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In Defence of Christianity

Early Christian Apologists

Series:

Edited By Jakob Engberg, Anders-Christian Jacobsen and Jörg Ulrich

In Defence of Christianity examines the early Christian apologists in their context in thirteen articles divided in four parts. Part I provides an introduction to apology and apologetics in antiquity, an overview of the early Christian apologists, and an outline of their argumentation. The nine articles of Part II each cover one of the early apologists: Aristides, Justin, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, the author of the Letter to Diognetus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and Minucius Felix. Part III contextualises the apologists by providing an English translation of contemporary pagan criticism of Christianity and by discussing this critique. Part IV consists of a single article discussing how Eusebius depicted and used the apologists in his Ecclesiastical History.

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Part III: Contemporary Greco-Roman authors regarding Christians and Christianity

Extract

Condemnation, criticism and consternation Contemporary pagan1 authors‘ assessment of Christians and Christianity Jakob Engberg 1. Aim of the article and source material 1.1. Assessment by pagan authors of Christians – correlation with Christian apologetics? The apologetic works covered by this anthology provide direct access to how Christians in the second century and early third century wanted to present Christianity to the outside world. An analysis of the positions the apologists defend also provides indirect access to the prejudices of the outside world towards Christians and Christianity, and what criticisms were raised. Naturally there was not always consistency between how the apologists wanted to appear, and how the outside world actually perceived Chris- tians and Christianity – as the very fact that the apologists mount a defence against accusations demonstrates. Furthermore, it is uncertain whether the apologists‘ indirect testimony about the hostility towards Christianity from parts of the outside world provide an accurate picture of this hostility. It was common then (as now) to distort an opponent‘s points of view and mo- tives in order to more easily counter or impugn them. If we only had access to the apologetic works, we would not know whether the apologists had “invented” a given attack in order to make it easier to evangelise and spread their message. However, a number of statements about Christians and Christianity by Pagan authors who were contemporaries of the Christian apologists have survived. The purpose of this article is to present this material and discuss 1 “Pagan” is used...

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