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In Defence of Christianity

Early Christian Apologists


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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The defenders of Christianity in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius


Marie Verdoner

1. Introduction

This article will discuss how the early apologists were perceived, presented and used in Eusebius of Caesarea‘s Ecclesiastical History (historia ecclesiastica, h.e.). Eusebius has been called the first church historian or the ‘father of church history’,1 and his work still stands as one of the primary sources for early church history, including the early apologists. Due to its status as a primary source, the Ecclesiastical History has come to serve as a kind of prism through which early church history has been read and understood. History writing processes the past and gives it a form and structure that makes it recognizable to the reader. The historian draws out elements and establishes patterns which delimit and subdivide the stream of past occurrences, allowing them to appear as parts of a relatively closed sequence of events. History writing thereby helps to relate the past to the present, and the patterns it helps establish can become part of a collective consciousness of the past. History writing thus also influences the future, as consciousness of who ‘we’ were and are also influences the direction ‘we’ wish to take. Seen in this light, Eusebius‘ Ecclesiastical History has not only provided specific information about early Christianity, but has also fundamentally influenced the way the period covered by the work has been perceived. It can even be said to have influenced the way the church as a historical phenomenon has been understood.

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