Melito of Sardis was a saint, but most do not accept his teachings and practices

Ruins in Ancient Sardis


Today, the Church of Rome considers to be a memorial day for the Church of God leader, Bishop Melito of Sardis.

Here is some information about him from Wikipedia:

Melito of Sardis (Greek: Μελίτων Σάρδεων Melíton Sárdeon) (died c. 180) was the bishop of Sardis near Smyrna in western Anatolia, and a great authority in Early Christianity: Jerome, speaking of the Old Testament canon established by Melito, quotes Tertullian to the effect that he was esteemed as a prophet by many of the faithful. His feast is celebrated on April 1.(Melito of Sardis, viewed 02/22/2014)

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, 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 9/05/05).

It is interesting that various ones outside of the Church of God would wish to honor Melito, because almost no groups outside of the Church of God abide by the doctrines that he taught.

Melito was a binitarian. 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.

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. 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 Asia also 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 wrote something now called The Homily On the Passover by Melito (there is also a related sermon video also titled Melito’s Homily on the Passover).

While like the Apostle 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.

Various Protestant theologians have written against the need to try to keep the Ten Commandments (see also Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differ from most Protestants).

On the other hand, Protestants do agree with Melito’s de facto canon of the Old Testament (see also The Old Testament Canon). Furthermore, even the Catholic saint and doctor Jerome did, even though the Church of Rome also decided to add other books to their Old Testament (see also The Old Testament Canon).

Millennial Teachings

Melito had millennial teachings.

The late French Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie Danielou noted that Melito taught the millennium (The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Translated by John A. Baker. The Westminister Press, 1964, p. 389). 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. (Gry L. Le millenarisme dans ses origines et son developpement. Alphonse Picard, Paris, 1904, pp. 81. Translated into English by Gisele Gaudet, March 2015.)

The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches:

…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 doctrine. 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. 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 Teach 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.

Melito held many positions that those outside the Church of God do not hold to this day (more can be found in the article Melito of Sardis).

Some items of possibly related interest may include:

Melito of Sardis Who was this 2nd Century Church Leader? What Old Testament did he list? What did he teach that most who call themselves Christian later change?
Melito’s Homily on the Passover This is one of the earliest Christian writings about the Passover. This also includes what Apollinaris wrote on the Passover as well. Here is a related sermon, also titled Melito’s Homily on the Passover.
Should You Observe God’s Holy Days or Demonic Holidays? This is a free pdf booklet explaining what the Bible and history teach about God’s Holy Days and popular holidays.
The Old Testament Canon This article shows from Catholic accepted writings, that the Old Testament used by non-Roman Catholics and non-Orthodox churches is the correct version.
Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning Is binitarianism the correct position? What about unitarianism or trinitarianism?
Jesus is God, But Became Flesh Was Jesus fully human and fully God or what? Here is information in the Spanish language¿Es Jesucristo Dios?
Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity? Or did they have a different view?
Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity? Most act like this is so, but is it? Here is an old, by somewhat related, article in the Spanish language LA DOCTRINA DE LA TRINIDAD.
The Ten Commandments and the Early Church Did Jesus and the Early Church keep the ten commandments? What order were they in? Here are quotes from the Bible and early writings.
Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism? Was the millennium (sometimes called chiliasm) taught by early Christians? Who condemned it? Will Jesus literally reign for 1000 years on the earth? Is this time near? A related sermon is titled The Millennium.
COGwriter Position on Other Churches and Religions What is the fate of those who do not know Christ? What about those who profess Christ outside the Church of God?
Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differ from most Protestants How the real Church of God differs from mainstream/traditional Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a Church of God background.
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions. [Português: Qual é fiel: A igreja católica romana ou a igreja do deus?]
Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God Both groups claim to be the original church, but both groups have differing ways to claim it. Both groups have some amazing similarities and some major differences. Do you know what they are?
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui?
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.

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