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THE GOSPEL OF THE SAVIOR AND OF SALVATION161161This chapter is based on a fresh revision of Section VI. in my study on “Medicinisches aus der ältesten Kirchengeschichte” (Texte und Unters. VIII., 1892).
The gospel, as preached by Jesus; is a religion of redemption, but it is a religion of redemption in a secret sense. Jesus proclaimed a new message (the near approach of God's kingdom, God as the Father, as his Father), and also a new law, but he did his work as a Saviour or healer, and it was amid work of this kind that he was crucified. Paul, too, preached the gospel as a religion of redemption.
Jesus appeared among his people as a physician. “The healthy need not a physician, but the sick” (Mark ii. 17, Luke v. 31). The first three gospels depict him as the physician of soul and body, as the Saviour or healer of men. Jesus says very little about sickness; he cures it. He does not explain that sickness is health; he calls it by its proper name, and is sorry for the sick person. There is nothing sentimental or subtle about Jesus; he draws no fine distinctions, he utters no sophistries about healthy people being really sick and sick people really healthy. He sees himself surrounded by crowds of sick folk; he attracts them, and his one impulse is to help them. Jesus does not distinguish rigidly between sicknesses of the body and of the soul; he takes them both as different expressions of the one supreme ailment in humanity. But he knows their sources. He knows it is easier to say, “Rise up and walk,” than to say, “Thy sins are forgiven thee” (Mark ii. 9).162162Or are we to interpret the passage in another way? Is it easier to say, “Thy sins are forgiven thee”? In that case, “easier” evidently must be taken in a different sense. And he acts accordingly. No sickness of the soul repels him—he is constantly surrounded by sinful women and tax-gatherers. Nor is any bodily disease too loathsome for Jesus. In this world of wailing, misery, filth, and profligacy, which pressed upon him every day, he kept himself invariably vital, pure, and busy.
In this way he won men and women to be his disciples. The circle by which he was surrounded was a circle of people who had been healed.163163An old legend of Edessa regarding Jesus is connected with his activity as a healer of men. At the close of the third century the people of Edessa, who had become Christians during the second half of the second century, traced back their faith to the apostolic age, and treasured up an alleged correspondence between Jesus and their King Abgar. This correspondence is still extant (cp. Euseb., H.E. i. 13). It is a naïve romance. The king, who is severely ill, writes thus “Abgar, toparch of Edessa, to Jesus the excellent Saviour, who has appeared in the country of Jerusalem; greeting. I have heard of thee and of thy cures, performed without medicine or herb. For, it is said, thou makest the blind to see, and the lame to walk; thou cleansest lepers, thou expellest unclean spirits and demons, thou healest those afflicted with lingering diseases, and thou raisest the dead. Now, as I have heard all this about thee, I have concluded that one of two things must be true: either thou art God, and, having descended from heaven, doest these things, or else thou art a son of God by what thou doest. I write to thee, therefore, to ask thee to come and cure the disease from which I am suffering. For I have heard that the Jews murmur against thee, and devise evil against thee. Now, I have a very small, yet excellent city, which is large enough for both of us.” To which Jesus answered: “Blessed art thou for having believed in me without seeing me. For it is written concerning me that those who have seen me will not believe in me, while they who have not seen me will believe and be saved. But as to thy request that I should come to thee, I must fulfill here all things for which I have been sent, and, after fulfilling them, be taken up again to him who sent me. Yet after I am taken up, I will send thee one of my disciples to cure thy disease and give life to thee and thine.” The narrative then goes on to describe how Thaddaeus came to Edessa and cured the king by the laying on of hands, without medicine or herbs, after he had confessed his faith. “And Abdus, the son of Abdus, was also cured by him of gout.” They were healed because they had believed on him, i.e., because they had gained health from his character and words. To know God meant a sound soul. This was the rock on which Jesus had rescued them from the shipwreck of their life. They knew they were healed, just because they had recognized God as the Father in his Son. Henceforth they drew health and real life as from a never-failing stream.
“Ye will say unto me this parable: Physician, heal thyself” (Luke iv. 23). He who helped so many people, seemed himself to be always helpless. Harassed, calumniated, threatened with death by the authorities of his nation, and persecuted in the name of the very God whom he proclaimed, Jesus went to his cross. But even the cross only displayed for the first time the full depth and energy of his saving power. It put the copestone on his mission, by showing men that the sufferings of the just are the saving force in human history.
“Surely he hath borne our sickness and carried our sorrows; by his stripes we are healed.”1641641 Pet. ii. 24, οὗ τῷ μώλωπι αὐτοὶ ἰάθητε. This was the new truth that issued from the cross of Jesus. It flowed out, like a stream of fresh water, on the arid souls of men and on their dry morality. The morality of outward acts and regulations gave way to the conception of a life which was personal, pure, and divine, which spent itself in the service of the brethren, and gave itself up ungrudgingly to death. This conception was the new principle of life. It uprooted the old life swaying to and fro between sin and virtue; it also planted a new life whose aim was nothing short of being a disciple of Christ, and whose strength was drawn from the life of Christ himself. The disciples went forth to preach the tidings of “God the Saviour,”165165Luke ii. 11, ἐτέχθη ὑμῖν σωτὴρ, ὅς ἐστιν Χριστὸς κύριος; John iv. 42, οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου; Tit. ii. 11, ἐπεφάνη ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ σωτήριος πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις; Tit. iii. 4, ἡ χρηστότης καὶ ἡ φιλανθρωπία ἐπεφάνη τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν θεοῦ. By several Christian circles, indeed, the title “Saviour” was reserved for Jesus and for Jesus only. Irenæus (I. i. 3) reproaches the Valentinian Ptolemæus for never calling Jesus κύριος but only σωτήρ, and, as a matter of fact, in the epistle of Ptolemæus to Flora, Jesus is termed σωτήρ exclusively. of that Saviour and physician whose person, deeds, and sufferings were man's salvation. Paul was giving vent to no sudden or extravagant emotion, but expressing with quiet confidence what he was fully conscious of at every moment, when he wrote to the Galatians (ii. 20), “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. For the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave up himself for me.” Conscious of this, the primitive Christian missionaries were ready to die daily. And that was just the reason why their cause did not collapse.
