Athenagoras: Legatio and De Resurrectione

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The writer brings to the defence of the doctrine the best that contemporary philosophy could adduce. After meeting the objections common to his time, he seeks to prove the possibility of a resurrection in view either of the power of the Creator, or of the nature of our bodies. To exercise such powers is neither unworthy of God nor unjust to other creatures. He argues that the nature and end of man demand a perpetuation of the life of body and soul.

Although he clearly teaches the immortality of the soul and of the resurrection body, he argues that the soul is unconscious between death and resurrection: "[T]hose who are dead and those who sleep are subject to similar states, as regards at least the stillness and the absence of all sense of the present or the past, or rather of existence itself and their own life.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. This article's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. See Wikipedia's guide to writing better articles for suggestions. April Learn how and when to remove this template message. For the fine imposed by our persecutors does not aim merely at our property, nor their insults at our reputation , nor the damage they do us at any other of our greater interests.

These we hold in contempt, though to the generality they appear matters of great importance; for we have learned, not only not to return blow for blow, nor to go to law with those who plunder and rob us, but to those who smite us on one side of the face to offer the other side also, and to those who take away our coat to give likewise our cloak. But, when we have surrendered our property, they plot against our very bodies and souls , pouring upon us wholesale charges of crimes of which we are guiltless even in thought, but which belong to these idle praters themselves, and to the whole tribe of those who are like them.

If, indeed, any one can convict us of a crime, be it small or great, we do not ask to be excused from punishment, but are prepared to undergo the sharpest and most merciless inflictions. But if the accusation relates merely to our name — and it is undeniable, that up to the present time the stories told about us rest on nothing better than the common undiscriminating popular talk, nor has any Christian been convicted of crime — it will devolve on you, illustrious and benevolent and most learned sovereigns, to remove by law this despiteful treatment, so that, as throughout the world both individuals and cities partake of your beneficence, we also may feel grateful to you, exulting that we are no longer the victims of false accusation.

For it does not comport with your justice , that others when charged with crimes should not be punished till they are convicted, but that in our case the name we bear should have more force than the evidence adduced on the trial, when the judges, instead of inquiring whether the person arraigned have committed any crime, vent their insults on the name, as if that were itself a crime. But no name in and by itself is reckoned either good or bad; names appear bad or good according as the actions underlying them are bad or good.

You, however, have yourselves a clear knowledge of this, since you are well instructed in philosophy and all learning. For this reason, too, those who are brought before you for trial, though they may be arraigned on the gravest charges, have no fear , because they know that you will inquire respecting their previous life, and not be influenced by names if they mean nothing, nor by the charges contained in the indictments if they should be false: they accept with equal satisfaction, as regards its fairness, the sentence whether of condemnation or acquittal.

What, therefore, is conceded as the common right of all, we claim for ourselves, that we shall not be hated and punished because we are called Christians for what has the name to do with our being bad men? It is thus that we see the philosophers judged. None of them before trial is deemed by the judge either good or bad on account of his science or art, but if found guilty of wickedness he is punished, without thereby affixing any stigma on philosophy for he is a bad man for not cultivating philosophy in a lawful manner, but science is blameless , while if he refutes the false charges he is acquitted.

Let this equal justice , then, be done to us. Let the life of the accused persons be investigated, but let the name stand free from all imputation. I must at the outset of my defense entreat you, illustrious emperors, to listen to me impartially: not to be carried away by the common irrational talk and prejudge the case, but to apply your desire of knowledge and love of truth to the examination of our doctrine also.

Thus, while you on your part will not err through ignorance , we also, by disproving the charges arising out of the undiscerning rumour of the multitude, shall cease to be assailed. But if these charges are true , spare no class: proceed at once against our crimes; destroy us root and branch, with our wives and children, if any Christian is found to live like the brutes. And yet even the brutes do not touch the flesh of their own kind; and they pair by a law of nature, and only at the regular season, not from simple wantonness; they also recognise those from whom they receive benefits.

