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.
The name Melito is a Greek word meaning honey. Hence, most have considered the Melito was a Gentile and not a Jew.
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 Easter 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.
A 19th century book reported the following about him:
MELITO, A.D. 177.
He was Bishop of Sardis. He was born in Asia, and was contemporary with Justin Martyn. He was bishop of one of the apocalyptic churches, and was so eloquent and deeply pious, that Tertullian affirms, "he was by most Christians considered a prophet," and Polycrates says of him, "he was in all things governed by the Holy Ghost." He made extracts from the scriptures respecting the Messianic prophecies, and wrote a treatise on the Apocalypse, and also made out a complete list of the canonical books of the Old Testament, but his works are not now extant. He was a Chiliast. In regard to his views of that period, he probably followed Papias: Jerome and Gennadius both affirming that he was a declared millennarian. And even Neander admits that Polycarp, Papias, Irenaeus, and Melito, "endeavored to maintain the pure and simple apostolic doctrine, and defend it against corruption." The time and manner of his death is unknown, but he lies buried at Sardis, waiting with his "name in the book of life," for the first resurrection, at the coming of our Lord. (Taylor DT. The voice of the church on the coming and kingdom of the Redeemer, or, a history of the doctrine of the reign of Christ on earth, 2nd edition. H.L. Hastings, 1855. p. 66)
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.
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. For this is He who was pilot to Noah; He who was guide to Abraham; He who was bound with Isaac; He who was in exile with Jacob; He who was sold with Joseph; He who was captain of the host with Moses; He who was the divider of the inheritance with Jesus the son of Nun; He who in David and the prophets announced His own sufferings; He who put on a bodily form in the Virgin; He who was born in Bethlehem; He who was wrapped in swaddling-clothes in the manger; He who was seen by the shepherds; He who was glorified by the angels; He who was worshipped by the Magi; He who was pointed out by John; He who gathered together the apostles; He who preached the kingdom; He who cured the lame; He who gave light to the blind; He who raised the dead; He who appeared in the temple; He who was not believed on by the people; He who was betrayed by Judas; He who was apprehended by the priests; He who was condemned by Pilate; He who was pierced in the flesh; He who was hanged on the tree; He who was buried in the earth; He who rose from the place of the dead; He who appeared to the apostles; He who was carried up to heaven; He who is seated at the right hand of the Father; He who is the repose of those that are departed; the recoverer of those that are lost; the light of those that are in darkness; the deliverer of those that are captive; the guide of those that go astray; the asylum of the afflicted; the bridegroom of the Church; the charioteer of the cherubim; the captain of the angels; God who is from God; the Son who is from the Father; Jesus Christ the King for evermore. Amen. (Melito. On Faith. As cited in Ante-Nicene Christian Library: The works of Lactantius, v. 2., together with the Testaments of the twelve patriarchs and fragments of the second and third centuries. Roberts & Donaldson eds. T. and T. Clark, 1871, pp. 127-128)
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!
Note: It was not about a cross, but Melito repeatedly mentioned it was a tree (see also What is the Origin of the Cross as a 'Christian' Symbol?).
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. For this is He who was pilot to Noah; He who was guide to Abraham; He who was bound with Isaac; He who was in exile with Jacob; He who was sold with Joseph; He who was captain of the host with Moses; He who was the divider of the inheritance with Jesus the son of Nun; He who in David and the prophets announced His own sufferings; He who put on a bodily form in the Virgin; He who was born in Bethlehem; He who was wrapped in swaddling-clothes in the manger; He who was seen by the shepherds; He who was glorified by the angels; He who was worshipped by the Magi; He who was pointed out by John; He who gathered together the apostles; He who preached the kingdom; He who cured the lame; He who gave light to the blind; He who raised the dead; He who appeared in the temple; He who was not believed on by the people; He who was betrayed by Judas; He who was apprehended by the priests; He who was condemned by Pilate; He who was pierced in the flesh; He who was hanged on the tree; He who was buried in the earth; He who rose from the place of the dead; He who appeared to the apostles; He who was carried up to heaven; He who is seated at the right hand of the Father; He who is the repose of those that are departed; the recoverer of those that are lost; the light of those that are in darkness; the deliverer of those that are captive; the guide of those that go astray; the asylum of the afflicted; the bridegroom of the Church; the charioteer of the cherubim; the captain of the angels; God who is from God; the Son who is from the Father; Jesus Christ the King for evermore. Amen.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 written version of The Homily On the Passover by Melito.
