Face to pacl

■.n in-. Ii foolishness; uWe surely ol bi made out to ¡murk' those

Igodsl whom 'i^l' aie certain ;ml- nonentities.71^ In his treatise ^^tiiHit Idols, Le is l'\ i-'i i more blatantly con tempt uous, declaring that those who make these L111n^nol only receive no help from them, but .irt- like [hern—they b iL 11 neilher îi'i r lu'.ir. (eel i-tir smell, and "iheir hearts arc ashes and earth" (cf. Ps llSiS).11 Against these vain idols, Tertullian insists that thcobjeclof Christian worship is I he One Cod, whom L h l" eye Cannot see although ht is spiritually visible, T hi* God is indescribable, though discernible in ^r.ill-, beyond all thought ur conception* but yet manifest In that vei transcendence. I luman inability in conceive (ir i ¡od .ll I lLlI 11 \ allows mortals Id understand who God is. Furlhermore, humans are by nature aware of Gnd. Fhey cannot possibly be ignorant of God since God's existence is demonstrably shown everywhere in nature and through the working out of history and every tunl- :l soul gives thanks or cries out fur justice," God is, therefore, something humans do not see, hui yet perceive from evidence .11l around them, even In their own instinctual behavior.

In his rcfutaitcm Lit heretics, however, Tertullian condemns those who misunderstand the eternal nature and human inc; rnation of 1J1 Word. Agi lins1: Martion, who d en ies the rea lity oí the true í lesh ly i nca rn at ion of i .Inist and claims that ik- actually some kind 01 spiritual, "angelic" being, tertullian insists 1h.1i there was nothing unworthy or degrading about t h k/1 >lv: 11 l1 Be i 11 £ a ss ll m i 1 ig h .1 ma n rk-i.li ,1k iwe\ er, in order to protêt ihç transcendent majesty and invisibility of God, Tertullian further contends (bal il wiLS the "Soil of the Creator" who actually appeared to and conversed with the prophets and patriarchs ,md was later incarnate in human flesh. Only Mil- Begotten Oik- may know l I ll- Parent* he -^jys.líi-inç Matt ] 1:27, since no (mortal] one may see i jod and live (Exod 33:20), í 11 one hand, Tertullian agrees that tl-.u attributes lh<ir Marrion to describe Ili-lL. such J*. invisibility, inapproachabiliiy, ,11141 immutability, are appropriate. (>n llu- other hand, Tertullian ¡lisais thúl those degrading h uman qualit ie s that nI a rcii >11 '.vl i ll Id d en y to God, suc h > bei ng seen. heard, jr encountered in bodily form, were ncrcsury :or fm 111.1:1 >.l!\.l-

tion and thus worthy of j:id becoming to God. Hlli. he clarifies» we lielieve thai the Wurd was thai member or the Godhead who actually conversed uliji the pmphei.s and patriarchs l:(im ihe beginning, making hin iwl ' -i " i i 11 It ! i iwer i han t In- nge I -. "1 v h I--1-. ¡^ : r^ : and, by this lowering (if himself, .ll l lili IK learned about and pi .i^líll-cI (rehearsed) being in the human state that k "was destined In the end to become.71 And lIl^ was i he One who descended i■ L-.irifi to interrogate or ^rgue with humanity, with the authority and jn 1 name of God (who was never visible); the One who alune 'knows the Father1' (Matt 11:27)/'®

hiT i hi.-, reason» when Tertullian turns lo ihe scriptural accounts M divine theophanles, he argues far lIll1 actual human and fleshly reality of thr divine appearance For example, in his view, -.'en: three guests of

THE I N'vr U ß LE CO P A N D TH E VI H S LE I MAC E

Abraham in I .l-i:¡-. Iíí [r.ilv appeared three men, Ami while he judge* that these were not ordinäry men, hut two angels and < hrist, he also holds (hjii they materialized :i"i real human flesh However, their llcsh was m it that i;iven at the birth from a human mother, since the 11 i T111 L ■ i n heavenly being from .1 mortal woman was reserved only for ( brist at the moment of his nativity. Itather, the flesh nr the three ("from whalever stuirce derived") lHi^I not have to undergo hirth, because ]t was : 111 r ßoing iii die In awlrast, the flesh of iJhrist on this iiLL,hi»r was I -.L-i obtained without benefit of human birth, since 11 was at ihis juncture also not subject todeaLh. i^ur, it ^^ li-. meantime ulear uing In hold intercourse amongst mortals," After all, tertullian concludes, if God -.-in one day make humans into angels, God certainly can make a 1 Igeln i i i 11.1 human h {juüt ai even Ciitd tan bpcíhtk bun1 j n ). "

fertullian elsewhere the story of Abraham's visitors and Jacobs wresliing match k: mhh\ thai lln1 talán g on of human flesh indicates no los;, of dignity to LI, L' üeecjrtd Person. Inr even if une imagines thai all tliuse angels were mere angels .liuI not one ol them Christ ), erne would 11 j ve to Ifelitve lha' ihei r assu mpt inn of human form Jiit them n n harm, even though they must be assumed In be inferior to the Son. Accord ingly, the assumption of human flesh was an action 1I1 at am firmed < hrisl's superiority, his invulnerability to the dangers of bodily chaugeh and Iiis transcendence of .ill the known physical laws. V the same time, I hL1 Second Person is the on« of the trinity who is able In undergo nu: nal change and to take on another ■ human! nature. L

