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Tertullian's treatise De Carne Christi was intended, as its author
several times remarks, to serve as praestructio or scaffolding for the
further work De Resurrectione Carnis. It appears to have been
written well within the first decade of the third century, and certainly 
before Tertullian became seriously influenced by Montanism. 
The date 206 will not be far out, though it may be somewhat 
too early, since we have to allow time since about 197 for the
Apologeticus, the two books Adversus Nationes and the brilliant
essay in 'natural religion' entitled De Testimonio Animae naturaliter
as well as for at least four dogmatic treatises, one of
which, Adversus Marcionem, is of great length and underwent two

Bearing on the subject of the present treatise, we have in Tertullian's 
earliest work (Apol. 21) a statement of the doctrine of the
Incarnation which subsequently required no alteration in point of
fact, but only the rejection of a somewhat misleading term.

But I shall first explain what he is (substantiam) so as to make intelligible 
the manner of his birth (nativitatis qualitas).1 I have already stated
that it was by word and reason and power that God made this world
and all that is in it. Among your philosophers also there is agreement to
regard logos, i.e. speech and reason, as the artificer of the universe....
To that speech and reason, and moreover power, by which we have
stated that God made all things, we also ascribe as proper substance
spirit, which has in it speech as it pronounces and with it reason as it
ordains and as its assistant power as it brings to pass. This spirit, we
have been taught, was brought forth from God, and by that bringing
forth was begotten, and therefore is named Son of God, and God, as a
consequence of unity of substance. For God also is spirit. When a ray
stretches forth from the sun, there is a portion from the whole: but the

1 But qualitas also implies rank or dignity, and something of that kind is to be
understood here.


sun must be in the ray, because the ray is the sun's ray, and because the
substance is not divided but extended. There is spirit from spirit, and
God from God, in the same way as there is light kindled from light.
The original matter (materiae matrix) remains intact and undiminished
however many offshoots you borrow of its quality. So also that which
has come forth from God is God and Son of God, and both are one
God. Thus spirit from spirit and God from God has made duality in
counting, in sequence but not in quality, and has not come away from
its original but come forth. Now this ray of God, as was always
prophesied beforehand, having come down into a certain virgin and
been fashioned as flesh in her womb, was born as man commingled
with God. Flesh informed by spirit is suckled, grows up, becomes
articulate, teaches, works miracles, and is Christ.

And again (ibid.):

Him therefore whom they had supposed a man for his humility,
they must needs regard as a magician for his power, seeing that with a
word he cast out devils from men... thus making it evident that he was
the Word of God, that is, the Logos, that primordial first-begotten
Word with power and reason for its escort and spirit for its basis, that
same Logos who with a word both was making and had made all

This statement, committed to writing by Tertullian within a
year or two of his conversion, is demonstrably derived from his
predecessors in the faith. It is to be found in similar terms in Justin
and in Irenaeus (whose works were known to him) and with no
significant difference in his contemporaries Clement and Origen:
Ignatius writes to the same effect, though in more allusive
language. The expression homo deo mixtus, repeated at De Carne
15 (and cf. ibid. 3 deum in hominem conversum), was afterwards 
(Adv. Prax. 27) withdrawn as misleading and hominem
(which had already occurred De Carne Christi 3) substituted 
for it: though it is evident from the context in each case
that Tertullian's meaning is the same whichever expression he uses.

The series of dogmatic works (with the exception of Adversus
and De Anima, which belong to the Montanist period)
appears to have been systematically planned, for as far as their
relative dates can be ascertained they follow a natural order of


subject-matter. The earliest of them was De Praescriptione Haereticorum 
intended to prejudge the case against all heretics whatsoever 
(but with the gnostics particularly in view) on the plea that
the novelty of their doctrines and the recent emergence of their
sects prove their falsity: for the truth must lie with the churches
which are in agreement with the apostolic sees of Christendom to
which we have to assume that their founders committed the true
faith: and further, the Scriptures themselves are the possession of
these churches, and these alone (and not the heretics) have the
right to appeal to them.

The five books Against Marcion were published separately as
they were completed. The earlier books at least got into circulation 
in falsified or mutilated form, and had to be revised once and
again by their author. In De Carne Christi 7 there is an explicit
reference to the fourth book against Marcion, and throughout this
book there are many reminiscences of the argument and the
phraseology of the larger work. Hermogenes was a painter,
resident apparently at Carthage, who attempted to explain the
evil that is in the world by the theory that God made it out of some
pre-existent matter which was intractable under his handling: the
book Adversus Hermogenem controverts this excursion into Marcionism 
by one who was not himself a Marcionite.

The treatise Against the Valentinians is a translation of parts of the
first book of Irenaeus Against the Heresies. Irenaeus had thought
that part of the attraction of gnosticism was that it claimed to
communicate to its adherents precious and secret knowledge: for
it was their practice (for which they were severely criticized by
the church writers) to baptize first and instruct afterwards. It was
therefore reasonable to expect that if their secret doctrines could
be discovered and published abroad, a great deal of their attraction
would disappear. Irenaeus therefore begins his work by describing
at length the tenets of the various gnostic sects, beginning with
those of the Valentinians, who were the most influential of them.
With the same end in view Tertullian turned into Latin the pertinent 
sections of his predecessor's work, adding little or nothing
of his own: even the quips and sarcasms are copied along with
the rest. Somewhat later than this the book called Scorpiace


(i.e. remedy against scorpion-bites) is Tertullian's own argument
against the gnostic pretension that believers are justified in denying
Christ so as to escape persecution. It appears that readers of De
Carne Christi
are supposed to have read Adversus Valentinianos and
to have a general knowledge of what the gnostic doctrines were.1



Like others of Tertullian's works, the present treatise, along with
its sequel De Resurrectione Carnis, is cast in the form of a suasoria.
As a form of academic exercise the suasoria was a speech purporting 
to be delivered in court against an adversary himself present
and open to attack. Tertullian, however, is not indulging in any
mere academic exercise: he is as serious as the great orators were,
and the more so as the subject of his oration is of greater moment.
In the present instance, perhaps in conscious imitation of Cicero,
he presents his case in two speeches, the actio prima, concerning the
reality of Christ's flesh, clearing the ground so that the actio
may prove the resurrection of the flesh of all mankind.

The rules governing the construction of the suasoria were based
on the practice of the great orators and the doctrines of the
rhetoricians,2 though it is evident that the orators at least regarded
them as general directions and not as imperative laws.3 Generally
speaking, a well constructed speech was supposed to fall into four
or five parts :4

(a) The purpose of the exordium or principium was to conciliate
the mind of the audience, an effect which, it was suggested, could
frequently be obtained by attacks on the character, intelligence, or

1 See Addendum on p. xliii.

2 See Benedetto Riposati, Studi sui 'Topica' di Cicerone (Milan, 1947), especially
the chapter Partes Orationis, pp. 264-284, where reference is made to Cicero and
other Greek and Latin writers on rhetoric.

3 Cf. Cicero, De Oratore, II. 19. 77-83 where Cicero (or Antonius) describes the
rhetoricians' doctrine as perridicula--i.e. as common sense dressed up in unnecessarily 
fine language, defining rules on a subject in which accurate definition
is impossible.

4 Cicero, Topica 97; De Inventione I. 4. 19; I. 31. 143; II. 19. 79.


veracity of the opponents, si eos aut in odium aut in invidiam aut in
contemptionem adducemus

(b) The narratio was a statement of the question at issue, developing 
if necessary into partitio, the division of the subject under its
several aspects.

(c) The fides quae sequitur narrationem comprised the proof of
one's own case (confirmatio) and the refutation of the adversary's

(d) Room is sometimes found for an amplificatio, in which quae
pro nobis essent amplificanda et augenda quaeque essent pro adversariis
infirmanda atque frangenda.

(e) The peroratio or conclusio.

This is the scheme here followed by Tertullian. The exordium
(§1) consists of a brief statement of the case and of its practical
importance, together with an attack on the intelligence of Marcion
and Apelles, who are spoken of throughout as though present in
court. The narratio (§§2-16) necessarily develops into partitio, for
the claims of Marcion, Apelles, the Valentinians, and others have
to be examined separately: and, as they have to be separately
refuted, the reprehensio in each instance follows the statement of
their case. The amplificatio (§§17-23) considers in detail the
scriptural texts which bear on Christ's human descent and his
nativity, rescuing them from false interpretations which have been
put upon them, and showing that their only conceivable meaning
is that Christ was possessed of truly human flesh derived from his
mother, and through her from David, from Abraham, and from
Adam. The peroratio (§§24-25) summarizes the scriptural evidence 
and suggests that the decision of the present question will
serve as a leading case for the further claim that our natural human
flesh will undoubtedly rise again, seeing that it is of the same
quality as the flesh of Christ which has already risen.

