Volume III - Church History

Second Century

The Apologists

Martyr Justin the Philosopher

While the literature of the Apostolic Fathers was addressed to Christians for their instruction and edification, other Church leaders of the second century were writing to the outside world, explaining and defending Christianity—especially to those who were persecuting Christians out of misunderstanding and ignorance. These writings are called Apologies, or Defenses of the Faith, and their authors are called Apologists. The leading Apologists were the philosopher Saint Justin Martyr (d.c. 165); Saint Quadratus of Athens; Athenagoras of Athens; Saint Melito, Bishop of Sardis (d.c. 190); Saint Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch (d.c. 190); and Minucius Felix of western North Africa (d.c. 235). Often writing directly to the Roman emperor, the Apologists did much to help Christianity gain intellectual and social “respectability” in the greater Roman society.

Many of the Apologists also wrote essays and other things for the Church. Saint Melito of Sardis, for example, wrote a magnificent and long liturgical poem called “On Pascha.” In it we find wording almost identical to some of the language in the hymns for Great and Holy Friday. He writes about the Lord’s crucifixion:

He who hung the earth is hanging.
He who fixed the heavens in place has been fixed in place.
He who laid the foundations of the universe has been laid on a tree.
The Master has been profaned.
God has been murdered
(ch. 96).