In the second century, in the area of Asia Minor, in the town called Sardis, lived a professing Christian leader named Melito. The Catholics of Rome, as well as others (like the Eastern Orthodox), consider Melito to be a saint, though most people probably have never heard of him.
Who was Melito? What did he believe and teach? What impact should his teachings have for today's Christians?
This article is intended to answer those questions.
In an article titled St. Melito, The Catholic Encyclopedia says this about him:
Bishop of Sardis, prominent ecclesiastical writer in the latter half of the second century. Few details of his life are known. A letter of Polycrates of Ephesus to Pope Victor about 194 (Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl.", V, xxiv) states that "Melito the eunuch [this is interpreted "the virgin" by Rufinus in his translation of Eusebius], whose whole walk was in the Holy Spirit", was interred at Sardis, and had been one of the great authorities in the Church of Asia who held the Quartodeciman theory. His name is cited also in the "Labyrinth" of Hippolytus as one of the second-century writers who taught the duality of natures in Jesus. St. Jerome, speaking of the canon of Melito, quotes Tertullian's statement that he was esteemed a prophet by many of the faithful. Of Melito's numerous works almost all have perished, fortunately, Eusebius has preserved the names of the majority and given a few extracts (Hist. Eccl., IV, xiii, xxvi). They are (1) "An Apology for the Christian Faith", appealing to Marcus Aurelius to examine into the accusations against the Christians and to end the persecution (written apparently about 172 or before 177). This is a different work from the Syriac apology attributed to Melito, published in Svriae and English by Cureton from a British Museum manuscript. The latter, a vigorous confutation of idolatry and polytheism addressed to Antoninus Caesar, seems from internal evidence to be of Syrian origin, though some authorities have identified it with Melito's Peri aletheias. (2) Peri tou pascha...written probably in 167-8. A fragment cited by Eusebius refers to a dispute that had broken out in Laodicea regarding Easter, but does not mention the precise matter in controversy.(3) Eklogai, six books of extracts from the Law and the Prophets concerning Christ and the Faith, the passage cited by Eusebius contains a canon of the Old Testament. (4) He kleis, for a long time considered to be preserved in the "Melitonis clavis sanctae scripturae", which is now known to be an original Latin compilation of the Middle Ages. (5) Peri ensomatou theou, on the corporeity of God, of which some Syriac fragments have been preserved...Fourteen additional works are cited by Eusebius.
This citation shows that Melito wrote a lot, lived in Sardis (a city in Asia Minor, not near Rome), and that which is preserved (some of which will be in the article) disagrees with positions taken by the Catholics of Rome. Specifically, Melito took different positions on idols in worship, The Old Testament Canon, and the quartodeciman position (the Catholics in Rome chose Sunday, while Melito of Sardis chose Nisan 14--see article Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome). He also held other positions that would seem to be more supportive of those held by the Churches of God than those held by the Catholics and the Orthodox.
The Eastern Orthodox consider Melito to be a saint:
"St. Melito of Sardis" (The Immortal Dies http://www.orthodox.clara.net/melito.htm, 10/05/05).
St. Melito of Sardis in Lydia" (Serbian Orthodox Cathedral Bulletin, May 8, 2005).
The following is from Protestant writers (though found at a Catholic website),
[A.D. 160-170-177.] Melito may have been the immediate successor of the "angel" (or "apostle") of the church of Sardis, to whom our Great High Priest addressed one of the apocalyptic messages. He was an "Apostolic Father" in point of fact; he very probably knew the blessed Polycarp and his disciple Irenaeus. He is justly revered for the diligence with which he sought out the evidence which, in his day, established the Canon of the Old Testament (Roberts and Donaldson. Melito, the Philosopher, in Ante-Nicene Fathers. Located in REMAINS OF THE SECOND AND THIRD CENTURIES http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0850.htm 9/05/05).
Most of the remainder of this article will be devoted to the actual teachings from the writings of Melito that have survived that most scholars accept as authentic.
