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It is certainly no part of religion to compel religion.

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus (c. 155c. 240) was a theologian in the early Christian church, known for his powerful denunciations of many influences he considered heretical, including the widespread admiration of pagan philosophers and Gnostic ideas. Later in life Tertullian defended Montanism, a belief that was later declared heretical.


Man is one name belonging to every nation upon earth. In them all is one soul though many tongues.
Truth persuades by teaching, but does not teach by persuading.
Truth does not blush.
When God's Spirit descends, then Patience accompanies Him indivisibly.
You can judge the quality of their faith from the way they behave. Discipline is an index to doctrine.
  • Omnium gentium unus homo, uarium nomen est, una anima, uaria uox, unus spiritus, uarius sonus, propria cuique genti loquella, sed loquellae materia communis.
    • 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.
      • De Testimonio Animae (The Testimony of the Soul), 6.3
  • Veritas autem docendo persuadet non suadendo docet.
    • Truth persuades by teaching, but does not teach by persuading.
    • Adversus Valentinianos (Against the Valentinians), 1.4
  • Nihil veritas erubescit
    • Truth does not blush.
      • Adversus Valentinianos, 3.2
  • Prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est.
    • It is to be believed because it is absurd.
    • Variant translations
      • It is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd.
      • It is is entirely credible, because it is inept.
      • De Carne Christi 5.4
  • Certum est, quia impossibile.
    • It is certain because it is impossible.
      • De Carne Christi 5.4
      • Often paraphrased or misquoted as "Credo quia absurdum."
      • Also paraphrased as "It is so extraordinary that it must be true."
      • The above two lines from De Carne Christi have often become conflated into the statement: "Credo quia impossibile" (I believe it because it is impossible), which can be perceived as a distortion of the actual arguments that Tertullian was making.
  • De calcaria in carbonarium.
    • Out of the frying pan into the fire.
      • De Carne Christi, 6; "The Roman version of the proverb is more literally translated "Out of the lime-kiln into the coal-furnace."
  • Omnia periclitabuntur aliter accipi quam sunt, et amittere quod sunt dum aliter accipiuntur, si aliter quam sunt cognominantur. Fides nominum salus est proprietatum.
    • All things will be in danger of being taken in a sense different from their own proper sense, and, whilst taken in that different sense, of losing their proper one, if they are called by a name which differs from their natural designation. Fidelity in names secures the safe appreciation of properties.
      • De Carne Christi, 13.2
  • Why lean upon a blind guide, if you have eyes of your own? Why be clothed by one who is naked, if you have put on Christ? Why use the shield of another, when the apostle gives you armour of your own? It would be better for him to learn from you to acknowledge the resurrection of the flesh, than for you from him to deny it; because if Christians must needs deny it, it would be sufficient if they did so from their own knowledge, without any instruction from the ignorant multitude.
    • De Resurrectione Carnis [Of the Resurrection of Flesh] Ch.1 as quoted in The Writings of Tertullian, Vol.2 Tr. Peter Holmes, as contained in Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to AD 325 Vol.15 (1870)
  • Qui fugiebat, rursus sibi proeliabitur.
    • He who flees will fight again.
      • De Fuga in Persecutione, 10
  • Nec alii obest aut prodest alterius religio.
    • One man's religion neither harms nor helps another man.
      • Ad Scapulam, 2.2
  • Nec religionis est cogere religionem
    • It is certainly no part of religion to compel religion.
    • Ad Scapulam, 2.2
  • Infirma commendatio est quae de alterius destructione fulcitur.
    • Of little worth is the recommendation which has for its prop the defamation of another.
      • Adversus Marcionem, IV.15.5
  • Itaque et ego vanitatem vanitate depellam.
    • I shall dispel one empty story by another.
    • Variant translation: I must dispel vanity with vanity.
      • Adversus Marcionem, IV.30.3
  • Cum ergo spiritus Dei descendit, indiuidua patientia comitatur eum.
    • When God's Spirit descends, then Patience accompanies Him indivisibly.
      • De Patientia, 15:7
  • Quippe res dei ratio quia deus omnium conditor nihil non ratione providit disposuit ordinavit, nihil [enim] non ratione tractari intellegique voluit. [3] Igitur ignorantes quique deum rem quoque eius ignorent necesse est quia nullius omnino thesaurus extraneis patet. Itaque universam vitae conversationem sine gubernaculo rationis transfretantes inminentem saeculo procellam evitare non norunt.
    • Reason, in fact, is a thing of God, inasmuch as there is nothing which God the Maker of all has not provided, disposed, ordained by reason — nothing which He has not willed should be handled and understood by reason. All, therefore, who are ignorant of God, must necessarily be ignorant also of a thing which is His, because no treasure-house at all is accessible to strangers. And thus, voyaging all the universal course of life without the rudder of reason, they know not how to shun the hurricane which is impending over the world.
      • De Paenitentia (On Repentance), 1.2-3
  • Esterni sumus, & vestra omnia implevimus, Vrbes, Insulas, Castella, Municipia, Conciliabula, Castra ipsa, Tribus, Decurias, palatium, Senatum, Forum, sola vobis relinquimus Templa.
    • We are but of yesterday, and yet we have filled all the places that belong to you — cities, islands, forts, towns, exchanges; the military camps themselves, tribes, town councils, the palace, the senate, the market-place; we have left you nothing but your temples.
      • Tertullian's Plea For Allegiance, A.2
  • Qui si ipse deus est secundum Ioannem - Deus erat sermo - habes duos, alium dicentem ut fiat, alium facientem. Alium autem quomodo accipere debeas iam professus sum, personae non substantiae nomine, ad distinctionem non ad divisionem.
    • Now if He too is God, according to John, (who says.) "The Word was God," then you have two, One that commands that the thing be made. and the Other that makes. In what sense, however, you ought to understand Him to be another I have already explained, on the ground of Personality, not of Substance, in the way of distinction, not of division.
  • Ergo, inquis, si deus dixit et deus fecit, si alius deus dixit et alius fecit, duo dii praedicantur. Si tam durus es, puta interim. Et ut adhuc amplius hoc putes, accipe et in psalmo duos deos dictos: Thronus tuus, deus, in aevum, <virga directionis> virga regni tui; dilexisti iustitiam et odisti iniquitatem, propterea unxit te deus, deus tuus.
    • "Therefore", thou sayest, "if a god said and a god made, if one god said and another made, two gods are being preached." If thou art so hard, think a little! And that thou may think more fully, accept that in the Psalm two gods are spoken of: "Thy throne, God, is for ever, a sceptre of right direction is thy sceptre; thou hast loved justice and hast hated iniquity, therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee."
  • Igitur unus deus pater, et absque eo alius non est: quod ipse inferens non filium negat sed alium deum: ceterum alius a patre filius non est.
    • Therefore "there is one God," the Father, "and without Him there is none else." And when He Himself makes this declaration, He denies not the Son, but says that there is no other God; and the Son is not different from the Father.
  • Si filium nolunt secundum a patre reputari ne secundus duos faciat deos dici, ostendimus etiam duos deos in scriptura relatos et duos dominos: et tamen ne de isto scandalizentur, rationem reddimus qua dei non duo dicantur nec domini sed qua pater et filius duo, et hoc non ex separatione substantiae sed ex dispositione, cum individuum et inseparatum filium a patre pronuntiamus, nec statu sed gradu alium, qui etsi deus dicatur quando nominatur singularis, non ideo duos deos faciat sed unum, hoc ipso quod et deus ex unitate patris vocari habeat.
    • If they do not wish that the Son be considered second to the Father, lest being second he cause it to be said that there are two gods, we have also showed that two gods are related in Scripture, and two lords. And yet, let them not be scandalized by this – we give a reason why there are not said to be two gods nor lords but rather two as a Father and a Son. And this not from separation of substance but from disposition, since we pronounce the Son undivided and unseparated from the Father, other not in status but in grade, who although he is said to be God when mentioned by himself, does not therefore make two gods but one, by the fact that he is also entitled to be called God from the unity of the Father.
  • Notorious, too, are the dealings of heretics with swarms of magicians and charlatans and astrologers and philosophers — all, of course, devotees of speculation. You can judge the quality of their faith from the way they behave. Discipline is an index to doctrine.
    • The Prescriptions Against the Heretics as translated by Stanley Lawrence Greenslade, in Early Latin Theology: Selections from Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, and Jerome (1956), p. 63
  • [S]ome men are very bad, and some very good; but yet the souls of all form but one genus: even in the worst there is something good, and in the best there is something bad. ... Just as no soul is without sin, so neither is any soul without seeds of good.
    • A Treatise on the Soul, chap. 41

