MoboReader > Literature > A Source Book for Ancient Church History

   Chapter 1 The Church In Relation To The Empire And Heathen Culture

A Source Book for Ancient Church History By Joseph Cullen Ayer, Jr., Ph.D. Characters: 47182

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

In the course of the second century the Church spread rapidly into all parts of the Empire, and even beyond. It became so prominent that the relation of the Church to heathen thought and institutions underwent a marked change. Persecutions of Christians became more frequent, and thereby the popular conviction was deepened that Christians were malefactors. To some extent men of letters began to notice the new faith and attack it. In opposition to persecution and criticism, the Church developed an active apologetic or defence of Christianity and Christians against heathen aspersions.

[pg 052]

§ 17. The Extension of Christianity

Under the head of Extension of Christianity are to be placed only such texts as may be regarded as evidence for the presence of the Church in a well-defined locality. It is apparent that the evidence must be incomplete, for many places must have received the Christian faith which were unknown to the writers whose works we have or which they had no occasion to mention. Rhetorical overstatement of the extension of the Church was a natural temptation in view of the rapid spread of Christianity. Each text needs to be scrutinized and its merits assessed. It should, however, be borne in mind that the existence of a well-established church in any locality is in most cases sufficient reason for believing that Christianity had already been there for some time. In this way valid historical reasoning carries the date of the extension of the Church to a locality somewhat further back than does the date of the appearance of a document which testifies to the existence of Christianity in a definite place at a definite time.

(a) Tertullian, Adv. Jud?os, 7. (MSL, 2:649.)

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus (circa 160-circa 220 A. D.) is the most important ante-Nicene Latin ecclesiastical writer. He has been justly regarded as the founder of Latin theology and the Christian Latin style. His work is divided into two periods by his adherence (between 202 and 207 A. D.) to the Montanistic sect.

The treatise Adversus Jud?os probably belongs to Tertullian's pre-Montanist period, though formerly placed among his Montanist writings (see Krüger, § 85, 6). For Geographical references, see W. Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography.

Upon whom else have all nations believed but upon the Christ who has already come? For whom have the other nations believed-Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and they who inhabit Mesopotamia, Armenia, Phrygia, Cappadocia, and [pg 053] those dwelling in Pontus and Asia, and Pamphylia, sojourners in Egypt, and inhabitants of the region of Africa which is beyond Cyrene, Romans and sojourners, yes, and in Jerusalem, Jews and other nations;25 as now the varied races of the G?tulians, and manifold confines of the Moors, all the limits of Spain, and the diverse nations of the Gauls, and the places of the Britons inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated to Christ, and of the Sarmatians and Dacians, and Germans and Scythians, and of many remote nations and provinces and many islands unknown to us and which we can hardly enumerate? In all of these places the name of Christ, who has already come, now reigns.

(b) Tertullian, Apologeticus adversus Gentes pro Christianis, 37. (MSL, 1:525.)

The date of this work is 197 A. D.

We are but of yesterday, and we have filled every place among you-cities, islands, fortresses, towns, market-places, the very camps, tribes, companies, palace, Senate, and Forum. We have left you only the temples.

(c) Iren?us, Adv. H?reses, I, 10, 3. (MSG, 7:551 f.) For text, see Kirch, § 91.

Since the Church has received this preaching and this faith, as we have said, the Church, although it is scattered throughout the whole world, diligently guards it as if it dwelt in one house; and likewise it believes these things as if it had one soul and one heart, and harmoniously it preaches, teaches, and believes these things as if possessing one mouth. For although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the churches which have been founded in Germany have not believed nor handed down anything different, nor have those among the Iberians, nor those among the Gauls, nor those in the East, [pg 054] nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions26 of the world.

(d) Bardesanes, De Fato. F. Nau, Bardesane l'astrologue; le livre des lois des pays, Paris. 1899.

Bardesanes (154-222 A. D.) was the great Christian teacher of Edessa. He lived at the court of Abgar IX (179-214), whom, according to a doubtful tradition, he is said to have converted. The entire book may be found well translated by B. P. Pratten, ANF, VIII. 723-734.

In Syria and Edessa men used to part with their manhood in honor of Tharatha,27 but when King Abgar became a believer he commanded that every one that did so should have his hand cut off, and from that day until now no one does so in the country of Edessa.

