Against Praxeas by Tertullian
Chapter XV.--New Testament Passages Quoted They Attest the Same Truth of the Son's Visibility Contrasted with the Father's Invisibility.
If I fail in resolving this article (of our faith) by passages which may admit of dispute out of the Old Testament, I will take out of the New Testament a confirmation of our view, that you may not straightway attribute to the Father every possible (relation and condition) which I ascribe to the Son. Behold, then, I find both in the Gospels and in the (writings of the) apostles a visible and an invisible God (revealed to us), under a manifest and personal distinction in the condition of both. There is a certain emphatic saying by John: |No man hath seen God at any time;| meaning, of course, at any previous time. But he has indeed taken away all question of time, by saying that God had never been seen. The apostle confirms this statement; for, speaking of God, he says, |Whom no man hath seen, nor can see;| because the man indeed would die who should see Him. But the very same apostles testify that they had both seen and |handled| Christ. Now, if Christ is Himself both the Father and the Son, how can He be both the Visible and the Invisible? In order, however, to reconcile this diversity between the Visible and the Invisible, will not some one on the other side argue that the two statements are quite correct: that He was visible indeed in the flesh, but was invisible before His appearance in the flesh; so that He who as the Father was invisible before the flesh, is the same as the Son who was visible in the flesh? If, however, He is the same who was invisible before the incarnation, how comes it that He was actually seen in ancient times before (coming in) the flesh? And by parity of reasoning, if He is the same who was visible after (coming in) the flesh, how happens it that He is now declared to be invisible by the apostles? How, I repeat, can all this be, unless it be that He is one, who anciently was visible only in mystery and enigma, and became more clearly visible by His incarnation, even the Word who was also made flesh; whilst He is another whom no man has seen at any time, being none else than the Father, even Him to whom the Word belongs? Let us, in short, examine who it is whom the apostles saw. |That,| says John, |which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.| Now the Word of life became flesh, and was heard, and was seen, and was handled, because He was flesh who, before He came in the flesh, was the |Word in the beginning with God| the Father, and not the Father with the Word. For although the Word was God, yet was He with God, because He is God of God; and being joined to the Father, is with the Father. |And we have seen His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father;| that is, of course, (the glory) of the Son, even Him who was visible, and was glorified by the invisible Father. And therefore, inasmuch as he had said that the Word of God was God, in order that he might give no help to the presumption of the adversary, (which pretended) that he had seen the Father Himself and in order to draw a distinction between the invisible Father and the visible Son, he makes the additional assertion, ex abundanti as it were: |No man hath seen God at any time.| What God does he mean? The Word? But he has already said: |Him we have seen and heard, and our hands have handled the Word of life.| Well, (I must again ask,) what God does he mean? It is of course the Father, with whom was the Word, the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, and has Himself declared Him. He was both heard and seen and, that He might not be supposed to be a phantom, was actually handled. Him, too, did Paul behold; but yet he saw not the Father. |Have I not,| he says, |seen Jesus Christ our Lord?| Moreover, he expressly called Christ God, saying: |Of whom are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever.| He shows us also that the Son of God, which is the Word of God, is visible, because He who became flesh was called Christ. Of the Father, however, he says to Timothy: |Whom none among men hath seen, nor indeed can see;| and he accumulates the description in still ampler terms: |Who only hath immortality, and dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto.| It was of Him, too, that he had said in a previous passage: |Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to the only God;| so that we might apply even the contrary qualities to the Son Himself -- mortality, accessibility -- of whom the apostle testifies that |He died according to the Scriptures,| and that |He was seen by himself last of all,| -- by means, of course, of the light which was accessible, although it was not without imperilling his sight that he experienced that light. A like danger to which also befell Peter, and John, and James, (who confronted not the same light) without risking the loss of their reason and mind; and if they, who were unable to endure the glory of the Son, had only seen the Father, they must have died then and there: |For no man shall see God, and live.| This being the case, it is evident that He was always seen from the beginning, who became visible in the end; and that He, (on the contrary,) was not seen in the end who had never been visible from the beginning; and that accordingly there are two -- the Visible and the Invisible. It was the Son, therefore, who was always seen, and the Son who always conversed with men, and the Son who has always worked by the authority and will of the Father; because |the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do| -- |do| that is, in His mind and thought. For the Father acts by mind and thought; whilst the Son, who is in the Father's mind and thought, gives effect and form to what He sees. Thus all things were made by the Son, and without Him was not anything made.