Original Research

The praxis of Adversus Praxeam: Tertullian’s views on the Trinity

Willem H. Oliver
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 42, No 1 | a2362 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v42i1.2362 | © 2021 Willem H. Oliver | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 August 2021 | Published: 09 December 2021

About the author(s)

Willem H. Oliver, Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Tertullian was an African, living in Carthage during the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. He grew up a pagan, then became a Catholic Christian, after which he moved on to the sect of Montanus, referred to as the New Prophecy in this article, where he became the leader in Carthage. While he was still a pagan, he studied and became an advocate and when he was converted to Christianity, he became a prolific writer of Christian treatises, mostly apologies in Latin. There was a heretic movement in Carthage with Praxeas as the leader, and Tertullian opposed this heresy, especially on the level of the Trinity, as most of the Christians in Carthage – the so-called simplices – were impressed by that heresy. Being ante-Nicene, Tertullian’s arguments should be understood within his time and in light of the Catholic Rule of Faith, as he was very orthodox. The question may well be asked whether something new can still be said about Tertullian or about his Adversus Praxeam? This article is a critical appreciation of Adversus Praxeam with the aim to gain more insight into Trinitarian’s point of view, specifically with reference to the Trinity. Hopefully, in this way something ‘new’ can be said about a well-known Church Father and his well-known treatise.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: Adversus Praxeam was a heretical treatise (modalist), mostly in line with the Catholic Rule of Law of the time, aimed at the Monarchianist heresy. Church History, Systematic Theology and a little Practical Theology are employed to discuss this early-3rd-century treatise within its time, specifically centred around the Trinity.


Tertullian; Adversus Praxeam; Praxeas; Church Fathers; Carthage; New Prophecy; Montanism; Monarchianism; Trinity; Early Church


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