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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Tertullian VI: Marriage, Re-Marriage, and Military Service

This is a post which is a bit out of place, at least in order, as its purpose is to discuss how Tertullian’s thoughts changed over time and also how he viewed participation in aspects of life and society; in this case showing the difference in how he viewed mixed marriages and military service where these institutions are entered into by a Christian compared with someone who converts while already in a mixed marriage or the military. Tertullian doesn’t have much long-term impact on these issues but I think they reveal quite a bit about him.

I have additional areas to post on where Tertullian seems to have substantially impacted doctrine. However the next issue of this type I’m planning to address is complex and isn’t close to being ready. The other problem with this post is it addresses two aspects of Tertullian which overlap somewhat. Topically I consider it a bit sloppy but I can’t figure out how to separate them. It’s also quite long.

Marriage and Remarriage

This section is included more because I think this makes a nice example of how Tertullian’s thoughts changed over time than something which had a lasting impact. In his earlier writings Tertullian is on the ascetic side of the continuum but not so far as to be out of the mainstream arguing that while chastity is ideal, marriage is good:

“For we[Montanists] do not reject marriage, but simply refrain from it. Nor do we prescribe sanctity as the rule, but only recommend it, observing it as a good, yea, even the better state, if each man uses it carefully according to his ability; but at the same time earnestly vindicating marriage, whenever hostile attacks are made against it is a polluted thing, to the disparagement of the Creator. For He bestowed His blessing on matrimony also, as on an honourable estate, for the increase of the human race; as He did indeed on the whole of His creation, for wholesome and good uses.” Against Marcion (adverus Marcionem, I.XXIX

Note that in the above section he discusses Montanists as avoiding, but not condemning, marriage. Very suggestive of a monastic order. As I was reading this I thought Tertullian was the wrong person to choose to make an argument condemning Marcionites for prohibiting marriage.

A bit “cleaner” is:

“Concupiscence, however, is not ascribed to marriage even among the Gentiles, but to extravagant, unnatural, and enormous sins. The law of nature is opposed to luxury as well as to grossness and uncleanness; it does not forbid connubial intercourse, but concupiscence; and it takes care of our vessel by the honourable estate of matrimony. This passage (of the apostle) I would treat in such a way as to maintain the superiority of the other and higher sanctity, preferring continence and virginity to marriage, but by no means prohibiting the latter. For my hostility is directed against those who are for destroying the God of marriage, not those who follow after chastity.” Against Marcion V.XV

Contrast these with a passage written after the Montanist-Church conflict had reached its height:

“Finally, when he (Paul) says, ‘Better it is to marry than to burn,’ what sort of good must that be understood to be which is better than a penalty … If, on the other hand, comparison with evil is the mean which obliges it to be called good; it is not so much ‘good’ as a species of inferior evil which, when obscured by a higher evil, is driven to the name of good. Take away, in Short, the condition, so as not to say, ‘Better it is to marry than to burn;’ and I question whether you will have the hardihood to say, ‘Better (it is) to marry,’ not adding than what it is better. This done, then, it becomes not ‘better;’ and while not ‘better,’ not ‘good’ either, the condition being taken away which, while making it ‘better’ than another thing, in that sense obliges it to be considered ‘good.’ Better it is to lose one eye than two. If, however, you withdraw from the comparison of either evil, it will not be better to have one eye, because it is not even good.On Monogamy (de monogamia), III

Tertullian doesn’t quite come out and say marriage should be condemned, but this is pretty darn close.

A similar evolution exists regarding remarriage. Traditionally, a single remarriage was considered OK following a legal divorce. I believe adultery is the only reason which was usually considered valid at the time and in some cases this is available only to men whose wives strayed, not to women. A single remarriage is also acceptable following the death of a spouse though again, some authors only allow this if the widow is young. If not prohibited, it is at least often strongly discouraged that a woman over a certain age – often 50 – remarry; better that she become a member of the Order of Widows.

This is actually more a defense of the practice of divorce but it also allows for remarriage, however tepidly:

“I maintain, then, that there was a condition in the prohibition which He [Christ] now made of divorce; the case supposed being, that a man put away his wife for the express purpose of marrying another. His words are: ‘Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband, also committeth adultery,’ — ‘put away,’ that is, for the reason wherefore a woman ought not to be dismissed, that another wife may be obtained. For he who marries a woman who is unlawfully put away is as much of an adulterer as the man who marries one who is un-divorced. Permanent is the marriage which is not rightly dissolved; to marry, therefore, whilst matrimony is undissolved, is to commit adultery. …” Against Marcion IV.XXXIV

Similarly to marriage, remarriage suffers when Tertullian writes during this period of conflict:

“Therefore if those whom God has conjoined man shall not separate by divorce, it is equally congruous that those whom God has separated by death man is not to conjoin by marriage; the joining of the separation will be just as contrary to God’s will as would have been the separation of the conjunction. … A divorced woman cannot even marry legitimately; and if she commit any such act without the name of marriage, does it not fall under the category of adultery, in that adultery is crime in the way of marriage?” On Monogamy, IX

and for widows:

“Accordingly, it will be without cause that you will say that God wills not a divorced woman to be joined to another man “while her husband liveth,” as if He do will it ‘when he is dead;’ whereas if she is not bound to him when dead, no more is she when living. ‘Alike when divorce dissevers marriage as when death does, she will not be bound to him by whom the binding medium has been broken off.’ To whom, then, will she be bound? In the eye of God, it matters nought whether she marry during her life or after his death. For it is not against him that she sins, but against herself.” On Monogamy, IX

The Christian Entering Into a Mixed Marriage vs a Married Person Who Converts

One additional aspect of marriage is something which at first can appear contradictory (or at least I initially read it this way) which is what he thinks of marriage between a Christian woman and a non-Christian man.

