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Tertullian’s Use of the Pastoral Epistles, Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude


Mark A. Frisius

In Tertullian’s Use of the Pastoral Epistles, Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude, Mark A. Frisius establishes that Tertullian (a third-century theologian) only used the Pastoral Epistles, Hebrews, and 1 Peter, although he at least knew of Jude. It is further demonstrated that he had no knowledge of James or 2 Peter, which has a distinct bearing on the emergence of the New Testament canon. Tertullian interprets these five texts in various ways, but always with an eye toward confrontational discourse. The author assesses Tertullian’s varying interpretive principles and also considers the effects of Montanism on his interpretive procedures. In conclusion, Frisius demonstrates that the Pastoral Epistles, Hebrews, and 1 Peter provided Tertullian with significant material for his theological controversies. This book, in addition to being a resource for scholars, is also useful in senior level and graduate courses on ancient biblical interpretation.


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Part Two: The Practice of Interpretation 39


PART TWO The Practice of Interpretation Tertullian was most likely born and raised in Roman North Africa, and inherit- ed their particular world-view, which included a separatist mentality and a high- level of intransigence.1 The Africans typically were Romanized as much as was advantageous for them, but strove to maintain their roots as much as possible.2 In some ways, the North African Christians were similar to other Christians throughout the Mediterranean world, but, in other ways, they developed a unique brand of Christianity. 3 One of the driving features of African Christiani- ty was a relationship to Jewish communities in the vicinity of Carthage, and elements of Judaism appear to have had a major impact on the development of Christianity in the region.4 Tertullian stands within this tradition, but also was the originator of a thread of the tradition, especially in terms of rigorism and biblical interpretation.5 Although little of his biography is verifiable,6 it is quite clear from his writ- ing that Tertullian had attained an extensive education, having studied rhetoric and some law.7 During this education, he would have been introduced to Greek philosophy and mythology. Although he had an appreciation for Greek philosophical constructs and categories, and indeed used them in his argumen- tation, he also recognized that they could lead to great danger. 8 Tertullian was also wary of the introduction of morality during the Roman educational system, noting that the morals displayed in Greek and Latin writings and mythology would lead young Christians astray....

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