[Personal translations of original documents in the public domain.]
 

'SOCIAL THEOLOGY' OF THE CHURCH OF THE MARTYRS
(Before 312 AD)

I)  ACTS OF THE MARTYRS

1. {Typical dating of 'Acts of the Martyrs', i.e. usually authentic stenographic reports on trial and execution of various martyrs.  Second Century }:  "In the fifteenth year of Marcus Aurelius Germanicus Dacicus...Caesar Augustus, in his fifth consulship}...but really in the reign of Christ the King (vero regnante Christo Domino).....

2. Martyrdom of Maximilian in Africa in 298:  {Interrogat of Maximilian before the Roman Magistrate:  he refuses to serve in the army on the grounds that he is a Christian.  He is urged to change his mind, or he will be executed.  He answers} " Non facio; non possum militare; Christianus sum."  {In the very simple Latin of the African countryside:  "I won't do it; I cannot be a soldier; I am a Christian."}

3. The Legend of the Martyrdom of Saint Paul (mid-third century):  {Paul has resurrected Nero's favorite cup-bearer, a young boy called Patroclus}:  "...But Caesar {i.e. Nero} when he heard that Patroclus was alive was struck dumb with awe and would not at first go into the chamber {where Patroclus was resting}...But when he saw...Patroclus, he was shocked and said:  'Patroclus, are you alive?"  And the boy said:  'Yes Caesar, I am alive.'  And Caesar asked:  'Who then brought you back to life?'  And Patroclus filled with holy faith answered:  'Jesus Christ, the King of the Ages {or World} brought me back alive....'  Then Caesar was greatly troubled and said:  'Shall He then be King of the Ages {World} and overthrow all kingdoms?'  Patroclus answered:  'Yes, Caesar, He overthrows all kingdoms and none shall escape Him.'  And Caesar struck the boy in the face and said:  'Patroclus, are you now also a soldier of that King?'  And the boy answered:  'I am, Lord Caesar, for He brought me back to life, when I was dead.'  And Bar-Shabbas Justus of the Broad Feet, and Urion the Cappadocian...Caesar's chief men...said:  'We too are soldiers of the Great King.'  And Caesar had them tortured and threw them into prison.  But he was greatly troubled for he loved them dearly.  And he commanded that the soldiers of the Great King should be sought out and he published a decree that...they should all be killed.  And {Saint} Paul was then brought in together with the others, and as all his fellow-prisoners paid honor to him, Caesar recognized that it was Paul who was the {general of their armies.}  So Caesar said to him:  'You may be the servant of the Great King, but you are my prisoner.  Now did you think that you could infiltrate into Roman territory with impunity and recruit soldiers from my Empire?'  But Paul filled with the Spirit, said the presence of all:  'O Caesar, it is not only from your Empire, but from the whole world, that we recruit soldiers.  For we have been commanded that no man should miss the opportunity of serving in the army of the Great King.'"
 

II)  TERTULLIAN OF CARTHAGE   active ca. 190-200

4. Against Heresies:  "What is there in common between Athens and Jerusalem?  What between the Academy and the Church?....I believe that God became man because it is impossible....I believe that he died for us and rose again because it is absurd....Away therefore will all projects for a Stoic or a Platonic Christianity....We need no subtle...theories after the Gospel...."

5. On Spectacles {Against the circus and its role in Roman life}:  "...For what a spectacle is already at hand--I mean the Second Coming of the Lord!...What exultation will be that of the angels, what glory that of the saints, as they shall rise again....What city, the New Jerusalem!  Yes, and there are still to come other spectacles, that last, that eternal day of judgment, that day that the Gentiles {i.e. pagans} laugh at...when this decrepit world...shall be consumed...in fire....How vast the spectacle that day, and how great!  What a sight shall wake my wonder, my laughter, my joy, my exultation!  As I see all those kings, yea! those great kings--to be welcomed, so we are told, in their Olympus--now in fact together with their Jupiter (and along with those who told of their ascent) actually groaning in the depths of darkness!  And the magistrates, who persecuted the name of Jesus, slowly liquefying in flames far fiercer than those they had kindled in their hate against the Christians!  Those great sages, too, the philosophers--so-called--blushing red before their own disciples as they blaze together in the redness of the same flames, for having demonstrated to us that we have no souls!....And then there will be the tragic actors to be heard, more vocal, surely, in their own tragedy...and the charioteers to watch, red all over in wheels of flame....These, I believe, are things of greater joy than circuses, theaters or amphitheatres...."

