31: Tertullian

bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.

2nd Timothy 4:13

When researching early Church history the name Tertullian crops up often. Born in Carthage, 155AD, he was a most prolific author and Christian apologist, before he finally laid down his pen in 220AD.

Much of what we know about early Christian history, the stories of the martyrs, the doctrine and practices of the Church originate from the work of Tertullian. His reputation has been somewhat sullied because of his affinity with the Montanists, which denied him a place among the spurious Roman Catholic saints; but this does not deprive him of his genuine sainthood among the redeemed of Christ, justified by grace.

In this day of word processing, deleting, undoing, copying and pasting as well as hard drive storage we cannot imagine writing in the Second Century. Using expensive vellum (processed leather) the words were carefully etched onto the pages using skills that are now redundant. Authors spent hours working in poor light endeavouring to record facts and preserve their thoughts. It was arduous painstaking labour for a small readership because mass publication was still more than a millennium away. They would never have envisaged the impact of their words long after their demise, the pen indeed is mightier than the sword.

One of Tertullian’s works was an expose of the errors of Marcion, a mid Second Century gnostic heretic. The first copy was lost while the second copy had many errors. Finally Tertullian produced a third copy with which he was content. This level of dedication and commitment makes us stand in awe of the early Christian writers, as we thank God for and are inspired by their discipline and faithfulness.

When the beloved disciple took
The angels’ little open book,
Which by the Lord’s command he eat,
It tasted bitter after sweet.

Thus when the gospel is embraced,
At first ‘tis sweeter to the taste
Than honey, or the honey-comb,
But there’s a bitterness to come.

John Newton

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