The Philocalia of Origen (1911) pp. 1-237. English translation
I. Of the Inspiration of the Divine Scripture
II. That the Divine Scripture is closed up and sealed
III. Why the Inspired Books are Twenty-two in Number
IV. Of the Solecisms and Poor Style of Scripture
V. What is "much speaking," and what are the "many books"? The whole Inspired Scripture is One Book
VI. The whole Divine Scripture is One Instrument of God, perfect and fitted for its Work
VII. Of the special "character" of the Persons of Divine Scripture
VIII That we need not attempt to correct the Solecisms of Scripture, etc
IX. Scripture uses the same Terms in different Significations.
X. Stumbling-blocks in Holy Scripture
XI. On Heretical Interpretation of Holy Scripture
XII. We ought not to despair in reading the Scriptures if we find Difficulties in them
XIII. Philosophy in relation to Holy Scripture
XIV. The Use of Logic in the Study of Scripture
XV. A Reply to the Objection that the Truths of Christianity have been better expressed by the Greeks. Our Lord's Body, etc.
XVI. On the Divisions among Christians
XVII. May we give Heathen Titles to the Supreme God?
XVIII. The "simplicity"of Christian Faith, etc.
XIX. Faith in Christ commendable and accordant with the original Moral Notions of Mankind. How Jesus being God could have a Mortal Body
XX. Man and the Irrational Creatures
XXI. Free Will
XXII. The Dispersion of Mankind, and the Confusion of Tongues
XXIII. Fate, Astrology, etc
XXIV. Matter is not Uncreated, or the Cause of Evil
XXV. God's Foreknowledge, Predestination, etc
XXVI. Scripture Blessings. What things are really "Good" and "Evil"
XXVII. The Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart
CHAP. I. ----Of the inspiration of the Divine Scripture; how it is to be read and understood; why it is obscure; and what is the reason of the obscurity in it, and of what is impossible in some cases, or unreasonable, when it is taken literally. From the work on "Principles" and various other works of Origen.
The following analysis of Origen's scheme of interpretation may be useful to the reader:----
Interpretation | | ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- | | | Literal (Body) Moral (Soul) Mystical (Spirit) | | ------------------------- ------------------------- | | | | Actual Fictitious Allegory. Anagoge. History. History. Prefiguring the Typifying the Invented by the Holy Spirit history of Christ things of a higher to convey moral and mystical and His Church. world in which truths which earthly things everything of this could not sufficiently typify. earth has its antitype. In the law some things were literally to be observed; others were in the letter impossible or absurd, but were intended to convey moral and mystical teaching.
1. Inasmuch as when we investigate matters of such importance we are not content with common notions and such light as is given by the things that are seen, we strengthen our position by the additional evidence of the Scriptures, which we believe to be Divine, viz. both that which is called the Old Testament and that which is called the New, and endeavour with the help of reason |2 to confirm our faith. But as we have never yet discussed the Scriptures on the side of their Divine inspiration, let us bring together a few brief remarks concerning them, by way of showing upon what grounds we regard them as Divine. And before we proceed to make use of the text of the Scriptures and of what is revealed in them, a few particulars must be given concerning Moses and Jesus Christ----the lawgiver of the Hebrews, and the Author of the saving doctrines of Christianity. For of all the numerous lawgivers that have arisen among Greeks and Barbarians, we recall no one who could induce other nations to eagerly accept his tenets; and although the professors of philosophic truth made elaborate efforts to establish their doctrine on a seeming basis of reason, not one of them succeeded in introducing into different nations the truth which he supported, or in influencing considerable numbers of one nation. And yet the lawgivers would have liked, if it had been possible, to bind the good laws, as they appeared to be, on the whole human race, and the teachers would desire that what they imagined to be truth should be spread throughout the world. Conscious, however, that they would not succeed if they invited men of different languages and of many nationalities to observe the law they promulgated, and accept the instruction they gave, they did not even attempt this at first, for they shrewdly suspected that the attempt would end in failure. But in every land, Greek and Barbarian, throughout the world, countless adherents of our faith may be found who have abandoned their ancestral customs and familiar gods, to become zealous observers of the law of Moses and eager disciples of Jesus Christ; and this in spite of the fact that they who submit to the law of Moses are hated by the worshippers of images, and they who accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ are not only hated but are in peril of death.
2. And if we realise in how very short a time, notwithstanding the plots laid against the professors of Christianity, whereby some perished and others lost their |3 possessions, the Word, though the number of the preachers was not great, has been everywhere preached throughout the world, so that Greeks and Barbarians, wise and foolish, submit themselves to the fear of God through Jesus, if, I say, we realise this, we shall not hesitate to say that there is something superhuman in the result. For Jesus taught with all authority and persuasiveness that the Word would prevail, so that one may reasonably regard His utterances as prophetic.1 For instance, "Before governors and kings shall ye be brought for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles."2 And, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not eat in thy name, and drink in thy name? And I will say to them, depart from me, ye that work iniquity. I never knew you."3 It was perhaps reasonable to think that He spoke these things at random, and that they were not true; but when the things spoken with such authority came to pass, it is manifest that God really took our nature upon Him and delivered doctrines of salvation to men.
3. Need I add how it was foretold that the promised princes should depart from Judah,4 and rulers from between his thighs, at the coming of Messiah for whom it is reserved, viz. the kingdom, and at the advent of the Expectation of the Gentiles? For it is surely clear from history and from what we see to-day, that from the times of Jesus there have been none who called themselves kings of the Jews; for everything whereon the Jews prided themselves, I mean the arrangements of the temple and the altar, the performance of the service, and the vestments of the high priest, has been abolished. For the prophecy was fulfilled which says, "The children of Israel shall abide many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without altar, and without priesthood,5 and without Urim and Thummim." 6 And |4 we turn the foregoing passage against our opponents, who, perplexed by what Jacob in Genesis says to Judah, allege that the Ethnarch sprung from the family of Judah, is the "governor of the people," and that his seed shall not fail until the coming of Messiah of which they dream. For if "the children of Israel shall abide many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without altar, and without priesthood, and without Urim and Thummin"; and from the time when the temple was destroyed there has been no sacrifice, nor altar, nor priesthood, it is clear that a prince has failed from Judah, and a ruler from between his thighs. And since the prophecy says, "A prince shall not fail from Judah, nor a ruler from between his thighs, until the things reserved for him shall come,"7 it is clear that He has come to whom the things reserved belong, viz. the Expectation of the Gentiles. And this is proved by the multitude of the Gentiles who have believed on God through Christ.
4. The Song in Deuteronomy also contains a prophecy of the future election of the foolish Gentiles on account of the sins of God's former people, and this has come to pass through Jesus only. "For they," so the words stand, "have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God: they have provoked me to anger with their idols. And I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people: I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation." 8 We can very clearly understand how they who bore the name of Hebrews and provoked God to jealousy with that which is not God, and provoked Him to anger with their idols, were themselves provoked to jealousy and moved to anger with those which were not a people, the foolish people, whom God chose through the coming of Christ and through His disciples. "We see, then, our calling, that not many wise men after the flesh, not many |5 mighty, not many noble are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the base things and things that are despised, and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that were before: and that Israel after the flesh may not boast before God."9 For when the Apostle uses the word "flesh" he means "Israel."
5. But what are we to say about the prophecies in the Psalms concerning Christ? Is there not a "song" entitled "For the Beloved"? 10 The Beloved's tongue is called "the pen of a ready writer"; He is fairer than the children of men, for grace is poured into His lips. A proof of the grace poured into His lips is the fact that though the whole period of His teaching was so short (He taught for something like a year and a few months), the world has been filled with His doctrine and with the religion which He brought. For "in his days righteousness hath sprung up, and abundance of peace to last to the end," 11 for this lasting to the end is the meaning of the phrase "the moon shall be no more"; and "He shall have perpetual dominion from sea to sea, and from the rivers unto the ends of the earth." And a sign is given to the house of David; for the Virgin did bear; she both conceived and bore a son, and His name is Immanuel, which being interpreted is God with us.12 The prophecy is fulfilled, as the same prophet says: "God is with us; be wise ye nations, and submit; ye that are mighty submit."13 We of the Gentiles who have been led captive by the grace of His Word have been conquered and have submitted. But even the place of His birth was foretold: "For thou Bethlehem, land of Judah, art in no wise least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall come forth a governor, which shall be shepherd of my people Israel."14 And the seventy weeks wore fulfilled, as Daniel |6 shows,15 when Christ the "governor" came. And, according to Job,16 He came who subdued the great sea-monster, and has given authority to His true disciples to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, being in no wise hurt by them.17 Let a man observe how the Apostles who were sent by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel went everywhere, and he cannot help seeing their superhuman daring in obedience to the Divine command. And if we inquire how it was that men when they heard new doctrines and strange words welcomed the Apostles, and in spite of their desire to plot against them were overcome by a certain Divine power guarding the speakers, we shall not disbelieve even if we are told that the Apostles did work miracles, God bearing witness to their words both by signs and wonders and by manifold powers.18
6. But in thus briefly summarising the proofs for the Godhead of Jesus, and making use of the words of the prophets concerning Him, we are at the same time proving the inspiration of the Scriptures which prophesy of Him, and are showing that those writings which proclaim His coming and teaching were delivered with all power and authority; and we say that if they have prevailed over the election from the Gentiles, it is because they were inspired. But we must say that the divinity of the prophetic utterances, and the spiritual meaning of the law of Moses, shone forth by the dwelling of Jesus on earth. For there could be no clear proofs of the inspiration of the ancient Scriptures before the coming of Christ. But the coming of Jesus brought men who might suspect that the law and the prophets were not Divine to the plain avowal that they were written with help from heaven. And the careful and attentive reader of the words of the prophets, if his zeal be kindled ever so little by reading them, will through his own experience be persuaded that what we believe to be the words of God |7 are not human compositions. And the light also of the law of Moses, though it had been hidden by a veil, shone forth when Jesus came;19 for the veil was taken away and the good things foreshadowed in the Scriptures were gradually revealed.
7. It would be a big undertaking to now recount the most ancient prophecies, so that in amazement at their Divine character, the doubter may with full conviction and concentrated purpose submit himself with all his soul to the words of God. If, however, the superhuman element in the Scriptures does not everywhere appear to strike the uninstructed, no wonder; for in the working of the Divine Providence throughout the whole World some things are very clearly seen to be providential, while others are so hidden as to seem to leave room for doubt as to whether God with His ineffable skill and power does order the universe. For the evidence of design in Providence is not so clear in things of earth as it is in the sun and moon and stars; and it is not so clear in the changes and chances of human affairs as it is in the souls and bodies of animals, certainly when the why and wherefore of their instincts, impressions, natures, and bodily structure have been ascertained by experts in these branches of knowledge. But as the doctrine of Providence is not destroyed by our ignorance in some particulars, when we have once for all admitted it, so neither is the Divine character of Scripture upon the whole impaired, because our weakness cannot in each phrase approach the hidden glory of the truths concealed in poor and contemptible language. For we have a treasure in earthly vessels,20 that the exceeding greatness of the power of God may shine forth, and may not be thought to come from us men. For if the hackneyed methods of demonstration common among men, which we find on our library shelves,21 had prevailed over men, our faith would with good reason have been supposed to stand |8 in the wisdom of men, and not in the power of God;22 but as things are, if a man will lift up his eyes, it will be evident that the Word and the preaching have influenced the multitude not by persuasive words of wisdom, but by demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Wherefore, seeing that a heavenly power, or a power even from, above the heavens, urges us to worship the Creator only, let us, leaving the word of the beginning of Christ,23 that is, leaving elementary instruction, endeavour to press on unto perfection, that the wisdom spoken to the perfect may be spoken also to us.24 For He Who has this wisdom promises to speak it among the perfect, a wisdom other than the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of the ruler of this world, which is brought to nought. And this wisdom shall be plainly stamped on us, according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal, but now is manifested, by the Scriptures of the prophets 25 and the appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,26 to Whom be the glory for ever. Amen.
8. Now that we have, as it were, just glanced at the inspiration of the Divine Scriptures, we must pass on to the way to read and understand them; for very many mistakes have been made, because the right method of examining the holy texts has not been discovered by the greater number of readers. Hardhearted and unlearned readers belonging to the Circumcision have not believed on our Saviour, because it is their habit to follow the bare letter of the prophecies concerning Him, and they do not see Him with their bodily eyes proclaiming liberty to the captives,27 nor building what they think the true city of God,28 nor cutting off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem,29 nor eating butter and honey, and before He knoweth or preferreth evil choosing the good.30 They still suppose that prophecy declares that the |9 four-footed animal, the wolf, shall feed with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the bull, and the lion feed together, and that a little child shall lead them; and that the cow and the bear shall be pastured together, their young ones being reared together, and that the lion shall eat straw like the ox.31 Because they saw nothing like this when He Whom we believe to be Christ dwelt on the earth, they did not receive Jesus, but crucified Him, maintaining that He had no right to call Himself Christ. And heretics when they read the words, "A fire is kindled in mine anger";32 and, "I am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and fourth generation";33 and, "It repenteth me that I have anointed Saul to be king";34 and, "I am God that maketh peace and create evil";35 and in another place, "Shall evil befall a city, and the Lord hath not done it";36 or again, "Evil is come down from the Lord unto the gates of Jerusalem";37 and, "An evil spirit from the Lord plagued Saul";38 and countless similar passages: when they read these, I say, they will not venture to deny the Divine origin of the Scriptures, but believing them to have come from the Demiurge,39 Whom the Jews worship, and holding that the Demiurge is imperfect and lacking in goodness, they suppose our Saviour while He dwelt on earth to have proclaimed a more perfect God, Whom, from different motives, they affirm not to be the Demiurge. And having thus once for all revolted from the Demiurge, Who is the only God uncreate, they have given themselves up to vain imaginations, inventing for themselves various theories, so as to account for the origin of things that are seen, and for the origin of others not seen, and all this is the offspring of their own fancy. And yet, as a matter of fact, the less sophisticated of those who in their self-confidence have left the Church |10 allow no God greater than the Demiurge, and so far they are right; but their conception of Him is such as would discredit an extremely cruel and unjust man.
9. Now the only reason why all these of whom I have spoken entertain false and impious opinions, or ignorant views respecting God, appears to be that the Scripture on the spiritual side is not understood, but is taken in the bare literal sense. For the sake, therefore, of those readers who are persuaded that the sacred books are not human compositions, but that they were written and have come to us by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, according to the will of the Father of All through Jesus Christ, we must point out what appear to be the right methods, while we keep to the rule of the heavenly Church of Jesus Christ in succession to the Apostles. And that there are certain mystic dispensations revealed through the Divine Scriptures has been believed by all who have studied the Word, even the simplest readers; but what these dispensations are, fair-minded and modest men confess they do not know. Anyway, supposing a man to be perplexed about the intercourse of Lot with his daughters,40 or the two wives of Abraham,41 or Jacob's marrying two sisters, and the handmaidens who had children by him,42 these readers will say that here we have mysteries which we do not understand. But suppose the passage to be about the building of the tabernacle,43 feeling sure that the narrative is typical, they will endeavour to give each detail, as best they can, a spiritual meaning. So far as their conviction goes that the tabernacle is a type of something, they are not far wrong; but when on the strength of this they attempt in a way worthy of Scripture to define the particular thing of which the tabernacle is a type, they sometimes fail. And every ordinary story of marriage, or childbearing, or war, or any historical occurrences which would generally be |11 regarded as such, they pronounce to be typical. But when they come to particulars, it sometimes happens, partly because they are not thoroughly familiar with the subject, partly because they are too precipitate, partly because, even if a man is well trained and deliberate, the things are extremely difficult to investigate, that certain points are not quite cleared up.
10. And why speak of the prophecies, which we ail know to be full of enigmas and dark sayings? And, coming to the Gospels, if we are to find their exact sense, inasmuch as that sense is the mind of Christ, there is need of the grace given to him who said, "We have the mind of Christ, that we may know the things freely given to us by God; which things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth." 44 And who, again, can read the things revealed to John without astonishment at the ineffable mysteries therein concealed, mysteries, plainly enough, though a man does not understand what is written? As for the letters of the Apostles, could any critic find them clear and easily intelligible, seeing they contain countless things of the greatest importance and thronging thoughts, seen as through a lattice,45 and by no means easy of access? Wherefore, seeing that this is the case, and that vast numbers go wrong, it is somewhat dangerous when we read to lightly declare that one understands what requires that key of knowledge which was with the lawyers. And I wish they who will not allow that men had the truth before Christ came would tell us what our Lord Jesus Christ means by saying that the key of knowledge was in the keeping of the lawyers, for, according to our opponents, the lawyers had no books containing the secrets of knowledge, and complete mysteries. The precise words are these: "Woe unto you lawyers! for ye took away |12 the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered." 46
11. The right way, then, to read the Scriptures and extract their meaning, so far as we have been able to discover from examining the oracles themselves, appears to be as follows:----Solomon in the Proverbs gives a rule respecting the Divine doctrines of Scripture to this effect: "Do thou thrice record them with counsel and knowledge that thou mayest answer with words of truth to those who try thee with hard questions." 47 A man ought then in three ways to record in his own soul the purposes of the Holy Scriptures; that the simple may be edified by, as it were, the flesh of Scripture (for thus we designate the primary sense), the more advanced by its soul, and the perfect by the spiritual law, which has a shadow of the good things to come. For the perfect man resembles those of whom the Apostle speaks: "Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect; yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, which are coming to nought: but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory,48 from the spiritual law which hath a shadow of the good things to come.49 As man consists of body, soul, and spirit, so too does Scripture which has been granted by God for the salvation of men. And thus we explain that passage in The Shepherd,----a book which some treat with contempt, ----in which Hermas is commanded to write two books, and then read to the elders of the Church what he has learned from the Spirit.50 "Thou shalt write two books, and give one to Clement and one to Grapte. And Grapte shall admonish the widows and orphans, Clement shall send to the cities abroad, and thou shalt read to the elders of the Church." Grapte, who admonishes the widows and orphans, is the bare letter of Scripture; it admonishes those readers whose souls are in the stage of childhood, and who cannot |13 yet call God their Father, and are therefore styled "orphans"; it moreover admonishes souls,51 no longer consorting with the unlawful bridegroom, but remaining in a widowed state because not yet worthy of the true Bridegroom. Clement, the reader who has got beyond the letter, is said to send what is said to the cities abroad, that is to say, the souls which have escaped from the bodily desires and lower aims. And next the writing is forsaken, and the disciple himself of the Spirit is bidden "read" to the wise and hoary-headed elders of the whole Church of God with the living voice.
12. But inasmuch as some Scriptures have not the "corporeal," 52 as we shall presently show, in such cases we must seek only the "soul" and the "spirit." For instance, this may explain why the six waterpots of stone said to be set after the Jews' manner of purifying, as we read in the Gospel according to John,53 contain two or three firkins apiece: the Word darkly hinting at those who were inwardly Jews, of whom the Apostle speaks 54----that these, forsooth, are cleansed through the word of Scripture, that Word sometimes containing two firkins, that is, if we may so say, the "soul" and "spirit" of the Word: sometimes three; for some Scriptures have besides these two also the "corporeal" part with its power of edification. As for the number, the six waterpots may reasonably refer to those who are being purified in the world, which was made in six days, six being a perfect number.55
13. That we may profit by the primary sense of Scripture, even if we go no further, is evident from the multitudes of true and simple-minded believers. Let us, however, take what Paul says in the first Epistle to the |14 Corinthians as an example of the higher "soul" interpretation. "It is written," he says, "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn." 56 Then, going on to explain this law, he adds, "Is it for the oxen that God careth, or saith he it altogether for our sake? Yea, for our sake it was written: because he that ploweth ought to plow in hope, and he that thresheth, to thresh in hope of partaking." And, indeed, very many passages so interpreted as to suit the great body of believers, and edifying for those who have no ear for better things, have more or less the same stamp. But spiritual interpretation is for one who is able to show the nature of the heavenly things,57 of which the Jews after the flesh served the copy and shadow, and what the good things to come are of which the law is a shadow. And in general, according to the apostolic command, we must everywhere seek wisdom in a mystery, "even the wisdom which hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the world unto the glory of the righteous; which none of the rulers of this world knoweth." 58 The same Apostle, referring to certain incidents in Exodus and Numbers, somewhere says, "These things happened unto them by way of figure: and they were written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages are come";59 and he hints at the things of which they were figures, saying, "For they drank of a spiritual Rock that followed them: and the Rock was Christ." 60 And in the sketch of the tabernacle which he gives in another epistle he quotes the words, "Thou shalt make all things according to the pattern which was shewed thee in the Mount." 61 Again, in the Epistle to the Galatians, as it were reproaching those who think they read the law though they do not understand it, and giving his judgment that as many as think there are no allegories in what is written, do not understand, he goes on to say, "Tell me ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 62 |15 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman. Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh, but the son by the freewoman is born through promise. Which things contain an allegory: for these women are two covenants," and so on. We must carefully note exactly what he says: "Ye that desire to be under the law": not "Ye that are under the law"; and, "Do you not hear the law?": the hearing in his judgment being the understanding and knowing. And also in the Epistle to the Colossians, where he epitomises the meaning of the whole giving of the law, he says, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come." 63 Further, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, arguing concerning those of the Circumcision, he writes thus: "Who serve that which is a copy and shadow of the heavenly things." 64 This will probably suffice to remove all doubts respecting the five books, called the Books of Moses, from the minds of those who really believe the Apostle to be a Divine 65 man; but they may wish to learn whether the rest of the history is also figurative. Now we must carefully note that the passage in Romans from the third Book of Kings, "I have left for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal," 66 was taken by Paul as applying to the Israelites according to the election,67 for that not only have the Gentiles benefited by the coming of Christ, but also some of the holy 68 race.
14. This being so, we must outline what seems to us the peculiarities involved in understanding the Scriptures. And what we have to show first is that the aim of the Spirit, Who, by the providence of God through the Word, Who in the beginning was with God, enlightens the ministers of the truth, the Prophets and Apostles, was chiefly directed to the unspeakable mysteries connected |16 with men,----and by men I mean embodied souls, so that any one who is capable of instruction, if he will search the Scriptures, and will earnestly endeavour to fathom their depths, may be a partaker in all the decrees of His counsel. And as regards souls, inasmuch as without the rich and wise truth concerning God they cannot possibly reach perfection, things relating to God and to His only-begotten Son must be placed in the front rank, viz. His nature, in what sense He is Son of God, and for what reasons He humbled Himself and took upon Him our flesh and perfect manhood; further, how He works, for whom, and under what conditions. And, of necessity, if we want to know about kindred beings, and the other rational creatures, both those more Divine than humankind and those also who have fallen from bliss, and the causes of their fall, this should be introduced into Divine revelation; and, similarly, if we have to discuss the differences in souls, and how the differences have arisen; or inquire what we mean when we talk of the "world," and ask how it came into existence. We have to learn, moreover, the origin of the great and terrible wickedness on earth, and whether it is found only on earth, or elsewhere as well.
15. Now, while the Spirit Who illumines the souls of the holy ministers of the truth had these and similar purposes in view, it was, secondly, His aim, for the sake of those who cannot bear the labour of investigating such mysteries, to conceal the foregoing doctrines in narrative form conveying an account of the visible works of creation, and of man's creation, and of the descendants of the first man until they become numerous; and in other histories which relate the doings of righteous men, and the sins which they occasionally committed inasmuch as they were men, as also the wicked, licentious, overbearing behaviour of lawless and godless men. And, very strange though it may seem, by the history of wars and victors and vanquished, some of the ineffable mysteries are declared to those who have the ability to investigate these matters. And, still more marvellous, through the written law, the |17 laws of the Truth are foretold; and all these subjects are linked together by the Divine wisdom with a power truly worthy of the wisdom of God. For it was the Spirit's purpose to make even the vesture of things spiritual, I mean the "corporeal" part of the Scriptures, many ways not unprofitable, but capable of benefiting the majority of readers according to their capacity.
16. If the use of the Law had been everywhere made perfectly clear, and strict historical sequence had been preserved, we should not have believed that the Scriptures could be understood in any other than the obvious sense.69 The Word of God therefore arranged for certain stumbling-blocks and offences and impossibilities to be embedded in the Law and the historical portion, so that we may not be drawn hither and thither by the mere attractiveness of the style, and thus either forsake the doctrinal part because we receive no instruction worthy of God, or cleave to the letter and learn nothing more Divine. And this we ought to know, that the chief purpose being to show the spiritual connection both in past occurrences and in things to be done, wherever the Word found historical events capable of adaptation to these mystic truths, He made use of them, but concealed the deeper sense from the many; but where in setting forth the sequence of things spiritual there was no actual event related for the sake of the more mystic meaning, Scripture interweaves the imaginative with the historical, sometimes introducing what is utterly impossible, sometimes what is possible but never occurred. Sometimes it is only a few words, not literally true, which have been inserted; sometimes the insertions are of greater length. And we must this way understand even the giving of the Law, for therein we may frequently discover the immediate use, adapted to the times when the Law was given; sometimes, however, no good reason appears. And elsewhere we have even impossible commands, for readers of greater ability and those who have more of the spirit of inquiry; so that, applying themselves |18 to the labour of investigating the things written, they may have a fitting conviction of the necessity of looking therein for a meaning worthy of God. And not only did the Spirit thus deal with the Scriptures before the coming of Christ, but, inasmuch as He is the same Spirit, and proceedeth from the One God, He has done the same with the Gospels and the writings of the Apostles; for not even they are purely historical, incidents which never occurred being interwoven in the "corporeal" sense; nor in the Law and the Commandments does the Spirit make the reasonableness altogether clear.
17. Anyway, will any man of sense suppose that there was a first day, and a second, and a third, evening and morning, without sun and moon and stars? 70 and the first, as it were, even without a heaven? And who is so silly as to imagine that God, like a husbandman, planted a garden in Eden eastward, and put in it a tree of life,71 which could be seen and felt, so that whoever tasted of the fruit with his bodily teeth received the gift of life, and further that any one as he masticated the fruit of this tree partook of good and evil? And if God is also said to walk in the garden in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under the tree,72 I do not suppose that any one will doubt that these passages by means of seeming history, though the incidents never occurred, figuratively reveal certain mysteries. Moreover, Cain's comning out from the presence of God,73 if we give heed, is a distinct inducement to inquire what is meant by "the presence of God," and by a man's "coming out from" it. Why say more? They who are not quite blind can collect countless similar instances of things recorded as actual occurrences, though not literally true. Why, even the Gospels abound in incidents of the same kind. We read of the Devil taking Jesus into a lofty mountain, that from thence he might shew Him the kingdoms of the whole world and their |19 glory.74 Who but a careless reader of these things would not condemn the supposition that with the bodily eye, which required a lofty height if the parts down below at the foot were to be seen, Jesus beheld the kingdoms of Persia, Scythia, India, and Parthia, and the glory of their rulers among men? And, similarly, the careful student may observe countless other instances in the Gospels, and may thus be convinced that with the historical events, literally true, different ones are interwoven which never occurred.
18. And if we come also to the Mosaic code, many of the laws, so far as regards their bare observance, seem unreasonable, and others impossible. The prohibition of kites,75 for instance, as food is unreasonable, for no one in the direst famines would be driven to this creature. Children eight days old if not circumcised are ordered to be cut off from their people. If an express enactment respecting those children was indispensable, it is their fathers who should be ordered to be put to death; whereas the Scripture says, "Every uncircumcised male, who shall not be circumcised on the eighth day, shall be cut off from his people." 76 If you wish to see some impossible enactments, let us consider that the goat-stag is a fabulous creature. And yet Moses commands us to offer it as a clean animal;77 on the other hand, there is no instance of the griffin having been tamed by man, but the lawgiver, nevertheless, forbids it to be eaten. If we closely examine the famous ordinance of the Sabbath, "Ye shall sit every man in his house: let no man go out of his place on the seventh day,"78 we shall see that it cannot be literally kept; for no living creature can sit the whole day without stirring from his seat. And therefore in some cases they of the Circumcision, and as many as desire no more light than that of the mere letter, do not go to the root of things, and, for example, search for the meaning of what is said about the goat-stag, the griffin, and the kite; while |20 in other cases they sophistically trifle with the words, and confront you with frigid traditions; as regards the Sabbath, for instance, they maintain that every man's "place" is 2000 cubits. Others, among them Dositheus the Samaritan, condemning such an interpretation, think the person is to remain until the evening in the posture in which he was found on the Sabbath day. Nor can the command to carry no burden on the Sabbath be observed; 79 and the Jewish teachers have accordingly gone very great lengths, pretending that a sandal of one kind is a "burden," but not a sandal of another kind, the one being nailed, the other without nails; and, the same way, what is carried upon one shoulder is a "burden," but by no means what is carried upon both.
19. If we similarly investigate the Gospels, what could be more unreasonable than the command which simple readers think the Saviour gave to His Apostles, "Salute no man by the way." 80 Again, what is said about the smiting on the right cheek is incredible;81 for when a man strikes, if he acts naturally, he strikes the left cheek with his right hand. And we cannot take literally the passage in the Gospel in which the right eye is said to cause one to stumble.82 For even granting the possibility of sight making any one to stumble, why, when the two eyes see, should we put the blame on the right eye. Would any man when he condemns himself for looking on a woman to lust after her, put the blame on the right eye only, and cast it from him? Again, the Apostle lays down the law thus: "Was any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised?" 83 Any one may see that the Apostle has something in view other than the literal context; for, in the first place, such an insertion when he is giving precepts concerning marriage and purity must appear unmeaning. And, in the second place, who will say that, in order to escape from the disgrace mostly connected with circumcision, a man |21 does wrong in endeavouring, if he can, to become un-circumcised.
20. We have said all this for the sake of showing that the aim of the Divine power which gives us the sacred Scriptures, is not to select such things only as are presented in a literal sense, for sometimes the things selected taken literally are not true, but are even unreasonable and impossible; and further, that certain things are woven into the web of actual history and of the Law, which in its literal sense has its uses. But that no one may suppose us to make a sweeping statement and maintain that no history is real,84 because some is unreal; and that no part of the Law is to be literally observed, because a particular enactment in its wording happens to be unreasonable or impossible; or that what is recorded of the Saviour is true only in a spiritual sense; or that we are not to keep any law or commandments of His: that we may not incur such an imputation, we must add that we are quite convinced of the historical truth of certain passages; for instance, that Abraham was buried in the double cave in Hebron,85 as also Isaac and Jacob, and one wife of each of these; and that Sichem was given to Joseph for his portion,86 and that Jerusalem is the capital of Judea, wherein God's temple was built by Solomon, and countless other statements. For those things which are true historically are many more than those connected with them which contain merely a spiritual sense. Again, take the commandment, "Honour thy father and thy mother that it may be well with thee." 87 Would not any one allow its usefulness apart from any anagogical 88 interpretation, and support |22 its observance, seeing that even the Apostle Paul uses the express words? And what are we to say about the commands, "Thou shalt not kill," "Thou shalt not commit adultery," "Thou shalt not steal," "Thou shalt not bear false witness?" 89 Further, there are commands in the Gospel about which there is no doubt as to whether they are to be literally observed or not; for instance, that which says, "But I say to you, whosoever shall be angry with his brother," 90 and so on; and, "But I say to you, Swear not at all." 91 And we must keep to the letter of the Apostle's words, "Admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be long-suffering towards all";92 though among more eager students it is possible to treasure every detail as the deep wisdom of God, without rejecting the literal meaning of the command.
21. Still, there are places where the careful reader will be distracted because he cannot without much labour decide whether he is dealing with history in the ordinary sense, or not, and whether a given commandment is to be literally observed, or not. The reader must therefore, following the Saviour's injunction to search the Scriptures,93 carefully examine where the literal meaning is true, and where it cannot possibly be so; and he must, to the best of his ability, by comparing parallel passages scattered up and down Scripture, trace out the prevalent sense of what is literally impossible. Since, then, as will be clear to readers, the literal connection is impossible, while the main connection is not impossible but even true, we must strive to grasp the general sense which intelligibly connects things literally impossible with such things as are not only not impossible, but are historically true, and capable of allegorical |23 interpretation, no less than those which never literally occurred. For, regarding the whole of Divine Scripture, we hold that every portion has the spiritual meaning, but not every portion the "corporeal"; for the "corporeal" meaning is often proved to be impossible. The cautious reader must therefore very carefully bear in mind that the Divine books are Divine writings, and that there appears to be a peculiar way of understanding them, which I will now describe.
22. The inspired words relate that God chose out a certain nation upon earth, which they call by several names. The whole nation is called Israel, and also Jacob. But after the division in the time of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the ten tribes under him were called Israel, and the other two with the tribe of Levi, governed by kings of the seed of David, were known as Judah. And the whole country inhabited by the nation, and given to them by God, is called Judea; and of this Jerusalem was the metropolis, or mother city, that is to say, of numerous cities, the names of which dispersed in many parts of Scripture are included in one list in the Book of Joshua the son of Nun. This being so, the Apostle, raising our thoughts higher, somewhere says, "Behold Israel after the flesh,"94 implying that there is an Israel after the Spirit. And elsewhere he says, "It is not the children of the flesh that are children of God: nor are they all Israel which are of Israel.95 Nor is he a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter." 96 For if the judgment of the Jew depends on the inward state, we must understand that as there is a bodily race of Jews, so there is a race of those who are Jews inwardly, and that there are secret reasons for souls having this noble lineage. There are, moreover, many prophecies concerning Israel and Judah which relate the things that should befall them. Now, let me ask, |24 do not such great prophecies written on their behalf, inasmuch as in the literal sense they are trivial and exhibit none of the lofty dignity of a promise made by God, require a mystical interpretation? And if the promises are spiritual, though expressed by means of things sensible, they also to whom the promises are given are not "corporeal."
23. And, not to spend more time over the argument concerning the Jew that is one inwardly and the Israelite in the inner man, enough having been said for any but unintelligent readers, we return to our subject, and say. that Jacob was the father of the twelve patriarchs, they the progenitors of the rulers of the people, and these again the ancestors of the rest of Israel. So, then, the "corporeal" Israelites are traced up to the rulers of the people, and the rulers to the patriarchs, and the patriarchs to Jacob and those still farther back; but as for the spiritual Israelites, of whom the "corporeal" were the type, do they not spring from the "hundreds," the "hundreds" from the tribes, and the tribes from one man who had no such "corporeal" descent, but the better, he too being born of Isaac, and he of Abraham, all going back to Adam, who, as the Apostle says, is Christ? For all families in their relation to the God of All had their beginning lower down in Christ, Who being next to the God and Father of All, is thus the Father of every soul as Adam is the father of all men. And if Eve has been made by Paul to represent the Church, it is no wonder that Cain, who was born of Eve, and all after him who trace their descent from Eve, should be types of the Church, inasmuch as in a special sense they sprang from the Church.
24. If we are impressed by what has been said about Israel and the tribes and the hundreds, when the Saviour tells us that He was not sent save unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,97 we do not take the words in the same sense as the Ebionites with their poverty of |25 understanding (their poverty of intellect gives them their name, for "Ebion" is the Hebrew for "poor "), and suppose that Christ came chiefly to Israel after the flesh; for "it is not the children of the flesh that are children of God." 98 Again, the Apostle gives similar teaching concerning Jerusalem when he tells us that "the Jerusalem which is above is free, which is our mother." 99 And in another epistle he says, "But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven." 100 If, then, Israel is a race of souls, and there is a city, Jerusalem in heaven, it follows that the cities of Israel, and, consequently, all Judea, have for their metropolis the heavenly Jerusalem. Accordingly, whatever is foretold or said respecting Jerusalem, if we listen to God as God, and hear Him speaking from the depths of His wisdom,101 we must understand that the Scriptures refer to the heavenly city, and the whole country containing the cities of the holy land. It may be that these are the cities to which the Saviour leads us 102 up when He gives the command of ten or five cities to those who satisfactorily dealt with the pounds.
25. If, then, the prophecies respecting Judea and Jerusalem, and Israel and Judah and Jacob, inasmuch as we do not take them in the fleshly sense, suggest some such mysteries as the foregoing, it should follow that the prophecies concerning Egypt and the Egyptians, Babylon and the Babylonians, Tyre and the Tyriaus, Sidon and the Sidonians, or any other nations, are not prophecies merely of the corporeal Egyptians,103 Babylonians, Tyrians, and Sidonians. For if there are "spiritual" Israelites, it follows that there are "spiritual" Egyptians and Babylonians. What the Prophet Ezekiel says cannot at all be made to |26 suit Pharaoh, King of Egypt, a past or future human ruler of the country, as will be evident to close observers. Similarly, what is said about the ruler of Tyre cannot be understood of some future human ruler of Tyre. And the many passages relating to Nabuchadnosor, particularly in Isaiah, how can we possibly take them to refer to the man of that name? For the man Nabuchadnosor did not fall from heaven,104 nor was he Lucifer, nor did he rise early on the earth. And the sayings in Ezekiel concerning Egypt, to the effect that it would be desolate for forty years,105 so that the foot of man should not be found there, and that war should be so fiercely waged at some time or other that throughout the whole land blood should reach to the knees, what sensible person will understand them of Egypt that borders on the Ethiopians with their sunburnt bodies?
26. Perhaps, as they who leave the earth when they die the death of all men are dealt with in such a way that according to the deeds done in the body, if judged worthy of the place called Hades, they are assigned to different places in proportion to their sins: so they, if I may so speak, who die there, descend to this earthly Hades, being judged worthy of the different habitations, better or worse, throughout the world, and to have parents of different nationalities; so that an Israelite may perhaps fall among Scythians, and an Egyptian descend into Judea. But the Saviour came to gather together the lost sheep of the house of Israel;106 and as many of Israel did not submit to His teaching, the Gentiles also are being called.
27. These mysteries are, as we think, concealed in the histories. For "the kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in the field; which a man found, and hid; and in his joy he goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field."107 Let us consider then whether the obvious in Scripture, its superficial and easy meaning, is |27 not like a field covered with all sorts of growths; while the secret things, not seen by all, but as it were buried beneath the things that are seen, are the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge:108 which the Spirit by the mouth of Esaias calls "dark," "invisible," "concealed." They must be found out, though God alone can break in pieces the gates of brass which hide them, and shatter the iron bars upon the doors; so that all the statements in Genesis concerning different real varieties of souls, and as it were seeds of souls, more or less remote from Israel, may be discovered; as also what is meant by the seventy souls going down into Egypt,109 that there they may become as the stars of heaven for multitude. But since not all their descendants are the light of the world,110 for "they are not all Israel that are of Israel," 111 the seventy become even as it were sand by the sea shore that cannot be numbered.
From the 39th Homily on Jeremiah.
28. And as all the gifts of God are vastly greater than the mortal substance, so also the true word of wisdom concerning all these, being with God Who caused all these things to be written, for the Father of the Word so willed, would be found in the soul which with all earnestness and with full consent has been thoroughly purified from human weakness in the apprehension of that wisdom. But if a man rashly enters on the subject, and is not aware of the mystery of the wisdom of God and of the Word Who was in the beginning with God and was Himself God, and that if we are to seek and find these things we must follow the instructions of the Word Who was also God, and conform to His wisdom, he must of necessity fall into fables and frivolous conceits and inventions of his own, for he exposes himself to danger for his impiety. We must therefore remember the admonition in Ecclesiastes to such readers: "Let not thine heart |28 be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few." 112 And it is fitting to believe that not a single tittle of the sacred Scriptures is without something of the wisdom of God; for He Who gave me a mere man the command, "Thou shalt not appear before me empty," 113 how much more will He not speak anything "empty." When the Prophets speak, it is after receiving of His fulness; 114 and so everything breathes what comes of His fulness; and there is nothing in Prophecy, or Law, or Gospel, or Apostle, which is not of His fulness. And just because it is of His fulness, it breathes His fulness to those who have eyes to see the things of that fulness, and ears to hear the things of that fulness, and a faculty to perceive the sweet odour of the things of that fulness. But if in reading the Scripture thou shouldest sometime stumble at a meaning which is a fair stone of stumbling and rock of offence,115 blame thyself. Do not despair of finding meanings in the stone of stumbling and rock of offence, so that the saying may be fulfilled, "He that believeth shall not be ashamed." 116 First believe, and thou shalt find beneath what is counted a stumbling-block much gain in godliness.
From the Commentary on the 50th Psalm, in the allegorical treatment of the early portion of the history of Uriah.
29. If the partly allegorical treatment of the history appears to any one forced, and therefore not to relieve the difficulties, we have obviously been speaking to no purpose, and we must look for some other suitable interpretation; unless, perchance, some reader by further labour may discover a way of putting everything right, explaining 117 both the murder of the man and his evident kindliness, inasmuch as he was unwilling to go to his house and rest, when the people were in camp and |29 struggling against the enemy. But I do not know how they who shun the allegorical interpretation, and think the narrative was written for its own sake, will reconcile themselves to the will of the Holy Spirit, Who thought such things deserving of record as justify the charge not only of licentiousness, but also of savagery and inhumanity being brought against David; for he dared to commit a crime against Uriah which would be extraordinary even in the case of a man of average morality. I should, however, say that as the judgments of God are great and cannot be expressed,118 and seem to be causes of the erring of unnurtured souls, so also His Scriptures are great and full of meanings, secret, spiritual, and hard to understand. They, too, cannot be expressed, and appear to cause the unnurtured souls of heretics to err by inconsiderately and rashly accusing God on account of the Scriptures which they do not understand, and by therefore falling into the error of inventing another God. The safe course is to wait for the interpretation of an explainer of the Word, and of the wisdom hidden in a mystery,119 which none of the rulers of this world knoweth, according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal,120 but now is manifested to the Apostles and those like them, both through the writings of the Prophets, and by the appearing to them of our Saviour the Word Who in the beginning was with God.121
From the 5th Homily on Leviticus, near the beginning.
