Melito of Sardis citation

I am having some difficulty tracking down the original language of this citation from Melito of Sardis.
Thou slewest thy Lord, and He was lifted up upon the tree; and an inscription was fixed above, to show who He was that was slain. And who was this? (that which we shall not say is too shocking to hear, and that which we shall say is very dreadful: nevertheless hearken, and tremble.) It was He because of whom the earth quaked. He that hung up the earth in space was Himself hanged up; He that fixed the heavens was fixed with nails; He that bore up the earth was borne up on a tree; the Lord of all was subjected to ignominy in a naked body-God put to death! the King of Israel slain with Israel's right hand! Alas for the new wickedness of the new murder! The Lord was exposed with naked body: He was not deemed worthy even of covering; and, in order that He might not be seen, the luminaries turned away, and the day became darkened because they slew God, who hung naked on the tree. It was not the body of our Lord that the luminaries covered with darkness when they set, but the eyes of men. For, because the people quaked not, the earth quaked; source

I've been back translating portions of this into Greek and searching for it without success. It's quite possible that the source text isn't in Greek but so far I haven't been able to Identify either the language or the source. There's a different translation in the 19th-century library of the fathers edited by Schaff and others. Navigating this library on the web typically gives you the English text you are looking for without telling you much about the source other than the reference in the English version. I know that Eusebius of Caesare is one source. I know there is a Syriac source but it was discovered more recently than the English translation in the Schaff library. The fragments are in a collection but I searched the Greek fragments collection without results. I searched everything Greek I had access to which is a lot.

I found some similar language in Chrysostom.
 
Last edited:
The language is Syriac:

Found the source:
He was not deemed worthy even of covering ; and, in order that He might not be seen, the luminaries turned away, and the day became darkened, because they slew God, who hung naked on the tree. It was not the body of our Lord that the luminaries covered with darkness when they set,2 but the eyes of men. Spicilegium Syriacum: Containing Remains of Bardesan, Meliton, Ambrose and Mara Bar Serapion,William Cureton, F. and J. Rivington, 1855, Page 55.

The familiar pattern of of citing English text from 19th century English translations without reference to the source creates a nightmare for anyone tracking down the source.
 
Last edited:
The most useful online sources I found were BibleHub which has an article on Melito of Sardis. and Alistair Stewart-Sykes introduction and translation. Still sorting out the textual situation which is confusing. It looks like the Syriac text isn't actually from the hand of Melito of Sardis. The Greek fragments of On the Passover have been posted by the same person who has nearly everything you want from the early church. The language of On the Passover is exceedingly simple and calls to mind the translation Greek of the Psalms. Somewhere I read that Melito was a Hellenist. If so his Hellenism isn't reflected in his theological language. This nothng like the language of the later theological controversies.

Opening lines:

ΜΕΛΙΤΩΝΟΣ​

ΠΕΡΙ ΠΑΣΧΑ​

Ἡ μὲν γραφὴ τῆς Ἑβραϊκῆς ἐξόδου ἀνέγνωσται,
καὶ τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ μυστηρίου διασεσάφηται·
πῶς τὸ πρόβατον θύεται
καὶ πῶς ὁ λαὸς σῴζεται.
Τοίνυν ξύνετε, ὦ ἀγαπητοί· οὕτως ἐστὶν
καινὸν καὶ παλαιόν,
ἀΐδιον καὶ πρόσκαιρον,
φθαρτὸν καὶ ἄφθαρτον,
θνητὸν καὶ ἀθάνατον
τὸ τοῦ πάσχα μυστήριον·παλαιὸν μὲν κατὰ τὸν νόμον,
καινὸν δὲ κατ[ὰ τὸν] λόγον,
πρόσκαιρον διὰ τὸν [τύπον],
ἀΐδιον διὰ τὴν χάριν,
φθαρτ[ὸν διὰ τὴν] τοῦ προβάτου σφαγήν,
ἄφθαρτον [διὰ τὴν] τοῦ κυρίου ζωήν,
θνητὸν διὰ τὴν <[ἐν τῇ γῇ]> ταφήν,
ἀθάνατον δ[ιὰ τ]ὴν ἐκ [νεκρῶν] ἀνάστασιν·
παλαιὸς [μὲν ὁ νόμος],
 
Last edited:

rakovsky

Active member
The most useful online sources I found were BibleHub which has an article on Melito of Sardis. and Alistair Stewart-Sykes introduction and translation. Still sorting out the textual situation which is confusing. It looks like the Syriac text isn't actually from the hand of Melito of Sardis. The Greek fragments of On the Passover have been posted by the same person who has nearly everything you want from the early church. The language of On the Passover is exceedingly simple and calls to mind the translation Greek of the Psalms. Somewhere I read that Melito was a Hellenist. If so his Hellenism isn't reflected in his theological language. This nothng like the language of the later theological controversies.

