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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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Minucius Felix, Octavius


Svend Erik Mathiassen

1. Introduction to the apologetic dialogue “Octavius”

Octavius is the main character in a short Christian apologetic work in Latin by Minucius Felix. Hence the title. There are no other known works by this author.

1.1. What is known about Minucius Felix and the preservation of the “Octavius”

The existence of Minucius Felix as an author and his work were only known through some very brief references in a few church fathers, until 1560, when François Baudouin of France showed that Octavius had been mistakenly preserved as an eighth book appended to Adversus Nationes by Arnobius. Lactantius mentions Octavius twice in Divinae Institutiones. Once in 5.1,21ff., where he reservedly states that Minucius Felix could have been an excellent advocate for the truth, i.e. Christianity, if he had fully dedicated himself to the task. Jerome mentions Minucius Felix sporadically six times. One such case refers to a work titled De Fato, which was apparently preserved under Minucius Felix’ name. Jerome believed it was not by the same author as Octavius due to differences in style. Unlike Lactantius, Jerome is thoroughly positive about Octavius and it is through him we have references to other contemporary scholars who apparently knew Octavius quite well. Finally, Eucherius, Bishop of Lyon in the fifth century, mentions Minucius together with Firmianus, Cyprian and Ambrose, all famous for their oratory skills.

The prominent church father, Augustine, makes no mention of Octavius....

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