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

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

But to us, who distinguish God from matter, and teach that matter is one thing and God another, and that they are separated by a wide interval for that the Deity is uncreated and eternal , to be beheld by the understanding and reason alone, while matter is created and perishable , is it not absurd to apply the name of atheism? If our sentiments were like those of Diagoras, while we have such incentives to piety — in the established order, the universal harmony, the magnitude, the color, the form, the arrangement of the world — with reason might our reputation for impiety, as well as the cause of our being thus harassed, be charged on ourselves.

But, since our doctrine acknowledges one God , the Maker of this universe , who is Himself uncreated for that which is does not come to be, but that which is not but has made all things by the Logos which is from Him, we are treated unreasonably in both respects, in that we are both defamed and persecuted. Poets and philosophers have not been voted atheists for inquiring concerning God.

Euripides, speaking of those who, according to popular preconception, are ignorantly called gods, says doubtingly:—. If Zeus indeed does reign in heaven above, He ought not on the righteous ills to send.

Athenagoras : legatio and de resurrectione | UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI LIBRARY

But speaking of Him who is apprehended by the understanding as matter of certain knowledge , he gives his opinion decidedly, and with intelligence, thus:—. Do you see on high him who, with humid arms, Clasps both the boundless ether and the earth? Him reckon Zeus, and him regard as God. Reckon this Zeus. For, as to these so-called gods, he neither saw any real existences, to which a name is usually assigned, underlying them Zeus, for instance: who Zeus is I know not, but by report , nor that any names were given to realities which actually do exist for of what use are names to those who have no real existences underlying them?

Him therefore, from whom proceed all created things, and by whose Spirit they are governed, he concluded to be God ; and Sophocles agrees with him, when he says:—. There is one God , in truth there is but one, Who made the heavens, and the broad earth beneath. Philolaus, too, when he says that all things are included in God as in a stronghold, teaches that He is one, and that He is superior to matter. Lysis and Opsimus thus define God: the one says that He is an ineffable number, the other that He is the excess of the greatest number beyond that which comes nearest to it.

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

Chapter 1. Injustice Shown Towards the Christians.

But, inasmuch as it is impossible to demonstrate without the citation of names that we are not alone in confining the notion of God to unity, I have ventured on an enumeration of opinions. Plato , then, says, To find out the Maker and Father of this universe is difficult; and, when found, it is impossible to declare Him to all, conceiving of one uncreated and eternal God. And if he recognises others as well, such as the sun, moon, and stars, yet he recognises them as created: gods, offspring of gods, of whom I am the Maker, and the Father of works which are indissoluble apart from my will; but whatever is compounded can be dissolved.

If, therefore, Plato is not an atheist for conceiving of one uncreated God , the Framer of the universe , neither are we atheists who acknowledge and firmly hold that He is God who has framed all things by the Logos , and holds them in being by His Spirit. The Stoics also, although by the appellations they employ to suit the changes of matter, which they say is permeated by the Spirit of God , they multiply the Deity in name, yet in reality they consider God to be one.

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

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

But we have for witnesses of the things we apprehend and believe , prophets , men who have pronounced concerning God and the things of God , guided by the Spirit of God. As regards, then, the doctrine that there was from the beginning one God , the Maker of this universe , consider it in this wise, that you may be acquainted with the argumentative grounds also of our faith.

If there were from the beginning two or more gods, they were either in one and the same place, or each of them separately in his own. In one and the same place they could not be.

For, if they are gods, they are not alike; but because they are uncreated they are unlike: for created things are like their patterns; but the uncreated are unlike, being neither produced from any one, nor formed after the pattern of any one. Hand and eye and foot are parts of one body, making up together one man: is God in this sense one? And indeed Socrates was compounded and divided into parts, just because he was created and perishable; but God is uncreated, and, impassible, and indivisible — does not, therefore, consist of parts.

