Early Christian Writings

Title: Tertullian: Genesis.

Subheading: (CCEL Part Fourth. – Appendix)


Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol IV. (Part.IV)

Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω. The Nicene Council

Original Source: CCEL


Translated by: Rev. S. Thelwall

By: Tertullianus, Quintus Septimius

Published: 197-220 A.D.

(PDF File Size: xx mb) xx pages

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In the beginning did the Lord create
The heaven and earth: for formless was the land,
And hidden by the wave, and God immense
O’er the vast watery plains was hovering,

5 While chaos and black darkness shrouded all:
Which darkness, when God bade be from the pole
Disjoined, He speaks, “Let there be light;” and all
In the clear world was bright. Then, when the Lord
The first day’s work had finished, He formed

10 Heaven’s axis white with nascent clouds: the deep
Immense receives its wandering shores, and draws
The rivers manifold with mighty trains.
The third dun light unveiled earth’s face, and soon
(Its name assigned) the dry land’s story ’gins:

15 Together on the windy champaigns rise
The flowery seeds, and simultaneously
Fruit-bearing boughs put forth procurvant arms.
The fourth day, with the sun’s lamp generates
The moon, and moulds the stars with tremulous light

20 Radiant: these elements it gave as signs
To th’ underlying world, to teach the times
Which, through their rise and setting, were to change.
Then, on the fifth, the liquid streams receive
Their fish, and birds poise in the lower air

25 Their pinions many-hued. The sixth, again, 133
Supples the ice-cold snakes into their coils,
And over the whole fields diffuses herds
Of quadrupeds; and mandate gave that all
Should grow with multiplying seed, and roam

30 And feed in earth’s immensity.
All these
When power divine by mere command arranged,
Observing that things mundane still would lack
A ruler, thus It speaks: “With utmost care,
Assimilated to our own aspect,

35 Make We a man to reign in the whole orb.”
And him, although He with a single word
Could have compounded, yet Himself did deign
To shape him with His sacred own right hand,
Inspiring his dull breast from breast divine.

40 Whom when He saw formed in a likeness such
As is His own, He measures how he broods
Alone on gnawing cares. Straight way his eyes
With sleep irriguous He doth perfuse;
That from his left rib woman softlier

45 May formed be, and that by mixture twin
His substance may add firmness to her limbs.
To her the name of “Life”—which is called “Eve” —
Is given: wherefore sons, as custom is,
Their parents leave, and, with a settled home,

50 Cleave to their wives.
The seventh came, when God
At His works’ end did rest, decreeing it
Sacred unto the coming ages’ joys.
Straightway—the crowds of living things deployed
Before him—Adam’s cunning skill (the gift

55 Of the good Lord) gives severally to all
The name which still is permanent. Himself,
And, joined with him, his Eve, God deigns address
“Grow, for the times to come, with manifold
Increase, that with your seed the pole and earth

60 Be filled; and, as Mine heirs, the varied fruits
Pluck ye, which groves and champaigns render you,
From their rich turf.” Thus after He discoursed,
In gladsome court a paradise is strewn,
And looks towards the rays of th’ early sun.

65 These joys among, a tree with deadly fruits,
Breeding, conjoined, the taste of life and death,
Arises. In the midst of the demesne
Flows with pure tide a stream, which irrigates
Fair offsprings from its liquid waves, and cuts

70 Quadrified paths from out its bubbling fount
Here wealthy Phison, with auriferous waves,
Swells, and with hoarse tide wears conspicuous gems,
This prasinus, that glowing carbuncle,
By name; and raves, transparent in its shoals,

75 The margin of the land of Havilath.
Next Gihon, gliding by the Æthiops,
Enriches them. The Tigris is the third,
Adjoined to fair Euphrates, furrowing
Disjunctively with rapid flood the land

80 Of Asshur. Adam, with his faithful wife,
Placed here as guard and workman, is informed
By such the Thunderer’s speech: “Tremble ye not
To pluck together the permitted fruits
Which, with its leafy bough, the unshorn grove

85 Hath furnished; anxious only lest perchance
Ye cull the hurtful apple, which is green
With a twin juice for functions several.”
And, no less blind meantime than Night herself,
Deep night ’gan hold them, nor had e’en a robe

90 Covered their new-formed limbs.
Amid these haunts,
And on mild berries reared, a foamy snake,
Surpassing living things in sense astute,
Was creeping silently with chilly coils.
He, brooding over envious lies instinct

95 With gnawing sense, tempts the soft heart beneath
The woman’s breast: “Tell me, why shouldst thou dread
The apple’s happy seeds? Why, hath not
All known fruits hallowed? Whence if thou be prompt
To cull the honeyed fruits, the golden world

