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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Chapter I

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 243


The Prescription Against Heretics. 1850

[Translated by the Rev. Peter Holmes, D.D., F.R.A.S., Etc., Etc.]


Chapter I.—Introductory. Heresies Must Exist, and Even Abound; They are a Probation to Faith.

The character of the times in which we live is such as to call forth from us even this admonition, that we ought not to be astonished at the heresies (which abound) 1851 neither ought their existence to surprise us, for it was foretold that they should come to pass; 1852 nor the fact that they subvert the faith of some, for their final cause is, by affording a trial to faith, to give it also the opportunity of being “approved.” 1853 Groundless, therefore, and inconsiderate is the offence of the many 1854 who are scandalized by the very fact that heresies prevail to such a degree. How great (might their offence have been) if they had not existed. 1855 When it has been determined that a thing must by all means be, it receives the (final) cause for which it has its being. This secures the power through which it exists, in such a way that it is impossible for it not to have existence.



Of the various forms of the title of this treatise, de Præscriptione Hæreticorum, de Præscriptionibus Hæreticorum, de Præscriptionibus adversus Hæreticos, the first is adopted by Oehler after the oldest authorities, such as the Liber Argobardinus and the Codex Paterniacensis (or Seletstadiensis), and the Editio Princeps of Rhenanus. The term præscriptio is a legal one, meaning a demurrer, or formal objection. The genitive hæreticorum is used in an objective sense, as if adversus hæreticos. Tertullian himself, in de Carne Christi, ii. says, “Sed plenius ejusmodi præscriptionibus adversus omnes hæreses alibi jam usi sumus.” The title therefore means, “On the Church’s Prescriptive Rule against Heresies of all kinds.” [Elucidation I.]




Matt. 7:15, Matt. 24:4, 11, 24, 1 Tim. 4:1, 2 Pet. 2:1.


1 Cor. xi. 19.


Plerique, “the majority.”


The Holy Ghost having foretold that they should exist.  (Rigalt.)

Next: Analogy Between Fevers and Heresies. Heresies Not to Be Wondered At: Their Strength Derived from Weakness of Men's Faith. They Have Not the Truth. Simile of Pugilists and Gladiators in Illustration.

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