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Thursday, 30 October 2014

The devil didn't make me do it: an appeal to Christadelphians

Over time, in discussions with Christadelphians, I have repeatedly encountered the accusation that Christians who affirm the existence of a personal devil do so in order to avoid taking responsibility for their sins. This idea needs to be addressed.

I recently listened to a talk delivered at the Orlando Christadelphian Gathering in March 2013 entitled, 'The Devil made me do it'. The speaker was one whom I grew up calling 'Uncle' and for whom I have the utmost respect. He framed the talk as a courtroom session in which the audience was invited to judge whether the defense 'The devil made me do it' has any validity. A foundational assumption of the case he presented was that professing Christians who believe in the devil's existence do hold the position that 'The devil made me do it' and thereby attempt to transfer blame for their actions to an outside entity.

A quick Google search reveals that the sentiments expressed by this speaker are widespread in the worldwide Christadelphian community. The Glasgow-Kelvin Christadelphian ecclesial website says this on its page about the devil:
You know the phrase, "The devil made me do it."  This is the popular view, that some kind of supernatural being or force for evil makes us do things that we would not normally contemplate.
A meditation on the Tidings magazine website states:
This problem of finding somebody upon whom to blame our problems must be the reason so many people want to believe in the devil — for then we can shift the blame by saying, “The devil made me do it.”
The widely distributed Christadelphian teaching manual Bible Basics describes belief in the devil as inventing "an imaginary person outside our human natures who is responsible for our sins". 

Referring specifically to the Jehovah's Witnesses' belief in the devil, Watkins writes,
"[The devil] relieves them of the great burden of guilt that they would otherwise have to carry. If they lose their devil a great load of sin comes down on their shoulders, for which they cannot escape the blame."1
Another writer, not a Christadelphian but from a group called Christian Restoration Centre with similar beliefs, describes the devil in his thesis That Old Serpent called the Devil and Satan as "a convenient scapegoat to blame"2.

In another booklet entitled The Devil and Satan Defined, a Christadelphian writer states:
Unfortunately, current ideas upon the subject are astray from the Bible. It is taught that the devil is a superhuman monster, a fallen angel, who dominates the minds of humanity, inducing mankind to sin. The teaching induces fear of the devil, and also provides an excuse for sin by blaming it on him.
Nearly a century earlier, Williams had made the same point in his book, The World's Redemption:
Such men as commit murder and other crimes of the grosser sort, either from delusion or dishonesty, shift the blame from themselves to an imaginary supernatural devil; and they are encouraged in this cowardice by the popular religious leaders.
Such quotations could be multiplied, but these suffice to show that the accusation described at the beginning is widespread in Christadelphia. Since the saying "The devil made me do it" seems to be regarded as epitomizing the attitude of mainstream Christians toward their transgressions, it will be useful to trace the background of this phrase. I'm no linguist or etymologist, so I'm limited to what I can find on the Internet. On Google Books, the only occurrence of this exact phrase prior to 1965 was in a poem entitled Ode to the Devil written in the late 1700s by the British satirist John Wolcott (who used the pen name Peter Pindar). The line was made famous, however, by American television comedian Flip Wilson in the 1970s. Through The Flip Wilson Show, "The devil made me do it" became a national catchphrase and "a mainstay within the American cultural psyche"3.

A Google web search for the exact phrase "the devil made me do it" yields hits falling into three main categories:
1) Popular culture references
2) Christian sermons, blogs and articles
3) News stories referring to criminals who used the phrase as an excuse for their crimes

The widespread use of this phrase in popular culture today testify to the lasting influence it has had since Flip Wilson popularized it forty years ago. That criminals and sociopaths (including a missionary who molested children) use this phrase with seeming regularity to explain their actions is disturbing. However, neither of these could be considered fair and reliable sources for mainstream Christian teaching on the subject. For this we need to turn to the second category of Google hits to see what Christian writers are saying.

