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The Literary Defence Of Christia





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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


The argument from prophecy.


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

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





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