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Home > Fathers of the Church > To Autolycus (Theophilus of Antioch) > Book III

To Autolycus, Book III

Chapter 1. Autolycus Not Yet Convinced.

Theophilus to Autolycus, greeting: Seeing that writers are fond of composing a multitude of books for vainglory—some concerning gods, and wars, and chronology, and some, too, concerning useless legends, and other such labour in vain, in which you also have been used to employ yourself until now, and do not grudge to endure that toil; but though you conversed with me, are still of opinion that the word of truth is an idle tale, and suppose that our writings are recent and modern—on this account I also will not grudge the labour of compendiously setting forth to you, God helping me, the antiquity of our books, reminding you of it in few words, that you may not grudge the labour of reading it, but may recognise the folly of the other authors.

Chapter 2. Profane Authors Had No Means of Knowing the Truth.

For it was fit that they who wrote should themselves have been eye-witnesses of those things concerning which they made assertions, or should accurately have ascertained them from those who had seen them; for they who write of things unascertained beat the air. For what did it profit Homer to have composed the Trojan war, and to have deceived many; or Hesiod, the register of the theogony of those whom he calls gods; or Orpheus, the three hundred and sixty-five gods, whom in the end of his life he rejects, maintaining in his precepts that there is one God? What profit did the sphærography of the world's circle confer on Aratus, or those who held the same doctrine as he, except glory among men? And not even that did they reap as they deserved. And what truth did they utter? Or what good did their tragedies do to Euripides and Sophocles, or the other tragedians? Or their comedies to Menander and Aristophanes, and the other comedians? Or their histories to Herodotus and Thucydides? Or the shrines and the pillars of Hercules to Pythagoras, or the Cynic philosophy to Diogenes? What good did it do Epicurus to maintain that there is no providence; or Empedocles to teach atheism; or Socrates to swear by the dog, and the goose, and the plane-tree, and Æsculapius struck by lightning, and the demons whom he invoked? And why did he willingly die? What reward, or of what kind, did he expect to receive after death? What did Plato's system of culture profit him? Or what benefit did the rest of the philosophers derive from their doctrines, not to enumerate the whole of them, since they are numerous? But these things we say, for the purpose of exhibiting their useless and godless opinions.

Chapter 3. Their Contradictions.

For all these, having fallen in love with vain and empty reputation, neither themselves knew the truth, nor guided others to the truth: for the things which they said themselves convict them of speaking inconsistently; and most of them demolished their own doctrines. For not only did they refute one another, but some, too, even stultified their own teachings; so that their reputation has issued in shame and folly, for they are condemned by men of understanding. For either they made assertions concerning the gods, and afterwards taught that there was no god; or if they spoke even of the creation of the world, they finally said that all things were produced spontaneously. Yea, and even speaking of providence, they taught again that the world was not ruled by providence. But what? Did they not, when they essayed to write even of honourable conduct, teach the perpetration of lasciviousness, and fornication, and adultery; and did they not introduce hateful and unutterable wickedness? And they proclaim that their gods took the lead in committing unutterable acts of adultery, and in monstrous banquets. For who does not sing Saturn devouring his own children, and Jove his son gulping down Metis, and preparing for the gods a horrible feast, at which also they say that Vulcan, a lame blacksmith, did the waiting; and how Jove not only married Juno, his own sister, but also with foul mouth did abominable wickedness? And the rest of his deeds, as many as the poets sing, it is likely you are acquainted with. Why need I further recount the deeds of Neptune and Apollo, or Bacchus and Hercules, of the bosom-loving Minerva, and the shameless Venus, since in another place we have given a more accurate account of these?

Chapter 4. How Autolycus Had Been Misled by False Accusations Against the Christians.

Nor indeed was there any necessity for my refuting these, except that I see you still in dubiety about the word of the truth. For though yourself prudent, you endure fools gladly. Otherwise you would not have been moved by senseless men to yield yourself to empty words, and to give credit to the prevalent rumor wherewith godless lips falsely accuse us, who are worshippers of God, and are called Christians, alleging that the wives of us all are held in common and made promiscuous use of; and that we even commit incest with our own sisters, and, what is most impious and barbarous of all, that we eat human flesh. But further, they say that our doctrine has but recently come to light, and that we have nothing to allege in proof of what we receive as truth, nor of our teaching, but that our doctrine is foolishness. I wonder, then, chiefly that you, who in other matters are studious, and a scrutinizer of all things, give but a careless hearing to us. For, if it were possible for you, you would not grudge to spend the night in the libraries.

Chapter 5. Philosophers Inculcate Cannibalism.

Since, then, you have read much, what is your opinion of the precepts of Zeno, and Diogenes, and Cleanthes, which their books contain, inculcating the eating of human flesh: that fathers be cooked and eaten by their own children; and that if any one refuse or reject a part of this infamous food, he himself be devoured who will riot eat? An utterance even more godless than these is found—that, namely, of Diogenes, who teaches children to bring their own parents in sacrifice, and devour them. And does not the historian Herodotus narrate that Cambyses, when he had slaughtered the children of Harpagus, cooked them also, and set them as a meal before their father? And, still further, he narrates that among the Indians the parents are eaten by their own children. Oh! The godless teaching of those who recorded, yea, rather, inculcated such things! Oh! Their wickedness and godlessness! Oh! The conception of those who thus accurately philosophized, and profess philosophy! For they who taught these doctrines have filled the world with iniquity.

