Of the Gnostic so much has been cursorily, as it were, written. We proceed now to the sequel, and must again contemplate faith; for there are some that draw the distinction, that faith has reference to the Son, and knowledge to the Spirit. But it has escaped their notice that, in order to believe truly in the Son, we must believe that He is the Son, and that He came, and how, and for what, and respecting His passion; and we must know who is the Son of God. Now neither is knowledge without faith, nor faith without knowledge. Nor is the Father without the Son; for the Son is with the Father. And the Son is the true teacher respecting the Father; and that we may believe in the Son, we must know the Father, with whom also is the Son. Again, in order that we may know the Father, we must believe in the Son, that it is the Son of God who teaches; for from faith to knowledge by the Son is the Father. And the knowledge of the Son and Father, which is according to the gnostic rule— that which in reality is gnostic— is the attainment and comprehension of the truth by the truth.
We, then, are those who are believers in what is not believed, and who are Gnostics as to what is unknown; that is, Gnostics as to what is unknown and disbelieved by all, but believed and known by a few; and Gnostics, not describing actions by speech, but Gnostics in the exercise of contemplation. Happy is he who speaks in the ears of the hearing. Now faith is the ear of the soul. And such the Lord intimates faith to be, when He says,
He that has ears to hear, let him hear; Matthew 11:15 so that by believing he may comprehend what He says, as He says it. Homer, too, the oldest of the poets, using the word
hear instead of
perceive— the specific for the generic term— writes:—
Him most they heard.
For, in fine, the agreement and harmony of the faith of both contribute to one end— salvation. We have in the apostle an unerring witness:
For I desire to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, in order that you may be strengthened; that is, that I may be comforted in you, by the mutual faith of you and me. Romans 1:11-12 And further on again he adds, Romans 1:17 The apostle, then, manifestly announces a twofold faith, or rather one which admits of growth and perfection; for the common faith lies beneath as a foundation. To those, therefore, who desire to be healed, and are moved by faith, He added,
Your faith has saved you. Matthew 9:22 But that which is excellently built upon is consummated in the believer, and is again perfected by the faith which results from instruction and the word, in order to the performance of the commandments. Such were the apostles, in whose case it is said that
faith removed mountains and transplanted trees. Whence, perceiving the greatness of its power, they asked
that faith might be added to them; Luke 17:5 a faith which salutarily bites the soil
like a grain of mustard, and grows magnificently in it, to such a degree that the reasons of things sublime rest on it. For if one by nature knows God, as Basilides thinks, who calls intelligence of a superior order at once faith and kingship, and a creation worthy of the essence of the Creator; and explains that near Him exists not power, but essence and nature and substance; and says that faith is not the rational assent of the soul exercising free-will, but an undefined beauty, belonging immediately to the creature—the precepts both of the Old and of the New Testament are, then, superfluous, if one is saved by nature, as Valentinus would have it, and is a believer and an elect man by nature, as Basilides thinks; and nature would have been able, one time or other, to have shone forth, apart from the Saviour's appearance. But were they to say that the visit of the Saviour was necessary, then the properties of nature are gone from them, the elect being saved by instruction, and purification, and the doing of good works. Abraham, accordingly, who through hearing believed the voice, which promised under the oak in Mamre,
I will give this land to you, and to your seed, was either elect or not. But if he was not, how did he straightway believe, as it were naturally? And if he was elect, their hypothesis is done away with, inasmuch as even previous to the coming of the Lord an election was found, and that saved:
For it was reckoned to him for righteousness. Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3 For if any one, following Marcion, should dare to say that the Creator (Δημιουργόν) saved the man that believed on him, even before the advent of the Lord, (the election being saved with their own proper salvation); the power of the good Being will be eclipsed; inasmuch as late only, and subsequent to the Creator spoken of by them in words of good omen, it made the attempt to save, and by instruction, and in imitation of him. But if, being such, the good Being save, according to them; neither is it his own that he saves, nor is it with the consent of him who formed the creation that he essays salvation, but by force or fraud. And how can he any more be good, acting thus, and being posterior? But if the locality is different, and the dwelling-place of the Omnipotent is remote from the dwelling-place of the good God; yet the will of him who saves, having been the first to begin, is not inferior to that of the good God. From what has been previously proved, those who believe not are proved senseless:
For their paths are perverted, and they know not peace, says the prophet. Isaiah 59:8
But foolish and unlearned questions the divine Paul exhorted to
avoid, because they gender strifes. 2 Timothy 2:23 And Æschylus exclaims:—
In what profits not, labour not in vain.
For that investigation, which accords with faith, which builds, on the foundation of faith, the august knowledge of the truth, we know to be the best. Now we know that neither things which are clear are made subjects of investigation, such as if it is day, while it is day; nor things unknown, and never destined to become clear, as whether the stars are even or odd in number; nor things convertible; and those are so which can be said equally by those who take the opposite side, as if what is in the womb is a living creature or not. A fourth mode is, when, from either side of those, there is advanced an unanswerable and irrefragable argument. If, then, the ground of inquiry, according to all of these modes, is removed, faith is established. For we advance to them the unanswerable consideration, that it is God who speaks and comes to our help in writing, respecting each one of the points regarding which I investigate. Who, then, is so impious as to disbelieve God, and to demand proofs from God as from men? Again, some questions demand the evidence of the senses, as if one were to ask whether the fire be warm, or the snow white; and some admonition and rebuke, as the question if you ought to honour your parents. And there are those that deserve punishment, as to ask proofs of the existence of Providence. There being then a Providence, it were impious to think that the whole of prophecy and the economy in reference to a Saviour did not take place in accordance with Providence. And perchance one should not even attempt to demonstrate such points, the divine Providence being evident from the sight of all its skilful and wise works which are seen, some of which take place in order, and some appear in order. And He who communicated to us being and life, has communicated to us also reason, wishing us to live rationally and rightly. For the Word of the Father of the universe is not the uttered word (λόγος προφορικός), but the wisdom and most manifest kindness of God, and His power too, which is almighty and truly divine, and not incapable of being conceived by those who do not confess— the all-potent will. But since some are unbelieving, and some are disputatious, all do not attain to the perfection of the good. For neither is it possible to attain it without the exercise of free choice; nor does the whole depend on our own purpose; as, for example, what is defined to happen.
For by grace we are saved: not, indeed, without good works; but we must, by being formed for what is good, acquire an inclination for it. And we must possess the healthy mind which is fixed on the pursuit of the good; in order to which we have the greatest need of divine grace, and of right teaching, and of holy susceptibility, and of the drawing of the Father to Him. For, bound in this earthly body, we apprehend the objects of sense by means of the body; but we grasp intellectual objects by means of the logical faculty itself. But if one expect to apprehend all things by the senses, he has fallen far from the truth. Spiritually, therefore, the apostle writes respecting the knowledge of God,
For now we see as through a glass, but then face to face. 1 Corinthians 13:12 For the vision of the truth is given but to few. Accordingly, Plato says in the Epinomis,
I do not say that it is possible for all to be blessed and happy; only a few. Whilst we live, I pronounce this to be the case. But there is a good hope that after death I shall attain all. To the same effect is what we find in Moses:
No man shall see My face, and live. Exodus 33:20 For it is evident that no one during the period of life has been able to apprehend God clearly. But
the pure in heart shall see God, Matthew 5:8 when they arrive at the final perfection. For since the soul became too enfeebled for the apprehension of realities, we needed a divine teacher. The Saviour is sent down— a teacher and leader in the acquisition of the good— the secret and sacred token of the great Providence.
Where, then, is the scribe? Where is the searcher of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 1 Corinthians 1:20 it is said. And again,
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent, 1 Corinthians 1:19 plainly of those wise in their own eyes, and disputatious. Excellently therefore Jeremiah says,
Thus says the Lord, Stand in the ways, and ask for the eternal paths, what is the good way, and walk in it, and you shall find expiation for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16 Ask, he says, and inquire of those who know, without contention and dispute. And on learning the way of truth, let us walk on the right way, without turning till we attain to what we desire. It was therefore with reason that the king of the Romans (his name was Numa), being a Pythagorean, first of all men, erected a temple to Faith and Peace.
And to Abraham, on believing, righteousness was reckoned. He, prosecuting the lofty philosophy of aerial phenomena, and the sublime philosophy of the movements in the heavens, was called Abram, which is interpreted
sublime father. But afterwards, on looking up to heaven, whether it was that he saw the Son in the spirit, as some explain, or a glorious angel, or in any other way recognised God to be superior to the creation, and all the order in it, he receives in addition the Alpha, the knowledge of the one and only God, and is called Abraam, having, instead of a natural philosopher, become wise, and a lover of God. For it is interpreted,
elect father of sound. For by sound is the uttered word: the mind is its father; and the mind of the good man is elect. I cannot forbear praising exceedingly the poet of Agrigentum, who celebrates faith as follows:—
Wherefore also the apostle exhorts,
but in the power of God, 1 Corinthians 2:5 which alone without proofs, by mere faith, is able to save.
For the most approved of those that are reputable knows how to keep watch. And justice will apprehend the forgers and witnesses of lies, says the Ephesian. For he, having derived his knowledge from the barbarian philosophy, is acquainted with the purification by fire of those who have led bad lives, which the Stoics afterwards called the Conflagration (ἐκπύρωσις), in which also they teach that each will arise exactly as he was, so treating of the resurrection; while Plato says as follows, that the earth at certain periods is purified by fire and water:
There have been many destructions of men in many ways; and there shall be very great ones by fire and water; and others briefer by innumerable causes. And after a little he adds:
And, in truth, there is a change of the objects which revolve about earth and heaven; and in the course of long periods there is the destruction of the objects on earth by a great conflagration. Then he subjoins respecting the deluge:
But when, again, the gods deluge the earth to purify it with water, those on the mountains, herdsmen and shepherds, are saved; those in your cities are carried down by the rivers into the sea. And we showed in the first Miscellany that the philosophers of the Greeks are called thieves, inasmuch as they have taken without acknowledgment their principal dogmas from Moses and the prophets. To which also we shall add, that the angels who had obtained the superior rank, having sunk into pleasures, told to the women the secrets which had come to their knowledge; while the rest of the angels concealed them, or rather, kept them against the coming of the Lord. Thence emanated the doctrine of providence, and the revelation of high things; and prophecy having already been imparted to the philosophers of the Greeks, the treatment of dogma arose among the philosophers, sometimes true when they hit the mark, and sometimes erroneous, when they comprehended not the secret of the prophetic allegory. And this it is proposed briefly to indicate in running over the points requiring mention. Faith, then, we say, we are to show must not be inert and alone, but accompanied with investigation. For I do not say that we are not to inquire at all. For
Search, and you shall find, Matthew 7:7 it is said.
What is sought may be captured,
But what is neglected escapes,
according to Sophocles.
The like also says Menander the comic poet:—
All things sought,
The wisest say, need anxious thought.
But we ought to direct the visual faculty of the soul aright to discovery, and to clear away obstacles; and to cast clean away contention, and envy, and strife, destined to perish miserably from among men.
For very beautifully does Timon of Phlius write:—
And Strife, the Plague of Mortals, stalks vainly shrieking,
The sister of Murderous Quarrel and Discord,
Which rolls blindly over all things. But then
It sets its head towards men, and casts them on hope.
Then a little below he adds:—
For who has set these to fight in deadly strife?
A rabble keeping pace with Echo; for, enraged at those silent,
It raised an evil disease against men, and many perished;
of the speech which denies what is false, and of the dilemma, of that which is concealed, of the Sorites, and of the Crocodilean, of that which is open, and of ambiguities and sophisms. To inquire, then, respecting God, if it tend not to strife, but to discovery, is salutary. For it is written in David,
The poor eat, and shall be filled; and they shall praise the Lord that seek Him. Your heart shall live for ever. For they who seek Him after the true search, praising the Lord, shall be filled with the gift that comes from God, that is, knowledge. And their soul shall live; for the soul is figuratively termed the heart, which ministers life: for by the Son is the Father known.
We ought not to surrender our ears to all who speak and write rashly. For cups also, which are taken hold of by many by the ears, are dirtied, and lose the ears; and besides, when they fall they are broken. In the same way also, those, who have polluted the pure hearing of faith by many trifles, at last becoming deaf to the truth, become useless and fall to the earth. It is not, then, without reason that we commanded boys to kiss their relations, holding them by the ears; indicating this, that the feeling of love is engendered by hearing. And
God, who is known to those who love,
is love, 1 John 4:16 as
God, who by instruction is communicated to the faithful,
is faithful; and we must be allied to Him by divine love: so that by like we may see like, hearing the word of truth guilelessly and purely, as children who obey us. And this was what he, whoever he was, indicated who wrote on the entrance to the temple at Epidaurus the inscription:—
Pure he must be who goes within
The incense-perfumed fane.
And purity is
to think holy thoughts.
Unless you become as these little children, you shall not enter, it is said,
into the kingdom of heaven. For there the temple of God is seen established on three foundations— faith, hope, and love.
Respecting faith we have adduced sufficient testimonies of writings among the Greeks. But in order not to exceed bounds, through eagerness to collect a very great many also respecting hope and love, suffice it merely to say that in the Crito Socrates, who prefers a good life and death to life itself, thinks that we have hope of another life after death.
Also in the Phœdrus he says,
That only when in a separate state can the soul become partaker of the wisdom which is true, and surpasses human power; and when, having reached the end of hope by philosophic love, desire shall waft it to heaven, then, says he,
does it receive the commencement of another, an immortal life. And in the Symposium he says,
That there is instilled into all the natural love of generating what is like, and in men of generating men alone, and in the good man of the generation of the counterpart of himself. But it is impossible for the good man to do this without possessing the perfect virtues, in which he will train the youth who have recourse to him. And as he says in the Theœtetus,
He will beget and finish men. For some procreate by the body, others by the soul; since also with the barbarian philosophers to teach and enlighten is called to regenerate; and
I have begotten you in Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 4:15 says the good apostle somewhere.
Empedocles, too, enumerates friendship among the elements, conceiving it as a combining love:—
Which do you look at with your mind; and don't sit gaping with your eyes.
Parmenides, too, in his poem, alluding to hope, speaks thus:—
Yet look with the mind certainly on what is absent as present,
For it will not sever that which is from the grasp it has of that which is
Not, even if scattered in every direction over the world or combined.
For he who hopes, as he who believes, sees intellectual objects and future things with the mind. If, then, we affirm that anything is just, and affirm it to be good, and we also say that truth is something, yet we have never seen any of such objects with our eyes, but with our mind alone. Now the Word of God says,
I am the truth. John 14:6 The Word is then to be contemplated by the mind.
Do you aver, it was said,
that there are any true philosophers?
