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C. Dodgson, Tertullian Vol. 1. Apologetic and Practical Treatises. (1842). pp.131-141. De Testimonio Animae.


[The De Testimonio Animae is the expansion of an argument, touched upon in the Apology, c. 17. to which it contains an allusion, c. 5. It was written therefore somewhat, probably not much, later; as being a supplement to it. It is perhaps the most original and acute of Tertullian's works.]

I. IT is a work, which needeth to be laboured at with much nicety of research, and far more of memory, if one would call the testimonies to Christian Truth out of all the most received writings of philosophers, or poets, or any teachers whatever of the learning and wisdom of this world, so that its rivals and persecutors may, by their own peculiar documents, be proved guilty both of error in themselves, and of injustice towards us. Some indeed, in whom, as respecteth ancient writings, both the diligence of curious research and the retentiveness of their memory hath held out to the last, have composed books to the heathen, which are in our hands 1, declaring and attesting, to their disgrace2, both the origin, and handing-down, and proofs, of our opinions, whereby it may be seen that we have taken up nothing new or strange, in which even the common and popular books do not give us the countenance of their support, wheresoever we have cast out what is wrong, or admitted what is right But that hardness, arising in unbelief, which belongeth to man, hath inclined them not to trust even their own teachers, (on other points most approved and choice authorities,) if they any where fall upon arguments tending |132 to the vindication of the Christian Faith. Then are the poets foolish, when they make the gods the subjects of human sufferings and fables: then are the philosophers hard to be believed, when they knock at the door of truth. So long only shall a man be esteemed wise and prudent, who teacheth that which is almost Christian,3 whereas, if he affect prudence or wisdom, either in rejecting heathen ceremonies or in convicting the world, he is branded as a Christian. Now 4 therefore, we will have nothing to do with books, and with doctrine, whose success is on the wrong side, which is more believed in falsehood than in truth. No matter whether any have taught One God and One only. Yea let them be thought to have declared nothing which a Christian can allow of, lest he be able to upbraid them with it. For even that which is declared, all do not know, and they who do know it, are not assured that it is true. So far are men from assenting to our writings, to which no one cometh, unless he be already a Christian! I call a new witness: yea one more known than all writings, more a-stir than all doctrine, more public than all publications, greater than the whole of man, in other words that which is the whole of man. Soul, stand thou forth in the midst, whether thou art a thing divine and eternal according to most philosophers, and therefore the less able to speak falsely, or, as seemeth to Epicurus only, in no wise divine, because mortal, and therefore the less to be expected to speak falsely 5; whether thou art received from Heaven 6, or conceived of the earth, or fitly framed together of parts or of atoms 7; whether thou hadst thy beginning with the body, or art sent into the body after that it is formed8; from whatever source, and in whatever manner, thou makest man a reasonable creature more capable than any of understanding and of knowledge. But I summon thee not such as when, formed in the Schools, exercised in libraries, nourished 9 in the academies and porches of Athens, thou utterest thy crude wisdom. I |133 address thee as simple, and rude, and unpolished, and unlearned, such as they have thee who have nothing else but thee, the very and entire thing that thou art in the road, in the highway, in the shop of the artizan. I have need of thy inexperience; since in thy experience, however small, no one putteth faith. I demand of thee those truths which thou earnest with thyself into man, which thou hast learnt to know either from thyself, or from the author, whosoever he be, of thy being. Thou art not, as I know, a Christian soul, for thou art wont to be made Christian not to be born so 10. Yet now the Christians demand a testimony from thee, who art a stranger, against thine own friends, that they may blush even before thee, for hating and scoffing at us on account of those very things, which now charge thee as a party to them.