Chapter 6. Other Opinions of the Philosophers.

And regarding lawless conduct, those who have blindly wandered into the choir of philosophy have, almost to a man, spoken with one voice. Certainly Plato, to mention him first who seems to have been the most respectable philosopher among them, expressly, as it were, legislates in his first book, entitled The Republic, that the wives of all be common, using the precedent of the son of Jupiter and the lawgiver of the Cretans, in order that under this pretext there might be an abundant offspring from the best persons, and that those who were worn with toil might be comforted by such intercourse. And Epicurus himself, too, as well as teaching atheism, teaches along with it incest with mothers and sisters, and this in transgression of the laws which forbid it; for Solon distinctly legislated regarding this, in order that from a married parent children might lawfully spring, that they might not be born of adultery, so that no one should honour as his father him who was not his father, or dishonour him who was really his father, through ignorance that he was so. And these things the other laws of the Romans and Greeks also prohibit. Why, then, do Epicurus and the Stoics teach incest and sodomy, with which doctrines they have filled libraries, so that from boyhood this lawless intercourse is learned? And why should I further spend time on them, since even of those they call gods they relate similar things?

Chapter 7. Varying Doctrine Concerning the Gods.

For after they had said that these are gods, they again made them of no account. For some said that they were composed of atoms; and others, again, that they eventuate in atoms; and they say that the gods have no more power than men. Plato, too, though he says these are gods, would have them composed of matter. And Pythagoras, after he had made such a toil and moil about the gods, and travelled up and down [for information], at last determines that all things are produced naturally and spontaneously, and that the gods care nothing for men. And how many atheistic opinions Clitomachus the academician introduced, [I need not recount.] And did not Critias and Protagoras of Abdera say, For whether the gods exist, I am not able to affirm concerning them, nor to explain of what nature they are; for there are many things would prevent me? And to speak of the opinions of the most atheistical, Euhemerus, is superfluous. For having made many daring assertions concerning the gods, he at last would absolutely deny their existence, and have all things to be governed by self-regulated action. And Plato, who spoke so much of the unity of God and of the soul of man, asserting that the soul is immortal, is not he himself afterwards found, inconsistently with himself, to maintain that some souls pass into other men, and that others take their departure into irrational animals? How can his doctrine fail to seem dreadful and monstrous— to those at least who have any judgment— that he who was once a man shall afterwards be a wolf, or a dog, or an ass, or some other irrational brute? Pythagoras, too, is found venting similar nonsense, besides his demolishing providence. Which of them, then, shall we believe? Philemon, the comic poet, who says

Good hope have they who praise and serve the gods;

or those whom we have mentioned— Euhemerus, and Epicurus, and Pythagoras, and the others who deny that the gods are to be worshipped, and who abolish providence? Concerning God and providence, Ariston said:—

Be of good courage: God will still preserve
And greatly help all those who so deserve.
If no promotion waits on faithful men,
Say what advantage goodness offers then.
'Tis granted— yet I often see the just
Faring but ill, from ev'ry honour thrust;
While they whose own advancement is their aim,
Oft in this present life have all they claim.
But we must look beyond, and wait the end,
That consummation to which all things tend.
'Tis not, as vain and wicked men have said,
By an unbridled destiny we're led:
It is not blinded chance that rules the world,
Nor uncontrolled are all things onward hurled.
The wicked blinds himself with this belief;
But be sure, of all rewards, the chief
Is still reserved for those who holy live;
And Providence to wicked men will give
Only the just reward which is their meed,
And fitting punishment for each bad deed.

And one can see how inconsistent with each other are the things which others, and indeed almost the majority, have said about God and providence. For some have absolutely cancelled God and providence; and others, again, have affirmed God, and have avowed that all things are governed by providence. The intelligent hearer and reader must therefore give minute attention to their expressions; as also Simylus said: It is the custom of the poets to name by a common designation the surpassingly wicked and the excellent; we therefore must discriminate. As also Philemon says: A senseless man who sits and merely hears is a troublesome feature; for he does not blame himself, so foolish is he. We must then give attention, and consider what is said, critically inquiring into what has been uttered by the philosophers and the poets.

Chapter 8. Wickedness Attributed to the Gods by Heathen Writers.

For, denying that there are gods, they again acknowledge their existence, and they said they committed grossly wicked deeds. And, first, of Jove the poets euphoniously sing the wicked actions. And Chrysippus, who talked a deal of nonsense, is he not found publishing that Juno had the foulest intercourse with Jupiter? For why should I recount the impurities of the so-called mother of the gods, or of Jupiter Latiaris thirsting for human blood, or the castrated Attis; or of Jupiter, surnamed Tragedian, and how he defiled himself, as they say, and now is worshipped among the Romans as a god? I am silent about the temples of Antinous, and of the others whom you call gods. For when related to sensible persons, they excite laughter. They who elaborated such a philosophy regarding either the non-existence of God, or promiscuous intercourse and beastly concubinage, are themselves condemned by their own teachings. Moreover, we find from the writings they composed that the eating of human flesh was received among them; and they record that those whom they honour as gods were the first to do these things.

