by Gautam Pemmaraju
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, or Tertullian, born at Carthage around 150 or 160 AD, is said to be the first great writer of Latin Christianity. He was a highly regarded scholar, having written three books in Greek, none extant, and was the first to write a formal exposition on the doctrine of Trinity. His principal area of study was jurisprudence. It is said that he converted to Christianity in 197 or 198 AD, and it is not conclusive if he was ordained a priest or not. Breaking away from the Church later, he became a schismatic and a leader and exponent of Montanism. His writings, which include thirty-seven tracts in Latin and Greek, of which thirty-one are extant, cover the entire theological themes of those times – apologetics against Paganism and Judaism, polemics, policy, discipline, and morals. He is said to have disliked Greek philosophy and to have declared philosophers as patriarchs of the heretics, philanderers, untrustworthy and insincere. He was scornful of Socrates, who in dying ordered a cock to be sacrificed to Aesculapius. Tertullian is said to have lived to a great age, and despite his schism, continued to fight heresy, in particular Gnosticism.
I know all of this on account of the fact that I live on an eponymously named street. It was in fact, precisely on Friday, December 14 2001, that I decided so find out who Tertullian was, after walking out the gate of the building where I stay, to set off, as I had several times before, on a lazy, meandering stroll around Bandra, a western coastal suburb of Bombay. I recall this quite well – it was just the previous day that the Indian parliament had been attacked by five armed gunmen. The television images of September 11 were still quite fresh and there was a sense that something was afoot, and the world had changed.
Setting off on desultory walks, particularly on Fridays, had become a sort of ritual; not one rigidly followed, but instead conducted on airy impulse. They help also to break the monotony of the regimented runs that have become a part of my daily routine in the last few years. Opening my gate precisely at 6PM, as always, I step out once again onto Tertullian Road. I'm certain there is no clear method to what and how one thinks on such walks; I’ve always thought the process to be imprecise, swaying and buckling at whim, setting adrift, only to eventually, run aground. Much like an asynchronous non-linear edit – apprehending a sight here, a form there, affixing these with a stray thought from the previous night, or from 30 years ago, to lead on to a cryptic composite.