Chapter I. - Connection of Gluttony
and Lust. Grounds of Psychical Objections Against the
Chapter II. - Arguments of the Psychics, Drawn from
the Law, the Gospel, the Acts, the
Epistles, and Heathenish Practices.
Chapter III. -The Principle of Fasting Traced Back to Its
Chapter IV. -The Objection is Raised, Why, Then, Was the
Limit of Lawful Food Extended
After the Flood? the Answer to It.
Chapter V. -Proceeding to the History of Israel,
Tertullian Shows that Appetite Was as
Conspicuous Among Their Sins as in Adam's Case. Therefore the Restraints
of the Levitical Law Were Imposed.
Chapter VI. -The Physical Tendencies of Fasting and Feeding
Considered. The Cases of
Moses and Elijah.
Chapter VII. -Further Examples from the Old Testament in Favour
Chapter VIII. -Examples of a Similar Kind from the New.
Chapter IX. -From Fasts Absolute Tertullian Comes
to Partial Ones and Xerophagies.
Chapter XV. - Of the Apostle's Language Concerning Food.
Chapter XVI. - Instances from Scripture of Divine Judgments Upon the
Appeals to the Practices of Heathens.
Chapter XVII -Conclusion.
Chapter I.-Connection of Gluttony and Lust. Grounds of Psychical
Objections Against the Montanists.
I should wonder at the Psychics, if they were enthralled to voluptuousness
alone, which leads them to repeated marriages, if they were not likewise
bursting with gluttony, which leads them to hate fasts. Lust without voracity
would certainly be considered a monstrous phenomenon; since these two are
so united and concrete, that, had there been any possibility of disjoining
them, the pudenda would not have been affixed to the belly itself rather
than elsewhere. Look at the body: the region (of these members) is one
and the same. In short, the order of the vices is proportionate to the
arrangement of the members. First, the belly; and then immediately the
materials of all other species of lasciviousness are laid subordinately
to daintiness: through love of eating, love of impurity finds passage.
I recognise, therefore, animal2 faith by its care of the flesh (of which
it wholly consists)-as prone to manifold feeding as to manifold marrying-so
that it deservedly accuses the spiritual discipline, which according to
its ability opposes it, in this species of continence as well; imposing,
as it does, reins upon the appetite, through taking, sometimes no meals,
or late meals, or dry meals, just as upon lust, through allowing but one
It is really irksome to engage with such: one is really ashamed to wrangle
about subjects the very defence of which is offensive to modesty. For how
am I to protect chastity and sobriety without taxing their adversaries?
What those adversaries are I will once for all mention: they are the exterior
and interior botuli of the Psychics. It is these which raise controversy
with the Paraclete; it is on this account that the New Prophecies are rejected:
not that Montanus and Priscilla and Maximilla preach another God, nor that
they disjoin Jesus Christ (from God), nor that they overturn any particular
rule of faith or hope, but that they plainly teach more frequent fasting
than marrying. Concerning the limit of marrying, we have already published
a defence of monogamy.3 Now our battle is the battle of the secondary (or
rather the primary) continence, in regard of the chastisement of diet.
They charge us with keeping fasts of our own; with prolonging our Stations
generally into the evening; with observing xerophagies likewise, keeping
our food unmoistened by any flesh, and by any juiciness, and by any kind
of specially succulent fruit; and with not eating or drinking anything
with a winey flavour; also with abstinence from the bath, congruent with
our dry diet. They are therefore constantly reproaching us with Novelty;
concerning the unlawfulness of which they lay down a prescriptive rule,
that either it must be adjudged heresy, if (the point in dispute) is a
human presumption; or else pronounced pseudo-prophecy, if it is a spiritual
declaration; provided that, either way, we who reclaim hear (sentence of)
Chapter II.-Arguments of the Psychics, Drawn from the Law, the Gospel,
the Acts, the Epistles, and Heathenish Practices.
For, so far as pertains to fasts, they oppose to us the definite days
appointed by God: as when, in Leviticus, the Lord enjoins upon Moses the
tenth day of the seventh month (as) a day of atonement, saying, "Holy shall
be to you the day, and ye shall vex your souls; and every soul which shall
not have been vexed in that day shall be exterminated from his people."4
At all events, in the Gospel they think that those days were definitely
appointed for fasts in which "the Bridegroom was taken away; "5 and that
these are now the only legitimate days for Christian fasts, the legal and
prophetical antiquities having been abolished: for wherever it suits their
wishes, they recognise what is the meaning of" the Law and the prophets
until John."6 Accordingly, (they think) that, with regard to the future,
fasting was to be indifferently observed, by the New Discipline, of choice,
not of command, according to the times and needs of each individual: that
this, withal, had been the observance of the apostles, imposing (as they
did) no other yoke of definite fasts to be observed by all generally, nor
similarly of Stations either, which (they think) have withal days of their
own (the fourth and sixth days of the week), but yet take a wide range
according to individual judgment, neither subject to the law of a given
precept, nor (to be protracted) beyond the last hour of the day, since
even prayers the ninth hour generally concludes, after Peter's example,
which is recorded in the Acts. Xerophagies, however, (they consider) the
novel name of a studied duty, and very much akin to heathenish superstition,
like the abstemious rigours which purify an Apis, an Isis, and a Magna
Mater, by a restriction laid upon certain kinds of food; whereas faith,
free in Christ,7 owes no abstinence from particular meats to the Jewish
Law even, admitted as it has been by the apostle once for all to the whole
range of the meat-market8 -(the apostle, I say), that detester of such
as, in like manner as they prohibit marrying, so bid us abstain from meats
created by God.9 And accordingly (they think) us to have been even then
prenoted as "in the latest times departing from the faith, giving heed
to spirits which seduce the world, having a conscience inburnt with doctrines
of liars."10 (Inburnt?) With what fires, prithee? The fires, I ween, which
lead us to repeated contracting of nuptials and daily cooking of dinners!
