Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part III: Argument. Perpetua, When Besieged by Her Father, Comforts Him. When Led with Others to the Tribunal, She Avows Herself a Christian, and is Condemned with the Rest to the Wild Beasts. She Prays for Her Brother Dinocrates, Who Was Dead.
Chapter II.—Argument. Perpetua, When Besieged by Her Father, Comforts Him. When Led with Others to the Tribunal, She Avows Herself a Christian, and is Condemned with the Rest to the Wild Beasts. She Prays for Her Brother Dinocrates, Who Was Dead.
1. “After a few days there prevailed a report that we should be heard. And then my father came to me from the city, worn out with anxiety. He came up to me, that he might cast me down, saying, Have pity my daughter, on my grey hairs. Have pity on your father, if I am worthy to be called a father by you. If with these hands I have brought you up to this flower of your age, if I have preferred you to all your brothers, do not deliver me up to the scorn of men. Have regard to your brothers, have regard to your mother and your aunt, have regard to your son, who will not be able to live after you. p. 701 Lay aside your courage, and do not bring us all to destruction; for none of us will speak in freedom if you should suffer anything. These things said my father in his affection, kissing my hands, and throwing himself at my feet; and with tears he called me not Daughter, but Lady. And I grieved over the grey hairs of my father, that he alone of all my family would not rejoice over my passion. And I comforted him, saying, On that scaffold 8984 whatever God wills shall happen. For know that we are not placed in our own power, but in that of God. And he departed from me in sorrow.
2. “Another day, while we were at dinner, we were suddenly taken away to be heard, and we arrived at the town-hall. At once the rumour spread through the neighbourhood of the public place, and an immense number of people were gathered together. We mount the platform. The rest were interrogated, and confessed. Then they came to me, and my father immediately appeared with my boy, and withdrew me from the step, and said in a supplicating tone, Have pity on your babe. And Hilarianus the procurator, who had just received the power of life and death in the place of the proconsul Minucius Timinianus, who was deceased, said, Spare the grey hairs of your father, spare the infancy of your boy, offer sacrifice for the well-being of the emperors. And I replied, I will not do so. Hilarianus said, Are you a Christian? And I replied, I am a Christian. And as my father stood there to cast me down from the faith, he was ordered by Hilarianus to be thrown down, and was beaten with rods. And my fathers misfortune grieved me as if I myself had been beaten, I so grieved for his wretched old age. 8985 The procurator then delivers judgment on all of us, and condemns us to the wild beasts, and we went down cheerfully to the dungeon. Then, because my child had been used to receive suck from me, and to stay with me in the prison, I send Pomponius the deacon to my father to ask for the infant, but my father would not give it him. And even as God willed it, the child no long desired the breast, nor did my breast cause me uneasiness, lest I should be tormented by care for my babe and by the pain of my breasts at once.
3. “After a few days, whilst we were all praying, on a sudden, in the middle of our prayer, there came to me a word, and I named Dinocrates; and I was amazed that that name had never come into my mind until then, and I was grieved as I remembered his misfortune. And I felt myself immediately to be worthy, and to be called on to ask on his behalf. 8986 And for him I began earnestly to make supplication, and to cry with groaning to the Lord. Without delay, on that very night, this was shown to me in a vision. 8987 I saw Dinocrates going out from a gloomy place, where also there were several others, and he was parched and very thirsty, with a filthy countenance and pallid colour, and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother after the flesh, seven years of age 8988 who died miserably with disease—his face being so eaten out with cancer, that his death caused repugnance to all men. For him I had made my prayer, and between him and me there was a large interval, 8989 so that neither of us could approach to the other. And moreover, in the same place where Dinocrates was, there was a pool full of water, having its brink higher than was the stature of the boy; and Dinocrates raised himself up as if to drink. And I was grieved that, although that pool held water, still, on account of the height to its brink, he could not drink. And I was aroused, and knew that my brother was in suffering. But I trusted that my prayer would bring help to his suffering; and I prayed for him every day until we passed over into the prison of the camp, for we were to fight in the camp-show. Then was the birth-day of Geta Cæsar, and I made my prayer for my brother day and night, groaning and weeping that he might be granted to me.
4. “Then, on the day on which we remained in fetters, 8990 this was shown to me. I saw that that place which I had formerly observed to be in gloom was now bright; and Dinocrates, with a clean body well clad, was finding refreshment. And where there had been a p. 702 wound, I saw a scar; and that pool which I had before seen, I saw now with its margin lowered even to the boys navel. And one drew water from the pool incessantly, and upon its brink was a goblet filled with water; and Dinocrates drew near and began to drink from it, and the goblet did not fail. And when he was satisfied, he went away from the water to play joyously, after the manner of children, and I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from the place of punishment.
“Catasta,” a raised platform on which the martyrs were placed either for trial or torture.701:8985
[St. August. opp. iv. 541.]701:8986
[The story in 2 Maccab. xii. 40-45, is there narrated as a thought suggested to the soldiers under Judas, and not discouraged by him, though it concerned men guilty of idolatry and dying in mortal sin, by the vengeance of God. It may have occurred to early Christians that their heathen kindred might, therefore, not be beyond the visitations of the Divine compassion. But, obviously, even were it not an Apocryphal text, it can have no bearing whatever on the case of Christians. The doctrine of Purgatory is that nobody dying in mortal sin can have the benefit of its discipline, or any share in the prayers and oblations of the Faithful, whatever.]701:8987
“Oromate.” [This vision, it must be observed, has nothing to do with prayers for the Christian dead, for this brother of Perpetua was a heathen child whom she supposed to be in the Inferi. It illustrates the anxieties Christians felt for those of their kindred who had not died in the Lord; even for children of seven years of age. Could the gulf be bridged and they received into Abrahams bosom? This dream of Perpetua comforted her with a trust that so it should be. Of course this story has been used fraudulently, to help a system of which these times knew nothing. Cyprian says expressly: “Apud Inferos confessio, non est, nec exomologesis illic fieri potest.” Epistola lii. p. 98. Opp. Paris, 1574. In the Edinburgh series (translation) this epistle is numbered 51, and elsewhere 54.]701:8988
[There is not the slightest reason to suppose that this child had been baptized: the father a heathen and Perpetua herself a recent catechumen. Elucidation.]701:8989
“Diadema,” or rather “diastema.” [Borrowed from Luke xvi. 26. But that gulf could not be passed according to the evangelist.]701:8990
Next: Argument. Perpetua is Again Tempted by Her Father. Her Third Vision, Wherein She is Led Away to Struggle Against an Egyptian. She Fights, Conquers, and Receives the Reward.
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