Front Page Titles (by Subject) PART II: FORMS OF THE EARLY CHRISTIAN DISAPPROVAL OF WAR - The Early Christian Attitude to War
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PART II: FORMS OF THE EARLY CHRISTIAN DISAPPROVAL OF WAR - John Cecil Cadoux, The Early Christian Attitude to War 
The Early Christian Attitude to War: A Contribution to the History of Christian Ethics, with a Foreword by the Rev. W.E. Orchard, D.D. (London: Headly Bros, 1919).
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FORMS OF THE EARLY CHRISTIAN DISAPPROVAL OF WAR
The Condemnation of War in the abstract.1 —The conditions under which the books of the New Testament were written were not such as to give occasion for Christian utterances on the wrongfulness of war. The few New Testament passages expressing disapprobation of ‘wars’ and ‘battles’2 probably refer in every case, not to military conflicts, but to strife and dissension in the more general sense. Reflection is, however, cast on the incessant wars of men in ‘The Vision of Isaiah’ : the prophet ascends to the firmament, “and there I saw Sammael and his hosts, and there was great fighting therein, and the angles of Satan were envying one another. And as above, so on the earth also; for the likeness of that which is in the firmament is here on the earth. And I said unto the angel who was with me : ‘What is this war, and what is this envying?’ And he said unto me : ‘So has it been since this world was made until now, and this war will continue till He whom thou shalt see will come and destroy him’.”1 Aristeides attributed the prevalence of war—chiefly among the Greeks—to the erroneous views of men as to the nature of their gods, whom they pictured as waging war : “for if their gods did such things, why should they themselves not do them? thus from this pursuit of error it has fallen to men’s lot to have continual wars and massacres and bitter captivity.”2 He specially mentions Ares and Herakles as discredited by their warlike character.3 Justinus said that it was the evil angels and their offspring the demons who “sowed murders, wars, adulteries, excesses, and every wickedness, among men.”4 Tatianus equated war and murder, and said that the demons excited war by means of oracles. “Thou wishest to make war,” he says to the gentile, “and thou takest Apollon (as thy) counselor in murder” (). He refers to Apollon as the one “who raises up seditions and battles” and “makes announcements about victory in war.”5 Athenagoras instances the usages of unjust war—the slaughter of myriads of men, the razing of cities, the burning of houses with their inhabitants, the devastation of land, and the destruction of entire populations—as samples of the worst sins, such as could not be adequately punished by any amount of suffering in this life.6 He also says that Christians cannot endure to see a man put to death, even justly.7 In the apocryphal Acts of John, the apostle tells the Ephesians that military conquerors, along with kings, princes, tyrants, and boasters, will depart hence naked, and suffer eternal pains.1
Clemens of Alexandria casts aspersions on the multifarious preparation necessary for war, as contrasted with peace and love, and on the type of music patronized by “those who are practised in war and who have despised the divine fear.”2 He likens the Christian poor to “an army without weapons, without war, without bloodshed, without anger, without defilement.”3 In the Pseudo-Justinian ‘Address to the Greeks,’ the readers are exhorted: “Be instructed by the Divine Word, and learn (about) the incorruptible King, and know His heroes, who never inflict slaughter on (the) peoples.”4 Tertullianus says that when Peter cut off Malchus’ ear, Jesus “cursed the works of the sword for ever after.”5 He criticizes the gentiles’ greed of gold in hiring themselves out for military service.6 He objects to the literal interpretation of Psalm xlv. 3 f as applied to Christ: ‘Gird the sword upon (thy) thigh. . . extend and prosper and reign, on account of truth and gentleness and justice’: “Who shall produce these (results) with the sword,” he asks, “and not rather those that are contrary to gentleness and justice, (namely), deceit and harshness and injustice, (which are) of course the proper business of battles?”7 “Is the laurel of triumph,” he asks elsewhere, “made up of leaves or of corpses? is it decorated with ribbons, or tombs? is it besmeared with ointments, or with the tears of wives and mothers, perhaps those of some men even (who are) Christians—for Christ (is) among the barbarians as well?”1 Hippolutos, in his commentary on Daniel, explains the wild beasts that lived under the tree in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream as “the warriors and armies, which adhered to the king, carrying out what was commanded (them), being ready like wild beasts for making war and destroying, and for rending men like wild beasts.”2 One of the features of the Roman Empire, when viewed by this writer as the Fourth Beast and as a Satanic imitation of the Christian Church, was its preparation for war, and its collection of the noblest men from all countries as its warriors.3 The Bardesanic ‘Book of the Laws of the Countries’ mentions the law of the Seres (a mysterious Eastern people) forbidding to kill, and the frequency with which kings seize countries which do not belong to them, and abolish their laws.4 Origenes spoke depreciatively of the military and juridical professions as being prized by ignorant and blind seekers for wealth and glory.5
Cyprianus declaims about the “wars scattered everywhere with the bloody horror of camps. The world, “he says, “is wet with mutual blood(shed): and homicide is a crime when individuals commit it, (but) it is called a virtue, when it is carried on publicly. Not the reason of innocence, but the magnitude of savagery, demands impunity for crimes.” He censures also the vanity and deceitful pomp of the military office.1 “What use is it,” asks Commodianus, “to know about the vices of kings and their wars?”2 Gregorios censures certain Christians for seizing the property of others in compensation for what they had lost in a raid made by the barbarians: just as the latter, he says, had “inflicted the (havoc) of war” on these Christians, they were acting similarly towards others.3 The Didaskalia forbids the receipt of monetary help for the church from “any of the magistrates of the Roman Empire, who are polluted by war.”4 The Pseudo-Justinian Cohortatio censures the god Zeus as being in Homer’s words “disposer of the wars of men.”5 In the Clementine Homilies, Peter asks, if God loves war, who wishes for peace?,6 speaks obscurely of a female prophecy, who, “when she conceives and brings forth temporary kings, stirs up wars, which shed much blood,”7 and points his hearers to the continual wars going on even in their day owing to the existence of many kings8 ; Zacchaeus depicts the heretic Simon as ‘standing like a general, guarded by the crowd’9 ; and Clemens tells the Greeks that the lusts of the flesh must be sins, because they beget wars, murders, and confusion.10 Similarly in the Recognitions, Peter pleads that a decision by truth and worth is better than a decision by force of arms,11 and says: “Wars and contests are born from sins; but where sin is not committed, there is peace to the soul,”1 “hence” (i.e. from idolworship) “the madness of wars blazed out”2 ; and Niceta remarks that implacable wars arise from lust.3 Methodios says that the nations, intoxicated by the devil, sharpen their passions for murderous battles,4 and speaks of the bloody wars of the past.5
The treatise of Arnobius abounds in allusions to the moral iniquity of war. Contrasting Christ with the rulers of the Roman Empire, he asks: “Did he, claiming royal power for himself, occupy the whole world with fierce legions, and, (of) nations at peace from the beginning, destroy and remove some, and compel others to put their necks beneath his yoke and obey him?”6 “What use is it to the world that there should be. . . generals of the greatest experience in warfare, skilled in the capture of cities, (and) soldiers immoveable and invincible in cavalry battles or in a fight on foot?”7 Arnobius roundly denies that it was any part of the divine purpose that men’s souls, “forgetting that they are from one source, one parent and head, should tear up and break down the rights of kinship, overturn their cities, devastate lands in enmity, make slaves of freemen, violate maidens and other men’s wives, hate one another, envy the joys and good fortune of others, in a word all curse, carp at, and rend one another with the biting of savage teeth.”8 He rejects with indignation the pagan idea that divine beings could patronize, or take pleasure or interest in, human wars. Speaking of Mars, for instance, he says:” If he is the one who allays the madness of war, why do wars never cease for a day? But if he is the author of them, we shall therefore say that a god, for the indulgence of his own pleasure, brings the whole world into collision, sows causes of dissension and strife among nations separated by distance of lands, brings together from different (quarters) so many thousands of mortals and speedily heaps the fields with corpses, makes blood flow in torrents, destroys the stablest empires, levels cities with the ground, takes away liberty from the freeborn and imposes (on them) the state of slavery, rejoices in civil broils, in the fratricidal death of brothers who die together and in the parricidal horror of mortal conflict between sons and fathers.”1
Lactantius also, in his ‘Divine Institutes,’ again and again alludes to the prevalence of war as one of the great blots on the history and morals of humanity. I quote three only of the numerous passages. Speaking of the Romans, he says: “They despise indeed the excellence of the athlete, because there is no harm in it; but royal excellence, because it is wont to do harm extensively, they so admire that they think that brave and warlike generals are placed in the assembly of the gods, and that there is no other way to immortality than by leading armies, devastating foreign (countries), destroying cities, overthrowing towns, (and) either slaughtering or enslaving free peoples. Truly, the more men they have afflicted, despoiled, (and) slain, the more noble and renowned do they think themselves; and, captured by the appearance of empty glory, they give the name of excellence to their crimes. Now I would rather that they should make gods for themselves from the slaughter of wild beasts than that they should approve of an immortality so bloody. If any one has slain a single man, he is regarded as contaminated and wicked, nor do they think it right that he should be admitted to this earthly dwelling of the gods. But he who has slaughtered endless thousands of men, deluged the fields with blood, (and) infected rivers (with it), is admitted not only to a temple, but even to heaven.”1 “They believe that the gods love whatever they themselves desire, whatever it is for the sake of which acts of theft and homicide and brigandage rage every day, for the sake of which wars throughout the whole world overturn peoples and cities.”2 In criticizing the definition of virtue as that which puts first the advantages of one’s country, he points out that this means the extension of the national boundaries by means of aggressive wars on neighbouring states, and so on: “all which things are certainly not virtues, but the overthrowing of virtues. For, in the first place, the connection of human society is taken away; innocence is taken away; abstention from (what is) another’s is taken away; in fact, justice itself is taken away; for justice cannot bear the cutting asunder of the human race, and, wherever arms glitter, she must be put to flight and banished. . . . For how can he be just, who injures, hates, despoils, kills? And those who strive to be of advantage to their country do all these things.”3 Eusebios ascribed the incessant occurrence of furious wars in pre-Christian times, not only to the multiplicity of rulers before the establishment of the Roman Empire, but also to the instigation of the demons who tyrannized over the nations that worshipped them.1 He refers to Ares as “the demon who is the bane of mortals and the lover of war”2 and remarks that “the din of strife, and battles, and wars, are the concern of Athena, but not peace or the things of peace.”3
This collection of passages will suffice to show how strong and deep was the early Christian revulsion from and disapproval of war, both on account of the dissension it represented and of the infliction of bloodshed and suffering which it involved. The quotations show further how closely warfare and murder were connected in Christian thought by their possession of a common element—homicide; and the connection gives a fresh significance for the subject before us to the extreme Christian sensitiveness in regard to the sin of murder—a sensitiveness attested by the frequency with which warnings, prohibitions, and condemnations in regard to this particular sin were uttered and the severity with which the Church dealt with the commission of it by any of her own members. The strong disapprobation felt by Christians for war was due to its close relationship with the deadly sin that sufficed to keep the man guilty of it permanently outside the Christian community.4
The Essential Peacefulness of Christianity.—The natural counterpart of the Christian disapproval of war was the conception of peace as being of the very stuff and substance of the Christian life. Peace, of course, meant a number of different things to the early Christian. It meant reconciliation between himself and God; it meant the stilling of turbulent passions and evil desires in his own heart; it meant the harmony and concord that normally reigned within the Christian community; it meant (to Paul, for instance, in writing ‘Ephesians’) the reconciliation of Jew and gentile; it meant immunity from annoyance and persecution at the hands of pagans; it meant also freedom from the distractions, toils, and dangers of actual war. Little purpose would be served by attempting an analysis of all occurrences of the word ‘peace’ in early Christian literature according to the particular shade of meaning in each case, with the object of dissolving out the exact amount said about peace as the antithesis and correlative of war. The result would be little more than a general impression of the Christian inclination towards, and approval of, peace. That fact in itself is not without significance: for, while there are many places in which peace is mentioned without any apparent reference to the military calling—for instance, where Peter, shortly before baptizing the centurion Cornelius, gave him the pith of the Christian gospel as “the word which God sent to the sons of Israel, giving the good news of peace through Jesus Christ”1 —yet the close and repeated identification of Christianity with peace even in a vague sense (e.g., in the opening and closing salutations of letters, and in phrases like ‘the God of Peace’) has an important bearing on the Christian attitude to war, particularly in view of the many direct and explicit allusions we find to peace in the military sense. It will be sufficient for our present purpose to quote only a few of the more explicit passages. Paul, for instance, tells the Romans: “If possible, as far as lies in your power, be at peace with all men”2 : similarly, the author of Hebrews: “Pursue peace with all (men).”3 The evangelist ‘Matthew’ quotes the words of Jesus: “Happy are the peace-makers”4 and Luke tells us that at the birth of Jesus the host of angels sang: “Glory in the highest to God and on earth peace among men whom He favours,”5 and represents Zacharias as praying God “to guide our feet into (the) way of peace.”6 In the liturgical prayer at the end of the epistle of Clemens of Rome occurs a petition for world-wide peace among men generally: “Give concord and peace to us and to all who inhabit the earth, as Thou gavest to our fathers.”7 Then he prays specially for the rulers: “Give them, Lord, health, peace, concord, stability, that they may administer without offence the government given to them by Thee. . . . Do Thou, Lord, direct their counsel. . . in order that they, administering piously with peace and gentleness the authority given them by Thee, may find favour with Thee.”1 Ignatius exclaims: “Nothing is better than peace, by which all war of those in heaven and those on earth is abolished.”2 A Christian Elder quoted by Eirenaios said that King Solomon “announced to the nations that peace would come and prefigured the reign of Christ.”3 Justinus told the Emperors that the Christians were the best allies and helpers they had in promoting peace,4 on the ground that their belief in future punishment and in the omniscience of God provided a stronger deterrent from wrongdoing than any laws could do.
The Christian Church appropriated to itself that old prophecy, found both in Isaiah and Micah, of the abolition of war in the Messianic age. “And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and convict many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-knives; nation shall not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”5 This prophecy is quoted, in whole or in part, by a succession of Christian writers, who all urge that it is being fulfilled in the extension of Christianity, the adherents of which are peace-loving people, who do not make war. Thus Justinus quotes it in his Apology, and goes on: “And that this has happened, ye can be persuaded. For from Jerusalem twelve men went out into the world, and these (were) unlearned, unable to speak; but by (the) power of God they told every race of men that they had been sent by Christ to teach all (men) the word of God. And we, who were formerly slayers of one another, not only do not make war upon our enemies, but, for the sake of neither lying nor deceiving those who examine us, gladly die confessing Christ.”1 He quotes it again in his Dialogue with Truphon the Jew, and insists in opposition to the Jewish interpretation that it is already being fulfilled: “and we,” he goes on, “who had been filled with war and mutual slaughter and every wickedness, have each one—all the world over—changed the instruments of war, the swords into ploughs and the spears into farming instruments, and we cultivate piety, righteousness, love for men, faith, (and) the hope which is from the Father Himself through the Crucified One.”2 Eirenaios quotes it, and comments upon it as follows: “If therefore another law and word, issuing from Jerusalem, has thus made peace among those nations which received it, and through them convinced many a people of folly, it seems clear that the prophets were speaking of someone else (besides Jesus). But if the law of liberty, that is, the Word of God, being proclaimed to the whole earth by the Apostles who went out from Jerusalem, effected a change to such an extent that (the nations) themselves wrought their swords and lances of war into ploughs and changed them into sickles, which He gave for reaping corn, (that is), into instruments of peace, and if they now know not how to fight, but, (when they are) struck, offer the other cheek also, (then) the prophets did not say this of anyone else, but of him who did it. Now this is our Lord,” etc.1 Tertullianus quotes it, and asks: “Who else therefore are understood than ourselves, who, taught by the new law, observe those things, the old law—the abolition of which the very action (of changing swords into ploughs, etc.) proves was to come—being obliterated? For the old law vindicated itself by the vengeance of the sword, and plucked out eye for eye, and requited injury with punishment; but the new law pointed to clemency, and changed the former savagery of swords and lances into tranquillity, and refashioned the former infliction of war upon rivals and foes of the law into the peaceful acts of ploughing and cultivating the earth. And so. . . the observance of the new law and of spiritual circumcision has shone forth in acts of peaceful obedience.”2 He quotes it again clause by clause in his treatise against Markion, inserting comments as he goes along: “‘And they shall beat their swords into ploughs, and their spears into sickles,’ that is, they shall change the dispositions of injurious minds and hostile tongues and every (sort of) wickedness and blasphemy into the pursuits of modesty and peace. ‘And nation shall not take sword against nation,’ namely, (the sword) of dissension. ‘And they shall not learn to make war any more,’ that is, to give effect to hostile feelings: so that here too thou mayest learn that Christ is promised not (as one who is) powerful in war, but (as) a bringer of peace;” and he goes on to insist that it is Christ who must be referred to1 He adverts to the prophecy again a little later: “And then ‘they beat their swords into ploughs. . . ,’ that is, minds (that were) once wild and savage they change into feelings (that are) upright and productive of good fruit.”2 Origenes quotes it: “To those who ask us whence we have come or whom we have (for) a leader, we say that we have come in accordance with the counsels of Jesus to cut down our warlike and arrogant swords of argument into ploughshares, and we convert into sickles the spears we formerly used in fighting. For we no longer take ‘sword against a nation,’ nor do we learn ‘any more to make war,’ having become sons of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our leader, instead of (following) the ancestral (customs) in which we were strangers to the covenants.”3 It is quoted in the Pseudo-Cyprianic treatise ‘Against the Jews’ and in the ‘Dialogus de Recta Fidei’ as a reference to the state of affairs inaugurated by Christ.4 Lastly, Eusebios quotes it—after referring to the multiplicity of rulers in pre-Christian times and the consequent frequency of wars and universality of military training—as prophesying the change that was actually introduced at the advent of Christ. True, he conceives the fulfilment to lie—in part at least—in the unification of all governments in that of Augustus and the resultant cessation of conflicts; but he goes on to point out that, while the demons goaded men into furious wars with one another, “at the same time, by our Saviour’s most pious and most peaceful teaching, the destruction of polytheistic error began to be accomplished, and the dissensions of the nations immediately began to find rest from former evils. Which (fact),” he concludes, “I regard as a very great proof of our Saviour’s divine and irresistible power.”1
Resuming our account of the various laudatory allusions of Christian authors to peace, we find Athenagoras saying to the Emperors: “By your sagacity the whole inhabited world enjoys profound peace.”2 Clemens of Alexandria says of the Christians: “We are being educated, not in war, but in peace”; “We, the peaceful race” are more temperate than “the warlike races”; among musical instruments, “man is in reality a pacific instrument,” the others exciting military and amorous passions; “but we have made use of one instrument, the peaceful word only, wherewith we honour God.”3 Tertullianus, defending the Christian meetings, asks: “To whose danger did we ever meet together? What we are when we are separated, that we are when we are gathered together: what we are as individuals, that we are as a body, hurting no one, troubling no one”4 : he calls the Christian “the son of peace.”5 The devil, says Hippolutos, “knows that the prayer of the saints produces peace for the world.”6 The Pseudo-Melitonian Apologist prescribed the knowledge and fear of the one God as the only means by which a kingdom could be peaceably governed.7 The Bardesanic ‘Book of the Laws of the Countries’ foretold the coming of universal peace as a result of the dissemination of new teaching and by a gift from God.1 In the Pseudo-Justinian ‘Address to the Greeks,’ the Word of God is invoked as: “O trumpet of peace to the soul that is at war!”2 Commodianus says to the Christian: “Make thyself a peace-maker to all men.”3 Cyprianus commends patience as that which “guards the peace.”4 Arnobius tells the pagans: “It would not be difficult to prove that, after Christ was heard of in the world, those wars, which ye say were brought about on account of (the gods’) hatred for our religion, not only did not increase, but were even greatly diminished by the repression of furious passions. For since we—so large a force of men—have received (it) from his teachings and laws, that evil ought not to be repaid with evil, that it is better to endure a wrong than to inflict (it), to shed one’s own (blood) rather than stain one’s hands and conscience with the blood of another, the ungrateful world has long been receiving a benefit from Christ, through whom the madness of savagery has been softened, and has begun to withhold its hostile hands from the blood of a kindred creature. But if absolutely all who understand that they are men by virtue, not of the form of their bodies, but of the power of their reason, were willing to lend an ear for a little while to his healthful and peaceful decrees, and would not, swollen with pride and arrogance, trust to their own senses rather than to his admonitions, the whole world would long ago have turned the uses of iron to milder works and be living in the softest tranquillity, and would have come together in healthy concord without breaking the sanctions of treaties.”1 The martyr Lucianus told the judge at Nicomedia that one of the laws given by Christ to Christians was that they should “be keen on peace.”2
It might of course be urged that these expressions or at least the bulk of them voiced the sentiments of a community that bore no political responsibility and had been disciplined by no political experience. “The opinions of the Christians of the first three centuries,” says Lecky, “were usually formed without any regard to the necessities of civil or political life; but when the Church obtained an ascendancy, it was found necessary speedily to modify them.”3 It must of course be frankly admitted that the passages we have quoted do not explicitly handle the ultimate problems with which the philosophy of war and penal justice has to deal: but it is quite another question whether the policy of conduct dictated by what many might consider this blind attachment to peace and this blind horror of war did not involve a better solution of those problems than had yet been given to the world. The modifications of which Lecky speaks were due to other causes than the enlargement of the Church’s vision and experience. The grave relaxation of her early moral purity had a good deal to do with it: and, as we shall see later, the early Church was not without at least one competent thinker who was fully equal to giving a good account of the peace-loving views of himself and his brethren in face of the objections raised by the practical pagan critic.
