DEFENCES OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE APOLOGETIC PERIODA.D.70—A.D. 254.
§ 1. Preliminary Statements.
The History of Apologies is the next subject to be investigated, in our course through the internal history of the Christian Church. As we proceed, we shall find that we are examining the workings of the Christian Mind, in its endeavour to harmonize revelation and reason. The history of the Defences of Christianity is, therefore, one of the best sources whence to derive a true philosophy of Christianity. As we pass along through this branch of Dogmatic History, we shall observe that substantially the same objections are urged by the skeptical mind, from age to age, and that substantially the same replies are made. Perhaps in no part of Church History, do we observe so striking verification of the proverb that man is the same being in every age, as in the history of Apologies. Infidelity is the same over and over again; reappearing in new forms, it is true, so that it looks to the time and the church in which it appears, like a new thing under the sun, yet ever remaining identical with itself, it makes very much the same statements, and elicits very much the same replies.
At the same time, the investigation of the process discloses the fact of a diversity in the unity. The skepticism of one period is not a mere fac simile of a preceding. It springs up out of the peculiar culture of the age, and takes on a hue by which it can be distinguished. At one time it is deistic infidelity; at another pantheistic. At one time an epicurean naturalism is the warm and steaming soil, in which it strikes its roots; at another a frigid and intellectual rationalism. And the same variety is seen in the Apologies. Like meets like. Each form of errour is counteracted by a correspondent form of truth, and thus the great stream of debate and conflict rolls onward.
Commencing with the Apologetic period, we find that this first age of the church is very properly denominated the Age of Apologies. The great work to be performed by the Christian Mind was to repel attacks. Christianity, during the whole of this period of two centuries, was upon the defensive. Less opportunity, consequently, was afforded for constructing the positive system of scripture truth, so that the theological interests of the church in this age were subordinated to its apologetic effort, and Christian science received only that indirect, though important investigation, which is involved in the discussion of the relations of reason to revelation.
The attacks upon Christianity during this period, proceeded from two general sources: Judaism and Paganism. Judaism held the doctrine of a special revelation, in common with Christianity, and consequently the objections which it raised were of a different character from those urged by a Pagan philosophy which did not acknowledge any special and supernatural communication from God. The attacks upon Christianity that proceeded from the Judaistic opposer had a constant and immediate reference to the Old Testament, as he understood it. He did not, like the pagan skeptic, attack Christianity because it claimed to be a divine revelation; but because it claimed to be a form of revelation more final and conclusive than that first and ancient form whose authority he believed to be valid, and which he supposed was to be entirely annihilated by the new religion. Hence the question between the Judaistic skeptic and the Christian apologist involved the whole subject of the relation of the New to the Old Dispensation. The Pagan opponent of Christianity, on the other hand, received neither the Old nor the New Testament as a divine revelation, and the objections which he urged related to the possibility, and reality of any special communication from the infinite to the finite mind.
It is to these two general forms of skepticism, and the replies that were made by the Christian apologist, that we now turn our attention.
§ 2. Ebionite Skepticism, and Christian replies.
The first species of opposition to Christianity, from the direction of Judaism, and having reference to the meaning and authority of the Old Testament, was Ebionitism.
The Ebionite, judging from the somewhat conflicting statements of the early fathers, was the apostate Jewish-Christian of the 2d century. The Jewish-Christian, originally evangelical, had by this time lapsed down to a humanitarian position respecting the person and work of Christ, and the nature of Christianity. He rejected the doctrine of Christ's deity, and of his miraculous birth, and held him to be the son of Joseph and Mary.1 At the same time, however, he regarded Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament; believing that he was set apart for his work by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, at the time of his baptism by John. He made use of a Hebrew gospel, now lost, which was probably that of Matthew, with the omission of such portions of it as teach his miraculous birth, and his divine nature. The remainder of the New Testament canon he rejected, particularly the epistles of Paul, whom he regarded as the corrupter of genuine Christianity.
1 'Eiiiiovtuoi it 6po\oyov(Tt T6> to be a common man, born of the Kuo-hov vrrb rou Svroir Qtov ytyovi- virgin Mary by ordinary generavat, ra it Trtp'i Tov Xpi(rToi> opoias Tu tion. Epiphaniits (Hacr. XXX. KijpivSu Kai KapiroKoaTti pv'itvovai. 8) represents them as regarding Ieenaeus: Adv. Haer. I. ixii. Ed. him to be an exalted spirit, creaHarvey. There seems to have been ted before all other creatures. some variety in the views of the Opjgen (Cont. Oelsum,V. 61) disEbionites respecting the grade of tinguishes two classes of EbionOhrist's being; some regarding ites, one of which admitted the him as a much more exalted crea- supernatural birth of Christ, and turo than others did. But all of the other denied it; but neither them agreed in denying his deity, class admitted his deity.—One and his place in the trinity, Eus«- portion, and that probably a small Bius (Ecol. Hist. III. 27) describes one, of the Ebionites were mystithe Ebionites as holding Christ cal rather than literal in their
The Ebionite was thus pseudo-Jewish in all essential particulars. With the exception that he believed the Messiah to have made his appearance, and that Christ was he, he stood upon the same position with the Pharisee who opposed Christ in the days of his flesh, and with the Jew whom Paul found his bitterest enemy. The Messiah of the Old Testament was not a divine being in his view; circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic ritual were requisite to salvation; and salvation was by the works of the law.