Yes, said I, Plato, speaking of the truth, shows it as an idea. Now an idea is a conception of God; and this the barbarians have termed the Word of God. The words are as follow:
For one must then dare to speak the truth, especially in speaking of the truth. For the essence of the soul, being colourless, formless, and intangible, is visible only to God, its guide. Now the Word issuing forth was the cause of creation; then also he generated himself,
when the Word had become flesh, John 1:14 that He might be seen. The righteous man will seek the discovery that flows from love, to which if he hastes he prospers. For it is said,
To him that knocks, it shall be opened: ask, and it shall be given to you. Matthew 7:7
For the violent that storm the kingdom Matthew 11:12 are not so in disputatious speeches; but by continuance in a right life and unceasing prayers, are said
to take it by force, wiping away the blots left by their previous sins.
You may obtain wickedness, even in great abundance.
And him who toils God helps;
For the gifts of the Muses, hard to win,
Lie not before you, for any one to bear away.
The knowledge of ignorance is, then, the first lesson in walking according to the Word. An ignorant man has sought, and having sought, he finds the teacher; and finding has believed, and believing has hoped; and henceforward having loved, is assimilated to what was loved— endeavouring to be what he first loved. Such is the method Socrates shows Alcibiades, who thus questions:
Do you not think that I shall know about what is right otherwise?
Yes, if you have found out.
But you don't think I have found out?
Certainly, if you have sought.
Then you don't think that I have sought?
Yes, if you think you do not know. So with the lamps of the wise virgins, lighted at night in the great darkness of ignorance, which the Scripture signified by
night. Wise souls, pure as virgins, understanding themselves to be situated amidst the ignorance of the world, kindle the light, and rouse the mind, and illumine the darkness, and dispel ignorance, and seek truth, and await the appearance of the Teacher.
The mob, then,said I,cannot become philosopher.
Many rod-bearers there are, but few Bacchi, according to Plato.
For many are called, but few chosen. Matthew 20:16
Knowledge is not in all, 1 Corinthians 8:7 says the apostle. 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 And the Poetics of Cleanthes, the Stoic, writes to the following effect:—
And more sententiously the comic poet briefly says:—
It is a shame to judge of what is right by much noise.
For they heard, I think, that excellent wisdom, which says to us,
Watch your opportunity in the midst of the foolish, and in the midst of the intelligent continue. Sirach 27:12 And again,
The wise will conceal sense. Proverbs 10:14 For the many demand demonstration as a pledge of truth, not satisfied with the bare salvation by faith.
But it is strongly incumbent to disbelieve the dominant wicked,
And as is enjoined by the assurance of our muse,
Know by dissecting the utterance within your breast.
For this is habitual to the wicked, says Empedocles,
to wish to overbear what is true by disbelieving it. And that our tenets are probable and worthy of belief, the Greeks shall know, the point being more thoroughly investigated in what follows. For we are taught what is like by what is like. For says Solomon,
Answer a fool according to his folly. Proverbs 26:5 Wherefore also, to those that ask the wisdom that is with us, we are to hold out things suitable, that with the greatest possible ease they may, through their own ideas, be likely to arrive at faith in the truth. For 1 Corinthians 9:22 Since also
the rain of the divine grace is sent down
on the just and the unjust. Matthew 5:45
Is He the God of the Jews only, and not also of the Gentiles? Yes, also of the Gentiles: if indeed He is one God, Romans 3:29-30 exclaims the noble apostle.
But since they will believe neither in what is good justly nor in knowledge unto salvation, we ourselves reckoning what they claim as belonging to us, because all things are God's; and especially since what is good proceeded from us to the Greeks, let us handle those things as they are capable of hearing. For intelligence or rectitude this great crowd estimates not by truth, but by what they are delighted with. And they will be pleased not more with other things than with what is like themselves. For he who is still blind and dumb, not having understanding, or the undazzled and keen vision of the contemplative soul, which the Saviour confers, like the uninitiated at the mysteries, or the unmusical at dances, not being yet pure and worthy of the pure truth, but still discordant and disordered and material, must stand outside of the divine choir.
For we compare spiritual things with spiritual. 1 Corinthians 2:13 Wherefore, in accordance with the method of concealment, the truly sacred Word, truly divine and most necessary for us, deposited in the shrine of truth, was by the Egyptians indicated by what were called among them adyta, and by the Hebrews by the veil. Only the consecrated— that is, those devoted to God, circumcised in the desire of the passions for the sake of love to that which is alone divine— were allowed access to them. For Plato also thought it not lawful for
the impure to touch the pure.
Thence the prophecies and oracles are spoken in enigmas, and the mysteries are not exhibited incontinently to all and sundry, but only after certain purifications and previous instructions.
For the Muse was not then
Greedy of gain or mercenary;
Nor were Terpsichore's sweet,
Honey-toned, silvery soft-voiced
Strains made merchandise of.
Now those instructed among the Egyptians learned first of all that style of the Egyptian letters which is called Epistolographic; and second, the Hieratic, which the sacred scribes practice; and finally, and last of all, the Hieroglyphic, of which one kind which is by the first elements is literal (Kyriologic), and the other Symbolic. Of the Symbolic, one kind speaks literally by imitation, and another writes as it were figuratively; and another is quite allegorical, using certain enigmas.
Wishing to express Sun in writing, they makea circle; and Moon, a figure like the Moon, like its proper shape. But in using the figurative style, by transposing and transferring, by changing and by transforming in many ways as suits them, they draw characters. In relating the praises of the kings in theological myths, they write in anaglyphs. Let the following stand as a specimen of the third species— the Enigmatic. For the rest of the stars, on account of their oblique course, they have figured like the bodies of serpents; but the sun, like that of a beetle, because it makes a round figure of ox-dung, and rolls it before its face. And they say that this creature lives six months under ground, and the other division of the year above ground, and emits its seed into the ball, and brings forth; and that there is not a female beetle. All then, in a word, who have spoken of divine things, both Barbarians and Greeks, have veiled the first principles of things, and delivered the truth in enigmas, and symbols, and allegories, and metaphors, and such like tropes. Such also are the oracles among the Greeks. And the Pythian Apollo is called Loxias. Also the maxims of those among the Greeks called wise men, in a few sayings indicate the unfolding of matter of considerable importance. Such certainly is that maxim,
Spare Time: either because life is short, and we ought not to expend this time in vain; or, on the other hand, it bids you spare your personal expenses; so that, though you live many years, necessaries may not fail you. Similarly also the maxim
Know yourself shows many things; both that you are mortal, and that you were born a human being; and also that, in comparison with the other excellences of life, you are of no account, because you say that you are rich or renowned; or, on the other hand, that, being rich or renowned, you are not honoured on account of your advantages alone. And it says, Know for what you were born, and whose image you are; and what is your essence, and what your creation, and what your relation to God, and the like. And the Spirit says by Isaiah the prophet,
I will give you treasures, hidden, dark. Isaiah 45:3 Now wisdom, hard to hunt, is the treasures of God and unfailing riches. But those, taught in theology by those prophets, the poets, philosophize much by way of a hidden sense. I mean Orpheus, Linus, Musæus, Homer, and Hesiod, and those in this fashion wise. The persuasive style of poetry is for them a veil for the many. Dreams and signs are all more or less obscure to men, not from jealousy (for it were wrong to conceive of God as subject to passions), but in order that research, introducing to the understanding of enigmas, may haste to the discovery of truth. Thus Sophocles the tragic poet somewhere says:—
And God I know to be such an one,—
Ever the revealer of enigmas to the wise,
But to the perverse bad, although a teacher in few words,
putting bad instead of simple. Expressly then respecting all our Scripture, as if spoken in a parable, it is written in the Psalms,
Hear, O My people, My law: incline your ear to the words of My mouth. I will open My mouth in parables, I will utter My problems from the beginning. Similarly speaks the noble apostle to the following effect:
Howbeit we speak wisdom among those that are perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought. But we speak the wisdom of God hidden in a mystery; which none of the princes of this world knew. For had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8
The philosophers did not exert themselves in contemning the appearance of the Lord. It therefore follows that it is the opinion of the wise among the Jews which the apostle inveighs against. Wherefore he adds,
But we preach, as it is written, what eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and has not entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for them that love Him. For God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 For he recognises the spiritual man and the Gnostic as the disciple of the Holy Spirit dispensed by God, which is the mind of Christ.
But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him. 1 Corinthians 2:14 Now the apostle, in contradistinction to gnostic perfection, calls the common faith the foundation, and sometimes milk, writing on this wise:
Brethren, I could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as to carnal, to babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, not with meat: for you were not able. Neither yet are you now able. For you are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envy and strife, are you not carnal, and walk as men? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 Which things are the choice of those men who are sinners. But those who abstain from these things give their thoughts to divine things, and partake of gnostic food.
According to the grace, it is said,
given to me as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation. And another builds on it gold and silver, precious stones. 1 Corinthians 3:10-13 Such is the gnostic superstructure on the foundation of faith in Christ Jesus. But
the stubble, and the wood, and the hay, are the additions of heresies.
But the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. In allusion to the gnostic edifice also in the Epistle to the Romans, he says,
For I desire to see you, that I may impart unto you a spiritual gift, that you may be established. Romans 1:11 It was impossible that gifts of this sort could be written without disguise.
Now the Pythagorean symbols were connected with the Barbarian philosophy in the most recondite way. For instance, the Samian counsels
not to have a swallow in the house; that is, not to receive a loquacious, whispering, garrulous man, who cannot contain what has been communicated to him.
For the swallow, and the turtle, and the sparrows of the field, know the times of their entrance, Jeremiah 8:6 says the Scripture; and one ought never to dwell with trifles. And the turtle-dove murmuring shows the thankless slander of fault-finding, and is rightly expelled the house.
Don't mutter against me, sitting by one in one place, another in another.
The swallow too, which suggests the fable of Pandion, seeing it is right to detest the incidents reported of it, some of which we hear Tereus suffered, and some of which he inflicted. It pursues also the musical grasshoppers, whence he who is a persecutor of the word ought to be driven away.
By sceptre-bearing Here, whose eye surveys Olympus,
I have a rusty closet for tongues,
says Poetry. Æschylus also says:—
But, I, too, have a key as a guard on my tongue.
Again Pythagoras commanded,
When the pot is lifted off the fire, not to leave its mark in the ashes, but to scatter them; and
people on getting up from bed, to shake the bed-clothes. For he intimated that it was necessary not only to efface the mark, but not to leave even a trace of anger; and that on its ceasing to boil, it was to be composed, and all memory of injury to be wiped out.
And let not the sun, says the Scripture,
go down upon your wrath. Ephesians 4:26 And he that said,
You shall not desire, Exodus 20:17 took away all memory of wrong; for wrath is found to be the impulse of concupiscence in a mild soul, especially seeking irrational revenge. In the same way
the bed is ordered to be shaken up, so that there may be no recollection of effusion in sleep, or sleep in the day-time; nor, besides, of pleasure during the night. And he intimated that the vision of the dark ought to be dissipated speedily by the light of truth. wrath.
Don't sail on land is a Pythagorean saw, and shows that taxes and similar contracts, being troublesome and fluctuating, ought to be declined. Wherefore also the Word says that the tax-gatherers shall be saved with difficulty.
Don't wear a ring, nor engrave on it the images of the gods, enjoins Pythagoras; as Moses ages before enacted expressly, that neither a graven, nor molten, nor moulded, nor painted likeness should be made; so that we may not cleave to things of sense, but pass to intellectual objects: for familiarity with the sight disparages the reverence of what is divine; and to worship that which is immaterial by matter, is to dishonour it by sense. Wherefore the wisest of the Egyptian priests decided that the temple of Athene should be hypæthral, just as the Hebrews constructed the temple without an image. And some, in worshipping God, make a representation of heaven containing the stars; and so worship, although Scripture says,
Let Us make man in Our image and likeness. Genesis 1:26 I think it worth while also to adduce the utterance of Eurysus the Pythagorean, which is as follows, who in his book On Fortune, having said that the
Creator, on making man, took Himself as an exemplar, added,
And the body is like the other things, as being made of the same material, and fashioned by the best workman, who wrought it, taking Himself as the archetype. And, in fine, Pythagoras and his followers, with Plato also, and most of the other philosophers, were best acquainted with the Lawgiver, as may be concluded from their doctrine. And by a happy utterance of divination, not without divine help, concurring in certain prophetic declarations, and, seizing the truth in portions and aspects, in terms not obscure, and not going beyond the explanation of the things, they honoured it on as certaining the appearance of relation with the truth. Whence the Hellenic philosophy is like the torch of wick which men kindle, artificially stealing the light from the sun. But on the proclamation of the Word all that holy light shone forth. Then in houses by night the stolen light is useful; but by day the fire blazes, and all the night is illuminated by such a sun of intellectual light.
Which friends to friends for ever, binds,
To cities, cities— to allies, allies,
For equality is what is right for men;
But less to greater ever hostile grows,
And days of hate begin,
as is said with poetic grace.
Wherefore the Lord says,
Take My yoke, for it is gentle and light. Matthew 11:29-30 And on the disciples, striving for the pre-eminence, He enjoins equality with simplicity, saying
that they must become as little children. Matthew 18:3 Likewise also the apostle writes, that
no one in Christ is bond or free, or Greek or Jew. For the creation in Christ Jesus is new, is equality, free of strife— not grasping— just. For envy, and jealousy, and bitterness, stand without the divine choir.
Thus also those skilled in the mysteries forbid
to eat the heart; teaching that we ought not to gnaw and consume the soul by idleness and by vexation, on account of things which happen against one's wishes. Wretched, accordingly, was the man whom Homer also says, wandering alone,
ate his own heart. But again, seeing the Gospel supposes two ways— the apostles, too, similarly with all the prophets— and seeing they call that one
narrow and confined which is circumscribed according to the commandments and prohibitions, and the opposite one, which leads to perdition,
broad and roomy, open to pleasures and wrath, and say,
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, and stands not in the way of sinners. Hence also comes the fable of Prodicus of Ceus about Virtue and Vice. And Pythagoras shrinks not from prohibiting to walk on the public thoroughfares, enjoining the necessity of not following the sentiments of the many, which are crude and inconsistent. And Aristocritus, in the first book of his Positions against Heracliodorus, mentions a letter to this effect:
Atœeas king of the Scythians to the people of Byzantium: Do not impair my revenues in case my mares drink your water; for the Barbarian indicated symbolically that he would make war on them. Likewise also the poet Euphorion introduces Nestor saying—
We have not yet wet the Achæan steeds in Simois.
Therefore also the Egyptians place Sphinxes before their temples, to signify that the doctrine respecting God is enigmatical and obscure; perhaps also that we ought both to love and fear the Divine Being: to love Him as gentle and benign to the pious; to fear Him as inexorably just to the impious; for the sphinx shows the image of a wild beast and of a man together.
It were tedious to go over all the Prophets and the Law, specifying what is spoken in enigmas; for almost the whole Scripture gives its utterances in this way. It may suffice, I think, for any one possessed of intelligence, for the proof of the point in hand, to select a few examples.
