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Tertullian of Carthage (c.155–c.225)

  1. D. H. Williams

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc1362

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Williams, D. H. 2011. Tertullian of Carthage (c.155–c.225). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) was a brilliant and highly eccentric Christian apologist, polemicist, and biblical expositor of the late 2nd and early 3rd century. Erroneously identified by Jerome (On Illustrious Men 53) as a priest, Tertullian was a layman, certainly married, and probably lived in Carthage all his life. Insinuations from his writings indicate that he converted to Christianity in adulthood, initially captivated by the conviction and courageousness of Christian martyrs he had witnessed. He had an extensive education and expressed himself in a convoluted style of Latin imbued with satire and irony that occasionally rendered his statements obscure, but perfectly suited him as he argued against Roman Pagans, Jews, Christian heretics, and fellow-Catholics. Not surprisingly, the scope of his 31 extant writings produced over a roughly 20 year period (c.196–220) are chiefly polemical. There are also devotional essays on prayer, baptism, penitence, and martyrdom, as well as small treatises, many from his pro-Montanist period, on what constitutes appropriate Christian practice (monogamy, chastity, veiling of unmarried women, etc.). The authorship of On the Pallium and part of Against the Jews is still debated.


  • tertullian of carthage (c.155–c.225);
  • pro-montanist period, appropriate christian practice;
  • apology and to the nations, defending christian custom;
  • tertullian's commitment to montanism