TERTULLIAN'S IDEAL CHRISTIAN:The Ideals of Persecution and Martyrdom in the True Christian Life Open Access
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- Degree grantor
University of Alberta
- Author or creator
Mooney, Robert H
- Supervisor and department
Braun, Willi (Religious Studies)
- Examining committee member and department
Landy, Francis (Religious Studies)
Braun, Willi (Religious Studies)
Lifshitz, Felice (Religious Studies)
- Date accepted
- Graduation date
Master of Arts
- Degree level
TERTULLIAN’S IDEAL CHRISTIAN:
The Ideals of Persecution and Martyrdom in the True Christian Life
What mattered most to Tertullian was the fate of the Christian soul. During this early period in Christian history, the threat of persecution came to the forefront of Christian thought with a change in government leadership or opposition from other communities. To combat the fear of persecution and remain on the path towards salvation Tertullian saw a need for Christians to be distinct from other communities in Carthage. The development of this identity and why it may have been acceptable to the Carthaginian Christian community is the focus of this essay.
To address Tertullian’s argument for the ideal Christian requires evidence to justify the ideal. Do events and attitudes from the past intertwine within the communities in Carthage and Africa during Tertullian’s life? Is Tertullian’s writing, much of which occurred between 196- 207 A.D.,1 consistent with the reports of past writers? This information would allow for a sympathetic look at his writing and intentions.
The approach taken in this essay is to examine the development of Tertullian’s argument in six parts. The first will briefly examine the arrival of Christians in Africa and some of the influences on the adoption of a retributive Christianity. The next part will review the challenges of developing a true Christian identity up to Tertullian’s time. This section will conclude with an examination of the influence of Montanism on Tertullian.
1 T.D. Barnes, Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985). 30.
The purpose of Part III and IV is to examine the causes of Christian persecution and who and what Christians would face during periods of persecution. Definition of Roman legal and social attitudes towards Christians will come from biblical and ancient writing. The goal is to see if these attitudes were still prevalent during Tertullian’s period.
Part V will describe the contemporary environment of Christian Carthage. Definition of the relations between the Jewish, Pagan and Christian communities in Carthage will come from Tertullian’s writing. What are his views of the three communities and how does he address these realities? What influences do the themes from the previous four parts have on this environment?
The final part of the essay presents Tertullian’s argument for the ideal Christian. He argues for his ideal of the purpose martyrdom against the two other choices a Christian could make during times of persecution: apostasy or flight. This part of the presentation includes Tertullian’s opponents, sources, and the inspiration for his ideal.
The general conclusion is that Tertullian’s concern was for a Christian identity and the individual’s soul. Tertullian’s argument is for a Christian duty toward martyrdom (Tertullian, Fug. 14.3). However, the Christian world in which Tertullian lived fell short of the world Tertullian identified with in scripture.
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