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When our Lord repulsed the woman of Canaan
22) with apparent
harshness, he applied to her people the epithet dogs, with which
the children of Israel had thought it piety to reproach them. When He
accepted her faith and caused it to be recorded for our learning, He
did something more: He reversed the curse of the Canaanite and showed
that the Church was designed “for all people;” Catholic
alike for all time and for all sorts and conditions of men.
Thus the North-African Church was loved before it
was born: the Good Shepherd was gently leading those “that were
with young.” Here was the charter of those Christians to be
a Church, who then were Canaanites in the land of their father
Ham. It is remarkable indeed that among these pilgrims and
strangers to the West the first elements of Latin Christianity come
into view. Even at the close of the Second Century the Church in Rome
is an inconsiderable, though prominent, member of the great
confederation of Christian Churches which has its chief seats in
Alexandria and Antioch, and of which the entire Literature is Greek. It
is an African presbyter who takes from Latin Christendom the reproach
of theological and literary barrenness and begins the great work in
which, upon his foundations, Cyprian and Augustine built up, with
incomparable genius, that Carthaginian School of Christian thought by
which Latin Theology was dominated for centuries. It is important to
note (1.) that providentially not one of these illustrious doctors died
in Communion with the Roman See, pure though it was and venerable at
that time; and (2.) that to the works of Augustine the Reformation in
Germany and Continental Europe was largely due; while (3.) the
specialties of the Anglican Reformation were, in like
proportion, due to the writings of Tertullian and Cyprian. The hinges
of great and controlling destinies for Western Europe and our own
America are to be found in the period we are now
The merest school-boy knows much of the history of
Carthage, and how the North Africans became Roman citizens. How they
became Christians is not so clear. A melancholy destiny has enveloped
Carthage from the outset, and its glory and greatness as a Christian
See were transient indeed. It blazed out all at once in Tertullian,
after about a century of missionary labours had been exerted upon its
creation: and having given a Minucius Felix, an Arnobius and a
Lactantius to adorn the earliest period of Western Ecclesiastical
learning, in addition to its nobler luminaries, it rapidly declined. At
the beginning of the Third Century, at a council presided over by
Agrippinus, Bishop of Carthage, there were present not less than
seventy bishops of the Province. A period of cruel persecutions
followed, and the African Church received a baptism of blood.
Tertullian was born a heathen, and seems to have
been educated at Rome, where he probably practiced as a jurisconsult.
We may, perhaps, adopt most of the ideas of Allix, as conjecturally
probable, and assign his birth to a.d. 145. He
became a Christian about 185, and a presbyter about 190. The
period of his strict orthodoxy very nearly expires with the century. He
lived to an extreme old age, and some suppose even till a.d. 240. More probably we must adopt the date preferred by
recent writers, a.d. 220.
It seems to be the fashion to treat of Tertullian as a
Montanist, and only incidentally to celebrate his services to the
Catholic Orthodoxy of Western Christendom. Were I his biographer I
should reverse this course, as a mere act of justice, to say nothing of
gratitude to a man of splendid intellect, to whom the filial spirit of
Cyprian accorded the loving tribute of a disciple, and whose genius
stamped itself upon the very words of Latin theology, and prepared the
language for the labours of a Jerome. In creating the Vulgate, and so
lifting the Western Churches into a position of intellectual equality
with the East, the latter as well as St. Augustine himself were debtors
to Tertullian in a degree not to be estimated by any other than the
Providential Mind that inspired his brilliant career as a
In speaking of Tatian I laid the base for what I
wished to say of Tertullian. Let God only be their judge; let us
gratefully recognize the debt we owe to them. Let us read them, as we
read the works of King Solomon. We must, indeed, approve of the
discipline of the Primitive Age, which allowed of no compromises. The
Church was struggling for existence, and could not permit any man to
become her master. The more brilliant the intellect, the more
dangerous to the poor Church were its perversions of her
Testimony. Before the heathen tribunals, and in the
market-places, it would not answer to let Christianity appear
double-tongued. The orthodoxy of the Church, not less than her
children, was undergoing an ordeal of fire. It seems a miracle
that her Testimony preserved its unity, and that heresy was branded as
such by the instinct of the Faithful. Poor Tertullian was cut off by
his own act. The weeping Church might bewail him as David mourned for
Absalom, but like David, she could not give the Ark of God into other
hands than those of the loyal and the true. I have set the writings of
Tertullian in a natural and logical order1
, so as to
aid the student, and to relieve him from the distractions of such an
arrangement as one finds in Oehler’s edition. Valuable as
it is, the practical use of it is irritating and confusing. The reader
of that edition may turn to the slightly differing schemes of Neander
and Kaye, for a theoretical order of the works; but here he will find a
classification which will aid his inquiries. He will find, first, those
works which connect with the Apologists of the former volumes of this
series: which illustrate the Church’s position toward the outside
world, the Jews as well as the Gentiles. Next come those works which
contend with internal differences and heresies. And then, those which
reflect the morals and manners of Christians. These are classed with
some reference to their degrees of freedom from the Montanistic taint,
and are followed, last of all, by the few tracts which belong to the
melancholy period of his lapse, and are directed against the
Let it be borne in mind, that if this sad close of
Tertullian’s career cannot be extenuated, the later history of
Latin Christianity forbids us to condemn him, in the tones which
proceeded from the Virgin Church with authority, and which the law of
her testimony and the instinct of self-preservation forced her to
utter. Let us reflect that St. Bernard and after him the Schoolmen,
whom we so deservedly honour, separated themselves far more absolutely
than ever Tertullian did from the orthodoxy of Primitive Christendom.
