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Melito of Sardis's PERI PASCHA and Its “Israel”

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2011

Lynn Cohick
Nairobi, Kenya


When Peri Pascha 96–97 proclaims, “The God has been murdered; the King of Israel has been put to death by an Israelite right hand” ( θες πεϕόνευταιׁ βασιλεὺςτο ᾽Ισραλ νῄρηται ὑπ δεξις ᾽Ισραηλίτιδος), along with similar accusations, the author is said to reflect the very worst in early Christian reactions to, or jealousy of, contemporary Jews. Moreover, because this homily is commonly attributed to Melito, a second-century Quartodeciman bishop of Sardis, its anti-Jewish remarks are also frequently discussed from this perspective. In this article, I call both of these lines of interpretation into question and offer an alternative.

Research Article
Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 1998

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1 Editions include Bonner, Campbell, The Homily on the Passion by Melito Bishop of Sardis and Some Fragments of the Apocryphal Ezekiel (Studies and Documents 12; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1940)Google Scholar; Goehring, James E., “Melito of Sardis on the Passover,” in idem, ed., The Crosby-Schoyen Codex MS 193 (CSCO 521; Louvain: Peeters, 1990)Google Scholar; Perler, Othmar, Méliton de Sardes, Sur la Pâque et Fragments (SC 123; Paris: Cerf, 1966)Google Scholar; Testuz, Michel, Papyrus Bodmer XIII, Méliton de Sardes Hom´lie sur la Pâque (Geneva: Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, 1960).Google Scholar

2 Hanfmann, George M. A., Sardis from Prehistoric to Roman Times: Results of the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis, 1958–1975 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983). Note especially the article contributed by Andrew R. Seager and A. Thomas Kraabel (“The Synagogue and the Jewish Community,” 168–90).Google Scholar

3 McDonald, Lee Martin (“Anti-Judaism in the Early Church Fathers,” in Evans, Craig A. and Hagner, Donald A., eds., Anti-Semitism and Early Christianity [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993] 241) expands the archaeological evidence out of all proportion, saying that the Jews “had built not only the largest synagogue known in ancient times, but also owned and operated one of the largest and most impressive gymnasiums.” He suggests in a footnote that the Jews played an active role in fostering the Christian polemic, claiming that there can be “Jewish responsibility and obligation regarding the problem” (241 n. 141).Google Scholar

4 Kraabel, A. Thomas (“Melito the Bishop and the Synagogue at Sardis: Text and Context,” in Mitten, David G., Pedley, John G., and Scott, Jane A., eds., Studies Presented to George M. A. Hanfmann [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971])Google Scholar correctly observes that it is possible that some Jews from the Jewish community “converted” to the Christian church in Sardis. Ingeborg Angerstorfer expands upon Kraabel's comment in postulating a Christian community made up, at least in part, of “converted” Jews and suggests that this created even more tension between the communities (“Melito und das Judentum” [Diss., Universität Regensburg, Germany, 1985] 219). Wilson, Stephen{Related Strangers, Christians and Jews 70–170 CE [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995] 253) also picks up Kraabel's thought: “it is not improbable that some of the Christians were converts from Judaism or descendants of such.” Alistair Stewart Sykes (“Melito's Anti-Judaism,” JECS [1997] 278) goes beyond solid evidence when he suggests that Melito was Jewish, this based on his interpretation of Polycrates' letter in Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 5.24) pertaining to the “luminaries” in Asia. “The virulence displayed in PP against the Jews of Sardis likewise does not militate against the possibility that Melito was Jewish, indeed it makes it all the more likely.” Sykes's goal is to explain the homily's anti-Judaism as a “family argument” (279).Google Scholar

