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LETTER TO DIOGNETUS III .Y DEAR1 DIOGNETUS: I see that you are eagerness itself , to learn about the religion of the Christians. Your questions in regard to them have been drawn up with great clarity and care. You ask: In what God do they trust? How does their worship of Him help them-all of them-to care so little for the world and to despise death? Why do they neither esteem the gods that are considered as such by the Greeks nor keep the observances of the Jews? What is the character of the love that links them one with another ? And, finally, why is it that this new group or institute has come into existence2 in our time and not earlier? I welcome this earnestness in you, and I pray to God who gives us power both to speak and to listen that I may be given the grace so to speak that you may profit by what you hear, and that you may be given the grace so to listen that, after I have spoken, I may not be disappointed. (2) The first thing, then, is to clear away all the prejudices that clutter your mind and to divest yourself of any habit of thought that is leading you into error. You must begin by being, as it were, a new man,3 ready, as you yourself put it, to give ear to a new story. You must take a look not only with your eyes, but with your mind, at what you call and consider gods, and ask: What substance or form can they really have? 1 Literally, 'most-excellent: as in Acts 23,26; 24,3; 26,25, where the word krdtistos is applied to Felix and Festus, If the present document is a defense presented to a pagan judge, 'most excellent' would have the sense of 'Your Honor.' 2 Bios may here be rendered by 'world.' 3 Cf. St. Paul to the Ephesians 4,22-24: 'You must be quit now of the old self ... you must be clothed in the new self.' 357 358 LETTER TO D10GNETUS Is not this one made of stone, like the pavement under our feet, and that one of bronze, no better than what is in the pots and pans in daily use? Is not a third made of wood and already rotting, and a fourth of silver and in need of a custodian , lest it be stolen? Is not another made of iron that is corroded with rust, and still another of clay that is no more distinguished than what is made into a vessel' for the lowliest use? Are not all of them perishable matter, or forged with iron and fire? Did not a sculptor make this one, a coppersmith that one, a silversmith a third, and a potter another of them? Is there anyone of them that could not have been changed into any other shape before it was given this or that form by one or another of these arts? And, even now, given the right craftsmen, could not any of these utensils be turned into gods of the same material just like these? And could not any of these gods that are now worshipped by you be once more turned by man into pots and pans like the rest? Are they not all deaf and blind, without soul or sense or power to move? Are not all of them subject to rot and decay? You can these things gods; you serve them; you bow down before them; and, in the end, you become no better than they are. This is the reason why you hate the Christians-because they refuse to take these things for gods. But the fact is that you who now esteem and worship them despise them much more than the Christians do. When you leave the gods of stone and clay which you worship unguarded, while you lock up at night the gods of silver and gold, and set a guard over them by day, lest they be stolen, do you not mock and insult them much more than the Christians do? And so with the honors you imagine you pay them: If they are sensible of them, you insult them; if they are insensible, you convict them [of insensibility], LETTER TO DIOGNETUS 359 while you are propitiating4 them with blood and fumes of fat. Imagine one of yourselves submitting to this, or allowing anything of the sort to...


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