On Baptism background information.

Early Christian Writings

Title: De baptismo (On baptism)


From: (tertullian.org)

Ante-Nicene Fathers

Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω. The Nicene Council

Related Link:   

By: Roger Pearse  

Our Ref:
ECST: 167.21.1.T77

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Christians must be baptised.


This work defends the Christian position against the rationalistic objections of a female gnostic preacher of the Cainite cult, labelled a ‘poisonous viper’.

He declares that ‘baptism’ among heretics has nothing to do with Christian baptism, and is not valid for a Christian (ch. 15).

Tertullian reminds us that hostility to the Episcopal authority is the mother of schisms.

It is possible that the beginning of this tract has been lost, as it starts rather abruptly.



There is extensive discussion in the online edition of Evans.


The Cainite preacher is sometimes called Quintilla, following a variant reading in ch. 1 originating with the Gelenius edition of 1550.  However there is no evidence that this is more than a conjecture by Gelenius, since there is no evidence that Gelenius had an MS of De Baptismo.  Since a montanist prophetess had this name, according to Augustine in De Haeresibus, some have presumed that Tertullian was here attacking the montanists.  However all of this is in fact speculation based on a dubious conjecture.

The text refers to Thecla, in a comment against females baptising, and gives the origin of the apocyphal Acts of Paul (ch. 18).

There is a reference to John 5, 4 in De Bapismo 5.  This verse is present in the KJV, but now generally omitted from our bibles.


The text was first printed in 1545 as part of the Mesnart edition from an unknown MS.

It was printed again by Gelenius in 1550, who alleged that it was contained in his Codex Masburensis (although we need not believe him, necessarily).  In the margin are variants froman unidentified MS which is, or is closely related to, the Troyes MS (see below).  (Evans).

In 1916 Dom Andre Wilmart discovered the only MS now existing, the Codex Trecensis 523, a 12th century MS from Clairvaux.  This breaks off in 18:2.  The text is somewhat different to that of Mesnart, and generally superior.  However the Mesnart text is ‘often quite readable, and only rarely differs in ultimate meaning from the other’.  The Troyes MS was used for the editions of d’Alès, Borleffs and Refoulé, as well as the basis of the Evans text.

TITLE VARIATIONS[1]http://www.tertullian.org/manuscripts/title_variations.htm

In the sole MS, the Codex Trecensis 523, it reads:

Incipit de baptismo


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].


A. REIFFERSCHEID-G. WISSOWA, CSEL 20 (1890) 201-218.

J. M. LUPTON, De baptismo ed. with introduction and notes. Cambridge, 1908. cm 19. Checked. Extract and review online.

G. RAUSCHEN, Tertulliani de baptismo, et ps.-Cyriani de rebaptismate recensio nova, Florilegium patristicum 11. Bonn, 1916. (Details from Quasten & Bodleian Catalogue)

J. W. PH. BORLEFFS, De baptismo. Leiden, 1931.

A. D’ALÈS, De baptismo, rec. not. ill. (Textus et Documenta, Series theologica, 10). Rome, 1933. 58pp.

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

R. F. REFOULÉ-M. DROUZY, Traité du baptême. Introduction, texte critique et notes par RFR, traduction en collaboration avec M.D. (Sources Chrétiennes 35). Paris: Éditions du Cerf (1952).  Reprinted with corrections and appendix, 2002. 113p. (Details CTC).

J. W. PH. BORLEFFS, CCSL 1 (1954), 275-296. Checked.

E. EVANSTertullian’s Homily on Baptism (1964): Tertullian’s Homily on Baptism … Edited with an introduction, translation and commentary by Ernest Evans. pp. xl. 122. S.P.C.K.: London, 1964. 8oChecked.  (Personal copy). According to Evans the apparatus is an abbreviation of Borleffs’, who had himself collated the MS.   ‘The text here given therefore follows the Troyes MS., except where its reading is manifestly impossible’.