Melito Wrote About The Father and Christ
No eye can see Him, nor thought apprehend Him, nor language describe Him; and those who love Him speak of Him thus: `Father, and God of Truth (Melito. A Discourse Which Was in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar. In Ante-Nicene Fathers by Roberts and Donaldson, Volume 8, 1885. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), printing 1999, p. 755).
He also wrote:
For there is no need, to persons of intelligence, to attempt to prove, from the deeds of Christ subsequent to His baptism, that His soul and His body, His human nature like ours, were real, and no phantom of the imagination. For the deeds done by Christ after His baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise, He gave us sure indications of His two natures: of His Deity, by His miracles during the three years that elapsed after His baptism; of His humanity, during the thirty similar periods which preceded His baptism, in which, by reason of His low estate as regards the flesh, He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages (Melito. On the Nature of Christ. In Ante-Nicene Fathers by Roberts and Donaldson, Volume 8, 1885. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), printing 1999, 760).
Melito was not a unitarian. He considered that Jesus was God (though a God who hid some signs of His deity) and the Father was God--this is a binitarian view. It should be noted that Melito never referred to the Holy Spirit as God (see also Holy Spirit below).
He also wrote (FROM THE ORATION ON OUR LORD'S PASSION. Verses VIII, IX),
God has suffered from the right hand of Israel. Head of the Lord--His simple Divinity; because He is the Beginning and Creator of all things.
Melito also wrote (FROM THE DISCOURSE ON THE CROSS. Verses, IV, VI),
God who is from God; the Son who is from the Father; Jesus Christ the King for evermore...He that bore up the earth was borne up on a tree. The Lord was subjected to ignominy with naked body--God put to death, the King of Israel slain!
Melito also wrote, (From the Discourse on Faith),
We have collected together extracts from the Law and the Prophets relating to those things which have Been declared concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, that we may prove to your love that this Being is perfect reason, the Word of God; He who was begotten before the light; He who is Creator together with the Father; He who is the Fashioner of man; He who is all in all; He who among the patriarchs is Patriarch; He who in the law is the Law; among the priests, Chief Priest; among kings, the Ruler; among prophets, the Prophet; among the angels, Archangel; in the voice of the preacher, the Word; among spirits, the Spirit; in the Father, the Son; in God, God; King for ever and ever.
Here is some of what he wrote about the Holy Spirit:
The tongue of the Lord-His Holy Spirit. In the Psalm: "My tongue is a pen" (Melito. From the Oration on Our Lord's Passion, IX. In Ante-Nicene Fathers by Roberts and Donaldson, Volume 8, 1885. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), printing 1999, p. 760).
"...The finger of the Lord-the Holy Spirit, by whose operation the tables of the law in Exodus are said to have been written (Melito. From the Oration on Our Lord's Passion. In Ante-Nicene Fathers by Roberts and Donaldson, Volume 8, 1885. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), printing 1999, p. 761).
Yet, Exodus 34:1 states,
And the LORD said to Moses, "Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke.
This shows that Melito believed that the Holy Spirit was simply the power of God, something that God uses, as opposed to being the third person in any trinity.
Note: these appear to be the only surviving references where Melito mentions the Holy Spirit, hence he in no way appears to have supported a trinitarian concept of God.
Perhaps it should be noted that instead of accepting what Melito taught about the Godhead and Holy Spirit, at least trinitarian scholar (who is also an Anglican priest) wrote:
We must understand that Melito bears witness to the truth as it was understood in his day and that the orthodox faith has been gradually revealed (Stewart-Sykes A. Melito of Sardis On Pascha. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood (NY), 2001, p. 29).
Christians believe that Jude 3 was correct, cannot accept that the "orthodox faith has been gradually revealed". Notice what God inspired Jude to write:
Contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered for the saints...
Since all legitimate scholars recognize that early Christian leaders did not support modern trinitarianism, those interested in the faith that was once for all delivered for the saints, would not accept the idea of that the true faith was gradually revealed.
Which are the Books of the Old Testament?
