Tertullian

Tertullian

Overview
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 220 AD), was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist
Christian apologetics
Christian apologetics is a field of Christian theology that aims to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defend the faith against objections, and expose the perceived flaws of other world views...

 and a polemicist against heresy
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

. Tertullian has been called "the father of Latin Christianity" and "the founder of Western theology."
Though conservative, he did originate and advance new theology to the early Church.
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Quotations

Plures efficimur, quoties metumur a vobis; semen est sanguis christianorum.

Translation: We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed.

Omnium gentium unus homo, uarium nomen est, una anima, uaria uox, unus spiritus, uarius sonus, propria cuique genti loquella, sed loquellae materia communis.

Translation: Man is one name belonging to every nation upon earth. In them all is one soul though many tongues. Every country has its own language, yet the subjects of which the untutored soul speaks are the same everywhere.

Veritas autem docendo persuadet non suadendo docet.

Translation: Truth persuades by teaching, but does not teach by persuading.

Nihil veritas erubescit

Translation: Truth does not blush.

Prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est.

Translation: It is to be believed because it is absurd.

Certum est, quia impossible est.

Translation: It is certain because it is impossible.

De calcaria in carbonarium.

Translation: Out of the frying pan into the fire.

Qui fugiebat, rursus sibi proeliabitur.

Translation: He who flees will fight again.

Nec alii obest aut prodest alterius religio.

Translation: One man's religion neither harms nor helps another man.
Encyclopedia
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 220 AD), was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist
Christian apologetics
Christian apologetics is a field of Christian theology that aims to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defend the faith against objections, and expose the perceived flaws of other world views...

 and a polemicist against heresy
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

. Tertullian has been called "the father of Latin Christianity" and "the founder of Western theology."
Though conservative, he did originate and advance new theology to the early Church. He is perhaps most famous for being the oldest extant Latin writer to use the term Trinity (Latin trinitas), and giving the oldest extant formal exposition of a Trinitarian theology. Other Latin formulations that first appear in his work are "three Persons, one Substance" as the Latin "tres Persona
Persona
A persona, in the word's everyday usage, is a social role or a character played by an actor. The word is derived from Latin, where it originally referred to a theatrical mask. The Latin word probably derived from the Etruscan word "phersu", with the same meaning, and that from the Greek πρόσωπον...

e, una Substantia" (itself from the Koine Greek
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

 "treis Hypostases
Hypostasis (religion)
In Christian theology, a hypostasis or person is one of the three elements of the Holy Trinity.In Christian usage, the Greek word hypostasis means beneath-standing or underpinning and, by extension, the existence of some thing...

, Homoousios"). He wrote his trinitarian formula after becoming a Montanist; his ideas were at first rejected as heresy by the church at large, but later accepted as Christian orthodoxy.

Life


Scant reliable evidence exists to inform us about Tertullian's life. Most history about him comes from passing references in his own writings.

According to church tradition, he was raised in Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 and was thought to be the son of a Roman centurion, a trained lawyer, and an ordained priest. These assertions rely on the accounts of Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

, Church History
Church History (Eusebius)
The Church History of Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea was a 4th-century pioneer work giving a chronological account of the development of Early Christianity from the 1st century to the 4th century. It was written in Koine Greek, and survives also in Latin, Syriac and Armenian manuscripts...

, II, ii. 4, and Jerome
Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

's De viris illustribus
De Viris Illustribus (Jerome)
De viris illustribus is a collection of short biographies of 135 authors, written in Latin, by the 4th century Latin Church Father Jerome. He completed this work at Bethlehem in 392-3 CE. The work consists of a prologue plus 135 chapters, each consisting of a brief biography. Jerome himself is...

(On famous men) chapter 53. Jerome
Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

 claimed that Tertullian's father held the position of 'centurio proconsularis' ("aide-de-camp") in the Roman army
Roman army
The Roman army is the generic term for the terrestrial armed forces deployed by the kingdom of Rome , the Roman Republic , the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine empire...

 in Africa. However, it is unclear whether any such position in the Roman military ever existed.

