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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.


File:Tertullian 2.jpg
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.

The Soul's Testimony[edit]

De testimonio animae (On the testimony of the soul)
  • Omnium gentium unus homo, uarium nomen est, una anima, uaria uox, unus spiritus, uarius sonus, propria cuique genti loquella, sed loquellae materia communis.

Against the Valentinians[edit]

Adversus Valentinianos (Against the Valentinians), here translated by Alexander Roberts. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.)

On the Flesh of Christ[edit]

De carne Christi (On the flesh of Christ), here translated by Peter Holmes. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.)
  • 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.
  • Certum est, quia impossibile.
    • It is certain because it is impossible.
    • 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.

On the Resurrection of the Flesh[edit]

De resurrectione carnis (On the resurrection of the flesh), here translated by Holmes, ibid
  • 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 Fuga in Persecutione[edit]

De fuga in persecutione (On running away from persecution), here translated by Sydney Thelwall. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.)

To Scapula[edit]

Ad Scapulam (To Scapula)
  • Nec alii obest aut prodest alterius religio.

Against Marcion[edit]

Adversus Marcionem (Against Marcion), here translated by Holmes, ibid
  • Infirma commendatio est quae de alterius destructione fulcitur.
  • Itaque et ego vanitatem vanitate depellam.
    • I shall dispel one empty story by another.
    • Variant translations:

Of Patience[edit]

De patientia (On patience), here translated by Thelwall, ibid

On Repentance[edit]

De paenitentia (On repentance), here translated by Thelwall, ibid
  • 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.

Against Praxeas[edit]

This power and disposition of the Divine Intelligence is set forth also in the Scriptures under the name of Σοφία, Wisdom.
Adversus Praxean (Against Praxeas), here translated by Holmes, ibid
  • This power and disposition of the Divine Intelligence is set forth also in the Scriptures under the name of Σοφία, Wisdom; for what can be better entitled to the name of Wisdom than the Reason or the Word of God? Listen therefore to Wisdom herself, constituted in the character of a Second Person: “At the first the Lord created me as the beginning of His ways, with a view to His own works, before He made the earth, before the mountains were settled; moreover, before all the hills did He beget me;” that is to say, He created and generated me in His own intelligence. Then, again, observe the distinction between them implied in the companionship of Wisdom with the Lord. “When He prepared the heaven,” says Wisdom, “I was present with Him; and when He made His strong places upon the winds, which are the clouds above; and when He secured the fountains, (and all things) which are beneath the sky, I was by, arranging all things with Him; I was by, in whom He delighted; and daily, too, did I rejoice in His presence.” Now, as soon as it pleased God to put forth into their respective substances and forms the things which He had planned and ordered within Himself, in conjunction with His Wisdom’s Reason and Word, He first put forth the Word Himself, having within Him His own inseparable Reason and Wisdom, in order that all things might be made through Him through whom they had been planned and disposed, yea, and already made, so far forth as (they were) in the mind and intelligence of God. This, however, was still wanting to them, that they should also be openly known, and kept permanently in their proper forms and substances.
  • 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."
  • But I find in Scripture the name Lord also applied to them Both: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on my right hand.” And Isaiah says this: “Lord, who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Now he would most certainly have said Thine Arm, if he had not wished us to understand that the Father is Lord, and the Son also is Lord. A much more ancient testimony we have also in Genesis: “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” Now, either deny that this is Scripture; or else (let me ask) what sort of man you are, that you do not think words ought to be taken and understood in the sense in which they are written, especially when they are not expressed in allegories and parables, but in determinate and simple declarations?
  • 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.

On Baptism[edit]

De baptismo (On baptism)
  • Igitur benedicti, quos gratia dei expectat, cum de illo sanctissimo lavacro novi natalis ascenditis et primas manus apud matrem cum fratribus aperitis, petite de patre, petite de domino, peculia gratiae, distributiones charismatum subiacere. Petite et accipietis, inquit. Quaesistis enim et invenistis, pulsastis et apertum est vobis. Tantum oro, ut cum petitis etiam Tertulliani peccatoris memineritis.
    • Therefore, you blessed ones, for whom the grace of God is waiting, when you come up from that most sacred washing of the new birth, and when for the first time you spread out your hands with your brethren in your mother's house, ask of your Father, ask of your Lord, that special grants of grace and apportionments of spiritual gifts be yours. Ask, he says, and ye shall receive. So now, you have sought, and have found: you have knocked, and it has been opened to you. This only I pray, that as you ask you also have in mind Tertullian, a sinner.