The narratio and partitio (§§2-16) form a refutation of three sets
of unsatisfactory answers to the questions briefly stated in the
exordium--caro Christi an fuerit et unde et quomodo fuerit. As against
Marcion, Tertullian sets out to prove that the flesh of Christ was

1 Cicero, De Inventione I. 15. 20. Of this advice Tertullian, in the present work
and elsewhere, makes only too abundant use.


real human flesh, and that the events of his life were real events,
devoid of pretence or phantasy (§§2-5). As against Apelles, who
was not at all points in agreement with his master, it is shown that
Christ's flesh was born by a real human birth, of a mother known
and acknowledged to be his mother (§§6-9). Against certain unnamed 
Valentinians and Alexander, Tertullian proves that Christ's
flesh was neither 'soul made visible', nor was it of angelic origin or
quality, nor composed of'spirit', in the peculiar gnostic sense of
that term (§§10-16).

Under this general scheme, the argument proceeds as follows:

Exordium (§1)

Those who deny that our flesh will rise again are forced by their
own logic to deny that the flesh of Christ, who it is admitted did
rise again, was truly human flesh. Thus it is our task to prove the
verity of Christ's flesh as against Marcion who denied both flesh
and nativity, against Apelles who admitted the flesh but denied
the nativity, and against Valentinus who professedly admitted
both but put an unnatural meaning upon them.

Narratio and partitio (§§2-16)

(a) Against Marcion (§§2-5). The annunciation to Mary, combined 
with the prophecy of Isaiah, and the Gospel narrative concerning 
the angelic host, the shepherds, the wise men and Herod,
the circumcision, and the prophecies of Simeon and Anna--all of
which Marcion has excised from his gospel--are plain evidence of
Christ's nativity (§2). Denial of Christ's human birth can only be
based upon the assumption that for God to be born is either
impossible or unseemly. But with God nothing is impossible
except what is not his will. The question what may or may not
have been his will cannot be discussed as a matter of abstract
theory, but only in the light of recorded fact: and the records
prove that it was God's will to be born. Even if we disregard the
nativity stories which Marcion has excised, we have to admit that
the fact that Christ gave the impression of being human is a proof
that he was human and had been born into that estate: for one


thing that is impossible for God is that he should act deceitfully.
Moreover, our adversaries have no reason to fear that God, in
truly assuming manhood, should have ceased to be God. God
cannot cease to be what he is: and we for our part have never
alleged that God was in such sense made flesh as to cease for the
future to be what he was before. When angels appeared in human
shape they were still angels: and the Holy Spirit remained Holy
Spirit when he descended in the bodily form of a dove (§3).
Since, then, the assumption of human flesh is neither impossible
for God nor imperils his deity, our adversaries are thrown back
upon their remaining argument. They rehearse with perverse
delight what they term the filth and nastiness of childbirth,
stigmatizing it as unworthy of God. In so doing they show their
distaste for humanity itself. But it was precisely this humanity
that Christ loved, redeeming it at great cost, having chosen the
foolish things of the world to confound the wise (§4). For that
matter, what can be more foolish than the Passion of Christ? And
this would have been an impossibility if he had not been truly
man. Marcion in fact denies that Christ's Passion was more than
appearance, and that his death was a real death: in so doing he
provides excuses for those who put him to death. We, however,
maintain that Christ is both spirit (for God is spirit) and flesh
(for man is flesh), and that he is both of these not in pretence but
in truth, since he himself is the Truth (§5).

(b) Against Apelles (§§6-9). Marcion's successors, differing in
this respect from their master, admit the verity of Christ's flesh,
though they deny that it was born. Yet how could it have been
flesh, except it had been born? They reply that it could have been
derived from the stars, or from the substances of the upper, the
ideal, world, alleging the example of the angels who, without any
process of birth, appeared in the flesh to the patriarchs and others.
But those angels are not in parallel case with Christ; they assumed
flesh without any intention of dying, and thus there was no need
for them to be born. But Christ's intention was to die, and so it
was essential that he should be born: whereas, on other occasions,
in the theophanies, when God the Son presented himself in human
flesh, it was not as yet his purpose to die, and consequently there


was no need for him to be born. Moreover, there is no evidence
that those angels did derive their flesh from any celestial substance:
it is equally possible that they constructed for themselves flesh out
of nothing. We know nothing for certain about this, for Scripture
is silent on the matter. This however we do know, that if flesh is
to experience death it must first have experienced nativity (§6).
The text, 'Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?' is
quoted by Apelles as though our Lord were denying that he had a
mother or brethren. Actually the question was intended as a
rebuke to his mother and his brethren, either because of their unbelief 
or because of their importunity in distracting him from his
divine work. There is also in this text a parable of the synagogue
in the mother who was estranged, and of the Jews in the brethren
who did not believe (§7). When Apelles and his like suggest that
Christ's flesh was composed of celestial elements they are inconsistent 
with their own principal theory, that the universe was
created by a certain 'fiery prince of evil'. If that were true, the
whole world would be the outcome of sin, and the celestial
elements, being part of the world, would owe their existence to
sin: so that, as between celestial and terrestrial, there would be
nothing to choose in the matter of badness. Certainly the apostle
writes, 'The second man is from heaven': but on reflextion it
becomes evident that he is not suggesting that there was in Christ
a different sort of celestial matter, but is contrasting the heavenly
and spiritual (that is, the divine) substance of Christ, the second
Adam, with the earthly substance of the flesh of the first Adam
(§8). So far is it from being the case that Christ's flesh was of
celestial quality, that it bore such definite evidences of its terrestrial
origin as to conceal from common eyes the fact that he was the
Son of God: and moreover, his Passion, with the indignities to
which he was subjected, is sufficient proof that his flesh was not
only human, but even uncomely (§9).

(c) Against certain unnamed theorists, and Valentinus and
Alexander (§§10-16). There are some who affirm that Christ's
flesh was made out of soul. We ask, to what purpose? If for the
purpose of saving the soul (for these people regard the flesh as
incapable of salvation) we ask whether they suppose it was 


impossible for him to have saved the soul except by first turning it
into flesh. If such were the case, it was no soul of ours that he
delivered: for our soul has not been turned into flesh (§ 10). Again
they argue that God's reason for turning soul into flesh, and
making it into a body, was that he was anxious to make soul
visible to men. This is as much as to say that he turned soul into
darkness for the purpose of causing it to shine. Moreover, even if
it were necessary to display soul as body, it would have been much
more fitting to display it in its own body (for soul, being a real
thing, is body, of a kind), or (if soul be itself incorporeal) as some
new kind of body, and not as a body already earmarked as that of
something else, namely flesh. It was, however, Christ's will to
live a human life: and this he could only do by assuming a soul of
human fashion, not turning it into flesh but clothing it with flesh
(§11). Further, what reason was there for making soul visible to
itself? It was already sufficiently cognisant of itself. The reason
why the Son of God came down and took to himself a soul was
not that soul should obtain cognisance of itself in Christ, but that
it should be made competent to know Christ in itself: for it was in
danger of perishing, not through ignorance of itself (for it was not
ignorant of itself) but through ignorance of the divine Word
(§12). And further, if soul were turned into flesh so as to be
shown to be soul, it would follow that flesh must be turned into
soul so as to be shown to be flesh. In such a case neither of them
would be itself, and each of them would be neither. If things are
not what they are, and cease to be described by their own names,
all rational thought becomes impossible. But the evidence of the
Gospels, and of our Lord himself, is that he possessed both soul and
flesh, and that each of them retained its own characteristics: nor is
there anywhere any indication of the existence of such a combination 
as flesh-soul or soul-flesh (§13). A further suggestion
--made to meet our objection that their theory would leave
Christ without an effective soul--is that he also clothed himself
with an angel. There can be no satisfactory reason for this. His
reason for clothing himself with manhood was the redemption of
mankind. There can have been no such reason for him to clothe
himself with an angel, for he had received from the Father no


commandment concerning the salvation of angels. Nor can it
have been that he needed the angel as helper for a work he was
competent to do of himself, and indeed there would have been no
need for him to come in person if he were going to use an angel
as his agent. Certainly, the scripture refers to him as the angel of
great counsel: but here 'angel' means messenger, and indicates
function, not nature. It is true that, as clothed with manhood, he
has been made lower than the angels: yet he never speaks, as the
prophet does, of 'the angel that spake in me'; and since he never
says, 'Thus saith the Lord' but always 'But I say unto you', he
shows himself greater than the prophets, even though, in the flesh,
he has been made lower than the angels (§14).