Having this conception of the Messiah, and of the Old Testament dispensation generally, the Ebionite could see no affinity between the Christianity of the catholic Church, and Judaism. On the contrary, he saw only an irreconcilable opposition between them; so that one was the entire extinction of the other, to its inmost substance and fibre. He could not, to use the fine phrase of Augustine, see the New Testament in the Old, and of course he could not see the Old Testament in the New.
spirit. Their Judaism was min- permitted to do, by the Apostolic
gled with theosophic tendencies, convention, Acts xv), were not
and they herald the approaching called Ebionites but Nazarenet,
Gnosticism. The Elcesaites were and existed down to the close of
probably a branch of these. Those the 4th century.—Compare Ne
Jewish Christians who accepted Ander: I. 841-866; Guericee:
the evangelical system, and at the § 48; Olsuausrn: Commentary
same time adhered to their na- on Acts xv. 1. tional ceremonial (as they were
This preparatory statement will now enable us to understand the nature of the objections urged by the Ebionite against the faith of the Church, which were the following:
(1.) The Christ of the New Testament, as the Church received and interpreted the New Testament,1 was contrary to the representations of the Messiah contained in the Old. The portraitures did not agree. The person depictured in the four canonical Gospels was not the person described in the Jewish Scriptures. The Old Testament Messiah, the Ebionite contended, was not an incarnation of a divine Person, but only a supernaturally born and inspired man.
(2.) The Christ of the catholic Church, the Ebionite asserted, was contradictory to the Old Testament conception of God. The divinity of Christ, it was contended, was incompatible with the monotheism of the Jewish Scriptures, and was a species of idolatry and polytheism.
1 It will be remembered that who was to come; and also that
the Ebionite professed to believe he accepted a part of the New
in Christ as an authorized mes- Testament, senger from God, and the Messiah
(3.) The Ebionite affirmed that the superseding, or as he preferred to term it, the annulling of the Old Testament law by the catholic Christianity, was in conflict with the doctrine of the divine origin of the law, and the immutable necessity of its observance.
As these objections proceeded from a defective and erroneous apprehension of the Jewish religion, the chief labour of the Christian apologist consisted in imparting more correct views of the inward and real nature of the Old Testament Dispensation, and thereby justifying his own denial of these positions of the Ebionite. The moment the spiritual character of Judaism, as portrayed in Moses, and especially in the Psalms and the Prophets, could be seen, its essential harmony with catholic Christianity would appear, and the assertion of an irreconcilable hostility between the two systems would fall to the ground of itself. Hence the Christian apologist replied as follows to the Ebionite skeptic
(1.) All that pertains to the person of Christ, as described in the canonical gospels, is essentially to be found in the Old Testament prophecies and types concerning the Messiah. The apologist was guided to this counter-assertion, and upheld in it, by such sayings of Our Lord as: "Search the [Old Testament] Scriptures, for they are they which testify of me. Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for lie wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words" (John v. 39, 46, 47). He was also emboldened to make the counter-assertion, and to defend it, by that remarkable example set by Christ, when in his last conversation upon earth with his disciples, " beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded unto them, in all the [Hebrew] Scriptures, the things concerning himself'' (Luke xxiv. 27).
The consequence was, that the Christian Apologist first of all took issue with the Ebionite opponent, in respect to the alleged fact itself, of a contradiction between the Messiah of the Old Testament and the Christ of the Gospels. The appeal was made directly to the Jewish Scriptures, and particularly to the prophecies in Isaiah respecting the supernatural birth, and exalted character, of the promised Messiah. The divinity of the Messiah being proved from this source, the Apologist harmonized it with monotheism by means of the doctrine of the trinity, though he made little attempt to construct this difficult doctrine.
(2.) The second and further reply to the Ebionite was, that the Old Testament itself teaches and expects the future superseding of Judaism by Christianity,—not however by annihilating that which was permanent and spiritual in Judaism, but by unfolding all this still more fully, and abrogating only that which was national, ceremonial, and local in it. The promise that all the nations of the earth should be blessed in the seed of Abraham; the glowing and beautiful description in Isaiah of the calling of the Gentiles; the prayer for the conversion of the whole world, as in Psalm lxvii; the emphasis laid upon a tender and contrite heart in comparison with a formal and hypocritical offering of sacrifice; and the repeated assertion of Christ that he came not to destroy, but to fulfill the Law and the Prophets,—all this set the Apologist upon the track of discovering the true relation of the two dispensations to each other, and imparted earnestness and confidence to the tone with which he made the counter-assertion.
