Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Tertullian: Part Fourth/On Modesty/Elucidations

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Modesty
by Tertullian, translated by Sydney Thelwall
155849Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Modesty — ElucidationsSydney ThelwallTertullian




(The Shepherd of Hermas, p. 85.)

Here, and in chap. xx. below, Tertullian’s rabid utterances against the Shepherd may be balanced by what he had said, less unreasonably, in his better mood.[1]  Now he refers to the Shepherd’s (ii. 1)[2] view of pardon, even to adulterers.  But surely it might be objected even more plausibly against “the Shepherd,” whom he prefers, in common with all Christians, as see John viii. 1–11, which I take to be canonical Scripture.  A curious question is suggested by what he says of the figure of the Good Shepherd portrayed on the chalice:  Is this irony, as if the figure so familiar from illustrations of the catacombs must be meant for the Shepherd of Hermas?  Regarding all pictures as idolatrous, he may intend to intimate that adultery (=idolatry) was thus symbolized.


(Clasping the knees of all, p. 86.)

Here is a portrait of the early penitential discipline sufficiently terrible, and it conforms to the apostolic pictures of the same.  “Tell it unto the Church,” says our Lord (Matt. xviii. 17).  In 1 Cor. v. 4 the apostle (“present in spirit”) gives judgment, but the whole Church is “gathered together.”  In James v. 16 the “confession to one another” seems to refer to this public discipline, as also the prayer for healing enjoined on one another.  St. Chrysostom, however, reflecting the discipline of his day, in which great changes were made, says, on Matt. xviii. 17, unless it be a gloss, “Dic Ecclesiæ id est Præsidibus =προεδρευούσιν.”  (Tom. vii. p. 536, ed. Migne.)


(Remedial discipline, p. 87.)

Powerfully as Tertullian states his view of this apostolic “delivering unto Satan” as for final perdition, it is not to be gainsaid that (1 Cor. v. 5) the object was salvation and hope, “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”  Thus, the power of Satan to inflict bodily suffering (Job ii. 6), when divinely permitted, is recognised under the Gospel (Luke xiii. 16; 2 Cor. xii. 7).  The remedial mercy of trials and sufferings may be inferred when providentially occurring.


(Personally upon Peter, p. 99.)

See what has been said before.  But note our author (now writing against the Church, and as a Montanist) has no idea that the personal prerogative of St. Peter had descended to any bishop.  More when we come to Cyprian, and see vol. iii. p. 630, this series.


  1. On Prayer, vol. iii. cap. xvi. p. 686, supra, where he speaks respectfully.
  2. Vol. ii. p. 22 (also p. 43), this series.