|« Prev||2. Christianity as Philosophy and as Revelation.||Next »|
2. Christianity as Philosophy and as Revelation.
It was a new undertaking and one of permanent importance to a tradition hitherto so little concerned for its own vindication, when Quadratus and the Athenian philosopher, Aristides, presented treatises in defence of Christianity to the emperor.349349See Euseb., H. E. IV. 3. Only one sentence of Quadratus’ Apology is preserved; we have now that of Aristides in the Syriac language; moreover, it is proved to have existed in the original language in the Historia Barlaam et Joasaph; finally, a considerable fragment of it is found in Armenian. See an English edition by Harris and Robinson in the Texts and Studies I. 1891. German translation and commentary by Raabe in the Texte und Untersuchungen IX. 1892. Eusebius says that the Apology was handed in to the emperor Hadrian; but the superscription in Syriac is addressed to the emperor Titus Hadrianus Antoninus. About a century had elapsed since the Gospel of Christ had begun to be preached. It may be said that the Apology of Aristides was a most significant opening to the second century, whilst we find Origen at its close. Marcianus Aristides expressly designates himself in his pamphlet as a philosopher of the Athenians. Since the days when the words were written: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit” (Col. II. 8), it had constantly been repeated (see, as evidence, Celsus, passim) that Christian preaching and philosophy were things entirely different, that God had chosen the fools, and that man’s duty was not to investigate and seek, but to believe and hope. Now a philosopher, as such, pleaded the cause of Christianity. In the summary he gave of the content of Christianity at the beginning of his address, he really spoke as a philosopher and represented this faith as a philosophy. By expounding pure monotheism and giving it the main place in his argument, Aristides gave supreme prominence to the very doctrine which simple Christians also prized as the most important.350350See Hermas, Mand I. Moreover, in emphasing not only the supernatural character of the Christian doctrine revealed by the Son of the Most High God, but also the continuous inspiration of believers — the new race (not a new school) — he confessed in the most express way the peculiar nature of this philosophy as a divine truth. According to him Christianity is philosophy because its content is in accordance with reason, and because it gives a satisfactory and universally intelligible answer to the questions with which all real philosophers have concerned themselves. But it is no philosophy, in fact it is really the complete opposite of this, in so far as it proceeds from revelation and is propagated by the agency of God, i.e., has a supernatural and divine origin, on which alone the truth and certainty of its doctrines finally depend. This contrast to philosophy is chiefly shown in the unphilosophical form in which Christianity was first preached to the world. That is the thesis maintained by all the Apologists from Justin to Tertullian,351351 With reservations this also holds good of the Alexandrians. See particularly Orig., c. Cels. I. 62. and which Jewish philosophers before them propounded and defended. This proposition may certainly be expressed in a great variety of ways. In the first place, it is important whether the first or second half is emphasised, and secondly, whether that which is “universally intelligible” is to be reckoned as philosophy at all, or is to be separated from it as that which comes by “nature”. Finally, the attitude to be taken up towards the Greek philosophers is left an open question, so that the thesis, taking up this attitude as a starting-point, may again assume various forms. But was the contradiction which it contains not felt? The content of revelation is to be rational; but does that which is rational require a revelation? How the proposition was understood by the different Apologists requires examination.
Aristides. He first gives an exposition of monotheism and the monotheistic cosmology (God as creator and mover of the universe, as the spiritual, perfect, almighty Being, whom all things need, and who requires nothing). In the second chapter he distinguishes, according to the Greek text, three, and, according to the Syriac, four classes of men (in the Greek text polytheists, Jews, Christians, the polytheists being divided into Chaldeans, Greeks, and Egyptians; in the Syriac barbarians, Greeks, Jews, Christians), and gives their origin. He derives the Christians from Jesus Christ and reproduces the Christian kerygma (Son of the Most High God, birth from the Virgin, 12 disciples, death on the cross, burial, resurrection, ascension, missionary labours of the 12 disciples). After this, beginning with the third chapter, follows a criticism of polytheism, that is, the false theology of the barbarians, Greeks, and Egyptians (down to chapter 12). In the 13th chapter the Greek authors and philosophers are criticised, and the Greek myths, as such, are shown to be false. In the 14th chapter the Jews are introduced (they are monotheists and their ethical system is praised; but they are then reproached with worshipping of angels and a false ceremonial). In the 15th chapter follows a description of the Christians, i.e., above all, of their pure, holy life. It is they who have found the truth, because they know the creator of heaven and earth. This description is continued in chapters 16 and 17: “This people is new and there is a divine admixture in it.” The Christian writings are recommended to the emperor.
Justin.352352Semisch, Justin der Märtyrer, 2 vols., 1840 f. Aubé, S. Justin, philosophe et martyr, 2nd reprint, 1875. Weizsäcker, Die Theologie des Märtyrers Justin’s in the Jahrbuch für deutsche Theologie, 1867, p. 60 ff. Von Engelhardt, Christenthum Justin’s, 1878; id., “Justin”, in Herzog Real Encyklopädie. Stählin, Justin der Märtyrer , 1880. Clemen, Die religionsphilosophische Bedeutung des stoisch-christlichen Eudämonismus in Justin’s Apologie, 1890. Flemming, zur Beurtheilung des Christenthums Justin’s des Martyrers, 1893. Duncker, Logoslehre Justin’s, 1848. Bosse, Der präexistente Christus des Justinus, 1891. In his treatise addressed to the emperor Justin did not call himself a philosopher as Aristides had done. In espousing the cause of the hated and despised Christians he represented himself as a simple member of that sect. But in the very first sentence of his Apology he takes up the ground of piety and philosophy, the very ground taken up by the pious and philosophical emperors themselves, according to the judgment of the time and their own intention. In addressing them he appeals to the λόγος σώϕρων in a purely Stoic fashion. He opposes the truth — also in the Stoic manner — to the δόξαις παλαιῶν.353353Apol. I. 2, p. 6, ed. Otto. It was not to be a mere captatio benevolentiæ. In that case Justin would not have added: “That ye are pious and wise and guardians of righteousness and friends of culture, ye hear everywhere. Whether ye are so, however, will be shown.”354354Apol. I. 2, p. 6, sq. His whole exordium is calculated to prove to the emperors that they are in danger of repeating a hundredfold the crime which the judges of Socrates had committed.355355See the numerous philosophical quotations and allusions in Justin Apology pointed out by Otto. Above all, he made an extensive use of Plato Apology of Socrates. Like a second Socrates Justin speaks to the emperors in the name of all Christians. They are to hear the convictions of the wisest of the Greeks from the mouth of the Christians. Justin wishes to enlighten the emperor with regard to the life and doctrines (βίος καὶ μαθήματα) of the latter. Nothing is to be concealed, for there is nothing to conceal.
Justin kept this promise better than any of his successors. For that very reason also he did not depict the Christian Churches as schools of philosophers (cc. 61-67). Moreover, in the first passage where he speaks of Greek philosophers,356356 Apol. I. 4. p. 16, also I. 7, p. 24 sq: 1. 26. he is merely drawing a parallel. According to him there are bad Christians and seeming Christians, just as there are philosophers who are only so ‘in name and outward show. Such men, too, were in early times called “philosophers” even when they preached atheism. To all appearance, therefore, Justin does not desire Christians to be reckoned as philosophers. But it is nevertheless significant that, in the case of the Christians, a phenomenon is being repeated which otherwise is only observed in the case of philosophers; and how were those whom he was addressing to understand him? In the same passage he speaks for the first time of Christ. He introduces him with the plain and intelligible formula: ὁ διδάσκαλος Χριστός (“the teacher Christ”).357357Apol. I. 4, p. 14. Immediately thereafter he praises Socrates because he had exposed the worthlessness and deceit of the evil demons, and traces his death to the same causes which are now he says bringing about the condemnation of the Christians. Now he can make his final assertion. In virtue of “reason” Socrates exposed superstition; in virtue of the same reason, this was done by the teacher whom the Christians follow. But this teacher was reason itself; it was visible in him, and indeed it appeared bodily in him.358358 Apol. I. 5, p. 18 sq., see also I. 14 fin.: οὐ σοφιστὴς ὑπῆρχεν ἀλλὰ δύναμις Θεοῦ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ ἦν.
