THE ANTE-NICENE FATHERS , part II – by ArchBishop Uwe AE. Rosenkranz


[translated by the rev. james b. h. hawkins, m.a., oxon.]

Introductory Notice


Alexander, Bishop of Lycopolis

[a.d. 301.] To the following account, translated from Galland, I prefix only the general date of Alexander’s episcopate. He was succeeded in the bishopric of Lycopolis by the turbulent Meletius, of whose schism we need not say anything here. But his early relations with the heresy of Manes, and his subsequent orthodoxy (in all which he was a foreshadowing of Augustine), render his treatise on the Manichæan opinions especially valuable.

Combefis conjectured that Alexander was called Λυκοπολίτης, as having been born at Lycus, a city of the Thebaid, and so by race an Egyptian, and to his opinion both Cave and Fabricius are inclined. But this conjecture is plainly uncertain, if we are to trust Photius, in his Epitome De Manichæis, which Montfaucon has edited. For in this work Photius, whilst speaking of the authors who wrote against those heretics, makes mention also of Alexander as bishop of the city of Lycus, ὅτε τῆς πόλεως Λύκων Ἀλέξανδρος τοὺς ἀρχιερατικοὺς νόμους ἐγκεχειρισμένος. So that it is no easy matter to state whether our author was called Λυκοπολίτης, because he was born either at Lycopolis in the Thebaid, or at another Lycopolis in Lower Egypt, which Stephanus places close to the sea in the Sebennytic nome, or whether he was not rather called Λυκοπολίτης, as having held the bishopric of Lycopolis. The unwonted manner of speaking employed by Photius need not delay the attention of any one, when he makes Alexander to have been Archbishop of Lycopolis; for it is established that the Bishop of Alexandria alone was Archbishop and Patriarch of the whole Egyptian diocese. Epiphanius certainly says, when speaking of Meletius,5 the schismatical Bishop of Lycopolis, ἐδόκει δὲ ὁ Μελήτιος τῶν κατὰ τήν Αἴγυπτον προήκων, καὶ δευτερεύων τῷ Πετρῳ τῷ τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας κατὰ τὴν ἀρχιεπισκοπήν. And to the same purpose he says elsewhere, Μελήτιος, ὁ τῆς Αἰγύπτου ἀπὸ Θηβαΐδος δοκῶν εἶναι καὶ αὐτὸς ἀρχιεπίσκοπος. But however these matters are understood, it is admitted that Alexander came just before Meletius in the See of Lycopolis, and we know that he occupied the episcopal chair of that city in the beginning of the fourth century, in which order Le Quien places him among the Lycopolitan prelates, on the authority of Photius.

In the time of Constantine, the Eastern and Western Empire were each divided into seven districts, called dioceses, which comprised about one hundred and eighteen provinces;2 each province contained several cities, each of which had a district attached to it. The ecclesiastical rulers of the dioceses were called patriarchs, exarchs, or archbishops, of whom there were fourteen; the rulers of the provinces were styled metropolitans, i.e., governors of the μητρόπολις or mother city, and those of each city and its districts were called bishops. So that the division which we now call a diocese, was in ancient times a union of dioceses, and a parish was a combination of modern parishes.

But however it be, whether Alexander was called Λυκοπολίτης from his birthplace, or from his episcopal See, this is certain and acknowledged, that he of good right claims for himself a place among ecclesiastical writers, for he has given us an elaborate treatise against the Manichæan tenets; and he is therefore styled by Allatius auctor eruditissimus et φιλοσοφικώτατος, and his work libellus aureus. Allatius wrote out and brought to light two passages from it, while as yet it was lying hid in the libraries. From the inscription of the work, we learn that Alexander was first a pagan; and afterwards, having given up the religion of the Greeks, became an adherent of the Manichæan doctrines, which he says that he learnt from those who were on terms of familiar intercourse with the heresiarch, ἀπὸ τῶν γνωρίμων τοῦ ἀνδρός; so that he would seem to be not far wrong in his conjecture who would place our author at no very distant date from the times of Manes himself. From the errors of this sect he was divinely reclaimed, and, taking refuge in the Church, he exposed the scandals attaching to the heresiarch, and solidly refuted his unwholesome dogmas. From having been an adherent of the sect himself, he has given us more information concerning their tenets than it was in the power of others to give, and on that account his treatise seems to be held in much estimation.6


chap. i.—the excellence of the christian philosophy; the origin of heresies amongst christians.

The philosophy of the Christians is termed simple. But it bestows very great attention to the formation of manners, enigmatically insinuating words of more certain truth respecting God; the principal of which, so far as any earnest serious purpose in those matters is concerned, all will have received when they assume an efficient cause, very noble and very ancient, as the originator of all things that have existence. For Christians leaving to ethical students matters more toilsome and difficult, as, for instance, what is virtue, moral and intellectual; and to those who employ their time in forming hypotheses respecting morals, and the passions and affections, without marking out any element by which each virtue is to be attained, and heaping up, as it were, at random precepts less subtle—the common people, hearing these, even as we learn by experience, make great progress in modesty, and a character of piety is imprinted on their manners, quickening the moral disposition which from such usages is formed, and leading them by degrees to the desire of what is honourable and good.

But this being divided into many questions by the number of those who come after, there arise many, just as is the case with those who are devoted to dialectics, some more skilful than others, and, so to speak, more sagacious in handling nice and subtle questions; so that now they come forward as parents and originators of sects and heresies. And by these the formation of morals is hindered and rendered obscure; for those do not attain unto certain verity of discourse who wish to become the heads of the sects, and the common people is to a greater degree excited to strife and contention. And there being no rule nor law by which a solution may be obtained of the things which are called in question, but, as in other matters, this ambitious rivalry running out into excess, there is nothing to which it does not cause damage and injury.

chap. ii.—the age of manicæus, or manes; his first disciples; the two principles; manichæan matter.

So in these matters also, whilst in novelty of opinion each endeavours to show himself first and superior, they brought this philosophy, which is simple, almost to a nullity. Such was he whom they call manichæus, a Persian by race, my instructor in whose doctrine was one Papus by name, and after him Thomas, and some others followed them. They say that the man lived when Valerian was emperor, and that he served under Sapor, the king of the Persians, and having offended him in some way, was put to death. Some such report of his character and reputation has come to me from those who were intimately acquainted with him. He laid down two principles, God and Matter. God he called good, and matter he affirmed to be evil. But God excelled more in good than matter in evil. But he calls matter not that which Plato calls it,5 which becomes everything when it has received quality and figure, whence he terms it all-embracing—the mother and nurse of all things; nor what Aristotle calls an element, with which form and privation have to do, but something beside these. For the motion which in individual things is incomposite, this he calls matter, On the side of God are ranged powers, like handmaids, all good; and likewise, on the side of matter are ranged other powers, all evil. Moreover, the bright shining, the light, and the superior, all these are with God; while the
obscure, and the darkness, and the inferior are with matter. God, too, has desires, but they are all good; and matter, likewise, which are all evil.


chap. iii.—the fancies of manichæus concerning matter.

It came to pass on a time that matter conceived a desire to attain to the superior region; and when it had arrived there, it admired the brightness and the light which was with God. And, indeed, it wished to seize on for itself the place of pre-eminence, and to remove God from His position. God, moreover, deliberated how to avenge Himself upon matter, but was destitute of the evil necessary to do so, for evil does not exist in the house and abode of God. He sent, therefore, the power which we call the soul into matter, to permeate it entirely. For it will be the death of matter, when at length hereafter this power is separated from it. So, therefore, by the providence of God, the soul was commingled with matter, an unlike thing with an unlike. Now by this commingling the soul has contracted evil, and labours under the same infirmity as matter. For, just as in a corrupted vessel, the contents are oftentimes vitiated in quality, so, also the soul that is in matter suffers some such change, and is deteriorated from its own nature so as to participate in the evil of matter. But God had compassion upon the soul, and sent forth another power, which we call Demiurge that is, the Creator of all things; and when this power had arrived, and taken in hand the creation of the world, it separated from matter as much power as from the commingling had contracted no vice and stain, and hence the sun and moon were first formed; but that which had contracted some slight and moderate stain, this became the J stars and the expanse of heaven. Of the matter from which the sun and the moon was separated, part was cast entirely out of the world, and is that fire in which, indeed, there is the power of burning, although in itself it is dark and void of light, being closely similar to night. But in the rest of the elements, both animal and vegetable, in those the divine power is unequally mingled. And therefore the world was made, and in it the sun and moon who preside over the birth and death of things, by separating the divine virtue from matter, and transmitting it to God.

chap. iv.—the moon’s increase and wane; the manichaean trifling respecting it; their dreams about man and christ; their foolish system of abstinence.

He ordained this, forsooth, to supply to the Demiurge, or Creator, another power which might attract to the splendour of the sun; and the thing is manifest, as one might say, even to a blind person. For the moon in its increase receives the virtue which is separated from matter, and during the time of its augmentation comes forth full of it. But when it is full, in its wanings, it remits it to the sun, and the sun goes back to God. And when it has done this, it waits again to receive from another full moon a migration of the soul to itself, and receiving this in the same way, it suffers it to pass on to God. And this is its work continually, and in every age. And in the sun some such image is seen, as is the form of man. And matter ambitiously strove to make man from itself by mingling together all its virtue, so that it might have some portion of soul. But his form contributed much to man’s obtaining a greater share, and one beyond all other animals, in the divine virtue. For he is the image of the divine virtue, but Christ is the intelligence. Who, when He had at length come from the superior region, dismissed a very great part of this virtue to God. And at length being crucified, in this way He furnished knowledge, and fitted the divine virtue to be crucified in matter. Because, therefore, it is the Divine will and decree that matter should perish, they abstain from those things which have life, and feed upon vegetables, and everything which is void of sense. They abstain also from marriage and the rites of Venus, and the procreation of children, that virtue may not strike its root deeper in matter by the succession of race; nor do they go abroad, seeking to purify themselves from the stain which virtue has contracted froth its admixture with matter.

chap. v.—the worship of the sun and moon under god; support sought for the manichaeans in the grecian fables; the authority of the scriptures and faith despised by the manichaeans.

These things are the principal of what they say and think. And they honour very especially the sun and moon, not as gods, but as the way by which it is possible to attain unto God. But when the divine virtue has been entirely separated off, they say that the exterior fire will fall, and burn up both itself and all else that is left of matter. Those of them who are better educated, and not unacquainted with Greek literature, instruct us from their own resources. From the ceremonies and mysteries, for instance: by Bacchus, who was cut out from the womb, is signified that the divine virtue is divided into matter by the Titans, as they say; from the poet’s fable of the battle with the Giants, is indicated that not even they were ignorant of the rebellion of matter against God. I indeed will not deny, that these things are not
sufficient to lead away the minds of those who receive words without examining them, since the deception caused by discourse of this sort has drawn over to itself some of those who have pursued the study of philosophy with me; but in what manner I should approach the thing to examine into it, I am at a loss indeed. For their hypotheses do not proceed by any legitimate method, so that one might institute an examination in accordance with these; neither are there any principles of demonstrations, so that we may see what follows on these; but theirs is the rare discovery of those who are simply said to philosophize. These men, taking to themselves the Old and New Scriptures, though they lay it down that these are divinely inspired, draw their own opinions from thence; and then only think they are refuted, when it happens that anything not in accordance with these is said or done by them. And what to those who philosophize after the manner of the Greeks, as respects principles of demonstration, are intermediate propositions; this, with them, is the voice of the prophets. But here, all these things being eliminated, and since those matters, which I before mentioned, are put forward without any demonstration, and since it is necessary to give an answer in a rational way, and not to put forward other things more plausible, and which might prove more enticing, my attempt is rather troublesome, and on this account the more arduous, because it is necessary to bring forward arguments of a varied nature. For the more accurate arguments will escape the observation of those who have been convinced beforehand by these men without proof, if, when it comes to persuasion, they fall into the same hands. For they imagine that they proceed from like sources. There is, therefore, need of much and great diligence, and truly of God, to be the guide of our argument.

chap. vi.—the two principles of the manichaeans; themselves controverted; the pythagorean opinion respecting first principles; good and evil contrary; the victory on the side of good.

They lay down two principles, God and Matter. If he (Manes) separates that which comes into being from that which really exists, the supposition is not so faulty in this, that neither does matter create itself, nor does it admit two contrary qualities, in being both active and passive; nor, again, are other such theories proposed concerning the creative cause as it is not lawful to speak of. And yet God does not stand in need of matter in order to make things, since in His mind all things substantially exist, so far as the possibility of their coming into being is concerned. But if, as he seems rather to mean, the unordered motion of things really existent under Him is matter, first, then, he unconsciously sets up another creative cause (and yet an evil one), nor does he perceive what follows from this, namely, that if it is necessary that God and matter should be supposed, some other matter must be supposed to God; so that to each of the creative causes there should be the subject matter. Therefore, instead of two, he will be shown to give us four first principles. Wonderful, too, is the distinction. For if he thinks this to be God, which is good, and wishes to conceive of something opposite to Him, why does he not, as some of the Pythagoreans, set evil over against Him? It is more tolerable, indeed, that two principles should be spoken of by them, the good and the evil, and that these are continually striving, but the good prevails. For if the evil were to prevail, all things would perish. Wherefore matter, by itself, is neither body, nor is it exactly incorporeal, nor simply any particular thing; but it is something indefinite, which, by the addition of form, comes to be defined; as, for instance, fire is a pyramid, air an octahedron, water an eikosahedron, and earth a cube; how, then, is matter the unordered motion of the elements? By itself, indeed, it does not subsist, for if it is motion, it is in that which is moved; but matter does not seem to be of such a nature, but rather the first subject, and unorganized, from which other things proceed. Since, therefore, matter is unordered motion, was it always conjoined with that which is moved, or was it ever separate from it? For, if it were ever by itself, it would not be in existence; for there is no motion without something moved. But if it was always in that which is moved, then, again, there will be two principles—that which moves, and that which is moved. To which of these two, then, will it be granted that it subsists as a primary cause along with God?

chap. vii.—motion vindicated from the charge of irregularity; circular; straight; of generation and corruption; of alteration, and quality affecting sense.

There is added to the discourse an appendix quite foreign to it. For you may reasonably speak of motion not existing. And what, also, is the matter of motion? Is it straight or circular? Or does it take place by a process of change, or by a process of generation and corruption? The circular motion, indeed, is so orderly and composite, that it is ascribed to the order of all created things; nor does this, in the Manichaean system, appear worthy to be impugned, in which move the sun and the moon, whom alone, of the gods, they say that they
venerate. But as regards that which is straight: to this, also, there is a bound when it reaches its own place. For that which is earthly ceases entirely from motion, as soon as it has touched the earth. And every animal and vegetable makes an end of increasing when it has reached its limit. Therefore the stoppage of these things would be more properly the death of matter, than that endless death, which is, as it were, woven for it by them. But the motion which arises by a process of generation and corruption it is impossible to think of as in harmony with this hypothesis, for, according to them, matter is unbegotten. But if they ascribe to it the motion of alteration, as they term it, and that by which we suffer change by a quality affecting the sense, it is worth while to consider how they come to say this. For this seems to be the principal thing that they assert, since by matter it comes to pass, as they say, that manners are changed, and that vice arises in the soul. For in altering, it will always begin from the beginning; and, proceeding onwards, it will reach the middle, and thus will it attain unto the end. But when it has reached the end, it will not stand still, at least if alteration is its essence. But it will again, by the same route, return to the beginning, and from thence in like manner to the end; nor will it ever cease from doing this. As, for instance, if α and γ suffer alteration, and the middle is β, a by being changed, will arrive at β, and from thence will go on to γ. Again returning from the extreme γ to β, it will at some time or other arrive at α; and this goes on continuously. As in the change from black, the middle is dun, and the extreme, white. Again, in the contrary direction, from white to dun, and in like manner to black; and again from white the change begins, and goes the same round.

chap. viii.—is matter wicked? of god and matter.

Is matter, in respect of alteration, an evil cause? It is thus proved that it is not more evil than good. For let the beginning of the, change be from evil. Thus the change is from this to good through that which is indifferent. But let the alteration be from good. Again the beginning goes on through that which is indifferent. Whether the motion be to one extreme or to the other, the method is the same, and this is abundantly set Forth. All motion has to do with quantity; but quality is the guide in virtue and vice. Now we know that these two are generically distinguished. But are God and matter alone principles, or floes there remain anything else which is the mean between these two? For it there is nothing, these things remain unintermingled one with another. And it is well said that if the extremes are intermingled, there is a necessity for some thing intermediate to connect them. But if something else exists, it is necessary that that something be either body or incorporeal, and thus a third adventitious principle makes its appearance. First, therefore, if we suppose God and matter to be both entirely incorporeal, so that neither is in the other, except as the science of grammar is in the soul; to understand this of God and matter is absurd. But if, as in a vacuum, as some say, the vacuum is [surrounded by this universe; the other, again, is without substance, for the substance of a vacuum is nothing. But if as accidents, first, indeed, this is impossible; for the thing that wants sub stance cannot be in any place; for substance is, as it were, the vehicle underlying the accident. But if both are bodies, it is necessary for both to be either heavy or light, or middle; or one heavy, and another light, or intermediate. If, then, both are heavy, it is plainly necessary that these should be the same, both among light things and those things which are of the middle sort; or if they alternate, the one will be altogether separate from the other. For that which is heavy has one place, and that which is middle another, and the light another. To one belongs the superior, to the other the inferior, and to the third the middle. Now in every spherical figure the inferior part is the middle; for from this to all the higher parts, even to the topmost superficies, the distance is every way equal, and, again, all heavy bodies are borne from all sides to it. Wherefore, also, it occurs to me to laugh when I hear that matter moving without order,—for this belongs to it by nature,—came to the region of God, or to light and brightness, and such—like. But if one be body, and the other incorporeal, first, indeed, that which is body is alone capable of motion And then if they are not intermingled, each is separate from the other according to its proper nature. But if one be mixed up with the other, they will be either mind or soul or accident. For so only it happens that things incorporeal are mixed up with bodies.

chap. ix.—the ridiculous fancies of the manichaeans about the motion of matter towards god; god the author of the rebellion of matter in the manichaean sense; the longing of matter for light and brightness good; divine good none the less for being communicated.

But in what manner, and from what cause, was matter brought to the region of God? for to it by nature belong the lower place and darkness, as they say; and the upper region and light are contrary to its nature. Wherefore there is then attributed to it a supernatural motion; and something of the same sort happens to it, as if a man were to throw a stone or a lump of earth upwards;
in this way, the thing being raised a little by the force of the person throwing, when it has reached the upper regions, falls back again into the same place. Who, then, hath raised matter to the upper region? Of itself, indeed, and from itself, it would not be moved by that motion which belongs to it. It is necessary, then, that some force should be applied to it for it to be borne aloft, as with the stone and the lump of earth. But they leave nothing else to it but God. It is manifest, therefore, what follows from their argument. That God, according to them, by force and necessity, raised matter aloft to Himself. But if matter be evil, its desires are altogether evil. Now the desire of evil is evil, but the desire of good is altogether good. Since, then, matter has desired brightness and light, its desire is not a bad one; just as it is not bad for a man living in vice, afterwards to come to desire virtue. On the contrary, he is not guiltless who, being good, coupes to desire what is evil. As if any one should say that God desires the evils which are attaching to matter. For the good things of God are not to be so esteemed as great wealth and large estates, and a large quantity of gold, a lesser portion of which remain with the owner, if one effect a transfer of them to another. But if an image of these things must be formed in the mind, I think one would adduce as examples wisdom and the sciences. As, therefore, neither wisdom suffers diminution nor science, and he who is endowed with these experiences no loss if another lie made partaker of them; so, in the same way, it is contrary to reason to think that God grudges matter the desire of what is good; if, indeed, with them we allow that it desires it.

chap. x.—the mythology respecting the gods; the dogmas of the manchaeans resemble this: the homeric allegory of the battle of the gods; envy and emulation existing; in god according to the manichaean opinion; these vices are to be found in no good man, and are to be accounted disgraceful.

Moreover, they far surpass the mythologists in fables, those, namely, who either make Coelus suffer mutilation, or idly tell of the plots laid for Saturn by his son, in order that that son might attain the sovereignty; or those again who make Saturn devour his sons and to have been cheated of his purpose by the image of a stone that was presented to him. For how are these things which they put forward dissimilar to those? When they speak openly of the war between God and matter, and say not these things either in a mythological sense, as Homer in the Iliad; when he makes Jupiter to rejoice in the strife and war of the gods with each other, thus obscurely signifying that the world is formed of unequal elements, fitted one into another, and either conquering or submitting to a conqueror. And this has been advanced by me, because I know that people of this sort, when they are at a loss for demonstration, bring together from all sides passages from poems, and seek from them a support for their own opinions. Which would not be the case with them if they had only read what they fell in with some reflection. But, when all evil is banished from the company of the gods, surely emulation and envy ought especially to have been got rid of. Yet these men leave these things with God, when they say that God formed designs against matter, because it felt a desire for good. But with which of those things which God possessed could He have swished to take vengeance on matter? In truth, I think it to be more accurate doctrine to say that God is of a simple nature, than what they advance. Nor, indeed, as in the other things, is the enunciation of this fancy easy. For neither is it possible to demonstrate it simply and with words merely, but with much instruction and labour. But we all know this, that anger and rage, and the desire of revenge upon matter, are passions in him who is so agitated. And of such a sort, indeed, as it could never happen to a good man to be harassed by them, much less then can it be that they are connected with the Absolute Good.

chap. xi.—the transmitted virtue of the manichaens; the virtues of matter mixed with equal or less amount of evil.

To other things, therefore, our discourse has come round about again. For, because they say that God sent virtue into matter, it is worth our while to consider whether this virtue, so far as it pertains to good, in respect of God is less, or whether it is on equal terms with Him. For if it is less, what is the cause? For the things which are with God admit of no fellowship with matter. But good alone is the characteristic of God, and evil alone of matter. But if it is on equal terms with Him, what is the reason that He, as a king, issues His commands, and it involuntarily undertakes this labour? Moreover, with regard to matter, it shall be inquired whether, with respect to evil, the virtues are alike or less. For if they are less, they are altogether of less evil. By, fellowship therefore with the good it is that they become so. For there being two evils, the less has plainly by its fellowship with the good attained to be what it is. But they leave nothing good around matter. Again, therefore. another question arises. For if some other virtue, in respect of evil, excels the matter
which is prevailing, it becomes itself the presiding principle. For that which is more evil will hold the sway in its own dominion.

chap. xii.—the destruction of evil by the immission of virtue rejected; because from it arises no diminution of evil; zeno’s opinion discarded, that the world will be burnt up by fire from the sun.

But that God sent virtue into matter is asserted without any proof, and it altogether wants probability. Yet it is right that this should have its own explanation. The reason of this they assert, indeed, to be that there might be no more evil, but that all things should become good. It was necessary for virtue to be intermingled with evil, after the manner of the athletes, who, clasped in a firm embrace, overcome their adversaries, in order that, by conquering evil, it might make it to cease to exist. But I think it far more dignified and worthy of the excellence of God, at the first conception of things existent, to have abolished matter. But I think they could not allow this, because that something evil is found existing, which they call matter. But it is not any the more possible that things should cease to be such as they are, in order that one should admit that some things are changed into that which is worse. And it is necessary that there should be some perception of this, because these present things have in some manner or other suffered diminution, in order that we might have better hopes for the future. For well has it been answered to the opinion of Zeno of Citium, who thus argued that the world would be destroyed by fire: “Everything which has anything to burn will not cease from burning until it has consumed the whole; and the sun is a fire, and will it not burn what it has? “Whence he made out, as he imagined, that the universe would be destroyed by fire. But to him a facetious fellow is reported to have said, “But I indeed yesterday, and the year before, and a long time ago, have seen, and now in like manner do I see, that no injury has been experienced by the sun; and it is reasonable that this should happen in time and by degrees, so that we may believe that at some time or other the whole will be burnt up. And to the doctrine of Manichæus, although it rests upon no proof, I think that the same answer is apposite, namely, that there has been no diminution in the present condition of things, but what was before in the time of the first man, when brother killed brother, even now continues to be; the same wars, and more diverse desires. Now it would be reasonable that these things, if they did not altogether cease, should at least be diminished, if we are to imagine that they are at some time to cease. But while the same things come from them, what is our expectation of them for the future?

chap. xiii.—evil by no means found in the stars and constellations; all the evils of life vain in the manichaean opinion, which bring on the extinction of life; their fancy having been above explained concerning the transportation of souls from the moon to the sun.

But what things does he call evil? As for the sun and moon, indeed, there is nothing lacking; but with respect to the heavens and the stars, whether he says that there is some such thing, and what it is, it is right that we should next in order examine. But irregularity is according to them evil, and unordered motion, but these things are always the same, and in the same manner; nor will any one have to blame any of the planets for venturing to delay at any time in the zodiac beyond the fixed period; nor again any of the fixed stars, as if it did not abide in the same seat and position, and did not by circumvolution revolve equally around the world, moving as it were one step backward in a hundred years. But on the earth, if he accuses the roughness of some spots, or if pilots are offended at the storms on the sea; first, indeed, as they think, these things have a share of good in them. For should nothing germinate upon earth, all the animals must presently perish. But this result will send on much of the virtue which is intermingled with matter to God, and there will be a necessity for many moons, to accommodate the great multitude that suddenly approaches. And the same language they hold with respect to the sea. For it is a piece of unlooked-for luck to perish, in order that those things which perish may pursue the road which leads most quickly to God. And the wars which are upon the earth, and the famines, and everything which tends to the destruction of life, are held in very great honour by them. For everything which is the cause of good is to be had in honour. But these things are the cause of good, because of the destruction which accompanies them, if they transmit to God the virtue which is separated from those who perish.

chap. xiv.—noxious animals worshipped by the egyptians; man by arts an evil-doer; lust and injustice corrected by laws and discipline; contingent and necessary things in which there is no stain.

