Christianus sum. Christiani nihil a me alienum puto
VOLUME II ANTE-NICENE CHRISTIAINITY a.d. 100–325.
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION REVISED A few months after the appearance of the revised edition of this volume, Dr. Bryennios, the learned Metropolitan of Nicomedia, surprised the world by the publication of the now famous Didache, which he had discovered in the Jerusalem Monastery of the Most Holy Sepulchre at Constantinople. This led me, in justice to myself and to my readers, to write an independent supplement under the title: The Oldest Church Manual, called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, etc., which is now passing through the press.
At the same time I have taken advantage of a new issue of this History, without increasing the size and the price, to make in the plates all the necessary references to the Didache where it sheds new light on the post-apostolic age (especially on pages 140, 184, 185, 202, 226, 236, 239, 241, 247, 249, 379, 640).
I have also brought the literature up to date, and corrected a few printing errors, so that this issue may be called a revised edition. A learned and fastidious German critic and professional church historian has pronounced this work to be far in advance of any German work in the fullness of its digest of the discoveries and researches of the last thirty years. ("Theolog. Literatur-Zeitung," for March 22, 1884.) But the Bryennios discovery, and the extensive literature which it has called forth, remind me of the imperfect character of historical books in an age of such rapid progress as ours.
New York, April 22, 1885.
FIFTH EDITION ———————————
The fourth edition (1886) was a reprint of the third, with a few slight improvements. In this fifth edition I have made numerous additions to the literature, and adapted the text throughout to the present stage of research, which continues to be very active and fruitful in the Ante-Nicene period.
Several topics connected with the catechetical instruction, organization, and ritual (baptism and eucharist) of the early Church are more fully treated in my supplementary monograph, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, or The Oldest Church Manual, which first appeared in June, 1885, and in a third edition, revised and enlarged, January, 1889, (325 pages).
New York, July, 1889.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION ———————————
This second volume contains the history of Christianity from the end of the Apostolic age to the beginning of the Nicene.
The first edict of Toleration, A. D. 311, made an end of persecution; the second Edict of Toleration, 311 (there is no third), prepared the way for legal recognition and protection; the Nicene Council, 325, marks the solemn inauguration of the imperial state-church. Constantine, like Eusebius, the theologian, and Hosius, the statesman, of his reign, belongs to both periods and must be considered in both, though more fully in the next.
We live in an age of discovery and research, similar to that which preceded the Reformation. The beginnings of Christianity are now absorbing the attention of scholars.
During the present generation early church history has been vastly enriched by new sources of information, and almost revolutionized by independent criticism. Among the recent literary discoveries and publications the following deserve special mention:
The Syriac Ignatius (by Cureton 1845 and 1849), which opened a new chapter in the Ignatian controversy so closely connected with the rise of Episcopacy and Catholicism; the Philosophumena of Hippolytus (by Miller 1851, and by Duncker and Schneidewin, 1859), which have shed a flood of light on the ancient heresies and systems of thought, as well as on the doctrinal and disciplinary commotions in the Roman church in the early part of third century; the Tenth Book of The Pseudo-Clementine Homilies (by Dressel, 1853), which supplements our knowledge of a curious type of distorted Christianity in the post-apostolic age, and furnishes, by an undoubted quotation, a valuable contribution to the solution of the Johannean problem; the Greek Hermas from Mt. Athos (the Codex Lipsiensis, published by Anger and Tischendorf, 1856); a new and complete Greek MS. of the First Epistle of the Roman Clement with several important new chapters and the oldestwritten Christian prayer (about one tenth of the whole), found in a Convent Library at Constantinople (by Bryennios, 1875); and in the same Codex the Second (so called) Epistle of Clement, or post-Clementine Homily rather, in its complete form (20 chs. instead of 12), giving us the first post-apostolic sermon, besides a new Greek text of the Epistle of Barnabus; a Syriac Version of Clement in the library of Jules Mohl, now at Cambridge (1876); fragments of Tatian’s Diatessaron with Ephraem’s Commentary on it, in an Armenian version (Latin by Mösinger 1878); fragments of the apologies of Melito (1858), and Aristides (1878); the complete Greek text of the Acts of Thomas (by Max Bonnet, 1883); and the crowning discovery of all, the Codex Sinaiticus, the only complete uncial MS. of the Greek Testament, together with the Greek Barnabus and the Greek Hermas (by Tischendorf, 1862), which, with the facsimile edition of the Vatican Codex (1868–1881, 6 vols.), marks an epoch in the science of textual criticism of the Greek Testament and of those two Apostolic Fathers, and establishes the fact of the ecclesiastical use of all our canonical books in the age of Eusebius.