The schism which withdrew the West from Communion with the original
seats of Christendom, and from Nicene Catholicity, was formidable
beyond all expression, in comparison with Tertullian’s
entanglements with a delusion which the See of Rome itself had
momentarily patronized. Since the Council of Trent, not a theologian of
the Latins has been free from organic heresies, compared with which the
fanaticism of our author was a trifling aberration. Since the late
Council of the Vatican, essential Montanism has become organized in the
Latin Churches: for what are
the new revelations and oracles of the pontiff but the deliria
of another claimant to the voice and inspiration of the Paraclete? Poor
Tertullian! The sad influences of his decline and folly have been
fatally felt in all the subsequent history of the West, but, surely
subscribers to the Modern Creed of the Vatican have reason to
“speak gently of their father’s fall.” To
Döllinger, with the “Old Catholic” remnant only, is
left the right to name the Montanists heretics, or to upbraid
Tertullian as a lapser from Catholicity.2
| 2 The notes of Dr.
Holmes were bracketted, and I have been forced to remove this feature,
as brackets are tokens in this edition of the contributions of American
editors. The perpetual recurrence of brackets in his translations has
led me to improve the page by parenthetical marks instead, which answer
as well and rarely can be mistaken for the author’s
parentheses, while these disfigure the printer’s work much
less. I have sometimes substituted italics for brackets, where an
inconsiderable word, like and or for, was bracketted by
the translator. In every case that I have noted, an intelligent reader
will readily perceive such instances; but a critic who may wish to
praise, or condemn, should carefully compare the Edinburgh pages with
our own. I found them so painful to the eye and so needlessly annoying
to the reader, that I have taken the responsibility of making what
seems to me a very great typographical improvement.|
From Dr. Holmes, I append the following
| 3 (I.) Concerning Tertullian;
(II.) Concerning his Work against Marcion, its date, etc.; (III.)
Concerning Marcion; (IV.) Concerning Tertullian’s Bible; (V.)
Influence of his Montanism on his writings.|
(I.) Quintus Septimius Florens
Tertullianus, as our author is called in the mss. of his works, is thus noticed by Jerome in his
Catalogus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum:4
“Tertullian, a presbyter, the first Latin writer after
Victor and Apollonius, was a native of the province of Africa and city
of Carthage, the son of a proconsular centurion: he was a man of
a sharp and vehement temper, flourished under Severus and Antoninus
Caracalla, and wrote numerous works, which (as they are generally
known) I think it unnecessary to particularize. I saw at
Concordia, in Italy, an old man named Paulus. He said that when young
he had met at Rome with an aged amanuensis of the blessed Cyprian, who
told him that Cyprian never passed a day without reading some portion
of Tertullian’s works, and used frequently to say, Give me my
master, meaning Tertullian. After remaining a presbyter of the
church until he had attained the middle age of life, Tertullian was, by
the envy and contumelious treatment of the Roman clergy, driven to
embrace the opinions of Montanus, which he has mentioned in several of
his works under the title of the New Prophecy.…He is reported to
have lived to a very advanced age, and to have composed many other
works which are not extant.” We add Bishop Kaye’s notes on
this extract, in an abridged shape: “The correctness of some
parts of this account has been questioned. Doubts have been entertained
whether Tertullian was a presbyter, although these have solely arisen
from Roman Catholic objections to a married priesthood; for it is
certain that he was married, there being among his works two treatises
addressed to his wife.…Another question has been raised
respecting the place where Tertullian officiated as a
presbyter—whether at Carthage or at Rome. That he at one time
resided at Carthage may be inferred from Jerome’s statement, and
is rendered certain by several passages of his own writings. Allix
supposes that the notion of his having been a presbyter of the Roman
Church owed its rise to what Jerome said of the envy and abuse of the
Roman clergy impelling him to espouse the party of Montanus.
| 4 We quote Bishop
Kaye’s translation of Jerome’s article; see his Account
of the Writings of Tertullian, pp. 5–8.|
and the author of the work de
Hæresibus, which Sirmond edited under the title of
Prædestinatus, expressly call him a Carthaginian presbyter.
Semler, however, in a dissertation inserted in his edition of
contends that he was a
presbyter of the Roman Church. Eusebius7
tells us that he was
accurately acquainted with the Roman laws, and on other accounts a
distinguished person at Rome.8
moreover, a knowledge of the proceedings of the Roman Church with
respect to Marcion and Valentinus, who were once members of it, which
could scarcely have been obtained by one who had not himself been
numbered amongst its presbyters.9
| 8 Valesius, however, supposes
the historian’s words τῶν μάλιστα
λαμπρῶν to mean, that
Tertullian had obtained distinction among Latin writers.|
Semler admits that, after
Tertullian seceded from the church, he left and returned to Carthage.
Jerome does not inform us whether Tertullian was born of Christian
parents, or was converted to Christianity. There are passages in his
| 9 See De Præscript.
which seem to imply that he had been a
Gentile; yet he may perhaps mean to describe, not his own condition,
but that of Gentiles in general, before their conversion. Allix and the
majority of commentators understand them literally, as well as some
other passages in which he speaks of his own infirmities and
sinfulness. His writings show that he flourished at the period
specified by Jerome—that is, during the reigns of Severus and
Antoninus Caracalla, or between the years a.d.
193 and 216; but they supply no precise information respecting the date
of his birth, or any of the principal occurrences of his life. Allix
places his birth about 145 or 150; his conversion to Christianity about
a.d. 185; his marriage about 186; his admission
to the priesthood11
| 10 De Pœnitentia,
i. Hoc genus hominum, quod et ipsi retro fuimus, cæci, sine Domini
lumine, naturâ tenus norunt; De Fuga in Persecutione,
vi. Nobis autem et via nationum patet, in quâ et inventi
sumus; Adv. Marcionem, iii. 21. Et nationes, quod sumus
nos; Apolog. xviii. Hæc et nos risimus
aliquando; de vestris fuimus; also De Spectac.
about 192; his adoption
of the opinions of Montanus about 199; and his death about a.d. 220. But these dates, it must be understood, rest
entirely on conjecture.”12
| 11 [Kaye, p. 9. A fair view
of this point.]|
| 12 These notes of Bishop Kaye
may be found, in their fuller form, in his work on Tertullian, pp.
