Philo of Alexandria

Theology according to historian Daniel Boorstein was "a Western creation nurtured in Hellenist Alexandria" and was "both a producer and a by-product of Christianity." Whereas the myth of the Gods and philosophy were separated under the Greeks. They were united in theology as Moses was made into a philosopher as well religious leader.

Philo of Alexandria (late first century B.C. to first century A.D.) is considered the father of theology. A rich Jewish nobleman, who was regarded as a quite a fun-loving guy, he was one of the first to scrutinize Jewish-Christian doctrine using Platonic philosophical reasoning.

Another influential thinker was Origen (185?-254), an Alexandrian Greek who castrated himself to ensure his purity and became head of the leading Christian theological academy at the age of 18. He is credited with giving Christianity some analytical credibility by incorporating elements of Greek philosophy but was unsuccessful making it hold up to the scrutiny of history.

Websites and Resources: Christianity Britannica on Christianity britannica.com//Christianity ; History of Christianity history-world.org/jesus_christ ; BBC on Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity ;Wikipedia article on Christianity Wikipedia ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/christ.htm ; Christian Answers christiananswers.net ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library www.ccel.org ;

Early Christianity: Elaine Pagels website elaine-pagels.com ; Sacred Texts website sacred-texts.com ; Gnostic Society Library gnosis.org ; PBS Frontline From Jesus to Christ, The First Christians pbs.org ; Guide to Early Church Documents iclnet.org; Early Christian Writing earlychristianwritings.com ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Early Christian Art oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth212/Early_Christian_art ; Early Christian Images jesuswalk.com/christian-symbols ; Early Christian and Byzantine Images belmont.edu/honors/byzart2001/byzindex

Philo of Alexandria

Philo of Alexandria (late first century B.C. to first century A.D.) is considered the father of theology. A rich Jewish nobleman, who was regarded as a quite a fun-loving guy, he was one of the first to scrutinize Jewish-Christian doctrine using Platonic philosophical reasoning.

Harold W. Attridge of Yale Divinity School said: “Philo was an example of the intense Hellenization of Judaism. He was a philosopher and scriptural interpreter who lived in Alexandria from around 30 B.C. to around 40 of the Common Era. He tried to effect a synthesis between scripture and Platonic philosophy. For instance, in saying that the word of God that we encounter in scripture is the logos or the divine reason, by which he meant a combination of the ideas, Plato's ideas, which by that time were conceived by philosophers as being in the mind of God. And also at the same time the immanent rationality of the world, taking over a Stoic idea that reason constitutes the inner working of the world. [Source: Harold W. Attridge, The Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament Yale Divinity School, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 ]

“Things like Platonic philosophy and Stoic philosophy at the level it was appropriated by a person like Philo, probably would not have had a direct impact on Jesus. Both of those strands of Hellenistic tradition as appropriated by Jewish philosophers like Philo, did, however, have an impact on Christians of a later generation who tried to make sense of Jesus and his teaching within the broader framework of Greek and Roman culture.

Christian Apologists

Christian Apologist Arnobius of Sicca

Christian apologists such as Justin Martyr tried to reconcile the perceived conflict between loyalty to Christ and loyalty to Caesar. Professor L. Michael White told PBS: “The tension felt by Christians over this issue of loyalty to the state -- Is the state a part of God's plan? Can Christians participate in public affairs and public social life? -- seems to be a growing concern as we move through the second and early part of the third century. This especially becomes the subject matter for a growing Christian literary activity. The group of writers that we tend to call the apologists. Now the apologists are known by that name because they wrote apologies. The Greek word "apologia" comes from the term for a defense speech in court. We have Plato's apology of Socrates which is Socrates' defense before the Athenian council. Before he's eventually executed. [Source: L. Michael White, Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin, Frontline, PBS, April 1998]

“So when Christians start to write apologies, what they're doing is a kind of legal defense before the public arena of debate of what it means to be a Christian. Is it legal? Is it not? Are they good? Are they bad? And so these Christian apologists really start to talk about Christianity from that perspective. It's a kind of defense, and there's always a kind of dilemma knowing how to read some of these documents. Some of them are actually addressed to the emperor himself, and if not the emperor, governors and other important officials but it's very unlikely that an emperor would actually have read one of these Christian documents.

“So who are they really writing for in these apologies? The answer is they're probably writing for Christians. These are written to Christians who are living in the society. In other words, for the very people who would have been encountering those pagan neighbors just across the street or just next-door, and the apologetic literature is a way of arming these Christians with the answers and the arguments that would allow them both to be a part of society and also to respond to the kinds of claims and charges made against Christians by their pagan neighbors. So what the apologetic tradition is showing us is Christians beginning to encounter at a very vibrant intellectual level the arguments and the social life of their pagan Roman world just nextdoor.”

Apostolic Fathers (Theologians of the Early A.D. 2nd Century)

Ignatius of Antioch

The Apostolic Fathers was a group of writers who had actually or allegedly been in touch with the apostles themselves. They flourished roughly between A.D. 100 and 150. Some characteristics: 1) accent on ethics/morality, or legalism; 2) repeat New Testament themes but do not elaborate on them; 3) reflect a developing hierarchical ministry; 4) important for New Testament canonical studies. [Source: Carl A. Volz, late professor of church history at Luther Seminary, web.archive.org, martin.luthersem.edu]

First Clement (Clement of Rome): "Letter to the Corinthians" Codex Alexandrinus includes this as an inspired New Testament writing. Irenaeus claims Clement is the third successor of St. Peter as bishop of Rome. Date c. AD 96 under Emperor Damitian. Letter was occasioned by the troubles of the church at Corinth. Several younger members had rebelled against the presbyters and ousted them from office. When it became known to the Roman church it addressed this letter to the Corinthians.