The Prescription Against Heretics[edit]

De praescriptione haereticorum (On the prescription of heretics),
  • 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
  • What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? (Quid ergo Athenae Hierosolymis?)

A Treatise on the Soul[edit]

De anima (On the soul), here translated by Holmes, ibid
  • [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.

On Modesty[edit]

De pudicitia (On Modesty), here translated by Thelwall, ibid
  • I now inquire into your opinion, (to see) from what source you usurp this right to “the Church.”
    If, because the Lord has said to Peter, “Upon this rock will I build My Church,” “to thee have I given the keys of the heavenly kingdom;” or, “Whatsoever thou shalt have bound or loosed in earth, shall be bound or loosed in the heavens,” you therefore presume that the power of binding and loosing has derived to you, that is, to every Church akin to Peter, what sort of man are you, subverting and wholly changing the manifest intention of the Lord, conferring (as that intention did) this (gift) personally upon Peter? “On thee,” He says, “will I build My Church;” and, “I will give to thee the keys,” not to the Church; and, “Whatsoever thou shalt have loosed or bound,” not what they shall have loosed or bound.
  • For the very Church itself is, properly and principally, the Spirit Himself, in whom is the Trinity of the One Divinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (The Spirit) combines that Church which the Lord has made to consist in “three.” And thus, from that time forward, every number (of persons) who may have combined together into this faith is accounted “a Church,” from the Author and Consecrator (of the Church). And accordingly “the Church,” it is true, will forgive sins: but (it will be) the Church of the Spirit, by means of a spiritual man; not the Church which consists of a number of bishops. For the right and arbitrament is the Lord’s, not the servant’s; God’s Himself, not the priest’s.

The Apology[edit]

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.
Apologeticum (Apology)
  • O testimonium animae naturaliter Christianae
    • O witness of the soul naturally Christian.
  • Fiunt non nascuntur Christiani
    • Christians are made, not born.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • In pursuit of gain, men have begun to consider their violence an article to be bought and sold.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Vide, inquiunt, ut invicem se diligant; ipsi enim invicem oderunt: et ut pro alterutro mori sint parati; ipsi enim ad occidendum alterutrum paratiores erunt.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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."

An Answer to the Jews[edit]

Adversus Judaeos (Against the Jews), here translated by Thelwall, ibid
  • For this fact—that Gentiles are admissible to God’s Law—is enough to prevent Israel from priding himself on the notion that “the Gentiles are accounted as a little drop of a bucket,” or else as “dust out of a threshing-floor:” although we have God Himself as an adequate engager and faithful promiser, in that He promised to Abraham that “in his seed should be blest all nations of the earth;” and that out of the womb of Rebecca “two peoples and two nations were about to proceed,”—of course those of the Jews, that is, of Israel; and of the Gentiles, that is ours. Each, then, was called a people and a nation; lest, from the nuncupative appellation, any should dare to claim for himself the privilege of grace. For God ordained “two peoples and two nations” as about to proceed out of the womb of one woman: nor did grace make distinction in the nuncupative appellation, but in the order of birth; to the effect that, which ever was to be prior in proceeding from the womb, should be subjected to “the less,” that is, the posterior. For thus unto Rebecca did God speak: “Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be divided from thy bowels; and people shall overcome people, and the greater shall serve the less.” Accordingly, since the people or nation of the Jews is anterior in time, and “greater” through the grace of primary favour in the Law, whereas ours is understood to be “less” in the age of times, as having in the last era of the world attained the knowledge of divine mercy: beyond doubt, through the edict of the divine utterance, the prior and “greater” people—that is, the Jewish—must necessarily serve the “less;” and the “less” people—that is, the Christian—overcome the “greater.” For, withal, according to the memorial records of the divine Scriptures, the people of the Jews—that is, the more ancient—quite forsook God, and did degrading service to idols, and, abandoning the Divinity, was surrendered to images; while “the people” said to Aaron, “Make us gods to go before us.”
  • For in the beginning of the world He gave to Adam himself and Eve a law, that they were not to eat of the fruit of the tree planted in the midst of paradise; but that, if they did contrariwise, by death they were to die. Which law had continued enough for them, had it been kept. For in this law given to Adam we recognise in embryo all the precepts which afterwards sprouted forth when given through Moses; that is, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God from thy whole heart and out of thy whole soul; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not commit adultery; Thou shalt not steal; False witness thou shalt not utter; Honour thy father and mother; and, That which is another’s, shalt thou not covet. For the primordial law was given to Adam and Eve in paradise, as the womb of all the precepts of God. In short, if they had loved the Lord their God, they would not have contravened His precept; if they had habitually loved their neighbour—that is, themselves—they would not have believed the persuasion of the serpent, and thus would not have committed murder upon themselves, by falling from immortality, by contravening God’s precept; from theft also they would have abstained, if they had not stealthily tasted of the fruit of the tree, nor had been anxious to skulk beneath a tree to escape the view of the Lord their God; nor would they have been made partners with the falsehood-asseverating devil, by believing him that they would be “like God;” and thus they would not have offended God either, as their Father, who had fashioned them from clay of the earth, as out of the womb of a mother; if they had not coveted another’s, they would not have tasted of the unlawful fruit.

