Early Christian Apologists
Edited By Jakob Engberg, Anders-Christian Jacobsen and Jörg Ulrich
Heaven-borne in the World: A Study of the Letter to Diognetus
Anders Klostergaard Petersen
1. From Fish to Pearl – the Whims of Fate
Working with the Letter to Diognetus inevitably brings to mind the old story theme of the fish and the pearl. As many commentators have noticed throughout the years2, the work is a pearl among early Christian literature. Yet it is a treasure which has only survived due to the strange whims of fate. We have no knowledge of the work from ancient times. The church fathers neither name nor make reference to it. For 1200 years it languished in neglect, until it turned up in 1436 at a fish market in Constantinople as part of a stack of papers used to wrap fish.3 Today we can thank the whims of fate for its survival. Thomas d’Arezzo, a young Italian clergyman, purchased the manuscript for a modest sum shortly after its appearance at the fish market. It was part of a larger codex, Kodex Argentoratensis Graechus 9, presumably from the 13th or 14th century, which contained 21 early Christian works in addition to the Letter to Diognetus.4 The work was grouped with four other pseudo-Justinian texts which made up the first five works in the codex: 1) By St. Justin, philosopher and martyr,On the Sole Government of God; 2) By St. Justin, philosopher and martyr, Hortatory Address to the Greeks; 3) By St. Justin, philosopher and ← 125 | 126 → martyr, An Exposition of True Faith or On Trinity; 4) By the same,...