Is this philosophy or is it myth? The greatest paradox the Apologist has to assert is connected by him with the most impressive remembrance possessed by his readers as philosophers. In the same sentence where he represents Christ as the Socrates of the barbarians,359359L. c.: οὐ γὰρ μόνον ἐν Ἕλλησι διὰ Σωκράτους ὑπὸ λόγου ἡλέγχθη ταῦτα, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν βαρβάροις ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ τοῦ λόγου μορφωθέντος καὶ ἀνθρώπου καὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ κληθέντος. and consequently makes Christianity out to be a Socratic doctrine, he propounds the unheard of theory that the teacher Christ is the incarnate reason of God.
Justin nowhere tried to soften the effect of this conviction or explain it in a way adapted to his readers. Nor did he conceal from them that his assertion admits of no speculative demonstration. That philosophy can only deal with things which ever are, because they ever were, since this world began, is a fact about which he himself is perfectly clear. No Stoic could have felt more strongly than Justin how paradoxical is the assertion that a thing is of value which has happened only once. Certain as he is that the “reasonable” emperors will regard it as a rational assumption that “Reason” is the Son of God,360360Celsus also admits this, or rather makes his Jew acknowledge it (Orig., c. Cels. II. 31). In Book VI. 47 he adopts the proposition of the “ancients” that the world is the Son of God. he knows equally well that no philosophy will bear him out in that other assertion, and that such a statement is seemingly akin to the contemptible myths of the evil demons.
But there is certainly a proof which, if not speculative, is nevertheless sure. The same ancient documents, which contain the Socratic and super-Socratic wisdom of the Christians, bear witness through prophecies, which, just because they are predictions, admit of no doubt, that the teacher Christ is the incarnate reason; for history confirms the word of prophecy even in the minutest details. Moreover, in so far as these writings are in the lawful possession of the Christians, and announced at the very beginning of things that this community would appear on the earth, they testify that the Christians may in a certain fashion date themselves back to the beginning of the world, because their doctrine is as old as the earth itself (this thought is still wanting in Aristides).
The new Socrates who appeared among the barbarians is therefore quite different from the Socrates of the Greeks, and for that reason also his followers are not to be compared with the disciples of the philosophers.361361See Apol. II. 10 fin.: Σωκράτει οὐδεὶς ἐπείσθη ὑπὲρ τούτου τοῦ δόγματος ἀποθνήσκειν· Χριστῷ δὲ τῷ καὶ ὑπὸ Σωκράτους ἀπὸ μέρους γνωσθέντι . . . οὐ φιλόσοφοι οὐδὲ φιλόλογοι μόνον ἐπείσθησαν. From the very beginning of things a world-historical dispensation of God announced this reasonable doctrine through prophets, and prepared the visible appearance of reason itself. The same reason which created and arranged the world took human form in order to draw the whole of humanity to itself. Every precaution has been taken to make it easy for any one, be he Greek or barbarian, educated or uneducated, to grasp all the doctrines of this reason, to verify their truth, and test their power in life. What further importance can philosophy have side by side with this, how can one think of calling this a philosophy?
And yet the doctrine of the Christians can only be compared with philosophy. For, so far as the latter is genuine, it is also guided by the Logos; and, conversely, what the Christians teach concerning the Father of the world, the destiny of man, the nobility of his nature, freedom and virtue, justice and recompense, has also been attested by the wisest of the Greeks. They indeed only stammered, whereas the Christians speak. These, however, use no unintelligible and unheard-of language, but speak with the words and through the power of reason. The wonderful arrangement, carried out by the Logos himself, through which he ennobled the human race by restoring its consciousness of its own nobility, compels no one henceforth to regard the reasonable as the unreasonable or wisdom as folly. But is the Christian wisdom not of divine origin? How can it in that case be natural, and what connection can exist between it and the wisdom of the Greeks? Justin bestowed the closest attention on this question, but he never for a moment doubted what the answer must be. Wherever the reasonable has revealed itself, it has always been through the operation of the divine reason. For man’s lofty endowment consists in his having had a portion of the divine reason implanted within him, and in his consequent capacity of attaining a knowledge of divine things, though not a perfect and clear one, by dint of persistent efforts after truth and virtue. When man remembers his real nature and destination, that is, when he comes to himself, the divine reason is already revealing itself in him and through him. As man’s possession conferred on him at the creation, it is at once his most peculiar property, and the power which dominates and determines his nature.362362The utterances of Justin do not clearly indicate whether the non-Christian portion of mankind has only a σπέρμα τοῦ λόγου as a natural possession, or whether this σπέρμα has in some cases been enhanced by the inward workings of the whole Logos (inspiration). This ambiguity, however, arises from the fact that he did not further discuss the relation between ὁ λόγος and τὸ σπέρμα τοῦ λόγου and we need not therefore attempt to remove it. On the one hand, the excellent discoveries of poets and philosophers are simply traced to τὸ ἔμϕυτον παντὶ γένει ἀνθρώπων σπέρμα τοῦ λόγου (Apol. II. 8), the μέρος σπερματικοῦ λόγου (ibid.) which was implanted at the creation, and on which the human εὕρεσις καὶ θεωρία depend (II. 10). In this sense it may be said of them all that they “in human fashion attempted to understand and prove things by means of reason”; and Socrates is merely viewed as the πάντων εὐτονώτερος (ibid.), his philosophy also, like all pre-Christian systems, being a ϕιλοσοϕία ἁνθρώπειος (II. 15). But on the other hand Christ was known by Socrates though only ἀπὸ μέρους; for “Christ was and is the Logos who dwells in every man”. Further, according to the Apologist, the μέρος τοῦ σπερματικοῦ θείου λόγου bestows the power of recognising whatever is related to the Logos (τό συγγενές II. 13). Consequently it may not only be said: ὅσα παρὰ πᾶσι καλῶς είρηται ἡμῶν, τῶν Χριστιανῶν ἐστί (ibid.), but, on the strength of the “participation” in reason conferred on all, it may be asserted that all who have lived with the Logos (μετὰ λόγου) — an expression which must have been ambiguous — were Christians. Among the Greeks this specially applies to Socrates and Heraclitus (I. 46). Moreover, the Logos implanted in man does not belong to his nature in such a sense as to prevent us saying ὑπὸ λόγου διὰ Σωκράτους ἡλέγχθη κ.τ.λ. (I. 5). Nevertheless αὐτὸς ὁ λόγος did not act in Socrates, for this only appeared in Christ (ibid). Hence the prevailing aspect of the case in Justin was that to which he gave expression at the close of the 2nd Apology (II. 15: alongside of Christianity there is only human philosophy), and which, not without regard for the opposite view, he thus formulated in II. 13 fin.: All non-Christian authors were able to attain a knowledge of true being, though only darkly, by means of the seed of the Logos naturally implanted within them. For the σπορά and μίμημα of a thing, which are bestowed in proportion to one’s receptivity, are quite different from the thing itself, which divine grace bestows on us for our possession and imitation.” All that is reasonable is based on revelation. In order to accomplish his true destiny man requires from the beginning the inward working of that divine reason which has created the world for the sake of man, and therefore wishes to raise man beyond the world to God.363363“For the sake of man” (Stoic) Apol. I. 10: II. 4, 5; Dial. 41, p. 260A, Apol I. 8: “Longing for the eternal and pure life, we strive to abide in the fellowship of God, the Father and Creator of all things, and we hasten to make confession, because we are convinced and firmly believe that that happiness is really attainable.” It is frequently asserted that it is the Logos which produces such conviction and awakens courage and strength.
