1 The Apology of Aristides the Philosopher: Prefatory matter to the 1891 translation

NB: Little of this literature has spiritual value, The value of this literature is elsewhere.  A great deal of mythology circulates about the events of these years, and is sometimes used to concoct libels on the Christians.  It is the task of some of those engaged in apologetic’s to look up the slanders and obtain the facts.  A collection of the primary data such as this is of immediate service in this task.   It is also interesting of itself, and those interested in finding out the facts of history for themselves will find it useful to have this data on hand. Roger Pearse

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original page source: http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/aristides_03_preface.htm

Early Church Fathers – Additional Texts

Texts and Studies Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literature

Edited by J. Armitage Robinson B.D. Fellow of Christ’s College Cambridge

Vol. I.

The Apology of Aristides the Passion of S. Perpetua the Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church the Fragments of Heracleon

Cambridge at the University Press 1891

Texts and Studies Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literature

Edited by J. Armitage Robinson B.D. Fellow of Christ’s College Cambridge

Vol. I.

The Apology of Aristides the Passion of S. Perpetua the Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church the Fragments of Heracleon

Cambridge at the University Press 1891

Texts and Studies Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literature

Edited by J. Armitage Robinson M.A.

Fellow of Christ’s College Cambridge

Vol. I.

No. 1. The Apology of Aristides

Cambridge at the University Press 1891

London: C. J. Clay and Sons, Cambridge University Press Warehouse, Ave Maria Lane.

[Arms omitted]

Cambridge: Deighton, Bell and Co.

Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus.

New York: Macmillan and Co.

The Apology of Aristides on Behalf of the Christians from a Syriac MS. Preserved on Mount Sinai

Edited with an Introduction and Translation by J. Rendel Harris M.A.

Formerly Fellow of Clare College Cambridge and now Professor of Biblical Languages in Haverford College Pennsylvania with an Appendix Containing the Main Portion of the Original Greek text by J. Armitage Robinson M.A.

Fellow and Assistant Tutor of Christ’s College Cambridge

Cambridge at the University Press 1891

[All Rights reserved]

Cambridge: Printed by C. J. Clay, M.A. and Sons, at the University Press.

THE first part of this tract contains the Syriac text of the lost Apology of Aristides, accompanied by such comments and elucidations as I have been able to give to the subject. It is my first venture in Syriac, and I am thankful to my learned friends who have from time to time assisted me with suggestions and criticisms for the elimination of some of the more glaring errors. Amongst them I may mention especially Professor Bensly, of Cambridge, and Professor Isaac A. Hall, of New York. In the attempt to give the Armenian fragments of the Apology, in such a form as may make them accessible for critical use, I have had the valuable aid of Mr Conybeare, of Oxford, who placed at my disposal the results of his own work at Edschmiazin.

When the pages were almost through the printer’s hands, my friend Mr J. A. Robinson, of Christ’s College, by one of those happy accidents, as we call them, upon which progress depends, discovered that substantially the whole of the Greek text was extant, and had been incorporated in that charming half-Greek and half-Oriental story, the Lives of Barlaam and Joasaph. Of course this means that, for the greater part of the Apology of Aristides, we have copies and versions in good number (Greek, Latin, Ethiopic, Arabic, Old French, etc.). This opens quite a new field before the student of Christian Apologetics. Need I say how gladly I make way for him in the Appendix, which will really be the text itself; and that I say in the language of the Acts of St Perpetua : “Hic ordinem totum Apologiae iam hinc ipse narrabit…manu sua et suo sensu.


WITH the aid of the photographs taken by Prof. Harris the Syriac text has been carefully revised by Prof. Bensly, who has taken special pains with the reproduction of the punctuation of the MS. There seems occasionally to be some deviation from the ordinary system in the use of the diacritical points : but as it is impossible to tell from the photographs to what date the punctuation belongs, it has seemed better to reproduce it without attempting to mend it.

The English translation was in the first instance made by Prof. Harris : but the discovery of the Greek made it necessary that it should undergo a complete revision, in order that scholars who do not read Syriac might be able to form a better estimate of the relation of the Syriac to the Greek, than could be given by a translation made without any reference to the latter. Moreover in several places the Greek cast new light upon the Syriac where it was obscure before. The task of revision would have been entirely beyond my power, but for the kind patience of Prof. Bensly, who allowed me to read the whole piece through with him. At his suggestion too I have added, within brackets, a few notes in addition to those made by Prof. Harris.

The Facsimile of a page of the Syriac MS. has been made from one of Prof. Harris’s photographs. It corresponds with [Syr] 5 — [Syr] 9 of this edition.

J.A. R.








The Apology of Aristides: Texts and Studies 1 (1891) pp. 1-34. Introduction.

• Description of the Syriac MS 3
• Aristides and Eusebius 6
• Celsus and Aristides 19
• The Symbol of the Faith in the time of Aristides 23
• The Armenian Fragment of the Apology 26
• An additional Armenian Fragment of Aristides 33

THE present volume contains one of the earliest of the Apologies made to the Roman Emperors on behalf of the Christians, that, namely, which was said to have been presented to the Emperor Hadrian by an Athenian philosopher of the name of Aristides. Our information concerning this Apology has hitherto been of the scantiest kind, depending chiefly upon certain allusions of Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History and in his Chronicon; as Eusebius did not, however, preserve any extracts from the book and presents only a most obscure figure in a philosopher’s garb as its author, while subsequent writers have added little or nothing to what they found in Eusebius, it must be admitted that our ideas as to the character and scope of one of the earliest apologetic treatises on Christianity were about as vague as it was possible for them to be. It is true that there was a suspicion abroad which came from Jerome that the lost work. of Aristides had been imitated by Justin in his Apology, and Jerome had also ventured the opinion that the Apology was woven out of materials derived from the philosophers: but it was almost impossible to put any faith in Jerome’s statements, which are usually mere editorial expansions and colouring’s of what he found in the pages of Eusebius. Not that there was any à priori improbability in the opinion that one Christian Apologist had imitated another, for almost all the Apologies that are known to us are painfully alike, and it would not be difficult to maintain of any two of them selected at random that one of them had borrowed from or imitated the other. The difficulty lay in the want of literary faith in statements made by Jerome; but even if |2 this confidence had not been wanting, we should not have been very much the wiser.

In the case of a companion Apology to that of Aristides, we were more happily placed for forming an opinion; since Eusebius not only describes an Apology presented to the Emperor Hadrian by a certain Quadratus, at the time of one of the imperial visits to Athens, but gives us also some striking and powerful sentences, just enough to convince one that the document was marked by argumentative force and spiritual insight, and could not have been a mere conventional tirade against paganism. Until recent times, then, all that could be said on the subject of these lost Apologies was that we had Eusebian tradition for their existence, Eusebian authority for their date, and a Eusebian extract from one of them as a specimen of sub-apostolic defence, a mere brick from a vanished house.

The mist, however, lifted some time ago, when the learned Armenians of the Lazarist monastery at Venice added to the obligations under which they have so often laid the scholarly and Christian world, by publishing an Armenian translation of the opening chapters of the lost Apology of Aristides; and although their document was received in some quarters[1]fn1. Especially by M. Renan, who in his Origines de Christianisme, vol. vi. p. vi., says: “Le présent volume était imprimé quand j’ai eu connaissance d’une publication des … Continue reading with incredulity, it will be seen; by what we have presently to bring forward, that the fragment which they printed was rightly entitled, and that they had at least made the way for a satisfactory conception of |3 the dogmatics which underlay the apologetics. This was a great gain. Moreover their published fragment shewed traces of an interesting originality of method in the classification of the religious beliefs of the time.

Our contribution to the subject consists of a Syriac translation of the whole, or substantially the whole, of the missing Apology. We were so happy as to discover this text in a volume of Syriac extracts preserved in the library of the convent of St Catharine, upon Mount Sinai, during a delightful visit which we paid to those majestic solitudes and silences in the spring of 1889. Our copy has suffered somewhat in the course of time from successive transcriptions, and needs occasionally the hand of the critical corrector. The language and thought of the writer are, however, so simple and straightforward that the limits of error are much narrower than they would be in a document where the structure was more highly complicated; the unintelligible sentences which accumulate in a translation so much more rapidly than in the copying of an original document, are almost entirely absent. In fact the writer is more of a child than a philosopher, a child well-trained in creed and well-practised in ethics, rather than either a dogmatist defending a new system or an iconoclast destroying an old one: but this simplicity of treatment, so far from being a weakness, adds often greatly to the natural impressiveness of the subject and gives the work a place by the side of the best Christian writing of his age. But, before going further, it will be best to describe a little more closely the volume from which our text is taken.