The Christian Treatment of Enemies and Wrongdoers.—A very interesting sidelight is cast on the attitude of the early Christians to war by the serious view they took of those precepts of the Master enjoining love for all, including enemies, and forbidding retaliation upon the wrongdoer, and the close and literal way in which they endeavoured to obey them. This view and this obedience of those first followers of Jesus are the best commentary we can have upon the problematic teaching in question, and the best answer we can give to those who argue that it was not meant to be practised save in a perfect society, or that it refers only to the inner disposition of the heart and not to the outward actions, or that it concerns only the personal and private and not the social and political relationships of life. The Christian emphasis on the duty of love may be thought by some to have little bearing on the question of war, inasmuch as it is possible to argue that one can fight without bitterness and kill in battle without hatred. Whatever may be thought on that particular point, the important fact for us to notice just now is, not only that the early Christians considered themselves bound by these precepts of love and non-resistance in an extremely close and literal way, but that they did actually interpret them as ruling out the indictment of wrongdoers in the law-courts and participation in the acts of war. And when we consider that these same simple-minded Christians of the first generations did more for the moral purification of the world in which they lived than perhaps has ever been done before or since, their principles will appear to be not quite so foolish as they are often thought to be.
We proceed to quote the main utterances of the early Christian writers on this subject. The Apostle Paul writes to the Thessalonians: “May the Lord make you to increase and abound in love towards one another and towards all.1 . . . See (to it) that no one renders to any evil in return for evil, but always pursue what is good towards one another and towards all.”2 To the Galatians: “As then we have opportunity, let us work that which is good towards all.”3 To the Corinthians: “What (business) is it of mine to judge outsiders?. . . outsiders God will judge.”4 To the Romans: “Render to no one evil for evil. . . . If possible, as far as lies in your power, be at peace with all men. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for the wrath (of God); for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.’ But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for by doing this thou wilt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not conquered by evil, but conquer evil with (what is) good. . . . Owe no man anything, except mutual love: for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the Law. For the (commandment): ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ ‘Thou shalt not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there is, is summed up in this saying: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ Love does not work evil on a neighbour: love therefore is the fulfilment of the Law.”5 To the Philippians: “Let your forbearance be known to all men.”6 A practical instance of the way in which Paul ‘conquered evil with what is good’ appears in his treatment of Onesimos, the slave who had robbed his Christian master and then run away from him: Paul, who came across him at Rome, called him ‘My child, whom I have begotten in my bonds,’ and gained by love so great and good an influence over him as to be able to send him back with a letter of apology and commendation to his offended master.1 In the Pastorals we read: “The servant of God ought not to fight, but to be mild to all, a (skilled) teacher, patient of evil (), gently admonishing his opponents—God may possibly give them repentance (leading) to a knowledge of truth, and they may return to soberness out of the snare of the devil”2 ; “Remind them. . . to be ready for every good work, to rail at no one, to be uncontentious, forbearing, displaying all gentleness towards all men.”3 In the Epistle of James: “With it (the tongue) we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth issues blessing and cursing. My brothers, this ought not to be so.”4 In the Epistle of Peter: “Honour all men.5 . . . For unto this were ye called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example in order that ye might follow in his footsteps:. . . who, when he was reviled, did not revile in return, when he suffered, did not threaten, but entrusted himself to Him who judges righteously.6 . . . Finally, (let) all (be). . . humble, not rendering evil in return for evil or reviling in return for reviling, but on the contrary blessing (those who revile you): for unto this were ye called, in order that ye might inherit a blessing.1 . . . For it is better, if the Will of God wills (it so), to suffer for doing right rather than for doing wrong: because Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order that he might bring us to God.”2 We do not need to quote over again the passages in the Gospels bearing upon this aspect of Christian conduct, as they have already been fully considered in our examination of the teaching of Jesus; but it is important to bear in mind the immense significance which those passages would have for the evangelists who embodied them in their Gospels and for the contemporary generation of Christians. Echoes of them are heard in other Christian writings of the time. Thus the Didache says: “This is the way of life: first, thou shalt love the God who made thee, secondly, thy neighbour as thyself: and all things whatsoever thou wouldest not should happen to thee, do not thou to another. The teaching of these words is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast on behalf of those who persecute you: for what thanks (will be due to you), if ye love (only) those who love you? do not the gentiles also do the same? But love ye those who hate you, and ye shall not have an enemy. . . . If anyone give thee a blow upon the right cheek, turn the other also to him, and thou shalt be perfect: if anyone impress thee (to go) one mile, go two with him: if anyone take away thy cloak, give him thy tunic also: if anyone take from thee what is thine, do not demand it back.3 . . . Thou shalt not plan any evil against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not hate any man; but some thou shalt reprove, on some thou shalt have mercy, for some thou shalt pray, and some thou shalt love above thine own soul.1 . . . Thou shalt not become liable to anger—for anger leads to murder—nor jealous nor contentious nor passionate, for from all these things murders are born.”2 “Every word,” says the Epistle of Barnabas, “which issues from you through your mouth in faith and love, shall be a means of conversion and hope to many.”3
An eloquent practical example of the true and typical Christian policy towards sinful and wayward paganism, is that beautiful story told by Clemens of Alexandria about the aged apostle John. The story has every appearance of being historically true, at least in substance; but, even if fictitious, it must still be ‘in character,’ and therefore have value as evidence for the approved Christian method of grappling with heathen immorality. The story is briefly as follows. John, while visiting the Christians in some city—perhaps Smyrna—saw in the church a handsome heathen youth, and feeling attracted to him, entrusted him, in the presence of Christian witnesses, to the bishop’s care. The bishop took the youth home, taught, and baptized him; and then, thinking him secure, neglected him. When thus prematurely freed from restraint, bad companions got hold of him, and by degrees corrupted and enticed him into evil ways and finally into the commission of some great crime. He then took to the mountains with them as a brigand-chief, and committed acts of bloodshed and cruelty. Some time after, John visited the same city again, and, learning on enquiry what had happened, called for a horse and guide, and at length found his way unarmed into the young captain’s presence. The latter fled away in shame; but the apostle pursued him with entreaties: “Why, my child, dost thou flee from me, thine own father, unarmed (and) aged (as I am)? Have mercy on me, my child; fear not. Thou still hast hope of life. I will give account to Christ for thee. If need be, I will willingly endure thy death (for thee), as the Lord endured it for us. I will give my life for thine. Stand; believe; Christ has sent me.” The youth halted, looked downwards, cast away his weapons, trembled, and wept. When the apostle approached, the youth embraced him, and poured forth confessions and lamentations. John assured him of the Saviour’s pardon, and, falling on his knees, and kissing the right hand which the youth had concealed in shame, prevailed upon him to suffer himself to be led back to the church. There the apostle spent time with him in intercessory prayer, prolonged fasting, and multiplied counsels, and did not depart until he had restored him to the church, ‘a trophy of visible resurrection.’1
Ignatius writes to the Ephesians: “And on behalf of the rest of men, pray unceasingly. For there is in them a hope of repentance, that they may attain to God. Allow them therefore to become disciples even through your works. Towards their anger (be) ye gentle; towards their boasting (be) ye meek; against their railing (oppose) ye your prayers; against their error (be) ye steadfast in the faith: against their savagery (be) ye mild, not being eager to imitate them. Let us be found their brothers in forbearance: and let us be eager to be imitators of the Lord, (to see) who can be most wronged, who (most) deprived, who (most) despised, in order that no plant of the devil be found in you, but in all chastity and temperance ye may remain in Jesus Christ as regards both flesh and spirit.”1 He says to the Trallians of their bishop: “His gentleness is a power: I believe even the godless respect him.”2 “I need gentleness,” he tells them, “by which the Ruler of this age is brought to nought.”3 He exhorts his friend Polukarpos, the bishop of Smyrna: “Forbear all men in love, as indeed thou dost.”4 Polukarpos himself tells the Philippians that God will raise us from the dead if we “do His will and walk in His commandments. . . not rendering evil in return for evil, or reviling in return for reviling, or fisticuff in return for fisticuff, or curse in return for curse.”5 “Pray also,” he says, “for kings and authorities and rulers and for those who persecute and hate you and for the enemies of the cross, that your fruit may be manifest among all, that ye may be perfect in Him.”6 Aristeides says of the Christians: “They appeal to those who wrong them and make them friendly to themselves; they are eager to do good to their enemies; they are mild and conciliatory.”7 Diognetos is told that the Christians “love all (men), and are persecuted by all;. . . they are reviled, and they bless; they are insulted, and are respectful.”8 Hermas includes in his enumeration of Christian duties those of “withstanding no one,. . . bearing insult, being longsuffering, having no remembrance of wrongs.”1 The author of the so-called second Epistle of Clemens reproves his readers for not being true to these principles: “For the gentiles, hearing from our mouth the words of God, are impressed by their beauty and greatness: then, learning that our works are not worthy of the things we say, they turn to railing, saying that it is some deceitful tale. For when they hear from us that God says: ‘No thanks (will be due) to you, if ye love (only) those who love you; but thanks (will be due) to you, if ye love your enemies and those that hate you’—when they hear this, they are impressed by the overplus of goodness: but when they see that we do not love, not only those who hate (us), but even those who love (us), they laugh at us, and the Name is blasphemed.”2
“We,” says Justinus, “who hated and slew one another, and because of (differences in) customs would not share a common hearth with those who were not of our tribe, now, after the appearance of Christ, have become sociable, and pray for our enemies, and try to persuade those who hate (us) unjustly, in order that they, living according to the good suggestions of Christ, may share our hope of obtaining the same (reward) from the God who is Master of all.3 . . . And as to loving all (men), he has taught as follows: ‘If ye love (only) those who love you, what new thing do ye do? for even fornicators do this. But I say to you: Pray for your enemies and love those who hate you and bless those who curse you and pray for those who act spitefully towards you.’4 . . . And as to putting up with evil and being serviceable to all and without anger; this is what he says: ‘To him that smiteth thy cheek, offer the other (cheek) as well, and do not stop (the man) that takes away thy tunic or thy cloak. But whoever is angry is liable to the fire. Every one who impresses thee (to go) a mile, follow (for) two (miles). Let your good works shine before men, that seeing (them) they may worship your Father in heaven.’ For (we) must not resist: nor has (God) wished us to be imitators of the wicked, but has bidden (us) by patience and gentleness lead all (men) from (the) shame and lust of the evil (things). And this we are able to show in the case of many who were (formerly) on your side. They changed from (being) violent and tyrannical, conquered either (through) having followed the constancy of (their Christian) neighbours’ life, or (through) having noticed the strange patience of fellow-travellers when they were overreached, or (through) having experienced (it in the case) of those with whom they had dealings.”1
“We have learnt,” says Athenagoras, “not only not to strike back and not to go to law with those who plunder and rob us, but with some, if they buffet us on the side of the head, to offer the other side of the head to them for a blow, and with others, if they take away our tunic, to give them also our cloak.2 . . . What then are those teachings in which we are brought up?” He then quotes the familiar words of Mt v. 44 f, and asks what logician ever loved and blessed and prayed for his enemies, instead of plotting some evil against them: but among the Christians, he says, there are those who “do not rehearse speeches, but display good deeds, (viz.) not hitting back when they are struck, and not going to law when they are robbed, giving to those that ask, and loving their neighbours as themselves.”1 He speaks of the Christians later as those “to whom it is not lawful, when they are struck, not to offer themselves (for more blows), nor, when defamed, not to bless: for it is not enough to be just—and justice is to return like for like —but it is incumbent (upon us) to be good and patient of evil.”2 Speratus, the martyr of Scilli, told the proconsul: “We have never spoken evil (of others), but when ill-treated we have given thanks—because we pay heed to our Emperor” (i.e. Christ). 3 Theophilos wrote: “In regard to our being well-disposed, not only to those of our own tribe, as some think (but also to our enemies), Isaiah the prophet said: ‘Say to those that hate and loathe you, Ye are our brothers, in order that the name of the Lord may be glorified and it may be seen in their gladness.’ And the Gospel says: ‘Love your enemies, and pray for those who treat you spitefully. For if ye love (only) those that love you, what reward have ye? even the robbers and the taxgatherers do this’.”4
Eirenaios refers on several occasions to this teaching. One of the passages we have already had before us.5 Elsewhere he quotes Jesus’ prayer, ‘Father, forgive them . . . ’ as an instance of obedience to his own command to love and pray for enemies. He argues from the prayer that the sufferings of Jesus could not have been in appearance only, as the Docetic errorists maintained: if they were, then his precepts in the Sermon on the Mount would be misleading, and “we shall be even above the Master, while we suffer and endure things which the Master did not suffer and endure.”1 The Lord bade us, he says later, “love not neighbours only, but even enemies, and be not only good givers and sharers, but even givers of free gifts to those who take away what is ours. ‘For to him that takes away (thy) tunic from thee,’ he says, ‘give to him thy cloak also; and from him who takes away what is thine, demand (it) not back; and as ye wish that men should do to you, do ye to them’: so that we may not grieve as if we did not want to be defrauded, but rejoice as if we gave willingly, rather conferring a favour on neighbours, than bowing to necessity. ‘And if any one,’ he says, ‘impress thee (to go) a mile, go two more with him,’ so that thou mayest not follow as a slave, but mayest go in front like a free man, showing thyself ready in all things and useful to (thy) neighbour; not regarding their badness, but practising thy goodness, conforming thyself to the Father, ‘who makes His sun rise on bad and good, and rains on just and unjust’.”2 Eirenaios in another work remarks that the Law will no longer say “‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth’ to him who regards no one as his enemy, but all as his neighbours: for this reason he can never stretch out his hand for vengeance.”3 Apollonius told the Roman Senate that Christ “taught (us) to allay (our) anger,. . . to increase (our) love (for others) (), . . . not to turn to (the) punishment () of those who wrong (us). . . .”1
Clemens of Alexandria alludes several times to the teaching of Mt v. 44 f, Lk vi. 27 f,2 and says further that the Gnostic, by which he means the thorough-going Christian, “never bears a grudge (), nor is vexed () with anyone, even though he be worthy of hatred for what he does: for he reveres the Maker, and loves the one who shares in life, pitying and praying for him because of his ignorance.”3 Those who pray that the wrongs they suffer should be visited upon the wrongdoers, Clemens considers as better than those who wish to retaliate personally by process of law; but he says that they “are not yet passionless, if they do not become entirely forgetful of wrong and pray even for their enemies according to the Lord’s teaching.” After some further words about forgiveness, he goes on to say that the Gnostic “not only thinks it right that the good (man) should leave to others the judgment of those who have done him wrong, but he wishes the righteous man to ask from those judges forgiveness of sins for those who have trespassed against him; and rightly so.”4 “Above all,” he says elsewhere, “Christians are not allowed to correct by violence sinful wrongdoings. For (it is) not those who abstain from evil by compulsion, but those (who abstain) by choice, (that) God crowns. For it is not possible for a man to be good steadily except by his own choice.”5
Tertullianus adverts to the command to love enemies and not to retaliate, and reassures the pagans that, although the numbers of the Christians would make it easy for them to avenge the wrongs they suffer, this principle puts an actual revolt out of the question: “For what war,” he asks, “should we not be fit (and) eager, even though unequal in numbers, (we) who are so willing to be slaughtered—if according to that discipline (of ours) it was not more lawful to be slain than to slay?”1 “The Christian does not hurt even his enemy.”2 In his treatise on patience, he quotes the words about turning the other cheek, rejoicing when cursed, leaving vengeance to God, not judging, etc., and insists on the duty of obeying them in all cases. “It is absolutely forbidden to repay evil with evil.”3 It is true that Tertullianus smirches somewhat the beauty of the Christian principle of the endurance of wrongs, by inviting the injured one to take pleasure in the disappointment which his patience causes to the wrongdoer. The spirit of retaliation is kept, and ‘coals of fire’ selected as the most poignant means of giving effect to it. But his failure to catch the real spirit of Christian love renders his testimony to what was the normal Christian policy all the more unimpeachable. He calls the Christian the son of peace, for whom it will be unfitting even to go to law, and who does not avenge his wrongs.4 The Bardesanic ‘Book of the Laws of the Countries’ compares those who take it upon themselves to inflict vengeance, to lions and leopards.5
Origenes has several important allusions to this aspect of Christian teaching. I select three only for quotation. He points out that God united the warring nations of the earth under the rule of Augustus, in order that by the suppression of war the spread of the gospel might be facilitated: for “how,” he asks, “would it have been possible for this peaceful teaching, which does not allow (its adherents) even to defend themselves against1 (their) enemies, to prevail, unless at the coming of Jesus the (affairs) of the world had everywhere changed into a milder (state)?”2 Later he says: “If a revolt had been the cause of the Christians combining, and if they had derived the(ir) origin from the Jews, to whom it was allowed () to take arms on behalf of the(ir) families and to destroy (their) enemies, the Lawgiver of (the) Christians would not have altogether forbidden (the) destruction of man, teaching that the deed of daring (on the part) of his own disciples against a man, however unrighteous he be, is never right—for he did not deem it becoming to his own divine legislation to allow the destruction of any man whatever” () 3 Later still, in dealing with the difference between the Mosaic and Christian dispensations, he says: “It would not be possible for the ancient Jews to keep their civil economy unchanged, if, let us suppose, they obeyed the constitution (laid down) according to the gospel. For it would not be possible for Christians to make use, according to the Law of Moses, of (the) destruction of (their) enemies or of those who had acted contrary to the Law and were judged worthy of destruction by fire or stoning. . . . Again, if thou wert to take away from the Jews of that time, who had a civil economy and a land of their own, the (right) to go out against the(ir) enemies and serve as soldiers on behalf of their ancestral (institutions) and to destroy or otherwise punish the adulterers or murderers or (men) who had done something of that kind, nothing would be left but for them to be wholly and utterly destroyed, the(ir) enemies setting upon the nation, when they were weakened and prevented by their own law from defending themselves against the(ir) enemies.”1 These statements of Origenes are important for several reasons—for the clear indication they give that in the middle of the third century the ‘hard sayings’ of the Sermon on the Mount were still adhered to as the proper policy for Christians, for the direct bearing which those sayings were felt to have on the question of war, and for the frank recognition which Origenes accords to the place of sub-Christian ethical standards in the world’s development.
