Can you guess when the following was written? (My apology if this seems too easy.):
Who can charge with murder or cannibalism men who are known to be unwilling to countenance even lawful homicide? Who is not held in thrall by armed contests and beast-fights, especially when they are sponsored by yourselves? But we consider the looking on at a murder to be nigh to murder itself and forbid ourselves such spectacles. If then we do not even look on at these shows (so as not to be under a curse and to incur defilement), how can we be capable of murder? Again we call it murder and say it will be accountable to God if women use instruments to procure abortion: how shall we be called murderers ourselves? The same man cannot regard that which a woman carries in her womb as a living creature, and therefore as an object of value to God, and then go about to slay the creature that has come forth to the light of day. The same man cannot forbid the exposure of children, equating such exposure with child murder, and then slay a child that has found one to bring it up. No, we are always consistent, everywhere the same, obedient to our rule and not masters of it.
Click “more” to find out if you were right (sorry no TNIV’s with this one) . . .
The above was written by Athenagoras (The Embassy for the Christians 351) somewhere between 176 and 180. Early on, Christians were accused of many vices by their pagan counterparts: incest (likely from the brother/sister fellowship in the body), cannibalism (probably because of the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper) , and atheism (because they did not believe in the gods), to name just a few. Athenagoras wrote the treatise An Embassy for the Christians (from which the above excerpt was taken) in order to defend the practices of the early church. The tract comes to us addressed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (among others), but this is mostly doubted by scholars.
Athenagoras defends the Christians against many of the prominent accusations in the above paragraph. What struck me was his comments against abortion, both its specific condemnation and his repudiation of those who do not believe the “fetus” is a child (“The same man cannot regard that which a woman carries in her womb as a living creature”). He also offers startling comments elsewhere against the sexual immorality of the pagans (e.g., 33-34) and certain cosmologies that hold that “this visible world . . . was the product of disorderly chance” (25). Next thing you know I’ll be reading his mandate of what Bible version I should use and whether pagan Greek music kills plants.
1(Ancient Christian Writers 23; trans. Joseph Hugh Crehan; Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1956), 76.