Journal of Theological Studies, New Series 1 (1950), pp.104-5

Tertullian's Treatise against Praxeas. By Ernest Evans, D.D.
   Introduction, Text, Commentary and notes. Pp. 342. S.P.C.K.
   21 s.

THE S.P.C.K. is to be congratulated on the production of a book of
real scholarship in so attractive a form and at so cheap a price. It is
safe to predict that this will be the standard work for many years. The
introduction of eighty-five pages is the most valuable part of the work
and gives the historical background of the treatise, which is a vindica-
tion of the doctrine of the Trinity. Tertullian's argument is cogent
and closely packed. His Latin is crabbed and provincial, and he uses
ordinary words in senses not usually associated with them. The bibli-
cal quotations are interesting and abundant and repay comparison with
the later Vulgate. As regards the text, Dr. Evans has made some valuable
suggestions, and but for a scholar's modesty might have done even
more to improve it. He is an example of that rare phenomenon, a
theologian and a lexicographer in one, while at the same time he is no
mean metaphysician and can, therefore, revel in Tertullian's hair-
splittings which he usually manages to straighten out. I have detected
only one error. At the end of ch. 8. 'tertius enim est spiritus a Deo et
filio, sicut tertius a radice frutex . . .' is translated by Dr. Evans: 'For
the Spirit is third with God and his Son, as the fruit out of the shoot
is third from the shoot.' But the same preposition can hardly have
had two meanings in the same sentence, and therefore 'with' should
be 'from', the connective idea being procession or precedence, not
coexistence (or co-equality). Dr. Evans devotes five full pages to
Tertullian's debt to his predecessors, chiefly Greek Fathers, and has
an illuminating note on the Logos and the Incarnation. Sometimes Dr.
Evans becomes very minute, e.g. p. 52, l. xi. ' We shall therefore suspect
that the difference between status and substantia is that the former
means "existence", while the latter means the existent thing, i.e. if
substantia is indicated by the existential verb, status represents the
copula in so far as it attaches attributes which are permanent'. I suspect
that Dr. Evans in spite of his name is a Scot! Again on p. 53, once
more under substantia, he has a very subtle note on the nature of
'body'. ' Tertullian was unable to conceive of existence except as in
some sense involving corporeity. But it does not follow that "body" in
the sense intended is necessarily material. There is therefore a substance
which though, being real, it may be described as corpus sui generis,
is nevertheless not material.' The same idea is to be found in Novatian

and need not be regarded as an over-subtle theological refinement if
we bear in mind that the latest scientific theories in physics seem to
point in the same direction. Truly, history repeats itself.


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