AD 1st Century
Didache AD 100
3 What these maxims teach is this: “Bless those who curse you,” and “pray for your enemies.” Moreover, fast “for those who persecute you.” For “what credit is it to you if you love those who love you? Is that not the way the heathen act?” But “you must love those who hate you,” and then you will make no enemies.
4 “Abstain from carnal passions.” If someone strikes you “on the right cheek, turn to him the other too, and you will be perfect.” If someone “forces you to go one mile with him, go along with him for two”; if someone robs you “of your overcoat, give him your suit as well.” If someone deprives you of “your property, do not ask for it back.” (You could not get it back anyway!)
5 “Give to everybody who begs from you, and ask for no return.” For the Father wants his own gifts to be universally shared. Happy is the man who gives as the commandment bids him, for he is guiltless! But alas for the man who receives! If he receives because he is in need, he will be guiltless. But if he is not in need he will have to stand trial why he received and for what purpose. He will be thrown into prison and have his action investigated; and “he will not get out until he has paid back the last cent.”
6 Indeed, there is a further saying that relates to this: “Let your donation sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give it.”
Letter to Diognetus ch. 5, AD 100 – 130
Christians … love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life. They are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.
Polycarp AD 100-150
Now He that raised Him from the dead will raise us also; if we do His will and walk in His commandments and love the things which He loved, abstaining from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; not rendering evil for evil or railing for railing or blow for blow or cursing for cursing.
Justin Martyr AD 160
We who formerly murdered one another now refrain from making war even upon our enemies.
We used to be filled with war, mutual slaughter, and every kind of wickedness. However, now all of us have, throughout the whole earth, changed our warlike weapons. We have changed our swords into plowshares, and our spears into farming implements.
Tatian AD 160
I do not wish to be a king. I am not anxious to be rich. I decline military command.
Melito AD 170
My opinion is this: that in this way a kingdom may be governed in peace—when the sovereign is acquainted with the God of truth. That is, if the ruler withholds from doing wrong to his subjects out of fear of God, and he judges everything with equity. . . . For, if the sovereign abstains from doing wrong to those who are under his rule, and they abstain from doing wrong to him and to each other, it is evident that the whole country will dwell in peace. Many blessings, too, will be enjoyed there, because among all of them the name of God will be glorified. For what blessing is greater than for a sovereign to deliver the people that are under his rule from error, and by this good deed render himself pleasing to God?
Athenagoras of Athens AD 175
We have learned not to return blow for blow, nor to go to law with those who plunder and rob us. Instead, even to those who strike us on one side of the face, we offer the other side also.
Who are more deserving to obtain the things they ask for than those who, like us, pray for your government? We pray that you may receive the kingdom, the son receiving it from the father (as is most equitable). We pray that your empire may receive increase and addition—and that all men may become subject to your sway. And this is also for our advantage, that we may lead a peaceable and quiet life and may readily perform all that is commanded us.
Irenaeus AD 180
The new covenant that brings back peace and the law that gives life have gone forth over the whole earth, as the prophets said: “For out of Zion will go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and he will rebuke many people; and they will break down their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks, and they will no longer learn to fight.” . . . These people [i.e., Christians] formed their swords and war-lances into plowshares, . . . that is, into instruments used for peaceful purposes. So now, they are unaccustomed to fighting. When they are struck, they offer also the other cheek.
Satan declared, “All these things are delivered unto me, and to whomever I will I give them.” However, this statement proceeded from him when he was puffed up with pride. For the creation is not subjected to his power. For he is himself but one among created things. Nor will he give away human rulership to men. Rather, all human affairs and all other things are arranged according to God the Father’s disposal. . . . Satan certainly did not speak truth, but a lie, when he said, “For all these things are delivered to me.”
Clement of Alexandria AD 195
It is not in war, but in peace, that we are trained.
The Scythians, the Celts, the Iberians, and the Thracians are all warlike races. They are also greatly addicted to intoxication and think that drunkenness is an honorable, happy pursuit to engage in. But we, the people of peace, feast for lawful enjoyment, not to wantonness. We drink sober cups of friendship.
The one instrument of peace is what we employ: the Word alone, by whom we honor God. We no longer use the ancient psaltery, trumpet, timbrel, and flute. For those who are expert in war and are scorners of the fear of God were accustomed to make use of them.
Let our seals be either a dove, a fish, or a ship scudding before the wind. . . . If there is anyone fishing, he will remember the apostle, and the children drawn out of the water. We are not to draw an outline...a sword or a bow, since we follow peace. Nor should we draw an outline of . . . drinking cups, since we are temperate.
He bids us to “love our enemies, bless them who curse us, and pray for those who despitefully use us.” And He says: “If anyone strikes you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone takes away your coat, do not hinder him from taking your cloak also.”
An enemy must be aided, so that he may not continue as an enemy. For by help, good feeling is compacted and enmity dissolved.
We do not train our women like Amazons to manliness in war, for we wish even the men to be peaceable.
Tertullian AD 197
If, then, we are commanded to love our enemies (as I have remarked above), whom have we to hate? If injured, we are forbidden to retaliate, lest we become
How often you inflict gross cruelties on Christians. You do this, partly because it is your own inclination, and partly in obedience to the laws. . . . Yet, banded together as we are, ever so ready to sacrifice our lives, what single case of revenge for injury are you able to point to? However, if it were held to be right for us to repay evil by evil, a single night with a torch or two could achieve an ample vengeance. But away with the idea of a divine sect avenging itself by human fires!
We willingly yield ourselves to the sword. So what wars would we not be both fit and eager to participate in (even against unequal forces), if in our religion it were not counted better to be slain than to slay?
The Christian does no harm even to his enemy.
God puts His prohibition on every sort of man-killing by that one inclusive commandment: “You shall not kill.”
“Nation will not take up sword against nation, and they will no more learn to fight.” Who else, therefore, does this prophecy apply to, other than us? For we are fully taught by the new law, and therefore observe these practices. . . . The teaching of the new law points to clemency. It changes the primitive ferocity of swords and lances to tranquility. It remodels the primitive execution of war upon the rivals and enemies of the Law into the peaceful actions of plowing and cultivating the land.
In us, all ardor in the pursuit of glory and honor is dead. So we have no pressing inducement to take part in your public meetings. Nor is there anything more entirely foreign to us than affairs of state.