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Athenagoras was a Christian apologist who flourished in the second half of the second century CE. Two extant works, the Plea on Behalf of Christians and On the Resurrection of the Dead, have traditionally been attributed to him.


Athenagoras does not appear in the ecclesiastical histories of either Eusebius, Socrates, or Sozomen. Methodius (d. 311 CE) is the only ante-Nicene writer to mention Athenagoras; Methodius' From the Discourse on the Resurrection 1.7 refers to Athenagoras' Plea 24. The only other early witness to Athenagoras is Philip of Side, a deacon of Chrysostom, who lived during the fifth century. According to a fourteenth century codex, Philip wrote, "Athenagoras was the first to head the school in Alexandria. He flourished at the time of Hadrian and Antoninus, to both of whom he addressed his Plea on Behalf of Christians. He became a Christian while he wore the philosopher's cloak and was at the head of the Academy. Even before Celsus he was anxious to write against the Christians. ..." (Migne PG vi.182; English translation in Schoedel ix).

These meager references comprise our entire biographical knowledge of Athenagoras, apart from the material found in his extant writings. The Arethas Codex (914 CE) and three other manuscripts contain the same introductory ascription: "A plea for Christians by Athenagoras the Athenian: philosopher and Christian. To the emperors Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, conquerors of Armenia and Sarmatia, and more than all, philosophers." Philip mentions that Athenagoras flourished during the time of Hadrian and Antoninus, but the Arethas introduction places him in the reigns of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus. Ph...

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...e Fathers, vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1954.

Rauch, James L. "Greek Logic and Philosophy and the Problem of Authorship in Athenagoras." Ph.D diss., University of Chicago, 1961.

Ruprecht, Louis A., Jr. "Athenagoras the Christian, Pausanius the Travel Guide, and a Mysterious Corinthian Girl." Harvard Theological Review 85 (1992): 35-49.

Schoedel, William R. Athenagoras: Legatio and De Resurrectione. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972.

Schwartz, Eduard. Athenagorae Libellus pro Christianis, Oratio de Resurrectione cadaverum. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1891.

Vermander, Jeane-Marie. "Celse et l'attribution a Athénagore d'un ouvrage sur la résurrection des morts." Melanges de Science Religieuse 35 (1978): 125-134.

Zeegers-Vander Vorst, Nicole. "La paternité athénagorienne du De résurrection." Revue d'Histoire Ecclésiastique 87 (1992): 334-374.
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