Here is a link to a related sermon, titled Melito's Homily on the Passover.
Melito of Sardis orginally wrote in Greek:
Melito's paschal homily must be originally Greek: anyone who knows Greek can see that. ( Zuntz G. Melito: Syriac? Vigiliae Christianae Vol. 6, No. 4, Dec., 1952, pp. 193-201)
Although some have thought that perhaps some of his original writings were in Syriac/Aramaic, that has not been shown to be the case. Yet, even if he did sometimes write in Syriac, that was not only the case--it has been established that he wrote in Greek. (More on Greek vs. other languages can be found in the article Was the New Testament Written in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic?).
Although some have claimed that Melito was an anti-semite, even Wikipedia pointed out:
This text blames the Jews for executing Jesus. However, the goal was not to incite anti-Semitic thoughts in Christians but to bring light to what truly happened during the Passion of Jesus Christ. (Melito. Wikipedia, 03/11/19)
The fact that Melito and those in Asia Minor continued with practices and beliefs that many consider to be Jewish, should also help serve to point out that he was not an anti-semitic writer. Despite that, some have wrongly said the opposite (e.g. Focus on Israel, TBN, broadcsat 03/10/19).
Here is what Melito wrote:
71. 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.
72. This one was murdered. And where was he murdered? In the very center of Jerusalem! Why? Because he had healed their lame, and had cleansed their lepers, and had guided their blind with light, and had raised up their dead. For this reason he suffered. Somewhere it has been written in the law and prophets, "They paid me back evil for good, and my soul with barrenness plotting evil against me saying, Let us bind this just man because he is troublesome to us."
73. Why, O Israel did you do this strange injustice? You dishonored the one who had honored you. You held in contempt the one who held you in esteem. You denied the one who publicly acknowledged you. You renounced the one who proclaimed you his own. You killed the one who made you to live. Why did you do this, O Israel?
74. Hast it not been written for your benefit: "Do not shed innocent blood lest you die a terrible death"? Nevertheless, Israel admits, I killed the Lord! Why? Because it was necessary for him to die. You have deceived yourself, O Israel, rationalizing thus about the death of the Lord. (The Homily On the Passover by Melito)
While the Jews were involved in getting Jesus executed, stating that does not mean one is anti-semitic.
Here is statement written by the historians Roberts and Donaldson related to Melito and others:
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.
Before he mentioned the Passover, in his Homily, Melito said:
1. First of all, the Scripture about the Hebrew Exodus has been read and the words of the mystery have been explained as to how the sheep was sacrificed and the people were saved.
This is of liturgical interest as it shows that the Old Testament was being read, and that Melito may not have been the only speaker and that church services included more than one subject. For more on the true Christian liturgy, check out the article: What was the Liturgy of the Early Church?
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.
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 late French Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie Danielou noted that Melito taught the millennium (Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Translated by John A. Baker. The Westminister Press, 1964, p. 389).
Melito was a Chiliast, and believed in a Millennial reign of Christ on Earth. The Catholic saint and doctor Jerome (Comm. on Ezek. 36) and priest Gennadius (De Dogm. Eccl., Ch. 52) both affirm that Melito was a millennarian and as such believed that Christ would reign for 1000 years before the coming of the final judgement. (Melito, Wikipedia, accessed 11/08/16)
Note: There is a book containing more of Jerome's commentary, that is to be out in 2017, that I have pre-ordered and hope to quote directly from after it arrives.
