IN ANSWER TO THE JEWS1
c. A.D. 200
It is said that when the future Emperor Caracalla was about seven
years old, in A.D. 195 or 196, a fellow playmate, presumably
slightly older, became inclined to Judaism and was so severely
chastised by the Emperor Severus and his own father, that the
young prince took this punishment deeply to heart.2
Be that as it may--and we can hardly take Noeldechen's suggestion
seriously that this event in Rome moved Tertullian in
Carthage to write our treatise--there is no doubt that a few
Christians did apostatise to Judaism, while, on the other hand,
many were desirous of winning Jews to Christianity. Also a large
number of Jews lived in North Africa, as the big Jewish cemetery
at Carthage still testifies.3 There was therefore sufficient
for the Adversus Judaeos to be composed, both as a protection to
Christians, and as a means of winning Jews.
Directly, however, we examine it we are struck by its twofold
character. The first eight chapters are crisp and polished--if such
words may be used of Tertullian's harsh and rugged style--the
last six chapters are drawn out, and altogether more loosely strung
together. It is no wonder therefore that their relation to the first
part has caused much controversy, at least from the time of Semler,
who was frankly sceptical about many of the works attributed to
Tertullian.4 Neander thought that only chh. i-viii were
1 Adversus Judaeos, Oehler's
edition, 1853, is still the best. The treatise is
translated by Thelwall in the Ante-Nicene Library, 1870.
2 "Septennis puer, cum conlusorem suum
puerum ob Judaicam religionem
gravius verberatum audisset, neque patrem suum neque patrem pueri velut
auctores verberum diu respexit." Spartianus (c. 285), Ant.
Caracalla, i, in the
Scriptores Hist. Aug. Teubner, 1927, i. 183. See Noeldechen (vide
infra, p. 44),
1894, pp. 87-89.
3 See Monceaux, Hist. Litteraire de
l'Afrique Chretienne, 1901, pp. 9, 294; Jew.
Enc. iii. 594, 617.
4 Semler denied the genuineness of the
whole treatise. His criticism was
published in his edition of Tertullian (1770-1773), and may be found more
conveniently in Oehler, vol. iii, where, further, the parts of our
resemble Adv. Marc, are set forth in parallel columns (pp.
Tertullian's, and chh. ix-xiv were compiled by an unknown author
from Adversus Marcionem, iii,1 and this is still the
opinion of many
critics. But Noeldechen,2 by comparing the Adv. Jud. with
other writings in general3 as well as with Adv. Marc, iii,
comes to the conclusion that our chh. ix--xiv are a rough draft
made by Tertullian, and chh. i-viii a more finished sketch, while
the whole tract was afterwards used freely by Tertullian for the
third book of his Adv. Marc. (c. A.D. 210). Noeldechen
the Adv. Jud. was written in A.D. 195-6.4
Harnack is equally sure that chh. ix-xiv contain nothing
to Tertullian's authorship,5 but has a theory of his own
that Tertullian wrote chh. i-viii after the first edition of his Adv.
Marc., which already contained the amplifications (Ausführungen)
that we now find in Adv. Marc, iii (third edition), and then
chh. ix-xiv out of the first. For, having the contents of those
chapters there already, he naturally would not use the Adv. Jud.
Neither theory is very attractive,but the important point is that both
scholars agree that chh. ix-xiv were written by Tertullian himself.
Both, however, wrote before serious notice had been paid to the
suggestion that the Church possessed catenae of Old Testament
passages thought to bear upon the truth of Christianity. And
though recent writers have exaggerated this fact, and, going beyond
all probabilities, have tried to prove the existence of one such Book
of Testimonies only, which continued, somewhere or other, down
to the twelfth century--though not quoted by name6 and visible
only by identity of Old Testament quotations--there is this much
truth in the theory, that such catenae existed, differing greatly in
1 Antignostikus, 1825 (Bohn's
translation, ii. 530). So also J. M. Fuller in
Diet. Chr. Biog. 1887, iv. 827.
2 In his two treatises Die
Abfassungszeit der Schriften Tertullians, Texte u. Unters.
v. 2, 1889; Tertullians Gegen die Juden, T. u. U. xii. 2, 1895.
