appears to have surrendered himself entirely to the guidance of
his fancy. His followers, using the same liberty, changed and
added to their master's notions at their own discretion ; so that,
in Tertullian's day, Axionicus of Antioch alone adhered strictly
to the doctrines of Valentinus. 2 Ptolemy, 3 one of his most
distinguished disciples, differed from him with respect to the
names, the number, and the nature of the ^Eons. Tertullian
mentions among his followers, Colarbasus, 4 if the reading is
correct ; Heracleon; 5 Secundus; 6 Marcus, 7 to whom our author
gives the appellation of Magus ; Theotimus, 8 who appears to
have employed himself in proposing allegorical or figurative
expositions of the law ; and Alexander, 9 who urged as a reason
for denying the reality of Christ's flesh that, if He actually
assumed human flesh, He must have assumed sinful flesh ;
whereas St. Paul sVys that Christ abolished sin in the flesh.
Tertullian mentions certain psalms or hymns of Valentinus. 10
He says also that Valentinus did not, like Marcion, mutilate the
Scriptures, but was content to pervert their meaning. 11 In our
account of the Scorpiace, we stated the grounds on which the
Valentinians denied that Christians were under any obligation to
encounter martyrdom. 12 One of them, named Prodicus, appears
to have taken the lead in asserting this doctrine. 13
Of the more obscure Gnostic sects enumerated by Mosheim
the Adamites, Cainites, Abelites, Sethites, Florinians, Ophites
Tertullian mentions only the Cainites, who, according to him,
were Nicolaitans under another name. 14 It has been already
remarked that the female, against whom the tract de Baptisrno
was composed, was said to belong to this sect. 15
1 Century ii. part ii. chap. v. sect. 16, note.
3 Adv. Valentinianos, c. 4. In c. ir Tertullian says that the divisions among
the followers of Valentinus arose chiefly out of their different notions respecting
Christ. See de Prcescriptione Hcereticorum, c. 42.
3 Cc. 4, 33. ^ C . 4 . C. 4.
6 C. 4 and c. 38, where the system of Secundus is stated.
7 C. 4. In the tract de Resurrectione Carnis, c. 5, Marcus is said to have
maintained that the human body was the workmanship of angels.
8 C. 4. " Multum circa imagines Legis Theotimus operatus est."
8 De Carne Christi, c. 16. See chap. v. note 9, p. 133.
10 De Carne Christi, cc. 17, 20. n De Prccscriptione Ha-relicoriem, c. 38.
12 Chap. i. p. 29 ; chap. ii. p. 75.
13 Scorpiace, cap. ult. Prodicus is mentioned again in the tract against Praxeas,
c. 3, sub fine.
14 De Pnescriptione Hcrreticorum, c. 33. ]!i Chap. i. note 2, p. 9.
260 The Ecclesiastical History of the
From the Oriental heresies, Mosheim proceeds to those
which he allows to be of Grecian origin, and which, according
to him, principally owed their rise to the attempt to explain the
Christian doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation, upon the
principles of the Grecian philosophy. To this class of heresies
he refers the tenets of Praxeas, Artemon, and Theodotus. Of
Artemon and Theodotus we find no notice in Tertullian's
writings. Against Praxeas he wrote a treatise, from which we
collect not only the opinions of that heretic, but also his own,
upon the two fundamental articles of Christian faith just men-
tioned. The reader will remember that the consideration of
them was deferred till we arrived at this division of our work ;
and their paramount importance must be our excuse for enter-
ing into a more detailed account of the treatise against
Praxeas than has been given of the other tracts against the
Praxeas, according to our author, was a man of a restless
temper, who had very recently come from Asia, and by false
representations prevailed upon the Bishop of Rome to recall a
letter, in which he had recognised the prophecies of Montanus,
Prisca, and Maximilla, and had recommended the Asiatic
Churches to continue in communion with them. 1 This circum-
stance doubtless contributed, as much as the heretical tenets of
Praxeas, to excite our author's indignation against him. When,
however, those tenets found their way to Carthage, they were
successfully combated and to all appearance extirpated by
Tertullian himself; the person who originally taught them having
delivered to the Church a written recantation. But after a time
the heresy again displayed itself, and called forth, from the pen
of Tertullian, the treatise which we are now to consider.