Now concealment is evinced in the reference of the seven circuits around the temple, which are made mention of among the Hebrews; and the equipment on the robe, indicating by the various symbols, which had reference to visible objects, the agreement which from heaven reaches down to earth. And the covering and the veil were variegated with blue, and purple, and scarlet, and linen. And so it was suggested that the nature of the elements contained the revelation of God. For purple is from water, linen from the earth; blue, being dark, is like the air, as scarlet is like fire.
In the midst of the covering and veil, where the priests were allowed to enter, was situated the altar of incense, the symbol of the earth placed in the middle of this universe; and from it came the fumes of incense. And that place intermediate between the inner veil, where the high priest alone, on prescribed days, was permitted to enter, and the external court which surrounded it— free to all the Hebrews— was, they say, the middlemost point of heaven and earth. But others say it was the symbol of the intellectual world, and that of sense. The covering, then, the barrier of popular unbelief, was stretched in front of the five pillars, keeping back those in the surrounding space.
So very mystically the five loaves are broken by the Saviour, and fill the crowd of the listeners. For great is the crowd that keep to the things of sense, as if they were the only things in existence.
Cast your eyes round, and see, says Plato,
that none of the uninitiated listen. Such are they who think that nothing else exists, but what they can hold tight with their hands; but do not admit as in the department of existence, actions and processes of generation, and the whole of the unseen. For such are those who keep by the five senses. But the knowledge of God is a thing inaccessible to the ears and like organs of this kind of people. Hence the Son is said to be the Father's face, being the revealer of the Father's character to the five senses by clothing Himself with flesh. Galatians 5:25
For we walk by faith, not by sight, 2 Corinthians 5:7 the noble apostle says. Within the veil, then, is concealed the sacerdotal service; and it keeps those engaged in it far from those without.
Again, there is the veil of the entrance into the holy of holies. Four pillars there are, the sign of the sacred tetrad of the ancient covenants. Further, the mystic name of four letters which was affixed to those alone to whom the adytum was accessible, is called Jave, which is interpreted,
Who is and shall be. The name of God, too, among the Greeks contains four letters.
Now the Lord, having come alone into the intellectual world, enters by His sufferings, introduced into the knowledge of the Ineffable, ascending above every name which is known by sound. The lamp, too, was placed to the south of the altar of incense; and by it were shown the motions of the seven planets, that perform their revolutions towards the south. For three branches rose on either side of the lamp, and lights on them; since also the sun, like the lamp, set in the midst of all the planets, dispenses with a kind of divine music the light to those above and to those below.
The golden lamp conveys another enigma as a symbol of Christ, not in respect of form alone, but in his casting light,
at sundry times and various manners, Hebrews 1:1 on those who believe in Him and hope, and who see by means of the ministry of the First-born. And they say that the seven eyes of the Lord
are the seven spirits resting on the rod that springs from the root of Jesse.
North of the altar of incense was placed a table, on which there was
the exhibition of the loaves; for the most nourishing of the winds are those of the north. And thus are signified certain seats of churches conspiring so as to form one body and one assemblage.
And the things recorded of the sacred ark signify the properties of the world of thought, which is hidden and closed to the many.
And those golden figures, each of them with six wings, signify either the two bears, as some will have it, or rather the two hemispheres. And the name cherubim meant
much knowledge. But both together have twelve wings, and by the zodiac and time, which moves on it, point out the world of sense. It is of them, I think, that Tragedy, discoursing of Nature, says:—
Unwearied Time circles full in perennial flow,
Producing itself. And the twin-bears
On the swift wandering motions of their wings,
Keep the Atlantean pole.
And Atlas, the unsuffering pole, may mean the fixed sphere, or better perhaps, motionless eternity. But I think it better to regard the ark, so called from the Hebrew word Thebotha, as signifying something else. It is interpreted, one instead of one in all places. Whether, then, it is the eighth region and the world of thought, or God, all-embracing, and without shape, and invisible, that is indicated, we may for the present defer saying. But it signifies the repose which dwells with the adoring spirits, which are meant by the cherubim.
For He who prohibited the making of a graven image, would never Himself have made an image in the likeness of holy things. Nor is there at all any composite thing, and creature endowed with sensation, of the sort in heaven. But the face is a symbol of the rational soul, and the wings are the lofty ministers and energies of powers right and left; and the voice is delightsome glory in ceaseless contemplation. Let it suffice that the mystic interpretation has advanced so far.
Now the high priest's robe is the symbol of the world of sense. The seven planets are represented by the five stones and the two carbuncles, for Saturn and the Moon. The former is southern, and moist, and earthy, and heavy; the latter aerial, whence she is called by some Artemis, as if Ærotomos (cutting the air); and the air is cloudy. And cooperating as they did in the production of things here below, those that by Divine Providence are set over the planets are rightly represented as placed on the breast and shoulders; and by them was the work of creation, the first week. And the breast is the seat of the heart and soul.
Differently, the stones might be the various phases of salvation; some occupying the upper, some the lower parts of the entire body saved. The three hundred and sixty bells, suspended from the robe, is the space of a year,
the acceptable year of the Lord, proclaiming and resounding the stupendous manifestation of the Saviour. Further, the broad gold mitre indicates the regal power of the Lord,
since the Head of the Church is the Savour. Ephesians 5:23 The mitre that is on it [i.e., the head] is, then, a sign of most princely rule; and otherwise we have heard it said,
The Head of Christ is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Corinthians 11:31 Moreover, there was the breastplate, comprising the ephod, which is the symbol of work, and the oracle (λογίον); and this indicated the Word (λόγος) by which it was framed, and is the symbol of heaven, made by the Word, and subjected to Christ, the Head of all things, inasmuch as it moves in the same way, and in a like manner. The luminous emerald stones, therefore, in the ephod, signify the sun and moon, the helpers of nature. The shoulder, I take it, is the commencement of the hand.
The twelve stones, set in four rows on the breast, describe for us the circle of the zodiac, in the four changes of the year. It was otherwise requisite that the law and the prophets should be placed beneath the Lord's head, because in both Testaments mention is made of the righteous. For were we to say that the apostles were at once prophets and righteous, we should say well,
since one and the self-same Holy Spirit works in all. 1 Corinthians 12:11 And as the Lord is above the whole world, yea, above the world of thought, so the name engraven on the plate has been regarded to signify, above all rule and authority; and it was inscribed with reference both to the written commandments and the manifestation to sense. And it is the name of God that is expressed; since, as the Son sees the goodness of the Father, God the Saviour works, being called the first principle of all things, which was imaged forth from the invisible God first, and before the ages, and which fashioned all things which came into being after itself. Nay more, the oracle exhibits the prophecy which by the Word cries and preaches, and the judgment that is to come; since it is the same Word which prophesies, and judges, and discriminates all things.
And they say that the robe prophesied the ministry in the flesh, by which He was seen in closer relation to the world. So the high priest, putting off his consecrated robe (the universe, and the creation in the universe, were consecrated by Him assenting that, what was made, was good), washes himself, and puts on the other tunic— a holy-of-holies one, so to speak— which is to accompany him into the adytum; exhibiting, as seems to me, the Levite and Gnostic, as the chief of other priests (those bathed in water, and clothed in faith alone, and expecting their own individual abode), himself distinguishing the objects of the intellect from the things of sense, rising above other priests, hasting to the entrance to the world of ideas, to wash himself from the things here below, not in water, as formerly one was cleansed on being enrolled in the tribe of Levi. But purified already by the gnostic Word in his whole heart, and thoroughly regulated, and having improved that mode of life received from the priest to the highest pitch, being quite sanctified both in word and life, and having put on the bright array of glory, and received the ineffable inheritance of that spiritual and perfect man,
which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and it has not entered into the heart of man; and having become son and friend, he is now replenished with insatiable contemplation face to face. For there is nothing like hearing the Word Himself, who by means of the Scripture inspires fuller intelligence. For so it is said,
And he shall put off the linen robe, which he had put on when he entered into the holy place; and shall lay it aside there, and wash his body in water in the holy place, and put on his robe. Leviticus 16:23-24 But in one way, as I think, the Lord puts off and puts on by descending into the region of sense; and in another, he who through Him has believed puts off and puts on, as the apostle intimated, the consecrated stole. Thence, after the image of the Lord the worthiest were chosen from the sacred tribes to be high priests, and those elected to the kingly office and to prophecy were anointed.
Whence also the Egyptians did not entrust the mysteries they possessed to all and sundry, and did not divulge the knowledge of divine things to the profane; but only to those destined to ascend the throne, and those of the priests that were judged the worthiest, from their nurture, culture, and birth. Similar, then, to the Hebrew enigmas in respect to concealment, are those of the Egyptians also. Of the Egyptians, some show the sun on a ship, others on a crocodile. And they signify hereby, that the sun, making a passage through the delicious and moist air, generates time; which is symbolized by the crocodile in some other sacerdotal account. Further, at Diospolis in Egypt, on the temple called Pylon, there was figured a boy as the symbol of production, and an old man as that of decay. A hawk, on the other hand, was the symbol of God, as a fish of hate; and, according to a different symbolism, the crocodile of impudence. The whole symbol, then, when put together, appears to teach this:
Oh you who are born and die, God hates impudence.
And there are those who fashion ears and eyes of costly material, and consecrate them, dedicating them in the temples to the gods— by this plainly indicating that God sees and hears all things. Besides, the lion is with them the symbol of strength and prowess, as the ox clearly is of the earth itself, and husbandry and food, and the horse of fortitude and confidence; while, on the other hand, the sphinx, of strength combined with intelligence— as it had a body entirely that of a lion, and the face of a man. Similarly to these, to indicate intelligence, and memory, and power, and art, a man is sculptured in the temples. And in what is called among them the Komasiæ of the gods, they carry about golden images— two dogs, one hawk, and one ibis; and the four figures of the images they call four letters. For the dogs are symbols of the two hemispheres, which, as it were, go round and keep watch; the hawk, of the sun, for it is fiery and destructive (so they attribute pestilential diseases to the sun); the ibis, of the moon, likening the shady parts to that which is dark in plumage, and the luminous to the light. And some will have it that by the dogs are meant the tropics, which guard and watch the sun's passage to the south and north. The hawk signifies the equinoctial line, which is high and parched with heat, as the ibis the ecliptic. For the ibis seems, above other animals, to have furnished to the Egyptians the first rudiments of the invention of number and measure, as the oblique line did of circles.
But it was not only the most highly intellectual of the Egyptians, but also such of other barbarians as prosecuted philosophy, that affected the symbolic style. They say, then, that Idanthuris king of the Scythians, as Pherecydes of Syros relates, sent to Darius, on his passing the Ister in threat of war, a symbol, instead of a letter, consisting of a mouse, a frog, a bird, a javelin, a plough. And there being a doubt in reference to them, as was to be expected, Orontopagas the Chiliarch said that they were to resign the kingdom; taking dwellings to be meant by the mouse, waters by the frog, air by the bird, land by the plough, arms by the javelin. But Xiphodres interpreted the contrary; for he said,
If we do not take our flight like birds, or like mice get below the earth, or like frogs beneath the water, we shall not escape their arrows; for we are not lords of the territory.
It is said that Anacharsis the Scythian, while asleep, covered the pudenda with his left hand, and his mouth with his right, to intimate that both ought to be mastered, but that it was a greater thing to master the tongue than voluptuousness.
And why should I linger over the barbarians, when I can adduce the Greeks as exceedingly addicted to the use of the method of concealment? Androcydes the Pythagorean says the far-famed so-called Ephesian letters were of the class of symbols. For he said that ἄσκιον (shadowless) meant darkness, for it has no shadow; and κατάσκιον (shadowy) light, since it casts with its rays the shadow; and λίξ if is the earth, according to an ancient' appellation; and τετράς is the year, in reference to the seasons; and δαμναμενεύς is the sun, which overpowers (δαμάζων); and τὰ αἴσια is the true voice. And then the symbol intimates that divine things have been arranged in harmonious order— darkness to light, the sun to the year, and the earth to nature's processes of production of every sort. Also Dionysius Thrax, the grammarian, in his book, Respecting the Exposition of the Symbolical Signification in Circles, says expressly, Some signified actions not by words only, but also by symbols: by words, as is the case of what are called the Delphic maxims, 'Nothing in excess,' 'Know yourself,' and the like; and by symbols, as the wheel that is turned in the temples of the gods, derived from the Egyptians, and the branches that are given to the worshippers. For the Thracian Orpheus says:—
The branches either stand as the symbol of the first food, or they are that the multitude may know that fruits spring and grow universally, remaining a very long time; but that the duration of life allotted to themselves is brief. And it is on this account that they will have it that the branches are given; and perhaps also that they may know, that as these, on the other hand, are burned, so also they themselves speedily leave this life, and will become fuel for fire.
Very useful, then, is the mode of symbolic interpretation for many purposes; and it is helpful to the right theology, and to piety, and to the display of intelligence, and the practice of brevity, and the exhibition of wisdom.
For the use of symbolic speech is characteristic of the wise man, appositely remarks the grammarian Didymus,
and the explanation of what is signified by it. And indeed the most elementary instruction of children embraces the interpretation of the four elements; for it is said that the Phrygians call water Bedu, as also Orpheus says: —
And bright water is poured down, the Bedu of the nymphs.
Dion Thytes also seems to write similarly:—
And taking Bedu, pour it on your hands, and turn to divination.
On the other hand, the comic poet, Philydeus, understands by Bedu the air, as being (Biodoros) life-giver, in the following lines:—
I pray that I may inhale the salutary Bedu,
Which is the most essential part of health;
Inhale the pure, the unsullied air.
In the same opinion also concurs Neanthes of Cyzicum, who writes that the Macedonian priests invoke Bedu, which they interpret to mean the air, to be propitious to them and to their children. And Zaps some have ignorantly taken for fire (from ζέσιν, boiling); for so the sea is called, as Euphorion, in his reply to Theoridas:—
And Zaps, destroyer of ships, wrecked it on the rocks.
And Dionysius Iambus similarly:—
Briny Zaps moans about the maddened deep.
Similarly Cratinus the younger, the comic poet:—
Zaps casts forth shrimps and little fishes.
And Simmias of Rhodes:—
Parent of the Ignetes and the Telchines briny Zaps was born.
And χθών is the earth (κεχυμένη) spread forth to bigness. And Plectron, according to some, is the sky (πόλος), according to others, it is the air, which strikes (πλήσσοντα) and moves to nature and increase, and which fills all things. But these have not read Cleanthes the philosopher, who expressly calls Plectron the sun; for darting his beams in the east, as if striking the world, he leads the light to its harmonious course. And from the sun it signifies also the rest of the stars.
