by Adolph (von) Harnack
translated and edited by James Moffatt
Second, enlarged and revised English edition;
London: Williams and Norgate / New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1908 (from the 2nd German edition)..
Theological Translation Library, volumes 19-20
From the German, Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten (1902, revised 1906, 1915, and finally 1924)
[[being updated (also consulting the 4th German edition) and adapted by RAK
for use in 2004 America;
Greek needs to be inserted, using side by side format?]]
THE SPREAD OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION
GENERAL EVIDENCE FOR THE EXTENT AND INTENSITY OF THE SPREAD OF CHRISTIANITY. THE MAIN STAGES IN THE HISTORY OF THE MISSION.
Josephus, the Jewish writer at the close of the first century CE, apparently
completely ignores the Christian movement; for it is at
least questionable whether he -- in a single passage (Antiquities
18.(3.3).63-64) on the "Christian" "tribe
(fulon) named after Christ" -- claimed that
they "have not yet disappeared,"\1/ and also the reference to Jacob/James
"the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ"\2/ is contested.\3/ Nevertheless,
we may infer from the silence of Josephus, whether
it is partial or complete, that no solid conclusions can be drawn concerning
the reliability of the gospel story or information about the earliest spread
of Christianity. Even at a much later period it was unnoticed by historians.
Herodian, for example, who wrote (about 240 CE) a comprehensive history of the
period between the death of Marcus Aurelius and the accession of Gordian III,
never mentioned it.
\1/Josephus, Antiquities 18.(3.3).63-64 (Whiston): "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."
\2/Josephus, Antiquities 20.(9.1).200: Ananus the high priest "convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James/Jacob, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others, and accusing them of being law transgressors he delivered them over for stoning."
\3/The 1908 ET is much more dogmatic here -- the so-called testimony to Jesus is a Christian interpolation. Josephus may have deliberately ignored the Christian movement. This suggests that Christianity was numerically insignificant among the religious movements of the age. (The Jacob/James passage is not mentioned.) The 1924 German 4th edition adds the following note at this point: I have defended my views on the Josephus evidence in the "Internat. Monatsschrift" of June 1913; but Norden's presentation in the "Neuen Jahrbb. f. d. Klass. Altert." 1.31 (1913) 637ff. has made a strong impression on me which prevents me from positing an unambiguous conclusion. The inauthenticity of the James/Jacob passage seems to me undemonstrable. This passage in general ignores the existence of Christian communities.
The following is a chronological list of the more important passages bearing on the outward and the inward spread of Chirstianity. So far as I know, this has never been attempted before. [[[]]]
§ 1. Paul [English added from RSV translation]
§ 2. ["Paul"] 1 Timothy 3.16 [RSV added]:
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He [Christ] was manifested
in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations,
believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
§ 3. Mark 13.10 (ASV added) And the gospel must first be preached
unto all the nations.
// Matthew 24.14 (ASV added): And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come.
(cf. Matthew 10.18 (ASV added): ... before governors and kings shall ye be brought for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.)
§ 4. Acts 17.6 (ASV added): And when they found them not, they
dragged Jason and certain brethren before the rulers of the city, crying, These
[Christian missionaries] that have turned the world upside down are come hither
§ 5. Acts 21.20 (ASV added): And they, when they heard it, glorified
God; and they said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands there are
among the Jews of them that have believed; and they are all zealous for the
(NIV alternate) When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.
§ 6. John, Apocalypse 7.9 (ASV added): After these things I saw, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palms in their hands;
§ 7. Mark 16.20 [longer ending] (ASV added): And they [Jesus' disciples]
went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming
the word by the signs that followed.
(cf. an alternate ending to Mark: Jesus himself sent out through them [the disciples] from the east to the western limit the holy and incorruptible proclamation.)
(cf. Matthew 24.9, 29.19, Luke 24.47, Acts 1.8, and the Preaching of Peter according to Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 6.6.48)
§ 8. 1 Clement 5 : "Paul ....having taught righteousness to
all the world." -- So it is said of Peter in the pseudo-Clementine epistle
to James which introduces the psuedo-Clementine Homilies, that he "bore
witness to all the world of the good King who was to come,"; cf. 42.4:
("the apostles preaching throughout countries and cities"), and 59.2:
("the number of the elect throughout all the world").
§ 9. Ignatius, Romans 3 [] (" the bishops settled in the utmost corners [of the world] are in the mind of Jesus Christ.")\4/
\4/The passages in Ignatius, Romans 4 [insert Greek] ("I am writing to all the churches and I enjoin all") and Polycarp 8 [insert Greek] ("I was not able to write to all the churches") permit us to conjecture that there were only a small number of communities, if they do not refer to the province of Asia and its neighborhood. [correct ref in 1908 ET?! not Eph?]
§ 10. Pliny, Epistle to Trajan 96 : "....visa est
enim mihi res digna consultatione, maxime propter periclitantium numerum. multi
[[[]]] enim omnis aetatis, omnis ordinis,
utriusque sexus etiam, vocantur in periculum et vocabuntur. neque civitates
tantam sed vicos etiam atque agros superstitionis istius contagio pervagata
est; quae videtur sisti et corrigi posse. certe satis constat prope iam desolata
templa coepisse celebrari et sacra solemnia diu intermissa repeti pastumque
venire victimaram, cuius adhuc rarissimus emptor inveniebatur. ex quo facile
est opinari, quae turba hominum emendari possit, si sit paenitentiae locus"
("The matter seemed to me to deserve attention, especially as so many are imperilled. For many of all ages and ranks, and even of both sexes, are in risk of their lives, or will be. The infection of the superstition has spread not only through cities but into villages and country districts, and yet it seems possible to check it and put it right. At any rate, it is quite certain that temples which were almost forsaken are beginning tobe frequented; sacred rites, long fallen into disuse are being revived; and there is a market for fodder used by the sacrificial victims, whereas up till now buyers bad been very scarce. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of men could be reclaimed, if they had but a chance, of repentance".)
Compare also 1 Clem. 6, and Tacit., Annal. 15.44, where "a great multitude of the elect " is said to have perished by martyrdom in the Neronian persecution. The expression "mutitudo ingens" is used in Tertullian's Apol. 21 of the number of adherents personally enlisted by Jesus. "Christians of the country," first used by Pliny, is a term which occurs fairly often in subsequent documents.
§ 11. Hermas 69.2 [Simil. 8.3]: ("This mighty tree
which overshadows plains, mountains, [] and all the earth is God's law given
to the whole world; and this law is the Son of God preached to the ends of the
earth. The peoples under its shadow are those who have heard the preaching and
believed on him"), cp. 94.1 [Sim. 9.17]: ("These twelve mountains
are twelve tribes who inhabit the whole world; to these tribes, then, the Son
of God was preached by the apostles. . . . All the nations dwelling under heaven
are called by the name of the Son of God, once they hear and believe").
§ 12. Justin's Apology begins thus: ("On behalf of
those in every race who are unjustly hated and abused"); cf. 25, 26, 32,
40, 53, and 56, where Christians are invariably represented as drawn "from
all nations" or "from every race of men"; also Dialogue
117: ("For there is not a single race of human beings, barbarians, Greeks,
or whatever name you please to call them, nomads or vagrants or herdsmen living
in tents, where prayers in the name of Jesus the crucified are not offered up
. . . .");\5/ cf. , 43, 52, 53, 91, 121,
131, and Apology 1.53: ("more Christians from among pagans than
from the Jews or Samaritans").\6/ Dialogue
39 [[get and add to 1908 ET!]].
