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In Defence of Christianity

Early Christian Apologists


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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Nils Arne Pedersen

1. Introduction. Eusebius’ information

Aristides’ apology (ἀπολογία) is often considered to be the oldest preserved Christian apology, and despite its poor literary qualities, this factor justifies careful treatment. It is interesting to note whether analysis of Aristides highlights certain aspects of that type of texts which have been called early Christian apologies.

To say that Aristides’ apology has been preserved is only partially true. The text has only been incompletely preserved in its original Greek language, there are several textual variants, and unfortunately it is unclear what the original text should be in several of the work’s most important passages. It is therefore necessary to explain the complicated problems relating to the text’s transmission to the reader before launching into discussion of its content.

Aristides’ apology was formerly only known through the works of Eusebius of Caesarea (approx. 260–341 AD) and authors who used Eusebius as a source. In the second part of his Chronicle, (Eus., chron.) which may have been written in the late third century,1 Eusebius recounts that Emperor Hadrian (117–138 AD) was in Athens, where Quadratus and the Christian philosopher Aristides of Athens presented him with apologetic writings. After the Emperor had also received questions about the Christians from Serenius Granianus, he issued a rescript favourable to the Christians to Minucius Fundanus, proconsul of Asia2. This is supposed to have happened in the year 2141 after Abraham, which corresponds to 125 AD3,...

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