La Théologie de Tertullian, 3e ed. (1905) pp.  221-3. [Original language]



It is already known that the Church received from God the deposit of the Scriptures, the principal source of the Christian faith. Among the questions which arise about the Scriptures, we will examine the following:

1° Inspiration;
2° Canon;
3° Text;
4° Exegesis.

Inspiration of the Scriptures.

Tertullian holds as divine (divinas) the Scriptures of the Old Testament, intended for the supernatural education of mankind 1. This character belongs first of all to the prophecies. Worthy from their justice and their innocence to know God, and to reveal it right from the beginning of time, the prophets received with floods the divine Spirit which informed them of the truths of salvation 2; their books are the immutable charter.3  We have seen above how Tertullian exaggerated the antiquity of Moses and others prophets. But to establish their authority, this consideration is, in his own view, only secondary 4. It is more important to prove the inspiration of the prophets by the historic checking of  their oracles. We have discussed this proof at length, while reviewing, according to Tertullian, the messianic prophecies. 

On the other hand, he admits the Gospels and the Epistles of the apostles on a footing of absolute equality with the Law and the Prophets. Enumerating, in the treatise De Praescriptio, the sources of the faith for the Roman church, he expresses himself thus 5: (Ista ecclesia)


1. Ap. 20.

2. Ap. 18: Viros enim justitiae innocentia dignos Deum fosse et ostendere a primordio in saeculum emisit Spiritu divino inundatos, quo praedicarent Deum unicum esse...

3. Ch. 1, § 1, p. 6.

4. Ap. 20, début.

5. Pr. 36.


legem et prophetas cum evangelicis et apostolicis litteris mis-cet; inde potat fidem. The assimilation of the NT with the OT is thus complete1.

To establish dogma, Tertullian quotes jointly and indifferently the one and the other collection of the divine Scriptures. Thus, combating  Hermogenes 2: Ad originale instrumentum Moysi provocabo; a little further Evangelium ut supplementum instrumenti veteris adhibebo; and he quotes Gen. 1, 1; John. 1, 3. Elsewhere, enumerating the scriptural evidence of the resurrection of the body: Satis haec de prophetico instrumento, ad evan-gelia nunc provoco; then: Resurrectionem apostolica quoque instrumenta testantur... Ex ipsius (Pauli) instrumento captentur argumenta.

Analyzing the concept of inspiration, he shows, behind the sacred writer God, who makes himself with an increasing solicitude the tutor of humanity. The work of the same God who announced it in the O., the N.T. distinguishes itself like the fruit from the seed 5: in both there is the development of the same primitive germ, there is progress, not opposition.  The OT promised, for the end of time, a new and more abundant overflowing of the divine Spirit (Joel, 2, 28). Fully in force and alone in force until the mission of John, it has been repealed, in the ritual part, by


1.  Also complete is the faith of Tertullian in each of the sacred writers. In considering a doctrinal dissension between Saint Paul, and Saint John, he says, Pud. 19: Totius sacramenti interest nihil credere ab Joanne concessum quod a Paulo sit denegatum. —  If sometimes he declares such a proposition incredible even when one reads it in Scripture, he does no more than give a paradoxical turn to a thought otherwise orthodox. Thus Prax. 16: Sc. et haec nec de Filio Dei credenda fuisse si scripta non essent, fortasse non credenda de Patre licet, scripta.

2. H. 19:

3. Ib. 20.

4. R. 33. 39. 40.

5. 4 M. 11 : Sic concedimus separationem istam per reformationem, per amplitudinem, per profectum, sicut fructus separatur a semine, cum sit fructus ex semine : sic et Evangelium separatur a Lege, dum provehitur ex Lege; aliud ab illa,. sed non alienum ; diversum, sed non contrarium.

6. 5 M. 11 : Testamentum Novum non alterius erit quam qui illud repromisit; etsi non littera, at ejus spiritus, hoc erit novitas... Etsi littera occidit, spiritus vero vivificat, ejus utrumque est qui ait: Ego occidam et vivificabo, percutiam et sanabo.


the advent of the Gospel 1. Reformed at this point, confirmed at others, perfected at still others 2, the OT pales before the full light of the New. To the letter that kills has succeeded the vivifying Spirit. Saint Paul (Gal. 4, 22) shows in the two sons of Abraham the figure of two Testaments 3. Far from condemning one by the other, with Marcion, it is necessary to see in them two coordinated demonstrations of the same God, who has made to succeed to the legal constraint the liberty of the children of God, emancipated in Jesus Christ.


1. Jud. 8.

2. Or. 1.

3. 5 M. 4.

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