Since I see, most excellent Diognetus, that thou art exceedingly
anxious to understand the religion of the Christians, and that thy
enquiries respecting them are distinctly and carefully made, as to what
God they trust and how they worship Him, that they all disregard the
world and despise death, and take no account of those who are regarded
as gods by the Greeks, neither observe the superstition of the Jews,
and as to the nature of the affection which they entertain one to
another, and of this new development or interest, which has entered
into men's lives now and not before: I gladly welcome this zeal in
thee, and I ask of God, Who supplieth both the speaking and the hearing
to us, that it may be granted to myself to speak in such a way that
thou mayest be made better by the hearing, and to thee that thou mayest
so listen that I the speaker may not be disappointed. 

   Come then, clear thyself of all the prepossessions which occupy thy
mind, and throw off the habit which leadeth thee astray, and become a
new man, as it were, from the beginning, as one who would listen to a
new story, even as thou thyself didst confess. See not only with thine
eyes, but with thine intellect also, of what substance or of what form
they chance to be whom ye call and regard as gods. Is not one of them
stone, like that which we tread under foot, and another bronze, no
better than the vessels which are forged for our use, and another wood,
which has already become rotten, and another silver, which needs a man
to guard it lest it be stolen, and another iron, which is corroded with
rust, and another earthenware, not a whit more comely than that which
is supplied for the most dishonorable service? Are not all these of
perishable matter? Are they not forged by iron and fire? Did not the
sculptor make one, and the brass-founder another, and the silversmith
another, and the potter another? Before they were molded into this
shape by the crafts of these several artificers, was it not possible
for each one of them to have been changed in form and made to resemble
these several utensils? Might not the vessels which are now made out of
the same material, if they met with the same artificers, be made like
unto such as these? Could not these things which are now worshipped by
you, by human hands again be made vessels like the rest? Are not they
all deaf and blind, are they not soul-less, senseless, motionless? Do
they not all rot and decay? These things ye call gods, to these ye are
slaves, these ye worship; and ye end by becoming altogether like unto
them. Therefore ye hate the Christians, because they do not consider
these to be gods. For do not ye yourselves, who now regard and worship
them, much more despise them? Do ye not much rather mock and insult
them, worshipping those that are of stone and earthenware unguarded,
but shutting up those that are of silver and gold by night, and setting
guards over them by day, to prevent their being stolen? And as for the
honors which ye think to offer to them, if they are sensible of them,
ye rather punish them thereby, whereas, if they are insensible, ye
reproach them by propitiating them with the blood and fat of victims.
Let one of yourselves undergo this treatment, let him submit to these
things being done to him. Nay, not so much as a single individual will
willingly submit to such punishment, for he has sensibility and reason;
but a stone submits, because it is insensible Therefore ye convict his
sensibility. Well, I could say much besides concerning the Christians
not being enslaved to such gods as these; but if any one should think
what has been said insufficient, I hold it superfluous to say more.

   In the next place, I fancy that thou art chiefly anxious to hear
about their not practicing their religion in the same way as the Jews.
The Jews then, so far as they abstain from the mode of worship
described above, do well in claiming to reverence one God of the
universe and to regard Him as Master; but so far as they offer Him this
worship in methods similar to those already mentioned, they are
altogether at fault. For whereas the Greeks, by offering these things
to senseless and deaf images, make an exhibition of stupidity, the Jews
considering that they are presenting them to God, as if He were in need
of them, ought in all reason to count it folly and not religious
worship. For He that made the heaven and the earth and all things that
are therein, and furnisheth us all with what we need, cannot Himself
need any of these things which He Himself supplieth to them that
imagine they are giving them to Him. But those who think to perform
sacrifices to Him with blood and fat and whole burnt offerings, and to
honor Him with such honors, seem to me in no way different from those
who show the same respect towards deaf images; for the one class think
fit to make offerings to things unable to participate in the honor, the
other class to One Who is in need of nothing. 