And, as it seems, we have been ignorant that the Egyptians rightly worship the crocodile and the lion and the wolf, because these animals being stronger than the others devour their prey, and entirely destroy it; the eagle also and the
hawk, because they slaughter the weaker animals both in the air and upon the earth. But perhaps also, according to them, man is for this reason held in especial honour, because most of all, by his subtle inventions and arts, he is wont to subdue most of the animals. And lest he himself should have no portion in this good, he becomes the food of others. Again, therefore, those generations are, in their opinion, absurd, which from a small and common seed produce what is great; and it is much more becoming, as they think, that these should be destroyed by God, in order that the divine virtue may be quickly liberated from the troubles incident to living in this world. But what shall we say with respect to lust, and injustice, and things of this sort, Manichæus will ask. Surely against these things discipline and law come to the rescue. Discipline, indeed, using careful forethought that nothing of this sort may have place amongst men; but law inflicting punishment upon any one who has been caught in the commission of anything unjust. But, then, why should it be imputed to the earth as a fault, if the husbandman has neglected to subdue it? because the sovereignty of God, which is according to right, suffers diminution, when some parts of it are productive of fruits, and others not so; or when it has happened that when the winds are sweeping, according to another cause, some derive benefit therefrom, whilst others against their will have to sustain injuries? Surely they must necessarily be ignorant of the character of the things that are contingent, and of those that are necessary. For they would not else thus account such things as prodigies.

chap. xv.—the lust and desire of sentient things; demons; animals sentient; so also the sun and the moon and stars; the platonic doctrine, not the christian.

Whence, then, come pleasure and desire? For these are the principal evils that they talk of and hate. Nor does matter appear to be anything else. That these things, indeed, only belong to animals which are endowed with sense, and that nothing else but that which has sense perceives desire and pleasure, is manifest. For what perception of pleasure and pain is there in a plant? What in the earth, water, or air? And the demons, if indeed they are living beings endowed with sense, for this reason, perhaps, are delighted with what has been instituted in; regard to sacrifices, and take it ill when these are wanting to them; but nothing of this sort can be imagined with respect to God. Therefore those who say, “Why are animals affected by pleasure and pain? “should first make the complaint, “Why are these animals endowed with sense, or why do they stand in need of food? “For if animals were immortal, they would have been set free from corruption and increase; such as the sun and moon and stars, although they are endowed with sense. They are, however, beyond the power of these, and of such a complaint. But man, being able to perceive and to judge, and being potentially wise,—for he has the power to become so,—when he has received what is peculiar to himself, treads it under foot.

chap. xvi.—because some are wise, nothing prevents others from being so; virtue is to be acquired by diligence and study; by a sounder philosophy men are to be carried onwards to the good; the common study of virtue has by christ been opened up to all.

In general, it is worth while to inquire of these men, “Is it possible for no man to become good, or is it in the power of any one? “For if no man is wise, what of Manichæus himself? I pass over the fact that he not only calls others good, but he also says that they are able to make others such. But if one individual is entirely good, what prevents all from becoming good? For what is possible for one is possible also for all. I And by the means by which one has become virtuous, by the same all may become so, unless they assert that the larger share of this virtue is intercepted by such. Again, therefore, first, What necessity is there for labour in submitting to discipline (for even whilst sleeping we may become virtuous), or what cause is there for these men rousing their hearers to hopes of good? For even though wallowing in the mire with harlots, they can obtain their proper good. But if discipline, and better instruction and diligence in acquiring virtue, make a man to become virtuous, let all become so, and that oft-repeated phrase of theirs, the unordered motion of matter, is made void. But it would be much better for them to say that wisdom is an instrument given by God to man, in order that by bringing round by degrees to good that which arises to them, from the fact of their being endowed with sense, out of desire or pleasure, it might remove from them the absurdities that flow from them. For thus they themselves who profess to be teachers of virtue would be objects of emulation for their purpose. and for their mode of life, and there would be great hopes that one day evils will cease, when all men have become wise. And this it seems to me that Jesus took into consideration; add in order that husbandmen, carpenters, builders, and other artisans, might Bet be driven away from good, He convened a common council of them altogether, and by simple and easy conversations He both raised them to a sense of God, and brought them to desire what was good.

chap. xvii.—the manichaean idea of virtue in matter scouted; if one virtue has been created immaterial, the rest are also immaterial; material virtue an exploded notion.

Moreover, how do they say, did God send divine virtue into matter? For if it always was, and neither is God to be understood as existing prior to it, nor matter either, then again, according to Manichæus, there are three first principles. Perhaps also, a little further on, there will appear to be many more. But if it be adventitious, and something which has come into existence afterwards, how is it void of matter? And if they make it to be a part of God, first, indeed, by this conception, they, assert that God is composite and corporeal. But this is absurd, and impossible. And if He fashioned it, and is without matter, I wonder that they have not considered, neither the man himself, nor his disciples, that if (as the orthodox say, the things that come next in order subsist while God remains) God created this virtue of His own free-will, how is it that He is not the author of all oilier things that are made without the necessity of any pre-existent matter? The consequences, in truth, of this opinion are evidently absurd; but what does follow is put down next in order. Was it, then, the nature of this virtue to diffuse itself into matter? If it was contrary to its nature, in what manner is it intermingled with it? But if this was in accordance with its nature, it was altogether surely and always with matter. But if this be so, how is it that they call matter evil, which, from the beginning, was intermingled with the divine virtue? In what manner, too, will it be destroyed, the divine virtue which was mingled with it at some thee or other seceding to itself? For that it preserves safely what is good, and likely to be productive of some other good to those to whom it is present, is more reasonable than that it should bring destruction or some other evil upon them.

chap. xviii.—dissolution and inherence according to the manichaeans; this is well put, a.d. hominem, with respect to manes, who is himself in matter.

This then is the wise assertion which is made by them—namely, that as we see that the body perishes when the soul is separated from it, so also, when virtue has left matter, that which is left, which is matter, will be dissolved and perish. First, indeed, they do not perceive that nothing existent can be destroyed into a nonexistent. For that which is non-existent does not exist. But when bodies are disintegrated, and experience a change, a dissolution of them takes place; so that a part of them goes to earth, a part to air, and a part to something else. Besides, they do not remember that their doctrine is, that matter is unordered motion. But that which moves of itself, and of which motion is the essence, and not a thing accidentally belonging to it—how is it reasonable to say that when virtue departs, that which was, even before virtue descended into it, should cease to be? Nor do they see the difference, that every body which is devoid of soul is immoveable. For plants also have a vegetable soul. But motion tin the assert to itself, and yet unordered motion they be the essence of matter. But it were better, that just as in a lyre which sounds out of tune, by the addition of harmony, everything is brought into concord; so the divine virtue when intermixed with that unordered motion, which, according to them, is matter, should add a certain order to it in the place of its innate disorder, land should always add it suitably to the divine thee. For I ask, how was it that Manichæus himself became fitted to treat of these matters, and when at length did he enunciate them? For they allow that he himself was an admixture of matter, and of the virtue received into it. Whether therefore being so, he said these things in unordered motion, surely the opinion is faulty; or whether he said them by means of the divine virtue, the dogma is dubious and uncertain; for on the one side, that of the divine virtue, he participates in the truth; whilst on the side of unordered motion, he is a partaker in the other part, and changes to falsehood.

chap. xix.—the second virtue of the manichaeans beset with the former, and with new absurdities; virtue, active and passive, the fashioner of matter, and concrete with it; bodies divided by manichæus into three parts.

But if it had been said that divine virtue both hath adorned and does adorn matter, it would have been far more wisely said, and in a manner more conducing to conciliate faith in the doctrine and discourses of Manichæus. But God hath sent down another virtue. What has been already said with respect to the former virtue, may be equally said with respect to this, and all the absurdities which follow on the teaching about their first virtue, the same may be brought forward in the present case. But another, who will tolerate? For why did not God send some one virtue which could effect everything? If the human mind is so various towards all things, so that the same man is endowed with a knowledge of geometry, of astronomy, of the carpenter’s art, and the like, is it then impossible for God to find one such virtue which should be sufficient for him in all respects, so as not to stand in need of a first and second? And why
has one virtue the force rather of a creator, and another that of the patient and recipient, so as to be well fitted for admixture with matter. For I do not again see here the cause of good order, and of that excess which is contrary to it. If it was evil, it was not in the house of God. For since God is the only good, and matter the only evil, we must necessarily say that the other things are of a middle nature, and placed as it were in the middle. But there is found to be a different framer of those things which are of a middle nature, when they say that one cause is creative, and another admixed with matter? Perhaps, therefore, it is that primary antecedent cause which more recent writers speak of in the book περὶ τῶν διαφορῶν. But when the creative virtue took in hand the making of the world, then they say that there was separated from matter that which, even in the admixture, remained in its own virtue, and from this the sire and the moon had their beginning. But that which to a moderate and slight degree had contracted vice and evil, this formed the heaven and the constellations. Lastly came the rest encompassed within these, just as they might happen, which are admixtures of the divine virtue and of matter.

chap. xx.—the divine virtue in the view of the same manichæus corporeal and divisible; the divine virtue itself matter which becomes everything; this is not fitting.

I, indeed, besides all these things, wonder that they do not perceive that they are making the divine virtue to be corporeal, and dividing it, as it were, into parts. For why, as in the case of matter, is not the divine virtue also passible and divisible throughout, and from one of its parts the sun made, and from another the moon? For clearly this is what they assert to belong to the divine virtue; and this is what we said was the property of matter, which by itself is nothing, but when it has received form and qualities, everything is made which is divided and distinct. If, therefore, as from one subject, the divine virtue, only the sun and the moon have their beginning, and these things are different, why was anything else made? But if all things are made, what follows is manifest, that divine virtue is matter, and that, too, such as is made into forms. But if nothing else but the sun and moon are what was created by the divine virtue, then what is intermixed with all things is the sun and moon; and each of the stars is the sun and moon, and each individual animal of. those who live on land, and of fowls, and of creatures amphibious. But this, not even those who exhibit juggling tricks would admit, as, I think, is evident to every one.

chap. xxi.—some portions of the virtue have good in them, others more good; in the sun and the moon it is incorrupt, in other things depraved; an improbable opinion.

But if any one were to apply his mind to what follows, the road would not appear to be plain and straightforward, but more arduous even than that which has been passed. For they say that the sun and moon have contracted no stain from their admixture with matter. And now they cannot say how other things have become deteriorated contrary to their own proper nature. For if, when it was absolute and by itself, the divine virtue was so constituted that one portion of it was good, and another had a greater amount of goodness in it, according to the old tale of the centaurs, who as far as the breast were men, and in the lower part horses, which are both good animals, but the man is the better of the two; so also, in the divine virtue, it is to be understood that the one portion of it is the better and the more excellent, and the other will occupy the second and inferior place. And in the same way, with respect to matter, the one portion possesses, as it were, an excess of evil; while others again are different, and about that other the language will be different. For it is possible to conceive that from the beginning the sun and moon, by a more skilful and prudent judgment, chose for themselves the parts of matter that were less evil for the purposes of add mixture, that they might remain in their own perfection and virtue; but in the lapse of thee, when the evils lost their force and became old, they brought out so much of the excess in the good, while the rest of its parts fell away, not, indeed, without foresight, and yet not with the same foresight, did each object share according to its quantity in the evil that was in matter. But since, with respect to this virtue, nothing of a different kind is asserted by them, but it is to be understood throughout to be alike and of the same nature, their argument is improbable; because in the admixture part remains pure and incorrupt, while the other has contracted some share of evil.

chap. xxii.—the light of the moon from the sun; the inconvenience of the opinion that souls are received in it; the two deluges of the greeks.

Now, they say that the sun and the moon having by degrees separated the divine virtue from matter, transmit it to God. But if they had only to a slight degree frequented the schools of the astronomers, it would not have happened to them to fall into these fancies, nor would they
have been ignorant that the moon, which, according to the opinion of some, is itself without light, receives its light from the sun, and that its configurations are just in proportion to its distance from the sun, and that it is then full moon when it is distant from the sun one hundred and eighty degrees. It is in conjunction when it is in the same degree with the sun. Then, is it not wonderful how it comes to pass that there should be so many souls, and from such diverse creatures? For there is the soul of the world itself, and of the animals, of plants, of nymphs, and demons, and amongst these are distinguished by appearance those of fowls, of land animals, and animals amphibious; but in the moon one like body is always seen by us. And what of the continuity of this body? When the moon is half-full, it appears a semicircle, and when it is in its third quarter, the same again. How then, and with what figure, are they assumed into the moon? For if it be light as fire, it is probable that they would not only ascend as far as the moon, but even higher, continually; but if it be heavy, it would not be possible for them at all to reach the moon. And what is the reason that that which first arrives at the moon is not immediately transmitted to the sun, but waits for the full moon until the rest of the souls arrive? When then the moon, from having been full, decreases, where does the virtue remain during that thee? until the moon, which has been emptied of the former souls, just as a desolated city, shall receive again a fresh colony. For a treasure-house should have been marked out in some part of the earth, or of the clouds, or in some other place, where the congregated souls might stand ready for emigration to the moon. But, again, a second question arises. What then is the cause that it is not full immediately? or why does it again wait fifteen days? Nor is this less to be wondered at than that which has been said, that never within the memory of man has the moon become full after the fifteen days. Nay, not even in the time of the deluge of Deucalion, nor in that of Phoroneus, when all things, so to speak, which were upon the face of the earth perished, and it happened that a great quantity of virtue was separated from matter. And, besides these things, one must consider the productiveness of generations, and their barrenness, and also the destruction of them; and since these things do not happen in order, neither ought the order of the full moon, nor the these of the waning moon, to be so carefully observed.

chap. xxiii.—the image of matter in the sun, after which man is formed; trifling fancies; it is a mere fancy, too, that man. is formed from matter; man is either a. composite being, or a soul, or mind and understanding.

Neither is this to be regarded with slight attention. For if the divine virtue which is in matter be infinite, those things cannot diminish it which the sun and moon fashion. For that which remains from that finite thing which has been assumed is infinite. But if it is finite, it would be perceived by the senses in intervals proportionate to the amount of its virtue that had been subtracted from the world. But all things remain as they were. Now what understanding do these things not transcend in their incredibleness, when they assert that man was created and formed after the image of matter that is seen in the sun? For images are the forms of their archetypes. But if they include man’s image in the sun, where is the exemplar after which his image is formed? For, indeed, they are not going to say that man is really man, or divine virtue; for this, indeed, they mix up with matter, And they say that the image is seen in the sun, which, as they think, was formed afterwards from the secretion of matter. Neither can they bring forward the creative cause of all things, for this they say was sent to preserve safety to the divine virtue: so that, in their opinion, this must be altogether ascribed to the sun; for this reason, doubtless, that it happens by his arrival and presence that the sun and moon are separated from matter.

Moreover, they assert that the image is seen in the star; but they say that matter fashioned man. In what manner, and by what means? For it is not possible that this should fashion him. For besides that, thus according to them, man is the empty form of an empty form, and having no real existence, it has not as yet been possible to conceive how man can be the product of matter. For the use of reason and sense belongs not to that matter which they assume. Now what, according to them, is man? Is he a mixture of soul and body? Or another thing, or that which is superior to the entire soul, the mind? But if he is mind, how can the more perfect and the better part be the product of that which is worse; or if he be soul (for this they say is divine virtue), how can they, when they have taken away from God the divine virtue, subject this to the creating workmanship of matter? Put if they leave to him body alone, let them remember again that it is by itself immovable, and that they say that the essence of matter is motion. Neither do they think that anything of itself, and its own genius, is attracted to matter. Nor is it reasonable to lay it down, that what is composed of these things is the product of this. To think, indeed, that that which is fashioned by any one is inferior to its fashioner seems to be beyond controversy. For thus the world is inferior to its Creator or Fashioner, and the works of art inferior to the artificer. If then than be the product of matter, he must surely be inferior to it. Now, men leave nothing inferior to matter; and it is not reasonable that the divine virtue should be commingled with matter, and with that which is inferior to it. But the things which they assert out of indulgence, as it were, and by way of dispensation, these they do not seem to understand. For what is the reason of their thinking that matter has bound the image of God to the substance of man? Or, why is not the image sufficient, as in a mirror, that than should appear? Or, as the sun himself is sufficient for the origination and destruction of all things that are made, hath he imitated an image in the work of their creation? With which of those things which he possessed? Was it with the divine virtue which was mingled with it, so that the divine virtue should have the office of an instrument in respect of matter? Is it by unordered motion that he will thus give matter a form? But all like things, in exquisite and accurate order, by imitating, attain their end. For they do not suppose that a house, or a ship, or any other product of art, is effected by disorder; nor a statue which art has fashioned to imitate man.

chap. xxiv.—christ is mind, according to the manichaeans; what is he in the view of the church? incongruity in their idea of christ; that he suffered only in appearance, a dream of the manichaeans; nothing is attributed to the word by way of fiction.

Christ, too, they do not acknowledge; yet they speak of Christ, but they take some other element, and giving to the Word, designating His sacred person, some other signification than that in which it is rightly received, they say that He is mind. But if, when they speak of Him as that which is known, and that which knows, and wisdom as having the same meaning, they are found to agree with those things which the Church doctors say of Him, how comes it then that they reject all that is called ancient history? But let us see whether they make Him to be something adventitious and new, and which has come on from without, and by accident, as the opinion of some is. For they who hold this opinion say, as seems very plausible, that the seventh year, when the powers of perception became distinct, He made His entrance into the body. But if Christ be mind, as they imagine, then will He be both Christ and not Christ. For before that mind and sense entered, He was not. But if Christ, as they will have it, be mind, then into Him already existing does the mind make its entrance, and thus, again, according to their opinion, will it be mind. Christ, therefore, is and is not at the same time. But if, according to the more approved sect of them, mind is all things which are, since they assume matter to be not produced, and coeval so to speak with God, this first mind and matter they hold to be Christ; if, indeed, Christ be the mind, which is all things, and matter is one of those things which are, and is itself not produced.

They say it was by way of appearance, and in this manner, that the divine virtue in matter was affixed to the cross; and that He Himself did not undergo this punishment, since it was impossible that He should suffer this; which assertion Manichæus himself has taken in hand to teach in a book written upon the subject, that the divine virtue was enclosed in matter, and again departs from it. the mode of this they invent. That it should be said, indeed, in the doctrine of the Church, that He gave Himself up for the remission of sins, obtains credit from the vulgar, and appears likewise in the Greek histories, which say that some “surrendered themselves to death in order to ensure safety to their countrymen.” And of this doctrine the Jewish history has an example, which prepares the son of Abraham as a sacrifice to God. But to subject Christ to His passion merely for the sake of display, betrays great ignorance, for the Word is God’s representative, to teach and inform us of actual verities.

chap. xxv.—the manichaean abstinence from living things ridiculous; their madness in abhorring marriage; the mythology of the giants; too allegorical an exposition.

They abstain also from living things. If, indeed, the reason of their abstinence were other than it is, it ought not to be too curiously investigated. But if they do so for this reason, that the divine virtue is more or less absent or present to them, this their meaning is ridiculous. For if plants be more material, how is it in accordance with reason to use that which is inferior for food and sustenance? or, if there be more of the divine virtue in them, how are things of this sort useful as food, when the soul’s faculty of nourishing and making increase is more corporeal? Now in that they abstain from marriage and the rites of Venus, fearing lest by the succession of the race the divine virtue should dwell more in matter. I wonder how in thinking so they allow of themselves? For if neither the providence of God suffices, both by generations and by those things which are always and in the same manner existent, to separate off the divine virtue from matter, what can the cunning and subtlety of Manichæus effect for that purpose?
For assuredly by no giant’s co-operation does assistance come to God, in order by the removal of generations to make the retreat of the divine virtue from matter quick and speedy. But what the poets say about the giants is manifestly a fable. For those who lay it down about these, bring forward such matters in allegories, by a species of fable hiding the majesty of their discourse; as, for instance, when the Jewish history relates that angels came down to hold intercourse with the daughters of men; for this saying signifies that the nutritive powers of the soul descended from heaven to earth. But the poets who say that they, when they had emerged in full armour from the earth, perished immediately after they stirred up rebellion against the gods, in order that they might insinuate the frail and quickly-perishing constitution of the body, adorn their poetry in this way for the sake of refreshing the soul by the strangeness of the occurrence. But these, understanding nothing of all this, wheresoever they can get hold of a paralogism from whatsoever quarter it comes, greedily seize on it as a God-send, and strive with all their arts to overturn truth by any means.

chap. xxvi.—the much-talked-of fire of the manichaeans; that fire matter itself.

That fire, endowed indeed with the power of burning, yet possessing no light, which is outside the world, in what region has it place? For if it is in the world, why does the world hitherto continue safe? For if at some thee or other it is to destroy it, by approaching it, now also it is conjoined with it. But if it be apart from it, as it were on high in its own region, what will hereafter happen to make it descend upon the world? Or in what way will it leave its own place, and by what necessity and violence? And what substance of fire can be conceived without fuel, and how can what is moist serve as fuel to it, unless what is rather physiologically said about this does not fall within the province of our present disquisition? But this is quite manifest from what has been said. For the fire existing outside the world is just that which they call matter, since the sun and the moon, being the purest of the pure, by their divine virtue, are separate and distinct from that fire, no part of them being left in it. This fire is matter itself, absolutely and per se, entirely removed from all admixture with the divine virtue. Wherefore when the world has been emptied of all the divine virtue which is opposed to it, and again a fire of this sort shall be left remaining, how then shall the fire either destroy anything, or be consumed by it? For, from that which is like, I do not see in what way corruption is to take place. For what matter will become when the divine virtue has been separated from it, this it was before that the divine virtue was corn-mingled with it. If indeed matter is to perish when it is bereft of the divine virtue, why did it not perish before it came in contact with the divine virtue, or any creative energy? Was it in order that matter might successively perish, and do this ad infinitum? And what is the use of this? For that which had not place from the first volition, how shall this have place from one following? or what reason is there for God to put off things which, not even in the case of a man, appears to be well? For as regards those who deliberate about what is impossible, this is said to happen to them, that they do not wish for that which is possible. But if nothing else, they speak of God transcending substance, and bring Him forward as some new material, and that not such as intelligent men always think to be joined with Him, but that which investigation discovers either to be not existing at all, or to be the extreme of all things, and which can with difficulty be conceived of by the human mind. For this fire, devoid of light, is it of more force than matter, which is to be left desolate by divine virtue, or is it of less? And if it is of less, how will it overcome that which is of more? but if it is of more, it will be able to bring it back to itself, being of the same nature; yet will it not destroy it, as neither does the Nile swallow up the streams that are divided off from it.



If anything could be more dreary than the Manichaean heresy itself, it may be questioned whether it be not the various views that have been entertained concerning our author. I have often remarked the condensation of valuable information given by Dr. Murdock in his notes upon Mosheim, but he fails to get in the half that needs to be noted. He tells us that “Alexander of Lycopolis flourished probably about a.d. 350.” He adds, “Fabricius supposes that he was first a Pagan and a Manichee, and afterwards a Catholic Christian. Cave is of the same opinion. Beausobre thinks he was a mere pagan. Lardner thinks he was a Gentile, but well acquainted with the Manichees and other Christians,2 and that he had some knowledge of the Old and New Testaments, to which he occasionally refers. He speaks with respect of Christ and the Christian philosophy, and appears to have been “a learned and candid man.” Of an eminent Christian bishop, all this seems very puzzling; and I feel it a sort of duty to the youthful student to give the statements of the learned Lardner in an abridged form, with such references to the preceding pages as may serve in place of a series of elucidations.

According to this invaluable critic, the learned are not able to agree concerning Alexander. Some think he was a Christian, others believe that he was a heathen. Fabricius, who places him in the fourth century, holds to this latter opinion; all which agrees with our Cave.4 Photius makes him Archbishop of Nicopolis. Tillemont thinks6 he was a pagan philosopher, who wrote to persuade his friends to prefer “the doctrine of the churches” to that of Manes. Combefis, his editor, thinks him very ancient, because he appears to have learned the principles of this heresy from the immediate disciples of the heretic. Beausobre,8 the standard authority, is of like opinion, and Mosheim approves his reasoning.

Nothing in his work, according to Lardner, proves that our author wrote near the beginning of the fourth century, and he decides upon the middle of that century as his epoch.

Alexander gives a very honourable character to the genuine Christian philosophy, and asserts its adaptation to the common people, and, indeed, to all sorts of men. He certainly is not mute as to Christ. His tribute to the Saviour is, if not affectionate, yet a just award to Him.10 By the “council of all together,” he intends the College of the Apostles, made up of fishermen and publicans and tent-makers, in which he sees a design of the blessed Jesus to meet this class, and, in short, all classes. It is clear enough that Alexander has some knowledge of Christ, some knowledge of the received doctrine of the churches,12 or orthodox Christians; and he appears to blame the Manichees for not receiving the Scripture of the Old Testament.

He argues against their absurd opinion that Christ was “Mind;” also that, though crucified, He did not suffer:15 and he affirms that it would be more reasonable to say, agreeably to the ecclesiastical doctrine, that “He gave Himself for the remission of sins.” He refers to the sacrifice of Isaac, and to the story of Cain and Abel;18 also to the mysterious subject of the angels and the daughters of men. Like an Alexandrian theologian, he expounds this, however, against the literal sense, as an allegory.

My reader will be somewhat amused with the terse summing-up of Lardner: “I am rather inclined to think he was a Gentile.… He was evidently a learned and rational man. His observations concerning the Christian philosophy deserve particular notice. To me this work of Alexander appears very curious.”


[translated by the rev. james b. h. hawkins, m.a.]

Introductory Notice


Peter, Bishop of Alexandria

[a.d. 260 -300–311.] Entering upon the fourth century, we may well pause to reflect upon what Alexandria has been to the Church of Christ,—the mother of churches, the mother of saints, maintaining always the intellectual and even the ecclesiastical primacy of Christendom. “Ye are the light of the world,” said the great Enlightener to the Galileans of an obscure and despised Roman province. But who could have prophesied that Egypt should again be the pharos of the world, as it was in Moses? Who could have foreseen the “men of Galilee” taking possession of the Alexandrian Library, and demonstrating the ways of Providence in creating the Bible of the Seventy, and in the formation of the Hellenistic Greek, for their ultimate use? Who could have imagined the Evangelist Mark and the eloquent Apollos to be the destined instruments for founding the schools of Christendom, and shaping scientific theology? Who would not have looked for all this in some other way, and preferably in Athens or in Rome? But who would have expected the visit of God Incarnate to Nazareth, and not to Alexandria?

In Peter’s day Antioch was coming to be a school under the influence of Malchion’s genius and that of the bishops who withstood Paulus of Samosata. Malchion had taught there in the “School of Sciences,” and learning was once more to be made the handmaid of true religion. But Alexandria was still the seat of Christian illumination and the fountain of orthodoxy; its very ferment always clarifying its thought, and leaving “wine well refined,” and pure from the lees.

