Sunday, November 18, 2018

Mathetes to Diognetus: Introduction

Before I actually dive into the actual text of The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, there is a lot of juicy information for world-building from the Introduction, which gives some historical background and context. Of interest to me is that we do not know who actually wrote this letter. The author is called “Mathetes” because he describes himself as a Disciple, which in Greek is Mathetes. For the purposes of world-building, this gives me a lot of freedom to assume the personage of the writer and to build whatever background I want for the needs of the campaign world.

Of note, though, scholars have floated the following figures as possible authors (though most have been rejected):

  • Justin Martyr: a 2nd Century Christian apologist, philosopher and teacher from Rome.
  • Clement of Rome: Bishop of Rome from A.D. 88-99 and author of several Epistles that were considered for inclusion in the N.T. but were rejected because he was too far removed from the Apostles.
  • Apollos: a Jewish Christian and co-worker of Paul mentioned several times in the N.T. who was important to the development of the churches in Ephesus and Corinth.

The most important piece of information that can be gleaned from the introduction (from a world-building perspective), however, is the hypothesis on who Diognetus is. While there seems to be some disagreement among scholars as to who the recipient of the letter is, both the original editor and the editor of the updated version (“N.B.”) seem convinced that Diognetus refers to a tutor of Marcus Aurelius, who was Emperor of Rome from A.D. 161-180. This places the letter in the first part of the 2nd Century because Diognetus was tutor of the future emperor until about A.D. 132-133. Diognetus was a master painter and encouraged Aurelius to pursue philosophy.

This tasty tidbit tells us several things about this nascent campaign-world:

  • There is an Empire.
  • The Empire is pagan.
  • Philosophy and art are important to the upper echelons of society.
  • The Christian/Church analogue is large and influential enough to garner the attention of the inner circle of the imperial family.

It also leaves me with several questions I will need to be answering as this project goes along:

  • Is the time-frame of the campaign to take place before or after the departure of Diognetus as tutor?
  • If before, is Diognetus (and therefore other members of the imperial household?) sympathetic in their interest in the Church or is there a more sinister motivation?
  • If after, is Diognetus still alive and, if so, is the reason he left the imperial household because he embraced the Church? If dead, was his interest found out and the reason for his execution?


  1. good to see you posting again, I'll be interested to see how this setting progresses

  2. Thanks for the writing! I'm glad to see new posts here on the blog. And thank you for introducing me to this Epistle. It's good to read these early documents of our faith to remind us what was and is important in it.