Valentinus invented for Christ a kind of'spiritual' flesh--flesh
composed of the elements of his supposed transcendental ideal,
world. There can be no limit to conjectures, once we lay aside the
testimony of the Scriptures, which say that Christ is man, and the
Son of Man. It is objected, by one of Valentinus' faction, that if
Christ's flesh was of earthly origin it must of necessity have been
conceived 'by the will of a man'. There is no such need. Nor is
there any force in their argument that flesh of earthly origin would
make Christ lower than the angels: for we admit, and Christ himself 
admits, that as man he is lower than the angels. 'Why then,
they ask, if Christ's flesh is like ours, does not ours also rise again
immediately after death, like his?' Because it has to wait until he
has put all enemies under his feet (§15). The same sectary brings
as an argument in favour of his theory a statement he imputes to
us, that Christ took upon him flesh of earthly origin so that he
might bring to nought the flesh of sin. This is to misinterpret the
apostle's meaning, which is not that he caused flesh to cease to be
flesh, but that he brought to nought the sin that was in the flesh;
for in taking upon him our flesh he made it his own and thus
caused it to cease to be sinful (§16).

Amplificatio (§§17-23)

Leaving now this discussion of other men's baseless suggestions,
we rest our case on the fact that it was from the Virgin that Christ
took his flesh, and that it was flesh, of her substance, that he took


from her. As the author of the new birth he must needs himself
be born in a new manner. The new birth takes place when man is
born in God: for God has been born in man, taking to himself
flesh of the ancient seed without the operation or agency of the
ancient seed: so that Mary's faith in the divine message undid the
effect of Eve's faith in the serpent's deception (§17). It was neither
proper nor feasible for the Son of God to be born of human seed:
for in that case he would have been wholly a son of man and
could not have been also the Son of God. But he himself, in such
a saying as 'The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak', gives clear
indication of both the one and the other of his two substances, the
Spirit (for God is spirit) and the flesh (§ 18). When the evangelist
says that Christ was not born 'of the will of the flesh', he does not
mean to deny that he was born of the substance of the flesh: nor
is that the significance of 'not of blood'. What he does deny is the
actual material of human male seed, which it is admitted is the
operative heat of the blood. But as concerning the mother's
womb the circumstances are different: if he did not take to himself 
flesh from the womb, it was to no purpose that he ever entered
the womb: the process would have been less complicated outside
the womb (§19). Our adversaries make some attempt to play
about with prepositions, substituting 'by a virgin' for 'of a virgin'
and 'in the womb' for 'of the womb'. But both Matthew and
Paul and John declare that Christ was born 'of' Mary; and Christ
himself in the psalm says, 'Thou art he that didst rend me out of
my mother's womb'--a strong expression which indicates that he
actually adhered to his mother's body and at his birth brought
with him some of her substance (§20). Moreover, what reason
would there be for his being born of the Virgin unless that which
the Virgin brought forth is something of her own? How is he
the fruit of her womb, unless the fruit is hers whose the womb is?
How is he the flower out of the root of Jesse, unless the flower
springs 'out of' Mary? (§21). Again, how is Christ the seed of
Abraham and of the loins of David, and how is he the second
Adam, unless he is 'of' Mary who is descended through David
and through Abraham from Adam? (§22). In the case of Christ
there is a special appropriateness in the expression 'openeth the


womb': for the virginity which remained intact at the conception
became womanhood at the nativity--which is why the apostle
says 'born of a woman' (§23).

Conclusio (§§24, 25)

In a number of texts of the prophets and apostles the Holy Spirit
summarily condemns these and all other heretics who deny either
the unity of God, or Christ's divine sonship, or the reality of his
human flesh (§24). A decision on the plea here argued will establish 
a precedent in view of further discussion of the resurrection:
for we have made it clear that the flesh of Christ which is risen
again is flesh of our pattern, and consequently his resurrection has
set the norm for ours (§25).



If the discourses of St Peter and St Paul, summarized in the Acts of
the Apostles, are an authentic record of early apostolic preaching,
it is evident that the main tenor of that preaching was that Jesus of
Nazareth, who had (as the audience could easily recollect or
ascertain) died upon the cross and been buried, had also upon the
third day risen (or been raised) from the dead and had afterwards
ascended into heaven: that his resurrection from the dead (which
the audience apparently had no difficulty in accepting as a fact,
on the testimony of the apostles that they had seen him and
spoken to him) must be interpreted, in view of certain texts of the
Scriptures, as proving that he was the expected Messiah: and that,
this being so, it must be assumed, in view of the same or other
texts of Scripture, that he would come again to fulfil the remaining 
Messianic function of judgement: and further, that only such
as had meanwhile become reconciled to him by repentance and
baptism would be recognized by him as his own at his coming,
and would have nothing to fear of his displeasure.1

1 The above is the substance of St Peter's speech on the day of Pentecost. If
this is not an authentic record, it would be as well to admit the impossibility of
our ever discovering what the early preaching was. There are no other records
to which reference can be made. And, if the apostles said anything less than


The silence of this early preaching concerning any resurrection
but that of Christ is not difficult to understand. The discourses
were not addressed to believers, who might have needed further
enlightenment or have been moved to ask questions, but in every
case to those whom the apostles desired to convince: and, their
primary purpose being to establish the Messiahship of Jesus and to
convert the hearers to action in accordance with that belief, there
was no need, and little opportunity, to go beyond the facts, their
interpretation in the light of the Scriptures, and the exhortation to
repentance and baptism. Moreover, the thought of the possible,
or even probable, proximity of the second Advent with its 'times
of refreshing' (Acts 3. 19), would have precluded any widespread 
concern about the future of the individual believer: it was
not until later (1 Thess. 5.13) that anxiety arose concerning those
who before the Advent had fallen asleep. The Jewish mind was
not accustomed to think of any future life there may be in terms
of the immortality of the soul--which was a Greek conception--
but in terms of the conservation or the redintegration of manhood 
in all its constituents. As soon as the apostles' converts were
assured of their place within the Messianic kingdom, at once they
would assume that they would be there in their completeness.
Christian doctrine from the beginning is not of the immortality
of the soul (if that concept had meant anything at all to the Jewish
mind, it might have been taken for granted) but of the resurrection 
of the dead.

But almost at once, in 1 Corinthians 15, we find the germ of
future objections. 'Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom
of God': this is what the objectors said, and St Paul admits the
fact1 but denies the deductions they drew from it. To them ' flesh
and blood' meant the material constituents of human bodies with

they are recorded as saying, they can have said nothing that it was worth any
one's while to believe or to disbelieve, nothing upon which a 'good news'
could have been built, and nothing to justify the authorities in trying to silence

1 1 Cor. 15. 50. tou~to de/ fhmi means 'This I admit'. If the apostle had been
making the statement on his own account he would probably have said tou~to
de\ le/gw


all their inconveniences and disabilities. In these Gentile circles
there has apparently been no thought of an earthly Messianic
kingdom with its centre in Jerusalem: the kingdom of God is
located in heaven, and these material things are unworthy of a
place there. The objectors (even though they were Greeks) do
not seem, so far as St Paul's words take us, to have substituted a
theory of the immortality or the resuscitation of the soul: they
were merely uncertain of the future of themselves and of those
who had fallen asleep in Christ. Stated in those terms, the objection 
was unanswerable, as St Paul admits. But the Christian hope
cannot be stated in those terms: so long as we view human nature
only in terms of its disabilities we shall get nowhere: it must be
considered in view of its possibilities. Which is what St Paul proceeds 
to do--or rather, he has already, in the preceding paragraph,
shown how he is going to do it. The body, after its resurrection,
will be a 'spiritual body'--which, as the context shows, cannot be
taken to mean a body composed of spirit, for in that case the
present 'natural body' would need to be composed of soul. Rather
will it be the case that as the body now, while 'natural', is
governed by the soul and thus is something much better than dead
matter, so, after the resurrection and the transformation which
Christ will effect at his coming, the body will be so under the
control of spirit that its present disabilities will all disappear. St
Paul might not have recognized our terms, but what he seems to
mean is that while the substance of the body remains itself, there
will be such a change of its quality that it will no longer be rightly
described as 'flesh and blood', and will escape the opprobrium
which is usually implied by that phrase.

St Paul's explanation seems to have removed any difficulties of
this kind, at least for the time being: for it appears from Heb. 6. 2
that the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgement were
among those doctrines which the second generation of Christian
believers could be assumed to accept without question as 'first
principles of Christ'. Some complication was introduced into the
matter, even beyond those circles in which the Johannine Apocalypse 
was explicitly known, by its distinction (20. 4-6) between a
first resurrection, of the martyrs alone, who will reign on earth


with Christ for a thousand years, and the second and general
resurrection to be followed by the judgement and the establishment 
of the new heaven and the new earth. This theme, which
afterwards came to be looked upon with disfavour, is taken up
throughout the second century not only by simple-minded persons 
such as Papias, but by writers also of unexceptionable credit
such as Justin and Irenaeus. It was pressed with vigour by the
Montanists (though it does not seem that Tertullian was very
interested in it) and this may be one reason why succeeding
generations tacitly allowed it to drop.

