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Early Christian Letter to a Seeker

Early Christian Letter to a Seeker

Postby Paidion » Tue Nov 14, 2017 1:35 pm

A Letter From a Disciple of the Apostles to Diognetus, an Inquirer About the Ways of Christians

All the letters found in the New Testament, the letter to the Hebrews and the letters of the apostles Peter and Paul, are addressed to Christians. As far as I know, the letter to Diognetus is the only known letter from early Christianity that is addressed to a non-Christian inquirer. The letter has been assigned the date A.D. 130. No one knows just who the writer was, nor the recipient either for that matter. However, the writer does identify himself as “a disciple of the apostles.” How wonderful that this letter is still available to read in our day! The letter has been divided into chapters, and the quote below is Chapter 5 in its entirety.

Christians are distinguished from other people neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a language of their own, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human teachings. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly paradoxical way of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring [literally “cast away fetuses”]. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all people, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if made alive; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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Re: Early Christian Letter to a Seeker

Postby mattrose » Tue Nov 14, 2017 10:15 pm

Early this year I made a condensed version of this letter in my own words...

Since I see, most excellent Diognetus, that you are extremely interested in learning about Christianity and are asking very clear and careful questions about Christians -- specifically: 1) What God do they believe in? 2) How do they worship him? 3) Why did this new race of men begin now and not before? -- I am glad to respond by the empowerment of God. I ask, though, that you will clear your mind of all its prejudices and read what I have to say with an open mind.

First, you wonder why Christians don’t worship all the gods that you worship. Stop and think about your gods! Is not one of them stone, like that which we walk upon, and another bronze, no better than the utensils that have been forged for our use, and another wood, already rotted away, and another silver, which needs a watchmen to guard it lest it be stolen, and another iron, corroded by rust, and another pottery, not a bit more attractive than that made for the most unmentionable use? Couldn’t we, right now, make some more? Do they have souls? Do they have feelings? Do they move on their own? I think, deep down, you know the foolishness of worshipping such gods! And if you don’t, there’s no point in reading any further!

Second, you wonder why Christians don’t worship like the Jews. Well, Jews rightly claim to worship the one God, but insomuch as they offer this worship in the same way as described above, they are altogether mistaken! Do they really think that God is pleased with the blood and fat of animals? Is God really concerned with kinds of food, specific days of the week, physical circumcision, and holidays? They fell in love with the shadow instead of the light. No wonder that Christians keep their distance from such a darkness as a man-made religion. Instead, Christians rely on a God who speaks for Himself and needs nothing.

Third, let’s take a closer look at Christianity. Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. They live where they are born, but only as aliens. They are ‘in the flesh,’ but don’t live ‘according to the flesh.’ They love everyone even though they are persecuted by all. When some are killed, the others seem to become livelier. And those that hate them are unable to give reason for their hostility.

What the soul is to the body, Christians are to the world. The soul is dispersed through all the parts of the body, and Christians are dispersed throughout the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body without being part of the body, and Christians dwell in the world without being part of the world. The flesh hates the soul because it hinders its indulgences, and the world hates the church since it serves as a conscience. The soul loves the flesh even though the flesh hates the soul, and Christians love the world even though the world hates the church. The soul is a prisoner to the body, yet holds the body together. In the same way, Christians are prisoners in the world, yet hold the world together.

Christians, as I said, get ‘Christianity’ from God Himself, not from man. For God revealed Himself to men in Jesus Christ. God sent him in gentleness and meekness. He sent him as God. He sent him as man to men. He sent him as one who saves by persuasion, not compulsion, for compulsion is no attribute of God. He sent him as one loving, not judging, for the Day of Judgment is yet future. No one has either seen or recognized him, but he has revealed himself. And he revealed himself through faith, which is the only means by which it is permitted to see God.

With great patience, God permitted us in the former time to be carried away by undisciplined impulses, as we desired. Once we clearly demonstrated our inability to enter the Kingdom on our own, God enabled us to do so by His power. When our unrighteousness was fulfilled, and its wages made known, then the season arrived during which God had decided to reveal at last his goodness and power. For what else but his righteousness could have covered our sins? In whom was it possible for us, the lawless and ungodly, to be justified, except in the Son of God alone? Oh, the sweet exchange, Oh, the incomprehensible work of God, Oh, the unexpected blessings, that the sinfulness of many should be hidden in one righteous man, while the righteousness of one should justify many sinners.

If this faith is what you long for, then first of all you must acquire this knowledge of the Father: God so loved men that He made the world, made them rulers, gave them reason, permitted them alone to yearn for perfection, sent to them alone His one and only Son, and promised them the Kingdom which He will give to those who love Him.

Once you have accepted this truth, you will be so overwhelmed with joy that you will respond by imitating His goodness. You will no longer fear the transitory death, but the true death, which is reserved for the wicked.
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Re: Early Christian Letter to a Seeker

Postby Paidion » Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:04 pm

EXCELLENT MATT!
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By the way, in chapter 6 (you may have noticed) this writer made the statement, "Violence has no place in the character of God."
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 76 years old. I am now 79.
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