High Christology in the “Paschal Letter” of Melito of Sardis (165-175 A.D.) Pastor Rudolph Boshoff

Melito of Sardis (died c. 180) was Bishop of Sardis, prominent ecclesiastical writer in the latter half of the second century. Few details of his life are known. A letter of Polyerates of Ephesus to Pope Victor about 194 (Eusebius, “Hist. Eccl.”, V, xxiv) states that “Melito the eunuch [this is interpreted “the virgin” by Rufinus in his translation of Eusebius], whose whole walk was in the Holy Spirit”, was interred at Sardis, and had been one of the great authorities in the Church of Asia who held the Quartodeciman theory. His name is cited also in the “Labyrinth” of Hippolytus as one of the second-century writers who taught the duality of natures in Jesus. St. Jerome, speaking of the canon of Melito, quotes Tertullian’s statement that he was esteemed a prophet by many of the faithful.”

Melito affirms quite a lot of what we believe and confess as the Church of Jesus Christ in his letter on “The Passover”.

He affirms: 
  • A natural progression in the Biblical Narrative from Old Testament to New Testament:
3. “It is old insofar as it concerns the law, but new insofar as it concerns the gospel; temporal insofar as it concerns the type, eternal because of grace; corruptible because of the sacrifice of the sheep, incorruptible because of the life of the Lord; mortal because of his burial in the earth, immortal because of his resurrection from the dead.4. The law is old, but the gospel is new; the type was for a time, but grace is forever.”
 
  • Jesus was resurrected  by God as God.
4. “The sheep was corruptible, but the Lord is incorruptible, who was crushed as a lamb, but who was resurrected as God. For although he was led to sacrifice as a sheep, yet he was not a sheep; and although he was as a lamb without voice, yet indeed he was not a lamb. The one was the model; the other was found to be the finished product.”
 
  • Jesus contains all things (Col.1:16).
5. “For God replaced the lamb, and a man the sheep; but in the man was Christ, who contains all things.”
 
  • The law was a Shadow of things to come. To be exceeded by a new covenant (Jer.31:31-34, Heb.8:6-13)
6. “Hence, the sacrifice of the sheep, and the sending of the lamb to slaughter, and the writing of the law–each led to and issued in Christ, for whose sake everything happened in the ancient law, and even more so in the new gospel.”
 
  • He affirms the “Hypostatic Union of Christ” (Christ was 100% God & 100% Man).

7. “For indeed the law issued in the gospel–the old in the new, both coming forth together from Zion and Jerusalem; and the commandment issued in grace, and the type in the finished product, and the lamb in the Son, and the sheep in a man, and the man in God.”

8. “For the one who was born as Son, and led to slaughter as a lamb, and sacrificed as a sheep, and buried as a man, rose up from the dead as God, since he is by nature both God and man.”
 
 
  • Jesus was the plan of God since the foundation of the World.

9. “He is everything: in that he judges he is law, in that he teaches he is gospel, in that he saves he is grace, in that he begets he is Father, in that he is begotten he is Son, in that he suffers he is sheep, in that he is buried he is man, in that he comes to life again he is God.”

10. “Such is Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.”
 
 
  • Christ’s death was foreshadowed by the death of the Paschal Lamb in the Passover Narrative.
31. “O inexpressible mystery! the sacrifice of the sheep was found to be the salvation of the people, and the death of the sheep became the life of the people. For its blood warded off the angel.”
32. “Tell me, O angel, At what were you turned away? At the sacrifice of the sheep, or the life of the Lord? At the death of the sheep, or the type of the Lord? At the blood of the sheep, or the Spirit of the Lord? Clearly, you were turned away”
33. “because you saw the mystery of the Lord taking place in the sheep, the life of the Lord in the sacrifice of the sheep, the type of the Lord in the death of the sheep.”
 
 
  •  Christ’s life,death and Salvation was “prefigured” in the Law

39. “Therefore, if it was like this with models of perishable objects, so indeed will it also be with those of imperishable objects. If it was like this with earthly things, so indeed also will it be with heavenly things. For even the Lord’s salvation and his truth were prefigured in the people, and the teaching of the gospel was proclaimed in advance by the law.