When we do this, it becomes clear that when Christian writers uses the phrase, "The devil made me do it," they almost invariably do so in order to refute this notion as unbiblical, even as they affirm the real, personal existence of the devil.

After referring to the excuse, "The Devil made me do it" as a "mistake", Boa and Bowman note,
Ironically, many people twist the biblical teaching about the Devil's role in temptation into an excuse for sin. The Devil can tempt you, but the Devil cannot make you do anything. (Sorry, Flip Wilson!) Furthermore, ever since we fell from our original innocence, temptations generally appeal to our own selfish desires and attitudes. As James says, 'Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust' (James 1:14 NASB). The Devil's role in tempting us to sin, then, does not diminish our responsibility in the matter. It's still our fault.4
An article on bible.org, having posed the question, 'Is the devil to blame for our sin and suffering?' emphasizes that it is wrong to blame the devil in order to remove our guilt. 
"Today, regardless of the various external sources of temptation (Satan and the world), the final source is our own sinful nature or the lusts of self-centered desires of our own hearts (Jam. 1:14-15)."
What could be clearer than this statement in a study on James 1:13 from studyjesus.com
The Lord never Himself tempts anyone to sin, but He does permit Satan to do so. And Satan finds within the natural man that which is ready to yield to his allurements. However, the Devil's temptations do not excuse the faltering sinner. All moral evil is chargeable to the doer thereof.
An article from In Touch Ministries warns against the danger of overemphasizing Satan's power:
Those who believe they are at Satan’s mercy deny themselves victory because they never make more than a halfhearted attempt to overcome temptation. This belief opens the door for all kinds of excuses: “I can’t help it”; “The Devil made me do it”; “There was no way I could say no.”
In an article about the devil addressed specifically to Christadelphians, Sir Anthony Buzzard highlighted the same points:
It must be emphasized that belief in Satan as an external spirit does not excuse us from responsibility for our sins or false beliefs. We cannot blame Satan for our errors, claiming that “the Devil made me do it.” We are responsible, with God’s help, for learning the Truth, and turning from our sinful ways.
In a devotional piece on the Daily Bread website, after referring to a case where a woman blamed Satan for her role in stealing from her church, a pastor (while allowing the possibility of Satan's involvement) described this blame-shifting as "faulty theology" and came to the conclusion that "When we sin, the blame lies within."

Another pastor, blogging about the phrase "The Devil made me do it", commented:
I don't know about you, but I don't need to devil to make me sin. I do it just fine on my own, thank you. Now he may talk and he may tempt and he may entice and he may try to shout out my reasons for obedience to God, but he does not and can not make me sin. If I sin, or rather when I sin, it's my own fault and I bear the responsibility...Being tempted does not equal being forced.
A question addressed on the GotQuestions resource website was, "Why is 'the devil made me do it' not a valid excuse?" Even the question presupposes that it is not! Yet another pastor addresses dangers found in some charismatic churches where sins are habitually blamed on demon possession. A similar sentiment can be found here.

Such comments could also be multiplied many times over. However, we have seen enough evidence to draw some basic conclusions.

1) The phrase "The devil made me do it" originates, not from Christian theologians or pastors, but from the realm of satire and comedy, from whence it became embedded in popular culture.
2) While individuals - including some Christians - may on occasion attempt to blame the devil for their sins, orthodox theologians and pastors overwhelmingly and unambiguously denounce such excuses and robustly affirm personal responsibility for sin.
3) Christadelphians have for decades been falsely claiming that 'mainstream Christians' regard the devil's influence as absolving them of moral responsibility - usually without even attempting to offer evidence for this claim.5

Sadly, this misrepresentation shows no signs of abating. Christadelphians continue to spread this caricature of Christian doctrine despite abundant evidence to the contrary lying just a few mouse-clicks or a visit to a library away. How are we to account for this phenomenon? It appears, in the first place, that many Christadelphians zealously oppose traditional Christian teaching which they have never actually studied for themselves in any depth. Instead they rely on secondhand reports from fellow Christadelphians which, in this case at least, have been shown to be woefully inaccurate. I used to be in this very boat myself.

