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Tertullian on Christian loyalty to the Emperor - Latin Text with English translation
In what way do Christians pray for the Emperor? From Tertullian passage from Apologeticus pro Christianis (Apology), 29 - 33.
Click here to read at earlychurchtexts.com in the original Latin (with dictionary lookup links). The English translation below is from the ANF series.
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XXIX. Let it be made clear, then, first of all, if those to whom sacrifice is offered are really able to protect either emperor or anybody else, and so adjudge us guilty of treason, if angels and demons, spirits of most wicked nature, do any good, if the lost save, if the condemned give liberty, if the dead (I refer to what you know well enough) defend the living. For surely the first thing they would look to would be the protection of their statues, and images, and temples, which rather owe their safety, I think, to the watch kept by Cæsar’s guards. Nay, I think the very materials of which these are made come from Cæsar’s mines, and there is not a temple but depends on Cæsar’s will. Yes, and many gods have felt the displeasure of the Cæsar. It makes for my argument if they are also partakers of his favour, when he bestows on them some gift or privilege. How shall they who are thus in Cæsar’s power, who belong entirely to him, have Cæsar’s protection in their hands, so that you can imagine them able to give to Cæsar what they more readily get from him? This, then, is the ground on which we are charged with treason against the imperial majesty, to wit, that we do not put the emperors under their own possessions; that we do not offer a mere mock service on their behalf, as not believing their safety rests in leaden hands. But you are impious in a high degree who look for it where it is not, who seek it from those who have it not to give, passing by Him who has it entirely in His power. Besides this, you persecute those who know where to seek for it, and who, knowing where to seek for it, are able as well to secure it.
XXXI. But we merely, you say, flatter the emperor, and feign these prayers of ours to escape persecution. Thank you for your mistake, for you give us the opportunity of proving our allegations. Do you, then, who think that we care nothing for the welfare of Cæsar, look into God’s revelations, examine our sacred books, which we do not keep in hiding, and which many accidents put into the hands of those who are not of us. Learn from them that a large benevolence is enjoined upon us, even so far as to supplicate God for our enemies, and to beseech blessings on our persecutors. Who, then, are greater enemies and persecutors of Christians, than the very parties with treason against whom we are charged? Nay, even in terms, and most clearly, the Scripture says, “Pray for kings, and rulers, and powers, that all may be peace with you.” For when there is disturbance in the empire, if the commotion is felt by its other members, surely we too, though we are not thought to be given to disorder, are to be found in some place or other which the calamity affects.
XXXII. There is also another and a greater necessity for our offering prayer in behalf of the emperors, nay, for the complete stability of the empire, and for Roman interests in general. For we know that a mighty shock impending over the whole earth—in fact, the very end of all things threatening dreadful woes—is only retarded by the continued existence of the Roman empire. We have no desire, then, to be overtaken by these dire events; and in praying that their coming may be delayed, we are lending our aid to Rome’s duration. More than this, though we decline to swear by the genii of the Cæsars, we swear by their safety, which is worth far more than all your genii. Are you ignorant that these genii are called “Dæmones,” and thence the diminutive name “Dæmonia” is applied to them? We respect in the emperors the ordinance of God, who has set them over the nations. We know that there is that in them which God has willed; and to what God has willed we desire all safety, and we count an oath by it a great oath. But as for demons, that is, your genii, we have been in the habit of exorcising them, not of swearing by them, and thereby conferring on them divine honour.
XXXIII. But why dwell longer on the reverence and sacred respect of Christians
to the emperor, whom we cannot but look up to as called by our Lord to his
office? So that on valid grounds I might say Cæsar is more ours than yours, for
our God has appointed him. Therefore, as having this propriety in him, I do more
than you for his welfare, not merely because I ask it of Him who can give it, or
because I ask it as one who deserves to get it, but also because, in keeping the
majesty of Cæsar within due limits, and putting it under the Most High, and
making it less than divine, I commend him the more to the favour of Deity, to
whom I make him alone inferior. But I place him in subjection to one I regard as
more glorious than himself. Never will I call the emperor God, and that either
because it is not in me to be guilty of falsehood; or that I dare not turn him
into ridicule; or that not even himself will desire to have that high name
applied to him. If he is but a man, it is his interest as man to give God His
higher place. Let him think it enough to bear the name of emperor. That, too, is
a great name of God’s giving. To call him God, is to rob him of his title. If he
is not a man, emperor he cannot be. Even when, amid the honours of a triumph, he
sits on that lofty chariot, he is reminded that he is only human. A voice at his
back keeps whispering in his ear, “Look behind thee; remember thou art but a
man.” And it only adds to his exultation, that he shines with a glory so
surpassing as to require an admonitory reference to his condition. It adds to
his greatness that he needs such a reminiscence, lest he should think himself
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