previous next


Τατιανός), a Christian writer of the second century, was born, according to his own statement (Orat. ad Graecos, sub fin.) in Assyria, and was educated in the religion and philosophy of the Greeks. (ibid.) Clement of Alexandria (Strom. lib. iii. c. 12.81, ed Klotz. Lips. 1831), Epiphanius, in the body of his work (Haeres. xlvi.), and Theodoret (Haeret. Fabul. Compendium, lib. 1. c.20), call him "the Syrian," or " a Syrian by race ;" but Epiphanius, in another place (ad v. Haeres. Indicul. ad lib. i. vol. iii.), followed by Joannes Damascenus (De Haeresib. apud Coteler. Eccles. Graec. Monum vol. i. p. 292). says he was a Mesopotamian; a statement which is adopted by Cave and some other moderns. Tatian's own authority would of course be decisive, were it not for the vagueness with which the names Assyria and Syria are used by the ancients; however, we think it most probable that by " the land of the Assyrians" (᾿ἐν τῇ τῶν Ἀσσυρἰων γῇ) Tatian means the country east of the Tigris; but his mode of expression affords some ground to think that though born in the land of Assyria, he was not of Assyrian race; and his name has some appearance of being Roman. He appears to have followed the profession of a sophist, or teacher of rhetoric; and he was perhaps a teacher of philosophy also (comp. Tatian. Orat. ad Graec. c. ii. and lvi.; Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 4.16; Hieron. De Viris Illustr. c. 29; Theodoret. l.c.), though Valesius (Not. in Euseb. l.c.) contends earnestly against the supposition. He certainly acquired a considerable knowledge of Greek literature. He travelled over many countries, and appears to have been engaged in a variety of pursuits (τέχναις καὶ ἐπινοίαις ἐγκυρήσας πολλαῖς, Orat. ad Graec. c. lvi.) until, at last, he cane to Rome. He had probably imbibed the doctrines of the Platonic philosophy (comp. Oral. ad Graec. c. xix. and Worth's note in loc.), but he was dissatisfied with the hollowness of the professions of the philosophers of his day, and disgusted with the cruelty and impurity of the worship both of the Greeks and Romans (Orat. ad Graec. cc. xliii--xlvi.); and his mind was anxiously longing for something more ennobling, when he met with the Scriptures of the Old Testament. By the perusal of these, his conversion to Christianity was effected. Whether his connection with Justin Martyr, of whom, according to the testimony of Irenaeus (Adv. Haeres. lib. 1. c.31), Epiphanius (Hacres. xlvi.), Jerome (l.c.), Philastrius (De Haeres. 100.48), and Theodoret (l.c.), he was the hearer or disciple, was previous to his conversion or subsequent to it, is not clear.

During Justin's life, Tatian remained in connection with the Catholic church; but after Justin's death he embraced views of a Gnostic character, with which probably the notions imbibed during his early residence in the East disposed him to sympathize. Whether he had been previously restrained by the influence of Justin from embracing those views, is not clear, though Irenaeus, Jerome, and Epiphanius seem to intimate that he had. He appears to have remained for a time after Justin's death in communion with the church. Tillemont thinks that after Justin's death many of his disciples, among them Rhodon [RHODON] placed themselves under Tatian's instruction; but though Rhodon himself (apud Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 5.13) states that he was a disciple of Tatian, it does not follow that this was after Justin's death. Like Justin, Tatian engaged in controversies with the philosophers of his day, attacking them on the corruptions of heathenism, and pointing out the superiority of the Jewish and Christian religions. He was involved in a dispute with the Cynie Crescens [CRESCENS], whom he charges with having plotted his death, as well as that of Justin. [JUSTINUS, No. 1.]

