Introduction to Tatian’s Diatessaron

Today I am working from the introduction page to Tatian’s Diatessaron. As I said yesterday, it is a harmony of the Gospels written around the year 160. If you follow the link, Point 20 talks about the translation of the Diatessaron. I will get back to the translation after this short history.

Tatian was a disciple of Justin, who is more commonly known as Justin Martyr. Justin wrote a number of works. His most famous is probably his First Apology. It has a description of a baptism and a Sunday morning church service. Both are the earliest descriptions knownand were written around AD 150. (If you start with the baptism link, which goes to chapter 60, and use the next button until you get to chapter 67, The Weekly Worship of the Christians, you will get an excellent short introduction to second century Christianity.)

He also wrote a book called Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew. I would regard the Dialogue with Trypho as the closest a Christian can come to walking the Emmaus road with Jesus and the two disciples (Luke 24:13-35).

Tatian was a Syrian. He had delved deeply into Greek philosophy when he met Justin in Rome. It would be easy to encounter Justin because he went around in the robes of a philosopher (par. 5 of link). Justin introduced him to Christ.

Being strongly opposed to the wild ways of the Greeks, Tatian was extremely ascetic. Eventually this would lead him into heresy. The gnostics influenced him, and he developed his own sect with rules so strict that they were known as Encratites. “Encraty” refers to the control of one’s desires. You can read more about him in the introduction to his works at

Interestingly enough, Tertullian would become influenced by Tatian’s writings. Tertullian was the first of the early Christian Latin authors. He lived in Carthage, and he wrote numerous treatises, several of them complaints about loose living in the churches. He, too, advocated rigorous discipline, and he eventually joined the Montanist movement. Montanus was a prophet from the last half of the second century. His prophecies were rejected by the churches, and he started his own movement, teaching that the Holy Spirit had put new rules on the church now that it was more mature. These rules included forbidding remarriage for everyone, even widows. They also prevented people who committed major sins, like murder, adultery, or lapsing from persecution from being readmitted to the church even if they repented. has a short introduction to Tertullian and a brief description of the Montanists.

My second shot at “Through the Bible” is going to begin with Tatian’s harmony of the Gospels, so I thought it would be both good and interesting to know something about him. The page I mentioned in the first paragraph lets us know that what we have today is not exactly what Tatian wrote in the second century. There have been additions over the centuries to add in things Tatian left out. What we have to work with is certainly close enough for a run through the Gospels in preparation for Acts afterward. We’ll begin our stroll through the Bible with the next post.

Or see previous post.

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