The MS. from which we have copied is numbered 16 amongst the Syriac MSS. of the Sinaitic convent. The MS. may be |4 referred to the 7th century, and is written in two columns to the page. The book is made up of a number of separate treatises and extracts, almost all of which are ethical in character. Thus on fol. 1 b we have [Syriac] or, the history of the Lives of the Fathers, translated from Greek into Syriac.

On fol. 2b [Syriac]

Apparently we have here the Liber Paradisi or Lives of the Holy Fathers of the Desert, of which many copies exist in Greek, though it may be doubted whether there is any critical edition. Some portions of this Syriac version were published at Upsala by Tullberg and his disciples, in 1851, from MSS. in the Vatican and in the British Museum. In our MS. the current heading of the pages is [Syriac]

or, History of the Egyptian Hermits.

After fol. 86 b two leaves appear to have been cut away. Fol. 87 b bears the heading [Syriac]

Of the holy Nilus the Solitary.

At the foot of fol. 93 a begins the Apology of Aristides.

On fol. 105 a begins [Syriac]

or, A discourse of Plutarch on the subject of a man’s being assisted by his enemy.

At the foot of fol. 112 a [syriac]

or, A second discourse of the same Plutarch peri\ a)skh&sewj.

Apparently this is the tract published by Lagarde in his Analecta, pp. 177-186, and translated by Gildemeister and Bücheler. |5

On fol. 121 b [Syriac]

A discourse of Pythagoras,

probably the same as is published in Lagarde’s Analecta, pp. 195 -201. On fol. 126 a [Syriac]

A discourse of Plutarch, on Anger,

for which see Lagarde, Analecta Syriaca, pp. 186-195. On fol. 132 b [Syriac]

A discourse of Lucius (Lucianus), that we should not receive slander against our friends: peri\ tou~ mh_ r(a|di/wj pisteu&ein diabolh~|.  

Apparently the same as is given in Sachau, Inedita, pp. 1-16. On fol. 140 a [Syriac]

A discourse made by a philosopher, De Anima:

probably the same as is given in Sachau, Inedita, as Philosophorum de anima sententiae. On fol. 143 a, [Syriac]

or, the Counsel of Theano, a female philosopher of the school of Pythagoras:

see Sachau, Inedita, pp. 70-75, as Theano: Sententiae[2]fn2. See Wright’s Catalogue, p. 1160. The general contents of this MS. (Brit. Mus. 987) should be compared with those of the MS. here described: it contains e.g. the Apology of Melito and the … Continue reading.

On fol. 145 b a collection of Sayings of the Philosophers, beginning with [Syriac] (Plato the Wise said).

On fol. 151 6 [Syriac]

A first discourse in explanation of Ecclesiastes, made by Mar John the Solitary for the blessed Theognis. See Wright’s Cat. of the Syr. MSS. in the Brit Mus. p. 996. |6

And from fol. 214a onward the volume is occupied with translations from the Homilies of Chrysostom on Matthew.

The above description will shew something of the value of the MS. It will also suggest that it was the ethical character of the Apology of Aristides that secured its incorporation with the volume. Let us now pass on to discuss the effect which this recovered document has upon our estimate of the Eusebian statements concerning the earliest Church Apologists.


According to the Chronicon of Eusebius we have the following date for the Apologies of Quadratus and Aristides:

1. The Armenian version of the Chronicon gives under the year 124 A.D. as follows:

Ol. A. Abr. Imp. Rom. . .
d226 2140 8c d Adrianus Eleusinarum rerum gnarus fuit multaque (dona) Atheniensium largitus est.
. . . c Romanorum ecclesiae episcopatum excepit septimus Telesphorus annis xi.

Codratus apostolorum auditor et Aristides nostri dogmatis (nostrae rei) philosophus Atheniensis Adriano supplicationes dedere apologeticas (apologiae, responsionis) ob mandatum. Acceperat tamen et a Serennio (s. Serenno) splendido praeside (iudice) scriptum de Christianis, quod nempe iniquum sit occidere cos solo rumore sine inquisitione, neque ulla accusatione. Scribit Armonicus Fundius (Phundius) proconsuli Asianorum ut sine ullo damno et incusatione non damnarentur; et exemplar edicti eius hucusque circumfertur.

One of the Armenian MSS. (Cod. N) transfers this notice about the Apologists to the following year, and it is believed that this represents more exactly the time of Hadrian’s first visit to Athens (125-126 A.D.). With this agrees the dating of the Latin version of Jerome. We may say then that it is the intention of Eusebius to refer the presentation of both these |7 Apologies to the time when Hadrian was spending his first winter in Athens; and to make them the reason for the Imperial rescript to Minucius Fundanus which we find attached to the first Apology of Justin Martyr. And since Minucius Fundanus and his predecessor Granianus were consuls suffect in the years 106 and 107, it is not unreasonable to suppose that they held the Asian pro-consulate in the years A.D. 123 and 124, or 124 and 125. If then Aristides and Quadratus presented apologies to Hadrian, it is reasonable to connect these Apologies with his first Athenian winter and not with the second (A.D. 129-130).

But here we begin to meet with difficulties; for, in the first place, much doubt has been thrown on the genuineness of the rescript of the emperor to Minucius Fundanus; in the second place there is a suspicious resemblance between Quadratus the Apologist and another Quadratus who was bishop of Athens in the reign of Antoninus Pius, succeeding to Publius whom Jerome affirms to have been martyred; and in the third place our newly-recovered document cannot by any possibility be referred to the period suggested by Eusebius, and there is only the barest possibility of its having been presented to the Emperor Hadrian at all. Let us examine this last point carefully, in order to answer, as far as our means will permit, the question as to the time of presentation of the Apology of Aristides and the person or persons to whom it was addressed.

The Armenian fragment is headed as follows:

To the Emperor Hadrian Caesar, from Aristides, philosopher of Athens.

There is nothing, at first sight, to lead us to believe that this is the original heading; such a summary merely reflects the Eusebian tradition and might be immediately derived from it.

When we turn to the Syriac Version, we find a somewhat similar preface, to the following effect.

Apology made by Aristides the Philosopher before Hadrianus the King, concerning the worship of Almighty God.

But this, which seems to be a mere literary heading, proper, shall we say, for one out of a collection of apologies, is immediately |8 followed by another introduction which cannot be anything else than a part of the primitive apology. It runs as follows:

… Caesar Titus Hadrianus Antoninus, Worshipful and Clement, from Marcianus Aristides, philosopher of Athens.

The additional information which we derive from this sentence is a sufficient guarantee of its genuineness; we have the first name of the philosopher given, as Marcianus; and we have the name of the emperor addressed given at length. To our astonishment this is not Hadrian, but his successor Antoninus Pius, who bears the name of Hadrian by adoption from Publius Aelius Hadrianus. Unless therefore we can shew that there is an error or a deficiency in the opening sentence of the Apology we shall be obliged to refer it to the time of the emperor Antoninus Pius, and to say that Eusebius has made a mistake in reading the title of the Apology, or has followed some one who had made the mistake before him. And it seems tolerably clear that if an error exist at all in such a precise statement as ours, it must be of the nature of an omission. Let us see what can be urged in favour of this theory. We will imagine that the original title contained the names both of Hadrian and of Antoninus Pius, his adviser and companion, much in the same way as Justin opens his first Apology with” the words, “to the Emperor Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Pius Augustus Caesar and to his son Verissimus the Philosopher, and to Lucius the Philosopher, natural son of Caesar and adopted son of Pius….I Justin…have written the following appeal and supplication.” In support of this theory we might urge the apparent dislocation of the opening sentence of our Apology. The Syriac version is clearly wrong in its punctuation, for example, since it transfers the expression [Syriac] (Almighty) to Caesar, by placing a colon after the word [Syriac] (God). This is clearly impossible, for that the writer did not attempt to translate, say, au)tokra&twr as if it were pantokra&twr will be evident from his correct use of the Divine attribute later on in his work. But even if the translator had been guilty of such a mistake, the case would not have been bettered, because Antonine would now have been styled Emperor as well as Caesar.

