Monday, September 04, 2006

Tertullian on intercession for the government & the end times

Tertullian (c. 160 - after 218), an early father of Latin Christianity, writes in his Apology (chap. 30, 32-33) of the superiority of Christian intercession for the government and the prayer for delay of the eschaton, the end times. (See red marked text below).

Early Christians apparently believed that the end of the Roman Empire would bring the end times. If early Christians prayed for the stability of the Empire in order to delay the arrival of the eschaton, it seems to mitigate against the preterist interpretation of the Revelation. Perhaps the early Christians did not see themselves as living the book of Revelation in present tense, but saw it as a document describing a future history.

Superiority of Christian intercession for the government
From Chap. XXXI: "Without ceasing, for all our emperors we offer prayer. We pray for life prolonged; for security to the empire; for protection to the imperial house; for brave armies, a faithful senate, a virtuous people, the world at rest, whatever, as man or Caesar, an emperor would wish. These things I cannot ask from any but the God from whom I know I shall obtain them, both because He alone bestows them and because I have claims upon Him for their gift, as being a servant of His, rendering homage to Him alone, persecuted for His doctrine, offering to Him, at His own requirement, that costly and noble sacrifice of prayer (Heb_10:22) (see chap. xlii) despatched from the chaste body, an unstained soul, a sanctified spirit . . .

Prayer for delay of the end times
From Chap. XXXII:
"There is also another and a greater necessity for our offering prayer in behalf of the emperors, nay, for the complete stability of the empire, and for Roman interests in general. For we know that a mighty shock impending over the whole earth — in fact, the very end of all things threatening dreadful woes — is only retarded by the continued existence of the Roman empire. We have no desire, then, to be overtaken by these dire events; and in praying that their coming may be delayed, we are lending our aid to Rome’s duration.

Christian pray for the emperor's safety, but not through swearing by demons
More than this, though we decline to swear by the genii of the Caesars, we swear by their safety, which is worth far more than all your genii, Are you ignorant that these genii are called "Daemones," and thence the diminutive name "Daemonia" is applied to them? We respect in the emperors the ordinance of God, who has set them over the nations. We know that there is that in them which God has willed; and to what God has willed we desire all safety, and we count an oath by it a great oath. But as for demons, that is, your genii, we have been in the habit of exorcising them, not of swearing by them, and thereby conferring on them divine honour.

"Caesar is more ours than yours"
From Chap. XXXIII.
"So that on valid grounds I might say Caesar is more ours than yours, for our God has appointed him."