5 Many scholars agree with Kraabel's general thesis. See Manis, Andrew M., “Melito of Sardis: Hermeneutic and Context,” GOTR 32 (1987) 387401Google Scholar; Trebilco, Paul R., Jewish Communities in Asia Minor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990) 31Google Scholar, 54; Wilken, Robert, “Melito, the Jewish Community at Sardis and the Sacrifice of Isaac,” TS 37 (1976) 5369Google Scholar. As evidence that Kraabel's thesis has gained widespread influence, Judith Lieu (“History and Theology in Christian Views of Judaism,” in Lieu, Judit, North, John, and Rajak, Tessa, eds., The Jews among Pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire [New York: Routledge, 1992] n. 81) writes: “Melito of Sardis has been labelled the ‘first poet of deicide' the virulence of his attack against Judaism may well owe more than a little to the vitality of Judaism in his home city as now attested by archaeology (Kraabel 1971).”Google Scholar

6 Josephus Ant. 14.235, 16.171, See also Kraabel, “Melito the Bishop and the Synagogue at Sardis,” 77 n. 4. Kraabel draws on Josephus's information regarding the long standing and positive position Jews held in Sardis. He stresses the likelihood of community continuity, such that the prosperous first-century BCE Sardian Jewish community continued to grow more established, resulting in a consistent or increasingly influential position from the first century BCE through the fifth and sixth centuries CE, as evidenced by the synagogue.

7 Based on a personal conversation with Kraabel, 20 June 1995. Taylor, Miriam(Anti-Judaism and Early Christian Identity [Leiden: Brill, 1995] 59) accuses him of wavering on the dating of the synagogue. Her explanation, however, does not focus directly on his argument.Google Scholar

8 Bonz, Marianne Palmer, “The Jewish Community of Ancient Sardis: A Reassessment of Its Rise to Prominence,” HSCP 93 (1990) 343–58Google Scholar. See also eadem, “Differing Approaches to Religious Benefaction: The Late Third-Century Acquisition of the Sardis Synagogue,”; HTR 86 (1993) 139154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

9 Bonz, “Jewish Community of Ancient Sardis,” 346–47. See also Andrew R. Seager, “The Synagogue and the Jewish Community,” in Hanfmann, Sardis: From Prehistoric to Roman Times, 173.

10 Bonz, “Jewish Community of Ancient Sardis,” 356. Sykes (“Melito's Anti-Judaism,” 272) also highlights this, ruling out jealousy of a building or structure as possible motivation for the homilist's anti-Judaism.

11 In the case of this homily, it may be that while Jews in the general locale presented no real threat to a Christian's property or livelihood, the author perceived them to be a threat. Testing this hypothesis is complicated because it involves investigating his or her psychology and motivation. One possible avenue of inquiry is an exploration of the terms used by the author to describe Jews, such as “Israel,” which is discussed below.

12 Eusebius Hist. eccl. 5.23–24; idem, Vit. Const. 3.18; Pseudo-Hippolytus Peri Pascha; Didascalia [ca. 200–250 CE]). Hall, Stuart (“The Origins of Easter,” StPatr 15 [1984] 155–67) maintains that much of second-century Christianity was Quartodeciman.Google Scholar

13 Epiphanius Haer. 70 (PG 42.339–72); Chrysostom Disc. 3 (PG 49.861–72).

14 Both the Greek Chester Beatty/University of Michigan MS A (fourth century CE), edited by Campbell Bonner, and the Bodmer papyrus codex B (third/fourth century CE), edited by Michel Testuz, as well as the Coptic Crosby-Schoyen codex MS 193 C (third/fourth century CE), edited by James E. Goehring, include the name “Melito”; the latter two texts include the title Peri Pascha. It is entirely possible that Eusebius's claim regarding Melito, bishop of Sardis, led to an identification of the homily's Melito with the bishop of Sardis in later writings (see Eusebius Hist. eccl. 4.26.3–11, 13–14; 5.24.2–6).

15 Eusebius Hist. eccl. 5.24.2–6.

16 See, for example, Angerstorfer, Ingeborg, “Melito und das Judentum”; and Stuart G. Hall, “Melito in Light of the Passover Haggadah,” JTS 22 (1971) 2946.Google Scholar

17 Stephen Wilson comments on this in “Melito and Israel,” in idem, ed., Anti-Judaism in Early Christianity (vol. 2; Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1986).Google Scholar

18 Lieu, Judith, Image and Reality, the Jews in the World of the Christians in the Second Century (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1996) 222–24.Google Scholar

19 Hall, “Melito in the Light of the Passover Haggadah,” 29–46. Furthermore, these common themes are also featured in pagan literature; compare Apuleius Metamorphoses 2.

