De exhortatione castitatis
(An exhortation to chastity)

[CPL 20]

Latin: Moreschini, 1985 --- English: Thelwall, 1870 --- French: Genoude, 1852 --- German: Kellner, 1912 --- Russian: Unknown

Summary Content Other points of interest Manuscripts Title variations Bibliography


A letter to a widower, in 13 chapters, advising strongly against remarriage. Quotes briefly some of the same material as Ad uxorem I,5 about the honour given by pagans to monogamy.


Written between 204-212 AD.  Tertullian's views on marriage are not very different from those expressed in Ad Uxorem.  His view remains the same: Christians should not remarry, if one of them dies.

The work is addressed to a Christian friend who had recently lost his wife.  God tolerates second marriages, but the fact that he only tolerates it indicates that his positive will excludes what his permissive will allows.  Scripture is examined to show these points, especially Matt. 5: 28 and 1 Cor. 7: 1, 32 ff.  

The work shows Tertullian's increasing interest in Montanism, but he has not yet begun to call them 'use', 'we', and to denominate normal Christians as 'you'.


He also, while mentioning church order, says: "But where three are, a church is, even if they are laity." (7:3)

In 9:3, he shows the influence of a degraded society, by reacting rather too strongly against it.

Tertullian quotes the Montanist prophetess Priscilla/Prisca with approval: 'For so, too, does the apostle say, that "to savour according to the flesh is death, but to savour according to the spirit is life eternal in Jesus Christ our Lord." Again, through the holy prophetess Prisca the Gospel is thus preached: that "the holy minister knows how to minister sanctity." "For purity," says she, "is harmonious, and they. see visions; and, turning their face downward, they even hear manifest voices, as salutary as they are withal secret."' (Ch. 10:5).  But the words 'Item ... occultas.' ('Again...secret.') are omitted in the Cluny manuscripts, and are preserved only in the Agobardinus.

In 12:4, 'the lion for the Christians' is the cry of the mob.  Abortion is mentioned in the following verse, and condemned.

In 13:1, heathen examples can be used: 'To this my exhortation, best beloved brother, there are added even heathenish examples; which have often been set by ourselves as well (as by others) in evidence, when anything good and pleasing to God is, even among "strangers," recognised and honoured with a testimony. '


The text of this work was transmitted to us in two collections:

(1)  The Agobardine collection. Only one MS now exists, the 9th century Codex Agobardinus (A) or Parisinus Latinus 1622.   This alone includes the passage in 10:5 referring to Prisca and her oracle.  This has been omitted in the ancestor of all Mss of the other collection.

(2) The text is also found in the members of the Cluny collection. (q.v.).  The primary witnesses, therefore, are:

Possibly also to be considered are:

which may or may not have some independent witness.  Many consider them simply copies of F, however.


Incipit De Exortacoe Castitatis Florentinus Magliebechianus, Conventi soppressi VI, 9 (N)
Tertulliani de exhortacoe castitatis Florentinus Magliebechianus, Conventi soppressi VI, 10 (F)

Note: The MSS have the overscore above the letter, but you need a modern browser (N4/IE4+) to see it. It signifies an abbreviation.

Note also that in the 3rd edition of Rhenanus, he gave the title as 'Exhortatio ad castitatem'.


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].


E. KROYMANN, CSEL 70 (1942) 125-152. Checked.
E. KROYMANN, CCSL 2 (1954) 1013-1036. Checked.
Claudio MORESCHINI & Jean-Claude FREDOUILLE, Exhortation a la Chasteté, Sources Chrétiennes 319 (1985). pp.217. Checked. (Personal copy).  Text only online.  Contains massive notes and introduction and bibliography.


