Melito's "Peri Pascha"
"On the Passover"
From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Translated and Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.)
Peri Pascha; "On the Passover"
From the work on the passover. When Servilius Paulus was proconsul of Asia, at the time that Sagaris suffered martyrdom, there arose a great controversy at Laodicea concerning the time of the celebration of the Passover, which on that occasion had happened to fall at the proper season; and this treatise was then written.
From the apology addressed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.
For the race of the pious is now persecuted in a way contrary to all precedent, being harassed by a new kind of edicts everywhere in Asia. For unblushing informers, and such as are greedy of other men’s goods, taking occasion from the orders issued, carry on their robbery without any disguise, plundering of their property night and day those who are guilty of no wrong.
If these proceedings take place at thy bidding, well and good. For a just sovereign will never take unjust measures; and we, on our part, gladly accept the honour of such a death. This request only we present to thee, that thou wouldst first of all examine for thyself into the behaviour of these reputed agents of so much strife, and then come to a just decision as to whether they merit death and punishment, or deserve to live in safety and quiet. But if, on the contrary, it shall turn out that this measure, and this new sort of command, which it would be unbecoming to employ even against barbarian foemen, do not proceed from thee, then all the more do we entreat thee not to leave us thus exposed to the spoliation of the populace.
For the philosophy current with us flourished in the first instance among barbarians; and, when it afterwards sprang up among the nations under thy rule, during the distinguished reign of thy ancestor Augustus, it proved to be a blessing of most happy omen to thy empire. For from that time the Roman power has risen to greatness and splendour. To this power thou hast succeeded as the much desired possessor; and such shalt thou continue, together with thy son, if thou protect that philosophy which has grown up with thy empire, and which took its rise with Augustus; to which also thy more recent ancestors paid honour, along with the other religions prevailing in the empire. A very strong proof, moreover, that it was for good that the system we profess came to prevail at the same time that the empire of such happy commencement was established, is this-that ever since the reign of Augustus nothing untoward has happened; but, on the contrary, everything has contributed to the splendour and renown of the empire, in accordance with the devout wishes of all. Nero and Domitian alone of all the emperors, imposed upon by certain calumniators, have cared to bring any impeachment against our doctrines. They, too, are the source from which it has happened that the lying slanders on those who profess them have, in consequence of the senseless habit which prevails of taking things on hearsay, flowed down to our own times. But the course which they in their ignorance pursued was set aside by thy pious progenitors, who frequently and in many instances rebuked by their rescripts those who dared to set on foot any hostilities against them. It appears, for example, that thy grandfather Adrian wrote, among others, to Fundanus, the proconsul then in charge of the government of Asia. Thy father, too, when thou thyself wast associated with him in the administration of the empire, wrote to the cities, forbidding them to take any measures adverse to us: among the rest to the people of Larissa, and of Thessalonica, and of Athens, and, in short, to all the Greeks. And as regards thyself, seeing that thy sentiments respecting the Christians are not only the same as theirs, but even much more generous and wise, we are the more persuaded that thou wilt do all that we ask of thee.
From the same apology.
We are not those who pay homage to stones, that are without sensation; but of the only God, who is before all and over all, and, moreover, we are worshippers of His Christ, who is veritably God the Word existing before all time.
From the Book of Extracts.
Melito to his brother Onesimus, greeting:-
As you have often, prompted by your regard for the word of God, expressed a wish to have some extracts made from the Law and the Prophets concerning the Saviour, and concerning our faith in general, and have desired, moreover, to obtain an accurate account of the Ancient Books, as regards their number and their arrangement, I have striven to the best of my ability to perform this task: well knowing your zeal for the faith, and your eagerness to become acquainted with the Word, and especially because I am assured that, through your yearning after God, you esteem these things beyond all things else, engaged as you are in a struggle for eternal salvation.
I accordingly proceeded to the East, and went to the very spot where the things in question were preached and took place; and, having made myself accurately acquainted with the books of the Old Testament, I have set them down below, and herewith send you the list. Their names are as follows:-
The five books of Moses-Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, the two of Chronicles, the book of the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, also called the Book of Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job, the books of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, of the twelve contained in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras. From these I have made my extracts, dividing them into six books.