40. The people, therefore, became the model for the church, and the law a parabolic sketch. But the gospel became the explanation of the law and its fulfillment, while the church became the storehouse of truth.
41. Therefore, the type had value prior to its realization, and the parable was wonderful prior to its interpretation. This is to say that the people had value before the church came on the scene, and the law was wonderful before the gospel was brought to light.
42. But when the church came on the scene, and the gospel was set forth, the type lost its value by surrendering its significance to the truth, and the law was fulfilled by surrendering its significance to the gospel. Just as the type lost its significance by surrendering its image to that which is true by nature, and as the parable lost its significance by being illumined through the interpretation,
43. so indeed also the law was fulfilled when the gospel was brought to light, and the people lost their significance when the church came on the scene, and the type was destroyed when the Lord appeared. Therefore, those things which once had value are today without value, because the things which have true value have appeared.”
 
  • Christ was from above and pre-existed (Col.3:3)
44.”The temple here below once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the Christ from above.”
 
  • God made His dwelling here through Jesus Christ (John 1).
45. “The Jerusalem here below once had value, but now it is without value because of the Jerusalem from above. The meager inheritance once had value; now it is without value because of the abundant grace. For not in one place alone, nor yet in narrow confines, has the glory of God been established, but his grace has been poured out upon the uttermost parts of the inhabited world, and there the almighty God has taken up his dwelling place through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever. Amen.”
 
  • Christ came to give His life as a ransom for many (John 3:16-18).
47. “Why indeed was the Lord present upon the earth? In order that having clothed himself with the one who suffers, he might lift him up to the heights of heaven.”
 
  • Affirms the depravity of man’s nature due to original Sin
54. “Because of these things sin exulted, which, because it was death’s collaborator, entered first into the souls of men, and prepared as food for him the bodies of the dead. In every soul sin left its mark, and those in whom it placed its mark were destined to die.
55. Therefore, all flesh fell under the power of sin, and every body under the dominion of death, for every soul was driven out from its house of flesh. Indeed, that which had been taken from the earth was dissolved again into earth, and that which had been given from God was locked up in Hades. And that beautiful ordered arrangement was dissolved, when the beautiful body was separated (from the soul).
56. Yes, man was divided up into parts by death. Yes, an extraordinary misfortune and captivity enveloped him: he was dragged away captive under the shadow of death, and the image of the Father remained there desolate. For this reason, therefore, the mystery of the passover has been completed in the body of the Lord.”
 
  • The death of Christ was a Prophetic fulfillment of the Old Testament.

58. “So indeed also the suffering of the Lord, predicted long in advance by means of types, but seen today, has brought about faith, just because it has taken place as predicted. And yet men have taken it as something completely new. Well, the truth of the matter is the mystery of the Lord is both old and new–old insofar as it involved the type, but new insofar as it concerns grace. And what is more, if you pay close attention to this type you will see the real thing through its fulfillment.”

 
  • Christ’s blood is for the propitiation of our Sins
60. “Pay close attention also to the one who was sacrificed as a sheep in the land of Egypt, to the one who smote Egypt and who saved Israel by his blood.”
61. For it was through the voice of prophecy that the mystery of the Lord was proclaimed. Moses, indeed, said to his people: Surely you will see your life suspended before your eyes night and day, but you surely will not believe on your Life.     Deut. 28:66.
62. And David said: Why were the nations haughty and the people concerned about nothing? The kings of the earth presented themselves and the princes assembled themselves together against the Lord and against his anointed.     Ps. 2:1-2.
63. And Jeremiah: I am as an innocent lamb being led away to be sacrificed. They plotted evil against me and said: Come! let us throw him a tree for his food, and let us exterminate him from the land of the living, so that his name will never be recalled.     Jer. 11:19.
64. And Isaiah: He was led as a sheep to slaughter, and, as a lamb is silent in the presence of the one who shears it, he did not open his mouth. Therefore who will tell his offspring?     Isa. 53:7
65. And indeed there were many other things proclaimed by numerous prophets concerning the mystery of the passover, which is Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.”
 
 
  • Christ was born of a Virgin.
66. “When this one came from heaven to earth for the sake of the one who suffers, and had clothed himself with that very one through the womb of a virgin, and having come forth as man, he accepted the sufferings of the sufferer through his body which was capable of suffering.”
 
  • Jesus provides deliverance from the penalty of Sin and Death
67. “For this one, who was led away as a lamb, and who was sacrificed as a sheep, by himself delivered us from servitude to the world as from the land of Egypt, and released us from bondage to the devil as from the hand of Pharaoh, and sealed our souls by his own spirit and the members of our bodies by his own blood.”
 
  • Jesus, suffered, was dishonored, was judged and was crucified.
75. “It was necessary for him to suffer, yes, but not by you; it was necessary for him to be dishonored, but not by you; it was necessary for him to be judged, but not by you; it was necessary for him to be crucified, but not by you, nor by your right hand.”
 
