Tract on the Prayer. The Latin Text with Cri-
tical Notes, an English Translation, an Introduction
Explanatory Observations by Ernest EVANS
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1953),
pp. in-80, 12 s. 6 d.
Canon Evans, who gave us,
some years ago, an excellent edition
of Tertullian's Treatise Against Praxeas, has again put us in his
by this smaller but very similar volume published by the S.P.C.K.
The format is one that should become standard in future editions
of the patristic writers : a carefully written introduction, followed
by the text (with apparatus criticus) and translation on facing pages,
then a brief but well written commentary. Canon Evans is not only
a competent scholar ; he has a probing inquisitiveness that imparts
an interest and a freshness to all he writes. Our curiosity is, for
example, provoked by the title given the present translation : On
The Prayer ; and it forces us to weigh once again the
but the author seems completely justified in his suggestion that
Tertullian considered his tract primarily as a treatment of the Lord's
prayer than as a treatise on prayer in general.
The De oratione
would seem to belong to the oldest strata of
Tertullian's work composed before he became interested in Monta-
nism (and, on this point, the author provocatively remarks that « he
himself was as orthodox in theology after his departure from the
Church as he was while within it », p. x). The treatise (of only 29
numbers) exists in three MSS., or rather two manuscripts (A, D)
with an editio princeps (B) prepared from a lost archetype of A.
Evans' edition was already prepared before the appearance of G. F.
Diercks' volume (Bussum, 1947), but he has incorporated a number
of Diercks' very brilliant emendations. Some of Evans' more interest-
ing readings are : 1. 12 intervenit for venit, 17. 3 elevatis
for elatis, 22.5
feminam... specialiter bracketed with Diercks, 26.4 feceris
for fecerit ;
at 22.61 totum virginis praestet, he suggests mulieris
In so well written a book
there are not very many passages that
would call for discussion. However, p. xviii « not until late in the
fourth century [did virgins begin] to live together under the rule of
a superior » places the date needlessly late ; certainly by the time
of Methodius' Symposium on Virginity (c. 260/80) virgins are
of as a separate « choir » or « order » ; here, as in everything
crystallization of the practice took long to appear, but many of the
essential elements were present in the second half of the third century.
A similar misunderstanding underlies the statement (p. 53, on 12.7),
that « it was among the ascetics of the fourth century, and in the
Middle Ages, that dirt became a sign of godliness » , for omission of
perfumes and abstention from bathing had been, in conjunction with
fasting, a sign of mourning and penance even among the Jews.
At 1. 22, orandi disciplina is rather « method » not «
science » of
prayer. At 5.12, the reference to the « souls of martyrs beneath the
altar » could have been elucidated in the commentary; and at 29. 27
signum nostri Imperatoris should be « our General's standard », not
(surely for Tertullian) « our Emperor's standard ».
But needless to say, these
are quite minor points. I myself should
have welcomed further discussion, in the commentary, of some of
the references to contemporary liturgical discipline, or, for example,
of Tertullian's attitude towards the Shepherd of Hermas. In this
connection it is interesting to note that the sentence referred to by
Tertullian De orat. 16. 3 is called the initium Pastoris
of both the Old Latin and the Palatine versions. Again, perhaps a
greater attempt might have been made to solve the mystery of the
composition and publication of the De oratione. I can hardly
the editor's suggestion that it consists merely of « notes to help the
preacher's memory ». The tract can be divided roughly into four
parts: § § 1-10, On the Lord's Prayer; § § 11-17, On Prayer in Ge-
neral; § § 18-28, On Divers Liturgical Matters; § 29, Conclusion.
The editor concedes that §§13-23 (and possibly 24-7) were not part
of the original homily but were added by Tertullian on publication.
As a matter of fact; I should not be much surprised if, within the
entire section §§ 13-29, there were interpolations by a different hand
(perhaps not too far removed from Tertullian in place and date).
But until further, complete MSS. of the treatise are forthcoming, it
is unlikely that we shall have any effective solution of the problem.
In conclusion, this volume
is to be recommended as a model for
the young scholar interested in editing and commenting on the works
of the Fathers. And it is to be hoped that Canon Evans may be able
to publish many similar ones. The layout of the book, the. format
and the typography, are excellent.
Herbert A. MUSURILLO, S. J.