To this subject I shall have occasion to refer again in an elucidation subjoined to the works of Alexander (successor to Peter), in which, for a final view of the great Alexandrian school, I shall gather up some fragments in brief outline. Here it may be enough to remark, that, until the definite development of the school of Antioch (circa A.D. 350), I have regarded the whole Orient as dominated and formed by the brain of the grand metropolis of Egypt and the Pentapolis. I have considered the great Dionysius as really presiding in the Synod of Antioch, though absent in the body, and have regarded Malchion as his voice in that council, which we must not forget was presided over by Firmilian, a pupil of Origen, and a true Alexandrian disciple.

Peter’s conflict with Meletius shall be noted in an elucidation. We shall see that the heresy of Paulus as well as the Meletian schism are but chapters in one prolonged history, of which the outcrop was Arianism. Now, as to Alexandria we owe the intrepid defenders of truth in all these conflicts, we must not forget that they are to be judged by the product of their united testimony, and not by their occasional individualisms and infirmities of mind and speech while they were creating the theological dialect of Christendom and the formulas of orthodoxy.

Peter was able to maintain his canonical authority against the mischievous rebellion of Meletius; and the history of this schism is forcibly illustrative of those ἀρχαῖα ἔθη which the Nicene Synod recognized, confirming the primacy of Alexandria, and striving to suppress Meletianism by firm but moderate measures based upon the primitive maxims. Peter left a pure and holy memory to the Church, and sealed his testimony in martyrdom.


Eusebius alone, of the more ancient writers, speaks in terms of the highest praise of Peter, Bishop of Alexandria. He was, says he, a divine bishop, both for the sanctity of his life, and also for his diligent study and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures; and in another place he styles him “that excellent doctor of the Christian religion,” who, indeed, during the whole period of his episcopate, which he held for twelve years, obtained for himself the highest renown. He obtained the bishopric of Alexandria next in succession to Theonas. He governed that church about three years before the persecution broke out:3 the rest of his time he spent in the exercise of a closer discipline over himself, yet did he not in the meanwhile neglect to provide for the common interests of the Church. In the ninth year of the persecution he was beheaded, and gained the crown of martyrdom. So far we have the account of Eusebius, whom Dodwell proves to have accurately distributed the years of Peter’s episcopate. After Peter had spent twelve years as bishop, and in the ninth year of the persecution which broke out under Maximin, he was beheaded; so that his martyrdom falls in the year of our Lord 311—as the Egyptians reckon on the 29th day of the month Athyr, which answers to our 25th of November, as Lequien,5 after Renaudot, has observed.

St. Peter wrote in the fourth year of the persecution, A.D. 306, some Canons Penitential with reference to those who had lapsed. They are to be met with in every collection of Canons. In the Pandecta Canonum of Bishop Beveridge, they are accompanied by the notes of Joannes Zonaras and Theodorus Balsamon. Upon these Penitential Canons, however, Tillemont8 should be consulted. Moreover, according to Renaudot, Echmimensis, Ebnapalus, Abulfaragius, and other Oriental Christians of every sect, make use of the testimony of these Canons; and in the anonymous collections of them called Responsa, some fragments of other works of Peter are extant. Some of these are praised by the Jacobites, in the work which they call Fides patrum. In another work, entitled Unio pretiosus, occurs a homily of Peter on the baptism of Christ.

The fragments of the other writings of this holy martyr, which have been preserved by the Greeks, are here appended to the Penitential Canons. For instance: (1) An extract from his book De Deitate, which is extant in the Acta Conciliorum Ephesini et Chalcedonensis; (2) Another fragment from the homily De Adventu Salvatoris, cited by Leontius Byzantinus in his first book against Nestorius and Eutyches; (3) An epistle of the same prelate to the Alexandrine Church recently published, together with some other old ecclesiastical monuments by Scipio Maffei. Peter is said to have written this epistle after one addressed to Meletius, Bishop of Lycopolis. In it, after interdicting the Alexandrians from communion with Meletius, he says that he will himself come in company with some wise doctors, and will examine into his tenets; alluding, most probably, to the synod held afterwards at Alexandria, in which Meletius was deposed from his office. Athanasius says,11 respecting this synod, “Peter, who was amongst us as bishop before the persecution, and who died a martyr in the persecution, deposed in common council of the bishops, Meletius, an Egyptian bishop, who had been convicted of many crimes.” But with respect to the time in which the mournful Meletian schism commenced, Maffei defends the opinions of Baronius,2 who connects it with the year A.D. 306, against Pagius and Montfaucon, both from this epistle of Petrus Alexandrinus, and also from another of the four bishops, of which Peter makes mention in his own; (4) A passage from the Sermo in Sanctum Pascha, or from some other work of Peter’s on the same subject, is given in the Diatriba de Paschate, prefixed to the Chronicon Alexandrinum S. Paschale, and published separately in the Uranologion of Petavius, fol. Paris, 1630, p. 396.

By the American Editor.

Here may be noted the historic fact that this terrible epoch of persecutions had driven many to the deserts, where they dwelt as hermits. It now introduced monasticism, in its earliest and least objectionable forms, into Egypt, whence it soon spread into the Church at large. For a favourable view of the character and life of St. Antony, see Neale’s history of this period; but, if he turns it into an indirect plea for the subsequent history of monasticism, we shall find in Canon Kingsley’s Hypatia a high-wrought testimony of an antagonistic character. Bingham, avoiding the entanglements of primitive with mediaeval history, affords a just view of what may be said of the rise of this mighty institution, based upon two texts6 of Holy Scripture, proceeding from the Incarnate Word Himself, which impressed themselves on the fervid spirit of Antony. Who can wonder that fire and sword and ravening wolves predisposed men and women to avoid the domestic life, and the bringing of hapless families into existence as a prey to the remorseless cruelty of the empire? Far be it from me to forget what the world owes, directly and indirectly, to the nobler and purer orders,—what learning must ever acknowledge as its debt to the Benedictines of the West. But, on the other hand, after the melancholy episcopate of Cyril, we cannot but trace, in the history of Oriental monasticism, not only the causes of the decay of Alexandrian scholarship and influence, but of the ignominious fate of the Byzantine Empire, and of that paltry devotion to images which seemed to invoke the retributions of a “jealous god,” and which favoured the rise of an impostor who found in his “abhorrence of idols” an excuse for making himself the “Scourge of God.”


Were all the limbs of my body to be turned into tongues, and all the joints of my limbs to utter articulate sounds, it would noways be sufficient to express who, how great and how good, was our most blessed Father Peter, Archbishop of Alexandria. Especially incongruous do I consider it to commit to paper what perils he underwent by tyrants, what conflicts he endured with Gentiles and heretics, lest I should seem to make these the subjects of my panegyric rather than that passion to which he manfully submitted to make safe the people of God. Nevertheless, because the office of the narrator must fail in narrating his inmost conversation and wonderful deeds, and language is noways sufficient for the task, I have considered it convenient to describe only those exploits of his by which he is known to have attained to the pontificate, and after Arius had been cut off from the unity of the Church,3 to have been crowned with the martyr’s laurel. Yet this do I consider to be a glorious end, and a spectacle of a magnificent contest, sufficient for those who do not doubt of a truthful narration, which is unstained by falsehood. In commencing, therefore, our account of the episcopate of this most holy man, let us call to our aid his own language, in order that we may make it co-operate with our own style.

Alexandria is a city of exceeding magnitude, which holds the first place not only among the Egyptians, but the Thebans also and the Libyans, who are at no great distance from Egypt. A cycle of two hundred and eighty-five years from the incarnation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ had rolled round, when the venerable Theonas, the bishop of this city, by an ethereal flight, mounted upwards to the celestial kingdoms. To him Peter, succeeding at the helm of the Church, was by all the clergy and the whole Christian community appointed bishop, the sixteenth in order from Mark the Evangelist, who was also archbishop of the city. He in truth, like Phosphor rising among the stars, shining forth with the radiance of his sacred virtues, most magnificently governed the citadel of the faith. Inferior to none who bad gone before him in his knowledge of Holy Scripture, he nobly applied himself to the advantage and instruction of the Church; being of singular prudence, and in all things perfect, a true priest and victim of God, he watchfully laboured night and day in every sacerdotal care.

But because virtue is the mark of the zealot, “it is the tops of the mountains that are struck by lightning,” he hence endured multifarious conflicts with rivals. Why need I say more? He lived in persecution almost the whole of his life. Meanwhile he ordained fifty-five bishops. Meletius lastly—in mind and name most black—was made the schismatical bishop of the city of Lycopolis, doing many things against the rule of the canons, and surpassing even the bloody soldiery in cruelty who, at the time of the Lord’s Passion, feared to rend His coat; he was so hurried on by giving the rein to his madness, that, rending asunder the Catholic Church not only in the cities of Egypt, but even in its villages, he ordained bishops of his own party, nor cared he aught for Peter, nor for Christ, who was in the person of Peter. To him Arius, who was yet a laic, and not marked with the clerical tonsure,6 adhered, and was to him and his family most dear; and not without reason: every animal, as says the Scripture, loves its like. But upon this coming to his knowledge, the man of God being affected with grief, said that this persecution was worse than the former. And although he was in hiding, yet, so far as his strength permitted, directing everywhere his exhortations, and preaching up the unity of the Church, he strengthened men to withstand the ignorance and nefarious temerity of Meletius. Whence it came to pass that not a few, being influenced by his salutary admonitions, departed from the Meletian impiety.

Nearly about the same time Arius, armed with a viper’s craft, as if deserting the party of Meletius, fled for refuge to Peter, who at the request of the bishops raised him to the honours of the diaconate, being ignorant of his exceeding hypocrisy. For he was even as a snake suffused with deadly poison. Yet neither can the imposition of hands upon this false one be imputed as a crime to this holy man, as the simulated magic arts of Simon is not ascribed to Philip. Meanwhile, the detestable wickedness of the Meletians increased beyond measure; and the blessed Peter, fearing lest the plague of heresy should spread over the whole flock committed to his care, and knowing that there is no fellowship with light and darkness, and no concord betwixt Christ and Belial, by letter separated the Meletians from the communion of the Church. And because an evil disposition cannot long be concealed, upon that instant the wicked Arius, when he saw his aiders and abettors cast down from the dignity of the Church, gave way to sadness and lamentation. This did not escape the notice of this holy man. For when his hypocrisy was laid bare, immediately using the evangelical sword, “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee,” and cutting off Arius from the body of the Church as a putrid limb, he expelled and banished him from the communion of the faithful.

This done, the storm of persecution suddenly abating, peace, although for a short time, smiled. Then this most choice priest of the Lord shone manifestly before the people, and the faithful began to run in crowds to keep the memory of the martyrs, and to assemble in congregations to the praise of Christ. Whom this priest of the divine law quickened with his holy eloquence, and so roused and strengthened that the multitude of believers increased continually in the Church. But the old enemy of salvation of man did not long remain quiet and look on these things with favouring eyes. For on a sudden the storm-cloud of paganism gave forth its hostile thunder, and like a winter shower struck against the serenity of the Church, and chased it away in flight. But that this may be understood more clearly, we must necessarily turn back to the atrocities of Diocletian, that impious one, and rebel against God, and also to Maximian Galerius, who at that time, with his son Maximin, harassed the regions of the East with his tyrannical sway.

For in the time of this man the fire of Christian persecution so raged, that not only in one region of the universe, but even throughout the whole world, both by land and by sea, the storm of impiety gave forth its thunder. The imperial edicts and most cruel decrees running hither and thither, the worshippers of Christ were put to death now openly, and now by clandestine snares; no day, no night, passed off free from the effusion of Christian blood. Nor was the type of slaughter of one kind alone; some were slain with diverse and most bitter tortures; some again, that they might want the humanity of kinsmen, and burial in their own country, were transported to other climes, and by certain new machinations of punishment, and as yet to the age unknown, were driven to the goal of martyrdom. Oh, the horrible wickedness! So great was their impiety that they even upturned from their foundations the sanctuaries of divine worship, and burned the sacred books in the fire. Diocletian of execrable memory having died, Constantinus Major was elected to administer the kingdom, and in the western parts began to hold the reins of government.

In these days information was brought to Maximin about the aforesaid archbishop, that he was a leader and holding chief place among the Christians; and he, inflamed with his accustomed iniquity, on the instant ordered Peter to be apprehended and cast into prison. For which purpose he despatched to Alexandria five tribunes, accompanied with their bands of soldiers, who, coming thither as they had been commanded, suddenly seized the priest of Christ and committed him to the custody of a prison. Wonderful was the devotion of the faithful! When it was known that this holy man was shut up in the dungeon of the prison, an incredibly large number ran together, principally a band of monks and of virgins, and with no material arms, but with rivers of tears and the affection of pious minds. surrounded the prison’s circuit.3 And as good sons towards a good father, nay, rather as the Christian members of a most Christian head. adhered to him with all their bowels of compassion, and were to him as walls, observing that no pagan might get an opportunity of access to him. One indeed was the vow of all, one their voice, and one their compassion and resolve to die rather than see any evil happen to this holy man. Now while the man of God was being kept for a few days in the same stocks, with his body thrust back, the tribunes made a suggestion to the king concerning him, but he, after his ferocious manner, gave his sentence for capitally punishing the most blessed patriarch. And when this got to the ears of the Christians, they all with one mind began to guard the approaches to the prison with groaning and lamentation, and persistently prevented any Gentile from obtaining access to him. And when the tribunes could by no means approach him to put him to death, they held a council, and determined that the soldiers should with drawn swords break in upon the crowd of people, and so draw him forth to behead him; and if any one opposed, he should be put to death.

Arius, in the meanwhile, having as yet been endowed only with the dignity of a Levite, and fearing lest, after the death of so great a father, he should noways be able to get reconciled to the Church, came to those who held the chief place amongst the clergy, and, hypocrite that he was, by his sorrowful entreaties and plausible discourse, endeavoured to persuade the holy archbishop to extend to him his compassion, and to release him from the ban of excommunication. But what is more deceptive than a feigned heart? What more simple than a holy composure? There was no delay; those who had been requested went in to the priest of Christ, and, after the customary oration, prostrating themselves on the ground, and with groans and tears kissing his sacred hands, implored him, saying: “Thee, indeed, most blessed father, for the excellence of thy faith, the Lord hath called to receive the martyr’s crown, which we noways doubt does quickly await thee. Therefore do we think it right that, with thy accustomed piety, thou shouldest. pardon Arius. and extend thy indulgence to his lamentations.”

Upon hearing this the man of God, moved with indignation, put them aside, and, raising his hands to heaven, exclaimed: “Do ye dare to supplicate me on behalf of Arius? Arius, both here and in the future world, will always remain banished and separate from the glory of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord.” He thus protesting, all who were present, being struck with terror, like men dumb, kept silence. Moreover they suspected that he, not without some divine notification,3 gave forth such a sentence against Arius. But when the merciful father beheld them silent and sad from compunction of heart, he would not persist in austerity, or leave them, as if in contempt, without satisfaction; but taking Achillas and Alexander, who amongst the priests appeared to be the eiders and the most holy, having one of them at ibis right hand, and the other on his left, he separated them a little from the rest, and at the end of his discourse said to them: “Do not, my brethren, take me for a man inhuman and stern; for indeed I too am living under the law of sin; but believe my words. The hidden treachery of Arias surpasses all iniquity and impiety, and not asserting this of mine own self, have I sanctioned his excommunication. For in this night, whilst I was solemnly pouring forth my prayers to God, there stood by me a boy of about twelve years, the brightness of whose face I could not endure, for this whole cell in which we stand was radiant with a great light. He was clothed with a linen tunic divided into two parts, from the neck to the feet, and holding in his two hands the rents of the tunic, he applied them to his breast to cover his nudity. At this vision I was stupefied with astonishment. And when boldness of speech was given to me, I exclaimed: Lord, who hath rent thy tunic? Then said he, Arius hath rent it, and by all means beware of receiving him into communion; behold, to-morrow they will come to entreat you for him. See, therefore, that thou be not persuaded to acquiesce: nay, rather lay thy commands upon Achillas and Alexander the priests, who after thy translation will rule my Church, not by any means to receive him. Thou shall very quickly fulfil the lot of the martyr. Now there was no other cause of this vision. So now I have satisfied you, and I have declared unto you what I was ordered. But what you will do in consequence of this, must be your own care.” Thus much concerning Arius.

He continued: “Ye know too, beloved, and ye know well, what has been the manner of my conversation amongst you, and what conflicts I have endured from the idolatrous Gentiles, who, being ignorant of the Lord and Saviour, do not cease in their madness to spread abroad the fame of a multitude of gods who are no gods. Ye know likewise how, in avoiding the rage of my persecutors, I wandered an exile from place to place. For long time I lay in hiding in Mesopotamia, and also in Syria amongst the Phoenicians; in either Palestine also I had for a long time to wander: and from thence, if I may so say, in another clement, that is, in the islands, I tarried no short time. Yet in the midst of all, these calamities I did not cease day and night writing to the Lord’s flock committed to my; poor care, and confirming them in the unity of Christ. For an anxious solicitude for them constantly kept urging my heart, and suffered me not to rest; then only did I think it to be more tolerable to me when I committed them to the Power above.

“Likewise also, on account of those fortunate prelates, Phileus, I mean, Hesychius and Theodorus, who of divine grace have received a worthy vocation, what great tribulation agitated my mind. For these, as ye know, for the faith of Christ were with the rest of the confessors wasted with diverse torments. And because in such a conflict they were not only of the clergy but of the laity also the standard-bearers and preceptors, I on this account greatly feared lest they should be found wanting under their long affliction, and lest their defection, which is terrible to speak of, should be to many an occasion of stumbling and of denying the faith, for there were more than six hundred and sixty confined along with them within the precincts of a dungeon. Hence, although oppressed with great labour and toil, I ceased not to write to them with reference to all those predicted passages, exhorting them to earn the martyr’s palm with the power of divine inspiration. But when I heard of their magnificent perseverance, and the glorious end of the passion of them all, falling on the ground I adored the majesty of Christ, who had thought tit to count them amongst the throng of the martyrs.

“Why should I speak to you about Meletius of Lycopolis? What persecutions, what treachery, he directed against me, I doubt not but that ye well know. Oh, the horrible wickedness! he feared not to rend asunder the holy Church, which the Son of God redeemed with His precious blood, and to deliver which from the tyranny of the devil He hesitated not to lay down His life. This Church, as I have begin to say, the wicked Meletius rending asunder, ceased not to imprison in dungeons, and to afflict holy bishops even, who have a little before us by martyrdom penetrated to the heavens. Beware therefore of his insidious devices. For I, as ye see, go bound by divine charity, preferring above all things the will of God. I know, indeed, that under their breath the tribunes whisper of my death with eager haste; but I will not from this circumstance open any communication with them, nor will I count my life more precious than myself. Nay, rather, I am prepared to finish the course which my Lord Jesus Christ hath deigned to promise to me, and faithfully render up to Him the ministry which from Him I have received. Pray for me, my brothers; you will not see me longer living in this life with you. Wherefore I testify before God and your brotherhood, that before all of you have I preserved a clean conscience. For I have not shunned to declare unto you the injunctions of the Lord, and I have refused not to make known to you the things which will hereafter be necessary.

“Wherefore take heed unto yourselves, and the whole flock over which the Holy, Ghost has appointed you as overseers in succession—thee Achillas in the first place, and next to thee Alexander. Behold with living voice I protest to you, that after my death men will arise in the Church speaking perverse things, and will again divide it, like Meletius, drawing away the people after their readiness. So I have told you before. But I pray you, mine own bowels, be watchful; for ye must undergo many tribulations. For we are no better than our fathers. Are ye ignorant what things my father endured from the Gentiles, he who brought me up, the most holy bishop Theonas, whose pontifical3 chair I have under taken to fill? Would that I had his manners also! Why too should speak of the great Dionysius his predecessor. who wandering from place to place sustained many calamities from the frantic Sabellius? Nor will I omit to mention you, ye most holy fathers and high priests of the divine law, Heraclius and Demetrius, for whom Origen, that framer of a perverse dogma, laid many temptations, who cast upon the Church a detestable schism, which to this day is throwing it into confusion. But the grace of God which then protected them, will, I believe, protect you also. But why do I delay you longer, my very clear brethren, with the outpouring of my prolix discourse. It remains, that with the last words of the Apostle who thus prayed I address you: ‘And now I commend you to God and the word of His grace, which is powerful to direct both you and His flock.’ ” When he had finished, failing on his knees, he prayed with them. And his speech ended, Achillas and Alexander kissing his hands and feet and bursting into tears sobbed bitterly, specially grieving at those words of his which they heard when he said that they should henceforth see him in this life no more. Then this most gentle teacher going to the rest of the clergy, who, as I have said, had come in to him to speak in behalf of Arius, spake to them his last consoling words, and such as were necessary; then pouring forth his prayers to God, and bidding them adieu, he dismissed them all in peace.

These things having thus ended, it was everywhere published far and wide that Arius had not been cut off from the Catholic unity without a divine interposition. But that contriver of deceit, and disseminator of all wickedness, ceased not to keep hidden his viper’s poison in the labyrinth of his bosom, hoping that he should be reconciled by Achillas and Alexander. This is that Arius the heresiarch, the divider of the consubstantial and indivisible Trinity. This is he who with rash and wicked mouth, was not afraid to blaspheme the Lord and Saviour, beyond all other heretics; the Lord, I say, and Saviour, who out of pity for our human wanderings, and being sorely grieved that the world should perish in deadly destruction and condemnation, deigned for us all to suffer in the flesh. For it is not to be believed that the Godhead which is impassible was subject to the passion. But because the theologians and fathers have taken care in better style to remove from Catholic ears the blasphemies of this nature, and another task is ours, let us return to our subject.

This most sagacious pontiff then, perceiving the cruel device of the tribunes, who, in order to bring about his death, were willing to put to the sword the whole Christian multitude that was present, was unwilling that they should together with him taste the bitterness of death, but as a faithful servant imitating his Lord and Saviour, whose acts were even as his words, “The good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep,”3 prompted by his piety, called to him an elder of those who there waited on his words, and said to him: “Go to the tribunes who seek to kill me, and say to them, Cease ye from all your anxiety, lo! I am ready and willing of mine own accord to give myself to them” Bid them come this night to the rereward of the house of this prison, and in the spot in which they shall hear a signal given on the wall from within, there let them make an excavation, and take me and do with me as they have been commanded. The eider, obeying the commands of this most holy man,—for so great a father could not be contradicted,—departed to the tribunes, and made the intimation to them as he had been commanded. They, when they had received it, were exceedingly rejoiced, and taking with them some stonemasons, came about the dawn of the day without their soldiers to the place which had been pointed out to them. The man of God had passed the whole night as a vigil, without sleep, in prayer and watchfulness. But when he heard their approach, whilst all who were with him were rapt in slumber, with a slow and gentle step he descended to the interior part of the prison, and according to the agreement made, made a sound on the wall; and those outside hearing this, forcing an aperture, received this athlete of Christ armed on all sides with no brazen breastplate, but with the virtue of the cross of the Lord, and fully prepared to carry out the Lord’s words who said, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Wonderful was the occurrence! Such a heavy whirlwind of wind and rain prevailed during that night, that no one of those who kept the door of the prison court hear the sound of the excavation. This martyr most constant too, kept urging on his murderers, saying, Do what ye are about to do, before those are aware who are guarding me.

But they took him up and brought him to the place called Bucolia, where the holy St. Mark underwent martyrdom for Christ. Astonishing is the virtue of the saints! As they carried him along, and beheld his great constancy and strength of mind when in peril of death, on a sudden a fear and trembling came upon them to such a degree, that none of them could look stedfastly into his face. Moreover, the blessed martyr entreated them to allow him to go to the tomb of St. Mark, for be desired to commend himself to his patronage. But they from confusion, looking down on the ground, said, “Do as yon wish, but make haste.” Therefore approaching the burial-place of the evangelist, he embraced it, and speaking to him as if he were yet alive in the flesh, and able to hear him, he prayed after this manner: “O father most honourable, thou evangelist of the only-begotten Saviour, thou witness of His passion, thee did Christ choose, who is the Deliverer of us all, to be the first pontiff and pillar of this See; to thee did He commit the task of proclaiming the faith throughout the whole of Egypt and its boundaries. Thou, I say, hast watchfully fulfilled that ministry of our human salvation which was intrusted to thee; as the reward of this labour thou hast doubtless obtained the martyr’s palm. Hence, not without justice, art thou counted worthy to be saluted evangelist and bishop. Thy successor was Anianus, and the rest in descending series down to the most blessed Theonas, who disciplined my infancy, and deigned to educate my heart. To whom I, a sinner and unworthy, have been beyond my deservings appointed as successor by an hereditary descent. And, what is best of all, lo! the largeness of the divine bounty has granted me to become a martyr of His precious cross and joyful resurrection, giving to my devotion the sweet and pleasant odour of His passion, that I should be made meet to pour out unto Him the offering of my blood. And because the time of making this offering is now instant, pray for me that, the divine power assisting me, I may be meet to reach the goal of this agony with a stout heart and ready faith. I commend also to thy glorious patronage the flock of Christ’s worshippers which was committed to my pastoral care; to thee, I say, I with prayers commend it, who are approved as the author and guardian of all preceding and subsequent occupiers of this pontifical chair, and who, holding its first honours, art the successor not of man, but of the God-man, Christ Jesus.” Saying these words, he went back to a little distance from the sacred tomb, and, raising his hands to heaven, prayed with a loud voice, saying: “O thou Only-begotten, Jesus Christ, Word of the Eternal Father, hear me invoking Thy clemency. Speak peace, I beseech Thee, to the tempest that shakes Thy Church, and with the effusion of my blood, who am Thy servant, make an end to the persecution of Thy people.” Then a certain virgin dedicated to God, who had her cell adjoining to the tomb of the evangelist, as she was spending the night in prayer, heard a voice from heaven, saying: “Peter was the first of the apostles, Peter is the last of the martyred bishops of Alexandria.”

