Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Apology of Aristides

A dear Christian friend of mine recently gave me a piece of paper that detailed the Apology of Aristides. I have included a portion of the Apology below because its message to practicing Christians is so encouraging and powerful.

If you are not familiar with Aristides and his Apology, he was an early Christian writer during the second century. Until 1878, the knowledge of Aristides was confined to some references in works by Eusebius of Caesarea and Saint Jerome. Eusebius said that he was an Athenian philosopher and that Aristides and another apologist, Quadratus, delivered their Apologies directly to the Emperor Hadrian of Athens circa 125 A.D.

Aristides begins his Apology by stating his name, where he is from and that he is delivering it to Emperor Hadrian. In the first chapter, he proclaims God exists because the world exists and that God is “eternal, impassible and perfect.” In the second chapter, he states that there are four races of the world – Barbarians, Greeks (includes Egyptians and Chaldeans), Jews and Christians. He then devotes chapters 3-16 to describing the different groups of people and how they practice religion. This Apology is the first known writing that compares the differences among world religions.

My hope and prayer is that our own walk with the Lord would mirror his depiction of the Christian life. So, without further delay, here is the Christian section of the Apology.

Apology of Aristides

Now the Christians, O king, by going about and seeking have found the truth, and as we have comprehended from their writings they are nearer to the truth and to exact knowledge than the rest of the peoples. For they know and believe in God, the Maker of heaven and earth, in whom are all things and from whom are all things. He who has no other god as His fellow from whom they have received those commandments which they have engraved on their minds, which they keep in the hope and expectation of the world to come.

So, that on this account, they do not commit adultery nor fornication. They do not bear false witness, they do not deny a deposit, nor covet what is not theirs. They honor father and mother. They do good to those who are their neighbors, and when they are judges they judge uprightly and they do not worship idols in the form of man. And whatever they do not wish that others should do to them, they do not practice towards any one. And they do not eat of the meats of idol sacrifices, for they are undefiled. And those who grieve them they comfort, and make them their friends and they do good to their enemies.

And their wives, O king, are pure as virgins, and their daughters modest. Their men abstain from all unlawful wedlock and from all impurity, in the hope of the recompense that is to come in another world. But as for their servants or handmaids, or their children if any of them have any, they persuade them to become Christians for the love that they have towards them, and when they have become so, they call them without distinction brethren.

They do not worship strange gods and they walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them. They love one another and from the widows they do not turn away their countenance and they rescue the orphan from him who does him violence and he who has gives to him who has not, without grudging. And when they see the stranger they bring him to their dwellings, and rejoice over him as over a true brother. For they do not call brothers those who are after the flesh, but those who are in the spirit and in God. Bu when one of their poor passes away from the world, and any of them sees him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability. And if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs, and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him.

And if there is among them a man that is poor or needy, and they have not an abundance of necessaries, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food. And they observe scrupulously the commandments of their Messiah. They live honestly and soberly, as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and at all hours on account of the goodness’ of God toward them they praise and laud Him, and over their food and over their drink they render Him thanks. And if any righteous person of their number passes away from the world they rejoice and give thanks to God, and they follow his body, as if he were moving from one place to another. And when a child is born to any one of them, they praise God, and if again it chance to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And, if again, they see that one of their number has died in his iniquity or in his sins, over this one they weep bitterly and sigh, as over one who is about to go to punishment.

Such is the ordinance of the law of the Christians, O king, and such their conduct.

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