Bulletin d'ancienne littérature et d'archéologie chrétiennes 1 (1911) pp. 127-8

VESTIGES OF APOCRYPHA IN THE DE PAENITENTIA OF TERTULLIAN, xii, 9. — De Paenitentia closes with a phrase which is obscure and hitherto poorly explained : "Being myself a sinner," declares Tertullian, "I cannot easily be quiet about the subject of penitence, since Adam himself, the first author of the human race and the revolt against the Lord, once restored by exomologesis to Paradise, is not silent about it either."  Oehler does not even signal the difficulty. I had vainly sought to explain this allusion for my edition of this treatise in the collection Hemmer Lejay. Mr. Preuschen in his recent republication of De PaenitentiaDe Pudentia (Tubingen, Mohr, 1910), provides in his notes two references, which I checked. He refers initially to the Vita Adae and Euae, § 40, of which we have a Greek text published by Tischendorf, in his Apocalypses Apocryphae, 1866, under the title Apocalypsis Mosis, and two Latin texts of unequal length published by Mr. W Meyer, in Abh. d, bayer. Ak. d. Wiss., phil.-hist. Kl., XIV, 3 (1878), p. 185 and f.1. One reads there that Adam having done penitence2, and having received his forgiveness from God, on the intercession of the angels 3, was buried after his death in Paradise 4. That explains well, this seems to me, the exhomologesi restitutus in paradisum suum, but not the non tacet. -- In addition, in Apocryphen gnostichen Adamschriften, translated from  Armenian into German by Mr. Preuschen (Giessen, 1900), figures an account of the penitence of Adam (p. 41 and f.), where Adam expresses some regrets about the lost paradise5. But at this time he is not presented as already restitutus in paradisum.

The exegesis of this text of De Paenitentia thus is not yet absolutely elucidated. It appears probable to to me that Tertullian had combined in the same sentence some of the features met in apocryphal documents  of different origins. The assumption is not without interest for the question of the sources from which it is derived.


1. It is still necessary to quote Das altkirchenslavische Adambuch, translated into Latin by JAGIC (Denkschr. d. Wien. Ak. d. Wist., phil.-hist. Kl., t. XLII (1893) p. 1 et s.). M. DUFOURCQ gave an analysis of the text W. Meyer, in his Gesta Martyrum, IV, 401.

2. Cf. MEYER, p. 226, I. 97 (Vita Ad., § n) : Adam uero perseuerauit XL diebus stans in poenitientia in aqua Iordanis.

3. Apoc. Mosis, § 33-36; cf. § 38.

4. MEYER, p. 242, i. 80 (§ 48) : « Et dixit iterum Dominus ad Michahel et Urihel angelos : afferte mihi tres sindones bissinas et expandite super Adam. Et alias sindones super Abel filium eius, et sepelite Adam et filium eius. Et processerunt omnes uirtutes angelorum ante Adam. Et sanctificata est dormitatio mortuorum. Et sepelierunt Adam et Abel Michahel et Urihel angell in partibus paradisi, uidentibus Seth et matre eius et alio nemine. » — Cf. Apoc. Mosis, § 40-42. Let us note that St. Irenaeus objected that Tatian had denied the salvation of Adam (C. Haer., I, xxviii, 1 ; P. G. VII, 691).

5. "When Adam had left Paradise, he took Eve on the order of God and settled in the vicinity of Paradise. Continuously they contemplated it and their impassioned regrets inflicted a perpetual sadness to them... It was for Adam an inconsolable sorrow, for Eve a 'amére' pain, and these first created among creatures showed a very great repentance, a very great penitence. All the days of their lives they cried opposite the Paradise, and they said: ' O delicious Paradise, and you, beautiful flowers, odoriferous garden, delectable slope", garden planted by God! Take pity on those which insanely did wrong, but which need you, etc.' Thus remained Adam, crying with sobs and complaints, for 830 years [ the account of his death follows]."

This page has been accessed by ****** people since 23rd February 2002.

Return to the Tertullian Project Original language About these pages