THE EARLY APOLOGISTS
THE FIRST APOLOGIES
As Christianity gradually separated from Judaism and came to feel its own character as a new faith, competing with various ethnic, philosophic, and mysterious religions in the Roman world and facing objections and persecution, it began to be conscious of itself and its responsibility to give answers to the criticisms and attacks that were made against it. Moreover, educated men and scholars were converted to Christianity in great numbers. They found that truth compelled them quite naturally to enter in discussion with pagan philosophers. This was the beginning of the Christian apologetic literature that soon took shape in a series of apologies and dialogues in defense of the new religion.
Christianity and Christians were attacked by the pagan philosophers, the Jews and sometimes by the emperors. In the second century, pagan philosophers began to attack Christianity. Only some of their writings are known:
1. The speech of the famous rhetor Fronto of Cirta, the teacher of Marcus Aurelius, against the Christians.
2. In a satire De morte Peregrini (c. 170) Lucian of Samosata, who had been a member of the Christian community for some time, mocks the Christians for their love of the brethren and their contempt of death.
3. The attack of the Platonist Celsus (c. 178), preserved for the greater part in Origens work against him.
The tradition of hostility against the Christians on the part of the philosophers was continued in the later centuries, especially among the neo-Platonists, e.g. Prophery, Hierocles and Emperor Julian.
J.H. Crehan starts his introduction to Athenagoras, saying,
When the emperor Domitian sent for the surviving 'brethren of the Lord' from Palestine, and having examined them about their descent from David dismissed them in peace, the age of the Apologies may be said to have begun. To all Christians it had been made clear that if they could gain access to the emperor, even to the most erratic and cruel of emperors, and state their case to him, there would be a very good chance of justice being done to them. From this episode and from the wider activities of the emperor Hadrian, who traveled much in the eastern part of his empire, the Christians gathered courage to come forward with answers to the odious calumnies of... cannibalism, of incest and atheism, which a pagan, sometimes interested and sometimes uncomprehending, leveled against them.
Some scholars state that the apologists began by presenting petitions to Hadrian on his visit to Athens in 124 A.D. After the martyrdom of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, St. Justin wrote to Antoninus Pius around 156 A.D. Three more addressed Marcus Aurelius in 176 A.D, after the suppression of a revolt. This appeal failed with the bloody martyrdom in Gaul, and Tatian delivered a violent counterattack addressed not to the emperors but to Greeks in general. A few years later St. Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, created an apologetic Jewish-Christian theology which was soon modified by better theologians. Petitions to the emperors had ceased and apologists wrote for non-Christian groups or individuals in order to tell outsiders about Christian truth.
The defense of Christianity was not only undertaken by clergy men but also by laymen. It was not part of the official preaching of the Church.
Those writers were contemporaries of the Gnostics but took a very different path. Instead of esoteric spiritualism the apologists confidently used philosophical reason, and though they attacked philosophers they used their language whenever they could. They thus created the basic method of traditional Christian theology.
As Leslie W. Barnard says,
The Apologists did not hesitate to use technical philosophic terms which were the current stock-in-trade of educated pagans. It is however; an error to believe that in doing this they so hellenized Christianity as to dilute central doctrines. They were first and foremost churchmen and their object was to christianize Hellenism, not to hellenize Christianity... We should not, therefore, expect in their writings a full exposition of the Christian Faith such as would be given to Christians. Their purpose was apologetic and we cannot therefore reconstruct from their writings, with the possible exception of Justin Martyr, a systematic statement of their beliefs.
Quite apart from the apologetic writings' effect on the pagans to whom it might, or might not, be delivered, it had the effect of supplying less educated and less experienced Christians with arguments to use when they were exposed to persecution. Thus one finds that the work of Athenagoras carries arguments and turns of phrase which appear again in the Acts of the martyr Appolonius who was put to death in Rome by Commodus in 185 A.D.
The Apologists set before themselves three objectives:
1. They challenged the widely current calumnies and were at particular pains to answer the charge that the Church was a peril to the State.
