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THE CONFLICT WITH POLYTHEISM AND IDOLATRY
1. In combating “demons” (pp. 125 f.) and in taking the field against the open immorality which was part and parcel of polytheism (pp. 205 f.), the early church was waging war against polytheism. But it did not rest content with this onset. Directly, no doubt, the “dumb idols” were weakened by this attack; still, they continued to be a real power, particularly in the circles from which the majority of Christians were drawn. Nowadays, the polemic against the gods of Olympus, against Egyptian cats and crocodiles, or against carved and cast and chiseled idols, seems to our eyes to have been cheap and superfluous. It was not a difficult task, we may fairly add; philosophers like the Cynics and satirists like Lucian supplied a wealth of material, and the intellect and moral sense alike had long ago outgrown that sort of deity. But it was by no means superfluous. Had it been unnecessary, the apologists from Aristides to Arnobius would never have pursued this line of controversy with such zest, the martyr Apollonius would never have troubled to deliver his long polemic before the senate, and Tertullian, an expert in heathen laws and customs, would never have deemed it necessary to refute polytheism so elaborately in his defense before the presiding magistrate. Yet even from this last-named refutation we see how disreputable (we might almost say, how shabby) the public system of gods and sacrifices had already become. It was scoffed at on the stage; half-dead animals of no value were offered in sacrifice;474474Tert., Apol., xiv.: “I wish now to review your sacred rites. I do not censure your methods of sacrifice, offering what is worn-out, scabbed, and corrupting, cutting off for the altar the useless parts from the fat and sound—e.g., head and hoofs, which you would hand at home to your dogs and children — not giving a third part of the tithe of Hercules,” etc. the idols were 291dishonored, the temples were profaned.475475Tert., Apol. xlii.: “Every day, you complain, the temple-receipts are dwindling away. How few people nowadays put in their contributions!” Cp. Arnobius, I. xxiv. The whole business lay under a mass of disgust, disdain, derision, and nausea. But it would be a serious mistake to suppose that this feeling was universal. Not merely was everything kept going officially, but many minds still clung to such arrangements and ceremonies. The old cults were freshened by the influx of the new religions, and a new significance was often lent even to their most retrograde elements. Besides, whether the public system of religion was flourishing or entirely withered, it by no means represented the sole existing authority. In every town and province, at Rome as well as at Alexandria, in Spain, in Asia, in Egypt, there were household gods and family gods, with household customs of religion, and all manner of superstitions and ceremonies. These rarely rise above the surface of literature, but inscriptions, tombs, and magical papyri have brought them nearer us. Here every household function has its guardian spirit; every event is under one controlling god. And this religious world, this second-class religion, it must he remembered, was living and active everywhere.
As a rule, the apologists contented themselves with assailing the official world of gods.476476Household superstitions perhaps seemed to them too unimportant, or else they counted upon these being dragged down of their own accord in the collapse of the public superstitions. On this point they certainly made a miscalculation.—A scene at Ephesus is related in Acts, which may be adduced at this point. Thanks to Paul's preaching, the converts were roused to bring out the books of magic which they had at home and to burn them (Acts xix. 19). But there are few parallels to this scene in the literature of early Christianity. Their method aimed, in the first place, at rousing the moral sense against these so-called “gods” by branding their abominable vices; in the second place, it sought to exhibit the folly and absurdity of what was taught or told about the gods; and, thirdly, it aimed at exposing the origin of the latter. The apologists showed that the gods were an empty nothing, illusions created by the demons who lay in wait behind their dead puppets and introduced them in order 292to control men by this means. Or, following the track of Euhemerus, they showed that the so-called gods were nothing but dead men.477477The Euhemeristic vein was neither the oldest nor the most popular, however, among Christian writers. Or, again, they pointed out that the whole thing was a compound of vain fables and deceit, and very often the product of covetous priestcraft. In so doing they displayed both wit and irony, as well as a very strong feeling of aversion. We do not know, of course, how much of all this argument and feeling was original. As has been already remarked, the Stoic, Sceptic, and Cynic philosophers (in part, the Epicureans also) had preceded Christianity along this line, and satires upon the gods were as cheap as blackberries in that age. Consequently, it is needless to illustrate this point by the citation of individual passages. A perusal of the Apology of Aristides, which is of no great size, is quite sufficient to give one an idea of this kind of polemic; the Oratio ad Graecos of pseudo-Justin may also be consulted, and especially the relevant sections in the Apology of Tertullian.
The duty of keeping oneself free from all contamination with polytheism ranked as the supreme duty of the Christian. It took precedence of all others. It was regarded as the negative side of the duty of confessing one's faith, and the “sin of idolatry” was more strictly dealt with in the Christian church than any sin whatsoever.478478Cp. Tertull., de Idol. i.: “Principale crimen generis humani, summus saeculi reatus, tota causa iudicii, idolatria” (“Idolatry is the principal crime of mankind, the supreme guilt of the world, the entire reason of judgment”). In the opening chapter of this treatise Tertullian endeavors to prove that all the cardinal vices (e.g., adultery, murder, etc.) are included in idolatry. Not for long, and not without great difficulty, did the church make up her mind to admit that forgiveness could be extended to this offence, and what forced her first to this conclusion was the stress of the terrible consequences of the Decian outburst (i.e., after 250 A.D.).479479Hitherto it had only dawned on Tertullian, during his conflict with the laxity displayed by the church in her treatment of fleshly sins, that under certain circumstances a denial of the faith extorted by means of torture was a lesser sin than adultery and fornication. A similar position was afterwards adopted by Cyprian. This we can well understand, for exclusiveness was the condition of her existence as a church. If she made terms with polytheism at a single point, 293it was all over with her distinctive character. Such was the position of affairs, at any rate until about the middle of the third century. After that she could afford to be less anxious, since the church as an institution had grown so powerful, and her doctrine, cultus, and organization had developed in so characteristic a fashion by that time, that she stood out as a sharply defined magnitude sui generis, even when, consciously or unconsciously, she went half-way to meet polytheism in disguise, or showed herself rather lenient towards it.