Cyprianus lays it down that “when an injury has been received, one has to remit and forgive it,” “requital for wrongs is not to be given,” “enemies are to be loved,” “when an injury has been received, patience is to be kept and vengeance left to God.”2 He was horror-struck at the torture that went on in the law-courts: “there at hand is the spear and the sword and the executioner, the hook that tears, the rack that stretches, the fire that burns, more punishments for the one body of man than (it has) limbs!”1 “None of us,” he says, “offers resistance when he is seized, or avenges himself for your unjust violence, although our people are numerous and plentiful. . . it is not lawful for us to hate, and so we please God more when we render no requital for injury. . . we repay your hatred with kindness,” and so on.2 In his treatise on patience, he takes occasion to quote Mt v. 43–48 in full.3 When a plague broke out and the pagans fled, he urged the Christians not to attend to their co-religionists only, saying “that he might be made perfect, who did something more than the taxgatherer and the gentile, who, conquering evil with good and practising something like the divine clemency, loved his enemies also, who prayed for the safety of his persecutors, as the Lord advises and exhorts.” Cyprianus drove this lesson home, we are told, with arguments drawn from Mt v. 44–48.4 Commodianus utters the brief precept: “Do not hurt.”5 The Didaskalia lays it down: “Those who injure you, injure not in return, but endure (it), since Scripture says: ‘Say not: I will injure my enemy since he has injured me; but bear it, that the Lord may help thee, and exact vengeance from him who has injured thee.’ For again it says in the Gospel: ‘Love those who hate you and pray for those who curse you, and ye shall have no enemy’.”6 “Be prepared therefore to incur a loss, and try hard to keep the peace; for if thou incurrest any loss in secular affairs for the sake of peace, there shall accrue a gain with God to thee as to one who fears God and lives according to His commandment.”1 In the Clementine Homilies Peter disclaims all wish to destroy the heretic Simon, saying that he was not sent to destroy men, but that he wished to befriend and convert him; and he touches on the Christian custom of praying for enemies in obedience to Jesus’ example: and Clemens rehearses to his father the teaching of Mt v. 39-41.2
Lactantius refers to the Christians as “those who are ignorant of wars, who preserve concord with all, who are friends even to their enemies, who love all men as brothers, who know how to curb anger and soften with quiet moderation every madness of the mind.3 . . . This we believe to be to our advantage, that we should love you and confer all things upon you who hate (us).”4 Since the just man, he says, “inflicts injury on none, nor desires the property of others, nor defends his own if it is violently carried off, since he knows also (how) to bear with moderation an injury inflicted on him, because he is endowed with virtue, it is necessary that the just man should be subject to the unjust, and the wise man treated with insults by the fool,” etc.5 “God has commanded that enmities are never to be contracted by us, (but) are always to be removed, so that we may soothe those who are our enemies by reminding them of (their) relationship (to us).”6 The just man, once again, must return only blessings for curses: “let him also take careful heed lest at any time he makes an enemy by his own fault; and if there should be anyone so impudent as to inflict an injury on a good and just man, let him (i.e. the just man) bear it kindly and temperately, and not take upon himself his own vindication, but reserve (it) for the judgment of God.” After more to the same effect, Lactantius proceeds: “Thus it comes about that the just man is an object of contempt to all: and because it will be thought that he cannot defend himself, he will be considered slothful and inactive. But he who avenges himself on (his) enemy—he is judged to be brave (and) energetic: all reverence him, (all) respect him.”1 A little later comes the famous passage, in which he deals with the divine command about homicide, and interprets it as prohibiting both capital charges and military service: “And so in (regard to) this commandment of God no exception at all ought to be made (to the rule) that it is always wrong to kill a man, whom God has wished to be a sacrosanct creature.” Of this application of the teaching we must speak later.2
Probably one of the first things that will strike a modern reader on surveying this remarkable body of evidence is the apparent absence of any treatment of the question of the defence of others as a special phase of the general question concerning the treatment of wrongdoers. The silence of Christian authors on this particular point is certainly remarkable. Tertullianus even takes it for granted that, if a man will not avenge his own wrongs, á fortiori he will not avenge those of others3 —a sentiment pointedly at variance with the spirit of modern Christianity; which is at times disposed to accept (as an ideal at all events, if not always as a practicable policy) absolute non-resistance in regard to one’s own wrongs, but which indignantly repudiates such a line of action when the wrongs of others—particularly those weaker than oneself—are in question. It is on the validity of this distinction that the whole case of the possibility of a Christian war is felt by many to rest. The point is so important that we may be pardoned for devoting a few lines to it, even though it carries us a little beyond the strictly historical treatment of the subject. In the first place, it needs to be borne in mind that the question is not the general one, whether or no the Christian should try to prevent others being wronged. That question admits of only one answer. The life of a Christian is a constant and effective check upon sin; and he is therefore at all times, in a general though in a very real way, defending others. The question is, Which is the right method for him to use—the gentle moral appeal or violent physical coercion? Whatever method he may choose, that method is not of course bound to succeed in any particular case, for circumstances may at any time be too strong for him: possibility of failure, therefore, is not to be reckoned a fatal objection to a policy of defence, for it tells in some measure against all policies. And be it remembered that the restraining power of gentleness is largely diminished, if not entirely destroyed, if the user of it attempts to combine it with the use of coercion and penalty.1 We are therefore driven to make our choice between two policies of conduct, which to all intents and purposes are mutually exclusive.1 Now in the use of violence and injury for the defence of others, the Christian sees a policy which he is forbidden, exhypothesi, to use in his own defence—and that for a reason as valid in the case of others’ sufferings as in that of his own, viz. the absolute prohibition of injury2 —and which is furthermore a less effective policy than that of bringing the force of his own Christian spirit to bear on the wrongdoer, as the Salvationist, for instance, often does with the violent drunkard. If the objection be raised that few people possess this powerful Christian spirit capable of restraining others, I reply that we are discussing the conduct of those alone who, because or in so far as they are faithful Christians, do possess it. Again, when the wrongs of innocent sufferers are brought in in order to undermine obedience to the Sermon on the Mount, a fictitious distinction always has to be made between wrongs inflicted on others in one’s very presence and the possibly far more horrible wrongs that go on out of one’s sight. “Pity for a horse o’erdriven” easily evaporates when once the poor animal has turned the corner. Many a man would feel it a duty to use his fists to defend a woman from being knocked about under his own eyes, but would not by any means feel called upon to use either his fists or his powers of persuasion on behalf of the poor wife being beaten in her home a few streets off or on the other side of the town. Still less would he admit it as a general principle that he must not rest as long as there is any injustice going on in the world, which he might feel disposed to rectify by the use of violence if it were happening close at hand: and though he may allow himself to be swayed by this particular plea in a political crisis, it is obvious that it could never be taken and is never taken as a general guide for conduct. Unfortunately, we have to recognize the fact that countless acts of cruelty and injustice are going on every day, all around us, near and far; and the practical demands of Christian usefulness forbid the sensitive man to allow his spirit to be crushed by the awful thought that he cannot yet put a stop to these things. The sentiment which bids a man stick at nothing in order to check outrageous wrongdoing is entitled to genuine respect, for it is closely akin to Christian love; but it is misleading when it comes into conflict with a considered Christian policy for combating sin, for, as we have seen, it operates only within the compass of a man’s vision and in certain occasionally and arbitrarily selected areas beyond, and, when erected into a general principle of conduct, immediately breaks down. The rejection of this sentiment does not mean the rejection of the Christian duty “to ride abroad redressing human wrong”: it means the adoption, not only of gentler, but of more effective, tactics, calling—as the Christian persecutions show—for their full measure of danger and self-sacrifice; it means too a refusal to stultify those tactics under the impulse of a rush of feeling which so soon fails to justify itself as a guide to conduct.
The early Christians therefore were not guilty, either of selfish cowardice or of an error of judgment, in interpreting the Master’s words as ruling out the forcible defence of one another against the manifold wrongs which pagan hatred and cruelty and lust brought upon them. It was clear indeed that the Master had so interpreted his words himself. He did nothing to avenge John the Baptist or the slaughtered Galilaeans; and when he forbade the use of the sword in Gethsemane, the occasion was one on which it had been drawn in a righteous cause and for the defence of an unarmed and innocent man. The way in which the Christians endured the injuries inflicted upon them in persecution had the effect—so Christian authors continually tell us—of evoking pagan admiration and sympathy, and even adding considerably to the number of converts. By the time the victory over the persecutors was won. Christian ethics had largely lost their early purity; but we see enough to be able to say that that victory was in no small measure due to the power of the Christian spirit operating against tremendous odds without the use of any sort of violent resistance. It took time of course to win the victory, and during that time countless acts of unthinkable cruelty and horror were endured: but would anyone seriously argue that that suffering would have been diminished, or better results achieved for the world at large or for the sufferers themselves, if from the first Christian men had acted on the principle that, while ready themselves to submit meekly, it was their duty to defend others if need be by force and bloodshed? When Plinius tortured the two Bithynian deaconesses, and when Sabina was threatened at Smyrna with being sentenced to the brothel, no Christian knight came forward to prevent the wrong by force of arms or perish in the attempt. Sabina said simply, in answer to the threat: “The holy God will see about that.” There must have been innumerable instances of Christians deliberately abstaining from the defence of one another. Such conduct, amazing as it may seem to us, does not argue callousness, still less cowardice, for cowards could never have endured torture with the constancy normally shown by the Christian martyrs. It simply means a strenuous adherence to the Master’s teaching—an adherence based indeed on a simple sense of obedience to him, but issuing, as posterity can see, in the exertion of an immense positive moral power, and involving, in a situation from which conflict and suffering in some measure were inseparable, probably a less severe conflict and a smaller amount of suffering than any other course of conduct consistent with faithfulness to the Christian religion would have involved.
The Christians’ Experience of Evil in the Character of Soldiers.—Before we enter upon an examination of the course actually pursued by Christians in regard to service in the Roman legions, there is one more introductory study we shall have to undertake, viz. that of the unfavourable criticisms passed by Christians on the seamy side of the military character as they knew it in practical life, and the harsh treatment they received at the hands of soldiers with whom they came into conflict. The reader will of course understand that what we are here concerned with constitutes only one side of the picture; the other side, showing us instances of kind treatment and so on on the part of soldiers, will come to light at a later stage of our enquiry. At the same time, the aspect now before us was a very real and a very painful one, and is not without a fairly direct bearing on the early Christian attitude to war.
The main fact in the situation was that the soldier, being charged with ordinary police duties as well as with military functions in the narrower sense, was the normal agent of governments in giving effect to their measures of persecution. While the illegality of Christianity did not become a part of the imperial policy until 64 a.d., numerous acts of persecution were committed before that date. John the Baptist had been beheaded in prison by one of Antipas’ guards.1 Jesus himself had been mocked, spat upon, scourged, and crucified by soldiers.2 James, the son of Zebedee, was executed by one of Agrippa’s soldiers.3 Peter was guarded in chains by others, and escaped a like fate only by a miraculous deliverance.4 Paul endured long confinement in the hands of the military; and, when the ship in which he and other prisoners were being taken to Rome was wrecked, the soldiers advised that they should all be killed to prevent any of them escaping.5 Both Paul, and Peter were eventually martyred at Rome, doubtless by the hands of soldiers. In 64 a.d. Nero’s act in persecuting the Christians in order to divert from himself the suspicion of having set Rome on fire, inaugurated what proved to be the official policy of the Empire until the time of Constantinus. That policy was that the profession of Christianity was regarded as in itself a crime against society—like piracy, brigandage, theft, and arson—and as such was punishable with death by virtue of the ordinary administrative powers of the Roman Governor. Refusal to participate in the widely practised worship of the Emperor or to recognize any other of the pagan gods, strong disapproval of idolatry and all other manifestations of pagan religion, dissent and aloofness from many of the social customs of paganism, secret meetings, nocturnal celebration of ‘love-feasts,’ disturbance caused to family life by conversions—all these had resulted in making the Christians profoundly unpopular, and brought upon them the suspicion of being guilty of detested crimes, such as cannibalism and incest, and the stigma of being regarded as thoroughly disloyal and dangerous members of society. Such was the basis upon which the imperial policy rested. As individual Emperors varied in their attitude to Christianity (some even going so far as to grant it a de facto toleration), as the popular hatred would flame out and die down at different times and in different places, and lastly as the provincial governors had large discretionary powers and would differ widely in their personal views, the imperial policy of stern repression was not carried out consistently or uniformly. There would be extensive regions and lengthy intervals in which it would lie dormant. Here and there, now and then, it would break forth in varying degrees of severity: and whenever it did so, the task of carrying out the state’s decrees devolved upon the soldiers, as the policemen of the Empire. More than that, it is easy to see that, inasmuch as the conduct of official proceedings against the Christians rested in the hands of the military, they must often have borne the main responsibility for the occurrence of persecution.1 We come across many traces of their activities in this direction. Thus Ignatius of Antioch wrote to his friends at Rome: “From Syria as far as Rome I am fighting with beasts, by land and sea, night and day, having been bound to ten leopards, that is (to say), a squad of soldiers, who become worse even when they are treated well. By the wrongs they do me, I am becoming more of a disciple.”2 The arrest and burning of Polukarpos at Smyrna were evidently carried out by the military.3 When Karpos was burnt at Pergamum, it was a soldier’s hand that lit the faggots.4 In the dreadful persecution at Lugdunum (Lyons) in 177–8 a.d., we are told that “all the wrath of populace and governor and soldiers fell in exceeding measure” upon certain of the martyrs, whose appalling sufferings cast a sinister light upon the character of their tormentors.5 Clemens and Origenes group soldiers with kings, rulers, etc., as one of the parties regularly implicated in the futile persecution of Christianity.1 Tertullianus numbers them as strangers and therefore enemies of the truth, their motive being the desire for gain.2 Christians seem to have been exposed to as much danger from the interference of the military as from the hatred of the mob.3 It seems to have been not unusual for imperilled or imprisoned Christians or their friends to secure better treatment or even release or immunity by secretly bribing an influential soldier, justifying their action by saying that they were rendering to Caesar the things that were Caesar’s: Tertullianus disapproved of the practice.4 The apocryphal Acts of Thomas (225–250 a.d.), tell how the Apostle, being sentenced to death, was struck by four soldiers and slain.5 When Pionios was burnt at Smyrna in the persecution of Decius (250 a.d.), a soldier nailed him to the stake.6 The sufferings of Dionusios of Alexandria in the same persecution were due to his treatment by the military.7 In the persecution of Valerianus (258–9 a.d.) the same story is told: the arrest, custody, and execution of Cyprianus at Carthago were carried out by the proconsul’s soldiers8 : the martyracts of Marianus and Jacobus, who suffered in Numidia, tell us that in the region of the martyrdom “the attacks of persecution swelled up, like waves of the world, with the blind madness and military offices of the gentiles,” that “the madness of the bloody and blinded governor sought for all the beloved of God by means of bands of soldiers with hostile and aggressive minds,” that the martyrs were guarded by “a violent band of centurions,” and that they were “assailed with numerous and hard tortures by a soldier on guard, the executioner of the just and pious, a centurion and the magistrates of Cirta being present also to help his cruelty.”1 Fructuosus, who suffered death in Spain, was hurried to prison by the soldiers.2 In the interval of comparative peace between 259 and 303 a.d., the bigotry of certain pagan soldiers was more than once the cause of death to Christians in the army.3 The great persecution begun by Diocletianus and his colleagues in 303 a.d. and continued in some parts of the Empire until 313 a.d. opened with the sack of the great church at Nicomedia by military and other officials, and the complete destruction of the building by the Praetorian Guards, who “came in battle array with axes and other instruments of iron.”4 In the account given by Eusebios of the sufferings of the Christians, particularly in the East, soldiers appear at every turn of the story, as the perpetrators either of the diabolical and indescribable torments inflicted on both sexes5 or of the numerous other afflictions and annoyances incidental to the persecution. 1 In Phrygia, for instance, they committed to the flames the whole population of a small town which happened to be entirely Christian.2
Besides these allusions to the iniquities of persecution and besides the expressions of horror at the barbarities of war in general, we come across other references to the evil characters and evil deeds of soldiers. The Didaskalia forbids the acceptance of money for the church “from soldiers who behave unrighteously or from those who kill men or from executioners3 or from any (of the) magistrate(s) of the Roman Empire who are stained in wars and have shed innocent blood without judgment, who pervert judgments,” etc.4 Lactantius alludes to the calamities caused by the multiplication of armies under Diocletianus and his colleagues,5 to the misdeeds of the Praetorians at Rome in slaying certain judges and making Maxentius Emperor,6 to the terrible ravages committed by the troops of Galerius in his retreat from Rome,7 and to the rapacity of the soldiers of Maximinus Daza in the East.8 Eusebios gives us similar information in regard to the last-named ruler,9 and tells us of the massacre committed in Rome by the guards of Maxentius.10
Let us repeat that the grim indictment of the military character constituted by this long story of cruelty and outrage forms only one side of the picture, and obviously does not of itself imply any view as to the abstract rightfulness or otherwise of bearing arms: on the contrary, its sharpest charges belong to a time when there were certainly many Christian soldiers. Nevertheless, our study of the Christian view of war would be incomplete without the inclusion of this aspect of the case on the debit side of the account, an aspect which is more or less closely connected with the central question to which we have just alluded. It is to an examination of the view taken by the early Christians of that question that we have now to turn.
The Christian Refusal to participate in War.—The evidence as to the actual refusal of the early Christians to bear arms cannot be properly appreciated, or even fully stated, without a consideration of the parallel evidence touching the extent to which they were willing to serve as soldiers. The material of the present section will therefore be found to a certain extent to interlace with that of the corresponding section in our next part. For the sake, however, of simplicity of arrangement, it will be best to marshal the facts as we have them, first on one side, and then on the other, and to postpone our final generalizations until we have given full consideration to both.
It will probably be agreed by all that the substance of the last four sections creates at least a strong prima facie presumption that the persons who expressed themselves in the way explained in those sections would decline on principle to render military service. This presumption becomes very much stronger when we are reminded that there was practically nothing in the conditions of the time which would put such pressure on any early Christian as to compel him either to be a soldier against his will or to suffer the consequences of refusing to do so. We should expect therefore to find these Christians, at all events during the first few generations, refusing to serve as soldiers. With that expectation the little information that we possess is in almost entire harmony.1 Apart from Cornelius and the one or two soldiers who may have been baptized with him by Peter at Caesarea (?40 a.d.) and the gaoler baptized by Paul at Philippi (circ a.d. 49),2 we have no direct or reliable evidence for the existence of a single Christian soldier until after 170 a.d.
Partly in justification, partly in amplification, of this negative statement, a few words must be said in regard to one or two incidents and epochs within the period indicated. Thus it is stated that Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Cyprus, ‘believed’ as a result of the teaching of Paul on his first mission journey3 (47 a.d.). If this meant that Sergius Paulus became a Christian in the ordinary sense, he would have to be reckoned as another Christian soldier, for the proconsul of Cyprus was a military, as well as a civil, official: but the adherence of a man of proconsular rank to the Christian faith at this early date would be a very extra-ordinary occurrence; no other event of the same significance occurs till nearly the end of the century; no mention is made of the baptism of Sergius Paulus; and when it is said that he ‘believed,’ what is probably meant is that he listened sympathetically to what the apostles said and expressed agreement with some of their most earnest utterances.1 In writing from Rome to his friends at Philippi (60 a.d.), Paul says: “My bonds became manifest in Christ in the whole praetorium and to (or among) all the rest.”2 Various opinions have been held as to the exact meaning of ‘praetorium’ here3 ; but, even if it means the camp of the Praetorian Guards, the passage would not imply that some of the guards became Christians, but only that it became known to all of them that Paul was in custody because he was a Christian, and not for any political offence.
A more positive piece of information consists in the fact that, shortly before the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans (70 a.d.), the Christians of that city, in obedience to “a certain oracular response given by revelation to approved men there,”4 left Jerusalem, and settled at Pella in Peraea beyond the Jordan, thus taking no part in the national struggle against Rome. We are too much in the dark as to the details to be able to ascertain the motive that really prompted this step. How far was it due to a disapproval of the national policy of the Jews? how far to a sense of a final break with Mosaism? how far to a simple desire for personal safety? how far to a recollection of the Master’s words, “Flee to the mountains”? or how far, possibly, to a feeling that the use of the sword was forbidden them? None of these reasons can be either definitely affirmed or definitely denied. The one last suggested is by no means impossible or unnatural. It is in keeping with what we know of the facts of the case. At all events the flame of Jewish patriotism was extinct in the hearts of these Jerusalemite Christians. Their policy on this occasion formed a contrast to that of a certain section of the Essenes, who, despite the fact that they were not usually over-patriotic and that they abjured the use of arms on principle, yet joined with their fellow-countrymen in the revolt against Rome.1
The letter written about 112 a.d. by Plinius, proconsul of Bithynia, to the Emperor Trajanus concerning the Christians, does not refer either to their willingness or unwillingness to serve in the legions, and there would therefore be no occasion to mention it in this connection, were it not for the attempt which has been made to represent its silence as implying that the Christians of that time had no objection to bearing arms. Thus, Professor Bethune-Baker says: “Pliny’s letter shows that there was no complaint against the Christians then with regard to their view of war”; and in this judgment he is followed by the Venerable Archdeacon of Ely.2 But inasmuch as there was nothing in the circumstances of the time to bring about a collision between the imperial government and the Christians on the subject of military service, and very probably nothing even to bring the views of the latter to the governor’s notice at all, the silence of the letter is perfectly compatible with the supposition that the Christians would not serve; and the attempt to deduce the opposite conclusion from it can only be described as entirely unwarranted. While we are speaking of the reign of Trajanus, it may be mentioned that in the Acts of Phokas, who is said to have been put to death in Pontus under this Emperor, the martyr-bishop baptizes a number of soldiers at their own request.1 But the acts as a whole are of very questionable authority as history2 ; and least of all could an ornamental detail like this be accepted on such slender grounds.
