Book Reviews

Day three: Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus: Chaps. 7-12

Who: Anonymous author, “mathetes” is not a name, but is the Greek word for “a disciple”

What: possibly one of the earliest examples of a Christian apologetic defending the faith from its accusers, written to someone interested in learning more about the faith and its customs

Why: The Christian faith was under attack and ridicule in the early centuries, many things about the Church were misunderstood and so various Christians took to writing apologetic's (defences) to clarify doctrines and beliefs from being maligned.

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When: Estimated between AD 130 and late 2nd century

Today's reading is the second half of this letter, and to be honest, I enjoyed reading these chapters more than yesterday. There's a lot more in these which focuses on the glory and majesty of Christ and how he is the Lord and creator over all; how that in contrast to the ancient Greeks who said fire was a god, or water or other elements, which may as well mean anything could be god to them, the Word is creator of the elements as is therefore greater and deserving of majesty and worship.

There is a lot of emphasis on “the Word” in these chapters, you don't see the name Jesus or the title of Christ, except in a chapter heading, but there's no mistaking who the author is writing about, with some great descriptions of the nature and love of God throughout the remaining portion of this book.

There is one small detail which stood out to me near the end of the epistle, and that's when the author gives a small tidbit of information about himself by saying that the things he is teaching are not “strange to [him]” nor is it “inconsistent with right reason” because he had been, in fact, “a disciple of the Apostles” and now had become “a teacher of the Gentiles”! The use of the title “Word” throughout, and the high majestic descriptions of Jesus and the Father does have a striking resemblance to John's gospel, and so there's a possibility that this author may have been a disciple of John.

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There's one other thing which I'd like to pull out of today’s reading (although there are many others), and that's the continued description of Christians and their relation to the world in chapter seven. It opens by contrasting the nature and relation of the soul to the body as how Christians are to the world, in that while the flesh has its sinful desires at odds to the soul, the spiritual side pushes against that with love to overcome what is not of God.

I'll leave you with a quote of this portion, but I would highly recommend you give these six chapters a proper read as there is as lot packed into them!

To sum up all in one word--what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures; the world also hates the Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and [loves also] the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them.

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