2. They exposed the immoralities of paganism and the myths of its divinities, at the same time demonstrating that the Christian alone has a correct understanding of God and the universe. Hence they defended the dogmas concerned with the unity of God, monotheism, the divinity of Christ and the resurrection of the body.
3. Not content with merely answering the arguments of the philosophers, they went on to show that this very philosophy, because it had only human reason to rely upon, had either never attained truth, or that the truth it had attained was but fragmentary and mingled with numerous errors. Christianity offers the absolute truth, since the Logos, the Divine Reason Himself, comes down upon earth, and Christianity is the divine Philosophy. Their method was to exhibit Christianity to emperors and to the public as politically harmless and morally and culturally superior to paganism.
This name was especially given to Christian writers who first addressed themselves to the task of making a reasoned defense and recommendation of their faith to outsiders. They belonged to the period when Christianity appeared first in converts among the educated classes, and was also in conflict with the State over its very right to exist. Their object was to gain a fair hearing for Christianity, to dispel popular slanders and misunderstandings, and to provide for this purpose some account of Christian belief and practice. They had to meet pagan philosophy and the general outlook which it influenced, specifically Jewish objectors. They devoted much attention to the application of Old Testament prophecy toward Christianity, and to the position of the divinity of Christ in relation to monotheism, and especially in connection with the latter doctrine elaborating the teaching on the Logos and winning its permanent place in Christian theology.
Except for Tertullian, they were not primarily theologians, at the same time they laid the foundation of the science of God. We find in their works the beginnings of a formal study of theological doctrine, since they neither aimed at scientific organization nor attempted to bring the whole body of revelation within their scope.
1. The AUTHOR OF THE Preaching of Peter
The Preaching of Peter is written in St. Peter's name, probably from the reign of Hadrian. It is chiefly significant as the first of the Christian apologies. This book itself has long since disappeared but St. Clement of Alexandria uses quotations of the Apostle. Origen who had some substantial information about it, raises the question whether it is genuine or not genuine or mixed between genuine and not.
It combines philosophical discussion of attributes with a biblical emphasis on God as the Creator. It explains that God cannot be worshipped in the manner of the Greeks, nor in that of the Jews. Its criticism of Judaism is close to what Aristides provides. The Jewish prophets wrote about the coming of Christ and His crucifixion.
Quadratus is the oldest apologist of Christianity. We are indebted to Eusebius for all we know of him. Edgar J. Goodspeed says, "It was natural that intelligent Christians should undertake to repel these attacks (against Christianity) and defend themselves against the hostility of the empire. A beginning in this direction was made in Egypt, very early in the second century, in the Preaching of Peter. But a more formal appeal to the emperor himself was soon after written by a Greek named Quadratus and presented to the emperor Hadrian perhaps at Athens when Hadrian visited that city in 125 A.D or later in 129 A.D."
3. ARISTIDES (2nd cent.)
The writing of apologies for Christianity came into being by the figure of the Christian philosopher and Apologist Aristides. Until recent times our only knowledge of him came from brief references in Eusebius and St. Jerome. In 1878 a part of his 'Apology' in an Armenian translation was published in Venice by the Mechitarists. In the year I889 the American scholar, Rendel Harris, discovered in the "Monastery of St. Catherine" on Mount Sinai, a complete Syriac translation of the Apology. This Syriac version enabled J. Armitage Robinson to prove that a Greek text of the Apology was not only extant but had been edited for some time in the form of a religious novel dealing with Barlaam and Joasaph. The author of this novel, a monk of the "Monastery of St. Saba" in Palestine in the seventh century, presents the Apology as made by a pagan philosopher in favor of Christianity.
According to Eusebius, Aristides delivered his Apology to the Emperor Hadrin at the same time as another apologist, Quadratus, viz. in 124 A.D. But J. R. Harris advanced strong arguments in favor of the view that these Apologies were in fact both addressed to Antoninus Pius (d. 161) early in his reign.