Thus, too, they affirm that we share with the Galatians the piercing rebuke
(of the apostle), as "observers of days, and of months, and of years."11
Meantime they huff in our teeth the fact that Isaiah withal has authoritatively
declared, "Not such a fast hath the Lord elected," that is, not abstinence
from food, but the works of righteousness, which he there appends:12 and
that the Lord Himself in the Gospel has given a compendious answer to every
kind of scrupulousness in regard to food; "that not by such things as are
introduced into the mouth is a man defiled, but by such as are produced
out of the mouth; "13 while Himself withal was wont to eat and drink till
He made Himself noted thus; "Behold, a gormandizer and a drinker: "14 (finally),
that so, too, does the apostle teach that "food commendeth us not to God;
since we neither abound if we eat, nor lack if we eat not."15
By the instrumentalities of these and similar passages, they subtlely
tend at last to such a point, that every one who is somewhat prone to appetite
finds it possible to regard as superfluous, and not so very necessary,
the duties of abstinence from, or diminution or delay of, food, since "God,"
forsooth, "prefers the works of justice and of innocence." And we know
the quality of the hortatory addresses of carnal conveniences, how easy
it is to say, "I must believe with my whole heart;16 I must love God, and
my neighbour as myself:17 for `on these two precepts the whole Law hangeth,
and the prophets, 'not on the emptiness of my lungs and intestines."
Chapter III.-The Principle of Fasting Traced Back to Its Earliest
Accordingly we are bound to affirm, before proceeding further, this
(principle), which is in danger of being secretly subverted; (namely),
of what value in the sight of God this "emptiness" you speak of is: and,
first of all, whence has proceeded the rationale itself of earning the
favour of God in this way. For the necessity of the observance will then
be acknowledged, when the authority of a rationale, to be dated back from
the very beginning, shall have shone out to view.
Adam had received from God the law of not tasting "of the tree of recognition
of good and evil," with the doom of death to ensue upon tasting.18 However,
even (Adam) himself at that time, reverting to the condition of a Psychic
after the spiritual ecstasy in which he had prophetically interpreted that
"great sacrament"19 with reference to Christ and the Church, and no longer
being "capable of the things which were the Spirit's,"20 yielded more readily
to his belly than to God, heeded the meat rather than the mandate, and
sold salvation for his gullet! He ate, in short, and perished; saved (as
he would) else (have been), if he had preferred to fast from one little
tree: so that, even from this early date, animal faith may recognise its
own seed, deducing from thence onward its appetite for carnalities and
rejection of spiritualities. I hold, therefore, that from the very beginning
the murderous gullet was to be punished with the torments and penalties
of hunger. Even if God had enjoined no preceptive fasts, still, by pointing
out the source whence Adam was slain, He who had demonstrated the offence
had left to; my intelligence the remedies for the offence. Unbidden, I
would, in such ways and at such times as I might have been able, have habitually
accounted food as poison, and taken the antidote, hunger; through which
to purge the primordial cause of death-a cause transmitted to me also,
concurrently with my very generation; certain that God willed that whereof
He nilled the contrary, and confident enough that the care of continence
will be pleasing to Him by whom I should have understood that the crime
of incontinence had been condemned. Further: since He Himself both commands
fasting, and calls "a soul21 wholly shattered "-properly, of course, by
straits of diet-" a sacrifice; "who will any longer doubt that of all dietary
macerations the rationale has been this, that by a renewed interdiction
of food and observation of precept the primordial sin might now be expiated,
in order that man may make God satisfaction through the self-same causative
material through which he had offended, that is, through interdiction of
food; and thus, in emulous wise, hunger might rekindle, just as satiety
had extinguished, salvation, contemning for the sake of one unlawful more
Chapter IV.-The Objection is Raised, Why, Then, Was the Limit of
Lawful Food Extended After the Flood? the Answer to It.
This rationale was constantly kept in the eye of the providence of God-modulating
all things, as He does, to suit the exigencies of the times-lest any from
the opposite side, with the view of demolishing our proposition, should
say: "Why, in that case, did not God forthwith institute some definite
restriction upon food? nay, rather, why did He withal enlarge His permission?
