NOTES AND COMMENTARY
The purpose of this treatise: further instruction of the faithful,
and rebuttal of a heretical attack upon baptism.
1 De sacramento, etc. The text of the first sentence as given
by T seems more suitable than the other for the beginning of a
written work. Mesnart and the editors who followed him have
Felix sacramentum, with quia (for qua), and a
period after liberamur.
This would be more suitable for the beginning of a spoken
homily, though it may have originated as a conjecture based on
felix aqua quae semel abluit (ch. 15). On sacramentum see
a note on
1 ablutis delictis, etc. Delictum is one of
words for 'sin'. Its natural meaning is 'tort', i.e. an offence not
so much against the law as against a person. At De Patientia 5
delictum, peccatum, and crimen are used apparently
tion for the sin of Adam and for all its consequences and imita
tions. According to Cicero, Pro Murena 29.60 - 31.66, the Stoics
taught that omnia peccata sunt paria, and refused to acknowledge
any difference between facinus, peccatum, delictum, scelus, nefas,
saying omne delictum scelus esse nefarium : against which Cicero
opposes the more humane doctrines of Plato and Aristotle.
Pristinae caecitatis: it is because of its removal of pristine
that baptism is known as fwtismo&j,
2 digestum istud. Digerere, in an extension of its
sense of 'interpret' or 'explain', is one of Tertullian's regular
words for the composition of a treatise: in a note on Ad Nat.
II. 1 Oehler gives a number of examples, and refers to a learned
note by Salmasius on De Pallio 3, quod Aegyptii narrant et
digerit et Afer legit. Salmasius says (p. 203) that digerere
is the same
as perscribere, and ordine res gestas pertexere: so
that digestum is any
manner of written work. He quotes Adv. Marc. IV. 5 nam et
Lucae digestum Paulo adscribere solent, and ibid. IV. 3 apostoli
integrum evangelium contulerunt. . .et inde sunt nostra digesta
canonical gospels which Marcion has rejected. On De Anima 7
(in reference to a woman's visions), solet renuntiare nobis quae
viderit, nam et diligentissime digeruntur ut etiam probentur,
says that digeruntur means conscribuntur et scripto mandantur,
goes on to quote Trebellius, with the Greek kataxwri/zein,
same sense, ending with a few examples of ponere meaning
scribere or pingere.
3 cum maxime usually in Tertullian means 'at this (or
present moment' (so Souter, here), not 'most perfectly' (Dodgson)
or 'specially' (Lupton). Formantur perhaps retains a sense of
'being brought into shape', though in effect it means 'are receiv-
ing information' or 'are under instruction'.
4 simpliciter often indicates the literal, as
the figurative, meaning of a word, sentence, or episode: here
apparently it means 'in a simple-minded manner', without asking
for abstruse explanations of what the faith involves. In ch. 2
simplicitas twice occurs in the objective sense of unpretentious-
ness. T here has similiter, which has no very pertinent
4 non exploratis rationibus traditionum. On traditio
there is a lucid note by Fr R. F. Refoulé, O.P., in the introduction
to his edition of De Praesc. Haer. (pp. 45-50), from which it
appears (1) that the substantive traditio has always in
an objective sense, so that traditio sacramenti indicates the
of the doctrine of the Church, and traditio apostolorum the
of the apostles' instruction: and (2) that the verb tradere
the transmission of the doctrine by Christ to the apostles and by
them to the apostolic churches. Fr Refoulé brings together the
two sentences (which differ only in the verbs tradidit, accepit),
Praesc. Haer. 37. 1, ut veritas nobis adiudicetur quicumque in ea
regula incedimus quam ecclesiae ab apostolis, apostoli a Christo,
Christus a deo tradidit, and ibid. 24. 4, omnem doctrinam quae
illis ecclesiis apostolicis matricibus et originalibus, fidei
deputandam, id sine dubio tenentem quod ecclesiae ab apostolis, apostoli
a Christo, Christus a deo accepit.
In the passage before us
the traditiones may perhaps be the whole
content of the instructions received by the instructor on the
authority of the Church, the apostles, and of Christ, and delivered
by him with no less authority to his catechumens. But in Appu-
leius, Metam. XI (a work also of African origin and nearly con-
temporary with Tertullian) traditio several times means the whole
ceremony of initiation: see below on ch. 2, for the actual words.
So that possibly in Tertullian's intention the traditiones are
series of liturgical acts: and in that case the rationes of them
be the explanations he is to give of how, for natural reasons and
from religious precedent, these acts are capable of conveying or
representing the several specific graces which baptism confers.
5 temptabilem fidem, 'a faith open to temptation', i.e.
testing or trial, either from pagan gainsaying and persecution or
from heretical persuasion. The reading of B makes no sense, nor
do any of the attempts to amend it: though it is difficult to
imagine how the variants arose.
6 de caina haeresi (a conjecture based on two passages of
Jerome, in Epistle 82 and Adv. Vigilantium, which
refer to this passage of Tertullian), is almost certainly right. T
has de canina haeresi, which Tertullian could conceivably have
written as a pun on Caina and a heavy-handed jibe against the
woman teacher, with an implied reference to Hipparche, the wife
of the Cynic philosopher Crates (whose shameless conduct had
recently been adverted on in public at Carthage: Appuleius,
Florida II. 14). Similarly vipera is a reminder that the
heretics were a sub-sect of the Ophites or serpent-worshippers.
Their views are thus described by Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. I. xxviii.
9): ' Others (of the Ophites) say that Cain was ransomed by the
supreme principality, as likewise were Esau and Corah and the
men of Sodom, and claim that all these were their own kindred.
They affirm that these persons were oppressed by the Creator,
but took no harm, since Sophia extracted out of them and
restored to herself that which was specially derived from her.
They say that Judas the traitor was well aware of all this, and that
since he alone of the apostles had knowledge of the truth he
accomplished the mystery [or 'sacrament'] of betrayal, and
through him all things on earth and in heaven are set free', with
more of the same kind, all to the effect that the moral law of the
Scriptures, with its judgements upon persons, ought to be
reversed: et hoc esse scientiam perfectam, sine tremore in tales
operationes quas ne nominare quidem fas est. There are other refer-
ences to the sect in Epiphanius, Haer. 38 and Theodoret, Haer.
Fab. I. 14., 15, printed by Harvey in his footnotes to Irenaeus
I, pp. 241-2). I quote Harvey: 'The reader will pardon the
production of this trash, but it is necessary that the ravings of
heresy should be traced to their source.' Hippolytus says, how
ever, Haer. VIII. 20, ei0 de\ kai\ e#terai/
tinej ai9re&seij o)noma&zoutai
Kai+nw~n, 'Ofitw~n h@ Noxai+tw~n kai\ e(te&rwn toiou&twn, ou)k
h#ghmai ta_ u(p au)tw~n lego&mena h@ gino&mena e)kqe&sqai,
i3na mh_ ka@i
e)n tou&tw| tina_j au(tou_j h@ lo&gou a)ci/ouj
h(gw~vtai. In none of this
is there any reference to rejection of baptism, or any suggestion
why there should have been. The name Quintilla, which Gelenius
substituted for itaque illa in the last sentence of this chapter,
is without authority: Gelenius perhaps had in mind a Quintilla
mentioned by Epiphanius, Haer. 49, but this woman (if she existed
at all--for Epiphanius is not clear) was a Montanist.
10 i0xqu&n. It is well
known that the fish became a Christian
symbol because its five letters are the initials of the words 'Ihsou~j
xristo_j Qeou~ Ui9o_j Swth&r. The
earliest reference to this that I
know of is in the epitaph of Abercius (in the Lateran Museum:
printed by Quasten, Monumenta Liturgica, p. 22) :
de\ proh~ge | kai\ pare&qhke trofh_n ta&nth
i0xqu_n a)po_ phgh~j |
panmege&qh kaqaro&n, o$n e)dra&cato parqe&noj a(gnh&.
character of this suggests that the idea was already common, and
generally understood. There is a long explanation of the words
by Augustine, De Civ. Dei xviii. 23, which concludes: i0xqu&j,
est piscis, in quo nomine mystice intellegitur Christus, eo quod in
huius mortalitatis abysso velut in aquarum profunditate vivus, hoc est
sine peccato, esse potuerit: which is probably not the
for the device. Cf. De Res. Carn. 52, where Tertullian comments
on 1 Cor. 15. 41, alia caro piscium, id est quibus aqua baptismatis
12 integre, the MS. reading, should be construed with docendi:
cf. Ad Ux. II. 1, quod si integre sapis. Integrae,
an unnecessary con-
jecture by Fr. Junius, if it were correct, would mean 'even if she
had been a virgin'. Attempts were (and are) made to restrict St
Paul's prohibitions to married women: I
Tim. 2. 12 dida&skein
de\ gunaiki\ ou)k e)pitre&pw : and below, ch. 17. 5, where
there is a
reference to 1
Cor. 14. 34-6, with a quotation of verse 35,
oi1kw tou_j i0di/ouj a!ndraj e)perwta&twsan.
The contrast between the simplicity of the sacramental act and
the high significance of its effect is in keeping with all God's
3 nihil adeo est, etc. Editorial attempts to alter this
necessary. Adeo is a mere particle, 'in fact' or 'indeed'. The
ellipsis of potius or magis before quam is common
so Ad Nat. I. 4., quos retro ante hoc nomen vagos viles
norant emendatos repente mirantur, et tamen mirari quam assequi
norunt: De Test. An. I, tanto abest ut nostris litteris
ad quas nemo venit nisi iam Christianus, where Oehler gives several
more examples. Cyprian's account (Ad Donatum 4) of his baptis-
mal experience should be consulted.
7 inter pauca verba tinctus. Tinguere (or tingere)
tullian's regular word for baptizare, used even in quoting the
biblical text: e.g. Adv. Prax. 26, novissime mandans ut
patrem et filium et spiritum sanctum, non in unum: nam nec semel sed
ter, ad singula nomina in personas singulas tinguimur. The verb
baptizo (not noted in Oehler's index) occurs several times in De
Res. Carnis 48. The pauca verba are of course the baptismal
formula, either in its declaratory form, as in Justin Martyr, Apol.
I. 61 (e)pile&gontoj tou~ to_n louso&menon
a1gontoj e)pi\ to_ loutro&n),
or a triple interrogation, as in Hippolytus (Quasten, P. 31). It
is probably the latter that Tertullian has in mind: cf. De Corona
dehinc ter mergitamur amplius aliquid respondentes quam dominus in
evangelio determinavit. The customary expansion of Matt.
is given by Hippolytus (Quasten, loc. cit., and above, p. xxi).
9 idolorum sollemnia, etc. Suggestus here is a
pompa, above. If, as is possible, Tertullian was acquainted with
the work of his fellow-countryman Appuleius, he will have had
in mind the description in Metamorphoses XI of the initiation of
Lucius into the mysteries successively of Isis, Serapis, and Osiris,
where the following matters are worth noting. At Metam. XI. 15
the word sacramentum is connected with sancta haec militia (i.e. the
service of the goddess). The benefit of the projected initiation is
said to include the acquisition of liberty by means of a new birth,
nam cum coeperis deae servire, tunc magis senties fructum tuae
With this compare (ibid. 16), felix hercules et ter beatus qui vitae
scilicet praecedentis innocentia fideque meruerit tam praeclarum de
patrocinium ut renatus quodammodo statim sacrorum obsequio de-
sponderetur. Here meruerit and innocentia represent a popular
sentiment which is not perhaps that of the sacerdos egregius:
renatus may perhaps mean no more than the sloughing off of the
ass, though the word occurs again in ch. 21, where it indicates the
presumed effect of the religious ceremonies. There are suggestions
of the postulant's hesitancy in committing himself to the final
step, and of the authorities advising delay, which remind one of
Tertullian's remarks in De Baptismo 18: Metam. XI. 19, at ego
quanquam cupienti voluntate praeditus, tamen religiosa formidine
retardabar, quod enim sedulo percontaveram, difficile religionis ob-
sequium et castimoniorum abstinentiam satis arduam, cautoque circum-
spectu vitam quae multis casibus subiacet esse muniendam: ibid. 21,
of the chief priest, meam differens instantiam, and his final advice,
summe cavere et utramque culpam vitare, ac neque vocatus morari nec
non iussus festinate deberem. Traditio in this context means the
actual ceremony of initiation, regarded apparently not as the
communication of information or instruction of a theological or
liturgical nature, but as the delivery, by the mediation of the
hierophant, of a boon from the goddess, and afterwards from
the god: ibid. 21, nam et inferûm claustra et salutis tutelam in deae
manu posita, ipsamque traditionem (the ceremony itself) ad instar
voluntariae mortis et precariae salutis celebrari: ibid. 29, suspensus
animi . . . cogitabam . . . quid subsecivum quamvis iteratae iam traditioni
remansisset (the second initiation): and ibid. 29, futura tibi
sacrorum traditio pernecessaria est (a third initiation is required, or,
in other words, cogor tertiam quoque teletam suscipere). The pompa
or suggestus commented on by Tertullian is obvious enough
throughout this description, and not least in its reticences: the
gates of the shrine are opened, not without some sort of cere-
mony, and the priest brings out certain books litteris ignorabilibus
praenotatos (ibid. 22) : and, in the main ceremony, which is too
awful to be described, accessi confinium mortis, et calcato Proserpinae
limine per omnia vectus elementa remeavi: nocte media vidi solem
candido coruscantem lumine: deos inferos et deos superos accessi coram
et adoravi de proximo (ibid. 23). Evidently there is much more
here than a symbolic representation of dying to rise again (such
as the apostle says is involved in Christian baptism), but rather a
ceremony deliberately contrived to make a physical impression
on the neophyte and shatter his emotions by overwhelming sights
and sounds. As concerns apparatus one sentence is enough: ibid.
22, indidem mihi praedicat quae forent ad usum teletae necessario
praeparanda, in which one may include (Tertullian would perhaps
have no objection to this) ten days' abstinence from flesh-meat
and wine. And as for sumptus; it was impossible for Lucius to
escape it: ibid. 22, a vision in the night informed him (among
other no doubt more important matters) quanto sumptu deberem
procurare supplicamentis: the second initiation had to be delayed
for lack of means, ibid. 28, ad istum modem desponsus sacris sumptu-
um tenuitate contra votum meum retardabar: though after that (and
apparently in consequence of it) his greater success at the Roman
bar brought increase of wealth, so that for the third initiation
there was no delay.
There is evidently much here which a hostile mind would find
it easy to criticize, in even stronger terms than Tertullian employs
but there can be no doubt of the sincerity of the narrator, or of
that hieroceryx of Eleusis who travelled to farthest Britain in
search of instruction from the druids, and recorded that fact on
his return.1 Clearly however it was characteristic of these re-
ligions to build up for themselves fides et auctoritas by means of
an impressive ceremonial calculated to overwhelm their votaries'
perceptions and emotions.
12 quid ergo? ...qualia enim decet, etc. The text here
printed is that of T, which makes sense now that I have placed a
query after creditur. Mesnart's text has no coherent meaning, and
that of Gelenius is not much better. Mesnart had: quid ergo?
nonne mirandum et lavacro dilui mortem? atquin eo magis credendum
si quia mirandum est idcirco non creditur. atquin eo magis credendum est
qualia enim decet, etc. Gelenius altered this to: quid ergo? nonne
mirandum et lavacro dilui mortem credendum si quia mirandum est
idcirco non creditur. qualia enim, etc.: this will just construe, but
makes a very awkward sentence.
19 stulta mundi, etc. 1
Cor. 1. 27, ta_ mwra_ tou~ ko&smon
e0cele/cato o( qeo_j i=na kataisxu&nh| tou_j sofou&j. Tertullian several
times quotes this text, but never with the masculine plural
sapientes. At Adv. Marc. V. 5 the MSS. apparently have sapientiam:
at Adv. Prax. 10 sapientia. Oehler's index on this text is both
defective and inaccurate. Possibly Tertullian read ta_
keeping with the other neuters plural in St Paul's sentence.
20 Quae difficilia, etc. An allusion to Luke 18.
27, ta_ a)du&nata
para_ a)nqrw&poij dunata& e/sti para_ tw~| qew~|.
24 virtus omnis, 'every good quality': not 'all strength'
(Souter): provocatur, 'is challenged', or 'is called forth by contrast'
--a common enough meaning of the word from Plautus onwards.
1 An inscription in the open air at Eleusis (copied by me):
h( po&lij to_n
a)f' e9sti/aj musth_n Kassiano_n i9erokh&ruka
presbeu&santa oi1koqen ei0j Brettani/an
a)gwnoqeth&santa 'Adriane . . . (the rest was illegible).
The dignity and honour of the element of water.