30. Not perceiving the difference between visible and spiritual Judaism, that is, between the Judaism which is outward and the Judaism which is inward,122 godless and impious heresies forsook Judaism and the God Who gave our Scriptures and the whole Law, and invented a different God besides Him Who gave the Law and the Prophets, besides the Maker of heaven and earth. The fact is not so, however; but He Who gave the Law also gave the |30 Gospel, He Who made things visible also made things invisible. And things visible are akin to things invisible; in such wise akin that the invisible things of God since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made.123 The things of the Law and the Prophets which are seen are akin to the things of the Law and the Prophets which are not seen but are intelligible.124 Seeing, then, that the Scripture itself consists as it were of a body which is seen, and a soul therein apprehended by the reason, and a spirit, that which corresponds to the copies and shadow of heavenly things,125 let us call upon Him Who created Scripture with a body, soul, and spirit, the body for those who were before us, the soul for us, and the spirit for those who in the coming age shall inherit eternal life, and are destined to reach the heavenly, archetypal things contained in the Law; and then let us search, not for the letter, but for the soul of what we are considering. Then, if we are able, we will ascend also to the spirit, corresponding to the principles involved in the sacrifices of which we read.
CHAP. II. ----That the Divine Scripture is closed up and sealed. From the Commentary on the 1st Psalm.
1. The Divine words say that the Divine Scriptures have been closed up and sealed with the key of David, and perhaps with the seal which is described as "the stamp of a seal, a hallowed offering to the Lord" 126----that is, with the power of God, Who gave the Scriptures, the seal being the emblem of power. Now John interprets the closing up and sealing in the Apocalypse, when he says:127 "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and none shall shut, and that shutteth, and none openeth: I know thy |31 works: behold I have set before thee a door opened, which none can shut." And a little farther on:128 "And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and without, close sealed with seven seals. And I saw another, a strong angel, proclaiming with a great voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no one in the heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look thereon. And I wept because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look thereon: and one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book and the seven seals thereof."
2. As regards the sealing up only, Esaias thus speaks:129 "And all these sayings shall be to you as the words of this book which is sealed, which men deliver to One that is learned, saying, Read this: and he saith, I cannot read it, for it is sealed: and the book shall be delivered into the hands of a man that is not learned, saying, Read this: and he saith, I am not learned." For we must consider these things to be spoken not only of the Apocalypse of John and Esaias, but also of all Divine Scripture, which is beyond question full of riddles, and parables, and dark sayings, and various other obscurities, hard to be understood by men, whose ears can catch no more than the faint echoes of the Divine words. This was what the Saviour wished to teach us when He said, inasmuch as the key was with the Scribes and Pharisees who did not strive to find the way to open the Scriptures, "Woe unto you lawyers! for ye took away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered." 130
Then, after topics of a different kind, Origen proceeds:----
3. Now that we are going to begin our interpretation |32 of the Psalms, let us preface our remarks with a very pleasing tradition respecting all Divine Scripture in general, which has been handed down to us by the Jew. That great scholar used to say that inspired Scripture taken as a whole was on account of its obscurity like many locked-up rooms in one house. Before each room he supposed a key to be placed, but not the one belonging to it; and that the keys were so dispersed all round the rooms, not fitting the locks of the several rooms before which they were placed. It would be a troublesome piece of work to discover the keys to suit the rooms they were meant for. It was, he said, just so with the understanding of the Scriptures, because they are so obscure; the only way to begin to understand them was, he said, by means of other passages containing the explanation dispersed throughout them. The Apostle, I think, suggested such a way of coming to a knowlege of the Divine words when He said, "Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." 131
Much farther on, comparing the blessings addressed to individuals with those addressed to more than one,132 he says:----
4. If the words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace, approved of the whole earth, purified seven times; 133 it is just as true that the Holy Spirit has dictated them, through the ministers of the Word,134 with the most scrupulous accuracy, lest the parallel meaning which the wisdom of God had constantly in view over the whole range of inspired Scripture, even to the mere letter, should escape us. And perhaps this is why the Saviour says, "One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished." 135 For if we study Creation we see that the Divine skill is shown not only in heaven, in the sun, moon, and stars, being everywhere evidenced in those bodies, but also upon earth no less |33 in commoner matter: so that the bodies of the smallest living creatures are not scornfully treated by the Creator, much less the souls existing in them, each having some peculiar gift, something to ensure the safety of the irrational creature. And as for plants, neither are they overlooked, for the Creator is immanent in every one, as regards roots, and leaves, appropriate fruits, and varying qualities. So, too, we conceive of all that has been recorded by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, believing that the sacred foreknowledge 136 has through the Scriptures supplied superhuman wisdom to the race of man, having, so to speak, sown the seeds of saving truths, traces of the wisdom of God, in every letter as far as possible.
5. In truth, any one who has once accepted these Scriptures as coming from the Creator of the world, must be convinced that whatever difficulties confront those who investigate the story of creation, similar difficulties will also be found in the study of the Scriptures. There are, I say, in creation as well as in Scripture, certain problems which we men solve with difficulty, or even not at all; and we must not therefore blame the Maker of the universe because, say, we cannot discover why basilisks and other venomous creatures were created. In the contemplation of Nature it is an act of piety if a man who is conscious of human weakness, and recognises the impossibility of understanding the principles of the Divine skill, though pondered with all diligence, will ascribe to God the knowledge of these things. He will hereafter, should we be deemed worthy, reveal to us all the mysteries which now engage our reverent attention. Similarly, we should see that the Divine Scriptures also contain many mysteries of which it is hard for us to give an account. Anyway, let those who, after forsaking the Creator of the world and betaking themselves to a god of their own invention, make these professions, solve the difficulties we put before them; or, at least, after such strange impiety, let them see how they can with a good |34 conscience uphold their speculations on the matters under investigation and the problems presented to them. For if the problems no less remain, though our opponents have forsaken the Godhead, would it not be far greater piety to be content with our conception of God, the Creator being contemplated through the works of creation, and to refrain from uttering godless and unholy opinions respecting so great a God?
CHAP. III. ---- Why the inspired books are twenty-two 137 in number. From the same volume on the 1st Psalm.
As we are dealing with numbers, and every number has among real existences a certain significance, of which the Creator of the universe made full use as well in the general scheme as in the arrangement of the details, we must give good heed, and with the help of the Scriptures trace their meaning, and the meaning of each of them. Nor must we fail to observe that not without reason the canonical books are twenty-two,138 according to the Hebrew tradition, the same in number as the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. For as the twenty-two letters may be regarded as an introduction to the wisdom and the Divine doctrines given to men in those Characters, so the twenty-two inspired books are an alphabet of the wisdom of God and an introduction to the knowledge of realities. |35
CHAP. IV. ----Of the solecisms and poor style of Scripture. From Volume IV. of the Commentaries on the Gospel according to John, three or four pages from the beginning.
1. A reader who carefully distinguishes language, meaning, and things, on which the meaning is based, will not stumble at solecistic 139 expressions, if, on examination, he finds that the things are none the worse for the language in which they are clothed, particularly as the holy writers confess that their speech was not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.140
Then, after speaking of the solecisms of the Gospel, he goes on to say:----
2. Inasmuch as the Apostles were not unconscious of their errors, nor unaware what the things were which concerned them, they say they are rude in speech, but not in knowledge:141 for we must believe that the other Apostles, as well as Paul, would have said so. Then there is the passage, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves";142 which we interpret of the treasure elsewhere described as the treasure of knowledge and hidden wisdom,143 and we take the "earthen vessels" in the sense of the ordinary, and, in Greek estimation, contemptible diction of the Scriptures, wherein the exceeding greatness of the power of God is really seen. For the mysteries of the truth and the force of what was said, in spite of the ordinary language, were strong enough to reach the ends of the earth, and bring into subjection to the word of Christ, not only the foolish things of the world, but sometimes also its wise ones.144 For we see what our calling is: not that it has no one wise after the flesh, but not many wise |36 after the flesh. Nay more, Paul says that in proclaiming the Gospel 145 he owes the delivery of the Word not only to Barbarians but also to the Greeks, and not only to the foolish, who more easily give their assent, but also to the wise; for he was by God made sufficient to be a minister of the new covenant,146 and to use the demonstration of the Spirit and of power,147 so that the assent of believers may not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. For had the Scripture been embellished with elegance of style and diction, like the masterpieces of Greek literature, one might perhaps have supposed that it was not the truth which got hold of men, but that the clear sequence of thought and the beauty of the language won the souls of the hearers, and caught them with guile.
CHAP. V. ---- What is "much speaking," and what are the "many books"? The whole inspired Scripture is one book. From the Introduction to Volume V. of the Commentaries on John.
I. Since you are not content to have taken up your present work as God's task-master over me,148 and expect me even when away to devote myself mainly to you and to my duty towards you, I in turn, if I decline the labour, and shun the danger to which they are exposed at God's hands who give themselves up to writing on Divine subjects, might find support in Scripture for refusing to "make many books." For Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, "My son, beware of making many books: there is no end: and much study is a weariness of the flesh." 149 If the words |37 before us had not a hidden meaning which we do not even yet clearly understand, we should have expressly broken the commandment through not being on our guard against "making many books."
Then, after saying that he had written four full volumes on a few passages of the Gospel, he proceeds thus:----
2. As far as the words go there are two possible meanings of the precept, "My son, beware of making many books"; firstly, that one ought not to have many books: secondly, that one ought not to compose many books; and if the first is not permissible, the second is certainly not; though if the second is permissible, the first is not certainly so; 150 either way the lesson appears to be that we ought not to make too many books. And, keeping to what has now occurred to me, I might send you the passage which I have quoted, as my apology: I might make the most of the fact that the saints have never had leisure for composing many books, and, accordingly, cease to compose any more to be sent to you, as we agreed. You would perhaps be so struck by what I said that you would let me have my way. But since a man should investigate Scripture with a good conscience, and not hastily claim to understand the meaning because he grasps the literal sense, I cannot bear to offer an unreal apology, which you might turn against me if I were to break our agreement. First, then, seeing that history seems to support what Solomon says, inasmuch as no saint has published numerous volumes and expressed his thoughts in many books, something must be said about this. And he who chides me for going on composing more books will tell me that the famous Moses left only five.
Then, after enumerating Prophets and Apostles, and showing how each of them wrote but a little, or not even that, he continues:----
3. Again, though I have said all this, my head swims, and I turn dizzy at the thought that in obeying you I may have disobeyed God and not imitated the saints. I trust |38 I shall not do wrong, if in my heartfelt affection for you, and earnest desire in nothing to give you pain, I plead my own cause and base my defence on these grounds. First of all, we adduced the words of Ecclesiastes, "My son, beware of making many books." 151 Side by side with this I place the saying of the same Solomon in the Proverbs, "In the multitude of words thou shalt not escape sin, but if thou refrain thy lips thou wilt be discreet," 152 and I ask if the mere speaking many words is much speaking, even if a man speak many holy and saving words. If this be so, and he who discusses many profitable things indulges in a "multitude of words," Solomon himself did not escape the sin, for "he spake three thousand proverbs; and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes." 153 How can teaching be effective without many words of the simpler kind? Wisdom herself tells the perishing, "I prolonged my words unto you, and ye did not regard." 154 And Paul appears to have continued preaching from morn until midnight, until Eutychus borne down with deep sleep fell down and alarmed the audience, who thought he was dead.155
4. Well, then, if it be true that "in a multitude of words thou wilt not escape sin"; and if it be also true that neither Solomon sinned though he spake many words about the above-mentioned subjects, nor Paul, though he continued teaching until midnight, we must inquire what "a multitude of words" is, and then pass on to consider the meaning of "the many books." The whole Word of God, I say, the Word which was in the beginning with God,156 is not "a multitude of words," for it is not "words "; there is one Word 157 which may be regarded from many points of view, and each of these meanings is a part of the whole Word. But as for words other than this Word, which |39 profess to describe or relate anything whatsoever, though we may believe them to be words respecting truth,----what I am going to say will sound still more paradoxical, ----not one of them is a word, but each of them words. For the unit can nowhere be found, nor can harmony and unity, but because they are torn with mutual conflict their unity has perished; and they are split into many parts, perhaps infinitely numerous; so that, according to this, we may say that he who utters anything whatsoever contrary to godliness speaks much, while he who speaks the things of the truth, even though he speak so exhaustively as to omit nothing, even speaks one word, and the saints, making the one Word their constant aim, do not fall into the vice of much speaking. If, then, whether there be or be not "much speaking" depends on the doctrines and not on the number of the words, see whether we cannot say the whole range of sacred teaching is one book, and all other teaching many books?
5. But since I must have proof from the Divine Scripture, consider whether my most striking way of presenting it is not to show that the account of Christ in relation to us is not contained in one book, if we take the "books" in the ordinary sense. It is described even in the Pentateuch; but also in each of the Prophets, and in the Psalms, and, generally, as the Saviour Himself says, in all the Scriptures, to which He refers us, bidding us "Search the Scriptures, for ye think that in them ye have eternal life: and these are they which bear witness of me." 158 If, then, He refers us to the Scriptures as bearing witness of Him, He does not send us to this or that particular portion, but to all the Scriptures that tell of Him, such as those which in the Psalms He called "the roll of the book," saying, "In the roll of the book it is written of me." 159 If any one takes the phrase "in the roll of the book" to mean some one of the books containing the things concerning Him, I should like him to tell me why he prefers that book to any other. To justify |40 any one in supposing that the word refers to the Book of the Psalms itself, he must point out that the words should have been "In this book it is written concerning me." But the fact is that He says that everything is one roll, because the account of Himself which has reached us is summed up in one (statement, "I came to do Thy will"). And what, again, is the meaning of the book being seen by John written in front and on the back, close sealed:160 which no one could read or loose the seals thereof, except the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, He that hath the key of David,161 He that openeth and no man shall shut, and no man shall open? It surely is the whole of Scripture which is indicated by the "book"; written "in front" by reason of the easy, obvious interpretation: "on the back " because of the more remote and spiritual sense.
6. Besides this, we must closely observe whether it is any proof of holy truths being one book, and the opposite of these many, that for the living there is one book from which they who have become unworthy of it are blotted out, as it is written, "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living," 162 while for those subject to judgment looks are brought; for Daniel says, "The judgment was set and the books were opened." 163 To the unity of the Divine book even Moses testifies when he says, "If thou wilt forgive this people their sin, forgive them; and if not, blot me out of thy book which thou hast written."164 I take the passage in Isaiah the same way; for it is not a peculiarity of his prophecy that the words of the book were sealed, and were not read by him that was not learned because he was not learned, nor by him that was learned because the book was sealed; but even this is true of all Scripture, which needs the Word that shut and will open; for "He shall shut and none shall open," 165 and once He opens no one can any longer associate darkness with His clear light; and this is why it is said that He shall |41 open and none shut. And the very similar passage in Ezekiel about the book there spoken of, wherein was written "lamentations and music and woe." For every book contains the "woe" of the perishing,166 and "music" for those who are being saved, and lamentations for those between these extremes. John, too, when he says that he ate one roll of the book,167 wherein were written things past and things to come, must have regarded the whole of Scripture as one book, very sweet as a man understands it at first and feeds upon it, but bitter when it is revealed to the self-consciousness of every one who has come to know it. To demonstrate this I will add an apostolic saying not understood by the followers of Marcion, who therefore reject the Gospels; for whereas the Apostle says, "According to my gospel in Christ Jesus," 168 and does not speak of gospels, they oppose us, and maintain that if there were several gospels the Apostle would not have used the word in the singular. They do not understand that as He is one, so the Gospel written by its many authors is one in effect, and the Gospel truly delivered by four evangelists is one Gospel.
7. Wherefore, if this has brought us conviction as to what the one book means, and what the many, I am now not so much concerned for the quantity of the copy as for the quality of the same, lest I fall into the transgression of the commandment, if I put forth anything as truth which is contrary to the truth even in a single detail of what is written; for I shall then prove myself to be a writer of many books. And just now, when, with a show of knowledge, men who hold false opinions are rising up against the holy Church of Christ, and publishing book after book which professes to expound the Gospels and apostolic writings, if we hold our peace, and do not meet them with the true and sound doctrines, they will prevail over gluttonous souls which, for want of wholesome food, rush to things forbidden, to utterly unclean and abominable meats. It therefore seems to me to be necessary, that he |42 who can genuinely plead for the doctrine of the Church and refute the handlers of knowledge falsely so-called, should withstand the inventions of the heretics, opposing to them the elevation of the preaching of the Gospel, inasmuch as he is satisfied with the harmony of doctrines common to the Old Testament and to the New, as they are respectively called. At all events, you yourself, when advocates of the good cause were scarce, because you could not endure an irrational and commonplace faith, in your love for Jesus embraced opinions which you afterwards, when you had fully exercised the understanding given to you, condemned and forsook. This I say, according to my light, by way of excuse for men who can speak and write, and also by way of apology for myself, lest, perhaps, not being equipped as a man should be who is enabled by God to be a minister of the New Testament,169 not of the letter, but of the spirit, I too boldly apply myself to composition.170
CHAP. VI. ----The whole Divine Scripture is one instrument of God, perfect and fitted for its work. From Volume II. of the Commentaries on the Gospel according to Matthew: "Blessed are the peacemakers" 171
1. To the man who is both ways a peacemaker, there is no longer anything in the Divine oracles crooked or perverse,172 for all things are plain to those who understand; and since to such an one there is nothing crooked or perverse, he sees abundance of peace173 everywhere in Scripture, even in those parts which appear not to agree and to be contradictory to one another. But there is also a third peacemaker, he, viz. who shows that what to the eyes of others seems like disagreement in the Scriptures is not really so, and who proves that harmony and concord exist, whether between the Old and the New, or the Law and the Prophets, or Gospel and Gospel, or Evangelists and |43 Apostles, or Apostles and other Apostles. For,174 according to the Preacher,175 all the Scriptures, words of the wise, are as goads, and as nails well fastened, words which were given from collections from one shepherd, and there is nothing superfluous in them. And the Word is "one shepherd" of things relating to the Word, which do indeed sound discordant to those who have not ears to hear,176 but are in truth most harmonious.
2. For as the different strings of the psaltery or the lyre, each of which gives forth a note of its own seemingly unlike that of any other, are thought by an unmusical man who does not understand the theory of harmony to be discordant, because of the difference in the notes: so they who have not ears to detect the harmony of God in the sacred Scriptures suppose that the Old Testament is not in harmony with the New, or the Prophets with the Law, or the Gospels with one another, or an Apostle with the Gospel, or with himself, or with the other Apostles. But if a reader comes who has been instructed in God's music, a man who happens to be wise in word and deed, and on that account, it may be, called David, which being interpreted is "a cunning player," he will produce a note of God's music, for he will have learned from God's music to keep good time, playing now upon the strings of the Law, now upon those of the Gospel in harmony with them, now upon those of the Prophets; and when the harmony of good sense is required he strikes the apostolic strings tuned to suit the foregoing, and, similarly, apostolic strings in harmony with those of Evangelists. For he knows that the whole Scripture is the one, perfect, harmonious instrument of God, blending the different notes, for those who wish to learn, into one song of salvation, which stops and hinders all the working of an evil spirit, as the music of David laid to rest the evil spirit in Saul which was |44 vexing him.177 You observe, then, that there is a third kind of peacemaker, he who keeping close to the Scripture both sees the peace which pervades it everywhere, and bestows it on those who rightly seek the truth and are really eager to learn.
CHAP. VII. ----Of the special character of the persons of Divine Scripture. From the small volume on the Song of Songs, which Origen wrote in his youth.
1. Any one who does not understand the peculiar character 178 of the persons in Scripture, both as regards the speakers and the persons addressed, must be much perplexed by what he reads; he will ask who is speaking, who is spoken to, and when does the speaker cease to speak. For it often happens that the same person is addressed, though a third person speaks to him; or the person addressed is no longer the same, and a different person takes up what is said, while the same person speaks. And sometimes both the speaker and the person addressed are changed; or, further, though both are unchanged, it is not clear that they are. Need I seek an illustration of each of these statements, seeing that the prophetical writings abound in such changes? In fact we have here a special, though it may be unrecognised, cause of the obscurity of Scripture. It is also the way of Scripture to jump suddenly from one discourse to another.179 The prophets, above all, do this, obscuring their sense and more or less confusing the reader.
Again, from the 4th Homily 180 on the Acts, "It was needful that the Scripture should be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spake before by the mouth of David concerning Judas."
2. In the Psalm wherein the things concerning Judas are written, one might say that it is not the Holy Spirit Who speaks, for the words are clearly the Saviour's, |45 "Hold not thy peace, O God, at my praise: for the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful man is opened upon me," 181 and so on, until we come to "And his office let another take." Now if it is the Saviour Who says this, what does Peter mean by telling us that "It was needful that the Scripture should be fulfilled which the Holy Ghost spake before by the mouth of David?" 182 Perhaps the lesson is something like this. The Holy Ghost employs personification in the prophets, and if He introduces the person of God, it is not God Who speaks, but the Holy Ghost speaks as God.183 And if He introduces Christ, it is not Christ Who speaks, but the Holy Ghost speaks as Christ. So, then, if He brings in the person of a prophet, or personifies this or that people, or anything whatsoever, it is the Holy Ghost Who devises all these personifications.
CHAP. VIII. ----That we need not attempt to correct the solecistic phrases of Scripture, and those which are unintelligible according to the letter, seeing that they contain great propriety of thought for those who can understand. From the Commentary on Hosea.
1. Inasmuch as the solecisms 184 in Scripture, if literally taken, often confuse the reader, so that he suspects the text to be neither correct, nor in accord with propriety of reason; and this to such an extent, that some persons by way of correction, even venture to make alterations and substitute another meaning for that of the seemingly inconsistent passages, I fear something similar may befall the language of the passages before us; we are therefore bound to see what their hidden meaning is. The Prophet after using the plural, "They wept and made supplication unto me," 185 and again the plural, showing the sequel, "In |46 the house of On they found me," proceeds in the singular, "And there he spoke with him." A reader glancing at the words as they stand might suppose there was an error in the copy, and therefore write the plural in the last clause, or change the previous plurals into the singular. For when he reads, "They wept and made supplication unto me," and "In the house of On they found me," he would say that the next clause should be, "There he spake with them," that is, with those who wept and made supplication and found God in the house of On. But if we consider other passages we shall see that even here we have no inconsistency.
2. In Genesis God gives a command to Adam, saying, "Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, ye shall not eat of it: for in the day that ye eat thereof ye shall surely die." 186 There, also, God begins by speaking in the singular, "Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat," but goes on in the plural, "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, ye shall not eat of it: for in the day that ye eat thereof, ye shall surely die." The explanation is that when God speaks of the commandment which He wished Adam to keep and live, He commands in the singular, "Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat"; for they who walk in God's ways and hold fast His commandments, though they be many, yet by reason of their being of one mind the many are essentially one.187 And, therefore, when a commandment respecting goodness is given, the singular is used----"Thou mayest freely eat"; but in laying down the law respecting transgression, God no longer uses the singular, but the plural----"Ye shall not eat: for in the day that ye eat thereof, ye shall surely die."
3. And so it is with the present passage. When they still weep and make supplication to God, the plural is used----"They wept and made supplication to me "; but when they find God, He no longer uses the plural----"There |47 He spake, not with them," but with him. For by finding God and by hearing His Word, they have already become one. For the individual when he sins is one of many, severed from God and divided, his unity gone; but the many who follow the commandments of God are one man; as also the Apostle testifies, saying, "For we who are many are one bread, one body";188 and again, "There is one God, and One Christ, and one faith, and one baptism";189 and elsewhere, "For all we are one body in Christ Jesus";190 and again, "I espoused you all to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to the Lord."191 And that they are well pleasing to the Lord and one,192 is shown in the Lord's prayer to His Father for His disciples. "Holy Father," He says, "grant that as I and Thou are one, so also they may be one in us."193 And also, whenever the saints are said to be members of one another,194 the only conclusion is that they are one body. In The Shepherd,195 again, where we read of the building of the tower, a building composed of many stones, but seeming to be one solid block, what can the meaning of the Scripture be except the harmony and unity of the many?
CHAP. IX. ---- Why it is that the Divine Scripture often uses the same term in different significations, even in the same place. From the Epistle to the Romans, Volume IX. on the words, "What then? Is the law sin?" 196
1. One term, law, may be used, but the scriptural account of "law" is not everywhere one and the same. A reader must therefore in every place consider with the utmost care first the literal meaning of the word "law," then the special significance of it. This is only what we do with most other words; for there are other instances of equivocal scriptural terms, such as confuse readers who suppose that because the word is the same the meaning |48 must be the same wherever it is found. Now the word "law" is intended to serve not everywhere the same purpose, but many purposes; we will, therefore, passing by the numerous passages requiring careful reasoning because they suggest an objection which calls for an answer, set forth all such as may effectually convince anybody that the word "law" has many meanings. As an illustration let us take what is said in the Epistle to the Galatians. "As many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one which continueth riot in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." 197 It is clear that we have here the literal law of Moses, enjoining on those under it what they are to do, and forbidding what they must not do. And we have no less clearly the meaning of the passage in the same Epistle, "The law was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made; and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator";198 and of another, "So that the law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor. For ye are all sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus." 199 And that "law" also denotes the historical writings of Moses we may gather from the passage in the same epistle ----"Tell me ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman. Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the son by the freewoman is born through the promise." 200
2. I know that even the Psalms are called "law," as is plain from the passage, "That the word may be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause." 201 Nay more, the prophecy of Isaiah is called "law" by the Apostle, who tells us, "In the law it is |49 written, By men of strange tongues, and by the lips of strangers will I speak unto this people; and not even then will they hear me, saith the Lord";202 and this is in effect what I found in Aquila's interpretation. The term is also applied to the more mystic and Divine sense of the law; as, for instance, "We know that the law is spiritual."203 And besides all this, the Word sown in the soul, evidenced by the moral notions common to mankind, and in Scripture language "written in the heart," enjoining what we have to do, forbidding what we must not do, is called "law." This is proved by the following words of the Apostle: "For when the Gentiles which have no law do by nature the things of the law, these, having no law, are a law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their consciences bearing witness therewith." 204 For the law written in men's hearts and in Gentiles who by nature do the things of the law, is no other than the law of common morality by nature written in our governing part,205 and day by day becoming clearer with the perfecting of reason. This is the meaning of law in the words,"Sin is not imputed where there is no law," 206 and in these, "I had not known sin except through the law." 207 For before the Mosaic law was given sin is found to have been imputed both to Cain and to the sufferers in the Deluge, and to the people of Sodom as well, and to countless others; and many came to know sin before the law of Moses was given. And do not be surprised if two meanings of the one word "law" are discovered in the same place; for we shall find this usage in other parts of Scripture; for example, "Say not ye, There are yet four months and then cometh the harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they |50 are white already into harvest."208 The word "harvest" is used twice, the first time of the "corporeal" 209 harvest, the second time of the spiritual. And you will find a parallel also in the account of the healing of the man born blind. The man was literally blind, but the Saviour adds, "For judgment came I into this world, that they which see not may see; and that they which see may become blind." 210
3. So, then, it is as true as ever that; "apart from the law, the law of nature, a righteousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets." 211 And we would tell those readers who shrink from admitting the double meaning of "the law," that if we are to understand the same law to be referred to in both clauses, "But now apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested," and "Being witnessed by the law and the prophets," we must conclude that if the righteousness hath been manifested apart from the Law, it is not witnessed by the Law; and if it is witnessed by the Law, it hath not been manifested apart from the Law. The truth is that the law of nature by no means witnesses to the righteousness of God manifested by Jesus Christ, for it is inferior to that righteousness; but the Law of Moses, not the letter, but the spirit, does witness, as also the Prophets in accordance with the spirit of the law, and as does the spiritual word in them. The reader of the Divine Scripture must therefore carefully observe that the Scriptures do not invariably use the same words to denote the same things; and they make the change sometimes on account of the equivocal sense of a word, sometimes for the sake of the figurative meaning, and sometimes because the context requires a different nuance in some places from that which the word has in others. If we are well on our guard in all this we escape many blunders and false interpretations. We ought, then, to know that the word "see" 212 does not always denote the same thing, sometimes being applied to bodily sight, sometimes to our understanding. |51 Speaking generally, we ought to be aware that inasmuch as the purpose of the Spirit in the Prophets, and the Word in the Apostles of Christ, is to conceal and not plainly disclose the thoughts of the Truth, confusion arises again and again through the mere wording, and no close sequence of thought is preserved; the object being that even the unworthy may not to the judgment of their own soul discover the things which are thus for their good concealed from them. And this is often the reason why Scripture, as a whole, appears to lack orderly arrangement and consecutiveness, particularly, as we said before, the prophetic and apostolic writings; and in the apostolic writings, the Epistle to the Romans, wherein the functions of the Law are set forth in different terms, and applied to different circumstances. The result is that Paul in the composition of the epistle does not seem to be true to his aim.
CHAP. X. ----Of things in the Divine Scripture which seem to come near to being a stumbling-block and rock of offence. From the 39th Homily on Jeremiah: "The Lord could not bear because of the evil of your doings"
1. If at anytime in reading the Scripture you stumble at something which is a fair stone of stumbling, and rock of offence,213 blame yourself; for you must not despair of finding in this stone of stumbling and rock of offence thoughts to justify the saying, "He that believeth shall not be ashamed." 214 First believe, and thou shalt find beneath what is deemed a stumbling-stone much gain in godliness. For if we really received a commandment to speak no idle word, because we shall give account of it in the day of judgment;215 and if we must with all our might endeavour to make every word proceeding out of our mouths a working word both in ourselves who speak and in those who hear, must we not conclude that every word spoken |52 through the Prophets was fit for work? and it is no wonder if every word spoken by the Prophets had a work adapted to it. Nay, I suppose that every letter, no matter how strange, which is written in the oracles of God, does its work. And there is not one jot or tittle 216 written in the Scripture, which, when men know how to extract the virtue does not work its own work.
2. As every herb has its own virtue whether for the healing of the body, or some other purpose, and it is not given to everybody to know the use of every herb, but certain persons have acquired the knowledge by the systematic study of botany, so that they may understand when a particular herb is to be used, and to what part it is to be applied, and how it is to be prepared, if it is to do the patient good; just so it is in things spiritual; the saint is a sort of spiritual herbalist, who culls from the sacred Scriptures every jot and every common letter, discovers the value of what is written and its use, and finds that there is nothing in the Scriptures superfluous. If you would like another illustration, every member of our body has been designed by God to do some work. But it is not for everybody to know the power and use of all the members, even the meanest, but those physicians who are expert anatomists can tell for what use every part, even the least, was intended by Providence. Just so, you may regard the Scriptures as a collection of herbs, or as one perfect body of reason; but if you are neither a scriptural botanist, nor can dissect the words of the Prophets, you must not suppose that anything written is superfluous, but blame yourself and not the sacred Scriptures when you fail to find the point of what is written. All this by way of general preface, though it may be applied to the whole of Scripture; so that they who will give heed to their reading may beware of passing over a single letter without examination and inquiry. |53
CHAP. XI. ----That we must seek the nourishment supplied by all inspired Scripture, and not turn from the passages troubled by heretics with ill-advised difficulties, nor slight them; we ought rather to have our share in them without the confusion which attaches to unbelief. From Volume XX. on Ezekiel. "Thus saith the Lord God: Behold I judge between sheep and sheep, as well the rams as the he-goats. Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have fed upon the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture? and to have drunk of the clear waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? And as for my sheep they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet, and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet? " 217
After giving his views respecting sheep that are rams, and sheep that are goats, and showing that it is the practice of Scripture sometimes to class sheep and goats together, he thus proceeds:----
1. Now let us do our best to discover what truths are shadowed out in these words. Every good pasture, and the pool of clear water, represent, I suppose, the oracles of the sacred Scriptures as a whole. The next thought is that inasmuch as certain persons approve of some portions as profitable, and reject others as having no saving power, they may be said to feed upon the good pasture of the passages they choose, drink the clear water of what they judge to be the best, and then tread down the residue of the pasture, and foul the residue of the water with their feet. These, I say, are they who approve the New Testament, but reject the Old; these are they who maintain that certain parts of the ancient writings exhibit more of the Divine power and are highly spiritual, and make others to be deficient in these respects. But the Shepherd calls them His own sheep who do not disdain what has been trodden by the feet, and who do not despise the water fouled by the feet, of the |54 blame-worthy sheep, perhaps more correctly named goats and kids; for they would not be sheep worthy of the rams upon the right hand.
2. For ourselves, then, who profess to be sheep of the Shepherd, let us never be shy at feeding on those passages which, taken literally, do not look like Scripture, and on account of their verbal incongruity are trodden down by men who are neither able nor willing to use the whole pasture. Even supposing that some water has been fouled by their feet, suppose, I mean, they have mingled with the pure word of the Scripture shameful unheard-of objections, let us not, because of the confusion they have introduced into the Word, be deterred from drinking that which has been fouled by their feet. And carefully observe that they who foul the water and tread down the pasture, are reminded of better sheep in the words, "And as for my sheep, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet, and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet." 218 Furthermore, let us never tread down the pasture of the Prophets, nor foul the water of the Law; and while there are some who err in respect of the Gospel pasture and the apostolic water, so that they tread down certain portions of the Gospel field and feed on others as on good pasture, either rejecting the whole apostolic pasture, or approving some parts and rejecting others, let us feed on the whole of the Gospels and not tread down any part of them, and while we drink of all the apostolic waters, clear water as far as we can make it such, let us guard the fountains, and in no wise foul them through unbelief, which is wont to confuse the minds of men who cannot understand what is said.
CHAP. XII. ----That a man ought not to faint in reading the Divine Scripture if he cannot comprehend the dark riddles and parables therein. From the 20th Homily on Joshua, the son of Nun.
1. A hearer greatly profits by such readings as these |55 if he can understand the true inheritance which Joshua divided by lot to the children of Israel, and if he can both ascend to the holy land, the true, really good land, and, following the list of names, can adapt the local descriptions to the varying circumstances of those who receive the inheritance. But it is difficult to find a man who thus profits, and we therefore wish to encourage our hearers not to faint as they read. "What the encouragement is which I offer to him who hears such passages, I must now tell. Charms have a certain natural force; and any one who comes under the influence of the charm, even if he does not understand it, gets something from it, according to the nature of the sounds thereof, either to the injury or to the healing of his body, or his soul. Just so, pray observe, it is with the giving of names in the Divine Scriptures, only they are stronger than any charm. For there are certain faculties in us, the best of which are nourished by these "charms," as I may call them, being akin to them, though we may not perceive that those faculties by understanding what we are told become more effective in the development of our lives. For that there are certain invisible departments of our being, and those many in number, the words of the Psalm will prove, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name." 219 There is, then, within us a multitude of faculties amongst which we have been, as it were, souls and bodies, divided by lot; and these are such that if holy they profit and gather strength at the reading of the Scripture, even though the understanding be unfruitful; as it is written concerning him who speaketh "in a tongue," "My spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful." 220 Please note, then, that though at times our understanding is unfruitful, the faculties which assist the soul, and the understanding, and help us all, are nourished with rational nourishment drawn from the Holy Scriptures, and from these names, and that being nourished they are better able to assist us. And just as our better faculties, as |56 it were, use the charm and are profited, and gain strength through Scriptures and names like these, so the opposing faculties of our inner nature, we may say, are weakened and overcome by God's enchantments, and being overcome are put to sleep.
2. If any of you have ever seen an asp or some other venomous creature under the spell of the charmer, I would have you take that as an illustration of the Scripture. If it be read and not understood, the hearer sometimes grows listless and weary; yet let him believe that the asps and vipers within him are weakened through the charms of the charmers, that is to say, by wise Moses, wise Joshua, the wise and holy Prophets. Let us not then weary when we hear Scriptures which we do not understand; but let it be unto us according to our faith,221 by which we believe that all Scripture being inspired by God is profitable.222 For as regards these Scriptures, you must admit one of two things: either that they are not inspired because they are not profitable, as an unbeliever might suppose; or, as a believer, you must allow that because they are inspired they are profitable. We must, however, know that we often profit without perceiving it, just as frequently happens when we diet ourselves to improve our eyesight; we do not, I suppose, while we are eating perceive that our eyesight is better, but after two or three days, when the food is assimilated which benefits the eye, we are convinced of the fact by experience; and the same remark applies to other foods which benefit other parts of the body. Well, then, have the like faith with regard to Divine Scripture; believe that thy soul is profited by the mere reading, even though thy understanding does not receive the fruit of profiting by these passages. Our inner nature is charmed; its better elements are nourished, the worse weakened and brought to nought. |57
CHAP. XIII. ---- When and to whom the lessons of philosophy may be profitable, in the explanation of the sacred Scriptures, with Scripture proof. The letter to Gregory.
1. Greeting in God, from Origen to my good lord and most reverend son,223 Gregory. Natural ability, as you know, if properly trained, may be of the utmost possible service in promoting what I may call the "object" of a man's training. You, for instance, have ability enough to make you an expert in Roman law, or a philosopher in. one of the Greek schools held in high esteem. I should like you, however, to make Christianity your "object," and to bring the whole force of your ability to bear upon it, with good effect. I am therefore very desirous that you should accept such parts even of Greek philosophy as may serve for the ordinary elementary instruction of our schools, and be a kind of preparation for Christianity: also those portions of geometry and astronomy likely to be of use in the interpretation of the sacred Scriptures, so that, what the pupils of the philosophers say about geometry and music, grammar, rhetoric, and astronomy, viz. that they are the handmaidens of philosophy, we may say of philosophy itself in relation to Christianity.
2. Perhaps something of the kind is hinted at in the command from the mouth of God Himself that the children of Israel be told to ask their neighbours and companions for vessels of silver and gold,224 and for clothing, so that by spoiling the Egyptians they might find materials to make the things of which they were told 225 for the Divine service. For out of the spoils which the children of Israel took from the Egyptians came the contents of the Holy of Holies, the ark with its cover, and the Cherubim, and the mercy-seat, and the golden pot wherein was treasured up the manna, the Angels' bread. These things, |58 we may suppose, were made of the best of the Egyptian gold. From the second best came the candlestick throughout of solid gold, standing near the inner curtain, and the lamps upon it, and the golden table upon which was placed the shew-bread, and, between the two, the golden censer. If there was any third- or fourth-rate gold, the holy vessels were made of it. And from the Egyptian silver, also, came other things; for it was through sojourning in Egypt that the children of Israel had abundance of precious material to make things for the service of God. And out of the clothing of the Egyptians probably came whatever was required, as the Scripture says,226 in the way of things embroidered or sewn together, the work of embroiderers with the wisdom of God, different garments being sewed together to make the veils and the curtains, both the outer and the inner.
3. Why need I digress further to show how useful the things brought from Egypt were to the children of Israel, things which the Egyptians did not use properly, but the Hebrews through the wisdom of God turned to godly purposes? The Divine Scripture knows, however, that some were the worse for the going down of the children of Israel from their own land into Egypt, and darkly hints that some do lose by sojourning with the Egyptians, that is to say, by lingering in the learning of the world after being nourished in the law of God and the Divine worship of Israel. At all events, Hadad the Edomite,227 so long as he was in the land of Israel, and did not taste the Egyptian bread, made no idols; but when he ran away from wise Solomon and went down into Egypt, running away one might say from the wisdom of God, he became Pharaoh's kinsman by marrying Pharaoh's wife's sister, and begetting a son brought up with Pharaoh's sons. And so it happened that although he returned into the land of Israel, he returned to divide God's people into two parts, and make them say over the golden calf, "These be thy |59 Gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." 228 And, taught by his experience, I beg leave to tell you that a man is seldom found who takes the useful things of Egypt, leaves that land, and provides for the service of God; but Hadad the Edomite has many a brother. These are they who with a certain Greek smartness propagate heretical opinions, and, as it were, make golden calves in Bethel: which being interpreted is "the house of God." The word therefore seems to shadow forth the truth, viz. that these men set up their own inventions in the Scriptures----figuratively called "Bethel"----wherein dwelleth the Word of God. But the Word says that the other invention was set up in Dan. Now the boundaries of Dan are farthest off, and near those of the Gentiles, as is clear from the account given in the Book of Joshua, the son of Nun. So, then, some of these inventions are near the confines of the Gentiles----inventions, as we have interpreted, of Hadad's brethren.
4. Do you, then, my lord and my son, chiefly give heed to the reading of the Divine Scriptures; do give heed. For we need great attention when we read the Divine writings, that we may not speak or form notions about them rashly. And as you give heed to reading the Divine volume with a faithful anticipation well pleasing to God, knock at its closed doors and it shall be opened unto you by the porter, of whom Jesus said, "To him the porter openeth." 229 And as you give heed to the Divine reading, seek, in the right way and with an unfaltering faith in God, the meaning of the Divine writings, which is hidden from the many. Be not content, however, with knocking and seeking; for prayer is the most necessary qualification for the understanding of Divine things, and the Saviour urged us to this when He said, not only, Knock and it shall be opened, Seek and ye shall find,230 but also, Ask and it shall be given unto you. I have ventured thus far in my fatherly love for you; if I have done well or not in venturing, God and His Christ, and he that partaketh of the |60 Spirit of God and of the Spirit of Christ, alone can know. Mayest thou be a partaker, and ever increase the participation, that thou mayest say not only, "We are become partakers of Christ," 231 but also, "We are become partakers of God."
CHAP. XIV. ----They who wish to rightly understand the Divine Scriptures must of necessity be acquainted with the logical principles adapted to their use; without these they cannot conceive the exact meaning of the thoughts expressed, as they should do. From Volume III. of the Commentaries on Genesis.