20 See Bokser, Baruch, The Origins of the Seder (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984) 31 n. 13.Google Scholar

21 Eusebius Hist. eccl. 4.26.13–14. Hall points to the Georgian texts of the homily, preserved in two parts, as evidence that our homily was also initially written in two parts (“Melito in the Light of the Passover Haggadah,” 36–38). Lieu picks up on this idea but remains ambivalent about its value. She repeatedly refers to the “first” or “second” book of the homily, but in the footnote addressing the subject she writes that Peri Pascha 1–45 is best understood as an introduction to the hermeneutical principles used in the remaining passages (Image and Reality, 212 n. 47, 215, 218, 222). She credits Andrew Manis with the insight that the two parts of the homily are best understood in relation to each other (“Melito of Sardis: Hermeneutic and Context,” 391).

22 Hall, Stuart, Melito of Sardis: On Pascha and Fragments (Oxford: Clarendon, 1979) xxGoogle Scholar. See also Hansen, A., “The Sitz im Leben of the Paschal Homily of Melito of Sardis with Special Reference to the Paschal Festival in Early Christianity” (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University 1968) 174; and Perler, Me´liton de Sardes.Google Scholar

23 For a detailed discussion of Eusebius's evidence, see Lynn Cohick, “Re-assessing the Use of Scriptural Material and Interpretations in the ΠΕΡΙ ΠΑΣΧΑ Attributed to Melito of Sardis” (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1996) 284–300.

24 Eusebius Hist. eccl. 4.26.13–14.

25 See, for example, Nautin, Pierre, “L'homelie de ‘Méliton’ sur la Passion,” RHE 44 (1949) 437–38.Google Scholar

26 Below, I discuss how the scriptural references and allusions do not reveal any contemporary information about a Jewish community known to the author. For a thorough discussion, see my dissertation (Cohick, “Re-assessing the Use of Scriptural Material”). I argue that the homilist is part of a wider, developing Christian tradition, and that his or her arguments and rhetoric are not specific to the reconstructed Sardis milieu.

27 Peri Pascha 12–14.

28 Bonner, Homily on the Passion, 19–20.

29 For example, Testuz (Papyrus Bodmer XIII, Méliton de Sardes homélie sur la Pâque) mentions nothing about anti-Judaism. See also Wilde, Robert, The Treatment of the Jews in the Greek Christian Writers of the First Three Centuries (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1949) 132–34Google Scholar. Marcel Simon does not include this homily in his Verus Israel (Paris: DeBoccard, 1948)Google Scholar, primarily because his work was almost complete by World War II, and it was two years later that Testuz's critical edition of the Peri Pascha was published.

30 For example, see Cantalamessa, R., “Méliton de Sardes: Une christologie antignostique du II siécle,” RevSR 37 (1963) 126Google Scholar. See also Halton, T., “The Death of Death in Melito, Peri Pascha,” ITQ 36 (1969) 163–73.Google Scholar

31 ᾽Εν δέ τις ίουδαϊσμν ρμηνεύῃ ὑμῖ, μ κούετε αὐτο. ἄμεινον γαρ στιν παρ νδρςμεριτομν ἔχοντος χριστιανισμν κοὐειν, ἤ παρ κροβύστου ἰουδαϊσμόν.

32 κα μ μοιοσθαί τισιν πισωρεύοντας ταῖς μαρτίαις ὑμν λέγοντας, ὅτι διαθήκηκείνων κα μν. μν μένׁ λλ΄ κεῖνοι οὔτως εἰς τέλος πώλεσαν αὐτν.