Having ended his prayer, he kissed the tomb of the blessed evangelist, and of the other pontiffs who were buried there, and went forth to the tribunes. But they seeing his face as it had been the face of an angel, being terror-stricken, feared to speak to him of his instant agony. Nevertheless, because God does not desert those who trust in Him, He willed not to leave His martyr without consolation in the moment of so great a trial. For lo! an old man and an aged virgin, coming from the smaller towns, were hastening to the city, one of whom was carrying Four skins for sale, and the other two sheets of linen. The blessed prelate, when he perceived them, recognised a divine dispensation with reference to himself. He inquired of them on the instant, “Are ye Christians?” And they replied, “Yes.” Then said he, “Whither are ye going?” And they replied, “To the market in the city to sell these things that we are carrying.” Then the most merciful father answered, “My faithful children, God has marked you out, persevere with me.” And they immediately recognising him, said, “Sire, let it be as thou hast commanded.” Then turning to the tribunes, he said, “Come, do what ye are about to do, and fulfil the king’s command; for the day is now on the point of breaking.” But they, suffering violence as it were on account of the wicked decree of the prince, brought him to a spot opposite to the sanctuary of the evangelist, into a valley near the tombs. Then said the holy man, “Spread out, thou aged man, the skins which thou carriest, and thou too, O aged woman, the linen sheets.”3 And when they had been spread out, this most constant martyr, mounting upon them, extended both his hands to heaven, and bending his knees on the ground, and fixing his mind upon heaven, returned his thanks to the Almighty Judge of the contest, and fortifying himself with the sign of the cross, said, Amen. Then loosening his omophorion5 from his neck, he stretched it forth, saying, “What is commanded you, do speedily.”

Meanwhile the hands of the tribunes were paralyzed, and looking upon one another in turn, each urged his fellow to the deed, but they were all held fast with astonishment and fear. At length they agreed that out of their common stock a reward for the execution should be appointed, and that the man who should venture to perpetrate the murder should enjoy the reward. There was no delay, each of them brought forth five solidi. But, as says the heathen poet,—

“Quid non mortalia pectora cogis,

Auri sacra lames?”

one of them, after the manner of the traitor Judas, emboldened by the desire of money, drew his sword and beheaded the pontiff, on the 25th day of November, after he had held the pontificate twelve years—three of which were before the persecution, but the nine remaining were passed by him under persecutions of diverse kinds. The blood-money being instantly claimed by the executioner, these wicked purchasers, or rather destroyers, of man’s life quickly returned, for they feared the multitude of the people, since, as I have said, they were without their military escort. But the body of the blessed martyr, as the fathers affirm who went first to the place of execution, remained erect, as if instant in prayer, until many people, coming together, discovered it standing in the same posture; so that what was his constant practice whilst living, to this his inanimate body testified. They found also the aged man and woman watching with grief and lamentation the most precious relic of the Church. So, honouring him with a triumphal funeral, they covered his body with the linen sheets; but the sacred blood which had been poured forth, they collected reverently in a wallet.

In the meanwhile an innumerable multitude of either sex, flocking together from the populous city, with groans and ejaculations asked each other in turn, being ignorant, in what manner this had happened. In truth, from the least to the greatest, a very great grief was prevalent amongst all. For when the chief men of the city beheld the laudable importunity of the multitude, who were busied in dividing his sacred spoils to keep them as relics, they wrapped him up the tighter in the skins and linen sheets. For the most holy minister of God was always clothed in sacerdotal vestments of a white colour —that is, with the tunic, the kolobion, and the omophorion. Then there arose among them no small contention; for some were for carrying the most sacred limbs to the church which he had himself built, and where he now rests. but others were endeavouring to carry him to the sanctuary of the evangelist, where he attained the goal of martyrdom; and since neither party would yield to the other, they began to turn their religious observance into a wrangling and a right. In the meanwhile a spirited body of senators of those who are engaged in the public transport service, seeing what had happened, for they were near the sea, prepared a boat, and suddenly seizing upon the sacred relics, they placed them in it, and scaling the Pharos from behind, by a quarter which has the name of Leucado, they came to the church of the most blessed mother of God, and Ever-Virgin Mary, which, as we began to say, he had constructed in the western quarter, in a suburb, for a cemetery of the martyrs. Thereupon the throng of the people, as if the heavenly treasure had been snatched from them, some by straight roads, and others by a more devious route, followed with hasty steps∙ And when they at length arrived there, there was no longer any altercation where he was to be placed, but by a common and unimpeachable counsel they agreed first to place him in his episcopal chair, and then to bury him.

And this, most prudent reader, I would not have you regard as a wild fancy and superstition, since, if you learn the cause of this novelty, you will admire and approve of the zeal and deed of the populace. For this blessed priest, when he celebrated the sacrament of the divine mysteries, did not, as is the ecclesiastical custom, sit upon his pontifical throne, but upon its footstool underneath, which, when the people beheld, they disliked, and complainingly exclaimed, “Thou oughtest, O father, to sit upon thy chair;” and when they repeated this frequently, the minister of the Lord rising, calmed their complaints with tranquil voice, and again took his seat upon the same stool. So all this seemed to be done by him from motives of humility. But upon a certain great festival it happened that he was offering the sacrifice of the mass, and wished to do this same thing. Thereupon, not only the people. but the clergy also, exclaimed with one voice, “Take thy seat upon thy chair, bishop.” But he, as if conscious of a mystery, reigned not to bear this; and giving the signal for silence,—for no one dared pertinaciously to withstand him,—he made them all quiet, and yet, nevertheless, sat down on the footstool of the chair; and the solemnities of the mass6 having been celebrated as usual, each one of the faithful returned to his own home.

But the man of God sending for the clergy. with tranquil and serene mind, charged them with rashness, saying, “How is it that ye blush not for having joined the cry of the laity, and reproaching me? Howbeit. since your reproach flows not from the muddy torrent of arrogance. but from the pure fountain of love, I will unfold to you the secret of this mystery. Very often when I wish to draw near to that seat, I see a virtue as it were sitting upon it, exceeding radiant with the brightness of its light. Then, being in suspense between joy and fear, I acknowledge that I am altogether unworthy to sit upon such a seat, and if I did not hesitate to cause an occasion of offence to the people, without doubt I should not even venture to sit upon the stool itself. Thus it is, my beloved sons, that I seem to you, in this, to, transgress the pontifical rule. Nevertheless, many times when I see it vacant, as ye yourselves are witnesses, I refuse not to sit upon the chair after the accustomed manner. Wherefore do ye, now that ye are acquainted with my secret, and being well assured that, if I shall be indulged, I will sit upon the chair, for I hold not in slight esteem the dignity of my order, cease any further from joining in the exclamations of the populace.” This explanation the most holy father whilst he was yet alive, was compelled to give to the clergy. The faithful of Christ, therefore, remembering all this with pious devotion, brought his sacred body, and caused it to sit upon the episcopal throne. As much joy and exultation arose then to heaven from the people, as if they were attending him alive and in the body. Then embalming him with sweet spices, they wrapped him in silken coverings; what each one of them could be the first to bring, this he accounted to himself as greatest gain. Then carrying palms, the tokens of victory, with flaming tapers, with sounding hymns, and with fragrant incense, celebrating the triumph of his heavenly victory, they laid down the sacred relics, and buried them in the cemetery which had been long ago constructed by him, where too from henceforth, and even to this day, miraculous virtues cease not to show themselves. Pious vows, forsooth, are received with a propitious hearing; the health of the impotent is restored; the expulsion of unclean spirits testifies to the martyr’s merits. These gifts, O Lord Jesus, are Thine, whose wont it is thus magnificently to honour Thy martyrs after death: Thou who with the Father and the Holy Consubstantial Spirit livest and reignest for evermore. Amen.

After this, how that wolf and framer of treachery, that is Arius, covered with a sheep’s skin, entered into the Lord’s fold to worry and torment it, or in what manner he was enabled to attain to the dignity of the priesthood, let us employ ourselves in relating in brief, And this not to annoy those who ventured to recall to the threshing-floor of the Lord those tares of apostacy and contagion that had been winnowed out of the Church by a heavenly fan; for these are without doubt reckoned eminent for sanctity, but thinking it a light thing to believe so holy a a man, they transgressed the injunctions of the divine command. What then? Do we reprehend them? By no means, For as long as this corruptible body weighs s down, and this earthly habitation depresses the sense of our infirmity, many are easily deceived in their imaginations, and think that which is unjust to be just, that to be holy which is impure. The Gibeonites who, by the divine threatenings, were to be utterly destroyed, having one thing in their wishes and another in their voice and mien, were able quickly to deceive Joshua,3 that just distributor of the land of promise. David also, full of prophetic inspiration, when he had heard the words of the deceitful youth, although it was by the inscrutable and just judgment of God, yet acted very differently from what the true nature of the case required. What also can be more sublime than the apostles, who have not removed themselves from our infirmity? For one of them writes, “In many things we offend all;”5 and another, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” But when we repent of these, so much the more readily do we obtain pardon, when we have sinned not willingly, but through ignorance or frailty. And certainly offences of this sort come not of prevarication, but of the indulgence of compassion. But I leave to others to write an apology for this; let us pursue what is in hand. After that magnificent defender of the faith, Peter, worthy of his name, had by the triumph of martyrdom, etc.

the test is wanting.



with the

Commentaries of Theodore Balsamon and John Zonaras.

The Canons of the Blessed Peter, Archbishop of Alexandria, as They are Given in His Sermon on Penitence.

canon i.

But since the fourth passover of the persecution has arrived, it is sufficient, in the case of those who have been apprehended and thrown into prison, and who have sustained torments not to be borne, and stripes intolerable, and many other dreadful afflictions, and afterwards have been betrayed by the frailty of the flesh, even though they were not at the first received On account of their grievous fall that followed yet because they contended sorely and resisted long; for they did not come to this of their own will, but were betrayed by the frailty of the flesh for they show in their bodies the marks of Jesus,4 and some are now, for the third year, bewailing their fault: it is sufficient, I say, that from the time of their submissive approach, other forty days should be enjoined upon them, to keep them in remembrance of these things; those forty days during which, though our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ had fasted, He was yet, after He had been baptized, tempted of the devil. And when they shall have, during these days, exercised themselves much, and constantly fasted, then let them watch in prayer, meditating upon what was spoken by the Lord to him who tempted Him to fall down and worship him: “Get thee behind me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shall worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.”

Balsamon. The present canons treat of those who have in the persecution denied the faith, and are doing penance. And the first canon ordains, that upon those who after many torments have sacrificed to the gods, not being able by reason of frailty to persevere, and who have passed three years in penitence, other forty days should be enjoined, and that then they should be admitted into the Church. Observe these present canons which lay down various and useful rules in favour of those who have denied their God, and seek for repentance, and concerning those who have of their own accord sought martyrdom, and have lapsed, and then have again confessed the faith, and other things of the like nature. Consult also, for you will profitably do so, many canons of the Council of Ancyra.

Zonaras. Amongst those who in these turbulent times denied the faith, the holy Peter makes a distinction, and says, that upon those who had been brought before the tyrant, and thrown into prison, and who had endured very grievous torments, and intolerable scourgings, and such as could be cured by no care or medicine (for ἀνήκεστον signifies medical care, and ἄκος is the same as immedicabile), and other dreadful afflictions, and afterwards yielding, sacrificed to the gods, being betrayed as it were by the weakness of the flesh, which could not hold out under the pain unto the end, that for them the time past should suffice for punishment; since, indeed, says he, the fourth passover has now past since they made this very grievous fall. And although perhaps at first, when they approached in penitence, they, were not received, yet because they did not of their own free-will proceed to sacrifice to the gods, and resisted long, and hear about with them the marks of Jesus, that is to say, the scars of the wounds which, in behalf of Christ, they have endured, and the third year has now elapsed since they first bewailed their fall, he decrees that, as an additional punishment, other forty days from the time that they came asking to be admitted to communion should be enjoined on them in the place of any further severity; during which they should exercise a still greater degree of penance, and should fast more earnestly, that is, with more attentive care, keeping guard over themselves, being watchful in prayer, meditating upon, that is, turning over perpetually in their minds, and saying in words, the text quoted by the Lord against the tempter, “Get thee behind me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall thou serve.”

canon ii.

But in the case of those who, after that they were thrown into prison, and in the dungeon, as in a place besieged, endured afflictions and
nauseous odours, bill afterwards, without the conflict of torments, were led captive, being broken in spirit by poverty of strength, and a certain blindness of the understanding, a year in addition to the foregoing time will suffice; for they gave themselves up to be afflicted for the name of Christ, even though in their dungeon they enjoyed much consolation from their brethren; which, indeed, they shall return many fold, desiring to be set free from that most bitter captivity of the devil, especially remembering Him who said: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of recompense unto our God.”

Balsamon. This canon enacts that those who have only been evil entreated in prison, and who without torment have lapsed, should be punished after the three years with an additional year. For though they obtained consolation, certain of the faithful ministering to them the necessaries of life, yet they ought to obtain pardon, as being those who have suffered severely for the faith.

Zonaras. In the second order, he places those who have only been thrown into prison, and evil entreated in the dungeon, and yet, though harassed by no torments, have offended; upon whom, besides the time past, the three years, namely, of which we have spoken, he proposes to inflict the penalty of an additional year, since they also, says he, have for Christ’s name endured hardness, even though it may be that they obtained some consolation from the brethren whilst in prison. For it is probable that the faithful, who were not in custody, ministered to those in bonds the necessaries of life, and brought to them some alleviation of their lot. Which things, indeed, they shall return many fold; for those consolations which they enjoyed in prison they shall vex themselves with penance, and afflict themselves in diverse ways, if they wish to be set free from the captivity of the devil, having become his captives and slaves by their denial of Christ. He subjoins the word of the prophet, taken from Isaiah, which he says that they ought to keep in remembrance.

canon iii.

But as for those who have suffered none of these things, and have shown no fruit of faith., but of their own accord have gone over to wickedness, being betrayed by fear and cowardice, and now come to repentance, it is necessary and convenient to propose the parable of the unfruitful fig-tree, as the Lord says: “A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering, said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it. And if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then alter mat thou shall cut it down.” Keeping this before their eyes, and showing forth fruit worthy of repentance, after so long an interval of time, they will be profiled.

Balsamon. Those who from fear only and timidity deserted the faith, and then had an eye towards repentance, the canon punishes with three years’ exclusion, according to the parable of the fig-tree in the Gospels. For the Lord said, Three years I come to it seeking fruit, and find none; but the vine-dresser replies, Lord, let it alone this year also.

Zonaras. But those, he says, who having suffered no hardness, have deserted from fear only and timidity, in that they of their own accord have approached to wickedness; and then looked towards repentance, their case the parable of the fig-tree in the Gospels will exactly suit. Let them keep this before their eyes, and show forth for an equal period labours worthy of penitence, and they shall be profited; that is, after the fourth year. For the Lord said, Three years I come to it seeking fruit, and find none; and the vine-dresser answered, Lord, let it alone this year also.

canon iv.

To those who are altogether reprobate, and unrepentant, who possess the Ethiopian’s unchanging skin, and the leopard’s spots, it shall be said, as it was spoken to another fig-tree, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever; and it presently withered away.”3 For in them is fulfilled what was spoken by the Preacher: “That which is crooked cannot be made straight; and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.” For unless that which is crooked shall first he made straight, it is impossible for it to be adorned; and unless that which is wanting shall first be made up, it cannot be numbered. Hence also, in the end, will happen unto them what is spoken by Esaias the prophet: “They shall look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against Me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”5 Since as by the same also has been predicted, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”

Balsamon. What has been previously said of the lapsed, has been said of the repentant. But against those who are unrepentant, he brings forward the cursing of another fig-tree, to which the Lord said, because of its unprofitableness, “No fruit grow on thee hence-forward for ever.”

Zonaras. What has been previously said of the lapsed, has been said of the repentant. Against those whom, from desperation or depraved opinion, are impenitent, and carry about with them perpetually the inherent and indelible blackness of sin, as of an Ethiopian’s skin, or the leopard’s spots, he brings forward the cursing of another fig-tree. To which the Lord said for its barrenness, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And he says that in them must be fulfilled that word of the Preacher: “That which is crooked cannot be made straight; and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.” Then having explained these things, he subjoins the words of Isaiah.

canon v.

But upon those who have used dissimulation like David, who reigned himself to be mad to avoid death, being not mad in reality; and those who have not nakedly written down their denial of the faith, but being in much tribulation, as boys endowed with sagacity and prudence amongst foolish children, have mocked the snares of their enemies, either passing by the altars, or giving a writing, or sending heathen to do sacrifice instead of themselves, even though some of them who have confessed have, as I have heard, pardoned individuals of them, since with the greatest caution they have avoided to touch the fire with their own hands, and to offer incense to the impure demons; yet inasmuch as they escaped the notice of their persecutors by doing this, let a penalty of six months’ penance be imposed upon them. For thus will they be the rather profited, meditating upon the prophet’s words, and saying, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called the Messenger of My mighty counsel.”2 Who, as ye know, when another infant in the sixth month of his conception had preached before His coming repentance for the remission of sins, was himself also conceived to preach repentance. Moreover, we hear both also preaching, in the first place, not only repentance, but the kingdom of heaven, which, as we have learned, is within us;4 for the word which we believe is near us, in our mouth, and in our heart; which they, being put in remembrance of, will learn to confess with their mouths that Jesus is the Christ; believing in their heart that God hath raised him from the dead, and being as those who hear, that “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Balsamon. But if any have pretended to approach the altars, or to write their denial of the faith, and have not done this nakedly and openly, but by reigned arts have illuded those who offered them violence, as David did, who, when he was flying from Saul, and was amongst strangers, feigned himself to be mad, and thus escaped death. So they mocked the snares of their enemies, as children endowed with wisdom and prudence mock foolish children; for they deceived the impious heathen, in that they seemed to sacrifice, although they did not sacrifice, or perhaps they suborned heathens and infidels to take their place, and by these means they thought that they offered sacrifice; for them, he says, a period of six months will suffice for penance. For although they did not sacrifice, yet because they promised to sacrifice, or sent others to do so in their place, they are thought to stand in need of repentance, even though some of those who have given their testimony for the faith have pardoned individuals of them. He compares them to children, as not having manfully withstood the idolaters, but to prudent children, because by artifice they avoided doing sacrifice.

Zonaras. But if any have pretended to approach the altars, or to write their denial of the faith, but have not nakedly written down their abnegation, that is, not manifestly, not openly; but by a sort of trick have cheated those who offered them violence; as David, who while lie was flying from Saul, and bad come amongst strange people, reigned himself to be mad, and in this way avoided death. They mocked indeed, he children, endowed with wisdom and sagacity, and those says, the insidious devices of their enemies; as prudent who skilfully take counsel, deceive foolish children. Now be compares those to prudent children by whom the impious heathen were deceived, and those who though they did not sacrifice, yet seemed to sacrifice, prudent indeed, as having thus far avoided sacrificing; but children, in that they did not show forth a mature and manly spirit, and did not nobly resist the worshippers of idols, but covenanted to sacrifice, even though they suborned some in their places, heathens, forsooth, and infidels, and when these sacrificed, they were considered to have sacrificed. For men of this sort, he says, a period of six months will suffice for penance. For although they did not sacrifice, yet because they covenanted to sacrifice, or suborned others to do so, and thus themselves appeared to have sacrificed, they were judged to stand in need of repentance; even though some confessors might have pardoned individuals of them; for some of those who witnessed to the faith and suffered for it, pardoned those who by an artifice, as has been said, escaped offering sacrifice, and admitted them to communion with the faithful, because they studiously avoided offering sacrifice to demons. And on account of the fixing of this term of six months, he calls to remembrance the annunciation made by Gabriel, in the sixth month of the conception of the Forerunner, in which the Lord was conceived. Then he subjoins the words of the apostle.

canon vi.

In the case of those who have sent Christian slaves to offer sacrifice for them, the slaves indeed as being in their master’s hands, and in a manner themselves also in the custody of their masters, and being threatened by them, and from their fear having come to this pass and having lapsed, shall during the year show forth the works of penitence, learning for the future, as the slaves of Christ, to do the will of Christ and to fear Him, listening to this especially, that “whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.”

Balsamon. The slaves who under the commands and threatenings of their masters offered sacrifice, this father punishes with a year’s exclusion; yet he pardons them as having acted under the orders of a master, and does not inflict a heavy punishment upon them. But yet since they are much more the servants of Christ, even as they ought to fear Him more, he imposes on them a moderate punishment; for, as says the great Paul, “whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.”

Zonaras. Some have sent their own Christian servants, even against their will, to offer sacrifice in their stead. These servants, therefore, although not of their own free-will, but being compelled by their masters, they offered sacrifice, this father ordains shall pass a year in penance, and enjoins them to remember that, being of the number of the faithful, they are the servants of Christ, and that Him they ought rather to fear; for “whatsoever any man doeth,” says the great apostle, “the same shall he receive, whether he be bond or free.”

canon vii.

But the freemen shall be tried by penance for three years, both for their dissimulation, and for having compelled their fellow-servants to offer sacrifice, inasmuch as they have not obeyed the apostle, who would have the masters do the same things unto the servant, forbearing threatening; knowing, says he, that our and their Master is in heaven; and that there is no respect of persons with Him.2 Now, if we all have one Master, with whom is no respect of persons, since Christ is all and in all, in barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, they ought to consider what they have done, wishing to preserve their own lives. They have drawn their fellow-servants to idolatry who would have been able to escape, had they given to them that which is just and equal, as again says the apostle.

Balsamon. But upon the freemen, or the masters of the servant compelled to sacrifice, he enjoins a punishment of three years, both because they pretended to sacrifice, and seemed to assent to it; and also because they compelled their fellow-servants to offer sacrifice, and did not obey the apostle, who ordered them to forbear threatening their servants, inasmuch as they themselves, the masters, are the servants of God, and fellow-servants with their own domestics And then they have made haste to preserve their own lives, and have driven their fellow-servants to idolatry who might have escaped.

Zonaras. But upon the freemen, that is, the masters of the servants who were compelled to sacrifice, he enjoins a penalty of three years, both because they pretended to sacrifice, and altogether appeared to succumb; and also because they compelled their fellow-servants to offer sacrifice, and did not obey the apostle’s injunction to forbear threatening their servants; since they also, the masters, are the servants of God, and the fellow-servants of their own domestics. And they indeed made haste to preserve their own lives, and drove their fellow-servants, who might have escaped, to idolatry.

canon viii.

But to those who have been delivered up, and have fallen, who also of their own accord have approached the contest, confessing themselves to be Christians, and have been tormented and thrown into prison, it is right with joy and exultation of heart to add strength, and to communicate to them in all things, both in prayer, and in partaking of the body and blood of Christ, and in hortatory discourse; in order that contending the more constantly, they may be counted worthy of “the prize of their high calling.” For “seven times,” he says, “a just man falleth, and riseth up again,”5 which, indeed, if all that have lapsed had done, they would have shown forth a most perfect penitence, and one which penetrates the whole heart.

Balsamon. Some had had information laid against them before the tyrant, and had been delivered up, or themselves had of their own accord given themselves up, and then being overcome by their torments, had failed in their testimony. Afterwards repenting, and acknowledging what was right and good, they confessed themselves to he Christians, so that they were cast into prison, and afflicted with torments. These this holy man thinks it right to receive with joy of heart, and to confirm in the orthodox faith, and to communicate with, both in prayers and in partaking of the sacraments, and to exhort with cheering words, that they may be more constant in the contest, and counted worthy of the heavenly kingdom. And that it might not be thought that they ought not to be received, because they hart lapsed, he brings forward the testimony of Scripture to the effect that “seven times,” that is, often, “the just man falleth, and riseth up again.” And, says he, if all who have failed in their confession had done this, namely, taken up their struggle again, and before the tyrant confessed themselves to be Christians, they would have shown forth a most perfect penitence. The subject, therefore, comprehended in this canon differs from that contained in the first canon, for there indeed those who by reason of their torment had lapsed, were not converted so as to confess the faith before the tyrants; but here those who by reason of their torment have lapsed, with a worthy penitence, confess the Lord before the tyrants, wherefore they are reckoned not to have fallen.

Zonaras. But, says he, if any have had information laid against them before the tyrants, and have been delivered up, or have of themselves given themselves up, and being overcome by the violence of their torments have failed in their testimony, not being able to endure the distresses and afflictions with which in the dungeon they were afflicted; and afterwards taking up the contest anew, have confessed themselves to be Christians, so that they have been again cast into prison and afflicted with torments: such men this holy martyr judges it reasonable that they should be joyfully received; and that they should be strengthened, that is, have strength, spirit, and confidence added to them, in order that they may confess the faith, and that they should be communicated with in all things, both in prayer, and in partaking of the sacraments, and that they should be exhorted with loving words, to rouse themselves to give testimony to the faith, that they may be more constant in the contest, and counted worthy of the heavenly kingdom. And that it might not he thought by any that they ought not to be received from the fact that they had lapsed, and sacrificed to the idols, he brings forth this testimony from Holy Scripture: “Seven times,” that is, often, “the just man falleth, and riseth up again.” And, says be, if all who have failed in their confession had done this, that is, after their fall, taken up the contest afresh, and confessed themselves to be Christians before the tyrants, they would have given proof of a most perfect repentance.

canon ix.