Furthermore, the terrible and unexpected destruction of Jerusalem, so fresh in the experience of the Jewish nation, was cited by the Christian Apologist to prove that all that was national and external in Judaism, was destined to pass away. This was an argumentum ad Jwminem that had, as such arguments generally have, even more weight than those which were drawn from a deeper source, and are of more value for all time. The actual demolition of the Jewish temple and overthrow of the Jewish cultus, the destruction of a central point where the nation could gather itself together and maintain its religious nationality, and its dispersion to the four winds of heaven, were triumphantly cited by the early Christian apologete, as convincing arguments for the divinity of Christianity as the true crown and completion of Judaism.1
1 There was so much similarity between the Ebionite and the Jew, that in the absence of documents relating to Ebionitism, the nature of the Ebionite objections to Christianity, and of the Apologists' reply to them, may be seen to some extent from the course of thought in a portion of Justin Martyr's Dialogue with the Jew Trypho. The following particulars are in point: (1) Trypho urges that the ceremonial law is the ordinance of God, and therefore ought still to be observed. Justin replies, that the ceremonial law was given to the Jews on account of the hardness of their hearts. All its ordinances, its sacrifices, its Sabbath, the prohibition of certain kinds of food, were designed to counteract the inveterate tendency of the Jews to fall into idolatry. They who lived before Abraham were not circumcised, and they who lived before Moses neither observed the Sabbath, nor offered sacrifices, although God bore testimony to them that they were righteous. (2) Trypho quotes Daniel vii. 9 to prove that the Messiah was to be a great and glorious personage; whereas the Messiah of the Christians was unhonoured and inglorious, and fell under the extreme curse of the law. Justin's answer is, that the Scriptures of the Old Testament speak of two
advents of the Messiah; one in humiliation, and the other in glory, and the Jews, blinded by prejudice, looked only at those passages which foretold the latter. (8) Trypho objects that the Christian doctrine of the pre-existence and divinity of Christ, and his subsequent assumption of humanity, contradicted the Jewish idea of the Messiah; and also that Elias was to be the precursor of the Messiah, but that Elias had not yet appeared. To this Justin replies by referring to the prophecy of Isaiah (Chapter vii), in which the birth of the Messiah from a Virgin is foretold; and asserts that the prophecies respecting Elias had, with respect to Christ's first coming, been accomplished in John the Baptist; and that before Christ's second advent, Elias would himself appear. Furthermore, Justin contends that the Messiah must have already come, because, after John the Baptist, no prophet had arisen among the Jews; and they had lost their national independence agreeably to the prediction of Jacob. (4) Trypho calls upon Justin to show, that in the Old Testament mention is ever made of another God, strictly so called, besides the Creator of the universe. Justin answers, that whenever in Scripture God is said to appear to man, we must under
§ 3. Gnostic Skepticism, and Christian replies.
The second form of opposition to Christianity, during the Apologetic period, which also like Ebionitism involved the relation of the New to the Old Testament, was Gnosticism. The same fundamental questions were agitated in the controversy with this form of errour, as in the contest with Ebionitism; and in reality the reply to the Ebionite, which resulted as we have seen in the clear exhibition of the connection between Judaism and Christianity, was a reply to the Gnostic.
stand the appearance to be of the Son, not of the Father; as when God appeared to Abraham at the oak of Mamre, to Lot, to Jacob, to Moses out of the burning bush, and to Joshua. Justin also appeals to Ps. ex and Ps. xlv, to show that David speaks of another Lord and God, besides the Creator of the universe; and quotes Proverbs viii, and Gen. i. 26, iii. 22, to prove the pre-existence of Christ. (5) Trypho asserts, that although Jesus might be recognized as the Lord, and the Messiah, and God, by the Gentiles, yet the Jews, who were the worshippers of the absolute God who made him (Christ) as well as them (the Gentiles), were not bound to recognize or worship him. Justin, in answer, quotes Ps. xcix and Ps. lxxii, to show that even among the Jews they who obtained salvation, obtained it only through Christ. (6) Trypho asserts, that the New Testament accounts respecting the birth of Christ could only be compared to the fables respecting the birth of Perseus from Danae, and the descent of Jupiter under the appearance of a shower of gold. It would be better at once
to say, that the Messiah was a mere man, and elected to the office on account of his exact compliance with the Mosaic law, than to hazard the incredible assertion, that God himself submitted to be born, and to become a man. Justin, in answer, again quotes Isaiah liii. 8, to prove that the Messiah was not to be born after the ordinary manner of men; and Isaiah xxv, to show that the Messiah was to effect miraculous cures; and Isaiah vii, which, he argues, could not apply to Hezekiah. He also charges the Jewish teachers with having expunged from the Septuagint version, several passages clearly prophetic of the Messiah. (7) Trypho at length says: "The whole Jewish nation expects the Messiah. I also admit that the passages of Scripturewhich you have quoted apply to him; and the name of Jesus or Joshua, given to the son of Nun, inclines me somewhat to the opinion that your Jesus is the Messiah. The Scriptures moreover manifestly predict a suffering Messiah; but that he should suffer death upon the cross, the death of those who are pronounced accursed by the law nils me with perplexity."
The limits of this work do not, of course, permit A detailed account of that amorphous system of speculation which sprang up in the second and third centuries, with an ingenuity of speculation, and a perverse perseverance of mental power, never excelled in the history of human errours. Only the most general characteristics can be specified.