33 Wilson, Stephen G. (“Passover, Easter, and Anti-Judaism,” in Neusner, Jacob and Frerichs, Ernest S., eds., To See Ourselves as Others See Us [Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985] 356) writes, “There is no firm evidence that Melito faced the problem of Judaizers, but if he did, it would go a long way towards explaining the content and tone of the homily.” Taylor (Anti-Judaism, 26–37) challenges the interpretation of these passages: “It becomes evident that Ignatius’ anti-Jewish passages are not injunctions against judaizing, but rather illustrative arguments directed at the dissenters [identified by Taylor as Docetic Christians] to whom Ignatius addresses his main appeal.” If there is a “Judaizing” threat, the author of the Peri Pascha is much more oblique in addressing it than are the contemporary examples offered by Wilson.Google Scholar

34 MacLennan, Robert, Early Christian Texts on Jews and Judaism (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990) 108, 111.Google Scholar

35 Ibid, 108.

36 Kraabel and Wilson do not believe that Jews were missionary in their outlook (Kraabel, A. Thomas, “The Roman Diaspora: Six Questionable Assumptions,” JJS 33 [1982] 451–52)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For a counter-argument, see Feldman, Louis H. (Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World: Attitudes and Interactions from Alexander to Justinian [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993])Google Scholar, who stresses the missionary focus of ancient Jews. See also Georgi, Dieter, The Opponents of Paul in Second Corinthians (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986).Google Scholar

37 For a careful discussion on boundary maintenance in Palestine between Jewish priests and emerging Christianity, see Sanders, Jack, Schismatics, Sectarians, Dissidents, Deviants (London: SCM, 1993).Google Scholar

38 Wilken, Robert (John Chrysostom and the Jews [Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983] 118–19) writes, “the opening passages from the fourth homily on the Judaizers suggests that the Jews were actively seeking out Christians so as to snatch them from the Church and bring them to the synagogue. Yet … it is not likely that the Jews were pursuing the Christians; indeed, it was the Christians who were willingly seeking out the Jews.” Wilken, examining the art of rhetorical speech in the second sophistic movement (second to fourth century CE), claims that one must take into account the author's rhetoric, which is “not intended to provide a description of Jewish behavior; it is intended to picture the Jews in the worst possible light to frighten Christians so that they will not attend the synagogue.”Google Scholar

39 McKnight, Scot, A Light among the Gentiles: Jewish Missionary Activity in the Second Temple Period (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1991).Google Scholar

40 Martin Goodman, “Jewish Proselytizing in the First Century,” 55. In his 1989 article on rabbinic Judaism and proselytizing, Goodman does note that some rabbis seem to advocate an active missionary zeal, with the hope of winning proselytes. But this occurred in the fourth century and later (Goodman, Martin, “Proselytizing in Rabbinic Judaism,” JJS 38 [1989] 175— 85).Google Scholar

41 One might argue that a Christian could interpret pagan interest in Judaism as resulting from Jewish efforts, which might then be framed in the Christian's mind as a competition. This invented “competition” would, however, lack any concrete Jewish participation; rather, it might serve to explain pagan interest in what the Christian views as unacceptable.

42 See Taylor, Anti-Judaism, 90–114. However, Trebilco (Jewish Communities in Asia Minor, 29) argues that the Martyrdom of Polycarp, written in the mid- or late second century CE, does preserve reliable information about Jewish involvement in Christian persecution.

43 Setzer, Claudia, Jewish Responses to Early Christians (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994) 172 (emphasis in the original).Google Scholar

44 One might point to Hebrews as an early example of a supersessionary treatise, with its focus on Jesus replacing the system of priesthood and sacrifice as described in the Jewish scriptures.

45 ᾖν οὖν τύπος τίμιος πρ τς ληθείας, κα ᾖν παραβολ θαυμαστ πρ τς ρμηνείαςׁτοτ᾽ ἔστιν, λας ᾖν τίμιος πρ το τν κκλησίαν νασταθναι, κα ό νόμος θανμαστς πρτο τ εὐαγγέλιον ϕωτισθναι. For further positive valuations, see Peri Pascha 18–34.

46 Wilson, “Passover, Easter, and Anti-Judaism,” 337–55. Wilson, in exploring the development of Easter traditions, suggests that the homily's anti-Judaism is closely linked to supersessionary theology and modalist Christology. He also reflects on the author's use of rhetoric to exaggerate the distinctions between the Christian and Jewish Passover, as well as between Christians and Jews.