With those also who, as it were from sleep, themselves leap forth upon a contest which is travailing long and likely to be protracted, and draw upon themselves the temptations as it were of a sea-fight, and the inundations of many waves, or rather are for the brethren kindling the coals of the sinners, with them also we must communicate, inasmuch as they come to this in the name of Christ, even though they take no heed unto His words, when He teaches us “to pray that we enter not into temptation; ” and again in His prayer, He says to His Father, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”2 And perhaps also they know not that the Master of the House and our Great Teacher often retired from those who would lay snares for Him, and that sometimes He walked not openly because of them; and even when the time of His passion drew on, He delivered not up Himself, but waited until they came to Him with “swords and staves.” He said to them therefore, “Are ye come out, as against a thief with swords and staves, for to take Me? ” And they “delivered Him,” He says, “to Pilate.”4 As it was with Him it happens to those who walk keeping Him before them as an example, recollecting His divine words, in which, confirming us, He speaks of persecution: “Take heed unto yourselves, for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues.” Now, He says, they will deliver you up, and not, ye shall deliver up yourselves; and “ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for My sake,”6 but not, ye shall bring yourselves, for He would have us pass from place to place as long as there are those who persecute us for His name’s sake; even as again we hear Him saying, “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another.” For He would not have us go over to the ministers and satellites of the devil, that we might not be the cause to them of a manifold death, inasmuch as thus we should be compelling them both to be harsher, and to carry out their deadly works, but He would have us to wait, and to take heed to ourselves, to watch and to pray, lest we enter into temptation.8 Thus first Stephen, pressing on His footsteps, suffered martyrdom, being apprehended in Jerusalem by the transgressors, and being brought before the council, he was stoned, and glorified for the name of Christ, praying with the words, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” Thus James, in the second place, being of Herod apprehended, was beheaded with the sword. Thus Peter, the first of the apostles, having been often apprehended, and thrown into prison, and treated with igominy, was last of all crucified at Rome. Likewise also, the renowned Paul having been oftentimes delivered up and brought in peril of death, having endured many evils, and making his boast in his numerous persecutions and afflictions, in the same city was also himself beheaded; who, in the things in which he gloried, in these also ended his life; and at Damascus he was let down by night in a basket by the wall, and escaped the hands10 of him who sought to take him. For what they set before themselves, first and foremost, was to do the work of an evangelist, and to teach the Word of God, in which, confirming the brethren, that they might continue in the faith, they said this also, “that we must out of much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” For they sought not what was profitable for them, but that which was profitable for the many, that they might be saved, and that they might be enabled to say unto them many things conducing to this, that they might act suitably to the Word of God, “unless,” as says the apostle, “the time should fail me in speaking.”12

Balsamon. Those who have but just arisen from sleep, and especially if they were weighed down with a heavy and profound sleep, have no constant reason, but one perturbed and unsteady. To such as these this blessed martyr likens those who, not in due order, but rashly and inconsiderately, thrust themselves upon the contest, which is as it were in travail, and delayed and protracted, inasmuch as it has not vet burst forth openly, but meditates and delays, hesitating in truth to bring forth the combatants, who bring temptation upon themselves, or draw it towards them. Now these especially are, for the rest of the faithful, kindling the coals of the sinners, that is to say, the punishment of the tyrants. But although he reprehends those who act so, yet he enjoins the faithful nevertheless to communicate with them, because on account of Christ they have undergone the contest, even though they have ignored His teaching, for He teaches them to pray that they may not be tempted; and He did not deliver up Himself, but was delivered up; and we are not to go over to the tormentors, that we may not be the cause of bringing upon them the guilt of many murders, as those do who incite them to inflict punishment upon the godly. The canon brings forward different examples from Holy Scripture.

Zonaras. Those who have recently arisen from sleep, especially if they were oppressed with a heavy sleep, have no steady reason, but one inconstant and perturbed. To men of this sort this holy martyr likens those who rush upon the contest, that is, those who, not in due course, but rashly and inconsiderately, intrude themselves upon it. It is, as it were, in travail, and delayed and protracted, inasmuch as it has not yet burst forth openly, but meditates and delays, and hesitates to bring forth the combatants, who bring temptation upon themselves, that is, draw it towards themselves, or rather, for the rest of the faithful, kindle the coals of the sinners, the torments, namely, which are by the tyrants inflicted. But although he finds fault with those who act in this way, he nevertheless decrees that the faithful must communicate with them, because in the name of Christ they come forward to this, trusting, that is, in Christ, or in His name demanding this trial for themselves, even though, perhaps, they are not obeying His precepts; for He taught them to pray that they might not be tempted; and they are ignoring the fact too that the Lord retired from those who were laying snares for Him, and was wont sometimes to walk not openly; neither did He give up Himself to His passion, but was given up by others; and He commanded His disciples, when their enemies persecuted them, to fly from city to city, and not of their own accord to give themselves up to the tormentors, lest they should be the cause of bringing the guilt of much blood upon their heads, irritating them as it were to inflict punishment upon godly men. And he brings forward the example of the apostles, of Stephen, of James, and the chiefs of the order, Peter and Paul.

canon x.

Whence it is not right either that those of the clergy who have deserted of their own accord, and have lapsed, and taken up the contest afresh, should remain any longer in their sacred office, inasmuch as they have left destitute the flock of the Lord, and brought blame upon themselves, which thing did not one of the apostles. For when the blessed apostle Paul had undergone many persecutions, and had shown forth the prizes of many contests, though he knew that it was far better to “depart, and to be with Christ,” yet he brings this forward, and says, “Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” For considering not his own advantage but the advantage of many, that they might be saved, he judged it more necessary than his own rest to remain with the brethren, and to have a care for them; who also would have him that teacheth to be “in doctrine”2 an example to the faithful. Whence it follows that those who, contending in prison, have fallen from their ministry, and have again taken up the struggle, are plainly wanting in perception. For how else is it that they seek for that which they have left, when in this present time they can be useful to the brethren? For as long as they remained firm and stable, of that which they had done contrary to reason, of this indulgence was accorded them. But when they lapsed, as having carried themselves with ostentation, and brought reproach upon themselves, they can no longer discharge their sacred ministry; and, therefore, let them the rather take heed to pass their life in humility, ceasing from vainglory. For communion is sufficient for them, which is granted them with diligence and care for two causes; both that they should not seem to be afflicted with sorrow, and hence by violence seize on their departure from this world; and also lest any of the lapsed should have a pretext for being remiss by occasion of the punishment. And these indeed will reap more shame and ignominy than all others, even as he who laid the foundation and was not able to finish it; for “all that pass by,” He says, “will begin to mock him, saying, “This man laid the foundation, and was not able to finish it.”

Balsamon. The father having spoken of those who of their own accord went over to the contest of martyrdom, now also speaks of those of the clergy who are in such a case, and he says, that if any clergyman hath of his own accord sought the contest, and then, not being able to bear the tortures, has fallen, but returning to himself, has recanted his error, and before the tyrants confessed himself a Christian, such a one shall no longer discharge his sacred ministry, because he hath deserted the Lord’s flock, and because, having of his own accord sought the contest, through not being able to endure the torment, he hath brought reproach upon himself. For to neglect the teaching of the people, and to prefer their own advantage, this did not the apostles. For the mighty Paul, after that he had endured many torments, though he perceived that it was far better to leave this life, yet chose rather to live and to be tormented for the salvation and instruction of the people. They are therefore altogether devoid of perception who seek the sacred ministry from which they have fallen of their own accord. For how is it that they seek for that which they have left, when they are able in this season of persecution, that is, to be useful to their brethren? If indeed they had not fallen, of that which they had done contrary to reason, their spontaneous flight for instance, or their slackness in teaching and confirming the brethren, of these things indulgence would be extended to them. But if from their own arrogance and conceit they have lapsed,—for of such a nature is it rashly to venture to expose themselves to torture, and not to be able to endure it, and thus a triumph has been gained over them,—they cannot any longer execute their sacred office. Wherefore let them the rather take heed that they perfect their confession by humility, ceasing from the vainglory of seeking for the sacred ministry; for communion with the faithful is sufficient for them, which is granted for two reasons, with diligent caution, and just judgment. For if we say that we will not hold them to be communicants, we shall both afflict them with grief, giving our sentence as it were that they should depart this life with violence; and we shall cause others also, who may have lapsed, and wish to return to what is right, to be negligent and remiss in this respect, having as a pretext, that they will not be admitted to communicate with the faithful, even though after their fall they should confess the faith, who, if they are not converted, will undergo more shame and ignominy than others, even as he who laid the foundation, and did not finish the building. For such a one do those resemble, who, for Christ’s sake indeed, have offered themselves to be tormented, and having laid as it were a good foundation, have not been able to perfect that which is good by reason of their fall. Observe, then, that not even confession for Christ’s sake restores him who has once lapsed and thus become an alien from his clerical office.

Zonaras. The father having spoken of those who have of their own accord exposed themselves to the contest of martyrdom, now begins to discourse about those of the clergy who have done the same thing; and says that if any clergyman has of his own accord given himself up, and then, not being able to endure the violence of the torment, has fallen, and again recollecting himself has roused himself afresh to the contest, and has confessed himself a Christian before the tyrants, a man of this sort is not any longer to be admitted to the sacred ministry. And the reason of this he subjoins; because he has forsaken the Lord’s flock, and because having of his own accord offered himself to the enemy, and not having with constancy endured his torments, he has brought reproach upon himself. But that they should despise the instruction of the people, and prefer their own advantage, this did not the apostles. For the mighty Paul, though he had endured many torments, and felt that it was better for him to leave this life, preferred to live and to be tormented for the salvation and instruction of the people. Wherefore he demonstrates those to be altogether devoid of perception who ask for the sacred ministry from which they have voluntarily fallen. For how is it, says he, that they ask for that which they have left, when in a season of this sort, of raging persecution forsooth, they can be of great assistance to the brethren? As long as they were free from the charge of having lapsed, they would have obtained pardon for their action that was rashly undertaken, that, namely, of voluntarily offering themselves to the adversary, or their negligence in instructing the brethren. But since they have fallen, inasmuch as they have acted ostentatiously, they are not to be permitted any longer to discharge their sacred functions. If, says he, that they had not fallen they would have obtained pardon for their action which was devoid of reason; calling that action devoid of reason, not only because they gave themselves up to the enemy, but rather because they deserted the Lord’s flock, and did not remain to guard it, and to confirm the brethren who were harassed in this time of persecution. But if they have fallen, from the fact that they have carried themselves vauntingly, and he here calls pride and arrogance περπερεία, because it is from arrogance that they have put confidence in themselves, and have put an end to the contest, and have brought reproach upon themselves; that is, by reason of their fall, they have contracted a blemish and stain, it is not lawful for them any longer to be occupied in the sacred ministry. Wherefore let them study, says he, to perfect their confession by humility, ceasing forsooth from all vainglory. For in that they seek to be enrolled in the sacred ministry, this proceeds from ambition and self-seeking. For communion is sufficient for them, that the faithful should communicate with them, and pray with them, and that they should participate in the sacred mysteries. And this should be granted with diligent caution and care, both lest they should seem to be afflicted with grief, seizing on a dissolution of this life, lest, that is, as he says, being overcome with grief, they should depart and get free from the body, that is, go out from it, from the violence of the torment and afflictions which they undergo in the prison; and that none should have the pretext of their punishment for carrying themselves dissolutely and cowardly in the contest of confession, and thus fall away. Who will the rather be put to shame, according to the saying in the Gospel, “Who could not finish after that he had laid the foundation.”

Moreover, let those apply their minds to what is in this place brought forward by this great father and holy martyr, who say that it is lawful for bishops to give up their Sees, and to retain the dignity of the priesthood. For if to the clergy who voluntarily offered themselves to the contest of confession, and who, when tormented, failed in constancy and yielded, and afterwards returned to the contest, if to them indulgence is scarcely granted, because they deferred to execute their ministerial duties; nor, in the opinion of this divine father, is any thing else objected to them but that they deserted the brethren, when in adverse and turbulent times they might have been useful in confirming them in the faith, and that after that they had been counted worthy to bear testimony to the faith, and carried about in their flesh the marks of Christ; how shall that chief priest and the marks of Christ; how pastor, who ought to lay down his life for the sheep, when he has deserted the flock that was committed unto him, and repudiated its care and administration, and as far as in him lies given it over to the wolf, be thought worthy to retain the dignity of the sacred ministry, and not rather be judged worthy of the severest punishments for deserting the people entrusted to his care? Nay, but he will demand a reward for this thing, or rather he will himself supply it to himself: refusing that which brings labour to them, namely, the office of teaching and of correcting vice; but embracing that which gains for them honour and glory, making it their own, keeping hold of it with their teeth as it were, and not letting it go in the least. For if in the case of the clergy it be called an action contrary to reason to desert the people, and to go away from them to the contest in the cause of piety; how much more contrary to reason shall it be judged for a bishop to desert his people, not in order that he may contend in a contest, but that he may deliver himself up to ease and indolence, and lay aside and escape entirely from his cares for the salvation of souls? The sixteenth canon also of the Seventh Œcumenical Council gravely accuses those of folly who decree that the dignity of the sacred ministry can be retained by a bishop who has repudiated his bishopric. For if according to the sentence of the aforesaid canon, a bishop who has been absent from his See more than six months, unless some one of the causes there enumerated shall have intervened, has both fallen from the episcopate and the highest dignity of the priesthood, and is deprived of both; how shall he who has repudiated the episcopate, and refuses any longer to feed the flock entrusted to him, and despises the care of it through his desire of an easy life, be held to be of the number of bishops? For if he who has committed the lesser fault, of leaving for more than six months the people placed under him destitute of the care and administration of a pastor, incurs the privation of the episcopate and of his sacred dignity; he who offends in a way greater and much more grievous, namely, in deserting altogether the multitude which the grace of the Holy Spirit has committed to him to be cared for and guarded, shall deservedly be punished with greater severity, and will pay the heavier penalty of losing, as far as he is concerned, the flock of which he was appointed shepherd by the great and chief Shepherd and High Priest. But those who decree the dignity of the priesthood to him as a reward and honorarium for declining his office, in my opinion make both themselves and him obnoxious to the judgment of God.

canon xi.

For those who first, when the persecution waxed warm, leaped forth, standing around the judgment-seat, and beholding the holy martyrs who were hastening to the “prize of their high calling,” then, fired with a holy zeal, gave themselves up to this, using much boldness, and especially when they saw those who were drawn aside and lapsed, on their account they were roused mightily within, and, as it were by some inward voice, impelled to war down and subdue the adversary who was exulting; for this they earnestly contended, that he might not seem “to be wise in his own conceit,”4 on account of those things in which by reason of his subtlety they appeared to be inferior to him, even though it escaped his observation that he was overcome by those who with constancy endured the torments of the lash and scourge, and the sharp edge of the sword, the burning in the fire, and the immersion in the water. To those also who entreat that the prayers and supplications of faith should be made either in behalf of those who have been punished by imprisonment, and have been delivered up by hunger and thirst, or for those who out of prison have by the judges been tortured with whippings and scourgings, and afterwards have been overcome by the infirmity of the flesh, it is right to give our consent. For to sympathize with the sorrow and affliction of those who sorrow and mourn for those who in the contest have been overcome by the great strength of the evil-contriving devil, whether it be for parents, or brethren, or children, hurts no one. For we know that on account of the faith of others some have obtained the goodness of God, both in the remission of sins, and in the health of their bodies, and in the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, being mindful of the many labours and distresses which for the name of Christ they have sustained, since they have themselves also repented, and have bewailed that which was done by them through their being betrayed by the languor and mortification of the body; and since, besides this, they testify that in their life they have as it were been aliens from their city, let us pray together with them and entreat for their reconciliation, together with other things that are befitting, through Hint who is “our Advocate with the Father, and makes propitiation for our sins.” “And if any man sin,” says he, “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins.”

Balsamon. The saint having said before that those who of their own accord entered upon the contest and lapsed, and did not repent nor recant their error, would be covered with more shame, as being like men who did not go on with the building beyond the foundation, that is, did not perfect that which is good, now brings forward a confirmation of this and other matters, saying, Those who taking their stand in the fervour and vehemence of the persecution, seeing the holy martyrs, and with what divine zeal they contended to receive the celestial crown, gave themselves up to martyrdom with much boldness, and especially when they saw some drawn aside, that is, led astray and deluded by the devil, and lapsing or denying godliness; wherefore being inwardly inflamed, and with hearts enkindled, as hearing that they by this means should war down and subdue the proud adversary the devil, were eager to undergo martyrdom lest the devil should boast and seem “to be wise in his own conceit,” as having by his subtlety and malice overcome those who of their own accord sought martyrdom: even though it escaped him that he was rather overcome by those combatants who bravely withstood the torments. Therefore to the faithful who pray for those who are enduring punishment, and afflicted by it is right to assent or to concur in this, which is also decreed; and it can by no means be hurtful to sympathize in their sorrow and affliction with the parents or other relatives in behalf of those who have given their testimony and undergone martyrdom, but have lapsed by the arts and snares of the devil. For we know that many have obtained the goodness and compassion of God by the prayers of others. Therefore we will pray for them that remission of their sins be granted them by God; and with the others who have lapsed, and have afterwards recanted their error, and confessed godliness, we will communicate, being mindful of those contests which before their fall they sustained for God’s sake, and also of their subsequent worthy repentance, and that they testify that on account of their sin they have been as it were aliens from their city; and we will not only communicate with them, but pray also for their reconciliation, together with other things that are convenient, either with the good works which ought to be done by them—fasting, for instance, almsgiving, and penance; by which things He who is our Advocate makes the Father propitious towards us. Then he makes use of a passage of Holy Scripture, and this is taken from the first catholic epistle of the holy apostle and evangelist John.

Zonaras. The meaning of the present canon is as follows:—Those, he says, who set in the fervour of the persecution, that is, in its greatest height and most vehement heat, beheld the martyrdoms of the saints, and how eagerly they hastened to receive the celestial crown, fired with a holy emulation, gave themselves up to martyrdom, leaping as it were into the contest with much boldness, in imitation of the saints who suffered, and offered themselves readily for the confirming of the faith by their testimony; and on that account especially, because they beheld many who were drawn aside, that is, led astray, denying their faith. Whereupon they being inflamed, that is, fired in heart, endeavoured to subdue the adversary that was hostile to them, that he might not, as a victor, exult over the godly. Although it escaped him that he was rather conquered by them, many even unto death showing forth constancy for the faith. They hastened, therefore, says he, to do this, but overcome by the violence of their torments, by reason of the infirmity of the flesh, being some of them evil entreated in prison, and others punished by decree of the judges, and not being able to endure their punishment. It is meet, therefore, to sympathize with those who mourn for their sakes. Now they mourn, says he, some the lapse of parents, others of brethren, and others of children. To mourn, therefore, with those who bewail the lapsed, hurts no one; neither to join in prayer and grief with those who pray for themselves, together with other things that are reasonable, namely, that they who have lapsed may show forth other things that are consistent with penitence; such as are fasting and tears and other humiliations, and observe the punishment inflicted on them, and, if their means allow, bestow money upon the poor; by which means He who is the Advocate in our behalf will render the Father propitious to us. Then he brings forward a passage from Holy Scripture, which is taken from the first epistle of the holy apostle and evangelist John.

canon xii.

Against those who have given money that they might be entirely undisturbed by evil, an accusation cannot be brought. For they have sustained the loss and sacrifice of their goods that they might not hurt or destroy their soul, which others for the sake of filthy lucre have not done; and yet the Lord says, “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? ” and again, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”2 In these things, then, they have shown themselves the servants of God, inasmuch as they have hated, trodden under foot, and despised money, and have thus fulfilled what is written: “The ransom of a man’s life are his riches.” For we read also in the Acts of the Apostles that those who in the stead of Paul and Silas were dragged before the magistrates at Thessalonica, were dismissed with a heavy fine. For after that they had been very burdensome to them for his name, and had troubled the people and the rulers of the city, “having taken security,” he says, “of Jason, and of the others, they let them go. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea.”4

Balsamon. After that the saint had finished his discourse concerning those who of their own accord had offered themselves to martyrdom, he said that those were not to be reprehended who by a sum of money paid down freed themselves from the affliction of persecution. For they preferred to make a sacrifice of their money rather than of their souls. Then he confirms this, and brings forward different Scripture examples from the Acts of the Apostles concerning the blessed apostle Paul and others.

Zonaras. But those, he says, are not to be reprehended who have paid money down, and thus escaped, and maintained their piety, nor for this thing may any one bring an accusation against them. For they have preferred to lose their money rather than their souls, and have shown that they wish to serve God and not mammon; that is, riches. And he brings forward the words of Scripture, and the example, as in the Acts of the Apostles, of the blessed apostle Paul and others. Now, when it is said that they have been undisturbed by all evil? it is to be so taken, either that they have been left undisturbed, so far as the denial of the faith is concerned, which overcomes all evil, or he means6 the afflictions of persecutions.

canon xiii.

Hence neither is it lawful to accuse those who have left all, and have retired for the safety of their life, as if others had been held back by them. For at Ephesus also they seized Gaius and Aristarchus instead of Paul, and rushed to the theatre, these being Paul’s companions in travel, and he wishing himself to enter in unto the people, since it was by reason of his having persuaded them, and drawing away a great multitude to the worship of the true God, that the tumult arose. “The disciples suffered him not,” he says. “Nay, moreover, certain of the chief of Asia, who were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.” But if any persist in contending with them, let them apply their minds with sincerity to him who says, “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee.”8 Let them recall to their minds also how Peter, the chief of the apostles, “was thrown into prison, and delivered to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him;” of whom, when he had escaped by night, and had been preserved out of the hand of the Jews by the commandment of the angel of the Lord, it is said, “As soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death,”10 on account of whom no blame is attributed to Peter; for it was in their power, when they saw what was done, to escape, just as also all the infants in Bethlehem, and all the coast thereof, might have escaped, if their parents had known what was going to happen. These were put to death by the murderer Herod, in order to secure the death of one Infant whom he sought, which Infant itself also escaped at the commandment of the angel of the Lord, who now began quickly to spoil, and to hasten the prey, according to the name whereby he was called; as it is written, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz: for before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.”12 The Magi then as now having been despoiled and divided for a prey, humbly, and in the guise of suppliants, adore the Child, opening their treasures, and offering unto Him gifts most opportune and magnificent—gold, and frankincense, and myrrh—as to a king, to God, and to man; whence they were no longer willing to return to the Assyrian king, being forbidden to do so by Providence. For “being warned of God in a dream,” he says, “that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” Hence the bloodthirsty “Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth,” he says, “and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coast thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time that he had diligently inquired of the wise men.”14 Together with whom, having sought to kill another infant that had been previously born, and not being able to find him, he slew the child’s father Zacharias between the temple and the altar, the child having escaped with his mother Elisabeth. Whence these men that have withdrawn themselves are not at all to be blamed.

Balsamon. But if any, says he, have left their good and gone away, lest they should be detailed and brought into peril, as being those perhaps who might not be able to persist in their confession to the end, on account of the cruelty of their tormentors, they shall not be found fault with, even though others have been detained on their account. And he brings forward as all instance on this score Gaius and Aristarchus, who were detained instead of Paul; the soldiers who kept Peter; the infants who were massacred by Herod on account of Christ; and Zacharias, the father of the revered and blessed forerunner.

Zonaras. But if any, says he, have left their possessions, and have gone away, lest being detained they should be endangered, and because, perhaps, they would not be able to persist in their confession unto the cud on account of the cruelty of the tormentors, they are not to be accused, even if others are detailed and published on their account. And, again, he brings forward an example from the Acts of the Apostles, saying that at Ephesus also Gaius and Aristarchus were apprehended in the stead of Paul, and that Paul was not blamed for this; nor was Peter, when he was brought forth out of prison by an angel, and escaped the danger, and the soldiers who guarded him were on his account punished. Then he cites another example from the Gospel, namely, the infants who were put to death by Herod; on account of which, says he, our Lord was not blamed. And when Elisabeth had taken to flight with John, and had preserved him, his father Zacharias was put to death, the child being demanded of him; nor was this imputed as a crime to John.

canon xiv.

But if any have endured much violence and the strong pressure of necessity, receiving into their mouths iron and chains, and for their good affection towards the faith have bravely borne the burning of their hands that against their will had been put to the profane sacrifice, as from their prison the thrice-blessed martyrs have written to me respecting those in Libya, and others their fellow-ministers; such, on the testimony of the rest of their brethren, can be placed in the ministry amongst the confessors, as those who have been mortified by many torments, and were no longer able either to speak, or to give utterance, or to move, so as to resist those who vainly offered them violence. For they did not assent to their impiety; as I have again heard from their fellow-ministers, they will be reckoned amongst the confessors, as also he who hath after the example of Timothy ordered his life, obeying him who says, “Follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”

Balsamon. Those who by the violence of the tyrant seemed to eat meat that had been offered to idols, or to drink wine from the Greek libations,—for it happened sometimes that they were thrown upon the ground, and hooks or pieces of iron put into their mouths to keep them open, and then the tyrants poured wine down their throats, or threw into them pieces of meat; or putting hot coals into their hands, together with incense, they compelled them to sacrifice,—if they were clergymen, the canon decrees that they should each in his own degree be ranked amongst the confessors; but if laymen, that they should be reckoned as martyrs, because they did not these things of their own free-will, nor did they at all assent to the action. As also amongst the confessors are to be reckoned those who from the extremity of the tortures lost their strength of body, and were not able to resist those who poured into their mouths the wine of the libations. And next in order he speaks of those who give the testimony of a good conscience, and enumerates them amongst the confessors.

Zonaras. Those who chastised the blessed martyrs, after many torments, in the case of some violently poured into their mouths the wine of the libations, or even crammed into their mouths some of the meat that had been offered to idols, and putting incense into their hands, they dragged them to the altars, and then violently seizing on their hands, they either sprinkled the incense upon the altar, or placed hot coals together with the incense into their hands, that, not being able to bear the pain of the burning, they might drop the incense together with the coals upon the altar; for they were constrained by them. Men of this sort, he affirms, can remain enrolled in the sacred ministry, or rather be placed in the rank of confessors. For they did not by their own choice either taste the libations, or place the incense upon the altar, but being compelled by violence, their reason not consenting to the action; as also those who from the extremity of the suffering lost their bodily vigour, so as neither to be able to speak or move, nor to resist those who were violently pouring into their mouths the wine of libations, these also are to be placed amongst the confessors. And next in order he discourses of those who give the testimony of a good conscience, and places them also in the number of confessors.

canon xv.

No one shall find fault with us for observing the fourth day of the week, and the preparation, on which it is reasonably enjoined us to fast according to the tradition.3 On the fourth day, indeed, because on it the Jews took counsel for the betrayal of the Lord; and on the sixth, because on it He himself suffered for us. But the Lord’s day we celebrate as a day of joy, because on it He rose again, on which day we have received it for a custom not even to bow the knee.

Balsamon. Conformably to the sixty-fourth Apostolical canon, which decrees that we are not to fast on the Sabbath, with one exception, the great Sabbath; and to the sixty-ninth canon, which severely punishes those who do not fast in the Holy Lent, and on every fourth day of the week and day of preparation. Thus also does the present canon decree.