But let us imagine if we please that the term Caesar or |9 Emperor Caesar belongs to a previous name which has dropped out and supply the connective necessary, so as to read, “To the Emperor Aelius Hadrianus Augustus Caesar and to Titus Hadrianus Antoninus.” In support of this we may urge that the adjectives which follow are marked in the Syriac with the sign of the plural, as if the writer imagined himself to be addressing more persons than one. Supposing then that this is the case we should still have to face the question as to the name given to Antonine; if he is called Hadrian, this must mean that the Apology is presented at some time subsequent to his adoption, which is generally understood to have taken place in the year A.D. 138, only a little while before Hadrian’s death. So that in any case we should be prohibited by our document from dating the Apology in question either in the first visit of Hadrian to Athens or in the second visit, and we should only have the barest possibility that it was presented to Hadrian at all. It would have, so to speak, to be read to him on his death-bed at Baiae. Seeing then the extreme difficulty of maintaining the Hadrianic or Eusebian hypothesis, we are driven to refer the Apology to the reign of Antoninus Pius, and to affirm that Eusebius made a mistake in reading or quoting the title of the book, in which mistake he has been followed by a host of other and later writers. If he followed a text which had the heading as in the Syriac, he has misunderstood the person spoken of as Hadrian the king; and if on the other hand he takes the opening sentences as his guide, he has made a superficial reference, which a closer reading would have corrected. All that is necessary to make the Syriac MS. intelligible is the introduction of a simple prepositional prefix before the imperial name, and the deletion of the ribbui points in the adjectives.

Nor is this all; for there can be no doubt that the two adjectives in question ([Syriac]) are intended to represent two of the final titles of Antoninus: [Syriac] standing for the Greek Sebasto&j, which again is the equivalent of the Latin Augustus; and [Syriac] being the equivalent of the title Pius which the Roman Senate gave to Antoninus shortly after his accession and which the Greeks render by eu)sebh&j. And it is precisely in this order that the titles are usually found, |10 viz. Augustus Pius, which the Syriac has treated as adjectives, and connected by a conjunction. Moreover this translation of eu)sebh&j on the part of the Syriac interpreter shews that the meaning of the title is ‘clement’ or ‘compassionate,’ rather than that of mere filial duty, which agrees with what we find in a letter of Marcus Aurelius to Faustina; “haec (clementia) patrem tuum imprimis Pii nomine ornavit[3]fn3. Quoted by Eckhel, Doctrina vii. Ft. n. p. 36. This would seem to resolve the perplexity of Spartianus as to the origin of the name..”

Now how will this conclusion react upon the companion Apology of Quadratus? We could, no doubt, maintain that it leaves the question where it found it. The mistake made by Eusebius need not have been a double error, and the correct reference to Hadrian for Quadratus’s Apology would have furnished a starting-point for the incorrect reasoning with regard to Aristides. On this supposition we should simply erase the reference to Aristides from Eusebius and his imitators.

But there is one difficulty to be faced, and that is the fact that we were in confusion over Quadratus before we reached any conclusion about Aristides. And our investigation has not helped to any elucidation of the confusion. Read for example the language in which Eusebius (H. E. IV. 3) describes the presentation of the Apology,


and compare it with the Greek of the Chronicon as preserved by Syncellus,


and we naturally suspect with Harnack[4]fn4. Die griechischen Apologeten p. 101. I need not say how much I am indebted to Harnack’s investigations. It will be apparent throughout these pages. that the title must have been something like the following,


and we are confirmed in this belief by finding that the Aristides Apology was also headed

a)pologi/a u(pe\r th~j qeosebei/aj?: 

at least its literary heading must have been very like this. |11

May we not also infer that the opening sentences of the Quadratus-Apology must have contained the dedication Ai0li/w| 9Adrianw~| which we find suggested above? But when we have made these suppositions the similarity between the two apologies in the titles is very great, for Aelius Hadrianus is also a part of the adopted name of the emperor Antoninus.

And let us look at the matter from another point of view. One of our early sources of information about Quadratus, the bishop of Athens, is found in a passage of a letter of Dionysius of Corinth preserved by Eusebius, and certainly Dionysius of Corinth ought to be good authority for Athenian religious history of the time immediately preceding his own. Euscbius does not actually quote the letter which Dionysius wrote to the church at Athens, but he tells us its scope and makes it easy to divine its contents: his language is as follows:


From this it would naturally be inferred that the Quadratus mentioned in the letter was a contemporary of Dionysius of Corinth; for the latter writes to the Athenians at once convicting them of slackness in the faith, and congratulating them on their happy revival under the ministration of Quadratus. And since Dionysius writes letters also to Soter, the bishop of Rome, who belongs to the early years of Marcus Aurelius, we should probably say that Quadratus was not very much earlier than this, which would place him in the reign of Antoninus Pius. And the persecution at Athens which ended in the martyrdom of Publius must therefore fall in the same reign. Now Jerome (de Virr. ill. § 19) identifies this Quadratus, the bishop of Athens, with the Apologist[5]fn5. “Quadratus apostolorum discipulus, Publio Athenarum episcopo ob Christi fidem martyrio coronato, in locum eius substituitur et ecclesiam grandi terrore dispersam fide et industria sua … Continue reading, and consequently pushes back the persecution into the |12 reign of Hadrian. We do not indeed attach any especial weight to Jerome’s statement as to the time of the persecution, which is simply a combination made up out of passages from Eusebius concerning Quadratus and Dionysius with slight amplifications. He can hardly be right in placing the persecution under the reign of Hadrian, for, as Lightfoot points out[6]fn6. Lightfoot, Ignatius, ed. ii. 11. 541., Eusebius, from whom he draws his facts, knows nothing about it: moreover we have information from Melito[7]fn7. Euseb. H. E. iv. 26, ex apologia Melitonis, [Greek]. This certainly looks like an outbreak of persecution in Greece. that Antoninus Pius did actually write to Athens to suppress a persecution of the Christians. But, on the other hand, may he not be right after all in his identification of the bishop Quadratus with the Apologist, and do not the circumstances of the persecution suggested by Melito and testified to by Dionysius exactly suit the presentation of the Apology to the emperor?

While then we would readily admit that, as long as the Apology of Aristides was held to belong to the time of an Athenian visit of Hadrian, the Apology of Quadratus naturally remained with it, yet on the other hand when the Hadrian hypothesis is untenable for Aristides, will not the Quadratus-bishop and Quadratus-apologist naturally run together, and be one and the same person? Or is there anything to prevent the identification? The words ‘apostolorum discipulus,’ used by Jerome, and the corresponding words of Eusebius, a0posto&lwn a0kousth&j, can hardly be held to militate seriously against this hypothesis, for they are evident deductions from the passage which Eusebius quotes from the Apology of Quadratus about the sick people healed by the Lord, ‘some of whom continued down to our times.’ Jerome says boldly that Quadratus had seen very many of the subjects of our Lord’s miracles; which is in any case a gross exaggeration. But if such persons, either many or few, had really lived into the age of Quadratus, it would be very difficult to place |13 the Apologist in the reign of Antoninus Pius. Unless, therefore, it can be maintained that the language quoted by Eusebius from Quadratus is an exaggeration or a misunderstanding we can hardly identify the bishop with the apologist. This is the furthest point to which the evidence carries the argument.

And now let us return to Aristides and see whether we can determine anything further concerning the time and manner of presentation of the Apology.

And first of all we may say that the simplicity of the style of the Apology is in favour of an early date. The religious ideas and practices are of an antique cast. The ethics shew a remarkable continuity with Jewish ethics: the care for the stranger and the friendless, the burial of the dead and the like, are given as characteristic virtues both of Judaism and of Christianity. Indeed we may say that one of the surprising things about the Apology is the friendly tone in which the Jews are spoken of: one certainly would not suspect that the chasm between the Church and the Synagogue had become as practically impassable as we find it in the middle of the second century. There is no sign of the hostile tone which we find towards the Jews in the martyrdom of Polycarp, and nothing like the severity of contempt which we find in the Epistle to Diognetus. If the Church is not in the writer’s time any longer under the wing of the Synagogue, it has apparently no objection to taking the Synagogue occasionally under its own wing.

Such a consideration seems to be a mark of antiquity, and one would, therefore, prefer to believe, if it were possible, that the Apology was earlier than the Jewish revolt under Bar-Cochab. But since we have shewn that view to be untenable (and yet how attractive if we could place Aristides in the second visit of Hadrian to Athens, and Quadratus in the first !) we must content ourselves with seeking as early a date as is consistent with the superscriptions.

Another point that seems ancient about our Apology is that it contains traces, and very interesting traces, of the use of a creed, very similar to the Apostolic Symbol, but involving certain notable points of difference. We shall discuss the question more at length by and by; but at present it will be interesting |14 to notice, especially in view of the obviously friendly attitude of the writer towards the Jews, that his creed contained a clause to the effect that

‘He was crucified by the Jews,’

perhaps without the clause that was current in later times, ‘under Pontius Pilate.’ Now I am aware that there are some persons to whom this will seem an argument for a later date; for example M. Renan, Origines vi. p. 277, says: “les Chrétiens commençaient à faire retomber sur l’ensemble de la nation juive un reproche que sûrement ni Pierre ni Jacques ni l’auteur de l’Apocalypse ne songeaient à lui adresser, celui d’avoir crucifié Jésus.” It would be interesting however to compare this statement of M. Renan with the language of Peter in Acts ii. 36, “Whom ye crucified;” of James in Ep. v. 6, “ye murdered the Just;” or with the writer of the Apocalypse where he describes Jerusalem as the spiritual Sodom and Egypt, “where also our Lord was crucified.”

