On Prayer background information.

Early Christian Writings

Title: De Oratione (On prayer)


From: (tertullian.org)

Ante-Nicene Fathers

Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω. The Nicene Council

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By: Roger Pearse  

Our Ref:
ECST: 167.22.1.T77

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How to pray, taking the Lord’s prayer as a pattern in particular, and passing on to talk about prayer in general, and making various points about worship.




» He refers to the Shepherd of Hermas (ch 16), as enjoying some authority as scripture in the church:

‘Again, for the custom which some have of sitting when prayer is ended, I perceive no reason, except that which children give. For what if that Hermas, whose writing is generally inscribed with the title The Shepherd, had, after finishing his prayer, not sat down on his bed, but done some other thing: should we maintain that also as a matter for observance? Of course not. Why, even as it is the sentence, “When I had prayed, and had sat down on my bed,” is simply put with a view to the order of the narration, not as a model of discipline. Else we shall have to pray nowhere except where there is a bed! Nay, whoever sits in a chair or on a bench, will act contrary to that writing.’


» In 15:1, he describes some practises in prayer as superstitious, rather than reverent.

» In 16:1, he mentions the custom of sitting when the prayers are over, to attack it.

» In 17:4 he quotes an oracle of the demon at Delphi.


The work is preserved in two sources: 

• The 9th century Codex Agobardinus.  This breaks off at chapter 19. 

• A unique manuscript, Codex Ambrosianus G 58 sup. (D), which contains the work from chapter 11 to the end.  The general text type is the same as that of the Agobardinus.


There is also a quotation of De Oratione 25:6 in Hrabanus Maurus, de clericorum institutione II 352 (ed D Zimpel Frankfurt 1996 p. 352).  The work was written in 816.

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

The title as given above has been added to the Codex Agobardinus in a 16th century hand.  This MS contains only the beginning. The only other MS, Codex Ambrosianus G 58 sup. (D), is a fragment with no title, but does contain the missing end.


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) 180-200.

R. W. MUNCEY, Q.S.F. Tertulliani De oratione. Introduction and notes. London, 1926.

G. F. DIERCKS, Tertullianus, De oratione. Critische uitgave met prolegomena, vertaling en philologisch-exegetisch-liturgische commentaar. Bussum, 1947. Checked. (Personal copy). pp. civ+312.

E. EVANSTertullian’s Tract on the Prayer. The Latin text with critical notes, an English translation, an introduction, and explanatory observations by Ernest Evans.. pp. xx. 69. S.P.C.K.: London, 1953. 8oChecked. (Personal copy)  Online complete.

G. F. DIERCKS, CCSL 1 (1954) 255-274. Checked. (Personal copy)

G.F. DIERCKSTertulliani De Oratione et De Virginibus Velandis Libelli, Stromata Patristica et Mediaevalia IV (1956), Antwerp. Checked. (Personal copy)



C. DODGSON, Library of the Fathers 10. Oxford, 1842, 298-321.

S. THELWALLANCL 11 (1869) pp.178-204; reprinted ANF 3 (1885), pp. 681-691.  Online.  Checked.

A. SOUTERTertullian’s Treatises Concerning Prayer, Concerning Baptism (SPCK). London-New York, 1919. 75pp. 8oChecked. (Personal copy).  Online.

E. EVANSloc. cit., 1953.  Online complete.

E. J. DALY, Fathers of the Church 40 (1959), pp.157-190. Checked. (Personal copy).

Alistair STEWART-SYKES, Tertullian, Cyprian, And Origen On The Lord’s Prayer. (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press Popular Patristics Series). Paperback. ISBN: 0881412619. 732mm x 506mm. 214pp. (Details from Amazon).


A DE GENOUDEDe l’Oraison dominicale, Tertullien: Oeuvres (1852), t.3, p.263-276.  This only contains chapters 1-14, however.

Adalbert-Gautier HAMMAN, La prière en Afrique chrétienne: Tertullien, Cyprien, Augustin. Paris : Desclée de Brouwer (1982). 147 p. ; 22 cm. Collection : Quand vous prierez.  Details from the internet.


H. KELLNERUeber das Gebet, BKV2 7 (1912). pp.247-273. 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.


H. U. MEYBOOM, Tertullianus, Over het gebed (Oudchristel. geschriften, dl. 46). Leiden, 1931.

G. F. DIERCKSloc. cit.


Selvaggia BORGHINIOpere di Tertulliano tradotte in Toscano. Rome (1756). p.292-310.  Personal copy. Checked

Pier Angelo GRAMAGLIA, Tertulliano, La preghiera. Roma : Edizioni paoline (1984) 327 p. ; 20 cm. ( Letture cristiane delle origini. Testi) ISBN 88-215-0700-9 (Details from BN Florence OPAC).

Aldo INTAGLIATA, La preghiera, Cavallermaggiore: Gribaudo (1992). 118 p., XVI p. di tav. ; 24 cm. (transl) (Details by Dr. Andrea Nicolotti)


Alfonso ROPERO, Lo Mejor de Tertuliano ; compilado por: Alfonso Ropero. Terrassa : Clie (2001). 335 p. : il. ; 24 cm. ISBN: 84-8267-206-1(cart.). Series: Grandes autores de la fe Patrística 4.  Contains: Apología contra los gentiles (Apol.); Exhortación a los mártires (Exort); La virtud de la paciencia (Pat); La oración (Orat); La respuesta a los judíos (Jud). (Details Biblioteca de Catalunya, personal copy).  pp.223-266.  Checked

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).  


• [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)  


• [Unknown], Tertullianus: “De oratione” (Despre rugaciune) si “De testimonio animae” (Despre marturia sufletului). (1908).  (Details from Rome Pontifical Libraries OPAC).


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.


W. HALLER, Das Herrengebet bei Tertullian: Zeitschr. für praktische Theologie 12 (1890) 327-354.

E. V. D. GOLTZ, Das Gebet in der ältesten Christenheit. Leipzig, 1901, 279-282.

G. LOESCHKE, Die Vaterunsererklärung des Theophilus von Antiochien. Eine Quellenuntersuchung zu den Vaterunsererklärungen des Tertullian, Cyprian, Chromatius und Hieronymus. Berlin, 1908.

J. MOFFAT, Tertullian on the Lord’s Prayer: ExpT 18 (1919) 24-41.

F. J. DÖLGER, Das Niedersitzen nach dem Gebet. Ein Kommentar zu Tertullian, De oratione 16: AC 5 (1936) 116-137.

B. SIMOVIC, Le pater chez quelques pères latins: France Franciscaine 21 (1938) 193-222, 245-264.

O. SCHÄFER, Das Vaterunser, das Gebet des Christen. Eine aszetische Studie nach Tertullian De oratione: ThGl 35 (1943) 1-6.

A. J. B. HIGGINS, Lead us not into temptation. Some Latin Variants: JThSt 46 (1945) 179-183.

E. DEKKERS, Tertullianus en de geschiedenis der liturgie. Brussels-Amsterdam, 1947, 117-126.

H. PÉTRÉ, Les leçons du ‘Panem nostrum quotidianum’: RSR 38 (1951) Mélanges Lebreton, 63-79.




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

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