Minucius, Felix

views updated


Marcus, Roman lawyer and Christian apologist; b. probably Africa, second half of the 2d century; d. Rome, c. 250. Lactantius (Div. inst 5.1, 22) and Jerome (De vir.ill. 58) associate Minucius with such Africans as Tertullian, Cyprian, and Arnobius. Minucius studied law and later practiced in Rome. His Octavius, or apology, was addressed to educated pagans. It is written in the form of a Ciceronian dialogue, held supposedly during a walk from Rome to Ostia, among Octavius, Caecilius, and Minucius. Octavius states the case for Christianity and Caecilius, for paganism; Minucius adjudicates the discussion. In his defense of paganism Caecilius contends that in human affairs everything is doubtful and that the lawlessness of nature and in the moral world denies the existence of providence. Hence it is best to adhere to old ways. The Christian desire to change a religion as old and proved as the Roman results from an impious conceit (513). In response Octavius states that all men are born with intelligence and understanding and that those who cannot see the universe as the product of divine wisdom are intellectually blind. The true God cannot be seen because He is too bright for sight, too magnificent for full human comprehension (1419). Pagan fables are a fantastic mixture of immoral myths and mysteries, and the Romans have grown great not by religion but by unpunished sacrilege (2027). The truth of Christianity is attested by the deportment of its adherents. They not only preach, but they also live great deeds (2838). No judgment is necessary because Caecilius is converted to Christianity after hearing Octavius.

Minucius was a tolerant apologist, keen to propagate Christianity but anxious not to cause offense in so doing. The work contains neither a summary of Christian teaching nor a wealth of biblical reference; but there are reminiscences of Homer, Horace, Juvenal, Vergil, and other pagans, as well as Justin, Tatian, Athenagoras, and Theophilus. Its style is more restrained than that of Tertullian, but literary connections between it and Tertullian's Apology can be traced. These relationships cause a chronological problem, but the majority of scholars regard the Apology as earlier than the Octavius.

Bibliography: Editions. c. halm, ed., Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum (Vienna 1867) 2:171. a. d. simpson, ed., Minucii Felicis Octavius: Prolegomena, Text and Critical Notes (New York 1938). r. arbesmann, tr. The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, ed r. j. deferrari et al. (New York 194760) 10 (1950) 321402. Studies. d. kuijper, "Minuciana" Vigiliae Christianae 6 (1952): 201207. g. quispel, ibid. 3 (1949): 113122. h. v. m. dennis, American Journal of Philology 50 (1929):185189. c. mohrmann, ibid. 2 (1948) 89101, 162184, Latin. j. p. waltzing, Lexicon Minucianum (Liège 1909). h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, 15v. (Paris 190753) 11.2:13881412. b. altaner, Patrology (New York 1960) 162166. j. quasten, Patrology, 3 v. (Westminster, Md. 1950) 2:155163.

[p. w. lawler]