Athenagoras was a late 2nd century Christian apologist who wrote a defense of Christianity called _A Plea for the Christians_. It’s contents are revealing of what. A Plea for the Christians [Athenagoras of Athens] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Athenagoras (c. – c. AD) was a Father of the. Of these but two have survived: his Plea Regarding Christians and his Treatise on the Resurrection. From their titles we [[@Page]]gather that Athenagoras.

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Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. In your empire, greatest of sovereigns, different nations have different customs and laws ; and no one is hindered athenagors law or fear of athenagoeas from following his ancestral usages, however ridiculous these may be. A citizen of Ilium calls Hector a god, and pays divine honours to Helen, taking her for Adrasteia. The Athenian sacrifices to Erechtheus as Poseidon. The Athenians also perform religious rites and celebrate mysteries in honour of Agraulus and Pandrosus, women who were deemed guilty of impiety for opening the box.

In short, among every nation and people, men offer whatever sacrifices and celebrate whatever mysteries they please. The Egyptians reckon among their gods even cats, and crocodiles, and serpents, and asps, and dogs. And to all these both you and the laws give permission so to act, deeming, on the one hand, that to believe in no god at all is impious and wickedand on the other, that it is necessary for each man to worship the gods he prefers, in llea that through fear of the deity, men may be kept from wrong-doing.

But why — for do not, like the multitude, be led astray by hearsay — why is a mere name odious to you? Names are not deserving of hatred: And accordingly, with admiration of your athenagotas and gentleness, and your peaceful and benevolent disposition towards every man, individuals live in the possession of equal rights; and the cities, according to their rank, share in equal honour ; and the whole empire, under your intelligent sway, enjoys profound peace.

But for us who are called Christians you have not in like manner cared; but although we commit no wrong — nay, as will appear in the sequel of this discourse, are of all men most piously and righteously disposed towards the Deity and towards your government — you allow us to be harassed, plundered, and persecutedthe multitude making war upon us for our name alone.

We venture, therefore, to lay a statement of our case before you — and you will deem from this discourse that we suffer unjustlyand contrary to all law and reason — and we beseech you to bestow some consideration upon us also, that we may cease at length to be slaughtered at the instigation of false accusers.

For the fine imposed by our persecutors does not aim merely at our property, nor their insults at our reputationnor the damage they do us at any other of our greater interests. These we hold in contempt, though to the generality they appear matters of great importance; for we have learned, not only zthenagoras to return blow for blow, nor to go to law with those who plunder and rob us, but to those who smite us on one side of the face to offer the other side also, and to those who take away our coat to give likewise our cloak.

But, when we have surrendered our property, they plot against our very bodies and soulsatheenagoras upon us wholesale charges of crimes of which we are guiltless even in thought, but which belong to these idle praters themselves, and to the whole tribe of those who are like them.

If, indeed, any one can convict us of a crime, be it small or great, we do not ask to be excused from punishment, but are prepared to undergo the sharpest and most merciless inflictions.

But if the accusation relates merely to our name — and it is undeniable, that up to the present time the stories told about us rest on nothing better than the common undiscriminating popular talk, nor has any Christian been convicted of crime — it will devolve on you, illustrious and benevolent and most learned sovereigns, to remove by law this despiteful treatment, so that, as throughout the world both individuals and cities partake of your beneficence, we also may feel grateful to you, exulting that we are no longer the victims of false accusation.

For it does not comport with your justicethat athenagorras when charged with crimes should not be punished till athhenagoras are convicted, but that in our case the name we bear should have more force than the evidence adduced on the trial, when the judges, instead of inquiring whether the person arraigned have committed any crime, vent their insults on the name, as if that were itself a crime.

Cliff Notes: Athenagoras’ Plea for Christians and On the Resurrection

But no name in and by itself is reckoned either good or bad; names appear bad or good according as the actions underlying them are bad or good. You, however, have yourselves a clear knowledge of this, since you are well instructed in philosophy and all learning.

For this reason, too, those who are brought before you for trial, though they may be arraigned on the gravest charges, have no fearbecause they know that you will inquire respecting their previous life, and not be influenced by names if they mean nothing, nor by the charges contained in the indictments if they should be false: What, therefore, is conceded as the common right of all, we claim for ourselves, that we shall not be hated and punished because we are called Christians for what has the name to do with our being bad men?

It is thus that we see the philosophers judged. None of them before trial is deemed by the judge either good or bad on account of his science or art, but if found guilty of wickedness he is punished, without thereby affixing any stigma on philosophy for he is a bad man for not cultivating philosophy in a lawful manner, but science is blamelesswhile if he refutes the false charges he is acquitted. Let this equal justicethen, be done to us. Let the life of the accused persons be investigated, but let the name stand free from all imputation.

