Did Tatian really do it?
by Yuri Kuchinsky Greetings, all
It's repeated over and over again in any standard introduction to early Christian history that "Tatian produced the Diatessaron around 170 CE". But was this really so?
This is what I've posted a while back to some biblical studies groups. No objections to my analysis have been offered so far.
So what is the actual evidence that Tatian really wrote the Diatessaron, and why is this idea still accepted by so many without any questions?
It is a general view that Justin Martyr used a harmony of 3 Synoptic gospels as his main gospel text. He probably was not the author of this, but used a text that was already well established. Soon after his time, GJohn (probably some early version of it) was also integrated into that to produce the Diatessaron.
There's no evidence that Tatian had anything to do with GJohn being added to Justin's Harmony. He certainly wasn't the author of Justin's Harmony. So then in what sense can it be said that Tatian was the author of the Diatessaron? The evidence for this seems to be extremely thin, and there's considerable evidence to the contrary.
The biggest unanswered question in this general area is, What was the earliest gospel to have been widely published in Syria? It's widely believed that this was a gospel harmony of some sort. Some scholars proposed that this was the Gospel of the Hebrews, which may be the same thing as Justin's Harmony. If so, it's clear that Tatian had nothing to do with this publication, that must have taken place much before him. Thus, Tatian's role in creating the Diatessaron could not have been so great even on the surface of things. So why does every standard reference book still insist that Tatian wrote the Diatessaron?
The following is based on Chapter 35 ("The Earliest Gospel to Have Been Widely Published") of my new book THE MAGDALENE GOSPEL: a Journey Behind the New Testament; Roots Publishing, Toronto, 2002. This is a much abridged version of this chapter.