Further, Tertullian has been thought to be a lawyer based on his use of legal analogies and an identification of him with the jurist Tertullianus, who is quoted in the Pandects
Pandects
The Digest, also known as the Pandects , is a name given to a compendium or digest of Roman law compiled by order of the emperor Justinian I in the 6th century .The Digest was one part of the Corpus Juris Civilis, the body of civil law issued under Justinian I...

. Although Tertullian utilized a knowledge of Roman law in his writings, his legal knowledge does not demonstrably exceed that of what could be expected from a sufficient Roman education. The writings of Tertullianus, a lawyer of the same cognomen
Cognomen
The cognomen nōmen "name") was the third name of a citizen of Ancient Rome, under Roman naming conventions. The cognomen started as a nickname, but lost that purpose when it became hereditary. Hereditary cognomina were used to augment the second name in order to identify a particular branch within...

, exist only in fragments and do not denote a Christian authorship. (Tertullianus was mis-identified only much later with the Christian Tertullian by church historians.) Finally, any notion of Tertullian being a priest is also questionable. In his extant writings, he never describes himself as ordained in the church and seems to place himself among the laity.

Roman Africa was famous as the home of orators. This influence can be seen in his style with its archaisms or provincialisms, its glowing imagery and its passionate temper. He was a scholar with an excellent education. He wrote at least three books in Greek. In them he refers to himself, but none of these are extant. His principal study was jurisprudence and his methods of reasoning reveal striking marks of his juridical training. He shone among the advocates of Rome, as Eusebius reports.

His conversion to Christianity perhaps took place about 197–198 (cf. Adolf Harnack, Bonwetsch, and others), but its immediate antecedents are unknown except as they are conjectured from his writings. The event must have been sudden and decisive, transforming at once his own personality. He said of himself that he could not imagine a truly Christian life without such a conscious breach, a radical act of conversion: "Christians are made, not born" (Apol, xviii).

Two books addressed to his wife confirm that he was married to a Christian wife.

In middle life (about 207), he was attracted to the "New Prophecy" of Montanism
Montanism
Montanism was an early Christian movement of the late 2nd century, later referred to by the name of its founder, Montanus, but originally known by its adherents as the New Prophecy...

, and seems to have split from the mainstream church. In the time of Augustine, a group of "Tertullianists" still had a basilica in Carthage which, within that same period, passed to the orthodox Church. It is unclear whether the name was merely another for the Montanists or that this means Tertullian later split with the Montanists and founded his own group.

Jerome says that Tertullian lived to a great age, but there is no reliable source attesting to his survival beyond the estimated year 220. In spite of his schism from the Church, he continued to write against heresy, especially Gnosticism
Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

. Thus, by the doctrinal works he published, Tertullian became the teacher of Cyprian
Cyprian
Cyprian was bishop of Carthage and an important Early Christian writer, many of whose Latin works are extant. He was born around the beginning of the 3rd century in North Africa, perhaps at Carthage, where he received a classical education...

 and the predecessor of Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

, who, in turn, became the chief founder of Latin theology.

General character


Thirty-one works are extant, together with fragments of more. Some fifteen works in Latin or Greek are lost, some as recently as the 9th century (De Paradiso, De superstitione saeculi, De carne et anima were all extant in the now damaged Codex Agobardinus
Codex Agobardinus
The Codex Agobardinus is a collection, dating from the 9th century, of the works of Christian author Tertullian. It is named after its first owner, the Bishop Agobard of Lyons. He gave it to the Cathedral of Saint Stephen in Lyons, and the parchment codex remained there until the mid-16th century....

 in 814 AD). Tertullian's writings cover the whole theological field of the time — apologetics against paganism and Judaism, polemics, polity, discipline, and morals, or the whole reorganization of human life on a Christian basis; they gave a picture of the religious life and thought of the time which is of the greatest interest to the church historian.

