Fathers oponion about church and its sacraments 

Clement of Rome.


The Church and Ministry


(a) Christ’s Army

Let us therefore, brethren, enthusiastically accept military service, in obedience to his perfect commands. Let us observe those who serve in the army under our military authorities, and note their discipline, their readiness, their obedience in carrying out orders. Not all of them are prefects, or tribunes, or centurions, or commanders of fifty, and so on; but each man in his rank carries out the orders of the emperor or the leaders. ‘The great cannot exist without the small, nor the small without the great’ . . . [based on ι Cor. xii. 12-26]

Ibid, xxvii


(b) Spiritual Gifts

Let our whole body be preserved in Christ Jesus, and let each man be subject to his neighbour, as he has had his place assigned by his spiritual gift. Let the strong not neglect the weak; let the weak respect the strong. . . . Let the pure in flesh [sc. the ascetic] refrain from boasting of it, knowing that it is Another who supplies his self-discipline. Let us consider, brethren, of what stuff we are made; out of what tomb and darkness our fashioner and creator brought us into his world, having prepared his benefits before we were born. Having all these things from him we ought in all respects to give him thanks; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Ibid, xxxviii


(c) The Clergy and the Laity

The Lord has commanded that the offerings and services should be performed with care, and done at the fixed times and seasons, not in a haphazard and irregular fashion. . . . The high priest has been given his own special services, the priests have been assigned their own place, and the Levites have their special ministrations enjoined on them. The layman is bound by the ordinances of the laity.

[First] Epistle to the Corinthians, xl


Let each one of you, my brothers, give thanks2 to God in his own order, with a good conscience, not transgressing the fixed rule of his service, and with solemn reverence. It is not in every place that the various sacrifices… are offered, but in Jerusalem only; and even there not in every place but before the shrine at the altar3 . . .

Ibid, xli


(d) The Apostles and their Successors

The Apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ: Jesus the Christ was sent from God. Thus Christ is from God, the Apostles from Christ: in both cases the process was orderly, and derived from the will of God. The Apostles received their instructions; they were filled with conviction through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with faith by the word of God; and they went out full of confidence in the Holy Spirit, preaching the gospel that the Kingdom of God was about to come. They preached in country and town, and appointed their first-fruits, after testing them by the Spirit, to be bishops4 and deacons of those who were going to believe. And this was no novelty, for indeed a long time ago the Scripture had mentioned bishops and deacons; for there is somewhere this passage: Ί will set up their bishops [overseers] in righteousness and their deacons [ministers] in faith.’s

(xliii) Is it any wonder if those who in Christ were entrusted by God with such a work appointed the aforesaid persons? Seeing that the blessed Moses also, ‘a faithful servant in all his house,’ noted down in the sacred books all that had been enjoined upon him… . For when jealousy arose about the priesthood and the tribes were disputing which of them should be adorned with that glorious name, he commanded the twelve tribal chiefs to bring rods inscribed with the name of each tribe . . . [The story of Aaron s rod, Num. xvii]. Do you suppose that Moses did not know beforehand what was going to happen? To be sure he knew it. But he acted thus to prevent disorder in Israel, that the name of the true and only Lord might be glorified: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

(xliv) Our Apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on the question of the bishop’s office. Therefore, for this reason, since they had complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid persons and later made further provision that if they1 should fall asleep, other tested men should succeed to their ministry [λα,τονργία]. Therefore, when men who were appointed by the Apostles, or afterwards by other men of repute, with the approval of the whole church, have done their service blamelessly to the flock of Christ with humility of heart, in a peaceful and gentlemanly way, and have had a good report from all sides for long periods, we consider it unjust to depose them from their ministry. For it will be no trivial sin on our part if we depose from the bishop’s office those who have in a blameless and holy manner offered the gifts.4 Happy the presbyters5 who have gone on their way before this, for they obtained a ripe and fruitful departure; since they need not fear that anyone should remove them from their appointed place. For we see that you have displaced certain men of honourable behaviour from a ministry which they had honoured without reproach.

Ibid, xlii-xliv

The Teaching of the Apostles (The Didache)

First or second century. — EDITION: J. B. Lightfoot in The Apostolic Fathers (ed. J. R. Harmer, 1891).


The Worship and Ministry of the Church

The first six chapters expound the ‘Two Ways,’ of life, and of death.


(a) Baptism

Baptize thus: having first recited all these things, baptize ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,’ in running water. If you have no running water, baptize in other water; if you cannot baptize in cold water, use warm. If you have neither, pour water on the head thrice ‘in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’ Before baptism, the baptizer and baptized should fast, and any others who can: and you must order the baptized to fast for a day or two.

Didache, vii


(b) The Thanksgiving

Give thanks in this manner. First, over the cup: ‘We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the holy vine of thy son David, which thou hast made known to us through Jesus thy Son: thine be the glory for ever.’ Then over the broken bread: ‘We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy Son: thine be the glory for ever. As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and was gathered together and became one, so let thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into thy Kingdom: for thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever and ever.’

Let none eat or drink of this Eucharist3 of yours except those who have been baptized into the name of the Lord. For on this point the Lord said, ‘Do not give what is holy to the dogs.’

(x) And when you have had enough give thanks in this form. ‘We give thanks to thee, holy Father, for thy holy name, which thou hast made to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy Son: thine be the glory for ever. Thou, almighty Master, didst create all things for thy name’s sake; thou didst give food and drink to men for their enjoyment, so that they might give thanks to thee; and on us thou didst bestow spiritual food and drink and eternal life through thy Son. Above all we give thanks to thee because thou art mighty; thine be the glory for ever. Remember, Ο Lord, thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and “to make it perfect in thy love”:l and “gather it together from the four winds” — the sanctified Church into thy Kingdom, which thou didst prepare for it: for thine is the power and the glory for ever.

‘Let grace come and this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David. If any man is holy, let him come: he who is not, let him repent. Maran atha. Amen.’

But allow the prophets to give thanks as much as they will.

Ibid, ix-x


(c) Apostles and Prophets

Regarding apostles and prophets act according to the instruction of the gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall stay only one day; and a second day, in case of special need. If he stays for three days he is a false prophet. When the apostle goes away let him receive only bread, to suffice until he finds his next lodging: if he asks for money he is a false prophet. You must neither test nor examine a prophet who speaks in the spirit: for ‘every sin shall be forgiven, but not this sin.’ But not everyone who speaks in the spirit is a prophet; he is only a prophet if he has the ways of the Lord. The false and the genuine prophet will be known therefore by their ways. Every prophet who orders a table in the spirit does not eat of it: if he does, he is a false prophet. If a prophet teaches the truth but does not practise what he teaches, he is a false prophet. On the other hand, when any prophet has been tested and found genuine, if he does some act as an outward symbol of the Church,6 and yet does not instruct you to follow his example, he shall not be judged by you; for so did the prophets of old also, and he has his judgement with God.

Ibid, xi

If any genuine prophet desires to settle among you he is ‘worthy of his upkeep.’ . . . Therefore you shall take and give to the prophet the first-fruit of the produce of the wine-vat and of the threshing-floor, and of oxen and sheep; for they are your chief priests. If you have no prophet, give them to the poor. If you make bread, take the first-fruit and give it according to that commandment. In the same way when you open a jar of wine or oil, take the first-fruit and give to the prophets; and take the first-fruit of money and clothing and every possession, as seems good to you, and give it according to the commandment.

Didache, xiii


(d) The Eucharist

On the Lord’s Day assemble together and break bread and give thanks, first making public confession of your faults, that your sacrifice may be pure. If any man has a quarrel with a friend, let him not join your assembly until they are reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be defiled. For this is the sacrifice spoken of by the Lord: ‘In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice . . .’ [Mal. i. n, 14].

Ibid, xiv


(e) The Ministry

Appoint therefore for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord; mild men, who are not greedy for money, men who are genuine and approved; for they perform for you the service of the prophets and teachers. So do not look down on them; they are your men of rank, along with the prophets and teachers.

Ibid, xv


The Church

(a) The Notes of the Church — Succession — Tradition — Scripture

By ‘knowledge of the truth’ we mean: the teaching of the Apostles; the order of the Church as established from the earliest times throughout the world: the distinctive stamp of the Body of Christ, preserved through the episcopal succession: for to the bishops the Apostles committed the care of the church which is in each place, which has come down to our own time, safeguarded without any written documents, by the most complete exposition [i.e. the Creed], which admits neither increase nor diminution [of the tradition]: the reading of the Scriptures without falsification, and consistent and careful exposition of them, avoiding temerity and blasphemy: and the special gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, surpassing all other spiritual gifts.

Ibid. iv. xxxiii. 8


(b) The Permanence of the Catholic Church — An Allegory

The following extract is the end of an elaborate and somewhat inconsistent allegory. Lot stands for the Father; his seed for the Holy Spirit; his two daughters for the ‘two congregations,’ the Jewish and the Christian Church; and then his wife for the Church.

. . . Lot’s wife remained in Sodom; for she was no longer mortal flesh, but a permanent statue of salt. . . . The Church, which is ‘the salt of the earth,’ is thus left in the ends of the earth, suffering the accidents of man’s condition. Whole limbs are from time to time removed, but the statue of salt continues: it is the support of the faith, and strengthens the sons of God and sends them on to their Father.

Ibid. iv. xxi. 3


(c) Tradition and Succession in the Church

When the heretics are refuted from the Scriptures they turn to accusing the Scriptures themselves, as if there were something amiss with them. They impugn the authority of Scripture on the ground of ‘inconsistency’ and because, they say, only those who have the tradition can discover the truth; and the tradition has been handed down by word of mouth, not by the written word. This, according to them, is Paul’s meaning when he says, ‘But wisdom we speak among the mature; but it is a wisdom that does not belong to this world.’ ‘ Each of these heretics claims that this wisdom is what he himself has discovered by himself — or rather invented. Thus the truth is really found only with them, at one time with Valentinus, at another with Marcion, then with Cerinthus, with Basilides, or with some other opponent of the faith. … (2) But when on our side we challenge them by an appeal to that tradition which derives from the Apostles, and which is preserved in the churches by the successions of presbyters,2 then they oppose tradition, claiming to be wiser not only than the presbyters but even than the Apostles, and to have discovered the truth undcfiled. The Apostles, they say, mingled with the Saviour’s words matter belonging to the Law; and, besides this, the Lord himself uttered discourses some of which derived from the Demiurge,3 some from the Intermediate Power, some from the Highest. Whereas they themselves know the hidden mystery without doubt, contaminations, or admixture. Which is a most insolent blasphemy against their Creator. Thus it comes about that they agree neither with Scripture nor with tradition . . .