But as the duty of confession did not involve the duty of pushing forward to confess, or indeed of denouncing oneself,480480Even to escape in time was permissible, according to Matt. x. 23, but the Montanists and Tertullian would not allow this; cp. the latter's treatise “de Fuga in Persecutione.” Clement speaks very thoughtfully on the point; cp. Strom., IV. x., lxxvi.-lxxvii., and VII. xi.-xii. (in the epistle of the church of Smyrna to the church of Philomelium an explicit protest is even entered against this practice, while elsewhere481481The Acts of Perpetua relate, without any censure, how Saturus voluntarily announced that he was a Christian. But then these Acts are Montanist. the Montanist craving for martyrdom is also censured),482482It was not quite the same thing when Christians trooped into court, in order to force the magistrate either to have them all killed or to spare them all; cp. Tertull., ad Scap. v.: Arrius Antoninus in Asia cum persequeretur instanter, omnes illius civitatis Christiani ante tribunalia eius se manu facta obtulerunt. tum ille paucis duci jussis reliquis ait: ὦ δειλοὶ, εἰ θέλετε ἀποθνήσκειν, κρημνοὺς ἣ βρόχους ἔχετε (cp. above, p. 270). so to protest against polytheism did not involve the obligation of publicly protesting against it of one's own accord. There were indeed cases in which a Christian who was standing as a spectator in court audibly applauded a confessor, and in consequence of this was himself arrested. Such cases were mentioned with approval, for it was held that the Spirit had impelled the spectator. But open abuse of the emperor or of the gods was not sanctioned any more than rebellion; in fact, all unprovoked insults and all upsetting of images were rebuked.483483Still, there were some Christians who exulted in this kind of thing, as is plain from several records (from a late period, of course) of the martyrs. Eusebius narrates approvingly (de Mart. Pal., ii.) the action of the martyr Romanus, who, just after the Diocletian persecution had broken out, saw in Antioch a procession of men, women, and children on their way to the temples, and tried to stop them by means of loud warnings. Here and there, however, such incidents must have occurred, for in the 294sixtieth canon of Elvira we read: “Si quis idola fregerit et ibidem fuerit occisus, quatenus in evangelio scriptum non est neque invenietur sub apostolis unquam factum, placuit in numerum eum non recipi martyrum” (“If anyone shall have broken an idol and been slain in the act, he shall not be reckoned among the martyrs, seeing that no such command is to be found in scripture, nor will any such deed be found to be apostolic”).
2. In order to combat polytheism effectively, one could not stop short of the philosophers, not even of the most distinguished of their number, for they had all some sort of connection with idol-worship. But at this stage of their polemic the apologists diverged in different directions. All were agreed that no philosopher had discovered the truth in its purity and perfection; and further, that no philosopher was in a position to demonstrate with certainty the truth which he had discovered, to spread it far and wide, or to make men so convinced of it as to die for it. But one set of apologists were quite content with making this strict proviso; moreover, they delighted in the harmony of Christianity and philosophy; indeed, like Justin, they would praise philosophers for their moral aims and profound ideas. The Christian teachers in Alexandria even went the length of finding a parallel to the Jewish law in Greek philosophy.484484Cp. my lecture on “Socrates and the Early Church” (1900). They found affinities with Plato's doctrine of God and metaphysics, and with the Stoic ethic. They recognized philosophers like Seneca485485Cp. Tert., de Anima, xx.: “Seneca saepe noster.” as their fellows to some extent. They saw in Socrates a hero and forerunner of the truth. Others, again, would not hear of philosophy or philosophers; the best service they could render the gospel-mission was, in their opinion, to heap coarse abuse on both. Tatian went to incredible lengths in this line, and was guilty of shocking injustice. Theophilus fell little short of him, while even Tertullian, for all his debt to the Stoics, came dangerously near to Tatian. But these apologists were under an entire delusion if they imagined they were accomplishing very much by dint of all their calumnies. So far as we are in a position to judge, it was the methods, not of these extremists, but of Justin, Clement, and Origen, that impressed the Greek 295world of culture. Yet even the former had probably a public of their own. Most people either do not think at all, or else think in the crudest antitheses, and such natures would likely be impressed by Tatian's invectives. Besides, it is impossible to ignore the fact that neither he nor Tertullian were mere calumniators. They were honest men. Wherever they came upon the slightest trace of polytheism, all their moral sense rose in revolt; in polytheism, they were convinced, no good was to be found, and hence they gave credit to any calumnies which a profligate literature put at their disposal. Now traces of polytheism were thickly sown throughout all the philosophers, including even the most sublime of their number. Why, Socrates himself had ordered a cock to be slain, after he was dead, in honor of Æsculapius! The irony of the injunction was not understood. It was simply viewed as a recognition of idolatry. So even Socrates the hero had to be censured. Yet, whether half-admirers or keen opponents of philosophy, the apologists to a man occupied philosophic ground, and indeed Platonic ground. They attacked philosophy, but they brought it inside the church and built up the doctrinal system of the church on the outlines of Platonism and with the aid of Platonic material (see below, the epilogue of this book).
3. From the practical point of view, what was of still greater moment than the campaign against the world and worship of the gods, was the campaign against the apotheosis of men. This struggle, which reached its height in the uncompromising rejection of the imperial cultus, marked at the same time the resolute protest of Christianity against the blending of religion and patriotism, and consequently against that cultus of the state in which the state (personified in the emperor) formed itself the object of the cultus. One of the cardinal aims and issues of the Christian religion was to draw a sharp line between the worship of God and the honor due to the state and to its leaders. Christianity tore up political religion by the roots.
