An ascetic Syrian philosopher
who composed the Diatesseron,
one of the earliest & most influential gospel
Autobiographical remarks in his Oration to the Greeks indicate
that Tatian left eastern Syria to become an itinerant scholar. He experimented
with various schools of Greek philosophy, especially Stoicism, before reading
which led him to become a Christian. About the middle of the
2nd c. CE he
became a disciple of the Christian philosopher Justin
at Rome. After Justin was martyred (ca. 163 CE),
Tatian championed severe
communal standards of purity: rejecting all marriage, meat, and intoxicating
beverages (even in the Eucharist). According to Irenaeus
(Against Heresies 1.28.1) he was excommunicated by the Roman church
about 172 CE and returned to his Syrian homeland,
where he led a puritanical
Christian sect known as the Encratites ("those who exercise
self-control"). Yet, Tatian's interpretation of the gospels became
widespread in both East & West through the popularity of his Diatesseron,
which was translated into many native languages even before the four
canonical gospels on which it was based.
[For details see W. L.
Peterson's chapter on "Tatian's Diatesseron" in Helmut Koester, Ancient
Christian Gospels: Their History & Development (London /Philadelphia:
SCM Press/Trinity Press International, 1990), pp. 403-430].
Other On-line Resources:
For Irenaeus' reference to
Tatian, see Against
[from Ante-Nicene Fathers vol. 1; posted as e-text by New Advent.
For Irenaeus' rebuttal to
Tatian's theory that Adam is beyond salvation, see Against
- article from 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia (posted by New Advent).
Address to the Greeks - translation of Tatian's Oration &
other historical information about its author from Peter Kirby's Early Christian Writings.