In the world to which the apostles preached their new message, religion had not been intended originally for the sick, but for the sound. The Deity sought the pure and sound to be his worshippers. The sick and sinful, it was held, are a prey to the powers of darkness; let them see to the recovery of health by some means or another, health for soul and body—for until then they are not pleasing to the gods. It is interesting to observe how this conception is still dominant at the close of the second century, in Celsus, the enemy of Christendom (Orig., c. Cels. III. lix. f.). “Those who invite people to participate in other solemnities, make the following proclamation: ‘He who hath clean hands and sensible speech (is to draw near)'; or again, ‘He who is pure from all stain, conscious of no sin in his soul, and living an honorable and just life (may approach).' Such is the cry of those who promise purification from sins.166166The meaning is that even to mysteries connected with purification those only were bidden who had led upon the whole a good and a just life. But let us now hear what sort of people these Christians invite. ‘Anyone who is a sinner,' they say, ‘or foolish, or simple-minded—in short, any unfortunate will be accepted by the kingdom of God.' By ‘sinner' is meant an unjust person, a thief, a burglar, a poisoner, a sacrilegious man, or a robber of corpses. Why, if you wanted an assembly of robbers, these are just the sort of people you would summon!”167167Porphyry's position is rather different. He cannot flatly set aside the saying of Christ about the sick, for whose sake he came into the world. But as a Greek he is convinced that religion is meant for intelligent, just, and inquiring people. Hence his statement on the point (in Mac. Magnes, iv. 10) is rather confused. Here Celsus has stated, as lucidly as one could desire, the cardinal difference between Christianity and ancient religion.168168Origen makes a skillful defense of Christianity at this point. “If a Christian does extend his appeal to the same people as those addressed by a robber-chief, his aim is very different. He does so in order to bind up their wounds with his doctrine, in order to allay the festering sores of the soul with those remedies of faith which correspond to the wine and oil and other applications employed to give the body relief from pain” (III. lx.). “Celsus misrepresents facts when he declares that we hold God was sent to sinners only. It is just as if he found fault with some people for saying that some kind and gracious [φιλανθρωπότατος, an epithet of Æsculapius] monarch had sent his physician to a city for the benefit of the sick people in that city. God the Word was thus sent as a physician for sinners, but also as a teacher of divine mysteries for those who are already pure and sin no more” (III. lxi.).
But, as we have already seen (Book I, Chapter III.), the religious temper which Christianity encountered, and which developed and diffused itself very rapidly in the second and third centuries, was no longer what we should term “ancient.” Here again we see that the new religion made its appearance “when the time was fulfilled.” The cheerful, naïve spirit of the old religion, so far as it still survived, lay a-dying, and its place was occupied by fresh religious needs. Philosophy had set the individual free, and had discovered a human being in the common citizen. By the blending of states and nations, which coalesced to form a universal empire, cosmopolitanism had now become a reality. But there was always a reverse side to cosmopolitanism, viz., individualism. The refinements of material civilization and mental culture made people more sensitive to the element of pain in life, and this increase of sensitiveness showed itself also in the sphere of morals, where more than one Oriental religion came forward to satisfy its demand. The Socratic philosophy, with its fine ethical ideas, issued from the heights of the thinker to spread across the lowlands of the common people. The Stoics, in particular, paid unwearied attention to the “health and diseases of the soul,” moulding their practical philosophy upon this type of thought. There was a real demand for purity, consolation, expiation, and healing, and as these could not be found elsewhere, they began to be sought in religion. In order to secure them, people were on the look-out for new sacred rites. The evidence for this change which passed over the religious temper lies in the writings of Seneca, Epictetus, and many others; but a further testimony of much greater weight is afforded by the revival which attended the cult of Æsculapius during the Imperial age.169169For the cult of Æsculapius, see von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf's Isyllos von Epidauros (1886), pp. 36 f., 44 f., 116 f., and Usener's Götternamen (1896), pp. 147 f., 350, besides Ilberg's study of Æsculapius in Teubner's Neuen Jahrbüchern, II., 1901, and the cautious article by Thrämer in Pauly-Wissowa's Real. Encykl. (II. 1642 f.). As far back as 290 B.C., Æsculapius of Epidaurus had been summoned to Rome on the advice of the Sibylline books. He had his sanctuary on the island in the Tiber, and close to it, just as at the numerous shrines of Asclepius in Greece, there stood a sanatorium in which sick persons waited for the injunctions which the god imparted during sleep. Greek physicians followed the god to Rome, but it took a long time for either the god or the Greek doctors to become popular. The latter do riot seem at first to have recommended themselves by their skill. “In 219 B.C. the first Greek surgeon became domiciled in Rome. He actually received the franchise, and was presented by the State with a shop ‘in compito Acilio.' But this doctor made such unmerciful havoc among his patients by cutting and cauterizing, that the name of surgeon became a synonym for that of a butcher.”170170Preller-Jordan, Röm. Mythologie, ii. p. 243. Pliny observes: “Mox a saevitia secandi urendique transisse nomen in carnificem et in tædium artem omnesque medicos” (“Owing to cruelty in cutting and cauterizing, the name of surgeon soon passed into that of butcher, and a disgust was felt for the profession and for all doctors”). Things were different under the Cæsars. Though the Romans themselves still eschewed the art of medicine, considering it a kind of divination, skilled Greek doctors were in demand at Rome itself, and the cult of that “deus clinicus,” Æsculapius, was in full vogue. From Rome his cult spread over all the West, fusing itself here and there with the cult of Serapis or some other deity, and accompanied by the subordinate cult of Hygeia and Salus, Telesphorus and Somnus. Furthermore, the sphere of influence belonging to this god of healing widened steadily; he became “saviour” pure and simple, the god who aids in all distress, the “friend of man” (φιλανθρωπότατος).171171The cult was really humane, and it led the physicians also to be humane. In a passage from the Παραγγελίαι of pseudo-Hippocrates we read: “I charge you not to show yourselves inhuman, but to take the wealth or poverty (of the patient) into account, in certain cases even to treat them gratis”—the repute of the ἰατροὶ ἀνάργυροι is well known—“and to consider future gratitude more than present fame. If, therefore, the summons for aid happens to be the case of an unknown or impecunious man, he is most of all to be assisted; for wherever there is love to one's neighbor, it means readiness to act” (ix. 258 Littré, iii. 321 Erm.; a passage which Ilberg brought under my notice, cp. also the Berl. Philol. Wochenschrift for March 25, 1893). How strongly the Christians themselves felt their affinity to humane physicians is proved by a striking instance which Ilberg quotes (loc. cit., from vi. 90 Littré, ii.123 Erm.). Eusebius writes (H. E. x. 4. 