1. "God made the two great lights,232 the greater light for rule 233 of the day, and the lesser light for rule of 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 234 the day and the night." We must, then, inquire whether for rule of the day means the same as to rule the day, and for rule of the night the same as to rule the night, in the ordinary acceptation of the words; for Aquila preserved the parallel, making for authority 235 the equivalent of for rule, and to have authority 236 the equivalent of to rule. And we are told by those who carefully investigate the meaning of words, where they deal with the relation of names and predicates, that the things bearing the names previously exist, and that predicates follow the names. Prudence, for example, they say is a name with a predicate, and the predicate is to be prudent. Similarly, moderation is a name, and to be moderate is a predicate; and they say that prudence pre-exists, and that from prudence is derived the predicate to be prudent. We have made these observations, though some may think we are going beyond the intention of Scripture, because God Who made the lights makes the greater for rule of the day and the lesser for rule of the night; but when He places them in the firmament of |61 the heaven it is no longer for rule of the day and of the night, but to rule the day and the night. The orderly and systematic arrangement of the passage, the names coming first and then the predicates, roused our suspicions that the matter was so understood by the servants of God, and all the more because Aquila, who strove to interpret most literally, has only distinguished the name from the predicate.
2. If any one doubts the soundness of this reasoning, let him consider whether a problem in ethics, or physics, or theology, can be properly conceived without accurately finding the meaning, and without close regard to the clear rules of logic. What absurdity is there in listening to those who determine the exact meaning of words in different languages, and in carefully attending to things signified? And we sometimes through ignorance of logic fall into great errors, because we do not clear up the equivocal senses, ambiguities, misapplications, literal meanings, and distinctions. Take, for example, the word world. Through not knowing that it was an equivocal term, men have fallen into the most impious opinions concerning the Demiurge: men, I mean, who have not cleared up the question in what sense "the world lieth in the evil one," 237 and have not realised that the "world" there denotes earthly and human affairs. Supposing the "world" to be literally the complex whole of heaven and earth and things therein, they exhibit the utmost audacity and impiety in their conceptions of God; for with all their efforts they cannot show how the sun and moon and stars, with their wonderful orderly movements, "lie in the evil one." If, again, we study the passage, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," 238 and attempt to show that "world" is here the scene of sin abounding, that is, the different localities of the earth, they will candidly admit what is said, but from a spirit of foolish contention they will cling to their detestable errors, which they have once embraced, simply because they do not understand the equivocal meaning of |62 the word. If, again, we read that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself," 239 they will no longer, certainly not consistently with their own principles, succeed in showing that the word denotes the whole world, that is, the contents of the whole world; on their own showing the word must be examined as being equivocal. And as for detestable interpretations caused by ambiguity, punctuation,240 and countless other things, a keen student may find abundant illustrations. But we have digressed thus far in order to show that even we ourselves, who wish not to err concerning the truth in our understanding, of the Scriptures, are bound to be familiar with the logical principles involved in the use of them. Such principles we just now required to discover the difference between the two expressions with which we began, the lights being said to have been created for rule of the night, and to rule the day and the night.
CHAP. XV. ----A reply to the Greek philosophers who disparage the poverty of style of the Divine Scriptures, and allege that the noble truths of Christianity have been better expressed among the Greeks. They further assert that the body of the Lord was ill-favoured; with the reason of the different forms of the Word. From the treatise against Celsus, who wrote against Christians, Volumes VI. and VII.
1. In beginning this sixth book, we desire, holy Ambrose, to meet the charges brought by Celsus against Christians, not, as might be supposed, what he has borrowed from philosophy. For he quoted numerous passages, mainly from Plato, making common property of such portions of the sacred Scriptures as might mislead even an intelligent reader, alleging that they have been "better expressed by Greeks, and without the violent expedient of a message supposed to come from God or from the Son of God." Now we maintain that if the aim of those who represent the truth is to do as much good as possible to |63 as many as possible, and out of love for men to win over to the truth, as far as may be, every single man, not only the quick and ready, but also him that is void of understanding: or, to put it another way, not Greeks only, nor Barbarians only,----and it is a mark of great humanity if a man is capable of converting rustics and ignorant folk,----it is obvious that a speaker must cultivate a style both popular and profitable, and such as will win everybody's ear. And men who tell us that they say farewell to the ignorant as being no better than slaves, and to such as have no ear for the close connection of the words and the order of the incidents, and who therefore pay attention only to hearers who have had a literary and scientific bringing up, these men reduce the fellowship of the Gospel to very narrow limits.
2. I have said this in reply to the charge brought against the Scriptures by Celsus and others on account of their poverty of style, though that seems to vanish in the grandeur of the composition.241 For our Prophets, and Jesus and His Apostles had the insight to adopt a mode of delivery which not only conveys the truth, but can win the many, until they are drawn to be Catechumens and then, every one so far as he can, rise to the ineffable mysteries contained in the seemingly poor language. And if I may dare say so, the ornate and polished style of Plato and his imitators benefits only a few, if indeed it does benefit them; while the style of those who have taught and written less elegantly, but. nevertheless with a direct and practical aim, keeping in view the wants of the greater number, has benefited many. At all events, you may see Plato in the hands of those who are regarded as literary men, but Epictetus is the admiration of the man in the street and of all who are inclined to improve themselves, for they are conscious of the benefits to be derived from his writings. We do not say this to disparage Plato, for the great world of |64 men has found even him useful, but in order to show the meaning of those who said, "And my speech and my preaching was not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." 242
3. For there is a demonstration of the Word, all its own, more Divine than the dialectic of the Greeks, which the Apostle calls "a demonstration of the Spirit and of power ";243 "of the Spirit," because of the prophecies which are enough to convince the reader, particularly in things relating to Christ: and "of power," because of the marvellous powers which one must be prepared to admit, as on many other grounds, so also, inasmuch as the traces of them are still preserved among those who live according to the intent of the Word.
4. Further, the Divine Word also asserts that what is said, although it be in itself true and most persuasive, is not of itself sufficient to reach man's soul, unless a certain power from God be given to the speaker and grace be shed over his words,244 and effective speakers cannot have this grace without God's help. At all events, the Prophet says in the 67th Psalm that "the Lord shall give a word to them that publish the tidings with great power." 245 Granting, then, that in some cases the Greeks have the same doctrines as ours, it by no means follows that even the same doctrines avail for winning souls and disposing them accordingly. Hence it is that the disciples of Jesus, unlearned and ignorant men as regards Greek philosophy, compassed many nations of the world, impressing each individual hearer as the Word desired, according to his deserts; for the hearers profited in proportion as their will inclined to receive the blessing.
5. Well, then, let the wise men of old be explained to |65 those who can understand them. Let Plato, the son of Aristo, in one of his epistles express his views on the Chief Good, and let him maintain that the Chief Good is by no means communicable in words, but is acquired through much intercourse with it, and, kindled as it were from flaming fire,246 suddenly illuminates the soul. When we hear these things (for we are careful not to incur odium for anything that is well said, and if the enunciators of the truth are outside the Faith, we are studious not to vie with them, nor seek to upset sound sense) we admit that they are well spoken, "for God manifested it unto them," 247 and whatsoever else is good in their utterances. And this is why we say that they who have true conceptions of God, and do not lead a godly life worthy of the truth concerning Him, are liable to the chastisements of sinners. For this is precisely what Paul asserts concerning such men, viz, that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse; because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and of four-footed beasts, and creeping things." 248 They certainly do "hold down the truth," as our Word also testifies, who think that "the Chief Good is not communicable in words," 249 and who say that "from much intercourse with the thing itself and from living with it, it suddenly, lighted as from flaming fire, illuminates the soul, and straightway nourishes itself." |66
6. They who wrote such things concerning the Chief Good nevertheless go down to the Piraeus that they may offer up a prayer to the goddess Artemis, and because they want to see how the national festival is kept by the common folk;250 and after so finely discussing the soul and surveying the conduct of a soul that has lived a good life, they forsake the greatness of the things which God manifested to them for mean and paltry conceptions, and pay a cock they owe to Asclepios.251 And although they could imagine the invisible things of God and the eternal forms of Being from the creation of the world and things that are seen, from which they rise to intelligible 252 things, and although they have no ignoble vision of His everlasting power and Godhead, they none the less become vain in their reasonings, and their heart, inasmuch as it is foolish, is overwhelmed with darkness and ignorance, so far I mean as concerns the service of God. And we may see men who pride themselves on wisdom and their knowledge of theology worshipping the likeness of the image of a corruptible man to show how they honour him; and we sometimes see them descending, like the Egyptians, to birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. And even if "some do seem to have risen above this, they will nevertheless "exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve the creature more than the Creator." 253 Wherefore, because the wise and learned Greeks err in their religious observances, "God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame them that are wise; and the base things of the world, and the weak things, and the things that are despised, and the things that are not, that he may bring to nought the things that are; and that truly no one may glory before God." 254 But our wise men, Moses the most ancient of them all, and the Prophets who came after him, knowing that the Chief Good is not at all communicable in words, and believing that God manifests |67 Himself to fit and suitable persons, were the first to write that God appeared to Abraham, for instance, or to Isaac, pr to Jacob. But Who He was that appeared, whence He came, and how, and for what object connected with mankind, they have left for those to investigate who can put themselves into God's hands as did the saints to whom God appeared, for He was seen, not with their bodily eyes, but with the pure heart. As our Jesus says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see their God."
7. As for the sudden kindling in the soul of a burning light as it were from flaming fire, the Word 255 knew this before Plato,256 for, speaking by the prophet, He said, "Light up for yourselves the light of knowledge." 257 And John, who came long after, tells us that "What was in the Word was life, and the life was the light of men";258 the true light which lighteneth every man as he cometh into the real "intelligible" world, and maketh him a light of the world.259 For this light shone in our hearts to give the illumination of the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.260 Wherefore a very ancient Prophet, who prophesied generations before the rise of the kingdom of Cyrus, for he was earlier than that monarch by more than fourteen generations, says, "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?" 261 and, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and light unto my paths";262 and, "The light of thy countenance, O Lord, was lifted up as a banner over us";263 and,"In thy light shall we see light." 264 And, urging us to come to this light, the Word in Isaiah says, "Shine, shine, Jerusalem; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord hath risen upon thee." 265 And this same Isaiah, prophesying of the coming of Jesus, Who turns men from the worship of idols and images and demons, says, "To them which sat in the region and shadow of death, to them did the light spring up." 266 And again, "The people |68 which sat in darkness saw a great light." 267 Observe, then, the difference between Plato's fine saying respecting the Chief Good, and what is said in the Prophets concerning the light of the blessed; and observe further that the truth in Plato concerning the Chief Good did not at all help his readers to attain to pure and undefiled religion; and. what is more, it did not benefit the philosopher him-self who thus expounded the Chief Good. But the diction of the Divine Scriptures, poor as it is, has given inspiration to true readers----those who nourish this light with the oil spoken of in the parable,268 the oil which keeps alight the torches of the five virgins.
8. Now let us see what he has to say next. "They have," he says, "a precept to the effect that we are not to avenge ourselves on any one who treats us with insolence and violence. Even if a man strikes you on the one cheek, you are, according to it, to offer him the other also. This is an old saw; it was well enough expressed before; the Christians have revived it in a rougher form. Plato makes Socrates say in his argument with Crito,269 'Then we must do no wrong. Certainly not. Nor when injured injure in return, as the many imagine; for we must injure no one at all. Clearly not,'" and so on. Our reply to this and to all those passages which Celsus has made out to be common property, alleging, because he could not face the truth of them, that the same things have been said by Greek authors, is something like this. If the doctrine is serviceable and its purpose sound and wise, and it has been taught the Greeks by Plato or some other philosopher, and the Jews by Moses or some other Prophet, and Christians in the recorded sayings of Jesus or of one of the Apostles, we must not suppose that what is held by Jews or Christians is prejudiced by the fact that the same things have been said by Greeks, particularly if Jewish teaching can be shown to be older than Grecian. Nor, again, must we suppose that a given statement is by reason of the beauty of Greek phraseology of necessity better than what |69 is expressed with less elegance and in simpler terms by Jewish or Christian authors, though we must bear in mind that the primitive language of the Jews, which the Prophets employed in the books which they have left us, is perpetuated in the Hebrew, and with a wise regard to the possibilities of composition in that tongue.
9. If we must, however, show that when the doctrines are the same they are better expressed by Jewish Prophets or Christian oracles, let us, though the argument may seem strange, take an illustration in proof of our position from different kinds of food and their preparation. Suppose some wholesome and nutritious food to be cooked and seasoned a certain way, and let the partakers of it not be rustics, and the inmates of hovels, and poor folk who know nothing of such dainties, but only rich people accustomed to live delicately. And suppose myriads of persons to eat the same food not cooked that way, to suit the palates of acknowledged epicures, but to suit the tastes of the poor, of rustics, and the majority of men. Now, if we grant that the epicures alone gain health and strength from the food prepared one way, and that no ordinary person cares for such food, while whole multitudes of men thrive on the food cooked the other way, which set of cooks are we to regard as the greatest public benefactors on account of the wholesome food they provide? Shall we give the credit to those who cook to suit the learned few, or to those who cater for the masses? We may concede that whichever way the cooking is done, the food is equally wholesome and nourishing; humanity itself, however, and the public welfare teach us that a physician who takes thought for the health of the many, renders a greater service to the public than he who cares only for the health of the few.
10. If the illustration is understood, let us apply it to the quality of the rational food of rational creatures. And consider whether Plato and the wise men of the Greeks do not in their choice dicta resemble physicians who attend only better-class patients, while they despise the bulk of men. But the Jewish Prophets and the disciples |70 of Jesus, bidding a long farewell to the embroidery of diction, and, as Scripture terms it, "the wisdom of men" and "wisdom after the flesh " 270 (hinting at the tongue), would be like the cooks who take care, the quality of the food remaining the same, to prepare it the most wholesome way; they have at their command a style which reaches the masses of mankind, adapts itself to their speech, and does not by its strangeness close men's ears to such discourses because they are unfamiliar. For if the real object of eating the rational food, if I may so speak, is to make the eater submissive and meek, must we not think that the Word which produces multitudes of forbearing and meek hearers, or sets them on the way to becoming so, is better prepared than that which makes a mere handful, to concede so much, forbearing and meek? And if Plato, a Greek, intended to benefit Greek or Syrian adherents by sound doctrine, he would take care to learn the languages of his future hearers, and, as the Greeks phrase it, would rather be a "barbarian" to do the Egyptians and Syrians good, than remain a Greek and be incapable of speaking anything of use to the Egyptians and Syrians. Just so, the Divine Nature taking thought not only for those who are reputed learned among the Greeks, but also for the rest of the Greeks, condescended to the ignorance of the majority of hearers, so that, employing words familiar to them, it might encourage the unlearned multitude to hearken; for after the first introduction they can easily endeavour to get a hold on the deeper truths hidden in the Scriptures. For even an ordinary reader soon discovers that many passages have a deeper signification than appears on the surface, a signification revealed to devoted students of the Word, and revealed in proportion to the time they spend upon the Word and to their zeal in putting into practice what they read.
11. So, then, it has been proved that if Jesus did, as Celsus alleges, speak somewhat roughly when He said, "To |71 him that striketh thee on the one cheek, turn the other also": 271 and, "If any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also":272 He has by thus speaking expressed and applied the precept to better purpose than Plato did in the Crito. The unlearned cannot in the least understand it there, and even they who have received a good school education before attempting the grave philosophy of Greece, can understand it only with difficulty. And we must further observe that the true teaching respecting forbearance is not "corrupted" by the poor diction in which it is conveyed; but even here Celsus slanders the Word when he says, "But as for those and all other corrupting precepts let the foregoing suffice."
Again in Book VI., in reply to the statement of Celsus that our Lord's body was unsightly, Origen writes thus:----
12. After this Celsus says, "Since there was a Divine Spirit in the body of Jesus, that body would of necessity vary at all events in some respects from other bodies, in size, or beauty, or strength, or voice; it would have some astonishing or attractive characteristics. Tor it is impossible that a body having more of the Divine Nature than other bodies should no way differ from any other; but the body of Jesus was not at all different; indeed, so they say, it was small, ill-favoured, and ignoble." Now here again, it is clear that if Celsus wishes to disparage Jesus, he quotes the Scriptures as if he believed such of them as seem to him to justify the charge; but wherever, in the same Scriptures, any one might suppose the opposite of what constitutes the charge to be asserted, Celsus professes not to know it. We admit, then, that there are passages which speak of the body of Jesus as ill-favoured, but not ignoble, as our opponents maintain; nor is there clear evidence that it was small. The exact description given by Isaiah in the prophecy that He would not visit the many in a graceful form, or with surpassing beauty, runs thus: "Lord who hath believed our report? 273 and |72 to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? for he grew up before him as a tender 274 plant, as a root in a dry ground: he hath no form (nor glory: and we saw him and he had no form) nor comeliness; but his form was unhonoured,. marred more than the sons of men": Celsus noted all this, for he thought it would serve him in disparaging Jesus; but he paid no attention to the words of the 45th Psalm, the Psalm "for the Beloved," how it is said, "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O Mighty One, in thy grace and beauty, and in thy majesty ride on prosperously."275
13. But maybe Celsus had not read the prophecy, or perhaps he had read it but was misled by interpreters who erroneously hold that it does not refer to Jesus Christ. Well, what will he make of the Gospel narrative in which we are told that He went up to a high mountain,276 and was transfigured before His disciples and appeared in glory; when both Moses and Elias also appeared in glory,277 and spake of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem? Or again, if the Prophet says, "We beheld him, and he had no form, nor beauty," 278 and so on, Celsus admits that the prophecy may be referred to Jesus, but it is a blind admission, for he does not see that the, fact of a prophecy giving particulars of the form of Jesus, many years before His birth, is a strong confirmation of the truth that Jesus Who seemed to have no "form" was the Son of God. But if another Prophet says that Jesus had grace and beauty, why will not Celsus allow that this prophecy refers to Jesus Christ? Further, if it were possible to clearly gather from the Gospels that our Lord had no form nor beauty, but that His form was without honour, marred more than the sons of men, one might say that Celsus in his argument followed not the Prophets but the Evangelists. The fact, however, is that neither the Gospels, nor even the Apostles, |73 give any intimation that He had no form or beauty; and it is obvious that Celsus is bound to admit the declaration of prophecy 279 to be a true description of Christ; and this being so, there is an end to the disparaging statements concerning Jesus.
14. Again, we have the statement that "inasmuch as the body was tenanted by a Divine Spirit it must have varied at all events in some respects from other bodies, either in size, or voice, or strength, in astonishing or attractive characteristics." How came Celsus to overlook the fact that our Lord's body varied according to the capacity of the observers, and that a useful purpose was served when its appearance was such as was necessary for each individual? And it is nothing wonderful that matter; by nature mutable and variable and convertible to every-thing the Creator 280 chooses, and receptive of every quality the Artificer desires, should sometimes have a quality corresponding to the description, "He hath neither form nor beauty," and sometimes should be so glorious, astonishing, and marvellous, that the three Apostles who ascended the Mount with Jesus at the sight of such wondrous beauty fell upon their faces.281 But we shall be told that these are fictions, no better than fables, like the rest of the strange stories about Jesus.
15. Our answer is that to reconstruct almost any historical scene, even if true, so as to give a vivid impression of what actually occurred, is exceedingly difficult, and sometimes impossible. Suppose some one to assert that there never was a Trojan war, mainly on the ground that the impossible story of a certain Achilles being the son of a sea goddess Thetis and a man Peleus is mixed up with it; or that Sarpedon was the son of Zeus, or Ascalaphus and Ialmenus sons of Ares; or that Aeneas was Aphrodite's son: how could we dispose of such an objection? Should we not be very hard pressed to explain the strange blending of a fiction with the universal |74 belief that there was war between Greeks and Trojans at Troy? Or let us suppose some one to doubt the story of Oedipus and Jocaste, and of their sons Eteocles and Polynices, because that a sort of half-woman, the Sphinx, is mixed up with the story; how should we clear up the difficulty? Well, the prudent reader of the narratives, who wishes to guard against deception, will use his own judgment as to what he will allow to be historical, and what he will regard as figurative; he will try to discover what the writers meant by inventing such stories; and to some things he will refuse his assent on the ground that they were recorded to gratify certain persons. And this we have premised, having in view the history of Jesus as a whole contained in the Gospels; for we do not invite intelligent readers to a bare unreasoning faith, but we wish to show that future readers will have to exercise prudence, and make careful inquiry, and, so to speak, penetrate the very heart of the writers, if the exact purport of every passage is to be discovered.
16. Celsus, in fact, so that he may impeach the Word, appears to believe just as much as he pleases of what our Scriptures contain; but to avoid acknowledging the manifest Divinity proclaimed in the same books, he will not believe the Gospels: for any one who sees what lovers of truth the writers were, must, judging by the way they treat less important matters, believe them in things more Divine.
17. Now, if they had not been lovers of the truth, but, as Celsus supposes, had recorded fictions, they would never have told us of Peter's denial or informed us that the disciples of Jesus were offended. For though such things did happen, who was there to prove the fact? And, really, these incidents would probably have been passed over in silence by men who wished to teach readers of the Gospels to despise death for the sake of confessing Christianity. But, as the case stands, seeing that the Word will mightily prevail over men, they gave these particulars, which, strangely enough, were destined not to injure the readers or afford a pretext for denial. |75
18. And the Word has a more mystic meaning also, for it shows that the different appearances 282 of Jesus are related to the nature of the Divine Word,283 which does not appear the same to the many,284 and to those who can follow Him to the lofty mountain 285 of which we have given an account. For in the eyes of those who are below and are not yet ready for the ascent, the Word hath neither form nor beauty;286 to such as these its form is without honour, and marred more than the words "born of men," in the passage before us figuratively called "sons of men." For we might say that the words of the philosophers, being "sons of men," look far more beautiful than the Word of God preached to the many, which even draws attention to the foolishness of the preaching,287 and it is because of the foolishness of the preaching that men who regard the preaching only, say, "We beheld it, and it hath neither form nor beauty." But for those who through obeying Him have received strength to follow Him even when He ascends the lofty mountain, He hath a Diviner appearance. And a man sees Him thus, if he is a Peter making room for the building of the Church within him through the Word, gaining such strength of character that no gate of hell shall prevail against him,288 inasmuch as he has been lifted up through the Word from the gates of death that he may declare all the praises of God in the gates of the daughter of Zion;289 and others see it thus also, men who have been born of words with a great voice, such as have the full tones of spiritual thunder.290
19. And down below the Word has other garments; they are not white, they are not like the light; if thou |76 shalt ascend to the lofty mountain, thou shalt see His light and His garments. The garments of the Word are the phrases of the Scripture; the Divine thoughts are clothed in these expressions. As then down below He looks different, but having ascended is transfigured, His face beaming like the sun, so it is with His clothing, so it is with His garments. When thou art below, they do not shine, they are not white; but if thou ascend, thou shalt see the beauty and the light of the garments, and shalt marvel at the transfigured face of Jesus. And consider whether the Gospels do not also give us the same teaching respecting Jesus. The particulars of His generation, His descent from Abraham and birth of the seed of David according to the flesh, is the Book of the generation of Jesus Christ; 291 but as for the more Divine and more important things to be said concerning Him, and proclaimed by Him, John says, "I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that should be written." 292 For we must not, like some, admit that if the world cannot contain the books that should be written, it is because of the multitude of the writings, but rather that it is on account of the greatness of the incidents; their greatness is not only indescribable, but they cannot be proclaimed by fleshly tongue, nor be made known in the language and speech of men. This is why Paul, when he is about to learn things more Divine, leaves our world of earth and is rapt into the third heaven,293 that he may be able to hear the unutterable words thence proceeding. For we are told of what was said there and considered to be the Word of God, the Word made flesh,294 and who, as regards being God with God,295 emptied Himself. Wherefore we see the Word of God 296 on earth, for that He became man, in human guise; for even in the Scriptures the Word became flesh that He might tabernacle among us.297 But if we incline on the |77 bosom of the Word made flesh 298 and are able to follow Him when He ascends the lofty mountain, we shall say, "We saw his glory." 299 Some perhaps who are not like those who lie upon His bosom and follow Him to the lofty mountain may say, "We saw his glory," but they will not add "Glory as of an only-begotten from a Father, full of grace and truth": for this language becomes John and such as are like him. And, according to a loftier interpretation, they who are able to walk in the footsteps of Jesus as He ascends, and is transfigured out of sight of earth, shall behold His transfiguration in every scripture; for instance, when Jesus shows Himself to the many, this is the function of the simpler diction; but when He ascends a lofty mountain and is transfigured, showing Himself to very few of the disciples, and to those who have become able to follow Him to the heights above, this is the work of the highest, sublimest sense, containing oracles of the wisdom hidden in a mystery, which wisdom "God foreordained before the worlds unto the glory of his righteous ones." 300
20. But how can Celsus, and the enemies of the Divine Word, and such as do not investigate Christianity with a love of truth, know the meaning of the different appearances of Jesus? I refer to the different periods of His life, to anything He did before the Passion, and whatever happened after His Resurrection from the dead.
CHAP. XVI. ----Concerning those who slander Christianity on account of the heresies in the Church. Book III. against Celsus.
1. Then, as if he would like to blame the Word for the evils of heresy associated with Christianity, he reproaches us, saying, "Having grown in numbers and being widely dispersed, they are further split and divided; every body wants to have his own party." And again he says, "Being too numerous to keep together, they refute one another; they share, so to speak, if they do share it, the |78 one name, the only thing that in spite of their divisions they are ashamed to give up; as for the rest they are all one here, one there." In reply, we will say that you never find different sects in any department of thought unless the principle involved is one of grave importance and practical use. Take the science of Medicine. It is useful and necessary to the human race, and the questions which arise as to the healing of the body are many. This is why, as is admitted, there are several sects 301 among the Greeks, and I suppose among Barbarians also, as many as profess to practise the healing art. Let us take another illustration, Philosophy, inasmuch as it professes the pursuit of truth and the knowledge of realities, suggests the proper mode of life, and endeavours to teach things profitable to our race. But the points in question involve much diversity of opinion, and this is why there arose such an incredible number of philosophic sects of more or less distinction. Nay, even Judaism had a pretext for the rise of sects, through the varied interpretation of the writings of Moses and the words of the Prophets. Similarly, because Christianity appeared, not only to the low-minded, as Celsus says, but also to many learned Greeks, to be a matter of grave importance, sects of necessity arose, and not altogether through factiousness or contentiousness, but because so many even of the literary class were anxious to understand the meaning of Christianity. In consequence of this, because scholars differently interpreted what were believed on all sides to be Divine utterances, sects sprang up bearing the names of thinkers who had a reverent regard for the origin of the Word, but somehow or other through specious and plausible reasoning were brought into conflict with one another. But no man of sense would shun the science of Medicine because of its different sects; nor would a man of proper aims make the many sects of philosophy a pretext for hating it; and, similarly, we must not condemn the sacred books of Moses and the Prophets on account of the Jewish sects. |79
2. If all this hangs together, may we not offer a similar apology for the sects of Christianity? What Paul says concerning them seems to me truly marvellous: "There must be also sects among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." 302 For as a man "approved" in the science of Medicine is he who is familiar with the practice of many different sects, and having fairly considered their claims, has chosen the best; and as the advanced student of Philosophy who, having an extensive knowledge of his subject, is familiar with its details, and therefore gives his adhesion to the stronger reasoning, may be called "approved"; so, I would say, he who carefully examines the sects of Judaism and Christianity becomes the wisest Christian. But any one who blames the Word on account of our sects would also blame the teaching of Socrates, because from the study of that Philosopher many different schools of thought have arisen. Nay, a man might blame even the doctrines of Plato because Aristotle gave up the study of him and took a line of his own, a point to which we have already referred. But Celsus seems to me to have become acquainted with certain sects which do not even share the name of Jesus with us. Rumours may have reached him of the Ophites and Cainites, or the holders of some other opinion altogether alien to the teaching of Jesus. But Christian doctrine is not in the least to be blamed for this.
3. Granting that there are some amongst us Christians who do not allow that our God is the same as the God of the Jews, it by no means follows that they are to be blamed who prove from the same Scriptures that one and the same God is God of the Jews and of the Gentiles;303 Paul plainly shows this, when, after leaving the Jewish religion and embracing Christianity, he says, "I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers in a pure conscience." 304 Let us grant, too, that there is a third class composed of those who call some persons |80 psychical 305 and others spiritual (I suppose Celsus means the Valentinians); but what have we who belong to the Church to do with that? We are the accusers of those who introduce the doctrine of natures so constituted that they must be saved, or must perish. Let it further be granted that there are certain persons who also profess to be Gnostics, like the Epicureans who call themselves Philosophers; our answer is that men who destroy a belief in Providence could not really be Philosophers, nor can they be Christians who foist upon us these monstrous fictions so distasteful to the followers of Jesus.
4. Celsus goes on to say, "And they even say the most shameful things of one another; they would not make the least concession in the interests of harmony; for they utterly detest one another." In reply, even in Philosophy, as we have already said, rival sects may be found, and so it is in Medicine. We, however, following the Word of Jesus, and having made it our study to think and speak and do whatever He has said, being reviled, bless: being persecuted, we endure: being defamed, we entreat;306 and we would not say shameful things of those whose views differ from our own; but we would do all in our power to raise them to a higher level through persevering loyalty to the Creator alone, and by acting as men who will one day be judged. But if the heterodox will not be persuaded, we have our rule for dealing with them. "A man that is heretical after a first and second admonition refuse, knowing that such a one is perverted and sinneth, being self-condemned." 307 And again, men who understand the words, "Blessed are the peacemakers," 308 and "Blessed are the meek," 309 would not utterly detest opponents who debase Christianity. |81
CHAP. XVII. ----A reply to certain philosophers who say that it makes no difference whether we call Him Who is God over All by the name Zeus, current among the Greeks, or by that which is used by Indians, for instance, or. Egyptians. Books I. and V. against Celsus.
1. Celsus then says, "The goatherds and shepherds acknowledged one god, whether they call him the Most High, or Adonai, or the God of Heaven, or Sabaoth, or gave him some local designation to suit their fancy; beyond this they know nothing." And he afterwards says, "It makes no difference whether we call the Supreme God by the name Zeus, which is current among the Greeks, or by some Indian name, for instance, or Egyptian name." Now in answer to this we must remark that here we come upon a deep and mysterious subject, the nature of names. Shall we say, as Aristotle 310 thinks, that names are arbitrarily given? or, with the Stoics, that they are natural, the first articulate sounds being imitative of what the names denote, so that they also acquaint us with certain principles of etymology? or, as Epicurus 311 teaches, differing herein from the Stoics, are they "natural," in the sense that primitive men broke into speech which varied according to their circumstances? If, then, in our leading argument, we are able to show the nature of powerful names, some of which arc used by the wise men of Egypt, or by the learned Magi of Persia, or by the philosophic Brahmans |82 of India, or by the Samaneans,312 and so in every nation; and if we succeed in making out that what is called Magic is not, as the Epicureans and Aristotelians suppose, incoherent from beginning to end, but, as the experts prove, is a well-compacted system, with words known to extremely few,----if, I say, we get as far as this, we shall maintain that the name Sabaoth, and Adonai, and whatever others are by Hebrew tradition regarded with great reverence, are not applicable to ordinary created things, but to a mysterious science of things Divine, related to the Creator 313 of the universe. It follows that these names when uttered in their proper connection, and other names current in Egyptian of 314 certain demons with particular powers only, and others in the Persian language of other spiritual beings, and so in every nation, can be applied to certain purposes. And thus it will be found that the demons to whom have been assigned different parts of the earth bear names according to the dialect of the place and nation. Any one, therefore, who has a nobler, even though it be but a slender, conception of these things, will take care to apply different names to different things, lest he fare no better than they who erroneously give the name of God to lifeless matter, or degrade the title "the good" by severing it from the First Cause, or from virtue and honour, and apply it to blind Plutus, and to the proportions of flesh and blood and bones required for health and strength, or to what is counted noble birth.
2. And perhaps it is no less dangerous to degrade the name of God, or the title "good," to improper objects, than it is to change the names of God to suit some secret doctrine, and apply the names of the better to the worse, and of the worse to the better. I do not dwell on the fact that when we hear of Zeus it is implied that he was |83 the son of Cronos and Rhea, and the husband of Rhea, and the brother of Poseidon, and the father of Athene and Artemis, and that he had intercourse with his daughter Persephone; or that when we hear Apollo's name, we remember that he was the son of Leto and Zeus, and the brother of Artemis, and the half-brother of Hermes; not to mention all the other wonderful stories told us by the wise men whom Celsus approves, who are the authors of these opinions, and by the ancient theologians of Greece. Is it not unreasonable that Zeus should be his proper name, and yet that he should not have Cronos for his father and Rhea for his mother? And we must treat all the other so-called gods the same way. But the charge by no means attaches to those who, in accordance with some mysterious doctrine, apply the name Sabaoth, or Adonai, or any of the other names, to the (true) God. As soon as a man can philosophically explain the mysteries of names, he will make many discoveries respecting those given to the Angels of God, one of whom is called Michael, another Gabriel, another Raphael, the names being suitable to the service they render according to the will of the God of the whole universe. Our Jesus, too, keeps to the same philosophy of names; for His name has already been clearly proved to drive out countless demons from souls and bodies, powerfully working in the sufferers from whom the demons were expelled. And, treating of names, we must further observe that they who are familiar with the use of charms tell us that if we pronounce the same charm in its own language, it is possible to effect what the charm professes to do; but that if we change it into another tongue, no matter what, it may be found feeble and quite ineffective. The power of producing a certain effect is not therefore to be attributed to the actual meaning of the charm, but to the qualities and peculiarities of the sounds. We shall therefore on such lines as these defend the Christians for striving even unto death that they may not call God by the name Zeus, nor give Him a name in another tongue. For |84 Christians in their confessions either employ the usual name God, without further definition, or they add, "The Maker 315 of all things," "The Creator of heaven and earth "----He Who to benefit mankind sent down such and such wise men, with whose names the name of God conjoined bestows a certain wonder-working power among men. Much more might be said on the subject of names as against those who think that the use of them is a matter of indifference, And if Plato is much admired for saying in Philebus, "My awe, Protarchus, in naming the gods is considerable," 316 for Philebus, who was arguing with Socrates, said that the true name of Aphrodite was Pleasure, ought we not much rather to approve the piety of Christians, inasmuch as there is not one of the names handed down in mythology which they apply to the Maker of the world?
And in Book V., treating of the same subject, he says:
3. But since Celsus thinks it makes no difference whether we call the Most High Jupiter, or Zen,317 or Adonoeus, or Sabaoth, or Amon, as the Egyptians do, or Pappaeus like the Scythians, let us briefly discuss these points, and remind the reader of what was said above on this great question, when the language of Celsus invited us to the argument. We repeat, then, that the nature of names does not, as Aristotle thinks, depend on the arbitrary rules of those who give them. For the languages of men do not even originate with men, as is clear to those who can give attention to the nature of charms variously appropriated by the authors of the languages, according as the languages differ and the names are differently pronounced. We have already briefly discussed this, and have maintained that though they have a natural power in a given language, if they are translated into another language they lose the effect which they had in their own proper expression. And we find that the same peculiarity applies to man. Suppose some one to be called from birth by a Greek name; if we change the name into Egyptian, or Roman, or some other language, we could not make him do or suffer what he would if he were called |85 by his original name. Nor even if we were to translate 318 into Greek a name which was Roman to begin with, could we do what the charm professes to do if it keeps to the man's first name! Now, if what we have said respecting human names is true, what ought we to think of names which are some way or other traced up to the Divine nature? For instance, some new power is transferred to the Greek from the name Abraham, something is signified by the name Isaac, and something shown by the title Jacob; and if a man were to call upon or swear by the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, he would produce some effect, either through the nature of the names or their power, for even demons are vanquished and become subject to a man who uses this language. But if one were to say,319 "The God of the elect father of the sound," and "the God of laughter," and "the God of the tripper up," the name thus used is as ineffective as any other ordinary name. Similarly, if we change the name Israel into Greek or some other language, we shall effect nothing; but if we keep it as it is, and use it in conjunction with such expressions as the learned think should be associated with it, there will be some result from the use of such language according with the professions of those who employ such invocations. And we shall say the same respecting the name Sabaoth, which is often found in charms, viz. that if we change the name into "The Lord of Hosts," or "Lord of Armies," or "Almighty" (for the interpreters take it differently), we shall effect nothing; but if we keep to its proper pronunciation, we shall, so the learned say, produce some effect, and the same holds good of Adonai. Now, if neither "Sabaoth" nor "Adonai," when changed into what they appear to signify in Greek, produces any effect, how much less could they be efficacious among men who think it makes no difference whether we |86 call the Supreme God Jupiter, or Zen, or Adonai, or Sabaoth!
5. Well, then, Moses and the prophets understanding these things and the corresponding mysteries, forbade any one who practised prayer to the Supreme God alone to take the name of other gods upon his lips, or remember them in a heart taught to be pure from all foolishness in thought or speech. And this is why we would rather endure every outrage than confess that Jupiter is God. For we do not suppose Jupiter and Sabaoth to be the same, nor do we regard Jupiter as at all Divine, but we think that some demon, friendly neither to man nor to the true God, rejoices in the name. And even if the Egyptians should offer Amon to us with threats of death, we will die rather than call Amon God, for the name is probably used in some Egyptian charms which invoke the demon. The Scythians may say that Pappaeus is "the Supreme God," but we shall not be persuaded; for though they employ the solemn title of "Supreme God," it is only in a sense which pleases the demon to whom was allotted the Scythian desert with the Scythian race and language, not because Pappaeus is a proper name for God. Any one, however, who gives God His name in the Scythian language, or the Egyptian, or the language in which he has been brought up, will not commit sin.
6. We do not even like to call the sun Apollo, or the moon Diana; but worshipping the Creator with a pure worship, and praising His beauteous works, we do not pollute Divine things even so far as a name goes. We agree with what Plato says in the Philebus; he would not have Pleasure called a goddess: "So great is my awe, Protarchus, in naming the gods." 320 We, too, really have such awe in naming God and His beauteous works, that we will not accept any fable even as allegory, which might injure the young.
CHAP. XVIII. ----A reply to those Greek philosophers who profess to know everything, and blame the simple faith of the man of Christians; and complain that they prefer folly to wisdom in life; moreover, that no wise or educated |87 man has become a disciple of Jesus; but boatmen and tax-gatherers of the lowest class, they say, get fools and blockheads, slaves, weak women and children, to submit themselves to the Gospel. Books I. and III. against Celsus.
1. He next urges us in forming our opinions to make reason our guide and follow it, because whoever gives his assent in other terms is sure to be misled; and he likens men who have an unreasoning faith to begging priests of Cybele and to soothsayers, Mithrae and Sabadians,321 or any other sort one comes upon, phantom 322 envoys of Hecate or some other demon, or demons. For as among them detestable men are frequently found trading upon the ignorance of the simple, and leading them any way they choose, so, Celsus says, it is with Christians. He tells us that certain teachers who will neither give nor receive an account of what they believe employ the formula, "Don't ask why, but believe," and another, "Thy faith shall save thee"; and these teachers, he adds, maintain that "worldly wisdom is a bad thing, and foolishness a good thing." This is our answer. If all men could give up the active pursuits of life and apply themselves to philosophy, that would be the only course for any man to take; for in Christianity, not to speak offensively, there will be found no less inquiry than elsewhere; we have our careful investigation of the articles of the Faith, and our explanation of the dark sayings of the Prophets, the parables in the Gospels, and countless other figurative events or enactments. But if this course is impracticable, whether on account of the stress of life, or because of human infirmity, for very few are eager to reason, what better plan for benefiting the many could be devised than that which was delivered by Jesus to the Gentiles? And as regards the greater |88 number of believers, who have escaped from the deep mire of wickedness in which they formerly wallowed, which, we ask, is really best----that with unreasoning faith they should be reformed characters, because they believe that men are punished for sin and rewarded for good works, or that we should not allow their conversion on the strength of mere faith, but wait for their deliberate investigation of the reasons for belief? It is clear that nearly all will be excluded from the benefits which the others have received through simply believing; the many will continue to lead abandoned lives. Whatever else then goes to prove that the love towards man which marked the entry of the Word into human affairs was not undesigned by God, this must be included. A religious man will not suppose that even a physician of the body, who restores many sick to health, comes into cities or nations independently of God;. for without God's help nothing comes to men. But if the physician who cures the bodies of many sufferers, or partially benefits them, does not cure without God's help, how much rather is this true of Him who heals the souls of many, converts them, does them good, attaches them to the Supreme God, and teaches them in all their doings to make His good pleasure their aim, and to shun whatever is in the least displeasing to Him in word, or deed, or thought?
2. So then, since our opponents are for ever talking about our faith, we have to tell them that we allow it on the ground that it is a good thing for the many, and we confess that we teach those who cannot forsake everything else and investigate the evidence, to believe even without reasoning; and our opponents, though they would not confess so much, do the same. Could any man who has been drawn to Philosophy and has dashed into some philosophic sect, either at random, or because he has had access to some particular teacher, get thus far any other way than by believing that sect to be the best? For it is not by waiting to hear the arguments of all the philosophers and of the different sects, and by learning how some may be upset and others established, that a man chooses to be a Stoic, or a follower of Plato, or a |89 Peripatetic, or an Epicurean, or to belong to any other philosophic school; but it is by an unreasoning impulse, though they will not admit the fact, that they come, for instance, to forsake the others and adopt Stoicism: rejecting Plato's doctrine as less dignified than that of the others, or the Peripatetic system because it is more human, and more readily than others admits the blessings of mankind. And there are some who in their alarm at the faintest approach to the doctrine of Providence, arguing from what on earth befalls both bad and good, rashly conclude that there is no Providence, and take the view of Epicurus and Celsus.
