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When we had formerly some conversation, my very good friend Autolycus, and when you inquired who was my God, and for a little paid attention to my discourse, I made some explanations to you concerning my religion; and then having bid one another adieu, we went with much mutual friendliness each to his own house, although at first you had borne somewhat hard upon me. For you know and remember that you supposed our doctrine was foolishness. As you then afterwards urged me to do, I am desirous, though not educated to the art of speaking, of more accurately demonstrating, by means of this tractate, the vain labour and empty worship in which you are held; and I wish also, from a few of your own histories which you read, and perhaps do not yet quite understand, to make the truth plain to you.
And in truth it does seem to me absurd that statuaries and carvers, or painters, or moulders, should both design and paint, and carve, and mould, and prepare gods, who, when they are produced by the artificers, are reckoned of no value; but as soon as they are purchased by some and placed in some so-called temple, or in some house, not only do those who bought them sacrifice to them, but also those who made and sold them come with much devotion, and apparatus of sacrifice, and libations, to worship them; and they reckon them gods, not seeing that they are just such as when they were made by themselves, whether stone, or brass, or wood, or color, or some other material. And this is your case, too, when you read the histories and genealogies of the so-called gods. For when you read of their births, you think of them as men, but afterwards you call them gods, and worship them, not reflecting nor understanding that, when born, they are exactly such beings as you read of before.
And of the gods of former times, if indeed they were begotten, the generation was sufficiently prolific. But now, where is their generation exhibited? For if of old they begot and were begotten, it is plain that even to the present time there should be gods begotten and born; or at least if it be not so, such a race will be reckoned impotent. For either they have grown old, and on that account no longer beget, or they have died out and no longer exist. For if the gods were begotten, they ought to be born even until now, as men, too, are born; yea, much more numerous should the gods be than men, as the Sibyl says:—
For if the gods beget, and each remains
Immortal, then the race of gods must be
More numerous than mortals, and the throng
So great that mortals find no room to stand.
For if the children begotten of men who are mortal and short-lived make an appearance even until now, and men have not ceased to be born, so that cities and villages are full, and even the country places also are inhabited, how ought not the gods, who, according to your poets, do not die, much rather to beget and be begotten, since you say that the gods were produced by generation? And why was the mount which is called Olympus formerly inhabited by the gods, but now lies deserted? Or why did Jupiter, in days of yore, dwell on Ida, and was known to dwell there, according to Homer and other poets, but now is beyond ken? And why was he found only in one part of the earth, and not everywhere? For either he neglected the other parts, or was not able to be present everywhere and provide for all. For if he were, e.g., in an eastern place, he was not in the western; and if, on the other hand, he were present in the western parts, he was not in the eastern. But this is the attribute of God, the Highest and Almighty, and the living God, not only to be everywhere present, but also to see all things and to hear all, and by no means to be confined in a place; for if He were, then the place containing Him would be greater than He; for that which contains is greater than that which is contained. For God is not contained, but is Himself the place of all. But why has Jupiter left Ida? Was it because he died, or did that mountain no longer please him? And where has he gone? To heaven? No. But you will perhaps say, To Crete? Yes, for there, too, his tomb is shown to this day. Again, you will say, To Pisa, where he reflects glory on the hands of Phidias to this day. Let us, then, proceed to the writings of the philosophers and poets.
Some of the philosophers of the Porch say that there is no God at all; or, if there is, they say that He cares for none but Himself; and these views the folly of Epicurus and Chrysippus has set forth at large. And others say that all things are produced without external agency, and that the world is uncreated, and that nature is eternal; and have dared to give out that there is no providence of God at all, but maintain that God is only each man's conscience. And others again maintain that the spirit which pervades all things is God. But Plato and those of his school acknowledge indeed that God is uncreated, and the Father and Maker of all things; but then they maintain that matter as well as God is uncreated, and aver that it is coeval with God. But if God is uncreated and matter uncreated, God is no longer, according to the Platonists, the Creator of all things, nor, so far as their opinions hold, is the monarchy of God established. And further, as God, because He is uncreated, is also unalterable; so if matter, too, were uncreated, it also would be unalterable, and equal to God; for that which is created is mutable and alterable, but that which is uncreated is immutable and unalterable. And what great thing is it if God made the world out of existent materials? For even a human artist, when he gets material from some one, makes of it what he pleases. But the power of God is manifested in this, that out of things that are not He makes whatever He pleases; just as the bestowal of life and motion is the prerogative of no other than God alone. For even man makes indeed an image, but reason and breath, or feeling, he cannot give to what he has made. But God has this property in excess of what man can do, in that He makes a work, endowed with reason, life, sensation. As, therefore, in all these respects God is more powerful than man, so also in this; that out of things that are not He creates and has created things that are, and whatever He pleases, as He pleases.
So that the opinion of your philosophers and authors is discordant; for while the former have propounded the foregoing opinions, the poet Homer is found explaining the origin not only of the world, but also of the gods, on quite another hypothesis. For he says somewhere: —
Father of Gods, Oceanus, and she
Who bare the gods, their mother Tethys, too,
From whom all rivers spring, and every sea.
In saying which, however, he does not present God to us. For who does not know that the ocean is water? But if water, then not God. God indeed, if He is the creator of all things, as He certainly is, is the creator both of the water and of the seas. And Hesiod himself also declared the origin, not only of the gods, but also of the world itself. And though he said that the world was created, he showed no inclination to tell us by whom it was created. Besides, he said that Saturn, and his sons Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto, were gods, though we find that they are later born than the world. And he also relates how Saturn was assailed in war by his own son Jupiter; for he says: —
His father Saturn he by might o'ercame,
And 'mong th' immortals ruled with justice wise,
And honours fit distributed to each.
Then he introduces in his poem the daughters of Jupiter, whom he names Muses, and as whose suppliant he appears, desiring to ascertain from them how all things were made; for he says: —
Daughters of Jove, all hail! Grant me your aid
That I in numbers sweet and well-arrayed,
Of the immortal gods may sing the birth;
Who of the starry heav'ns were born, and earth;
Who, springing from the murky night at first,
Were by the briny ocean reared and nursed.
Tell, too, who form unto the earth first gave,
And rivers, and the boundless sea whose wave
Unwearied sinks, then rears its crest on high;
And how was spread yon glittering canopy
Of glistening stars that stud the wide-spread heaven.
Whence sprang the gods by whom all good is given?
Tell from their hands what varied gifts there came,
Riches to some, to others wealth, or fame;
How they have dwelt from the remotest time
In many-nooked Olympus' sunny clime.
These things, you Muses, say, who ever dwell
Among Olympian shades — since you can tell:
From the beginning there your feet have strayed;
Then tell us which of all things first was made.
But how could the Muses, who are younger than the world, know these things? Or how could they relate to Hesiod [what was happening], when their father was not yet born?
And in a certain way he indeed admits matter [as self-existent] and the creation of the world [without a creator], saying: —
First of all things was chaos made, and next
Broad-bosom'd earth's foundations firm were fixed,
Where safely the immortals dwell for aye,
Who in the snowy-peak'd Olympus stay.