Apparently no one could speak in a more stoical fashion. But this train of thought is supplemented by something which limits it. Revelation does retain its peculiar and unique significance. For no one who merely possessed the “seed of the Logos” (σπέρμα τοῦ λόγου), though it may have been his exclusive guide to knowledge and conduct, was ever able to grasp the whole truth and impart it in a convincing manner. Though Socrates and Heraclitus may in a way be called Christians, they cannot be so designated in any real sense. Reason is clogged with unreasonableness, and the certainty of truth is doubtful wherever the whole Logos has not been acting; for man’s natural endowment with reason is too weak to oppose the powers of evil and of sense that work in the world, namely, the demons. We must therefore believe in the prophets in whom the whole Logos spoke. He who does that must also of necessity believe in Christ; for the prophets clearly pointed to him as the perfect embodiment of the Logos. Measured by the fulness, clearness, and certainty of the knowledge imparted by the Logos-Christ, all knowledge independent of him appears as merely human wisdom, even when it emanates from the seed of the Logos. The Stoic argument is consequently untenable. Men blind and kept in bondage by the demons require to be aided by a special revelation. It is true that this revelation is nothing new, and in so far as it has always existed, and never varied in character, from the beginning of the world, it is in this sense nothing extraordinary. It is the divine help granted to man, who has fallen under the power of the demons, and enabling him to follow his reason and freedom to do what is good. By the appearance of Christ this help became accessible to all men. The dominion of demons and revelation are the two correlated ideas. If the former did not exist, the latter would not be necessary. According as we form a lower or higher estimate of the pernicious results of that sovereignty, the value of revelation rises or sinks. This revelation cannot do less than give the necessary assurance of the truth, and it cannot do more than impart the power that develops and matures the inalienable natural endowment of man and frees him from the dominion of the demons.
Accordingly the teaching of the prophets and Christ is related even to the very highest human philosophy as the whole is to the part,364364Justin has destroyed the force of this argument in two passages (I. 44. 59) by tracing (like the Alexandrian Jews) all true knowledge of the poets and philosophers to borrowing from the books of the Old Testament (Moses). Of what further use then is the σπέρμα λόγου ἔμϕυτον? Did Justin not really take it seriously? Did he merely wish to suit himself to those whom he was addressing? We are not justified in asserting this. Probably, however, the adoption of that Jewish view of the history of the world is a proof that the results of the demon sovereignty were in Justin’s estimation so serious that he no longer expected anything from the σπέρμα λόγου ἔμϕυτον when left to its own resources; and therefore regarded truth and prophetic revelation as inseparable. But this view is not the essential one in the Apology. That assumption of Justin’s is evidently dependent on a tradition, whilst his real opinion was more “liberal”. or as the certain is to the uncertain; and hence also as the permanent is to the transient. For the final stage has now arrived and Christianity is destined to put an end to natural human philosophy. When the perfect work is there; the fragmentary must cease. Justin gave the clearest expression to this conviction. Christianity, i.e., the prophetic teaching attested by Christ and accessible to all, puts an end to the human systems of philosophy that from their close affinity to it may be called Christian, inasmuch as it effects all and more than all that these systems have done, and inasmuch as the speculations of the philosophers, which are uncertain and mingled with error, are transformed by it into dogmas of indubitable certainty.365365Compare with this the following passages: In Apol. I. 20 are enumerated a series of the most important doctrines common to philosophers and Christians. Then follow the words: “If we then in particular respects even teach something similar to the doctrines of the philosophers honoured among you, though in many cases in a divine and more sublime way; and we indeed alone do so in such a way that the matter is proved etc.” In Apol. I. 44: II. 10. 13 uncertainty, error, and contradictions are shown to exist in the case of the greatest philosophers. The Christian doctrines are more sublime than all human philosophy (II. 15). “Our doctrines are evidently more sublime than any human teaching, because the Christ who appeared for our sakes was the whole fulness of reason” (τὸ λογικὸν το ὅλον, II. 10). “The principles of Plato are not foreign (ἀλλότρια) to the teaching of Christ , but they do not agree in every respect. The same holds good of the Stoics” (II. 13). “We must go forth from the school of Plato” (II. 12). “Socrates convinced no one in such a way that he would have been willing to die for the doctrine proclaimed by him; whereas not only philosophers and philologers, but also artisans and quite common uneducated people have believed in Christ” (II. 10). These are the very people — and that is perhaps the strongest contrast found between Logos and Logos in Justin — among whom it is universally said of Christianity: δύναμις ἐστὶ τοῦ ἀρρήτου πατρὸς καὶ οὐχὶ ἀνθρωπείου κόγου κατασκευή (see also I. 14 and elsewhere.) The practical conclusion drawn in Justin’s treatise from this exposition is that the Christians are at least entitled to ask the authorities to treat them as philosophers (Apol. I. 7, 20: II. 15). This demand, he says, is the more justifiable because the freedom of philosophers is enjoyed even by such people as merely bear the name, whereas in reality they set forth immoral and pernicious doctrines.366366In Justin’s estimate of the Greek philosophers two other points deserve notice. In the first place, he draws a very sharp distinction between real and nominal philosophers. By the latter he specially means the Epicureans. They are no doubt referred to in I. 4, 7, 26 (I. 14: Atheists). Epicurus and Sardanapalus are classed together in II. 7; Epicurus and the immoral poets in II. 12; and in the conclusion of II. 15 the same philosopher is ranked with the worst society. But according to II. 3 fin. (ἀδύνατον Κυνικῷ, αδιάφορον τὸ τέλος προθεμένῳ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν εἰδέναι πλὴν αδιαφορίας) the Cynics also seem to be outside the circle of real philosophers. This is composed principally of Socrates, Plato, the Platonists and Stoics, together with Heraclitus and others. Some of these understood one set of doctrines more correctly, others another series. The Stoics excelled in ethics (II. 7); Plato described the Deity and the world more correctly. It is, however, worthy of note — and this is the second point — that Justin in principle conceived the Greek philosophers as a unity, and that he therefore saw in their very deviations from one another a proof of the imperfection of their teaching. In so far as they are all included under the collective idea “human philosophy”, philosophy is characterised by the conflicting opinions found within it. This view was suggested to Justin by the fact that the highest truth, which is at once allied and opposed to human philosophy, was found by him among an exclusive circle of fellow-believers. Justin showed great skill in selecting from the Gospels the passages (I. 15-17), that prove the “philosophical” life of the Christians as described by him in c. 14. Here he cannot be acquitted of colouring the facts (cf. Aristides) nor of exaggeration (see, for instance, the unqualified statement: ἅ ἔχομεν εἰς κοινὸν φέροντες καὶ παντὶ δεομένῳ κοινωνοῦντες). The philosophical emperors were meant here to think of the “ϕίλοις πάντα κοινά”. Yet in I. 67 Justin corrected exaggerations in his description. Justin’s reference to the invaluable benefits which Christianity confers on the state deserves notice (see particularly I. 12, 17.) The later Apologists make a similar remark.