Points of interest: 1) The letter itself causes difficulties. Does it indicate a spirit of rulership of Rome's bishop, or was Rome acting in good faith as a responsible church? A clear statement on a hierarchy in each church, based upon OT precedents. Idea of "apostolic succession." Bishops may not be deposed because they stand in a line of succession from the apostles. 2) Oldest witness to the persecution under Nero and the death of Peter and Paul in Rome. Only reference of Paul going to Spain. 3) Liturgical material ― a eucharistic prayer (?) ― appeal to nature to support resurrection and order in the church.

"Shepherd" of Hermes: A book of revelations granted to Hermas in Rome by two heavenly figures, an old woman and a shepherd (hence the title). Different parts were composed at different times before AD 150. The work is divided as follows: 5 Visions / 12 Precepts or Mandates / 10 Parables. There is no work of ancient Christian times extant in which the life of the community passes before us with such vividness as the Shepherd. We read of bishops, priests, and deacons who have administered their offices worthily, but also of proud and negligent clergy who incur God's judgment; of martyrs and apostates; the wealthy who despise the poor, and of hospitality; heretics and doubters; a great self―examination of the Roman church.

Points of interest: 1) The doctrine of penance, based on Hebrews 6:4―6. Hermas allows for one repentance after Baptism. Atonement is gained through fasting, almsgiving, and discipline. Holy Spirit is identified with the Son ― binitarian. He never uses the names of Jesus, Christ, or Son of God. 2) No one may be considered a Christian without Baptism. Christ's descant into Hades was to baptize all those who had missed it before, especially the OT patriarchs. A distinction is made between obligatory good works and those called supererogatory (over and above the requirements). 3) The Shepherd was held in high regard. Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen included it within the New Testament. Codex Sinaiticus included it.

Polycarp of Smyrna

Homily OF Clement (Second Clement): Clement not its author ― found appended to I Clement. Oldest Christian sermon outside the New Testament. Written c. AD 150. Points of interest: 1) Deity and humanity of Christ clearly expressed; 2) Doctrine of the church ― "she" existed before the creation of the sun and moon ― She was invisible, spiritual, and barren. Now she has become flesh, and she is the body of Christ. We have been given to the church as her children. 3) Baptism is the indispensable seal of the Christian. 4) Efficacy of good works for salvation ― "almsgiving removes the burden of sin."

The Didahe (Teaching of The Twelve, discovered in 1873 in Constantinople. Date before AD 150) is the earliest manual of church customs, liturgy, and constitution. It became a model for subsequent constitutions. Points of interest: 1) The first half ― Two Ways ― of Life and Death. "Do this and you shall live." 2) Second half is liturgical ― earliest post―canonical description of the Sacraments and Christian way of life. 3) Baptism ― immersion preferred, pouring permitted Fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays. 4) Lords Prayer said three times daily. 5) Daily confession of sins and weekly Eucharist. 6) Refers to Eucharist as "sacrifice" ― perhaps earliest Eucharistic Prayer. 7) On ministry ― prophets take precedence over bishop etc.

Ignatius of Antioch (Died c. AD 110): During the reign of Trajen (98―117) he was taken from Antioch to Rome in chains and martyred there. On the journey he wrote seven letters which we still have. Points of interest: 1) Clear expression of Christ's deity adn humanity. In this context he attacked Docetism and those who denied deity to Christ. (Judaisers). 2) The Eucharist is "the medicine of immortality," as well as "the flesh of our Savior, Jesus Christ." 3) The first to use the term "Catholic church" (Smyrnians 8:2) as well as "Eucharist," 4) Strong hierarchical and episcopal statements. "The bishop presides in the place of God." "Follow the bishop as you would follow Christ." 5) Strong desire for martyrdom

Polycarp of Smyrna (d. about AD 156): Eusebius says he sat at the feet of St. John (5:20:5). Bp. of Smyrna. In 155 AD he journeyed to Rome to discuss the Easter question with Bp. Anicetus - appealed to Ephesian/Johannine tradition. Irenaeus (3:3:4) relates that Marcion, when he met Polycarp, asked whether Polycarp recognized him. "Of course I recognize the firstborn of Satan."

Martyrdom of Quadratus of Athens

Points of Interest of Polycarp: 1) Epistle to the Philippians; 2) Defends the Incarnation and reality of Crucifixion; 3) No mention is made of bishops - one must follow presbyters and deacons. Philippi may have been governed by a committee of elders.; 4) Almsgiving is earnestly recommended; 5) Pray for secular rulers, emperors. 6) Martyrdom of Polycarp Oldest extant account of a post-canonical martyr. "For eighty and six years I have been serving Him and He has done me no wrong. How then dare I blaspheme my King who has saved me?" Earliest evidence of the cult of martyrs - Feb. 22. "Day of birth." Prayer is Trinitarian and doxological.

Papias of Hierapolis (d. about AD 155): Irenaeus says he was a friend of Polycarp and had heard St. John preach (5:33:4). Eusebius says, "A man of very little intelligence as is clear from his books." Wrote "Explanation of the Sayings of the Lord." Significant for the oral tradition of the apostles. Millenialist - Eusebius says responsible for Irenaeus' milleanialism. "Mark was the interpreter of Peter," "Matthew composed his sayings in the Hebrew language." Best attestation for the canonicity of Mark. Important witness for oral tradition - collected the sayings of Jesus. Epistle of Barnabas (c. AD 130). Strongly anti-Jewish ― pre―existence of Christ ― Sunday instead of Sabbath ― Millenialist (chiliast). It is definitely not the Barnabas who was Paul's companion, anti-Jewish and un―Pauline bent ― Codex Sinaiticus reckoned it canonical ― so also Origen and ClAlexandria ― a date later than AD 138 cannot be defended.

