourse. Pray, tell me, why the Spirit of God descended into a woman’s womb at all, if He did not do so for the purpose of partaking of flesh from the womb. For He could have become spiritual flesh without such a process,—much more simply, indeed, without the womb than in it. He had no reason for enclosing Himself within one, if He was to bear forth nothing from it. Not without reason, however, did He descend into a womb. Therefore He received (flesh) therefrom; else, if He received nothing therefrom, His descent into it would have been without a reason, especially if He meant to become flesh of that sort which was not derived from a womb, that is to say, a spiritual one.
- ↑ Tertullian reads this in the singular number, “natus est.”
- ↑ John i. 13.
- ↑ We need not say that the mass of critical authority is against Tertullian, and with his opponents, in their reading of this passage.
- ↑ He refers to the Valentinians. See our translation of this tract against them, chap. xxv., etc., p. 515, supra.
- ↑ Formalis nostræ nativitatis.
- ↑ Despumatione.
- ↑ Vis.
- ↑ Medicando. [This is based on Job x. 10, a favourite passage with the Fathers in expounding the generative process.]
- ↑ i.e., The Son of God.
- ↑ Which is all that the heretics assign to Him.
- ↑ Such as Valentinus ascribed to Him. See above, c. xv. p. 511.