Henri QUELLET, Concordance verbale du "De exhortatione castitatis" de Tertullien. Hildesheim 1992 (Olms), IV, 236 S. ISBN: 3-487-09501-7


English: S. THELWALL, ANCL 18 (1870), 1-20; ANF 4 (1885), 50-58.  Online.  Checked.
-- W. P. LE SAINT, Tertullian, Treatises on Marriage and Remarriage (ACW 13). Westminster, Md., 1951,42-64.
French: A. DE GENOUDE, Exhortation à la chasteté. Oeuvres de Tertullien2, Paris (1852). t. 3 (Details from BNF catalogue).
-- FREDOUILLE (SC 319), loc. cit., 1985.
German : H. KELLNER, Ueber die Aufforderung zur Keuschheit, BKV2 7(1912). pp. 324-346. Online.
Dutch : H. U. MEYBOOM, Over de vermaning tot kuischheid (Oudchristel. geschriften, dl. 46). Leiden, 1931.
Spanish :  Pedro MANERO, TERTULIANO, Q. Septimio F., Apología contra los gentiles en defensa de los Cristianos. Madrid: Libr. Vda. de Hernando y Cia (1889). Series: Biblioteca Clasica t. 125. 18x12. 377p:-  1-130: Preface, 131-329: Apologeticum, 331-344: De exhortatione castitatis ch 1-4 only, 345-377: De Patientia.  Checked. (Personal copy)
-- Juan LEAL & Gerardo Lara SANTAELLA, Tertuliano: De la paciencia y exhortación a los mártires, Descripción: Introducción, traducción y notas por los padres Juan Leal y Gerardo Lara Santaella. Colección Excelsa. ediciones Aspas 1947. 129 páginas. (Details from a bookseller)
-- Alfonso ROPERO, Lo Mejor de Tertuliano ; compilado por: Alfonso Ropero. Terrassa : Clie (2001). 335 p. : il. ; 24 cm. ISBN: 84-8267-206-1(cart.). Series: Grandes autores de la fe Patrística 4.  Contains: Apología contra los gentiles (Apol.); Exhortación a los mártires (Exort); La virtud de la paciencia (Pat); La oración (Orat); La respuesta a los judíos (Jud). (Details Biblioteca de Catalunya, personal copy).  pp.175-188.  Checked.
Italian: Pier Angelo GRAMAGLIA, Tertulliano, Il matrimonio nel cristianesimo preniceno. Roma : Borla, [1988]. 519 p. ; 21 cm. ( Cultura cristiana antica) Contiene, in trad. italiana: Ad uxorem, De exortatione castitatis, De monogamia. ISBN 88-263-0452-1 : L. 40000. (Details from BN Florence OPAC).
-- Rossella FRIGERIO (a cura di), Esortazione alla castità, Milano: La vita felice (1995). (transl) (Details by Dr. Andrea Nicolotti)


F. SCHULTZEN, " Die Benutzung der Schriften Tertullians de monogamia und de ieiunio bei Hieronymus adu. Iovinianum", Neue Jahrb. für Deutsche Theol. 3, 1894, p. 485-502.  (Details SC319)
P. DE LABRIOLLE, " Le mariage spirituel dans l'antiquité chrétienne", Revue Historique 46, 1921, p. 204-225. (Details SC319)
J.B. FREY, "La signification des termes mo&nandroj et uniuira" Rec SR, 20, 1930, p. 48-60.  (Details SC319)
C. TIBILETTI, " Verginità e matrimonio in antichi scrittori cristiani" AFLM, 1969, p. 9-217. (Details SC319)
M. HUMBERT, Le remariage à Rome, Étude d'histoire juridique et sociale, Milano 1972.  (Details SC319)
B. KÖTTING, "Vniuira in Inschriften" dans Romanitas et Christianitas. Studia I.H. Waszink... oblata, Amsterdam - London 1973, p. 195-206.  (Details SC319)
C. RAMBAUX, " La composition et l'exégèse dans les deux lettres Ad uxorem, le De exhortations castitatis et le De monogamia", REAug, 1976, p. 3-28 ; 201-217 ; 1977, p. 18-55.  (Details SC319)
C. MICAELLI, "L'influsso di Tertulliano su Girolamo : le opere sul matrimonio e le seconde nozze", Augustinianum, 1979, p. 415-429.  (Details SC319)

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