The error of Praxeas appears to have originated in anxiety to
maintain the unity of God, 2 which, he thought, could only be
done by saying that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were one
and the same. 3 He contended, therefore, according to Ter-
tullian, that the Father Himself descended into the Virgin, was
1 C. i. " Ipsa novellitas Praxeas hesterni," c. 2.
2 " Unicum dominum vindicat, omnipotentem, mundi conditorem, ut de unico
Hneresim facial," c. i.
3 ' ' Dum unicum Deum non alias putat credendum, quam si ipsum eundemque
et Patrem et Filium et Spiritum Sanctum dicat," c. 2. " Quum eundem Patrem
et Filium et Spiritum contendunt, adversus eie>,a/ Monarchic adulantes,"
Second and Third Centuries. 261
born of her, suffered, and was in a word Jesus Christ. 1 Praxeas,
however, does not appear to have admitted the correctness of
this account of his doctrine, but to have declared his opinion to
be that the Father did not suffer in the Son, but sympathized
(coinpassus esf) with the Son. 2
Tertullian enters upon the refutation of the doctrines of
Praxeas by setting forth his own creed. 3 " We believe," he says,
" in one God, but under the following dispensation or economy
that there is also a Son of God, His Word, who proceeded
from Him ; 4 by whom all things were made, and without whom
nothing was made ; who was sent by Him into the Virgin, and
was born of her ; being both man and God, the Son of man and
the Son of God, and called Jesus Christ; who suffered, died,
and was buried, according to the Scriptures ; and was raised
again by the Father ; 5 and was taken up into heaven, there to sit
at the right hand of the Father, and thence to come to judge
the quick and the dead ; who sent from heaven, from His
Father, according to His promise, the Holy Ghost, the Com-
forter, the Sanctifier of the faith of all who believe in the
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." 6 Such, according to Tertullian,
was the faith handed down in the Church, from the first preach-
ing of the gospel a faith which, far from destroying the unity,
as Praxeas supposed, is perfectly consistent with it. " For
though the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three, they are
1 " Ipsum dicit Batrem descendisse in virginem, ipsum ex ea natum, ipsum
passum ; denique ipsum esse Jesum Christum," c. i.
- " Ergo nee compassus est Pater Filio ; sic enim, directam blasphemiam in
Patrem veriti, diminui earn hoc modo sperant, concedentes jam Patrem et Filium
duos esse, si films quidem patitur ; Pater vero compatitur," c. 29. From this
passage Lardner contends that Praxeas was not a Patripassian, and that Ter-
tullian was mistaken in his view of that heretic's doctrines. According to
Lardner, who follows Beausobre, Praxeas distinguished between the Word and
the Son of God ; deeming the former only an attribute or faculty of the divine
nature, the communication of which to the man Jesus Christ, through His con-
ception by the Holy Spirit, rendered Him the Son of God. Credibility of Gospel
History, c. 41. History of Heretics, c. 20, sect. 7. But Wilson, in his Illustra-
tion, etc., pp. 312, 415, has satisfactorily shown that the earliest error on the
subject of Christ's nature was that of those who denied, not His divinity, but His
humanity ; and that the error of Praxeas consisted in denying His distinct per-
sonality. Wilson compares Praxeas and his followers with the Swedenborgians.
3 C. 2. This passage is quoted in chap. v. note 4, p. 159.
4 " Qui ex ipso processerit." In c. 6 Tertullian, speaking of the generation of
the Son, uses the word protulit. See also c. 7: " Hagc est nativitas perfecta
Sermonis, dum ex Deo procedit." And c. 19 : " In quo principle prolatus a
5 Here, as in the Epistle to the Galatians i. i, the raising of Christ is attributed
to the Father. See Pearson, article v. p. 256.
