), a Christian writer of (considerable eminence, who lived in the second century.
He was contemporary with Hegesippus, Dionysius of Corinth, Apollinaris of Hierapolis, and others (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 4.21
). Of his personal history very little is known.
The epithets Asianus and Sardensis, given to him by Jerome (De Vir. Illustr.
c. 24), indicate the place of his episcopal charge, not, so far as appears, of his birth. Polycrates of Ephesus, a writer of somewhat later date, in his letter to Victor. bishop of Rome (apud Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 5.24
), calls him "Eunuchus," but it is not clear whether this term is to be understood literally, or is simply expressive of his inviolate chastity.
At what time he became bishop of Sardes is not known: he probably was bishop when the controversy arose at Laodiceia respecting the observance of Easter, which occasioned him to write his book on the subject (Clem. Alexandr. apud Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 4.26
This controversy arose when Servilius Paulus was proconsul of Asia, and at the time of the martyrdom of Sagaris, who is thought to have suffered in the persecution under M. Aurelius. During the same persecution, Melito composed his Apologia,
which, as it was addressed to Aurelius alone, appears to have been written after the death of Lucius Verus, in A. D. 169. The Chronicon
of Eusebius places its presentation in A. D. 169-170 : it must have been written then or between those years and A. D. 180, in which Aurelius himself died [AURELIUS MARCUS]. The Chronicon Paschale
seems to ascribe to Melito two apologies, one presented to Aurelius and Verus, A. D. 165, the other to Aurelius alone, A. D. 169. Tillemont is disposed to place the Apology as late as the year 175; Pearson and Dodwell between 170 and 175; and Basnage (Annales Politic. Eccles.
) and Lardner as late as A. D. 177.
The time, place, and manner of Melito's death are not accurately and certainly known: from the silence of Polycrates (apud Euseb. l.c.
) it may be inferred that he was not a Martyr; the place of his death may be conjectured from that of his interment, which Polycrates states to have been Sardes; and as for the date of it, Polycrates, whose letter to Victor was apparently written about 196, speaks of it in a way which indicates that it was not then recent.
The works of Melito are enumerated by Eusebius (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 4.26
) as follows :--
Περὶ πολιτείας καὶ προφητῶν
, De Recta Vivendi Ratione
(s. de Recta Conversatione) et de Prophetis.
Some interpreters, including Rufinus, have inaccurately rendered this passage, as if it spoke of two distinct works. Jerome (De Viris Illustr.
100.24) gives the title of this work in Latin, De Vita Prophetarum,
which his translator, the so-called Sophronius, re-translates into Greek, Περὶ βίου προφητικοῦ
, giving reason to think that the original text of Eusebius was Περρὶ τῆς πολιτείας τῶν προφητῶν
; but all the MSS. and the text of Nicephorus Callisti support the common rending.
, De Ecclesia.
, De Die Dominica.
Περὶ φύσεως ἀνθρῶπου
, De Natura Hominis.
Rufinus appears to have read Περὶ πίστεως ἀνθρώπου
, for he renders it De Fide Hominis.
, De Creatione,
or according to Jerome, De Plasmatc
and according to Rufinus, De Figmento.
Nicephorus Callisti, who, like Rufinus, read Πίστεως
in the title of No. 5
, speaks of Nos. 5
as one work. Περὶ πίστεως ἀνθρώπου καὶ πλάσεως
, De Fide Hominis et Creatione
Περὶ ὑπακοῆς πίστεως αισθητηρίων
, De Obedientia Sensuum Fidei praestanda s. De Obedientia Sensuum Fidei.
Nicephorus Callisti speaks of two works, Περὶ ὑπακοῆς πιστεως
, and Περὶ αἰσθητηρίων
; and Jerome, in his catalogue of the works of Melito, enumerates consecutively De Sensibus
and De Fide,
which Sophronius renders Περὶ διανοίας
and Περὶ τῶν πιστῶν
Rufinus also gives two titles as of separate books, De Obedientia Fidei
and De Sensibus,
which two titles represent the one title given in the present text of Eusebius.
Περὶ ψυχῆς καὶ σώματος ἢ νοός
, Anima et Corpore se de Mente:
or, as Rufinus renders it, De Anima et Corpore et Mente.
Jerome has only De Anima et Corpore.
, De Baptismate
s. De Lavacro.
One MS. of Eusebius, supported by Nicephorus Callisti, speaks of this work as a portion of No. 8
, De Veritate
Περὶ κτίσεως καὶ γενέσεως Χριστου
, De Creatione et Generatione Christi.