His embracing, at least his avowal of his heretical opinions, was apparently not very long after Justin's death, otherwise we cannot account for the general impression that he had been kept from heresy by Justin's influence. He does not appear to have broached his obnoxious sentiments at Rome. According to Epiphanius. he returned into the East, and there imbibed and promulgated them. The statement of Epiphanius (l.c.), followed by Josephus [[JOSEPHUS, No. 12] in his Hypomnesticon. that they were broached in Mesopotamia, leads to the conclusion that Tatian settled in that province; but when he further states that they were embraced by some persons at Antioch, the capital of Syria, and spread from thence into Cilicia and Pisidia, we cannot determine whether this was through the personal exertions and teaching of Tatian, or whether through some of his disciples. We have no further account of him; and neither the time nor place of his death is known. In fact, the chronology of his whole life is uncertain ; we only know that he was contemporary with Justin, and was at Rome before and at the time of that martyr's death, the date of which, as we have shown elsewhere [JUSTINUS, No. 1], is by no means determined, but may be probably fixed in or near A. D. 166 or 167.

The followers of Tatian constituted a sect, designated from him Tatiani. (Epiphan. Haeres. xivi. ; Augustin. Haeres. xxv.) They appear to have been nearly identical with the Encratitae (the name is variously written Ἐγκρατεῖς Irenaeus, Adv. Haeres. lib. 1. c.30, Ἐγκρατῖται, Epiphau, Haeres. xlvii.; or Ἐγκρατηταί, Clem. Alex. Strom. lib. 1. c.15, Paedagog. lib. 2. c.2) and with the Severiani, who derived their name from Severns, a contemporary of Tatian. [SEVERUS, Greek, literary and ecclesiastical, No. 3.] These seets were also known by the name of Ὑδροπαραστάται, " Hydroparastatae," or " Offerers of water," from their use of water in the Encharist. From this last peculiarity they were called by some of the Latin fathers (Augustin. Haeres. lxiv.; Philastrius, Haeres. lxxvii.) " Aquarii." Tillemont has collected a number of other names which he supposes to have been given them. The tenets of the Tatiani and Encratitae and Severiani, whether these names de-note one sect, or different, but kindred sects, par-took of the usual character of the Gnostic body to which they belonged. Tatian held the doctrine of Aeons, which he is said to have derived from Valentinus or Marcion (Philastrius, Haeres. xlviii.), and to have given further development to it. He distinguished the Demiurgus, the Creator of the world and giver of the Mosaic law, from the Supreme and Benignant God, from whom the Gospel came. Epiphanius (a not very trustworthy authority), ascribes to the Severiani the belief that be-side the Suprenme Being there was " a great ruler of the powers" named Ἰαλδαβαώθ " Ialdabaoth," or Σαβαώθ, " Sabaoth" (an obvious corruption of the " Jehovab-Sabaoth" of the Jewish Scriptures), of whom Διάβολος, " the devil," was the son ; and that the devil, being by the Supreme God cast down to the earth in the firm of a serpent, produced the vine, the tendrils of which indicated their origin by their serpent-like form: they ascribed also to the devil the formation of woman, and of the lower part of the man. The " ruler of the powers," Ialdahaoth, is apparently the Demiurgus of Tatian; but how far the other opinions described were held by him is not clear; it is, however, remarkable that ie and his followers abstained from wine and animal food, and condemned marriage. But what especially shocked the piety land charity of the Catholics was Tatian's affirming the damnation of Adam, a " blasphemy" which is said to have originated with him, and drew upon him especial odium.

The sects of the Tatiani and Severiani are said by Epiphanius to have been nearly extinct in his time: but this can hardly mean more than that the names had gone into disuse; for the Encratitae, whom we take to have been substantially the same, were still numerous in Pisidia, the Torrid Phrygia (τῇ Κεκαυμένῃ), and other districts of Asia Minor.

Tatian is said to have rejected some of St. Paul's Epistles (Hieronym. Proöem. in Comment. in Titum), but to have received others. He also received, but not without mutilation, the four Gospels. (Irenaeus, l.c. and 100.31; Clem. Alex. l.c. and Fragmenta Propheticor. selecta, 100.38; Origen, De Oratione, p. 77, ed. Oxford; Hieronym. De Viris Illustr. c. 17, alibi; Epiphanius, Augustin, Philasstrius, ll. cc. ; Tertullian, or rather his anonymous continuator, De Praescript. Haereticor. 100.52; Theodoret. Haeretic. Fabul. Compend. lib. 1. c.20; Chron. Paschale, p. 260, ed. Paris, p. 486, ed. Bonn; comp. Neander, Church History (by Rose), vol. ii. p. 10.9.)