Melito is the earliest church leader, who we have record of, who actually listed the the Old Testament canon. The following written by Melito is FROM THE BOOK OF EXTRACTS:
Melito to his brother Onesimus, greeting:--
As you have often, prompted by your regard for the word of God, expressed a wish to have some extracts made from the Law and the Prophets concerning the Saviour, and concerning our faith in general, and have desired, moreover, to obtain an accurate account of the Ancient Books, as regards their number and their arrangement, I have striven to the best of my ability to perform this task: well knowing your zeal for the faith, and your eagerness to become acquainted with the Word, and especially because I am assured that, through your yearning after God, you esteem these things beyond all things else, engaged as you are in a struggle for eternal salvation.
I accordingly proceeded to the East, and went to the very spot where the things in question were preached and took place; and, having made myself accurately acquainted with the books of the Old Testament, I have set them down below, and herewith send you the list. Their names are as follows:--
The five books of Moses--Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, the two of Chronicles, the book of the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, also called the Book of Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job, the books of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, of the twelve contained in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras. From these I have made my extracts, dividing them into six books.
These are the books in the Old Testament used by most Jews, Protestants, and those in the COGs (Esther is believed to have been left out for political reasons; though I suspect it was combined with something like Ezra/Esdras--see also The Old Testament Canon). It should be noted that Melito claims this was an accurate list.
An Anglican scholar noted:
This fragment is highly significant as the first Christian Old Testament canon. It is also of interest that Melito traveled to Palestine, and is thus an indication that this is the Old Testament canon known by Palestinian Christians, and perhaps Jews (Stewart-Sykes A. Melito of Sardis On Pascha. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood (NY), 2001, p. 72).
Even The Catholic Encyclopedia notes,
St. Melito, Bishop of Sardis (c. 170), first drew up a list of the canonical books of the Old Testament While maintaining the familiar arrangement of the Septuagint, he says that he verified his catalogue by inquiry among Jews; Jewry by that time had everywhere discarded the Alexandrian books, and Melito's Canon consists exclusively of the protocanonicals minus Esther. It should be noticed, however, that the document to which this catalogue was prefixed is capable of being understood as having an anti-Jewish polemical purpose, in which case Melito's restricted canon is explicable on another ground (Reid G. Canon of the Old Testament. Transcribed by Ernie Stefanik. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Amazingly then, even though The Catholic Encyclopedia calls Melito a saint and admits that he verified his list with the Jews, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles, while understanding why Esther was not listed (Esther talks about Jews avenging themselves on their enemies and that was not something the Romans who take kindly to hearing of), include 10 additional books (or parts of books) in the Old Testament that Melito did not list.
Who is God? What is Truth? It is Not Truth To Worship That Which is Made of Hands
Melito took a strong stand against violating the commandment against idolatry as he wrote:
Who is this God? He who is Himself truth, and His word truth. And what is truth? That which is not fashioned, nor made, nor represented by art: that is, which has never been brought into existence, and is on that account called truth. If, therefore, a man worship that which is made with hands, it is not the truth that he worships, nor yet the word of truth..."There are, however, persons who say: It is for the honour of God that we make the image: in order, that is, that we may worship the God who is concealed from our view. But they are unaware that God is in every country, and in every place, and is never absent, and that there is not anything done and He knoweth it not. Yet thou, despicable man! within whom He is, and without whom He is, and above whom He is, hast nevertheless gone and bought thee wood from the carpenter's, and it is carved and made into an image insulting to God. To this thou offerest sacrifice, and knowest not that the all-seeing eye seeth thee, and that the word of truth reproves thee, and says to thee: How can the unseen God be sculptured? Nay, it is the likeness of thyself that thou makest and worshippest. Because the wood has been sculptured, hast thou not the insight to perceive that it is still wood, or that the stone is still stone? The gold also the workman: taketh according to its weight in the balance. And when thou hast had it made into an image, why dose thou weigh it? Therefore thou art a lover of gold, and not a lover of God...