Some MSS. read Περὶ πίστεως
instead of κτισεως
; but this reading was probably introduced after the rise of the Arian controversy caused the word κτίσεως
to be regarded as heterodox. Rufinus has De Fide
(as if he had read Περὶ
pistews instead of Περὶ κτίεως
) and De Generatione Christi
as the titles of two separate books. Jerome has only De Generatione Christi,
omitting to render the obnoxious word κτίσεως
, De Prophetia
. Jerome renders the title De Prophetia sua.
Rufinus, who has De Prophetia ejus,
connects this title by the conjunction et
with the title of the latter work mentioned under No. 11
, De Generatione Christi et de Prophetia ejus.
It may be mentioned, in vindication of Jerome's version, that according to the testimony of Tertullian (in a work now lost, but which Jerome (l.c.) cites, and which was written after he became a Montanist), Melito was regarded by many persons (whether among the Montanists or the Catholics, is not clear) as a prophet.
, De Philoxenia s. De Hospitalilate.
of which we shall speak presently.
Περὶ τοῦ διαβόλου καὶ τῆς ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰωάννου
, De Diabolo et de Apocalypsi Joannis.
Both Rufinus and Jerome speak of two books, one De Diabolo,
the other De Apocapsi;
they are perhaps right.
Περὶ ἐνσωμάτου Θεοῦ
, De Deo Corpore induto.
From a passage in Origen, quoted by Theodoret (Quaest. in Genesim,
100.20), Melito appears to have believed that God possessed a bodily form, and to have written in support of that doctrine.
This work was probably the one referred to by Origen; and it is in vain that some modern critics have argued that it was written on the incarnation of Christ. Anastasius Sinaita, in his Ὁδηγὸς
, Dux Viae adversus Acephalos,
100.13, has, indeed, quoted a passage from Melito's book, Περὶ σαρκώσεως Χριστοῦ
, De Incarnatione Christi,
but this appears to be a different work from the present, and is not mentioned by Eusebius.
Πρὸς Ἀντωνῖνονρ Βιβλίδιου
) ad Antoninum.
This was the Apologia
or defence of Christianity already mentioned.
sc. ex Libris Vet. Testamenti,
comprised, according to Jerome, in six books.
This last work is not mentioned by Eusebius when enumerating the works of Melito, but he afterwards gives a quotation from it. (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 4.26
.) To this catalogue, furnished by Eusebius, we may add the following works on the authority of Anastasius Sinaita, who lived in the middle of the sixth century.
Περὶ σαρκώσεως Χριστοῦ
, De Incarnatione Christi,
consisting of at least three books, and directed, partly or wholly, against Marcion. (See above, No. 16
Λόγος εἰς τὸ πάθος
, Oratio in Passionem.
Besides these genuine writings of Melito, another has been ascribed to him, De Transitu Beatae Viginis
, which is extant in Latin, and appears in most editions of the Bibliotheca Patrum,
but it is generally allowed to be spurious.
It is mentioned, but without the author's name, in the Decretum
of Pope Gelasius I., in which it is placed among the spurious books; and is mentioned as extant, under the name of Melito, by the venerable Beda (Retractat. in Acta,
cap. 8, Opera,
vol. vi. col. 15, ed. Col. 1612), who describes it as a forgery, and points out its inconsistencies with the Scripture narratives.
The number of his genuine works sufficiently shows the industry of Melito, and their subjects indicate the variety of his attainments; and the eulogies of the most learned fathers, and their testimony of the high reputation which Melito enjoyed, make us regret that of all these writings only a few fragments have descended to our times.
It is, however, to be observed that these eulogies are qualified by intimations of his gross error as to the Deity.
The express declaration of Origen as to his belief that God had a bodily form is supported by the testimony of (Gennadius of Massilia (Lib. Dogm. Eccles.
100.4). Modern writers seek in vain to exculpate him; and Tillemont, though unwilling to conclude positively that a writer so eminent could have held so gross an error, admits that, possibly, this imputation, or the ascription to him of the book De Transitu B. Virqinis,
may have prevented the church from honouring his memory by an appointed office. Modern Roman Catholics, as Bellarmin, Baronius, Halloix, Tillemont, Ceillier, &c., do not hesitate to give him the title of "Saint," and Tillemont pleads that they are in this only following the tradition of the Asiatic church.
The book published in French (12mo. 1662), under the title of Apocalypse de Meliton,
was a satire against the monks.
The fragments of Melito's writings are as follows. We prefix to the notice of each the number of the work, from which it is taken, in the catalogue of the works of this father already given.
1. A fragment of the work De Pascha,
preserved by Eusebius (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 4.26
), showing when Melito wrote it.
Several fragments of the Apologia,
all but one, preserved by Eusebius (l.c.
