As I begin this hortatory address to you, ye men of Greece, I pray God that I may know what I ought to say to you, and that you, shaking off your habitual1 love of disputing, and being livered from the error of your fathers, may how choose what is profitable; not fancying that you commit any offence against your forefathers, though the things which you formerly considered by no means salutary should now seem useful to you. For accurate investigation of matters, putting truth to the question with a more searching scrutiny, often reveals that things which have passed for excellent are of quite another sort. Since, then, we propose to discourse of the true religion (than which, I think, there is nothing which is counted more valuable by those who desire to pass through life without danger, on account of the judgment which is to be after the termination of this life, and which is announced not only by our forefathers according to God, to wit the prophets and lawgivers, but also by those among yourselves who have been esteemed wise, not poets alone, but also philosophers, who professed among you that they had attained the true and divine knowledge), I think it well first of all to examine the teachers of religion, both our own and yours, who they were, and how great, and in what times they lived; in order that those who have formerly received from their fathers the false religion, may now, when they perceive this, be extricated from that inveterate error; and that we may clearly and manifestly show that we ourselves follow the religion of our forefathers according to God.
Chap. II — The Poets Are Unfit to Be Religious Teachers.
Whom, then, ye men of Greece, do ye call your teachers of religion? The poets? It will do your cause no good to say so to men who know the poets; for they know how very ridiculous a theogony they have composed, — as we can learn from Homer, your most distinguished and prince of poets. For he says, first, that the gods were in the beginning generated from water; for he has written thus:2 —
“Both ocean, the origin of the gods, and their mother Tethys”
And then we must also remind you of what he further says of him whom ye consider the first of the gods, and whom he often calls “the father of gods and men;” for he said:3 —
“Zeus, who is the dispenser of war to men.”
Indeed, he says that he was not only the dispenser of war to the army, but also the cause of perjury to the Trojans, by means of his daughter;4 and Homer introduces him in love, and bitterly complaining, and bewailing himself, and plotted against by the other gods, and at one time exclaiming concerning his own son:5 —
“Alas! he falls, my most beloved of men!
Sarpedon, vanquished by Patroclus, falls.
So will the fates.”
And at another time concerning Hector:6
“Ah! I behold a warrior dear to me
Around the walls of Ilium driven, and grieve
And what he says of the conspiracy of the other gods against Zeus, they know who read these words:7 “When the other Olympians — Juno, and Neptune, and Minerva — wished to bind him.” And unless the blessed gods had feared him whom gods call Briareus, Zeus would have been bound by them. And what Homer says of his intemperate loves, we must remind you in the very words he used. For he said that Zeus spake thus to Juno:8 — 274
“For never goddess pour’d, nor woman yet,
So full a tide of love into my breast;
I never loved Ixion’s consort thus,
Nor sweet Acrisian Danae, from whom
Sprang Perseus, noblest of the race of man;
Nor Phoenix’ daughter fair, of whom were born
Minos, unmatch’d but by the powers above,
And Rhadamanthus; nor yet Semele,
Nor yet Alcmene, who in Thebes produced
The valiant Hercules; and though my son
By Semele were Bacchus, joy of man;
Nor Ceres golden-hair’d, nor high-enthron’d
Latona in the skies; no — nor thyself
As now I love thee, and my soul perceive
O’erwhelm’d with sweetness of intense desire.”
It is fit that we now mention what one can learn from the work of Homer of the other gods, and what they suffered at the hands of men. For he says that Mars and Venus were wounded by Diomed, and of many others of the gods he relates the sufferings. For thus we can gather from the case of Dione consoling her daughter; for she said to her:9 —
“Have patience, dearest child; though much enforc’d
Restrain thine anger: we, in heav’n who dwell,
Have much to bear from mortals; and ourselves
Too oft upon each other suff’rings lay:
Mars had his suff’rings; by Aloeus sons,
Otus and Ephialtes, strongly bound,
He thirteen months in brazen fetters lay:
Juno, too, suffer’d, when Amphitryon’s son
Thro’ her right breast a three-barb’d arrow sent:
Dire, and unheard of, were the pangs she bore,
Great Pluto’s self the stinging arrow felt,
When that same son of Aegis-bearing Jove
Assail’d him in the very gates of hell,
And wrought him keenest anguish; pierced with pain,
To high Olympus, to the courts of Jove,
Groaning, he came; the bitter shaft remain’d
Deep in his shoulder fix’d, and griev’d his soul.”
