Celebrating Black Heroes: Quintus Septimius Tertullian

Celebrating Black Heroes: Quintus Septimius Tertullian

(c. 160 – c. 225)

We’re celebrating black heroes who made history, and I want to introduce you to Quintus Septimius Tertullian, known in church history as the father of Latin theology because he was the first church leader to write his works in Latin. However, Tertullian was an African church father who lived in Carthage. While it is unclear as to his precise skin tone, there is great evidence to support that he was black. He was of Berber and Phoenician origin, and Berbers were a group of dark-skinned people dominating North Africa.

He converted to Christianity some time prior to AD 197, retaining skills in rhetoric and argumentation that impacted the religious environment of his day.

Tertullian received a good education in literature and rhetoric, was trained in Greek and Latin, and became a lawyer. He converted to Christianity some time prior to AD 197, retaining skills in rhetoric and argumentation that impacted the religious environment of his day. Among his greatest contributions to Christian theology were his thoughts toward the foundation of the Trinitarian formula, often receiving credit as the first to use the word trinity to describe the Godhead. His notable writings include Ad Martyras (“To the Martyrs”), Ad Nationes (“To the Nations”), Apologeticum (“Defense”), Adversus Marcionem (“Against Marcion”), Adversus Hermogenem (“Against Hermogenes”), Adversus Valentinianos (“Against Valentinus”), and De Praescriptione Haereticorum (“Concerning the Prescription of Heretics”).

Among his greatest contributions to Christian theology were his thoughts toward the foundation of the Trinitarian formula, often receiving credit as the first to use the word trinity to describe the Godhead.

From a historical perspective, Tertullian is known less for what he did than for what he wrote. Nevertheless, we should celebrate Tertullian for his literary works in apologetics and his thoughts concerning Trinitarianism.

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