John KAYE, Ecclesiastical History of the Second and Third Centuries (1845). Preface to the Second Edition. pp. xiii-xxxviii.
THE SECOND EDITION.
SOON after the first edition of this work issued from the Press, I received a copy of a German work on the writings of Tertullian, published at Berlin in 1825, by Dr. August Neander, under the title of "Antignosticus Geist des Tertullians, &c." As it is probable that few other copies have yet reached England, a short account of its object and contents may not be unacceptable to the reader.
The learned author states in his Preface, that he is engaged in writing an Ecclesiastical History of the first three centuries, a portion of which will be occupied by an inquiry into the different forms under which the Christian doctrine developed itself; in other words, into the different doctrinal and practical systems which arose during that period. The authors of those systems he divides into two classes, the Idealists and the Realists; the Idealists he again divides into the Ultra, from whom the Gnostics took their rise, and the Moderate, |xiv who formed the Alexandrian School. Of the Realists, he conceives Tertullian to be the proper representative. His object, therefore, is, by an analysis of Tertullian's writings, to present his readers with an accurate view of the Realist system. He had done the same with reference to the Gnostic system, in a work which I have not seen.
In pursuing this object, he classes the writings of Tertullian under three heads.
I. Those, which were occasioned by the relation in which the Christians of Tertullian's day stood to the heathen; which were either composed in defence of Christianity and in confutation of heathenism, or referred to the sufferings and conduct of Christians in time of persecution, and to their intercourse with the heathen.
II. Those, which related to the Christian Life, and to the Discipline of the Church.
III. Tertullian's Dogmatical and Polemical works. I. Under the first head he mentions, as composed before Tertullian's secession from the Church,
The Tract ad Martyres.
————— de Spectaculis.
————— de Idololatria.1 |xv
The two Books ad Nationes.
The Tract de Testimonio Animae;
as composed after Tertullian became a Montanist,
The Tract de 3 Corona.
————— de fuga in Persecutione.
The Tract ad Scapulam.
II. Under the second head, Dr. Neander classes
The Tract de 4 Patientia.
————— de 5 Oratione.
————— de Baptismo.
————— de Poenitentia.
The two Books ad Uxorem.
The two Books de Cultu Foeminarum;
among the works composed by Tertullian before he became a Montanist. |xvi
The Tract de Exhortatione Castitatis.
————— de Monogamia.
—————— de Pudicitia.
—————— de Jejuniis.
—————— de 6 Virginibus velandis.
————— de 7 Pallio;
among those written after he recognized the prophecies of Montanus.
III. Of the works which fall under the third head, Dr. Neander thinks, that one only was written before Tertullian became a Montanist—the Tract de Praescrip-tione Haereticorum. The rest were written by him when a Montanist.
The five Books against Marcion.
The Tract adversus Valentinianos.
————— de Carne Christi.
————— de Resurrectione Carnis.
————— adversus Hermogenem.
————— de Anima.
————— 8 adversus Praxeam. |xvii
The Tract 9 adversus Judaeos.
Dr. Neander gives a more or less detailed analysis of each Tract; and occasionally introduces (most frequently in considering the works included under the last head) the sentiments of other Ecclesiastical writers on the points under discussion—a proceeding foreign from the plan which I had proposed to myself. He is always learned and ingenious; but not altogether free from that love of hypothesis, for which the German writers are remarkable.
