Adversus Praxean
(Against Praxeas)

[CPL 26]


Latin: Evans, 1948  --- English: Holmes, 1870;  Evans, 1948. --- French: Genoude, 1852 --- German: Kellner, 1882

Summary Content Other points of interest Manuscripts Title variations Bibliography


On the trinity.


Praxeas thought that the Father and the Son were so much the same that we could say that God the Father suffered on the cross. Tertullian points out that this isn't how scripture talks about God, and goes on to summarise the teaching of scripture on the persons of the trinity, and their relationship, thereby being the first to explicitly recognise the doctrine of the Trinity.

The identity of Praxeas is unknown. Some have suggested 'Praxeas' may be a pseudonym for someone better known, perhaps even Irenaeus, although this suggestion is not generally accepted.


1.  Ch. 1 gives information about the position of the Montanists in Rome, and their separation.

2.  Ch. 2 gives an early version of the creed as 'from the beginning of the gospel, even before the days of all the earlier heretics', and refers to De praescriptione haereticorum 31.

3.  Ch. 3: "All simple people, not to say the unwise and unprofessional (who always constitute the majority of believers), since even the rule of faith itself removes them from the plurality of the gods of this world to the one true God, become greatly terrified through their failure to understand that, while He must be believed to be one,  it is along with his economy, because they judge that economy, implying a number and arrangement of trinity, is really a division of unity, whereas unity, deriving trinity from itself, is not destroyed by it but made serviceable."

4. Ch. 4:  "... I do not regard the Spirit as coming from anywhere else than from the Father through the Son", which is the 'Filioque' or Western addition to the Nicene creed, first stated at the Fourth Council of Toledo (AD. 589) (Souter p.34. n.2).

5. Ch. 7: "For who will deny that God is body/substance, even though God is spirit?  For spirit is a particular kind of body in its own image".

6. Ch 8 contains some lovely attempts to give examples of the two who are one, one proceeding from the other, yet not divided from it; "the root and the shrub...the source and the river...the sun and the ray".

7.  At some points in Ch. 9, 14 and 26, Tertullian says things that could be taken to suggest that he thought that the Son is not equal to the Father, but subordinate - a later heresy.  However he seems to use words like 'secondary nature' to mean not inferior, but rather derived from the Father, which makes more sense in context. (Souter, p.62, n.1).   No doubt he also knew Phil. 2 v.6 about Christ not considering equality something to be grasped.

8. Ch.10:  "But we are not to believe that because "He can do all things" therefore He did even what He did not do, but we must ask whether He did it".

9. Ch. 11: "Or set forth the proof I demand, like my own; i.e. that the Scriptures indicate the same to be Son and Father in the same way as with us the Father and Son are indicated differentially; differentially, I say, not separately".

10. Ch.17 refers to "John's Apocalypse".

11.  Ch. 18: "But Scripture is not in such danger that you need to come to its help with your reasoning, lest it should seem inconsistent with itself.   It is quite right both when it lays down that there is one God and when it shows that there are two, Father and Son, and it is self-sufficient".

12. Ch. 21: Tertullian quotes John's well-known words to show that the Son was in the beginning with God.

13.  Ch. 25 contains what some have seen as a reference to the disputed verse 1 John 5:7 (possible quote underlined):

... Qui tres unum sunt, non unus, quomodo dictum est, Ego et Pater unum sumus, ....

("Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent Persons, who are yet distinct One from Another.    These three are one [thing], not one [Person], as it is said, 'I and my Father are One,' in respect of unity of substance not singularity of number.")

The verse of scripture is not normally thought to be part of the original text, and is found in no Greek MS, except one which may have been copied from the Latin.   But some have seen in this chapter a reference to an ancient version of scripture that did contain it.  See Elucidation III in the online translation for some more details.  Souter's translation give it as a reference to 1 John 5:8.

14. Ch. 26.  Tertullian makes the point that one verse of scripture should not be interpreted contrary to many clear and definite verses.


This text is found only 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.


ADV. PRAXEAM Montepessulanus H54 (M)
liber aduserus praxean Florentinus Magliebechianus, Conventi soppressi VI, 10 (F)


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. KROYMANN, CSEL 47 (1906) 227-289; Checked.
A. KROYMANN, SQ 2, 8 (Tübingen, 1907). Tertullian Adversus Praxean / herausgegeben von E. Kroymann, Sammlung ausgewahlter kirchen- und dogmengeschichtlicher Quellenschriften. 2te Reihe ; 8. Hft. Publisher: Tubingen : J.C.B. Mohr, ( 1907) Physical Desc.: xxiv, 80 p. ; 21 cm. Notes: Latin text with German commentary.  Checked
E. EVANS, Q..S.Fl. Tertullianus, Treatise against Praxeas, edited and translated with introduction and commentary (SPCK). London, 1948. pp.viii+342. 8o. Latin text onlineEnglish translation online. Checked (Personal copy)
E. DEKKERS & E. EVANS, CCSL 2 (1954), 1157-1206. Checked.
G. SCARPAT,  Adversus Praxean.  Bibliotheca Loescheriana (1959)  Not checked.  (Details from Barnes p.287)
Giuseppe SCARPAT, Q.S.F.Tertulliano, Contra Prassea.  Edizione critica con introduzione, traduzione italiana, note e indici a cura di Giuseppe SCARPAT, Torino, Societa Editrice Internationale, 384p. (Corona Patrum, 12).  Re-edits and brings up to date the Loescher edition.  Not Checked. (Details from CTC 85,2).  1984-ish?  Also listed (as 1985) in BN Florence OPAC: ISBN 88-05-03817-2 : L. 79000.
Hermann-Josef SIEBEN, Adversus Praxean : lateinisch/deutsch = Gegen Praxeas / Tertullian. Übers. und eingeleitet von Hermann-Josef Sieben. - Freiburg im Breisgau : Herder, 2001. - ca. 304 S. (Fontes Christiani series 2 ; Bd. 34).  ISBN 3-451-23821-7 kart. ISBN 3-451-23921-3 Gb. (Details from German National Library, Lepizig)


