Arnobius, the Elder

Arnobius, The Elder, also called "Afer," lived about 297, and taught rhetoric at Sicca, in Africa. He was originally a pagan, and the master of Lactantius, but about the time of Diocletian he embraced the Christian faith, and, according to Jerome (De Viris Flust. c. 79), in order the more readily to induce the bishops to receive him among the number of the faithful, he composed, before his baptism, about the year 303, seven books against the Gentiles (adversus Gentes, libri vii). This account of Jerome's is followed by many writers (e.g. Tillemont, Cave; Smith, Dictionary, s.v.); but Lardner's argument against it (iii, 458) seems to be conclusive. Arnobius writes in the tone, not of a catechumen, but of a Christian; and he nowhere hints at any necessity or compulsion for his task, but, on the contrary, in the beginning of his book, he speaks of it as a task voluntarily undertaken in view of the injurious reproaches cast upon the Christians. The book begins with a vindication of Christianity from the charges brought against it by the pagans. In a few points Arnobius makes statements savoring of Gnosticism, and he does not manifest a complete acquaintance with the Christian system or with the Scriptures. He shows, however, an extensive knowledge of pagan worship and literature, and the book is a valuable source of information on these topics. The marked peculiarity of his Apology, as distinguished from those of his predecessors, consists in the fact that he not only repels the charges made against Christianity, but also undertakes to show that Christianity itself is demonstrable by evidence. In his argument for the divinity of Christ and of his religion, he anticipates many of the leading arguments of modern apologists, especially of Paley. For a very clear summary of it, see Woodham, Introduction to Tertulliani Liber Apologeticus, ch. iii. Villemain gives Arnobius a very high place among the early writers, in Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generate, iii, 311. See also Dorner, Person of Christ, div. i, vol. ii, p. 190. The works of Arnobius were published, for the first time, by Faustus Sabeus, at Rome, in 1542, but with many faults. Many editions have since been issued, but the best are those of Orelli (Leips. 1816, 3 vols. 8vo), of Hildebrandt (Halle, 1844, 8vo). See Geret, De Arnobio judicia (Viteb. 1752); Meyer, De ratione Arnobiana (Hafn. 1815); Cave, [fist. Lit. i, 112.

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