Chapter 9. Christian Doctrine of God and His Law.

Now we also confess that God exists, but that He is one, the creator, and maker, and fashioner of this universe; and we know that all things are arranged by His providence, but by Him alone. And we have learned a holy law; but we have as lawgiver Him who is really God, who teaches us to act righteously, and to be pious, and to do good. And concerning piety He says, You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make unto you any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I am the Lord your God. Exodus 20:3 And of doing good He said: Honour your father and your mother; that it may be well with you, and that your days may be long in the land which I the Lord God give you. Again, concerning righteousness: You shall not commit adultery. You shall not kill. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife, you shall not covet your neighbour's house, nor his land, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his beast of burden, nor any of his cattle, nor anything that is your neighbour's. You shall not wrest the judgment of the poor in his cause. Exodus 23:6 From every unjust matter keep you far. The innocent and righteous you shall not slay; you shall not justify the wicked; and you shall not take a gift, for gifts blind the eyes of them that see and pervert righteous words. Of this divine law, then, Moses, who also was God's servant, was made the minister both to all the world, and chiefly to the Hebrews, who were also called Jews, whom an Egyptian king had in ancient days enslaved, and who were the righteous seed of godly and holy menAbraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. God, being mindful of them, and doing marvellous and strange miracles by the hand of Moses, delivered them, and led them out of Egypt, leading them through what is called the desert; whom He also settled again in the land of Canaan, which afterwards was called judæa, and gave them a law, and taught them these things. Of this great and wonderful law, which tends to all righteousness, the ten heads are such as we have already rehearsed.

Chapter 10. Of Humanity to Strangers.

Since therefore they were strangers in the land of Egypt, being by birth Hebrews from the land of Chaldæa,— for at that time, there being a famine, they were obliged to migrate to Egypt for the sake of buying food there, where also for a time they sojourned; and these things befell them in accordance with a prediction of God—having sojourned, then, in Egypt for 430 years, when Moses was about to lead them out into the desert, God taught them by the law, saying, You shall not afflict a stranger; for you know the heart of a stranger: for yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 22:21

Chapter 11. Of Repentance.

And when the people transgressed the law which had been given to them by God, God being good and pitiful, unwilling to destroy them, in addition to His giving them the law, afterwards sent forth also prophets to them from among their brethren, to teach and remind them of the contents of the law, and to turn them to repentance, that they might sin no more. But if they persisted in their wicked deeds, He forewarned them that they should be delivered into subjection to all the kingdoms of the earth; and that this has already happened them is manifest. Concerning repentance, then, Isaiah the prophet, generally indeed to all, but expressly to the people, says: Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord his God, and he will find mercy, for He will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:6 And another prophet, Ezekiel, says: If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he has committed, and keep all My statutes, and do that which is right in My sight, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he has committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him; but in his righteousness that he has done he shall live: for I desire not the death of the sinner, says the Lord, but that he turn from his wicked way, and live. Ezekiel 18:21 Again Isaiah: You who take deep and wicked counsel, turn, that you may be saved. Isaiah 31:6 And another prophet, Jeremiah: Turn to the Lord your God, as a grape-gatherer to his basket, and you shall find mercy. Jeremiah 6:9 Many therefore, yea rather, countless are the sayings in the Holy Scriptures regarding repentance, God being always desirous that the race of men turn from all their sins.

Chapter 12. Of Righteousness.

Moreover, concerning the righteousness which the law enjoined, confirmatory utterances are found both with the prophets and in the Gospels, because they all spoke inspired by one Spirit of God. Isaiah accordingly spoke thus: Put away the evil of your doings from your souls; learn to do well, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Isaiah 1:16-17 And again the same prophet said: Loose every band of wickedness, dissolve every oppressive contract, let the oppressed go free, and tear up every unrighteous bond. Deal out your bread to the hungry, and bring the houseless poor to your home. When you see the naked, cover him, and hide not yourself from your own flesh. Then shall your light break forth as the morning, and your health shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you. Isaiah 58:6 In like manner also Jeremiah says: Stand in the ways, and see, and ask which is the good way of the Lord your God, and walk in it and you shall find rest for your souls. Judge just judgment, for in this is the will of the Lord your God. Jeremiah 6:16 So also says Hosea: Keep judgment, and draw near to your God, who established the heavens and created the earth. Hosea 12:6 And another, Joel, spoke in agreement with these: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children that are in arms; let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet, and pray to the Lord your God urgently that he may have mercy upon you, and blot out your sins. Joel 2:16 In like manner also another, Zachariah: Thus says the Lord Almighty, Execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassion every man to his brother; and oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, nor the stranger; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart, says the Lord Almighty. Zechariah 7:9-10

Chapter 13. Of Chastity.