And what shall we say of the new race of us Christians, whom Christ at His advent planted in every country and in every region? For, lo, wherever we are, we are called after the one name of Christ-namely, Christians. On one day, the first day of the week, we assemble ourselves together, and on the days of the readings28 we abstain from sustenance. The brethren who are in Gaul do not take males for wives, nor those in Parthia two wives; nor do those in Judea circumcise themselves; nor do those of our sisters who are among the Geli consort with strangers; nor do those of our brethren who are in Persia take their daughters for wives; nor do those who are in Media abandon their dead or bury them alive or give them as food to the dogs; nor do those who are in Edessa kill their wives who commit adultery, nor their sisters, but they withdraw from them, and give them over to the judgment of God; nor do those who are in Hatra stone thieves to death; but wherever they are, and in whatever place they are found, the laws of the several countries do not hinder them from obeying the law of their Christ; nor does the Fate of the [pg 055] celestial governors29 compel them to make use of the things which they regard as impure.

(e) Eusebius, Hist. Ec., V, 10. (MSG, 20:455.)

Missions in the extreme East.

They say that Pant?nus displayed such zeal for the divine word that he was appointed a herald of the Gospel of Christ to the nations of the East and was sent as far as India.30 For indeed there were still many evangelists of the word who sought earnestly to use their inspired zeal, after the example of the Apostles, for the increase and building up of the divine word. Pant?nus was one of these, and he is said to have gone to India. The report is that among persons in that country who knew of Christ he found the Gospel according to Matthew, which had anticipated his own arrival. For Bartholomew, one of the Apostles, had preached to them and left them the writing of Matthew in the Hebrew language, and they had preserved it till that time.

§ 18. Heathen Religious Feeling and Culture in Relation to Christianity

The Christian religion in the course of the latter part of the second century began to attract the attention of heathen writers; it became an object of literary attack. The principal literary opponent of Christianity was Celsus, who subjected the Christian traditions and customs to a searching criticism to prove that they were absurd, unscientific, and false. Lucian of Samosata, does not seem to have attacked Christianity from any philosophical or religious interest, but treated it as an object of derision, making sport of it. There [pg 056] were also in circulation innumerable heathen calumnies, many of the most abominable character. These have been preserved only by Christian writers. It was chiefly in reference to these calumnies that the Christian apologists wrote. The answer to Celsus made by Origen belongs to a later period, though Celsus represents the best philosophical criticism of Christianity of the latter part of the second century.

(a) Celsus, The True Word, in Origen, Contra Celsum. (MSG, 11:651 ff.)

The work of Celsus against Christianity, or The True Word, written about 178, is lost, but it has been so incorporated in the elaborate reply of Origen that it can be reconstructed without much difficulty. This Theodor Keim has done. The following extracts from Origen's Contra Celsum are quotations from Celsus or references to his criticism of Christianity. For Origen, v. infra, § 43, b.

I, 1. (MSG, 11:651.) Wishing to throw discredit upon Christianity, the first point Celsus brings forward is that the Christians have entered secretly into associations with each other which are forbidden by the laws; saying that "of associations some are public, others again secret; and the former are permitted by the laws; the latter are prohibited by the laws."

I, 4. (MSG, 11:661.) Let us notice, also, how he thinks to cast discredit upon our system of morals as neither venerable nor a new branch of instruction, inasmuch as it is common to other philosophers.

I, 9. (MSG, 11:672.) He says that "Certain of them do not wish either to give or to receive reasons for those things to which they hold; saying, 'Do not examine, only believe and your faith will save you!'?"; and he alleges that such also say: "The wisdom of this life is bad, but foolishness is a good thing."

I, 38. (MSG, 11:733.) He admits somehow the miracles which Jesus wrought and by means of which He induced the multitude to follow Him as the Christ. He wishes to throw discredit on them, as having been done not by divine power, but by help of magic, for he says: "That he [Jesus], having [pg 057] been brought up secretly and having served for hire in Egypt, and then coming to the knowledge of certain miraculous powers, returned from thence, and by means of those powers proclaimed himself a god."

II, 55. (MSG, 11:884.) "Come, now, let us grant to you that these things [the prediction made by Christ of His resurrection] were said. Yet how many others are there who have used such wonders to deceive their simple hearers, and who made gain of their deception? Such was the case, they say, with Zalmoxis in Scythia, the slave of Pythagoras; and with Pythagoras himself in Italy.… But the point to be considered is, whether any one who was really dead ever rose with a veritable body. Or do you imagine the statements of others not only are myths, but appear as such, but you have discovered a becoming and credible termination of your drama, the voice from the cross when he breathed his last, the earthquake and the darkness? that while living he was of no help to himself, but when dead he rose again, and showed the marks of his punishment and his hands as they had been. Who saw this? A frantic woman, as you state, and, if any other, perhaps one of those who were engaged in the same delusion, who, owing to a peculiar state of mind, had either dreamed so, or with a wandering fancy had imagined things in accordance with his own wishes, which has happened in the case of very many; or, which is most probable, there was some one who desired to impress the others with this portent, and by such a falsehood to furnish an occasion to other jugglers."