From the Catena on Genesis.
In place of Isaac the just, a ram appeared for slaughter, in order that Isaac might be liberated from his bonds. The slaughter of this animal redeemed Isaac from death. In like manner, the Lord, being slain, saved us; being bound, He loosed us; being sacrificed, He redeemed us …
For the Lord was a lamb, like the ram which Abraham saw caught in the bush Sabec. But this bush represented the cross, and that place Jerusalem, and the lamb the Lord bound for slaughter.
For as a ram was He bound, says he concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, and as a lamb was He shorn, and as a sheep was He led to the slaughter, and as a lamb was He crucified; and He carried the cross on His shoulders when He was led up to the hill to be slain, as was Isaac by his father. But Christ suffered, and Isaac did not suffer: for he was but a type of Him who should suffer. Yet, even when serving only for a type of Christ, he smote men with astonishment and fear.
For a new mystery was presented to view,-a son led by his father to a mountain to be slain, whose feet he bound together, and laid him on the wood of the sacrifice, preparing with care whatever was necessary to his immolation. Isaac on his part is silent, bound like a ram, not opening his mouth, nor uttering a sound with his voice. For, not fearing the knife, nor quailing before the fire, nor troubled by the prospect of suffering, he sustained bravely the character of the type of the Lord. Accordingly there lies Isaac before us, with his feet bound like a ram, his father standing by, with the knife all bare in his hand, not shrinking from shedding the blood of his son.
Two scholia on Genesis 22:13.
The Syriac and the Hebrew use the word “suspended,” as more clearly typifying the cross.
The word Sabek some have rendered remission, others upright, as if the meaning, agreeing with the popular belief, were-a goat walking erect up to a bush, and there standing erect caught by his horns, so as to be a plain type of the cross. For this reason it is not translated, because the single Hebrew word signifies in other languages many things. To those, however, who ask it is proper to give an answer, and to say that Sabek denotes lifted up.
On the nature of Christ.
For there is no need, to persons of intelligence, to attempt to prove, from the deeds of Christ subsequent to His baptism, that His soul and His body, His human nature like ours, were real, and no phantom of the imagination. For the deeds done by Christ after His baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise, He gave us sure indications of His two natures: of His Deity, by His miracles during the three years that elapsed after His baptism; of His humanity, during the thirty similar periods which preceded His baptism, in which, by reason of His low estate as regards the flesh, He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages.
From the Oration on Our Lord’s Passion.
God has suffered from the right hand of Israel.
Head of the Lord-His simple Divinity; because He is the Beginning and Creator of all things: in Daniel.
The white hair of the Lord, because He is “the Ancient of Days: “as above.
The eyes of the Lord-the Divine inspection: because He sees all things. Like that in the apostle: For all things are naked and open in His eyes.”
The eyelids of theLord-hidden spiritual mysteries in the Divine precepts. In the Psalm: “His eyelids question, that is prove, the children of men.”
The smelling of the Lord-His delight in the prayers or works of the saints. In Genesis: “And the Lord smelled an odour of sweetness.”
The mouth of the Lord-His Son, or word addressed to men. In the prophet, “The mouth of the Lord hath spoken; ” and elsewhere, “They provoked His mouth to anger.”
The tongue of the Lord-His Holy Spirit. In the Psalm: “My tongue is a pen.”
The face of the Lord-His manifestation. In Exodus, “My face shall go before thee; ” and in the prophet, “The face of the Lord divided them.”
The word of the Lord–His Son. In the Psalm: “My heart hath uttered a good word.”
The arm of the Lord–His Son, by whom He hath wrought all His works. In the prophet Isaiah: “And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? “
The right hand of the Lord-that is, His Son; as also above in the Psalm: “The right hand of the Lord hath done valiantly.”
The right hand of the Lord–electio omnis. As in Deuteronomy: “In His right hand is a fiery law.”
The wings of the Lord-Divine protection. In the Psalm: “In the shadow of Thy wings will I hope.”