6. On Idolatry [At the time of baptism, the Christian gives an oath (in Latin sacramentum) which includes the rejection of "The Devil and all his pomp."  This includes, Tertullian argues, a rejection] "of all the 'powers and dignities' of this world, which you know are alien to and enemies of God, since it is through these powers and dignities that the servants of God are persecuted even unto death, while the truly impious are spared....Among these 'powers and dignities' is included the military estate....These days, however, one is asked whether a Christian may not become a soldier--or whether a soldier may not be admitted to the faith--at least a soldier of the booted or inferior sort, upon whom it is not incumbent to make sacrifices or render judgments of blood.  The answer however is simple:  No, they do not agree the sacramental oath sword to God and the oath [sacramentum] sworn to men; the standards of Christ and the standards of the Devil; the encampments of light and the camps of darkness.  The same soul cannot serve two masters, that is both God and Caesar.  To be sure, Moses bore a rod and Aaron wore a buckle; John the Baptist was girt with a belt; Jesus-Joshua, the son of Nave, led an army and the People waged war--if one likes to play this sort of game!  But how shall one wage war, indeed how shall one serve in the army even in peace-time, without the sword which the Lord has taken away?  And though soldiers did go up to John of Baptist and received from a rule of observance (Luke 43:14) and though the centurion did believe (Matthew 8:5), subsequently the Lord by disarming Peter (Matthew 26:52) stripped all soldiers of their military belts:  for Christians no form of dress is lawful, which is bound to an unlawful activity."

7. Apology  [Against the pagans who oppose to Christianity the authority of tradition and of law]:  "It is against all these things that our business lies, against the laws of the so-called masters of the world against all the arguments of the lawyers, against the whole of our past...."

8. Apology [Against the pagans:  see how numerous we Christians have become]"  "For even the Caesars might have come to believe in Christ had not either the world been in need of Caesars, or had it been at all possible for Christians to be Caesars" [Sed et Caesares credidissent super Christo, si aut Caesares non essent necessarii saeculo aut si et Christiani potuissent esse Caesares.]

9.        Apology [The same point]:  "We are of yesterday only and yet we already fill the world together with everything that is yours:  for we fill the cities and the islands, the villages and the towns, the civic meetings and even the military camps...All that we have left to you are the temples!..."

10. Apology  [Against the pagan argument that Christians form a seditious political faction]:  "We who freeze at the thought of all worldly glory and dignity have no need for political factions.  Nothing is more foreign to us than the state (res publica), for there is only one state that we recognize and that consists of the entire world."

11. Apology [Nevertheless, Christians are good citizens]:  "....We constantly pray for every emperor, that they may have a long life, a secure empire, a safe palace, a strong army, a faithful senate, an honest people and peaceful world...."  Indeed there is still another reason why we must pray for emperors and thus for the entire world and the state of the Roman commonwealth:  this is because we know that the horror which is threatening the world and indeed the very end of the world which is soon to come together with all the terrifying disasters that will accompany that end is being retarded by the presence of the Roman Empire...."

12. To Scapula:  "The Christian is the enemy of no one, not even of the Emperor.  He knows that the Emperor has been constituted by God and that he must therefore love him, revere him, honor him, and wish him all the best together with the Roman Empire:  for the Roman Empire will stand as long as the world."
 