  • Jesus is the “One”
82. “But you were found not really to be Israel, for you did not see God, you did not recognize the Lord, you did not know, O Israel, that this one was the firstborn of God, the one who was begotten before the morning star, the one who caused the light to shine forth, the one who made bright the day, the one who parted the darkness, the one who established the primordial starting point, the one who suspended the earth, the one who quenched the abyss, the one who stretched out the firmament, the one who formed the universe,
83. the one who set in motion the stars of heaven, the one who caused those luminaries to shine, the one who made the angels in heaven, the one who established their thrones in that place, the one who by himself fashioned man upon the earth. This was the one who chose you, the one who guided you from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, from Abraham to Isaac and Jacob and the Twelve Patriarchs.” 
 
  • Jesus is the “Angel of the Lord/YHWH in the Old Testament

84. “This was the one who guided you into Egypt, and guarded you, and himself kept you well supplied there. This was the one who lighted your route with a column of fire, and provided shade for you by means of a cloud, the one who divided the Red Sea, and led you across it, and scattered your enemy abroad.

85. This is the one who provided you with manna from heaven, the one who gave you water to drink from a rock, the one who established your laws in Horeb, the one who gave you an inheritance in the land, the one who sent out his prophets to you, the one who raised up your kings.
86. This is the one who came to you, the one who healed your suffering ones and who resurrected your dead. This is the one whom you sinned against. This is the one whom you wronged. This is the one whom you killed. This is the one whom you sold for silver, although you asked him for the didrachma.” 
 
  • Jesus healings in the Gospel Narratives affirmed

89. “How high a price did you place on your suffering people whom he healed when he was present? Set me a price on the withered hand, which he restored whole to its body.

90. Put me a price on the men born blind, whom he led into light by his voice. Put me a price on those who lay dead, whom he raised up alive from the tomb. Inestimable are the benefits that come to you from him. But you, shamefully, have paid him back with ingratitude, returning to him evil for good, and affliction for favor and death for life–
91. a person for whom you should have died. Furthermore, if the king of some nation is captured by an enemy, a war is started because of him, fortifications are shattered because of him, cities are plundered because of him, ransom is sent because of him, ambassadors are commissioned because of him in order that he might be surrendered, so that either he might be returned if living, or that he might be buried if dead.” 
 
  • Jesus is God crucified and resurrected

95. “And thus he was lifted up upon the tree, and an inscription was affixed identifying the one who had been murdered. Who was he? It is painful to tell, but it is more dreadful not to tell. Therefore, hear and tremble because of him for whom the earth trembled.

96. The one who hung the earth in space, is himself hanged; the one who fixed the heavens in place, is himself impaled; the one who firmly fixed all things, is himself firmly fixed to the tree. The Lord is insulted, God has been murdered, the King of Israel has been destroyed by the right hand of Israel.” 
 
  • Jesus is “Christus Victor”/Alpha & Omega/Right Hand of God!
100. “But he arose from the dead and mounted up to the heights of heaven. When the Lord had clothed himself with humanity, and had suffered for the sake of the sufferer, and had been bound for the sake of the imprisoned, and had been judged for the sake of the condemned, and buried for the sake of the one who was buried,
101. he rose up from the dead, and cried aloud with this voice: Who is he who contends with me? Let him stand in opposition to me. I set the condemned man free; I gave the dead man life; I raised up the one who had been entombed.
102. Who is my opponent? I, he says, am the Christ. I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven, I, he says, am the Christ.
103. Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins. I am your forgiveness, I am the passover of your salvation, I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am your ransom, I am your light, I am your saviour, I am your resurrection, I am your king, I am leading you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you the eternal Father, I will raise you up by my right hand.
104. This is the one who made the heavens and the earth, and who in the beginning created man, who was proclaimed through the law and prophets, who became human via the virgin, who was hanged upon a tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from the dead, and who ascended to the heights of heaven, who sits at the right hand of the Father, who has authority to judge and to save everything, through whom the Father created everything from the beginning of the world to the end of the age.
105. This is the alpha and the omega. This is the beginning and the end–an indescribable beginning and an incomprehensible end. This is the Christ. This is the king. This is Jesus. This is the general. This is the Lord. This is the one who rose up from the dead. This is the one who sits at the right hand of the Father. He bears the Father and is borne by the Father, to whom be the glory and the power forever. Amen.”
 

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