For there are some men who are unable to rise from their mother earth, and therefore also do they make them gods. from the earth their mother; and they are condemned by the judgments of truth, forasmuch as they apply the name of Him who is unchangeable to those objects which are subject to change, and shrink not from calling those things gods which have been made by the hands of man, and dare to make an image of God whom they have not seen (Melito. Translation by Roberts and Donaldson. A DISCOURSE WHICH WAS IN THE PRESENCE OF ANTONINUS CAESAR, AND HE EXHORTED THE SAID CAESAR TO ACQUAINT HIMSELF WITH GOD, AND SHOWED TO HIM THE WAY OF TRUTH. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/melito.html 9/04/05).
He also wrote,
We are not those who pay homage to stones, that are without sensation; but of the only God, who is before all and over all, and, moreover, we are worshippers of His Christ, who is veritably God the Word existing before all time (From the apology addressed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. Verse III. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/melito.html 9/10/05).
An article of possible interest may be What Did the Early Church Teach About Idols and Icons?
Are Traditions from Fathers Acceptable for Using Images?
Melito also took a strong stand against relying on the teachings of fathers (also called Tradition) above the truth:
Again, there are persons who say: Whatsoever our fathers have bequeathed to us, that we reverence. Therefore, of course, it is, that those whose fathers have bequeathed them poverty strive to become rich! and those whose fathers did not instruct them, desire to be instructed, and to learn that which their fathers knew not! And why, forsooth, do the children of the blind see, and the children of the lame walk? Nay, it is not well for a man to follow his predecessors, if they be those whose course was evil; but rather that we should turn from that path of theirs, lest that which befell our predecessors should bring disaster upon us also. Wherefore, inquire whether thy father's course was good: and, if so, do thou also follow in his steps; but, if thy father's course was very evil, let thine be good, and so let it be with thy children after thee. Be grieved also for thy father because his course is evil, so long as thy grief may avail to help him. But, as for thy children, speak to them thus: There is a God, the Father of all, who never came into being, neither was ever made, and by whose will all things subsist...
And then shall those who have not known God, and those who have made them idols, bemoan themselves, when they shall see those idols of theirs being burnt up, together with themselves, and nothing shall be found to help them (Melito. Translation by Roberts and Donaldson. A DISCOURSE WHICH WAS IN THE PRESENCE OF ANTONINUS CAESAR, AND HE EXHORTED THE SAID CAESAR TO ACQUAINT HIMSELF WITH GOD, AND SHOWED TO HIM THE WAY OF TRUTH. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/melito.html 9/04/05).
Notice that Melito clearly condemned those who made idols and apply the name of God to them. Notice that he also taught that believing they are acceptable because of the traditions of fathers is in error.
Melito Was One of A Long Line of Leaders From the Apostle John Who Kept Nisan 14 Passover
John was the last of the original twelve apostles to die. His final years were spent in Ephesus (as well as Patmos). The Catholic writer Eusebius recorded this passage from Polycrates to Victor (Bishop of Rome) which mentions Melito:
We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in
Asiaalso great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man.' (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 24).
It should be noted that Polycrates is explaining that from the beginning of the New Testament Church and in accordance with the Gospel, that the Apostles John and Philip (saints), Apostle Philip, Polycarp of Smyrna (who the Catholics and Orthodox consider to be a saint), Thraseas (who the Catholics and Orthodox consider to be a saint), Melito (who the Catholics and Orthodox consider to be a saint), and now he, Polycrates, refused to stop observing Passover on the exact day (the 14th of Nisan--the term quartodeciman means 14th) in order to go on Sunday as the Roman bishops tried to insist on.
