A Treatise On The Soul by Tertullian
Chapter XXVI.--Scripture Alone Offers Clear Knowledge on the Questions We Have Been Controverting.
Now there is no end to the uncertainty and irregularity of human opinion, until we come to the limits which God has prescribed. I shall at last retire within our own lines and firmly hold my ground there, for the purpose of proving to the Christian (the soundness of) my answers to the Philosophers and the Physicians. Brother (in Christ), on your own foundation build up your faith. Consider the wombs of the most sainted women instinct with the life within them, and their babes which not only breathed therein, but were even endowed with prophetic intuition. See how the bowels of Rebecca are disquieted, though her child-bearing is as yet remote, and there is no impulse of (vital) air. Behold, a twin offspring chafes within the mother's womb, although she has no sign as yet of the twofold nation. Possibly we might have regarded as a prodigy the contention of this infant progeny, which struggled before it lived, which had animosity previous to animation, if it had simply disturbed the mother by its restlessness within her. But when her womb opens, and the number of her offspring is seen, and their presaged condition known, we have presented to us a proof not merely of the (separate) souls of the infants, but of their hostile struggles too. He who was the first to be born was threatened with detention by him who was anticipated in birth, who was not yet fully brought forth, but whose hand only had been born. Now if he actually imbibed life, and received his soul, in Platonic style, at his first breath; or else, after the Stoic rule, had the earliest taste of animation on touching the frosty air; what was the other about, who was so eagerly looked for, who was still detained within the womb, and was trying to detain (the other) outside? I suppose he had not yet breathed when he seized his brother's heel; and was still warm with his mother's warmth, when he so strongly wished to be the first to quit the womb. What an infant! so emulous, so strong, and already so contentious; and all this, I suppose, because even now full of life! Consider, again, those extraordinary conceptions, which were more wonderful still, of the barren woman and the virgin: these women would only be able to produce imperfect offspring against the course of nature, from the very fact that one of them was too old to bear seed, and the other was pure from the contact of man. If there was to be bearing at all in the case, it was only fitting that they should be born without a soul, (as the philosopher would say,) who had been irregularly conceived. However, even these have life, each of them in his mother's womb. Elizabeth exults with joy, (for) John had leaped in her womb; Mary magnifies the Lord, (for) Christ had instigated her within. The mothers recognise each their own offspring, being moreover each recognised by their infants, which were therefore of course alive, and were not souls merely, but spirits also. Accordingly you read the word of God which was spoken to Jeremiah, |Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee.| Since God forms us in the womb, He also breathes upon us, as He also did at the first creation, when |the Lord God formed man, and breathed into him the breath of life.| Nor could God have known man in the womb, except in his entire nature: |And before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee.| Well, was it then a dead body at that early stage? Certainly not. For |God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.|