Since I see thee, most excellent Diognetus, exceedingly desirous to learn the mode of worshipping God prevalent among the Christians, and inquiring very carefully and earnestly concerning them, what God they trust in, and what form of religion they observe, so as all to look down upon the world itself, and despise death, while they neither esteem those to be gods that are reckoned such by the Greeks, nor hold to the superstition of the Jews; and what is the affection which they cherish among themselves; and why, in fine, this new kind or practice [of piety] has only now entered into the world, and not long ago; I cordially welcome this thy desire, and I implore God, who enables us both to speak and to hear, to grant to me so to speak, that, above all, I may hear you have been edified, and to you so to hear, that I who speak may have no cause of regret for having done so. Come, then, after you have freed yourself from all prejudices possessing your mind, and laid aside what you have been accustomed to, as something apt to deceive you, and being made, as if from the beginning, a new man, inasmuch as, according to your own confession, you are to be the hearer of a new [system of] doctrine; come and contemplate, not with your eyes only, but with your understanding, the substance and the form of those whom ye declare and deem to be gods. Is not one of them a stone similar to that on which we tread? Is not a second brass, in no way superior to those vessels which are constructed for our ordinary use? Is not a third wood, and that already rotten?
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This beautiful little apology for Christianity is cited by no ancient or medieval writer, and came down to us in a single manuscript which perished in the siege of Strasburg The identification of Diognetus with the teacher of Marcus Aurelius , who bore the same name, is at most plausible. It was clearly composed during a severe persecution. The manuscript attributed it with other writings to Justin Martyr ; but that earnest philosopher and hasty writer was quite incapable of the restrained eloquence, the smooth flow of thought, the limpid clearness of expression, which mark this epistle as one of the most perfect compositions of antiquity.
The last two chapters xi, xii are florid and obscure, and bear no relation to the rest of the letter. They seem to be a fragment of a homily of later date. The writer of this addition describes himself as a "disciple of the Apostles ", and through a misunderstanding of these words the epistle has, since the eighteenth century, been classed with the writings of the Apostolic Fathers.
The letter breaks off at the end of chapter x; it may have originally been much longer. The writer addresses the "most excellent Diognetus", a well-disposed pagan , who desires to know what is the religion of Christians.
Idol-worship is ridiculed, and it is shown that Jewish sacrifices and ceremonies cannot cause any pleasure to the only God and creator of all. Christians are not a nation nor a sect , but are diffused throughout the world, though they are not of the world but citizens of heaven ; yet they are the soul of the world.
God , the invisible Creator, has sent His Child, by whom He made all things, to save man, after He has allowed man to find out his own weakness and proneness to sin and his incapacity to save himself.
The last chapter is an exposition, "first" of the love of the Father, evidently to be followed "secondly" by another on the Son, but this is lost. The style is harmonious and simple. The writer is a practiced master of classical eloquence, and a fervent Christian. There is no resemblance to the public apologies of the second century. A closer affinity is with the "Ad Donatum" of St. Cyprian , which is similarly addressed to an inquiring pagan.
Harnack seems to be right in refusing to place the author earlier than Irenaeus. One might well look for him much later, in the persecutions of Valerian or of Diocletian. He cannot be an obscure person , but must be a writer otherwise illustrious; and yet he is certainly not one of those writers whose works have come down to us from the second or third centuries. The name of Lucian the Martyr would perhaps satisfy the conditions of the problem; and the loss of that part of the letter where it spoke more in detail of the Son of God would be explained, as it would have been suspected or convicted of the Arianism of which Lucian is the reputed father.
The so-called letter may be in reality the apology presented to a Judge. The editio princeps is that of Stephanus Paris, , and the epistle was included among the works of St. Justin by Sylburg Heidelberg, and subsequent editors, the best of such editions is in Otto, "Corpus Apologetarum Christ. It has been given since then in the editions of the Apostolic Fathers , especially those of Hefele, Funk 2d ed. Many separate editions have appeared in Germany.
The dissertations on this treatise are too numerous to catalogue; they are not as a rule of much value. These definite views are now abandoned, likewise the suggestions of Kruger that Aristides was the author, of Draseke that it is by Apelles , of Overbeck that it is post-Constantinian, and of Donaldson that it is a fifteenth-century rhetorical exercise the manuscript was thirteenth- or fourteenth-century. Zahn has sensibly suggested Harnack gives About this page APA citation.
Chapman, J. Epistle to Diognetus. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Chapman, John. New York: Robert Appleton Company, This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph P. Ecclesiastical approbation.
Nihil Obstat. May 1, Remy Lafort, Censor. Farley, Archbishop of New York. Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight.
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Epistle to Diognetus
Do not miss chapters 5 and 9! These are not meant to interpret the text for you, although I do some of that. It is very hard to find a better introduction to late 1st century Christianity than the Letter to Diognetus. Are you enjoying this site? We have several books with great reviews from readers.
Letter to Diognetus
For a considerable period after its publication in , it was generally ascribed to Justin Martyr. In recent times Otto has inserted it among the works of that writer, but Semisch and others contend that it cannot possibly be his. In dealing with this question, we depend entirely upon the internal evidence, no statement as to the authorship of the Epistle having descended to us from antiquity. And it can scarcely be denied that the whole tone of the Epistle, as well as special passages which it contains, points to some other writer than Justin. Accordingly, critics are now for the most part agreed that it is not his, and that it must be ascribed to one who lived at a still earlier date in the history of the Church. Several internal arguments have been brought forward in favour of this opinion. Supposing chap.
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