SELECTIONS FROM EARLY WRITERS: ILLUSTRATIVE OF CHURCH HISTORY TO THE TIME OF CONSTANTINE by Henry Melvill Gwatkin, M.A., Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the University of Cambridge, Hon. D.D., Edinburgh. London, Macmillan & Co., Limited, New York: the Macmillan Company. First Edition, 1893 Reprinted with additions and corrections, 1897, 1902, 1905. Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram, 2013.
IT is hoped that the present volume will be found within its limits a fairly representative selection of original documents for the use of students. Attention has been directed, not only to the general course of events, but to the history of the New Testament Canon, and to the personal opinions of conspicuous writers. It has been thought best to give a translation for the benefit of such as are but mean scholars, and in this second edition a few introductory notes are given.
My best thanks are due to the Trustees of the Lightfoot Fund, to Mr. Parker, of Oxford, and to Messrs. T. and T. Clark, of Edinburgh, for the use of translations mentioned below also to Dr. Zahn, of Erlangen, for the Latin text of the Canon Muratoriatms, and to Professor (now Canon) Robinson for the Greek text of certain passages , for certain translations, and for much help in many directions.
CORNELIUS TACITUS (b. cir. 54) reached the consulship 97, wrote his Annales cir. 115, and died a few years later.
Extract I gives a heathen view of the Neronian persecution. The standpoint is that of a Roman aristocrat, to whom the Christians are detestable enough, but who is too intent on blackening Nero to go far out of his way for them.
Clement of Rome may have been a freedman of the T. Flavius Clemens consul 95, and put to death by his cousin Domitian. He wrote the letter of the Church of Rome to the Church of Corinth (95 or 96). His so-called Second Epistle is a sermon preached perhaps at Corinth about half a century later.
Extract II is the opening of the letter, with its picture of the Corinthian Church in its past prosperity. In Extract III is a Christian view of the Neronian persecution, and it records the execution of the two great apostles. Extract IV recites that the apostles made arrangements for the orderly government of the Churches, so that the Corinthians have done wrong in turning blameless presbyters out of office.
Cassius Dio Cocceianus (b. 155: governed several provinces: second consulship 229) wrote a history of Rome to his own time in eighty books, of which the last twenty or so are preserved chiefly in the Epitome of Joannes Xiphilinus, a Byzantine writer of the eleventh century.
Extract IVa is our fullest account of Domitian's persecution. It is certain from the evidence of the catacombs that Domitilla was a Christian : and there cannot be very much doubt of the consuls Glabrio and Clement (91 and 95).
Ignatius of Antioch was given to the beasts by Trajan (98-117), but we cannot fix the date more nearly. The seven letters which seem proved genuine were written from Smyrna and Troas on his way to the amphitheatre at Rome.
Extracts V and VI represent two of his most prominent topics. In Extract V we see the stress he lays on the bishop's office, in Extract VI his earnest assertion of the reality of our Lord's humanity. It also glances at a third – his overwrought desire for martyrdom.
The Letter to Diognetus is by an unknown writer, perhaps 130-150. It is the most striking of Christian pamphlets before the de Incarnations of Athanasius ; and its powerful language is a strong contrast to the plainer style of Aristides and Justin.
Extract VII begins with his famous picture of Christian life, then points to its contrast with heathenism, and ends with a difficult passage where that contrast is appealed to in proof of Christianity.
The Didaché or Teaching of the Apostles (published in 1883 by Bishop Bryennius) is also the work of an unknown writer. Its date is uncertain; possibly even in the first century: its place also; possibly the mountains of Peraea. It represents a very early stage of Church government, before the rise of (monarchical) episcopacy.
Extract VIII gives an account of Baptism (earliest mention of affusion: peculiar form of the Lord's Prayer) and of the Lord's Supper (still in the evening). Then come stringent regulations for apostles and prophets (not to stay too long, or to ask for money, or to eat of a special agapé: yet not to be tried presumptuously) and for travelling Christians. A prophet desiring to settle down is worthy of his meat. Then directions for Sunday worship (confession before Lord's Supper), and finally instructions to appoint worthy men as bishops and deacons.
C. Plinius Caecilius Secundus (62-113) reached the consulship 100, and in the year in was sent by Trajan on a special mission to set in order the cities of Bithynia.