\5/Justin also says the opposite (same passage), that there are people among whom no Jew has ever lived.
\6/Later this is often repeated, as for example in Pseudo-Augustine, Quaest. Vet. et Nov. Test. 44.12 (p. 78 ed. Souter): Tam raro et difficile Judaeus fidelis invenitur, ut omnes ecclesiae Novi Testamenti gentium nominentur ("...").
§ 13. Pseudo-Clement (=bishop Soter), ad Cor. 2: ("Our
people then seemed to be deserted by God; whereas now, after believing, we have
outnumbered those [i.e., the Jews] who seemed to have God").[[[[532
and check 2 Clement]]]]
§ 14. The anonymous author of the Epistle to Diognetus 6:
("Through all the members of the body is the soul spread; so are Christians
throughout the cities of the world"). []
§ 15. Celsus (in Orig., 8.69): ("If any one of you [Christians]
transgresses secretly, he is none the less sought for and punished with death").
§ 16. Papylus (Mart. Carpi, Papyli, etc., 32):\7/ ("In every province and city I have children towards God"). Compare also the remark of Melito to Marcus Aurelius (in Eus., H.E. 4.26), that many imperial rescripts had been published in different cities regarding Christianity, and the fact that the rescript of Pius to the Asian commune, which contains a kernel of truth, says that "many governors in the provinces have already addressed the emperor on the question of Christianity."
\7/At the earliest from the time of Decius?
§ 17. Iren. AH 1.10.2: ("Though scattered throughout
the whole world, the church carefully keeps this preaching and faith which she
has received, as if she dwelt in a single house. Likewise she believes these
doctrines as if possesed of a single soul and of one heart, proclaiming and
teaching and handling them down with unbroken harmony, as if possessed of but
one mouth. For although the languages of the world are varied, yet the []
meaning of the Christian tradition is one and the same. There is no whit of
difference in what is believed or handed down by the churches planted in German
areas\8/ or in Iberian,\9/
or in Gaul or in the East or in Libya or in the central region\10/
of the world. Nay, as the sun remains the same all over the world... so also
the preaching of the faith shines everywhere").
See also 3.11.8: ("it is impossible to enumerate the gifts received by the churcvh from God all over the world," etc.).
\8/On the use of the plural, see Pliny, Natural History 31.7: Galliae Germaniaeque ardentibus lignis aquam salsam infundunt. Tacitus, Annals 2.73: Perculsus tot victoriis Germanias servitium premere. The translator of Irenaeus uses the singular form, "Germany" (as does Caesar in his works).
\9/The plural is also used by Pliny, Natural History 4.22, and by Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah 64. The translator of Irenaeus writes "In Hiberis" (singular, "in Iberia").
\10/It is difficult to understand this as a reference to the Palestinian churches, with Grabe. Probably the Greek and Italian churchs are meant.
3.4.1: :Quid autem si neque apostoli quidem scripturas reliquissent nobis, nonne oportebat ordinem sequi traditionis quam tradiderunt iis quibus committebant eorum qui in Christum credunt sine charta vel atramento scriptam habentes per spiritum in cordibus salutem
("What if even the apostles had no left us writings? Would it not be necessary for us then to follow the course of that tradition which they bequeathed to those in whose care they left the churches? -- a course adhered to by many nations among the barbarians who believe in Christ, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without ink or paper").
5.20.1: Eorum qui ab ecclesia sunt semita circumiens mundum universum et videre nobis donans omnium unam et eandem esse fidem.
5.20.2: Apud ecclesiam una et eadem salutis via in universo mundo ostenditur. [[[]]]
§ 18. Clem. Alex., Protrept. 10 (end) and 11 (beginning):
It is no longer necessary to go to Athens, since the Logos is now revealed to
all, including Athens and Greece"
Stromateis 6.18.167: ("The word of our teacher did not remain in Judea alone, as did philosophy in Greece, but was poured out over the whole universe, persuading Greeks and barbarians alike in the various nations and villages and cities, winning over whole households, [] and bringing to the truth each individual of those who had believed, as well as not a few philosophers" [+++]).
§ 19. Polycrates (in Eus., H.E. 5.24.7) says that he had
"met with Christian brethren from all over the world," and then remarks
that in Asia there already were numerous bishoprics.
§ 20a. Tertullian, Apology 2: "Obsessam vociferantur
civitatem, in agris, in castellis, in insulis Christianos, omnem sexum, aetatem,
condicionem, etiam dignitatem transgredi ad hoc nomen" ("The cry is
that the State is infested with Christians, in the fields, in the villages,
in the lodging-houses! Both sexes, every age and condition of life, rank itself,
are gone over to the Christian. name!").
37. Si et hostes exertos non tantum vindices occultos agere vellemus, deesset nobis vis et copiarum? plures nimirum Mauri et Marcomanni ipsique Parthi vel quantaecumque unius tamen loci et suorum finium gentes quam totius orbis? hesterni sumus et vestra omnia implevimus, urbes, insulas, castella, municipia, conciliabula, castra ipsa, tribus, decurias, palatium, senatum, forum, sola vobis relinquimus templa. possumus dinumerare exercitus vestros: unius provincias [scil. Christiani] plures erunt. cui bello non idonei, non prompti fuissemus, etiam impares copiis, qui tam libenter trucidamur, si non apud istam disciplinam magis occidi liceret quam occidere? potuimus et inermes nee rebelles, sed tantummodo discordes solius divortii, invidia adversus vos dimicasse. si enim tanta vis hominum in aliquem orbis remoti sinum abrupissemus a vobis, suffudisset utique dominationem vestram tot qualiumcumque civium amissio, immo etiam et ipsa destitutione punisset. Procul dubio expavissetis ad solitudinem vestram, ad silentium verum et stuporem quendam quasi mortui orbis. . . plures hostes quam cives vobis remansissent. nunc etiam pauciores hostes habetis prae multitudine Christianorum, paene omnium civium. paene omnes cives Christianos hostes habendos et hostes maluistis vocare generis humani potius quam erroris humani."
("If we wanted to play the part of avowed enemies, not merely secret avengers, would we be lacking in numbers or resources? Do the Mauri, the Marcomanni, the Parthians themselves, or any nation, however great, belonging to one country and living within its own boundaries, do these, forsooth, outnumber one that is all over the world ? We are but of yesterday. Yet we have filled all the places you frequent-cities, lodging-houses, [] villages, townships, markets, the camp itself, the tribes, town councils, the palace, the senate, and the forum. All we have left you is your temples. For what war should we not have been fit and ready, even despite our inferiority in numbers, we who are so willing to perish were it not better, according to our mind, to be killed rather than to kill? We could have fought you even without being rebels, simply by showing our ill-will in separating from your polity. For if such a force of men as ours had broken away from you to some distant corner of the world, why, your empire would have been covered with shame at the loss of so many citizens, no matter who they were; nay, your punishment would have been civic bankruptcy. Undoubtedly you would have shuddered at your desolate condition, at the very silence, and at the stupor as of a world lying in death....You would have been left with more foes than citizens; for nowadays it is owing to the multitude of Christians that your foes are fewer, since nearly all the citizens of nearly all your cities are Christians").
Ad Nat. 1.8: Non ulla gens non Christiana.
De bapt. 5: Nunc [[[]]] quotidie populi conservantur delata morte per absolutionem delictorum.