There is an Appendix to the work, containing two Dissertations; one on the last part of the Tract adversus Judaeos; the other on Tertullian's doctrine respecting the Lord's Supper, which Dr. Neander supposes to be something intermediate between that of Justin and Irenaeus, whom he asserts to have maintained (he does not allege any passages in proof of the assertion) the doctrine of Consubstantiation—and the |xviii doctrine of Origen, who did not allow that any divine influence was united to the outward signs as such, but thought that the object of sense was the symbol of the object of the understanding, only to the worthy receiver; though, in addition to that symbolical relation, he conceived a sanctifying influence to be united with the whole rite, in the case of those who are capable of receiving that influence. Dr. Neander thinks, that to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ, meant, in Tertullian's view of the subject, to appropriate to ourselves the divine lo&goj who appeared in the nature of man, and to enter into a living union with him through faith. He thinks also, that in the words, Caro corpore et sanguine Christi vescitur,ut et anima de Deo saginetur, Tertullian intended to say that, while the body, in a supernatural manner, comes into contact with the body of Christ, the soul receives into itself the divine life of Christ. Dr. Neander justly remarks, that on other occasions Tertullian speaks, as if the bread and wine were merely representative signs of the body and blood of Christ. It may be doubted, therefore, whether, in arguing upon the above expressions, he has made sufficient allowance for the peculiarities of Tertullian's style. If, however, he is correct, Tertullian must be classed with those who maintain a real presence of Christ's body in the Eucharist, but in a spiritual, not in a gross corporeal sense. Dr. Neander appears himself to consider the bread and wine as mere symbols.
In the body of Dr. Neander's work, are also two Disquisitions; one on a passage in the third chapter of the Tract de Corona, where Tertullian speaks of various |xix customs observed in the Church on the authority of Tradition; the other, on an obscure passage in the fourteenth chapter of the Tract de Jejuniis, from which Dr. Neander infers, that the practice of fasting on the Saturday already existed in the Western Church.
If the reader will compare Dr. Neander's classification of Tertullian's writings with that which I have ventured to suggest, he will find that the difference between us is not great: and with respect to some of the Tracts on which we differ, the learned author expresses himself with great diffidence. He was too well aware of the dubious character of the proofs on which his conclusions necessarily rest, to adopt a more decided language. I was myself restrained by similar considerations, from, hazarding any positive decision of many of the controverted points connected with Tertullian's life and writings. It would have been no difficult task to bring forward the different passages produced by preceding writers upon those points; to add others of equally, or more, doubtful application to the subject in debate; and after the parade of a formal discussion, to pronounce between the contending parties. Such a proceeding would have been very imposing, and have carried with it an appearance of great learning and profundity; but it would at last have been only solemn trifling. When the facts are not merely scanty, 10 but susceptible of |xx different interpretations, it seems to follow as a necessary consequence, that the mind must remain in a state of suspense: and an author ought at least to escape censure for avowing doubts which he really feels. Diffidence may imply a defect both in the moral and intellectual character; but it is surely less offensive in itself, and less likely to be injurious in its consequences, than that presumptuous rashness, which ventures to deliver peremptory decisions where there are scarcely materials even for forming an opinion.
I was naturally anxious to ascertain the opinion of Dr. Neander, respecting the instances of the exercise of miraculous powers mentioned by Tertullian, and the accounts of visions which occur in his writings. The learned author accounts for 11 the story of the female who came back from the theatre under the influence of a demoniacal possession, by supposing that, being conscience-stricken, she returned the answer recorded by Tertullian, under the persuasion that she was possessed by an evil spirit, who made use of her organs of speech. The story of the man who was chastised in a vision, because his servants had suspended garlands on his door in his absence, may, Dr. Neander thinks, be accounted for 12 on psychological principles. The view |xxi which he takes of the subject of visions is, that the fermentation at first produced by Christianity in the nature of man was accompanied by many extraordinary phenomena, not likely to occur in a similar manner at all times. New powers were imparted to human nature; and those which had been before concealed were brought into action. Moreover, the necessities of the infant Church called for many unusual interpositions of Providence. Great caution would of course be requisite, in forming a judgment respecting those phenomena, since it would be easy to confound that which was natural with that which was divine; and into this error the turn of Tertullian's mind would render him peculiarly liable to fall, by disposing him to regard all such appearances as divine revelations. In a subsequent part of his work Dr. Neander mentions the 13 story of the female to whom the soul was exhibited in a corporeal shape—as an instance of Tertullian's readiness to consider visions as communications from heaven. Although Dr. Neander has not expressed himself decidedly, I infer from the general tenor of his observations, that he objects altogether to the notion, that the exercise of miraculous power was intended to be confined to any particular persons, or to any particular age. 14 He supposes Tertullian to |xxii have asserted, that the possession of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit was the peculiar characteristic of an Apostle; and regards this assertion as a proof of Montanism. He speaks also of the impropriety of confining the charismata to the Apostolic age. To what I have before said on this disputed subject I will now add. that we usually infer what will be the future course of the divine government from considering what it has been; and thus Christians living towards the end of the second century—who had either themselves conversed, or had heard the accounts of others who had conversed, with men who had witnessed the exercise of miraculous powers—could not be justly charged with credulity, for expecting the continuance of the same powers in the Church. Centuries have since elapsed, during which no miraculous narrative deserving credit can be produced. Our case, therefore, is widely different. They who contend that, because the first teachers of the Gospel were endowed with miraculous powers in order to prove their divine commission, it is not unreasonable to suppose, that similar powers would be imparted to those who in after-ages went forth to convert heathen nations, may fairly be called upon to produce an instance, since the times of the immediate successors of the Apostles, in which such powers have been actually conferred.
