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ANTIOUA MATER.



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ANTIQUA MATER:



a Stttlis of christian ©rtgtns.



' He had an earnest intention of taking a review of the original principles
of the primitive Church : believing that every true Christian had no better
means to settle his sipirit, than that which was proposed to yEneas and his
followers to be the end of their wanderings, Antiquam exquirite Matrem'
The Life of Mr. A. Cowley ^ by Dr. Sprat.



LONDON:
TRiJBNER & CO., LUDGATE HILL.

1887.

\All rights reserved, "X



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BALLANTVNE, HANSON AND CO.
KUINBURGH AND LONDON



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2>eMcatton*



TO

W. R.

IN TOKEN OF LONG AND VALUED
FRIENDSHIP,



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CONTENTS.



PREFACE .... . . ix.-xx

part E

THE EXTERNAL HISTORY.

CHAf. PAGE

I. PAGAN SOUKOES — THE REIGN OP TRAJAN — PLINY AND

TACITUS ON THE OHMSTIANI AND CHRISTUS— SUETONIUS

— THE 'AUTHOR OF THE CHRISTIAN NAME* . . I

II. REFERENCES TO THE JEWS IN THE ROMAN LITERATURE OF

THE SECOND CENTURY ..... 20

in. CHRISTIAN SOURCES — ^JUSTIN MARTYR . . .32

IV. CHRISTIAN SOURCES— THE * HERETICS * (OR SECTARIANS)

DURING THE FIRST HALF OP THE SECOND CENTURY . 44



part M,
THE INTERNAL HISTORY.



I. THE HAGIOI, APOSTLES AND PROPHETS — THE CHRISTIANOS

AND THE CHBISTEMPOROS . . • •52

n. THE EOOLESIA— *THB VINE* ... 69

m. RITES OF THE HAGIOI ..... 78



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VIU



CONTENTS.



CHAP.
IV. THE NEW OBEATION, THE NEW PEOPLE, AND THE NEW LAW

y. THE SEAL OF THE NEW 0OMMT7NITT . •

VL MOBAL TEAOHINa AHONQ THE HA6IOI — THE * TWO WATS '

VIL THE EVANGELION AND THE EVANGELISTS .

VIU. THE IDEAL AMONG JEWS AND GENTILES

IX. THE GNOSTIO THEOLOGT ....

X. THE OBITIOS AND THE APOLOGETES OF CHBISTIANITT

XL CELSUS AND OBIGEN ....



PAOB

94

107

189
213
243
272



ADDENDA
INDEX .



303
305



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PREFACE.



The present tjract has been written in answer to the
following inquiry : —

' What may we learn — apart from the books of the
New Testarrurvt — -from the old Christian and the GrcBco-
Boman literature of the second century, in respect to
the origin and the earliest development of Christianity i '

It seemed to the writer convenient, and even
necessary for the sake of clearness, to understand the
question as referring to the origin and early history
of the people called Christiani, and of their beliefs and
practices. The term Christianity seems of too vague
and vast an import to be fitted for introduction into
a historical investigation of this kind; moreover, it
is something of an anachronism to use so abstract
a denomination in connection with the new-forming
religious life of the second century.

Now, on examining the literary evidence of the
first two centuries on this question, one searches first
for certain historic data of time, place, and persons ;
and speedily discovers how few these data are, and
how slight the information they can be said, in any
sense, to yield on the subject of our inquiry. If one



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X PREFACE.

has approached the literature of the period with the
assumption that something definite could be made out
respecting the lives of Christ and the apostles inde-
pendently of the New Testament, one assuredly has
been brought, sooner or later, to the consciousness of
a complete illusion. The pagan writers betray no
knowledge of such particulars, nor can they be found
in the writings of the so-called 'apostolic fathers.'
What has long been admitted with reference to the
so-called epistles of 'Barnabas' and 'Clement,' and
the apocalypse of 'Hermas,' is that they are for us
anonymous documents. What must further be ad-
mitted is, that they are absolutely undated documents,
and that learned guesses at their dates are of no ser-
vice, but the contrary, to scientific inquiry. As for
the literature inscribed with the names of ' Ignatius '
and ' Polycarp,' there seems little reason for dating it
in the second century rather than the third or the
fourth. These documents, moreover, are open to the
suspicion of serious interpolation or corruption. Truth
is still truth, though it be but negative in quality;
and we venture a strong protest against the practice
of using materials so uncertain, for the purpose of
favouring any assumed historical result whatever. The
case with Justin Martyr is somewhat different The
Apology in his name contains a date, on the ground of
which his literary activity may be ascribed to about
the middle of the second century (147-167). The
result of our examination of the sources is this : that,
apart from the New Testament, the historical origin



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PREFACE. xi

of the new faith must be sought primarily in Justin
Martyr's accepted works. We know no other dated
Christian Kterature so early as those works, to which
we invite our readers' careful attention. They are
accessible in a tolerable translation to those who read
only in English. Any person of ordinary clear-headed-
ness has the materials of judgment before him ; and if
he takes the usual view of what Evidence is, and ot
what is not Evidence, he will, as we believe, come to
the conclusion that Justin of Flavia Neapolis had no
exact knowledge, whether of the * Apostles ' in general,
or of him whom he calls the ' Apostle of God.' He
had an Idea before his mind, but not actual Persons,
of whose life and teaching any accurate particulars had
been recorded.