(II.) Tertullian’s work against
Marcion, as it happens, is, as to its date, the best
authenticated—perhaps the only well
authenticated—particular connected with the author’s life.
mentions the fifteenth
year of the reign of Severus as the time when he was writing the work:
“Ad xv. jam Severi imperatoris.” This agrees with
Jerome’s Chronicle, where occurs this note: “Anno 2223
Severi xvº Tertullianus…celebratur.”14
This year is assigned to the year of our Lord
| 14 Jerome probably took this
date as the central period, when Tertullian “flourished,”
because of its being the only clearly authenticated one, and because
also (it may be) of the importance and fame of the Treatise against
but notwithstanding the certainty of this
date, it is far from clear that it describes more than the time of the
publication of the first book. On the contrary, it is nearly
certain that the other books, although connected manifestly enough in
the author’s argument and purpose (compare the initial and the
final chapters of the several books), were yet issued at separate
| 15 So Clinton, Fasti
Romani, i. 204; or 208, Pamelius, Vita Tertull.|
shows that between the
Book i. and Books ii.–iv. Tertullian issued his De
Præscript. Hæret., and previous to Book v. he published
his tracts, De Carne Christi and De Resurrectione Carnis.
After giving the incontestable date of the xv. of Severus for the first
book, he says it is a mistake to suppose that the other books were
published with it. He adds: “Although we cannot undertake to
determine whether Tertullian issued his Books ii., iii., iv., against
Marcion, together or separately, or in what year, we yet venture to
affirm that Book v. appeared apart from the rest. For the tract De
Resurr. Carnis appears from its second chapter to have been
published after the tract De Carne Christi, in which latter work
(chap. vii.) he quotes a passage from the fourth book against
Marcion. But in his Book v. against Marcion (chap. x.), he refers
to his work De Resurr. Carnis; which circumstance makes it
evident that Tertullian published his Book v. at a different time from
his Book iv. In his Book i. he announces his intention (chap. i.) of
some time or other completing his tract De Præscript.
Hæret., but in his book De Carne Christi (chap. ii.),
he mentions how he had completed it,—a conclusive proof that his
Book i. against Marcion preceded the other books.”
| 16 In his treatise, De
vera ætate ac doctrina script. Tertulliani, sections 28,
Respecting Marcion himself, the most formidable heretic who had as yet
opposed revealed truth, enough will turn up in this treatise, with the
notes which we have added in explanation, to satisfy the reader. It
will, however, be convenient to give here a few introductory
particulars of him. Tertullian17
mentions Marcion as
being, with Valentinus, in communion with the Church at Rome,
“under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus.” He goes
on to charge them with “ever-restless curiosity, with which they
infected even the brethren;” and informs us that they were more
than once put out of communion—“Marcion, indeed, with the
200 sesterces which he brought into the church.”18
| 17 De Præscript.
He goes on to say, that “being at last
condemned to the banishment of a perpetual separation, they sowed
abroad the poisons of their doctrines. Afterwards, when Marcion, having
professed penitence, agreed to the terms offered to him, that he should
receive reconciliation on condition that he brought back to the church
the rest also, whom he had trained up for perdition, he was prevented
by death.” He was a native of Sinope in Pontus, of which city,
according to an account preserved by Epiphanius,19
| 18 Comp. Adv.
Marcionem, iv. 4.|
which, however, is somewhat doubtful, his father was bishop, and of
high character both for his orthodoxy and exemplary practice. He came
to Rome soon after the death of Hyginus, probably about a.d. 141 or 142; and soon after his arrival he adopted the
heresy of Cerdon.20
| 19 I., Adv.
Hæret. xlii. 1.|
| 20 Dr. Burton’s
Lectures on Eccl. Hist. of First Three Centuries, ii.
(IV.) It is an interesting question as to what
edition of the Holy Scriptures Tertullian used in his very copious
quotations. It may at once be asserted that he did not cite from the
Hebrew, although some writers have claimed for him, among his varied
learning, a knowledge of the sacred language. Bp. Kaye observes, page
61, n. 1, that “he sometimes speaks as if he was acquainted with
Hebrew,” and refers to the Anti-Marcion iv. 39, the
Adv. Praxeam v., and the Adv. Judæos ix. Be this as
it may, it is manifest that Tertullian’s Scripture passages never
resemble the Hebrew, but in nearly every instance the Septuagint,
whenever, as is most frequently the case, that version differs from the
original. In the New Testament there is, as might be expected, a
tolerably close conformity to the Greek. There is, however, it must be
allowed, a sufficiently frequent variation from the letter of both the
Greek Testaments to justify Semler’s suspicion that Tertullian
always quoted from the old Latin version,21
that might have been, which was current in the African church in the
second and third centuries. The most valuable part of
Semler’s Dissertatio de varia et incerta indole
Librorum Q. S. F. Tertulliani is his investigation of this very
point. In section iv. he endeavours to prove this proposition:
non in manibus habuit
Græcos libros sacros;” and he states his conclusion
thus: “Certissimum est nec Tertullianum nec Cyprianum nec ullum
scriptorem e Latinis illis ecclesiasticis provocare unquam ad
Græcorum librorum auctoritatem si vel maxime obscura aut contraria
lectio occurreret;” and again: “Ex his satis certum est,
Latinos satis diu secutos fuisse auctoritatem suorum librorum adversus
Græcos, nec concessisse nisi serius, cum Augustini et Hieronymi
nova auctoritas juvare videretur.” It is not ignorance of Greek
which is imputed to Tertullian, for he is said to have well understood
that language, and even to have composed in it. He probably followed
the Latin, as writers now usually quote the authorized English, as
being current and best known among their readers. Independent feeling,
also, would have weight with such a temper as Tertullian’s, to
say nothing of the suspicion which largely prevailed in the African
branch of the Latin church, that the Greek copies of the Scriptures
were much corrupted by the heretics, who were chiefly, if not wholly,
Greeks or Greek-speaking persons.