For, at the beginning indeed, it had only been the food of herbs and trees
which He had assigned to man: `Behold, I have given you all grass fit for
sowing, seeding seed, which is upon the earth; and every tree which hath
in itself the fruit of seed fit for sowing shall be to you for food.'22
Afterwards, however, after enumerating to Noah the subjection (to him)
of `all beasts of the earth, and fowls of the heaven, and things moving
on earth, and the fish of the sea, and every creeping thing, 'He says,
`They shall be to you for food: just like grassy vegetables have I given
(them) you universally: but flesh in the blood of its own soul shall ye
not eat.'23 For even by this very fact, that He exempts from eating that
flesh only the `soul' of which is not out-shed through `blood, 'it is manifest
that He has conceded the use of all other flesh." To this we reply, that
it was not suitable for man to be burdened with any further special law
of abstinence, who so recently showed himself unable to tolerate so light
an interdiction-of one single fruit, to wit; that, accordingly, having
had the rein relaxed, he was to be strengthened by his very liberty; that
equally after the deluge, in the reformation of the human race, (as before
it), one law-of abstaining from blood-was sufficient, the use of all things
else being allowed. For the Lord had already shown His judgment through
the deluge; had, moreover, likewise issued a comminatory warning through
the "requisition of blood from the hand of a brother, and from the hand
of every beast."24 And thus, preministering the justice of judgment, He
issued the materials of liberty; preparing through allowance an undergrowth
of discipline; permitting all things, with a view to take some away; meaning
to "exact more" if He had "committed more; "25 to command abstinence since
He had foresent indulgence: in order that (as we have said) the primordial
sin might be the more expiated by the operation of a greater abstinence
in the (midst of the) opportunity of a greater licence.
Chapter V.-Proceeding to the History of Israel, Tertullian Shows
that Appetite Was as Conspicuous Among Their Sins as in Adam's Case. Therefore
the Restraints of the Levitical Law Were Imposed.
At length, when a familiar people began to be chosen by God to Himself,
and the restoration of man was able to be essayed, then all the laws and
disciplines were imposed, even such as curtailed food; certain things being
prohibited as unclean, in order that man, by observing a perpetual abstinence
in certain particulars, might at last the more easily tolerate absolute
fasts. For the first People had withal reproduced the first man's crime,
being found more prone to their belly than to God, when, plucked out from
the harshness of Egyptian servitude "by the mighty hand and sublime arm"26
of God, they were seen to be its lord, destined to the "land flowing with
milk and honey;27 but forthwith, stumbled at the surrounding spectacle
of an incopious desert sighing after the lost enjoyments of Egyptian satiety,
they murmured against Moses and Aaron "Would that we had been smitten to
the heart by the Lord, and perished in the land of Egypt, when we were
wont to sit over our jars of flesh and eat bread unto the full! How leddest
thou us out into these deserts, to kill this assembly by famine? "28 From
the self-same belly preference were they destined (at last) to deplore29
(the fate of) the self-same leaden of their own and eye-witnesses of (the
power of) God, whom, by their regretful hankering after flesh, and their
recollection of their Egyptian plenties, they were ever exacerbating: "Who
shall feed us with flesh? here have come into our mind the fish which in
Egypt we were wont to eat freely, and the cucumbers, and the melons, and
the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic. But now our soul is arid nought
save manna do our eyes see!"30 Thus used they, too, (like the Psychics),
to find the angelic bread31 of xerophagy displeasing: they preferred the
fragrance of garlic and onion to that of heaven. And therefore from men
so ungrateful all that was more pleasing and appetizing was withdrawn,
for the sake at once of punishing gluttony and exercising continence, that
the former might be condemned, the latter practically learned.
Chapter VI.-The Physical Tendencies of Fasting and Feeding Considered.
The Cases of Moses and Elijah.
Now, if there has been temerity in our retracing to primordial experiences
the reasons for God's having laid, and our duty (for the sake of God) to
lay, restrictions upon food, let us consult common conscience. Nature herself
will plainly tell with what qualities she is ever wont to find us endowed
when she sets us, before taking food and drink, with our saliva still in
a virgin state, to the transaction of matters, by the sense especially
whereby things divine are, handled; whether (it be not) with a mind much
more vigorous, with a heart much more alive, than when that whole habitation
of our interior man, stuffed with meats, inundated with wines, fermenting
for the purpose of excremental secretion, is already being turned into
a premeditatory of privies, (a premeditatory) where, plainly, nothing is
so proximately supersequent as the savouring of lasciviousness. "The people
did eat and drink, and they arose to play."32 Understand the modest language
of Holy Scripture: "play," unless it had been immodest, it would not have
reprehended. On the other hand, how many are there who are mindful of religion,
when the seats of the memory are occupied, the limbs of wisdom impeded?
No one will suitably, fitly, usefully, remember God at that time when it
is customary for a man to forget his own self. All discipline food either
slays or else wounds. I am a liar, if the Lord Himself, when upbraiding
Israel with forgetfulness, does not impute the cause to "fulness: "" (My)
beloved is waxen thick, and fat, and distent, and hath quite forsaken God,
who made him, and hath gone away from the Lord his Saviour."33 In short,
in the Self-same Deuteronomy, when bidding precaution to be taken against
the self-same cause, He says: "Lest, when thou shalt have eaten, and drunken,
and built excellent houses, thy sheep and oxen being multiplied, and (thy)
silver and gold, thy heart be elated, and thou be forgetful of the Lord
thy God."34 To the corrupting power of riches He made the enormity of edacity
antecedent, for which riches themselves are the procuring agents.35 Through
them, to wit, had "the heart of the People been made thick, lest they should
see with the eyes, and hear with the ears, and understand with a heart"36
obstructed by the "fats" of which He had expressly forbidden the eating,37
teaching man not to be studious of the stomach.38
On the other hand, he whose "heart" was habitually found "lifted up"39
rather than fattened up, who in forty days and as many nights maintained
a fast above the power of human nature, while spiritual faith subministered
strength (to his body),40 both saw with his eyes God's glory, and heard
with his ears God's voice, and understood with his heart God's law: while
He taught him even then (by experience) that man liveth not upon bread
alone, but upon every word of God; in that the People, though fatter than
he, could not constantly contemplate even Moses himself, fed as he had
been upon God, nor his leanness, sated as it had been with His glory!41
Deservedly, therefore, even while in the flesh, did the Lord show Himself
to him, the colleague of His own fasts, no less than to Elijah.42 For Elijah
withal had, by this fact primarily, that he had imprecated a famine,43
already sufficiently devoted himself to fasts: "The Lord liveth," he said,
"before whom I am standing in His sight, if there shall be dew in these
years, and rain-shower."44 Subsequently, fleeing from threatening Jezebel,
after one single (meal of) food and drink, which he had found on being
awakened by an angel, he too himself, in a space of forty days and nights,
his belly empty, his mouth dry, arrived at Mount Horeb; where, when he
had made a cave his inn, with how familiar a meeting with God was he received!45
"What (doest) thou, Elijah, here? "46 Much more friendly was this voice
than, "Adam, where art thou? "47 For the latter voice was uttering a threat
to a fed man, the former soothing a fasting one. Such is the prerogative
of circumscribed food, that it makes God tent-fellow48 with man-peer, in
truth, with peer! For if the eternal God will not hunger, as He testifies
through Isaiah,49 this will be the time for man to be made equal with God,
when he lives without food.