On the Apparel of Women[edit]

De cultu feminarum (On female fashion), here translated by Thelwall, ibid
  • And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert—that is, death—even the Son of God had to die.

On the Veiling of Virgins[edit]

De virginibus velandis (On the veiling of virgins), here translated by Thelwall, ibid
  • But our Lord Christ has surnamed Himself Truth, not Custom. If Christ is always, and prior to all, equally truth is a thing sempiternal and ancient. Let those therefore look to themselves, to whom that is new which is intrinsically old. It is not so much novelty as truth which convicts heresies. Whatever savours of opposition to truth, this will be heresy, even (if it be an) ancient custom.
    • Chapter 1, Truth Rather to Be Appealed to Than Custom, and Truth Progressive in Its Developments.

On Idolatry[edit]

Demons are the magistrates of this world: they bear the fasces … One soul cannot be due to two masters—God and Cæsar.
De idolatria (On Idolatry), here translated by Thelwall, ibid
  • 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
  • Ceterum purpura uel cetera insignia dignitatum et potestatum insertae dignitati et potestatibus idololatriae ab initio dicata habent profanationis suae maculam, cum praeterea ipsis etiam idolis induantur praetextae et trabeae et laticlaui, fasces quoque et uirgae praeferantur, et merito. Nam daemonia magistratus sunt saeculi huius ; unius collegii insignia fasces et purpuras gestant.
    • 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.
  • If, also, He exercised no right of power even over His own followers, to whom He discharged menial ministry; if, in short, though conscious of His own kingdom, He shrank back from being made a king, He in the fullest manner gave His own an example for turning coldly from all the pride and garb, as well of dignity as of power. For if they were to be used, who would rather have used them than the Son of God? What kind and what number of fasces would escort Him? what kind of purple would bloom from His shoulders? what kind of gold would beam from His head, had He not judged the glory of the world to be alien both to Himself and to His? Therefore what He was unwilling to accept, He has rejected; what He rejected, He has condemned; what He condemned, He has counted as part of the devil’s pomp. For He would not have condemned things, except such as were not His; but things which are not God’s, can be no other’s but the devil’s. If you have forsworn “the devil’s pomp,” know that whatever there you touch is idolatry. Let even this fact help to remind you that all the powers and dignities of this world are not only alien to, but enemies of, God; that through them punishments have been determined against God’s servants; through them, too, penalties prepared for the impious are ignored. But “both your birth and your substance are troublesome to you in resisting idolatry.” For avoiding it, remedies cannot be lacking; since, even if they be lacking, there remains that one by which you will be made a happier magistrate, not in the earth, but in the heavens.
  • Non conuenit sacramento diuino et humano, signo Christi et signo diaboli, castris lucis et castris tenebrarum ; non potest una anima duobus deberi, deo et Caesari. Et uirgam portauit Moyses, fibulam et Aaron, cingitur loro et Iohannes, agmen agit et Iesus Naue, bellauit et populus, si placet ludere. Quomodo autem bellabit, immo quomodo etiam in pace militabit sine gladio, quem dominus abstulit ? Nam etsi adierant milites ad Iohannem et formam obseruationis acceperant, si etiam centurio crediderat, omnem postea militem dominus in Petro exarmando discinxit. Nullus habitus licitus est apud nos illicito actui adscriptus.
    • 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.