II. We give offence, in preaching God as the One God, under the one Name of God, from Whom are all things,11 and under Whom is the whole body of things. Bear witness to this, if thou knowest it to be so, since we hear thee also saying openly and with full liberty, not allowed to us, at home and abroad, "Which God grant 12," and, "If God will;" by which word thou both declarest that there is some God, and confessest that all power is His, to Whose will thou lookest; and at the same time thou deniest that the rest are gods, in that thou callest them by their proper names, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Minerva. Thou affirmest that He Alone is God, Whom Alone thou namest God, so that even when thou dost sometimes call these gods, thou seemest to use the name as a foreign and, as it were, a borrowed one. Neither art thou in ignorance concerning the nature of God, which we preach. "God is good," "God doeth good," is thine own word. Clearly thou impliest besides, "But man is evil," uttering, that is, indirectly and covertly in the contrary proposition, the reproach, that man is therefore evil, because he hath departed from the good God. Again, whereas with us every blessing pronounced in the name of the God of goodness and kindness is a thing of the highest sacredness in our discipline and conversation, thou sayest as |134 readily as any Christian need, "God bless thee." But when thou turnest the blessing of God 13 into a curse, thou dost in like way by the very word confess, according to our doctrine, that His power is altogether over us. There are some who, though they deny not God, do not at all regard Him as One that considereth, and witnesseth, and judgeth, (wherein indeed chiefly they set us aside 14, who flee to that doctrine through fear of the judgment which is preached,) thus honouring God, while they make Him free from the cares of watching and the trouble of regarding them, not even attributing anger to Him. 'For,' say they, 'if God be angry, He is corruptible and subject to passions. Moreover, that which is passive and corruptible admitteth also of being destroyed, of which God admitteth not.' But the same persons confessing elsewhere that the soul is divine, and bestowed by God, fall upon a testimony of the soul itself to be retorted against the above opinion; for if the soul be either divine or given by God, doubtless it knoweth Him, Who gave it, and if it knoweth, assuredly it also feareth Him; Him moreover Who hath so largely endowed it. Doth it not fear Him, Whom it would rather have favourable to it, than wrathful against it? Whence then cometh this natural fear of the soul towards God, if God hath no mind to be angry? How can He be feared Who cannot be offended? What is feared except anger? How shall one be angry except he mark what is done amiss? Why should he mark except to judge? how shall he judge, except he have power? to whom belongeth the chief power, except to God alone? Hence cometh it then, O soul, that, from the knowledge that is within thee, thou declarest, at home and abroad, no man scoffing at, nor forbidding thee, ' God seeth all things15,' and ' I commend to God,' and ' God shall repay,' and ' God shall judge between us.' Whence hast thou this, not being a Christian, and, moreover, ofttimes crowned with the fillet of Ceres, and clothed in the scarlet 16 cloak of Saturn, or the linen one of Isis? Finally, in the very temples themselves thou |135 callest upon God as thy Judge, standing under Aesculapius, praying 17 to the brazen statue of Juno, capping Minerva with her helmet of dark figures 18, and thou callest to witness not one of the gods who are present with thee: in thine own forum thou appealest to a judge in another place; in thine own temples thou allowest a foreign God. O testimony of Truth, which amongst the very demons maketh thee a witness for the Christians!

III. But when we affirm that there are demons----as if forsooth we did not prove it also, seeing that we alone cast them out of the bodies of them 19----some supporter of Chrysippus mocketh us. Thine own execrations make answer both that there are demons, and that they are objects of malediction. Thou callest a man a demon, who vexeth thee either by his uncleanness, or his wickedness, or his pride, or by some ill mark or other which we assign to demons, or for the cravings of thy hatred. Finally, thou namest the name of Satan 20 in every expression of dislike, and scorn, and detestation, whom we call the angel of wickedness, the contriver of all error, the corrupter of the whole world, through whom man, being from the beginning beguiled, so that he transgressed the commandment of God, and on that account being given over unto death, hath thenceforth made his whole race, that is infected of his seed, the transmitters of his condemnation also. Thou perceivest therefore thine own destroyer, and although the Christians alone, or whatever sect there be on the Lord's side, know him, yet even thou acknowledgest him in hating him.