Here is more information about Melito's views:
A few years after Saint Justin’s death, and in the surrounding areas of Ephesus, Melito of Sardis, a well-known bishop and his followers defended millennialism. He undoubtedly borrowed some of his theories from his compatriot, Papias and relied on the Apocalypse. It is interesting to note that Melito knew how to associate with millennialism in all confidence under the Roman Empire; the Empire raised up and grew at the same time as the new religion, in order for him to be considered her defender he (Melito) had to prevail. It was a test to bring to life (introduce) (the) millenarianism while isolating it from the theories on the final destruction of the earthly empires and this before all the other empires under the Roman Empire; theories which until then, were an integral part of that doctrine and to a certain extent served as a starting point: but in itself was a disastrous test which shook the old dogmatic foundation. (Gry L. Le millenarisme dans ses origines et son developpement. Alphonse Picard, Paris, 1904, pp. 81-82. Translated into English by Gisele Gaudet, March 2015.)
The Catholic Encyclopedia states:
...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)?
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:
He began to speak as follows:
“It is not easy,” said Melito, “speedily to bring into the right way the man who has a long time previously been held fast by error. It may, however, be effected: for, when a man turns away ever so little from error, the mention of the truth is acceptable to him. For, just as when the cloud breaks ever so little there comes fair weather, even so, when a man turns toward God, the thick cloud of error which deprived him of true vision is quickly withdrawn from before him. For error, like disease 3549 and sleep, long holds fast those who come under its influence; 3550 but truth uses the word as a goad, and smites the slumberers, and awakens them; and when they are awake they look at the truth, and also understand it: they hear, and distinguish that which is from that which is not. For there are men who call iniquity righteousness: they think, for example, that it is righteousness for a man to err with the many. But I, for my part, affirm that it is not a good excuse for error that a man errs with the many. For, if one man only sin, 3551 his sin is great: how much greater will be the sin when many sin together!
“Now, the sin of which I speak is this: when a man abandons that which really exists, and serves that which does not really exist. There ‘is’ that which really exists, and it is called God. He, I say, really exists, and by His power doth everything subsist. This being is in no sense made, nor did He ever come into being; but He has existed from eternity, and will continue to exist for ever and ever. He changeth not, while everything else changes. No eye 3552 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.’
“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, lo! 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?
“But, notwithstanding this, I say that so long as a man does not hear, and so does not discern or understand that there is a Lord over these creatures, he is not perhaps to be blamed: because no one finds fault with a blind man though he walk ever so badly. For, in the same manner as the blind, so men also, when they were seeking after God, stumbled upon stones and blocks of wood; and such of them as were rich stumbled upon gold and silver, and were prevented by their stumblings from finding that which they were seeking after. But, now that a voice has been heard through all the earth, 3553 declaring that there is a God of truth, and there has been given to every man an eye wherewith to see, those persons are without excuse who are ashamed of incurring the censure of their former companions in error, and yet desire to walk in the right way. For those who are ashamed to be saved must of necessity perish. I therefore counsel them to open their eyes and see: for, lo! light is given abundantly 3554 to us all to see thereby; and if, when light has arisen upon us, p. 752 any one close his eyes so as not to see, into the ditch he must go. 3555 But why is a man ashamed of the censure of those who have been in error along with himself? Rather does it behove him to persuade them to follow in his steps; and, if they should not be persuaded by him, then to disengage himself from their society. 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.
“But I have to remark further, that the Sibyl 3556 also has said concerning them that it is the images of deceased kings that they worship. And this is easy to understand: for, lo! even now they worship and honour the images of those of Caesarean rank 3557 more than their former gods; for from those their former gods both pecuniary tribute and produce accrue to Caesar, as to one who is greater than they. On this account, those who despise them, and so cause Caesar’s revenue to fall short, are put to death. But to the treasury of other kings also it is appointed how much the worshippers in various places shall pay, and how many vesselfuls 3558 of water from the sea they shall supply. Such is the wickedness of the world--of those who worship and fear that which has no sensation. Many of them, too, who are crafty, either for the sake of gain, or for vainglory, or for dominion over the multitude, both themselves worship, and incite those who are destitute of understanding to worship, that which has no sensation.
