Epistle to Diognetus

28 July 2021
[Previous post: https://bit.ly/3hLQRdB]

In the first part of the Epistle, the author writes in such a way as to attract the attention of an educated, pagan Greek. He then moves on to present two of the most important pillars of Christian apologetics: the fact that all things were made through Christ, as we say in the Creed; and that the martyrs preferred torture and death to denial of the Lord.

  1. The manifestation of Christ

For, as I said, this was no mere earthly invention which was delivered to them, nor is it a human construct, which they deem it proper to preserve carefully. Neither is it a compilation of human mysteries which has been entrusted to them, but, in truth, the invisible God himself, who is almighty and the Creator of all things. He sent the truth, the holy and incomprehensible Word, down from heaven, and settled him among us, firmly establishing him in our hearts. He did not, as might be supposed, send us a servant, an angel, or ruler; nor someone holding authority over earthly things; nor one entrusted with directing matters in the heavens. He sent the very Creator and Fashioner of all things: through whom he made the heavens; through whom he enclosed the sea within its proper bounds; whose mysteries all the elements guard; from whom the sun received the measure by which to observe its daily paths; whom the moon obeys, being commanded to shine at night; whom the stars also obey, following the moon in its course; through whom all things have been arranged, and placed within their proper limits, and to whom all are subject: the heavens and all things celestial, the earth and all things things terrestrial, the sea and all things aquatic- fire, air, and the abyss- all things which are in the heights, all things which are in the depths, and all the things which lie between. This is who was sent to us.

Was it then, as might be thought, for the purpose of exercising tyranny, or of inspiring fear and terror? Not at all. It was out of clemency and meekness. Just as a king sends his son, who is also a king, so he sent him. He sent him to us as God and also as a man; he sent him as Savior seeking to persuade, not to compel, given that violence has no place with God; he sent him to call us, not to persecute us; he sent him out of love, not in order to judge, though he will also send him to judge. ‘But who shall endure the day of his coming?’ (Malachi 3,2).

There is a considerable gap at this point in all the manuscripts, but it may be reasonably assumed that the author moved on to discuss the reaction of Christians to the persecutions.

Do you not see them [Christians] exposed to wild beasts to make them deny the Lord, and yet they are not defeated? Do you not see that the more of them are punished, the more their numbers grow? This does not seem to be the work of man: this is the power of God. All this is a manifestation of his presence.