Tertullian works through First Corinthians VII.12-16 discussing this issue. Here Paul advocates that if the two partners are willing, this type of mixed marriage is OK and, “Wife, for all you know you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.”

I am unaware of any earlier authors addressing this issue. If they did, I missed it. 1 Tertullian argues that this clause applies only to existing marriages, one in place when one partner converts. A woman finding herself married to a Pagan man should remain married to him, if possible. However it is strictly forbidden that a Christian woman enter into a marriage with a Pagan man. His logic in this is pretty solid. The Bible commands that a woman submit to her husband as the head of the family. Yet the Bible also commands that the Christian serve God. How can someone who marries an unbeliever serve both?

“Any and every believing woman must of necessity obey God. And how can she serve two lords – the Lord, and her husband – a Gentile to boot? For in obeying a Gentile she will carry out Gentile practices, – personal attractiveness, dressing of the head, worldly elegancies, baser blandishments, the very secrets even of matrimony tainted: not, as among the saints, where the duties of the sex are discharged with honour (shown) to the very necessity (which makes them incumbent), with modesty and temperance, as beneath the eyes of God.” To His Wife (ad uxorem), II.III

Anyone who takes such action is to be cast out from the Church:

“If these things are so, it is certain that believers contracting marriages with Gentiles are guilty of fornication, and are to be excluded from all communication with the brotherhood, in accordance with the letter of the apostle, who says that ‘with persons of that kind there is to be no taking of food even.'” To His Wife), II.III

He carefully makes a distinction between this and someone who converts after marriage. These unions are valid and, if both parties agree, may continue and may even be beneficial by, possibly, persuading the husband to convert:

“If these things may happen to those women also who, having attained the faith while in (the state of) Gentile matrimony, continue in that state, still they are excused, as having been ‘apprehended by God’ in these very circumstances; and they are bidden to persevere in their married state, and are sanctified, and have hope of ‘making a gain’ held out to them. If, then, a marriage of this kind (contracted before conversion) stands ratified before God, why should not (one contracted after conversion) too go prosperously forward, so as not to be thus harassed by pressures, and straits, and hindrances, and defilements, having already (as it has) the partial sanction of divine grace? ‘Because, on the one hand, the wife in the former case, called from among the Gentiles to the exercise of some eminent heavenly virtue, is, by the visible proofs of some marked (divine) regard, a terror to her Gentile husband, so as to make him less ready to annoy her, less active in laying snares for her, less diligent in playing the spy over her. He has felt “mighty works;” he has seen experimental evidences; he knows her changed for the better: thus even he himself is, by his fear, a candidate for God. Thus men of this kind, with regard to whom the grace of God has established a familiar intimacy, are more easily ‘gained.'” To His Wife), II.VII

It is interesting throughout his discussion of this issue, which involves all of Book II of To His Wife, that some portions of it seem to apply equally to men and women but many to women only. While he doesn’t come right out and say it, I suspect he thinks that a Christian man could command his wife to convert, or at least to refrain from traditional Roman religious practices.

Military Service

Tertullian’s views on military service by Christians are contradictory but in the end he comes to the same conclusion as with marriage; the Christian should not join the military, but the military man who converts may continue to serve. His Apology was the first thing I read and in it he discusses the army as being an aspect of Roman life which Christians participated in alongside non-Christians, “We sail with you, and fight with you, and till the ground with you; and in like manner we unite with you in your traffickings — even in the various arts we make public property of our works for your benefit.” Apology, XLII.

Later he becomes stricter:

“In that last section, decision may seem to have been given likewise concerning military service, which is between dignity and power. But now inquiry is made about this point, whether a believer may turn himself unto military service, and whether the military may be admitted unto the faith, even the rank and file, or each inferior grade, to whom there is no necessity for taking part in sacrifices or capital punishments. There is no agreement between the divine and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot be due to two masters — God and Caesar. And yet Moses carried a rod, and Aaron wore a buckle, and John (Baptist) is girt with leather and Joshua the son of Nun leads a line of march; and the People warred: if it pleases you to sport with the subject. But how will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away?” On Idolatry (de idolatria), XIX.

To me the two above passages are contradictory. In the first the fact that Christians serve militarily is a reason to consider them to be Roman and not to be persecuted. In the second, to me he forbids military service outright. However he spends substantial time in The Chaplet on military service and finally settles on a middle ground, sort of.

In The Chaplet he articulates a viewpoint similar to his opinion on marriage; that a Christian should not enter military service, but a military man who converts may continue in it. Tertullian clearly has difficulties with this. Similar to a woman in a mixed marriage having to serve two masters, here a man is forced to serve both God and Caesar. The New Testament specifically states that he who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword so Christians are strictly forbidden from taking life. Christians are forbidden from swearing oaths, yet entrance into the army requires this. Various Pagan rites accompany the military and warfare; even if the Christian does not actively participate, his passive acquiescence indicates acceptance of and even support for these heathen activities. Yet with all that, Tertullian finally says that, despite all of his misgivings and wafflings, a soldier who converts may continue in military service, recognizing that his soul will constantly be in peril and he must tread very carefully:

“Of course, if faith comes later, and finds any preoccupied with military service, their case is different, as in the instance of those whom John used to receive for baptism, and of those most faithful centurions, I mean the centurion whom Christ approves, and the centurion whom Peter instructs; yet, at the same time, when a man has become a believer, and faith has been sealed, there must be either an immediate abandonment of it, which has been the course with many; or all sorts of quibbling will have to be resorted to in order to avoid offending God, and that is not allowed even outside of military service; or, last of all, for God the fate must be endured which a citizen-faith has been no less ready to accept. … Suppose, then, that the military service is lawful, as far as the plea for the crown is concerned.” The Chaplet (de Corona), XI

This endorsement of military service by Christians isn’t lukewarm and it isn’t tepid. It’s frigid. But it is an endorsement, barely, and indicates a point in his life where Tertullian was able to make some allowances, however small, for the needs of the state, the realities of life, and public perception. Without this concession, military conversions would be minimal, almost eliminated – at least among those who had nearly completed their term and could look forward to retiring with a nice grant of land from the state. It is an indication that there was a time where Tertullian displays some flexibility, however slight.