(iii. i) Those who wish to see the truth can observe in every church the tradition of the Apostles made manifest in the whole world. We can enumerate those who were appointed bishops in the churches by the Apostles, and their successors down to our own day. They never taught and never knew of such absurdities as those heretics produce. For even if the Apostles had known hidden mysteries and used to impart them privately and secretly to ‘the mature,’ they would have transmitted those secrets above all to those to whom they were entrusting the care of the churches. For they would especially wish those men to be ‘mature’ and irreproachable, seeing they were handing over to them their own office of doctrinal authority. In them unblemished character would be the greatest blessing, their failure utter calamity. But it would be excessively tedious, in a book of this kind, to give detailed lists of the successions in all the churches. Therefore we will refute those who hold unauthorized assemblies — either because of false self-importance, or pride, or blindness and perversity — by pointing to the tradition of the greatest and oldest church, a church known to all men, which was founded and established at Rome by the most renowned Apostles Peter and Paul. This tradition the church has from the Apostles, and this faith has been proclaimed to all men, and has come down to our own day through the succession of bishops. For this church has a position of leadership and authority; and therefore every church, that is, the faithful everywhere, must needs agree1 with the church at Rome; for in her the apostolic tradition has ever been preserved by the faithful from all parts of the world. (2) The blessed Apostles, after they had founded and built the church [at Rome], handed over to Linus the office of Bishop. Paul mentions this Linus in his epistles to Timothy.3 He was succeeded by Anacletus, after whom Clement was appointed to the bishopric, third in order from the Apostles.4 He not only had seen the blessed Apostles, but had also conferred with them, and had their preaching still ringing in his ears, and their tradition still before his eyes. In this he was not alone; for many still survived who had been taught by the Apostles. Now while Clement was bishop there arose a considerable dispute among the brethren in Corinth. And the church at Rome sent a very weighty letter to the Corinthians, to urge them to reconciliation, to renew their faith, and to tell them of the tradition recently received from the Apostles. … (3) Euarestus succeeded Clement; Alexander followed Euarestus; then Sixtus [Xystus] was appointed, the sixth in order from the Apostles; then Telesphorus, who had a glorious martyrdom; then Hyginus; then Pius; after him Anicetus; he was succeeded by Soter; and now Eleutherus occupies the see, the twelfth from the Apostles. In this order and succession the Apostolic tradition in the church and the preaching of the truth has come down to our time. . . .

(4) And then Polycarp, besides being instructed by the Apostles and acquainted with many who had seen the Lord, was also appointed for Asia by the Apostles as bishop in the church in Smyrna. Even I saw him in my early manhood; for his was a long life, and he was a great age when he suffered a martyrdom full of glory and honour and departed this life, having taught always the doctrine he had learned from the Apostles, which the church has handed down, which is the only true doctrine. All the churches throughout Asia testify to this, and the successors of Polycarp down to this day. These are witnesses to the truth far more trustworthy and reliable than Valentinus and Marcion and other such misguided persons. Polycarp, when staying at Rome in the time of Anicetus, converted many of the before-mentioned heretics to the Church of God, declaring that he had received this one and only truth from the Apostles, the truth which has been handed down by the Church. There are some also who heard him relate that John, the Lord’s disciple, went to the baths at Ephesus; and rushed out, without taking a bath, when he saw Cerinthus inside, exclaiming, ‘Let us get away before the baths fall in; for Cerinthus is in there, the enemy of the truth.’ This same Polycarp once was confronted by Marcion, who said: ‘Do you know who I am?’ To which Polycarp replied, Ί know you for Satan’s eldest son.’ Such a dread of heresy had the Apostles and their disciples that they shunned even verbal communication with those who perverted the truth. . . . The church in Ephesus which Paul founded and where John dwelt until the time of Trajan is also a genuine witness to the Apostolic tradition.

Adversus Haereses, in, ii-iii

The Church although scattered through the whole world even to the ends of the earth has received the faith from the Apostles and from their disciples. This is the faith in one God the Father almighty, who has made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them: and in one Christ Jesus, the son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation, and in the Holy Spirit who through the prophets proclaimed God’s ways with man,1 and the coming2 [of Christ], the birth of a Virgin, and the suffering and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to consummate3 all things, and to raise up all flesh of all mankind. . . . Since the Church has received this preaching and this faith, as we have said, although she is scattered through the whole world, she preserves it carefully, as one household: and the whole Church alike believes in these things, as having one soul and heart, and in unison preaching these beliefs, and teaches and hands them on as having one mouth. For though there are many different languages in the world, still the meaning of the tradition is one and the same. And there are no different beliefs or traditions in the churches established in Germany, or in Spain, or among the Celts, or in the East, or in Egypt or Libya, or those established in the centre of the earth.4 But just as the sun, God’s creature, is one and the same in all the world, so the preaching of the truth shines everywhere and enlightens all men who wish to come to the knowledge of the truth. And the talented theologian among those in authority in the churches will not say anything different from these beliefs (for ‘no one is above his teacher’): nor will the feeble divine diminish the tradition.

Ibid. i. x. 1-2


(d) Spiritual Gifts in the Church

Those who are truly his disciples receive grace from him and put this grace into action for the benefit of other men, as each has received the gifts from him. Some drive out devils. . . some have foreknowledge of the future . . . others heal the sick through the laying on of hands . . . and even the dead have been raised up before now and have remained with us for many years. Why, there is no numbering of the gifts which all over the world the Church has received from the Lord, and put into action day by day, in the name of Christ Jesus who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, for the benefit of the nations, without deceit and without payment. For as the Church has received freely from the Lord, so it freely serves mankind.

Ibid. n. xxxii. 4


(e) The Church of the Gentiles — an Allegory

The marriage of Moses to an Ethiopian woman whom he made a woman of Israel prefigured the grafting of the wild olive on to the true olive to share in its fruitfulness.z For he who was born in the flesh as the Messiah was sought for by his own people to be slain, but escaped death in Egypt, that is, among the gentiles, and sanctified the infants there, and hence brought into being a church in that land . . . The marriage of-Moses was a type of the mystical marriage of Jesus, and the Ethiopian bride signifies the church of the Gentiles. And those who revile and slander that church shall not be clean, but shall be lepers and be cast out from the camp of the just.

Ibid. iv. xx. 12

Cf. the allegory of Rahab, p. 88, of Lot’s wife, p. 89. Elsewhere (Adv. Haer. rv. xxi. 3) Irenaeus has an elaborate allegory of Jacob and Esau, starting from Rom. ix. 10-13. Jacob the younger supplants Esau; the Christian Church succeeds the chosen people. Esau attacks Jacob; the Jews persecute the Church. Jacob has twelve sons when sojourning in Egypt; Christ has twelve Apostles while sojourning on earth. The various sheep were the reward of Jacob; the various races of the Church were Christ’s reward. Jacob endured for Rachel (the younger sister); Christ for the Church. ‘For with God nothing is empty of meaning, nothing without symbolism.’


(f) Heresy and Schism

It is our duty to obey those presbytersl who are in the Church, who have their succession from the Apostles, as we have shown, who with their succession in the episcopate have received the sure spiritual gift of truth according to the pleasures of the Father. The others, who stand apart from the primitive succession, and assemble in any place whatever, we ought to regard with suspicion: either as heretics, and unsound in doctrine; or as schismatics, conceited and self-assured; or else as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of gain and vanity. All these have fallen away from the truth. Adversus Haereses, rv. xxvi. 2

The spiritual disciple truly receives the Spirit of God. . . . ‘He will judge all men, while he will be judged by none.’ . . .

(7) He will judge those who produce schisms, who have no trace in them of the love of God, and who have an eye to their own profit rather than to the unity of the Church. Such men for any trivial cause cleave and divide the great and glorious Body of Christ, and do their best to destroy it; they speak peace but bring about war; they ‘strain out the gnat while they swallow the camel.’ No amendment can come from them to cancel the harm of schism.

Ibid. rv. xxxiii. I, 7


VIII. The Sacraments


(a) Baptism

As dry flour cannot be united into a lump of dough, or a loaf, but needs moisture; so we who are many cannot be made one in Christ Jesus without the water which comes from heaven. And as dry earth does not produce fruit unless it receives moisture; so we, who are at first ‘a dry tree,’ would never have yielded the fruit of life without the ‘willing rain’ from above. For our bodies have received the unity which brings us to immortality, by means of the washing [of Baptism]; our souls receive it by means of [the gift of] the Spirit. Thus both of these are needed, for together they advance man’s progress towards the life of God.

Ibid. ra. xvii. 2


(b) The Eucharist

From all this [sc. the prophetic denunciation of sacrificial cults] it is clear that what God required of them for their salvation was not sacrifices and holocausts, but faith, obedience, and righteousness. So God taught his will in Hosea: Ί desire mercy rather than sacrifice, and knowledge of God above holocausts,’ and our Lord gave them the same warning.1 . . . And he also counselled his disciples to offer to God the firstfruits of his creatures, not because he needed these gifts, but so that they should not be unfruitful nor unthankful. This he did, when he took bread, of the natural creation, and gave thanks, and said, ‘This is my body.’ Likewise the cup of wine, belonging to the creation of which we are part, he declared to be his blood, and explained as the new oblation of the New Testament. This oblation the Church receives from the Apostles and throughout the whole world she offers it to God, who supplies as our nourishment the firstfruits of his gifts in the New Testament. Concerning this, Malachi thus prophesied: Ί will not receive sacrifice at your hands. … In every place incense is offered in my name, and a pure sacrifice; for my name is great among the gentiles. . . .’ By this he quite clearly means that the former people will cease to offer to God, but in every place a ‘sacrifice’ will be offered, and that a ‘pure’ sacrifice;3 while his name is ‘glorified among the gentiles.’

Ibid. rv. xvii. 4

There are oblations there [sc. among the Jews] and oblations here; sacrifices among the chosen people, sacrifices in the Church. Only the kind of sacrifice is changed, for now sacrifice is offered not by servants but by sons. There is one and the same Lord; but there is a character appropriate to a servile oblation, and a character appropriate to the oblation of sons, so that even by means of the oblations a token of liberty is displayed.

Ibid. rv. xviii. 2

We are bound to make our oblation to God and thus to show ourselves in all things grateful to him as our Creator. . . . And it is only the Church which offers a pure oblation to the Creator, presenting an offering from his creation, with thanksgiving. The Jews do not offer such an oblation, for their ‘hands are full of blood’;4 for they did not receive the Word through whom the offering is made to God. Neither do any of the congregations of the heretics. For some of them say that the Father is a different being from the Creator;5 so that in offering to the Father gifts taken from this created world they represent him as coveting another’s possessions. While those who say that our created world was made Of decay, ignorance, and passion’ sin against their Father in offering to him the fruits of’ignorance, passion and decay’; a gesture rather of insult than of gratitude. How can they consistently suppose that the bread over which thanks have been given is the body of their Lord, and that the cup is the cup of his blood, if they allege that he is not the son of the Creator of the world — that is, his Word, through whom the tree bears fruit, the springs flow, and the earth yields ‘first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear’?1 (5) Again, how can they say that flesh passes to corruption and does not share in life, seeing that flesh is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord? Let them either change their opinion, or refrain from making those oblations of which we have been speaking. But our opinion is congruous with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist supports our opinion. We offer to him what is his own, suitably proclaiming the communion and unity of flesh and spirit.2 For as the bread, which comes from the earth, receives the invocation3 of God, and then it is no longer common bread but Eucharist,4 consists of two things, an earthly and a heavenly; so our bodies, after partaking of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the eternal resurrection.

(6) We make, then, our offering to him, not as if he stood in need of anything, but giving thanks to his sovereignty and sanctifying his creation. … He takes to himself our good endeavours to the end that he may repay us with his good things . . . [Matt. xxv. 34-36]. The Word himself gave commandment to his people that they should make oblations, although he needed none, that they might learn to serve God. For that reason he wishes us to offer our gifts at the altar continually, without ceasing. There is therefore an altar in heaven; for thither our prayers and oblations arc directed.

Adversus Haereses, iv. xviii. 4-6

Therefore Paul says to the Corinthans, ‘I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, for you were not able to bear it,’ that is, ‘You have been taught about the coming of the Lord as man, but as yet the Spirit of the Father does not rest upon you because of your weakness’; ‘for since,’ he says, ‘there is envy and strife among you, are you not living according to your lower nature, as merely human?’  He is saying that the Spirit of the Father is not yet with them, because they are not fully developed and their common life is imperfect. Thus the Apostle has power to give them ‘solid food’ – for when the Apostle laid hands on people they received the Holy Spirit, which is the food of life — but the Corinthians were not capable of receiving the Spirit, because the senses of their soul were still weak and not yet trained towards God. In the same way, God had power to give man perfection from the beginning; but man, being newly made, was incapable of receiving it, or, if he received it, to take it in, or, if he took it in, to retain it. Therefore the Son of God, being perfect, shared in man’s infancy, not on his own account, but because of man’s childishness, adapting himself to man’s capacity.