(V.) Whatever perverting effect Tertullian’s
secession to the sect of Montanus23
had on his judgment in his
latest writings, it did not vitiate the work against Marcion. With a
few trivial exceptions, this treatise may be read by the strictest
Catholic without any feeling of annoyance. His lapse to Montanism is
set down conjecturally as having taken place a.d. 199. Jerome, we have seen, attributed the event to his
quarrel with the Roman clergy, but this is at least doubtful; nor must
it be forgotten that Tertullian’s mind seems to have been
peculiarly suited by nature24
| 23 Vincentius Lirinensis, in
his celebrated Commonitorium, expresses the opinion of Catholic
churchmen concerning Tertullian thus: “Tertullian, among
the Latins, without controversy, is the chief of all our writers. For
who was more learned than he? Who in divinity or humanity more
practised? For, by a certain wonderful capacity of mind, he attained to
and understood all philosophy, all the sects of philosophers, all their
founders and supporters, all their systems, all sorts of histories and
studies. And for his wit, was he not so excellent, so grave, so
forcible, that he scarce ever undertook the overthrow of any position,
but either by quickness of wit he undermined, or by weight of reason he
crushed it? Further, who is able to express the praises which his style
of speech deserves, which is fraught (I know none like it) with that
cogency of reason, that such as it cannot persuade, it compels to
assent; whose so many words almost are so many sentences; whose so many
senses, so many victories? This know Marcion and Apelles, Praxeas and
Hermogenes, Jews, Gentiles, Gnostics, and divers others, whose
blasphemous opinions he hath overthrown with his many and great
volumes, as it had been thunderbolts. And yet this man after all, this
Tertullian, not retaining the Catholic doctrine—that is, the old
faith—hath discredited with his later error his worthy
writings,” etc.—Chap. xxiv. (Oxford trans. chap.
to adopt the mystical
notions and ascetic principles of Montanus. It is satisfactory to find
that, on the whole, “the authority of Tertullian,” as the
learned Dr. Burton says, “upon great points of doctrine is
considered to be little, if at all, affected by his becoming a
Montanist.” (Lectures on Eccl. Hist. vol. ii. p. 234.)
Besides the different works which are expressly mentioned in the notes
of this volume, recourse has been had by the translator to
Dupin’s Hist. Eccl. Writers (trans.), vol. i. pp.
69–86; Tillemont’s Mèmoires
Hist. Eccl. iii. 85–103; Dr. Smith’s
Greek and Roman Biography, articles “Marcion” and
“Tertullian;” Schaff’s article, in Herzog’s
Cyclopædia, on “Tertullian;” Munter’s
Primordia Eccl. Africanæ, pp. 118–150;
Robertson’s Church Hist. vol. i. pp. 70–77; Dr. P.
Schaff’s Hist. of Christian Church (New York, 1859, pp.
511–519), and Archdeacon Evans’ Biography of the Early
Church, vol. i. (Lives of “Marcion,” pp. 93–122,
and “Tertullian,” pp. 325–363). This last work,
though of a popular cast, shows a good deal of research and learning,
expressed in the pleasant style of the once popular author of The
Rectory of Vale Head. The translator has mentioned these works,
because they are all quite accessible to the general reader, and will
give him adequate information concerning the subject treated in the
| 24 Neander’s
introduction to his Antignostikus
should be read in connection with this topic. He powerfully delineates
the disposition of Tertullian and the character of Montanism, and
attributes his secession to that sect not to outward causes, but to
“his internal congeniality of mind.” But, inasmuch as
a man’s subjective development is very much guided by
circumstances, it is not necessary, in agreeing with Neander, to
disbelieve some such account as Jerome has given us of Tertullian
(Neander’s Antignostikus, etc.
Bohn’s trans., vol. ii. pp. 200–207).|
To this introduction of Dr. Holmes must be added that of
Mr. Thelwall, the translator of the Third volume in the Edinburgh
Series, as follows:
To arrange chronologically the works (especially if
numerous) of an author whose own date is known with tolerable
precision, is not always or necessarily easy: witness the controversies
as to the succession of St. Paul’s epistles. To do this in the
case of an author whose own date is itself a matter of controversy may
therefore be reasonably expected to be still less so; and such is the
predicament of him who attempts to perform this task for Tertullian. I
propose to give a specimen or two of the difficulties with which the
task is beset; and then to lay before the reader briefly a summary of
the results at which eminent scholars, who have devoted much time and
thought to the subject, have arrived. Such a course, I think, will at
once afford him means of judging of the absolute impossibility of
arriving at definite certainty in the matter; and induce him to excuse
me if I prefer furnishing him with materials from which to deduce his
own conclusions, rather than venturing on an ex cathedra
decision on so doubtful a subject.
I. The book, as Dr. Holmes has reminded
of the date of which we seem to have
the surest evidence,
is Adv. Marc. i. This book was in course of writing, as its
author himself (c. 15) tells us, “in the fifteenth year of the
empire of Severus.” Now this date would be clear if there were no
doubt as to which year of our era corresponds to Tertullian’s
fifteenth of Severus. Pamelius, however, says Dr. Holmes, makes it
a.d. 208; Clinton, (whose authority is more
recent and better,) 207.
| 25 Introductory Notice
to the Anti-Marcion, pp. xiii., xiv.|
2. Another book which promises to give some clue
to its date is the de Pallio.26
The writer uses
these phrases: “præsentis imperii triplex
virtus;” “Deo tot Augustis in unum
favente;” which show that there were at the time
three persons unitedly bearing the title Augusti—not
Cæsares only, but the still higher
Augusti;—while the remainder of that context, as well as
the opening of c. 1, indicates a time of peace of some considerable
duration; a time of plenty; and a time during and previous to which
great changes had taken place in the general aspect of the Roman
Empire, and some particular traitor had been discovered and frustrated.
Such a combination of circumstances might seem to fix the date with
some degree of assurance. But unhappily, as Kaye reminds us,27
| 26 In the end of Chapter
commentators cannot agree as to who the three
Augusti are. Some say Severus, Caracalla, and Albinus; some say
Severus, Caracalla, and Geta. Hence we have a difference
of some twelve years or thereabouts in the computations. For Albinus
was defeated by Severus in person, and fell by his own hand, in
a.d. 197; and Geta, Severus’ second son,
brother of Caracalla, was not associated by his father with himself and
his other son as Augustus until a.d.