11) that Jesus, “like some excellent physician, in order to cure the sick, examines what is repulsive, handles sores, and reaps pain himself from the sufferings of others.” This passage is literally taken from the treatise of pseudo-Hippocrates περὶ φυσῶν: ὀ μὲν γὰρ ἰητρὸς ὁρεῖ τε δεινά, θιγγάνει τε ἀηδέων ἐπ᾽ ἀλλοτρίῃσι δὲ ξυμφορῇσιν ἰδίας καρποῦται λύπας. The more men sought deliverance and healing in religion, the greater grew this god's repute. He belonged to the old gods who held out longest against Christianity, and therefore he is often to be met with in the course of early Christian literature. The cult of Æsculapius was one of those which were most widely diffused throughout the second half of the second century, and also during the third century. People traveled to the famous sanatoria of the god, as they travel today to baths. He was appealed to in diseases of the body and of the soul; people slept in his temples, to be cured; the costliest gifts were brought him as the ΘΕΟΣ ΣΩΤΗΡ (“God the Saviour”); and people consecrated their lives to him, as innumerable inscriptions and statues testify. In the case of other gods as well, healing virtue now became a central feature. Zeus himself and Apollo (cp., e.g., Tatian, Orat. 8) appeared in a new light. They, too, became “saviours.” No one could be a god any longer, unless he was also a saviour.172172Corresponding to this, we have Porphyry's definition of the object of philosophy as ἡ τῆς ψυχῆς σωτηρία (the salvation of the soul). Glance over Origen's great reply to Celsus, and you soon discover that one point hotly disputed by these two remarkable men was the question whether Jesus or Æsculapius was the true Saviour. Celsus champions the one with as much energy and credulity as Origen the other. The combination of crass superstition and sensible criticism presented by both men is an enigma to us at this time of day. We moderns can hardly form any clear idea of their mental bearings. In III. iii Origen observes: “Miracles occurred in all lands, or at least in many places. Celsus himself admits in his book that, Æsculapius healed diseases and revealed the future in all cities that were devoted to him, such as Tricca, Epidaurus, Cos, and Pergamum.” According to III. xxii. Celsus charged the Christians with being unable to make up their minds to call Æsculapius a god, simply because he had been first a man. Origen's retort is that the Greek tradition made Zeus slay Æsculapius with a thunderbolt. Celsus (III. xxiv.) declared it to be an authentic fact that a great number of Greeks and barbarians had seen, and still saw, no mere wraith of Æsculapius, but the god himself engaged in healing and helping man, whereas the disciples of Jesus had merely seen a phantom. Origen is very indignant at this, but his counter-assertions are weak. Does Celsus also appeal to the great number of Greeks and barbarians who believe in Æsculapius? Origen, too, can point to the great number of Christians, to the truth of their scriptures, and to their successful cures in the name of Jesus. But then he suddenly alters his defense, and proceeds (III. xxv.) to make the following extremely shrewd observation: “Even were I going to admit that a demon named Æsculapius had the power of healing bodily diseases, I might still remark to those who are amazed at such cures or at the prophecies of Apollo, that such curative power is of itself neither good nor bad, but within reach of godless as well as of honest folk; while in the same way it does not follow that he who can foretell the future is on that account an honest and upright man. One is not in a position to prove the virtuous character of those who heal diseases and foretell the future. Many instances may be adduced of people being healed who did not deserve to live, people who were so corrupt and led a life of such wickedness that no sensible physician would have troubled to cure them. . . . . The power of healing diseases is no evidence of anything specially divine.” From all these remarks of Origen, we can see how high the cult of Æsculapius was ranked, and how keenly the men of that age were on the lookout for “salvation.”
Into this world of craving for salvation the preaching of Christianity made its way. Long before it had achieved its final triumph by dint of an impressive philosophy of religion, its success was already assured by the fact that it promised and offered salvation—a feature in which it surpassed all other religions and cults. It did more than set up the actual Jesus against the imaginary Æsculapius of dreamland. Deliberately and consciously it assumed the form of “the religion of salvation or healing,”173173The New Testament itself is so saturated with medicinal expressions, employed metaphorically, that a collection of them would fill several pages. or “the medicine of soul and body,” and at the same time it recognized that one of its chief duties was to care assiduously for the sick in body. We shall now select one or two examples out of the immense wealth of material, to throw light upon both of these points.
Take, first of all, the theory. Christianity never lost hold of its innate principle; it was, and it remained, a religion for the sick. Accordingly it assumed that no one, or at least hardly any one, was in normal health, but that men were always in a state of disability. This reading of human nature was not confined to Paul, who looked on all men outside of Christ as dying, dying in their sins; a similar, though simpler, view was taught by the numerous unknown missionaries of primitive Christianity. The soul of man is sick, they said, a prey to death from the moment of his birth. The whole race lies a-dying. But now “the goodness and the human kindness of God the Saviour” have appeared to restore the sick soul.174174Tit. iii. 4: ἡ χρηστότης καὶ ἡ φιλανθρωπία ἐπέφανη τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν θεοῦ . . . . ἔσωσεν ἡμᾶς. See the New Testament allusions to σωτήρ. Baptism was therefore conceived as a bath for regaining the soul's health, or for “the recovery of life”;175175Tert., de Baptism., i., etc., etc.; Clement (Paedag. i. 6. 29) calls baptism παιωνίον φάρμάκον. Tertullian describes it as “aqua medicinalis.” the Lord's Supper was valued as “the potion of immortality,”176176Ignatius, Justin, and Irenæus. and penitence was termed “vera de satisfactione medicina” (the true medicine derived from the atonement, Cypr., de Lapsis xv.). At the celebration of the sacrament, thanks were offered for the “life” therein bestowed (Did. ix.-x.). The conception of “life” acquired a new and deeper meaning. Jesus had already spoken of a “life” beyond the reach of death, to be obtained by the sacrifice of a man's earthly life. The idea and the term were taken up by Paul and by the fourth evangelist, who summed up in them the entire blessings of religion. With the tidings of immortality, the new religion confronted sorrow, misery, sin, and death. So much, at least, the world of paganism could understand. It could understand the promise of bliss and immortality resembling that of the blessed gods. And not a few pagans understood the justice of the accompanying condition that one had to submit to the regime of the religion, that the soul had to be pure and holy before it could become immortal. Thus they grasped the message of a great Physician who preaches “abstinence” and bestows the gift of “life.”177177Clement of Alexandria opens his Paedagogus by describing his Logos as the physician who heals suffering (I. i. 1., τὰ πάθη ὁ παραμυθητικὸς λόγος ἰᾶται). He distinguishes the λόγος προτρεπτικός, ὑποθετικός, and παραμυθικός, to which is added further ὁ διδακτικός. And the Logos is Christ. Gregory Thaumaturgus also calls the Logos a physician, in his panegyric on Origen (xvi.). In the pseudo-Clementine homilies, Jesus, who is the true prophet, is always the physician; similarly Peter's work everywhere is that of the great physician who, by the sole means of prayer and speech, heals troops of sick folk (see especially Bk. VII.). Simon Magus, again, is represented as the wicked magician, who evokes disease wherever he goes. Origen has depicted Jesus the physician more frequently and fully than anyone else. One at least of his numerous passages on the subject may be cited (from Hom. viii., in Levit., ch. i. vol. ix. pp. 312 f): “Medicum dici in scripturis divinis dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, etiam ipsius domini sententia perdocemur, sicut dicit in evangeliis [here follows Matt. ix. 12 f.]