Extract IX shows his hesitation in dealing with the Christians. Obstinate offenders, of course, he puts to death: but what was to be done with those who renounced their offence, or had long ago given it up? Was it good policy to use indiscriminate severity? Trajan answers that convicted offenders must be punished, though they are not to be searched for, and that all suspected persons who renounce Christianity are to be set free.
Papias, bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia (cir. 130), is chiefly known to us from the chapter of Eusebius here given. It will be noted that Eusebius dislikes him for his Millenarianism, and probably does him less than justice.
Extract XIII begins with a statement of Irenaeus, that Papias was a disciple of St. John. Against this Eusebius quotes Papias' preface, in which he seems to distinguish his own informant, the elder John, from the Evangelist. After mentioning sundry marvellous stories, he gives the words of Papias about our two first Gospels. It will be noted (interpreted, not interprets) that the Hebrew Matthew was out of use in his time. Last of all comes the story of the woman taken in adultery, which may (Ewald) have been the tradition told by Papias in illustration of John viii. 15.
Quadratus was one of the earliest Apologists, if he addressed his work to the Emperor Hadrian (117-138), as Eusebius states.
Extract XIV is the only fragment of it which remains. He seems to be contrasting the lasting results of our Lord's miracles with the passing effects produced by the magicians.
Aristides, the philosopher of Athens, is also said by Eusebius to have presented his Apology to Hadrian. The work was lost: but when a Syriac translation was discovered (disc, and ed. by Mr.Rendel Harris, 1891), its inscription pointed to Antoninus Pius (138-161). The Greek in an adapted form was recognized by Professor Robinson in the Life of Barlaam and Joasaph, which (as originally pointed out by Prof. Max Miiller) is itself a Christian adaptation of a Buddhist romance. Found in the works of John of Damascus (cir. 730).
Extract XIVa is a simple account of Christian life, which should be compared with that of the writer to Diognetus.
Justin, the philosopher and martyr (b. cir. 100 at Flavia Neapolis, the ancient Shechem), owed his conversion to an old man he met on the seashore, perhaps at Ephesus. He continued to wear the philosopher's cloak, and taught as a philosopher at Rome, where he was put to death (163-167). The date of his First Apology is a difficult question; but the doubt seems to lie between 138 and cir. 150. Of his Dialogue with Trypho, all that can be said is that it was written later.
Extracts XV-XVII are from the First Apology. In Extracts XV and XVI we see his view of heathenism, that though its errors and persecutions are the work of demons, Christ the Reason is still the teacher even of heathens, as many as were willing to live with reason, like Socrates and others. They should be compared with Clement (Extract XXX) and contrasted with Tertullian (Extract XXXIX). The interest of Extract XVII is in the full account given of Baptism, of the Lord's Supper, and of the Sunday morning service as it was held at Rome in his time. The allusion to Gospels will be noted ; also the parallel with the Didaché (Extract VIII).
Extracts XVIII and XIX, from the Dialogue with Trypho, are discussions of some of the chief Messianic prophecies which used to be quoted against the Jews.
Extract XIX a contains a fragment of Hegesippus, which has an important bearing on the early history of the Roman church (especially if διαδοχὴν be read) and on the general agreement of churches in his time.
Dionysius was bishop of Corinth about 170. Eusebius gives us a general account of his numerous letters, and quotes the two passages here selected.
Extract XX is from his answer to Soter, bishop of Rome, and gives an interesting testimony to the early influence of the Church (not the bishop) of Rome, to the liturgical use of the Epistle of Clement, and to the corruption by some of Scriptures which Dionysius plainly counts canonical. Extract X may be from the same letter, and is the earliest direct assertion of Peter's visit to Rome. That of Caius, just before it, seems to be rather later.
Extract XXa, where Tatian explains his conversion, 'sums up in a nut-shell the whole case of the Apologists' (Harnack).
The Letter of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne gives an account of the persecution in Gaul in the days of Marcus Aurelius (177). Its simple words are best left to speak for themselves.
Attention may be called to a few points, (i) Intercourse between the Rhone district and the East: frequency of Greek names. (2) Persecution partly from the mob, partly official, and includes the searching forbidden (Extract IX) by Trajan. (3) Blandina, a slave-girl – one of Clement's παιδίσκαι (Extract III).
Extract XXI a is the official narrative of the trial of certain Christians from Scili in Africa before the proconsul Vigellius Saturninus. The date is 180 ('Coss. Praesente et Claudiano'). Note the proconsul's gentleness, and the defiant tone of Speratus. The question about the books may hint the possibility of a charge of magic; but the answer cannot be taken to mean (Harnack) that St. Paul's Epistles were not yet fully canonical.