3 E.g. in phraseology (1895, pp. 35-46).
4 Monceaux strongly prefers A.D. 200-206.
He thinks the second edition of
the Anti-Marcion refers to it (iii. 7): "Discat nunc haereticus ex
cum ipso licebit Judaeo rationem quoque errorum."
"Tertullien indique clairement
ici qu'il va faire un emprunt a son traite Contre les Juifs et
raisonnement sur les causes d'erreur, parce que Marcion lui-meme
une objection des Juifs" (op. cit. i. p. 205; cf. p. 295). In
any case it was written
before he became a Montanist (A.D. 207), for it contains no trace of the
Harnack's theory requires the late date.
5 " Weder in Stil, noch in den
Anschauungen findet sich m. E. irgend etwas
Untertullianisches" (Altchristl. Lit. 1904, ii. 2, p. 290).
6 For Pseudo-Gregory's words do not bear
out that explanation. See above
on The Books of Testimonies, p. 6.
details, and yet necessarily containing much common matter.
These would therefore lie ready at hand for Tertullian to
It seems not unlikely therefore that he used such a catena
for the Adv. Jud., and using it again, or perhaps only what he had
already incorporated from it, revised and polished and adapted
the passages to suit his rather different objective in the more
important treatise against Marcion.
It is not necessary, however, to spend more time over this
controversy, for in any case the question of the unity and even the
authorship of the tract In Answer to the Jews is of little more
academic interest for our purpose. Every one is agreed that the
third book against Marcion was written by Tertullian, and there
is hardly a quotation from the Old Testament, or any interpretation
of a quotation, in the Adv. Jud. which is not to be found there.
It will be sufficient therefore to consider the tract itself, and that
as a whole.1
Tertullian tells us that he found a Jewish proselyte--a man of
Gentile stock, but whether he had ever been a Christian or had
been only a heathen he does not say, but apparently the latter--
arguing with a Christian in favour of Judaism; and that Tertullian
thought it well to state the evidence for the true faith more clearly
in writing than was possible in the rather misty verbal discussion.
I. Beginning, it would seem, with the assumption that the
Gentile had some warrant for accepting the chief truths of Judaism,
and that by admitting him the Jews acknowledged that their
religion was not for Jews only, Tertullian discusses the true nature
of the Law, and shows its temporary character (chh. i-v).
If Gentiles are admissible to God's Law, the Jew need not
despise them. In fact God's promise to Rebecca, "two peoples
and two nations" (Gen. xxv. 23), refers to both Jewish and Gentile
believers, and hints that whereas the younger son was to be greater
than the elder, so there were to be more Gentile believers than
Jewish (ch. i).2
1 For convenience' sake, and without
prejudice to further examination, I shall
speak of the author of chh. ix-xiv as "Tertullian". He knew no
2 In this chapter Tertullian pictures to us
"the calf-like head" of the Golden
Calf corning out from the melted gold first: "Cum . . . aurum fuisset
et processisset eis bubulum caput" (Ex. xxxii. 24). If this
was current among the Jews it may have given rise to the later belief that
Calf came out alive and skipping (Midr. Tanchuma, Ki Tissa, § 19,
p. 103 a; not in Buber's edition); see Jew. Enc. iii. 509.
Again, the Old Testament itself suggests that the Law of Moses
was not intended to last for ever. There was a Law before that
Law, which would have been sufficient, if it had been kept. Its
essence indeed is for all, but not its totality. That former Law was
long before Moses; it existed even in Eden. Noah, Abraham, and
others were found righteous by the observance of this natural Law,
under which Melchizedek was even a priest. Adam, knew nothing
of Sabbath or Circumcision. Had circumcision been so important,
why was not Adam circumcised (ch. ii) ?
What then was the use of Circumcision? It was given to
Abraham1 and to Moses (see what is said about Zipporah) as a
sign by which Israelites were to be distinguished, that thus they
should not be able to enter Jerusalem--in accordance with
Hadrian's decree.2 But Jeremiah announces a new Law,3
which we may learn that bodily circumcision was to come to an
end. No doubt therefore we Gentile believers are the people of
whom Isa. ii. 2
sq. speaks (ch. iii).
