Second Century Christian Apologists

Defenders of the Christian faith against Jews and pagan belief in the Second Century

By Kathy L. McFarland

August 30, 2011

Second Century Christian Apologists


Quadratus - (Fragment) during the rule of Emperor Hadrian (117-38).

Preaching of Peter - (Fragment) during the rule of Emperor Hadrian (117-38)

Aristo of Pella –During the rule of Emperor Hadrian (117-38) is the earliest complete apology to survive. It is written in Greek which was a rewriting from a Byzantine author; a much better text is found in the Syrian translation.[1]

Miltiades - (Fragment) during the rule of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-80)

Apollinaris of Hierapolis - (Fragment) during the rule of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-80)

Melito of Sardis - (Fragment) during the rule of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-80)

Epistle to Diognetus – (Date uncertain) – The anonymous author presents Christian life in optimistic and favorable light.  He argues for the Divine origin of Christianity and compares the pagan idolatry and Jewish ritualistic worship as inferior.  Some date the text with an early date because of the style of writing that is used; however, others attach authorship to known persons who hold the name Diognetus, most who belong to the late second century.[2] A homily is attached to the end of this epistle.

Aristides – Athens, during the rule of either Emperors Hadrian or Antoninus Pius (138-61)

Justin Martyr – Rome, during the rule of Emperors Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius (about 100 A.D. - about 167 A.D.), Martyr is the most influential of second-century Apologists.  He authored two Apologetics (1 and 2) and his Dialogue with Trypho, with the expression of Middle Platonism.  Before authoring his books, he studied philosophy under a Stoic, an Aristotelian, a Pythagorean, and a Platonist, and finally, an old man who, in Socratic tradition, asked a question that only Christian philosophy could answer.[3] That question stirred Martyr to embrace Christianity as philosophy itself and the ultimate goal of human searching.[4]

Tatian – Syria, during the rule of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, was first a pagan from east Syria, but converted to Christianity during a trip to Rome.  He was a student of Justin and later became a leader of Encratite thought. He authored a harmony of the four Gospels, the Diatessaron, which became the standard form for the Gospel in Syriac-speaking areas. His apologetic techniques negatively attacked the pagan alternative beliefs, and aggressively tore down the Greek culture, which indirectly exhorted Believers to accept the “barbarian philosophy” of Christianity. [5]

Athenagoras – (176-77) Athens, during the rule of Emperor Marcus Aurelius authored Plea or Embassy (Supplicatio or Legatio) used the Middle Platonist philosophical techniques.  His apologetics argues the superior Christian faith towards their LORD God vs. the pagan’s views of their own false gods. In his argument, Athenagoras establishes an early foundation for the doctrine of Trinity.  He is very skilled, philosophically accomplished, with superior skills in his form and proof of apologetics.

An apologetic entitled On the Resurrection that argues with reason instead of faith for the resurrection is disputed by Scholars as to his authorship.[6]

Theophilus – Antioch, during the rule of Emperor Commodus (180-92) wrote a three-volume apologetic work entitled To Autolycus when he was bishop of Antioch. His Christian defense resembled Hellenistic Judaism by offering allegorical interpretation of Genesis, forming a chronological argument for antiquity of Old Testament, and avoiding the specific mention of Christ, favoring instead the title of Logos.[7]

Minucius Felix – Carthage? Between the rule of Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Septimius Severus (193-211) is a Latin apologist of unreliable dating; however, most connect his writing Octavius with Turtullian’s Apology, which is dated about 200, with some scholars declaring Felix’s work earlier, while most give Turtullian first rights.[8] Octavius was written by Felix as a dialog between a pagan Caecilius and Christian Octavius that ultimately results in Caecilius’s conversion.  It is a handy apologetic that offers both the pagan and Christian defenses side-by-side.





[1] Everett Ferguson, Church History Volume 1: From Christ to Pre-Reformation (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 2005), 71.

[2] Ibid, 72.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 72.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.


Ferguson, Everett Ferguson. Church History Volume 1: From Christ to Pre-Reformation. Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 2005.


About the Author: Kathy L. McFarland is a Becker Bible Studies Teacher and Author of Guided Bible Studies for Hungry Christians. She has received her Bachelor of Science degree in Religious Studies from Liberty University, and is now working toward an advanced degree of Masters of Divinity with an Academic / Pre-Ph.D. Track through the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary & Graduate School. She is a Hebrew language student attending Israeli taught Ulpan and a noted expert on Old Testament exegesis, Christian apologetics, and Bible typology and mysteries.

Last modified: Saturday, 17 December 2011, 1:42 PM