THE STREAM OF CHRISTIAN TRADITION
JUSTIN MARTYR.—Indications of Tertullian’s knowledge of his writings— Reflections of thought—Theology—Attitude towards Philosophy— Its basis in the teaching of prophets—Logos-teaching—The Holy Spirit— Free will—Atonement—Description of Christian assemblies—Baptism— The Eucharist—Eschatology.
ATHENAGORAS.—Indications of Tertullian’s knowledge of his writings— His theology—Attitude towards philosophy—Christian belief founded upon revelation—Foreshadowing of the Trinity—The Logos doctrine— The Holy Spirit—The resurrection.
TATIAN.—Indications of Tertullian’s knowledge of his writings-His theological teaching—Attitude towards philosophy—Christianity is revealed truth—Doctrine of God—The Logos—Creation of the world out of nothing—Nature of man is threefold.
MINUCIUS FELIX.—Dispute as to the priority of Tertullian or Minucius— Resemblances to the Octavius in Tertullian’s writings—Attitude towards philosophy—The theology of Minucius.
IRENAEUS.—Indications of dependence in Tertullian—Difference in point of view from the apologists—The theology of Irenaeus—His doctrine of God—The Logos—The Spirit—The Incarnation—The nature of man, body and soul—The resurrection—The judgement—The reign of the saints on earth.
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA—The dependence of Tertullian confined to minor matters—Indications of his acquaintance with the writings of Clement.
WITH the stream of Christian tradition as it flowed through the apologists, Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Melito, Tatian, Irenaeus, and Minucius Felix, Tertullian was evidently acquainted. Even his earlier writings, e.g. the Apologeticus, show that he had read the writings of the earlier apologists. He himself tells us that he used the writings of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Miltiades. ‘Nor shall we hear it said of us from |p45 any quarter that we have of our own mind fashioned our own materials, since these have been already produced, both in respect of the opinions and their refutations, in carefully written volumes, by so many eminently holy and excellent men . . . for instance, Justin, philosopher and martyr, Miltiades, the sophist of the churches, Irenaeus, that very exact inquirer into all doctrines; our own Proculus, the model of chaste old age and Christian eloquence. All these it would be my desire closely to follow in every work of faith, even as in this particular one’ (Adv. Valent., c. 5).His writings show us that he also knew Athenagoras and Melito, Tatian and Minucius Felix, and Clement of Alexandria.
JUSTIN MARTYR, a seeker after truth and God, failed to obtain satisfaction in the teachings of the Stoics, the Pythagoreans, and the Platonists (cf. Dialogue with Trypho), embraced Christianity, and became the first of the Christian philosophers. His apology for the Christians, addressed to the Roman Emperors, is courteous, while it is yet far from being servile. It addresses the Emperors as those who are said to be pious and philosophers, guardians of justice, and lovers of learning, but it also adds: ‘If ye are indeed such, it will be manifested’ (I. Apol., c. 2).
Tertullian tells us that he is depending upon Justin and others in his task of refuting the Valentinians,1 and Justin informs us that he had composed a treatise against all the heresies.2 As this treatise is not extant it is not possible to estimate the indebtedness of Tertullian to Justin in dealing with Valentinianism. There are many points of similarity between the apologies of the two, so that Harnack affirms that Justin is Tertullian’s chief master in the realm of apologetics, but some of the points of similarity are common to most of the apologists. The following, however, seem to be definite references to Justin’s writings: ‘When you install in your Parthenon Simon Magus, giving him a statue with the title Holy God’ (Tert., Apol., c. 13). ‘He (Simon) was considered a god, and as a god was honoured by you with a statue, which statue was erected on the river Tiber between the two bridges, and bore the inscription in the language of Rome, “Simoni, Deo Sancto”’ (Justin, I. Apol., c. 26). The Roman standards are symbols of the Cross (Tert., Apol., c. 16; Justin, I. Apol., c. 55). The |p46 Magi are the ‘Spoils of Samaria’ (Tert., Adv. Jud., c. 9 Justin, Dial. c. Trypho, c. 78). Compare also the fanciful allusions to the form of the Cross, adduced by both Justin and Tertullian as evidence of the prediction of Christ’s death in the Old Testament; and the connexion of Isa. viii. 14 and vii. 4. The explanation follows the same lines in both. The great merit of Justin is that he was the first to attempt a systematic presentation of Christian thought. His attitude towards Greek philosophy is something new in Christian circles. For Socrates and Plato he has the greatest admiration All those who lived reasonably (meta_ lo&gou) before the coming of Christ were Christians (I. Apol., C. 46). He compares Christ with Socrates, but, as Harnack indicates, there is a great difference. ‘In virtue of reason Socrates exposed superstition, in virtue of the same reason this was done by the teacher whom the Christians follow. But this teacher was reason itself; it was visible in Him, and, indeed, appeared bodily in him’ (Harnack, Hist. Dogma, vol. 2, p. 181) Christ was the incarnate reason of God.