Dr. Neander's notions respecting the authority ascribed by the early Christians to Tradition seem to coincide with my own. He says, "These two |xxiii fountains, of the knowledge of the doctrine of faith —the collection of the Apostolic writings and oral Tradition—sent forth streams, flowing by the side of each other through all communities which agreed in the essentials of Christianity; and especially through the communities which were of Apostolic foundation. But as the stream of Tradition necessarily became more turbid, in proportion as the distance from the Apostolic times increased, the writings of the Apostles were designed by Providence to be an unadulterated source of divine doctrine for every age. Though on some occasions the Christians of those days might appeal solely to the authority of Tradition, they uniformly maintained, that the doctrine of Christianity, in all its parts, might be deduced from Holy Writ." (p. 312.)
The spirit in which Dr. Neander's remarks on Tertullian are conceived, is widely different from that in which it has been fashionable of late years to think and speak of the Fathers. M. Barbeyrac, whose views were directed to the systematic development of the principles of Ethics, looking only at Tertullian's defects, regarded him as an author who was incapable either of thinking naturally, or preserving a just medium; who delivered himself up to the guidance of his African imagination, which magnified and confounded all the objects presented to it, and did not allow him to consider any one with attention; who, in short, had disfigured the morality of the Gospel by his extravagancies, and thereby inflicted a serious injury on Christianity itself. Dr. Neander, on the contrary, |xxiv 15 to whose mind the image of the Christian community, as it existed under the immediate superintendence of the Apostles, appears to be continually present, discovers in Tertullian the working of that spirit which animated the early converts; and regarding him as a man whose whole soul was absorbed in his desire to promote the practical influence of the Gospel, is little disposed to speak with harshness of errors, which arose from the overflowings of Christian zeal. Looking rather to the internal feeling, than to the terms in which it is expressed, he discerns matter for commendation in passages in which others have found nothing |xxv but extravagance and absurdity. The concluding passage of the Tract de Spectaculis, which called forth Gibbon's animadversions, appears 16 to Dr. Neander to contain a beautiful specimen of lively faith and Christian confidence; though he wishes that the vehemence of Tertullian's zeal had been tempered by a larger infusion of Christian love. He ventures even to defend the celebrated declaration,17 Certum est, quia impossible, which has contributed more than any other circumstance, to bring Tertullian's writings into |xxvi discredit; and says with great truth, that how strangely soever it may sound when separated from the context, yet when taken in connection with what precedes, it is only an exaggerated mode of stating, that a Christian readily admits, on the authority of Revelation, that which men, who rely solely on the conclusions of their own reason, pronounce impossible. There can be no doubt that Dr. Neander has entered more deeply into Tertullian's character, and has, in consequence, been enabled to form a juster estimate of his merits and defects, than the Philosophical Jurist or the Sceptical Historian. Yet there are, perhaps, occasions, in which Dr. Neander himself has interpreted Tertullian's expressions too strictly; and, 18 though aware of the difficulty of referring the opinions of a man, on whom the feeling of the moment had so much influence, to general principles, he has not always been able to resist the temptation to generalize; and has in consequence extracted from Tertullian's words a train of thought of which he himself was probably never conscious.