But if it is right to remind you of the battle of the gods, opposed to one another, your own poet himself will recount it, saying:10 —
“Such was the shock when gods in battle met;
For there to royal Neptune stood oppos’d
Phoebus Apollo with his arrows keen;
The blue-eyed Pallas to the god of war;
To Juno, Dian, heav’nly archeress,
Sister of Phoebus, golden-shafted queen.
Stout Hermes, helpful god, Latona fac’d.”
These and such like things did Homer teach you; and not Homer only, but also Hesiod. So-that if you believe your most distinguished poets, who have given the genealogies of your gods, you must of necessity either suppose that the gods are such beings as these, or believe that there are no gods at all.
Chap. III. — Opinions of the School of Thales.
And if you decline citing the poets, because you say it is allowable for them to frame myths, and to relate in a mythical way many things about the gods which are far from true, do you suppose you have some others for your religious teachers, or how do you say that they themselves11 have learned this religion of yours? For it is impossible that any should know matters so great and divine, who have not themselves learned them first from the initiated.12 You will no doubt say, “The sages and philosophers.” For to them, as to a fortified wall, you are wont to flee, when any one quotes the opinions of your poets about the gods. Therefore, since it is fit that we commence with the ancients and the earliest, beginning thence I will produce the opinion of each, much more ridiculous as it is than the theology of the poets. For Thales of Miletus, who took the lead in the study of natural philosophy, declared that water was the first principle of all things; for from water he says that all things are, and that into water all are resolved. And after him Anaximander, who came from the same Miletus, said that the infinite was the first principle of all things; for that from this indeed all things are produced, and into this do all decay. Thirdly, Anaximenes — and he too was from Miletus — says that air is the first principle of all things; for he says that from this all things are produced, and into this all are resolved. Heraclitus and Hippasus, from Metapontus, say that fire is the first principle of all things; for from fire all things proceed, and in fire do all things terminate. Anaxagoras of Clazomenae said that the homogeneous parts are the first principles of all things. Archelaus, the son of Apollodorus, an Athenian, says that the infinite air and its density and rarity are the first principle of all things. All these, forming a succession from Thales, followed the philosophy called by themselves physical.
Chap. IV. — Opinions of Pythagoras and Epicurus.
Then, in regular succession from another starting-point, Pythagoras the Samian, son of Mnesarchus, calls numbers, with their proportions and harmonies, and the elements composed of both, the first principles; and he includes also unity and the indefinite binary.13 Epicurus, an Athenian, the son of Neocles, says that the first principles of the things that exist are bodies perceptible by reason, admitting no vacuity,14 unbegotten, indestructible, which can neither be broken, nor admit of any formation of their parts, nor alteration, and are therefore perceptible by reason. Empedocles of Agrigentum, 275 son of Meton, maintained that there were four elements — fire, air, water, earth; and two elementary powers — love and hate,15 of which the former is a power of union, the latter of separation. You see, then, the confusion of those who are considered by you to have been wise men, whom you assert to be your teachers of religion: some of them declaring that water is the first principle of all things; others, air others, fire; and others, some other of these forementioned elements; and all of them employing persuasive arguments for the establishment of their own errors, and attempting to prove their own peculiar dogma to be the most valuable. These things were said by them. How then, ye men of Greece, can it be safe for those who desire to be saved, to fancy that they can learn the true religion from these philosophers, who were neither able so to convince themselves as to prevent sectarian wrangling with one another, and not to appear definitely opposed to one another’s opinions?
Chap. V. — Opinions of Plato and Aristotle.
