Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Anti-Marcion/The Prescription Against Heretics/Chapter XXXVI

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, Anti-Marcion, The Prescription Against Heretics by Tertullian, translated by Peter Holmes
Chapter XXXVI

Chapter XXXVI.—The Apostolic Churches the Voice of the Apostles. Let the Heretics Examine Their Apostolic Claims, in Each Case, Indisputable. The Church of Rome Doubly Apostolic; Its Early Eminence and Excellence. Heresy, as Perverting the Truth, is Connected Therewith.

Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones[1] of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places,[2] in which their own authentic writings[3] are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally. Achaia is very near you, (in which) you find Corinth. Since you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi; (and there too) you have the Thessalonians. Since you are able to cross to Asia, you get Ephesus. Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy,[4] you have Rome, from which there comes even into our own hands the very authority (of apostles themselves).[5] How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood! where Peter endures a passion like his Lord’s! where Paul wins his crown in a death like John’s[6] where the Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile! See what she has learned, what taught, what fellowship has had with even (our) churches in Africa![7] One Lord God does she acknowledge, the Creator of the universe, and Christ Jesus (born) of the Virgin Mary, the Son of God the Creator; and the Resurrection of the flesh; the law and the prophets she unites[8] in one volume with the writings of evangelists and apostles, from which she drinks in her faith. This she seals with the water (of baptism), arrays with the Holy Ghost, feeds with the Eucharist, cheers with martyrdom,[9] and against such a discipline thus (maintained) she admits no gainsayer. This is the discipline which I no longer say foretold that heresies should come, but from[10] which they proceeded. However, they were not of her, because they were opposed to her.[11] Even the rough wild-olive arises from the germ[12] of the fruitful, rich, and genuine[13] olive; also from the seed[14] of the mellowest and sweetest fig there springs the empty and useless wild-fig. In the same way heresies, too, come from our plant,[15] although not of our kind; (they come) from the grain of truth,[16] but, owing to their falsehood, they have only wild leaves to show.[17]


  1. Cathedræ.
  2. Suis locis præsident.
  3. Authenticæ. This much disputed phrase may refer to the autographs or the Greek originals (rather than the Latin translations), or full unmutilated copies as opposed to the garbled ones of the heretics. The second sense is probably the correct one.
  4. [Note, those near by may resort to this ancient and glorious church; not as any better than Corinth, or Philippi, or having any higher Apostolic throne. See Irenæus, Vol. I. p. 415, (note) and Elucid. p. 460.]
  5. Compare our Anti-Marcion, iv. 5, p. 186.
  6. The Baptist’s.
  7. [Observe—“even with us in Africa.” If this implies noteworthy love, it proves that there was no organic relation requiring such particular fellowship, even in the West.]
  8. Miscet.
  9. We have taken Oehler’s hint in favour of “martyrio.” The usual reading “martyrium” (meaning “she exhorts to martyrdom”) is stiff, and unsuited to the context.
  10. De.
  11. Or, “they were not of it, because they were opposed to it,” i.e., the discipline or teaching.
  12. Nucleo.
  13. Necessariæ.
  14. Papavere. “Ego cum aliis papaver ficus interpretor de seminalibus ficus, non de ipso fructu” (Oehler).
  15. Frutice.
  16. We again follow Oehler’s hint, who would like to read “de grano veritatis.” The texts are obscure, and vary much here.
  17. Silvestres.