Tertullian On Prayer -- By: O. W. Holmes

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 06:1 (Apr 1960)
Article: Tertullian On Prayer
Author: O. W. Holmes


Tertullian On Prayer

Dr. O. W. Holmes

THE FACT that the Tyndale Fellowship exists “for Biblical Research” is not intended to restrict the interests of its members to a narrow interpretation of the phrase, as is evidenced by the existence of its Church History Group, which yields evidence of light shed down the ages by those who have found in our Scriptures the source of their message to their day and age.

We have, in the Church of Carthage of Tertullian’s day, almost a perfect subject for the detached study of the place which prayer occupied, or should occupy, in a church whose very founder (if it had one) we do not know, living close (but not too close) to the cradle of the Christian faith in both time and place, as seen through the eyes of a man originally a member of

the “great Church”, and yet identified with that late up- surging of the prophetic impulse associated with the name of Montanism.

As far as Tertullian’s personal history is concerned there has been speculation in plenty, but really there is not a great deal known. St. Jerome tells us1 that Tertullian’s father exercised an office of proconsular centurion: we can see for ourselves that Tertullian had reached a mature age by the date when the Apologeticum was written (A.D. 187) and he tells us himself that he had once jested at Christians, frequented the Spectacles and otherwise played the pagan. He was a married man; as to whether he was a priest of the Catholic Church much writing even now has not fully reconciled divergences of view. We shall find that Tertullian’s beliefs did not, contrary to the assumptions of some, undergo any greater change than that often to be found in the writings of a man who is before the public for two or three decades2, but historical accident caused him to part from the Catholics, so that views he may have hesitated to express openly in his earlier writings are recorded without restraint when he had left their Church. Speak of him how we will, there is something of the heroic (in its finer sense) in the spectacle of a man from the cultured levels of the world of his day espousing a cause mainly identified with the unprivileged, and standing forth fearlessly as the Christians’ champion, without question risking his own position and his own life for the sake of his new brethren.

The most superficial reading of Tertullian’s works will show how largely his thinking and his arguments for convincing his opponents rest upon Scripture. We are explicitly told in one of Tertullian’s early writings that he regards the Old Testament writin...

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