Moreover, based on my own observation there seem to be other Christadelphians who know better (having read Buzzard's article, for instance) but who refrain from speaking out against this myth, and perhaps even subtly encourage it. This suggests the disturbing possibility that some Christadelphians are more zealous about denouncing 'mainstream Christianity' than they are about truth.

I hope that this suggested explanation is unfounded. The best way to prove it unfounded would be for Christadelphians, particularly those in prominent teaching positions in the community, to set the record straight and put an end to the slanderous misrepresentation of 'mainstream Christian' teaching about the devil which has plagued the Christadelphian community for so long.

Doing so will enable more effective dialogue between Christadelphians and other Christians on the subject of the devil. Biblically and theologically literate Christians are unlikely to find the Christadelphian view compelling if they perceive that their own view has been misunderstood and caricatured.

This then is my appeal to Christadelphians: please stop teaching that "The devil made me do it" is a theological position of mainstream Christianity.


1 Watkins, P. (1971). The Devil - the Great Deceiver. Birmingham: The Christadelphian, p. 42)
2 Hodson, B.C. (n.d.). That Old Serpent, the Devil and Satan, p. 99.
3 Smith-Shomade, B.E. (2002). Shaded Lives: African-American Women and Television. Rutgers University Press, p. 65.
4 Boa, K.D. & Bowman R.M., Jr. (2007). Sense and Nonsense about Angels and Demons. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, p. 115.
5 As far as I can tell, of the writers quoted above, only Watkins offers any evidence for his claim. He denies that he is caricaturing the Jehovah's Witnesses' position, citing a discussion with Jehovah's Witnesses in which he was told that he was "blaming human nature too much" and that "The devil was the one to blame." However, a single anecdote from a chat with Jehovah's Witnesses (perhaps on the doorstep) hardly constitutes the kind of evidence needed to show that the 'devil made me do it' attitude pervades the teaching of the church.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Like Father, like Son: ambiguous pronouns in 1 John

One feature that strikes any reader of the First Epistle of John is what Lieu calls "the frequent ambiguity as to whether 'he' (autos) refers to God or to Jesus."1 Smith similarly notes that "in 1 John there is often a question of which, the Father or the Son, is the antecedent. This is a perennial and difficult problem".2 The problem is difficult, not only for the lay reader, but also for academic scholars. Griffith observes that "the use of pronouns in 1 John is often so ambiguous that commentators are frequently divided as to whether Jesus or God is the referent".3

The following is a list of pronouns whose referent is grammatically ambiguous. That is, in each case below the antecedent of the pronoun (translated 'he', 'him' or 'his') could, grammatically speaking, be either the Father or the Son. All phraseology is taken from the ESV.