English: P. HOLMES, ANCL 15 (1870) pp.333-409; reprinted ANF 3 (1885), pp. 597-627.  Online.  Checked.
--A. SOUTER, Tertullian, Against Praxeas (SPCK). London, 1919. pp.125. 8o. Checked.
-- E. EVANS, op. cit.
A. DE GENOUDE, Contre Praxeas. Oeuvres de Tertullien2, Paris (1852). t. 3, pp.177-238.  Online.
H. KELLNER, Gegen Praxeas. Tertullians sämtliche Schriften, Köln : DuMont-Schauberg, (1882). Vol. 2. pp.508-558.  Online.
-- H.-J. SIEBEN, loc. cit., (2001).
H. U. MEYBOOM, Tegen Praxeas (Oudchristel. geschriften, dl. 43). Leiden, 1930.
[Various], Tertuliano: Sobre el baptisme i altres escrits. 1ª ed.- Barcelona: Fundació Enciclopédia Catalana, 1989.- ISBN: 84-7739-080-0 151, [4] p. (Details from BN Portugal, and personal email). Contents: Introduction by Jaume Fàbregas;  - Sobre el baptisme (De baptismo) (translation: Jaume Fàbregas); - Sobre la oració (De oratione)   (trans. Jaume Fàbregas); - Sobre la penitència (De paenitentia) (trans. Andreu Soler); - Contra Pràxees (Adversus Praxean)  (trans. Jaume Fàbregas) 
Italian: G. SCARPAT, loc. cit., 1959.
Giuseppe SCARPAT, loc. cit., 1984 or 1985.
-- Claudio MORESCHINI, Tertulliano: Opere scelte, a cura di Claudio MORESCHINI, Seconda edizione interamente rifatta.  Torino: Unione Tipografica Editrice Torinese (1999).  817p. 8 p of plates. Series: Classici delle religione. Sezione quarta: La religione cattolica.  (Details from CTC 99, 5).  Contains 5 works (Cult., Marc., Res., Prax., Pud.).  Cult. and Pud. translated by Maria VINCELLI.  pp.9-65 = introduction; pp.67-75=bibliography.  The 1974 edition also contained Prae. Herm. Iud. Carn. Val. and Mon., tr. by CM.
Japanese: Shôsaku TOKI, TERUTYURIANUSU [Tertullian, volume] 1 : Purakuseasu hanron [Adversus Praxean]; Parriumu ni tsuite [De pallio], trad. by Shôsaku TOKI, Tokyo: Kyobunkan, 1987, 205p. (Kirisutokyô kyôfû chosakushu [Works of the Fathers of the Church], 13)  Not checked (Details from CTC 88,5).
Hungarian: László VANYÓ &c, Tertullianus muvei (The works of Tertullian), Budapest: Szent István Társulat (1986) 1100pp. (Ókeresztény frók 12). (Details CTC 2002.75).  The older translations of István Városi (Pat, Apol, Orat, Ux, Cult) and Marcell Mosolygó (Mart) have been recycled; the rest are new.


J. F. BETHUNE-BAKER, Tertullian's use of substantia, natura, and persona, Journal of Theological Studies 4 (1903) pp. 440-442
L. ROSENMEYER, Quaestiones Tertullianeae ad librum adversus Praxean pertinentes. Strasbourg, 1909.
G. ESSER, Wer war Praxeas? Progr. Bonn, 1910.
C. H. TURNER, Tertullianea I. Notes on the Adversus Praxean: JThSt 14 (1913) 556-564.
T. HERMANN, Das Verhältnis von Novatians De Trinitate zu Tertullians Adversus Praxean. Diss. Marburg, 1918.
G. BARDY, 'Praxean hesternum': RSR (1922) 361. 
F. J. DÖLGER, Sonne und Sonnenstrahl als Gleichnis in der Logostheologie des christlichen Altertums: Antike und Christentum 1 (1929) 271-290. 
J. BÄRBEL, Christos Angelos (Theophaneia 3). Bonn, 1941, 70-79.
TH. L. VERHOEVEN, Studiën over Tertullianus' Adversus Praxean, voornamelijk betrekking hebbend op Monarchia, Oikonomia, Probola, in verband met de Triniteit. (Diss. Utrecht). Amsterdam, 1948.
TH. CAMELOT, 'Spiritus a Deo et Filio': RSPT 33 (1949) 31-33.
TH. L. VERHOEVEN, Monarchia dans Tertullien, Adversus Praxean: VC 5 (1951) 43-48.
Kevin B. MACCRUDEN, Monarchy and economy in Tertullian's "Adversus Praxeam".  Scottish Journal of Theology 55 (2002) pp. 325-337. (Details CTC 2002).

Souter's translation. Sieben's translation.

This page has been online since 11th December 1999.

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