IV. But now as touching an opinion which more essentially belongeth to thee, inasmuch as it regardeth thine own proper condition, we affirm that thou continuest after the consummation of life, and that thou waitest for a day of judgment, and that thou art doomed according to thy deservings either to be tormented or to be comforted, in either case eternally. For the receiving of which things we say that thy former substance must of necessity return unto |136 thee, and the material part, and the memory of the self-same human being, both because thou canst feel nothing either evil or good without the faculties of the sensible flesh 21, and because there is no mode of judgment without the presentation of the actual person, who hath deserved to suffer judgment. This Christian opinion, though much more noble than that of Pythagoras in that it doth not transfer thee to beasts, although more enlarged than that of Plato, in that it restoreth to thee the possession of the body also, although of greater dignity than that of Epicurus, in that it preserveth them from death, yet, because of its22 name 23, it is set down to mere 24 vanity, and stupidity 25, and, as it is expressed, presumption 26. But we are not ashamed if our presumption agreeth with thee. For first when thou makest mention of any one that is dead, thou callest him 'poor man,' not assuredly27 because he is taken away from the blessing of life, but because he is now appointed unto punishment and |137 judgment. But elsewhere them callest the dead free from care 28. Thou declarest the misery of life, and the benefit of death. Moreover thou callest them free from care, whensoever thou retirest without the gate to the tombs with thy meats and feasts 29, making an offering rather to thyself than to them, or returnest somewhat drunken from the tombs. But I ask for thy sober opinion. Thou callest the dead, 'poor men,' when thou speakest from thine own mind, when thou art far distant from them; for in their 30 feast, when they are as it were present and sitting down with thee, thou canst not reproach them with their lot, thou art bound to flatter those on whose account thou farest so sumptuously. Dost thou then call him 'poor man,' who feeleth nothing? what when thou cursest him as a sentient being, whom thou rememberest with some sting of ill-will? thou prayest that the "earth may lie heavy on him," that his ashes may be tormented in the shades below. In the same manner thou prayest in good part for him, to whom thou owest favour, that his bones and ashes may be comforted, and desirest that he may rest happily in the shades below. If thou hast no sense of suffering after death, if no continuance of feeling, if, in a word, thou art thyself nothing when thou hast left the body, why dost thou lie against thyself, as though thou couldest suffer something hereafter? nay, why dost thou fear death at all, if thou hast nothing to fear after death, inasmuch as thou hast nothing to feel after death? For although it may be said that death is feared, not because it threateneth any thing for the future, but because it cutteth off the blessings of life, yet since the far more numerous ills of life equally depart, it putteth an end to the fear by the preponderance of the good gained; nor is the loss of good any longer to be feared, which is recompensed by another good, a rest from evil. That is not to be feared, which delivereth us from all that is fearful. If thou fearest to depart out of life, because thou knowest life to be very good, at all events thou oughtest not to fear death, which thou dost not know to be evil. But in that thou fearest it, thou knowest it to be evil. But thou wouldest not know this, for |138 thou wouldest not fear it, unless thou knewest that there is something after death, which maketh it an evil, such that thou mayest fear it. Let us say nothing now of the instinctive habit of fearing death. Let no one fear that which he cannot escape. I will meet thee on the opposite question of the hope of greater happiness after death. For the desire of fame after death is naturally implanted in almost all men 31. It would be tedious to rehearse the Curtii, and the Reguli, or those Grecian heroes of whose contempt of death, for the sake of posthumous fame, we have innumerable accounts. Who at this clay doth not so study to make his memory rife after death, as to preserve his name either by works of literature, or by the simple reputation of his character, or by the ambitious pomp of his very tomb? Whence cometh it, that the soul at this day aspireth to something which it would have after death, and diligently prepareth those things which it is to enjoy after death? Surely it would care nothing for the future, if it knew nothing of the future. But perhaps thou art more fully assured that thou shalt feel after thy departure than that thou shalt ever rise again, which we are charged with maintaining presumptuously. But this also is declared by the soul. For if any man maketh enquiry of one already dead as though he were alive, the answer is ready at hand; "He is gone;" then, he is to return 32.

V. These testimonies of the soul are as simple as they are true, as trite as they are simple, as common as they are trite, as natural as they are common, as divine as they are natural. I think that they cannot appear to any one to be a trifling and ridiculous33, if he considereth the majesty of Nature, whence the authority of the soul is derived. Whatsoever thou allowest to the mistress, thou wilt assign to the disciple. Nature is the mistress, the soul is the disciple: whatsoever the one hath taught, or the other hath learned, hath been delivered to them by God, Who is, in truth, the Master even of the mistress herself. What notion the soul is |139 able to conceive respecting its first Teacher, it is in thy power to judge, from that soul which is within thee. Feel thou that which maketh thee to feel. Think upon that which is in forebodings, thy prophet; in omens, thy augur; in the events which befal thee, thy fore-seer. Strange if, being given by God, it knoweth how to divine unto men! Equally strange if it knoweth Him by Whom it hath been given! Even when compassed about by its adversary, it remembereth its Author, and His goodness, and His decree, and its own end, and its adversary himself. So it is a strange thing if, being given by God, it teacheth those selfsame things, which God hath given unto His people to know! But he who doth not think that such utterances of the soul are the teaching of a congenial nature, and the silent deposits of an innate conscience 34, will say rather that the habit, and as it were the evil, of such forms of speech, hath now become confirmed by the doctrines of published books being wafted abroad among the people. Surely the soul existed before letters 35, and discourse before books, and the thought which is written, before the writing of it, and the man himself before the Philosopher and the Poet. Is it then to be believed that before letters and the publication of them, men lived without utterance of speech upon such matters? No one, I suppose, spoke of God and His goodness! no one spoke of death nor of the shades below! discourse went a begging, nay, could not exist at all, for lack, at that time, of those subjects, without which even at this day it can gain neither in fulness, nor richness, nor wisdom, if those things which at this day are so obvious, so continually present, so near at hand, being in a manner bred in the very lips, had no being in former times, before letters had sprung up in the world, before Mercury, methinks, was born. And whence cometh it that letters themselves were ordained, to know, and spread abroad for the use of speech, things which no mind had ever conceived, nor tongue pronounced, nor ear heard? But in truth since the Divine |140 Scriptures, which are in our hands, or in the hands of the Jews, into whose olive-tree we have been grafted from a wild olive 36, precede secular writings by a long period, not merely by a moderate space of time, (as we have shewn in the proper place, in order to prove their authority 37,) even if the soul hath taken these declarations from books, surely we must needs believe that it hath taken them from ours and not from yours, because the former things are better for the instruction of the soul than the latter, which themselves also waited to be instructed by the former; and even should we allow that it was instructed out of yours, still tradition belongeth to its first origin; and that is altogether ours, whatsoever ye have chanced to take and to deliver out of our writings. And since this is so, it mattereth little whether this consciousness of the soul be formed by God or by the writings of God.

