Against Hermogenes background information.

Early Christian Writings

Title: Adversus Hermogenem (Against Hermogenes) 


From: (

Ante-Nicene Fathers

Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω. The Nicene Council

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By: Roger Pearse  

Our Ref:
ECST: 167.13.1.T77

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Against the ideas of Hermogenes, mostly about creation.


Hermogenes was a painter, who produced his own cult, mingling bits that appealed to him of Christianity and contemporary stoicism-paganism.  According to Eusebius, a now lost work Against the Heresy of Hermogenes was written by Theophilus, 6th bishop of Antioch, who lived around AD. 180 (see Quasten I for this writer who also wrote on the trinity).  Tertullian also refers to him in De Monogamia 16:1 as one who had married several times.

Hermogenes held the opinion that matter was eternal, and therefore equal with God, and so proposed two gods.  Tertullian tells us (ch.1) that he derived these opinions from contemporary pop philosophy, and specifically from the Stoics.


The work provides a response in 45 chapters, defending the Christian teaching of creation:

• Ch. 1-18 argue that if matter is eternal, then there can be no deity

• Ch. 19-34 show that Hermogenes uses scripture like a drunk uses a lamppost; for support, rather than illumination.

• Ch. 35-45 take Hermogenes’ teachings at face value and show them to be speculative, riddled with inconsistencies and convenient ignorance, when discussing his ‘eternal matter’.

Tertullian also wrote two other works against this man – De censu animae, now lost, and its continuation, De anima.


• Ch.1 refers to De praescriptione haereticorum

• Ch.3 contains a curious statement which has sometimes been seized on by heretics to convict Tertullian of heresy:

“There was, however, a time when neither sin existed with Him, nor the Son; the former of which was to constitute the Lord a Judge, and the latter a Father.”

However the context is about names, not about being, and Tertullian certainly quotes John 1. 1 elsewhere (e.g. Adversus Praxean) in support of the biblical idea.   Doubtless this is merely a verbal slip by Tertullian, in the heat of the argument.


The work is contained in the members of the Cluny collection. (q.v.).  The primary witnesses, therefore, are:

• The Payerne MS, Codex Paterniacensis 439 (P), now at Selestat. (From the Alpha branch)

• 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 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.


This work is found only in the collection of works known as the Corpus Cluniacense; the largest collection of Tertullian’s works, and extant in the most copies. 

The titles from the earliest independent exemplars are as follows:

. Florentinus Magliabechianus, Conv. Soppr I, VI, 9 (N)
Q. Septimii Florentis Tertulliani incipit lib aduersus Hermogenem Florentinus Magliabechianus, Conv. Soppr I, VI, 10 (F)

Note: The MSS have the over-score above the letter, but this will only be visible in modern browsers (N4+/IE4+). It signifies an abbreviation.

There is no variation in the titles shown in the ancient catalogues either, elsewhere on this site.


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.


A. KROYMANN, CSEL 47 (1906) 126-176. Checked.

A. KROYMANN, CCSL 1 (1954) 395-436. Checked.

J.H. WASZINK, Quinti Septimii Florentis Tertulliani Adversus Hermogenem liber. Stromata patristica et mediaevalia 5. Utrecht: Spectrum (1956). Checked. (Personal copy).  Text online.

Frédéric CHAPOTTertullien : Contre Hermogene, Sources Chrétiennes 439 (1999). ISBN 2-204-06217-0  French critical edition with Latin text, and French translation and notes.  Checked. (Personal copy).  Based on Waszink’s revision.



P. HOLMES, ANCL 15 (1870), 55-118; ANF 3 (1885), 477-502. Online.

J.H. WASZINK, Tertullian: The Treatise against Hermogenes. Ancient Christian Writers 24 (1956).  Checked. (Personal copy)


A. DE GENOUDEContre Hermogène, Tertullien-Oeuvres, Paris (1852).  t.3.  pp.51-101.  Checked. Online.

Frédéric CHAPOTloc. cit., 1999.


K.A.H.KELLNERGegen Hermogenes, Tertullians sämtliche Schriften…, Köln : DuMont-Schauberg (1882), vol. 2 pp.59-100.  Checked. Online.


H. U. MEYBOOM, Tegen Hermogenes (Oudchristel. geschriften, dl. 43). Leiden, 1930.


C. MORESCHINI, Opere scelte di Quinto Settimio Fiorente Tertulliano. (Classici UTET). Turin, 1974. (Details from CTC 99, 5).

C. MICHAELI, Contro Ermogene.  Introduzione, traduzione e note. Roma: Città Nuova (2002), 131 pp. (Collana di testi patristici, 167).  (Details CTC 2002).


E. HEINTZEL, Hermogenes, der Hauptvertreter des philosophischen Dualismus in der alten Kirche. Berlin, 1902.

W. C. VAN UNNIK, De la règle d’or mh&te prosqei~nai mh&te a0felei~n dans l’histoire du canon (De praescr. 38) : VC 3 (1949) 1-36.

G. MAY, Hermogenes – ein frühchristlicher Theologe zwischen Platonismus und Gnosis, Studia patristica XV (1979), pp.461-473.  In German.(Details from DCB 74-89)

A. QUACQUARELLI, L’eresia materiaria di Ermogene. Hermogenes materiarius haereticus (Tert., Herm. 25,7), Vetera Christianorum 21 (1984) pp.241-251.   Italian.(Details from DCB 74-89)



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