Aristides sought to defend the existence and eternity of God, and to show that Christians had a fuller understanding of His nature than either the Chaldeans, the Greeks, the Egyptians or the Jews, and that they alone loved according to His precepts. He presents the Christian way, which he strongly commends, although he speaks of the Christians as well as of the other four groups in the third person. The closing chapters, 15-17, give a fine picture of early Christian practices and morals.
The influence of the four Gospels is clearly seen in Aristides' account of the Christians; indeed, he probably refers to them when he invites the emperor to examine the Christians' books (16: 3, 5). Aristides is also strongly influenced by the "Preaching of Peter." He sees in the Christians a new race, as it is shown in the book of the "Preaching." He seems to have known the Acts and probably Romans and I Peter. His way of referring to the writings of the Christians as his sources suggests the possession of a larger Christian library.
Aristides states that the Christians alone have the only true idea of God and 'they above all the nations of the world have found the truth. For they acknowledge God the Creator and Maker of all things in the only begotten Son and in the Holy Spirit; and besides him they worship no other' (15). That the Christians worship the one true God manifests itself particularly in their purity of life which Aristides praises highly:
They have the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ himself graven upon their hearts and these they observe, looking for the resurrection of the dead and for the life in the world to come. They do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor do they bear false witness, nor covet the things of others; they honor father and mother, and love their neighbors; they give right judgment and they never do to others what they would not wish to happen to themselves. They comfort such as wrong them and make friends of them. They are eager to do good to their enemies. They are meek and gentle. They refrain themselves from all unlawful intercourse and all impurity. They despise not the widow and oppress not the orphan. He that has gives ungrudgingly to him that has not. If they see a stranger they take him under their roof and rejoice over him, as it were their own brother. For they call themselves brethren not after the flesh but after the spirit. They are ready to lay down their own lives for the sake of Christ. They keep His commandments without swerving, living righteous and holy lives as the Lord their God commanded them. And they give thanks unto Him every hour for all meat and drink and other blessings. Verily then this is the way of truth which leads those who travel therein to the eternal kingdom promised by Christ in the life to come (15).
The topology of Aristides is limited in scope, its style unaffected and its thought and disposition artless. Nevertheless for all its simplicity, its tone is lofty.
4. ARISTO OF PELLA (c. 140 A.D)
Pella was a city in Perea, in which the Christians of Jerusalem were warned to take refuge when the Roman armies gathered about Jerusalem to besiege it in 66-70 A.D. It was one of the ten cities that formed the league known as the Decapolis. Aristo may have been a descendant of those Jerusalem refugees. His writings, probably this very dialogue of his, supplied some material to Eusebius on the subject of the Bar-Cochba rebellion against Rome (132-35 A.D.), and Eusebius mentions Aristo as the source of some of his information about it.
He seems to be the first Christian apologist who defends Christianity in written tract against Judaism. The dialogue is represented as taking place between a Judaeo-Christian named Jason and an Alexandrian Jew named Papiscus and became the model for a whole series of such Jewish-Christian dialogues. The discussion ends with the Jew Papiscus acknowledging Christ as the Son of God and asking for baptism.
The first mention of it is in the famous True Discourses which Celsus, about 178 A.D, directed against Christianity. This work has disappeared for a long time, but Origen extensively quotes a good deal of it in order to defend Christianity. Origen defends this short treatise. He points out that the tract was intended for people at large and hence ought not to have provoked unfavorable comment from any open-minded person. According to Origen, this apology describes, "how a Christian supported by Jewish writings (the Old Testament) carries on an argument with a Jew and goes on to prove that the prophecies pertaining to Christ find fulfillment in Jesus, while the opponent in a plucky and not unskilled fashion takes the part of the Jew in the controversy.."
Coming between Celsus and Origen, St. Clement of Alexandria mentions the book in the sixth book of his Outlines. St. Jerome, in his Commentary on Galatians, remembers that he has read in the Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus that he who is hanged is reproach by God. St. Jerome also says that the Dialogue says: "In the Son God made the heavens and the earth."
Toward the end of the fifth century another man named Celsus made a Latin translation of the Dialogue. This has disappeared, but the preface he wrote for it has survived and it informs us that Jason was a Jewish Christian and Papiscus an Alexandrian Jew who was finally converted by Jason's arguments.
