Monday, November 26, 2012

Mathetes - A Christian Primer

In every generation there is the challenge of introducing new people to Christianity. Such was the case with Mathetes in his letter to Diognetus.

Little is know about the exact identities of either the author or the recipient. Mathetes is not the author's real name but simply means "Disciple." Over the years many have speculated as to the author's identity. Initially, this letter was attributed to Justin martyr, later some proposed Clement or Apollos, however, there is little to no evidence supporting any of these conclusions. All we know about the author is that he claimed to have "been a disciple of the Apostles." (Mathetes 11). The writing style of Mathetes is a blend of the apostolic heart of Clement and the learned apologetics of Justin. Some have stylized Mathetes as the first of the Christian apologists, yet personally I find him closer to Clement than Justin.

Similarly, not much is known about the intended recipient of this letter, although, some have ventured to adduce that Diognetus was a tutor of Marcus Aurelius who was emperor of Rome from 161 to 180 CE. Estimated to have been written around 130 CE, this letter would have been to instruct Marcus in the ways of Christianity while he was still a boy.

This letter is a kind of Christian Primer. Intended to give Diognetus an introduction to the Christian faith and practices. As such, it gives us valuable insight into the lives and beliefs of the first and second century Christians. As you read the following posts, remember that their story is our history. The story of the primitive church is the story of our history. Regardless of our denominational affiliations, this story and this history is common to all of us. As you read along I hope you will come to love and cherish this little letter as much as I have.

David Robison

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