Chapter VII.-Further Examples from the Old Testament in Favour of
And thus we have already proceeded to examples, in order that, by its
profitable efficacy, we may unfold the powers of this duty which reconciles
God, even when angered, to man.
Israel, before their gathering together by Samuel on occasion of the
drawing of water at Mizpeh, had sinned; but so immediately do they wash
away the sin by a fast, that the peril of battle is dispersed by them simultaneously
(with the water on the ground). At the very moment when Samuel was offering
the holocaust (in no way do we learn that the clemency of God was more
procured than by the abstinence of the people), and the aliens were advancing
to battle, then and there "the Lord thundered with a mighty voice upon
the aliens, and they were thrown into confusion, and felt in a mass in
the sight of Israel; and the men of Israel went forth out of Mizpeh, and
pursued the aliens, and smote them unto Bethor,"-the unfed (chasing) the
fed, the unarmed the armed. Such will be the strength of them who "fast
to God."50 For such, Heaven fights. You have (before you) a condition upon
which (divine) defence will be granted, necessary even to spiritual wars.
Similarly, when the king of the Assyrians, Sennacherib, after already
taking several cities, was volleying blasphemies and menaces against Israel
through Rabshakeh, nothing else (but fasting) diverted him from his purpose,
and sent him into the Ethiopias. After that, what else swept away by the
hand of the angel an hundred eighty and four thousand from his army than
Hezekiah the king's humiliation? if it is true, (as it is), that on heating
the announcement of the harshness of the foe, he rent his garment, put
on sackcloth, and bade the elders of the priests, similarly habited, approach
God through Isaiah-fasting being, of course, the escorting attendant of
their prayers.51 For peril has no time for food, nor sackcloth any care
for satiety's refinements. Hunger is ever the attendant of mourning, just
as gladness is an accessory of fulness.
Through this attendant of mourning, and (this) hunger, even that sinful
state, Nineveh, is freed from the predicted ruin. For repentance for sins
had sufficiently commended the fast, keeping it up in a space of three
days, starving out even the cattle with which God was not angry.52 Sodom
also, and Gomorrah, would have escaped if they had fasted.53 This remedy
even Ahab acknowledges. When, after his transgression and idolatry, and
the slaughter of Naboth, slain by Jezebel on account of his vineyard, Elijah
had upbraided him, "How hast thou killed, and possessed the inheritance?
In the place where dogs had licked up the blood of Naboth, thine also shall
they lick up,"-he "abandoned himself, and put sackcloth upon his flesh,
and fasted, and slept in sackcloth. And then (came) the word of the Lord
unto Elijah, Thou hast seen how Ahab hath shrunk in awe from my face: for
that he hath shrunk in awe I will not bring the hurt upon (him) in his
own days; but in the days of his son I will bring it upon (him)"-(his son),
who was not to fast.54 Thus a God-ward fast is a work of reverential awe:
and by its means also Hannah the wife of Elkanah making suit, barren as
she had been beforetime, easily obtained from God the filling of her belly,
empty of food, with a son, ay, and a prophet.55
Nor is it merely change of nature, or aversion of perils, or obliteration
of sins, but likewise the recognition of mysteries, which fasts will merit
from God. Look at Daniel's example. About the dream of the King of Babylon
all the sophists are troubled: they affirm that, without external aid,
it cannot be discovered by human skill. Daniel alone, trusting to God,
and knowing what would tend to the deserving of God's favour, requires
a space of three days, fasts with his fraternity, and-his prayers thus
commended-is instructed throughout as to the order and signification of
the dream; quarter is granted to the tyrant's sophists; God is glorified;
Daniel is honoured; destined as he was to receive, even subsequently also,
no less a favour of God in the first year, of King Darius, when, after
careful and repeated meditation upon the times predicted by Jeremiah, he
set his face to God in fasts, and sackcloth, and ashes. For the angel,
withal, sent to him, immediately professed this to be the cause of the
Divine approbation: "I am come," he said, "to demonstrate to thee, since
thou art pitiable"56 -by fasting, to wit. If to God he was "pitiable,"
to the lions in the den he was formidable, where, six days fasting, he
had breakfast provided him by an angel.57
Chapter VIII.-Examples of a Similar Kind from the New.
