Monday, October 29, 2007

Second Century Rebel Pilgrims

Lately I have been very intrigued by an ancient document commonly called The Epistle to Diognetus. The author is unknown. Most believe it was written as an early Christian apologetic to a Roman official (perhaps an advisor to the emperor) named Diognetus. Rough dates range from AD 100-150, making it one of the earliest non-canonical Christian letters. My Greek is more than rusty, but I have tried to refresh myself since moving here. I have also leaned into several translations from the last century, but here is a paraphrase that I have costructed. Think of it as "the message" version of chapter 6 of the letter. Let me know any thoughts it spurs in the comment section.

"For Christians are no different from the rest of us. They live where we live, talk like we talk and share our same culture. They do not live in their own cities or speak their own language or engage in extraordinary lifestyles.

Nor do they possess some great product discovered by intelligence or the study of ingenious people. Nor are they masters of some human religious dogma as many others are.

And while they live in our own cities and the cities of our enemies – settling wherever they find themselves – the reality of their own citizenship, so they claim, is a mystery. I must confess that it contradicts all you would expect.

They live in the countries they were born into, but only as travelers on a journey. They share the social responsibilities of the towns they live in, but they also endure the hardships of the aliens there as well. Every foreign country can be there home, but every homeland is foreign to them.

They marry and have children like we do, but they do not abort their babies.
They share their food for meals, but they do not share their spouses for sex.
They live in the flesh, but the do not live for the desires of the flesh.
They exist on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.
They obey our laws, but they go beyond the laws in the way the live.
They love all people, but everyone responds by persecuting them.
They are ignored, but they are condemned.
They are put to death, and yet they are owed life.
They are poor as beggars, yet their generosity makes others rich.
They are the poorest of the poor, yet they have all they need.
They are dishonored, yet they are glorified in their “dishonor.”
They are spoken evil of, and yet they are vindicated.
They are cursed, and yet they bless.
They are insulted, and yet they respect.
When they do good they are punished as evil-doers.
When they are punished they rejoice as if it gives them eternal life.
War is waged against them as if they were foreigners by the Jews.
They are persecuted by the Greeks, and yet all those who hate them cannot tell you why they do.

In a word, what the soul is to the to the body, these strange “Christians” are to the world."


Steve said...

Well done Joe. This is super interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Wayne said...

I don't know. Joe it sounds more like your philosophy as I understood it. It reminds a lot of the "Beatitudes". I have not read any other translations but I have heard of this book.

It would be nice if we all REALLY believed this - huh??

Anonymous said...

It reads like a list of how I WANT to be but am not.