The Fragment on the Canon published by Muratori in 1740 is commonly ascribed to a younger contemporary of Pius of Rome, so that its date will be cir. 170. It was written in Greek, and at Rome, and may be as late as 200 or even later.
It is given complete in Extract XXII, so that its fragmentary character will easily be seen, especially near the end.
Irenaeus (b. in Asia 120-130) was a disciple of Polycarp and of others who had seen St. John. He settled for some time in Rome, and finally succeeded Pothinus as bishop of Lyons in 177. His great work against the Gnostics was written in the next decade. The original is in great part lost; but we have it complete in an old Latin translation.
Extract XIXb (chiefly from Irenaeus) gives his account of the Encratites, and of Tatian in particular. Extract XXIII sums up his account of the origin of the Gospels, and gives his view of the Apocalypse (Domitianic date) and of some uncanonical books. Extract XXV is a fragment of a letter to his old friend Florinus, who had taken up Gnostic opinions, and in it he tells us of his teacher Polycarp. Extract XXVII is his account of Marcion : the Greek is partly preserved by Eusebius, H.E.iv. 11. Extract XXVIII gives his argument from Tradition, which must be carefully distinguished from Tertullian's. It speaks also of the pre-eminence of the Roman Church, (c) and of its orthodoxy kept pure by constant streams of visitors (see Extract XX); and gives a further account of Polycarp. Extract XXIX is a tradition ' of the Elders,' which probably comes from the Commentary of Papias.
Polycrates of Ephesus is hardly known to us except from this Extract XXVI, which is his answer to Victor of Rome cir. 196. He defends his Quartodeciman Easter by the example of St. John, and of the apostle Philip (compare Extract XIII).
Titus Flavius Clemens (b. cir. 150) studied philosophy under sundry teachers before he came to rest in Christianity. He succeeded Pantaenus as head of the catechetical school at Alexandria, but left the city (dr. 202) during the persecution of Severus. We find him some years later in Cilicia or Cappadocia; and he seems to have been dead cir. 216.
Extract XXX gives his view of the double preparation of the world for Christ – the Jews by the law, the Gentiles by philosophy. Extracts XXXI and XXXII show his relation to the Gnostics, and his conception of the ideal Christian character. Extract XXXIII opens out the whole question of the mode of interpreting Scripture, which the school of Alexandria did so much to clear up.
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus (b. cir. 155 at Carthage) was the son of a centurion, and practised as a lawyer. He was converted to Christianity before 197, and became presbyter at Carthage. Between 202 and 207 he joined the Montanists, and died as one of them cir. 225.
Extracts XXXIV-XXXVIII are taken from his Apology. Extract XXXIV is a review of the persecutions, coloured by Christian unwillingness to believe that good emperors really did persecute. Extract XXXV is the rough sketch of his treatise de Testimonio animae naturaliter Christianae – the proof of Christianity from its correspondence with the nature of man. In Extract XXXVI (compare Extract XXXVIII) the empire is presented as the restraining power which delays the end of the world. Extract XXXVII is his famous boast of the numbers of the Christians; which, however, he gives not as a proof of Christianity ; only as a reason for toleration. Extract XXXVIII is a general account of the Christian assemblies like Justin's (Extract XVII), but specially contrasts them with the disorderly heathen clubs. Extract XXXVIII a shows us the development of the ceremonial of Baptism since Justin's time ; the Lord's Supper (now in the morning and called sacramentum) upon occasion including a commemoration of the dead, and of martyrs on the day of their passion ('birth'). Prayer standing on Sundays and after Easter (as Canon 20 of Nicaea, Extract LXXIV). Care of common food, and of the elements, and constant sign of the cross.
The next three Extracts (XXXIX-XLI) are from his 'most plausible and most mischievous book' (Hort) de Praescriptionibus. Extract XXXIX is to show that heretics deal with philosophical questions and borrow the answers of the philosophers. In Extract XL we have his argument from Tradition. As we cannot confute heretics by Scripture, we refuse to meet them on that ground, and simply answer that Churches once founded by the apostles must necessarily be still the possessors of the truth – an argument as good for Leo XIII as it ever was for Pope Victor. Extract XLI is a satirical account of the disorderly worship of heretics, probably Marcionites.
