ARISTEDES OF ATHENS (125 AD), Theology of

ARISTEDES OF ATHENS (125 AD), Theology of

Theological view: Modalism


Aristides of Athens was an early Christian writer who wrote a letter called “The Apology of Aristides” to the Roman EmperorHadrian in about 125 AD in defense of the beliefs and practices of the early second century Christians. There is valid historical

evidence to prove that we have the actual Apology written by Aristides to the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Robert M. Grant commented on the attestation to Aristides in “The Anchor Bible Dictionary,” vol. 1, p. 382):“According to Eusebius, both Quadratus and Aristides presented Christian apologies to the Emperor Hadrian at Athens, probably

in 124 C.E. Aristides was unknown to scholars for many years, though his work survived in at least two 4th-century papyri(POxy. 15: 1778). The Mechitarists of Venice published an Armenian fragment in 1878, and in 1889 J. R. Harris discovered the whole apology in a 7th-century Syriac manuscript at St. Catherine’s on Sinai. J. A. Robinson immediately found that the Greek apology had been used for a lengthy section of the Greek

novel Barlaam and Josaphat, ascribed to John of Damascus.

All we know about Aristides is from his brief written Apology to the Roman Emperor Hadrian and from the scanty informationwritten about him from Eusebius (who lived about 200 years after Aristides) and Jerome (who lived about 300 years after Aristides).

Jerome seems to merely repeat the words of Eusebius another one hundred years later so we must assume that Eusebius somehowobtained accurate historical information about Aristides from oral tradition.

Eusebius stated that Aristides, like Justin (who wrote his first Apology later), was a Greek philosopher who continued to wear his philosophers garb after becoming a Christian.

However, unlike Justin, there is no internal evidence within the Apology of Aristides to suggest that Aristides promoted GreekPhilosophy; nor is there any evidence to suggest that Aristides praised Greek philosophy along with Christianity like Justin did later. In his Apology, Aristides clearly denounced thepagan gods of Greek mythology along with the false gods of the Barbarians while praising the beliefs and practices of the early Christians.Eusebius, Constantine’s fourth century historian, alleged that Aristides delivered his letter to the Emperor Hadrian when he visited Athens around 125 AD.


All-powerful Caesar Titus Hadrianus Antoninus, venerable and merciful, from Marcianus Aristides, an Athenian philosopher.


I say, then, that God is not born, not made, an ever-abiding nature without beginning and without end, immortal, perfect, andincomprehensible ... Form he has none [Aristides wrote nothing of an alleged God the Son who later Trinitarians say pre-existedin a pre-incarnate “form of God” according to Phil. 2:6] .... Ignorance and forgetfulness are not in his nature, for He is altogether wisdom and understanding [Aristides links the wisdom and understanding of God Personified in Proverbs 8 as an attribute of God Himself (Job 12:13)]; and in Him stands fast all that exists.


The Christians, then, trace the beginning of their religion from Jesus the Messiah; and he is named the Son of God Most High. And it is said (the majority of the Christians said) that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man. This is taught in the gospel ... and you also if you will read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it. This Jesus, then, was born of the race of the Hebrews; and he had twelve disciples in order that the purpose of his incarnation might in time be accomplished. But he himself was pierced by the Jews, and he died and was buried; and they say that after three days he rose and ascended to heaven. Thereupon these twelve disciples went forth throughout the known parts of the world,and kept showing his greatness with all modesty and uprightness. And hence also those of the present day who believe that preaching are called Christians, and they are become famous.


God is one in His nature. A single essence is proper to Him, since He is uniform in His nature and His essence [Origen and other Semi-Arians like him later said that the Son has “an essence of hisown” (Origen’s Commentary of the Gospel of John, book 1, chapter 23)]


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. For they know and trust in God, the Creator of heaven and of earth, in whom and from whom are all things, to whom there is no other god as companion, from whom they received commandments which they engraved upon their minds and observe in hope and expectation of the world which is to come. 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 fromevery unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world.