•Justin answers that the curse applied only to those who were crucified on account of their personal transgressions; whereas Christ was sinless, and submitted to this ignominious death, in obedience to the will of his Father, in order that he might rescue the human race from the penalty due to their sins. Then, after quoting Ps. iii. 5, Is. lxv. 2, and Is. liii. 9, as prophetic of the Messiah's crucifixion, Justin shows at considerable length that Ps. xxii is descriptive of the perfect humanity, of the sufferings, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. (8) Trypho inquires of Justin whether he really belioved that Jerusalem would be rebuilt, and that all the Gentiles as well as the Jews and Proselytes would be collected there under the government of the Messiah. Justin, in answer, admits that this belief was not universal among the orthodox Christians; but that he himself held that the dead would rise
again in the body, and live for a thousand years in Jerusalem, which would be rebuilt, beautified, and enlarged. Ho appeals in support of his opinion to Isaiah, and to the Apocalypse, which he ascribes to John, one of Christ's apostles. (9) Justin finally comes to speak of the conversion of the Gentiles; and contends that the Christians are the true people of God, inasmuch as they fulfil the spiritual meaning of the law, and do not merely conform, like the Jews, to the letter. They have the true circumcision of the heart; they are the true race of priests, typified by Jesus the High Priest in the prophecy of Zechariah; they offer the true spiritual sacrifices agreeably to the prophecy of Malachi; they are the seed promised to Abraham, because they have the faith of Abraham; they are, in a word, the true Israel. See Kaye's Justin Martyr, p. 24 sq.
The Gnostics claimed to be in possession of the true philosophy of Christianity. They were of two classes: Judaizing and AntUudaizing. The former, like the Ebionite, acknowledged the authority of the Old Testament, but unlike him was not satisfied with a literal interpretation of its teachings. The Judaizing Gnostic recognized the distinction spoken of by Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, and employed by the Christian Apologist himself against the Ebionite,—that, viz., of a Jew outwardly and inwardly. But this distinction he entirely misapprehended. He regarded it to be the same as that found in all Oriental philosophies (by which his own intellectual methods had been chiefly formed) between the esoteric and exoteric, the initiated and uninitiated, the philosophic and the unphilosophic mind. The consequence was a hyperspiritualizing of the Old Testament, in such a manner as to evacuate it of all its practical and salutary truths, and the introduction of a system of emanation, which was not only directly contrary to the Mosaic doctrine of creation de nihilo and the spiritual monotheism of the Old Testament, but was in reality a system of polytheism, resulting in that "worshipping of angels and voluntary (or gratuitous) humility " against which St. Paul warns the Colossians as early, probably, as the beginning of the seventh decade from the birth of Christ. This class of Judaizing Gnostics were originally Jews, who attempted to apply the doctrines of the Oriental theosophies in connection with those of New Platonism, to the interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Hence their disposition like the Ebionite to proceed from the Old Testament as a point of departure.
The AntirJudaizing Gnostics, on the other hand, were originally Pagan philosophers or theosophers, who passed over to a nominal Christianity directly, and not through Judaism, and hence cherished a profound contempt for the whole Old Testament Dispensation. They tore Judaism out of all connection with Christianity, and regarded the true philosophic apprehension or yvojaig of Christianity, as consisting in the elimination from it of everything distinctively Jewish or Mosaic. The consequence was, that those two doctrines which are the life and life-blood of Christianity,—the doctrines of guilt and atonement,—were thrown out of the scheme of the Anti-Judaizing Gnostic. These came down from the Old Testament, and in reality are the substance of pure spiritual Judaism. In their place the Gnostic inserted absurd theories respecting the origin of the universe and of evil; theories by which creation was no longer the created, and sin was no longer sinful.
It is plain that Gnosticism in both of its forms, like Ebionitism, was to be met most successfully, and overcome most triumphantly, by the plain and clear enunciation of the real relation of Christianity to Judaism. All three of these errours sprang out of a false conception, and were therefore to be overcome only by furnishing the true one. The thoroughness with which men like Irenaeus (f 202), Tertullian (f 220), Clement of Alexandria (f 212220), and Origen (f 254),1 investigated the Scriptures, in order to exhibit Judaism and Christianity in the true light, and in their mutual connection and harmony, is worthy of all admiration, and it may be added of imitation in any age. For every age of the Church is somewhat exposed to a revival of Anti-Judaistic Gnosticism, from the disposition among men of a speculative turn to reject, or at least to neglect the Old Testament; chiefly upon the ground of the vividness of its representations of the Divine personality, and the severe spirituality of its conception of sin and atonement
§ 4. Pagan Skepticism, and Christian replies.
While the Christian apologist of this period was thus called to defend Christianity against objections that originated in a formal and unspiritual apprehension of Judaism on the one hand, and a false spiritualism that rejected the Old Testament altogether on the other, he was at the same time compelled to meet that species of infidelity, common to every age, which rejecting revelation altogether, contends that the principles of natural reason and natural religion are adequate to meet the religious wants of mankind, and affirms that the Christian system is contradictory to them.
