Postscript to Noah’s Rainbow

Postscript to Noah’s Rainbow: the Epistle to Diognetus

In my web travels today, I came upon the Early Christian “Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus,” dated to approximately 130-200 AD. You can read the full letter here. And, nice explanations of it here and here.

The letter’s anonymous author, Mathetes (simply Greek for “disciple”), is rather polemical in his discussion of Jewish tradition, as he attempts to firmly delineate between Christian and non-Christian practice for a second-century audience. Nonetheless the letter is an interesting document concerning the general understanding of a developing human condition in the tradition of Christian Apologetics.

Of particular interest to me—considering my previous couple of posts—the second-century letter espouses the teleologic notion that in the eras preceding the Incarnation humankind was not yet developmentally ready for the Christian doctrine of abiding compassion.

In the section entitled, “Why the Son was Sent so Late,” the letter reads, “As long then as the former time endured, [God] permitted us to be borne along by unruly impulses, being drawn away by the desire of pleasure and various lusts. This was not that He at all delighted in our sins, but that He simply endured them; nor that He approved the time of working iniquity which then was, but that He sought to form a mind conscious of righteousness, so that being convinced in that time of our unworthiness of attaining life through our own works, it should now, through the kindness of God, be vouchsafed to us; and having made it manifest that in ourselves we were unable to enter into the kingdom of God, we might through the power of God be made able…” [Italics mine.]

In his letter, Mathetes paints a picture of a compassionate, loving deity who—like a dear parent [an Abba]—patiently waits for his children to grow and mature. All the while, providing support and guidance along the way.


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