De Corona, 12: "Et apud barbaros Christus" (Tertullian has already assumed there were Christians among the barbarians conquered by the Romans).
Ad Scap. 2: "Tanta hominum multitudo, pars paene maior civitatis cuiusque, in silentio et modestia agimus" ("For all our vast numbers, constituting almost a majority in every city, we lead a quiet and modest life").
Ad Scap. 5: "Hoc si placuerit et hic fieri [i.e., bloody persecutions], quid. facies de tantis [variant "decem"] milibus hominum, tot viris ac feminis, omnis sexus, omnis aetatis, omnis dignitatis, offerentibus se tibi ? quantis ignibus, quantis gladiis opus erit ? quid ipsa Carthago, passura est, decimanda a te, cum propinquos, cum contubernales suos illic unusquisque cognoverit, cum viderit illic fortasse et tui ordinis viros et matronas et principales quasque personas et amicorum tuorum vel propinquos vel amicos? parce ergo tibi, si non nobis; parce Carthagini, si non tibi; parce provinciae, quae visa intentione tua obnoxia facta est concussionibus et militum et inimicorum suorum cuiusque"
("Should you determine to carry out this policy here, what will you do with so many thousands of people, men and women, of both sexes and of every age and rank, all presenting themselves to you? What fires, what [] swords you will require? What will Carthage herself have to suffer if thus you have to decimate her, since everyone will recognize in their number his relatives and companions, catching sight perhaps of men and women there who belong to your own rank, and recognizing all the principal men of the city, with kinsmen or friends of your own circle? Spare yourself, if you will not spare us! Spare Carthage, if you will not spare yourself! Spare the province, which the sight of your purpose has rendered liable to violent extortion at the hands of the soldiery and of ones private enemies").
Adv. Marc. 3.20: "Aspice universes nationes de voragine erroris humani exinde emergentes ad deum creatorem, ad deum Christum.....Christus totum iam orbem evangelii sui fide cepit
("Look at whole nations emerging from the whirlpool of error, to God their creator, to Christ as God.....Christ has now won the whole round world by the faith of his gospel').
De Fuga 12: "Numquam usque adhuc ex Christianis tale aliquid prospectum est sub aliqua redemptione capitis et sectae redigendis, cum tantae multitudinis nemini ignotae fructus ingens meti posset"
("Up to the present moment no such gain has ever been made out of any purchase-money paid for a Christian's person and sect, though a rich harvest could be reaped from their vast numbers, which are well known to everybody").
Adv. Judaeos 7 : "In quem alium universae gentes crediderunt nisi in Christum, qui iam venit? [Then follows the catalogue of nations in Acts 2.9 ff.] et ceterae gentes, ut iam Getulorum varietates, et Maurorum multi fines, Hispaniarum omnes termini, et Galliarum diversae nationes, et Britannorum inaccessa Romanis loca, Christo vero subdita, et Sarmatarum, et Dacorum, et Germanorum, et Scytharum, et abditarum multarum gentium et provinciarum et insularum multarum nobis ignotarum, et quae enumerare minus possumus. in quibus omnibus locis Christi nomen, qui iam venit regnat, utpote ante quem omnium civitatum portae sunt apertae, et cui nullae sunt clausae, ante quem serae ferreae sunt comminutae et valvae aereae apertae (Isa 45.1ff). quamquam et ista spiritaliter sint intellegenda ..., attamen perspicue sunt adimpleta utpote in quibus omnibus locis populus nominis Christiani inhabitet."
("On whom else have all the nations of the world believed, but on the Christ who has already come? . . . . with others as well as different races of the Gaetuli, many tribes of the Mauri, all the confines of Spain, and various tribes of Gaul, with places in Britain which, though inaccessible to Rome, have yielded to Christ. Add the Sarmate, the Daci, the Germans, the Scythians, and many [] remote peoples, provinces, and islands unknown to us, which we are unable to go over" +++).
In de Anima 15, philosophers and physicians are first mentioned, together with their followers; then Christians, who are "omnibus plures."
De Anima 49: "Nulla iam gens dei extranea est, in omnem terram et in terminos orbis evangelio coruscante."
("No race now lies outside God, the gospel flashing over all the earth and to the world's boundaries");
cf. 50: "Omnes iam nationes ascendunt in montem domini"
("All nations now go up to the hill of the Lord").
This provides only a sampling of relevant passages from Tertullian.
§ 20b. Hippolytus, Philos. 10.34: ("Such is the true word regarding God, O ye Greeks and barbarians, Chaldeans and Assyrians, Egyptians and Libyans, Indians and Ethiopians, Celts and warrior Latins, all ye inhabitants of Europe, Asia, and Libya"). [[This was a footnote in the 2nd edition.]]
§ 21. Cacilius, in Minuc. Felix, 9: "Ac iam, ut fecundius
nequiora provediunt, serpentibus in dies perditis moribus per universum orbem
sacraria ista taeterrima impiae coitionis adolescunt"
("And as the fouler a thing is, the faster it ripens, while dissolute morals glide on day by day all over the world, those loathsome rites of an impious assembly are maturing");
also Octavius in 31: "Et quod in dies nostri numerus augetur, non est crimen erroris sed testimonium laudis" ("That our numbers increase daily is a reason, not for charging us with error, but for bearing witness to us with praise");
33: "Nec nobis de nostm frequentia blandiamur: multi nobis videmur, sed deo admodum pauci sumus" ("Nor let us flatter ourselves about our numbers. We seem many to our own eyes, but in God's sight we are still few").
§ 22. Origen, de Princ. 4.1.1 f.: []
("All Greece and the barbarian part of our universe contain thousands of zealots who have deserted ancestral laws and the recognized gods, the observance of Mosaic laws, and discipleship to the words of Jesus Christ.....And if we observe how strong the Word has waxed in a few years, though those who acknowledged Christianity formed conspiracies, and put some to death on this account, while others lost their property, and that in spite of the small number of its teachers, it was preached everywhere in the world, so that Greeks and barbarians, wise and foolish alike, adhered to the worship that is through Jesus -- we cannot hesitate to say that the result is beyond any human power").
Hom. 9.10 in Josua (Lommatzsch, vol. 11 p. 100): "Convenerunt reges terrae, senatus populusque et principes Romani, ut expugnarent nomen Jesu et Israel simul. decreverunt enim legibus suis, ut non sint Christiani. omnis civitas, omnis ordo Christianorum nomen impugnat. sed . . . . principes vel potestates istae contrariae ut non Christianoram genus latius ac profusius propagetur obtinere non valebunt. confidimus autem, quia non solum non poterunt obtinere visibiles inimici et adversarii nostri, a etiam velociter Jesu domino nostro vincente conteretur satanas sub pedibus servorum eius. illo etenim duce semper vincent milites sui," etc.
("The kings of the earth, the senate and people and rulers of Rome, assembled to attack the name of Jesus and Israel at once. They have decreed by law that there should be no Christians. Every state, every rank, assails the name of Christians. But. . . . these rulers and powers will not avail to prevent the race of Christians from spreading farther and wider. Our confidence is that not only shall our visible enemies and foes fail to vanquish us, but that soon Jesus our Lord shall conquer and Satan be trodden under the feet of his servants. For under the leadership of Jesus his soldiers will conquer etc.).