   But again their scruples concerning meats, and their superstition
relating to the Sabbath and the vanity of their circumcision and the
dissimulation of their fasting and new moons, I do [not] suppose you
need to learn from me, are ridiculous and unworthy of any
consideration. For of the things created by God for the use of man to
receive some as created well, but to decline others as useless and
superfluous, is not this impious? And again to lie against God, as if
He forbad us to do any good thing on the Sabbath day, is not this
profane? Again, to vaunt the mutilation of the flesh as a token of
election as though for this reason they were particularly beloved by
God, is not this ridiculous? And to watch the stars and the moon and to
keep the observance of months and of days, and to distinguish the
arrangements of God and the changes of the seasons according to their
own impulses, making some into festivals and others into times of
mourning, who would regard this as an exhibition of godliness and not
much more of folly? That the Christians are right therefore in holding
aloof from the common silliness and error of the Jews and from their
excessive fussiness and pride, I consider that thou hast been
sufficiently instructed; but as regards the mystery of their own
religion, expect not that thou canst be instructed by man. 

   For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind either
in locality or in speech or in customs. For they dwell not somewhere in
cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor
practice an extraordinary kind of life. Nor again do they possess any
invention discovered by any intelligence or study of ingenious men, nor
are they masters of any human dogma as some are. But while they dwell
in cities of Greeks and barbarians as the lot of each is cast, and
follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements
of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set
forth, is marvelous, and confessedly contradicts expectation. They
dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their
share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as
strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every
fatherland is foreign. They marry like all other men and they beget
children; but they do not cast away their offspring. They have their
meals in common, but not their wives. They find themselves in the
flesh, and yet they live not after the flesh. Their existence is on
earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established
laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all men,
and they are persecuted by all. They are ignored, and yet they are
condemned. They are put to death, and yet they are endued with life.
They are in beggary, and yet they make many rich. They are in want of
all things, and yet they abound in all things. They are dishonored, and
yet they are glorified in their dishonor. They are evil spoken of, and
yet they are vindicated. They are reviled, and they bless; they are
insulted, and they respect Doing good they are punished as evil-doers;
being punished they rejoice, as if they were thereby quickened by life.
War is waged against them as aliens by the Jews, and persecution is
carried on against them by the Greeks, and yet those that hate them
cannot tell the reason of their hostility. 

   In a word, what the soul is in a body, this the Christians are in
the world. The soul is spread through all the members of the body, and
Christians through the divers cities of the world. The soul hath its
abode in the body, and yet it is not of the body. So Christians have
their abode in the world, and yet they are not of the world. The soul
which is invisible is guarded in the body which is visible: so
Christians are recognized as being in the world, and yet their religion
remaineth invisible. The flesh hateth the soul and wageth war with it,
though it receiveth no wrong, because it is forbidden to indulge in
pleasures; so the world hateth Christians, though it receiveth no wrong
from them, because they set themselves against its pleasures. The soul
loveth the flesh which hateth it, and the members: so Christians love
those that hate them. The soul is enclosed in the body, and yet itself
holdeth the body together; so Christians are kept in the world as in a
prison-house, and yet they themselves hold the world together. The soul
though itself immortal dwelleth in a mortal tabernacle- so Christians
sojourn amidst perishable things, while they look for the
imperishability which is in the heavens. The soul when hardly treated
in the matter of meats and drinks is improved; and so Christians when
punished increase more and more daily. So great is the office for which
God hath appointed them, and which it is not lawful for them to

   For it is no earthly discovery, as I said, which was committed to
them, neither do they care to guard so carefully any mortal invention,
nor have they entrusted to them the dispensation of human mysteries.
But truly the Almighty Creator of the Universe, the Invisible God
Himself from heaven planted among men the truth and the holy teaching
which surpasseth the wit of man, and fixed it firmly in their hearts,
not as any man might imagine, by sending (to mankind) a subaltern, or
angel, or ruler, or one of those that direct the affairs of earth, or
one of those who have been entrusted with the dispensations in heaven,
but the very Artificer and Creator of the Universe Himself, by Whom He
made the heavens, by Whom He enclosed the sea in its proper bounds,
Whose mysteries all the elements faithfully observe, from Whom [the
sun] hath received even the measure of the courses of the day to keep
them, Whom the moon obeys as He bids her shine by night, Whom the stars
obey as they follow the course of the moon, by Whom all things are
ordered and bounded and placed in subjection, the heavens and the
things that are in the heavens, the earth and the things that are in
the earth, the sea and the things that are in the sea, fire, air,
abyss, the things that are in the heights, the things that are in the
depths, the things that are between the two. Him He sent unto them. Was
He sent, think you, as any man might suppose, to establish a
sovereignty, to inspire fear and terror? Not so. But in gentleness
[and] meekness has He sent Him, as a king might send his son who is a
king. He sent Him, as sending God; He sent Him, as [a man] unto men; He
sent Him, as Savior, as using persuasion, not force: for force is no
attribute of God. He sent Him, as summoning, not as persecuting; He
sent Him, as loving, not as judging. For He will send Him in judgment,
and who shall endure His presence? ....[Dost thou not see] them thrown
to wild beasts that so they may deny the Lord, and yet not overcome?
Dost thou not see that the more of them are punished, just so many
others abound? These look not like the works of a man; they are the
power of God; they are proofs of His presence. 