In the dialogue with the Jew Trypho, which is likewise meant for heathen readers, Justin ceased to employ the idea of the existence of a “seed of the Logos implanted by nature” (σπέρμα λόγου ἔμφυτον) in every man. From this fact we recognise that he did not consider the notion of fundamental importance. He indeed calls the Christian religion a philosophy;367367Dialogue 8. The dialogue takes up a more positive attitude than the Apology, both as a whole and in detail. If we consider that both works are also meant for Christians, and that, on the other hand, the Dialogue as well as the Apology appeals to the cultured heathen public, we may perhaps assume that the two writings were meant to present a graduated system of Christian instruction. (In one passage the Dialogue expressly refers to the Apology). From Justin’s time onward the apologetic polemic of the early Church appears to have adhered throughout to the same method. This consisted in giving the polemical writings directed against the Greeks the form of an introduction to Christian knowledge, and in continuing this instruction still further in those directed against the Jews. but, in so far as this is the case, it is “the only sure and saving philosophy”. No doubt the so-called philosophies put the right questions, but they are incapable of giving correct answers. For the Deity, who embraces all true being, and a knowledge of whom alone makes salvation possible, is only known in proportion as he reveals himself. True wisdom is therefore exclusively based on revelation. Hence it is opposed to every human philosophy, because revelation was only given in the prophets and in Christ.368368Dial. 2. sq. That Justin’s Christianity is founded on theoretical scepticism is clearly shown by the introduction to the Dialogue. The Christian is the philosopher,369369Dial. 8: οὕτως δὴ καὶ διὰ ταῦτα ϕιλόσοϕος ἐγώ. because the followers of Plato and the Stoics are virtually no philosophers. In applying the title “philosophy” to Christianity he therefore does not mean to bring Christians and philosophers more closely together. No doubt, however, he asserts that the Christian doctrine, which is founded on the knowledge of Christ and leads to blessedness,370370Dial., l. c.: παρέστιν σοὶ τὸν Χριστὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐπιγνόντι καὶ τελείῳ γενομένῳ εὐδαιμονεῖν. is in accordance with reason.
Athenagoras. The petition on behalf of Christians, which Athenagoras, “the Christian philosopher of Athens”, presented to the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, nowhere expressly designates Christianity as a philosophy, and still less does it style the Christians philosophers.371371See particularly the closing chapter. But, at the very beginning of his writing Athenagoras also claims for the Christian doctrines the toleration granted by the state to all philosophic tenets.372372Suppl. 2. In support of his claim he argues that the state punishes nothing but practical atheism,373373Suppl. 4. and that the “atheism” of the Christians is a doctrine about God such as had been propounded by the most distinguished philosophers — Pythagoreans, Platonists, Peripatetics, and Stoics — who, moreover, were permitted to write whatsoever they pleased on the subject of the “Deity”.374374Suppl. 5-7. The Apologist concedes even more: “If philosophers did not also acknowledge the existence of one God, if they did not also conceive the gods in question to be partly demons, partly matter, partly of human birth, then certainly we would be justly expelled as aliens.”375375Suppl. 24 (see also Aristides c. 13). He therefore takes up the standpoint that the state is justified in refusing to tolerate people with completely new doctrines. When we add that he everywhere assumes that the wisdom and piety of the emperors are sufficient to test and approve376376Suppl. 7 fin. and many other places. the truth of the Christian teaching, that he merely represents this faith itself as the reasonable doctrine,377377E.g., Suppl. 8. 35 fin. and that, with the exception of the resurrection of the body, he leaves all the positive and objectionable tenets of Christianity out of account,378378The Crucified Man, the incarnation of the Logos etc. are wanting. Nothing at all is said about Christ. there is ground for thinking that this Apologist differs essentially from Justin in his conception of the relation of Christianity to secular philosophy.
Moreover, it is not to be denied that Athenagoras views the revelation in the prophets and in Christ as completely identical. But in one very essential point he agrees with Justin; and he has even expressed himself still more plainly than the latter, inasmuch as he does not introduce the assumption of a “seed of the Logos implanted by nature” (σπέρμα λόγου ἔμφυτον). The philosophers, he says, were incapable of knowing the full truth, since it was not from God, but rather from themselves, that they wished to learn about God. True wisdom, however, can only be learned from God, that is, from his prophets; it depends solely on revelation.379379Suppl. 7. Here also then we have a repetition of the thought that the truly reasonable is of supernatural origin. Such is the importance attached by Athenagoras to this proposition, that he declares any demonstration of the “reasonable” to be insufficient, no matter how luminous it may appear. Even that which is most evidently true — e.g., monotheism — is not raised from the domain of mere human opinion into the sphere of undoubted certainty till it can be confirmed by revelation,380380Cf. the arguments in c. 8 with c. 9 init. This can be done by Christians alone. Hence they are very different from the philosophers, just as they are also distinguished from these by their manner of life.381381Suppl. 11. All the praises which Athenagoras from time to time bestows on philosophers, particularly Plato.382382Suppl. 23. are consequently to be understood in a merely relative sense. Their ultimate object is only to establish the claim made by the Apologist with regard to the treatment of Christians by the state; but they are not really meant to bring the former into closer relationship to philosophers. Athenagoras also holds the theory that Christians are philosophers, in so far as the “philosophers” are not such in any true sense. It is only the problems they set that connect the two. He exhibits less clearness than Justin in tracing the necessity of revelation to the fact that the demon sovereignty, which, above all, reveals itself in polytheism,383383Suppl. 18, 23-27. He, however, as well as the others, sets forth the demon theory in detail. can only be overthrown by revelation; he rather emphasises the other thought (cc. 7, 9) that the necessary attestation of the truth can only be given in this way.384384 The Apology which Miltiades addressed to Marcus Aurelius and his fellow-emperor perhaps bore the title: ὑπὲρ τῆς κατά Χριστιανοὺς φιλοσοφίας (Euseb., H. E. V. 17. 5). It is certain that Melito in his Apology designated Christianity as ἡ καθ᾽ ἡμᾶς φιλοσοφία (1. c., IV. 26. 7). But, while it is undeniable that this writer attempted, to a hitherto unexampled extent, to represent Christianity as adapted to the Empire, we must nevertheless beware of laying undue weight on the expression “philosophy”. What Melito means chiefly to emphasise is the fact that Christianity, which in former times had developed into strength among the barbarians, began to flourish in the provinces of the Empire simultaneously with the rise of the monarchy under Augustus, that, as foster-sister of the monarchy, it increased in strength with the latter, and that this mutual relation of the two institutions had given prosperity and splendour to the state. When in the fragments preserved to us he twice, in this connection, calls Christianity “philosophy”, we must note that this expression alternates with the other “ὁ καθ᾽ ἡμᾶς λόγος”, and that he uses the formula: “Thy forefathers held this philosophy in honour along with the other cults” (πρὸς ταῖς ἄλλαις θρησκείαις). This excludes the assumption that Melito in his Apology merely represented Christianity as philosophy (see also IV. 26. 5, where the Christians are called “τὸ τῶν θεοσεβῶν γένος”). He also wrote a treatise περὶ κτίσεως καὶ γενέσεως Χριστοῦ. In it (fragment in the Chron. Pasch.) he called Christ Θεοῦ λόγος πρὸ αἰώνων.