The very same charge is made by Justin in his dialogue with Trypho[8]fn8. Dial. 16., who uses language very similar to that of the Epistle of James, and in discussing the miseries which have befallen the Jewish race, says pointedly “Fairly and justly have these things come upon you; for Ye slew the Just One.” Why should we assume such a sentiment to be a mark of late date?

These references do not, however, suggest that the sentence in question was in the Creed. To prove that, we should have to go much farther afield, for the known forms of early creeds do not seem to contain it: if, however, we were to examine the Apocryphal Christian Literature of the early centuries, we should, no doubt, find many traces of the lost sentence. For example, it comes over and over in the Apocryphal Acts of John, a Gnostic document which Wright edited and translated from the Syriac. Here we find the sentence frequently in the very connection which it would have with other Christian dogmatic statements if it had been incorporated with some actual form of the Symbol of Faith. When we find that these Acts give us as the staple of Apostolic teaching that |15

“The Jews crucified Him on the tree,
And He died
And rose after three days,
And He is God,
And He ascended to Heaven
And is at the right hand of His Father”

we must admit that the sequence of ideas, and probably the very words, are from a Creed.

The same thing is true when we find the Apostle speaking, and saying

“In the name of Jesus the Messiah, God,
Whom the Jews crucified and killed in Jerusalem;
And He died and was buried
And rose after three days:
And lo ! He is above in Heaven
At the right hand of His Father.”

At all events we may maintain that there is evidence for the diffusion of the Creed in early times under a slightly different form to that generally received, and if so, we may call it a mark of antiquity to have the Apology of Aristides expressing itself to that effect; for certainly no such sentence in the generally received Creed existed in later times, however widely the sentiment against the Jews may have been diffused.

It is interesting also to compare the custom of the early Christians in the matter of fasting, that they might relieve by their self-denial the necessities of the poor. This is precisely what we find described so fully in the Similitudes of Hermas (Sim. v. 3), where the directions are given that on the day when we fast we are ourselves to eat only bread and water, and calculate the amount saved thereby and bestow it on the poor. Now very many of the later fathers teach the same doctrine, that fasting and alms are conjoined in duty and merit, and that it is proper, under certain circumstances, for the church to call for such an expression of religion. But what makes for the antiquity of the Apology is that the whole church fasts, not merely one day, but two or three days, and that not by direction or rule, but because they are poor and have no other way of meeting the needs of those who are poorer |16 than themselves. It is a spontaneous, rather than a commanded charity, dictated at once by love and necessity. Can such a practice in such a form be other than early? But if the Apology is early in its doctrines and practices, where shall we place it? Must it not be at least as early as the first years of the reign of Antoninus Pius?

But here we are in difficulty again, for, if we assume that the Apology was presented to Antoninus Pius in person, we have no satisfactory evidence that Antoninus was ever in the East, or in Greece after his accession, and even the suspicions as to an Eastern visit belong to a later period of his reign, say A.D. 154. Did Aristides present the Apology at Rome or elsewhere? May we infer from his calling himself Marcianus Aristides, Philosopher of Athens, that he was in some city not his own natural dwelling-place? For that he came from Athens is deducible not only from his own statement but also from the fact to which we have already alluded that Antoninus wrote to Athens to suppress a persecution of the Christians. But this almost implies that Antoninus was not in Athens when he received the Apology, or where would be the need of writing a letter at all? He must have been out of Greece.

Only two solutions seem to present themselves, (i) that Aristides journeyed to Rome to present his apology; (ii) that Antoninus made some unrecorded visit to the East.

Now with regard to the second of these suppositions there is reason, outside of our argument and its necessities, to believe that some such visit must have taken place, and that Antoninus held court at Smyrna, some time after his accession to the throne.

In the celebrated letter of Irenaeus to Florinus (written probably later than A.D. 189) the writer speaks of having seen Florinus when he lived in lower Asia with Polycarp, when he was at the royal court, and rising in esteem there; he, Irenaeus, being at that time a boy. Now this seems to imply some kind of royal residence at Smyrna; but it has always been difficult to determine what is meant by such a royal residence. The problem is discussed by Lightfoot in his Ignatius (ed. ii. vol. I. p. 449), It cannot be Hadrian’s visit in A.D. 129, which would be too early; and Lightfoot thinks that although there is some reason for believing |17 Antoninus Pius to have been in Syria, and presumably also in Asia Minor, somewhere about A.D. 154, 155, this date is too late, on account of the mention of Polycarp. Accordingly Lightfoot frames, with some hesitation, the following hypothesis: “About the year 136 T. Aurelius Fulvus was proconsul of Asia. Within two or three years of his proconsulate he was raised to the imperial throne, and is known as Antoninus Pius. Even during his proconsulate omens marked him as the future occupant of the imperial throne. … Florinus may have belonged to his suite, and Irenaeus in after years might well call the proconsul’s retinue the ‘royal Court’ by anticipation, especially if Florinus accompanied him to Rome, &c.”

This ingenious hypothesis only fails to meet our requirement on one point, viz. that the name given to Antoninus in the Apology is the name given him after adoption, and so is subsequent to Feb. 25, A.D. 138.

But suppose we imagine a visit of Antoninus to Asia Minor some years later than this, we could find then some support for the theory that Aristides presented his Apology to the Emperor at Smyrna.

For we might say that the name of Marcianus is a conspicuous one in the Church at Smyrna. When the Church of the Smyrnaeans wrote for the Church of Philomelium the account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, they employed to compose the narrative a person whom they characterise as our brother Marcianus[9]fn9. Mart. Polyc. 20.. Now it is worthy of note that this person must have been conspicuous in the Church of Smyrna, for he is probably the same person to whom Irenaeus, whose relations with the Church at Smyrna are so intimate, dedicated one of his treatises[10]fn10. Euseb. H. E. v. 26.. Moreover the relations of the Church to the Emperor through Florinus would have been favourable for the presentation of the Apology.

Let us then say, in recapitulation, that we have found it difficult to assign the Apology to any other period than the early years of the reign of Antoninus Pius; and it is at least conceivable that it may have been presented to the Emperor, along with other Christian writings, during an unrecorded visit of his to his ancient seat of government in Smyrna. |18

There are a few later references to Aristides to which we have drawn no attention hitherto, because it seemed to be impossible to extract any trustworthy data from them: they are as follows:

(1) A passage in a letter of Jerome to Magnus, “Aristides philosophus, vir eloquentissimus, eidem principi (Hadriano) Apologeticum pro Christianis obtulit, contextum philosophorum sententiis, quem imitatus postea Justinus, et ipse philosophus.” This is simply a réchauffé of the Eusebian data, with reflections thereupon. Justin being a philosopher, his Apology naturally imitates the philosophical treatise which has preceded his own.

(2) Martyrologium Vetus Romanum[11]fn11. Migne, Patr. Lat. cxxiii. ad v. Nonas Octobris.

Athenis Dionysii Areopagitae sub Hadriano diversis tormen-tis passi, ut Aristides testis est in opere quod de Christiana religione composuit; hoc opus apud Athénien ses inter antiquorum memorias clarissimum tenetur.” Aristides himself is commemorated on ii. Kal. Septr. and it is said that in his treatise he maintained “quod Christus Jesus solus esset Deus.

It would be very interesting to determine how the Martyrologies arrived at these statements. Our Syriac Apology certainly contains no trace of an allusion to Dionysius the Areopagite; on the other hand it fairly enough teaches the Divinity of Christ. We would dismiss the statements at once as archaeological fictions if it had not been that evidence has been produced for the existence of a Latin version of Aristides. Harnack’s attention was drawn by the pastor Kawerau to the following letter of Witzel to Beatus Rhenanus, dated Bartholomew’s day 1534. “Dedisti nobis Eusebium, praeterea Tertullianum. Restat ut pari nitore des Justinum Martyrem, Papiam et Ignatium graece excusum. Amabo, per Bibliothecas oberrare, venaturus si quid scripsit Quadratus, si praeter epistolam alia Polycarpus, si nonnihil praeter Apologeticon Aristides. Despice, si quae supersunt Cornelii et tanta bonorum librorum panolethria. Plures sunt Dionysii scriptores, sed omnes praeter unum Areopagitem desyderamus, qui utinam sua quoque in lingua extaret. Utinam exorirentur Stromata Clementis, breviter quicquid est kro&ni+on. Tineae pascuntur libris, quibus |19 homines pasci debebamus &c.” I have given the extract from Harnack’s copy[12]fn12. Die Griechischen Apologeten, p. 107 note. I cannot find it in Briefwechsel des Beatus Rhenanus by Horawitz and Hartfelder, Leipzig, 1886. I understand, however, from Prof. Kawerau, that it … Continue reading, not having access to the original letter.