Zonaras. Always, says he, are the fourth and sixth days of every week to be kept as fasts; nor will any one find fault with us for fasting on them; and the reasons he subjoins. But on the Lord’s day we ought not to fast, for it is a day of joy for the resurrection of the Lord, and on it, says he, we have received that we ought not even to bow the knee. This word, therefore, “is to be carefully observed,” we have received,” and “it is enjoined upon us according to the tradition.” For from hence it is evident that long-established custom was taken for law. Moreover, the great Basil annexes also the causes for which it was forbidden to bend the knee on the Lord’s day, and from the Passover to Pentecost. Read also the sixty-sixth and sixty-ninth Apostolical canons.2


Here may be noted the historic fact that this terrible epoch of persecutions had driven many to the deserts, where they dwelt as hermits. It now introduced monasticism, in its earliest and least objectionable forms, into Egypt, whence it soon spread into the Church at large. For a favourable view of the character and life of St. Antony, see Neale’s history of this period; but, if he turns it into an indirect plea for the subsequent history of monasticism, we shall find in Canon Kingsley’s Hypatia a high-wrought testimony of an antagonistic character. Bingham, avoiding the entanglements of primitive with mediæval history, affords a just view of what may be said of the rise of this mighty institution, based upon two texts6 of Holy Scripture, proceeding from the Incarnate Word Himself, which impressed themselves on the fervid spirit of Antony. Who can wonder that fire and sword and ravening wolves predisposed men and women to avoid the domestic life, and the bringing of hapless families into existence as a prey to the remorseless cruelty of the empire? Far be it from me to forget what the world owes, directly and indirectly, to the nobler and purer orders,—what learning must ever acknowledge as its debt to the Benedictines of the West. But, on the other hand, after the melancholy episcopate of Cyril, we cannot but trace, in the history of Oriental monasticism, not only the causes of the decay of Alexandrian scholarship and influence, but of the ignominious fate of the Byzantine Empire, and of that paltry devotion to images which seemed to invoke the retributions of a “jealous god,” and which favoured the rise of an impostor who found in his “abhorrence of idols” an excuse for making himself the “Scourge of God.”


i.—letter to the church at alexandria.

Peter, to the brethren beloved and established in the faith of God, peace in the Lord. Since I have found out that Meletius acts in no way for the common good,—for neither is he contented with the letter of the most holy bishops and martyrs,—but, invading my parish, hath assumed so much to himself as to endeavour to separate from my authority the priests,3 and those who had been entrusted with visiting the needy; and, giving proof of his desire for pre-eminence, has ordained in the prison several unto himself; now, take ye heed to this, and hold no communion with him, until I meet him in company with some wise and discreet men, and see what the designs are which he has thought upon. Fare ye well.

ii.—on the godhead.

Since certainly “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” whence also by grace we are saved, according to that word of the apostle, “and that not of yourselves, nor of works, lest any man should boast;”7 by the will of God, “the Word was made flesh,” and “was found in fashion as a man.”9 But yet He was not left without His divinity. For neither “though He was rich did He become poor” that He might absolutely be separated from His power and glory, but that He might Himself endure death for us sinners, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, “being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit;” and afterwards other things. Whence the evangelist also asserts the truth when he says, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us;” then indeed, from the time when the angel had saluted the virgin, saying, “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee.” Now when Gabriel said, “The Lord is with thee,” he meant God the Word is with thee. For he shows that He was conceived in the womb, and was to become flesh; as it is written, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God;”11 and afterwards other things. Now God the Word, in the absence of a man, by the will of God, who easily effects everything, was made flesh in the womb of the virgin, not requiring the operation of the presence of a man. For more efficacious than a man was the power of God overshadowing the virgin, together with the Holy Ghost also who came upon her.

iii.—on the advent of our saviour.

And He said unto Judas, “Betrayest thou the Son of God with a kiss?” These things and the like, and all the signs which He showed, and His miracles, prove that He is God made man. Both things therefore are demonstrated, that He was God by nature, and that He was man by nature.

iv.—on the sojourning of christ with us.

Both therefore is proved, that he was God by nature, and was made man by nature.

v.—that up to the time of the destruction of jerusalem, the jews rightly appointed the fourteenth day of the first lunar month.


1. Since the mercy of God is everywhere great, let us bless Him, and also because He has sent unto us the Spirit of truth to guide us into all truth. For for this cause the month Abib was appointed by the law to be the beginning of months, and was made known unto us as the first among the months of the year; both by the ancient writers who lived before, and by the later who lived after the destruction of Jerusalem, it was shown to possess a most clear and evidently definite period, especially because in some places the reaping is early, and sometimes it is late, so as to be sometimes before the time and sometimes after it, as it happened in the very beginning of the giving of the law, before the Passover, according as it is written, “But the wheat and the rye were not smitten, for they were not grown up.” Whence it is rightly prescribed by the law, that from the vernal equinox, in whatsoever week the fourteenth day of the first month shall fall, in it the Passover is to be celebrated, becoming and conformable songs of praise having been first taken up for its celebration. For this first month, says he, “shall be unto you the beginning of months,”2 when the sun in the summer-time sends forth a far stronger and clearer light, and the days are lengthened and become longer, whilst the nights are contracted and shortened. Moreover, when the new seeds have sprung up, they are thoroughly purged, and borne into the threshing floor; nor only this, but also all the shrubs blossom, and burst forth into flower. Immediately therefore they are discovered to send forth in alternation various and diverse fruits, so that the grape-clusters are found at that time; as says the lawgiver, “Now, it was the time of spring, of the first ripe grapes; ” and when he sent the men to spy out the land, they brought, on bearers, a large cluster of grapes, and pomegranates also, and figs. For then, as they say, our eternal God also, the Maker and Creator of all things, framed all things, and said to them, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself upon the earth.” Then he adds, “And it was so; and God saw that it was good.”4 Moreover, he makes quite clear that the first month amongst the Hebrews was appointed by law, which we know to have been observed by the Jews up to the destruction of Jerusalem, because this has been so handed down by the Hebrew tradition. But after the destruction of the city it was mocked at by some hardening of heart, which we observing, according to the law, with sincerity have received; and in this, according to the Word, when he speaks of the day of our holy festivity, which the election hath attained: but the rest have become hardened, as said the Scripture; and after other things.

2. And He says as follows: “All these things will they do unto you for My name’s sake, because they know not Him that sent Me.” But if they knew not Him who sent, and Him who was sent, there is no reason to doubt but that they have been ignorant of the Passover as prescribed by the law, so as not merely to err in their choice of the place, but also in reckoning the beginning of the month, which is the first amongst the months of the year, on the fourteenth day of which, being accurately observed, after the equinox, the ancients celebrated the Passover according to the divine command; whereas the men of the present day now celebrate it before the equinox, and that altogether through negligence and error, being ignorant how they celebrated it in its season, as He confesses who in these things was described.

3. Whether therefore the Jews erroneously sometimes celebrate their Passover according to the course of the moon in the month Phamenoth, or according to the intercalary month, every third year in the month Pharmuthi, matters not to us. For we have no other object than to keep the remembrance of His Passion, and that at this very time; as those who were eye-witnesses of it have from the beginning handed down, before the Egyptians believed. For neither by observing the course of the moon do they necessarily celebrate it on the sixteenth day of Phamenoth, but once every three years in the month Pharmuthi; for from the beginning, and before the advent of Christ, they seem to have so done. Hence, when the Lord reproves them by the prophet, He says, “They do always err in their heart; and I have sworn in My wrath that they shall not enter into My rest.”8

4. Wherefore, as thou seest, even in this thou appearest to be lying greatly, not only against men, but also against God. First, indeed, since in this matter the Jews never erred, as consorting with those who were eye-witnesses and ministers, much less from the beginning before the advent of Christ. For God does not say that they did always err in their heart as regards the precept of the law concerning the Passover, as thou hast written, but on account of all their other disobedience, and on account of their evil and unseemly deeds, when, indeed, He perceived them turning to idolatry and to fornication.

5. And after a few things. So that also in this respect, since thou hast slumbered, rouse thyself much, and very much, with the scourge of the Preacher, being mindful especially of that passage where he speaks of “slipping on the pavement, and with the tongue.” For, as thou seest again, the charge cast by thee upon their leaders is reflected back; nay, and one may suspect a great subsequent danger, inasmuch as we hear that the stone which a man casts up on high falls back upon his head. Much more reckless is he who, in this respect, ventures to bring a charge against Moses, that mighty, servant of God, or Joshua, the son of Nun, who succeeded him, or those who in succession rightly followed them and ruled; the judges, I mean, and the kings who appeared, or the prophets whom the Holy Spirit inspired, and those who amongst the high-priests were blameless, and those who, in following the traditions, changed nothing, but agreed as to the observance of the Passover in its season, as also of the rest of their feasts.

6. And after other things. But thou oughtest rather to have pursued a safer and more auspicious course, and not to have written rashly and slanderously, that they seem from the beginning, and always, to have been in error about the Passover, which you cannot prove, whatever charge you may wish to bring against those who, at the present time, have erred with a grievous wandering, having fallen away from the commandment of the law concerning the Passover and other things. For the ancients seem to have kept it after the vernal equinox, which you can discover if you read ancient books, and those especially which were written by the learned Hebrews.

7. That therefore up to the period of the Lord’s Passion, and at the time of the last destruction of Jerusalem, which happened under Vespasian, the Roman emperor, the people of Israel, rightly observing the fourteenth day of the first lunar month, celebrated on it the Passover of the law, has been briefly demonstrated. Therefore, when the holy prophets, and all, as I have said, who righteously and justly walked in the law of the Lord, together with the entire people, celebrated a typical and shadowy Passover, the Creator and Lord of every visible and invisible creature, the only-begotten Son, and the Word co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and of the same substance with them, according to His divine nature, our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, being in the end of the world born according to the flesh of our holy and glorious lady, Mother of God, and Ever-Virgin, and, of a truth, of Mary the Mother of God; and being seen upon earth, and having true and real converse as man with men, who were of the same substance with Him, according to His human nature, Himself also, with the people, in the years before His public ministry and during His public ministry, did celebrate the legal and shadowy Passover, eating the typical lamb. For “I came not to destroy the law, or the prophets, but to fulfil them,” the Saviour Himself said in the Gospel.

But after His public ministry He did not eat of the lamb, but Himself suffered as the true Lamb in the Paschal feast, as John, the divine and evangelist, teaches us in the Gospel written by him, where he thus speaks: “Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defited, but that they might eat the passover.”2 And after a few things more. “When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment-seat, in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the third hour,” as the correct books render it, and the copy itself that was written by the hand of the evangelist, which, by the divine grace, has been preserved in the most holy church of Ephesus, and is there adored by the faithful. And again the same evangelist says: “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath-day (for that Sabbath-day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”4 On that day, therefore, on which the Jews were about to eat the Passover in the evening, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was crucified, being made the victim to those who were about to partake by faith of the mystery concerning Him, according to what is written by the blessed Paul: “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us;” and not as some who, carried along by ignorance, confidently affirm that after He had eaten the Passover, He was betrayed; which we neither learn from the holy evangelists, nor has any of the blessed apostles handed it down to us. At the time, therefore, in which our Lord and God Jesus Christ suffered for us, according to the flesh, He did not eat of the legal Passover; but, as I have said, He Himself, as the true Lamb, was sacrificed for us in the feast of the typical Passover, on the day of the preparation, the fourteenth of the first lunar month. The typical Passover, therefore, then ceased, the true Passover being present: “For Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us,” as has been before said, and as that chosen vessel, the apostle Paul, teaches.6


Now it was the preparation, about the third hour, as the accurate books have it, and the autograph copy itself of the Evangelist John, which up to this day has by divine grace been preserved in the most holy church of Ephesus, and is there adored by the faithful.

vi.—of the soul and body.

The things which pertain to the divinity and humanity of the Second Man from heaven, in what has been written above, according to the blessed apostle, we have explained; and now we have thought it necessary to explain the things which pertain to the first man, who is of earth and earthy, being about, namely, to demonstrate this, that he was created at the same time one and the same, although sometimes he is separately designated as the man external and internal. For if, according to the Word of salvation, He who made what is without, made also that which is within, He certainly, by one operation, and at the same time, made both, on that day, indeed, on which God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; ” whence it is manifest that man was not formed by a conjunction of the body with a certain pre-existent type. For if the earth, at the bidding of the Creator, brought forth the other animals endowed with life, much rather did the dust which God took from the earth receive a vital energy from the will and operation of God.


Wretch that I am! I have not remembered that God observes the mind, and hears the voice of the soul. I turned consciously to sin, saying to myself, God is merciful, and will bear with me; and when I was not instantly smitten, I ceased not, but rather despised His forbearance, and exhausted the long-suffering of God.

viii.—on st. matthew.

And in the Gospel according to Matthew, the Lord said to him who betrayed Him: “Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss? “which Peter the Martyr and Archbishop of Alexandria expounding, says, this and other things like, “All the signs which He showed, and the miracles that He did, testify of Him that He is God incarnate; both things therefore are together proved, that He was God by nature, and was made man by nature.”

ix.—from a sermon.

In the meanwhile the evangelist says with firmness, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” From this we learn that the angel, when he saluted the Virgin with the words, “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee,”9 intended to signify God the Word is with thee, and also to show that He would arise from her bosom, and would be made flesh, even as it is written, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”




(Meletian schism, p. 259.)

The date of the Meletian schism is very much in need of elucidation. I follow Neale, however, as follows: Athanasius places its origin a.d. 306 (according to Tillemont and Baronius) or a.d. 301; the latter more probable, as demonstrated by the Benedictine editors. But the dates are, perhaps, the least of the difficulties which encumber the whole matter. Somewhat distrustfully I have, after several efforts to construct an original elucidation, adopted the theory of Neale, as a diligent and conscientious inquirer whose Oriental studies qualify him to utter almost a decisive voice, albeit he never forgets his Occidentalism, and hence fails to speak with absolute fidelity to the spirit of Catholic antiquity.

We know something of Lycopolis from the blessed Alexander; it seems to have been a sort of centre to the bishoprics of the Thebais. It was just the sort of centre, in a region sufficient for a separate patriarchate, to suggest to an ambitious and unscrupulous prelate an effort at independency. Meletius, who succeeded the good Alexander, was just the man to set up for himself; a man not unlikely to be stimulated by the bad example of Paul of Samosata, and by the ingenuity that triumphed over the first council that called Paul to account. Bearing all this in mind, we may accept Neale’s conviction that Meletius had long been a scandal to the churches, and in the time of persecution had lapsed, and sacrificed to idols. Peter summoned him to a council, by which he was convicted and degraded; whereupon he not only refused to submit, but arrogated to himself the cathedra of Alexandria, and began to ordain other bishops, and, in short, to re-organize its jurisdiction. Owing, I think probable, to the exceptional and overgrown extent of this enormous “patriarchate,” as it was called a little later, the schism gained a considerable following. The distance of Lycopolis from Lower Egypt must have favoured the attempt, and Peter’s recent accession made it easy for Meletius to circulate evil stories against him. The schism, as usual, soon developed into heresy, which even the Nicene Synod failed to extinguish. Arius had joined the first outbreak, but conformed for a time, and was ordained a deacon by Achillas. His troublesome spirit, however, soon showed itself again after his ordination to the priesthood; and the remnant of the Meletians made common cause with him after his condemnation at Nicæa. Of Peter’s legitimate exercise of authority, and of the impurity and wickedness of Meletius before his invasion of Alexandria, there is no reason to doubt; but for the details, recourse must be had to Neale.2 The famous Sixth Canon of Nice finds its explanation in this rebellion; but, incidentally, it defines the position of other great centres, which now began to be known as patriarchates. Neale’s remarks on the excessive leniency of the council in settling the case of Meletius, are specially to be noted.


(Canonical Epistle, p. 279.)

The judgment of Dupin is so exceptionally eulogistic touching these canons, that I quote it, as follows: —

“Of all the canons of antiquity concerning the discipline of the lapsed, there are none more judicious or more equitable than those we have now described. There appear in them a wisdom and prudence altogether singular in tempering the rigours of punishment by a reasonable moderation, without which justice would be weakened. He examines carefully all the circumstances which might augment or diminish the quality of the crime; and as he does not lengthen out penance by methods too severe, so neither does he deceive the sinner by a facility too remiss.”

Like the famous Canonical Epistles of St. Basil, however, these are compilations of canons accepted by the churches of his jurisdiction. Dupin says of those of Basil (To Amphilochius), “They are not to be considered as the particular opinions of St. Basil, but as the laws of the Church in his time; and therefore they are not written in the form of personal letters, but after the manner of synodical decisions.”

The Roman Emperors.

In the study of these volumes a table is useful, such as I find it convenient to place here, showing the Ante-Nicene succession of Cæsars.

    1.    Augustus    1

    2.    Tiberius    14

    3.    Caligula    37

    4.    Claudius    41

    5.    Nero    54

    6.    Galba    68

    7.    Otho    69

    8.    Vitellius    69

    9.    Vespasian    69

    10.    Titus    79

    11.    Domitian    81

    12.    Nerva    96

    13.    Trajan    98

    14.    Hadrian    117

    15.    Antoninus Pius    138

    16.    Marcus Aurelius    161

    17.    Commodus    180

    18.    Pertinax    192

    19.    Didius Julianus (Niger)    193

    20.    Septimius Severus    193

    21.    Caracalla (Geta)    211

    22.    Macrinus    217

    23.    Heliogabalus    218

    24.    Alexander Severus    222

    25.    Maximinus    235

    26.    Gordian    235

    27.    Pupienus (Balbinus)    235

    28.    Gordian the Younger    238

    29.    Philip    244

    30.    Decius    249

    31.    Gallus (Volusianus)    251

    32.    Valerian    254

    33.    Gallienus    260

    34.    Claudius II    268

    35.    Aurelian    270

    36.    Tacitus (Probus)    275

    37.    Florian    276

    38.    Carus (Carinus, Numerian)    282

    39.    Diocletian    284

    40.    Maximian (Galerius)    286

    41.    Constantius Chlorus    292

    42.    Maximin    306

    43.    Constantine the Great (Licinius, etc.)    307

Suetonius includes Julius, and therefore his Twelve Cæsars end with Domitian, the last of the Flavian family. With Nerva the “five good emperors” (so called) begin, but the “good Aurelius” was a persecutor. St. John, surviving the cruelty of Domitian, lived and died under Trajan.

The “vision of Constantine” is dated, at Trèves, a.d. 312.

The Labarum became the Roman standard thenceforth.

The Dominical ordinance dates from Milan, June 2, a.d. 321.

He founds the city of Constantinople a.d. 324, convokes the Council of Nicæa a.d. 325.


[translated by the rev. james b. h. hawkins, m.a.]

Introductory Notice


Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria.

[a.d. 273 –313–326.] The records of the Ante-Nicene period, so far as Alexandria is concerned, are complete in this great primate, the friend and patron of Athanasius, and, with him, the master-spirit of the great Council of Nicæa. I have so arranged the “Fragments” of the Edinburgh series in this volume as to make them a great and important integer in rounding out and fulfilling the portraiture of the school and the See of Alexandria. The student will thus have at hand the materials for a covetable survey of the Alexandrian Fathers,—their history, their influence, and their immense authority in early Christendom. In an elucidation2 I venture to condense my thoughts upon some points which it has been the interest of unbelievers to misrepresent, and to colour for their own purposes. But, as the limitations of my editorial duty do not allow me to enter upon a dissertation, I am thankful to refer the reader to the truly valuable though by no means exhaustive work of Dr. Neale on The Patriarchate of Alexandria. His statements are not, indeed, to be received with unreserving confidence; for, in spite of his pure and lofty purposes, his mind had been formed under the strong bias of a transient fashion in divinity, and he always surveyed his subject from an Occidental if not from a Latin (I do not mean a strictly Roman) point of view. To other popular historians I need not refer the student, save, by anticipation, to the list of authorities which will be furnished in the concluding volume of this series.

Let us reflect, then, upon the epoch to which we have now come. The intense sufferings, labours, and intellectual as well as moral struggles, of the three heroic centuries, are closing, and Alexander of Alexandria is the grand figure of the period. Diocletian is preparing to let loose upon the sheep of Christ the ferocious wolves of the tenth persecution. Lucian is founding the school of Antioch, revising the New Testament, and, in fact, the whole Bible of the Fathers, for his labours included the version of the Seventy. Unhappily, the ambitious Arius, who calls him master, has begun to trouble the evangelical See of St. Mark; and Achillas, notwithstanding the warnings of Peter, has laid hands upon him, and made him a presbyter. He aspires to be made a bishop. But anon a boy is playing on the shore at Alexandria in whom a flaming genius for the priesthood already manifests itself. Alexander, looking forth from his windows, sees him “playing church” with his schoolmates, and actually dipping a young pagan in the sea, “in the name of the Father,” etc. No doubt something of the kind did occur, and thus was the boy Athanasius brought to the notice of his bishop. But even Dupin rejects the rest of the story, that Alexander decided the question of the boy-baptism in favour of its validity, as the Latins would have us believe. Anyhow, we have this miracle of precocity attending Alexander as his deacon at the Council of Nicæa, and then soon after succeeding to his episcopal chair. Athanasius is the grandest figure of the primitive ages after the apostles fell asleep. Raised up to complete their testimony to the eternal Logos, and to suffer like them, we soon behold him the noble example of constancy against the new perils of the world’s favour and the patronage of the Caesars. “Athanasius against the world” was in two senses his great encomium, and the epitome of his glorious life and warfare. Not less was it “Athanasius for the world.” Alas! the majestic school of Pantaenus and Clement soon after comes to its enigmatical decline. Some plants, when they have borne their superlative flower and fruit, mysteriously decay. It was so, alas! with the great Christian academy that not improbably owes its beginnings to Apollos.


Alexander was appointed successor to Achillas, as Bishop of Alexandria, about A.D. 312. The virtues of this prelate, which Eusebius has passed over entirely without mention, other ecclesiastical writers have greatly extolled. For on all sides he is styled “the staunchest upholder of evangelical doctrine,” “the patron and protector of apostolic doctrine;” and “that bishop of divine faith, full of wisdom and of zeal enkindled by the Holy Spirit.” He was the first to detect and to condemn Arius; and taking his stand upon passages of Holy Scripture, as Theodoret remarks,3 he taught that the Son of God was of one and the same majesty with the Father, and had the same substance with the Father who begat Him.

At first he sought to bring back Arius from his heresy. But when he perceived that he openly and obstinately taught his false doctrines, he assembled a first and then a second synod of the bishops of Egypt, and degraded him from the order of the priesthood, and cut him off from the communion of the Church. This proving ineffectual, the Council of Nicæa was convened, in which he was finally condemned. In combating the Arian heresy, Alexander endured, although at a great age, many trials, and died shortly after the holding of the council.

Epistles on the Arian Heresy


the Deposition of Arius.

i.—to alexander, bishop of the city of constantinople.

To the most reverend and like-minded brother, Alexander, Alexander sends greeting in the Lord:

1. The ambitious and avaricious will of wicked men is always wont to lay snares against those churches which seem greater, by various pretexts attacking the ecclesiastical piety of such. For incited by the devil who works in them, to the lust of that which is set before them, and throwing away all religious scruples, they trample under foot the fear of the judgment of God. Concerning which things, I who suffer, have thought it necessary to show to your piety, in order that you may be aware of such men, lest any of them presume to set foot in your dioceses, whether by themselves or by others; for these sorcerers know how to use hypocrisy to carry out their fraud; and to employ letters composed and dressed out with lies, which are able to deceive a man who is intent upon a simple and sincere faith. Arius, therefore, and Achilles, having lately entered into a conspiracy, emulating the ambition of Colluthus, have turned out far worse than he. For Colluthus, indeed, who reprehends these very men, found some pretext for his evil purpose; but these, beholding his3 bartering of Christ, endured no longer to be subject to the Church; but building for themselves dens of thieves, they hold their assemblies in them unceasingly, night and day directing their calumnies against Christ and against us. For since they call in question all pious and apostolical doctrine, after the manner of the Jews, they have constructed a workshop for contending against Christ, denying the Godhead of our Saviour, and preaching that He is only the equal of all others. And having collected all the passages which speak of His plan of salvation and His humiliation for our sakes, they endeavour from these to collect the preaching of their impiety, ignoring altogether the passages in which His eternal Godhead and unutterable glory with the Father is set forth. Since, therefore, they back up the impious opinion concerning Christ, which is held by the Jews and Greeks, in every possible way they strive to gain their approval; busying themselves about all those things which they are wont to deride in us, and daily stirring up against us seditions and persecutions. And now, indeed, they drag us before the tribunals of the judges, by intercourse with silly and disorderly women, whom they have led into error; at another time they cast opprobrium and infamy upon the Christian religion, their young maidens disgracefully wandering about every village and street. Nay, even Christ’s indivisible tunic, which His executioners were unwilling to divide, these wretches have dared to rend.

2. And we, indeed, though we discovered rather late, on account of their concealment, their manner of life, and their unholy attempts, by the common suffrage of all have cast them forth from the congregation of the Church which adores the Godhead of Christ. But they, running hither and thither against us, have begun to betake themselves to our colleagues who are of the same mind with us; in appearance, indeed, pretending to seek for peace and concord, but in reality seeking to draw over some of them by fair words to their own diseases, asking long wordy letters from them, in order that reading these to the men whom they have deceived, they may make them impenitent in the errors into which they have fallen, and obdurate in impiety, as if they had bishops thinking the same thing and siding with them. Moreover, the things which amongst us they have wrongly taught and done, and on account of which they have been expelled by us, they do not at all confess to them, but they either pass them over in silence, or throwing a veil over them, by feigned words and writings they deceive them. Concealing, therefore, their pestilent doctrine by their specious and flattering discourse, they circumvent the more simple-minded and such as are open to fraud, nor do they spare in the meanwhile to traduce our piety to all. Hence it comes to pass that some, subscribing their letters, receive them into the Church, although in my opinion the greatest guilt lies upon those ministers who venture to do this; because not only does the apostolic rule not allow of it, but the working of the devil in these men against Christ is by this means more strongly kindled. Wherefore without delay, brethren beloved, I have stirred myself up to show you the faithlessness of these men who say that there was a time when the Son of God was not; and that He who was not before, came into existence afterwards, becoming such, when at length He was made, even as every man is wont to be born. For, they say, God made all things from things which are not, comprehending even the Son of God in the creation of all things, rational and irrational. To which things they add as a consequence, that He is of mutable nature, and capable both of virtue and vice. And this hypothesis being once assumed, that He is “from things which are not,” they overturn the sacred writings concerning His eternity, which signify the immutability and the Godhead of Wisdom and the Word, which are Christ.