Opening lines:
I don't know how one would distinguish Hellenism from nonHellenism theologically in the 2nd century AD once Biblical or Apostolic Trinitarian theology had been put in place and the other controversies resolved. I guess you could theorize that Jewish Christians rejecting all ongoing Torah ritual observance by Jews was "Hellenistic", but I haven't heard it labeled that way before, and I din't know if Melito rejected it. Supposedly Melito shared Paul's idea of the NT or Gospel's higher relationship over the OT, but I wouldn't call that "Hellenism." I don't consider evangelizing Greek speakers "Hellenistic." When I think of Hellenism theologically, I think of other issues like Philo's Logos concept and the adoption of nonJewish customs by non-Torah-observant Hellenistic Jews in the Maccabbee era.
 
I don't know how one would distinguish Hellenism from nonHellenism theologically in the 2nd century AD once Biblical or Apostolic Trinitarian theology had been put in place and the other controversies resolved.

I was thinking primarily about language borrowed directly from Plato or students of Plato or Aristotle. I was also thinking about the style of writing which reads more like the Gospel of John than it does like the major theological works of the third century and onward.

The theology is important and it will take some time to sort that out. Right from the beginning and throughout the text Melito talks about the Passover as Mystery. I found this combination of terminology in both authentic and spurious texts attributed to Justin Martyr, Athanasius, Clemens Alexandrinus, Gregorius Nazianzenus, Chrysostom, Epiphanius and others.

ΜΕΛΙΤΩΝΟΣ
ΠΕΡΙ ΠΑΣΧΑ

Ἡ μὲν γραφὴ τῆς Ἑβραϊκῆς ἐξόδου ἀνέγνωσται,
καὶ τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ μυστηρίου διασεσάφηται·
5
πῶς τὸ πρόβατον θύεται
καὶ πῶς ὁ λαὸς σῴζεται.
Τοίνυν ξύνετε, ὦ ἀγαπητοί· οὕτως ἐστὶν
καινὸν καὶ παλαιόν,
ἀΐδιον καὶ πρόσκαιρον,
10
φθαρτὸν καὶ ἄφθαρτον,
θνητὸν καὶ ἀθάνατον
12
τὸ τοῦ πάσχα μυστήρ


ON PASCHA [1]
1) The Scripture of the exodus of the Hebrews has been read,
and the words of the mystery have been declared;
how the sheep was sacrificed,
and how the people was saved,
and how Pharaoh was flogged by the mystery. [2]
2) Therefore, well-beloved, understand,
how the mystery of the Pascha
is both new and old,
eternal and provisional,
perishable and imperishable,
mortal and immortal.

[1] All English translaion is from Alistair Stewart-Sykes introduction and translation.
[2] The translation will not always follow the Greek text.
 
Last edited:
Strange metaphor cited in ON PASCHA from Jeremiah, a citation often found in Church Fathers:

ON PASCHA

Ὁ δὲ Ἰερεμίας.
»Ἐγὼ ὡς ἀρνίον ἄκακον ἀγόμενον τοῦ θύεσθαι.
455
Ἐλογίσαντο ἐπ' ἐμὲ κακὰ εἰπόντες·
Δεῦτε, ἐμβάλωμεν ξύλον εἰς τὸν ἄρτον αὐτοῦ
καὶ ἐκτρίψωμεν αὐτὸν ἐκ γῆς ζώντων,
καὶ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ οὐ μὴ μνησθῇ.»