But if, on the contrary, each of them exists separately, since He that made the world is above the things created, and about the things He has made and set in order, where can the other or the rest be? For if the world, being made spherical, is confined within the circles of heaven, and the Creator of the world is above the things created, managing that by His providential care of these, what place is there for the second god, or for the other gods? For he is not in the world, because it belongs to the other; nor about the world, for God the Maker of the world is above it.

But if he is neither in the world nor about the world for all that surrounds it is occupied by this one , where is he? Is he above the world and [the first] God? In another world, or about another? But if he is in another or about another, then he is not about us, for he does not govern the world; nor is his power great, for he exists in a circumscribed space.

Patriarch Athenagoras Enthroned As Head Of Greek Orthodox Church (1949)

But if he is neither in another world for all things are filled by the other , nor about another for all things are occupied by the other , he clearly does not exist at all, for there is no place in which he can be. Or what does he do, seeing there is another to whom the world belongs, and he is above the Maker of the world, and yet is neither in the world nor about the world? Is there, then, some other place where he can stand? But God , and what belongs to God , are above him.

And what, too, shall be the place, seeing that the other fills the regions which are above the world? Perhaps he exerts a providential care? If, then, he neither does anything nor exercises providential care, and if there is not another place in which he is, then this Being of whom we speak is the one God from the beginning, and the sole Maker of the world. If we satisfied ourselves with advancing such considerations as these, our doctrines might by some be looked upon as human.

But, since the voices of the prophets confirm our arguments — for I think that you also, with your great zeal for knowledge , and your great attainments in learning, cannot be ignorant of the writings either of Moses or of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and the other prophets , who, lifted in ecstasy above the natural operations of their minds by the impulses of the Divine Spirit, uttered the things with which they were inspired, the Spirit making use of them as a flute-player breathes into a flute — what, then, do these men say?

The Lord is our God ; no other can be compared with Him. And again: I am God , the first and the last, and besides Me there is no God. That we are not atheists , therefore, seeing that we acknowledge one God , uncreated, eternal , invisible, impassible, incomprehensible, illimitable, who is apprehended by the understanding only and the reason, who is encompassed by light, and beauty, and spirit, and power ineffable, by whom the universe has been created through His Logos , and set in order, and is kept in being — I have sufficiently demonstrated.

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

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

If I go minutely into the particulars of our doctrine, let it not surprise you. It is that you may not be carried away by the popular and irrational opinion, but may have the truth clearly before you. For presenting the opinions themselves to which we adhere, as being not human but uttered and taught by God , we shall be able to persuade you not to think of us as atheists. What, then, are those teachings in which we are brought up? I say unto you, Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that persecute you; that you may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven, who causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good , and sends rain on the just and the unjust.

For who of those that reduce syllogisms, and clear up ambiguities, and explain etymologies, or of those who teach homonyms and synonyms, and predicaments and axioms, and what is the subject and what the predicate, and who promise their disciples by these and such like instructions to make them happy : who of them have so purged their souls as, instead of hating their enemies, to love them; and, instead of speaking ill of those who have reviled them to abstain from which is of itself an evidence of no mean forbearance , to bless them; and to pray for those who plot against their lives?

On the contrary, they never cease with evil intent to search out skilfully the secrets of their art, and are ever bent on working some ill, making the art of words and not the exhibition of deeds their business and profession. But among us you will find uneducated persons , and artisans, and old women , who, if they are unable in words to prove the benefit of our doctrine, yet by their deeds exhibit the benefit arising from their persuasion of its truth : they do not rehearse speeches, but exhibit good works; when struck, they do not strike again; when robbed , they do not go to law; they give to those that ask of them, and love their neighbours as themselves.

Should we, then, unless we believed that a God presides over the human race , thus purge ourselves from evil? Most certainly not. But, because we are persuaded that we shall give an account of everything in the present life to God , who made us and the world, we adopt a temperate and benevolent and generally despised method of life, believing that we shall suffer no such great evil here, even should our lives be taken from us, compared with what we shall there receive for our meek and benevolent and moderate life from the great Judge. Plato indeed has said that Minos and Rhadamanthus will judge and punish the wicked ; but we say that, even if a man be Minos or Rhadamanthus himself, or their father, even he will not escape the judgment of God.