The idea has also been entertained that there is evidence for the existence of Christian soldiers in the time of the Emperor Hadrianus (117–138 a.d.). The late Dr. J. Bass Mullinger of Cambridge says: “Aringhi (Antiq. Christianae, i. 430) gives an epitaph of a soldier of the time of Hadrian, and (ii. 170) that of a soldier in the praetorian guard; Boldetti (Osservazioni sopra I cimiteri, & c., p. 432), one of a VETERANUS EX PROTERIORIBUS (?“protectorioribus”), and also (p. 415) one “Pyrrho militi,” and (p. 416) that of one who is described as “felicissimus miles.” Marangoni (Act. S. Vict. p. 102) gives us that of a centurion, and Ruinart (Act. Mart. i. 50) that of two brothers, Getulius and Amantius, who were military tribunes under Hadrian.”3 The first of these inscriptions, (which occurs, by the bye, on p. 525, not on p. 430, of Aringhi’s first volume), reads as follows: “Tempore Hadriani Imperatoris: Marius adolescens dux militum, qui satis vixit dum vitam pro Ch(rist)o cum sanguine consunsit, in pace tandem quievit. Benemerentes cum lacrimis et metuposuerunt.” It is, I am informed on competent authority, unquestionably a forgery. As regards the second inscription from Aringhi, there is not only no evidence of its pre-Constantinian date, but none even of its Christian origin. As regards the three inscriptions given by Boldetti, there is no evidence that any one of them is as early as the second century. That given by Marangoni is probably post-Constantinian, as it contains the nomen Flavius in the contracted form Fl.1 As for Getulius and Amantius, their existence rests on the witness of the highly-coloured Acts of Symphorosa.2 The names of Symphorosa and her seven sons are those of real martyrs: but that apparently is all that can be affirmed in support of the historicity of the story. Lightfoot, after a full discussion, decides that “the story condemns itself both in its framework and in its details,” and that “there is no sufficient ground for assigning their martyrdom to the reign of Hadrian.”3
It has already been remarked that the sentiments expressed by Christian authors in regard to the iniquity of war, the essentially peaceful character of Christianity, the fulfilment of the great ploughshare prophecy in the birth and growth of the Church, the duty of loving enemies, and so on, all point to the refusal to bear arms as their logical implicate in practice. What has already been said, therefore, on these various points has a certain place in the consideration of the concrete topic now before us. While this is so, it would be merely tedious to reiterate all the evidence previously adduced: but there are certain pieces of that evidence which are more direct and explicit than others, and which therefore deserve to be either repeated or referred to here.
First in order among these are one or two passages in Justinus. What view, we may ask, in regard to military service must have been taken by the man who said: “We who hated and slew one another, and because of (differences in) customs would not share a common hearth with those who were not of our tribe, now, after the appearance of Christ, have become sociable, and pray for our enemies, and try to persuade those who hate (us) unjustly, in order that they, living according to the good suggestions of Christ, may share our hope of obtaining the same (reward) from the God who is Master of all”?1 “We, who had been filled with war and mutual slaughter and every wickedness, have each one—all the world over—changed the instruments of war, the swords into ploughs and the spears into farming implements, and we cultivate piety, righteousness, love for men, faith, (and) the hope which is from the Father Himself through the Crucified One.”2 Hefele3 maintains that the language of Justinus in his (first) Apology, ch. xiv, does not necessarily imply a general disapproval of the profession of the warrior; and Professor Bethune-Baker, referring to ch. xi (where Justinus denies that the Christians are looking for a human kingdom) and xiv ff, remarks that he “expresses no definite view on the subject of war. . . . What he says. . . really only amounts to a general repudiation of warlike aims or methods on behalf of Christians. Had he regarded war as actually incompatible with Christian sentiment he would probably have taken this opportunity of disposing absolutely of the suspicion to which the Christians were exposed by their Master’s use of earthly metaphors to shadow forth eternal spiritual relations.”1 This reasoning is, in my opinion, faulty. Justinus said all that was necessary in order to controvert the suspicion in question, and also, I would add, quite enough to show where he stood on the subject of military service: he would needlessly have prejudiced the Emperor against his main plea, viz. for toleration, had he gone out of his way to say that, if ever the attempt were made to compel Christians to serve in the legions, they would refuse to obey the Emperor’s order. It is worth while to notice, though Justinus does not mention the point in connection with war, that he regarded the Christians as making a positive contribution to the maintenance of peace by their very Christianity, and he commends them to the Emperor’s favour on this ground.2
Tatianus, as we have seen, condemned war as murderous,3 and, as Harnack says, “was undoubtedly opposed to the military calling.” He wrote: “I do not want to be a king: I do not wish to be rich: I decline military command: I hate fornication.”4
What again must have been the attitude of Athenagoras, who declared that the Christians could not endure to see a man put to death, even justly, considering that to do so was practically equivalent to killing him, and that for this reason they could not attend the gladiatorial games?1
The heathen philosopher Celsus in the ‘True Discourse’ which he wrote against the Christians about 178 a.d. (the approximate date of Athenagoras’ ‘Legatio’ also), not only exhorts the Christians to take part in civil government, but “urges us” (so Origenes said later, quoting Celsus’ words) “to help the Emperor with all (our) strength, and to labour with him (in maintaining) justice, and to fight for him and serve as soldiers with him, if he require (it), and to share military command (with him).” Celsus argued that, if all did as the Christian, nothing would prevent the Emperor being left alone and deserted and earthly affairs getting into the hands of the most lawless and savage barbarians, so that the glory neither of Christianity nor of true wisdom would be left among men.2 “It is quite obvious from this,” Harnack says, “that Christians were charged with a disinclination to serve in the army, and the charge was undoubtedly well founded.”3
The first reliable evidence for the presence of Christians in any number in the Roman army belongs, as we shall see later, to the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161–180 a.d.), more precisely to about the year 174 a.d. This epoch is therefore an important landmark in the history of the subject, and we may pause here for a moment to summarize one or two aspects of the situation. It is only in this period that the question of service or abstention becomes one of real and practical significance to Christian people. Up to that time the conditions had constituted no challenge for anyone. “It is not therefore surprising,” says Harnack, “that until about the time of the Antonines, in particular Marcus Aurelius, a question of military service (Soldatenfrage) did not exist in the churches: the baptized Christian did not become a soldier; and those who were caught by the Christian faith in the camp had to see how they could come to terms with their military profession.”1 The same scholar gives a useful enumeration of the various features of military life, which could not have failed to thrust themselves on the Christian’s notice as presenting, to say the least, great ethical difficulty. The shedding of blood on the battlefield, the use of torture in the law-courts, the passing of death-sentences by officers and the execution of them by common soldiers, the unconditional military oath, the all-pervading worship of the Emperor, the sacrifices in which all were expected in some way to participate, the average behaviour of soldiers in peace-time, and other idolatrous and offensive customs—all these would constitute in combination an exceedingly powerful deterrent against any Christian joining the army on his own initiative.2
As a transition from this point to the full material furnished by Tertullianus, we may recall in passing the phrase in the Pseudo-Justinian ‘Address to the Greeks,’ exhorting them thus: “Learn (about) the incorruptible King, and know his heroes who never inflict slaughter on (the) peoples,”1 the passage in Eirenaios, in which he applies the ploughshare prophecy to the Christians and says that they “now know not how to fight, but, (when they are) struck, offer the other cheek also,”2 and the remark of Clemens of Alexandria: “We do not train women like Amazons to be manly in war, since we wish even the men to be peaceable.”3
The writings of Tertullianus make it abundantly clear that in his time there were considerable numbers of Christians serving in the Roman army. This fact, the nature and significance of which will be considered later, is one of great importance, but it is very far from exhausting the contribution of this great writer to our subject. He testifies not only to the willingness of many to serve, but also to the unwillingness of many others; and the views he expresses on the question are more than mere statements of a personal opinion —they represent the convictions of a very large proportion of his fellow-Christians. Our best plan will be, first, to quote the pertinent passages from his works in chronological order, and then to add a few necessary comments. It may, however, be stated here that, bound up with the problem of military service was the problem of undertaking public office as a magistrate. The police-work of society was done largely by soldiers, and the magistrate was not so sharply distinguished from the army officer as he is now. In any case, the Christian difficulty was pretty much the same with the one as with the other: common to both were the two great stumbling-blocks of idolatrous contamination and the shedding of blood (either judicially or in battle). It will therefore help us to understand the Christian position if we include a few passages bearing upon the question of the Christian’s abstention from public office.
We recall first the passage in Tertullianus’ ‘Apologeticus,’ in which he tells the pagans that, though the Christians are numerous and reckless enough to avenge their wrongs, there is no fear of their doing so. “For what war,” he asks them, “should we not be fit (and) eager, even though unequal in numbers, (we) who are so willing to be slaughtered—if, according to that discipline (of ours), it was not more lawful to be slain than to slay?”1 It is doubtless in the light of this sentiment that we are to read the assumption earlier in his apology that Caesars could not be Christians.2 In his ‘De Idololatria,’ written while he was still a loyal Catholic, he states the conditions under which he believes it to be possible for a Christian to be a magistrate. “And so let us grant,” he says, “that it is possible for anyone to succeed, in whatever office (he may happen to hold), in going on under the mere name of the office, without sacrificing, or lending his authority to sacrifices, or contracting for sacrificial victims, or assigning (to others) the care of the temples, or seeing after their revenues, or giving shows at his own (expense) or at that of the public, or presiding at them when they have to be given, or making a proclamation or an edict for any solemnity, or even swearing (oaths), or—as regards (his magisterial) power—judging anyone on a capital or criminal charge1 —for thou mightest allow (him to judge) about (questions of) money—or condemning (anyone),2 binding anyone, imprisoning anyone, or torturing (anyone): if it can be believed that these things are possible.”3 In the next chapter he brands all magisterial garb and pomp as idolatrous and diabolic, but does not touch on the objection of violence and bloodshed. In the following chapter he deals specifically with the question of military service. “(The question) also concerning military service, which is concerned both with rank and power,4 might seem (to have been) definitely settled in that (last) chapter. But now the question is asked on that (very point), whether a believer may turn to military service, and whether the military—at least the rank and file or (say) all the inferior (grades), who are under no necessity of (offering) sacrifices or (passing) capital sentences—may be admitted to the faith. There is no congruity between the divine and human ‘sacramentum,’ the sign of Christ and the sign of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness: one soul cannot be owed to two, God and Caesar. And (yet, some Christians say), Moses carried a rod, and Aaron (wore) a buckle, and John was girt with a leather belt,1 and Joshua (the son of) Nun led a line of march, and the people waged war—if it is your pleasure to sport (with the subject). But how will (a Christian) make war—nay, how will he serve as a soldier in peace(-time)—without the sword, which the Lord has taken away? For, although soldiers had come to John and received the form of a rule, although also a centurion had believed, (yet) the Lord afterwards, in disarming Peter, ungirded every soldier. No dress is lawful among us which is assigned to an unlawful action.”2 In ‘Adversus Judaeos,’ which belongs roughly to the same period as ‘De Idololatria,’ Tertullianus says: “The old law vindicated itself by the vengeance of the sword, and plucked out eye for eye, and requited injury with punishment; but the new law pointed to clemency, and changed the former savagery of swords and lances into tranquillity, and refashioned the former infliction of war upon rivals and foes of the law into the peaceful acts of ploughing and cultivating the earth. And so. . . the observance of the new law and of spiritual circumcision has shone forth in acts of peaceful obedience.”3 In the treatise ‘Adversus Marcionem,’ which came a few years later, about the time when Tertullianus broke with the Church and became a Montanist, he asks: “Who shall produce these (results, viz. truth, gentleness, and justice) with the sword, and not rather that which is contrary to gentleness and justice, (namely), deceit and harshness and injustice, (which are) of course the proper business of battles?”1 A little later in the same work, he says: “‘And they shall not learn to make war any more,’ that is, to give effect to hostile feelings; so that here too thou mayest learn that Christ is promised not (as one who is) powerful in war, but (as) a bringer of peace.”2 In ‘De Pallio,’ written about 210 a.d., he confesses, in the person of his philosophic mantle, that he is “no barking pleader, no judge, no soldier.”3
We next come to his important treatise ‘De Corona Militis,’ written—in 211 a.d., some years after his attachment to Montanism—in defence of a Christian soldier who had refused to wear a garland on the Emperor’s birthday. Tertullianus takes occasion to touch on the prior question whether a Christian ought to be a soldier at all. “And in fact, in order that I may approach the real issue of the military garland, I think it has first to be investigated whether military service is suitable for Christians at all. Besides, what sort (of proceeding) is it, to deal with incidentals, when the (real) fault lies with what has preceded them? Do we believe that the human ‘sacramentum’ may lawfully be added to the divine, and that (a Christian) may (give a promise in) answer to another master after Christ, and abjure father and mother and every kinsman, whom even the Law commanded to be honoured and loved next to God, (and) whom the Gospel also thus honoured, putting them above all save Christ only? Will it be lawful (for him) to occupy himself with the sword, when the Lord declares that he who uses the sword will perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace, for whom it will be unfitting even to go to law, be engaged in a battle? And shall he, who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs, administer chains and (im)prison(ment) and tortures and executions? Shall he now go on guard for another more than for Christ, or (shall he do it) on the Lord’s Day, when (he does) not (do it even) for Christ? And shall he keep watch before temples, which he has renounced? and take a meal there where the Apostle has forbidden it?1 And those whom he has put to flight by exorcisms in the daytime, shall he defend (them) at night, leaning and resting upon the pilum with which Christ’s side was pierced? And shall he carry a flag, too, that is a rival to Christ? And shall he ask for a watchword from his chief, when he has already received one from God? And (when he is) dead, shall he be disturbed by the bugler’s trumpet—he who expects to be roused by the trumpet of the angel? And shall the Christian, who is not allowed to burn (incense), to whom Christ has remitted the punishment of fire, be burned according to the discipline of the camp? (And) how many other sins can be seen (to belong) to the functions of camp(-life)—(sins) which must be explained as a transgression (of God’s law). The very transference of (one’s) name from the camp of light to the camp of darkness, is a transgression. Of course, the case is different, if the faith comes subsequent(ly) to any (who are) already occupied in military service, as (was, for instance, the case) with those whom John admitted to baptism, and with the most believing centurions whom Christ approves and whom Peter instructs: all the same, when faith has been accepted and signed, either the service must be left at once, as has been done by many, or else recourse must be had to all sorts of cavilling, lest anything be committed against God—(any, that is, of the things) which are not allowed (to Christians) outside the army, or lastly that which the faith of (Christian) civilians has fairly determined upon must be endured for God.1 For military service will not promise impunity for sins or immunity from martyrdom. The Christian is nowhere anything else (than a Christian). . . . With him (i.e. Christ) the civilian believer is as much a soldier as the believing soldier is a civilian. The state of faith does not admit necessities. No necessity of sinning have they, whose one necessity is that of not sinning. . . . For (otherwise) even inclination can be pleaded (as a) necessity, having of course an element of compulsion in it. I have stopped up that very (appeal to necessity) in regard to other cases of (wearing) garlands of office, for which (the plea of) necessity is a most familiar defence; since either (we) must flee from (public) offices for this reason, lest we fall into sins, or else we must endure martyrdoms, that we may break (off our tenure of public) offices. On (this) first aspect of the question, (namely) the illegitimacy of the military life itself, I will not add more, in order that the second (part of the question) may be restored to its place—lest, if I banish military service with all my force, I shall have issued a challenge to no purpose in regard to the military garland.”1 In the following chapter, he asks: “Is the laurel of triumph made up of leaves, or of corpses? is it decorated with ribbons, or tombs? is it besmeared with ointments, or with the tears of wives and mother, perhaps those of some men even (who are) Christians—for Christ (is) among the barbarians as well?”2
The clear, thorough-going, and outspoken opinions of Tertullianus have naturally attracted a good deal of attention and criticism; and there are one or two points in connection with them which it will be well briefly to consider and emphasize.
1. The ‘De Idololatria’ (198–202 a.d.) is the earliest evidence we have for the enlistment in the army of Christians who were already baptized.3 Any Christian soldiers mentioned in documents of an earlier date may well have consisted, for aught we know to the contrary, of men converted when already engaged in military life.
2. He recognizes only two practicable alternatives for the converted soldier: he must either leave the service, or suffer martyrdom. Harnack indeed says that Tertullianus displays some uncertainty in regard to converts who were already soldiers, and that he does not present them this dilemma of either leaving the army or dying as martyrs, “but opens to them yet a third possibility, namely that of avoiding pollution by heathenism as much as they can.”1 But it has to be remembered that the pollution was, in Tertullianus’ view, practically inseparable from military life; he runs over a large number of the commonest duties of the soldier, and raises objections to them one after another; and his third alternative must therefore be regarded as an ironical concession of a bare abstract possibility, which would be obviously impossible in practice, like his concession that a Christian may hold office, provided he has nothing to do with sacrifices, temples, public shows, oaths, judgment of capital or criminal cases, pronunciation and infliction of penalties, and so on.
3. The emphasis which he lays on the danger of contamination by idolatry has led some authors to represent this as his one real objection to military service and to use it for the purpose of dissociating him from those who in later times have objected to war on humanitarian grounds. Thus Professor Bethune-Baker says: “It is important to notice what Tertullian means by those offences against God which are inseparable from the soldier’s life. It is not the modern idea at all. The special objections which he feels, the only offences against Christian sentiment that seem to really weigh with him, are the military oath over which the heathen gods presided—and the pagan ceremonial with which so many military acts and operations were invested.”1 This remarkable statement is approvingly quoted by Archdeacon Cunningham.2 The passages just quoted from Tertullianus are sufficient proof of its amazing inaccuracy. Great as was his horror of idolatry, his conviction of the illegitimacy of all bloodshed and violence was equally great. Nor can I understand how Gass can say: “Tertullian was prepared to put up with Christian soldiers, only without the ostentatious crown of victory.” 3 Even Troeltsch falls a victim to this error: he says that Tertullianus and Origenes, “despite the(ir) contention that the soldiers’ handiwork of blood was absolutely unchristian, would have acquiesced, if service in the army had not brought the Christians into contact with the worship of the Emperor and (the religious customs) of the camp.”4 This statement is unwarranted even in regard to Tertullianus, and still more so in regard to Origenes, who never raises the difficulty of idolatrous contamination in the army at all.5
4. Tertullianus has been accused of lack of candour in boasting to pagans in one treatise6 of the large number of Christians in the army, and after that arguing with his fellow-Christians that there ought not to be any Christians in the army at all.1 But unless candour requires a writer to explain his whole mind on a subject every time he mentions it in a purely incidental way, the charge of disingenuousness is unwarranted. Each time that Tertullianus spoke to pagans of Christian soldiers without reproaching them, he was simply adverting to an obvious and admitted fact, in order to prove the numbers and ubiquity of the Christians and their readiness to take part in the activities of society. It would have been not only futile, but out of place, to introduce a topic upon which Christian opinion was divided, unless the course of the argument distinctly called for its treatment.
5. Again, Tertullianus’ attempt to find an application of Christianity to every department of life has been criticized as in itself a mistake. His earnestness, it is admitted, was commendable; but he was on wrong lines: “he failed, as every man is bound to fail, who conceives of Christianity in the light of a Rule, as a law of commandments contained in ordinances, rather than as a law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”2 We may concede that the province of Christian casuistry is a strictly limited one, and that the limits are at times overpassed both by Tertullianus and others. But even the Pauline Epistles, not to mention the Synoptic Gospels, teach us that there is such a thing as the Law of Christ, which, while springing from ‘the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,’ issues in certain very definite and concrete principles of conduct. This being so, it becomes the duty of every Christian, not only to work out the application of these principles to his own life, but also—and this is particularly the duty of the Christian teacher and writer—to assist others to do the same.