That difficulties were felt about the resurrection, even in circles
professedly orthodox, is evident from the solution of them offered
by Athenagoras. But for the most part, during the second century
and later, those who denied the general resurrection were moved
not by the a posteriori consideration of physical difficulties but by
the a priori assumption that material things are evil in their origin,
are unworthy of God's interest and attention, and are incapable of
being made fit for the life to come. This at once affects, or is
affected by, two further doctrines, of creation and of the incarnation, 
and it is these with which Tertullian has to deal in the series
of treatises Against Hermogenes, On the Flesh of Christ, and On
the Resurrection of the Flesh.
There is also involved the doctrine of
the Atonement, which in the long run, though they are not always
explicit about it, is the test by which, in the view of the fathers,
all doctrines stand or fall. And finally, there is involved the
question of morals, particularly in that restricted sense in which
in some quarters the seventh commandment (and all that it
implies) was and is regarded as the primary (and almost the only)
moral precept: for if the flesh is not of God's creation, if it was not
really sanctified by the Incarnation, and if it can have no part in
eternal life, then it is a thing of no account; and in that case it
seems to be a matter of opinion whether it should be maltreated
with excessive rigorism, or equally maltreated by allowing it unbridled 
licence--for each of these views found favour among the
sectaries against whom controversial works are directed.

We have said that the doctrine of redemption, in its final
effects as in its efficient cause, is inextricably bound up with the


doctrine of creation, and that both these doctrines are equally
bound up with the doctrine of the Incarnation. If it is the case
that the created world is God's handiwork, there arises a general
presumption that the elements of the world, purged (as necessary)
of imperfections for which God cannot be held responsible, have a
permanent value in the eyes of their Creator. If it is the case that
at the Incarnation God the Son took upon him created human
nature in its completeness, and after his resurrection carried it up
into heaven, there again arises a presumption that what he has
done in himself he will also do with us, and that at the consummation 
of all things it will be human nature in its completeness which
will enjoy the full benefits of redemption. If, on the other hand,
material things in general, and the human body in particular,
either as what they are or as the best they are capable of becoming,
are so smirched and degraded as to be unworthy of God's interest,
or even more if they are smirched and degraded in their very
origins, or if the nature of God himself is such that he is incapable
of any interest in them, it would follow that the supposed incarnation 
of the divine Word or Son never really happened, that
his human life and his redemptive act were a mere appearance,
that the resurrection which the apostles preached amounted to no
more than the disappearance from human view of what had been
merely the phantasm of a body, and that the doctrine of redemption 
must be reduced to the status of a parable of what God would
have done had he been competent (or had he thought it necessary)
to do it.

Thus it was with reference to Christ's human nature, with
reference to the truth of the Incarnation, that docetism first raised
its superficially attractive head, and it was with the same reference
again that it showed itself in the gnosticism and Marcionism of the
second century, the Apollinarianism of the fourth, and the monophysitism 
(and its derivatives) of the fifth century and later, not to
speak of its recurrence in certain parodies of Christianity in our
own times. There is always (to give the misguided such credit as
is due) a desire to be more zealous for God's honour than he is for
his own. But the reference could not be held at that one point.
The doctrine of creation was bound to be affected, as the theorists


of the second century saw, for if the created world is unworthy of
God, or incapable of being redeemed by him, neither can he be
held responsible for its beginnings. And moreover, if Christ's
assumption of human nature was mere pretence, or was incomplete 
in any particular, then the redemption of mankind has
to be interpreted as equally a matter of human orientation or as
equally incomplete. It is by the doctrine of the Atonement, in the
first or the last resort, that Christian verity stands the test, and it is
by their incompetence to meet that doctrine that all heresies fall.

It is then with good reason that Tertullian, having treated of
the doctrine of creation in response to the theories of the Valentinians 
and Hermogenes, finds it advisable to clear up the doctrine
of the Incarnation as a necessary prelude to the discussion of the
resurrection of the dead. His method, here as elsewhere, is to 
discountenance all argument from preconceived theories. To his
mind theology is not a deductive but an inductive science. Its
function is not to draw theoretical conclusions from universal
major premisses as to what God ought to be and to do, but to
discover from the evidence of the Scriptures what in fact God is,
and what he is recorded to have done and to have promised to do.
Certainly there is an initial prejudice in favour of the traditional
faith of the apostolic churches. Tertullian is even prepared to
claim that the mere statement of this faith might reasonably be
regarded as sufficient to discountenance all forms of heresy. But
he will not insist on that. He is ready, ex abundanti, to examine the
records in each several case, using the apostolic faith (as he uses the
thoughts, and sometimes the words, of his predecessors in this
field) not as a major premiss to govern all discussion but as an
unobtrusive norm or canon (regula) by which to ensure the
validity of his own interpretation of the facts recorded.

On the subjects discussed in this treatise and its companion the
scriptural data are: (1) That our Lord Jesus Christ is evidently
declared, both in fact and word, to be both God and Man;
(2) That since the beginning of Christianity the apostolic preaching 
and the faith of the Church have been that having truly died
upon the cross for our redemption he rose again from the
dead and afterwards ascended into heaven; (3) That the apostles


themselves, with our Lord's own words to guide them, taught that
as Christ rose again from the dead, so he will also raise us up again
at his coming; and (4) That in the older record of God's revelation
it is stated (on the authority of the Holy Spirit) that God is the
sole and only creator of the world, and that since the beginning he
has been preparing by his guidance of events and by the word of
prophecy for the redemptive act which Christ was to perform and
is still to complete; and that it has been abundantly proved that
there is no part of his creation which is beyond the range of his
grace and power. These facts are beyond question: but they are a
consistent whole and not a series of isolated data. Tertullian holds
the faith in a wide and inclusive grasp, while prepared, if need be,
to examine it in detail so as to prove its consistency with itself and
with the documents which vouch for it. He will do this, as he
repeatedly says, ex abundanti, at the same time as he examines the
theories of his adversaries and shows that they are inconsistent
both with themselves and with the records from which they also
claim, as it suits their purpose, to derive some degree of support.
The adversaries in view in the present work are Marcion, his
one-time disciple Apelles, and the Valentinians. A brief account of
Marcion and Apelles follows: to give a satisfactory account of the
Valentinian system would entail the transcribing of the whole of
Tertullian's treatise against them, or of the first book of Irenaeus
against the Heresies, which all subsequent writers on the subject
drew upon. Sufficient for the understanding of Tertullian's
criticisms will be found in the notes on the text (pages 87, 128,
146, and 165).



It is perhaps unfortunate that our information about Marcion and
his tenets comes almost exclusively from his adversaries; but it by
no means follows that the statements they make are false.1 Certainly 

1 This account of Marcion and his doctrines is drawn up almost entirely from
data supplied by Tertullian. Much has been written on the subject since
the publication of the Dictionary of Christian Biography: but George Salmon's
article there is still valuable as giving most of the available references, along
with a far from unsympathetic assessment of Marcion himself. It is also a
brilliant piece of writing.


we may discount Tertullian's sarcasms on his Pontic origin,
for he came from Sinope, not (as Tertullian suggests) from the
Crimea: we may refuse also any suggestion (which indeed Tertullian 
does not make) that he was insincere. We may perhaps,
but with some hesitation, accept the statement that when he first
appeared in Rome1 his faith was that of the Church--with hesitation 
because a developed doctrine such as his is not the work of a
day, or even of a few months. In Tertullian's day a letter was
extant which was referred to as evidence of his original orthodoxy.
But when and for what purpose was it written?2 Hardly, as is
suggested, for the satisfaction of the Roman Church at his reception 
into it: neither then nor now are churches accustomed to
demand written professions of faith from laymen, or even clerics,
unless they are already suspect. It is true, but not for our purpose
important, that in the first fervour of faith he made the Roman
Church a present of 200,000 sesterces, which were returned to
him when he was expelled from the Church. In the same context3  
we are told that he was twice expelled from the Church,
and the unlikely statement is made that when he sought to be
restored a third time he was promised acceptance on condition
that he brought back with him all whom he had led astray--a
condition manifestly impossible of fulfilment--but that he died
before he could manage this. He had in fact, in less than a generation, 
succeeded in founding not a mere local sect but a worldwide 
society with an organization copied from (perhaps in some
respects in advance of) that of the Church, a society strong enough

1 The date is somewhat uncertain. About 130 would not be far out. Dr
Salmon wrote (in the article referred to) that 'the beginning of Marcionism was
so early that the church writers of the end of the second century, who are our
best authorities, do not seem themselves able to tell with certainty the story of its
commencement'. But it was already a menace when Justin wrote his Apology:
I. 26, 58 and perhaps Dial. 35.