“I am like a harmless lamb led to sacrifice;
they planned evil for me saying: come let us put wood on
his bread
and let us rub him out from the land of the
living. And his name shall not be remembered.”
–Translated Alistair Stewart-Sykes

Just two samples outside of commentaries and sermons on Jeremiah.
Justinus Martyr Dialogus cum Tryphone

ἐπ' ἐμὲ ἐλογίζοντο λογισμόν, λέγοντες· Δεῦτε, ἐμβάλωμεν ξύλον εἰς
τὸν ἄρτον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐκτρίψωμεν αὐτὸν ἐκ γῆς ζώντων, καὶ τὸ
ὄνομα αὐτοῦ οὐ μὴ μνησθῇ οὐκέτι.

Athanasius Theol., De incarnatione verbi

Καὶ οἱ μετ' αὐτὸν δὲ προφῆται
πάλιν περὶ τούτου μαρτυροῦσι λέγοντες· «Ἐγὼ δὲ ὡς
ἀρνίον ἄκακον ἀγόμενον τοῦ θύεσθαι, οὐκ ἔγνων·
ἐπ' ἐμὲ ἐλογίσαντο πονηρὸν λέγοντες· δεῦτε, καὶ ἐμβάλωμεν
ξύλον εἰς τὸν ἄρτον αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐκτρίψωμεν αὐτὸν ἀπὸ γῆς
ζώντων.
 
Last edited:
Ὦ Ἰσραὴλ παράνομε, τί δὴ τοῦτο ἀπηργάσω τὸ και-
νὸν ἀδίκημα, καινοῖς ἐμβαλών σου τὸν κύριον πάθεσιν,
τὸν δεσπότην σου,
τὸν πλάσαντά σε,
τὸν ποιήσαντά σε,
τὸν τιμήσαντά σε,
τὸν Ἰσραὴλ καλέσαντά σε;
Σὺ δὲ Ἰσραὴλ οὐχ εὑρέθης,
οὐ γὰρ εἶδες τὸν θεόν,
605
οὐκ ἐνόησας τὸν κύριον,
οὐκ ᾔδεις, ὦ Ἰσραήλ,
ὅτι οὗτός ⌞ἐς⌟τιν ὁ πρωτότοκος τοῦ θεοῦ,
ὁ πρὸ ἑωσφόρ⌞ου⌟ γεννηθείς,
ὁ τὸ φῶς ἐπαν<ας>τήσας,
610
ὁ τ⌞ὴν⌟ ἡμέραν λαμπρύνας,
ὁ τὸ σκότος δι⌞ακρί⌟νας,
ὁ <τὴν> πρώτην βαλβῖδα πήξας,
ὁ κ⌞ρε⌟μάσας τὴν γῆν,
ὁ σβέσας ἄβυσσον,
615
⌞ὁ ἐ⌟κτείνας τὸ στερέωμα,
ὁ κοσμ⌞ήσας⌟ τὸν κόσμον,
ὁ τοὺς ἐν οὐρανῷ ἁρμόσας ἀ⌞στέρας⌟,
ὁ τοὺς φωστῆρας λαμπρύ⌞νας⌟,
⌞ὁ τοὺς⌟ ἐν οὐρανῷ ποιήσα⌞ς ἀγγέλους⌟,
620
ὁ τοὺς ἐκεῖ πήξας θ⌞ρόνους⌟,
⌞ὁ τὸν ἐπὶ γῆς ἀναπλασσάμενος ἄνθρωπον⌟.

81) 0 lawless Israel, what is this new injustice you have done,
casting strange sufferings on your Lord?
Your master who formed you,
who made you,
who honored you,
who called you Israel.

82) You were not Israel.
You did not see God.35
You did not perceive the Lord, Israel,
you did not recognize the first-born of God,
begotten before the morning star,
who adorned the light,
who lit up the day,
who divided the darkness,
who fixed the first boundary,
who hung the earth,
who tamed the abyss,
who stretched out the firmament,
who furnished the world,
who arranged the stars in the heavens,
who lit up the great lights,
who made the angels in heaven,
who there established thrones,
who formed humanity on the earth.
–Translated Alistair Stewart-Sykes

ὁ σβέσας ἄβυσσον, who tamed the abyss

Familiar language from the Psalms and Prophets. Frank Moore Cross wrote about this Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic,. His students John J. Collins and Bruce Waltke also wrote about it. Waltke delivered a series of lectures fall quarter of 1974 at Western Seminary Portland Oregon, Creation and Chaos. You might find a pdf of it somewhere. A longer work:

Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan : John Day ...
https://archive.org/details/YahwehAndTheGodsAndGoddessesOfCanaan

 
Last edited:
I am reading ON PASCHA in two translations and Greek.