Greek Apologists of the A.D. Second Century

With the Greek apologists the literature of the church addresses itself for the first time to the outside world and enters the domain of culture and science. The "apologies" (i.e. defenses) were designed to answer the questions and criticisms of the more educated and sophisticated pagans, such as Lucian of Samosata (On the Death of Peregrini) 170 AD, Pronto (Oration), teacher of Marcus Aurelius; Celsus (True Discourse) 176 AD. [Source: Carl A. Volz, late professor of church history at Luther Seminary, web.archive.org, martin.luthersem.edu]

In passing from the Apostolic Fathers to the Greek apologists of the second century, one enters a totally different atmosphere. We now witness the early encounters of Christianity with classical culture, and the various efforts of Christian thinkers to interpret the relationship between them. Some are willing to grant validity to the spark of truth that they believe can be found in papan philosophy, whereas others see no relationship between Christianity and Hellenism than a war to the bitter end. In their effort to present the Christian faith in such a manner that it may be understood by pagans, Christians find themselves forced to systematize their thought, so it can be said that the Apologists are the first systematic theologians of Christianity. Their main contribution is in their doctrine of the Logos, which opened the way to dialogue between Christian faith and classical culture. In general they look upon Christianity as a philosophy (or a doctrine). Christ is above all the teacher of a new morality or true philosophy.

Lucian, a Roman era satirist and rhetorician

The concept of God which the Apologists took from Hellenistic philosophy, and which emphasized the divine immutability, would long be a burden on Christian theology and would be a factor making more difficult the trinitarian and christological controversies of later centuries.

1) The Apologists challenged the common perceptions of Christians as being a threat to society/ Instead of being a peril to the state, they were its strongest supporters. They were chaste and honorable. 2) They exposed the absurdities and immoralities of the pagan gods and myths. Christianity possessed absolute truth, whereas paganism and philosophy had only partial truth. The best in pagan antiquity was due to the Logos and to Moses. Pagan philosophy prepared the way for Christ among the Greeks just as the Jews were prepared by the Old Testament prophets. A recurring theme in the Apologists is human free―will and the ability humans have to make free choices regarding good and evil. (Later Latin theology would emphasize that "we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.") 3) The Apologists were strong on the resurrection of the body. 4) They also left room for subordinationism, that is, understanding the Trinity as hierarchical, with the Son in second place after the Father.

The Greek Apologists aim at nothing less than presenting Christianity as the authentic heir of Graeco―Roman civilization. Their emphasis is chiefly on monotheism and the resurrection. They proclaim the alliance of Christianity with philosophy, of the Church and Empire. They accept the world in which they live, i.e. they are optimists.

The Hellenistic world of the second century was the arena of rhetoric. Christian writers of this period were trained in Greek and Roman schools. They all quote from Homer, the tragic authors, or from each other. Their literary forms ― alliteration and rhythm ― are steeped in Hellenism. So also their thoughts. Justin said the Logos spoke through Socrates and Plato. Tatian and Athenagoras are influenced by Aristotle, especially in logic and psychology. Justin has several Stoic ideas (destruction of world by fire, logos spermotikos and endiathetos). The most pronounced influence on them was Middle Platonism. Here we find a new type emerging, the Christian intellectual, who had no equivalent in Judeo Christianity. The Apologists represent the dynamic element in the Church at that time in contrast to the great bishops, who were primarily upholders of the received tradition.

Greek Apologists That Dealt with Christian ideas

Aristides of Athens

Aristides of Athens (before 138 AD): Wrote to emperor Hadrian(in Eus. 4:3:2). Divided humanity into four races according to religion: barbarians, Greeks, Jews, Christians. The first worship the four elements, Greeks believe in myths, Jews stress externals, and only the Christians possess truth. One text of Aristides insists that children are sinless. [Source: Carl A. Volz, late professor of church history at Luther Seminary, web.archive.org, martin.luthersem.edu]

Tatian the Syrian (fl. c. 170 AD) A student of Justin, but radically different from his teacher in that he finds no good whatever in philosophy or in pagan antiquity. He founded a Gnostic sect called Encratites. His 'discourse to the Greeks' is a polemic against Greek culture. His "Diatessaroon" (To die tessaroon euaggelion) is the “First Harmony of the Gospels”, used in Syria until the 5th C. Teaches creation from nothing (ex nihilo), Moses is older than Homer, evil came when humans misused their freedom, souls by nature are not immortal but only by grace, which implies the destruction of non―believers at death, only Christian souls continue after the destruction of the body.

Athenagoras of Athens (fl. c. 177AD): Refutes three main charges against the Christians: atheism, incest, and cannibalism. "A Plea for Christians" and "On the Resurrection of the Dead." He proves the resurrection from reason - it agrees with God's nature and with human nature. Both body and soul participate in sin/goodness, therefore should also participate in rewards/punishment. Emphasis is on the unity of the Word with the Father. Marriage is solely for the purpose of pro-creation and abortion is sinful. Strong on biblical inspiration.

Theophilus of Antioch (ca. 180 AD): Bishop of Antioch, who wrote "To Autolychus" in which he points to the absurdity of idolatry. He contrasts the wisdom of the prophets with the foolishness of pagans. He is the first to use the term trias (threeness) for God. The human soul is neither mortal or immortal but capable of either. He distinguishes between the immanent Word and the expressed Word ― the latter is the firstborn of all creation.

Melito of Sardis (ca. 170 AD), Bishop of Sardis. Advocate of solidarity between the Church and the State. World empires and the Christian religion are foster sisters and form a pair. The Christian religion means blessing and welfare to the empire. Christ was pre―existent and divine, but the distinction between the Father and Son is almost erased.

