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The Early Christian Attitude to War

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Page 225, cont.

Chapter 19: THE CHRISTIANS' EXPERIENCE OF GOOD IN THE CHARACTER OF SOLDIERS

Before investigating the actual participation of Christians in military life, it will be well to take note of the favourable impressions received by them on various occasions in regard to non-Christians engaged in it. This study thus forms the counterpart of our earlier sketch of the Christians' experience of bad treatment at the hands of soldiers.(1)

The penitent soldiers baptized by John

 

 

 

 

 

1. See above, pp. 89-96.

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the Baptist,(2) the centurion of Capernaum, who built the Jews a synagogue and at whose faith Jesus marvelled,(3) the centurion at the cross who exclaimed at the death of Jesus: 'Truly this man was a son of God,'(4) Cornelius, the centurion of Caesarea, and the 'pious soldier' who waited on him,(5) Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Cyprus,(6) the man--doubtless a soldier--who, at Agrippa's bidding, led James the son of Zebedee to the judgment-seat, confessed himself a Christian, asked and received the Apostle's pardon as they were led away, and was beheaded with him,(7) the dutiful and officious but otherwise humane gaoler of Philippi,(8) the various military officials who had charge of Paul(9)--more particularly the centurion Julius, who took him to Rome and showed him great kindness on the journey(10)--all these are significant for the impression they made on the minds of Christians in their own day, as well as of the evangelists, etc., who wrote of them later. The apocryphal Acts of John represent the soldiers who had charge of the Apostle as treating him with great kindness.(11)

Basileides, a military officer in Egypt at the time of the persecution of Severus, had to lead the maiden Potamiaina to death, and on the way defended her from the insults of the crowd and showed her much pity and sympathy.(12) When Perpetua and her friends suffered at Carthago in the same persecution, the military adjutant Pudens, who was in charge of the prison, was struck with their virtue, allowed many of

2. Lk. iii. 14.

3. Lk vii. 2-10 ||.

4. Mk xv. 39 ||s.

5. Ac x. 1-8, 22.

6. Ac xiii. 7, 12

 

7. Clem Alex in Eus HE II ix.

8. Ac xvi. 24, 27, 33 f.

9. Ac xxi. 31-40, xxii. 24-29, xxiii. 10, 17-35, xxiv. 22 f, xxviii. 16, 31.

10. Ac xxvii. 1. 3, 43.

 

 

11. Acts of John 6 (ii. 154; Pick 129 f).

 

12. Eus HE VI v. 3: see more fully below, P. 233.

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their friends to visit them, and was ultimately converted; the tribune also was induced to grant them privileges.(13)

Origenes performed his visit to the Emperor's mother Julia Mammaea at Antioch--and doubtless also that to the Governor of Arabia--under a military escort.(14) Gregorios Thaumatourgos, with his brother and sister, were conducted from his home at Neo-Caesarea in Pontus to Palestine by the soldier who had been sent to bring the last-named to her husband, and to invite her brother to travel with her.(15) In the Decian persecution, Besas, a soldier of Alexandria, rebuked those who insulted the martyrs, and soon after perished as a Christian.(16)

Imprisoned Christians were often able to procure minor privileges by paying money to the soldiers who had charge of them; and the Didaskalia bade the friends of prisoners send them money for this purpose.(17) When Cyprianus was waiting to be taken before the proconsul just before his death, a military officer, who had formerly been a Christian, offered him a dry suit of clothes, as the martyr's own garments were soaked with sweat.(18) Eusebios of Laodicea, while resident at Alexandria at the time of the revolt of Aemilianus (260 or 262 A.D.), was on the friendliest terms with the Roman general, and obtained from him a promise of safety for those who should desert from the besieged quarter of the town.(19) We may recall here the episode in the Clementines, in which the Apostle Peter and his friends are represented as availing themselves of the friendly help of Cornelius the centurion.(20)

 

13. Perpet 9, 16, 21.

 

14. Eus HE VI xix. 15, xxi. 3 f.

 

 

15. Greg Thaum Paneg v. 67-72.

16. Dion Alex in Eus HE VI xli. 16.

 

 

 

17. Didask V i. 1.

 

18. Pont Vit Cypr 16.

 

 

19. Eus HE VII xxxii. 8 f.

20. See above, p. 224.