Bruno LUISELLI, Quinti Septimii Florentis Tertulliani De baptismo, edidit et commentario critico instruxit Bruno Luiselli, Augustae Taurinorum, In aedibus Io. Bapt. Paraviae et sociorum, 1960 (Corpus scriptorum Latinorum Paravianum). XXXII, 101 p. ; 21 cm . (Details from Dr. Andrea Nicolotti)

Bruno LUISELLI, Quinti Septimii Florentis Tertulliani De baptismo, edidit et commentario critico instruxit Bruno Luiselli, Augustae Taurinorum, In aedibus Io. Bapt. Paraviae et sociorum, 1968, II editio (Corpus scriptorum Latinorum Paravianum). XXVIII, 93 p. ; 21 cm. (Details from Dr. Andrea Nicolotti)

R. F. REFOULÉ-M. DROUZY, Le baptême. (Foi vivante 176) Paris: Cerf (1976). (Details from CTC).


J. W. PH. BORLEFFS, Index verborum quae Tertulliani De Baptismo libello continentur: Mnem 59 (1931) 50-102.



C. DODGSON, Library of Fathers 10. Oxford, 1842, 255-280.

S. THELWALLANCL 11 (1869) pp.231-256; reprinted ANF 3 (1885), pp. 669-679. Checked. Online.

A. SOUTERTertullian’s Treatises Concerning Prayer, Concerning Baptism (SPCK/Macmillan). London & New York, 1919. 75pp. 8o. Online complete.

E. EVANSloc. cit., 1964.  Checked. (Personal copy)

P. S. HORGANDe Baptismo, translated with introduction and commentary.  Diss. Cath. Univ. of America, Washington (1966), 203p. Microfilm.  (Details APh38, 1969).

Mary DOMINIQUE, Mary BERNARD, Mary GROVES, A new beginning: Tertullian, Cyril, and Augustine on baptism. Leominster: Gracewing (1998) vii,119p; 18cm (pbk). Series: Wellsprings of faith; 11.  Contents: On baptism / Tertullian – Instruction after baptism / Cyril of Jerusalem – Easter sermons / Augustine of Hippo. ‘Published in conjunction with Aide inter-monastères’.  (Details CUL)


Mathieu CAUBÈRETraités de Tertulien sur l’ornement des femmes, les spectacles, le batême & la patience : avec une lettre aux martirs ; traduits en francois. Paris: Jacques Rollin (1733).  XVIII, [4], 377 [i.d. 397], [13] p. : 12º ; 17 cm (Details Biblioteca de CatalunyaMontpellier library catalogue).

M. CHARPENTIEROeuvres de Tertullien: Apologétique. Prescriptions contre les gentils. Du Baptême. De l’Ornement des femmes. [Contre les spectacles. De la Patience. De la Couronne du soldat. Contre Marcion, extrait. De la Chair de Jésus-Christ. De la Résurrection de la chair. Aux nations. – listed in table of contents but not on title page] Paris : Ed. M. Charpentier, 1844. 12o, III-504 p.  Another title page has the address:”A. Delahays, 1845″. “Oeuvres de Tertullien traduites en français” Checked (Details from BNF catalogue and personal copy).  De Baptismo is pp.122-145. Online.

A. DE GENOUDE, Du Baptême, Oeuvres de Tertullien2, Paris (1852). t. 3, pp. 239-261.  Checked.  Online.

R. F. REFOULÉ-M. DROUZYloc. cit., 1952/1976/2002. 

German : 

H. KELLNERBKV2 7(1912). (Online)

Dietrich SCHLEYER, Tertullian, Über die Taufe – De baptismo / Vom Gebet – De oratione, ed. by Dietrich Schleyer, 1 vol. (2006)  (Details from publisher, Brepols). Series: Fontes Christiani, 76.  ISBN 2-503-52115-0.  With bibliography on pp.309-314.

Dutch : 

H. U. MEYBOOMOver het doopsel (Oudchristel. geschriften, dl. 46). Leiden, 1930.

Chr. MOHRMANN, (Tert. Apol. etc.) M C 1, 3. Utrecht, 1951, 241-271.


Selvaggia BORGHINIOpere di Tertulliano tradotte in ToscanoRome (1756). p.439-465.  Personal copy. Checked.