Ibid. iv. xxxviii. 2

Utterly foolish are those who despise the divine scheme for man; who deny the salvation of the flesh and scorn the notion of re-birth, alleging the flesh incapable of immortality. If the flesh is not to be saved, then the Lord did not redeem us by his blood, nor is the ‘cup of blessing [cup of the Eucharist] the partaking of his blood,’ nor is the ‘bread which we break the partaking of his body.’ … (3) We are his members, and are nourished by means of his creation (and he himself provides his creation for us, ‘making the sun to rise and sending rain as he wills’); therefore the drink, which is part of his creation, he declared to be his own blood; and by this he enriches our blood: and the the bread, which comes from his creation, he affirmed to be his own body; and by this he nourishes our bodies. Whenever then the cup that man mixes and the bread that man makes receive the word of God, the Eucharist becomes the body of Christ and by these elements the substance of our flesh receives nourishment and sustenance. How then can they allege that flesh is incapable of the gift of God, which is eternal life, seeing that the flesh is fed on the flesh and blood of the Lord and is a member of him?

Ibid. v. ii. 2-3


VII. The Church


(a) The Apostolic Tradition

Jesus Christ our Lord . . ., while he lived on earth, himself declared what he was, what he had been, what was the Father’s will which he was carrying out, what was the conduct he laid down for man: all this he declared either openly to the people or privately to the disciples, from whom he chose twelve leading ones to be his close companions, appointed as leaders of the nations.. . [The Apostles] first bore witness to the faith in Jesus Christ throughout Judaea and founded churches there: and then went out into the world and published to the nations the same doctrine of the same faith. In the same way they established churches in every city, from which the other churches borrowed the shoot of faith and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day borrowing them so as to become churches. It is because of this that these churches are reckoned as apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic churches. Every kind of thing must needs be classed with its origin. And so the churches, many and great as they are, are identical with that one primitive Church issuing from the Apostles, for thence they are all derived. So all are primitive and all apostolic, while all are one. And their unity is proved by the peace they share, by the title of ‘brethren,’ by the mutual bond of hospitality; privileges which have no other ground than the one tradition of the same revelation.

Hence then the ruling which we lay down; that since Jesus Christ sent out the Apostles to preach, no others are to be accepted as preachers but those whom Christ appointed. . . . Now the substance of their preaching, that is, Christ’s revelation to them, must be approved, on my ruling, only through the testimony of those churches which the Apostles founded by preaching to them both viva voce and afterwards by their letters. If this is so, it is likewise clear that all doctrine which accords with these apostolic churches, the sources and origins of the faith, must be reckoned as truth, since it maintains without doubt what the churches received from the Apostles, the Apostles from Christ, and Christ from God. . . . We are in communion with the apostolic churches because there is no difference of doctrine. This is our guarantee of truth. But if any of these heresies are so bold as to insert themselves into the apostolic age that they may therefore appear to have been handed down from the Apostles, because they existed under the Apostles, we can say: ‘Let them display the origins of their churches; let them unroll the list of their bishops, in unbroken succession from the beginning, so that the first bishop of theirs shall prove to have as his precursor and the source of his authority one of the Apostles or one of the apostolic men, who without being an Apostle continued with the Apostles. This is how the apostolic churches report their qualifications; as the church of the Smyrnaeans relates that Poly-carp was appointed by John, the church of the Romans that Clement was set up by Peter.1 Similarly, the other churches also point to those whom they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed, since they were appointed to their bishoprics by Apostles. Even if these heresies should devise such a pedigree, it will be no help to them. For their very teaching, when compared with that of the Apostles, will proclaim by its diversity and contrariety that it originates neither from an Apostle nor from an apostolic man; for the Apostles would not have diverged from one another in doctrine; no more would the apostolic man have put out teaching at variance with that of the Apostles. . . . This test will be applied to those churches of a later date, which are daily being founded. Though they cannot therefore produce an Apostle or an apostolic man for their founder, still, if they unite in holding the same faith, they equally are reckoned apostolic because of the kinship of their teaching. . . . If you would care to exercise your curiosity in the business of your salvation, make a tour of the apostolic churches, in which to this day the actual thrones of the Apostles preside in their stead, where their authentic writings are read, reproducing the voice of each of them and recalling their faces. If Achaea is nearest to you, there you have Corinth: if you are not far from Macedonia, there is Philippi and the Thessalonians. If you can make your way to Asia, there you have Ephesus: while if you are close to Italy, there you have Rome, where we [in Africa] have our authority ready to hand. How fortunate that Roman church, on which the Apostles poured out all their teaching and their blood as well; where Peter matched the Lord’s passion, where Paul was crowned with a death like John’s [the Baptist’s]; where John the Apostle, after being plunged in blazing oil2 without suffering hurt, was ‘relegated’ to an island. Let us see what she has learnt, what she has taught, what tokens of friendship4 she has passed on to the African churches also.

De Praescriptione Haereticorum, 20, 21, 32, 36


(b) The Apostolic Lineage

In fine, if it is agreed that what is earlier is truer, and what is there from the beginning is earlier, and that what issues from the Apostles is from the beginning; it will equally be agreed that what has been held sacred in the churches of the Apostles is that which has been handed down from the Apostles. Let us see what ‘milk’ the Corinthians have imbibed from St. Paul, by what rule the Galatians have been corrected, what the Philippians read, and the Thessalonians, and the Ephesians; yes, and what the Romans proclaim, our nearest neighbours, for to them Peter and Paul bequeathed a gospel signed with their own blood. We have also churches which are fosterlings of John. For although Marcion rejects the Apocalypse, still the succession of bishops when traced back to the source will be established with John as founder. In this way the noble lineage of other churches also is recognized.

Adversus Marcionem, iv. 5

I have preferred [the authority of] those churches which were founded either by the Apostles themselves or by apostolic men. . . . We cannot reject a custom which we cannot condemn, for it is not imported from outside, since it is not those outside who have this custom, but men with whom we share peaceful relations and the name of brotherhood. We share with them one faith, one God, the same Christ, the same hope, the same mysteries1 of the font; in short, we are one Church. And so whatever belongs to our brothers is ours too …

De Virginibus Velandis, 2

Contrast with all this the Montanist doctrine of the ‘Spiritual Church,’ above p. 133-


(c) The Rule of Faith of the Roman Church

There is only one rule of faith, unchangeable and unalterable: that of believing in one only God, omnipotent, the creator of the world; and his Son Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate; on the third day raised again from the dead; received into heaven; now sitting at the Father’s right hand; who will come to judge living and dead, through the resurrection also of the flesh.

De Virginibus Velandis ι


Now with us the rule of faith is this: it is believed that God is one, who is none other than the creator of the world, who produced all things from nothing by his Word, . . . that Word is called his Son; he was seen by the patriarchs and ever heard in the prophets; and lastly was brought down by the spirit and power of the Father into the Virgin Mary, and made flesh in her womb, and born of her, and lived as Jesus Christ; that thereafter he proclaimed the new law and the promise of the kingdom of heaven; that he performed works of power; was crucified; on the third day rose again; was snatched up to heaven; and sat down at the Father’s right hand; that he sent as his representative the power of the Spirit to guide believers; and he will come with glory to take the saints to the enjoyment of life eternal and of his promises, and to sentence the profane to everlasting fire, after the raising up of both kinds, with the restoration of the flesh.

De Praescriptione Haereticorum, 13

Let us see what the Roman church has passed on to the African churches. It acknowledges one God, the creator of the whole order of things; and Jesus Christ of the Virgin Mary, Son of God the Creator; and the resurrection of the flesh.

Ibid. 36

We believe one only God . . ., who has a Son, his Word, who proceeded from himself, by whom all things were made; he was sent by the Father into a virgin, and was born of her, man and God, Son of man and Son of God, named Jesus Christ; he suffered, died, was buried, according to the Scriptures; was raised again by the Father; and taken back to heaven; and sits at the Father’s right hand; who will come to judge living and dead; who thereafter, according to his promises, has sent from the Father the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Adversus Praxean, 2


(d) Christian Worship

At this point I shall reveal the real activities of the Christian ‘faction*; I have refuted the allegations of evil; I shall now display its virtuous practices. We are a body united by a common religious profession, by a godly discipline, by a bond of hope. We meet together as an assembly and congregation that as an organized force we may assail God with our prayers. Such violence is acceptable to God. We pray also for emperors, for their ministers and those in authority, for man’s temporal welfare, for the peace of the world, for the delay of the end of all things. We are compelled to refresh our memories of our sacred writings, if any special feature of the present time requires warning or reconsideration. In any case we nourish our faith with these holy utterances, we stimulate our hope, we establish our confidence; and at the same time we strengthen our discipline by the inculcation of the precepts. In the same place also exhortations, rebukes, and godly censures are administered. For judgement is passed with great seriousness, as is natural with men who are convinced that they are in the sight of God: and you have the most impressive anticipation of the judgement to come when a man has so sinned as to be banished from participation in prayer and meeting and all sacred intercourse. Our presidents are approved elders, and they obtain that honour not by purchase but by their tested character; for there is no price attached to any of the things of God. Though we have a kind of money-chest, it is not for the collection of official fees, as if ours were a religion of fixed prices. Each of us puts in a small donation on the appointed day in each month, or when he chooses, and only if he chooses, and only if he can; for no one is compelled and the offering is voluntary. This is as it were the deposit fund of kindness. For we do not pay out money from this fund to spend on feasts or drinking parties or inelegant ‘blow-outs,’ but to pay for the nourishment and burial of the poor, to support boys and girls who are orphan and destitute; and old people who are confined to the house; and those who have been shipwrecked; and any who are in the mines, or banished to islands, or in prison, are pensioners because of their confession, provided they are suffering because they belong to the followers of God.

But it is principally the practice and application of such affection as this that puts a brand of disgrace upon us with certain people. ‘See,’ they say, ‘how they love one another’; for they themselves hate one another. ‘See how ready they are to die for each other*; for they will more readily kill each other. They find fault with us too because we call each other ‘brother.’ And the reason for their calumny is just this, I feel sure; that among them every name of relationship is assumed in mere affectation. . . .

What wonder then if a love so great is expressed in a common feast. I say this because you jeer at our humble meals as being extravagant as well as infamously criminal. .. . The name of the feast explains the reason for it; it is called by the Greek name for love [agape]. . . . Before reclining they taste first of prayer to God; enough is eaten to satisfy hunger; as much is drunk as befits the temperate. They take their fill by the standards of those who remember that even during the night they have to worship God; their conversation is that of men who know that God hears them. After washing of hands and the lighting of lamps individual members are invited to stand out and sing1 to the best of their ability either from the sacred scriptures or something of their own composing; which gives a test of how much they have drunk. The feast ends, as it began, with prayer. . . . Who has ever been harmed by our assemblies? We are in our meeting just what we are when we are dispersed; we are the same as a body as we are as individuals; we hurt no one; we bring sorrow to no one. When the decent and the good meet together, when the kindly and the pure assemble, that should not be called a faction but a solemn assembly.

