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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book I, Chapter 29

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book I

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Chapter 29. Of the Question Why the Heathen Should Refuse to Worship the God of Israel; Even Although They Deem Him to Be Only the Presiding Divinity of the Elements?

45. What do they say of this God of Sabaoth, which term, by interpretation, means the God of powers or of armies, inasmuch as the powers and the armies of the angels serve Him? What do they say of this God of Israel; for He is the God of that people from whom came the seed wherein all the nations were to be blessed? Why is He the only deity excluded from worship by those very persons who contend that all the gods ought to be worshipped? Why do they refuse their belief to Him who both proves other gods to be false gods, and also overthrows them? I have heard one of them declare that he had read, in some philosopher or other, the statement that, from what the Jews did in their sacred observances, he had come to know what God they worshipped. He is the deity, said he, that presides over those elements of which this visible and material universe is constructed; when in the Holy Scriptures of His prophets it is plainly shown that the people of Israel were commanded to worship that God who made heaven and earth, and from whom comes all true wisdom. But what need is there for further disputation on this subject, seeing that it is quite sufficient for my present purpose to point out how they entertain any kind of presumptuous opinions regarding that God whom yet they cannot deny to be a God? If, indeed, He is the deity that presides over the elements of which this world consists, why is He not worshipped in preference to Neptune, who presides over the sea only? Why not, again, in preference to Silvanus, who presides over the fields and woods only? Why not in preference to the Sun, who presides over the day only, or who also rules over the entire heat of heaven? Why not in preference to the Moon, who presides over the night only, or who also shines pre-eminent for power over moisture? Why not in preference to Juno, who is supposed to hold possession of the air only? For certainly those deities, whoever they may be, who preside over the parts, must necessarily be under that Deity who wields the presidency over all the elements, and over the entire universe. But this Deity prohibits the worship of all those deities. Why, then, is it that these men, in opposition to the injunction of One greater than those deities, not only choose to worship them, but also decline, for their sakes, to worship Him? Not yet have they discovered any constant and intelligible judgment to pronounce on this God of Israel; neither will they ever discover any such judgment, until they find out that He alone is the true God, by whom all things were created.

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Source. Translated by S.D.F. Salmond. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

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