II, 63. (MSG, 11:896.) "If Jesus desired to show that his power was really divine, he ought to have appeared to those who had ill-treated him, and to him who had condemned him, and to all men universally."

III, 59. (MSG, 11:997.) "That I bring no heavier charge than what truth requires, let any one judge from the following. Those who invite to participation in other mysteries make proclamation as follows: 'Every one who has clean hands and [pg 058] a prudent tongue'; others again thus: 'He who is pure from every pollution, and whose soul is conscious of no evil, and who has lived well and justly.' Such is the proclamation made by those who promise purification from sins. But let us hear whom the Christians invite. 'Whoever,' they say, 'is a sinner, whoever is devoid of understanding, whoever is a child,' and, to speak generally, 'whoever is unfortunate, him will the kingdom of God receive.' Do you not call him a sinner, then, who is unjust and a thief and a house-breaker and a poisoner, a committer of sacrilege and a robber of the dead? Whom else would a man invite if he were issuing a proclamation for an assembly of robbers?"

VII, 18. (MSG, 11:1445.) "Will they not again make this reflection: If the prophets of the God of the Jews foretold that he who should come was the son of this same God, how could he command them through Moses to gather wealth, to rule, to fill the earth, to put to the sword their enemies from youth up, and to destroy them utterly, which, indeed, he himself did in the eyes of the Jews, as Moses says, threatening them, moreover, that if they did not obey his commands he would treat them as his open enemies; whilst, on the other hand, his son, the man of Nazareth, promulgating laws in opposition to these, declares that no one comes to the Father who is rich or who loves power or seeks after wisdom or glory; that men ought to be no more careful in providing food than the ravens: that they were to be in less concern about their raiment than the lilies; that to him who has smitten them once they should offer opportunity to smite again? Is it Moses or Jesus who lies? Did the Father when he sent Jesus forget the things he commanded Moses? Or did he change his mind and, condemning his own laws, send forth a messenger with the opposite instructions?"

V, 14. (MSG, 11:1201.) "It is folly for them to suppose that when God, as if he were a cook, introduces the fire, all the rest of the human race will be burnt up, while they alone will remain, not only those who are alive, but also those who [pg 059] have been dead long since, which latter will arise from the earth clothed with the self-same flesh as during life; the hope, to speak plainly, of worms. For what sort of human soul is it that would still long for a body gone to corruption? For this reason, also, this opinion of yours is not shared by some of the Christians,31 and they pronounce it exceedingly vile and loathsome and impossible; for what kind of body is that which, after being completely corrupted, can return to its original nature, and to that self-same first condition which it left? Having nothing to reply, they betake themselves to a most absurd refuge-that all things are possible to God. But God cannot do things which are disgraceful, nor does he wish things contrary to his nature; nor, if in accordance with your wickedness you desire something shameful, would God be able to do it; nor must you believe at once that it will be done. For God is the author, not of inordinate desires nor of a nature disordered and confused, but of what is upright and just. For the soul, indeed, he might be able to provide everlasting life; but dead bodies, on the other hand, are, as Heraclitus observes, more worthless than dung. So, then, God neither will nor can declare contrary to reason that the flesh is eternal, which is full of those things which it is not honorable to mention. For he is the reason of all things that exist, and therefore can do nothing either contrary to reason or contrary to himself."

(b) Lucian of Samosata, De morte Peregrini Protei, § 11 ff. Preuschen, Analecta, I, 20 ff.

Ch. 11. About this time he made himself proficient in the marvellous wisdom of the Christians by associating around Palestine with their priests and scribes. And would you believe it? In a short time he convinced them that they were mere children and himself alone a prophet, master of ceremonies, head of the synagogue, and everything. He explained and interpreted some of their books, and he himself also wrote [pg 060] many, so they came to look upon him almost as a God, made him their law-giver and chose him as their patron.… At all events, they still worship that enchanter [mage] who was crucified in Palestine for introducing among men this new religious sect.

Ch. 12. Then Proteus was, on this account, seized and thrown into prison, and this very circumstance procured for him during his subsequent career no small renown and the reputation for wonderful powers and the glory which he loved. When, then, he had been put in bonds, the Christians looked upon these things as a misfortune and in their efforts to secure his release did everything in their power. When this proved impracticable, other assistance of every sort was rendered him, not occasionally, but with zeal. From earliest dawn old women, widows, and orphan children were to be seen waiting beside the prison, and men of rank among them slept with him in the prison, having bribed the prison guards. Then they were accustomed to bring in all kinds of viands, and they read their sacred Scriptures together, and the most excellent Peregrinus (for such was still his name) was styled by them a New Socrates.