Apologeticus, 39


VIII. The Sacraments


(a) Sacraments in General

So violent are the designs of perversity for shaking faith, or even for utterly preventing its reception, that it attacks faith on the very principle on which it is based. For there is really nothing which so hardens men’s minds as [the contrast between] the simplicity of the divine works which are seen in the act, and the magnificence which is promised in the effect: so that in this matter just because there is such simplicity, such absence of display, or of any novel elaboration, in fact an absence of any costly trappings, when a man is plunged and dipped in water to the accompaniment of a few words, and then rises again not much cleaner, if at all; just because of this it seems to men incredible that eternal life should be won in this manner. . . . We also marvel; but we marvel because we believe. Incredulity marvels, but does not believe. For it marvels at the simple acts as if they were ineffectual, at the magnificent results as if they were impossible. And though you may be quite right about this simplicity, the divine pronouncement has sufficiently answered both objections by anticipation. ‘God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound its wisdom’ and ‘Things very difficult with men are easy with God.’ For if God is both wise and powerful (and even those who ignore him do not deny this) he has good reason for deciding to use, as the materials of his working, the opposites of wisdom and power, that is, foolishness and impossibility. For every virtue has its ground in the things which call it forth.

De Baptismo, 2

It is utterly impossible for the soul to attain salvation unless it has believed while in the flesh; so truly does salvation hinge on the flesh. In fact, when the soul is admitted to God’s company it is the flesh which makes that admission possible. The flesh indeed is washed that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed [with the cross] that the soul too may be fortified; the flesh is shadowed by the imposition of hands that the soul also may be enlightened by the Spirit; the flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ that the soul may be nourished on God. They are united in this service; they cannot be separated in their reward.

De Resurrectione Carnis, 8


(b) Baptism, including Unction

[Answering the objection that the Lord did not baptize.] His disciples used to baptize as his ministers, as John the forerunner had baptized before, and with the same baptism of John. Let no one think it was with another baptism, for there is no other except that of Christ, which came later; for to be sure the baptism of Christ could not be then given by his disciples, inasmuch as the glory of the Lord was not yet fully completed, nor the efficacy of the font established through the passion and resurrection; because our death cannot be annulled except by the Lord’s passion, nor can our life be restored without his resurrection.

De Baptismo,II


Necessary to Salvation

. . . [Informer times salvation was by faith alone.] Granted that in former days, before the Lord’s passion and resurrection, there was salvation through bare faith; still, now that faith has been enlarged to include belief in his birth, passion, and resurrection, there is an enlargement added to the mystery,1 namely, the sealing of baptism: the clothing, as it were, of the faith which before was bare.

Ibid. 13

Does not bestow the Holy Spirit

Not that in the waters we gain the Holy Spirit; but when we have been cleansed in water under the influence of the angel we are made ready for the Holy Spirit. Here also a type has gone before: for in this way John was beforehand the forerunner of the Lord ‘preparing his ways’; in the same way the angel who presides over baptism ‘makes the paths straight’ for the Holy Spirit who is to come after, by the washing away of sins, which faith obtains when sealed in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Ibid. 6

The Holy Spirit, according to Tertullian, is given by Unction and Imposition of Hands — see below, p. 147.

The Seal of Preceding Repentance


The sinner must weep over himself before receiving pardon, because the time for penitence is the time when he is in danger and fear. Now I do not deny that the divine benefit of the abolition of sins is utterly sure to those who are about to enter the water; but we have to exert ourselves in order to reach that point. For if your repentance is so faithless, who will afford you the sprinkling of any kind of water? It is indeed easy to approach it by stealth and by your assertions to deceive the man who is appointed to perform this office; but God takes care of his treasure and does not allow the unworthy to take it by surprise. . . . That washing is the sealing of faith, and the faith is begun and commended by faithful penitence. It is not for this that we are washed, that we may cease from sin, since in heart we have been washed already. . . . Otherwise, if we cease from sin as a result of the waters of baptism, we put on innocence of necessity, not of freewill. Now whose is the more excellent kind of goodness: that of the man who cannot, or of the man who will not, be evil? Of him who is ordered to be free from wickedness, or of him who delights to be free? And so the hearers [catechumens] ought to desire baptism, not to claim it hastily. For he who desires it, honours it; he who claims it hastily, disdains it… the former longs to deserve it, while the latter promises it to himself as his due . . .

De Poenitentia, 6

Contrast with these last passages the statement in Adversus Marcionem, i. 28 that the benefits of baptism are remission of sins, deliverance from death, regeneration, the attainment of the Holy Spirit.


Should not be administered rashly and not to infants

But those whose duty it is to baptize know that baptism is not to be bestowed rashly . . . [the Ethiopian (Acts vii) was a special case and so was Saul of Tarsus (Acts ix)] . . . And so it is more salutary to delay baptism according to the state and character of each person; but especially in the case of infants. For why is it necessary for sponsors also to be involved in danger, who may fail to fulfil their promises through mortality and may be disappointed by the development of a bad character [in the child]? The Lord indeed says, ‘Forbid them not to come to me.’ ‘Let them come,’ then, when they are growing up: let them come if they are learning, if they are being taught whither they are corning; let them become Christians when they are able to know Christ. Why does the age of innocence hasten to the remission of sins? . . . For no less reason the unwed should be deferred; for temptation is waiting for them alike in the case of virgins because of their maturity, as in the case of the widowed because they are without partners. Let them wait until they marry, or until they are strengthened for continence. Those who understand the importance of baptism will rather fear its attainment than its delay; unimpaired faith is certain of salvation.

De Baptismo, 18

Note that this is connected with Tertullian’s views on post-baptismal sin: seep. 153.


Heretical Baptism is Invalid

Heretics have no fellowship in our discipline; for clearly their debar-ment from our communion witnesses that they are outsiders; . . . they and we have not the same God, or the same Christ, nor one baptism, because not the same . . . [Referring to Eph. iv. 5 if., misquoted One God, one baptism, one church in the Heavens.’]

Ibid. 15


The Ceremonies of Baptism

The minister: see De Baptismo, 17, quoted, p. 149, below. The time:

The Passover affords a more solemn day for baptism; for then it was the Lord’s passion, into which we were baptized, was completed . . . [symbolism of ‘man bearing a pitcher of water’] . . . After that, Pentecost . . . But every day is the Lord’s: every hour, every time, is suitable for baptism; if there is a difference in the solemnity, there is no distinction in the grace.

Ibid. 19


The preparation:

Those who are to enter upon baptism must pray with repeated prayer, fasts and kneelings and vigils; and with confession of all their past sins.

Ibid. 20

The consecration of the water:

[The primeval ‘hovering of the Spirit typifies the baptism.] Thus the nature of water, sanctified by the Holy One, receives the power of sanctifying . . . therefore it makes no difference whether a man be washed in sea, freshwater stream or spring, lake, or tub. … All waters . . . after the invocation of God attain the sacramental power of sanctification; for the Spirit straightway comes down upon them from the heavens and is upon the waters sanctifying them by his own power; and being thus sanctified they are imbued at the same time with the power of sanctifying. . . . The spirit and the flesh share in guilt. Therefore when the waters have been as it were medicated through the intervention of the angel’the spirit is physically washed and the body spiritually cleansed in the same waters.

Ibid. 4

Renunciation and trine immersion:

In the presence of the congregation and under the hand of the president we solemnly swear that we renounce the devil and his pomp and his angels. Then we are thrice immersed, making somewhat fuller reponses than those appointed by the Lord in the Gospel. Then we are taken up and taste first a mixture of milk and honey. And for a week from that day we abstain from our daily ablutions.

De Corona, 3


Unction and Laying on of Hands

After this when we have come out of the font, we are thoroughly anointed with consecrated oil.

De Baptismo, 7

Thereafter the hand is laid upon us, invoking and inviting the Holy Spirit through the act of blessing.

Ibid. 8


(c) The Eucharist

[Interpreting the parable of the prodigal son.] He receives the ring for the first time when on interrogation he sets his seal to the covenant of faith and so thereafter feeds on the richness3 of the Lord’s body, that is, on the Eucharist.

De Pudicitia, 9

[Symbolic interpretation of the goats of the Day of Atonement; the one driven out standing for Christ in his Passion] while the other goat offered for sins and then given to the priests of the temple for a meal bears witness to his second manifestation, whereby after all sins have been atoned the priests of the spiritual temple, that is, the Church, might enjoy as it were a kind of sacrificial feast.

Adversus Mardonem, iii. ι

But the same figure in Adversus Judaeos, 14 seems to refer to the ‘second coming’ in the sense of the final consummation, and that is perhaps the meaning here.

The flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ that the soul may be fattened on God.

De Resurrectione Carnis, 8

‘Give us this day our daily bread’ we should understand in a spiritual sense. Christ is our bread because Christ is our life and bread is life. Ί am the bread of life,’ he says; and a little before, ‘The word of the living God which descended from heaven, that is bread.’ Moreover, his body is acknowledged as being in the bread: ‘This is my body.’

De Oratione, 6

“We take the sacrament of the Eucharist… in meetings before daybreak and only from the hand of the presidents. We make oblations for the dead, and for birthdays, on the anniversaries. . . We are concerned to prevent any of our wine or bread being dropped to the ground.

De Corona, 3

[The dangers when a Christian woman has a heathen husband.] Your husband will not know what it is that you taste secretly before you partake of food. Even if he knows that it is bread he does not believe it to be that which it is said to be.

 Ad Uxorem, ii, 5


The Body of Christ — Literally interpreted

[The faithful grieve] that a Christian should touch the Lord’s body with hands which have supplied bodies for demons. . . . What wickedness! The Jews laid hands on Christ but once; these men offer violence to his body every day.

De Idololatria, η


The Sacrifice

Many people think that they ought not to take part in the prayers of sacrifice [i.e. the Eucharist] on station days [i.e. fast days], on the ground that the fast must then be broken by reception of the Lord’s body. Are we to suppose that the Eucharist cancels a devotion vowed to God? Does it not rather bind it to God? Will not your fast be the more solemn if you have stood at God’s altar? When the Lord’s body has been received and reservedl both points are secured — participation in the sacrifice and performance of the duty.

De Oratione, 19


Apparently Symbolic Interpretation

[The discourse /«John. vi. 53-63.] He makes the word of his discourse to be the giver of life, because that word is spirit and life; he says the same of his flesh, because ‘the Word became flesh.’ Therefore for the sake of obtaining life we must hunger for the word, devour it with our hearing, chew it over with our intellect, digest it with our faith . . .

De Resurrectione Carnis, 37

He took the bread and distributed it to the disciples, making it his own body by saying, ‘This is my body’; that is, the symbol2 of my body . . . [Jer. xi. 19 (LXX), ‘Let us cast wood into his bread,’ a mysterious prophecy (sacramentum) of the crucifixion.]

Adversus Marcionem, iv. 40

. . . bread, by which he represents3 his own very body.

Ibid. i. 14

X. The Discipline of the Church


(a) Censure and Excommunication

We are a body united by our religious profession, by our godly discipline, by the bond of hope. . . . [In our assembly for worship] we have exhortations, admonitions, and godly censure. For judgement is administered by us with great gravity, as is natural with men who arc convinced that they are in the sight of God; and you have the most impressive anticipation of the judgement to come when a man has so sinned as to be banished from participation in prayer and meeting and all sacred intercourse.

Apotogeticus, 39

But it will be said that some of our Christians depart from the rules of our discipline: in that case they arc no longer reckoned as Christians among us.

Ibid. 46


(b) All Sins Remissible

Therefore for all sins, whether committed by the flesh or by the spirit, whether by deed or will, he who has appointed a penalty by means of judgement has also promised pardon by means of penitence. . . . That penitence, Ο sinner, hasten to embrace as a shipwrecked man clutches at the protection of some plank. When you are sunk in the waves of sin this will raise you up and bear you on to the harbour of the divine mercy. DC Poemtcntia, 4


(c) One Repentance after Baptism

Because God foresees these poisons [sc. the devil’s temptations with which he assaults baptized Christians], although the gate of forgiveness has been shut and fastened with the bolt of baptism, he has still allowed some opening to remain. He has stationed in the vestibule a second penitence to open to them that knock;r but only once, because it is for the second time; it can never open again, because the last time it opened in vain.