Extract XLII comments on the 'edict' (as if he were a magistrate) of Callistus (note ironical titles) which offered pardon (on penance) to some gross offenders, and (according to Montanists) made the Church a partaker of their sin. Extract XLIII is a vivid picture of the difficulties of Christian life in heathen society. Extract XLIV is another Montanist complaint, that Praxeas was not only unsound in the faith, but had persuaded the bishop of Rome (Victor or Zephyrinus) to revoke his sanction of Montanist prophecy. In Extract XLV Tertullian gives his objections to infant Baptism – prudential objections, for he has no idea of any apostolic command on the other side.
Hippolytus was a disciple of Irenaeus, and a bishop – of what city, Eusebius did not know. According to some, he was bishop of Portus or of the foreigners in Portus; but more likely he claimed to be bishop of Rome in opposition to Callistus. In 235 he was exiled to Sardinia, and seems to have died there. Book I of his great work Against all Heresies was ascribed to Origen, till the discovery in 1842 of Books IV-X in a MS. on Mount Athos.
Extract XXIV gives his account of the Montanists and their prophetesses. Extract XLVI is a difficult passage, but its chief burden is the change made by Callistus in Church law, by recognizing unequal marriages which the State did not.
Origenes Adamantius (b. 185 or 186) was the son of Christian parents at Alexandria. His father Leonides was put to death in the persecution of Severus (202), and Origen soon afterwards (aged 18) succeeded Clement as head of the catechetical school. There he laboured with splendid success for nearly thirty years, till his ordination (231) in Palestine (with other causes) gave offence to Demetrius of Alexandria. Origen betook himself to Caesarea, and laboured there. He was tortured in the Decian persecution, and died of the effects cir. 254.
Extract XLVII (from Eusebius) shows Origen's wide conception of a liberal education. Extract XLVIII gives some idea of his principle of interpretation, that every passage of Scripture has a spiritual meaning, commonly more important than the literal; and in Extract LIII we have the answer of Porphyry from the heathen side, that allegorical interpretations are a mere subterfuge. Extracts XLIX-LI are taken from Origen's answer to Celsus. In Extract XLIX the heathen replies to our Lord's miracles, that they were done by magic ; and indeed the mediums and spiritualists of this time were as skilful as our own. In Extract L Celsus disputes the evidence of our Lord's resurrection quite in the style of Renan or Supernatural Religion. In Extract LI comes Origen's answer to the charge that the Gospel is only meant for fools. Extracts LIa and LIb are intended to show the modern character of Origen's opinions on the inspiration and interpretation of Scripture. Extract LII is given as a sample of Origen's width of view and tendency to Universalism. In Extract LIV we have his conclusions on the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Extract LIV a is one of the certificates given to Christians who sacrificed in the Decian persecution. It shows how systematic the procedure was.
Dionysius of Alexandria was a disciple of Origen. He succeeded Heracles in 232 as head of the catechetical school, and again (247-8) as bishop. He went into hiding, like Cyprian, in the persecution of Decius (249-251), but in that of Valerian (257) escaped with exile. He returned (260) under Gallienus, and died in 265. We have only fragments of his works, mostly preserved by Eusebius.
Extract LV is intended to give a general view of the controversy with Novatian. In Extract LXIII his discussion of the authorship of the Apocalypse is a piece of criticism unsurpassed in ancient times.
Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus, b. cir. 200; teacher of rhetoric in Carthage; converted by presbyter Caecilius; very soon bishop of Carthage (cir. 248); went into hiding during the Decian persecution (249-251); executed in that of Valerian (258).
Extract LVI states Cyprian's theory of the Church, and his doctrine that there is no salvation outside it. Extract LVII gives his position against Novatus and against the confessors who misused their power of intercession for offenders. Extract LVIII shows the method of appointing bishops, and glances at his parallel of the Christian ministry with the Jewish priesthood. In Extracts LIX and LX we have his position against Stephen of Rome, that heretical or schismatical Baptism is worthless. Extract LXI is from Firmilian of Cappadocia, writing to Cyprian against Stephen. He makes short work of Roman claims. Note one of the first references to 2 Peter. Extract LXI I is Cyprian's report of Valerian's Edict. It should be compared with Diocletian's in Extract LXVI.
Arnobius was a teacher of rhetoric at Sicca in Africa, and a recent convert when he wrote his Adversus Nationes, apparently during the persecution of Diocletian, which began in 303.
Extract LXVII is from his discussion of our Lord's miracles, and may be taken as a reply to the argument of Celsus (Extract XLIX) that they were works of magic.