3. Since, then, as reason teaches, we must believe some one who has founded a sect, Greek or Barbarian, should we not much rather believe the Supreme God, and Him who teaches that we ought to worship God only, and overlook all else, as either non-existent, or as existing and worthy of honour, but not of reverence and adoration? As regards these points, if a man not only believes, but also views them in the light of reason, he will let it be known what proofs he comes upon, and discovers through thorough inquiry. It is surely more reasonable, since all things human depend on faith,323 to believe God rather than them. Does any man go on a voyage, or marry, or beget children, or sow the land, unless he believes that all will turn out for the best, though the opposite is possible, and sometimes does happen? In spite of possible disappointment, the belief in a prosperous issue and that they will realise their wishes, makes all men venture even where there is uncertainty, and the result may be other than they hope. Now, if in every undertaking where the result is uncertain the hope and belief in a successful result is the stay of life, shall not a man with much better reason than if he sailed the sea, or sowed the land, or married a wife, or engaged in any other human affairs, have this faith, and believe in the God Who made all these things, and in Him Who, with surpassing wisdom and Divine magnanimity, ventured to present this doctrine to all mankind, in the face of great dangers and of what was considered a |90 shameful death, which sufferings He endured for man, teaching His earliest adherents to boldly traverse the whole world in peril at every step and with the constant expectation of death, in order to promote the salvation of men?
4. Let the impugner of the faith of Christians tell us by what demonstrative proofs he was driven to admit the occurrence of numerous conflagrations and deluges, and upon what grounds he maintains that the last deluge was in the time of Deucalion, and the last conflagration in the time of Phaethon. If he adduces the dialogues of Plato on these subjects, we will tell him that we, too, are at liberty to believe that a Divine Spirit abode in the pure and pious soul of Moses, who soared above all things created and clung to the Maker of the universe, and gave clearer views of the things of God than Plato or the Greek and Barbarian philosophers. And if Celsus demands our reasons for such a faith, let him first give us the grounds of his unproved opinions, and we will at once make good our position.
5. Celsus is welcome to the teachers of fabulous conflagrations and deluges. According to him they were the wisest of the Egyptians, and traces of their wisdom may be seen in the worship of irrational creatures, and in the arguments to show that such a worship of God, though partly lost and mysterious, is quite reasonable. If the Egyptians boast of their animal worship and explain the principles of their religion, they are wise; but if a man, assenting to the Judaic law and acknowledging the lawgiver, refers everything to the only God, the Maker of the universe, he is accounted by Celsus and his followers inferior to him who degrades the Godhead to the level not only of rational and mortal creatures, but of irrational creatures, thus going beyond the fabulous transmigration of souls, according to which a soul falls from the vaults of heaven and descends to irrational creatures, not only such as are tamed, but even the most savage. And if Egyptians tell these mythic tales, they are believed to have been philosophers with their riddles and mysteries; but if Moses writes histories for a whole nation, and |91 bequeaths laws to the people, his words are regarded as empty fables, incapable of even an allegorical interpretation. For this is the opinion of Celsus and the Epicureans.
6. Then, in express terms, Celsus says, "If they will be good enough to answer me, not as if I were a novice, for I know all about it," and so on. In reply to this claim to know "all about it," which is an astounding piece of swagger, we must observe that if he had read the Scriptures, above all, the prophetical writings, which we admit are full of dark sayings and things obscure to the many, and if he had studied the parables in the Gospels, and the texts of Scripture containing the Law and the history of the Jewish people, and the utterances of the Apostles, and, reading with a fair and open mind, had wished to get at the meaning, he would not have been so bold as to say, "I know all about it." Not even we who spend ourselves upon these studies would claim to know "all about it," for truth is dear to us. Not one of us will say "I know all that Epicurus taught," nor will boast that he knows the whole of Plato; the truth being that there are numerous points as to which even the expounders of the doctrines are not agreed. Who would be so bold as to say, "I know all about the Stoic or Peripatetic philosophy "? though it might happen that hearing some illiterate blockheads, unconscious of their own ignorance, boasting of their universal knowledge, a man might on the authority of such teachers suppose that he himself knew everything. Celsus seems to me to have acted much the same as if a traveller in Egypt (where those who are familiar with the national literature indulge in many speculations on what are regarded as Divine institutions, but the unlearned are greatly elated when they hear certain myths without understanding the principles involved) were to think he was acquainted with all the wisdom of the Egyptians, though, in fact, he was a disciple of the ignorant, and never came into touch with any of the priests, nor was taught the mysterious doctrines of the Egyptians by one of them. And what I have said about the Egyptians, wise and ignorant, holds good, as we may |92 see, of the Persians. They have their mysteries, celebrated by the learned on principles of reason, but taken symbolically by the masses and ordinary people. And the same applies to the Syrians and Indians, and all who have myths and literature.
7. Celsus, moreover, makes many Christians say, "Wordly wisdom is a bad thing, and foolishness a good thing." We must therefore observe that he slanders the Word, for he does not give Paul's exact words, which run thus: "If any man thinketh that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." 324 The Apostle does not say without qualification, "Wisdom is foolishness with God," but "the wisdom of this world" Again, he does not say, "If any man among you thinketh that he is wise, let him become a fool absolutely," but "let him become a fool in this world, that he may become wise." Well, then, by "the wisdom of the world" we mean all false philosophy, which, according to the Scripture, is being brought to nought; and we call foolishness a good thing, not absolutely, but when a man becomes a fool to this world. It is the same as if we were to say that a Platonist who believes in the immortality of the soul and what is said about its transmigration, is foolish in the eyes of the Stoics who give no quarter to these opinions; or in the eyes of the Peripatetics who are always talking about the inanities of Plato; or in the eyes of the Epicureans who charge with superstition those who introduce a Providence and set God over all things. And, further, that even, according to the Word itself, it is much better to assent to our doctrines on grounds of reason and wisdom, than on the strength of the bare faith of which we have spoken; and that, under certain circumstances the Word even intended this, so as not to leave men altogether unprofitable,325 is shown by Paul, the true disciple of |93 Jesus, when he says, "For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe." 326 This clearly shows that God should have been known in the wisdom of God. And since this did not come to pass, God, as by a second expedient, was pleased to save believers, not by foolishness absolutely, but by foolishness so far as related to preaching. For the preaching of Jesus Christ as crucified is "foolishness of preaching." Paul is conscious of this when he says, "But we preach Jesus Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling-block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
And towards the end of the same book, Book I., respecting the statement that no wise or educated man has been a disciple of Jesus, there is the following:----
8. It is clear to those who are capable of investigating the history of the Apostles with intelligence and candour that it was by Divine power they taught Christianity, and succeeded in bringing men into subjection to the Word of God. For it was not their powerful speaking, or that they offered the Gospel,327 in accordance with the rules of Greek dialectics or rhetoric, which won over their hearers. But it seems to me that if Jesus had chosen certain men in general esteem for their wisdom, who could think and speak so as to please the many, and had employed them as ministers of the doctrine, He might reasonably have been suspected of having been preached by a school like the leaders of some philosophical sect; and in that case the promise that the Word should be Divine would not have been clear, inasmuch as the Word and the preaching was in persuasive words of that wisdom which is shown in style and composition;328 and Christian faith, like the faith of the Philosophers of the world in their doctrines, would |94 have been in the wisdom of men and not in the power of God. But who, when he sees fishermen and tax-gatherers, men without even the rudiments of learning (the Gospel so describes them, and Celsus credits them with speaking the truth about their own ignorance), not only dealing boldly with the Jews as regards the Faith in Jesus, but also preaching Him in other nations, and with success, would not ask how they came to have this convincing power? for it is no ordinary power. And who would not say that by a certain Divine power in His Apostles Jesus fulfilled the promise, "Come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men "? 329 It is such a power as this which Paul, as we have said before, describes when he says, "And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." 330 For as we read in the Prophets who foretell the preaching of the Gospel, "The Lord gave a word to those who bring good tidings with great power,331 the King of the powers of the Beloved," 332 in order that the prophecy may be fulfilled which says, "His word shall run very swiftly." 333 And in fact we see that "The sound of the apostles of Jesus Christ went out into every land, and their words unto the end of the world." 334 Thus it is that when men hear the Word proclaimed with power they are filled with power, and they manifest it both by their dispositions and their lives, and by contending earnestly for the truth even unto death; but some speakers are mere windbags even though they profess to believe in God through Jesus, for not being Divinely enabled they only seem to be subject to the Word of God. I have already mentioned a saying of our Saviour in the Gospels, but I will none the less make use of it now, for it is appropriate, by way of showing how our Saviour's foreknowledge of the preaching of the Gospel is |95 most Divinely manifested, and also how the Word without teachers prevails over those who yield to the persuasiveness of Divine power: "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth labourers into the harvest." 335
9. And whereas Celsus speaks of infamous men, and calls the Apostles of Jesus villainous tax-gatherers and sailors, we will say respecting this, that in order to find fault with the Word he appears to believe the Scriptures wherever he chooses; but to disbelieve the Gospels so that he may not have to accept the manifestations of Deity proclaimed in those same books; for any one who sees how the writers cling to truth in describing minor matters cannot help believing them when they treat of things more Divine. It is indeed written in the Catholic Epistle of Barnabas, from which Celsus probably took his description of the Apostles as "infamous" and "villainous," that "Jesus Christ chose for His own apostles those who were notoriously lawless men." 336 And in the Gospel according to Luke, Peter says to Jesus, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." 337 Nay more, Paul (though he afterwards became an Apostle of Jesus) says in his Epistle to Timothy, "Faithful is the saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." 338 Is there, then, any absurdity in believing that Jesus, because He wished to show mankind His wondrous skill in healing souls, chose "infamous" and "villainous" men, and brought them to such a pitch of excellence, that they were a pattern of the purest life to those who through them were led to submit to the Gospel of Christ?
10. If we are going to make their past a reproach to men who have changed their lives, it is time for us to attack Phaedo even though he is now the Philosopher: for, as history relates, Socrates took him out of a house of ill-fame and interested him in philosophy. We shall also make the profligacy of Polemon, the successor of Xenocrates, a reproach to philosophy; whereas we ought to give |96 philosophy credit thus far, that reason when used by those gifted with persuasive power can rescue from such vices those who had been overcome by them. The Greeks have one Phaedo, I do not know of another, and one Polemon, who after a dissolute and utter detestable life changed and became philosophers; while with Jesus there were not only the Twelve at the time we speak of, but always many more, such as having become a joyous band of temperate livers, say concerning their former lives: "For we also were aforetime foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love toward men, appeared through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost which he poured out upon us," 339 we became what we are. For "God sent forth his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions," 340 as the prophet taught in the Psalms. And I would further remark, that Chrysippus in his treatise on the Healing of the Passions, his object being to check the passions of men's souls, though he does not pledge himself to the truth of any particular doctrine, endeavours to apply his remedy according to the principles of the sect to which they belong who have been mastered by their passions; and he says that if pleasure be the (philosophic) end, we must through pleasure cure the passions; and even if, according to some, there are three kinds of blessings, we must none the less, according to this doctrine, similarly rid men from the tyranny of the passions. But the accusers of Christianity do not see how the passions of multitudes are calmed, and the surging waves of wickedness laid to rest, nor do they regard the numbers of those whose savage characters are tamed by means of the Word. And if they find this public benefit to be a fact, they ought to confess their gratitude to the Word for having by a new method delivered men from many vices; and they ought to bear witness to it, that whether it be the truth or not, it has at all events profited mankind. |97
11. Jesus, teaching His disciples not to be rash, said to them, "When they persecute you in this city, flee into the next; and if they persecute you in the next, flee again into another";341 and He not only taught, but was an example of a well-regulated life, in which dangers are never encountered without an object, unseasonably, or unreasonably. This, again, Celsus mischievously perverts, and makes his Jew say to Jesus, "You run away to all sorts of places with your disciples."
12. "What need was there for you while still an infant to be carried off into Egypt, so that you might not have your throat cut? For it was not likely that a god should be afraid of death?" and so on. But inasmuch as we believe Jesus, when He Himself says concerning His Divinity, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," 342 or anything similar; and as we also believe Him when, referring to His having a human body, He says,"But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth," 343 we maintain that He was something compound. And inasmuch as it was His purpose during His sojourn on earth to live the life of a man, it was right that He should not unseasonably expose Himself to death. So, too, it was necessary that He should be taken away by His parents who were guided by one of God's angels.
13. Is there any absurdity in supposing that, having once become Man, His human life was so ordered that He shunned dangers? 344 not that it was otherwise impossible to attain His object, but because it was fitting to leave room for ways and means in securing His safety. And it was surely better for the child Jesus to escape from Herod's plot and sojourn with His parents in Egypt until the death of the conspirator, than for Providence watching over Jesus to hinder the will of Herod when he purposed to kill the child, or to associate with Jesus dark Pluto's helm, of which the poets speak, or anything of the kind, or to smite those who came to destroy Him, as the men of Sodom were |98 smitten.345 If it had been perfectly clear that some very extraordinary help was given to Him, this would not have furthered His desire to teach, as a man approved by God, that He had something more Divine within the visible man, which "something" was properly 346 the Son of God, God the Word, the power of God and the wisdom of God,347 He that is called Christ. But this is not the time to discuss the compound nature, and the parts of which Jesus, who became a man, was composed; that is a separate topic, and, if I may so speak, one suitable for investigation by believers.
14. And the story of Aristotle has points of resemblance to the slanderous charge against Jesus and His disciples. When Aristotle saw that a court was going to be got together to try him for impiety, on account of certain of his philosophical opinions which the Athenians considered impious, he left Athens and stayed in Chalcis, defending himself to his friends by saying, "Let us leave Athens, so that we may not give the Athenians any occasion for incurring the guilt they did over Socrates, and that they may not a second time sin against Philosophy."
15. And in Book III. of the same treatise against Celsus he says this:----
Then Celsus goes on to quote what is said against the teaching of Jesus by a very small number of persons who are considered Christians, not the most intelligent, as he supposes, but the most ignorant, and tells us "that such rules as these are laid down by them: Let no educated person come, no one wise, no one prudent; for education, wisdom, and prudence are with us regarded as bad things. But if any one is unlearned, if any one is without understanding, or uneducated, or a mere child, let him come boldly. Now the fact that they confess these persons to be worthy of their God, shows that they wish and are able to convince none but fools, low-born people, blockheads, slaves, weak women, and children." This is our reply. When Jesus was teaching self-control He said, "Every |99 one that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." 348 Now, suppose a man saw some few persons, out of so many, who are considered to be Christians, living undisciplined lives, he would with very good reason accuse them of living contrary to the teaching of Jesus; but he would be most unreasonable if he were to charge the Gospel with their offence. Just so, if Christian doctrine 349 as much as any other is found to invite men to wisdom, they must be blamed who rest satisfied with their own ignorance, and who say, not what Celsus relates (for though some are ignorant and unlearned, they do not use such shameless language), but other things which, though far less important, are nevertheless calculated to turn believers from the practice of wisdom.
16. That the Word means us to be wise, we may prove even from the old Jewish Scriptures, which we use as well as the Jews, and no less also from those which were written after Jesus came, and are believed in the churches to be Divine. In the 50th Psalm David in his prayer to God is reported to have said, "Thou hast showed me the secret and hidden things of thy wisdom." 350 And any reader of the Psalms may find the book full of many wise doctrines. And Solomon, because he asked for wisdom, received it;351 and the proofs of his wisdom may be seen in his works, which contain much thought in few words, and in which you may discover many praises of wisdom and many admonitions as to the necessity of embracing it. Solomon was in fact so wise that "the Queen of Sheba having heard of his name and the name of the Lord came to prove him with hard questions,352 and she communed with him of all that was in her heart. And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not anything overlooked by the king, which he told her not. And the Queen of Sheba saw all the understanding of Solomon, and all that belonged to him; and there was no more spirit in her. And she said to the king, It was a true report that I |100 heard in mine own land of thee and of thy understanding. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and riches exceed all the report which I heard." Again, it is written concerning the same Solomon, "And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore. And Solomon's wisdom excelled the understanding of all the ancients and all the understanding of Egypt; and he was wiser than all men," 353 and so on. And so desirous is the Word that there should be wise men among believers, that to exercise the intelligence of the hearers it has expressed some things .in enigmas, some in what are called dark sayings, others through parables, and others through difficult questions.354 And one of the prophets, Hosea, in his concluding words, exclaims, "Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them?" 355 Daniel, too, and his companions in captivity made such progress in all the learning cultivated by the wise men about the King of Babylon, that they were proved to be ten times better than them all. 356 And in Ezekiel it is said to the Prince of Tyre, who prided himself upon his wisdom, "Surely thou art not wiser than Daniel? Every secret was not shown thee." 357
17. And if you come to the books written after the time of Jesus, you will find the crowds of believers who heard the parables regarded as "without," 358 and worthy only of the popular arguments, but the disciples learning in private the interpretation of the parables; for Jesus privately expounded everything to His own disciples, thus honouring those who claimed His wisdom more than He did the crowds. And He promises those who believe on Him that He will send wise men and scribes, saying, "Behold, I send unto you wise men and scribes: and some of them shall they kill and crucify." 359 And Paul |101 in his list of the gifts of God's grace, placed first the word of wisdom, and second, as inferior to it, the word of knowledge, and third, still lower I suppose, he placed faith.360 And inasmuch as he honoured the Word above marvellous acts, for this reason he places workings of miracles and gifts of healing below the gifts of the Word. And in the Acts of the Apostles Stephen testifies to the great learning of Moses, taking his proofs altogether from such ancient writings as were not generally known. For he says, "And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians." 361 And this is why Moses was suspected in his miracles; they thought he might work them not because, as he professed, he came from God, but because of the learning of the Egyptians in which he was skilled, The king, because he thus suspected him, summoned the enchanters of the Egyptians, and the wise men, and the sorcerers;362 and they were proved to be as nothing in comparison with the wisdom in Moses, which surpassed all the wisdom of the Egyptians.
18. But what Paul writes in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, where he addresses them as Greeks priding themselves on their Grecian wisdom, has probably moved some to think that the Word does not want the wise. If any one so thinks, let me tell him that as the Word reflects on bad men, and says that they are not wise in things spiritual, invisible, and eternal, but because they concern themselves with things of sense only, and make them all in all, they are wise men of the world: so also, inasmuch as there are many doctrines, some of which give support to theories of matter and corporeal substances, and allege that all subsistences to begin with were corporeal, and that there is nothing else beside them, whether it be called "invisible" or "incorporeal," the Word says that this is wisdom of the world which is being brought to nought and stultified, and that it is wisdom of this present life.363 On the other hand, there are doctrines which translate the soul from earthly affairs to the blessedness |102 of communion with God and to the kingdom which bears His name, and teaches the soul to despise all things sensible and visible as being temporal, but to press on to the things invisible and to keep in view the things that are not seen----and these doctrines the Word says are the wisdom of God. Paul, with his love of truth, speaking of certain wise men of the Greeks and the truth they hold, says that, "Knowing God, they glorified him, not as God, neither gave thanks";364 and he tells us that they had not this knowledge without God's help. "For," he says, "God manifested it unto them." 365 I suppose he is darkly hinting at those who rise from things visible to the things intelligible, 366 when he writes that "The invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; so that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks."
19. Then there is the passage, "For behold your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory before him." 367 Some have perhaps been moved through this to suppose that no one educated, or wise, or prudent embraces the Word. We would point out to such an one that the words are not, "No wise man after the flesh," but "Not many wise men after the flesh." And it is plain that in the character sketch of those who are called Bishops, when Paul described what manner of man the bishop ought to be, he gave the teacher his proper place: for he says the bishop "must be able also to convict the gainsayers, so that he may stop the mouth of vain talkers and deceivers." 368 And as the Apostle in choosing a man |103 for the office of a bishop prefers one who is the husband of one wife rather than him who has been twice married,369 and the blameless man rather than him who has been overtaken in a fault, and the temperate man rather than the opposite, and the soberminded man rather than him who is not soberminded, and the orderly man rather than him who is ever so little disorderly: so he wishes the man specially qualified for the office of a bishop to be apt to teach, and able to stop the mouths of the gainsayers. How, then, can Celsus with any show of reason accuse us of saying, "Let no one educated come, no one wise, no one prudent." By all means let any educated, wise, or prudent man come if he wishes to: but if a man be ignorant, and unintelligent, and uneducated, and childish, he will be no less welcome. For the Word promises to heal such if they come, making them all worthy of God.
20. And it is another falsehood that "the teachers of the Divine Word wish to persuade only silly, ill-bred people, blockheads, and slaves, and weak women, and children," though the Word calls even those that it may do them good. But it also calls such as are very different from them, for Christ is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe,370 whether they be men of understanding, or more simple folk, and "He is the propitiation with the Father for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world." 371 After what we have said it is too much to expect us to reply to such questions as these, which Celsus puts: "Why is it a very bad thing for a man to have been educated, and to have studied the best arguments, and both to be and seem wise? How does this hinder a man from knowing God? Can it possibly be anything but a help and a means whereby a man may more readily reach the truth?" A real education is not a bad thing, for education is a path to virtue; but not even the wise men of Greece will tell us that the holders of erroneous opinions are to be reckoned among the "educated." According to our Word, a knowledge of wickedness is not wisdom; and, if I may use the term, |104 there is a knowledge of wickedness in the holders of false opinions, and in those who have been deceived by fallacious arguments. I should therefore say that they are more ignorant than wise. Further, who would not confess that it is a good thing to have studied the best arguments? Shall we, however, call any arguments the "best," except those which are true and which urge men to the pursuit of virtue? Again, it is a good thing to be wise, though not, as Celsus says, to seem so; and to have been educated, and to have studied the best arguments, and to be a man of understanding is certainly no hindrance but a help in knowing God. And it is more fitting for us than for Celsus to say this, particularly if he is proved to be an Epicurean.
21. Let us see what he says next. "Why, we surely see even the men in the market-places parading their infamous opinions 372 and collecting a crowd, though they would never come near a gathering of sensible people, and would never dare to show their real sentiments among them; but wherever they catch sight of striplings, or a herd of slaves, or a set of fools, away they go and show off." Now observe, I pray you, how herein he slanders us by comparing us to the men in the market-places who parade their infamous opinions and collect a crowd. What infamous opinions, then, do we parade? or how are we like them, when by readings and explanations of what we read we invite men to the worship of the God of the universe, and to the cultivation of the virtues connected with that worship, but dissuade them from the contempt of the Divine Being, and from the practice of all that is contrary to sound doctrine? The Philosophers, I take it, would gladly get together so many hearers of their discourses which invite men to a virtuous life, as has been notably the case with certain of the Cynics, who publicly converse with such hearers as happen to be by. Will it then be said that these Philosophers, because they do not gather an audience of what are considered educated people, |105 but invite the common people to assemble, are like the men in the market-places who parade their infamous opinions and collect a crowd? The truth is that neither Celsus, nor any one who agrees with him, finds fault with teachers who follow the course which humanity dictates, and address their arguments to the ignorant masses as well as to other people.
22. If the Philosophers are not to be blamed for doing this, let us see whether Christians do not more than they, and to better purpose, endeavour to win multitudes to the love of the beautiful and good. The Philosophers who discourse in public make no distinctions in their choice of hearers; any one who likes stands and listens. But Christian teachers, so far as they can, first make trial of the souls of those who wish to hear them, and rejoice over them in private; then, when the hearers appear sufficiently earnest in their desire to lead a good life, they introduce them to the public assembly, having made a private list of those who are novices and catechumens, and have not as yet received the Sacrament of their cleansing, and another list of those who, as far as possible, show their determination to adopt Christianity to the exclusion of all else; and with these are associated certain officers appointed to inquire carefully into the lives and conduct of the candidates, so that they may prevent such as are guilty of infamous practices from coming to the public assembly, but may heartily welcome such as are different from these, and may day by day do them good.373 And they have a similar method in dealing with those who fall into sin, particularly such as are licentious, whom they, who, according to Celsus, resemble the market-place orators parading their infamous opinions, expel from the public assembly. The venerable school of the Pythagoreans used to set up kenotaphs to those who abandoned that philosophy, reckoning them as dead. But our Christian teachers |106 lament as dead, inasmuch as they are lost and dead to God, those who have been overcome by lasciviousness, or some other disgusting wickedness; and regarding them as risen from the dead if they manifest a considerable change, they afterwards receive them, though a longer interval is required than in the case of catechumens;374 they choose, however, to no office and administration in the Church of God those who soon lapsed after submitting to the Gospel.
23. Now Celsus says that these men to whom he compares us, the men in the market-places parading their infamous opinions and collecting a crowd, would never think of coming near a company of sensible people, nor venture to show their real sentiments among them: "but wherever they see striplings, or a herd of slaves, and a set of fools, away they go and show off." When he thus abuses us he is exactly like the low women who delight in slandering one another. For we do all we can to get an audience of sensible men, and we then venture in our public discourses to bring forth what is best and most Divine, when we have a number of intelligent hearers, but we conceal and pass over in silence the deeper truths, when we see that those who assemble are the simpler sort of people, and require such teaching as is metaphorically called "milk." For Paul, writing to the Corinthians, Greeks whose morals were not yet cleansed, says, "I fed you with milk, not with meat: for ye were not able to bear it: nay, not even now are ye able; for ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and walk after the manner of men?" 375 And the same Paul, knowing that some things are food for the more mature soul, and that others being suitable for beginners are like "milk," says, "Ye have become such as have need of milk, not of solid food.376 For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; For he is a babe. |107 But solid food is for full-grown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil." Now, let me ask, could men who believe this to be well spoken suppose that the beauties of the Word should never be declared to an assembly of sensible men, but that "wherever they see striplings, and a herd of slaves, and a set of fools," there "they should produce the Divine and hallowed truths, and before such an audience show off in handling them?" On the contrary, it is clear to any one who examines the whole drift of our Scriptures, that Celsus, like the ignorant masses, is moved by hatred against the family of Christ when he makes such false and unwarranted statements.
24. We own to a desire to instruct all with the Word of God, whatever Celsus may wish, so as to give the striplings such exhortation as is suitable for them, and show slaves how they may be ennobled by the Word if they recover a free mind. And our advocates of Christianity emphatically declare that they are debtors to Greeks and Barbarians, to the wise and to the foolish; 377 for they do not deny that they are bound to cure the souls even of the foolish, so that, as far as they can, laying aside their ignorance they may earnestly seek wisdom, and may give heed to Solomon's words, "Ye fools, be of an understanding heart";378 and, "Let him who is most foolish among you turn aside unto me";379 and those who are without understanding Wisdom exhorts thus, "Come, eat ye of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake folly that ye may live, and correct understanding in knowledge." I should also like to ask in reply to what Celsus states, for the point is important, whether the teachers of philosophy do not invite striplings to come and hear them? And do they not urge young men to give up a low life and turn to something better? How does Celsus make out that they do not wish slaves to take up Philosophy? Are we going to blame Philosophers for encouraging slaves to turn and lead a virtuous life, as Pythagoras did Zamolxis, and Zeno did Persaeus, or as they did who very recently won |108 Epictetus to the side of Philosophy? May you, ye Greeks,380 invite striplings, and slaves, and fools, to embrace Philosophy? and if we do so, will ye not allow our motive to be love for man, seeing that we wish with the healing virtue of the Word to cure every rational nature and make it fit for God, the Creator of all things?
25. When Celsus, distracted at the numbers of those who flock to hear the Word, alleges that no sensible person obeys the Word, he acts like a man who alleges that because so many ignorant persons submit to the laws, no sensible person obeys Solon,381 for instance, or Lycurgus,382 or Zaleucus,383 or any other lawgiver, particularly if by "sensible" he means in respect of virtue. For as the law-givers, providing for the masses according to their views of what was best, have given them proper guidance and laws on all sides: so God when He gives the law in Jesus Christ to all men every where, leads those who are not "sensible" as well as others, so far as such men can be led, on to the better life. Paul knew this when he said, "God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; 384 and, speaking generally, he calls all those "wise" who seem to be proficient in learning but have fallen into godless polytheism; for "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." 385
26. Celsus blames the Christian teacher as if he specially looked for ignoramuses. In reply we would ask, What ignoramuses do you mean? For, strictly speaking, any inferior man is an ignoramus. Well, then, if by ignoramuses you mean inferior people, do you when you |109 try to attract men to Philosophy seek to attract inferior people or the cultured? Certainly not the cultured, for they are already acquainted with Philosophy. Inferior people, then. But inferior people, as we have seen, are ignoramuses; and your aim is to win many such inferior people to Philosophy; it follows that you, too, look for ignoramuses. But I, even if I do seek those who are thus called "ignoramuses," am like a humane physician who looks for the sick that he may bring them the help they need, and may restore them to health and strength. If, however, by "ignoramuses" you mean those who are not only not clever, but are portentously stupid people, my answer is that I do my best to benefit these also, though I should not like the great body of Christians to consist of them. By way of preference I look for men of some cleverness and acuteness, inasmuch as they are able to trace out the clear interpretation of the hard sayings and obscure passages in the Law and the Prophets, and the Gospels, which you have despised as containing nothing of any account, because you have not closely examined their sense, nor tried to enter into the meaning of the writers.
CHAP. XIX. ----And again, earlier in the same book, Origen says, That our faith in our Lord has nothing in common with the irrational superstitious faith of the Gentiles, and that it is both commendable, and accords with the original moral notions of mankind. In answer also to those who say, How do we think that Jesus is God seeing that He had a mortal body?
1. Faith in Antinous 386 or some other Egyptian or Greek hero, is, if I may use the expression, unfortunate;387 but faith in Jesus would appear to be either fortunate, or to have its claims severely tested; for it seems to be fortunate with the many, and severely tested by very few. And if I say that a certain faith is fortunate, as the many |110 would call it, I refer the explanation of this good fortune to God, Who knows the causes of every human being's lot in life. And the Greeks will also admit that even in the case of those who are regarded as their wisest men, good fortune accounts for much, as for example the sort of teachers they have, and whether they meet with better ones (for other men teach opposite doctrines), and whether they have a better bringing up. For it is the lot of many to be so brought up that they cannot get even a faint perception of the higher life, but from their very earliest years are destined to be among the favourites of licentious men, or of tyrants, or to be in some other sad condition which prevents the opening of the eyes of the soul. I quite suppose that the causes of this are to be found in the rulings of Providence; but how the causes affect mankind is not easy to explain. I thought I would make this digression in passing, for we remember the old saying, "What wonders faith performs when it once takes hold of anything!" It was necessary to speak of different forms of faith on account of the different ways men are brought up; and from this to go on to show that what is called good or bad fortune would appear to assist even clever men in this very respect, that they appear more reasonable than other men, and with better reason for the most part to adopt their opinions. But enough of this.
2. But we must consider what Celsus says next. Amongst other things he tells us that "we are already under the influence of faith when we thus submit to Jesus." 388 And in truth faith does effect this submission. Observe, however, whether the very act of faith does not exhibit something praiseworthy when we submit ourselves to God Who is over all, confessing our gratitude to Him Who has guided us to such a faith, and saying that He did not without God's help undertake and accomplish such a difficult task. And we believe also in the intentions of those who wrote the Gospels, as we mark the caution 389 and |111 conscientiousness shown in their writings, and how they admit nothing spurious, hazardous, invented, or unscrupulous. For it strikes us that souls which knew nothing of the strange devices taught by the unscrupulous sophistry of the Greeks, and by the rhetoric bandied in the law-courts, could not thus invent incidents able of themselves to lead men to faith and to a life in keeping with their faith. And I suppose this was why Jesus wished to employ such teachers of His doctrines, that there might be no room to suspect them of plausible sophisms, but that they who are capable of understanding may see clearly that the writers' purity of intention with its, if I may so speak, great simplicity, was deemed worthy of Divine help, which accomplishes far more than diction, and composition, and right construction with its refinements and rules of Grecian art seems able to accomplish.
3. Now see whether the principles of our faith, being accordant with man's original conceptions, do not work a change in fair-minded hearers of the Word. For though the perverted doctrine, backed up with much instruction, has been able to implant in the minds of the many the belief that images are gods, and that things made of gold, and silver, and ivory, and stone, are worthy of worship; common sense, nevertheless, forbids us to think that God is by any means corruptible matter, or that He is honoured when He is fashioned by men in forms of dead matter, supposed to pictorially or symbolically represent Him. And we accordingly at once decide respecting images that they are not gods; and respecting such works of art that they are not to be compared to the Creator; and that they are insignificant when we think of God, Who is over all, the Maker, Preserver, and Governor of the universe. And the rational soul, as if it recognised its affinity, at once rejects what it hitherto imagined to be gods, and resumes its natural affection for the Creator; and because of that natural affection for Him, it eagerly accepts Him, Who first showed these truths to the Gentile world by means of the disciples whom He prepared, and whom He sent forth with |112 Divine power and authority to preach the Word concerning God and His kingdom.
4. And whereas Celsus, I know not how many times already, taunts us with holding that Jesus, though He had a mortal body, is a god, and with supposing that herein we show our piety, it is superfluous to say more, for more than enough has already been said. Still, I would have our accusers know that He Who we think and are persuaded was from the beginning God and Son of God, is the very Word, and very Wisdom, and very Truth; and we affirm that the mortal body and the human soul therein, not only by communication with Him, but by an union and intimate mixture, gained the highest honours, and having participated in the Divine Nature, were taken into God.390 And if, any one stumbles at our saying this concerning His body, let him attend to what is said by the Greeks about matter, in itself unqualified, acquiring whatever qualities the Creator wishes to invest it with; and how it frequently divests itself of its former qualities and assumes better ones of a different kind. For if this is sound doctrine, is it any wonder that the quality of mortality attaching to the body of Jesus should by the providence of God, Who so willed, change into one that was heavenly and Divine?
5. Celsus, then, did not show his dialectical skill when, comparing the human flesh of Jesus to gold, and silver, and stone, he saw it was more corruptible than they. For, to speak correctly, what is incorruptible cannot be more incorruptible than something else which is incorruptible, nor can what is corruptible be more corruptible than some other corruptible thing. But allowing that there are degrees of corruptibility, we shall still reply, that if it is possible for the matter which underlies all qualities to change its qualities, why should it be impossible for the flesh of Jesus to change its qualities, and become such as it ought to be if it is to live in the sky, and the upper realms, no longer having the qualities of fleshly |113 weakness, and whatever other qualities Celsus called "pollutions"? ----and in doing so did not speak like a philosopher. For in the proper sense pollution is the result of vice; but the nature of the body is not polluted; for as bodily nature it has no vice, which generates the pollution.
CHAP. XX. ----A reply to those who say that the whole world, including man, was made not for man, but for the irrational creatures; for the irrational creatures live with less toil than men; further, that they are wiser than we are, and are both dear to God, and have a conception of God, and foreknow the future; wherein we shall also oppose transmigration of souls, and have something to say concerning augury and the trickery connected with it. From Book IV. against Celsus.
1. He, Celsus I mean, then says, "But, not to confine my remarks to the Jews, for that is not my aim, but that I may deal with the whole of nature, as I promised, I will explain more clearly what I have said." What modest man who reads this and is conscious of human weakness, would not shrink from the offensiveness of a man who promises to give an account of the whole of nature, and so pretentious as Celsus in daring to give such a title to his book? Let us see, then, what it is he promises to tell us about the whole of nature, and what light he throws upon the subject.
2. Well, he proceeds to blame us at great length for alleging that God has made all things for man. And, drawing on the stories of animals and the sagacity they show, he wishes to prove that everything exists no more for the sake of men than for the sake of the irrational creatures. Here he seems to me to talk like those men who from hatred of the people they dislike, blame them for the very qualities for which their own friends are praised. For as enmity so blinds these men that they are not aware of accusing their friends when they think they are abusing their enemies: the same way, Celsus in this confusion of thought has not seen that he is blaming the Philosophers of the Porch, inasmuch as not unwisely they give man the first place, and in |114 general prefer rational nature to all irrational beings, and maintain that for the sake of the rational creation chiefly, Providence has made everything. And rational creatures, inasmuch as they are the leading objects of Providence, are regarded as children begotten; but irrational and lifeless creatures are like the after-birth.391 I moreover think that as in our towns the inspectors of provisions and of the market exercise their office only for the sake of men, but even dogs and other irrational creatures enjoy the abundance as well: so Providence chiefly provides for the rational creatures, but it follows also that the irrational creatures enjoy what exists for the sake of men. And as a man is in error if he says that the clerks of the markets provide no more for men than dogs, for that the dogs as well as men enjoy the abundance of what is on sale: so Celsus and they who are of his mind are much more guilty of impiety towards God, "Who provides for the rational creatures; for they pretend to ask. "What more is done for man's support than for plants, and trees, and roots,392 and thorns?"
3. For, in the first place, now more clearly showing his Epicurean views, he thinks that "thunder and lightning and rain are not works of God." And, secondly, he says that "if one were to grant that these are works of God, they exist no more for us men than they do for plants, and trees, and roots, and thorns"; thus, like a true Epicurean, allowing that they are the result of chance and not designed by Providence. If they are no more useful to men than they are to plants, and trees, roots, and thorns, it is clear that they are not the gift of Providence, or that they come from a Providence which no more provides for us than for trees, or a root, or a thorn. But the impiety is obvious whichever way you take it; and it is silly to oppose such views by withstanding a man who accuses us of impiety; for any one may see, from what has been said, who it is that is guilty of impiety. Then he adds, "Even if you say that these (he clearly means the plants, |115 trees, roots, and thorns) grow for men, what reason is there for saying that they grow more for the sake of men than for the sake of the wildest irrational creatures?" I wish Celsus would tell us plainly that the great variety in the produce of the earth is not the work of Providence, but that a fortuitous concourse of atoms is the cause of so many qualities, and that we are indebted to chance for so many kinds of plants, and trees, and grass,393 resembling one another; and that no reason designed them to begin with, and that they do not spring from an infinitely marvellous understanding. But we Christian people, who are dedicated to the service of the Creator of these things, the only God, even herein find motives for gratitude to the Maker of them all, because He prepared so fair a home for us, and, for our sakes, for the animals which serve us; "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread that strengtheneth man's heart." 394 And if He also prepared food for the most savage beasts, it is no wonder; for these beasts, as some philosophers have maintained, were meant to be a training school for the rational creature. And one of our wise men somewhere says, "Say not, what is this? wherefore is that? for all things have been made for their uses"; and, "Say not, what is this? wherefore is that? for at time convenient they shall be sought out." 395
4. After this, Celsus wishing to show that Providence has not made the things that grow upon the earth any more for us than for the most savage beasts, says, "We wear ourselves out with unceasing toil, and yet with all our labour hardly get a living; but everything grows for the beasts without their ploughing and sowing." 396 He does not see that because God wished man's intelligence everywhere to find a field for exercise, so that it might not remain idle and without some conception of the arts, He |116 made man a creature of many wants, intending him to be driven by his very necessities to discover various arts, some for his sustenance, others for his protection. For it was better that men who were not likely to search and study Divine things should be in want, so that they should have to use their understanding in discovering these various arts, than that they should through abundance altogether neglect their understanding. One result of the scarcity of the necessaries of life was agriculture, another vine-dressing, another the different styles of gardening, another the crafts of the carpenter and the smith, which furnish tools to the arts which minister to man's sustenance. And the want of protection brought weaving, which followed wool-carding and spinning, and also building; and thus man's intelligence rose even to architecture. And the lack of necessaries led also to the transport of commodities from certain places, through seamanship and the shipmaster's skill, to those who were without them; so that for these reasons, as well as others, a man might marvel at Providence for having made the rational creature, to its advantage, more necessitous than the irrational creatures. For the irrational creatures have their food prepared for them, because they have no means of cultivating the arts; and they have a natural protection, for they are covered with hair, or wings, or horny scales, or shells.
5. But some advocate of the dignity of man, he tells us, may object that the irrational creatures were created for man's sake. "If any one should call us lords of creation because we hunt and feast on the other creatures, we will ask in return, Is it not nearer the truth to say that we exist for their sakes, because they hunt and devour us? The fact is we must have nets and weapons, and a lot of men, and dogs, to assist us in our sport, while nature gave them their own weapons as soon as they were born, thus making us an easy prey to them." Now here, again, you see how the gift of understanding is a great help to us, and better than any weapon which the wild beasts seem to have. We, at any rate, though our bodily strength is far less than that of the animals, and |117 very far less than that of some of them, gain the mastery over them through our understanding, and hunt even such huge beasts as elephants. Some animals which were intended by nature to be domesticated, we tame by our gentleness; but in dealing with those which cannot be domesticated, or which it would appear useless to domesticate, we consult our own safety, and when we like we keep them shut up, or when we want them for food we kill them, just as we do the animals that are not wild. So then, the Creator has made all things to serve the rational creature, and to be in subjection to his rational intelligence. We want dogs for such purposes as guarding the flocks, or cattle, or herds of goats, or our houses; and cattle for tilling the land; while we use other beasts for drawing vehicles or carrying loads. So we may say that lions and bears, pards and boars, and all such animals, are given to us to exercise and develop our manhood.
6. Then, in defiance of mankind, who perceive their own superiority over the irrational creatures, he says, "In reply to your contention, that God has given us the power to capture and make full use of the wild beasts, we shall take up this position. It is probable that before towns were built, or crafts invented, or such-like social arrangements were made, before weapons and nets were devised, men were carried off and devoured by the wild beasts, while the beasts were only by the rarest chance captured by men." Now, in answer to this, observe that even though men capture the beasts and the beasts carry off men, there is a wide difference between men who prevail by intelligence, and the beasts whose savage and cruel nature gives them the mastery over men, and who do not use their intelligence to secure safety from them. When Celsus makes the remark about a time when there were no towns, nor arts, nor such means of social intercourse, he must, I think, have forgotten what he said before to the effect that "the world was uncreated and incorruptible, and that only the dwellers upon earth were exposed to deluges and conflagrations, and that their |118 misfortunes did not end there." 397 As it is not for those who suppose the world to be eternal to talk of its beginning, so neither may they speak of a time when there were no towns of any sort and arts had not been discovered. Now, for argument's sake, let us allow that he and we are herein agreed, though he is not at all consistent with himself in what he said before. But has this anything at all to do with men's being at the first captured and eaten by the wild beasts, while as yet the beasts were not captured by men? Certainly, if the world came into being through the wisdom of Providence, and God is ruler over all, the small sparks 398 of the human race must at first have been guarded by a higher power, so that at first there was intercourse between the Divine Nature and men. The poet of Ascra 399 thought so, for he said----
"Then the feasts were common, and seats 400 common,
To immortal gods and mortal men."