We produce, too, our remaining (evidences). For we now hasten to modern
proofs. On the threshold of the Gospel,58 Anna the prophetess, daughter
of Phanuel, "who both recognised the infant Lord, and preached many things
about Him to such as were expecting the redemption of Israel," after the
pre-eminent distinction of long-continued and single-husbanded widowhood,
is additionally graced with the testimony of "fastings" also; pointing
out, as she does, what the duties are which should characterize attendants
of the Church, and (pointing out, too, the fact) that Christ is understood
by none more than by the once married and often fasting.
By and by the Lord Himself consecrated His own baptism (and, in His
own, that of all) by fasts;59 having (the power) to make "loaves out of
stones,"60 say, to make Jordan flow with wine perchance, if He had been
such a "glutton and toper."61 Nay, rather, by the virtue of contemning
food He was initiating "the new man" into "a severe handling" of "the old,"62
that He might show that (new man) to the devil, again seeking to tempt
him by means of food, (to be) too strong for the whole power of hunger.
Thereafter He prescribed to fasts a law-that they are to be performed
"without sadness: "63 for why should what is salutary be sad? He taught
likewise that fasts are to be the weapons for battling with the more direful
demons:64 for what wonder if the same operation is the instrument of the
iniquitous spirit's egress as of the Holy Spirit's ingress? Finally, granting
that upon the centurion Cornelius, even before baptism, the honourable
gift of the Holy Spirit, together with the gift of prophecy besides, had
hastened to descend, we see that his fasts had been heard,65 I think, moreover,
that the apostle too, in the Second of Corinthians, among his labours,
and perils, and hardships, after "hunger and thirst," enumerates "fasts"
also "very many"66
Chapter IX.-From Fasts Absolute Tertullian Comes to Partial Ones
This principal species in the category of dietary restriction may already
afford a prejudgment concerning the inferior operations of abstinence also,
as being themselves too, in proportion to their measure, useful or necessary.
For the exception of certain kinds from use of food is a partial fast.
Let us therefore look into the question of the novelty or vanity of xerophagies,
to see whether in them too we do not find an operation alike of most ancient
as of most efficacious religion. I return to Daniel and his brethren, preferring
as they did a diet of vegetables and the beverage of water to the royal
dishes and decanters, and being found as they were therefore "more handsome"
(lest any be apprehensive on the score of his paltry body, to boot!), sides
being spiritually cultured into the bargain.67 For God gave to the young
men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature, and to Daniel
in every word, and in dreams, and in every kind of wisdom; which (wisdom)
was to make him wise in this very thing also,-namely, by what means the
recognition of mysteries was to be obtained from God. Finally, in the third
year of Cyrus king of the Persians, when he had fallen into careful and
repeated meditation on a vision, he provided another form of humiliation.
"In those days," he says, "I Daniel was mourning during three weeks: pleasant
bread I ate not; flesh and wine entered not into my mouth; with oil I was
not anointed; until three weeks were consummated: "which being elapsed,
an angel was sent out (from God), addressing him on this wise: "Daniel,
thou art a man pitiable; fear not: since, from the first day on which thou
gavest thy soul to recogitation and to humiliation before God, thy word
hath been heard, and I am entered at thy word."68 Thus the "pitiable" spectacle
and the humiliation of xerophagies expel fear, and attract the ears of
God, and make men masters of secrets.
I return likewise to Elijah. When the ravens had been wont to satisfy
him with "bread and flesh,"69 why was it that afterwards, at Beersheba
of Judea, that certain angel, after rousing him from sleep, offered him,
beyond doubt, bread alone, and water?70 Had ravens been wanting, to feed
him more liberally? or had it been difficult to the "angel" to carry away
from some pan of the banquet-room of the king some attendant with his amply-furnished
waiter, and transfer him to Elijah, just as the breakfast of the reapers
was carried into the den of lions and presented to Daniel in his hunger?
But it behoved that an example should be set, teaching us that, at a time
of pressure and persecution and whatsoever difficulty, we must live on
xerophagies. With such food did David express his own exomologesis; "eating
ashes indeed as it were bread," that is, bread dry and foul like ashes:
"mingling, moreover, his drink with weeping"-of course, instead of wine.71
For abstinence from wine withal has honourable badges of its own: (an abstinence)
which had dedicated Samuel, and consecrated Aaron, to God. For of Samuel
his mother said: "And wine and that which is intoxicating shall he not
drink: "72 for such was her condition withal when praying to God.73 And
the Lord said to Aaron "Wine and spirituous liquor shall ye not drink,
thou and thy son after thee, whenever ye shall enter the tabernacle, or
ascend unto the sacrificial altar; and ye shall not die."74 So true is
it, that such as shall have ministered in the Church, being not sober,
shall "die." Thus, too, in recent times He upbraids Israel: "And ye used
to give my sanctified ones wine to drink." And, moreover, this limitation
upon drink is the portion of xerophagy. Anyhow, wherever abstinence from
wine is either exacted by God or vowed by man, there let there be understood
likewise a restriction of food fore-furnishing a formal type to drink.