1 Huius memores praescriptionis, etc. On praescriptio as
a term of Roman law, consult the article by George Long in
Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. From this it
appears that it is by virtue of legislation subsequent to Constantine
that the word refers not to a plaintiff's loss of right, but to the
defendant's acquisition of a right by which he excludes the
plaintiff' from prosecuting his suit: that is, that previously, and
apparently in Tertullian's day, praescriptiones were pro actore and
not pro reo. In the time of Gaius (an older contemporary of
Tertullian) praescriptiones were only used by the actor, though
formerly they had been used also in favour of the defendant: and
the praescriptiones pro reo (more properly called exceptiones) were
placed at the end of the judicial formula, though they improperly
retained the name. It is probable, as suggested by Fr Refoulé in
the Introduction to his edition of De Praescriptione Haereticorum
(pp. 20-45), that in that treatise, as in all his controversy with
heretics, Tertullian regards himself not as defendant but as
accuser, and is using the term in a strictly accurate sense. But it is
also evident that he frequently uses words of a technical nature
in a less than technical sense: and that, it seems likely, is what he
is doing in De Baptismo both here and in ch. 12, where the term
again appears in close connection with pronuntiatio, and has its
meaning governed by the verb praescribere. So in ch. 13 we have
'The law about baptism has been laid down (by our Lord at
Matt. 28. 19) and its form prescribed'. In ch. 12 Tertullian says
that in view of our Lord's pronouncement that unless a man be
born of water he has not life, praescribitur, there is a standing rule,
that no man obtains salvation except by baptism: and so there
arises an unnecessary question how, in face of that praescriptio, the
apostles were saved, when it is not on record that they were
baptized. Clearly we have there a non-technical use: and so here, in
ch. 3, the pronouncements of the apostle and of our Lord (quoted
in ch. 2) make it a standing rule that we must look for divine
wisdom in methods which human wisdom pronounces foolish.
2 quam stultum, etc. There is no need to alter the text, or to
suggest that quam stands for utrum: the ironic question is quite in
Tertullian's manner. Reformari literally means 'are reformed', but in
much more than manners and morals--rather by a new formation
at the hands of God, parallel to that first formation from the dust
of the ground: and so, in effect, 'are born anew' (John 3.
7 penes deum quiescebant, etc. T reads quiescebant in prin-
cipio, and begins the next sentence with in primordio. In quoting
this text elsewhere (Adv. Hermog. four times: Adv. Prax. once)
Tertullian always writes in principio. Here either he or a copyist
wrote in principio at the end of the sentence, as a comment on
ante omnem mundi suggestum, and then for variety wrote the un-
usual in primordio at the beginning of the direct quotation.
Probably therefore the longer text should be accepted.
8 invisibilis et incomposita is a translation not from the
Hebrew but from LXX, a)o&ratoj kai\ a)kataskeu&astoj. On this
passage cf. Adv. Hermog. 26, nobis autem unus deus et una est terra,
quam in principio deus fecit. cuius ordinem incipiens scriptura
primo factam eam edicit, dehinc qualitatem eius edisserit. sicut et
caelum primo factum professa, In principio fecit deus caelum, dehinc
dispositionem eius superinducit, Et separavit inter aquam, etc., et
vocavit deus firmamentum caelum: so also with man, it first says that
God made him, and afterwards relates in what manner he made
him. At Adv. Hermog. 25 Tertullian (or Hermogenes) read
invisibilis et rudis: Lat. vg. has inanis et vacua, which apparently is
all that the Hebrew means. Lupton, in a note on this passage,
records a suggestion that LXX were paraphrasing here, and
introducing their own philosophical notions, rather than trans-
lating: which is not impossible.
9 spiritus dei super aquas ferebatur. It seems that the picture
presented by the text of Genesis is at first, immediately upon the
primary act of creation, of a flat and motionless expanse of mud
and water on a sunless and windless day, the most lifeless prospect
conceivable: but when the Breath of God begins to move over
the waters, causing them to ripple into motion, life comes into
the world. The Hebrew participle merahepheth (here translated
ferebatur: LXX e\pife/reto) occurs also at
11, of an eagle
fluttering over its young: our translators have suggested (R.V.
margin) the word 'brood', which is doubly wrong, (1) because
the last thing a brooding hen does is to flutter, and the essential
point here is of movement: and (2) because the brooding hen
brings out the life latent within the egg, whereas the text of
Genesis means that the Spirit of God gave movement to the
creation from without. To Tertullian ferebatur suggested either
sedes or vectaculum, he was not sure which: he uses the image of
the chariot and its rider again at De Anima 53, but this time not
of the Spirit of God riding upon the world, but of the spirit of
man riding upon his body (a Platonic image): perinde auriga
corporis spiritus animalis deficientis vectaculi nomine, non suo,
opere decedens, non vigore, etc.
10 habes, homo, etc. The auctoritas, the dignity and importance,
of water rests on three grounds: imprimis, its natural dignity as
antiqua substantia: dehinc, the favour God conferred upon it
(dignatio) by making it the sedes or the vectaculum of the Holy
Spirit: and exinde, the use God made of it in creation. To which
is to be added a fourth, that God has caused it to do him service
(parere fecit) in the sacrament of redemption.
17 deo constitit. An ethical dative, instead of a subjective
genitive with dispositio.
17 suspenderet in medietate. Gen.
1. 6, genhqh&tw stere&wma
e0n me&sw| tou~ u#datoj, kai\ e1stw diaxwri/zon a)na_
me&son u#datoj kai\
19 segregatis aquis. Gen.
1. 9, kai\ sunh&xqh to_ u#dwr . . .
sunagwga_j au~tw~n, kai\ w!fqh h( chra&.
21 producere. Gen.
1. 20, e0cagage&tw: animas,
23 absolutum est? adsumpta est. The older editions, follow-
ing Mesnart, read absolutum est? de terra materia convenit, though
Mesnart's margin expressed doubt about convenit. Kroymann,
still before the discovery of T, suggested that de terra materia was
an opponent's objection to Tertullian's statement that the creation
of man was accomplished in partnership with water, and that
non tamen nisi humecta, etc. (omitting habili) is Tertullian's reply
to the objection. This is brilliant, and could have been true. But
T provides material for what seems to be the true solution. In
it, in place of absolutum est, we have adsumpta est, which makes no
sense: but the combination of the two readings (as in the text
suggested by d'Alés, with the omission of convenit and the
retention of habilis (so T, in the nominative), makes excellent
sense, and must be accepted (so Borleffs).
25 ante quantum diem. Four days before, by inclusive count-
ing from the fifth day (Gen.
1. 20-3) to the second (1.
'before the fourth day' (Souter), which is pointless.
28 ingenia. Ingenious devices: or (Oehler) 'res ingenio factae
vel inventae'. So De Pall. 1, of the battering-ram, stupuere illico
Carthaginienses ut novum extraneum ingenium, where Salmasius
has a note that in Tertullian ingenium, artificium, and argumentum
are synonyms, quoting Adv. Gnosticos (i.e. Valentinianos),
sapienter itaque iugulavit, dum in vitam: et rationabiliter, dum in
gloriam. o parricidii ingenium, o sceleris artificium, o argumentum
crudelitatis, quae idcirco occidit ne moriatur quam occiderit. Lupton
refers to the hydraulic organ of ch. 8: Archimedes' device for
checking the purity of gold would be another example.
33 etiam, caelestia procurat. So T: B has et in caelesti. Lupton
rightly remarks that Tertullian uses procurare (1) with accusative
and dative, 'to provide something for someone', or (2) with
dative only, 'to serve': so that either caelestia could stand (provide
heavenly things) or caelesti be substituted (make provision for
the heavenly life). The latter seems more natural: cf. Adv. Marc.
I. 25, aemulatio liberando homini procurat: ibid. IV. 17, operam legis
procurantis evangelio: De Res. Carn. 12, si omnia homini resurgunt
cui procurata sunt: Adv. Prax. 18, et cum se unum pronuntiabat filio
pater procurabat: so that perhaps (with Borleffs) we ought to
combine B and T, reading etiam caeiesti procurat.
Water of every sort, when the Holy Spirit rests upon it, acquires
powers of healing.
1 Sed ea satis, etc. This sentence, thus punctuated and trans-
lated, is (except for the repeated super aquas) what I made of
Oehler's text many years ago. Ad ea (T) may possibly, but not
very naturally, mean pro_j tau~ta, 'in view of this'. The words
prima illa quae evidently construe with ratio, and the sentence
means that the present chapter selects and develops the first of
the rationes referred to in ch. 3, namely the effect produced by the
Holy Spirit resting upon the water. Ipso habitu seems to mean 'by
their relative position': but I know of no parallel. Kroymann's
suggestion of in tincto remoraturum is ingenious but unnecessary:
there is nothing strange in the idea that the Holy Spirit (not the
bishop or presbyter is the actual baptizer--though it is more
usual to say that our Lord Jesus Christ is in his own Person the
minister of every sacrament.
5 super . . . ferebatur. Tertullian apparently takes the image to
be of a charioteer borne upon a chariot, as also does Jerome, Ep. 73,
in aurigae modum. The Hebrew rather suggests a bird skimming
over the waters.
9 per substantiae suae subtilitatem. Cf Apol. 22, of certain
substantiae spiritales, demons and other evil beings: itaque corporibus
quidem et valetudines infligunt et aliquos casus acerbos, animae vero
repentinos et extraordinarios per vim excessus. suppetit illis ad
substantiam hominis adeundam subtilitas et tenuitas sua. multum
spiritalibus viribus licet, ut invisibiles et insensibiles in effectu
quam in actu suo appareant, etc. When Tertullian uses substantia in
a metaphysical sense, it means either a thing itself or that which
a thing is in itself, i.e., in Aristotelian terms a prw&th
is that out of which the thing was made, or of which it consists:
natura is the assemblage of qualities which characterize the object
for what it is, and without any of which it would cease to be
itself: qualitas is the character, quality, sometimes even the rank
or status, which the object exhibits or possesses by virtue of the
attributes which constitute its natura. In the present passage these
words are all used in their strict sense, though without emphasis
upon it: and substantiae suae subtilitas seems to mean 'the thinness
of the object to which they belong'. So translate, 'Especially
must corporal matter accept into itself spiritual characteristics,
for these are the more apt to penetrate and inhere by reason of
the subtlety of the object they belong to'.
13 genus usually means the species, and species the individual
instances, though at De Carne Christi 13 (ad fin.) species occurs
several times in what is clearly a non-technical sense.
14 attributum est, 'has become an attribute': the power of
spiritual cleansing, which became an attribute of water when the
Spirit of God moved upon it, flows over into (i.e. is abundant
enough to become an attribute of) every piece of water.
15 lacu, a cistern: Pliny, H.N. xxxvi. 15, Agrippa in aedilitate
sua, addita Virgine aqua, ceteris corrivatis atque emendates, lacus
16 alveo, a bath-tub: Cicero, Pro Caelio, 28. 57,
balnearum collocatos: ex quibus requiram quemadmodum latuerint aut ubi,
alveusne ille an equus Troianus fuerit qui tot invictos viros muliebre
bellum gerentes tulerit ac texerit.
16 nec quicquam refert, etc. This is one of Tertullian's thought-
less remarks, made for present rhetorical effect. As far as the water
was concerned there was, as he says, no difference: but there was
a difference in the purpose and effect of the two baptisms, as he
was well aware (cf. ch. 10) and as John himself had affirmed
1. 8 and parallels). The martyrdom of St Peter at Rome by
crucifixion is mentioned at De Praesc. Haer. 26, habes Romam . . .
ubi Petrus passioni dominicae adaequatur, ubi Paulus Ioannis exitu (i.e.
death by the sword) coronatur, ubi apostolus Ioannes posteaquam in
oleum igneum demersus nihil passus est, in insulam relegatur: also
Adv. Marc. IV. 5, Romani...quibus evangelium Petrus et Paulus
sanguine quoque suo signatum reliquerunt.
17 ille spado : the theme is developed in detail at ch. 18. The
water was fortuita because the country and the road were desert
and any water found on it was unexpected: i\dou_
u3dwr (Acts 8.
are the words of one who did not expect to see water there.
18 igitur omnes aquae, etc. Praerogativa (as an adjective at
first described the tribe or century which had the right to be first
asked to vote: then (as a substantive) the preferential right to vote,
and consequently precedence, superiority, or privilege: so De
Res. Carn. 8, quanta huic substantiae frivolae ac sordidae apud deum
praerogativa sit, 'how highly God regards it': ibid. 25, primae
resurrectionis praerogativa, the privilege of belonging to that first
resurrection, of those upon whom the second death has no power
20. 2-4): ibid. 43, martyrii praerogativa, the privilege of
being first, of passing straight to paradise, granted to martyrs
alone: ibid. 52, non ad denegandam substantiae communionem sed
praerogativae peraequationem, 'not denying community of sub-
stance, but equivalence of honour': and so here, 'that primitive
or original privilege'.
19 sacramentum sanctificationis is evidently something
more precise than 'mystery of sanctification' (Lupton, Souter):
'sacred significance of sanctifying' would be better, but still too
little: 'virtue' or 'power' of sanctifying would not be too much.
Neither Tertullian, nor any of the ancients, were afraid to think
of the outward signs of the sacraments being effective means of
grace, provided (of course) that prayer had been made: our
Christian forebears were not Zwinglians. Invocato deo can hardly
mean an invocation of the Holy Spirit in such a form as 'Come
Holy Ghost': rather was there an address to God the Father, with
a request to send the Holy Spirit, as in the Hippolytean eucharistic
canon, et petimus ut mittas spiritum tuum sanctum in oblationem
20 supervenit enim, etc. It appears from what is said here and
at ch. 8 that in Tertullian's view the action of the Holy Spirit in
baptism is twofold, (a) in giving to the water cleansing or healing
power, and (b) in the personal act of sealing and blessing at the
imposition of the hand. A further question might arise concern-
ing private baptism where, because of urgency, the water is
frequently not blessed: perhaps Tertullian's words, ad simplicem
actum, are an admission that (at least in an emergency) water and
the word are enough. Cyprian, Ep. 70, insists that the water
needs to be sanctified: oportet ergo mundari et sanctificari aquam prius
a sacerdote, ut possit baptismo suo peccata hominis qui baptizatur
abluere: but in Ep. 69, answering an enquiry whether persons
baptized in emergency (and therefore non loti sed perfusi) are truly
baptized, he says, nos quantum concepit mediocritas nostra aestimamus
in nullo mutilari et debilitari posse beneficia divina, nec minus
illic posse contingere ubi plena et tota fide et dantis et sumentis
quod de divinis muneribus hauritur.
26 in spiritu... qui est auctor delicti. On the joint responsi-
bility of soul and body for good acts or bad, cf. De Res. Carn.
15-17: e.g. (15) si anima est quae agit et impellit in omnia, carnis
obsequium est: (16) sed cum imperium animae obsequium carni distri-
buimus prospiciendum est ne et hoc alia argumentatione subvertant, ut
velint carnem sic in officio animae conlocare, non quasi ministram, ne
et sociam cogantur agnoscere. On the relation of spiritus (the human
spirit) and anima, cf. De Anima 10, 11: according to Tertullian
they are one and the same thing: cum de anima et spiritu agitur, ipsa
erit anima spiritus, sicut ipsa dies lux: ipsum est enim quid per quod
quid. The difference between them is that anima is a term of
substance, spiritus a term of function: sed ut animam
praesentis quaestionis ratio compellit, quia spirare alii substantiae
adscribitur: hoc dum animae vindicamus...spiritum necesse est certa
condicione dicamus, non status nomine sed actus, nec substantiae titulo
operae, quia spirat non quia spiritus proprie est (i.e. it is not
substance with the Spirit of God) . . . ita et animam, quam flatum ex
proprietate defendimus, spiritum nunc ex necessitate pronuntiamus.
Thus the terms are under some circumstances interchangeable
at Adv. Marc. IV. 34 he speaks of paradise as interim refrigerium
praebituram animabus iustorum: at Apol. 47, as locum divinae amoeni-
tatis recipiendis sanctorum spiritibus destinatum.
29 medicatis quodammodo aquis. The waters in some sort
(i.e. in a spiritual sense) acquire powers of healing. For medicatae
aquae cf. Pliny, H.N. II. 93, fontes medicati : and Pliny,
Ep. VIII. 20. 4.,
[aquarum] sapor medicatus: and below, ch. 5, si religione aquam
medicari putant. The theme of the angel's intervention is taken up
in chs. 5, 6.
Pagan lustrations are the devil's imitations of the things of God.
They do however testify to the fact that water can become a
vehicle of spiritual power.
