I. Description of Christians
II. Meaning of the name “Christian”
III. True accusations of Christians
IV. False accusations of Christians

I. Description of Christians (Top)

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Matthew 5:13-14

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:34-35

As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Romans 8:36

Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. 1 Corinthians 4:11-13

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. Acts 4:32-35

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:13-16

We know that many among ourselves have delivered themselves to bondage, that they might ransom others. Many have sold themselves to slavery, and receiving the price paid for themselves have fed others. Clement of Rome (A.D. 96) ch.55

Let us show ourselves their brothers by our forbearance; but let us be zealous to be imitators of the Lord, vying with each other who shall suffer the greater wrong, who shall be defrauded, who shall be set at naught. Ignatius: to the Ephesians (A.D. 35-105) ch.10

Christianity is at it’s greatest, whenever it is hated by the world. Ignatius: to the Romans (A.D. 35-105) ch.3

Since I see, that you are exceedingly anxious to understand the religion of the Christians, as to what God they trust and how they worship Him, that they all disregard the world and despise death, and take no account of those who are regarded as gods by the Greeks, neither observe the superstition of the Jews, and as to the nature of the affection which they entertain one to another, and of this new development or interest, which has entered into men's lives now and not before. Letter to Diognetus (A.D. 125-200) ch.1

For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind either in locality or in speech or in customs. For they dwell not somewhere in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor practice an extraordinary kind of life…But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and barbarians as the lot of each is cast, and follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvelous, and confessedly contradicts expectation. They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign…They find themselves in the flesh, and yet they live not after the flesh. Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all men, and they are persecuted by all. They are ignored, and yet they are condemned. They are put to death, and yet they are endued with life. Letter to Diognetus (A.D. 125-200) ch.5

In a word, what the soul is in a body, this the Christians are in the world. The soul is spread through all the members of the body, and Christians through the divers cities of the world. The soul has its abode in the body, and yet it is not of the body. So Christians have their abode in the world, and yet they are not of the world. The soul which is invisible is guarded in the body which is visible: so Christians are recognized as being in the world, and yet their religion remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul and wages war with it, though it receives no wrong, because it is forbidden to indulge in pleasures; so the world hates Christians, though it receives no wrong from them, because they set themselves against its pleasures. The soul loves the flesh which hates it, and the members: so Christians love those that hate them. The soul is enclosed in the body, and yet itself holds the body together; so Christians are kept in the world as in a prison-house, and yet they themselves hold the world together. The soul though itself immortal dwells in a mortal tabernacle; so Christians sojourn amidst perishable things, while they look for the imperishability which is in the heavens. The soul when poorly treated in the matter of food and drinks is improved; and so Christians when punished increase more and more daily. Letter to Diognetus (A.D. 125-200) ch.6

But the Christians, O King, while they went about and made search, have found the truth; and as we learned from their writings, they have come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the nations…. Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honor father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols (made) in the image of man; and whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them, they do not to others; and of the food which is consecrated to idols they do not eat, for they are pure. And their oppressors they appease (lit: comfort) and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies; and their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world. Further, if one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction. They do not worship strange gods, and they go their way in all modesty and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Aristides (2nd century) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.9 pg.276

Yet, banded together as we are, ever so ready to sacrifice our lives, what single case of revenge for injury are you able to point to, though, if it were held right among us to repay evil by evil, a single night with a torch or two could achieve an ample vengeance? … If we desired, indeed, to act the part of open enemies, not merely of secret avengers, would there be any lacking in strength, whether of numbers or resources? The Moors, the Marcomanni, the Parthians themselves, or any single people, however great, inhabiting a distinct territory, and confined within its own boundaries, surpasses, forsooth, in numbers, one spread over all the world! We are but of yesterday, and we have filled every place among you - cities, islands, fortresses, towns, market-places, the very camp, tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum, - we have left nothing to you but the temples of your gods… For now it is the immense number of Christians which makes your enemies so few, almost all the inhabitants of your various cities being followers of Christ. Yet you choose to call us enemies of the human race, rather than of human error. Tertullian (A.D. 198) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.3 pg. 45