“I will further write and show, as far as my ability goes, how and for what causes images were made to kings and tyrants, and how they came to be regarded 3559 as gods. The people of Argos made images to Hercules, because he belonged to their city, and was strong, and by his valour slew noxious beasts, and more especially because they were afraid of him. For he was subject to no control, and carried off the wives of many: for his lust was great, like that of Zuradi the Persian, his friend. Again, the people of Acte worshipped Dionysus, 3560 a king, because he had recently 3561 planted the vine in their country. The Egyptians worshipped Joseph the Hebrew, who was called Serapis, because he supplied them with corn during the years of famine. The Athenians worshipped Athene, the daughter of Zeus, king of the island of Crete, because she built the town of Athens, and made Ericthippus her son king there, whom she had by adultery with Hephæstus, a blacksmith, son of a wife of her father. She was, too, always courting the society of Hercules, because he was her brother on her father’s side. For Zeus the king became enamoured of Alcmene, the wife of Electryon, who was from Argos, and committed adultery with her, and she gave birth to Hercules. The people of Phœnicia worshipped Balthi, 3562 queen of Cyprus, because she fell in love with Tamuz, son of Cuthar king of the Phœnicians, and left her own kingdom and came and dwelt in Gebal, a fortress of the Phœnicians, and at the same time made all the Cyprians subject to King Cuthar. Also, before Tamuz she had fallen in love with Ares, and committed adultery with him; and Hephæstus, her husband, caught her, and his jealousy was roused against her, and he came and killed Tamuz in Mount Lebanon, as he was hunting 3563 wild boars; and from that time Balthi remained in Gebal, and she died in the city of Aphiki, 3564 where Tamuz was buried. The Elamites worshipped Nuh, daughter of the king of Elam: when the enemy had carried her captive, her father made for her an image and a temple in Shushan, a royal residence which is in Elam. The Syrians worshipped Athi, a Hadibite, who sent the daughter of Belat, a person skilled in medicine, and she healed Simi, the daughter of Hadad king of Syria; and some time afterwards, when Hadad himself had the leprosy upon him, Athi entreated Elisha the Hebrew, and he came and healed him of his leprosy. The people of Mesopotamia also worshipped Cuthbi, a Hebrew woman, because she delivered Bakru, the paternal king 3565 of Edessa, from his enemies. With respect to Nebo, who is worshipped in Mabug, why should I write to you? For, lo! all the priests who are in Mabug know that it is the image of Orpheus, a Thracian p. 753 Magus. Hadran, again, is the image of Zaradusht, a Persian Magus. For both of these Magi practised magic at a well which was in a wood in Mabug, in which was an unclean spirit, and it assaulted and disputed the passage of every one who passed by in all that country in which the town of Mabug is situated; and these Magi, in accordance with what was a mystery in their Magian system, bade Simi, the daughter of Hadad, to draw water from the sea and pour it into the well, so that the spirit should not come up and commit assault. In like manner, the rest of mankind made images to their kings and worshipped them; of which matter I will not write further.
“But thou, a person of liberal mind, and familiar with the truth, if thou wilt properly consider these matters, commune with thine own self; 3566 and, though they should clothe thee in the garb of a woman, remember that thou art a man. Believe in Him who is in reality God, and to Him lay open thy mind, and to Him commit thy soul, and He is able to give thee immortal life for ever, for everything is possible to Him; 3567 and let all other things be esteemed by thee just as they are--images as images, and sculptures as sculptures; and let not that which is only made be put by thee in the place of Him who is not made, but let Him, the ever-living God, be constantly present to thy mind. 3568 For thy mind itself is His likeness: for it too is invisible and impalpable, 3569 and not to be represented by any form, yet by its will is the whole bodily frame moved. Know, therefore, that, if thou constantly serve Him who is immoveable, even He exists for ever, so thou also, when thou shalt have put off this body, which is visible and corruptible, shall stand before Him for ever, endowed with life and knowledge, and thy works shall be to thee wealth inexhaustible and possessions unfailing. And know that the chief of thy good works is this: that thou know God, and serve Him. Know, too, that He asketh not anything of thee: He needeth not anything.
