Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Tertullian: Part Fourth/Appendix/Genesis

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, Appendix
by Tertullian, translated by Sydney Thelwall
155875Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, Appendix — GenesisSydney ThelwallTertullian

3.  Genesis.

(Author Uncertain.)

In the beginning did the Lord create

The heaven and earth:[1]  for formless was the land,[2]

And hidden by the wave, and God immense[3]

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[4]

Disjoined, He speaks, “Let there be light;” and all

In the clear world[5] 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[6] shores, and draws

The rivers manifold with mighty trains.

The third dun light unveiled earth’s[7] face, and soon

(Its name assigned[8]) 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[9] the sun’s lamp generates

The moon, and moulds the stars with tremulous light

20  Radiant:  these elements it[10] gave as signs

To th’ underlying world,[11] to teach the times

Which, through their rise and setting, were to change.

Then, on the fifth, the liquid[12] streams receive

Their fish, and birds poise in the lower air

25  Their pinions many-hued.  The sixth, again,

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[13] speaks:  “With utmost care,

Assimilated to our own aspect,[14]

35  Make We a man to reign in the whole orb.”

And him, although He with a single word[15]

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”[16]

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[17]

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[18] a paradise is strewn,

And looks towards the rays of th’ early sun.[19]

65  These joys among, a tree with deadly fruits,

Breeding, conjoined, the taste of life and death,

Arises.  In the midst of the demesne[20]

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[21] conspicuous gems,

This prasinus,[22] that glowing carbuncle,[23]

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[24] 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,[25] 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[26] happy seeds?  Why, hath not

All known fruits hallowed?[27]  Whence if thou be prompt

To cull the honeyed fruits, the golden world[28]

100  Will on its starry pole return.”[29]  But she

Refuses, and the boughs forbidden fears

To touch.  But yet her breast ’gins be o’er come

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.[30]

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,[31]—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.[32]

“But thou, to whom the sentence[33] 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;[34]

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,[35] 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[36] 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.

These, when in course of time[37] they brought their gifts

To Him who thunders, offered—as their sense

Prompted them—fruits unlike.  The elder one

Offered the first-fruits[38] 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;[39]

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.”……


Footnotes edit

  1. Terram.
  2. Tellus.
  3. Immensus.  See note on the word in the fragment “Concerning the Cursing of the Heathen’s Gods.”
  4. Cardine.
  5. Mundo.
  6. “Errantia;” so called, probably, either because they appear to move as ships pass them, or because they may be said to “wander” by reason of the constant change which they undergo from the action of the sea, and because of the shifting nature of their sands.
  7. Terrarum.
  8. “God called the dry land Earth:”  Gen. i. 10.
  9. i.e., “together with;” it begets both sun and moon.
  10. i.e., “the fourth day.”
  11. Mundo.
  12. Or, “lucid”—liquentia.
  13. i.e., “Power Divine.”
  14. So Milton and Shakespeare.
  15. As (see above, l. 31) He had all other things.
  16. See Gen. iii. 20, with the LXX., and the marg. in the Eng. ver.
  17. Terræ.
  18. The “gladsome court”—“læta aula”—seems to mean Eden, in which the garden is said to have been planted.  See Gen. ii. 8.
  19. i.e., eastward.  See the last reference.
  20. Ædibus in mediis.
  21. Terit.  So Job (xiv. 19), “The waters wear the stones.”
  22. “Onyx,” Eng. ver.  See the following piece, l. 277.
  23. “Bdellium,” Eng. Ver.; ἄνθραξ, LXX.
  24. Comp. Ps. xxix. 3, especially in “Great Bible” (xxviii. 3 in LXX.)
  25. Malum.
  26. Mali.
  27. “Numquid poma Deus non omnia nota sacravit?”
  28. Mundus.
  29. The writer, supposing it to be night (see 88, 89), seems to mean that the serpent hinted that the fruit would instantly dispel night and restore day.  Compare the ensuing lines.
  30. Mundo.
  31. Virorum.
  32. “Servitiumque sui studio perferre mariti;” or, perhaps, “and drudge in patience at her husband’s beck.”
  33. “Sententia:”  her sentence, or opinion, as to the fruit and its effects.
  34. Or, “That with heart-weariness and mournful breast Full many sighs may furnish anxious food.”
  35. The writer makes “cherubim”—or “cherubin”—singular.  I have therefore retained his mistake.  What the “hot point”—“calidus apex”—is, is not clear.  It may be an allusion to the “flaming sword” (see Gen. iii. 24); or it may mean the top of the flame.
  36. Or, “origins”—“orsis”—because Cain and Abel were original types, as it were, of two separate classes of men.
  37. “Perpetuo;” “in process of time,” Eng. ver.; μεθ᾽ ἡμέρας, LXX. in Gen. iv. 3.
  38. Quæ prosata fuerant.  But, as Wordsworth remarks on Gen. iv., we do not read that Cain’s offerings were first-fruits even.
  39. Quod propter gelida Cain incanduit ira.  If this, which is Oehler’s and Migne’s reading, be correct, the words gelida and incanduit seem to be intentionally contrasted, unless incandescere be used here in a supposed sense of “growing white,” “turning pale.”  Urere is used in Latin of heat and cold indifferently.  Calida would, of course, be a ready emendation; but gelida has the advantage of being far more startling.