Ch. 13. Certain came even from the cities of Asia, sent by the Christians at the common charge, to assist and plead for him and comfort him. They exhibit extraordinary activity whenever any such thing occurs affecting their common interest. In short, they are lavish of everything. And what is more, on the pretext of his imprisonment, many contributions of money came from them to Peregrinus at that time, and he made no little income out of it. These poor men have persuaded themselves that they are going to be immortal and live forever; they both despise death and voluntarily devote themselves to it; at least most of them do so. Moreover, their law-giver persuaded them that they were all brethren, and that when once they come out and reject the Greek gods, they should then worship that crucified sophist and live according to his laws. Therefore they despise all things and [pg 061] hold everything in common, having received such ideas from others, without any sufficient basis for their faith. If, then, any impostor or trickster who knows how to manage things came among them, he soon grew rich, imposing on these foolish folk.

Ch. 14. Peregrinus was, however, set at liberty by the governor of Syria at that time, a lover of philosophy, who understood his folly and knew that he would willingly have suffered death that by it he might have acquired glory. Thinking him, however, not worthy of so honorable an end, he let him go.…

Ch. 16. A second time he left his country to wander about, having the Christians as a sufficient source of supplies, and he was cared for by them most ungrudgingly. Thus he was supported for some time; at length, having offended them in some way-he was seen, I believe, eating food forbidden among them-he was reduced to want, and he thought that he would have to demand his property back from the city;32 and having obtained a process in the name of the Emperor, he expected to recover it. But the city sent messengers to him, and nothing was done; but he was to remain where he was, and to this he agreed for once.

(c) Minucius Felix, Octavius, VIII, 3-10. (MSL. 3:267 ff.)

The following passage is taken from an apologetic dialogue entitled Octavius. Although it was composed by a Christian, it probably represents the current heathen conceptions of Christianity and its morals, especially its assemblies, where the worst excesses were supposed to take place. In the dialogue the passage is put into the mouth of the disputant who represents the heathen objection to the new faith. The date is difficult to determine probably it was the last third of the second century.

Ch. 8. … Is it not lamentable that men of a reprobate, unlawful, and dangerous faction should rage against the gods? From the lowest dregs, the more ignorant and women, credulous and yielding on account of the heedlessness of their [pg 062] sex, gathered and established a vast and wicked conspiracy, bound together by nightly meetings and solemn feasts and inhuman meats-not by any sacred rites, but by such as require expiation. It is a people skulking and shunning the light; in public silent, but in corners loquacious. They despise the temples as charnel-houses; they reject the gods; they deride sacred things. While they are wretched themselves, if allowed they pity the priests; while they are half naked themselves, they despise honors and purple robes. O wonderful folly and incredible effrontery! They despise present torments, but fear those that are uncertain and in the future. While they fear to die after death, for the present life they do not fear to die. In such manner does a deceitful hope soothe their fear with the solace of resuscitation.

Ch. 9. And now, as wickeder things are advancing more successfully and abandoned manners are creeping on day by day, those foul shrines of an impious assembly are increasing throughout the whole world. Assuredly this confederacy should be rooted out and execrated. They know one another by secret marks and signs. They love one another almost before they know one another. Everywhere, also, there is mingled among them a certain religion of lust; and promiscuously they call one another brother and sister, so that even a not unusual debauchery might, by the employment of those sacred names, become incestuous. It is thus that their vain and insane superstition glories in crimes. Nor, concerning these matters, would intelligent report speak of things unless there was the highest degree of truth, and varied crimes of the worst character called, from a sense of decency, for an apology. I hear that they adore the head of an ass, that basest of creatures, consecrated by I know not what silly persuasion-a worthy and appropriate religion for such morals. Some say that they worship the genitalia of their pontiff and priest, and adore the nature, as it were, of their parent. I know not whether these things be false; certainly suspicion has place in the case of secret and nocturnal rites; and he [pg 063] who explains their ceremonies by reference to a man punished by extreme suffering for wickedness, and to the deadly wood of the cross, bestows fitting altars upon reprobate and wicked men, that they may worship what they deserve. Now the story of their initiation of young novices is as detestable as it is well known. An infant covered with meal, so as to deceive the unwary, is placed before him who is to be defiled with their rites; this infant is slain with dark and secret wounds by the young novice, who has been induced to strike harmless blows, as it were, on the surface of the meal. Thirstily-O horror!-they lick up its blood; eagerly they divide its limbs. By this victim they are confederated, with the consciousness of this wickedness they are pledged to a mutual silence. These sacred rites are more foul than any sort of sacrilege. And of their banqueting it is well known what is said everywhere; even the speech of our Cirtensian33 testifies to it. On a solemn day they assemble at a banquet with all their children, their sisters and mothers, people of every sex and age. There, after much feasting, when the sense of fellowship has waxed warm and the fervor of incestuous lust has grown hot with drunkenness, a dog that has been tied to a chandelier is provoked to rush and spring about by throwing a piece of offal beyond the length of the line by which he is bound; and thus the light, as if conscious, is overturned and extinguished in shameless darkness,

while unions of abominable lust involve them by the uncertainty of chance. Although if all are not in fact, yet all are in their conscience, equally incestuous; since whatever might happen by the act of the individuals is sought for by the will of all.

