Bookmark and Share

Open the online Arabic language course

Christianity / Theology /
Full name: Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus

(Around 155-160-Around 220) North African Christian theologian and writer in Latin. Founder of an extinct sect, but in reality one of the founding fathers of Christianity in general.
Tertullian was central in the development of what was to be understood as Christian life and thought in the West. He gave important contributions to the body of Christian theological concepts, and is especially noted for being the first to use discuss and define the Trinity. In this he opposed Sabellianism.
His literary work is highly appreciated for its sarcasm, aggressive tone yet good reasoning.
His outlook was a very conservative one, he became attracted by Montanism for its stringent and hard moral; other Christians of the time he considered morally lax. Eventually, even the Montanist would not fit his ascetic ideals making him break from them to form his own sect, a sect that would survive into the 5th century.
His point of view was that Christian faith and practice could not compromise with the ways of the world in any form. He expressed much admiration for those willing to die for their faith.
Confusingly, Tertuallian is not considered completely fundamentalist and ascetic. In his writings he poses the question: "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?", in which he rejects Greek philosophy for understanding Christianity. Yet, it is normally alleged that there were many elements of the Greco-Roman culture that he adhered to, wishing to let surive into his own Christian life.
The explanation to this confusion is that he lived in a time when Christianity was yet in its formation. His approval for some, and rejection of other parts of his own culture really reflects that many basics of the Christian faith were still not clearly defined. There was not yet any fundamentalism established; fundamentalism was in its making, and Tertullian part of this process.
Tertullian wrote a large number of theological treatises, as many as 31 have survived. Despite his troubled relationship with the church, many of his writings are central in the body of patristic literature with the Roman Catholic Church.
Among his most famous works are Apologeticus, defending Christians facing the values of the non-Christian world; On the Claims of Heretics, in which he claimed that only the central authorities of the church could define the basic teaching of Christianity; while On Baptism and On Prayer are mainly important historical works, showing the earliest Christian practices.

Around 155-160: Born in Carthage (modern Tunisia).
— Receives an excellent education in subjects covering grammar, rhetoric, literature, philosophy and law.
190-195: Converts to Christianity.
197: Returns to Carthage and becomes a presbyter of the church.
Around 207: Converts to Montanism.
208: Writes Adversus Marcionem, against Marcionism.
212 or 213: Leaves the Catholic Church.
Around 220: Breaks with the Montanists, founding his own sect, known as Tertullianism (adherents: Tertullianists) that would survive into the 5th century.
Around 220-240: Dies in Carthage, but there are no indications to the year of death, except that he is reported to have lived to become an old man.

By Tore Kjeilen