Justin Martyrs Student Tatian: His Beliefs on the Trinity, the Creation, Free Will, and More

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King has analyzed and summarized the theological beliefs of Ignatius from Tatian's Address to the Greeks, his sole extant work that personally discusses his beliefs.


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During the first centuries ascetics stayed in their communities, assumed their role in the life of the church, and centred….

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Situated in the centre of the accessible world, and on the extremity of Christendom, in a city which was at once the chief mart of commerce, and a celebrated seat of both Jewish and Greek philosophy, it was supplied in especial abundance, both with materials and instruments prompting to the exercise of Christian zeal.

Its catechetical school, founded it is said by the Evangelist himself, was a pattern to other Churches in its diligent and systematic preparation of candidates for baptism; while other institutions were added of a controversial character, for the purpose of carefully examining into the doctrines revealed in Scripture, and of cultivating the habit of argument and disputation [ Note 3 ].

Athenagoras, the first recorded master of the catechetical school, is known by his defence of the Christians, still extant, addressed to the Emperor Marcus. Origen, who was soon after appointed catechist at the early age of eighteen, had already given the earnest of his future celebrity, by his persuasive disputations with the unbelievers of Alexandria. Proselytism, then, in all its branches, the apologetic, the polemical, and the didactic, being the peculiar function of the Alexandrian Church, it is manifest that the writings of its theologians would partake largely of an exoteric character.

I mean, that such men would write, not with the openness of Christian familiarity, but with the tenderness or the reserve with which we are accustomed to address those who do not sympathize with us, or whom we fear to mislead or to prejudice against the truth, by precipitate disclosures of its details. The Apostle in that Epistle, when speaking of the most sacred Christian verities, as hidden under the allegories of the Old Testament, seems suddenly to check himself, from the apprehension that he was divulging mysteries beyond the understanding of his brethren; who, instead of being masters in Scripture doctrine, were not yet versed even in its elements, needed the nourishment of children rather than of grown men, nay, perchance, having quenched the illumination of baptism, had forfeited the capacity of comprehending even the first elements of the truth.

In the same place he enumerates these elements, or foundation of Christian teaching [ Note 5 ], in contrast with the esoteric doctrines which the "long-exercised habit of moral discernment" can alone appropriate and enjoy, as follows;—repentance, faith in God, the doctrinal meaning of the right of baptism, confirmation as the channel of miraculous gifts, the future resurrection, and the final separation of good and bad. His first Epistle to the Corinthians contains the same distinction between the carnal or imperfect and the established Christian, which is laid down in that addressed to the Hebrews.

St. Justin Martyr

As before, he speaks of the difference of doctrine suited respectively to neophytes and confirmed Christians, under the analogy of the difference of food proper for the old and young; a difference which lies, not in the arbitrary will of the dispenser, but in the necessity of the case, the more sublime truths of Revelation affording no nourishment to the souls of the unbelieving or unstable.

Accordingly, in the system of the early catechetical schools, the perfect , or men in Christ, were such as had deliberately taken upon them the profession of believers; had made the vows, and received the grace of baptism; and were admitted to all the privileges and the revelations of which the Church had been constituted the dispenser. But before reception into this full discipleship, a previous season of preparation, from two to three years, was enjoined, in order to try their obedience, and instruct them in the principles of revealed truth.

During this introductory discipline, they were called Catechumens , and the teaching itself Catechetical , from the careful and systematic examination by which their grounding in the faith was effected.

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The matter of the instruction thus communicated to them, varied with the time of their discipleship, advancing from the most simple principle of Natural Religion to the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, from moral truths to the Christian mysteries. Afterwards, being allowed to stay during the prayers, and receiving the imposition of hands as the sign of their progress in spiritual knowledge, they were called worshippers.

Lastly, some short time before their baptism, they were taught the Lord's Prayer the peculiar privilege of the regenerate , were entrusted with the knowledge of the Creed, and, as destined for incorporation into the body of believers, received the titles of competent or elect [ Note 6 ].

Even to the last, they were granted nothing beyond a formal and general account of the articles of the Christian faith; the exact and fully developed doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, and still more, the doctrine of the Atonement, as once made upon the cross, and commemorated and appropriated in the Eucharist, being the exclusive possession of the serious and practised Christian. On the other hand, the chief subjects of catechisings, as we learn from Cyril [ Note 7 ], were the doctrines of repentance and pardon, of the necessity of good works, of the nature and use of baptism, and the immortality of the soul;—as the Apostle had determined them.