Tatian’s385385See my treatise “Tatian’s Rede an die Griechen übers.”, 1884 (Giessener Programm). Daniel, Tatianus, 1837. Steuer, Die Gottes- und Logoslehre des Tatian, 1893. chief aim was not to bring about a juster treatment of the Christians.386386But see Orat. 4 init., 24 fin., 25 fin., 27 init. He wished to represent their cause as the good contrasted with the bad, wisdom as opposed to error, truth in contradistinction to outward seeming, hypocrisy, and pretentious emptiness. His “Address to the Greeks” begins with a violent polemic against all Greek philosophers. Tatian merely acted up to a judgment of philosophers and philosophy which in Justin’s case is still concealed.387387He not only accentuated the disagreement of philosophers more strongly than Justin, but insisted more energetically than that Apologist on the necessity of viewing the practical fruits of philosophy in life as a criterion; see Orat. 2, 3, 19, 25. Nevertheless Socrates still found grace in his eyes (c. 3). With regard to other philosophers he listened to foolish and slanderous gossip. Hence it was not possible for him to think of demonstrating analogies between Christians and philosophers. He also no doubt views Christianity as “reasonable”; he who lives virtuously and follows wisdom receives it;388388Orat. 13, 15 fin., 20. Tatian also gave credence to it because it imparts such an intelligible picture of the creation of the world (c. 29). but yet it is too sublime to be grasped by earthly perception.389389Orat. 12: τὰ τῆς ἡμετέρας παιδείας ἐστὶν ἀνωτέρω τῆς κοσμικῆς καταλήψεως. Tatian troubled himself very little with giving demonstrations. No other Apologist made such bold assertions. It is a heavenly thing which depends on the communication of the “Spirit”, and hence can only be known by revelation.390390See Orat. 12 (p. 54 fin.), 20 (p. 90), 25 fin., 26 fin., 29, 30 (p. 116), 13 (p. 62), 15 (p. 70), 36 (p. 142), 40 (p. 152 sq.). The section cc. 12-15 of the Oratio is very important (see also c. 7 ff.); for it shows that Tatian denied the natural immortality of the soul, declared the soul (the material spirit) to be something inherent in all matter, and accordingly looked on the distinction between men and animals in respect of their inalienable natural constitution as only one of degree. According to this Apologist the dignity of man does not consist in his natural endowments; but in the union of the human soul with the divine spirit, for which union indeed he was planned. But, in Tatian’s opinion, man lost this union by falling under the sovereignty of the demons. The Spirit of God has left him, and consequently he has fallen back to the level of the beasts. So it is man’s task to unite the Spirit again with himself, and thereby recover that religious principle on which all wisdom and knowledge rest. This anthropology is opposed to that of the Stoics and related to the “Gnostic” theory. It follows from it that man, in order to reach his destination, must raise himself above his natural endowment; see c. 15: ἄνθρωπον λέγω τὸν πόρρω μὲν ἀνθρωπότητος πρὸς ἀυτὸν δὲ τὸν Θεὸν κεχωρηκότα. But with Tatian this conception is burdened with radical inconsistency; for he assumes that the Spirit reunites itself with every man who rightly uses his freedom, and he thinks it still possible for every person to use his freedom aright (11 fin., 13 fin., 15 fin.) So it is after all a mere assertion that the natural man is only distinguished from the beast by speech. He is also distinguished from it by freedom. And further it is only in appearance that the blessing bestowed in the “Spirit” is a donum superadditum et supernaturale. For if a proper spontaneous use of freedom infallibly leads to the return of the Spirit, it is evident that the decision and consequently the realisation of man’s destination depend on human freedom. That is, however, the proposition which all the Apologists maintained. But indeed Tatian himself in his latter days seems to have observed the inconsistency in which he had become involved and to have solved the problem in the Gnostic, that is, the religious sense. In his eyes, of course, the ordinary philosophy is a useless and pernicious art; philosophers make their own opinions laws (c. 27); whereas of Christians the following holds good (c. 32): λόγου τοῦ δημοσίου καὶ ἐπιγείου κεχωρισμένοι καὶ παραγγέλμασι καὶ νόμῳ πατρὸς ἀφθαρσίας ἑπόμενοι, πᾶν τὸ ἐν δόξῃ κείμενον ἀνθρωπίνῃ παραιτούμεθα. But yet it is a “philosophy” with definite doctrines (δόγματα);391391C. 31. init.: ἡ ἡμετέρα φιλοσοφία. 32 (p. 128): οἱ βουλόμενοι φιλοσοφεῖν παρ᾽ ἡμῖν ἄνθρωποι. In c. 33 (p. 130) Christian women are designated αἱ παρ᾽ ἡμῖν φιλοσοφοῦσαι. C. 35: ἡ καθ᾽ ἡμᾶς βάρβαρος φιλοσσοφία. 40 (p. 152): οἱ κατὰ Μωυσέα καὶ ὁμοίως αὐτῷ φιλοσοφοῦντες. 42: ὁ κατὰ βαρβάρους φιλοσοφῶν Τατιανός. The δόγματα of the Christians: c. 1 (p. 2), 12 (p. 58), 19 (p. 86), 24 (p. 102), 27 (p. 108), 35 (p. 138), 40, 42. But Tatian pretty frequently calls Christianity “ἡ ἡμετέρα παιδεία”, once also “νομοθεσία” (12; cf. 40: οἱ ἡμέτεροι νόμοι), and often πολιτεία. it brings nothing new, but only such blessings as we have already received, but could not retain392392See, e.g., c. 29 fin.: the Christian doctrine gives us οὐχ ὅπερ μὴ ἐλάβομεν, ἀλλ᾽ ὅπερ λαβόντες ὑπὸ τῆς πλάνης ἔχειν ἐκωλύθημεν. owing to the power of error, i.e., the dominion of the demons.393393Tatian gave still stronger expression than Justin to the opinion that it is the demons who have misled men and rule the world, and that revelation through the prophets is opposed to this demon rule; see c. 7 ff. The demons have fixed the laws of death; see c. 15 fin. and elsewhere. Christianity is therefore the philosophy in which, by virtue of the Logos revelation through the prophets,394394Tatian also cannot at bottom distinguish between revelation through the prophets and through Christ. See the description of his conversion in c. 29. where only the Old Testament writings are named, and c. 13 fin., 20 fin., 12 (p. 54) etc. the rational knowledge that leads to life395395Knowledge and life appear in Tatian most closely connected. See, e.g., c. 13 mit.: “In itself the soul is not immortal, but mortal; it is also possible, however, that it may not die. If it has not attained a knowledge of that truth it dies and is dissolved with the body; but later, at the end of the world, it will rise again with the body in order to receive death in endless duration as a punishment. On the contrary it does not die, though it is dissolved for a time, if it is equipped with the knowledge of God.” is restored. This knowledge was no less obscured among the Greek philosophers than among the Greeks generally. In so far as revelation took place among the barbarians from the remotest antiquity, Christianity may also be called the barbarian philosophy.396396Barbarian: the Christian doctrines are τὰ τῶν βαρβάρων δόγματα (c. 1): ῇ καθ᾽ ἡμᾶς βάρβαρος φιλοσοφία (c. 35); ἡ εαρβαρικὴ νομοθεσία (c. 12); γραφαὶ βαρβαρικαί (c. 29); καινοτομεῖν τὰ βαρβάρων δόγματα (c. 35); ὁ κατὰ βαρβάρους φιλοσοφῶν Τατιανός (c. 42); Μωυσῆς πάσης βαρβάρου φιλοσοφίας ἀρχηγός (c. 31); see also c. 30, 32. In Tatian’s view barbarians and Greeks are the decisive contrasts in history. Its truth is proved by its ancient date397397See the proof from antiquity, c. 31 ff. as well as by its intelligible form, which enables even the most uneducated person that is initiated in it398398C. 30 (p. 114): τούτων οὖν τὴν κατάληψιν μεμυημένος. to understand it perfectly.399399Tatian’s own confession is very important here (c. 26): “Whilst I was reflecting on what was good it happened that there fell into my hands certain writings of the barbarians, too old to be compared with the doctrines of the Greeks, too divine to be compared with their errors. And it chanced that they convinced me through the plainness of their expressions, through the unartificial nature of their language, through the intelligible representation of the creation of the world, through the prediction of the future, the excellence of their precepts, and the summing up of all kinds under one head. My soul was instructed by God and I recognised that those Greek doctrines lead to perdition, whereas the others abolish the slavery to which we are subjected in the world, and rescue us from our many lords and tyrants, though they do not give us blessings we had not already received, but rather such as we had indeed obtained, but were not able to retain in consequence of error.” Here the whole theology of the Apologists is contained in nuce; see Justin, Dial. 7-8. In Chaps. 