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The Apologetic Conception Of Chr

Christianity was regarded as a revealed philosophy by the apologists. This
they considered under three principal aspects: knowledge, or a revelation
of the divine nature; a new law, or a code of morals given by Christ; and
life, or future rewards for the observance of the new law that had been
given. The foundation of all was laid in the doctrine of the Logos (A),
which involved, as a consequence, some theory of the relation of the
resulting distinctions in the divine nature to the primary conviction of
the unity of God, or some doctrine of the Trinity (B). As a result of
the new law given, moralism was inevitable, whereby a man by his efforts
earned everlasting life (C). The proof that Jesus was the incarnate
Logos was drawn from the fulfilment of Hebrew prophecy (D). It should be
remembered that the apologists influenced later theology by their actual
writings, and not by unexpressed and undeveloped opinions which they held
as a part of the common tradition and the Christianity of the Gentile
Church. Whatever they might have held in addition to their primary
contentions had little or no effect, however valuable it may be for modern
students, and the conviction that Christianity was essentially a revealed
philosophy became current, especially in the East, finding its most
powerful expression in the Alexandrian school. (V. infra, 43.)

(A) The Logos Doctrine

As stated by the apologists, the Logos doctrine not only furnished a
valuable line of defence for Christianity (v. supra, 20), but also
gave theologians a useful formula for stating the relation of the divine
element in Christ to God. That divine element was the Divine Word or
Reason (Logos). It is characteristic of the doctrine of the Logos as held
by the early apologists that, although they make the Word, or Logos,
personal and distinguish Him from God the Father, yet that Word does not
become personally distinguished from the source of His being until, and in
connection with, the creation of the world. Hence there arose the
distinction between the Logos endiathetos, or as yet within the being of
the Father, and the Logos prophorikos, or as proceeding forth and
becoming a distinct person. Here is, at any rate, a marked advance upon
the speculation of Philo, by whom the Logos is not regarded as distinctly

(a) Justin Martyr, Apol., I, 46. (MSG, 6:398.)

In addition to the following passage from Justin Martyr, see
above, 20, for a longer statement to much the same effect.

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 were
partakers; and those who lived reasonably are Christians even though they
have been thought atheists; as among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus,
and men like them; and among the barbarians, Abraham and Ananias, Azarias,
and Missael [the "three holy children," companions of Daniel, see LXX,
Dan. 3:23 ff.], and Elias [i.e., Elijah], and many others whose
actions and names we now decline to recount because we know that it would
be tedious.

(b) Theophilus, Ad Autolycum, II, 10, 22. (MSG, 6:398.)

Theophilus was the sixth bishop of Antioch, from 169 until after
180. His apology, consisting of three books addressed to an
otherwise unknown Autolycus, has alone been preserved of his
works. Fragments attributed to him are of very doubtful
authenticity. The date of the third book must be subsequent to the
death of Marcus Aurelius, March 17, 180, which is mentioned. The
first and second books may be somewhat earlier. The distinction
made in the following between the Logos endiathetos and the
Logos prophorikos was subsequently dropped by theologians.

Ch. 10. God, then, having His own Logos internal [endiatheton] within
His own bowels, begat Him, emitting Him along with His own wisdom before
all things.

Ch. 22. What else is this voice but the Word of God, who is also His Son?
Not as the poets and writers of myths talk of the sons of the gods
begotten from intercourse with women, but as the Truth expounds, the Word
that always exists, residing within [endiatheton] the heart of God. For
before anything came into existence He had Him for His counsellor, being
His own mind and thought. But when God wished to make all that He had
determined on, He begat this Word proceeding forth [prophorikon], the
first-born of all creation, not being Himself emptied of the Word [i.e.,
being without reason], but having begotten Reason and always conversing
with His reason.

(B) The Doctrine of the Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity followed naturally from the doctrine of the
Logos. The fuller discussion belongs to the Monarchian controversies. It
is considered here as a position resulting from the general position taken
by the apologists. (V. infra, 40.)

(a) Theophilus, Ad Autolycum, II, 15. (MSG, 6:1078.)

The following passage is probably the earliest in which the word
Trinity, or Trias, is applied to the relation of Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost. It is usual in Greek theology to use the word Trias as
equivalent to the Latin term Trinity. Cf. Tertullian, Adv.
Praxean, 2, for first use of the term Trinity in Latin theology.