7. And the Divine Word according to Moses, introducing the first men, makes them hear a more Divine voice, and oracles, and sometimes see the angels of God coming to visit them. It is surely probable that at the beginning of the world human nature received more assistance than afterwards; until such time as, having advanced in understanding, and the other manly qualities, and having discovered various arts, men were able to live independent lives, and did not continually need guardians and governors, with miraculous manifestation of the service rendered to the will of God. It is consequently false to say that at the beginning "men were caught and eaten by the beasts, but the beasts were hardly ever captured by men." And this shows the falsity also of what Celsus thus expresses: "So that in this respect at least God subjected men to the beasts, rather than beasts to men." For God did not subject men to the beasts, but God gave |119 the beasts to be taken by the intelligence of men, and by the arts which intelligence suggests for their destruction. For not without God's help did men devise the means of saving themselves from the beasts, and of maintaining their dominion over them.
8. The noble critic, overlooking the fact that so many philosophers bring Providence into their arguments and affirm that it does everything for the sake of the rational creatures, does his best to destroy 401 their doctrines, which are of use in showing the agreement of Christian teaching and philosophy in these respects; nor does he perceive what an injury and hindrance it is to piety to accept the view that with God there is no difference between man and ants or bees. Because he does not observe this, Celsus says: "If men seem to excel the irrational creatures, inasmuch as they dwell in towns, and have some form of government, and magistracies, and authorities, it is nothing to the purpose, for ants and bees have all this as well. Bees, at any rate, have their queen with her followers and attendants; they have also their wars and victories and capture the vanquished; they have their towns and even suburbs, the division of labour, and courts for trying the idle and bad members of the community; anyway, they drive the drones away and punish them." Now here, again, Celsus has not seen where the difference lies between what is accomplished by thought and reason, and what results from an irrational nature and a creature's mere make. No original gift of reason in the creatures accounts for these doings, for they have not reason; but the Most Ancient One, He Who is both Son of God and King of the subject universe, has created an irrational nature which by its very lack of reason helps the creatures not deemed worthy of reason. Towns, then, arose among men along with many arts and a legal system; and forms of government, and magistracies, and human authorities, whether those which are properly so called because they secure good habits and |120 activities, or those less properly so named, according as the former are imitated as far as possible; for it was by contemplating these habits and activities that legislators succeeded in establishing the best forms of government, magistracies, and authorities. But nothing like this can be found among the irrational creatures, though Celsus may transfer to ants and bees the names derived from reason, and institutions based on reason, "town," "government," "magistracies," "authorities." Even so we must not receive 402 ants or bees, for they do not reason when they thus act; but we must admire the Divine nature, extending as it does to irrational creatures what I may call the imitation of the rational, perhaps to put rational creatures to the blush; so that when they look at the ants, they may become more diligent and may husband their own blessings better; and when they observe the bees, they may obey their authorities, and may take their share in such duties of government as tend to promote the welfare of the citizens.
9. Perhaps the so-called "wars" of bees are intended as a lesson in just and regular warfare among men, if the necessity should arise. And bees have no "towns" and "suburbs"; but their hives and hexagonal cells, their works, and their division of labour, are for the sake of men, who require honey for many purposes, for the healing of their bodies and for wholesome food. And we must not compare the treatment of the drones by the bees to the courts for prosecuting the idlers and bad characters in our towns, and to the punishments inflicted on them. But, as I said before, while we must admire the nature of the bees in these respects, we must allow that man is able to consider the details of everything, and to arrange everything, for he co-operates with Providence, and not only accomplishes the works of God's Providence, but also those of his own foresight.
10. After speaking of bees, so that as far as possible he may disparage the towns, forms of government, magistracies, authorities, and patriotic warfare, not only of us Christians but of mankind generally, Celsus proceeds to |121 introduce an elaborate eulogy of ants, in order that by thus eulogising the ants he may upset the superiority of man in the management of his food supplies, and show his contempt for the provision which man makes for his winter quarters, as being nothing more than the irrational foresight of the ants where Celsus thinks they show it. Would not Celsus, so far as it depends upon him, turn any one of the simpler sort, and such as are not qualified to look into things all round, from helping a heavily-laden fellow-man, and from sharing his toil, by telling us that the ants when they see a fellow-ant labouring with a load help him to carry it? He who needs the instruction of the Word, and does not by any means give ear to it, will say, "It seems we are no better than the ants even when we help those who are weary with their heavy burdens; why go on doing so to no purpose?" Ants, indeed, since they are irrational creatures, would not be puffed up with pride because their works were compared to those of men; but men being able to learn through reason how their social life is belittled, might, if it depended on Celsus and his arguments, suffer injury; for Celsus does not see that in wishing to turn his readers from Christianity, he is also diverting the sympathy of those who are not Christians from the most heavily laden of his fellow-men. If he were a public-spirited philosopher, he ought not only to refrain from destroying at the same time both Christianity and the beneficent practices of human life, but he should, if possible, support the excellence which Christianity has in common with the rest of mankind. Supposing, however, that the ants do tear off the shoots of the corn they have in store, to prevent its swelling, so that it may last through the year for food, we must not imagine that this is the result of reasoning in ants, but must rather believe that Nature, mother of all things, has so constituted even irrational creatures as not to leave even the least without some trace of Nature's reason. It cannot be that Celsus----in a moment of forgetfulness, for in many things he likes to follow Plato----wishes to indicate that all souls are of |122 the same kind, and that the soul of man no way differs from that of ants and bees; that would be not only to bring down the soul from the vaults of heaven to the human body, but also to everything else. Christians will not assent to these views, for they have already grasped the truth that man's soul was made in the image of God; and they see that it is impossible for a nature created in the image of God to altogether obliterate its characteristics, and take others, copies of I know not what, in irrational creatures.
11. And since Celsus says also that "when ants die the survivors choose a burial ground, and that there they have their family memorials," I must answer that the more he praises the irrational creatures, so much the more, in spite of himself, he exalts the work of that reason which ordered 403 all things, and shows the cleverness of man, which is able by reason to order the natural advantages of the irrational creatures. Why do I say "irrational," seeing that Celsus thinks that the creatures so named by the general consent of mankind are not irrational? Nor does he who promised to discuss the whole range of nature, and boasted of his truthfulness in the title of his book, think that ants, at all events, are without reason. For he speaks of ants talking to one another, and makes the following remarks: "It really is a fact that when they meet they talk to one another, and this is why they never miss their way; so then they have a full measure of reason, and some general notions, and a voice, know what accidents are, and express what they mean." It is indeed true that when two persons talk to one another they use a voice which expresses some meaning, and frequently describes what are called "accidents"; but would it not be very ridiculous to say we find that sort of thing in ants?
12. And he is not ashamed to add (that he may fully show the indecency of his opinions to those who shall come |123 after him), "Come! if one were to look down from heaven upon the earth, what difference would there seem to be between the doings of us men and those of ants and bees?" Now picture a spectator looking down from heaven, as Celsus supposes, and seeing the doings of men and ants: does he look upon the bodies of men and ants, and not perceive that in men the ruling principle is rational and set in action by reasoning power, and that, on the contrary, in ants the ruling principle is irrational, set in action without the help of reason, by impulse and fancy, along with some secret contrivance of nature? But it is absurd to suppose that any one who saw from heaven what is done upon earth should wish to look upon the bodies of men and ants from such a distance, and not be much more desirous to see the nature of the ruling principles and the source of impulses, whether rational or irrational. And if he once sees the source of all impulses, he will of course see also the difference, and the superiority of man not only to ants but also to elephants. For the spectator from heaven will discover in the irrational creatures, whatever their size, no other principle than, if I may so call it, irrationality; while in the rational creatures he will see reason, the common property of all men, and of beings heavenly and Divine, and perhaps also of the Supreme God Himself; and it is on account of reason that man is said to have been made in the image of God, for reason is the image of the Supreme God Himself. 404
13. Next, as if he were doing his utmost to degrade the human race and make it resemble irrational natures, and as if he were reluctant to give up anything at all related of irrational creatures which shows their dignity, he says that some of them have magical powers as well as men; so that not even in this respect can men claim special distinction, or dream of having superiority over the brute creation. This is what he tells us: "If men pique themselves on magic, the fact is that serpents and eagles are wiser than men in this respect |124 also; they, at all events, are acquainted with many antidotes and means of averting mischief, and specially with the virtue of certain stones in saving their nestlings; when men come upon these stones they think they have got hold of something wonderful." Now, in the first place, I cannot understand how he applies the name "magic" to the, shall we say? experience, or kind of instinct the animals have in using the antidotes which nature provides, for the name has another familiar application; it may be that he forgets himself, and, like a true Epicurean, wishes to disparage the use of such arts altogether because it belongs to the profession of magic. However, let us grant that men do pride themselves on their knowledge of these things, whether they are magicians or not. Does it follow that serpents are wiser on this showing than men, because they use fennel to clear their sight and quicken their movements, the truth being that they take this natural remedy not because they calculate (the effect), but because they are so constituted? Men do not arrive at such methods, like serpents, through the mere promptings of nature, but partly by experiment, partly by reason, and sometimes by calculation and by following the rules of science. Even supposing that eagles do find and carry to the nest what is called the "eagle stone" to keep their nestlings safe, does it follow that eagles are wise, or wiser than men, who because they have the faculty of reason, discover by experiment what is given to the eagles as a natural remedy, and use it intelligently? Suppose that other antidotes come to be known by the animals, is this any proof that in them it is not nature but reason that makes the discovery? If reason made the discovery, there would not have been one discovery, or two or three, confined to snakes, and something different among eagles, and so on with the other creatures; the discoveries would have been as numerous as they are among men. But the fact that the remedies are exclusively adapted to the particular nature of each animal, shows that the animals have not wisdom or |125 reason, but that for their good they are naturally disposed to such remedies through the creative power of the Divine reason.405
14. If, indeed, I wished to join issue with Celsus on these lines, I might quote the words of Solomon in the Proverbs: "There be four things which be little upon the earth, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their meat in the summer; the conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks; the locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands at one word of command; the lizard taketh hold with her hands, and though easily taken, yet is she in the strongholds of kings." 406 But the words are not clear, and I therefore do not avail myself of them; in accordance with the title of the book (it is called "Proverbs ") I regard them as "dark sayings" and look for the meaning. For the inspired writers are wont to distinguish the many ways of conveying a deeper meaning than the literal, and one of them is the Proverb. Hence it is that even in our Gospels our Saviour is reported to have said, "These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: the hour cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs." 407 Now it is not the ants we see that are wiser than the wise, but the ants proverbially indicated. And we say the same of the other animals. But Celsus thinks the books of Jesus and Christians are very simple common-place productions, and he supposes that they who treat them allegorically do violence to the meaning of the writers. Let this suffice to show how futile it is for Celsus to slander us; and let it be the reputation of his argument to prove that snakes and eagles are wiser than men.
15. And wishing to show at still greater length that even man's conceptions of God are no more remarkable than the mortal side of his nature, but that some of the irrational creatures have thoughts of God, concerning Whom the acutest thinkers everywhere, Greek and |126 Barbarian, have entertained such discordant opinions, he says, "If man because he has got hold of some Divine thoughts is supposed to surpass other animals, let me remind those who are of this opinion that many other animals will put in a claim to the same thing; and with very good reason; for what is more Divine than to foreknow and foreshow the future? Well, men learn the art from other animals, and specially from birds; and as many as profess to know what they point out are Soothsayers. Now, if birds, or any other oracular creatures gifted by God with foreknowledge, teach us by signs, it seems that they have naturally a closer intercourse with God, and are wiser than men and dearer to God. And intelligent men tell us that the birds have their assemblies, obviously more sacred than ours; and, further, that somehow or other they discover what the birds say, and that they give real proof of the discovery whenever they previously declare what the birds said, viz. that the birds would go away to some place and do this and that, and then show that the birds did go there and do what they foretold. And as for elephants, nothing could surpass their fidelity to oaths or be truer to Divine things, just because, I suppose, they have some knowledge of God." Now, here observe how often he begs the question, and takes for granted what is still speculative matter, the fact being that both Greeks and Barbarians have either discovered, or learned from certain demons, the ways of birds and other creatures, from which they are said to derive their powers of divination. In the first place, it is open to question whether there is any such art of augury, and, in general, any basis for divination by means of animals, or not. Secondly, among those who admit that there is an art of divination through birds, it is not agreed as to why the divination takes that form; for some say that it is from demons or gods of divination that the animals receive their impulses, the birds to different flights and cries, the other animals to such and such movements; while others hold that the souls of these animals are more |127 divine than others, and are adapted to the purpose; which is most improbable.
16. If Celsus wished to prove by the foregoing that the irrational creatures have a Divine nature and are wiser than man, he ought to have fully shown that there is such an art as divination; then, he should have more clearly shown how it can be defended; then have given clear grounds for rejecting the arguments of those who would do away with such arts; and, lastly, should have decisively upset the arguments of those who say that it is from demons or gods the animals derive their divination impulses. Then would be the time for dealing with the question, whether the soul of irrational creatures is more Divine than that of men. If he had thus shown a philosophic spirit in treating such important matters, we would have withstood his plausible assertions to the best of our power; we would have upset his statement that the irrational creatures are wiser than men, and we would have proved how false it is that they have more sacred conceptions of God than we have, and that they hold certain sacred assemblies.408 But, as things are, the man who reproaches us with believing in the Supreme God expects us to believe that the souls of birds have more divine and clearer conceptions than men. If this be indeed true, birds have clearer conceptions of God than Celsus has, and no wonder if they surpass Celsus who so belittles man. Celsus certainly does his best to make it look as though the birds have greater and diviner conceptions, I do not say than we Christians have, or the Jews, who use the same Scriptures as ourselves, but than even the Greeks had, who treated of God and the Divine nature, for they were men. So, according to Celsus, the race of divining birds, forsooth, understand the nature of God better than Pherecydes,409 and Pythagoras, and Socrates, and Plato. And it seems that we must go and be taught by the birds, in order that, as, according to Celsus, they teach us by |128 means of divination what is going to happen, so they may also rid men of their doubts respecting the Divine Being, by passing on the clear conception of Him to which they have attained. It follows that Celsus, holding as he does that birds are superior to men, should go to the birds for instruction, and not to one of those distinguished Greek philosophers.
17. But we must add a few remarks, out of many, in answer to the foregoing, for we wish to utterly refute the false opinions of Celsus and prove his ingratitude to his Maker; for Celsus, being a man, and being in honour, understandeth not;410 wherefore, he is not even like the birds and other irrational creatures which he considers to have the gift of divination; but yielding them the preeminence, he goes further than the Egyptians, who worship the irrational creatures as gods, and places himself, and, so far as he can, the whole human race, beneath the irrational creatures, for he believes that men have lower and meaner conceptions of God. Let our inquiry, then, be chiefly directed to the point whether there really is, or is not, an art of divination by birds, and the other animals believed to be "divining," for both ways the argument is to be treated with respect; on the one hand, it presses us not to accept any such thing as divination, lest the rational creatures should forsake the oracles of demons and resort to birds; on the other hand, it brings much clear evidence to show that many people have been preserved from the greatest dangers because they believed in divination by birds. For our present purpose let us allow that augury is a reality: my object is to show any persons who are prepossessed in its favour, that even if this is conceded, the superiority of man over the irrational creatures, and over the very creatures with powers of divination, is incomparably great. Let me then say that even though there were in them a Divine nature capable of predicting the future, and so passing rich, that out of its superfluity it could disclose the future to any man who |129 wished to know it, we must suppose that these creatures would much sooner know their own affairs. But if they knew their own affairs they would have taken care not to fly to any place where men set snares and nets to catch them, or archers make them a target and shoot them on the wing. And certainly, if eagles knew beforehand the designs upon their young ones, whether of serpents climbing to them and killing them, or of men trying to take them either for sport or to serve some other purpose, they would not have made their nests where they were likely to be exposed to these attacks; and, in general, not a single living creature could ever have been captured by men, inasmuch as it was more Divine and wiser than men.
18. Moreover, if birds of omen converse with one another;411 if, as Celsus says, the divining birds and the other irrational creatures having a Divine nature and conceptions of God, and having the knowledge of the future, disclosed this knowledge to others, the sparrow in Homer would not have made her nest where the serpent would destroy her and her little ones; and the serpent would not, as the same poet relates, have failed to guard itself against being caught by the eagle. Homer, that marvellous poet, thus tells the story of the sparrow----
"Behold a wonder! by Olympian Jove
Sent forth to light, a snake, with blood-red back,
Of aspect fearful, issuing from beneath
The altars, glided to the plane-tree straight.
There on the topmost bough, beneath the leaves
Cowering, a sparrow's callow nestlings lay;
Eight fledglings, and the parent bird the ninth.
All the eight nestlings, uttering piercing cries,
The snake devoured; and as the mother flew,
Lamenting o'er her offspring, round and round,
Uncoiling, caught her, shrieking, by the wing!
Then, when the sparrow's nestlings and herself
The snake had swallowed, by the God, who first
Sent him to light, a miracle was wrought:
For Jove, the deep-designing Saturn's son,
Turned him to stone; we stood, and wondering gazed."412 |130
Respecting the eagle he says----
"A soaring eagle in his talons bore
A dragon, huge of size, of blood-red line,
Alive, and breathing still, nor yet subdued;
For, twisting backward, through the breast he pierced
His bearer, near the neck; he, stung with pain,
Let fall his prey, which dropped amid the crowd;
Then screaming, on the blast was borne away.
The Trojans, shuddering, in their midst beheld
The spotted serpent, dire portent of Jove." 413
Shall we say that the eagle was a divining bird, but that the serpent, though the augurs make use of the creature, had not the gift of divination? The arbitrary distinction is easily refuted, and is not the supposition that both had the gift easily disproved? Would not the serpent, if he had possessed divining power, have taken care that the eagle did not treat him so? One might produce countless other instances to show that the animals have not in themselves a divining soul. But, as the poet says, and most men agree, "Olympian Jove himself sent him to the light"; 414 and if Apollo also uses a hawk as his messenger, something symbolical is intended, for a falcon is said to be Apollo's swift messenger.415
19. Our view is that certain worthless demons (Titans or Giants, if I may say so), having sinned against the true God and the angels in heaven, and, having fallen from heaven, wallow in the grosser bodily existences and the unclean things of earth; they have some insight into the future, and inasmuch as they are not encumbered with earthly bodies, and are set on that sort of thing (for they desire to seduce the human race from their allegiance to the real God), they conceal themselves in the more rapacious and savage beasts, and others of a craftier kind, and make them at any time do what they choose; or they turn the fancies of such creatures to such and such nights and movements; so that men, caught in the snare of that divining power which is in the irrational creatures, may |131 not seek Him Who embraceth all, nor try to discover the pure form of worship, but may sink by their speculations to the level of the birds and serpents upon earth, and still lower to foxes and wolves. For it has been observed by the experts that the clearest indications of the future are given through such creatures as these; it may be because the demons cannot so fully "possess" the gentler animals as they can the wild ones, which they closely resemble in wickedness, though the wickedness is not really wickedness in such animals.
20. And nothing in Moses appears to me more marvellous than what I am about to mention. Because he understands the different natures of animals, and has either learnt from God the facts about them and the demons which have affinity with each, or has by exercising his own wisdom made the discovery, all the animals which he classifies as unclean are those considered by the Egyptians and the rest of mankind to be connected with divination, while those not so connected are, generally speaking, clean animals. Amongst the unclean Moses places the wolf, the fox, the serpent, the eagle, the hawk, and such-like.416 And, speaking generally, you will find, not only in the Law but in the Prophets, that these animals are taken to represent the worst qualities, while there is no instance of a wolf or a fox being mentioned in connection with anything good. There seems to be, then, a fellowship between such kind of demons and each kind of animals. And as among men some are stronger than others, and not at all on account of their moral character: so some demons in things indifferent may be stronger than others; and some of them may use certain animals to deceive men, according to the pleasure of him who in the words of our Scriptures is called "the prince of this world";417 and different ones may show the future by means of another kind of animal. And observe that the demons are so filthy that even weasels are seized by them for revealing the future. Now judge for yourself which |132 is the best view to take, that God over All, and His Son, impel the birds and other creatures for divination, or that they who give the impulse to such animals, and not to men, though men are present, are worthless, and, as our sacred Scriptures call them, "unclean" demons.
21. But if the soul of birds is really Divine because the future is foretold by means of them, must we not much more admit that wherever omens are received by men, the soul of the medium through which the omens are heard is Divine? According to such teachers as these, we must believe that the slave in Homer who ground the corn was "divine"; for, speaking of the suitors, she said----
"Would that they might eat their last meal here!" 418
She was "divine": the great Ulysses, the friend of Homer's Athene, was not "divine," but understanding the omens given by the "divine" slave he rejoiced; in the words of the poet, "The noble Ulysses rejoiced at the omen." 419 Again, observe that if the birds really have a Divine soul and perceptions of God, or, as Celsus says, "the gods," when we men sneeze, we sneeze, of course, because we have a certain divinity and divining faculty of soul. For many testify to this; and the poet accordingly says----
"Telemachus sneezed as the prayer was offered." 420
Wherefore, also, Penelope says----
"Do you not see that my son sneezed as you spoke?"
22. The true God, however, in imparting a knowledge of the future employs neither irrational creatures nor ordinary men, but the holiest and purest souls of men, such as He inspires with prophetic power. And this explains why amongst the other wonderful precepts of the law of Moses we must place such prohibitions as "Ye shall not practise augury, nor observe birds." 421 And in another place, "For the nations, which the Lord thy |133 God shall destroy from before thy face, will hearken to omens and divinations; but the Lord thy God gave not so unto thee." 422 And elsewhere, "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from among thy brethren." 423 On one occasion God wished by means of an augur to turn His people from the practice of augury, and therefore caused a spirit in the augur to say, "Surely there is no augury with Jacob, nor is there divination with Israel; at the due season shall it be told to Jacob and to Israel, what God will perform." 424 Just because we are acquainted with these and similar passages, we wish to observe the mystical command, "Keep thy heart with all diligence," 425 lest some demon usurp the throne of reason, or some hostile spirit turn our imagination to follow his desires. And we pray that "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God" 426 may shine in our hearts, the Spirit of God dwelling in our imagination and impressing on us the things of God; "for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." 427
23. And we ought to know that the knowledge of the future is not necessarily Divine: for in itself it is a thing indifferent, and is found among both bad and good men. Physicians, at all events, by their medical knowledge know certain things beforehand, though they may be men of bad character; and so, also, shipmasters, though they may be rascals, know the signs of the weather, tempestuous winds, and atmospheric changes, through their peculiar experience and observation. I suppose no one will say that because they have this knowledge they are "divine," no matter what rascals they are. So then, when Celsus says, "What can be pronounced more Divine than to foreknow and foreshow the future?" he implies what is false. It is also false that "many of the animals have claims to Divine conceptions," for no irrational creature has a conception of God. It is also false that "the irrational creatures have |134 a closer intimacy with God"; for the fact is that bad men, however high their attainments, are far from intimacy with God. We maintain that only the truly wise and the sincerely godly approach at all near to intimacy with God: such men as our Prophets and Moses, to whom on account of the great purity of his character the Word has borne witness, saying, "Moses alone shall draw near to God, the rest shall not draw nigh." 428 Is it not impiety for the man who accuses us of impiety, to say that "the irrational creatures are not only wiser than man, but are also dearer to God?" And who would not shrink from heeding a man who says that the serpent, the fox, the wolf, the eagle, and the hawk are dearer to God than human kind? He will have to admit that if these creatures are dearer to God than men, these same creatures are obviously dearer to God than Socrates, and Plato, and Pythagoras, and Pherecydes, and the other exponents of God and the Divine nature, whose praises he sang not long before. One might really offer up a prayer for Celsus, and say, "If these creatures are dearer to God than men, may you be as dear to God as they are, and may you come to resemble those creatures which, according to you, are dearer to God than men!" And let him not suppose that such a prayer is really an imprecation; for who would not pray that he may become altogether such as they who, he is persuaded, are dearer to God than others, so that he, like them, may become dear to God?
24. And wishing to show that the assemblies of the irrational creatures are more sacred than ours, Celsus ascribes what he relates, not to ordinary mortals, but to "intelligent" men; though in truth only the good are intelligent, for no bad man is intelligent. Well, he speaks after this fashion: "Intelligent men say that the creatures have their assemblies, obviously more sacred than ours; and that they somehow discover what is said and show that they actually have the knowledge, inasmuch as they announce beforehand that the birds said they would go |135 away and do this or that, and then show that they did go away and do what they had already foretold." In reality, no "intelligent" person tells such stories, and no wise man says that the assemblies of the irrational creatures are more sacred than those of men. If, however, for the sake of testing the statements of Celsus, we examine what they lead to, it appears, according to him, that the assemblies of the irrational creatures are more sacred than those of the venerable Pherecydes, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato, and the Philosophers in general, which, on the face of it, is not only unseemly, but most absurd. But if we are to believe that certain men, who have derived their information from the inarticulate cry of the birds, announce beforehand that the birds will go to some place and do this or that, we shall maintain that the information has been given to men by demons through certain signs, for the purpose of men being deceived by demons, and their understanding dragged down from heaven and from God to earth and places lower still.
25. I do not know how Celsus came to hear tell of an oath being taken by elephants, and that they show more fidelity towards the Divine Being than we men, and that they have a knowledge of God. I know a good many marvellous stories about the animal and its docility, but I am not aware that any one has spoken of an elephant's oaths, unless, perhaps, Celsus calls their docility and the sort of covenant they make once for all with men, the keeping of an oath; but that again is absurd. There are instances, though rare, of elephants, after seeming to be tamed, fiercely attacking men and killing them, and of their being therefore condemned to death as of no further use. And. to prove his point, as he thinks, that the stork has more piety than men, our opponent adduces what is related about its loving and cherishing its parents and bringing them food. I must therefore add that even this conduct of the storks does not proceed from a regard to what is right, nor from reasoning, but from nature, it |136 being nature's aim in fashioning them, to set an example in irrational creatures strong enough to shame men into showing gratitude to their parents. If Celsus had known the vast difference between doing these things with the aid of reason and doing them without the aid of reason, and by the mere impulses of nature, he would never have said that storks have more piety than men. Further, as if determined to uphold the piety of irrational creatures, Celsus adduces the fable of the Arabian creature, the Phoenix, which is said to visit Egypt at long intervals, and to bring its father, dead and buried in a globe of myrrh, and deposit the remains at the temple of the Sun. Now, even supposing what is here related to be true, it may be the result of natural processes; for Divine Providence has even in the different constitutions of living creatures given proof to man of the rich variety to be found in the ordering of the world, a variety extending even to the birds; and it brought into being a unique creature, not that men might marvel at the creature, but at its Creator.
26. To all this Celsus adds the following: "Just as all things have not been made for the sake of lion, eagle, or dolphin, so neither have they for the sake of man; but the aim was that this world, as God's work, might be a complete and perfect unity;429 and this is why all the parts have been proportioned, not to one another, except in a secondary sense, but to the whole, and God cares for the whole; and Providence never forsakes it, nor does it degenerate, nor does God in process of time turn it again to Himself, nor is He angry on account of men any more than on account of apes or flies; nor does He threaten these creatures, each of which has in its turn received its appointed lot." Let us, if only briefly, meet these allegations. I suppose I have already said enough to show how everything has been made for man, and for every rational creature; for it is chiefly on account of the rational creature that everything has been created. Celsus may tell us that the world exists no |137 more for man than it does for the lion, or the other creatures which he mentions; hut we shall maintain that the Creator has made these things not for the lion, the eagle, or the dolphin, but all things for the sake of the rational creature; and this is so, in the words of Celsus, "in order that this world may be, as God's work, a complete and perfect unity"; for we must acknowledge the good sense of this. But God's care is not merely universal, as Celsus thinks, but while He cares for the whole, He has a special care for every rational creature. And a general Providence will never fail; for it is His plan, even though there be a general deterioration because of the sinning rational portion, to purify all creation, and in process of time to turn it back to Himself. It is true that God is never angry on account of apes and flies; but inasmuch as men have transgressed the promptings of nature,430 He brings upon them judgment and chastisement, and threatens them through the Prophets and the Saviour Who came to save the whole human race; that through His threatening they who hear may be turned, and they who neglect the words intended to turn them may fitly pay the penalty which it is proper that God should, according to His own will, and as is expedient for the whole, inflict on those who need such painful treatment and correction. But our fourth book is now large enough, and we will therefore here end the discourse. God grant through His Son, Who is God the Word, and Wisdom, and Truth, and Righteousness, and whatsoever else the sacred Scriptures say of His Divinity, that we may begin the fifth volume to the profit of our readers, and finish it well, with the help of His Word abiding in our soul!
CHAP. XXI. ----Of Free Will, with an explanation and interpretation of those sayings of Scripture which seem to destroy it; such as the following:----
a. "The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh."
b. "I will take away their stony hearts, and will give |138 them hearts of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep mine ordinances."
c. "That seeing they may not see, and hearing they may hear and not understand, lest haply they should turn again, and it should be forgiven them."
d. "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy."
e. "It is of God both to will and to do"
f."So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth."
1. Since the doctrine of a righteous judgment of God forms part of 431 the preaching of the Church, and that doctrine if believed to be true stimulates the hearers, of course consenting that praiseworthy or blameworthy conduct is in our own power, to live good lives and by all means to avoid sin, come let us briefly discuss a few points connected with Free Will, for the subject is of the utmost importance. And that we may understand what Free Will is, I must unfold the meaning of it, so that when this is cleared up the question may be accurately stated. Now of things that move, some have the cause of motion in themselves, while those of a different kind are moved only from without. To this latter class belong portable things only, for example, wood and stones, and all matter which is held together by its constitution only.432 And on this occasion we will not apply the term "motion" to the flux of bodies, for it is not necessary for our purpose. But animals, plants, and generally whatever is held together by a natural soul,433 including metals, as some say, have the cause of motion in themselves. Besides these, fire is self-moved, and so perhaps are fountains. And of |139 things which have the cause of motion in themselves, some are said to be moved of 434 themselves, others by themselves; lifeless things of themselves, living things by themselves. And the living things are moved by themselves when there arises within them a phantasy, that is, a desire or feeling,435 which calls forth an instinct. And, again, in certain of the living creatures the phantastic nature not only calls forth an instinct, but does so regularly; for instance, in the spider a "phantasy" of weaving arises and the instinct to weave follows, its phantastic nature regularly urging it to do so, the creature having been entrusted with nothing more than its phantastic nature; and in the bee the instinct is to make cells of wax.
2. The rational creature, however, in addition to its phantastic nature has reason, which distinguishes between the phantasies, rejecting some, approving others, so that the creature may be guided accordingly. Now it is the nature of reason to have promptings to the contemplation of virtue and vice; and if, yielding to these promptings, we choose the former and shun the latter, we deserve praise for devoting ourselves to the practice of virtue, or blame if we take the opposite course. We must not, however, fail to remark that, though for the most part 436 the nature of animals is adapted to all their needs, it is so in varying degrees, sometimes more, sometimes less; so that hounds in hunting and horses in war are not, if I may say so, far from the rational creature. Now, whether something external shall chance to excite this or that phantasy in us, confessedly does not rest with us; but it is for reason and nothing else to decide whether we shall use what has happened in a particular way or otherwise, reason either urging us, according to its promptings, to follow our better and nobler instincts, or misleading us so that we do the reverse.|140
3. If any one says that the outward world is so constituted that one cannot resist it, let him study his own feelings and movements, and see whether there are not some plausible motives to account for his approval and assent, and the inclination of his reason to a particular object. To take an illustration, suppose a man to have made up his mind to exercise self-control and refrain from sexual intercourse, and then let a woman come upon the scene and solicit him to act contrary to his resolution; she is not cause sufficient to make him break his resolution. It is just because he likes the luxury and softness of the pleasure, and is unwilling to resist it, or stand firm in his determination, that he indulges in the licentious practice. On the contrary, the same thing may happen to a man of greater knowledge and better disciplined; he will not escape the sensations and incitements; but his reason, inasmuch as it is strengthened and nourished by exercise, and has firm convictions on the side of virtue, or is near to having them, stops the excitements short and gradually weakens the lust.
4. Now, when the facts stand thus, to excuse ourselves by putting the blame on outward things, declaring ourselves to be like wood and stone drawn hither and thither by the outward things that move them, is neither truth nor candour, and no one but a man who wishes to give a false conception of Free Will would make such a statement. For if we were to ask him what Free Will is, he would say that my will is free when I purpose to do something, and nothing from without opposes and incites to the contrary. And again, on the other hand, to blame our mere natural constitution 437 is absurd; for reason takes and teaches the most licentious and savage men, if they will but follow her exhortation, and changes them, so that the exhortation is very efficacious, and the change for the better very great; and the most licentious men frequently surpass in goodness those who do not at first seem likely to be licentious by nature, while the most savage men change |141 and become so gentle, that men who were never so savage as they, seem savage in comparison with some individual who has adopted gentler ways. On the other hand, we see men of a different type, men of the utmost steadiness and gravity,438 turning aside to low amusements, and thus stripped of their steadiness and gravity; so that they change to licentiousness, oftentimes beginning this licentiousness in middle life, and falling into disorderly ways after that, in the natural course of things, the unsteadiness of youth has passed away. Reason then shows that outward things are not in our own power, but that it is our business to make reason inquire and judge how we ought to meet any particular combination of circumstances, and turn it to account this way or the contrary.
5. That it is our business to lead a good life, and that God asks this of us, inasmuch as it does not depend on Him, and does not come from some different god, or, as some suppose, from fate, but is a matter for ourselves, the prophet Micah will testify, when he says, "Was it shewed thee, O man, what is good? What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justice, and love mercy, and to be ready to walk with the Lord thy God?" 439 And Moses, "I have set before thee the way of life and the way of death. Choose the good, and walk therein." 440 And Esaias, "If ye be willing, and will hearken unto me, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse, and will not hearken unto me, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." 441 And in the Psalms, "Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against those that oppress them":442 which shows that it was in the power of the people to hearken and walk in the ways of God. And the Saviour says, "But I say unto you, Resist not him that is evil";443 and, "That every one who is angry |142 with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment";444 and, "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." 445 And if He gives any other commandments, He speaks on the supposition that it is in our power to keep what is enjoined; and with good reason, if we are to be in danger of the judgment for transgressing them. Whence also He says, "Every one which heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, which built his house upon the rock"; and so on. "But he that heareth and doeth not, is likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand";446 and so on. And, speaking to those on the right hand, "Come, ye blessed of my Father," and so forth; "for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink";447 which shows very clearly that because they deserve to be praised He gives them the promises. And, on the contrary, He says to the others, because in comparison with them they deserved to be blamed, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire." 448 And let us see how Paul also discourses to us on the supposition that we have Free Will and are ourselves responsible for being lost or saved. "Or despisest thou," he says,449 "the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life: but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honour and peace |143 to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." There are, indeed, countless passages in the Scriptures which very clearly support the doctrine of Free Will.
6. But since certain passages in the Old Testament and in the New tend to the opposite conclusion, viz. that it is not in our power to keep the commandments and be saved, or to transgress them and perish, let us in turn take some of these, and look at the explanations of them; so that a reader studying our examples may similarly pick out for himself all the passages which seem to destroy Free Will, and may consider the way to explain them. No doubt what is related of Pharaoh, concerning whom God says repeatedly, "I will harden Pharaoh's heart," 450 has troubled many. For if he is hardened by God, and sins because he is hardened, he does not cause himself to sin, nor, if this is so, is Pharaoh a free agent; and similarly, some one will say that the perishing are not free agents, and that their perishing will not be their own doing. Again, in Ezekiel it is said, "I will take away their stony hearts, and will give them hearts of flesh: that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances." 451 This is disturbing, for it seems to say that God gives the power to walk in the statutes and to keep the ordinances, inasmuch as He has taken away that which hinders, viz. the stony heart, and has put in them something better, the heart of flesh. Let us look, too, at the passage in the Gospel, where the Saviour replies to those who asked why He spoke to the multitude in parables. "That," He says, "seeing they may not perceive; and hearing they may not understand; lest haply they should turn again, and it should be forgiven them." 452 Further, in Paul we find, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy." 453 And elsewhere, "It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do." 454 And in another place, "So then |144 he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will?" 455 And "This persuasion 456 is of him that calleth and not of ourselves." 457 "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? " 458 And again, "Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus? Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" This in itself is surely enough to greatly trouble most readers, and give the impression that man is not a free agent, but that God saves and destroys whomsoever He wishes.
7. Let us begin, then, with what is said about Pharaoh's being hardened by God, so that he might not let the people go; and with this shall also be examined the apostolic statement, "So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth." 459 And since some heterodox thinkers use these passages, themselves almost destroying Free Will, for the sake of introducing perishing natures incapable of being saved, and different natures which are being saved, because they cannot possibly be lost; and since they say that Pharaoh being of a perishing nature was therefore hardened by God, Who hath mercy on the spiritual, but hardeneth the earthy; come, let us see what it is they mean. We will ask them if Pharaoh was of an earthy nature; and if they answer "Yes," we will tell them that the man with an earthy nature is altogether disobedient to God; and if he be thus disobedient, what need is there for hardening his heart, and this not once but many times? Unless perhaps (seeing that it was possible for him to obey, and he certainly would have obeyed, inasmuch as he was not earthy, because he was put to shame by the signs and wonders) God wanted him still more disobedient for the sake of showing forth mighty deeds to the saving of the |145 many, and therefore hardened his heart. This shall be our first argument against them in order to overthrow their assumption that Pharaoh was of a perishing nature. And we shall give the same answer respecting the Apostle's statement. Does God really harden any? Does He harden the perishing, because He believes that they will be partially obedient unless they are hardened? or, forsooth, those who would be saved, because they have not a perishing nature? And on whom hath He mercy? Is it on those who will be saved? But what need have they of a second mercy, seeing that once for all they have been so fashioned that they will be saved, and that they are certain to be blessed on account of their nature? Unless, perhaps, since it is possible for them to perish if they have not mercy shown them, they have mercy shown them, so that they may not incur destruction to which they are liable, but may come to be numbered with those who are being saved. This is our reply to those men.
8. But we must raise another question in reply to those who think they understand the word "harden." What do they mean by saying that God by His operation hardens the heart, and what is His object in so doing? Let them, at all events, keep to a conception of God consistent with His being really just and good. If they object to this, let us for the present waive the point, and only say just; and I invite them to show how the good and just God, or the just God, to say no more, manifests His justice by hardening the heart of a man who is perishing through being hardened; and how the just God can be the cause of a man's disobedience and destruction, seeing that men are punished by Him for their hardness and because they do not obey Him? And why does God also blame Pharaoh, saying, "Thou wilt not let my people go.460 Behold, I smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, and thy first-born";461 and whatever else is recorded as spoken by God to Pharaoh through the mouth of Moses. Any fair-minded man who believes that the Scriptures are |146 true, and that God is just, must do his best to show how in using such expressions God is clearly understood to be just; for if any one should have the effrontery to stand up and denounce the Creator for His wickedness,462 we should want other arguments to answer him. But since our opponents say they are disposed to regard Him as just, and we regard Him as both just and good, let us consider how the good and just God could harden the heart of Pharaoh.
9. Let us see, then, whether an illustration which the Apostle used in the Epistle to the Hebrews will help us to show how by one operation God hath mercy on whom He will, and hardens whom He will; not that God intends to harden: God's purpose is merciful; but the hardening is a result thereof, through man's inherent wickedness, and God is therefore said to harden him that is hardened. "The land," he says, "which hath drunk the rain that cometh upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them for whose sake it is also tilled, receiveth blessing from God: but if it beareth thorns and thistles, it is rejected and nigh unto a curse; whose end is to be burned." 463 So then, in respect of the rain there is one operation; but while there is one operation in respect of the rain, the land which is tilled bears fruit, and the land which is neglected and barren bears thorns. It would sound harsh for the sender of the rain to say, "I made the fruits and the thorns to grow that are in the land"; but however harsh it might sound, it would nevertheless be true. For if there had been no rain, there would have been neither fruits nor thorns; but because there were seasonable and moderate rains, both fruits and thorns grew. It is the land which hath drunk the rain that cometh frequently upon it, and beareth thorns and thistles, that is rejected and nigh unto a curse. So then, the blessing of the rain came also upon the inferior land; but it was the inherent badness of the land, left uncared for and uncultivated, which caused thorns and |147 thistles to grow. Similarly, God's marvellous doings are, as it were, the rain; but men's different purposes 464 are, as it were, the cultivation or neglect of the land; the nature of the land is one and the same.