Tatian was a voluminous writer. Eusebius speaks of him in one place (H. E. 4.16) as " leaving many memorials of himself in his writings ;" and in another place (H. E. 4.29) he says, " he left a great number of writings, of which the most celebrated is his Discourse to the Greeks." Jerome also states (De Viris Illustr. c. 17) that he wrote " a countless number. of volumes" (infinita volumina) ; of which, however, even then, the above-mentioned discourse was the only one extant, at least so far as Jerome was informed. The Diatessaron was. however, still in existence, though Jerome does not mention it, either because he did not regard it as an original work, but only an arrangement of the Gospels, or perhaps because its existence was not known to him. The other works of Tatian were probably either such as the early Christians were little interested in, or were so replete with the wild speculations of his later years, as never to have had any circulation in the orthodox portion of the church.

The Πρὸς Ἕλληνας (

The Πρὸς Ἕλληνας, Oratio adversus Graecos, as the title is commonly though incorrectly rendered (we believe it should be ad Graecos), is still extant, and is a remonstrance addressed to the Greeks on their repugnance to, and contempt for, the opinions of foreigners. Jerome (De Viris, Illust. 100.17) and Rufinus translate the title Contra Gentes ; but the contents of the work show that Ἑλληνας is not used as equivalent to Ἔθνη, " Gentiles" (a usage no doubt sufficiently common), but in its proper signification of " Greeks," as distinguished from Βάρβαροι, " Foreigners." This is clear from the opening sentence of the work, Μὴ πάνυ φιλέχθρως διατίθεσθε πρὸς τον̀ς Βαρβάρους, ἄνδρες Ἕλληνες, μηδὲ φθονήοητε τοῖς τούτων δόλμασι. " Be not quite hostile. Oh Greeks, in your disposition towards foreigners, and do not regard their opinions unfavourably." He then proceeds to show that they (the Greeks) had derived their own usages from the very foreigners whom they despised, borrowing from Telmessus the art of divination from dreams, astrology from the Carians, augury from the flight of birds from the ancient Phrygians and Isaurians, the practice of sacrifice from Cyprus, astronomy from Babylon, magic from Persia, geometry from Egypt, and alphabetic writing from Phoenicia, &c. (100.1. 2.) He rakes together the current charges of folly against their philosophers. and of wickedness against their heroes. (100.3-6.) He unfolds his views of the Supreme Being (100.6, 7), of the Logos (100.7, 8), the resurrection (100.9, 11)), of the freedom of the will, both of men and angels (100.10), and of the fall (100.11). He then exposes the follies and crimes ascribed to the divinities of the Greeks in the popular theology (100.12-17), and contrasts with them the purer morality, and the more elevated views of the universe and of God, and of the divine administration, which he had received (100.17, foll.). Throughout the work he pursues a similar strain of argument, examining the metaphysics and theology of his opponents, pointing out the superiority of the religion of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, and insisting on the superior antiquity of Moses, the oldest Jewish writer, when compared with Homer, the oldest Greek writer. It has been a subject of dispute with the learned, how far this work of Tatian shows indications of those heretical views, the development of which afterwards entailed upon him so much odium. Brucker, in his Historia Critica Philosophiae, endeavours to show that Tatian's philosophy, even while he was accounted orthodox, was grievously corrupted by the intermixture of Cabbalistic, Gnostic, and Neo-Platonic notions: on the other hand, Lange (Historia Dogmatum, vol. i. p. 223, &c.), Bull (Defens. Fid. Nicaen. sect. 3.100.6), and Ceillier (Auteurs Sacrés, vol. iii. p. 127), contend for his orthodoxy. Certainly some of his sentiments are of a very fanciful character, and his speculations very remote from the simplicity of Christian truth, but he was, when he wrote this work, far front holding the characteristic doctrines of Gnosticism, such as the eternity and evil nature of matter, and the alienation or hostility between the Supreme God and the Demiurgos or Creator.