6 In c. 4 the Holy Ghost is said to be from the Father, through the Son.
262 The Ecclesiastical History of the
three, not in condition, but in degree ; x not in substance, but in
form ; not in power, but in species ; being of one substance, one
condition, and one power, because there is one God, from whom
those degrees, forms, and species, in the name of the Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost are derived."
"The simple, indeed," Tertullian proceeds, "not to call
them unwise and unlearned, who always constitute the majority
of believers, are startled at the doctrine of the Trinity, thinking
that it divides the Unity. 2 We, they say, maintain the monarchy,
or sole government of God. But what is the meaning of the
word monarchy ? Sole empire ; and is it not perfectly con-
sistent with singleness of rule that the ruler should have a son,
or that he should administer the government through the agency
1 " Tres autem, non statu, sed gradu ; nee substantia, sed forma ; nee potestate,
sed specie ; unius autem substantiae, et unius status, et unius potestatis ; quia
inus Deus, ex quo et gradus isti et formse et species, in nomine Patris et Filii et
spiritus Sancti, deputantur." C. 2. Compare c. 19. " Rationem reddidimus
ju& Dii non duo dicantur, nee Domini, sed qua Pater et Filius, duo : et hoc non
ex separatione substantias, sed ex dispositione, quum ihdividuum et inseparatum
Filium a Patre pronuntiamus ; nee statu, sed gradu alium ; qui etsi Deus dicatur
quando nominatur singularis, non ideo duos Deos facial, sed unum ; hoc ipso
quod et Deus ex unitate Patris vocari habeat." See also cc. 9, 21.
2 Tertullian's words are: " Simplices enim quique, ne dixerim imprudentes et
idiotae, quag major semper credentium pars est," etc. In his controversy with
Dr. Priestley, Bishop Horsley translated the word idiota; by the English word
idiots, for which translation he was severely reprehended by Dr. Priestley. The
Bishop afterwards explained that by the word idiot he did not mean a person
labouring under a constitutional defect of the faculty of reasom ; but a dull, stupid,
ignorant person a dunce or booby. Probably between the publication of his
Letters and of his Supplemental Disquisitions, Bentley's animadversions upon
Collins for translating " abidiotis Evangelistis," by idiot Evangelists, had occurred
to his recollection. Remarks on Free-thinking, c. 33. Wilson, p. \\\, thus
translates the passage : " For all the men of simplicity " (alluding probably to their
affectation of simplicity of doctrine, as well as to their ignorance), ' ' not to call them
unwise and unlearned, who always form the majority of Christians." We doubt
whether the word Simplices was meant to convey the allusion which Wilson
supposes. In the tract against tlie Valentinians , c. 2, Tertullian says that they
called the orthodox Simplices, and themselves Sapientes. See also c. 3 ; adi>.
Judceos, c. 9, "Vel conrertere simplices quosque gestitis." Scorpiace, c. i,
" Nam quod sciunt multos simplices ac rudes," where the word manifestly means,
simple-minded, uninstructed. But that Wilson has rightly translated the word
idiotce will appear from the comparison of the following passages : ' ' Male accepit
idiotes quisque," c. 9. "Nee tantus ego sum ut vos alloquar ; veruntamen et
gladiatores perfectissimos non tantum magistri et praepositi sui, sed etiam idiots
et supervacue quique abhortantur de longinquo, ut ssepe de ipso populo dictata
suggesta profuerint." Ad Martyres, c. i. " Sed est hoc solenne perversis et
idiotis (et Rigault) hsereticis, jam et Psychicis universis." De Pudicitia, c. 16,
sub fine. " Te simplicem et rudem et impolitam et idioticam compello." DC
Testimonio Anima, c. i. The word imperitus is used in nearly the same
sense: " Secundum majorem vim imperitorum apud gloriosissimam scilicet multi-
tudinem Psychiorum." De Jejuniis, c. n.