5. ST. JUSTIN THE MARTYR
St. Justin the Martyr is the most important of the apologists of the second century and one of the noblest personalities of early Christian literature. He employs both the early forms of apologetic: the dialogue and apology. He was born in Flavia Neapolis in Palestine, the ancient Sheeted, the modern Nablus. His parents were pagans. He himself tells us that he traveled into the Greek world to complete his education, and visited various philosophical schools.
Justin tried first the school of a Stoic, then that of a Peripatetic, and finally that of a Pythagorean. None of these schools convinced or satisfied him. The Stoic failed because he gave him no explanation concerning God's being. The Peripatetic insisted that Justin pay him the tuition immediately, which Justin answered by avoiding his lectures. The Pythagorean demanded of him to study music, astronomy and geometry first. Justin had no inclination to do so. Platonism, on the other hand, appealed to him for a time, until as he walked along the sea-shore an old man convinced him that the Platonic philosophy could not satisfy the heart of man and called his attention to the prophets who alone announced the truth. "When he had spoken," St. Justin relates, "these and many other things, which there is no time for mentioning at present, he went away, bidding me attend to them; and I have not seen him since. But straightway a flame was kindled in my soul; and a love of the prophets, and of those men who were friends of Christ, possessed me. And whilst revolving his words in my mind, I found this philosophy alone to be safe and profitable. Thus and for this reason I became a philosopher, and I could wish that all men were of the same mind as myself, not to turn from the doctrines of the Savior." The quest for truth led him to Christianity.
We also learn from him that the heroic contempt which Christians entertained for death played no small role in his conversion: "I myself used to rejoice in the teaching of Plato and to hear evil spoken of Christians. But, as I saw that they showed no fear in the face of death and of all other things which inspire horror, I reflected that they could not be vicious and pleasure-loving." The sincere quest for truth and humble prayer brought him finally to accept the faith of Christ:
After his conversion, which occurred most likely in Ephesus, he devoted his entire life to the defense of the Christian faith. Clothed in the palladium, a cloak worn by Greek philosophers, he traveled about, an itinerant teacher. He arrived in Rome during the reign of Antoninus Pius (I38-161 A.D) and founded a school there. One of his pupils was Tatian, destined later to become an apologist. St. Justin suffered martyrdom in Rome between 163 and 167 A.D.
Justin was a prolific writer. Eusebius lists eight works of Justin - two Apologies, Against the Greeks, the Refutation, On the Sovereignty of God, Psaltes (perhaps a hymnbook), On the Soul, and a Dialogue against the Jews. Eusebius also mentions a work of Justin, Against Marcion, but, when he proceeds to quote from it, he quotes from what we know as the Apology. But Justin's contemporary Irenaeus also mentions Against Marcion and quotes from it a sentence that is not found in the Apology: Eusebius also mentions elsewhere, in Justin's own words, a work Against all Heresies, which he had probably never seen. This work is now lost. Only three of his works have come down to us, his two Apologies against the Greeks, written about 150 A.D and his Dialogue with the Jew Trypho, written between 155 and 160 A.D.
He is the first Christian thinker to seek to reconcile the claims of faith and reason. He holds that traces of the truth are to be found in pagan thinkers, since all men share in the 'generative' or 'germinative' Word; but Christianity alone is the truly rational creed. The reason why the Word became incarnate is to teach men the truth and to redeem them from the power of demons.
6. TATIAN (c. 160)
A native Syrian (or Assyrian) by birth, was of pagan parents. He was educated in Greek rhetoric and philosophy. He journeyed westward to Athens and Rome between 150 and 165 in the pursuit of his studies. In Rome he met St. Justin the Martyr and became a Christian, although he was not among the group arrested at the time when Justin was martyred. Later he returned to Syria, and it was probably there, about 172 A.D, that he became the leader, if not the founder, of the Encratites (i.e., the Abstinent) sect, which belongs to the group of Christian Gnostics, discouraging marriage as adultery, condemning the use of meat in any form, the drinking of wine, and going so far as to substitute water for wine in the Eucharistic service. For this reason the adherents of this sect were called the Aquarii. They also denied the salvation of Adam. St. Irenaeus discusses his heretical views.
