Tertullian in Against Praxeas - Montanist contra diversion

Steven Avery


The context of the so-called allusion to the Comma Johanneum in Against Praxeas 25.1.

Chapter 25. The Paraclete, or Holy Ghost. He is Distinct from the Father and the Son as to Their Personal Existence. One and Inseparable from Them as to Their Divine Nature. Other Quotations Out of St. John's Gospel

What follows Philip's question, and the Lord's whole treatment of it, to the end of John's Gospel, continues to furnish us with statements of the same kind, distinguishing the Father and the Son, with the properties of each. Then there is the Paraclete or Comforter, also, which He promises to pray for to the Father, and to send from heaven after He had ascended to the Father. He is called another Comforter, indeed; John 14:16 but in what way He is another we have already shown, He shall receive of mine, says Christ, John 16:14 just as Christ Himself received of the Father's. Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent Persons, who are yet distinct One from Another. These Three are one essence, not one Person, as it is said, I and my Father are One, John 10:30 in respect of unity of substance not singularity of number. Run through the whole Gospel, and you will find that He whom you believe to be the Father (described as acting for the Father, although you, for your part, forsooth, suppose that the Father, being the husbandman, John 15:1 must surely have been on earth) is once more recognised by the Son as in heaven, when, lifting up His eyes thereto, John 17:1 He commended His disciples to the safe-keeping of the Father. John 17:11 We have, moreover, in that other Gospel a clear revelation, i.e. of the Son's distinction from the Father, My God, why have You forsaken me? Matthew 27:46 and again, (in the third Gospel,) Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit. Luke 23:46 But even if (we had not these passages, we meet with satisfactory evidence) after His resurrection and glorious victory over death. Now that all the restraint of His humiliation is taken away, He might, if possible, have shown Himself as the Father to so faithful a woman (as Mary Magdalene) when she approached to touch Him, out of love, not from curiosity, nor with Thomas' incredulity. But not so; Jesus says unto her, Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren (and even in this He proves Himself to be the Son; for if He had been the Father, He would have called them His children, (instead of His brethren), and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God. John 20:17 Now, does this mean, I ascend as the Father to the Father, and as God to God? Or as the Son to the Father, and as the Word to God? Wherefore also does this Gospel, at its very termination, intimate that these things were ever written, if it be not, to use its own words, that you might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? John 20:31 Whenever, therefore, you take any of the statements of this Gospel, and apply them to demonstrate the identity of the Father and the Son, supposing that they serve your views therein, you are contending against the definite purpose of the Gospel. For these things certainly are not written that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the Father, but the Son.


All about Trinity doctrine as seen by Tertullian.

The Montanism question is not the context.

This is very easy to see.


In one spot above,
"He is called another Comforter, indeed; John 14:16 but in what way He is another we have already shown,"
Tertullian is looking back to Chapter 9.

Happily the Lord Himself employs this expression of the person of the Paraclete, so as to signify not a division or severance, but a disposition (of mutual relations in the Godhead); for He says, I will pray the Father, and He shall send you another Comforter...even the Spirit of truth, John 14:16 thus making the Paraclete distinct from Himself, even as we say that the Son is also distinct from the Father; so that He showed a third degree in the Paraclete, as we believe the second degree is in the Son, by reason of the order observed in the Economy.

Again, nothing related to anything special to Montanism.


Steven Avery

Why did Tertullian join the stream of the New Prophecy?

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9-10)

"The Holy Spirit foresaw that some would say, All things are lawful to bishops; just as that bishop of Utina of yours feared not even the Scantinian law*. Why, how many digamists, too, preside in your churches; insulting the apostle, of course: at all events, not blushing when these passages are read under their presidency!"
- Tertullian, De Monogamia 12:6
*The Lex Scantinia Roman law have been used to prosecute adult male citizens who willingly took a passive role in having sex with other men.


Casey Perkins
Top contributor
Your post seems to imply that the Spirit instituted the episcopal system but knew it wouldn't work, and then had to make a correction via the New Prophecy....which subsequently died out, leaving (once again) the episcopal system.
Montanism was a more extreme form of a heresy that has cropped up repeatedly in the church's history - an excessive and unmerciful rigorism. We've seen it in Novatianism, Donatism, and other less known "-isms". Sts. Cyprian, Ambrose, and many others have spoken eloquently about the necessity of mercy in restoring sinners, although in doing so they still maintain some level of rigor.