Second and Third Centuries. 263
of whom he will? 1 When a father associates his son with
himself in the empire, is the unity of the imperial power thereby
destroyed ? The Valentinians, it is true, destroy the monarchy
of God, because they introduce other deities, who are wholly at
variance with Him. The Son is of the substance of the Father ; 2
He does nothing but by the will of the Father; He derives all
His power from the Father, and will finally, as we learn from
St. Paul, restore it to the Father. 3 How then can the doc-
trine of the Trinity, when thus explained, be deemed inconsistent
with the sole government of God? The same reasoning is
applicable in the case of the Holy Spirit." The very circum-
stance, that the Scriptures speak of one who delivers power, and
of another to whom it is delivered, affords in Tertullian's
estimation convincing evidence of a distinction of persons in
the unity of the divine nature; yet expressions sometimes falH
from him which seem at first sight to imply that the distinction \
only subsists for the purpose of carrying on the divine adminis- *
tration under the gospel. 4
Having removed this popular objection to the doctrine of the
Trinity, Tertullian turns to the immediate question between him-
self and Praxeas, and says that his object will be to inquire
whether there is a Son, who He is, and how He exists. 5 In fol-
lowing Tertullian through his investigation of the first of these
points, we must bear in mind the double sense of the word Aoyos
which comprehends ratio and sermo, reason and speech.
" Before all things God was alone, being His own world, and
place, and universe ; alone, because nothing existed without or
beyond Him. Yet even then He was not alone, for He had with
Him, within Himself, His Reason, called by the Greeks Aoyos,
by the Latins Sermo, though the word Ratio would be the more
accurate translation, and it would be more proper to say, In the
beginning Reason (Ratio) was 7vith God, than In the beginning the
Word (Sermo] was with God ; since Reason is manifestly prior to
the Word which it dictates. Not that this distinction is of great
i " Facilius de Filio quam cle Patre hassitabatur." DC Prascriptione Heere-
ticorum, c. 34. Semler insinuates that this part of Tertullian's reasoning verges
' J C. 4. 3 i Cor. xv. 28. .
4 ' ' Videmus, igitur, non obesse monarchias Filium, etsi hodie apud Filium est ; I
quia et in suo statu est apud Filium, et cum suo statu restituetur Patri a Filio ; ita/
earn nemo hoc nomine destruet, si Filium admittat, cui et traditam earn a Patre,/
et a quo quandoque restituendam Patri constat," c. 4. Compare cc. 13, 16.
5 C. 5.
8 Tertullian's words are: " Cteterum ne tune quidem solus; habebat enim
264 The Ecclesiastical History of the
moment. For as God reasoned with Himself, and arranged the
plan of creation, He may be accurately said, by so doing, to have
made His Reason His Word. Thought, as we know from our
own experience, is a species of internal conversation. This
power and disposition of the divine intelligence (Divini sensus}
is "called also in Scripture o-o^t'a, or Wisdom ; for what can be
better entitled to the name of Wisdom than the Reason and Word
of God? 1 When, therefore, God had determined to exhibit in
their different substances and forms those things which He had
planned within Himself in conjunction with the Reason and
Word of His wisdom, He sent forth His Word 2 who had also in
Himself reason and wisdom inseparably united to Him to the
end that all things might be made by Him by whom they had
been originally devised and planned nay, had been actually
made, as far as the divine intelligence was concerned (quantum
in Dei sensu} nothing more being wanting to them than that
they should be known, and as it were fixed in their respective
substances and forms. Such is the perfect nativity of the Word,
as He proceeds from God : formed by Him first, to devise, under
the name of wisdom ; then begotten, for the purpose of carrying
into effect what had been devised." 3 The reader will in this
passage recognise a distinction, with which the early Fathers were
familiar, between the Aoyos evSia^eros and the /Vo'yos Trpo^opiKo's.