1 Sed enim, etc. The conjunction marks this sentence as a
supposed objection: seeing that heathen religions practise lustra-
tion, and it is admitted that they are profane and ineffective, why
should Christian baptism be regarded as in any sense different?
The answer is (1) that those are the devil's imitations of divine
things: (2) that it is well known that evil spirits do act upon, and
through, water: and so (3) there is no reason why an angel of
God should not so act, for a beneficent purpose, as at Bethsaida:
and (4) what happened at Bethsaida was a type of even better
things to come.
The text of the first sentence is doubtful, though the meaning
is clear. The objection that subministrare ('falsely or fancifully
attribute') is somewhat unusual will apply whichever reading is
chosen. Idola are not images, but false gods, whether represented
by an image or not. The mysteries of Isis are described in some
(but not complete) detail by Appuleius, Metam. xi (quoted above).
Isis was imported from Egypt, Mithras from Persia: the former
had become popular among women of fashion at Rome at the
end of the republic and the beginning of the empire (Tibullus
I. iii. 23: Propertius IV. V. 34 al.): the latter was popular with
soldiers, chiefly in the second and third centuries, though the
religion itself is of immemorial antiquity. Aliquis is added by
Tertullian to proper names to indicate neither defective know-
ledge nor pretended lack of interest, but because it is not his
present intention to go into further detail about them: so De
Carne Christi 14, aliqui Gabriel et Michael: De Res. Carn. 3,
4 ipsos etiam deos, etc. Efferunt may conceivably mean
'exalt', 'extol' (Lupton, Souter): but the natural meaning of this
sentence is that the images of the gods are carried down to the
water for washing. Such may be the reference in Augustine, De
Civ. Dei I. 4, Caelesti virgini et Berecynthiae matri omnium ante
cuius lecticam die sollemni lavationis eius obscene songs were sung:
and again, quae sunt sacrilegia si illa sunt sacra? aut quae inquinatio
si illa lavatio? At Tacitus, Ann. xv. 45 the water is apparently
carried up from the sea to the temple: propitiata Iuno per matronas,
primum in Capitolio, deinde apud proximum mare, unde hausta aqua
templum et simulacrum deae perspersum est.
6 expiant. This is the original and most common use of the
word, for the ritual purification of persons or things defiled by
crime: so Isid. Hisp. Etym. V. 26. 26, piaculum dictum pro eo quod
expiari potest: commissa sunt enim quae erant quoquo ordine expianda.
Cf. Plautus, Mostellaria 465, metuo te atque istos expiare ut possies,
i.e., cleanse of the ill-luck of having entered a house where crime
has been committed.
6 The ludi Apollinares, instituted a.d. iii Non. Quint.,
212 B.C., were presided over by the praetor urbanus. Pliny, H.N.
xxxv. 10. 36, tells of a picture in the temple of Apollo, spoiled
by an unskilful painter whom the praetor had ordered to clean
it in time for the games. The alteration of Pelusiis to Eleusiniis
(Ursinus) was unnecessary, even if we had been otherwise un-
informed of Pelusian games: there were however such games,
said to have been founded by Peleus, the father of Achilles, but
introduced at Rome about A.D. 200 (so Ammianus Marcellinus
xxii. 6. 3). On the whole subject see Refoulé's notes on this
chapter, and an article by A. D. Nock in
J.T.S. vol. xxviii,
9 purgatrices aquas explorabat (B) and purgatrice aqua
expiabatur (T) are equally satisfactory, though probably the former
(as the more unusual expression) may be considered the original.
On expiare see note on 1. 6. Explorare, in the sense of going
about in search of something, seems to have no exact parallel,
though this is the kind of extended meaning Tertullian (or any
other writer of a living language would be capable of attaching
to a word. Whichever reading we take, there is a reference
(among others) to Orestes, who (Aeschylus says) wandered wide
seeking for expiation and eventually found it at Athens: Pausanias
(II. 31. 8, 9) says that additional purifying water was found for
him at Troezen. Quisque is for quisquis: cf. De Carne Christi 5,
where cuiusque stands for utriusque.
10 igitur si idolo, etc. Si idolo is Dr Borleffs' conjecture, based
on T, from which he also accepts adlegendi and auspici (for
auspicii). This will construe, though it is not clear what connection
adlegendi (co-opting) has with the present subject: it is hardly (as
Borleffs suggests) a satisfactory word for demonic enticement.
B has adloquendi, which is even more remote from the subject.
Ursinus, followed by Rigaltius, read abluendi, which makes good
sense. But the margin of B agrees with T, and possibly this must
be retained. B also adds materia after propria, which is unnecessary
and should be removed.
14 studium diaboli, etc. It was common form for the
Christian apologists to claim that heathen ceremonies which had
parallels in Christian practice were the invention of devils for the
subverting of Christian truth. So Tertullian, De Praesc. Haer. 40,
says that heretical misinterpretations of scripture are devices of
the devil, cuius sunt partes intervertendi veritatem, qui ipsas quoque
sacramentorum divinorum idolorum mysteriis aemulatur, tingit et ipse
quosdam utique credentes et fideles suos: expositionem (V.1. expiationem)
delictorum de lavacro repromittit, et si adhuc memini Mithras signat
illic in frontibus milites suos: celebrat et panes oblationem, et
resurrectionis inducit, et sub gladio redimit coronam ('puts on', not
'purchases', a garland). quid quod et summum pontificem in unius
nuptiis statuit? habet et virgines, habet et continentes. Cf. De Corona
and Apol. 22. See also the notes of Refoulé (Praesc. Haer. pp. 144
sqq.), and references there to Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and
19 repellentibus fidem. Lupton remarks that this uncommon
use of the participle is an imitation of the Greek.
It is not unknown for people who repudiate Christianity to
accept superstitions: e.g. it is the irreligious who are given to the
use of mascots.
20 aemulatorem dei: B has aemulum, which is more usual.
Both words occur at De Spect. 2, a notable description of how the
works of God are perverted to hostile uses: nos igitur qui domino
cognito etiam aemulum eius inspeximus, qui institutore comperto et
interpolatorem una deprehendimus, neque mirari neque dubitare oportet,
cum ipsum hominem, opus et imaginem dei, totius universitatis posses-
sorem, illa vis interpolatoris et aemulatoris angeli ab initio de
deiecerit, universam substantiam eius, pariter cum ipso integritati
institutam, pariter cum ipso in perversitatem demutatam adversus
25 esetos has given the editors unnecessary trouble: B has
esietos, T has scetos, both words evident misreadings of
ei0setou&j. This adjective does not appear in Liddell and Scott:
but a)feto&j and a)neto&j
testify to the existence of e9toj, an ad-
jectival form from i3hmi: so that e0seto&j
means 'pushed in', which
is precisely what children say when they fall, 'something pushed
me'. Lymphaticus also is not recorded in Greek: it means
cowardly or mad, the brain having turned to water. The three
adjectives are attached each to one verb: esetos to necaverunt,
lymphaticos et hydrophobas to amentia vel formidine exercuerunt.
The significance of the feminine hydrophobas is not clear: but the
form is well attested.
29 angelus mali profanus was Kroymann's emendation of B,
before the discovery of T: T itself gives no help, beyond in
dicating that the difficulty is an old one. The reading of B, angelis
malis profanus, will construe: 'the unholy one by <his> evil
often does business with the same element', etc.: but this would
have been better expressed as either quando cum angelis malis, or
cum per angelos malos, and Kroymann's reading is an undoubted
improvement. Frequentare, 'frequently or repeatedly exercise or
perform': so Apol. 22, vulgus indoctum in usum maledicti frequentat,
'often uses the word as an imprecation': Ad Uxorem I. 8, meam
memoriam, si ita evenerit, in illis frequentabis, 'you will the oftener
have me in mind': De Test. An. 4., quis non hodie memoriae post
mortem frequentandae studet? : and in a kindred sense, Adv. Hermog.
29, maria non statim beluis frequentavit, 'did not immediately fill
the seas with great whales'.
31 piscinam Bethsaidam. At John
5. 2 sqq. Bethsaida is the
reading of Cod. Vat. B and the Latin vulgate, but apparently only
of Tertullian among patristic writers. Verse 4, removed to the
margin of R.V., is omitted by some ancient versions and by
the Vatican and Sinaitic codices (Lat. vg. is doubtful, though the
Clementine edition has it). It is probable, but not quite certain,
that Tertullian read it in his copy: with some ingenuity its sense
(except for kata_ kairo&n, semel anno) can be picked up from the
rest of the gospel narrative. The question could be, not how the
verse got into the gospel text, but how such a necessary explana-
tion was ever left out.
34 figura ista, etc. Here medicinae corporalis is an appositional
or descriptive genitive: 'this type or figure consisting of bodily
healing'. At the end of the sentence figura has not changed its
meaning, but spiritalium is an objective genitive. Canebat
'prophesied' looks like an original, of which praedicabat (T)
would be an interpretation: cf. De Carne Christi 20, ille apud nos
canit Christum, per quem se cecinit ipse Christus, which however is
hardly parallel, for David, being a psalmist, did sing: so also
Adv. Marc. V. 9, but Adv. Iud. 7 is more general, quem venturum
prophetae canebant. Forma, the general rule or pattern.
42 ita restituitur, etc. The present tense (T) seems correct for
a process begun now; continuous in the individual, and frequently
repeated in different individuals. I translate Fr Refoulé's note,
which is both brief and lucid: 'By his sin man had been reduced
to his primary condition of image of God: by baptism he has
been restored to God according to his eternal likeness, that of
grace. Tertullian here reproduces the distinction, frequently
employed by St Irenaeus, between imago (nature) and similitudo
(grace). This is the only place I know of where Tertullian makes
use of this distinction. Elsewhere he simply states that man was
made in the image of God, that is, in the image of Christ. Cf.
De Res. Carn. 6' -- i.e. quodcumque enim limus exprimebatur
Christus cogitabatur homo futurus, etc.
42 ad similitudinem eius qui, etc. Several competent inter-
preters (including Dr A. J. Mason and Dr Borleffs, from either of
whom I hesitate to differ) take eius to mean dei, and the antecedent
of qui to be Homo. This is syntactically very awkward, and it is
easier to suppose that eius qui means Adam, though only if Adam
is a type of Christ, being the similitude or perfect likeness of
which the image was an outline sketch. The image was to be
found in effgie, in the man whom God formed out of clay: the
similitude belongs to eternity, and is Christ himself. Censentur
here means 'have their true or real existence'. The subject may
be further pursued in Lupton's note (pp. 15-16) and in the
patristic references there given.
The cleansing, or washing away of sins in the water, is a prepara-
tion for the gift of the Holy Spirit which is to follow.
1 Non quod in aqua, etc. Already, as early as Tertullian,
the essential act of baptism in water was overlaid with additional
ceremonies the particular point of which called for (and eluded)
explanation: Fr Refoulé wisely remarks, 'Nous sommes ici en
présence d'une pensée théologique qui se cherche'. Emundati sub
angelo must be understood in accordance with ch. 4 (ad fin.),
medicatis quodammodo aquis per angeli interventum, and with angelus
baptismi arbiter, below. In ch. 4 the suggestion is that by the
action of an angel the baptismal water has had conferred upon it
the power of spiritual healing (as the pool of Bethesda received
from its angel the power of physical healing) and that the water
thus medicated is effective in the washing away of sins. Here in
ch. 6 the suggestion is a little different, that the angel whose
intervention medicates the waters is an effective agent of baptism.
There is no reason to soften sub into the sense of coram: Lupton's
'under the direction of the angel' is better, though 'by the action
of the angel' is what Tertullian means: and possibly, as some
suggest, sub angelo is a Graecism for u9po_
is really equivalent to u9po_ tw|~ a0gge&lw|. See also below,
where the preposition seems to have its natural sense. Apart
however from the question of the agent at baptism, Tertullian
is clear that its effect is not automatic: the grace of absolution is
a gift of God granted in response to the request of faith (quam
fides impetrat), a faith in no sense indefinite, but signed and sealed
in the threefold Name.
3 sicut enim Ioannes, etc. Kroymann's conjecture of sicut is
now confirmed by T. The not impossible word antepraecursor
which occurs again at ch. 11, has in both places perhaps wrongly
been relieved by T of its second preposition.
4 superventuro, 'who is to come next': cf. De Virg.
supervenientia renuntiabit vobis = John 16.
13, kai\ ta e0rxo&mena
a)naggelei~ u9mi~n, 'the events that are on the way': at Ad Nat.
supervenit means 'has come upon', with deprehendit and indicia
recognovit as synonyms.
6 obsignata. In Cicero obsignare means seal or certify; cf.
Quinctio 21. 67, eius rei condicionisque tabellas obsignaverunt (i.e. as
witnesses) viri boni complures: res in dubium venire non potest. So
Tertullian, Adv. Marc. V. 1, plane profiteri potest se ipsum quis,
verum professio eius alterius auctoritate conficitur: alius scribit,
subscribit, alius obsignat, alius actis refert. More difficult is Ad
Nat. II. 8: the Egyptians have made Joseph into a god, and call
him Serapis because of the height of his head-dress, cuius suggestus
modialis figura frumentationis eius memoriam obsignat, i.e., being
shaped like a bushel-measure it visibly recalls or records his
management of the corn-supply. Also De Idol. 10, deos ipsos hoc
nomine obsignat, the Christian schoolmaster, in calling the gods
gods, acknowledges or ratifies their existence: and so ibid. 12,
male nobis de necessitatibus humanae exhibitionis supplaudimus si post
fidem obsignatam (i.e. after baptism) dicimus, Non habeo quo vivam:
and De Paenit. 6, lavacrum illud obsignatio est fidei, quae fides a
paenitentiae fide incipitur et commendatur: non ideo abluimur ut
delinquere desinamus sed quia desiimus, quoniam iam corde loti sumus
-- which almost amounts to a statement that we receive the sacra-
ment not because we think it will make us worthy of it, but
because we think we nearly are: an inoffensive way of saying this
is that baptism sets its approval on the faith which has brought
men to repentance.
8 habemus benedictione, etc. The punctuation of this and
the following sentences is mine. The benediction referred to is
apparently the baptismal formula, by virtue of which the three
divine Persons become both witnesses or judges of our faith, and
sureties for our salvation.
10 cum autem sub tribus, etc. Evidently these are the three
divine Persons already named in this chapter. The mention of
human witnesses or sponsors at this point would be out of context.
The reference is to some form of words which names the three
Persons, along with an additional mention of the Church. By
the deuteronomic rule about three witnesses the trinitarian for-
mula, Tertullian says, is sufficient for our confident assurance: but
(autem) the mention of the Church is neither intrusive nor otiose,
for where God is, there is the Church. Was this formula the
declaratory creed of the church of Carthage, and did this church
at that date use a four-clause creed? or did the baptismal formula
itself mention the Church? Our information about Carthage is
too slight to afford a convinced and convincing answer. It is
conceivable that the baptismal formula was itself the creed. The
present custom is for the officiant to demand assent to the Creed
and then to use the declaratory form Baptizo te in nomine, etc.:
and this form was apparently known to Justin Martyr (Apol. I. 61:
the word e0pile&goutoj seems to indicate the declaratory formula).
But (if the Egyptian Church Order is the work of Hippolytus,
and if it has not been adjusted to later practice) the Roman use
in Tertullian's day was (or Hippolytus thought it ought to be)
for the officiant to ask for assent to each of the three clauses of
the Creed separately, and baptize the person after each assent.
Thus the Creed, in its interrogative form, was itself the baptismal
formula, and Tertullian seems to have this practice in mind: De
Corona 3, dehinc ter mergitamur amplius aliquid respondentes quam
dominus in evangelio determinavit, i.e. using an expanded form of
Matt. 28. 19: so also Adv. Prax. 26, nam nec semel sed ter, ad singula
nomina in personas singulas tinguimur. In Hippolytus (Quasten,
p. 31) the third interrogation is, Credis in Spiritu sancto et sanctam
ecclesiam et carnis resurrectionem? If the Creed, or the Baptismal
Formula, known to Tertullian was in this form (though without
the last three words) the questions before us are answered. A
generation later Cyprian at Carthage had et vitam aeternam per
sanctam ecclesiam. See also Tertullian, De Orat. 2, ne mater quidem
ecclesia praeteritur, siquidem in filio et patre mater recognoscitur, de
constat et patris et filii nomen. See Kelly, Early Christian Creeds,
pp. 44 sqq.
11 quoniam ubi tres, etc. It would be a mistake here to press
Tertullian's words into a statement that the Church is the body of
the holy Trinity. Certainly he affirms (Adv. Prax. 7) that God is
(not 'has') a body: but that arises from his Stoic metaphysics,
and means no more than that God is an objective reality. In the
present passage he has two things in mind: (1) that our Lord said,
Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am
I in the midst of them (Matt. 18.