47 As a working definition of the supersessionary position, one can point to Cyprian, who lists in Treatise 12.1 twenty-four ways in which “the Jews, according to what had before been foretold, had departed from God, and had lost God's favor, which had been given them in past time, and had been promised them for the future; while the Christians had succeeded to their place.”

48 One can only speculate as to why the term “Jew” does not appear in the homily. The term itself seems to have carried several nuances. See Kraemer, Ross S., “On the Meaning of the Term ‘Jew’ in Greco-Roman Inscriptions,” HTR 82 (1989) 3553CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and “Jewish Tuna and Christian Fish: Identifying Religious Affiliation in Epigraphic Sources,” HTR 84 (1991) 141–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Cohen, Shaye J. D., “Crossing the Boundary and Becoming a Jew,” HTR 82 (1989) 1333; and Kraabel, “The Roman Diaspora: Six Questionable Assumptions,” 455. Kraabel writes, “The terms [ioudaioi and judaei] will be found to denominate a religious group in some instances, but in others to mean something much closer to ‘inhabitants of Judaea,’ that is, persons of a particular country.”CrossRefGoogle Scholar

49 For example, Justin Martyr (Apol. 38, 47, 49); Hippolytus (throughout Expository Treatise against the Jews and Ref. 13); and Tertullian (Marc. 3.6.1–10; 5.15.1–2; Cult. fem. 1.3.3; and Fug. in pers. 6.1–6).

50 οὐ γρ εἶδες τν θεόν. This interpretation may derive from a “misreading” of Gen 32:31. Philo includes this “misreading” in De Mutatione Nominum 81.

51 The text understands Jesus in modalistic terms (Peri Pascha 7–9, 82–85, 96, and 104).

52 Peri Pascha 99: π τν πρωτοτόκων σου κώκυσας … π τν πεϕονευμένων περιεσχίσω … ἠδαϕίσθης χαμαί. κα σὺ μν κεῖσαι νεκρός κεῖνος δ νέστη κ υεκρν κα νέβη εἰς τ ὑψηλ τν οὐρανν.

53 Taylor, Anti-Judaism, 70. See Peri Pascha 17–21.

54 Noakes, K. W. (“Melito of Sardis and the Jews,” StPatr 13 [1975] 247) claims that “the phrase ‘you … were dashed to the ground,’ recalls the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem in Luke 19.44, ‘and [your enemies] shall dash you to the ground and your children within you.’”Google Scholar

55 See Justin Martyr Dial. 52; compare Origen De princ. 4.1.3; Athanasius De incarnatione 39–40. On Christian responses to Julian's attempt to rebuild the Temple, see Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews, 130.

56 Yet note Hippolytus's claim in the early third century CE that the Temple's possible rebuilding signals the end times. He blames the Jews in Jesus’ day for Jesus’ death, but he does not encourage blaming contemporary Jews. The Epistle of Barnabas 16 (probably second century CE) also comments on a threatened rebuilding of the Temple. The Didascalia Apostolorum ([trans. Connolly, R. H.; Oxford: 1929] 186, 11. 3–5) enjoins its readers to fast and mourn the destruction of the Temple.Google Scholar

57 Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews, 130.

58 Ruether, Rosemary Radford, Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism (New York: Seabury, 1974) 117–82.Google Scholar

59 Taylor, Anti-Judaism, 66–67.

60 Ibid, 65–74. Taylor lists some scholars who consider theological motives behind the homily, but she claims that they do not go far enough in attributing theological underpinnings to this homilist's arguments.

61 For example, see Chrysostom Hom, in Rom. 12.20.3 on Sabbath practices; Disc. 1.2, 5 on festival practices; and Disc. 1.3 on oath taking.

62 Peri Pascha 84–90.

63 κα πρς σπέραν σϕάξεις αὐτν μετ τν υίν ᾽Ισραήλ.

64 τ ποίησας, ὦ ᾽Ισραήλ, τ καινν άδίκημα;

65 ᾽Αχάριστε᾽Ισραήλ, δερο κα κρίθητι πρς μ περ τς χαριστίας σου. πόσου νετιμήσωτ ὑπ᾽ αὐτο πλασθναι;

66 πεπλάνησαι, ὦ᾽Ισραήλ, τοιατα σοϕιζόμενος π τῇ το κυρίου σϕαγ (“You are in error, O Israel, reasoning these things concerning the slaughter of the Lord”).