1 While I don’t recall earlier Christian authors addressing this, later ones certainly did. A notable case is the marriage of Clovis and Clotild. While Gregory of Tours doesn’t give her full credit for Clovis’ conversion around the start of the 6th century, he clearly believes she has an impact. History of the Franks, II.30

Osborn, Eric, Tertullian, First Theologian of the West. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1997). ISBN: 978-0-521-52495-7.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1: The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-083-1.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 2: Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (entire), Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004). ISBN: 1-56563-084-X.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 3: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian: I. Apologetic; II. Anti-Marcion; III. Ethical. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-086-6.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 4: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, Part Fourth: Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-086-6.

Schaff, Philip and Wace, Henry, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Volume 3: Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historical Writings, etc. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2012), ISBN(for series): 978-1-56563-116-8.

Schaff, Philip and Wace, Henry, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Volume 6: The Principal Works of St. Jerome. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2012), ISBN(for series): 978-1-56563-116-8.

Thorpe, Lewis, trans., Gregory of Tours: The History of the Franks. London: Penguin Books (1974). ISBN: 9-780140-442953.

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Posted by on January 12, 2014 in Religion, Society and Social Structure

 

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Tertullian V: Purgatory

I have a few books here which talk about the evolution of the Doctrine of Purgatory and one of these days I really should read them. It’s possible I missed something with earlier authors (I seem to have focused on their arguments for bodily resurrection) but most seemed to feel that when you die, your path is set and your soul sleeps. Once awakened, you will either be judged worthy of heaven or be sentenced to hell. Some authors believe Saints and Martyrs will ascend to heaven immediately while normal believers sleep.

Purgatory_Cristobal_Rojas_46a
Painting by Cristobal Rojas (1890), depicting purgatory.
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Tertullian believes otherwise. In his Treatise on the Soul (de anima) he proposes that while in Hades, souls are aware. As a background to this, Tertullian adds some properties to souls which I’ve not previously come across (or if I have I didn’t note them). Unlike other authors, Tertullian believes that souls are corporeal and have substance. This happens to be one of the few areas where he agrees with ancient philosophers and even uses them as evidence. Treatise on the Soul, V-IX

As with other topics, Tertullian builds towards his argument that souls are awake in Hades and subject to punishment. I’m going to provide passages which will, I hope, help you understand the meticulous way he constructs this. He begins with a discussion of what happens to the soul during sleep. Sleep, he says, “is the very mirror of death.” (Treatise on the Soul, XLII) During sleep, the soul is alert and active:

“Our only resource, indeed, is to agree with the Stoics, by determining the soul to be a temporary suspension of the activity of the senses, procuring rest for the body only, not for the soul also. For the soul, as being always in motion, and always active, never succumbs to rest, — a condition which is alien to immortality: for nothing immortal admits any end to its operation; but sleep is an end of operation. It is indeed on the body, which is subject to mortality, and on the body alone, that sleep graciously bestows a cessation from work. … But yet it[the soul] dreams in the interval. Whence then its dreams? The fact is, it cannot rest or be idle altogether, nor does it confine to the still hours of sleep the nature of its immortality. It proves itself to possess a constant motion; it travels over land and sea, it trades, it is excited, it labours, it plays, it grieves, it rejoices, it follows pursuits lawful and unlawful; it shows what very great power it has even without the body, how well equipped it is with members of its own, although betraying at the same time the need it has of impressing on some body its activity again.” Treatise on the Soul, XLIII

He continues on this topic for several more chapters but hopefully this is enough to show where Tertullian was going with this. Sleep is akin to death. The soul is active through death as is evident from dreams. What’s left is to discuss what happens during death itself.

Hades is not just for the evil. All souls are consigned to it, but possibly to different regions. An interesting argument is when he asks how the soul of an infant, if it is not allowed to develop further, can be prepared to fully participate in God’s kingdom?

“Suppose it be an infant that dies yet hanging on the breast; or it may be an immature boy; or it may be, once more, a youth arrived at puberty: suppose, moreover, that the life in each case ought to have reached full eighty years, how is it possible that the soul of either could spend the whole of the shortened years here on earth after losing the body by death? One’s age cannot be passed without one’s body, it being by help of the body that the period of life has its duties and labours transacted. Let our own people, moreover, bear this in mind, that souls are to receive back at the resurrection the self-same bodies in which they died. Therefore our bodies must be expected to resume the same conditions and the same ages, for it is these particulars which impart to bodies their especial modes. By what means, then, can the soul of an infant so spend on earth its residue of years, that it should be able at the resurrection to assume the state of an octogenarian, although it had barely lived a month? Or if it shall be necessary that the appointed days of life be fulfilled here on earth, must the same course of life in all its vicissitudes, which has been itself ordained to accompany the appointed days, be also passed through by the soul along with the days? Must it employ itself in school studies in its passage from infancy to boyhood; play the soldier in the excitement and vigour of youth and earlier manhood; and encounter serious and judicial responsibilities in the graver years between ripe manhood and old age? Must it ply trade for profit, turn up the soil with hoe and plough, go to sea, bring actions at law, get married, toil and labour, undergo illnesses, and whatever casualties of weal and woe await it in the lapse of years? Well, but how are all these transactions to be managed without one’s body? Life (spent) without life? But (you will tell me) the destined period in question is to be bare of all incident whatever, only to be accomplished by merely elapsing. What, then, is to prevent its being fulfilled in Hades, where there is absolutely no use to which you can apply it?” Treatise on the Soul, LVI