But possibly those who are unwilling to give up the ancient and inveterate error, maintain that they have received the doctrine of their religion not from those who have now been mentioned, but from those who are esteemed among them as the most renowned and finished philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. For these, they say, have learned the perfect and true religion. But I would be glad to ask, first of all, from those who say so, from whom they say that these men have learned this knowledge; for it is impossible that men who have not learned these so great and divine matters from some who knew them, should either themselves know them, or be able correctly to teach others; and, in the second place, I think we ought to examine the opinions even of these sages. For we shall see whether each of these does not manifestly contradict the other. But if we find that even they do not agree with each other, I think it is easy to see clearly that they too are ignorant. For Plato, with the air of one that has descended from above, and has accurately ascertained and seen all that is in heaven, says that the most high God exists in a fiery substance.16 But Aristotle, in a book addressed to Alexander of Macedon, giving a compendious explanation of his own philosophy, clearly and manifestly overthrows the opinion of Plato, saying that God does not exist in a fiery substance: but inventing, as a fifth substance, some kind of aetherial and unchangeable body, says that God exists in it. Thus, at least, he wrote: “Not, as some of those who have erred regarding the Deity say, that God exists in a fiery substance.” Then, as if he were not satisfied with this blasphemy against Plato, he further, for the sake of proving what he says about the aetherial body, cites as a witness him whom Plato had banished from his republic as a liar, and as being an imitator of the images of truth at three removes,17 for so Plato calls Homer; for he wrote: “Thus at least did Homer speak,18 ‘And Zeus obtained the wide heaven in the air and the clouds,’” wishing to make his own opinion appear more worthy of credit by the testimony of Homer; not being aware that if he used Homer as a witness to prove that he spoke truth, many of his tenets would be proved untrue. For Thales of Miletus, who was the founder of philosophy among them, taking occasion from him,19 will contradict his first opinions about first principles. For Aristotle himself, having said that God and matter are the first principles of all things, Thales, the eldest of all their sages, says that water is the first principle of the things that exist; for he says that all things are from water, and that all things are resolved into water. And he conjectures this, first, from the fact that the seed of all living creatures, which is their first principle, is moist; and secondly, because all plants grow and bear fruit in moisture, but when deprived of moisture, wither. Then, as if not satisfied with his conjectures, he cites Homer as a most trustworthy testimony, who speaks thus: —
“Ocean, who is the origin of all.”20
May not Thales, then, very fairly say to him, “What is the reason, Aristotle, why you give heed to Homer, as if he spoke truth, when you wish to demolish the opinions of Plato; but when you promulgate an opinion contrary to ours, you think Homer untruthful?”
Chap. VI. — Further Disagreements Between Plato and Aristotle.
And that these very wonderful sages of yours do not even agree in other respects, can be easily learned from this. For while Plato says that there are three first principles of all things, God, and matter, and form, — God, the maker of all; and matter, which is the subject of the first production of all that is produced, and affords to God opportunity for His workmanship; and form, which is the type of each of the things 276 produced, — Aristotle makes no mention at all of form as a first principle, but says that there are two, God and matter. And again, while Plato says that the highest God and the ideas exist in the first place of the highest heavens, and in fixed sphere, Aristotle says that, next to the most high God, there are, not ideas, but certain gods, who can be perceived by the mind. Thus, then, do they differ concerning things heavenly. So that one can see that they not only are unable to understand our earthly matters, but also, being at variance among themselves regarding these things, they will appear unworthy of credit when they treat of things heavenly. And that even their doctrine regarding the human soul as it now is does not harmonize, is manifest from what has been said by each of them concerning it. For Plato says that it is of three parts, having the faculty of reason, of affection, and of appetite.21 But Aristotle says that the soul is not so comprehensive as to include also corruptible parts, but only reason. And Plato loudly maintains that “the whole soul is immortal.” But Aristotle, naming it “the actuality,”22 would have it to be mortal, not immortal. And the former says it is always in motion; but Aristotle says that it is immoveable, since it must itself precede all motion.
Chap. VII. — Inconsistencies of Plato’s Doctrine.
But in these things they are convicted of thinking in contradiction to each other. And if any one will accurately criticise their writings, they have chosen to abide in harmony not even with their own opinions. Plato, at any rate, at one time says that there are three first principles of the universe — God, and matter, and form; but at another time four, for he adds the universal soul. And again, when he has already said that matter is eternal,23 he afterwards says that it is produced; and when he has first given to form its peculiar rank as a first principle, and has asserted for its self-subsistence, he afterwards says that this same thing is among the things perceived by the understanding. Moreover, having first declared that everything that is made is mortal,24 he afterwards states that some of the things that are made are indestructible and immortal. What, then, is the cause why those who have been esteemed wise among you disagree not only with one another but also with themselves? Manifestly, their unwillingness to learn from those who know, and their desire to attain accurate knowledge of things heavenly by their own human excess of wisdom though they were able to understand not even earthly matters. Certainly some of your philosophers say that the human soul is in us; others, that it is around us. For not even in this did they choose to agree with one another, but, distributing, as it were, ignorance in various ways among themselves, they thought fit to wrangle and dispute with one another even about the soul. For some of them say that the soul is fire, and some that it is the air; and others, the mind; and others, motion; and others, an exhalation; and certain others say that it is a power flowing from the stars; and others, number capable of motion; and others, a generating water. And a wholly confused and inharmonious opinion has prevailed among them, which only in this one respect appears praiseworthy to those who can form a right judgment, that they have been anxious to convict one another of error and falsehood.