208, though he had received the title of Cæsar ten years
before, in the same year in which Caracalla had received that of
| 27 Eccl. Hist. illust.
from Tertullian’s Writings, p. 36 sqq. (ed. 3, Lond.
For my own part, I may perhaps be allowed to
say that I should incline to agree, like Salmasius, with those who
assign the later date. The limits of the present Introduction forbid my
entering at large into my reasons for so doing. I am, however,
supported in it by the authority of Neander.29
point, though, I should hesitate to agree with Oehler, who appears to
follow Salmasius and others herein,—namely, in understanding the
expression “et cacto et rubo subdolæ familiaritatis
convulso” of Albinus. It seems to me the words might
with more propriety be applied to Plautianus; and that in the
word “familiaritatis” we may see (after Tertullian’s
fashion) a play upon the meaning, with a reference not only to the
long-standing but mischievous intimacy which existed between
Severus and his countryman (perhaps fellow-townsman) Plautianus, who
for his harshness and cruelty is fitly compared to the prickly
cactus. He alludes likewise to the alliance which this
ambitious prætorian præfect had contrived to contract with
the family of the emperor, by the marriage of his daughter
Plautilla to Caracalla,—an event which, as it turned out, led to
his own death. Thus in the “rubo” there may be a
reference to the ambitious and conceited “bramble” of
| 29 Antignostikus, p. 424 (Bohn’s tr., ed.
and perhaps, too, to
the “thistle” of Jehoash’s.31
be so, the date would be at least approximately fixed, as Plautianus
did not marry his daughter to Caracalla till a.d. 203, and was himself put to death in the following
year, 204, while Geta, as we have seen, was made Augustus in
3. The date of the Apology, however, is
perhaps at once the most contested, and the most strikingly
illustrative of the difficulties to which allusion has been made.
It is not surprising that its date should have been more
disputed than that of other pieces, inasmuch as it is the best known,
and (for some reasons) the most interesting and famous, of all our
author’s productions. In fact, the dates assigned to it by
different authorities vary from Mosheim’s 198 to that suggested
by the very learned Allix, who assigns it to 217.32
| 32 Here, again, our limits
forbid a discussion; but the allusion to the Rhone having
“scarcely yet lost the stain of blood” which we find in the
ad. Natt. i. 17, compared with Apol. 35, seems to
favour the idea of those who date the ad. Natt.
earlier than the Apology, and consider the latter as a kind of
new edition of the former: while it would fix the date of the
ad. Natt. as not certainly earlier than 197, in which year (as
we have seen) Albinus died. The fatal battle took place on the banks of
more. In the tract de Monogamia (c. 3) the author says
that since the date of St. Paul’s first Epistle to the
Corinthians “about 160 years had elapsed.” Here,
again, did we only know with certainty the precise date of that
epistle, we could ascertain “about” the date of the tract.
But (a) the date of the epistle is itself variously given, Burton
giving it as early as a.d. 52, Michaelis and
Mill as late as 57; and (b) Tertullian only says,
“Armis circiter clx.
exinde productis;” while the way in which, in the
ad Natt., within the short space of three chapters, he states
that 250, and then (in c. 9) that 300, years
had not elapsed since the rise of the Christian name, leads us to think
that here again34
he only desires to
speak in round numbers, meaning perhaps more than 150, but
less than 170.
These specimens must suffice, though it might be
easy to add to them. There is, however, another classification of our
author’s writings which has been attempted. Finding the
haplessness of strict chronological accuracy, commentators have seized
on the idea that peradventure there might be found at all events some
internal marks by which to determine which of them were written before,
which after, the writer’s secession to Montanism. It may be
confessed that this attempt has been somewhat more successful than the
other. Yet even here there are two formidable obstacles standing in our
way. The first and greatest is, that the natural temper of Tertullian
was from the first so akin to the spirit of Montanism, that, unless
there occur distinct allusions to the “New Prophecy,” or
expressions specially connected with Montanistic phraseology, the
general tone of any treatise is not a very safe guide. The
second is, that the subject-matter of some of the treatises is not such
as to afford much scope for the introduction of the peculiarities of a
sect which professed to differ in discipline only, not doctrine, from
the church at large.
Still the result of this classification seems to
show one important feature of agreement between commentators, however
they may differ upon details; and that is, that considerably the larger
part of our author’s rather voluminous productions35
must have been subsequent to his lamented
secession. I think the best way to give the reader means for forming
his own judgment will be, as I have said, to lay before him in parallel
columns a tabular view of the disposition of the books by Dr. Neander
and Bishop Kaye. These two modern writers, having given particular care
to the subject, bringing to bear upon it all the advantages derived
from wide reading, eminent abilities, and a diligent study of the works
of preceding writers on the same questions,36
| 35 It looks strange to
see Tertullian’s works referred to as consisting of “about
thirty short treatises” in Murdock’s note on Moshiem. See
the ed. of the Eccl. Hist. by Dr. J. Seaton Reid, p. 65, n. 2,
Lond. and Bel. 1852.|
special right to be heard upon the matter in hand; and I think, if I
may be allowed to say so, that, for calm judgment, and minute
acquaintance with his author, I shall not be accused of undue
partiality if I express my opinion that, as far as my own observation
goes, the palm must be awarded to the Bishop. In this view I am
supported by the fact that the accomplished Professor Ramsay,37
| 36 This last qualification is
very specially observable in Dr. Kaye.|
follows Dr. Kaye’s arrangement. I
premise that Dr. Neander adopts a threefold division, into:
| 37 In his article on
Tertullian in Smith’s Dict. of Biog. and Myth.|
1. Writings which were occasioned by the relation of the Christians
to the heathen, and refer to their vindication of Christianity against
the heathen; attacks on heathenism; the sufferings and conduct of
Christians under persecution; and the intercourse of Christians with
2. Writings which relate to Christian and church life, and to
3. The dogmatic and dogmatico-controversial treatises.
And under each head he subdivides into:
a. Pre-Montanist writings; b. Post-Montanist writings:
thus leaving no room for what
Kaye calls “works respecting which nothing certain can be
pronounced.” For the sake of clearness, this order has not been
followed in the table. On the other side, it will be seen that Dr.
