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The same infrequency of allusion to the Christians, which marked the time of Trajan, marked also that of Hadrian. For besides Hadrian himself, who deserves certainly to be ranked among Roman authors (an enthusiastic lover of poetry and letters in general he is called by Spartianus),* Arrian is the only writer, who has referred to them. All the productions of Hadrian indeed have perished, except one letter written to Servianus, which Vopiscus transcribed from the works of Phlegon, a freed man of Hadrian and inserted in the life of Saturninus. In this letter the emperor inveighs against the manners of the Egyptians, i. e. of the Alexandrians, pronouncing them a most seditious, false and violent class of men; and on this occasion he speaks of the Christians in language as follows: "Those, who worship Serapis, are Christians; and these are those devoted to the service of Serapis, who call themselves the bishops of Christ. There is no ruler of the Jewish synagogue there, no Samaritan, no presbyter of the Christians, who is not an astrologer, a soothsayer, a diviner. The patriarch himself, when he comes to Egypt, is compelled by some to worship Serapis, by others, Christ." At Alexandria, whither men of every description were accustomed to find their way, he had gathered some vague knowledge in regard to the Christians, as well as the observers of other religious rites. The names of presbyters and bishops had thus come to his ears. But as he had vastly more curiosity than love of truth, and was precipitate in his conclusions, he neglected to examine the accuracy of what he heard and thus confounded the Christians with the worshippers of Serapis, who were the sect, to which most of the Alexandrians belonged. Hence too it was, that he imputed to the Christians the same arts of divination, which the adherents of other new and foreign sects were accustomed to practise, which although accounted odious indeed, and frequently punished in the case of the astrologers, were still eagerly sought even by the emperors themin regard to the Christians, which has every internal evidence in its favor, and is mentioned by Tertullian, Eusebius and Jerome; this letter, I say, together with the reply of Trajan must surely be considered as genuine, unless you are willing to pronounce all the records of antiquity spurious, and to deny the credibility of history in every
* In vita Hadriani, c. 13. p. 12. Scriptorum historiae Augustae, ed. Lips.
c. 8. p. 435 of the book named.
selves. It is thus, it would seem, that we are to account for it, that he should make the altogether false and absurd remarks respecting the Christians, which have been quoted above. Nothing therefore, which Hadrian has left, throws light upon the early history of the church. Nor are we indebted for any thing of this nature to Arrian, who flourished in his reign. All, that we can infer from the passage, in which he refers to the Galilaeans for the sake of illustration, is that the Christians were considered by Arrian or Epictetus (if these are the words of the master rather than of the disciple), as men, who from the influence of phrenzy and habit (υπο μανιας και υπο εθους) could show the same contempt of pain and death, with which reason taught the philosopher to regard them.*
These, so far as we know, are all the instances, in which there occur any reference to the Christians in Greek and Latin writers until the age of the Antonines.
At length in the age of the Antonines, the Christians found able and eloquent advocates of their cause, began to emerge from their obscurity, and to attract the notice of mankind. Still the eyes of all were not turned towards them even then; many, if they were not ignorant of them, at least overlooked them, and no one foresaw in the rise of the Christians the speedy downfall of the whole system of the public religion. In this age, however, especially towards its close, a more general attention was fixed upon them, than had been at any time before; so that some noticed them in brief, yet explicit terms; while others attacked them at greater length, and employed argument against them.
They are mentioned and censured by Galen, a very celebrated physician of that period, and by Marcus Antoninus. Galen refers to them in two places. In one he is speaking of certain physicians and philosophers, who adhere with such obstinacy to their own views, that he, who disputes with them, does nothing but trifle. Having compared them to crooked pieces of
* This passage is contained in Epicteti Dissertationum L. IV. c. 7. p. 618. Tom. 1. ed. Schweig. — But in regard to another passage occurring, L. II. c. 2. p. 214 sq., we dare not pronounce on the question, whether it refers to the Jews or Christians. The Jews indeed, here mentioned, are called Santiotal, which seems to indicate, that Christians are meant. But Jews might be so termed, either on account of their frequent ablutions, or the baptism, to which proselytes. were accustomed to submit on their adoption of the Jewish faith.
wood, which can never be straightened, and to withered trees, which, although they are transferred to a new soil, are still unfruitful, he adds, that it is easier to persuade the followers of Moses or Christ to change their sentiments, than it is such physicians and philosophers. * He charges the Christians therefore with an obstinate and unyielding disposition, which made it impossible to reason with them with any hope of success. In the other place he is opposing a certain Archigenes who had maintained, that there are eight variations of the pulse, and says, that he ought to support his views, if not by actual demonstration, yet by appropriate argument, unless a person, as if he belonged to the school of Moses or Christ, (ως εἰς Μούσου και Χρίστου διατριβὴν ἀφιγμενος) is willing to take assertions for proof (νομους ἀναποδεικτους).† He censures therefore equally Christians and Jews as men, who give a blind assent to dogmas, which have never been proved and which are sustained by no evidence.