6. It is interesting to notice in Tertullianus the idea already suggested by Justinus1 of the ‘alternative service’ rendered by the Christian to society and the State, despite the fact that he does not engage officially in public affairs. The idea forms, as we shall see later, a very important item in the apologia of Origenes. Tertullianus does not work it into any organic system of thought; but his expressions of it, such as they are, are interesting. “I might deservedly say,” he argues, “Caesar is more ours (than yours), inasmuch as he is appointed by our God. So that I do more for his (health and) safety (than ye do), not only because I demand it of Him who is able to give (it), nor because I who demand it am such as to deserve to obtain it, but also because, in reducing the majesty of Caesar below God, I the more commend him to God, to whom alone I subject him.” 2 He makes his philosophic cloak say in reply to the charge of idleness and neglect of public affairs: “Yet to me also it will be to some extent allowed that I am of advantage to the public. I am wont, from every boundary-stone or altar, to prescribe for morals medicines that will confer good health more happily on public affairs and states and empires than your works (will). . . . I flatter no vices; I spare no lethargy, no scabbiness; I apply the cautery to ambition,” and so on. 3
7. Lastly, it is a mistake to regard Tertullianus as an individual dissenter from the Church as a whole on this question of whether Christians ought to serve in the army or not. Harnack, for instance, urges (in my opinion, without sufficient ground) that the Christian soldiers in the army had up till then never agitated as malcontents (frondiert) on account of their Christian profession, and that his “attack on the service of Christians in the army was something new, hitherto unheard of: easy as it was for him to prove the essential incompatibility of the service of Christ and service in the army, even in peace(-time), it was just as impossible for him to appeal to a rigorous custom and practice already in force hitherto,”1 It is true that no general or authoritative ruling on the point had yet been given—circumstances not having called for it, that Christian conviction in regard to it was never absolutely unanimous, that many of Tertullianus’ Christian contemporaries (how many we do not know) differed from him, and that the Church on the whole ultimately agreed with them rather than with him. It must however be borne in mind that this last fact would have its own effect in submerging to some extent earlier utterances of a contrary tendency; and this effect must be allowed for in explaining whatever paucity there is in records of this kind. Tertullianus clearly tells us that ‘many’ soldiers, when converted to Christianity, immediately left the service. 2 His own views are not to be set aside as those of a Montanist, for his objection to military service is as clear and emphatic in ‘De Idololatria,’ written before he had adopted Montanism, as it is in ‘De Corona,’ written after he had adopted it.1 And when we consider that these views, as will be shown presently, agree with the testimony of Origenes and the oldest Church-Orders as to the normal Christian practice in the earlier part of the third century, and were apparently endorsed by so representative a churchman as his own fellow-countryman and admirer Cyprianus, we shall hardly be inclined to believe that at this time he was voicing the opinion of a minority of Christians, still less that he represented the views of a mere handful of fanatical extremists.2
We have now to consider the evidence of the Canons of Hippolutos; but in order to do so, it is necessary to say something, by way of introduction, on a tiresome and as yet unsolved literary problem. Hippolutos was a learned Roman Christian, who flourished during the first thirty years of the third century. He was the critic and rival of Pope Kallistos (218–223 a.d.), and for a time headed a separate congregation, as opposition-bishop; in 235 a.d. he was exiled to Sardinia, where probably he died. He is known to have interested himself in ecclesiastical regulations and to have written . Whether this is the title of one work or of two (‘Concerning Ministerial Gifts’ and ‘Apostolic Tradition’) we do not know; neither do we know the exact meaning he attached to These uncertainties have added to the difficulty of identifying Hippolutos’ composition among the various extant works possessing some sort of claim to embody it. The works concerned are members of a large family of documents and fragments in different languages and of different dates, but all closely related to one another and all dealing with rules and regulations to be observed in the government of the Church. Without attempting to enter into the tangled details of the problem, we may briefly outline the chief points. Three documents are in question: (1) the so-called ‘Hippolytean Canons,’ which cannot have come from Hippolutos as they stand, but must in any case have been heavily interpolated:1 (2) the so-called ‘Egyptian Church-Order,’ the contents of which closely resemble those of the Hippolytean Canons, and which is usually assigned to the first half of the fourth century, though it has recently been claimed (by Dom Conolly) as virtually the composition of Hippolutos himself2 : (3) ‘The Testament of our Lord,’ a Syrian or Cilician version of the same general collection of rules, dating about the middle of the fourth century,1 but in some respects preserving older material than either of the two lastnamed works. Even if we cannot take Conolly’s theory as proven, we may yet well believe that Hippolutos did actually compose detailed regulations for Church-management, particularly if is to be regarded as the title of a separate work, distinct from , and that these regulations found their way to the East and are contained in a more or less modified form in the ‘Egyptian Church-Order,’ and the ‘Hippolytean Canons’ and also lie at the basis of ‘The Testament of our Lord’ and the still later Apostolic Constitutions (circ. 375 a.d.). It would be difficult to account for the connection of Hippolutos’ name with this body of documents, unless we could regard him as the author of some of the material contained in them.2 The reader will easily see that no investigation of the ruling given by Hippolutos on any point is adequate without a full quotation of what is said on it in each of the three documents mentioned. We must therefore proceed next to quote their respective regulations on the subject of Christians acting as magistrates and soldiers. These regulations occur in that part of each document which deals with the acceptance of new members into the Church and with the question of the trades and professions which it is legitimate or otherwise for Church-members to follow. As several versions are in question, I have set forth their contents in tabular form (pp. 122, 123) to facilitate the comparison of one with another.
It will be observed that only ‘The Testament of our Lord’ is consistently rigorous in refusing baptism to soldiers and magistrates except on condition of their quitting their offices, and forbidding a Christian to become a soldier on pain of rejection. All the other documents introduce some sort of modification. The Ethiopic version of the Egyptian Church-Order seems to allow a soldier already received to remain as such in the Church, on condition that he kills no one; but immediately afterwards it goes back on this concession by requiring a soldier among the believers to leave off or be rejected. The Coptic version of the Egyptian Church-Order first forbids the Christian soldier to kill men, and then says that, if he is commanded to kill men, he is not to thrust himself forward; but, like ‘The Testament,’ it refuses to admit a magistrate, and forbids the Christian to become a soldier on pain of rejection. The ‘Hippolytean Canons’ in one form forbid soldiers and magistrates to kill, even when commanded to do so, and prescribe ‘unarmedness’ for the latter; in the other form they first forbid the admission of magistrates and soldiers, and then apparently accept soldiers who have fought but who have neither used bad language nor worn garlands, and magistrates who are clothed with the adornment of justice.
While we are unfortunately not able to extract with any confidence from this bewildering maze of contradictions and modifications the exact words of Hippolutos himself, or of the original regulation, by whomsoever it was framed, it is not very difficult to see what the provisions of that original regulation must have been. All that we know from other sources—and from the inherent probabilities of the case—goes to show that the constant trend of Christian thought on this and similar questions was from strictness towards relaxation, from an almost complete abstention to an almost equally complete freedom to participate.1 An incidental confirmation of this view comes from the Apostolic Constitutions, which are certainly later than the Egyptian Church-Order and almost certainly later than the other two documents we have been dealing with. In those Constitutions we can see that the movement towards leniency has got still further, and all that is required of a soldier applying for Church-membership is that he shall “inflict injury on no one, make no false accusation, and be content with the pay given to him.”2 This is of course simply a repetition of the precepts of John the Baptist, and clearly does not imply that soldier-candidates would have to leave the army. We shall therefore not go far wrong in seeking for the original terms of Hippolutos’ Church-Order in the most stringent of the requirements still embedded in the documents as we have them. As the demand for a relaxation of this stringency made itself felt, the terms of the original would be little by little abbreviated, added to, or otherwise modified, so as to provide loopholes in favour of a laxer policy. Hence would arise that weird mixture of inconsistent permissions and prohibitions which gives such a curious appearance of vacillation to most of the existing codes. The only one of them which has kept the full strictness—whether or nor in the actual words—of the original is ‘The Testament of our Lord,’ which dates in its present form from the middle of the fourth century or a little later, and arose among the conservative Christians of Syria or south-eastern Asia Minor.1 The substance of that original regulation must have been that a soldier or a magistrate who wielded the power of the sword could not be admitted by baptism to membership in the Christian Church, unless he had first resigned his military or quasi-military calling, that if a catechumen or a baptized Christian became a soldier, he must give it up or else suffer exclusion from the Church, and that similarly a mere desire on his part to become a soldier, showing, as it was thought, contempt for God, must be relinquished on pain of rejection or excommunication.
That some such regulations as these should have emanated—as they probably did—from so influential and representative a Churchman as Hippolutus of Rome, that the document embodying them should have been made the basis of virtually all subsequent Church-Orders, including some that were apparently highly esteemed and closely followed throughout whole regions of eastern Christendom, and that these particular rules should have survived unmodified in at least one such Church-Order until late in the fourth century and should still be so clearly visible as they are, under the moss-growths of successive editions, in other Church-Orders of approximately the same date—are facts of the first importance in the history of our subject, and facts, too, which as yet have not received anything like the attention they deserve. The comparative recency of the investigation of the Church-Orders accounts, in part at least, for the total omission of all reference to them in many of the writings that deal with this topic.1 But even in the most recent and scholarly works the place assigned to them is scarcely adequate. Bigelmair quotes the passages from the Egyptian Church-Order, the ‘Hippolytean Canons,’ and ‘The Testament of our Lord,’ and admits that “they mark clearly and distinctly the views which prevailed in wide circles”: but he describes them as emanating from circles where “tertullianic views” were prevalent (aus tertullianischen Anschau-ungskreisen), and says that they possessed no generally binding power.2 Even Harnack, whose work is that of an impartial, thorough, and accurate scholar, confines himself to a quotation of the ‘Hippolytean Canons,’ Nos. 13 and 14, as given by Riedel, combining it in a single paragraph with quotations from Origenes and Lactantius, and then remarks: “But these injunctions of the moralists were by no means followed in the third century,” adding as his grounds for this statement sundry pieces of evidence showing that many Christians of the third century and later were either in the army themselves or knew of no objection to Christians being there.1 But this latter fact, the nature and extent of which we shall have to examine later, in no wise invalidates the conclusion to be drawn from the Church-Orders, viz. that in the third century the conviction that Christianity was incompatible with the shedding of blood, either in war or in the administration of justice, was not only maintained and vigorously defended by eminent individuals like Tertullianus of Carthago, Hippolutos of Rome, and Origenes of Palestine and Egypt, but was widely held and acted on in the Churches up and down Christendom.2 For reasons to be stated later, the conviction was not unanimous; but the various indications of its absence can quite easily be explained without adopting Harnack’s view that it was simply the personal opinion of a few uninfluential ‘moralists.’ That view seems to me, in face of the evidence we have just had before us, and even in face of the facts on the other side of the case, not only unnecessary, but also erroneous.
Minucius Felix says: “It is not right for us either to see or hear of a man being slain; and so careful are we (to abstain) from human blood, that we do not even touch the blood of eatable animals in (our) food. . . . Even though we refuse your official honours and purple, yet we do not consist of the lowest dregs of the population.”3
We turn next to Origenes, the prince of early Christian thinkers. Apart from his general eminence as scholar, theologian, apologist, and practical Christian, he is far and away the most important writer who handles the question before us. Though he yields to Tertullianus in rhetorical brilliance and to Augustinus in his influence over posterity, his defence of the early Christian refusal to participate in war is the only one that faces at all throughly or completely the ultimate problems involved. He has however been strangely misunderstood and misinterpreted, and certainly never answered. Our procedure will be, as before, to let our author first speak for himself, and then add a few elucidations and comments of our own. We begin, therefore, with a series of passages from Origenes’ reply to Celsus (248 a.d.), some of which we have already had occasion to quote in another connection.
“How would it have been possible for this peaceful teaching (of Christianity), which does not allow (its adherents) even to defend themselves against1 (their) enemies, to prevail, unless at the coming of Jesus the (affairs) of the world had everywhere changed into a milder (state)?”2 “If a revolt had been the cause of the Christians combining, and if they had derived the(ir) origin from the Jews, to whom it was allowed () to take arms on behalf of the(ir) families, and to destroy (their) enemies, the Lawgiver of (the) Christians would not have altogether forbidden (the) destruction of man, teaching that the deed of daring (on the part) of his own disciples against a man, however unrighteous he be, is never right—for he did not deem it becoming to his own divine legislation to allow the destruction of any man whatever.”1 “To those who ask us whence we have come or whom we have (for) a leader, we say that we have come in accordance with the counsels of Jesus to cut down our warlike and arrogant swords of argument into ploughshares, and we convert into sickles the spears we formerly used in fighting. For we no longer take ‘sword against a nation,’ nor do we learn ‘any more to make war,’ having become sons of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our leader, instead of (following) the ancestral (customs) in which we were strangers to the covenants.”2 “It would not be possible for the ancient Jews to keep their civil economy unchanged, if, let us suppose, they obeyed the constitution (laid down) according to the gospel. For it would not be possible for Christians to make use, according to the Law of Moses, of (the) destruction of (their) enemies or of those who had acted contrary to the Law and were judged worthy of destruction by fire or stoning. . . . Again, if thou wert to take away from the Jews of that time, who had a civil economy and a land of their own, the (right) to go out against the(ir) enemies and serve as soldiers on behalf of their ancestral (institutions) and to destroy or otherwise punish the adulterers or murderers or (men) who had done something of that kind, nothing would be left but for them to be wholly and utterly destroyed, the(ir) enemies setting upon the nation, when they were weakened and prevented by their own law from defending themselves against the(ir) enemies.”3 “We ought, however, to despise currying favour with men and kings, not only if we curry favour with them by means of acts of blood-guiltiness and licentiousness and savage cruelty, but also if (we do it) by means of impiety towards the God of all or any speech (uttered) with servility and obsequiousness, (which is) foreign to brave and high-principled men and to those who wish to join to the(ir) other (virtues) bravery as (the) highest virtue.”1
Origenes, however, does not set himself seriously to grapple with the difficulties of the problem until near the end of his eighth and last book, Celsus having placed his criticism on this particular point at the end of his work and being followed in the matter of arrangement by his Christian opponent. Practically the whole of the eight chapters that come last but one in Origenes’ reply are taken up in justifying the Christian attitude of aloofness from all forms of violence in the service of the state. We shall confine our quotations to the most pertinent passages. First, in replying to the objection that, if all did the same as the Christians, the Emperor would be deserted, and the Empire would fall a prey to the barbarians, Origenes says: “On this supposition” (viz. that all did the same as himself and took no part in war or magistracy), “the Emperor will not ‘be left alone’ or ‘deserted,’ nor will ‘the world’s (affairs) fall into the hands of the most lawless and savage barbarians.’ For if, as Celsus says, ‘all were to do the same as’ I (do), clearly the barbarians also, coming to the Word of God, will be most law-abiding and mild; and every religious worship will be abolished, and that alone of the Christians will hold sway; and indeed, one day it shall alone hold sway, the Word ever taking possession of more (and more) souls.”1 Then in the next chapter: “Since he puts the question: ‘What would happen if the Romans, persuaded by the argument of the Christians, should neglect the (services owed) to the recognized gods and the laws formerly in force among men, and should worship the Most High?,’ hear our answer on this. We say that if two of us agree upon earth concerning anything that they shall ask, they shall receive it from the heavenly Father of the righteous: for God rejoices over the agreement of rational beings, and turns away from discord. What must (we) believe if, not only—as now—very few agree, but the whole Empire (governed) by the Romans? For they will pray to the Word, who said of old to the Hebrews when they were pursued by the Egyptians: ‘The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall be silent’; and, praying with all concord, they will be able to overthrow far more enemies who pursue them than those whom the prayer of Moses—when he cried to God—and of those with him overthrew. . . .2 But if, according to Celsus’ supposition, all the Romans were to be persuaded, they will by praying overcome their enemies; or (rather) they will not make war at all, being guarded by the Divine Power, which promised to save five whole cities for the sake of fifty righteous. For the men of God are the salt that preserves the earthly order of the world; and earthly things hold together (only) as long as the salt is not corrupted.”3 The next chapter is an obscure one. Origenes quotes Celsus as saying to the Christian the following: “It is absolutely intolerable that thou shouldst say that, if those who now reign over us, having been persuaded by thee, should be taken captive, thou wilt persuade those who reign after (them. and) then others, if they should be taken captive, and others again, (and so on), until, when all who have been persuaded by thee have been taken captive, some one ruler who is prudent and foresees what is happening shall altogether destroy you, before he himself is destroyed.” Origenes replies that no Christian talks like this, and attributes it to the nonsensical invention of Celsus himself; and unfortunately we cannot get any further with it.1 He then proceeds: “After this, he utters a sort of prayer: ‘Would that it were possible for the Greeks and barbarians that occupy Asia and Europe and Libya unto the ends (of the earth) to agree (to come) under one law’; (but) judging this to be impossible, he adds: ‘He who thinks this (possible) knows nothing.’ If it is necessary to speak of this, a few (words) shall be said on the subject, though it needs much investigation and discussion, in order that what was said about the whole rational (creation) agreeing (to come) under one law might appear to be not only possible but certain. Now the Stoics (say) that, when the strongest of the elements prevails, the conflagration will occur, all things being changed into fire: but we say that the Word (will) one day master the whole rational creation and transform every soul into his own perfection. . . . For the Word is stronger than all the evils in a soul, and the healing that is in him leads it (the soul) forward for each man according to the will of God: and the end of things is the destruction of evil.” He then has a long passage on the Christian anticipation of the complete destruction of evil, and concludes: “This I thought it reasonable to say, without exact statement (of details), in answer to Celsus’ remark, that he thought it impossible for the Greeks and barbarians inhabiting Asia and Europe and Libya to agree. And perhaps such (an agreement) is really impossible to those still in bodies, but not impossible to those who have been released from them.”1
He then turns to the concrete appeal of Celsus that the Christians should serve in the army and take part in the business of government. “Celsus next urges us to help the Emperor with all (our) strength, and to labour with him (in maintaining) justice, and to fight for him and serve as soldiers with him, if he require (it), and to share military command (with him). To this it has to be said that we do help the Emperors as occasion (requires) with a help that is, so to say, divine, and putting on ‘the whole armour of God.’ And this we do in obedience to the apostolic voice which says: ‘I therefore exhort you firstly that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanks-givings, be made for all men, for Emperors and all who are in high station’; and the more pious one is, so much the more effectual is he in helping the Emperors than (are) the soldiers who go forth in battle-array and kill as many as they can of the enemy. And then we should say this to those who are strangers to the faith and who ask us to serve as soldiers on behalf of the community and to kill men: that among you the priests of certain statues and the temple-wardens of those whom ye regard as gods keep their right-hand(s) unstained for the sake of the sacrifices, in order that they may offer the appointed sacrifices to those whom ye call gods, with hands unstained by (human) blood and pure from acts of slaughter; and whenever war comes, ye do not make the priests also serve. If then it is reasonable to do this, how much more (reasonable is it, that), when others are serving in the army, these (Christians) should do their military service as priests and servants of God, keeping their right-hands pure and striving by prayers to God on behalf of those who are righteously serving as soldiers and of him who is reigning righteously, in order that all things opposed and hostile to those that act righteously may be put down? And we, (in) putting down by our prayers all demons—those who stir up warlike feelings, and prompt the violation of oaths, and disturb the peace, help the Emperors more than those who to all appearance serve as soldiers. We labour with (him) in the public affairs—(we) who offer up prayers with righteousness, with exercises and practices that teach (us) to despise pleasures and not to be led away by them. And we fight for the Emperor more (than others do): and we do not serve as soldiers with him, even though he require (it); but we do serve as soldiers on his behalf, training a private army of piety by means of intercessions to the Deity.1 And if Celsus wishes us to exercise military command on behalf of (our) country, let him know that we do this also, not in order to be seen by men and to obtain empty glory in their eyes by doing so: for in secret (and) under the control of our inner reason are our prayers, sent up as from priests on behalf of those in our country. And Christians benefit the(ir) countries more than do the rest of men, educating the citizens and teaching them to be devout towards the God of the State, and taking up into a sort of divine and heavenly State those who have lived well in the smallest states. . . .1 But Celsus urges us also to (take part in) govern(ing) the country, seeing that this has to be done for the sake of the safety of the laws and of piety. But we, knowing in each state another organization of a ‘country’—(an organization) founded by the Word of God—exhort those who are powerful in speech and who lead a wholesome (moral) life to rule over churches, not accepting those who are fond of ruling, but constraining those who through (their) great modesty are unwilling rashly to accept the public charge of the Church of God. . . . And (it is) not (for the sake of) escaping from the public services of life that Christians shun such things, but (because they are) reserving themselves for a diviner and more necessary service, (namely that) of (the) Church of God, both necessarily and rightly taking the lead for the salvation of men, and having taken charge of all—of those within (the Church), in order that they may daily live better (lives), and of those who are apparently without, in order that they may become (engaged) in the serious words and works of piety, and thus, truly worshipping God and training as many as they have power to, may be mingled with the Word of God and the divine Law and may thus be united to the God who is over all through the Son of God—Word and Wisdom and Truth and Righteousness—who unites to Him every one who is bent on living in all things according to (the will of) God.”1
There are several points in the teaching set forth in these passages which call for special comment.
