An Early Look Into the Divinity of Jesus?

When was Jesus’ divinity affirmed by Christians? In the early centuries of Christianity, there were many diverse sects that had their own views, of Jesus and God. Many of these were Gnostic, those that supposedly had some special knowledge. Their teachings have mostly become little more than fable to us today as the church itself decided which teachings were valid and those that were not. So it became lnown that the divinity of Jesus was established in the 4th century, at the Nicene Council from which what is known a?s the Nicene Creed became church doctrine.

So, wait, there was no earlier belief on the divinity of Jesus? Maybe this, the Epistle of Diognetus, a second century work by an unknown person (known as Mathetes or “Student”), which is a very early apologetic, somewhere around 130 CE at the earliest to the late 2nd century at the latest. It was discovered in a codex in the 13th century, published for the first time in 1592. It was the only copy ever discovered, destroyed during the Franco Prussian War of 1870. It’s shoirt and doesn’t take a long time to read. The original, according to scholars, only has ten chapters. What we see though are twelve chapters, the later two believed to have been added sometime after the original was written.

It’s an amazing work coming from that time in history and not necessarily being classified as “gnostic” makes it even more important as to the belief of those early Christians. this was supposedly a popular work, as it has been quoted in part by other early church fathers but again, only the one copy has ever been discovered so we don;’t actually know when we have thousands of copies of the gospels and other canonical works through history.

There’s a school that thinks the person addressed, Diognetus, is actually Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome. But he was born in 121 CE and that would necessarily place the Epistle later in that century if it were addressed to him. We may never know who actually penned this epistle but there are some scholars that believe it was Justin Martyr (born 100. CE) as he was a possibly the earliest known apologist. We will probably never know but the epistle itself is a fascinating window into that time and belief of at least some Christians.

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