Melito of Sardis

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Melito of Sardis
Apologist and Bishop of Sardis
Died 180
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Catholic Church
Canonized Pre-congregation
Feast 1 April

Melito of Sardis (Greek: Μελίτων Σάρδεων Melíton Sárdeon) (died c. 180) was the bishop of Sardis near Smyrna in western Anatolia, and a great authority in early Christianity: Jerome, speaking of the Old Testament canon established by Melito, quotes Tertullian to the effect that he was esteemed as a prophet by many of the faithful. His feast day is celebrated on April 1.

Melito's Jewish And Hellenistic Background[edit]

Polycrates of Ephesus, a notable bishop of the time, was a contemporary of Melito, and in one of the letters preserved by Eusebius, Polycrates describes Melito as having fully lived in the Spirit. Jewish by birth, Melito lived in an atmosphere where the type of Christianity practiced was largely orientated toward the Jewish form of the Christian faith.[1]Coming out of and representing the Johannine tradition, Melito's theological understanding of Christ often mirrored that of John.[2]However, like most of his contemporaries, Melito was fully immersed in Greek culture.

Formerly the capital of the Lydian Empire, Sardis underwent a process of Hellenization due to the influence of Alexander the Great, thus making Sardis a thoroughly Greek city long before Melito was born.[3] Trained in the art of rhetorical argumentation, Melito is believed to have been greatly influenced by two Stoic philosophers in particular, namely, Cleanthes and Poseidonius. Also proficient in the allegorical interpretation of Homer due to being schooled by sophists, it is highly likely that his background in Stoicism fed into how he wrote and how he interpreted past events and figures of religious significance such as Moses and the Exodus.[4]

Peri Pascha - On The Passover[edit]

Written during the second century C.E., and only coming to light within the modern world due to the efforts of Campbell Bonner in 1940,[5]some have argued that Peri Pascha is not a homily, but is based on a haggadah, which is a retelling of the works of God at Passover.[6] The Quartodeciman celebration mainly being a commemoration of Christ's passion and death, Melito stood by the belief that Christ died on the evening of the 14th, when the Passover meal was being prepared. [7]

Aside from the liturgical function of the Peri Pascha, this early Christian document has traditionally been perceived as a somewhat reliable indicator concerning how early Christians felt toward Judaism in general.[8]In part a response to the affluence and prestige of the Jewish community of Sardis, Melito may have been fueled by a desire for Christians to have more political power than was given to them. Another consideration to take note of is that perhaps Melito was in a competition with the local Jewish community for pagan converts. Wanting to differentiate the Christian community from the Jewish one since the two were very similar, it was more a matter of strengthening the Christian sense of distinctiveness than an all out attack on the local Jews of Sardis.[9] Thus, Melito is widely remembered for his supersessionist views and tendencies, which basically posits that the Old Covenant is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

Issues Raised By The Quartodeciman Controversy[edit]

Attracting the attention of persons such as Epiphanius, Chrysostom, and Pseudo-Hippolytus, Quartodeciman practices have encouraged many to deeply ponder questions pertaining to the duration of the period of fasting, and when it should end within the celebration of any Christian Passover. Other questions which bothered many individuals was whether everyone ought to uniformly observe Easter on the same day. Melito and company deciding that the Christian Passover should be on the 14th of Nisan, the Council of Nicaea settled for Sunday as the official day to commemorate Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead.[10] Uniformity in church practice was thus the primary drive behind this initiative. Known for following a Johannine chronology, and for believing in a paschal lamb typology, Quartodeciman thought is constituted as such.[11]

Apology To Marcus Aurelius[edit]

Complaining about how the godly are being persecuted and harassed by new decrees, Christians are openly robbed and plundered by those who are taking advantage of the said ordinances. Demonstrating how Christian thought first flourished among the Gentiles, and how it has benefited the empire, Melito tried to convince the emperor to rethink his current policies since Christianity only brought greatness and success to Rome. Reminding the emperor of the virtuous conduct of Hadrian, Melito called for an end to all violence toward the growing Christian communities within the empire.[12]

Melito's High Christology[edit]

Emphasizing, like John, the unity of Christ and the Father,[13]Melito declared that Christ is at once God and a perfect man. Having two essences while being one and the same, his godhead was demonstrated by way of all of the signs and miracles he performed after being baptized.Successfully managing to hide his divinity from the world before that central event occurred with John the Baptist, Jesus felt the pangs of hunger just like everyone else. Writing against Marcion, Melito focused on Christ's divinity and humanity in order to counter the claim that Jesus was simply and uniquely divine;having no material counterpart.[14]

Old Testament Canon[edit]

Main article: Melito's canon

Around 170 after traveling to Palestine, and probably visiting the library at Caesarea Maritima, Melito compiled the earliest known Christian canon of the Old Testament, a term he coined. A passage cited by Eusebius contains Melito's famous canon of the Old Testament. Melito presented elaborate parallels between the Old Testament or Old Covenant, which he likened to the form or mold, and the New Testament or New Covenant, which he likened to the truth that broke the mold, in a series of Eklogai, six books of extracts from the Law and the Prophets presaging Christ and the Christian faith.

Millennialism[edit]

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Melito was a Chiliast, and believed in a Millennial reign of Christ on Earth, and followed Irenaeus in his views. Jerome [Comm. on Ezek. 36 ] and Gennadius [De Dogm. Eccl., Ch. 52] both affirm that he was a decided millennarian.

