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letter of Hadrian to Servianus, his brother-in-law,* was corrupted by the heathenism of the time. The Emperor writes about 132 A.D. as follows:
This Egypt, which you vaunted to me, my dear Servianus, I find frivolous, hung by a thread, and swaying with each gust of fashion. There those who adore Serapis are at the same time Christians; and those called bishops of Christ are devoted to Serapis. There is not a president of a Jewish synagogue, nor a Samaritan, nor a Christian priest, who does not confound his functions with those of astrologers, diviners, and impostors. The patriarch himself, when he comes to Egypt, is forced by some to adore Serapis, by others to adore Christ. ... Their only God is money. That is the deity that Christians, Jews, and all sorts of men adore.
In Carthage, however, where a tenth of the population was Christian, Tertullian speaks of rites quite as simple as those of Syria : † of prayer before the meal, and hymns sung after it, with washing of hands and a final prayer. The number of the Christians was then so fast increasing that the State was filled with them (about 200 A.D.).
"They are in the fields, in the citadel, in the islands. Men lament it, as if a public calamity, that both sexes, every age and condition, even high rank, are passing over to the profession of the Christian faith. And yet for all this men's minds are not awakened to the thought that there is in it some good which they have failed to notice. We are but of yesterday, yet we have filled every place among you. ... We have left you nothing but the temples of your gods.' I
The majority of the converts in these regions must, however, have belonged to a very humble class, if there be any truth in the contemptuous estimate of Celsus as preserved by Origen:
• It is only foolish and low persons void of perception, slaves, women and children, of whom the teachers of the Divine Word seek to make converts. We see, indeed, in private houses, workers in wool and leather, and fullers, and persons of the most ignorant and rudest character, not daring to utter a word in presence of their elders and wiser masters; but when they get hold of the children privately, and of certain women as ignorant as themselves, pouring forth wonderful statements, to the effect that they ought not to give heed to their fathers or to their teachers, but should obey them ... and be happy themselves and make others happy. No wise man believes this gospel, being driven away by the multitude that adhere to it.' §
This hostile account, supposed to date about 160-180
* Given by Renan, 'L'Eglise Chrétienne,' p. 189.
† Tertullian, Apol. 39. Apol. 1 and 37. § Origen against Celsus, II. xlix. 1. lxxii.
A.D., shows that among the poor clients and slaves of the great houses Christianity was silently making its way. But in Italy the number of the believers was still small. Irenæus enumerates the twelve successors of Paul (not of Peter) who presided over the flock in Rome down to about 180 A.D. ;* but according to Eusebius the Roman Church, as late as 251 A.D., reckoned only forty-six presbyters, seven deacons, seven sub-deacons, forty-two acolytes, fifty-two exorcists, readers and porters, who had charge of 1,500 widows and orphans. The Bishop of Rome already claimed to be the head of the Church in the time of Irenæus ; and Aurelian, in 272 A.D., acknowledged his authority over the Bishop of Antioch. But this power, though recognised by the Churches of Africa and of Gaul, was limited; schism with the Eastern bishops,
nopie of practice when Bimas only the
counsels of Irenæus, when Bishop Victor strove to impose uniformity of practice. The transfer of the capital to Constantinople strengthened the hands of the Greeks, and though Chrysostom wrote to 'Innocent Bishop of Rome,' † when his own expulsion from the See of Constantinople had been effected by his enemies, he wrote as an equal, not as acknowledging a pope. We find in the early literature of this age nothing to support the Romanist tradition--no inflexible rule of faith to which the proud words .quod semper, quod • ubique, quod ab omnibus,'can be applied with truth. With the exception of Irenæus, there is not one of the great Fathers of the Church who would not, in the twelfth century, have been burned as a beretic for some of his beliefs. Their teaching is not in all things the same; their individual views are often such as would now place their writings on the Index. They did not agree among themselves. Irenæus held that Christ's ministry lasted more than twenty years : Clement of Alexandria said it only lasted one. The latter believed in the perpetual Virginity of Mary, and in the nonhuman character of Christ's body. Tertullian denounced both these beliefs. Justin Martyr insists on the reality of Christ's sufferings, which those who held the phantomist theory denied ; but he appears to inculcate the adoration of angels, and speaks of a fiery baptism in Jordan. He admits in one passage that differences of Christian belief already existed.
'], and others who are right-minded Christians on all points, are
* Irenæus, Hæres. iii. 3; Eusebius, H, E. vi. xliii. 11-12. + Chrysostom, ‘Ad Innocent. Episc. Romæ Epist.'
assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem,' butó many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise.' *
Such passages, scattered through the literature of the second century, enable us to understand why the monumental remains of Christianity are few. The small societies, which existed by 100 A.D. in so many parts of what was then the civilised world, included for the most part the poor, the weak, and the obscure. Their rites were simple : their lives were humble and retiring. They were at times fiercely persecuted by a hierarchy which had the ear of the rulers, and whose very existence depended on the failing revenues of the temples. They were fiercely calumniated and charged with secret vices, with atheism, with sedition. They were enemies of man, and ungrateful to the genii. They refused to adore the statue of Cæsar. They were said to have burned Rome, to worship a cross, or the Onokoites, or the sun, because they turned to the east in prayer.f The fury of those interested in inflaming the populace against them knew no bounds: their secret feasts were said to be immoral; and they were charged with infanticide and the eating of babies—a charge which Cyril of Jerusalem, in the fourth centnry, brings against the Gnostics, which the Pope levelled against the Templars in the thirteenth, but which, in the nineteenth century is only brought by equally savage calumniators against the Jews. In spite of all such calumny and persecution, and in face of the contempt of philosophers, the simple faith of the Christians silently worked its way into the hearts of men.