The imperial cultus486486In addition to the well-known German literature on the subject, see Beurlier's Essai sur le culte rendu aux empereurs romain (1890). was of a twofold nature. In both aspects it was an Oriental, not a Greek or a Roman phenomenon; 296yet this worship of the dead Cæsars and of the living Cæsar, with its adoration of the imperial images, was dovetailed, not only without any difficulty, but inevitably, into the “caeremoniae Romanae,” once the empire had become imperial. From the first the headquarters of the former (i.e., the worship of the dead Cæsars) were in Rome, whence it passed into the provinces as the most vital element of the state religion. The latter (i.e., the worship of the living Cæsar) originated in the East, but as early as the first century it was adopted by Caligula and Domitian, and during the second century it became quite common (in the shape of adoration paid to the imperial images). The rejection of either cult was a crime which came under the head of sacrilege as well as of high treason, and it was here that the repressive measures taken by the state against Christianity almost invariably started, inasmuch as the state did not concede Christianity the same liberty on this point as she granted to Judaism. Had the Christians merely turned round against Olympus and hit upon some compromise with the imperial cultus, they would in all probability have been left entirely unmolested—such is Tertullian's blunt assertion in his Apology (xxviii. f.). Nearly all the encounters between individual Christians and the regulations of the empire resolved themselves into a trial for treason. The positive value of the imperial cultus for the empire has been stated recently and impressively by von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf.487487In Geschichte des gerich. Religion (“Jahrbuch des Freien deutschen Hochstifts,” 1904; reprint, pp. 23 f.): “The idea by which Augustus brought renewal to the world was the religion of Poseidonius: faith in a universal reason and the unity of all life, in the Stoic universal deity, providence and necessity. He could regard himself as the organ or representative of this cosmic law; he could expect the personal survival of his soul as a reward for his clemency, since this corresponded exactly to the doctrine of Poseidonius. Hence the cult of the “divas” was its justification. No one can understand the age or the man if he regards the “divi filius” claim as merely ornamental or an imposture. Naturally enough, it ran counter to the taste and reason of Tiberius, who was averse to anything mystical, though he was addicted to a superstitious faith in astrology. Caligula's belief in his divine nature made him a fool, and sensible people only saw a farce in Claudius being consecrated to divine honors by his murderers. Yet even they took it very seriously. The cultus of the person inevitably passed once more, as it had done after Alexander the Great, into the cultus of the office. The emperor was god, because he was emperor; he was not the viceroy of the universe because the god in him possessed the strength and the authority of lordship. His person embodied the supreme power of the empire, and this made itself felt by the smallest and most remote of his subjects. This personal embodiment was as unapproachable to the million as a universal god in heaven, further removed from each individual than the gods of his village or his district. And if one could not manage to understand the unity of all life in heaven and on earth, still on earth this unity of the state, the church, the law, and morals was a fact; it might deserve the predicate of “divine,” and, if so, then the worship of its personal exponents was an irresistible religious obligation. Thus the imperial cultus, or the cultus of the empire, was the cardinal article of religion. To deny it was tantamount to the ancient crime of denying the πάτριοι θεοί [ancestral or traditional gods] of the city republics. All other deities who shared the worship of civil or municipal bodies fell into their place within and below this religion; henceforth their cultus had no meaning save as part of the larger cultus which the state enjoined. Even in the West the imperial cultus absorbed within itself the older deities, whether Fortuna, Silvanus, the Mater Augusti or Augustæ. The content of this faith was great indeed, for all the benefits of civilization, from the security of physical life up to the highest pleasures of the human spirit, were viewed as gifts of the deity, who was at once immanent in the empire and also for the time being in the emperor or in his genius or fortune as the personal embodiment of the divine. . . . . It followed quite logically that the refusal to sacrifice to the emperor was high treason. The Christians refused this from the firm and clear sense that they were resisting the πολιτεία τοῦ κόσμου in so doing. They felt that they were citizens of another empire. It was equally logical to regard them as ἄθεοι, since their denial of the state-religion meant a denial of all the gods whose existence was due to the favor of the state.”297
The Christians repudiated the imperial cultus in every shape and form, even when they met it in daily life, in the very oaths and turns of expression which made the emperor appear a superhuman being. Unhesitatingly they reckoned it a phase of idolatry. Withal, they guarded themselves against the charge of being disrespectful and disloyal, by pointing to their prayers for the emperor and for the state.488488Cp. the familiar passages from the New Testament, the apostolic fathers, and the apologists. The content of these intercessions, which was current in Carthage, is given by Tertullian in Apol., xxxix. (“Oramus etiam pro imperatoribus, pro ministris eorum et potestatibus, pro statu saeculi, pro rerum quiete, pro mora finis”—“We pray too for the emperors, for their subordinates, and for all authorities, for the welfare of the world, for peace, for the delay of the end”); and xxx. (“Precantes sumus semper pro omnibus imperatoribus: vitam illis prolixam, imperium securum, domum tutam, exercitus fortes, senatum fidelem, populum probum, orbem quietum, quaecumque hominis et Caesaris vota sunt [a deo oramus]”—“We ever pray to God for all the emperors, for length of life to them, for the safety of the empire, for the protection of the royal household, for bravery in the army, loyalty in the senate and virtue among the people, for peace throughout the world; in short, for whatever, as man or emperor, the Cæsars would desire”). These prayers, in fact, constituted a fixed part of Christian worship from the very 298first,489489Their origin dates from the very earliest times, but we do not know what considerations led to their institution. while the saying of Christ, “Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's,” was generally referred, not merely to obedience and the punctual payment of taxes, but also to intercession. The sharpest strictures passed by individual Christian teachers upon the character of the Roman state and the imperial office never involved the neglect of intercession or dissuaded Christians from this duty. Numerous passages, in which the emperor is mentioned immediately after God, attest the fact that he was held by Christians to be “a deo secundus ante omnes et super omnes deos” (Tertull., Apol. xxx.: “second only to God, before and above all the gods”).490490This high estimate of the emperors as “second to God alone” does not, however, affect the conviction that they could never be Christians. At least it does not in the case of Tertullian (cp. Apol., xxi.: “Et Caesares credidissent super Christo, si aut Caesares non essent necessarii saeculo, aut si et Christiani potuissent esse Caesares”—“The Cæsars, too, would have believed in Christ, if they had not been necessary to the world as Cæsars, or if they could have been Cæsars and Christians as well”). Sixty years later a different view prevailed throughout the East. Not only was it reported widely that Alexander Severus and Philip had become secretly Christians, but even so prominent a teacher as Dionysius of Alexandria believed this legend and did not take umbrage at it. Christians, in fact, could declare that they tolerated no defect, either in the theory or in the practice of their loyalty. They taught—and they made their teaching an inherent element of history—that worship paid to God was one thing, and honor paid to a ruler quite another; also, that to worship a monarch was a detestable and humiliating offence. Nevertheless, they strictly inculcated obedience to all authority, and respect for the emperor.
