St. Justin and other Apologists.
Appreciation of Justin.
It is not enough to give the sources in this historical treatise; I must appreciate their value and discover the character of the witnesses summoned to the inquiry. It is needful to examine the environment of the writer, and to investigate whether he has a knowledge of the subject, or is to any extent ignorant, whether his will is biased by a prejudice against his subject or a prepossession in its favour, whether his tendency is conservative or otherwise; it is needful to study his writings and their purpose, whether they are apologetic so as, perhaps, to unconsciously make the writer set forth his subject in the best light, whether they are polemical so as to incline the writer to exaggerate his position, whether they are rhetorical and need discounting, whether, in fine, they contain a sober and unvarnished record of the facts. Our first witness, St. Justin Martyr (flourished 161 A.D.), was born in Samaria, though of Greek origin. He lived within the half century following the death of St. John, the last of the Apostles. His intellectual environment was, in general, of the most helpful character. It was an era so close to the Apostles that their doctrine was not likely to have been already corrupted. The tradition, being near the source, displayed a brilliant light, derived not merely from the written Word but from the many discourses of Christ which were left unwritten. Justin travelled to Rome, where he proved the honesty of his convictions by the sacrifice of his life. Pie was acquainted with numerous Christian scholars of advanced age, so that his knowledge must in some cases have been derived from men who had lived in Apostolic times. His tendency of mind, resembling the period in which he lived, was conservative.
Though a philosopher, or, perhaps, for that reason, since he had experienced the unsatisfying character of merely human speculation, he rested content with giving the opinion of the Christian body, and if he sometimes gave his individual belief, as for example, in favour of the existence of the Millennium, he was careful to make this apparent. Clement and Origen had not yet come to apply human reason to the Scriptures, and so begin the science of Theology. The conservative character of Justin's mind, however, is of special value to one interested more in the teaching of the Church than of separate individuals. By reason of the soundness of Justin's teachings, he was an authority with such writers as Irenaeus, Tatian, Tertullian, Hippolytus and Eusebius. Nor should his error concerning a speculative matter like the existence of the Millennium nor his occasional futile reasons prejudice one against his reliability in witnessing to fundamental teachings, however much they may incline one to question his arguments or minor details in his writings.
But if Justin was an embodiment of the conservative tendencies of his age, he was also an exponent of its want of precision in certain doctrines. Before an error is committed concerning a doctrine, it is hard to formulate it so as to exclude the possibility of misunderstanding. Petavius questioned the soundness of Justin's terms in the saying that the Son ministered to the Father. Similarly, there is danger of being misled by some of his statements concerning the existence of a Eucharistic sacrifice. From silence in regard to a doctrine it cannot be argued that Justin is ignorant concerning it; from a partial statement of a doctrine it must not at once be inferred that Justin did not fully realize it. From certain parts of his Apologies one might conclude that Justin did not admit a Eucharistic oblation; but this conclusion, as will be seen, is corrected by the examination of his Dialogue with Tryphon.
His writings are mainly apologetic, intended to set forth the doctrine of Christianity in a winning manner. Justin will, therefore, concede to his opponent everything he can consistently with his transparent honesty which made him protest to Tryphon that he was not so unhappy as to speak otherwise than as he thought. When Tryphon considers a certain sacrifice to be prayer, Justin is willing to agree that the Christians, too, offer a sacrifice of prayer. But he does not try to win his opponents at the expense of the truth ; arguing with the Pagan emperors of Rome, who apparently believed that sacrifices supplied food to the Deity, he is altogether intent on asserting the opposite. He emphasizes, by way of contrast, the spiritual adoration offered to God by the Christians, that is, prayers and thanksgivings.
It must be always borne in mind, if one is to give a correct interpretation of Justin's teaching, that his sole object was to teach the rudiments of the Christian faith to Jews and Gentiles. On that account one is not likely to receive from him metaphysical discourses on the essence of the Christian sacrifice, or of the sacrificial act, just as one would not find such subtle inquiries in a simple instruction to Catechumens. If this principle were not forgotten numerous pages would not have been written about Justin's ideas concerning certain essences.
"We," writes Justin concerning sacrifices. " who through the Name of Jesus believe as one man in God the Creator of all things, have put off our filthy garments, that is, our sins, through the name of His first begotten Son, and are set on fire by the word of His calling, and are the true high-priestly family of God, as He Himself testifies, saying, that in every place among the Gentiles they offer sacrifice pure and well-pleasing to Him. But God accepts not sacrifices from any except his priests. . . .
