From Feasting to Fasting, the Evolution of a Sin: Attitudes to Food in Late Antiquity

By Veronika E. Grimm | Go to book overview

6

FOOD AND FASTING IN THE WORKS OF TERTULLIAN

The question of food as a religious issue in Christian life was raised forcefully in the late second or early third century. A writer who provided ammunition for debates that continued centuries after his death, and whose brilliant expressions and highly arbitrary biblical exegeses were borrowed and even blatantly plagiarized by later Latin Christians, was Tertullian. This ‘gifted and magnificently articulate’ Christian writer, the ‘inimitable master of Latin rhetoric’, 1 is again somewhat of an elusive figure. He wrote both in Greek and Latin, but is remembered as the first great Latin Christian writer, indeed, as the most brilliant Latin stylist in early Christian literature.


THE WRITER

Little is known about his life. Apparently born in Carthage, he converted to Christianity in adult life and lived his adult years in the time of the Severan dynasty. His extant writings are dated to the brief period between AD 196 and 212; 2 his famous Christian contemporaries in the East included Clement of Alexandria and Origen. Eusebius, the first surviving source that mentions him almost a century later, takes him for a lawyer. 3 Jerome, at the end of the fourth century, gave him a Roman centurion for father, made him a priest in the church of Carthage and claimed that he left the church, ‘impelled by the envy and insults of the Roman clergy’, lapsing into the Montanist heresy in his middle years, and that he lived to a ripe old age. 4 His legal training, his sojourn and fame in Rome as a lawyer, his priesthood, have often been repeated by subsequent commentators, 5 until finally T. D. Barnes in his thoroughgoing study almost completely erased this picture. Barnes argues that it is a trivialization of Tertullian’s religious attitudes to assume that his conception of the

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From Feasting to Fasting, the Evolution of a Sin: Attitudes to Food in Late Antiquity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Jewish Background 14
  • 2 - The Graeco-Roman Background 34
  • 3 - Food and Fasting in the Pauline Epistles 60
  • 4 - Food and Fasting in the Acts of the Apostles 74
  • 5 - Clement of Alexandria 90
  • 6 - Food and Fasting in the Works of Tertullian 114
  • 7 - Food and Fasting in Origen and Eusebius 140
  • 8 - Jerome and Ascetic Propaganda 157
  • 9 - Augustine and Ascetic Practice 180
  • Conclusion 191
  • Notes 198
  • Bibliography 267
  • Index 278
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