The Works of Tertullian

Tertullian has left us 31 extant treatises, all in Latin.  There are also a number of lost works, and a number of spurious works which have passed under his name at one time or another.

Approximate English translations of the titles are attached, but the usage varies so much that texts will be referred to using the usual Latin titles. All must date between 190-220AD, but there is no agreement among scholars about a definitive dating or sequence, although there is a current chronology.

Works that are clearly Montanist are marked with an symbol, although Montanism began as a tendency within the church, rather than separate from it, and only gradually influenced Tertullian. His most obviously Montanist works are those written after the New Prophecy was rejected by the church authorities, and are recognisable because of his attacks upon those responsible for quenching what he saw as a movement of the Spirit.

Descriptions, excerpts of passages of interest, and a summary of the lines of argument and editions are on the linked pages.

Against unbelievers  


Everyone sneers at the Christians - you can say anything about them, however negative, without fear of contradiction. Tertullian points out that it is unbelievers, not Christians, who have something to be ashamed of.

Ad nationes (To the nations)

A trial run for the Apologeticum, in two books, full of erudite and embarrassing little details from Roman folklore.

Ad Scapulam (To Scapula) 6 chapters

An open letter to the current acting Proconsul. You may feel you ought to run the Christians out of town, but if you do, you'll wreck the province. And our God tells us we ought to warn you that it's rather risky putting the boot into His children, as some of your predecessors found out - not as a threat, but because we love even our enemies.

De testimonio animae (On the testimony of the soul)

You say you don't believe in one God, but your very swear-words tell you otherwise... An appendix to the Apologeticum.

Against Heretics  

De praescriptione haereticorum (On the prescription of the heretics)

How to argue with heretics - some principles. Tertullian gives some guidelines, including points on how not to use the Bible in arguing with heretics, and concludes with a skit on the frequency with which they change their views.

Adversus Hermogenem (Against Hermogenes)

Hermogenes was a Greek painter, who had set up his own cult.  Tertullian attacks his ideas about the material universe.

Adversus Judaeos (Against the Jews)

Some arguments about the rival merits of Judaism and Christianity for a potential convert. Unfinished.

Adversus Marcionem (Against Marcion) 5 books

Marcion says the Old Testament is primitive, and has nothing to do with the New Testament. And anyway, Judaisers have interpolated the latter, so we'd better use his 'pure' bible instead.

Adversus Praxean (Against Praxeas)

Praxeas wants to say that God the Father is the same as God the Son. Tertullian summarises what scripture has to say on the relationships in question, and invents the term Trinity to describe them. The Montanists have just been condemned, courtesy of the same Praxeas, and Tertullian is not happy about this either.

Adversus Valentinianos (Against the Valentinians)

The classic gnostic sect get the Mr. T treatment. They call themselves Christians, but really they are just pagans, recycling ideas from the philosophers to make a fake religion.

Against heretical ideas  

De anima (On the soul)

More against Hermogenes, using stoic ideas.

De baptismo (On baptism)

A heretic had rubbished Baptism. Why it is a good idea, and what it means, and how it should be approached.

De carne Christi (On the flesh of Christ)

Jesus was not an human-seeming ghost.

De resurrectione carnis (On the resurrection of the flesh)

Scorpiace (Antidote to the Gnostics)

Some heretics had suggested that maybe it was OK to swear to the pagan gods, if that allowed you to avoid being thrown to the lions. To the persecuted Christian, this suggestion is simply an attempt to undermine their will to hold onto their faith.


Christian Living and Contemporary Issues  

Ad martyras (To the martyrs) 6 chapters

 Tertullian has some words of encouragement for those about to be fed to the lions.

Ad uxorem (To my wife) 2 books

Tertullian considers the possibility that he may die before his wife.  He discourages her from remarrying, but reminds her that if she must, the new husband must be a Christian.

De corona (On the garland)

A Christian has drawn attention to himself and got arrested. Why other Christians shouldn't grumble at the risk of renewed persecution.

De cultu feminarum (On female fashion) 2 books

What's the point in being a fashion-victim, when your matching accessory may turn out to be lion-skin?

De exhortatione castitatis (On an exhortation to chastity)

To a widower, explaining that remarriage is inadvisable as a matter of prudence, and wrong in principle.

De fuga in persecutione (On running away from persecution)

Tertullian thinks we should stick it out instead.

De idololatria (On idolatry)

How to live as a Christian in a world based around totally different principles.

De ieiunio adversus psychicos (On fasting, against the carnal believers)

Christians are beginning to go soft. If Christians are afraid of self-denial, as non-Montanist Christians seem to be, why suppose they serve Christ at all?

De monogamia (On monogamy)

Remarriage is sin.

De oratione (On prayer)

The Lord's Prayer, and a few general thoughts

De paenitentia (On repentance)

How the church handles the subsequent sins of its members.

De pallio (On the philosopher's cloak)

A literary trifle on the merits of the cloak, as against the toga, and how Christianity is the only true philosophy.