The general position of the church did not alter upon this point during the third century;491491Dionysius of Alexandria (Eus., H.E. vii. 23) no doubt applied Isa. xliii. 19 to Gallienus, who was friendly disposed towards the Christians. But this was mere rhetoric. it adhered to its sharp denial of apotheosis in the shape of the imperial cultus. But at another point apotheosis gradually filtered into the church with elemental force, namely, through the worship of the apostles and the martyrs. As early as the apocryphal Acts, written towards the close of the second and the opening of the third century, we find the apostles appearing as semi-divine; in fact, 299even by the year 160 A.D., the pagans in Smyrna were afraid that the Christians would pay divine honors to the martyred Polycarp, while Lucian scoffs at the impostor Peregrinus, with his cheap martyrdom, passing for a god amongst the Christians. Both fear and scoff were certainly baseless as yet. But they were not baseless three generations afterwards. Towards the close of the third century there were already a number of chapels in existence, consecrated492492Cp. Eus., Mart. Pal., p. 102 (Texte u. Unters. xv. 4). to the apostles, patriarchs, martyrs, and even the archangels; people had a predilection for passing the night at the graves of the saints, and a cultus of the saints had been worked out in a wide variety of local forms, which afforded an indispensable means of conserving those ancient cults to which the common people still clung. Theoretically, the line between the worship of God and this cultus of deliverers and intercessors was sharply drawn throughout the third century, although one Christian root for the latter cultus is evident in the communion of the saints. As things stood, however, the distinction between the two was constantly blurred in the course of practical experience.493493Origen attacks only a moiety of polytheistic superstition and its expressions; cp. Hom. viii. 4 in Jesum Nave (vol. xi. p. 67): “Illi qui, cum Christiani sint, solemnitates gentium celebrant, anathema in ecclesias introducunt. Qui de astrorum cursibus vitam hominum et gesta perquirunt, qui volatus avium et cetera huiusmodi, quae in saeculo prius observabantur, inquirunt, de Jericho anathema inferunt in ecclesiam, et polluunt castra domini et vinci faciunt populum dei” (“Those who, even though they are Christians, celebrate the festivals of pagans, bring anathema into the churches. Those who make out the life and deeds of men from the courses of the stars, who study the flight of birds, and engage in similar practices, which they formerly observed in the world, bring the anathema of Jericho on the church; they pollute the camp of the Lord, and cause God's people to be overcome”). He could and should have mentioned a great deal more; only in such directions he was no longer sensitive to polytheism. For all its monotheism, the Christian religion at the close of the third century represented a religion which was exceptionally strong in saints and angels and deliverers, in miraculous relics, and so forth; on this score it was able to challenge any cult whatsoever. Porphyry (the pagan quoted in Macar. Magnes, IV. xxi.) was quite alive to this. He wrote as follows: “If, therefore, you declare that beside God there are angels who are not subject to suffering and death, and are incorruptible in nature—just the beings we call gods, inasmuch 300as they stand near the godhead—then what is all the dispute about, with regard to names? Or are we to consider it merely a difference of terminology? . . . . So, if anyone likes to call them either gods or angels— for names are, on the whole, of no great moment, one and the same goddess, for example, being called Athenê and Minerva, and by still other names among the Egyptians and the Syrians—then it makes no great difference, as their divine nature is actually attested even by yourselves in Matt. xxii. 29-31.”494494Porphyry then proceeds, in his attack upon the cheap criticism leveled by Christians (see above) at idolatry: “When, therefore, it is admitted that the angels share in the divine nature, it is not, on the other hand, the belief of those who pay seemly honor to the gods, that God is composed of the wood or stone or brass from which the image is manufactured, nor is it their opinion that, whenever a hit of the image is broken off, some injury is thereby inflicted on the power of the god in question. Images and temples of the gods have been created from all antiquity for the sake of forming reminders to men. Their object is to make those who draw near them think of God thereby, or to enable them, after ceasing from work, and abstaining from anything else, to address their vows and prayers to him, that each may obtain from him whatever he is in need of. For when any person gets an image or picture of some friend prepared for himself, he certainly does not believe that his friend is to be found in the image, or that his members exist actually inside the different portions of the representation. His idea rather is that the honor which he pays to his friend finds expression in the image. And while the sacrifices offered to the gods do not bring them any honor, they are meant as a testimony to the goodwill of their worshippers, implying that the latter are not ungrateful to the gods.” The majority of Christians by this time scarcely held so pure and spiritual a view of the matter as this “worshipper of idols.”
4. The warfare against polytheism was also waged by means of a thoroughgoing opposition to the theatre and to all the games. Anyone who considers the significance495495For what follows, see Bigelmair's Die Beteiligung der Christen am öffentlichen Leben in vorconstantinischer Zeit (1902). of these features in ancient life and their close connection with idolatry,496496Tert., de Spect. iv.: “Quid erit summum ac praecipuum, in quo diabolus et pompae et angeli eius censeantur, quam idololatria? . . . . Igitur si ex idololatria universam spectaculorum paraturam constare constiterit, indubitate praeiudicatum erit etiam ad spectacula pertinere renuntiationis nostrae testimonium in lavacro, quae diabolo et pompae et angelis eius sint mancipata, scil. per idololatriam. Commemorabimus origines singulorum, quibus incunabulis in saeculo adoleverint, exinde titulos quorundam, quibus nominibus nuncupentur, exinde apparatus, quibus superstitionibus instruantur, tum loca, quibus praesidibus dicantur, tum artes, quibus auctoribus deputentur. Si quid ex his non ad idolum pertinuerit, id neque ad idololatriam neque ad nostram eiurationem pertinebit” (“Where, more than in idolatry, will you find the devil with his pomp and angels? . . . . Therefore, if it can be proven that the whole business of the shows depends upon idolatry, unquestionably we shall have anticipated the conclusion that the confession of renouncing the world which we make in baptism, refers to these shows which have been handed over to the devil and his pomp and angels, i.e., on account of their idolatry. We shall now exhibit their separate sources, the nurseries in which they have grown to maturity in the world; next the titles of some of them, the names by which they are called; after that, their contents, the superstitions by which they are supported; then their seats, the patrons to which they are dedicated; and finally their arts, the authors to whom they are to be referred. If any of these is found to have no connection with an idol, then it is irrelevant to idolatry and irrelevant also to our oath of abjuration”). Novatian, de Spect. ii.: “Quando id quod in honore alicuius idoli ab ethnicis agitur [sc. the theatrical spectacles] a fidelibus christianis spectaculo frequentatur, et idololatria gentilis asseritur et in contumeliam dei religio vera et divina calcatur” (“Since whatever is performed by pagans in honor of any idol is attended by faithful Christians in the public spectacles, and thus pagan idolatry is maintained, whilst the true and divine religion is trodden under foot in contempt of God”). knows 301what a polemic against them implied. But we may point out that existence, in case of vast numbers of people, was divided into daily drudgery and—“panis et circenses” (free food and the theatre). No member of the Christian church was allowed to be an actor or gladiator, to teach acting (see Cypr., Epist. ii.), or to attend the theatre.497497Minuc. Felix, xii.: “Vos vero suspensi interim atque solliciti honestis voluptatibus abstinetis, non spectacula visitis, non pompis interestis, convivia publica absque vobis, sacra certamina” (“But meantime, anxious and unsettled, you are abstaining from respectable enjoyments; you attend no spectacles, you take no part in public displays, public banquets and the sacred contest you decline”). The earliest flash of polemic occurs in the Oratio of Tatian (xxii.