Ibid. 7


(d) Public Penitence

This second and only remaining penitence is so critical a matter that the testing of it is correspondingly laborious; it is not enough for it to be witnessed by mere admission of guilt; it has also to be carried out in action. This action is more commonly expressed and spoken of under its Greek name, exomologesis, by which we confess sin to the Lord; not indeed as if he were ignorant, but inasmuch as the process of satisfaction is set in motion by confession, and by confession penitence is produced, and by penitence God is appeased. And so exomologesis is a discipline consisting in prostration and humiliation, imposing on the offender such a demeanour as to attract mercy. With regard also to the very dress and food of the penitent this discipline enjoins him to go about in sackcloth and ashes, to cover his body in the squalor of mourning, to cast down his spirit, with grief, to exchange his sins for harsh treatment of himself; to have no acquaintance with any food or drink but the plainest, and this not for his stomach’s sake but his soul’s; in general, to nourish prayers with fasting, to groan, to weep and moan day and night to the Lord his God, to prostrate himself before the presbyter, and to kneel before God’s dear ones;2 to invoke all the brethren as sponsors of his prayer for mercy. The purpose of this exomologesis is to enhance penitence, to honour God by showing dread of the peril [of his anger]; by itself pronouncing judgement on the sinner to act as a surrogate for God’s indignation; and by temporal affliction, I would not say to frustrate, but to cancel eternal punishment. Thus in prostrating the sinner it raises him up; in making him squalid it renders him clean; in accusing and condemning him it gives him absolution. Be assured that God will spare you in proportion as you do not spare yourself.

Ibid. 9


(e) The Papal Claim to forgive Mortal Sins

That Supreme Pontiff,1 that Bishop of Bishops, issues an edict; Ί absolve the sins of adultery and fornication for those who have done penance’! . . . Where will this liberality be published? On the doors of houses of vice, I suppose, under the signs of their trade? That kind of ‘penance’ should be announced at the actual scene of the sin! That pardon should be on view at the place where men will enter in the hope of it! But this edict is read in the churches; it is pronounced in the Church, the Church which is a virgin! Let such a proclamation be far removed from the bride of Christ!

De Pudicitia, ι

And yet you bring the penitent adulterer into the church to beg for readmission into the brotherhood. … He is in a hair shirt, covered in ashes, in a condition of shame and trembling: you make him prostrate himself in public before the widows, before the presbyters, seizing the hem of their garments, licking their footprints, catching hold of them by their knees; and for this man you use all your aids to compassion, and you preach like the ‘good shepherd’ and ‘blessed Papa’ that you are.

Ibid. 13


(f) Mortal and Venial Sins

There are certain sins of daily occurrence to which we are all liable. For who escapes such sins as unjustified anger, even until after ‘the sun has gone down’; or physical violence, or thoughtless slander, or heedless swearing, or breaking promises, or lying — from shame or compulsion? In our business, in our daily tasks, in earning our living, in what we see and hear, how great are the temptations that meet us! So that if there were no pardon for such faults, no one would attain salvation. But for these there will be pardon through the intercession of Christ with the Father. But there are other sins very different from these, as being too serious and ruinous to receive pardon. Such are murder, idolatry, fraud, denial [sc. of Christ], blasphemy and, of course, adultery and fornication, and any other violation of ‘the temple of God.’ Christ will no more intercede for those: he who has been born of God will never commit them: If he has committed them he will not be a son of God.

Ibid. 19

The power of binding and loosing given to Peter had no reference to capital sins. The Lord had bidden him pardon his brother even when he sinned against him seventy times seven times: he surely would not have commanded him after that to bind, that is to retain, any thing, unless it might be sins committed by a man against the Lord, not those against his brother. Since offences against man are forgiven, it is implied that sins against God are not to be remitted.

Ibid. 21


(g) The Martyrs’ Supposed Authority to Forgive Sins

Let the devil find you fortified and armed with concord: for your peace means war for him. Some who have not this peace in the Church are wont to beg it from the martyrs in prison. Therefore you ought to have it in yourself and to cherish and guard it that you may be able perchance to supply it to others.

Ad Martyres, ι

With this contrast a passage written when Tertullian had become a Montanist:

But you now fully bestow this power [sc. of forgiveness] on these martyrs of yours. As each after his ‘confession’ puts on his mild bonds in this new fashion of custody, straightway the adulterers flock around him; the fornicators come to him; they are most eager to gain access to the prison who have lost the right of entrance to the church. . . . Though the sword be now suspended above the martyr’s head; though his body be stretched upon the cross; though he be tied to the stake for the lion’s prey; though he be tied to the wheel and the fire heaped beneath him; suppose him, I say, in the secure possession of his martyrdom; yet who permits a man to pardon the sins which have been reserved to God? . . . Let it suffice for the martyr to have purged his own sins; . . . who but the Son of God ever redeemed another’s death by his own?

De Pudicitia, 22


(h) Christians in the World: Military Service

Now the question is raised whether a believer can betake himself to military service, and whether the military may be admitted to the faith, even private soldiers and all the lower ranks, who are not under the necessity of performing sacrifices or administering capital punishment. There is no congruity between the divine and the human sacra-mentum, between the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness . . . the Lord in disarming Peter unbelted every soldier from that time forth.

De Idololatria, 19

But contrast these passages:

We sail with you, we serve in the army with you, and till the ground with you . . .

Apologeticus, 42

Marcus Aurelius in his letters testifies that on a famous occasion the drought in Germany was dispelled by a shower obtained through the prayers of the Christians who happened to be in the army. . . .

Ibid. 5

We have filled every place of yours, cities, islands, villages, townships, market-places, the army camps. . . .

Ibid. 37


(j) Christians and Public Offices

Therefore that sect [sc. the Christians], seeing that it commits none of these crimes which are generally found in the case of illicit factions, should not merely receive milder treatment but should be granted the status of a tolerated faction. For, if I am not mistaken, the motive for the prohibition of factions is based on a careful regard for public order, that the community may not be split into parties, a state of things which might easily result in disturbances in elections, meetings, councils, assemblies, and even in public entertainments, by the contention of rival interests, especially at a time when men have begun to make money by offering their services for acts of violence. But with us all ardour for glory or position has grown cold and we have no compulsion to form associations for this end; nor is anything more alien to us than political activity. We acknowledge only one universal commonwealth, the whole world.

Ibid. 38

[Comparison of Christianity and philosophy] If I am to dispute about restraint of ambition, look at Pythagoras aiming at despotism at Thurii, and Zeno at Priene: the Christian does not aspire even to the aedileship.

Ibid. 46

A discussion lately arose whether a servant of God should undertake the administration of any position of dignity or power, if he could keep himself unharmed from every kind of idolatry, either by some grace or by his adroitness. . . [as Daniel and Joseph]. Let us believe that it is possible for a man to succeed in going through the show of any office in purely nominal fashion, avoiding sacrifices, or the lending of his authority to sacrifices; without contracting for victims, or assigning the care of temples; nor seeing to the incomes of temples; nor giving public entertainments1 at his own or at the public expense, or presiding at the giving of them; without proclaiming or announcing any solemnity; without even taking an oath; moreover (and these are matters which belong to the exercise of power) without sitting in judgement when the life or character of anyone was at issue (for you might suffer him to judge about money), without condemning or precondemning3 in such cases; binding no one, imprisoning no one, torturing no one: if it is credible that this is possible. . . . [connexion of magistrates’ dress and insignia with idolatry] . . . All the powers and dignities of this world are not only alien from God but hostile to him.

De Idololatria, 17

The tract De Idololatria deals with the various occupations and practices connected with idolatry which are therefore forbidden to a Christian; they include idol-making, the adorning of temples, astrology, the profession of schoolmaster, swearing by idols, the adorning of houses with lamps and garlands; and even the observance of customary days of the financial year, because connected with heathen divinities.


(k) Monogamy

When by the will of God the husband has died, the marriage is also dead by God’s will. Why should you restore what God has brought to an end? . . . How greatly second marriages detract from faith, and what a hindrance they are to sanctity, is declared by the discipline of the Church and the ruling of the Apostle who does not allow the twice married to preside,4 and does not suffer a widow to be admitted to the order unless she has been ‘the wife of one man.’

Ad Uxorem, i. 7

I have heard a very subtle line of argument from the other side. The Apostle, they say, allowed a second marriage inasmuch as it is only the members of the clergy whom he binds with the yoke of monogamy.

For what he enjoins on one class of men he does not enjoin on all. Then if he does not enjoin on all what he enjoins on bishops, are we to suppose that he exempts bishops from what he enjoins on all? Does it not rather apply to all just because it applies to bishops? And to bishops just because it applies to all? For whence are bishops and clergy? Do they not come from the general body of the Church? If all are not constrained to monogamy, whence will monogamists be found to enter the clergy? Or shall we have to institute a separate order of monogamists from which the clergy are to be chosen? But when we are proudly asserting our rights as against the clergy then we are all on the same level, all priests, because ‘he makes us priests to God the Father.’ When we are challenged to accept the same priestly discipline, we put off our clerical attire and are on a different footing.

De Monogamia, 12


Clement of Alexandria

VII. The Church


Catholic and Orthodox

We learn from the Scriptures demonstrably that the heresies have gone astray, and that only in the true Church is the most accurate knowledge.

Stromateis, vn. xv (92)

The ‘Gnostic’ alone, growing old in the Scriptures, preserves the orthodox teaching of the Apostles and the Church . . .

Ibid. vn. xvi (104)

There is one true Church, the really ancient Church, into which are enrolled those who are righteous according to God’s ordinance. . .. The one Church is violently split up by the heretics into many sects. In essence, in idea, in origin, in pre-eminence we say that the ancient Catholic Church is the only church. This Church brings together, by the will of the one God through the one Lord, into the unity of the one faith which is according to the respective covenants (or rather according to the one covenant established at various times), those who were already appointed; whom God fore-ordained, knowing before the world’s foundation that they would be righteous. The preeminence of the church, just as the origin of its constitution, depends on its absolute unity: it excels all other things, and had no equal or rival. (108)… As the teaching of the Apostles is one, so also is the Tradition…

Ibid. vn. xvi (107-8)


VIII. Sacraments


(a) Baptism

Being baptized, we are enlightened: being enlightened, we are adopted as sons: being adopted, we are made perfect; being made complete, we are made immortal. The Scripture says Ί said, You are gods, and are all sons of the Highest.’ This work has many names; gift of grace, enlightenment, perfection, washing. Washing, by which we are cleansed from the filth of our sins; gift of grace, by which the penalties of our sins are cancelled; enlightenment, through which that holy light which saves us is perceived, that is, by which our eyes are made keen to see the divine; perfection means the lack of nothing, for what is still lacking to him who has the knowledge of God?

Paedagogus, ι. vi (26)


(b) The Eucharist Faith and Hope — Body and Blood — the Church’s Nourishment

We may understand ‘milk’ [i Cor. iii. 2] as meaning the preaching which has been spread far and wide, ‘meat’ as the faith which as a result of instruction has been compacted to form a foundation. Faith being more solid than hearing is likened to ‘meat,’ since it provides analogous nourishment in the soul. In another place the Lord also expressed that by a different symbolism, when, in John’s gospel, he says ‘Eat my flesh and drink my blood.’ The metaphor of drinking, applied to faith and the promise, clearly means that the Church, consisting, like a human being, of many members, is refreshed and grows, is compacted and welded together, by both these, faith being the body and hope the soul: just as the Lord was made of flesh and blood.