10. Suppose the sun were to speak and say, "I melt and dry up." Melting and drying up are the contraries of one another, but it would not speak falsely, because of the subject matter:465 wax being melted, and clay dried up, by one and the same heat. Similarly, the one operation of God by means of Moses proved the hardening of Pharaoh on account of his evil disposition, and the obedience of the mixed multitudes of the Egyptians who went out with the Hebrews. And the brief statement that the heart of Pharaoh was somewhat softened, inasmuch as he said, "Only ye shall not go very far away: ye shall go a three days' journey, but leave your wives"; 466 and whatever else he said, slightly yielding to the marvellous deeds of Moses, shows that the signs produced some effect upon him, but not the full effect. Now there would not have been even this degree of softening, if, as is thought by the many, the meaning of "I will harden Pharaoh's heart" is that the hardening was effected by God Himself. And it is not absurd to tone down the harshness of such expressions as we do in common life. It often happens that kind masters say to their servants, who are being ruined by their kindness and forbearance, "I have spoiled you"; "I am to blame for such and such offences." We ought to attend to the nature and force of what is said, and not quibble because we do not plainly catch the meaning of the expression. Paul, at any rate, no doubt after careful inquiry, says to the sinner, "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 467 But, after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation |148 of the righteous judgment of God." Now, let us suppose that what the Apostle says to the sinner is addressed to Pharaoh, and we see how well the declaration would suit him; for after his hardness and impenitent heart he was treasuring up for himself wrath; and his hardness would not have been so clearly proved, nor have been so manifest, if the signs had not been wrought, or, if they had been wrought, but had not been so many and so great.
11. But since such interpretations are far from convincing and are thought to be forced, let us look at the word of Prophecy, and see what the many say who have experienced the abundant goodness of God though they may not have lived good lives, but afterwards sinned: "O Lord, why dost thou make us to err from thy way? Wherefore hardenest thou our heart that we fear not thy name? Return for thy servants' sake, the tribes of thine inheritance, that for a little while we may inherit thy holy mount." 468 And in Jeremiah, "O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed." 469 For when the suppliants for mercy say, "Wherefore hardenest thou our heart that we fear not thy name?",470 the meaning is, in effect, something like this: "Wherefore didst thou spare us so long, not visiting us to take vengeance on our sins, but leaving us alone until our offences became so great?" God leaves the greater number of men without chastisement, so that the character of each one may be thoroughly tested from our voluntary conduct, and that through the trial the good may be made manifest, and the rest, not without being known,----I will not say to God, for He knows all things before they begin,471 ----but to the rational creatures and themselves, may afterwards light on a way of healing; for they would never have realised the benefit, if they had not condemned themselves; and this is expedient for every one, that he may perceive his own peculiar nature and the grace which God gives. But if a man does not perceive his own weakness and the |149 grace of God, though he be benefited without having had experience of himself and without having condemned himself, he will imagine that the blessing bestowed upon him by the grace of heaven is his own brave and manly conduct. And this supposition, filling him with pride, will be the cause of his downfall; as we think happened to the Devil, because he gave himself credit for the privileges which he enjoyed when he was blameless. "For every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled," and "Every one that humbleth himself shall be exalted." 472 Consider, further, that for this cause the Divine mysteries are hidden from the wise and understanding,473 viz. that, as the Apostle says, "No flesh may glory before God"; and they are revealed to babes, who, when they have passed their infancy, have come to better things, and remember that if they have reached the height of blessedness, the credit is not so much due to themselves as to the unspeakable bounty of God.
12. So then, he that 474 is left without chastisement is so left by the Divine judgment, and God is long-suffering towards some sinners, not without reason, but because it will be good for them, having regard to the immortality of the soul and eternal life, that they be not too soon assisted in the attainment of salvation, but be slowly brought thereto after they have had experience of much evil. For as physicians, though they might quickly cure a man, will adopt the opposite of remedial measures whenever they suspect lurking mischief, because by so doing they mean to make the cure more permanent, and think it better to keep the patient for a long time in feverishness and sickness, so that he may make a sounder recovery, than that he should soon seem to pick up strength, but suffer a relapse, and the too hasty cure prove to be only temporary: so God also, knowing the secrets of the heart and having foreknowledge of the future, in His long-suffering perhaps lets things take their course, and by means of outward circumstances draws forth the secret evil, in order to |150 cleanse him, who through neglect, has harboured the seeds of sin; so that a man having vomited them when they have come to the surface, even if he be far gone in wickedness, may afterwards find strength when he has been cleansed from his wickness and been renewed. For God governs the souls of men, not, if I may so speak, according to the scale of an earthly life of fifty years, but by the measure of eternity; for He has made the intellectual nature incorruptible and akin to Himself; and the rational soul is not debarred of healing, as if this present life were all.
13. Now let us make use of the following illustration from the Gospel: There is a rock with a scanty surface soil; if the seeds fall into that soil, they quickly spring up, but when they have sprung up, once the sun is risen, they are scorched and wither away because they have no root.475 Now this rock is the soul of man, hardened through neglect, and through wickedness turned to stone; for no man's heart is created stony by God, but it becomes such through wickedness. Suppose one were to blame the husbandman for not sowing his seed on the rocky ground earlier, because some other rocky ground which had received the seed was seen to be flourishing; the husbandman might reply, "I will sow this land later when I have dressed 476 it with what will keep back 477 what I intend to sow; for the slower and safer method will suit this land better than it would the land which takes the seed sooner and more superficially"; we should give the husbandman credit for speaking reasonably and for understanding his work. So, too, the great Husbandman of every nature puts off the well-doing, which might too soon be reckoned such, in order that it may not be superficial. But some one may here object, "How is it that some of the seeds fall upon the soul which is like a rock with its thin covering of soil?" In reply, let us say that it is better for such a soul which has too hastily resolved on the higher life, and is not treading the path which leads to it, to get what it wishes, so |151 that, condemning itself for its impatience, it may have long patience hereafter to receive its natural cultivation. For our 478 souls, so to speak, are countless, and their characters countless, and their emotions, dispositions, purposes, and instincts innumerable; there is but One Who ordered them, and He the Best; He understandeth the seasons, and the proper helps, and the ways of guidance, and the paths, the God and Father of All, Who knoweth how He is guiding even Pharaoh through many experiences and through the drowning in the sea, though His ordering of Pharaoh's welfare does not end there. For Pharaoh was not destroyed when he was drowned. "In the hand of God are both we and our words: All wisdom also and knowledge of workmanship?" 479 So far, briefly, in defence of the statement that Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and in explanation of the words, "On whom he will he hath mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." 480
14. Now, let us look at the passage from Ezekiel, "I will take away their stony hearts from them, and will give them hearts of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep mine ordinances." 481 If God when He wishes takes away their stony hearts and puts in them hearts of flesh, so that His ordinances are kept and His commandments observed, the putting away of wickedness does not depend upon ourselves. For the taking away of stony hearts can have but one meaning, viz., that from whom God chooses, the wickedness in which any man is hardened is put away; and as for the creating of a heart of flesh, that a man may walk in the ordinances of God and keep His commandments, what does this mean but that the man begins to yield, does not stubbornly withstand the truth, and has the power to practise virtue? And if God promises to do this, and until God takes away the stony hearts, we do not put them away, it is clear that the putting away of our wickedness does not depend upon ourselves; and if we contribute nothing towards the creation within us of the heart of flesh, |152 but it is the work of God, it follows that a virtuous life will not be our work, but altogether [the work of] Divine grace. This is what any one will say who from the bare words seeks to destroy Free Will. In reply we shall say that we ought thus to understand these passages. Suppose some one ignorant and uneducated to become conscious of his defects, either through the admonition of his teacher, or simply of himself, and then to put himself in the hands of a man whom he thinks capable of leading him into education and virtue; when he thus surrenders himself, his instructor promises to take away the lack of education and to give him an education; not, however, as though the educating and the escape from the want of it in no way depend on the pupil having offered himself for treatment: he only promises to benefit his pupil because he desires to improve. Thus the Divine Word promises to take away the wickedness, which it calls the stony heart, of those who come to it, not if they are unwilling, but if they submit themselves to the Physician of the sick; just as in the Gospels, the sick are found coming to the Saviour and begging to be healed and restored to health. We may say that if the blind received their sight, it was the doing of the sufferers, inasmuch as they believed they could be restored and begged the blessing, and that it was the Saviour's doing, inasmuch as He did restore their sight. So, also, the Word of God promises to implant knowledge in those who come to it, by taking away the stony and hard heart, that is to say, their wickedness, so that a man may walk in the Divine commandments and keep the Divine ordinances. 15. Then there was the passage from the Gospel, in which the Saviour said that His reason for speaking to those without in parables was, "That seeing they may not perceive, and hearing they may not understand, lest haply they should turn again, and it should be forgiven them." 482 Our opponents will say, "If it is certainly the case that some hearers turn because they hear clearer teaching, and so turn that they become worthy of the forgiveness of sins, |153 and whether they hear the clearer teaching or not does not depend upon them but upon the teacher, and the reason why he does not speak to them more clearly is that they may not see and understand, their salvation does not depend upon themselves; and if this is so, we are not free agents as regards salvation and perdition." If it were not for the additional words, "Lest haply they should turn again, and it should be forgiven them," it would be a convincing reply to say that the Saviour did not wish those who were unlikely to become good and upright to understand the deeper, mystical truths, and He therefore spoke to them in parables; but, as it is, when we find the words, "Lest haply they should turn again, and it should be forgiven them," our defence is more difficult. In the first place, then, we must note the passage in connection with the heterodox, who hunt up such portions of the Old Testament, because in them, as they make bold to say, the cruelty of the Creator 483 shows itself, the spirit of revenge and retaliation which bad men display, or whatever they like to call it, their only object being to prove that there is no goodness in the Creator; and in reading the New Testament they do not accord it fair and equal treatment, but dismiss such passages as resemble those they think deserving of censure in the Old Testament. For the Saviour is clearly shown in the Gospel, and they themselves so take the above words, to have had this motive in not speaking plainly, viz. "That men may not turn, and having turned become worthy of remission of sins"----a passage which in itself rivals any like it from the Old Testament which are impugned. But if they seek a defence of the Gospel, we must ask them whether their inconsistent treatment of similar questions is not culpable, inasmuch as they take no offence at the New Testament but seek to defend it, while they attack the Old Testament for such-like things, though they ought to defend them like those from the New Testament. And let us hereby teach them on account of the resemblances to consider all |154 as the Scriptures of one God. Now let us offer the best defence we can in the matter before us.
16. When we were investigating the story of Pharaoh we said that sometimes a too rapid cure is not for the good of the patients; for if, having got themselves into trouble, they were to be relieved of their sufferings on easy terms, they would think little of the evil because it was soon cured, and through not being on their guard against falling into it would fall into it again. Wherefore, in such cases the Eternal God, Who knoweth the secret things and knoweth all things before they be,484 according to His goodness will not give the sufferers too speedy assistance, and, if I may so say, helps them by not helping them,485 because that is best for them. It is probable, then, that those "without," 486 of whom we are speaking, inasmuch as the Saviour saw, as we suppose, that they would not be steadfast in their conversion if they clearly heard what He said, were so treated by the Lord that they should not distinctly hear the deeper truths; lest haply, having turned too quickly, and having been healed by gaining forgiveness, they should despise the wounds of their wickedness as .trifling and easily cured, and again, even more quickly than before, suffer from them. Perhaps also, while paying the penalty for their former sins, offences against virtue which they committed through forsaking her, they had not filled the proper time; so that, being forsaken of the Divine superintendence, and having had enough of the evils which they themselves sowed, they are afterwards called to a more steadfast repentance, and will not speedily fall into the sins into which they fell before, because they mocked at the worth of goodness, and abandoned themselves to the lower life. Those, then, who are said to be "without," of course as compared with those "within," inasmuch as they are not very far distant from those within, these last being the inner circle who hear distinctly, hear indistinctly because they are addressed in parables, but they do hear. |155 Others, again, of those "without," they who are called the people of Tyre,487 although it was foreknown that they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes, if the Saviour came near their borders, do not even hear what He said to those "without." 488 The reason probably is that these Tyrians were far less deserving than those "without"; and the Saviour intended that at another season, when it has become more tolerable for them than for those who did not receive the Word, and who reminded him of the Tyrians, they may hear under more favourable conditions, and may more steadfastly repent. And observe whether, as we prosecute the inquiry,489 we do not more and more strive to every way preserve piety towards God and His Christ, endeavouring, for we know how marvellous these things are, to defend by all means the manifold providence of God Who taketh thought for an immortal soul. If, indeed, any one should ask concerning those who were reproached by the Saviour, because, though they saw marvellous things and heard Divine words, they did not profit, while the Tyrians would have repented if such things had been said and clone among them: if he were to raise the question and ask, Why in the world did the Saviour preach to such people to their hurt, so that a heavier burden of sins might be imputed to them? we must reply that He Who understands the dispositions of those who blame His providence, and say that it explains their unbelief, because it has not granted them to see what it privileged others to behold, and has not arranged for them to hear what others have heard to their profit, He, inasmuch as He wishes to show the unreasonableness of their defence, grants those things for which the accusers of His government ask, so that after they have received them they may none the less be convicted of deep impiety, seeing that they do not surrender themselves that they may be profited, and may therefore cease from such audacity; and, being so far free, may learn that God sometimes lingers |156 and delays out of kindness to some men, not granting them to see and hear things which, if seen and heard, would convict them of still more grievous sin, forasmuch as after such mighty works they did not believe.
17. Now let us look at the words, "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy." 490 They who take hold of the passage say, "If it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy," salvation does not depend upon ourselves, but upon the way 491 they are constituted by Him Who makes them what they are, or on the choice 492 of Him Who hath mercy when He pleases! We must ask the objectors this question: Is the willing that which is good a good or a bad thing? and the running of the man who wishes to reach the goal by zealously pursuing that which is good, is this deserving of praise or blame? If they tell us that it deserves blame, their answer will be absurd, for the saints will and run, and, of course, herein do nothing deserving blame. If they say that to will that which is good is good, and to run after that which is good is good, we will ask how the perishing nature wills the better course; for it is like a bad tree bearing good fruit, if willing the better course is really good. And, thirdly, they will say that to will that which is good and run after that which is good belongs to the class of things indifferent, and is neither good nor bad.493 In reply to this it must be said that if willing the good and running after the good is a thing indifferent, then its opposite is also a thing indifferent, that is to say, willing that which is evil and running after that which is evil. But, in fact, to will that which is evil and run after that which is evil, is not a thing indifferent. Therefore, to will that which is good and run after that which is good, is not a thing indifferent.
18. Some such defence as this, I think, we can offer to |157 the words, "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy." 494 In the Book of Psalms Solomon says (for he is the author of the Song of Ascents 495 which we are about to quote), "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." 496 He does not mean to dissuade us from building, nor is he teaching us not to watch so as to guard the city of our soul, but he is showing that what is built apart from God, and is not blessed with His guardianship, is built in vain and kept to no purpose, because God might reasonably have been called the Lord of the building, and the Master of the Universe, the Ruler of the guard of the city. Suppose, therefore, we were to say that such a building is not the work of the builder, but God's work; and that if the city has suffered nothing from its enemies, success is not to be attributed to the watchman, but to God over all, we should not err: for it is understood that man plays his part, though the manliness and virtue is thankfully ascribed to God Who brought it to perfection. Similarly, inasmuch as human willing is not sufficient for the attainment of the end in view, nor the running, as if we were athletes, sufficient for grasping the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,497 for these results are secured with God's assistance, it is well said that "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy." 498 The same might be said of husbandry, as it is written, "I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase";499 and if there are abundant fruits, we could not with piety say that this is the work of the husbandman, or the work of him that watereth, but the work of God; so also our perfecting is not brought about if we do nothing at all, though it is not completed by us, but God effects the greater part of it. And that what we |158 say may carry clear conviction, we will take an illustration from navigation. If we regard the winds that blow, the settled state of the weather, and the brightness of the stars, all contributing to the safety of those on board, how much could we credit seamanship with for bringing the vessel into harbour? The shipmasters themselves from motives of piety do not often venture to affirm that they have saved the ship, but ascribe everything to God; not as though they had done nothing, but because Providence has contributed to the result immensely more than their skill. And certainly in the saving of our souls what God gives is immensely more than what comes from our own ability;500 and this, I think, accounts for the words, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy." For if we must take the words, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy," as our opponents suppose, the commandments are superfluous, and Paul to no purpose blames some for having fallen into sin, and congratulates others on their uprightness, and lays down laws for the churches; and on their showing it is useless for us to devotedly will the better life, useless to earnestly resolve to run. But not in vain does Paul give his advice, blaming some, congratulating others; and not in vain do we devotedly will the better life and press on to things which excel. So, then, they have not well understood the passage.
19. Besides these there is the passage, "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to work." 501 Some say, "If the willing comes from God, and the working from God, even if we will badly and work badly, God is the original source of our so doing; and if this be so, we are not free agents. On the other hand, when we will what is better and work the things that excel, since the willing and the working come from God, it is not we who have done the things that excel; we, indeed, seemed to do them, but the doing them was God's gift; so that, according to this also, we are not free agents." In reply, we have to |159 say that the Apostle's language does not imply that the willing of evil, or the willing of good, is of God, and similarly, the working of what is better or worse, but willing and running in general. For as it is from God that we are living creatures and men, so also it is from Him that we have the power of willing in general, as I said, and the power of motion in general. And as, although in virtue of our being living creatures we have the power of motion and can move the members of our bodies, our hands or feet, for instance, we could not reasonably say that the specific movement comes from God, the movements to strike, or kill, or take away another man's goods, but must maintain that motion in general is indeed a gift from God, though we use it for either bad or good purposes: so the working which stamps us as living creatures, we have received from God, and the willing we received from the Creator; but we use that power of willing either for the noblest purposes, or for the opposite, and so also the power of working.
20. Still, the utterance of the Apostle will seem to force us to the conclusion that we are not free agents. Putting an objection, he says, "Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hadst thou made me thus? Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" 502 A reader may well say, "If, as the potter from the same lump makes some vessels unto honour and some unto dishonour, so also God makes some unto salvation and some to perdition, it follows that we have nothing to do with our salvation or perdition: nor are we free agents." Let me ask a reader who makes this use of the words, if he can imagine the Apostle contradicting himself. I do not think any one will dare say this. Well, then, if the Apostle does not contradict himself, how does the reader who thus understands him mean to show that |160 the Apostle reasonably finds fault when he blames the Corinthian fornicator, or those who fell into sin and did not repent of the lasciviousness and incontinence which they committed? 503 And how is it that he blesses for their well-doing those whom he praises, as, for instance, the house of Onesiphorus, saying, "The Lord grant mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus: for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was in Rome, he sought me diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him to find mercy of the Lord in that day." 504 Surely it is not consistent for the same Apostle to censure the sinner because he deserves blame, and congratulate the well-doer because he deserves praise; and, contrariwise, as if nothing depended on ourselves, maintain that the Creator of the world is responsible for one vessel being unto honour, and another unto dishonour. How can it be sound doctrine that, "We must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad," 505 if they who have done evil have so conducted themselves because they were created vessels of dishonour, and they who have lived virtuous lives have done that which is right, because originally they were fashioned thereto and were vessels of honour? And again, is not what is said elsewhere inconsistent with the view that it is the fault of the Creator if "one vessel is in honour and another in dishonour," as the critics infer from what we have quoted? "In a great house," we read, "there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some unto honour and some unto dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, meet for the master's use, prepared unto every good work." 506 For if he who purges himself becomes a vessel unto honour, while he who carelessly leaves himself unpurged becomes a vessel unto dishonour, the Creator cannot, so far as these words go, be held responsible. For |161 the Creator makes vessels of honour and vessels of dishonour, not originally according to His foreknowledge, since He does not, according to it, condemn or justify beforehand, but He makes them vessels of honour who purge themselves, and them vessels of dishonour who carelessly leave themselves unpurged. So that from antecedent 507 causes for making the vessels to honour and dishonour it arises that one man is to honour and another to dishonour.
21. But if we once admit that there are certain antecedent causes for one vessel being a vessel of honour, and another a vessel of dishonour, what absurdity is there in going back to the mystery of the soul, and understanding that there were antecedent causes for Jacob's being loved and Esau's being hated; as regards Jacob, before his assumption of a body, and as regards Esau, before he was conceived in the womb? At the same time it clearly appears that, so far as the subject nature is concerned, as there is one and the same lump of clay subject to the potter, out of which vessels are made to honour and dishonour: so, though there is one common soul nature subject to God, and, if I may so speak, one lump of rational subsistences, certain antecedent causes have made some men to be unto honour and others to dishonour. And if the Apostle's question conveys a rebuke, "Nay, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? 508 it perhaps teaches that he who has confidence towards God, as a man of faith and good life, would not have the question addressed to him, "Who art thou that repliest against God?" Such an one was Moses; for Moses spake, and God answered him by a Voice,509 and as God answers Moses, so also the holy man answers God. But he who has not this confidence, manifestly, either because he has lost it, or because he investigates these topics not from a love of learning but in a contentious spirit, and therefore says, "Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth |162 his will?" 510 this man would deserve the rebuke, "Nay, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?" 511
22. But to those who introduce different natures,512 and use the present passage in support, I have this to say: If they make good their contention that from one lump are made both those who are perishing and those who are being saved, and that the Creator of those who are being saved is the Creator also of those who are perishing, and if He is good Who maketh not only men who are spiritual, but also those who are earthy (for this is a consequence of their doctrine), it is nevertheless possible that a man who in the present time has through certain previous deeds of righteousness become a vessel of honour, may, if he do not the like things, nor such as befits the vessel of honour, become in a different age a vessel of dishonour; as, on the contrary, it is possible that although through causes prior to this life a man has here become a vessel of dishonour, when his faults have been corrected, he may become a vessel of honour in the new creation, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work.513 And perhaps the Israelites of our day, if they live unworthily of their high descent, will degenerate, and change as it were from vessels of honour to vessels of dishonour; and many of the Egyptians and Edomites of the present time, whenever they shall bring forth fruit abundantly, will enter the Church of the Lord, being no longer accounted Egyptians and Edomites, but future Israelites; so that, according to this, some through their deliberate choice advance from bad to good, while others fall away from good to bad; and others are kept in goodness, or rise step by step from good to better, and others, again, abide in evil, or, because their wickedness abounds, grow worse and worse.
23. And since the Apostle in one place does not pretend that it rests with God whether a man becomes a |163 vessel unto honour or unto dishonour, but puts the whole responsibility upon us, saying, "If then a man purge himself, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the master's use, prepared unto every good work"; and elsewhere he does not pretend that it depends upon us but lays the whole responsibility upon God, when he asserts that "the potter hath a right over the clay, to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour",514 and his statements are not contradictory; we must bring them both together, and from the two draw one sound conclusion. The power we have does not compel us to advance in goodness apart from the knowledge of God, nor does the knowledge of God compel us to advance unless we also contribute to the good result; for neither does our power apart from the knowledge of God, and the full use of what is in a worthy sense our "power," make a man to be unto honour or unto dishonour; nor does God's power alone fashion a man unto honour or dishonour unless He have our choice, inclining to the better or the worse, as a sort of raw material out of which to make the difference. This may suffice for our treatment of Free Will.
CHAP. XXII. ---- What is the dispersion on earth of rational, that is, human souls, indicated under a veil in the building of the tower, and the confusion of tongues thereat? Wherein we shall also treat of many lords set over the dispersed according to their condition. From Book v. against Celsus.
1. Now let us see what Celsus says next. It runs thus: "The Jews having become a separate nation, and having made laws to suit their country, in still maintaining the authority of their laws, and guarding the national religion with all its peculiarities, are only doing what other men do; for every community cherishes its ancestral customs, once they are established, no matter what they are. And it seems to be a good thing, not only because the different peoples have had different ideas of laws and customs, and because of the |164 necessity of guarding public institutions, but also because it is probable that different parts of the earth were originally assigned to different superintending spirits,515 and having been made into separate realms are that way administered. And, in fact, correct practice in the several instances would depend on the pleasure of these spirits;516 and it would be profanity to relinquish the original local usages." What Celsus here really means to show is that the ancient Egyptians afterwards became a separate nation, the Jews, and that having made laws for themselves they observe them. And, not to repeat the exact words of Celsus already quoted, he says that it is best for them to keep to their ancestral religion, just as it is for the other nations which honour their own forms of worship. And he adduces a deeper reason to explain why it is best for the Jews to honour their own forms of worship, when he darkly hints that they whose lot it was to superintend the land of those for whom the laws were made, assisted the lawgivers in the several instances. He seems, then, to indicate that one or more beings watch over the country of the Jews and its inhabitants, and that the laws were made by Moses with their assistance.
2. "And they ought," he says, "to keep their laws not only because different peoples have had different ideas of laws and customs, and because of the necessity of guarding public institutions, but also because it is probable that different parts of the earth were originally assigned to different superintending spirits, and having been made into separate realms are that way administered." So, as if he had forgotten what he said against the Jews, he now gives them a share in the general distribution of praise to all who keep the ancestral usages; for he says, |165 "And, in fact, in the several instances right practice would depend on the pleasure of the ruling spirits." And observe whether he does not distinctly mean, if he can bring it about, to make a Jew live in the observance of Jewish laws and not forsake them, inasmuch as he would be guilty of profanity if he did forsake them; for he says, "It is profanity to relinquish the original local usages." In reply, I should like to ask him and those who agree with him, who it was that originally assigned the different parts of the earth to the different guardian angels,517 in particular, the country of the Jews and its people, to the one or more angels whose charge they were. Did Zeus, as Celsus would say, assign the Jewish people and their country to one or more? And Did Zeus intend that the spirit to whom Judea was allotted should make the existing Jewish laws, or was this done against his will? That Celsus may answer, if he will, you see I am willing to put the whole thing in a nutshell. But if the parts of the earth have not been assigned to their guardian spirits by some one deity, it follows that each at random and with no one to direct him, took his share of the earth just as it happened; but this is absurd, and enough to overthrow belief in the providence of the Supreme God.
3. And let any one who chooses relate how the various parts of the earth, having been divided into certain realms, are administered by the spirits which have the oversight of them; but let him also tell us how it is that in the several communities the correct practice would depend on the pleasure of the ruling spirits; and whether, for instance, the laws of the Scythians, which allow the doing away with fathers, are right; or those of the Persians, which |166 do not forbid marriages between mothers and their own sons, nor between fathers and their own daughters. And why need I take other instances from those who interested themselves in the laws of different nations, and go on to ask how, in the several communities, the laws are properly executed according to the pleasure of the ruling spirits? We shall be glad if Celsus will tell us how it is impiety to relinquish ancestral laws which allow the marriages 518 of mothers and daughters, or make suicide by hanging a happy end of life, or affirm the perfect purification of those who give their bodies to be burnt, and through fire seek their release from life; and how it can be impiety to abolish laws, those of the Tauri, for instance, which enjoin the offering of strangers as sacrifices to Artemis, or those of certain Libyan tribes regarding the sacrificing of their children to Saturn. Celsus must, moreover, accept the consequence, that it is impiety for the Jews to break their ancestral laws which prohibit the worship of any other God than the Creator of the universe. And piety, according to him, will not be essentially Divine, but a matter of arbitrary institution; for with some it is piety to worship a crocodile, and with others to eat a portion of the objects of their adoration; others deem it piety to worship a calf, and others to regard the goat as a god. The result will be that the same man will be pious in regard of one set of laws, and impious according to a different set, which is an utter absurdity.
4. But they will probably reply that the pious man is he who keeps the customs of his own country, and that he is by no means to be taxed with impiety when he does not observe those of other countries; and again, that a man who is deemed impious by certain races is not impious when, according to the customs of his own country, he worships his own gods, but fights against and feasts upon the gods of those who have opposite laws. Now, consider whether these arguments do not exhibit great confusion of thought in respect of righteousness, and piety, and |167 religion; for religion has thus no organic unity, no distinctive character of its own, no power to impress a religious stamp on those who act in accordance with it. If, then, religion, piety, and righteousness are relative only, so that piety and impiety are the same thing, inasmuch as they depend on varying relations and on the established laws, consider whether it does not follow that temperance 519 will also be in the class of things relative, and courage, and prudence, and knowledge, and the rest of the virtues, which is the height of absurdity.
5. Celsus seems to think that the argument leads to the conclusion that "all men ought to live according to the customs of their country, and that they should not be blamed for so doing; but that Christians having forsaken their ancestral usages, and not being one nation like the Jews, are to be blamed for following the teaching of Jesus." Let him then tell us whether men of a philosophic turn of mind, who have been taught to avoid superstition, are right in forsaking their ancestral usages and in going so far as to eat things forbidden in their own countries; or will they act unbecomingly in so doing? For if on account of their philosophy, and what they have learned in opposition to superstition, they do not keep their ancestral customs, but would eat of things traditionally forbidden, why should not Christians also, since reason persuades them not to concern themselves with images, and statues, or even with the works of God, but to rise above these and bring the soul near to the Creator, why should not they be free from blame when they are only doing what the philosophers do? If for the sake of defending his pet theory, Celsus or his supporters should say that even a philosopher will observe his country's customs, it is time for philosophers to make a laughing-stock of themselves, in Egypt, for instance, by refraining from eating onions that they may observe their country's customs, or certain parts of a carcase, head or shoulder, for example, that they may not transgress the traditions of their fathers. So then, also, if a man has been brought by the Word to |168 worship the Supreme God, and out of regard for ancestral usage lingers somewhere down among the images and statues of men, and is not willing by deliberate choice to rise to the Creator, he would be like those who are acquainted with philosophy, but fear where no fear is, and count it impiety to partake of such food.
6. Enough has now been said to satisfy those who take their stand upon plain common-sense principles against the opinions of Celsus now before us; but as we think that some persons of a more critical temper will read what we write, let us venture to set forth a few of the deeper arguments, involving speculation of a mystical and esoteric nature, concerning the original distribution of various countries of the earth to various spirits who have the oversight of them; and, to the best of our ability, let us show that our argument is free from the absurdities recounted. Celsus really seems to me to have misunderstood some of the deeper reasoning concerning the distribution of the earth's inhabitants, upon which even Grecian history touches in a way, when it represents certain of those who are accounted gods as having contended with one another for Attica, and in the poetical writings makes some of those who are called gods acknowledge that certain places are in a special sense their own. The history of barbarous nations, too, particularly that of Egypt, also indicates something similar in treating of the division of Egypt into what are called nomes, for it says that Athene to whose lot Sais fell is the same goddess that has Achaia. And the learned Egyptians will tell countless similar stories; but I do not know whether they include the Jews and their country in the distribution, and assign them to some spirit. But enough for the present, concerning what is said on these topics outside the Divine Word.
7. We say that Moses, who with us is regarded as a Prophet of God and His true servant, in the song in Deuteronomy, speaks as follows concerning the division of the earth. He tells us that "when the Most |169 High separated the nations, when he scattered abroad the sons of Adam, be set the bounds of the peoples, according to the number of the angels of God; and the Lord's portion became his people Jacob; Israel the lot of his inheritance." 520 And the same Moses, in the book called Genesis, gives an historical account of the distribution of the nations, to this effect: "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass as they journeyed from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there." 521 And a little farther on he says, "The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do: and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city and the tower. Therefore was the name of it it called Confusion, because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth." And also in the book entitled "The Wisdom of Solomon," where wisdom and the confusion of languages, whereby the division of the inhabitants of the earth has arisen, are discussed, this is what is said concerning wisdom: "Moreover the nations in their wicked conspiracy being confounded, she found out the righteous, and preserved him blameless unto God, and kept him strong in her tender compassion toward his son." 522
8. Much might be said, and that of a mystical nature, about these things: with which agrees the saying, "It is good to keep close the secret of the king";523 in order that the doctrine of the embodying of souls (not through transmigration) may not be wasted on everybody's ears, nor holy things be given to the dogs, nor pearls cast before |170 swine.524 For this is impious, and involves a betrayal of the secret oracles of the wisdom of God, concerning which it is well said, "A malicious soul wisdom shall not enter, nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin." 525 And it is sufficient to present as historical narrative the secret meaning of the seeming 526 historical statement, so that they who can; may for themselves thoroughly investigate the subject.
9. Let us then conceive of all the dwellers upon earth as using one Divine language, and, so long as they agree with one another, as being kept in the use of that Divine language; and let us suppose that they do not move from the east, so long as they mind the things of the light and the brightness of the everlasting light. And let them, whenever they move from the east, minding the things alien to the east, find a plain in the land of Shinar: which, being interpreted, is "the shaking of teeth," and symbolises their losing the means of their support; and there let them dwell. Then, inasmuch as they will to collect material things, and join to heaven things which have no such natural affinity, so that through the material things they may conspire against the immaterial, we will suppose them to say, "Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly." 527 When, accordingly, they harden and stiffen the clay and other materials, and determine to make brick into stone and clay into bitumen, and therewith build a city and a tower the top of which they expect to reach unto heaven,528 let them severally, in proportion as they have moved a greater or less distance from the east, and in proportion as they have made the bricks into stones, and the clay into bitumen, and have built with them, be delivered to angels of more or less severity, and of such and such dispositions, until they have paid the penalty for their audacity; and we will further suppose them to be severally led by the angels, who give them |171 their own language, to various parts of the earth according as they deserve; some, let us say, to a scorching hot country, others to one so bitterly cold that it punishes its inhabitants, some to a land hard to cultivate, others to one not so hard, some to a land full of wild beasts, and others to one with not so many.
10. Next, if any one has the ability, let him, under the garb of history, in part literally true, in part conveying some secret meaning, see those also who have preserved their original language because they have not moved from the east, but have stayed in the east, and have kept to the eastern language; and let him understand that these alone become the portion of the Lord and His people called Jacob, and Israel the lot of His inheritance; 529 and let these alone be governed by a ruler who has not received his command that he may punish his subjects, like the other rulers. And let him who can, remembering that he is dealing with men, observe the sins committed in this commonwealth of those who constitute the special portion of the Lord, sins at first venial and such as do not make the offenders deserve to be quite forsaken, but becoming more abundant though still venial; and let our observer notice that this goes on for a long time, and that remedial measures are all the while applied, and that these same men at intervals turn again, and let him behold them, in proportion to tbeir sins, forsaken and given up to the appointed rulers of the other countries, and when they have been a little chastised and have suffered punishment, having been, as it were, trained, let him behold them returning to their own home; and afterwards, let him see them delivered to harsher rulers, to use Scripture names, the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Then, in spite of the care taken of them, let him see them none the less multiplying their offences, and for that reason made a spoil by the rulers of the other nations, and scattered over the other parts of the earth. Now let us suppose that their ruler advisedly takes no notice of them |172 when they are made a spoil by the rulers over the other nations, so that, as it were, avenging Himself, having acquired the right to detach from the other nations whom He can, He may reasonably do so, and may make laws for them, and show them the sort of life they have to live, intending to raise them to the level to which He raised those belonging to the former people who did not sin. And let those who have eyes to see such wondrous truths, hereby learn that He, whose lot it was to govern those who did not sin at the first, is more powerful than the other rulers: for He has proved Himself able to choose His men from all sides, make them revolt from their tormentors, being then under His laws, and lead them to live such a life as helps towards their former sins being no longer remembered. But, as we said before, we must be supposed to have a secret meaning in saying all this, it being our purpose to show the mistakes of those who allege that "the various parts of the earth were originally assigned to various spirits who had the oversight of them, were divided into realms, and are administered on that principle." It was from these men Celsus borrowed the statements under discussion.
11. And whereas they who moved from the east were for the sins they committed given up unto a reprobate mind, and unto vile passions, and in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness,530 so that having taken their fill of sin they might hate it, we shall not agree with the opinion of Celsus, "that right practice in the several instances depends on the spirits who have the oversight of the various parts of the earth"; but we even wish not to do their will and pleasure. For we see that it is piety to abolish original local usages by laws which are better and more Divine, which Jesus in the plenitude of His power inspired, delivering us out of this present evil world,531 and from the rulers of this world which are coming to nought;532 and that it is impiety not to throw ourselves upon the mercy of Him Who is seen and proved to be more mighty |173 than all rulers, to whom God said, as the prophets foretold many generations before, "Ask of me and I will give thee nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." 533 For He has become the "expectation" of us who from among the peoples have believed on Him and on His Father, God over All.534
CHAP. XXIII. ----Of Fate, and how though God foreknows the conduct of every one, human responsibility remains the same. Further, how the stars 535 are not productive of human affairs, but merely indicate them; further, that men cannot attain to an accurate knowledge of these things, but that the signs are set by Divine powers; what is the cause of the signs. Astrology seems to have some elements of truth. From Book III. of the Commentaries on Genesis, "And let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years."
1. As regards the lights of heaven having been created for signs, to speak precisely, the sun, moon, and stars, this is a subject which we are bound to discuss; for not only do many nations, strangers to the Faith of Christ, err in the matter of fate, inasmuch as they think that all things happen, both earthly events in general and the incidents of every human life, and perhaps what befalls the irrational creatures, through the relation of the planets to the constellations of the Zodiac; but beside this, many who are supposed to have embraced the Faith are distracted at the thought that human affairs may be governed by necessity, and cannot possibly be otherwise than is ruled by the stars in their different groupings. And a consequence of this opinion is the complete destruction of Free Will; and a further result is that praise and blame are unmeaning, and the distinction between acceptable conduct and conduct deserving of blame is lost. And if this be so, there is an |174 end of that Divine judgment which we preach; an end also of God's threats of punishment awaiting sinners; an end, too, of a blessed future for those who have devoted themselves to the higher life: for there will no longer be any basis of reason for them. And if any one wishes to see the other consequences of holding these views, our faith will be vain, the advent of Christ of no avail, and the whole dispensation of the Law and the Prophets, and the labours of Apostles to establish the churches of God through Christ, of no avail; unless, forsooth, as these bold thinkers would have us believe, Christ also, inasmuch as His nativity was necessitated by the movement of the stars, did and suffered everything, not because the God and Father of All gave Him those marvellous powers, but because the stars bestowed them. Another result of their godless and unholy principles is, that believers are said to believe in God because they are compelled by the stars to believe. But we would ask our opponents to tell us what God meant by so making the world, that some men are effeminate creatures and lead lascivious lives through no fault of their own; while others, who are in the condition of wild beasts through the revolution of the whole heavens, because God so ordered the universe, abandon themselves to the most savage and inhuman practices, murders, and piratical outrages. And why need I speak of the incidents of human life, and the sins of men, in their countless variety? The champions of these noble principles may free their fellow-men from all guilt, but they make God the cause of all that is bad and blameworthy.
2. And if some of them, that they may seem to defend God's character, shall say that there is a different God, the good God,536 Who has no control of these things, and attribute all such evils to the Creator;537 not even so will they |175 succeed in showing, as they desire, that the Creator is just; for how could the Author of so many evils, as according to them He is, be reasonably thought just? In the second place, let us inquire what they will say about themselves. Are they subject to the revolution of the stars, or are they free men, and all their lives no way influenced thereby? If they shall admit that they are subject to the stars, it is clear that the stars gave them this impression, and the Creator will have suggested through the general movement of the stars the doctrine of the higher God they have imagined; but that they would deny. If they reply that they are not influenced by the Creator's laws connected with the stars, that their statements may not be more than unverified assertion, let them endeavour to win our assent by some more forcible plea; let them show how to distinguish between the two kinds of mind, the one controlled by nativity and fate, the other free from their control. Any one who knows such men will be aware that if they are asked for a reason they will be quite unable to give it. In addition to what has been said, even the prayers we offer are superfluous; for if certain events must happen, and the stars create the necessity, and nothing contrary to their combination with one another can happen, it is unreasonable to expect God to give us this or that. Why need we further pursue the impiety involved in the doctrine of fate, a subject treated by many with too little consideration as a commonplace? Enough has been said to give some idea of it.
3. Here let us remind ourselves that we were examining the words, "Let the lights be for signs" 538 when we came upon this discussion. They who learn the truth about things, have either been eye-witnesses and therefore give a good account of what takes place because they have beheld the suffering and the doing of those who do or suffer, or they get to know the circumstances by hearsay from informants not at all responsible for what has occurred. For we will agree on the present occasion to exclude the |176 possibility that the doers or sufferers may themselves relate what they have done and suffered, and may acquaint any one who did not happen to be present with the facts. If, then, any one who gets the information from a person no way responsible for the events, on hearing that certain things have befallen or will befall certain individuals, does not bear in mind that his informant as to the past or future is no way answerable for any given occurrence, he will suppose that the informant has brought about or will bring about what he relates, but he will obviously be wrong in so doing; it is as though a man were to read a prophetic book in which the conduct of Judas the traitor is foretold, and having learnt what was to happen, were, on seeing it accomplished, to think that the book was the cause of what afterwards occurred, because the book showed him the future conduct of Judas; or, again, should imagine that not the book was the cause, but he who first wrote it, or He Who had the book written, God Himself, if we may so speak. Just as in the case of the prophecies concerning Judas, the passages themselves on investigation show that God did not produce the treachery of Judas, but that, foreknowing what would result from the wickedness of the traitor through his own fault, He only made it known: so also, if any one would go deep into the discussion of God's universal foreknowledge, and into those things whereon, as it were, God stamps the proofs of His own foreknowledge, he would understand that neither is He Who foreknows at all the cause of what is foreknown, nor are those things which were stamped with the proofs of the foreknowledge of Him Who did foreknow.