-xxiii.), and it was followed by others, including the treatises of Tertullian and pseudo-Cyprian (Novatian) de Spectaculis, and the discussions of Lactantius.498498Instit., vi. 20-21; see also Arnob., iv. 35 f.—Along with the games, participation in public festivals was also forbidden, as these were always bound up with polytheism. Cp. the seventh canon of Ancyra: περὶ τῶν συνεστιαθέντων ἐν ἑορτῇ ἐθνικῇ, ἐν τόπῳ ἀφωρισμένῳ τοῖς ἐθνικοῖς, ἴδια βρώματα ἐπικομισαμένων καὶ φαγόντων, ἔδοξε διετίαν ὑποπεσόντας δεχθῆναι (“With regard to those who have sat down at a pagan banquet, in a place set apart for pagans, even though they brought and ate their own food, it seems good to us that they be received after they have done penance for two years”). In this connection, Tertullian, de Idol. xiii.-xvi., is particularly important. All public festivals, he declares, are to be avoided, since they are held either owing to wantonness or to timidity. “If we rejoice with the world, it is to be feared that we shall also mourn with the world.” Here, of course, it is plain that Tertullian is in a minority. The majority of Christians at Carthage saw nothing wrong in attending public or private feasts; in fact, it was considered rather a dangerous mark of the factious spirit to abstain from them. “‘Let your works shine,' is Christ's rule,” says Tertullian in his cry of complaint. “But here are all our shops and doors shining! Nowadays you will find more doors unilluminated and unwreathed among the pagans than among the Christians! What do you think about the custom? If it is meant as honor to an idol, then certainly it is idolatry to honor an idol. If, again, it is done for the sake of some man, then let us remember that all idolatry is worship paid to men (the gods of the pagans having been formerly men themselves).” “I know how one Christian brother was severely punished in a vision on that very night, because his slaves had decorated his gateway with wreaths on the sudden proclamation of some public thanksgiving.” Tertullian only draws the line at well-established family feasts such as those at the assumption of the toga virilis, betrothals, marriages, and name-givings, since these are not necessarily contaminated with idolatry, and since the command to observe no particular days does not apply in these instances. “One may accept an invitation to such functions, provided that the title of the invitation does not run ‘to assist at a sacrifice.' Except in the latter event, I can please myself as much as I like. Since Satan has so thoroughly entangled the world in idolatry, it must be allowable for us to attend certain ceremonies, if thereby we stipulate that we are under obligations to a man and not to an idol.” 302These writings by themselves are enough to show that the above prohibitions were not universally obeyed.499499Novatian, de Spect. i.: “Quoniam non desunt vitiorum assertores blandi et indulgentes patroni qui praestant vitiis auctoritatem et quod est deterius censuram scripturarum caelestium in advocationem criminum convertunt, quasi sine culpa innocens spectaculorum ad remissionem animi appetatur voluptas—nam et eo usque enervatus est ecclesiasticae disciplinae vigor et ita omni languore vitiorum praecipitatur in peius ut non iam vitiis excusatio sed auctoritas detur—placuit paucis vos non nunc instruere [i.e., de spectaculis], sed instructos admonere” (“Plausible advocates of vice are not awanting, nor are complaisant patrons who lend their authority to vice and—what is worse—twist the rebuke of scripture into a defense of crimes; as if any innocent pleasure could be sought from public shows by way of relaxation for the mind. The vigor of ecclesiastical discipline has become so weakened and so deteriorated by all the languor produced by vices, that wickedness wins no longer an apology but actual authority for itself. Consequently I have determined not now to instruct you [on public shows], but in a few words to admonish those who have been instructed”). The passion for public games was almost irresistible, and Tertullian has actually to hold out hopes of the spectacle afforded by the future world as a compensation to Christians who were robbed of their shows in the present.500500De Spect., xxx., with its closing sentence, “Ceterum qualia illa sunt, quae nec oculus vidit nec auris audivit nec in cor hominis ascenderunt? Credo, circa et utraque cavea et omni stadio gratiora” (“But what are the things that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man? Superior, I imagine, to the circus, the theatre, the amphitheatre, and any racecourse!”). Still, the conflict with these shows was by no means in vain. On the contrary, its effects along this line were greater than along other lines. By the time that Constantine granted privileges to the church, public opinion had developed 303to such a pitch that the state immediately adopted measures for curtailing and restricting the public spectacles.501501Against games of chance, cp. the treatise of pseudo-Cyprian (Victor) adversus Aleatores, and a number of cognate passages in other writings.
5. A sharp attack was also made upon luxury, in so far as it was bound up in part with polytheism and certainly betrayed a senseless and pagan spirit. Cp. the Paedagogus of Clement, and Tertullian's writings “de cultu feminarum.” It was steadily maintained that the money laid out upon luxuries would be better spent in charity. But no special regulations for the external life of Christians were as yet drawn up.
6. With regard to the question of how far a Christian could take part in the manners and customs and occupations of' daily life without denying Christ and incurring the stain of idolatry, there was a strict attitude as well as a lenient, freedom as well as narrowness, even within the apostolic age. Then the one burning question, however, seems to have been that of food offered to idols, or whether one could partake of meals provided by unbelievers. In those days, as the large majority of Christians belonged to the lower classes, they had no representative duties, but were drawn from working people of the lower orders, from day-laborers, in fact, whose simple occupation hardly brought them into any kind of relation to public life, and consequently exempted them from any conflict in this sphere. Presently, however, a change came over the situation. A host of difficult and vexatious problems poured upon the churches. Even the laxer party would do nothing that ran counter to the will of God. They, too, had scriptural proofs ready to support their position, and corollaries from scriptural principles. “Flee from one city to another” was the command they pled when they prudently avoided persecution. “I have power over all things,” “We must be all things to all men”—so they followed the apostle in declaring. They knew how to defend even attendance at public spectacles from scripture. Novatian (de Spect., ii.) sorrowfully quotes their arguments as follows: “Where, they ask, are such scriptures? Where are such things prohibited? Nay, was not Elijah the charioteer of Israel? Did not David himself dance before the ark? We read 304of horns, psalteries, trumpets, drums, pipes, harps, and choral dances. The apostle, too, in his conflict with evil sets before us the struggle of the cæstus and our wrestling with the spiritual powers of wickedness. Again, he takes illustrations front the racecourse, and holds out to us the prize of the crown. Why, then, may not a faithful Christian look at things of which the sacred books could write?”
This defense of attendance at the games sounds almost frivolous. But there were many graver conflicts on this subject, which one can follow with serious interest.