Chap. VIII. — Antiquity, Inspiration, and Harmony of Christian Teachers.
Since therefore it is impossible to learn anything true concerning religion from your teachers, who by their mutual disagreement have furnished you with sufficient proof of their own ignorance, I consider it reasonable to recur to our progenitors, who both in point of time have by a great way the precedence of your teachers, and who have taught us nothing from their own private fancy, nor differed with one another, nor attempted to overturn one another’s positions, but without wrangling and contention received from God the knowledge which also they taught to us. For neither by nature nor by human conception is it possible for men to know things so great and divine, but by the gift which then descended from above upon the holy men, who had no need of rhetorical art,25 nor of uttering anything in a contentious or quarrelsome manner, but to present themselves pure26 to the energy of the Divine Spirit, in order that the divine plectrum itself, descending from heaven, and using righteous men as an instrument like a harp or lyre, might reveal to us the knowledge of things divine and heavenly. Wherefore, as if with one mouth and one tongue, they have in succession, and in harmony with one another, taught us both concerning God, and the creation of the world, and the formation of man, and concerning the immortality of the human soul, and the judgment which is to be after this life, and concerning all things which it is needful for us to know, and thus in divers times and places have afforded us the divine instruction.27 277
Chap. IX. — The Antiquity of Moses Proved by Greek Writers.
I will begin, then, with our first prophet and lawgiver, Moses; first explaining the times in which he lived, on authorities which among you are worthy of all credit. For I do not propose to prove these things only from our own divine histories, which as yet you are unwilling to credit on account of the inveterate error of your forefathers, but also from your own histories, and such, too, as have no reference to our worship, that you may know that, of all your teachers, whether sages, poets, historians, philosophers, or lawgivers, by far the oldest, as the Greek histories show us, was Moses, who was our first religious teacher.28 For in the times of Ogyges and Inachus, whom some of your poets suppose to have been earth-born,29 Moses is mentioned as the leader and ruler of the Jewish nation. For in this way he is mentioned both by Polemon in the first book of his Hellenics, and by Apion son of Posidonius in his book against the Jews, and in the fourth book of his history, where he says that during the reign of Inachus over Argos the Jews revolted from Amasis king of the Egyptians, and that Moses led them. And Ptolemaeus the Mendesian, in relating the history of Egypt, concurs in all this. And those who write the Athenian history, Hellanicus and Philochorus (the author of The Attic History), Castor and Thallus and Alexander Polyhistor, and also the very well informed writers on Jewish affairs, Philo and Josephus, have mentioned Moses as a very ancient and time-honoured prince of the Jews. Josephus, certainly, desiring to signify even by the title of his work the antiquity and age of the history, wrote thus at the commencement of the history: “The Jewish antiquities30 of Flavius Josephus,” — signifying the oldness of the history by the word “antiquities.” And your most renowned historian Diodorus, who employed thirty whole years in epitomizing the libraries, and who, as he himself wrote, travelled over both Asia and Europe for the sake of great accuracy, and thus became an eye-witness of very many things, wrote forty entire books of his own history. And he in the first book, having said that he bad learned from the Egyptian priests that Moses was an ancient lawgiver, and even the first, wrote of him in these very words: “For subsequent to the ancient manner” of living in Egypt which gods and heroes are fabled to have regulated, they say that Moses31 first persuaded the people to use written laws, and to live by them; and he is recorded to have been a man both great of soul and of great faculty in social matters.” Then, having proceeded a little further, and wishing to mention the ancient lawgivers, he mentions Moses first. For he spoke in these words: “Among the Jews they say that Moses ascribed his laws32 to that God who is called Jehovah, whether because they judged it a marvellous and quite divine conception which promised to benefit a multitude of men, or because they were of opinion that the people would be the more obedient when they contemplated the majesty and power of those who were said to have invented the laws. And they say that Sasunchis was the second Egyptian legislator, a man of excellent understanding. And the third, they say, was Sesonchosis the king, who not only performed the most brilliant military exploits of any in Egypt, but also consolidated that warlike race by legislation. And the fourth lawgiver, they say, was Bocchoris the king, a wise and surpassingly skilful man. And after him it is said that Amasis the king acceded to the government, whom they relate to have regulated all that pertains to the rulers of provinces, and to the general administration of the government of Egypt. And they say that Darius, the father of Xerxes, was the sixth who legislated for the Egyptians.”