It seems to me that Witzel’s language almost implies that the Apology was already in print in Latin. Is it conceivable that some portion of the Apology may have found its way into print before the year 1534 and remained unnoticed in later times?

But even if it existed in manuscript, we must leave it an open question whether it may not have contained some matter which is wanting in the Syriac; nevertheless it is à priori extremely improbable that the story about the martyrdom of Dionysius the Areopagite can belong here.


We have alluded above to a possible connection between the True Word of Celsus and the Apology of Aristides, and it may be worth while to follow the matter up a little closer for the following reasons:

1. Celsus is undoubtedly very nearly contemporary with Aristides; although it is difficult to determine his date exactly (and even Origen was doubtful as to his identity), we may probably say with a good assurance of safety that he was at the zenith of his influence and fame under the reign of Antoninus Pius.

2. It is peculiarly difficult to determine what Christian books had come into the hands of Celsus, whether gospels or other literature. We know however for certain that he had read the dialogue between Jason and Papiscus, a work of Aristo of Pella, written not long after the close of the Jewish war under Hadrian, and so at a period very near to the one in which we are interested. Now if he were reading contemporary Christian literature he could hardly miss Aristides.

3. And since we find more and closer parallels between the fragments preserved by Origen from the great work of Celsus and our Apology than between most of the other books of the century, it is at least a fair question whether Aristides was not one of the persons to whom Celsus undertook to reply. |20

One of the leading beliefs in Aristides is that God made all things for the sake of man. This doctrine he repeats in various forms, shewing that the separate elements, the earth, the air, the fire, and the water together with the sun, moon and stars, are his ministers. Now Celsus seems to have been particularly opposed to this doctrine and to have discussed it at length: it was one of the points of contact between the Stoic philosophy and the Jewish and Christian faiths, and Celsus was, no doubt, well prepared to be diffuse on the subject by many previous philosophical encounters.

He draws ridiculous pictures of the philosophy of the frogs in the swamp, of the ants in their ant-hill, and of bevies of bats, discussing the to them obvious proposition that the world has been made solely for their benefit. Accordingly Origen remarks, [Greek][13]fn13. Origen c. Celsum, lib. iv. 23.. In which sentence he has pretty well covered the argument from Providence as stated by Aristides. Were the elements and the stars, says he, made for the self-congratulation and self-exaltation of the bat, the frog, or—-the man?

But he carries out the argument in detail: a providence over man is as reasonable as a providence over beasts and vegetables, which can be proved from the same data. [Greek][14]fn14. lib. iv. 74.. Indeed, according to Celsus, Providence is more apparent in the case of ants and bees and the like, which obtain their food without labour or with much less labour than happens in the case of man. He will not hear of such a statement as that the sun and stars serve man, much less what Aristides affirms, that the sun was created to serve the multiplicity of human need. Do not, says he, quote me verses from Euripides about sunshine and shade serving man; how do they serve him any more than the ants or the flies, which sleep |21 and wake much as we do? [Greek][15]fn15. lib. iv. 77.;

Now of course we do not mean to suggest that Aristides invented the argument from Providence or that Celsus was the first to heap easy scorn upon it. The argument and the reply are commonplaces. Celsus’s question as to whether the world was created for the sake of vegetables will be found discussed in Cicero, de Natura Deorum II. 133. “Cuiusnam causa tantarum rerum molitio sit? Arborumne et herbarum? quae quamquam sine sensu sunt, tarnen a natura sustinentur. At id quidem absurdum est. An bestiarum? Nihilo probabilius, deos mutorum et nihil intelligentium causa tantum laborasse—-Ita fit credibile deorum et hominum causa factum esse mundum, quaeque in eo sint omnia.

It is easy to see how both the Jewish and Christian teachers, starting from the same text, the first verse in the book of Genesis, and formulating the same statement of faith, that the Almighty was ‘Maker of Heaven and Earth,’ found themselves fighting in the ranks with the Stoics against the Epicureans, and so exposed from time to time to the infinite raillery which seemed to the latter school to be proper to the situation. As we have said, Aristides does not stand alone in the statement. Justin Martyr takes the same ground and implies that it is a part of the regular Christian teaching. “We are taught,” says he, “that God in His goodness created all things in the beginning from formless matter, for the sake of man[16]fn16. Justin Apol. i. c. 10.;” and the unknown writer of the Epistle to Diognetus affirms that “God loved men, for whom He made the world, to whom He subjected all things that are in the earth[17]fn17. Ep. ad Diogn. 10..

It is however worthy of notice that in Aristides the argument is repeated over and over, and that Celsus answers it, as Origen thought, at unnecessary length. It is not therefore inconceivable that Aristides may have drawn the Epicurean fire upon himself (and in this matter we may certainly count Celsus with the Epicureans) by the stress which he laid on the point in his Apology.

Let us pass on to another point upon which Aristides is |22 somewhat original, viz. the doctrine of the races of the world and of their origin.

Aristides divides the world into four races, the Barbarian, the Greek, the Jew, the Christian. The last two races are curiously described; the Jews derive their origin from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: they went down from Syria into Egypt; they came back from Egypt into Syria. As for the Christians, the new race, they derive their origin from Jesus the Messiah, and He is called the Son of God Most High.

Now in the first book against Celsus, Origen remarks as follows: “Celsus promises that he will speak on the subject of the Jews later on, and he begins his discourse concerning our Saviour, as being the leader of our generation in so far as we are Christians[18]fn18. Orig. c. Cels. i. 26 [Greek], and he goes on to say that he was the leader of this teaching, a few years ago, being regarded by the Christians as the Son of God.”

Now it is worthy of note that if Celsus is handling any written document, that document proceeded from the discussion of the Jews to the Christians, affirmed Christ to be the head of the new race, and declared that His followers regarded Him as the Son of God. The agreement at this point with Aristides is certainly striking.

When moreover we come to the discussion of the Jews, Celsus breaks out that the ‘Jews were mere Egyptian runaways, and that this darling people of God had never done anything worth remembering[19]fn19. Orig. c. Cels. iv. 32.,’ just as if he had passed over the names of the Patriarchs and fastened on the admission that the Jews had come out of Egypt. Accordingly Origen replies that it is universally agreed that the Jews reckon their genealogy from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; [Greek].

When Aristides deals with the beliefs of the Jews he expresses the remarkable opinion that the Jewish ritual is rather an adoration of angels than a worship of God. The expression is the more remarkable, because Aristides affects to reason throughout as the |23 philosopher rather than the Christian, arid he forgets himself and introduces the angels without even an explanation to the emperor, as to what beings are intended. What shall we say then when we find Celsus affirming that the Jews worship angels[20]fn20. Orig. c. Cels. i. 26.? [Greek] And Origen is so puzzled as to ask ‘where in the world did Celsus find in the Mosaic writings instruction in the worship of angels?’ It is certainly curious that we find the missing link supplied by the Apology of Aristides.

No doubt further analogies might be traced; for example, Celsus is especially irate with the Christians for their ridicule of Egyptian superstitions[21]fn21. Orig. c. Cels. iii. 19., they see nothing except ephemeral animals, instead of grasping eternal ideas. Now there is no doubt that it is a very common subject of Christian merriment, but perhaps no one of the early Christian Writers has laughed so much in detail about it as Aristides. We will not however press the matter further: there are always numerous points of contact and necessary collisions between the attack and the defence of given religions: suffice it to say that we have shewn it to be by no means an inconceivable proposition that Celsus had read the Apology of Aristides before he penned his ‘Alhqh_j lo&goj.


Aristides the Philosopher is a Christian who has preserved the philosophic manner, and probably the philosophic dress, with a view to future service in the gospel. It seems to have been the practice of not a few of the famous second-century Christians to attract an audience in this way. Justin certainly did so, and almost as surely Tatian; and if these why not Aristides? But as we have already said, the professedly dispassionate presentation of the Christian case, the endeavour to talk reasonably on all sides successively, soon breaks down; the man throws off his disguise and gives the note of challenge: Christianus sum; nihil Christianum alienum a me puto. He talks of angels as though all men knew them, dashes through the dogmatic statements of the Church as though they were perfectly familiar, and without a |24  word of preliminary explanation of terms, makes a peroration of the impending judgment-day. And so the philosopher with an imperial audience turns out to be another illustration of the Christian city that is set on a hill and cannot be hid.

