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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: The Cases of Servants and Other Officials. What Offices a Christian Man May Hold.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XVII.—The Cases of Servants and Other Officials. What Offices a Christian Man May Hold.

But what shall believing servants or children 291 do? officials likewise, when attending on their lords, or patrons, or superiors, when sacrificing? Well, if any one shall have handed the wine to a sacrificer, nay, if by any p. 72 single word necessary or belonging to a sacrifice he shall have aided him, he will be held to be a minister of idolatry. Mindful of this rule, we can render service even “to magistrates and powers,” after the example of the patriarchs and the other forefathers, 292 who obeyed idolatrous kings up to the confine of idolatry. Hence arose, very lately, a dispute whether a servant of God should take the administration of any dignity or power, if he be able, whether by some special grace, or by adroitness, to keep himself intact from every species of idolatry; after the example that both Joseph and Daniel, clean from idolatry, administered both dignity and power in the livery and purple of the prefecture of entire Egypt or Babylonia. And so let us grant that it is possible for any one to succeed in moving, in whatsoever office, under the mere name of the office, neither sacrificing nor lending his authority to sacrifices; not farming out victims; not assigning to others the care of temples; not looking after their tributes; not giving spectacles at his own or the public charge, or presiding over the giving them; making proclamation or edict for no solemnity; not even taking oaths: moreover (what comes under the head of power), neither sitting in judgment on any one’s life or character, for you might bear with his judging about money; neither condemning nor fore-condemning; 293 binding no one, imprisoning or torturing no one—if it is credible that all this is possible.



This is Oehler’s reading; Regaltius and Fr. Junius would read “liberti” = freedmen. I admit that in this instance I prefer their reading; among other reasons it answers better to “patronis” ="patrons.”


Majores. Of course the word may be rendered simply “ancients;” but I have kept the common meaning “forefathers.”


“The judge condemns, the legislator fore-condemns.”—Rigaltius (Oehler.)

Next: Dress as Connected with Idolatry.

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