MELITO
of
SARDIS
 

 

MELITO,  (d. c.190), Bishop. of Sardis. Apart from the fact that he made a visit to Palestine to visit the Holy Places, practically nothing is known of his life. He was described by Polycrates (ap. Eusebius, HE 5. 24. 5) as one of the great lights of Asia and an upholder of Quartodeciman practice, and the author of the ‘Little Labyrinth’ applauded him as an upholder of orthodox Christology. He was a prolific writer, but only fragments of his works were known until 1940, when C. Bonner published a work preserved in a papyrus shared between the Chester Beatty collection and the University of Michigan. The work bore no title in this papyrus, but a further text found among the Bodmer papyri (pub. 1960) and also the Coptic and Georgian versions provide the title ‘On the Pasch’ (Περὶ Πάσχα, Peri Pascha). A Latin epitome survives among the sermons of both Augustine and Leo I. Its main theme is the new Pasch inaugurated by Christ. The liturgical context appears to be the Quartodeciman Pasch, and there are interesting parallels with the Jewish Passover haggadah. There is much polemic against the Jews who crucified the Lord. The Christology of the work bears out Melito’s reputation: he describes Christ as ‘by nature God and Man’ (φύσει θεὸς ὢν καὶ ἄνθρωπος). There is an anti-Gnostic insistence on the true humanity of Christ and on the unity of the Old and New Covenants. Man was created a harmonious unity of body and soul, and Redemption consists in the restoration of this unity, which has been dissolved by sin and death. The surviving fragments of his other works include parts of an ‘apology’ addressed to the Emp. Marcus Aurelius and a treatise on Baptism, which seems to owe something to Stoic sources. Melito’s theology prob. influenced Irenaeus and Tertullian. Feast day, 1 Apr.


Crit. edn. with Fr. tr. of Peri Pascha and frags. of other works by O. Perler (SC 123; 1966); and with Eng. tr. by S. G. Hall (Oxford Early Christian Texts, 1979). Chester Beatty—Michigan papyrus of the Peri Pascha ed. C. Bonner (Studies and Documents, 12; Philadelphia and London, 1940); the Bodmer text by M. Testuz (Papyrus Bodmer, 13; Cologny and Geneva, 1960); and the Georgian version, with Eng. tr., by J. N. Birdsall in Muséon, 130 (1967), pp. 121–38. H. Chadwick, ‘A Latin Epitome of Melito’s Homily on the Pascha’, JTS NS 11 (1960), pp. 76–82. A. Stewart-Sykes, The Lamb’s High Feast: Melito, Peri Pascha and the Quartodeciman Paschal Liturgy at Sardis (Supplements to VC, 42; 1998). F. L. Cross, The Early Christian Fathers (1960), pp. 103–9. CPG 1 (1983), pp. 35–43 (nos. 1092–8) and Suppl. (1998), p. 10. O. Perler in Dict. Sp. 10 (1980), cols. 979–90, s.v., with bibl.


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