1 Ikexaeus: Adversus Haercsea. Contra Gnosticos scorpiacum.
Tertullianus: Adversus Marcio- Clemens Alexandrine and Ob
nem; De prescriptionibas haeret- Igen, passim, icorum; Adversus Valentinos;
We have therefore to consider the attacks and defences of this period, so far as concerns the purely Pagan Opposition to Christianity. These attacks, unlike those of Ebionitism and Gnosticism, stood in no sort of connection with the religion of the Jewish nation, but were founded upon those views of human nature and of God, which belonged to the entire heathen or Gentile world.
The principal objections urged against Christianity by such pagan philosophers and speculatists as Celsus (150), Porphyry (f 304), and Hierocles (300), were the following:
(1.) Christianity they asserted was irreligous and unethical; because it was founded upon an anthropopathic idea of God, particularly in the Old Testament, and contained absurd representations of the deity that were unfavourable to religion,— for example, the account of the creation and fall of man, the birth of Christ, his miracles, his death, and especially his resurrection. Porphyry and Celsus compared the account of the life and actions of Christ recorded in the gospels, with the popular narrations in the Greek and Roman mythologies, and placed him in the catalogue of the pagan heroes and demi-gods. They did not deny his historical existence, it should be noticed, but asserted that his disciples had craftily given currency to an exaggerated and false picture of the life of a sincere and good man.
(2.) Christianity claimed to be a supernaturally revealed religion; but revelation of this species is impossible and irrational. The pagan skeptic would concede the possibility of a general communication from the deity, such as appears in nature, and the human mind, but denied the reality of such a special and written revelation as the church claimed to possess in the canonical Scriptures.
The first of these objections was chiefly of a practical character, and hence was met in a practical manner by the apologist. The earliest defenders of Christianity against the heathen skepticism, Justin Martyr ( fl63), Tatian (f 174), Athenagoras (f 177),1 laid much stress upon the transforming power of Christianity; upon the joyful deaths of Christians; and upon the greater safety in accepting Christianity, even if it should prove to be a delusion.
1 The apologists who replied searching examination of the pa~
with most effect to the objections gan mythologies; Origen: Con
of the Pagan skeptic were: Jus- tra Celsum; Terttillian: Apo
Tto Martyr: Apologia I and II; logeticns, De Idolatria; Cyprian:
Tatian: Aoyor npbr 'EKKrjvas; Be idolorum vanitato; Mintjciub
Athenagoras: npto-fttla wtp\ Felix: Octavius. Seo Gueeicee:
XpioTiavuv; Clemens Alexan- Church History, §§ 29, 57-69. Drinxs: Cohortatio ad Gentes, a
These were plain facts that could not be denied. The charge of immorality, which originated in unmixed malice and falsehood, and which Gibbon has re-stated with that minuteness of rhetorical amplification which accompanies a desire to convey an impression without daring to make an assertion, was easily refuted by a stern morality in the early church, that carried multitudes to the stake, or the amphitheatre, and a purity of life that was in dazzling contrast with the morals of heathenism. With respect to the theological representations of the Old and New Testaments, the early Christian Apologists had to perform a labour similar to that in the contest with the Ebionite and Gnostic,—the labour, viz. of bringing out to view the whole truth in the case. The objection that the Biblical representation of the deity is anthropopathic was met by directing attention to the fact, overlooked designedly or undesignedly by the Pagan skeptic, that the Jewish religion prohibited idolatry, and taught the unity and spirituality of the deity, at a time when the rest of the world was polytheistic and material in its theological conceptions, and employed these anthropopathic representations in a figurative manner only, as the inadequate but best means of communicating to a creature of time and sense the great spiritual idea with which it was labouring. Furthermore, living, as the first Christian Apologists did, so near to the age in which the events recorded in the Evangelists occurred, the historical argument for the authenticity and genuineness of the New Testament could be urged with even a greater confidence and success than it has been, or could be, since.1
The answer to the second objection of the Pagan opponent, viz. that revelation is contrary to reason, involved a much deeper examination of the whole subject upon grounds of reason and philosophy. This is the great standing objection of skepticism in all ages, and the history of Apologies, after the Apologetic period, is little more than the account of the endeavour of the Christian Mind to harmonize faith with science, religion with philosophy.