Afterwards gloomy Tartarus had birth
In the recesses of broad-pathwayed earth,
And Love, ev'n among gods most beauteous still,
Who comes all-conquering, bending mind and will,
Delivering from care, and giving then
Wise counsel in the breasts of gods and men.
From chaos Erebus and night were born,
From night and Erebus sprung air and morn.
Earth in her likeness made the starry heaven,
That unto all things shelter might be given,
And that the blessed gods might there repose.
The lofty mountains by her power arose,
For the wood-nymphs she made the pleasant caves,
Begot the sterile sea with all his waves,
Loveless; but when by heaven her love was sought,
Then the deep-eddying ocean forth she brought.
And saying this, he has not yet explained by whom all this was made. For if chaos existed in the beginning, and matter of some sort, being uncreated, was previously existing, who was it that effected the change on its condition, and gave it a different order and shape? Did matter itself alter its own form and arrange itself into a world (for Jupiter was born, not only long after matter, but long after the world and many men; and so, too, was his father Saturn), or was there some ruling power which made it; I mean, of course, God, who also fashioned it into a world? Besides, he is found in every way to talk nonsense, and to contradict himself. For when he mentions earth, and sky, and sea, he gives us to understand that from these the gods were produced; and from these again [the gods] he declares that certain very dreadful men were sprung — the race of the Titans and the Cyclopes, and a crowd of giants, and of the Egyptian gods — or, rather, vain men, as Apollonides, surnamed Horapius, mentions in the book entitled Semenouthi, and in his other histories concerning the worship of the Egyptians and their kings, and the vain labours in which they engaged.
Why need I recount the Greek fables — of Pluto, king of darkness, of Neptune descending beneath the sea, and embracing Melanippe and begetting a cannibal son — or the many tales your writers have woven into their tragedies concerning the sons of Jupiter, and whose pedigree they register because they were born men, and not gods? And the comic poet Aristophanes, in the play called
The Birds, having taken upon him to handle the subject of the Creation, said that in the beginning the world was produced from an egg, saying: —
A windy egg was laid by black-winged night
But Satyrus, also giving a history of the Alexandrine families, beginning from Philopator, who was also named Ptolemy, gives out that Bacchus was his progenitor; wherefore also Ptolemy was the founder of this family. Satyrus then speaks thus: That Dejanira was born of Bacchus and Althea, the daughter of Thestius; and from her and Hercules the son of Jupiter there sprang, as I suppose, Hyllus; and from him Cleodemus, and from him Aristomachus, and from him Temenus, and from him Ceisus, and from him Maron, and from him Thestrus, and from him Acous, and from him Aristomidas, and from him Caranus, and from him Cœnus, and from him Tyrimmas, and from him Perdiccas, and from him Philip, and from him Æropus, and from him Alcetas, and from him Amyntas, and from him Bocrus, and from him Meleager, and from him Arsinoë and from her and Lagus Ptolemy Soter, and from him and Arsinoe Ptolemy Euergetes, and from him and Berenicé, daughter of Maga, king of Cyrene, Ptolemy Philopator. Thus, then, stands the relationship of the Alexandrine kings to Bacchus. And therefore in the Dionysian tribe there are distinct families: the Althean from Althea, who was the wife of Dionysus and daughter of Thestius; the family of Dejanira also, from her who was the daughter of Dionysus and Althea, and wife of Hercules;— whence, too, the families have their names: the family of Ariadne, from Ariadne, daughter of Minos and wife of Dionysus, a dutiful daughter, who had intercourse with Dionysus in another form; the Thestian, from Thestius, the father of Althea; the Thoantian, from Thoas, son of Dionysus; the Staphylian, from Staphylus, son of Dionysus; the Euænian, from Eunous, son of Dionysus; the Maronian, from Maron, son of Ariadne and Dionysus;— for all these are sons of Dionysus. And, indeed, many other names were thus originated, and exist to this day; as the Heraclidæ from Hercules, and the Apollonidæ from Apollo, and the Poseidonii from Poseidon, and from Zeus the Dii and Diogenæ.
And why should I recount further the vast array of such names and genealogies? So that all the authors and poets, and those called philosophers, are wholly deceived; and so, too, are they who give heed to them. For they plentifully composed fables and foolish stories about their gods, and did not exhibit them as gods, but as men, and men, too, of whom some were drunken, and others fornicators and murderers. But also concerning the origin of the world, they uttered contradictory and absurd opinions. First, some of them, as we before explained, maintained that the world is uncreated. And those that said it was uncreated and self-producing contradicted those who propounded that it was created. For by conjecture and human conception they spoke, and not knowing the truth. And others, again, said that there was a providence, and destroyed the positions of the former writers. Aratus, indeed, says: —
From Jove begin my song; nor ever be
The name unuttered: all are full of you;
The ways and haunts of men; the heavens and sea:
On you our being hangs; in you we move;
All are your offspring and the seed of Jove.
Benevolent, he warns mankind to good,
Urges to toil and prompts the hope of food.
He tells where cattle best may graze, and where
The soil, deep-furrowed, yellow grain will bear.
What time the husbandman should plant or sow,
'Tis his to tell, 'tis his alone to know.
Who, then, shall we believe: Aratus as here quoted, or Sophocles, when he says: —
And foresight of the future there is none;?
'Tis best to live at random, as one can
And Homer, again, does not agree with this, for he says that virtue
Waxes or wanes in men as Jove decrees.
And Simonides says:—
So, too, Euripides: —
Save God alone, there's none for us provides.
And Euripides again:—
For when God wills to save, all things He'll bend
To serve as instruments to work His end.
If God design to save you, safe you are,
Though sailing in mid-ocean on a mat.
And saying numberless things of a like kind, they contradicted themselves. At least Sophocles, who in another place denied Providence, says:—
No mortal can evade the stroke of God.
Besides, they both introduced a multitude of gods, and yet spoke of a Unity; and against those who affirmed a Providence they maintained in opposition that there was no Providence. Wherefore Euripides says:—
We labour much and spend our strength in vain,
For empty hope, not foresight, is our guide.
And without meaning to do so, they acknowledge that they know not the truth; but being inspired by demons and puffed up by them, they spoke at their instance whatever they said. For indeed the poets — Homer, to wit, and Hesiod, being, as they say, inspired by the Muses — spoke from a deceptive fancy, and not with a pure but an erring spirit. And this, indeed, clearly appears from the fact, that even to this day the possessed are sometimes exorcised in the name of the living and true God; and these spirits of error themselves confess that they are demons who also formerly inspired these writers. But sometimes some of them wakened up in soul, and, that they might be for a witness both to themselves and to all men, spoke things in harmony with the prophets regarding the monarchy of God, and the judgment and such like.
But men of God carrying in them a holy spirit and becoming prophets, being inspired and made wise by God, became God-taught, and holy, and righteous. Wherefore they were also deemed worthy of receiving this reward, that they should become instruments of God, and contain the wisdom that is from Him, through which wisdom they uttered both what regarded the creation of the world and all other things. For they predicted also pestilences, and famines, and wars. And there was not one or two, but many, at various times and seasons among the Hebrews; and also among the Greeks there was the Sibyl; and they all have spoken things consistent and harmonious with each other, both what happened before them and what happened in their own time, and what things are now being fulfilled in our own day: wherefore we are persuaded also concerning the future things that they will fall out, as also the first have been accomplished.
