Credo quia absurdum is a Latin phrase that means "I believe because it is absurd", originally misattributed to Tertullian in his De Carne Christi. It is believed to be a paraphrasing of Tertullians prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est which means "It is certain because it is absurd", consistent with an anti-Marcionite context. Early modern, Protestant and Enlightenment rhetoric against Catholicism and religion more broadly resulted in this phrase being changed to "I believe because it is absurd", and displaced it from an anti-Marcionite and to a personally religious context.
1.1. History of the phrase Origins
The original phrase, before being transmuted through Enlightenment rhetoric to its modern form "I believe because it is absurd", appeared in Tertullians work De Carne Christi c. 203–206, read by scholars as "I believe because it is unfitting". The context is a defense of the tenets of orthodox Christianity against docetism:
et mortuus est dei filius: credible, because it is unfitting;
and he was buried and rose again; it is certain, because it is impossible.
The consensus of Tertullian scholars is that the reading "I believe because it is absurd" sharply diverges from Tertullians own thoughts, given his placed priority on reasoned argument and rationality in his writings. In the same work, Tertullian later writes "But here again, I must have some reasons." Elsewhere, he writes that the new Christian" should believe nothing but that nothing should be rashly believed.” Scholars note further examples of where Tertullian acts by following a method of reasoned argument. The meaning of the phrase may relate to 1 Corinthians 1:17–31, where something foolish to a human may be a member of Gods wisdom, or Tertullian may be repeating an idea rehearsed in Aristotles Rhetoric, where Aristotle argues that something is more credibly true if it is an incredible claim, on the reason that it would have not been made up if it were truly so incredible to the human mind. Eric Osborn concludes that" the classic formula credo quia absurdum even when corrected to quia ineptum does not represent the thought of Tertullian."
1.2. History of the phrase Transmission into the early modern era and modern use
No notice was given to this maxim throughout the classical and medieval periods, however, the maxim first began to receive attention and then undergo change during the early modern era. In 1521, the humanist scholar Beatus Rhenanus produced an edition of Tertullians De carne Christi. The only French translation of this work to appear in the 17th century was Louis Girys 1661 edition. According to Peter Harrison, the first time that the maxim was quoted was in Thomas Brownes highly influential religious classic Religio Medici The Religion of a Doctor, ensuring that the maxim received a wide audience at this time, and Browne also shifted the context of Tertullians phrase from a discourse against Marcion to personal faith, and also shifted the wording of the phrase from its original It is certain, because it is impossible" to I believe, because it is impossible." Many of Brownes contemporaries criticized him and Tertullian for this maxim, including Henry More, Edward Stillingfleet, Robert Boyle, and John Locke. As Protestant anti-Catholic polemic and rhetoric grew, many writers began associating certain Catholic doctrines and later broadly to Christianity itself by some other writers, especially transubstantiation, with this maxim. The maxim was then brought to a French audience through Pierre Bayles highly influential 1697 Dictionnaire Historique et Critique, which catalogued controversies of philosophical and religious nature as well as historical events and persons related to them. Then, Voltaire, in his anonymously published Le Diner du comte de Boulainvillier 1767, took the maxim to the next step and shifted the phrase from "I believe because it is impossible to "I believe because it is absurd ", and Voltaire also attributed it to Augustine instead of Tertullian, a much more central figure in Christian history. The maxim would continue to be attributed to Augustine until Gaston de Flotte noted the original Latin and misattribution by Voltaire, however, the rhetorical appeal of the maxim was great enough that it continued to be widely used, even into the present day, including being used by figures like Sigmund Freud, Ernst Cassirer, Max Weber, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne and even Simon Blackburns Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.
1.3. History of the phrase Later commentary
The phrase does not express the Catholic Faith, as explained by Pope Benedict XVI: "The Catholic Tradition, from the outset, rejected the so-called" fideism”, which is the desire to believe against reason. Credo quia absurdum I believe because it is absurd is not a formula that interprets the Catholic faith."
The phrase is thus sometimes associated with the doctrine of fideism, that is, "a system of philosophy or an attitude of mind, which, denying the power of unaided human reason to reach certitude, affirms that the fundamental act of human knowledge consists in an act of faith, and the supreme criterion of certitude is authority."Catholic Encyclopedia. It has also been used, though often in different interpretations, by some existentialists.
The phrase inspired a celebrated bon mot by H.L. Mencken: "Tertullian is credited with the motto Credo quia absurdum - I believe because it is impossible. Needless to say, he began life as a lawyer." It has also been adopted as the motto for The Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus in modern times, and was used as an example of zen in D. T. Suzukis book, Introduction to Zen Buddhism which was based on essays he wrote in 1914:
"A noted Christian Father of the early Middle Ages once exclaimed: "O poor Aristotle! Thou who has discovered for the heretics the art of dialectics, the art of building up and destroying, the art of discussing all things and accomplishing nothing!" So much ado about nothing, indeed! See how philosophers of all ages contradict one another after spending all their logical acumen and analytical ingenuity on the so-called problems of science and knowledge. No wonder the same old wise man, wanting to put a stop once for all to all such profitless discussions, has boldly thrown the following bomb right into the midst of those sand-builders: "Certum est quia impossible est"; or, more logically, Credo quia absurdum est. I believe because it is irrational; is this not an unqualified confirmation of Zen?"
force, which is not compelled at some point to demand the credo non quod, sed credo quia absurdum - the sacrifice of the intellect. According to Paul
believed, because it is absurd which is commonly paraphrased as Credo quia absurdum I believe because it is absurd Tertullian, Tertullian On the
Order, Credo Quia Absurdum is generally interpreted as meaning I believe it because it is absurd the proper Latin quotation Credo quia absurdum est
1991 Konzert fur Klavier und Kammerorchester 1984 Motette 2003 Credo quia absurdum 1991 Streichquartett Nr. 1 1973 74 Streichquartett Nr. 2 1976 77
antiquity and the New Testament. In 2017, Harrison demonstrated that the Credo quia absurdum was a quote misattributed to Tertullian in the Early Modern Period
that reason and faith may be hostile to each other. The statement Credo quia absurdum I believe because it is absurd is attributed to Tertullian from
all means to be believed, because it is absurd. The statement Credo quia absurdum I believe because it is absurd is sometimes cited as an example
moment must be lived fully. Philosophy portal Absurdist fiction Credo quia absurdum Discordianism Existential nihilism Existentialism Irrationality Is - ought
Creative Evolution book Creativity Credibility Credo quia absurdum Credo quia absurdum est Credo ut intelligam Crescens the Cynic Cressida Heyes Cries
fideism This phrase is commonly shortened to credo quia absurdum and is also sometimes rendered credo quia impossibile est I believe it because it is
is partially responsible for the misattribution of the expression Credo quia absurdum to the Church Fathers. In a letter to Frederick II, King of Prussia