4. That God knows long before every detail of the future, is, apart from Scripture, from the very conception of God clear to him who understands the power and excellence of the Divine understanding. If, however, we must prove this from the Scriptures, the prophecies are full of suitable illustrations; and, according to Susanna, God knows all things before they be: for she thus speaks, "O |177 everlasting God, that knowest the secrets, and knowest all things before they be, Thou knowest that they have borne false witness against me." 539 And in the third Book of the Kings even the name of a future king, and his acts, were thus prophetically described many years before the events took place. "And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he went up unto the altar which is in Bethel, which he made for the calves which he made." 540 Then, a little farther on, "And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Bethel: and Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, O altar, altar! thus saith the Lord, Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he sacrifice the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall they burn upon thee. And he gave a sign the same clay, saying, This is the sign which the Lord hath spoken: Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the fat that is upon it shall be poured out." 541 And, a little farther on, it is shown that "the altar also was rent, and the fat poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the Word of the Lord."542
5. And in Isaiah, who lived long before the Babylonish Captivity, there is this prophecy concerning Cyrus by name, Cyrus king of the Persians, who lived some time after the Captivity, and assisted in the building of the Temple in the days of Esdras. There is this prophecy concerning Cyrus by name, "Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue 543 nations before him, and I will loose the loins 544 of kings; I will open the doors before him, and the gates of cities shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make mountains plain: I will break in pieces the doors of brass, and cut in sunder the |178 bars of iron: and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, hidden riches of secret places will I lay bare to thee, that thou mayest know that I am the Lord, which call thee by thy name, even the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel my chosen, I will call thee by thy name and will receive thee." 545 This clearly shows, that for the sake of the people to whom Cyrus was a benefactor, God gave him, though he was unacquainted with the Hebrew religion, the rule over many nations; and we may also learn this from Greek historians who wrote the history of Cyrus, the subject of the prophecy. And again in Daniel also, at a time when Babylonian kings were on the throne, the kingdoms which should be after him are shown to Nebuchadnezzar. And they are shown by means of the image: the Babylonian kingdom being called gold, the Persian silver, the Macedonian brass, the Roman iron.546 And again, in the same prophet the affairs of Darius and Alexander, and the four successors of Alexander king of Macedonia, and Ptolemy, the ruler of Egypt, surnamed Lagos, are thus foretold: "And as I was considering, behold, an he-goat came from the west over the face of the whole earth; and the goat had a horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had the horns, whom I saw standing before the stream Ulai,547 and ran upon him in the face of his power. And I saw him close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns; and there was no power in the ram to stand before him: but he cast him down to the ground, and trampled upon him; and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. And the he-goat magnified himself exceedingly: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and instead of it there came up four other horns toward the four winds of heaven. And out of one of them came forth a mighty horn, and |179 waxed exceedingly great towards the south and towards the west." 548 Why need I mention the prophecies concerning Christ, as for example that Bethlehem should be the place of His birth, and Nazareth the place of His bringing up, and the marvellous works He did, and the manner of His betrayal by Judas who was called to be an Apostle? For all these are signs of the foreknowledge of God. But the Saviour Himself also says, "When ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then ye shall know that her desolation is at hand";549 for He spake beforehand what afterwards came to pass, the final destruction of Jerusalem.
6. Well, then, now that we have, not unseasonably, demonstrated the foreknowledge of God, if we are to explain how the stars are for signs, we must understand that the stars have their movements so regulated, those we call planets revolving the contrary way to the fixed stars, that observers may take and know the signs from the grouping of all those stars which have a special or general influence. And when I say "observers," I do not mean men (for ability to really learn from the movements of the stars what will befall every individual soul with all its possibilities of doing or suffering, far transcends human capacity), but I refer to the Powers, which must for many reasons have this knowledge, as, so far as we can, we shall show in the sequel. But men being deceived by certain observations, or even by the teaching of Angels who have lost their proper rank, and, to the injury of our race, give some instruction about these things, supposed that they from whom they thought they received the signs were the original causes of the events which the Word says the signs indicate. We shall proceed at once to briefly discuss somewhat carefully as well as we can both the events and the supposed authors. These, then, are the problems which confront us----(α) How, if God knows from all eternity what we regard as done by the individual, Free Will is to be maintained; (β) in what way the stars are not productive of human affairs, but only indicate them; |180 (γ) that men cannot have an accurate knowledge of these things, but the signs are shown to Powers superior to men; (δ) why it is that God has made the signs for the Powers to know, shall be the fourth point of investigation.
7. Well, then, let us look at the first. Many of the Greeks, handling the matter with caution, and supposing events to be ruled by necessity, and that man's Free Will cannot be at all maintained if God foreknows the future, ventured to hold an impious doctrine, rather than admit, as they allow it to be, a glorious attribute of God, but one destructive of Free Will, and which therefore does away with the distinction between praise and blame, the acceptability of virtue and the censure of vice. They tell us that if God from everlasting knows that a certain person will be unjust, and will do certain unjust deeds, and if the knowledge of God be infallible, and if he that is foreseen to have such a character will certainly be unjust and will do these unjust deeds, his injustice is necessitated, and it will be impossible for his conduct to be other than what God knew it would be. But if his conduct could not be different, and no one is to be blamed for not doing impossibilities, it is no use for us to accuse the unjust. And from the unjust man and his unjust deeds they pass on to the other sins a man may commit, and, on the contrary, to what is considered upright conduct; and they say that consistently with God's foreknowledge our Free Will cannot possibly be maintained.
8. Our reply will be as follows: When God planned the creation of the world, inasmuch as there is nothing without a cause, His thoughts traversed the whole course of the future, and He saw that when a certain thing takes place another follows, and if this occurs it will have its fitting result, and this supposed, something is its consequence; and going on thus to the end of all things He knows what will be, but is not at all the cause of the occurrence of any particular event. For as when we see a man reckless through ignorance, and in his recklessness foolishly venturing on a slippery path, we are not the |181 causes of the man's finding the path slippery, because we realise that the man will slip and fall: just so, we must understand that God having foreseen what every one will be like, also perceives the causes of his being what he is, and that he will commit these sins, or do these righteous deeds. And if we are bound to admit that the foreknowledge is not the cause of the occurrences (for though God knows before that a man will sin, He does not put a finger on him when he does sin), we shall make a still stronger statement, nevertheless true, that the future event is the cause of God's peculiar knowledge concerning it. For it does not happen because it is known, but it is known because it will happen; and we must herein carefully distinguish. For if any one interprets the words certainly will be in the sense that what is foreknown will of necessity be, we do not agree with him; for we shall not say that, because it was foreknown that Judas would be a traitor, there was any necessity for Judas to be a traitor. At any rate, in the prophecies concerning Judas reproaches and accusations of Judas are recorded, which prove his guilt to every reader. Now no blame would have attached to him if he had of necessity been a traitor, and if it had not been possible for him to be like the other Apostles. And consider whether this is not shown by the following words which we shall quote: "Neither let there be any to have pity on his fatherless children. Because that he remembered not to show mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, and the broken in heart, to slay them. Yea, he loved cursing, and it came unto him; and he delighted not in blessing, and it was far from him." 550 If any one will explain the "certainly will be" as only meaning that some particular events will occur, but that things might have turned out differently, we assent to this as true; for God cannot possibly lie; and when things may possibly happen or not happen, we may contemplate either contingency.
9. We will put the case more clearly this way: If it |182 is possible for Judas to be an Apostle like Peter, it is possible for God to think of Judas continuing an Apostle as Peter did. If it is possible for Judas to be a traitor, it is possible for God to contemplate his becoming a traitor. And if Judas proves to be a traitor, God by His foreknowledge of the two aforesaid possibilities (one only of Which can be realised), inasmuch as His foreknowledge is true, will know before that Judas is going to be a traitor; but though God knows this, it might have been otherwise; and the knowledge of God would say, "It is possible for Judas to do this, but also possible for him to do the opposite; but of the two things possible I know that he will do this one." If God were to say, "It is not possible for this man to fly," and, predicting the future 551 of another man, were to say, for instance, "It is not possible for him to be temperate," the cases would not be parallel. For the man is not in the least qualified to fly, but he is qualified to lead either a temperate or a licentious life. Now, though there be this ability both ways, if a man does not give heed to admonition and instruction, he gives himself up to the worse; but he who seeks the truth and is resolved to live accordingly, gives himself up to the better. And one man does not seek the truth because he inclines to pleasure, while another man investigates it, being brought thereto, partly by common sense,552 partly by exhortation. The former, again, chooses pleasure, not because he is unable to resist it, but because he will not strive against it; and the latter despises it, because he sees the disgrace which often attaches to it.
10. To prove our point, that the foreknowledge of God really does not necessitate the things which it apprehends, we will further observe that in many parts of Scripture God commands the Prophets to preach repentance, not professing to know before whether the hearers will turn or abide in their sins. Thus in Jeremiah God says, "It may be they will hearken and repent." 553 If God |183 thus speaks, it is not because He does not know whether they will hearken or not; but by this form of speech He shows, as it were, that they have equal ability to do one or the other; so that He may not, by announcing beforehand what He knows, make the hearers despond because of a seeming necessity, as if they had no power to turn, and His foreknowledge thus become, as it were, the cause of their sins. Or again, let us take the case of those who, because they do not know their goodness foreknown to God, may by striving .and struggling against wickedness succeed in living a virtuous life. God will not have His foreknowledge become a cause of their slackness, inasmuch as, relying on the certain accomplishment of what has been foretold, they no longer stand firm against sin: for so the foreknowledge of their future goodness might prove a hindrance. Thus it is that God Who ordereth all things for the best, with good reason hides the future from our eyes. For the knowledge of the future makes us relax in the struggle against wickedness, and the apparent certainty of wickedness enervates us, and the result is that because we do not wrestle against sin we soon become subject to it. And at the same time it would be an obstacle in the way of a man's becoming good and upright, if the knowledge that he will certainly some day be good reached him beforehand. For in addition to what we have, there is need of great earnestness and vigorous application if a man is to become good and upright; but the knowledge beforehand that a man will certainly be good and upright, weakens his habits of discipline. Wherefore it is expedient that we know not whether we shall be good, or whether we shall be bad.
11. And since we have said that God blinds our eyes with regard to the future, consider whether we can thus explain the question in Exodus, "Who maketh a man dumb and deaf, seeing and blind?" 554 If we are to understand that God has made the same man blind and seeing, the man must see things present and be blind as regards things |184 future; for we are not now concerned with the interpretation of the dumbness and deafness. That, however, many things for which we are responsible are caused by a multitude of things for which we are not responsible, even we will allow; if they had not occurred, the things I mean for which we are not responsible, certain things for which we are responsible would not have been done; but they have been done in consequence of precedent events for which we are not responsible, though it was possible for us on the basis of the past to have acted otherwise than we did. If any one would have our Free Will detached from everything else, so as to make our voluntary choice independent of the changes and chances of life, he has forgotten that he is a part of the world, and subject to limitations as a member of society and a participant in the general environment. I think it has been shown with tolerable clearness, if briefly, that the foreknowledge of God does not necessitate what is certainly foreknown.
The same subject is further discussed in Book II. of the treatise against Celsus as follows:----
12. Celsus thinks that if a prediction comes to pass it is because the event was predicted. We do not grant this; we say that the Prophet is not the cause of the future event because he foretells its occurrence, but that the future event, which would happen even if it were not predicted, is the cause of his foretelling it, who has the foreknowledge. And the whole thing is in the foreknowledge of the Prophet; a given event may or may not come to pass; he knows which of the two it will be. Further, we do not say that he who foreknows destroys the possible alternative, and as it were declares, "This shall certainly be, and it is impossible that the event can be otherwise." And something like what we have urged is applicable to the whole question of the foreknowledge of what is in our power, whether we look at the Divine Scriptures or at the narratives of the Greeks. And what the dialecticians call an "idle argument," by which they mean a sophism, will be, if we are to believe Celsus, no sophism, though |185 according to sound reason it is a sophism. That our point may be understood, I will use the prophecies of the Scriptures concerning Judas, or our Saviour's foreknowledge of his being a traitor: and from the narratives of the Greeks, I will take the oracle addressed to Laius, for the present assuming it to be true, for that does not affect the argument. Well, then, at the beginning of the 108th Psalm, speaking in the person of Christ, the Psalmist says, "Hold not thy peace, O God, at my praise; for the mouth of the wicked and the deceitful man is opened upon me." 555 And if you carefully note what is said in the psalm you will find that as Judas is foreknown to be the betrayer of the Saviour, so he is also represented as being the cause of the betrayal, and worthy of the curses pronounced against him for his wickedness----let him suffer such and such things----"Because that he remembered not to do mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man." 556 He might then have remembered to do mercy, and he might have refrained from persecuting Him whom he did persecute, but though he might he did not, but betrayed the Saviour; so that he deserves the curses in the prophecy against him. And as regards the Greeks, we will similarly make use of what was said by the oracle to Laius, either in the precise words of the tragic poet, or in equivalent terms. This is what the oracle with its knowledge of the future told him:----
"Beget not children in defiance of the gods;
For if thou shalt beget a son, thy son shall slay thee,
And all thy house shall wade through blood." 557
Here it is clearly shown that it was possible for Laius not to beget children, for the oracle would not have commanded him to do what was impossible; but the begetting was possible, and neither alternative was compulsory. And the consequence of his not guarding against begetting children, was that through begetting he suffered what is related in the tragedy concerning Oedipus and Jocasta and their sons. |186
13. By way of illustrating the "idle argument," that is to say, the sophistical form of reasoning, we may suppose the following argument to be addressed to an invalid in order to dissuade him from calling in the doctor: "If you are fated to recover from your sickness, whether you call in the doctor, or do not call him in, you "will recover; but if you are fated not to recover from your sickness, whether you call in the doctor, or do not call him in, you will not recover; now either you are fated to recover from your sickness, or you are fated not to recover; it is therefore no good for you to call in the doctor." Now a parallel to this reasoning is neatly drawn after this fashion: "If you are fated to beget children, whether you go with a woman, or whether you do not, you will beget children; but if you are fated not to beget children, whether you go with a woman, or do not go, you will not beget children: now either you are fated to beget children or not to beget them; it is useless therefore for you to go with a woman." In this case, forasmuch as it is an utter impossibility to beget children without going with a woman, to go with a woman is not a useless procedure; and similarly, if there is but one road to recovery from sickness, and that is via the doctor's skill, the doctor must be summoned; and it is false to say, "It is no good for you to call in the doctor." Now I have gone into all these details on account of what our paragon of wisdom, Celsus, said: "Being God He foretold, and what was foretold must certainly have come to pass"; for if Celsus by "certainly" means "necessarily," we shall not agree with him, for the event might not have happened. But if by "certainly" he means "will be,"----and there is nothing to prevent this being true, though the event might possibly not have happened,----my argument is as sound as ever; it does not follow that because Jesus truly foretold the traitor's treachery, or Peter's denial, He was Himself the cause of their impiety and unholy conduct. For, as we hold, He knew what was in man;558 and seeing the traitor's detestable character, and also what through |187 avarice and through want of a right and steadfast regard for the Master he would dare to do, after much besides, Jesus said,"He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me." 559
From Book III. of the Commentary on Genesis:----
14. Now let us grapple with the question whether it is a fact that the stars are not in the least productive of human affairs, but only indicate them. It is quite plain that if the stars in a given position are thought to produce certain events in a human life----let us make that the precise point of the present inquiry----their position to-day, for instance, which concerns that one man, could not be understood to have produced the past of some other person or persons; for whatever produces precedes the thing produced. But, according to the teaching of the professors of the art, things that happened before this grouping of the stars are generally thought to be declared. For they profess, once they have ascertained somehow or other the particular 560 hour of any given man, to be able to find the elevation of each planet, or in what minutest part of the sign it appeared, and what sort of a star of the Zodiac happened to be on the eastern horizon, and what on the west, and which star was on the meridian, and which on the opposite meridian. And when they have placed the stars, whose position they think they have determined for themselves, and which are thus grouped according to the season of the nativity of the person, from the time of the birth of him concerning whom they are inquiring, they investigate not only the future, but also the past, and things before the birth and begetting of the person we are speaking of; what manner of man his father was, rich or poor, sound in body or maimed, of good or bad character, with much wealth or little, of this or that condition; and, similarly, respecting the man's mother, and his elder brethren, if there happen to be any.
15. For the present let us allow, though we shall afterwards show that it is not so, that they do ascertain the true meaning of the position and relations of the stars; |188 nevertheless, let us ask those who suppose that human affairs are necessitated by the stars, how such and such a position to-day can have produced previous events. For if this is impossible, even supposing that they discover the truth concerning those previous events, it is clear that the stars with their present movements in the heavens have not produced things past and gone before they took that position. And if any one, noting what is said about the future, should allow that they are correct, he will say that they are right, not because the stars cause the events, but only because they indicate them. And if any one alleges that the stars do not now cause past events, but that there were other groupings which were the causes of the nativity of the persons I have mentioned, but that the present grouping has only indicated them, and that future events are nevertheless shown by the present grouping at the nativity of such an one, let him show how we are to distinguish between our ability to prove the truth of certain things if the stars are causative,561 and of others if they are indicative only. If they cannot explain the difference, they will frankly concede that nothing human is caused by the stars, but, as we said before, some way or other indicated; as if one did not receive the knowledge of the past and future from the stars at all, but from the mind of God through some prophetic utterance. For, as we have already shown that the fact of God's knowing the future conduct of every person does not disturb the argument respecting our Free Will, so neither do the signs, which God appointed to be indicative, interfere with our Free Will; but, like a volume of prophecy, the heavens as a whole, being as it were one of God's books, may contain the future. And thus what is said by Jacob in the prayer for Joseph may be understood: "For I read in the pages of the sky what shall befall thee and thy sons." 562 Perhaps also the passage, "The heavens shall be rolled together as a book," 563 shows |189 that the declarations therein indicative of the future shall be brought to completion, and, so to speak, fulfilled, as the prophecies are said to be fulfilled by the event. And thus the existing stars will be for signs, according as it is said, "Let them be for signs." 564 And Jeremiah, in order that he may bring us back to ourselves, and remove our dread of what is thought to be indicated by the stars, and perhaps supposed to come from them, says, "Be not dismayed at the signs of heaven." 565
16. Now let us look at our second undertaking, and try to show how it is that the stars cannot be causative, though they may possibly be indicative. In the vast multitude of nativities we may possibly get at the incidents of one man's life; but this is only an assumption; we concede the point that it is possible for men to gain a knowledge of them. For instance, our opponents say we may learn both from a man's own nativity, and from the nativity of each of his brothers, if he has more than one, that he will suffer in a certain way, and will die a violent death through meeting with robbers. For they suppose that the nativity of each one includes the death of a brother at the hand of robbers, and likewise the nativity of the father and mother and wife and sons and domestics and dearest friends, and perhaps the nativity of the murderers themselves. How can a man then, whose future is involved in so many nativities, to make them this concession, be influenced by the position and relation of the stars at one nativity more than by those at the others? The statement that the position of the stars at a man's own nativity has caused certain events, while their position at the nativities of the rest has not caused but only indicated them, is incredible; and it is as silly to say that the nativity of each one of them, severally, included a cause of the violent death of this one in particular, so that in fifty nativities, suppose, is included the death of this one person. I do not know how they will maintain that the position of the stars at the nativity of nearly everybody in Judea |190 was such that they received circumcision on the eighth day, being mutilated in their parts, and ulcerated, and subject to inflammation and sores, and no sooner born than needing a doctor; while the position at the nativity of certain Israelites down in Arabia was such that they were all circumcised at the age of thirteen years, for this is what we are told about them; and again the position at the nativity of certain people in Etheopia such that they had their knee-pans taken away, while the Amazons had one of their breasts removed. How do the stars cause these effects in various nations? I suppose that if we give close attention to the subject, we shall not be able to state a single true and reliable fact 566 about these things. And when we hear of so many ways of knowing the future, I am at a loss to understand how men can be so inconsistent as to deny the existence of an active cause in augury, and in sacrificial inspection, maintaining that they are only indicative, but will not allow that astrology also, and nativity casting, are only indicative. For if because a future event is known,----granting that it is known,----the source of the event is the same as the source of the knowledge, why shall events any more be caused by stars than by birds, and by birds, or by entrails of victims, more than by ruling stars? 567 This will suffice for the present to upset the notion that the stars are causes of human affairs.
17. We conceded the point, for it does not interfere with the reasoning, that men can understand the positions of the stars in the heavens, the signs, and the things of which they are signs; now let us see if it is true. Well, then, the masters of this art say that any one who is going to accurately cast a nativity must know not only in which twelfth part of the Zodiac the star in question is, but also in what part of the twelfth part, and in which of its sixty parts; and the more careful calculators add, in which sixtieth of that sixtieth. And the observer, they say, ought to do |191 this in the case of each one of the planets, investigating its relation to the fixed stars. He must, moreover, scanning the eastern horizon, observe not only which sign 568 of the Zodiac is there, but also the part of the sign, and the sixtieth part of this part, whether the first or second sixtieth. How, then, since an hour, roughly speaking, is equivalent to half the twelfth part, can any one ascertain the sixtieth part, unless he has a corresponding scale for the division of the hours? For example, who could know that such an one was born at the fourth hour, plus half an hour, plus a quarter, plus an eighth, plus a sixteenth, plus a thirty-second of an hour? For they say it makes a great difference in the things indicated if there is an error, not of a whole hour, but even of a fraction of an hour. Anyway, in the birth of twins there is frequently only a momentary interval; and yet, according to them, the twins differ widely in their fortunes and performances, because they who were thought to have observed the hour were not quite correct as to the relation of the stars, and the part of the sign on the horizon. For no one can say to the thirtieth of an hour what the interval" between the two births is. But let us allow that they are able to determine the hour.
18. There is a well-known theorem which proves that the Zodiac, like the planets, moves from west to east at the rate of one part in a hundred years, and that this movement in the lapse of so long a time changes the local relation of the signs; so that, on the one hand, there is the invisible 569 sign, and on the other, as it were, the visible figure of it; and events, they say, are discovered not from the figure, but from the invisible sign; though it cannot possibly be apprehended. But let us grant that the invisible sign can be apprehended, or admit the possibility of getting at the truth through the visible sign; still even they will admit their inability to preserve in due proportion what they call the "blending" 570 of the signs in |192 these positions, for it often happens that the influence of a malignant star which appears is more or less weakened by the aspect of a more benign one; and again, that the weakening of the influence of the malignant star by the aspect of the benign one is hindered, because of some particular position and relation of the other, though it is indicative of evil. And I think that any one who studies the passages must despair of understanding such matters, inasmuch as the knowledge is not disclosed to men, but at the most only goes as far as the indication 571 of events. And any one who has had actual experience will know that speakers and writers more frequently fail than succeed in their guesses at the truth. Wherefore Isaiah, believing that these things cannot be discovered by men, says to the daughter of the Chaldeans, who above all others were professors of the art, "Let now the astrologers, the star-gazers, stand up and save thee; let them tell thee what shall come upon thee." 572 We are thus taught that the most learned in these matters cannot show beforehand what the Lord intends to bring upon every nation.
19. We have already given instances of the literal fulfilment of prophecy. And if Jacob speaks of reading in the pages of the sky what should befall his sons, and if any one on the strength of this should meet us with the objection that the contrary to what we say is proved by Scripture,----for we said that men cannot comprehend the signs, and Jacob says that he read in the pages of the sky,573 ----our defence will be that our wise men, guided by a marvellous superhuman spirit, are not taught the mysteries by human skill but by the power of God; as Paul says, "I heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." 574 For they know the alterations of the |193 turning of the sun, and the change of seasons: the events of years, and the position of stars," 575 not from men nor through men, but because the Spirit reveals them, and reveals them clearly, as God wills, announcing the Divine purposes. And another way also Jacob was more than human, for he supplanted his brother, and confessed in the same book from which we quoted the words, "I read in the pages of the sky," that he was commander-in-chief of the host of the Lord and had long ago gained the name Israel; all of which he acknowledges when ministering in bodily form, when the Archangel Uriel 576 reminds him of it.
20. It now remains to inquire and show those who believe that the lights of heaven are set for signs, but have been misled by fanciful interpretations of the passages, why it is that God has made these signs in the sky. And we must first observe that if we believe the mind of God to be great enough to embrace the perfect knowledge of every individual existence, so that not the least ordinary occurrence escapes His Divinity, this belief involves the tenet, not demonstrably certain, but held as being consistent with the eternity of God's understanding, which transcends all nature, that His knowledge is, as it were, infinite. In order, then, that superhuman beings, and also the holy souls which have escaped from the bondage of this present state, may by experience grasp this truth, God created in the heavens beings who have been taught and shall be taught, as well by the revolution of the heavens as by other means, to read the signs which God gives as if they were written and stamped on the face of the sky. And it is not surprising that God should create some one for the sake of a manifestation to the blessed, for the Scripture saith to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee my power, and that my name might be published abroad in all the |194 earth." 577 For if Pharaoh was preserved for the sake of showing the power of God and publishing abroad His name in all the earth,578 consider what a marvellous manifestation of the power of God there is in the heavenly signs, for all of them have been from everlasting to everlasting engraved in the book of the heavens, a book worthy of God. And, secondly, I conjecture that the signs are exposed to the Powers which administer human affairs, in order that they may only know some things, and effect others; just as in our books some things are written that we may know them, as, for example, the story of the Creation, or any other mystery, and others that we may know and do them, as, for instance, the commandments and ordinances of God. It is indeed possible that the writings of the heavens, which Angels and Divine powers can read well, contain some things to be read by the Angels and ministers of God in order that they may rejoice in their knowledge; and other things in order that they may receive them as commandments and do them.
21. And we shall not err if we maintain the analogy between the things in the Law and that which is written in the heavens and the stars. Even supposing that inferior energies, different from human kind, do bring about some of the events foreknown and indicated in the heavens, there is no necessity for supposing that they effect the results because they are reminded by the writings of God (in the heavens). Just as men when they act unjustly, effect the injustice through their own wickedness, not because they have learnt that God foreknows that some one will be unjustly treated by them; so the opposing Powers, though God foreknows the wickedness of the men and Powers who devise the detestable results, bring things to pass of their own shameful free choice. As regards the holy Angels, however, the ministering spirits sent forth to do service,579 it is probable that inasmuch as they follow 580 the commands of God's written law, they produce the |195 better results in an orderly way, having regard to time, manner, and degree; for it is absurd to suppose that being Divine, they at random, and not deliberately, approach some transaction, for instance, with Abraham, and do something for Isaac, and deliver Jacob from danger, or impress the spirit of some prophet. In order, therefore, that they may not thus act at random or haphazard, they read God's book; and thus they do the things belonging to them. And, as we said before, we, as regards our own conduct, or the working of the opposing Powers against us, act of our own free choice; when we sin, the choice is disorderly; when we do such things as are pleasing to God, the choice is disciplined; not however that we can dispense with Angels, the Divine Scriptures, or assisting saints.
And Clement of Rome 581 in his argument with his father at Laodicea has some comments on the question before us----the passage occurs in The Travels,582----which agree with the foregoing. Towards the end he speaks with great force on the seeming results of "Nativity," Book X.
22. The Father.----Pardon me, my son, what you said yesterday was so true that I had no choice but to agree with you; but my conscience, like the weakness left by a fever, torments me with a lingering doubt, for I feel that everything in my nativity has come to pass.
I answered, consider with me, father, what the nature of Astrology 583 is, and upon what grounds I give you my advice. If you meet with an astrologer, and begin by telling him that at a certain time you had poor luck, and ask him to be good enough to inform you what star was the cause of it, he will, say that a malignant Mars or Saturn ruled the times, or that one of them was periodic,584 or that one |196 of them regarded the particular year from the point of quadrature, or diametrically,585 or in conjunction, or centrally,586 or was retrograding,587 and no end of things besides. He will tell you that either an auspicious planet was not counteracting 588 a malignant one, or it was not observable, or was in figure,589 or was retrograding, or in eclipse, or in detriment,590 or was among the dim stars. And because there are many ostensible causes, he is still able to adapt his proofs to what he has been told by you. Now, if you afterwards go to another astrologer and tell him the opposite, viz. that at that same time you had a piece of good fortune, and ask him from what star of your nativity it has arisen, though you have deceived him, he is able, as I said before, out of many figures to find one, or two, or three, or more, which he will make out to be the true cause of your good fortune. For it is impossible that at any man's nativity, at any hour, some of the stars should not be favourably placed, others unfavourably; for the circle 591 admits of equal divisions, is diversified in contents, and admits of unlimited shuffling, so that any astrologer can say what he likes. We can sometimes make nothing of ambiguous dreams, but the event enables us to give them the most fitting interpretation. So it is with Astrology. Before the events it can tell us nothing certain, but when the facts are related the result clearly shows the cause. This is why in predicting the future they frequently err, and after the event blame themselves, and say, "It was this or that caused it, and we did not know." As I said yesterday, the reason why the very |197 learned astrologers err is that they do not know what is certainly the cause of a man's nativity, and what is not certainly so, and what things we certainly long to do, and are not certain to do. The cause is clear to us who have learnt the secret, viz. that being free to exercise our faculties of reason we sometimes yield to concupiscence and suffer defeat, sometimes resolve to check it, and succeed. But astrologers, through not being acquainted with this very secret, though they have expatiated on the whole subject of man's Free Will from the first, have fallen into the error of devising climacterics; for they regard our power of choice as a most obscure subject, as we pointed out yesterday. Now it is your turn. If you have anything to say in reply, please say it.
And the father answered with an oath, Nothing can be truer than your words.
CHAP. XXIV. ----Matter is not uncreated, or the cause of evil. From Book VII. of the Praeparatio Evangelica of Eusebius of Palestine.
1. I suppose you are aware that two uncreated things cannot exist together; though you seem to assume that they can, and to put the assumption in the forefront of your argument, when you say that one of two things must be admitted, either that God is separated from matter, or, on the contrary, that He is united to it. Now, if any one would maintain that God is united to matter, this is saying that there is one uncreated substance; for each of these two uncreated substances will be a part of the other, and, as they are parts of one another, they will not be two uncreated, but one, consisting of different parts. We do not because a man has different parts divide him into many created substances, but, as reason demands, we say that a single being, a man with many parts, has been created by God. Similarly, of necessity, if God is not separated from matter, we must allow that there is one substance, and that uncreated. But if any one will say that God is separated from matter, there must be something between |198 the two which also proves their separation; for it is impossible to arrive at any idea of distance between two objects, unless there be a third to form the basis of measurement. And this holds good not only of a single substance, as in the present case, but of any number you please; for our argument respecting the two uncreated substances must be no less sound if we suppose that there are three. For we should ask respecting these, whether they are separated from one another, or whether, on the contrary, each is united to its neighbour. If any one decides to assert the union, our reply will be the same as before; if, on the other hand, he holds to the separation, he will have to face the question of the necessary separating medium. And should any one thereupon say that there is a third account which may be fitly given of the uncreated substances, viz. that God is neither separated from matter nor united with it, but is, as it were, locally in matter, or matter in God, let me tell him, and it is the gist of the whole argument, that if we say matter is the place of God, we must of necessity affirm that He is finite and circumscribed by matter. He must, moreover, like matter, be subject to irregular disturbance; He cannot stay in one place, nor abide self-dependent, inasmuch as that wherein He is contained is carried first one way, then another. Besides this, it follows that we must affirm God to be in the lower forms of being. For if matter ever was unordered, and God of His own free choice ordered it with a view to progressive development, there was a time when God had no order of His own,592 and we might fairly ask whether God filled matter, or was in a part of it. If any one prefers to say that God was in a part of matter, he makes God infinitely smaller than matter: if a part really contained the whole of God. If he says that God is in all matter and pervades the whole of matter, let him tell us how God worked on matter. Either there was some contraction of God before He worked on that from which He withdrew, or He worked at Himself as well as |199 the matter, because He had no place to withdraw to. If any one will maintain that matter is in God, we must similarly inquire whether we are to suppose that God stood apart from Himself, and as living creatures are in the air, that He split up and divided Himself to receive the things in Him, or whether matter is in Him locally, like water in earth. If we say that matter is in Him like birds in the air, we are bound to admit that God is divisible; if we say that matter is in God as water is in earth, and if matter was in a state of confusion and disorder, and, moreover, contained even evil things, we must of necessity allow that God was the place of disorder and of evil, which does not seem to me consistent with piety, but to be rather dangerous. For you postulate the existence of matter, so that you may not have to admit that God is the Author of evil, and in your determination to avoid this error, you affirm that He is a receptacle of evil. If you told me that what you see in created substances 593 leads you to suppose that matter was originally uncreated, I should have had many arguments to prove the impossibility of this conclusion; but as you say the origin of evil is the cause of such a supposition, I must, I think, proceed to inquire into the nature of evil. For once it is clear how evil comes to exist, and, if because matter is subject to God, we cannot possibly deny that He was the cause of evil, there will, I think, be an end of your supposition.
2. Do I understand you to say that unqualified matter is co-existent with God, and that out of it He created the world?
It seems so to me.
So, then, if matter had no qualities, and the world was made by God, and qualities are in the world, God is the Maker of the qualities.
But I think you said before that nothing can possibly come out of nothing. Please tell me, therefore, whether |200 you think that the qualities of the world have not sprung from already existing qualities?
It seems so.
And that these qualities are quite distinct from the substances?
Well, then, if God did not make the qualities out of existing qualities, and they have not come from the substances, because they are not substances, we are driven to the conclusion that they were made by God out of nothing. And this is why you seemed to me to urge in vain that we cannot possibly suppose that anything was made by God out of nothing. Let us look at the matter this way. Among ourselves we see men making various things out of nothing; out of nothing I say, though they certainly do seem to be creators in their own departments. Take architects, for example. They do not build cities out of cities, nor, similarly, temples out of temples. If because substances exist which are at their command, you suppose the architects to produce cities and temples out of existing things, you are mistaken, for it is not the substance which makes the city, nor the temples, but the skill in treating the substance. And the skill does not spring from any skill existing in the substances, but from a skill which has no existence in them. You may meet me with the objection that the artist out of the skill which he himself has makes the skill in the substance. It seems to me a fair rejoinder that the man's skill does not arise from any previously existing skill. It cannot be that skill as a self-existent entity gives the skill; for it belongs to the class of accidents, and to those things which receive a real existence when they inhere in substance. You may have the man without the architect's skill, but you cannot have the architect's skill unless the man first exist; and we must therefore maintain that the various forms of human skill have nothing out of which they arise.594 Now, if we have shown that this |201 is so with men, must we not much rather admit that God can make not only qualities out of nothing, but also substances? For if it is proved that anything arises out of nothing, it is also proved that the same holds good of substances.
3. But I know you are longing to investigate the origin of evil; I will therefore go on to the discussion of that topic. And I should like to briefly ask you, Do you regard evil things as substances, or qualities of substances?
I think it is right to say, qualities of substances.
But matter, you thought, was unqualified and unformed?
So I assumed when we began the discussion.
Well, then, if evil is a quality of matter, and matter was unqualified, and you affirm that God is the Maker of the qualities, it follows that God will also be the Creator of evil. Since, then, we cannot even thus avoid making God the cause of evil, it seems to me superfluous to make Him inseparable from matter. If you have any answer to this, pray say on. If we were disputing for victory, I should think the question of evil decided; but as we are making the inquiry more in a friendly spirit and to do one another good, I think we may re-open the discussion.
My aim and object must, I think, be very obvious, and you must be conscious how earnestly I desire in arguing not to score a victory on the strength of plausible lies, but by careful inquiry to point out the truth. And I am quite sure that you are so disposed. So please, therefore, without hesitation use such means as you consider best for the discovery of the truth, for by so doing you will profit not yourself only but me also, by showing me my ignorance. It seems clear to me that evil has a substantial existence, for I never see what is evil apart from substances.
4. Ho! Ho! If you say that things evil are substances, I must examine the meaning of substance. Do you think that substance is a kind of bodily compound?
I think so.
And the bodily compound is self-existent, needing nothing to give it existence? |202
And do you think that evil things are a man's actions?
It appears so to me.
And the actions then only begin when the agent is present?
And if there is no one to act, there are no actions?
There cannot be any.
Well, then, if substance is a kind of bodily compound, and the bodily compound needs nothing to give it existence: and if evil things are a man's actions, and the actions require some one to act, and when he acts they then begin to be, it follows that evil things are not substances. But if evil things are substances, and murder is an evil, murder will be a substance; murder, however, is a man's action; murder will therefore not be a substance. If you mean that the things in action are substances, I agree; as, for example, the murderer, inasmuch as he is a man, is a substance; but the murder which he commits is not a substance, but something, done by the substance. Now we say that a man is sometimes bad because he commits murder, and sometimes, on the contrary, we call him good because of his well-doing; and these names are accidentally associated with the substance, though the accidents are not the substance itself. For neither is murder a substance, nor adultery, nor is any such like evil thing. But as the grammarian is so called from grammar, and the rhetorician from rhetoric, and the medical man from medicine, though neither medicine nor rhetoric nor grammar is a substance, and the substance takes its title according to its accidents, neither of which it is; in the same way, it appears to me, the substance receives a name from what are considered evil things, though it is neither one nor the other of them. Consider further, that if you imagine some other deity to be the cause of the evil which men do, he too, inasmuch as he acts in men, is evil because of the evil which he does. For the reason why he too is said to be evil, is that he is |203 an author of evil; and what a man does, is not the man himself, but his actions, and it is from these the title "evil" is derived. If we were to say that a man is what he creates, and he creates murders, and adulteries, and thefts, and all sorts of such things, he will be all these. But if he is all these, and they exist only when they are being done, and have no existence when they are not being done, and if they are done by men, men will be the creators of them, and the causes of their existing or not existing. If you admit that these evil things are the man's actions, it is what from what he does that he has the quality of evil, not from what he is as a substance. For we said that he is called evil from the accidents of the substance, which accidents are not the substance itself, as the medical man is so-called from medicine. And if every man is evil through his actions, and his actions have a beginning, he himself began to be evil, and these evil things, too, had a beginning. If this be so, the man was not evil when his wickedness began, nor can the evil attaching to him be unoriginate; we say it did originate with him.
5. I think, my friend, you have given a sufficient answer to your companion, and I thought you drew an excellent conclusion from his own premises; for, in truth, if matter was unqualified, and God was the Creator of the qualities, and the qualities are evil, God will be the Author of evil. We are agreed, then, that he has been well answered. But it seems to me false to speak of unqualified matter, for we cannot say that any substance whatsoever is without qualities; in fact the very affirmation that it is unqualified, and the description of matter thus given, point out a particular kind of quality. So, if you please, once more discuss the matter with me; for matter seems to me to have had qualities from all eternity; and if I maintain that evil is an effluence of matter, it is that God may not be the cause of evil, but matter the cause of all the evil in the world.
I am delighted with your ready acquiescence, my friend, and commend your earnestness in the discussion: for every one who is desirous to learn ought not to give a mere |204 random assent to what is said, but should carefully weigh the arguments. For supposing one of two disputants to take up a false position, and thus lead his opponent to the conclusion he desires, that will not convince the man who hears him; but if there seems to be a good opening for a remark, the latter will make it on the spot; for one of two things will happen: he will either after hearing what has been said be absolutely benefited by his impressions, or he will convict his antagonist of not speaking the truth. And in my opinion you are not right in saying that matter was qualified from all eternity. For if this be so, what is there for God to create? If we say substances, we have admitted that they already existed; if, on the contrary, we say qualities, we have recognised their pre-existence also. So, then, if both substances and qualities are already in existence, it seems to me useless to call God a Creator. But that I may not seem to argue all on my own side, let me ask you a question: In what sense do you say that God was a "Creator"? 595 Is it that He changed the substances so that they no longer were what they were before, but became something different? Or is it that He kept the substances as they previously were, but changed their qualities?
6. I do not suppose there was a change in the substances; that is to me an obvious absurdity; what I say is that there was a change of the qualities, and I maintain that in respect of them God is a Creator. For just as we may say that a house is built of stones, but cannot say that, because the stones have become a house, they do not remain stones in substance: for I maintain that the house is built in virtue of the quality of arrangement, the former quality of the stones having been of course changed; so, it seems to me, God, while the substance remained the same, created a change of its qualities, and I maintain that this change justifies us in saying that God made the world.
Well, then, since you say that a change of the qualities was brought about by God, I wish you would briefly tell |205 me whether you likewise think that things evil are qualities of the substances?
I think so.
And were these qualities themselves in matter from the very first, or had they a beginning?
I say that these qualities were eternally co-existent with matter.
But do you not say that God produced a change of the qualities?
Yes. That is what I say.
Was it for the better, or for the worse?
I think I must admit it was for the better.
Well, then, if the evil things are qualities of matter, and God changed its qualities for the better, we are bound to inquire into the origin of evil. For the qualities did not remain what they were by nature. If the qualities were not bad at first, and you say that through the change which God made, matter acquired its first bad qualities, God will be the cause of evil, because He changed qualities which were not bad, so that they became bad; or do you suppose God not to have changed the bad qualities into better ones, but that the only ones left, the indifferent ones, were changed by God for the sake of putting all in order?
That has been my view from the first.
7. How, then, do you account for His having left the qualities of bad things as they were? Do you say that He had the power to destroy them, but did not choose to do so, or that He had not the power? If you say that He could, but would not, you are bound to admit that He was the cause of these things: for though He had the power to abolish evil He allowed it to remain as it was, particularly when He began to work at matter. If he had not concerned Himself at all with matter, He would not have been the cause of those qualities which He allowed to remain; but since He worked upon a portion of it, and let alone another portion though He might have changed it for the better, it appears to mo that He deserves blame, because He left part of the matter in its evil state, to the |206 destruction of the part on which He worked. In truth, very great injustice seems to have been done to this part of matter; inasmuch as though He reduced it to order, it now partakes of evil. For if any one will carefully look into things, he will find that the present condition of matter is worse than that of the original chaos. Before it was differentiated, it had ho perception of evil; but now every part of it has the perception of evil. Take man, for instance. Before he was fashioned, and by the Creator's skill became a living creature, he had no natural participation in evil; but as soon as God made him a man, he became conscious of approaching evil; and what you say God intended for the benefit of matter is found to have done it more harm than good. If you say that the reason why evil was not stopped was that God could not remove it, you will affirm that God is impotent; and His impotence must either be caused by natural weakness, or be due to the fact that, as if He were the slave of some stronger power, He is overcome by fear. If you venture to say that He is weak by nature, you appear to imperil your salvation; and if you say that He is overcome by fear of some stronger power, you will be affirming that evil is mightier than God, inasmuch as it is strong enough to resist and overcome His will; and this seems to me an absurd statement to make about God. These things, which according to you are able to overcome God, must surely be the true gods, that is to say, if by God we mean Omnipotence.
