), a Grecian philosopher converted to the Christian religion, flourished in the second century of our era His name is unaccountably passed over by Eusebius and Jerome; and the only ancient biographical notice of him is contained in a fragment of Philippus Sidetes, published by Henry Dodwell along with his Dissertationes in Irenaeum.
In this document it is stated, that Athenagoras was the first master of the catechetical school at Alexandria, and that he flourished in the days of Hadrian and Antoninus, to whom he addressed an Apology on behalf of the Christians.
It is added that he had, before Celsus, intended to write against the Christians ; but when he examined the Holy Scriptures with this view, he became a convert to the faith he had purposed to destroy.
It is further asserted by this writer, that Clemens Alexandrinus was the disciple of Athenagoras, and Pantaenus the disciple of Clemens.
The authority of Philippus Sidetes was lightly esteemed, even in ancient times; and there are some manifest inaccuracies in the foregoing statement.
Athenagoras's Defense of the Christians
was certainly not addressed to Hadrian and Antoninus.
It has been contended by some modern scholars, that it was presented to Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus; but it has been shewn by irrefragable proofs, that the emperors to whom it was addressed were Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus.
In this view Baronius, Petavius, Tillemont, Maranus, Fabricius, Lumper, and many others concur.
It is certain, again, that Clemens Alexandrinus was the pupil, not the master, of Pantaenus. And it is very improbable that Athenagoras was in any way conneeted with the celebrated catechetical school of Alexandria.
All that we know respecting Athenagoras is, that he was an Athenian by birth, a proselyte to Christianity, and the author of the above-mentioned Apology, and of a treatise in defence of the tenet of the resurrection. Both of these are written with considerable ability and elegance, and in a pure Attic style.
In the first, he vigorously combats the charges of atheism, profligacy, and cannibalism, which were preferred against the early Christians.
In the second, he shews with no little ingenuity, that the presumptive arguments against the Christian doctrine of the resurrection are inconclusive.
The best edition of the works of Athenagoras is that of the Benedictines, superintended by Maranus, and published, together with the writings of Justin Martyr, Theophilus of Antioch, and Hermias, in one volume, folio, Paris, 1742.
The other editions of Athenagoras are these: H. Stephani, 1557, reprinted at Zurich in 1559, and at Cologne in 1686
; Bishop Fell's, Oxford, 1682
; Rechenberg's, Leipzig, 1684-85
; Dechair's, Oxford, 1706.
His works are also given in the edition of Justin Martyr, published at Paris in 1615
, and in the collections of de la Bigne
, and Oberthür.
J. G. Lindner's notes to his edition of the Apology for the Christians (Longosal. 1774-75)
deserve particular recommendation.
The writings of Athenagoras, with fragments from other ancient authors, were translated into English by David Humphreys, London, 1714. There is an old translation of the treatise on the Resurrection by Richard Porder, London, 1573.
See T. A. Clarisse, Commentatio de Athenagorae Vita et Scriptis,
Lugd. Batav. 1819; Polycarp Leyser, Dissertatio de Athenagora,