Dissertation Defense: Mark A. Frisius
Final Examination of
Mark A. Frisius
for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
1:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Caldwell Room 125-15
Committee in Charge
Chair: Frank J. Matera, Ph.D.
Secretary: Leonora A. Neville, Ph.D.
Director: Tarmo, Toom, Ph.D.
Reader: Susan Wessel, Ph.D.
Reader: Phillip Rousseau, D.Phil.
Summary of Coursework
TRS 520 Introduction to Church History
TRS 522A Sources of Canon Law
TRS 650A Introduction to the History of Christian Spirituality
TRS 720C Augustine in the Roman World
TRS 721 Principles of Patristic Exegesis
TRS 722C Irenaeus and the Gnostics
TRS 727 Introduction to Medieval Theology
TRS 728C Council of Trent
CLAS 522 Mediterranean World of Late Antiquity
LAT 509 Intensive Elementary Latin
LAT 510 Readings in Postclassical Latin
Interpretive Method and Theological Conflict:
Tertullian's Use of the Pastoral Epistles, Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude
Mark A. Frisius
Director: Tarmo Toom, Ph.D.
Tertullian, the third century Latin theologian from Carthage, holds an important place within the development and thought of early Christianity, and within the last two generations, his importance has soared. While many theological topics have been well-studied, his knowledge and use of individual New Testament books has not been as thoroughly studied. This dissertation investigates Tertullian's knowledge and use of the Pastoral Epistles, Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude.
Through the use of several indices, a list of possible citations was culled from Tertulian's writings. Each citation was then evaluated and classified as spurious, questionable, probable, or certain. Every probable and certain citation was then analyzed to determine the interpretive method used to understand the passage, and any theological principles developed from the passage.
My research suggested that Tertullian does not know the books of James or 2 Peter. Moreover, Tertullian knows but does not use any passages from the book of Jude, although he considers Jude to be authoritative. The remaining texts, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, and 1 Peter, are used in an authoritative manner, and Tertullian's citations are generally reliant upon Greek manuscripts.
In his interpretation of these books, Tertullian generally preferred the literal sense, although, at times, he relied on a symbolic or non-literal sense. Tertullian did not establish a general interpretive method, or always use the same interpretive criteria, but proved to be a fluid and opportune interpreter, with his main concern being the refutation of his opponents. To this end, the Rule of Faith and the teachings of the Paraclete functioned as significant criteria for biblical interpretation.
The final element of this dissertation demonstrates the importance which the Pastoral Epistles, Hebrews, and 1 Peter played in Tertullian's disciplinary and doctrinal theology. These texts provided key passages in his maintenance of high disciplinary standards as well as provided key arguments for Montanist standards. Further, this dissertation suggests that important elements of Tertullian's Christology would not have developed as fully outside of his interaction with these texts. This dissertation, therefore, demonstrates the high level of importance these texts had in Tertullian's thought.