Tertullian's language would at first sight appear to imply that
the generation of the Word took place when He was sent forth
to create the world, and that His distinct personality commenced
secum, quam habebat in semetipso, Rationem suam scilicet. Rationales enim
Deus, et Ratio in ipso prius ; et ita ab ipso omnia ; quae Ratio sensus ipsius est."
Compare the- conclusion of c. 15. Sensus in this passage, according to Bull,
Defensio Fidel .Vicatnce, sect. 3, c. 10, p. 238, corresponds to the Greek word ?/.
In the tract dePrcescriptione H<zreticorum, c. 33, as was observed in note 2, p. 254,
Tertullian uses it as synonymous with >euf. The difficulty is to reconcile this
mode of explaining the generation of Word with the notion of distinct personality.
The reader, however, may consult Horsley's fourth Supplemental Disquisition.
There is towards the conclusion of c. 5 an expression on which Bull animadverts
severely : " Possum itaque non temere prsestruxisse, et tune Deum, ante univer-
sitatis constitutionem, solum non fuisse, habentem in semetipso proinde Rationem,
et in ratione Sermonem, quem secundum a se faceret agitando intra se," p. 236.
1 C. 6. Tertullian refers to Prov. viii. 22, introducing the quotation by the
words, "Itaque Sophiam quoque exaudi, ut secundam personam conditam ;"
words which would at first sight seem to imply that the second Person in the
Trinity was created; but he adds, "In sensu suo scilicet condens et generans
(Deus)." Part of c. 7 is employed in proving the identity of the Word and
Wisdom of God. Compare adv. Hermogenem, c. 20.
2 Semler infers that, previously to this prolation, the Word had no distinct per-
3 C. 7. " Haec est nativitas perfecta Sermonis, dum ex Deo procedit : condihts
ab eo primum ad cogitatum in nomine Sophias dehinc generatus ad effectum."
Second and Third Centuries. 265
from that period.- It is, however, certain that our author intended
to assert the distinct personality of the A.oyos
One of the objections urged by Praxeas was, that the Word of
God meant nothing more than the Word of His mouth not a
distinct agent, but the emission of His voice, to which, in meta-
phorical language, agency was ascribed. " What," he asked, " do
you make the Word a substance, when it is in truth a voice, a
sound proceeding from the mouth ; and, as the grammarians say,
an impulse given to the air, and intelligible through the hear-
ing?" 1 To this objection Tertullian answers, that the expres-
sions in Scripture respecting the Word are of such a nature that
they imply a Person, whom we call the Son, distinct from the
Father ; and that they cannot be accounted for on the supposi-
tion that they are metaphorical. Can the Word, of whom it is
said that without Him nothing was made that was made, be sup-
posed to be a mere empty sound ? Can that which is without
substance, create substances ? " Whatever, then," concludes Ter-
tullian, " may be the substance of the Word, I call that substance
a Person, and give it the name of Son ; and while I acknowledge
a Son, I maintain that He is second to the Father." 2 Thus our
author determines the first question which he proposed to dis-
cuss whether there is a Son ?
We have seen that Tertullian, in speaking of the generation of
the Son, uses the words protulit and procedit? He thinks it
therefore necessary to refute by anticipation the charge of intro-
ducing the Valentinian 7r/x>/3oA/>7, prolation of ^Eons. 4 "Their
prolation," he says, " implies an entire separation of the sub-
stance emitted mine does not prevent its most intimate union
with that from which it proceeds." In order to explain his mean-
ing, he borrows illustrations from natural objects. The three
persons in the Trinity stand to each other in the relation of the
root, the shrub, and the fruit ; of the fountain, the river, and the
cut from the river ; of the sun, the ray, and the terminating
1 C. 7. "Ergo, inquis, das aliquam substantiam esse Sermonem, Spiritu et
Sophiae traditione constructam ? Plane." And again: "Quid est enim, dices,
sermo nisi vox et somis oris, et sicut Grammatici tradunt, aer offensus, intelligi-
bilis auditu? caeterum vacuum nescio quid et inane et incorporale ? "
2 " Quaecunque ergo substantiaSermonisfuit, illam dicopersonam, et illinomen
Filii vindico ; et dum Filium agnosco, secundum a Patre defendo. " The expres-
sion, " Secundum a Patre," according to Semler, implies a complete separation
of the Son from the Father a separation of substance ; but whoever reads the
following chapter (viii. ) will be convinced that such was not Tertullian's notion.