3. We, therefore, say these wicked men, can also be the sons of God even as He. For it is written, “I have nourished and brought up children.” But when what follows was objected to them, “and they have rebelled against me,” which indeed is not applicable to the nature of the Saviour, who is of an immutable nature; they, throwing off all religious reverence, say that God, since He foreknew and had foreseen that His Son would not rebel against Him, chose Him from all. For He did not choose Him as having by nature anything specially beyond His other sons, for no one is by nature a son of God, as they say; neither as having any peculiar property of His own; but God chose Him who was of a mutable nature, on account of the carefulness of His manners and His practice, which in no way turned to that which is evil; so that, if Paul and Peter had striven for this, there would have been no difference between their sonship and His. And to confirm this insane doctrine, playing with Holy Scripture, they bring forward what is said in the Psalms respecting Christ: “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, Thy God, bath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.”2

4. But that the Son of God was not made “from things which are not,” and that there was no “time when He was not,” the evangelist John sufficiently shows, when he thus writes concerning Him: “The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father.”4 For since that divine teacher intended to show that the Father and the Son are two things inseparable the one from the other, he spoke of Him as being in the bosom of the Father. Now that also the Word of God is not comprehended in the number of things that were created “from things which are not,” the same John says, “All things were made by Him.” For he set forth His proper personality, saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” For if all things were made by Him, how comes it that He who gave to the things which are made their existence, at one time Himself was not. For the Word which makes is not to be defined as being of the same nature with the things which are made; since He indeed was in the beginning, and all things were made by Him, and fashioned “from things which are not.” Moreover, that which is seems to be contrary to and far removed froth those things which are made “from things which are not.” For that indeed shows that there is no interval between the Father and the Son, since not even in thought can the mind imagine any distance between them. But that the world was created “from things which are not,” indicates a more recent a and later origin of substance, since the universe receives an essence of this sort from the Father by the Son. When, therefore, the most pious John contemplated the essence of the divine Word at a very great distance, and as placed beyond all conception of those things that are begotten, he thought it not meet to speak of His generation and creation; not daring to designate the Creator in the same terms as the things that are made. Not that the Word is unbegotten, for the Father alone is unbegotten, but because the inexplicable subsistence of the only-begotten Son transcends the acute comprehension of the evangelists, and perhaps also of angels.

5. Wherefore I do not think that he is to be reckoned amongst the pious who presumes to inquire into anything beyond these things, not listening to this saying: “Seek not out the things that are too hard for thee, neither search the things that are above thy strength.” For if the knowledge of many other things that are incomparably inferior to this, are hidden from human comprehension, such as in the apostle Paul, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”2 As also God said to Abraham, that “he could not number the stars;” and that passage, “Who can number the sand of the sea, and the drops of rain”4 How shall any one be able to investigate too curiously the subsistence of the divine Word, unless he be smitten with frenzy? Concerning which the Spirit of prophecy says, “Who shall declare his generation?” And our Saviour Himself, who blesses the pillars of all things in the world, sought to unburden them of the knowledge of these things, saying that to comprehend this was quite beyond their nature, and that to the Father alone belonged the knowledge of this most divine mystery. “For no man,” says He, “knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son.”6 Of this thing also I think that the Father spoke, in the words, “My secret is to Me and Mine.”

6. Now that it is an insane thing to think that the Son was made from things which are not, and was in being in time, the expression, “from things which are not,” itself shows, although these stupid men understand not the insanity of their own words. For the expression, “was not,” ought either to be reckoned in time, or in some place of an age. But if it be true that “all things were made by Him,” it is established that both every age and time and all space, and that “when” in which the “was not” is found, was made by Him. And is it not absurd that He who fashioned the times and the ages and the seasons, in which that “was not” is mixed up, to say of Him, that He at some time was not? For it is devoid of sense, and a mark of great ignorance, to affirm that He who is the cause of everything is posterior to the origin of that thing. For according to them, the space of time in which they say that the Son had not yet been made by the Father, preceded the wisdom of God that fashioned all things, and the Scripture speaks falsely according to them, which calls Him “the First-born of every creature.” Conformable to which, that which the majestically-speaking Paul says of Him: “Whom He hath appointed heir of all things. By whom also He made the worlds. But by Him also were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him, and for Him; and He is before all things.”

7. Wherefore, since it appears that this hypothesis of a creation from things which are not is most impious, it is necessary to say that the Father is always the Father. But He is the Father, since the Son is always with Him, on account of whom He is called the Father. Wherefore, since the Son is always with Him, the Father is always perfect, being destitute of nothing as regards good; who, not in time, nor after an interval, nor from things which are not, hath begotten His only-begotten Son. How, then, is it not impious to say, that the wisdom of God once was not, which speaks thus concerning itself: “I was with Him forming all things; I was His delight;” or that the power of God once did not exist; or that His Word was at any time mutilated; or that other things were ever wanting from which the Son is known and the Father expressed? For he who denies that the brightness of the glory existed, takes away also the primitive light of which it s the brightness. And if the image of God was not always, it is clear also that He was not always, of which it is the image. Moreover, in saying that the character of the subsistence of God was not, He also is done away with who is perfectly expressed by it. Hence one may see that the Sonship of our Saviour has nothing at all in common with the sonship of the rest. For just as it has been shown that His inexplicable subsistence excels by an incomparable excellence all other things to which He has given existence, so also His Sonship, which is according to the nature of the Godhead of the Father, transcends, by an ineffable excellence, the sonship of those who have been adopted by Him. For He, indeed, is of an immutable nature, every way perfect, and wanting in nothing; but these, since they are either way subject to change, stand in need of help from Him. For what progress can the wisdom of God make? What increase can the truth itself and God the Word receive? In what respect can the life and the true light be made better? And if this be so, how much more unnatural is it that wisdom should ever be capable of folly; that the power of God should be con-joined with infirmity; that reason should be obscured by unreason; or that darkness should be mixed up with the true light? And the apostle says, on this place, “What communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial?” And Solomon says, that it is not possible that it should come to pass that a man should comprehend with his understanding “the way of a serpent upon a rock,” which is Christ, according to the opinion of Paul. But men and angels, who are His creatures, have received His blessing that they might make progress, exercising themselves in virtues and in the commandments of the law, so as not to sin. Wherefore our Lord, since He is by nature the Son of the Father, is by all adored. But these, laying aside the spirit of bondage, when by brave deeds and by progress they have received the spirit of adoption, being blessed by Him who is the Son by nature, are made sons by adoption.

8. And His proper and peculiar, natural and excellent Sonship, St. Paul has declared, who thus speaks of God: “Who spared not His own Son, but for us,” who were not His natural sons, “delivered Him up.” For to distinguish Him from those who are not properly sons, He said that He was His own Son. And in the Gospel we read: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”3 Moreover, in the Psalms the Saviour says: “The Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art my Son.” Where, showing that He is the true and genuine Son, He signifies that there are no other genuine sons besides Himself. And what, too, is the meaning of this: “From the womb before the morning I begat thee”?5 Does He not plainly indicate the natural sonship of paternal bringing forth, which he obtained not by the careful framing of His manners, not by the exercise of and increase in virtue, but by property of nature? Wherefore, the only-begotten Son of the Father, indeed, possesses an indefectible Sonship; but the adoption of rational sons belongs not to them by nature, but is prepared for them by the probity of their life, and by the free gift of God. And it is mutable as the Scripture recognises: “For when the sons of God saw the daughters of men, they took them wives,” etc. And in another place: “I have nourished and brought up children, but they have rebelled against Me,”7 as we find God speaking by the prophet Isaiah.

9. And though I could say much more, brethren beloved, I purposely omit to do so, as deeming it to be burdensome at great length to call these things to the remembrance of teachers who are of the same mind with myself. For ye yourselves are taught of God, nor are ye ignorant that this doctrine, which hath lately raised its head against the piety of the Church, is that of Ebion and Artemas; nor is it aught else but an imitation of Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, who, by the judgment and counsel of all the bishops, and in every place, was separated from the Church. To whom Lucian succeeding, remained for many years separate from the communion of three bishops.9 And now lately having drained the dregs of their impiety, there have arisen amongst us those who teach this doctrine of a creation from things which are not, their hidden sprouts, Arius and Achilles, and the gathering of those who join in their wickedness. And three bishops in Syria, having been, in some manner, consecrated on account of their agreement with them, incite them to worse things. But let the judgment concerning these be reserved for your trial. For they, retaining in their memory the words which came to be used with respect to His saving Passion, and abasement, and examination, and what they call His poverty, and in short of all those things to which the Saviour submitted for our sakes, bring them forward to refute His supreme and eternal Godhead. But of those words which signify His natural glory and nobility, and abiding with the Father, they have become unmindful. Such as this: “I and My Father are one,”11 which indeed the Lord says, not as proclaiming Himself to be the Father, nor to demonstrate that two persons are one; but that the Son of the Father most exactly preserves the expressed likeness of the Father, inasmuch as He has by nature impressed upon Him His similitude in every respect, and is the image of the Father in no way discrepant, and the expressed figure of the primitive exemplar. Whence, also, to Philip, who then was desirous to see Him, the Lord shows this abundantly. For when he said, “Show us the Father,” He answered: “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father,” since the Father was Himself seen through the spotless and living mirror of the divine image. Similar to which is what the saints say in the Psalms: “In Thy light shall we see light.”13 Wherefore he that honoureth the Son, honoureth the Father also;” and with reason, for every impious word which they dare to speak against the Son, has reference to the Father.

10. But after these things, brethren beloved, what is there wonderful in that which I am about to write, if I shall set forth the false calumnies against me and our most pious laity? For those who have set themselves in array against the Godhead of Christ, do not scruple to utter their ungrateful ravings against us. Who will not either that any of the ancients should be compared with them, or suffer that any of those whom, from our earliest years, we have used as instructors should be placed on a level with them. Nay, and they do not think that any of all those who are now our colleagues, has attained even to a moderate amount of wisdom; boasting themselves to be the only men who are wise and divested of worldly possessions, the sole discoverers of dogmas, and that to them alone are those things revealed which have never before come into the mind of any other under the sun. Oh, the impious arrogance! Oh, the immeasurable madness! Oh, the vainglory befitting those that are crazed! Oh, the pride of Satan which has taken root in their unholy souls. The religious perspicuity of the ancient Scriptures caused them no shame, nor did the consentient doctrine of our colleagues concerning Christ keep in check their audacity against Him. Their impiety not even the demons will bear, who are ever on the watch for a blasphemous word uttered against the Son.

11. And let these things be now urged according to our power against those who, with respect to matter which they know nothing of, have, as it were, rolled in the dust against Christ, and have taken in hand to calumniate our piety towards Him. For those inventors of stupid fables say, that we who turn away with aversion from the impious and unscriptural blasphemy against Christ, of those who speak of His coming from the things which are not assert, that there are two unbegottens. For they ignorantly affirm that one of two things must necessarily be said, either that He is from things which are not, or that there are two unbegottens; nor do those ignorant men know how great is the difference between the unbegotten Father, and the things which were by Him created from things which are not, as well the rational as the irrational. Between which two, as holding the middle place, the only begotten nature of God, the Word by which the Father formed all things out of nothing, was begotten of the true Father Himself. As in a certain place the Lord Himself testified, saying, “Every one that loveth Him that begat, loveth Him also that is begotten of Him.”

12. Concerning whom we thus believe, even as the Apostolic Church believes. In one Father unbegotten, who has from no one the cause of His being, who is unchangeable and immutable, who is always the same, and admits of no increase or diminution; who gave to us the Law, the prophets, and the Gospels; who is Lord of the patriarchs and apostles, and all the saints. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; not begotten of things which are not, but of Him who is the Father; not in a corporeal manner, by excision or division as Sabellius and Valentinus thought, but in a certain inexplicable and unspeakable manner, according to the words of the prophet cited above: “Who shall declare His generation?” Since that His subsistence no nature which is begotten can investigate, even as the Father can be investigated by none; because that the nature of rational beings cannot receive the knowledge of His divine generation by the Father. But men who are moved by the Spirit of truth, have no need to learn these things from me, for in our ears are sounding the words before uttered by Christ on this very thing, “No man knoweth the Father, save the Son; and no man knoweth who the Son is, save the Father.”3 That He is equally with the Father unchangeable and immutable, wanting in nothing, and the perfect Son, and like to the Father, we have learnt; in this alone is He inferior to the Father, that He is not unbegotten. For He is the very exact image of the Father, and in nothing differing from Him. For it is clear that He is the image fully containing all things by which the greatest similitude is declared, as the Lord Himself hath taught us, when He says, “My Father is greater than I.” And according to this we believe that the Son is of the Father, always existing. “For He is the brightness of His glory, the express image of His Father’s person.” But let no one take that word always so as to raise suspicion that He is unbegotten, as they imagine who have their senses blinded. For neither are the words, “He was,” or “always,” or “before all worlds,” equivalent to unbegotten. But neither can the human mind employ any other word to signify unbegotten. And thus I think that you understand it, and I trust to your right purpose in all things, since these words do not at all signify unbegotten. For these words seem to denote simply a lengthening out of time, but the Godhead, and as it were the antiquity of the only-begotten, they cannot worthily signify; but they have been employed by holy men, whilst each, according to his capacity, seeks to express this mystery, asking indulgence from the hearers, and pleading a reasonable excuse, in saying, Thus far have we attained. But if there be any who are expecting from mortal lips some word which exceeds human capacity, saying that those things have been done away which are known in part, it is manifest that the words,” He was,” and “always,” and “before all ages,” come far short of what they hoped. And whatever word shall be employed is not equivalent to unbegotten. Therefore to the unbegotten Father, indeed, we ought to preserve His proper dignity, in confessing that no one is the cause of His being; but to the Son must be allotted His fitting honour, in assigning to Him, as we have said, a generation from the Father without beginning, and allotting adoration to Him, so as only piously and properly to use the words, “He was,” and “always,” and “before all worlds,” with respect to Him; by no means rejecting His Godhead, but ascribing to Him a similitude which exactly answers in every respect to the Image and Exemplar of the Father. But we must say that to the Father alone belongs the property of being unbegotten, for the Saviour Himself said, “My Father is greater than I.” And besides the pious opinion concerning the Father and the Son, we confess to one Holy Spirit, as the divine Scriptures teach us; who hath inaugurated both the holy men of the Old Testament, and the divine teachers of that which is called the New. And besides, also, one only Catholic and Apostolic Church, which can never be destroyed, though all the world should seek to make war with it; but it is victorious over every most impious revolt of the heretics who rise up against it. For her Goodman hath confirmed our minds by saying, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”2 After this we know of the resurrection of the dead, the first-fruits of which was our Lord Jesus Christ, who in very deed, and not in appearance merely, carried a body, of Mary Mother of God, who in the end of the world came to the human race to put away sin, was crucified and died, and yet did He not thus perceive any detriment to His divinity, being raised from the dead, taken up into heaven, seated at the right hand of majesty.

13. These things in part have I written in this epistle, thinking it burdensome to write out each accurately, even as I said before, because they escape not your religious diligence. Thus do we teach, thus do we preach. These are the apostolic doctrines of the Church, for which also we die, esteeming those but little who would compel us to forswear them, even if they would force us by tortures, and not casting away our hope in them. To these Arius and Achilles opposing themselves, and those who with them are the enemies of the truth, have been expelled from the Church, as being aliens from our holy doctrine, according to the blessed Paul, who says, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed; even though he feign himself an angel from heaven.” And also, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing,”4 and so forth. These, therefore, who have been anathematized by the brotherhood, let no one of you receive, nor admit of those things which are either said or written by them. For these seducers do always lie, nor will they ever speak the truth. They go about the cities, attempting nothing else but that under the mark of friendship and the name of peace, by their hypocrisy and blandishments, they may give and receive letters, to deceive by means of these a few “silly women, and laden with sins, who have been led captive by them,” and so forth.

14. These men, therefore, who have dared such things against Christ; who have partly in public derided the Christian religion; partly seek to traduce and inform against its professors before the judgment-seats; who in a time of peace, as far as in them lies, have stirred up a persecution against us; who have enervated the ineffable mystery of Christ’s generation; from these, I say, beloved and like-minded brethren, turning away in aversion, give your suffrages with us against their mad daring; even as our colleagues have done, who being moved with indignation, have both written to us letters against these men, and have subscribed our letter. Which also I have sent unto you by my son Apion the deacon, being some of them from the whole of Egypt and the Thebaid, some from Libya and Pentapolis. There are others also from Syria, Lycia, Pamphylia, Asia, Cappadocia, and the other neighbouring provinces. After the example of which I trust also that I shall receive letters from you. For though I have prepared many helps towards curing those who have suffered injury, this is the especial remedy that has been devised for healing the multitudes that have been deceived by them, that they may comply with the general consent of our colleagues, and thus hasten to return to repentance. Salute one another, together with the brethren who are with you. I pray that ye may be strong in the Lord, beloved, and that I may profit by your love towards Christ.

ii.—epistle catholic.

To our beloved and most reverend fellow-ministers of the Catholic Church in every place, Alexander sends greeting in the Lord:

1. Since the body of the Catholic Church is one, and it is commanded in Holy Scripture that we should keep the bond of unanimity and peace, it follows that we should write and signify to one another the things which are done by each of us; that whether one member suffer or rejoice we may all either suffer or rejoice with one another. In our diocese, then, not so long ago, there have gone forth lawless men, and adversaries of Christ, teaching men to apostatize; which thing, with good right, one might suspect and call the precursor of Antichrist. I indeed wished to cover the matter up in silence, that so perhaps the evil might spend itself in the leaders of the heresy alone, and that it might not spread to other places and defile the ears of any of the more simple-minded. But since Eusebius, the present bishop of Nicomedia, imagining that with him rest all ecclesiastical matters, because, having left Berytus and cast his eyes upon the church of the Nicomedians, and no punishment has been inflicted upon him, he is set over these apostates, and has undertaken to write everywhere, commending them, if by any means he may draw aside some who are ignorant to this most disgraceful and Antichristian heresy; it became necessary for me, as knowing what is written in the law, no longer to remain silent, but to announce to you all, that you may know both those who have become apostates, and also the wretched words of their heresy; and if Eusebius write, not to give heed to him.

2. For he, desiring by their assistance to renew that ancient wickedness of his mind, with respect to which he has for a time been silent, pretends that he is writing in their behalf, but he proves by his deed that he is exerting himself to do this on his own account. Now the apostates from the Church are these: Arius, Achilles, Aithales, Carpones, the other Arius, Sarmates, who were formerly priests; Euzoius, Lucius, Julius, Menas, Helladius, and Gaius, formerly deacons; and with them Secundus and Theonas, who were once called bishops. And the words invented by them, and spoken contrary to the mind of Scripture, are as follows:—

“God was not always the Father; but there was a time when God was not the Father. The Word of God was not always, but was made ‘from things that are not;’ for He who is God fashioned the non-existing from the non-existing; wherefore there was a time when He was not. For the Son is a thing created, and a thing made: nor is He like to the Father in substance; nor is He the true and natural Word of the Father; nor is He His true Wisdom; but He is one of the things fashioned and made. And He is called, by a misapplication of the terms, the Word and Wisdom, since He is Himself made by the proper Word of God, and by that wisdom which is in God, in which, as God made all other things, so also did He make Him. Wherefore, He is by His very nature changeable and mutable, equally with other rational beings. The Word, too, is alien and separate from the substance of God. The father also is ineffable to the Son; for neither does the Word perfectly and accurately know the Father, neither can He perfectly see Him. For neither does the Son indeed know His own substance as it is. Since He for our sakes was made, that by Him as by an instrument God might create us; nor would He have existed had not God wished to make us. Some one asked of them whether the Son of God could change even as the devil changed; and they feared not to answer that He can; for since He was made and created, He is of mutable nature.”

3. Since those about Arius speak these things and shamelessly maintain them, we, coming together with the Bishops of Egypt and the Libyas, nearly a hundred in number, have anathematized them, together with their followers. But those about Eusebius have received them, earnestly endeavouring to mix up falsehood with truth, impiety with piety. But they will not prevail; for the truth prevails, and there is no communion betwixt light and darkness, no concord between Christ and Belial. For who ever heard such things? or who, now hearing them, is not astonished, and does not stop his ears that the pollution of these words should not touch them? Who that hears John saying, “In the beginning was the Word,”4 does not condemn those who say there was a time when He was not? Who that hears these words of the Gospel, “the only-begotten Son;” and, “by Him were all things made,”6 will not hate those who declare He is one of the things made? For how can He be one of the things made by Him? or how shall He be the only-begotten who, as they say, is reckoned with all the rest, if indeed He is a thing made and created? And how can He be made of things which are not, when the Father says, “My heart belched forth a good Word;” and, “From the womb, before the morning have I begotten Thee?”8 Or how is He unlike to the substance of the Father, who is the perfect image and brightness of the Father, and who says, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father?” And how, if the Son is the Word or Wisdom and Reason of God, was there a time when He was not? It is all one as if they said, that there was a time when God was without reason and wisdom. How, also, can He be changeable and mutable, who says indeed by Himself: “I am in the Father, and the Father in Me,” and, “I and My Father are one;”2 and by the prophet, “I am the Lord, I change not?” For even though one saying may refer to the Father Himself, yet it would now be more aptly spoken of the Word, because when He became man, He changed not; but, as says the apostle, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever.”4 Who hath induced them to say, that for our sakes He was made; although Paul says, “for whom are all things, and by whom are all things?”

4. Now concerning their blasphemous assertion who say that the Son does not perfectly know the Father, we need not wonder: for having once purposed in their mind to wage war against Christ, they impugn also these words of His, “As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father.” Wherefore, if the Father only in part knoweth the Son, then it is evident that the Son doth not perfectly know the Father. But if it be wicked thus to speak, and if the Father perfectly knows the Son, it is plain that, even as the Father knoweth His own Word, so also the Word knoweth His own Father, of whom He is the Word.

5. By saying these things, and by unfolding the divine Scriptures, we have often refuted them. But they, chameleon-like, changing their sentiments, endeavour to claim for themselves that saying: “When the wicked cometh, then cometh contempt.” Before them, indeed, many heresies existed, which, having dared more than was right, have fallen into madness. But these by all their words have attempted to do away with the Godhead of Christ, have made those seem righteous, since they have come nearer to Antichrist. Wherefore they have been excommunicated and anathematized by the Church.8 And indeed, although we grieve at the destruction of these men, especially that after having once learned the doctrine of the Church, they have now gone back; yet we do not wonder at it; for this very thing Hymenæus and Philetus suffered, and before them Judas, who, though he followed the Saviour, afterwards became a traitor and an apostate. Moreover, concerning these very men, warnings are not wanting to us, for the Lord foretold: “Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.”10 Paul, too, having learnt these things from the Saviour, wrote, “In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils which turn away from the truth.”

6. Since, therefore, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has thus Himself exhorted us, and by His apostle hath signified such things to us; we, who have heard their impiety with our own ears, have consistently anathematized such men, as I have already said, and have declared them to be aliens from the Catholic Church and faith, and we have made known the thing, beloved and most honoured fellow-ministers, to your piety, that you should not receive any of them, should they venture rashly to come unto you, and that you should not trust Eusebius or any one else who writes concerning them. For it becomes us as Christians to turn with aversion from all who speak or think against Christ, as the adversaries of God and the destroyers of souls, and “not even to wish them Godspeed, lest at any time we become partakers of their evil deeds,” as the blessed John enjoins. Salute the brethren who are with you. Those who are with me salute you.


presbyters of alexandria

I, Colluthus, presbyter, give my suffrage to the things which are written, and also for the deposition of Arius, and those who are guilty of impiety with him.

Alexander, presbyter, in like manner.

Arpocration, presbyter, in like manner.

Dioscorus, presbyter, in like manner.

Agathus, presbyter.

Nemesius, presbyter.

Dioscorus, presbyter, in like manner.

Agathus, presbyter.

Nemesius, presbyter.

Dionysius, presbyter, in like manner.

Longus, presbyter.

Silvanus, presbyter.

Eusebius, presbyter, in like manner.

Perous, presbyter.

Apis, presbyter.

Alexander, presbvter, in like manner.

Proterius, presbyter.

Paulus, presbyter.

Nilaras, presbyter, in like manner.

Cyrus, presbyter, in like manner.


Ammonius, deacon, in like manner.

Ambytianus, deacon.

Macarius, deacon.

Gaius, deacon, in like manner.

Pistus, deacon, in like manner.

Alexander, deacon.

Athanasius, deacon.

Dionysius, deacon.

Eumenes, deacon.

Agathon, deacon.

Apollonius, deacon.

Polybius, deacon, in like manner.

Olympius, deacon.

Theonas, deacon.

Aphthonius, deacon.

Marcus, deacon.

Athanasius, deacon.

Commodus, deacon.

Macarius, deacon, in like manner.

Serapion, deacon.

Nilus, deacon.Paulus, deacon.

Romanus, deacon, in like Petrus, deacon. manner.

presbytery of mareotis.

I, Apollonius, presbyter, give my suffrage to the things which are written, and also for the deposition of Arius, and of those who are guilty of impiety with him.

Ingenius, presbyter, in like manner.

Dioscorus, presbyter.

Ammonius, presbyter.

Sostras, presbyter.

Tyrannus, presbyter.

Theon, presbyter.

Copres, presbyter.

Boccon, presbyter.

Ammonas, presbyter.

Agathus, presbyter.

Orion, presbyter.

Achilles, presbyter.

Serenas, presbyter.

Paulas, presbyter.

Didymus, presbyter.

Thalelæus, presbyter.

Heracles, presbyter.

Dionysius, presbyter, in like manner.


Sarapion, deacon, in like manner.

Didymus, deacon.

Justus, deacon, in like manner.

Ptollarion, deacon.

Didymus, deacon.

Seras, deacon.

Demetrius, deacon.

Gaius, deacon.

Maurus, deacon.

Hierax, deacon.

Alexander, deacon.

Marcus, deacon.

Marcus, deacon.

Theonas, deacon.

Comon, deacon.

Sarmaton, deacon.

Tryphon, deacon.

Carpon, deacon.

Ammonius, deacon.

Zoilus, deacon, in like manner.


Alexander, to the priests and deacons, of Alexandria and Mareotis, being present to them present, brethren beloved in the Lord, sends greeting:

Although you have been forward to subscribe the letters that I sent to those about Arius, urging them to abjure their impiety, and to obey the wholesome and Catholic faith; and in this manner have shown your orthodox purpose, and your agreement in the doctrines of the Catholic Church; yet because I have also sent letters to all our fellow-ministers in every place with respect to the things which concern Arius and his companions; I have thought it necessary to call together you the clergy of the city, and to summon you also of Mareotis; especially since of your number Chares and Pistus, the priests; Sarapion, Parammon, Zosimus, and Irenæus, the deacons, have gone over to the party of Arius, and have preferred to be deposed with them; that you may know what is now written, and that you should declare your consent in these matters, and give your suffrage for the deposition of those about Arius and Pistus. For it is right that you should know what I have written, and that you should each one, as if he had written it himself, retain it in his heart.

iv.—epistle to æglon, bishop of cynopolis, against the arians.