. Omnis autem medicus ex herbarum succis vet arborum vel etiam metallorum venis vel animantium naturis profectura corporibus medicamenta componit. Sed herbas istas si quis forte, antequam pro ratione artis componantur, adspiciat, si quidem in agris aut montibus, velut foenum vile conculcat et praeterit. Si vero eas intra medici scholam dispositas per ordinem viderit, licet odorem tristem, fortem et austerum reddant, tamen suspicabitur eas curae vel remedii aliquid continere, etiamsi nondum quae vel qualis sit sanitatis ac remedii virtus agnoverit. Haec de communibus medicis diximus. Veni nunc ad Jesum coelestem medicum, intra ad hanc stationem medicinae eius ecclesiam, vide ibi languentium iacere multitudinem. Venit mulier, quae et partu immunda effecta est, venit leprosus, qui extra castra separatus est pro immunditia leprae, quaerunt a medico remedium, quomodo sanentur, quomodo mundentur, et quia Jesus hic, qui medicus est, ipse est et verbum dei, aegris suis non herbarum succis, sed verborum sacramentis medicamenta conquirit. Quae verborum medicamenta si quis incultius per libros tamquam per agros videat esse dispersa, ignorans singulorum dictorum virtutem, ut vilia haec et nullum sermonis cultum habentia praeteribit. Qui sero ex aliqua parte didicerit animarum apud Christum esse medicinam, intelliget profecto ex hic libris, qui in ecclesiis recitantur, tamquam ex agris et montibus, salutares herbas adsumere unumquemque debere, sermonum dumtaxat vim, ut si quis illi est in anima languor, non tam exterioris frondis et corticis, quam succi interioris hausta virtute sanetur” (“The Lord himself teaches us, in the gospels, that our Lord Jesus Christ is called a physician in the Holy Scriptures. Every physician compounds his medicines for the good of the body from the juices of herbs or trees, or even from the veins of metals or living creatures. Now, supposing that anyone sees these herbs in their natural state, ere they are prepared by skill of art, he treads on them like common straw and passes by them, on mountain or field. But if he chances to see them arranged in the laboratory of a herbalist or physician, he will suspect that, for all their bitter and heavy and unpleasant odors, they have some healing and healthful virtue, though as yet he does not know the nature or the quality of this curative element. So much for our ordinary physicians. Now look at Jesus the heavenly physician. Come inside his room of healing, the church. Look at the multitude of impotent folk lying there. Here comes a woman unclean from childbirth, a leper expelled from the camp owing to his unclean disease; they ask the physician for aid, for a cure, for cleansing; and because this Jesus the Physician is also the Word of God, he applies, not the juices of herbs, but the sacraments of the Word to their diseases. Anyone who looked at these remedies casually as they lay in books, like herbs in the field, ignorant of the power of single words, would pass them by as common things without any grace of style. But he who ultimately discovers that Christ has a medicine for souls, will find from these books which are read in the churches, as he finds from mountains and fields, that each yields healing herbs, at least strength won from words, so that any weakness of soul is healed not so much by leaf and bark as by an inward virtue and juice”). Anyone who had felt a single ray of the power and glory of the new life reckoned his previous life to have been blindness, disease, and death178178That the vices were diseases was a theme treated by Christian teachers as often as by the Stoics. Cp., e.g., Origen, in Ep. ad Rom., Bk. II. (Lommatzsch, vi. 91 f.): “Languores quidem animae ab apostolo in his (Rom. ii. 8) designantur, quorum medelam nullus inveniet nisi prius morborum cognoverit causas et ideo in divinis scripturis aegritudines animae numerantur et remedia describuntur, ut hi, qui se apostolicis subdiderint disciplinis, ex his, quae scripta sunt, agnitis languoribus suis curati possint dicere: ‘Lauda anima mea dominum, qui sanat omnes languores tuos'” (‘The apostle here describes the diseases of the soul; their cure cannot be discovered till one diagnoses first of all the causes of such troubles, and consequently Holy Scripture enumerates the ailments of the soul, and describes their remedies, in order that those who submit to the apostolic discipline may be able to say, after they have been cured of diseases diagnosed by aid of what is written: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, who healeth all thy diseases'”).—a view attested by both the apostolic fathers and the apologists. “He bestowed on us the light, he spoke to us as a father to his sons, he saved us in our lost estate. . . . . Blind were we in our understanding, worshipping stones and wood and gold and silver and brass, nor was our whole life aught but death.”1791792 Clem., Ep. ad Cor. i. Similar expressions are particularly common in Tatian, but indeed no apology is wholly devoid of them. The mortal will put on, nay, has already put on, immortality, the perishable will be robed in the imperishable: such was the glad cry of the early Christians, who took up arms against a sea of troubles, and turned the terror of life's last moment into a triumph. “Those miserable people,” says Lucian in the Proteus Peregrinus, “have got it into their heads that they are perfectly immortal.” He would certainly have made a jest upon it had any occurred to his mind; but whenever this nimble scoffer is depicting the faith of Christians, there is a remarkable absence of anything like jesting.
While the soul's health or the new life is a gift, however, it is a gift which must be appropriated from within. There was a great risk of this truth being overlooked by those who were accustomed to leave any one of the mysteries with the sense of being consecrated and of bearing with them super mundane blessings as if they were so many articles. It would be easy also to show how rapidly the sacramental system of the church lapsed into the spirit of the pagan mysteries. But once the moral demand, i.e., the purity of the soul, was driven home, it proved such a powerful factor that it held its own within the Catholic church, even alongside of the inferior sacramental system. The salvation of the soul and the lore of that salvation never died away; in fact, the ancient church arranged all the details of her worship and her dogma with this end in view. She consistently presented herself as the great infirmary or the hospital of humanity: pagans, sinners, and heretics are her patients, ecclesiastical doctrines and observances are her medicines, while the bishops and pastors are the physicians, but only as servants of Christ, who is himself the physician of all souls.180180Celsus, who knew this kind of Christian preaching intimately, pronounced the Christians to be quacks. “The teacher of Christianity,” he declares, “acts like a person who promises to restore a sick man to health and yet hinders him from consulting skilled physicians, so as to prevent his own ignorance from being exposed.” To which Origen retorts, “And who are the physicians from whom we deter simple folk?” He then proceeds to show that they cannot be the philosophers, and still less those who are not yet emancipated from the coarse superstition of polytheism (III. lxxiv.). Let me give one or two instances of this. “As the good of the body is health, so the good of the soul is the knowledge of God,” says Justin.181181Fragm. ix. (Otto, Corp. Apol. iii., p. 258). Cp. also the beautiful wish expressed at the beginning of 3 John: περὶ πάντων εὔχομαι σε εὐοδοῦσθαι καὶ ὑγιαίνειν, καθῶς εὐοδοῦταί σου ἡ ψυχή (ver. 2). “While we have time to be healed, let us put ourselves into the hands of God the healer, paying him recompense. And what recompense? What but repentance from a sincere heart” (2 Clem., ad Cor. ix.). “Like some excellent physician, in order to cure the sick, Jesus examines what is repulsive, handles sores, and reaps pain himself from the sufferings of others; he has himself saved us from the very jaws of death—us who were not merely diseased and suffering from terrible ulcers and wounds already mortified, but were also lying already among the dead . . . .; he who is the giver of life and of light, our great physician,182182Cp. Ep. ad Diogn. ix. 6, pseudo-Justin, de Resurr. x.: “Our physician, Jesus Christ”; Clem., Paedag. i. 2. 6: “The Logos of the Father is the only Paeonian physician for human infirmities, and the holy charmer (ἅγιος ἐπῳδός) for the sick soul” (whereupon he quotes Ps. lxxxii. 2-3): “The physician's art cures the diseases of the body, according to Democritus, but wisdom frees the soul from its passions. Yet the good instructor, the Wisdom, the Logos of the Father, the creator of man, cares for all our nature, healing it in body and in soul alike—he ὁ πανακὴς τῆς ἀνθρωπότητος ἰατρός ὁ σωτήρ (the all-sufficient physician of humanity, the Saviour),” whereupon he quotes Mark ii. 2. See also ibid., i. 6. 