Chap. X — Training and Inspiration of Moses.33
These things, ye men of Greece, have been recorded in writing concerning the antiquity of Moses by those who were not of our religion; and they said that they learned all these things from the Egyptian priests, among whom Moses was not only born, but also was thought worthy of partaking of all the education of the Egyptians, on account of his being adopted by the king’s daughter as her son; and for the same reason was thought worthy of great attention, as the wisest of the historians relate, who have chosen to record his life and actions, and the rank of his descent, — I speak of Philo and Josephus. For these, in their narration of the history of the Jews, say that Moses was sprung from the race of the Chaldaeans, and that he was born in Egypt when his forefathers had migrated on account of famine from Phoenicia to that country; and him God chose to honour on account of his exceeding virtue, and judged him worthy to become the leader and lawgiver of his own race, when He thought it right that the people of the Hebrews should return out of Egypt into their own land. To him first did God communicate that divine and prophetic gift which in those days descended upon the holy men, and him also did He first 278 furnish that he might be our teacher in religion, and then after him the rest of the prophets, who both obtained the same gift as he, and taught us the same doctrines concerning the same subjects. These we assert to have been our teachers, who taught us nothing from their own human conception, but from the gift vouchsafed to them by God from above.
Chap. XI. — Heathen Oracles Testify of Moses.
But as you do not see the necessity of giving up the ancient error of your forefathers in obedience to these teachers [of ours], what teachers of your own do you maintain to have lived worthy of credit in the matter of religion? For, as I have frequently said, it is impossible that those who have not themselves learned these so great and divine things from such persons as are acquainted with them, should either themselves know them, or be able rightly to teach others. Since, therefore, it has been sufficiently proved that the opinions of your philosophers are obviously full of all ignorance and deceit, having now perhaps wholly abandoned the philosophers as formerly you abandoned the poets, you will turn to the deceit of the oracles; for in this style I have heard some speaking. Therefore I think it fit to tell you at this step in our discourse what I formerly heard among you concerning their utterances. For when one inquired at your oracle — it is your own story — what religious men had at any time happened to live, you say that the oracle answered thus: “Only the Chaldaeans have obtained wisdom, and the Hebrews, who worship God Himself, the self-begotten King.”
Since, therefore, you think that the truth can be learned from your oracles, when you read the histories and what has been written regarding the life of Moses by those who do not belong to our religion, and when you know that Moses and the rest of the prophets were descended from the race of the Chaldaeans and Hebrews, do not think that anything incredible has taken place if a man sprung from a godly line, and who lived worthily of the godliness of his fathers, was chosen by God to be honoured with this great gift and to be set forth as the first of all the prophets.
Chap. XII. — Antiquity of Moses Proved.