So far as concerns the defences of this earliest period in Apologetic History, it may be remarked, generally, that while the primitive fathers affirmed the intrinsic reasonableness of Christianity, and made some attempts to defend it upon philosophic grounds, it was not the favourite and predominant method with them. They feared philosophy as taught in the different ancient schools; and regarded the various and conflicting systems as the sources of heresy.1
1" For what motive," says Jus- tament] proclaimed so long before
Tin Maetyr (Apologia I. Ch. 88), his incarnation? Were we not
"could ever possibly have per- eye-witnesses to the fulfilling of
suaded us to believe a crucified them? Did we not see the deso
man to be the first begotten of lation of Judea, and men out of
the unbegotten God, and that he all nations proselyted to the faith
should hereafter come to be the by his apostles, and renouncing
judge of all the world, had we the ancient errors they were
not met with those prophetic tes- brought up in?" timonies of him [in the Old Tes
The abuse of philosophy by the Gnostics, especially, made them cautious in employing speculation in defending revealed religion, and even somewhat guarded in their assertion that it is defensible upon rational principles. They preferred, as we have seen, to employ the exegetical, historical, and practical arguments in opposition to the skeptic. This is true particularly of the defences that were composed in the second century by the Latin Apologists, Tertullian and Minucius Felix.1 They defined and defended Christianity more with reference to its practical nature, and its influence upon private and public life. Still, even the vehement Tertullian, whose abhorrence of Gnosticism led him to inveigh with a bitterness not always discriminating against philosophy, appeals to the "testimonium animae naturaliter Christianae,"—to the witness of that real and true human nature which is in favour of the truth. This he would find, previous to its corruption and sophistication by philosophy falsely so called, in the spontaneous expressions of man in his most serious and honest moments. "Soul," he says, "stand thou forth in the midst,—whether thou art a thing divine and immortal according to most philosophers, and therefore the less able to speak falsely, or as seems to Epicurus alone, whether thou art in no way divine, because material and mortal, .... whether thou hadst thy beginning with the body, or art sent into the body after it is formed,— from whatever source, and in whatever manner thou makest man a rational creature, more capable than any of understanding and of knowledge, stand thou forth and testify. But I summon thee not such as when formed in the schools, trained in the libraries, nurtured in the academies and porches of Athens, thou utterest thy crude wisdom. I address thee as simple, and rude, and unpolished, and unlearned; such as they have thee who have nothing but thee; the very and entire thing that thou art in the crossroads, in the public squares, in the shops of the artisan} I have need of thy uncultivation (imperitia), since in thy cultivation however small no one puts faith. I demand of thee those truths which thou earnest with thyself into man, which thou hast learned to know either from thyself, or from the author of thy being, whoever he be. Thou art not, I know, a Christian soul; for thou art not born a Christian, but must be made one. Yet now the Christians themselves demand a testimony from thee, who art a stranger, against their own friends, that they may blush even before thee, for hating and scoffing at us, on account of those very things which now detain thee as a party against them."1
'" Heresies themselves," says Tertullian (De praescriptionibus haereticorum, Ch. 7.), "aretricked out by philosophy. Hence the 'aeons,' and I know not what infinite 'forms,' and 'the trinity of man' according to Valentinus: he was a Platonist. Hence the god of Marcion, more excellent by reason of his indolence: he belonged to the Stoics. And the doctrine that the soul dies is maintained by the Epicureans; and the denial of the resurrection of the body is taken from the united school of all the philosophers; and where matter is made equal with God, there is the doctrine of Zeno; and when aught is alleged concerning a god consisting of fire, there comes in Heraclitus. The same matter is turned and twisted by the heretics and by the philosophers; the same questions are involved: Whence comes evil? and wherefore? and whence man? and how? and (what Valentinus has lately propounded), whence God? to wit, from a mental evolution and an abortive birth (enthymesi et ectromate). Wretched Aristotle 1 who has taught them the
dialectic art, cunning in building up and pulling down, using many shifts in sentences, making forced guesses at truth, stiff in arguments, busy in raising contentions, contrary even to itself, dealing backwards and forwards with every subject, so as, really, to deal
with none What then has
Athens to do with Jerusalem? What the Academy with the Church? What heretics with Christians? Our school is of the porch of Solomon, who himself also has delivered unto us, that we must in simplicity of heart (Wisdom i. 1) seek the Lord. Away with those who have brought forward a Stoic, and a Platonic, and a Dialeotic Christianity." Aceermann (Christian Element in Plato, p. 24) remarks with much truth, that the early fathers favoured or feared philosophy according as it claimed to be a handmaid to Christianity, or a substitute for it; and that this explains the fact, that we so often find in the same church fathers contradictory expressions concerning Platonism and philosophy generally.
1 Tertullian (De praescrip. Ch. when it was that crar Lord uttered
8) remarks that one part of the this saying: in the first beginning,
chnrch were more inclined to I think, of his teaching, when it
philosophize upon Christianity was yet doubted by all men
than the other. "I come, there- whether He were the Christ;
fore, to that point, which even when as yet not even Peter had
our own brethren put forward as declared him to be tho Son of
a reason for entering upon curious God With good cause
enquiry, and which heretics urge therefore was it then said: Seek
for bringing in curious doubt. It and ye shall find, seeing that He
is written, they say, 'seek and ye was yet to be sought, who was
shall find.' Let us remember not yet acknowledged."
