Tares of Tertullian

Tertullian betrayed (or ignored) the teachings of Christ in order to promote and defend orthodox Christian religion. Constantine hijacked Tertullian’s organization to consolidate his power as Roman emperor and head of the new state religion.

Parable of the tares

Matthew 13:24-30 New King James Version (NKJV)

24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”


Watercolor of wheat and tares

In the parable of the wheat and tares, Jesus told and then explained the interpretation.

But in the parable of the sower, Satan snatches away the good seed whereas in the parable of the tares, He actually sows weeds or bad seed.  And so there are similarities and differences between these two parables, but the focus of the first parable – the parable of the sower – is to remind us that there will be a mixed response to the gospel message, while the purpose of the parable of the tares is to remind us that the kingdom itself will be mixed until the final judgment.  In other words, there will be no perfectly pure and righteous expression of God’s kingdom on earth before the final judgment.  There will always be wheat and tares side by side.(Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on May 17, 1998 )

Because the kingdom of God is currently  populated with children of the kingdom and children of Satan, we must be careful to recognize that nothing is all good or all bad. Even the works of Tertullian had positive and negative consequences.


Tertullian (/tərˈtʌliən/), full name Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, c. 155 – c. 240 AD, was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. Of Berber origin, he was the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and a polemicist against heresy, including contemporary Christian Gnosticism. Tertullian has been called “the father of Latin Christianity” and “the founder of Western theology.” (from Wikipedia)

Tertullian was a defender of the necessity of apostolicity. In his Prescription Against Heretics, he explicitly challenges heretics to produce evidence of the apostolic succession of their communities. “Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men—a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit (their several worthies), whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed.”(from Wikipedia)

Tertullian is said  to have advocated the hierarchy of church leadership and the opposition of heretical groups that were different from his theology. He is credited with declaring that only Bishops could properly interpret scriptures.

Many Christians consider him a saint who cannot have done any wrong.

I suggest that some of the teachings of Tertullian have actually harmed the kingdom of God–that without Tertullian, Constantine would not have chosen Christianity as the state religion, and that the development of religious (Roman) Christianity of Tertullian diverted attention away from the gospel and toward orthodoxy and church organization. This allowed Satan to take hold of the historical movement and suppressed the Gospel until 1517 when Martin Luther rediscovered it.

Roman Emperor Constantine

Constantine the Great (Latin: Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus; Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος ὁ Μέγας; 27 February c. 272 AD – 22 May 337 AD), also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine (in the Orthodox Church as Saint Constantine the Great, Equal-to-the-Apostles), was a Roman Emperor from 306 to 337 AD.(from Wikipedia)

Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to provide tolerance for Christians.  Later he declared Christianity as the State Religion of the Roman Empire.  Only the churches which had aligned themselves with Tertullian were admitted into the role of Christianity. Heretical churches were persecuted and eventually disbanded. Constantine used the works of Tertullian to promote consolidation of his power by eliminating religious opposition. Much like the Church of England in the Seventeenth Century, it became treason to oppose the state religion.

It only seems logical that a military leader should recognize the organization of the Roman Church as being similar in structure and distribution-of-authority as his army making it all the easier to control..

Constantine to Luther

With the inauguration of the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, Christianity embarked on a path to eliminate its enemies. Minor sects which did not agree with the The Nicene Creed were disbanded and crushed. Financial support for the Egyptian religions was discontinued.  It became expedient to swear allegiance to Christ in the same way it was to swear allegiance to Constantine.

Flying over history we see that the dark ages were punctuated with Crusades while the Roman Catholic Church held the lamp of learning until the Renaissance. Returning crusaders brought back Arabic translations of the Greek and Roman classics which had been lost to the European civilization.

The rise of European states whittled away at the military power of the Church. The time was ripe for Martin Luther to attempt to reform the Church.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther restored the gospel message of Christ and made reforms that are felt throughout Christendom today.

Luther taught that salvation and, subsequently, eternal life are not earned by good deeds but are received only as the free gift of God’s grace through the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority and office of the Pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge from God and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood. Those who identify with these, and all of Luther’s wider teachings, are called Lutherans, though Luther insisted on Christian or Evangelical as the only acceptable names for individuals who professed Christ. (from Wikipedia)

The Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Luther and would have executed him for heresy if the Prince of Wittenburg had not protected him with his own army.

Wheat and tares of Tertullian

Without the writings of Tertullian, it is entirely possible that Christianity would have died out.  The organization of the Church and the continuity of history show that they preserved the teachings and writings from the early church.  Even today, new Christians seek out churches to grow and learn in their new faith.  Without Tertullian there might not have been any churches at all.

This said, there is a large gap in history in which people could have learned the gospel message and maybe changed the world for the better. Tertullian ignored the idea that only a personal conversion to Christ himself would provide salvation.  The change in a person must be in his heart and not just outwardly. With organized religion connected directly to the nation-state, it is easy for power hungry people to divert the ministry of the church away from the kingdom of God. Hierarchical organization and limiting access to the writings kept the people in darkness for centuries.