The shoulder of the Lord-the Divine power, by which He condescends to carry the feeble. In Deuteronomy: “He took them up, and put them on His shoulders.”
The hand of the Lord-Divine operation. In the prophet: “Have not my hands made all these things? “
The finger of the Lord-the Holy Spirit, by whose operation the tables of the law in Exodus are said to have been written; and in the Gospel: “If I by the finger of God cast out demons”
The fingers of the Lord-The lawgiver Moses, or the prophets. In the Psalm: “I will regard the heavens,” that is, the books of the Law and the Prophets, “the works of Thy fingers.”
The wisdom of the Lord–His Son. In the apostle: “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God; ” and in Solomon: “The wisdom of the Lord reacheth from one end to the other mightily.”
The womb of the Lord-the hidden recess of Deity out of which He brought forth His Son. In the Psalm: “Out of the womb, before Lucifer, have I borne Thee.
The feet of the Lord-His immoveableness and eternity. In the Psalm: “And thick darkness was under His feet.”
The throne of the Lord-angels, or saints, or simply sovereign dominion. In the Psalm: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.”
Seat-the same as above, angels or saints, because the Lord sits upon these. In the Psalm: “The Lord sat upon His holy seat.”
The descent of the Lord-His visitation of men. As in Micah: “Behold, the Lord shall come forth from His place; He shall come down trampling under foot the ends of the earth.” Likewise in a bad sense. In Genesis: “The Lord came down to see the tower.”
The ascent of the Lord-the raising up of man, who is taken from earth to heaven. In the Psalm: “Who ascendeth above the heaven of heavens to the east.”
The standing of the Lord-the patience of the Deity, by which He bears with sinners that they may come to repentance. As in Habakkuk: “He good and measured the earth; and in the Gospel: “Jesus stood, and bade him be called,” that is, the blind man.
The transition of the Lord-His assumption of our flesh, through which by His birth, His death, His resurrection, His ascent into heaven, He made transitions, so to say. In the Song of Songs: “Behold, He cometh, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills.”
The going of the Lord-His coming or visitation. In the Psalm.
The way of the Lord-the operation of the Deity. As in Job, in speaking of the devil: “He is the beginning of the ways of the Lord.”
Again: The ways of the Lord-His precepts. In Hosea: “For the ways of the Lord are straight, and the just shall walk in them.”
The footsteps of the Lord-the signs of His secret operations. As in the Psalm: “And Thy footsteps shall not be known.”
The knowledge of the Lord-that which makes men to know Him. To Abraham He says: “Now I know that thou fearest the Lord; ” that is, I have made thee to know.
The ignorance of God is His disapproval. In the Gospel: “I know you not.”
The remembrance of God-His mercy, by which He rejects and has mercy on whom He will. So in Genesis: “The Lord remembered Noah; ” and in another passage: “The Lord hath remembered His people.”
The repentance of the Lord–His change of procedure. As in the book of Kings: “It repented me that I have made Saul king.”
The anger and wrath of the Lord-the vengeance of the Deity upon sinners, when He bears with them with a view to punishment, does not at once judge them according to strict equity. As in the Psalm: “In His anger and in His wrath will He trouble them.”
The sleeping of the Lord-when, in the thoughts of some, His faithfulness is not sufficiently wakeful. In the Psalm: “Awake, why sleepest Thou, O Lord? “
The watches of the Lord-in the guardianship of His elect He is always at hand by the presence of His Deity. In the Psalm: “Lo! He will not slumber nor sleep.”
The sitting of the Lord-His ruling. In the Psalm: “The Lord sitteth upon His holy seat.”
The footstool of the Lord-man assumed by the Word; or His saints, as some think. In the Psalm: “Worship ye His footstool, for it is holy.”
The walking of the Lord-the delight of the Deity in the walks of His elect. In the prophet: “I will walk in them, and will be their Lord.”
The trumpet of the Lord-His mighty voice. In the apostle: “At the command, and at the voice of the archangel, and at the trumpet of God, shall He descend from heaven.”