"But you (Tryphon) even till now contentiously assert that God does not receive the sacrifices offered in Jerusalem by those who, then living there, were termed Israelites, but that He says that the prayers of those of your nation who were then in the dispersion were accepted by Him,and that He calls their prayers sacrifices. That prayers, indeed, and thanksgivings 1 offered up by the worthy are the only sacrifices which are perfect and acceptable to God, is what I myself also affirm: for these alone the Christians also have been taught to offer 2 and that in the remembrance made by their food both solid and liquid, 3 in which there is a commemoration also of the Passion endured for their sakes by the Son of God. " 4
"In like manner the oblation of the flour, my friends, I continued, which was commanded to be offered for those cleansed from leprosy, was a type of the Bread of the Eucharist, which Jesus Christ our Lord commanded us to celebrate 5 . . . Concerning those sacrifices which are offered to Him in every place by us Gentiles, that is, the Bread of the Eucharist and similarly the Cup of the Eucharist, 6 He then foretold that we should glorify His Name, but that you should profane it." 7
"As by the word of God, Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was made flesh, and had both flesh and blood for our salvation ; so, too, the food which was blessed by the prayer of the Word proceeding from Him, and from which our flesh and blood, by assimilation, receive nourishment, is, we are taught, both the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. 8"
Does the evidence, here set forth even in its apparent opposition to objective sacrifices, disclose a strict sacrifice in the Eucharist, or, in other words, an objective sacrificial gift ? Or is it a sacrifice of mere prayer ? That it is not a sacrifice of mere prayer but an external rite is clear from one of these texts. The Dialogue with Tryphon 9 speaks of the " sacrifices offered up in all places, that is, the Bread of the Eucharist and the Cup of the Eucharist." This is the natural reading of the Greek, and I have never seen any other translation. If, then, the sacrifice offered in all places is equated with the Eucharistic Bread and Cup, these latter must enter into the essence of the sacrifice. If one says, M this is the sacrifice of Socrates, that is, the cock destined for AEsculapius," one cannot escape the conclusion that the cock is an essential part of the sacrifice, nor may he have recourse to the subterfuge that the sacrifice of Socrates is one of mere prayer. One cannot reconcile with the rules of human language the interpretation that the sacrifice of the Eucharist, according to Justin, is one of mere prayer; if he meant this, he conveyed the opposite. Thus, the language of Justin excludes the error of Harnack and of Wieland that the essence of the Eucharistic sacrifice in Justin's mind is mere prayer. It also contradicts the view of Renz that Justin did not see in the Eucharist an objective sacrificial gift.
This interpretation of Justin, which is forced on one by a careful examination of the passage discussed, is supported also by arguments which are reasonable if not demonstrative. Thus Justin identified the Eucharist with the clean oblation, predicted by Malachy and called minchah, a term which generally suggested the idea of a strict wheat offering. Besides, he speaks of the Eucharist as fulfilling the type of the flour-offering presented by a leper. The latter was a strict sacrifice. The leper was ordered to offer three-tenths of flour mixed with oil for a sacrifice. 10
Did Justin teach the doctrine of a strict sacrifice of the Mass in the explicit sense of an offering of the body and blood of Christ ? He did not teach this doctrine in so many words. All that is expressed or evidently implied as Justin's view is that it is a sacrifice of the Eucharistic Bread and Cup. True he says elsewhere, in the last passage cited, that the Bread and Cup are the flesh and blood of Christ. But whether he put two and two together and held an offering of the body and blood of Christ, we have no direct evidence. Seeing that he held the Real Presence in the Eucharist, even in the admission of Harnack, 11 identifying it with the individual flesh and blood which Jesus assumed, and since he taught a sacrifice consisting of the Eucharistic Bread and Cup, we find, at any rate, even in his express teaching the premises of the doctrine of the Mass, as defined by the Council of Trent.
But was the offering of the body and blood of Christ implied in his teaching only in the sense that later writers could draw the conclusion, while he himself had not evolved the concept? Since direct evidence is wanting, all one may say is that it is quite possible these premises implied the conclusion even to his own mind. An essential part of the sacrifice was the Eucharistic Bread and Wine, and when Justin expressed this idea, may he not have thought at the same time of his other belief that this nourishment, forming part of the sacrifice, is really the body and blood of Christ ?
The passages cited in the beginning supply difficulties to this view that the Eucharist is according to Justin something more than a sacrifice of mere prayer. At one time prayer is emphasized as the sacrifice of the Christians, while at another time, as was seen, the sacrifice is identified with the Eucharistic Bread. Unless we are to admit that Justin contradicted himself— and the contradiction would be so obvious as to be impossible—certain courses of reconciliation are at least conceivable. One course is to say that Justin identified the Eucharistic sacrifice with mere prayer, but this is excluded by his identification of the sacrifice predicted by Malachy with the Eucharistic Bread. Another course is to hold that the Eucharist is, indeed, a sacrifice of prayer, but not of prayer alone, and to see if this position can be reconciled with the statements made by Justin concerning prayer in the Christian sacrifice. The latter escape from the difficulty, unlike the former, appears to be perfectly reasonable.