   For what man at all had any knowledge what God was, before He came?
Or dost thou accept the empty and nonsensical statements of those
pretentious philosophers: of whom some said that God was fire (they
call that God, where-unto they themselves shall go), and others water,
and others some other of the elements which were created by God? And
yet if any of these statements is worthy of acceptance, any one other
created thing might just as well be made out to be God. Nay, all this
is the quackery and deceit of the magicians; and no man has either seen
or recognized Him, but He revealed Himself. And He revealed (Himself)
by faith, whereby alone it is given to see God. For God, the Master and
Creator of the Universe, Who made all things and arranged them in
order, was found to be not only friendly to men, but also
long-suffering. And such indeed He was always, and is, and will be,
kindly and good and dispassionate and true, and He alone is good. And
having conceived a great and unutterable scheme He communicated it to
His Son alone. For so long as He kept and guarded His wise design as a
mystery, He seemed to neglect us and to be careless about us. But when
He revealed it through His beloved Son, and manifested the purpose
which He had prepared from the beginning, He gave us all these gifts at
once, participation in His benefits, and sight and understanding of
(mysteries) which none of us ever would have expected. 

   Having thus planned everything already in His mind with His Son, He
permitted us during the former time to be borne along by disorderly
impulses as we desired, led astray by pleasures and lusts, not at all
because He took delight in our sins, but because He bore with us, not
because He approved of the past season of iniquity, but because He was
creating the present season of righteousness, that, being convicted in
the past time by our own deeds as unworthy of life, we might now be
made deserving by the goodness of God, and having made clear our
inability to enter into the kingdom of God of ourselves, might be
enabled by the ability of God. And when our iniquity had been fully
accomplished, and it had been made perfectly manifest that punishment
and death were expected as its recompense, and the season came which
God had ordained, when henceforth He should manifest His goodness and
power (O the exceeding great kindness and love of God), He hated us
not, neither rejected us, nor bore us malice, but was long-suffering
and patient, and in pity for us took upon Himself our sins, and Himself
parted with His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy for the lawless,
the guileless for the evil, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible
for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. For what else but His
righteousness would have covered our sins? In whom was it possible for
us lawless and ungodly men to have been justified, save only in the Son
of God? O the sweet exchange, O the inscrutable creation, O the
unexpected benefits; that the iniquity of many should be concealed in
One Righteous Man, and the righteousness of One should justify many
that are iniquitous! Having then in the former time demonstrated the
inability of our nature to obtain life, and having now revealed a
Savior able to save even creatures which have no ability, He willed
that for both reasons we should believe in His goodness and should
regard Him as nurse, father, teacher, counselor, physician, mind,
light, honor, glory, strength and life. 