And I think it necessary also to consider the times in which your philosophers lived, that you may see that the time which produced them for you is very recent, and also short. For thus you will be able easily to recognise also the antiquity of Moses. But lest, by a complete survey of the periods, and by the use of a greater number of proofs, I should seem to be prolix, I thing it may be sufficiently demonstrated from the following. For Socrates was the teacher of Plato, and Plato of Aristotle. Now these men flourished in the time of Philip and Alexander of Macedon, in which time also the Athenian orators flourished, as the Philippics of Demosthenes plainly show us. And those who have narrated the deeds of Alexander sufficiently prove that during his reign Aristotle associated with him. From all manner of proofs, then, it is easy to see that the history of Moses is by far more ancient than all profane34 histories. And, besides, it is fit that you recognise this fact also, that nothing has been accurately recorded by Greeks before the era of the Olympiads, and that there is no ancient work which makes known any action of the Greeks or Barbarians. But before that period existed only the history of the prophet Moses, which he wrote in the Hebrew character by the divine inspiration. For the Greek character was not yet in use, as the teachers of language themselves prove, telling us that Cadmus first brought the letters from Phoenicia, and communicated them to the Greeks. And your first of philosophers, Plato, testifies that they were a recent discovery. For in the Timaeus35 he wrote that Solon, the wisest of the wise men, on his return from Egypt, said to Critias that he had heard this from a very aged Egyptian priest, who said to him, “O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are ever children, and aged Greek there is none.” Then again he said, “You are all youths in soul, for you hold no ancient opinion derived through remote tradition, nor any system of instruction hoary with time; but all these things escape your knowledge, because for many generations the posterity of these ancient ages died mute, not having the use of letters.” It is fit, therefore, that you understand that it is the fact that every history has been written in these recently-discovered Greek letters; and if any one would make mention of old poets, or legislators, or historians, or philosophers, or orators, he will find that they wrote their own works in the Greek character.
Chap. XIII. — History of the Septuagint.
But if any one says that the writings of Moses and of the rest of the prophets were also written in the Greek character, let him read profane histories, and know that Ptolemy, king of Egypt, when he had built the library in Alexandria, and by gathering books from every quarter had filled it, then learnt that very ancient histories written in Hebrew happened to be carefully preserved; and wishing to know their contents, he sent for seventy wise men from Jerusalem, who were acquainted with both the Greek and Hebrew language, and appointed them to translate the books; and that in freedom from all 279 disturbance they might the more speedily complete the translation, he ordered that there should be constructed, not in the city itself, but seven stadia off (where the Pharos was built), as many little cots as there were translators, so that each by himself might complete his own translation; and enjoined upon those officers who were appointed to this duty, to afford them all attendance, but to prevent communication with one another, in order that the accuracy of the translation might be discernible even by their agreement. And when he ascertained that the seventy men had not only given the same meaning, but had employed the same words, and had failed in agreement with one another not even to the extent of one word; but had written the same things, and concerning the same things, he was struck with amazement, and believed that the translation had been written by divine power, and perceived that the men were worthy of all honour, as beloved of God; and with many gifts ordered them to return to their own country. And having, as was natural, marvelled at the books, and concluded them to be divine, he consecrated them in that library. These things, ye men of Greece, are no fable, nor do we narrate fictions; but we ourselves having been in Alexandria, saw the remains of the little cots at the Pharos still preserved, and having heard these things from the inhabitants, who had received them as part of their country’s tradition,36 we now tell to you what you can also learn from others, and specially from those wise and esteemed men who have written of these things, Philo and Josephus, and many others. But if any of those who are wont to be forward in contradiction should say that these books do not belong to us, but to the Jews, and should assert that we in vain profess to have learnt our religion froth them, let him know, as he may from those very things which are written in these books, that not to them, but to us, does the doctrine of them refer. That the books relating to our religion are to this day preserved among the Jews, has been a work of Divine Providence on our behalf; for lest, by producing them out of the Church, we should give occasion to those who wish to slander us to charge us with fraud, we demand that they be produced from the synagogue of the Jews, that from the very books still preserved among them it might clearly and evidently appear, that the laws which were written by holy men. for instruction pertain to us.
Chap. XIV. — A Warning Appeal to the Greeks.
It is therefore necessary, ye Greeks, that you contemplate the things that are to be, and consider the judgment which is predicted by all, not only by the godly, but also by those who are irreligious, that ye do not without investigation commit yourselves to the error of your fathers, nor suppose that if they themselves have been in error, and have transmitted it to you, that this which they have taught you is true; but looking to the danger of so terrible a mistake, inquire and investigate carefully into those things which are, as you say, spoken of even by your own teachers. For even unwillingly they were on your account forced to say many things by the Divine regard for mankind, especially those of them who were in Egypt, and profited by the godliness of Moses and his ancestry. For I think that some of you, when you read even carelessly the history of Diodorus, and of those others who wrote of these things, cannot fail to see that both Orpheus, and Homer, and Solon, who wrote the laws of the Athenians, and Pythagoras, and Plato, and some others, when they had been in Egypt, and had taken advantage of the history of Moses, afterwards published doctrines concerning the gods quite contrary to those which formerly they had erroneously promulgated.