In view of these discoveries we would not be surprised if the Exposition of the Lord’s Oracles by Papias, which was still in existence at Nismes in 1215, the Memorials of Hegesippus, and the whole Greek original of Irenaeus, which were recorded by a librarian as extant in the sixteenth century, should turn up in some old convent.
In connection with these fresh sources there has been a corresponding activity on the part of scholars. The Germans have done and are doing an astonishing amount of Quellenforschung and Quellenkritik in numerous monographs and periodicals, and have given us the newest and best critical editions of the Apostolic Fathers and Apologists. The English with their strong common sense, judicial calmness, and conservative tact are fast wheeling into the line of progress, as is evident from the collective works on Christian Antiquities, and the Christian Biography, and from Bp. Lightfoot’s Clementine Epistles, which are soon to be followed by his edition of the Ignatian Epistles. To the brilliant French genius and learning of Mr. Renan we owe a graphic picture of the secular surroundings of early Christianity down to the time of Marcus Aurelius, with sharp glances into the literature and life of the church. His Historie des Origines du Christianisme, now completed in seven volumes, after twenty year’s labor, is well worthy to rank with Gibbon’s immortal work. The Rise and Triumph of Christianity is a grander theme than the contemporary Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, but no historian can do justice to it without faith in the divine character and mission of that peaceful Conqueror of immortal souls, whose kingdom shall have no end.
The importance of these literary discoveries and investigations should not blind us to the almost equally important monumental discoveries and researches of Cavalier de Rossi, Garrucci, and other Italian scholars who have illuminated the subterranean mysteries of the church of Rome and of Christian art. Neander, Gieseler, and Baur, the greatest church historians of the nineteenth century, are as silent about the catacombs as Mosheim and Gibbon were in the eighteenth. But who could now write a history of the first three centuries without recording the lessons of those rude yet expressive pictures, sculptures, and epitaphs from the homes of confessors and martyrs? Nor should we overlook the gain which has come to us from the study of monumental inscriptions, as for instance in rectifying the date of Polycarp’s martyrdom who is now brought ten years nearer to the age of St. John.
Before long there will be great need of an historic architect who will construct a beautiful and comfortable building out of the vast material thus brought to light. The Germans are historic miners, the French and English are skilled manufacturers; the former understand and cultivate the science of history, the latter excel in the art of historiography. A master of both would be the ideal historian. But God has wisely distributed his gifts, and made individuals and nations depend upon and supplement each other.
The present volume is an entire reconstruction of the corresponding part of the first edition (vol. I p. 144–528), which appeared twenty-five years ago. It is more than double in size. Some chapters (e.g. VI. VII. IX.) and several sections (e.g. 90–93, 103, 155–157, 168, 171, 184, 189, 190, 193, 198–204, etc.) are new, and the rest has been improved and enlarged, especially the last chapter on the literature of the church. My endeavor has been to bring the book up to the present advanced state of knowledge, to record every important work (German, French, English, and American) which has come under my notice, and to make the results of the best scholarship of the age available and useful to the rising generation.
In conclusion, I may be permitted to express my thanks for the kind reception which has been accorded to this revised edition of the work of my youth. It will stimulate me to new energy in carrying it forward as far as God may give time and strength. The third volume needs no reconstruction, and a new edition of the same with a few improvements will be issued without delay.
Union Theological Seminary,
CONTENTS SECOND PERIOD ANTE-NICENE CHRISTIANITY
§ 1. General Literature on the Ante-Nicene Age
§ 2. General Character of Ante-Nicene Christianity.
Spread of Christianity. § 3. Literature.
§ 4. Hindrances and Helps.
§ 5. Causes of the Success of Christianity.
§ 6. Means of Propagation.
§ 7. Extent of Christianity in the Roman Empire.
§ 8. Christianity in Asia.
§ 9. Christianity in Egypt.
§ 10. Christianity in North Africa.
§ 11. Christianity in Europe.
Persecution of Christianity and Christian Martyrdom. § 12. Literature.
§ 13. General Survey.
§ 14. Jewish Persecution.
§ 15. Causes of Roman Persecution.
§ 16. Condition of the Church before the Reign of Trajan.
§ 17. Trajan. a.d. 98–117—Christianity Forbidden
§ 18. Hadrian. a.d. 117–138.
§ 19 Antoninus Pius. a.d. 137–161. The Martyrdom of Polycarp.
§ 20. Persecutions under Marcus Aurelius. a.d. 161–180.
§ 21. Condition of the Church from Septimius Severus to Philip the Arabian. a.d. 193–249.
§ 22. Persecutions under Decius, and Valerian. a.d. 249–260. Martyrdom of Cyprian.
§ 23. Temporary Repose. a.d. 260–303.
§ 24. The Diocletian Persecution, a.d. 303–311.