Ch. 10. I purposely pass over many things, for there are too many, all of which, or the greater part of them, the obscurity of their vile religion declares to be true. For why do they endeavor with such pains to conceal and cloak whatever they worship, since honorable things always rejoice in publicity, but crimes are kept secret? Why have they no [pg 064] altars, no temples, no acknowledged images? Why do they never speak openly, never congregate freely, unless it be for the reason that what they adore and conceal is either worthy of punishment or is something to be ashamed of? Moreover, whence or who is he, or where is the one God, solitary and desolate, whom no free people, no kingdoms, and not even Roman superstition have known? The sole, miserable nationality of the Jews worshipped one God, and one peculiar to itself; but they worshipped him openly, with temples, with altars, with victims, and with ceremonies; and he has so little force or power that he is enslaved together with his own special nation to the Roman deities. But the Christians, moreover, what wonders, what monstrosities, do they feign, that he who is their God, whom they can neither show nor see, inquires diligently into the conduct of all, the acts of all, and even into their words and secret thoughts. They would have him running about everywhere, and everywhere present, troublesome, even shamelessly inquisitive, since he is present at everything that is done, and wanders about in all places. When he is occupied with the whole, he cannot give attention to particulars; or when occupied with particulars, he is not enough for the whole. Is it because they threaten the whole earth, the world itself and all its stars, with a conflagration, that they are meditating its destruction? As if either the natural and eternal order constituted by the divine laws would be disturbed, or, when the league of the elements has been broken up and the heavenly structure dissolved, that fabric in which it is contained and bound together would be overthrown!

§ 19. The Attitude of the Roman Government toward Christians, A. D. 138 to A. D. 192

No general persecution of the Christians was undertaken by the Roman Government during the second century, though Christians were not infrequently put to death under [pg 065] the existing laws. These laws, however, were by no means uniformly carried out. The most sanguinary persecutions were generally occasioned by mob violence and may be compared to modern lynchings. At Lyons and Vienne, in Gaul, there was much suffering in 177. The letter from the churches of these cities to the Christians in Asia and Phrygia, Eusebius, Hist. Ec., V, 1 (PNF, ser. I, vol. I, 211), and the Martyrdom of Polycarp (ANF, I, 37) are among the finest pieces of literature in this period and should be read by every student. Under Commodus (180-193), Marcia seems to have aided the Christians suffering persecution. The Martyrdom of Justin may be found ANF, I, 303, appended to his works. The doubtful rescript of Hadrian and the certainly spurious rescript of Antoninus Pius may be found in the Appendix to Justin Martyr's works (ANF, I, 186), and in Eusebius, Hist. Ec., IV, 9 and 13. For a discussion of their genuineness, see McGiffert's notes to Eusebius, Hist. Ec. The original texts may be found in Preuschen's Analecta, I, § 6 f.

(a) Justin Martyr, Apologia. II. 2. (MSG, 6:445.)

The martyrdom of Ptolem?us.

A certain woman had been converted to Christianity by Ptolem?us. Her dissolute husband, who had deserted her some time before, was divorced by her on account of his profligacy. In revenge he attempted to injure her, but she sought and obtained the protection of the imperial courts. The husband thereupon turned his attack upon Ptolem?us. According to Ruinart, the martyrdom took place in 166. See DCB, arts. "Ptolem?us" and "Justin Martyr." This and the following martyrdoms illustrate the procedure of the courts in dealing with Christians.

Since he was no longer able to prosecute her, he directed his assaults against a certain Ptolem?us whom Urbicus punished, and who had been the teacher of the woman in the Christian doctrines. And he did this in the following way: He persuaded a centurion, his friend, who had cast Ptolem?us into prison, to take Ptolem?us and interrogate him only as to whether he were a Christian. And Ptolem?us, being a lover of the truth, and not of deceitful or false disposition, [pg 066] when he confessed himself to be a Christian, was thrown in chains by the centurion and for a long time was punished in prison. At last, when he was brought to Urbicus, he was asked this one question only: whether he was a Christian. And again, conscious of the noble things that were his through the teaching of Christ, he confessed his discipleship in the divine virtue. For he who denies anything either denies it because he condemns the thing itself or he avoids confession because he knows his own unworthiness or alienation from it; neither of which cases is that of a true Christian. And when Urbicus ordered him to be led away to punishment, a certain Lucius, who was also himself a Christian, seeing the unreasonable judgment, said to Urbicus: "What is the ground of this judgment? Why have you punished this man: not as an adulterer, nor fornicator, nor as one guilty of murder, theft, or robbery, nor convicted of any crime at all, but who has only confessed that he is called by the name of Christian? You do not judge, O Urbicus, as becomes the Emperor Pius, nor the philosopher, the son of C?sar, nor the sacred Senate." And he, replying nothing else to Lucius, said: "You also seem to me to be such an one." And when Lucius answered, "Most certainly I am," he then ordered him also to be led away. And he professed his thanks, since he knew that he was going to be delivered from such wicked rulers and was going to the Father and King of the heavens. And still a third came forward and was condemned to be punished.

