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PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
This second volume contains the history of Christianity from the end of the Apostolic age to the beginning of the Nicene.
The first edict of Toleration, A. D. 311, made an end of persecution; the second Edict of Toleration, 311 (there is no third), prepared the way for legal recognition and protection; the Nicene Council, 325, marks the solemn inauguration of the imperial state-church. Constantine, like Eusebius, the theologian, and Hosius, the statesman, of his reign, belongs to both periods and must be considered in both, though more fully in the next.
We live in an age of discovery and research, similar to that which preceded the Reformation. The beginnings of Christianity are now absorbing the attention of scholars.
During the present generation early church history has been vastly enriched by new sources of information, and almost revolutionized by independent criticism. Among the recent literary discoveries and publications the following deserve special mention:
The Syriac Ignatius (by Cureton 1845 and 1849), which opened a new chapter in the Ignatian controversy so closely connected with the rise of Episcopacy and Catholicism; the Philosophumena of Hippolytus (by Miller 1851, and by Duncker and Schneidewin, 1859), which have shed a flood of light on the ancient heresies and systems of thought, as well as on the doctrinal and disciplinary commotions in the Roman church in the early part of third century; the Tenth Book of The Pseudo-Clementine Homilies (by Dressel, 1853), which supplements our knowledge of a curious type of distorted Christianity in the post-apostolic age, and furnishes, by an undoubted quotation, a valuable contribution to the solution of the Johannean problem; the Greek Hermas from Mt. Athos (the Codex Lipsiensis, published by Anger and Tischendorf, 1856); a new and complete Greek MS. of the First Epistle of the Roman Clement with several important new chapters and the oldestwritten Christian prayer (about one tenth of the whole), found in a Convent Library at Constantinople (by Bryennios, 1875); and in the same Codex the Second (so called) Epistle of Clement, or post-Clementine Homily rather, in its complete form (20 chs. instead of 12), giving us the first post-apostolic sermon, besides a new Greek text of the Epistle of Barnabus; a Syriac Version of Clement in the library of Jules Mohl, now at Cambridge (1876); fragments of Tatian’s Diatessaron with Ephraem’s Commentary on it, in an Armenian version (Latin by Mösinger 1878); fragments of the apologies of Melito (1858), and Aristides (1878); the complete Greek text of the Acts of Thomas (by Max Bonnet, 1883); and the crowning discovery of all, the Codex Sinaiticus, the only complete uncial MS. of the Greek Testament, together with the Greek Barnabus and the Greek Hermas (by Tischendorf, 1862), which, with the facsimile edition of the Vatican Codex (1868–1881, 6 vols.), marks an epoch in the science of textual criticism of the Greek Testament and of those two Apostolic Fathers, and establishes the fact of the ecclesiastical use of all our canonical books in the age of Eusebius.
In view of these discoveries we would not be surprised if the Exposition of the Lord’s Oracles by Papias, which was still in existence at Nismes in 1215, the Memorials of Hegesippus, and the whole Greek original of Irenaeus, which were recorded by a librarian as extant in the sixteenth century, should turn up in some old convent.
In connection with these fresh sources there has been a corresponding activity on the part of scholars. The Germans have done and are doing an astonishing amount of Quellenforschung and Quellenkritik in numerous monographs and periodicals, and have given us the newest and best critical editions of the Apostolic Fathers and Apologists. The English with their strong common sense, judicial calmness, and conservative tact are fast wheeling into the line of progress, as is evident from the collective works on Christian Antiquities, and the Christian Biography, and from Bp. Lightfoot’s Clementine Epistles, which are soon to be followed by his edition of the Ignatian Epistles. To the brilliant French genius and learning of Mr. Renan we owe a graphic picture of the secular surroundings of early Christianity down to the time of Marcus Aurelius, with sharp glances into the literature and life of the church. His Historie des Origines du Christianisme, now completed in seven volumes, after twenty year’s labor, is well worthy to rank with Gibbon’s immortal work. The Rise and Triumph of Christianity is a grander theme than the contemporary Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, but no historian can do justice to it without faith in the divine character and mission of that peaceful Conqueror of immortal souls, whose kingdom shall have no end.
The importance of these literary discoveries and investigations should not blind us to the almost equally important monumental discoveries and researches of Cavalier de Rossi, Garrucci, and other Italian scholars who have illuminated the subterranean mysteries of the church of Rome and of Christian art. Neander, Gieseler, and Baur, the greatest church historians of the nineteenth century, are as silent about the catacombs as Mosheim and Gibbon were in the eighteenth. But who could now write a history of the first three centuries without recording the lessons of those rude yet expressive pictures, sculptures, and epitaphs from the homes of confessors and martyrs? Nor should we overlook the gain which has come to us from the study of monumental inscriptions, as for instance in rectifying the date of Polycarp’s martyrdom who is now brought ten years nearer to the age of St. John.
Before long there will be great need of an historic architect who will construct a beautiful and comfortable building out of the vast material thus brought to light. The Germans are historic miners, the French and English are skilled manufacturers; the former understand and cultivate the science of history, the latter excel in the art of historiography. A master of both would be the ideal historian. But God has wisely distributed his gifts, and made individuals and nations depend upon and supplement each other.
The present volume is an entire reconstruction of the corresponding part of the first edition (vol. I p. 144–528), which appeared twenty-five years ago. It is more than double in size. Some chapters (e.g. VI. VII. IX.) and several sections (e.g. 90–93, 103, 155–157, 168, 171, 184, 189, 190, 193, 198–204, etc.) are new, and the rest has been improved and enlarged, especially the last chapter on the literature of the church. My endeavor has been to bring the book up to the present advanced state of knowledge, to record every important work (German, French, English, and American) which has come under my notice, and to make the results of the best scholarship of the age available and useful to the rising generation.
In conclusion, I may be permitted to express my thanks for the kind reception which has been accorded to this revised edition of the work of my youth. It will stimulate me to new energy in carrying it forward as far as God may give time and strength. The third volume needs no reconstruction, and a new edition of the same with a few improvements will be issued without delay.
Union Theological Seminary,
Illustrations from the Catacombs.
THE AGE OF PERSECUTION AND MARTYRDOM
DEATH OF JOHN TO CONSTANTINE THE GREAT
"The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church"
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