Chronology and contents


The chronology of these writings is difficult to fix with certainty. It is in part determined by the Montanistic
Montanism
Montanism was an early Christian movement of the late 2nd century, later referred to by the name of its founder, Montanus, but originally known by its adherents as the New Prophecy...

 views that are set forth in some of them, by the author's own allusions to this writing, or that, as antedating others (cf. Harnack, Litteratur ii.260–262), and by definite historic data (e.g., the reference to the death of Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

, Ad Scapulam, iv). In his work against Marcion, which he calls his third composition on the Marcionite heresy, he gives its date as the fifteenth year of the reign of Severus (Adv. Marcionem, i.1, 15) --which would be approximately the year 208.

The writings may be divided with reference to the two periods of Tertullian's Christian activity, the Catholic and the Montanist (cf. Harnack, ii.262 sqq.), or according to their subject-matter. The object of the former mode of division is to show, if possible, the change of views Tertullian's mind underwent. Following the latter mode, which is of a more practical interest, the writings fall into two groups. Apologetic and polemic writings, like Apologeticus
Apologeticus
Apologeticus or Apologeticum is Tertullian's most famous work, consisting of apologetic and polemic; it was written in Carthage in the summer or autumn of 197 AD, during the reign of Septimius Severus. In this work Tertullian defends Christianity, demanding legal toleration and that Christians be...

, De testimonio animae, Adv. Judaeos, Adv. Marcionem, Adv. Praxeam, Adv. Hermogenem, De praescriptione hereticorum, and Scorpiace were written to counteract Gnosticism
Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

 and other religious or philosophical doctrines. The other group consists of practical and disciplinary writings, e.g., De monogamia, Ad uxorem, De virginibus velandis, De cultu feminarum, De patientia, De pudicitia, De oratione, and Ad martyras.

Among his apologetic writings, the Apologeticus, addressed to the Roman magistrates, is a most pungent defense of Christianity and the Christians against the reproaches of the pagans, and an important legacy of the ancient Church, proclaiming the principle of freedom of religion
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

 as an inalienable human right and demands a fair trial for Christians before they are condemned to death.

Tertullian was the first to break the force of such charges as that the Christians sacrificed infants at the celebration of the Lord's Supper and committed incest. He pointed to the commission of such crimes in the pagan world and then proved by the testimony of Pliny
Pliny the Younger
Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo , better known as Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. Pliny's uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him...

 that Christians pledged themselves not to commit murder, adultery, or other crimes. He adduced also the inhumanity of pagan customs such as feeding the flesh of gladiators to beasts. He argued that the gods have no existence and thus there is no pagan religion against which Christians may offend. Christians do not engage in the foolish worship of the emperors. They do better: they pray for them. Christians can afford to be put to torture and to death, and the more they are cast down the more they grow; "the blood of the martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

s is seed" (Apologeticum, 50). In the De Praescriptione he develops as its fundamental idea that, in a dispute between the Church and a separating party, the whole burden of proof lies with the latter, as the Church, in possession of the unbroken tradition, is by its very existence a guarantee of its truth.

The five books against Marcion, written 207 or 208, are the most comprehensive and elaborate of his polemical works, invaluable for gauging the early Christian view of Gnosticism. Of the moral and ascetic treatises, the De patientia and De spectaculis
De spectaculis
De Spectaculis is a surviving moral and ascetic treatise by Tertullian. Written somewhere between 197-202, the work looks at the moral legitimacy and consequences of Christians attending the circus, theatre, or amphitheatre .In it, Tertullian posits against the popular view that human enjoyment...

are among the most interesting, and the De pudicitia and De virginibus velandis among the most characteristic.