Hom. 15 in Josua (vol. 11 p. 144): "Noster dominus Jesus ipse cepit omnem terram, in eo quod ex omni terra atque ex omnibus ad eum concurrit credentiam multitudo"
("Our Lord Jesus himself has taken possession of [] the whole earth, since a multitude of believers gather to him from every land and people").
Hom.1 in Psalm. 36 (Lommatzsch, vol. 12 p. 155): "Nos sumus, 'non gens' (Deut. 32.21), qui pauci ex ista civitate credimus et alii ex alia, et nusquam gens integra ab initio credulitatis videtur assumpta non enim sicut Judaeorum gens erat vel Aegyptiorum gens, ita etiam Christianorum genus gens est una vel integra, sed sparsim ex singulis gentibus congregantur"'
("We are 'no people' [Deut 32.21] who believe a few from this state or from that; no entire race of unbelievers seems anywhere to have been won over. For the race of Christians is not one people, like that of the Jews or Egyptians formerly; it is not a unity, but gathered sporadically from the separate nations").
Select. in Ps. 46 (vol. 12 p. 333):
In Matt. 24.9 ("Et praedicabitur hoc evangelium regni in universo orbe, in testimonium omnibus gentibus, et tunc veniet finis"): si discutere quis velit, quod ait 'omnibus gentibus', satis inveniet certum, quoniam omnibus etiam in ultimis partibus terrae commorantibus gentibus odio habetur populus Christi, nisi forte et hic aliquis dicat propter exaggerationem positum 'omnibus' pro 'multis' . . . . et in hoc statu constitutis rebus (sc. in the last days) evangelium quod prius non fuerat praedicatum in toto mundo -- multi enim non solum barbararum, sed etiam nostrarum gentium usque hunc non audierunt Christianitatis verbum -- tunc autem praedicabitur, ut omnis gens evangelicam audiat. praedicabitur, et nemo derelinquatur qui non audivit, et tunc erit saeculi finis....nondum enim multi proditores de ecclesia facti sunt, et nondum multi falsi prophetae exstiterunt multos fallentes: sic et nondum odio habiti sunt ab omnibus gentibus etiam in ultimis partibus terrae habitantibus, propter nomen Christi: sic et nondum est praedicatum esse evangelium apud omnes Ethiopas, maxime apud eos, qui sunt ultra flumen; sed nec apud Seras nec apud Ariacin" [Orientem, edd., but he probably means <gk>A)riakh/</gk>, a region on the western coast of India] [] "audierunt Christianitatis sermonen. quid autem dicamus, de Britannis aut Germanis, qui sunt circa oceanum, vel apud barbaros, Dacos et Sarmatas et Scythas, quorum plurimi nondum audierunt evangelii verbum, audituri sunt autem in ipsa saeculi consummatione. adspice enim quod ait : 'et praedicabitur hoc evangelium regni in toto orbe, in testimonium omnibus gentibus, et tunc erit finis.' si autem vult quis temere dicere, praedicatum iam esse evangelium regni in toto orbe in testimonium , consequenter dicere poterit et quod ait 'tunc erit finis,' iam finem venisse: quod dicere temeritatis est magnae"
("And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a testimony to all nations, then shall the end come." "If anyone wishes to discuss meaning of 'all nations' in this passage, he will find it clear and sure, since the people of Christ are hated by all nations, even by those dwelling in the uttermost parts of the earth. Unless, it may be, one declares that here too 'all' is put for I 'many' by way of hyperbole.....Such being the position of affairs [i.e. at the end], the gospel, which formerly had not been preached in all the world -- for many people, not only barbarians but even of our empire, have not yet heard the word of Christ -- this gospel will then be proclaimed, so every race may hear the evangel, leaving none who fails to hear it. And thereafter the end will come......... For many have not yet arisen from the church. Many false prophets have not yet arisen to deceive many. Nor yet have ations dwelling in the uttermost parts of the earth hated us for the sake of Christ's name; nor yet has the gospel of the kingdom been preached in all the world. For we are not told that the gospel has been preached among all the Ethiopians, particularly among those who are on the other side of the River; nor among the Serae, nor in Ariace, has the tale of Christ been heard. But what shall we say of Britain or Germany, on the seaboard, or the barbarians, the Dacians, the Sarmatae, and the Scythians, most of whom have not yet heard the gospel, but are to hear it at the consummation of the ages? For see what he saith. 'And this gospel shall be preached in all the world, for a testimony to all nations, and [] then shall the end be.' If anyone would hastily affirm that the gospel of the kingdom had been already preached in all the world as a testimony to all nations, he would also be able to say, of course, 'then shall the end be,' the end is now here. Which would be an exceedingly rash assertion").
Hom. in Luc. 12 (vol. 5 p. 128: "Ita fiebat, ut de omnibus gentibus nonnulli proselyti fierent [i.e., in pre-Christian days], et hoc ipsum angelis, qui gentes habebant subditas, adnitentibus. nunc autem populi credentium accedunt ad fldem Jesu, et angeli, quibus creditae fuerint ecclesiae, roborati praesentia salvatoris multos adducunt proselytos, ut congregentur in omni orbe conventicula Christianorum"
("Formerly some proselytes were gained from all nations, by the aid of the very angels who ruled over these nations. But now multitudes of believers flock to the faith of Jesus, and the angels entrusted with the care of the churches, strengthened by the presence of the Savior, bring over many proselytes to form gatherings of Christians all over the world").
C. Cels. 3.15:
("Since those who utter all kinds of calumny against the gospel ascribe the present prevalence of sedition to the multitude of believers, and to the latter not being persecuted by the authorities, as long ago they were");
C. Cels. 3.29: [see vol. 1 p. 264].
In C. Cels. 3.30 we read that the presbyters of the Christian churches were worthy of holding civic offices of authority, ("if there be any city of God in all the world');
C. Cels. 8.69: ("We [] say that 'if two of us agree on earth as touching anything that they ask, it shall be done for them by the Father in heaven'; and what if not simply a handful of people agree, as at present, but the whole Roman empire?").
C. Cels. 8.68: [cp. vol. 1 p. 263].
C. Cels. 3.8: ("From time to time a few, who can easily be counted, died for the sake of Christian religion, God refusing to allow the whole people to be terminated").
C. Cels. 3.10: (in reply to Celsus, who had declared that the original number of Christians small, Origen observes: "It is obvious that Christians at first were few in number, compared to their subsequent host").
C. Cels. 3.9: [cp. vol. 1 p. 348].
In in Joh., tom. 1.1, we read that "it is not too bold an assertion to say that the number of Jewish Christians does not amount to 144,000";
c. Cels. 1.57: "The number of disciples belonging to Simon Magus all over the world does not amount at present, in my opinion, to thirty. Perhaps that is putting it too high. They only exist in Palestine, and indeed only in extremely small numbers."
For a passage from Origen, quoted by Eusebius (H.E. 3.1), see under § 27.
§ 23. Cyprian, ad Demetrian. 17: Inde est quod nemo nostrum
quando adprehenditur reluctatur nec se adversus iniustam violentiam vestram
quamvis nimius et copiosus noster populus ulciscitur "
("Hence it is that none of us, on being arrested, makes any resistance or avenges himself against your unjust violence, although our people are numerous and plentiful").
§ 24. The pagan (Porphyry) in Macarius Magnes, 4.3: []
("Behold, every corner of the universe has experienced the gospel, and the whole ends and bounds of the world are occupied with the gospel").