20) : he refers to this, De Pud. 2 1,
illam ecclesiam...quam dominus in tribus posuit, and elsewhere (De
Fug. 14: De Exhort. Cast. 7): and (a) that in Roman law three was
the smallest number of persons who could constitute a collegium
(cf. Dict. Class. Ant. s.v.), and that in that connection
not mean a physical body but a legal corporation. Therefore all
that he need be supposed to say here is, that where there are three
there is the Church, since (in accordance with our Lord's promise
and with Roman law) it is a body of three. Which three,? The
three divine Persons.
The anointing after baptism, which gives us the name of Christians.
A complete and fully documented account of these post
baptismal ceremonies, in both East and West, down to the end
of the patristic period, is to be found in Bingham's Antiquities of
the Christian Church, book XII.
1 perunguimur. Lupton suggests that the preposition in
dicates a copious anointing, on the head, and perhaps 'all over'.
The Egyptian Church Order mentions only the head, but with
the officiant's left palm full of oil. So Prudentius, Psychomachia
360, only on the forehead, inscripta oleo frontis signacula, per
quae | unguentum regale datum est et chrisma perenne.
2 de pristina disciplina, i.e. Old Testament practice. The
reference is to Exod. 29.
30; Lev. 8.
12. The horn is not
mentioned at these places, but at 1
Sam. 16. 1, 13 and 1
1. 39, at the anointing of kings.
3 christus dicitur (B) as the harder reading (or that more likely
to be misunderstood and objected to) may well be correct. The
reference is to Lev.
4. 3, o( a0rxiereu_j o( kexrisme&noj, and (verse 5)
o9 i9ereu_j o( xristo_j o( teteleiwme&noj ta_j
xei~raj (LXX, follow=
ing the Hebrew), not of Aaron only but of any high priest. If
this reference were overlooked, christus might be mistakenly
referred to our Lord, and the second half of the sentence thought
otiose: hence perhaps the reading christiani dicti (T), to avoid that
awkwardness. From Isidore Dr Borleffs has drawn the reacting
Christi dicti (' we are referred to as "the anointed"'), which
be justified by Ps.
105 (LXX 104). 15, mh_ a#yhsqe tw~n xristw~n
This would represent an early attempt, by Isidore or by someone
before him, to solve a difficulty which did not really exist.
Objection may be made that if we reject both christiani dicti and
christi dicti no reference is left to the ordinary Christian: the
answer is that this comes at sic et in nobis, etc., to which the earlier
part of the paragraph is preparatory. The passages of Isidore of
Seville are Etymologiarum VI. 19. 50, 51, 52; VII. 2. 2, 3; and
6 Collecti sunt, etc. Acts, 4.
27, quoted again (with convenerunt
universi) Adv. Prax. 28: in both places Tertullian has filium for
pai~da (Lat. vg. puerum) though probably 'servant' is intended,
as at Isa. 42.
7 currit. ' Flows' in my translation: Souter, ' takes its course'
but I suspect that the meaning is more general, 'acts', as in the
passages quoted by Lupton: Adv. Marc. II. 26 cetera [ea]
[sunt] per quae opus bonum currit bonae severitatis: ibid.
III. 5, docens
proinde et Galatas duo argumenta filiorum Abrahae allegorice cucurrisse:
and De Ieiunio 11, eam formam reprehendentes qua et vetera decucur-
rerunt (not quoted by Lupton) gives meaning to the following
clause, eidem deo currant cui et vetera (which Lupton does quote).
8 ipsius baptismi. In spite of the additional ceremonies,
which might have diverted attention from the main thing,
Tertullian remembers that it is immersion in water that matters,
along with its spiritual effect, deliverance from sins.
The imposition of the hand, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
1 per benedictionem, etc. The corresponding ceremony in
Hippolytus is thus described (Quasten, p. 31): Episcopus vero
manum illis imponens invocet dicens: Domine deus qui dignos fecisti
eos remissionem mereri peccatorum per lavacrum regenerationis spiritus
sancti, immitte in eos tuam gratiam ut tibi serviant secundum voluntatem
tuam: quoniam tibi est gloria, patri et filio et spiritui sancto in
ecclesia, et nunc et in saecula saeculorum: amen. This is followed (in
Hippolytus) by a second anointing. Cf. Tertullian, De Res. Carn.
8, caro manus impositione adumbratur ut et anima spiritu illuminetur.
Cyprian, Ep. 73. 9 (Ad Iubaianum) connects this with the act of
Peter and John at Samaria, ut oratione pro eis habita et manu imposita
invocaretur et infunderetur super eos spiritus sanctus. 'Summoning'
(Souter) is too peremptory a word for advocans: reserve it for
2 sane humano ingenio, etc. The reference is to the hy-
draulic organ, of which Lupton has a careful description. Pliny,
H.N. VII. 37, names its inventor: laudatus est...Ctesibius pneu-
matica ratione et hydraulicis organis repertis. Cf Claudian, De
Theodoro Consule, 316-19: et qui magna levi detrudens murmura
facto | innumeras voces segetis moderatos aenae | intonet erranti digito
penitusque trabali | vecte laborantes in carmina concitet undas (where
seges aena can only mean the organ pipes in ranks like standing
corn). Oehler (ad loc.) has other references, including this from
Vitruvius: cum pinnae manibus tactae propellunt et reducunt
regulas, alternis obturando foramina alternis aperiundo, ex musicis
artibus multiplicibus modulorum varietatibus sonantes excitant voces.
There is a learned note on this subject by Isaac Casaubon on
Lampridius, Vita Heliogabali, pp. 169 and 347 of Historia
Casaubon would read spiritus (pl.) in aquam arcessere, thus
explaining eorum (below): concorporationem eorum he takes to be
the 'canales qui iungi plures soliti' -- which is very unnatural.
Lupton (reading spiritum) takes eorum to mean spiritus et aquae:
and, observing that concorporatio and incorporatio are Latin
renderings of e0nanqrw&phsij, suggests (without actually saying
so) that the wind is incarnate in the water. Probably (as Lupton
finally says) the word means solely the union (not otherwise
defined) or joint action of wind and water. At Adv. Marc. IV. 4
(referred to by Lupton) ad concorporationem legis et prophetarum
seems to mean the retention or acceptance of the O.T. as a
The first licebit really means 'it is admitted', and the second 'it
cannot be denied'. In suo organo evidently refers to a human
person, and sanctae manus are those of the minister. Lupton
suggests that ingenium here means an engine: there are certainly
a number of places where the word means a clever device: but
here it so evidently means 'ingenuity' that it seems needless to
look for anything more abstruse.
9 Christum deformantes, 'representing Christ as in a figure',
is explained as that Jacob's hands either made the shape of a cross
or formed the letter chi. The latter seems sufficiently far-fetched.
I should prefer to cut the knot and read crucem deformantes. In
the following line, the reading of T, in Christo, seems more
natural, and removes the reason for Lupton's suggestion of a
benediction that was to come on Christ: the idea cannot be
excluded from the accounts of his baptism, but is not near enough
to the surface either of the Gospel narrative or of patristic com-
ments on it to have found a place here in so accidental a fashion.
10 tunc ille sanctissimus spiritus, etc. Tunc, at
this point in
the baptismal ceremony. The words following refer back to the
water, and mention the blessing now being given, but omit
the unction. There seems to be no special reason for this, and the
omission may be accidental. Libens has been suspected (e.g. by
Scaliger who made the obvious suggestion of labens, which, as
Lupton remarks, is tautologous). Libens was read here by Isidore
and by Rabanus, and must be retained: the significance of it is
that the Holy Spirit, being a divine Person and not a mere force,
influence, or attribute, does what he does by an act of his own
will, which is coincident with that of the Father and the Son.
Cf. ch. 9, libenter transfretat, Matt.
14. 25, Mark 6.
48: our Lord,
seeing his disciples toiling in rowing, crossed the sea to them with
out being asked.
12 pristinam sedem. A reference to Gen.
1. 2, and ch. 3
(above), but with conquiescit now, in contrast with the previous
ferebatur or movebatur. Isidore, Etym. VI. 19. 54 combines
(sic) with the previous superferebatur.
15 quod etiam corporaliter, etc. I suspect that ipso goes with
the adverb (or with the substantive corpore implied by the adverb.
The statement was widely believed: see Lupton's references to
Cyprian and Rufinus : for a complete set of fanciful observations
concerning this highly moral bird see Pliny, H.N. X. 34, summar-
ized by Isidore, Etym. XII. 7. 6, aves mansuetae et in hominum multi-
tudine conversantes, ac sine felle: quas antiqui venerias nuncupabant eo
quod nidos frequentant et osculo amorem concipiant (sic). Isidore also
(VII. 3. 22) copies Tertullian: Spiritus sanctus idcirco in columbae
specie venisse scribitur ut natura eius per avem simplicitatis et
tiae declararetur: unde et dominus, Estote inquit simplices sicut
haec enim avis corporaliter ipso felle caret habens tantum innocentiam
et amorem. Cf also Tert. De Monog. 8: our Lord ad simplicitatem
columbae provocat, avis non tantum innocuae verum et pudicae, quam
unam unus masculus novit. Matt.
10. 16 is quoted again Adv. Val. 2,
in answer to gnostics who accuse the Christians of being simplices,
with the further comment, in summa Christum columba demonstrare
solita est, serpens vero temptare: illa et a primordio divinae pacis
ille a primordio divinae imaginis praedo: ita facilius simplicitas sola
deum et agnoscere poterit et ostendere, prudentia sola concutere potius
21 quod signum, etc. The reading apud nationes (B) would be
good enough, except that ad nationes (T) is better: the former makes
the general statement that among the nations the olive branch is
held out as a sign of peace: the latter makes the more penetrating
remark that the olive leaf brought back by Noah's dove is still
being held out as a sign of peace towards the gentiles. Virgil, Aen.
VII. 154, centum oratores augusta ad moenia regis | ire iubet, ramis
velatos Palladis omnes. For praetenditur see De Carne Christi 9, and
my note (p. 124.).
23 columba sancti spiritus. The last two words I take to be
a genitive of apposition or identification.
24 ubi ecclesia est, etc. That the Church is in heaven before
it is on earth is apostolic doctrine (e.g. Rev.
21. 2), but I know of
no further reference to this in Tertullian (except that there may
be a hint of it at De Orat. 2). Arca figurata (B) is an easy alteration
for someone to have made, and might have been correct: but
figura in Tertullian does not mean a mere reflex of some reality,
but the reality itself: so it is the Church which is arcae figura (so
T), the heavenly reality of which the ark was an earthly copy.
See also a note on ch. 9.
25 sed mundus, etc. This sentence, as Borleffs remarks,
represents a possible objection by an imaginary listener: admoni-
tionis nostrae may be a recollection of I
Cor. 10. 11, pro_j nouqesi/an
h(mw~n (so Lupton). T here and a few lines afterwards has the
barbarous form baptismum (for the nominative); possibly Ter-
tullian wrote it so: that it occurs also in Isidore is perhaps of no
account, for that writer makes numerous false concords.
Scriptural examples of benefits conveyed by water.
1 patrocinia naturae. Patrocinium is the encouragement or
support given by a patron to his client in court or at an election:
this word, and the verb patrocinari, are frequent in Tertullian in a
figurative sense, often in association with other forensic or elec-
toral terms such as auctoritas or suffragium. Cf. Adv. Val.
the Eleusinian mysteries naturae venerandum nomen allegorica
dispositio praetendens patrocinio coactae figurae sacrilegium obscurat
convicium falsi simulacris excusat, the support of a far-fetched
typology is used to cover up the obscenity of the religious rite
[where Oehler quotes a lucid note by Rigaltius]: De Test. An. 1,
nihil nos aut novum aut portentosum suscepisse de quo non etiam
communes et publicae litterae ad suffragium nobis patrocinentur: De
Res. Carn. 18, auctoritates iustorum patrociniorum, immediately
enumerated as honores substantiae ipsius, vires dei, exempla earum,
rationes iudicii, necessitates ipsius. See also Ad Nat. II. 6 and
Apol. 18. So that the patrocinia naturae will be those afforded by
the natural attributes of water exemplified in ch. 3: among
privilegia gratiae will be the special uses of water for religious
purposes referred to in ch. 4.
2 praestructiones, scaffolding, or foundations, in preparation
for the building itself: and so here, anticipations in the Old
Testament of the sacramental use of water in the Gospel. Praedica-
tiones was Kroymann's improvement on B, which has precationes.
This has no sensible meaning, and it is surprising that the editors
had allowed it to stand.
6 quae figura manifestior, etc. Figura in Tertullian regularly
carries a sense of objective reality, or even of tangible shape
(which is its original meaning). Even when it means a type or
prefigurement its intention is to insist on the reality of the thing
or fact prefigured. A key passage is Adv. Marc. IV. 40, where the
insistence throughout is on the real objective nature (with nothing
phantasmal) of the Body of Christ. The comment is on Luke
sqq., Concupiscentia concupivi pascha edere vobiscum antequam
patiar. Our Lord, Tertullian claims, was not thinking merely of
the paschal feast (vervecina Iudaica) but ipse erat, qui tanquam ovis
ad victimam adduci habens, et tanquam ovis coram tondente sic os non
aperturus, figuram sanguinis sui salutaris implere concupiscebat. And,
a little lower, acceptum panem et distributum discipulis corpus suum
illum fecit, Hoc est corpus meum dicendo, id est figura corporis mei.
Here the point of the argument is lost if figura means a mere
symbol: there is insistence (both times) on objective reality, which
is what Marcion was denying. Marcion, Tertullian continues, is
dull-witted, non intellegens veterem fuisse illam figuram corporis
Christi dicentis per Hieremiam, Adversus me cogitaverunt cogitatum
dicentes, Venite coniciamus lignum in panem eius, scilicet crucem in
corpus eius. And again, Sic et in calicis mentione testamentum
constituens sanguine suo obsignatum, substantiam (the objective reality)
corporis confirmavit, because there can be no blood without flesh,
nor flesh without body. So we have, in the present work, ch. 8
columbae figura delapsus in dominum (swmatikw~|
ei)/dei) : and ch. 12
navicula illa figuram ecclesiae praeferebat, where again (it seems) it
is the Church which is the real thing: and so here, the sacrament
of baptism is that in which the objective reality of Israelite escape
and Egyptian destruction becomes manifest, i.e. by the salvation
of the baptized and the destruction of Satan.
9 in suum commodum, the reading of both B and T, gives
a good meaning and may be retained: Latinius and Junius altered
suum to usum, which is plausible but unnecessary. The remark
lignum illud erat Christus takes its shape (as Lupton observes) from
Cor. 10. 4 (next to be referred to), h( de\ pe/tra
h}n o( Xristo&j.
Tertullian has combined, and perhaps confused, two separate
15. 25 and 17.
12 de comite petra. I
Cor. 10. 4., e1pinon ga_r e)k pneumatikh~j
a0kolouqou&shj pe/traj. Exod.
17. 1-7 has nothing to suggest
that the rock accompanied the Israelites on their journeying.
Perhaps the apostle means not that the rock accompanied them,
but that Christ did, although they were unaware of him.
13 aqua ...baptismum, the reading of B and possibly of
makes a good enough (if strained) sentence: but it is tempting to
read aquam in Christo baptismi, 'we observe that the water of
baptism in Christ was dedicated <by Moses' act>. The text as
printed really means, 'this shows us that in Christ the blessing of
baptism is given by water'.
16 prima rudimenta potestatis: at Adv. Hermog. 28 and
De Res. Carn. 7, commenting on rudis at Gen.
I. 2, Tertullian
allows to rudimenta a sense of tentativeness and experimentation.
That is not the case here or at John
2. 11, tau&thn e0poi/hsen a)rxh_n
tw~n shmei/wn. In common Latin usage, as here, the word means
the primary elements, or the first beginnings of an activity: cf.
Quintilian, Inst. Or. 1. 8. 15, id quoque inter prima rudimenta non
inutile demonstrare, quot quaeque verba modis intelligenda sint:
Suetonius, Tiberius 8, civilium officiorum rudimentis regem Archelaum
. . .Augusto cognoscente defendit.
18 cum de agape, etc. Neither the noun a)ga&ph
nor the verb
a)ga&pa~n occurs in the context of Matt.