General character


Though thoroughly conversant with the Greek theology, Tertullian was independent of its metaphysical speculation. He had learned from the Greek apologies, and forms a direct contrast to Origen of Alexandria, who drew much of his theories regarding creation from middle platonism. Tertullian, the prince of realists and practical theologian, carried his realism
Philosophical realism
Contemporary philosophical realism is the belief that our reality, or some aspect of it, is ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc....

 to the verge of materialism. This is evident from his ascription to God of corporeity and his acceptance of the traducian theory of the origin of the soul. He despised Greek philosophy, and, far from looking at Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

, Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

, and other Greek thinkers whom he quotes as forerunners of Christ and the Gospel, he pronounces them the patriarchal forefathers of the heretics (De anima, iii.). He held up to scorn their inconsistency when he referred to the fact that Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 in dying ordered a cock to be sacrificed to Aesculapius (De anima, i). Tertullian always wrote under stress of a felt necessity. He was never so happy as when he had opponents like Marcion and Praxeas
Praxeas
Praxeas was a Monarchian from Asia Minor who lived in the end of the 2nd century/beginning of the 3rd century. He believed in the unity of the Godhead and vehemently disagreed with any attempt at division of the personalities or personages of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Christian Church...

, and, however abstract the ideas may be which he treated, he was always moved by practical considerations to make his case clear and irresistible. It was partly this element which gave to his writings a formative influence upon the theology of the post-Nicene period in the West and has rendered them fresh reading to this day. He was a born disputant, moved by the noblest impulses known in the Church. It is true that during the 3rd century no mention is made of his name by other authors. Lactantius at the opening of the 4th century is the first to do this, but Augustine treats him openly with respect. Cyprian, Tertullian's North African compatriot, though he nowhere mentions his name, was well read in his writings, as Cyprian's secretary told Jerome.

Specific teachings


Tertullian's main doctrinal teachings are as follows:
  1. The soul was not preexistent, as Plato affirmed, nor subject to metempsychosis
    Metempsychosis
    Metempsychosis is a philosophical term in the Greek language referring to transmigration of the soul, especially its reincarnation after death. It is a doctrine popular among a number of Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Druzism wherein an individual incarnates from one...

     or reincarnation
    Reincarnation
    Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

    , as the Pythagoreans held. In each individual it is a new product, proceeding equally with the body from the parents, and not created later and associated with the body (De anima, xxvii). This position is called traducianism
    Traducianism
    In Christian theology, traducianism is a doctrine about the origin of the soul , in one of the biblical uses of word to mean the immaterial aspect of human beings . Traducianism means that this immaterial aspect is transmitted through natural generation along with the body, the material aspect of...

     in opposition to 'creationism
    Creationism (soul)
    Creationism is a doctrine held by some Christians that God creates a soul for each body that is generated...

    ', or the idea that each soul is a fresh creation of God. For Tertullian the soul is, however, a distinct entity and a certain corporeity and as such it may be tormented in Hell (De anima, lviii).
  2. The soul's sinfulness is easily explained by its traducian origin (De anima, xxxix). It is in bondage to Satan
    Satan
    Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

     (whose works it renounces in baptism), but has seeds of good (De anima, xli), and when awakened, it passes to health and at once calls upon God (Apol., xvii.) and is naturally Christian. It exists in all men alike; it is a culprit and yet an unconscious witness by its impulse to worship, its fear of demons, and its musings on death to the power, benignity, and judgment of God as revealed in the Christian's Scriptures (De testimonio, v-vi).
  3. God, who made the world out of nothing through his Son, the Word, has corporeity though he is a spirit (De praescriptione, vii.; Adv. Praxeam, vii.). However Tertullian used 'corporeal' only in the stoic sense, to mean something with actual existence, rather than the later idea of flesh. In the statement of the Trinity, Tertullian was a forerunner of the Nicene doctrine, approaching the subject from the standpoint of the Logos doctrine, though he did not state the immanent Trinity. His use of trinitas (Latin: 'Threeness') emphasised the manifold character of God. In his treatise against Praxeas, who taught patripassianism
    Patripassianism
    In Christian theology, patripassianism is the view that God the Father suffers . Its adherents believe that God the Father was incarnate and suffered on the cross and that whatever happened to the Son happened to the Father and so the Father co-suffered with the human Jesus on the cross...