And the Sphinx is not the comprehension of the universe, and the revolution of the world, according to the poet Aratus; but perhaps it is the spiritual tone which pervades and holds together the universe. But it is better to regard it as the ether, which holds together and presses all things; as also Empedocles says:—
But come now, first will I speak of the Sun, the first principle of all things,
From which all, that we look upon, has sprung,
Both earth, and billowy deep, and humid air;
Titan and Ether too, which binds all things around.
And Apollodorus of Corcyra says that these lines were recited by Branchus the seer, when purifying the Milesians from plague; for he, sprinkling the multitude with branches of laurel, led off the hymn somehow as follows:—
Sing Boys Hecaergus and Hecaerga.
And the people accompanied him, saying,
Bedu, Zaps, Chthon, Plectron, Sphinx, Cnaxzbi, Chthyptes, Phlegmos, Drops. Callimachus relates the story in iambics. Cnaxzbi is, by derivation, the plague, from its gnawing (κναίειν) and destroying (διαφθείρειν), and θῦψαι is to consume with a thunderbolt. Thespis the tragic poet says that something else was signified by these, writing thus:
Lo, I offer to you a libation of white Cnaxzbi, having pressed it from the yellow nurses. Lo, to you, O two-horned Pan, mixing Chthyptes cheese with red honey, I place it on your sacred altars. Lo, to you I pour as a libation the sparkling gleam of Bromius. He signifies, as I think, the soul's first milk-like nutriment of the four-and-twenty elements, after which solidified milk comes as food. And last, he teaches of the blood of the vine of the Word, the sparkling wine, the perfecting gladness of instruction. And Drops is the operating Word, which, beginning with elementary training, and advancing to the growth of the man, inflames and illumines man up to the measure of maturity.
The third is said to be a writing copy for children— μάρπτες, σφίγξ, κλώψ, ζυνχθηδόν . And it signifies, in my opinion, that by the arrangement of the elements and of the world, we must advance to the knowledge of what is more perfect, since eternal salvation is attained by force and toil; for μάρψαι is to grasp. And the harmony of the world is meant by the Sphinx; and ζυνχθηδόν means difficulty; and κλώψς means at once the secret knowledge of the Lord and day. Well! Does not Epigenes, in his book on the Poetry of Orpheus, in exhibiting the peculiarities found in Orpheus, say that by
the curved rods (κεραίσι) is meant
ploughs; and by the warp (στήμοσι), the furrows; and the woof (μίτος) is a figurative expression for the seed; and that the tears of Zeus signify a shower; and that the
parts (μοῖραι) are, again, the phases of the moon, the thirtieth day, and the fifteenth, and the new moon, and that Orpheus accordingly calls them
white-robed, as being parts of the light? Again, that the Spring is called
flowery, from its nature; and Night
still, on account of rest; and the Moon
Gorgonian, on account of the face in it; and that the time in which it is necessary to sow is called Aphrodite by the
Theologian. In the same way, too, the Pythagoreans figuratively called the planets the
dogs of Persephone; and to the sea they applied the metaphorical appellation of
the tears of Kronus. Myriads on myriads of enigmatical utterances by both poets and philosophers are to be found; and there are also whole books which present the mind of the writer veiled, as that of Heraclitus On Nature, who on this very account is called
Obscure. Similar to this book is the Theology of Pherecydes of Syrus; for Euphorion the poet, and the Causes of Callimachus, and the Alexandra of Lycophron, and the like, are proposed as an exercise in exposition to all the grammarians.
It is, then, proper that the Barbarian philosophy, on which it is our business to speak, should prophecy also obscurely and by symbols, as was evinced. Such are the injunctions of Moses:
These common things, the sow, the hawk, the eagle, and the raven, are not to be eaten. For the sow is the emblem of voluptuous and unclean lust of food, and lecherous and filthy licentiousness in venery, always prurient, and material, and lying in the mire, and fattening for slaughter and destruction.
Again, he commands to eat that which parts the hoof and ruminates;
intimating, says Barnabas,
that we ought to cleave to those who fear the Lord, and meditate in their heart on that portion of the word which they have received, to those who speak and keep the Lord's statutes, to those to whom meditation is a work of gladness, and who ruminate on the word of the Lord. And what is the parted hoof? That the righteous walks in this world, and expects the holy eternity to come. Then he adds,
See how well Moses enacted. But whence could they understand or comprehend these things? We who have rightly understood speak the commandments as the Lord wished; wherefore He circumcised our ears and hearts, that we may comprehend these things. And when he says, 'You shall not eat the eagle, the hawk, the kite, and the crow;' he says, 'You shall not adhere to or become like those men who know not how to procure for themselves subsistence by toil and sweat, but live by plunder, and lawlessly.' For the eagle indicates robbery, the hawk injustice, and the raven greed. It is also written, 'With the innocent man you will be innocent, and with the chosen choice, and with the perverse you shall pervert.' It is incumbent on us to cleave to the saints, because they that cleave to them shall be sanctified.
Thence Theognis writes:—
For from the good you will learn good things;
But if you mix with the bad, you will destroy any mind you may have.
And when, again, it is said in the ode,
For He has triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider has He cast into the sea; Exodus 15:1 the many-limbed and brutal affection, lust, with the rider mounted, who gives the reins to pleasures,
He has cast into the sea, throwing them away into the disorders of the world. Thus also Plato, in his book On the Soul, says that the charioteer and the horse that ran off— the irrational part, which is divided in two, into anger and concupiscence— fall down; and so the myth intimates that it was through the licentiousness of the steeds that Phaëthon was thrown out. Also in the case of Joseph: the brothers having envied this young man, who by his knowledge was possessed of uncommon foresight, stripped off the coat of many colours, and took and threw him into a pit (the pit was empty, it had no water), rejecting the good man's varied knowledge, springing from his love of instruction; or, in the exercise of the bare faith, which is according to the law, they threw him into the pit empty of water, selling him into Egypt, which was destitute of the divine word. And the pit was destitute of knowledge; into which being thrown and stript of his knowledge, he that had become unconsciously wise, stript of knowledge, seemed like his brethren. Otherwise interpreted, the coat of many colours is lust, which takes its way into a yawning pit.
And if one open up or hew out a pit, it is said,
and do not cover it, and there fall in there a calf or ass, the owner of the pit shall pay the price in money, and give it to his neighbour; and the dead body shall be his. Exodus 21:33, 36 Here add that prophecy: Isaiah 1:3 In order, then, that none of those, who have fallen in with the knowledge taught by you, may become incapable of holding the truth, and disobey and fall away, it is said, Be sure in the treatment of the word, and shut up the living spring in the depth from those who approach irrationally, but reach drink to those that thirst for truth. Conceal it, then, from those who are unfit to receive the depth of knowledge, and so cover the pit. The owner of the pit, then, the Gnostic, shall himself be punished, incurring the blame of the others stumbling, and of being overwhelmed by the greatness of the word, he himself being of small capacity; or transferring the worker into the region of speculation, and on that account dislodging him from off-hand faith.
And will pay money, rendering a reckoning, and submitting his accounts to the
This, then, is the type of
the law and the prophets which were until John; Matthew 11:13; Luke 16:16 while he, though speaking more perspicuously as no longer prophesying, but pointing out as now present, Him, who was proclaimed symbolically from the beginning, nevertheless said,
I am not worthy to loose the latchet of the Lord's shoe. For he confesses that he is not worthy to baptize so great a Power; for it behooves those, who purify others, to free the soul from the body and its sins, as the foot from the thong. Perhaps also this signified the final exertion of the Saviour's power toward us— the immediate, I mean— that by His presence, concealed in the enigma of prophecy, inasmuch as he, by pointing out to sight Him that had been prophesied of, and indicating the Presence which had come, walking forth into the light, loosed the latchet of the oracles of the [old] economy, by unveiling the meaning of the symbols.
And the observances practiced by the Romans in the case of wills have a place here; those balances and small coins to denote justice, and freeing of slaves, and rubbing of the ears. For these observances are, that things may be transacted with justice; and those for the dispensing of honour; and the last, that he who happens to be near, as if a burden were imposed on him, should stand and hear and take the post of mediator.
But, as appears, I have, in my eagerness to establish my point, insensibly gone beyond what is requisite. For life would fail me to adduce the multitude of those who philosophize in a symbolic manner. For the sake, then, of memory and brevity, and of attracting to the truth, such are the Scriptures of the Barbarian philosophy.
For only to those who often approach them, and have given them a trial by faith and in their whole life, will they supply the real philosophy and the true theology. They also wish us to require an interpreter and guide. For so they considered, that, receiving truth at the hands of those who knew it well, we would be more earnest and less liable to deception, and those worthy of them would profit. Besides, all things that shine through a veil show the truth grander and more imposing; as fruits shining through water, and figures through veils, which give added reflections to them. For, in addition to the fact that things unconcealed are perceived in one way, the rays of light shining round reveal defects. Since, then, we may draw several meanings, as we do from what is expressed in veiled form, such being the case, the ignorant and unlearned man fails. But the Gnostior apprehends. Now, then, it is not wished that all things should be exposed indiscriminately to all and sundry, or the benefits of wisdom communicated to those who have not even in a dream been purified in soul, (for it is not allowed to hand to every chance comer what has been procured with such laborious efforts); nor are the mysteries of the word to be expounded to the profane.
They say, then, that Hipparchus the Pythagorean, being guilty of writing the tenets of Pythagoras in plain language, was expelled from the school, and a pillar raised for him as if he had been dead. Wherefore also in the Barbarian philosophy they call those dead who have fallen away from the dogmas, and have placed the mind in subjection to carnal passions.
For what fellowship has righteousness and iniquity? according to the divine apostle.
Or what communion has light with darkness? Or what concord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has the believer with the unbeliever? 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 For the honours of the Olympians and of mortals lie apart.
Wherefore also go forth from the midst of them, and be separated, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be to you for a Father, and you shall be my sons and daughters. 2 Corinthians 6:17-18
It was not only the Pythagoreans and Plato then, that concealed many things; but the Epicureans too say that they have things that may not be uttered, and do not allow all to peruse those writings. The Stoics also say that by the first Zeno things were written which they do not readily allow disciples to read, without their first giving proof whether or not they are genuine philosophers. And the disciples of Aristotle say that some of their treatises are esoteric, and others common and exoteric. Further, those who instituted the mysteries, being philosophers, buried their doctrines in myths, so as not to be obvious to all. Did they then, by veiling human opinions, prevent the ignorant from handling them; and was it not more beneficial for the holy and blessed contemplation of realities to be concealed? But it was not only the tenets of the Barbarian philosophy, or the Pythagorean myths. But even those myths in Plato (in the Republic, that of Hero the Armenian; and in the Gorgias, that of Æacus and Rhadamanthus; and in the Phædo, that of Tartarus; and in the Protagoras, that of Prometheus and Epimetheus; and besides these, that of the war between the Atlantini and the Athenians in the Atlanticum) are to be expounded allegorically, not absolutely in all their expressions, but in those which express the general sense. And these we shall find indicated by symbols under the veil of allegory. Also the association of Pythagoras, and the twofold intercourse with the associates which designates the majority, hearers (ἀκουσματικοί), and the others that have a genuine attachment to philosophy, disciples (μαθηματικοί), yet signified that something was spoken to the multitude, and something concealed from them. Perchance, too, the twofold species of the Peripatetic teaching— that called probable, and that called knowable— came very near the distinction between opinion on the one hand, and glory and truth on the other.
To win the flowers of fair renown from men,
Be not induced to speak anything more than right.
The Ionic muses accordingly expressly say,
That the majority of people, wise in their own estimation, follow minstrels and make use of laws, knowing that many are bad, few good; but that the best pursue glory: for the best make choice of the everlasting glory of men above all. But the multitude cram themselves like brutes, measuring happiness by the belly and the pudenda, and the basest things in us. And the great Parmenides of Elea is introduced describing thus the teaching of the two ways:—
Rightly, therefore, the divine apostle says,
By revelation the mystery was made known to me (as I wrote before in brief, in accordance with which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets. Ephesians 3:3-5 For there is an instruction of the perfect, of which, writing to the Colossians, he says,
We cease not to pray for you, and beseech that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing; being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might according to the glory of His power. Colossians 1:9-11 And again he says,
According to the disposition of the grace of God which is given me, that you may fulfil the word of God; the mystery which has been hid from ages and generations, which now is manifested to His saints: to whom God wished to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations. Colossians 1:25-27 So that, on the one hand, then, are the mysteries which were hid till the time of the apostles, and were delivered by them as they received from the Lord, and, concealed in the Old Testament, were manifested to the saints. And, on the other hand, there is faith and hope in Christ; which in another place he has called the
foundation. Colossians 1:27 And again, as if in eagerness to divulge this knowledge, he thus writes:
Warning every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man (the whole man) perfect in Christ; not every man simply, since no one would be unbelieving. Nor does he call every man who believes in Christ perfect; but he says all the man, as if he said the whole man, as if purified in body and soul. For that the knowledge does not appertain to all, he expressly adds:
Being knit together in love, and unto all the riches of the full assurance of knowledge, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God in Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3
Continue in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2 And thanksgiving has place not for the soul and spiritual blessings alone, but also for the body, and for the good things of the body. And he still more clearly reveals that knowledge belongs not to all, by adding:
Praying at the same time for you, that God would open to us a door to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am bound; that I may make it known as I ought to speak. Colossians 4:3-4 For there were certainly, among the Hebrews, some things delivered unwritten.
For when you ought to be teachers for the time, it is said, as if they had grown old in the Old Testament,
you have again need that one teach you which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and have become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partakes of milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe, being instructed with the first lessons. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, who by reason of use have their senses exercised so as to distinguish between good and evil. Wherefore, leaving the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection.
Barnabas, too, who in person preached the word along with the apostle in the ministry of the Gentiles, says,
I write to you most simply, that you may understand. Then below, exhibiting already a clearer trace of gnostic tradition, he says,
What says the other prophet Moses to them? Lo, thus says the Lord God, Enter into the good land which the Lord God swore, the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and you received for an inheritance that land, flowing with milk and honey. What says knowledge? Learn, hope, it says, in Jesus, who is to be manifested to you in the flesh. For man is the suffering land; for from the face of the ground was the formation of Adam. What, then, does it say in reference to the good land, flowing with milk and honey? Blessed be our Lord, brethren, who has put into our hearts wisdom, and the understanding of His secrets. For the prophet says,
Who shall understand the Lord's parable but the wise and understanding, and he that loves his Lord? It is but for few to comprehend these things. For it is not in the way of envy that the Lord announced in a Gospel,
My mystery is to me, and to the sons of my house; placing the election in safety, and beyond anxiety; so that the things pertaining to what it has chosen and taken may be above the reach of envy. For he who has not the knowledge of good is wicked: for there is one good, the Father; and to be ignorant of the Father is death, as to know Him is eternal life, through participation in the power of the incorrupt One. And to be incorruptible is to participate in divinity; but revolt from the knowledge of God brings corruption. Again the prophet says:
And I will give you treasures, concealed, dark, unseen; that they may know that I am the Lord . Isaiah 45:3 Similarly David sings:
For, lo, You have loved truth; the obscure and hidden things of wisdom have You showed me.