10. 42. It seems from the
present passage that the noun was used, in its Greek form, prob-
ably for dilectio, but certainly for acts of charity, the works which
dilectio inspires. Also the eucharist was called a)ga&ph: at
the correct text is, cena nostra de nomine rationem sui ostendit: id
vocatur quod dilectio genes Graecos. The Greek word, not actually
written by Tertullian, was brought into the text by Rhenanus -
vocatur a)ga&ph id quod dilectio genes Graecos
est. Pauperi was a
conjecture by Ursinus, accepted by Rigaltius: both B and T have
patri, which is beside the point: neither pauperi nor pari (the latter
suggested by Borleffs) is in the text of Matthew: the obvious
correction is parvo, for e3na tw~n mikw~n
tou&ton, since pusillo or
frigidae are too far from the manuscripts.
20 libenter transfretat, with reference to Matt.
14. 34: libenter
seems to mean that our Lord went to the help of his disciples
without their having called him.
21 perseverat can be either transitive or intransitive: here I
take it to be transitive as (in an extended sense) at De Pallio 4, si
post incentivum quoque puellam perseverasset, 'if, after seducing the
girl, Achilles had continued with the relationship'. At Apol. 9
we have the passive: sed et nunc in occulto perseveratur hoc sacrum
facinus, the sacrifice of infants to Saturn is still practised in spite
of official prohibition [but one MS. and some early editions have
23 sciunt. . .scit, cf. ch. 5, sciunt opaci quique fontes, etc.
The baptism of John was of heavenly appointment but (by John's
own profession) of only earthly effect. It was a baptism of repent-
ance in preparation for the remission and sanctification which
were to be given in Christ, who would baptize with the Spirit
and with fire.
At this point begins a second division of the work. Chapters
one to nine, in the guise of a defence of the sacramental use of
water, have explained the rationale of baptism and of the cere-
monies in use. Chapters ten to sixteen supply the answers to
some subsidiary questions which had been (or could be) raised.
1 There is a sincerity about mediocritati nostrae which seems
to be absent from Souter's 'our humble ability'. Lupton notes
four other 'instances of self-depreciation', the most notable being
the last sentence of the present work, and De Cultu Fem. II. 7,
atque utinam miserrimus ego in illa die Christianae exultationis vel
infra calcanea vestra caput elevem. In all these places his sincerity
seems to me beyond question, and 'self-depreciation' is not the
1 licuit I take to be from liquere, as at De Carne Christi
where the editors have printed liquuit: aeque ut potero in the
following sentence shows that Tertullian is thinking of any
ability he has, not of permission or licence allowed him.
2 quae baptismi religionem instruunt is difficult. Religio
baptismi in this place I suspect means the sacred act or the religious
practice of baptism, and the whole clause refers to those ex-
traneous or additional acts which add substance or impressiveness
to the original and essential ceremony of washing.
2 ad reliquum statum. The status of a thing is not exactly
its constitution (that, I suspect, would be qualitas or substantia) but
the qualities or attributes connected with it by the copulative
verb: 'essential attributes' is perhaps as near as we shall get.
4 baptismus ab Ioanne denuntiatus. The reference is to
Matt. 3. 1; Mark
1. 4; Luke 3.
3: but the expression here is an
echo of Acts
10. 37 meta_ to_ ba&ptisma o4 e0kh&rucen
our Lord's question about it see Matt. 21.
Luke 20. 4.
7 constanter respondere: as Oehler observes, 'intrepide ac
libere: indubitanter', an answer which they themselves believed,
and had the confidence to express. Non intelligentes, etc. is derived
from LXX of Isa. 7.
9, kai\ e0a_n mh_ pisteu&shte ou0de/ mh_
the Hebrew means 'If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be
established', as also Lat. vg., si non credideritis non permanebitis.
Cf. Adv. Marc. IV. 20, haec erit fides quae contulerat et intellectum:
nisi credideritís, inquit, non intellegetis: ibid. 25, nam et abscondit
praemisso obscuritatis propheticae instrumento, cuius intellectum fides
mereretur, quoting the text: ibid. V. 11, in connection with other
texts such as aure audietis et non audietis, etc.: Apol.
intellexissent, et consecuturi salutem si credidissent, a reversal of
original text, because pagans would hardly have understood it.
10 a domino missum. Perhaps Tertullian wrote a deo, with
a reference to John
11 ceterum humanum condicione. I suspect that Lupton
is wrong in making this phrase balance divinum quidem eum
baptismum fuisse, for the quidem is already balanced by mandatu
tamen non et potestate: so I have taken the words to refer to the
Baptist. Condicio commonly refers to the unessential attributes
or relationships of an object (for which see a note in my edition
of De Carne Christi, p. xxxix) : here and lower down T may be
right in having conditio: 'birth and upbringing' I admit is para-
phrase and not translation: but 'in his nature' (Souter) is mis-
12 caelestibus praeministrabat. Here it appears that the
preposition has an anticipatory force, 'did preparatory service',
as at Apol. 21, recipite interim hanc fabulam, similis est vestris, dum
ostendimus quomodo Christus probetur et qui penes vos eiusmodi fabulas
aemulas ad destructionem veritatis istius praeministraverint, ie. that
was devils who in former times told such tales of the gods as
were calculated to cast doubt upon Christ's virginal conception;
and, more generally, after a number of balanced Old Testament
texts, Adv. Marc. IV. 4, videbimus et contraria ista an Christo prae-
ministrentur: ibid. V. 6, et quod proposuit et revelavit, medio spatio
saeculorum in figuris et aenigmatibus et allegoriis praeministravit,
God's intentions for the end of the world he has meanwhile
announced beforehand in parables, etc.: so also Ad Nat. I. 7, of
making provision beforehand for a supposed orgy. But below,
ch. 11, semper is dicitur facere cui praeministratur, there is no
tory force; nor is there as a rule in post-classical Latin, e.g.
Appuleius, Metam. V. 2, nos quarum votes accipis, tuae
sedulo tibi praeministrabimus.
14 nec paenitentiam inire voluerunt, 'and would not repent'.
In classical Latin the nearest one could get to repentance was the
impersonal sense of regret represented by poenitet me. To the
Christian repentance is a personal act, an act of the human will
guided by the grace of God, and paenitentiam agere is how Ter-
tullian and his successors express this. The Greek word is metanoei~n,
which means not 'change of mind' but a change of the nou~j, the
psychological and moral core of human personality, for which
Lactantius used resipiscere and (apparently) invented the substantive
19 nisi ipse pries ascenderet, etc. The immediate reference
is to John 16.
7: our Lord's Ascension and the coming of the Holy
Spirit are also mentioned in close connection at John 6.
22 adeo postea, etc. Adeo is for ideo, as commonly in Tertullian.
The text of this sentence may perhaps be regarded as doubtful.
The older editions, following B, had invenimus quoniam qui
Ioannis baptismum habebant non accepissent spiritum sanctum, which
well represents Acts
19. 2, 3 and was quite satisfactory. But T has
invenimus qui Ioannis baptismum habebant spiritum accepisse sanctum,
which represents Acts
19. 6, kai\ e0piqe/ntoj au0toi~j tou~ Pau&lou
xei~raj h]lqe to_ pneu~ma to_ a#gion e0p'
au0tou&j. This, as the more
difficult reading, is probably correct: but for clarity we shall have
to translate 'needed to receive'. Borleffs conflates T and B,
omitting quoniam and reading non accepisse spiritum sanctum: I am
not sure that this is necessary: we must sometimes allow Tertullian
to be (even deliberately) obscure.
25 cum ipsum quod caeleste, etc. Luke 7. 18
sqq. (= Matt:
11. 3 sqq.) is referred to again De Praesc. Haer. 10,
Ioannes de illo certus esse desisset; and Adv. Marc. IV. 18, with the
comment praecursore enim iam functo officium, praeparata via
domini, ipse erat intellegendus cui praecursor ministraverat. In neither
of these places does Tertullian say that the Spirit of prophecy had
by then departed from John, though he may have meant that.
Justin Martyr, Dial. 51, says that when Christ came he caused
John to cease from his ministry, e@pause& te
au0to_n tou~ profhteu&ein
kai\ bapti/zein: and (ibid. 52), commenting on
Jacob had foretold that when Christ came all prophecy would
cease in Israel: again (ibid. 87), interpreting Isa.
11. 1-3, he makes
'rest upon him' mean 'come to an end with him': tau&taj
kathriqmhme&naj tou~ pneu&matoj duna&meij
ou0x w(j e0ndeou~j au0tou~
tou&twn o!ntoj fhsi\n o( lo&goj
e0pelhluqe&nai e)p' au0to&n, a)ll' w(j e)p'
e)kei~non a)na&pausin mellousw~n poiei~sqai,
toute&stin e)p' au)tou~
pe&raj poiei~sqai. Tertullian may then have borrowed the idea
from Justin. Cf. also De Orat. 1 (quoted below), and Adv. Iud.
8, omnis plenitudo spiritalium retro charismatum in Christo cesserunt.
35 Qui de terra est, etc. John 3. 31. This paragraph of the
Gospel (verses 31 to
36) naturally reads as a continuation of
the Baptist's reply to his disciples' question (verse
26), and so
Tertullian understands it. Westcott (ad loc.) offers reasons (not en-
tirely persuasive) for thinking that the words are a comment of
the Evangelist. The words are quoted Adv. Prax. 21, and De Orat.
1 with the comment sed omnia Ioannis Christo praestruebantur donec
ipso aucto. . .totum praeministri opus cum ipso spiritu transiret, ad
dominum, and, quod terrena caelestibus cesserint.
36 soli se paenitentiae tinguere, etc. Quoted apparently
from Matt. 3.
11; Luke 3. 16 omits
ei0j meta&noian. Lupton's
suggestion that the sense requires in solam se paenitentiam (where
his text has the ablative) is now met by T, which has the dative:
soli is Tertullian's addition. Too much should not be made of
his omission of sancto, where the standard text of both Matthew
and Luke has e0n pneu&mati a9gi/w|: the sentence as a whole is not a
direct quotation but a paraphrase. Mark
1. 8 has au0to_j de\
bapti/sei u9ma~j e0n pneu&mati a9gi/w, omitting
kai\ puri/: Plummer
(on Luke 3.
16) mentions four possible interpretations of this
phrase, rightly rejecting as highly improbable that given by
Tertullian in the following sentence, for it seems fairly evident
that the reference is to 'the illuminating, kindling, and purifying
power of the grace given by the Messiah's baptism': and cf.
Mal. 3. 2. 'a refiner's fire'.
38 scilicet quia, etc. I am as sure as need be that Tertullian
either wrote, or intended to write, spiritu tinguitur in salutem:
aqua may have been a slip of his pen, for what is now under
discussion is not John's baptism in (or with) water, but Christ's
baptism with the Spirit (i.e. the Holy Spirit) and fire: if 'fire'
receives its explanation (however mistaken), Spirit (which is
much more important) cannot have been left unexplained.
Though the Evangelist says that Jesus himself did not baptize,
but that his disciples did, we must understand that their baptism
too was preparatory, like that of John: true and effective baptism
could only be given after our Lord's passion and resurrection.
1 Sed ecce, inquiunt, etc. The point of the objection is that
the Baptist is in apparent disagreement with the Evangelist. In
the quotation from John
4. 2 T is nearer the text than B, kai/toige
'Ihsou~j au0to_j ou0k e0pa&ptizen, a0ll' oi9
maqhtai\ au0tou~: is
of B) could be due to misreading of the contraction ihj.
4 simpliciter dictum, artlessly (almost 'carelessly') expressed:
more communi, 'in a general way': cf. Apol. 34. 1, dicam plane
imperatorem dominum, sed more communi, sed quando non cogor ut
dominum dei vice dicam.
7 praeministratur. Cf. above, ch. 10 and note.
9 sed nec moveat quosdam. If quosdam has its proper sense,
it was a definite group of people whom Tertullian had in mind:
if it stands for quosquam (which is possible) the difficulty was one
which he suspected might disturb some.
10 in quem enim tingueret? I suspect we ought to read here
(without MS. authority) in quam rem, which suits better the
suggested answers, paenitentiam, peccatorum remissionem.
10 quo ergo illi praecursorem. So (with the accusative)
and most editors: T has the ablative (the e later crossed out).
Lupton, who reads praecursor (as. does Borleffs) suggests that the
accusative might be illustrated by Horace, Ep. 1. 5. 12, quo mihi
fortunam si non conceditur uti? There the MSS. vary between
fortunam and the impossible fortuna: A. S. Wilkins has a long note
referring to a number of places in Ovid, Phaedrus, Aristophanes,
and Statius where we have the accusative in a question of this
shape: Statius, Silvae 1. 2. 188, unde novum Troiae decus ardentumque
deorum | raptorem, Phrygio si non ego iuncta marito? So the accusative
had better be retained.
13 ad patrem ascenderat (B) and a patre descenderat
equally possible: with the former the subject is dominus, with the
latter it is spiritus sanctus. The former is more natural, and should
perhaps be retained: the latter is more likely to have attracted
the corrector's hand, and may be what Tertullian wrote.
14 nondum apostolis struxerat (T) is more in Tertullian's
manner than the more pedestrian nondum apostoli struxerant (B):
struxerat is for instruxerat, 'had supplied' or 'had equipped': cf.
Adv. Marc. IV. 24, considera causarum offerentiam [i.e. quomodo
causae diverse se offerant] et intelleges unam et eandem potestatem quae
secundum penuriam et copiam expeditionem suorum disposuit, proinde
per civitates abundaturam circumcidens sicut et egituram per solitudinem
struxerat: De Res. Carn. 61, steriles utriusque naturae [i.e.
infructuosis genitalibus structi: De Virg. Vel. 9, widows, who have
also brought up children, experimentis omnium affectuum structae.
15 antepraecursor (B): praecursor (T): see above on ch. 6.
16 ne quo alio putes is Borleffs' correction of T. The present
reading of T, ne quod aliud putes, perhaps makes the best sense:
but the last two letters of aliud are in a corrector's hand: ne qui
alio putet (B) also makes good sense.
17 nondum adimpleta gloria domini. There is no doubt a
reference to Luke
24. 26 (or similar texts), ou0xi\ tau~ta e1dei
to_n Xristo_n kai\ ei0selqei~n ei0j th_n do&can
au0tou~; A. J. Vermeulen,
The Semantic Development of Gloria in Early-Christian Latin
(Nijmegen, 1956), argues that until the fourth century gloria,
usually having the secular sense of 'victory', is only rarely used
to translate do&ca: but there are exceptions, of which the present
may perhaps be one.
19 quia nec mors nostra, etc. Cf. Rom. 6. 3,
4, ei0j to_n
qa&naton au)tou~ e0bapti/sqhmen: suneta&fhmen
ou]n au0tw|~ dia_ tou~
bapti/smatoj ei0j to_n qa&natonkte9.: Col.
2. 12, sunetafe&ntej au0tw|~ e0n
tw~| bapti/smati, e0n w|[ kai\ sunhge&rqhte:
I Pet. 3. 21,
o4 kai\ u9ma~j a0nti/-
tupon nu~n sw&zei ba&ptisma . . . di'
a0nasta&sewj 'Ihsou~ Xristou~:
all referred to by Lupton, along with St Leo the Great, Ep. XVI. 3,
who explains why baptism is administered only at Easter and
Pentecost: quamvis ergo et illa quae ad humilitatem et illa quae ad
gloriam pertinent Christi in unam concurrant eandemque personam,
totumque quicquid in illo et virtutis divinae est et infirmitatis
ad nostrae reparationis tendat effectum, proprie tamen in morte crucifixi
et in resurrectione mortui potentia baptismatis novam creaturam condit
ex veteri, ut in renascentibus et mors Christi operetur et vita, quoting
Rom. 6. 3-5:
A captious and unnecessary question: whether the apostles were
baptized, and if not how were they saved? The answer is (1) that
they had probably received John's baptism, for (2) our Lord's
answer to Peter (John 13.
10) indicates that at least Peter had been
baptized: and (3) it is unlikely that 'the way of the Lord' should
not have been prepared in these who were to have the function
of preparing that way in the world. But (4) the suggestion that
the apostles were baptized by the splashing of the sea is not worth
considering: that episode has quite a different meaning. In con-
clusion (5) whether the apostles were baptized or not, their close
attendance upon our Lord, and their faith, are sufficient assurance
of their salvation.
1 cum vero praescribitur. And below, ex ista praescriptione,
ut praescriptio salva sit, rescindi praescriptionem. See a note on ch.
l. 1. Praescriptio was a legal device for staying the trial of a suit
by interposing a demurrer: or, in Tertullian's use of the term,
by representing that the case had already been tried and judge-
ment given. But, as Lupton remarks, there are numerous places
(of which the present is one. where the word does not bear that
technical sense, but means simply 'there is a standing rule', or
'the rule has already been laid down'.