In the Introduction to the present work, I have stated, that the object which I proposed to myself in my Lectures on the writings of Tertullian was, to employ them, as far as they could be employed, in filling up Mosheim's outline of Ecclesiastical History. After this explicit declaration, it may appear almost unnecessary to add, that I never intended to compose an Ecclesiastical History of the second and third centuries. My labours were directed to an humbler object—to |xxvii assist in collecting materials for a future historian of the Church. My persuasion has always been, that a good Ecclesiastical History of that or of any other period will never be composed, until the works of each writer, who flourished during the period, have been examined, and the information which they supply, collected and arranged under different heads. I did not mean to propose Mosheim's arrangement as the best which could be devised; I followed it, because his history is that which is in most general use among theological students in this country. I deem it also most essential to the successful execution of such a plan, that the testimony of each author should be kept as distinct as possible. If I may form a judgment from Dr. Neander's Preface, his view of the subject nearly coincides with my own. He there states, that he has published a volume on the Gnostic system, which must necessarily include an examination of the work of Irenaeus; a friend, at his request, is employed on the writings of Cyprian: in the volume, of which I have now given a short account, we have the spirit of Tertullian, the representative of the Realists; there remain, therefore, for consideration, only the Moderate Idealists of the Alexandrian school, whose opinions will be found in the writings of Clemens and Origen. Having thus prepared the way, by analyzing the works of the five principal authors of the second and third centuries, the learned author will proceed to the completion of his Ecclesiastical History of that period. With the design of facilitating the composition of a similar History, I had, in the fulfilment of the duties |xxviii of my office, before I lectured on the writings of Tertullian, examined the writings of the Fathers who preceded him: whether I shall at any future period be able to lay before the Public 1 the result of the examination, must depend upon the time which I can spare from other avocations.
[Footnotes have been moved to the end]
1. 1 I have classed the Tracts de Spectaculis and de Idololatria among the works probably composed by Tertullian after he became a Montanist; nor do Dr. Neander's arguments appear to me of sufficient weight to establish a different conclusion. He supposes these Tracts to have been occasioned by the public festivities which took place after the defeat of Niger and Albinus (pp. 14. 32); and contends, that Tertullian, if he had been then a Montanist, would, instead of resorting exclusively to arguments drawn from Scripture, have also appealed to the authority of the New Prophecy (p. 26). But the references to passing events are of too general a character to warrant us in deciding positively upon the time when tho Treatises were written: and Dr. Neander himself admits (p. 112), that in the Tract de Spectaculis, Tertullian uses stronger language respecting the incompatibility of the military life with the profession of Christianity, than in the Tract de Corona, which was certainly composed after ho became a Montanist. This single fact, in my opinion, outweighs all the arguments on the other side.
2. 2 Dr. Neander supposes the two Books ad Nationes to have been anterior to the Apology, respecting the date of which he agrees with Mosheim (pp. 58. 76, note). He infers also (p. 79) from the answer to the charge of unprofitableness brought against the Christians by their enemies, that Tertullian could not have imbibed the ascetic spirit of Montanism, when he wrote the Apology. But the validity of this inference may be questioned; as it is certain that Tertullian sometimes varied his language with his object.
3. 3 The largess alluded to in the Tract de Corona was, according to Dr. Neander, that given to the military on account of the victories of Severus over the Parthians (p. 114). If this supposition is correct, we must assign the year 204 as the probable date of the Tract.
4. 4 Dr. Neander remarks, that a comparison of the modes in which Tertullian applies the parables of the Lost Sheep, and of the Prodigal Son, in the Tract de Patientia, c. 12, and in that de Pudicitia, c. 9, will prove the former to have been written before his secession from the Church (p. 168).
5. 5 Dr. Neander considers the additional chapters of the Tract de Oratione genuine.