Participation in feasts and in convivial gatherings already occasioned such conflicts to a large extent, but it was the question of one's occupation that was really crucial. Can a Christian engage in business generally in the outside world without incurring the stain of idolatry? Though the strict party hardly tabooed a single occupation on the score of principle, yet they imposed such restrictions as amounted almost to a prohibition. In his treatise de Idololatria, Tertullian goes over a series of occupations, and his conclusion is the same in almost every case: better leave it alone, or be prepared to abandon it at any moment. To the objection, “But I have no means of livelihood,” the reply follows, “A Christian need never be afraid of starving.”502502Cp. especially the sharp remarks in ch. xii. f. a propos of the passages from the gospels, which conclude: “Nemo eorum, quos dominus allegit, non habeo, dixit, quo vivam. Fides famem non timet. Scit etiam famem non minus sibi contemnendam propter deum quam omne mortis genus; didicit non respicere vitam, quanto magis victum? Quotusquisque haec adimplevit? sed quae penes homines difficilia, penes deum facilia?” (“None of those whom the Lord chose for himself ever said, I have no means of livelihood. Faith has no fear of starvation. Faith knows it must despise starvation as much as any kind of death, for the sake of God. Life it has learnt not to respect; how much more, food? How many, you ask, have answered to these conditions? Ah well, what is hard with men is easy with God”).
Tertullian especially prohibits the manufacture of idols (iv. f.), as was only natural. Yet there were Christian workmen who knew no other trade, and who tried to shelter themselves behind the text, “Let every man abide in the calling wherein he was called” (1 Cor. vii. 20). They also pointed out that Moses had a serpent manufactured in the wilderness. From 305Tertullian's charges it is quite evident that the majority in the church connived at such people and their practices. “From idols they pass into the church; from the workshop of the adversary they come to the house of God; to God the Father they raise hands that fashion idols; to the Lord's body they apply hands that have conferred bodies upon idols. Nor is this all. They are not content to contaminate what they receive from other hands, but even hand on to others what they have themselves contaminated. Manufacturers of idols are actually elected to ecclesiastical office!” (vii.).
As against these lax members of the church, Tertullian prohibits the manufacture, not only of images and statues, but also of anything which was even indirectly employed in idol-worship. Carpenters, workers in stucco, joiners, slaters, workers in gold-leaf, painters, brass-workers, and engravers—all must refrain from manufacturing the slightest article required for idol worship; all must refuse to participate in any work (e.g., in repairs) connected therewith (ch. viii.).
Similarly, no one is allowed to practice as an astrologer or a magician. Had not the magi to depart home “by another way”?503503Tertullian, de Anima, lvii.: “Quid ergo dicemus magiam? Quod omnes paene—fallaciam! Sed ratio fallaciae solos non fugit Christianos, qui spiritualia nequitiae, non quidem socia conscientia, sed inimica scientia novimus, nec invitatoria operatione, sed expugnatoria dominatione tractamus multiformem luem mentis humanae, totius erroris artificem, salutis pariter animaeque vastatorem. Sic etiam magiae, secundae scilicet idololatriae,” etc. (“What then shall we say about magic? Just what almost everybody says—that it is sheer imposture! The nature of the imposture has been detected by more than Christians, though we have discovered these spirits of iniquity, not because we are in league with them, but by a hostile instinct, not because our methods of work attract them, but on the contrary because we handle them by means of a power which vanquishes them. This protean pest of the human mind! This deviser of all error! This destroyer alike of our salvation and of our soul! For thus it is, by magic, which is simply a second idolatry,” etc.). Nor can any Christian be a schoolmaster or a professor of learning, since such professions frequently bring people into contact with idolatry.504504Mathematics was also suspect. Even in the beginning of the fourth century there was opposition offered in Emesa to Eusebius being promoted to the episcopate, on the ground that he practiced mathematical studies (Socrates, H.E. ii. 9). Knowledge of the pagan gods has to be diffused; their names, genealogy and myths have to be 306imparted; their festivals and holy days have to be observed, “since it is by means of them that the teacher's fees are reckoned.” The first payment of any new scholar is devoted by the teacher to Minerva. Is the contamination of idolatry any the less because in this case it leads to something else? It may be asked, if one is not to be a teacher of pagan learning, ought one then to be a pupil? But Tertullian is quite ready to be indulgent on this point, for—“how can we repudiate secular studies which are essential to the pursuit of religious studies?” A remarkable passage (x.).505505The perusal of bad and seductive literature was, of course, always prohibited, so soon as this danger became felt. If one must not listen to blasphemous or heretical speeches, far less must one handle books of this character. What Dionysius of Alexandria relates about his own practice, only proves the rule (Eus., H.E. vii. 7): “I have busied myself,” he writes to Philemon, the Roman presbyter, “with the writings and also the traditions of the heretics, staining my soul for a little with their utterly abominable ideas, yet deriving this benefit from them, that I refute them for myself and loathe them all the more. One of the presbyters sought to dissuade me, fearing lest I might become mixed up with the mire of their iniquity and so injure my own soul. I felt he was quite right, but a divine vision came to confirm me, and a voice reached me with the clear command: ‘Read all that you come across, for you can estimate and prove everything; and this capacity has been from the first the explanation of your faith.' I accepted the vision, as it tallied with the apostolic word spoken to the stronger Christians, ‘Be skilled moneychangers.'” Cp. Didasc. Apost., ii. (ed. Achelis, p. 5): “Keep away from all heathen writings, for what hast thou to do with strange words or laws and false prophecies, which indeed seduce young people from the faith? What dost thou miss in God's Word, that thou dost plunge into these pagan histories? If thou wilt read histories, there are the books of Kings; if wise men and philosophers, there are the prophets, with whom thou shalt find more wisdom and understanding than in all the wise men and philosophers; for these are the words of the one and the only wise God. If thou cravest hymns, there are the psalms of David; and if thou wantest information about the beginning of all things, there is the book of Genesis by the great Moses; if thou wilt have laws and decrees, there are his laws. . . . . Keep thyself therefore from all those strange things, which are contrary.” General prohibitions of definite books under pain of punishment begin with Constantine's order regarding the writings of Arius and other heretics (Eus., Vita Const., iii. 66; for the prohibition of the writings of Eunomius, ep. Philostorgius, H.E. xi. 5).—Whether one should quote pagan philosophers and poets, and, if so, how, remained a problem. The apologists made ample use of them, as we know. Paul's citations from profane literature are striking (Tit. i. 12, 1 Cor. xv. 33, Acts xvii. 28); since Origen's treatment of them, they have often been discussed and appealed to by the more liberal. Origen (Hom. xxxi., in Luc., vol. v. p. 202) thought: “Ideo assumit Paulus verba etiam de his qui foris sunt, tit sanctificet eos.”