The exoteric teaching, thus observed in the Catechetical Schools, was still more appropriate, when the Christian teacher addressed himself, not to the instruction of willing hearers, but to controversy or public preaching. In proof of this position, with an inconsistency remarkable in those who profess a jealous adherence to the inspired text, and are not slow to accuse others of ignorance of its contents, they appeal, not to Scripture, but to the stirring effects of this so-called Gospel preaching, and to the inefficiency, on the other hand, of mere exhortations respecting the benevolence and mercy of God, the necessity of repentance, the rights of conscience, and the obligation of obedience.

But it is scarcely the attribute of a generous faith, to be anxiously inquiring into the consequences of this or that system, with a view to decide its admissibility, instead of turning at once to the revealed word, and inquiring into the rule there exhibited to us. God can defend and vindicate His own command, whatever it turn out to be; weak though it seem to our vain wisdom, and unworthy of the Giver; and that His course in this instance is really that which the hasty religionist condemns as if the theory of unenlightened formalists, is evident to careful students of Scripture, and is confirmed by the practice of the Primitive Church.

Such are the divine notices given to those who desire an apostolical rule for dispensing the word of life; and as such, the ancient Fathers received them. They received them as the fulfilment of our Lord's command, not to give that which is holy to dogs, nor to cast pearls before swine; a text cited by Clement and Tertullian [ Note 8 ], among others, in justification of their cautious distribution of sacred truth.

They also considered this caution as the result of the most truly charitable consideration for those whom they addressed, who were likely to be perplexed, not converted, by the sudden exhibition of the whole evangelical scheme. For we impart to thee a secret and a promise of the world to come. Keep safe the secret for Him who gives the reward. Listen not to one who asks, 'What harm is there in my knowing also?

To all who could hear, the Lord spake, but in parables; to His disciples He privately explained them. What is the blaze of Divine glory to the enlightened, is the blinding of unbelievers. These are the secrets which the Church unfolds to him who passes on from the catechumens, and not to the heathen. For we do not unfold to a heathen the truths concerning Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; nay, not even in the case of catechumens, do we clearly explain the mysteries, but we frequently say many things indirectly, so that believers who have been taught may understand, and the others may not be injured.

The work of St. Clement, of Alexandria, called Stromateis, or Tapestry-work, from the variety of its contents, well illustrates the Primitive Church's method of instruction, as far as regards the educated portion of the community. In the opening of his work, Clement speaks of his miscellaneous discussions as mingling truth with philosophy; "or rather," he continues, "involving and concealing it, as the shell hides the edible fruit of the nut. Thus the Prophet Esaias has his tongue cleansed with fire, that he may be able to declare the vision; and our ears must be sanctified as well as our tongues, if we aim at being recipients of the truth.

This was a hindrance to my writing; and still I have anxiety, since Scripture says, 'Cast not your pearls before swine;' for those pure and bright truths, which are so marvellous and full of God to goodly natures, do but provoke laughter, when spoken in the hearing of the many. Now, first, it may be asked, How was any secrecy practicable, seeing that the Scriptures were open to every one who chose to consult them? It may startle those who are but acquainted with the popular writings of this day, yet, I believe, the most accurate consideration of the subject will lead us to acquiesce in the statement, as a general truth, that the doctrines in question have never been learned merely from Scripture.

Surely the Sacred Volume was never intended, and is not adapted, to teach us our creed; however certain it is that we can prove our creed from it, when it has once been taught us [ Note 13 ], and in spite of individual producible exceptions to the general rule.

Justin Martyr

From the very first, that rule has been, as a matter of fact, that the Church should teach the truth, and then should appeal to Scripture in vindication of its own teaching. And from the first, it has been the error of heretics to neglect the information thus provided for them, and to attempt of themselves a work to which they are unequal, the eliciting a systematic doctrine from the scattered notices of the truth which Scripture contains.

The insufficiency of the mere private study of Holy Scripture for arriving at the exact and entire truth which Scripture really contains, is shown by the fact, that creeds and teachers have ever been divinely provided, and by the discordance of opinions which exists wherever those aids are thrown aside; as it is also shown by the very structure of the Bible itself. And if this be so, it follows that, while inquirers and neophytes in the first centuries lawfully used the inspired writings for the purposes of morals and for instruction in the rudiments of the faith, they still might need the teaching of the Church as a key to the collection of passages which related to the mysteries of the Gospel, passages which are obscure from the necessity of combining and receiving them all.