The basis of such a doctrine is to be found in the writing of the Christians. These writings show that the appearance of Christ was foretold in prophecy. Writings which are older than anything the Greeks possess are the source of the belief of Christians concerning their Leader. These predicted the coming of Christ, the place and the manner of His birth (I. Apol., C. 32—35), and even the crucifixion (ibid., c. 41). Such prediction was not human, but divine. It was the ‘Spirit of prophecy’ or ‘the Divine Word’ that spoke. ‘But when you hear the utterances of the prophets spoken, as it were, person ally, you must not suppose that they are spoken by the inspired themselves, but by the Divine Word who moves them (I. Apol., c. 36).
It is necessary, accordingly, that what is communicated by the prophets and by Christ must be accepted. The relation of the question of interpretation to such a position did not arise. Nor did Justin consider the relation of Scripture teaching to other grounds of authority, such as reason custom tradition, the Church. Reason and Christ were synonymous, and the teachings of Christianity were therefore the perfect truth.
The Logos doctrine of Justin is a noble attempt to set forth the cosmological significance of the Person of Christ. He |p47 assumes that the God who appeared to Moses, and Abraham, and Jacob, is distinct from God the Father, and this distinction is supported by reference to Proverbs viii. 21 if. Here, from the Scriptures, Justin proves that ‘God begat before all creatures a Beginning, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the glory of the Lord, now the Son, again wisdom, again an angel, then God, and the Lord and Logos’ (Dial. c. Trypho). This may be understood by a human analogy, ‘for when we give out some word we beget the word, yet not by abscission, so as to lessen the word which remains in us when we give it out’ (ibid.). Similarly, ‘when fire is kindled from fire, that from which it is kindled is not diminished’ (ibid.). ‘When God said, “Let us make,” He conversed with some one who was numerically distinct from Himself, and also a rational being’ (ibid., c. 62).
But there is another aspect of the Logos teaching of Justin that is very important. Christ is the first-born of God, and is the Logos of whom all races have in a measure partaken (I. Apol., c. 46). He was the spermatic Word who was disseminated among men (II. Apol., C. 13). All who lived comformably to reason (meta_ lo&gou) were therefore Christians before Christ.
As to the humanity of Christ, the teaching of Justin is not developed. He speaks of Christ as having been born, and as having grown up to manhood (Dial. c. Trypho, C. 102), and his language is that of one who believed in the real humanity of Christ without having ever treated the subject at any length. He does, it is true, speak of Christ as consisting of sw~ma, lo&goj, and yuxhh&, and the suggestion has been made that he regarded the Logos as taking the place of pneu~ma. But there is no evidence to enable us to decide whether Justin accepted the twofold (body and soul), or threefold (body, soul, and spirit) division of man’s nature, and, unless he accepted the latter, the difficulty does not arise. The most reasonable position to take up is that, since he nowhere indicates that he questioned the true humanity of Christ, he probably accepted the twofold division of human, nature into body and soul.
On the Holy Spirit the teaching of Justin is meagre and undeveloped. He says that ‘we reasonably worship Christ, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit |p48 in the third’ (I. Apol., c. 13; cf. c. 6o. An ambiguous passage in I. Apol., c. 6, makes the same distinction, and seems to rank the ‘prophetic spirit’ with the angels).
The free will of man, as opposed to fate, was vigorously asserted by Justin. He does not enter into the of motive, or of habit and character, as determining or influencing the will. It is sufficient to assert the free, untrammelled choice of good or evil. ‘If it has been fixed by fate that one man shall be good and another bad, the one is not acceptable, the other is not blameworthy. And, again, if the human race has not power, by a free moral choice, to flee from the evil and to choose the good, it is not responsible for any results, whatever they may be’ (I. Apol., C. 43).
Justin has not given any systematic teaching on the atonement, but there are indications that certain points of view had been considered by him. The view that the work of Christ was that of a teacher is strongly emphasized. He is the dida&skaloj, and He saves men by imparting the truth to them and delivering them from false gods; ‘becoming man according to His will, He taught us these things for the conversion and restoration of the human race’ (I. Apol., C. 23). ‘And His strong word has prevailed on many to forsake the demons whom they used to serve, and by means of it to believe in the Almighty God, because the gods of the nations are demons' (Dial. c. Trypho, c. 83).
But other views are indicated, too. The Logos did not become man simply to teach, but also to endure with men, and to cleanse those who believe on Him. The Lamb of the Passover, the fine flour, the bells on the priest’s robes, were figures respectively of Christ, the Eucharist, and the apostles. The lamb which was roasted was a figure of the suffering of the Cross which Christ was to undergo. That suffering ‘He endured on behalf of those who are purified in soul from all iniquity, in order that we may, at the same time, thank God for delivering us from the evil in which we were, and for uttering overthrowing principalities and powers, by Him who suffered according to His will’ (I. Apol., c. 41). ‘For the salvation of those who believe on Him, He endured both to be set at naught and to suffer, that, by dying and rising again, He might conquer death’ (I. Apol., c. 63).
In the same chapter he says that the sufferings of Christ |p49 were infficted upon Him by the ‘senseless Jews, who were instigated by the devils.’ But there is no doctrine of an alienated God, or of satisfaction to justice, or of a ransom to the devil, in the writings of Justin. The idea that Christ was cursed of God because He was hanged upon a tree is a product of the most irrational mind of the Jews. The truth is that ‘no curse lies upon the Christ of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a cross are saved’ (Dial. c. Trypho, c. 95; cf. Tertullian, Adv. Judaeos, c. 10).
Justin has no doctrine of the Church. He describes some of the customs of the Christians in their assemblies, but that is all. The Christians, be says, keep together, and the wealthy help the needy. They gather together to one place on the day called Sunday, the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, and the president gives verbal instruction and exhortation. All rise together and pray, bread and wine is brought, and, after the president has offered prayer, the elements are distributed and partaken of, and a portion is sent by the deacons to those who are absent. Sunday is the day of common assembly, because it is the first day on which God began the creation of the world, and on it Christ rose from the dead (I. Apol., c. 67).
Regarding baptism, Justin tells us both how it was celebrated and what was its significance (Apol., c. 61). The baptisands are instructed to pray and fast for the remission of the sins that are past, the Christians praying and fasting with them. They are then taken to a place where there is water, and are regenerated ‘in the same manner as we have been regenerated.’ They receive the washing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The significance of the ceremony was learnt from the apostles. It is to secure the remission of sins formerly committed. It is also called illumination, because it effects the enlightenment of the understanding of those who are washed.
THE EUCHARIST.—After baptism and the offering of prayer, the bread and wine mixed with water are brought to the president. He again offers prayers and thanksgivings, and the deacons give to those present bread, and wine mixed with water, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion (I. Apol., c. 65). But the bread and wine are not received as common bread and common drink, but ‘as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the word of God, had both |p50 flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and by which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh’ (I. Apol., C. 66).
ESCHATOL0GY.—Justin wrote a treatise on the resurrection parts only of which are extant.3 From these fragments we may gather that he believed in the resurrection of the flesh. The defects of the body in individuals will not recur in the resurrection body, which will be entire. Such a process as the resurrection of the flesh is not impossible, for the God who could create the body of man in the first instance can raise it again after death. The objection that the flesh cannot arise because it is sinful loses its force, inasmuch as it is the soul which is the predominant partner in sin. The resurrection of the body of Christ is an earnest of the resurrection of the bodies of Christians.
Justin’s teaching as to the second advent and the millennium is specific and definite. Jesus had said that He would appear again in Jerusalem, and would eat and drink with His disciples (Dial. c. Trypho, c. 51). He admits that there are some Christians who do not agree with him on this point (ibid., c. 8o), but seems to identify them with those who deny the resurrection. But he and others, ‘who are rightminded Christians,’ believe that there will be a resurrection of the dead and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be rebuilt, adorned, and enlarged. This standpoint he defends by reference to the prophecy of Isaiah and to the Apocalypse.
ATHENAGORAS was an apologist of far different temperament from that of Tertullian. He wrote a letter (Legatio pro Christiania) to the Emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus in defence of the Christians. It is couched in tame and flattering terms; it even goes so far as to describe the Emperors as ‘excelling all others in intelligence and in piety towards the true God’ (to_ o2ntwj qei~on). He also wrote a treatise on the resurrection (De Resurrectione). Despite the difference in temperament between the amiable Athenagoras and the vehement Tertullian, it is fairly certain that the latter was acquainted with the writings of the former. |p51
The refutation of the charge of atheism (Tertullian, Apologeticus, C. 24) reminds one strongly of Athenagoras’ Legatio, c. 4. Both Tertullian and Athenagoras remark that poets and philosophers are allowed freedom of inquiry concerning the gods (Athenagoras, Legatio, C. 5, 6; Tertullian, Apologeticus, c. 46). Both aver that the poets and philosophers have failed to apprehend the full truth because they have depended upon speculation rather than upon revelation (Athenagoras, Legatio, c. 7 ; Tertullian, Apologeticus, 49). It was Orpheus and Homer who gave both genealogies and names to the gods (Athenagoras, Legatio, c. 17; Tertullian, De Spect., 18, Ad Nationes, II. 7.) Both take the same view of the activities of demons and angels (Athenagoras, Legatio, cc. 26, 27; Tertullian, Apologeticus, .22). In both the freedom of men and angels is arbitrary choice (Athenagoras, Legatio, c. 24; Tertullian, Apologeticus, 22). There is a great similarity in their doctrine of God,4 in their treatment of mythology,5 and in their views of marriage and celibacy6 and their estimation of physical beauty.7
Athenagoras takes up a decidedly different position from that of Justin on the relation of Christianity to Greek philosophy. He claims for Christianity the same toleration as that accorded to the various philosophies (Legatio, c. 2). What the State punishes is practical atheism (Legatio, C. 4), and the teaching of Christianity is very far from being that. Furthermore, it is essentially reasonable, and Athenagoras does not hesitate to leave out anything that might be objectionable to the emperors in the doctrines of Christianity. The philosophers were not capable of knowing God because they depended upon themselves, whereas the truth was a revelation from God (Legatio, c. 7).