And first, they taught us with one consent that God made all things out of nothing; for nothing was coeval with God: but He being His own place, and wanting nothing, and existing before the ages, willed to make man by whom He might be known; for him, therefore, He prepared the world. For he that is created is also needy; but he that is uncreated stands in need of nothing. God, then, having His own Word internal within His own bowels, begot Him, emitting Him along with His own wisdom before all things. He had this Word as a helper in the things that were created by Him, and by Him He made all things. He is called
governing principle [ἁρκή], because He rules, and is Lord of all things fashioned by Him. He, then, being Spirit of God, and governing principle, and wisdom, and power of the highest, came down upon the prophets, and through them spoke of the creation of the world and of all other things. For the prophets were not when the world came into existence, but the wisdom of God which was in Him, and His holy Word which was always present with Him. Wherefore He speaks thus by the prophet Solomon:
When He prepared the heavens I was there, and when He appointed the foundations of the earth I was by Him as one brought up with Him. And Moses, who lived many years before Solomon, or, rather, the Word of God by him as by an instrument, says,
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. First he named the
creation, then he thus introduced God; for not lightly and on slight occasion is it right to name God. For the divine wisdom foreknew that some would trifle and name a multitude of gods that do not exist. In order, therefore, that the living God might be known by His works, and that [it might be known that] by His Word God created the heavens and the earth, and all that is therein, he said,
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Then having spoken of their creation, he explains to us:
And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved upon the water. This, sacred Scripture teaches at the outset, to show that matter, from which God made and fashioned the world, was in some manner created, being produced by God.
Now, the beginning of the creation is light; since light manifests the things that are created. Wherefore it is said:
And God said, Let light be, and light was; and God saw the light, that it was good, manifestly made good for man.
And God divided the light from the darkness; and God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters: and it was so. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And God called the firmament Heaven: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the second day. And God said, Let the water under the heaven be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And the waters were gathered together into their places, and the dry land appeared. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed after his kind and in his likeness, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, in his likeness: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb yielding seed after his kind, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind, on the earth: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day. And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to give light on earth, to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven, to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: He made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day. And God said, Let the waters bring forth the creeping things that have life, and fowl flying over the earth in the firmament of heaven: and it was so. And God created great whales, and every living creature that creeps, which the waters brought forth after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Increase and multiply, and fill the waters of the sea, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and all the creeping things of the earth. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heaven, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. And God created man: in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heaven, and over all cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creeping things that creep upon the earth. And God said, Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat, and to all the beasts of the earth, and to all the fowls of heaven, and to every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth, which has in it the breath of life; every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. And the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the sixth day God finished His works which He made, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because in it He rested from all His works which God began to create.
Of this six days' work no man can give a worthy explanation and description of all its parts, not though he had ten thousand tongues and ten thousand mouths; nay, though he were to live ten thousand years, sojourning in this life, not even so could he utter anything worthy of these things, on account of the exceeding greatness and riches of the wisdom of God which there is in the six days' work above narrated. Many writers indeed have imitated [the narration], and essayed to give an explanation of these things; yet, though they thence derived some suggestions, both concerning the creation of the world and the nature of man, they have emitted no slightest spark of truth. And the utterances of the philosophers, and writers, and poets have an appearance of trustworthiness, on account of the beauty of their diction; but their discourse is proved to be foolish and idle, because the multitude of their nonsensical frivolities is very great; and not a stray morsel of truth is found in them. For even if any truth seems to have been uttered by them, it has a mixture of error. And as a deleterious drug, when mixed with honey or wine, or some other thing, makes the whole [mixture] hurtful and profitless; so also eloquence is in their case found to be labour in vain; yea, rather an injurious thing to those who credit it. Moreover, [they spoke] concerning the seventh day, which all men acknowledge; but the most know not that what among the Hebrews is called the
Seventh (ἑβδομάς), a name which is adopted by every nation, although they know not the reason of the appellation. And as for what the poet Hesiod says of Erebus being produced from chaos, as well as the earth and love which lords it over his [Hesiod's] gods and men, his dictum is shown to be idle and frigid, and quite foreign to the truth. For it is not meet that God be conquered by pleasure; since even men of temperance abstain from all base pleasure and wicked lust.
Moreover, his [Hesiod's] human, and mean, and very weak conception, so far as regards God, is discovered in his beginning to relate the creation of all things from the earthly things here below. For man, being below, begins to build from the earth, and cannot in order make the roof, unless he has first laid the foundation. But the power of God is shown in this, that, first of all, He creates out of nothing, according to His will, the things that are made.
For the things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Luke 18:27 Wherefore, also, the prophet mentioned that the creation of the heavens first of all took place, as a kind of roof, saying:
At the first God created the heavens — that is, that by means of the
first principle the heavens were made, as we have already shown. And by
earth he means the ground and foundation, as by
the deep he means the multitude of waters; and
darkness he speaks of, on account of the heaven which God made covering the waters and the earth like a lid. And by the Spirit which is borne above the waters, he means that which God gave for animating the creation, as he gave life to man, mixing what is fine with what is fine. For the Spirit is fine, and the water is fine, that the Spirit may nourish the water, and the water penetrating everywhere along with the Spirit, may nourish creation. For the Spirit being one, and holding the place of light, was between the water and the heaven, in order that the darkness might not in any way communicate with the heaven, which was nearer God, before God said,
Let there be light. The heaven, therefore, being like a dome-shaped covering, comprehended matter which was like a clod. And so another prophet, Isaiah by name, spoke in these words:
It is God who made the heavens as a vault, and stretched them as a tent to dwell in. Isaiah 40:22 The command, then, of God, that is, His Word, shining as a lamp in an enclosed chamber, lit up all that was under heaven, when He had made light apart from the world. And the light God called Day, and the darkness Night. Since man would not have been able to call the light Day, or the darkness Night, nor, indeed, to have given names to the other things, had not he received the nomenclature from God, who made the things themselves. In the very beginning, therefore, of the history and genesis of the world, the holy Scripture spoke not concerning this firmament [which we see], but concerning another heaven, which is to us invisible, after which this heaven which we see has been called
firmament, and to which half the water was taken up that it might serve for rains, and showers, and dews to mankind. And half the water was left on earth for rivers, and fountains, and seas. The water, then, covering all the earth, and specially its hollow places, God, through His Word, next caused the waters to be collected into one collection, and the dry land to become visible, which formerly had been invisible. The earth thus becoming visible, was yet without form. God therefore formed and adorned it with all kinds of herbs, and seeds and plants.
