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Joseph Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel Prayers of St. Francis of Assisi Prayer of St. Bonaventure Anima Christi Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas. Running A Bible Study. Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullian A. The Fathers of the Church spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, defended the Church in apologetic writing and fought the many heresies of the first six centuries of Christianity.

These men, also called Apostolic Fathers, gave special witness to the faith, some dying the death of a martyr. Like Jesus who referred to Abraham as a spiritual father Luke 24 and St. Paul, who referred to himself in the same terms 1 Corinthians 4: 15 , the Fathers were zealous for the word of God. Periodically we will provide biographical information and examples of the writing of these great men of faith.

This page will focus on Tertullian.

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A lawyer by profession, he converted to Christianity in A. His writings during his period of orthodoxy arguably represent the first in the new vernacular of the West, Latin, by a Christian author. His prolific writings are often quoted by later Christians, especially St. Jerome and St. His most famous work entitled simply, "Apology" is preserved in no less than 36 codices.

Written about A.

Apostolic Fathers

He died between A. For noone knows the Father except the Son, and to him whom the Son gives a revelation. Nor does it seem that the Son has given revelation to any others than the Apostles, whom He sent forth to preach what He revealed to them. But what they preached, that is, what Christ revealed to them--can be proved in no other way except through the same Churches which the Apostles founded, preaching in them themselves "viva voice" as they say, and afterwards by their Epistles. If these things are so then it follows that all doctrine that agrees with the apostolic Churches, those nurseries and original depositories of faith, must be regarded as truth.

And indeed, every doctrine must be prejudged as false, if it smells of anything contrary to the truth of the Churches and of the Apostles of Christ and God. We communicate with the apostolic Churches because there is no diversity of doctrine: this is the witness of truth" [John 11, 17]. For this is the way the apostolic Churches transmit their lists: like the Church of the Symrnaeans, which records that Polycarp was placed there by John; like the Church of the Romans, where Clement was ordained by Peter.

In just this same way the other Churches display those whom they have as sprouts from the apostolic seed, having been established in the episcopate by the Apostles. But we, little fishes, are born in water after the manner of our 'fish, '[using the Greek letters to symbolize Jesus] Jesus Christ, nor can we otherwise be saved, except by abiding permanently in the water. He had a deep conviction of God as judge and of men standing before the finality of Divine Law. Between and A. The gnosis or knowledge that the Gnostic leaders claimed to possess was theirs through some instantaneous illuminating process giving them understanding of the Word of God.

The Gnostics claimed to protect their believers not only from fate and the astral powers but also from error. The Gnostics proclaimed themselves Christians.

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They cared little for the beliefs of the orthodox communities. Knowledge, to them, was superior to faith. Theirs was the secret teaching of Jesus, passed on through His disciples, males and females, to the Gnostic teachers. They had little to say about the second coming and the last judgment. Considering themselves perfect they ridiculed the food regulations observed by orthodox Jews and orthodox Christians. They were skeptical about the value of imitating Christ through martyrdom.

To these tensions on the metaphysical level were added conflicts over moral obligations of the individual under the law resulting from Gnostic-type speculation.


This was the formidable polemical situation with which Tertullian had to contend. From A. He regarded Marcion as the most dangerous enemy of the church and wrote his longest single work against him. A more general attack on heresy is found in his Prescription against Heresies.

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The heretics, he maintained, had no right to the Scripture. The heretics will not listen and understand that a search is sensible when one does not yet know the truth, and that with Christ and His gospel, we have reached the end and goal of our seeking. True faith is always simple Against Marcion 5, Monarchianism was an unsatisfactory early answer to the problem that was to bring bitter division to the church in the fourth century, the problem of how to reconcile the divinity of Christ with the unity of God.

Tertullian made an important contribution to the debate in his Treatise against Praxeas.


Furthermore, he was not a philosopher and it is not easy to determine the precise meaning of the Latin words substantia and persona which he used. Nevertheless his teaching represented an achievement for future orthodoxy. Tertullian wrote a tract to encourage those about to suffer martyrdom. He rejected any compromise with the world and the affairs of the world.


