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taining their applause, censured the Christians as atsovs xa. unebsis. For all which this language implies may have been done in the form of conversations, either in a school, or in some other of the customary resorts for discussion. But when Justin speaks in the same place of questions proposed by himself, and replies given to them by Crescens, and says, that he is ignorant, whether they were carried to the emperors or not, we are led to conclude, that Crescens had, not only oral, but also written controversy with the Christians. That however he was an ordinary and obscure man, and that his works were but little read, is shown with much certainty by the entire absence of all allusion to him in Greek and Roman writers, and by the very rare occurrence of it in christian writers.
Crescens is followed by Fronto Cirtensis, a very eminent rhetorician of the age of the Antonines, and the author of some highly celebrated orations and letters, the remains of which Angelus Maius has recently discovered and given to the public. Antoninus Pius appointed him teacher of Roman eloquence to the young princes, Marcus Aurelius, and Lucius Verus, and honored him with the office of consul. In his being chosen to places of such trust and distinction, we have sufficient proof of the high estimation, in which he was held. In respect now to this man so conspicuous for his scholarship and rank, Minucius Felix, his contemporary, has stated in his Octavius, (in which work the cause of the Christians is ably defended), that he wrote against the Christians, and accused them of holding assemblies, in which they were guilty of incest. Minucius communicates nothing further in regard to him ; for that the arguments, which are urged against the Christians by Caecilius, who in the Octavius personates the part of a defender of the received religion, were in fact those of Fronto, is a mere conjecture, which some have approved, because Minucius Felix appears to have imitated the eloquence of Fronto. Nothing has been transmitted either by Minucius Felix or any other writer, which explains either on what occasion Frontó wrote against the Christians, or what object he proposed to secure by his attack upon them. But we adopt perhaps an opinion, which probability supports, if not history, when we assume that the rhetorician, as he belonged to the court of Marcus Aurelius, in whose reign many of the Christians were accused of murder and the most infamous licentiousness, wrote against them, for the purpose of justifying the emperor in the severity of his edicts against them. With such a design, he would naturally be interested to show, that they were guilty of the charges for which they suffered. This, it would seem, is the view, which many have taken. The particulars, which we learn in regard to Fronto, are indeed few, yet important to be known, because we discover from them, that there bad arisen enemies of the Christians even thus early in the very palace of the emperor, and that their apologists had ample cause for vindicating them against the crimes, which were imputed to them.*
We come next to Lucian. Upon him we shall have occasion to dwell longer, than was necessary in the case of Fronto. This writer mentions the Christians expressly in two places ; for the Philopatris, in which there are many things said against them, is not from the hand of Lucian of Samosata, but was produced so late, as in the time of Julian.t One of these passages is found in the book, entitled, Alexander or Pseudomantis, where it is stated that this Alexander, the founder of certain new religious rites, and a crafty impostor, had been accustomed, in imitation of the caution, which the guardians of the Eleusinian mysteries observed in this matter, to exclude equally Christians and Epicureans from a knowledge of his secrets. I The other passage, from which Lucian's opinion relative to the Christians is known, occurs in his book on the death of Peregrinus, the famous Cynic, who, if Lucian relates the truth, ended a life of the basest depravity and crime by burning himself about the year 166, in the presence of a vast concourse of people, at Olympia. Lucian here mentions among other things in regard to this Peregrinus, who wished to be called Proteus, that he had learned την θαυμαστην σοφιαν των χριστιανων ; and that having attained among them the rank of prophet and hierarch he was worshipped by them as a god; and on this account he stigmatizes them as men, who were credulous and who could be easily deceived by any impostor. The same
The places in Minucius Felix, which relate to Fronto, occur in his Octavius c. 9 and c. 31. In regard to the life and writings of Fronto, Angelus Maius has treated in a learned manner in M. Cornelii Frontonis Opp. ed. P. I. p. 1 sqq.
† This has been satisfactorily shown by Gessner in his dissertation concerning the age and author of the dialogue, entitled Philopatris, and bearing the name of Lucian; and which is inserted Opp. Luc. Tom. II. ed. Reiz. p. 708.
I c. 38. p. 244. Tom. II. ed. Reiz.
writer moreover has much to say in reference to the zeal of the Christians in behalf of Peregrinus, while he lay in prison and chains, on the charge of being a Christian. He represents them as assembling from every quarter, and attempting by every method to effect his release, as encouraging and consoling him in his captivity and showing to him as much regard and veneration, as if he had been a second Socrates. His design in these statements, if we mistake not, was, to make it appear that they were inen of a factious spirit and withheld by no scruples from any crime, which would promote their cause. He still further styles the Christians wretches, who in the hope that they should prove immortal in soul and body, regard death with a stupid contempt, and suffer themselves to be persuaded, that they are brethren, because having abandoned the gods of the Greeks they worship the crucified sophist, and live according to his precepts; and believe these and other absurdities without evidence ; so that it is not strange, that any impostor, who understands at all the arts of management, can easily rise to wealth among them and impose on their simplicity to any extent.* Thus Lucian censured the Christians as ignorant, credulous and superstitious men. But he never controverted their opinions or argued against their apologists, either because he had no knowledge of them, or, which we think nearer the truth, because he wished to appear to hold in contempt those, who by their observance of new rites of religion were the objects of his scorn. For we deem it scarcely credible, that Lucian, unequalled, as he was, by any man of his age, in his knowledge of public and private affairs, and in his intimate acquaintance both by travel and correspondence with persons of every rank and place, should have been altogether ignorant of the writings of Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, and even of Tatian, his own countryman; (for Tatian was by birth a Syrian).