§ 25. The Edicts of Toleration. a.d. 311–313.
§ 26. Christian Martyrdom.
§ 27. Rise of the Worship of Martyrs and Relics.
Literary Contest of Christianity with Judaism and Heathenism. § 28. Literature.
§ 29. Literary Opposition to Christianity.
§ 30. Jewish Opposition. Josephus and the Talmud.
§ 31. Pagan Opposition. Tacitus and Pliny.
§ 32. Direct Assaults. Celsus.
§ 33. Lucian.
§ 34. Neo-Platonism.
§ 35. Porphyry and Hierocles
§ 36. Summary of the Objections to Christianity.
§ 37. The Apologetic Literature of Christianity.
§ 38. The Argument against Judaism.
§ 39. The Defense against Heathenism.
§ 40. The Positive Apology.
Organization and Discipline of the Church. § 41. Progress in Consolidation.
§ 42. Clergy and Laity.
§ 43. New Church Officers.
§ 44. Origin of the Episcopate.
§ 45. Development of the Episcopate. Ignatius.
§ 46. Episcopacy at the time of Irenaeus and Tertullian.
§ 47. Cyprianic Episcopacy.
§ 48. The Pseudo-Clementine Episcopacy.
§ 49. Beginnings of the Metropolitan and Patriarchal Systems
§ 50. Germs of the Papacy.
§ 51. Chronology of the Popes.
§ 52. List of the Roman Bishops and Roman Emperors during the First Three Centuries.
§ 53. The Catholic Unity.
§ 54. Councils.
§ 55. The Councils of Elvira, Arles, and Ancyra.
§ 56. Collections of Ecclesiastical Law. The Apostolical Constitutions and Canons.
§ 57. Church Discipline.
§ 58. Church Schisms.
Christian Worship. § 59. Places of Common Worship.
§ 60. The Lord’s Day.
§ 61. The Christian Passover. (Easter).
§ 62. The Paschal Controversies.
§ 63. Pentecost.
§ 64. The Epiphany
§ 65. The Order of Public Worship.
§ 66. Parts of Worship.
§ 67. Division of Divine Service. The Disciplina Arcani.
§ 68. Celebration of the Eucharist.
§ 69. The Doctrine of the Eucharist.
§ 70. The Celebration of Baptism.
§ 71. The Doctrine of Baptism.
§ 72. Catechetical Instruction and Confirmation.
§ 73. Infant Baptism.
§ 74. Heretical Baptism.
Christian Art. § 75. Literature.
§ 76. Origin of Christian Art.
§ 77. The Cross and the Crucifix.
§ 78. Other Christian Symbols.
§ 79 Historical and Allegorical Pictures
§ 80. Allegorical Representations of Christ.
§ 81. Pictures of the Virgin Mary.
The Church in the Catacombs. § 82. Literature.
§ 83. Origin and History of the Catacomb.
§ 84. Description of the Catacombs.
§ 85. Pictures and Sculptures.
§ 86. Epitaphs.
§ 87. Lessons of the Catacombs.
The Christian Life in Contrast with Pagan Corruption. § 88. Literature.
§ 89. Moral Corruption of the Roman Empire.
§ 90. Stoic Morality
§ 91. Epictetus.
§ 92. Marcus Aurelius.
§ 93. Plutarch.
§ 94. Christian Morality.
§ 95. The Church and Public Amusements.
§ 96. Secular Callings and Civil Duties.
§ 97. The Church and Slavery.
§ 98. The Heathen Family.
§ 99. The Christian Family.
§ 100. Brotherly Love, and Love for Enemies.
§ 101. Prayer and Fasting.
§ 102. Treatment of the Dead
§ 103. Summary of Moral Reforms.
Ascetic Tendencies. § 104. Ascetic Virtue and Piety.
§ 105. Heretical and Catholic Asceticism.
§ 106. Voluntary Poverty.
§ 107. Voluntary Celibacy.
§ 108. Celibacy of the Clergy.
Montanism. § 109. Literature.
§ 110. External History of Montanism.
§ 111. Character and Tenets of Montanism.
The Heresies of the Ante-Nicene Age. § 112. Judaism and Heathenism within the Church.
§ 113. Nazarenes and Ebionites (Elkesaites, Mandaeans).
§ 114. The Pseudo-Clementine Ebionism.
§ 115. Gnosticism. The Literature.
§ 116. Meaning, Origin and Character of Gnosticism.
§ 117. The System of Gnosticism. Its Theology.
§ 118. Ethics of Gnosticism.
§ 119. Cultus and Organization.
§ 120. Schools of Gnosticism.
§ 121. Simon Magus and the Simonians.
§ 122. The Nicolaitans.
§ 123. Cerinthus.
§ 124. Basilides.