In a similar manner the Christians are mentioned by Marcus Antoninus, in his Meditations. In that celebrated passage in which their name occurs, the imperial philosopher inquires, what it is, which should produce that state of the soul, as it is about to leave the body, by which, whether it survive the change, or perish, it may be rendered prompt and ready for the issue, which awaits it, and he answers the question by saying that this readiness, to έTоiμov rovтo, ought to spring from a proper conviction of the mind itself, όπο ιδικης κρίσεως, such as is characteristic of the truly wise man, μη κατα ψιλην καραταζιν, ὡς οὗ xoloviavo, not from mere obstinacy, such as is accustomed to produce its effect in the case of the Christians. And the same author adds further, that it becomes man to depart from life λελογισμένως, with consideration, και σεμνως, with dignity,
ὥστε και άλλον α, in such a way as to recommend by his example to others also the like firmness of mind, but azgayodos, not in the manner of actors, declaiming on the stage; which last words appear to refer to the Christians, who, as they were led to punishment, frequently either boasted of their hope and
* This passage is found in his book de Pulsuum Differentiis, L. III. c. 3. Tom. VIII. p. 68. ed. Chart. Tom. VIII. p. 651. ed. Lipsiensis, recently illustrated by Kuehnius, my colleague, a most accomplished master of Grecian literature.
† I. I. L. II. c. 4. Tom. VIII. p. 43. ed. Chart. Tom. VIII. p. 579. ed. Lips.
joy, or sung an hymn to Christ, or exhorted their brethren to constancy and contempt of death. Marcus Antoninus therefore considered the Christians, many of whom were persecuted in his own reign, as men, who in despising death, which some of them in their eagerness for martyrdom are said to have even sought, exhibited, not wisdom, but stubbornness and obstinacy, and who departed from life, as if from a stage, like actors rehearsing their parts. *
This is the only place, in which Marcus Antoninus has spoken of the Christians; nor can we adduce any thing further, which gives us more accurate information in regard to his opinions concerning them. For those two letters, which are attributed to him, one of which he is said to have addressed to the Roman senate, the other to the Common of Asia (το κοινον ̓Ασιας, sc. συνεdotov), i. e. to the common council of the Asiatic cities, we regard as spurious, and think, that they were forged by some Christians with the design of recommending to the emperor of their times a lenient policy towards themselves, from the example of those previous emperors, whom posterity most applauded. In regard to the former of these letters, in which Marcus communicates to the Roman Senate intelligence respecting a signal victory, which he had obtained over the Marcomanni near the river Granua, and which he ascribes to the prayers of the thundering legion, no defence can be attempted for a moment.† In support of the genuineness of the other, some things were formerly said and have of late been repeated, which are not altogether without plausibility. But still there are many difficulties, which forbid assent. For not to insist on the manifest inconsistency between the office of the emperor, who as Pontifex Maximus presided over the public institutions of religion and the remark at the commencement of the letter, that it belongs to the gods themselves to punish the despisers of their divinity, not to men, it is
This place is found in the Commentaries of Marcus Antoninus, L. XI. c. 3. The word nagaraşεws is derived from military operations, where line is opposed to line, soldier to soldier. If this be done rashly, it is mere obstinacy and stubbornness. In like manner the word лaqataσoɛodat is used L. VIII. c. 48.
By Kestner in the work, Die Agape oder der geheimne Weltbund der Christen, p. 399, sqq., against whom Eichstaedt in quarta Exercitationum Antoniniarum. Also separately published, and recently inserted in Vol. I. Annalium academiae Tienensis, has urged such arguments, that we feel fully confirmed in our opinion.
surely a circumstance, which must strike every critic as suspicious, that his epistle is mentioned neither by Athenagoras, who addressed his Пoεoßε to the same emperor, and omitted nothing, which could redound to his credit, or would be likely to conciliate his favor towards the Christians, nor by Melito even in that passage of his Apology presented to the same emperor in which he refers to the edict issued by Hadrian and Antoninus Pius in favor of the christian party. * It is not therefore without sufficient grounds for the rejection, that we have set aside the letters ascribed to Marcus Antoninus and have cited as the only pertinent passage in his works the one, which occurs in the Commentaries, of which the emperor himself is at once the author and the subject; in which the Christians indeed are mentioned, but in such a manner, that he seems to have done it from accident, rather than from design.
But with the exception of Galen and Marcus Antoninus himself, all those, who lived in the age of the Antonines, and made mention of the Christians at all, noticed them, not in a few words, but with particularity, and entered into controversy with them. For this reason they have been called, and with propriety too, the first opponents of the Christians; among whom we should mention Crescens, a Cynic, Fronto a very celebrated rhetorician and one of the teachers of Marcus Antoninus, Lucian of Samosata, and finally Celsus, a philosopher either of the Epicurean or Platonic school.
Crescens, who leads the way in the train of these writers, lived at Rome in the reign of Antoninus Pius, and there denounced the Christians in a public manner. He disputed with Justin, the Martyr so called, and in revenge for the censure, which the latter applied to the philosophers, carried his hostility to him so far, as to plot against his life. These facts are made known to us by Justin and his disciple Tatian, to whom Eusebius is indebted for all his statements, which relate to Crescens. Justin does not indeed state in express terms, that he wrote against the Christians; nor can we infer this from his saying, that he, δημοσια και προς χάριν και ήδονην των πολλων, publicly and for the purpose of gratifying the multitude and ob
* Eusebius has preserved a fragment of the Apology of Melito in Historia Eccles. L. IV. c. 26.
+ See Justini Apologia II. c. 3. p. 90 sq., Tatiani oratio adversus Graecos, c. 3. p. 260. ed. Benedict., et Eusebii hist. Eccles. L. IV. c. 16.