Alistair Stewart-Sykes introduction and translation.
Anonymous? Translation
Greek

I am reading through it the second time using the second translation and paying special attention to the author's statements in regard to Judaism. I am skeptical about this topic. Anything that attains a level of consensus such as Melito of Sardis was an anti-semite, needs to be approached with suspicion. It needs to be demonstrated that Melito of Sardis attitude stood out among his contemporaries.
 

rakovsky

Active member
I am reading through it the second time using the second translation and paying special attention to the author's statements in regard to Judaism. I am skeptical about this topic. Anything that attains a level of consensus such as Melito of Sardis was an anti-semite, needs to be approached with suspicion. It needs to be demonstrated that Melito of Sardis attitude stood out among his contemporaries.
Yes. Because Christianity has this whole philosophical dialectic with Judaism while also operating within a partly Jewish framework and with many Jewish Christians playing a key role. So it can't be taken that an early Christian writer who takes the Christian position and uses polemics is anti-Semitic.
 
Yes. Because Christianity has this whole philosophical dialectic with Judaism while also operating within a partly Jewish framework and with many Jewish Christians playing a key role. So it can't be taken that an early Christian writer who takes the Christian position and uses polemics is anti-Semitic.

Glad we agree on that.
 
Note here τὸ τοῦ πάσχα μυστήριον "This is the mystery of the Pascha." Not sure when μυστήριον took on a technical theological significance. I'm assuming this is way too early for that. See note six in STEWART–SYKES translation. The critical text is frequently marked for citations but in this and other examples the text verbatim isn't found in the greek version. Melito might be paraphrasing as a form of interpretation as Διηγήσομαι suggests. Διηγήσομαι Lampe: explain explain or interpret as.

Τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ τοῦ πάσχα μυστήριον,
καθὼς ἐν τῷ νόμῳ γέγραπται,
ὡς μικρῷ πρόσθεν ἀνέγνωσται.
Διηγήσομαι δὲ τὰ ῥήματα τῆς γραφῆς, πῶς ὁ θεὸς ἐντέλλε-
ται Μωυσεῖ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ, ὁπόταν βούλεται
τὸν μὲν Φαραὼ δῆσαι ὑπὸ μάστιγα,
τὸν δὲ Ἰσραὴλ λῦσαι ἀπὸ μάστιγος
διὰ χειρὸς Μωυσέως.
»Ἰδοὺ γὰρ, φησίν, λήμψῃ ἄσπιλον ἀμνὸν καὶ ἄμωμον,
καὶ ἑσπέρας σφάξεις αὐτὸν με[τὰ] τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ,
καὶ νύκτωρ ἔδεσθε αὐτὸν [με]τὰ σπουδῆς,
καὶ ὀστοῦν οὐ συντρίψετε αὐτοῦ.

11) This is the mystery of the Pascha,
just as it is written in the law, which was read a little
while ago.
I shall narrate the scriptural story,
how he gave command to Moses in Egypt,
when wanting to flog Pharaoh
and to free Israel from flogging
through the hand of Moses.
12) “Look,” he says, “you shall take a lamb, without spot
or blemish,
and, toward the evening, slaughter it with the sons of Israel.
And eat it at night with haste.
And not a bone of it shall you break.”
13) “This is what you shall do,” he says:
“You shall eat it in one night by families and tribes,
with your loins girded up
and with staves in your hands.
This is the Passover of the Lord,
a commemoration to the sons of Israel for ever.”


[6] Although this language is obviously redolent of the mystery religions, more influential is Melito’s own experience of a nocturnal commemoration
– ALISTAIR STEWART SYKES
 
Last edited:
Note here τὸ τοῦ πάσχα μυστήριον "This is the mystery of the Pascha." Not sure when μυστήριον took on a technical theological significance. I'm assuming this is way too early for that. See note six in STEWART–SYKES translation. The critical text is frequently marked for citations but in this and other examples the text verbatim isn't found in the greek version. Melito might be paraphrasing as a form of interpretation as Διηγήσομαι suggests. Διηγήσομαι Lampe: explain explain or interpret as.