Epistle to Diognetus (c. 150 AD): Christians are like everyone else except morally superior. The soul is in the body as Christians are in the world. Just as there is sometimes body/soul tension, so also Christian/World, but the world needs the Church. This anonymous author is a master of rhetoric, and this is one of the most beautiful and noble defenses of the new faith.

Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr (died about 165 AD) was the most important of the Greek Apologists of the second century. He came to Christianity via Stoicism, Peripatetics, Pythagoreans, and Platonists. After his conversion he retained his philosopher's cloak and became an itinerant teacher. He founded a school in Rome and flourished during the reign of Antoninus Pious (138―161). Tatian, his pupil, was also an Apologist. Justin was strongly opposed by Crescens, the Cynic. In 165 he was beheaded. His martyrology is extant and genuine. [Source: Carl A. Volz, late professor of church history at Luther Seminary, web.archive.org, martin.luthersem.edu]

Three of his works have come down to us: "Dialogue With Trypho," the Jews, and two "Apologies", of which the first is the longest and most important. There are seven lost writings. God is transcendent and immutable, therefore a bridge is necessary. The Logos is the bridge, through whom God is revealed. God was revealed to the ancients and the pagans through the Logos. Plato et al possessed the Logos, but only partially. The Logos is not only the rational principle of the universe but it also is the pre―existent Christ. Those who lived according to this rational principle before Christ, "even though they have been thought to be atheists, were Christians."

Justin discusses the problem of the relationship between the Old Testament and Christianity in his Dialogue with Trypho. The OT relates to the New Testament in two ways: by means of events that point to events in the NT, and by means of prophecies that speak of New Testament realities. The first of these are "types" or "figures", the second are called "sayings." We see here the development of an exegetical tradition significant for patristic theology. Justin emphasizes Free―will, the role of Demons, and offers an extended description of a second century Eucharistic Service and Baptism. It is the earliest and fullest account we have of a Christian Liturgy.

Professor L. Michael White told PBS: “One of the most famous of the Christian apologists of the second century is a fellow known as Justin Martyr and indeed he eventually would die as a martyr. That's how he got his name. Justin himself was actually born in Palestine in the city Flavia Neapolis. Now that's the new Roman name for the old city of Samaria that we hear so much about in biblical tradition. Justin's family apparently is a pagan family living in that area. Justin himself seems to have been a very bright young man and so embarked upon a schooling in the philosophical traditions, and in fact we hear of him moving from philosophical school to philosophical school as he makes his way from his homeland in Palestine. First to Greece and then eventually all the way to the city of Rome, and he dabbles in one philosophical school and then another looking for what he considers to be the true philosophy of life. In the course of this intellectual journey Justin himself also encounters Christianity, and becomes a convert to Christianity and also one of its most important vocal supporters as he develops a philosophical defense of Christianity. So Justin's apology for Christianity is also a philosophical argument for the legitimacy of Christianity within the larger purview of Roman intellectual and religious life.... [Source: L. Michael White, Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 ]

“By the year 150 Justin Martyr is living in Rome and actually has his own philosophical school in the city of Rome. In fact, the tradition of the events surrounding his death, what is called "The Martyrdom of Justin and His Friends" actually tells us that Justin ran the school upstairs in a rooming house where he lived... we actually know now that Justin was running a kind of Christian catechetical school on the model of a Greek philosophical school tradition, [teaching] Christian philosophy. Justin is very important not only because he mounts such an important intellectual defense of the Christian tradition. He's also important because he actually defines Christianity in philosophical terms for what we must imagine is a growing intellectual elite within the Christian tradition in the middle of the second century....

Justin Martyr Highlights Jesus and Distinguishes Christians from Pagans

Roman-era Christian Martyrdom

Professor L. Michael White told PBS: “One of the problems faced by this growing intellectual integration of Christianity into the Roman world is how far do you go before you lose your identity as Christians? Justin Martyr the apologist is faced with this problem as well. There are so many similarities between what Christians do and the way some of these other mystery cults behave. It actually is a difficult problem for him to suggest what's unique about Christianity. Justin himself has a very interesting answer to this problem. He says in fact that Christianity is not the new religion in this process, they're the old truth. They're a part of the oldest form of religious life in the world and the mystery cults as they tend to be called, are the ones who are the imitators of Christianity. In fact he even says it's a kind of satanic conspiracy to make them look too much like Christianity so the poor ignorant pagans will be duped into following false religion instead of true Christianity. But the key point is there are similarities and the similarities are notable. [Source: L. Michael White, Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 ]

“The similarities of Jesus and other figures, though, continues to be an issue for pagans and Christians alike. Indeed from the perspective of Justin Martyr as an apologist trying to defend the legitimacy of Christianity, it's very important that he can hold up a model of other people, other well known, famous people the past in Greek and Roman tradition who similarly died for their beliefs. Who were models of the righteous sufferer, the martyr for their beliefs, such as Socrates himself. And so when Justin talks about Jesus he's really a new philosopher figure. Someone who brings a set of insightful beliefs and teachings into this world and who is obliged to die as a result of living by those principles. Jesus is a new Socrates.

“Apologists like Justin probably had an important impact on the spread of Christianity if for no other reason [than] because they gave it a kind of intellectual respectability in the ... Greek and Roman...intellectual tradition. They make it philosophically acceptable, and as a result of that I think we must imagine that by the later half of the second century and certainly into the early third century, Christianity is really attracting more and more people from the upper ranks of society.