Reference in
1 John
Phrase
Grammatically possible antecedents
1:5
the message we have heard from him
“the Father” (v. 3) or “his Son Jesus Christ” (v. 3)
1:9
he is faithful and just to forgive us
“God” (v. 5) or “Jesus his Son” (v. 7)
1:10
we make him a liar, and his word is not in us
“God” (v. 5) or “Jesus his Son” (v. 7)
2:5
whoever keeps his word...by this we may know that we are in him
“Jesus Christ the righteous” (v. 1) or “God” (v. 5)
2:6
whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked
“Jesus Christ the righteous” (v. 1) or “God” (v. 5)
2:8
which is true in him and in you
“Jesus Christ the righteous” (v. 1) or “God” (v. 5)
2:12
your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake
“Jesus Christ the righteous” (v. 1) or “God” (v. 5)
2:13
him who is from the beginning
No antecedent; could refer to the Son or the Father
2:14
him who is from the beginning
No antecedent; could refer to the Son or the Father
2:25
the promise that he made to us
“the Son” (v. 24) or “the Father” (v. 24)
2:27
the anointing that you received from him…his anointing teaches you…abide in him
“the Son” (v. 24) or “the Father” (v. 24) (cf. “the Holy One” in v. 20)
2:28
abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming
“the Son” (v. 24) or “the Father” (v. 24)
2:29
he is righteous…everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him
“the Son” (v. 24) or “the Father” (v. 24)
3:1
the world…did not know him
“the Father” (v. 1) or “the Son” (2:24)
3:2
when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is
“God” (v. 2)/“the Father” (v. 1) or “the Son” (2:24)
3:3
everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure
“God” (v. 2)/“the Father” (v. 1) or “the Son” (2:24)
3:5
he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin
“God” (v. 2)/“the Father” (v. 1) or “the Son” (2:24)
3:6
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him
“God” (v. 2)/“the Father” (v. 1) or “the Son” (2:24)
3:16
he laid down his life for us
“the Son of God” (v. 8) or “God” (vv. 9, 10)
3:19
reassure our heart before him
“the Son of God” (v. 8) or “God” (v. 17)
3:23
just as he has commanded us
“God” (v. 21) or “his Son Jesus Christ” (v. 23)
3:24
his commandments
“God” (v. 21) or “his Son Jesus Christ” (v. 23)
3:24
the Spirit whom he has given us
“his Son Jesus Christ” (v. 23) or “God” (v. 24)
4:4
he who is in you
No antecedent; could refer to God or Jesus
4:17
as he is so also are we in this world
“Jesus” (v. 15) or “God” (v. 16)
4:19
We love because he first loved us
“Jesus” (v. 15) or “God” (v. 16)
4:21
this commandment we have from him
“Jesus” (v. 15) or “God” (v. 20)
5:14
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us
“God” (v. 11) or “the Son of God” (v. 13)
5:15
And if we know that he hears us…the requests that we have asked of him
“God” (v. 11) or “the Son of God” (v. 13)
5:20
He is the true God and eternal life
“him who is true” (v. 20) or “his Son Jesus Christ” (v. 20)

In each case we can try to resolve the referent of the ambiguous pronoun exegetically by making recourse to the immediate and wider context. However, there are a number of cases which are very difficult to resolve, or where the resolution that seems most likely exegetically is staggering theologically. A case in point is "born of him" in 1 John 2:29. On the one hand, the birth imagery and the reference to "children of God" in 3:1 would seem to make it quite clear that "him" refers to the Father. On the other hand, it would be very odd grammatically if the pronoun had a different referent that those in v. 28, where "when he appears" and "not shrink from him in shame at his coming" seem rather plainly to refer to the Son. Again, in 3:2 and 3:5 "when he appears" and "he appeared to take away sins" would seem theologically to refer to the Son, as is explicit in 3:8. However, grammatically the nearest antecedent for these pronouns is "the Father" or "God" in 3:1; the Son has not been explicitly mentioned since 2:24!

Moreover, theologically speaking, "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us" (3:16) would seem certainly to refer to the Son, but the nearest antecedent is "God" (vv. 9-10), and it is God's love that is mentioned in 3:17.4 Again, in 2:12 and 5:14, grammatically and contextually the more likely antecedent is the Son, but in both cases the Christological implications would then be staggering. For the Christological implications of 2:12, see here; 5:14 would have Christ hearing prayer that is offered according to his will.

Our main purpose here, however, is not to try to resolve the referent of each ambiguous pronoun, or to tease out the theological implications of the individual cases, but rather to reflect on the theological significance of the overall pattern that we see. This pattern is, namely, that John often uses ambiguous personal pronouns which could refer either to the Father or the Son. There are several possible explanations of this phenomenon:

1) John is an unskilled and sloppy writer.
2) John does not always bother to specify the referent of his pronouns because in his mind the Father and Son are indistinguishable.
3) John does not always bother to specify the referent of his pronouns because in his mind the Father and Son are essentially equal despite being distinct persons.