In the first Apology 12 Justin contrasts with the material sacrifices of the Romans the prayers of the Christians. Justin understood that the Christians were accused of atheism because they did not sacrifice to the gods. He replied by emphasizing their spiritual worship of God the Creator ; his words recall the similar teaching of our Lord, addressed to the Samaritan woman. 13 This spiritual worship, as it was consistent in our Lord's mind with the external rite of Baptism, was compatible in Justin's with an external sacrifice. Nay, Justin in this very passage speaks of the thanksgivings made in all our offerings, which can be well understood of the offering of the Eucharistic Bread.
Somewhat higher is the value set on prayer in the passage quoted above from the Dialogue 14 Prayers and thanksgivings are said to be the only sacrifices acceptable to God. The first question to be asked is whether a strong statement of this kind is compatible with the other assertion of Justin that the Eucharistic sacrifice is identical with the Eucharistic Bread. I think it is. Did not St. Basil, interpreting the first chapter of Isaiah, which complains of the multitude of sacrifices, assert that not by the blood of oxen or the sacrifice placed on the altar is God appeased, but that the one great sacrifice is the mental worship of God, the sacrifice of praise ? 15 And yet in his day St. Basil must have known also the objective sacrifice of the Eucharist.
It is sometimes suggested that " thanksgivings " in the passage may mean the Eucharistic Bread, since the same Greek term was applied to both ideas. It is stated that the Eucharistic Bread is, as it were, an acted thanksgiving, the concrete expression of gratitude. But in addition to the over-subtlety of the interpretation there is this consideration against it, that according to the context Justin says he is in agreement with the Jew, Tryphon, in saying that prayer is the only sacrifice acceptable to God. He would not be really in agreement with Tryphon if by his own expression he understood the Eucharist Bread.
The explanation of the difficulty must rather be sought in the fact that both Justin and Tryphon are speaking of subjective sacrifices. Justin speaks here of all Christians as the high-priestly family of God. He speaks of them as priests in a metaphorical sense. For elsewhere he is careful to imply that to the President belongs the power of consecrating the Eucharistic elements, so that there is a distinct and proper order of priests. 16 Now the sacrifices offered by priests in a loose sense of the word, that is, by the Christians in general, may be taken as subjective sacrifices, or the prayers connected with the Eucharistic celebration. They do not, in a strict sense, offer sacrifice. The context, therefore, justifies us in limiting the topic to subjective sacrifices. Justin does not mean that, absolutely speaking, the only sacrifices worthy of God are prayers, but that the only subjective sacrifices worth while are prayers and thanksgivings.
It is significant that in this connection Justin does not give the full quotation from Malachy, but only the part saying that God's name is magnified or adored. He does not cite the prophet's reference to the pure oblation. This seems to hint that Justin is confining himself merely to prayer, or the subjective aspect of the Eucharist. But, afterwards, when he refers to the Eucharist as an objective sacrifice, when he identifies Malachy's sacrifice with the Eucharist Bread, he does give the prophecy in full with its reference to the pure oblation or minchah.
It is no part of my contention to deny that the Eucharist is a sacrifice of prayer, a sacrificium latreuticum ; it is called a sacrificium laudis in the Roman Canon. It is no part of my position to deny that the common, perhaps the predominant aspect under which Justin viewed the Eucharist was as a sacrifice of prayer. This, however, does not mean that he regarded it as a sacrifice of prayer alone.
The question is sometimes raised, what according to Justin is the essence of the sacrificial act. The purpose of Justin, which was to teach the elements of Christianity to the uninitiated, forbids us to believe that he intended to solve in his writings any metaphysical problems. Laboured conclusions that he placed the essence of the sacrificial act in the Consecration, or in the eating and drinking of the Eucharistic meal, are based on slender premises such as the passages above quoted. Suffice it to say that his words are not inconsistent with the teaching of Vasquez, who, while satisfying the demands of definitive teaching, requires the fewest elements for the essence of the Mass, namely, the presence of the real body and blood of Christ, and a representation of the sacrifice of the Cross. Justin teaches explicitly that the Mass is a commemoration, or representation of the Passion, and implicitly that it is an offering of the body and blood of Christ.
Other Apologists of the Second Century.