For the quality of the drink is correspondent to that of the eating. It
is not probable that a man should sacrifice to God half his appetite; temperate
in waters, and intemperate in meats. Whether, moreover, the apostle had
any acquaintance with xerophagies-(the apostle) who had repeatedly practised
greater rigours, "hunger, and thirst, and fists many," who had forbidden
"drunkennesses and revellings"75 -we have a sufficient evidence even from
the case of his disciple Timotheus; whom when he admonishes, "for the sake
of his stomach and constant weaknesses," to use "a little wine,"76 from
which he was abstaining not from rule, but from devotion-else the custom
would rather have been beneficial to his stomach-by this very fact he has
advised abstinence from wine as "worthy of God," which, on a ground of
necessity, he has dissuaded.
Chapter XV.-Of the Apostle's Language Concerning Food.
The apostle reprobates likewise such as "bid to abstain from meats;
but he does so from the foresight of the Holy Spirit, precondemning already
the heretics who would enjoin perpetual abstinence to the extent of destroying
and despising the works of the Creator; such as I may find in the person
of a Marcion, a Tatian, or a Jupiter, the Pythagorean heretic of to-day;
not in the person of the Paraclete. For how limited is the extent of our
"interdiction of meats!" Two weeks of xerophagies in the year (and not
the whole of these,-the Sabbaths, to wit, and the Lord's days, being excepted)
we offer to God; abstaining from things which we do not reject, but defer.
But further: when writing to the Romans, the apostle now gives you a home-thrust,
detractors as you are of this observance: "Do not for the sake of food,"
he says, "undo101 the work of God." What "work? "That about which he says,102
"It is good not to eat flesh, and not to drink wine: ""for he who in these
points doeth service, is pleasing and propitiable to our God." "One believeth
that all things may be eaten; but another, being weak, feedeth on vegetables.
Let not him who eateth lightly esteem him who eateth not. Who art thou,
who judgest another's servant? ""Both he who eateth, and he who eateth
not, giveth God thanks." But, since he forbids human choice to be made
matter of controversy, how much more Divine! Thus he knew how to chide
certain restricters and interdicters of food, such as abstained from it
of contempt, not of duty; but to approve such as did so to the honour,
not the insult, of the Creator. And if he has "delivered you the keys of
the meat-market," permitting the eating of "all things" with a view to
establishing the exception of" things offered to idols; "still he has not
included the kingdom of God in the meat-market: "For," he says, "the kingdom
of God is neither meat nor drink; "103 and, "Food commendeth us not to
God"-not that you may think this said about dry diet, but rather about
rich and carefully prepared, if, when he subjoins, "Neither, if we shall
have eaten, shall we abound; nor, if we shall not have eaten, shall we
be deficient," the ring of his words suits, (as it does), you rather (than
us), who think that you do "abound" if you eat, and are "deficient if you
eat not; and for this reason disparage these observances.
How unworthy, also, is the way in which you interpret to the favour
of your own lust the fact that the Lord "ate and drank" promiscuously!
But I think that He must have likewise "fasted" inasmuch as He has pronounced,
not "the full; "but "the hungry and thirsty, blessed: "104 (He) who was
wont to profess "food" to be, not that which His disciples had supposed,
but "the thorough doing of the Father's work; "105 teaching "to labour
for the meat which is permanent unto life eternal; "106 in our ordinary
prayer likewise commanding us to request "bread,"107 not the wealth of
Attalus108 therewithal. Thus, too, Isaiah has not denied that God "hath
chosen" a "fist; "but has particularized in detail the kind of fast which
He has not chosen: "for in the days," he says, "of your fasts your own
wills are found (indulged), and all who are subject to you ye stealthily
sting; or else ye fast with a view to abuse and strifes, and ye smite with
the fists. Not such a fast have I elected; "109 but such an one as He has
subjoined, and by subjoining has not abolished, but confirmed.
Chapter XVI.-Instances from Scripture of Divine Judgments Upon the
Self-Indulgent; And Appeals to the Practices of Heathens.
For even if He does prefer "the works of righteousness," still not without
a sacrifice, which is a soul afflicted with fasts.110 He, at all events,
is the God to whom neither a People incontinent of appetite, nor a priest,
nor a prophet, was pleasing. To this day the "monuments of concupiscence"
remain, where the People, greedy of "flesh," till, by devouring without
digesting the quails, they brought on cholera, were buried. Eli breaks
his neck before the temple doors,111 his sons fall in battle, his daughter-in-law
expires in child-birth:112 for such was the blow which had been deserved
at the hand of God by the shameless house, the defrauder of the fleshly
sacrifices.113 Same as, a "man of God," after prophesying the issue of
the idolatry introduced by King Jeroboam-after the drying up and immediate
restoration of that king's hand-after the rending in twain of the sacrificial
altar,-being on account of these signs invited (home) by the king by way
of recompense, plainly declined (for he had been prohibited by God) to
touch food at all in that place; but having presently afterwards rashly
taken food from another old man, who lyingly professed himself a prophet,
he was deprived, in accordance with the word of God then and there uttered
over the table, of burial in his fathers' sepulchres. For he was prostrated
by the rushing of a lion upon him in the way, and was buried among strangers;
and thus paid the penalty of his breach of fast.114
These will be warnings both to people and to bishops, even spiritual
ones, in case they may ever have been guilty of incontinence of appetite.
Nay, even in Hades the admonition has not ceased to speak; where we find
in the person of the rich feaster, convivialities tortured; in that of
the pauper, fasts refreshed; having-(as convivialities and fasts alike
had)-as preceptors "Moses and the prophets."115 For Joel withal exclaimed:
"Sanctify a fast, and a religious service; "116 foreseeing even then that
other apostles and prophets would sanction fasts, and would preach observances
of special service to God. Whence it is that even they who court their
idols by dressing them, and by adorning them in their sanctuary, and by
saluting them at each particular hour, are said to do them service. But,
more than that, the heathens recognise every form of tapeinofro/nhsij.
