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Tertullian

(c. 150 - 240 CE)


TertullianTertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) was born around 150 CE. He was a Latin theologian from North Africa who converted to Christianity in 190. At that time, he became his worst apologist at that time. Tertullian’s teaching is a valuable resource for theology, especially for dogmatic theology.

He was born to a pagan family in Carthage, where he was rhetoric. Eusebius writes about him as a lawyer. He was baptized as an adult, the question of priestly ordination is unclear. He lived in marriage. He wrote a very personal treatise “To my wife” (Ad uxorem). Around 207 CE, he went to the Montanists and founded his own sect of Tertullians, who existed at the time of Augustine of Hippo.

Teaching


According to some, Tertullian rejected the feature of, for example, Origen the combination of Christian teaching with Greek philosophy as useless, impossible and harmful (because it leads to pride and heresy). According to Tertullian, Christian truth is the only truth needed and achievable, and access to it is obtained not by reason but by faith. Hence the formula of Tertullian, contained in the work De Carne Christi: The Son of God died, it is wholly credible, because it is absurd. When buried, he rose again to life. it is certain, because it is impossible (Et mortuus est Dei Filius, prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est. Et sepultus resurrexit; certum est, quia impossibile est). This sentence became the source of the popular saying “I believe because it is absurd” (credo, quia absurdum), whose authorship can be indirectly attributed to Tertullian.

His other known statements are: “The blood of the Christians is seed” (Semen est sanguis christianorum) recorded in Apologeticum 50, 13 (PL 1, 603).

After moving to Montanistic positions (circa 207), characterized by moral rigour, his teaching began to diverge from the universal teaching of the Church – especially with regard to issues of sin, forgiveness and marriage. Tertullian was the first Christian theologian to use Latin. It was thanks to him that the so-called Latin church. For Tertullian, Christians were people of a new higher nature, led by the Spirit, which was in line with Paul’s vision of Christian life (cf. Rom 8:14). He had millenarian views. He fought the Valentinian sect in the work Against Valentinians (Adversus Valentinianos).

As one of the first, he also noticed problems related to overpopulation and degradation of the natural environment by humans:

What most frequently meets our view (and occasions complaint), is our teeming population: our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly supply us from its natural elements; our wants grow more and more keen, and our complaints more bitter in all mouths, whilst Nature fails in affording us her usual sustenance. In very deed, pestilence, and famine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race; and yet, when the hatchet has once felled large masses of men, the world has hitherto never once been alarmed at the sight of a restitution of its dead coming back to life after their millennial exile. But such a spectacle would have become quite obvious by the balance of mortal.

Tertulian, De anima, XXX

Tertullian is one of the most known Old Christian writers.

He died in 240 CE.

Literary output


Catholic (orthodox) works

Written before c. 207 CE, referred to as Catholic or orthodox, in union with the faith of the Church:

  • Ad martyras
  • Ad nationes
  • Apologeticum
  • De testimonio animae
  • De praescriptione haereticorum
  • De spectaculis
  • De oratione
  • De baptismo
  • De patientia
  • De cultu feminarum
  • Ad uxorem
  • Adversus Hermogenem
  • Adversus Marcionem

Montanist works

Written after c. 207 CE:

  • De Pallio (ed. A. Gerlo)
  • Adversus Valentinianos (ed. Aem. Kroymann)
  • De Anima (ed. J.H. Wasznik)
  • De Carne Christi (ed. Aem. Kroymann) – (O Ciele Chrystusa).
  • De resurrectione mortuorum (ed. J. G. Ph. Borleffs)
  • De exhortatione castitatis (ed. Aem. Kroymann)
  • De corona (ed. Aem. Kroymann)
  • Scorpiace (ed. A. Reifferscheid, G. Wissowa)
  • De idolatria (ed. A. Reifferscheid, G. Wissowa)
  • Ad Scapulam ( ed. E. Dekkers)
  • De fuga in persecutione (ed. J.J. Thierry)
  • Adversus Praxean (ed. Aem. Kroymann et Ern. Evans)
  • De virginibus velandis (ed. E. Dekkers)
  • De monogamia, CCL 2, 1227-1253, ed. E. Dekkers; przekład polski: O jednożeństwie, tłum. E. Stanula, w: Wybór pism (3), s. 57-82.
  • De ieiunio (ed. A. Reifferscheid, G. Wissowa)
  • De pudicitia (ed. E. Dekkers)
  • De fato aliaque fragmenta (ed. A. Harnack)
  • Adversus Iudeos (ed. Aem. Kroymann)

Sources

  • Geoffrey D. Dunn, Tertullian, 2004
  • Jan Sajdak, Kwintus Septimiusz Florens Tertulian. Czasy, życie, dzieł

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