De patientia (On patience)

Why it is important, from someone 'sick with the fevers of impatience'.

De puditicia (On modesty)

A bishop has decided to lower standards for church members on fornication and adultery. Tertullian reminds him that the church is the body of Christ, not a conclave of bishops.

De spectaculis (On the games)

Christians shouldn't take part - not as spectators anyway.

De virginibus velandis (On head-coverings for unmarried girls)

Children go bare-headed - married women wear a veil. What about single girls? Some reasons why they might prefer to wear the veil.


Unless otherwise indicated, details are from Quasten's Patrology, 2 (1955). See also Editions page and Critical Editions page for more information.  Bibliographies for individual texts can be found under each work.

[Note: I need to add some biblio, from l'Annee Phil. for the years 1954-1974].


J.-P. MIGNE, Patrologia Latina 1, 2 (1844).  Vol 3 contains an index.
F. OEHLER, Tertulliani Opera Quae Supersunt, 3 vols: Leipzig (1851-3).  Complete text. Includes commentary.  Checked.  Editio maior.  Also edito minor, 1854, 1 vol.
A. REIFFERSCHEID-G. WISSOWA, H. HOPPE, E. KROYMANN, V. BULHART, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 20 (1890), 47 (1906), 69 (1942), 70 (1942), 76 (1957). Vienna.  Complete works.
E. DEKKERS &c, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 1 & 2. Turnhout: Brepols (1954). Complete works. 26cm.  Useful bibliography and indexes.


G. CLAESSON, INDEX TERTULLIANEUS. Paris: Études Augustiniennes (1974).  3 vols. 25cm.  ISBN 2-85121-002-5. (Personal copy).