§ 125. Valentinus.
§ 126. The School of Valentinus. Heracleon, Ptolemy, Marcos, Bardesanes, Harmonius.
§ 127. Marcion and his School.
§ 128. The Ophites. The Sethites. The Peratae. The Cainites
§ 129. Saturninus (Satornilos).
§ 130. Carpocrates.
§ 131. Tatian and the Encratites.
§ 132. Justin the Gnostic.
§ 133. Hermogenes.
§ 134. Other Gnostic Sects.
§ 135. Mani and the Manichaeans.
§ 136. The Manichaean System.
The Development of Catholic Theology. § 137. Catholic Orthodoxy.
§ 138. The Holy Scriptures and the Canon.
§ 139. Catholic Tradition.
§ 140. The Rule of Faith and the Apostles’ Creed.
§ 141. Variations of the Apostles’ Creed.
§ 142. God and the Creation.
§ 143. Man and the Fall.
§ 144. Christ and the Incarnation.
§ 145. The Divinity of Christ.
§ 146. The Humanity of Christ.
§ 147. The Relation of the Divine and the Human in Christ.
§ 148. The Holy Spirit.
§ 149. The Holy Trinity.
§ 150. Antitrinitarians. First Class: The Alogi,Theodotus, Artemon, Paul of Samosata.
§ 151. Second Class of Antitrinitarians: Praxeas, Noëtus, Callistus, Berryllus.
§ 152. Sabellianism.
§ 153. Redemption.
§ 154. Other Doctrines.
§ 155. Eschatology. Immortality and Resurrection.
§ 156. Between Death and Resurrection.
§ 157. After Judgment. Future Punishment.
§ 158. Chiliasm.
Ecclesiastical Literature of the Ante-Nicene Age, and Biographical Sketches of the Church Fathers. § 159. Literature.
§ 160. A General Estimate of the Fathers.
§ 161. The Apostolic Fathers.
§ 162. Clement of Rome.
§ 163. The Pseudo-Clementine Works.
§ 164. Ignatius of Antioch.
§ 165. The Ignatian Controversy.
§ 166. Polycarp of Smyrna.
§ 167. Barnabas.
§ 168. Hermas.
§ 169. Papias.
§ 170. The Epistle to Diognetus.
§ 171. Sixtus of Rome.
§ 172. The Apologists. Quadratus and Aristides.
§ 173. Justin the Philosopher and Martyr.
§ 174. The Other Greek Apologists. Tatian.
§ 175. Athenagoras.
§ 176. Theophilus of Antioch.
§ 177. Melito of Sardis.
§ 178. Apolinarius of Hierapolis. Miltiades.
§ 179. Hermias.
§ 180. Hegesippus.
§ 181. Dionysius of Corinth.
§ 182. Irenaeus
§ 183. Hippolytus.
§ 184. Caius of Rome.
§ 185. The Alexandrian School of Theology.
§ 186. Clement of Alexandria.
§ 187. Origen.
§ 188. The Works of Origen.
§ 189. Gregory Thaumaturgus.
§ 190. Dionysius the Great.
§ 191. Julius Africanus.
§ 192. Minor Divines of the Greek Church.
§ 193. Opponents of Origen. Methodius
§ 194. Lucian of Antioch.
§ 195. The Antiochian School.
§ 196. Tertullian and the African School.
§ 197. The Writings of Tertullian.
§ 198; Minucius Felix.
§ 199. Cyprian.
§ 200. Novatian.
§ 201. Commodian.
§ 202. Arnobius.
§ 203. Victorinus of Petau.
§ 204. Eusebius, Lactantius, Hosius.
Illustrations from the Catacombs.
SECOND PERIOD ———— ANTE-NICENE CHRISTIANITY or, THE AGE OF PERSECUTION AND MARTYRDOM from the DEATH OF JOHN TO CONSTANTINE THE GREAT a.d. 100–325. ————
"The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church" —–––— SECOND PERIOD
———— ANTE-NICENE CHRISTIANITY
or, THE AGE OF PERSECUTION AND MARTYRDOM
from the DEATH OF JOHN TO CONSTANTINE THE GREAT
———— § 1. Literature on the Ante-Nicene Age I. Sources
1. The writings of the Apostolic Fathers, the Apologists, and all the ecclesiastical authors of the 2nd and 3rd, and to some extent of the 4th and 5th centuries; particularly Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, Epiphanius, and Theodoret.
2. The writings of the numerous heretics, mostly extant only in fragments.
3. The works of the pagan opponents of Christianity, as Celsus, Lucian, Porphyry, Julian the Apostate.
4. The occasional notices of Christianity, in the contemporary classical authors, Tacitus, Suetonius, the younger Pliny, Dion Cassius.
