Thursday, 21 June 2012

Tertullian Story of his life

Tertullian Story of his life


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 Ecclesiastical writer in the second and third centuries, b. probably about 160 at Carthage, being the son of a centurion in the proconsular service.  He was evidently by profession an advocate in the law-courts, and he shows a close acquaintance with the procedure and terms of Roman law, though it is doubtful whether he is to be identified with a jurist Tertullian who is cited in the Pandects.  He knew Greek as well as Latin, and wrote works in Greek which have not come down to us.  A pagan until middle life, he had shared the pagan prejudices against Christianity, and had indulged like others in shameful pleasures.  His conversion was not later than the year 197, and may have been earlier.  He embraced the Faith with all the ardour of his impetuous nature.  He became a priest, no doubt of the Church of Carthage.  Monceaux, followed by d'Ales, considers that his earlier writings were composed while he was yet a layman, and if this be so, then his ordination was about 200.  His extant writings range in date from the apologetics of 197 to the attack on a bishop who is probably Pope Callistus (after 218).  It was after the year 206 that he joined the Montanist sect, and he seems to have definitively separated from the Church about 211 (Harnack) or 213 (Monceaux).  After writing more virulently against the Church than even against heathen and persecutors, he separated from the Montanists and founded a sect of his own.  The remnant of the Tertullianists was reconciled to the Church by St. Augustine.  A number of the works of Tertullian are on special points of belief or discipline.  According to St. Jerome he lived to extreme old age.
The year 197 saw the publication of a short address by Tertullian, "To the Martyrs", and of his great apologetic works, the "Ad nationes" and the "Apologeticus". The former has been considered a finished sketch for the latter; but it is more true to say that the second work has a different purpose, though a great deal of the same matter occurs in both, the same arguments being displayed in the same manner, with the same examples and even the same phrases. The appeal to the nations suffers from its transmission in a single codex, in which omissions of a word or several words or whole lines are to be deplored. Tertullian's style is difficult enough without such super added causes of obscurity. But the text of the "Ad nationes" must have been always rougher than that of the "Apologeticus", which is a more careful as well as a more perfect work, and contains more matter because of its better arrangement; for it is just the same length as the two books "Ad nationes".
The "Ad nationes" has for its entire object the refutation of calumnies against Christians. In the first place they are proved to repose on unreasoning hatred only; the procedure of trial is illogical; the offence is nothing but the name of Christian, which ought rather to be a title of honour; no proof is forthcoming of any crimes, only rumour; the first persecutor was Nero, the worst of emperors.  Secondly, the individual charges are met; Tertullian challenges the reader to believe in anything so contrary to nature as the accusations of infanticide and incest. Christians are not the causes of earthquakes and floods and famine, for these happened long before Christianity. The pagans despise their own gods, banish them, forbid their worship, mock them on the stage; the poets tell horrid stories of them; they were in reality only men, and bad men. You say we worship an ass's head, he goes on, but you worship all kinds of animals; your gods are images made on a cross framework, so you worship crosses. You say we worship the sun; so do you.  A certain Jew hawked about a caricature of a creature half ass, half goat, as our god; but you actually adore half-animals.  As for infanticide, you expose your own children and kill the unborn.  Your promiscuous lust causes you to be in danger of the incest of which you accuse us.  We do not swear by the genius of Caesar, but we are loyal, for we pray for him, whereas you revolt.  Caesar does not want to be a god; he prefers to be alive. You say it is through obstinacy that we despise death; but of old such contempt of death was esteemed heroic virtue.  Many among you brave death for gain or wagers; but we, because we believe in judgment.  Finally, do us justice; examine our case, and change your minds. The second book consists entirely in an attack on the gods of the pagans; they are marshaled in classes after Varro.  It was not, urges the apologist, owing to these multitudinous gods that the empire grew.
Out of this fierce appeal and indictment was developed the grander "Apologeticus", addressed to the rulers of the empire and the administrators of justice. The former work attacked popular prejudices; the new one is an imitation of the Greek Apologies, and was intended as an attempt to secure amelioration in the treatment of Christians by alteration of the law or its administration. Tertullian cannot restrain his invective; yet he wishes to be conciliating, and it breaks out in spite of his argument, instead of being its essence as before. He begins again by an appeal to reason.  There are no witnesses, he urges, to prove our crimes; Trajan ordered Pliny not to seek us out, but yet to punish us if we were known; — what a paralogism! The actual procedure is yet more strange.  Instead of being tortured until we confess, we are tortured until we deny... 
To some extent, how great we cannot tell, he must have invented a theological idiom and have coined new expressions. He is the first witness to the existence of a Latin Bible, though he seems frequently to have translated from the Greek Bible as he wrote. Zahn has denied that he possessed any Latin translation, but this opinion is commonly rejected, and St. Perpetua certainly had one at Carthage in 203…
Read more about this great saint… you will be amazed at the entire story.

Excerpts taken from Catholic Encyclopedia --