When the heaven is rigid and the year arid, barefooted processions are
enjoined by public proclamation; the magistrates lay aside their purple,
reverse the fasces, utter prayer, offer a victim. There are, moreover,
some colonies where, besides (these extraordinary solemnities, the inhabitants),
by an annual rite, clad in sackcloth and besprent with ashes, present a
suppliant importunity to their idols, (while) baths and shops are kept
shut till the ninth hour. They have one single fire in public-on the altars;
no water even in their platters. There is, I believe, a Ninevitan suspension
of business! A Jewish fast, at all events, is universally celebrated; while,
neglecting the temples, throughout all the shore, in every open place,
they continue long to send prayer up to heaven. And, albeit by the dress
and ornamentation of mourning they disgrace the duty, still they do affect
a faith in abstinence, and sigh for the arrival of the long-lingering evening
star to sanction (their feeding). But it is enough for me that you, by
heaping blasphemies upon our xerophagies, put them on a level with the
chastity of an Isis and a Cybele. I admit the comparison in the way of
evidence. Hence (our xerophagy) will be proved divine, which the devil,
the emulator of things divine, imitates. It is out of truth that falsehood
is built; out of religion that superstition is compacted.Hence you are
more irreligious, in proportion as a heathen is more conformable. He, in
short, sacrifices his appetite to an idol-god; you to (the true) God will
not. For to you your belly is god, and your lungs a temple, and your paunch
a sacrificial altar, and your cook the priest, and your fragrant smell
the Holy Spirit, and your condiments spiritual gifts, and your belching
"Old" you are, if we will say the truth, you who are so indulgent to
appetite, and justly do you vaunt your "priority: "always do I recognise
the savour of Esau, the hunter of wild beasts: so unlimitedly studious
are you of catching fieldfares, so do you come from "the field" of your
most lax discipline, so faint are you in spirit.117 If I offer you a paltry
lentile dyed red with must well boiled down, forthwith you will sell all
your "primacies: "with you "love" shows its fervour in sauce-pans, "faith"
its warmth in kitchens, "hope" its anchorage in waiters; but of greater
account is "love," because that is the means whereby your young men sleep
with their sisters! Appendages, as we all know, of appetite are lasciviousness
and voluptuousness. Which alliance the apostle withal was aware of; and
hence, after premising, "Not in drunkenness and revels," he adjoined, "nor
in couches and lusts."118
To the indictment of your appetite pertains (the charge) that "double
honour" is with you assigned to your presiding (elders) by double shares
(of meat and drink); whereas the apostle has given them "double honour"
as being both brethren and officers.119 Who, among you, is superior in
holiness, except him who is more frequent in banqueting, more sumptuous
in catering, more learned in cups? Men of soul and flesh alone as you are,
justly do you reject things spiritual. If the prophets were pleasing to
such, my (prophets) they were not. Why, then, do not you constantly preach,
"Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die? "120 just as we do not
hesitate manfully to command, "Let us fast, brethren and sisters, lest
to-morrow perchance we die." Openly let us vindicate our disciplines. Sure
we are that "they who are in the flesh cannot please God; "121 not, of
course, those who are in the substance of the flesh, but in the care, the
affection, the work, the will, of it. Emaciation displeases not us; for
it is not by weight that God bestows flesh, any more than He does "the
Spirit by measure."122 More easily, it may be, through the "strait gate"123
of salvation will slenderer flesh enter; more speedily will lighter flesh
rise; longer in the sepulchre will drier flesh retain its firmness. Let
Olympic cestus-players and boxers cram themselves to satiety. To them bodily
ambition is suitable to whom bodily strength is necessary; and yet they
also strengthen themselves by xerophagies. But ours are other thews and
other sinews, just as our contests withal are other; we whose "wrestling
is not against flesh and blood, but against the world's124 power, against
the spiritualities of malice." Against these it is not by robustness of
flesh and blood, but of faith and spirit, that it behoves us to make our
antagonistic stand. On the other hand, an over-fed Christian will be more
necessary to bears and lions, perchance, than to God; only that, even to
encounter beasts, it will be his duty to practise emaciation.
1 [Written, say, circa a.d. 208.]
2 i.e., Psychic.
3 [Which is a note of time, not unimportant.]
4 Lev. xvi. 29, xxiii. 26-29.
5 Matt. ix. 14, 15; Mark ii. 18-20; Luke v. 33-35.
6 Luke xvi. 16; Matt. xi. 13.
7 Comp. Gal. v. 1.
8 Comp. 1 Cor. x. 25.
9 Comp. 1 Tim. iv. 3.
10 So Oehler punctuates. The reference is to 1 Tim. iv.
11 See Gal. iv. 10; the words kai kairouj Tertullian
12 See Isa. lviii. 3-7.
13 See Matt. xv. 11; Mark vii. 15.
14 Matt. xi. 19; Luke vii. 34.
15 1 Cor. viii. 8.