Now the souls of those who will spend eternity in heaven may go to a different region of Hades, but this is their destination while they await judgement:

“So then, you will say, it is all the wicked souls that are banished in Hades. (Not quite so fast, is my answer.) I must compel you to determine (what you mean by Hades), which of its two regions, the region of the good or of the bad. If you mean the bad, (all I can say is, that) even now the souls of the wicked deserve to be consigned to those abodes; if you mean the good why should you judge to be unworthy of such a resting-place the souls of infants and of virgins, and those which, by reason of their condition in life were pure and innocent?” Treatise on the Soul, LVI

OK, so we have a soul which must be alert and spend time in Hades. We’ve been told that if it’s a very young soul, it’ll have the opportunity to age a bit. What about the rest of them? Tertullian doesn’t have them sitting around playing cards:

“All souls, therefore, are shut up within Hades: do you admit this? (It is true, whether) you say yes or no: moreover, there are already experienced there punishments and consolations; and there you have a poor man and a rich. And now, having postponed some stray questions for this part of my work, I will notice them in this suitable place, and then come to a close. Why, then, cannot you suppose that the soul undergoes punishment and consolation in Hades in the interval, while it awaits its alternative of judgment, in a certain anticipation either of gloom or of glory?” Treatise on the Soul, LVIII

There is no reason to think that a soul, on entering Hades, is worthy of entering Heaven, but neither is it lost:

“Now really, would it not be the highest possible injustice, even in Hades, if all were to be still well with the guilty even there, and not well with the righteous even yet?” Treatise on the Soul, LVIII

The solution is for the soul to be corrected, to learn and grow, in order to be worthy of resurrection:

“It is therefore quite in keeping with this order of things, that that part of our nature should be the first to have the recompense and reward to which they are due on account of its priority. In short, inasmuch as we understand ‘the prison’ pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades, and as we also interpret ‘the uttermost farthing’ to mean the very smallest offence which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection, when the recompense will be administered through the flesh besides.” Treatise on the Soul, LVIII

I’ve bolded for emphasis what I consider to be the key passages. For Tertullian, a soul destined for resurrection may still be made to suffer. He was a strong believer in penance as being necessary for the remission of sins during life; here he believes that this continues after death. Again, until I read further I won’t be able to assess how important Tertullian was in the development of Purgatory, but he’s certainly an early advocate for its existence.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1: The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-083-1.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 2: Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (entire), Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004). ISBN: 1-56563-084-X.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 3: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian: I. Apologetic; II. Anti-Marcion; III. Ethical. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-086-6.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 4: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, Part Fourth: Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-086-6.

Schaff, Philip and Wace, Henry, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Volume 3: Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historical Writings, etc. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2012), ISBN(for series): 978-1-56563-116-8.

Schaff, Philip and Wace, Henry, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Volume 6: The Principal Works of St. Jerome. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2012), ISBN(for series): 978-1-56563-116-8.

 

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Tertullian IV: Baptism and Original Sin

I had originally thought I’d have to wait a few days to post this but since about two-thirds of the State of Indiana is closed today, I have the oppotunity to get this out.

This post will be in two segments but Tertullian addresses these topics in such a way that I think they are related.

Baptism

Baptism_-_Saint_Calixte
Baptism portrayed in a third century painting found in the catacombs of San Callisto.
Image from Wikimedia Commons

While a single Baptism for the remission of sins had been a part of Christianity from the beginning, Tertullian wrote a treatise, On Baptism(de Baptismo) which spelled out the reasons for it and some of its attributes. Many of these concepts eventually became part of Christian Doctrine. The number one concept is this; without a baptism for the remission of sins, there can be no salvation. In other areas Tertullian talks about the Church forgiving post-baptismal sin (I’ll get to that later in this post) however he is very clear that without baptism, man cannot be saved.

“Here, then, those miscreants provoke questions. And so they say, ‘Baptism is not necessary for them to whom faith is sufficient; for withal, Abraham pleased God by a sacrament of no water, but of faith.’ But in all cases it is the later things which have a conclusive force, and the subsequent which prevail over the antecedent. Grant that, in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the passion and resurrection of the Lord. But now that faith has been enlarged, and is become a faith which believes in His nativity, passion, and resurrection, there has been an amplification added to the sacrament, the sealing act of baptism; the clothing, in some sense, of the faith which before was bare, and which cannot exist now without its proper law. For the law of baptizing has been imposed, and the formula prescribed: ‘Go,’ He saith, ‘teach the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ The comparison with this law of that definition, ‘Unless a man have been reborn of water and Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens,’ has tied faith to the necessity of baptism.” On Baptism, XIII

Faith alone is not enough. Baptism is an essential component of divine forgiveness. Tertullian believes the Church – priests and bishops – could forgive some sins. Obviously, without baptism one was not within the Church and could not take advantage of this (I don’t recall him specifically stating this but it’s a pretty logical inference). An important qualification to this is that children should not be baptized as they are unable to know Christ. If they do not know how to ask for salvation, how can baptism help them? These children are in the innocent period of their life and baptism is not yet necessary:

“And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary — if (baptism itself) is not so necessary — that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? Who both themselves, by reason of mortality, may fail to fulfil their promises, and may be disappointed by the development of an evil disposition, in those for whom they stood? The Lord does indeed say, ‘Forbid them not to come unto me.’ Let them ‘come,’ then, while they are growing up; let them ‘come’ while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ. Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the ‘remission of sins?’ More caution will be exercised in worldly matters: so that one who is not trusted with earthly substance is trusted with divine! Let them know how to ‘ask’ for salvation, that you may seem (at least) to have given ‘to him that asketh.'” On Baptism, XVIII

At some point (my understanding is that Augustine was a key influence on this) the Church began to advocate for infant baptism.

