Thumbnail image

Last Updated on : Saturday, November 22, 2014



DOWNLOAD EUREKA volumes in PDF: Eureka downloads page

Eureka vol. 1 TOC | Eureka vol. 2 TOC | Eureka vol 3 TOC

Previous section | Next section



Sixth Edition, 1915
By Dr. John Thomas (first edition written 1861)



Chapter 3


3. The Pergamian State




This state of the christian community is illustrated by the writings of Tertullian, Pantaenus, Clemens Alexandrinus, and the Alexandrian School of "Divinity."

Tertullian, the first Latin writer among christians, flourished in the latter part of the second, and in the former part of the third century, at Carthage. But were it not for some light which he throws on the state of christianity in his own times, he would scarcely deserve to be distinctly noticed. Tradition with him was authoritative, and among the customs which it sanctioned in the Roman Africa was the very frequent signing of themselves with the sign of the cross.

He did not approve of flight in persecution, in direct contradiction of Christ's instructions. He disapproved of second marriages, and called them adultery.

Human philosophy after the rudiments of the world formed the prominent corruption of the times of Tertullian and his contemporaries, and immediate successors. In the third century its effects appeared very distinctly.

Alexandria in Egypt was at this time the most renowned seminary of learning. A sort of philosophers appeared there who called themselves Eclectic, because they chose what they thought most agreeable to truth from different masters and sects. Ammonius Saccas, a famous Alexandrian teacher, reduced the opinions of this sect to a system. Plato was his principal guide, but he invented many things of which Plato had no idea. He was educated a christian, but of so doubtful a kind that he was claimed by Porphyry for a pagan, and by Eusebius for a saint. Ammonius fancied that all religions, vulgar and philosophical, Grecian and barbarous, Jewish and Gentile, meant the same thing at bottom. He undertook by allegorizing and subtilizing various fables and systems, to compound a coalition of all sects and religions; and from his labors, continued by his disciples, his followers were taught to look on Jew, philosopher, vulgar pagan, and christian, as all of the same creed.

Our more distinct information of christianity in this respectable city of the Roman Habitable begins with what is evil. It is said that a christian catechetical school was established there in the apostolic age; be this as it may, Pantaenus is the first master of it of whom there is any account. He was much addicted to the sect of the Stoics, a sort of romantic pretenders to perfection. The combination of Stoicism with Christianity in the system of Pantoenus very much debased the truth; and clouded must have been the light imparted by such an instructor to his disciples. He always retained the title of the Stoic Philosopher, after he had been admitted to eminent employments in the church. For ten years he laboriously discharged the office of Catechist, and freely taught all that desired him. He died not long after the beginning of the third century.

Clemens Alexandrinus was a disciple of Pantaenus, and of a mind blasted by the same wind of philosophy. He was of the eclectic sect. But let us hear what he says of himself: "I espouse neither this nor that philosophy, neither the Stoic nor Platonic, nor the Epicurean, nor that of Aristotle; but whatever any of these sects hath said, that is fit and just; whatever teaches righteousness with a divine and religious knowledge, all this I select; and call it philosophy." But what was there even of good morals in all the philosophers he could not have learned in the New Testament; and much more perfectly, and without the danger of pernicious adulterations. Clemens as a Christian, should have known that it was no part of the business of philosophical writers to dictate to the believer: "the world by wisdom knew not God," and "Beware of Philosophy." The christian community was gradually learning to neglect the scriptures and their cautions; and to develop theology into a science so called.

Clemens succeeded Pantaenus in the catechetical school, and under him were bred the famous, or rather infamous, Origen, and other eminent perverters of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ. Their preparation under his tuition may be learned from the following statement. "As the husbandman first waters the soil, and then casts in his seed, so the notions which I derive out of the writings of the Gentiles serve first to water and soften the earthy parts of the soul, that the spiritual seed may be the better cast in, and take vital root in the mind of men."

This was not speaking according to the oracles of God. The apostles neither place Gentile philosophy in the foundation, nor believed that it would at all assist in raising the superstructure of christianity. On the contrary they looked at the philosophical religion of their own times as so much rubbish; but in all ages, the blandishments of mere reason on such subjects deceive us; -- "vain man would be wise."

This man, Clemens, besides his employment in the office of catechist, was made a presbyter in the ecclesia at Alexandria. Little is known of his life, and the time of his death is uncertain; and certain it is, that little else than evil could accrue to the saints from the ministrations of such a perverted mind.

He undertook to delineate a perfect christian, which, being the creation of his pago-christian eclecticism was just such a christian as would please the carnal mind, full of stoical rhapsodies, and the crotchety asceticism of the flesh. After he had created him, he called him GNOSTICUS; but the Spirit, in the writing to the presbytery at Pergamos, styled him Nikolaitos, or a vanquisher of the people, like his great prototype Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, and placed stumblingblocks in the people's way, by which they were caused to fall. The Rev. Nikolaitos Gnosticus is the beau ideal of a modern "divine."




Eureka Diary -- reading plan for Eureka