Melito Explains Some of the Symbolism of Passover
Now comes the mystery of the passover, even as it stands written in the law...The people, therefore, became the model for the church, and the law a parabolic sketch. But the gospel became the explanation of the law and its fulfillment, while the church became the storehouse of truth...What is the passover? Indeed its name is derived from that event–"to celebrate the passover" (to paschein) is derived from "to suffer" (tou pathein). Therefore, learn who the sufferer is and who he is who suffers along with the sufferer. Why indeed was the Lord present upon the earth? In order that having clothed himself with the one who suffers, he might lift him up to the heights of heaven...So indeed also the suffering of the Lord, predicted long in advance by means of types, but seen today, has brought about faith, just because it has taken place as predicted. And yet men have taken it as something completely new. Well, the truth of the matter is the mystery of the Lord is both old and new–old insofar as it involved the type, but new insofar as it concerns grace. And what is more, if you pay close attention to this type you will see the real thing through its fulfillment. Accordingly, if you desire to see the mystery of the Lord, pay close attention to Abel who likewise was put to death, to Isaac who likewise was bound hand and foot, to Joseph who likewise was sold, to Moses who likewise was exposed, to David who likewise was hunted down, to the prophets who likewise suffered because they were the Lord's anointed. Pay close attention also to the one who was sacrificed as a sheep in the land of Egypt, to the one who smote Egypt and who saved Israel by his blood. For it was through the voice of prophecy that the mystery of the Lord was proclaimed. And David said: Why were the nations haughty and the people concerned about nothing? The kings of the earth presented themselves and the princes assembled themselves together against the Lord and against his anointed. And Jeremiah: I am as an innocent lamb being led away to be sacrificed. They plotted evil against me and said: Come! let us throw him a tree for his food, and let us exterminate him from the land of the living, so that his name will never be recalled. And Isaiah: He was led as a sheep to slaughter, and, as a lamb is silent in the presence of the one who shears it, he did not open his mouth. Therefore who will tell his offspring? And indeed there were many other things proclaimed by numerous prophets concerning the mystery of the passover, which is Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen. When this one came from heaven to earth for the sake of the one who suffers, and had clothed himself with that very one through the womb of a virgin, and having come forth as man, he accepted the sufferings of the sufferer through his body which was capable of suffering. And he destroyed those human sufferings by his spirit which was incapable of dying. He killed death which had put man to death. For this one, who was led away as a lamb, and who was sacrificed as a sheep, by himself delivered us from servitude to the world as from the land of Egypt, and released us from bondage to the devil as from the hand of Pharaoh, and sealed our souls by his own spirit and the members of our bodies by his own blood. This is the one who covered death with shame and who plunged the devil into mourning as Moses did Pharaoh. This is the one who smote lawlessness and deprived injustice of its offspring, as Moses deprived Egypt. This is the one who delivered us from slavery into freedom, from darkness into light, from death into life, from tyranny into an eternal kingdom, and who made us a new priesthood, and a special people forever. This one is the passover of our salvation. This is the one who patiently endured many things in many people: This is the one who was murdered in Abel, and bound as a sacrifice in Isaac, and exiled in Jacob, and sold in Joseph, and exposed in Moses, and sacrificed in the lamb, and hunted down in David, and dishonored in the prophets. This is the one who became human in a virgin, who was hanged on the tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from among the dead, and who raised mankind up out of the grave below to the heights of heaven. This is the lamb that was slain. This is the lamb that was silent. This is the one who was born of Mary, that beautiful ewe-lamb. This is the one who was taken from the flock, and was dragged to sacrifice, and was killed in the evening, and was buried at night; the one who was not broken while on the tree, who did not see dissolution while in the earth, who rose up from the dead, and who raised up mankind from the grave below. This one was murdered (Melito. Homily On the Passover. Verses 11, 40,46-47, 58-72. Translation from Kerux: The Journal of Online Theology (http://www.kerux.com/documents/KeruxV4N1A1.asp 09/14/05). Click here for a version of The Homily On the Passover by Melito.
Here is another related statement written by the historians Roberts and Donaldson:
Apollinaris was bishop of Hierapolis on the Maeander, and, Lightfoot thinks, was probably with Melito and Polycrates, known to Polycarp, and influenced by his example and doctrine. (Roberts and Donaldson pp. 772-773).
Catholics and others consider that this Apollinaris was a saint.
