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Arnobius, a teacher of rhetoric at Sicca Veneria in Proconsular Numidia, said by Jerome to have taught Lactantius and to have suddenly become a Christian (c.295); see christianity. A year or two later, at his bishop's instance, he wrote seven books, Adversus nationes, as a proof of full conversion. He attacked those who argued, like the later opponents of Augustine, that ‘ever since the Christians have been on earth, the world has gone to ruin’ (Adv. nat. 1. 1), and that Christ was a mortal magician, not superior to Apollonius (12) of Tyana or Zoroaster (1. 52–3). His answer, although conventional in tenor, is not so in content, since he amasses much valuable antiquarian learning, designed to prove that Roman institutions were subject to change, and that therefore Christianity was not bad because it was new. Incidentally he reveals something of pagan beliefs current in Africa. He does not look for prefigurement of the Gospel even in the Old Testament. His attack on the viri novi in book 2 shows him abreast of recent developments in Platonism (see neoplatonism); but, while he cites several dialogues and applauds Plato (1)'s notion of God, he (characteristically) rejects the hypothesis of innate ideas. His own teaching on the soul may be of Stoic origin (see stoicism). He cites the New Testament little, and indeed, apart from hope of his soul's salvation through Christ and his hostility to pagansim, Arnobius shows little trace of Christian theology. Writing before the council of Nicaea, he speaks of Christ as a secondary deity. His easy and fluent Latin yields the first use of the word deitas and of atheus as applied to Christianity.



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