The Christians believe in one God. In this belief they have the support of philosophers (Legatio, c. 7), but these depend upon their own power to discover the truth, whereas the Christians have the assurance of the prophets, who were guided by the Spirit of God. Nevertheless, the doctrine thus given by the prophets can be substantiated by argument. The possibility of two Gods is unthinkable. There is no room for a ‘second God. The Christians, therefore, ‘acknowledge one God, uncreated, eternal, invisible, impassible |p52 incomprehensible, illimitable, who is apprehended by the understanding only and by the reason’ (Legatio, c. 10).
But there are also distinctions within the unity of God The Christians know ‘God and His Logos, what is the oneness of the Son with the Father, what the communion of the Father with the Son, what is the Spirit, what is the unity of these three, the Spirit, the Son, the Father, and their distinction in unity’ (Legatio, c. 12).
In setting forth his doctrine of the Logos, Athenagoras shows a greater appreciation of the eternal distinction between God and the Logos than Justin, and, indeed, than any of the apologists: ‘The Son of God is the Logos of the Father in idea and in operation, for after the pattern of Him, and by Him, were all things made. And the Son being in the Father, and the Father in the Son, in oneness and power of spirit, the understanding and reason (nou~j kai\ lo&goj) of the ‘Father is the Son of God’ (Legatio, c. 10). He also expressly guards against the thought that the Logos was generated simply with a view to the creation of the world. ‘ He is the first product of the Father, not as having been brought into existence (for, from the beginning, God, who is eternal mind— (nou~j)—had the Logos in Himself, being from eternity instinct with Logos—(logiko&j).’ The Holy Spirit, too, is eternally related to the Father: ‘The Holy Spirit Himself also, which operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him and returning back again like a beam of the sun’ (Legatio, c. 10; cf. c. 24).
The humanity of Christ, and anthropology, are subjects which Athenagoras does not discuss; nor does he give us any light upon the Church and the sacraments. But the resurrection is discussed fully in a separate treatise. It is not impossible, for He who could create men can also raise up the dead. The resurrection is bodily, but the body is reconstituted. It is in accordance with the original purpose manifested in the creation of men, which was, that of the goodness and wisdom of God he should realize his true happiness in viewing the grandeur and wisdom of God. Athenagoras draws an analogy between sleep and death. The necessity for judgement implies that the body shall be raised up, as well as the soul, else justice could not be maintained.
TATIAN.—Unlike Athenagoras, Tatian was a writer with |p53 whom Tertullian had much in common temperamentally, and there are clear indications that Tertullian knew Tatian’s writing, Ad Graecos. They are both inclined to laugh at the absurdities of their opponents’ opinions (Tatian, Ad Graecos, cc. 2, 32; Tertullian, De Anima, 32, Adv. Valent., 6). They refer to Heracitus in very similar terms (Tatian, Ad Graecos, c. 3 Tertullian, Ad Martyras, C. 4, De Anima, c. 2), to Busiris (Tatian, Ad Graecos, c. 3, Tertullian, De Pallio, c. 4), and to Anytus and Miletus (Tatian, Ad Graecos, c. 3; Tertullian, De Anima, c. 1). Both assert the priority of Moses to the Greek poets (Tatian, Ad Graecos, c. 21; Tertullian, Apologeticus, c. 22), and speak of the subject of fate and free will (Tatian, Ad Graecos, cc. 9, II; Tertullian, De Anima, 21, Adv. Marc., II. 5—7).8 Their anthropology is very similar (cf. Tatian, Ad Graecos, 12—15; Tertullian, De Anima, passim). Both hold that God is not the Author of evil things, but of good (Tatian, Ad Graecos, C. 17; Tertullian, De Spectaculis, c. 24). The perversion of the creation is due to demons (Tatian, Ad Graecos, C. 17; Tertullian, Apologeticus, c. 22). The description of the doctrines of Christianity as fables—like those of the Greeks (Tertullian, Apologeticus, c. 21)—is reminiscent of Tatian. (Ad Graecos, c. 21). A certain rationalistic temper and antipolitical tendency is characteristic of both. Tertullian’s Logos theory is evidently drawn from Tatian in some respects.9 Tatian, the pupil of Justin, goes beyond his master in depreciating the value of philosophy as compared with Christianity. He indulges in violent denunciation of all Greek philosophy, and considers it a virtue in Christianity that it emanates from the barbarians. He also takes up the position that Christianity is revelation, and as such is superior to philosophy. At the same time it does not bring anything that is new; it only restores what had been lost through the influence of the demons (Ad Graecos, c. 7). It is of ancient date (ibid, c. 31), more ancient than Homer, and it is so plain that every one can grasp it.
