An Early Description of Christians

An Early Description of Christians

A description of Christians from the Epistle to Diognetus by an author named Mathētēs (“disciple”). The date of the text is not clear, with estimates ranging from the early 2nd century to the late 3rd century.

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe.For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, 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 doctrines. 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 striking method of life:

They are at home in their native land, but they are at home differently, like foreign-residents. As citizens, they share in all things, and yet enduring everything as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as native land, and every native land is foreign.

They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. 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 men, 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 dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; 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.

Mathētēs
Epistle to Diognetus
2nd-3rd Century CE

Greek Text

1. Χριστιανοὶ γὰρ οὔτε γῇ οὔτε φωνῇ οὔτε ἔθεσι διακεκριμένοι τῶν λοιπῶν εἰσιν ἀνθρώπων. 2. οὔτε γάρ που πόλεις ἰδίας κατοικοῦσι οὔτε διαλέκτῳ τινὶ παρηλλαγμένῃ χρῶνται οὔτε βίον παράσημον ἀκοῦσιν. 3. οὐ μὴν ἐπινοίᾳ τινὶ καὶ φροντίδι πολυπραγμόνων ἀνθρώπων μάθημα τοῦτ’ αυτοῖς ἐστιν εὑρημένον, οὐδὲ δόματος ἀνθρωπίνου προεστᾶσιν, ὥσπερ ἔνιοι. 4. κατοικοῦντες δὲ πόλεις ἑλληνίδας τε καὶ βαρβάρους, ὡς ἕκαστος ἐκληρώθη, καὶ τοῖς ἐγχωρίοις ἔθεσιν ἀκολουθοῦντες ἔν τε ἐσθῆτι καὶ διαίτῃ καὶ τῷ λοιπῳ βίῳ θαυμαστὴν καὶ ὁμολογουμένως παράδοξον ἐνδείκνυνται τὴν κατάστασιν τῆς ἑαυτῶν πολιτείας.

5. πατρίδας οἰκοῦσιν ἰδίας, ἀλλ’ ὡς οἰκοῦσιν ἰδίας, ἀλλ’ ὡς πάροικοι· μετέχουσι πάντων ὡς πολῖται, καὶ πάνθ’ ὑπομένουσιν ὡς ξένοι· πᾶσα ξένη πατρίς ἐστιν αυτῶν, καὶ πᾶσα πατρὶς ξένη.

6. γαμοῦσιν ὡς πάντες, τεκνογονοῦσιν· ἀλλ’ οὐ ῥίπτουσι τὰ γεννώμενα. 7. τράπεζαν κοινὴν παρατίθενται, ἀλλ’ οὐ κοίτην. 8. ἐν σαρκὶ τυγχάνουσιν, ἀλλ’ οὐ κατὰ σάρκα ζῶσιν. 9. ἐπὶ γῆς διατρίβουσιν, ἀλλ’ ἐν οὐρανῷ πολιτεύονται. 10. πείθονται τοῖς ὡρισμένοις νόμοις, καὶ τοῖς ἰδίοις βίοις νικῶσι τοὺς νόμους. 11. ἀγαπῶσι πάντας, καὶ ὑπὸ πάντων διώκονται. 12. ἀγνοοῦνται, καὶ τατακρίνονται· θανατοῦνται, καὶ ζωοποιοῦνται. 13. πτωχεύουσι, καὶ πλουτίζουσι πολλούς· πάντων ὑστεροῦνται, καὶ ἐν πᾶσι περισσεύουσιν. 14. ἀτιμοῦνται, καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἀτιμίαις δοξάζονται. βλασφημοῦνται, καὶ δκιαιοῦνται. 15. λοιδοροῦνται, καὶ εὐλογοῦσιν· ὑβρίζονται, καὶ τιμῶσιν. 16. ἀγαθοποιοῦντες ὡς κακοὶ κολάζονται· κολαζόμενοι χαίρουσιν ὡς ζωοποιούμενοι. 17. ὑπὸ Ἰουδαίων ὡς ἀλλόφυλοι πολεμοῦνται καὶ ὑπὸ Ἑλλήνων διώκονται· καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν τῆς ἔχθρας εἰπεῖν οἱ μισοῦντες οὐκ ἔχουσιν.

Μαθητἠς
Επιστολη Προς Διογνητον

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I’m a husband, father, and one of those friends who has a terrible habit of not returning phone calls.  I’m really just trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus, and I enjoy meeting great people along the way and maybe having a chance to spend time talking about things deep and trivial.

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