Day utters speech to day (what is clearly written),
and night to night proclaims knowledge (which is hidden in a mystic veil);
and there are no words or utterances whose voices shall not be heard by God, who said,
Shall one do what is secret, and I shall not see him?
Wherefore instruction, which reveals hidden things, is called illumination, as it is the teacher only who uncovers the lid of the ark, contrary to what the poets say, that
For I know, says the apostle,
that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ; Romans 15:29 designating the spiritual gift, and the gnostic communication, which being present he desires to impart to them present as
the fullness of Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery sealed in the ages of eternity, but now manifested by the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all the nations, in order to the obedience of faith, that is, those of the nations who believe that it is. But only to a few of them is shown what those things are which are contained in the mystery.
Rightly then, Plato, in the Epistles, treating of God, says:
We must speak in enigmas; that should the tablet come by any mischance on its leaves either by sea or land, he who reads may remain ignorant. For the God of the universe, who is above all speech, all conception, all thought, can never be committed to writing, being inexpressible even by His own power. And this too Plato showed, by saying:
Considering, then, these things, take care lest some time or other you repent on account of the present things, departing in a manner unworthy. The greatest safeguard is not to write, but learn; for it is utterly impossible that what is written will not vanish.
Akin to this is what the holy Apostle Paul says, preserving the prophetic and truly ancient secret from which the teachings that were good were derived by the Greeks:
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them who are perfect; but not the wisdom of this world, or of the princes of this world, that come to nought; but we speak the wisdom of God hidden in a mystery. 1 Corinthians 2:6-7 Then proceeding, he thus inculcates the caution against the divulging of his words to the multitude in the following terms:
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as to carnal, even to babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, not with meat: for you were not yet able; neither are you now able. For you are yet carnal. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
the milk is said by the apostle to belong to the babes, and
meat to be the food of the full-grown, milk will be understood to be catechetical instruction— the first food, as it were, of the soul. And meat is the mystic contemplation; for this is the flesh and the blood of the Word, that is, the comprehension of the divine power and essence.
Taste and see that the Lord is Christ, it is said. For so He imparts of Himself to those who partake of such food in a more spiritual manner; when now the soul nourishes itself, according to the truth-loving Plato. For the knowledge of the divine essence is the meat and drink of the divine Word. Wherefore also Plato says, in the second book of the Republic,
Christ our passover was sacrificed for us; 1 Corinthians 5:7 — a sacrifice hard to procure, in truth, the Son of God consecrated for us.
Now the sacrifice which is acceptable to God is unswerving abstraction from the body and its passions. This is the really true piety. And is not, on this account, philosophy rightly called by Socrates the practice of Death? For he who neither employs his eyes in the exercise of thought, nor draws anything from his other senses, but with pure mind itself applies to objects, practices the true philosophy. This is, then, the import of the silence of five years prescribed by Pythagoras, which he enjoined on his disciples; that, abstracting themselves from the objects of sense, they might with the mind alone contemplate the Deity. It was from Moses that the chief of the Greeks drew these philosophical tenets. For he commands holocausts to be skinned and divided into parts. For the gnostic soul must be consecrated to the light, stript of the integuments of matter, devoid of the frivolousness of the body and of all the passions, which are acquired through vain and lying opinions, and divested of the lusts of the flesh. But the most of men, clothed with what is perishable, like cockles, and rolled all round in a ball in their excesses, like hedgehogs, entertain the same ideas of the blessed and incorruptible God as of themselves. But it has escaped their notice, though they be near us, that God has bestowed on us ten thousand things in which He does not share: birth, being Himself unborn; food, He wanting nothing; and growth, He being always equal; and long life and immortality, He being immortal and incapable of growing old. Wherefore let no one imagine that hands, and feet, and mouth, and eyes, and going in and coming out, and resentments and threats, are said by the Hebrews to be attributes of God. By no means; but that certain of these appellations are used more sacredly in an allegorical sense, which, as the discourse proceeds, we shall explain at the proper time.
Wisdom of all medicines is the Panacea, writes Callimachus in the Epigrams.
And one becomes wise from another, both in past times and at present, says Bacchylides in the Pœans;
for it is not very easy to find the portals of unutterable words. Beautifully, therefore, Isocrates writes in the Panathenaic, having put the question,
Who, then, are well trained? adds,
First, those who manage well the things which occur each day, whose opinion jumps with opportunity, and is able for the most part to hit on what is beneficial; then those who behave becomingly and rightly to those who approach them, who take lightly and easily annoyances and molestations offered by others, but conduct themselves as far as possible, to those with whom they have intercourse, with consummate care and moderation; further, those who have the command of their pleasures, and are not too much overcome by misfortunes, but conduct themselves in the midst of them with manliness, and in a way worthy of the nature which we share; fourth— and this is the greatest— those who are not corrupted by prosperity, and are not put beside themselves, or made haughty, but continue in the class of sensible people. Then he puts on the top-stone of the discourse:
Do you see how the Greeks deify the gnostic life (though not knowing how to become acquainted with it)? And what knowledge it is, they know not even in a dream. If, then, it is agreed among us that knowledge is the food of reason,
blessed truly are they, according to the Scripture,
who hunger and thirst after truth: for they shall be filled with everlasting food. In the most wonderful harmony with these words, Euripides, the philosopher of the drama, is found in the following words—making allusion, I know not how, at once to the Father and the Son:—
To you, the Lord of all, I bring
Cakes and libations too, O Zeus,
Or Hades would you choose be called;
Do accept my offering of all fruits,
Rare, full, poured forth.
For you who, 'midst the heavenly gods,
Jove's sceptre sway'st, dost also share
The rule of those on earth.
Then he says expressly:—
It is not then without reason that in the mysteries that obtain among the Greeks, lustrations hold the first place; as also the laver among the Barbarians. After these are the minor mysteries, which have some foundation of instruction and of preliminary preparation for what is to come after; and the great mysteries, in which nothing remains to be learned of the universe, but only to contemplate and comprehend nature and things.
We shall understand the mode of purification by confession, and that of contemplation by analysis, advancing by analysis to the first notion, beginning with the properties underlying it; abstracting from the body its physical properties, taking away the dimension of depth, then that of breadth, and then that of length. For the point which remains is a unit, so to speak, having position; from which if we abstract position, there is the conception of unity.
If, then, abstracting all that belongs to bodies and things called incorporeal, we cast ourselves into the greatness of Christ, and thence advance into immensity by holiness, we may reach somehow to the conception of the Almighty, knowing not what He is, but what He is not. And form and motion, or standing, or a throne, or place, or right hand or left, are not at all to be conceived as belonging to the Father of the universe, although it is so written. But what each of these means will be shown in its proper place. The First Cause is not then in space, but above both space, and time, and name, and conception.
Wherefore also Moses says,
Show Yourself to me, Exodus 33:18 — intimating most clearly that God is not capable of being taught by man, or expressed in speech, but to be known only by His own power. For inquiry was obscure and dim; but the grace of knowledge is from Him by the Son. Most clearly Solomon shall testify to us, speaking thus: Proverbs 30:2 Now Moses, describing allegorically the divine prudence, called it the tree of life planted in Paradise; which Paradise may be the world in which all things proceeding from creation grow. In it also the Word blossomed and bore fruit, being
made flesh, and gave life to those
who had tasted of His graciousness; since it was not without the wood of the tree that He came to our knowledge. For our life was hung on it, in order that we might believe. And Solomon again says:
She is a tree of immortality to those who take hold of her. Proverbs 3:18
Behold, I set before your face life and death, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in His ways, and hear His voice, and trust in life. But if you transgress the statutes and the judgments which I have given you, you shall be destroyed with destruction. For this is life, and the length of your days, to love the Lord your God.
Abraham, when he came to the place which God told him of on the third day, looking up, saw the place afar off. Genesis 22:3-4 For the first day is that which is constituted by the sight of good things; and the second is the soul's best desire; on the third, the mind perceives spiritual things, the eyes of the understanding being opened by the Teacher who rose on the third day. The three days may be the mystery of the seal, in which God is really believed. It is consequently afar off that he sees the place. For the region of God is hard to attain; which Plato called the region of ideas, having learned from Moses that it was a place which contained all things universally. But it is seen by Abraham afar off, rightly, because of his being in the realms of generation, and he is immediately initiated by the angel. Thence says the apostle:
Now we see as through a glass, but then face to face, by those sole pure and incorporeal applications of the intellect. In reasoning, it is possible to divine respecting God, if one attempt without any of the senses, by reason, to reach what is individual; and do not quit the sphere of existences, till, rising up to the things which transcend it, he apprehends by the intellect itself that which is good, moving in the very confines of the world of thought, according to Plato.
Again, Moses, not allowing altars and temples to be constructed in many places, but raising one temple of God, announced that the world was only-begotten, as Basilides says, and that God is one, as does not as yet appear to Basilides. And since the gnostic Moses does not circumscribe within space Him that cannot be circumscribed, he set up no image in the temple to be worshipped; showing that God was invisible, and incapable of being circumscribed; and somehow leading the Hebrews to the conception of God by the honour for His name in the temple. Further, the Word, prohibiting the constructing of temples and all sacrifices, intimates that the Almighty is not contained in anything, by what He says:
What house will you build to Me? Says the Lord . Heaven is my throne, Isaiah 66:1 and so on. Similarly respecting sacrifices:
I do not desire the blood of bulls and the fat of lambs, and what the Holy Spirit by the prophet in the sequel forbids.
Most excellently, therefore, Euripides accords with these, when he writes:—
What house constructed by the workmen's hands,
With folds of walls, can clothe the shape divine?
And of sacrifices he thus speaks:—
For God needs nought, if He is truly God.
These of the minstrels are the wretched myths.
For it was not from need that God made the world; that He might reap honours from men and the other gods and demons, winning a kind of revenue from creation, and from us, fumes, and from the gods and demons, their proper ministries, says Plato. Most instructively, therefore, says Paul in the Acts of the Apostles:
The God that made the world, and all things in it, being the Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped by men's hands, as if He needed anything; seeing that it is He Himself that gives to all breath, and life, and all things. Acts 17:24-25 And Zeno, the founder of the Stoic sect, says in this book of the Republic,
that we ought to make neither temples nor images; for that no work is worthy of the gods. And he was not afraid to write in these very words:
There will be no need to build temples. For a temple is not worth much, and ought not to be regarded as holy. For nothing is worth much, and holy, which is the work of builders and mechanics. Rightly, therefore, Plato too, recognising the world as God's temple, pointed out to the citizens a spot in the city where their idols were to be laid up.
Let not, then, any one again, he says,
consecrate temples to the gods. For gold and silver in other states, in the case of private individuals and in the temples, is an invidious possession; and ivory, a body which has abandoned the life, is not a sacred votive offering; and steel and brass are the instruments of wars; but whatever one wishes to dedicate, let it be wood of one tree, as also stone for common temples. Rightly, then, in the great Epistle he says:
For it is not capable of expression, like other branches of study. But as the result of great intimacy with this subject, and living with it, a sudden light, like that kindled by a coruscating fire, arising in the soul, feeds itself. Are not these statements like those of Zephaniah the prophet?
And the Spirit of the Lord took me, and brought me up to the fifth heaven, and I beheld angels called Lords; and their diadem was set on in the Holy Spirit; and each of them had a throne sevenfold brighter than the light of the rising sun; and they dwelt in temples of salvation, and hymned the ineffable, Most High God.
For both is it a difficult task to discover the Father and Maker of this universe; and having found Him, it is impossible to declare Him to all. For this is by no means capable of expression, like the other subjects of instruction, says the truth-loving Plato. For he that had heard right well that the all-wise Moses, ascending the mount for holy contemplation, to the summit of intellectual objects, necessarily commands that the whole people do not accompany him. And when the Scripture says,
Moses entered into the thick darkness where God was, this shows to those capable of understanding, that God is invisible and beyond expression by words. And
the darkness— which is, in truth, the unbelief and ignorance of the multitude— obstructs the gleam of truth. And again Orpheus, the theologian, aided from this quarter, says:—
One is perfect in himself, and all things are made the progeny of one,
are born; for so also is it written. He adds:—
No one of mortals has seen, but He sees all.
And he adds more clearly:—
Him see I not, for round about, a cloud
Has settled; for in mortal eyes are small,
And mortal pupils— only flesh and bones grow there.
To these statements the apostle will testify:
I know a man in Christ, caught up into the third heaven, and thence into Paradise, who heard unutterable words which it is not lawful for a man to speak,— intimating thus the impossibility of expressing God, and indicating that what is divine is unutterable by human power; if, indeed, he begins to speak above the third heaven, as it is lawful to initiate the elect souls in the mysteries there. For I know what is in Plato (for the examples from the barbarian philosophy, which are many, are suggested now by the composition which, in accordance with promises previously given, waits the suitable time). For doubting, in Timæus, whether we ought to regard several worlds as to be understood by many heavens, or this one, he makes no distinction in the names, calling the world and heaven by the same name. But the words of the statement are as follows:
Whether, then, have we rightly spoken of one heaven, or of many and infinite? It were more correct to say one, if indeed it was created according to the model. Further, in the Epistle of the Romans to the Corinthians it is written,
An ocean illimitable by men and the worlds after it. Consequently, therefore, the noble apostle exclaims,
Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! Romans 11:33
And was it not this which the prophet meant, when he ordered unleavened cakes to be made, intimating that the truly sacred mystic word, respecting the unbegotten and His powers, ought to be concealed? In confirmation of these things, in the Epistle to the Corinthians the apostle plainly says:
Howbeit we speak wisdom among those who are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world, or of the princes of this world, that come to nought. But we speak the wisdom of God hidden in a mystery. 1 Corinthians 2:6-7 And again in another place he says:
To the acknowledgment of the mystery of God in Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 These things the Saviour Himself seals when He says:
To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. And again the Gospel says that the Saviour spoke to the apostles the word in a mystery. For prophecy says of Him:
He will open His mouth in parables, and will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world. And now, by the parable of the leaven, the Lord shows concealment; for He says,
The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. Matthew 13:33 For the tripartite soul is saved by obedience, through the spiritual power hidden in it by faith; or because the power of the word which is given to us, being strong and powerful, draws to itself secretly and invisibly every one who receives it, and keeps it within himself, and brings his whole system into unity.
Accordingly Solon has written most wisely respecting God thus:—
It is most difficult to apprehend the mind's invisible measure
Which alone holds the boundaries of all things.
the divine, says the poet of Agrigenturn, —
Is not capable of being approached with our eyes,
Or grasped with our hands; but the highway
Of persuasion, highest of all, leads to men's minds.