Consider, further, their variety, and diverse beauty, and multitude, and how through them resurrection is exhibited, for a pattern of the resurrection of all men which is to be. For who that considers it will not marvel that a fig-tree is produced from a fig-seed, or that very huge trees grow from the other very little seeds? And we say that the world resembles the sea. For as the sea, if it had not had the influx and supply of the rivers and fountains to nourish it, would long since have been parched by reason of its saltness; so also the world, if it had not had the law of God and the prophets flowing and welling up sweetness, and compassion, and righteousness, and the doctrine of the holy commandments of God, would long before now have come to ruin, by reason of the wickedness and sin which abound in it. And as in the sea there are islands, some of them habitable, and well-watered, and fruitful, with havens and harbours in which the storm-tossed may find refuge — so God has given to the world which is driven and tempest-tossed by sins, assemblies — we mean holy churches — in which survive the doctrines of the truth, as in the island-harbours of good anchorage; and into these run those who desire to be saved, being lovers of the truth, and wishing to escape the wrath and judgment of God. And as, again, there are other islands, rocky and without water, and barren, and infested by wild beasts, and uninhabitable, and serving only to injure navigators and the storm-tossed, on which ships are wrecked, and those driven among them perish — so there are doctrines of error— I mean heresies — which destroy those who approach them. For they are not guided by the word of truth; but as pirates, when they have filled their vessels, drive them on the fore-mentioned places, that they may spoil them: so also it happens in the case of those who err from the truth, that they are all totally ruined by their error.
On the fourth day the luminaries were made; because God, who possesses foreknowledge, knew the follies of the vain philosophers, that they were going to say, that the things which grow on the earth are produced from the heavenly bodies, so as to exclude God. In order, therefore, that the truth might be obvious, the plants and seeds were produced prior to the heavenly bodies, for what is posterior cannot produce that which is prior. And these contain the pattern and type of a great mystery. For the sun is a type of God, and the moon of man. And as the sun far surpasses the moon in power and glory, so far does God surpass man. And as the sun remains ever full, never becoming less, so does God always abide perfect, being full of all power, and understanding, and wisdom, and immortality, and all good. But the moon wanes monthly, and in a manner dies, being a type of man; then it is born again, and is crescent, for a pattern of the future resurrection. In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man. Wherefore also on the fourth day the lights were made. The disposition of the stars, too, contains a type of the arrangement and order of the righteous and pious, and of those who keep the law and commandments of God. For the brilliant and bright stars are an imitation of the prophets, and therefore they remain fixed, not declining, nor passing from place to place. And those which hold the second place in brightness, are types of the people of the righteous. And those, again, which change their position, and flee from place to place, which also are called planets, they too are a type of the men who have wandered from God, abandoning His law and commandments.
On the fifth day the living creatures which proceed from the waters were produced, through which also is revealed the manifold wisdom of God in these things; for who could count their multitude and very various kinds? Moreover, the things proceeding from the waters were blessed by God, that this also might be a sign of men's being destined to receive repentance and remission of sins, through the water and laver of regeneration — as many as come to the truth, and are born again, and receive blessing from God. But the monsters of the deep and the birds of prey are a similitude of covetous men and transgressors. For as the fish and the fowls are of one nature, — some indeed abide in their natural state, and do no harm to those weaker than themselves, but keep the law of God, and eat of the seeds of the earth; others of them, again, transgress the law of God, and eat flesh, and injure those weaker than themselves: thus, too, the righteous, keeping the law of God, bite and injure none, but live holily and righteously. But robbers, and murderers, and godless persons are like monsters of the deep, and wild beasts, and birds of prey; for they virtually devour those weaker than themselves. The race, then, of fishes and of creeping things, though partaking of God's blessing, received no very distinguishing property.
And on the sixth day, God having made the quadrupeds, and wild beasts, and the land reptiles, pronounced no blessing upon them, reserving His blessing for man, whom He was about to create on the sixth day. The quadrupeds, too, and wild beasts, were made for a type of some men, who neither know nor worship God, but mind earthly things, and repent not. For those who turn from their iniquities and live righteously, in spirit fly upwards like birds, and mind the things that are above, and are well-pleasing to the will of God. But those who do not know nor worship God, are like birds which have wings, but cannot fly nor soar to the high things of God. Thus, too, though such persons are called men, yet being pressed down with sins, they mind grovelling and earthly things. And the animals are named wild beasts [θηρία], from their being hunted [θηρεύεσθαι], not as if they had been made evil or venomous from the first — for nothing was made evil by God, but all things good, yea, very good — but the sin in which man was concerned brought evil upon them. For when man transgressed, they also transgressed with him. For as, if the master of the house himself acts rightly, the domestics also of necessity conduct themselves well; but if the master sins, the servants also sin with him; so in like manner it came to pass, that in the case of man's sin, he being master, all that was subject to him sinned with him. When, therefore, man again shall have made his way back to his natural condition, and no longer does evil, those also shall be restored to their original gentleness.
But as to what relates to the creation of man, his own creation cannot be explained by man, though it is a succinct account of it which holy Scripture gives. For when God said,
Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, He first intimates the dignity of man. For God having made all things by His Word, and having reckoned them all mere bye-works, reckons the creation of man to be the only work worthy of His own hands. Moreover, God is found, as if needing help, to say,
Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. But to no one else than to His own Word and wisdom did He say,
Let Us make. And when He had made and blessed him, that he might increase and replenish the earth, He put all things under his dominion, and at his service; and He appointed from the first that he should find nutriment from the fruits of the earth, and from seeds, and herbs, and acorns, having at the same time appointed that the animals be of habits similar to man's, that they also might eat of the seeds of the earth.
God having thus completed the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and all that are in them, on the sixth day, rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made. Then holy Scripture gives a summary in these words:
This is the book of the generation of the heavens and the earth, when they were created, in the day that the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and every green thing of the field, before it was made, and every herb of the field before it grew. For God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. Genesis 2:4-5 By this He signifies to us, that the whole earth was at that time watered by a divine fountain, and had no need that man should till it; but the earth produced all things spontaneously by the command of God, that man might not be wearied by tilling it. But that the creation of man might be made plain, so that there should not seem to be an insoluble problem existing among men, since God had said,
Let Us make man; and since His creation was not yet plainly related, Scripture teaches us, saying:
And a fountain went up out of the earth, and watered the face of the whole earth; and God made man of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Whence also by most persons the soul is called immortal. And after the formation of man, God chose out for him a region among the places of the East, excellent for light, brilliant with a very bright atmosphere, [abundant] in the finest plants; and in this He placed man.
Scripture thus relates the words of the sacred history:
And God planted Paradise, eastward, in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground made God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of Paradise, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And a river flows out of Eden, to water the garden; thence it is parted into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasses the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good, and there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasses the whole land of Ethiopia. And the third river is Tigris: this is it which goes toward Syria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. And the Lord God took the man whom He had made, and put him in the garden, to till and to keep it. And God commanded Adam, saying, Of every tree that is in the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it; for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die. And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; let Us make him an helpmeet for him. And out of the ground God formed all the beasts of the field, and all the fowls of heaven, and brought them to Adam. And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowls of the air, and to all the beasts of the field. But for Adam there was not found an helpmeet for him. And God caused an ecstasy to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto Adam. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, Adam and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And the serpent said to the woman, Why has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We eat of every tree of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die. For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise; and having taken of the fruit thereof, she ate, and gave also unto her husband with her: and they ate. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said to him, Where are you? And he said to Him, I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself. And He said to him, Who told you that you were naked, unless you have eaten of the tree whereof I commanded you that you should not eat? And Adam said, The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate. And God said to the woman, What is this that you have done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I ate. And the Lord God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you are accursed above all the beasts of the earth; on your breast and belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life: and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. And to the woman He said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your travail: in sorrow shall you bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you. And to Adam He said, Because you have hearkened unto the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it; cursed is the ground in your works: in sorrow shall you eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you; and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face shall you eat your bread, till you return unto the earth; for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return. Such is the account given by holy Scripture of the history of man and of Paradise.