He is the author of an apology, usually called "Oration Against the Greeks." It is a passionate defense of the divine purity of Christianity combined with a violent attack on every aspect of Greco-Roman culture and religion, which is represented as a mass of evil, incompatible with the Christian Faith. While St. Justin in his defense of Christianity paid high respect to non-Christian philosophy, his disciple Tatian betrays a determined hatred of all that belongs to Greek civilization, art, science and language. Theses are all in his mind foolish, deceitful and immoral. Tatian declares, and tries to prove, that Moses is more ancient than Homer and dwells upon the immoralities celebrated in Greek sculpture. With all this polemic he interweaves a sketch of Christian views, especially about demons and morals and declares himself a champion of this barbarian philosophy. At the end of his Apology, Tatian presents himself for any criticism: "These things, O Greeks, I, Tatian, a disciple of the barbarian philosophy, have composed for you. I was born in the land of the Assyrians, having been first instructed in your doctrines, and afterwards in those which I now undertake to proclaim. Henceforward, knowing who God is and what is His work, I present myself to you prepared for an examination concerning my doctrines while I adhere immovably to that mode of life which is according to God."
He criticized poor men who sold themselves to be murdered and rich men who bought the prospective victims.
As the pagans burned the corpses of some Gallican martyrs and swept down their ashes into the river Rohne, and still others were torn by wild beasts so that they may not remain upon earth, and had no hope of the resurrection, Tatian said, "even if fire makes my flesh vanish, the cosmos contains its vaporized matter, and if I am consumed on rivers and in seas or torn apart by wild beasts, I am laid up in the treasures of a rich Master."
Tatian insisted that he paid taxes and gave due honor to the emperor. He also urged that he did not desire wealth or military command"
According to J. Quasten the main part of this work has the following four sections:
I. The first section (Chs. 4,3-7,6) contains a Christian cosmology.
I. A definition of the Christian concept of God (Ch. 4,3-5).
2. The relation of the Logos to the Father, the formation of matter and the creation of the world (Ch. 5).
3. A description of the creation of man, of the resurrection, and of the last judgment (Ch. 6-7,1).
4. The creation of the angels, the freedom of the will, the fall of the angels, the sin of Adam and Eve, bad angels and demons (Ch. 7, 2-8).
II. A Christian demonology (Ch. 8-20).
I. Astrology is an invention of the demons (Ch. 8-1 I).
2. To overcome the power of the demons, we must endeavor to reunite our soul with the pneuma, the heavenly spirit. Originally this pneuma lived in the bosom of the first man, but was expelled by the first sin, which was the work of the demons (Ch. 12-I5,1).
3. The demons are images of matter and iniquity. They are not able to do penance, but men are images of God and are thus able to attain immortality by self-mortification (Ch. I5,2- 16, 6).
4. Man must not fear death because he is obliged to reject all matter in order to gain immortality (Ch. I6, 7-20).
III. Greek civilization in the light of the Christian attitude toward life (Ch. 21-30).
I. The foolishness of all Greek theology forms a sharp contrast to the sublimity of the mystery of the incarnation (Ch. 2 l).
2. The Greek theaters are schools of vice (Ch. 22-24).
3. Greek philosophy and law are contradictory and deceitful (Ch 25-28).
4. Against this dark background of Greek civilization the superiority of the Christian religion shines forth brightly (Ch. 29-30).
IV. The age and moral value of Christianity (Ch. 3r-41).
1. The Christian religion is older than all others because Moses lived before Homer, long before all the lawgivers of Greece (Ch. 31, 1-6, 36-41).
2. Christian philosophy and Christian conduct of life differ from the wisdom of the Greek writers (Ch. 31,7-35).
His chief claim to fame is the "Diatessaron," a history of the life of Christ compiled from the four gospels which was used in the Syriac Church until the 5th century, when Rabbula of Edessa perhaps replaced it by the Peshitta version because its author was considered a heretic. Among his literary opponents were St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Hippolytus and Origen. It is possible that his memory in the Syriac Church is preserved under the name of Addai. Eusebius tells us that Tatian left a multitude of writings, but most of these are unknown.