Kaye, while not assuming to speak with more than a reasonable
probability, is careful so to arrange the treatises under each head as
to show the order, so far as it is discoverable, in which the books
under that head were published; i.e., if one book is quoted in another
book, the book so quoted, if distinctly referred to as already before
the world, is plainly anterior to that in which it is quoted. Thus,
1. De Pœnitentia.
2. De Oratione.
3. De Baptismo.
4. Ad Uxorem i.
5. Ad Uxorem ii.
6. Ad Martyres.
7. De Patientia.
8. De Spectaculis.
9. De Idololatria.
10. 11. Ad Nationes i. ii.
13. De Testimonio Animæ.
14. De Præscr. Hæreticorum.
15. De Cult. Fem. i.
16. De Cult. Fem. ii.
17–21. Adv. Marc. i. ii. iii. iv. v.
22. De Anima.
23. De Carne Christi.
24. De Res. Carn.
25. De Cor. Mil.
26. De Virg. Vel.
27. De Ex. Cast.
28. De Monog.
29. De Jejuniis.
30. De Pudicitia.
31. De Pallio.
33. Ad Scapulam.
34. Adv. Valentinianos.
35. Adv. Hermogenem.
36. Adv. Praxeam.
37. Adv. Judæos.
38. De Fuga in Persecutione.
I. Pre-Montanist (probably).
1. De Pœnitentia.38
| 38 Referred to
apparently in de Pudic. ad init.–Tr.|
2. De Oratione.
3. De Baptismo.
4. Ad Uxorem i.
5. Ad Uxorem ii.
6. Ad Martyres.
7. De Patientia.
8. Adv. Judæos.
9. De Præscr. Hæreticorum.39
| 39 The de
Præscr. is ref. to in adv. Marc. i.; adv Prax.
2; de Carne Christi, 2; adv. Hermog. 1.|
II. Montanist (certainly).
10. Adv. Marc. i.
11. Adv. Marc. ii.40
| 40 Ref. to in de
Res. Carn. 2, 14; Scorp. 5; de Anima, 21. The only
mark, as the learned Bishop’s remarks imply, for fixing the date
of publication as Montanistic, is the fact that Tertullian alludes, in
the opening sentences, to B. i. Hence B. ii. could not, in its present
form, have appeared till after B. i. Now B. i. contains evident
marks of Montanism: see the last chapter, for instance. But the writer
speaks (in the same passage) of B. ii. as being the treatise,
the ill fate of which in its unfinished condition he there
relates—at least such seems the legitimate sense of his
words—now remodelled. Hence, when originally
written, it may not have been Montanistic.—Tr.|
12. De Anima.41
| 41 Ref. to in de
Res. Carn. 2, 17, 45; comp. cc. 18, 21.|
13. Adv. Marc. iii.
14. Adv. Marc. iv.42
| 42 Ref. to in de
Carn. Chr. 7.|
15. De Carne Christi.43
| 43 Ref. to in de
Res. Carn. 2.|
16. De Resurrectione Carnis.44
| 44 See the beginning
and end of the de Carne Christi.—Tr. Ref. to in adv. Marc. v. 10.|
17. Adv. Marc. v.
18. Adv. Praxeam.
| 45 In c. 4 Tertullian speaks
as if he had already refuted all the heretics.|
20. De Corona Militis.
21. De Virginibus Velandis.
22. De Exhortatione Castitatis.
23. De Fuga in Persecutione.
24. De Monogamia.46
| 46 Ref. to in de
Jej. c. 1.|
25. De Jejuniis.
26. De Pudicitia.
III. Montanist (probably).
27. Adv. Valentinianos.
28. Ad Scapulam.
29. De Spectaculis.47
| 47 Ref. to in de
Idolol. 13; in de Cult. Fem. i. 8. In the de Cor. 6
is a reference to the Greek tract de Spectaculis by our
30. De Idololatria.
31. De Cultu Feminarum i.
32. De Cultu Feminarum ii.
IV. Works respecting which nothing certain can
33. The Apology.48
| 48 Archdeacon Evans, in
his Biography of the Early Church (in the Theological Library),
suggests that the success which the Apology met with, or at
least the fame it brought its author, may have been the occasion of
Tertullian’s visit to Rome. He rejects entirely the supposition
that Tertullian was a presbyter of the Roman church; nor does he think
Eusebius’ words, καὶ
Hist. ii. 2. 47 ad fin., 48 ad init.), sufficiently
plain to be relied on. One thing does seem pretty plain, that the
rendering of them which Rufinus gives, and Valesius follows,
“inter nostros” (sc. Latinos) “Scriptores
admodum clarus,” cannot be correct. That we find a famous
Roman lawyer Tertullianus, or Tertyllianus, among the writers fragments
of whom are preserved in the Pandects, Neander reminds us; but (as he
says) it by no means follows, even if it could be proved that the date
of the said lawyer corresponded with the supposed date of our
Tertullian, that they were identical. Still it is worth bearing
in mind, especially as a similarity of language exists, or has been
thought to exist, between the jurist and the Christian author. And the
juridical language and tone of our author do seem to point to his
having—though Mr. Evans regards that as doubtful—been a
34. Ad Nationes i.
35. Ad Nationes ii.
36. De Testimonio Animæ.
37. De Pallio.
38. Adv. Hermogenem.
of these two lists will show that the difference between the two great
authorities is, as Kaye remarks, “not great; and with respect to
some of the tracts on which we differ, the learned author expresses
himself with great diffidence.”49
difference, in fact, is that which affects two tracts upon kindred
subjects, the de Spectaculis, and Idololatria, the de
Cultu Feminarum (a subject akin to the other two), and the adv.