His doctrine of God is briefly and simply stated: ‘God is a Spirit, not pervading matter, but the Maker of material spirits and of the forms that are in matter. He is invisible |p54 and impalpable, being Himself the Father of both sensible and invisible things’ (Ad Graecos, c. 4). He is known by His Works in creation.
The Logos doctrine (Ad Graecos, c. 5) of Tatian is not so satisfactory as that of Athenagoras. He conceives of the Logos in relation to creation and in the work of revelation merely, and fails to perceive the eternal distinction in the Godhead. The Logos existed potentially in God, just as did other beings who have come into actual existence, but there is no hypostatic distinction between God and the Logos, and the Logos has no personal pre-existence. This is the statement of Tatian: ‘God was in the beginning, but the beginning (h( a)rxh& ) we have been taught, is the power of the Logos. For the Lord of the universe, who is Himself the necessary ground (u(po&stasij) of all being, inasmuch as no creature was yet in existence, was alone; but inasmuch as He was all power (du&namij),Himself the necessary ground of things visible and invisible, with Him were all things ; with Him, by Logos power (&&dia_ logikh~j duna&mewj),the Logos Himself also who was in Him subsists, and by His simple will the Logos springs forth; and the Logos, not Coming forth in vain, becomes the first-begotten work of the Father. Him (the Logos) we know to be the beginning of the world. But He came into being by participation, not by abscission; for what is cut off is separated from the original substance, but that which comes by participation, making its choice of function, does not render him deficient from whom it is taken. For, just as from one torch many fires are lighted, but the light of the first torch is not lessened by the kindling of many torches, so the Logos, coming forth from the Logos-power of the Father, has not divested of the Logos-power Him who begat Him. I myself, for instance, talk, and you hear; yet, certainly, I who converse do not become destitute of speech (lo&goj) by the transmission of speech, but by the utterance of my voice I endeavour to reduce to order the unarranged matter in your minds’ (Ad Graecos, c. 5).
Tatian definitely states that matter was created by God. ‘For matter is not, like God, without beginning, nor, as having no beginning, is of equal power with God; it is begotten, and not produced by any other being, but brought into existence by the Framer of all things alone’ (Ad Graecos, c. 6).
Of the humanity of Christ Tatian says nothing, but his |p55 anthropology is noteworthy, and forms a strong link of connexion with Tertullian. God created both angels and men with the power of choosing evil or good. Thus there is no fate, but the free play of will. Men were made in the likeness of God, but fell through the folly of worshipping the most subtle of the angels, and that subtlest of the angels became a demon, as did those who followed him (Ad Graecos, c. 7).
The nature of man, according to Tatian, is threefold—body, soul, and spirit. The soul is not immortal by nature, but may become so by knowing the truth (Ad Graecos, c. 13). If it knows not the truth, it dies, and is dissolved with the body, receiving death by punishment in immortality. The soul originates from beneath; the spirit from above. If the soul unites with the spirit (or the Spirit), it may ascend to the higher regions. This doctrine of Tatian is evidently derived from the Gnostics.
MINUCIUS FELIX.—Minucius Felix, so Jerome tells us (De Viris Illustribus), was an advocate at Rome prior to his conversion to Christianity, but little else is known concerning him. The date of the composition of his one known writing, Octavius, is disputed. Monceaux (Histoire littéraire de l’Afrique chrétienne, vol. I., p. 484), Massebieu (Revue de l’histoire des religions, 1887, vol. XV., No. 3), and Harnack (History of Dogma, vol. II., p. 196) hold that it was written later than Tertullian’s time, and that it borrowed from his writings. Adolf Ebert (Tertullian’s Verhaltnis zu Minucius Felix), on the contrary, argues that Tertullian is the later, and this is the view of Noeldechen. It is certainly difficult to believe that Minucius, with even the earliest works of Tertullian before him, could have formulated an argument in which so little of the dogmatic teaching of Tertullian (such as that of the Logos in Apologeticus, cc. 17—21) is recognized. That one of the two writers is dependent upon the other is obvious from the similarity in subject-matter, in manner of treatment, and even in style. There is, however, a great difference in their temperaments. Tertullian is hasty, intolerant, and narrow. Minucius Felix is large, tolerant, and generous in his outlook.
