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II

ON THE ''PRESCRIPTION" OF HERETICS
Depositum custodi


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ON THE "PRESCRIPTION" OF HERETICS

IN legal language the word "Praescriptio"
denoted something written in front of, and limit-
ing an already existing formula. Something of its
original legal connotation may be detected in our
familiar use of it in medicine; for a prescription
is something written out beforehand for subsequent
use. Tertullian employs it to limit discussion with
the heretics to the single point of their right to
appeal to the Scriptures. He argues that their use
of the Christian documents is not allowable, because
they have forfeited their right to the name of
Christians, and with that their right of possession
of the Christian literature. The following synopsis
will sufficiently show the course of Tertullian's
argument.

SYNOPSIS

I. Introduction ; Chaps. I-X1V.

1. Heresies a necessary evil; Chaps. I-VII.
2. Refutation of the heretical misapplication of
    Christ's command, "Seek and ye shall
    find"; Chaps. VIII-XII.
3. The Rule of Faith; Chaps. XIII, XIV.

II. Main "Prescription"; Chaps. XV-XLIV.

i. I. Heretics forbidden to appeal to the Scrip-
      tures in argument (Chaps. XV-XIX);
      because the Catholic Church is the sole
      possessor of the True Faith and its
      records. The Apostles whom Christ sent
      can alone be received as Teachers, and
      the substance of their teaching can be
      learnt from Apostolic Churches only
      (Chaps. XX, XXI).

c                             33


34 TERTULLIAN

2. Consideration of heretical objections drawn
    fromó

(a) The alleged ignorance of the
     Apostles :

(1) Rebuke of Peter by Paul.
(2) Special revelations to Paul;
     Chaps. XXII-XXIV.

(b) The alleged non-publication of the
     whole Gospel by the Apostles;
     Chaps. XXV-XXVII.

(c) The alleged error in the Church's
     reception of it; Chaps. XXVII,
     XXVIII.

ii. 1. Heresies essentially of later date than the
       Church; their teachers lacking mission,
       and without episcopal succession; Chaps.
       XXIX-XXXIV.

2. The true doctrine and the true Scriptures
    preserved by the Apostolic Churches;
    Chaps. XXXV-XL.

3. Description of the heretical lack of organ-
    ization and discipline; Chaps. XLI-XLIV.

III. Conclusion; Chap. XLV.


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Translated by T. Herbert Bindley, 1914
Transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2002

Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press
SPIonic font, free from here.


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