     in Rome, he used the words, " Trinity and economy, persons and substance." The Son is distinct from the Father, and the Spirit from both the Father and the Son (Adv. Praxeam, xxv). "These three are one substance, not one person; and it is said, 'I and my Father are one' in respect not of the singularity of number but the unity of the substance." The very names "Father" and "Son" indicate the distinction of personality. The Father is one, the Son is one, and the Spirit is one (Adv. Praxeam, ix). As regards the question whether the Son was coeternal with the Father, many believe that Tertullian did not teach that. The Catholic Encyclopedia comments that for Tertullian, "There was a time when there was no Son and no sin, when God was neither Father nor Judge.". Similarly J.N.D. Kelly has stated: "Tertullian followed the Apologists in dating His “perfect generation” from His extrapolation for the work of creation; prior to that moment God could not strictly be said to have had a Son, while after it the term “Father”, which for earlier theologians generally connoted God as author of reality, began to acquire the specialized meaning of Father and Son.". As regards the subjects of subordination
    Subordinationism
    Subordinationism is a doctrine in Christian theology which holds that the Son and the Holy Spirit are subordinate to God the Father in nature and being...

     of the Son to the Father, the New Catholic Encyclopedia has commented: "In not a few areas of theology, Tertullian’s views are, of course, completely unacceptable. Thus, for example, his teaching on the Trinity reveals a subordination of Son to Father that in the later crass form of Arianism the Church rejected as heretical."
  4. In soteriology
    Soteriology
    The branch of Christian theology that deals with salvation and redemption is called Soteriology. It is derived from the Greek sōtērion + English -logy....

    , Tertullian does not dogmatize; he prefers to keep silence at the mystery of the cross (De Patientia, iii). The sufferings of Christ's life as well as of the crucifixion are efficacious to redemption. In the water of baptism
    Baptism
    In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

    , which (upon a partial quotation of John 3:5) is made necessary (De baptismo, vi.), humans are born again; the baptized does not receive the Holy Spirit
    Holy Spirit
    Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

     in the water, but is prepared for the Holy Spirit. Humans are little fishes—after the example of the ichthys
    Ichthys
    Ichthys, from Koine Greek: , is the Greek word for "fish"....

    , fish, Jesus Christ—are born in water (De baptismo, i). In discussing whether sins committed subsequent to baptism may be forgiven, Tertullian calls baptism and penance
    Penance
    Penance is repentance of sins as well as the proper name of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian, and Anglican Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation/Confession. It also plays a part in non-sacramental confession among Lutherans and other Protestants...

     "two planks" on which the sinner may be saved from shipwreck — language which he gave to the Church (De penitentia, xii).
  5. With reference to the 'rule of faith', it may be said that Tertullian is constantly using this expression, and by it means now the authoritative tradition handed down in the Church, now the Scriptures themselves, and, perhaps, a definite doctrinal formula. While he nowhere gives a list of the books of Scripture, he divides them into two parts and calls them the instrumentum and testamentum (Adv. Marcionem, iv.1). He distinguishes between the four Gospels and insists upon their apostolic origin as accrediting their authority (De praescriptione, xxxvi; Adv. Marcionem, iv.1–5); in trying to account for Marcion's treatment of the Lucan Gospel and the Pauline writings he sarcastically queries whether the "shipmaster from Pontus" (Marcion) had ever been guilty of taking on contraband goods or tampering with them after they were aboard (Adv. Marcionem, v.1). The Scripture, the rule of faith, is for him fixed and authoritative (De corona, iii-iv). As opposed to the pagan writings they are divine (De testimonio animae, vi). They contain all truth (De praescriptione, vii, xiv) and from them the Church drinks (potat) her faith (Adv. Praxeam, xiii). The prophets were older than the Greek philosophers and their authority is accredited by the fulfilment of their predictions (Apol., xix-xx). The Scriptures and the teachings of philosophy are incompatible, insofar as the latter are the origins of sub-Christian heresies. "What has Athens
    Athens
    Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

     to do with Jerusalem?" he exclaims, "or the Academy with the Church?" (De praescriptione, vii). Philosophy as pop-paganism is a work of demons (De anima, i); the Scriptures contain the wisdom of heaven. However, Tertullian was not averse to using the technical methods of Stoicism
    Stoicism
    Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early . The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.Stoics were concerned...