100 Will on its starry pole return.” But she
Refuses, and the boughs forbidden fears
To touch. But yet her breast ’gins be o’er come 134
With sense infirm. Straightway, as she at length
With snowy tooth the dainty morsels bit,

105 Stained with no cloud the sky serene up-lit!
Then taste, instilling lure in honeyed jaws,
To her yet uninitiated lord
Constrained her to present the gift; which he
No sooner took, then—night effaced!:—their eyes

110 Shone out serene in the resplendent world.
When, then, they each their body bare espied,
And when their shameful parts they see, with leaves
Of fig they shadow them.
By chance, beneath
The sun’s now setting light, they recognise

115 The sound of the Lord’s voice, and, trembling, haste
To bypaths. Then the Lord of heaven accosts
The mournful Adam: “Say, where now thou art.”
Who suppliant thus answers: “Thine address,
O Lord, O Mighty One, I tremble at,

120 Beneath my fearful heart; and, being bare,
I faint with chilly dread.” Then said the Lord:
“Who hath the hurtful fruits, then, given you?”
“This woman, while she tells me how her eyes
With brilliant day promptly perfused were,

125 And on her dawned the liquid sky serene,
And heaven’s sun and stars, o’ergave them me!”
Forthwith God’s anger frights perturbed Eve,
While the Most High inquires the authorship
Of the forbidden act. Hereon she opes

130 Her tale: “The speaking serpent’s suasive words
I harboured, while the guile and bland request
Misled me: for, with venoms viperous
His words inweaving, stories told he me
Of those delights which should all fruits excel.”

135 Straightway the Omnipotent the dragon’s deeds
Condemns, and bids him be to all a sight
Unsightly, monstrous; bids him presently
With grovelling beast to crawl; and then to bite
And chew the soil; while war should to all time

140 ’Twixt human senses and his tottering self
Be waged, that he might creep, crestfallen, prone,
Behind the legs of men, —that while he glides
Close on their heels they may down-trample him.
The woman, sadly caught by guileful words,

145 Is bidden yield her fruit with struggle hard,
And bear her husband’s yoke with patient zeal.
“But thou, to whom the sentence of the wife
(Who, vanquished, to the dragon pitiless
Yielded) seemed true, shalt through long times deplore

150 Thy labour sad; for thou shalt see, instead
Of wheaten harvest’s seed, the thistle rise,
And the thorn plenteously with pointed spines:
So that, with weary heart and mournful breast,
Full many sighs shall furnish anxious food;

155 Till, in the setting hour of coming death,
To level earth, whence thou thy body draw’st,
Thou be restored.” This done, the Lord bestows
Upon the trembling pair a tedious life;
And from the sacred gardens far removes

160 Them downcast, and locates them opposite,
And from the threshold bars them by mid fire,
Wherein from out the swift heat is evolved
A cherubim, while fierce the hot point glows,
And rolls enfolding flames. And lest their limbs

165 With sluggish cold should be benumbed, the Lord
Hides flayed from cattle’s flesh together sews,
With vestures warm their bare limbs covering.
When, therefore, Adam—now believing—felt
(By wedlock taught) his manhood, he confers

170 On his loved wife the mother’s name; and, made
Successively by scions twain a sire,
Gives names to stocks diverse: Caïn the first
Hath for his name, to whom is Abel joined.
The latter’s care tended the harmless sheep;

175 The other turned the earth with curved plough. 135
These, when in course of time they brought their gifts
To Him who thunders, offered—as their sense
Prompted them—fruits unlike. The elder one
Offered the first-fruits of the fertile glebes:

180 The other pays his vows with gentle lamb,
Bearing in hand the entrails pure, and fat
Snow-white; and to the Lord, who pious vows
Beholds, is instantly acceptable.
Wherefore with anger cold did Cain glow;

185 With whom God deigns to talk, and thus begins:
“Tell Me, if thou live rightly, and discern
Things hurtful, couldst thou not then pass thine age
Pure from contracted guilt? Cease to essay
With gnawing sense thy brother’s ruin, who,

190 Subject to thee as lord, his neck shall yield.”
Not e’en thus softened, he unto the fields
Conducts his brother; whom when overta’en
In lonely mead he saw, with his twin palms
Bruising his pious throat, he crushed life out.

195 Which deed the Lord espying from high heaven,
Straitly demands “where Abel is on earth? ”
He says “he will not as his brother’s guard
Be set.” Then God outspeaks to him again:
“Doth not the sound of his blood’s voice, sent up

200 To Me, ascend unto heaven’s lofty pole?
Learn, therefore, for so great a crime what doom
Shall wait thee. Earth, which with thy kinsman’s blood
Hath reeked but now, shall to thy hateful hand
Refuse to render back the cursed seeds

205 Entrusted her; nor shall, if set with herbs,
Produce her fruit: that, torpid, thou shalt dash
Thy limbs against each other with much fear.”……

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