67 οὑδ ϕωσίωσαι τῷ δεσπότῃ.

68 Peri Pascha 99.

69 Lieu, Image and Reality, 218.

70 Ibid, 219.

71 Ibid, 2. Lieu argues that the presentation of Jews and Judaism in Christian texts of the second century has “to be seen both as belonging to the literary construction of the text and as grounded in the text's social context and function.”

72 Peri Pascha 98. The term is used once of the Egyptians mourning their firstborn (Peri Pascha 19), and the second occurrence is probably an interpolation. In Peri Pascha 68, the Bodmer text does not include the phrase “[he] made us a new priesthood and an eternal people personal to him (ποιήσας ήμς ἱεράτευμα καινν κα λαν περιούσιον αἰώνιον)).” The article is not used, and the author never employs the expression nor any similar term to characterize the church. Its similarity with 1 Pet 2:9 and Justin Martyr's Dialogus 116 may indicate that the author included here a piece of common Christian tradition or that a copyist of the Chester Beatty MS did so.

73 Lieu, Image and Reality, 218.

74 Some scholars have postulated a current tension between successful Jews and poorer Christians in Sardis that incited this author to jealousy against Jewish neighbors and motivated the charge of “guilt” against them (Kraabel, “Melito the Bishop and the Synagogue at Sardis”; and Robert MacLennan, Early Christian Texts on Jews and Judaism).

75 Lieu, Image and Reality, 220–28.

76 In fact, Lieu (Ibid, 228) seems to vacillate with respect to the author's possible or probable contact with Jews, for she writes that “it is inherently likely that the Christian celebration of the Pascha would have demanded a developing interpretation long before the time of Melito.… Yet surely they (Jews with their Passover liturgy and language) did share many of the elements we have sketched, rendering Melito's interpretation particularly forceful and challenging to Jewish self-identity—at least in Christian eyes.” One could argue that the author of the Peri Pascha was completely ignorant of the religious practices of local Jews and still was jealous of their alleged relative prosperity. I am suggesting that contemporary data regarding local Jews was only secondarily important to the author's primary goal of demonstrating theologically that “Israel” was out of God's favor.

77 Peri Pascha 59 and 69.

78 Lieu, Image and Reality, 226.

79 On the Greek text, which differs from other manuscripts of the LXX, see Bonner, Homily on the Passion, 36–41.

80 Peri Pascha 3, 4, 8, 16, 30, 31, 33, 44, and 59.

81 Lieu, Image and Reality, 84.

82 See Hall, Melito of Sardis, xxxii-xxxiii, 74–77.

83 See Cohick, “Re-assessing the Use of Scriptural Material,” 96–112; and Hall, Melito of Sardis, xxxii-xxxviii.

84 Gavin Langmuir presents an interesting study of the rise of anti-Semitism in later church history from its roots in anti-Judaism in the early church (Langmuir, Gavin I., Toward a Definition of Antisemitism [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990]).Google Scholar

85 Winslow, , “The Polemical Christology of Melito of Sardis,” StPatr 17 (1982) 771.Google Scholar

86 Efroymson, David, “The Patristic Connection,” in Davies, Alan T., ed., Anti-Semitism and the Foundations of Christianity (New York: Paulist, 1979) 98117.Google Scholar

87 Ibid, 105.

88 This homilist credits Jesus with a role in creation, an idea with which Marcion disagreed. Jesus is described in Peri Pascha 82–89 as “the firstborn of God, who was begotten before the morning star, who tinted the light, who lit up the day, who divided off the darkness, who fixed the first marker, who hung the earth.” The homilist writes in Peri Pascha 96, “He who hung the earth is hanging, he who fixed the heavens has been fixed,” and in Peri Pascha 104, “It is he that made heaven and earth and fashioned man in the beginning, who is proclaimed through the law and prophets, who was enfleshed in a virgin.”