32, 33 Tatian strongly emphasises the fact that the Christian philosophy is accessible even to the most uneducated; see Justin, Apol. II. 10; Athenag. 11 etc. Finally, Tatian also states (c. 40) that the Greek sophists have read the writings of Moses and the prophets, and reproduced them in a distorted form. He therefore maintains the very opposite of what Celsus took upon him to demonstrate when venturing to derive certain sayings and doctrines of Christ and the Christians from the philosophers. Both credit the plagiarists with intentional misrepresentation or gross misunderstanding. Justin judged more charitably. To Tatian, on the contrary, the mythology of the Greeks did not appear worse than their philosophy; in both cases he saw imitations and intentional corruption of the truth.400400The unknown author of the Λόγος πρὸς Ἕλληνας also formed the same judgment as Tatian (Corp. Apolog., T. III., p. 2 sq., ed. Otto; a Syrian translation, greatly amplified, is found in the Cod. Nitr. Mus. Britt. Add. 14658. It was published by Cureton, Spic. Syr., p. 38 sq. with an English translation). Christianity is an incomparable heavenly wisdom, the teacher of which is the Logos himself. “It produces neither poets, nor philosophers, nor rhetoricians; but it makes mortals immortal and men gods, and leads them away upwards from the earth into super-Olympian regions.” Through Christian knowledge the soul returns to its Creator: δεῖ γὰρ ἀποκατασταθῆαι ὅθεν ἀπέστη.
Theophilus agrees with Tatian, in so far as he everywhere appears to contrast Christianity with philosophy. The religious and moral culture of the Greeks is derived from their poets (historians) and philosophers (ad Autol. II. 3 fin. and elsewhere). However, not only do poets and philosophers contradict each other (II. 5); but the latter also do not agree (II. 4. 8: III. 7), nay, many contradict themselves (III. 3). Not a single one of the so-called philosophers, however, is to be taken seriously;401401Nor is Plato “ὁ δοκῶν ἐν αὐτοῖς σεμνότερον πεφιλοσοφηκέναι” any better than Epicurus and the Stoics (III. 6). Correct views which are found in him in a greater measure than in the others (ὁ δοκῶν Ἑλλήνων σοφώτερος γεγενῆσθαι), did not prevent him from giving way to the stupidest babbling (III. 16). Although he knew that the full truth can only be learned, from God himself through the law (III. 17), he indulged in the most foolish guesses concerning the beginning of history. But where guesses find a place, truth is not to be found (III. 16: εἰ δἰκασμῷ, οὐκ ἄρα ἀληθῆ ἐστὶν τὰ ὑπ̓ αὐτοῦ εἰρημένα). they have devised myths and follies (II. 8); everything they have set forth is useless and godless (III. 2); vain and worthless fame was their aim (III. 3). But God knew beforehand the “drivellings of these hollow philosophers” and made his preparations (II. 15). He of old proclaimed the truth by the mouth of prophets, and these deposited it in holy writings. This truth refers to the knowledge of God, the origin and history of the world, as well as to a virtuous life. The prophetic testimony in regard to it was continued in the Gospel.402402Theophilus confesses (I. 14) exactly as Tatian does: καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ ἡπίστουν τοῦτο ἔσεσθαι, ἀλλὰ νῦν κατανοήσας αὐτὰ πιστεύω, ἅμα καὶ ἐπιτυχὼν ἱεραῖς γραφαῖς τῶν ἁγίων προφητῶν, οἳ καὶ προεῖπον διὰ τνεύματος Θεοῦ τὰ προγεγονότα ᾧ τρόπῳ γέγονεν καὶ τὰ ἐνεστῷτα τίνι τρόπῳ γίνεται, καὶ τὰ ἐπερχόμενα ποίᾳ τάξει ἀπαρτισθήσεται. Ἀπόδειξιν οὐν λαβὼν τῶν γινομένων καὶ προαναπεφωνημένων οὐκ απιστῶ; see also II. 8-10, 22, 30, 33-35: III. 10, 11, 17. Theophilus merely looks on the Gospel as a continuation of the prophetic revelations and injunctions. Of Christ, however, he did not speak at all, but only of the Logos (Pneuma), which has operated from the beginning. To Theophilus the first chapters of Genesis already contain the sum of all Christian knowledge (II. 10-32). Revelation, however, is necessary because this wisdom of the philosophers and poets is really demon wisdom, for they were inspired by devils.403403See II. 8: ὑπὸ δαιμόνων δὲ ἐμπνευσθέντες καὶ ὑπ᾽ αὐτῶν φυσιωθέντες ἅ εἶπον δι᾽ αὐτῶν εἶπον. Thus the most extreme contrasts appear to exist here. Still, Theophilus is constrained to confess that truth was not only announced by the Sibyl, to whom his remarks do not apply, for she is (II. 36): ἐν ῞Ελλησιν καὶ ἐν τοῖς λοιποῖς ἔθνεσιν γενομένη προφῆτις, but that poets and philosophers, “though against their will”, also gave clear utterances regarding the justice, the judgment, and the punishments of God, as well as regarding his providence in respect to the living and the dead, or, in other words, about the most important points (II. 37, 38, 8 fin.). Theophilus gives a double explanation of this fact. On the one hand he ascribes it to the imitation of holy writings (II. 12, 37: I. 14), and on the other he admits that those writers, when the demons abandoned them (τῇ ψυχῇ ἐκνήψαντες ἐξ ἀυτῶν), of themselves displayed a knowledge of the divine sovereignty, the judgment etc., which agrees with the teachings of the prophets (II. 8). This admission need not cause astonishment; for the freedom and control of his own destiny with which man is endowed (II. 27) must infallibly lead him to correct knowledge and obedience to God, as soon as he is no longer under the sway of the demons. Theophilus did not apply the title of philosophy to Christian truth, this title being in his view discredited; but Christianity is to him the “wisdom of God”, which by luminous proofs convinces the men who reflect on their own nature.404404The unknown author of the work de resurrectione, which goes under the name of Justin (Corp. Apol., Vol. III.) has given a surprising expression to the thought that it is simply impossible to give a demonstration of truth. (Ὁ μὲν τῆς ἀληθείας λόγος ἐστὶν ἐλεύθερός τε καὶ αὐτεξούσιος, ὑπὸ μηδεμίαν βάσανον ἐλέγχου θέλων πίπτειν μηδὲ τὴν παρὰ τοῖς ἀκούουσι δἰ ἀποδειξεως ἐξέτασιν ὑπομένειν. Τὸ γὰρ εὐγενὲς αὐτοῦ καὶ πεποιθὸς αὐτῷ τῷ πέμψαντι πιστεύεσθαι θέλει). He inveighs in the beginning of his treatise against all rationalism, and on the one hand professes a sort of materialistic theory of knowledge, whilst on the other, for that very reason, he believes in inspiration and the authority of revelation; for all truth originates with revelation, since God himself and God alone is the truth. Christ revealed this truth and is for us τῶν ὅλων πίστις καὶ ἀπὸδειξις. But it is far from probable that the author would really have carried this proposition to its logical conclusion (Justin, Dial. 3 ff. made a similar start). He wishes to meet his adversaries “armed with the arguments of faith which are unconquered” (c. 1., p. 214), but the arguments of faith are still the arguments of reason. Among these he regarded it as most important that even according to the theories about the world, that is, about God and matter, held by the “so-called sages”, Plato, Epicurus, and the Stoics, the assumption of a resurrection of the flesh is not irrational (c. 6, p. 228 f.). Some of these, viz., Pythagoras and Plato, also acknowledged the immortality of the soul. But, for that very reason, this view is not sufficient, “for if the Redeemer had only brought the message of the (eternal) life of the soul what new thing would he have proclaimed in addition to what had been made known by Pythagoras, Plato, and the band of their adherents?” (c. 10, p. 246) This remark is very instructive, for it shows what considerations led the Apologists to adhere to the belief in the resurrection of the body. Zahn, (Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, Vol. VIII., pp. 1 f., 20 f.) has lately reassigned to Justin himself the the fragment de resurr. His argument, though displaying great plausibility, has nevertheless not fully convinced me. The question is of great importance for fixing the relation of Justin to Paul. I shall not discuss Hermias’ “Irrisio Gentilium Philosophorum”, as the period when this Christian disputant flourished is quite uncertain. We still possess an early-Church Apology in Pseudo-Melito “Oratio ad Antoninum Cæsarem” (Otto, Corp. Apol. IX., p. 423 sq.). This book is preserved (written?) in the Syrian language and was addressed to Caracalla or Heliogabalus (preserved in the Cod. Nitr. Mus. Britt. Add. 14658). It is probably dependent on Justin, but it is less polished and more violent than his Apology.