It is the same with the Sabbath. Its observance was to be but
for a time, even as it was unknown to the Patriarchs. Observe too
that the Prophets themselves distinguish between Jewish sabbaths
and eternal and spiritual sabbaths, for Isaiah speaks of your
sabbaths,4 and "Isaiah" of My sabbaths.5
Isaiah refers to the eternal
sabbath when he says that all flesh shall come to worship in
Jerusalem.6 "And this we must understand was fulfilled in
time of Christ, when all flesh, i.e. every nation, came to worship
in Jerusalem God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son, as was
foretold by the Prophet, Behold, the proselytes shall go unto Thee
through Me."7 Tertullian points out further
that after Moses' time
even the observance of the sabbath did not consist in cessation
1 Tertullian curiously puts the
circumcision of Abraham (Gen. xvii. 10) before
he received the bread and wine at the hands of the uncircumcised
(Gen. xiv. 18). There may be some connexion between this and Barnabas' statement
(ix. 8) that Abraham circumcised his 318 trained men whom he took with
him to pursue the four kings (Gen. xiv. 14); for circumcision may be a
expansion of "trained", "initiated".
2 Cf. Trypho, xvi. 2 (supra, p.
34). See also infra, ch. xiii.
3 Jer. xxxi. 31 sq. Cf. Trypho often,
e.g. xi. 3-5 (supra, p. 36).
4 Isa. i. 13.
5 Ezek. xxii. 8. Tertullian says
"Isaiah". For similar errors see Trypho, xiv.
8 (supra, p. 34).
6 Isa. Ixvi. 23.
7 "Ecce proselyti per me ad te
ibunt" (Isa. liv. 15 LXX).
from work, for the people went round Jericho for seven days, and
the Maccabees fought on a sabbath (ch. iv).1
So again with Sacrifices. Both earthly and spiritual were alike
foretold, and in fact even from the beginning the former were
in the offerings of the elder son, Gain, who represented
Israel, and the latter in those of Abel the younger son, representing
us Christians. The latter alone were accepted, for true offering to
God must be made by spiritual sacrifices, as the Psalmist says.2
Further, Tertullian notes, the former sacrifices were to be offered
in a place in the Holy Land alone, "both for sins and for
and nowhere else than in the Holy Land. Whereas of spiritual
sacrifices God says that they shall be offered in every place (ch. v).4
II. Now that Tertullian has shown that the Old Testament
contemplates a cessation of the Law of Moses with its component
earthly parts, he turns to ask whether He who was to give the new
spiritual Law has come or not. The answer is that He has come
indeed, and that He is Jesus (chh. vi-xiv). For the ancient Law
and the Prophets could not have ceased unless He were come
We see that the prophecies that the nations should hear Him
are already being fulfilled,5 even to the very ends of the
including "the parts of Britain unreached by Rome" (ch. vii).6
But is the time itself in agreement with that which is foretold in
Scripture? Tertullian answers this question by examining in detail
the prophecy of Dan. ix.
20-27, proving (according to his methods)7
that these verses refer to the period from the Birth (and consequent
Death) of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem, for "the seventy
1 Josh. vi. 4;
i Macc. ii.
2 Ps. li. 17.
3 "Tam pro peccatis quam pro
animabus", i.e. to atone for sins and also
to consecrate persons, etc.
4 Mal. i. 11.
5 Isa. xlv. i is quoted as "Christo
meo Domino", reading Ku&rw| (Cyrus)
Ku&ri/w|, as in Barnabas, xii. 11 (vide
supra, p. 26), though neither language nor
context suggests any literary dependence.
6 "Britannorum inaccessa Romanis
loca." Tertullian is quite eloquent here.