I must at the outset of my defense entreat you, illustrious emperors, to listen to me impartially: Thus, while you on your part will not err through ignorancewe also, by disproving the charges arising out of the undiscerning rumour of the multitude, shall cease to be assailed.


Three things are alleged against us: But if these charges are truespare no class: And yet even the brutes do not touch the flesh of their own kind; and they pair by a law of nature, and only at the regular season, not from simple wantonness; they also recognise those from whom they receive benefits.

If any one, therefore, is more savage than the brutes, what punishment that he can endure shall be deemed adequate to such offenses? But, if these things are only idle tales and empty slandersoriginating in the fact that virtue is opposed by its very nature to viceand that contraries war against one another by a divine law and you are yourselves witnesses that no such iniquities are committed by us, for you forbid informations to be laid against usit remains for you to make inquiry concerning our life, our opinions, our loyalty and obedience to you and your house and government, and thus at length to grant to us the same rights we ask nothing more as to those who persecute us.

For we shall then conquer them, unhesitatingly surrendering, as we now do, our very lives for the truth’s sake. As regards, first of all, the allegation that we are atheists — for I will meet the charges one by one, that we may not be ridiculed for having no answer to give to those who make them — with reason did the Athenians adjudge Diagoras guilty of atheismin that he not only divulged the Orphic doctrine, and published the mysteries of Eleusis and of the Cabiri, and chopped up the wooden statue of Hercules to boil his turnips, but openly declared that there was no God at all.

But to us, who distinguish God from matter, and teach that matter is one thing and God another, and that they are separated by a wide interval for that the Deity is uncreated and eternalto be beheld by the understanding and reason alone, while matter is created and perishableis it not absurd to apply the name of atheism?

If our sentiments were like those of Diagoras, while we have such incentives to piety — in the established order, the universal harmony, the magnitude, the color, the form, the arrangement of the world — with reason might our reputation for impiety, as well as the cause of our being thus harassed, be charged on ourselves.

But, since our doctrine acknowledges one Godthe Maker of this universewho is Himself uncreated for that which is does not come to be, but that which is not but has made all things by the Logos which is from Him, we are treated unreasonably in both respects, in that we are both defamed and persecuted. Poets and philosophers have not been voted atheists for inquiring concerning God. Euripides, speaking of those who, according to popular preconception, are ignorantly called gods, says doubtingly: If Zeus indeed does reign in heaven above, He ought not on the righteous ills to send.

But speaking of Him who is apprehended by the understanding as matter of certain knowledgehe gives his opinion decidedly, and with intelligence, thus: Do you see on high him who, with humid arms, Clasps both the boundless ether and the earth?

Him reckon Zeus, and him regard as God. For, as to these so-called gods, he neither saw any real existences, to which a name is usually assigned, underlying them Zeus, for instance: Him therefore, from whom proceed all created things, and by whose Spirit they are governed, he concluded to be God ; and Sophocles agrees with him, when he says: There is one Godin truth there is but one, Who made the heavens, and the broad earth beneath.

Philolaus, too, when he says that all things are included in God as in a stronghold, teaches that He is one, and that He is superior to matter.

Lysis and Opsimus thus define God: So that since ten is the greatest number according to the Ppea, being the Tetractys, and containing all the arithmetic and harmonic principles, and the Nine stands next to it, God is a unit — that is, one. For the greatest number exceeds the next least by one. Then there are Plato and Aristotle — not that I am about to go through all that the philosophers have said about Godas if I wished to exhibit a complete summary of their opinions; for I know that, as you excel all men in intelligence and in the power of your rule, in the same proportion do you surpass them all in an accurate acquaintance with all learning, cultivating as you do each several branch with more success than even those who have devoted themselves exclusively to any one.

But, inasmuch as it is impossible to demonstrate without the citation of names that we are not alone in confining the notion of God to unity, I have ventured on an enumeration of opinions. Platothen, says, To find out the Maker and Father of this universe is difficult; and, when found, it is impossible to declare Him to all, conceiving of one uncreated and eternal God. And if he recognises others as well, such as the sun, moon, and stars, yet he recognises them as created: If, therefore, Plato is not an atheist for conceiving of one uncreated Godthe Framer of the universeneither are we atheists who acknowledge and firmly hold that Athennagoras is God who has framed all things by the Logosand holds them in being by His Spirit.

The Stoics also, although by the appellations they employ to suit the changes of matter, athenagorxs they say is permeated by the Spirit of Godthey multiply the Deity in name, yet in reality they consider God to be one.

Athenagoras and A Plea for the Christians

Since, therefore, the unity of the Deity is confessed by almost all, even against their will, when they come to treat of the first principles of the universeand we in our turn likewise assert that He who arranged this universe is God — why is it that they can say and write with impunity what they please concerning the Deity, but that against us a law lies in force, though we are able to demonstrate what we apprehend and justly believenamely that there is one Godwith proofs and reason accordant with truth?