[Pagan antagonist]: All men must be indignant, all men must feel pain, that certain persons – and these unskilled in learning, strangers to literature, without knowledge even of sordid arts – should dare to teach with any certainty about nature at large and the divine majesty. … Is it not a thing to be lamented, that men … of a reprobate, unlawful, and desperate faction should rage against the gods? These persons have gathered together from the lowest dregs the more unskilled men, along with women – credulous and by the facility of their sex, yielding – thereby establishing a herd of profane conspiracy. This is linked together by nightly meetings, solemn fasts, and inhuman meats. … They despise the temples as dead houses. They reject the gods. They laugh at sacred things. Wretched, they pity the priests – if they are allowed. Half naked themselves, they despise honors and purple robes. Oh, unbelievable folly and incredible audacity! They scorn present torments, although they fear those that are uncertain and future. While they fear to die after death, they do not fear to die for the present. … Look! A portion of you – and, as you declare, the larger and better portion – are in want, are cold, laboring in hard work and hunger. Yet, your God allows it. … So He either is not willing or not able to assist His people. … You do not visit exhibitions. You have no interest in public displays. You reject the public banquets and abhor the sacred contests. You refuse the meats previously tasted by (and the drinks made an offering upon) the altars. … You do not wreath your heads with flowers. You do not grace your bodies with perfume. You reserve ointments for funeral rites. You even refuse garlands for your sepulchers. [Christian reply]: We do not, at once, stand on the level of the lowest of the people, simply because we refuse your honors and purple robes. … We do not distinguish our people by some small bodily mark (as you suppose) but easily enough by the sign of innocency and modesty. Thus we love one another (to your regret) with a mutual love, because we do not know how to hate. For that reason, we call one another (to your envy) brothers, as being men born of one God. … You [pagans] forbid, and yet commit, adulteries. We are born men only for our own wives. You punish crimes when committed. With us, even to think of crimes is to sin. … From your numbers the prison boils over. But there is no Christian there, unless he is accused on account of his religion, or else is an apostate. Mark Minucius Felix (A.D. 200) vol. 4 pg. 175-195

II. Meaning of the name “Christian” (Top)

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

It is therefore meet that we not only be called Christians, but also be such. Ignatius: to the Magnesians (A.D. 35-105 ) ch. 4

Only pray that I may have power within and without, so that I may not only say it but also desire it; that I may not only be called a Christian, but also be found one. For if I shall be found so, then can I also be called one, and be faithful then, when I am no more visible to the world. Ignatius: to the Romans (A.D. 35-105) ch.3

And those among yourselves who are accused you do not punish before they are convicted; but in our case you receive the name as proof against us, and this although, so far as the name goes, you ought rather to punish our accusers. For we are accused of being Christians, and to hate what is excellent is unjust. Again, if any of the accused deny the name, and say that he is not a Christian, you acquit him, as having no evidence against him as a wrong-doer; but if any one acknowledge that he is a Christian, you punish him on account of this acknowledgment. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.164

And let those who are not found living as He taught, be understood to be no Christians, even though they profess with the lip the precepts of Christ; for not those who make profession, but those who do the works, shall be saved, according to His word: "Not every one who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.168

In the first place [we furnish proof], because, though we say things similar to what the Greeks say, we only are hated on account of the name of Christ, and though we do no wrong, are put to death as sinners. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.171

The fact that there are such men confessing themselves to be Christians, and admitting the crucified Jesus to be both Lord and Christ, yet not teaching His doctrines, but those of the spirits of error, causes us who are disciples of the true and pure doctrine of Jesus Christ, to be more faithful and steadfast in the hope announced by Him. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.212

Yet they style themselves Christians, just as certain among the Gentiles inscribe the name of God upon the works of their own hands, and partake in nefarious and impious rites.) Some are called Marcians, and some Valentinians, and some Basilidians, and some Saturnilians, and others by other names; each called after the originator of the individual opinion, just as each one of those who consider themselves philosophers, as I said before, thinks he must bear the name of the philosophy which he follows, from the name of the father of the particular doctrine. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.212

Moreover, I pointed out to you that some who are called Christians, but are godless, impious heretics, teach doctrines that are in every way blasphemous, atheistical, and foolish. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.239

III. True accusations of Christians (Top)

And when you hear that we look for a kingdom, you suppose, without making any inquiry, that we speak of a human kingdom; whereas we speak of that which is with God, as appears also from the confession of their faith made by those who are charged with being Christians, though they know that death is the punishment awarded to him who so confesses. For if we looked for a human kingdom, we should also deny our Christ, that we might not be slain; and we should strive to escape detection, that we might obtain what we expect. But since our thoughts are not fixed on the present, we are not concerned when men cut us off; since also death is a debt which must at all events be paid. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.166

