Quadratus of Athens

Quadratus of Athens (died c. AD 129) was a disciple of the apostles, and one of the earliest Christian apologists. He assumed leadership of the church in Athens after the martyrdom of his predecessor, Publius, and is best known for presenting a rational defense of Christianity to the Roman Emperor Hadrian, for which he is recognized as the “First Apologist”. Quadratus was canonized in the second century, and is venerated as a saint in both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Apology for Christianity

The only writing of Quadratus known to us is his Apology, addressed to Emperor Hadrian circa 124 AD in response to acts of harassment against Christians. The original text did not survive antiquity, but a fragmentary quote is known to us through the writings of the fourth century historian, Eusebius.  Eusebius cites Quadratus as having written “But the works of our Savior were always present, for they were genuine:-those that were healed, and those that were raised from the dead, who were seen not only when they were healed and when they were raised, but were also always present; and not merely while the Savior was on earth, but also after his death, they were alive for quite a while, so that some of them lived even to our day.”

Quadratus argued that the miracles of Jesus were genuine and verifiable, on the basis that those who were healed and raised from the dead by Jesus continued to live in good health, and that some were still alive even at the time of Quadratus’ writing, and possibly known personally to Quadratus. From this evidence, Quadratus establishes the legitimacy of Jesus as our Savior.

Confirming the historicity of Quadratus’ meeting with Emperor Hadrian, and providing additional context to the Apology, fourth century priest and historian Jerome adds that during the emperor’s visit to Athens, those who “hated the Christians took opportunity without instructions from the Emperor to harass the believers”.

Accounts of the outcome of the meeting between Quadratus and Emperor Hadrian differ. According to Eusebius, Hadrian was convinced by Quadratus’ arguments to issue an edict favorable to Christians. Hadrian is known to have issued such an edict, instructing Roman senator Minicius Fundanus to grant more leniency to Christians, insisting that slanderous attacks against Christians must not be tolerated, and prosecution of Christians may be taken only in response to charges of an illegal act. However, it is not clear to what extent Quadratus’ apology influenced the emperor’s edict.

Other Traditions

Irenaeus, writing Against Heresies in the second century, may have relied on the eyewitness testimony recorded by Quadratus in his own discussion of miracles, and subsequent refutation of the tricks and illusions practiced by the followers of Simon Magus and other heretical groups.

Eastern Orthodox Church tradition further identifies Quadratus as one of the seventy (or seventy-two) disciples sent out by Jesus during his ministry (Luke 10:1-16), though this claim is not addressed by other faith traditions.

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