2 Adv. Marc. I. 1, primam eius fidem nobiscum fuisse etc. Another letter is referred
to, De Carne Christi 2, rescindendo quod retro credidisti, sicut et ipse confiteris in
quadam epistula et tui non negant et nostri probant.

3 De Praescr. 30, Postmodum Marcion paenitentiam confessus, cum condicioni datae
sibi occurrit, ita pacem recepturus si ceteros quos perditioni erudisset ecclesiae restitueret,
morte praeventus est.


to survive, even if on a reduced footing, for several centuries.
He must therefore have been a man of strong convictions and
impressive personality, as well as of some business ability, all of
which seems inconsistent with frequent wandering into the
Church and out.

It is not easy to determine at what point his doctrine started, or
which was its central tenet. He rejected the Old Testament as
being, though a true historical record, the work of an inferior
god: but of antisemitism there is no suggestion. Many ancient
heretics were deeply concerned about the origin of evil. Marcion
had things to say about this, attributing it (as did others) to the
intractability of matter and the incompetence of the creator.
Tertullian mentions this,1 and suggests also the influence of secular
philosophy:2 but neither of these appears to be central. Tertullian
also remarks that Marcion's primary error, an error which he was
the first to make, was in his doctrine of God: 'Doubts about the
Son were more common than doubts about the Father, until
Marcion inferred, in addition to the Creator, another god whose
sole attribute was goodness. '3 And it is the case that he postulated
two gods, ' of unequal rank, the one a judge, stern and warlike,
the other mild, placid, only kind, and supremely good'.4 The
creation of the world and the whole course of history recorded in
the Old Testament, along with the Christ there prophesied,
whom the Jews are still expecting, he ascribed to the former: to
the latter he ascribed the saving of the world through the Christ
whom Christians believe. And here perhaps we come to the
heart of the matter.

According to Marcion, Christ appeared, unheralded and 
unexpected, the representative of a god hitherto unknown, an

1 Adv. Marc. I. 2, languens enim (quod et nunc multi, et maxime haeretici) circa mali
quaestionem, unde malum, etc.

2 De Praescr. 7, Ea est enim materia sapientiae saecularis, temeraria interpres divinae
naturae et dispositionis, etc.

3 De Praescr. 34, Facilius de filio quam de patre haesitabatur donec Marcion praeter
creatorem alium deum solius bonitatis induceret.

4 Adv. Marc. I. 6, Marcionem dispares deos constituere, alterum iudicem ferum
bellipotentem, alterum mitem placidum et tantummodo bonum atque optimum.


intruder into a world not his own, with the function of delivering
men from the power of their creator. He appeared in a phantasm
of a body, and it is the soul only which he will save, the flesh being
incapable of salvation. His mission was to reveal that unknown
god, and involved the repudiation of all that was past: so much so,
that the righteous men of the Old Testament, the servants of the
creator, have no part in this new redemption, which is however
extended to such as Cain and others who by rebellion against the
creator showed themselves capable of being transferred to his rival
and superior.1

There is one apparent inconsistency in Marcion's reconstruction.
Naturally, as the Christ who appeared by Jordan had but a
phantasm of a body, there can have been no nativity, no childhood, 
and no growth to manhood: the early chapters of St Luke,
which narrate such things, have to go, and all other references to
earthly relationships have either to be removed or explained
away. One might have expected the passion to be similarly
excised. But this Marcion did not do,2 though he was bound to
interpret it docetically. And this perhaps is the key to the matter.
The passion was too important, too deeply entrenched in Christian
thought and devotion, for anyone to omit it: and it seems as if, in
Marcion's view, Christ himself was so important that he must be
placed in isolation from all earthly relationships, unconnected
with anything that had ever gone before, independent even of the
God who made the world. The name of Christ is always attractive : 
the exaltation of Christ has always an appeal. It might have
been a matter for marvel if a new theory of the creation of the
world, coupled with a repudiation of the prophets and a series of
antitheses in which one scripture was set against another, had
proved so attractive as to become the basis of a world-wide society
in half a generation: but that the exaltation of the name of Christ,
however wrongheaded in manner and consequence, should have

1 Adv. Marc. I-III, passim.

2 De Carne Christi 5, Sunt plane et alia tam stulta, quae pertinent ad contumelias et
passiones dei: aut prudentiam dicant deum crucifixum. aufer hoc quoque, Marcion.
Evidently he had not done so: the passion narrative was retained in his mutilated


had this effect is not at all surprising. And it is consistent with this
that Marcionites, almost alone of the heretics of that day, did not
refuse martyrdom, and that not even Tertullian has any strictures
he can make upon the morals either of Marcion or of his

It may have been some such considerations as these, or possibly
it was exclusive and unintelligent concentration upon what are
still euphemistically referred to as 'Bible difficulties', which 
suggested to Marcion that separation of the Old Testament and the
New which came to be regarded as his special characteristic.1 The
denial of the divine authority of the Old Testament inevitably
entailed a good deal of editing of the New. All those texts had to
be removed in which our Lord speaks of himself, or is spoken of
by the apostles, as fulfilling the Law and the Prophets, as well as
all those others in which the Old Testament is quoted with
approval or in support of Christian teaching. Seizing upon a
certain text of Galatians (which some moderns have used for the
same purpose, with even less excuse) Marcion postulated a
fundamental disagreement between the rest of the apostles and St
Paul, affirming that while the others became apostates to Judaism,
Paul alone became an authentic apostle of Christ. Hence 
Marcion's New Testament consisted of the Gospel according to St
Luke which (largely on the evidence of the Acts, which Marcion
rejected) is known to be of Pauline origin, and ten epistles of
St Paul2--though even here there had to be some editing, for the
Nativity stories of St Luke were unacceptable, as were the last two
chapters of Romans, and other isolated texts which were either
removed or rewritten.3

The Old Testament was not rejected by Marcion as being 

1 Adv. Marc. I. 19, Separatio legis et evangelii proprium et principale opus est

2 Excluding the Pastorals and (of course) Hebrews. The Pastorals were afterwards 
accepted by Marcion's disciples.

3 Tertullian's fourth and fifth books against Marcion examine these documents
text by text with intent to show that Marcion is proved mistaken even on
evidence accepted by himself. Hence we can ascertain with fair accuracy what
Marcion's text was.


untrue but as being non-Christian. It was still regarded as an
authentic record of human history and as the work of the servants
of the God who made the world. Hence Marcion was compelled
to invent another god, the father of his Christ, and another Christ
(the one promised in the Old Testament) who was still to come
to save the Jews only by giving them political supremacy.1
Marcion's Christ appeared suddenly and unannounced by the
banks of Jordan2 in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar to reveal to
mankind the existence of a superior god hitherto unknown and
unsuspected, who would deliver them from the inflictions imposed 
upon them by their Creator. This Christ possessed but a
phantasm of a body, for of course it was impossible for him to
make use of the works of the Creator--though, as Tertullian
points out, Marcion himself did not consistently follow out this
principle, for he still used the Creator's water for baptizing and
the Creator's bread and water for the eucharist, as well as the
Creator's land to kneel upon. Docetism, however, is of the essence
of this system,3 extending in a sense even to the Passion, for 
Marcion's Christ possessed no body which could suffer, though he did
(apparently) suffer in himself from the indignities to which the
Creator's servants subjected him. Marcion adopted from St Paul
(Eph. 4. 9) the doctrine of the descent into hell--a non-corporeal
descent, of course--so that the gospel was preached even to the
dead, with the result that the good men of the Old Testament
(Noah, Abraham, and others), being satisfied with their own God,
rejected this newcomer, whereas the bad men (Cain, the men of
Sodom, and so forth), being already in rebellion against their own

1 Adv. Marc. I. 19, cum ea separatio legis et evangelii ipsa sit quae alium deum
evangelii insinuaverit adversus deum legis.
It is to be observed that Tertullian
consistently speaks of the Creator as the true God, and of Marcion's deus
as no god at all. He will not even address the latter by the proper
vocative deus, but (as if the word were a proper noun, the name of an idol) as
dee (Adv. Marc. I. 29).

2 Or, according to another version, 'came down' to Capurnaum (Luke 4. 31),
all reference to Nazareth being omitted.

3 De Carne Christi 1, tw~| dokei=n, which evidently is not part of Tertullian's
refutation, but was a principle insisted upon by Marcion himself.


God, received the gospel and were saved. The resurrection appearances 
of this Christ were also docetic, though no more so than his
previous appearances: eventually the phantasm of a body disappeared 
into the nothingness from whence it came. It follows
from this--immo praecedebat--that the salvation of mankind is of
the soul only: or, as it is sometimes more accurately put, of
the spirit--for the soul is the breath of life breathed into Adam by
the Creator, whereas the spirit was secretly breathed in by
the 'superior god' without the knowledge of anyone but himself.