Judæos. With reference to all these, except the last, to which
I believe the Archdeacon does not once refer, the Bishop’s
opinion appears to have the support of Archdeacon Evans, whose learned
and interesting essay, referred to in the note, appears in a volume
published in 1837. Dr. Kaye’s Lectures, on which his book is
founded, were delivered in 1825. Of the date of his first edition
I am not aware. Dr. Neander’s Antignostikus also first
appeared in 1825. The preface to his second edition bears date July 1,
| 49 Kaye, as above. Pref. to
2d ed. pp. xxi. xxii. incorporated in the 3d ed., which I always
. As to the adv. Judæos, I confess
I agree with Neander in thinking that, at all events from the beginning
of c. 9, it is spurious. If it be urged that Jerome expressly
quotes it as Tertullian’s, I reply, Jerome so quotes it, I
believe, when he is expounding Daniel. Now all that the adv.
Jud. has to say about Daniel ends with the end of c. 8. It
is therefore quite compatible with the fact thus stated to recognize
the earlier half of the book as genuine, and to reject the rest,
beginning, as it happens, just after the eighth chapter, as spurious.
Perhaps Dr. Neander’s Jewish birth and training peculiarly fit
him to be heard on this question. Nor do I think Professor Ramsay (in
the article above alluded to) has quite seen the force of Kaye’s
own remarks on Neander.51
| 50 i.e., four years
after Kaye’s third.|
What he does say is
equally creditable to his candour and his accuracy; namely: “The
instances alleged by Dr. Neander, in proof of this position, are
undoubtedly very remarkable; but if the concluding chapters of the
tract are spurious, no ground seems to be left for asserting that the
genuine portion was posterior to the third Book against
| 51 See Pref. 2d ed. p. xix.
—and none, consequently, for asserting
that it was written by a Montanist.” With which remark I must
draw these observations on the genuine extant works of Tertullian to a
| 52 It being from that book
that the quotations are taken which make up the remainder of the tract,
as Semler, worthless as his theories are, has well shown.|
The next point to which a brief reference must be
made is the lost works of Tertullian, lists of these are given
both by Oehler and by Kaye, viz.:
1. A Book on Aaron’s Robes: mentioned by Jerome,
Epist. 128, ad Fabiolam de Veste Sacerdotali (tom. ii. p. 586,
Opp. ed. Bened.).
2. A Book on the Superstition of the Age.53
| 53 “Sæculi”
or “of the world,” or perhaps “of
3. A Book on the Submission of the Soul.
4. A Book on the Flesh and the Soul.
Nos. 2, 3, and 4 are known only by their titles, which
are found in the Index to Tertullian’s works given in the
Codex Agobardi; but the tracts themselves are not extant
in the ms., which appears to have once
5. A Book on Paradise, named in the Index, and
referred to in de Anima 55, adv. Marc. iii. 12;
6. A Book on the Hope of the Faithful: also named
in the Index, and referred to adv. Marc. iii. 24; and by Jerome in
his account of Papias,54
and on Ezek.
| 54 Catal. Scrippt.
Eccles. c. 18.|
and by Gennadius of Marseilles.56
| 55 P. 952, tom. iii. Opp. ed.
| 56 De Ecclesiæ
dogmatibus, c. 55.|
7. Six Books on Ecstasy, with a seventh in reply
| 57 Referred to in Adv.
Marc. iv. 22. So Kaye thinks; but perhaps the reference is
doubtful. See, however, the passage in Dr. Holmes’ translation in
the present series, with his note thereon.|
See, too, J. A. Fabricius on the words of the
unknown author whom the Jesuit Sirmond edited under the name
Prædestinatus; who gathers thence that “Soter, pope
of the City,59
| 58 De Scriptt. Eccles.
53, 24, 40.|
of the Ephesians, wrote a book against the
Montanists; in reply to whom Tertullian, a Carthaginian
presbyter, wrote.” J. Pamelius thinks these seven books were
originally published in Greek.
8. A Book in reply to the Apellesites (i.e. the
followers of Apelles61
): referred to in de
Carne Christi, c. 8.
| 61 A Marcionite at one time:
he subsequently set up a sect of his own. He is mentioned in the
adv. omn. Hær. c. 6.|
9. A Book on the Origin62
Soul, in reply to Hermogenes: referred to in de Anima, cc.
1, 3, 22, 24.
10. A Book on Fate: referred to by Fulgentius
Planciades, p. 562, Merc.; also referred to as either written, or
intended to be written, by Tertullian himself, de Anima, c. 20.
states that there was extant, or had been
extant, a book on Fate under the name of Minucius Felix, written indeed
by a perspicuous author, but not in the style of Minucius Felix. This,
Pamelius judged, should perhaps be rather ascribed to
| 63 Catal. Scrippt.
Eccles. c. 58.|
11. A Book on the Trinity. Jerome64
says: “Novatian wrote.…a large
volume on the Trinity, as if making an epitome of a work of
Tertullian’s, which most men not knowing regard it as
Cyprian’s.” Novatian’s book stood in
Tertullian’s name in the mss. of J.
Gangneius, who was the first to edit it; in a Malmesbury ms. which Sig. Gelenius used; and in others.
| 64 Catal. Scrippt.
Eccles. c. 70.|
12. A Book addressed to a Philosophic Friend on
the Straits of Matrimony. Both Kaye and Oehler65
doubt whether Jerome’s words,66
| 65 Oehler speaks more
decidedly than Kaye.|
by which some have
been led to conclude that Tertullian wrote some book or books on this
and kindred subjects, really imply as much, or whether they may not
refer merely to those tracts and passages in his extant writings which
touch upon such matters. Kaye hesitates to think that the “Book
to a Philosophic Friend” is the same as the de
Exhortatione Castitatis, because Jerome says Tertullian wrote
on the subject of celibacy “in his youth;” but as
Cave takes what Jerome elsewhere says of Tertullian’s leaving the
Church “about the middle of his age” to mean his
spiritual age, the same sense might attach to his words here
too, and thus obviate the Bishop’s difficulty.
| 66 Epist. ad Eustochium de
Custodia Virginitatis, p. 37, tom. iv. Opp. ed. Bened.; adv.