The writings of the two men may be compared in the following points. Both mention the national rights of worship, and the local gods recognized within the Roman Empire (Octavius,|p56 c 6 Tert., Apologeticus, C 24) Their description of the heathen view of the Christians is very similar. The latter despise the worship and neglect the temples of the Romans (Oct., c. 8; Tert., Apol., c. 10); they worship a crucified man (Oct c 9; Tert Apol c 16), they are said to worship an ass’s head (Oct., c. 9; Tert., Apol., c. 16); they hold impious feasts, slaughter children, and commit incest (Oct., c. 9 ; Apol., c. 8). The Christians teach that a final conflagration will overtake the world (Oct., c. 10; Tert., Apol., c. 32). The common expressions of the ‘people are ‘O God,’ ‘God is great, ‘God is good, and’ If God permit (Oct., c 18; Tert., Apol., c. 17). The poets and philosophers are treated in very similar fashion (Oct., c. 19, 22; Tert Apol., cc. 46, 47, 49). The gods are wiped, cleaned, and scraped and subjected to other indignities (Oct., c. 24; Tert., Apol., c. 13). The Roman Empire did not grow as a result of the favour of the gods, but for other reasons (Oct., c. 25; Tert., Apol., c. 25). The treatment of demons, and the defence of the Christians against their opponents, take a similar course in both writers (Oct., cc. 28—31 ; Tert., Apol., c. 22). Both retort the accusations levelled at the Christians upon their traducers (Oct., c. 31; Tert., Apol., c. 9). The public shows and the prevalence of idols referred to in Octavius, cc. 37, 38, are dealt with at greater length, but in similar strain, in Tertullian's De Spectaculis and De Idololatria.
With Minucius Felix we come to a change in attitude towards philosophy. There is a decided leaning towards Stoicism in him and in Tertullian. The sceptical attitude of the Academic philosophers is opposed—in Minucius Felix indirectly, in Tertullian openly. Caecilian, the opponent of Christianity in the Octavius, is a Platonist; his Christian antagonist argues from a Stoic point of view. In one place Minucius blurts out a direct statement of his opposition to the Academic philosophers. ‘Let all the multitude of the academic philosophers deliberate; let Simonides also for ever put off the decision of his opinion. We despise the bent brow of the philosophers, whom we know to be corrupters, and adulterers, and tyrants, and ever eloquent against their own vices.’ Plato and his fellow philosopher are, in Tertullian’s view, the patriarchs of heresy and the dissemblers of the truth. Their scepticism is a matter for contempt. Though Minucius does not state his views so clearly and explicitly as Tertullian, his attitude towards philosophy seems |p57 to be very much the same. The truth is revealed truth. Where philosophers have apprehended the truth they have borrowed from the prophets; ‘they from the divine announcements of the prophets imitated the shadow of the corrupted truth’ (Octavius, C. 34). Nevertheless Minucius does not disdain to claim the support of the philosophers for his views when he can, and the Stoics are the most helpful in this direction. ‘Theophrastus, and Zeno, and Chrysippus, and Cleanthes, are indeed themselves of many forms of opinion; but they are all brought back to the one fact of the unity of providence. For Cleanthes discoursed of God as of a mind, now of a soul, now of air, but for the most part of reason. Zeno, his master, will have the law of nature and of God, and sometimes the air, and sometimes reason, to be the beginning of all things. . . Chrysippus says almost the same. He believes that a divine force, a rational nature, and sometimes the world and a fatal necessity, is God.’ He even approves of the testimony of Plato where that philosopher discards his scepticism. ‘Plato has a clearer discourse about God, both in the matters themselves and in the names by which he expresses them; and his discourse would be altogether heavenly if it were not occasionally fouled by a mixture of merely civil belief ’ (Octavius, c. 19). In fact, all the philosophers who contribute anything to the support of the revelation given to the Christians through the prophets are approved just so far as they do so. ‘I have set forth the opinions almost of all the philosophers whose more illustrious glory it is to have pointed out that there is one God, although with many names ; so that any one might think either that Christians are now philosophers or that philosophers were then Christians’ (ibid.).
The theology of Minucius as expressed in Octavius is rudimentary. He has no Logos doctrine at all, and the significance of the Person of Christ to the Christian religion is not realized. The only mention of Him, in fact, is found in the assertion of the heathen that the Christians worship a crucified man (c. 9) and in the refutation of that allegation (c. 22).
God is known through nature. ‘For what can possibly be so manifest, so confessed, and so evident, when you lift your eyes up to heaven, and look at the things which are below and around, than that there is some deity of most excellent intelligence, by whom all nature is inspired, is moved, is nourished, |p58 is governed’ (Octavius, c. 17). He is known too through His providential ordering of the universe, which reveals the care of a Parent for His children, or of a Father for His household (ibid c 18), The heathen testify to His existence when they say ‘O God,’ ‘If God permit,’ ‘God is good,’ and ‘God is great’ (ibid) Poets and philosophers, also, have testified to the existence and unity of God
The evil in the world is the work of demons—evil spirits who fell from their primal innocence, and, becoming stained with earthly lusts, perverted the creation of God They are the instruments of magic art, and the authors of the evils that have befallen the Christians. They have spread the foul reports that the Christians are guilty of incest and infanticide.
