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§ 131. Tatian and the Encratites.


I. Tatian: Λόγος πρὸς Ἕλληνας (Oratio adversus Graecos), ed. S. Worth, Oxon. 1700 (an excellent ed.); in Otto’s Corpus. Apol., vol. VI., Jenae 1851; and in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca, Tom. VI. fol. 803–888. Eng. transl. by Pratten & Dods in the "Ante-Nicene Library," vol. III. (Edinb. 1867). A Commentary of St. Ephraem on Tatian’s Diatessaron (Τὸ διὰ τεσσάρων), was found in an Armenian translation in the Armenian Convent at Venice, translated into Latin in 1841 by Aucher, and edited by Mösinger (Prof. of Biblical Learning in Salzburg) under the title "Evangelii Concordantis Expositio facta a Sancto Ephraemo Doctore Syro." Venet. 1876. The Diatessaron itself was found in an Arabic translation in 1886, and published by P. Aug. Ciasca: Tatiani Evangeliorum Harmoniae, Arabice, Rom. 1888. A new and more critical edition of the Oratio ad Gr., by Ed. Schwartz, Lips., 1888 (105 pp).

Orthodox Notices of Tatian: Iren. I. 28, 1; III. 23, 8 sqq. (in Stieren, I. 259, 551 sq.). Hippol.: VIII. 16 (very brief). Clem. Alex.: Strom. l. III. Euseb.: H. E. IV. 16, 28, 29; VI. 13. Epiphanius, Haer. 46 (Tatian) and 47 (Encratites). The recently discovered work of Macarius Magnes (Paris 1876), written about 400, contains some information about the Encratites which agrees with Epiphanius.

II. H. A. Daniel: Tatiander Apologet. Halle 1837.

James Donaldson: A Critical History of Christian Liter., etc. Lond. vol. IIIrd. (1866), which is devoted to Tatian, etc., p. 3–62.

Theod. Zahn: Tatian’s Diatessaron. Erlangen, 1881. (The first part of Forschungen zur Gesch. des neutestamntl. Kanons).

Ad. Harnack: Tatian’s Diatessaron, in Brieger’s "Zeitschrift für Kirchengesch." 1881, p. 471–505; Die Oratio des Tatiannebst einer Einleitung über die Zeit dieses Apologeten, in "Texte und Untersuchungen zur Gesch. der altchristl. Literatur," vol. I. No. 2, p. 196–231. Leipz., 1883, and his art., "Tatian," in "Encycl. Brit." xxiii. (1888).

Fr. Xav. Funk (R.C.): Zur Chronologie Tatian’s, in the Tübing. "Theol. Quartalschrift," 1883, p. 219–234.


Tatian, a rhetorician of Syria, was converted to Catholic Christianity by Justin Martyr in Rome, but afterwards strayed into Gnosticism and died a.d. 172.910910    The chronology, is not certain. Zahn and Harnack put his birth at a.d. 110, his conversion at 150, his death at 172. Funk puts the birth and conversion about 10 years later.10 He resembles Marcion in his anti-Jewish turn and dismal austerity. Falsely interpreting 1 Cor. 7:5, he declared marriage to be a kind of licentiousness and a service of the devil. Irenaeus says, that Tatian, after the martyrdom of Justin, apostatised from the church, and elated with the conceit of a teacher, and vainly puffed up as if he surpassed all others, invented certain invisible aeons similar to those of Valentine, and asserted with Marcion and Saturninus that marriage was only corruption and fornication. But his extant apologetic treatise against the Gentiles, and his Gospel-Harmony (recently recovered), which were written between 153 and 170, show no clear traces of Gnosticism, unless it be the omission of the genealogies of Jesus in the "Diatessaron." He was not so much anti-catholic as hyper-catholic, and hyper-ascetic. We shall return to him again in the last chapter.

His followers, who kept the system alive till the fifth century, were called, from their ascetic life, Encratites, or Abstainers, and from their use of water for wine in the Lord’s Supper, Hydroparastatae or Aquarians.911911    Ἐγκρατῖται, also Ἐγκρατεῖς, Ἐγκρατηταί, Continentes, the abstemious; or, ̔Ψδροπαραστάται, Aquarii.11 They abstained from flesh, wine, and marriage, not temporarily (as the ancient catholic ascetics) for purposes of devotion, nor (as many modern total abstainers from intoxicating drink) for the sake of expediency or setting a good example, but permanently and from principle on account of the supposed intrinsic impurity of the things renounced. The title "Encratites," however, was applied indiscriminately to all ascetic sects of the Gnostics, especially the followers of Saturninus, Marcion, and Severus (Severians, of uncertain origin). The Manichaeans also sheltered themselves under this name. Clement of Alexandria refers to the Indian ascetics as the forerunners of the Encratites.

The practice of using mere water for wine in the eucharist was condemned by Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, and Chrysostom, and forbidden by Theodosius in an edict of 382. A certain class of modern abstinence men in America, in their abhorrence of all intoxicating drinks, have resorted to the same heretical practice, and substituted water or milk for the express ordinance of our Lord.



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