Arnobius

, an African, and a celebrated apologist for Christianity, is said to have taught rhetoric at Sicca in Africa, with great reputation, and to have been converted to Christianity, but the means by which his conversion was effected are variously represented by ecclesiastical writers. Jerom says that he was admonished in his dreams to embrace Christianity; that when he applied to the bishop of the place for baptism, he rejected him, because he had been wont to oppose the Christian doctrine, and that Arnobius immediately composed an excellent work against his old religion, and was consequently admitted into the Christian church. But this seems highly improbable. Lardner, who has investigated the early history of Arnobius with his, usual precision, is inclined to think that Arnobius had been a Christian for a considerable time before he wrote his great work “Disputationes adversus Gentes,” and it is certain that he continually speaks of himself as being a Christian, and describes the manner of the Christian worship, their discourses, and prayers, which he could not have done if he had not been fully acquainted wiili it; nor could he have undertaken the public defence of that religion without being thoroughly versed in its doctrines. He allows, indeed, that he was once a blind idolater, and he professes to have been ta>ight by Christ, but imputes no part of his conversion to dreams. Besides, his work is a very elaborate composition, and illustrated by a | profusion of quotations from Greek and Latin authors, which must have been the result of long study. The exact time when Arnobius flourished is uncertain. Cave places him about the year 303; Tillemont is inclined to the year 297, or sooner. He wrote his book probably about the year 297 or 298; but Lardner is of opinion not so soon. The time of his death is uncertain. His work is not supposed to have come down to us complete, but that some part is wanting at the end, and some at the beginning. He appears, however, to have studied both the internal and external evidences of Christianity with much attention. He was learned and pious, and although his style is generally reckoned rough and unpolished, and has some uncouth and obsolete words, it is strong and nervous, and contains some beautiful passages. It is very highly to the honour of Arnobius, who was accomplished in all the learning of Greece and Rome, that he embraced the Christian religion when it was under persecution. There is reason, indeed, to suppose that the patience and magnanimity of the Christian sufferings induced him to inquire into the principles of a religion which set human wickedness and cruelty at defiance. His work “Adversus Gentes” has been often reprinted; the first edition at Rome, 1542, folio; to which, it is rather singular, that the editor added the Octavius of Minucius Felix, as an eighth book, mistaking Octavius for Octavus. It was reprinted at Basil, 1546; Antwerp, 1582; Geneva, 1597; Hamburgh, 1610; and at Leyden, but incorrectly, in 1651. 1

1

Gen. Dict. Cave, vol. I.-~Mosheim’s Eccl. Hist. T.aHaer’s Works. —Saxii Onomasticon.Moreri.