But while in these places Lucian has reviled the Christians in express terms, he appears to have aimed at them indirect censure everywhere in his books on the true art of history. We think, however, that he has actually done this only in a few cases : for having changed our opinion, we do not at present assent to those views, which Krebs has maintained on this subject, although Eichstaedt has recently sanctioned them by
The reader will find these remarks in the book referred to, on the death of Peregrinus, c. 11-13. p. 233–338. com. III. Vol. XI. No. 29.
his approbation.* All those remarks, which are supposed to refer either to the prophet Jonah living three days in the whale's belly, or to Christ walking upon the sea, or to the contest of the archangel Michael with Satan, described in the Apocalypse, are so introduced, that they may have been written either for the purpose of jest, or of ridiculing the Greeks for their credulity and superstition, even by a man, who had not the least knowledge of the Christians. The story of the mariners, which Lucian is so minute in relating, who having sailed a thousand and five hundred stadia, come to certain islands and cities, situated in the belly of a huge animal, where they find herbs and creatures of every sort, and whence after the expiration of a year and six months they emerge and again traverse the deep, is entirely dissimilar to the account, which the sacred Scriptures give concerning the prophet Jonah.t In like manner his narrative in regard to the battle of Endymion and the Selenitae, inhabitants of the moon, with Phaethon and Helios, inhabitants of the sun, is understood surely, with great latitude of construction, in being supposed to refer to the battle of Michael and Satan. For had Lucian designed to allude to this battle, related in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, he should have wrought into his description such circumstances, as would be pertinent to that character of an accuser, which Satan bears, and also to that blood of the Lamb, by which he is overcome. Besides the battle of Endymion and Phaethon terminates in a peace favorable to both : whereas that of Michael and Satan ends in the victory of Michael who hurls his adversary from the heavens.] These therefore and other passages are thought to have but a forced application to the records of sacred history. At the same time there are some things in the writings of Lucian, which even in our view admit of this reference. We consider it necessary to understand thus what he says concerning a city, situated upon the islands of the blessed, which is all gold and surrounded with walls of emerald.* Since the idea of such a city upon these islands never occurs in any of the Greek writers, it would seem not improbable that Lucian had his thoughts on the heavenly Jerusalem, of whose descent upon the earth the Chiliasts were in constant expectation, and which the author of the Apocalypse represents as effulgent with the splendor of the most costly gems. In like manner we should refer to the same origin, we think, what he says in regard to fountains full of honey and rivers of milk, as well as what he observes respecting Peregrinus, that by his death he left his followers orphanst-in which case he seems to have designed to express himself in imitation of our Lord in John, 14: 18, ουκ αφησω ημας ορφανους.
* See Krebs in regard to the malicious designs of Lucian to make the Christian religion appear weak and ridiculous, in Diss. in ejus d. opusc. acad. et scholast. p. 308 sqq. Also Eichstaedt in Diss. published at Jena 1820, on the question, whether Lucian wished by what he wrote to aid the Christian cause. In our work, with the title of His. toriae Apologetices Lips. 1805, we adopted the opinion of Krebs. But at present we are inclined to a different view in respect to very many of the passages adduced by this learned man.
† The story of the ship entering the mouth of a whale is given in his work de vera Historia L. I. c. 30–40. p. 94-101.
| The account of the batile between Endymion and Phaethon may be read 1. I. c. 10--21. p. 77–87.
But all these instances, as Eichstaedt has justly remarked, are rather conjectural than certain. The views of learned men will always differ in regard to the interpretation of passages of this nature. After what has been adduced, however, from his book on the death of Peregrinus, there can be no doubt, that Lucian entertained opinions, which did great injustice to the Christians; and no one, we are sure, can read the evidence of this and still allow himself to think, that he favored them and wished to aid their cause.f The idea is entirely unsupported; it is almost absurd. Lucian ridiculed indeed the gods of the Greeks, and denounced the rites of their religion ; but he did this, that he might expose to contempt that, which both in his view and in fact deserved such exposure ; and not by any means that he might prepare the way for the triumph of the Christians, to whom he rendered, if any, an unintentional assistance. He could scoff at one form of religion as readily as another; and in truth he made it as much his aim to efface from the minds of men every vestige of piety, as to put an end to the reign of superstition.
• I. I. L. II. c. II. p.
III. | De morte Peregrin c. 6. p. 330.
| In the dissertation of Eichstaedt against Kestner in regard to the intentions of Lucian, to which we have already referred, there are some ingenious remarks on the topic in question, which deserve to be read.