Ibid. I. vi (38)

Spiritual Food

There is one mother, who is a virgin; this is my favourite description of the Church. This mother alone had no milk, being at once mother and virgin, pure as a virgin, loved as a mother. Those who are called her children are nursed with holy milk, the word suitable for babes. She had no milk because the right and proper milk to nourish this child was the body of Christ, suckling with the word the young brood which the Lord himself brought forth with the pangs of his flesh, which the Lord himself swaddled with precious blood. Ο holy birth! Ο holy swaddling clothes! The Word is all things to the infant: father, mother, tutor, and nurse. ‘Eat my flesh,’ he says, ‘and drink my blood.’ This proper nourishment the Lord supplies to us; he offers his flesh and pours out his blood, and the children lack nothing needful for their growth.

(43) Strange mystery! We are bidden to put off our old fleshly corruption, as we leave off our old food, and partake of a new diet,2 that of Christ; to store him, as far as we can, in ourselves and take the Saviour to our hearts, that we may put in order the affections of the flesh. You cannot understand? Perhaps you may, if I express it more generally. Put it this way. ‘My flesh’ is an allegory for the Holy Spirit, for the flesh is his handiwork. ‘Blood,’ by analogy, stands for the Word, for the Word is like rich blood poured into our life. The mixture of flesh and blood is the Lord, the food of his infants; the Lord is Spirit and Word. The food — that is the Lord Jesus, that is, the Word of God, Spirit made flesh — is the sanctified heavenly flesh. This food is the Father’s milk, by which we infants are suckled.

Ibid. I. vi (42-43)

The blood of the Lord is twofold. On the one hand it is physical, the blood by which we have been redeemed from corruption: on the other it is spiritual, that by which we have been anointed. To drink the blood of Jesus is to partake of the Lord’s immortality; and the Spirit is the strength of the Word, as blood is the strength of flesh.

(20) As wine is mixed with water so, by analogy, the Spirit is with man. The mixture nourishes man to faith; the Spirit guides to immortality. The mingling of both — the drink and the Word [? word] is called Eucharist, a grace of praise and beauty. Those who partake of it in faith are sanctified in body and soul, since the Father’s will had mystically composed the divine mixture, man, by Spirit and Word. For the Spirit, in truth, is adapted to the soul which is moved by it, and the flesh adapted to the Word, the flesh for whose sake the Word became flesh.

Ibid. π. ϋ (19-20)

‘Milk’ [i Cor. iii. 2] is instruction, regarded as the first nourishment of the soul, ‘meat’ is mystical contemplation. The flesh and blood of the Word are the apprehension of the divine power and essence. ‘Taste and see that the Lord is Christ,’ the Scripture says: for thus he imparts himself to those who partake of this food in a more spiritual manner; for then, as the truth-loving Plato says, ‘the soul nourishes itself.’ For the eating and drinking of the divine Word is the knowledge of the Divine essence.

Stromateis, ν. χ (6y)

‘The bread is my flesh,’ &c. [John vi. 51]. Here the mystical meaning of bread must be understood. He calls his flesh ‘bread,’ his flesh which rose through fire, just as the wheat rises up from corruption which follows sowing, and the wheat2 is brought together by means of fire,2 as a baked loaf, for the joy of the church.

Paedagogust I. vi (46)



X. The Church

(No Salvation outside the Church

. . . [Rahab (Josh, ii) mystically represents the Church, the scarlet thread the blood of Christ: and only those in her house are saved.] If anyone wishes to be saved … let him come to this house where the blood of Christ is for a sign of redemption. For that blood was for condemnation among those who said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’ Jesus was ‘for the fall and resurrection of many’; and therefore in respect of those who ‘speak against his sign’ his blood is effective for punishment, but effective for salvation in the case of believers. Let no one therefore persuade himself or deceive himself: outside this house, that is, outside the Church, no one is saved. . . . The sign of salvation [sc. the scarlet thread] was given through the window because Christ by his incarnation gave us the sight of the light of godhead as it were through a window; that all may attain salvation by that sign who shall be found in the house of her who once was a harlot, being made clean by water and the Holy Spirit, and by the blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom is glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

f Horn, in Lib. lesu Nave, iii. 5

(b) The Destiny of those Outside

[On Jer. i. 25 (LXX), ‘The Lord has opened his treasury and has brought forth vessels of his wrath’ . . .] I will say with confidence that the treasury of the Lord is his Church, and in that treasury, that is, in the Church, there often lurk men who are vessels of wrath. Therefore a time will come when the Lord will open the treasury of the Church: for now the Church is closed and Vessels of wrath’ are in it together with Vessels of mercy,’ and chaff as well as grain, and, besides good fish, there are fish to be cast away and destroyed, which have all been caught in the net. . . . Outside the treasury the sinful vessels arc not vessels of wrath: they are less culpable than those. For they are servants who do not know their Lord’s will and do not do it. Now he that enters the Church is either a Vessel of wrath’ or a Vessel of mercy’: he that is outside the church is neither. I need another name for the man who stays outside the church; and as I confidently declare that he is not a vessel of mercy, so on the other hand I openly give my opinion, based on common sense, that he cannot be called a Vessel of wrath,’ but a vessel reserved for something else. Shall I be able to support this opinion from Scripture . . .? The Apostle says: ‘Now in a great house there are not only golden and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and earthenware: some for honour, some for contempt. . . .’ Now is this great house, do you suppose, an existing house, in which are vessels for honour and others for contempt? Or is it that, in that house which is to be, the vessels of gold and silver, which are for honour, will be found to be vessels of mercy: while the rest, that is ordinary men, who are outside the treasury, though neither vessels of wrath nor of mercy, will yet be able to be vessels in the great house, according to the same mysterious dispensation of God: vessels which have not been cleaned but are vessels of pottery, for contempt, and yet necessary for the house?

£ Horn, in leremiam, xx. 3

(c) The Church as Old as Creation

I would not have you suppose that the ‘bride of Christ’ or the Church is spoken of only after the coming of the Saviour in the flesh: but rather from the beginning of the human race, from the very foundation of the world; nay, I may follow Paul in tracing the origin of this mystery even further, before the foundation of the world. For Paul says: ‘He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy. . . .’‘ The Apostle also says that the Church is built on the foundation not only of Apostles but also of prophets.2 Now Adam is numbered among the prophets, and he prophesied the ‘great mystery in respect of Christ and the Church’ when he said: ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall be in one flesh.’ For the Apostle is clearly speaking of these words when he says: ‘This mystery is great; but I am speaking in respect of Christ and the Church.’ Further the Apostle also says: ‘For he so loved the Church that he gave himself for her, sanctifying her with the washing of water.’ And in this he shows that it is not the case that she did not exist before. For how could he love her if she did not exist? Without doubt she existed and so he loved her. For the Church existed in all the saints who had been from the beginning of time. Thus, loving the Church, he came to her. And as his ‘children share in flesh and blood, so he also was made partaker of these’ and gave himself for them. For these saints were the Church, which he loved so as to increase it in numbers, to improve it with virtues, and by the ‘charity of perfection’ transfer it from earth to heaven.

•j· Comm. in Canticum Canticorum ii (Lommatzsch 14, p. 418)


(d) The Promise to Peter

‘Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ If, with Peter, we also say, ‘You are the Christ’ [&c.], when this is not revealed to us by flesh and blood, but when the light from the Father in heaven has slimed in our hearts, and we become Peter, then to us may be said, ‘You afe Peter.’ For every disciple of Christ is a rock, after drinking of’that spiritual rock which followed’; and on every such rock is built the whole principle [logos] of the Church and the corresponding polity. For the perfect possess the sum of the things which bring the full blessedness of words, deeds, and thoughts; and in each of them is the Church built by God.

‘ Comm. in Matthaeum, xii. 10

(e) The Ministry The Priesthood

[The two divisions of the tabernacle.] You have heard of the two sanctuaries: one as it were visible and open to the priests; the other invisible, to which the High Priest alone had access, while the rest remained outside. The first sanctuary, I suppose, may be taken to represent the Church in which we are now placed, while we are in the flesh: in which priests minister at the altar of whole burnt-offerings, when that fire has been kindled of which Jesus spoke when he said: Ί have come to send fire on the earth, and how I wish that it were kindled.’ And pray do not marvel that this sanctuary is open only for priests. For all who have been anointed with the unction of the sacred chrism have been made priests [cf. ι Pet. ii. 9] … [and offer the sacrifice of themselves].

f Horn, in Leviticum, ix. 9


The People’s Share in Ordination

‘Moses called the congregation and said to them. This is the word which the Lord commanded.’ Although the Lord had given commands about the appointment of the chief priest and had chosen him, still the congregation is also summoned. For in the ordination of a priest the presence of the people is also required that all may know for certain that the man elected to the priesthood is of the whole people the most eminent, the most learned, the holiest, the most outstanding in every kind of virtue. And this must be done in the presence of the people to avoid any subsequent change of mind or lingering doubt.

Ibid. vi. 3


XI. The Sacraments


(a) Baptism Renunciation of the Devil

Let every one of the faithful recall the words he used in renouncing the devil when first he came to the waters of Baptism, when he took upon himself the first seals3 of faith and came to the saving fountain; he proclaimed that he would not deal in the pomps of the devil, nor his works, nor would he submit to his servitude and his pleasures.

•f Horn, in Numeros, xii. 4 1 Luke xii. 49. a Lev. viii. 5. 3 signacula, or ‘tokens.’



[On Exod. xii. 7: The Passover: ‘They shall take of the blood and put it upon the door posts . . .’]. We sacrifice and anoint our houses with the blood. I mean by this our body, if the anointing is our faith in him who annihilates the power of the destroyer; and after our anointing, that is our believing in the Anointed, i.e. Christ, then we are bidden to come to the meal.

Selecta in Exodum

[On Ezek. xvi. 9.] Ί washed you in water.’ The washing and the grace of the Holy Spirit and the sanctifying Word. Ί washed you in oil.’ The chrism is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in knowledge of the truth.

 Selecta in Ezechielem

So when one is converted from sin, purification is granted. . . . But the gift of the Spirit is represented under the figure of oil; so that he who is converted from sin may not only achieve purification but also be filled with the Holy Spirit, whereby he may also receive his former robe [i.e. the prodigal’s] and the ring, be reconciled completely to his father, and restored to the status of a son.

f Horn, in Leviticutn, viii. 2

Outward Sign — Inward Grace

‘For not all those are Israelites who are of Israel’ nor are all those straightway washed with the Holy Spirit who are washed with water; just as, conversely, those who are numbered among the catechumens are not all deprived and bereft of the Holy Spirit. For I find in the divine Scriptures several catechumens who were held worthy of the Holy Spirit and that others after receiving baptism were unworthy of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Cornelius was a catechumen and before he came to the water he desired to receive the Holy Spirit. Simon [Magus] had received baptism but he was refused the gift of the Holy Spirit because he approached the grace with hypocrisy.

•f Horn, in Numeros, iii. ι

Although in accordance with the prescribed form which has been handed down in the Church we have been baptized in those visible waters and with the visible chrism, he only is truly baptized Trom above’ in the Holy Spirit and in water who has ‘died to sin’ and is truly ‘baptized in the death of Christ’ and is ‘buried with him in baptism unto death.’

f Comm. in Ep. ad Romanos, v. 8

The record in the Acts of the Apostles tells of the manifest indwelling of the Spirit in the baptized, when the water has prepared the way for those who approach with sincerity. . . . Baptism is called ‘bath of rebirth’ l which takes place with ‘renewal of Spirit.’ In these days also ‘the Spirit,’ since it is from God, is ‘borneabove the water’; but the Spirit does not enter into everyone after the water.

Comm. in Evang. loannis, vi. 33 (17)

The Catechumenate

Many passages in Origen are addressed to catechumens, warning them against any confidence in an automatic bestowal of the Spirit in Baptism, and of the need for repentance and faith.

