Tertullian bigraphy, stories - Christian theologian

Tertullian : biography

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Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian (c. 160–c. 225 AD),T.D.Barnes, Tertullian: a literary and historical study'

Oxford, 1971 was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa.T. D. Barnes, Tertullian: a Historical and Literary Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), 58. He is 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. Tertullian has been called "the father of Latin Christianity"Ekonomou and "the founder of Western theology."Justo L. Gonzáles, The Story of Christianity, Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010), 91-93. 

Though conservative, he did originate and advance new theology to the early Church. He is perhaps most famous for being the oldest extant Latin writer to use the term Trinity (Latin, trinitas),"Trinitas" is itself a Latinization of the Greek "he trias" (the Triad), a term that was used earlier than Tertullian by Theophilus of Antioch in Ad Autolycum 2.15 to refer to God, God's Logos (Jesus), and God's Sophia (Holy Spirit) and giving the oldest extant formal exposition of a Trinitarian theology.In Adversus Praxean; see Barnes for a summary of the work. Other Latin formulations that first appear in his work are "three Persons, one Substance" as the Latin "tres Personae, una Substantia" (itself from the Koine Greek "treis Hypostases, Homoousios"). He wrote his trinitarian formula after becoming a Montanist. However, unlike many Church fathers, he was never canonized by the Catholic Church, as several of his later teachings directly contradicted the actions and teachings of the apostles.


Scant reliable evidence exists to inform us about Tertullian's life. Most history about him comes from passing references in his own writings.

According to church tradition, he was raised in CarthageCross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005 and was thought to be the son of a Roman centurion, a trained lawyer, and an ordained priest. These assertions rely on the accounts of Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History, II, ii. 4, and Jerome's De viris illustribus (On famous men) chapter 53.See introduction to Timothy Barnes, 'Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study; however Barnes retracted some of his positions in the 1985 revised edition Jerome claimed that Tertullian's father held the position of 'centurio proconsularis' ("aide-de-camp") in the Roman army in Africa.Jerome, 'Chronicon' 16.23-4 However, it is unclear whether any such position in the Roman military ever existed.Barnes, Timothy. 'Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study', Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1971, pg. 11

Further, Tertullian has been thought to be a lawyer based on his use of legal analogies and an identification of him with the jurist Tertullianus, who is quoted in the Pandects. Although Tertullian used a knowledge of Roman law in his writings, his legal knowledge does not demonstrably exceed that of what could be expected from a sufficient Roman education.Barnes, pg. 24,27 The writings of Tertullianus, a lawyer of the same cognomen, exist only in fragments and do not denote a Christian authorship. (Tertullianus was misidentified only much later with the Christian Tertullian by church historians.)Barnes, pg. 23 Finally, any notion of Tertullian being a priest is also questionable. In his extant writings, he never describes himself as ordainedBarnes, pg. 11 in the church and seems to place himself among the laity.Tertullian, De Exhortatione Castitatis 7.3 and De Monogamia 12.2

Roman Africa was famous as the home of orators. This influence can be seen in his style with its archaisms or provincialisms, its glowing imagery and its passionate temper. He was a scholar with an excellent education. He wrote at least three books in Greek. In them he refers to himself, but none of these are extant. His principal study was jurisprudence and his methods of reasoning reveal striking marks of his juridical training. He shone among the advocates of Rome, as Eusebius reports.

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