§ 25. Lucian the Martyr, Orat. (in Rufin, H.E. 9.6):
"Quae autem dico, non sunt in obscuro gesta loco nec testibus indigent.
pars paene mundi iam maior huic veritati adstipulatur, urbes integrae, aut si
in his aliquid suspectum videtur, contestatur de his etiam agrestis manus, ignara
("But the matters I refer to did not take place in some hidden spot, nor do they lack witnesses. Almost the greater part of the world is now devoted to this truth, whole cities in fact; and if any of these be suspect, there are also multitudes of country folk,who are innocent of guile").
§ 26. Maximinus Daza's Rescript to Sabinus (in Euseb. H.E.
(Diocletian and Maximian issued edicts for the suppression of Christianity, "when they saw alomst all men deserting the worship of the gods and attaching themselves to the Christian people").
§ 27. Lactantius, Instit. 4.26.35: "Nulla gens tam
inhumana est, nulla regio tam remota, cui aut passio Christi aut sublimitas
maiestatis ignota sit"
("No race is so uncivilized, no region so remote, as to be ignorant of the passion or the lofty majesty of Christ).
De Mort. Persec. 2: "Et inde discipuli qui tunc erant undecim . . . . dispersi sunt per omnem, terram ad evangeliumpraedicandum . . . . et per annos xxv. usque ad principium Neroniani imperii per omnes provincias et civitates ecclesiae fundamenta miserunt. . ." "Nero cum animadverteret non modo Romae sed ubique cotidie magnam multitudinem deficere a cultu idolorum et ad religionem novam transire"
("Thence the disciples, who then numbered eleven, scattered over all the earth to preach the gospel . . . . and for twenty-five years down to the beginning of Nero's reign, laid the foundations of the, church in every province and state." "When Nero noticed that not only at Rome but everywhere a large multitude were daily falling away from idolatry and [] coming over to the new religion"). 3 (between Trajan and Decius): "Ut iam nullus esset terrarum angulus tam remotus quo non religio dei penetrasset, nulla denique natio tam feris moribus vivens, ut non suscepto dei cultu ad iustitiae opera mitesceret" ("There was now no nook or corner of the earth so remote that the divine religion had not reached it, no nation so in life that it was not mellowing to works of righteousness having accepted the worship of God").
Cp. Arnobius, 2.5: "Iam per omnes terras iii tam brevi temporis spatio inmensi nominis huius sacramenta diffusa sunt. nulla iam natio moris et mansuetudinem nesciens, quae non eius amore versa molliverit asperitatem suam et in placidos sensus adsumpta tanquillitate migraverit"
("The sacraments of this great name are now spread all over the earth in so short a time. No nation now is so barbarous and ignomnt of mercy, that it has not been turned by this love to modify its harsh ways, and come over to a peaceful temper by the acceptance of peace").
1.16: "Si Alamannos Persas Scythas idcirco voluerunt devinci, quod habitarent et degerent in eorum gentibus Christiani: quem ad modum Romanis tribuere victoriam, cum habitarent et degerent in eorum quoque gentibus Christiani? si in Asia,.Syria idcirco mures et locustas effervescere prodigialiter voluerunt, quod ratione consimili habitarent in eorum gentibus Christiani: in Hispania, Gallia cur codem tempore horum nihil natum est, cum innumeri viverent in his quoque provinciis Christiani? si apud Gaetulos cum Aquitanos huius rei causa siccitatem satis ariditatemque miserunt, eo anno cur messes amplissimas Mauris nomadibusque tribuerunt, cum religio similis his quoque in regionibus verteretur?"
("If the gods willed that the Alemanni, the Persians, and the Scythians should be vanquished because Christians inhabited and resided among these nations, how did they grant victory to the Romans, when Christians stayed among theirr people also? If they willed that mice and locusts should swarm prodigiously in Asia and Syria because Christians dwelt among these nations also, why was there no such phenomenon in Spain and Gaul at the same time, although innumerable Christians dwelt there also ? If they sent drought and dryness for this reason on the crops of the Gaetuli and the Aquitani, [] why did they let the Mauri and the nomads have a rich harvest that very year, when a similar religion also inhabited these regions?").
§ 28. Constantine's Rescript to Miltiades (Euseb., H.E. 10.5.18) speaks
as if the entire population of North Africa were divided between the Catholics
and the Donatists.
§ 29. Eusebius\11/ (H.E. 1.3.12): Christ has filled the whole world with his holy name.
\11/ We need only quote the most characteristic passages out of the large number of relevant sections in the Church History. And even these are only given sometimes in abbreviated form.
H.E. 1.3.19: ("He alone of all who ever lived is still called by
the name of Christ among all men over the whole world; yea, confessed and witnessed
to under this title, and commemorated by Greeks and barbarians, and even to
this day he is honored as a king by his followers throughout all the world,
admired as Something greater than a prophet," etc.).
H.E. 1.4.2 : [cp. vol. 1 p. 251].
H.E. 1.13.1: "Even in Christ's lifetime he was visited by myriads from the remotest lands imploring aid."
H.E. 2.2.1 : The resurrection and ascension of Jesus were forthwith known to most people.
H.E. 2.3.2: (in the apostolic age) ("In all the cities and villages churches were speedily set up and thronged, like a well-heaped threshing-floor, with multitudes of people").
H.E. 2.13.1: [] ("Faith in Jesus Christ the Savior has now been spread abroad among all men, the enemy of man's salvation, plotting to secure the imperial city for himself, brought Simon thither"); but Simon's sect was soon vanquished, nor did it survive the apostolic age (2.14.3), for the Logos prevailed, "having lately shone one upon men from God and now waxing strong on earth"
H.E. 3.1.1 f. [after Origen's Exeg. in Gen., tom. 3]: ("The holy apostles and disciples of our Savior were scattered abroad over all the world, Parthia, as tradition has it, being assigned to Thomas, Scythia to Andrew, Asia to John"); then follow remarks upon the missionary spheres of Peter and Paul, based on the New Testament;
cp. also H.E. 3.5.2, where the original apostles start from Jerusalem for all the nations to the ends of the earth (3.8.11), or to all the world (3.24.3).
H.E. 3.18.4 f. [in Domitian's reign] ("The teaching of our faith so throve then, that even writers who were far from our religion did not hesitate to mention in their histories this persecution and its martyrdoms," e.g. of Domitilla).
H.E. 3.37.1 f.: the evangelists who the apostles "built up the foundations of the churches which had been laid in all quarters by the apostles" preaching the gospel "to those who had not yet heard the word of faith."
H.E. 4.2.1: [in Trajan's reign] ("The affairs of our Savior's teaching and church flourished daily []and made steady advances").
H.E. 4.7.1: [in Hadrian's reign]. ("The churches shining throughout the world were now like most brilliant constellations, and faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was flourishing among all the human race"; cp. 13).
H.E. 5.21.1: ("About the time of the reign of Commodus our affairs changed for the better, and by God's grace the churches all over the world enjoyed peace. Meanwhile the word of salvation was conducting every soul from every race of man to the devout worship of the God of all things, so that a large number of people at Rome, eminent for great wealth and high birth, turned to their salvation along with all their households and families").
H.E. 5.23.1: ("The parishes of all Asia . . . . the churches all over the rest of the world").
H.E. 6.36.1: [in the reign of Philip the Arabian] ("Then indeed, as was only fitting, when the faith was increasing, and our doctrine benig confidently proclaimed to all men," etc.).
