Christians in Athens in the first two centuries: from Paul to Bishop Quadratus
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 10:14 by David Evans
In the growing field of New Testament studies that could be termed "Polis and Ekklesia", much investigation has been done on the early Church in the larger urban centres such as Rome, Corinth and Ephesus. Peter Lampe commented, at the end of his study on Rome in the first two centuries (Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries: From Paul to Valentinus, 2003), that it would be necessary to explore smaller urban centres in order to ascertain whether or not the larger ones were representative of the Christian movement more broadly. This thesis seeks to address a small part of the gap identified by Lampe by offering a historical investigation into the Christian church in Athens in the first two centuries CE. It grounds the relevant Christian texts-Acts 17; Paul's letters: 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians; The Apology of Quadratus; The Apology of Aristides; Athenagoras' Legatio Pro Christianis; and Dionysius of Corinth's Letter to the Athenians-in the social, political and religious context of the city in this period, engaging with literary and material sources, in order to analyse how the early Christian movement interacted with its Athenian setting. The church in Athens began through the ministry of the Apostle Paul in the synagogue, the agora, and before the Areopagus council. He proclaimed "Jesus and the resurrection" as the way of salvation for a city embroiled in the tension of courting Roman power and fortifying its traditional legacy. In the second century, as Athens rose once more to prominence under Hadrian and the Antonine emperors, the Athenian church capitalised on the city's status and made its mark through a line of apologists. The early apologists, Quadratus and Aristides, responded to the challenges of the Jewish revolts under Trajan and Hadrian, and engaged the ethno-religious conversations that came about from Hadrian's Panhellenic program. Later in the century, Athenagoras wrote his Legatio in a time of significant persecution which seems to have arisen in part in response to the social turmoil of the 170s CE. After Athenagoras' flight from Athens to Alexandria, external support for the Athenian church came from Dionysius, the bishop of Corinth. Dionysius supported the appointment of a new bishop, Quadratus, and encouraged the Athenian Christians to rekindle their faith, a faith that was shared with their founder, that Apostle Paul, and the "first Athenian bishop", Dionysius the Areopagite -- abstract.