Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tertullian Believed that the Son of God was Lower than the Angels Before He Became a Man

Here is the text from Tertullian's work Adversus Marcionem 2.27 (Holmes' translation):

"Now we believe that Christ did ever act in the name of God the Father; that He actually from the beginning held intercourse with (men); actually communed with patriarchs and prophets; was the Son of the Creator; was His Word; whom God made His Son by emitting Him from His own self, and thenceforth set Him over every dispensation and (administration of) His will, making Him a little lower than the angels, as is written in David. In which lowering of His condition He received from the Father a dispensation in those very respects which you blame as human; from the very beginning learning, even then, (that state of a) man which He was destined in the end to become."

For more details, see


Matt13weedhacker said...

Hello Edgar.

A question.

Is Adversus Marcionem considered a:

1.) Pre-Montantist or
2.) Post-Montantist


What is your opinion?

A little side point to add, is that Tertullian goes on in the same chapter to call him:

Ltn., ( arbitro Patris et ministro )

"... the Witness and Servant of the Father..." = Peter Holmes

"...the Father's agent and minister..." = Ernest Even's

Ltn., ( ministro ) is defined as:

"...subordinate minister..." or

"...inferior officer/minister/attendant..."

By the online Persus Lexicon.

Being a comparitive word etymologically from Ltn., ( minus ) and with the suffix ( ter ) equivalent of Gk., ( teros ) endings.

Ltn., ( arbitro ) can be either:

"...eye-witness..." or

"...arbiter..." or

"...mediator..." etc.

Just a little something that might interest you.

Enjoy your day.

Edgar Foster said...


It's been a while since I worked on the dating of Tertullian's works, but the consensus for this document (based on its contents) is that it is post-Montanist. Thanks also for the information on the Latin construction there. Please have a good day as well.

aservantofJehovah said...

When tertullian here speaks of God as "emitting" the Son from his own self.Would that be like Athena springing fully formed from the head of Zeus or something like that?

Edgar Foster said...

IMO, the pre-nicene fathers are usually not all that clear about the Son's generation from the Father. I would encourage you to read Adversus Praxean 8 and 11, but here is one quote from Adv Prax 8:

For God sent forth the Word, as the Paraclete also declares, just as the root puts forth the tree, and the fountain the river, and the sun the ray. For these are προβολαί, or emanations, of the substances from which they proceed. I should not hesitate, indeed, to call the tree the son or offspring of the root, and the river of the fountain, and the ray of the sun; because every original source is a parent, and everything which issues from the origin is an offspring.