36, and i. 12. 100. “Hence the Logos also is called Saviour, since he has devised rational medicines for men; he preserves their health, lays bare their defects, exposes the causes of their evil affections, strikes at the root of irrational lusts, prescribes their diet, and arranges every antidote to heal the sick. For this is the greatest and most royal work of God, the saving of mankind. Patients are irritated at a physician who has no advice to give on the question of their health. But how should we not render thanks to the divine instructor,” etc. (Paedag. i. 8. 64-65). king and lord, the Christ of God.”183183Eus., H.E., v. 4. 11 (already referred to on p. 106). Cp. also the description of the Bible in Aphraates as “the books of the wise Physician,” and Cypr., de Op., i.: “Christ was wounded to cure us of our wounds. . . . . When the Lord at his coming had healed that wound which Adam caused,” etc. Metaphors from disease are on the whole very numerous in Cyprian; cp., e.g., de Habitu, ii.; de Unitate, iii.; de Lapsis, xiv., xxxiv. “The physician cannot introduce any salutary medicines into the body that needs to be cured, without having previously eradicated the trouble seated in the body or averted the approaching trouble. Even so the teacher of the truth cannot convince anyone by an address on truth, so long as some error still lurks in the soul of the hearer, which forms an obstacle to his arguments” (Athenagoras, de resurr. i.). “Were we to draw from the axiom that ‘disease is diagnosed by means of medical knowledge,' the inference that medical knowledge is the cause of disease, we should be making a preposterous statement. And as it is beyond doubt that the knowledge of salvation is a good thing, because it teaches men to know their sickness, so also is the law a good thing, inasmuch as sin is discovered thereby.”184184Origen, opposing the Antinomians in Comm. in Rom., iii. 6 (Lommatzsch, vi. p. 195), Hom. in Jerem., xix. 3. Similarly Clem., Paedag., i. 9. 88: “As the physician who tells a patient that he has fever is not an enemy to him—since the physician is not the cause of the fever but merely detects it (οὐκ αἴτιος, ἀλλ᾽ ἔλεγχός) neither is one who blames a diseased soul ill-disposed to that person.” Cp. Methodius (Opp. I. p. 52, Bonwetsch): “As we do not blame a physician who explains how a man may become strong and well,” etc.; see also I. 65: “For even those who undergo medical treatment for their bodily pains do not at once regain health, but gladly bear pain in the hope of their coming recovery.”
As early as 2 Tim. ii. 17, the word of heretics is said to eat “like a gangrene.” This expression recurs very frequently, and is elaborated in detail. “Their talk is infectious as a plague” (Cyprian, de Lapsis, xxxiv.). “Heretics are hard to cure,” says Ignatius (ad Ephes., vii., δυσθεράπευτος); “. . . . there is but one physician, Jesus Christ our Lord.” In the pastoral epistles the orthodox doctrine is already called “sound teaching” as opposed to the errors of the heretics.
Most frequently, however, bodily recovery is compared to penitence. It is Ignatius again who declares that “not every wound is cured by the same salve. Allay sharp pains by soothing fomentations.”185185Ad Polyc., ii. The passage is to be taken allegorically. It is addressed to Bishop Polycarp, who has been already (i) counselled to “bear the maladies of all”; wisely and gently is the bishop to treat the erring and the spiritually diseased. In the garb given it by Ignatius, this counsel recurs very frequently throughout the subsequent literature; see Lightfoot's learned note. Also Clem. Alex., Fragm. (Dindorf, iii. 499): “With one salve shalt thou heal thyself and thy neighbor (who slanders thee), if thou acceptest the slander with meekness”; Clem. Hom., x. 18: “The salve must not be applied to the sound member of the body, but to the suffering”; and Hermes Trismeg., περὶ βοτ. χυλ., p. 331: “Do not always use this salve.” “The cure of evil passions,” says Clement at the opening of his Paedagogus, “is effected by the Logos through admonitions; he strengthens the soul with benign precepts like soothing medicines,186186i. 1. 3, ἤπια φάρμακα (see Homer). and directs the sick to the full knowledge of the truth.” “Let us follow the practice of physicians (in the exercise of moral discipline), says Origen,187187In l. Jesu Nave, viii. 6 (Lomm. xi. 71). Cp. Hom. in Jerem., xvi. 1. “and only use the knife when all other means have failed, when application of oil and salves and soothing poultices leave the swelling still hard.” An objection was raised by Christians who disliked repentance, to the effect that the public confession of sin which accompanied the penitential discipline was at once an injury to their self-respect and a misery. To which Tertullian replies (de Poen., x.): “Nay, it is evil that ends in misery. Where repentance is undertaken, misery ceases, because it is turned into what is salutary. It is indeed a misery to be cut, and cauterized, and racked by some pungent powder; but the excuse for the offensiveness of means of healing that may be unpleasant, is the cure they work.” This is exactly Cyprian's point, when he writes188188De Lapsis, xiv. Penitence and bodily cures form a regular parallel in Cyprian's writings; cp. Epist. xxxi. 6-7, lv. 16, lix. 13, and his Roman epistle xxx. 3. 5. 7. Novatian, who is responsible for the latter, declares (in de Trinit., v.) that God's wrath acts like a medicine. that “the priest of the Lord must employ salutary remedies.189189Cp. pseudo-Clem., Ep. ad Jac., ii.: “The president (the bishop) must hold the place of a physician (in the church), instead of behaving with the violence of an irrational brute.” He is an unskilled physician who handles tenderly the swollen edges of a wound and allows the poison lodged in the inward part to be aggraved by simply leaving it alone. The wound must be opened and lanced; recourse must be had to the strong remedy of cutting out the corrupting parts. Though the patient scream out in pain, and wail or weep, because he cannot bear it—afterwards he will be grateful, when he feels that he is cured.” But the most elaborate comparison of a bishop to a surgeon occurs in the Apostolic Constitutions (ii. 41). “Heal thou, O bishop, like a pitiful physician, all who have sinned, and employ methods that promote saving health. Confine not thyself to cutting or cauterizing or the use of corrosives, but employ bandages and lint, use mild and healing drugs, and sprinkle words of comfort as a soothing balm. If the wound be deep and gashed, lay a plaster on it that it may fill up and be once more like the rest of the sound flesh. If it be dirty, cleanse it with corrosive powder, i.e., with words of censure. If it has proud flesh, reduce it with sharp plasters, i.e., with threats of punishment. If it spreads further, sear it, and cut off the putrid flesh—mortify the man with fastings. And if after all this treatment thou findest that no soothing poultice, neither oil nor bandage, can be applied from head to foot of the patient, but that the disease is spreading and defying all cures, like some gangrene that corrupts the entire member; then, after great consideration and consultation with other skilled physicians, cut off the putrified member, lest the whole body of the church be corrupted. So be not hasty to cut it off, nor rashly resort to the saw of many a tooth, but first use the lancet to lay open the abscess, that the body may be kept free from pain by the removal of the deep-seated cause of the disease. But if thou seest anyone past repentance and (inwardly) past feeling, then cut him off as an incurable with sorrow and lamentation.”190190Cp. Clem. Alex., Paedag., i. 8. 64 f.: “Many evil passions are cured by punishment or by the inculcation of sterner commands. . . . . Censure is like a surgical operation on the passions of the soul. The latter are abscesses on the body of the truth, and they must be cut open by the lancet of censure. Censure is like the application of a medicine which breaks up the callosities of the passions, and cleanses the impurities of a lewd life, reducing the swollen flesh of pride, and restoring the man to health and truth once more.” Cp. i. 9. 83; also Methodius, Opp., I. i. p. 115 (ed. Bonwetsch).
