AD 2nd Century

Pseudo-Hippolytos AD 200

A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism.

A military commander or civic magistrate who wears the purple must resign or be rejected.

If an applicant or a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God.

Clement of Alexandria AD 190-215

The Church is an army of peace which sheds no blood. In peace, not in war, we are trained.

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 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 of…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.

For we are not to delineate the faces of idols, we who are prohibited to cleave to them; nor a sword, nor a bow, since we follow peace.

Tertullian AD 200

Now inquiry is made about the point of whether a believer may enter into military service. The question is also asked whether those in the military may be admitted into the faith—even the rank and file (or any inferior grade), who are not required to take part in sacrifices or capital punishments. . . . A man cannot give his allegiance to two masters—God and Caesar. . . . How will a Christian man participate in war? In fact, how will he serve even in peace without a sword? For the Lord has taken the sword away. It is also true that soldiers came to John [the Baptist] and received the instructions for their conduct. It is true also that a centurion believed. Nevertheless, the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.

“And they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” In other words, they will change the dispositions of injurious minds, hostile tongues, blasphemy, and all kinds of evil into pursuits of moderation and peace. “Nation will not lift up sword against nation.” That is, they will not stir up conflict. “Neither will they learn war any more”—that is, the provocation of hostilities. So you should learn from this that Christ was not promised to be powerful in war. Rather, He was promised to pursue peace. Now, you must deny either that these things were foretold (although they are plainly seen) or that they have been fulfilled (although you read of them).

I think we must first inquire whether warfare is proper at all for Christians. What point is there in discussing the merely incidental, when that on which it rests is to be condemned? Do we believe it is lawful for a human oath to be added to one that is divine? Is it lawful for a man to come to be pledged to another master after Christ has become his Master? Is it lawful to renounce father, mother, and all nearest kinsfolk, whom even the Law has commanded us to honor and love next to God himself? . . . Is it lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword will perish by the sword? Will the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? Will he who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs, apply the chain, the prison, the torture, and the punishment?

Is the [military] laurel of triumph made of leaves, or of corpses? Is it adorned with ribbons, or with tombs? Is it wet with ointments, or with the tears of wives and mothers? It may be made of some [dead] Christians too. For Christ is also believed among the barbarians.

Our religion commands us to love even our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us.

Pseudo-Hippolytos AD 200

A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism.

A military commander or civic magistrate who wears the purple must resign or be rejected.

If an applicant or a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God.

Origen AD 250

The existence of many kingdoms would have been a hindrance to the spread of the doctrine of Jesus throughout the entire world. . . . This was because of the need for men everywhere to engage in war and fight on behalf of their native country—which was the case before the times of Augustus. . . . How, then, was it possible for the Gospel doctrine of peace to prevail throughout the world? For it does not permit men to take vengeance even upon their enemies. It was only possible because, at the coming of Jesus, a milder spirit had been everywhere introduced into the conduct of things.

The statement [of Celsus, a pagan critic] is false “that in the days of Jesus, others who were Jews rebelled against the Jewish state and became His followers.” For neither Celsus, nor those who think like him, are able to point out any act on the part of Christians that hints of rebellion. In fact, if a revolt had led to the formation of the Christian commonwealth, the Christian Lawgiver would not have altogether forbidden the putting of men to death. So it could not have derived its existence in such a way from the Jews. For they were permitted to take up arms in defense of the members of their families and to slay their enemies. Yet, Christ nowhere teaches that it is right for His own disciples to offer violence to anyone, no matter how wicked. For He did not consider it to be in accord with His laws to allow the killing of any individual whomever. For His laws were derived from a divine source. Indeed, if the Christians truly owed their origin to a rebellion, they would not have adopted laws of so exceedingly mild a character. For their laws do not allow them on any occasion to resist their persecutors, even when it was their fate to be slain as sheep.

Christians were taught not to avenge themselves upon their enemies. . . . They would not have made war (although capable) even if they had received authority to do so. For they have obtained this reward from God: that He has always warred on their behalf. On certain occasions, he has restrained those who rose up against them and desired to destroy them. . . . On special occasions, some have endured death for the sake of Christianity, and those individuals can be easily numbered. However, God has not permitted the whole nation [of Christians] to be exterminated. Perhaps the so-called wars among the bees convey instructions as to the manner in which wars should be waged in a just and orderly way among men—if ever there arise a necessity for them.

Perhaps the so-called wars among the bees convey instructions as to the manner in which wars should be waged in a just and orderly way among men—if ever there arise a necessity for them.

To those who inquire of us from where we come, or who is our founder, we reply that we have come agreeably to the counsels of Jesus. We have cut down our hostile, insolent, and wearisome swords into plowshares. We have converted into pruning hooks the spears that were formerly used in war. For we no longer take up “sword against nation,” nor do we “learn war any more.” That is because we have become children of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our Leader.

