Thoughts of a Living Christian

Musings of an amateur theologian and hopeful writer

Epistle to Diognetus 5.1-6.10

We read this at college the other day, in a unit on the church. I found it particularly interesting, so I hope you enjoy it too! The author and recipient (or, at least, intended recipient) are unknown and was written 2nd century. It is considered one of the first apologetical texts of the church. Enjoy!

 

5.1. For Christians have been distinguished from other persons neither by country nor by language nor by customs. 2. For nowhere do they dwell in cities of their own, nor do they use any strange dialect, nor do they strive for a peculiar lifestyle. 3. This teaching of theirs has not been discovered by some intellect and thought of the curious, nor are they proponents of human dogma as some are. 4. Rather, while dwelling in both Greek and barbarian cities, according to the lot which has fallen to each, and following local customs as regards clothing and food and the rest of life, they display the marvelous and admittedly strange character of their own citizenship. 5. They live in their own countries, but as aliens. They participate in everything as citizens, but they endure everything as strangers. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland a foreign country. 6. They marry just like all persons do and they beget children, but they do not discard unwanted children. 7. They set a common table, but they are not promiscuous. 8. They live out of their lot “in the flesh,” but they do not live “according to the flesh.” 9. They spend their time on earth, but they have their citizenship in heaven. 10. They obey the established laws, but they surpass the laws in their own lives. 11. They love all persons, and yet they are persecuted by all. 12. They are unknown, and yet they are condemned; they are put to death, and yet they come back to life. 13. They are poor, and yet they enrich many; they lack everything, and yet they have plenty of everything. 14. They are dishonored, and yet they are praised in the dishonors. They are blasphemed, and yet they are justified. 15. They are reviled, and yet they are blessed; they are insulted, and yet they honor others. 16. Though they do good, they are punished as evildoers; though they are punished, they rejoice as those who come back to life. 17. They are fought by Jews as foreigners and persecuted by Greeks; and those who hate them cannot give the reason for their enmity.

6.1. To say it simply, what a soul is in a body, that is what Christians are in the world. 2. The soul is spread through all the members of the body, and Christians throughout all the cities of the world. 3. A soul dwells in the body, but is not “of the body”; and Christians dwell in the world, but they are not “of the world.” 4. The soul, though invisible, is guarded in the visible world, but their devotion remains invisible. 5. The flesh hates the soul and wages war against it, but it does it no harm, because it is hindered for indulging in its pleasures; and the world hates Christians, but it can do them no harm, because they resist its pleasures. 6. The soul loves the flesh, which hates it, and also the limbs; and Christians love those who hate them. 7. The soul has been confined to the body, but it itself sustains the body; and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, but they themselves sustain the world. 8. The sould dwells immortal in a mortal tent; and Christians dwell in corruptable things awaiting incorruption in heaven. 9. When badly treated as to food and drink, the soul does better; and when buffeted day by day, Christians increase still more. 10. God has appointed them for such a commission which it is not right for them to refuse.

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