2 Nisi natus, etc. Loosely quoted from, John 3.
5, e0a_n mh& tij
gennhqh|~ e0c u3datoj kai\ Pneu&matoj, ou0 du&natai
ei/selqei~n ei0j th_n
basilei/an tou~ qeou~. The end of Tertullian's quotation is probably
a recollection of John 6.
53, ou)k e1xete zwh_n e0n e9autoi~j.
4 ex ista praescriptione. B added praestructione : the two words
together are meaningless, but it is not impossible that the second
was the one Tertullian wrote.
10 audivi, domino teste, etc. Souter mistranslates 'I have
heard such words to which the Lord witnessed', which is meaning-
less. Lupton, with less than his usual felicity, says, ' One wonders
with what Tertullian had been charged, as, except in the de Pallio,
he seems to be always in earnest, even when (perhaps, chiefly
when) he is most bitterly ironical'. Actually he had not been
charged with anything, but was afraid he might be charged with
having himself invented this foolish and unnecessary (and indeed
disrespectful) question:, so he protests on oath (which is the
meaning of domino teste) that he has not invented the quibble, but
has heard this, and things like it (eiusmodi), said by others.
13 nam si [humanum] Ioannis baptismum, etc. Humanum
is not in T, and is better away: impetrarant is Borleffs' correction
of impetrant (T), though inierant (B) might well have stood:
domini cur is also Borleffs' conjecture, based on T, which has
cu, where B has et dominicum. Evidently the copyists did not under-
stand their text, failing to observe (1) that desiderare does not
mean 'lack', or 'do without', but have or feel the need of: and
(2) that quatenus (as always in Horace, and sometimes in other
writers, including Suetonius and Tertullian) means quandoquidem,
not quamobrem. With Borleffs' corrections and amended punctua-
tion the sense is clear. A little lower, perfundi nolenti (B) is in
disagreement with John 13.
9, mh_ tou_j po&daj mou mo&non, a)lla_
kai\ ta_j xei~raj kai\ th_n kefalh&n, a request to which our
answer was, Qui semel lavit, etc., o(
leloume&noj ou) xrei/an e!xei ei0 mh_
tou_j po&daj ni/yasqai: it was brought into the text by a copyist
who thought the reference was to verse
8, ou) mh_ ni/yh|j tou_j po&daj
mou ei0j to_n ai0w~na.
20 id est baptismum Ioannis. There seems no need to read
baptismo with Borleffs: it is true that John's baptism cannot be
entirely identified with 'the way of the Lord', though it suits
Tertullian's present purpose to strengthen his argument by
suggesting that it can.
21 nullius paenitentiae debitor. With reference, if necessary,
to Matt. 3.
14, and John 8.
24 unde et suggeritur, by the sequence of thought, means
something like 'which leads us to suppose' or 'which justifies us
in thinking': not 'it is suggested'. But, a few lines lower, alii
iniciunt, 'others suggest'.
26 nec cum aemulis... sapuisse, 'cannot have thought as his
enemies did': Souter's 'and had not shared "the wisdom" of
his enemies' is beside the point, for sapere in any dictionary means
half a column of things before it means 'be wise'. Aemulus is
regularly used by Tertullian for 'enemy' or 'opponent': so Adv.
Prax. 1, varie diabolus aemulatus est veritatem.
30 fluctibus mergerentur (T) had better stand, though the
existence of the other reading is hard to account for. If aspersi
sunt were the original, operti may have been a marginal note,
objecting (1) that the Christian church does not baptize by
aspersion, and (2) that at Matt. 8. 24 the disciples were not
splashed with the waves, but the boat began to sink (kalu&ptesqai),
Lat. vg. ita ut navicula operiretur fluctibus. Possibly read aspergeren-
tur, combining the two readings.
32 ceterum navicula illa, etc. The prayers of the saints are
those at Rev. 6.
10, e3wj po&te o9 despo&thj, o9 a3gioj
ou) kri/neij kai\ e0kdikei~j to_ ai[ma h9mw~n e0k
tw~n katoikou&ntwn e0pi th~j
gn~j; and, in Christian practice, as Rigaltius observes, the prayer,
Thy kingdom come.
38 ut et illud dictum, etc., is a consecutive, not a final, clause
the reference is to John 13.
10, already quoted: evidently Peter
and all those present leloume&noi h]san, or the words and the
accompanying action would have been out of place.
40 aestimare. Lupton draws attention to Oehler's note on
Apol. 16, page 176, where several instances are cited of aestimare
in the sense of opinari; in most of them; but not the present one,
it means existimare: here it has its regular meaning, of reckoning
up the probabilities one way or the other.
41 primae adlectionis . . . praerogativa. Adlectio was pro-
motion to an office, or to senatorial rank, not by election but by
imperial favour: its root verb, adlicere, means to attract (by
personal influence, often enough) but also in a physical sense:
Cicero, De Divinatione I. 39. 86, fiat necne fiat, id quaeritur: ut si
magnetem lapidem esse dicam qui ferrum ad se alliciat et trahat,
cur id fiat afferre nequeam, fieri omnino neges? On praerogativa see
note on ch. 4, l. 18.
42 compendium baptismi can hardly mean a short cut to
baptism, but a shorter way of obtaining the benefits which
baptism gives and to which baptism is the longer way round.
Whether or not the apostles (and some others) were ever baptized,
there can be no doubt that in our Lord's actual presence all
sacraments, if he wishes, can be dispensed with.
42 cum illum opinor sequebantur. T has a second illum
(after sequebantur) which Borleffs retains, with a comma before it.
This practically makes the first illum into a substantive, which is at
least unusual. B read cum illo, with illum again after
which makes no sense: Ursinus and others wrote cum illi, which
will construe, though the pronoun is otiose. If the second illum
is to be omitted (as perhaps it must be) it is still not easy to explain
how it got there.
44 aiebat: 'Thy faith hath saved thee' occurs many times, e.g.
Luke 7. 50, to the woman with the ointment: Luke
8. 48 (= Mark
5. 34) to the woman with an issue: Luke
17, 19, to the tenth
10, 52, to Bartimaeus. So 'Thy sins are forgiven
thee', Matt. 9. 2 (=
2. 5, Luke
5. 20) to the paralytic: Luke
7. 48, to the woman with the ointment: the verb being a0fi/entai
(=remittuntur) in Matthew and Mark, and a0fe&wntai
sunt) in Luke: remittentur (B) would stultify Tertullian's argument.
46 nescio quorum fides tuta sit. So Borleffs reads, correcting
T, which has the meaningless tua sit. The attempts of previous
editors to make sense of B may now be disregarded. There was
no need for Borleffs to alter suscitatus and dereliquit into
and derelinquit: the subject of the sentence is not (as he alleges)
an imaginary fides, but Matthew the publican, then the fishermen
James and John, and the disciple who (presumably) on being told
to let the dead bury their dead, did not first go and bury his
father. Cf. De Idol. 12, iam tunc demonstratum est nobis et pignera
et artificia et negotia propter dominum derelinquenda cum Iacobus et
Ioannes vocati a domino et patrem navemque derelinquunt, cum
Matthaeus de teloneo suscitatur, cum etiam sepelire patrem tardum fuit
fidei: also, more allusively, Adv. Marc. IV. 9 (commenting on Jer.
16. 16, 'I will send for many fishers'), denique relictis naviculis
secuti sunt eum, ipsum intellegentes qui coeperat facere quod edixerat.
An answer to the quibble that as of old time faith saved, without
baptism, it can do so still:
1 provocant quaestiones, raise unnecessary questions'.
Provocare in Tertullian is to make an unprovoked, unnecessary,
or peremptory demand, request, or riposte: so ch. 2 above,
'those opposites which call it to account': Apol. 27, provocati ad
sacrificandum, 'summoned': ibid. 39, ut quisque de scripturis sanctis
vel de proprio ingenio potest provocatur in medium deo canere, i.e., he
does not himself offer to edify the congregation, but is invited by
the probati seniores who preside: ibid. 46, si de pudicitia provocemur,
lego partem sententiae Atticae in Socratem, 'if we are challenged in
respect of chastity', i.e. are accused of unchastity (Becker rightly,
without mentioning it, rejects the v.l. provocemus) : De
de astrologis ne loquendum quidem est: sed quoniam quidam istis diebus
provocavit defendens sibi perseverantiam professionis istius, paucis
'has (without being attacked) presumed to defend himself'.
3 deo placuisse is perhaps an echo of Heb.
11. 5 eu0hresthke&nai
tw|~ qew|~ (which refers to Enoch).
4 sed in omnibus, etc. In a different context Tertullian sets
down the opposite rule: Adv. Prax. 20, regula autem omni rei
semper ab initio constituta in prioribus et in posteriora praescribit.
The command of Christ, with the practice of the apostles,
evidently completes (and if necessary supersedes) what went
before, but cannot itself be superseded by anything that follows.
5 fuerit salus retro, etc. Between fuerit (B) and
fuerat (T) it
is difficult to choose, the crucial question being whether in the
apodosis of the sentence (at ubi fides, etc.) the verbs are perfect or
preterite. If we read fuerit, we translate as in the text: reading
fuerat we should have to continue, 'Yet when the faith was en-
larged into belief in his nativity, passion and resurrection, as an
extension of the sacred act there was added the seal of baptism',
etc. (reading credendi and ampliatio, with B, and perhaps
also). I have followed Borleffs in taking addita est from B, and
ampliato sacramento from T. Ampliare has not here its technical
sense of deferring judgement or adjourning a case.
9 nec potest iam, etc. Even if we abstain from inserting
salvare before lege, the word must be mentally supplied. Lupton
suggests a parallel with De Res. Carn. 45, magis illud prius est sine
quo priora non possunt, 'a thing is earlier than earlier if without it
earlier things cannot exist' (or 'function'): Adv. Marc. IV. 24,
comminatio non potest sine executione, is hardly parallel, for non
potest is there equivalent to ou)k isxu&ei.
Sine sua lege means in
effect 'apart from this law which has now become its own',
10 forma praescripta. The trinitarian formula, Matt. 28.
Cf. Adv. Prax. 26, novissime mandans ut tinguerent in patrem et
filium et spiritum sanctum, non in unum: nam nec semel sed ter, ad
singula nomina in personas singulas, tinguimur, where Tertullian
perhaps deliberately omits nomen in the formula, though he
acknowledges it later (as nomina) because his purpose throughout
that treatise is to insist on the plurality of the divine Trinity.
12 definitio illa. John 3.
5, accurately quoted except that non
introibit is for ou) du&natai ei0selqei~n: the text has already
quoted inexactly in ch. 12. Oehler and Lupton have et spiritu:
Borleffs, without further explanation, adds sancto.
15 tunc et Paulus, etc. The repeated tunc is awkward, but can
be explained: the first connects with obstrinxit fidem, 'thereafter':
the second balances ubi : justification could be found at Virgil,
Aen. II. 101, sed quid ego haec autem nequiquam ingrata revolvo?
Exsurge, dicens is a combination of Acts 9. 6 and
didicerat is Tertullian's deduction from the fact that immediately
after baptism Paul began to preach that Jesus is the Son of God
The true interpretation of the apostle's words, 'Christ sent me not
to baptize but to preach'.
1 revolvunt almost means 'repeat ad nauseam', on the prin-
ciple that if you tell a lie often enough it is accepted for the truth.
The same foolish misinterpretation of the apostle's words was
widely canvassed some thirty years ago. It ought to have been
evident that the whole point of 1
Cor. 1. 13-17 is that Baptism is
so important, as also is the fact that Christ was crucified, that
the apostle is glad to have given no cause, by any action of his,
for the raising of a schism or contention by adherence to himself
in person. Dixerit, in virtual oratio obliqua, 'they claim that he
4 quanquam etsi. There is here no redundancy: quanquam,
'and yet' brings the whole sentence into contrast with quod
dixerit, etc., while etsi, 'although' looks forward to tamen aliis
apostolis, etc. Lupton's note is not needed.
8 se deputet. Lupton, with no knowledge of T, suggested
this reading. At De Idol. 4, quicquid idololatria committit, in
quemcumque et cuiuscumque idoli deputetur necesse est, Oehler has a
long note on this word: in most of his examples the meaning
seems to be 'assign', and so also here, 'assigned himself to Paul', or
ranged himself with him. At Ad Nat, I. 2, porro de nobis, quos
atrocioribus et pluribus criminibus deputatis, breviora ac leviora
conficitis, there is a mere matter of case-transference, like Virgil's
vina cadis onerant.
9 defendere. 'Arrogate', 'claim' is perhaps as near to this as
English can get. The verb, like the noun defensio, has two appar-
ently opposite meanings: Adv. Marc. I. 22, sed quomodo funditus
evertetur antichristus nisi ceteris quoque iniectionibus eius elidendis
detur, relaxata praescriptionum defensione, 'the prohibition which
prescriptions provide': and De Res. Carn. 27, defensio corporalis
resurrectionis, 'the assertion of a corporal resurrection'. The verb
means: (a) defend or protect, De Orat. 22, virgines quas pueritia
defendit, 'whom childhood makes immune': (b) forbid, Apol. 4,
cur de solo nomine puniunt facta, quae in aliis de admisso non de
nomine probata defendunt: or punish, De Monog. 4, aliae diluvium
iniquitates provocaverunt, semel defensae quales fuerunt: Adv. Marc.
II. 18, mihi defensam et ego defendam, dicit dominus (= Deut. 32.
Rom. 12. 19): (c) claim or maintain, De Carne Christi 16,
mus autem non carnem peccati evacuatam esse in Christo sed peccatum
carnis: De Res. Carn. 11, plane apud philosophos habes qui mundum
hunc innatum infectumque defendunt: and (very like the present
passage), Adv. Prax. 15, ne quodcumque in filium reputo in patrem
proinde defendas, 'claim for' or perhaps 'restrict to' the Father.
But here and elsewhere defendere comes rather closer than vindicare,
'claim' or 'arrogate': for these words mean that a claim is made
for something one has a right to but does not yet possess, while
defendere implies insistence on the right to retain that which one
already has. Possibly the different senses of the word may be
thus explained, that defendere means to erect a barrier, and a
barrier can either include or exclude or protect.
There is, the apostle says, but one baptism: from which it results
both that heretical washings are no baptism, and that baptism
must never be repeated.
The question of heretical baptism was raised in acute form about
the middle of the third century (A.D. 255 and 256). The African
bishops, under the strong influence of Cyprian, and retaining the
ideas of Tertullian, decreed it utterly invalid. Stephen of Rome
disagreed, stating the policy which was afterwards everywhere
adopted, that baptism in the Name of the Holy Trinity is always
valid, by whomsoever administered. It seems that Cyprian and
Stephen were to some extent at cross purposes: the former was
dealing with heretics, the latter with the Novatianist schismatics,
who were thoroughly orthodox and whom it was wise not to
alienate from the catholic church beyond hope of speedy recon-
ciliation. The pertinent documents are printed among St Cyprian's
works, Epistles 68 and following.
Of Tertullian himself one may ask whether what he writes
here is of his own judgement, or whether it represents what was
already the practice of the African churches. Cyprian at least
was persuaded that the practice of rebaptizing heretics was in
Africa of unknown antiquity.
1 nescio si quid. I suspect that this stands for nescio
which case the sentence means 'A further question, I think, is
being worked up', etc. The controversy about heretical baptism
became serious in Africa a generation later, but there are indica-
tions that it was then no new thing, and Tertullian's reference
here may be to the beginning of it.
1 ventilator, of the deliberate working up of a question which
might have been left dormant: cf. De Res. Carn. 6, quo nunc facit
ad infuscandam originem carnis nomen terrae ventilare ut sordentis et
iacentis elementi?, 'fling about the name of earth'.
2 retexam: cf. De Res. Carn. 9, igitur ut retexam, 'so, to resume'.
3 ex do mini evangelio. I.e. John
13. 10, already discussed
in ch. 12: et apostoli litteris (one letter), Eph.
4. 5, where the
apostle's intention is neither to deprecate heretical baptisms nor
to preclude the repetition of Christian baptism (though both
these might be a legitimate deduction from his words) but to
state that the unity of Jew and gentile in Christendom is assured
by the fact of one body and one Spirit, one hope, and so forth.
5 quae custodiendum sit: quid is an apparently unnecessary
editorial alteration. This question is not answered, either here or
elsewhere in the treatise, but only some general observations
made. I suspect that Tertullian thought the making of rules on
this subject beyond his competence, and that we ought to read
dignior quis retractet.
8 ipsa ademptio communicationis. The most natural mean
ing of this is perhaps 'the fact of their being deprived of our
fellowship (or communion)': but it could perhaps mean 'our
refusal to discuss matters with them'.
