I hope you don’t mind me asking something that
might seem to be a very basic question, but what
is your name? Is it Mathetes, as you are known
as the author of your epistle to Diognetus, or do
you have some other name by which you would
prefer to be called? Who was the Diognetus that
you wrote to? Was he the former instructor of
the emperor or was it someone else that you wrote
to? Were you trying to mimic Quadratus’ work
when you thought to write a figure close to an
emperor in order to encourage fonder feelings
towards Christians by the imperial authorities? It
does not appear to have worked, unlike the efforts
of Quadratus, right?
What is it that led you to write apologetics in the
first place? Your work appears to be deeply flawed
it must be admitted. Were you aware of the fact that
Jesus and the Apostles kept the Sabbath when you
wrote so warmly against Sabbathkeeping among
Christians? Were you aware that the author of
Hebrews wisely stated that the law was to be written
on the hearts of believers and not to be disregarded
altogether as you would seem to believe? It is one
thing to joke around about pagans and the superstitions
they believe in, but what led you to foolishly speak
out against God’s law, the expression of his unchanging
and eternal character? Given that the Romans you
were writing to were such fans of tradition, why
disregard the sort of traditional adherence to ancient
ways that would not only have better pleased men
but also better pleased God by showing that you were
not a rebel against His laws and ways?
I have some strongly negative feelings about the Epistle to Diognetus. I am no stranger to apologetic works and in general I am fond of them , being a Christian who is definitely favorable towards reading reasons why I believe as I do. So, if one looks at apologetics as works which attempt to justify the rationality of one’s worldview, and one admits that as a person one likes to have one’s own worldview justified, why then would I feel negatively towards this early work of apologetics when I am predisposed to be favorable both to justifications in general (being a person full of self-justification and self-defense in my own writing) as well as apologetics in particular? I think the main reason why I feel such strongly negative feelings is that the author and I have very different Christian worldviews. That tends to make me imagine myself as a rather touchy and fierce interviewer of the author of this work when he makes his expected resurrection in the Great White Throne judgment, although the work and the author of the work are not particularly well known even by those who might be expected to agree with him.
When one is making a case in apologetics, it is vital to understand one’s audience. In general, I would say, it is worthwhile to understand one’s audience as a writer, although this is done poorly by many writers. If one is writing for one’s own personal reasons, it is less important to care about one’s readers because one is not so much as trying to make a case that would appeal to others as to state one’s own perspective and to vent one’s own feelings and express one’s own thoughts. If the Epistle to Diognetus was a genuine attempt at persuasion, though, it fails largely because it does not take the perspective of the reader adequately into account. This is true whether or not one is looking at the immediate readers in the Roman government or the later readers who would consider themselves Christians if not the precise sort of Christians that the writer was who could very well be alienated by the author’s astringent rhetorical approach. And indeed while it could be said that I am always interested in reading apologetical works for Christianity, I must say that the Epistle to Diognetus is not a work I greatly appreciated reading and would be ashamed of writing.
The Romans, after all, were people who appreciated tradition. The reason why the Jews, despite being a particularly difficult people when it came to respecting authority, had a licit religion was that it was one that was strongly based on tradition. (One can almost hear the song from “Fiddler On The Roof.”) And although the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind was not an ancient occurrence, the writers of the New Testament (Matthew and Paul in particular, but also others) framed it in light of the ancient writings of Judaism, which is why early Christians were protected by the Roman law as belonging to a legal religion. It was anti-Semitism, and in particular the rejection of God’s laws (including the Sabbath) by many rapidly Hellenizing Jews, that made Christianity more dangerous to practice for early Hellenistic adherents. There is a cruel irony in this, as a rapidly Hellenizing Christianity showed its hostility to the Sabbath and to the law in general while Judaism was hostile towards those who professed a belief in Jesus as the Messiah. Those who held to the complete standard of God’s ways found themselves hated and despised by both camps for different reasons.
Thus when I read the Epistle of Diognetus, I do not do so as a Hellenistic Christian who may find the author’s argument appealing, but rather I do so as a Sabbatarian Christian who finds general Christian apologetic works to be convincing because of their focus on the historical and philosophical viability of the biblical worldview (as they understand it) rather than on the distinctions between Christianity and Judaism that are often overblown with the discontinuities taken beyond the biblically and historically appropriate boundaries. It is because the rhetoric of the author’s work is an attack on my own beliefs rather than a defense of our shared commitment to Jesus Christ that his writing fails to appeal to me. And it is all too common of a failure that one finds in books, where a writer’s argument and perspective cause them to define the audience of the book in ways that deliberately alienates a large amount of potential readers who have some sympathies with the author but who are attacked by misguided attempts at aiming the work in ways that simply don’t work.
 See, for example: