To His Wife background information.

Early Christian Writings

Title: Ad uxorem (To my wife) 


From: (

Ante-Nicene Fathers

Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω. The Nicene Council

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By: Roger Pearse  

Our Ref:
ECST: 167.29.1.T77

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Book 1 discusses why remarriage is wrong. In Book 2, he points out the problems of remarriage outside the faith.  In two books, each of 8 short chapters.


These are two letters to his wife. Tertullian had married a Christian girl. Here he talks about marriage and remarriage. He isn’t keen on the latter, but if she must remarry, then it should be another Christian. (In later works he definitely regards remarriage as serial polygamy). The context is a gnostic denial of all marriage as a sin. This Tertullian rebuts.  He discusses the difference between a woman married to a heathen who then becomes a Christian, and a Christian woman who marries a heathen.  In the former case, the husband’s conversion is likely; in the latter, the woman is likely to be ruined.

Book 2 finishes with a lovely picture of the Christian marriage. 

This is the Ancient Christian Writers translation (ACW 13, p.35-6):


How shall we ever be able adequately to describe the happiness of that marriage which the Church arranges, the Sacrifice strengthens, upon which the blessing sets a seal, at which angels are present as witnesses, and to which the Father gives His consent? For not even on earth do children marry properly and legally without their fathers’ permission.

How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts. Unembarrassed they visit the sick and assist the needy. They give alms without anxiety; they attend the Sacrifice without difficulty; they perform their daily exercises of piety without hindrance. They need not be furtive about making the Sign of the Cross, nor timorous in greeting the brethren, nor silent in asking a blessing of God. Psalms and hymns they sing to one another, striving to see which one of them will chant more beautifully the praises of their Lord. Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there [p36] are two together, there also He is present; and where He is, there evil is not.

These, then, are the thoughts which the Apostle in that brief expression of his has left for our consideration. Recall them to your mind, if ever there should be need to do so. Use them to strengthen yourself against the bad example which certain women give you. In no other way than this are Christians permitted to marry — and, even if they were, it would not be the prudent thing to do.


He attacks the pagan practise of abortion, while pointing out the difficulties of parenthood:

“Burdens must be sought by us for ourselves which are avoided even by the majority of the Gentiles, who are compelled by laws, who are decimated by abortions; burdens which, finally, are to us most of all unsuitable, as being perilous to faith!” (Bk I Ch. 5)

A description of a pagan cult, probably of Punic origin:

“Moreover, we know that widows minister to the African Ceres; enticed away, indeed, from matrimony by a most stem oblivion: for not only do they withdraw from their still living husbands, but they even introduce other wives to them in their own room-the husbands, of course, smiling on it-all contact (with males), even as far as the kiss of their sons, being forbidden them; and yet, with enduring practice, they persevere in such a discipline of widowhood, which excludes the solace even of holy affection.” (Bk. I Ch. 6)


• In I.3:4 he allows flight in time of persecution.

• In I.5:1 he refers to imminent persecution.

• In I.6:4 he refers to the cults of the Achaean Juno, the priestesses at Delphi, and the cult of the African Ceres as all practising celibacy.

• In I.7:5 we learn that the pagan pontifex maximus was not allowed to marry a second time.

• In II.4, a list of the ‘duties of believers’ is outlined.  This includes the all-night celebration of Easter.

• In II.6, pagan celebrations are described.


The text of this work was transmitted to us in two collections.

1. The Agobardine collection. Only one MS now exists, the 9th century Codex Agobardinus (A) or Parisinus Latinus 1622.

2. The work is also contained in the members of the Cluny collection. (q.v.).  The 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.

• There are also readings from D and 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 liber primus DE VXORE Florentinus Magliabechianus,
. Conv. Soppr I, VI, 9 (N)
Incipit liber primus Tertulliani de Vxore Florentinus Magliabechianus,
. Conv. Soppr I, VI, 10 (F)

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


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. KROYMANN, CSEL 70 (1942) 96-124. Checked.

A. KROYMANN, CCSL 1 (1954) 371-394. Checked.

Adrianus STEPHAN, Tertulliani ad uxorem libri duo. Denuo editi apparatu critico commentario exegetico batave scripto indice verborum et nominum instructi. Disputatio litteraria. Excelsior Den Hague 1954 224pp. Latin text with Dutch commentary.  (From a dealer catalogue).

Charles MUNIER, A son Épouse. Sources Chrétiennes 273 (1980). 207 pp. Checked. (Personal copy).  Latin text only online.



John HOOPERThe seconde booke of Tertullian vnto his wyf, tr. [by J. Hooper]. London: R.Jugge (1550). Online.

C. DODGSON, Library of Fathers 10. Oxford, 1842, 409-431.

S. THELWALLANCL 11 (1869) pp.279-303; reprinted ANF 4 (1885), pp. 39-49.  Online.  Checked.

W. P. LE SAINT, Treatises on Marriage and Remarriage (Ancient Christian Writers 13). Westminster, Md., 1951, 10-36.


A. DE GENOUDEŔ sa femme. Oeuvres de Tertullien2, Paris (1852). t. 3, pp.333-356. Checked.

Charles MUNIERloc. cit., 1980.


H. KELLNERDie zwei Bücher an seine Frau, BKV2 7 (1912), pp.60-84. Online.


H. U. MEYBOOM, Aan mijn echtgenoote (Oudchristel. geschriften, dl. 46). Leiden, 1931.

CHR. MOHRMANN, Aan mijn vrouw (MC 1, 3). Utrecht, 1951, 329-356.


Selvaggia BORGHINIOpere di Tertulliano tradotte in Toscano. Rome (1756). p.379-406.  Personal copy. Checked.

Pier Angelo GRAMAGLIA, Tertulliano, Il matrimonio nel cristianesimo preniceno. Roma : Borla, [1988]. 519 p. ; 21 cm. ( Cultura cristiana antica) Contiene, in trad. italiana: Ad uxorem, De exortatione castitatis, De monogamia. ISBN 88-263-0452-1 : L. 40000. (Details from BN Florence 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.


H. KOCH, Zur Agapen-Frage (Tertullian, Ad uxor. 2, 4): ZNW (1915) 139-146.

H. PREISKER, Christentum und Ehe in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten. Berlin, 1927, 187-200.



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