What did Aristides of Athens teach?

Aristitdes was a greek philosopher and then converted to Christianity.  He is known for a letter he wrote to the Roman Emperor Hadrian that is estimated to have been delivered around 125AD.  He died around 134AD, only about 44 years after John The Apostle died after writing Revelations.   It is suggested that he also wrote Epistle to Diognetus.  Eusebius and Jerome both having knowledge of his letter to Hadrian and Jerome supporting the soundness of his doctrine.  The comprehensiveness and subject matter is still very relevant to modern society.

In the letter to Hadrian, known as The Apology of Aristides, he goes through and breaks down the errors in the local predominate religious systems of the Greeks, Egyptians, various barbarian groups, Jews and then explains how Christianity is true.  A common error highlighted throughout the letter are sexual immoralities practiced by cultures and their gods.  At the end he explains who hates Christians the most in the Roman society and it is those who practice sexual immortality.  It almost sounds like history is beginning to repeat itself.   In the letter, you can see essential characteristics of God, the Gospel, and how the early church lived in a immoral society.  An important thing to notice is the comprehensive key points of Christian doctrine in this one letter that was written around 125AD; only 35 years after John wrote the last book of the Bible.

Key Teachings:

  • Morality is universal and transcendent
  • Monotheism
  • God is eternal
  • God is spirit
  • God is perfect
  • God is omnipotent (All-powerful)
  • God is sovereign over all creation
  • God is immutable (Unchanging) 
  • God is holy
  • Jesus is the Mesiah
  • Jesus is the Son of God
  • Jesus is God
  • Jesus was born from a virgin birth
  • Jesus was killed, and buried 
  • Jesus rose from the dead 3 days later
  • Jesus ascended to heaven
  • Sexual Immorality includes incest and same-sex sexual acts.
  • Same-sex redemption and regeneration
  • Equality

Read the letter here

Sections from the Letter:

Transcendent Morality 
CH13.  the Greeks made laws they did not perceive that by their
laws they condemn their gods. For if their laws are righteous, their gods are
unrighteous, since they transgressed the law in killing one another, and
practising sorcery, and committing adultery, and in robbing and stealing, and in
lying with males, and by their other practises as well. For if their gods were
right in doing all these things as they are described, then the laws of the
Greeks are unrighteous in not being made according to the will of their gods.
And in that case the whole world is gone astray.

Monotheism 
CH13.   God is one in His nature.
A single essence is proper to Him, since He is uniform in His nature and His
essence;
Ch2.  God is not born, not made, an ever-abiding nature without
beginning and without end, immortal, perfect, and incomprehensible.

Perfection of God
Ch2.  he is “perfect,” this means that there is not in him any defect, and he
is not in need of anything but all things are in need of him.

Eternity of God
he is “without beginning,” this means that everything which has beginning
has also an end, and that which has an end may be brought to an end. He has no
name, for everything which has a name is kindred to things created. Form he has
none, nor yet any union of members; for whatsoever possesses these is kindred to
things fashioned. He is neither male nor female. The heavens do not limit him,
but the heavens and all things, visible and invisible, receive their bounds from
him.

Immutability of God 
CH4.  God is imperishable
and unvarying, and invisible, while yet He sees, and overrules, and transforms
all things.

Sovereignty of God
Ch2.  Adversary he has none, for there exists not any stronger than he. Wrath and
indignation he possesses not, for there is nothing which is able to stand
against him. Ignorance and forgetfulness are not in his nature, for he is
altogether wisdom and understanding; and in Him stands fast all that exists. He
requires not sacrifice and libation, nor even one of things visible; He requires
not aught from any, but all living creatures stand in need of him.
CH5. For they were created by God for the sake of men, in
order to supply the necessity of trees and fruits and seeds; and to bring over
the sea ships which convey for men necessaries and goods from places where they
are found to places where they are not found; and to govern the quarters of the
world.
CH14.  God is one, the Creator of
all, and omnipotent

Jesus as the Son of God
CH2. The Christians, then, trace the beginning of their religion from Jesus the
Messiah; and he is named the Son of God Most High.

Jesus as the Messiah 
CH2.  The Christians, then, trace the beginning of their religion from Jesus the
Messiah; and he is named the Son of God Most High.

Divinity of Jesus 
Ch2.  that God came
down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with
flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man.

Virgin Birth
Ch2.  that God came
down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with
flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man.

The Gospel
Ch2.   This is taught in the
gospel, as it is called, which a short time was preached among them; and you
also if you will read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it. This
Jesus, then, was born of the race of the Hebrews; and he had twelve disciples in
order that the purpose of his incarnation might in time be accomplished.  But he
himself was pierced by the Jews, and he died and was buried; and they say that
after three days he rose and ascended to heaven. Thereupon these twelve
disciples went forth throughout the known parts of the world, and kept showing
his greatness with all modesty and uprightness

Sexual Immorality
CH9.  much evil has arisen among men, who to this
day are imitators of their gods, and practise adultery and defile themselves
with their mothers and their sisters, and by lying with males,  …For it is impossible that a god should practise adultery or
fornication or come near to lie with males, or kill his parents; and if it be
otherwise, he is much worse than a destructive demon.
Ch17.  the Greeks, O King, as they follow base practises in intercourse with
males, and a mother and a sister and a daughter, impute their monstrous impurity
in turn to the Christians. But the Christians are just and good, and the truth
is set before their eyes, and their spirit is long-suffering; and, therefore,
though they know the error of these (the Greeks), and are persecuted by them.

Unwanted Same-sex attraction repentance
Ch17.  the Greeks, O King, as they follow base practises in intercourse with
males, and a mother and a sister and a daughter, impute their monstrous impurity
in turn to the Christians. But the Christians are just and good, and the truth
is set before their eyes, and their spirit is long-suffering; and, therefore,
though they know the error of these (the Greeks), and are persecuted by them,
they bear and endure it; and for the most part they have compassion on them, as
men who are destitute of knowledge. And on their side, they offer prayer that
these may repent of their error; and when it happens that one of them has
repented, he is ashamed before the Christians of the works which were done by
him; and he makes confession to God, saying, I did these things in ignorance.
And he purifies his heart, and his sins are forgiven him, because he committed
them in ignorance in the former time, when he used to blaspheme and speak evil
of the true knowledge of the Christians. And assuredly the race of the
Christians is more blessed than all the men who are upon the face of the earth.

Legalism
Ch13.  they say that He receives sacrifice and
requires burnt-offering and libation and immolations of men, and temples. But
God is not in need, and none of these things is necessary to Him;
Ch14.  as when they
celebrate sabbaths and the beginning of the months, and feasts of unleavened
bread, and a great fast; and fasting and circumcision and the purification of
meats, which things, however, they do not observe perfectly.

Righteous Judgement
CH15.  whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly.

Public Sexuality
Ch15.  their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are
modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all
uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world.

Equality
CH15.  if
one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love
towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done
so, they call them brethren without distinction.

Persecution
CH15.  And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or
afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously
minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him
free.
Ch17.  the Greeks, O King, as they follow base practises in intercourse with
males, and a mother and a sister and a daughter, impute their monstrous impurity
in turn to the Christians. But the Christians are just and good, and the truth
is set before their eyes, and their spirit is long-suffering; and, therefore,
though they know the error of these (the Greeks), and are persecuted by them

The Poor and Needy
Ch15.  they love one another, and from widows they do not turn
away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly…. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no
spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their
lack of food.

Humility
Ch16.  And they do not proclaim in the ears of the
multitude the kind deeds they do, but are careful that no one should notice
them; and they conceal their giving just as he who finds a treasure and conceals
it.

Age of Accountability 
Ch15.  And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to
God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the
more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins.

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