Tertullian, Quintus Septimius Florens

Tertullian, Quintus Septimius Florens
(c. 160-c. 220 ce)
   A brilliant North-African lawyer and theologian, Tertullian was the first to write theology in Latin. Thanks to his original formulations of doctrine and ruthless argument he became one of the most influential theologians of the early Church. Among his many distinctions, Tertullian coined the term Trinity (trinitas) and developed influential definitions of God as 'one substance in three persons' and Christ as 'one person in two natures'. Interestingly, Tertullian was influenced by the materialism of Stoicism, and seems to have held that even God exists as a rarefied form of matter, a nuance that was not carried forward by later theologians. Despite his rational and articulate defence of Christian faith, Tertullian is more often remembered among philosophers for his rhetorical extremes that appear to lead to an irrational fideism. Among them is his famous question 'What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?' and his description of the incarnation in De carne Christi: 'the Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd. And He was buried and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible' (Tertullian 1956: §5). Contrary to popular opinion, however, this is not an irrational statement, but rather a rhetorically appreciable argument that the crucifixion and resurrection are plausible precisely because they are so absurd a human being would never have concocted them.
   Further reading: Barnes 1985; Claesson 1974; Dunn 2004; Tertullian 1868-70, 1890-1957; 1954, 1956 and 2003; the Tertullian Project (web site)

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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