Toward thc end of his fifth book against Martion, rertullian refers to e'.hii'h letter Im the Coiossians to support his contention that i Ihrist was lhL' visible appearance of God to the prophets and patriarchs of Scrip ture- lust .i- I'.nil calls Christ the' Image oí the Invisible( }od," Tertullian proclaims, "we similarly say lllat the I;ather of Christ i.n invisibles for v. L1 know that it was thc Son who was seen in ancient times .. as thc image of the Father himself"3 Such ^ role r^r the Son, he simulta neon sly cau rions, musí not h*- understood to demonstrate .l difference between a ^ isible -nu' an imisible C3od, since the Sondas the Eternal Word and Nrst begotten of thc Father, cannot be distinguished from Mil- Father in terms «I action, will, time, "r substance. "I he two divine Persons arc coetcrnal, the -.miie in i ssential being, limíCl-lI in intention -irui deed. Their J;-tinclinn, for Tertullian, rest-' on thc dispensation by which one can appeal to hujriajis in mi! human flesh while the other does not.

When rertullian refutes the teaching of the inodalist Praxeas, how ever, he dues nol have In .llliTni Mil' realityand dignity nl the 1 m .in:.il inn in hnman flesh, or to demonstrate the unity of the invisible God of Scripture ílI: the One who appears in the patriarchs. Rather, ,ij-.iiiisL the moda lists' radical idea that the single t,<-.L1 appears :n three different modes1' 01 rolen^ Tertullian upll-n Ids the plural i [ y ■ I find while show i ng the distinctions of the three persons of the Irinity. Here'lertullian sbares Trenacus's concern to show ihe action ol God .iIciny, with iht Logosand Holy Spi:i: in both creation and redemption. According to lertullian,, Praxeas had attempted lo protect Lhu unity of(lod by denying r he essent ial d isti nctio i belween God, Chrisr, and Spi ri i. In particular, Praxcas ta.ug.ht that the Su p reme I ather was born into the world . .i i llI 11 j li s temporarih visible) as the Savior Such -i teaching necessarily implied rbat when appearingasC hrist, the One God sufTered and died, This led Tertullian lo acense PraHeasof<Lcrudfying God l]i<j Father]."*

Tu refute Praxeas, lertullian demonstrates the definitive necessity of divine pluraiity by showing the practica] distinctü n bctvreen the invisible < k)d and 'he visible Word and Iturning to various scriptural ii — monics iíi5l.I s appearance, Tertullian prodaicns that while human* may no( sce God in God's full majesty. they may $¿e tbeSecond IWhon. by virl u<¿ of "the djspensatú of I: i ■, deri ved es. i si e n ce ] he Sup i l-ji íe God i * prvi i ka fciJby in v i ity, while t ü l" etemal Logos is not, Thereftiret while ibi- Fir^r Person is ahsolutely invisible, God iheeternal Word may lie invisible or visible. Since invisibility is :ioi oneof the Word's uncondí 1 ion .al qyalitic^t il may betnme visible, even brío re lIll1 incarilBtion, i ci isionsand dreams. Llio First Ferson.by contrast, can never be seen, rertullian candidly acknowledges lli.it the Scripture seenis self-contradictory, He notes that in certain places the text asserts that no one may see God .lh J (cf. Exod 33:20), while in other places ii gives examples of those who did look ll[Hí]1 the face oi ■!. ^ni and .^jr vi ved forexample, lacob at Pe niel fGen and Mases in Deuteron-li-t.v whom 11le "[or.i kníw face \v I.ill'" (Deut 34rl0> Noling these apparent discrepandes can lead to i:he condusions that either the Scrip ture is false or misleading or it distinguishes between different divine "faces," Praxeas and hi-, followers wWd haveclaimed that such merely revealed the different divine modes, perhapsa hit like royalty who sometimes refer t<> themselves in (he ihird person md sometitnes i:i thr.-Iít^.

"[ertullian lets the contradiction prove his point about the distinction •.a Mu- persons (one face niijílit be hol-^. orn- w'ihkí- (acc may not), tu:i he .dsn sees an opportunity to play on i he word "face" and í ontends that such contradictions should tu- understood as an enigma or riddle, borrowing the lines of Paul: hnfw we see (hnough a mimor in an enigma, L ■ ll i then face to face" {I Cor 13:12, author's transiation).-^ For instance, hesayspwhy does Moses askto sce God's lace in V-.\<>í\ 13:13 and Ifl, when j■ l- has ¡llsl seen il.according to verse ! Ir Or \-,h\ doesGod refuse in verse 20. when God had already Moses lús face? Can seeing one divine face be mortalty dangerous while '■cl-íii^ \hc other be beneñcialí Tertul-lians way lhli or ifiis conundrum is to cLaim that ihe appearanoe of iIk-■,Jnl^^■^ forth the "face of the Father" to whom he belongs and b>' whom he isbegotten. Fertullian thus reiterates Pau 'sassertion ' he ¡s the image ol the invisible God" (Col 1:I5}.B

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