Justin's line of thought—his emphasis on the spiritual idea of worship and on the truth that God needs not bloody sacrifices—is found in the other Apologists of the second century, Aristides, Athenagoras and Minutius Felix. Judging from its inscription, the Apology of Aristides, most likely, was offered to the Emperor, Antoninus Pius (a.d. i 38-161). Exerting an influence after Justin and before Tertullian, Athenagoras flourished a.d. 176, while the epoch of Minutius Felix is not determined, but, possibly, his distinctive work, Octavius, was written between 180 and 192 a.d., and was the first Christian Apology written in Latin. There is, however, a remarkable difference between the Apologies of these three writers and that of Justin ; the latter, with frankness in harmony with his character, gave a full account of Christianity, of its mysteries as well as of its ethical side, and presented a striking exception to that prudential reserve concerning sacred things, which was the characteristic not only of the three other Apologists mentioned, but indeed of all early writers. These Apologists exhibited a certain economy in their teachings and exposed only as much of Christianity as was necessary to ward off the pagan charges of atheism and gross immorality. The Apologists, however, were not content to merely defend Christianity; they attacked Paganism and, forced sometimes to admit the truths in pagan Philosophy, they prepared the way for the union of reason and faith, or the science of Theology. The fact that they were vehement advocates of Christianity will explain a certain amount of hyperbole in their utterances.
Aristides says : " No victims, oblations, votive offerings, nor, in fine, any visible creatures, are needed (namely, by God)." 17
Athenagoras : " First as to our not sacrificing, the Framer and Father of this Universe does not need blood nor the odour of burnt-offerings, nor the fragrance of flowers and incense. What have I to do with holocausts which God does not need ?—though, indeed, it behoves us to offer a bloodless sacrifice and the service of our reason. . . . The most excellent victim for Him is if we know who expanded the Heavens." 18
Minutius Felix : " Shall I offer victims and sacrifices to the Lord, such as He has produced for my use, so that I should throw back to Him His own gifts ? Is this ungrateful when the victim fit for sacrifice is a good disposition, a pure mind, and a good conscience ? Whoever, therefore, cultivates innocence, supplicates God; whoever cultivates justice, makes offerings to God ; whoever abstains from fraud, propitiates God; whoever snatches men from danger, slaughters the most acceptable victim. These are our sacrifices." 19
"Think you, we conceal what we worship if we do not possess temples and altars ?" 20
The plain facts appearing here are that God does not need sacrifice, that the best victim is a knowledge of the Creator, that it is admitted by Athenagoras that the Christians do not sacrifice, that it is not denied by Minutius Felix that the Christians are without temples and altars. The question is what meaning was behind those statements, and, in deciding this, caution must be used not to explain the facts out of existence.
It is not fair to argue from the statement, " God does not need sacrifice," that objective sacrifices and sacrificial gifts are thereby excluded. It will be remembered that Justin makes this statement in his first Apology, and yet he admits a sacrifice of the consecrated Bread and Wine. God does not need sacrifice, nor even prayers, but we need to offer them to God for our own utility, and to satisfy our obligations. Statements about God's independence of sacrificial gifts are quite compatible with a belief in their actual necessity.
It is not denied by Minutius Felix that the Christians are without altars. He makes the hypothesis—" If we have no altars, do we conceal what we worship ?" Owing to the prudential reserve observed in those days, he wishes, perhaps, to make no positive admission. A hypothetical statement of this kind, it must be admitted, would not demonstrate that Minutius was ignorant of the doctrine of a Christian material altar. If he means to admit the charge concerning the Christian dearth of altars, he may be thinking merely of the altars which were meant in the pagan accusation. In the beginning of the fourth century, at a time when Christians universally used the word " altar," Arnobius could say that they did not " build altars," meaning doubtless the heavy structures of Paganism. 21 That Minutius Felix, in his day, conceived the Eucharistic table as also a real altar may be reasonably believed after a brief consideration of all the evidence of our period concerning the Christian altar.
It is not surprising to find that the Eucharist is sometimes said to be celebrated at what was called simply a table. The words of an Oriental writer, St. Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria (flourished 247 A.D.), show that it was a usage to so designate the means of supporting the Eucharistic symbols. He wrote a letter to Pope Sixtus asking if a certain person, who had received Baptism from a heretic, should be rebaptised. He mentions the attendance of this person at the Eucharistic celebration, and his presenting himself at the table. 22
St. Irenaeus is the first Father in our period who frequently uses the word "altar" in his writings. He refers to the work of the Apostles as " serving the altar and God. " 23 But, owing to his figurative allusion to the Heavenly altar—" The altar, then, is in Heaven for thither our prayers and oblations are directed " 24 — his testimony does not decisively show that he designated by the name, altar, the table associated with the Eucharistic celebration. By reason also of figurative language, Clement of Alexandria does not use unequivocal words in this connexion. He employs, indeed, the word "altar," but he allegorizes concerning its import. " The altar, then, that is here with us, the terrestrial one, is the congregation of those devoting themselves to prayer." 25 With Clement, however, the symbolic sense does not of necessity exclude the literal. His pupil, Origen, is more definite in using the word. He speaks of " altars sprinkled no longer with the blood of herds, but consecrated with the blood of Christ." 26 That Origen understood real altars to exist in the Church is undoubtedly implied in another passage of the same treatise from which the last testimony was taken. There he speaks of the adornment of altars, and it would be impossible to understand this in a figurative sense. 27
In the Latin Church, Tertullian, in the last half of the second century—the very period to which the work of Minutius Felix, also a Latin writer, is sometimes attributed—writes in a context devoted to the Eucharist: " Will not your fast be more solemn if you stand at the altar of God ? " 28 A half century later St. Cyprian's writings everywhere show that the word " altar " was a technical term to describe the Eucharistic table. He speaks of the rearing of another " altar" 29; he talks of the abomination of approaching God's altar after ministering at the altar of devils 30 ; he says that the altar is situated in the Church 31 And chary as he was about any novelty concerning the Eucharistic sacrifice—he protested against corrupting this Divine mystery by a merely human tradition 32 —Cyprian must have used none but the terminology of Christian generations long passed away. Could Minutius Felix, then, whose Octavius is commonly assigned to the end of the second century, be ignorant of a Christian altar ?
Athenagoras, in the passage above cited, admits the charge that the Christians do not sacrifice. As will be fully illustrated by a discussion of a similar statement of Clement of Alexandria, this does not prove that he fails to recognize the Eucharist as any species of sacrificing, but what it conveys is that the Christians do not sacrifice in the sense which the Pagans whom he addresses have in mind.
That Athenagoras should, also, say that the knowledge of the Creator is the most excellent victim is not difficult to understand. Justin could say that prayer is the only acceptable sacrifice, and yet imply that the sacrifice of the consecrated Bread and Wine is a strict objective sacrifice. The case of Athenagoras is similar. This statement of his can well be explained on the hypothesis that he is speaking here of subjective sacrifices. Athenagoras does, indeed, say that it behoves us to offer a bloodless sacrifice, and it is sometimes suggested that the bloodless sacrifice means an objective unbloody sacrifice. It would be difficult to prove this explanation. Since the context treats only of subjective or mental sacrifices, the bloodless sacrifice, in the mind of Athenagoras, very likely meant mental worship. The bloodless sacrifice was interpreted by the ancient Liturgy of St. Mark as adoration. The Liturgy of St. Gregory and several others say : " Permit me to offer this mental and unbloody offering," and presumably as synonymous with this the Liturgy of St. Mark says : " We offer this mental and unbloody worship." Thus the phrase sometimes had a metaphorical meaning which might have been suggested by the idea of the spiritual sacrifices mentioned by St. Peter. 33
4 Dial. Tryph., 116, 117.
7 Dial., 41.10 Levit, xiv.
8 Apol. I., 66,
8 Apol. I., 66,
11 Dogmeng. I. 3 T .
13 John iv.
14 116, 117.
15 "M.P.G. 30, 166. Cf. Dorsch: Zeitschrift fur kat. Theol. xxxii Band, 2 heft.
16 Apol. I._65.
17 Apol. N. 4. Cabrol et Leclerque Monumenta Eccl. Liturg. p, 75.
19 See Octavius xxvi, and xxxii.
20 Octavius xxxii.
14 116, 117.
15 "M.P.G. 30, 166. Cf. Dorsch: Zeitschrift fur kat. Theol. xxxii Band, 2 heft.
16 Apol. I._65.
17 Apol. N. 4. Cabrol et Leclerque Monumenta Eccl. Liturg. p, 75.
19 See Octavius xxvi, and xxxii.
20 Octavius xxxii.
21 Non altaria fabricamus, non aras. Adv. Nat. vi. 1.
22 Eusebius H. E. vii. 7.
23 Adv. Haer. iv. 18.3.
24 Ibid. iv. 18.3.
25 Str. vii. 6.
26 In Lib. Jcsu Nave, hom. ii. 1.
27 Ibid. hom, x.
28 Be Oratione, Ch. xxv. Cath.
29 Ep. 40.
30 Ep. 64.
31 Ep. 42.
32 Ep. 63.
33 Ep. I. c. ii.