Anyway, here is some of what Apollinaris wrote,
There are, then, some who through ignorance raise disputes about these things (though their conduct is pardonable: for ignorance is no subject for blame -- it rather needs further instruction), and say that on the fourteenth day the Lord ate the lamb with the disciples, and that on the great day of the feast of unleavened bread He Himself suffered; and they quote Matthew as speaking in accordance with their view. Wherefore their opinion is contrary to the law, and the Gospels seem to be at variance with them...The fourteenth day, the true Passover of the Lord; the great sacrifice, the Son of God instead of the lamb, who was bound, who bound the strong, and who was judged, though Judge of living and dead, and who was delivered into the hands of sinners to be crucified, who was lifted up on the horns of the unicorn, and who was pierced in His holy side, who poured forth from His side the two purifying elements, water and blood, word and spirit, and who was buried on the day of the passover, the stone being placed upon the tomb (Apollinaris. From the Book Concerning Passover. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby). (A little more information is available in the article titled Apollinaris.)
Notice that the Passover itself in Melito's time (and the same as in Paul's time and in the COGs now) was a held in memorial of Christ's death and suffering, on the 14th of Nisan, and it was not considered as a resurrection holiday like Easter.
Taught that Sin Involved Breaking the Commandments
While like Paul (see 2 Peter 3:15-16), Melito wrote a few statements about the law that some twist or misunderstand, Melito endorsed keeping the commandments. Notice that he wrote that it was a sin to break what the Bible shows is the first commandment:
If, therefore, a man forsake the light, and say that there is another God, it is plain from what he himself says that it is some created thing which he calls God. For, if a man call fire God, it is not God, because it is fire; and, if a man call water God, it is not God, because it is water; and, if he so call this earth on which we tread, or these heavens which are seen by us, or the sun, or the moon, or some one of these stars which run their course without ceasing by Divine command, and do not speed along by their own will, neither are these gods; and, if a man call gold and silver gods, are not these objects things which we use as we please? and, if he so call those pieces of wood which we burn, or those stones which we break, how can these things be gods? For, 1o! they are for the use of man. How can `they' escape the commission of great sin, who in their speech change the great God into those things which, so long as they continue, continue by Divine command? (A Discourse Which Was in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar).
As mentioned before, Melito wrote against breaking the second commandment (idols). Melito was claimed to be one who observed the annual Sabbaths (like the first day of unleavened bread), hence would have kept the fourth commandment. In verse 49 of his Homily on the Passover, he refers to parental honor and dishonor (suggestive of endorsing the fifth commandment).
In fragment V he complains about the wickedness of murder (commandment 6) and "false witness" (commandment 9).
In his Discourse Which Was in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar, Melito also objected to violating the seventh and tenth commandments, specifically adultery and lusting for another's wife.
While that is only eight of the ten commandments, I would suggest that he did not approve of taking God's name in vain (third commandment) nor stealing (eighth commandment)--and he may have specifically wrote against those as well, because in many of his writings we only have fragments that remain today.
Those in Sardis Kept the Sabbath
When Polycarp, who Melito probably knew, was taken and killed, it was reported to and by the Smyrnaeans that this occurred on:
...the day of a great Sabbath (The Martyrdom of Polycarp. Verse 8.1. In The Apostolic Fathers. Edited by Holmes M. p. 233).
Noted scholar Kirsopp Lake states,
Polycarp's martyrdom was on Saturday (Lake, Kirsopp. Comments on the Martyrdom of Polycarp. The Apostolic Fathers (published London 1912), v. II, pp. 309-311).
Although true Christians do not consider the Gospel of Thomas to be scripture, the following passage from it shows that the sabbath was being observed in the 2nd Century, and that the observance of the Sabbath was considered to be of great importance:
...If you do not observe the sabbath as a sabbath you will not see the Father (Patterson S, Meyer M. The "Scholars' Translation" of the Gospel of Thomas. Verse 27. Scholars Version translation of the Gospel of Thomas taken from *The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version.* Copyright 1992, 1994 by Polebridge Press).
