Cicero once said, “To know nothing of what happened before you were born, is to forever remain a child.” I think one of the sad and unforeseen side-effects of our age of technology is that we often forget about old books because we’re often distracted by the next “new and shiny” thing. This can prove detrimental, particularly in the case of the Christian and Christian Apologist, as we often overlook the wisdom of those who came before us. Such as the largely forgotten book, “Testimonies” by Rev. Thomas Browne, M.A.
While researching for another article topic that I’m working on (“apologetic methods of the early Christians”) I came across a book I had mentioned in my very first post for the A Clear Lens team, “The First Apologists and Why They Still Matter”. I remembered what a huge impact the book had on me and how it strengthened my faith. As a result, I would love to do an official book review in order so that many more Christians can become aware of this book and read it.
Sadly, I don’t believe the book is in print anymore as it was originally published in 1837. However, you can find PDF versions online here or here. At 170 pages, it’s not a long book, and frankly, it’s so engrossing that it’s easy to simply zip through it in one sitting. The fascinating read is a compilation of translated first-hand accounts from non-Christians like Tacitus, Pliny, and Trajan. It also includes apologies from early church fathers like Tertullian and Origen as well as accounts of their sufferings under various persecutions.
As I laid out in my article, “The First Apologists…” many of the arguments (and even insults!) against Christianity and Christians have already been answered and said. In our age of social media, insults tend to be the norm.
Celsus (AD 170), seemed to be a pioneer of “trolling” by stating that, “Some of them say, ‘Do not examine, but believe, and thy faith shall save thee:’ and, ‘ The wisdom of this world is evil, and the folly good.’ All wise men are excluded from the doctrine of their faith: they call to it only fools and men of a servile spirit.”
Browne also discusses the integrity of the scriptures during the first two centuries:
“Hegesippus, A.D. 173, states in a fragment of one of his works preserved by Eusebius,
that in a journey from Palestine to Rome he visited many bishops, and then adds, ‘In every succession, and in every city, the same doctrine is taught‘…’The same author,’ says Eusebius, ‘discoursing of the books called apocryphal, relates that some of them were forged by the heretics in his time.’ Hence we may learn, that the first Christians were not only on their guard against heretics but also against their forgeries.
I don’t think I could recommend this book enough! Despite the age in which it was printed, it was an easy read and a fascinating one, too. It was so interesting to read the translated words from Christians and non-Christians in the first two centuries. While I still adore and admire the work of modern apologists like Sean McDowell, J. Warner Wallace, William Lane Craig and so many others, let’s not forget older apologists like Rev. Thomas Browne. They still have some amazing things to teach us.