If we extend the examination to Irenasus and Ter-
tullian, we find that they were unable to supply the
lacunce in Justin's knowledge. The Twelve Apostles
remain for them a legendary group, whose existence
belongs to the shadows of the Old Testament, and has
no basis in historic data of our era. And with regard
to Paul, Tertullian is our witness that, apart from the
New Testament books, nothing authentic was known
about him. It is that Father himself who raises
doubts about the * Apostle of the Hseretics' which
cannot easily be dispelled. The bare result of the
whole examination is, that from some time unknown,
the statement that Jesus Christ had been crucified
under Pontius Pilate, was repeated as a formula in
connection with the rites of Exorcism and Baptism,



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xii PREFACE.

and that cosBval with this belief, was that in His
resurrection, ascension, and second coming. With
whom did this tradition originate? While the old
Catholic fathers figure to themselves Twelve Apostles,
founders of true or apostolic churches, without being
able to authenticate those Apostles, they unanimously
refer the origin of the powerful Gnostic schools or
churches which dissented from the ^ great church,' to
Simon of Samaria, called by them a Mage, and said
to have flourished in honour at Eome in the reign of
Claudius. We consider this to be the most distinct
and most remarkable fact that can be elicited &om
the evidence before us. We see the figure of the
Samaritan through a distorting medium of envy and
fantastic exaggeration, and no defence of their Master
by his numerous followers has come down to us. Tet,
on the reluctant testimony of his passionate opponents,
he stands forth as the truly original spirit of the first
century, the great Impulsor of the religious movement
from which Christendom arose. And the manner in
which the commanding figure of the Paul of modem
imagination, flits before us in the Clementine romance
as a sort of alter ego of Simon, though the writer names
him not, is a point that must arrest attention, until
the historic truth beneath these representations shall
at last be laid bare.

We hold that the Christian world has for ages been
content for the most part, and is still content, to beg
the question of the historical origins of Christianity,
under the influence of the ^ old Catholic fathers ; ' that



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V



PREFACE. xiii

is, under the influence of men who were ignorant of
the history of the Ecclesia or Ecclesise, which they
administered with so much skill ; men who were con-
tent to fill the void in their knowledge with poetical
fancies, and who probably encouraged the circulation
of historical fictions, which tended to support their
' apostolical ' pretensions with their flocks. Those to
whom the great principles of Protestantism are dear,
can no longer, when once their eyes are opened, consent
to abet these delusions. The so-called HsDretics, that
is, the Dissenters from the ^ great church,' were in
reality hefore the Catholics, both in point of time and
of originality. It is in the Gnosis and among the
Gnostics that we must seek above all for the distinctive
notes of Christianity as a Eeligion distinct from Judaism
and from the decaying forms of heathendom. And if
this be so, then our ecclesiastical histories and our
apologies — if, indeed, they be necessary — should be re-
written from this standpoint. And it will be a great
gain if such a reconsideration of the subject shall lead to
the disappearance of old hates and prejudices from the
field of letters, and if those whose dearest memories
are bound up with the Christian name shall be able
gratefully to recognise their debt in just proportions
alike to Jew, Greek, and Eoman, for the rich experi-
ences which they have contributed to the common
religion of civilisation. Certain it seems, that the
great complex we call ' Christianity ' can be traced to
no mere local origin, to no village idylls, but only to
that great world of religious passion and imagination



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xiv PEEFACE.

revealed to us in the stady of the letters of the first
two centuries of our era.