16 Rom. x. 10.
17 Comp. Matt. xxii. 37-40, and the parallel passages.
18 See Gen. ii. 16, 17.
19 Comp. Eph. v. 32 with Gen. ii. 23, 24.
20 See 1 Cor. ii. 14.
21 The references is to Ps. li. 17 (in LXX. Ps. l. 19).
22 Gen. i. 29.
23 See Gen. ix. 2-5 (in LXX.).
24 See Gen. ix. 5, 6.
25 See Luke xii. 48.
26 Comp. Ps. cxxxvi. 12 (in LXX. cxxxv. 12).
27 See Ex. iii. 8.
28 See Ex. xvi. 1-3.
29 Comp. Num. xx. 1-12 with Ps. cvi. 31-33 (in LXX. cv.
30 See Num. xi. 1-6.
31 See Ps. lxxviii. 25 (in LXX. lxxvii. 25).
32 Comp. 1 Cor. x. 7 with Ex. xxxii. 6.
33 See Deut. xxxii. 15.
34 See Deut. viii. 12-14.
35 Comp. Eccles. vi. 7; Prov. xvi. 26. (The LXX. render
the latter quotation very differently from the Eng. ver. or the Vulg.)
36 See Isa. vi. 10; John xii. 40; Acts xxviii. 26, 27.
37 See Lev. iii. 17.
38 See Deut. viii. 3; Matt. iv. 4; Luke iv. 4.
39 See Ps. lxxxvi. 4 (in LXX. lxxxv. 4); Lam. iii. 41
(in LXX. iii. 40).
40 Twice over. See Ex. xxiv. 18 and xxxiv. 28; Deut.
ix. 11, 25.
41 See Ex. xxxiii. 18, 19, with xxxiv. 4-9, 29-35.
42 See Matt. xvii. 1-13; Mark ix. 1-13; Luke ix. 28-36.
43 See Jas. vi. 17.
44 See 1 Kings xvii. 1 (in LXX. 3 Kings ib.).
45 See 1 Kings xix. 1-8. But he took two meals: see vers.
6, 7, 8.
46 Vers. 9, 13.
47 Gen. iii. 9 (in LXX.).
48 Comp. Matt. xvii. 4; Mark ix. 5; Luke ix. 33.
49 See Ps. xl. 28 in LXX. In E. V., "fainteth not."
50 See Zech. vii. 5.
51 See 2 Kings xviii. xix.; 2 Chron. xxxii.; Isa. xxxvi.
52 See Jonah iii. Comp. de Pa., c. x.
53 See Ezek. xvi. 49; Matt. xi. 23, 24; Luke x. 12-14.
54 See 1 Kings xxi. (in the LXX. it is 3 Kings xx).
55 See 1 Sam. i. 1, 2, 7-20, iii. 20 (in LXX. 1 Kings).
56 Dan. ix. 23, x. 11.
57 See Bel and the Dragon (in LXX.) vers. 31-39. "Pitiable"
appears to be Tertullian's rendering of what in the E. V. is rendered "greatly
beloved." Rig. (in Oehler) renders: "of how great compassion thou hast
attained the favour;" but surely that overlooks the fact that the Latin
is "miserabilis es," not "sis."
58 See Luke ii. 36-38. See de Monog., c. viii.
59 Matt. iv. 12; Luke iv. 1, 2; comp. de Bapt., c. xx.
60 See Matt. iv. 3; Luke iv. 3.
61 See c. ii.
62 Comp. Eph. iv. 22, 23; and, for the meaning of sugillationem
("severe handling"), comp. 1 Cor. ix. 27, where St. Paul's word upwpiazw
(= "I smite under the eye," Eng. ver. "I keep under") is perhaps exactly
equivalent in meaning.
63 Matt. vi. 16-18.
64 See Matt. xvii. 21; Mark ix. 29.
65 See Acts x. 44-46, 1-4 and 30.
66 2 Cor. xi. 27.
67 Dan. i.
68 See Dan. x. 1-3, 5, 12.
69 See 1 Kings xvii. (in LXX. 3 Kings xvii.) 1-6.
70 1 Kings xix. 3-7.
71 See Ps. cii. (in LXX. ci.) 9.
72 1 Sam. (in LXX. 1 Kings) i. 11.
73 1 Sam. i. 15.
74 See Lev. x. 9.
75 See Rom. xiii. 13.
76 1 Tim. v. 23.
101 Rom. xiv. 20.
102 Ver. 21.
103 Rom. xiv. 17.
104 Comp. Luke vi. 21 and 25, and Matt. v. 6.
105 John iv. 31-34.
106 John vi. 27.
107 Matt. vi. 11; Luke xi. 3.
108 See Hor., Od., i. 1, 12, and Macleane's note there.
109 See Isa. lviii. 3, 4, 5, briefly, and more like the
LXX. than the Vulg. or the Eng. ver.
110 See Ps. li. (l. in LXX. and Vulg.) 18, 19; see c.
111 This seems an oversight; see 1 Sam. (in LXX. and
Vulg. 1 Kings) iv. 13.
112 1 Sam. iv. 17-21.
113 1 Sam. ii. 12-17, 22-25.
114 See 1 Kings (in LXX. and Vulg. 3 Kings) xiii.
115 Luke xvi. 19-31.
116 Joel ii. 15.
117 Comp. Gen. xxiii. 2, 3, 4, 31, and xxv. 27-34.
118 Rom. xiii. 13.
119 1 Tim. v. 17.
120 Isa. xxii. 13; 1 Cor. xv. 32.
121 Rom. viii. 8.
122 John iii. 34.
123 Matt. vii. 13, 14; Luke xiii. 24.
124 Mundi: cf. kosmokratoraj, Eph. vi. 12.