II. Collections of Sources, (besides those included in the comprehensive Patristic Libraries):
Gebhardt, Harnack, and Zahn: Patrum Apostolicorum Opera. Lips., 1876; second ed. 1878 sqq.
Fr. Xav. Funk (R.C.): Opera Patrum Apost. Tübing., 1878, 1881, 1887, 2 vols. The last edition includes the Didache.
I. C. Th. Otto: Corpus Apologetarum Christianorum saeculi secundi. Jenae, 1841 sqq., in 9 vols.; 2nd ed. 1847–1861; 3rd ed. 1876 sqq. ("plurimum aucta et emendata").
Roberts And Donaldson: Ante-Nicene Christian Library. Edinburgh (T.& T. Clark), 1868–’72, 25 volumes. American edition, chronologically arranged and enlarged by Bishop A. C. Coxe, D. D., with a valuable Bibliographical Synopsis by E. C. Richardson. New York (Christian Literature Company), 1885–’87, 9 large vols.
The fragments of the earliest Christian writers, whose works are lost, may be found collected in Grabe: Spicilegium Patrum ut et Haereticorum Saeculi I. II. et III. (Oxon. 1700; new ed. Oxf. 1714, 3 vols.); in Routh: Reliquiae Sacrae, sive auctorum fere jam perditorum secundi, tertiique saeculi fragmenta quae supersunt (Oxon. 1814 sqq. 4 vols.; 2nd ed. enlarged, 5 vols. Oxf. 1846–48); and in Dom. I. B. Pitra (O. S. B., a French Cardinal since 1863): Spicilegium Solesmense, complectens sanctorum patrum scriptorumque eccles. anecdota hactenus opera, selecta e Graecis, Orientialibus et Latinis codicibus (Paris, 1852–’60, 5 vols.). Comp. also Bunsen: Christianity and Mankind, etc. Lond. 1854, vols. V., VI. and VII., which contain the Analecta Ante-Nicaena (reliquicae literariae, canonicae, liturgicae).
The haereseological writings of Epiphanius, Philastrius, Pseudo-Tertullian, etc. are collected in Franc. Oehler: Corpus haereseologicum. Berol. 1856–61, 3 vols. They belong more to the next period.
The Jewish and Heathen Testimonies are collected by N. Lardner, 1764, new ed. by Kippis, Lond. 1838.
1. Ancient Historians.
Hegesippus (a Jewish Christian of the middle of the second century): JUpomnhvmata tw'n ejkklhsiastikw'n pravxewn (quoted under the title pevnte uJpomnhvmata and pevnte suggravmmata). These ecclesiastical Memorials are only preserved in fragments (on the martyrdom of James of Jerusalem, the rise of heresies, etc.) in Eusebius H. Eccl., collected by Grabe (Spicileg. II. 203–214), Routh (Reliqu. Sacrae, vol. I. 209–219), and Hilgenfeld ("Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Theol." 1876, pp. 179 sqq.). See art. of Weizsäcker in Herzog, 2nd ed., V. 695; and of Milligan in Smith & Wace, II. 875. The work was still extant in the 16th century, and may be discovered yet; see Hilgenfeld’s "Zeitschrift" for 1880, p. 127. It is strongly Jewish-Christian, yet not Ebionite, but Catholic.
*Eusebius (bishop of Caesarea in Palestine since 315, died 340, "the father of Church History," "the Christian Herodotus," confidential friend, adviser, and eulogist of Constantine the Great): jEkklhsiastikh; iJstoriva, from the incarnation to the defeat and death of Licinius 324. Chief edd. by Stephens, Paris 1544 (ed. princeps); Valesius (with the other Greek church historians), Par. 1659; Reading, Cambr. 1720; Zimmermann, Francof. 1822; Burton, Oxon. 1838 and 1845 (2 vols.); Schwegler, Tüb. 1852; Lämmer, Scaphus. 1862 (important for the text); F. A. Heinichen, Lips. 1827, second ed. improved 1868–’70, 3 vols. (the most complete and useful edition of all the Scripta Historica of Eus.); G. Dindorf, Lips., 1871. Several versions(German, French, and English); one by Hanmer (Cambridge; 1683, etc.); another by C. F. Crusé (an Am. Episc., London, 1842, Phil., 1860, included in Bagster’s edition of the Greek Eccles. Historians, London, 1847, and in Bohn’s Eccles. Library); the best with commentary by A. C. McGiffert (to be published by "The Christian Lit. Comp.," New York, 1890).
The other historical writings of Eusebius, including his Chronicle, his Life of Constantine, and his Martyrs of Palestine, are found in Heinichen’s ed., and also in the ed. of his Opera omnia, by Migne, "Patrol. Graeca," Par. 1857, 5 vols. Best ed. of his Chronicle, by Alfred Schöne, Berlin, 1866 and 1875, 2 vols.