North African Theologians

The so-called "North African church" is represented chiefly by Tertullian Cyprian, and Augustine, and is centered in and around Carthage (modern Tunis). Carthage was destroyed in the Punic Wars but was rebuilt by Julius Caesar. By the 3rd century AD it was second only to Rome in wealth and population in the West. The people were predominantly from a non-Semitic race, an amalgam of Romans, Phoenicians, and Jews. Latin was the official language, with Punic the vernacular. The origins of Christianity are uncertain - but it was probably from Rome. The first recorded event in the life of the N. African church was a martyrdom, about 180 AD 12 Christians known as the martyrs of Scilli. Then came the martyrs Perpetua and Felicity in 203 AD. [Source: Carl A. Volz, late professor of church history at Luther Seminary, web.archive.org, martin.luthersem.edu /~]

“The School of Alexandria (Clement c. A.D. 200 and Origen d. 254) was characterized as being highly sympathetic to Greek philosophy, speculation re: the Christian faith, cosmopolitan., open to external stimuli,, use of the allegorical method, mysticism, and a strong emphasis on the deity of Christ. It was founded sometime late in the 2nd C., the oldest centre of Biblical studies in Christianity./~\



Tertullian (c. A.D. 155 – c. 240) was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. Of Berber origin, he was the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was an early Christian apologist and a polemicist against heresy, including contemporary Christian Gnosticism.Tertullian has been called "the father of Latin Christianity" and "the founder of Western theology." Though conservative in his worldview, Tertullian originated new theological concepts and advanced the development of early Church doctrine. He is perhaps most famous for being the first writer in Latin known to use the term trinity (Latin: trinitas). According to The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Tertullian's trinity [is] not a triune God, but rather a triad or group of three, with God as the founding member". [Source: Wikipedia]

Tertullian was born to pagan parents. Her worked as a lawyer in Rome, converted c. 193 AD and settled in Carthage. According to Jerome he was ordained a priest (DeViriIllus 53). He flourished about 195-220 AD, and c. 207 joined the Montanists. Excepting Augustine, Tertullian is the most distinguished and original writer in Latin before the 4th C. He combined a profound knowledge of law, philosophy, Greek and Latin letters with burning rhetoric and biting satire. He has an uncompromising attitude. All of his writings seem to be polemics!! Truth was the object of his defense of Christianity. In "Ad Scapulum" the word "veritas" occurs 162 times! Veritas is what the demons, hate, pagans reject, and what Christians suffer and die for. Impatient. Instead of convincing his opponents he tries to annihilate them. [Source: Carl A. Volz, late professor of church history at Luther Seminary, web.archive.org, martin.luthersem.edu /~]

“Apologetic Works: 1) "To The Heathen" AD NATIONES (197 AD). The juridical procedures against the Christians contradict all principles of justice. The pagans are simply ignorant and do not know what they condemn. He ridicules the immoralities and absurdities of pagan religion. 2) "Apology" APOLOGETICUM (197 AD). One of the most important of all his works. Some themes: Ignorance is the reason Rome persecutes the Christians. He defends Christians against alleged offenses. Legislation should encourage morality, not stamp it out. Pagan gods are nothing but dead humans. It is unjust to accuse Christians of atheism, since pagan gods are non-existent. He demands freedom of religion. "Coerced belief is no belief at all." Despite persecution, Christians still pray for emperors. He describes Christian worship - refutes the charge of novelty. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." 3) "The Testimony of the Soul" DE TESTIMONIO ANIMAE. The soul itself serves as a witness to the existence and attributes of God, life after death, rewards and punishments in the life beyond. Pure and simple nature is a better witness to truth than all learning. 4) "To Scapula" AD SCAPULAM. It is a fundamental human right that every man should worship according to his own convictions. One man's religion neither harms nor helps another man. It is certainly stupid for one religion to compel another religion, because the latter will resent the former and work against it. 5) "Against the Jews" ADVERSUS JUDAEOS /~\

“Works in Controversy: 1) "The Prescription of Heretics" DE PRAESCRIPIONE HAERETICORUM - exhibits more than all his other works his knowledge of Roman law. The bone of contention between the Church and heretics is the Scripture. Heretics may not use the Scriptures because they do not belong to them. Strong apostolic succession ideas against the heretics, i.e. gnostics. Principle of the priority of truth and lateness of heresy. 2) "De Praescriptione" is by far the most finished, characteristic, and valuable of Tert writings. "Arguments about Scripture achieve nothing but a stomach-ache and a headache. You get nothing from arguing with heretics but gas." DePr Mohammed. 3) "Against Marcion" ADVERSUS MARCIONEM - longest of his works and main source of our knowledge about Marcion. In book IV he refutes Marcion's N.T. version and offers us significant information about the history of the Biblical text. 4) "Against the Valentinians" ADVERSUS VALENTINIANOS - source of information (together with Irenaeus) about Valentinian Gnosticism. /~\

“5) "On Baptism" DE BAPTISMO - Earliest work on the subject - against those who ridiculed baptism. "Happy sacrament of our water, in which the sins of our former blindness are washed away and we are set free for everlasting life . . . We little fish, like our Fish (IXTHUS) Jesus Christ, are born in water and it is only by abiding in water that we are safe." Consecration of baptismal water. Martyrdom is the "second baptism" or baptism with blood (water and blood from Christ's side.) Even laymen may baptize if with bishop's permission. But Tertullian is opposed to infant baptism. Easter and Pentecost preferred times. Both against the docetism of gnostics: "On the Flesh of Christ" DE CARNE CHRISTI "On the Resurrection of the Flesh" DE RESURRECTIONE CARNIS 6) "Against Praxeas" ADVERSUS PRAXEAN A most important contribution to the doctrine of the Trinity, and to Christology, before 4th C. Establishes the terminology henceforth normative in the West - substance, persons, nature. "On the Soul" DE ANIMA Supports idea of traducianism, leading to concept of Original Sin. /~\

“3. Miscellaneous Writings"To the Martyrs" / "The Shows" / "On The Dress of Women" / "Concerning Prayer" "Concerning Patience" / "Concerning Repentance" / "To His Wife" / "Monagamy" / "The Chaplet" / "Concerning Flight in Persecution" / "Concerning Idolatry" /~\