Chap. XV. — Testimony of Orpheus to Monotheism.
At all events, we must remind you what Orpheus, who was, as one might say, your first teacher of polytheism, latterly addressed to his son Musaeus, and to the other legitimate auditors, concerning the one and only God. And he spoke thus: —
“I speak to those who lawfully may hear:
All others, ye profane, now close the doors,
And, O Musaeus! hearken thou to me,
Who offspring art of the light-bringing moon:
The words I utter now are true indeed;
And if thou former thoughts of mine hast seen,
Let them not rob thee of the blessed life,
But rather turn the depths of thine own heart
Unto the place where light and knowledge dwell.
Take thou the word divine to guide thy steps,
And walking well in the straight certain path,
Look to the one and universal King —
One, self-begotten, and the only One,
Of whom all things and we ourselves are sprung.
All things are open to His piercing gaze,
While He Himself is still invisible.
Present in all His works, though still unseen,
He gives to mortals evil out of good,
Sending both chilling wars and tearful griefs;
And other than the great King there is none.
The clouds for ever settle round His throne,
And mortal eyeballs in mere mortal eyes
Are weak, to see Jove reigning over all.
He sits established in the brazen heavens
Upon His golden throne; under His feet
He treads the earth, and stretches His right hand
To all the ends of ocean, and around
Tremble the mountain ranges and the streams,
The depths, too, of the blue and hoary sea.” 280
And again, in some other place he says: —
“There is one Zeus alone, one sun, one hell,
One Bacchus; and in all things but one God;
Nor of all these as diverse let me speak.”
And when he swears he says: —
“Now I adjure thee by the highest heaven,
The work of the great God, the only wise;
And I adjure thee by the Father’s voice.
Which first He uttered when He stablished
The whole world by His counsel.”
What does he mean by “I adjure thee by the Father’s voice, which first He uttered?” It is the Word of God which he here names “the voice,” by whom heaven and earth and the whole creation were made, as the divine prophecies of the holy men teach us; and these he himself also paid some attention to in Egypt, and understood that all creation was made by the Word of God; and therefore, after he says,” I adjure thee by the Father’s voice, which first He uttered,” he adds this besides, “when by His counsel He established the whole world.” Here he calls the Word “voice,” for the sake of the poetical metre. And that this is so, is manifest from the fact, that a little further on, where the metre permits him, he names it “Word.” For he said: —
“Take thou the Word divine to guide thy steps.”
Chap. XVI. — Testimony of the Sibyl.
We must also mention what the ancient and exceedingly remote Sibyl, whom Plato and Aristophanes, and others besides, mention as a prophetess, taught you in her oracular verses concerning one only God. And she speaks thus: —
“There is one only unbegotten God,
Omnipotent, invisible, most high,
All-seeing, but Himself seen by no flesh.”
Then elsewhere thus: —
“But we have strayed from the Immortal’s ways,
And worship with a dull and senseless mind
Idols, the workmanship of our own hands,
And images and figures of dead men.”
And again somewhere else: —
“Blessed shall be those men upon the earth
Who shall love the great God before all else,
Blessing Him when they eat and when they drink;
Trusting it, this their piety alone.
Who shall abjure all shrines which they may see,
All altars and vain figures of dumb stones,
Worthless and stained with blood of animals,
And sacrifice of the four-footed tribes,
Beholding the great glory of One God.”
These are the Sibyl’s words.
Chap. XVII — Testimony of Homer.
And the poet Homer, using the license of poetry, and rivalling the original opinion of Orpheus regarding the plurality of the gods, mentions, indeed, several gods in a mythical style, lest he should seem to sing in a different strain from the poem of Orpheus, which he so distinctly proposed to rival, that even in the first line of his poem he indicated the relation he held to him. For as Orpheus in the beginning of his poem had said, “O goddess, sing the wrath of Demeter, who brings the goodly fruit,” Homer began thus, “O goddess, sing the wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus,” preferring, as it seems to me, even to violate the poetical metre in his first line, than that he should seem not to have remembered before all else the names of the gods. But shortly after he also clearly and explicitly presents his own opinion regarding one God only, somewhere37 saying to Achilles by the mouth of Phoenix, “Not though God Himself were to promise that He would peel off my old age, and give me the rigour of my youth,” where he indicates by the pronoun the real and true God. And somewhere38 he makes Ulysses address the host of the Greeks thus: “The rule of many is not a good thing; let there be one ruler.” And that the rule of many is not a good thing, but on the contrary an evil, he proposed to evince by fact, recounting the wars which took place on account of the multitude of rulers, and the rights and factions, and their mutual counterplots. For monarchy is free from contention. So far the poet Homer.