He has another interesting comment which I’ll offer:

“For no less cause must the unwedded also be deferred — in whom the ground of temptation is prepared, alike in such as never were wedded by means of their maturity, and in the widowed by means of their freedom — until they either marry, or else be more fully strengthened for continence.” On Baptism, XVIII

This will make no sense until you understand that Tertullian believed the Church could not forgive adultery and fornication, that God alone could forgive this sin. I’ll speak more on this later but Tertullian lists this, along with Adultery and Murder as his “big three” sins which the Church was unable to provide remission for. Here he’s arguing that when there’s a high chance of sexual incontinence, people should not be baptized but wait until they were either married, took vows of chastity as virgins, or entered the order of widows. I’ll be returning to this passage when I get to the section on adultery and fornication.

Original Sin

Another concept that existed from the beginning of Christianity is the idea that Christ came to Earth as a means by which man might be forgiven for his sins. Irenaeus is the earliest author I recall (I won’t swear someone else didn’t bring it up) who firmly linked this to Adam’s fall. 1 As with many other topics, Tertullian expands on this and focuses the theme. Man is sinful and carries the sin of Adam with him. It is part and parcel of us, as much a portion of our being as breathing. Through baptism, this heritage of sin is washed clean and absolved. (On Baptism, V) Tertullian returns to this theme frequently however this passage neatly sums up his thoughts:

“Every soul, then, by reason of its birth, has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ; moreover, it is unclean all the while that it remains without this regeneration; and because unclean, it is actively sinful, and suffuses even the flesh (by reason of their conjunction) with its own shame.” On the Soul (de anima, XL

He returns to this theme frequently:

“(This he[Paul] says) in order, on the one hand, to distinguish the two authors — Adam of death, Christ of resurrection; and, on the other hand, to make the resurrection operate on the same substance as the death, by comparing the authors themselves under the designation man. For if ‘as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,’ their vivification in Christ must be in the flesh, since it is in the flesh that arises their death in Adam.” On the Resurrection of the Flesh (de resurrectione mortuorum), XLVIII.

This sin is present with man until Baptism, it is an undeniable part of us:

“Just as no soul is without sin, so neither is any soul without seeds of good. Therefore, when the soul embraces the faith, being renewed in its second birth by water and the power from above, then the veil of its former corruption being taken away, it beholds the light in all its brightness. It is also taken up (in its second birth) by the Holy Spirit, just as in its first birth it is embraced by the unholy spirit.” On the Soul, XLI.

This is an important evolution in the development of the Doctrine of Original Sin. I hesitate to say that Tertullian created it as the idea of Adam’s guilt had been around since the first days of Christianity, but he was much more explicit in stating that every person on Earth was stained with it. While the belief that infants must be baptized to be purified of this came later, Tertullian takes us a long way toward what came to be accepted as Orthodox belief.

1 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V.XVI. It’s important to note that for Irenaeus, Adam’s sin was nothing more (or less) than disobedience.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1: The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-083-1.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 2: Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (entire), Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004). ISBN: 1-56563-084-X.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 3: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian: I. Apologetic; II. Anti-Marcion; III. Ethical. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-086-6.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 4: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, Part Fourth: Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-086-6.

Schaff, Philip and Wace, Henry, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Volume 3: Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historical Writings, etc. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2012), ISBN(for series): 978-1-56563-116-8.

Schaff, Philip and Wace, Henry, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Volume 6: The Principal Works of St. Jerome. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2012), ISBN(for series): 978-1-56563-116-8.

 
 

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This Bugs Me II

I’ve posted before about being a stats geek. Yesterday I received several hits from a site which apparently offers my World Lit Only By Fire Review as a free pdf download. Now I have no problem with someone reposting this review, reblogging it, etc. Heck, this blog is free – I just wish it was a better review. My problem is when I go to a site and in order to get it, you have to click on something titled: Attention, you need to make free Credit Card verification to start download this pdf file.

Beyond the grammar error, I don’t know what sort of cookies this will load on their computer but someone will have the reader’s cc information. If you’re going to give this review(or any of my other material) away – which is fine – give it away. No conditions. I’ve included the text of the link below, without hyperlinking it (had to add a few DOT’s and SLASH’s so WP wouldn’t try to be psychic and make it a hyperlink even though I don’t want it to). And to be fair to the site, today when I click on it the publication title is a karaoke cloud song list. So maybe they’ve already taken it down. But it bugs me anyway.

wwwDOTmuebooksDOTcomSLASHbook-review-a-world-lit-only-by-fire–medieval-history-geek-PDF-225646335DOThtml

I’m planning to put up a Tertullian post about every other day. There will be a delay though as I’m at a conference Monday-Wednesday (fortunately nearby so I can commute) I could time my post releases but I like to create the post, see how it looks on the blog, then make tweaks if something doesn’t read right.

I know, I should have everything 100% proofed and ready to fly when I click “publish.” But I never know quite how it will look until it’s up (I type in my own code so I use the text editor). Plus it’s a friggin’ blog. Anyway, I don’t want to have something up without it being fixed for several hours so it’ll be Thursday at the earliest. I still have three sections to finish on the full post so I’m not sure how many I’ll end up with.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2014 in Blogology

 

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Tertullian III: Defining the Trinity

With Tertullian’s philosophy out of the way, I want to turn to areas where he seems to have influenced matters of Christian Doctrine and Dogma. Keep in mind while reading these that I am not an expert on religious history or modern Christianity. If I’ve come across something and it seems relevant I’ll mention it but there are areas where something may have been accepted as Doctrine by the Catholic but not the Eastern Orthodox Church, or something that a Protestant Church or Churches decided wasn’t doctrine after The Reformation (the big one of the 16th century, not any of the other ones). I’ll be doing well if I can keep what’s Doctrine separate from Dogma separate from what ended up being points of discussion/conflict. Fortunately, for this first topic it’s easy as this is Doctrine accepted in every Christian Church that I know of (with the exception of a few heresies).

