A Brief Note: Tatian’s Oratio ad Graecos

Tatian the AssyrianTatian of Syria (c. 110–180) was a student of Justin Martyr in Rome. Like Justin, he converted to Christianity when coming across the sacred Scriptures (35.1). After Justin’s death, he distanced from Catholic Christianity and became a leader of Encratism (=ἐγκράτεια “abstinence”). This was deemed a heretical movement that argued for extreme exceticism.

Prior to leaving Catholic Christianity, he penned an apology (155–170) Oratio ad Graecos—Oration to the Greeks. It is informed of Greek philosophy, social structure, history, ethics, and religious orders. He is also known for organizing the Diatessaron.

canon1Three prominent arguments emerge in this brief apology:

  1. Greek Philosophy is false on the basis of the ethical and moral inconsistencies it produces.
  2. Greek Philosophy is false on the basis of doctrinal and social inconsistencies.
  3. Christian faith (philosophy) is right on the basis of antiquity—Moses precedes the first Greek Philosopher.

The final paragraph of Oratio ad Graecos is worth noting.

All this, men of Greece, I have compiled for you—I Tatian, a philosopher among the barbarians, born in the land of the Assyrians, and educated first in your learning and secondly in what I profess to preach. Well then, knowing who God is and what is his creation I offer myself to you, prepared for my doctrines to be examined while holding to my way of life in following God with no possibility of denial. (42.1)

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