7. St. APOLLInARIS OF HIERAPOLIS
Claudius Apollinaris, was bishop of Hierapolis during the time of Marcus Aurelius (161-I80). Eusebius reports about him:
Of the many writings of Apollinaris which have been widely preserved, the following have reached us: A treatise to the above-mentioned emperor (Marcus Aurelius), five books Against the Pagans, two books On the Truth (peri alethias), two books Against the Jews, and after this the treatises which he wrote against the heretic opinion of the Phrygians (Montanists) which had begun not long before, and was then, as it were, beginning to sprout, while Montanus with his false prophecies marked the beginnings of the error (heretic thought).
Another work of Apollinarius, not mentioned by Eusebius, but known to the author of the Chronicon paschale, is called "On Easter" (peri tou pascha). The two quotations which the author of the Chronicon cites seem to suggest that Apollinarius was against the quartodeciman dating of Easter. Apart from a few fragments, all his writings are lost.
Miltiades, the rhetorician, closely resembles Apollinaris in that he writes against Montanists, Greeks, and Jews, and addresses rulers of this world a defense of the philosophy which he followed. He was born in Asia Minor. A contemporary of Tatian, he was, most probably, also a pupil of St. Justin.
Unfortunately, all his writings have been lost; but Tertullian and Hippolytus report that he defended Christianity against pagans as well as against heretics. According to Eusebius he wrote an Apology for Christian Philosophy which he addressed to 'temporal rulers.' According to St. Jerome, the 'rulers' were the emperor Marcus Aurelius (I61-I80) and his co-regent Lucius Commodus (I61-I69). Valesius, cited by Salmon, supposes that he wrote to the provincial governors, while Valesius himself suggests that Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus were in view. His use of kosmikoi archontes when addressing rulers and his allusion to 1 Corinthians 2:6-8, show that he was not as conciliatory as Appolinaris, Melito, or Athenagoras.
Of a similar apologetic nature is his work Against the Greeks, in two books, and another work Against the Jews, also in two books. The treatise which he composed against the Montanists deals with the question That a Prophet Should not Speak in Ecstasy, and explains that the Montanistic prophets were pseudo-prophets. Another anti-heretical treatise of Miltiades is directed against the Valentinian Gnostics.
9. St. THEOPHILUS (later 2nd cent.)
According to Eusebius St. Theophilus was the sixth bishop of Antioch in Syria. He was born near the Euphrates, of pagan parentage and received a Hellenistic education. Not until he had reached maturity, and even then only after long consideration and a study of scripture, did he become a convert to Christianity.
Of his writings, only his Apology, in three books addressed to his pagan friend Autolycus, has survived. Its purpose is to set before the pagan world the Christian idea of God and the superiority of the doctrine of creation over the immoral myths of the Olympian religion.
In brief J. Quasten's account on this work is quoted below:
In the first book he speaks of the essence of God, who can be seen only by the eyes of the soul:
God is seen by those who are enabled to see Him, when they have the eyes of their soul opened; for all have eyes; but in some they are overspread, and do not see the light of the sun. Yet it does not follow because the blind do not see, that the light of the sun does not shine; but let the blind blame themselves and their own eyes... as a burnished mirror, so ought man to have his soul pure. When there is rust on the mirror, it is not possible that a man's face be seen in the mirror; so also when there is sin in a man, such a man can not behold God.
He also deals with the absurdities of idolatry and with the difference between the honor paid to the emperor and the worship due to God. He treats the meaning and importance of the name Christian, which had been mocked by his adversary. And after an explanation of the belief in the resurrection he closes with the words: "Since you said, 'Show me your God,' this is my God and I counsel you to fear Him and to trust Him."