And concerning chastity, the holy word teaches us not only not to sin in act, but not even in thought, not even in the heart to think of any evil, nor look on another man's wife with our eyes to lust after her. Solomon, accordingly, who was a king and a prophet, said: Let your eyes look right on, and let your eyelids look straight before you: make straight paths for your feet. Proverbs 4:25 And the voice of the Gospel teaches still more urgently concerning chastity, saying: Whosoever looks on a woman who is not his own wife, to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matthew 5:28 And he that marries, says [the Gospel], her that is divorced from her husband, commits adultery; and whosoever puts away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery. Matthew 5:32 Because Solomon says: Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goes in to a married woman shall not be innocent. Proverbs 6:27-29

Chapter 14. Of Loving Our Enemies.

And that we should be kindly disposed, not only towards those of our own stock, as some suppose, Isaiah the prophet said: Say to those that hate you, and that cast you out, You are our brethren, that the name of the Lord may be glorified, and be apparent in their joy. Isaiah 66:5 And the Gospel says: Love your enemies, and pray for them that despitefully use you. For if you love them who love you, what reward will you have? This do also the robbers and the publicans. Matthew 5:44, 46 And those that do good it teaches not to boast, lest they become men-pleasers. For it says: Let not your left hand know what your right hand does. Matthew 6:3 Moreover, concerning subjection to authorities and powers, and prayer for them, the divine word gives us instructions, in order that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life. 1 Timothy 2:2 And it teaches us to render all things to all, Romans 13:7-8 honour to whom honour, fear to whom fear, tribute to whom tribute; to owe no man anything, but to love all.

Chapter 15. The Innocence of the Christians Defended.

Consider, therefore, whether those who teach such things can possibly live indifferently, and be commingled in unlawful intercourse, or, most impious of all, eat human flesh, especially when we are forbidden so much as to witness shows of gladiators, lest we become partakers and abettors of murders. But neither may we see the other spectacles, lest our eyes and ears be defiled, participating in the utterances there sung. For if one should speak of cannibalism, in these spectacles the children of Thyestes and Tereus are eaten; and as for adultery, both in the case of men and of gods, whom they celebrate in elegant language for honours and prizes, this is made the subject of their dramas. But far be it from Christians to conceive any such deeds; for with them temperance dwells, self-restraint is practiced, monogamy is observed, chastity is guarded, iniquity exterminated, sin extirpated, righteousness exercised, law administered, worship performed, God acknowledged: truth governs, grace guards, peace screens them; the holy word guides, wisdom teaches, life directs, God reigns. Therefore, though we have much to say regarding our manner of life, and the ordinances of God, the maker of all creation, we yet consider that we have for the present reminded you of enough to induce you to study these things, especially since you can now read [our writings] for yourself, that as you have been fond of acquiring information, you may still be studious in this direction also.

Chapter 16. Uncertain Conjectures of the Philosophers.

But I wish now to give you a more accurate demonstration, God helping me, of the historical periods, that you may see that our doctrine is not modern nor fabulous, but more ancient and true than all poets and authors who have written in uncertainty. For some, maintaining that the world was uncreated, went into infinity; and others, asserting that it was created, said that already 153,075 years had passed. This is stated by Apollonius the Egyptian. And Plato, who is esteemed to have been the wisest of the Greeks, into what nonsense did he run? For in his book entitled The Republic, we find him expressly saying: For if things had in all time remained in their present arrangement, when ever could any new thing be discovered? For ten thousand times ten thousand years elapsed without record, and one thousand or twice as many years have gone by since some things were discovered by Dædalus, and some by Orpheus, and some by Palamedes. And when he says that these things happened, he implies that ten thousand times ten thousand years elapsed from the flood to Dædalus. And after he has said a great deal about the cities of the world, and the settlements, and the nations, he owns that he has said these things conjecturally. For he says, If then, my friend, some god should promise us, that if we attempted to make a survey of legislation, the things now said, etc., which shows that he was speaking by guess; and if by guess, then what he says is not true.

Chapter 17. Accurate Information of the Christians.

It behooved, therefore, that he should the rather become a scholar of God in this matter of legislation, as he himself confessed that in no other way could he gain accurate information than by God's teaching him through the law. And did not the poets Homer and Hesiod and Orpheus profess that they themselves had been instructed by Divine Providence? Moreover, it is said that among your writers there were prophets and prognosticators, and that those wrote accurately who were informed by them. How much more, then, shall we know the truth who are instructed by the holy prophets, who were possessed by the Holy Spirit of God! On this account all the prophets spoke harmoniously and in agreement with one another, and foretold the things that would come to pass in all the world. For the very accomplishment of predicted and already consummated events should demonstrate to those who are fond of information, yea rather, who are lovers of truth, that those things are really true which they declared concerning the epochs and eras before the deluge: to wit, how the years have run on since the world was created until now, so as to manifest the ridiculous mendacity of your authors, and show that their statements are not true.

Chapter 18. Errors of the Greeks About the Deluge.

For Plato, as we said above, when he had demonstrated that a deluge had happened, said that it extended not over the whole earth, but only over the plains, and that those who fled to the highest hills saved themselves. But others say that there existed Deucalion and Pyrrha, and that they were preserved in a chest; and that Deucalion, after he came out of the chest, flung stones behind him, and that men were produced from the stones; from which circumstance they say that men in the mass are named people. Others, again, say that Clymenus existed in a second flood. From what has already been said, it is evident that they who wrote such things and philosophized to so little purpose are miserable, and very profane and senseless persons. But Moses, our prophet and the servant of God, in giving an account of the genesis of the world, related in what manner the flood came upon the earth, telling us, besides, how the details of the flood came about, and relating no fable of Pyrrha nor of Deucalion or Clymenus; nor, forsooth, that only the plains were submerged, and that those only who escaped to the mountains were saved.