), and the remaining one in the Chronicon Paschale
(p. 259, ed. Paris, 207, ed. Venice, and vol. i. p. 483, ed. Bonn).
A very valuable passage preserved by Eusebius (l.c.) from the Ecloqae,
or rather from the introductory letter to the Eclogae addressed to " Onesimuts, my brother" (whether his natural brother, or simply a fellow-Christian, is not clear), containing the earliest catalogue of "the books of the Old Covenant (or Testament)," given by a Christian writer. His catalogue agrees with the received canon of the Old Testament, except that it omits the books of Nehemiah and Esther; but Nehemiah is perhaps included under the title Esra or Esdras. None of the books of the Apocrypha are mentioned: the book of Wisdom has been thought to be included, but. according to the testimony of several ancient MSS. of Eu1sebins, supported by Rufinus and Nicephorus Callisti, the name is mentioned as a second title of the Book of Proverbs. From Melito's use of the term τὰ τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης βιβλία
, “Veteris Testamenti (s. Foederis) Libri,
” Lardner infers that the Christian Scriptures had been already collected into a volume under the title of The New Testament.
An extract from the work De Incarnatione Christi,
preserved by Anastasius Sinaita (Hodeg. s. Dux Viae,
100.13), and exaltingly appealed to by Cave (Hist. Litt.
) as showing Melito's orthodoxy as to the two natures of Christ.
The quotation, however, appears to be a summary of Melito's statements rather than an exact citation of his words. That Melito wrote in support of the two natures of Christ is affirmed by an anonymous writer cited by Eusebius (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 5.28
It is further observable that Melito extends our Lord's ministry to three years, contrary to the more general opinion of his day.
A very brief extract from the Oratio in Passionem,
"God suffered by the right hand of Israel," is also preserved by Anastasius (ibid. 100.12).
Extracts from the
Four extracts, perhaps from the Eclogae
, in an ancient MS. Catena in Genesin.
Collections of the fragments
These fragments have been collected by the diligence of successive writers.
Those preserved by Eusebius, and the Chronicon Paschale,
are given by Halloix, in his Illustr. Eccles. Orient. Script. Saec. II.
together with three of the fragments from the Catena in Genesin.
These fragments from the Catena
were enlarged by the diligence of Woog (Dissert. II. de Melitone
) and Nicephorus (Catena in Octateuch.
2 vols. fol. Lips. 1772-3).
The passages from Anastasius Sinaita are added in the Biblioth. Patrum
of Galland, but he omits those from the Catena.
The whole of the fragments of Melito are given in the Reliquiae Sacrae
of Routh (vol. i. p. 109, &100.8vo. Oxon. 1814, &c.), in which the extracts from the Catena
are fuller than in any previous edition.
The notes to this edition are very valuable.
Latin Version of the
Labbe, in his book De Scriptorib. Ecclesiast.
(vol. ii. p. 87), mentions a Latin version of the Clavis
of Melito, as being in his time extant in MS. in the College of Clermont, at Paris. From a transcript of this MS. (collated with another), which is among the papers of Grabe, in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, it appears to be much interpolated, if indeed any part of it is genuine.
It is a sort of vocabulary of the figurative terms of Scripture, somewhat similar to the De Formulis Spiritualis Intelligentiae
of Eucherius of Lyon. Crusius, and after his death Woog, had intended to publish it; but it remains still in MS. Woog, in his Dissert. Secunda de Melitone,
has given a syllabus of the Capita,
and printed the first Caput as a specimen.
In the MS. in the Clermont College the author is termed Melitus or Miletus.
It is possible that the fourth extract, given by Routh from the Catena,
is from the original Clavis of Melito.
Euseb. Hieronym. Chron. Paschale, ll. cc. ;
Cave, Hist. Litt.
ad ann. 170, vol. i. p. 71, ed. Oxford, 1740-43; Tillemont, Me/moires,
vol. ii. p. 407, &c., p. 663,
&c.; Ceillier, Auteurs Sacres,
vol. ii. p. 75, &c.; Lardner, Credibility,
pt. ii. ch. 15; Clericus (Le Clerc), Hist. Eccles. duor. primor. Saeculor.
ad ann. 169, 100.8-10; Ittigius, de Haeresiarch.
sect. ii. c. xi.; Woog, Dissert. . de Melitone;
Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. vii. p. 149, &c.; Semler, Hist. Eccles. Selecta Capita Saec. II.
100.5; Dupin, Nouvelle Biblioth. des Ant. Eccles.
vol. i. pt. i. and 2.8vo. Paris, 1698; Galland, Biblioth. Patrum, Proleg. in Vol. 11.
100.24; Routh, Reliquiae Sacrae, l.c., Annot. in Meliton. Fragmenta.