This selection comes from the Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, which was probably written around 130-200 A.D. The Epistle is an apologetic work, defending and contrasting Christianity from its counterparts. It serves as another reminder, not only of the glory of the good news of Jesus Christ proclaimed in the New Testament and by the apostles, but also that Anselm did not invent "substitutionary atonement," nor Luther "forensic justification"*:

9:1 Having thus planned everything already in His mind with His Son, He permitted us during the former time to be borne along by disorderly impulses as we desired, led astray by pleasures and lusts, not at all because He took delight in our sins, but because He bore with us, not because He approved of the past season of iniquity, but because He was creating the present season of righteousness, that, being convicted in the past time by our own deeds as unworthy of life, we might now be made deserving by the goodness of God,and having made clear our inability to enter into the kingdom of God of ourselves, might be enabled by the ability of God.

9:2 And when our iniquity had been fully accomplished, and it had been made perfectly manifest that punishment and death were expected as its recompense, and the season came which God had ordained, when henceforth He should manifest His goodness and power (O the exceeding great kindness and love of God), He hated us not, neither rejected us, nor bore us malice, but was long-suffering and patient, and in pity for us took upon Himself our sins, and Himself parted with His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy for the lawless, the guileless for the evil, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal.

9:3 For what else but His righteousness would have covered our sins?

9:4 In whom was it possible for us lawless and ungodly men to have been justified, save only in the Son of God?

9:5 O the sweet exchange, O the inscrutable creation, O the unexpected benefits; that the iniquity of many should be concealed in One Righteous Man, and the righteousness of One should justify many that are iniquitous!

9:6 Having then in the former time demonstrated the inability of our nature to obtain life, and having now revealed a Saviour able to save even creatures which have no ability, He willed that for both reasons we should believe in His goodness and should regard Him as nurse, father, teacher, counsellor, physician, mind, light, honour, glory, strength and life.


*I understand that these men developed these doctrines in ways nuanced for their own historical and cultural setting.