L. Caelius Firmianus Lactantius (b. cir. 260 in Africa) was a disciple of Arnobius, and became Professor of Rhetoric at Nicomedia cir. 290, but had to lay down his office when the persecution broke out. He is said to have settled afterwards in Gaul, and become tutor to Constantine's son Crispus.
Extract LXVIII is from his chief work, the Divinae Institutiones, and gives his criticism of his predecessors, Minucius Felix, Tertullian, and Cyprian. The other extracts are taken from his bitter pamphlet de Mortibus Perseculorum. Extract LXIX is a hostile and unfair account of Diocletian's government. Extract LXX is the first edict of grudging toleration, issued by Galerius from his deathbed in the spring of 311, while Extract LXXI is part of the more liberal Edict of Milan, issued by Constantino and Licinius about November, 312.
Eusebius (b. cir. 265) was presbyter and (from soon after 313) bishop of Caesarea in Palestine. The most learned man of his time. His Ecclesiastical History contains carefully selected quotations from some fifty different authors. At Nicene Council 325 ; wrote his Life of Constantine after the emperor's death in 337, and himself died 339.
We have taken about twenty extracts from Eusebius, and discussed many of them already. There remain : –
Extracts XI and XII together give us a fair view of the Canon of the New Testament as acknowledged by Eusebius. He recognizes certain doubts about five Catholic Epistles, and himself leans against the Apocalypse : otherwise it is the same as our own. In Extract XI it must be noted that Eusebius does not undertake to tell us of writers who used undisputed books. In Extract XII the word spurious refers not so much to the question of authorship as to that of canonicity.
Extract LXIV is the rescript of Gallienus (260-268) extending to Egypt the toleration he had already established in quieter parts of the empire. In Extract LXV is the first application to an emperor to settle a Church dispute – Aurelian's test of orthodoxy is communion with the bishops of Italy and Rome. Extract LXVI gives the first three edicts of Diocletian. New lines of policy in the demolition of the Churches and the burnings of the Scriptures : special measures against the clergy since Maximin (235-238). Extract LXXII is the famous story of Constantine's cross, as told to Eusebius by the emperor himself. The event took place as he was marching against Maxentius in 312. Extract LXXIII is the letter of Eusebius to his people at Caesarea, in which he relates the proceedings of the Nicene Council, and tells them how he overcame his objections to the Creed. The heterodox passage in brackets is omitted by Socrates.
Extract LXXIV consists of Canons selected from those of –
(1) Elvira. Date 306? These Canons are Spanish, and do not necessarily represent other parts of Christendom. Can. 6 is ambiguous in Latin as in the English ; but usage settles that ut introduces the command, not the error. Contrast Laod. 29. Can. 33 is the first prohibition of marriage to the clergy : at Nicaea a similar proposal was rejected. Can. 36 is the first trace of picture-worship among Christians, and Can. 49 forbids a strange superstition of calling Jews as well as clergy to bless the crops. Can. 60 refuses the rank of martyrs to lawless destroyers of ido!s. The Spanish martyrs seem to have tended to fanaticism of that sort.
(2) Nicaea. Date 325. Can. 6 (prefaced by a notorious Roman forgery) settles the affairs of Egypt. Can. 19 orders the rebaptism of the followers of Paul of Samosata : which the Church of Rome construed as implying that ordinary heretics were not to be baptized. Can. 3 deals with a gross scandal of the time (the subintroductae). The interest of Can. 17 and Can. 20 is their difference from modern ideas. Can. 17 forbids the clergy to lend at interest, and Can. 20 forbids the faithful to kneel in prayer on Sundays or between Easter and Pentecost.
(3) Laodicea. Date 325-381. Can. 11 raises the questions, who these πρεσβύτιδες are, and whether their appointment or only their ordination is forbidden. Can. 13 along with Extract LVIII indicates the narrowing of the old election of bishops by their churches. Can. 28 marks the decay of the agape. Can. 29 notes the duty (and the occasional impossibility) of ceasing work on Sundays.
Extract LXXV (untranslated) consists of fragments bearing on the religion of Rome. Its fundamental law is given from the Twelve Tables, and its unspiritual character comes out in
the extract from Cicero. The policy of the Empire is given on its conservative side by the advice of Maecenas to Augustus, and on its constructive side by the inscription referring to the official worship of Rome and Augustus at Lyons: and the second inscription mentions some of the Eastern worships which overspread the Empire.