And John the apostle says:
No man has seen God at any time. The only-begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him, John 1:18 — calling invisibility and ineffableness the bosom of God. Hence some have called it the Depth, as containing and embosoming all things, inaccessible and boundless.
This discourse respecting God is most difficult to handle. For since the first principle of everything is difficult to find out, the absolutely first and oldest principle, which is the cause of all other things being and having been, is difficult to exhibit. For how can that be expressed which is neither genus, nor difference, nor species, nor individual, nor number; nay more, is neither an event, nor that to which an event happens? No one can rightly express Him wholly. For on account of His greatness He is ranked as the All, and is the Father of the universe. Nor are any parts to be predicated of Him. For the One is indivisible; wherefore also it is infinite, not considered with reference to inscrutability, but with reference to its being without dimensions, and not having a limit. And therefore it is without form and name. And if we name it, we do not do so properly, terming it either the One, or the Good, or Mind, or Absolute Being, or Father, or God, or Creator, or Lord. We speak not as supplying His name; but for want, we use good names, in order that the mind may have these as points of support, so as not to err in other respects. For each one by itself does not express God; but all together are indicative of the power of the Omnipotent. For predicates are expressed either from what belongs to things themselves, or from their mutual relation. But none of these are admissible in reference to God. Nor any more is He apprehended by the science of demonstration. For it depends on primary and better known principles. But there is nothing antecedent to the Unbegotten.
It remains that we understand, then, the Unknown, by divine grace, and by the word alone that proceeds from Him; as Luke in the Acts of the Apostles relates that Paul said,
Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious. For in walking about, and beholding the objects of your worship, I found an altar on which was inscribed, To the Unknown God. Whom therefore you ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you. Acts 17:22-23
Everything, then, which falls under a name, is originated, whether they will or not. Whether, then, the Father Himself draws to Himself everyone who has led a pure life, and has reached the conception of the blessed and incorruptible nature; or whether the free-will which is in us, by reaching the knowledge of the good, leaps and bounds over the barriers, as the gymnasts say; yet it is not without eminent grace that the soul is winged, and soars, and is raised above the higher spheres, laying aside all that is heavy, and surrendering itself to its kindred element.
Plato, too, in Meno, says that virtue is God-given, as the following expressions show:
From this argument then, O Meno, virtue is shown to come to those, in whom it is found, by divine providence. Does it not then appear that
the gnostic disposition which has come to all is enigmatically called
If, then, in this whole treatise we have investigated well, it results that virtue is neither by nature, nor is it taught, but is produced by divine providence, not without intelligence, in those in whom it is found. Wisdom which is God-given, as being the power of the Father, rouses indeed our free-will, and admits faith, and repays the application of the elect with its crowning fellowship.
And now I will adduce Plato himself, who clearly deems it fit to believe the children of God. For, discoursing on gods that are visible and born, in Timæus, he says:
But to speak of the other demons, and to know their birth, is too much for us. But we must credit those who have formerly spoken, they being the offspring of the gods, as they said, and knowing well their progenitors, although they speak without probable and necessary proofs. I do not think it possible that clearer testimony could be borne by the Greeks, that our Saviour, and those anointed to prophesy (the latter being called the sons of God, and the Lord being His own Son), are the true witnesses respecting divine things. Wherefore also they ought to be believed, being inspired, he added. And were one to say in a more tragic vein, that we ought not to believe,
For it was not Zeus that told me these things,
yet let him know that it was God Himself that promulgated the Scriptures by His Son. And he, who announces what is his own, is to be believed.
No one, says the Lord, Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22 This, then, is to be believed, according to Plato, though it is announced and spoken
without probable and necessary proofs, but in the Old and New Testament.
For unless you believe, says the Lord,
you shall die in your sins. John 8:24 And again:
He that believes has everlasting life.
Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him. For trusting is more than faith. For when one has believed that the Son of God is our teacher, he trusts that his teaching is true. And as
instruction, according to Empedocles,
makes the mind grow, so trust in the Lord makes faith grow.
We say, then, that it is characteristic of the same persons to vilify philosophy, and run down faith, and to praise iniquity and felicitate a libidinous life. But now faith, if it is the voluntary assent of the soul, is still the doer of good things, the foundation of right conduct; and if Aristotle defines strictly when he teaches that ποιεῖν is applied to the irrational creatures and to inanimate things, while πράττειν is applicable to men only, let him correct those who say that God is the maker (ποιητής) of the universe. And what is done (πρακτόν), he says, is as good or as necessary. To do wrong, then, is not good, for no one does wrong except for some other thing; and nothing that is necessary is voluntary. To do wrong, then, is voluntary, so that it is not necessary. But the good differ especially from the bad in inclinations and good desires. For all depravity of soul is accompanied with want of restraint; and he who acts from passion, acts from want of restraint and from depravity.
I cannot help admiring in every particular that divine utterance:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that enters not in by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter opens. Then the Lord says in explanation,
I am the door of the sheep. Men must then be saved by learning the truth through Christ, even if they attain philosophy. For now that is clearly shown
which was not made known to other ages, which is now revealed to the sons of men. Ephesians 3:5 For there was always a natural manifestation of the one Almighty God, among all right-thinking men; and the most, who had not quite divested themselves of shame with respect to the truth, apprehended the eternal beneficence in divine providence. In fine, then, Xenocrates the Chalcedonian was not quite without hope that the notion of the Divinity existed even in the irrational creatures. And Democritus, though against his will, will make this avowal by the consequences of his dogmas; for he represents the same images as issuing, from the divine essence, on men and on the irrational animals. Far from destitute of a divine idea is man, who, it is written in Genesis, partook of inspiration, being endowed with a purer essence than the other animate creatures. Hence the Pythagoreans say that mind comes to man by divine providence, as Plato and Aristotle avow; but we assert that the Holy Spirit inspires him who has believed. The Platonists hold that mind is an effluence of divine dispensation in the soul, and they place the soul in the body. For it is expressly said by Joel, one of the twelve prophets,
And it shall come to pass after these things, I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Joel 2:28 But it is not as a portion of God that the Spirit is in each of us. But how this dispensation takes place, and what the Holy Spirit is, shall be shown by us in the books on prophecy, and in those on the soul. But
for incredulity escapes from ignorance.
Let us add in completion what follows, and exhibit now with greater clearness the plagiarism of the Greeks from the Barbarian philosophy.
Now the Stoics say that God, like the soul, is essentially body and spirit. You will find all this explicitly in their writings. Do not consider at present their allegories as the gnostic truth presents them; whether they show one thing and mean another, like the dexterous athletes. Well, they say that God pervades all being; while we call Him solely Maker, and Maker by the Word. They were misled by what is said in the book of Wisdom:
He pervades and passes through all by reason of His purity; Wisdom 7:24 since they did not understand that this was said of Wisdom, which was the first of the creation of God.
So be it, they say. But the philosophers, the Stoics, and Plato, and Pythagoras, nay more, Aristotle the Peripatetic, suppose the existence of matter among the first principles; and not one first principle. Let them then know that what is called matter by them, is said by them to be without quality, and without form, and more daringly said by Plato to be non-existence. And does he not say very mystically, knowing that the true and real first cause is one, in these very words:
Now, then, let our opinion be so. As to the first principle or principles of the universe, or what opinion we ought to entertain about all these points, we are not now to speak, for no other cause than on account of its being difficult to explain our sentiments in accordance with the present form of discourse. But undoubtedly that prophetic expression,
Now the earth was invisible and formless, supplied them with the ground of material essence.
And the introduction of
chance was hence suggested to Epicurus, who misapprehended the statement,
Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity. And it occurred to Aristotle to extend Providence as far as the moon from this psalm:
Lord, Your mercy is in the heavens; and Your truth reaches to the clouds. For the explanation of the prophetic mysteries had not yet been revealed previous to the advent of the Lord.
Punishments after death, on the other hand, and penal retribution by fire, were pilfered from the Barbarian philosophy both by all the poetic Muses and by the Hellenic philosophy. Plato, accordingly, in the last book of the Republic, says in these express terms:
Then these men fierce and fiery to look on, standing by, and hearing the sound, seized and took some aside; and binding Aridæus and the rest hand, foot, and head, and throwing them down, and flaying them, dragged them along the way, tearing their flesh with thorns. For the fiery men are meant to signify the angels, who seize and punish the wicked.
Who makes, it is said,
His angels spirits; His ministers flaming fire. It follows from this that the soul is immortal. For what is tortured or corrected being in a state of sensation lives, though said to suffer. Well! Did not Plato know of the rivers of fire and the depth of the earth, and Tartarus, called by the Barbarians Gehenna, naming, as he does prophetically, Cocytus, and Acheron, and Pyriphlegethon, and introducing such corrective tortures for discipline?
the angels as the Scripture says,
of the little ones, and of the least, which see God, and also the oversight reaching to us exercised by the tutelary angels, he shrinks not from writing,
That when all the souls have selected their several lives, according as it has fallen to their lot, they advance in order to Lachesis; and she sends along with each one, as his guide in life, and the joint accomplisher of his purposes, the demon which he has chosen. Perhaps also the demon of Socrates suggested to him something similar.
Nay, the philosophers. having so heard from Moses, taught that the world was created. And so Plato expressly said,
Whether was it that the world had no beginning of its existence, or derived its beginning from some beginning? For being visible, it is tangible; and being tangible, it has a body. Again, when he says,
It is a difficult task to find the Maker and Father of this universe, he not only showed that the universe was created, but points out that it was generated by him as a son, and that he is called its father, as deriving its being from him alone, and springing from non-existence. The Stoics, too, hold the tenet that the world was created.
And that the devil so spoken of by the Barbarian philosophy, the prince of the demons, is a wicked spirit, Plato asserts in the tenth book of the Laws, in these words:
Must we not say that spirit which pervades the things that are moved on all sides, pervades also heaven? Well, what? One or more? Several, say I, in reply for you. Let us not suppose fewer than two— that which is beneficent, and that which is able to accomplish the opposite. Similarly in the Phœdrus he writes as follows:
Our contest is not with flesh and blood, but principalities, with powers, with the spiritual things of those which are in heaven; writing thus:
For since we are agreed that heaven is full of many good beings; but it is also full of the opposite of these, and more of these; and as we assert such a contest is deathless, and requiring marvellous watchfulness.
Again the Barbarian philosophy knows the world of thought and the world of sense— the former archetypal, and the latter the image of that which is called the model; and assigns the former to the Monad, as being perceived by the mind, and the world of sense to the number six. For six is called by the Pythagoreans marriage, as being the genital number; and he places in the Monad the invisible heaven and the holy earth, and intellectual light. For
in the beginning, it is said,
God made the heaven and the earth; and the earth was invisible. And it is added,
And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. Genesis 1:1-3 And in the material cosmogony He creates a solid heaven (and what is solid is capable of being perceived by sense), and a visible earth, and a light that is seen. Does not Plato hence appear to have left the ideas of living creatures in the intellectual world, and to make intellectual objects into sensible species according to their genera? Rightly then Moses says, that the body which Plato calls
the earthly tabernacle was formed of the ground, but that the rational soul was breathed by God into man's face. For there, they say, the ruling faculty is situated; interpreting the access by the senses into the first man as the addition of the soul.
Wherefore also man is said
to have been made in [God's] image and likeness. For the image of God is the divine and royal Word, the impassible man; and the image of the image is the human mind. And if you wish to apprehend the likeness by another name, you will find it named in Moses, a divine correspondence. For he says,
Walk after the Lord your God, and keep His commandments. Deuteronomy 13:4 And I reckon all the virtuous, servants and followers of God. Hence the Stoics say that the end of philosophy is to live agreeable to nature; and Plato, likeness to God, as we have shown in the second Miscellany. And Zeno the Stoic, borrowing from Plato, and he from the Barbarian philosophy, says that all the good are friends of one another. For Socrates says in the Phœdrus,
that it has not been ordained that the bad should be a friend to the bad, nor the good be not a friend to the good; as also he showed sufficiently in the Lysis, that friendship is never preserved in wickedness and vice. And the Athenian stranger similarly says,
that there is conduct pleasing and conformable to God, based on one ancient ground-principle, That like loves like, provided it be within measure. But things beyond measure are congenial neither to what is within nor what is beyond measure. Now it is the case that God is the measure to us of all things. Then proceeding, Plato adds:
For every good man is like every other good man; and so being like to God, he is liked by every good man and by God. At this point I have just recollected the following. In the end of the Timæus he says:
You must necessarily assimilate that which perceives to that which is perceived, according to its original nature; and it is by so assimilating it that you attain to the end of the highest life proposed by the gods to men, for the present or the future time. For those have equal power with these. He, who seeks, will not stop till he find; and having found, he will wonder; and wondering, he will reign; and reigning, he will rest. And what? Were not also those expressions of Thales derived from these? The fact that God is glorified for ever, and that He is expressly called by us the Searcher of hearts, he interprets. For Thales being asked, What is the divinity? Said, What has neither beginning nor end. And on another asking,
If a man could elude the knowledge of the Divine Being while doing anything? said,
How could he who cannot do so while thinking?
Further, the Barbarian philosophy recognises good as alone excellent, and virtue as sufficient for happiness, when it says,
Behold, I have set before your eyes good and evil, life and death, that you may choose life. For it calls good,
life, and the choice of it excellent, and the choice of the opposite
evil. And the end of good and of life is to become a lover of God:
For this is your life and length of days, to love that which tends to the truth. And these points are yet clearer. For the Saviour, in enjoining to love God and our neighbour, says,
that on these two commandments hang the whole law and the prophets. Such are the tenets promulgated by the Stoics; and before these, by Socrates, in the Phœdrus, who prays,
O Pan, and you other gods, give me to be beautiful within. And in the Theœtetus he says expressly,
For he that speaks well (καλῶς) is both beautiful and good. And in the Protagoras he avers to the companions of Protagoras that he has met with one more beautiful than Alcibiades, if indeed that which is wisest is most beautiful. For he said that virtue was the soul's beauty, and, on the contrary, that vice was the soul's deformity. Accordingly, Antipatrus the Stoic, who composed three books on the point, virtue is sufficient for happiness; and adduces several other dogmas agreeing with the Stoics. And by Aristobulus, who lived in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, who is mentioned by the composer of the epitome of the books of the Maccabees, there were abundant books to show that the Peripatetic philosophy was derived from the law of Moses and from the other prophets. Let such be the case.
Plato plainly calls us brethren, as being of one God and one teacher, in the following words:
For you who are in the state are entirely brethren (as we shall say to them, continuing our story). But the God who formed you, mixed gold in the composition of those of you who are fit to rule, at your birth, wherefore you are most highly honoured; and silver in the case of those who are helpers; and steel and brass in the case of farmers and other workers. Whence, of necessity, some embrace and love those things to which knowledge pertains; and others matters of opinion. Perchance he prophesies of that elect nature which is bent on knowledge; if by the supposition he makes of three natures he does not describe three politics, as some supposed: that of the Jews, the silver; that of the Greeks, the third; and that of the Christians, with whom has been mingled the regal gold, the Holy Spirit, the golden.
