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Harvard Divinity School The Early Church and War Author(s): Roland H. Bainton Source: The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Jul., 1946), pp. 189-212 Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Harvard Divinity School Stable URL: . Accessed: 04/04/2011 02:14 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR's Terms
  Harvard Divinity School The Early Church and WarAuthor(s): Roland H. BaintonSource: The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Jul., 1946), pp. 189-212Published by: Cambridge University Press  on behalf of the Harvard Divinity School Stable URL: . Accessed: 04/04/2011 02:14 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at  . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at  .  . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact Cambridge University Press  and  Harvard Divinity School  are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserveand extend access to The Harvard Theological Review.  THE EARLY CHURCH AND WAR ROLAND H. BAINTON YALE UNIVERSITY THE ATTITUDE of the early church toward the problem of partici- pation in warfare has been not a little studied and controverted. The data with regard to participation and the attitude toward it have been assiduously compiled by a series of investigators among whom four may be mentioned for their distinctive and permanent contributions. Adolf Harnack in his Militia Christi pointed out that the early Christians rejected the militia of the world in favor of the militia of Christ. In theory the Church was pacifist until the time of Constantine though in practice some Christians were in the legions. James Moffatt in the course of a fruitful survey 2 called attention to the shift in early Christianity from marital to martial metaphors. Whereas in the Old Testament infidelity was called adultery, in the New Testament and the early church it is described as desertion. Such militant terminology could be used by the early Christians without the slightest risk of misconcep- tion because their pacifist principles were so well known. C. J. Cadoux in The Early Christian Attitude to War 3 set the entire problem in the broad context of theological and political thinking. His work remains the indispensable point of departure for all subsequent investigation. Leclercq supplied in French translation the recorded acts of the soldier martyrs and the texts of the extant inscriptions which mention Christians in the army.4 These valuable studies are agreed in the main with regard to the data, but differ at the point of interpretation. Objectivity is difficult for Christian scholars dealing with this question because the problem is still acute and the practice of the early church is commonly regarded as in some measure normative for present STiibingen, 1905. (Abbreviation: Harnack MC.) 2 Article War in Hasting's Dictionary of the Apostolic Church II (1918), pp. 646-73. (Abbreviation: DAC.) SLondon, 1919, subsequently incorporated in The Early Church and the World (Edinburgh, 1925). (Abbreviation: Cadoux EC.) 'Article Militarisme in Cabrol's Dictionnaire d'Archeologie Chretienne II (1933), pp. 11o07-81. Cf. I, 294-97. (Abbreviation: DACh.)  190 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL EVIEW practice. The Protestant sectaries in particular have been dis- posed to regard the first age of Christianity as a Garden of Eden from which the Church subsequently fell. The pacifists have painted Constantine as the serpent who beguiled the Church into tasting of the forbidden fruit of political power and military armament. A recent history of Christianity in relation to war is in fact entitled The Fall of Christianity. The Catholic Church, however, glorifies the early period because of the zeal of the martyrs, not because of the rigorism of the saints. Wherever possible the ethic of the early fathers is brought into line with the views of St. Thomas. Protestants who condone Christian partici- pation in warfare of necessity follow largely the Catholic view. The Methodist, Umphrey Lee, for example in The Historic Church and Modern Pacifism 6 is not far removed from the posi- tion of the Catholic John Eppstein in The Catholic Tradition of the Law of Nations.7 The differences are apparent also in the works listed above. Leclercq, the Catholic, is at pains to describe the idolatrous practices prevalent in the Roman army which would deter Christians from military service on non-pacifist grounds. James Moffatt, the Presbyterian, in the tradition of the Westmin- ster Confession which allows the lawful use of arms, stressed in the early church the ineligibility of many Christians for military service to which only free men were admitted. Harnack, the Lutheran, represented Tertullian the rigorist as an exceptional rather than as a representative figure among the African church of his day. C. J. Cadoux, a Congregationalist and a pacifist, stresses the appeal to love and the aversion to bloodshed in the literature of the first three centuries. The problem lies in the understanding of the motives of the early Christians. The dis- crepant evaluations of competent investigators warrant a fresh examination. The evidence with regard to Christians in the army before the time of Constantine and the attitude of the Church to their pres- ence in the ranks calls for a brief review. Substantial agreement prevails as to the facts. A few debated points will be noted. From 5 G. J. Heering (in Holland, 1928; New York, 1943). 6New York, 1943. 7 Washington, D. C., 1935.  THE EARLY CHURCH AND WAR 191 the end of the New Testament period to the decade I70-80 there is no evidence whatever of Christians in the army. The subject of military service obviously was not at that time controverted. The reason may be either that participation was assumed or that ab- stention was taken for granted. The latter is the more probable. The expansion of Christianity had taken place chiefly among the civilians in the urban centers. Few as yet were converted while in the army. Converts in the ranks had many reasons against volunteering. They were not subject to conscription. As slaves or freedmen many were ineligible. The danger of idolatry was greater than in civilian life. Add to these considerations that the Church in the second century was more rigoristic than in the first. Sexual offenders if penitent were forgiven by the Apostle Paul and recommended for readmission. But in the period, roughly from A.D. 100-220, the Church closed her doors forever upon adulterers. So strict a community is more likely to have withheld its members from a military service comprising in so many ways than to have permitted them to serve without a single reproach or penalty. The decade I70-8O affords two pieces of evidence pointing in opposite directions. The first is the reproach of Celsus, the pagan critic of Christianity: If all men were to do the same as you, there would be nothing to prevent the king from being left in utter solitude and desertion and the forces of the empire would fall into the hands of the wildest and most lawless barbarians. Such words are so explicit as to warrant the assumption that Celsus knew of no Christians who would accept military service. The comment of Moffatt must be regarded as distinctly inadequate when he says of Celsus: It is fairly obvious that he had met Christians who were already holding back from military service. * Umphrey Lee's version is a masterpiece of understatement: Whether there were in the second century those who held that a Christian could not serve in the legions we do not know; but Celsus . . . seems to imply that there were. 10 Celsus said quite distinctly that there were no Christians who 8 Cels. VIII, 68-69. 'DAC II, 664a. 1 The Historic Church and Modern Pacifism (New York, 1943), p. 60.
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