Whatever may be said of the defects of Eusebius as an historical critic and writer, his learning and industry are unquestionable, and his Church History and Chronicle will always remain an invaluable collection of information not attainable in any other ancient author. The sarcastic contempt of Gibbon and charge of willful suppression of truth are not justified, except against his laudatory over-estimate of Constantine, whose splendid services to the church blinded his vision. For a just estimate of Eusebius see the exhaustive article of Bishop Lightfoot in Smith & Wace, II. 308–348.
2. Modern Historians.
William Cave, (died 1713): Primitive Christianity. Lond. 4th ed. 1682, in 3 parts. The same: Lives of the most eminent Fathers of the Church that flourished in the first four centuries, 1677–’83, 2 vols.; revised by ed. H. Carey, Oxford, 1840, in 3 vols. Comp. also Cave’s Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum historia literaria, a Christo nato usque ad saeculum XIV; best ed. Oxford 1740–’43, 2 vols. fol.
*J. L. Mosheim: Commentarii de rebus Christianis ante Constantinum M. Helmst. 1753. The same in English by Vidal, 1813 sqq., 3 vols., and by Murdock, New Haven, 1852, 2 vols.
*Edward Gibbon: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. London, 1776–’88, 6 vols.; best edd. by Milman, with his own, Guizot’s and Wenck’s notes, and by William Smith, including the notes of Milman, etc. Reprinted, London, 1872, 8 vols., New York, Harpers, 1880, in 6 vols. In Chs. 15 and 16, and throughout his great work, Gibbon dwells on the outside, and on the defects rather than the virtues of ecclesiastical Christianity, without entering into the heart of spiritual Christianity which continued beating through all ages; but for fullness and general accuracy of information and artistic representation his work is still unsurpassed.
H. G. Tzschirner: Der Fall des Heidenthums. Leipz. 1829.
Edw. Burton: Lectures upon the Ecclesiastical History of the first three Centuries. Oxf. 1833, in 3 parts (in 1 vol. 1845). He made also collections of the ante-Nicene testimonies to the Divinity of Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
Henry H. Milman: The History of Christianity from the Birth of Christ to the Abolition of Paganism in the Roman Empire. Lond. 1840. 3 vols.; 2nd ed. 1866. Comp. also the first book of his History of Latin Christianity, 2d ed. London and New York, 1860, in 8 vols.
John Kaye (Bishop of Lincoln, d. 1853). Ecclesiastical History of the Second and Third Centuries, illustrated from the writinqs of Tertullian. Lond. 1845. Comp. also his books on Justin Martyr, Clement of Alex., and the Council of Nicaea (1853).
F. D. Maurice: Lectures on the Eccles. Hist. of the First and Second Cent. Cambr. 1854.
*A. Ritschl: Die Entstehung der alt-katholischen Kirche. Bonn, 1850; 2nd ed. 1857. The second edition is partly reconstructed and more positive.
*E. de Pressensé (French Protestant): Histoire de trois premiers siècles de l’église chrétienne. Par. 1858 sqq. The same in German trans. by E. Fabarius. Leipz. 1862–’63, 4 vols. English transl. by Annie Harwood Holmden, under the title: The Early Years of Christianity. A Comprehensive History of the First Three Centuries of the Christian Church, 4 vols. Vol. I. The Apost. Age; vol. II. Martyrs and Apologists; vol. III. Heresy and Christian Doctrine; vol. IV. Christian Life and Practice. London (Hodder & Stoughton), 1870 sqq., cheaper ed., 1879. Revised edition of the original, Paris, 1887 sqq.
W. D. Killen (Presbyterian): The Ancient Church traced for the first three centuries. Edinb. and New York, 1859. New ed. N. Y., 1883.
Ambrose Manahan (R. Cath.): Triumph of the Catholic Church in the Early Ages. New York, 1859.
Alvan Lamson (Unitarian): The Church of the First Three Centuries, with special reference to the doctrine of the Trinity; illustrating its late origin and gradual formation. Boston, 1860.
Milo Mahan (Episcopalian): A Church History of the First Three centuries. N. York, 1860. Second ed., 1878 (enlarged).
J. J. Blunt: History of the Christian Church during the first three centuries. London, 1861.
Jos. Schwane (R.C.): Dogmengeschichte der vornicänischen Zeit. Münster, 1862.
*Ernest Renan: L’ Histoire des origines du Christianisme. Paris, 1863–1882, 7 vols. The last two vols., I’ église Chrétienne, 1879, and Marc Aurèle, 1882, belong to this period. Learned, critical, and brilliant, but thoroughly secular, and skeptical.