For they proclaim our madness to consist in this, that we give to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all; for they do not discern the mystery that is herein, to which, as we make it plain to you, we pray you to give heed. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.166

In the first place [we furnish proof], because, though we say things similar to what the Greeks say, we only are hated on account of the name of Christ, and though we do no wrong, are put to death as sinners. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.171

And Socrates, who was more zealous in this direction than all of them, was accused of the very same crimes as ourselves. For they said that he was introducing new divinities, and did not consider those to be gods whom the state recognized. But he cast out from the state both Homer and the rest of the poets, and taught men to reject the wicked demons and those who did the things which the poets related; and he exhorted them to become acquainted with the God who was to them unknown. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.191

IV. False accusations of Christians (Top)

And when Socrates endeavored, by true reason and examination, to bring these things to light, and deliver men from the demons, then the demons themselves, by means of men who rejoiced in iniquity, compassed his death, as an atheist and a profane person, on the charge that "he was introducing new divinities;" and in our case they [make similar accusations].Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.164

Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.164

Why do you hate those who follow the word of God, as if they were the vilest of mankind? It is not we who eat human flesh - they among you who assert such a thing have been suborned as false witnesses. Tatian (A.D.160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.76

Godless lips falsely accuse us, who are worshippers of God, and are called Christians, alleging that the wives of us all are held in common and made promiscuous use of; and that we even commit incest with our own sisters, and, what is most impious and barbarous of all, that we eat human flesh. Theophilus (A.D. 180) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.112

Three things are alleged against us: atheism, Thyestean feasts, Oedipodean intercourse. But if these charges are true, spare no class: proceed at once against our crimes; destroy us root and branch, with our wives and children, if any Christian is found to live like the brutes. Athenagorus (A.D. 137) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.130

But they have further also made up stories against us of impious feasts and forbidden intercourse between the sexes. Athenagorus (A.D. 137) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.145

Monsters of wickedness, we are accused of observing a holy rite in which we kill a little child and then eat it; in which, after the feast, we practice incest, the dogs - our pimps, forsooth, overturning the lights and getting us the shamelessness of darkness for our impious lusts. This is what is constantly laid to our charge, and yet you take no pains to elicit the truth of what we have been so long accused. Either bring, then, the matter to the light of day if you believe it, or give it no credit as having never inquired into it. Tertullian (A.D. 198) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.3 pg.23

They think the Christians the cause of every public disaster, of every affliction with which the people are visited. If the Tiber rises as high as the city walls, if the Nile does not send its waters up over the fields, if the heavens give no rain, if there is an earthquake, if there is famine or pestilence, straightway the cry is, "Away with the Christians to the lion!" Tertullian (A.D. 198) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.3 pg.47

And now, as wickeder things advance more fruitfully, and abandoned manners creep on day by day, those abominable shrines of an impious assembly are maturing themselves throughout the whole world. Assuredly this confederacy ought to be rooted out and execrated. They know one another by secret marks and insignia, and they love one another almost before they know one another. Everywhere also there is mingled among them a certain religion of lust, and they call one another promiscuously brothers and sisters, that even a not unusual debauchery may by the intervention of that sacred name become incestuous…I hear that they adore the head of an ass…Some say that they worship the virilia of their pontiff and priest, and adore the nature, as it were, of their common parent. I know not whether these things are false; certainly suspicion is applicable to secret and nocturnal rites. Minucius Felix (A.D. 200) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.4 pg. 177

Now the story about the initiation of young novices is as much to be detested as it is well known. An infant covered over with meal, that it may deceive the unwary, is placed before him who is to be stained with their rites: this infant is slain by the young pupil, who has been urged on as if to harmless blows on the surface of the meal, with dark and secret wounds. Thirstily - O horror! - they lick up its blood; eagerly they divide its limbs. Minucius Felix (A.D. 200) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.4 pg. 177-178

On a solemn day they assemble at the feast, with all their children, sisters, mothers, people of every sex and of every age. There, after much feasting, when the fellowship has grown warm, and the fervor of incestuous lust has grown hot with drunkenness, a dog that has been tied to the chandelier is provoked, by throwing a small piece of offal beyond the length of a line by which he is bound, to rush and spring; and thus the conscious light being overturned and extinguished in the shameless darkness, the connections of abominable lust involve them in the uncertainty of fate. Minucius Felix (A.D. 200) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.4 pg. 178