Jerusalem to do with Athens, the Church with the Academy, the Christian
with the heretic? Our principles come from the Porch of Solomon, who had
himself taught the Lord is to be sought in simplicity of heart. I have no
use for a Stoic or a Platonic or a dialectic Christianity. After Jesus
Christ we have no need of speculation, after the Gospel no need of
--Tertullian, Prescription of Heretics
"I boast and strive with all my
strength to be found a Christian. Not because the teachings of Plato are
different from those of Christ, but because they are not totally
identical. The same applies to the Stoics, poets and historians. For each
man spoke well, in proportion to the share that he has of the seminal
Word, seeing what was related to it. Whatever things were rightly said by
any man, belong to us Christians. For those writers were able to see
reality darkly, though the seed of the Word implanted within them."
--Justin Martyr, Apology II
In the Patristic period of Christianity (2nd century
to 5th century), apologetics in defense of the Christian faith took on
different forms. Late first-century and early second-century apologetics
were more concerned with church discipline than learned defenses of the
faith. Apologetics proper became more common as
- New converts entered the Church who were trained
in the educational systems of the day.
- More sophisticated critiques came from the
- Learned Christians were called on to offer
defenses of Christians before the imperial courts.
- Christians felt the need to answer the charges of
their Jewish counterparts.
Apologetic works can be divided up into three
- Public Defenses: Works designed to clear
Christians from charges of wrong-doing, such as cannibalism, incest,
atheism, disturbing the peace, rebellion, and secret plots on
- Pagan Evangelisms: Works designed to win
the pagan over to the Christian faith.
- Jewish Evangelisms: Works designed to win
the Jew over to the Christian faith.
Quadratus addressed Emperor Hadrian
(AD125); fragment remaining mentions Jesus' resurrection and appearance
to many disciples, including some still alive.
Aristides, Apology addressed to
Emperor Hadrian (AD125) examines humanity as barbarians, Greeks,
Egyptians, Jews, and Christians. Christian lives outshine their
Justin Martyr, Apology I (AD 150),
addressed to Emperor Antoninus Pius, and Apology II (AD 155-160).
Each addresses the civil loyalty of Christians who keep the peace and
pray for the emperor. .Christianity is a philosophy that outstrips other
philosophies. Justin's Dialogue with Trypho the Jew is an
imaginary dialogue between the narrator and a Jew named Trypho over
various issues that divide Jews and Christians including the nature of
scripture and Jesus.
Tatian: (post-AD 170) publishes a bitter
attack on the pagan gods, while praising Christian food and modesty.
Athenagoras of Athens, Embassy for the
Christians (ca. last half 2nd century), addressed to both Emperors
Lucius Aurelius Commodus and Marcus Aurelius. Athenagoas asks them to
show toleration for other religions than the state one, and he denies
the charges of atheism often brought against Christians.
Marcus Minucius Felix, Octavius (ca.
end of 2nd century) . Felix creates a dialogue between a pagan, a
Christian, and the author in which he answers the charges that
Christianity is a secret society, that it undercuts the imperial faith,
and that it is morally degenerate.
Tertullian, Apology (ca. AD 197).
Tertullian uses Roman juridical insights to defend Christianity against
the typical charges of infanticide, promiscuity, and atheism. He attacks
the worship of pagan gods as idolatrous and shows that Christian prayers
for the emperor are good for the state as a whole.
Clement of Alexandria, Converter, Tutor,
& Carpets, his three volume work that defends Christianity as
true philosophy, Christ as a new Orpheus, and the faith as the
fulfillment of longings in pagan teaching and myth. Christ the Incarnate
Word is the answer to pagan wisdom.
Origen, Against Celsus (ca. AD
203-250) is Origen's reply to Celsus' AD 187 work, True Doctrine,
written against Christianity. Origen defends the scriptures as full of
great wisdom, presents Christ as the fulfiller of prophecies, and argues
that the Old Testament is older than the Greek writings.
Cyprian of Carthage, On the Vanity of
Idols (AD 247) argues that idols are not divine and that there is
only one true God.
In the 4th century, with the conversion of
Constantine and the eventual state-sponsorship of the faith, Christian
apologetics took on a more assured tone--both in the sense that paganism
was now waning in its power and force and in that the line of debate had
changed. The Christian faith was now accused by the remaining pagans of
causing the recent wars, famines, plagues, and general imperial weakening
Arnobius of Sicca, The Case Against the
Pagans (AD 297-303) argues against Plato's doctrine of the eternal
soul, insisting that eternal life is not a natural quality but one given
by God. He also tries to show that the real concerns of paganism are
answered in Christianity.
Lactantius, The Divine Institutes
(AD 304-314) dedicated to Emperor Constantine. Lactantius argues from
reason that God exists and that ethics are theological in nature.
Eusebius of Caesarea, better known for his ecclesial
history, was first an apologist. The Preparation of the Gospel
(AD 314) and The Proof of the Gospel (ca. AD 320) a two-part work
that addressed well-known pagan objections in a thorough fashion, as
well as set forth a systematic understanding of the Old and New
Julius Firmicus Maternus, The Error of
the Pagan Religions, addressed to the Emperors Constantius and
Constans (AD 346-350). This work argues for why pagan idolatry should be
John Chrysostom, Demonstration to Jews
and Greeks That Christ Is God (ca. AD 381-387). He argued that Jesus
had done what a human alone could not do and that this mission was that
of Jesus fulfilling the Messianic prophecies.
Prudentius, Contra Symmachum (AD
401-403) a polemical poem against polytheism.
Cyril of Alexandria, For the Holy
Religion of the Christians Against the Impious Julian (AD 435-440)
seeks to answer Julian the Apostate's claims but often distorts Julian
in the process.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus, The Cure of Pagan
Maladies refutes three important objections put forth by Hellenists
of the day. he stresses that 1) the Christian faith employs reason as
well as faith, not just the later; that 2) an elegant style does not
always contain truth; even a simple style can speak great wisdom; and
that 3) the relics of the martyrs are used by God to work miracles.