Marcion's doctrines were apparently for the most part disseminated 
by word of mouth. He had composed a book entitled
Antitheses: we have no precise knowledge of its contents, but it
may well have consisted of series of opposing texts calculated to
illustrate the opposition of the Old Testament to the New. It
seems as if the strongest weapon of the Marcionites was exposition
of the Scriptures in the sense of their own views. Tertullian's
answer to them, the five books Against Marcion, is a brilliant
presentation of the case for the other side. These may owe something 
to a book which Irenaeus at least intended to write (whether
he did or not, is uncertain); but most of them are evidently pure
Tertullian, always at his most forcible, sometimes at his best, and
only occasionally at his worst. If anyone were ever persuaded by
argument, this work might have had that effect: there is no reason
for supposing that it did not check the growth of the sect. Neither
Marcion nor Tertullian could have been expected to know of the
modern doctrine of progressive revelation. Both of them were
aware (at least from St Paul, Galatians 4. 21-26, which Marcion
had not excised, though he had altered it a little1) of the allegorical
method. Tertullian uses it, but only sparingly, and never transgressing 
the bounds of good sense: Marcion apparently used it,
not to resolve the difficulties of the Old Testament, but to impugn
the historicity of inconvenient passages in the Gospel.

It has been asked whether Marcion is to be counted as one of
the gnostics. He was apparently acquainted at one time with

1 Adv. Marc. v. 4, Marcionem novissimam Abrahae mentionem dereliquisse, nulla
magis auferenda, etsi ex parte convertit.


Valentinus1 but borrows none of his speculations. His doctrine of
the hitherto unknown god is broadly different from the essentially
unknown god of the gnostic schools. He is a docetist, but in a
different sense from theirs. His Creator is not a misguided demi-god, 
but a real God whom he misrepresents. But, most of all,
his gospel is not one of salvation by knowledge but of salvation
by faith, albeit in a merely phantasmal Christ, and this alone
would set him apart from them all.



Concerning Apelles not so much is known.2 He was a disciple of
Marcion, but left (or was expelled from) the Marcionite society.
The suggestion of incontinence as the reason for his expulsion may
rest on a misconception: in any case it is one so commonly preferred 
by ancient controversial writers against their adversaries
that it may be safely disregarded.3 Apelles apparently, having
been associated with Marcion in Rome, withdrew to Alexandria,
where he developed his doctrine, a modified Marcionism, which
(according to Tertullian) admitted that Christ possessed true
human flesh but continued to deny the nativity.4 At some period,
apparently late in his career, he attached himself to a clairvoyant
girl named Philumena who claimed (or was reputed) to be
possessed by an 'angel', who communicated to her revelations
(fanerw&seij) which were written down and read in public by
Apelles. Apelles' own book was entitled sullogismoi/, 'reasonings'
--though the word itself suggests that Apelles may have

1 De Carne Christi I.

2 The facts are collected and discussed in the article by Dr Hort in D.C.B.

3 De Praesc. 30, Si et Apellis stemma retractandum est, tam non vetus et ipse quam
Marcion institutor et praeformator eius, sed lapsus in feminam desertor continentiae
Marcionensis ab oculis sanctissimi magistri Alexandriam secessit. inde post annos
regressus non melior, nisi tantum quia iam non Marcionites, in alteram feminam
impegit, illam virginem Philumenen quam supra edidimus
(§6)...cuius energemate
circumventus quae ab ea didicit Phaneroses scripsit.

4 Adv. Marc. III. 11, Nam et Philumene illa magis persuasit Apelli ceterisque
desertoribus Marcionis ex fide quidem Christum circumtulisse carnem, nullius tamen
nativitatis, utpote de elementis eam mutuatum.


attempted to resolve some of the a)ntiqe/seij proposed by
Marcion. We last hear of him as resident at Rome, very old and
quiet, and disliking controversy, in the last decade of the second

Tertullian had written a treatise against the Apelleasts, which
has not survived. He refers to a theory of theirs that flesh was
constructed for seduced souls by a certain 'fiery prince of evil'.1
This has a gnostic sound and would indicate that Apelles held
a theory of creation nearer to that of Basilides or Valentinus
than was Marcion's theory as elsewhere described by Tertullian,
though not unlike the Marcionite mythology described by
Esnig.2 There seems a possibility that this mythology was that of
the later Marcionites, inherited not from Marcion but from
Apelles: and again a possibility that the serpent-worshipping
Marcionites converted by Theodoret and the serpent-worshipping
Yezidis who (at least until about 1918) lived in the neighbourhood
of Mosul had preserved a distorted version of that doctrine--as if
one should say, 'This is the god who is capable of doing harm,
and therefore the one who had better be kept in a good temper.'
Apelles himself, whatever his theories, seems to have been a less
formidable opponent than his master.



For the information (as distinct from the opinions) recorded in this
note the editor is indebted to the second volume of the second part of
Tertullian's works by Aemilius Kroymann (mentioned below), and to
the preface to Tertullian's works in Corpus Christianorum (1953), the
writer of which is unnamed.

The text of De Carne Christi depends on the testimony of three
groups of authorities, as follows:

I    Codex Agobardinus [A], of the ninth century, now at Paris
(B.N. fonds latin 1622), formerly the property of Agobard,
Bishop of Lyons (816-840). This, in its now mutilated state,

1 De Carne Christi 8 and De Anima 23 (quoted on page 122).

2 For which see Salmon's article on Marcion in D.C.B., pp. 821, 822, and the
reference to Neumann's translation from the Armenian there given.


contains thirteen treatises of Tertullian. It seems to be the
only representative of a larger collection of Tertullian's works
compiled perhaps as early as the fifth century. No other
extant manuscript seems to have been copied from this. Of
the present treatise it contains only chapters 1-9 and part
of 10.

II    A group of manuscripts, apparently first- or second-hand
copies of a codex (now lost) which was at Cluny in the
eleventh century and itself seems to represent a collection of
twenty-one treatises, made in Spain, perhaps under the 
direction of St Isidore, Bishop of Seville (600-636). Most extant
manuscripts are of this group. Its most important 
representatives are

Montepessulanus [M] (Montpellier H 54) of the eleventh
Paterniacensis [P] (Schlettstadt 439), also of the eleventh
Magliabechianus [F] (Florence conv. soppr. I. vi. 9) of
the fifteenth century (1426).
Magliabechianus [N] (Florence conv. soppr. I. vi. 10) of
the fifteenth century.

These last two appear to be copies of two now lost 
manuscripts of the Cluny group, both of which were known to
Beatus Rhenanus and were used by him in his first and third
editions (1521, 1539).

III    Codex Trecensis [T] (Troyes 523) formerly at Clairvaux,
itself of the twelfth century and the only extant representative
of a collection of five treatises made apparently in the fifth
century, possibly (it is suggested) by Vincent of Lerins. This
manuscript has only recently come to light, having been 
discovered by Dom Wilmart in 1916, though it or some of its
kindred were known to Martin Mesnart (1545) who records
some of its readings, and (it seems) to the copyists of the
otherwise valueless manuscripts quoted by Oehler as 
Leidensis and Luxemburgensis.

The older editions were based for the most part on manuscripts
of the Cluny group, which it was easy enough, when need arose,


to check by reference to Agobardinus. The discovery of Trecensis
complicated matters, throwing doubt on readings which might
otherwise have been considered satisfactory: and it was natural
enough that the greatest possible weight should be given to an
authority newly come to light. Aemilius Kroymann, in the most
recent edition [C.S.E.L. vol. LXX, 1942] observes with truth that
it most frequently supports Agobardinus when it differs from the
Cluny group: and this creates a presumption in favour of Trecensis 
against the others when Agobardinus fails. It is however
obvious that at least two, and perhaps all three, of these sets of
authorities have passed under an editorial hand, possibly the hand
of the fifth-century scholars who collected the works: and the
present editor (quamvis nullius maxime loci homo) is bound to 
confess that his own impression is that a very large number of the
readings of Trecensis come from the hand of an editor who (with
a good knowledge of Tertullian's style) wrote down what he
thought the author was likely to have written in preference to
what the evidence was that he did write. Among other things,
having observed that Tertullian usually refers to God the Father
as deus and to God the Son as dominus, the editor of Trecensis alters
deus to dominus in several instances where it rightly and naturally is
used of our Lord. He also, on occasion, seems to accommodate
scriptural quotations to the text with which he was familiar.