Jovin. i. p. 157, tom. iv. Opp. ed. Bened.|
There are some other works which have been
attributed to Tertullian—on Circumcision; on Animals Clean and
Unclean; on the truth that God is a Judge—which Oehler likewise
rejects, believing that the expressions of Jerome refer only to
passages in the Anti-Marcion and other extant works. To Novatian
Jerome does ascribe a distinct work on Circumcision,67
this may (comp. 11, just above) have given rise to the view that
Tertullian had written one also.
| 67 In the Catal. Scrippt.
There were, moreover, three treatises at least
written by Tertullian in Greek. They are:
1. A Book on Public Shows. See de Cor. c.
2. A Book on Baptism. See de Bapt. c.
3. A Book on the Veiling of Virgins. See de V.
V. c. 1.
that J. Pamelius, in his epistle dedicatory to Philip II. of Spain,
makes mention of a Greek copy of Tertullian in the library of
that king. This report, however, since nothing has ever been seen or
heard of the said copy from that time, Oehler judges to be
| 68 “Mendacem” is
his word. I know not whether he intends to charge Pamelius with wilful
It remains briefly to notice the confessedly
spurious works which the editions of Tertullian generally have appended
to them. With these Kaye does not deal. The fragment, adv. omnes
Hæreses, Oehler attributes to Victorinus Petavionensis, i.e.,
Victorinus bishop of Pettaw, on the Drave, in Austrian Styria. It was
once thought he ought to be called Pictaviensis, i.e. of
Poictiers; but John Launoy69
has shown this to
be an error. Victorinus is said by Jerome to have
“understood Greek better than Latin; hence his works are
excellent for the sense, but mean as to the style.”70
| 69 Doctor of the Sorbonne,
said by Bossuet to have proved himself “a semi-Pelagian and
Jansenist!” born in 1603, in Normandy, died in 1678.|
Cave believes him to have been a Greek by
| 70 Jer. de Vir.
Illust. c. 74.|
states him to have been
once a professor of rhetoric. Jerome’s statement agrees with the
style of the tract in question; and Jerome distinctly says Victorinus
did write adversus omnes Hæreses. Allix leaves
the question of its authorship quite uncertain. If Victorinus be the
author, the book falls clearly within the Ante-Nicene period; for
Victorinus fell a martyr in the Diocletian persecution, probably about
The next fragment—“Of the Execrable Gods of
the Heathens”—is of quite uncertain authorship.
Oehler would attribute it “to some declaimer not quite ignorant
of Tertullian’s writings,” but certainly not to Tertullian
Lastly we come to the metrical fragments.
Concerning these, it is perhaps impossible to assign them to their
rightful owners. Oehler has not troubled himself much about them;
but he seems to regard the Jonah as worthy of more regard than
the rest, for he seems to have intended giving more labour to its
editing at some future time. Whether he has ever done so, or given us
his German version of Tertullian’s own works, which,
“si Deus adjuverit,” he distinctly promises in
his preface, I do not know. Perhaps the best thing to be done under the
circumstances is to give the judgment of the learned Peter Allix. It
may be premised that by the celebrated George Fabricius72
—who published his great work,
Poetarum Veterum Ecclesiasticorum Opera Christiana, etc.,
in 1564—the Five Books in Reply to Marcion, and the
Judgment of the Lord, are ascribed to Tertullian, the
Genesis and Sodom to Cyprian. Pamelius likewise seems to
have ascribed the Five Books, the Jonah, and the
| 72 He must not be confounded
with the still more famous John Albert Fabricius of the next century,
referred to in p. xv. above.|
to Tertullian; and
according to Lardner, Bishop Bull likewise attributed the Five
Books to him.74
| 73 Whole of these metrical
They have been
generally ascribed to the Victorinus above mentioned. Tillemont, among
others, thinks they may well enough be his.75
| 74 Lardner,
Credibility, vol. iii. p. 169, under “Victorinus of
Pettaw,” ed. Kippis, Lond. 1838.|
Rigaltius is content to demonstrate that they are not
Tertullian’s, but leaves the real authorship without attempting
to decide it. Of the others the same eminent critic says, “They
seem to have been written at Carthage, at an age not far removed from
| 75 See Lardner, as above.|
Allix, after observing
that Pamelius is inconsistent with himself in attributing the
Genesis and Sodom at one time to Tertullian, at another
to Cyprian, rejects both views equally, and assigns the Genesis with
some confidence to Salvian, a presbyter of Marseilles, whose
“floruit” Cave gives cir. 440, a
contemporary of Gennadius, and a copious author. To this it is, Allix
thinks, that Gennadius alludes in his Catalogue of Illustrious
Men, c. 77.
| 76 See Migne, who
prefixes this judgment of Rig. to the de Judicio
Judgment of the Lord Allix ascribes to one Verecundus, an
African bishop, whose date he finds it difficult to decide exactly. He
refers to two of the name: one Bishop of Tunis, whom Victor of Tunis in
his chronicle mentions as having died in exile at Chalcedon
a.d. 552; the other Bishop of Noba, who visited
Carthage with many others a.d. 482, at the
summons of King Huneric, to answer there for their faith;—and
would ascribe the poem to the former, thinking that he finds an
allusion to it in the article upon that Verecundus in the de Viris
Illustribus of Isidore of Seville. Oehler agrees with him.
The Five Books Allix seems to hint may be attributed to some
imitator of the Victorinus of Pettaw named above. Oehler attributes
them rather to one Victorinus, or Victor, of Marseilles, a rhetorician,
who died a.d. 450. He appears in G. Fabricius
as Claudius Marius Victorinus, writer of a Commentary on
Genesis, and an epistle ad Salomonem Abbata, both in
verse, and of some considerable length.
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