A call to discipleship which expects renunciation of even natural goods for the sake of the gospel is a constituent element in the earliest strands of Christian teaching. It is prominent in Jesus' teaching in Luke's gospel, e.g. 14: 26, where the proclamation of the gospel is prior to family ties, or 9: 60, where it takes precedence over the burial of one's father. 1 Martha's activity is necessary but in priority yields to Mary's contemplative dedication (10: 41-2). At Corinth a group of converts were sure that baptism requires a renunciation of marriage. Ancient pre-Christian texts can say that one who has received the love of a god will forgo the love of a mortal, and that physical love distracts the soul in rising to higher things. Paul needed to tell the Corinthians that celibacy is a gift not given to all, and that marriage is no sin, even if celibacy allows for a greater degree of dedication to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7).
Presenting a case to impress hostile pagan readers in the second century, Justin was proud of Christians who had renounced marriage (Apol. 1. 15. 6). Origen (c. Cels. 7. 48) answered Celsus' scorn for Christians by pointing to believers who, 'like perfect priests', have turned away from sexual experience, and do not need, like the Athenian hierophant (cf. Julian, or. 5. 173), hemlock to ensure their chastity; and their motive is not honour or reward but purity of heart. Ascetics were an apologist's asset. Philo of Alexandria had thought similarly when in his treatise 'On the contemplative life' he described the Jewish communities called Therapeutae in Egypt.
In the second century there was no more intelligent person than the medical writer Galen. In one place he writes of the Christians with critical respect,