Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Aristides
Aristides, of Athens; mentioned by Eusebius as having presented to the emperor Hadrian an Apology for the Christians (Hist. Eccl. iv. c. 3). Jerome also (de Vir. Ill. c. 20, and Ep. 83, ad Magnum) mentions him as an Athenian philosopher and a disciple of Christ; and says that his Apology, containing the principles of the faith, was well known. But it was lost until, in 1878, the Mechitarists published part of an Armenian translation, the genuineness of which was vindicated by Harnack in Texte and Untersuch. i. 1, 2. But in 1891 J. Rendel Harris and J. Armitage Robinson (now Dean of Westminster) published in Texts and Studies, I. i., a complete Syrian translation from the Codex Sinait. Syr. 16, and shewed that the greater part of the Apology was found in Greek in the legend of Barlaam and Josaphat. These texts have been carefully discussed, especially by Seeberg (in Zahn's Forschungen, V. p. 159, and in an edition published at Erlangen 1894), and it is not yet agreed whether the Syrian or the Greek represents the original. It seems clear that the Apology was presented, not to Hadrian, but to Antoninus Pius. The main subject of the Apology, which, in the legend, is supposed to be addressed by Barlaam to Josaphat, is that the Christians alone possess the true knowledge of God. The emperor is invited to consider the conceptions of God among the various races of mankind, Barbarians and Greeks, Jews and Christians; it is then shewn how the Christians express their belief in their lives, and an attractive sketch of Christian life is given. The Apology has points of contact with the Preaching of Peter, with the Shepherd, with the Didaché, with Justin Martyr, and particularly with the Ep. to Diognetus. Mention is made of the Incarnation of the Son of God through a Hebrew maiden and of Christ's return to judgment. The Apology is thus of an interesting and original character. Two other fragments exist in Armenian which are ascribed to Aristides, a homily on the cry of the Robber and the answer of the Crucified, and a passage from "a letter to all philosophers," but their genuineness is doubtful, and F. C. Conybeare, in the Guardian, 1894 (July 18), has shewn that in the 5th and 7th cents. literary frauds were often connected with the name of Aristides and other names of old Christian literature.