Chapter 19. Accurate Account of the Deluge.

And neither does he make out that there was a second flood: on the contrary, he said that never again would there be a flood of water on the world; as neither indeed has there been, nor ever shall be. And he says that eight human beings were preserved in the ark, in that which had been prepared by God's direction, not by Deucalion, but by Noah; which Hebrew word means rest, as we have elsewhere shown that Noah, when he announced to the men then alive that there was a flood coming, prophesied to them, saying, Come there, God calls you to repentance. On this account he was fitly called Deucalion. And this Noah had three sons (as we mentioned in the second book), whose names were Shem, and Ham, and Japhet; and these had three wives, one wife each; each man and his wife. This man some have surnamed Eunuchus. All the eight persons, therefore, who were found in the ark were preserved. And Moses showed that the flood lasted forty days and forty nights, torrents pouring from heaven, and from the fountains of the deep breaking up, so that the water overtopped every high hill 15 cubits. And thus the race of all the men that then were was destroyed, and those only who were protected in the ark were saved; and these, we have already said, were eight. And of the ark, the remains are to this day to be seen in the Arabian mountains. This, then, is in sum the history of the deluge.

Chapter 20. Antiquity of Moses.

And Moses, becoming the leader of the Jews, as we have already stated, was expelled from the land of Egypt by the king, Pharaoh, whose name was Amasis, and who, they say, reigned after the expulsion of the people 25 years and 4 months, as Manetho assumes. And after him [reigned] Chebron, 13 years. And after him Amenophis, 20 years 7 months. And after him his sister Amessa, 21 years 1 month. And after her Mephres, 12 years 9 months. And after him Methramuthosis, 20 years and 10 months. And after him Tythmoses, 9 years 8 months. And after him Damphenophis, 30 years 10 months. And after him Orus, 35 years 5 months. And after him his daughter, 10 years 3 months. After her Mercheres, 12 years 3 months. And after him his son Armais, 30 years 1 month. After him Messes, son of Miammus, 6 years, 2 months. After him Rameses, 1 year 4 months. After him Amenophis, 19 years 6 months. After him his sons Thoessus and Rameses, 10 years, who, it is said, had a large cavalry force and naval equipment. The Hebrews, indeed, after their own separate history, having at that time migrated into the land of Egypt, and been enslaved by the king Tethmosis, as already said, built for him strong cities, Peitho, and Rameses, and On, which is Heliopolis; so that the Hebrews, who also are our ancestors, and from whom we have those sacred books which are older than all authors, as already said, are proved to be more ancient than the cities which were at that time renowned among the Egyptians. And the country was called Egypt from the king Sethos. For the word Sethos, they say, is pronounced Egypt. And Sethos had a brother, by name Armais. He is called Danaus, the same who passed from Egypt to Argos, whom the other authors mention as being of very ancient date.

Chapter 21. Of Manetho's Inaccuracy.

And Manetho, who among the Egyptians gave out a great deal of nonsense, and even impiously charged Moses and the Hebrews who accompanied him with being banished from Egypt on account of leprosy, could give no accurate chronological statement. For when he said they were shepherds, and enemies of the Egyptians, he uttered truth indeed, because he was forced to do so. For our forefathers who sojourned in Egypt were truly shepherds, but not lepers. For when they came into the land called Jerusalem, where also they afterwards abode, it is well known how their priests, in pursuance of the appointment of God, continued in the temple, and there healed every disease, so that they cured lepers and every unsoundness. The temple was built by Solomon the king of Judæa. And from Manetho's own statement his chronological error is manifest. (As it is also in respect of the king who expelled them, Pharaoh by name. For he no longer ruled them. For having pursued the Hebrews, he and his army were engulphed in the Red Sea. And he is in error still further, in saying that the shepherds made war against the Egyptians.) For they went out of Egypt, and thenceforth dwelt in the country now called Judæa, 313 years before Danaus came to Argos. And that most people consider him older than any other of the Greeks is manifest. So that Manetho has unwillingly declared to us, by his own writings, two particulars of the truth: first, avowing that they were shepherds; secondly, saying that they went out of the land of Egypt. So that even from these writings Moses and his followers are proved to be 900 or even 1000 years prior to the Trojan war.

Chapter 22. Antiquity of the Temple.

