To Scapula background information.

Early Christian Writings

Title: Ad Scapulam (To Scapula) 


From: (

Ante-Nicene Fathers

Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω. The Nicene Council

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By: Roger Pearse  

Our Ref:
ECST: 167.05.1.T77

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An open letter in 5 chapters to Scapula, Proconsul of Africa, who had begun persecuting the Christians, sometime soon after August 14th 212 AD (an eclipse visible in Utica is referred to). Tertullian reminds him of the fate that befell other persecutors, not as a threat, but because the Christians love those who hate them, and do not wish to see the judgement of God overtake even their bitterest foes.




All Christians know they may have to die for their beliefs, and rejoice when they must do so. But since they must love their enemies, Tertullian has to give warning of the terrible retribution in store for those who persecute. Persecution was generally at the instance of the proconsul of a province, rather than by direct Imperial command, and a proconsul could encourage informers or not. He names a number of recent proconsuls who attacked the Christians, and what happened to them. He also mentions proconsuls who did not want to persecute, and advised the Christians how to answer.

He reiterates that Christians are loyal to the emperor, and pray for him.

He also shows that the Christians are willing to provoke arrest, and are so numerous that the welfare of the province (for which the proconsul was responsible, and on which he was mainly judged by the emperor) will be severely impaired if Scapula continues.


• The Hilarianus referred to is probably the Hilarianus who led the persecution recorded a decade earlier in Carthage in the Passio Perpetua. Some inscriptions erected by this man have recently been discovered in Spain, indicating him to have been a serious-minded old-fashioned Roman pagan. See J. RIVES, The Piety of a Persecutor, JECS 4.1(1996), pp.1-25.

• ‘Antonine’ is the emperor Caracalla.


This text is found only 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 P or M, the earlier codices.  [I don’t know if there are readings from D or G 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.

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.


INCIPIT AD SCAPULAM Florentinus Magliabechianus, Conv. Soppr I, VI, 9 (N)
Q. Septimii Florentis Tertuliani Incipit liber ad scapulam.
Luxemburgensis (X)


This runs up to 1955.  Where not otherwise indicated, details are from Quasten’s Patrology, 2 (1955). See also Editions page and Critical Editions page for more information, particularly on collected editions of more than one work.


• [Unknown], Q. Septimii Florentis Tertulliani Apologeticus et Ad scapulam liber: accessit M. Minucius Felicis Octavius Cantabrigiæ: Ex officina Joan. Hayes … : impensis Henr Dickinson & Rich. Green …, 1686 . [8], 135 p. Wing T784 (Details CUL)

T. BINDLEY, Quinti Septimii Florentis Tertulliani De praescriptione haereticorum: Ad martyras: Ad Scapulam, Adv. omnes Haereses, ed., with intr. and notes, by T.H. Bindley. Oxford &c. 1893. 19cm. (Details from Bodleian online catalogue).  Introduction and notes are in English; text is Latin. Checked. (Personal copy)  None of the notes or introductory material is very interesting.

E. DEKKERS, CCSL 2, 1954. pp. 1125-1132. Checked.  Bulhart’s is generally thought to be a better edition.

V. BULHART, CSEL 76, 1957. pp. 9-16.  Checked.

Antonio QUACQUARELLIQ. S. F. Tertulliani ad Scapulam / prolegomeni, testo critico e commentoOpuscula Patrum I, Publisher: Deselee, Rome/New York, (1957). 131 p. ; 24 cm. Checked.  (Details from Italian National Union catalogue and COPAC).  Exhaustive critical apparatus.



D. DALRYMPLE (Lord HAILES), The Address of Q. Sept. Tertullian to Scapula Tertullus, Proconsul of Africa. Translated by Sir David Dalrymple (Dalrymple, Sir David, 3rd bart, Lord Hailes, 1726-1792 – note in Bodleian catalogue). pp. viii. 139. Murray and Cochrane: Edinburgh (1790). 16o. (Details from BL online catalogue.  Another copy Heythrop college, University of London).  Online.

C. DODGSON, Library of Fathers 10. Oxford, 1842, 142-149.

S. THELWALL, ANCL 11 (1869) pp.46-52; reprinted ANF 3 (1885), pp. 105-108.  Online.  Checked.

R. ARBESMANN, Fathers of the Church 10(1950) 151-161. Checked. (Personal copy)


A. DE GENOUDEÀ Scapula, Tertullien-Oeuvres, Paris, 1852.  t.2.  (Details from BNF catalogue) Online.


H. K.ELLNER-G. ESSERAn ScapulaBKV2 24 (1915). pp. 264-274. Checked. Online. (Personal copy)


H. U. MEYBOOM, Aan Scapula (Oudchristel. geschriften, dl. 43). Leiden, 1930.


Selvaggia BORGHINIOpere di Tertulliano tradotte in Toscano. Rome (1756). p.121-130.  Personal copy. Checked.

Pier Angelo GRAMAGLIA, A Scapula / Tertulliano ; introduzione, traduzione e note di Pier Angelo Gramaglia. – Roma : Edizioni paoline (1980). – 215 p. ; 20 cm. ISBN  8821501477.  (Details MultiOPAC).


J. PELLICER DE OSSAU, Barcelona, 1639.


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.


J. SCHMIDT, Ein Beitrag zur Chronologie der Schriften Tertullians und der Prokonsuln von Afrika: RhM NF 46 (1891) 77-98.

F. J. DÖLGER, Juppiter omnipotens (Ad Scap. 4): AC 6 (1940) 70-71.

A. QUACQUARELLI, La persecuzione secondo Tertulliano: Greg 31 (1950) 562—589.

J. RIVESThe Piety of a Persecutor, JECS 4.1(1996), pp.1-25. (Online offsite)

Geoffrey D. DUNN, Rhetorical structures in Tertullian’s Ad Scapulam.  Vigiliae Christianae 56 (2002), pp.47-55. (Details from CTC2002).



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