AD 4th Century
Theonas of Alexandria AD 300
Do no one any injury at any time; provoke no one to anger. If an injury is done to you, look to Jesus Christ. And even as you desire Him to forgive your transgressions, also forgive others theirs.
Arnobius AD 305
You allege that those wars of which you speak were sparked because of hatred of our religion. However, it would not be difficult to prove that (after the name of Christ was heard in the world), wars were not increased. In fact, they actually diminished in great measure by the restraining of furious passions. A numerous band of men as we are, we have learned from his teaching and his laws that evil should not be repaid with evil. Rather, it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it. We would rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another. As a result, an ungrateful world is now enjoying–and for a long period has enjoyed–a benefit from Christ. For by his means, the rage of savage ferocity has been softened and has begun to withhold hostile hands from the blood of a fellow creature. In fact, if all men without exception…would lend an ear for a while to his salutary and peaceful rules,…the whole world would be living in the most peaceful tranquility. The world would have turned the use of steel into more peaceful uses and would unite together in blessed harmony, maintaining inviolate the sanctity of treaties.
You cruelly break up our meetings, in which prayer is made to the Supreme God and in which peace and pardon are asked for all those in authority—for soldiers, kings, friends, and enemies.
Lactantius AD 300-320
For when God forbids us to kill, He not only prohibits us from open violence, which is not even allowed by the public laws, but He warns us against doing things which are considered lawful among men. Thus it will not be lawful for a just man to engage in warfare, since the kind of fighting appropriate to him is to do justice.
When the worship of God was taken away, men lost the knowledge of good and evil… They then began to fight with one another, to plot, and to achieve glory for themselves from the shedding of human blood.
If only God were worshiped, there would not be dissensions and wars. For men would know that they are the sons of one God.
Why would [the just man] carry on war and mix himself with the passions of others when his mind is engaged in perpetual peace with men? Would he be delighted with foreign merchandise or with human blood–he who does not know how to seek gain? For the Christian is satisfied with his standard of living. He considers it unlawful not only to commit slaughter himself, but also to be present with those who do it.
If desire is restrained, no one will use violence by land or by sea. No one will lead an army to carry off and lay waste the property of others… For what are the interests of our country, but the detriments of another state or nation? To extend the boundaries that are violently taken from others, to increase the power of the state, to improve the revenues–all of these things are not virtues. Rather, they are the overthrowing of virtues.
How can a man be just who hates, who despoils, who puts to death? Yet, those who strive to be serviceable to their country do all these things…When they speak of the “duties” relating to warfare, their speech pertains neither to justice nor to true virtue.
The Stoics say that the emotion of anger is the whetstone of virtue. As though no one could fight bravely against enemies unless he were excited by anger. By this, they plainly show that they neither know what virtue is, nor why God gave anger to man. If it were given to us for the purpose of using it to slay men, then what creature can be considered more savage than man? Who resembles the wild beasts more than the creature whom God formed for communion and innocence?
Therefore, it is not befitting that those who strive to keep to the path of justice should be companions and sharers in this public homicide. For when God forbids us to kill, he prohibits more than the open violence that is not even allowed by the public laws. He also warns us against doing those things that are considered lawful among men. For that reason, it will not be lawful for a just man to engage in warfare, since his warfare is justice itself. Nor is it lawful for him to accuse anyone of a capital charge. For it makes no difference whether you put a man to death by word, or by the sword instead. That is because it is the act of putting to death itself that is prohibited. Therefore, with regard to this commandment of God, there should be no exception at all. Rather, it is always lawful to put a man to death, whom God willed to be a sacred creature.
It is not right that a worshiper of God should be injured by another worshiper of God.
Religion is to be defended—not by putting to death—but by dying. Not by cruelty, but by patient endurance. Not by guilt, but by good faith. For the former belongs to evil, but the latter to the good. . . . For if you wish to defend religion by bloodshed, tortures, and guilt, it will no longer be defended. Rather, it will be polluted and profaned. . . . And, therefore, when we suffer such impious things, we do not resist even in word. Rather, we leave vengeance to God. We do not act as those persons who would have it appear that they are defenders of their gods, who rage without restraint against those who do not worship them.
If we all derive our origin from one man whom God created, we are clearly of one blood. Therefore, it must be considered the greatest wickedness to hate a man—even if he is guilty. On this account, God has forbidden us to ever contract enmities. Rather, they are to be eliminated, so that we sooth those who are our enemies by reminding them of their relationship. For, if we are all inspired and quickened by one God, what else are we except brothers? . . . Therefore, they are to be considered as savage beasts who injure man, who—in opposition to every law and right of human nature—plunder, torture, slay, and banish. On account of this relationship of brotherhood, God teaches us never to do evil, but always good.
