Tatian

, a writer of the primitive church, was a Syrian by birth, and flourished about the year 170. He was a sophist by profession, very profound in all branches of literature, and acquired great reputation by teaching rhetoric. Being converted to Christianity, he became the scholar of Justin Martyr, whom he attended to Rome, and partook with him of the hatred of the philosopher Crescens: for he tells us himself, that Crescens laid wait for his life, as well as for Justin’s. While Justin lived he continued steady in the orthodox belief, but after his death became the author of a new set of fanciful opinions, which, after propagating them for some time at Rome, he carried into the east, and opened a school in Mesopotamia, and other places. Nothing is certainly known concerning his death.

His apology for Christianity, entitled “Oratio ad Graecos,” “An address to the Greeks,” the only genuine work of Tatian which remains, every where breathes the spirit of the Oriental philosophy. He teaches that God, after having from eternity remained at rest in the plenitude of his own light, that he might manifest himself, sent forth from his simple nature, by an act of his will, the Logos, through whom he gave existence to the universe, the essence of which had eternally subsisted in himself. “The Logos,” he says, “through the will of God, sprang from his simple nature.” This first emanation, which, after the Alexandrian Platonists, he calls the Logos, and which, like the Adam Kadmon of the Cabbalists, is the first medium through which all things flow from God, he represents as proceeding, without being separated from the divine nature. Matter is conceived by Tatian to have been the production of the Logos, sent forth from his bosom. And the mind of man is, according to him, reason produced from a rational power, or an essential emanation from the divine Logos. He distinguishes between the rational mind and the animal soul, as the Alexandrian philosophers between *3j and ^%>i, and the Cabbalists between Zelem and Nephesh. The world he supposed to be animated by a subordinate spirit, of which all the parts of visible nature partake: and he taught that daemons, clothed in material vehicles, inhabit the aerial regions; and that above the stars, aeons, or higher emanations from the divine nature, dwell in eternal light. In fine, the sentiments and language of Tatian upon these subjects perfectly agree with those of the Ægyptian and the Cabbalistic philosophy, | whence it may be presumed that he derived them, in a great measure, from these sources. After Plato, this Christian father maintained the imperfection of matter as the cause of evil, and the consequent merit of rising above all corporeal appetites and passions; and it was, probably, owing to this notion, that, with other fathers, he held the superior merit of the state of celibacy above that of marriage; and that he adopted, as Jerom relates, the Gnostic opinion, that Christ had no real body. The tenor of Tatian’s Apology concurs with what is known of his history, to prove, that he was a Platonic Christian. His “Oratio” was first printed at Zurich in 1546, together with the Latin version of Conradus Gesner. It was afterwards subjoined to Justin Martyr’s works, printed at Paris in 1615 and 1636, folio but the best edition of it is that of Oxford, 1700, in 12mo. 1

1

Cave, vol. L Fabric. Bibl. Græc.- Brucker.