It must be frankly admitted that this constant preoccupation with the “diseases” of sin had results which were less favorable. The ordinary moral sense, no less than the aesthetic,191191It was at this that the Emperor Julian especially took umbrage, and not without reason. As a protest against the sensuousness of paganism, there grew up in the church an æsthetic of ugliness. Disease, death, and death's relics—bones and putrefaction—were preferred to health and beauty, whilst Christianity sought to express her immaterial spirit in terms drawn from the unsightly remnants of material decay. How remote was all this artificial subtlety of an exalted piety from the piety which had pointed men to the beauty of the lilies in the field! The Christians of the third and fourth centuries actually begin to call sickness health, and to regard death as life. was deadened. If people are ever to be made better, they must be directed to that honorable activity which means moral health; whereas endless talk about sin and forgiveness exercises, on the contrary, a narcotic influence. To say the least of it, ethical education must move to and fro between reflection on the past (with its faults and moral bondage) and the prospect of a future (with its goal of aspiration and the exertion of all one's powers). The theologians of the Alexandrian school had some sense of the latter, but in depicting the perfect Christian or true gnostic they assigned a disproportionate space to knowledge and correct opinions. They were not entirely emancipated from the Socratic fallacy that the man of knowledge will be invariably a good man. They certainly did surmount the “educated” man's intellectual pride on the field of religion and morality.192192Clem. Alex., Strom., vii. 48. 4: ὡς ὁ ἰατρὸς ὑγίειαν παρέχεται τοῖς συνεργοῦσι πρὸς ὑγίειαν, οὕτως καὶ ὁ θεὸς τὴν ἀΰδιον σωτηρίαν τοῖς συνεργοῦσι πρὸς γνῶσίν τε καὶ εὐπραγίαν (“Even as the physician secures health for those who cooperate with him to that end, so does God secure eternal salvation for those who cooperate with him for knowledge and good conduct”). In Origen's treatise against Celsus, whole sections of great excellence are devoted to the duty and possibility of even the uneducated person acquiring health of soul, and to the supreme necessity of salvation from sin and weakness.193193C. Cels., III. 54: “We cure every rational being with the medicine of our doctrine.” Origen hits the nail upon the head when he remarks (VII. lx.) that “Plato and the other wise men of Greece, with their fine sayings, are like the physicians who confine their attention to the better classes and despise the common man, whilst the disciples of Jesus carefully study to make provision for the great mass of men.”194194In VII. lix. there is an extremely fine statement of the true prophet's duty of speaking in such a way as to be intelligible and encouraging to the multitude, and not merely to the cultured. “Suppose that some food which is wholesome and fit for human nourishment, is prepared and seasoned so delicately as to suit the palate of the rich and luxurious alone, and not the taste of simple folk, peasants, laborers, poor people, and the like, who are not accustomed to such dainties. Suppose again that this very food is prepared, not as epicures would have it, but to suit poor folk, laborers, and the vast majority of mankind. Well, if on this supposition the food prepared in one way is palatable to none but epicures, and left untasted by the rest, while, prepared in the other way, it ministers to the health and strength of a vast number, what persons shall we believe are promoting the general welfare most successfully—those who cater simply for the better classes, or those who prepare food for the multitude? If we assume that the food in both cases is equally wholesome and nourishing, it is surely obvious that the good of men and the public welfare are better served by the physician who attends to the health of the multitude than by him who will merely attend to a few.” And Origen was far removed from anything like the narrow-mindedness of orthodoxy, as is plain from this excellent remark in III. xiii.: “As only he is qualified in medicine who has studied in various schools and attached himself to the best system after a careful examination of them all . . . . so, in my judgment, the most thorough knowledge of Christianity is his who has carefully investigated the various sects of Judaism and of Christianity.” Still, Origen's idea is that, as a means of salvation, religion merely forms a stage for those who aspire to higher levels. His conviction is that when the development of religion has reached its highest level, anything historical or positive becomes of as little value as the ideal of redemption and salvation itself. On this level the spirit, filled by God, no longer needs a Saviour or any Christ of history at all. “Happy,” he exclaims (Comm. in Joh., i. 22; Lomm., i. p. 43), “happy are they who need no longer now God's Son as the physician of the sick or as the shepherd, people who now need not any redemption, but wisdom, reason, and righteousness alone.” In his treatise against Celsus (III. lxi. f.) he draws a sharp distinction between two aims and boons in the Christian religion, one higher and the other lower. “To no mystery, to no participation in wisdom ‘hidden in a mystery,' do we call the wicked man, the thief, the burglar, etc., but to healing or salvation. For our doctrine has a twofold appeal. It provides means of healing for the sick, as is meant by the text, ‘The whole need not a physician, but the sick.' But it also unveils to those who are pure in soul and body ‘that mystery which was kept secret since the world began, but is now made manifest by the Scriptures of the prophets and the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.' . . . . God the Word was indeed sent as a physician for the sick, but also as a teacher of divine mysteries to those who are already pure and sin no more.”195195So Clem. Alex., Paed., i. 1. 3: ἴσαι οὐκ ἐστιν ὑγίεια καὶ γνῶσις, ἀλλ᾽ ἡ μὲν μαθήσει, ἡ δὲ ἰάσει περιγίνεται· οὐκ ἂν οὖν τις νοσῶν ἔτι πρότερόν τι τῶν διδασκαλικῶν ἐκμάθοι πρὶν ἢ τέλεον ὑγιᾶναι· οὐδὲ γὰρ ὠσαύτως πρὸς τοὺς μανθάνοντας ἢ κάμνοντας ἀεὶ τῶν παραγγελμάτων ἕκαστον λέγεται, ἀλλὰ πρὸς οὓς μὲν εἰς γνῶσιν, πρὸς οὓς δὲ εἰς ἴασιν. καθάπερ οὖν τοῖς νοσοῦσι τὸ σῶμα ἰατροῦ χρῄζει, ταύτῃ καὶ τοῖς ἀσθενοῦσι τὴν ψυχὴν παιδαγωγοῦ δεῖ, ἵν᾽ ἡμῶν ἰάσηται τὰ πάθη, εἶτα δὲ καὶ διδασκάλου, ὃς καθηγήσεται πρὸς καθαρὰν γνώσεως ἐπιτηδειότητα εὐτρεπίζων τὴν ψυχήν, δυναμένην χωρῆσαι τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τοῦ λόγου (“Health and knowledge are not alike; the one is produced by learning, the other by healing. Before a sick person, then, could learn any further branch of knowledge, he must get quite well. Nor is each injunction addressed to learners and to patients alike; the object in one case is knowledge, and in the other a cure. Thus, as patients need the physician for their body, so do those who are sick in soul need, first of all, an instructor, to heal our pains, and then a teacher who shall conduct the soul to all requisite knowledge, disposing it to admit the revelation of the Word”).