9 non idem deus, etc. The heretics Tertullian has in mind are
probably gnostics or Marcionites. In either case he is justified in
his remark that they have not the same God as we have. The
gnostic theologies were fanciful and complicated, while the
Marcionites rejected God the Creator and invented another
supposedly superior being. That being so, even if they used the
trinitarian formula they meant something unchristian by it, and
their baptism might reasonably be regarded as defective in form
14 semel ergo, etc., introduces another deduction from the
dominical and apostolic insistence on one baptism, namely that
the practice of repeating or renewing baptism every day (or every
Lord's day) is not lawful. Isidore of Seville had read somewhere
of hemerobaptistae qui cotidie corpora sua et domum et supellectilem
lavant (Etym. VIII. 4. 11). Between abluuntur (T) and
it is difficult to choose: both words recur at the end of this chapter.
16 Israel Iudaeus. T omits Iudaeus: the word is perhaps needed,
but cf. De Orat. 13, omnibus licet membris lavet quotidie Israel,
nunquam tamen mundus est: certe manus eius semper immundae,
sanguine prophetarum et ipsius domini incrustatae in aeternum. The
reference in both places is not to any sacramental act, but to the
ordinary Jewish ceremonial washings, for which see Mark 7.
The baptism of blood, which makes actual a baptism not received
and restores one which has been lost.
Since baptism was not conferred without serious preparation,
and as a rule only at Easter and Pentecost, it could (and apparently
did) happen that in time of persecution a catechumen was
brought to death by martyrdom: and since without baptism
there is no salvation the question was bound to arise whether
such persons were saved. The answer was universally given that
they were baptized in their own blood. That answer needs
elucidation: for occasionally it is overstated, as if the martyr's
own death procured his salvation. This is almost the case at Apol.
50, quis enim non contemplatione eius (sc. martyrii) concutitur ad
requirendum quid intus in re sit? quis non ubi requisivit accedit, ubi
accessit pati exoptat, ut totam dei gratiam redimat, ut omnem veniam ab
eo compensatione sanguinis sui expediat? And again, De Pudicitia 22,
in a protest against the granting of reconciliation and pardon by
confessors: sufficiat martyri propria delicta purgasse: ingrati vel
superbi est in alios quoque spargere quod pro magno fuerit consecutus:
guis alienam mortem sua solvit nisi solus dei filius? Probably how
ever, if pressed, Tertullian would have admitted that martyrdom
saves in the same sense as baptism saves (I Pet. 3.
21), not by its
own merit but by the precious blood of Christ (I Pet.
1. 19). The
above instances point to the martyrdom which makes actual a
baptism not received: the following indicates the restoration of
purity lost by post-baptismal sin: Scorpiace 6, prospexerat et alias
deus imbecillitates conditionis humanae, adversarii insidias, rerum
fallacias, saeculi retia, etiam post lavacrum periclitaturam fidem,
plerosque rursum post salutem, qui vestitum obsoletassent nuptialem,
qui faculis oleum non praeparassent, qui requirendi per montes et saltus
et humeris essent reportandi: posuit igitur secunda solatia et extrema
praesidia, dimicationem martyrii, et lavacrum sanguinis exinde securum:
the variant reading secuturum is unnecessary and spoils the sense,
which Tertullian goes on to explain: proprie enim martyribus nihil
tam reputari potest, quibus in lavacro ipsa vita deponitur. A further
benefit of martyrdom, to Tertullian's mind, is that the martyr
(but not the ordinary Christian) passes straight on to paradise
without waiting for the final judgement: De Res. Carn. 43,
commenting on 2
Cor 5. 8, nemo enim peregrinatus a corpore
statim immoratur penes dominum nisi ex martyrii praerogativa, paradiso
scilicet non inferis diversurus: cf also De Anima 55. The treatise
Rebaptismate (plausibly supposed to be by a contemporary and
opponent of Cyprian) sums up a long argument in these terms
(§ 14) : ex quibus universis ostenditur fide emundari corda, spiritu
ablui animas: porro autem per aquam lavacri (so Routh; but read
lavari) corpora: sanguine quoque festinantius perveniri per compendium
ad salutis praemia. Oehler (on Apol. 50, note y) refers to Eusebius,
HE. VI. 4, who, speaking of the persecution by Severus, records
(in Origen's words) the martyrdom of catechumens and the
expression to_ ba&ptisma to_ dia_ puro&j
(on which Burton
notes by Valesius and Heineken). So also Hippolytus, Stat. Apost.
33 (Conolly, p. 182), 'And if a catechumen was arrested for the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ, he shall not be doubtful about the
testimony (which he gives): because if they overpower and injure
and kill him before he receives baptism for the forgiveness of
his sin, he shall be justified: because he was baptised in his own
blood'. Also Melito of Sardis, fr. 12 (from a catena on Genesis);
w3sper de\ futo_n Sabe/k, tou~t' e1stin a0fe/sewj,
e0ka&lese to_ a3gion
stauro&n, ou3tw kai\ 'Iezekih_l e0n tw~| te/lei
e0ka&lese to_ e0ktupou~n to_ a3gion ba&ptisma.
du&o ga_r sune/sth ta_
a1fesin a9marthma&twn parexo&mena, pa&qoj
dia_ Xristo_n kai\ ba&ptisma
[a comment on Genesis
22. 13, treating
as if it were ].
3 venerat enim, etc. 1
John 5. 6, compared with John
34, 35. The additional words, ou0k e0n tw~|
u3dati mo&non, a0ll' e0n tw~|
u3dati kai\ e0n tw~| ai3mati, mark this as of great significance. No
doubt Tertullian and others are justified in interpreting it as
referring in second instance to two forms of baptism: though
the primary reference, as he well says, is to our Lord's own
baptism and to his passion. Bengel, with his accustomed sagacity,
covers all possibilities: 'Sanguis est utique sanguis unius ipsiusque
Jesu Christi, qui effusus in passione, in coma dominica bibitur.'
5 proinde nos faceret, etc. Reifferscheid's alteration of
facere to faceret improves the run of the sentence: his substitution
of perinde for proinde is unnecessary, the two words being (from
Tacitus onwards) treated as equivalent. For the transition from
vocation to election see Matt. 22.
14, and (in slightly different
terms) Rom. 8. 29,
30: a nearer parallel, if Tertullian had known
that epistle, would have been 2 Pet.
1. 10, spouda&sate bebai/an
u9mw~n th_n klh~sin kai\ e0klogh_n poiei~sqai.
7 et sanguine oporterent is Borleffs' improvement on T,
which has sanguine porterent:
B had sanguinem portarent, which it
was not easy to explain, and on which sanguinem potarent (Gele-
nius) was a plausible improvement. The plural use of oportere is an
extension of language of which Tertullian might have been
capable: but oportebant, quoted by Borleffs from Adv. Marc. V.
is apparently a conjecture, and unnecessary. For lavissent cf.
above, ch. 12, qui semel lavit.
9 repraesentat does not mean 'takes the place of (Lupton)
but 'makes real' (Souter) or 'makes actual': so De Res. Carn. 14,
plenitudinem perfectionemque iudicii nonnisi de totius hominis reprae-
sentatione constare, his actual presentation, as though in court: so
ibid. 17 (part of an objector's quibble), ut non egeat repraesentatione
The right of administering baptism belongs to the bishop: priests
and deacons may baptize, but only with the bishop's licence:
laymen baptize only in urgent necessity: women not at all.
Chapters seventeen to twenty form the third section of the
work; which treats of various matters connected with the due
and proper administration of the sacrament.
3 summus sacerdos. At this point Rigaltius has a long note,
reprinted by Oehler, that the bishop is called summus sacerdos
because he is the highest of those Christian people who by virtue
of baptism are both kings and priests: (2) because he is the head
of the ministry which, comprising also presbyters and deacons,
forms the Christian sacerdotium: (3) because, according to Jerome
and others, he is primus presbyter, the presbyters being in a special
sense sacerdotes. He quotes Augustine, De Civ. Dei XX. 10, sed
sicut omnes Christianos dicimus propter mysticum chrisma, sic omnes
sacerdotes, quoniam membra sunt unius sacerdotis, and suggests (with
verisimilitude) that this sufficiently represents the view of
5 propter ecclesiae honorem. That is, the dignity of the
Church demands that this act of highest spiritual consequence
and ecclesiastical importance should be performed by the highest
5 quo salvo, etc. I.e., if the honour of the Church were
always kept in mind, the breaking of its peace by the public
ventilation of disagreements would be impossible. Lupton quotes
St Ignatius, Ad Smyrnaeos, tou_j de\
merismou_j feu&gete, w(j a)rxh_n
6 etiam laicis, etc. Coming from Tertullian this is a some
what unwilling concession. I have marked the following sen-
tences (down to exerceri potest) as a supposed interlocutor's
objection to the ministration being restricted to the bishop, with
the priests and deacons, viz. (1) that all have received so all can
give: (2) that our Lord's disciples baptized, though they were
not at that time ordained ministers: (3) that as the word must be
spoken freely (Matt.
10. 8) by all, so all may baptize. Tertullian
admits this but advises that the right be reserved for emergencies.
For vocabantur (T) or vocantur (B), I suggest we should read
vocabuntur, 'unless you are going to say that the disciples were
bishops, priests, or deacons'. Ab ullo, I take to be an ablative of
the agent (so Borleffs), not 'from anyone', but 'by anyone'.
We have here an early misuse of the word laicus. Strictly
speaking a layman is one of the lao&j, the holy People of God-
not in any sense an outsider but entirely inside: so that in fact
every bishop, priest, and deacon, being a member of the holy
People, is a layman, though not every layman is a deacon, priest,
or bishop. Tertullian frequently uses the word in an almost
derogatory sense, and the Church generally has copied him.1
Cf. De Praesc. Haer. 41, among heretics hodie diaconus qui cras
lector, hodie presbyter qui cras laicus: nam et laicis sacerdotalia
iniungunt: De Fug. 11, sed cum ipsi auctores, id est ipsi diaconi et
presbyteri et episcopi fugiunt, quomodo laicus intellegere poterit qua
ratione dictum, Fugite de civitate in civitatem? Also De Monog.
quomodo [apostolus] totem ordinem ecclesiae de monogamis disponit
(says of every one of the ministers that he must be the husband of
one wife) si non haec disciplina praecedit in laicis ex quibus
ordo proficit (from among whom the church's ministers are
promoted)? At De Exhort. Cast. 7 there is an acknowledgement
1 Lawyers and physicians have stolen the word from the Church, and use it
of those who do not belong to their professions. A recent letter in The
described as 'laymen' persons who were not qualified lorry-drivers.
of a higher sense of the word: nonne et laici sacerdotes sumus?
scriptum est, Regnum quoque nos et sacerdotes deo et patri suo fecit.
differentiam inter ordinem et plebem constituit ecclesiae auctoritas, et
honor per ordinis consessum sanctificatus. adeo, ubi ecclesiastici
non est consessus, et offers et tinguis et sacerdos es tibi solus. sed
tres, ecclesia est, licet laici.
12 episcopates aemulatio, 'hostility to the episcopate'.
Tertullian uses aemulus and its derivatives not of rivalry in good
works, but of direct and for the most part malicious opposition
Adv. Prax. 1, varie diabolus aemulatus est veritatem, 'has shown
hostility to the truth'.
13 omnia licere, etc. 1
Cor. 6. 12 and 10.
23, pa&nta e1cestin,
a)ll' ou) pa&nta sumfe/rei. In both places the first two words seem
to be taken by the apostle from antinomian objectors who claim
for themselves all liberties: the rest of the sentence, with those
that follow, is his correction of that attitude. So here: it is lawful
for laymen to baptize, but they ought not to do it except in case
of urgent necessity. The necessity arises because without baptism,
either of water or of blood, there is no assurance of salvation:
Tertullian and his contemporaries would have said, quite shortly,
16 excipitur, 'is permitted as an exception', the reading of
is retained by Borleffs: T has accipitur, 'is acceptable', a much
weaker word. If we read urget (B) circumstantia is nominative: if
urgetur (T) the subject of the sentence is is qui succurrit.
stantia here is equivalent to peri/stasij, 'critical condition': so
De Orat. 10, et sunt quae petantur pro circumstantia cuiusque, 'accord
ing to individual need'.
18 petulantia autem mulieris, etc. The woman referred to
in ch. 1 would certainly not claim the right to baptize, for her
purpose was to abolish baptism altogether. Utique non rapiet
means not 'must not arrogate' but is the plain future 'will not':
we have no fear of such presumption from that woman, but may
need to guard against it from others.
22 quod si quae Acta Pauli, etc. The text here is that of
corrected by Borleffs, but the punctuation is mine: the gram-
matical subject of the sentence is evidently Acta Pauli, not (as
Borleffs suggests) aliquae mulieres. The so-called Acts of Paul and
Thecla are a second-century Christian romance of a thoroughly
unhealthy character: a summary of the narrative (which survives
in several versions in several languages) is to be found in a long
article (by John Gwynn) in the fourth volume of D.C.B. In the
story as there told Thecla, when exposed to wild beasts in the arena
at Antioch, baptized herself in a pool which suddenly appeared.
Before this the apostle, to whom (without any encouragement)
she had tried to attach herself, had advised the deferment of her
baptism until she should receive further instruction. Tertullian's
note about the author of this work may be true: he is near
enough to it in date to have received accurate information.
Quasi titulo Pauli de suo cumulans has the meaning given in my
translation: titulus is common enough in the sense of 'reputation',
e.g. Statius, Silvae II. 7. 62, hinc castae titulum decusque Pollae
iucunda dabis adlocutione. Convictum indicates that he was found
out: and confessum means 'professed' or 'claimed' (not 'con-
fessed'), as at De Carne Christi 1, et carnem et nativitatem confessus
aliter illas interpretari. Junius, copying Jerome, read convictum
Ioannem, which is meaningless and unnecessary: John the Apostle
is far too early, since the work in question was composed well
within the second century, and it was at that period that such
rubbish as this was too often produced. There is a voluminous
work on the Life and Miracles (posthumous) of St Thecla
the Martyr, by Basil of Seleucia in Isauria (who died A.D.
26 quam enim fidei proximum, etc., means, in effect, 'it is
highly probable'. Discere, in spite of Hartel's objection, of which
Lupton approves, is evidently correct: it must be taken with
constanter, 'in her own right' (not, as by Souter, 'who consistently
refused'). Taceant, inquit, 1
Cor. 14. 34, 35: they must not ask
questions at the church meeting, but must ask their husbands at
home. It does not say that their husbands will ask the questions
for them at the next meeting: these are supposed to know the
Baptism must not be too readily granted. The immediate baptism
of the Ethiopian, and that of St Paul, were by special provision.
Regard should be had to age and disposition. Children should
wait until they can learn, and the young should wait until they
Tertullian's discouragement of infant baptism was possibly
suggested to him by practical reasons, though he could hardly
have taken this attitude (apparently in opposition to what was
already common enough church practice) unless he had held
lightly to the doctrine of original sin. At De Anima 39 he says
that every soul possesses, by natural birth, the five primary
attributes of immortality, rationality, sensation, intelligence, and
freedom of the will. Yet the evil spirit lies in wait against every
man, animas aucupabundus (if for no other reason) because birth
and childhood are compassed about with idolatrous practices.
It is in this way that the genius (which is a demon) enters into
persons, as a demonic spirit settled upon Socrates as a boy. The
apostle truly says that the children of either Christian parent are
holy (1 Cor. 7.
14) : but he said this so as to avoid the breaking
up of mixed marriages-for he thought these ought to be retained.
Otherwise, Tertullian thinks, he would have mentioned our
Lord's pronouncement (John 3.
5), 'Unless a man be born of
water and of the Spirit he shall not enter into the kingdom of
God', i.e. cannot be holy. In that case, one may suppose, Ter-
tullian might not have discouraged infant baptism: and so he
proceeds (ibid. 40) to disregard the apostolic exception, saying,
Ita omnis anima eo usque in Adam censetur donec in Christo recenseatur,
tamdiu immunda quamdiu recenseatur, peccatrix autem quia immunda,
respuens ignominiam suam et in carnem ex societate. And so (ibid. 41)
the evil the soul is afflicted with (malum animae) is no mere super
structure due to the accession of the evil spirit, but is there already
by fault of origin (ex originis vitio antecedit). The corruption of a
nature is a second nature, yet it does not expel or extinguish, but
only overshadows, that divine thing which is truly natural. Sic
et in pessimis aliquid boni, et in optimis nonnihil pessimi: and, nulla
anima sine crimine quia nulla sine boni semine. At baptism the curtain
of primal corruption is withdrawn and the soul perceives its own
light in its totality: its new birth is attended by the Holy Spirit,
as its first birth was by the profane spirit. Thus it appears that
original sin, in so far as Tertullian envisages it, is a consequence
not of natural descent from Adam but of investment by pagan
influences before and after birth: and Fr Refoulé rightly adds,
'Mais méme dans ce traité il ne semble pas que les enfants avant
le baptéme soient "possédés par le demon"'. Indeed one
1 Ceterum baptismum, etc. Instead of quorum officium est,
the Troyes MS. has quod scriptum est. This may well be the true
reading, and so the first sentence may run: Ceterum baptismum non
temere cedendum esse sciant, quod scriptum est, Omni petenti te dato:
suum habet titulum, etc. But scriptum sit would be more natural.
