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The Early Christian Attitude to War

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Original Table of Contents

Page xi

Table of Contents





Christian ethics in general 1
Importance of the history of early Christian ethics 2
Present urgency of the ethical problem of war 3
Scope and method of the present work 4
Previous treatment of the subject (since Grotius) 6
Need of a further work on the subject 13
Personal convictions in relation to the special task of an historian of Christian ethics 13
Relative justification of other moral standards than one's own 14
Use of the argumenturn ad hominem 15
Conditions of military service in the Roman Empire




Range of Jesus' teaching on the subject of war 19
Statements of Jesus inconsistent with the lawfulness of war for Christians: --
I. ' Thou shalt not kill' 20
II. The non-resistance teaching 22
III. Refusal to advance his ideals by political or coercive means 26
IV. Disapproval of Gentile 'authority' because resting on coercion 28
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V. Three incidental utterances 29
(a) 'Neither do I condemn thee ' 29
(b) 'Flee to the mountains' 29
(c) 'Put back thy sword into its place' 30
Summary 31
Statements of Jesus and other considerations apparently legitimizing warfare for Christians:--
I. ' Whoever impresses thee (to go) one mile, go two with him' 32
II. No explicit disapproval of the military calling 32
III. The expulsion of the traders from the Temple-courts 34
IV. The wars of the future 35
V. Illustrative allusions to war 38
VI. Recognition of civil government 40
VII. The obvious needs of society 42
VIII. The 'interim-ethic' theory 44
Summary 46
Explanatory note on the arrangement of the remaining material




The Condemnation of War in the abstract 49
Early authors 49
Clemens of Alexandria, Tertullianus, Hippolutos, etc. 51
Cyprianus to Methodios 52
Arnobius, Lactantius, and Eusebios 54
Summary 57
The Essential Peacefulness of Christianity 58
General statements of early authors down to Justinus 58
Christian appropriation of the 'ploughshare' prophecy of Isaiah 60
General statements of later authors (Athenagoras to Arnobius) 64
Concluding comments 66
The Christian Treatment of Enemies and Wrongdoers 67
Pertinence of the subject 67
Christian writers of the first century 67
The Apostle John and the Robber 71
Christian writers of the first half of the second century 72
Justinus 74
Athenagoras, Theophilos, etc. 75
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Eirenaios 76
Clemens of Alexandria 78
Tertullianus 78
Origenes 79
Cyprianus, etc. 81
Lactantius, etc. 83
The question of the defence of others 84
The Christians' Experience of Evil in the Character of Soldiers 89
Introductory 89
The soldier's share in persecution 90
Other occasions of offence 95
Conclusion 95
The Christian Refusal to participate in War 96
No Christian soldier known to have existed between 50 and 170 A.D. 97
Sergius Paulus and the Praetorian Guard in the time of Paul 97
The action of the Jerusalem Christians in the war of 67-71 A.D. 98
No evidence of Christian soldiers in the reign of Trajanus 99
No evidence of Christian soldiers in the reign of Hadrianus 100
The impression given by Justinus 102
The impression given by Tatianus and Athenagoras 103
The evidence of Celsus 104
General remarks on the period of M. Aurelius 105
Statements of Eirenaios, etc. 106
Statements of Tertullianus 106
Remarks on the statements of Tertullianus: --
1. Earliest evidence for the enlistment of baptized Christians 113
2. Tertullianus seriously advises Christians to leave the army 113
3. Tertullianus moved by humanitarian considerations, as well as by the danger of idolatry 114
4. Tertullianus not disingenuous 115
5. Tertullianus justified in trying to apply the Gospel to practical life 116
6. The alternative service rendered by the Christian to the State 117
7. Tertullianus not an individual dissenter from the rest of the Church 117
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The Canons Of Hippolutos and the early Church-Orders 119
The literary problems 119
Tabular statement of the evidence 122
Summary of the evidence 124
Conclusion as to the oldest regulations 124
Importance of this conclusion 126
Evidence given by Minucius Felix 128
Statements of Origenes 129
Remarks on the statements of Origenes : --
1. He recognizes the possibility of righteous wars waged by non-Christians 137
2. His view of the illegitimacy of war for Christians not therefore to be regarded as an inconsistency or as not seriously meant 138
3. His evidence as to the extent of the Christian refusal of service 139
4. His view independent of eschatology 140
5. He objects to war on the score of bloodshed, not idolatry 141
6. His emphasis on the alternative service of the Christian 142
7 . His programme not open to the charge of anarchy 143
The position of Cyprianus 147
The evidence of Plotinos 148
The martyrdom of Maximilianus (295 A.D.) 149
The difficulty over idolatry--martyrdom of Marinus (260 A.D.) 151
The martyrdom of Marcellus and Cassianus (298 A.D.) 152
Cases of other Christians leaving the army about 300 A.D. 153
Christian view (250-313 A.D.) as to illegitimacy of litigation and magistracy for Christians 154
Quotations from Arnobius and Lactantius