Origen unites the early Christian and the philosophic conceptions of religion. He is thus superior to the pessimistic fancies which seriously threatened the latter view. But only among the cultured could he gain any following. The Christian people held fast to Jesus as the Saviour.
No one has yet been able to show that the figure of Christ which emerges in the fifth century, probably as early as the fourth, and which subsequently became the prevailing type in all pictorial representations, was modeled upon the figure of Æsculapius. The two types are certainly similar; the qualities predicated of both are identical in part; and no one has hitherto explained satisfactorily why the original image of the youthful Christ was displaced by the later. Nevertheless, we have no means of deriving the origin of the Callixtine Christ from Æsculapius as a prototype, so that in the meantime we must regard such a derivation as a hypothesis, which, however interesting, is based upon inadequate evidence. There would be one piece of positive evidence forthcoming, if the statue which passed for a likeness of Jesus in the city of Paneas (Cæsarea Philippi) during the fourth century was a statue of Æsculapius. Eusebius (H.E., vi. 18) tells how he had seen there, in the house of the woman whom Jesus had cured of an issue of blood, a work of art which she had caused to be erected out of gratitude to Jesus. “On a high pedestal beside the gates of her house there stands the brazen image of a woman kneeling down with her hands outstretched as if in prayer. Opposite this stands another brazen image of a man standing up, modestly attired in a cloak wrapped twice round his body, and stretching out his hand to the woman. At his feet, upon the pedestal itself, a strange plant is growing up as high as the hem of his brazen cloak, which is a remedy for all sorts of disease. This statue is said to be an image of Jesus. Nor is it strange that the Gentiles of that age, who had received benefit from the Lord, should express their gratitude in this fashion.” For various reasons it is unlikely that this piece of art was intended to represent Jesus, or that it was erected by the woman with an issue of blood;196196Cp. Hauck, Die Entstehung des Christus-typus (1880), p. 8 f. on the contrary, the probability is that the statuary was thus interpreted by the Christian population of Paneas, probably at an early period. If the statue originally represented Æsculapius, as the curative plant would suggest, we should have here at least one step between “Æsculapius the Saviour” and “Christ the Saviour.” But this interpretation of a pagan saviour or healer is insecure; and even were it quite secure, it would not justify any general conclusion being drawn as yet upon the matter. At any rate we are undervaluing the repugnance felt even by Christians of the fourth century for the gods of paganism, if we consider ourselves entitled to think of any conscious transformation of the figure of Æsculapius into that of Christ.197197In the eyes of Christians, Æsculapius was both a demon and an idol; no Christian could take him as a model or have any dealings with him. Some Roman Christians, who were devotees of learning, are certainly reported in one passage (written by a fanatical opponent, it is true) to have worshipped Galen (Eus., H.E., v. 28); but no mention is made of them worshipping Æsculapius. In addition to the passages cited above, in which early Christian writers deal with Æsculapius (who is probably alluded to also as far back as Apoc. ii. 23), the following are to be noted: Justin, Apol., I, xxi., xxii., xxv., liv. (passages which are radically misunderstood when it is inferred from them that Justin is in favor of the god); Tatian, Orat., xxi.; Theoph., ad Autol., i. 9; Tertull., de Anima, i. (a passage which is specially characteristic of the aversion felt for this god); Cyprian's Quod Idola, i.; Orig., c. Cels., iii., xxii.-xxv., xxviii., xlii. Clement explains him in Protr., ii. 26, after the manner of Euhemerus: τὸν γὰρ εὐεργετοῦντα μὴ συνιέντες θεὸν ἀνέπλασάν τινας σωτῆρας Διοσκούρους . . . . καὶ Ἀσκληπιὸν ἰατρόν (“Through not understanding the God who was their benefactor, they fashioned certain saviours, the Dioscuri . . . . and Æsculapius the physician”). A number of passages (e.g., Protr. ii. 20, ἰατρὸς φιλάργυρος ἦν, “he was an avaricious physician,” and iv. 52) show how little Clement cared for him.
Hitherto we have been considering the development of Christianity as the religion of “healing,” as expressed in parables, ideas, doctrine, and penitential discipline. It now remains for us to show that this character was also stamped upon its arrangements for the care of bodily sickness.
“I was sick and ye visited me. . . . . As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” In these words the founder of Christianity set the love that tends the sick in the center of his religion, laying it on the hearts of all his disciples. Primitive Christianity carried it in her heart; she also carried it out in practice.198198Cp. the beautiful sentences of Lactantius, Div. Inst., vi. 12 (especially p. 529, Brandt): Aegros quoque quibus defuerit qui adsistat, curandos fovendosque suscipere summae humanitatis et magnae operationis est (“It is also the greatest kindness possible and a great charity to undertake the care and maintenance of the sick, who need some one to assist them”). Even from the fragments of our extant literature, although that literature was not written with any such intention, we can still recognize the careful attention paid to works of mercy. At the outset we meet with directions everywhere to care for sick people. “Encourage the faint-hearted, support the weak,” writes the apostle Paul to the church of Thessalonica (1 Thess. v. 14), which in its excitement was overlooking the duties lying close at hand. In the prayer of the church, preserved in the first epistle of Clement, supplications are expressly offered for those who are sick in soul and body.1991991 Clem. lix.: τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς (such is the most probable reading) ἴασαι . . . . ἐξανάστησον τοὺς ἀσθενοῦντας, παρακάλεσον τοὺς ὀλιγοψυχοῦντας (“Heal the sick, . . . . raise up the weak, encourage the faint-hearted”). Cp. the later formulas of prayer for the sick in App. Constit., viii. 10 and onwards; cp. Binterim, Denkwürdigkeiten, vi. 3, pp. 17 f. “Is any man sick? Let him call for the elders of the church,” says Jas. v. 14—a clear proof that all aid in cases of sickness was looked upon as a concern of the church.200200Cp. 1 Cor. xii. 26: “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.” This comes out very plainly also in the epistle of Polycarp (vi. 1), where the obligations of the elders are displayed as follows: “They must reclaim the erring, care for all the infirm, and neglect no widow, orphan, or poor person.” Particulars of this duty are given by Justin, who, in his Apology (ch. lxvii.), informs us that every Sunday the Christians brought free-will offerings to their worship; these were deposited with the president (or bishop), “who dispenses them to orphans and widows, and to any who, from sickness or some other cause, are in want.” A similar account is given by Tertullian in his Apology (ch. xxxix.), where special stress is laid on the church's care for old people who are no longer fit for work. Justin is also our authority for the existence of deacons whose business it was to attend the sick.