6. 6 From the following passage in the second chapter of this Tract, (Sed eas ego Ecclesias proposui, quas et ipsi Apostoli vel Apostolici viri condiderunt, et puto ante quosdam. Habent igitur et illae eandem consuetudinis auctoritatem, tempora et antecessores oppouunt magis quam posterse istae), and from other incidental expressions, Dr. Neander infers, that the custom against which it was directed, prevailed in the Church of Rome.
7. 7 With respect to this Tract, Dr. Neander interprets the expression, Praesentis imperii triplex virtus, Deo tot Augustis in unum favente, of Severus, Caracalla, and Geta, and supposes the Tract to have been composed about the year 208. He conjectures also, that Tertullian was induced, after the death of his wife, to adopt the ascetic mode of life, and in consequence to wear the Pallium, the peculiar dress of the a0skhtai/ (p. 310).
8. 8 Dr. Neander thinks with Blondel (p. 487), that the Bishop of Rome mentioned in the first chapter of the Tract against Praxeas, was Eleutherus: Allix was disposed rather to fix upon Victor.
9. 9 On this Tract Dr. Neander has written a short dissertation, the object of which is to prove that the ninth and following chapters are spurious. In our remarks upon Semler's Theory respecting Tertullian's works, we stated that he grounded an argument on the fact, that a considerable portion of the third Book against Marcion is repeated in the Tract against the Jews. Dr. Neander draws a different inference from this fact. He observes, that many of the passages thus repeated, however suitable to the controversy between Tertullian and Marcion, are wholly out of their place in a controversy with a Jew. He concludes, therefore, that Tertullian having proceeded as far as the quotation from Isaiah in the beginning of the ninth chapter of the Tract against the Jews, from some unknown cause left the work unfinished; and that the remainder of the Tract was afterwards added by some person, who thought that he could not do better than complete it, by annexing what Tertullian had said on the same passage of Isaiah in the third Book against Marcion, with such slight variations as the difference of circumstances required. The instances alleged by Dr. Neander, in proof of this position, are undoubtedly very remarkable; but, if the concluding chapters of the Tract are spurious, no ground seems to be left for asserting that the genuine portion was posterior to the third book against Marcion, and none consequently for asserting that it was written by a Montanist.
10. 1 For instance, Dr. Neander asserts that Tertullian had once been a Heathen, and produces, in support of the assertion, the first sentence in the Tract de Poenitentia, (p. 3,) Poenitentiam hoc genus hominum, quod et ipsi retro fuimus, &c. He afterwards (p. 5) alludes to the passages in the Tracts de Exhortatione Castitatis, c. 7, and de Monogamia, c. 12, (Nonne et Laici Sacerdotis sumus? and, Sed quum extollimur et inflamur adversus Clerum, tunc unum omnes sumus, &c.) which have been alleged, in order to disprove the
fact of Tertullian's admission into the Priesthood; but thinks that they do not disprove it. In both cases Tertullian speaks in the first person and in the plural number; yet in the former, we are to suppose that he spoke in his own; in he latter, in an assumed character. Surely there is something very arbitrary in these decisions.
11. 2 De Spectaculis, c. 26. (p. 31, note.)
12. 3 De Idololatria, c. 15. (p. 54.) I do not perfectly comprehend the meaning of this observation. It is very easy to conceive, that a man of superstitious temper might have been so affected on finding that his servants had complied with what he deemed an idolatrous practice, as to dream that he was severely chastised for their misconduct. But Tertullian's words convey the idea that the chastisement was real. Scio fratrem per visionem eadem nocte castigatum graviter quod januam ejus, subito annuntiatis gaudiis publicis, servi coronassent. Are we to suppose, that the impression made on the mind by the dream, affected the body, and produced the same feeling of soreness as if the beating had been real?
13. 4 De Anima, c. 9. (p. 465.)
14. 5 The passage on which Dr. Neander builds this inference, is in the Tract de Exhortatione, c. 3. Proprie enim Apostoli Spiritum Sanctum habent in operibus prophetiae, et efficacia virtutum, documentisque linguarum; non ex parte quod caeteri. p. 242.
