Scorpiace background information.

Early Christian Writings

Title: Scorpiace (Antidote to the scorpion’s sting) 


From: (

Ante-Nicene Fathers

Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω. The Nicene Council

Related Link: Tertullian: Scorpiace  ECST: 167.18.2.T73

By: Roger Pearse  

Our Ref:
ECST: 167.18.1.T77

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Written in a time of persecution; perhaps 203/204.  Christians are dying, yet there are voices insinuating that it is all ‘unnecessary’.  Gnostic heretics – mostly Valentinians – are attempting to weaken the determination of believers to resist by finding forms of words that will ‘allow’ people to sacrifice.  To Tertullian, such activity is like a fatal scorpion-bite, murdering the faithful.  He discusses the issue in the light of scripture, and constructs an antidote.






This work is preserved only in these sources:


• The Codex Agobardinus (s.IX) – (A)

• The Codex Montiscasinensis 384, saec. IX-X.  This contains only a short excerpt, of which details were given by d’Alès.

• The editio princeps of Mesnart (1545) – (B).  Mesnart gives no details of what MSS he had.

Optatus of Milevis in the 4th century must have been familiar with the work, since after mentioning Ebion where he should refer to Praxeas, he mistakenly refers to the ‘heretic Scorpian, who maintained that there ought to be no martyrdom.’ (Contra Donatistas, IV, 5; p.190 of online translation).


contra Gnosticos Scorpiacum Mesnart (B)


• 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].


F. OEHLERTertulliani quae supersunt omnia, vol. 1 (1853),  p.495 ff. Checked.  Extensive marginal notes. (Personal copy)

A. REIFFERSCHEID-G. WISSOWACSEL 20 (1890) 144-179Checked.  Text online.

A. REIFFERSCHEID-G. WISSOWA, CCSL 2 (1954) 1067-1097.  Checked.  Reprint of CSEL.

Giovanna AZZALI BERNARDELLI, Tertulliano, Scorpiace, Firenze : Nardini (1990) 338 p. (Biblioteca patristica 14).  A full critical edition based on a re-examination of the Agobardinus which has made real discoveries about the text.   However these are signalled mostly in the apparatus, rather than the text which is mostly that of Reifferscheid and Wissowa. (Details from CTC 90,3 (p.342-344 of collection)).  Checked. (Personal copy)



S. THELWALL, ANCL 11 (1869), 379-415; ANF 3 (1885), 633-648Checked. Online.

Geoffrey DUNN, Tertullian, The Early Church Fathers, London/New York:Routledge (2004). pp.105-134.  Checked.


A. DE GENOUDELe Scorpiâque, ou Antidote contre la morsure des Scorpions. Oeuvres de Tertullien2, Paris (1852). t. 3, pp.137-175. Checked.


• H. KELLNER-G. ESSERScorpiace oder Arznei gegen den Skorpionstich, BKV2 24 (1915), pp. 183-229.  Online.


H. U. MEYBOOM, Tegen de schorpioensteek (Oudchristel. geschr., dl. 43). Leiden, 1930.


G. AZZALI BERNARDELLIloc. cit. (1990)


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.


P. VINCENEUXLes adversaires du martyre. Étude sur le Scorpiaque de Tertullien, Diss. Faculté de théologie catholique de Lyon (1899), 64 p.  Study of the text. (Details from CTC 90.3, p.342 of collected reviews).

E. BUONAIUTI, L’Antiscorpionico di Tertulliano: RR 3 (1927) 146-152. (Details from Quasten). Labelled a “rapid study” (Details from CTC 90.3, p.342 of collected reviews)

J. H. WASZINK, Tertullianea : Mnem 3 (1935/36) 165-174.

L. CASTIGLIONI, Ad Tertullianum adnotationes : Studi Ubaldi. Milan, 1937, 256-260.

T. D. BARNESTertullian’s Scorpiace, JTS, NS. 20 (1969), p.105 ff. Checked. (Personal copy)

Eugenio ROMERO POSE, De bono martyrio: A propósito de los Scorpiace de Tertuliano.  Revista Espãnola de Teología 62 (2002) pp.517-528. (Details CTC 2002).


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