It is especially interesting to observe that in the time of Aristides the Church already had a Symbol of the Faith: and we may reconstruct a good many of its sentences. Of course in such matters we proceed from the things that are practically certain to those which are less demonstrable; we should not start by saying that the words “Maker of heaven and earth” were proof of the existence of an approximately fixed symbol. But if we can establish other sentences with good confidence, there is no reason to omit these words from the reconstructed formula.

The certain passage from which we proceed is in the words:

“He was pierced (crucified) by the Jews;
“He died and was buried;”
” and they say that
after three days He rose,
and ascended into Heaven.”

It may be taken for granted that these words represent a part of the Symbolum Fidei as known to Aristides.

What else may we say was contained in his creed? We may add words which must have stood respectively at the beginning and ending of the Creed: viz. that God was the Maker of Heaven and Earth; and that Jesus Christ was to come to judge the world.

Whether we can go further is a more difficult question: but there is at least a strong suspicion that the creed contained the clause “He was born of the Virgin Mary;” for in Aristides’ statement the language about the ‘Hebrew virgin’ precedes the account of the Crucifixion; moreover, here also, we find Aristides is most pronounced in the enunciation of the doctrine, and Celsus is emphatically scornful in the rejection of it. Accordingly Celsus brings forward the story of the infidelity of Mary, affirming that the father of Jesus was in reality a soldier whose name was Panthera[22]fn22. Orig. c. Cels. i. 32.. The same story appears in the Talmud under the name Pandera, which is a transliteration of the foregoing. |25

Indeed it has been generally held that the legend was invented by the Jews, through the difficulty of accounting for our Lord’s birth; apparently, therefore, the Jews were in search of a more tenable hypothesis than the paternity of Joseph; and it is not unreasonable to refer to an early Jewish scandal the story which we find in the Talmud and in Celsus.

But if the story be Jewish in origin, it was certainly Greek in manufacture. Some persons have tried to explain the Greek name Panthera by regarding it as a symbol of violent and unrestrained lust. They are, however, mistaken: the name is simply a Greek anagram on the word ‘Parthenos,’ by which the Blessed Virgin was commonly known. Those who are familiar with the literary tricks of that time, its anagrams, acrostics, isopsephics, and the like, will have not the least difficulty in seeing that this is the true solution. The inventor has only changed the order of the letters and slightly altered the ending of the word. Everything that we know of the dogmatics of the early part of the second century agrees with the belief that at that period the Virginity of Mary was a part of the formulated Christian belief. Nor need we hesitate, in view of the antiquity of the Panthera-fable, to give the doctrine a place in the creed of Aristides.

We restore the fragments of Aristides’ creed, then, as follows:

We believe in one God, Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth:
And in Jesus Christ His Son
*        *        *        *
Born of the Virgin Mary:
*        *        *        *
He was pierced by the Jews:
He died and was buried:
The third day He rose again:
He ascended into Heaven:
*        *        *        *
He is about to come to judge.
*        *        *        *        |26



We give, later on, the Latin translation of the Armenian fragment, as published by the Venetian editors. The passage has also been translated into German by von Himpel[23]fn23.  Tüb. Theol. Quartalschrift, 1877, ii. p. 289, f. 1880, I. p. 109-127., and this translation will be found in Harnack’s Griechische Apologeten, pp. 110-112. Von Himpel rightly affirms the Armenian text to have been made from the Greek: it will be observed, however, that the Armenian text has the same lacuna as the Syriac in the discourse on the four elements and the powers to which they are respectively subject. This lacuna would seem to be an early feature of the Greek text.

There are one or two points in which we may get some authority from the Armenian for the original text. For instance in c. ii. where the Syriac reads that the origin of the Greeks is to be traced through “Danaus the Egyptian, and through Kadmus, and through Dionysus.” Here the Armenian reads “Danaus the Egyptian and Kadmus the Sidonian and Dionysus the Theban,” and I am disposed to believe the words added in the Armenian belong there: for instance, we may compare Tatian’s language[24]fn24. Cohortatio, c. viii., “Dionysus is absolute sovereign over the Thebans.” In a similar manner something seems to have dropped in the Syriac after the statement that in God there is no distinction of male or female; for the Armenian text adds the reason “quia cupiditatibus agitatur qui huic est distinctioni obnoxius.” Again in the opening sentences of the Apology the Armenian text has the words, “Eum autem qui rector atque creator est omnium, investigare perdifficile est[25]fn25. Plato, Timaeus, 28 C, [Greek].” We recognize at once in these words the ring of the characteristic Christian quotation from the Timaeus, which is usually employed to shew the superior illuminating power of Christian grace over philosophic research, but seems here to be taken in the Platonic sense. The Armenian is perhaps a little nearer to the Platonic language than the Syriac; both versions however will claim the passage from the Timaeus as a parallel. |27

Allowing then for the occasional preservation of a passage in greater purity by the Armenian fragment, we shall find that the Armenian translator has often made changes, and added glosses, and epitomized sentences. For example, in the summary of the Christian Faith, he describes the Son as the Logos, His mother as the Theotokos. When the disciples are sent forth, in order that a certain oi0konomi/a may be fulfilled, the Armenian translator calls it a dispensation of illuminating truth; the preaching too is with ‘signs following,’ ‘comitantibus prodigiis,‘ which seems to come from Mark xvi. 20 and would be, if genuine, one of the earliest illustrations of that text. It will be seen how large an element of paraphrase is found in the Armenian text.

 The Armenian Fragment (from the Venice edition).


Ego, O Rex, Dei providentia creatus, hunc mundum ingressus sum, et caelis, terra ac mari, sole, luna et stellis, caeterisque omnibus creaturis conspectis, huius mundi constitutionem admirans miratus sum, atque conscius factus sum mihi, quoniam omnia quae sunt in mundo necessitate ac vi diriguntur, omnium creatorem et rectorem esse Deum: quia iis omnibus quae reguntur atque moventur, fortior est creator et rector.

Eum autem, qui rector atque creator est omnium, investigare perdifficile atque in immensum pertinens mihi videtur: penitus vero eum et certa ratione describere, quum inexplicabilis et ineffabilis sit, impossibile et sine ulla prorsus utilitate. Deus enim naturam habet infinitam, imperscrutabilem et creaturis omnibus incomprehensibilem. Hoc unum scire necesse est, qui creaturas universas Providentia sua gubernat, ipsum esse Dominum Deum et creatorem omnium: quia visibilia omnia creavit bonitate sua, eaque humano generi donavit. Quapropter Illum solum, utpote unum Deum, nos adorare et glorificare oportet: unumquemque autem nostrum proximum suum sicut semetipsum diligere. |28

Verumtamen de Deo saltem sciendum est, Eum ab alio factum non fuisse, neque semetipsum fecisse, atque, a nullo circumscriptum, omnia comprehendere. Ex se ipsomet est[26]fn26. Sensus dubius: armeniaca verba idem sonant ac graeca au)togene\j ei]doj.. Ipse sapientia immortalis, principio et fine carens, immortalis atque aeternus, perfectus, nulli necessitati obnoxius, et necessitatibus omnium satisfaciens, nullo indigens et indigentiis omnium ipse magnificus opitulator.

Ipse est principio carens, quia, qui habet principium, habet et finem. Ipse sine nomine, quod quicumque nomine appellatur, creatus est factusque ab alio. Ei neque colores sunt neque forma: quod, quicumque his praeditus est, mensurabilis est, limitibusque cogitur. Eius naturae nulla inest maris et feminae distinctio, quia cupiditatibus agitatur qui huic est distinctioni obnoxius. Ipse sub caelis incomprehensibilis est, quia caelos excedit: nec caeli caelorum Illo maiores sunt, quia caeli caelorum et creaturae omnes quae sub caelis sunt, ab Illo comprehenduntur.

Ipsi nemo contrarius neque adversarius: quod si quis Ei contrarias et adversarius esse posset, eidem compar fieri videretur.

Ipse immobilis est atque praeter quemcumque terminum et circuitum: quia ubi et unde moveri possit locus deest. Ipse neque mensura comprehendi, neque circumdari potest, quia Ipse omnia replet, atque est ultra omnes visibiles et invisibiles creaturas. Ipse neque ira, neque indignatione movetur, quia nulla caecitate afficitur, quum omnino et absolute sit intellectualis. Propterea hisce omnibus miraculis variis omnibusque beneficiis Ipse omnia creavit. Sacrificiis, oblationibus et hostiis Ipse non indiget, neque, ulla in re, visibilibus creaturis opus habet; quia omnia replet, et omnium egestatibus satisfacit, Ipse numquam indigens ac semper gloriosus.