On Idolatry[edit]

One soul cannot be due to two masters—God and Cæsar.
  • The principal crime of the human race, the highest guilt charged upon the world, the whole procuring cause of judgment, is idolatry.
  • If no law of God had prohibited idols to be made by us; if no voice of the Holy Spirit uttered general menace no less against the makers than the worshippers of idols; from our sacrament itself we would draw our interpretation that arts of that kind are opposed to the faith. For how have we renounced the devil and his angels, if we make them? What divorce have we declared from them, I say not with whom, but dependent on whom, we live? What discord have we entered into with those to whom we are under obligation for the sake of our maintenance? Can you have denied with the tongue what with the hand you confess? unmake by word what by deed you make? preach one God, you who make so many? preach the true God, you who make false ones? "I make," says one, "but I worship not;" as if there were some cause for which he dare not worship, besides that for which he ought not also to make,--the offence done to God, namely, in either case. Nay, you who make, that they may be able to be worshipped, do worship; and you worship, not with the spirit of some worthless perfume, but with your own; nor at the expense of a beast's soul, but of your own. To them you immolate your ingenuity; to them you make your sweat a libation; to them you kindle the torch of your forethought. More are you to them than a priest, since it is by your means they have a priest; your diligence is their divinity. Do you affirm that you worship not what you make? Ah! but they affirm not so, to whom you slay this fatter, more precious and greater victim, your salvation.
  • If we rejoice with the world, there is reason to fear that with the world we shall grieve too. But when the world rejoices, let us grieve; and when the world afterward grieves, we shall rejoice.
    • Chapter XIII, Of the Observance of Days Connected with Idolatry
  • But the purple, or the other ensigns of dignities and powers, dedicated from the beginning to idolatry engrafted on the dignity and the powers, carry the spot of their own profanation; since, moreover, bordered and striped togas, and broad-barred ones, are put even on idols themselves; and fasces also, and rods, are borne before them; and deservedly, for demons are the magistrates of this world: they bear the fasces and the purples, the ensigns of one college.
  • There is no agreement between the divine and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot be due to two masters— God and Cæsar. And yet Moses carried a rod, and Aaron wore a buckle, and John (Baptist) is girt with leather and Joshua the Son of Nun leads a line of march; and the People warred: if it pleases you to sport with the subject. But how will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? For albeit soldiers had come unto John, and had received the formula of their rule; albeit, likewise, a centurion had believed; still the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier. No dress is lawful among us, if assigned to any unlawful action.

