« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
differ the widest from us. We shall state, illustrate and defend our opinions in our own way, and make our own devout examination of truth the measure of our instructions.
And while this will be the course of instruction, we will allow the same freedom to the youth under our care. We will urge them to make their own enlightened and honest convictions the guide of their faith and practice. While we avow the principles of our faith and the grounds of our orthodoxy, we abjure all sectarianism and will leave others to the free and honest expression of their own sentiments. We pledge our health and strength - our time and talents - our influence and example to the undivided object for which this seminary is founded — the training up an efficient ministry for the world. We expect the confidence and support of the pious — we pray for the approbation and blessing of heaven.
ON THE INFREQUENCY OF THE ALLUSIONS TO CHRISTIANITY
IN GREEK AND ROMAN WRITERS.
Translated from the Latin of H. T. Tschirner. By Horatio B. Hackett, Professor of Lan
guages, Brown University,
That the Greek and Roman writers, who were contemporary with the apostles, have left nothing on record either in regard to the birth and actions of our Lord, or the early origin of the christian church, can excite the surprise of no one. For the Greeks and Romans were not accustomed to visit Jerusalem in the manner, that they were in the habit of resorting, the former to Rome, and the latter, to Athens. Very few, except soldiers, magistrates and merchants travelled to Palestine, which was situated on the remotest borders of the empire, and destitute of all those objects, which would be likely to attract either the votaries of science, or men of pleasure. As to the information concerning Jesus Christ, which it is probable, that Pontius Pilate, by whose authority the Saviour was put to death, transmitted to Tiberius, the number of those, who received it, was but small, and even they did not regard it as in any way remarkable, or worthy of very particular notice.* The Greeks and Romans despised the Jews as a superstitious and illiterate people, and for this reason they neither read their sacred books, with whose very language in fact they were unacquainted, nor felt any great curiosity in regard to what took place among them. It is not strange, therefore, that the Greek and Roman writers, who were contemporary with the apostles, were either ignorant of the christian sect or silent concerning them.
But how is it to be explained, that even those authors, who wrote in the reign of Domitian, Trajan, Hadrian and the Antonines, so very seldom refer to the Christians, although spread, as they then were, throughout all parts of the Roman world? Were the christian churches, during a whole century (for Domitian obtained the sovereignty in the year 81 and Marcus Aurelius died in the year 180) so buried in a corner, that they were altogether unknown ? Might we not have expected, that the eyes of mankind would have been turned towards those, who were sometimes the objects of punishment by the magistrates and who still oftener suffered from the violence of the multitude, who were enraged against them for despising their gods? Were those, who make no mention of the Christians, ignorant of them ? or what reasons in short had they for their silence ? It is not without cause surely, that such inquiries are inade ; and since they have recently been brought forward anew, and have been pronounced worthy of a more critical investigation, than they have yet received, by a man, to whose opinions we are accustomed to listen with respect, we deem it proper to give the subject a brief discussion, especially as it is not altogether foreign to a department of study, in which we are particularly interested.t
* The writings, which are known at the present day under the name of Acts of Pilate, are certainly not genuine: nor can any one easily believe, that Pilate wrote to the emperor those things, which Tertullian pretends were written by hiin. But that Pilate made a report to Tiberius in reference to the case of Jesus Christ, is very credible : since belonged to the procurators to do this on occasions of the like nature. Cfr. Henkii De Pontii Pilati Actis in causa Jesus Christi ad Imp. Tiberium missis Probabilia, in ejusd. Opusc. Acad. p. 199 sqq.
† This man is the learned Eichstaedt, who in his essay on the question, whether Lucian intended by bis writings to advance the christian cause, says, that he cherishes the hope that ibis subject may yet be more fully investigated. Jena, 1822. p. 29.