De Deo sapienter loqui ab ipso Deo mihi datum est, et pro meis viribus locutus sum, quin tamen altitudinem imperscrutabilis magnitudinis Ejus comprehendere possem. Sola fide vero Ilium glorificans adoro.

Nunc igitur ad genus humanum veniamus et quinam praefatas veritates secuti fuerint videbimus, et quinam ab eis erraverint. Compertum est nobis, o Rex, quatuor esse humani generis stirpes, quae sunt Barbarorum, Graecorum, Hebraeorum atque Christianorum. Ethnici et Barbari genus suum ducunt a Belo, Crono et |29 Hiera, aliisque suis Divis pluribus. Graeci vero a Jove, qui Zeus vel Jupiter dicitur, originem trahunt, per Helenum, Xuthum, aliosque eorum descendentes, nempe Helladem, Inacum, Phoroneum, ac demum Danaum Aegyptium, Cadmum Sidonium, ac Dionysium Thebanum. Hebraei autem genus suum ducunt ex Abrahamo, Isaaco, Jacobo, et duodecim Jacobi filiis, qui e Syria in Aegyptum se receperunt, et a legislature suo Hebraei nuncupati fuerunt, inde vero terram promissionis ingressi, Judaei sunt appellati. Christianorum tandem genus a Domino Jesu Christo oritur.

Ipse Dei altissimi est Filius, et una cum Spiritu Sancto revelatus est nobis: de caelis descendit ex Hebraea Virgine natus, ex Virgine carnem assumpsit, assumptaque humana natura, semetipsum Dei filium revelavit. Qui Evangelio suo vivificante mundum Universum, consolatoria sua bonitate, sibi captivum fecit.

Ipse est Verbum, qui ex progenie Hebraica, secundum carnem, ex Maria virgine Deipara natus est. Ipse est qui Apostolos duodecim inter suos discipulos elegit, ut mundum Universum dispensatione. illuminantis Veritatis suae institueret. Ipse ab Hebraeis crucifixus est: a mortuis resurrexit et ad caelos ascendit: in mundum Universum discipulos suos mittens, qui divino et admirabili lumine suo, comitantibus prodigiis, omnes gentes sapientiam docerent. Quorum praedicatio in hunc usque diem germinat atque fructificat, orbem Universum vocans ad lucem.

Quatuor ergo nationes, O Rex, ostendi tibi: Barbaros, Graecos, Hebraeos atque Christianos.

        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

Divinitati spiritualis natura propria est, Angelis ignea, daemoniis aquosa, generique humano terrestris.

        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

We have now reprinted all that is known of the Armenian translation of the Apology; it is out of our limit and beyond our measure to think of reprinting the actual Armenian text. For the purpose of comparison we add, however, another copy of the same Armenian fragment, taken from a MS. at Edschmiazin, and translated into English by Mr F. C. Conybeare, of Oxford, for whose kindly aid we are very grateful. According to the information which he has supplied, the MS. at Edschmiazin was written on paper, and is much worn by age. The date was certainly not |30 later than the eleventh century. The fragment from the Apology which it contains was followed by the fragment from the Homily on the Penitent Thief. Here and there the text was illegible, and in these cases the missing words have been supplied from the Venice text, as reprinted by Pitra. The two texts in question are moreover in very close agreement, except for the occasional addition of a word or two by the Edschmiazin MS. The rendering is designedly a literal one.

 The Armenian Fragment (from the Edschmiazin MS.).


I, O Ruler, who was by the providence of God created and fashioned man in the world, and who have beheld the heaven and the earth and the sea, the sun and the moon and the stars and all creatures, wondered and was amazed at the eternal[27]fn27. Here there is a copyist’s error in the Edschmiazin text. order thereof. I also by reflection learned that the world and all that is therein is by necessity and force guided and moved and of the whole God is controuler and orderer: for that which controuls is more powerful than that which is controuled and moved. To enquire about Him who is guardian and controuls all things seems to me to quite exceed the comprehension and to be most difficult, and to speak accurately concerning Him is beyond compass of thought and of speech, and bringeth no advantage; for His nature is infinite and unsearchable, and imperceptible,[28]fn28. Here the Edschmiazin text adds a word which means ‘not to be observed or looked at.’ and inaccessible to all creatures. We can only know that He who governs by His providence all created things, He is Lord and God and creator of all, who ordered all things visible in His beneficence, and graciously bestowed them on the race of man. Now it is meet that we serve and glorify Him alone as God, and love one another as ourselves. But this much alone can we know concerning God, |31 that He was not generated from any source, and did not Himself make Himself, and is not contained by aught, but Himself contains all. Au)togene\j ei]doj[29]fn29. au0togene\j (or au)toge/nnhton) ei]doj is the Greek that answers to the Armenian texts. ‘Ex se ipsomet est’ does not give the sense. I give the Greek, for I really hardly know how … Continue reading and wisdom immortal, without beginning or end, not passing away and undying, He is complete and wanteth nothing, while He fulfilleth all wants. In Himself He wanteth nought, but gives to and fulfils the needs of all. In Himself He is without beginning, for He is beginning of everything whatever, and is perfect. In Himself He is nameless, for whatever is named is fashioned out of something else[30]fn30. Or “by another.” and created. Colour and form of Him there is not, for that falls under measure and limit, unto whatsoever colour and form belong. Male and female in that nature there is not, for that is subject to particular passions, in whatsoever that distinction exists. Within the heavens He is not contained, for He is beyond[31]fn31. e0pe/keina. the heavens; neither are the heavens greater than He, for the heavens and all creation are contained in Him. Counter to Him and opposed there is no one: if any one be found counter to Him, it appears that that one becometh associate with Him. He is unmoved and unmeasured and ineffable; for there is no place whence or with which He could move; and He is not, by being measured, contained or environed on any side, for it is Himself that filleth all, and He transcends all things visible and invisible. Wrath and anger there is not in Him, for there is not in Him blindness, but He is wholly and entirely rational, and on that account He established creation with divers wonders and entire beneficence. Need hath He none of victims and oblations and sacrifices, and of all that is in the visible creation He wanteth nought. For He fulfilleth the wants of all and completeth them, and being in need of nothing He is glorified unto all time.

Now by the grace of God it was given me to speak wisely concerning Him. So far as I have received the faculty I will speak, yet not according to the measure of the inscrutability of His greatness shall I be able to do so, but by faith alone do I glorify and adore Him.

Let us next come to the race of man, and see who are capable |32 of receiving the truth of these sayings, and who are gone astray. It is manifest[32]fn32. So it stands in the Venice text: but in the Edschmiazin copy, for ‘manifest’ there is a word which means ‘the name’ followed by a lacuna of a few letters, as if the … Continue reading, O Ruler, for there are four tribes[33]fn33. The word answers to the Greek fulai/ or dh~moi. In the same sense at the end of the fragment another word is used, answering rather to ge/nh. of the human race. There are barbarians, and some are Greeks and others Hebrews, and there are who are Christians. But the heathens and barbarians count their descent from Baal, and from Cronos, and from Hera, and from many others of their gods. But the Greeks say Zeus (who is Dios) is their founder[34]fn34. These three words are added to make sense, the whole passage being grammatically much confused., and reckon their descent from Helenos and Xuthos, and one after another from Hellas, Inachos and Phoroneus, and also finally from Danaus the Egyptian, and from Cadmus the Sidonian, and Dionysius the Theban.

But the Jews reckon their race from Abraham, and Abraham’s son they say was Isaac, and from Isaac Jacob, and from Jacob the twelve who migrated from Assyria into Egypt and were there named the tribes of the Hebrews by their lawgiver, and having come into the land of recompence, were named……[35]35. 4 Here the Edschmiazin MS. was unreadable from age. The printed text has no lacuna and gives no hint of the word whatever it was which was read in the Edschmiazin text. the tribes of the Jews.

But the Christians reckon their race from the Lord Jesus Christ. He is Himself Son of God on high, who was manifested of the Holy Spirit, came down from heaven, and being born of a Hebrew virgin took on His flesh from the virgin, and was manifested in the nature of humanity the Son of God: who sought to win the entire world to His eternal goodness by His life-giving preaching[36]fn36. eu)agge/lion.. He it is who was according to the flesh born of the race of the Hebrews, by the God-bearing[37]fn37. The word Qeoto&koj is implied. virgin Miriam. He chose the twelve disciples, and He by his illuminating truth, dispensing |33 it[38]fn38. Oi0konomiko&j is here rendered. Perhaps it should be taken as an epithet of ‘truth,’ for in the original it precedes the word ‘illuminating.’ taught, all the world, and was nailed on the cross by the Jews. Who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and sent forth His disciples into the whole world[39]fn39. Oi0koume/nhn., and taught all with divinely miraculous and profoundly wise wonders. Their preaching until this day blossoms and bears fruit, and summons all the world to receive the light.