It is not all who are washed so as to attain salvation. We, who have received the grace of baptism in the name of Christ, have been washed; but I know not who of us has been washed unto salvation. Simon [Magus] was washed and was continuing in fellowship with Philip;3 but he was not washed unto salvation. . . . To be washed unto salvation is a matter of enormous difficulty. Mark, catechumens, and listen, and, as a result of these warnings, prepare yourselves before baptism, while you are are still catechumens, and see that you come to the font and are washed unto salvation. . . . He who is washed unto salvation receives both water and the Holy Spirit. Simon was not so washed; he received water but not the Holy Spirit.

£ Horn, in Ezechielem, vi. 5

Union with Christ

[A parallel between Joshua (in Greek ‘Jesus’) — the crossing of Jordan being his exaltation (Jos. iii. 7), and Jesus Christ — his baptism of death being his exaltation (Phil. ii. 9,10).] Jesus [Joshua] is not exalted before the mystery of baptism [i.e. the aossing of Jordan], but his exaltation, an exaltation in the sight of the people, thence takes its beginning. For if all who are baptized in Christ are baptized in his death, while the death of Jesus is completed in the exaltation of the cross, then Jesus is rightly exalted for each one of the faithful at that moment when each one comes to the mystery of baptism. For it is written ‘God has exalted him and has given him a name which is above every name. . . .’ [Phil. ii. 9 f] . . .


(b) The Eucharist The Lord’s Body

‘Each one therefore as he has conceived in his heart.’ Ask yourselves if you are conceiving, or taking in; and if you are retaining: lest what is said should flow away and perish. . . . You who are wont to take part in the divine mysteries know how carefully and reverently you guard the body of the Lord when you receive it, lest the least crumb of it should fall to the ground, lest any thing should be lost of the hallowed gift. For you regard, and rightly regard, yourselves as culpable if any part should fall to the ground through your carelessness. When you show, and rightly show, such care in guarding his body can you suppose it less blameworthy to neglect the word of God than his body?

φ Horn, in Exod. xiii. 3

Right Reception

That which is ‘sanctified through the word of God and prayer’ does not of its own accord sanctify the recipient; for if this were so it would sanctify him who eats the bread of the Lord unworthily and no one through this food would become ‘ill or weak’ or ‘sleep.’ Thus even in respect of the bread of the Lord the advantage to the receiver depends on his partaking of the bread with a pure mind and a clear conscience. We arc not deprived of any good merely by not eating of the bread sanctified by the word of God and prayer; neither do we abound in any good by the mere eating. What causes our deprivation is wickedness and sin; what causes our abundance is righteousness and well-doing. . . . [Cf. ι Cor. viii. 8.] The food which is ‘sanctified’ . . . ‘goes into the belly,’ in respect of its material nature, and is ‘discharged into the privy.’ But in respect of the prayer which is added to it it becomes profitable, ‘according to the proportion of faith,’ and is the cause of spiritual discernment in the mind which has an eye to its spiritual profit. It is not the material bread that profits the man who eats the bread of the Lord not unworthily; rather it is the word which is spoken over it.

Comm. in Matthaeum, xi. 14

The ‘Spiritual’ Interpretation of Body and Blood

[Allegorizing Num. xxiii. 24 (LXX), ‘He will not sleep until he devours his prey and drinks the blood of the wounded.’] What people is this, which practises the drinking of blood? When the Jewish followers of the Lord heard such words in the gospel they were offended, and said ‘Who can eat flesh, and drink blood?’l But the Christian people, the faithful people, hears this and eagerly welcomes it, and follows him who says, ‘Unless you eat my flesh, and drink my blood, you will not have life in yourselves. For my flesh is really food, and my blood is really drink.’ And, to be sure, he who said this was wounded for men; for ‘he was wounded for our sins’ as Isaiah says.2 Now we are said to drink the blood of Christ not only in the way of sacraments, but also when we receive his words, in which life consists; as he himself says, ‘The words which I have spoken are spirit and life.’ Therefore he is ‘the wounded’ whose ‘blood we drink,’ that is to say, we receive the words of his teaching.

f Horn, in Num. xvi. 9

[John xiii. 26-30: The departure of Judas after receiving the morsel of bread.] The morsel which Jesus gave to Judas was of the same kind as that which he gave to the rest of the Apostles when he said, ‘Take, eat.’ But to them the result was salvation; to Judas it was condemnation, so that ‘after he had received the morsel Satan entered him.’ Let this bread and the cup be understood by the simpler folk according to the more general acceptation of the Eucharist; but by those who have been schooled to a profounder apprehension let it be interpreted in reference to the diviner promise, the promise of the nourishing word of truth. I might illustrate the point by the physical effect of the most nutritive bread, which aggravates a latent fever, although it is conducive to health and well-being. Thus a true word supplied to a sick soul, which does not require such nourishment, often irritates it, and becomes the occasion for its deterioration: in such a case it is dangerous to speak the truth.

Comm. in loannem, xxxii. 24 (16)

That bread which God the Word proclaims as his body is the word which nourishes our souls. . . . That drink which God the Word proclaims as his blood is the word which ‘so wonderfully refreshes and inebriates.’ . . . For the body and blood of God the Word can be nothing else than the word which nourishes and the word which ‘makes glad the heart.’ He said, ‘This is my blood of the new covenant.’ Why did he not say, ‘This is the bread of the new convenant’? Because the bread is the word of righteousness by eating which our souls arc nourished, while the drink is the word of the recognition of Christ according to the mystery of his birth and passion. Since therefore the covenant of God is set before us in the blood of the passion of Christ, that believing the Son of God to have been born and to have suffered in the flesh we may be saved — not through righteousness, for there could be no salvation through righteousness alone without faith in the passion of Christ; therefore it is only of the cup that it is said, ‘This is the cup of the new testament.’

‘ In Matthaeum Comtnentarorium Series, 85

The Sacrifice of the Priestly Church

He has given instructions so that we may know how we ought to approach God’s altar. For it is an altar upon which we offer our prayers to God. That we may know, then, how we ought to offer them, he bids us put aside our soiled garments — the uncleanness of the flesh, the faults of character, the defilements of lust. Or do you not recognize that the priesthood has been given to you also, that is to the whole Church of God and the nation of believers? . . . [i Pet. ii. 9). You have therefore a priesthood, being a priestly nation. Therefore, you ought to offer to God a sacrifice of praise, of prayers, of pity, of purity, of righteousness, of holiness. To offer this aright you have need of clean garments, of vestments kept apart from the common clothing of the rest of mankind; and you must have the divine fire, God’s own fire which he gives to men, of which the Son of God says, Ί have come to send fire on earth.’

φ Horn, in Leviticum, ix. ι

[Lev. xxiv. 5-9: the shewbread ‘for a memorial.’] If these things are interpreted with reference to the greatness of the mystery, you will find that that memorial effects an immense propitiation. If you come to that ‘bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’;2 that ‘bread of setting forth’ [LXX for ‘shewbread’] which ‘God set forth as a propitiation through faith in his blood,’ and if you have regard to that memorial of which the Lord says, ‘Do this for a memorial of me,’ you will find that this is the only memorial which makes God propitious to men. If therefore you recall more attentively the Church’s mysteries, you will find in these writings of the Law the prefigurement of the truth to come.

J Ibid. xiii. 3


ΧII. The Discipline of the Church

(a) Penance

The ‘Power of the Keys’

Those who lay claim to the position of bishops avail themselves of the saying ‘You are Peter . . ,’; as having received, like Peter, the keys of the kingdom of heaven from the Saviour; and they teach that what is bound, that is, condemned, by them is bound in heaven also, and what has received from them remission is loosed also in heaven. Therefore it must be said that the claim is sound if there is in them that which was the ground for the saying to Peter, ‘You are Peter’; and that this saying may rightly be extended to them if they are such that Christ can build the Church upon them. But the gates of hell ought not to prevail against him who wishes to bind and loose: and if he is ‘held fast by the cords of his sins,’ then it is in vain that he binds and looses.

Comm. in Matt. xii. 14 Cf. above, p. 245.

Among the Christians there are men appointed to make careful scrutiny of the life and conduct of those who seek admission to the Church, to prevent those of infamous behaviour from coming into their assembly. They have a method of dealing with sinners and especially with the incontinent. . . . They mourn for them as lost and dead to God. . .. If they show a genuine reformation they regard them as risen from the dead and admit them again after a period longer than their original probation. But they do not appoint them to office or positions of authority in the Church when they have fallen into sin after having come to the Word.

Contra Celsum, iii. 51

Only One Penitence for Grave Sins

In more serious offences opportunity for penitence is granted only once; but those common offences which we frequently incur always admit of penitence and are redeemed continually.

£ Horn, in Levilicum, xv (αύβη.)

Some Sins Irremissible

The Apostles and those who are like the Apostles, being priests after the fashion of the great high priest, who have gained knowledge of the service of God; all these know, through the instruction of the Spirit, what are the sins for which one should offer sacrifice . . . and what sins admit of no sacrifice. … I do not know how certain men, arrogating more than the priestly right, perhaps not fully versed in priestly knowledge, can claim the power to condone idolatry, to forgive adultery and fornication; as if, through their prayers on behalf of those who have not shrunk from such enormities, even the ‘sin unto death’ is pardoned.

De Oratione, 28


[‘That the thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed,’ Luke ii. 35.] There were evil thoughts in men, and they were revealed for this reason, that being brought into the open they might be destroyed, slain and put to death, and cease to be, and that he who died for us might kill them. For while these thoughts were hidden and not brought into the open they could not be utterly done to death. Hence if we have sinned we also ought to say, Ί have made my sin known to thee, and I have not hidden my wickedness. I have said I will declare my unrighteousness to the Lord against myself/2 For if we do this and reveal our sins not only to God but also to those who can heal our wounds and sins, our wickedness will be wiped out by him who says, Ί will wipe out your wickedness like a cloud’. . .

J Horn, in Lucam, xvii

[The various sin-offerings.] Perhaps the members of the Church who listen to this may say, ‘Those men of Old Testament times had the better of it, compared with us. In those days pardon was offered to sinners on the performance of various rites of sacrifice. With us there is only one pardon for sins, and that is given at the outset through the grace of the font; and after that there is no mercy for sinners, and no pardon is granted.’ Certainly the Christian should be under stricter discipline, since Christ died for him. For the men of old there were slain sheep, goats, oxen, and birds, and meal was sprinkled; for you the Son of God was slain, and do you delight in sinning again? And yet, lest these thoughts should rather cast you down in despair than stimulate you to virtue, having heard of all the sacrifices for sins under the Law, now listen to all the ways of remission of sins in the Gospels. First, we are baptized for remission of sins. Secondly, there is the remission in the suffering of martyrdom. Thirdly, the remission given in return for works of mercy . . . [Luke xi. 44]. Fourthly, the forgiveness through our forgiveness of others. . . [Matt. vi. 14, 15]. Fifthly, the forgiveness bestowed when a man ‘has converted a sinner from the error of his ways’ [Jas. v. 20]. Sixthly, sins are remitted through abundance of love . . . [Luke vii. 47, ‘because she loved much’ and ι Pet. iv. 8]. Besides these there is also a seventh way of forgiveness, hard and painful though it is, namely the remission of sins through penitence, when ‘the sinner washes his bed with tears, and tears are his bread, by day and night,’ and when he does not hold back in shame from declaring his sin to the priest of the Lord and asking for medicine . . . [cf. Jas. v. 14].

 f Horn, in teviticum, ii. 4


(b) Marriage Rigorous Monogamy

In these days we meet with second, third, and fourth marriages, to say nothing of larger numbers; and we are well aware that such wedlock will cast us out of the kingdom of God. For as such marriages, and not merely fornication, are a bar to office in the Church, for neither bishop, priest or deacon nor widow can be digamists: so also, it may be that the digamists will be cast out from the society of the ‘church of the firstborn 2 and the undefiled which has ‘neither spot or wrinkle.’ Not that such a man may be sent to eternal fire, but that he may have no part in the kingdom of God. Remember my interpretation of ι Corinthians i. 2, ‘The church of God in Corinth, together with those who call on his name.’ I distinguished the church from those who invoke the name of the Lord. For I suppose the monogamous, the virgin, the perpetually chaste, to belong to the Church of God; while the digamist, however moral his behaviour, however strong in virtues he may be, is yet not of the Church . . . but of the second grade, of ‘those who call on the name of the Lord.’ Such are saved in the name of Jesus Christ, but they are in no way crowned by him.

if Horn, in Lucam, xvii

Concession in Practice

[The ideal of monogamy and the principle of indissoluhility of marriage.] But by this time some of the leaders of the Church have contravened the scriptural injunctions in allowing a woman to marry again while her husband is alive. This is against the letter of Scripture . . . [i Cor. vii. 39, Rom. vii. 3] but it is not an utterly unreasonable concession; for it is probable that the indulgence is granted in consideration of the worse evils [that a rigorous policy would produce], though it contravenes the law laid down in the Scriptures.


