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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Melito of Sardis

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bishop of the place after which he is named, and a writer of considerable eminence, flourished in the .2d century. So little is known of his personal history that it cannot be determined at what date he was elevated to the episcopacy, though he probably held the bishopric when the controversy arose at Laodicea respecting the observance of Easter, which caused him to write a book on the subject. This took place under Marcus Aurelius, to whom Melito presented an Apology for Christianity, according to Eusebius, in his Chronicon, in AD. 169-170. In this apology (which, recently re-discovered in a Syriac translation and placed in the British Museum, was lately [1866] rendered into English by the celebrated Cureton) Christianity is described as a philosophy that had indeed originated among the barbarians, but had attained to a flourishing condition under the Roman empire, to the benefit of which it greatly redounded. According to a fragment preserved by Eusebius, he beseeches the emperor "to examine the accusations which were brought against the Christians, and to stop the persecution by revoking the edict which he had published against them. He represents to him that the Roman empire was so far from being injured or weakened by Christianity that its foundation was more firmly established and its bounds considerably enlarged since that religion had taken footing in it. He puts him in mind that the Christian religion had been persecuted by none but the worst emperors, such as Nero and Domitian; that Hadrian and Antoninus had granted privileges in its favor, and that he hoped from his clemency and goodness that they should obtain the same protection of their lives and property from him." According to the testimony of Tertullian (in a work now lost, but which Jerome cites), Melito was regarded as a prophet, by many of his contemporaries. The Church of Rome commemorates him as a saint April 1. From a passage in Origen, quoted by Theodoret (Quest. in Genesim, c. 20), Melito appears to have believed that God possessed a bodily form, and to have written in support of that doctrine. This assertion of Origen is supported by the testimony of Grenadius of Massilia (Lib. Dogm. Ecclesiastes c. 4); and Tillemont, though unwilling to allow this, admits that the early Church may possibly have been withheld from honoring his memory by an appointed office on account of this imputation, or else on account of the ascription to him: of the book De Transitu Beatae Virginis. The surnames of Asianus and of Sardensis given him by Jerome designate rather his see than his birthplace. Polycrates of Ephesus, a somewhat later writer, in a letter to Victor, bishop of Rome, calls him Eunuchus; yet this is not to be taken in the literal sense, but rather indicates only that he remained faithful to his vow of chastity. As to the particulars of the death of Melito, scarcely anything is known. Polycrates, in a letter addressed to pope Victor (AD. 196), says, " What shall I say of Melito, whose actions' were all guided by the operations of the Holy Spirit? who was interred at Sardis, where he waits the resurrection and the judgment." From this it may be inferred that he had died some time previous to the date of this letter at Sardis, the place of his interment. Melito was especially skilled in the literature of the Old Testament, and was one of the most prolific authors of his time. Eusebius furnishes the following list of Melito's works: Περὶ τοῦ πάσχα δύο ; Περὶ πολιτείας καὶ προφητῶν ; Περὶ κυριακῆς ; Περὶ φύσεως ἀνθρώπου ; Περὶ πλάσεως ; Πε ' ρὶ ὑπακοῆς πὶστεως αἰσθςτηρίων ; Περὶ ψυχῆς καὶ σώματος ; Περὶ λουτροῦ ; ῝Περὶ ἀληθείας; Περὶ κτίσεως καὶ γενέσεως Χριστοῦ ; ε ' ρὶ προφηείας ; ῝Περὶ φιλοξενίας ; Η κλεἰς ; Περὶ τοῦ διαβόλου καὶ τῆς ἀποκαλύψεως Ι᾿ωάννου ; Περὶ ἐνσωμάτου θεοῦ ; Π῝ρὸς Ἀντωνῖνον βιβλίδιον ; Ε᾿κλογαί; Περὶ σαρκώσεως Χριστοῦ, against Marcion; Λόγος εἰς τὸ πάθος . Although these works are lost, the testimony of the -fathers remains to inform us how highly they were esteemed. Eusebius. gives some important fragments of Melito's works; some others are found in the works of different ecclesiastical writers. The best collection of these fragments is found in Routh, Reliquiae Sacrae (Oxford, 1814, 8vo), 1:109. Dom Pitra published several fragments in the Spicilegium Solesmense., Fragments' of his works, found preserved in a Syriac translation, are now stored in the library of the British Museum. Cureton has translated some; others have been published in Kitto's Journal of Sacred Literature, vol 15:A satire against monks was published in France under the title Apocalypse de Meliton. See Eusebius, Hist. Ecclesiastes vol. iv; Jerome, De Vir ilust.; Chronon Paschale; Cave, Hist. Litteraria, ad ann. 170; Tillemont, Mem. pour servir a Hist. eccles. 2:407 sq., 663 sq.; Ceillier, Auteurs Sacres, 2:78 sq.; Lardner, Credibility, pt. ii, c. 15; Le Clerc, Hist. Ecclesiastes duorumprim. sceculor.; Ittig, De Hceresiarch. sec. ii, cxi; Woog, Dissertationes de Melitone (Leips. 1744-51, 4to); Semler, Hist. Ecclesiastes selecta capita scluli, vol. ii, c.:.5; Dupin, Nouvelle Bibliotheque des auteurs eccles. vol. i; Galland, Bibl. Patrum, volii, Proleg.; Pressense, Histoire des trois premiers siecles, 2:2, p. 166; Smith, Dict. of Gr. and Romans Biog. and Mythol. 2:1023; Herzog, Real- Encyklopadie, 9:313; Neale, Hist. of the East. Ch. Introd. 1:38; Donaldson, Ch. Literature; Schaff, Ch. Hist. 1:166, et al.; Journal Sacred Lit. vols. xv, xvi, and xvii; Piper, in Studien und Kritiken, 1838; Steitz, ibid. 1856 and 1857; Welte, Tubinger theol.- Quartalschrift, 1862, p. 302 sq.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Melito of Sardis'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/m/melito-of-sardis.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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