“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. 3570 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.
“I have very much to say on this subject; but I feel ashamed for those who do not understand that they are superior to the work of their own hands, nor perceive how they give gold to the artists that they may make for them gods, and give them silver for their adornment and honour, and move their riches about from place to place, and then worship them. And what infamy can be greater than this, that a man should worship his riches, and forsake Him who bestowed those riches upon him? and that he should revile man, yet worship the image of man; and slay a beast, yet worship the likeness of a beast? This also is evident, that it is the workmanship of their fellowmen that they worship: for they do not worship the treasures 3571 while they are laid by in the bag, but when the artists have fashioned images out of them they worship them; neither do they worship the gold or the silver considered as property, 3572 but when the gravers have sculptured them then they worship them. Senseless man! what addition has been made to thy gold, that now thou worshippest it? If it is because it has been made to resemble a winged animal, why dost thou not worship the winged animal itself? And if because it has been made like a beast of prey, lo! the beast of prey itself is before thee. And if it is the workmanship itself that pleases thee, let the workmanship of God please thee, who made all things, and in His own likeness made the workmen, who strive to do like Him, but resemble Him not.
“But perhaps thou wilt say: How is it that God did not so make me that I should serve Him, and not images? In speaking thus, thou art seeking to become an idle instrument, and not a living man. For God made thee as perfect as it seemed good to Him. He has given thee a mind endowed with freedom; He has set p. 754 before thee objects in great number, that thou on thy part mayest distinguish the nature of each thing and choose for thyself that which is good; He has set before thee the heavens, and placed in them the stars; He has set before thee the sun and the moon, and they too every day run their course therein; He has set before thee the multitude of waters, and restrained them by His word; He has set before thee the wide earth, which remains at rest, and continues before thee without variation: 3573 yet, lest thou shouldst suppose that of its own nature it so continues, He makes it also to quake when He pleaseth; He has set before thee the clouds, which by His command bring water from above and satisfy the earth--that from hence thou mayest understand that He who puts these things in motion is superior to them all, and mayest accept thankfully the goodness of Him who has given thee a mind whereby to distinguish these things from one another.
“Wherefore I counsel thee to know thyself, and to know God. For understand how that there is within thee that which is called the soul--by it the eye seeth, by it the ear heareth, by it the mouth speaketh; and how it makes use of the whole body; and how, whenever He pleaseth to remove the soul from the body, this falleth to decay and perisheth. From this, therefore, which exists within thyself and is invisible, understand how God also moveth the whole by His power, like the body; and that, whenever it pleases Him to withdraw His power, the whole world also, like the body, will fall to decay and perish.
“But why this world was made, and why it passes away, and why the body exists, and why it falls to decay, and why it continues, thou canst not know until thou hast raised thy head from this sleep in which thou art sunk, and hast opened thine eyes and seen that God is One, the Lord of all, and hast come to serve Him with all thy heart. Then will He grant thee to know His will: for every one that is severed from the knowledge of the living God is dead and buried even while in his body. Therefore is it that thou dost wallow on the ground before demons and shadows, and askest vain petitions from that which has not anything to give. But thou, stand thou up from among those who are lying on the earth and caressing stones, and giving their substance as food for the fire, and offering their raiment to idols, and, while themselves possessed of senses, are bent on serving that which has no sensation; and offer thou for thy imperishable soul petitions for that which decayeth not, to God who suffers no decay--and thy freedom will be at once apparent; and be thou careful of it, 3574 and give thanks to God who made thee, and gave thee the mind of the free, that thou mightest shape thy conduct even as thou wilt. He hath set before thee all these things, and showeth thee that, if thou follow after evil, thou shalt be condemned for thy evil deeds; but that, if after goodness, thou shalt receive from Him abundant good, 3575 together with immortal life for ever.