“Aspects of Tertullian's Theology: 1) PHILOSOPHY - Influenced by Stoicism, but he is generally opposed to philosophy. "What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?" Phil = mother of heresies. 2) RULE OF FAITH - is authoritative for Christians, a summary of belief. Contained in DeVirgVel 1, DePraescr 13, AdvPrax 2. 3) TRINITY - greatest contribution to theology. First to use term, "trinitas". "Trinitas unius divinitatis, Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus (DePud 21)" "Tres unius substantiae et unius status et unius potestatis (AdvPrax)" The Son is "de substantia Patris", and the Spirit is "from the Father through the Son - per Filium" I always affirm that there is one substance in three united together." lst to use term persona, HS is 3rd person. 4) CHRISTOLOGY - Christ has two natures in one person 5) MATERIALISM - Tertullian sees all of reality, including God Himself, as having some kind of "substance." From this he derives the idea that the substance of the soul comes from one's parents (traducianism) and is therefore sinful (original sin). 6) ECCLESIOLOGY - lst to use "mother" as title for Church. Repository of faith and guardian of revelation. Church alone may interpret Scr. Apostolic succ. 7) ESCHATOLOGY - strong on heaven and damnation of wicked. Anticipates with some satisfaction the sufferings of the damned. Influence on Western thought. /~\

Tertullian: On Pagan Learning, c. 220 CE

Tertullian writing in the Codex Balliolensis

On the distinction between "Athens" and "Jerusalem",Tertullian wrote in “On Pagan Learning,” (c. A.D. 220): For philosophy it is which is the material of the world's wisdom, the rash interpreter of the nature and the dispensation of God. Indeed heresies are themselves instigated by philosophy. From this source came the Aeons, and I known not what infinite forms, and the Trinity of Man in the system of Valentinus, who was of Plato's school. From the same source came Marcion's better god, with all his tranquillity; he came of the Stoics. Then, again, the opinion that the soul dies is held by the Epicureans; while the denial of the restoration of the body is taken from the aggregate school of all the philosophers; also, when matter is made equal to God, then you have the teaching of Zeno; and when any doctrine is alleged touching a god of fire, then Heraclitus comes in. The same matter is discussed over and over again by the heretics and the philosophers; the same arguments are involved. Whence comes evil? Why is it permitted? What is the origin of Man? And in what way does he come? Besides the question which Valentinus has very lately proposed--Whence comes God? Which he settles with the answer: From enthymesis and ectroma. [Source: Tertullian, On the Proscription of Heretics, trans. T. Herbert Bindley, (London: SPCK, 1914), [Source: sourcebooks.fordham.edu]

“Unhappy Aristotle! who invented for these men dialectics, the art of building up and pulling down; an art so evasive in its propositions, so far-fetched in its conjectures, so harsh, in its arguments, so productive of contentions, embarrassing even to itself, retracting everything, and really treating of nothing! Whence spring those "fables and endless genealogies," and "unprofitable questions," and "words which spread like a cancer?" From all these, when the apostle would restrain us, he expressly names philosophy as that which he would have us be on our guard against. Writing to The Colossians, he says, "See that no one beguile you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, and contrary to the wisdom of the Holy Ghost." He had been at Athens, and had in his interviews (with its philosophers) become acquainted with that human wisdom which pretends to know the truth, while it only corrupts it, and is itself divided into its own manifold heresies, by the variety of its mutually repugnant sects.

What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? What between heretics and Christians? Our instruction comes from "the porch of Solomon," who had himself taught that "the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart." Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief. For this is our primary faith, that there is nothing which we ought to believe besides!

Cyprian (died A.D. 258)


“Different personality from Tertullian more charitable and gentle. But he was dependent upon Tertullian for theology. Jerome says, "he was accustomed never to pass a day without reading Tertullian and he frequently said to his secretary, Da magistrum, meaning by this, Tertullian." Born into a rich and aristocratic pagan family in Carthaoe, he became an expert rhetorician and master of eloquence. He was converted to Christianity by the priest, Caecilias and ordained a priest. About 250 AD he became bishop of Carthage, "by the voice of the people," but against the wishes of some presbyters, especially Novatus. During, the Decian persecution (251 AD) he fled. The Presbyters back in Carthage were naturally critical of Cyprian's flight, but he defended himself by pointing out that Decius was primarily interested in capturing bishops. In Cyprian's absence some confessors (those who had underdone torture) assumed a leadership role, and took it upon themselves to reconcile to the church those who had lapsed under persecution. When Cyprian refused this, they, led by Felicissimus, organized an opposition party. This group included five priests who had voted against Cyprian's election, including Novatus. Cyprian banned them, wrote "On The Unity of the Church," and convened a Synod of 251 AD which confirmed his position. The Synod agreed that each case should be tried on its own merits. [Source: Carl A. Volz, late professor of church history at Luther Seminary, web.archive.org, martin.luthersem.edu /~]

“Meanwhile a violent controversy broke out between Cyprian and bishop Stephen of Rome. Cyprian denied the validity of "heretical" (i.e. Novatust) baptisms. Stephen said they were valid even thouah performed outside the orthodox communion. When the Roman bishop attempted to impose his conclusions on the N. African church, the latter responded with a statement on episcopal authority in which it was stated that no bishop possessed authority over another, but all shared in a collegial authority. The controversy is significant both for the theology of baptism, of the church, and of the role of the Roman bishop in churchly authority. /~\