1" By philosophy I mean nei- ness and devout knowledge, this
ther the Stoic, nor the Platonics, whole selection I call philoso
nor the Epicurean and Aristo- phy." Clemens Alexandekjub:
telian. But whatever things have Stromata, Lib. I. p. 288. Ed. Paris,
been properly said by each of 1640. those sects, inculcating righteous
This eloquent and vehement North African father appeals in the same way to the spontaneous convictions of man, in proof of the Divine Existence. "God," he says, "proves himself to be God, and the one only God, by the very fact that he is known to all nations; for the existence of any other deity than he would first have to be demonstrated. The consciousness of God is the original dowry of the soul; the same and differing in no respect in Egypt, in Syria, and in Pontus; for the God of the Jews is the one whom the souls of men call their god. We worship one God, the one whom ye all naturally know, at whose lightnings and thunders ye tremble, at whose benefits ye rejoice. Will ye that we prove the divine existence by the witness of the soul itself, which although confined by the prison of the body, although circumscribed by bad training, although enervated by lusts and passions, although made the servant of false gods, yet when it recovers itself as from a surfeit, as from a slumber, as from some infirmity, and is in its proper condition of soundness, it calls God by this name only, because it is the proper name of the true God.s 'Great God,' 'good God,' and 'God grant' [deus not dii] are words in every mouth. The soul also witnesses that He is its judge, when it says 'God sees,' 'I commend to God,' 'God shall recompense me.' O testimony of a soul naturally Christian! [or monotheistic]. Finally, in pronouncing these words it looks not to the Roman capitol but to heaven; for it knows the dwelling place of the true God; from him, and from thence it descended."1 These are the affirmations of one who in another place denominates philosophers the "patriarchs of heretics," and Plato himself the author who "furnishes the sauce and seasoning of all the heretical speculations."1
* Tertullian: De testimonio phistioated condition as "dens,"
animae, Oh. 1. and not as Jupiter, or Apollo, or
1 The deity is addressed hy the hy any other name, pagan in this "sound" nnso
1 Tertcjllian: Ad versus Marcionem, I. 10; Ad Scapulam, 2; Apologeticus, 17.—The following passages from pagan writers corroborate these affirmations of Tertullian: "There is a god (est deus) in heaven who hears and sees what we do." Plautus: Oaptivi. "Be of good cheer, my child, there is a great god (ZfCr) in heaven who beholds and rules all things." Sophocles : Electra, 175. "Alcibiades. But what ought I to say? Socrates. If God will
(or. fav Of or fcAlf)." PLATO:
Alcibiades I. 185. Mruroius FeLix (Octavius, 18, 19) maintains that the wiser pagans taught the unity of God. See also ArgnsTinr (De Civitate. Lib. VIII) respecting the opinions of Plato. Calvin (Institutes I. 10) sums up the whole of this view in the following manner: "In almost all ages, religion has been generally corrupted. It is true indeed, that the name of one supreme God has
been universally known and celebrated. For those who used to worship a multitude of deities, whenever they spake according to the genuine sense of nature, used simply the name of God in the singular number, as though they were contented with one God. And this was wisely remarked by Justin Martyr, who for this purpose wrote a book 'On the Monarchy of God,' in which he demonstrates, from numerous testimonies, that the unity of God was a principle universally impressed on the hearts of men. Tertullian (De Idolatria) also proves the same point from the common phraseology. But since all men without exception have become vain in their understandings, all their natural perception of the Divine unity has only served to render them inexcusable." Compare ante, p. 55 (Note).
In the same strain of reasoning, Minucius Felix argues. He speaks of the natural rationality of man in which Christianity finds a corroboration, and describes it as a power of apprehension "that is not produced by study, but is generated by the very make and structure of the human mind."9 This writer, also, refers to the partial agreement of the heathen philosophy with Christianity, yet makes a violent attack upon Socrates, in which he speaks of him, after the phrase of Zeno probably, as that Attic jester (scurra Atticus).
Passing to the Greek Apologists of this period, Justin, Athenagoras, and Tatian, we find philosophy much more identified with Christianity, than in the Occidental defences. The distinction between natural and revealed religion is not very carefully made by them.8 They were somewhat inclined to regard all religious truth as a revelation from God, and referred it partly to a supernatural communication from the Divine mind, and partly to the light of nature. Hence they did not always discriminate with sufficient care between that which is the product of the human mind left to its spontaneous operations, and that which is communicated to it by a special revelation. Sometimes we find the same mind passing from one view to the other; at first blending natural and revealed religion together, and afterwards separating them. Justin Martyr is an example of this. In his earlier apologies, addressed to the Roman emperor, he recognizes the resemblance between the principles of natural religion and the ethics of Christianity, in order to render the philosophic and virtuous Marcus Aurelius, or Antoninus Pius, indulgent towards the new religion.1 But in his later work, aimed against those who asserted that natural religion and ethics were adequate to meet the wants of man, and could therefore supersede Christianity, he takes the ground that the doctrines of a Plato and a Socrates had come to the Greeks by the way of the Jews through Egypt.1
1" Philosophi patriarchae hae- 'This tendency is very strong
reticorum" (De Annua, 8, and in Lactantius, of the polemic
Adv. Hermogenem, 8). "Plato period, who confounds 'religio'
omnium haereticornm condimen- with 'sapientia' to such a degree,
tarius" (De Anima, 23). as to result in latitudinarian views
1 " Ingenium quod non studio of the gospel. paratur, sed cum ipsa mentis formations generatur" (Octavius,16).