The constitution of the Churches was civil rather than ecclesiastical. No sacrificing priest was known, among believers who claimed no mystery in connexion with their eucharistic rite. The bishop or overseer,' and the deacon or servant,' held titles which were known in the Roman world as those of civil officers. The inscriptions found in Bashan and in Asia Minor illustrate this point, which is so often forgotten.
M. Waddington | has called attention to the use of the term episcopos, or 'overseer,' as a civil title before the establishment of Christianity. In the time of Constantine, according to Charisius, 'the episcopoi are those who preside
over bread and other things sold which are used for daily
* 2 Apol. lxxx. + Tertullian, I. ‘Ad Nationes,' xii.-xvii.
I Inscriptions de la Syrie, Nos. 1911, 1989, 1990, 2298. Charisius (Digest 1.4 18).
• food by the population of cities. From texts found at Salkhad in Bashan, it appears that they also presided over the offerings in heathen temples. In a text from the island of Rhodes an episcopos appears as an officer of one of the numerous brotherhoods or clubs which were scattered over the Roman Empire in the first and second centuries A.D. The word had a still older use before the Peloponnesian war, as applied to Athenian overseers sent to tributary towns. At Mejmir, in Southern Bashan, a text, headed with the heathen invocation 'Ayadỹ Túxy, gives a list of five episcopoi who were evidently pagan Arabs, named after the Arab deities S'air, 'Aziz, and Baal. The use of the term as a civil title appears thus to be clearly established.
The bishops in the East were numerous. In the fourth century each town and large village had its bishop, and the diocese was the parish. The bishop is stated to have only differed from the presbyter in possessing the power of ordination. The word Presbyter occurs on many texts in Syria and elsewhere, as does the word deacon, but these inscriptions are generally undated, and appear to be late in many instances.* Professor Ramsay has published a text and bas-relief from Prymnessos in Phrygia, supposed to be as old as the fourth century A.D., and probably Christian, in which Abirkios, son of Porphyrios, is described as deacon (Διάκων for Διάκονος). He remarks that the same term occurs in a pagan text which enumerates the officials of the temple at Metropolis in Ionia. Christian texts of the third century are numerous in Asia Minor,t including the names of soldiers.
The name of Christian being in itself a crime was concealed under the appellation xpnotós, or good ;' and this appears to have become the popular term. Thus Justin Martyr says:
As far as one may judge from the name we are accused of we are most excellent people.' I
Lactantius writes :
* The title presbyter is, of course, old (1 Tim. iv. 14). The word presbutes occurs as a title in the pagan texts of Syria.
† Professor W. M. Ramsay,' Expositor,'1889-90,- Journal of Hellenic Studies,' 1883. Renan ( St. Paul,' p. 363) says that the word Christian' occurs on the Phrygian texts from the third century downwards.
# Justin Martyr, ‘1 Apol.' iv. Tertullian, Ad Nationes,' 3. Lactantius, ' Div. Inst.' iv. 7, 5; Inscriptions de la Syrie, Nos. 2037, 2466, 2358, 2681, 2701.
Even when we are corruptly called Chrēstiani by you. The meaning of this name must be given because of the error of the ignorant, who are accustomed to say Chrēstos, changing a letter.'
At Harrân (already mentioned) still exists a text in which the deacon spells the name of Christ in this manner (Xpnotós), and there are many other known instances. The earliest Syrian text in which the writer boldly calls himself a Christian occurs near Antioch, and dates from 369 A.D., bearing the sign of the cross. The cross is not found on monuments earlier than the time of the Council of Nicæa, even when presumably Christian. The earliest known instance in Syria is, perhaps, that at Imtān, dating from 350 A.D. In 331 A.D. the name Chrēstos, and the absence of the cross, on a text, perhaps the oldest that is certainly of Christian origin in Syria, are to be marked at Khatura, in the Antioch province. Tertullian* says that the Christians were accused of worshipping the cross, and not only refutes the charge, but turns it against the pagans, who, he says, worshipped wooden stakes under the names of Pallas and Ceres. He notices the heretical Montanists as using the sign of the cross. The seals of Christians, according to Clement of Alexandria, should bear as emblems a dove, a fish, a ship, a lyre, or an anchor. He naturally does not recommend a cross. Minucius Felix says that the heathen worshipped wooden crosses, including those gilded on the tops of military ensigns. That the cross was a very ancient emblem is evidenced by its hanging to the necks of Assyrian kings, whose statues can be seen in the British Museum, and it indeed meets us throughout Asia on non-Christian monuments of all ages.
The fish ('Ixoús) as an emblem of Christ is not only mentioned by Tertullian, but commonly occurs on Christian texts. The catacombs at Rome include early examples ; south of Damascus it accompanies the words Ιησού Χριστέ Bondel at Suarah,† the tablet bearing a cross and other emblems; at Hâs, in Northern Syria, a lintel stone bears the strange words, 'Ixdús åandoúča. A text at Refadi, as late as 439 A.D., gives the letters in such a manner as to explain them by the accepted meaning as initials for the words, * Jesus Christ, son of God the Saviour' (IXOTEP). Another
-- -* Tertullian, · Ad Nationes,' I. xii. ; De Corona, 3 ; Ad Uxorem, ii. 5; Clement Alex. · Pædagog. III.' xi. ; Minucius Felix Octav. xxix.
† Inscriptions de la Syrie, Nos. 2537, 2659, 2695.