VI. Why then, O man, wilt thou have it that these truths have proceeded forth from human opinions in thine own writings, so as to come to be hardened by common use? Believe therefore thine own writings; and, as concerning our records, believe so much the more those which are of God; but, as concerning the judgment of the soul itself, by all means believe Nature. Choose whichever of these thou notest to be the most faithfully a sister to Truth. If thou doubtest concerning thine own writings, neither God nor Nature speaketh falsely. That thou mayest believe both Nature and God, believe the soul: thus it will come to pass, that thou believest thine own self. At all events it is that soul of which thou makest great account, in proportion as she maketh thee great; whose thou art entirely, who is thine all, without whom thou canst neither live nor die, for whose sake thou neglectest God. For when thou fearest to become  a Christian, call upon her to answer why, while she worshippeth another, she nameth the name of God? Why, when she proscribeth spirits as to be accursed, doth she proclaim them daemons? Why uttereth she protestation |141 heaven-wards, and detestation earth-wards? why in one place doth she serve Him, in another call upon Him as an avenger 38? why doth she judge concerning the dead? why doth she use the words of the Christians, whom she would fain neither hear nor see? why hath she either given us those words, or received them from us? why hath she been cither our teacher or our disciple? Distrust (if thou canst) this agreement of doctrine amid so great an inconsistency of conversation. Thou art a fool if thou ascribest such things to this language only or to the Greek, (which are held to be nearly akin to each other,) so as to deny the universal language of Nature. The soul descendeth not from Heaven upon the Latins or the Greeks alone. Throughout the world man is one, though his names be various; the soul is one, though its language be various; the spirit is one, though its voice be various. Every nation hath its own proper speech; but the matter of all speech is the same in all. God is every where, and the goodness of God is every where: the demon is every where, and the curse upon the demon is every where: the calling down of the divine judgment is every where: death is every where, and the consciousness of death is every where, and the witness thereof is every where. Every soul of its own right proclaimeth aloud those things, which we are not permitted even to whisper. With good reason then is every soul both a culprit and a witness, as much a culprit in respect of error, as it is at the same time a witness of the truth; and in the day of judgment it shall stand before the courts of God, having nothing to answer to the charge----"Thou didst preach God, and didst not seek after Him: thou didst detest demons, and didst worship them: thou didst appeal to the judgment of God, and didst not believe in its being: thou didst anticipate punishments in a world below, and didst take no heed against them: thou didst savour of the name of Christ, and didst persecute the Christian!"

[Footnotes and marginalia moved to the end and numbered]

1. a "Quadratus, Aristides, Justin, Athenagoras, Melito, Theophilus, Antioch., Apollinarius, Tatian, Irenaeus, Clem. Al., Miltiades." Pam.

2. b Insuggillationem. Rig. (apparently from conjecture) has "in singula rationem," "attesting on each separate point, the nature, &c."

3. Acts 26 28.

4. c in contrast with the Apology. 

5. d because, as it were, an independent witness, when attesting to God. Rig. 

6. e Plato, see de Anim. c. 23. 

7. f Plato, ib. c. 14. 

8. g The Stoics, ib. c. 25.

9. h pasta, cod. Ag. Rig. supposes that T. refers to the notion, which (de Anim. c. 6.) he attributes to the Stoics, that "the arts are corporeal;" the context implies irony.

10. i See on Apol. c. 18. p. 41. n. d.

11. 1 Cor. 8, 6.

12. j See on Apol. c. 17. p. 40. n, z.

13. i Interpunction altered, " in maledictum convertis benedictionem Dei." &c.

14. j Apol. c. 48.

15. k See on Apol. c. 17. n. a. 

