Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page



I

ON THE TESTIMONY OF THE SOUL

O testimonium animae naturaliter Christiana !


ON THE TESTIMONY OF THE SOUL

THIS short treatise was written very soon after
the Apology, a work to which it refers for a fuller
proof of the antiquity of the Scriptures, and of
their priority to any heathen writings (Chap. V).
It elaborates in some detail and with great acute-
ness a theme which Tertullian had used in a briefer
form in the Apology (Chap. XVII), namely, the
confirmation which the natural testimony of the
Soul afforded to Christian Truth, and the disclosure
and revelation of a Soul naturally Christian through
the universal voice of conscience.

The germ of this argument is found in Minucius
Felix, Octavius, 18, whence Tertullian took it; and
indeed the nineteenth chapter of the Octavius so
exactly corresponds to Tertullian's description in
his opening words (Chap. I) of Christian authors
who had culled from heathen writers testimonies to
the Truth, that I cannot but believe he was referring
to Minucius' work. Minucius refers for the Unity
and spirituality of GOD to the poets Ennius, Homer
and Vergil, and to a whole string of philosophers
from Thales to Chrysippus.

Here is the excerpt from the Octamus which
Tertullian worked up—

Do not enquire for the name of God; GOD is His Name.
. . . Herein too I have the consent of all; for I hear the
people when they stretch their hands heavenwards say

13


14 TERTULLIAN

nothing but "GOD!" "GOD is great!" "GOD is true!"
"If GOD wills! " Is this the natural speech of the vulgar,
or the utterance of a confessing Christian?

The reader has Tertullian's words before him
(below, pp. 19 ff.), and I add here the passage from
the Apology as another datum for comparison—

We worship One GOD . . . the True and great GOD . . .
of Whom they who refuse to recognize Him cannot be
ignorant. . . . Will you have this proved from the testimony
of the soul itself? For the soul, although limited by the
prison-house of the body, although hindered by evil customs,
although weakened by lusts and desires, although enslaved
to false gods, yet when it recovers its senses, as if from
intoxication or sleep or any infirmity, and enjoys its own
proper sanity, names GOD by this Name alone, as being
the proper Name of the True GOD: "Great GOD!" "Good
GOD!" and "Which GOD grant!" are common expressions.
It also testifies to Him as Judge: "GOD sees," "I leave it
to GOD," and "GOD will repay me." O testimony of the
soul naturally Christian ! Lastly, when uttering these ex-
pressions, it looks not to the Capitol but to Heaven. For
it knows the abode of the Living GOD: from Him and
from thence it came down.

SYNOPSIS

TESTIMONIES to Christian Truth may be found in the writ-
ings of pagan teachers, philosophers and poets; but whereas
their statements are generally received with blind deference
by their followers, their authority is rejected so soon as their
teaching most nearly approaches the Truth and most closely
resembles the fundamentals of Christianity.

Now a new witness is summoned, of the highest and
universal value—the human Soul, in its natural state, pos-
sessing only that knowledge which is innate or learnt directly
from its Maker (Chap. I).


ON THE TESTIMONY OF THE SOUL 15

From its spontaneous utterances the Soul bears involun-
tary testimony to the Unity of GOD—

to His Nature,
to His just judgement (Chap. II), and
to the existence of evil spirits (Chap. III).

Christianity teaches the Immortality of the Soul, a Future
Judgement, and the Resurrection of the Body—this last being
necessary for the full presentment of the personality of each
person for Judgement.

The Soul pities the dead, fears death, and often exhibits a
desire for posthumous fame—feelings which prove its belief
in a hereafter (Chap. IV).

The Soul's testimonies are clear and simple; they are also
universal, because derived from Mistress Nature, herself
derived from GOD. Earlier than any literature, they have
not been derived from books. If they had, they must needs
have come from Holy Scripture originally, the oldest writings
in the world, which the heathen made use of (Chap. V).

There are only three authorities whence the Soul could
have derived its knowledge—Heathen writings, the Divine
Scriptures and Nature. God and Nature must be true,
therefore the Soul's testimony is valid, and it is found to be
one and the same in every race of mankind.

Its neglect of its own witness to Christian Truth will
be the Soul's condemnation at the day of Judgement
(Chap. VI).


Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Translated by T. Herbert Bindley, 1914
Transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2002

Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press
SPIonic font, free from here.


This page has been accessed by ****** people since 11th January 2002.


Return to the Tertullian Project About these pages