Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus: “Fiery” Father of the Church

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  • Topic: God, Atheism, Tertullian
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  • Published : April 27, 2013
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Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus: “Fiery” Father of the Church

Tertullian is one of the most quotable, and often misquoted, Church Fathers. As a polemicist, Tertullian uses his gift for delivering the penetrating phrase that lingers in the memory long after the context or controversy that he addressed has been forgotten. He is described as someone who "laminated fusion of arguments and scriptures in a way which breaks new ground." He is a person with a distinct personality who is known as the first Latin theologian who is well known in the West. He is an innovator who made his own way of saying things by using the common words and arranging them in such a way that it suits well to everybody's inner disposition with conviction. He is also "the most prolific of the Latin Fathers. Of the fiery and rugged temperament, he is by nature a rebel and would hardly have fitted happily into any milieu." He wrote a number of works, which manifest his seemingly undesirable personality, yet came out to be productive in the realm of theology and history of the church. One of those writings is Adversus Hermogenem, a doctrinal and polemical writing against the Gnostic and painter named Hermogenes. In that work, he defended vigorously the doctrine of creation which Hermogenes interpreted in a heretical manner. In this paper I will discuss the argument between these two ancient personalities who throw from every possible points, different ways of thinking about opposing factors; God and matter, theology and philosophy, and science and scripture. Tertullian was born probably between years 150 and 160. "He was from the province of Africa, from the city of Carthage where his father was a proconsul centurion." He grew up in a pagan family. He was born a member of the educated classes, and clearly gained a good education. A rigorist in his moral code, he grew more and more extreme until finally he became a heretic. "Life in his times was not very different in some ways to the modern day — he indulged his passions as he saw fit, including sex, and like everyone else attended the games where gladiators killed each other and criminals were eaten alive, for the enjoyment of the spectators." "He may possibly have had himself initiated in the mysteries of Mithra." While Christians during his time were killed in such a way, Tertullian was amazed with such courage. That led him to investigate about them. That eventually converted him into a Christian later to defend through his writing such violence. Tertullian, a married man, was of service to his church during his time. Despite his responsibilities in his own family, he made himself "available for the instruction of catechumens, candidates for baptism, and newly converted." As proposed by St. Jerome as presbyter, he also "preached" for sometime by delivering spiritually instructive speeches before the congregation. His writing career began when Latin was the growing language of the church. It means that new terminologies were being made and grammar was being adopted from what they usually had in Carthage. As a prolific writer, "his crisp and terse style makes a heavy demand on the reader's attention." He is described as a "man clearly with a quarrel on his hands." He has his full control of his language so that his expressions were sharp and clear. He is "the first important ecclesiastical writer to use Latin." He exuberantly embraced the gospel and ably used his legal skills to defend Christianity from pagan attackers. Most of his writings were apologetic against Christian heretics. He was effective in such field because of his complete command of language. Tertullian knew what he was writing. His writings were rooted on the different situations of his own time, which is why some say that it is difficult to understand them apart from their context. The writings of Tertullian...
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