This clearly demonstrates that those in Smyrna (a Gentile filled area) were still keeping the Sabbath around 156 A.D. (as do various statements from the heretic Justin). Sabbath-keeping in Asia Minor was publicly still going on to at least 364 A.D. or else the Eastern Church would not have convened a Council in Laodicea to excommunicate any who rested on the seventh day. Hence, before and after Melito's time, the Gentile Christians in his area were keeping the Sabbath. Obviously, Melito was doing that as well.
Perhaps this would be a good time to mention that the paper by Melito that has not been found, but is often incorrectly translated as the Discourse on the Lord's Day, is a mistitled--the actual Greek is περι κυριακῆς τῆς λόγος, which means Concerning the Lord's Word--the Greek term for "day" (ἡμέρᾳς) is missing from the text (see Andrews J.N. History of the Sabbath, p. 217).
The Catholic Encyclopedia notes,
...a large number of Christians of the post-Apostolic era, particularly in Asia Minor, yielded so far to Jewish apocalyptic as to put a literal meaning into these descriptions of St. John's Apocalypse; the result was that millenarianism spread and gained staunch advocates not only among the heretics but among the Catholic Christians as well...Papias of Hierapolis, a disciple of St. John, appeared as an advocate of millenarianism. He claimed to have received his doctrine from contemporaries of the Apostles...A witness for the continued belief in millenarianism in the province of Asia is St. Melito, Bishop of Sardes in the second century (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. Millennium and Millenarianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Yet the Catholic Church also teaches against this. The same article then mentions,
The most powerful adversary of millenarianism was Origen of Alexandria. In view of the Neo-Platonism on which his doctrines were founded and of his spiritual-allegorical method of explaining the Holy Scriptures, he could not side with the millenarians. He combatted them expressly, and, owing to the great influence which his writings exerted on ecclesiastical theology especially in Oriental countries, millenarianism gradually disappeared from the idea of Oriental Christians...St. Augustine was for a time, as he himself testifies (De Civitate Dei, XX, 7), a pronounced champion of millenarianism; but...Augustine finally held to the conviction that there will be no millennium...The Middle Ages were never tainted with millenarianism; it was foreign both to the theology of that period and to the religious ideas of the people.
So essentially it is admitted that the millennial view was held by many early leaders, but that finally it was discarded but what became the Roman Catholic Church. Even though, this was a view held by a variety of Catholic-declared saints, including Melito (see also the article on Millenarianism).
Not only do they no longer teach millenarianism, the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox condemn this belief. Notice the following two accounts:
676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism... (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995).
Though some Ancient Church Fathers of the first three centuries AD had Chiliast leanings, the Orthodox Church formally denounced Chiliasm at the Second Ecumenical Council, in 381 (Orthodox Christian Beliefs and Practices. © 2006-2007 Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. http://www.uocc.ca/en-ca/faith/beliefs/ 08/18/07).
In other words, Orthodox Church scholars know that early Christian leaders, which it calls, "Ancient Church Fathers" taught chiliasm (called millenarianism in Latin), yet it CHANGED that teaching in a church council. More information can be found in the article Did The Early Church Millenarianism?. And Roman Catholic scholars now condemn it as a teaching of Antichrist. Yet, both consider that a leading second century advocate of it, Melito of Sardis, was a faithful saint.
Who is being faithful, those who condemn the millennial view or those that still uphold it (like the genuine Church of God)?
Much of His Writings Apparently Did Not Please Eusebius
One Protestant source noted:
To this is to be added the fact that Melito was a chiliast...Eusebius is the first to give us an idea of the number and variety of his writings, and he does little more than mention the titles, a fact to be explained only by his lack of sympathy with Melito’s views. The time at which Melito lived is indicated with sufficient exactness by the fact that he wrote his Apology during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, but after the death of his brother Lucius, i.e. after 169 (see below, note 21); and that when Polycrates wrote his epistle to Victor of Rome, he had been dead already some years...Of the dates of his episcopacy, and of his predecessors and successors in the see of Sardis, we know nothing.