Are, then, those who consider life to be comprised in this, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die, and who regard death as a deep sleep and forgetfulness sleep and death, twin brothers , to be accounted pious ; while men who reckon the present life of very small worth indeed, and who are conducted to the future life by this one thing alone, that they know God and His Logos , what is the oneness of the Son with the Father , what the communion of the Father with the Son , what is the Spirit , what is the unity of these three, the Spirit , the Son , the Father , and their distinction in unity; and who know that the life for which we look is far better than can be described in words, provided we arrive at it pure from all wrong-doing; who, moreover, carry our benevolence to such an extent, that we not only love our friends for if you love them, He says, that love you, and lend to them that lend to you, what reward will you have?

These, however, are only small matters taken from great, and a few things from many, that we may not further trespass on your patience; for those who test honey and whey, judge by a small quantity whether the whole is good. But, as most of those who charge us with atheism , and that because they have not even the dreamiest conception of what God is, and are doltish and utterly unacquainted with natural and divine things, and such as measure piety by the rule of sacrifices , charges us with not acknowledging the same gods as the cities, be pleased to attend to the following considerations, O emperors, on both points.

And first, as to our not sacrificing : the Framer and Father of this universe does not need blood, nor the odour of burnt-offerings, nor the fragrance of flowers and incense , forasmuch as He is Himself perfect fragrance, needing nothing either within or without; but the noblest sacrifice to Him is for us to know who stretched out and vaulted the heavens, and fixed the earth in its place like a centre, who gathered the water into seas and divided the light from the darkness, who adorned the sky with stars and made the earth to bring forth seed of every kind, who made animals and fashioned man.

When, holding God to be this Framer of all things, who preserves them in being and superintends them all by knowledge and administrative skill, we lift up holy hands to Him, what need has He further of a hecatomb? For they, when mortals have transgress'd or fail'd To do aright, by sacrifice and pray 'r, Libations and burnt-offerings, may be soothed. And what have I to do with holocausts , which God does not stand in need of? Then, as to the other complaint, that we do not pray to and believe in the same gods as the cities, it is an exceedingly silly one. Why, the very men who charge us with atheism for not admitting the same gods as they acknowledge, are not agreed among themselves concerning the gods.

Time would fail me to enumerate the whole. When, therefore, they differ among themselves concerning their gods, why do they bring the charge against us of not agreeing with them? Then look at the practices prevailing among the Egyptians : are they not perfectly ridiculous? For in the temples at their solemn festivals they beat their breasts as for the dead, and sacrifice to the same beings as gods; and no wonder, when they look upon the brutes as gods, and shave themselves when they die, and bury them in temples, and make public lamentation.

If, then, we are guilty of impiety because we do not practice a piety corresponding with theirs, then all cities and all nations are guilty of impiety, for they do not all acknowledge the same gods. But grant that they acknowledge the same. What then? Because the multitude, who cannot distinguish between matter and God , or see how great is the interval which lies between them, pray to idols made of matter, are we therefore, who do distinguish and separate the uncreated and the created, that which is and that which is not, that which is apprehended by the understanding and that which is perceived by the senses, and who give the fitting name to each of them — are we to come and worship images?

If, indeed, matter and God are the same, two names for one thing, then certainly, in not regarding stocks and stones, gold and silver, as gods, we are guilty of impiety. But if they are at the greatest possible remove from one another — as far asunder as the artist and the materials of his art — why are we called to account?

For as is the potter and the clay matter being the clay, and the artist the potter , so is God , the Framer of the world, and matter, which is subservient to Him for the purposes of His art. But as the clay cannot become vessels of itself without art, so neither did matter, which is capable of taking all forms, receive, apart from God the Framer, distinction and shape and order.

And as we do not hold the pottery of more worth than him who made it, nor the vessels of glass and gold than him who wrought them; but if there is anything about them elegant in art we praise the artificer, and it is he who reaps the glory of the vessels: even so with matter and God — the glory and honour of the orderly arrangement of the world belongs of right not to matter, but to God , the Framer of matter.

