« Atheism Athenagoras Athens »


ATHENAGORAS, ath´´e-nag´o-ras: Reputed author of two Greek treatises of the time of the Antonines, one on the resurrection, the other an apology for the Christians. He is entirely unknown to the tradition of the Church. Eusebius, Jerome, and their successors are silent, and, as the survey which Eusebius gives of the apologetic literature of the second century is very complete, his silence could not fail to attract attention. Very early the existence of an apologist of the name was doubted and the work was ascribed to Justin (cf. Baronius, Annales, ii, ad an. 179, chap. xxxix). This supposition, however, is from internal reasons untenable. The first testimony, and the only one from the third century, to the existence of the apology and the name of its author, is a quotation by Methodius, found (1) in the ancient Bulgarian translation (ed. Bonwetsch, i, 293); (2) in Epiphanius, Hær., lxiv, 20, 21; (3) in Photius, Bibl. cod. 234 (cf. Athenagorus, Supplicatio, xxiv, p. 27 B). Certain notices by an unknown scribe (Cod. Barocc. 142, fol. 216) quoting from the ” Christian History” of Philippus Sidetes (early in the fifth century) state that Athenagoras was an Athenian by birth, and first director of the catechetical school of Alexandria; he lived in the time of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius; like Celsus, he was occupied with searching the Scriptures for arguments against Christianity, when he was suddenly converted. Most of these notices, however, are palpably erroneous. Yet, in spite of the entire absence of tradition and the close resemblance 348to the apology of Justin, the date of the work must be placed somewhere in the second century. It is addressed to the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, and various passages indicate the period between 176 and 178. After an introduction (i-iii) the author refutes the chief calumnies urged against the Christians in that day, viz., that they were atheists (iv-xxx), and that they ate human flesh and committed the most horrible crimes in their assemblies (xxxi-xxxvi). In the treatise on the resurrection, Athenagoras argues in its favor from the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, together with the natural constitution of man.

(A. Harnack.)

Bibliography: The text of Athenagoras is given in MPG, vi; the best editions are by J. C. T. Otto, in Corpus apologetarum Christianorum, vol. vii, Jena, 1876, and E. Schwarz, in TU, iv, 2, Leipsic, 1891; a handy ed. is by F. A. March, New York, 1876; an Eng. transl. is to be found in ANF, ii, 125-162. Consult Harnack, Litteratur, i, 256-258, ii, 317-319; Krüger, History, pp. 130-132; L. Arnould, De Apologia Athenagoræ, Paris, 1898. A full bibliography up to 1886 is in ANF, Bibliography, 36-38.

« Atheism Athenagoras Athens »
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