1 credendum. Oehler remarks, 'Hoc est
committendum petenri'. Apparently no editor has yet suggested
cedendum, which would have just that meaning.
2 omni petenti, etc. Luke 6.
30, panti\ ai0tou~nti se di/dou,
and cf. Matt. 5.
42, tw~| ai0tou~nti/ se di/dou. Petere, meaning
'attack', regularly takes the' accusative: meaning 'ask' or 're-
quest', it takes acc. of person in Plautus, Curculio 147, vos peto
atque obsecro, though perhaps the acc. is due to the second verb:
in any case there was no call for Souter's 'Give thyself to every
one that asketh'. There are further references later in this chapter;
omnis petitio and ut petenti dedisse videaris. The dominical com-
mand is of the nature of a law, and its titulus or heading,
its application, is 'almsgiving'. 'Elehmosu&nh
is uncommon in
classical Greek: at Callimachus, In Delum 152, it seems to mean
an act of kindness: sw&zeo: mh_ su& g'
e0mei~o pa&qh|j kako_n ei3neka,
th~sde | a)nt'
e0lehmosu&nhj. Christian Latin took over the Greek
word, and the derived languages have retained it in various
3 proprie (T) is evidently correct: perinde (B) has no particular
point, either as itself or as equivalent to proinde.
4 nolite dare, etc. Matt. 7.
6: for tou_j margari/toj B here has
the singular, and T appears to have originally had it. So it is
also De Praesc. Haer. 26, ne margaritam porcis . . . iactaret.
5 Manus ne facile, etc. 1
Tim. 5. 22, xei~raj taxe/wj mhdei\
e0piti/qei, mhde\ koinw&nei a(marti/aij a)llotri/aij. The reading in
the text, with the verb in the plural, and the Greek word hamartiis,
is that of T : B has the singular, manus ne facile imposueris ne
aliena delicta, 'and so avoid sharing others' sins'. At De Pud. 18
we have, manus nemini cito imponas, neque communices delictis
alienis: Lat. vg. is different again, manus cito nemini imposueris
neque communicaveris peccatis alienis. Evidently Tertullian has
made his own translation from the Greek: but the double reading
in our text is hard to account for. It seems as if Tertullian thought
the apostle was referring to the laying on of the hand which
follows baptism: the context of 1 Tim. 5. 22 refers to ordination,
or perhaps to the reconciliation of penitents.
6 quodsi quia Philippus, etc. Acts 8.
26-39. For exertam
dignationem cf. above, ch. 12, exerta probatio, 'an express proof':
and below, dei dignatio, 'God's good pleasure', from dignari,
vouchsafe. In ch. 3, tantae dignationis officium and dehinc digna-
tionem, quod divini spiritus sedes, God's good pleasure, or gracious
kindness, has conferred dignity or honour upon the element of
water: cf. also Adv. Iud. 1, populus minor. . .gratiam divinae
consequitur, 'obtains the grace of divine favour'. Therefore not
'sanction' (Lupton): and certainly not 'the clear and plain
testimony of the Lord to his worthiness' (Souter), for Tertullian
makes no suggestion of the eunuch deserving grace ex congruo.
At ipsius fidei T ends. Apostolus is a slip of Tertullian's memory,
like Simon, a few lines lower: Philip was not the apostle; but one
of the seven, and St Paul's host at Damascus was Judas, while the
one who speedily learned that Saul was a chosen vessel was neither
of these, but Ananias (Acts 9.
10-19). Simon was Peter's host at
Joppa, Acts 9. 43.
4 exhortatus adsumitur. The participle is passive, as Oehler
remarks: it corresponds to pareka&lese at
Acts 8. 31. As passive
it occurs at Appuleius, De Deo Socratis 17, quis igitur tali
(during the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles) ad
dicendum exhortatus est? [answer, 'Nestor']. Petronius, 76. 10, et
sane nolentem me negotium meum agere exhortavit mathematicus, may
be disregarded: Trimalchio was no authority on Latin grammar.
Aulus Gellius, N.A. XV. 13. 1, says that utor et vereor et
consolor communia verba sunt et dici utroqueversus possunt, with a
quotation from Cato's Origines, exercitum suum pransum paratum
cohortatum eduxit foras atque instruxit. There is therefore no need
for Souter to convert this into 'the exhortation is accepted':
adsumitur means that Philip is taken up into the chariot, a)naba&nta
kaqi/sai su_n au)tw~|.
16 sed et Paulus. . . tinctus est seems to be an anticipated
further objection, and cito enim, etc. is Tertullian's answer to it.
Dei dignatio 'God's gracious kindness', is in strong contrast with
omnis petitio: the person who asks to be baptized, Tertullian
thinks, can disappoint (or mislead) both himself and the minister
who accepts him. Actually there are possibilities of disappoint-
ment, or of success, either way.
20 cunctatio baptismi. In his objection to the baptism of
infants Tertullian is evidently protesting against a custom which
(with or without apostolic authority) was already taken for
granted. The practice of deferring baptism grew during the third
and fourth centuries to such an extent that even a bishop's son
was not baptized until the age of thirty. It was encouraged by
the false idea that for post-baptismal sin there is no remission,
or, if there is, it is at the expense of a long and humiliating public
penance. Young men, but not young women, must be allowed to
sow their wild oats before baptism: and the consequence was,
both that wild oats were sown, and that the young were deprived
of the grace of the sacraments during the formative period of
their lives. This seems to be the earliest mention of sponsores:
though apparently their functioning was already well-established.
In the Statutes of the Apostles (35) parents or relations answer the
interrogations, but only for children too young to speak. There
need be no difficulty about proventus; it is a common enough
word for the growth of a crop, either of corn or of weeds.
24 Nolite illos, etc. Matt. 19.
14, a!fete ta_ paidi/a kai\ mh_
kwlu&ete au)ta_ e0lqei~n pro&j me:
10. 14 has the same words in
a different order. The temporal clauses dum adolescunt, etc., do
not mean 'when they are grown up', and so forth: neither, by
strict Latin usage, do they mean 'while they are growing up',
but (more indefinitely, to cover both contingencies) 'when they
grow up'. Those who agreed with Tertullian could be satisfied
with this restriction, and those who disagreed would not be too
27 cautius agetur, etc. 'Shall we act less cautiously in this
than men do in mundane matters?' Substantia here means 'pro-
perty', i.e. goods or possessions. Cf. Ad Uxorem 1. 1 where
Tertullian observes that as he has made provision for his wife in
secular things, he also thinks it wise to provide for her in divine
and heavenly things: si talibus (i.e. saecularibus) tabulas ordinamus,
cur non magis de divinis atque caelestibus posteritati nostrae
30 temptatio praeparata est certainly does not mean 'a test-
ing has been prepared' (Souter), but 'temptation lies in wait'.
The standard text (B, Gelenius, Pamelius) has per vagationem,
'because of their gadding about', with an obvious reference to
Tim. 5. 13, perierxo&menai ta_j oi0ki/aj:
per vacationem (Ursinus,
Rigaltius), if correct, may refer to the following words, ou)
de\ a0rgai/ kte9. Souter's idea of 'freedom from the duty of
marriage' may have been in Tertullian's mind: it was certainly
not in St Paul's: the natural meaning of the words is 'because
they have too lithe to do'. Continentiae (dative) is correct:
continence is a virtue in which (to which, in Latin) character has
to be strengthened, not (as Reifferscheid appears to think) a grace
which confers strength.
33 pondus, for 'importance' (so Souter), is common enough
not to need Lupton's comment. Baptismi consecutio means the
obtaining or acquiring of baptism, and not (as Souter has it) its
consequences: so De Res. Carn. 52, ad resurrectionis consecutionem,
'attainment to the resurrection'. The last six words of this chapter
do not mean that faith without baptism is sufficient for salvation
(which would contradict what is said above in ch. 13) but that
a person whose faith is entire, i.e., who has sufficient faith in
God, can be sure (secura) that though he defers his baptism God
will not let him die unbaptized.
The usual seasons for baptism are Easter and the period of Pentecost.
1 pascha. From Exod.
12. 48 onwards pa&sxa is the LXX and
New Testament form of the Hebrew , for which Tyndale
invented the eminently suitable word Passover. In Christian
practice, in the second century and later, the Pasch was a forty
hour fast, from sunset or midnight on Maundy Thursday until
midday or sunset on Saturday. The Easter ceremonies of Baptism
and the Eucharist were celebrated on Saturday evening, which in
ancient reckoning was the beginning of Sunday. The Latin
service books and the English Book of Common Prayer retain
traces on Easter Eve of the ancient custom. The transition from
the neuter pascha to the feminine paschae seems to have no special
2 in qua tinguimur (B) had better stand, though it is probably
equivalent to in quam: at Rom.
6. 3, for ei0j to_n qa&naton au0tou~
e0bapti/sqhmen, Lat. vg. has in morte ipsius baptizati sumus. Oehler's
suggestion that in qua is instrumental, is probably wrong. Adim-
pleta, 'was accomplished', like ch. 11, nondum adimpleta gloria
domini, perhaps has in view the fulfilment of prophecy, as at
Mark 13. 4, o3tan me/llh| tau~ta suntelei~sqai
4 Convenietis, etc. Mark
14. 13; Luke 22.
10, loosely quoted,
for sunanth&sei u(mi~n.
6 pentecoste is here not the fiftieth day after Easter, but the
period (spatium) of fifty days. The later custom was to baptize
on the eve of Whitsunday such as through indisposition had
missed being baptized at Easter. Latissimum (the margin of B)
along with spatium would be mere tautology: laetissmum, either
'joyful' or 'auspicious' (or both) is evidently correct.
7 frequentata est. Cf. Ad Uxor.
I. 8, meam memoriam, si ita
evenerit, in illis frequentabis, 'you will often, by these writings, be
reminded of me'.
8 dedicata, 'was first given': cf. Apol. 12, in patibulo primum
corpus dei vestri dedicatur: De Res. Carn. 11, de materia potius
subiacenti volunt ab illo universitatem dedicatam: in neither case is
there any idea of 'dedication', but only of first beginnings. In
what sense the grace of the Holy Spirit was first given at Pentecost,
and in what sense it was given previously, is a matter of interpreta-
9 subostensa means something more definite than 'suggested'
if the preposition is to be pressed, it means something like 'was
also made evident'. Cf. Adv. Val. 1, si scire te subostendas, negant
quicquid agnoscunt, 'if you show you know it already': Adv. Marc.
IV. 38, neminem timuit, ut quaestiones aut declinasse videatur, aut per
occasionem earum quod alias palam non docebat subostendisse, 'have
also revealed'. The hope of our Lord's coming was not merely
suggested, but plainly set forth by the two in white apparel at
Acts 1. 10, 11.
11 utique in pentecoste indicates that Tertullian expected the
second advent to take place during the fifty days of Pentecost.
If he had any reason for this, it lay in the interpretation he gave
to Jer. 31.
8, where LXX (38. 7) has i0dou_ e0gw_ a!gw
borra~, kai\ suna&cw au)tou_j a)p' e0sxa&tou
th~j gh~j e0n e9orth~| fa&sek.
The latter part of this, fairly represented by Tertullian's Latin, ap-
parently means in the Hebrew, 'and will gather them from the
uttermost parts of the earth, and with them the blind and the
lame'. By a careless reader the last three words of the Hebrew
could be mistaken for 'at the feast of the Passover'. The day of
Pentecost was counted, apparently as early as Tertullian, as one
(the last) of the fifty days of Easter. We must certainly punctuate
with the comma after (not before) paschae: in this I disagree with
Oehler, Lupton, and Borleffs, but the LXX text of Jeremiah
requires it so.
The immediate devotional preparation for baptism, and thank-
3 ut exponant, etc. Exponere in Tertullian frequently means
'take off'', as of clothes: and so, De Praesc. Haer. 40, expositionem
delictorum de lavacro repromittit. Here the word has its more usual
sense of display, or exemplify: and so 'bring it into conformity
with the baptism of John', 'ut palam statuant in se ipsis exemplum
baptismi Ioannis' (Fr. Junius).
4 nobis gratulandum est, etc., is taken up below, with
gratulatio salutis. The question of the retention or the removal of
non is difficult. Those who would remove it, or change it to
nunc, are no doubt of the impression that at Christian baptism
there was a public confession of specific sins, as distinct from a
general confession of sinfulness. I know of no evidence of this.
Public confession of specific sins was part of the exhomologesis
which made request for penance for post-baptismal sin. As our
present text reads, aut (as Lupton remarks) is more appropriate
if non has preceded: and (I add) the initial emphatic nobis suggests
some sort of contrast with what goes before. Consequently, the
sequence of thought seems to be this: the first sentence (ingressuros,
etc.) recommends a number of private devotions, including con-
fession of sins, following (to that extent) the form of John's
baptism: but (nobis gratulandum, etc.) we, by way of difference,
are to be congratulated in that we are not called upon for public
confession (non confitemur, not non confiteamur) : for (the second
sentence having been parenthetic, in partial correction of the
impression suggested by the reference to John) we do (simul
enim, etc.), when we engage in the devotions recommended, at
the same time make satisfaction for the past and gain protection
for the future. In short, the solution is that the second sentence
(nobis . . . nostras) is parenthetic, so that the third (simul. . . prae-
struimus) refers back directly to the first. I find myself in agree-
ment with d'Alés, who would retain non: and with Refoulé,
who remarks, 'Rien ne nous permet de supposer une confession
intégrale et publique imposée aux catéchuménes'.
9 et ideo credo, etc. They were tempted because they had
slept instead of watching: if it were worth while I should suggest
reading obdormierant. Cf. De Orat. 8, hunc locum [i.e.
inducas in temptationem] posterioribus confirmat, Orate, dicens, ne
temptemini: adeo temptati sunt, dominum deserendo quia somno potius
indulserant quam orationi.
12 neminem intemptatum, etc., Ecclus. 2. 1, Te/knon,
prose/rxh| douleu&ein Kuri/w| Qew~|, e9toi/mason
th_n yuxh&n sou ei0j
peirasmo&n, loosely quoted, after Tertullian's manner. There
is no need to search after an agraphon.
19 nihilominus is here a conjunction, not an adverb:
in sequence with potius, as though the sentence read ventris potius
et gulae meminerat quam dei: Tertullian regularly omits the first
member of these comparisons.
25 lavacro novi natalis, Tit. 3.
5, dia_ loutrou~ paliggenesi/aj
kai\ a)nakainw&sewj pneu&matoj a(gi/ou. For manus aperitis cf.
30, illuc [i.e. ad caelum] suspicientes Christiani, manibus expansis
quia innocuis, capite nudo quia non erubescimus, denique sine monitore
quia de pectore oramus, precantes sumus semper pro omnibus impera-
toribus. For apud matrem, cf. De Orat. 2, ne mater quidem ecclesia
praeteritur, siquidem in filio et patre mater recognoscitur, de qua
et patris et filii nomen, which (but not our present passage) must
be understood as homiletic rhetoric rather than serious divinity.
Distributiones charismatum perhaps has reference to Heb.
pneu&matoj a(gi/ou merismoi~j kata_ th_n au)tou~
ut subiaceant, being the sort of thing Tertullian could and did write,
ought not to have troubled the editors.
29 tantum oro, etc., 'thus much I ask': cf. De Virg. Vel.
cum bona pace legentibus, utilitatem consuetudini praeponentibus, pax
et gratia a domino nostro Iesu redundet, cum Septimio Tertulliano cuius
hoc opusculum est: also De Paen., ad fin., Quid ego ultra de istis
humanae salutis quasi plancis, stili potius negotium quam officium
conscientiae meae curans? peccator enim omnium notarum cum sim,
nec ulli rei nisi paenitentiae natus, non facile possum super illa
quam ipse quoque et stirpis humanae et offensae in dominum princeps
Adam, exhomologesi restitutus in paradisum suum, non facet. There is
no suggestion hereof a 'strange mature of an author's pride with
a Christian's humility': Tertullian is quite sincere; whether he is
wise to say such things to people who may afterwards remember
them against him, is another matter.