Early Christian Wisdom Sayings: Sentences of Sextus

“SEXTUS” is a mysterious figure from around the end of the second century who assembled 451 sentences in a kind of ethical-religious handbook or manual of self-cultivation. This work became widely popular throughout the church, from Britain to Syria and Armenia, and was copied and recopied for centuries. … The author would appear to have been a Christian who adapted a pagan ethical collection and edited it, retouching it here and there and thus “Christianizing” its teaching; at the same time he took sayings from the gospels, or composed sayings based on the gospels and the rest of the New Testament, giving them the appearance of philosophic (pagan) gnomic counsels. The collection is fascinating, and throws unexpected light in several directions. If this was the “wisdom literature” of the early church (as Chadwick suggests) it helps us to understand better the tone and standards of ethical action in the early centuries.

Some of my favorite ones:

  1. When you speak about God, you are judged by God.
  2. Do not search for the name of God, for you will not find it. Everything that is named is named is named by someone higher, so they when call the other will obey. Who then can name God? “God” is not God’s name, but rather an opinion concerning God.
  3. God has need of no one; the faithful person has need only of God.
  4. Reverence that which is in you and do not insult it with bodily desires.
  5. Keep your body free from stain, like the garment of the soul given by God, in the same way you keep your coat, garment of the flesh, free from stain.
  6. Know who God is, and know who is the one who thinks in you; a good man is the good work of God.
  7. Someone who says “I believe,” even if he spends a long time pretending, he will not prevail, but he will fall; as your heart is, (so) will be your life. A godly heart produces a blessed life.

Information and select translations in Greek/English/Latin: http://ldysinger.stjohnsem.edu/@texts/0190_sextus/00a_start.htm
English-only translation of even more sayings: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/sextus.html


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