Chap. XVIII. — Testimony of Sophocles.
And if it is needful that we add testimonies concerning one God, even from the dramatists, hear even Sophocles speaking thus: —
“There is one God, in truth there is but one,
Who made the heavens and the broad earth beneath,
The glancing waves of ocean and the winds
But many of us mortals err in heart,
And set up for a solace in our woes
Images of the gods in stone and wood,
Or figures carved in brass or ivory,
And, furnishing for these our handiworks,
Both sacrifice and rite magnificent,
We think that thus we do a pious work.”
Thus, then, Sophocles.
1 Literally, “former.”
2 Iliad, xiv. 302.
3 Iliad, xix. 224.
4 That is, Venus, who, after Paris had sworn that the war should be decided by single combat between himself and Menekaus, carried him off, and induced him, though defeated, to refuse performance of the articles agreed upon.
5 Iliad, xvi. 433. Sarpedon was a son of Zeus.
6 Iliad, xxii. 168.
7 Iliad, i. 399, etc.
8 Iliad, xiv. 315. (The passage is here given in full from Cowper’s translation. In Justin’s quotation one or two lines are omitted.)
9 Iliad, v. 382 (from Lord Derby’s translation).
10 Iliad, xx. 66 (from Lord Derby’s translation).
11 i.e., these teachers.
12 Literally, “those who knew.”
13 μονάδα καὶ τὴν ἀόριστον δυάδα. One, or unity, was considered by Pythagoras as the essence of number, and also as God. Two, or the indefinite binary, was the equivalent of evil. So Plutarch, De placit. philosoph., c 7; from which treatise the above opinions of the various sects are quoted, generally verbatim.
14 ἀμέτοχα κενοῦ: the void being that in which these bodies move, while they themselves are of a different nature from it.
15 Or, accord and discord, attraction and repulsion.
16 Or, “is of a fiery nature.”
17 See the Republic, x.2. By the Platonic doctrine, the ideas of things in the mind of God were the realities; the things themselves, as seen by us, were the images of these realities; and poetry, therefore, describing the images of realities, was only at the third remove from nature. As Plato puts it briefly in this same passage, “the painter, the bed-maker, God — these three are the masters of three species of beds.
18 Iliad, xv. 192.
19 i. e., from Homer; using Homer’s words as suggestive and confirmatory of his doctrine.
20 Iliad, xiv. 246.
21 τὸ λογικόν, τὸ θυμικόν, τὸ ἐπιθυμητικόν, — corresponding to what we roughly speak of as reason, the heart, and the appetites.
22 ἐντελέχεια, — the completion or actuality to which each thing, by virtue of its peculiar nature (or potentiality, δύναμις), can arrive.
23 Literally, “unbegotten.”
24 Or, “liable to destruction.”
25 Literally, “the art of words.”
26 Literally, “clean,” free from other influences.
27 [The diversities of Christian theology are to be regretted; but Justin here shows the harmony and order of truths, such as are everywhere received by Christians, to be an inestimable advantage.]
28 The incongruity in this sentence is Justin’s.
29 [Authochthones]. That is, sprung from the soil; and hence the oldest inhabitants, the aborigines.
30 Literally, archaeology.
31 Unfortunately, Justin here mistook Menes for Moses. [But he may have so read the name in his copy. See Grabe’s note on Diodorus, and the quotation following in another note.]
32 This sentence must be so completed from the context in Diodorus. See the note of Maranus.
33 [Consult the ponderous learning of Warburton’s Divine Legation, passim.]
34 Literally, “without, not belonging to the true faith.”
35 C. 3.
36 [Doubtless Justin relates the tradition as he received it. Consult Dr. Selwyn’s full account of the fables concerning the LXX., in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, iii. p. 1203 ff.]