Philo in Early Christian Literature: A Survey

By David T. Runia | Go to book overview

Chapter Six
The Apologists

Towards the middle of the 2nd century the Christian communities, steadily gaining in strength, begin to direct their attention outwards towards the society in which they lived. Right from the beginning this dimension had not been entirely lacking, as Luke perceived when he presents the apostle Paul as delivering a sermon to a group of assembled Athenian philosophers on the Areopagus (Acts 17:16–34). Paul’s speech contains various themes that are a clear continuation of the tradition of Jewish apologetic. Nevertheless it was not until the 2nd century that more strenuous and systematic efforts were made to present the salient points of the Christian message to audiences whose basic view of the world was based on the accumulated tradition of Greek philosophical thought. The first group to attempt this task are generally known under the collective title of the Apologists.1 Their interest in philosophical and theological questions naturally brings them much closer to Philo than the New Testament writers and the Apostolic Fathers. We shall now examine their relation to the Philonic legacy, paying most attention to the figure of Justin Martyr, unquestionably the greatest of these early Christian ‘theologians’. As we noted in one of our introductory chapters, much of this ground has been covered by Martín in his valuable status quaestionis on ‘Philo and Christian ideas of the second century’.2

1 Texts collected in Goodspeed (1914), which as a collection still remains unsuperseded. In recent years there has been considerable work done on the texts of individual authors. The following works should be noted: new editions of Athenagoras by Schoedel (1972), Marcovich (1990a) (Legatio only); new edition of Justin’s Apologies by Wartelle (1987), of Dial. 1–9 (with extensive commentary) by Van Winden (1971); new edition of Tatian by Whittaker (1982). For a text and translation of Theophilus (not included in Goodspeed) see Grant (1970). The most recent comprehensive study of the Apologists is by Grant (1988).

2 Cf. Martín (1988), and above §3.3, where we note that he intends to publish a monograph on this subject.

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