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Tatian the Assyrian[1][2][3][4] (c. 120–180) was an early Christian writer and theologian of the second century.

Tatian's most influential work is the Diatessaron, a Biblical paraphrase, or "harmony", of the four gospels that became the standard text of the four gospels in the Syriac-speaking churches until the 5th-century, when it gave way to the four separate gospels in the Peshitta version.[5]



Concerning the date and place of his birth, little is known beyond what he tells about himself in his Oratio ad Graecos, chap. xlii (Ante-Nicene Fathers, ii. 81-82): that he was born in "the land of the Assyrians"; current scholarly consensus is that he died c. 185, perhaps in Assyria.

He came to Rome, where he seems to have remained for some time. Here he seems to have for the first time encountered Christianity. According to his own representation, it was primarily his abhorrence of the pagan cults that led him to spend thought on religious problems. By the Old Testament, he says, he was convinced of the unreasonableness of paganism. He adopted the Christian religion and became the pupil of Justin Martyr. It was the period when Christian philosophers competed with Greek sophists, and like Justin, he opened a Christian school in Rome. It is not known how long he labored in Rome without being disturbed.

Following the death of Justin in 165, the life of Tatian is to some extent obscure. Irenaeus remarks (Haer., I., xxvlii. 1, Ante-Nicene Fathers, i. 353) that after the death of Justin, he was expelled from the church for his Encratitic (ascetic) views (Eusebius claims he founded the Encratitic sect), as well as for being a follower of the gnostic leader Valentinius. It is clear that Tatian left Rome, perhaps to reside for a while in either Greece or Alexandria, where he may have taught Clement.[citation needed] Epiphanius relates that Tatian established a school in Mesopotamia, the influence of which extended to Antioch in Syria, and was felt in Cilicia and especially in Pisidia, but his assertion can not be verified.

The ascetic character which Syriac Christianity bore as late as the time of Aphraates was not impressed upon it by Tatian, but has roots that reach deeper.

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