Apologeticus pro Christianis[edit]

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.
  • O testimonium animae naturaliter Christianae
    • O witness of the soul naturally Christian.
      • Chapter 17
  • Fiunt non nascuntur Christiani
    • Christians are made, not born.
      • Chapter 18
    • Many variants on this exist, notably “Great lovers are made, not born.” and “(Great) leaders are made, not born.”
    • A variant on “One is not born wise, but becomes wise” from Seneca the Younger On Anger 2.10.6; see: Christian and Pagan in the Roman Empire: the witness of Tertullian, by Tertullian, Robert Dick Sider, p. 38, footnote 79
  • Even when the ray is shot from the sun, it is still part of the parent mass; the sun will still be in the ray, because it is a ray of the sun—there is no division of substance, but merely an extension. Thus Christ is Spirit of Spirit, and God of God, as light of light is kindled.
    • Chapter 21
  • In pursuit of gain, men have begun to consider their violence an article to be bought and sold.
    • Chapter 38
  • We [Christians] have no pressing inducement to take part in your public meetings; nor is there anything more entirely foreign to us than affairs of state. We acknowledge one all-embracing commonwealth—the world.
    • Chapter 38
  • We renounce all your spectacles, as strongly as we renounce the matters originating them, which we know were conceived of superstition, when we give up the very things which are the basis of their representations. Among us nothing is ever said, or seen, or heard, which has anything in common with the madness of the circus, the immodesty of the theatre, the atrocities of the arena, the useless exercises of the wrestling-ground.
    • Chapter 38
  • Vide, inquiunt, ut invicem se diligant; ipsi enim invicem oderunt: et ut pro alterutro mori sint parati; ipsi enim ad occidendum alterutrum paratiores erunt.
    • See, they say, how they love one another, for themselves are animated by mutual hatred; how they are ready even to die for one another, for they themselves will sooner put to death.
      • Chapter 39, describing how Christianity is mocked by its enemies.
  • Neque enim Brachmanae aut Indorum gymnosophistae sumus, silvicolae et exules vitae. Meminimus gratiam debere nos deo domino creatori; nullum fructum operum eius repudiamus, plane temperamus, ne[c] ultra modum aut perperam utamur. Itaque non sine foro, non sine macello, non sine balneis tabernis officinis stabulis nundinis vestris ceterisque commerciis cohabitamus in hoc saeculo.[1]
  • We are not Indian Brahmins or Gymnosophists, who dwell in woods and exile themselves from ordinary human life. We do not forget the debt of gratitude we owe to God, our Lord and Creator; we reject no creature of His hands, though certainly we exercise restraint upon ourselves, lest of any gift of His we make an immoderate or sinful use. So we sojourn with you in the world.
    • Chapter 42
  • Plures efficimur, quoties metimur a vobis; semen est sanguis christianorum.
    • We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed.
      • Apologeticus, 50, s. 13
    • Often quoted as ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.’
    • Variant translation: As often as we are mown down by you, the more we grow in numbers; the blood of the Christians is the seed. Another common translation is "The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of Christians."


We worship unity in trinity, and trinity in unity; neither confounding the person nor dividing the substance.
  • We worship unity in trinity, and trinity in unity; neither confounding the person nor dividing the substance. There is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost; but the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.
    • As quoted in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895) edited by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, p. 285
    • Actually from the Athanasian Creed: Fides autem catholica haec est: ut unum Deum in Trinitate, et Trinitatem in unitate veneremur. Neque confundentes personas, neque substantiam separantes. Alia est enim persona Patris alia Filii, alia Spiritus Sancti: Sed Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti una est divinitas, aequalis gloria, coeterna maiestas.

Quotes about Tertullian[edit]

  • This is said with more spirit than truth.
  • Every word almost was a sentence; every sentence a victory.

External links[edit]

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