8. And I should like to also ask you a short question about matter itself. Tell me, is matter simple or compound? for the difference in things brings me to this turn in the argument. If matter is simple and uniform, and the world is compound, and consists of different substances and commixtures,596 we cannot say that it is made of matter, because compound things cannot consist of one simple substance; for when we speak of "compound" we mean a mixture 597 of several simple things. If, on the other hand, |207 you say that matter is compound, you will certainly affirm it to be compounded of simple things; and if it is compounded of simple things, there was a time when these simple things existed apart from one another, and it was by their being compounded together that matter was made; and this shows that matter was created. For if matter is compound, and compound things consist of simple things, there was a time when matter was not, that is, before the simple things came together; and if there was a time when matter was not, and there never was a time when the uncreated was not, it follows that matter cannot be uncreated. But from your view it follows that there will be many things uncreated. For if God was uncreated, and the simple things of which matter is compounded were uncreated, there will not be two and only two uncreated. But do you think that nothing opposes itself?
That is my opinion.
But water is the opposite of fire?
And, likewise, darkness is the opposite of light, and heat of cold? And moisture of drought?
Well, now, if nothing opposes itself, and the things I have mentioned are opposed to one another, it follows that they are not one and the same matter, nor made of one and the same matter. And I wish to ask you a question like the others: Do you admit that the parts of a thing are not destructive of one another?
And that fire and water, and the others I mentioned, are parts of matter?
And do you not also agree that water is destructive of fire, light of darkness, and so on with all similar things?
If, then, the parts of a thing are not destructive of one another, and these things are destructive of one another, it follows that they are not parts of one another; and if they |208 are not parts of one another, they will not be parts of one and the same matter. But in fact they will not be matter at all, because that nothing is destructive of itself, as is the case with opposites. For nothing is opposed to itself, opposites being by nature opposed to things other than themselves; as for example, white is not the opposite of white, but is said to be opposed to black; light, too, is shown not to be opposed to itself, but to darkness, and similarly with countless other things. So then, if matter is a single substance, it cannot be its own opposite; and if this doctrine of opposites holds good, it appears that there is no such matter.
The foregoing is taken from Book VII. of the Praeparatio Evangelica of Eusebius; being, as he says, the work of Maximus,598 a Christian writer of some distinction. But it has been discovered word for word in Origen's discussion with the Marcionites and other heretics, Eutropius defending, Megethius opposing.
CHAP. XXV. ----That the "separation" which arises from foreknowledge does not do away with Free Will. From Book I. of the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, at the words "separated unto the gospel of God."
1. The third point to notice is the phrase "separated unto the Gospel of God";599 and in the Epistle to the Galatians the Apostle says the same thing about himself: "When it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me even from my mother's womb, to reveal his son in me." 600 They who do not understand that any one who is predestined through the foreknowledge of God is the cause of the events foreknown, take hold of such expressions as these, and think they can by them establish their doctrine that men are so constituted by nature that they must be saved. And some employ such passages to destroy man's Free Will, and also make use of the words in the Psalms, "The wicked are estranged from the womb." We may |209 easily meet this by asking them to explain what comes next; for it is written, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent." 601 And we will ask those who insist on the clearness of the words, whether the wicked who were estranged from the womb, as soon as they were born went astray and erred from the way of salvation, and whether this was their own doing. And how could the wicked who were estranged from the womb, both go astray as soon as they were born and also speak lies? For our opponents, I suppose, will never be able to show that in the moment of birth they uttered an articulate cry, and told lies. If, however, we observe the steps by which we approach predestination in the argument of the epistle which we are examining, we shall, once we have disposed of what inclines the simpler sort of readers to justify the charge of injustice brought against God's decree, be able to defend Him Who separated from his mother's womb, and separated unto the Gospel of God, Paul the servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an Apostle. The words stand thus: "We know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren: and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified."602
2. Let us, then, attend to the order of these statements. God first calls, and then justifies, and He does not justify those whom He did not call; and He calls, having before the calling foreordained, and He does not call whom He did not foreordain;603 and the foreordaining is not the origin of His calling and justifying; for if it were the origin of all that follows they who bring in by a side wind the absurd doctrine of souls being "naturally constituted" 604 |210 might very plausibly have claimed the victory; but the foreknowledge comes before the foreordaining, for "whom he did foreknow," says the Apostle, "he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son." 605 So then, God first surveyed the long series of events, and perceiving the will of certain men to be inclined to godliness, and also their efforts to attain thereto when their will was so inclined, and further, how they would wholly give themselves up to a virtuous life, He foreknew them, for He knows the present and foreknows the future; and whom He thus foreknew, He foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son. Now we know there is a Person, Who is the image of the invisible God,606 and it is His image which is called the image of the Son of God; and we think that this image is the human 607 soul which the Son of God assumed, and which for its merit became the image of the image of God. And it was to this, which we think is the image of the image of the Son of God, that God foreordained those to be conformed, whom, on account of His foreknowledge of them, He did foreordain. We must not therefore suppose that the foreknowledge of God is the cause of future events; but inasmuch as these events would follow the agent's own impulses, on this account He foreknew, for He knoweth all things before they be:608 and inasmuch as He knoweth all things before they be, He foreknew certain individuals and foreordained them to be conformed to the image of His Son; but others He saw |211 estranged. And if any one objects, and asks whether what God foreknows might possibly not occur, we shall say it possibly might not; but granting this possibility, there is no necessity that it should occur, or not occur; and the events will not in the least be necessitated, but there is also the possibility of their not occurring. The subject of possibilities, however, belongs to the science of the skilled logician; so that if a man will cleanse the eye of his mind, he may thus be able to follow the subtle arguments, and may understand how, even in the course of ordinary events, there is nothing to prevent the possibility of a given circumstance issuing many ways, though, in fact, there will be only one out of the many, and that not necessitated; and the foreknowledge of it means that it will be, but will not of necessity be; for though it may possibly not occur, the prediction of it will not be conjecture but real foreknowledge.
3. And let no one think that we have said nothing about the phrase "according to his purpose," because it may seem to hamper our argument; for Paul says, "We know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose." 609 The critic should observe that the Apostle also at once gave the reason for their being culled according to His purpose, saying, "Whom he did foreknow, them he also foreordained to bo conformed to the image of his Son." And who more fitting to be included in the justifying calling by the purpose of God, than those who love Him? And that the cause of the purpose and foreknowledge lies in our Free Will is clearly shown by the words, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God"; for Paul all but said that if all things work together for good, the reason is that they who love God are worthy of their working together. And here let us ask our opponents a question, and let them give us an answer. Just for a moment let us assume that we have some measure of Free Will,----and we will tell them that this is a fact, though they |212 seek to destroy Free Will,----until on that assumption we can prove the unsoundness of their view. If Free Will is indeed a reality, will God, when He considers the chain of future events, foreknow what will be done by each possessor of Free Will through the exercise of that Free Will, or will He not foreknow? To say that He will not foreknow, is worthy of a man who knows nothing of the omniscience and majesty of God. But if they will admit His foreknowledge, let us ask them another question: Is His knowing the cause of future occurrences, assuming that men have Free Will? Or does He foreknow because the events will come to pass? And is it the truth that His foreknowledge is by no means the cause of what will result from man's Free Will? It is then possible for a man created free, under given circumstances, not to do one thing and to do another.
4. For these reasons, and others like them which might be adduced, we uphold the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord," 610 and meaning attaches to all commendation. There is sound reason also in the words, "Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou oughtest to have put my money to the bankers." 611 Only thus can we maintain the justice of what is said to those on His right hand, "Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat," 612 and so on; and to those on the left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat," 613 and so on. But even supposing that the words "Separated unto the gospel of God," 614 and "He that separated me from my mother's womb," 615 imply some necessity, how could the Apostle reasonably say, "I buffet my body and bring it into bondage, lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be |213 rejected." 616 And further, "Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel." 617 For he clearly shows hereby that if he did not buffet his body and bring it into bondage as much as he could, he would be rejected after preaching to others, and that woe might have been unto him if he did not preach the Gospel. Perhaps, then, it was under these conditions that God separated him from his mother's womb: God saw the cause of the just separation, viz. that Paul would buffet his body, and bring it into bondage, because he feared lest having preached to others he himself might be rejected, and that, knowing there would be woe to him unless he preached the Gospel, being moved with fear towards God so that he might not be in woe, he would not hold his peace but would preach the Gospel. And this He also saw Who separated him from his mother's womb, and separated him unto His own Gospel, viz. that he would be in labours more abundantly,618 in prisons more frequently, in stripes above measure, in death oft; that of the Jews he would five times receive forty stripes save one, that he would be thrice beaten with rods, once be stoned; and that he would suffer all this rejoicing in tribulations, and that, knowing that tribulation worketh endurance,619 he would endure. For these reasons it was meet that he should be separated unto the Gospel of God, as it was foreknown that he would be, and that he should be separated from his mother's womb. And he was separated unto the Gospel of God not because his nature was specially endowed and by its constitution surpassed the natures of men unlike him, but on account of his actions, first foreknown, but afterwards realised, every one of them, through his apostolic fitness and apostolic purpose. This is not the time to discuss the passage in the psalm, for it was a digression; so, God willing, it shall be discussed in its proper place, whenever we interpret the psalm. The foregoing will abundantly suffice for the term "separated." |214
CHAP. XXVI. ----Of the question of things "good"and "evil"; that they partly depend on our own efforts 620 and partly do not; and (that) according to the teaching of Christ, but not as Aristotle thinks. From the treatise on the 4th Psalm, at the words, "Many say, who will show us the good things?" 621
1. Seeing that there is so much discussion as to what things are "good," what "evil," some affirming that good things and the contrary do not depend 622 on our own efforts, pleasure,623 for instance, as they declare, being a good thing, trouble an evil thing; while others identify "good" and "evil" with things dependent on our own efforts only, for they say that good 624 things are the virtues only and virtuous actions, and that evil things are the vices and vicious actions; and a third set of thinkers unite the two views, and tell us that good and evil things partly depend on our own efforts, partly do not: no wonder, if distracted by these sophistries the majority of believers, longing to learn what are really good things, cry out with the psalmist, "Who will show us the good things?" 621 That the good things naturally depend upon our own efforts, everybody who accepts the passage in the Gospel where the judgment is described, would unhesitatingly allow. For it says that a man is good, supposing him to hear the sentence, "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of |215 thy Lord." 625 And that is also good which proceedeth from the good man, out of his heart, as the Saviour says, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good." 626 And, in general, every fruit of a good tree, because it depends on a man's own efforts, is a good thing: such as love, peace, joy, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; and the contraries are evil things. And if, according to the teaching of Christ, there is a something good and evil, and we must still look for it in things independent of our choice, and it should prove to be independent of our efforts, we shall on further investigation very quickly show. But, at any rate, things so called by those who unite what is within our choice with what is not, could not be good and evil; for they think that some good things pertain to the soul, others to the body, and that others are external; and similarly with evil things. And in respect of the soul, they speak of virtue and virtuous conduct, or vice and vicious conduct; as concerns the body, of health and vigour and beauty, or disease and sickliness and deformity; as regards externals, wealth, good birth and reputation, or poverty, humble origin and disgrace.
2. And some will suppose that likewise according to the Scriptures there are three kinds of good things, and three of evil; for while they allow that virtues and vices are "good" and "evil," according to the recognised distinction between virtue and vice, and the corresponding conduct on either side, they will make use of passages which declare that oven things pertaining to the body, and things external, are good or evil. And as regards virtues and vices, need I say anything? for we are taught by ethics that we ought to choose righteousness, and temperance, and prudence, and courage, and regulate our conduct according to these virtues; and that we ought to shun the contraries to them. We therefore require no illustrations of good things which are the objects of |216 our own choice; but from many places they will adduce instances of good things which are bodily and external. On the present occasion it will suffice if we adduce certain passages from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, to prove that promises are made to those who keep the commandments' while there are threats and curses against those who transgress them; for example, that health is a blessing, and disease the opposite, the following quotation from Exodus will show: "If thou wilt keep my commandments and my ordinances, I will put none of the diseases upon thee, which I put upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord that healeth thee." 627 And the words also from Deuteronomy against sinners might be supposed to make bodily plagues and diseases an evil thing, and health and bodily strength, of course, a good thing. The passage stands thus: "If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law which are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and marvellous name, The Lord thy God; then The Lord thy God will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and marvellous, and sore sicknesses, and very many. And he will bring upon thee again all the grievous plague of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of, and it shall cleave unto thee. Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, will the Lord bring upon thee, until it utterly destroy thee." 628 And again to transgressors it is said, "I will appoint over you even fever and jaundice, that shall consume your eyes, and make your soul to pine away." 629 Further, in Deuteronomy 630 the Word threatens with incurable lockjaw 631 those who forsake godliness.
3. And they who understand outward blessings to be promised by the Divine word in Leviticus, will make use of the following: "If ye walk in my statutes, and |217 keep my commandments, and do them: then I will give you the rain in its season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the plains shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall overtake the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time, and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely," 632 and so on. And from Deuteronomy they will take and use the passage, "And it shall be when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and ye observe to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God shall set thee on high above all: and all these blessings shall come upon thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God.633 Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, the herds of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy garners and thy kneading-troughs," 634 and so on. And so again, on the contrary, it is said to the ungodly, "Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy garners and thy kneading-troughs. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, cursed the herds of thy cattle and the flocks of thy sheep." 635 And countless other passages will be brought forward by those who will have it that good and evil things are bodily and external. And they lay hold of the Gospels also, and tell us that the Saviour when He came took away from men, inasmuch as He deemed them evil things, bodily blindness, and deafness, and palsy, and healed every disease and every sickness,636 and gave instead of the evil things which previously prevailed, clearness of bodily sight, and hearing, and every form of health and strength; and they will put you out of countenance by what they allege, unless we are prepared to admit possession by devils and lunacy |218 to be evil things,637 and, on the contrary, deliverance from them to be a good thing. Nay, the Apostles also in exercising the gifts of healing, and in working miracles, by the very nature of what they did brought good things to men and freed them from evil things. And they who say such things will pass over to the world to come, and allege that because pain is an evil thing sinners are committed to age-long fire; and if pain is an evil thing, pleasure must be a good one.
4. The foregoing clearly shows the arguments which mostly silence such readers as cannot dispose of the. scriptural statements which are adduced in favour of there being three kinds of good things and three of evil things. Moreover, not only have confessedly unsophisticated believers been thus beguiled, but even some of those who profess wisdom according to Christ have fallen into the snare; for they suppose such promises as these to be made by the Creator,638 and that beyond their literal signification the threats have no meaning. Well, then, in reply to all who so strangely apprehend the Scriptures, we must further inquire whether the Prophets, against whom no charge is brought, kept the law; Elias, for instance, the poorest of men, so poor that he had not bread of his own to eat, and was therefore sent to a woman of Zarephath which belonged to Zidon;639 and Eliseus, who at the house of the Shunammite had a very little chamber, and a bed, and a cheap candlestick, who also fell sick and died;640 and Isaiah, who went three years naked and barefoot;641 and Jeremiah, who was cast into a miry pit, and was constantly derided, so that he prayed he might have a lodging-place in the wilderness;642 and John, who was in the deserts and ate nothing but locusts and wild honey, who had a leathern girdle about his loins, and was clothed in raiment of camel's hair.643 They will, I suppose, admit that these men kept the law. And we will ask whether |219 what our opponents consider good things, were the lot of those who kept the law. And if they cannot show that this was so, there will be no escape for them; they will have to allow either that the promises which are said to be given to the godly are false, or that being true they must be anagogically interpreted; and once they are compelled to resort to allegory, there is an end of their supposition that the law threatens the ungodly with bodily disease, and such external things as are reckoned to be evils, and that the promise of bodily health and wealth is for those who follow after God.
5. And is it not foolish to make such a point of the ills of life, and to boast of those who suffer from them? For if tribulations are evil, and the Apostle speaks of rejoicing in tribulations,644 it is clear that he rejoiced in evil things; but this is foolish, and the Apostle was not a fool; and it follows that such exercises of the Apostle as he speaks of were not evil; being pressed on every side he is not straitened; he is perplexed, yet not unto despair;645 tempted, but not killed; thought to be poor, he maketh many rich, and supposed to have nothing, he possesses all things; for the whole world of wealth belongs to the believer, and not an obol to the unbeliever. And further, they who suppose that according to Scripture there are three kinds of good and three kinds of evil, have to face another fact, viz. that the righteous are ever in the midst of evils, for the word of prophecy says truly, "Many are the afllictions of the righteous."646 And they who suppose certain things to be evils might not unfitly remember what befell Job, to whom after that he had nobly borne the trials which compassed him about, the Divine word says, "And dost thou suppose that I dealt with thee for any other purpose than that thou mayest appear righteous?" 647 For if Job is shown to be righteous no other way than through this and that befalling him, how can we say that the causes of his appearing righteous are evils to him? And it follows that even the Devil is |220 not an evil to the holy man. At all events, the Devil was not an evil to Job, for all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.648 And we further say that it is far from clear that, if the blessings are taken literally, the "righteous" man will be a partaker of those things which in the Scriptures are considered "good." For the story of many a holy man's life contradicts such interpretations. It is absurd to suppose that the holy man will be a money lender, opening banks in many nations,649 in town after town, distracted over payments and receipts, and following a prohibited business; for "the righteous man 650 putteth not out his money to usury, and taketh not rewards against the innocent"; and "he that doeth these things shall never be moved." 651 And, according to Ezekiel, "the holy man giveth not forth his money upon usury nor taketh increase." 652 And as for thinking that fever is inflicted on account of sins, that is an opinion of very ignorant people, for the causes of such a sickness are often clear enough; either the neighbourhood, or the quality of the water, or the character of the food. And if health and wealth are rewards for the righteous, no ungodly man ought to have health or wealth. But we must look for this health in the constitution of a man's soul, and the wealth we must take to be that ransom of a man's soul of which Solomon speaks,----"The ransom of a man's soul is his own riches." 653 But we must shun poverty, which is thus described: "A poor man endureth not a threat." And further, by wounds and bruises and sicknesses we must understand the evils which befall heedless souls through their wickedness; and the prophet blames the sufferers this way for being in such a condition, saying, "From the sole of the foot even unto the head, neither wound, nor bruise, nor festering sore (is healed); there is no plaster, nor oil, to put upon them, neither have they been bound up." 654 |221
6. This will be enough to enable any but the very dull, when they read the distracting passages of Scripture, to arrive at a worthy conception of the action of the Holy Spirit. But in order to silence those who think that in these passages we have the good things which shall be given to the saints, and, on the other hand, the evil things which shall be awarded to sinners, we must further observe that everything which exists on account of a given object is less important than that for which it exists; for instance, surgical operations, cauteries, and plasters, which are means to health, are less important than the health in view. And even supposing that regarded as remedies of the physician these things are called "good," we must understand that they are not the final good things of the healing art, but causes of them; from the physician's standpoint bodily health is the final good. Similarly, if we must keep certain commands for the sake of securing certain blessings, and the rewards are bodily and external, the good actions will not be good as ends in themselves, but only as productive of the blessings; and the wealth which our opponents suppose the Scripture to promise, and the bodily health, will excel the righteousness, and the very holiness, piety, and fear of God which constitute the upright and virtuous conduct. It is for men who do not know the dignity of virtue, but prefer material things to virtue itself, to accept such doctrines; for of all things it is most absurd to say that wealth and bodily health surpass upright and virtuous conduct. And, in fact, it is on account of these detestable opinions that some persons have come to believe that even after the Resurrection one of the first things promised is that we shall eat and drink such and such things, and some hold that we shall even beget children. As soon as ever these opinions reach heathen inquirers, they will make Christianity appear a very foolish thing; for some who are strangers to the Faith hold far better views.
7. Now we will apply what appears to be the results of our investigation of the sacred oracles. We alleged that |222 we were content to say that "good" things and "evil" things, partly depend on our own efforts, and partly do not. We did not,655 however, reckon among the blessings which do not depend on our efforts, health and beauty and high descent and riches, and, as best we could, we endeavoured to briefly solve these perplexing passages. We must now say what the good things are which do not depend on our efforts; for it is true that "except the Lord build the house, they labour but in vain who build it"; and "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." 656 Every one who is making progress is building a house, and every one that is perfect keepeth a city; and the work of him that buildeth is in vain, except the Lord build and the Lord watch. The power of the Lord which assists in the building of him that buildeth, and which cooperates with him who is himself unable to complete the edifice, is one of the good things which do not depend on our efforts; and we must take the same view of the city which is being watched. And just as if I were to say that the "good thing" of agriculture, that which produces the fruit, partly depends on ourselves in respect of the husbandman's skill, and partly does not so depend, in respect of the working of Providence for a genial atmosphere and an abundant supply of rain: so the "good thing" of the rational creature is made up of man's purpose, and the Divine power assisting him, when he has chosen the better life. There is need, therefore, both of our own purpose and of the Divine assistance, not only that we may become good and upright, but also that having become good and upright we may abide in virtue; for even if a man has been perfected he will fall away, if he be puffed up over his goodness and accounts himself the cause thereof, and does not fitly ascribe glory to Him who contributes more than all besides to the acquiring and keeping of his virtue. |223 Something like this, we think, explains how it was that he who in Ezekiel is said to have walked blameless in all his ways, until iniquity was found in him,657 fell from heaven, viz., as Isaiah tells us, Lucifer, once a morning star, afterwards, undone and cast clown to earth.658 For not only of the sons of men is it true that if a man be perfect and have not the wisdom of God, he is accounted but a thing of nought; but it is true even in the order of Angels, and of sovereign Powers, and in every rank of being that is Divine so far as God is with it. Anyway, perhaps because the holy Apostle sees that our purposing counts for far less than the power of God in the acquisition of the good things, he says that the result is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy;659 not as though God showeth mercy without our willing and running, but because our willing and running is as nothing in comparison with the mercy of God; and therefore, as is right and meet, he gives the credit of the good result rather to the mercy of God than to human willing and running.
8. Although we knew we should seem to be widely digressing, we have gone into all these details, for we are convinced of the necessity of the inquiry, if we are to handle the words, "Many say, who will show us the good things?" 660 As far as we could we have clearly pointed out to the many who say "Who will show us the good things?" what the good things are, and, consequently, also, what are the evil things, in order that through our exercises and prayers we may acquire the good things, and repel the evil things from our souls. But since in speaking men sometimes use literal expressions, and sometimes, I suppose, even use words in a wrong sense, we must not be surprised if occasionally we find those who hold unsound opinions applying the terms "good" and "evil" to bodily things, and what we call things external. For example, in Job we read, "If we receive good at the hand of God, shall wo not endure evil? " 661 And in Jeremiah, "Evil came down from |224 the Lord to the gates of Jerusalem." 662 Instead of saying, "If we receive such and such useful and pleasant things at the hand of Providence, shall we not put up with the unpleasant and painful ones?" Job says, "If we receive good at the hand of God, shall we not endure evil?" And instead of, "These particular events providentially happened to Jerusalem for the chastisement of its inhabitants," we have, "Evil came down from the Lord to the gates of Jerusalem." So then, readers who understand the facts must not quibble over the names, but must ascertain when the names are to be taken literally, and when on account of their limited connotation they are not taken in their strict sense. And even if the Saviour healed some of these disorders, and gave health, and sight, and hearing to men, we must look chiefly for their spiritual meaning, since the narratives prove that the word of the Gospel does heal the disorders of the soul. And there is no absurdity in supposing in such cases that what is related in the narrative was done to astonish the men of that time; so that if any were not convinced by argument and instruction, they might be silenced through the marvellous miracles, and yield assent to the teacher.
CHAP. XXVII. ----The meaning of the Lord's hardening Pharaoh's heart.
1. Nearly all readers of the Book of Exodus, both they who disbelieve, and they who say they believe it, are disturbed at the frequently occurring words, "The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh," 663 and "I will harden the heart of Pharaoh." 664 For among many other causes of men's disbelief we must include this, that things unworthy of God are spoken of God, and it is unworthy of God to bring about the hardening of any man's heart, and to effect the hardening in order that he who is hardened may disobey the will of Him who hardens. And they further ask, Is it not absurd for God to influence any one to disobey His will? That would be a clear proof that God did not wish |225 Pharaoh to be obedient to His commands. And to ordinary believers it sounds very harsh to say, "The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh." For readers who are convinced that there is no other God but the Creator,665 think that God arbitrarily, as it were, has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and hardens whom He will,666 when there is no reason why one man should have mercy shown him by God, and another be hardened by Him. And others, better advised than these, say they look upon Scripture as containing many secrets, and that they do not on that account turn aside from the sound faith; and one of the secrets they hold to be the true 667 account of this portion of Scripture. Others, alleging that there is a God other than the Creator, will have Him to be just but not good, very foolishly and impiously going the length of severing righteousness from goodness, and supposing that it is possible for righteousness to exist in any one apart from goodness, and for goodness to be separated from righteousness. And although they say this, they nevertheless, in contradiction of their own conception of a righteous God, concede the point that He hardens the heart of Pharaoh, and makes him disobedient to Himself. For if He who giveth to every man his due, and bestoweth on those who have themselves been the cause of progress or deterioration, such things as He knoweth each one to be fitted to receive,----if He is just, how can that God be just Who was the cause of Pharaoh's sin? not absolutely the cause, indeed, but so far as they understand Him to have contributed to Pharaoh's becoming a most unrighteous man. For inasmuch as they refer the hardening of Pharaoh's heart to nothing worthy of the purpose of a just God, I fail to understand how, even on their own showing, they can make the hardener of Pharaoh's heart a just God. We must therefore press them in the exposition of the passage before us either to show how a just God hardens, or to pluck up courage and say that the Creator, because He hardens, is a wicked God. If they can find but scanty proofs that the just God is capable of hardening a man's |226 heart, and dare not be so godless as to own that they charge the Creator with wickedness, let them take refuge in some other way of interpreting the words, "The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh," 668 and no longer contradict their own conception of a just God, because they think they understand the literal meaning. They will at last, perhaps, confess that they are at a loss to know what the Word is hinting at.
2. Away, then, with such conceptions of the Divine nature as we are investigating in the question before us. They are torn to shreds. But inasmuch as there are those who advance the plea of natural constitution, supposing some persons to have been created to perdition, and adduce these passages in support of their views, maintaining that their contention is clearly proved by the fact that Pharaoh's heart was hardened by the Lord, come, let us ask them a few questions. A man created to perdition would never be able to grow in goodness, because his original nature neutralises his efforts to attain to virtue. What need, then, was there for Pharaoh, who was, as you say, a son of perdition, to be hardened by God so that he should not let the people go? For you tell us that if he had not been hardened he would have let them go. Further, we should like an answer to another question: What would Pharaoh have done if he had not been hardened? If he had let them go, not being hardened, he had not a nature doomed to perdition. If he had not let them go, the hardening of his heart was superfluous; for he would just the same have refused to let them go, even if he had not been hardened. And what did God do to control his reason when he hardened him? And how is it that He blames him, saying, "Because thou disobeyest me, behold I will slay thy first-born." 669 Can it be that He who hardens, hardens one already hard. Clearly, the hard is not hardened, but the change is from softness to hardness; and softness of heart is, according to the Scripture, praiseworthy, as we have often observed. Let them, |227 therefore, tell us whether Pharaoh turns from good to bad; further, whether God in blaming Pharaoh blames him without cause, or not without cause; if without cause, how is He any longer wise and just? if not without cause, Pharaoh was responsible for his sins of disobedience; and if he was responsible, he had not a nature doomed to perdition. We must certainly ask another question, because the Apostle, pushing his arguments to their full conclusion, says, "So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will? " 670 Who, we ask, is it that hardeneth and hath mercy? The hardening surely does not belong to one God, and the having mercy to a different one, if we follow the apostolic utterance, but both are attributed to the same God. Either, then, they who in Christ find mercy, belong to Him Who hardeneth Pharaoh's heart, and it is idle for our opponents to invent any other god than (as they allow Him to be) the good God, Who not only hath mercy but also hardens; or He would no longer be, as they suppose, even good.
3. We have advisedly gone into all these details at considerable length, in opposition to those who unwarrantably congratulate themselves on their understanding, and complain of our simplicity, in order to show that neither in their conceptions of God, nor in their doctrines of natures, does the Word when examined give them any support. For ourselves, we are for many reasons convinced, both as we study the sacred Scriptures, and as we contemplate the magnitude of the forces at work in creation, and the evidences of orderly design, that things visible and invisible, things temporal and things eternal, come from God the Creator, Who is to be regarded as one and the same with the Father of our Lord and Saviour, the good and just and wise God; and in handling the Scriptures we strive to keep that steadily in view, begging God our Saviour to show us all things pertaining to a good |228 and just and wise God, for we suppose that the things we speak of cannot be regarded, at least by intelligent beings, as the result of chance, but that we must ask ourselves whether they are consistent with His goodness and justice and wisdom.
4. Something like this, then, we suppose to be the meaning of the words,"The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh." 671 The Word of God is a physician of the soul, and uses the most diverse, suitable, and seasonable methods of healing the sick; and of these methods of healing, some more, some less, give pain and torment to those who are under treatment; and the remedies, moreover, seem unsuitable, sometimes not; and, further, they act speedily or slowly; and are sometimes applied when the patients have had their fill of sin, or when, so to speak, they have only touched it. The whole of inspired Scripture abounds in proofs of each of these statements. For example, we read that remedies more or less sad were applied to the people in the course of what befell them, for the sake of punishment and correction, in wars of greater or less magnitude, and in famines of longer or shorter duration; and we have an instance of seemingly unsuitable treatment in the passage, "I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your brides when they commit adultery." 672 It may be that God leaves to themselves the souls that eagerly desire the sweets of bodily pleasure, until being satiated they abandon the objects of their longing; they are, as it were, sick of them, and not likely to fall quickly into the same snares, because they are disgusted and have been so far tormented. Souls are more slowly healed, because, if they were soon rid of their sufferings, they would think little of falling a second time into the same evils. The God who designed them knows all their different constitutions, and, for that He is an expert in the art of healing, it is for Him alone to say what is best to be done for each, and when.
5. In some bodily sicknesses, when the mischief is, as |229 they say, deep-seated, the physician with the aid of certain drugs draws and forces the matter to the surface, producing severe inflammation and swelling, causing more pains than those which a patient had before he put himself under treatment----as is the practice in cases of Hydrophobia and similar diseases. So God also, I think, deals with secret, deep-seated mischief in the soul. The physician might say in one of his cases, "I will set up inflammation round about the injury, and will force certain parts to swell, so as to produce a bad abscess"; and when he speaks thus, one hearer will not blame a scientific expert but will even praise him for, as it were, threatening to produce these effects, while another hearer will blame him, and will allege that a man who makes a cure depend on inflammations and abscesses must be a quack; so it is, I think, when God says, "I will harden the heart of Pharaoh." 673 And seeing that these things are written, he that heareth them as the oracles of God, observing the dignity of the Speaker, accepts them, and every one who seeketh, findeth a way of showing even herein the goodness of God;674 for the people were through the numerous miracles more openly assured of safety; and, secondly, there was goodness as regards the Egyptians, as many as, amazed at what took place, intended to follow the Hebrews: for "a mixed multitude," says the historian, "of the Egyptians went out with them";675 and there was perhaps a deeper and more secret purpose of benefiting Pharaoh himself, when he shall no longer conceal the poison nor check the malady, but draw it forth to the light, and perhaps by his conduct put a stop to it: so that having gone through all the stages of the eruption of the wickedness within him, he may find the tree which bore the evil fruit less vigorous, perhaps at last withering away, when he is overwhelmed in the sea: not, as one might suppose, to perish altogether, but that he may cast away and be relieved of the burden of his sins, and, it |230 may be, descend to Hades in peace, or in less warfare of the soul.
6. Readers, however, may hardly be convinced: they will suspect that there is something forced in our version of the matter, viz. that the hardening of Pharaoh's heart was for his good, and that everything we are told, right up to the overwhelming in the sea, was for his sake. Let us see, then, if we cannot remove this reluctance, and convince our readers of the truth of what we say. "Many are the scourges," says David, "of the wicked";676 and his son teaches that "God scourgeth every son whom he re-receiveth." 677 And elsewhere David in a prophetic promise concerning Christ and those who believe on Him, says, "If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they profane my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with scourges. But my mercy will I not utterly take from them." 678 So, then, it is a favour from the Lord that the transgressor is visited with a rod and the sinner with scourges. And so far as the sinner is not scourged, he is not yet brought under discipline and correction. And this is why God threatens, that if the sins of the inhabitants of Judah become great, He will no longer punish their daughters when they commit whoredom, nor their brides when they commit adultery.679 And elsewhere he says, "Because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, I will not again be furious over thee, nor again be jealous over thee." 680 So, then, there are sinners with whom God is not furious; if I may so speak, though He is angry, He is not furious.
7. We must also observe that the threats of the Prophets against the many end with "They shall know that I am the Lord";681 and not only the threats against the Israelites, but also those against the Egyptians and Assyrians and the other enemies of the people. And this |231 familiar ending of many threats is found also in the Book of Exodus: "And all the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord":682 the usual sufferings being brought upon them for this very purpose, that they may know the Lord. And in the Maccabees something similar is said: "Now I beseech those that read this book, that they be not discouraged for these calamities, but that they judge those punishments not to be for destruction, but for a chastening of our nation. For it is a token of His great goodness, when wicked doers are not suffered any long time, but forthwith punished. For not as with other nations whom the Lord forbeareth to punish, till they be come to the fulness of their sins, so dealeth he with us; but though he punish with adversity he doth not forsake his own people." 683 If the incurring punishment for sins is a token of God's great goodness, I would have you consider whether Pharaoh, inasmuch as he was punished after the hardening of his heart, and chastised as well as his people, was not punished with good reason, and according to his own wickedness. And David, as it were imitating God, and having due regard to times and seasons, when he gives Solomon command concerning Joab, to chastise him for his offences against Abner the son of Ner, and to slay him for his errors, goes on to say, "And thou shalt bring down his hoar head in peace to the grave." 684 And it is clear, as the Jew 685 also told us, that Joab's resting in peace would be the result of his punishment, torment and punishment being no longer due to him after his discharge therefrom, for he had therein already received his deserts. And so we think that every threat and pain and punishment, things that come from God, are never inflicted to injure the sufferers, but always to do them good. And what are considered the severest |232 terms we can apply to God, fury and anger, are called rebuking and chastening in the passage, "O Lord, rebuke me not in thy fury, nor chasten me in thine anger";686 where the suppliant begs that he may not need rebuke through God's fury, and chastening through God's anger, for some there were who would be rebuked in God's fury, and chastened in His anger.
8. But that we may the more readily assent to what has been said, we must make use of similar passages from the New Testament. The Saviour says, "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and what will I, if it is already kindled." 687 If the fire which He came to cast upon the earth had not been a saving fire, at all events a saving fire for men, the Son of the good God would not have said this. And then there is the case of Peter, who, when with the sword of his mouth he slew Ananias and Sapphira, because they sinned by lying,688 not to men but to the Lord, had in view not only the edification of such as seeing what was done would show more reverence towards the Faith of Christ, but also the welfare of the offenders visited with death. He wished them to depart from the body purified by their sudden and unexpected death; for they had some right on their side, inasmuch as they gave even the half of their possessions for the wants of the needy. And Paul also, though he pronounces the sentence of blindness on the companion of Sergius Paulus the Proconsul, endeavours through suffering to turn him from sin to godliness, for he says to him, "O full of all guile, and all villainy, thou son of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season." 689 What "season" would it be, except such time as, having been punished and tormented for his sins, he would repent and become worthy of both ways seeing the sun?----with his bodily eyes, that the Divine power might be proclaimed in the restoration of his sight, |233 and with the eyes of the soul, when, as a believer he would delight in godliness. Demas, too, and Hermogenes, whom Paul 690 delivered to Satan that they might learn not to blaspheme, experienced something like what we have spoken of. And the man at Corinth that had his father's wife was himself, also, delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord.691 No wonder, then, if the treatment of Pharaoh, so that he was hardened and finally involved in such chastisements, is to be traced to the goodness of God. For the present let the foregoing, which we put down as it came into our head, suffice for the words, "And the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart." 692 If any one with due regard to God's glory should discover better arguments, and such as have no tincture of impiety, and can support them with the evidence of the Divine Scriptures, we will gladly avail ourselves of them.
Origen elsewhere discusses the same subject----
9. Among other considerations, I would further urge that possibly as physicians in the treatment of Hydrophobia, to prevent the poison from getting a hold within and killing the man, draw it to the surface, thus causing more acute suffering and inflammation: so God through His healing art draws out the secret mischief lurking in the depths of the soul, and makes it show itself, in order that He may afterwards induce a healthy state. This, I think, is the meaning of what we read in Deuteronomy: "And thou shalt remember all the way that the Lord thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no. And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every thing that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live." 693 Observe here that God humbles |234 and tries, in order that what is in each man's heart may be known, inasmuch as it lies deep and is revealed through tribulations. And such is the declaration of the Lord to Job in storm and whirlwind: "Dost thou think that I have dealt with thee for any other purpose than that thou mayest appear righteous?" He did not say, "That thou mayest be righteous," but, "That thou mayest appear righteous.694 Righteous he was even before his trials, but God would have him show his righteousness by what befell him.
Elsewhere in the same Commentaries on Exodus----
10. One of our friends to relieve the difficulty takes an illustration from daily life, and tells us how frequently it happens that masters who are kind and long-suffering towards their erring servants say, "I ruined you"; and "I spoiled you"; meaning to imply that their kindness and long-suffering seem to have occasioned worse behaviour. As then a sophistical reasoner may say that because the master speaks thus, he confesses that he has spoiled the servant; so, it may be urged, what God in His goodness does, having been made the occasion of Pharaoh's hardness, is described as having hardened Pharaoh's heart. And our friend will discover in the Apostle's own words the softer meaning he desires: "Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works." 695 Anyway, the same Apostle, in the same Epistle to the Romans, says, "What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction," 696 as if the long-suffering of God having endured the vessels of wrath, had, as it were, produced them. For if, because of His long-suffering He did not chastise the sinners but took pity on them, and if wickedness thereby abounded, He in a way by His long-suffering endured |235 the vessels of wrath, and, so to speak, Himself made them vessels of wrath, and accordingly Himself hardened their heart. For when Pharaoh, although so many signs and wonders were wrought, is not persuaded, but after his strange experiences still resists, is he not certainly proved to be harder and more unbelieving, and does it not look as though the hardness and unbelief had arisen from the marvellous miracles? The passage in the Gospel is similar: "For judgment came I into this world";697 for the Saviour did not purpose to come for judgment, but His coming for judgment of those who after His marvellous works believed not on Him was a consequence of His coming; He, moreover, came for the fall of many;698 but He did not purpose when He came to make them fall for whose fall He came.
11. So the marvellous things, to those who accept them and believe, as was the case with the mixed multitude of Egyptians who went out with the people, mean mercy; but to the unbelieving they bring hardness of heart. And, further, besides what has been said, we may adduce similar passages from the Gospel, which go to show that even the Saviour appears to have been the cause of evil to some people. "Woe unto thee. Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And thou, Capernaum," 699 and so on. The Saviour knew beforehand the unbelief of the dwellers at Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum, and that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for them. Why, then, does He do His marvellous works in Chorazin and Bethsaida, though He sees that those works will make it more tolerable in the day of judgment for the people of Tyre and Sidon than for them? |236
12. "And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Israel is my son, my first-born: and I have said unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me; and if thou refusest to let him go: behold, I will slay thy son, thy first-born." 700 Let me ask those persons who allege that this is the action of a just God, and suppose, according to the literal meaning of the words, that Pharaoh's heart was hardened, how He Who hardened the heart of Pharaoh that he might not let the people go, can be just, and at the same time threaten that unless Pharaoh will let them go, He will slay his first-born son? Being hard pressed they will confess that He must be a bad God. Then, again, they will be upset by other passages and forced to escape from their bondage to the letter, inasmuch as the literal meaning, according to them, is inconsistent, with the justice of the Creator.701 And once they are compelled to investigate the matter, they will proceed so far that they will no longer accuse the Creator, but will allow that He is good. Let us then ask those who think they understand the words, "The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh," 702 whether they believe the above threats were uttered by God through the mouth of Moses inspired for the occasion, or whether there was no truth in them? If there was no truth in them, God according to them is neither just nor true, and on their own showing is not God at all; but if the words were truly spoken, I would have them consider whether God does not blame Pharaoh as a free agent when He says, "If thou wilt not let my people go";703 and in another place, "How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me?"704 For the question, "How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me?" 704 is intended to shame Pharaoh, because, if he did not humble himself, it was not that he could not, but that he would not. And then there is what was said before by Moses to Pharaoh: "That thou mayest know that the earth is the Lord's. |237 But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye have not yet feared the Lord." 705 This shows that they will fear----a good argument against the heterodox, for it proves the goodness of God, and disproves their tenet of a man's being naturally doomed to perdition.
And in Book II. of the Commentaries on the "Song of Songs "----
13. Observe further that the sun though white and shining seems to be the cause of a man's turning black, not because of what it does itself, but because of him who turns black.706 And so also, perhaps, the Lord hardens Pharaoh's heart, though the cause of this was connected with the king's making the lives of the Hebrews bitter with hard service, in clay and in brick, and in all the service, not on the mountains and hills, but in the plains.707 For becoming a material man through his own wickedness, and living a life in all things according to the flesh, just because he is fond of clay, he wishes to turn 708 the Hebrews also into clay, for his own reason is not purified from the clay; and just as clay is hardened by the sun, so his reason was hardened by the bright beams of Godhead visiting Israel. And that something like this is the interpretation of the passage, and that it is not the purpose of God's servant to write mere history, will be clear to any one who notices that when the children of Israel groaned they did not groan because of the brick, nor because of the clay, nor because of the straw, but because of the service; and their cry went up to God not because of the clay, but, we repeat, because of the service.709 Wherefore God also heard their groans, though He did not hear the groaning of such as cried to Him, not because of the service, but because of the clay and their earthly condition. |238
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