Not later than the close of the third century, the veneration of the saints and the rise of chapels in honor of martyrs and saints led to a full-blown imitation of the Æsculapius-cult within the church. Cures of sickness and infirmities were sought. Even the practice of incubation must have begun by this time, if not earlier; otherwise it could not not have been so widely diffused in the fourth century. The teachers of the church had previously repudiated it as heathenish; but, as often happens in similar circumstances, it crept in, though with some alteration of its ceremonies.
In its early days the church formed a permanent establishment for the relief of sickness and poverty, a function which it continued to discharge for several generations. It was based on the broad foundation of the Christian congregation; it acquired a sanctity from the worship of the congregation; and its operations were strictly centralized. The bishop was the superintendent (Apost. Constit., iii. 4), and in many cases, especially in Syria and Palestine, he may have actually been a physician himself.201201Achelis (Texte u. Unters. xxv. 2 1904, p. 381) attempts to prove that the author of the Syriac Didascalia was at once a bishop and a physician; he shows (p. 383) that similar combinations were not entirely unknown (cp. de Rossi's Roma Sotter., tav. XXI. 9, epitaph from San Callisto, Διονυσιου ιατρου πρεσβυτερου; Zenobius, physician and martyr in Sidon in the reign of Diocletian, Eus., H.E. viii. 13; a physician and bishop in Tiberias, Epiph., Hær. xxx. 4; Theodotus, physician and bishop in Laodicea Syr.; Basilius, episcopus artis medicinæ gnarus, at Ancyra, Jerome, de Vir. Ill. 89; in Can. Hipp. iii. § 18, the gift of healing is asked for the bishop and presbyter at ordination, while viii. § 53 presupposes that anyone who possessed this gift moved straightway to be enrolled among the clergy). Cp. Texte u. Unters. viii. 4. pp. 1-14 (“Christian doctors”). His executive or agents were the deacons and the order of “widows.” The latter were at the same time to be secured against want, by being taken into the service of the church (cp. 1 Tim. v. 16). Thus, in one instruction dating from the second century,202202Cp. Texte u. Unters. ii. 5. p. 23. we read that, “In every congregation at least one widow is to be appointed to take care of sick women;203203“But thou, O widow, who art shameless, seest the widows, thy comrades, or thy brethren lying sick, yet troublest not to fast or pray for them, to lay hands on them or to visit them, as if thou wert not in health thyself or free” (Syr. Didasc. xv. 80). she is to be obliging and sober, she is to report cases of need to the elders, she is not to be greedy or addicted to drink, in order that she may be able to keep sober for calls to service during the night.” She is to “report cases of need to the elders,” i.e., she is to remain an assistant (cp. Syr. Didasc. xv. 79 f.). Tertullian happens to remark (de Præscr. 41) in a censure of women belonging to the heretical associations, that “they venture to teach, to debate, to exorcise, to promise cures, probably even to baptize.” In the Eastern Church the order of widows seems to have passed on into that of “deaconesses” at a pretty early date, but unfortunately we know nothing about this transition or about the origin of these “deaconesses.”204204They are first mentioned in Pliny's letter to Trajan.
In the primitive church female assistants were quite thrown into the shadow by the men. The deacons were the real agents of charity. Their office was onerous; it was exposed to grave peril, especially in a time of persecution, and deacons furnished no inconsiderable proportion of the martyrs. “Doers of good works, looking after all by day and night”—such is their description (Texte u. Unters. ii. 5, p. 24), one of their main duties being to look after the poor and sick.205205Cp. Ep. pseudo-Clem. ad Jacob. 12: οἱ τῆς ἐκκλησίας διάκονοι τοῦ ἐπισκόπου συνετῶς ῥεμβόμενοι ἔστωσαν ὀφθαλμοί, ἑκάστου τῆς ἐκκλησίας πολυπραγμονοῦντες τὰς πράξεις . . . . τοὺς δὲ κατὰ σάρκα νοσοῦντας μανθανέτωσαν καὶ τῷ ἀγνοῦντι πλήθει προσαντιβαλλέτωσαν, ἵν᾽ ἐπιφαίνωνται, καὶ τὰ δέοντα ἐπὶ τῇ τοῦ προκαθεζομένου γνώμῃ παρεχέτωσαν (“Let the deacons of the church move about intelligently and act as eyes for the bishop, carefully inquiring into the actions of every church member . . . let them find out those who are sick in the flesh, and bring such to the notice of the main body who know nothing of them, that they may visit them and supply their wants, as the president may judge fit”). How much they had to do and how much they did, may be ascertained from Cyprian's epistles206206In the epistles which he wrote to the church from his hiding-place, he is always reminding them not to neglect the sick. and the genuine Acts of the Martyrs. Nor were the laity to be exempted from the duty of tending the sick, merely because special officials existed for that purpose. “The sick are not to be overlooked, nor is anyone to say that he has not been trained to this mode of service. No one is to plead a comfortable life, or the unwonted character of the duty, as a pretext for not being helpful to other people”—so runs a letter of pseudo-Justin (c. xvii.) to Zenas and Serenus. The author of the pseudo-Clementine epistle “de virginitate” brings out with special clearness the fact that to imitate Christ is to minister to the sick, a duty frequently conjoined with that of “visiting orphans and widows” (visitare pupillos et viduas). Eusebius (de mart. Pal. xi. 22) bears this testimony to the character of Seleucus, that like a father and guardian he had shown himself a bishop and patron of orphans and destitute widows, of the poor and of the sick. Many similar cases are on record. In a time of pestilence especially, the passion of tender mercy was kindled in the heart of many a Christian. Often had Tertullian (Apolog. xxxix.) heard on pagan lips the remark, corroborated by Lucian, “Look how they love one another!”207207I merely note in passing the conflict waged by the church against medical sins like abortion (Did. ii. 2; Barn. xix. 5; Tert., Apol. ix.; Minuc. Felix., xxx. 2; Athenag., Suppl. xxxv.; Clem., Paed. ii. 10, 96, etc.), and the unnatural morbid vices of paganism. It was a conflict in which the interests of the church were truly human; she maintained the value and dignity of human life, refusing to allow it to be destroyed or dishonored at any stage of its development. With regard to these offences, she also exerted some influence upon the State legislation, in and after the fourth century, although even in the third century the latter had already approximated to her teaching on such points.
As regards therapeutic methods, the case stood as it stands today. The more Christians renounced and hated the world, the more skeptical and severe they were against ordinary means of healing (cp.,e.g., Tatian's Oratio xvii.-xviii.). There was a therapeutic “Christian science,” compounded of old and new superstitions, and directed against more than the “dæmonic” cures (see the following section). Compare, by way of proof, Tertullian's Scorp. i: “We Christians make the sign of the cross at once over a bitten foot, say a word of exorcism, and rub it with the blood of the crushed animal.” Evidently the sign of the cross and the formula of exorcism were not sufficient by themselves.
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