The second book contrasts the teachings of the prophets, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, with the foolishness of the pagan religion and the contradictory sayings of the Greek poets concerning the gods and the origin of the world. The account of Genesis regarding the creation and the fall of man, is analyzed in detail and explained allegorically. At the end the author quotes some of the instructions of the prophets on the manner of worshipping God rightly and on the proper conduct of life.
The third book demonstrates the superiority of Christianity from the moral point of view. Theophilus uses the chronology of the world to prove that Moses and the prophets preceded all philosophers.
Among his lost treatises are writings against Marcion and Hermogenes.
St. Theophilus is the first theologian to use the word Triad (trias) for the union of the three Persons (Hypostaseis) in the Godhead. He also distinguishes between the Logos internal or immanent in God and the Word emitted or uttered by God.
10. Melito, bishop of Sardis
Melito, bishop of Sardis in Lydia, is one of the great lights of Asia in the second century. He is a prolific writer on a wide variety of subjects. About the year 170 A.D he addressed an apology for the Christians to the emperor Marcus Aurelius, of which only fragments are preserved by Eusebius and in the Chronicon paschale. He is the first to advocate solidarity of Christianity with the Empire. The Empire and the Christian religion are foster sisters; they form a pair. In addition, the Christian religion means blessing and welfare to the empire. In his writings there is an anti-Gnostic insistence on the true humanity of Christ, and on the unity of the Old and New Testaments.
11. The Epistle to Diognetus
The Epistle to Diognetus is an apology for Christianity composed in the form of a letter addressed to a high-ranking pagan, Diognetus. (For more details see our book: The Apostolic Fathers.)
12. MINUCIUS FELIX (2nd or 3rd century)
An author of the Octavius. Apparently an African, he wrote in Latin an elegant defense of Christianity in the form of a conversation between Octavius, a Christian, and Caecilius, a pagan, who was converted by the argument. The book refutes the common charges against Christians, argues the case for monotheism and divine providence, and attacks pagan mythology, but says little of specifically Christian doctrines. It is probably a 3rd century work.
13. TERTULLIAN (c. 160- c. 225)
An African Church Father, brought up in Carthage as a pagan. Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus received a good education in literature and rhetoric. It seems that he visited Athens and Rome in his youth. He may have practised as a lawyer, though identification with the jurist Tertullian is improbable. He was converted to Christianity before 197 A.D. According to St. Jerome he became a priest, but there are other indications that he remained a layman. He joined the Montanist sect. He was the author of a long list of apologetic, theological, controversial, and ascetic works.
Among his Apologetic writings he addressed a work To the Heathen (Ad Nations, two books), in which he protested against the laws condemning Christians without examining their behavior. He also wrote his great Apology, addressed to the Roman governors of provinces, and an address To the Martyrs who were in prison.
Nothing is known about this Christian philosophical writer. He wrote the "Irrisio" or "Mockery of the Heathen Philosophers," or "Satire on the Profane Philosophers," which satirizes the conflicting opinions of pagan writers on the human soul (Chs. 1-2), and the fundamental principles of the universe (Chs. 3-10). The apology is clearly the work of a writer of very mediocre attainments. Modern authors have assigned various dates to the 'Irrisio' from the 2nd to the 6th century.
15. THE SAYINGS OF SEXTUS
The so-called Sayings of Sextus are a collection of pagan moral sentences and rules of life, which were attributed to the Pythagorean philosopher Sextus. At the end of the second century, a Christian author (of Alexandria?) revised them. Origen is the first to mention these Sayings. In his Contra Celsum he recalls a beautiful saying in the writings of Sextus, which is known to most Christians: "The eating of animals," says he, "is a matter of indifference; but to abstain from them is more agreeable to reason." Rufinus translated 451 of these sayings from the Greek into Latin. In the preface of this Latin version, he identifies without grounds the Pythagorean Philosopher Sextus with the Roman Bishop and martyr Sextus II (257-58). But St. Jerome protested strongly against this blunder.
Some scholars state that Platonic ideas regarding purification, illumination and deification, and the Platonic concept of God inspire the majority of these sayings. Temperance in food, drink, and sleep are counseled. Marriage is not recommended. It is possible that St. Clement of Alexandria is the Christian author who revised them.