The Greek text of this remarkable work was first published with a Latin version by Conrad Gesner, with the Sententiae of Antonius Melissa and Maximus, and the Ad Autolycum of Theophilus of Antioch, fol. Zuric. 1546. The Latin version of these works, by Gesner, was published separately, and that of Tatian was frequently reprinted in the successive editions of the Bibliotheca Patrum of De la Bigne, Paris, 1575, 1589, 1610, Cologne, 1618, Lyon, 1677, and also in the Mella Patrum of Francis Rous, 8vo. London, 1650, pp. 66, &c. and both the Latin version of Gesner, and the original Greek, but varying from Gesner's text, are given in the Orthodoxgrapha of Heroldus, fol. Basel, 1555 (Cave speaks of a previous edition in A.D. 1551), and in the Auctarium of Ducaeus (Fronto Le Duc), fol. Paris, 1624. They were published also with the writings of Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Hermeias, Paris, 1615 and 1636, and Cologne (or rather Wittenberg), 1686. The last edition had the notes of Kortholt. Cave speaks of an edition of Tatian in folio, Paris, 1618, but Fabricius does not notice it. But the most valuable edition was that of William Worth, archdeacon of Worcester. 8vo. Oxford, 1700, which contained, besides a revised Greek text of Tatian, and of the Irrisio Gentilium Philosophorum of Hermeias, the Latin versions of Tatian by Gesner, and of Hermeias by Seiler. the entire notes of Gesner, Ducaeus, Kortholt, and others, and some valuable Dissertationes. The Oratio ad Graecos was also given by Prudentius Maran, in his (the Benedictine) edition of Justin Martyr, fol. Paris, 1742, in the first vol. of Galland's Bibliotheca Patrum. fol. Venice, 1765, and in the third vol. of the Sanctorum Patrum Opera Polemica, 8vo. Wurzburg. 1777.

Other Works

Of the other works of Tatian only a few fragments are preserved : indeed we do not know even the names of more than a few of his “infinita volumina.” They are as follows.

1. Περὶ τοῦ κατὰ τὸν Σωτῆρα καταρτιομον̂,

This is quoted by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. lib. 3. c.12). It was written after he had be-come heretical, for the passage cited by Clement is in condemnation of matrimony.

2. Προβλημάτων Βίβλιον,

mentioned by Rhodon (apud Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 5.13), but it is not clear that Tatian ever completed the work, or did more than form the plan: it was to be on the difficulties of the Scriptures.

3. Πρὸς τοὺς ἀποφηναμένονς τὰ περὶ Θεον̂,

This work is mentioned by Tatian himself in his Oratio ad Graecos, 100.62, but in terms which render it doubtful whether he had then written the work or only projected it.

4. Περὶ ζώων,

mentioned by Tatian as already written by him (ib. 100.24).

5. Demons and State of the Soul after Death

He wrote also, as he tells us, a work in which he had treated of daemons, and of the state of the soul after death (ib. 100.24), but he does not mention the title of the work.

6. Διὰ τεσσὰρων,

Eusebius mentions the work (H. E. 4.29), but in such a way as to show that he had not seen it: Jerome does not even mention it (De Vir. Illustr. c. 17), but Theodoret says it was used not only by Tatian's more immediate followers, but by some other heretics, and even by the orthodox; for Theodoret himself collected above two hundred copies from what he calls " our churches" (ταῖς παρ᾽ ἡμῖν ἐκκλησιαις, apparently the churches of his own diocese, in exchange for which he gave or procured for them copies of the four gospels. According to him, not only the genealogies, but all the parts which recognized the descent of Jesus from David were omitted, so that the compilation was evidently made after Tatian had become heretical, and on a principle consistent with his heretical sentiments. The work has perished.

There is extant an Harmonia Evangelica in Latin, translated by Victor, bishop of Capua, a writer of the middle of the sixth century, from a Greek manuscript, which did not contain any author's name. Victor sought to discover the author, and after weighing and rejecting the claims of Ammonius of Alexandria to be so considered, ascribed it to Tatian. There is also extant an ancient Tudesque or German version (versio Theotisca) of this Harmonia.