The Chaplet[edit]

De Corona (The Chaplet), here translated by Thelwall, ibid
  • The argument for Christian practices becomes all the stronger, when also nature, which is the first rule of all, supports them. Well, she is the first who lays it down that a crown does not become the head.
  • But everything which is against nature deserves to be branded as monstrous among all men; but with us it is to be condemned also as sacrilege against God, the Lord and Creator of nature.
  • Do we believe it lawful for a human oath to be superadded to one divine, for a man to come under promise to another master after Christ, and to abjure father, mother, and all nearest kinsfolk, whom even the law has commanded us to honour and love next to God Himself, to whom the gospel, too, holding them only of less account than Christ, has in like manner rendered honour? Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? And shall he apply the chain, and the prison, and the torture, and the punishment, who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs? Shall he, forsooth, either keep watch-service for others more than for Christ, or shall he do it on the Lord’s day, when he does not even do it for Christ Himself? And shall he keep guard before the temples which he has renounced? And shall he take a meal where the apostle has forbidden him? And shall he diligently protect by night those whom in the day-time he has put to flight by his exorcisms, leaning and resting on the spear the while with which Christ’s side was pierced? Shall he carry a flag, too, hostile to Christ? And shall he ask a watchword from the emperor who has already received one from God? Shall he be disturbed in death by the trumpet of the trumpeter, who expects to be aroused by the angel’s trump? And shall the Christian be burned according to camp rule, when he was not permitted to burn incense to an idol, when to him Christ remitted the punishment of fire?

On Monogamy[edit]