Setting aside his influence on Augustine, which I can’t begin to quantify at this point, I think Tertullian’s area of greatest impact was on the nature of the Trinity. The Godhead had been described in Trinitarian terms for quite some time. Ignatius makes references to it and Justin Martyr does as well. Theophilus of Antioch takes this one step further in referring to God as a Trinity. 1

While early Christian authors clearly recognize that the Godhead consists of three entities, they have trouble expressing exactly what they mean. In some cases God comes across as three beings, in others as one being with three aspects. Christians were accused, particularly by Jews, of being polytheists. And Romans/Pagans never seemed to have much of an idea exactly what was being talked about. Tertullian tackles this and I have to give him his props – he does it brilliantly.

Dogmatic Sarcophagus
Dogmatic Sarcophagus believed to be the earliest surviving depiction of the Trinity, 350 A.D.
Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Around 206 it appears that Montanists were either driven out of the Church or their beliefs were declared invalid. An individual by the name of Praxeas appears to have been significant in this event and a few years later Tertullian wrote, Against Praxeas as a personal attack. In it, Praxeas is accused of being Monarchist; believing that the Godhead is made of one being with three aspects. To be fair, it’s unclear is Praxeas actually believed this; he may have been lumped into this category with other anti-Montanists, but this is unimportant compared with Tertullian’s argument.

I’ll try to cover Tertullian’s key points. As he keeps coming back to and adding to them, I’m not going to try to cite every single place where he discusses them, just specific parts of the text where I think you can figure out what he meant. If you’re interested in the development of Trinitarian Doctrine, Against Praxeas is essential reading. You can find an online version on Roger Pearse’s site, The Tertullian Project. You can also find the Ante-Nicene Fathers version online if you want to read the same thing I did.

The entire treatise could have as easily been been titled, On the Trinity as this is almost exclusively what it is about. Tertullian opens with a statement ridiculing the fact that certain Christians have been inspired by the Devil and have fallen into error in believing that the Christian Godhead is a single individual, “He [the Devil] says the the Father Himself came down into the Virgin, was Himself born of her, Himself suffered, indeed was Himself Jesus Christ.” (Against Praxeas, I) Pretty strong stuff (unfortunately Tertullian goes on for another several hundred words, IMO he could have quit right there).

Tertullian spends the next thirty chapters on his Trinitarian theory. I’ll briefly cover his main points.

1. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three individual entities, but inseparable from each other:

“… one cannot believe in One Only God in any other way than by saying that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the very selfsame Person. As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Against Praxeas, II

2. The Son is equivalent to God’s Word. While begotten, He was present with the Father from the Beginning, as God always had his Word, though this Word was not revealed until the world was created and there was something to reveal it to. Tertullian spends a lot of time on this in Against Praxeas – Chapters 5-8 and 12. Obviously I can’t include all of this here but there are a few key quotes I think will help:

“Yet even not then was He alone; for He had with Him that which He possessed in Himself, that is to say, His own Reason. For God is rational, and Reason was first in Him; and so all things were from Himself. This Reason is His own Thought (or Consciousness) which the Greeks call λόγος, by which term we also designate Word or Discourse … and therefore it is now usual with our people, owing to the mere simple interpretation of the term, to say that the Word was in the beginning with God; although it would be more suitable to regard Reason as the more ancient; because God had not Word from the beginning, but He had Reason even before the beginning; because also Word itself consists of Reason, which it thus proves to have been the prior existence as being its own substance.” Against Praxeas, V

So for eternity God had Reason with him. And his reason became God’s Word:

“Whatever you think, there is a word; whatever you conceive, there is reason. You must needs speak it in your mind; and while you are speaking, you admit speech as an interlocutor with you, involved in which there is this very reason, whereby, while in thought you are holding converse with your word, you are (by reciprocal action) producing thought by means of that converse with your word. Thus, in a certain sense, the word is a second person within you, through which in thinking you utter speech, and through which also, (by reciprocity of process,) in uttering speech you generate thought. The word is itself a different thing from yourself. Now how much more fully is all this transacted in God, whose image and likeness even you are regarded as being, inasmuch as He has reason within Himself even while He is silent, and involved in that Reason His Word! I may therefore without rashness first lay this down (as a fixed principle) that even then before the creation of the universe God was not alone, since He had within Himself both Reason, and, inherent in Reason, His Word, which He made second to Himself by agitating it within Himself.” Against Praxeas, V

The Son is the Word of God and so, while begotten, has been with him from the beginning:

“Then, therefore, does the Word also Himself assume His own form and glorious garb, His own sound and vocal utterance, when God says, ‘Let there be light.’ This is the perfect nativity of the Word, when He proceeds forth from God—formed by Him first to devise and think out all things under the name of Wisdom — ‘The Lord created or formed me as the beginning of His ways;’ then afterward begotten, to carry all into effect — ‘When He prepared the heaven, I was present with Him.’ Thus does He make Him equal to Him: for by proceeding from Himself He became His first-begotten Son, because begotten before all things; and His only-begotten also, because alone begotten of God, in a way peculiar to Himself, from the womb of His own heart—even as the Father Himself testifies: ‘My heart,’ says He, ‘hath emitted my most excellent Word.'” Against Praxeas, VII

3. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son:

“The same remark (I wish also to be formally) made by me with respect to the third degree in the Godhead, because I believe the Spirit to proceed from no other source than from the Father through the Son.” Against Praxeas, IV. He also covers this in Apology, XXI.