In like manner, also, the three days, which were before the luminaries(54)
are types of the Trinity (Trias) of God, and His Word, and His Wisdom.

(b) Athenagoras, Supplicatio, 10, 12. (MSG, 6:910, 914.)

Athenagoras, one of the ablest of the apologists, was, like Justin
Martyr and several others, a philosopher before he became a
Christian. His apology, known as Supplicatio, or Legatio pro
Christianis, is his most important work. Its date is probably
177, as it is addressed to the Emperors Marcus Aurelius and

Ch. 10. If it occurs to you to inquire what is meant by the Son, I will
briefly state that He is the first product of the Father, not as having
been brought into existence (for from the beginning God, who is the
eternal mind [Nous], had the Logos in Himself, being eternally
reasonable, but inasmuch as He came forth to be idea and
energizing power of all material things, which lay like a nature without
attributes, and an inactive earth, the grosser particles being mixed up
with the lighter. The prophetic Spirit also agrees with our statements:
"The Lord, it says, created me the beginning of His ways to His works."
The Holy Spirit himself, also, which operates in the prophets we say is an
effluence of God, flowing from Him and returning back again as a beam of
the sun.

Ch. 12. Are, then, those who consider life to be this, "Let us eat and
drink, for to-morrow we die" [cf. I Cor. 15:32], and who regard death as
a deep sleep and forgetfulness [cf. Hom., Iliad, XVI. 672], to be
regarded as living piously? But men who reckon the present life as of very
small worth indeed, and are led by this one thing along--that they know God
and with Him His Logos, what is the oneness of the Son with the Father,
what the communion of the Father with the Son, what is the Spirit, and
what is the unity of these and their distinction, the Spirit, the Son, and
the Father--and who know that the life for which we look is far better than
can be described in word, provided we arrive at it pure from all
wrong-doing, and who, moreover, carry our benevolence to such an extent
that we not only love our friends shall we, I say, when such we are and
when we thus live that we may escape condemnation, not be regarded as
living piously?

(C) Moralistic Christianity

The moralistic conception of Christianity, i.e., the view of
Christianity as primarily a moral code by the observance of which eternal
life was won, remained fixed in Christian thought along with the
philosophical conception of the faith as formulated by the apologists.
This moralism was the opposite pole to the conceptions of the Asia Minor
school, the Augustinian theology, and the whole mystical conception of

For additional source material, see above, 16.

Theophilus, Ad Autolycum, II, 27. (MSG, 6:27.)

God made man free and with power over himself. That [death], man brought
upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this [life], God
vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own love for man and pity when men
obey Him. For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself, so, obeying the
will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself everlasting
life. For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who
keeps these can be saved, and obtaining the resurrection, can inherit

(D) Argument from Hebrew Prophecy

The appeal to the fulfilment of Hebrew prophecy was the main argument of
the apologists for the divine character of the mission of Christ. The
exegesis of the prophetic writings was in the spirit of the times. Hebrew
prophecy was also regarded as the source of all knowledge of God outside
of Israel. The theory that the Greeks and other nations borrowed was
employed to show the connection; in this the apologists followed Philo
Judaeus. No attempt was made either by them or by Clement of Alexandria to
remove the inconsistency of this theory of borrowing with the doctrine of
the Logos; see above, under "Logos Doctrine;" also 20.

Justin Martyr, Apol., I, 30, 44. (MSG, 6:374, 394.)

Additional source material: Justin Martyr, Dial. c. Tryph.,

Ch. 30. But lest any one should say in opposition to us: What should
prevent that He whom we call Christ, being a man born of men, performed
what we call His mighty works by magical art, and by this appeared to be
the Son of God? We will offer proof, not trusting to mere assertions, but
being of necessity persuaded by those who prophesied of Him before these
things came to pass.

Ch. 44. Whatever both philosophers and poets have said concerning the
immortality of the soul, or punishments after death, or contemplation of
things heavenly, or doctrines of the like kind, they have received such
suggestions from the prophets as have enabled them to understand and
interpret these things. And hence there seem to be seeds of truth among
all men.

Next: The Asia Minor Conception Of Chr

Previous: The Beginnings Of Catholic Theol

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