Book Review (part 8: The Apologists as Sources) – ‘Neither Jew nor Greek’ by James D.G. Dunn

earlychurchThis post is a continuation of my recap/summary of James Dunn’s newest volume Neither Jew nor Greek. In chapter 40 Dunn is outlining the sources regarding the second century data, an important period for the development of early Christianity. In this section (40.2) the Apologists are identified, many of whom I was not introduced to in my undergraduate and graduate history courses. An ‘apologist’ was someone attempting to give a reasoned defense of their faith (although Dunn is correct to note that Christians were not the first apologists, pointing correctly to the works of Philo). I will attempt to summarize Dunn’s outline of these various sources.



-Quadratus is regarded as the first Christian to write an apology

-Eusebius writes that Quadratus addressed a treatise to the emperor Hadrian around 125 CE

-Only part of this document was cited by Eusebius (HE 4.3.2)

-The quote notes how some of the beneficiaries of Jesus’ miracles, particularly his healings and resurrections, have survived to Quadratus’ time



-Aristides likewise penned an apology to the emperor Hadrian (according to Eusebius HE 4.3.3)

-However, a Syriac translation of Aristides was uncovered in 1889, noting that the apology was written to Caesar Titus Hadrianus Antonius (the adopted son of the former Hadrian)

-Some scholars think that the Syrian translation possibly revised the apology to Antonius from the former recipient, Hadrian

-The document notes how Christians are regarding themselves as a distinct species or genus within the Mediterranean world


The Kerygma Petrou

-Preserved in a few fragments by Clement of Alexandria

-Promotes the oneness of God

-Dated to the first three decades of the second century CE

-Clement thought it was an authentic writing of Peter, but it was questioned (rightly) by Origen


The Epistle to Diognetus

-No one is really sure who the author is, but this did not stop the early Christians from guessing

-A very polished piece of literature, written with a high standard of rhetoric

-The dating is unsure, but somewhere in the second century is as far as as Dunn is willing to venture a guess


Justin Martyr (someone should start a blog with a pun of this guy here)

-The most significant of the second-century apologists

-Justin is from Samaria

-Enjoyed the writings of Plato

-Justin functioned as a philosopher first and as a Christian second

-There are conflicting reports of Justin’s death

-Wrote two apologies, the first around the year 155 and the second around 161

-Wrote a mock dialogue with a fictional Jew names Trypho, although the material for the document certainly represents some of the attitudes between Jews and Christians during that time

-Parts of Justin’s writings include what scholars now identify as spurious letters reportedly written by Antonius Pius and Marcus Aurelius



-A disciple of Justin (converted in Rome)

-Irenaeus, however, calls Tatian a false teacher (adv. Haer. 1.28.1)

-Wrote his Address to the Greeks  between 155-165

-Tatian further develops the ‘Logos theology’ which he inherited from Justin

-His Diatessaron was a harmony of the four Gospels into one document

-This document was the standard Gospel text in Syriac-speaking churches till the fifth century



-Bishop of Hierapolis

-Wrote his apology around 176, addressed to the emperor Marcus Aurelius

-Eusebius remarks that Apollinarius battled against the Montanists

-None of Apollinarius’ writings have survived, unfortunately



-Wrote his Plea for the Christians to Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus around 176-177maxresdefault

-His writings demonstrate the nature of persecution suffered by Christians in his time

-Also wrote an extensive treatise On the Resurrection, arguing against the perspectives of Greek thoughts on immortality

-Eusebius, interestingly, does not mention Athenagoras


Theophilus of Antioch

-Bishop of Antioch

-Served from 170 to the early 180s

-Eusebius notes that Theophilus wrote against Marcion, but it is his apology to Autolycus which survives to this day

-The first Christian to use the word ‘trinity’ in his writings, but he defines is as God, his Word, and his Wisdom (something modern Trinitarians would dispute)


Melito of Sardis

-Bishop of Sardis

-Wrote his Peri Pascha around the third quarter of the second century

-Wrote that Christ ‘is by nature both God and man’

-Regards Christ as the one who cared for Israel in the wilderness

-Possessed no discernible ‘Logos’ theology

-Some scholars regard Melito as a naive docetic.



What do you guys think? Anything interesting about the various apologists of the second century CE? I know I learned a thing or two about the various expressions of Christianity during this period, and have even become acquainted with some new faces.

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