Pier Angelo GRAMAGLIAIl battesimo; introduzione, traduzione e note di Pier Angelo Gramaglia, Roma, Edizioni Paoline, 1979. Italian annotated translation. (Details from Dr. Andrea Nicolotti)


Salvador VICASTILLO, Quinto Septimio Florente Tertuliano: El bautismo ; La oración. Madrid: Editorial Ciudad Nueva (2006) 416 p. ; 24×15 cm.  Series: Fuentes patrísticas 18. Price: 37,5 Euros.(Details from Yago Fernández de Alarcón; ref given www.mcu.es).


Jaume FÀBREGAS, 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).


Urbano ZILLESO sacramento do batism: teologia pastoral do batismo segundo Tertuliano / introd., trad. e notas de Urbano Zilles.- Petrópolis: Vozes, 1981. (Os padres da Igreja, 3) 75 p. 23 cm. (Details from BN Portugal).  Not absolutely certain this is a translation rather than a study.


Tertulijan: O krstu (De baptismo).  Translated by Franc Ksaver LUKMAN during WW2, and placed online in 2001.


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.


E. FRUETSAERT, De baptismo 5: RSR (1911) 462-466.

E. AMANNL’Ange du Baptême dans Tertullien, Revue des sciences religieuses 1 (1921) pp. 208-221.

K. KÖHLER, Das Agraphon bei Tertullian De bapt. 20: ThStKr (1922) 169 ff.

S. EITREM, Tertullian De bapt. 5 ‘sanctified by drowning’: CR (1924) 69.

A. D’ALÈS, Tertullien De baptismo 5: RSR (1924) 292.

A. D. NOCKPagan Baptisms in Tertullian: JThSt 28 (1927) 289-290.

F. J. DÖLGER, Die Apollinarischen Spiele und das Fest Pelusia. Zu Tertullian De baptismo 5: AC 1 (1929) 150-155; idem, Die Taufe an den Apollinarischen und den Pelusischen Spielen: AC 1 (1929) 156-159; idem, Tertullian kein Zeuge für eine Taufe in den Mysterien von Eleusis: AC 1 (1929) 143-149; idem, Esietus. Der Ertrunkene oder der zum Osiris Gewordene. Ein sprachgeschichtlicher Beitrag zu Tertullian De baptismo 5 : AC 1 (1929) 174-183 ; idem, Das erste Gebet der Täuflinge in der Gemeinschaft der Brüder: AC 2 (1930) 142-155; idem, Die Sünde in Blindheit und Unwissenheit. Ein Beitrag zu Tertullian De baptismo 1 : AC 2 (1930) 222-226; idem, Tertullian über die Bluttaufe: AC 2 (1930) 117-141.

J. W. PH. BORLEFFS, Mnem 59 (1931) 1-47; idem, Zu Tertullian de baptismo: PhW 51 (1931) 251-255.

F. J. DÖLGER, Zwei neue Textheilungsversuche zu Tertullian De baptismo 16, 2 : AC 3 (1932) 216-219.

B. LEEMING, A Note on a Reading in Tertullian’s De baptismo: ‘Credo quia non credunt’; Greg 3 (1933) 423-431.

F. J. DÖLGER, Die Eingliederung des Taufsymbols in den Taufvollzug nach den Schriften Tertullians. Zu Tertullian De baptismo 2, 1 : AC 4 (1934) 138-146.

G. THÖRNELL, Analecta critica: Eranos (1934) 153-155.

F. J. DÖLGER, Religiöse Waschung als Sühne für Meineid (De baptismo 5) : AC 6 (1940) 73.

E. C. RATCLIFF, The Relation of Confirmation to Baptism in the Early Roman and Byzantine Liturgies: Theology 49 (1946) 258-265, 290-295.

J. W. PH. BORLEFFS, La valeur du Codex Trecensis de Tertullien pour la critique de texte dans le traité De baptismo: VC 2 (1948) 185-200.

P. SCHEPENS, De baptismo 5: RSR (1948) 112-113.

CHR. MOHRMANN, Tertullien, De baptismo 2, 2: VC 5 (1951) 49.

W. BEDARD, The Symbolism of the Baptismal Font in Early Christian Thought. Diss. Washington, 1951.

F. X. LUKMAN, Das Anblasen des Teufels beim Taufgelöbnis: Festschrift f. R. Egger I. Klagenfurt, 1952, 343-346.

Souter’s translation.

Evans’ translation.


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

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