“"The Unity of the Church" (DE UNITATE ECCLESIAE) has the most lasting influence of all of Cyprian's works. Schisms and heresies arE of the devil. There is only one church, that built upon Peter. There is no salvation outside this church. "He cannot have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother." Utilizes Noah's ark imagery. Even martyrs who are not in communion with the bishop are damned. Epistles of Cyprian: These are an important source for the history of the period. Contain 81 letters - 65 are from Cyprian and 16 are addressed to him. 38 are from his place of hiding during the Decian persecution. /~\

“Miscellaneous works: "The Dress of Virgins"/ "To Donatus" / "Concerning the Lapsed" / Concerning Works and Almsgiving - divine mercy has provided a second means of forgiveness after baptism, i.e. alms and good deeds, clearly teaches efficacy of works / "On Jealousy and Envy" / "The Advantage of Patience" / To Demetrianus - refutes charge that Christians are responsible for calamities / "The Lord's Prayer - interpretation of / "Exhortation to Martyrdom (To Fortunatus)" /~\

Clement of Alexandria

Clement of Alexandria

“From Athens, after his conversion he settled in Alexandria, succeeding PANTAENUS as head of the catechetical school about 200 AD. The "pioneer of Christian scholarship" (Quasten), possessing an immense knowledge of Scripture and the classics. He quotes 1,500 passages from the O.T. and 2,000 from the N.T., 360 from the Greek classics. Faith and philosophy, Gospel and secular learning, are not enemies but belong together. Everything "secular" should serve theology. [Source: Carl A. Volz, late professor of church history at Luther Seminary, web.archive.org, martin.luthersem.edu /~]

“1) Exhortation to the Greeks - an apology aimed at the conversion of pagans. He argues from the unity of truth. God inspired the ancient philosophers and poets just as He inspired the OT prophets. Greek phil leads to Christ! 2) The Tutor A continuation of the "Exhortation." The Logos is the tutor who instructs new converts in Christian living. "His aim is to improve the soul, not to teach, and to train it up to a virtuous, not intellectual, life." In book 2 he deals with daily problems - eating, drinking, homes, furniture, music, dancing, recreation, bathing, marital life. The decisive factor in all these areas is attitude and motivation. As long as the Christian keeps his heart from attachment to this world, he need not withdraw from culture. The Christian should be the yeast that enables civilization rather than withdrawing from it. /~\

“3) Stromata (Carpet-pieces) in 8 books, discusses the relation of Christianity to secular learning, especially to Greek philosophy. Philosophy is to the Greeks what the Law is to the Jews, a "paidagogus" leading to Christ. 4) Which Rich Man Can Be Saved? or Quis dives salvetur? Homily on Mk. 10:17-31. Wealth does not exclude from the kingdom of God. One's attitude is the decisive thing. Sin, not wealth, excludes. /~\

“His theology is dominated by the Logos, who is the creator of the universe, manifested Jahwe in the O.T., in Greek philosophy, and finally in the Incarnation. He is the teacher of the world and its lawgiver. There is only one true Church as there is only one God, "the virgin mother who feeds her children with the milk of the divine Word." "The Mother draws her children to herself and we seek our mother, the Church." Bishop, priest, and deacon reflect the hierarchy of angels. Baptism is a seal, an illumination, bath, perfection, and mystery. We receive a cleansing from sin, a remission of penalties, and illumination. In the Eucharist, Clement opposes the Practice of bread and water as a sign of heresy - rather insists on wine. He distinguished between the human blood of Christ and the Eucharistic blood, but he cannot be used to support a "symbolic" approach. It is "the new food by which we receive Christ and enshrine Him in our souls." To drink the blood of Jesus is to become a partaker of the Lord's immortality, the Spirit being the energetic principle of the Word as the blood is of the flesh. Adam's sin consisted in his refusal to be educated by God. This hostility has been inherited by all men, not through generation but by bad example. Only a personal act can stain the soul. He distinguishes between "voluntary" and "involuntary" sins - former forgiven once, latter more often. Clement is unique among the Fathers in his defense of marriage - he even recommends it as a duty for the welfare of the nation, succession of children, and an act of cooperation with the Creator. "Who are the 2 or 3 gathered together in the Name of Christ in whose midst is the Lord? Are they not man, wife, and child, because man and wife are joined by God?" Virginity is permissible if done for the service of the Lord - He Himself was so - but the married man is superior to the single because he discharges greater responsibilities. - As to Scriptural interpretation, the allegorical method is preferred, but he admits that Scripture also has a literal sense. Each text must be interpreted in the light of the rest of Scripture. Adam is a symbol for what happens to each person individually. /~\

Origen (died 254 A.D.)


Origen (185?-254), an Alexandrian Greek, castrated himself to ensure his purity and became head of the leading Christian theological academy at the age of 18. He is credited with giving Christianity some analytical credibility by incorporating elements of Greek philosophy but was unsuccessful making it hold up to the scrutiny of history.

Origen is regarded as the most outstanding teacher and scholar of the pre-Nicene church. Eusebius bk 6 is a primary source of our knowledge of Origen. He was the child of a Christian home and the oldest son in a large family. His father Leonidas, who died as a martyr under Severus A.D. 202, instructed him in Christianity. Origen maintained himself and his family by teaching. Bishop Demetrius placed him in charge of the catechetical school at age 18. Life is divided into two parts: 203-231 Alexandria, 231-254 Caesarea. Divided his work with Heraclas who taught preparatory classes. Origen taught philosophy, theology, and Scripture. He attended the lectures of Ammonius Saccas, founder of Neoplatonism. He made several journeys - in 212 to Rome, "desiring to see the most ancient church of the Romans (B. Zephyrinus 199-217)." There he met Hippolytus. In 215 to Arabia at the request of the governor. To Antioth to visit the emperor's mother, Julia Mammaea (Alex Severus 222-235). In 216 to Palestine where the bishops of Caesarea and Palestine asked him to preach. Demetrius (Alexandria) opposed this since Origen was only a layman. 15 years later these sane bishops ordained him, but Demetrius objected on the grounds of jurisdiction. Eusebius - "Demetrius was overcome by human weakness when he saw that Origen was prospering and a great man and distinguished and famous in the sight of all." Demetrius expelled him from Alexandria and deprived him of the priesthood. Thence to Caesarea, second period of his life, where he founded a school and taught for 20 years. Gregory "Thaumaturgus" a pupil. In 244 a journey to Arabia against monarchianism. He suffered torture under Decius and died c. 254. Hardly a man has ever had more staunch friends or implacable foes. His name was the centre of controversies for centuries. Council of Constantinople in 553 passed 15 anathemas against some of his teachings, including the notion of the pre-existence of souls. [Source: Carl A. Volz, late professor of church history at Luther Seminary, web.archive.org, martin.luthersem.edu /~]