H.E. 7.10.3: (before Valerian turned persecutor, he had been more friendly to the church than an y previous emperor, "and his whole house had been filled with pious persons, being a very church of God").
H.E. 8.1.1 f.: [the Diocletian persecution] [] ("It is beyond our power to describe in any adequate fashion the scope and character of the glory and open freedom with which, previous to this persecution of ours, the . . . . word of piety -was honored among all men, Greeks and barbarians alike. . . .How can any one depict those vast gatherings of people, the crowds that assembled in every city, and the famous convocations held in the places of prayer? So great were these, that, dissatisfied with the old buildings, the people now proceeded to erect churches from the foundation upwards in all the cities").
H.E. 8.14.1: Maxentius started as though he would profess our faith, "in order to please and flatter the people of Rome."
H.E. 1.4.2 (see above): the Christians are now the most populous nation in the world.\12/
\12/ In conclusion, we may set down this further passage from Firmic. Matern., De Err. Prof. Relig. 20, although it was written about twenty years after the council of Nicaea: "Quis locus in terra est, quem non Christi possederit nomen? qua sol oritur, qua occidit, qua erigitur septemtrion, qua vergit auster, totum venerandi numinis maiestas implevit, et licet adhuc in quibusdam regionibus idololtriae morientia palpitent membra, tamen in eo res est ut a Christianis omnibus terris pestiferum hoc malum funditus amputetur" ("What spot is there upon earth, which is not held by the name of Christ ? Where the sun rises and sets, in every quarter of the globe, the glory of his honorable heavenly majesty has filled creation. And although the dying limbs of idolatry still quiver in some countries, this deadly evil is to be cut off by Christians of every land").
-- Theophan. 4.32: "In the whole world and among all nations, in
towns and in villages alike, have myriads not only of men but also of women
maintained holiness and virginity intact, for the sake of the hope and expectation
of the heavenly kingdom";
Theophan. 5.26: "(The disciples) should teach the Redeemer's commandments both in the villages and cities, some of them to the Roman power (itself), and so apportion to themselves this city of the empire, others also to the Persians, others to those among the Armenians, others to the nation of the Parthians, and again to that also of Scythians, (that) some of should go forth, even as far as the extremities of the [] creation, and arrive at the country of the Hindoos, others pass over to the Islands beyond the ocean, and which are called Britain" (cp. Demonstr. evang. p. 112 c).
-- Theophan. 5.49 (on the apostles): - "Nevertheless, when again I view its power and the result of its activity, how many myriads have given their assent to it, and how churches of tens of thousand of men have been brought together by these very deficient and rustic persons -- churches built not in obscure places, nor in those which are unknown, but rather in the greatest cities, I mean in the Imperial city of Rome itself, in Alexandria, in Antioch, in all Egypt, in Libya, in Europe, in Asia, both in the villages and (other) places and among all nations -- I am again compelled to recur to the question of its cause, and to confess that they could not otherwise have undertaken this enterprise, than by a Divine power which exceeds that of man and by the assistance of Him,who said to them: Go and make disciples of all nations in my name."
§ 30. Constantine's manifesto on the observance of the Easter festival,
at the synod of Nicaeae (Vit. Const. 3.19):
The passages printed in this collection of evidence are not of equal value,
and a brief commentary may serve to elucidate their bearing.
Once the mission to the Gentiles had become a fact, thanks to Paul and some others (in spite of the primitive aim as expressed in Matt. 10.5 f.), "the whole world" must have been forthwith regarded as a sphere for Christian missions. Once the circle had been extended beyond Israel, no limit could be set to its sweep. To complete the circle with all speed was a duty which was urgently pressed upon Christians by their firm [] hope in the near advent of Christ and the approaching end of all things. For if the first appearance of Christ concerned all mankind as well as Israel, then all nations must hear of this appearance; while, if the end was imminent, the work of the Christian mission must be completed very soon. Ere long, the amount of work which had really been accomplished got obscured under a fantastic belief (fomented by the Christian exception of the future), to the effect that the preaching of the gospel had already permeated all the world.\13/ What was a deliberate rhetorical exaggeration, to begin with, became transmuted into a firm conviction. And this became in turn the nucleus of legends relating to the mission, legends whose origin lies in the soil to which we have just alluded, and whose development, lasting as late as the sixteenth century, resulted country upon earth being gradually allotted a mission-history which commenced with the apostles. Throughout the West the headquarters of this mission were held to have been Rome, once it became a matter of vital moment to show that Peter was the only apostle who reached the West. But the Church of Milan appealed (from what period?) to the apostle Barnabas as its founder, and other attempts were also made to connect this or that church in the capitals of the West with an apostle or a disciple of the Lord. Such attempts, however, lie outside our period. Besides, to write the history of such missionary legends would require a whole volume to itself.
\13/ Are we not to understand the original form of the story of Pentecost (in Acts 2) in some such sense? -- as though the end might come, now that representatives from all the nations were gathered in Jerusalem, and had thus had the gospel brought to them all.
The testimonies collected under §§ 1-4, 6-9, and 11
represent the original and ancient conception of the rapid spread of the gospel
over all the world. They tell us hardly anything its actual spread, though they
certainly bear witness to its energetic character, and to the fact that the
gospel had already reached barbarians, Greeks, and Latins in the course of its
diffusion throughout the empire.
§ 3. (Matt. 24.14) contains the general theory of the mission,
which is put into the lips of Jesus: "the gospel has to [] be preached
to all the world for a testimony to the heathen. Then comes the end." The
eschatologieal picture drawn by the author of the Apocalypse (§
6, Apoc. 7.9) corresponds to this.
The passages from Paul (1 Thess. 1.8; Rom. 1.8, 15.19 f ;\14/ Col. 1.6, 23) are deliberate rhetorical exaggerations; so in § 4 (Acts 17.6).
\14/ Cp. what has been already said on this passage in vol. 1 pp. 73 f.
The passages in § 7 (Matt. 24.9, 28.19; Mark 16.20; Acts 1.8; Preaching of Peter) and § 2 (1 Tim. 3.16, quotation from a hymn) affirm that the disciples of Jesus, or the apostles, received a commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all men, and that they discharged this commission. This belief, that the original apostles had already preached the gospel to the whole world, is therefore extremely old; nor, even supposing that Matt. 28.19 is taken as an interpolation, need it be put later than c. 90 CE (cp. Acts 1.8). The belief would never have arisen unless some definite knowledge of the apostles' labors and whereabouts (i.e., in the majority of cases) had been current. Both Clemens Romanus (8) and Ignatius (§ 9) assume that the gospel has already been diffused all over the world, the former speaking, with rhetorical exaggeration, of Paul as the missionary who had taught all the world. Finally, as the conception emerges in Hermas (§ 11), it is exceptionally clear and definite; and this evidence of Hermas is all the more weighty, as he may invariably be assumed to voice opinion s which were widely spread and commonly received. On earth, as he puts it, there are twelve great peoples, aiid the gospel has already been preached to them all by the apostles .\15/
\15/ I shall not enter into any discussion of the legends underlying the apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, since it is no longer possible to ascertain accurately even the modicum of truth which may have been their historical kernel. A few details will be discussed elsewhere. The legends regarding the distribution of the apostles and their missionary spheres are exhibited by Lipsius in his Apokr. Apostelgeschichten, 1.1 pp. 11 f.