The question, however, which we propose to answer, has reference only to those Greek and Roman writers, who flourished from the time of Domitian to the end of the age of the Antonines. For from this time the Christians, having come forth, as it were, from the shade into the public light, and the view of men, found henceforth both advocates and not a few opponents of their cause ; and in the third century the most distinguished of the Neo-Platonists, who were almost alone in their cultivation of philosophy and Greek letters, not only mentioned thein, but also assailed their opinions and principles. On the contrary those, who wrote in the reigns of Domitian, Trajan, Hadrian and the Antonines, alluded to the Christians but seldom ; for the most part they take no notice of them whatever; in a few instances they speak of them briefly, and, as it were, incidentally; and in still fewer cases, enter into argument against them.*
Among the Greeks, Dio Chrysostom, Plutarch, Oenomaus, who in the time of Hadrian anticipated the part of Lucian as a derider of the gods Maximus Tyrius and Pausanias, are entirely silent in respect to the Christians. In Plutarch, it is true, some have imagined, that they found an allusion to them in that passage of the Symposion, where reference is made to certain philosophers, who on account of their teaching, συνεκτικώτατον είναι του βιου το έλπιζειν (that hope is the great supporter of life) and, άλουσης ελπιδος ουδ' ηδυνουσης ουκ ανεκτον είναι τον Blov (that life, unless there be hope to sweeten it is too wretched to be endured), were called ALOTIXOL. But since there is nothing in this place to lead us to suppose, that it is a hope of heaven, such as the Christians cherished, which is here intend
* It seems however by no means improbable, that they may have been mentioned in some one or other of those works of antiquity, which are no longer extant. Nor should we particularly object to it, if any one is disposed to think that the hands of superstitious men may have erased or omitted in the ancient manuscripts all those passages, which contained reproachful allusions to the Christians. That this was sometimes done may be inferred with some appearance of probability from the fact, that the dialogue of Lucian on the death of Peregrinus, in which the Christians are violently assajled, is wanting in a great many copies: and in one of the Royal manuscripts, there occurs an omission with the remark: ένταυθα παρειθη έκοντι όπερ έστι Περεγρινου τελευτης λογον, δια το εν του το αποσκωπτειν εις τον XOLOTLAviouov. See the note in Opp. Luciani ed. Reitz. tom.III. p. 325.
ed, and since the Christians, who lived in the time of Plutarch, neither called themselves philosophers, nor were so called by others, it is utterly incredible, that this term, Elpistics, should contain a tacit allusion to them,* Tbus Plutarch, like the author just mentioned, says nothing in relation to the Christians. This silence now appears the more singular, because he was a man, who took an interest in all wbich is buman, who watched with the most careful eye the religious aspects of bis time, who inculcated many principles very similar to those of the Christians, and without doubt had some acquaintance with the state and history of the Jews.t Next to Plutarch, we should vaturally refer to Oenomaus as the author most likely to have left some testimony in regard to the christian church. He lived in the time of Hadrian and wrote a treatise on the falsehood of oracles under the title of: qopa yontor (detection of inpostors). Had he intended this now as an attack upon superstition, it would have been very pertinent to his object to liave commended the Christians for their contempt of oracles and their abhorrence of the arts of deception ; but if, on the contrary, his design was to subvert religion itself, by holding up the gods to ridicule, it would then seem to have fallen very naturally in his way, to deride and censure those, who were introducing new rites of worship. Oenomaus however did not record so much as a word in regard to the Christians. We gather this, not only from the remains, scanty, it is true, of the book just mentioned, but from the fact, that Eusebius neither commends him as the eulogist, nor censures bim as the accuser of the Christians.I
We turn to the Roman writers and we find nearly all of them observing the same silence on the subject, which is observed by the Greeks, Lucan indeed, Silius Italicus, Quinctilian, Martial, Florus, and Curtius Rufus, as they were either poets,
• This passage of Plutarch is found L. IV. Quaest. IV. c. 3. p. 503. tom. III. ed. Wyttenbach. Heumann in Actis philos. Vol. III. P.
911 seq., has it, Christian Elpistics : Brucker, in Hist. Crit. Philos. tom. III. p. 244, influenced by satisfactory reasons, denies the correctness of this. Programma Leuschneri super.
+ Which is ascertained e Convivalium Disputationem Liber IV. Quaest. V. p. 507, and Quaest. VI. p. 512.
The fragments of Oenomaus, in regard to whom there is some account in Fabricii Bibl. Graec. Vol. III. p. 522 seq. ed. Harles, are found in Eusebius, in his Praeparatio Evangelica L. V. c. 18 at the close, and L. VI. c. 6—7.
or teachers of rhetoric, or historians of events prior to their own
“The laws of Rome those blinded bigois slight
To Moses and his mystic volume true," etc. *
Thus nearly all the writers of this period are silent. Some of them indeed mention the Christians, but it is for the most part in very few words, so that it has the appearance of accident, rather than of design. No one speaks of them at all before the age of Trajan : but of those, who wrote in the reign of this emperor, Tacitus, Suetonius and Pliny Secundus, the Younger, have made mention of them. Tacitus, in giving an account of the conflagration of the city, which was supposed to have been set on fire by order of Nero, relates, that the emperor for the purpose of averting suspicion from himself, charged the crime upon the Christians, and inflicted on them punishments of the most studied cruelty; and in this connection he explains the origin of the name which they bore, and characterizes their religion as a pernicious superstition and their spirit as that of hatred towards the human race.t Suetonius in his life of Ne
* Satyra XIV. v. 100 sqq. * This well known passage is found Annal. L. XV. c. 44.