So that, if we were to regard the various forms of matter as gods, we should seem to be without any sense of the true God , because we should be putting the things which are dissoluble and perishable on a level with that which is eternal. Beautiful without doubt is the world, excelling, as well in its magnitude as in the arrangement of its parts, both those in the oblique circle and those about the north, and also in its spherical form.

Yet it is not this, but its Artificer, that we must worship. For when any of your subjects come to you, they do not neglect to pay their homage to you, their rulers and lords, from whom they will obtain whatever they need, and address themselves to the magnificence of your palace; but, if they chance to come upon the royal residence, they bestow a passing glance of admiration on its beautiful structure: but it is to you yourselves that they show honour , as being all in all.

You sovereigns, indeed, rear and adorn your palaces for yourselves; but the world was not created because God needed it; for God is Himself everything to Himself — light unapproachable, a perfect world, spirit, power, reason. If, therefore, the world is an instrument in tune, and moving in well-measured time, I adore the Being who gave its harmony, and strikes its notes, and sings the accordant strain, and not the instrument.

For at the musical contests the adjudicators do not pass by the lute-players and crown the lutes. Whether, then, as Plato says, the world be a product of divine art, I admire its beauty, and adore the Artificer; or whether it be His essence and body, as the Peripatetics affirm, we do not neglect to adore God , who is the cause of the motion of the body, and descend to the poor and weak elements, adoring in the impassible air as they term it , passible matter; or, if any one apprehends the several parts of the world to be powers of God , we do not approach and do homage to the powers, but their Maker and Lord.

Oh no, there's been an error

I do not ask of matter what it has not to give, nor passing God by do I pay homage to the elements, which can do nothing more than what they were bidden; for, although they are beautiful to look upon, by reason of the art of their Framer, yet they still have the nature of matter. He honored them and their intellect, confident that once they heard his humble explanation, they would readily see through the false stereotypes perpetuated about Christians.

This attitude means we stop labeling those who disagree with us, polarizing them as utterly reprobate, and attacking them with outrageous rhetoric. Of course they are. But after all, they, like us, are just sinners who desperately need the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Athenagoras provides a model for humbly respecting others in dialogue — which shows concern for them, rather than hatred based on stereotypes. Shown us love when we deserve spurning? Why not show that kind of love to anti-Christians?

A commitment to Christ and Scripture despite the response. But if persecution came, Athenagoras feared nothing. He saw his life from an eternal perspective and would willingly give up his life before denying his faith. That is the essence of true Christianity: A love for and dependence upon the Triune God no matter what befalls us in this life and a love for people that leads us to interact with them humbly so they might find the true hope of Christ.

Sometimes to help people see what Christianity really is, we need to break false stereotypes as Athenagoras did. So how do we respond to charges of being heartless and enemies of progress, as some charge evangelicals with regard to stem cell research? Perhaps instead of dismissing their arguments as plainly non-Christian, we can interact by setting straight our view. They argue that evangelicals oppose embryonic stem cell research because we want to both defend the helpless and reject a false hope of immortality.

We oppose it because we want people to find the true source of immortality, not a murdered embryo, but a murdered Christ, who rose from the dead to give life to all who believe in Him. If we are to be mocked and persecuted, let it be for what we really believe and not for some mangled stereotype of evangelicals — for our faith in Jesus, not a disregard of suffering humans.

Athenagoras S. Legatio Per Christianis, Ejusdem De Resurrectione Mortuorum Cura Et Studio E. Dechir

No one says shattering stereotypes is easy, but it is Christian. Athenagoras might say that the shattering of glass never sounded so good. David Barshinger has a Ph. David lives in Illinois with his wife, Allison, and their four children. Faith Church Spiritual Growth. David Barshinger March 8, For many, the name carries strong negative stereotypes: Right-wing extremist fundamentalist, homophobe, constrainer of women, doubter of reason.



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