(b) Passion of the Scilitan Martyrs.

Text: J. A. Robinson, Text and Studies, I, 2, 112-116, Cambridge, 1891; reprinted in R. Knopf, Ausgew?hlte M?rtyreracten, 34 ff., Tübingen, 1901.

The date of this martyrdom is July 17, 180 A.D. Scili, the place of residence of these martyrs, was a small city in northwestern Proconsular Africa. For an account of ancient martyrologies, see Krüger, §§ 104 ff.

[pg 067] When Pr?sens, for the second time, and Claudianus were consuls, on the seventeenth day of July, and when Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Donata, Secunda, and Vestia were brought into the judgment-hall at Carthage, the proconsul Saturninus said: Ye can win the indulgence of our lord the Emperor if ye return to a sound mind.

Speratus said: We have never done ill; we have not lent ourselves to wrong; we have never spoken ill; but when we have received ill we have given thanks, because we pay heed to our Emperor.

Saturninus, the proconsul, said: We, too, are religious, and our religion is simple; and we swear by the genius of our lord the Emperor, and pray for his welfare, which also ye, too, ought to do.

Speratus said: If thou wilt peaceably lend me thine ears, I will tell thee the mystery of simplicity.

Saturninus said: I will not lend my ears to thee, when thou beginnest to speak evil things of our sacred rites; but rather do thou swear by the genius of our lord the Emperor.

Speratus said: The empire of this world I know not; but rather I serve that God whom no man hath seen nor with these eyes can see. [I Tim. 6:16.] I have committed no theft; but if I have bought anything I pay the tax; because I know my Lord, the King of kings and Emperor of all nations.

Saturninus, the proconsul, said to the rest: Cease to be of this persuasion.

Speratus said: It is an ill persuasion to do murder, to bear false witness.

Saturninus, the proconsul, said: Be not partakers of this folly.

Cittinus said: We have none other to fear except only our Lord God, who is in heaven.

Donata said: Honor to C?sar as C?sar, but fear to God. [Cf. Rom. 13:7.]

Vestia said: I am a Christian.

Secunda said: What I am that I wish to be.

[pg 068] Saturninus, the proconsul, said to Speratus: Dost thou persist in being a Christian?

Speratus said: I am a Christian. And with him they all agreed.

Saturninus, the proconsul, said: Will ye have a space to consider?

Speratus said: In a matter so just there is no considering.

Saturninus, the proconsul, said: What are the things in your chest?

Speratus said: Books and epistles of Paul, a just man.

Saturninus, the proconsul, said: Have a delay of thirty days and bethink yourselves.

Speratus said a second time: I am a Christian. And with him all agreed.

Saturninus, the proconsul, read out the decree from the tablet: Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Donata, Vestia, Secunda, and the rest who have confessed that they live according to the Christian rite because an opportunity has been offered them of returning to the custom of the Romans and they have obstinately persisted, it is determined shall be put to the sword.

Speratus said: We give thanks to God.

Nartzalus said: To-day we are martyrs in heaven; thanks be to God.

Saturninus, the proconsul, ordered it to be proclaimed by the herald: Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Veturius, Felix, Aquilinus, L?tatius, Januaria, Generosa, Vestia, Donata, and Secunda I have ordered to be executed.

They all said: Thanks be to God.

And so they all at one time were crowned with martyrdom; and they reign with the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, forever and ever. Amen.

(c) Hippolytus, Refutatio omnium H?resium, X, 7. (MSG, 16:3382.)

Hippolytus, a Greek writer of the West, lived at Rome in the time of Zephyrinus (198-217) and until shortly after A. D. 235. He appears [pg 069] to have been consecrated bishop of a schismatical party in Rome. Of his numerous works many have been lost in whole or in part. The Philosophumena, or the Refutation of All Heresies, was lost, with the exception of the first book, until 1842, and was then published among the works of Origen. It is of importance as giving much material for the study of Gnosticism. It may be found as a whole translated in ANF, V.