*Gerhard Uhlhorn: Der Kampf des Christenthums mit dem Heidenthum. 3d improved ed. Stuttgart, 1879. English transl. by Profs. Egbert C. Smyth and C. J. H. Ropes: The Conflict of Christianity, etc. N. York, 1879. An admirable translation of a graphic and inspiring, account of the heroic conflict of Christianity with heathen Rome.
*Theod. Keim, (d. 1879): Rom und das Christenthum. Ed. from the author’s MSS. by H. Ziegler. Berlin, 1881. (667 pages).
Chr. Wordsworth (Bishop of Lincoln): A Church History to the Council of Nicea, a.d.325. Lond. and N. York, 1881. Anglo-Catholic.
A. Plummer: The Church of the Early Fathers, London, 1887.
Of the general works on Church History, those of Baronius, Tillemont (R.C.), Schröckh, Gieseler, Neander, and Baur. (the third revised ed. of vol. 1st, Tüb. 1853, pp. 175–527; the same also transl. into English) should be noticed throughout on this period; but all these books are partly superseded by more recent discoveries and discussions of special points, which will be noticed in the respective sections.
§ 2. General Character of Ante-Nicene Christianity. We now descend from the primitive apostolic church to the Graeco-Roman; from the scene of creation to the work of preservation; from the fountain of divine revelation to the stream of human development; from the inspirations of the apostles and prophets to the productions of enlightened but fallible teachers. The hand of God has drawn a bold line of demarcation between the century of miracles and the succeeding ages, to show, by the abrupt transition and the striking contrast, the difference between the work of God and the work of man, and to impress us the more deeply with the supernatural origin of Christianity and the incomparable value of the New Testament. There is no other transition in history so radical and sudden, and yet so silent and secret. The stream of divine life in its passage from the mountain of inspiration to the valley of tradition is for a short time lost to our view, and seems to run under ground. Hence the close of the first and the beginning of the second centuries, or the age of the Apostolic Fathers is often regarded as a period for critical conjecture and doctrinal and ecclesiastical controversy rather than for historical narration.
Still, notwithstanding the striking difference, the church of the second and third centuries is a legitimate continuation of that of the primitive age. While far inferior in originality, purity, energy, and freshness, it is distinguished for conscientious fidelity in preserving and propagating the sacred writings and traditions of the apostles, and for untiring zeal in imitating their holy lives amidst the greatest difficulties and dangers, when the religion of Christ was prohibited by law and the profession of it punished as a political crime.
The second period, from the death of the apostle John to the end of the persecutions, or to the accession of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, is the classic age of the ecclesia pressa, of heathen persecution, and of Christian martyrdom and heroism, of cheerful sacrifice of possessions and life itself for the inheritance of heaven. It furnishes a continuous commentary on the Saviour’s words: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword."1 To merely human religion could have stood such an ordeal of fire for three hundred years. The final victory of Christianity over Judaism and heathenism, and the mightiest empire of the ancient world, a victory gained without physical force, but by the moral power of patience and perseverance, of faith and love, is one of the sublimest spectacles in history, and one of the strongest evidences of the divinity and indestructible life of our religion.
But equally sublime and significant are the intellectual and spiritual victories of the church in this period over the science and art of heathenism, and over the assaults of Gnostic and Ebionitic heresy, with the copious vindication and development of the Christian truth, which the great mental conflict with those open and secret enemies called forth.