7 These are so far from clear, and are
based on such a mistaken system of
chronology, that they need not detain us. "But the principles of the
are, that the commencement of the Seventy Weeks is to be dated from the
year of Darius, in which Daniel states that he saw the vision--that
weeks and half a week were completed in the forty-first year of the reign
Augustus when Christ was born--and that the remaining seven weeks and half
a week were completed in the first year of Vespasian, when the Jews were
reduced beneath the Roman yoke" (Bishop Kaye, Collected Works, 1888,
355 sq.). Peter Damian refers to Tertullian's argument (vide
infra, p. 370).
hebdomads" were completed in the first year of Vespasian, when
Jerusalem was taken. Further, Dan. ix. 24 says that "vision and
prophecy were sealed",1 which is true, "inasmuch as
He is the
signet (signaculum) of all the prophets, fulfilling all
they had previously foretold. For after the (first) Advent of Christ
... there is no longer vision or prophet to announce Him as yet
to come." Jews indeed can bring forward no prophets or miracles
since that time, for, on Christ being baptised, "the whole quantity
of former spiritual gifts ceased in Christ" (ch. viii).2
Here, as has already been said, ends the unique portion of our
book. The following chapters have much that is verbally identical
with passages in the third book against Marcion. But there is not
sufficient evidence (as has been seen) for denying their proper place
here also in the original form of our treatise. They do in fact
continue the argument, though, as it seems, in a rougher, more
detailed, and less polished form, being, perhaps, taken with little
alteration from some Book of Testimonies.
The author turns now to consider prophecies about our Lord's
birth, showing that they have been fulfilled. He naturally begins
with the words of Isaiah,3 stating the Jewish objection that
name Emmanuel was never used of our Lord, and answering it by
appealing to the meaning of the term. Further, he insists that the
actions predicated of the Child must be understood figuratively
only.4 It may perhaps be urged that the Old Testament knows
nothing of the word "Jesus" as the name of the Messiah. Not so,
replies Tertullian, it is indicated plainly by the change from
"Oshea" to "Joshua" as the name of him who was to lead
into the promised land.5 So again Joshua is called
as John the Baptist was,7 and it may be noted that He who spoke
to Moses was not the Father, but the Son.8 Again, we learn in
1 "Signari visionem et prophetiam dicebat."
2 "Omnis plenitude spiritualium retro charismatum in
Cf. Justin's Trypho, lxxxii. i (vide supra, p. 36).
3 Isa. vii. 14. Cf. Trypho often, e.g. lxxxiv (supra,
4 For His conquest of Samaria, Damascus, and the Assyrians
(Isa. viii. 4)
being fulfilled in the coming of the Magi, see Trypho, lxxvii (supra,
6 Cf. Trypho, lxxv. 2 (supra, p. 40). For
Tertullian's identification of Christ
here with the flint knives of Josh. v. 2, see Trypho, cxiii. 6 (supra,
6 Ex. xxiii. 20. The Trypho does not say that Joshua
was called "Angel",
though it applies the term to Christ, lix. i-lx. 4 (supra, p. 36).
7 Mal. iii. 1.
8 "Nam qui ad Moysen loquebatur, ipse erat dei filius,
qui et semper
Isa. xi. 1 that the Messiah was to be of the line of David, and,
further, the word virga ("shoot") there suggests Virgo,
Mary herself.1 Not only so, but we see predictions of the
the preaching, and even the miracles, which were all satisfied in
Jesus (ch. ix).
Tertullian then refers to the predictions of the Passion and
Death, and it is in ch. x, perhaps, that the suggestion that he used
a list of proof-passages is the most convincing. He begins by
stating the objection felt by Jews to the death upon the cross, for
it is said, Cursed is every one that has hung on a tree.2 He
an examination of the facts removes the difficulty. For Moses was
not dealing with hanging on a tree in general, but with the specific
case of a malefactor, a man punished in this way because he
deserved it. Christ had not deserved punishment, and therefore
the objection does not apply to Him. He was crucified only to
fulfil other Scriptures.3 At this point Tertullian makes an
remark when he meets the argument that the predictions
about our Lord ought to have been much clearer.4 For he says
that the balder the statement of the suffering to be endured by the
Messiah had been, the greater would have been the stumbling-block
to Jews. And, on the other hand, the more magnificent the
promises of the Messiah's greatnes, the less clearly must they be
foreshadowed, in order that the difficulty of understanding them might
not be merely intellectual, but dependent on the grace of God.