But after a time, when other martyrs were there [i.e., in the mines in Sardinia], Marcia, the pious concubine of Commodus, wishing to perform some good deed, called before her the blessed Victor [193?-202], at that time bishop of the Church, and inquired of him what martyrs were in Sardinia. And he delivered to her the names of all, but did not give the name of Callistus, knowing what things had been attempted by him. Marcia, having obtained her request from Commodus, hands the letter of emancipation to Hyacinthus, a certain eunuch rather advanced in life [or a presbyter], who, receiving it, sailed away to Sardinia. He delivered the letter to the person who at that time was governor of the territory, and he released the martyrs, with the exception of Callistus.

§ 20. The Literary Defence of Christianity

In reply to the attacks made upon Christianity, the apologists defended their religion along three lines: It was philosophically justified; it was true; it did not favor immorality, but, on the contrary, inculcated virtue. The philosophical defence, or justification, of Christianity was most brilliantly undertaken by Justin Martyr, who employed the current philosophical conception of the Logos. The general proof of Christianity was chiefly based upon the argument from the fulfilment of prophecy. All apologists undertook to show that the heathen calumnies against the Christians were false, that the heathen religions were replete with obscene tales of the gods, and that the worship of idols was absurd.

(a) Aristides, Apology, 2, 13, 15, 16. Ed. J. R. Harris and J. A. Robinson, Texts and Studies, I, 1, Cambridge, 1891.

[pg 070] The Apology of Aristides was long lost, but was found in a Syriac version in 1889. It was then found that much of the Greek original had been incorporated in the Life of Barlaam and Josaphat, a popular religious romance of the Middle Ages; see the introduction to the parallel translations by D. H. McKay in ANF, vol. IX, 259-279. This work of Aristides may be as early as 125; if so, it disputes with the similar work of Quadratus the honor of being the first Christian apology. A large part of it is taken up with a statement of the contradictions and absurdities of the mythology of the Greeks and Barbarians. Of this statement, ch. 13, quoted below, is the conclusion. Then, after a short passage regarding the Jews, the author passes to an exposition of the faith of Christians and a statement regarding their high morality.

Ch. 2. [Found only in Syriac.] The Christians trace the beginning of their religion to Jesus the Messiah; and He is named the Son of the most high God. And it is said that God came down from heaven and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed Himself with flesh, and that the Son of God lived in a daughter of man. This is taught in that Gospel which, as is related among them, was preached among them a short time ago. And you, also, if you will read therein, may perceive the power that belongs to it. This Jesus, therefore, was born of the race of the Hebrews. He had twelve disciples, that His wonderful plan of salvation might be carried out. But He himself was pierced by the Jews, and He died and He was buried. And they say that after three days He rose and was raised to heaven. Thereupon those twelve disciples went forth into the known parts of the world, and with all modesty and uprightness taught concerning His greatness. And therefore also those at the present time who now believe that preaching are called Christians and they are known.

Ch. 13. When the Greeks made laws they did not perceive that by their laws they condemned their gods. For if their laws are righteous, their gods are unrighteous, because they committed transgressions of the law in that they killed one another, practised sorcery, and committed adultery, robbed, stole, and lay with males, not to mention their other practices. [pg 071] For if their gods have done right in doing all this, as they write, then the laws of the Greeks are unrighteous in not being made according to the will of their gods. And consequently the whole world has gone astray.

Ch. 15. The Christians, O King, in that they go about and seek the truth, have found it and, as we have understood from their writings, they have come much nearer to the truth and correct knowledge than have the other peoples. They know and trust God, the creator of heaven and earth, in whom are all things and from whom are all things, in Him who has no other God beside Him, in Him from whom they have received commandments which they have engraved upon their minds, commandments which they observe in the faith and expectation of the world to come. Wherefore they do not commit adultery or fornication, nor bear false witness, nor covet what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honor father and mother and show kindness to their neighbors. If they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols made in human form. And whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them, they do not to others. They do not eat of food offered to idols, because they are pure. And their oppressors they appease and they make friends of them; they do good to their enemies.… If they see a stranger, they take him to their dwellings and rejoice over him as over a real brother. For they do not call themselves brethren after the flesh, but after the Spirit and in God. But if one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them who sees him cares for his burial according to his ability. And if they hear that one of them is imprisoned or oppressed on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them care for his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him, they set him free. And if any one among them is poor and needy, and they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply him with the needed food.34 The precepts of their Messiah they observe with great care. They live justly [pg 072] and soberly, as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and every hour they acknowledge and praise God for His lovingkindnesses toward them, and for their food and drink they give thanks to Him. And if any righteous man among them passes from this world, they rejoice and thank God and they escort his body as if he were setting out on a journey from one place to another.…

Ch. 16. … Their words and precepts, O King, and the glory of their worship and their hope of receiving reward, which they look for in another world, according to the work of each one, you can learn about from their writings. It is enough for us to have informed your Majesty in a few words concerning the conduct and truth of the Christians. For great, indeed, and wonderful is their doctrine for him who will study it and reflect upon it. And verily this is a new people, and there is something divine in it.

