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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."

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