The use of military terms and phrases to illustrate the religious life --
by Paul 161
by Clemens of Rome and Ignatius 163
by Justinus, Tertullianus, etc. 164
by Origenes, etc. 165
by Cyprianus, etc. 167
Such language usually non-committal as to earthly warfare 167
but was not without its own dangers 168
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The Wars of the Old Testament and of Hebrew History 170
References in early writers down to Justinus 171
Theory broached by Markion 173
Later developments 174
Views of Origenes and 'Adamantios' 175
Cyprianus and others 177
Concluding summary 178
Apocalyptic Wars 179
Bearing of belief in apocalyptic wars on Christian conduct 182
The Jewish War of 67-71 A.D. 184
War as an Instrument of Divine justice 191
Bearing of this view of war on Christian conduct 192
The Functions of the State 194
View of the State as a useful and necessary institution, ordained by God for the restraint of wrongdoing 195
Recognition of the rightfulness of judicial penalties 197
Recognition of the rightfulness, in some sense, of war 204
Writers down to Julius Africanus 205
Origenes and later writers 207
Prayer for the imperial armies 209
The Christian justification of State-coercion was relative to the State's paganism, and did not imply a Christian readiness to participate in it 211
Ulterior problems involved in this position 215
Contribution to their solution offered by Origenes 215
Contribution to their solution offered in the Clementine Homilies 216
Contribution to their solution offered in the Dialogus de Recta Fidei 218
Defence of early Christian abstention from State coercion 220
Cases of real or apparent compromise (short of military service) in pre-Constantinian Christianity 221
The Christian's Experience of Good in the Character of Soldiers 225
The Participation of Christians in Military Service 228
The period ending 170 A.D. 228
The so-called 'Thundering Legion' 229
Julius Africanus and Clemens of Alexandria 232
Basileides of Alexandria 233
The information contributed by Tertullianus 234
He is the oldest witness for the enlistment of Christians in the army after conversion 235
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Inscriptions 236
Cyprianus and other writers down to the Great Persecution  237
Christians in the armies of Constantinus and Licinius 241
Note on the numbers of Christians in the armies, 250-313 A.D. 




Summary of Jesus' teaching   244
Extent of the strict adherence of the Church to this teaching  245
Yet few Christians called on to face the problem of military service  246
Connexions in which Christians thought of war without reproach 247
Simplemindedness and other conditions facilitating the continuance of converted soldiers in the army 249
Further reasons for a certain acquiescence in this state of things 250
The thin end of the wedge 251
Extent of acquiescence in the bearing of arms by Christians has been greatly exaggerated 252
Strength of the adherence to stricter views 255
The conclusion involved in the triumph and patronage of Constantinus  256
The importance and significance of this conclusion 257
Vigorous survival of stricter views after the Constantinian settlement  259
That settlement in regard to war discredited by the way in which it was arrived at 261
The bearing of the early Christian witness on modern conditions 262
INDEX  267-272