The world shall come to an end. It shall be consumed by fire. The dead shall rise again, the flesh being restored; for the God who could create the bodies of men in the first instance, can bring the elements of which they were composed together again The wicked shall be tormented in everlasting fire. ‘The intelligent fire burns the limbs and restores them’ But they who know God are better, and shall fare better. Nothing more definite than that is predicted of their destiny.
IRENAEUS —Our examination of the relation of earlier writers to Tertullian will not be complete without some reference to Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria From the former he has admittedly borrowed, from the latter he has derived some of his teaching on minor points.
In Adversus Valentinianos (c 6) Tertullian says that he intends to follow among others ‘Irenaeus, that very exact inquirer into all doctrines, and a comparison of that treatise with the A dversus Omnes Haereses (I , cc 1—12) shows that the extent of his indebtedness is considerable It is little more, in fact, than a translation of the work of Irenaeus. In addition, the following points may be noted. The account of Simon Magus and Helen (Tertullian, De Anima, c. 34) is evidently copied from Irenaeus (I., c. 23). The account of Menander (Tertullian, De Anima, c. 50) is also obviously inspired by the same chapter of Irenaeus. Both complain that the heretics follow neither Scripture nor tradition (Irenaeus, III. 3; Tertullian, De Praes. Haer., 17, 32). Both mention the continuous |p59 succession of bishops in the Churches (Iren., III. 3; Tert., De Praes. Haer., 32). That the Church alone has the true doctrine is asserted by both (Irenaeus, III. 4; Tertullian, De Praes. Haer., 26—29), that heresies are of recent growth (ibid.), and that Christ and the apostles delivered the truth without deception (Ireneaus, III. 5; Tertullian, De Praes. Haer., 27). The systematic use of Scripture in Tertullian’s later works is along the lines followed by Irenaeus throughout. Both state that the heretics derived their opinions from the philosophers (Irenaeus, II. 14 Tertullian, De Praes. Haer., c. 7, Apol., c. 47). Both also refer to the Homerocentones (Irenaeus, I. 9); Tertullian, De Praes. Haer., c. 39).
With Irenaeus one is immediately conscious of a far different atmosphere theologically from that of the apologists. The Logos doctrine sinks into the background, Gnosticism in its various forms becomes the sole antagonist, the Scriptures attain a new prominence, and the historical Christ as the incarnate Logos is the central idea.
Some approach to a systematic presentation of Christian theology is found in Irenaeus, but it is not so much a science of theology that he works out as a systematic exposition of the Christian faith in opposition to Gnosticism. He, accordingly, begins his positive contribution to Christian thought in book II. with a statement of his idea of God; ‘It is proper, then, that I should begin with the first and most important head, that is, God the Creator, who made the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein, and to demonstrate that there is nothing either above or after Him; nor that, influenced by any one, but of His own free will, He created all things, since He is the only God, the only Lord, the only Creator, the only Father, alone containing all things, and Himself commanding all things into existence.’ It is impossible that there can be a second God. That would imply the limitation of the one God, and, in fact, destroy His deity, for He would cease to be omnipotent. The world, therefore, was not created by angels, or by a second God, but by the Father through the Logos. He needed no other instrument. This God is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ (II. 2). Irenaeus, however, deprecates too much speculation as to the nature of God, ‘For thou wilt not be able to think Him fully out ' (II. 25). It is better to attain to nearness to God by means of love (II. 26). Some things belong |p60 to God; others are within the capacity of our own knowledge. The way of wisdom is to confine ourselves to the latter.
The Logos is the Agent of God in the creation of the world (II. i). Irenaeus is familiar with the twofold idea of Logos among the Greeks. ‘There is among the Greeks one Logos which is the principle that thinks, and another which is the instrument by which thought is expressed.’ But he says that in God this duality is transcended, since in Him there is no pause between thought and speech. ‘God, being all Mind and all Logos, both speaks exactly what He thinks, and thinks exactly what He speaks. For His thought is Logos, and Logos is Mind, and Mind comprehending all things is the Father Himself’ (II. 28).
The one supreme God is the God of the Christians revealed in the Scriptures, i.e. in both the Old and the New Testament. Jesus Christ was the only-begotten Son of God. He was perfect God and perfect man (III. 16). Together with the Father and the Son, Irenaeus mentions the Holy Spirit. The Son and the Spirit are the two hands of God with which He made man. ‘Now man is a mixed organization of soul and flesh, who was formed after the likeness of God, and moulded by His hands, that is by the Son and Holy Spirit, to whom also He said “Let us make man.”’ (IV. Preface). The Spirit dwelt in the prophets, as also did the Son. ‘For the Spirit (of God) is truly (like) many waters, since the Father is both rich and great. And the Word, passing through all these (men), did liberally confer benefits upon His subjects, by drawing up in writing a law adapted and applicable to every class (among them)’ (IV. 14). The Spirit descended upon Christ (III. 17), and the Spirit also was conferred upon the Church (ibid.).