Then comes trade. Tertullian is strongly inclined to prohibit 307trade altogether506506Tertullian stands here pretty much by himself. We find even a man like Irenæus (cp. iv. 30. 1) had no objections to a Christian engaging in trade. owing to its origin in covetousness and its connection, however indirectly, with idolatry. It provides material for the temple services. What more need be said? “Even supposing that these very wares—frankincense, I mean, and other foreign wares—used in sacrificing to idols, are also of use to people as medicinal salves, and particularly to us Christians in our preparations for a burial, still you are plainly promoting idolatry, so long as processions, ceremonies, and sacrifices to idols are furnished at the cost of danger, loss, inconvenience, schemes, discussion, and commercial ventures.” “With what face can a Christian dealer in incense, who happens to pass by a temple, spit on the smoking altars, and puff aside their fumes, when he himself has provided material for those very altars?” (xi.).507507The clergy themselves were not absolutely forbidden to trade; only restrictions were laid on them (cp. the nineteenth canon of Elvira). The taking of interest on money was not differentiated from usury, and was strictly prohibited. But the prohibition was not adhered to. Repeatedly, steps had to be taken against even the clergy, the episcopate, and the church widows for taking interest or following occupations tinged with usury.508508Cp. Funk, “Interest and Usury in Christian Antiquity” (Tübingen Theol. Quartalschrift vol. lvii., 1875, pp 214 f.). See Eus., H.E. v. 21; Cyprian, de Lapsis, vi., and Testim., iii. 48; Commod., Instruct., ii. 24; and the twentieth canon of the Council of Elvira.
Can a Christian hold a civil appointment? Joseph and Daniel did; they kept themselves free from idolatry, said the liberal party in the church. But Tertullian is unconvinced. “Supposing,” he says, “that any one holder of an office were to succeed in coming forward with the mere title of the office, without either sacrificing or lending the sanction of his presence to a sacrifice, without farming out the supply of sacrificial victims, without handing over to other people the care of the temples or superintending their revenues, without holding spectacles either at his own or at the state's expense, without presiding at such spectacles, without proclaiming or announcing any ceremony, without even taking an oath, and moreover—in 308regard to other official business—without passing judgment of life or death on anyone or on his civil standing . . . . without either condemning or laying down ordinances of punishment, without chaining or imprisoning, or torturing a single person—well, supposing all that to be possible, then there is nothing to be said against a Christian being an official!” Furthermore, the badges of officials are all mixed up with idolatry. “If you have abjured the pomp of the devil, know that whatever part of it you touch is idolatry to you” (xvii.-xviii.).
This involves the impossibility of any Christian being a military officer. But may he not be a private and fill subordinate positions in the army? “‘The inferior ranks do not need to sacrifice, and have nothing to do with capital punishments.' True, but it is unbecoming for anyone to accept the military oath of God and also that of man, or to range himself under the standard of Christ and also under that of the devil, or to bivouac in the camp of light and also in the camp of darkness; no soul can be indebted to both, to Christ and to the devil.” You point to the warriors of Israel, to Moses and Joshua, to the soldiers who came to John the Baptist, to the centurion who believed. But “subsequently the Lord disarmed Peter, and in so doing unbuckled the sword of every soldier. Even in peace it is not to be worn” (xix.).
Furthermore, in ordinary life a good deal must be entirely proscribed. One must abjure any phrase in which the gods are named. Thus one dare not say “by Hercules,” or “as true as heaven” (medius fidius), or use any similar expletive (xx.). And no one is tacitly to accept an adjuration addressed to himself, from fear of being recognized as a Christian if he demurs to it.509509“I know one Christian who, on being publicly addressed during a law-suit with the words ‘Jove's wrath be on you,' answered, ‘Nay, on you.'” The unlawfulness of this answer, according to Tertullian, consisted, not simply in the malediction, but in the recognition of Jupiter which it implied. Every pagan blessing must be rejected; accept it, and you are accursed of God. “It is a denial of God for anyone to dissemble on any occasion whatsoever and let himself pass for a pagan. All denial of God is idolatry, just as all idolatry is denial of God, be it in word or in deed” (xxi.-xxii.). Even the pledge 309exacted from Christians as a guarantee when money is borrowed, is a denial of God, though the oath is not sworn in words (xxiii.).
“Such are the reefs and shoals and straits of
idolatry, amid which faith has to steer her course, her sails filled
by the Spirit of God.” Yet after the close of the second century
the large majority of Christians took quite another view of the
situation, and sailed their ship with no such anxieties about her
track.510510Read the second and third books
of Clement's Paedagogus. The author certainly does not
belong to the lax party, but he does not go nearly the length of
Tertullian. On the other hand, he lashes (Paed.
III. xi. 80) mere “Sunday Christianity”: “They drop the heavenly inspiration
of the congregation when they leave the meeting-place, and become
like the great majority with whom they associate. Or rather, in
laying aside the affected and specious mask of solemnity, they show
their real nature, undisguised. After listening reverently to the
word of God, they leave what they have heard within the church itself,
and go outside to amuse themselves in godless society with music,” etc. Coarse forms of idolatry were loathed and
severely punished, but during the age of Tertullian, at least, little
attention was paid any longer to such subtle forms as were actually
current. Moreover, when it suits his point to do so, Tertullian
himself in the Apology meets the charge of criminal isolation brought against Christians, by
boasting that “we share your voyages and battles, your agriculture
and your trading” (xlii.), remarking in a tone of triumph that Christians
are to be met with everywhere, in all positions of state, in the
army, and even in the senate. “We have left you nothing but the
temples.” Such was indeed the truth. The facts of the case show
that Christians were to be found in every line of life,511511Of course, as Tertullian sarcastically
observes (Apol. xliii.), “pimps, panders, assassins, poisoners
and sorcerers, with sacrificial augurs, diviners, and astrologers,
very reasonably complain of Christians being a profitless race!”
As early as Acts 19. we read of tradesmen in Ephesus who lived by
the cult of Diana feeling injured by Christians. and that
troubles occasioned by one's occupation must have been on the whole
very rare (except in the case of soldiers; see below, Bk. IV. Ch.
II.). Nor was the sharp criticism passed by Tatian,
Tertullian, Hippolytus, and even (though for different reasons,
of course) by Origen, upon the state as such, and upon civil relations,
translated very often into practice.512512 Still, Cæcilius (in Min. Felix, viii.) describes
Christians as a “natio in publico muta, in angulis garrula (a people
tongue-tied in public, but talkative in corners), honores et purpuras
despiciunt (despising honors and purple robes).” Cp. Tatian, Orat., xi.:
πλουτεῖν οὐ βούλομαι,
παρῄτημαι . . . .
