Monday, April 24, 2017

Tertullian on Scriptures?

From Tertullian, De Praescriptionibus Haereticorum, or The Prescription against Heretics, Chapter 36
“Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally. Achaia is very near you, (in which) you find Corinth. Since you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi; (and there too) you have the Thessalonians. Since you are able to cross to Asia, you get Ephesus. Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy, you have Rome, from which there comes even into our own hands the very authority (of apostles themselves). How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood! Where Peter endures a passion like his Lord’s! Where Paul wins his crown in a death like John’s where the Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile! See what she has learned, what taught, what fellowship has had with even (our) churches in Africa! One Lord God does she acknowledge, the Creator of the universe, and Christ Jesus (born) of the Virgin Mary, the Son of God the Creator; and the Resurrection of the flesh; the law and the prophets she unites in one volume with the writings of evangelists and apostles, from which she drinks in her faith. This she seals with the water (of baptism), arrays with the Holy Ghost, feeds with the Eucharist, cheers with martyrdom, and against such a discipline thus (maintained) she admits no gainsayer. This is the discipline which I no longer say foretold that heresies should come, but from which they proceeded. However, they were not of her, because they were opposed to her. Even the rough wild-olive arises from the germ of the fruitful, rich, and genuine olive; also from the seed of the mellowest and sweetest fig there springs the empty and useless wild-fig. In the same way heresies, too, come from our plant, although not of our kind; (they come) from the grain of truth, but, owing to their falsehood, they have only wild leaves to show.”
[Bold emphasis mine] Translated by Peter Holmes, From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3, edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885

Translation of parts found in The Canon of the Holy Scriptures: Examined in the Light of History by Louis Gaussen:
“How happy is this church, how happy! She knows one only God, creator of all things; a Christ Jesus born of virgin, Son of the God Creator; and a resurrection of the body. She blends the law and the prophets with the writings of evangelists and apostles; it is thence she refreshes her faith (legem et prophetas cum evangelicis et apostolicis miscet; et inde potet fidem).”[i]
Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) lived circa AD 155/160 to circa AD 230/240. Timothy David Barnes believes that “Tertullian’s extant works covered a brief period from 196 to 212.”[ii]  According to Glenn Davis at Tertullian quoted from all the books of our current New Testament except 2 Peter, James, 2 John, and 3 John;[iii] approved of as valuable but not canonical, The Shepherd of Hermas; and considered Acts of Paul heretical. “Distressed by the envy and laxity of the clergy of the Roman church,” sometime before AD 210 Tertullian joined the Montanists – a separatist Christian church with rigorous standards no longer maintained by the evolving Rome-dominated churches.

[i] The Canon of the Holy Scriptures: Examined in the Light of History, Louis Gaussen, Boston, MA: American Tract Society, 1862; contra Davis, Gaussen says Tertullian quotes from 20 books of the New Testament in his writings, p. 164; perhaps the discrepancy is explained by recent discoveries.
[ii] Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study, Timothy David Barnes, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971, pp. 11-12
[iii] This is not an indication that Tertullian rejected these four epistles, but rather a statement that his extant writings contain no quotes from them.

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