And exhibiting the Christian life, he writes in the Theætetus in these words:
Let us now speak of the highest principles. For why should we speak of those who make an abuse of philosophy? These know neither the way to the forum, nor know they the court or the senate-house, or any other public assembly of the state. As for laws and decrees spoken or written, they neither see nor hear them. But party feelings of political associations and public meetings, and revels with musicians [occupy them]; but they never even dream of taking part in affairs. Has any one conducted himself either well or ill in the state, or has anything evil descended to a man from his forefathers?— it escapes their attention as much as do the sands of the sea. And the man does not even know that he does not know all these things; but in reality his body alone is situated and dwells in the state, while the man himself flies, according to Pindar, beneath the earth and above the sky, astronomizing, and exploring all nature on all sides.
Again, with the Lord's saying,
Let your yea be yea, and your nay nay, may be compared the following:
Let praise and an oath in everything be absent.
And in general, Pythagoras, and Socrates, and Plato say that they hear God's voice while closely contemplating the fabric of the universe, made and preserved unceasingly by God. For they heard Moses say,
He said, and it was done, describing the word of God as an act.
And founding on the formation of man from the dust, the philosophers constantly term the body earthy. Homer, too, does not hesitate to put the following as an imprecation:—
But may you all become earth and water.
As Esaias says,
And trample them down as clay. And Callimachus clearly writes:—
That was the year in which
Birds, fishes, quadrupeds,
Spoke like Prometheus' clay.
And the same again:—
If you Prometheus formed,
And you are not of other clay.
Hesiod says of Pandora:—
And bade Hephæstus, famed, with all his speed,
Knead earth with water, and man's voice and mind
The Stoics, accordingly, define nature to be artificial fire, advancing systematically to generation. And God and His Word are by Scripture figuratively termed fire and light. But how? Does not Homer himself, is not Homer himself, paraphrasing the retreat of the water from the land, and the clear uncovering of the dry land, when he says of Tethys and Oceanus:—
For now for a long time they abstain from
Each other's bed and love?
Nothing escapes the divine. This it behooves you to know.
He is our observer. To God nought is impossible.
And the lyric poet:—
And God from gloomy night
Can raise unstained light,
And can in darksome gloom obscure
The day's refulgence pure.
He alone who is able to make night during the period of day is God.
In the Phœnomena Aratus writes thus:—
With Zeus let us begin; whom let us ne'er,
Being men, leave unexpressed. All full of Zeus,
The streets, and throngs of men, and full the sea,
And shores, and everywhere we Zeus enjoy.
For we also are
His offspring; . . . .
that is, by creation.
Who, bland to men,
Propitious signs displays, and to their tasks
Arouses. For these signs in heaven He fixed,
The constellations spread, and crowned the year
With stars; to show to men the seasons' tasks,
That all things may proceed in order sure.
Him ever first, Him last too, they adore:
Hail Father, marvel great— great boon to men.
And before him, Homer, framing the world in accordance with Moses on the Vulcan-wrought shield, says:—
On it he fashioned earth, and sky, and sea,
And all the signs with which the heaven is crowned.
For the Zeus celebrated in poems and prose compositions leads the mind up to God. And already, so to speak, Democritus writes,
that a few men are in the light, who stretch out their hands to that place which we Greeks now call the air. Zeus speaks all, and he hears all, and distributes and takes away, and he is king of all. And more mystically the Bœotian Pindar, being a Pythagorean, says:—
One is the race of gods and men,
And of one mother both have breath;
that is, of matter: and names the one creator of these things, whom he calls Father, chief artificer, who furnishes the means of advancement on to divinity, according to merit.
For I pass over Plato; he plainly, in the Epistle to Erastus and Coriscus, is seen to exhibit the Father and Son somehow or other from the Hebrew Scriptures, exhorting in these words:
In invoking by oath, with not illiterate gravity, and with culture, the sister of gravity, God the author of all, and invoking Him by oath as the Lord, the Father of the Leader, and author; whom if you study with a truly philosophical spirit, you shall know. And the address in the Timœus calls the creator, Father, speaking thus:
You gods of gods, of whom I am Father; and the Creator of your works. So that when he says,
Around the king of all, all things are, and because of Him are all things; and he [or that] is the cause of all good things; and around the second are the things second in order; and around the third, the third, I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father.
And the same, in the tenth book of the Republic, mentions Eros the son of Armenius, who is Zoroaster. Zoroaster, then, writes:
These were composed by Zoroaster, the son of Armenius, a Pamphylian by birth: having died in battle, and been in Hades, I learned them of the gods. This Zoroaster, Plato says, having been placed on the funeral pyre, rose again to life in twelve days. He alludes perchance to the resurrection, or perchance to the fact that the path for souls to ascension lies through the twelve signs of the zodiac; and he himself says, that the descending pathway to birth is the same. In the same way we are to understand the twelve labours of Hercules, after which the soul obtains release from this entire world.
I do not pass over Empedocles, who speaks thus physically of the renewal of all things, as consisting in a transmutation into the essence of fire, which is to take place. And most plainly of the same opinion is Heraclitus of Ephesus, who considered that there was a world everlasting, and recognised one perishable— that is, in its arrangement, not being different from the former, viewed in a certain aspect. But that he knew the imperishable world which consists of the universal essence to be everlastingly of a certain nature, he makes clear by speaking thus:
The same world of all things, neither any of the gods, nor any one of men, made. But there was, and is, and will be ever-living fire, kindled according to measure, and quenched according to measure. And that he taught it to be generated and perishable, is shown by what follows:
There are transmutations of fire—first, the sea; and of the sea the half is land, the half fiery vapour. For he says that these are the effects of power. For fire is by the Word of God, which governs all things, changed by the air into moisture, which is, as it were, the germ of cosmical change; and this he calls sea. And out of it again is produced earth, and sky, and all that they contain. How, again, they are restored and ignited, he shows clearly in these words:
The sea is diffused and measured according to the same rule which subsisted before it became earth. Similarly also respecting the other elements, the same is to be understood. The most renowned of the Stoics teach similar doctrines with him, in treating of the conflagration and the government of the world, and both the world and man properly so called, and of the continuance of our souls.
Plato, again, in the seventh book of the Republic, has called
the day here nocturnal, as I suppose, on account of
the world rulers of this darkness; Ephesians 6:12 and the descent of the soul into the body, sleep and death, similarly with Heraclitus. And was not this announced, oracularly, of the Saviour, by the Spirit, saying by David,
I slept, and slumbered; I awoke: for the Lord will sustain me; For He not only figuratively calls the resurrection of Christ rising from sleep; but to the descent of the Lord into the flesh he also applies the figurative term sleep. The Saviour Himself enjoins,
Watch; as much as to say,
Study how to live, and endeavour to separate the soul from the body.
And the Lord's day Plato prophetically speaks of in the tenth book of the Republic, in these words:
And when seven days have passed to each of them in the meadow, on the eighth they are to set out and arrive in four days. By the meadow is to be understood the fixed sphere, as being a mild and genial spot, and the locality of the pious; and by the seven days each motion of the seven planets, and the whole practical art which speeds to the end of rest. But after the wandering orbs the journey leads to heaven, that is, to the eighth motion and day. And he says that souls are gone on the fourth day, pointing out the passage through the four elements. But the seventh day is recognised as sacred, not by the Hebrews only, but also by the Greeks; according to which the whole world of all animals and plants revolve. Hesiod says of it:—
The first, and fourth, and seventh day were held sacred.
And on the seventh the sun's resplendent orb.
And on the seventh then came the sacred day.
The seventh was sacred.
It was the seventh day, and all things were accomplished.
And on the seventh morn we leave the stream of Acheron.
Callimachus the poet also writes:—
It was the seventh morn, and they had all things done.
Among good days is the seventh day, and the seventh race.
The seventh is among the prime, and the seventh is perfect.
Now all the seven were made in starry heaven,
In circles shining as the years appear.
The Elegies of Solon, too, intensely deify the seventh day.
And how? Is it not similar to Scripture when it says,
Let us remove the righteous man from us, because he is troublesome to us? Wisdom 2:12 when Plato, all but predicting the economy of salvation, says in the second book of the Republic as follows:
Thus he who is constituted just shall be scourged, shall be stretched on the rack, shall be bound, have his eyes put out; and at last, having suffered all evils, shall be crucified.
And the Socratic Antisthenes, paraphrasing that prophetic utterance,
To whom have you likened me? Says the Lord, says that
Xenophon too, the Athenian, utters these similar sentiments in the following words:
He who shakes all things, and is Himself immoveable, is manifestly one great and powerful. But what He is in form, appears not. No more does the sun, who wishes to shine in all directions, deem it right to permit any one to look on himself. But if one gaze on him audaciously, he loses his eyesight.
What flesh can see with eyes the Heavenly, True,—
Immortal God, whose dwelling is the poles?
Not even before the bright beams of the sun
Are men, as being mortal, fit to stand,
the Sibyl had said before. Rightly, then, Xenophanes of Colophon, teaching that God is one and incorporeal, adds:—
One God there is 'midst gods and men supreme;
In form, in mind, unlike to mortal men.
But men have the idea that gods are born,
And wear their clothes, and have both voice and shape.
But had the oxen or the lions hands,
Or could with hands depict a work like men,
Were beasts to draw the semblance of the gods,
The horses would them like to horses sketch,
To oxen, oxen, and their bodies make
Of such a shape as to themselves belongs.
Let us hear, then, the lyric poet Bacchylides speaking of the divine:—
Who to diseases dire never succumb,
And blameless are; in nought resembling men.
And also Cleanthes, the Stoic, who writes thus in a poem on the Deity: —
If you ask what is the nature of the good, listen—
That which is regular, just, holy, pious,
Self-governing, useful, fair, fitting,
Grave, independent, always beneficial,
That feels no fear or grief, profitable, painless,
Helpful, pleasant, safe, friendly,
Held in esteem, agreeing with itself: honourable,
Humble, careful, meek, zealous,
Perennial, blameless, ever-during.
And the same, tacitly vilifying the idolatry of the multitude, adds:—
Base is every one who looks to opinion,
With the view of deriving any good from it.
We are not, then, to think of God according to the opinion of the multitude.
For I do not think that secretly,
Imitating the guise of a scoundrel,
He would go to your bed as a man,
says Amphion to Antiope. And Sophocles plainly writes:—
His mother Zeus espoused,
Not in the likeness of gold, nor covered
With swan's plumage, as the Pleuronian girl
He impregnated; but an out and out man.
He further proceeds, and adds:—
And quick the adulterer stood on the bridal steps.
Then he details still more plainly the licentiousness of the fabled Zeus:—
But he nor food nor cleansing water touched,
But heart-stung went to bed, and that whole night
But let these be resigned to the follies of the theatre.
Heraclius plainly says:
But of the word which is eternal men are not able to understand, both before they have heard it, and on first hearing it. And the lyrist Melanippides says in song:—
And Parmenides the great, as Plato says in the Sophist, writes of God thus:—
Very much, since unborn and indestructible He is,
Whole, only-begotten, and immoveable, and unoriginated.
Hesiod also says:—
For He of the immortals all is King and Lord.
With God none else in might may strive.
Nay more, Tragedy, drawing away from idols, teaches to look up to heaven. Sophocles, as Hecatæus, who composed the histories in the work about Abraham and the Egyptians, says, exclaims plainly on the stage:—
One in very truth, God is One,
Who made the heaven and the far-stretching earth,
The Deep's blue billow, and the might of winds.
But of us mortals, many erring far
In heart, as solace for our woes, have raised
Images of gods— of stone, or else of brass,
Or figures wrought of gold or ivory;
And sacrifices and vain festivals
To these appointing, deem ourselves devout.
And Euripides on the stage, in tragedy, says:—
Do you this lofty, boundless Ether see,
Which holds the earth around in the embrace
Of humid arms? This reckon Zeus,
And this regard as God.
And in the drama of Pirithous, the same writes those lines in tragic vein:—
You, self-sprung, who on Ether's wheel
Has universal nature spun,
Around whom Light and dusky spangled Night,
The countless host of stars, too, ceaseless dance.
For there he says that the creative mind is self-sprung. What follows applies to the universe, in which are the opposites of light and darkness.
Æschylus also, the son of Euphorion, says with very great solemnity of God:—
Ether is Zeus, Zeus earth, and Zeus the heaven;
The universe is Zeus, and all above.
I am aware that Plato assents to Heraclitus, who writes:
The one thing that is wise alone will not be expressed, and means the name of Zeus. And again,
He that has ears to hear, let him hear, you will find it expressed by the Ephesian to the following effect:
Those that hear without understanding are like the deaf. The proverb witnesses against them, that when present they are absent.
But do you want to hear from the Greeks expressly of one first principle? Timæus the Locrian, in the work on Nature, shall testify in the following words:
There is one first principle of all things unoriginated. For were it originated, it would be no longer the first principle; but the first principle would be that from which it originated. For this true opinion was derived from what follows:
Hear, it is said,
O Israel; the Lord your God is one, and Him only shall you serve. Deuteronomy 6:4
Lo He all sure and all unerring is,
says the Sibyl.
If Outis, alone as you are, offers you violence,
And there is no escaping disease sent by Zeus,—
For the Cyclopes heed not Ægis-bearing Zeus.
And before him Orpheus said, speaking of the point in hand:—
Son of great Zeus, Father of Ægis-bearing Zeus.
And Xenocrates the Chalcedonian, who mentions the supreme Zeus and the inferior Zeus, leaves an indication of the Father and the Son. Homer, while representing the gods as subject to human passions, appears to know the Divine Being, whom Epicurus does not so revere. He says accordingly:—
Why, son of Peleus, mortal as you are,
With swift feet me pursuest, a god
Immortal? Have you not yet known
That I am a god?
For he shows that the Divinity cannot be captured by a mortal, or apprehended either with feet, or hands, or eyes, or by the body at all.
To whom have you likened the Lord? Or to what likeness have you likened Him? says the Scripture. Has not the artificer made the image? Or the goldsmith, melting the gold, has gilded it, and what follows.
The comic poet Epicharmus speaks in the Republic clearly of the Word in the following terms:—
The life of men needs calculation and number alone,
And we live by number and calculation, for these save mortals.
He then adds expressly:—
Reason governs mortals, and alone preserves manners.
There is in man reasoning; and there is a divine Reason.
Reason is implanted in man to provide for life and sustenance,
But divine Reason attends the arts in the case of all,
Teaching them always what it is advantageous to do.
For it was not man that discovered art, but God brought it;
And the Reason of man derives its origin from the divine Reason.
The Spirit also cries by Isaiah:
Wherefore the multitude of sacrifices? Says the Lord . I am full of holocausts of rams, and the fat of lambs and the blood of bulls I wish not; and a little after adds:
Wash you, and be clean. Put away wickedness from your souls, and so forth.