III.  MINUCIUS FELIX (African?  After 200?)

13. Octavius (An Apology):  "you {pagans} say that the strength of Rome lies not so much in brute strength as in its religion and devotion to the gods.  The noble and majestic fabric of Roman justice was, you say, foreshadowed by the very birth of its infant Empire.  Yet, where they {the Roman} not in origin a collection of criminals?  Did their Empire not grow by the iron terror of their own savagery?....Romulus himself {the legendary founder of Rome} to secure criminal power murdered his own brother!  Such were the beginnings of our--o so religious!--Empire!....His successor without leave or law carried off other men's wives....From then on it became the practice of all succeeding rulers, to dispossess neighbors of their territory, to overthrow adjoining states with their temples and their altars, to wax fat on the crimes which they had committed.  All in fact that {we} Romans, hold, occupy and possess, is the spoil of outrage:  our temples consist entirely of loot drawn from the cities of others, the plunder of alien gods, and the slaughter of their priests...."
 

IV.  HIPPOLYTUS OF ROME (Roman about 220)

14. Apostolic Tradition 2.16:  "Inquiry shall be made about the professions of those who seek admission to the faith.  If a man is a procurer {of prostitutes}, he must desist or he will be rejected.  If a man is a sculptor or a painter, he must desist from making idols.  If a man is an actor or a circus-performer, he must desist or he will be rejected.  A teacher {of pagan literature} had better desist, but if he has no other occupation he may perhaps be permitted to continue.  A charioteer like-wise...must desist...A gladiator or a trainer of gladiators...or anyone who is in any way connected with the spectacles must desist....A soldier of the worldly authority must be taught not to kill and absolutely refuse to do so if he is commanded.  He must also be taught to refuse to take the military oath.  {Under these conditions he may be permitted to remain in the army.}  If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected....On the other hand, if a catechumen or a believer seeks to join the army, he must be excluded from communion, for he has despised God.  A harlot must be up for examination....A concubine, who is a slave, and has reared {i.e. has not allowed to be killed} her children and has remained faithful to her master may become a catechumen; if not she must be rejected.  If a man has a concubine, he must desist or marry her:  if he refuses, he must be rejected.

15. Commentary on Daniel:  "While Christ was being born in the twelfth year of Augustus (under whom the Empire had its origin) and while the Lord was calling together all nations and all tongues and thus created the Faithful People, the People of the Christians, at the very same time, the kingdoms of this world, which rules through the power of Satan aped this action of the Lord's in exact imitation, and--on its side--gathered together the most famous from all the peoples of the earth, gave them the name of 'Romans' and prepared for war.  Indeed this is why the first census of the whole world took place under Augustus, precisely at the time of the birth of Christ, so that the people of this world, who bear the inscription of the earthly king, should be called 'Romans', while those who believe in the King of Heaven and bear upon their foreheads the sign of victory over death might be called 'Christians.'"

16. Commentary on Danie:  "Who believes in God...need have no fear from the 'powers that be' {Romans 13:1ff}, unless he has indeed done evil.  If, however, for the sake of the faith, he should be forced by that power to do something against conscience, it is sweet for him to resist that command and thus go to his death.  When {Saint} Paul writes 'let every soul be subject unto the higher powers', he does not say so that we might carry out without distinction whatever men may order us to do, even to the point of denying the divine commandments...but in order that out of fear of the power we might avoid all evil deeds and so that that power might not have to punish us as criminals.  This is precisely why {Saint} Paul calls the power 'the minister of God', i.e. as a 'revenger' against 'those that do evil'....By this the Apostle wants to say:  who wants to lead a pure and pious life, while still on earth, must obey the power and always keep in mind the sharpness of its sword...."