Nathanael Brager
Casey Perkins In fairness, Montanism is difficult to nail down, as their may have been multiple groups who used the name, but did not have any clear connection to one another. We know which views caused Montanism to be rejected, but it's not clear which beliefs Tertullian affirmed (did he simply affirm the strict moral code of Montanism, or did he actually affirm the legitimacy of "the three"?)
To my limited knowledge, there's little evidence that Tertullian was ever excommunicated or that he considered himself to have left the church, although his association with Montanism (in whatever capacity) certainly hurt his reputation, which is understandable.

Casey Perkins
Top contributor
Nathanael Brager, writers after him say that he lapsed. St. Jerome comes immediately to mind. Tertullian's harsh adverse rhetoric toward the "psychics" certainly sounds like it is coming from a place outside the church, talking against a different group.
You're right, Montanism is a moving target. But in whatever you place you pin it down, there is a heresy evident.

Byron Washington
Nathanael Brager 100% correct
Tertullian came from the highly respected African( North African ) Church tradition .
Saints and Fathers such as St Cyprian and St Augustine honored him and not once stated he was a Montanist. Tertullian never stated any beliefs that would have been aligned with why Monatism
Was a heresy .
He said as staunch believer in new prophecy and charismatic gifts but he also believed there was order . He was critical of the Roman clergy of his day because of practices not aligning with the faith. Something that obviously Rome never purged herself of .
Many scholars today would classify him a Proponent of New Prophecy rather than Montanism

Casey Perkins
Top contributor
Byron Washington, how did St. Cyprian honor him, and what significance is it that he didn't state that he was a Montanist? St. Cyprian does not mention Tertullian even once in his extant literature.
If you want to credit St. Jerome's account of St. Cyprian holding the works of Tertullian in high regard, remember that it comes from the same document in which St. Jerome informs us that Tertullian "lapsed to the doctrine of Montanus". (St. Jerome also says plainly in Against Helvidius that "he did not belong to the church").
"He was critical of the Roman clergy of his day because of practices not aligning with the faith."
He was critical of the Roman clergy because they restored grievous sinners, something I doubt is a practice "not aligning with the faith".

Byron Washington
Casey Perkins well let’s look at the evidence… was tertullian ever called or deemed a Montanist in his day or a generation after .
St Jerome was not of the African tradition so he is speaking from what he was heard . St Augustine however does not have the same conclusion as him. Plus we have zero testimony of any African church fathers and leaders stating as much . Even in his own writings he states nothing that is the monatist heresy.
Like stated above Master , Father, Saint


The Undivided Church 33-451 AD
Top contributor
Casey Perkins The movemental structure of the early Church wich was maintained by the good communication among bishops, doesn't have much to do with the episcopal despotism of the medieval Church. Do you see any central governance in the Catholic Church the first 3 centuries? Any ecumenical council?
Who told you that Montanism was heresy?
Perhaps the best global treatise on the New Prophecy was written by the theology professor of the University of Athens V. Stefanidis in his work "Ecclesiastical History''
"Montanism was not a heresy but a schism because it did not affect dogmatic teaching. Montanus wanted to preserve their enthusiastic tendencies and manifestations, which were beginning to disappear. The Montanists were rightly called Paleo-Christians. (HOMINES RELIGIONIS ANTIQUAE» ACTA
ACHATII 4,8, Ed. GEBHARDI P. 119, 12)
I think you seem to be way off Patristic mindset. Don't let me think now that you would prefer a sodomite bishop...

Casey Perkins
Top contributor
The Undivided Church 33-451 AD, there are a lot of red herrings in your response. For instance, what does the medieval church have to do with our discussion? Why would you even ask me about preferring a sodomite bishop?
"Who told you that Montanism was heresy?"
It seems like we've been threw this multiple times already. Montanism was rejected by the church repeatedly, and by numerous patristic writers. Not one significant writer outside of Tertullian that I can think of embraced Montanism. So how can I be way off the Patristic mindset? The mind of the church is expressed in consensus, not in the errors of the one.
"Do you see any central governance in the Catholic Church the first 3 centuries? Any ecumenical council?"
More strange questions that have no relevance. Only regional and local synods were practical during this time.
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