Then concerning the building of the temple in Judæa, which Solomon the king built 566 years after the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, there is among the Tyrians a record how the temple was built; and in their archives writings have been preserved, in which the temple is proved to have existed 143 years 8 months before the Tyrians founded Carthage (and this record was made by Hiram (that is the name of the king of the Tyrians), the son of Abimalus, on account of the hereditary friendship which existed between Hiram and Solomon, and at the same time on account of the surpassing wisdom possessed by Solomon. For they continually engaged with each other in discussing difficult problems. And proof of this exists in their correspondence, which to this day is preserved among the Tyrians, and the writings that passed between them); as Menander the Ephesian, while narrating the history of the Tyrian kingdom, records, speaking thus: For when Abimalus the king of the Tyrians died, his son Hiram succeeded to the kingdom. He lived 53 years. And Bazorus succeeded him, who lived 43, and reigned 17 years. And after him followed Methuastartus, who lived 54 years, and reigned 12. And after him succeeded his brother Atharymus, who lived 58 years, and reigned 9. He was slain by his brother of the name of Helles, who lived 50 years, and reigned 8 months. He was killed by Juthobalus, priest of Astarte, who lived 40 years, and reigned 12. He was succeeded by his son Bazorus, who lived 45 years, and reigned 7. And to him his son Metten succeeded, who lived 32 years, and reigned 29. Pygmalion, son of Pygmalius succeeded him, who lived 56 years, and reigned 7. And in the 7th year of his reign, his sister, fleeing to Libya, built the city which to this day is called Carthage. The whole period, therefore, from the reign of Hiram to the founding of Carthage, amounts to 155 years and 8 months. And in the 12th year of the reign of Hiram the temple in Jerusalem was built. So that the entire time from the building of the temple to the founding of Carthage was 143 years and 8 months.

Chapter 23. Prophets More Ancient Than Greek Writers.

So then let what has been said suffice for the testimony of the Phœnicians and Egyptians, and for the account of our chronology given by the writers Manetho the Egyptian, and Menander the Ephesian, and also Josephus, who wrote the Jewish war, which they waged with the Romans. For from these very old records it is proved that the writings of the rest are more recent than the writings given to us through Moses, yes, and than the subsequent prophets. For the last of the prophets, who was called Zechariah, was contemporary with the reign of Darius. But even the lawgivers themselves are all found to have legislated subsequently to that period. For if one were to mention Solon the Athenian, he lived in the days of the kings Cyrus and Darius, in the time of the prophet Zechariah first mentioned, who was by many years the last of the prophets. Or if you mention the lawgivers Lycurgus, or Draco, or Minos, Josephus tells us in his writings that the sacred books take precedence of them in antiquity, since even before the reign of Jupiter over the Cretans, and before the Trojan war, the writings of the divine law which has been given to us through Moses were in existence. And that we may give a more accurate exhibition of eras and dates, we will, God helping us, now give an account not only of the dates after the deluge, but also of those before it, so as to reckon the whole number of all the years, as far as possible; tracing up to the very beginning of the creation of the world, which Moses the servant of God recorded through the Holy Spirit. For having first spoken of what concerned the creation and genesis of the world, and of the first man, and all that happened after in the order of events, he signified also the years that elapsed before the deluge. And I pray for favour from the only God, that I may accurately speak the whole truth according to His will, that you and every one who reads this work may be guided by His truth and favour. I will then begin first with the recorded genealogies, and I begin my narration with the first man.

Chapter 24. Chronology from Adam.

Adam lived till he begot a son, 230 years. And his son Seth, 205. And his son Enos, 190. And his son Cainan, 170. And his son Mahaleel, 165. And his son Jared, 162. And his son Enoch, 165. And his son Methuselah, 167. And his son Lamech, 188. And Lamech's son was Noah, of whom we have spoken above, who begot Shem when 500 years old. During Noah's life, in his 600th year, the flood came. The total number of years, therefore, till the flood, was 2242. And immediately after the flood, Shem, who was 100 years old, begot Arphaxad. And Arphaxad, when 135 years old, begot Salah. And Salah begot a son when 130. And his son Eber, when 134. And from him the Hebrews name their race. And his son Phaleg begot a son when 130. And his son Reu, when 132 And his son Serug, when 130. And his son Nahor, when 75. And his son Terah, when 70. And his son Abraham, our patriarch, begot Isaac when he was 100 years old. Until Abraham, therefore, there are 3278 years. The fore-mentioned Isaac lived until he begot a son, 60 years, and begot Jacob. Jacob, till the migration into Egypt, of which we have spoken above, lived 130 years. And the sojourning of the Hebrews in Egypt lasted 430 years; and after their departure from the land of Egypt they spent 40 years in the wilderness, as it is called. All these years, therefore, amount to 3,938. And at that time, Moses having died, Jesus the sun of Nun succeeded to his rule, and governed them 27 years. And after Jesus, when the people had transgressed the commandments of God, they served the king of Mesopotamia, by name Chusarathon, 8 years. Then, on the repentance of the people, they had judges: Gothonoel, 40 years; Eglon, 18 years; Aoth, 8 years. Then having sinned, they were subdued by strangers for 20 years. Then Deborah judged them 40 years. Then they served the Midianites 7 years. Then Gideon judged them 40 years; Abimelech, 3 years; Thola, 22 years; Jair, 22 years. Then the Philistines and Ammonites ruled them 18 years. After that Jephthah judged them 6 years; Esbon, 7 years; Ailon, 10 years; Abdon, 8 years. Then strangers ruled them 40 years. Then Samson judged them 20 years. Then there was peace among them for 40 years. Then Samera judged them one year; Eli, 20 years; Samuel, 12 years.

Chapter 25. From Saul to the Captivity.

