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Les écrits catholiques de Tertullien : formes et normes

Abstract : The end of the second century saw the birth and the development of a fairly important Christian community in Roman Africa, noticeably living in Carthago. In the meantime, a new intellectual and literary movement started and grew around numerous writers among whom Tertullian (155-225?) is considered to be the forerunner. Indeed, this African born author is regarded as the first Christian Latin author, and he is part of a vast movement for the defence of Christian faith called apologetics. Until that day, Christianism, as a new religious trend, had been written and thought in Greek. With Tertullian, who was a convert, the Christian faith was, from then on, expressed in Latin; and gradu¬ally, around writers such as Lactance, Cyprian and Augustine, there settled a sort of patristic literature as it was called. The life and the chronology of Tertullian's works is not something we know very well, and it is difficult to draw a portrait of the man and his writings. However, since the XIXth century, experts have classified his thirty-one treaties into two great periods. On the one hand, there is a set of « catholic » treaties (197-208); then, there are writings which were more or less influenced by the Montanist heresy (until approximately 220). The « catholic » period, as it is called determines the scope of this research work which aims at analysing the logics of a polemical Christian speech. Owing to his studies, (he was a lawyer, a jurisconsult), this Father of Church resorted to Roman law to enounce the Christian faith and its rules. He is in the centre of a normalization process of the Christian speech, with a transposition of some of its concepts stemming from Roman law, in the field of Christianism. The first part consists in studying, thanks to data-processing, quantitative and serial studies, the global logics of Tertullian's polemic. Resorting to the method of the thematic index, we have focused on the various denominations of the Christian as an individual (or as group of indi¬viduals) and of Christianism. This speech shows, above all, its own specificities, as for example, a timeless logic and a very strong identi-tarian construction. The second part analyses this identitarian logic which is specific to Christians and their communities. The study of names picked in the linearity of the text shows the importance given to the Paulinian milieu by Tertullian, and his speech is strongly impregnated with the Bible, especially with the New Testament. The Scriptures are considered as revealed Truth, in which Paul de Tarse exerts a significant theological and disciplinary influence. The Church, as a new institution and community, is described from a philosophical and eschatological dimension, since it stands in a prospect of end of times announced in John's Apocalypse. Moreover, Tertullian brings to the fore the fact that Christians make up a community, with « the Christian name » (nomen christiani) as federating element. Hence, his writings are based on an identitary and collective logic in which the community prevails over the individual. The third part deals with the terms used in the Roman law, but transposed in the field of Christianism. First of all, the Christian faith fides is regarded as a contract between God and the Christian; the latter then becoming a faithful. This law creates a link of spiritual dependence between the two parties, along with the use of a metaphoric vocabulary inspired by slavery. The Faithful make up a fraternal community built around a new matrimonial family pattern in which asexuality, chastity and continence prevail. Therefore, marriage is not associated to reproduction, but it is funded on eschatology. All of these writings concern disciplinary needs issues and often appear as a casuistic. The last subchapter will analyse the lexicon coming from public law and from the legal procedure to jot down elements of reflexion, food for thought on the legal existence of Christianism, and on the progressive construction of a double Christian citizenship (which is fundamental so as to understand the situations of Christians in a multicultural Empire). During this period, Christianism was rejected by the Roman state. This “hatred” would sometimes turn into persecutions, which were at the origin of martyrdom. The martyr figure being described as an ideal, that of the Just, to attain God's city and salvation.
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Fabien Davier. Les écrits catholiques de Tertullien : formes et normes. Histoire. Université de Franche-Comté, 2009. Français. ⟨tel-00482060⟩

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