De anima
(On the soul)

[CPL 17]

Latin: Waszink --- English: Holmes, 1870 --- French: Genoude, 1852 --- German: Kellner, 1882

Summary Content Other points of interest Manuscripts Title variations Bibliography


Discussing the nature of the soul, using Stoic terminology, to controvert the heretic Hermogenes.


This is the first Christian psychology, and aims at giving the true idea of the soul, as opposed to the speculations of the contempory philosophers and gnostics. In it he accepts the stoic view that the soul was corporeal, and asserts that the soul is not created new by God, but rather is generated from those of the parents at the same time the body is conceived (the heresy of traducianism - probably unknown at his date).

He suggests that the philosophers have sometimes caught glimpses of the truth: (ch.2 )

Of course we shall not deny that philosophers have sometimes thought the same things as ourselves.

and he calls Seneca 'saepe noster' - almost one of us (ch 20). But by and large he points out that the heretics have simply shaped their systems based on material supplied by the speculative philosophers, and so the latter are effectively the real heresiarchs.

It has been suggested that the work makes use of the lost dialogues of Aristotle, or the works of Soranus.


Refers to the lost De censu animae in ch 1, to which it is evidently a sequel.:

Having discussed with Hermogenes the single point of the origin of the soul, so far as his assumption led me, that the soul consisted rather in an adaptation of matter than of the inspiration of God, I now turn to the other questions incidental to the subject;

Also refers to the lost De fato in ch. 20 and the lost De paradiso in ch 55.


The only extant manuscript is the 9th century codex Agobardinus (Parisinus Latinus 1622).  This however is incomplete, although the contemporary list of contents at the front labels the work De censu animae.  It follows on from De idololatria without a break, indicating that some pages were missing in the manuscript from which it was copied.

However the work is complete, together with a summary at the start, in the 1545 Gagny/Mesnart edition.  Likewise it is preceded by De idololatria, which is again complete with its missing final chapters.  This suggests that Gagny had obtained an Agobardinus-class manuscript, of the same family, but containing fewer works (Ad Nationes was not present) and in a better condition.


The start of this work is missing in the Codex Agobardinus, down to ch. VI line 56, 'aut micas'. It occupies folios 118V-166R. It doesn't seem to be listed in the table of contents in that manuscript. Is it perhaps mislabelled as De censu animae? Anyone know where it is?

In Mesnart's edition (B) it is printed complete, occupying folios 247V-265V, where it commences with a lengthy summary of the contents and the words:



Unless otherwise indicated, details are from Quasten's Patrology, 2 (1955). See also Editions page and Critical Editions page for more information.

[Note: I need to add some biblio, from l'Annee Phil. for the years 1954-1974 and from CTC after that].


A. REIFFERSCHEID-G. WISSOWA, CSEL 20 (1890).  Note that Waszink states in the English preface to his 1948 edition of De Anima that the references to the edition of Gagny/Mesnart (B) in the apparatus of De Anima were very inaccurate.
J. H. WASZINK, Tertullianus, De anima ed. with a commentary. Amsterdam, 1947. (Details from Quasten) Quinti Septimi Florentis Tertulliani De anima. Amsterdam : J.M. Meulenhoff, 1947. Description: x, 49*, 650 p. 25 cm. Notes: First published in 1933 as J. H. Waszink's dissertation, Leyden, with an introd., translation and commentary in German. The introd. and the commentary of the present ed. constitute an entirely new piece of work. Bibliography: p. [595]-620. (Details from Bodleian online catalogue) 
J. H. WASZINK, CCSL 2 (1954), 779-870. Checked. (Personal copy).
Martino MENGHI (a cura di), L' anima. Tertulliano, Venezia, Marsilio, 1988. 257 pp., 19 cm. Latin and Italian text. (Details from Dr. Andrea Nicolotti)


