Athenagoras

Athenagoras (Α᾿θηναγόρας, a frequent Greek name), a philosopher of Athens, celebrated for his knowledge of theology and science, both Christian and pagan. He flourished about 177. (This has been shown by Mosheim in his essay De vera cetate Apologetici quem Athen. scripsit, in his Dissert. ad Hist. Eccles. pertin. 1, 272 sq.) Neither Eusebius nor Jerome mention Athenagoras, but he is cited by Methodius in a passage preserved by Epiphanius (Haer. 65) and by Photius (Biblioth. Cod. 234). Philip Sidetes (5th century) gives an account of him in a fragment first published by Dodwell (Append. ad Dissert. in Irenaeum), but Basnage and others have shown that this account is inaccurate, to say the least. It is said that when a Gentile, Athenagoras strove against the Christian faith; but as he was engaged in searching the Holy Scriptures for weapons to turn against the faithful, it pleased God to convert him. After this he left Athens and went to Alexandria, where, according to the account of Sidetes, he became head of the catechetical school there; but this account is not to be relied upon. He wrote a work called Πρεσβεία περὶ Χριστιανῶν, An Apology (or Embassy) in behalf of the Christians, and addressed it either to Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Verus (about A.D. 166), or to the emperors Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus (about A.D. 177). In this apology he refutes the three chief calumnies urged against the Christians in that day, viz. (1) that they were atheists; (2) that they ate human flesh; (3) that they committed the most horrible crimes in their assemblies. He also claimed for the Christians the benefit of the toleration which in the Roman Empire was granted to all religions. Athenagoras wrote another treatise on the doctrine of the Resurrection (περὶ ἀναστάσεως τῶν νεκρῶν), arguing the doctrine from the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, together with the natural constitution of man. On the clearness of his conception of God, see Dorner, Doct. of the Person of Christ, 1, 283. The best editions of his works are those of the Benedictines (Par. 1742, fol.) and of Otto (Jena, 1857, 8vo). Separate editions of his Apology were published by Lindner (Langensal. 1774) and by Paul (Halle, 1856). There is an English translation by David Humphreys, The Apologetics of Athenagoras (Lond. 1714, 8vo); and an older one of The Resurrection by Richard Porder (Lond. 1573, 8vo). See Landon, Ecclesiastical Dictionary, 1, 602; Leyserus, Diss. de Athenagora philos. christiano (Lips. 1736, 4to); Fabricius, Bibliotheca Graeca, 6, 86; Clarisse, De Athenagorae Vita et Scriptis (Lugd. Bat. 1819); Mosheim, Comm. 1, 394; Neander, Ch. Hist. 1, 673; Guericke, De schol i quae Alex. floruit. catech.; Dupin, Hist. Eccles. Writers, 1, 69; Cave, Hist. Lit. anno 177; Lardner, Works, 2, 193; Smith's Dict. of Classical Biog. s.v.; Zeitschr. far d. histor. Theol. 1856, 4; Donaldson, Hist. of Christ. Lit.3, 107 sc.

 
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