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The Epistle of Diognetus is one of the most undervalued works from the first two centuries of Christianity. Its simplicity of style and casual use of language reflects its early date. Some of the finest descriptions of early church thought and practice are captured in this work. The title demonstrates its elusive character, for no author's name is attached to the epistle, and the name Diognetus probably refers to some unknown Roman magistrate. However, tradition upholds Marcus Aurelius's tutor as its recipient, even though this conjecture is very unlikely. The opening phrase of the epistle claims that Diognetus was extremely interested in Christianity, and this does not fit the emperor's tutor. Most early scholars insisted that the work derived from Justin's pen; experts today unanimously disagree with this assessment. The likely place of composition is Athens, for it has several elements in common with the Apology of Aristides. The intention of the writer is to compare Christianity with the pagan cults of his day, as well as with Judaism.
The writer of the Epistle has a personal and profound understanding of the faith, which he attempts to explain during a period of intense persecution. Only a few editions of this work have been written with the general public in mind, and all are out of print. This is to be expected, however, for no ancient or medieval writer cited the epistle either. The task of L. B. Radford, therefore, is formidable. He begins his edition by describing at length the literary history of this remarkable apologetical treatise-from the medieval manuscript destroyed in a fire to the subsequent transcriptions and editions of its text. The date and authenticity of the epistle are discussed at length, as well as authorship, integrity, and a few difficulties scholars have with the work. Radford then analyzes its Christology, especially as it compares to other documents of its era. He provides one of the finest translations and commentaries on "Diognetus" in the English language. His notes are concise and substantial, and his critique of the text is careful.
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