“There is, therefore, nothing to hinder thee from changing thy evil manner of life, because thou art a free man; or from seeking and finding out who is the Lord of all; or from serving Him with all thy heart: because with Him there is no reluctance to give the knowledge of Himself to those that seek it, according to the measure of their capacity to know Him.
“Let it be thy first care not to deceive thyself. For, if thou sayest of that which is not God: This is God, thou deceivest thyself, and sinnest before the God of truth. Thou fool! is that God which is bought and sold? Is that God which is in want? Is that God which must be watched over? How buyest thou him as a slave, and servest him as a master? How askest thou of him, as of one that is rich, to give to thee, and thyself givest to him as to one that is poor? How dost thou expect of him that he will make thee victorious in battle? for, lo! when thy enemies have conquered thee, they strip him likewise.
“Perhaps one who is a king may say: I cannot behave myself aright, because I am a king; it becomes me to do the will of the many. He who speaks thus really deserves to be laughed at: for why should not the king himself lead the way 3576 to all good things, and persuade the people under his rule to behave with purity, and to know God in truth, and in his own person set before them the patterns of all things excellent--since thus it becomes him to do? For it is a shameful thing that a king, however badly he may conduct himself, should yet judge and condemn those who do amiss.
“My opinion is this: that in ‘this’ way a kingdom may be governed in peace--when the sovereign is acquainted with the God of truth, and is withheld by fear of Him from doing wrong 3577 to those who are his subjects, and judges everything with equity, as one who knows that he himself also will be judged before God; while, at the same time, those who are under his rule 3578 are withheld by the fear of God from doing wrong to their sovereign, and are restrained by the same fear from doing wrong to one another. By this knowledge of God and fear of Him all evil may be removed from the realm. For, if the sovereign abstain from doing wrong to those who are under his rule, and they abstain from doing wrong to him and to each other, it is evident that the whole country will dwell in peace. Many blessings, too, will be enjoyed there, because amongst them all the name of God will be glorified. For what blessing is greater than this, that a sovereign should deliver the people that are under his rule from error, and by this good deed render himself pleasing to God? For from error arise all those evils from which kingdoms suffer; but the greatest of all errors is this: when a man is ignorant of God, and in God’s stead worships that which is not God.
“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. 3579 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 3580 taketh according to its weight in the balance. And when thou hast had it made 3581 into an image, why dost thou weigh it? Therefore thou art a lover of gold, and not a lover of God. And art thou not ashamed, perchance it be deficient, to demand of the maker of it why he has stolen some of it? Though thou hast eyes, dose thou not see? And though thou hast intelligence, 3582 dose thou not understand? Why dost thou wallow on the ground, and offer supplication to things which are without sense? Fear Him who shaketh the earth, and maketh the heavens to revolve, and smiteth the sea, and removeth the mountain from its place--Him who can make Himself like a fire, and consume all things; and, if thou be not able to clear thyself of guilt, yet add not to thy sins; and, if thou be not able to know God, yet doubt not 3583 that He exists.
“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. 3584 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. He also made the luminaries, that His works may see one another; and He conceals Himself in His power from all His works: for it is not permitted to any being subject to change to see Him who changes not. But such as are mindful of His words, and are admitted into that covenant which is unchangeable, ‘they’ see God--so far as it is possible for them to see Him. These also will have power to escape destruction, when the flood of fire comes upon all the world. For there was once a flood and a wind, 3585 and the great 3586 men were swept away by a violent blast from the north, but the just were left, for a demonstration of the truth. Again, at another time there was a flood of water, and all men and animals perished in the multitude of waters, but the just were preserved in an ark of wood by the command of God. So also will it be at the last time: there shall be a flood of fire, and the earth shall be burnt up, together with its mountains; and mankind shall be burnt up, along with the idols which they have made, and the carved images which they have worshipped; and the sea shall be burnt up, together with its islands; but the just shall be preserved from wrath, like as were their fellows of the ark from the waters of the deluge. 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.
