2nd Century Apologists – Part 1

The apologists is a name historians give to a number of Christian writers from the 2nd century who wrote in order to disprove the accusations that Pagans made against Christians, and to show the intellectuals of the Roman world that Christianity was worthy of their attention and their belief.

The name “apologist” comes from the Greek apologia, meaning “a speech for the defence.” From this we get the term apologetics – defending the Christian faith from attacks against its beliefs, and exposing the falsehood of what other religions teach.

Nearly all the apologists wrote in Greek. Sometimes they addressed an apology to a particular emperor or provincial governor. The apologist would try to show that Christians were good law-abiding citizens who paid their taxes and prayed for the Empire. He would also explain to the world what Christians believed and practised. The apologists aimed other apologists more at the intellectual culture of the day, trying to demonstrate that Christianity was the best and truest philosophy.

The apologist were highly cultured and literary men, who had often practised philosophy before becoming Christians. They included:

Aristides, an Athenian who in AD 140 dedicated an apology to the emperor Antoninus Pius (AD 138-61). Aristides was a converted philosopher.

Athenagoras, another Athenian who had been a Platonist philosopher before his conversion. He addressed his Intercession on behalf of the Christians to the emperor Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus in about AD 177. He was especially concerned to disprove accusations of atheism, cannibalism and incest. Athenagoras was one of the clearest, most forceful and persuasive of the apologists.

More to come in the next church history post…

Source: This church history excerpt comes from Nick Needham’s 2000 Years of Christ’s Power Volume 1 – The Age of the Early Church Fathers pgs 89-90.

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