The wood borne by Isaac hinted at the Cross. Joseph was sold
by his brethren, and in connexion with this Tertullian recalls his
blessing by Jacob. For Jacob speaks of him as a bull, and a bull
has horns which in themselves suggest the Cross.5 Besides,
1 "Fuit enim de patria Bethlehem et de
domo David, sicut apud Romanes
in censu descripta est Maria." Tertullian omits this sentence in his Adv.
iii. 17. perhaps because he himself was thinking of Luke iii. 31, and
might suppose him to be referring to independent evidence of the Roman
courts, which, so far as he knew, was non-existent.
2 Deut. xxi. 23. Cf. Gal. iii. 13; Trypho,
lxxxix. 2. The text is adduced also
in Jason and Papiscus (p. 29); Tim.-Aq. Fol. 100 v° (infra,
p. 74); "Anastasius",
Second Add. (p. 179); Alvaro (p. 225). On the subject cf. Dalman, Jesus-Jeschua,
1922, p. 168, E.T. p. 186. I cannot find any trace of the argument Tertullian
3 E.g. Ps. xxii. 17.
4 See Gregentius, First Day (p. 143); Troph.
Dam. iii (p. 165); Papiscus and
Philo, § ii (p. 173); "Anastasius". ii (p. 179); Gennadius
(pp. 192 sq.).
5 Cf. Trypho, xci. I sq. (supra,
p. 39). Oehler's text is "nam et benedicitur a
patre in haec verba Joseph" and Deut. xxxiii. 17 is quoted (i.e.
But he warns us "a patre om. cd." Adv. Marc. iii. 18 has
the same mistake.
as a bull, tosses nations by faith from earth to heaven,1
toss them, through His Judgment of them, from heaven to earth.
Similarly, when Simeon and Levi hamstrung a bull,2 this meant
that the Scribes and Pharisees were not only to slay Christ, but in
their fury to fix His tendons with nails.3 Again, the cross is
by Moses' session in Joshua's fight with Amalek,4 and his
setting up the Brazen Serpent.5 It is spoken of also in Ps.
and was to be borne on Messiah's shoulder.7 And Jeremiah
of wood being put into His bread.8
The twenty-second psalm is full of references to our subject, and
Isa. liii says that the Messiah's reward is given Him because of His
death. Amos viii. 9 sq. foretells even the darkness of the day of
Passion, which proved to be the beginning of the Jews' captivity
and dispersion. Lastly, Tertullian goes so far as to say that Moses
refers in so many words to the Passion of Christ, when he writes,
not the passover of God, as such, but the passover of the Lord, i.e.
Christ (ch. x).9
But, besides these varied predictions and hints of the Lord's
death, the Old Testament foretells that after this has been brought
about the ruin of the Jewish nation will be at hand. See Ezek. viii.
12-ix. 6, where the Prophet says also that those who have on their
foreheads the sign of a Tau10 shall be kept safe. Further,
foretells the dispersion and misery of the nation, when, as he says,
thy very Life (i.e. Christ) shall be hanging on the Tree before
Thus again all vision and prophecy were sealed in Christ, as is
said also in ch. viii and ch. xiv, end (ch. xi).
The very short ch. xii gives us only a summary of the argument
of ch. vii.
Then comes a chapter which, like the first eight, is not to be
found in the Anti-Marcion. But it is thoroughly Tertullianic. For
1 Cf. Trypho, xci. 3.
2 Gen. xlix. 6. 3 Not in Trypho.
4 Trypho, xc. 4 (supra, p.
5 Trypho, xciv. 2 (supra, p.
6 a ligno; see Trypho (supra,
7 Isa. ix. 6.
8 Jer. xi. 19 LXX. Cf. Trypho, lxxii.
2 (supra, p. 33).
9 Ex. xii. ii, 27.
10 The last letter of the Hebrew alphabet,
in Ezekiel's time in the form of a
St Andrew's cross.
11 "Et erit vita tua pendens in ligno
ante oculos tuos" (Deut. xxviii. 65 sq.).