4. A very key concept which I’ve not seen expressed by earlier authors is that while the Trinity are three individuals, they are of the same substance. He opens with this in Against Praxeas, II (see above) and expands on this throughout. In Against Praxeas, VIII he provides some useful analogies to illustrate this. The sun gives off rays, a stream flows from a fountain and a tree grows from the root. In each of these cases you can look at the rays, stream and tree as the offspring of the sun, fountain and root, respectively. Yet they are never separate from their source and are of the same substance.

There are still problems with this when viewed with later developments in mind. Tertullian’s order of precedence was a point of contention, particularly the Son proceeding from the Father, and is not part of the Nicene Creed. Overall this is a very significant text. Tertullian uses much of the language which would become part of the Nicene Creed:

“… we believe Him to have suffered, died, and been buried, according to the Scriptures, and, after He had been raised again by the Father and taken back to heaven, to be sitting at the right hand of the Father, and that He will come to judge the quick and the dead …” Against Praxeas, II

You can also find similar language in Prescription Against Heretics, XIII.

And then there is this:

“Thus Christ is Spirit of Spirit, and God of God, as light of light is kindled.” Apology, XXI

Maybe these ideas were already present in the Church and he’s simply the first to write about them but nobody prior to Tertullian even began to describe the Trinity in these terms. Much of his language found its way into the Nicaean Creed. In looking at the impact of Tertullian on the development of Christianity, this is huge.

1 Ignatius is unclear (to me anyway) on whether he considers the Holy Spirit to be completely separate from Christ. For example, in his Letter to the Magnesians, XV, he concludes the letter with, “Fare ye well in harmony, ye who have obtained the inseparable Spirit, in Christ Jesus, by the will of God.” Also see, Letter to the Philadelphians, IV & VI, and Letter to the Smyrnaeans XII. Justin makes more of a distinction, as in his First Apology V. For Theophilus see, To Autolycus II.XV.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1: The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-083-1.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 2: Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (entire), Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004). ISBN: 1-56563-084-X.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 3: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian: I. Apologetic; II. Anti-Marcion; III. Ethical. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-086-6.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 4: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, Part Fourth: Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-086-6.

Schaff, Philip and Wace, Henry, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Volume 3: Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historical Writings, etc. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2012), ISBN(for series): 978-1-56563-116-8.

Schaff, Philip and Wace, Henry, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Volume 6: The Principal Works of St. Jerome. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2012), ISBN(for series): 978-1-56563-116-8.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2014 in Religion

 

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Tertullian II: Against Philosophy

I’m going to open this post with a brief discussion of Tertullian’s method of argument before moving on to where he represents a major change in the direction of religious discussion which is his opinion of philosophy itself. I wanted to talk about this before addressing areas where he has influenced the development of doctrine and dogma.

As I mentioned in the first post, Tertullian does not use methods of argument common to Platonism. Platonic discussions do not seek to arrive at “the truth” but to, through rational, reasoned argument and discourse, draw ever closer to an understanding of the truth. A Platonist will not want to shut off an argument. He will want to “win” it, but still this will not mean that all discussion has ended. The search for truth will go on and through good argument, Platonists will continually approach it.

Stoicism, which much more closely resembles Tertullian’s method, believes in a world in conflict where it has achieved a balance between opposites. There is good and evil, passion and dispassion, heat and cold, dry and wet. These opposites are at war with one another. In addition, truth is identifiable. It can be found and distinguished from fallacy. Tertullian approaches many (most?) of his topics as if he has the absolute truth. This does not mean that his arguments are less labyrinthine, complex and lengthy than, say, Clement of Alexandria’s. However Tertullian offers his opinions as truths, not something which may be interpreted to be the truth. While this approach is different from prior Christian writers, mostly, this still represents a Classical inheritance as Stoicism was an active philosophical school with many adherents.

Where Tertullian marks a substantial break from earlier Christian writers is his opinion of, and use of, ancient philosophers. He obviously has received a Classical Education. He refers to philosophers often enough (usually negatively) to reveal his knowledge. However for Tertullian, there is one source of truth. He relies almost exclusively (there are a few exceptions) on scripture when making his arguments. While some others use the Old Testament on a par with him, he easily outdistances all prior Christian authors in utilizing the New Testament. He uses the Gospels and Acts extensively and refers to the Pauline Letters even more. Unlike Clement or Origen, Christianity is not one of the schools of philosophy but The One Truth. Philosophers are in error and have been misled by Demons. For Tertullian the source of and inspiration for heresy is not any of the usual subjects; Simon Magus, Valentinus, Marcion, or even Lucifer. It is the philosophers:

“We should then be never required to try our strength in contests about the soul with philosophers, those patriarchs of heretics, as they may be fairly called. … Whatever noxious vapours, accordingly, exhaled from philosophy, obscure the clear and wholesome atmosphere of truth, it will be for Christians to clear away, both by shattering to pieces the arguments which are drawn from the principles of things — I mean those of the philosophers — and by opposing to them the maxims of heavenly wisdom — that is, such as are revealed by the Lord; in order that both the pitfalls wherewith philosophy captivates the heathen may be removed, and the means employed by heresy to shake the faith of Christians may be repressed.” Treatise on the Soul (de anima), III

and:

“These are ‘the doctrines’ of men and ‘of demons’ produced for itching ears of the spirit of this world’s wisdom: this the Lord called ‘foolishness,’ and ‘chose the foolish things of the world’ to confound even philosophy itself. For (philosophy) it is which is the material of the world’s wisdom, the rash interpreter of the nature and the dispensation of God. Indeed heresies are themselves instigated by philosophy.Prescription Against Heretics (de praescriptione haereticorum), VII