     to discuss a problem (De anima). The rule of faith, however, seems to be also applied by Tertullian to some distinct formula of doctrine, and he gives a succinct statement of the Christian faith under this term (De praescriptione, xiii).
  6. Tertullian was a defender of the necessity of apostolicity. In his Prescription Against Heretics, he explicitly challenges heretics to produce evidence of the apostolic succession
    Apostolic Succession
    Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

     of their communities. "Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men, — a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit (their several worthies), whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed."
  7. Fornicators
    Fornication
    Fornication typically refers to consensual sexual intercourse between two people not married to each other. For many people, the term carries a moral or religious association, but the significance of sexual acts to which the term is applied varies between religions, societies and cultures. The...

     and Murder
    Murder
    Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

    ers should never be admitted into the church under any circumstances. In de pudicitia, Tertullian condemns Pope Callixtus I for allowing such people in when they show repentance.

Moral principles


Tertullian was a determined advocate of strict discipline and an austere code of practise, and like many of the African fathers, one of the leading representatives of the rigorist element in the early Church. These views may have led him to adopt Montanism
Montanism
Montanism was an early Christian movement of the late 2nd century, later referred to by the name of its founder, Montanus, but originally known by its adherents as the New Prophecy...

 with its ascetic rigor and its belief in chiliasm and the continuance of the prophetic gifts. In his writings on public amusements, the veiling of virgins, the conduct of women, and the like, he gives expression to these views.

On the principle that we should not look at or listen to what we have no right to practise, and that polluted things, seen and touched, pollute (De spectaculis, viii, xvii), he declared a Christian should abstain from the theater and the amphitheater. There pagan religious rites were applied and the names of pagan divinities invoked; there the precepts of modesty, purity, and humanity were ignored or set aside, and there no place was offered to the onlookers for the cultivation of the Christian graces. Women should put aside their gold and precious stones as ornaments (De cultu, v-vi), and virgins should conform to the law of St. Paul for women and keep themselves strictly veiled (De virginibus velandis). He praised the unmarried state as the highest (De monogamia, xvii; Ad uxorem, i.3), called upon Christians not to allow themselves to be excelled in the virtue of celibacy by Vestal Virgins and Egyptian priests, and he pronounced second marriage a species of adultery (De exhortations castitatis, ix).

Tertullian has been accused of going to an unhealthy extreme in his counsels of asceticism; for example, about ejaculatory
Ejaculation
Ejaculation is the ejecting of semen from the male reproductory tract, and is usually accompanied by orgasm. It is usually the final stage and natural objective of male sexual stimulation, and an essential component of natural conception. In rare cases ejaculation occurs because of prostatic disease...

 orgasm
Orgasm
Orgasm is the peak of the plateau phase of the sexual response cycle, characterized by an intense sensation of pleasure...

s he wrote:
In that last breaking wave of delight, do we not feel something of our very soul go out from us?


His moral vigour and the service he provided as an ingenious and intrepid defender of the Christian religion were, for him, down to his view of Christianity as first and chiefly an experience of the heart.

Because of his later affiliation with Montanism, he, like the influential Alexandrian theologian, Origen, has failed to receive the elevation of official canonization
Canonization
Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares a deceased person to be a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the canon, or list, of recognized saints. Originally, individuals were recognized as saints without any formal process...

.

Tertullian is occasionally considered as subscribing to misogyny
Misogyny
Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. Philogyny, meaning fondness, love or admiration towards women, is the antonym of misogyny. The term misandry is the term for men that is parallel to misogyny...

, on the basis of the contents of his 'De Cultu Feminarum,' section I.I, part 2 (trans. C.W. Marx): "Do you not know that you are Eve? The judgment of God upon this sex lives on in this age; therefore, necessarily the guilt should live on also. You are the gateway of the devil; you are the one who unseals the curse of that tree, and you are the first one to turn your back on the divine law; you are the one who persuaded him whom the devil was not capable of corrupting; you easily destroyed the image of God, Adam. Because of what you deserve, that is, death, even the Son of God had to die.”