See also ch. xiii, "lignum passionis Christi, unde vita pendens a
non est". The same passage is quoted in Cyprian, Test. ii. 20
(p. 62); Ath.-Zacch.
§§36 sq. (p. 123); Zacch.-Apoll. ii. vi (p. 297); Ps.-Greg.
Nyssa, vii (p. 127);
"Anastasius", iii (p. 177) (cf. Tim.-Aq. Fol. 133 r°).
with reference to the time of which Daniel spoke, the author brings
forward a demurrer1 to the effect that when it is said that
shall come from Bethlehem in the future, it is no longer possible
for Him to do so. No Israelite is there, or indeed is allowed to go
there.2 Again, how shall Messiah be anointed in the future, for
the chrism cannot be made in captivity?3 And indeed Daniel says
that anointing shall be exterminated.4
Then many texts are quoted, most of which have been adduced
already in these pages. The chapter ends with a challenge to
restore Judaea to the condition in which it was when Jesus came,
for the predictions of the Old Testament were in fact fulfilled in
that condition, and the effects of the Dispersion, etc., were dependent
on it (ch. xiii).
Last of all, Tertullian gives us "the clue" (ducatum) to
of the Jews. They do not see that the Old Testament speaks of two
Advents of the Messiah, one in suffering and death, of which
proofs have already been given, and the other in glory and judgment.
The Jews ought to have recognised this second advent as
being a second (without prejudice to the first) in Dan. vii. 13;
viii. 5 sq.; Zech. xii. 10;
5. 5 The
chapter and the
treatise end with a renewed appeal on the basis of Christ's present
work. You Jews, our author writes, cannot urge that "what you can
see already is to take place in the future. Either you must deny that
what you see with your own eyes was foretold in prophecy, or (at
least) the prophecies (when you hear them read) have actually been
fulfilled, or, if you accept both statements they will have been
fulfilled in Him of Whom they were prophesied" (ch. xiv).6
1 "Praescribamus." Cf.
Tertullian's De Praescriptione.
2 By Hadrian's decree. Cf. c. iii, and vide
supra, p. 34.
3 Ex. xxx. 20-33. There is no reason to
accuse Tertullian of forgetting that
our Lord was not anointed with visible chrism. He is but meeting the Jews
their own ground, when they say that the true Messiah of the future must
4 Dan. ix. 26 LXX (not Theod. Hebr.
5 In Zech. iii. 3, 5, the sordid attire of
Jeshua (the very name of Jesus is
foretold!) indicates the first Advent in the flesh with its trials, and
to glorious raiment the second Advent. Tertullian adduces also the two
of Lev. xvi, one of which was girt with scarlet and subjected to spitting
cumdatus coccino . . . consputatus"), though the latter point is not
Scripture, nor, as it seems, in the written traditions of Judaism, but is
in Barn. vii. 8 (supra, p. 23). Trypho, xl. 4 (supra,
p. 40), also uses the account
of the two goats for the same general purpose.
6 "Non potes futurum contendere quod
vides fieri. Haec aut prophetata
nega, cum coram videntur, aut adimpleta, cum leguntur, aut si non negas
utrumque, in eo erunt adimpleta in quem sunt prophetata."
So the treatise ends. The author has been short and sensible
throughout, according to the knowledge and methods of his day,
and has sufficient acquaintance with the popular objections adduced
by Jews to justify his writing. But he is very inferior to
Justin Martyr in any personal knowledge of his opponents and
It may be asked whether he made use of Justin's Trypho. It is
commonly asserted that this was the case, on the ground that he
employs many of the Old Testament passages found in Justin, and
these in the same way, however strange it may appear to us. But
the similarity lies only on the surface, and was perhaps inseparable
from both the Jewish and the Christian manner of exegesis at the
time. The texts are seldom, if ever, quoted in the same order or
connexion,1 and the common treatment of the Old Testament is
better explained by the existence of a traditional method of
and by the probability that catenae of Old Testament proof-texts
were in the possession of both writers.
1 The twofold explanation of the Bull and
its Horns (xiv; supra, pp. 49 sq.)
is hardly a case in point. For it is all one passage.