ON THE ''PRESCRIPTION" OF HERETICS
ON THE "PRESCRIPTION" OF HERETICS
IN legal language the word "Praescriptio"
denoted something written in front of, and limit-
ing an already existing formula. Something of its
original legal connotation may be detected in our
familiar use of it in medicine; for a prescription
is something written out beforehand for subsequent
use. Tertullian employs it to limit discussion with
the heretics to the single point of their right to
appeal to the Scriptures. He argues that their use
of the Christian documents is not allowable, because
they have forfeited their right to the name of
Christians, and with that their right of possession
of the Christian literature. The following synopsis
will sufficiently show the course of Tertullian's
I. Introduction ; Chaps. I-X1V.
1. Heresies a necessary evil; Chaps. I-VII.
2. Refutation of the heretical misapplication of
Christ's command, "Seek and ye shall
find"; Chaps. VIII-XII.
3. The Rule of Faith; Chaps. XIII, XIV.
II. Main "Prescription"; Chaps. XV-XLIV.
i. I. Heretics forbidden to appeal to the Scrip-
tures in argument (Chaps. XV-XIX);
because the Catholic Church is the sole
possessor of the True Faith and its
records. The Apostles whom Christ sent
can alone be received as Teachers, and
the substance of their teaching can be
learnt from Apostolic Churches only
(Chaps. XX, XXI).
2. Consideration of heretical objections drawn
(a) The alleged ignorance of the
(1) Rebuke of Peter by Paul.
(2) Special revelations to Paul;
(b) The alleged non-publication of the
whole Gospel by the Apostles;
(c) The alleged error in the Church's
reception of it; Chaps. XXVII,
ii. 1. Heresies essentially of later date than the
Church; their teachers lacking mission,
and without episcopal succession; Chaps.
2. The true doctrine and the true Scriptures
preserved by the Apostolic Churches;
3. Description of the heretical lack of organ-
ization and discipline; Chaps. XLI-XLIV.
III. Conclusion; Chap. XLV.