1" To lay before you [the emperor] in short, what we expect, and what we have learned from Christ, and what we teach the world, take it as follows: Plato and we are both alike agreed as to a future judgment, but differ about the judges; Rhadamanthus and Minos are his judges, Christ ours. And moreover we say that the souls of the wicked being reunited to the same bodies shall be consigned over to eternal torments, and not as Plato in the Timaeus will have it, to the period of a thousand years only. If then we hold some opinions near of kin to the poets and philosophers in greatest repute among you, and others of a diviner strain, and far above out of their sight^and have demonstrations on our side into
the bargain, why are we to be thus unjustly hated, and to stand distinguished in misery above the rest of mankind? For in saying that all things were made in this beautiful order by God, what do we seem to say more than Plato? When we teach a general conflagration, what do we teach more than the Stoics? When we assert departed souls to be in a state of consciousness, and the wicked to be in torments, but the good free from pain and in a blissful condition, we assert no more than your poets and philosophers. When Plato (Repub. lib. x) said that 'the blame lies at his door who wills the sin, but God wills no evil,' he borrowed the saying from Moses." Justin Martyr: Apol. I. Ch. 8, 18, 57. The
The Apologist thought himself to be conducted to this view of the homogeneity of reason and revelation, by certain representations in Scripture, particularly by those portions of the writings of the Apostle John which speak of the Logos as enlightening every man that comes into the world. Some modern writers have supposed that the idea of the Logos, or the manifested Reason of God,.which appears so frequently in the apologetic writings of the primitive fathers, was chiefly derived from the Platonic philosophy, and the writings of the Jewish Philo. But it is the remark of Baumgarten-Crusius, who is not led to it by any merely theological interest or feeling, that the Logos-idea of the New Testament was more influential in forming the general philosophical notions of the church at this time, than was the department of secular philosophy itself. Clement of Alexandria, and the school of Origen generally, attribute the better religious knowledge of the heathen world, at one time to the Logos, and at another to the scriptures,1 because they held that it was one and the same Supreme Reason that communicated the knowledge in both forms. They are however careful to observe that
'Christian' in the Octavius of expresses himself doubtfully: De
•minuctus Felix says: "I have Civitate Dei, VIII. 11,12. Clem
explained the opinions of almost Ent Of Alexandria goes so far as
all the philosophers, whose most to maintain "that the Greeks de
illustrions glory it is that they rived even their strategical skill
have worshipped one God, though from the Jews; and that Milti
under various names; so that one ades, in his night march against
might suppose either that the the Persians, imitated the tactics
Christians of the present day are of Moses in conducting the chil
philosophers, or that the philoso- dren of Israel out of Egypt." He
phers of old were already Chris- also "traces the first idolatrous
tians." columns of the ancients to their
1 Cohortatio, 15, in Nrander: hearing of the fiery and cloudy
I. 666. Theophilus Gale's Court pillar that went before the people
of the Gentiles, and Cudworth's of God." Bolton: Evidences, pp.
Intellectual System, contain much 82, 118, 128. to favour this view. Augustine
1 Respecting the source whence St. John derived the idea of the Logos, Neaxder (I. 674) remarks as follows: "The title 'Word of God,' employed to designate the idea of the Divine self-manifestation, the Apostle John could have arrived at within himself, independent of any outward tradition; and he would not have appropriated to his own purpose this title, which had been previously current in certain circles, had it not offered itself to him, as the befitting form of expression for that which filled his own soul. But this word itself is certainly not derived, any more than the idea originally expressed in it, from the Platonic philosophy, which could furnish no occasion whatever for the choice of this particular expression. The Pla
tonic philosophy led rather to the employment of the term vovs, as a designation of the mediating principle in the deity. It is, rather, the translation of the Old Testament term ">a?; and it was this Old Testament conception, moreover, which led to the New Testament idea of the Logos. An intermediate step is formed by what is said in the epistle to the Hebrews concerning a Divine Word (See Bleeck's Commentary); and thus we find in the latest epistles of Paul from the first epistle to the Corinthians and onward, in the epistle to the Hebrews, and in the gospel of John, a well constituted series of links in the progressive development of the apostolic Logos-doctrine."
the unwritten revelation is imperfect, sporadic, and inadequate to meet all the religious wants of a sinful race, while the written word is perfect, full, and sufficient.1
§ 5. Recapitulatory Survey.
Having thus sketched the course of apologetic thinking during the second and first half of the third centuries, we bring the results into the following recapitulation.
The scientific mind of the Church, so far as it contended with Ebionitism and Gnosticism, was occupied chiefly with a clear and consistent exhibition of the real nature of Judaism, and of its essential agreement and oneness with Christianity. This correct apprehension of the first form of special revelation was of itself a refutation of those arguments which attempted to prove, either that Christianity was in hostility to all preceding special revelations from God, and that therefore it must be rejected, or else that there had been no preceding special revelations, and that therefore it must expel and annihilate every element of Judaism from itself.
And so far as the Church had to contend with Pagan philosophy, which derived its arguments wholly from the operations of the human mind, and rejected both of the special revelations, the substance of its counter-argument was, that even if the principles of natural religion should be regarded as the pure efflux of the unassisted human mind, they did not run counter to the doctrines of Christianity, but really required them, in order to their own spread and efficiency among men; that the human mind, when its real and deep convictions were revealed, was monotheistic, or naturally Christian, as Tertullian states it; but that, more than all, it was most probable that this natural religion itself was the remains of a primitive revelation, which had been made to the race in the earliest ages of its existence, and which had been waning and growing dimmer and dimmer, as the process of corrupt human development went on.
1 The unwritten word is termed uipos roC Xoyou o-ntppariKos \6yos.