J. H. WASZINK, Index verborum et locutionum quae Tertulliani de anima libro continentur. Bonn, 1935.


English: P. HOLMES, ANCL 15 (1870) pp.410-541; reprinted ANF 3 (1885), pp. 181-235.  Online.  Checked.
-- E. A. QUAIN, Tertullian, On the Soul: Fathers of the Church10 (1950) 179-309. Checked. (Personal copy)
French: A. DE GENOUDE, De l'Âme. Oeuvres de Tertullien2, Paris (1852). t. 2, pp. 1-115. Checked.
German: H. KELLNER, Uber die Seele, Ausgewählte Schriften des Septimius Tertullianus, Bibliothek der Kirchenväter1, 2 vols. (1870/2). vol. 2, p.9-154. Checked.  (Personal copy).  Not in the BKV2. Printed in a horrid gothic typeface.
H. KELLNER, Über die Seele. Tertullians sämtliche Schriften, Köln : DuMont-Schauberg, (1882). Vol. 2. pp.284-377.  Online.
-- J. H. WASZINK, Tertullianus, De anima mit Übersetzung und Kommentar. Amsterdam, 1933.
-- J. H. WASZINK, Über die Seele / Tertullian. Zürich: Artemis (1980) 317p; 18cm.  Series: Die Bibliothek der Alten Welt. Reihe Antike und Christentum. Contents: Über die Seele (De anima) - Das Zeugnis der Seele (De testimonio animae) - Vom Ursprung der Seele (De censu animae). Waszink, J. H. (Jan Hendrik), 1908-1990.  (Details CUL)
Dutch : H. U. MEYBOOM, Over de Ziel (Oudchristel. geschriften, dl. 45). Leiden, 1930.
Italian: Martino MENGHI, loc. cit., (1988)
Spanish: J. Javier Ramos PASALODOS, Tertuliano: Acerca del alma , Tres Cantos (Madrid) : Akal, [2001]. 182 p. ; 17 cm. Colección: Akal/clásica ; 63.. Clásicos latinos.(Details from BN Spain and email from Yago Fernández de Alarcón). 
Norwegian: 1887 : Udvalgte Skrifter af Tertullian. Oversatte af J. Arnesen. (= Vidnesbyrd af Kirkefædrene 15), Christiania 1887, VIII+258 s. ( Collection: De testimonio animae – De spectaculis – De praescriptione haereticorum? – De anima).  (Details from Holger Villadsen).  I do have a copy of this, but being in Fraktur and in Norwegian, I wasn't able to work out what was in it.


G. ESSER, Die Seelenlehre Tertullians. Paderborn, 1893.
A. BECK, Die Lehre des hl. Hilarius von Poitiers und Tertullians über die Entstehung der Seelen: PhJ 13 (1900) 42.
G. DE VRIES, Bijdrage tot de psychologie van Tertullianus. Utrecht, 1929.
H. KOCH, Tertullianeisches III, 7. Zur Lehre von Urständ und Erlösung bei Tertullian: ThStKr 104 (1932) 127-160.
F. J. DÖLGER, 'Dogma' bei Tertullian (De anima 33) : Antike und Christentum 3 (1932) 80.
H. KARPP, Sorans vier Bücher Peri\ yuxh~j und Tertullians Schrift De anima: ZNW 33 (1934) 31-47.
F. J. DÖLGER, Das Lebensrecht des ungeborenen Kindes und die Fruchtabtreibung in der Bewertung der heidnischen und christlichen Antike: Antike und Christentum 4 (1934) 32-37, 44ff; 
idem, Tertullians Beurteilung der Machenschaften gegen das keimende Leben: Antike und Christentum 4 (1934) 281 f.
F. SEYR, Die Seelen- und Erkenntnislehre Tertullians und die Stoa: Commentationes Vindobonenses 3 (1937) 51-74.
J. H. WASZINK, Tertullians eschatologische Deutung der Siebenzahl: Pisciculi. Münster, 1939, 276-278; 
idem, Tertullianea: Mnem 9 (1940) 129-137.
A. J. FESTUGIÈRE, La composition et l'esprit du De Anima de Tertullien: RSPT 33 (1949) 129-161.
J. H. WASZINK, Mors immatura: VC 3 (1949) 107-112.
A. D. NOCK, Tertullian and the ahori: VC 4 (1950) 129-141.
J. H. WASZINK, The technique of the clausula in Tertullian's De anima: VC 4 ( 1950) 212-245.
H. KARPP, Probleme altchristlicher Anthropologie. Gütersloh, 1951, 40-91.
Roberto POLITO, Il trattato De anima di Tertulliano e i quattro libri sull’anima di Sorano, Rivista di Storia della Filosofia, 49 (1994), 423-469.  (Thanks to Dr Polito for the ref.)

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