The church of this period appears poor in earthly possessions and honors, but rich in heavenly grace, in world-conquering faith, love, and hope; unpopular, even outlawed, hated, and persecuted, yet far more vigorous and expansive than the philosophies of Greece or the empire of Rome; composed chiefly of persons of the lower social ranks, yet attracting the noblest and deepest minds of the age, and bearing, in her bosom the hope of the world; "as unknown, yet well-known, as dying, and behold it lives;" conquering by apparent defeat, and growing on the blood of her martyrs; great in deeds, greater in sufferings, greatest in death for the honor of Christ and the benefit of generations to come.2
The condition and manners of the Christians in this age are most beautifully described by the unknown author of the "Epistola ad Diognetum" in the early part of the second century.3"The Christians," he says, "are not distinguished from other men by country, by language, nor by civil institutions. For they neither dwell in cities by themselves, nor use a peculiar tongue, nor lead a singular mode of life. They dwell in the Grecian or barbarian cities, as the case may be; they follow the usage of the country in dress, food, and the other affairs of life. Yet they present a wonderful and confessedly paradoxical conduct. They dwell in their own native lands, but as strangers. They take part in all things as citizens; and they suffer all things, as foreigners. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every native land is a foreign. They marry, like all others; they have children; but they do not cast away their offspring. They have the table in common, but not wives. They are in the flesh, but do not live after the flesh. They live upon the earth, but are citizens of heaven. They obey the existing laws, and excel the laws by their lives. They love all, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown, and yet they are condemned. They are killed and are made alive. They are poor and make many rich. They lack all things, and in all things abound. They are reproached, and glory in their reproaches. They are calumniated, and are justified. They are cursed, and they bless. They receive scorn, and they give honor. They do good, and are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice, as being made alive. By the Jews they are attacked as aliens, and by the Greeks persecuted; and the cause of the enmity their enemies cannot tell. In short, what the soul is in the body, the Christians are in the world. The soul is diffused through all the members of the body, and the Christians are spread through the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but it is not of the body; so the Christians dwell in the world, but are not of the world. The soul, invisible, keeps watch in the visible body; so also the Christians are seen to live in the world, but their piety is invisible. The flesh hates and wars against the soul, suffering no wrong from it, but because it resists fleshly pleasures; and the world hates the Christians with no reason, but that they resist its pleasures. The soul loves the flesh and members, by which it is hated; so the Christians love their haters. The soul is inclosed in the body, but holds the body together; so the Christians are detained in the world as in a prison; but they contain the world. Immortal, the soul dwells in the mortal body; so the Christians dwell in the corruptible, but look for incorruption in heaven. The soul is the better for restriction in food and drink; and the Christians increase, though daily punished. This lot God has assigned to the Christians in the world; and it cannot be taken from them."
The community of Christians thus from the first felt itself, in distinction from Judaism and from heathenism, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the city of God set on a hill, the immortal soul in a dying body; and this its impression respecting itself was no proud conceit, but truth and reality, acting in life and in death, and opening the way through hatred and persecution even to an outward victory over the world.
The ante-Nicene age has been ever since the Reformation a battle-field between Catholic and Evangelical historians and polemics, and is claimed by both for their respective creeds. But it is a sectarian abuse of history to identify the Christianity of this martyr period either with Catholicism, or with Protestantism. It is rather the common root out of which both have sprung, Catholicism (Greek and Roman) first, and Protestantism afterwards. It is the natural transition from the apostolic age to the Nicene age, yet leaving behind many important truths of the former (especially the Pauline doctrines) which were to be derived and explored in future ages. We can trace in it the elementary forms of the Catholic creed, organization and worship, and also the germs of nearly all the corruptions of Greek and Roman Christianity.
In its relation to the secular power, the ante-Nicene church is simply the continuation of the apostolic period, and has nothing in common either with the hierarchical, or with the Erastian systems. It was not opposed to the secular government in its proper sphere, but the secular heathenism of the government was opposed to Christianity. The church was altogether based upon the voluntary principle, as a self-supporting and self-governing body. In this respect it may be compared to the church in the United States, but with this essential difference that in America the secular government, instead of persecuting Christianity, recognizes and protects it by law, and secures to it full freedom of public worship and in all its activities at home and abroad.
The theology of the second and third centuries was mainly apologetic against the paganism of Greece and Rome, and polemic against the various forms of the Gnostic heresy. In this conflict it brings out, with great force and freshness, the principal arguments for the divine origin and character of the Christian religion and the outlines of the true doctrine of Christ and the holy trinity, as afterwards more fully developed in the Nicene and post-Nicene ages.
The organization of this period may be termed primitive episcopacy, as distinct from the apostolic order which preceded, and the metropolitan and patriarchal hierarchy which succeeded it. In worship it forms likewise the transition from apostolic simplicity to the liturgical and ceremonial splendor of full-grown Catholicism.
The first half of the second century is comparatively veiled in obscurity, although considerable light has been shed over it by recent discoveries and investigations. After the death of John only a few witnesses remain to testify of the wonders of the apostolic days, and their writings are few in number, short in compass and partly of doubtful origin: a volume of letters and historical fragments, accounts of martyrdom, the pleadings of two or three apologists; to which must be added the rude epitaphs, faded pictures, and broken sculptures of the subterranean church in the catacombs. The men of that generation were more skilled in acting out Christianity in life and death, than in its literary defence. After the intense commotion of the apostolic age there was a breathing spell, a season of unpretending but fruitful preparation for a new productive epoch. But the soil of heathenism had been broken up, and the new seed planted by the hands of the apostles gradually took root.
Then came the great literary conflict of the apologists and doctrinal polemics in the second half of the same century; and towards the middle of the third the theological schools of Alexandria, and northern Africa, laying the foundation the one for the theology of the Greek, the other for that of the Latin church. At the beginning of the fourth century the church east and west was already so well consolidated in doctrine and discipline that it easily survived the shock of the last and most terrible persecution, and could enter upon the fruits of its long-continued sufferings and take the reins of government in the old Roman empire.