What is the Epistle to Diognetus?
The Epistle to Diognetus is an ancient (probably 2nd or 3rd century) letter written by an anonymous Christian to someone in the Roman Empire who has questions about Christianity.
Why is now a good time to study this anonymous Christian letter?
Regardless of what outcome you expected or hoped for in the 2016 Election, you likely noticed the same thing I did along the way: we Christians need to think better about how our faith should drive our interaction in a pluralistic society. Put in biblical language: how should Christians today be in the world but not of the world. The Epistle to Diognetus was written, in part, to answer this very question.
Throughout Diognetus we see glimpses of an early Christian community living within the Roman Empire in a way that is inspiring and worthy of emulation.
(You can read more about how I read this letter with my Senior Theology class at Coram Deo Academy in the days following the election.)
Why study an ancient text (vs. modern)?
It is easy to assume that all modern industries and cultural spheres are operating at the “state of the art.” We often assume that the way we do things now is the best they have ever been done.
In some areas, this is likely true. Automobiles are safer, more reliable, and more efficient than ever before. Space exploration is beginning to bridge the gap between science and science fiction. But is everything at the state of the art? What about education? What about our ability to think well and speak clearly about things that really matter? What about Christian political theology?
We are studying an ancient text because some problems are so big they require the wisdom of those who have come before us.
Why study an extra-biblical text (vs. something from the Bible)?
We can never really exhaust the beauty and relevancy of the Christian Scriptures. So why would we spend a semester studying an ancient Christian epistle and not a New Testament epistle?
New Testament epistles were written to a specific audience for a specific purpose, and we simply do not have a New Testament epistle whose purpose matches that of the Epistle to Diognetus.
The Epistle to Diognetus relies heavily upon and only makes sense in light of the Christian Scriptures. Most weeks we will actually read a passage of Diognetus along side a passage of Scripture.
For Next Week: Read, and annotate, the opening chapter of Diognetus.