Quodvultdeus of Carthage

390 – 454
Ancient Christian Church

Quodvultdeus (whose name means “What God wills”), the fifth-century Bishop of Carthage, is a remarkable figure in early Christian history whose life and works have left an indelible mark on the theological landscape of his time. Born in the turbulent period of the decline of the Western Roman Empire, and harassed by the Vandal invasions of his native North Africa, Quodvultdeus navigated the treacherous waters of religious strife, persecution, and political turmoil.

Little is known about Quodvultdeus’ early life, but he may have been born in Carthage around the year 390 CE. His later writings reveal a rigorous education in theology and classical studies, which laid the foundation for his future role as a bishop and theologian. Quodvultdeus is first known through an exchange of letters with Augustine of Hippo in 428–429 CE. Then as a deacon in Carthage, Quodvultdeus entreated Augustine to compose a book on heresies for use by the Carthaginian clergy. Augustine at least conceded and produced On Heresies, to Quodvultdeus, which traced heretical groups from Simonian Gnosticism up to the Pelagians of Augustine’s own time.

Scholarly debates over the authenticity of texts ascribed to Quodvultdeus complicate the reconstruction of the remainder of his life, but there is a general consensus that he moved from deacon to assistant bishop of Carthage around 435 CE and then succeeded Capreolus as bishop of Carthage around 437 CE. It was likely during the mid 430s that Quodvultdeus produced three creedal homilies for catechumens in defense of the Nicene Creed against challenges from Jews, pagans, and heretics (particularly Arians).

This period of Quodvultdeus’ life was marked by religious controversies and disputes. The Carthaginian church already faced significant internal dissent as a result of the Donatist Controversy, and by the time Quodvultdeus became bishop, Gaiseric and the Vandal armies had already swept across much of North Africa (Augustine’s city of Hippo had fallen to them in 430 CE). The Vandals posed a political threat, but the theological threat from the Vandals, who were Arians, was just as real in the eyes of Quodvultdeus.

In 439 CE, Gaiseric violated a treaty with the Roman Empire and launched an assault on Carthage and the Roman navy docked in its port. He conquered the city and removed all non-Arian Christian leaders. Quodvultdeus, unwilling to renounce his faith or compromise his beliefs, chose exile over submission. According to the bishop and historian Victor of Vita, Quodvultdeus and the other clergy who refused to submit or convert were placed naked in leaky ships and sent out to sea. The intent was likely for them all to drown, but Quodvultdeus’ ship miraculously arrived safely in the port of Naples. Naples welcomed him with open arms, and there he found refuge to continue his theological pursuits for the remainder of his life.

His most famous work is the Book of Promises and Predictions of God, typically dated around 450 CE. This influential work of interpretation organizes biblical testimonia into three periods: before the law (of Moses), under the law, and under grace. The first two sections present numerous Old Testament figures and events as types of the Christ to come, while the final section argues that many Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the New Testament. This story of God’s “promises and predictions” was meant to encourage believers to be confident in God’s future faithfulness in fulfilling the remainder of his promises. It should be noted that his authorship of this work, alongside other treatises and sermons attributed to him, is still questioned by a few scholars.

Quodvultdeus’ death in Naples is commonly dated to 454 CE. He has been identified as a figure in a fifth-century mosaic in the Catacombs of San Gennaro on the slope of Capodimonte in Naples, which may indicate that he was buried there. He also became revered as a saint, for by the ninth century, a feast of St. Quodvultdeus was included in the local liturgical calendar.

Quodvultdeus disappeared from history for many centuries. Until the early 18th century, the Book of Promises and Predictions of God was incorrectly attributed to Prosper of Aquitaine. Similarly, his close association with Augustine led to a number of his works being attributed initially to Augustine, then later to Pseudo-Augustine. Careful work by textual critics in the 20th century at last restored Quodvultdeus to his rightful place as a significant author of the period. He was a prolific writer and addressed a wide range of theological and pastoral concerns. Some historians have suggested that if Augustine was the North African church’s great theologian of the fifth century, then Quodvultdeus was its great pastor in a period of uncertainty and upheaval. His unwavering commitment to the Nicene Creed and his fearless defense of orthodox Christianity in the face of great danger have earned him a lasting legacy in the annals of Christian history.

David L. Eastman


Braun René. 1964. Quodvultdeus : Livre Des Promesses Et Des Prédictions De Dieu. Paris: Ed. du Cerf.

Quodvultdeus Quodvultdeus and Thomas M Finn. 2004. Quodvultdeus of Carthage : The Creedal Homilies : Conversion in Fifth-Century North Africa. New York: Newman Press.

Secondary Literature:

D’Ovidio, Stefano. 2013. “Devotion and Memory : Episcopal Portraits in the Catacombs of San Gennaro in Naples.” Face of the Dead and the Early Christian World / Ed. by Ivan Foletti with the Collaboration of Alžběta Filipová, 85–106.

Kalkman Richard G and Quodvultdeus Quodvultdeus. 1963-1964. “Two Sermons: De Tempore Barbarico Attributed to St. Quodvultdeus Bishop of Carthage : A Study of Text and Attribution with Translation and Commentary.” Dissertation. Catholic University of America.

Van Slyke, Daniel. 2003. Quodvultdeus of Carthage : The Apocalyptic Theology of a Roman African in Exile. Strathfield Australia: St. Pauls.

Vopřada, David. 2020. Quodvultdeus : A Bishop Forming Christians in Vandal Africa : A Contextual Analysis of the Pre-Baptismal Sermons Attributed to Quodvultdeus of Carthage. Leiden: Brill.

This biography, received in February 2024, was written by Dr. David L. Eastman, Joseph Glenn Sherrill Chair of Bible, The McCallie School; Research Fellow, University of South Africa; Faculty Fellow, Universität Regensburg. It was initially published in the Journal of African Christian Biography, Vol. 9, issue 1 (Jan. 2024).