On Repentance background information.

Early Christian Writings

Title: De paenitentia (On repentance)


From: (tertullian.org)

Ante-Nicene Fathers

Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω. The Nicene Council

Related Link:   

By: Roger Pearse  

Our Ref:
ECST: 167.20.1.T77

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A short work in 12 chapters discussing whether forgiveness for major public sins is available after conversion, and outlines the position generally held at that time – once only, with public repentance.  (De pudicitia 3 tells us the penitent can still be saved; but cannot be received in the church).




» 1:2 — All things are to be understood by reason.

» 4:4 — Reference to owning slaves.

» 12:2 — Mention of volcanic eruptions


The work is present in three different collections of the works of Tertullian.

1.  It is contained in the members of the Cluny collection. (q.v.). 

The primary witnesses, therefore, are:

• The 15th century Florence MS, Codex Florentinus BNC Conventi soppressi J.6.9 (N). (From the Alpha branch).  The text is not in the remaining portion of M, the earlier codex from which N was copied.  [I don’t know if there are readings from D for this work]

• The 15th century Luxembourg MS, Codex Luxemburgensis 75 (X).

• The 15th century(1426) Florence MS, Codex Florentinus BNC Conventi soppressi J.6.10 (F).

• Rhenanus edition of 1521.  This is because his only source for this work was the now lost Hirsau MS (H), the ancestor of F and X.

• Rhenanus edition of 1539, citing the Codex Gorziensis.

Possibly also to be considered are:

• The Naples MS, Codex Neapolitanus, Mus. Naz. 55, portions of which were once in Vienna as Codex Vindobonensis 4194 (V).

• The BPL Leiden MS, Codex Leidensis latinus 2 (L) has been considered independent but is merely a copy of V.

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

2. It is contained in the 12th century Codex Trecensis 523 (T).

3. Long extracts are contained in the 14th century Codex Vaticanus Ottobonianus 25 (O).

TITLE VARIATIONS1)http://www.tertullian.org/manuscripts/title_variations.htm

Incipit de penitentia Trecensis 523 (T)
INCIPIT DE PENITENTIA Florentinus Magliebechianus,
. Conventi soppressi VI, 9 (N)
Q Septimii Florentis Tertuliani Incipit Liber de penitencia Luxemburgensis 75 (X)

In the Codex Vaticanus Ottobonianus Latinus 25 (O) no title is given.


Unless otherwise indicated, details are from Quasten’s Patrology, 2 (1955). See also Editions page and Critical Editions page for more information.

[Note: I need to add some biblio, from l’Annee Phil. for the years 1954-1974 and from CTC after that].


E. PREUSCHEN, SQ.2, 2nd ed. Freiburg, 1910.

G. RAUSCHEN, Tertulliani De paenitentia et De pudicitia recensio nova (adnotavit G. Rauschen), Florilegium patristicum 10. Bonn, 1915. cm. 23.  (Details Quasten, additional details from Bodleian online  catalogue).

P. DE LABRIOLLE, De paenitentia, De pudicitia, texte et trad. Paris, 1906. Checked.

J. W. PH. BORLEFFS, Libri De patientia, De baptismo. De paenitentia (Scriptores christiani primaevi 4). The Hague, 1948.

J. W. Ph. BORLEFFS, CCSL 1 (1954) 319-341. Checked.

J. W. Ph. BORLEFFSCorpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 76, Vienna (1957), pp.140-170.  Text now online, but not apparatus.  Checked



C. DODGSON, Library of Fathers 10. Oxford, 1842, 349-369.

S. THELWALLANCL 11 (1869) pp.257-278; reprinted ANF 3 (1885), pp. 657-666.  Online.  Checked.

W. P. LE SAINT, Tertullian: Treatises on Penance. Ancient Christian Writers 28 (1959). Checked.


H. KELLNER, Über die Bekehrung. Tertullians sämtliche Schriften, Köln : DuMont-Schauberg, (1882). Vol. 1. pp.274-291. Checked.