Idolatry[edit]

Worshiping the only true God who is before all and over all, Melito basically summed up his position on idolatry by stating that Christians are not devotees of stones that are devoid of all sensation; but are faithful to Christ, the Word of God.[15]

Death and legacy[edit]

A letter of Polycrates of Ephesus to Pope Victor I written in about 194, mentioned by Eusebius, (H.E. 5.24) states that "Melito the eunuch" was interred at Sardis.

Melito's reputation as a writer remained strong into the Middle Ages: numerous works were pseudepigraphically ascribed to him.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Stewart-Sykes, Alistair. The Lamb's High Feast:Melito, Peri Pascha And The Quartodeciman Paschal Liturgy At Sardis. Brill,1998,pp.1-4.
  2. ^ Stewart-Sykes, Alistair. The Lamb's High Feast:Melito, Peri Pascha And The Quartodeciman Paschal Liturgy At Sardis. Brill,1998,p.14.
  3. ^ Stewart-Sykes, Alistair. The Lamb's High Feast:Melito, Peri Pascha And The Quartodeciman Paschal Liturgy At Sardis. Brill,1998,p.8.
  4. ^ Stewart-Sykes, Alistair. The Lamb's High Feast:Melito, Peri Pascha And The Quartodeciman Paschal Liturgy At Sardis. Brill,1998,pp.84-86.
  5. ^ Cohick H. Lynn. The Peri Pascha Attributed To Melito of Sardis: Setting, Purpose, And Sources. Brown Judaiac Studies,2000,pp.6-7.
  6. ^ Steward-Sykes, Alistair. The Lamb's High Feast: Melito, Peri Pascha And The Quartodeciman Paschal Liturgy At Sardis. Brill,1998,p.72.
  7. ^ Steward-Sykes, Alistair. The Lamb's High Feast: Melito, Peri Pascha And The Quartodeciman Paschal Liturgy At Sardis. Brill,1998,pp.147,152.
  8. ^ Cohick H. Lynn. The Peri Pascha Attributed To Melito of Sardis: Setting, Purpose, And Sources. Brown Judaiac Studies,2000,p.52.
  9. ^ Cohick H. Lynn. The Peri Pascha Attributed To Melito of Sardis: Setting, Purpose, And Sources. Brown Judaiac Studies,2000,pp.65,70,76-77.
  10. ^ Cohick H., Lynn. The Peri Pascha Attributed To Melito Of Sardis: Setting, Purpose, And Sources. Brown Judaic Studies,2000,p.22.
  11. ^ Cohick H., Lynn. The Peri Pascha Attributed To Melito Of Sardis: Setting, Purpose, And Sources. Brown Judaic Studies,2000,p.30.
  12. ^ Hall, S.G. Melito Of Sardis: On Pascha And Fragments. Oxford University Press,1979,pp.63,65.
  13. ^ Steward-Sykes, Alistair. The Lamb's High Feast: Melito, Peri Pascha And The Quartodeciman Paschal Liturgy At Sardis. Brill,1998,p.16.
  14. ^ Hall, S.G. Melito Of Sardis: On Pascha And Fragments. Oxford University Press,1979,pp.69,71.
  15. ^ Hall, S.G. Melito Of Sardis: On Pascha And Fragments. Oxford University Press,1979,p.65.

References[edit]

  • Hansen, Adolf, and Melito. 1990. The "Sitz im Leben" of the paschal homily of Melito of Sardis with special reference to the paschal festival in early Christianity. Thesis (Ph. D.)--Northwestern University, 1968.
  • Melito, and Bernhard Lohse. 1958. Die Passa-Homilie des Bischofs Meliton von Sardes. Textus minores, 24. Leiden: E.J. Brill.[1]
  • Melito, J. B. Pitra, and Pier Giorgio Di Domenico. 2001. Clavis Scripturae. Visibile parlare, 4. Città del Vaticano: Libreria editrice vaticana. [2]
  • Melito, J. B. Pitra, and Jean Pierre Laurant. 1988. Symbolisme et Ecriture: le cardinal Pitra et la "Clef" de Méliton de Sardes. Paris: Editions du Cerf. [3]
  • Melito, and Josef Blank. 1963. Vom Passa: die älteste christliche Osterpredigt. Sophia, Quellen östlicher Theologie, Bd. 3. Freiburg im Breisgau: Lambertus-Verlag. [4]
  • Melito, and Othmar Perler. 1966. Sur la Pâque et fragments. Sources Chrétiennes, 123. Paris: Éditions du Cerf. [5]
  • Melito, and Richard C. White. 1976. Sermon "On the Passover.". Lexington Theological Seminary Library. Occasional studies. Lexington, Ky: Lexington Theological Seminary Library. [6]
  • Melito, and Stuart George Hall. 1979. On Pascha and fragments. Oxford early Christian texts. Oxford: Clarendon Press. [7]
  • Waal, C. van der, and Melito. 1973. Het Pascha der verlossing: de schriftverklaring in de homilie van Melito als weerspiegeling van de confrontatie tussen kerk en synagoge. Thesis—Universiteit van Suid-Afrika. [8]
  • Waal, C. van der, and Melito. 1979. Het Pascha van onze verlossing: de Schriftverklaring in de paaspreek van Melito van Sardes als weerspiegeling van de confrontatie tussen kerk en synagoge in de tweede eeuw. Johannesburg: De Jong.

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