Celsus [a pagan critic] adds . . . “How could God command the Israelites through Moses to gather wealth, to extend their dominion, to fill the earth, to put their enemies of every age to the sword, and to destroy them utterly? . . . For, on the other hand, His Son, the man of Nazareth, promulgated laws quite opposed to these. He declared that no one can come to the Father who loves power, riches, or glory. Jesus said that to anyone who has given them one blow, they should offer to receive another. So is it Moses or Jesus who taught falsely? When the Father sent Jesus, did He forget the commands that He had given to Moses? Or did He change his mind, condemn His own laws, and send forth a Messenger with opposite instructions?” . . .                                                                                                      [ORIGEN’S REPLY:] We would observe that it must be impossible for the legislation of Moses, taken literally, to harmonize with the calling of the Gentiles and with their subjection to the Roman government. On the other hand, it would be impossible for the Jews to preserve their civil economy unchanged if they were to embrace the gospel. For Christians could not slay their enemies. Nor could they condemn those who had broken the law to be burned or stoned, as Moses commands. . . . In the case of the ancient Jews, who had a land and a form of government of their own, to take from them the right of making war upon their enemies, of fighting for their country, of putting to death or otherwise punishing adulterers, murderers, or others who were guilty of similar crimes, would have been to subject them to sudden and utter destruction whenever the enemy fell upon them. For, in that case, their very laws would restrain them and prevent them from resisting the enemy. Yet, that same providence that of old gave the Law, and has now given the gospel of Jesus Christ, has destroyed their city and their temple, not wishing the Jewish state to continue any longer. . . . However, this providence has extended the Christian religion day by day, so that it is now preached everywhere with boldness. And this is in spite of the numerous obstacles that oppose the spread of Christ’s teaching in the world. However, since it was the purpose of God that the nations should receive the benefits of Christ’s teaching, all the devices of men against Christians have been brought to nothing. For the more that kings, rulers, and peoples have persecuted them everywhere, the more Christians have increased in number and grown in strength.

[CELSUS:] “You surely do not say that if (in compliance with your wish) the Romans were to neglect their customary duties to gods and men, and were to worship the Most High, . . . that He would come down and fight for them, so that they would not need any other help than His. For this same God . . . promised of old this and much more to those who served Him. Yet, see in what way He has helped the Jews and you! Instead of being masters of the whole word, the Jews are left with not so much as a patch of ground or a home.”                                                                                            [ORIGEN’S REPLY:] What would happen if, instead of only a relatively few persons believing (as at the present), the entire empire of Rome believed? They would pray to the Word, who of old said to the Hebrews, when they were pursued by the Egyptians: “The Lord will fight for you, and you will hold your peace.” And if all the Romans united in prayer with one accord, they would be able to put to flight far more enemies than those who were defeated by the prayer of Moses. . . . However, He had made the fulfillment of His promises dependent on certain conditions—namely, that they would observe and live according to His Law. . . . But if all the Romans embraced the Christian faith (according to the supposition of Celsus), they would overcome their enemies when they prayed. Or rather, they would not war at all. For they would be guarded by that divine power that promised to save five entire cities for the sake of fifty righteous persons. Men of God are assuredly the salt of the earth. They preserve the order of the world. And society is held together as long as the salt is uncorrupted. . . . When God gives to the Tempter permission to persecute us, then we suffer persecution. And when God wishes us to be free from suffering—even in the middle of a world that hates us—we enjoy a wonderful peace, trusting in the protection of Him who said, “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

In the next place, Celsus urges us “to help the king with all our might, to labor with him in the maintenance of justice, and to fight for him. Or if he demands it, to fight under him or lead an army along with him.” To this, our answer is that we do give help to kings when needed. But this is, so to speak, a divine help, “putting on the whole armor of God.” And we do this in obedience to the commandment of the apostle: “I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all men; for kings, and for all who are in authority.” So the more anyone excels in godliness, the more effective the help is that he renders to kings. This is a greater help than what is given by soldiers who go forth to fight and kill as many of the enemy as they can. And to those enemies of our faith who demand us to bear arms for the commonwealth and to slay men, we reply: “Do not those who are the priests at certain shrines . . . keep their hands free from blood, so that they may offer the appointed sacrifices to your gods with unstained hands that are free from human blood? Even when war is upon you, you never enlist the priests in the army. If, then, that is a praiseworthy custom, how much more so that—when others are engaged in battle—Christians engage as the priests and ministers of God, keeping their hands pure. For they wrestle in prayers to God on behalf of those who are fighting in a righteous cause, and for the king who reigns righteously. They pray that whatever is opposed to those who act righteously may be destroyed. Our prayers defeat all demons who stir up war. Those demons also lead persons to violate their oaths and to disturb the peace. Accordingly, in this way, we are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them. And we do take our part in public affairs when we join self-denying exercises to our righteous prayers and meditations, which teach us to despise pleasures and not to be led away by them. So none fight better for the king than we do. Indeed, we do not fight under him even if he demands it. Yet, we fight on his behalf, forming a special army—an army of godliness—by offering our prayers to God. And if Celsus would have us “lead armies in defense of our country,” let him know that we do this too. And we do not do it for the purpose of being seen by men or for vainglory. For in secret, and in our own hearts, our prayers ascend on behalf of our fellow-citizens, as from priests. And Christians are benefactors of their country more than others. For they train up citizens and inculcate piety to the Supreme Being. And they promote to a divine and heavenly city those whose lives in the smallest cities have been good and worthy.

Cyprian AD 250

Christians do not attack their assailants in return, for it is not lawful for the innocent to kill even the guilty.

The hand must not be spotted with the sword and blood—not after the Eucharist is carried in it.