The text here presented cannot in the nature of things claim to
be definitive: possibly we never shall attain to a definitive text,
though there remain very few places where doubt about the text
involves any serious doubt about Tertullian's meaning. Let it be
said here that in no serious case has the reading of Trecensis been
rejected without careful consideration and for reasons which are
given in the notes. The manuscript readings throughout the book
are quoted (with this grateful acknowledgement) from Kroymann's 
apparatus criticus. Kroymann has suggested also a considerable 
number of readings of his own, some of which he has
incorporated into his text: he has also proposed in a number of
places a revised punctuation, where occasionally the same 
expedient had occurred to me independently. With many of Kroymann's 
new readings I have to my regret found myself unable to


agree: my hope is that I have expressed my disagreement with
that deference and courtesy which is due to a scholar who was
already an expert on this subject while I was still a child.



In my edition of Adversus Praxean I discussed the meaning of
substantia (pages 39-45) and status (pages 50-52), suggesting that
the former is indicated by the existential verb, while the latter
represents the copula in so far as it attaches attributes which are
permanent, and constitute the natura of the object. I did not discuss 
the meaning of natura, because in that work Tertullian himself 
avoids using the word: that omission I propose now to rectify.
In the same work (pages 201, 280) I referred to conditio and condicio, 
suggesting that they are often confused in the manuscripts
and that the former means creation, while the latter means
attributes in some sense dependent on the status of the object. I
now think that, though there is some confusion in the manuscripts, 
this is not so common as I then supposed, and that Tertullian 
in any case used the words with care: and I shall suggest
that conditio refers to the same set of facts as status and natura
(that is, to attributes which pertain to an object as it is in itself),
while condicio refers to attributes accruing to an object by virtue
of its relation to things outside itself.


Adv. Hermog. 43. Nam de natura materiae quoties cadas accipe. supra
dicis, Si autem esset materia natura mala non accepisset translationem in
melius, nec deus aliquid compositionis accommodasset illi: in vacuum
enim laborasset. finisti igitur duas sententias, nec materiam natura
malam, nec naturam eius a deo potuisse converti, horum immemor
postea inferens, At ubi accepit compositionem a deo et ornata est,
cessavit a natura. Si in bonum reformata est, utique de malo reformata
est, et si per compositionem dei cessavit a natura, <a> mali natura cessavit:
ergo et mala fuit natura ante compositionem, et desinere potuit a natura
post reformationem.

The last sentence is unintelligible in Oehler's text. The above
punctuation is mine, as is the insertion of a before mali.


For observe how often you trip up regarding the nature of that 
pre-existent matter. First of all you say, 'But if matter had been by nature
evil it would not have been capable of change for the better, nor could
God have succeeded in giving shape to its formlessness: for his labour
would have been in vain.' Here you lay down two propositions, that
matter is not by nature evil, and that if it had been it would have been
impossible for God to change its nature: and then, forgetting this, you
conclude, 'But when it received at God's hands its form and ornament
it relinquished its nature.' If the transformation which took place was
into goodness, evidently it was a transformation out of evil: and if by
God's handling of it it relinquished its nature, it was a nature of evil
which it relinquished. Consequently, before God's handling of it it
was by nature evil and there was no impossibility of its receding from
its nature as a result of transformation.

Apparently natura here represents the Aristotelian fu&sij both
in its instrumental and in its attributive sense. We could hardly, in
the present context, follow Aristotle in giving the word a genetic
meaning,1 for the pre-existent matter of which Hermogenes
supposed that God had created the world is ex hypothesi without
beginning and (until the creation) its natura was always what it
was. The same observation will hold when we come to consider
natura dei: natura is necessarily permanent. We may suppose then
that the natura of an object is the asemblage of those qualities
which it possesses by virtue of its being what it is: or, correcting
ourselves slightly, we might suggest that if the status of an object
is that assemblage of qualities which make it what it is, its natura
will be those qualities which make it such as it is. So that, if it
were to change its nature and acquire a different set of qualities,
it would also change its status and become a different object and
acquire a different name (as Tertullian says of argilla and testa,
§13): it would also in the process become a different substantia,
i.e. another thing altogether.

Secondly, we observe that attributes are only natural if they
really belong, in the closest sense in which a person or thing is
capable of having belongings.

1 Aristotle, Metaphysics, D, 4, fu&sij le/getai e3na me\n tro&pon h( tw~n fuome/nwn
ge/nesij, oi]on ei1 tij e0pektei/naj le/goi to_ u, kte\


Adv. Marc. II. 6. Ut ergo bonum iam suum haberet homo
emancipatum sibi a deo et fieret proprietas iam boni in homine et
quodammodo natura, de institutione adscripta est illi quasi libripens
emancipati a deo boni libertas et potestas arbitrii, quae efficeret
bonum ut proprium iam sponte praestari ab homine.

Free paraphrase will here be more intelligible than translation. 
It was God's intention that man should be possessed of
goodness: and this goodness (which must in any case be God's
gift) must be not merely conferred upon man from without but
must be his very own. The Roman law of conveyancing affords a
parallel which is more or less (quasi) to the point. A property is
transferred from one person to another (e.g. from a testator to his
assigns) by the formality of mancipatio, there taking place a
fictitious sale in the presence of five witnesses and of the libripens
who holds the balance in which there is a pretence of weighing the
price, in effect the mere token of a price which is not actually
paid.1 In the case of man and his goodness the donor is God,
while the libripens is liberty and the power of free choice (which
itself is God's gift de institutione, by virtue of creation): and in
consequence man is capable of possessing and exercising as his
own (emancipatum sibi) that goodness which is in its origin an
attribute of God. Goodness thus becomes man's proprietas et
quodammodo natura,
he himself possesses it and is credited with it.

Adv. Marc. I. 22. Tertullian is arguing that if Marcion's god
had really been God and had been good he would not have waited
so long to redeem the world which, Marcion alleges, was created
bad or at least imperfect.

For death already existed, and so did the sting of death, which is sin:
so also did that malice of the creator, against which it was incumbent
upon the goodness of that other god to come to the rescue. For thus it
would have satisfied this first rule of divine goodness, proving itself a
natural goodness by coming to the rescue immediately the need arose.
For in God all attributes must needs be natural and congenital (naturalia
et ingenita
), for thus only will they be eternal, as God himself permanently 
is (secundum statum ipsius): otherwise they must be reckoned

1 See the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, s.v. mancipium, and
Ramsay's Roman Antiquities, pages 302, 304.


contingent and extraneous, and consequently temporal, the opposite of
eternal (aeternitatis aliena). Thus we must postulate in God a goodness
that is perennial and ever-flowing, such as, being laid up in the
treasuries of those natural attributes which are characteristically his (in
thesauris naturalium proprietatum reposita
) might be in existence previous
to the causes and occasions of its exercise, so as to take up each one of
these as it arose and (seeing it was there beforehand) might be neither
too proud nor too remiss to deal with them. So then, my present
question, why his goodness has not been in operation since the very
beginning, is no less justified than my earlier question why he has not
been revealing himself since the beginning: because of course it was by
the exercise of his goodness that he ought to have been revealed, provided 
he existed at all. It is inconceivable that God should lack the
power for any act, especially for the exercise of his natural attributes
(nedum naturalibus suis fungi): for if these are restrained from having free
course they cannot be natural. For neither has nature itself any leisure
from itself (et otium enim sui natura non novit): by its activities it is
known for what it is. Consequently there can be no suggestion that it
was on his nature's account (naturae nomine) that he refused for a time to
exercise his goodness: for nature is incapable of refusing itself (natura
enim se non potest nolle
), for it so conducts itself that if it refrains from
action it ceases to be (ut si cessaverit non sit). But in the case of Marcion's
god there has been a time when goodness has refrained from work:
and it follows that that goodness was not natural which was for a time
capable of refraining--for with natural attributes this is impossible.
Also, as it cannot be natural, so must we conclude that it cannot be
eternal: nor is it coeval with God, because it is not eternal as not being
natural: and thus, in fact, it neither establishes its own perpetuity as
regards the past nor vouches for it as regards the future.

I recapitulate. The goodness of God, like all his attributes
(naturalia), is governed by the law of his eternity. It must needs
be natural and congenital (naturalis et ingenita). The latter term
(which does not here mean "unbegotten') is hardly suitable for
this context, but appears to be used because in general, in others
than God, what is natural is ingenitum. The goodness of God must
be eternal, secundum statum ipsius, and therefore par deo, coeval
with God: it gives proof of its perpetuity in the past and promise
of it for the future. Will it then follow that the natura of any


person or object is ingenita, coeval with that person or object?
With human goodness this may be the case; it is only because
libertas et potestas arbitrii has failed to convey moral apprehension
and possession of this natural gift that it has not become part of
human status, has failed to give evidence of itself in the past, and
cannot be sure of its future.