These are the four tribes, whom we set before thee, O Ruler, Barbarians, Greeks, Jews and Christians. But to the Deity is appointed the spiritual, and to angels the fiery, and to devils the watery, and to the race of men the earth.

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Over and above the fragments of the lost Apology of Aristides, and the homily de Latrone, there is a scrap printed by Pitra in his Spicilegium Solesmense which professes to come from an epistle of Aristides to all Philosophers. It is, as far as we can judge, in the form in which we have it presented to us, a theological product of the time of the Monophysite controversy. But we must bear in mind what we have learned from the Armenian fragment of the Apology, that an Armenian translation is made up out of the matter of the original writer plus the terms and definitions of the translator, as for instance we see to have happened in the ascription of the termQeoto&koj to the Blessed Virgin. And the question is whether under the amplified folds of the theology of this fragment printed by Pitra there may be hidden the more scanty terms of a theologian of the second century, and if so, whether the writer be our Aristides, and the work quoted be the Apology or some other work. In order to test this point, we will give a rendering of the fragment into Greek, for which again I am indebted to the kindness of Mr Conybeare. |34

(i) Armenian Fragment. (Frag. iii. of Pitra.)


[Greek].[40]fn40. The same word is used by the translator to render sw~ma and sa&rc. [41]fn41. More exactly e9autou~: an additional word being necessary in the Armenian in order to give the sense ‘conjunxit sibi’: but the sense seems to require e9autw~|.

Now with reference to the foregoing passage, we may say at once that the concluding terms are not second-century language at all. On the other hand, the reference to the “Hebrew virgin” is precisely the language of the Apology. Further, the opening words of the fragment, with their allusion to a real passion of a real body, are certainly anti-Docetic, and therefore may be taken as second-century theology. We may compare with them the sentiments of the Ignatian epistles, as for example the letter to the Smyrnaeans (c. ii.), where we read: —-


It does not, therefore, seem as if these words in the opening of the fragment were a translator’s invention or addition. They have a second-century ring about them. If so, then the extract is either a translation of a paragraph of the Apology, or of some other tract by the same writer, and probably the latter. We have, however, no means of discriminating further the original form of the sentence from the later accretions. It is, however, by no means impossible that the heading may be correct; that Aristides may have written an epistle or address to Philosophers on the subject of the Christian religion in general, or of the Incarnation in particular. |35


1 fn1. Especially by M. Renan, who in his Origines de Christianisme, vol. vi. p. vi., says: “Le présent volume était imprimé quand j’ai eu connaissance d’une publication des mékhitaristes de Venise contenant en Arménien, avec traduction Latine, deux morceaux, dont l’un serait l’Apologie adressée par Aristide à Adrien. L’authenticité de cette pièce ne soutient pas l’examen. C’est une composition plate, qui répondrait bien mal à ce que Eusèbe et S. Jérôme disent du talent de l’auteur et surtout à cette particularité que l’ouvrage était contextum philosophorum sententiis. L’écrit Arménien ne présente pas une seule citation d’auteur profane. La théologie qu’on y trouve, en ce qui concerne la Trinité, l’incarnation, la qualité de mère de Dieu attribuée à Marie, est postérieure au ive siècle. L’érudition historique ou plutôt mythologique est aussi bien indigne d’un écrivain du ii° siècle. Le second ‘sermon’ publié par les mékhitaristes a encore moins de droit à être attribué au philosophe Chrétien d’Athènes: le manuscrit porte Aristaeus: c’est une homélie insignificable sur le bon larron.
 M. Renan was rightly opposed in this sweeping negation of authenticity by Doulcet, who pointed out relations between Aristides and the Timaeus as a justification of the philosophical character of the work. Unfortunately Doulcet went too far, by trying to identify Aristides with the author of the Epistle to Diognetus.
 Harnack (Theol. LZ. 1879, no. 10, col. 375 f.) was very favourable to the genuineness of the fragment, and made some excellent points in its defence.
 M. Renan will now have the opportunity of verifying for himself that the term Theotokos, to which he objected so strongly as savouring of the fourth century, is not in the Syriac text.
2 fn2. See Wright’s Catalogue, p. 1160. The general contents of this MS. (Brit. Mus. 987) should be compared with those of the MS. here described: it contains e.g. the Apology of Melito and the Hypomnemata of Ambrose, and various Philosophical treatises.
3 fn3. Quoted by Eckhel, Doctrina vii. Ft. n. p. 36. This would seem to resolve the perplexity of Spartianus as to the origin of the name.
4 fn4. Die griechischen Apologeten p. 101. I need not say how much I am indebted to Harnack’s investigations. It will be apparent throughout these pages.
5 fn5.Quadratus apostolorum discipulus, Publio Athenarum episcopo ob Christi fidem martyrio coronato, in locum eius substituitur et ecclesiam grandi terrore dispersam fide et industria sua congregat. Cumque Hadrianus Athenis exegisset hiemem, invisens Eleusinam, et omnibus paene Graeciae sacris initiatus dedisset occasionem his, qui Christianos oderant, absque praecepto imperatoris vexare credentes, porrexit ei librum &c.
6 fn6. Lightfoot, Ignatius, ed. ii. 11. 541.
7 fn7. Euseb. H. E. iv. 26, ex apologia Melitonis, [Greek]. This certainly looks like an outbreak of persecution in Greece.
8 fn8. Dial. 16.
9 fn9. Mart. Polyc. 20.
10 fn10. Euseb. H. E. v. 26.
11 fn11. Migne, Patr. Lat. cxxiii.
12 fn12. Die Griechischen Apologeten, p. 107 note. I cannot find it in Briefwechsel des Beatus Rhenanus by Horawitz and Hartfelder, Leipzig, 1886. I understand, however, from Prof. Kawerau, that it may be found in Epistolarum G. Wicelii libri tres, Lipsiae, 1537.
13 fn13. Origen c. Celsum, lib. iv. 23.
14 fn14. lib. iv. 74.
15 fn15. lib. iv. 77.
16 fn16. Justin Apol. i. c. 10.
17 fn17. Ep. ad Diogn. 10.
18 fn18. Orig. c. Cels. i. 26 [Greek]
19 fn19. Orig. c. Cels. iv. 32.
20 fn20. Orig. c. Cels. i. 26.
21 fn21. Orig. c. Cels. iii. 19.
22 fn22. Orig. c. Cels. i. 32.
23 fn23.  Tüb. Theol. Quartalschrift, 1877, ii. p. 289, f. 1880, I. p. 109-127.
24 fn24. Cohortatio, c. viii.
25 fn25. Plato, Timaeus, 28 C, [Greek]
26 fn26. Sensus dubius: armeniaca verba idem sonant ac graeca au)togene\j ei]doj.
27 fn27. Here there is a copyist’s error in the Edschmiazin text.
28 fn28. Here the Edschmiazin text adds a word which means ‘not to be observed or looked at.’
29 fn29. au0togene\j (or au)toge/nnhton) ei]doj is the Greek that answers to the Armenian texts. ‘Ex se ipsomet est’ does not give the sense. I give the Greek, for I really hardly know how to render it in English.
30 fn30. Or “by another.”
31 fn31. e0pe/keina.
32 fn32. So it stands in the Venice text: but in the Edschmiazin copy, for ‘manifest’ there is a word which means ‘the name’ followed by a lacuna of a few letters, as if the scribe had intended to read ‘I will recount the names, O Ruler,’ or something of that kind.
33 fn33. The word answers to the Greek fulai/ or dh~moi. In the same sense at the end of the fragment another word is used, answering rather to ge/nh.
34 fn34. These three words are added to make sense, the whole passage being grammatically much confused.
35 35. 4 Here the Edschmiazin MS. was unreadable from age. The printed text has no lacuna and gives no hint of the word whatever it was which was read in the Edschmiazin text.
36 fn36. eu)agge/lion.
37 fn37. The word Qeoto&koj is implied.
38 fn38. Oi0konomiko&j is here rendered. Perhaps it should be taken as an epithet of ‘truth,’ for in the original it precedes the word ‘illuminating.’
39 fn39. Oi0koume/nhn.
40 fn40. The same word is used by the translator to render sw~ma and sa&rc.
41 fn41. More exactly e9autou~: an additional word being necessary in the Armenian in order to give the sense ‘conjunxit sibi’: but the sense seems to require e9autw~|.

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