V.  ORIGEN ALEXANDRIA (active ca. 215-30)

17. Against Celsus:  CELSUS THE PAGAN had said:  "if everyone were to do the same as you {Christians and refuse to fight in the Emperor's wars} there would be nothing to prevent the Emperor from being abandoned, alone, and deserted, while earthly thing would come into the power of lawless and savage barbarians:  in which case nothing more would be heard either of your foolish form of worship or of the true wisdom!
All men within the Empire should therefore help the emperor...and fight for him, and be fellow-soldiers with him, if he presses for hits."  ORIGEN answers:  "The arguments of those who are alien to the faith and demand that Christians fight for the state and kill men can be easily refuted.  After all even you {pagans} believe that priests--or at least some categories thereof--should keep their hands undefiled so that they may offer the customary sacrifices with hands unstained by blood.  When war comes, such priests are not in fact asked to join in the killing.  All of us {Christians}, however, form a priestly people, who as worshippers of the Most High, must keep our hands undefiled, precisely so that our prayers for those who fight in a just war and for the emperor who reigns righteous might be heard in Heaven.  It is we who by our prayers are alone able to destroy the demons who stir up war, violate oaths and disturb the peace:  we thus do far more than those who seem to be doing the fighting and go out into the lines to kill all the enemies that they can.  It is true that we do not become 'fellow-soldiers with the Emperor even when he presses for this', yet we fight for him and compose a special army or religion and piety through our intercession with God."

18. Commentary on Romans 13:1ff:  "There is, the Apostle says, no power that does not come from God.  Someone might well object:  'What? that power which persecutes the servants of God, fights the faith, and subverts religion, how can that power be said to come from God?  To such questions we give a simple answer:  for everyone knows that such powers as sight, hearing and taste also come from God.  But even though these powers of the body all come from God, it is nevertheless within our own compass to use these powers whether for good or evil....Indeed this is precisely why the {condemnatory} judgment of God is so just, because we use for an impious and unrighteous purpose the very power which he has given us in order to use righteously.  The same is true for 'the powers that be'.  That power too has been created by God 'for the punishment of evildoers but for the praise of those that do well' {I Peter 2:41}  There shall therefore also be a just {condemnatory} judgment of God against those who have exercised that power in accordance with their own impiety and not in accordance with the laws of God....."

 Yet I always find it remarkable how Saint Paul calls the worldly power and the ruler of this world "the minister of God' and not only once but two or three times.  Now I'd like to address myself a little to the question how a ruler of this world can be a minister of God....{Note, ORIGEN pursues at great length, that neither murder nor theft, nor sodomy are specifically condemned by the Gospels but only by the Old Law}....Does this mean that such things are {now} allowed?  God forbid!  But see the wise ordination of the Holy Spirit:  for these crimes are already avenged sufficiently by the laws of this world.  It would therefore have been superfluous to forbid by divine law what is already punished by human law; the law of the Gospel deals only with such matters that are not contained in human law and yet are necessary to religion.  From this it is clear how it pertains to the judge of this world to fulfill the larger part of the law of God.  For all the crimes which God desires to avenge, he lets be avenged not by the bishops and prelates of the churches but by the judges of this world.  This is why Paul is able to call the worldly power the 'minister of God' and 'the avenger of those that do evil'...."

19. Against Celsus:  {CELSUS had argued that Christians formed secret conventicles thus breaking the Roman law against illicit associations}:  ORIGEN answers:  "Suppose, that a man were living among the {savage} Scythians with their laws against nature, and had no opportunity to go elsewhere and were thus compelled to live among them:  surely such a man would rightly form associations with like-minded people, even though this would be against the laws of the Scythians.  Indeed, just as it would be right for people to form associations to kill a tyrant or usurper who had seized control of their city, so too--since the Devil and Falsehood now reign as tyrants and usurpers--Christians rightly form associations, against the Devil and his laws, in order to save others, whom they might persuade to abandon that law, which is like that of Scythians or a tyrant."

