“Do then walls make Christians?”

Augustine describes a similar conversion of the scholar Marius Victorinus in the reign of Constantius. This “most learned old man, most familiar with all liberal studies, who had read and weighed so many writings of the philoso hers, the teacher of so many noble senators,” had remained until his old age “a worshiper of idols, a participant in sacrilegious rites, by which at that time almost all the Roman nobility was puffed up.” After reading through “all the writings of the Christians,” he told his friend Simplicianus, later to be Ambrose’s successor as bishop of Milan, that he was now a Christian. Simplicianus replied that he would not consider him as such until he saw him in the Church of Christ. Afraid of the reaction of his pagan friends, the old man replied ironically, “Do then walls make Christians?” Nonetheless, he finally agreed to receive “the first sacraments of instruction” (that is, a preliminary course of Christian knowledge, imparted to catechumens before baptism) and then gave in his name for baptism. Though the priests offered to let him make his declaration of faith privately, he did so before the whole congregation.

C. P. Jones, Between Pagan and Christian, Cambridge, ΜΑ, 2014, σ. 92.

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