The Church and Ministry


(a) The Unity of the Church

The complicated manuscript tradition of the treatise On the Unity of the Catholic Church, c. 4, has been intensively studied in the last fifty years. It is clear that there are two different versions, found separately in some MSS., conflated in others, set end to end in others. The older view, that the ‘episcopalian’ text of Cyprian was interpolated by a ‘papal’ forger (Benson), is now generally abandoned, and it is generally supposed that both versions are the work of Cyprian. Many scholars have thought that the ‘papal’ version (‘Primacy Text’) was a revision of the original ‘episcopalian’ (‘ Textus Receptus’), adapting it in view of the Novatianist schism at Rome (Chapman, followed by many others); or the ‘Primacy text’ may have been written first and later revised for more general consumption (Batiffol). The dominant view at present seems to be that the ‘Primacy Text’ was altered by Cyprian to the Textus Receptus as a result of the controversy about baptism with Stephen, Bishop of Rome. M. Bevenot, S.J., by a diligent examination of the MSS., has succeeded in establishing the two distinct texts, here given successively. Bevenot maintains that the ‘papalism’ of the ‘Primacy Text’ is more apparent than real, Peter’s ‘primacy’ being emphasized to support the apostolic authority of bishops, not the pre-eminence of the Bishop of Rome.

.. . The Lord says to Peter, Ί say unto you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church . . .’ [Matt. xvi. 18 f.]

[Primacy Text’]

Again, after his resurrection he says to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ He ‘builds his church’ on him, and to him he gives his sheep to be fed: and although he confers an equal power on all the Apostles, yet he has appointed one throne and by his authority has ordained the source and principle of unity. The other Apostles were, to be sure, what Peter was, but primacy is given to Peter, and the Church and the throne are shown to be one. And all are pastors, but one flock is indicated, which is fed by all the Apostles with unanimous consent. If a man does not hold this unity of Peter, does he believe himself to hold the faith? If a man deserts the throne of Peter, on whom the Church is founded, is he confident that he is in the Church?

[Textus Receptus]

He builds his Church on one man; and although after his resurrection he confers an equal power on all the Apostles and says, ‘As my Father has sent me . . .’ [John xx. 21-23], yet» m order to display the unity, he has by his authority ordained the source of the same unity, which originates from one man. The other Apostles were, to be sure, what Peter was, endowed with an equal share in honour and power, but a beginning is made from one man that the Church of Christ may be shown to be one. This church the Holy Spirit points to in the Song of Songs, speaking in the person of the Lord, ‘My dove is one . . . the favourite of her mother’ [Cant. vi. 9], If a man does not hold this unity of the Church, does he believe himself to hold the faith? If a man withstands and resists the Church, is he confident that he is in the Church? For the blessed Apostle Paul has the same teaching, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, when he says, ‘There is one body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.’ (5) This unity we ought firmly to hold and defend, especially we who preside in the Church as bishops that we may prove the episcopate also to be itself one and undivided. Let no one deceive the brethren by falsehood; let no one corrupt the truth of our faith by faithless transgression.


[Common text, continued]

The episcopate is one; the individual members have each a part, and the parts make up a solid whole. The Church is one; yet by her fruitful increase she is extended far and wide to form a plurality: even as the sun has many rays, but one light; and a tree many boughs but one trunk, whose foundation is the deep-seated root; and as when many streams flow down from one source, though a multitude seems to be poured out from the abundance of the copious supply, yet in the source itself unity is preserved. Cut off a ray from the sun’s orb; the unity of light refuses division: break a branch from the tree; the broken member cannot bud: sever the stream from its fount; once severed it is dried up. So also the Church, flooded with the light of the Lord, extends her rays over all the globe: yet it is one light which is diffused everywhere and the unity of the body is not broken up. She stretches forth her branches over the whole earth in rich abundance; she spreads far and wide the bounty of her onward-flowing streams; yet there is but one head, one source, one mother, abounding in the increase of her fruitfulness. Of her womb are we born, by her milk are we nourished, and we are quickened from her breath.

(6) The spouse of Christ cannot be made an adulteress; she is un-defiled and chaste. She knows but one home, and guards with virtuous chastity the sanctity of one chamber. She it is who preserves us for God, who enrols into the Kingdom the sons she has borne. Whoever stands aloof from the Church and is joined to an adulteress is cut off from the promises given to the Church; and he that leaves the Church of Christ attains not to Christ’s rewards. He is an alien, an enemy. He cannot have God for his father who has not the Church for his mother. If any one was able to escape outside of Noah’s ark, then he also escapes who is outside the doors of the Church.

(7) This sacrament of unity, this bond of peace inseparable and indivisible, is indicated when in the Gospel the robe of the Lord Jesus Christ was not divided at all or rent, but they cast lots for the raiment of Christ, to see who should put on Christ for clothing; and so the raiment was received whole and the robe was taken unspoilt and undivided. Divine Scripture speaks, and says, ‘But as for the robe, since it was seamless, woven throughout, from the part above, they said among themselves: “Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” ‘ That garment stood for the unity which comes ‘from the part above,’ that is, from Heaven and from the Father, a unity which could not be rent at all by him that received it and had it in possession; he took it indivisibly in its unbreakable entirety. He who rends and divides the Church of Christ cannot possess the clothing of Christ. . . .

The Lord warns us of this when he says, ‘The man who is not with me is against me . . Λ1 The man who breaks the peace and harmony of Christ is acting against Christ; he who ‘gathers’ anywhere but in the Church is ‘scattering.’ The Lord says, Ί and the Father are a unity.’ Again, it is said of Father, Son, and Spirit, ‘The three are a unity.’ Does anyone suppose that this unity, deriving from the divine stability, and cemented by heavenly mysteries, can be broken in the Church, and sundered by the separation brought about by conflicting purposes? He who docs not keep this unity does not keep God’s law, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not keep hold on life and salvation.

De Catholicae Ecclesiae Unitate, 4-7


(b) The Episcopal Office

Note that ‘priest,’ sacerdos, normally means ‘bishop’ in Cyprian.

We are bound to observe the precepts and admonitions of our Lord; and he ordained the high office of bishop and the principle of his Church when in the gospel he spoke these words to Peter, ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church . . Λ [Matt. xvi. 18 f.J Thereafter, age has succeeded age, bishop has followed bishop, and the office of bishop and the principle of church government has been handed down, so that the Church is established on the foundation of bishops, and every act of the Church is directed by those same presiding officers. Since this has been laid down by divine institution, I am amazed that certain persons [sc. who had lapsed in persecution] should have the temerity to elect to write to me in such a fashion as to end their letter in the name of the Church; seeing that the Church consists of the bishop, the clergy, and all the faithful.

Epistle xxxiii. ι

[In saying ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’ (John vi. 67-69)] Peter speaks as representing the Church, for our instruction; since the Church was to be built on him. He shows us here that, although the proud and arrogant multitude of those who refuse to obey may take themselves off, still the Church never departs from Christ; and the Church is made up of the people united to their priest, the flock cleaving to its shepherd. Hence you should know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop, and that if anyone is not with the bishop he is not in the Church; and that those people are vainly beguiling themselves who, not being at peace with the priests of God, creep up stealthily, and trust by underhand means to enter into communion with certain persons: seeing that the Church is catholic and one, and may not be sundered or divided, but should assuredly be kept together and united by the glue which is the mutual adherence of the priest.

Ibid. Ixvi. 7


(c) Choice of Bishops; Made by Bishops, with Approval of Clergy and Laity

In appointments of priests we ought to choose none but men of spotless and upright character as our leaders, that when they worthily offer sacrifices to God they may be heard in the prayers which they make for the safety of the Lord’s people . . .

… The people, in obedience to the Lord’s commands and in fear of God, ought to separate from a ruler who is a sinner and not to be associated with the sacrifices of a sacrilegious priest, since the people especially have the power of choosing worthy priests or refusing the unworthy. (4) The practice of choosing a priest in the presence of the people and before the eyes of all, and requiring that he should be approved as fit and worthy by the general decision and testimony, evidently comes to us with divine authority; just as in Numbers the Lord commanded Moses: ‘Take Aaron your brother and Eleazar his son and set them on the mount in the sight of the whole congregation, and take off Aaron’s vestment and put it on Eleazar.’ . . . Thus God shows that appointments to the priesthood should only take place with the cognizance of the people and in their presence, that, the people being at hand, the faults of the wicked may be revealed, the merits of the good proclaimed, and the appointment may be valid and regular, as having been tested by the vote and decision of all [cf. the election of Matthias (Acts i. 15), and the appointment of deacons’ (Acts vi. 2)] …

(5) Therefore we should be careful to observe and keep the procedure we have received from the divine tradition and from the practice of the Apostles, which is kept among us and in practically all the provinces: namely, that for the appointment of priests in due form the neighbouring bishops of the same province should assemble with the people for whom a ruler is to be appointed, and the bishop be chosen in the presence of the people who have the fullest knowledge of the manner of life of individuals and are acquainted with the behaviour of each from having lived with them. We observe that this was done among you in the appointment of Sabinus our colleague; as a result of the vote of the brethren and the decision of the bishops who had met and who had submitted letters to you about him, the episcopal office was conferred on him, and the hand was laid upon him, to take the place of Basilides.

Ibid. Ixvii. 2, 3-5

Cornelius was made bishop by many of our colleagues, who were then in Rome . . .; on the decision of God and Christ, with the testimony of almost all the clergy, by the vote1 of the people who were present, and by the consent of ancient priests [bishops] and good men.

Epistle Iv. 8

The invariable source of heresies and schisms is in refusal to obey the priest of God [the bishop], the failure to have one in the church who is looked upon as the temporal representative of Christ as priest and judge. If die whole brotherhood obeyed the bishop in this way, according to the divine instructions, no one would move against the college of priests [bishops], no one, after the divine decision,2 the vote1 of the people, the consent of his fellow-bishops, would set himself up as a judge, not of the bishops [who elected him] but of God himself.2

Ibid. lix. 5

(d) Unworthy or Irregular Ministrations Invalid

[Rev. xiv. 9 if.] How can a man suppose himself capable of acting as God’s priest [bishop] if he has obeyed and served the priests of the devil? … Those who have offered sacrilegious sacrifices cannot claim the priesthood of God, nor offer prayer for their brethren in his sight, since it is written in the gospel, ‘God does not listen to a sinner Qohnix. 31].

(4)… The oblation cannot be consecrated where there is not the Holy Spirit, nor does the Lord grant grace to anyone through the prayers and intercessions of one who himself has done wrong to the Lord.

Ibid. Ixv. 2

Cf. Ixvii. 4, above. Cyprian does not say how the existence of an unworthy bishop is to be reconciled with his claim that God guides the election.