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Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus (born ca. 150-160, died ca. 220-240) A major theologian in the early Christian church, known for his powerful denunciations of many influences he considered heretical, including the widespread admiration of pagan philosophers and many Gnostic ideas, yet in later life a Montanist, and thus he himself an embracer of beliefs that came to be declared heretical.


  • Vide, inquiunt, ut invicem se diligant; ipsi enim invicem oderunt: et ut pro alterutro mori sint parati; ipsi enim ad occidendum alterutrum paratiores erunt.
    • Translation: See, they say, how they love one another, for themselves are animated by mutual hatred; how they are ready even to die for one another, for they themselves will sooner put to death.
    • Apologeticus, 39, describing how Christianity is mocked by its enemies.
  • Plures efficimur, quoties metumur a vobis; semen est sanguis christianorum.
    • Translation: We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed.
    • Apologeticus, 50
  • Omnium gentium unus homo, uarium nomen est, una anima, uaria uox, unus spiritus, uarius sonus, propria cuique genti loquella, sed loquellae materia communis.
    • Translation: Man is one name belonging to every nation upon earth. In them all is one soul though many tongues. Every country has its own language, yet the subjects of which the untutored soul speaks are the same everywhere.
    • De Testimonio Animae (The Testimony of the Soul) (6.3)
  • Veritas autem docendo persuadet non suadendo docet.
    • Translation: Truth persuades by teaching, but does not teach by persuading.
    • Adversus Valentinianos (Against the Valentinians) (1.4)
  • Nihil veritas erubescit
    • Translation: Truth does not blush.
    • Adversus Valentinianos (3.2)
  • Prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est.
    • Translation: It is to be believed because it is absurd.
    • De Carne Christi (5.4)
  • Certum est, quia impossible est.
    • Translation: It is certain because it is impossible.
    • De Carne Christi (5.4)
    • Two lines from De Carne Christi have often become conflated into the statement: "Credo quia impossibile" (I believe it because it is impossible), which can be perceived as a distortion of the actual arguments that Tertullian was making.
  • De calcaria in carbonarium.
    • Translation: Out of the frying pan into the fire.
    • De Carne Christi (6)
  • Omnia periclitabuntur aliter accipi quam sunt, et amittere quod sunt dum aliter accipiuntur, si aliter quam sunt cognominantur. Fides nominum salus est proprietatum.
    • Translation: All things will be in danger of being taken in a sense different from their own proper sense, and, whilst taken in that different sense, of losing their proper one, if they are called by a name which differs from their natural designation. Fidelity in names secures the safe appreciation of properties.
    • De Carne Christi (13.2)
  • Qui fugiebat, rursus sibi proeliabitur.
    • Translation: He who flees will fight again.
    • De Fuga in Persecutione, 10.
  • Nec alii obest aut prodest alterius religio.
    • Translation: One man's religion neither harms nor helps another man.
    • Ad Scapulam (2.2)
  • Nec religionis est cogere religio
    • Translation: It is certainly no part of religion to compel religion.
    • Ad Scapulam (2.2)
  • Infirma commendatio est quae de alterius destructione fulcitur.
    • Translation: Of little worth is the recommendation which has for its prop the defamation of another.
    • Adversus Marcionem (IV.15.5)
  • Itaque et ego vanitatem vanitate depellam.
    • Translation: I shall dispel one empty story by another. (Sometimes rendered: I must dispel vanity with vanity)
    • Adversus Marcionem (IV.30.3)
  • Cum ergo spiritus Dei descendit, indiuidua patientia comitatur eum.
    • Translation: When God's Spirit descends, then Patience accompanies Him indivisibly.
    • De Patientia (15:7)
  • Quippe res dei ratio quia deus omnium conditor nihil non ratione providit disposuit ordinavit, nihil [enim] non ratione tractari intellegique voluit. [3] Igitur ignorantes quique deum rem quoque eius ignorent necesse est quia nullius omnino thesaurus extraneis patet. Itaque universam vitae conversationem sine gubernaculo rationis transfretantes inminentem saeculo procellam evitare non norunt.
    • Translation: Reason, in fact, is a thing of God, inasmuch as there is nothing which God the Maker of all has not provided, disposed, ordained by reason— nothing which He has not willed should be handled and understood by reason. All, therefore, who are ignorant of God, must necessarily be ignorant also of a thing which is His, because no treasure-house at all is accessible to strangers. And thus, voyaging all the universal course of life without the rudder of reason, they know not how to shun the hurricane which is impending over the world.
    • De Paenitentia (On Repentance) (1.2-3)
  • esterni sumus, & vestra omnia implevimus, Vrbes, Insulas, Castella, Municipia, Conciliabula, Castra ipsa, Tribus, Decurias, palatium, Senatum, Forum, sola vobis relinquimus Templa.
    • Translation: We are but of yesterday, and yet we have filled all the places that belong to you -- cities, islands, forts, towns, exchanges; the military camps themselves, tribes, town councils, the palace, the senate, the market-place; we have left you nothing but your temples..
    • Tertullian's Plea For Allegiance (A.2)

Quotes by others about Tertullian

  • This is said with more spirit than truth.
  • Every word almost was a sentence; every sentence a victory.
    • St. Vincent of Lerins on his esteem of Tertullian's writings.


  • Arguments about Scripture achieve nothing but a stomachache and a headache.
  • He who lives only to benefit himself confers on the world a benefit when he dies.
  • Hope is patience with the lamp lit.
  • Nothing that is God's is obtainable by money.
  • You can judge the quality of their faith from the way they behave. Discipline is an index to doctrine.
  • You cannot parcel out freedom in pieces because freedom is all or nothing.

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