   This faith if thou also desirest, apprehend first full knowledge of
the Father. For God loved for whose sake He made the world, to whom He
subjected all things that are in the earth, to whom He gave reason and
mind, whom alone He permitted to look up to heaven, whom He created
after His own image, to whom He sent His only begotten Son, to whom He
promised the kingdom which is in heaven, and will give it to those that
have loved Him. And when thou hast attained to this full knowledge,
with what joy thinkest thou that thou wilt be filled, or how wilt thou
love Him that so loved thee before? And loving Him thou wilt be an
imitator of His goodness. And marvel not that a man can be an imitator
of God. He can, if God willeth it. For happiness consisteth not in
lordship over one's neighbors, nor in desiring to have more than weaker
men, nor in possessing wealth and using force to inferiors; neither can
any one imitate God in these matters; nay, these lie outside His
greatness. But whosoever taketh upon himself the burden of his
neighbor, whosoever desireth to benefit one that is worse off in that
in which he himself is superior, whosoever by supplying to those that
are in want possessions which he received from God becomes a God to
those who receive them from him, he is an imitator of God. Then, though
thou art placed on earth, thou shalt behold that God liveth in heaven;
then shalt thou begin to declare the mysteries of God; then shalt thou
both love and admire those that are punished because they will not deny
God; then shalt thou condemn the deceit and error of the world; when
thou shalt perceive the true life which is in heaven, when thou shalt
despise the apparent death which is here on earth, when thou shalt fear
the real death, which is reserved for those that shall be condemned to
the eternal fire that shall punish those delivered over to it unto the
end. Then shalt thou admire those who endure for righteousness' sake
the fire that is for a season, and shalt count them blessed when thou
perceivest that fire... * * * * * 

   Mine are no strange discourses nor perverse questionings, but having
been a disciple of Apostles I come forward as a teacher of the
Gentiles, ministering worthily to them, as they present themselves
disciples of the truth, the lessons which have been handed down. For
who that has been rightly taught and has entered into friendship with
the Word does not seek to learn distinctly the lessons revealed openly
by the Word to the disciples; to whom the Word appeared and declared
them, speaking plainly, not perceived by the unbelieving, but relating
them to disciples who being reckoned faithful by Him were taught the
mysteries of the Father? For which cause He sent forth the Word, that
He might appear unto the world, Who being dishonored by the people, and
preached by the Apostles, was believed in by the Gentiles. This Word,
Who was from the beginning, Who appeared as new and yet was proved to
be old, and is engendered always young in the hearts of saints, He, I
say, Who is eternal, Who today was accounted a Son, through Whom the
Church is enriched and grace is unfolded and multiplied among the
saints, grace which confers understanding, which reveals mysteries,
which announces seasons, which rejoices over the faithful, which is
bestowed upon those who seek her, even those by whom the pledges of
faith are not broken, nor the boundaries of the fathers overstepped.
Whereupon the fear of the law is sung, and the grace of the prophets is
recognized, and the faith of the gospels is established, and the
tradition of the apostles is preserved, and the joy of the Church
exults. If thou grieve not this grace, thou shalt understand the
discourses which the Word holds by the mouth of those whom He desires
when He wishes. For in all things, that by the will of the commanding
Word we were moved to utter with much pains, we become sharers with
you, through love of the things revealed unto us. 

   Confronted with these truths and listening to them with attention,
ye shall know how much God bestoweth on those that love (Him) rightly,
who become a Paradise of delight, a tree bearing all manner of fruits
and flourishing, growing up in themselves and adorned with various
fruits. For in this garden a tree of knowledge and a tree of life hath
been planted; yet the tree of knowledge does not kill, but disobedience
kills; for the scriptures state clearly how God from the beginning
planted a tree [of knowledge and a tree] of life in the midst of
Paradise, revealing life through knowledge; and because our first
parents used it not genuinely they were made naked by the deceit of the
serpent. For neither is there life without knowledge, nor sound
knowledge without true life; therefore the one (tree) is planted near
the other. Discerning the force of this and blaming the knowledge which
is exercised apart from the truth of the injunction which leads to
life, the apostle says, Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.
For the man who supposes that he knows anything without the true
knowledge which is testified by the life, is ignorant, he is deceived
by the serpent, because he loved not life--whereas he who with fear
recognizes and desires life plants in hope expecting fruit. Let your
heart be knowledge, and your life true reason, duly comprehended.
Whereof if thou bear the tree and pluck the fruit, thou shalt ever
gather the harvest which God looks for, which serpent toucheth not, nor
deceit infecteth, neither is Eve corrupted, but is believed on as a
virgin, and salvation is set forth, and the apostles are filled with
understanding, and the Passover of the Lord goes forward, and the
congregations are gathered together, and [all things] are arranged in
order, and as He teacheth the saints the Word is gladdened, through
Whom the Father is glorified, to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.