Tertullian wrote in his book On Patience 5:15 "Having been made pregnant by the seed of the devil ... she brought forth a son." Or, in a different translation, "For straightway that impatience conceived of the devil's seed, produced, in the fecundity of malice, anger as her son; and when brought forth, trained him in her own arts."

Works



Tertullian's writings are edited in volumes 1–2 of the Patrologia Latina
Patrologia Latina
The Patrologia Latina is an enormous collection of the writings of the Church Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers published by Jacques-Paul Migne between 1844 and 1855, with indices published between 1862 and 1865....

, and modern texts exist in the Corpus Christianorum Latinorum. English translations by Sidney Thelwall
Sidney Thelwall
Sydney Thelwall was an English clergyman and Christian scholar.-Life:The son of Algernon Sydney Thelwall, Sidney Thelwall was educated at King's College London. Admitted pensioner at Christ's College, Cambridge under Messrs Gell, Hays and Gunson on 9 October 1858. He left Christ's College with...

 and Philip Holmes
Philip Holmes
Philip J. Holmes is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. As a member of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department, he formerly served as the interim chair until May 2007....

 can be found in volumes III and IV of the Ante-Nicene Fathers
Ante-Nicene Fathers
The Ante-Nicene Fathers, subtitled "The Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325", is a collection of books in 10 volumes containing English translations of the majority of Early Christian writings. The period covers the beginning of Christianity until before the promulgation of the Nicene Creed...

 which are freely available online; more modern translations of some of the works have been made.

Apologetic
  • Apologeticus pro Christianis.
  • Dissertatio Mosheim in Apol.
  • Libri duo ad Nationes.
  • De Testimonio animae.
  • Ad Martyres.
  • De Spectaculis
    De spectaculis
    De Spectaculis is a surviving moral and ascetic treatise by Tertullian. Written somewhere between 197-202, the work looks at the moral legitimacy and consequences of Christians attending the circus, theatre, or amphitheatre .In it, Tertullian posits against the popular view that human enjoyment...

    .
  • De Idololatria.
  • Accedit ad Scapulam liber.
  • Dissertatio D. Le Nourry in Apologet. libr. II ad Nat. et libr. ad Scapulam.

Polemical
  • De Oratione.
  • De Baptismo.
  • De Poenitentia.
  • De Patientia.
  • Ad Uxorem libri duo.
  • De Cultu Feminarum lib. II.

Dogmatic
  • De Corona Militis.
  • De Fuga in Persecutione.
  • Adversus Gnosticos Scorpiace.
  • Adversus Praxeam.
  • Adversus Hermogenem.
  • Adversus Marcionem libri V.
  • Adversus Valentinianos.
  • Adversus Judaeos.
  • De Anima.
  • De Carne Christi
    De Carne Christi
    De Carne Christi is a polemical work by Tertullian against the Gnostic Docetism of Marcion, Apelles, Valentinus and Alexander. It purports that the body of Christ was a real human body, taken from the virginal body of Mary, but not by way of human procreation...

    .
  • De Resurrectione Carnis.

On morality
  • De velandis Virginibus.
  • De Exhortatione Castitatis.
  • De Monogamia.
  • De Jejuniis.
  • De Pudicitia.
  • De Pallio.