You will say, then, to me:
You said that God ought not to be contained in a place, and how do you now say that He walked in Paradise? Hear what I say. The God and Father, indeed, of all cannot be contained, and is not found in a place, for there is no place of His rest; but His Word, through whom He made all things, being His power and His wisdom, assuming the person of the Father and Lord of all, went to the garden in the person of God, and conversed with Adam. For the divine writing itself teaches us that Adam said that he had heard the voice. But what else is this voice but the Word of God, who is also His Son? Not as the poets and writers of myths talk of the sons of gods begotten from intercourse [with women], but as truth expounds, the Word, that always exists, residing within the heart of God. For before anything came into being He had Him as a counsellor, being His own mind and thought. But when God wished to make all that He determined on, He begot this Word, uttered, the first-born of all creation, not Himself being emptied of the Word [Reason], but having begotten Reason, and always conversing with His Reason. And hence the holy writings teach us, and all the spirit-bearing [inspired] men, one of whom, John, says,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, John 1:1 showing that at first God was alone, and the Word in Him. Then he says,
The Word was God; all things came into existence through Him; and apart from Him not one thing came into existence. The Word, then, being God, and being naturally produced from God, whenever the Father of the universe wills, He sends Him to any place; and He, coming, is both heard and seen, being sent by Him, and is found in a place.
Man, therefore, God made on the sixth day, and made known this creation after the seventh day, when also He made Paradise, that he might be in a better and distinctly superior place. And that this is true, the fact itself proves. For how can one miss seeing that the pains which women suffer in childbed, and the oblivion of their labours which they afterwards enjoy, are sent in order that the word of God may be fulfilled, and that the race of men may increase and multiply? And do we not see also the judgment of the serpent — how hatefully he crawls on his belly and eats the dust — that we may have this, too, for a proof of the things which were said aforetime?
God, then, caused to spring out of the earth every tree that is beautiful in appearance, or good for food. For at first there were only those things which were produced on the third day — plants, and seeds, and herbs; but the things which were in Paradise were made of a superior loveliness and beauty, since in it the plants were said to have been planted by God. As to the rest of the plants, indeed, the world contained plants like them; but the two trees — the tree of life and the tree of knowledge — the rest of the earth possessed not, but only Paradise. And that Paradise is earth, and is planted on the earth, the Scripture states, saying: Genesis 2:8
And the Lord God planted Paradise in Eden eastwards, and placed man there; and out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. By the expressions, therefore,
out of the ground, and
eastwards, the holy writing clearly teaches us that Paradise is under this heaven, under which the east and the earth are. And the Hebrew word Eden signifies
delight. And it was signified that a river flowed out of Eden to water Paradise, and after that divides into four heads; of which the two called Pison and Gihon water the eastern parts, especially Gihon, which encompasses the whole land of Ethiopia, and which, they say, reappears in Egypt under the name of Nile. And the other two rivers are manifestly recognisable by us — those called Tigris and Euphrates — for these border on our own regions. And God having placed man in Paradise, as has been said, to till and keep it, commanded him to eat of all the trees — manifestly of the tree of life also; but only of the tree of knowledge He commanded him not to taste. And God transferred him from the earth, out of which he had been produced, into Paradise, giving him means of advancement, in order that, maturing and becoming perfect, and being even declared a god, he might thus ascend into heaven in possession of immortality. For man had been made a middle nature, neither wholly mortal, nor altogether immortal, but capable of either; so also the place, Paradise, was made in respect of beauty intermediate between earth and heaven. And by the expression,
till it, no other kind of labour is implied than the observance of God's command, lest, disobeying, he should destroy himself, as indeed he did destroy himself, by sin.
The tree of knowledge itself was good, and its fruit was good. For it was not the tree, as some think, but the disobedience, which had death in it. For there was nothing else in the fruit than only knowledge; but knowledge is good when one uses it discreetly. But Adam, being yet an infant in age, was on this account as yet unable to receive knowledge worthily. For now, also, when a child is born it is not at once able to eat bread, but is nourished first with milk, and then, with the increment of years, it advances to solid food. Thus, too, would it have been with Adam; for not as one who grudged him, as some suppose, did God command him not to eat of knowledge. But He wished also to make proof of him, whether he was submissive to His commandment. And at the same time He wished man, infant as he was, to remain for some time longer simple and sincere. For this is holy, not only with God, but also with men, that in simplicity and guilelessness subjection be yielded to parents. But if it is right that children be subject to parents, how much more to the God and Father of all things? Besides, it is unseemly that children in infancy be wise beyond their years; for as in stature one increases in an orderly progress, so also in wisdom. But as when a law has commanded abstinence from anything, and some one has not obeyed, it is obviously not the law which causes punishment, but the disobedience and transgression;— for a father sometimes enjoins on his own child abstinence from certain things, and when he does not obey the paternal order, he is flogged and punished on account of the disobedience; and in this case the actions themselves are not the [cause of] stripes, but the disobedience procures punishment for him who disobeys — so also for the first man, disobedience procured his expulsion from Paradise. Not, therefore, as if there were any evil in the tree of knowledge; but from his disobedience did man draw, as from a fountain, labour, pain, grief, and at last fall a prey to death.
And God showed great kindness to man in this, that He did not allow him to remain in sin for ever; but, as it were, by a kind of banishment, cast him out of Paradise, in order that, having by punishment expiated, within an appointed time, the sin, and having been disciplined, he should afterwards be restored. Wherefore also, when man had been formed in this world, it is mystically written in Genesis, as if he had been twice placed in Paradise; so that the one was fulfilled when he was placed there, and the second will be fulfilled after the resurrection and judgment. For just as a vessel, when on being fashioned it has some flaw, is remoulded or remade, that it may become new and entire; so also it happens to man by death. For somehow or other he is broken up, that he may rise in the resurrection whole; I mean spotless, and righteous, and immortal. And as to God's calling, and saying, Where are you, Adam? God did this, not as if ignorant of this; but, being long-suffering, He gave him an opportunity of repentance and confession.
But some one will say to us, Was man made by nature mortal? Certainly not. Was he, then, immortal? Neither do we affirm this. But one will say, Was he, then, nothing? Not even this hits the mark. He was by nature neither mortal nor immortal. For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God. Again, if He had made him mortal, God would seem to be the cause of his death. Neither, then, immortal nor yet mortal did He make him, but, as we have said above, capable of both; so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God; but if, on the other hand, he should turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he should himself be the cause of death to himself. For God made man free, and with power over himself. That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him. For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption.