“Writings: Epiphanius estimated Origen wrote 6,000 works. Jerome said 2,000. We know of 800. "Starting from that time, Origen's commentaries on the divine Scripture had their beginning at the instigation of Ambrose, who not only plied him with innumerable verbal exhortations and encouragements, but also provided him unstintingly with what was necessary. For as he dictated there were ready at hand more than seven shorthand writers who relieved each other at fixed times, and as many copyists, as well as girls skilled in penmanship - for all of which Ambrose provided without stint the necessary means." /~\

“1. Textual Criticism - "Hexapla" the first attempt in the history of Christianity to provide the student with the necessary instruments to establish the original text of Scripture. The O.T. in 6 parallel columns: Heb text in Heb; Heb text in Greek characters; Greek trans of Aquila; Greek trans of Symnachus; LXX; another Greek translation. 2. EXEGETICAL WORKS - the 1st scientific exegete, he wrote at least one commentary on every book of the Bible, OT and NT. Also homilies and "scholia" = explanations /~\

“3. APOLOGETIC - "Contra Celsus" Celsus had written "The True Word" against Christianity, a biting and well documented attack, not only on Christian practice but on the doctrines of the faith. 4. DOGMATICS - "De Principiis" the first systematic theology and manual of dogma, in four books - God, World, Freedom, Revelation. Much of it, unfortunately, is only available in Rufinus' questionable Latin version. "Dialogue with Heraclides" discussion of Trinity, Christology and monarchianism. 5. PRACTICAL - "On Prayer" "Exhortation to Martyrdom" /~\

Origen's Theology

Origen castrating himself

“Trinity - he is used by both Arians and Nicenes. The Son proceeds from the Father not by division but in the same way as will proceeds from reason. The Son is eternal and since he is begotten, it follows that the begetting must be eternal. He coins the idea of the "eternal generation of the Son." He also used "homoousios." Even tho he believed in the deity of the Son, he was still "deuteros Theos." The Father is "autotheos" and the Son is "haploos agathos" - primal goodness. [Source: Carl A. Volz, late professor of church history at Luther Seminary, web.archive.org, martin.luthersem.edu /~]

“CHRISTOLOGY - Origen was the first to use the designation God-Man (theanthropos). He also taught the interchange of attributes or "communicatio idiomatum." The soul of Jesus was the point of contact between God and man. He introduced into theology such terms as physis, hypostasis, ousia, homoousios, theanthropos. MARIOLOGY - Sozomon claims the first to use "theotokos" of Mary. Universal mother. ECCLESIOLOGY - he refers to the Church as the City of God here on earth, the first to use the term. "Extra hanc domum, id est ecclesiam, nemo salvetur." /~\

“BAPTISM AND ORIGINAL SIN - he testifies to both. Every person is born in sin and for this reason it is apostolic tradition to baptize the newly born. "Every soul which is born in the flesh is tainted with the stain of iniquity and sin. No man is clean from sin, not even if his life be one day long . . . for which reason it is the custom of the Church that baptism be given to infants. Certainly if there were nothing in infants that required remission and called for lenient treatment, the grace of baptism would seem unnecessary." PENANCE - Remission of sins is through baptism, martyrdom, almsgiving, forgiving, conversion of the sinner, and private penance. /~\

“EUCHARIST - The blood of Christ can be drunk in a 2-fold manner, namely sacramentally and "when we receive the life-giving words." The literal interpretation of Communion is the one commonly held in the Church, but it is the idea of simple souls. The symbolical interpretation is more worthy of God and is the one held by the learned. /~\

“ESCHATOLOGY - Apokatastasis refers to the universal restoration of all things in their originally pure and spiritual state. Even Satan himself will eventually be saved, but through fire. This is based on the idea that all punishment is remedial or medicinal and corrective, not vindictive; and if God sets out to correct people through punishment (i.e. hellfire) they will ultimately be corrected, otherwise God's will is thwarted, and God is no longer God. /~\

“PRE-EXISTENCE OF SOULS - The present visible world was preceded by another. Human souls are those who in the former world fell away from God and are now enclosed in material bodies. Sins committed by souls in their pre-natal state explains the diversity among men on earth. /~\

“INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE - The Bible is the dynamic living Word of God. Old Test illuminated by N.T. Most of Scripture has 3 senses corresponding to the three parts of man (body, soul, spirit) - historical, mystical, moral sense. The spiritual meaning is to be preferred (i.e. allegorical method). /~\

“MYSTICISM - the highest good is to become as like to God as possible. To do this we need His grace as well as our own efforts. Perfection is through the imitation of Christ. He distinguishes between Christians who have special gifts to be disciples and those who are merely faithful. The "gnostic Christian" follows the steps of self-knowledge, battle against sin, ascetical exercises, culminating in mystical union with the Logos.

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com; “Egeria's Description of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem” users.ox.ac.uk ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org, Frontline, PBS, “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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