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DIOGNETUS, Letter to. A manuscript, conventionally known as MS F, was discovered by chance at Constantinople ca. 1436. It contained various works, mostly apologetic, five of which were erroneously attributed to Justin; the last of these erroneously attributed works was entitled To Diognetus. Stephanus, in his editio princeps 1592, was the first to describe it as a letter, probably because it was addressed to a person identified only as Diognetus; in fact the work fits if only in the broadest sense in the apologetic tradition, and develops and concludes with an exhortation to embrace the Christian faith.

After various wanderings, MS F the only witness to To Diognetus arrived at the Strasbourg Municipal Library, where it remained until it was destroyed in 1870 by a Prussian artillery bombardment. Before its destruction, however, two accurate recensions were made by Cunitz and Reuss, based on MS F. Structurally, the text of To Diognetus which has two lacunae, in ch. VII and after ch. X opens with an introduction in which the author proposes to respond to some questions on Christianity posed to him by the pagan Diognetus; after a rapid and essential refutation of pagan idolatry and the ritualistic practices of Jewish worship chs. II-IV, he goes on to a positive exposition of the Christian mystery, lived by the faithful in the concrete circumstances of daily life through the testimony of love toward all, even in imminent persecution chs. V-VI. The author emphasizes the transcendence of revelation and the economy of salvation, which culminates in the incarnation of the Word and his redemptive sacrifice: acceptance of God’s saving message is shown by returning his love, imitating his goodness by rejecting all selfishness, oppression and violence, and so establishing already on earth the eschatological atmosphere of the Kingdom of God chs. VII-X. Ch. VI is deservedly famous: the author presents the life-giving action of Christians in the world, comparing it to the soul’s function in the body. The final chapters, XI-XII, which develop a discourse on the Logos and stress the indissoluble unity between knowledge and life through a penetrating allegorical interpretation of Gen 2:9, are considered inauthentic by many scholars, even recent ones, who ascribe them to a later age and a different author; their arguments are neither decisive nor fully convincing, as Marrou validly asserted in his edition of To Diognetus SC 33 bis, 219ff.. Attempts to identify the work’s author or the probably fictitious recipient have been vain; its date of composition is thought to be late 2nd c. or at the latest early 3rd c., perhaps in Alexandria; Asia Minor or Rome have also been hypothesized Norelli.

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