Tertullian and Minucius Felix.405405Massebieau (Revue de l’histoire des religions, 1887, Vol. XV. No. 3) has convinced me that Minucius wrote at a later period than Tertullian and made use of his works. Whilst, in the case of the Greek Apologists, the acknowledgment of revelation appears conditioned by philosophical scepticism on the one hand, and by the strong impression of the dominion of the demons on the other, the sceptical element is not only wanting in the Latin Apologists, but the Christian truth is even placed in direct opposition to the sceptical philosophy and on the side of philosophical dogmatism, i.e., Stoicism.406406Cf. the plan of the “Octavius”. The champion of heathenism here opposed to the Christian is a philosopher representing the standpoint of the middle Acad. emy. This presupposes, as a matter of course, that the latter undertakes the defence of the Stoical position. See, besides, the corresponding arguments in the Apology of Tertullian, e.g., c. 17, as well as his tractate: “de testimonio animæ naturaliter Christianæ”. We need merely mention that the work of Minucius is throughout dependent on Cicero’s book, “de natura deorum.” In this treatise he takes up a position more nearly akin to heathen syncretism than Tertullian. Nevertheless the observations of Tertullian and Minucius Felix with regard to the essence of Christianity, viewed as philosophy and as revelation, are at bottom completely identical with the conception of the Greek Apologists, although it is undeniable that in the former case the revealed character of Christianity is placed in the background.407407In R. Kühn’s investigation (“Der Octavius des Min. Felix”, Leipzig, 1882) — the best special work we possess on an early Christian Apology from the point of view of the history of dogma — based on a very careful analysis of the Octavius, more emphasis is laid on the difference than on the agreement between Minucius and the Greek Apologists. The author’s exposition requires to be supplemented in the latter respect (see Theologische Litteratur-Zeitung, 1883, No. 6). The recognition of this fact is exceedingly instructive, for it proves that the conception of Christianity set forth by the Apologists was not an individual one, but the necessary expression of the conviction that Christian truth contains the completion and guarantee of philosophical knowledge. To Minucius Felix (and Tertullian) Christian truth chiefly presents itself as the wisdom implanted by nature in every man (Oct. 16. 5). In so far as man possesses reason and speech and accomplishes the task of the “examination of the universe” (“inquisitio universitatis”), conditioned by this gift, he has the Christian truth, that is, he finds Christianity in his own constitution, and in the rational order of the world. Accordingly, Minucius is also able to demonstrate the Christian doctrines by means of the Stoic principle of knowledge, and arrives at the conclusion that Christianity is a philosophy, i.e., the true philosophy, and that philosophers are to be considered Christians in proportion as they have discovered the truth.408408C. 20: Exposui opiniones omnium ferme philosophorum . . . , ut quivis arbitretur, aut nunc Christianos philosophos esse aut philosophos fuisse jam tunc Christianos.” Moreover, as he represented Christian ethics to be the expression of the Stoic, and depicted the Christian bond of brotherhood as a cosmopolitan union of philosophers, who have become conscious of their natural similarity,409409See Minucius, 31 ff. A quite similar proceeding is already found in Tertullian, who in his Apologeticum has everywhere given a Stoic colouring to Christian ethics and rules of life, and in c. 39 has drawn a complete veil over the peculiarity of the Christian societies. the revealed character of Christianity appears to be entirely given up. This religion is natural enlightenment, the revelation of a truth contained in the world and in man, the discovery of the one God from the open book of creation. The difference between him and an Apologist like Tatian seems here to be a radical one. But, if we look more closely, we find that Minucius — and not less Tertullian — has abandoned Stoic rationalism in vital points. We may regard his apologetic aim as his excuse for clearly drawing the logical conclusions from these inconsistencies himself. However, these deviations of his from the doctrines of the Stoa are not merely prompted by Christianity, but rather have already become an essential component of his philosophical theory of the world. In the first place, Minucius developed a detailed theory of the pernicious activity of the demons (cc. 26, 27). This was a confession that human nature was not what it ought to be, because an evil element had penetrated it from without. Secondly, he no doubt acknowledged (I. 4: 16. 5) the natural light of wisdom in humanity, but nevertheless remarked (32. 9) that our thoughts are darkness when measured by the clearness of God. Finally, and this is the most essential point, after appealing to various philosophers when expounding his doctrine of the final conflagration of the world, he suddenly repudiated this tribunal, declaring that the Christians follow the prophets, and that philosophers “have formed this shadowy picture of distorted truth in imitation of the divine predictions of the prophets” (34). Here we have now a union of all the elements already found in the Greek Apologists; only they are, as it were, hid in the case of Minucius. But the final proof that he agreed with them in the main is found in the exceedingly contemptuous judgment which he in conclusion passed on all philosophers and indeed on philosophy generally410410Tertullian has done exactly the same thing; see Apolog. 46 (and de præscr. 7.) (34. 5: 38. 5). This judgment is not to be explained, as in Tertullian’s case, by the fact that his Stoic opinions led him to oppose natural perception to all philosophical theory — for this, at most, cannot have been more than a secondary contributing cause,411411 Tertull., de testim. I.: “Sed non eam te (animam) advoco, quæ scholis format, bibliothecis exercitata, academiis et porticibus Atticis pasta sapientiam ructas. Te simplicem et rudem et impolitam et idioticam compello, qualem te habent qui te solam habent . . . Imperitia tua mihi opus est, quoniam aliquantulæ peritiæ tuæ nemo credit.” but by the fact that he is conscious of following revealed wisdom.412412Tertull., Apol.46: “Quid simile philosophus et Christianus? Græciæ discipulus et cœli?” de præscr. 7: “Quid ergo Athenis et Hierosolymis? Quid academiæ et ecclesiæ?” Minuc. 38.5: “Philosophorum supercilia contemnimus, quos corruptores et adulteros novimus . . . nos, qui non habitu sapientiam sed mente præferimus, non eloquimur magna sed vivimus, gloriamur nos consecutos, quod illi summa intentione quæsiverunt nec invenire potuerunt. Quid ingrati sumus, quid nobis invidemus, si veritas divinitatis nostri temporis rate maturuit?” Revelation is necessary because mankind must be aided from without, i.e., by God. In this idea man’s need of redemption is acknowledged, though not to the same extent as by Seneca and Epictetus. But no sooner does Minucius perceive the teachings of the prophets to be divine truth than man’s natural endowment and the speculation of philosophers sink for him into darkness. Christianity is the wisdom which philosophers sought, but were not able to find.413413Minucius did not enter closely into the significance of Christ any more than Tatian, Athenagoras, and Theophilus; he merely touched upon it (9. 4: 29. 2). He also viewed Christianity as the teaching of the Prophets; whoever acknowledges the latter must of necessity adore the crucified Christ. Tertullian was accordingly the first Apologist after Justin who again considered it necessary to give a detailed account of Christ as the incarnation of the Logos (see the 21st chapter of the Apology in its relation to chaps. 17-20).