1. It will have been noticed that Origenes speaks of the Emperor as ‘reigning righteously’ and of his soldiers as ‘righteously rendering military service,’ that as a Christian he was prepared to pray for their victory in a righteous conflict,2 and that he recognized the right of the ancient Jews to fight against their enemies.3 Elsewhere he speaks of “people everywhere being compelled to serve as soldiers and to make war on behalf of the(ir) countries” in the times before Augustus, “when there was need that there should be war, for instance, between Peloponnesians and Athenians, and similarly between others.”4 He also says that “the wars of the bees perhaps constitute a lesson for the conduct of just and orderly wars among men, if ever there should be need (for them).”5 All these passages but the last explicitly refer to the warfare of some set of non-Christians: and in the last there is no indication that Origenes has Christians in mind. When the fact is once clearly grasped that his allusions to justifiable wars are always, either explicitly or implicitly, to wars waged by non-Christians, many of the criticisms levelled at his teaching will be seen to rest on a misapprehension.6
2. His candid recognition of the temporary place and value of what was good in pagan and Mosaic ethics must not be taken as stultifying or cancelling his equally candid declaration that Christians ought not to and would not take part in war. Several modern writers have fallen into this fallacy. Thus Grotius says that Origenes and Tertullianus are not consistent, and he quotes in regard to the former the passage about the bees.1 Guizot, in a note on Gibbon,2 says: “Origen, in truth, appears to have maintained a more rigid opinion (Cont. Cels. l. viii); but he has often renounced this exaggerated severity, perhaps necessary to produce great results, and he speaks of the profession of arms as an honourable one (l. iv. c.  218. . . ).” Professor Bethune-Baker writes: “From all these passages together it is perhaps fair to conclude that Origen considered the Christian ideal incompatible with war, but would in practice have permitted Christians to engage in war. It is clear he regarded it as a Christian duty to pray for ‘those that are warring justly.’ Further, as it is quite certain that there were many Christians in the armies at the time when Origen was writing, it is not improbable that in his specific answer he is thinking particularly of the Christian clergy. Several of his phrases suggest this limited application.”3 This guardedly expressed, but nevertheless quite erroneous, suggestion is invested by Archdeacon Cunningham with dogmatic certainty: “It is clear that the Great Alexandrian did not regard War as a thing in which the Christian was wrong to take part.”1 Guignebert remarks: “But already Origenes seems to admit at least defensive war”2 : and similarly Bigelmair: “Even Origenes at times gave a less rigorous judgment,” for he meets a point brought forward by Celsus “with the remark—which contrasts curiously with his position elsewhere—that the wars of the bees were a pattern for the righteous and orderly wars of men.”3 All this misses the point. Origenes’ view of the Christian’s duty in regard to war is put as clearly as words could make it: and though he compares the intercessions of the Christians to the sacrifices of the pagan priesthood and speaks about the duty of the Christian clergy in training and governing others, the supposition that he meant to limit the abstention from bloodshed to the clergy is quite out of keeping with his actual statements. It is abundantly clear that he regarded the acceptance of Christianity as incompatible with the use of arms; and his relative justification of the wars of non-Christians cannot be made a ground either for doubting that his rigorism was seriously meant, or for accusing him of inconsistency in maintaining it.4
3. Origenes accepts as true the charge implied in the appeal made by Celsus seventy years before, that Christians did as a body refuse to serve in the army and to hold magistracies. “We do not serve as soldiers with the Emperor, even though he require (it). . . . Christians avoid such things” (i.e. public offices).5 He speaks as if he was not aware that Christians ever took any other line1 : and though this cannot be construed as showing that none of them ever did so—for there is evidence to prove that many did—or that Origenes dishonestly concealed what he knew to be a fact—for the dishonesty would have been so patent as to serve no purpose, yet it proves that even at this date, the middle of the third century, the predominant opinion among Christians was that their religion forbade them to serve in the legions.2
4. It is often urged that the early Christian disapproval of all violence has to be read in the light of early Christian eschatology. For if you could assume that within the near future, possibly almost immediately, the existing world-order was going to fall to pieces with a crash, the wicked were going to be rooted out and punished, and the reign of righteousness set up—all by the exercise of a special Divine intervention—then obviously there would not be much difficulty in proving all fighting, and indeed all judicial procedure, to be useless. Now whatever weight must be assigned to this consideration in criticizing the views of primitive Christians, or even of a man like Tertullianus, it is highly significant that the most gifted thinker of the early Church, the man who maintained the Gospel-principle of non-resistance as earnestly and explicitly as any, was unique also in this other excellence—that his mind was not fettered by the crude obsessions of orthodox Christian eschatology: he had little or nothing to say of a bodily return of Christ, or of an end of the world due to occur in the near future; he contemplated an indefinite prolongation of human history under the divine control; he had his eyes open to the needs of society, and, though keen on the spiritual side of things, suffered from no blind ‘otherworldliness’—from none of what Weinel aptly calls ‘Jenseitsfanatismus.’ Eschatology, it is urged, invalidates the early Christian witness in regard to war: it cannot however invalidate the witness given by Origenes, for he did not share even the weakened eschatological beliefs of his Christian contemporaries. Yet none gave a clearer or more intelligent witness on the subject of Christian gentleness than he.
5. Note further that fear of idolatrous contamination had nothing to do with Origenes’ disapproval of military service. He does indeed once mention ‘impiety towards God’ as a means of currying favour with kings, but never as a bar to service in the army. His view was based—as his analogy with the pagan priesthood, as well as many other passages, clearly shows—on the Christians’ determination to keep their hands free from the stain of blood. Yet the late Dr. Gwatkin, in his criticism of Origenes’ reply to the charge of disloyalty,1 altogether ignores this aspect of the case, and speaks as if squeamishness on the subject of idolatry were the only difficulty that had to be considered. Even Troeltsch, as we have seen,2 says that, if it had not been for this difficulty, Origenes would have acquiesced in Christians serving as soldiers.
6. Origenes happily lays great stress on the positive service which the Christians render to the State, a service which he claims is diviner, more needful, and more effective than that of the soldier or magistrate. “We do help the Emperors as occasion (requires). . . We labour with (him) in the public affairs. . . we fight for the Emperor more (than others do). . . Christians benefit the(ir) countries more than the rest of men,” and so on.1 Of this service he specifies two forms. (a) Intercessory prayer, which he rightly regards as exceedingly effective when coming from Christians: this prayer is that the Emperor and those associated with him may be successful in their efforts, in so far as their purposes are righteous, “in order that all things opposed and hostile to those that act righteously may be put down” . It assumes that the Emperor has a standard of righteousness which is valid relative to his own sub-Christian condition, and it does not commit the Christian who offers it to an approval of the same standard for himself. The Christians, moreover, by their prayers, put down the demons who rouse warlike passions and disturb the peace. (b) Influence for good over others by the activities of the Church and the power of Christian life, “educating the citizens and teaching them to be devout towards the God of the State,” taking charge of those within and those without the Church, and working effectually for their moral and spiritual salvation. No criticism of Origenes, which does not give full weight to this positive side of his plea, is either fair to him or worthy of a Christian critic. The words of the late Dr. Gwatkin unfortunately fail in this respect. “Even Origen only quibbles,” he says, “in his answer that they do not serve in the army because they support the emperor with their prayers, that they fight for their country by educating their fellow-citizens in true piety, that they help to govern it by devoting themselves to the nobler and more needful service of the church of God. All this evades the point—that men have no right to renounce at pleasure their duties to their country.”1 Now the party guilty of evading the point in this case is not the ancient apologist, but the late lamented historian himself; for in speaking of military service as a duty to one’s country, he is, of course, simply assuming without argument the very point under debate: he has not a word to say on the very serious question as to how slaughter in war is to be reconciled with the teaching of Jesus. Not only does he assume that military service is a duty, but he calls the Christian refusal of it a renunciation of duty at pleasure. He does not realize that the early Christian, in refusing the use of arms, more than compensated for his withdrawal from the army by the moral and spiritual power for good which he exercised as a Christian, that he did—as Origenes claimed—really and literally help the Emperor in the maintenance of peace and justice, and really did benefit his country more than the rest of men.
7. This brings us to our last point, namely the question whether the Christian ethic as interpreted by Origenes can be safely advocated as a practical policy, or whether it is open to the fatal charge of anarchy. What is going to happen, Celsus had asked, as people are asking now, if this sort of thing spreads? Will not civilization become the prey of barbarians and savages? On the score of the results which, it is assumed, would follow from the adoption of his teaching, the political views expressed by him have been criticized as extravagant.1 The criticism is in my judgment unwarranted. To foresee accurately the future history of Christianity is under no conditions and at no period an easy task, even when one is emancipated—as Origenes happily was—from the crude obsessions of orthodox eschatology. It is therefore not to be wondered at that he should hesitate to affirm positively that all the inhabitants of the world would be able, while still in the body, to come together under one law, though he does not rule out this contingency as impossible, just as, in repudiating the extravagant utterance attributed by Celsus to a Christian, he does not rule out absolutely the possibility of an Emperor’s conversion.2 His task was to show that a Christianity, which sets its adherents to work in the varied external and internal activities of the Church, which endows them with moral purity and energy and spiritual power, and which forbids them to participate in the penal bloodshed and violence which pagan society finds necessary for its own preservation and well-being—that such a Christianity can be allowed to spread indefinitely among mankind, without any fear of a disastrous breakdown of civilization being occasioned by its expansion. That task he performs with admirable common-sense and insight. He does not desire or advocate or expect a sudden and wholesale abandonment by society of its usual methods of dealing with internal and external enemies, without any of those compensating safeguards and improvements which the gradual and steady growth of Christianity would ensure. And it is as a gradual growth that he thinks of the expansion of Christianity—as a growth consisting of the accretion of one individual after another, “the Word ever taking possession of more (and more) souls” until it has mastered the whole rational creation,1 as a growth going on, not only among the civilized inhabitants of the Empire, but also among the uncivilized barbarians beyond its borders,2 not only among the virtuous, but also among the sinful and criminal people, and therefore as removing steadily the wrongdoing which evokes wars and calls for penalties, while supplying steadily pari passu a more effectual cure for that wrongdoing in the shape of the mighty spiritual and moral influence of the Church. His programme thus consists of two gradual processes going on side by side as the result of the spread of Christianity: firstly, the gradual diminution of crime and the risk of foreign aggression, and secondly, the gradual substitution of spiritual influence for physical coercion, i.e. of a more for a less effective remedy for crime and aggression.3 What ground does such a programme give for the charge of anarchy? Celsus actually made such a charge, but had to contradict himself in doing so. He first professed to posit the conversion of all to Christianity—in itself a legitimate supposition—but immediately had to make an exception of the barbarians in order to manufacture some sort of a bogey. Origenes had no difficulty in pointing out that Celsus’ assumption of all doing the same as the Christian presupposed the conversion of the barbarians as well as the subjects of the Empire. Some modern writers have pointed to the attacks later made on the Empire by Christianized barbarians as if they proved the shortsightedness of Origenes1 : but they do nothing of the sort, for the Christianity given to these barbarians was not the same article as that for which Origenes was bargaining; it was the Christianity of a Church that had made a compact with the powers that be and was accordingly obliged to sanction for its adherents the use of the sword at a ruler’s bidding. It was the Church’s failure to remain true to the full Christian ethic advocated by Origenes, which made possible the scene of Christian barbarians invading the Empire. The extraordinary supposition—which forms part of Origenes’ apologia—of a united and converted Empire holding its barbarian foes at bay by the power of prayer, was no part of his own programme: it concludes his reply to the illogical challenge of his opponent. Extravagant as that challenge was, he shows himself fully equal to meeting it, by a grand profession of the Christian’s confidence in God—a confidence not so foolish as it sounds to worldly ears, as the history of many a mission-field would be amply sufficient to prove.
The position of Cyprianus, bishop of Carthago, a universally respected and highly influential Churchman, is somewhat uncertain. On the one hand, he includes in his general complaint over the degeneracy and calamities of the time the fact that the numbers and efficiency of the soldiers were decreasing,1 and never says in so many terms that a Christian ought not to serve in the legions, even when he has occasion to refer to two who had done so.2 On the other hand, he says some remarkably strong things about war, which more than overbalance his casual and rhetorical allusion to the deficiency of soldiers. He speaks of the “wars scattered everywhere with the bloody horror of camps. The world is wet with mutual blood(shed): and homicide is a crime when individuals commit it, (but) it is called a virtue, when it is carried on publicly. Not the reason of innocence, but the magnitude of savagery, demands impunity for crimes.”1 “God wished iron to be for the cultivation of the earth, and for that reason acts of homicide ought not to be committed.”2 “Adultery, fraud, homicide is mortal sin (mortale crimen). . . after celebrating the eucharist, the hand is not (i.e. ought not to be) spotted with (the use of) the sword and with blood.”3 Further than that, his immense respect for his fellow-countryman Tertullianus, whom he called his ‘master’ and whose ardent antipathy to secular things in general he evidently shared, creates a very strong presumption that he agreed with him as to the illegitimacy of military service for Christians. This presumption is supported by the fact that the body of Maximilianus, who was martyred at Teveste in Numidia in 295 a.d. for refusing to allow himself to be enrolled as a soldier, was conveyed by a Christian matron to Carthago, and buried near Cyprianus’ tomb.4
The Neoplatonic philosopher Plotinos, writing about 268 a.d., said: “God Himself ought not to fight on behalf of the unwarlike; for the law says that (men) ought to be brought safe out of wars by being courageous, but not by praying. For it is not those who pray, but those who attend to the earth, that (ought to) reap its produce.”1 When we consider the connections of Plotinos with Egypt and Alexandria, the fact that both he and Origenes had been pupils of the philosopher Ammonios Sakkas, the reputation of Origenes in philosophic circles, and the standing hostility of the Neoplatonists to Christianity, we can hardly doubt that the passage just quoted is an allusion to the closing chapters of Origenes’ Contra Celsum, where the author defends the Christians for refusing military service on the ground of the intercessory prayers they offer. Such an allusion would be somewhat pointless, unless Plotinos believed that the position he was criticizing was at least fairly widespread among Christians.
In 295 a.d. occurred the famous and oft-told martyrdom of Maximilianus, to which allusion has just been made. He was a young Numidian Christian, just over twenty-one years old, and was brought before Dion the proconsul of Africa, as fit for military service. He refused to serve, or to accept the soldier’s badge, saying repeatedly that he could not do so, because he was a Christian and served Christ. Dion tried again and again to overcome his objections, but without success. It is fairly clear from the martyr’s own words that his objection was largely, if not solely, to the business of fighting. The question of sacrificing to idols or to the Emperor is not mentioned by either party. “I cannot serve as a soldier,” said maximilianus; “I cannot do evil; I am a Christian.” Dion told him: “In the sacred retinue of our lords Diocletianus and Maximianus, Constantius and Maximus, there are Christian soldiers, and they serve.” Maximilianus replied: “They know what is fitting for them: but I am a Christian, and I cannot do evil.” “What evil do they do who serve?” asked the proconsul. “Thou knowest what they do,” was the reply.1 Nothing more could be done, and Maximilianus was sentenced to and suffered the death-penalty. His body, as has been stated, was taken to Carthago and buried near the tomb of Cyprianus; his father returned home thanking God that he had sent forward such a gift to the Lord2 ; the story of his trial and death were speedily committed to writing; and he was ultimately received among the saints of the Church. All this shows what a large measure of sympathy and approval was evoked by the stand he took, among the Christians of his own and the immediately succeeding period.3 There are, as far as I know, no grounds for supposing that Maximilianus had come more under the influence of Tertullianus than other Christians of northern Africa, or that Christians who refused to serve belonged for the most part to Montanistic sects.1 It is probably true that such instances of refusal were sufficiently numerous to have helped to bring about that imperial suspicion and dislike, out of which sprang the great persecution of 303 a.d.2
In the latter part of the third century, the difficulty over idolatry, etc., in the army became acute. Regulations had long been in existence which forbade any who would not sacrifice to the Emperors to hold a commission in the army. While these regulations had been allowed by the authorities to fall into desuetude, the fact that they were still technically in force made it possible for any one to appeal to them, if a favorable opportunity arose; and when that was done, they had to be enforced. It is possible that the two soldiermartyrs mentioned by Cyprianus were the victims of some such occurrence.3 However that may be, a clear instance occurred at Caesarea in 260 a.d., when, after the cessation of persecution, a distinguished military officer named Marinus was about to be promoted to the rank of centurion, but, being denounced as a Christian by the next claimant to the vacancy and declared ineligible for promotion in view of the ancient laws, was given three hours for reflection, returned at the end of that time from an interview with his bishop (who told him he must choose between his sword and the Gospels), reaffirmed his Christianity, was sentenced to death, led away, and beheaded.1 Marinus waited for the occasion of conflict to arise, and when it arose he seems neither to have had nor to have sought a chance of retiring from the service. But Marcellus the centurion, who was martyred at Tingi (Western Mauretania) in 298 a.d., took the initiative himself, and insisted on resigning his office. On the occasion of the Emperor’s birthday, he cast off his military belt before the standards, and called out: “I serve (milito) Jesus Christ, the eternal king.” Then he threw down his vine-staff and arms, and added: “I cease from this military service of your Emperors, and I scorn to adore your gods of stone and wood, which are deaf and dumb idols. If such is the position of those who render military service, that they should be compelled to sacrifice to gods and emperors, then I cast down my vine-staff and belt, I renounce the standards, and I refuse to serve as a soldier.” While the objection to sacrifice thus appears as the main ground for the bold step Marcellus took, it is clear that he was also exercised over the nature of military service as such: for his last words to the judge were: “I threw down (my arms); for it was not seemly that a Christian man, who renders military service to the Lord Christ, should render it (also) by (inflicting) earthly injuries.”2 When he was sentenced to death, Cassianus, the clerk of the court, loudly protected, and flung his writing-materials on the ground, declaring that the sentence was unjust: he suffered death a few days after Marcellus.1
In the years preceding and following the outbreak of persecution in 303 a.d., we come across several cases of Christian soldiers leaving the army or suffering martyrdom, either on the ground of a general sense of the incompatibility of their official functions with their religious duty, or else on the specific ground of refusing to offer heathen sacrifices. The doubtful ‘Acts of Typasius’ tells us that he was a soldier of Mauretania, who had served with credit, but, desiring to devote himself wholly to religion, refused a royal donative, and shortly after obtained from Maximianus an honourable discharge. Some years afterwards (305 a.d. or later) he was recalled to the ranks, but as he refused to re-enter the service, he suffered martyrdom.2 Seleukos, a stalwart Cappadocian, who held a distinguished position in the army, at the beginning of the persecution had to endure scourging, but then obtained his discharge.3 Tarakhos of Cilicia also obtained his discharge on the outbreak of persecution: at his subsequent trial at Tarsus, he told the governor that he had been a soldier, “but because I was a Christian, I have now chosen to be a civilian”4 —words which suggest rather more than a mere objection to offer pagan sacrifices. The martyrdom of Nereus and Achilleus at Rome also probably falls to be included here. Pope Damasus (366-384 a.d.), who took a great interest in the records and tombs of the martyrs, put up an epitaph (which has since been discovered) to two praetorian soldiers, Nereus and Achilleus, who, he says, “had given (their) name(s) to military service, and were carrying on (their) cruel duty,” but “suddenly laid aside (their) madness, turned round (and) fled; they leave the general’s impious camp, cast down (their) shields, helmets, and bloodstained weapons; they confess, and bear (along) with joy the triumph of Christ”: they were put to death with the sword. Uncertain as we are of the date of their martyrdom, the most reasonable supposition is that it fell in or shortly before the time of the persecution of Diocletianus—a supposition which is confirmed by the various other cases of a similar kind which we have just noticed. The references to the ‘impious camp’ and the ‘bloodstained weapons’ remind us both of the offence of idolatry and also of that of bloodshed.1
The office of the judge and magistrate, though it shares with that of the soldier the infliction of bodily damage and death upon other men, yet exhibits this infliction in a less wholesale and indiscriminate, a less objectionable and shocking, form. Further than that, it resembles far more closely than the soldier’s position does those numerous and useful public services which involve nothing in the way of violence to others. While the element common to the law-court and the army made Christians sensitive in regard to the former as well as to the latter, the dissimilarity between them caused the objections to the one to be far more strong and definite than the objections to the other. The views of Christians in the latter part of the third century in regard to law-courts, magistracies, death-penalties, and so on, would form an interesting supplement to their views on military service. The evidence unfortunately is more scanty than we could wish. Two passages, however, of some interest may be quoted. The Didaskalia definitely forbids the Christian to sue a wrongdoer in a pagan court. “It is very high praise for a Christian to have no evil dispute with anyone: but if, through the work of an enemy, temptation arises against anyone,1 let him try earnestly to be freed from him, even though he has to suffer some harm; only let him not go to the judgment of the gentiles. . . . Let not the gentiles know of your legal disputes; and do not accept evidence from them against yourselves: nor in your turn prefer suits in their courts.”2 We have seen that the Canons of Hippolutos in their original form forbade the admission to the Church of a magistrate who wielded the power of the sword. We do not know how long this original regulation remained unmodified. Very probably the modifications took place at different times and rates in different places. We know that in the latter part of the third century it was certainly not universally observed; for in the times preceding 303 a.d., there were Christian governors of provinces3 : at Alexandria there was a Christian official who daily administered justice attended by a guard of soldiers1 : in Spain there were Christian magistrates. But a regulation may remain in existence a long time after people have begun to break it, as the long survival of the Eastern Church-Orders proves; and even where it was felt that such a rule, however desirable as an ideal, could not be enforced in practice and ought not therefore to be authoritatively laid down, the sentiment of repulsion towards the penal and bloody side of a magistrate’s work still made itself felt. One of the Canons of the Synod of Illiberis (Elvira, in the south of Spain), which apparently met about 300 a.d., ran: “Resolved, that it be laid down that a (Christian) magistrate, during the one year in which he holds the office of duumvir, should keep himself away from the church.”2 Hefele regards the patronage of idolatry connected with the office as the ground of this decision,3 but Dale rightly views this as insufficient. “Tertullian,” says Dale, “enumerates acts which, though part of the common experience of all magistrates and rulers during that age, were inadmissible in the true servant of Christ. “As to the duties of civil power,” he says, “the Christian must not decide on any one’s life or honour—about money it is permissible; he must bind no one, nor imprison and torture any.” It was considerations of this nature, rather than the idolatrous associations connected with the office, which led the Synod to exclude the official, during his year of tenure, from communion with the Church: for to sentence even a slave to death, to imprison the debtor, or to put the household of a suspected criminal to the rack, though the duty of a magistrate, would in the Christian be a sin.”1 The sense of the incongruity of Christianity and political life in general, more particularly on its punitive and coercive side, expressed itself in the strong disapproval that was felt—even down to medieval and modern times—to the direct participation of the Christian clergy in any activities of this kind.2
We conclude our study of this section of the subject with a few passages from two Christian authors who flourished towards the close of our period, viz. Arnobius and Lactantius. Arnobius speaks as if abstention from warfare had been the traditional Christian policy ever since the advent of Christ. The amount of war had been diminished, he said, not increased, since Christ came. “For since we—so large a force of men—have received (it), from his teachings and laws, that evil ought not to be repaid with evil, that it is better to endure a wrong than to inflict (it), to shed one’s own (blood) rather than stain one’s hands and conscience with the blood of another, the ungrateful world has long been receiving a benefit from Christ, through whom the madness of savagery has been softened, and has begun to withhold its hostile hands from the blood of a kindred creature. But if absolutely all. . . were willing to lend an ear for a little while to his healthful and peaceful decrees, and would not, swollen with pride and arrogance, trust to their own senses rather than to his admonitions, the whole world would long ago have turned the uses of iron to milder works and be living in the softest tranquillity, and would have come together in healthy concord without breaking the sanctions of treaties.”1
Lactantius is still more definite and uncompromising. He explicitly rules out both military service and capital charges on the ground that, involving homicide, they are a violation of justice. We may recall a few salient passages. Referring to some indefinite earlier time, he says: “Fire and water used to be forbidden to exiles; for up till then it was thought a wrong to inflict the punishment of death on (those who,) though (they were) evil, (were) yet men.”2 “If God alone were worshipped, there would not be dissensions and wars; for men would know that they are sons of the one God, and so joined together by the sacred and inviolable bond of divine kinship; there would be no plots, for they would know what sort of punishments God has prepared for those who kill living beings.”3 Latterly the gentiles had banished justice from their midst by persecuting the good; but even “if they slew the evil only, they would not deserve that justice should come to them; for justice had no other reason for leaving the earth than the shedding of human blood.”4 “Someone will say here: ‘What, therefore, or where, or of what sort is piety?’ Assuredly it is among those who are ignorant of wars, who keep concord with all, who are friends even to their enemies, who love all men as brothers, who know how to restrain (their) anger, and to soothe all fury of mind by quiet control.”1 In controverting the argument that the just man is foolish, for, to save his own life, he will not in warfare take a horse away from a wounded man, Lactantius answers that, for one thing, the just man will never be faced with these circumstances. “For. . . why should he wage war, and mix himself up in other people’s passions—he in whose mind dwells perpetual peace with men? He. . . who regards it as wrong, not only to inflict slaughter himself, but even to be present with those who inflict it and to look on, will forsooth be delighted with. . . human blood!”2 In criticizing patriotic wars, he says: “In the first place, the connection of human society is taken away; innocence is taken away; abstention from what is another’s is taken away; in fact, justice itself is taken away, for justice cannot bear the cutting asunder of the human race, and, wherever arms glitter, she must be put to flight and banished. . . . For how can he be just who injures, hates, despoils, kills? And those who strive to be of advantage to their country do all these things.”3 “Whoever reckons it a pleasure that a man, though deservedly condemned, should be slain in his sight, defiles his own conscience, just as if he were to become spectator and sharer of a murder which is committed in secret.”4 “When God prohibits killing, He not only forbids us to commit brigandage, which is not allowed even by the public laws; but He warns (us) that not even those things which are regarded as legal among men are to be done. And so it will not be lawful for a just man to serve as a soldier—for justice itself is his military service—nor to accuse anyone of a capital offence, because it makes no difference whether thou kill with a sword or with a word, since killing itself is forbidden. And so, in this commandment of God, no exception at all ought to be made (to the rule) that it is always wrong to kill a man, whom God has wished to be (regarded as) a sacrosanct creature.”1 Lactantius does not either claim or suggest that there were no Christians in the army when he wrote; and his language may perhaps be held to imply that he is counteracting the opinions of other Christians: but he could hardly have written as he did, if his views were merely those of an inconsiderable handful of extremists. One would rather gather that he must have been conscious of having at his back a very large body of Christian sentiment and conviction.