But the reader may ask, Of what value can deduc-
tions be, which ex hypothesi exclude the New Testa-
ment books as evidence ? Though this question is not
strictly our business, we cannot refirain from saying a
word about it, because clearly our results are all but
worthless, if it can be shown that the New Testament
books are older sources than the rest of our early
literature. But here again we have suffered ourselves
to become the victims of age-long delusions. With
patient toil, the author of ' Supernatural Eeligion ' has
examined and stated the evidence upon this subject.
One may perhaps venture the criticism that he has
rather overdone than underdone his work; for by
massing so formidable an array of references to modem
writers, he has perhaps excited a diffidence in the
ordinary reader, who may suppose that he is not com-
petent to judge of the merits of the question unless
he has spent laborious years upon the ^ critics/ This
is not so. The question really lies within a narrow
compass. The reader may practically confine himself to
Justin of Neapolis as a dated witness from the middle
of the second century. He knows no authoritative
writings except the Old Testament; he had neither
our ' Gospels ' nor our Pauline writings ; his imagina-
tion was a blank where our own is filled with vivid
pictures of the activity of Jesus and of Paul.^

^ The lato Bruno Bauer, who has long been treated by the theo-
logical world as an outcast, but who has been recently vindicated in a
most candid spirit by Professor A. D. Loman {Thed, Tijdichr., 1882-3),



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PREFACE. XV

Professor Hamack of Marburg, in his lately published
' Handbook of the History of Dogmas ' (1886), has with
great candour sketched the true history of our New
Testament literature, according to the scientific pro-
babilities of the case; only, his admissions seem to
require the rewriting of the earlier sections of his
work. These writings were originally anonymous, the
deposit of anonymous sayings; only gradually were
authors found for them, whose names, when found,
were wafted over the world by the breath of ^ Tradition.'
The Professor has dwelt upon the sudden appearance
of the ^ Canon ' at the end of the second century, on
the ignorance of any New Testament until after the
middle of that century, and the want of a universal
recognition of such a Testament even at the beginning
of the third century.

The numerous biographies of Jesus and the ' Acts '
of apostles must have been mainly composed during
the age of the Antonines, and were doubtless called
forth by a public need in the churches, analogous to
that which has called forth a multitude of Lives of
Christ during our own time. There was an intense
craving, both in the interests of spiritual satisfaction
and in that of controversy, to emerge out of the atmos-
phere of vague intuition and reminiscence into the
daylight of historic portraiture. And, frankly, there is
in the nature of things, little more reason for approach-
ing these documents with an awe-struck respect, as for

dates the New Testament literature in the period 130-170. Of. on his
▼iews the testimony of H. SchiUer, OeseK d. Rom, Kauerzeit, 1883,
p. 446. See also Graetz, Gesch, d. Juden^ 2. Aufi., 3. 225.



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xvi PREFACE.

something of Divine inspiration in a special sense, than
for so approaching the ' Lives ' which have proceeded
from the pens of our modem evangelists and historians
of the * apostles.' What have the latter, especially
Ernest E^nan, done for us ? They have brought us
nearer and yet nearer to two great Figures, Jesus
and Paul. They have performed the same kind of
service for early Christian traditions, that our immortal
dramatist performed for the early traditions of our
English kings. But for the most part this has been
done at the expense of that strong supernatural element
in which our New Testament literature is steeped. In
spite of all the efiforts of the Evangelists of the second
century to humanise Christ, to bring Him into intimate
relations with flesh and blood, the outline of the story
remains ghostly, spiritual, supernatural in the proper
sense — ^the story that could alone, as we hold, have
stirred the pulse of mankind. Working our way
back through the fascinations of Art to that prime
basis of religion. Belief, from which all great art
springs, we find that it was the Gnostics, from Simon to
Marcion, who truly grasped the principle that the new
Religion was the revelation of a Mystery, and referred
to relations between Heaven and Earth and Hades, not
to be detected by the eye and ear of sense — a spiritual
revelation made to the spiritual part in man»

We have striven to write with coldness on a subject
which demands coldness in the inquirer all the more,
if there is no subject in which his interest is more
deeply engaged. We promise ourselves correction and



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PREFACE. xvii

enlargement of our views from the judgment of others.
But, whatever mistakes we may have, nay, must have
fallen into, in matters of detail, there can, in our
humble opinion, be no mistake so wholesale and so
stupendous as that of seeking to extract an accurate
history of their past from the Christian writers of the
second century. The first thing to be ascertained in
matters of evidence is the character of the witnesses ;
and witnesses more passionate and more fanciful, less
informed, or less scrupulous as to matters of fact, can
be hardly found. Those who beg a good character for
their witnesses at the outset beg the whole question
at issue ; and unfortunately, this is the common pro-
ceeding of writers who do not enjoy or do not exercise
the freedom of their thoughts in these matters.

Not but that we keenly sympathise with those who
cannot willingly part with the illusions of ages. But
to surrender illusions on any vital subject means a
momentary pain exchanged for a permanent good.
What is life but an * education by illusion ? ' What
is the pursuit of Truth but the pursuit of light,
through all eclipses never quenched ? Veritas, Idborans
nimis scepe^ extinguitur nunguam. When once the New
Testament books shall be assigned the place in litera-
ture and in ecclesiastical history which belongs to them,
their varied contents will assume a new significance,
and receive a critical appreciation denied to them, so
long as the artificial assumptions as to their date and
character continue.

It seems hardly an honest question to ask whether



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xviii PREFACE.

our religion can continue to hold its ground in the
faith and affections of the people, if the negative truth
concerning its early literary records be candidly avowed
by Christian teachers. Probably, however, the ques-
tion, has vexed the mind of many of our eminent men
of letters since the time of the poet Cowley. And
certainly it is a question that must be fiSJced sooner or
later by serious men. Some interesting discussions
on this point have been held of late years by some
Dutch theologians, mainly in consequence of the
publication of Professor A. D. Loman's researches
on Pauline questions. For ourselves, if we ever felt
in early years that there was something in the Chris-
tianity of the heart that defied alike assault and defence ;
if we have observed with others that our religion con-
tinues to survive the apologies offered for it, and to
flourish upon free criticism of. its documents and the
institutions connected with it, we have been confirmed
in such persuasions by the results of our present
inquiry. Our interest is in spiritual and enduring
realities rather than in names and labels; and a
better confession than that of Christianus smn, in
Tertullian's sense is that of Homo mm in the sense
of Seneca and the gentle emperor, Marcus Aurelius.
Citizens of a greater empire than even the Roman, it
is well if we can understand that the religion we have
inherited from our forefathers, was not in its inception
provincial, and should now be interpreted, according to
its history and genius, as the humane and the universal
faith.



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PREFACE. xix

Be this as it may, we share strongly the feelings
of some Churchmen of our time, — that the habit of
caltivating critical acumen to the highest degree, in
reference to classical letters and history, in our schools
and universities, and of blunting its edge when brought
to bear on Christian letters and history, is the source
of great moral evil in the educated world. Ecclesi-
astical institutions are on their trial in our time ; and
to us it seems that they cannot retain their hold on
the conscience and aflFections of the people by the
promotion of chastity, temperance, thrift, and every
possible virtue— except candour and truthfulness in
the treatment of the documents and history of the
Christian religion.

The history of the Church and of its dogmas
properly begins with the period of the Antonines,
138—180 A.D. Here we find ourselves still in the
midst of a legendary atmosphere. The foundations
of the ^Ecclesia,' in the new sense, are being laid
upon the Rock-man, and the college of Hierosolymite
apostles. The counter-legend of Paulus is being elabo-
rated from opposite polemical standpoints. Amidst
the haze stands out with clearness the historical
figure of Marcion alone. The name of IrenaQus is
of significance only as the reputed author of a work
against the Haeretics, which is a monument of their
influence as the first Theologians of the Innovation.
Clement of Alexandria already adopts the broad prin-
ciples of the Gnosis.

The study of the Haeretics and of the sources of



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XX PREFACE.

their Doctrines leads to far-reaching perspectives, and
brings to light the wide basis of ancient spiritual
Belief on which the new Creed and Eites were built.
In short, the Innovation resumed and purified the reli-
gious life of the great peoples of antiquity. Egyptians,
Persians, the mixed populations of the Levant, the
Greeks, and the Eomans all contributed to it. Not
without reason does the writer of the 'Acts of the
Apostles ' give so extensive a map of the area affected
by this great revolution.

Its history, we repeat, is no provincial tale. There
is a true sense, as Augustine remarked in his Betrac*-
tcUimies, in which the Eeligion existed from the
beginning. According to our modem way of speaking,
it is the great expression of the ideal life in mankind,
not to be confounded with particular and positive
facts, but lending an undying charm to the poor and
sorry chronicle of those facts.

' La mere, c'est la Tradition mSme/ said the brilliant
author of La Bible de VHumaniU. And in the poetical
sense it is true that the modem quest of the ' ancient
Mother ' means the renewed study, not so much of the
antiquities of this or that people, as of the common
heart of Humanity which throbs in all.



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■^pp



ANTIQUA MATER



part h

THE EXTERNAL HISTORY,



CHAPTER I.

[v pagan sources — the keign of trajan — puny and

tacitus on the christiani and christus

suetonius the 'author of the christian

name/

During the reign of Trajan (98-117), Tacitus was
writing his Annals, Suetonius was composing his
McTooirs of the Emperors^ Juvenal his Satires. Pliny
the younger was * legatus pro prsetore ' of the province
of Pontus and Bithynia under the same emperor.

Plutarch (ob. c. 125), whose writings contain so rich
a mine of moral and religious lore, flourished during
this and the following reign/

Pliny is supposed to have written his famous letter
to Trajan in the autumn or winter of a.d. i i 2? He
was then propraetor of Pontus and Bithynia. In the

^ MUller and Donaldson, Hist, of Lit, of Ancient Greece, 3. 179.


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