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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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a philosopher and wit, who appeared as one of the early opposers of the Christian religion and its followers. The hostile sentiments of the Heathens toward Christianity, says. Dr. Neander, were different according to the difference of their philosophical and religious views. There entered then upon the contest two classes of men, who have never since ceased to persecute Christianity. These were the superstitious, to whom the honouring God in spirit and in truth was a stumbling stone, and the careless unbeliever, who, unacquainted with all feelings of religious wants, was accustomed to laugh and to mock at every thing which proceeded from them, whether he understood it or not, and at all which supposed such feelings, and proposed to satisfy them. Such was Lucian. To him Christianity, like every other remarkable religious phenomenon, appeared only as a fit object for his sarcastic wit. Without giving himself the trouble to examine and to discriminate, he threw Christianity, superstition, and fanaticism, into the same class. It is easy enough, in any system which lays deep hold on man's nature, to find out some side open to ridicule, if a man brings forward only that which is external in the system, abstracted from all its inward power and meaning, and without either understanding, or attempting to understand, this power. He, therefore, who looked on Christianity with cold indifference, and the profane every-day feelings of worldly prudence, might easily here and there find objects for his satire. The Christian might indeed have profited by that ridicule, and have learned from the children of darkness to join the wisdom of the serpent with the meekness of the dove. In the end the scoffer brings himself to derision, because he ventures to pass sentence on the phenomena of a world of which he has not the slightest conception, and which to his eyes, buried as they are in the films of the earth, is entirely closed. Such was Lucian. He sought to bring forward all that is striking and remarkable in the external conduct and circumstances of Christians, which might serve for the object of his sarcastic raillery, without any deeper inquiry as to what the religion of the Christians really was. And yet even in that at which he scoffed, there was much which might have taught him to remark in Christianity no common power over the hearts of men, had he been capable of such serious impressions. The firm hope of eternal life which taught them to meet death with tranquillity, their brotherly love one toward another, might have indicated to him some higher spirit which animated these men; but instead of this he treats it all as delusion, because many gave themselves up to death with something like fanatical enthusiasm. He scoffs at the notion of a crucified man having taught them to regard all mankind as their brethren, the moment they should have abjured the gods of Greece; as if it were not just the most remarkable part of all this, that an obscure person in Jerusalem, who was deserted by every one, and executed as a criminal, should be able, a good century after his death, to cause such effects as Lucian, in his own time, saw extending in all directions, and in spite of every kind of persecution. How blinded must he have been to pass thus lightly over such a phenomenon! But men of his ready wit are apt to exert it with too great readiness on all subjects. They are able to illustrate every thing out of nothing; with their miserable "nil admirari," they can close their hearts against all lofty impressions. With all his wit and keenness, with all his undeniably fine powers of observation in all that has no concern with the deeper impulses of man's spirit, he was a man of very little mind. But hear his own language: "The wretched people have persuaded themselves that they are altogether immortal, and will live for ever; therefore they despise death, and many of them meet it of their own accord. Their first lawgiver has persuaded them also to regard all mankind as their brethren, as soon as they have abjured the Grecian gods, and, honouring their crucified Master, have begun to live according to his laws. They despise every thing Heathen equally, and regard all but their own notions as profaneness, while they have yet embraced those notions without sufficient examination." He has no farther accusation to make against them here, except the ease with which they allowed their benevolence toward their fellow Christians to be abused by impostors, in which there may be much truth, but there is, nevertheless, some exaggeration.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Lucian'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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