(b) Justin Martyr, Apologia, I, 46. (MSG, 6:398.)

In the following, Justin Martyr states his argument from the doctrine of the Logos, which was widely accepted in Greek philosophy and found its counterpart in Christianity in the Johannine theology (see below, § 32 A). With Justin should be compared Clement of Alexandria (see below, § 43 a), who develops the same idea in showing the relation of Greek philosophy to the Mosaic dispensation and to the Christian revelation.

We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men partake; and those who lived reasonably were Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus and those like them; and among the Barbarians, Abraham and Ananias, and Azarias, and Misael, and Elias, and many others whose actions and names we now decline to recount, because we know it would be tedious.

(c) Justin Martyr, Apologia, II, 10, 13. (MSG, 6:459, 466.)

Ch. 10. Our doctrines, then, appear to be greater than all human teaching; because Christ who appeared for our sakes, [pg 073] became the whole rational being,35 body and reason and soul. For whatever either law-givers or philosophers uttered well they elaborated by finding and contemplating some part of the Logos. But since they did not know the whole of the Logos, which is Christ, they often contradicted themselves. And those who by human birth were more ancient than Christ, when they attempted to consider and prove things by reason, were brought before the tribunals as impious persons and busybodies. And Socrates, who was more zealous in this direction than all of them, was accused of the very same crimes as ourselves. For they said that he was introducing new divinities, and did not consider those to be gods whom the State recognized. But he cast out from the State both Homer and the rest of the poets, and taught men to reject the wicked demons and those who did the things which the poets related; and he exhorted them to become acquainted with the God who was unknown to them, by means of the investigation of reason, saying, "That it is not easy to find the Father and Maker of all, nor, having found Him, is it safe to declare Him to all."36 But these things our Christ did through His own power. For no one trusted in Socrates so as to die for this doctrine, but in Christ, who was partially known even by Socrates (for He was and is the Logos who is in every man, and who foretold the things that were to come to pass both through the prophets and in His own person when He was made of like passions and taught these things), not only philosophers and scholars believed, but also artisans and people entirely uneducated, despising both glory and fear and death; since He is the power of the ineffable Father, and not the mere instrument of human reason.37

Ch. 13. … I confess that I both boast and with all my strength strive to be found a Christian; not because the teachings of Plato are different from those of Christ, but [pg 074] because they are not in all respects similar, as neither are those of others, Stoics, poets, and historians. For each man spoke well in proportion to the share he had of the spermatic divine Logos, seeing what was related to it. But they who contradict themselves on the more important points appear not to have possessed the heavenly wisdom and the knowledge which cannot be spoken against. Whatever things were rightly said among all men are the property of us Christians. For next to God we worship and love the Logos, who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that, becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing. For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted Logos that was in them. For the seed of anything and a copy imparted according to capacity [i.e., to receive] is one thing, and quite another is the thing itself, of which there is the participation and imitation according to the grace which is from Him.

(d) Justin Martyr, Apologia, I, 31, 53. (MSG, 6:375, 406.)

The argument from prophecy.

Ch. 31. There were then among the Jews certain men who were prophets of God, through whom the prophetic Spirit [context shows that the Logos is here meant] published beforehand things that were to come to pass before they happened. And their prophecies, as they were spoken and when they were uttered, the kings who were among the Jews at the several times carefully preserved in their possession, when they had been arranged by the prophets themselves in their own Hebrew language.… They are also in possession of all Jews throughout the world.… In these books of the prophets we found Jesus our Christ foretold as coming, born of a virgin, growing up to manhood, and healing every disease and every sickness, and raising the dead, and being hated and unrecognized, and crucified, and dying, and rising again, and ascending into heaven, and both being and also [pg 075] called the Son of God, and that certain persons should be sent by Him into every race of men to publish these things, and that rather among the Gentiles [than among the Jews] men should believe on Him. And He was predicted before He appeared first 5,000 years before, and again 3,000, then 2,000 then 1,000, and yet again 800; for according to the succession of generations prophets after prophets arose.

Ch. 53. Though we have many other prophecies, we forbear to speak, judging these sufficient for the persuasion of those who have ears capable of hearing and understanding; and considering also that these persons are able to see that we do not make assertions, and are unable to produce proof, like those fables that are told of the reputed sons of Jupiter. For with what reason should we believe of a crucified man that He is the first-born of the unbegotten God, and Himself will pass judgment on the whole human race, unless we found testimonies concerning Him published before He came and was born as a man, and unless we saw that things had happened accordingly?

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top