For poets and philosophersas to other subjects so also to this, have applied themselves in the way of conjecture, moved, by reason of their affinity with the afflatus from Godeach one by his own soulto try whether he could find out and apprehend the truth ; but they have not been found competent fully to apprehend it, because they thought fit to learn, not from God concerning Godbut each one from himself; hence they came each to his own conclusion respecting Godand matter, and forms, and the world.


But we have for witnesses of the things we apprehend and believeprophetsmen who have pronounced concerning God and the things of Godguided by the Spirit of God.

As regards, then, the doctrine that there was from the beginning one Godthe Maker of this universeconsider it in this wise, that you may be acquainted with the argumentative grounds also of our faith. If there were from the beginning two or more gods, they were either in one and the same place, or each of them separately in his own. In one and the same place they could not be. For, if they are gods, they are not alike; but because they are uncreated they are unlike: Hand and eye and foot are parts of one body, making up together one man: And indeed Socrates was compounded and divided into parts, just because he was created and perishable; but God is uncreated, and, impassible, and indivisible — does not, therefore, consist of parts.

But if, on the contrary, each of them exists separately, since He that made the world is above the things created, and about the things He has made and set in order, where can the other or the rest be? For if the world, being made spherical, is confined within the circles of heaven, and the Creator of the world is above the things created, managing that by His providential care of these, what place is there for the second god, or for the other gods?

For he is not in the world, because it belongs to the other; nor about the world, for God the Maker of the world is above it. But if he is neither in the world nor about the world for all that surrounds it is occupied by this onewhere is he? Is he above the world and [the first] God?

In another world, or about another? But if he is in another or about another, then he is not about us, for he does not govern the world; nor is his power great, for he exists in a circumscribed space. But if he is neither in another world for all things are filled by the othernor about another for all things are occupied by the otherhe clearly does not exist at all, for there is no place in which he can be.

Or what does he do, seeing there is another to whom the world belongs, and he is above the Maker of the world, and yet is neither in the world nor about the world? Is there, then, some other place where he can stand? But Godand what belongs to Godare above him. And what, too, shall be the place, seeing that the other fills the regions which are above the world?

Perhaps he exerts a providential care? If, then, he neither does anything nor exercises providential care, and if there is not another place in which he is, then this Being of whom we speak is the one God from the beginning, and the sole Maker of the world.

If we satisfied ourselves with advancing such considerations as these, our doctrines might by some be looked upon as human. But, since the voices of the prophets confirm our arguments — for I think that you also, with your great zeal for knowledgeand your great attainments in learning, cannot be ignorant of the writings either of Moses or of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and the other prophetswho, lifted in ecstasy above the natural operations of their minds by the impulses of the Divine Spirit, uttered the things with which they were inspired, the Spirit making use of them as a flute-player breathes into a flute — what, then, do these men say?

The Lord is our God ; no other can be compared with Him. I am Godthe first and the last, and besides Me there is no God. Heaven is My throne, and the earth is the footstool of My feet: That we are not atheiststherefore, seeing that we acknowledge one Goduncreated, eternalinvisible, impassible, incomprehensible, illimitable, who is apprehended by the understanding only and the reason, who is encompassed by light, and beauty, and spirit, and power ineffable, by whom the universe has been created through His Logosand set in order, and is kept in being — I have sufficiently demonstrated.

Nor let any one think it ridiculous that God should have a Son. For though the poets, in their fictions, represent the gods as no better than men, our mode of thinking is not the same as theirs, concerning either God the Father or the Son. But the Son of God is the Logos of the Fatherin idea and in operation; for after the pattern of Him and by Him were all things made, the Father and the Son being one.

The prophetic Spirit also agrees with our statements. The Lord, it says, made me, the beginning of His ways to His works. Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Fatherand of God the Sonand of the Holy Spiritand who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists? Nor is our teaching in what relates to the divine nature confined to these points; but we recognise also a multitude of angels and ministers, whom God the Maker and Framer of the world distributed and appointed to their several posts by His Logosto occupy themselves about the elements, and the heavens, and the world, and the things in it, and the goodly ordering of them all.

If I go minutely into the particulars of our doctrine, let it not surprise you. It is that you may not be carried away by the popular and irrational opinion, but may have the truth clearly before you. For presenting the opinions themselves to which we adhere, as being not human but uttered and taught by Godwe shall be able to persuade you not to think of us as atheists. What, then, are those teachings in which we are brought up?

I say unto you, Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that persecute you; that you may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven, who causes His sun to rise on the evil and the goodand sends rain on the just and the unjust.