16. l as the colour of blood, Lips. Sat. i. 5. coll. de Pall. c. 4. fin.

17. m exorans. Edd. exoras Ag. Rig. conjectures "exaurans," "gilding," which would rather be inaurans or deaurans.

18. n The snakes from the Aegis.

19. o Apol. c. 23.

20. p When they exclaimed "Malum," Rig. i. e. they spoke of evil in the abstract, as existing separately from evils, and so, in fact, spoke of the evil one.

21. q See on Apol. c. 48.

22. 1 suum restored

23. r Christian, Apol. c. 2.

24. 2 soli restored

25. s "Folly, vanity," are among the most ordinary titles given by the heathen to Christianity, unwittingly confirming 1 Cor. 1, 23. Kortholt has the following list, (de Cal. Pag. c. 10.) "folly," Theoph. ad Aut. 1. ii. and iii. "folly and vanity," Lact. vii. 27. ''empty vanity, execrable vanity, vain folly, blind error, pernicious error," edict of Maximin, ap. Eus. H. E. ix. 7. "vain and mad superstition," Caecil. ap. Minuc. "vain superstition," Agon. S. Marcelli; "old wives' superstition," Caec. 1. c. and ap. Lact. v. 2. "old wives' fables," ib. c. 1. and Minuc. "womanly superstition," ib. c. 13. "old wives' doctrines," Prud. Hymn. x de Fructuos. "old wives' inventions and absurdities," Auct. Philopatris; "puerile frenzies," Plin. vii. 55. "puerile follies," Arn. l. 2. "things ridiculous," Orig. c. Cels. iii. "foolish trifles," Hist. Barl. c. 23.

26. t Praesumptio; almost a technical term of reproach against the Christians, us requiring assent on authority, Apol. 49. and bel. end of c. ad Nat. i. 19. in Agon. Montan. et soc. "they would persuade him, laying aside this presumed opinion (praesumptio) to sacrifice;" (ap. Her. ad Minuc. p. 79.) in Galen, "undemonstrated way," diatribh_ a)nupo&deiktoj, Apul. Metam. l. ix, so in Eus. Praep. Ev. i. 2. "unreasonable, [because unreasoning] a!logoj, belief," and the charge of ''credulity;" Theod. adv. Graec. Prooem. and l. i. and Arnob. 1. ii. Cels. ap. Orig. c. Cels. i. and vi. Naz. Or. i. c. Julian. The resurrection of the body was a special subject of ridicule, (Acts 17, 32. Orig. c. Cels. 1. Arnob. 1. ii. p. 42.) or of the charge of madness, (Lucian. in Peregr. cp. Plin. vii. 55. Minuc. F. p. 96. 7.) Aug. in Ps. 88. "In nothing is the Christian faith so vehemently, so obstinately, so determinately, and so contentiously spoken against, as on the resurrection of the flesh. For as to the immortality of the soul, many heathen philosophers also have disputed much, and have in many and manifold works left it stated that the soul of man is immortal. But when they come to the resurrection of the flesh, they do not err simply, but most flatly contradict, and that after this sort, that they say that it cannot be, that this earthly flesh can ascend into heaven." Kortholt, 1. c. c. 11. Tert. retorts the word praesumpsit on Hermogenes, de Anima, init. et c. 1. fin. "It is better to be ignorant through God, because He hath not revealed, than through man to know because he hath assumed," praesumpserit. ap. Her.

27. 3 non utique quod

28. x Memoriae et Securitati perpetuae, Inscr. Vet. ap. Lac.

29. y De Res. Carn. c. 1.

30. 1 eorum restored

31. z Cic. Tusc. i. 14. 15. as an argument of the immortality of the soul.

32. a Interpunction altered; "Abiit;" jam et reverti debet; "going away" implies "returning." The heathen said "abiit," "abiit ad plures," "he departed," for, "he died."

33. 1 ridicula

34. b "Hence, then, by the silent consciousness of nature, hath the Divine nature of the soul, of itself, unawares to men, brought forth into the use of speech, this as well as much beside, which we may perhaps elsewhere shew to be commonly done and said, conformably to Scripture." Tert. de Virg. Vel. c. 5.

35.  c See Athan. Vit. S. Anton. §. 73.

36. c The older Edd. and Cod. Ag. have "in quorum oleastro insiti suinus;" but "oleastro" is used only of the "wild olive," (as in the de Praescr. Haer. c. 36.) Rig.'s conjecture then, as it seems, "olea ex oleastro," appears necessary, and the similarity of the first letters may have caused the omission of "olea."

37. d Apol. c. 19.

38. e Above, c. 2. "God shall repay," "God shall judge between us."

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