A more plausible objection to the existence of this rule of secrecy in the Early Church arises from the circumstance, that the Christian Apologists openly mention to the whole world the sacred tenets which have been above represented as the peculiar possession of the confirmed believer. But it must be observed, that the writers of these were frequently laymen, and so did not commit the Church as a body, nor even in its separate authorities, to formal statement or to theological discussion.

The great duty of the Christian teacher was to unfold the sacred truths in due order, and not prematurely to insist on the difficulties, or to apply the promises of the Gospel; and if others erred in this respect, still it remained a duty to him.

concerneddentalplan.com/lyhuz-hombre-solo.php Besides, in matter of fact, some of the early apologists themselves, as Tatian, were tainted with heretical opinions. But in truth, it is not the actual practice of the Primitive Church, which I am concerned with, so much as its principle. Men often break through the rules, which they set themselves for the conduct of life, with or without good reason.

If it was the professed principle of the early teachers, to speak exoterically to those who were without the Church, instances of a contrary practice but prove their inconsistency; whereas the fact of the existence of the principle answers the purpose which is the ultimate aim of these remarks, viz. Indeed it is evident, that anyhow the Disciplina Arcani could not be observed for any long time in the Church.

JUSTIN MARTYR BY ANDREW HAYES

Apostates would reveal its doctrines, even if these escaped in no other way. Perhaps it was almost abandoned, as far as men of letters were concerned, after the date of Ammonius; indeed there are various reasons for limiting its strict enforcement to the end of the second century. The Disciplina Arcani being supposed, with these limitations, to have had a real existence, I observe further, in explanation of its principle, that the elementary information given to the heathen or catechumen was in no sense undone by the subsequent secret teaching, which was in fact but the filling up of a bare but correct outline.

The contrary theory was maintained by the Manichees, who represented the initiatory discipline as founded on a fiction or hypothesis, which was to be forgotten by the learner as he made progress in the real doctrine of the gospel [ Note 14 ]; somewhat after the manner of a school in the present day, which supposes conversion to be effected by an exhibition of free promises and threats, and an appeal to our moral capabilities, which after conversion are discovered to have no foundation in fact.

But "Far be it from so great an Apostle," says Augustine, speaking of St. Paul, "a vessel elect of God, an organ of the Holy Ghost, to be one man when he preached, another when he wrote, one man in private, another in public. He was made all to all men, not by the craft of a deceiver, but from the affection of a sympathizer, succouring the diverse diseases of souls with the diverse emotions of compassion; to the little ones dispensing the lesser doctrines, not false ones, but the higher mysteries to the perfect, all of them, however, true, harmonious, and divine.

Next, the truths reserved for the baptized Christian were not put forward as the arbitrary determinations of individuals, as the word of man, but rather as an apostolical legacy, preserved and dispensed by the Church. Nor dare we affirm that their announcements were made previously to their attaining perfect knowledge, as some presume to say, boasting that they set right the Apostles. Paul speaks, and to which the Gnostics pretended. And, indeed, without formal proofs of the existence and the authority in primitive times of an Apostolical Tradition, it is plain that there must have been such tradition, granting that the Apostles conversed, and their friends had memories, like other men.

It is quite inconceivable that they should not have been led to arrange the series of revealed doctrines more systematically than they record them in Scripture, as soon as their converts became exposed to the attacks and misrepresentations of heretics; unless they were forbidden so to do, a supposition which cannot be maintained. Paul seems to allude, and which the early writers more or less acknowledge, whether concerning the types of the Jewish Church, or the prospective fortunes of the Christian [ Note 17 ].

And such recollections of apostolical teaching would evidently be binding on the faith of those who were instructed in them; unless it can be supposed, that, though coming from inspired teachers, they were not of divine origin. However, it must not be supposed, that this appeal to Tradition in the slightest degree disparages the sovereign authority and sufficiency of Holy Scripture, as a record of the truth.

We must cautiously distinguish, with that Father, between a tradition supplanting or perverting the inspired records, and a corroborating, illustrating, and altogether subordinate tradition.

It is of the latter that he speaks, classing the traditionary and the written doctrine together, as substantially one and the same, and as each equally opposed to the profane inventions of Valentinus and Marcion. Lastly, the secret tradition soon ceased to exist even in theory.

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