We may sum up the doctrines of the Apologists as follows: (1) Christianity is revelation, i.e., it is the divine wisdom, proclaimed of old by the prophets and, by reason of its origin, possessing an absolute certainty which can also be recognised in the fulfilment of their predictions. As divine wisdom Christianity is contrasted with, and puts an end to, all natural and philosophical knowledge. (2) Christianity is the enlightenment corresponding to the natural but impaired knowledge of man.414414Among the Greek Apologists the unknown author of the work “de Monarchial”, which bears the name of Justin, has given clearest expression to this conception. He is therefore most akin to Minucius (see chap. I.). Here monotheism is designated as the καθρολικὴ δόξα which has fallen into oblivion through bad habit; for τῆς ἀνθρωπίνης φύσεως τὸ κατ᾽ ἀρχὴν συζυγίαν συνέσεως καὶ σωτηρίας λαβούσης εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας θρησκείας τε τῆς εἰς τὸν ἕνα καὶ πάντων δεσπότην. According to this, then, only an awakening is required. It embraces all the elements of truth in philosophy, whence it is the philosophy; and helps man to realise the knowledge with which he is naturally endowed. (3) Revelation of the rational was and is necessary, because man has fallen under the sway of the demons. (4) The efforts of philosophers to ascertain the right knowledge were in vain; and this is, above all, shown by the fact that they neither overthrew polytheism nor brought about a really moral life. Moreover, so far as they discovered the truth, they owed it to the prophets from whom they borrowed it; at least it is uncertain whether they even attained a knowledge of fragments of the truth by their own independent efforts.415415But almost all the Apologists acknowledged that heathendom possessed prophets. They recognise these in the Sibyls and the old poets. The author of the work “de Monarchia” expressed the most pronounced views in regard to this. Hermas (Vis. II. 4), however, shows that the Apologists owed this notion also to an idea that was widespread among Christian people. But it is certain that many seeming truths in the writings of the philosophers were imitations of the truth by evil demons. This is the origin of all polytheism, which is, moreover, to some extent an imitation of Christian institutions. (5) The confession of Christ is simply included in the acknowledgment of the wisdom of the prophets; the doctrine of the truth did not receive a new content through Christ; he only made it accessible to the world and strengthened it (victory over the demons; special features acknowledged by Justin and Tertullian). (6) The practical test of Christianity is first contained in the fact that all persons are able to grasp it, for women and uneducated men here become veritable sages; secondly in the fact that it has the power of producing a holy life, and of overthrowing the tyranny of the demons. In the Apologists, therefore, Christianity served itself heir to antiquity, i.e., to the result of the monotheistic knowledge and ethics of the Greeks: Ὅσα οὖν παρὰ πᾶσικαλῶς εἴρηται, ἡμῶν τῶν Χριστιανῶν εστί” (Justin, Apol. II. 13). It traced its origin back to the beginning of the world. Everything true and good which elevates mankind springs from divine revelation, and is at the same time genuinely human, because it is a clear expression of what man finds within him and of his destination (Justin, Apol. I. 46: οἱ μετὰ λόγου βιώσαντες Χριστιανοί εἰσι, κἄν ἄθεοι ἐνομίσθησαν, οἷον ἐν Ἕλλησι μὲν Σωκράτης καὶ Ἡράκλειτος καὶ οἱ ὅμοιοι αὐτοῖς, ἐν βαρβάροις δὲ Ἀβραὰμ κ.τ.λ., “those that have lived with reason are Christians, even though they were accounted atheists, such as Socrates and Heraclitus and those similar to them among the Greeks, and Abraham etc. among the barbarians”). But everything true and good is Christian, for Christianity is nothing else than the teaching of revelation. No second formula can be imagined in which the claim of Christianity to be the religion of the world is so powerfully expressed (hence also the endeavour of the Apologists to reconcile Christianity and the Empire), nor, on the other hand, can we conceive of one where the specific content of traditional Christianity is so thoroughly neutralised as it is here. But the really epoch-making feature is the fact that the intellectual culture of mankind now appears reconciled and united with religion. The “dogmas” are the expression of this. Finally, these fundamental presuppositions also result in a quite definite idea of the essence of revelation and of the content of reason. The essence of revelation consists in its form: it is divine communication through a miraculous inward working. All the media of revelation are passive organs of the Holy Spirit (Athenag. Supplic. 7; Pseudo-Justin, Cohort. 8; Justin, Dialogue 115. 7; Apol. I. 31, 33, 36; etc.; see also Hippolytus, de Christo et Antichr. 2). These were not necessarily at all times in a state of ecstasy, when they received the revelations; but they were no doubt in a condition of absolute receptivity. The Apologists had no other idea of revelation. What they therefore viewed as the really decisive proof of the reality of revelation is the prediction of the future, for the human mind does not possess this power. It was only in connection with this proof that the Apologists considered it important to show what Moses, David, Isaiah, etc., had proclaimed in the Old Testament, that is, these names have only a chronological significance. This also explains their interest in a history of the world, in so far as this interest originated in the effort to trace the chain of prophets up to the beginning of history, and to prove the higher antiquity of revealed truth as compared with all human knowledge and errors, particularly as found among the Greeks (clear traces in Justin,416416See Justin, Apol. I. 31, Dial. 7, p. 30 etc. first detailed argument in Tatian).417417 See Tatian, c. 31 ff. If, however, strictly speaking, it is only the form and not the content of revelation that is supernatural in so far as this content coincides with that of reason, it is evident that the Apologists simply took the content of the latter for granted and stated it dogmatically. So, whether they expressed themselves in strictly Stoic fashion or not, they all essentially agree in the assumption that true religion and morality are the natural content of reason. Even Tatian forms no exception, though he himself protests against the idea.
|« Prev||2. Christianity as Philosophy and as Revelation.||Next »|