The first to explicitly recognise the doctrine of the Trinity.

Adversus Praxean
(Against Praxeas)

Summary Content Other points of
Manuscripts Title


On the trinity.


Praxeas thought that the Father and the Son were so much the same
that we could say that God the Father suffered on the cross. Tertullian points
out that this isn’t how scripture talks about God, and goes on to summarise the
teaching of scripture on the persons of the trinity, and their relationship,
thereby being the first to explicitly recognise the doctrine of the Trinity.

The identity of Praxeas is unknown. Some have suggested ‘Praxeas’
may be a pseudonym for someone better known, perhaps even Irenaeus, although
this suggestion is not generally accepted.


1.  Ch. 1 gives information about the position of the Montanists
in Rome, and their separation.

2.  Ch. 2 gives an early version of the creed as ‘from the
beginning of the gospel, even before the days of all the earlier heretics’, and
refers to De praescriptione haereticorum 31.

3.  Ch. 3: “All simple people, not to say the unwise and
unprofessional (who always constitute the majority of believers), since even the
rule of faith itself removes them from the plurality of the gods of this world
to the one true God, become greatly terrified through their failure to
understand that, while He must be believed to be one,  it is along with his
economy, because they judge that economy, implying a number and arrangement of
trinity, is really a division of unity, whereas unity, deriving trinity from
itself, is not destroyed by it but made serviceable.”

4. Ch. 4:  “… I do not regard the Spirit as coming from anywhere
else than from the Father through the Son”, which is the ‘Filioque’ or Western
addition to the Nicene creed, first stated at the Fourth Council of Toledo (AD.
589) (Souter p.34. n.2).

5. Ch. 7: “For who will deny that God is body/substance, even
though God is spirit?  For spirit is a particular kind of body in its own

6. Ch 8 contains some lovely attempts to give examples of the two
who are one, one proceeding from the other, yet not divided from it; “the root
and the shrub…the source and the river…the sun and the ray”.

7.  At some points in Ch. 9, 14 and 26, Tertullian says things
that could be taken to suggest that he thought that the Son is not equal to the

Father, but subordinate – a later heresy.  However he seems to use words like
‘secondary nature’ to mean not inferior, but rather derived from the Father,
which makes more sense in context. (Souter, p.62, n.1).   No doubt he also knew
Phil. 2 v.6 about Christ not considering equality something to be grasped.

8. Ch.10:  “But we are not to believe that because “He can do all
things” therefore He did even what He did not do, but we must ask whether He did

9. Ch. 11: “Or set forth the proof I demand, like my own; i.e.
that the Scriptures indicate the same to be Son and Father in the same way as
with us the Father and Son are indicated differentially; differentially, I say,
not separately”.

10. Ch.17 refers to “John’s Apocalypse”.

11.  Ch. 18: “But Scripture is not in such danger that you need to
come to its help with your reasoning, lest it should seem inconsistent with
itself.   It is quite right both when it lays down that there is one God and
when it shows that there are two, Father and Son, and it is

12. Ch. 21: Tertullian quotes John’s well-known words to show that
the Son was in the beginning with God.

13.  Ch. 25 contains what some have seen as a reference to the
disputed verse 1 John 5:7 (possible quote underlined):

… Qui tres unum sunt, non unus, quomodo dictum est, Ego
et Pater unum sumus, ….

(“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 [thing], not one [Person], as it is said,
‘I and my Father are One,’ in respect of unity of substance not singularity of

The verse of scripture is not normally thought to be part of the
original text, and is found in no Greek MS, except one which may have been
copied from the Latin.   But some have seen in this chapter a reference to an
ancient version of scripture that did contain it.  See Elucidation III in the
online translation for some more details.  Souter’s translation give it as a
reference to 1 John 5:8.

14. Ch. 26.  Tertullian makes the point that one verse of
scripture should not be interpreted contrary to many clear and definite


This text is found only in the members of the Cluny collection. (q.v.).  The primary
witnesses, therefore, are:

Possibly also to be considered are:

which may or may not have some independent witness.  Many consider
them simply copies of F, however.


ADV. PRAXEAM Montepessulanus H54 (M)
liber aduserus praxean Florentinus Magliebechianus, Conventi soppressi VI, 10

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