ARISTIDES MAREIANUS OF ATHENS:
By: Louis Ginzberg
Christian apologist; lived about the middle of the second century. He is described by Jerome as having been a most eloquent man. Both the author and his work—a defense of Christianity addressed to the emperor, Antoninus Pius—are, so to speak, new discoveries. Beyond a brief notice of Aristides and his "Apology" by Eusebius ("Hist. Eccl." iv. 3; id. "Chron. Ann." 2140), he remained until recently entirely unknown. Some Armenian fragments of the "Apology" had been published, in 1878, when, in 1891, Harris surprised the learned world with a complete Syrian text of the work; and at the same time Robinson pointed out the interesting fact that in "Barlaam and Josaphat" the Greek text of the "Apology" had been almost wholly preserved.
The "Apology" which he presented to the Emperor Hadrian between the years 123 and 126, is of great interest, not only for the early history of Christianity, but also for Judaism. For Aristides is one of the few Christian apologists, of ancient or modern times, who strive to be just to the Jews; and this not alone concerning their monotheistic faith—which he characterizes as the true one—but also as regards their religious practises, of which he remarks: "They imitate God by the philanthropy that prevails among them; for they have compassion on the poor, release the captives, bury the dead, and do such things as these, which are acceptable before God and well-pleasing also to man" (Syrian text, xiv.). The only thing to which he takes exception is that their ceremonial practises do not propitiate God—whom they wish to serve by them—but the angels (l.c.).
This complaint against the Jews is not made from actual observation of their life, but rests solely on a theory borrowed from the New Testament (Col. ii. 18; Gal. ii. 8, 10), and the New Testament Apocrypha Κήρυγμα Πετρου; see Clement of Alexandria, "Strom." vi. 41). What Aristides defends so ably and so eloquently in his "Apology" is not specifically Christian doctrine, much less dogmatic Christianism, but the moral side of the religion, which, according to his own words, represents an excellence not to be denied to Judaism likewise. Aristides seems to be strongly influenced in his apologetics by the Jewish "Didache"; and his argument for monotheism (see chaps. i., ii., iii.) recalls the favorite Jewish Haggadot touching the conversion of Abraham to the true faith (see
- Harris and Robinson, in Texts and Studies, i. 1;
- Raabe, in Texte und Untersuchungen, ix. 1 (German translation of the Syriac version);
- Seeberg, in Zahn's Forschungen, v. 159 et seq.;
- contains a German translation of the reconstructed Greek original;
- D. M. Kalf, English translation, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, ix. 259 et seq.;
- Harnack, in Realencyklopädie für Protestantische Theol. 3d edition, ii. 46;
- see also Otto, Corpus Apologetorum, ix. 342.