(“I have no desire to reign—no wish to be rich. I decline all leadership. . . . . I am void of any
frenzy for fame”); Speratus (in Martyr. Scil.): “Ego imperium huius saeculi non cognosco”
(“of the kingdom of this world I know nothing”); Tertull., Apol. xlii.: “Christianus nec
aedilitatem affectat (“the Christian has no ambition to be aedile”),
and his critique of Roman laws in chaps iv.-vi. of the Apology.
On the charge of “infructuositas in negotio” (barrenness in affairs),
see Tert., de Pallio, v., where all that is said of the pallium applies to Christians:
“Ego, inquit, nihil foro, nihil campo,
nihil curiae debeo, nihil officio advigilo, nulla rostra praeoccupo,
nulla praetoria observo, canales non odoro, cancellos non adoro,
subsellia non contundo, iura non conturbo, causas non elatro, non
iudico, non milito, non regno, secessi de populo. in me unicum negotium
mihi est; nisi aliud non curo quam ne curem. vita meliore magis
in secessu fruare quam in promptu. sed ignavam infamabis. scilicet
patriae et imperio reique vivendum est. erat olim ista sententia.
nemo alii nascitur moriturus sibi. certe cum ad Epicuros et Zenones
ventum est, sapientes vocas totum quietis magisterium, qui eam summae
atque unicae voluptatis nomine consecravere,” etc. (“I,” quoth the
cloak, “I owe no duty to the forum, the hustings, or the senate-house.
I keep no obsequious vigils, I haunt no platforms, I boast no great
houses, I scent no cross-roads, I worship no lattices, I do not
wear out the judicial bench, I upset no laws, I bark in no pleadings
at the bar; no judge am I, no soldier, and no king. I have withdrawn
from the people. My peculiar business is with myself. No care have
I save to shun care. You, too, would enjoy a better life in retreat
than in publicity. But you will decry me as indolent. ‘We must live,'
forsooth, ‘for country, empire, and estate.' Well, our view prevailed
in days gone by. None, it was said, is born for another's ends,
since to himself he is to die. At all events, when you come to the
Epicureans and Zenos, you dub all the teachers of quietism ‘sages';
and they have hallowed quietism with the name of the ‘unique' and
'supreme' pleasure”). Apolog., xxxviii. f: “Nec ulla magis res
aliena quam publica . . . . unam omnium rempublicam agnoscimus, mundum
(“Nothing is so alien to us as political affairs . . . . We recognize
but one universal commonwealth, viz., the universe”). On the absence
of any home-feeling among Christians, see Diognet. v. 5: πατρίδας
ἰδίας, ἀλλ᾽ ὡς πάροικοι·
πάντων ὡς πολῖται, καὶ
πάνθ᾽ ὑπομένουσιν ὡς ξένοι·
πᾶσα ξένη πατρίς ἐστιν
αὐτῶν, καὶ πᾶσα πατρὶς
ξένη (“They inhabit their own countries, but merely as sojourners; they
share in everything as citizens and endure everything as strangers.
Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland
is foreign”); also Clem., Paed. iii. 8. 41:
γῆν οὐκ ἔχομεν (“On earth we have no fatherland”);
Vita Polycarpi, vi.: παντὶ
δούλῳ θεοῦ πᾶς ὀ κόσμος
πόλις, πατρὶς δὲ ἡ
ἐπουράνιος Ἰερουσαλήμ· ἐνταῦθα δὲ παροικεῖν,
ἀλλ᾽ οὐ κατοικεῖν, ὡς
ξένοι καὶ παρεπίδημοι
τετάγμεθα (cp. also
xxx.). Not without reason does Celsus (Orig., VIII. lxviii.)
remark to his Christian opponent: “Were all to behave as you do,
the emperor would ere long be left solitary and deserted, and the
affairs of this world would presently fall into the hands of the
most wild and lawless barbarians.” He proceeds to point out that,
in the event of this, Christianity would cease to exist, and that
the Roman Empire consequently was the support of Christianity. To
which Christians replied that, on the contrary, it was they alone who upheld the empire.
Between the second century and the third (the line may be drawn about 180 A.D.) a vital change took place. In the former, Christians for the most part had the appearance of a company of people who shunned the light and withdrew from public life, an immoral, nefarious set who held aloof from actual life; in the third century, paganism, to its alarm, discovered in Christianity a foe which openly and energetically challenged it in every sphere, political, social, and religious. By this time the doctrine of Christianity was as familiar as its cultus, discipline, and organization; and just as Christian basilicas rose everywhere after the reign of Gallienus beside the older temples, so Christians rose to every office in the state. So far as regards the civil and social status of Christianity, the period dating from 250 A.D., belongs on the whole to the fourth century rather than to the preceding age. The kingdom of 310Christ, or the world-empire of the Stoics, or some platonic republic of Christian philosophy, might be played off against the existing state, as the highest form of social union intended by God, but all this speculation left life untouched, at least from the close of the second century onwards. The Paedagogus of Clement already furnishes directions for managing to live a 311Christian life in the world. By the close of our period, the court, the civil service, and the army were full of Christians.513513It is not surprising that Origen proves the existence of a numerous class of Christians who believed everything, were devoted to the priests, and yet were destitute of any moral principle. What does surprise us is that he assigns heaven to them, simply because they were believers! (Hom. x. 1, in Jesum Nave, vol. xi. p. 102, Hom. xx. 1, pp. 182 f.). It is also significant, in this connection, that Augustine's mother, Monica, was concerned about the adultery of her young son, but that she did not warn him about banquets till he became a Manichean (cp. Confess. iii.).
Still, it was significant, highly significant indeed, that gross and actual idolatry was combated to the bitter end. With it Christianity never came to terms.514514Nor did the sects of Christianity, with rare exceptions. In one or two cases the rarefied intellectualism and spiritual self-confidence of the gnostics made all external conduct, including any contact with idols, a matter of entire indifference, while open confession of one's faith was held to be useless and, in fact, suicidal (cp. the polemic against this in Iren. iv. 33. 9; Clem., Strom. iv. 4. 16; and Tertull., Scorpiace adv. Gnost.). But the opponents of heresy taxed the gnostics in such cases also with a denial of their Christian position on principle, where no such denial existed whatsoever (cp. what has been said on Heracleon, p. 210), while at the same time they described the freer attitude of the gnostics towards the eating of sacrificial meat as an apostasy.312
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