Tatian’s Christology And Its Influence On The Composition Of The Diatessaron -- By: Peter M. Head

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 43:1 (NA 1992)
Article: Tatian’s Christology And Its Influence On The Composition Of The Diatessaron
Author: Peter M. Head

Tatian’s Christology And Its Influence On The Composition Of The Diatessaron

Peter M. Head


‘Tatian did not only re-arrange the evangelical tradition into a harmony, but when composing the Diatessaron left his fingerprints on its pages’.1 Vööbus’ statement concerning Tatian’s Diatessaron has been reformulated recently in Petersen’s survey of research: ‘like any document created in a particular time and place, the Diatessaron reflects the theology and praxis of its locale’.2 The aim of this article is to investigate whether christological factors played any significant role in Tatian’s composition. This issue is important for two reasons. Firstly, the Diatessaron is the earliest and most influential of gospel harmonies (the standard tool for gospel studies throughout the patristic and reformation periods).3 Secondly, as a redaction of the canonical

gospels, the Diatessaron mirrors other second century gospel-redactors (and may illustrate first-century practices).4

For the most part, scholars have focussed on the influence of Tatian’s Encratite tendencies, especially important since it was his stance against marriage (among other things) which caused Tatian to be regarded as a heretic by many Western Church Fathers.5 Another influence that has been suggested by various scholars is an anti-Jewish tendency.6 It is notable that the influence of Tatian’s Christology has not been discussed. The influence of an individual’s Christology on his understanding and re-presentation of the gospel stories is considerable (even for modern Christians). Tatian, who exercised such care in the composition of his four-fold gospel, is therefore of considerable interest in this regard.

The present article will discuss: (I) the life and Christology of Tatian, showing that the question of the christological orientation of the Diatessaron was considered very important in the late Patristic era; (II) the evidence for the Diatessaron, bearing in mind the question of it’s attestation and which sources can be used in assessing Tatian’s contribution; (III) the structure and content of the Diatessaron in relation to it’s Christology - the bulk of the article discusses both structural and redaction-critical matters relating to the composition of the Dia...

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