Option 1) can be ruled out since one does not observe such ambiguity in the use of pronouns in the Fourth Gospel or in 2 John and 3 John,5 which are all generally regarded as being the work of the same author. Option 2) can likewise be ruled out since, as Michaels has observed, in spite of the ambiguity about antecedents, 1 John makes "a clear distinction between Father and Son".6 This can be seen in the frequent references to "the Son of God" (3:8, 4:15, 5:5, 5:10, 5:12-13, 5:18?, 5:20) or "his Son" (1:7, 3:23, 5:9-10, 5:20), as well as statements which affirm the Father and Son together (1:3, 2:1, 2:22-24, 4:9, 4:14, 5:20).

Thus Option 3) is the most likely explanation. In John's mind, the Father and Son, although distinct, are virtually synonymous in role and function in relation to believers. This raises the question of whether John's theology led him to use ambiguous pronouns unconsciously, or whether the ambiguity represents an intentional rhetorical strategy on his part. In either case, the ambiguous pronouns could be seen as the working out in practice of some of the high Christological statements in John's Gospel. These include the reference to Jesus "making himself equal with God" (John 5:18), the claims "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30) and "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9), and the affirmation that Jesus is "God" (John 1:18;7 20:28). Commenting on the ambiguity in 1 John 2:5, Jobes writes:
The ambiguity of the antecedent of 'his word' (autou ton logon), whether God or Christ, continues here. Although we have argued above that Christ is the likely referent, John's Christology, which understands the Son and the Father to be one (John 10:30), would allow God as the referent as well.8
If the use of ambiguous pronouns represents an intentional theological move on John's part, then it is possible to see 1 John 5:20 as the culmination of this pattern. In that case, there can be no doubt that "He is the true God and eternal life" is at least partially a Christological statement. While scholars debate whether God or his Son is the antecedent of the pronoun here, Jobes rightly states that "Even if 'Christ' is not the explicit antecedent, John's logic requires this to be a statement of Jesus' deity...For by John's statement, to be 'in the True One' means to be 'in Jesus Christ'".9 Similarly, Griffith argues on the basis of the frequent ambiguous pronouns that "There is nothing in 1 John that precludes the identification of Jesus with the true God".10

Besides the ambiguous pronouns in 1 John, one should also notice the ambiguous referent of "the Holy One" in 1 John 2:20. In this instance, a case can be made for identifying the Father, the Son or even the Spirit as the referent. In support of "the Holy One" being God is the common use of this title for God in the Old Testament (see particularly Proverbs 9:10 and 30:3, where the concern with 'knowledge' is similar to 1 John 2:20; also 2 Kings 19:22; Job 6:10; Psalm 78:41; 89:18; 106:16; frequently in Isaiah; Jeremiah 50:29; 51:5; Ezekiel 39:7; Hosea 11:9, 12; Habakkuk 3:3). In support of "the Holy One" being Christ is the occasional use of this term as a Christological title in the New Testament, including by John (Mark 1:24, Luke 1:35?; Luke 4:34; John 6:69; Acts 3:14; Revelation 3:7). Finally, one might interpret "the Holy One" to refer to the Spirit, as Jobes does.11 Certainly the anointing has to do with the Spirit, and the Spirit is emphatically personified in John's Gospel (ch. 14-16). While the adjective hagios is nowhere else used absolutely of the Spirit in the New Testament, it is of course the most common adjective used to describe the Spirit, and is used of the Spirit by John (1:33; 14:26; 20:22). If the latter view is correct, this epistle would arguably reflect a nascent Trinitarian view of God.

However one understands the referents of the individual ambiguous pronouns scattered throughout the epistle, they collectively testify to a highly developed Christology in which the Father and the Son and their soteriological roles can be interchanged seamlessly. The writer has evidently taken to heart the teaching of his Gospel "that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father" (John 5:23).