English: C. DODGSON, Tertullian. Vol. 1, Apologetic and practical treatises / translated by C. Dodgson, A library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church : anterior to the division of the East and West ; v. 10. Oxford : John Henry Parker & London : Rivington (1842). Checked. xix, 531p.  Selected works only.  (Details from Heythrop College ULL online catalogue).
-- S. THELWALL, P. HOLMES (Tr.), Ante-Nicene Christian Library 7, 11, 15 & 18 (1868-70); reprinted Ante-Nicene Fathers 3 & 4 (1885). Checked.  Complete works.  
-- R. ARBESMANN, Fathers of the Church, 10 & 40 (1950, 1959). Checked. (Personal copy) Selected works only.
French: A. DE GENOUDE, Oeuvres de Tertullien: Paris (1852).  3 vols.  (Details from BNF catalogue).  Complete works.
German: H. KELLNER, Ausgewählte Schriften des Septimius Tertullianus, übersetzt und mit Einleitungen versehen. Kempten. (1870/1872).  2 Vols.  Series: Bibliothek der Kirchenväter1. (Personal copy).  In Fraktur. 448pp/389pp.
-- H. KELLNER, Tertullians sämtliche Schriften aus dem Lateinischen übersetzt. Cologne (1882).  2 Vols.  Contains different works, e.g. Val., Marc.  (Details from the net).
-- H. KELLNER, Tertullians ausgewählte Schriften/ ins Deutsche übersetzt von Karl Adam Heinrich Kellner. Series: Bibliothek der Kirchenväter2 vols.7  & 24. Kempten: Kösel (1912-1915). 2 v.; 20cm  Checked.  Selected works only. Contents: 1. Private und katechetische Schriften; 2. Apologetische, dogmatische und montanistische Schriften.  Vol. 2: 'durchgesehen und herausgegeben von...Gerhard Esser'.  
Dutch: H. U. MEYBOOM, Oudchristel. geschriften, dl. 40-46). Leiden (1929-34).
Spanish:J. PELLICER DE OSSAU SALES Y TOBAR, Obras de Quinto Fl. Tertuliano. Barcelona (1639). Selected works only.
Catalan: [Various], Tertuliano: Sobre el baptisme i altres escrits. 1ª ed.- Barcelona: Fundació Enciclopédia Catalana, 1989.- ISBN: 84-7739-080-0 151, [4] p. (Details from BN Portugal, and personal email).  Contents: Introduction by Jaume Fàbregas; - Sobre el baptisme (De baptismo) (translation: Jaume Fàbregas); - Sobre la oració (De oratione)(trans. Jaume Fàbregas); - Sobre la penitència (De paenitentia) (trans. Andreu Soler); - Contra Pràxees (Adversus Praxean) (trans. Jaume Fàbregas) 
Italian: Selvaggia BORGHINI, Opere di Tertulliano tradotte in Toscano. Rome (1756). See editions page for more details.  (Personal copy).
-- Maria Selvaggia BORGHINI, Opere scelte di Tertulliano tradotte dalla signora Maria Selvaggia Borghini. nobile pisana e corredata di note. Milano: da Placido Maria Visaj, (1821) 2 v. 17 cm (Details from the Biblioteca Abbaziale Fondo Antico, Parrocchia di Santo Stefano, Casalmaggiore (CR)).
-- Claudio MORESCHINI, Tertulliano: Opere scelte, a cura di Claudio MORESCHINI.  Torino: Unione Tipografica Editrice Torinese (1974).  1107p. 8 p of plates. Series: Classici delle religione.  Contains Scap. Prae. Herm. Iud. Marc. Carn. Res. Val. Prax. Monog.  Also bibliography pp.91-102.  Plates include two pages from Montpellier Ms.  Checked.  Personal copy.
-- Claudio MORESCHINI, Tertulliano: Opere scelte, a cura di Claudio MORESCHINI, Seconda edizione interamente rifatta.  Torino: Unione Tipografica Editrice Torinese (1999).  817p. 8 p of plates. Series: Classici delle religione. Sezione quarta: La religione cattolica.  (Details from CTC 99, 5).  Contains 5 works (Cult., Marc., Res., Prax., Pud.).  Cult. and Pud. translated by Maria VINCELLI.  pp.9-65 = introduction; pp.67-75=bibliography.  Checked.  Copy kindly sent to me by Dr. Moreschini.
Russian: Творения Тертуллиана. Т. 1: Апологетические сочинения: Пер. Н. Н. Щеглова. - Киев, 1910; Т. 2: Догматико-полемические сочинения: Пер. Н. Н. Щеглова. - Киев, 1912; Т. 3: Догматические творения: Пер. с пред. и прим. еп. Василия (Богдашевского). - Киев, 1915. (Works of Tertullian. Vol. 1: The apologetic compositions: Translation of N. N. Sheglov, Kiev, 1910; Vol. 2: The dogmatic and polemical compositions: Translation of N. N. Sheglov, Kiev, 1912; Vol. 3: The dogmatic works: Translation with a foreword and notes by the diocesan Basil (Bogdashevsky), Kiev, 1915.)
-- А. А. Столяров (A. A. STOPYAROV (?)), Квинт Септимий Тертуллиан, Избранные сочинения [Пер. с латин.] (=Selected Works). М. Прогресс. Культура. Moskow (1994). 443,[1] с. 22 см. ISBN: 5010041308 (10000). (Details from the Russian State Library OPAC).  Contains at least De Carne Christi, De Baptismo and De Praescriptione Haereticorum as these are online.
Danish: (These items of uncertain contents - can anyone help identify them?):
-- 1859 : H.P. Kofoed-Hansen: Nyt Gammelt. Breve over Tertullian fra XU til UX. Haderslev 1859, 84 s.  (Details from Holger Villadsen)
-- 1900 : Indsigelser mod alle Kætterier, Tertullians og Latinerkirkens mærke-ligste Skrift om Troens Ord. Sigtet og oversat af F.L. Grundt-vig. Kbh.: Schønberg 1900, IX+134 s. [De praescriptione haereticorum? or Adversus omnes haereses] (Details from Holger Villadsen)
-- 1932 : Nicolai Clausen-Bagge: Menighedens oprindelige Daabstro. Af Tertullians Vidnesbyrd. Ringkjøbing 1932, 52 s. (Details from Holger Villadsen)
-- 1973 : [Uddrag]. i: Grane 1973, 153-154 og 156-160. (Details from Holger Villadsen) 
Hungarian: László VANYÓ &c, Tertullianus muvei (The works of Tertullian), Budapest: Szent István Társulat (1986) 1100pp. (Ókeresztény frók 12). (Details CTC 2002.75).  Contains 25 of the 31 possible: Pat. Apol. Orat. Ux. Cult. Mart. Pal. Test. Bapt. Virg. SPect. Idol. Scap. Fug. Carn. Prax. Iei. Mon. Paen. Haer. Cor. Scorp. Val. Prae. Marc. Dr. Vanyo (1941-2003) died in August 2003 at his desk, working on a patristic translation.  The older translations of István Városi (Pat, Apol, Orat, Ux, Cult) and Marcell Mosolygó (Mart) have been recycled; the rest are new.


H. TRÄNKLE, § 474. Q. Septimius Florens Tertullianus, in: K. Sallmann (Ed.), Handbuch der Lateinischen Literatur der Antike, Vol. 4, München (1997), pp.438-511, (French translation: Nouvelle histoire de la littérature latine IV, Turnhout 2000, 494-571).  (Details from author website).
Christel BUTTERWECK, Tertullian, in: Theologische Realenzyklopädie 33 (2002) pp.93-107. (Details from CTC2002).
Peter HABERMEHL, Tertullian, in: Der Neue Pauly, Enzyklopädie der Antike. Altertum, 12/1 (2002) c. 173-177 (Details from CTC2002).
Renato UGLIONE, Poeti latini in Tertulliano: intertestualita e riscrittura.  Atene e Roma 46 (2001), pp. 9-34. (Details from CTC2002).
Sandra BOURGUET, Tertullien et les paraboles: de l'utilité d'un corpus.  Pallas 56 (2001) (Hommage à Dominique Raynal). pp. 151-174. (Details from CTC2002).

This page has been online since 10th December 1999.

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