The Word became incarnate in Jesus Christ, and the purpose of the incarnation was that man who, through sin, had lost the gifts of immortality and incorruptibility, should have them restored to him. ‘For it was to this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of Man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God. For by no other means could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality. But how could we be joined to incorruptibility and immortality, unless first incorruptibility and immortality had become that which we also are, so that the corruptible might be swallowed up by incorruptibility, |p61 and the mortal by immortality,’ that we might receive the adoption of sons’ (III. 19).
The unity of the divine plan as revealed in the Scriptures is plainly and repeatedly stated by Irenaeus. Creation and salvation are closely bound together. Adam failed to attain his true destiny, which was that he should grow into the likeness of God, and so did all others after him until Christ came. The attainment of immortality became an impossibility. But Christ, by entering into all the experiences of human life, gave a perfect revelation of God. He took up the broken course of development and completed it. And so, for all the race, what had been lost in Adam was restored in Christ. The purpose of God, which had been frustrated by Adam’s sin, was fulfilled in Christ (V. i.) Through Him men may attain their true destiny by means of the eucharist (V. 2), and still more by the vision of God (V. 34).
Man is, according to Irenaeus, composed of body and soul (II. 29). Salvation is bestowed upon the whole nature of man, body and soul, for the Word took upon Him the flesh of man and adorned it with the gifts of the Holy Spirit (V. 6, 14). Resurrection is of the body and the soul, and the pledge of the resurrection of the flesh is found in the fact that Christ rose in our flesh (V. 7). After the resurrection all shall appear before Christ, the Judge. In the meantime, the souls of the faithful are in a state of expectation of their final reward. The unbelieving shall be punished with separation from God—which is the exclusion from all good, not the infliction of any evil. Believers shall enter into the communion with God which is light and life. The judgement is no arbitrary action of God, but is the inevitable result of the action of those who have chosen of their own free will either to walk in the light, and dwell in communion with God, or to walk in darkness and, having loved the darkness rather than the light, to become blind. After the resurrection and’ the judgement, the saints shall dwell in the terrestrial kingdom of the New Jerusalem; for the earth will not be destroyed, but will be accommodated to the new conditions.
CLEMENT.—Of Clement of Alexandria little need be said. His outlook was very dissimilar to that of Tertullian, and the temperaments of the two men furnish a decided contrast. |p62 Tertullian was acquainted with the writings of Clement, and made use of them in the only direction possible to him—that is, in minor points of exposition, and in the discussion of the attitude of Christians towards heathen customs.
In De Spectaculis, c. 3, Tertullian takes the first Psalm as a scriptural basis for attacking those Christians who were in the habit of attending the public shows. His mind was doubtless turned in this direction by the hints given in Clement’s works In the Paidagogos, c. xi, the latter discusses the public spectacles, and affirms that one ‘might not inappropriately call the racecourse and the theatre “the seat of plagues”, for there is evil counsel as against the Just One, and therefore the assembly against Him is execrated.’ This is a reference to Psalm i. i in the LXX. Similarly, he expounds the same verse in Stromateis, II. 15., and, after rejecting the application of the words to heresies, approves of their application to theatres and tribunals ‘The “chair of pestilences” will be the theatres and tribunals.’
The two little books De Cultu Feminarum also were inspired by Clement’s Paidagogos. The objection to coloured clothing, the desire of women to please their husbands, the condemnation of the practice of dyeing the hair and of painting the face, are all reminiscent of Clement; though the Alexandrian was milder and more tolerant than the Carthaginian. In De Praescriptione Haereticorum Tertullian discusses the command of Christ (Matt. vii. 7),’ Seek and ye shall find,’ in relation to speculation. This is an echo of the discussion of the same command by Clement m relation to the same question (Stromateis, VIII. 1).
The treatment of the question of ‘crown-wearing’ in De Corona Militis affords further evidence of Tertullian’s ac quaintance with the Paidagogos of Clement.10
1. p.45 n.1 Adv. Valent., c. 5.
2. p.45 n.2 Apol., c. 26.
3. p.50 n.1 The authenticity of this is questioned. Harnack says that it is not Justin’s, but Zahn, on the other hand, thinks that it is rightly attributed to him.
4. p.51 n.1Cf. Athenagoras, Legatio, cc. 7, 8.
5. p.51 n.3 Cf. ibid., c. 34.
6. p.51 n.2 Cf. ibid., c. 22.
7. p.51 n.4 Cf. ibid., C. 34.
8. p.53 n.1 Tertullian wrote a treatise De Fato which is not extant.
9. p.53 n.2 Tatian, Ad Graecos, c. 5: kata_ merismo_n ou' kat' a)potomh&n. Cf. Tertullian, Adv.Prax., c. 8: prolatum dicimus Filium a Patre, sed non separatum.
10. p.62 n.1 Cf Paidagogos II c 8
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