And Adam having been cast out of Paradise, in this condition knew Eve his wife, whom God had formed into a wife for him out of his rib. And this He did, not as if He were unable to make his wife separately, but God foreknew that man would call upon a number of gods. And having this prescience, and knowing that through the serpent error would introduce a number of gods which had no existence — for there being but one God, even then error was striving to disseminate a multitude of gods, saying,
You shall be as gods;— lest, then, it should be supposed that one God made the man and another the woman, therefore He made them both; and God made the woman together with the man, not only that thus the mystery of God's sole government might be exhibited, but also that their mutual affection might be greater. Therefore said Adam to Eve,
This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. And besides, he prophesied, saying,
For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they two shall be one flesh; which also itself has its fulfilment in ourselves. For who that marries lawfully does not despise mother and father, and his whole family connection, and all his household, cleaving to and becoming one with his own wife, fondly preferring her? So that often, for the sake of their wives, some submit even to death. This Eve, on account of her having been in the beginning deceived by the serpent, and become the author of sin, the wicked demon, who also is called Satan, who then spoke to her through the serpent, and who works even to this day in those men that are possessed by him, invokes as Eve. And he is called
dragon, on account of his [ἀποδεδρακέναι] revolting from God. For at first he was an angel. And concerning his history there is a great deal to be said; wherefore I at present omit the relation of it, for I have also given an account of him in another place.
When, then, Adam knew Eve his wife, she conceived and bare a son, whose name was Cain; and she said,
I have gotten a man from God. And yet again she bare a second son, whose name was Abel,
who began to be a keeper of sheep, but Cain tilled the ground. Genesis 4:1-2 Their history receives a very full narration, yea, even a detailed explanation: wherefore the book itself, which is entitled
The Genesis of the World, can more accurately inform those who are anxious to learn their story. When, then, Satan saw Adam and his wife not only still living, but also begetting children — being carried away with spite because he had not succeeded in putting them to death — when he saw that Abel was well-pleasing to God, he wrought upon the heart of his brother called Cain, and caused him to kill his brother Abel. And thus did death get a beginning in this world, to find its way into every race of man, even to this day. But God, being pitiful, and wishing to afford to Cain, as to Adam, an opportunity of repentance and confession, said,
Where is Abel your brother? But Cain answered God contumaciously, saying,
I know not; am I my brother's keeper? God, being thus made angry with him, said,
What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries to me from the earth, which opened her mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. Groaning and trembling shall you be on the earth. From that time the earth, through fear, no longer receives human blood, no, nor the blood of any animal; by which it appears that it is not the cause [of death], but man, who transgressed.
Cain also himself had a son, whose name was Enoch; and he built a city, which he called by the name of his son, Enoch. From that time was there made a beginning of the building of cities, and this before the flood; not as Homer falsely says: —
Not yet had men a city built.
And to Enoch was born a son, by name Gaidad; who begot a son called Meel; and Meel begot Mathusala; and Mathusala, Lamech. And Lamech took unto him two wives, whose names were Adah and Zillah. At that time there was made a beginning of polygamy, and also of music. For Lamech had three sons: Jabal, Jubal, Tubal. And Jabal became a keeper of cattle, and dwelt in tents; but Jubal is he who made known the psaltery and the harp; and Tubal became a smith, a forger in brass and iron. So far the seed of Cain is registered; and for the rest, the seed of his line has sunk into oblivion, on account of his fratricide of his brother. And, in place of Abel, God granted to Eve to conceive and bear a son, who was called Seth; from whom the remainder of the human race proceeds until now. And to those who desire to be informed regarding all generations, it is easy to give explanations by means of the holy Scriptures. For, as we have already mentioned, this subject, the order of the genealogy of man, has been partly handled by us in another discourse, in the first book of The History. And all these things the Holy Spirit teaches us, who speaks through Moses and the rest of the prophets, so that the writings which belong to us godly people are more ancient, yea, and are shown to be more truthful, than all writers and poets. But also, concerning music, some have fabled that Apollo was the inventor, and others say that Orpheus discovered the art of music from the sweet voices of the birds. Their story is shown to be empty and vain, for these inventors lived many years after the flood. And what relates to Noah, who is called by some Deucalion, has been explained by us in the book before mentioned, and which, if you wish it, you are at liberty to read.
After the flood was there again a beginning of cities and kings, in the following manner:— The first city was Babylon, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. And their king was called Nebroth [Nimrod]. From these came Asshur, from whom also the Assyrians receive their name. And Nimrod built the cities Nineveh and Rehoboth, and Calah, and Resen, between Nineveh and Calah; and Nineveh became a very great city. And another son of Shem, the son of Noah, by name Mizraim, begot Ludim, and those called Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim, and Pathrusim, and Casluhim, out of whom came Philistin. Of the three sons of Noah, however, and of their death and genealogy, we have given a compendious register in the above-mentioned book. But now we will mention the remaining facts both concerning cities and kings, and the things that happened when there was one speech and one language. Before the dividing of the languages these fore-mentioned cities existed. But when men were about to be dispersed, they took counsel of their own judgment, and not at the instigation of God, to build a city, a tower whose top might reach into heaven, that they might make a glorious name to themselves. Since, therefore, they had dared, contrary to the will of God, to attempt a grand work, God destroyed their city, and overthrew their tower. From that time He confounded the languages of men, giving to each a different dialect. And similarly did the Sibyl speak, when she declared that wrath would come on the world. She says:—
When are fulfilled the threats of the great God,
With which He threatened men, when formerly
In the Assyrian land they built a tower,
And all were of one speech, and wished to rise
Even till they climbed unto the starry heaven,
Then the Immortal raised a mighty wind
And laid upon them strong necessity;
For when the wind threw down the mighty tower,
Then rose among mankind fierce strife and hate.
One speech was changed to many dialects,
And earth was filled with various tribes and kings.
And so on. These things, then, happened in the land of the Chaldæans. And in the land of Canaan there was a city, by name Haran. And in these days, Pharaoh, who by the Egyptians was also called Nechaoth, was first king of Egypt, and thus the kings followed in succession. And in the land of Shinar, among those called Chaldæans, the first king was Arioch, and next after him Ellasar, and after him Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, and after him Tidal, king of the nations called Assyrians. And there were five other cities in the territory of Ham, the son of Noah; the first called Sodom, then Gomorrha, Admah, Zeboiim, and Balah, which was also called Zoar. And the names of their kings are these: Bera, king of Sodom; Birsha, king of Gomorrha; Shinab, king of Admah; Shemeber, king of Zeboiim; Bela, king of Zoar, which is also called Kephalac. These served Chedorlaomer, the king of the Assyrians, for twelve years, and in the thirteenth year they revolted from Chedorlaomer; and thus it came to pass at that time that the four Assyrian kings waged war upon the five kings. This was the first commencement of making war on the earth; and they destroyed the giants Karnaim, and the strong nations that were with them in their city, and the Horites of the mountains called Seir, as far as the plain of Paran, which is by the wilderness. And at that time there was a righteous king called Melchisedek, in the city of Salem, which now is Jerusalem. This was the first priest of all priests of the Most High God; and from him the above-named city Hierosolyma was called Jerusalem. And from his time priests were found in all the earth. And after him reigned Abimelech in Gerar; and after him another Abimelech. Then reigned Ephron, surnamed the Hittite. Such are the names of the kings that were in former times. And the rest of the kings of the Assyrians, during an interval of many years, have been passed over in silence unrecorded, all writers narrating the events of our recent days. There were these kings of Assyria: Tiglath-Pileser, and after him Shalmaneser, then Sennacherib; and Adrammelech the Ethiopian, who also reigned over Egypt, was his triarch;— though these things, in comparison with our books, are quite recent.