The persecution edict of Septimus Severus against converts to Judaism and Christianity in - A. By this he would win forgiveness of his sins and spread the kingdom of Christ. His opposition to the orthodox clergy in Rome and Carthage was characteristic. He joined the Montanists. By this the new prophecy gained its greatest success. However, his conversion to Montanism did not mean the abandonment of previously held convictions. The Holy Spirit was perpetually active and its manifestation through the Phrygian prophetess was a further evidence that the end was imminent.

Tertullian accepted this advocacy for even sterner morality for the priesthood. He had allowed flight in time of persecution but in De Fuga he did not. He had conceded to a widow the right to remarry but in De Monogamin he refused it. It was the Holy Spirit who inspired the church and its members. Baptism, he contended, would not be administered by one who was in a state of sin. Martyrdom, for Tertullian, was a second baptism which would wash away sins committed after the first baptism.

Tertullian's works outlined Western Christian doctrine at its earliest stage

On confession, martyrdom became the aim of a Christian life. Tertullian wrote treatises on many aspects of chastity. His view may best be described in contrast with those of Callistus, Bishop of Rome, who was probably the object of his scorn in On Chastity. Callistus proclaimed the right of the bishop to grant forgiveness after suitable penance to those who had committed grave sins.

Callistus was faced with the question of whether he should bring sinners back by exercising clemency or whether by severity he should drive them back into paganism. He chose clemency. By this way alone, he believed. He was prepared to consign the world to perdition and save only the elect. Thus were the lines of the classic argument on the doctrine of the church laid down. Tertullian was in many ways the embodiment of the western spirit. This appears in the practical and non-speculative orientation of his thinking, in his emphasis upon the will and upon discipline, in his tendency towards social issues, and in the legalistic frameset of his thought.

In such an age, that a figure so turbulent and rebellious—he was a man in revolt against the Modalities or Monarchianism, against Gnosticism and the Marcionites, he wrote Against Praxeas —should have lived long and died a natural death at the ripe age of eighty is indeed curious. Christology is the doctrine of the person of Christ. In addition to this he was to fight against the disruptive and divisive tendencies of Marcion and Valentinus, two of the leaders of Gnosticism. Tertullian formed his Christological terminology to combat these forces.

The sources of his theological formulae were the Bible, Judaism, Gnosticism, popular and legal language. Stoicism was particularly helpful to him for theological reflection. In his endeavours against pagan polytheism, he first clarified the Christian concept of God, particularly the notion familiar among the Hellenistic Jews of Alexandria: the historical revelation of God which the Jews had received; the advent of the Son of God which had been prophesied and which, for the Christians, had taken place in Christ.

Tertullian, however, had to explain two things if he was not to give assistance to heathen polytheism: how this Son of God does not, as the Son, destroy the singleness of God and how it happened that he could become man in a way different from the heathen mythologies. Tertullian saw the framework in terms of an economic Trinity: God the Father remains the ruler and retains the sovereignty. But the administration of the rule is handed over to the Son. The monarchy, Tertullian explained, is further guaranteed by the inner unity in the substance of Father, Son and Spirit.

He therefore began his thinking from the unity of God. The Father is the guarantee of this unity of the monarchy. The Son Christ is assigned the second position and the Holy Spirit the third.

Church Fathers - New World Encyclopedia

Tertullian was not thinking of a purely static situation within God, the metaphysical Trinity, but of an economic, organic and dynamic threeness. His idea of unity is not mathematical but philosophical, an organic unity, not an abstract bare point, Father, Son and Spirit are in the one reality of God, For Tertullian, the second and third persons proceed from the unitas substantia because they had a task to fulfill. Only the Father remains completely transcendent.

Because Tertullian thus had the unfolding of the divine threeness already happening with a view to creation and redemption, the step to the doctrine of the Trinity was easily taken. The tri-personality of one God is an unconditional presupposition for his understanding of the mystery of the incarnation. Oshitelu, Ibadan, Nigeria. All rights reserved. This page is available in:. On the persecution of Christians, Tertullian wrote: But carry on, good officials.

On the charge of treason, Tertullian argued that Christians prayed for the safety of the emperor: But look at the Christian!