Latin Edition

The Latin version was published under the name of Tatian in the Orthodoxographa of Heroldus, fol. Basel, 1555, and of Grynaeus, fol. Basel, 1569, and in successive editions of the Bibliotheca Patrum of De la Bigne, fol. Paris, 1575, 1589, 1610, 1654, and Cologne, 1618. But as this Harmonia, which is in the words of the sacred writers. contains the genealogies, critics discovered that it had been incorrectly ascribed to Tatiann; and in the Lyon edition of the Bibliotheca Patrum, fol. 1677, and in. the Bibliotheca Patrum of Galland, fol. Venice, 1765, &c., it appears under the name of Ammonius, to whom most critics, but not all, now ascribe it. [AMMONIUS SACCAS.]

German Edition

The ancient German version was published, but in an incomplete form, by Palthenius, 4to. Griefswald, 1706, and more fully, but still far from completely, in the Thesaurus Antiquitatum Teutuonicarum of Schilter,fol. Ulm, 1728, vol., ii. p. 57, &c. Some supplementary portions are given by Hess, in the Biblioth. der Heil. Geschichte, part ii. p. 543-570.

Another Latin

Another Latin Harmonia, so called, but which is in fact a condensed narrative of the History of Jesus Christ, arranged chronologically under the three years to which, as the writer supposed, the public ministry of the Saviour extended, was published in the Micropresbyticon, fol. Basel, 1550, in the two editions of the Orthodoxographa, and in the successive editions of the Bibliotheca Patrum of De la Bigne. In nearly all these it is given under the name of Ammonius, but it appears in the edition of the Bibliotheca, Lyon, 1677, under that of Tatian, to whom some critics have been disposed to ascribe it. Even Cave at one time held that opinion, though he afterwards renounced it; and the cautious and judicious Lardner was strongly inclined to it. Yet the work is by no means such as the description of Theodoret implies: and the general opinion of critics is unfavourable to the authorship of Tatian, to whom we can only wonder that any should have ascribed it Le Nourry, the editor of the Lyon Bibliotheca, in his Dissertatio in Tatianum, justly rejects the opinion which ascribes it to him.

Rufinus, in his Historia Ecclesiastica (6.11), ascribes to Tatian a Chronicon. This statement is usually considered as erroneous, and is supposed to rest on the misinterpretation of a passage in Eusebius (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 6.13); but it is to be observed that the author of the Chronicon Paschale (l.c.) and Joannes Malalas, call Tatian " a chronographer," and refer to his notice of the quarrel of Peter and Paul at Antioch. Jerome (Epist. ad Magnum, ep. 84, edit. vett.; 83, ed. Benedictin.; 70, ed Vallarsi) says that Tatian had pointed out that various heresies had arisen from the opinions of the heathen philosophers; but he does not say to what work he refers. Eusebius says that some had charged Tatian with corrupting certain passages in the writings of the apostle Paul, under the plea of correcting their inaccuracy of construction; but we know not to what work of Tatian he refers; nor would the charge imply more than that he had paraphrased those passages.

Further Information

The ancient authorities for this article have been referred to in the course of it. We subjoin those of modern date:--Cave, Hist. Litt. ad ann. 172, vol. i. p. 75, and ad ann. 220 (s. v. Ammonius), p. 109, &c., ed. Oxford, 1740-1743 ; Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. vii. p. 87, &c. ; Maran, Praefalio ad Justini Martyris Opera, fol. Paris, 1742, pars 3.100.10-12; Le Nourry and Anonym. Dissertationes, apud Worth, Tatiani Opera ; Galland, Bibl. Patrum, Prolegom. in voll. i. ii.; Ittigius, De Haeresiarchis, sect. 2.100.12; Tillemont, Mémoires, vol. ii. p. 410, &c.; Mosheim, De Rebus Christianor. ante Constantin. Magnum, saec. 2. § xxxvii. lxi.; Oudin, De Scriptorib. Ecclesiast. vol. i. col. 209, &c.; Ceillier, Auteurs Sacrés, vol. ii.; Ittigius, De Bibliothecis Patrum, passim; Lardner, Credibility, &c. part ii. book i. ch. xiii. xxxvi.; Neander, Church History, vol. ii. p. 109, &c. (Rose's translation).


hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
166 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: