Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-8bbf57454-l9lbv Total loading time: 0.275 Render date: 2022-01-25T21:04:32.521Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

10 - Tertullian on idolatry and the limits of tolerance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 March 2010

Graham N. Stanton
Affiliation:
King's College London
Guy G. Stroumsa
Affiliation:
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Get access

Summary

‘Let one man worship God, another Jove’ ‘Colat alius Deum, alius Iovem’. With this lapidary plea Tertullian establishes himself as one of the earliest advocates of religious tolerance in the Christian tradition. In the Roman Empire of the late second century, the Christians were in great need of some religious toleration. Those Christian writers whom we call the Apologists aimed, precisely, at convincing Roman intellectuals in the corridors of power that toleration of the Christians and of their religious beliefs would in no way harm the state, and that such a toleration was, moreover, congruent with principles of reason shared, at least in theory, by all people.

One of the major historical paradoxes reflected by the development of early Christianity is its transformation, during the course of the fourth century, from a religio illicita seeking recognition and tolerance into an established religion refusing to grant others (and its own dissenters from within, the ‘heretics’) what it had sought for itself until the recent past. The traditional answer to our paradox is that, as long as the Christians were in need of religious toleration for themselves, they knew how to make a case for its necessity. As soon as they came to power, however, they forgot their early virtues and learned how to deprive others of what they had just acquired. Christian intolerance, in such a view of things, would be rooted in human nature, rather than in some implicit aspects of Christian theology.

This explanation no doubt suffers from an oversimplification of complex phenomena.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1998

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)
10
Cited by

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×