“When thou, Antoninus 3587 Caesar, shall become acquainted with these things, and thy children also with thee, then wilt thou bequeath to them an inheritance for ever which fadeth not away, and thou wilt deliver thy soul, and the souls of thy children also, from that which shall come upon the whole earth in the judgment of truth and of righteousness. For, according as thou hast acknowledged Him here, so will He acknowledge thee there; and, if thou account Him here superfluous, He will not account thee one of those who have known Him and confessed Him.
“These may suffice thy Majesty; and, if they be too many, yet deign to accept them.” 3588
Here endeth Melito.
Melito wrote a lot, but we do not have a lot of what he wrote.
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 (in English On the Incarnation). Other leaders in Asia Minor, like Polycarp of Smyrna, also denounced the heretic Marcion.
The Catholic saint and doctor of that church, Jerome reported the following:
Melito of Asia, bishop of Sardis, addressed a book to the emperor Marcus Antoninus Verus, a disciple of Fronto the orator, in behalf of the Christian doctrine. He wrote other things also, among which are the following: On the passover, two books, one book On the lives of the prophets, one book On the church, one book On the Lord's day, one book On faith, one book On the psalms (?) one On the senses, one On the soul and body, one On baptism, one On truth, one On the generation of Christ, On His prophecy one On hospitality and another which is called the Key-- one On the devil, one On the Apocalypse of John, one On the corporeality of God, and six books of Eclogues. Of his fine oratorical genius, Tertullian, in the seven books which he wrote against the church on behalf of Montanus, satirically says that he was considered a prophet by many of us. (Jerome. De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men), Chapter 24. Translated by Ernest Cushing Richardson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2708.htm>.)
(As far as prophets go, check out the article How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God.)
The above is similar to other information about Melito and confirms that a lot of what he wrote was NOT made public in the fourth and fifth centuries--presumably it was suppressed and apparently later destroyed or otherwise lost. I would also add that 'On the Lord's Day' would tend more literally to have been 'Of the Lord's'--the term 'day' is not in the text (the Latin that Jerome wrote was 'de Die Dominica,' which translates into Englush as 'of the Lord's'). This writing and the one on Revelation are items I truly wish we had Melito's writings on.
in 2007, I made an attempt to translate the Greek from H. Paulsen Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1.5. Und Die, commonly referred to as Melito's On the Prophets.
Presuming Melito wrote it, here is a translation:
You give the gift of prophecy through your spirit in your way ...
And you slay men with illness. Therefore your spirit is most holy.
The Lord's counsel is food, in this way opposing until we have the divine spirit.
For the prophecies of the spirit speak, searching they bring forth your majesty.
You anoint the body, providing the tools, you variously anoint humanity with your festivals.
For what then is fit to be understood in the temple?
(Melito, On the Prophets. Translated by Bob Thiel from the Greek from the H. Paulsen Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1.5. Und Die)
So, Melito sees God using prophecy HIS (God's) way (see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God) and that Christians should keep God's Holy Days (for more on that, see Should You Observe God's Holy Days or Demonic Holidays?).
Since Melito was considered as a prophet, he may have written that first line to remind his critics and supporters that God decides how to give the gift of prophecy, not humans.
The old Worldwide Church of God taught that Melito was one "of the true Christians observing Passover on the 14th of Nisan, first month of the Sacred Calendar" (Armstrong HW. The Plain Truth About Easter. WCG booklet, 1973).
It also endorsed his anti-idol position in its literature (Graunke DL. Is the Second Commandment Obsolete? Good News, February 1976).
If, as the Catholics and Orthodox insist, that Melito was a saint and not a major heretic (and even Jerome said Tetullian indicated that many had accepted Melito as a prophet), 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 often will accept traditions that are in conflict with scripture?
Why they do not observe Passover on the 14th of Nisan like the Gentile Melito did?
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 or four, 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 nor 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.
Bishop Melito of Sardis was a Christian saint and Church of God leader. 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 truest Church, the Continuing 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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