I have suggested that substantia, status, and natura stand for the
object itself as what it is in itself, in its essential being, and in its
essential attributes. I further suggest that conditio will be found to
refer to the same set of facts, but with the implied suggestion that
a thing is what it is, is such as it is, and has those attributes which
make it such as it is, because God made it so and it cannot be
otherwise. This, it will seem, involves a certain necessary limitation, 
as in the two following examples:

Adv. Marc. I. 3, quantum humana conditio de deo definire potest.
Ibid. III. 6, humana conditio deceptui obnoxia.

But there are occasions when conditio refers to God, with whom
there can be no question of creation, though perhaps of limitations
imposed not by fact but by logic:

Adv. Marc. III. 6 (continued): non negans enim filium et spiritum et
substantiam creatoris esse Christum eius, concedas necesse est eos qui
patrem non agnoverint nec filium agnoscere posse per eiusdem 
substantiae conditionem, cuius si plenitudo intellecta non est, multo magis
portio, certe qua plenitudinis consors.

There are of course numberless instances where conditio means
'creation', often as a verbal noun, and not infrequently as a concrete 
substantive: e.g. Adv. Marc. I. 15, cum dixeris esse et illi (i.e.
Marcion's superior god) conditionem suam et suum mundum et suum
An interesting example, which seems to combine both
senses, comes from

Adv. Marc. II. 6: ceterum facile est offendentes statim in hominis
ruinam antequam conditionem eius inspexerint, in auctorem referre
quod accidit quia nec auctoris perspecta sit ratio.


Otherwise, it is easy to take immediate offence at man's ruin, through
not having previously considered in what state he was created, and
thus to discredit his Creator with what has occurred, because there has
also been failure to appreciate what the Creator had in mind.

Here hominis conditio means man as God created him, but with
special reference to those attributes with which he was created,
particularly the possession of libertas et potestas arbitrii, the grant of
which was a necessary consequence of the bonitas et ratio dei, God's
goodness expressing itself both in fact and intention. Conditio
means both the act of creation and 'that state in which he was
created'--which gives us both natura and status.


My suggestion is that condicio, when it refers to attributes, implies
such of them as depend upon, or affect, external relationships.
There seems to be frequently a retention, express or implied, of
the original sense of contingency.

Adv. Marc. II. 5 (a Marcionite argument): Si enim et bonus, qui
evenire tale quid nollet, et praescius, qui eventurum non ignoraret, et
potens, qui depellere valeret, nullo modo evenisset quod sub his tribus
condicionibus divinae maiestatis evenire non posset.

If the Creator had been at once good and prescient and powerful, the
fall would never have taken place.

Here evidently the three condiciones are those stated in the three
conditional clauses of the protasis. But they are more than that,
for they are condicones divinae maiestatis, attributes of God in
relation to his creation: so shortly afterwards we have, istas species
. . . bonitatem et praesdentiam et potentiam.

Adv. Marc. II. 22, condicionalem idcirco et rationalem demonstravit
recusationem eorum quae administranda praescripserat.

By saying 'your feasts', 'your solemn assemblies', God showed that
his refusal to accept devotions which the Law prescribed was contingent
upon Israelite misuse of them.

Also Adv. Marc. IV. 19, heretics 'condicionales et rationales (voces)
simplicitatis condicione dissolvunt'--'statements made under special
conditions and for specific reasons are misinterpreted under pretence of
universalizing them'.


We now come to passages where the reference is to attributes,
divine or human, which are contingent upon, or are exemplified
in, relationship.

Adv. Marc. I. 7: ita ego non nomini dei, nec sono nec notae nominis
huius, summum magnum in creatore defendo, sed ipsi substantiae cui
nomen hoc contigit. hanc inveniens solam innatam infectam, solam
aeternam et universitatis conditricem, non nomini sed statui, nec
appellationi sed condicioni eius, summum magnum et adscribo et

Tertullian is arguing that the concept summum magnum, that
than which nothing greater is conceivable, is applicable to the
Creator alone, i.e. the true God, as distinguished from the 
supposititious good god invented by Marcion. It is true, he admits,
that the term deus is a common noun, used not only for heathen
gods but even in Scripture for men who are not gods at all. But
this gives Marcion no right both to concede that the Creator is a
god and to claim that there is also another god of a superior sort.
We are not arguing about the word deus, either spoken or written,
but about the substantia, the real entity, to which that term
applies: and this entity is the only one which is known to be
unbegotten and uncreated, alone is eternal and the creator of the
universe, so that we lay claim, to the concept summum magnum not
for the name of that Entity but for his status, his attributes 
considered as his own, and not for his designation but for his condico,
his attributes considered in relation to all over which he is summum

So again Adv. Marc. I. 3, quae erit iam condicio ipsius summi magni?
nempe ut nihil illi adaequetur, id est ut non sit aliud summum magnum.

Now of human relationships:

Adv. Marc. I. 24, alia est nostra condicio apud auctorem, apud
iudicem, apud offensum principem generis.

Marcion claims to have been delivered by his good god from
the power of the Creator: but the fact that he is still subject to
disease and discomfort and to irritation from gnats and lice (all of
which he blames the Creator for) shows that he has not been


delivered but is still in bondage. We, however, approach the
subject from another aspect, and stand in a different relation, not of
bondage, to the Creator who is our maker and our judge, the
begetter of our race, whom we have offended: that is to say, we
suffer from the same things, but on different terms (alia condicio),
because we know that redemption is a process in us, not a mere
act of transference from one god to another.

Adv. Marc. II. 5: videamus et hominis condicionem, ne per illam
potius evenerit quod per deum evenire non potuit. liberum et sui
arbitrii et suae potestatis invenio hominem a deo institutum.

Here again there is contingency, though it is more remote. It
was contingent upon man's attributes, and not on God's, that the
fall took place. But man's attributes are not contingent: they are
his through God's act of creation, by which, in relation to his
Creator and to his environment he was made a free man and no
slave, his own master (sui arbitrii) and not a minor sub tutela, and
under his own control (suae potestatis) and not like a wife in manu
et potestate viri

Adv. Marc. II. 9: denique cum manifeste scriptura dicat flasse deum in
faciem hominis et factum hominem in animam vivam, non in spiritum
vivificatorem, separavit eam a condicione factoris.

To be alive is an attribute of human soul: to be life-giving is an
attribute of deity, a condicio, because it is an attribute in relationship 
with that to which life is given. So again:

Ibid.: ipsum quod anima vocitatus est flatus, vide etiam ne de
afflatus condicione transient in aliquam deminutiorem qualitatem: 'the
fact that Scripture refers to the breathing (Genesis 2. 7) as "soul", may
serve to indicate that the breathing (which we have already observed
is a lesser thing than "spirit", which is divine) has passed on from the
condition of being "breathed in", and has acquired a quality of even
less dignity.'

Finally, a beautifully complicated sentence, which contains both
condicio and qualitas and proprietas.

1 I owe this interpretation to the Rev. Dr A. Ehrhardt.


De Anima 9: cum animae corpus asserimus propriae qualitatis et sui
generis, iam haec condicio proprietatis de ceteris accidentibus cornee
pulentiae praeiudicabit et haec adesse ei quam corpus ostendimus, sed
et ipsa sui generis pro corporis proprietate: aut etsi non sint, hoc esse
proprietatis, non adesse corpori animae quae corporibus ceteris adsint.

We assert that soul possesses body (as, by our Stoic metaphysic, do
all existent things), but that this body is possessed of attributes which are
peculiar to itself and are not shared by any other body. We further
maintain that this condition of possessing characteristic attributes will
create a presumption regarding those further non-essential attributes of
corporeity, namely that soul possesses these (for we have proved that
soul is a body) but that these also are sui generis, not shared by any other
body, because soul's body is itself of a characteristic sort (pro corporis
): or else, alternatively, if soul does not possess these, it is part
of its characteristics that the body of soul does not possess those
secondary qualities which other bodies do possess.

Evidently proprietas does not mean 'property' in any sense of
the English word, but either that an object is itself and nothing
else, or that it possesses attributes such as belong to it and to
nothing else. Condicio proprietatis is somewhat difficult: but I
suggest that it means that in relation to (or by contrast with)
other bodies, the body of soul is of such a quality as to have these



From the Jung Codex of The Gospel of Truth, recently discovered
in Egypt, and shortly to be published by Professor G. Quispel,
it appears that the account of the origins and character of
Valentinian gnosticism given by Irenaeus and copied by others is
substantially correct. See Quispel, Gnosis als Welt-Religion (Zärich,
1951) and the translation by Dr F. L. Cross of three studies by
Puech, Quispel, and van Unnik, The Jung Codex (London, 1955).

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Ernest Evans(ed), Tertullian's Treatise on the Incarnation. © S.P.C.K. 1956.  Reproduced by permission of SPCK.

Edited and translated by Canon Ernest Evans, 1956.  Transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2002.   Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.

This page has been online since 10th December 2002.

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