The actual expansion of the gospel during the flrst century must be deduced from the writings of the New Testament and the earliest extra-canonical literature. With regard to the intensity of its spread, we possess no evidence beyond that of [] the passages cited under § 5 (Acts 21.20) and § 10 (Pliny). These passages, however, are of extreme importance. The former testifies that among the Palestinian Jews, at the time of Paul's visit to Jerusalem (i.e., during the sixth decade)\16/, Christians were already to be found in tens of thousands. The latter passage yields even richer spoil. It sketches the compass and consequences of the Christian propaganda in Bithynia and Pontus during the reign of Trajan ; it depicts an activity which astounds us and which might dispose us to question Pliny's statements -- particularly as he had good reasons for exaggerating the movement,\17/ in order to dissuade the emperor from taking any wholesale, bloody measures for its repression. Still, the main points of the governors tale must be correct, and they are quite enough to justify the opinion that exceptionally strong cuurents were already flowing in these provinces which told in favor of a religion like Christianity (see below, Sect. III. § 9 in the third chapter of this Book).
\16/ To be perfectly prudent, one has to take this estimate as applying to the time when the author of Acts wrote (i.e., about thirty years later), not to the days of Paul.
\17/ Just in the same way as he probably exaggerated the effects produced by the measures to which he had himself resorted.
As the statements of Justin (§ 12) and the author of the epistle to Diognetus (§ 14) upon the diffusion of Christianity are mainly due to the theoretical belief that the gospel must have already spread all over the earth, they are of no value\18/, although the evidence of Dial. 117 may perhaps be based on some knowledge of the nomadic Arabs having already been reahed by the message of Christianity. Justin, as a native of Samaria, might quite well know something about these tribes. In any case, the other notice is of some importance, viz., that by the age of Justin the Gentile Christians already outnumbered the Jewish Christians. Still more significant, of course, is the statement of pseudo-Clemens (Soter), writing about fifteen years later, to the effect that the Christians were more numerous than the Jews (§ 13). For, even if this notice represents a purely [] subjective estimate, even if it applies in the first instance only to the special circle which the author had in view (i.e. Rome), still it must remain an illumintaing fact that a prominent Roman Christian, circa 170 A. D., was under the impression that the Christians were already superior numerically to the Jews.
\18/ The figure employed by the author of the epistle to Diognetus, who compares Christians in the world to the soul in the body, presupposes, however, a certain vigor in the expansion of Christianity, even although this vigor may have been largely exaggerated.
The language employed by Celsus (§ 15) serves as a welcome corrective of the Christian exaggerations. But he exaggerates in the opposite direction. He makes out as if Christianity were already in extremis owing to the rigor of the imperial regulations under Marcus Aurelius. This, of courses is not worth serious discussion. Nevertheless, the mere fact that he could give vent to such an idea, proves that there was no question as yet of enormous crowds of Christians throughout the empire.\19/
\19/ The statement made by the martyr Polpylus before the magistrate (§ 16) shows that there were Christians in his day in every province and town of Asia.
The general theory, that the church had already spread all over the world,
also underlies the assertions of Irenaeus (§ 17) and Clement of
Alexandria (§ 18). Nevertheless, the statements of the latter author
deserve consideration for he met with many people from various quarters and
he testifies, moreover, that "not a few" philosophers had betaken
themselves to Christianity. The remarks of Irenaeus, again, have some weight
as regards the churches in Germany and among the Celts at any rate -- however
worthless they may be as regards Iberia, etc. On the former churches Irenaeus
could speak from personal knowledge and it is they who are meant in his allusions
to barbarian tribes who possessed true Christianity, although they had not the
scriptures in their own language.
The information given by Polycrates (§ 19), bishop of Ephesus,
is independent of any theory, so that it possesses great value. He testifies
that he had become personally acquainted with Christians from all parts of the
world, i.e., of the empire. This was written circa 190 CE.
"Already," exclaims Tertullian (§ 20), "there are Christians in almost every township"; or again, in language which is somewhat milder but none the less highly colored with exaggeration, "The larger number in every township are Christian." [] By 197 CE Christianity must have increased extraordinarily in Carthage and throughout the proconsular province, otherwise Tertullian could never have written as he did, nor could he have employed the large numbers of Christians without more ado as a menace to the pagans. Furthermore, we may believe him when he declares that no locality, no quarter of his native city, was destitute of Christians, and that they were to be found in all ranks of society up to the very highest. The substance of the despondent complaints made by the heathen about the increase of Christians is thus reproduced in the very terms in which they were uttered (cp. Caecilius in Min. Felix, § 21, who finds church buildings and priests in existence, and who therefore must have written a considerable time after Tertullian). Christians were to be encountered at every turn, and people felt restricted and menaced by them in their very homes. Tertullian speaks of "so many thousands" (tantis milibus hoiminum), and this would be no exaggeration; while, if Christianity went on increasing throughout the following century by the same rate of progression in Carthage and the proconsular province, the whole district must have been, predominantly Christian by the time of Constantine, so that one can understand how that emperor (§ 28) could regard it as substantially a Christian country. Cyprian's activity falls midway between Tertullian's Apology and Constantine, and one gets a vivid impression, from his correspondence, the Carthaginian Christians now numbered many thousands. Cyprian himself asserts (Ep. 20.2) that thousands of litterae or certificates," were issued daily during the Decian persecution. On the other hand, the enumeration of the barbarian tribes where Christians were to be found (in adv. Jud. 7) is not based upon reliable information, as is quite plain from the naive addition of the "many islands unknown to us, which unable to reckon up" ("insularum multarum nobis ignortarum et quae enumerate minus possumus ").\20/ The general [] statement that the gospel had reached several barbarian tribes may be accepted as trustworthy, but beyond that we cannot go. Note also how Tertullian supposes -- though he does not base his idea, of course, upon statistics -- that Christians when put together would outnumber any people (cp. also Cyprian's remark in § 23).
\20/ Nevertheless it is noteworthy that Hippolytus also writes (Philosoph. 10.34): (see above, p. 10). This passage does not prove, of course, that there were local Christians in all these districts, but it shows how the Christian preacher and author felt he was the teacher of all nations, not in an abstract but in quite a concrete sense, and how already his eye was fixed on every individual. It is Cyprian's age that furnishes us with our first notice of the number of Christians in a Christian community, viz., in that of Rome (Eus., H.E. 6.43). The notice, of course, is indirect, for the Roman bishop Cornelius merely states the number of the clergy and the number of those supported by the church (cp. below, chap. III, sect. 14).
The evidence of Origen (§ 22) is all the more welcome, as he forms
the first and only Christian narrator who testifies to the relative paucity
Indeed, in witnessing (i) to the fact that there were still a number of nations within as well as without the empire ("non solum barbarae, sed etiam nostrae") to which Christianity had not penetrated, or in which only a very small fraction of people (perhaps the population on the frontiers) had heard the gospel,\21/ Origen shakes off the dogmatic theory already mentioned; and this is all the more significant, inasmuch as he accepts the legends about Thomas having gone to the Parthians, Andrew to the Scythians, etc.
\21/ It is instructive to find that among the nations whom he, mentions in this connection are some to whom Tertullian (loc. cit.) declares that Christianity had penetrated. Origen, however, does not deny that certain individuals from these nations had heard the gospel preached; besides, adopting a looser way of speaking, he writes several times as if Christianity had spread all over the world.