1 Lieu, J. (2008). I, II & III John: A Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press, p. 215.
2 Smith, D.M. (2008). The Historical Figure of Jesus in 1 John. In J.R. Wagner, C.K. Rowe & A.K. Grieb (Eds.), The Word leaps the Gap: Essays on Scripture and Theology in Honor of Richard B. Hays. (pp. 310-324). Eerdmans, p. 313.
3 Griffith, T. (2002). Keep yourself from idols: A new look at 1 John. T&T Clark, p. 75.
4 The KJV translators chose to add the elliptical words 'of God' in 3:16, making explicit their view that God was the one who laid down his life for us.
5 Note, however, the ambiguous reference to 'the name' in 3 John 7. This is a remarkable turn of phrase inasmuch as Jesus is the most likely referent, but is not otherwise mentioned in this epistle! Like 1 John 2:12, this is evidence of how highly regarded the name of Jesus was in the early church (Acts 4:12; Philippians 2:9-10; Hebrews 1:4). It has taken over the function that the ineffable name of YHWH played in the Old Testament.
6 Michaels, J.R. (2005). Catholic Christologies in the Catholic Epistles. In R.N. Longenecker (Ed.), Contours of Christology in the New Testament. (pp. 268-291). Eerdmans, p. 287.
7 Following the two most respected critical texts of the Greek New Testament, UBS5 and NA28, both of which read monogenes theos rather than monogenes huios.
8 Jobes, K.H. (2014). 1, 2, & 3 John. Zondervan, p. 84.
9 Jobes, op. cit., pp. 241-242.
10 Griffith, op. cit.
11 Jobes, op. cit., p. 127.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Christology of Quadratus

Quadratus was an early Christian who, according to the fourth century church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, wrote an apology (defense of the Christian faith) to the Roman Emperor Hadrian (who reigned from 117-138 A.D.). This is the earliest known written Christian apology; dates of composition proposed by scholars range between 117-125 A.D.1 Unfortunately, no copies are extant today and so we have no knowledge of its contents except for the description given by Eusebius and a brief fragment quoted by him in Ecclesiastical History 4.3.

In the late fourth century work Lives of Illustrious Men, the Latin church father Jerome wrote that Quadratus was bishop of Athens. Ehrman describes this tradition as "dubious". Whatever Quadratus' precise position in the church, however, that he wrote an apology to the emperor suggests that he was in a position of authority within the church and was one of its intellectual leaders.

What can we know about Quadratus' Christology (his understanding of the person of Christ) from Eusebius' description of and quotation from his apology? Eusebius stated that he possessed a copy of Quadratus' work and that in it one could "see clear signs both of the man's intelligence and of his apostolic orthodoxy".2

Eusebius himself has been described as having "occupied something of a semi-Arian position". When caught up in the Arian controversy he sought to reconcile the Arian and orthodox parties. He did sign the Nicene Creed, but "probably without any firm internal convictions".3

It is thus possible that Eusebius would have reported Quadratus' Christology to be orthodox even if it was proto-Arian in nature. Of course, the Arians themselves held what would be described as a high Christology inasmuch as they affirmed Christ's personal pre-existence. Their main difference with Trinitarians was that they held the Son to be a creature who was not ontologically equal to the Father.4 On the other hand, it is highly unlikely that Eusebius would have reported Quadratus' Christology to be 'orthodox' if it denied the pre-existence and virgin birth of Christ, since he had just earlier in the same work declared such views to be heretical (Eccl. Hist. 3.27).

Thus from Eusebius' testimony we can infer that Quadratus' apology very likely contained a high Christology which affirmed the pre-existence, and in some form the deity, of Christ (as did the apologies of Justin Martyr a few decades later - and it is quite possible that Justin knew Quadratus' work).

