Here is selection from the Epistle to Diognetus, (3rd cetnury?), a marvelous little defense of Christianity before the Greeks and pagans.
The first paragraph below is well known, the next two which follow it in the text less so. The author says that the uniqueness of the Christians is due to the fact that they have a function in the world like the soul to the body. This function is that they have been entrusted with "a truth and holy teaching" given them by the Creator Himself who has come to them.
For Christians are not distinguished from the
rest of mankind either in locality or in speech or in
For they dwell not somewhere in cities of their
own, neither do they use some different language, nor
practise an extraordinary kind of life.
Nor again do they possess any invention
discovered by any intelligence or study of ingenious
men, nor are they masters of any human dogma as some
But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and
barbarians as the lot of each is cast, and follow the
native customs in dress and food and the other
arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their
own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvellous,
and confessedly contradicts expectation.
They dwell in their own countries, but only as
sojourners; they bear their share in all things as
citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers.
Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and
every fatherland is foreign.
They marry like all other men and they beget
children; but they do not cast away their offspring.
They have their meals in common, but not their
They find themselves in the flesh, and yet they
live not after the flesh.
Their existence is on earth, but their
citizenship is in heaven.
They obey the established laws, and they
surpass the laws in their own lives.
They love all men, and they are persecuted by
They are ignored, and yet they are condemned.
They are put to death, and yet they are endued with
They are in beggary, and yet they make many
rich. They are in want of all things, and yet they
abound in all things.
They are dishonoured, and yet they are
glorified in their dishonour. They are evil spoken of,
and yet they are vindicated.
They are reviled, and they bless; they are
insulted, and they respect.
Doing good they are punished as evil-doers;
being punished they rejoice, as if they were thereby
quickened by life.
War is waged against them as aliens by the
Jews, and persecution is carried on against them by
the Greeks, and yet those that hate them cannot tell
the reason of their hostility.
In a word, what the soul is in a body, this the
Christians are in the world.
The soul is spread through all the members of
the body, and Christians through the divers cities of
The soul hath its abode in the body, and yet it
is not of the body. So Christians have their abode in
the world, and yet they are not of the world.
The soul which is invisible is guarded in the
body which is visible so Christians are recognised as
being in the world, and yet their religion remaineth
The flesh hateth the soul and wageth war with
it, though it receiveth no wrong, because it is
forbidden to indulge in pleasures; so the world hateth
Christians, though it receiveth no wrong from them,
because they set themselves against its pleasures.
The soul loveth the flesh which hateth it, and
the members so Christians love those that hate them.
The soul is enclosed in the body, and yet itself
holdeth the body together; so Christians are kept in
the world as in a prison-house, and yet they
themselves hold the world together.
The soul though itself immortal dwelleth in a
mortal tabernacle; so Christians sojourn amidst
perishable things, while they look for the
imperishability which is in the heavens.
The soul when hardly treated in the matter of
meats and drinks is improved; and so Christians when
punished increase more and more daily.
So great is the office for which God hath
appointed them, and which it is not lawful for them to
For it is no earthly discovery, as I said, which
was committed to them, neither do they care to guard
so carefully any mortal invention, nor have they
entrusted to them the dispensation of human mysteries.
But truly the Almighty Creator of the Universe,
the Invisible God Himself from heaven planted among
men the truth and the holy teaching which surpasseth
the wit of man, and fixed it firmly in their hearts,
not as any man might imagine, by sending (to mankind)
a subaltern, or angel, or ruler, or one of those that
direct the affairs of earth, or one of those who have
been entrusted with the dispensations in heaven, but
the very Artificer and Creator of the Universe
by Whom He made the heavens, by Whom He
enclosed the sea in its proper bounds, Whose mysteries
all the elements faithfully observe, from Whom [the
sun] hath received even the measure of the courses of
the day to keep them, Whom the moon obeys as He bids
her shine by night, Whom the stars obey as they follow
the course of the moon, by Whom all things are ordered
and bounded and placed in subjection, the heavens and
the things that are in the heavens, the earth and the
things that are in the earth, the sea and the things
that are in the sea, fire, air, abyss, the things that
are in the heights, the things that are in the depths,
the things that are between the two. Him He sent unto