And after the judges they had kings, the first named Saul, who reigned 20 years; then David, our forefather, who reigned 40 years. Accordingly, there are to the reign of David [from Isaac] 496 years. And after these kings Solomon reigned, who also, by the will of God, was the first to build the temple in Jerusalem; he reigned 40 years. And after him Rehoboam, 17 years; and after him Abias, 7 years; and after him Asa, 41 years; and after him Jehoshaphat, 25 years; and after him Joram, 8 years; and after him Ahaziah, 1 year; and after him Athaliah, 6 years; and after her Josiah, 40 years; and after him Amaziah, 39 years; and after him Uzziah, 52 years; and after him Jotham, 16 years; and after him Ahaz, 17 years; and after him Hezekiah, 29 years; and after him Manasseh, 55 years; and after him Amon, 2 years; and after him Josiah, 31 years; and after him Jehoahaz, 3 months; and after him Jehoiakim, 11 years. Then another Jehoiakim, 3 months 10 days; and after him Zedekiah, 11 years. And after these kings, the people, continuing in their sins, and not repenting, the king of Babylon, named Nebuchadnezzar, came up into Judæa, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah. He transferred the people of the Jews to Babylon, and destroyed the temple which Solomon had built. And in the Babylonian banishment the people passed 70 years. Until the sojourning in the land of Babylon, there are therefore, in all, 4954 years 6 months and 10 days. And according as God had, by the prophet Jeremiah, foretold that the people should be led captive to Babylon, in like manner He signified beforehand that they should also return into their own land after 70 years. These 70 years then being accomplished, Cyrus becomes king of the Persians, who, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah, issued a decree in the second year of his reign, enjoining by his edict that all Jews who were in his kingdom should return to their own country, and rebuild their temple to God, which the fore-mentioned king of Babylon had demolished. Moreover, Cyrus, in compliance with the instructions of God, gave orders to his own bodyguards, Sabessar and Mithridates, that the vessels which had been taken out of the temple of Judæa by Nebuchadnezzar should be restored, and placed again in the temple. In the second year, therefore, of Darius are fulfilled the 70 years which were foretold by Jeremiah.

Chapter 26. Contrast Between Hebrew and Greek Writings.

Hence one can see how our sacred writings are shown to be more ancient and true than those of the Greeks and Egyptians, or any other historians. For Herodotus and Thucydides, as also Xenophon, and most other historians, began their relations from about the reign of Cyrus and Darius, not being able to speak with accuracy of prior and ancient times. For what great matters did they disclose if they spoke of Darius and Cyrus, barbarian kings, or of the Greeks Zopyrus and Hippias, or of the wars of the Athenians and Lacedæmonians, or the deeds of Xerxes or of Pausanias, who ran the risk of starving to death in the temple of Minerva, or the history of Themistocles and the Peloponnesian war, or of Alcibiades and Thrasybulus? For my purpose is not to furnish mere matter of much talk, but to throw light upon the number of years from the foundation of the world, and to condemn the empty labour and trifling of these authors, because there have neither been twenty thousand times ten thousand years from the flood to the present time, as Plato said, affirming that there had been so many years; nor yet 15 times 10,375 years, as we have already mentioned Apollonius the Egyptian gave out; nor is the world uncreated, nor is there a spontaneous production of all things, as Pythagoras and the rest dreamed; but, being indeed created, it is also governed by the providence of God, who made all things; and the whole course of time and the years are made plain to those who wish to obey the truth. Lest, then, I seem to have made things plain up to the time of Cyrus, and to neglect the subsequent periods, as if through inability to exhibit them, I will endeavour, by God's help, to give an account, according to my ability, of the course of the subsequent times.

Chapter 27. Roman Chronology to the Death of M. Aurelius.

When Cyrus, then, had reigned twenty-nine years, and had been slain by Tomyris in the country of the Massagetæ;, this being in the 62d Olympiad, then the Romans began to increase in power, God strengthening them, Rome having been founded by Romulus, the reputed child of Mars and Ilia, in the 7th Olympiad, on the 21st day of April, the year being then reckoned as consisting of ten months. Cyrus, then, having died, as we have already said, in the 62d Olympiad, this date falls 220 A.U.C., in which year also Tarquinius, surnamed Superbus, reigned over the Romans, who was the first who banished Romans and corrupted the youth, and made eunuchs of the citizens, and, moreover, first defiled virgins, and then gave them in marriage. On this account he was fitly called Superbus in the Roman language, and that is translated the Proud. For he first decreed that those who saluted him should have their salute acknowledged by some one else. He reigned twenty-five years. After him yearly consuls were introduced, tribunes also and ediles for 453 years, whose names we consider it long and superfluous to recount. For if any one is anxious to learn them, he will ascertain them from the tables which Chryserus the nomenclator compiled: he was a freedman of Aurelius Verus, who composed a very lucid record of all things, both names and dates, from the rounding of Rome to the death of his own patron, the Emperor Verus. The annual magistrates ruled the Romans, as we say, for 453 years. Afterwards those who are called emperors began in this order: first, Caius Julius, who reigned 3 years 4 months 6 days; then Augustus, 56 years 4 months 1 day; Tiberius, 22 years; then another Caius, 3 years 8 months 7 days; Claudius, 23 years 8 months 24 days; Nero, 13 years 6 months 58 days; Galba, 2 years 7 months 6 days; Otho, 3 months 5 days; Vitellius, 6 months 22 days; Vespasian, 9 years 11 months 22 days; Titus, 2 years 22 days; Domitian, 15 years 5 months 6 days; Nerva, 1 year 4 months 10 days; Trajan, 19 years 6 months 16 days; Adrian, 20 years 10 months 28 days; Antoninus, 22 years 7 months 6 days; Verus, 19 years 10 days. The time therefore of the Cæsars to the death of the Emperor Verus is 237 years 5 days. From the death of Cyrus, therefore, and the reign of Tarquinius Superbus, to the death of the Emperor Verus, the whole time amounts to 744 years.