15. 6 I have, in the fourth chapter of the present work, examined certain passages of Tertullian's writings, from which it has been inferred, that he did not recognize the distinction between the Clergy and Laity. Dr. Neander accounts (p. 204) for the apparent inconsistency in his language, by supposing that he stood on what may be termed the boundary-mark of two periods; the period of original simple Christianity, and the period of the establishment of a system of Church authority. During the former period, there was a perfect equality among Christians; no distinction of orders; all were Priests. The separation of the Clergy from the Laity, and the gradation of ranks among the former, were afterwards introduced by injudicious attempts to transfer the institutions of the Mosaic to the Christian dispensation. This view of the subject frequently occurs in Dr. Neander's work: but I must confess my inability to reconcile it either to the statements contained in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, or to the natural course of things. If the Church of Christ on earth was in fact what it is in theory, the distinction between the Clergy and Laity would doubtless be unnecessary. But where are we to look for the period of original simple Christianity, of which Dr. Neander speaks? Even the Apostles found themselves under the necessity of appointing particular orders of men for the accomplishment of particular objects, and of making new regulations in order to correct the abuses which from time to time sprang up. The distinction, therefore, of the Clergy from the Laity, and of Orders among the Clergy, arose out of the necessities of what Dr. Neander elsewhere (p. 341) calls, that frail compound of spiritual and sensual—human nature; not out of any designed imitation of the Mosaic institutions. After it had once been established, we might naturally expect to find the language of the Old Testament respecting the Jewish Priesthood applied to the Christian; at first only in the way of analogy, but subsequently perhaps to promote the interested views of ambitious men. Dr. Neander has pointed out a remarkable instance of the application of the phraseology of the Old Testament to the celebration of the Eucharist, in the Tract de Oratione, c. 14. (p. 184, note.)
16. 7 p. 34.
17. 8 De Carne Christi, c. 5, p. 394. Mr. Andrews Norton, in his Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels, vol. iii. p. 172, note, thus ably and conclusively defends Tertullian:—
"The meaning," he says, "of Tertullian in the last sentences, Natus est Dei Filius; non pudet, quia pudendum est. Et mortuus est Dei Filius; prorsus credibile esi, quia ineptum est. Et sepultus, resurrexit; certum est, quia, impossibile, may be thus explained. God, he argues, has, through the Apostle, avowed that He has chosen what is foolish in the view of men, to confound the wise. Do you then refuse to admit the Nativity of Christ, because it may seem to you dishonourable for the Son of God, the Divine Saviour, to be born? Or is his real Crucifixion to be disbelieved, because it may appear absurd to men, to assert that such a Being died? Or is the proper fact of his Resurrection to be rejected, because it may appear impossible to men that a dead body should return to life? On the contrary, those things, including his Nativity, are in truth the foolish things which God has spoken of as characteristic of his Dispensation. I believe them the more firmly, because, so far as they seem to men dishonourable, foolish, and impossible, so far they coincide with the avowed purpose of God. They bear the very character which He has ascribed to the means used by Him to confound the wise. What are these foolish things, Tertullian asks immediately before, to which the words of the Apostle may apply? The conversion of men to the worship of the true God? The rejection of error? The forming men to righteousness, chastity, patience, mercy, innocence? These are not foolish things. Search out what the Apostle referred to, and if you have reason to suppose that you have found it, then it will no longer seem foolish to you to believe that a Divine Being was born, and born of a Virgin, and with a body of flesh."
"The words, Certum est, quia impossibile, have often been quoted, with some change (Credo, quia impossibile), ironically, with a cast of ridicule on Tertullian. In the last sentences adduced from him, his vehement eloquence has broken down the common barriers of language; but it seems to be treating him hardly, to give a verbal meaning to his own bold and very concise expressions, in order to convert them into absurdities."
18. 9 p. 380.
19. 1 Two volumes have appeared since the publication of the Second Edition of this work; one on the writings of Justin Martyr, the other on those of Clement of Alexandria.
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