However, apart from Eusebius' reference to Quadratus' orthodoxy, there are hints of Quadratus' high Christology in the quotation from the apology that Eusebius preserved. The fragment reads thus:
But the works of our savior were always present, for they were true. Those who were healed and raised from the dead were not only seen when healed and raised, but they were always present - and not just while the savior was here, but even when he had gone they remained for a long time, so that some of them have survived to our own time.5
The use of the term soter (saviour) as the main referential title for Christ in this passage is certainly consistent with a high Christology. This title is used in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) frequently of God,6 but occasionally of human beings.7

In the contemporary Hellenistic world it was
an epithet for gods such as Zeus, Apollo, Hermes, Asclepios, Isis, Sarapis, Artemis, and the Dioscuri; sometimes it was a title for humans, such as the Ptolemies and Roman emperors or governors. As a cultic epithet, Greeks and Romans used it to invoke such deliverers in time of need (illness, travail, sea storms, famine, and economic distress...)8
In and of itself, the term soter did not necessarily connote deity.9 However, the fragment of Quadratus refers to Jesus as soter specifically in the context of his works of healing, which for a Hellenistic reader would likely have called to mind Asclepius, "the god of healing worshipped by the Greeks as well as the Romans".10 Notably, Asclepius' characteristic title was Asclepius Soter ('Asclepius the Saviour').11 Indeed, in Justin Martyr's apology he made explicit the similarities between Christians' claims about Jesus' healing works and the claims made by pagans concerning Asclepius (First Apology 22.6). Thus, while not making an explicit claim to Christ's deity, Quadratus was here ascribing a title and associated functions to Christ that pagans ascribed to one of their gods. Pagan readers would likely have understood this as implying that Christ was divine, and Quadratus' intent may have been to show Christ's superiority to pagan deities.12 Of course, we have no record of the ways in which Quadratus qualified his claims about Christ in relation to his understanding of God the Father. However, what little evidence we have supports the idea that Quadratus held a high Christology.

The fragment of the apology contains a further hint of Quadratus' high Christology - in this case, specifically pre-existence. The clause translated by Ehrman "not just while the saviour was here" reads, in the Greek, oude epidemountos monon tou soteros. The verb rendered 'was here' is epidemeo. The basic meaning of this verb is to live or dwell, but one of the most widely attested senses is "of foreigners, come to stay in a city, reside in a place"13 or "to stay in a place as a stranger or visitor, be in town, stay".14 This is the most likely meaning in the Quadratus text, especially given the contrast with the saviour's departure. The BDAG lexicon classifies the Quadratus instance under this meaning. As the writer explains,
the main idea in the use of this verb is the fact that the subject is in transit with regard to a place to stay, hence it can be used both for a stay away from home as well as for a return home.15
The older Roberts-Donaldson translation brings out the sense of this clause: "Nor did they remain only during the sojourn of the Saviour [on earth]".16

This notion of temporary relocation or visitation can be seen in all three instances of the word epidemeo in the New Testament (Acts 2:10; 17:21; 18:27 variant reading), and numerous times in Josephus' writings,17 both of which were written within a half century or so of Quadratus' Apology. In Eusebius' own writings in the fourth century, it takes this meaning several times.18 Of particular note is Eccl. Hist. 1.2.23, where Eusebius uses epidemeo to refer specifically to the incarnation: "For it had been foretold that one who was at the same time man and God should come and dwell in the world."19

In summary, it appears that the fragment of Quadratus' apology conveys the idea that Christ's human life on earth represented a sojourn - a visitation or incarnation - of a pre-existent divine being. One should emphasize that these are only implicit hints; we cannot attain the broader understanding of Quadratus' Christology that Eusebius and other readers of his full apology would have had. Nevertheless, the evidence available to us, however meager, does support Eusebius' testimony that Quadratus' beliefs were orthodox insofar as Christology is concerned (at least in Eusebius' relatively broad understanding of orthodoxy).

This, in turn, provides useful information about the Christological convictions of the church early in the second century, at a time when contemporaries of the apostles were still alive (as Quadratus' fragment itself attests).20 A defense of the Christian faith written to the Roman emperor is not likely to have contained core theological claims that were not well established in the Christian community. Thus, aside from the witness of the New Testament writings themselves, the first known written Christian apology provides evidence that a divine, pre-existence Christology was entrenched in the church early in its history.