No purpose would be served by retailing to the reader passages in which war is cited simply as a calamity or as a mere historical incident, without any direct hint of moral blame or of divine visitation.
2 Cor vii. 5 (“wrangling all round me”—Moffatt); Jas iv. 1 f (even if the proposed substitution of (ye envy) for (ye kill) in verse 2 be rejected, and the latter given its literal meaning (so Mayor), the reference can hardly be to warfare as usually understood); 2 Tim ii. 23 f; Tit iii. 9.
Charles, The Ascension of Isaiah (vii. 9–12) p. 48, cf 74 (x. 29–31).
Arist 8 (104).
Arist 10 (106 and—Syriac—43).
Just 2 Ap v. 4. When the martyr Karpos at Pergamum accused the devil of preparing wars (Karp 17), he was referring to the persecutions carried on against the Christians.
Tat 19 (849).
Athenag Res 19 (1013).
Athenag Legat 35 (969). We shall discuss later the qualification ‘even justly’.
Acts of John 36 fin (ii. 169; Pick 148).
Clem Paed i xii. 99, II iv. 42.
Clem Quis Dives 34.
Ps-Just Orat 5 init.
Tert Pat 3 (i. 1254): itaque et gladii opera maledixit in posterum.
Tert Pat 7 (i. 1262).
Tert. Marc iii. 14 (ii. 340), Jud 9 (ii. 621).
Tert Cor 12 (ii. 94 f). In Pudic 10 (ii. 999), he groups soldiers with tax-gatherers as those to whom, besides the sons of Abraham, the Baptist preached repentance.
Hipp Dan III viii. 9.
Hipp Dan IV viii. 7, ix. 2.
ANCL xxiib. 101, 108.
Greg Thaum Paneg vi. 76 f. On the low idea entertained of the soldier’s calling in the third century, and particularly by philosophers and Christians, see Harnack MC 69 f.
Cypr Donat 6, 10 f. In Ep 73 (72) 4 he calls heretics pestes et gladii.
Commond Carm 585 f; cf Instr i. 34 (l.12), ii/ 3 (ll. 12f).22
Greg Thaum Ep Can 5 ().
Didask IV vi. 4 (omni magistratu imperii Romani, qui in bellis maculati sunt). We are left uncertain as to whether all—or only some—magistrates are spurned as bloodstained: but probably the latter is meant.
Ps-Just Cohort 2 (Hom 11 xix. 224): Cf 17 (wars etc. represented by Homer as the result of a multiplicity of rulers).
Clem Hom ii. 44.
op cit iii. 24, cf 25 fin, 26.
op cit iii. 62; cf ix. 2f.
op cit iv. 20.
Clem Recog ii. 24.
op cit ii. 36.
op cit iv. 31.
op cit x. 41.
Method Symp v. 5.
op cit x. i, 4.
Arnob ii. 1.
id ii. 38.
id ii. 45.
Arnob iii. 26. Rhetorical allusions to this and other aspects of the wrongfulness of war occur in ii. 39, 76, iii. 28, v. 45, vi. 2. vii. p, 36, 51.
Lact Inst I xviii. 8–10; cf 11–17.
Lact Inst ii vi. 3.
Lact Inst VI vi. 18–24. The words quoted are taken from 19 f, 22. For other passages dealing with the subject, see Inst I xix. 6, V v. 4, 12–14, vi. 6f, VI v. 15, xix. 2 f, 10, VII xv. 9 ff.
Eus PE 10b-11a, 179ab.
Eus PE 163b.
Eus PE 192c.
I have not attempted to quote or give references to the numerous allusions to murder in Christian literature. The attitude of condemnation is, as one might expect, uniform and unanimous.
Ac x. 36, 48.
Rom xii. 18.
Heb xii. 14.
Mt v. 9.
Lk ii. 14: are the men generally, or Christians only, or Jews?
Lk i. 79; cf the reference to national enemies in vv. 71, 74.
1 Clem Ix. 4.
1 Clem lxi. 1 f.
Ig E xiii. 2.
Eiren IV xxvii. i (ii. 240): the reference is apparently to Ps. lxxii. 7.
Just 1 Ap xii. 1: .
Isa ii. 3 f; cf Mic iv. 2 f.
Just 1 Ap xxxix. 1–3.
Just Dial 109 f (728 f).
Eiren IV xxxiv. 4 (ii. 271 f). Cf the use made by Eirenaios of Isa xi. 6–9 in Demonstr 61 (35).
Tert Jud 3 (ii. 604): the last words are in pacis obsequia eluxit.
Tert Marc iii. 21 (ii. 351).
Tert Marc iv. 1 (ii. 361).
Orig Cels v. 33. What exactly Origenes means by I do not know: anyhow, the reference to actual warfare is clear.
Ps-Cypr Jud 9; Adamant i. 10.
Eus PE 10b-11a, cf, 179ab.
Athenag Legat 1 (892), cf 37 fin (972).
Clem Paed i xii. 98 fin, II ii. 32, iv. 42.
Tert Apol 39 (i. 478).
Tert Cor 11 (ii. 92).
Hipp Dan III xxiv. 7.
Ps-Mel 10 (ANCL xxiib. 121.)
ANCL xxiib. 111.
Ps-Just Orat 5.
Commod Instr ii. 22.
Cypr Bon Pat 20: cf Clem Hom iii. 19, Recog ii. 27–31.
Arnob i. 6 : the general prevalence of peace since the time of Christ is alluded to by Methodios (Symp x. i fin).
Routh iv. 6 (studere paci).
Lecky ii. 39.
1 Th iii. 12.
1 Th v. 15.
Gal vi. 10.
1 Cor v. 12 f. The allusions in 2 Cor vi. 6 to ‘longsuffering’ and ‘love unfeigned’ refer to Paul’s attitude to outsiders in his missionary work.
Rom xii. 17–21, xiii. 8–10. I postpone for the present all commen on the intervening passage on the State (Rom xiii. 1–7).
Phil iv. 5().
Tim ii. 24 ff (but see above, p. 49).
Tit iii. 1 f.
Jas iii. 9 f.
Pet ii. 17.
Pet ii. 21, 23: the words are actually addressed to slaves, who (vv. 18–20) are exhorted to submit patiently to unjust treatment from their masters, but, as the next quotation shows, the words apply to all Christians.
1 Pet iii. 8 f.
1 Pet iii. 17 f.
Did i. 2–4.
Did ii. 6 f: cf Barn xix. 3 ff.
Did iii. 2.
Barn xi. 8. Cf. also the allusions to meekness, for bearance, long suffering, etc., in I Clem xiii. I, xix. 3, xxx. I, 3.
Clem Quis Dives xiii. 1–15; Eus HE III xxiii. 6–19.
Ig E x. 1–3.
Ig T iii. 2.
Ig T iv. 2.
Ig P i. 2.
Pol ii. 2: on the duty of love, cf iii. 3, iv. 2, (xii. I).
Pol xii. 3.
Arist 15 (III), cf 17 (Syriac, 51).
Diog v. II, 15.
Herm M VIII 10. Hermas has many inculcations of gentleness, longsuffering, etc., etc.
2 Clem xiii. 3 f.
Just 1 Ap xiv. 3.
Just 1 Ap xv. 9.
Just 1 Ap xvi. 1–4. Similar professions are made by Justinus in Dial 96 (704), 133 fin (785), Res 8 fin (1588).
Athenag Legat 1 (893).
Athenag Legat 11 (912 f), cf 12 (913, 916).
Athenag Legat 34 fin (968).
P Scill 112. A little later, when persuaded by the proconsul to give up his Christianity, Speratus replies: Mala est persuasio homicidium facere, falsum testimonium dicere (114). I am not clear to what exactly the first clause alludes.
Theoph iii. 14.
Eiren IV xxxiv. 4 (ii. 271 f), quoted on pp. 61 f, and illustrating the direct bearing, according to the Christian view, of this teaching on the subject of war.
Eiren III xviii. 5 f (ii. 99 f).
Eiren IV xiii. 3. (ii. 182). Another paraphrase of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount in regard to returning good for evil occurs in Eiren II xxxii. 1 (i. 372).
Eiren Demonstr 96 (50).
Acts of Apollonius 37 (Gebhardt 56; Conybeare 46).
Clem Strom II i. 2, xviii. 88, IV xiv. 95.
Clem Strom VII xi. 62.
Clem Strom VII xiv. 84 f.
Clem frag in Maximus Confessor, Serm 55 (Migne PG xci. 965).
Tert Apol 37 (i. 463).
Tert Apol 46 (i. 512).
Tert Pat 8 (i. 1262 f), 10 (i. 1264) (absolute itaque praecipitur malum malo non rependendum).
Tert Cor 11 (ii. 92):. . . filius pacis, cui nec litigare conveniet. . . nec suarum ultor injuriarum.
ANCL xxiib. 94.
Or possibly, ‘take vengeance on’—.
Orig Cels ii. 30.
Orig Cels iii. 7.
Orig Cels vii. 26. Origenes refers in Cels ii. 10 to the incident of Peter’s sword; in v. 63 he quotes the beatitudes about the meek and the peace-makers, etc., in order to demonstrate the gentleness of the Christian attitude to opponents and persecutors; in vii. 25 he proves from Lamentations that the command to turn the other check was not unknown to the O.T.; in viii. 35 he quotes Mt v. 44 f and gives a couple of illustrations from pagan history of kindness to enemies.
Cypr Test iii. 22 f, 49, 106.
Cypr Donal 10.
Cypr Demetr 17, 25.
Cypr Bon Pat 5.
Pont Vit Cypr 9.
Commod Instr ii. 22 (noli nocere).
Didask I ii. 2 f : cf I ii. 1 (on blessing those who curse) and V xiv. 22 (on praying for enemies).
Didask II xlvi, 2; cf II vi. 1 (bishop not to be angry or contentious).
Clem Hom vii. 10f, xi. 20 fin, xv. 5. Arnobius (iv.36) also mentions the Christian custom of praying regularly for enemies.
Lact Inst V x. 10.
Lact Inst V xii. 4.
Lact Inst V xxii. 10.
Lact Inst VI x. 5.
Lact Inst VI xviii. 10–13: cf also xi. 1 f (against injuring others generally), and xviii. 6 (about speaking the truth to one’s enemy).
Lact Inst VI xx. 15–17. The martyr Pollio told his judge that the divine laws demanded pardon for enemies (Passio Pollionis 2, in Ruinart 435); the martyr Lucianus that they required Christians “to cultivate mildness, to be keen on peace, to embrace purity of heart, to guard patience” (Routh iv. 6).
Tert Cor 11 (ii. 92): Et vincula et carcerem et tormenta et supplicia administrabit, nec suorum ultor injuriarum?
Consider how little influence for good would have remained to Jesus and the Apostles over the Gerasene maniac, the prostitute, the adulteress, the extortionate tax-gatherer, the thief on the cross, Onesimos, and the young robber of Smyrna (see above, pp. 43, 69, 71 f), if they had tried to combine with the spiritual means of regeneration any form of physical coercion or penalty.
It may be mentioned in passing that we are here dealing solely with the behaviour of Christians towards adult and responsible human beings. God’s treatment of man, and man’s treatment of his children, are, in some important respects, different problems.
What else can the Golden Rule mean here but that the Christian must defend his neighbour, not as his neighbour wishes, but as he himself —the Christian—wishes to be protected, viz. without violence?
Mk vi. 27 f.
Mk xv. 16–20, 24; Mt xxvii. 27 ff; Lk xxiii. 11, 36 f; John xix. 2, 32 ff. The soldiers of Antipas, as well as the Roman soldiers, were implicated.
Ac xii. 2: this is surely implied when it is said that Herodes slew him with a sword.
Ac xii. 6, 18 f.
Ac xxvii. 42, xxviii. 16, etc. Cf xvi. 23 f.
There is no need here to discuss in greater detail the legal aspect of persecution or to give a sketch of the different outbreaks. The reader will find the former excellently dealt with in E. G. Hardy’s Christianity and the Roman Government (London, 1894), and the latter in any good Church History.
Ig R. v. 1. Gibbon, writing in 1776, said of the imperial Roman armies: “The common soldiers, like the mercenary troops of modern Europe, were drawn from the meanest, and very frequently from the most profligate, of mankind” (Gibbon, Decline and Fall, i. 9 f, ed. Bury). Harnack says: “The conduct of the soldiers during peace (their extortion, their license, their police duties) was as opposed to Christian ethics as their wild debauchery and sports (e.g. “the Mimus”) at the Pagan festivals” (ME ii. 52). Marcus Aurelius (Medit x 10) called successful soldiers robbers; but he was a soldier himself, and was obliged to fill his ranks with gladiators, slaves, and Dalmation brigands (Capitolinus, Hist. Aug. Life of M. Antoninus Philosophus xxi. 6 f).
M. Pol vii. 1 mentions xviii. I burns the body.
M Lugd in Eus HE V i. 17 ff.
Clem Strom VI xviii. 167; Orig Cels i. 3.
Tert Apol 7 (i. 308): Tot hostes ejus quot extranei, et quidem proprii ex aemulatione Judaei, ex concussione milites, ex natura ipsi etiam domestici nostri.
Thus Tertullianus warns those who wished to buy themselves off: neque enim statim et a populo eris tutus, is officia militaria redemeris (Tert Fug 14 (ii. 119).
Tert Fug 12–14 (ii. 110–120).
Acts of Thomas 168 (iii. 282; Pick 360).
M Pionii xxi. 2.
Dion Alex in Eus HE VII xi. 22, VI xi. 2, 4.
Pont Vit Cypr 15, 18. Similarly in the Passio Montani et Lucii iii. 1, iv. 2, vi. 3, xi. 2, xxi. 9 (Gebhardt 146 ff).
Passio Mariani et Jacobi ii 2, 4, iv. 3, vi. I (Gebhardt I35ff).
Passio FructuosiI (Ruinart 264).
See the facts reported by Eusebios in HE VII xv. and VIII xv. and VIII iv., and cf below, pp. 151 ff.
Lact Mort Pers xii.
Eus HE VIII x. 3 ff, Mart iv. 8–13, vii. 2, ix. 7: cf Passio Tarachi, etc. 2 (Ruinart 454). It is fairly safe to assume that the infliction of torture referred to in other passages (Eus HE VIII iii. 1, v. 2, vi. 2–4 6, viii, ix., etc., etc.) was carried out by soldiers, even though they are not explicitly mentioned.
Eus HE VIII iii. 3 f, Mart ix. 2, xi. 6, HE IX ix. 20.
Eus HE VIII xi. 1: cf Lact Inst V xi. 10.
I suppose this is the meaning of speculatoribus condemnationis.
Didask IV vi. 4 (see above, p. 53 n 4).
Lact Mort Pers vii. 2 ff.
op cit xxvi. 3.
op cit xxvii. 5 ff.
op cit xxxvii. 5 f.
Eus HE VIII xiv. 11.
Eus HE VIII xiv. 3.
Such is the conclusion of Harnack, who is not likely to be suspected of exaggerating the evidence in its favour. See his ME ii. 52 (“The position of a soldier would seem to be still more incompatible with Christianity than the higher offices of state, for Christianity prohibited on principle both war and bloodshed”), MC 11 (“We shall see that the Christian ethic forbade war absolutely (überhaupt) to the Christians”), 47 f (“Had not Jesus forbidden all revenge, even all retaliation for wrong, and taught complete gentleness and patience? and was not the military calling moreover contemptible on account of its extortions, acts of violence, and police-service? Certainly: and from that it followed without question, that a Christian might not of his free will become a soldier. It was not however difficult to keep to this rule, and certainly the oldest Christians observed it”).