H. KELLNERÜber die Buße, BKV2 7 (1912). pp. 224-246. Online.


H. U. MEYBOOM, Over de boete (Oudchristel. geschriften, dl. 46). Leiden, 1931.

CHR. MOHRMANN, MC 1, 3. Utrecht, 1951, 273-300.


A. DE GENOUDEDe la Pénitence. Oeuvres de Tertullien2, Paris (1852). t. 2, pp. 197-216. Checked. 

P. DE LABRIOLLEloc. cit., 1906. Online


Selvaggia BORGHINIOpere di Tertulliano tradotte in Toscano. Rome (1756). p.267-292.  Personal copy. Checked.

Gino MAZZONIQuinto S. F. Tertulliano, I trattati : de spectaculis, de idolatria, de poenitentia ; tradotti da Gino Mazzoni .Siena : E. Cantagalli, 1934. 215 p. ; 20 cm. ( I classici cristiani ; 50-52. I classici italiani ; 50-52.) (Details from BN Florence OPAC).  Online complete

Francesco SCIUTO, Tertulliano , Tre opere parenetiche : Ad Martyras, De Patientia, De Paenitentia : stralcio provvisorio ; testo e traduzione a cura di F. Sciuto. Catania : La Nuovagrafica di A. Tringali (1960) 113 p. ; 21 cm. (Details from BN Florence OPAC)

Francesco SCIUTO, Tertulliano , Tre opere parenetiche : Ad Martyras, De Patientia, De Paenitentia, Catania, Centro di studi sull’antico cristianesimo, Università di Catania, 1961, CXXIX, 115 p.; 24 cm., with Latin text. (Details from Dr. Andrea Niccolotti – this was the full version of the ‘provisional’ 1960 edition)


• [Various], Tertuliano: Sobre el baptisme i altres escrits. 1ª ed.- Barcelona: Fundació Enciclopédia Catalana, 1989.- ISBN: 84-7739-080-0 151, [4] p. (Details from BN Portugal, and personal email). Contents: Introduction by Jaume Fàbregas;  – Sobre el baptisme (De baptismo) (translation: Jaume Fàbregas); – Sobre la oració (De oratione)   (trans. Jaume Fàbregas); – Sobre la penitència (De paenitentia) (trans. Andreu Soler); – Contra Pràxees (Adversus Praxean)  (trans. Jaume Fàbregas)


László VANYÓ &c, Tertullianus muvei (The works of Tertullian), Budapest: Szent István Társulat (1986) 1100pp. (Ókeresztény frók 12). (Details CTC 2002.75).  The older translations of István Városi (Pat, Apol, Orat, Ux, Cult) and Marcell Mosolygó (Mart) have been recycled; the rest are new.


G. ESSER, Die Bußschriften Tertullians De paenitentia und De pudicitia und das Indulgenzedikt des Papstes Kallistus. Bonn, 1905.

P. DE LABRIOLLEVestiges d’apocryphes dans le De paenitentia de Tertullien 12, 9: Bull, d’anc. littér. et d’arch. chrét. 1 (1911) 127-128. Also in 

A. D’ALÈS, L’Édit de Calliste. Paris, 1914, 136-171: Le traité de Tertullien de paenitentia.

S. W. J. TEEUWEN, De voce ‘paenitentia’ apud Tertullianum: Mnem 55 (1927) 410-419.

CHARTIER, L’excommunication ecclésiastique d’après les écrits de Tertullien: Antonianum (1935) 301 ff, 499ff.

J. W. PH. BORLEFFS, Observationes criticae in Tertulliani De paenitentia libellum: Mnem 60 (1932) 41-106; idem, Index verborum quae Tertulliani de paenitentia libello continentur: Mnem 60 (1932) 254-316.

• LUKMAN, Bogoslovni Vestnik (1939) 236-266.

J. W. PH. BORLEFFS, Een nieuw handschrift van Tertullianus : Handelingen van het 21e Nederl. Philologencongres. Groningen, 1950, 27.

 — For further studies, see the bibliography on De pudicitia.

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.tertullian.org/manuscripts/title_variations.htm

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