When we suffer such ungodly things, we do not resist even in word. Rather, we leave vengeance to God.
If anyone should be so shameless as to inflict injury on a good and just man, such a man must bear it with calmness and moderation. He will not take upon himself his revenge. Rather, he will reserve it for the judgment of God. He must maintain innocence at all times and in all places. And this commandment is not limited to merely his not [being the first to] inflict injury on another. Rather, he should not even avenge it when injury is inflicted on him. For there sits on the judgment-seat a very great and impartial Judge.
Why do contests, fights, and contentions arise among men? Is it because impatience against injustice often excites great tempests? However, if you meet injustice with patience, then no virtue can be found more true. . . . In contrast, if injustice . . . has met with impatience on the same level as itself, . . . it will ignite a great fire that no stream can extinguish, but only the shedding of blood.
In what respect, then, does the wise and good man differ from the evil and foolish one? Is it not that he has unconquerable patience, of which the foolish are destitute? Is it not that he knows how to govern himself and to mitigate his anger—which those are unable to curb because they are without virtue? . . . What if a man gives way to grief and anger and indulges these emotions (which he should struggle against)? What if he rushes wherever injustice will call him? Such a man does not fulfill the duty of virtue. For he who tries to return an injury desires to imitate that very person by whom he has been injured. In short, he who imitates a bad man cannot be good.
When provoked by injury, if he returns violence to his assailant, he is defeated.
If a murderer is guilty because he is a destroyer of man, he who kills himself is under the same guilt. For he also kills a man. In fact, this crime can be considered to be greater, for the punishment of it belongs to God alone. We did not come into this life of our own accord. Therefore, we can withdraw from this habitation of the body . . . only by the command of Him who placed us in this body. We are to inhabit it until He orders us to depart from it.
Those soldiers were filled with wonder and admiration at the grandeur of the man’s piety and generosity and were struck with amazement. They felt the force of this example of pity. As a result, very many of them were added to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and threw off the belt of military service.
Basil AD 370
Military courage and the triumphal arches erected by a general or the community, exist only through the magnitude of the murder.”
Gregory of Nyssa AD 335-395
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." Who are these? Those who imitate the Divine love of others, who show forth in their own life the characteristic of the Divine energy. The Lord and Giver of good things completely annihilates anything that is without affinity and foreign to goodness. This work He ordains also for you, namely to cast out hatred and abolish war, to exterminate envy and banish strife, to take away hypocrisy and extinguish from within resentment of injuries smoldering in the heart. Instead, you ought to introduce whatever is contrary to the things that have been removed.”
Athanasius AD 370
Who, then, is He Who has done these things and has united in peace those who hated each other, save the beloved Son of the Father, the common Savior of all, Jesus Christ, Who by His own love underwent all things for our salvation? Even from the beginning, moreover, this peace that He was to administer was foretold, for Scripture says, "They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles, and nation shall not take sword against nation, neither shall they learn any more to wage war." Nor is this by any means incredible.
The barbarians of the present day are naturally savage in their habits, and as long as they sacrifice to their idols they rage furiously against each other and cannot bear to be a single hour without weapons. But when they hear the teaching of Christ, forthwith they turn from fighting to farming, and instead of arming themselves with swords extend their hands in prayer. In a word, instead of fighting each other, they take up arms against the devil and the demons, and overcome them by their self-command and integrity of soul. [Jesus] has taught men what they could never learn among the idols.
For in truth the disciples of Christ, instead of fighting each other, stand arrayed against demons by their habits and virtuous actions, and chase them away and mock at their captain the devil. Even in youth they are chaste, they endure in times of testing and persevere in toils. When they are insulted, they are patient, when robbed they make light of it, and, marvelous to relate, they make light even of death itself, and become martyrs of Christ.
Martin of Tours AD 397
I am a soldier of Christ. It is not permissible for me to fight.
John Chrysostom AD 350-407
That they may now understand that this is a new kind of warfare and not the usual custom of joining in battle, when He sent them with nothing He said: And so, marching on, show forth the meekness of lambs, although you are to go to wolves… for so will I best show my power, when the wolves are conquered by the lambs.
For certainly it is a greater work and much more marvellous to change the minds of opponents and to bring about a change of soul than to kill them… We ought to be ashamed, therefore, who act far differently when as wolves we rush upon our adversaries. For as long as we are lambs we conquer; even when a thousand wolves stand about, we overcome and are victors. But if we act like wolves we are conquered, for then the aid of the Good Shepherd departs from us, for He does not foster wolves but sheep.