Menander, the comic poet, writes in these very words:—
If one by offering sacrifice, a crowd. . .
Of bulls or kids, O Pamphilus, by Zeus.
Or such like things; by making works of art,
Garments of gold or purple, images
Of ivory or emerald, deems by these
God can be made propitious, he does err,
And has an empty mind. For the man must prove
A man of worth, who neither maids deflowers,
Nor an adulterer is, nor steals, nor kills
For love of worldly wealth, O Pamphilus.
Nay, covet not a needle's thread. For God
You sees, being near beside you.
I am a God at hand, it is said by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 23:23-24
and not a God afar off. Shall a man do anything in secret places, and I shall not see him?
And not a needle even that is
Another's ever covet, dearest friend;
For God in righteous works delights, and so
Permits him to increase his worldly wealth,
Who toils, and ploughs the land both night and day.
But sacrifice to God, and righteous be,
Shining not in bright robes, but in your heart;
And when you hear the thunder, do not flee,
Being conscious to yourself of nought amiss,
Good sir, for you God ever present sees.
Again Diphilus, the comic poet, discourses as, follows on the judgment:—
Do you think, O Niceratus, that the dead,
Who in all kinds of luxury in life have shared,
Escape the Deity, as if forgot?
There is an eye of justice, which sees all.
For two ways, as we deem, to Hades lead—
One for the good, the other for the bad.
But if the earth hides both for ever, then
Go plunder, steal, rob, and be turbulent.
But err not. For in Hades judgment is,
Which God the Lord of all will execute,
Whose name too dreadful is for me to name,
Who gives to sinners length of earthly life.
If any mortal thinks, that day by day,
While doing ill, he eludes the gods' keen sight,
His thoughts are evil; and when justice has
The leisure, he shall then detected be
So thinking. Look, whoe'er you be that say
That there is not a God. There is, there is.
If one, by nature evil, evil does,
Let him redeem the time; for such as he
Shall by and by due punishment receive.
And with this agrees the tragedy in the following lines:—
For there shall come, shall come that point of time,...
When Ether, golden-eyed, shall ope its store
Of treasured fire; and the devouring flame,
Raging, shall burn all things on earth below,
And all above.
And after a little he adds:—
And when the whole world fades,
And vanished all the abyss of ocean's waves,
And earth of trees is bare; and wrapt in flames,
The air no more begets the winged tribes;
Then He who all destroyed, shall all restore.
We shall find expressions similar to these also in the Orphic hymns, written as follows:—
For having hidden all, brought them again
To gladsome light, forth from his sacred heart,
says the philosophic poetry of Empedocles. And so, according to the Greeks, none is so great as to be above judgment, none so insignificant as to escape its notice.
And the same Orpheus speaks thus:—
But one a scion of Chaldean race;
For he the sun's path knew right well,
And how the motion of the sphere about
The earth proceeds, in circle moving
Equally around its axis, how the winds
Their chariot guide o'er air and sea.
But in great heaven, He is seated firm
Upon a throne of gold, and 'neath His feet
The earth. His right hand round the ocean's bound
He stretches; and the hills' foundations shake
To the centre at His wrath, nor can endure
His mighty strength. He all celestial is,
And all things finishes upon the earth.
He the Beginning, Middle is, and End.
But You I dare not speak. In limbs
And mind I tremble. He rules from on high.
And so forth. For in these he indicates these prophetic utterances:
If You open the heaven, trembling shall seize the mountains from Your presence; and they shall melt, as wax melts before the fire; and in Isaiah, Who has measured the heaven with a span, and the whole earth with His fist? Again, when it is said:—
Ruler of Ether, Hades, Sea, and Land,
Who with Your bolts Olympus' strong-built home
Dost shake. Whom demons dread, and whom the throng
Of gods do fear. Whom, too, the Fates obey,
Relentless though they be. O deathless One,
Our mother's Sire! Whose wrath makes all things reel;
Who mov'st the winds, and shroud'st in clouds the world,
Broad Ether cleaving with Your lightning gleams,—
Yours is the order 'mongst the stars, which run
As Your unchangeable behests direct.
Before Your burning throne the angels wait,
Much-working, charged to do all things, for men.
Your young Spring shines, all prank'd with purple flowers;
Your Winter with its chilling clouds assails;
Your Autumn noisy Bacchus distributes.
Then he adds, naming expressly the Almighty God:—
Deathless Immortal, capable of being...
To the immortals only uttered! Come,
Greatest of gods, with strong Necessity.
Dread, invincible, great, deathless One,
Whom Ether crowns.
By the expression
Sire of our Mother (μητροπάτωρ) he not only intimates creation out of nothing, but gives occasion to those who introduce emissions of imagining a consort of the Deity. And he paraphrases those prophetic Scripture— that in Isaiah, Amos 4:13 and that in Moses,
Behold, behold that I am He, and there is no god beside me: I will kill, and I will make to live; I will smite, and I will heal: and there is none that shall deliver out of my hands. Deuteronomy 32:39
And He, from good, to mortals plants ill,
And cruel war, and tearful woes,
according to Orpheus.
Such also are the words of the Parian Archilochus.
O Zeus, yours is the power of heaven, and you
Inflict on men things violent and wrong.
Again let the Thracian Orpheus sing to us:—
His right hand all around to ocean's bound
He stretches; and beneath His feet is earth.
These are plainly derived from the following:
The Lord will save the inhabited cities, and grasp the whole land in His hand like a nest; Isaiah 10:14
It is the Lord that made the earth by His power, as says Jeremiah,
and set up the earth by His wisdom. Jeremiah 10:12 Further, in addition to these, Phocylides, who calls the angels demons, explains in the following words that some of them are good, and others bad (for we also have learned that some are apostate):—
Demons there are— some here, some there— set over men;
Some, on man's entrance [into life], to ward off ill.
Rightly, then, also Philemon, the comic poet demolishes idolatry in these words:—
Fortune is no divinity to us:
There's no such god. But what befalls by chance
And of itself to each, is Fortune called.
And Sophocles the tragedian says:—
Not even the gods have all things as they choose,
Excepting Zeus; for he beginning is and end.
One Might, the great, the flaming heaven, was
One Deity. All things one Being were; in whom
All these revolve fire, water, and the earth.
And so forth.
Pindar, the lyric poet, as if in Bacchic frenzy, plainly says:—
What is God? The All.
God, who makes all mortals.
And when he says—
How little, being a man, do you expect
Wisdom for man? 'Tis hard for mortal mind
The counsels of the gods to scan; and you
Were of a mortal mother born,
Similarly, then, Solon the Athenian, in the Elegies, following Hesiod, writes:—
The immortal's mind to men is quite unknown.
Never by day
From toil and woe shall they have rest, nor yet
By night from groans. Sad cares the gods to men
Further, when Homer says—
The Sire himself the golden balance held,
he intimates that God is just.
And Menander, the comic poet, in exhibiting God, says:—
To each man, on his birth, there is assigned
A tutelary Demon, as his life's good guide.
For that the Demon evil is, and harms
A good life, is not to be thought.
Then he adds:—
Ἅπαντα δ᾿ ἁγαθὸν εἱναι τὸν Θεόν,
Again, Æschylus the tragedian, setting forth the power of God, does not shrink from calling Him the Highest, in these words:—
Place God apart from mortals; and think not
That He is, like yourself, corporeal.
You know Him not. Now He appears as fire,
Dread force; as water now; and now as gloom;
And in the beasts is dimly shadowed forth,
In wind, and cloud, in lightning, thunder, rain;
And minister to Him the seas and rocks,
Each fountain and the water's floods and streams.
The mountains tremble, and the earth, the vast
Abyss of sea, and towering height of hills,
When on them looks the Sovereign's awful eye:
Almighty is the glory of the Most High God.
Does he not seem to you to paraphrase that text,
At the presence of the Lord the earth trembles? In addition to these, the most prophetic Apollo is compelled— thus testifying to the glory of God— to say of Athene, when the Medes made war against Greece, that she besought and supplicated Zeus for Attica. The oracle is as follows:—
Pallas cannot Olympian Zeus propitiate,
Although with many words and sage advice she prays;
But he will give to the devouring fire many temples of the immortals,
Who now stand shaking with terror, and bathed in sweat;
and so forth.
Thearidas, in his book On Nature, writes:
There was then one really true beginning [first principle] of all that exist— one. For that Being in the beginning is one and alone.
Nor is there any other except the Great King,
says Orpheus. In accordance with whom, the comic poet Diphilus says very sententiously, the
Father of all,
To Him alone incessant reverence pay,
The inventor and the author of such blessings.
Rightly therefore Plato
accustoms the best natures to attain to that study which formerly we said was the highest, both to see the good and to accomplish that ascent. And this, as appears, is not the throwing of the potsherds; but the turning round of the soul from a nocturnal day to that which is a true return to that which really is, which we shall assert to be the true philosophy. Such as are partakers of this he judges to belong to the golden race, when he says:
You are all brethren; and those who are of the golden race are most capable of judging most accurately in every respect.
The Father, then, and Maker of all things is apprehended by all things, agreeably to all, by innate power and without teaching—things inanimate, sympathizing with the animate creation; and of living beings some are already immoral, working in the light of day. But of those that are still mortal, some are in fear, and carried still in their mother's womb; and others regulate themselves by their own independent reason. And of men all are Greeks and Barbarians. But no race anywhere of tillers of the soil, or nomads, and not even of dwellers in cities, can live, without being imbued with the faith of a superior being. Wherefore every eastern nation, and every nation touching the western shore; or the north, and each one towards the south, — all have one and the same preconception respecting Him who has appointed government; since the most universal of His operations equally pervade all. Much more did the philosophers among the Greeks, devoted to investigation, starting from the Barbarian philosophy, attribute providence to the
Invisible, and sole, and most powerful, and most skilful and supreme cause of all things most beautiful;— not knowing the inferences from these truths, unless instructed by us, and not even how God is to be known naturally; but only, as we have already often said, by a true periphrasis. Rightly therefore the apostle says, prophetically that of the Greeks believing Greeks would know God; but also intimating that in power the Lord is the God of all, and truly Universal King. For they know neither what He is, nor how He is Lord, and Father, and Maker, nor the rest of the system of the truth, without being taught by it. Thus also the prophetic utterances have the same force as the apostolic word. For Isaiah says,
If you say, We trust in the Lord our God: now make an alliance with my Lord the king of the Assyrians. And he adds:
And now, was it without the Lord that we came up to this land to make war against it? And Jonah, himself a prophet, intimates the same thing in what he says:
And the shipmaster came to him, and said to him, Why do you snore? Rise, call on your God, that He may save us, and that we may not perish. For the expression
your God he makes as if to one who knew Him by way of knowledge; and the expression,
that God may save us, revealed the consciousness in the minds of heathens who had applied their mind to the Ruler of all, but had not yet believed. And again the same:
And he said, Let us by no means perish for the life of this man. And Malachi the prophet plainly exhibits God saying,
I will not accept sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun to its going down, My name is glorified among the Gentiles; and in every place sacrifice is offered to Me. And again:
Because I am a great King, says the Lord omnipotent; and My name is manifest among the nations. What name? The Son declaring the Father among the Greeks who have believed.
Plato in what follows gives an exhibition of free-will:
Virtue owns not a master; and in proportion as each one honours or dishonours it, in that proportion he will be a partaker of it. The blame lies in the exercise of free choice. But God is blameless. For He is never the author of evil.
O warlike Trojans, says the lyric poet, —
And Pindar expressly introduces also Zeus Soter, the consort of Themis, proclaiming him King, Saviour, Just, in the following lines:—
First, prudent Themis, of celestial birth,
On golden steeds, by Ocean's rock,
The Fates brought to the stair sublime,
The shining entrance of Olympus,
Of Saviour Zeus for aye to be the spouse,
And she, the Hours, gold-diademed, fair-fruited, good, brought forth.
Who these things seeing, yet apprehends not God,
But mouthing lofty themes, casts far
Perverse deceits; stubborn in which, the tongue
Its shafts discharges, about things unseen,
Devoid of sense.
Let him who wishes, then, approaching to the true instruction, learn from Parmenides the Eleatic, who promises:—
Ethereal nature, then, and all the signs
In Ether you shall know, and the effects,
All viewless, of the sacred Sun's clear torch
And whence produced. The round-eyed Moon's
Revolving influences and nature you
Shall learn; and the ensphering heaven shall know;
Whence sprung; and how Necessity took it
And chained so as to keep the starry bounds.
And Metrodorus, though an Epicurean, spoke thus, divinely inspired:
Remember, O Menestratus, that, being a mortal endowed with a circumscribed life, you have in your soul ascended, till you have seen endless time, and the infinity of things; and what is to be, and what has been; when with the blessed choir, according to Plato, we shall gaze on the blessed sight and vision; we following with Zeus, and others with other deities, if we may be permitted so to say, to receive initiation into the most blessed mystery: which we shall celebrate, ourselves being perfect and untroubled by the ills which awaited us at the end of our time; and introduced to the knowledge of perfect and tranquil visions, and contemplating them in pure sunlight; we ourselves pure, and now no longer distinguished by that, which, when carrying it about, we call the body, being bound to it like an oyster to its shell.
The Pythagoreans call heaven the Antichthon [the opposite Earth]. And in this land, it is said by Jeremiah,
I will place you among the children, and give you the chosen land as inheritance of God Omnipotent; Jeremiah 3:19 and they who inherit it shall reign over the earth. Myriads on myriads of examples rush on my mind which might adduce. But for the sake of symmetry the discourse must now stop, in order that we may not exemplify the saying of Agatho the tragedian:—
Treating our by-work as work,
And doing our work as by-work.
It having been, then, as I think, clearly shown in what way it is to be understood that the Greeks were called thieves by the Lord, I willingly leave the dogmas of the philosophers. For were we to go over their sayings, we should gather together directly such a quantity of notes, in showing that the whole of the Hellenic wisdom was derived from the Barbarian philosophy. But this speculation, we shall, nevertheless, again touch on, as necessity requires, when we collect the opinions current among the Greeks respecting first principles.
But from what has been said, it tacitly devolves on us to consider in what way the Hellenic books are to be perused by the man who is able to pass through the billows in them. Therefore
as appears according to Empedocles,
But wretched he, who cares for dark opinion about the Gods.
He, who seeks to be good, err in many things.
It is then now clear to us, from what has been said, that the beneficence of God is eternal, and that, from an unbeginning principle, equal natural righteousness reached all, according to the worth of each several race—never having had a beginning. For God did not make a beginning of being Lord and Good, being always what He is. Nor will He ever cease to do good, although He bring all things to an end. And each one of us is a partaker of His beneficence, as far as He wills. For the difference of the elect is made by the intervention of a choice worthy of the soul, and by exercise.
Source. Translated by William Wilson. 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/02105.htm>.
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