In addition to the works mentioned in this chapter by Eusebius, who does not pretend to give a full list, we find in Anastasius Sinaita’s Hodegos seu dux viæ c. aceph. fragments from two other works entitled είς τό π€θος and περί σαρκώσεως χριστού (the latter directed against Marcion), which cannot be identified with any mentioned by Eusebius (see Harnack, I. 1, p. 254). (NICENE AND POST-NICENE FATHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. SECOND SERIES TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH WITH PROLEGOMENA AND EXPLANATORY NOTES. VOLUMES I–VII. UNDER THE EDITORIAL SUPERVISION OF PHILIP SCHAFF, D.D., LL.D. AND HENRY WACE, D.D., Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine. Melito and the Circumstances which he records. Schaff, Philip (1819-1893) Print Basis: New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890. Note 1276).
I feel that the lack of coverage was intentional as Eusebius had more writings from Melito than perhaps any other second century writer--therefore the lack of coverage and information clearly was not coincidental.
An interesting item to note about the above is that in Anastasius Sinaita’s Hodegos seu dux viæ c. aceph. there is a reference to a work by Melito directed against Marcion. Other leaders in Asia Minor, like Polycarp of Smyrna, also denounced the heretic Marcion.
If, as the Catholics and Orthodox insist, that Melito was a saint and not a major heretic, then Catholics (and those who follow their practices) should ask themselves:
Why they accept books of the Old Testament that Melito (and others) never accepted?
Why they accept any type of idols, images, or icons?
Why they condemn a literal millennial reign of Christ?
Why they do not observe Passover on the 14th of Nisan?
Why they celebrate Easter on a Sunday as the replacement for the 14th of Nisan Passover?
While most Protestants will agree with Melito for the first three, they probably do not agree with the last three. Thus Protestants should ask themselves why they accepted the position of the Roman Catholics on these subjects, instead of the teachings of Melito?
Those of us in the Church of God have never accepted the beliefs of the Roman Church or its descendants when they differ from the teachings from the Bible. Nor should any who consider themselves to be true Christians (more information can be found in the article The Bible and Tradition).
The teachings of Melito also show us that there existed those in Smyrna, who held vastly different positions than those ultimately held by the Roman Church. Since the Catholic, Orthodox, and many others claim that both Polycarp and Melito were saints, then this designation helps to show that Melito was not a major heretic.
It should also be noted that even The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that there was also a non-Roman group that could trace its teachings to the original apostles,
Regarding the identity of the true church, Tertullian wrote, "The real question is, 'To whom does the Faith belong? Whose are the Scriptures? By whom, through whom, when and to whom has been handed down the discipline by which we are Christians? The answer is plain: Christ sent His apostles, who founded churches in each city, from which the others have borrowed the tradition of the Faith and the seed of doctrine and daily borrow in order to become churches; so that they also are Apostolic in that they are the offspring of the Apostolic churches...Anyhow the heresies are at best novelties, and have no continuity with the teaching of Christ. Perhaps some heretics may claim Apostolic antiquity: we reply: Let them publish the origins of their churches and unroll the catalogue of their bishops till now from the Apostles or from some bishop appointed by the Apostles, as the Smyrnaeans count from Polycarp and John.
This quote from Tertullian is from around 208 A.D., about 30 years after Melito's martyrdom. It should also be noted that Polycrates, as quoted earlier, shows that many in Smyrna, specifically including Melito, and Polycarp, claimed that they followed after the teachings of the Gospel without deviating, as that is what they learned from the Apostles John and Philip.
Melito is one of several early leaders who demonstrate that there is sufficient historical evidence to conclude that there were professing Christians that claimed descent from the apostles and that refused to accept the authority of Rome. And Melito (like Polycarp, Thraseas, Sagaris, Apollinaris, and Papirius) specifically held the doctrines and teachings that are now held by the true Church, the Church of God. Doctrines that were eventually not held by the Catholic, Orthodox, and even Protestant Churches.
The following was written to the Churches at Smyrna and Sardis, (Polycarp and Melito were once the bishops, chief pastors, in those two areas),
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"' (Revelation 2:11;3:6).
Do you have an ear to hear?
More information on the early church can be found in the article, Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome.
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