Ac. x. 1 ff, 7 ff, 47 f, xvi. 27–34.
Ac xiii. 12.
Cf. Knowling’s note on Ac xiii. 12 in The Expositor’s Greek Testament; McGiffert, Apostolic Age, 175; Bartlet, Apostolic Age, 68 n 2. Bigelmair (125) believes in his full conversion.
Phil i. 13: .
See Purves in HDB iv. 33.
Eus HE III v. 3.
Holtzmann, Neutestamentliche Theologie (1911) i. 147.
B.-Baker 1CW 21; Cunningham 251 (quoted above, p. 58 n).
Harnack (C i. 317 n 3) says that Conybeare has not convinced him that the Armenian text of these acts contains a genuine ancient document. The acts were rejected even by the Bollandists.
DCA ii. 2028b (Art. War).
On the evidence of the inscriptions for Christians in military service, cf DCA ii. 2028 f, Brace, Gesta Christi, 91, Harnack MC 121 n, Bigelmair 182 f.
Ruinart 71 (ET in ANCL ixb. 192–194): Symphorosa says to Hadrianus, Vir meus Getulius, cum fratre suo Amantio, tribuni tui cum essent, pro Christi nomine passi sunt diversa supplicia, ne idolis consentirent ad immolandum. . . . Elegerunt enim magis decollari quam vinci, etc.
Lightfoot AF 11 i. 503–505.
Just 1 Ap xiv. 3: “We who were formerly slayers of one another, not only do not make war upon our enemies, but,” etc. (see above, p. 61).
Just Dial 110 (729).
Quoted in DCA ii. 2028a.
B.-Baker ICW 21.
Just 1 Ap xii. 1 (see above, p. 60 n 4).
See above, p. 50.
Tat 11 (829). Harnack (ME ii. 55 n 5) understands the word translated ‘military command’ () to indicate the praetor-ship, i.e. a magisterial office. But Tatianus has already dealt with magistracy in his first clause (); and in a list of this sort some reference to military life is almost desiderated.
Athenag Legat 35 (969). Hefele (quoted above) does not regard this as disapproving of the warrior’s profession: but Bigelmair (166) recognizes that it is at least possible that Athenagoras had war in mind.
Orig Cels viii. 73, 68: cf 74, 75 (see below, pp. 131 ff).
Harnack ME ii. 57 n 1. Guignebert (190 f) imagines that Celsus is attacking the doctrines of the Christians rather than the “applications pratiques qu’ils en peuvent dèjá faire.” Professor B.-Baker (ICW 21 ff) ignores the evidence of Celsus for the latter part of the second century: he does not mention his date, but treats him along with Origenes, as if they were contemporaries (ib. 27: cf 29: “By this time, therefore,” (i.e. the time of Origenes’ reply, 248 a.d.) “many Christians shrank from military service”).
Harnack MC 51.
Cf Harnack MC 46 f.
Ps-Just Orat 5.
Eiren IV xxxiv. 4 (ii. 271 f), quoted above, pp. 61 f.
Clem Strom IV viii. 61.
Tert Apol 37 (i. 463). The Latin runs: Cui bello non idonei, non prompti fuissemus, etiam impares copiis, qui tam libenter trucidamur, si non apud istam disciplinam magis occidi liceret quam occidere? The meaning is sufficiently clear, viz. that the Christians, though few, were so careless of death that they would fight their pagan enemies, were it not for their rule that it is better to be killed than to kill. Professor B.-Baker, however, translates (ICW 23): “Tell me a war for which we have not been useful and ready, even when inferior in numbers; ready to be cut down, as none would be whose tenets were not that it is more lawful to be killed than to kill,” and quotes it as showing that “the chief thing by which they” (i.e. Christians in the Army) “were distinguished from their Pagan comrades—so far as concerned their action in the field—was their greater readiness to encounter death, in proportion as they had received a more excellent hope for the future” (italics mine). This surprising misinterpretation of Tertullianus has been followed by Cunningham (251 f).
Tert Apol 21 (i. 403): Sed et Caesares credidissent super Christo, si aut Caesares non essent saeculo necessarii, aut si et Christiani potuissent esse Caesares. Further reference will have to be made later to this important passage.
Latin: neque judicet de capite alicujus vel pudore.
neque damnet neque praedamnet.
Tert Idol 17 (i. 687).
de militia, quae inter dignitatem et potestatem est.
The allusions are to various items in the Roman soldier’s equipment.
Text Idol 19 (i. 690 f).
Text Jud 3 (ii 604): see above, p. 62.
Tert Marc iii. 14 (ii. 340), cf Jud 9 (ii. 621).
Tert Marc iii. 21 (ii. 351).
Tert Pall 5 (ii. 1047): caussas non elatro, non judico, non milito, secessi de populo, etc.
An allusion to 1 Cor. viii. 10
dum tamen, suscepta fide atque signata, aut deserendum statim sit, ut a multis actum, aut omnibus modis cavillandum, ne quid adversus Deum committatur, quae nec extra militiam permittuntur, aut novissime perpetiendum pro Deo, quod aeque fides pagana condixit. The phrase ‘quae nec extra militiam permittuntur’ is difficult to construe; but by retaining this reading instead of the suggested ‘ex militia’ (so Rigaltion and Migne), one does not get rid of the proposal to desert, as the Translator in ANCL xi. 348 n seems to imagine.
Tert Cor II (ii. 91–93).
Tert Cor 12 (ii. 94 f).
It will be seen (p. 108) that he asks the question “whether a believer may turn to military service,” which almost certainly implies that some believers had already done so. Similarly in De Corona (211 a.d.) (see p. 111) he speaks of ‘transferring one’s name from the camp of light to the camp of darkness,’ and mentions those converted when they were already soldiers as a special class, thus making it evident that there were others who had enlisted after conversion.
Harnack MC 67.
B.-Baker ICW 25. Italics mine.
Christianity and Politics, 253. What is, I think, the one solitary allusion to the early Christian attitude to war in Dr. Forsyth’s Christian Ethic of War contains a serious over-statement, if not a positive in accuracy. He says (68 f): “The demand from Christian soldiers of the military oath. . . was objected to less on the grounds of the Sermon on the Mount than because it involved a confession of the Emperor’s deity inconsistent with the place of Christ in His Gospel.”
Gass, Geschichte der christlichen Ethik, i. 93.
Trocltsch III n 56.
The remarks of Ramsay (The Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 435 f) on the subject imply that fear of participating in heathen rites was the one ground for the early Christian refusal of military service. Cf also Milman, History of Christianity, ii. 142.
Tert Apol 1, 37, Nat i. 1, (see below, p. 234).
So Harnack MC 59f: cf B.-Baker ICW 23; Guignebert 192; Bigelmair 180; De Jong 9 ff.
See above, pp. 60, 103.
Tert Apol 33 (i. 448).
Tert Pall 5 (ii. 1047 f).
Harnack MC 67.
See p. 112 n. 1. Harnack (MC 66) waters down Tertullianus’ ‘multis, into vielleicht viele’.
Professor B.-Baker’s treatment of this point (ICW 22–26) is peculiarly conflicting and difficult to follow. He knows the date of ‘De Idololatria,’ and quotes what is said in it about Christ disarming every soldier, and so on: yet he makes much of the distinction between “Tertullian (a) Catholic” and “(b) Montanist,” quotes the former as testifying to the presence of Christians in the army, adding that “in the opinion of Tertullian this redounded to their credit,” speaks of “Tertullian’s change of mind,” points out how his Montanism is revealed in his later writings, and concludes that “the opinions recorded in them must be proportionately discounted.” Some remarks have already been offered (pp. 115 f) on the real bearing to Tertullianus’ boasts in Apol 37 and Nat i. 1. They cannot be taken as showing that in his Catholic period he approved of Christians acting as soldiers.
Ramsay (The Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 435 f) speaks as if it was only a few individuals here and there who objected to Christians serving as soldiers.
Achelis, in Texte und Untersuchungen VI 4 (38–137) gives a Latin version of the Canones Hippolyti, and argues for the authorship, in the main, of Hippolutos. Riedel, in Die Kirchenrechtsquellen des Patriarchats Alexandrien (Leipzig, 1900) (193–230), gives a German version based on better MSS than those used by Achelis.
See Krüger 360; Maclean 160 f: Dom R.H. Conolly in Texts and Studies VIII 4 (1916). The text is given in the last-named work, pp. 175–194, and also by Funk in Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum (Paderborn, 1905) ii. 97–119.
Cooper and Maclean 41; Maclean 166.
The subject is more fully dealt with by the authors already quoted; cf also Kruger 341 f; Harnack C ii. 501–517; Funk op cit ii. xix-xx viii; Bardenhewer, Patrologie, 219, 353–357; Maclean 156 ff.
Professor B. Baker is undoubtedly mistaken in treating the Christian objection to war on the ground of bloodshed as a comparatively new development belonging to “the last forty years of the third century, when the practical life and example of Christ and the Apostles was receding far into the background,” etc. (ICW 31; cf 29: “By this time, therefore,” (i.e. 249 a.d.), “many Christians shrank from military service”). Archdeacon Cunningham (253) follows Professor B. Baker in this error: “there seems to have been an increasing aversion to military service on the part of Christians in the third century.” The evidence of Celsus (see p. 104) shows that the Christians as a general rule refused service at least as early as 180 a.d.
Apostolic Constitutions VIII xxxii. 10.
Cooper and Maclean 41–45.
Grouts goes so far as to argue from the absence of regulations. He contends that “nothing more can be gathered from those sayings (of the Fathers) than the private opinion of certain people, not the public (Opinion) of the Churches,” and says: “But setting aside private authorities, let us come to the public (authority) of the Church, which ought to be of the greatest weight (with us). I say therefore that those who served as soldiers were never rejected from baptism or excommunicated by the Church, which nevertheless ought to have been done and would have been done, if military service conflicted with the conditions of the new faith” (Grotius, De Jure Belli ac Pacis, I ii. ix, 2 and x, 2). Cf Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, ii. 718 (“The Church as a whole never sanctioned this prohibition, or called on its converts to abandon the ranks or on its adherents to refuse to enter them”).
Bigelmair 133, 171–173.
Harnack MC 72 f.
Cooper and Maclean 209: “The Church-Orders lean to the stricter view. But we cannot therefore ascribe them to sectarian bodies, who kept themselves all of from ordinary Christian life”; etc.
Minuc xxx. 6, xxxi. 6.
Or possibly ‘take vengeance on’ —
Orig Cels ii. 30.
Orig Cels iii. 7.
Orig Cels v. 33 (see above, p. 63 n 3).
Orig Cels vii. 26.
Orig Cels viii. 65. This is the only passage I have noticed in which Origenes alludes to idolatry as a bar to state-service. Bigelmair (136) recognizes that the risk of idolatrous contamination was not brought prominently forward by Origenes.
Orig Cels viii. 68.
Orig Cels viii. 69. He goes on to explain that God had not always fought for the Hebrews, because they had not always fulfilled the conditions of receiving such help by observing His law.
Orig Cels viii. 70. On the strength of this thought of the protective providence of God, he says that the Christians look forward calmly to the possible recrudescence of persecution.
Orig Cels viii. 71. Harnack (ME i. 264 n) says: “I do not understand, any more than Origen did, the political twaddle which Celsus (lxxi) professes to have heard from a Christian. It can hardly have come from a Christian, and it is impossible nowadays to ascertain what underlay it. I therefore pass it by.”
Orig Cels viii. 72.
Orig Cels viii. 73.
Orig Cels viii. 74.
Orig Cels viii. 75.
Orig Cels viii. 73 (p. 135).
Orig Cels iii. 7, vii. 26 (p. 130).
Orig Cels ii. 30 (see below, p. 207).
Orig Cels iv. 82. In the following chapter he rebukes Celsus for his attempt to depreciate the political institutions and defensive wars of men (see below, p. 207).
The question is more fully discussed below, pp. 211 ff.
Grotius, De Jure, etc., I ii. ix, 2.
Wm. Smith’s edition of the Decline and Fall, ii. 189.
B.-Baker ICW 30.
Christianity and Politics,p. 252.
Guignebert p. 196: a note refers to Orig Cels iv. 82 f.
Bigelmair 180f. The same view is suggested by Schmidt (284).
Barbèyrac (Morale des Pères, p. 104 fn) recognizes that Origenes does not contradict himself in this matter.
Orig. Cels viii. 73, 75 (see pp. 135 f).
Neumann (241) is surely mistaken in supposing that Origenes’ reference to soldiers as opponents of Christianity implies the presence of Christians in the army.
De Jong 15: “Considering that Origenes is here defending, not only his own opinion, but Christendom in general, we must assume that also in his time. . . the great majority of Christians was opposed to military service, and that principally out of aversion to bloodshed, and that only a small number took part in it—a conclusion to which in fact the archaeological data, negative on this point, also lead us.”
Gwatkin, Early Church History, i. 191 (cf 236).
Above, p. 115.
Orig. Cels viii. 73 f (pp. 134–136).
Lecky ii. 39 (“The opinions of the Christians of the first three centuries were usually formed without any regard to the necessities of civil or political life”); Harnack ME i. 263 f (“How extravagant (hochfliegend) are his ideas!” Yet Harnack recognizes Origenes as “a great and sensible statesman”—“ein grosser und einsichtiger Politiker”); Troeltsch 123 f (“With such presuppositions [as those of Origenes] every venture in regard to social possibilities (and) every idea of the Christian criticism of society having to be also an organic reformation of it, were out of the question. God would take care that society held together. The cutting-off of the forbidden callings suffices; the rest will remain standing. . . . Elsewhere there are not wanting compromises and compositions which recognize the necessity of these callings for the social system, and therefore enjoin here too continuance in the calling”).
See above, pp. 133 f.
Orig Cels viii. 68 fin, 72 (see pp. 132–134).
Orig Cels i. 53, viii. 4, 68.
As furnishing a modern instance of the soundness of this plea, I transcribe the following passage from W. T. Stead’s Progress of the World in the Review of Reviews for August 1890 (p. 104): “The enthusiastic Americans who constituted the driving force of the Universal Peace Congress which met at Westminster in July, were provided with a very striking illustration of the fashion in which the practical impunity with which the individual can kill has told for peace in the Far West. For years the Modoc Indians, thanks to their occupancy of the lava beds, a natural stronghold where a handful of men could hold an army at bay, defied the utmost efforts of the United States army. The Modocs, although only a few hundred strong, baffled all the efforts to subdue them. The war cost millions. Only twelve Modocs were killed, but General Canby was slain and 160 of his men. After all, the war seemed no nearer an end than it was at the beginning. In their despair the Americans abandoned the bullet and took to the Bible. Then, according to Mr. Wood, the Secretary of the American Christian and Arbitration Society, in the providence of God one little Quaker woman, “‘believing in the Lord Jesus Christ’s power, and in non-resistent principles, has converted the whole Modoc tribe to non-resistent Quakers, and they are now most harmless, self-supporting farmers and preachers of the Gospel of Christ’.” The story of the transformation effected in the relations between the Redskins and the United States Government by substituting Christian for military principles is one of the strangest of the true stories of our day. It is not surprising that the men who have found the Gospel a talisman for civilising a Modoc and an Apache should cross the Atlantic full of faith that it would be equally efficacious in staying the blood-feud of the Germans and the French.
Neumann 240; cf Bigelmair 177.
Cypr Demetr 3 (decrescit ac deficit in aruis agricola, in mari nauta, miles in castris), 17 (deminutione castrorum).
Referring to a certain Celerinus, who had suffered in the persecution of Decius (250 a.d.), he says (Ep 39 (33) 3): “His paternal and maternal uncles, Laurentinus and Egnatius, themselves at one time serving as soldiers in the secular camp, but (being) true and spiritual soldiers of God, in overthrowing the devil by the confession of Christ, earned by their famous passion the Lord’s palms and crowns.” We shall have to refer to this passage later; but here we may note that it is at least possible that Laurentinus and Egnatius suffered because they wished to leave the service on the ground either of idolatry or bloodshed or both. We shall meet several similar instances later on.
Cypr Donat 6.
Cypr Hab Virg 11.
Cypr Bon Pat 14.
Plotinos, Ennead III ii. 8 (Teubner i. 237). I owe this reference to De Jong (16).
Ruinart (341), to whom we are indebted for an edition of the Acta Sancti Maximiliani Martyris, tells us that this last question and answer are absent ‘in editis,’ the reason for the omission apparently being that the words contradict the traditional Roman Catholic view of war. Ruinart inserts the words, but suggests that they mean that Maximilianus “did not reject military service as if it were evil in itself, but on account of the opportunities of sinning which soldiers often meet with.” This is clearly insufficient to account for the language used; and the Roman Catholics remain faced with the awkward fact that one of the canonized saints of the Church died as a conscientious objector! It is significant that Bigelmair, throughout his full treatment of the Christian attitude to military service, makes no mention of Maximilianus at all. He is certainly an awkward martyr for a Romanist to deal with, but doubly so for one who is both a Romanist and a German.
Maximilianus’ father, Fabius Victor, is somewhat of an enigma: though he refused at Dion’s bidding to persuade his son to give way and rejoiced over the latter’s witness, yet as ‘temonarius’ (? = person responsible for finding a recruit) he had himself presented Maximilianus before the proconsul, and had got him a new coat in anticipation of his enlistment. The exact situation is a little obscure: but I do not know what grounds Harnack (MC 85) has for assuming that Fabius Victor was himself a soldier and remained so after his son’s death. The ‘temonarius,’ as far as I can discover, was not necessarily a soldier: De Jong (19 f) discusses the meaning of the word at length.
The genuineness of the Acta Maximiliani is generally admitted (Gibbon, ch xvi, note 146 (ii. 120, ed. Bury); Harnack C ii. 473, MC 84 n 2). Harnack reprints them (MC 114 ff) from Ruinart.
These are Guignebert’s suggestions (199).
Gibbon, ch xvi (ii. 120 f, ed. Bury); Lecky i. 460; Gwatkin, Early Church History, ii. 328 f.
See p. 147, n 2. It is also just possible that the martyrs to whom he says (Laps 2): “(Your) forehead, pure with God’s sign, could not bear the devil’s crown, (but) kept itself for the Lord’s crown,” were soldiers who had refused some pagan rite (so apparently B.-Baker ICW 31); but more probably the phrase is simply metaphorical.
Eus HE VII xv. Cf the remarks of Harnack ME ii. 58 f, MC 78 ft.
Ruinart 344 (Projeci. Non enim decebat Christianum hominem molestiis saecularibus militare, qui Christo Domino militat); cf 345 (cum Marcellus. . . proclamaret, summa auctoritate constantiae molestiis saecularibus militare non posse).
See the Passio S. Cassiani in Ruinart 345.
Anal Bolland ix. 116 ff. The historical reliability of the story is very doubtful; cf Harnack C ii. 481 f, MC 83 n 4.
Eus Mart xi. 20–22.
Acta Tarachi, etc., in Ruinart 452.
See Achelis in Texte und Untersuchungen XI 2 (esp. pp. 44 f), for a full study of the fictitious Acta of these martyrs, as well as of the historic groundwork. Harnack (MC 83) says: “The Acts of Nereus and Achilleus. . . are to be left on one side”—but the same need not be said of Damasus’ epitaph.
I omit the words “eique fit iudicium,” which follow here in Funk’s Latin version: they are out of keeping with the context, do not appear in the parallel Greek of the Apostolic Constitutions, and are clearly a gloss.
Didask II xlv. I, xlvi. I.
Eus HE VIII i. 2.
Eus HE VIII ix. 7.
Can Illib 56. The duumvir in a provincial town was roughly what the consul was at Rome, viz. the chief magistrate. The same Synod penalized Christians who acted as ‘informers’ (Can Illib 73).
A. W. W. Dale, The Synod of Elvira, 234 f. The Synod of Arelate (Arles, 314 a.d.) provided that Christian magistrates, who “begin to act contrary to the discipline, then at last should be excluded from communion; and similarly with those who wish to take up political life” (Can Arel 7).
Cf Cypr Laps 6 for an early expression of this sentiment.
Arnob i. 6: see above, pp. 65 f.
Lact Inst II ix. 23.
Lact Inst V viii. 6.
Lact Inst V ix. 2.
Lact Inst V x. 10.
Lact Inst V xvii. 12 f. The gaps in my quotation deal with the parallel case of the just man who in a wreck will not take a plank from a drowning companion. Lactantius absurdly argues that the just man will never need to take a voyage, being content with what he has. Though in this point he allows his rhetoric to get the better of his common sense, it does not follow that his argument on the other point, ill-adapted as it was to the immediate purpose in hand, was equally frivolous.
Lact Inst VI vi. 20,22.
Lact Inst VI xx. 10.
Lact Inst VI xx. 15–17.