1 Ehrman, B. (2003). The Apostolic Fathers. Vol. 2. Harvard University Press, p. 89; Foster, P. (2006). The Apology of Quadratus. The Expository Times, 117, 353-359.
2 Eccl. Hist. 4.3, trans. Ehrman, op. cit., p. 119. Foster (op. cit., p. 359) thinks that the ascription of apostolic orthodoxy may derive from the 'chain of tradition' by which Quadratus links himself back to the apostles. However, in view of the reference to Quadratus' intelligence, he also allows that "the very arguments employed by Quadratus were seen as establishing his orthodox credentials".
3 Jurgens, W.A. (Ed.). (1970). The Faith of the Early Fathers: Pre-Nicene and Nicene Eras. Liturgical Press, p. 290.
4 Gregg, R.C. (1983). Arianism. In Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology. Ed. A. Richardson & J. Bowden. Westminster John Knox Press, pp. 40-41.
5 Eccl. Hist. 4.3, trans. Ehrman, op. cit., p. 119.
6 Deut. 32:15; 1 Sam. 10:19; Psalm 24(23):5; 25(24):5; 27(26):1; 27(26):9; 62(61):2, 6; 65:5(64:6); 79(78):9; 95(94):1; Isa. 12:2; 17:10; 45:15, 21; 62:11; Mic. 7:7; Hab. 3:18.
7 Judg. 3:9, 15; Neh. 19(9):27.
8 Fitzmyer, J.A. (2002). The Savior God. In A.A. Das & F.J. Matera (Eds.), The Forgotten God: Perspectives in Biblical Theology: Essays in Honor of Paul J. Achtemeier on the Occasion of His Seventy-Fifth Birthday. (pp. 181-196). Westminster John Knox Press, p. 186.
9 Liefeld, W.L. (1995). Salvation. In G.W. Bromiley (Ed.), International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Q-Z. Eerdmans, p. 290.
10 Lawson, R.M. (2004). Science in the Ancient World: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, p. 27.
11 Barclay, W. (2001). Letters to the Seven Churches. Westminster John Knox Press, p. 31.
12 Ehrman (op. cit., p. 90) suggests that Quadratus' "claim about the long-term effects of Jesus' miracles may have been intended to show his superiority to some other alleged miracle worker". This is owing to Eusebius' reference to a disturbance created by wicked men as the impetus for Quadratus writing his apology. Some have identified these wicked men as heretical Christians such as the followers of Simon Magus (referred to later by Irenaeus). However, Foster (op. cit., p. 357) doubts this identification since it is unlikely that Quadratus would discuss an internal dispute in an apology addressed to Emperor Hadrian. An alternative possibility is that the wicked men creating the disturbance were devotees of Asclepius Soter!
13 Liddell, H.G., Scott, R. & Jones. H.S. (2011). The online Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English lexicon. University of California.
14 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. (3rd ed.) University of Chicago Press, p. 370.
15 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W., op. cit., p. 370.
16 Roberts, A. & Donaldson, J. (1871). Ante-Nicene Christian Library: The works of Lactantius, v. 2., together with the Testaments of the twelve patriarchs and fragments of the second and third centuries. T&T Clark, p. 139.
17 Wars of the Jews 1.26.5; 2.11.2; 2.15.1; Antiquities of the Jews 2.5.12; 5.8.3; 15.11.4; 16.10.1; 17.5.4; Autobiography 40.
18 Eccl. Hist. 3.36.4; 4.11.2; 4.14.5; 5.24.16; 6.14.10; 7.11.12; 7.18.3.
19 Eusebius uses the word more abstractly in Eccl. Hist. 2.15.1 to refer to the divine word making its home among men through preaching.
20 Foster (op. cit., p. 356) states the following concerning Quadratus' claim that some of those healed by Jesus had survived to his own time: "The verbal aspect of the entire description implies that such survivors from the time of Jesus had died by the time of the composition of the apology. However, there were people among the current generation of Christians who could remember those who claimed to have received dominical healing."