By applying this language to the ritual setting of Israel’s Pascha and within the context of Christian worship, Melito is perhaps the first extant Christian author to amplify the conventional cultic connotations of the terminology. T.J. Lang dissertation page 269 (pdf page 284) [1]


[1] Found a 2014 dissertation which looks at this question in depth. Chapter 7, CHAPTER 7 | Mystery, Scriptural Meaning, and Ritual Performance in Melito’s Peri Pascha page 269 (pdf page 284).

Mystery and the Making of a Christian Historical Consciousness:
From Paul to the Second Century
by T.J. Lang
 
Last edited:
Melito's use of μυστήριον and Paul:

Finally, Melito’s use of μυστήριον also appears to be a quite prominent instance in which he has creatively appropriated Pauline material. His extensive use of the term agrees with its relative prominence in the Pauline corpus. Melito also exclusively uses the singular form of the noun, which accords with Paul’s preference. Moreover, since Paul is the earliest author (and the only New Testament author) to link μυστήριον with the person of Christ, it is likely that Melito is directly dependent upon Paul in frequently making this correlation as well. Melito also repeated associates “the mystery of the Lord” (by which he means Christ) with the crucifixion, which likewise agrees with the implied association in 1 Cor 2:7. Therefore, although there are no incontrovertible instances where Melito overtly reiterates Pauline traditions, there are nonetheless suggestive occasions where his theological idiom appears to have been shaped by Pauline exemplars—the use of μυστήριον likely being the most conspicuous and theologically significant.

Mystery and the Making of a Christian Historical Consciousness:
From Paul to the Second Century by T.J. Lang
page 279 (p 294 pdf).
 
Melito ψηλάφ- Lines 148-163

Καινὴν δὲ συμφοράν, ἐὰν ἀκούσητε, θαυμάσετε. Τάδε γὰρ
περιέσχεν τοὺς Αἰγυπτίους,
νὺξ μακρὰ καὶ σκότος ψηλαφητὸν
καὶ θάνατος ψηλαφῶν
καὶ ἄγγελος ἐκθλίβων
καὶ ᾅδης καταπίνων
τοὺς πρωτοτόκους αὐτῶν.
Τὸ δὲ καινότερον καὶ φοβερώτερον ἀκοῦσαι ἔχετε.
Ἐν τῷ ψηλαφητῷ σκότει ὁ ἀψηλάφητος θάνατος
ἐκρύβετο,
καὶ τὸ μὲν σκότος ἐψηλάφων οἱ δυστυχεῖς
Αἰγύπτιοι,
ὁ δὲ θάνατος ἐξεραυνῶν ἐψηλάφα τοὺς πρωτοτό-
κους τῶν Αἰγυπτίων τοῦ ἀγγέλου κελεύοντος.
Εἴ τις οὖν ἐψηλάφα τὸ σκότος,
ὑπὲρ τοῦ θανάτου ἐξήγετο.

I have noticed that Melito repeatedly employs lexical patterns which promote texture[1] or cohesion.

[1] This was a term used in Systemic Functional Linguistics in reference to language features that promote textual cohesion. Halliday and Hasan, Cohesion in English (1976)
 
"Ὁ ψευσθῆναι μὴ δυνάμενος" "... the one who could not be deceived" – Alistair Stewart-Sykes

180
Ἕτερος δέ τις πρωτότοκος, νοήσας τὴν τῶν πρωτοτόκων ἅλωσιν, ἑαυτὸν ἀπηρνεῖτο, ἵνα μὴ θάνῃ πικρῶς· Οὔκ εἰμι πρωτότοκος, τρίτῳ γεγέννημαι καρπῷ. Ὁ δὲ ψευσθῆναι μὴ δυνάμενος τοῦ πρωτοτόκου προσήπτετο· πρηνὴς δὲ ἔπιπτε σιγῶν. Source: Seumas Macdonald
Another first-born, perceiving the seizure of the
first-born,
denied himself, so not bitterly to die:
“l am not a first-born,
I was begotten third.”
But the one who could not be deceived fastened on the
first-born
who fell silently down. – Alistair Stewart-Sykes

Looking for something in NT/LXX or anywhere else like "Ὁ ψευσθῆναι μὴ δυνάμενος" without success.
 
Last edited:
Top