In the second place (ii) he shows that no such thing as an entirely Christian
town was yet in existence -- for such we must take to be the meaning of the
passage in c. Cels., 3.30 (though it may also be interpreted in a different
Thirdly (iii), he admits, in controversy with Celsus, that when Christians are numbered relatively to the citizens of the empire, they are still ("quite few in number"), although, compared to their own original numbers, they now represent a multitude.
From the large and steady increase of Christians (iv) he infers -- not once but over and again -- that their religion will in days to come supplant all others and rule unrivalled.
At the same [] time (v) he draws attention to the increasing diffusion of Christianity among the rich, among people of good position, and among matrons, observing that the number of Christians is steadily increasing, although the number of (missionary) teachers is on the decline.\22/
\22/ On this, cp. above, vol. 1 p. 511.
He further explains (vi), as against Celsus, that Christian martyrs were hitherto
\23/ This occurs, of course, in a polemical connection which made it natural for Origen to represent the number of Christian martyrs at as small a figure as possible.
All these observations show Origen to very great advantage as compared with
his predecessors. And his remarks upon the number of Jewish Christians are of
weight. Porphyry's statement is instructive (§ 24), just because
it reproduces the impression made upon wide circles of paganism by the expansion
of Christianity. Evidently Christians were to be found in all quarters.
In the days of Philip the Arabian, Origen had stated that there was not yet a single town wholly Christian. Two generations later, Lucian the martyr mentions whole cities ("urbes integrae," § 25) which were Christian. A Syrian himself, he made this statement in Nicomedia, and as a matter of fact\24/ we know that at the beginning of the fourth century there were localities in Asia, Phrygia, and Syria which were practically Christian altogether. The impression left by the latter provinces upon Lucian's mind led him to declare that "pars paene mundi iam maior" belonged to the Christian religion. Note the "paene." Christians stir constituted the smaller section of the population in these districts, but in several quarters their numbers were already equivalent to one-half. On this point we can credit Lucian's testimony, while at the same time we are bound to distrust Tertullian, who had made a similar statement 110 years earlier. Lucian's assertion is also borne out by a passage in a rescript of Maximinus Daza (§ 26), who observes, in reference to the same districts (viz., Syria and Asia Minor), that "almost everyone has abandoned belief in the gods and attached himself to the Christian people." []
\24/ Dionysius of Alexandria (in Eus., H.E. 7.7) had already remarked, with reference to Phrygia and the adjoining provinces, that they included " the most populous churches."
Nothing is to be gathered from the statements of Lactantius (§ 27), for, as we have seen, both Origen and the evidence of the fourth century contradict his assertion that Christianity had penetrated to all the barbarian tribes by the time of Decius. The observations of Eusebius (§ 29), however, deserve some further notice. No doubt he did not, and he could not, give a history of the expansion of Christianity, partly because he had no sources at his disposal for such a task, partly because the dogmatic character of his historical conceptions would not allow him to describe a gradual extension, but simply a more inward expansion. The apostles, according to Eusebius as well, had already made Christianity an extensive movement by distributing amongst themselves the task of spreading it completely over all the world.\25/ In fact, Eusebius went a step further in this direction. Christ, he held, had himself filled the world with his holy name, and had already come to him from regions far remote. In this connection the legend of the correspondence between Jesus and Abgar of Edessa was of supreme importance to him, since it came in as a sort of substitute for the evidence,, wbich otherwise was awanting, of Jesus having widened the range of his activity far beyond the Jews and Palestine (cp. vol. 1 pp. 71, 102). Down to the reign of Commodus, Eusebius knew of nothing important enough to deserve mention in this connection; he contents himself with merely repeating over and again how numerous and widely spread the Christians were in all directions; he also notes the entrance of the new religion into the under Claudius, and the attention paid it by pagan authors under Domitian. But for the age of Commodus he was in possession of a special contemporary source (connected perhaps with the Acts of Apollonius); he was aware that the propaganda of Christianity had made a remarkable advance during that period, and that in Rome especially a large number of prominent and wealthy people had gone over to this religion together with all their households [] and families.\26/ He then singles out two other stages in the growth of the propaganda, viz., the period of Philip the Arabian and the decades immediately preceding the last great persecution. As to the latter period, he states (in passages which have not been printed above) that Christians wer e now to be found occupying the chief places of honor at court,and in the state, not excluding the position of governor, while their religion enjoyed high esteem as well as perfect liberty among the Greeks and the barbarians. The number of Christians, whom he describes as the most populous of all nations, had also become so large that the church buildings everywhere were too small; they had to be pulled down in order to make room for new and larger structures. The horizon of Eusebius, we must not forget, stretched from Alexandria over Palestine and Syria nearly to Nicomedia, and we have already ascertained that these were.the entries in which Christians were most numerous. Of the West and of Rome Eusebius knew little, so that we cannot absolutely trust his assertion that Maxentius was originally favorable to the Christians in order that he might please and flatter the Roman populace. All that we know of the spread strength of Christianity in Rome from authentic sources (dating from the fourth century) renders it quite improbable that during the first decade of that century Christians were so numerous in Rome, or had such control of public opinion, that Maxentius was induced to assume for a time the mask of favor to their cause. Eusebius at this point was availing himself of pragmatism which would apply to the East, but not to Rome.
\25/ He does mention evangelists (3.37.I f.) who had preached after the age of the apostles; this denotes, however, not lands and peoples hitherto unreached, but merely such parts of these countries as had not yet heard anything of the gospel.
\26/ This statement is corroborated by the marriage-laws laid down by Callistus, bishop of Rome, with references to matrons. (cp. vol. 1 pp. 171 f.).
These remarks would cover all the more important issues suggested by the above collection of passages. As for the stages of the mission and its history, the outstanding revivals subsequent to the life and labors of Paul are denoted by (1) the era of Commodus and his immediate successors; and (2) by the years 260-303 CE In both of these periods, particularly in the latter, it is obvious that a large increase accrued to Christianity. The earliest period laid the foundation. House churches and town churches were established. The second [] period (subsequent to Commodus) saw Christianity a serious factor in the provinces and throughout the empire. In the third period it was prepared as a universal church, to assume control over the entire sphere of public religion.\27/
\27/ The progress of Christianity for almost three centuries suffered no relapses; it hardly ever came to a standstill. We do not take into account the passage in the pseudo-Cyprianic de Singularitate Clericorum, ch. 1 ("ecclesia, quae per segnitiem nostram redigitur per dies singulos ad nimiam paucitatem), which asserts that the church was being daily reduced in number. This treatise belongs to the fourth century, and besides, the church in question is that of the Donatists (cp. my study in Texte u. Unters. 24.2). The comparatively slender spread of Christianity, even at the close of the fourth century, might be corroborated by a remark of the Donatist bishop, Vincentius of Carenna in Mauretania, who (cp. Aug., Epist. 93.22) wrote: "Quantum ad totius mundi pertinet partes, modica pars est in compensatione totius mundi, in qua fides Christiana nominatur." But this is the word of a Donatist who desires to controvert the oecumenical character of the church, as being the chief argument for its legitimacy. Strictly speaking, he was right, and Augustine calls him, ironically of course, a "learned man" (homo doctus). Christianity had not really reached the majority of the barbarians as yet. But these tribes are outside the reckoning, as we may put it. Augustine replies to him that Christianity has already reached many barbarian people even in this short space of time, so that Christ's prophecy will soon be fulfilled; the gospel will be preached to the whole world. This reply is an admission that the gospel had not yet been preached to all nations by any manner of means.
[[end of 4.1]]