Possible Chronology


The following chronological ordering was proposed by John Kaye, Bishop of Lincoln in the 19th C.:

Probably Catholic (Pre-Montanist):
  • 1. De Poenitentia (Of Repentance)
  • 2. De Oratione (Of Prayer)
  • 3. De Baptismo (Of Baptism)
  • 4.,5. Ad Uxorem, lib. I & II, (To His Wife),
  • 6. Ad Martyras (To the Martyrs),
  • 7. De Patientia (Of Patience)
  • 8. Adversus Judaeos (Reply to the Jews)
  • 9. De Praescriptione Haereticorum (Prescription against Heretics),


Indeterminate:
  • 10. Apologeticus pro Christianis (Apology for the Christians)
  • 11.,12. ad Nationes, lib. I & II (To the Nations)
  • 13. De Testimonio animae (On the Witness of the Soul)
  • 14. De Pallio (Of the Ascetic Mantle)
  • 15. Adversus Hermogenem (Against Hermogenes
    Hermogenes of Tarsus
    Hermogenes of Tarsus was a Greek rhetorician, surnamed the polisher . He flourished in the reign of Marcus Aurelius ....

    )


Probably Post-Montanist:
  • 16. Adversus Valentinianus (Against the Valentinians
    Valentinus (Gnostic)
    Valentinus was the best known and for a time most successful early Christian gnostic theologian. He founded his school in Rome...

    )
  • 17. ad Scapulam (To Scapula, Proconsul of Africa),
  • 18. De Spectaculis (Of the Games),
  • 19. De Idololatria (Of Idolatry)
  • 20., 21. De cultu Feminarum, lib. I & II (Of Women's Dress)


Definitely Post-Montanist:
  • 22. Adversus Marcionem, lib I (Against Marcion, Bk. I),
  • 23. Adversus Marcionem, lib II
  • 24. De Anima (Of the Soul),
  • 25. Adversus Marcionem, lib III
  • 26. Adversus Marcionem, lib IV
  • 27. De Carne Christi (Of the Flesh of Christ),
  • 28. De Resurrectione Carnis (Of the Resurrection of Flesh)
  • 29. Adversus Marcionem, lib V
  • 30. Adversus Praxean (Against Praxeas
    Praxeas
    Praxeas was a Monarchian from Asia Minor who lived in the end of the 2nd century/beginning of the 3rd century. He believed in the unity of the Godhead and vehemently disagreed with any attempt at division of the personalities or personages of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Christian Church...

    ),
  • 31. Scorpiace (Antidote to Scorpion's Bite)
  • 32. De Corona Militis (Of the Soldier's Garland),
  • 33. De velandis Virginibus (Of Veiling Virgins),
  • 34. De Exhortatione Castitatis (Of Exhortation to Chastity),
  • 35. De Fuga in Persecutione (Of Flight in Persecution)
  • 36. De Monogamia (Of Monogamy)
  • 37. De Jejuniis, adversus psychicos (Of Fasting, against the materialists),
  • 38. De Puditicia (Of Modesty)

Spurious Works


There have been many works attributed to Tertullian in the past which have since been determined to be almost definitely written by others. Nonetheless, since their actual authors remain uncertain, they continue to be published together in collections of Tertullian's works.
  • 1. Adversus Omnes Haereses (Against all Heresies) - poss. Victorinus of Pettau
  • 2 De execrandis gentium diis (On the Execrable Gods of the Heathens)
  • 3 Carmen adversus Marcionem (Poem against Marcion)
  • 4 Carmen de Iona Propheta (Poem about the Prophet Jonas) - poss. Cyprianus Gallus
    Cyprianus Gallus
    Cyprianus Gallus was a fifth-century poet who wrote a Late Latin epic versification of the historical books of the Vetus Latina, though only the Heptateuch has survived to the present day...

  • 5 Carmen de Sodoma (Poem about Sodom) - poss. Cyprianus Gallus
    Cyprianus Gallus
    Cyprianus Gallus was a fifth-century poet who wrote a Late Latin epic versification of the historical books of the Vetus Latina, though only the Heptateuch has survived to the present day...

  • 6 Carmen de Genesi (Poem about Genesis)
  • 7 Carmen de Judicio Domini (Poem about the Judgment of the Lord)


The popular Passio SS. Perpetuae et Felicitatis (Martyrdom of SS. Perpetua and Felicitas), much of it the personal diary of St. Perpetua, was once assumed to have been edited by Tertullian. That view is no longer held, and it is usually published separately from Tertullian's works.

External links


Primary sources:

Secondary sources: