Lucian And Christianity -- By: Adolf Planck

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 010:38 (Apr 1853)
Article: Lucian And Christianity
Author: Adolf Planck

Lucian And Christianity

a contribution to the church history of the second century

Adolf Planck

The rhetorician and sophist Lucian, of Samosata, was born about 120 A. D., flourished in the age of the Antonines, so important for the history of culture and the church, and continued his labors as an author even into the first years of the third century. Among his numerous writings there are particular works which, because of the references to Christianity and the Holy Scriptures found in them, have attracted the attention of theologians, especially during the last century. Of no one is this true in a higher degree than of the treatise which describes the self-burning of the cynic Peregrinus Proteus, at Olympia. For Lucian makes him live in close union with the Christians for a considerable time, and takes occasion from this to describe the life and practices of the Christian churches of that period. The manner in which he speaks of Peregrinus, especially of his strange end, has from the first called forth very diverse opinions from critics. Some have regarded his narrative as throughout historical, others have found in it a caricature and satire upon Christian martyrs. A safe decision on this point naturally depends upon a more careful examination of Lucian’s peculiarities as a writer, and especially upon a stricter scrutiny of those treatises which claim to be historical. Besides the Peregrinus Proteus, there are properly only

two of these, namely, the description of the philosopher Demonax, and that of the false prophet Alexander of Aboniteichos; to which we may perhaps add the Nigrinus. But in these also, the ideal or satirical is intermingled with the historical germ in so obscure a way, that, while other accounts of the persons described are wanting, the question, what is true, and what is invented, cannot be so easily answered. The remaining purely satirical writings offer us but an uncertain rule for judging those supposed to be historical.

Lucian has given us proofs of his versatile talents, of his rich and keenly observant spirit, in the most different territories of knowledge as well as of life. As his occupation and his inclinations were variable, so also his several writings exhibit different characteristics. He himself tells us (Bis Accusatus, 27. 31), that in his youth he learned rhetoric in Ionia and followed the calling of a rhetorician and sophist, particularly in Gaul (Lyons and Toulouse), with great applause and large profits, until his fortieth year.

From this period, there yet remain some twenty treatises upon rhetorical, grammatical and judicial topics, master-pieces in aesthetic treatment, or in the leg...

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