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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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Niels Willert

1. Introduction

Tertullian (c. 160–220 AD) takes us to Carthage. In addition to Apologeticum he wrote many books which provide a vibrant picture of a variegated Christianity in the North African Church at the turn of the second century.1 There are 31 surviving works by Tertullian. They bear testimony to his dynamic and fiery commitment to defending the Christianity which he sees as not only the true Christianity, but also the true view of life, in contrast to the religiosity and philosophy of the Roman society of the day.2 In addition to defending Christianity and breaking with Greco-Roman religion, Tertullian polemicised against various forms of Christianity – in particular Gnosticism and Marcionism. Tertullian belonged to the catholic church, but it appears that early third century Montanist Christianity appealed to him. It is not known whether he actually left the catholic church to join this apocalyptic revival movement, but its uncompromising demand to observe Christianity‘s ethical norms, based on the expectation of Christ‘s imminent return, clearly made an impression on him.3

Not surprisingly, the influence of Montanism on Tertullian is reflected in his works, which can be divided into what he wrote before and after this influence was manifested. Yet one also needs to be aware that there is an internal consistency behind Tertullian‘s development which is clearly apparent in his apologetic works. Apologeticum, written early in his writing career around 197 AD, presents a defence of Christians...

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