3 Note 4, p. 261. 4 C. 8.
266 The Ecclesiastical History of the
point of the ray. 1 For these illustrations he professes himself
indebted to the revelations of the Paraclete. In later times,
divines have occasionally resorted to similar illustrations, for the
purpose of familiarising the doctrine of the Trinity to the mind ;
nor can any danger arise from the proceeding, so long as we
recollect that they are illustrations, not arguments that we must
not draw conclusions from them, or think that whatever may be
truly predicated of the illustration may be predicated with equal
truth of that which it was designed to illustrate.
" Notwithstanding, however, the intimate union which subsists
between the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, we must be careful,"
Tertullian continues, "to distinguish between their Persons." 2
In his representations of this distinction, he sometimes uses
expressions which in after times, when controversy had intro-
duced greater precision of language, were studiously avoided by
I the orthodox. Thus he calls the Father the whole substance ;
\ the Son a derivation from or portion of the whole. 3 In proving
the distinction of Persons he lays particular stress on John xiv. i6. 4
He contends also that Father and Son are correlative terms, one
of which implies the existence of the other : there cannot be a
Father without a Son, or a Son without a Father. 5 Consequently
the doctrine of Praxeas, which confounds the Father and Son,
must be erroneous. To this argument Praxeas replied, that
nothing is impossible with God that He, who could make a
barren woman and even a virgin bear, could make Himself at
once both Father and Son. 6 In support of this assertion he
quoted the first verse of Genesis, in which he appears to have
read, In principio Deus fecit sibi fiUum? Tertullian rejoins, that
1 " Protulit enim Deus Sermonem, quemadmodum etiam Paracletus docet, sicut
radix fruticem, et fons fluvium, et Sol radium ; " quoted in note i, p. 10 of chap. i.
Again, " Tertius enim est Spiritus a Deo et Filio, sicut tertius a radice, fructus ex
frutice ; et tertius a fonte, rivus ex flumine ; et tertius a Sole, apex ex radio." I
know not whether I have rightly translated the words rivus and apex. Let me
take this opportunity of observing that I undertake only to state, not always to
explain or comprehend, Tertullian's notions.
- C. 9.
/ 3 "Pater enim tola substantia est, films vero derivatio totius et portio, sicut
/ ipse profitetur, quia Pater major me est. " Semler supposes derivatio to be a trans-
f lation of aripfoia, a word which he states to have been rightly rejected by Irenseus and
} others. See c. 14, " Pro modulo derivations, " and c. 26. Bull, sect. 2, c.'y, p. 95.
4 "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter even the
Spirit of Truth." 5 C. 10.
6 It appears from this passage that Praxeas admitted the miraculous conception.
7 C. 5. " Aiunt quidem et Genesin in Hebraico ita incipere, In principio Deus
fecit sibi filium." Semler doubts the truth of Tertullian's assertion. His note is,
" Mirum est sic quosdam finxisse."
Second and Third Centuries. 267
our business is to inquire what God has done, not to conjecture
what He can do ; or to infer that, because He can produce a certain
event, He has produced it. He could have given men wings, but
He has not given them. In God, will and power are the same ; what,
therefore, He wills not to do, that in one sense He cannqt do.
Tertullian proceeds to say that Praxeas, in order to establish his
point, ought to produce passages of Scripture in which the absolute
identity of the Father and Son is as clearly expressed as is the