Epistle to Diognetus (Walford)

Walford Title PageTitle: The Epistle to Diognetus
Author: W. S. Walford
Publication: James Nisbet & Co., London
Pages and Date: 55 Pages, 1908

The Epistle to Diognetus was not known until Henricus Stephanus published it in 1592. It was found in a thirteenth-century manuscript, the sole witness of its text, later lost in a fire. The title simply reads, “To Diognetus.” The same manuscript stated that its author also wrote an oration called “To Greeks.” Stephanus attributed both works to Justin Martyr; however, most scholars reject his authorship. A seventh-century Syriac manuscript ascribes “To Greeks” to a nobleman named Ambrosius. This is the only hint to the author’s identity. It is unlikely that the work was ad­dressed to Diognetus, Marcus Aurelius’s tutor, for the opening phrase claims that the recipient was extremely interested in Christianity, and this does not fit his character. Hence, an unknown Roman magistrate of that name remains as mysterious as the author. The probable place of composition is Athens, like the Apology of Aristides, and both works maintain a simple but profound understanding of the faith and date from same period.

Perhaps the greatest difficulty with “To Diognetus” is its Greek text, since its only manuscript, which was housed in the Strassburg Library, was burnt in the Franco-German War of 1870. Since that time, the authorities for the text consist of a copy that J. Beurer of Friburg made of the manuscript between 1587 and 1591, known as Codex Argentoratensis, and the printed forms of Stephanus (1592) and Sylburg (1593). Another transcript was found in Codex Leidensis belonging to Isaac Vossius; it was afterwards placed in the library at Leyden. A third transcript that B. Haus made in 1580 is preserved in the library of the University of Tübingen. Walford supplies a critical Greek edition, complete with notes, and a superb translation based on his research. He offers a number of corrections to the text based on patristic literature. Preceding all of this is a thorough discussion of authorship, date of composition, use of scripture, and transmission of the text. Walford offers one of the finest treatments on the epistle.

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