Hence, therefore, may the loves of learning and of antiquity understand the history, and see that those things are recent which are told by us apart from the holy prophets. For though at first there were few men in the land of Arabia and Chaldæa, yet, after their languages were divided, they gradually began to multiply and spread over all the earth; and some of them tended towards the east to dwell there, and others to the parts of the great continent, and others northwards, so as to extend as far as Britain, in the Arctic regions. And others went to the land of Canaan, which is called Judæa, and Phœnicia, and the region of Ethiopia, and Egypt, and Libya, and the country called torrid, and the parts stretching towards the west; and the rest went to places by the sea, and Pamphylia, and Asia, and Greece, and Macedonia, and, besides, to Italy, and the whole country called Gaul, and Spain, and Germany; so that now the whole world is thus filled with inhabitants. Since then the occupation of the world by men was at first in three divisions — in the east, and south, and west: afterwards, the remaining parts of the earth were inhabited, when men became very numerous. And the writers, not knowing these things, are forward to maintain that the world is shaped like a sphere, and to compare it to a cube. But how can they say what is true regarding these things, when they do not know about the creation of the world and its population? Men gradually increasing in number and multiplying on the earth, as we have already said, the islands also of the sea and the rest of the countries were inhabited.
Who, then, of those called sages, and poets, and historians, could tell us truly of these things, themselves being much later born, and introducing a multitude of gods, who were born so many years after the cities, and are more modern than kings, and nations, and wars? For they should have made mention of all events, even those which happened before the flood; both of the creation of the world and the formation of man, and the whole succession of events. The Egyptian or Chaldæan prophets, and the other writers, should have been able accurately to tell, if at least they spoke by a divine and pure spirit, and spoke truth in all that was uttered by them; and they should have announced not only things past or present, but also those that were to come upon the world. And therefore it is proved that all others have been in error; and that we Christians alone have possessed the truth, inasmuch as we are taught by the Holy Spirit, who spoke in the holy prophets, and foretold all things.
And, for the rest, would that in a kindly spirit you would investigate divine things — I mean the things that are spoken by the prophets— in order that, by comparing what is said by us with the utterances of the others, you may be able to discover the truth. We have shown from their own histories, which they have compiled, that the names of those who are called gods, are found to be the names of men who lived among them, as we have shown above. And to this day their images are daily fashioned, idols,
the works of men's hands. And these the mass of foolish men serve, while they reject the maker and fashioner of all things and the nourisher of all breath of life, giving credit to vain doctrines through the deceitfulness of the senseless tradition received from their fathers. But God at least, the Father and Creator of the universe, did not abandon mankind, but gave a law, and sent holy prophets to declare and teach the race of men, that each one of us might awake and understand that there is one God. And they also taught us to refrain from unlawful idolatry, and adultery, and murder, fornication, theft, avarice, false swearing, wrath, and every incontinence and uncleanness; and that whatever a man would not wish to be done to himself, he should not do to another; and thus he who acts righteously shall escape the eternal punishments, and be thought worthy of the eternal life from God.
The divine law, then, not only forbids the worshipping of idols, but also of the heavenly bodies, the sun, the moon, or the other stars; yea, not heaven, nor earth, nor the sea, nor fountains, nor rivers, must be worshipped, but we must serve in holiness of heart and sincerity of purpose only the living and true God, who also is Maker of the universe. Wherefore says the holy law:
You shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not desire your neighbour's wife. So also the prophets. Solomon indeed teaches us that we must not sin with so much as a turn of the eye, saying,
Let your eyes look right on, and let your eyelids look straight before you. Proverbs 4:25 And Moses, who himself also was a prophet, says, concerning the sole government of God:
Your God is He who establishes the heaven, and forms the earth, whose hands have brought forth all the host of heaven; and He has not set these things before you that you should go after them. Deuteronomy 4:19 And Isaiah himself also says:
Thus says the Lord God who established the heavens, and founded the earth and all that is therein, and gives breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein. This is the Lord your God. Isaiah 42:5 And again, through him He says:
I have made the earth, and man upon it. I by my hand have established the heavens. Isaiah 45:12 And in another chapter,
This is your God, who created the ends of the earth; He hungers not, neither is weary, and there is no searching of His understanding. Isaiah 40:28 So, too, Jeremiah says:
Who has made the earth by His power, and established the world by His wisdom, and by His discretion has stretched out the heavens, and a mass of water in the heavens, and He caused the clouds to ascend from the ends of the earth; He made lightnings with rain, and brought forth winds out of His treasures. Jeremiah 10:12-13 One can see how consistently and harmoniously all the prophets spoke, having given utterance through one and the same spirit concerning the unity of God, and the creation of the world, and the formation of man. Moreover, they were in sore travail, bewailing the godless race of men, and they reproached those, who seemed to be wise, for their error and hardness of heart. Jeremiah, indeed, said:
Every man is brutishly gone astray from the knowledge of Him; every founder is confounded by his graven images; in vain the silversmith makes his molten images; there is no breath in them: in the day of their visitation they shall perish. Jeremiah 51:17-18 The same, too, says David:
They are corrupt, they have done abominable works; there is none that does good, no, not one; they have all gone aside, they have together become profitless. So also Habakkuk:
What profits the graven image that he has graven it a lying image? Woe to him that says to the stone, Awake; and to the wood, Arise. Habakkuk 2:18 Likewise spoke the other prophets of the truth. And why should I recount the multitude of prophets, who are numerous, and said ten thousand things consistently and harmoniously? For those who desire it, can, by reading what they uttered, accurately understand the truth, and no longer be carried away by opinion and profitless labour. These, then, whom we have already mentioned, were prophets among the Hebrews, — illiterate, and shepherds, and uneducated.
How are you still so quickly lifted up,
And how so thoughtless of the end of life,
You mortal men of flesh, who are but nought?
Do you not tremble, nor fear God most high?
Your Overseer, the Knower, Seer of all,
Who ever keeps those whom His hand first made,
Puts His sweet Spirit into all His works,
And gives Him for a guide to mortal men.
There is one only uncreated God,
Who reigns alone, all-powerful, very great,
From whom is nothing hid. He sees all things,
Himself unseen by any mortal eye.
Can mortal man see the immortal God,
Or fleshly eyes, which shun the noontide beams,
Look upon Him, who dwells beyond the heavens?