OK, we’ve seen earlier Christian authors such as Irenaeus and Justin Martyr point out errors of philosophers, though I don’t recall anyone tossing out all of them at one time (Tertullian does name specific philosophical schools and even which heresies were inspired by which school). However where Tertullian foreshadows what would later become a common theme among Church authorities is with statements like this:

“From all these, when the apostle[Paul] would restrain us, he expressly names philosophy as that which he would have us be on our guard against. Writing to the Colossians, he says, ‘See that no one beguile you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, and contrary to the wisdom of the Holy Ghost.’ He had been at Athens, and had in his interviews (with its philosophers) become acquainted with that human wisdom which pretends to know the truth, whilst it only corrupts it, and is itself divided into its own manifold heresies, by the variety of its mutually repugnant sects. What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? what between heretics and Christians? Our instruction comes from ‘the porch of Solomon,’ who had himself taught that ‘the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart.’ Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief. For this is our palmary faith, that there is nothing which we ought to believe besides.” Prescription Against Heretics, VII

and, expounding on the meaning of Matthew, VIII, “Seek and Ye shall find:”

“You must ‘seek’ until you ‘find,’ and believe when you have found; nor have you anything further to do but to keep what you have believed provided you believe this besides, that nothing else is to be believed, and therefore nothing else is to be sought, after you have found and believed what has been taught by Him who charges you to seek no other thing than that which He has taught. When, indeed, any man doubts about this, proof will be forthcoming, that we have in our possession that which was taught by Christ. Meanwhile, such is my confidence in our proof, that I anticipate it, in the shape of an admonition to certain persons, not ‘to seek’ anything beyond what they have believed — that this is what they ought to have sought, how to avoid interpreting, ‘Seek, and ye shall find,’ without regard to the rule of reason.” Prescription Against Heretics, IX

and:

“What you have ‘to seek,’ then, is that which Christ has taught, (and you must go on seeking) of course for such time as you fail to find, — until indeed you find it. But you have succeeded in finding when you have believed. For you would not have believed if you had not found; as neither would you have sought except with a view to find. Your object, therefore, in seeking was to find; and your object in finding was to believe. All further delay for seeking and finding you have prevented by believing. The very fruit of your seeking has determined for you this limit. This boundary has He set for you Himself, who is unwilling that you should believe anything else than what He has taught, or, therefore, even seek for it. If, however, because so many other things have been taught by one and another, we are on that account bound to go on seeking, so long as we are able to find anything, we must (at that rate) be ever seeking, and never believe anything at all.Prescription Against Heretics, X

and not to wear this point out but let me add:

“But yet, if I have believed what I was bound to believe, and then afterwards think that there is something new to be sought after, I of course expect that there is something else to be found, although I should by no means entertain such expectation, unless it were because I either had not believed, although I apparently had become a believer, or else have ceased to believe. If I thus desert my faith, I am found to be a denier thereof.Prescription Against Heretics, XI

I’ve bolded a few points for emphasis and probably overdid it with the number of quotes but we see this quite often as we move into the medieval period; where your run-of-the-mill Christian is instructed not to seek for further knowledge without the guidance of a learned cleric. Seeking after knowledge can be dangerous if someone isn’t there to help explain things. This type of prohibition/admonition really takes off in the later Middle Ages. Jan Hus, despite not seeming particularly heretical, is condemned and executed, largely for preaching the gospel though not a recognized cleric. Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible into the vernacular was condemned by the Church (though his anti-clericalism probably didn’t win him a lot of fans among the hierarchy).

There is an interesting twist though. The Church never, as far as I’m aware, officially forbade people to read philosophical texts. What they did forbid was for laypeople to preach or instruct, at least without religious supervision. And in the earlier Medieval Period they didn’t get that excited about people having copies of the Bible and a great many people had portions of a Bible; a prayer book or other devotional aid.

Still, when I read this admonition, it reminded me of Jerome; how he felt drawn to but despised philosophical writings. 1 And of course it also reminded me of the objections of religious authorities to someone going out and seeking after religious truth on his or her own, though this was never as extensively done as is sometimes portrayed. It was when I read this portion of Tertullian where I seriously started thinking of him as an anti-Clement. 2

This break with philosophy is important. During the first couple of centuries, Christian authors seemed to view their new belief system as one among many philosophical schools. After Nicaea, in particular when we get to the late 4th century, this had changed. Christianity was now the Truth. Christian authors still received Classical educations but now they used what they learned to utilize scripture to make their arguments. It was a merging of Classical and Christian which involved the use of Classical methods and Christian evidence. Their arguments were structured using scripture, not Plato. Tertullian is the first example of this that I’ve come across.

1 Jerome, Letters, XXII.30

2 I don’t mean that Tertullian writes in direct opposition, just that his ideas run in the opposite direction. Tertullian never mentions Clement, or Origen who is also much more Platonic, by name and, as far as I can tell, may not even be aware of their existence.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1: The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-083-1.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 2: Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (entire), Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004). ISBN: 1-56563-084-X.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 3: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian: I. Apologetic; II. Anti-Marcion; III. Ethical. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-086-6.

Roberts, Alexander & Donaldson, James, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 4: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, Part Fourth: Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2004), ISBN: 1-56563-086-6.

Schaff, Philip and Wace, Henry, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Volume 3: Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historical Writings, etc. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2012), ISBN(for series): 978-1-56563-116-8.

Schaff, Philip and Wace, Henry, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Volume 6: The Principal Works of St. Jerome. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (2012), ISBN(for series): 978-1-56563-116-8.

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Religion

 

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