The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church

By Charles E. Hill | Go to book overview

6 John among the Orthodox, 150-c.170

In chapters 3-5 above we have encountered many signs which seem to demand that a recognition and reception of the Fourth Gospel, and indeed the Johannine Revelation and at least the First Epistle, must have taken place in orthodox churches much earlier than the 170s, perhaps far back in the second century. Both the orthodox and the heterodox sources seem to demand this. This is quite surprising in the light of the common explanation of the second century which states that very little orthodox use is to be found prior to about 170-80, and that what can be found is tentative or self-conscious. It is now time to examine the earlier portions of the second century.

From here I shall work backwards chronologically from just before the orthodox writers examined in Chapter 3 to see whether there are precedents for their use of the Fourth Gospel, and the rest of the Johannine corpus, and what the nature of these precedents might be.


Melito of Sardis

Melito was listed by Polycrates as one of the luminaries of the quartodeciman faith who slept in Asia (Eusebius, HE 5. 24. 2-6). His fame as an orator and a writer spread beyond his native Asia Minor, at least to Alexandria (Clement and Origen) and North Africa (Tertullian). Of his numerous writings we have only one in complete form and mere fragments of the others. His witness to the Fourth Gospel is related temporally to that of his contemporary, Apollinarius of Hierapolis, who, like Melito, also wrote a treatise with the title Concerning the Passover. Treating the date of the one will impinge upon the dating of the other.

At the top of Eusebius' list of the works of Melito known to him are 'two books On the Passover' (HE 4. 26. 2). He cites a passage from the beginning of this work to show when it was written (4. 26. 3). Scholars are not agreed as to just how this notice relates to the work Peri Pascha which was rediscovered in the twentieth century and is now securely attributed to Melito. 1 The latter appears to be only a single, self-standing book, not two books as Eusebius says, and it nowhere contains the fragment quoted by Eusebius as the beginning of the work. Still, there are various ways the discrepancies could be resolved. In the Eusebian fragment Melito cites the rise of a great dispute or

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