Worship Him then, the self-existent God,
The unbegotten Ruler of the world,
Who only was from everlasting time,
And shall to everlasting still abide.
Of evil counsels you shall reap the fruit,
Because you have not honoured the true God,
Nor offered to Him sacred hecatombs.
To those who dwell in Hades you make gifts,
And unto demons offer sacrifice.
In madness and in pride you have your walk;
And leaving the right way, you wander wide,
And lose yourselves in pitfalls and in thorns.
Why do you wander thus, O foolish men?
Cease your vain wanderings in the black, dark night;
Why follow darkness and perpetual gloom
When, see, there shines for you the blessed light?
Lo, He is clear — in Him there is no spot.
Turn, then, from darkness, and behold the day;
Be wise, and treasure wisdom in your breasts.
There is one God who sends the winds and rains,
The earthquakes, and the lightnings, and the plagues,
The famines, and the snow-storms, and the ice,
And all the woes that visit our sad race.
Nor these alone, but all things else He gives,
Ruling omnipotent in heaven and earth,
And self-existent from eternity.
And regarding those [gods] that are said to have been born, she said:—
If all things that are born must also die,God cannot be produced by mortal man.
But there is only One, the All-Supreme,
Who made the heavens, with all their starry host,
The sun and moon; likewise the fruitful earth,
With all the waves of ocean, and the hills,
The fountains, and the ever flowing streams;
He also made the countless multitude
Of ocean creatures, and He keeps alive
All creeping things, both of the earth and sea;
And all the tuneful choir of birds He made,
Which cleave the air with wings, and with shrill pipe
Trill forth at morn their tender, clear-voiced song.
Within the deep glades of the hills He placed
A savage race of beasts; and unto men
He made all cattle subject, making man
The God-formed image, ruler over all,
And putting in subjection to his sway
Things many and incomprehensible.
For who of mortals can know all these things?
He only knows who made them at the first,
He the Creator, incorruptible,
Who dwells in upper air eternally;
Who proffers to the good most rich rewards,
And against evil and unrighteous men
Rouses revenge, and wrath, and bloody wars,
And pestilence, and many a tearful grief.
O man exalted vainly — say why thus
Have you so utterly destroyed yourself?
Have you no shame worshipping beasts for gods?
And to believe the gods should steal your beasts,
Or that they need your vessels — is it not
Frenzy's most profitless and foolish thought?
Instead of dwelling in the golden heavens,
You see your gods become the prey of worms,
And hosts of creatures noisome and unclean.
O fools! You worship serpents, dogs, and cats,
Birds, and the creeping things of earth and sea,
Images made with hands, statues of stone,
And heaps of rubbish by the wayside placed.
All these, and many more vain things, you serve,
Worshipping things disgraceful even to name:
These are the gods who lead vain men astray,
From whose mouth streams of deadly poison flow.
But unto Him in whom alone is life,
Life, and undying, everlasting light;
Who pours into man's cup of life a joy
Sweeter than sweetest honey to his taste —
Unto Him bow the head, to Him alone,
And walk in ways of everlasting peace.
Forsaking Him, you all have turned aside,
And, in your raving folly, drained the cup
Of justice quite unmixed, pure, mastering, strong;
And you will not again be sober men,
You will not come unto a sober mind,
And know your God and King, who looks on all:
Therefore, upon you burning fire shall come,
And ever you shall daily burn in flames,
Ashamed for ever of your useless gods.
But those who worship the eternal God,
They shall inherit everlasting life,
Inhabiting the blooming realms of bliss,
And feasting on sweet food from starry heaven.
And that evil-doers must necessarily be punished in proportion to their deeds, has already been, as it were, oracularly uttered by some of the poets, as a witness both against themselves and against the wicked, declaring that they shall be punished. Æschylus said:—
He who has done must also suffer.
And Pindar himself said:—
It is fit that suffering follow doing.
So, too, Euripides: —
The deed rejoiced you — suffering endure;
The taken enemy must needs be pain'd.
The foe's pain is the hero's meed.
And, similarly, Archilochus:—
And that God sees all, and that nothing escapes His notice, but that, being long-suffering, He refrains until the time when He is to judge — concerning this, too, Dionysius said:—
The eye of Justice seeing all,
Yet seems not to see.
Swift-footed is the approach of fate,
And none can justice violate,
But feels its stern hand soon or late.
'Tis with you, though unheard, unseen;
You draw night's curtain in between,
But even sleep affords no screen.
'Tis with you if you sleep or wake;
And if abroad your way you take,
Its still, stern watch you cannot break.
'Twill follow you, or cross your path;
And even night no virtue has
To hide you from th' Avenger's wrath.
And may we not cite Simonides also?—
To men no evil comes unheralded;
But God with sudden hand transforms all things.
Once more Euripides: —
Not without judgment is the Deity,
But sees when oaths are struck unrighteously,
And when from men unwilling they are wrung.
And Sophocles: —
If ills you do, ills also you must bear.
That God will make inquiry both concerning false swearing and concerning every other wickedness, they themselves have nearly predicted. And concerning the conflagration of the world, they have, willingly or unwillingly, spoken in conformity with the prophets, though they were much more recent, and stole these things from the law and the prophets. The poets corroborate the testimony of the prophets.
But what matters it whether they were before or after them? Certainly they did at all events utter things confirmatory of the prophets. Concerning the burning up of the world, Malachi the prophet foretold:
The day of the Lord comes as a burning oven, and shall consume all the wicked. Malachi 4:1 And Isaiah:
For the wrath of God is as a violent hail-storm, and as a rushing mountain torrent. Isaiah 30:30 The Sibyl, then, and the other prophets, yea, and the poets and philosophers, have clearly taught both concerning righteousness, and judgment, and punishment; and also concerning providence, that God cares for us, not only for the living among us, but also for those that are dead: though, indeed, they said this unwillingly, for they were convinced by the truth. And among the prophets indeed, Solomon said of the dead,
There shall be healing to your flesh, and care taken of your bones. Proverbs 3:8 And the same says David,
The bones which You have broken shall rejoice. And in agreement with these sayings was that of Timocles:—
The dead are pitied by the loving God.
And the writers who spoke of a multiplicity of gods came at length to the doctrine of the unity of God, and those who asserted chance spoke also of providence; and the advocates of impunity confessed there would be a judgment, and those who denied that there is a sensation after death acknowledged that there is. Homer, accordingly, though he had said —
Like fleeting vision passed the soul away,
says in another place:—
To Hades went the disembodied soul;
That I may quickly pass through Hades' gates,
And as regards the others whom you have read, I think you know with sufficient accuracy how they have expressed themselves. But all these things will every one understand who seeks the wisdom of God, and is well pleasing to Him through faith and righteousness and the doing of good works. For one of the prophets whom we already mentioned, Hosea by name, said,
Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein. Hosea 14:9 He, then, who is desirous of learning, should learn much. Endeavour therefore to meet [with me] more frequently, that, by hearing the living voice, you may accurately ascertain the truth.
Source. Translated by Marcus Dods. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/02042.htm>.
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