De monogamia (On marrying only once), here translated by Thelwall, ibid
  • Heretics do away with marriages; Psychics accumulate them. The former marry not even once; the latter not only once. What dost thou, Law of the Creator? Between alien eunuchs and thine own grooms, thou complainest as much of the over-obedience of thine own household as of the contempt of strangers.
  • And so they upbraid the discipline of monogamy with being a heresy; nor is there any other cause whence they find themselves compelled to deny the Paraclete more than the fact that they esteem Him to be the institutor of a novel discipline, and a discipline which they find most harsh: so that this is already the first ground on which we must join issue in a general handling (of the subject), whether there is room for maintaining that the Paraclete has taught any such thing as can either be charged with novelty, in opposition to catholic tradition, or with burdensomeness, in opposition to the “light burden” of the Lord.
  • This (even) broader assertion we make: that even if the Paraclete had in this our day definitely prescribed a virginity or continence total and absolute, so as not to permit the heat of the flesh to foam itself down even in single marriage, even thus He would seem to be introducing nothing of “novelty;” seeing that the Lord Himself opens “the kingdoms of the heavens” to “eunuchs,” as being Himself, withal, a virgin; to whom looking, the apostle also—himself too for this reason abstinent—gives the preference to continence.
  • Herein also you ought to recognise the Paraclete in His character of Comforter, in that He excuses your infirmity from (the stringency of) an absolute continence.
  • For it makes no difference whether a man have had two wives singly, or whether individuals (taken) at the same time have made two. The number of (the individuals) conjoined and separate is the same.
  • But, presenting to your weakness the gift of the example of His own flesh, the more perfect Adam—that is, Christ, more perfect on this account as well (as on others), that He was more entirely pure—stands before you, if you are willing (to copy Him), as a voluntary celibate in the flesh. If, however, you are unequal (to that perfection), He stands before you a monogamist in spirit, having one Church as His spouse, according to the figure of Adam and of Eve, which (figure) the apostle interprets of that great sacrament of Christ and the Church, (teaching that), through the spiritual, it was analogous to the carnal monogamy.
  • Else, if it be the later Abraham whom you follow as your father—that is, the digamist (Abraham)—receive him withal in his circumcision. If you reject his circumcision, it follows that you will refuse his digamy too.
  • And if I glance around at their examples—(examples) of some David's heaping up marriages for himself even through sanguinary means, of some Solomon rich in wives as well as in other riches—you are bidden to “follow the better things;” and you have withal Joseph but once wedded, and on this score I venture to say better than his father; you have Moses, the intimate eye-witness of God; you have Aaron the chief priest. The second Moses, also, of the second People, who led our representatives into the (possession of) the promise of God, in whom the Name (of Jesus) was first inaugurated, was no digamist.
  • So true, moreover, is it that divorce “was not from the beginning,” that among the Romans it is not till after the six hundredth year from the building of the city that this kind of “hard-heartedness” is set down as having been committed. But they indulge in promiscuous adulteries, even without divorcing (their partners): to us, even if we do divorce them, even marriage will not be lawful.
  • For whence is it that the bishops and clergy come? Is it not from all? If all are not bound to monogamy, whence are monogamists (to be taken) into the clerical rank? Will some separate order of monogamists have to be instituted, from which to make selection for the clerical body? (No); but when we are extolling and inflating ourselves in opposition to the clergy, then “we are all one:” then “we are all priests, because He hath made us priests to (His) God and Father.”
  • To speak plainly, if they who reproach us with harshness, or esteem heresy (to exist) in this (our) cause, foster the “infirmity of the flesh” to such a degree as to think it must have support accorded to it in frequency of marriage; why do they in another case neither accord it support nor foster it with indulgence—when, (namely), torments have reduced it to a denial (of the faith)? For, of course, that (infirmity) is more capable of excuse which has fallen in battle, than (that) which (has fallen) in the bed-chamber; (that) which has succumbed on the rack, than (that) which (has succumbed) on the bridal bed; (that) which has yielded to cruelty, than (that) which (has yielded) to appetite; that which has been overcome groaning, than (that) which (has been overcome) in heat. But the former they excommunicate, because it has not “endured unto the end:” the latter they prop up, as if withal it has “endured unto the end.”

To His Wife[edit]

Ad uxorem (To my wife), here translated by Thelwall, ibid
  • The virgin may possibly be held the happier, but the widow the more hardly tasked; the former in that she has always kept “the good,” the latter in that she has found “the good for herself.” In the former it is grace, in the latter virtue, that is crowned.
  • Both (are) brethren, both fellow servants, no difference of spirit or of flesh; nay, (they are) truly “two in one flesh.” Where the flesh is one, one is the spirit too. Together they pray, together prostrate themselves, together perform their fasts; mutually teaching, mutually exhorting, mutually sustaining. Equally (are they) both (found) in the Church of God; equally at the banquet of God; equally in straits, in persecutions, in refreshments. Neither hides (ought) from the other; neither shuns the other; neither is troublesome to the other. The sick is visited, the indigent relieved, with freedom. Alms (are given) without (danger of ensuing) torment; sacrifices (attended) without scruple; daily diligence (discharged) without impediment: (there is) no stealthy signing, no trembling greeting, no mute benediction. Between the two echo psalms and hymns; and they mutually challenge each other which shall better chant to their Lord. Such things when Christ sees and hears, He joys. To these He sends His own peace. Where two (are), there withal (is) He Himself. Where He (is), there the Evil One is not.


  • The Jews formed the breeding ground of all anti-Christian actions.
    • See In His Name by E. Christopher Reyes, Volume IV, p. 312


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.
  • To me he is the born arguer, who talks himself, rather than thinks himself, into extreme positions, and is too dazzled by his own eloquence to recede from them.
    • Ronald Knox, Enthusiasm (Oxford University Press, 1950), p. 45.
  • Tertullian is racy; alone, perhaps, among the Fathers, he has the makings of a journalist.
    • Ronald Knox, Enthusiasm (Oxford University Press, 1950), p. 45.
  • Every word almost was a sentence; every sentence a victory.

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