Chapter 28. Leading Chronological Epochs.

And from the foundation of the world the whole time is thus traced, so far as its main epochs are concerned. From the creation of the world to the deluge were 2242 years. And from the deluge to the time when Abraham our forefather begot a son, 1036 years. And from Isaac, Abraham's son, to the time when the people dwelt with Moses in the desert, 660 years. And from the death of Moses and the rule of Joshua the son of Nun, to the death of the patriarch David, 498 years. And from the death of David and the reign of Solomon to the sojourning of the people in the land of Babylon, 518 years 6 months 10 days. And from the government of Cyrus to the death of the Emperor Aurelius Verus, 744 years. All the years from the creation of the world amount to a total of 5698 years, and the odd months and days.

Chapter 29. Antiquity of Christianity.

These periods, then, and all the above-mentioned facts, being viewed collectively, one can see the antiquity of the prophetical writings and the divinity of our doctrine, that the doctrine is not recent, nor our tenets mythical and false, as some think; but very ancient and true. For Thallus mentioned Belus, king of the Assyrians, and Saturn, son of Titan, alleging that Belus with the Titans made war against Jupiter and the so-called gods in his alliance; and on this occasion he says that Gyges, being defeated, fled to Tartessus. At that time Gyges ruled over that country, which then was called Acte, but now is named Attica. And whence the other countries and cities derived their names, we think it unnecessary to recount, especially to you who are acquainted with history. That Moses, and not he only, but also most of the prophets who followed him, is proved to be older than all writers, and than Saturn and Belus and the Trojan war, is manifest. For according to the history of Thallus, Belus is found to be 322 years prior to the Trojan war. But we have shown above that Moses lived somewhere about 900 or 1000 years before the sack of Troy. And as Saturn and Belus flourished at the same time, most people do not know which is Saturn and which is Belus. Some worship Saturn, and call him Bel or Bal, especially the inhabitants of the eastern countries, for they do not know who either Saturn or Belus is. And among the Romans he is called Saturn, for neither do they know which of the two is more ancient— Saturn or Bel. So far as regards the commencement of the Olympiads, they say that the observance dates from Iphitus, but according to others from Linus, who is also called Ilius. The order which the whole number of years and Olympiads holds, we have shown above. I think I have now, according to my ability, accurately discoursed both of the godlessness of your practices, and of the whole number of the epochs of history. For if even a chronological error has been committed by us, of, e.g., 50 or 100, or even 200 years, yet not of thousands and tens of thousands, as Plato and Apollonius and other mendacious authors have hitherto written. And perhaps our knowledge of the whole number of the years is not quite accurate, because the odd months and days are not set down in the sacred books. But so far as regards the periods we speak of, we are corroborated by Berosus, the Chaldæan philosopher, who made the Greeks acquainted with the Chaldæan literature, and uttered some things concerning the deluge, and many other points of history, in agreement with Moses; and with the prophets Jeremiah and Daniel also, he spoke in a measure of agreement. For he mentioned what happened to the Jews under the king of the Babylonians, whom he calls Abobassor, and who is called by the Hebrews Nebuchadnezzar. And he also spoke of the temple of Jerusalem; how it was desolated by the king of the Chaldæans, and that the foundations of the temple having been laid the second year of the reign of Cyrus, the temple was completed in the second year of the reign of Darius.

Chapter 30. Why the Greeks Did Not Mention Our Histories.

But the Greeks make no mention of the histories which give the truth: first, because they themselves only recently became partakers of the knowledge of letters; and they themselves own it, alleging that letters were invented, some say among the Chaldæans, and others with the Egyptians, and others again say that they are derived from the Phœnicians. And secondly, because they sinned, and still sin, in not making mention of God, but of vain and useless matters. For thus they most heartily celebrate Homer and Hesiod, and the rest of the poets, but the glory of the incorruptible and only God they not only omit to mention, but blaspheme; yes, and they persecuted, and do daily persecute, those who worship Him. And not only so, but they even bestow prizes and honours on those who in harmonious language insult God; but of those who are zealous in the pursuit of virtue and practice a holy life, some they stoned, some they put to death, and up to the present time they subject them to savage tortures. Wherefore such men have necessarily lost the wisdom of God, and have not found the truth.

If you please, then, study these things carefully, that you may have a compendium and pledge of the truth.

About this page

Source. Translated by Marcus Dods. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/02043.htm>.

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