20. Against Celsus:  "The prophecy of Psalm 71:7 'in his day shall righteousness flourish and abundance of peace' had been fulfilled with the birth of Christ.  For at that time, God was preparing the nations for His teaching by submitting them all to a single Roman Empire, so that the unfriendly attitude of nations to each other, caused by the existence of a large number of kingdoms might not make it more difficult for the Apostles to spread the word of God.  This explains why Jesus was born under Augustus, the Emperor, who reduced as it were to the uniformity of a single Empire most of the peoples of the earth.  The existence of a plurality of kingdoms would, on the contrary, have hindered the spread of the teaching of Jesus throughout the inhabited world, not only for the reason just given, but also because men everywhere would still have been forced to do military service in defence of their fatherlands.  Indeed how could this teaching, which preaches non-resistance, and does not allow men to take vengeance even on their enemies have had any chance of success, if the state of the world with the advent of Jesus had not been changing everywhere to a more peaceful condition?"
 

VI.  PSEUDO-CLEMENTINE HOMILIES (Mid third century, Rome and Alexandria

21. ...God Himself...appointed two kingdoms and established two ages [or worlds = saecula], determining that the present {age or world} would be given to the Evil One {the Devil}, because it is small and passes away:  but he promised to preserve for Christ the age {world} to come, as it will last forever.  He therefore created man with free will and possessing the capacity of choosing between these two kingdoms....Wherefore also two ways have been laid out before man....the one called the Kingdom of Heaven, and the other the kingdoms of those who are kings upon the earth.  And two kings also have been appointed, of whom one is selected to rule by law over the present and transitory age {world}, his nature being such that he rejoices in the destruction of the wicked.  But the other, the Good King, the King of the World {Age} to Come, loves the whole nature of man...."
 

VII.  SAINT CYPRIAN, BISHOP OF CARTHAGE (active 249-257)

22. To Demetrian {A recent convert to Christianity}:  "So that the signs of the gift you have just received from God shall be made clear, I shall now put in a clear light the darkness of this world which has been overwhelmed by the ghastly mists of evil....For a little while, you were raised to the Heavens above...:  return now and look...at the eddies and billows of this world:  the more you weep about this world below, the more you will be grateful to, and joyful in, God.

 Look therefore at the roads closed by brigands, look at the seas infested by pirates, look at the constant wars...filled with the bloody horror of the military camps.  Indeed the whole world has gone wet with gore!  When private individuals commit murder, it is a crime; when it is committed in a public capacity or for the sake of the state, they call it virtue!....

 Turn now your eyes upon the cities....You will be offended by public fettivals far sadder than the greatest loneliness:  here one prepares the gladitorial games, so that blood should tickle the lust for cruel foot-lights!....The body of the condemned is filled with the sap of strong food...his muscles are made to grow with lard...so that once he has been fattened up, he may die a harder death.  That a man is killed is for other men a sexual pleasure.  That a man knows how to kill is considered a skill, a profession, a veritable art:  as a result, murder is not only committed, it is taught!  What can I say that is more inhuman, what can I say that is more bitter?  The ability to kill is called 'discipline', the act of killing is called 'glory'....

 ...And if you can turn your eyes from public spectacles...into consciences...and to the secrets of the bedroom:  you will see the lustful commit what decent folk are not even allowed to see, you will be able to see what it is a crime to see....You will see men who are driven by unnatural lusts, men that rape other men:  you will see deeds committed that cannot possibly bring pleasure even to those who commit them....

 ...But perhaps you will consider safe those who are established in honorific decorations and great power, those who keep themselves surrounded by an armed guard, resplendent in the uniform of the royal palace?  In fact, their fear is greater than that of others!  They are terrorized as much as they inflict terror....To the degree that they do not dare their subjects to be safe, to that degree they too cannot live in security:  for the worldly power is necessarily terrorized by those which it forces to become a terror for others....

 ....There is therefore only one peaceful tranquility, only one solid and firm security:  it consists in being at anchor in the harbor of salvation, freed from the disquieting billows and eddies of this world; it consists in withdrawing one's gaze from earth unto heaven....You therefore who have already been enrolled in the camps of the heavenly army [i.e. Demetrian], keep undefiled the sober and true discipline of religion and virtue....For whom God has made rich, none shall make poor...."