From a letter of St. Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, to Æglon, bishop of Cynopolis, against the Arians.

1. Natural will is the free faculty of every intelligent nature as having nothing involuntary which is in respect of its essence.

2. Natural operation is the innate motion of all substance. Natural operation is the substantial and notifying reason of every nature. Natural operation is the notifying virtue of every substance.

v.—on the soul and body and the passion of the lord.

1. The Word which is ungrudgingly sent down from heaven, is fitted for the irrigation of our hearts, if we have been prepared for His power, not by speaking only, but by listening. For as the rain without the ground does not produce fruit, so neither does the Word fructify without hearing, nor hearing without the Word. Moreover, the Word then becomes fruitful when we pronounce it, and in the same way hearing, when we listen. Therefore since the Word draws forth its power, do you also ungrudgingly lend your ears, and when you come to hear, cleanse yourselves from all ill-will and unbelief. Two very bad things are ill-will and unbelief, both of which are contrary to righteousness; for ill-will is opposed to charity, and unbelief to faith; just in the same way as bitterness is opposed to sweetness, darkness to light, evil to good, death to life, falsehood to truth. Those, therefore, who abound in these vices that are repugnant to virtue, are in a manner dead; for the malignant and the unbelieving hate charity and faith, and they who do this are the enemies of God.

2. Since therefore ye know, brethren beloved, that the malignant and the unbelieving are the enemies of righteousness, beware of these, embrace faith and charity, by which all the holy men who have existed from the beginning of the world to this day have attained unto salvation. And show forth the fruit of charity, not in words only, but also in deeds, that is, in all godly patience for God’s sake. For, see! the Lord Himself hath shown His charity towards us, not only in words but also in deeds, since He hath given Himself up as the price of our salvation. Besides, we were not created, like the rest of the world, by word alone, but also by deed. For God made the world to exist by the power of a single word, but us He produced by the efficacy alike of His word and working. For it was not enough for God to say, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” but deed followed word; for, taking the dust from the ground, He formed man out of it, conformable to His image and similitude, and into him He breathed the breath of life, so that Adam became a living soul.

3. But when man afterwards by his fall had inclined to death, it was necessary that that form should be recreated anew to salvation by the same Artificer. For the form indeed lay rotting in the ground; but that inspiration which had been as the breath of life, was detained separate from the body in a dark place, which is called Hades. There was, therefore, a division of the soul from the body; it was banished ad inferos, whilst the latter was resolved into dust; and there was a great interval of separation between them; for the body, by the dissolution of the flesh, becomes corrupt; the soul being loosened from it, its action ceases. For as when the king is thrown into chains, the city falls to ruin; or as when the general is taken captive, the army is scattered abroad; or as when the helmsman is shaken off, the vessel is submerged; so when the soul is bound in chains, its body goes to pieces; as the city without its king, so its members are dissolved; as is the case with an army when its general is lost, they are drowned in death, even as happens to a vessel when deprived of its helmsman. The soul, therefore, governed the man, as long as the body survived; even as the king governs the city, the general the army, the helmsman the ship. But it was powerless to rule it, from the time when it was immoveably tied to it, and became immersed in error; therefore it was that it declined from the straight path, and followed tempters, giving heed to fornication, idolatry, and shedding of blood; by which evil deeds it has destroyed the proper manhood. Nay, but itself also being carried at length to the lower regions, it was there detained by the wicked tempter. Else was it wont, as the king restores the ruined city, the general collects the dispersed army, the sailor repairs the broken ship, even so, I say, the soul used to minister supplies to the body before that the body was dissolved in the dust, being not as yet itself bound fast with fetters. But after that the soul became bound, not with material fetters but with sins, and thus was rendered impotent to act, then it left its body in the ground, and being cast down to the lower regions, it was made the footstool of death, and despicable to all.

4. Man went forth from paradise to a region which was the sink of unrighteousness, fornication, adultery, and cruel murder. And there he found his destruction; for all things conspired to his death, and worked the ruin of him who had hardly entered there. Meanwhile man wanted some consolation and assistance and rest. For when was it well with man? In his mother’s womb? But when he was shut up there, he differed but little from the dead. When he was nourished with milk from the breast? Not even then, indeed, did he feel any joy. Was it rather whilst he was coming to maturity? But then, especially, dangers impended over him from his youthful lusts. Was it, lastly, when he grew old? Nay, but then does he begin to groan, being pressed down by the weight of old age, and the expectation of death. For what else is old age but the expectation of death? Verily all the inhabitants of earth do die, young men and old, little children and adults, for no age or bodily stature is exempt from death. Why, then, is man tormented by this exceeding grief? Doubtless the very aspect of death begets sadness; for we behold in a dead man the face changed, the figure dead, the body shrunk up with emaciation, the mouth silent, the skin cold, the carcase prostrate on the ground, the eyes sunken, the limbs immoveable, the flesh wasted away, the veins congealed, the bones whitened, the joints dissolved, all parts of him reduced to dust, and the man no longer existing. What, then, is man? A flower, I say, that is but for a little time, which in his mother’s womb is not apparent, in youth flourishes, but which in old age withers and departs in death.

5. But now, after all this bondage to death and corruption of the manhood, God hath visited His creature, which He formed after His own image and similitude; and this He hath done that it might not for ever be the sport of death. Therefore God sent down from heaven His incorporeal Son to take flesh upon Him in the Virgin’s womb; and thus, equally as thou, was He made man; to save lost man, and collect all His scattered members. For Christ, when he joined the manhood to His person, united that which death by the separation of the body had dispersed. Christ suffered that we should live for ever.

For else why should Christ have died? Had He committed anything worthy of death? Why did He clothe Himself in flesh who was invested with glory? And since He was God, why did He become man? And since He reigned in heaven, why did He come down to earth, and become incarnate in the virgin’s womb? What necessity, I ask, impelled God to come down to earth, to assume flesh, to be wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger-cradle, to be nourished with the milk from the breast, to receive baptism from a servant, to be lifted up upon the cross, to be interred in an earthly sepulchre, to rise again the third day from the dead?

What necessity, I say, impelled Him to this? It is sufficiently discovered that He suffered shame for man’s sake, to set him free from death; and that He exclaimed, as in the words of the prophet, “I have endured as a travailing woman.” In very deed did He endure for our sakes sorrow, ignominy, torment, even death itself, and burial. For thus He says Himself by the prophet: “I went down into the deep.”3 Who made Him thus to go down? The impious people. Behold, ye sons of men, behold what recompense Israel made unto Him! She slew her Benefactor, returning evil for good, affliction for joy, death for life. They slew by nailing to the tree Him who had brought to life their dead, had healed their maimed, had made their lepers clean, had given light to their blind. Behold, ye sons of men! behold, all ye people, these new wonders! They suspended Him on the tree, who stretches out the earth; they transfixed Him with nails who laid firm the foundation of the world; they circumscribed Him who circumscribed the heavens; they bound Him who absolves sinners; they gave Him vinegar to drink who hath made them to drink of righteousness; they fed Him with gall who hath offered to them the Bread of Life; they caused corruption to come upon His hands and feet who healed their hands and feet; they violently closed His eyes who restored sight to them; they gave Him over to the tomb, who raised their dead to life both in the time before His Passion and also whilst He was hanging on the tree.

6. For when our Lord was suffering upon the cross, the tombs were burst open, the infernal region was disclosed, the souls leapt forth, the dead returned to life, and many of them were seen in Jerusalem, whilst the mystery of the cross was being perfected; what time our Lord trampled upon death, dissolved the enmity, bound the strong man, and raised the trophy of the cross, His body being lifted up upon it, that the body might appear on high, and death to be depressed under the foot of flesh. Then the heavenly powers wondered, the angels were astonished, the elements trembled, every creature was shaken whilst they looked on this new mystery, and the terrific spectacle which was being enacted in the universe. Yet the entire people, as unconscious of the mystery, exulted over Christ in derision; although the earth was rocking, the mountains, the valleys, and the sea were shaken, and every creature of God was smitten with confusion. The lights of heaven were afraid, the sun fled away, the moon disappeared, the stars withdrew their shining, the day came to end; the angel in astonishment departed from the temple after the rending of the veil, and darkness covered the earth on which its Lord had closed His eyes. Meanwhile hell5 was with light resplendent, for thither had the star descended. The Lord, indeed, did not descend into hell in His body but in His Spirit. He forsooth is working everywhere, for whilst He raised the dead by His body, by His spirit was He liberating their souls. For when the body of the Lord was hung upon the cross, the tombs, as we have said, were opened; hell was unbarred, the dead received their life, the souls were sent back again into the world, and that because the Lord had conquered hell, had trodden down death, had covered the enemy with shame; therefore was it that the souls came forth from Hades, and the dead appeared upon the earth.

7. Ye see, therefore, how great was the effect of the death of Christ, for no creature endured His fall with equal mind, nor did the elements His Passion, neither did the earth retain His body, nor hell His Spirit. All things were in the Passion of Christ disturbed and convulsed. The Lord exclaimed, as once before to Lazarus, Come forth, ye dead, from your tombs and your secret places; for I, the Christ, give unto you resurrection. For then the earth could not long hold the body of our Lord that in it was buried; but it exclaimed, O my Lord, pardon mine iniquities, save me from Thy wrath, absolve me from the curse, for I have received the blood of the righteous, and yet I have not covered the bodies of men or Thine own body! What is at length this wonderful mystery? Why, O Lord, didst Thou come down to earth, unless it was for man’s sake, who has been scattered everywhere: for in every place has Thy, fair image been disseminated? Nay! but if thou shouldest give but one little word, at the instant all bodies would stand before Thee. Now, since Thou hast come to earth, and hast sought for the members of Thy fashioning, undertake for man who is Thine own, receive that which is committed to Thee, recover Thine image, Thine Adam. Then the Lord, the third day after His death, rose again, thus bringing man to a knowledge of the Trinity. Then all the nations of the human race were saved by Christ. One submitted to the judgment, and many thousands were absolved. Moreover, He being made like to man whom He had saved, ascended to the height of heaven, to offer before His Father, not gold or silver, or precious stones, but the man whom He had formed after His own image and similitude; and the Father, raising Him to His right hand, hath seated Him upon a throne on high, and hath made Him to be judge of the peoples, the leader of the angelic host, the charioteer of the cherubim, the Son of the true Jerusalem, the Virgin’s spouse, and King for ever and ever. Amen.

vi.—the addition in the codex, with a various reading.

God, therefore, wishing to visit His own form which He had fashioned after His own image and similitude, hath in these last times sent into the world His incorporeal and only Son, who being in the Virgin’s womb incarnate, was born perfect man to raise erect lost man, re-collecting His scattered members. For why else should Christ have died? Was He capitally accused? And since He was God, why was He made man? Why did He who was reigning in heaven come down to earth? Who compelled God to come down to earth, to take flesh of the holy Virgin, to be wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, to be nourished with milk, to be baptized in the Jordan, to be mocked of the people, to be nailed to the tree, to be buried in the bosom of the earth, and the third day to rise again from the dead; in the cause of redemption to give life for life, blood for blood, to undergo death for death? For Christ, by dying, hath discharged the debt of death to which man was obnoxious. Oh, the new and ineffable mystery! the Judge was judged. He who absolves from sin was bound; He was mocked who once framed the world; He was stretched upon the cross who stretched out the heavens; He was fed with gall who gave the manna to be bread; He died who gives life. He was given up to the tomb who raises the dead. The powers were astonished, the angels wondered, the elements trembled, the whole created universe was shaken, the earth quaked, and its foundations rocked; the sun fled away, the elements were subverted, the light of day receded; because they could not bear to look upon their crucified Lord. The creature, in amazement, said, What is this novel mystery? The judge is judged and is silent; the invisible is seen and is not confounded; the incomprehensible is grasped and is not indignant at it; the immeasurable is contained in a measure and makes no opposition; the impassable suffers and does not avenge its own injury; the immortal dies and complains not; the celestial is buried and bears it with an equal mind. What, I say, is this mystery? The creature surely is transfixed with amazement. But when our Lord rose from death and trampled it down, when He bound the strong man and set man free, then every creature wondered at the Judge who for Adam’s sake was judged, at the invisible being seen, at the impassable suffering, at the immortal dead, at the celestial buried in the earth. For our Lord was made man; He was condemned that He might impart compassion; He was bound that He might set free; He was apprehended that He might liberate; He suffered that He might heal our sufferings; He died to restore life to us; He was buried to raise us up. For when our Lord suffered, His humanity suffered, that which He had like unto man; and He dissolves the sufferings of him who is His like, and by dying He hath destroyed death. It was for this cause that He came down upon earth, that by pursuing death He might kill the rebel that slew men. For one underwent the judgment, and myriads were set free; one was buried, and myriads rose again. He is the Mediator between God and man; He is the resurrection and the salvation of all; He is the Guide of the erring, the Shepherd of men who have been set free, the life of the dead, the charioteer of the cherubim, the standard-bearer of the angels, and the King of kings, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.




(Some points, p. 289.)

That the theology of the great school of Alexandria had a character of its own, is most apparent; I should be the last to deny it. As its succession of teachers was like that of hereditary descent in a family, a family likeness is naturally to be found in this school, from the great Clement to the great Athanasius. It is a school that hands on the traditions in which Apollos had been reared; it not less reflects the Greek influences always dominant in the capital of the Macedonian hero; but it is a school in which the Gospel of Christ as the Light of the world was always made predominant: and, while a most liberal view of human knowledge was inculcated in it, yet the faith was always exalted as the mother and mistress of the true gnosis and of all science. The wise men of this world were summoned with an imperial voice, from this eldest seat and centre of Christian learning, to cast their crowns and their treasures at the feet of Jesus. With a generous patronage Clement conceded all he could to the philosophy of the Greeks, and yet sublimely rose above it to a sphere it never discovered, and looked down upon all merely human intellect and its achievements like Uriel in the sun.

It was the special though unconscious mission of this school to prepare the way, and to shape the thought of Christendom, for the great epoch of the (nominal) conversion of the empire, and for the all-important synodical period, its logical consequence. It was in this school that the technical formulas of the Church were naturally wrought out. The process was like that of the artist who has first to make his own tools. He does many things, and resorts to many contrivances, never afterwards necessary when once the tools are complete and his laboratory furnished with all he wants for his work. To my mind, therefore, it is but a pastime of no practical worth to contrast the idiosyncrasies of Clement with those of Origen, and to set up distinctions between the Logos of this doctor and that. The differences to be descried belong to the personal peculiarities of great minds not yet guided to unity of diction by a scientific theology. The marvel is their harmony of thought. Their ends and their antagonisms are the same. The outcome of their mental efforts and their pious faith is seen in the result. Alexander was their product, and Athanasius (bringing all their sheaves to the Church’s garner, winnowed and harvested) is the perpetual gnomon of the Alexandrian school. Its testimony, its prescription, its harmony and unity, are all summed up in him.

It is extraordinary that many truly evangelical critics seem to see, in the subordination taught by Origen, something not reconcileable with the Nicene orthodoxy. Even Bishop Bull is a subordinationist, and so are all the great orthodox divines. When Origen maintains the μοναρχία (the Father as the root and source of the Godhead, as do all the Greeks), and also a subordination of the Son in the divine οὐσία, he is surely consistent with the Athanasian doctrine; and, if he is led to affirm a diversity of essence in connection with this subordination, he does it with such limitations as should convince us that he, too, would have subscribed the ὁμοούσιον, in which Alexandrians no whit inferior to him finally formulated the convictions and testimonies of their predecessors.


(Since the body of the Catholic Church is one, etc., p. 296.)

As so shortly preceding the meeting of the Great Council, this letter is most important as a clear testimony to the meaning the first council attached to that article of the Creed which affirms “one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” We must compare the Treatises of Cyprian for the West, with this and the Letter of Firmilian for the East, as clearly elucidating the contemporary mind of the Church, and hence the meaning of those words which reflect their mind in the Creed. To make any reflections of my own would be out of place, save only, negatively, as I compare it with the modern creed of the Council of Trent (Pius IV.), which defines the Catholic Church to be the communion which acknowledges the Church of Rome as “the mother and mistress of churches.”

The concluding section of this letter is decisive as to the absolute autonomy of the Alexandrian diœcese. To all the other churches Alexander merely communicates his sentence, which they are all bound to respect. Whether the Christian Church at this period reflected the Apostolic Institutions is not the question, but merely what its theory was in the fourth century, and how far East and West accorded with the theory of Cyprian.


[translated by the rev. william r. clark, m.a., vicar of st. mary magdalen, taunton.]

Introductory Note



[a.d. 260–312]. Considering the strong language in which Methodius is praised by ancient writers, as well as by the moderns, I feel that our learned translator has too hastily dismissed his name and works in the biographical introduction below. Epiphanius makes great use of him in his refutations of Origen; and Dupin’s critical and historical notice of him is prolonged and highly discriminating, furnishing an abridgment of all his writings and of those vulgarly attributed to him heretofore. I have made into an elucidation some references which may be of use to the student. In like manner, I have thrown into the form of notes and elucidations what would be less pertinent and less useful in a preface. There are no facts to be added to what is here given by the translator; and remarks on the several works, which he has too sparingly annotated, will be more conveniently bestowed, perhaps, on the pages to which they immediately refer. The following is the translator’s brief but useful.


Methodius, who is also called Eubulius, was, first of all bishop, simultaneously of Olympus and Patara, in Lycia, as is testified by several ancient writers.3 He was afterwards removed, according to St. Jerome, to the episcopal See of Tyre in Phœnicia, and at the end of the latest of the great persecutions of the Church, about the year 312, he suffered martyrdom at Chalcis in Greece. Some consider that it was at Chalcis in Syria, and that St. Jerome’s testimony ought to be thus understood, as Syria was more likely to be the scene of his martyrdom than Greece, as being nearer to his diocese. Others affirm that he suffered under Decius and Valerian; but this is incorrect, since he wrote not only against Origen long after the death of Adamantius, but also against Porphyry, whilst he was alive, in the reign of Diocletian.

Methodius is known chiefly as the antagonist of Origen; although, as has been pointed out, he was himself influenced in no small degree by the method of Origen, as may be seen by his tendency to allegorical interpretations of Holy Scripture. The only complete work of this writer which has come down to us is his Banquet of the Ten Virgins, a dialogue of considerable power and grace, in praise of the virginal life. His antagonism to Origen, however, comes out less in this than in his works On the Resurrection, and On Things Created. The treatise On Free Will is, according to recent critics, of doubtful authorship, although the internal evidence must be said to confirm the ancient testimonies which assign it to Methodius. His writings against Porphyry, with the exception of some slight fragments, are lost, as are also his exegetical writings.

Combefis published an edition of his works in 1644; but only so much of the Banquet as was contained in the Bibliotheca of Photius. In 1656 Leo Allatius published for the first time a complete edition of this work at Rome from the Vatican ms. Combefis in 1672 published an edition founded chiefly upon this; and his work has become the basis of all subsequent reprints.

The following translation has been made almost entirely from the text of Migne, which is generally accurate, and the arrangement of which has been followed throughout. The edition of Jahn in some places rearranges the more fragmentary works, especially that On the Resurrection; but, although his text was occasionally found useful in amending the old readings, and in improving the punctuation, it was thought better to adhere in general to the text which is best known.

A writer who was pronounced by St. Epiphanius to be “a learned man and a most valiant defender of the truth,” and by St. Jerome, disertissimus martyr, who elsewhere speaks of him as one who nitidi compositique sermonis libros confecit, cannot be altogether unworthy the attention of the nineteenth century.

The Banquet of the Ten Virgins;


Concerning Chastity.

persons of the dialogue: euboulios, gregorion, arete; marcella, theophila, thaleia, theopatra, thallousa, agathe, procilla, thekla, tusiane, domnina.


plan of the work; way to paradise; description and personification of virtue; the agnos a symbol of chastity; marcella, the eldest and foremost among the virgins of christ.

Euboulios. You have arrived most seasonably, Gregorion, for I have just been looking for you, wanting to hear of the meeting of Marcella and Theopatra, and of the other virgins who were present at the banquet, and of the nature of their discourses on the subject of chastity; for it is said that they argued with such ability and power that there was nothing lacking to the full consideration of the subject. If, therefore, you have come here for any other purpose, put that off to another time, and do not delay to give us a complete and connected account of the matter of which we are inquiring.

Gregorion. I seem to be disappointed of my hope, as some one else has given you intelligence beforehand on the subject respecting which you ask me. For I thought that you had heard nothing of what had happened, and I was flattering myself greatly with the idea that I should be the first to tell you of it. And for this reason I made all haste to come here to you, fearing the very thing which has happened, that some one might anticipate me.

Euboulios. Be comforted, my excellent friend, for we have had no precise information respecting anything which happened; since the person who brought us the intelligence had nothing to tell us, except that there had been dialogues; but when he was asked what they were, and to what purpose, he did not know.

Gregorion. Well then, as I came here for this reason, do you want to hear all that was said from the beginning; or shall I pass by parts of it, and recall only those points which I consider worthy of mention?

Euboulios. By no means the latter; but first, Gregorion, relate to us from the very beginning where the meeting was, and about the setting forth of the viands, and about yourself, how you poured out the wine

“They in golden cups

Each other pledged, while towards broad heaven they looked.”

Gregorion. You are always skilful in discussions, and excessively powerful in argument—thoroughly confuting all your adversaries.

Euboulios. It is not worth while, Gregorion, to contend about these things at present; but do oblige us by simply telling us what happened from the beginning.

Gregorion. Well, I will try. But first answer me this: You know, I presume, Arete, the daughter of Philosophia?

Euboulios. Why do you ask?

Gregorion. “We went by invitation to a garden of hers with an eastern aspect, to enjoy the fruits of the season, myself, and Procilla, and Tusiane.” I am repeating the words of Theopatra, for it was of her I obtained the information. “We went, Gregorion, by a very rough, steep, and arduous path: when we drew near to the place,” said Theopatra, “we were met by a tall and beautiful woman walking along quietly and gracefully, clothed in a shining robe as white as snow. Her beauty was something altogether inconceivable and divine. Modesty, blended with majesty, bloomed on her countenance. It was a face,” she said, “such as I know not that I had ever seen, awe-inspiring, yet tempered with gentleness and mirth; for it was wholly unadorned by art, and had nothing counterfeit. She came up to us, and, like a mother who sees her daughters after a long separation, she embraced and kissed each one of us with great joy, saying, ‘O, my daughters, you have come with toil and pain to me who am earnestly longing to conduct you to the pasture of immortality; toilsomely have you come by a way abounding with many frightful reptiles; for, as I looked, I saw you often stepping aside, and I was fearing lest you should turn back and slip over the precipices. But thanks to the Bridegroom to whom I have espoused you, my children, for having granted an effectual answer to all our prayers.’ And, while she is thus speaking,” said Theopatra, “we arrive at the enclosure, the doors not being shut as yet, and as we enter we come upon Thekla and Agathe and Marcella preparing to sup. And Arete immediately said, ‘Do you also come hither, and sit down here in your place along with these your fellows.’ Now,” said she to me, “we who were there as guests were altogether, I think, ten in number; and the place was marvellously beautiful, and abounding in the means of recreation. The air was diffused in soft and regular currents, mingled with pure beams of light, and a stream flowing as gently as oil through the very middle of the garden, threw up a most delicious drink; and the water flowing from it, transparent and pure, formed itself into fountains, and these, overflowing like rivers, watered all the garden with their abundant streams; and there were different kinds of trees there, full of fresh fruits, and the fruits that hung joyfully from their branches were of equal beauty; and there were ever-blooming meadows strewn with variegated and sweet-scented flowers, from which came a gentle breeze laden with sweetest odour. And the agnos2 grew near, a lofty tree, under which we reposed, from its being exceedingly wide-spreading and shady.”

Euboulios. You seem to me, my good friend, to be making a revelation of a second paradise.

Gregorion. You speak truly and wisely. “When there,” she said, “we had all kinds of food and a variety of festivities, so that no delight was wanting. After this Arete, entering, gave utterance to these words:—

” ‘Young maidens, the glory of my greatness, beautiful virgins, who tend the undefiled meadows of Christ with unwedded hands, we have now had enough of food and feasting, for all things are abundant and plentiful with us. What is there, then, besides which I wish and expect? That each of you shall pronounce a discourse in praise of virginity. Let Marcella begin, since she sits in the highest place, and is at the same time the eldest. I shall be ashamed of myself if I do not make the successful disputant an object of envy, binding her with the unfading flowers of wisdom.’

“And then,” I think she said, “Marcella immediately began to speak as follows.”

discourse i.—marcella.

chap. i.—the difficulty and excellence of virginity; the study of doctrine necessary for virgins.

Virginity is something supernaturally great, wonderful, and glorious; and, to speak plainly and in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, this best and noblest manner of life alone is the root of immortality, and also its flower and first-fruits; and for this reason the Lord promises that those shall enter into the kingdom of heaven who have made themselves eunuchs, in that passage7 of the Gospels in which He lays down the various reasons for which men have made themselves eunuchs. Chastity with men is a very rare thing, and difficult of attainment, and in proportion to its supreme excellence and magnificence is the greatness of its dangers.

For this reason, it requires strong and generous natures, such as, vaulting over the stream of pleasure, direct the chariot of the soul upwards from the earth, not turning aside from their aim, until having, by swiftness of thought, lightly bounded above the world, and taken their stand truly upon the vault of heaven, they purely contemplate immortality itself as it springs forth from the undefiled bosom of the Almighty.

Earth could not bring forth this draught; heaven alone knew the fountain from whence it flows; for we must think of virginity as walking indeed upon the earth, but as also reaching up to heaven. And hence some who have longed for it, and considering only the end of it, have come, by reason of coarseness of mind, ineffectually with unwashed feet, and have gone aside out of the way, from having conceived no worthy idea of the virginal manner of life. For it is not enough to keep the body only undefiled, just as we should not show that we think more of the temple than of the image of the god; but we should care for the souls of men as being the divinities of their bodies, and adorn them with righteousness. And then do they most care for them and tend them when, striving untiringly to hear divine discourses, they do not desist until, wearing the doors of the wise, they attain to the knowledge of the truth.

For as the putrid humours and matter of flesh, and all those things which corrupt it, are driven out by salt, in the same manner all the irrational appetites of a virgin are banished from the body by divine teaching. For it must needs be that the soul which is not sprinkled with the words of Christ, as with salt, should stink and breed worms, as King David, openly confessing with tears in the mountains, cried out, “My wounds stink and are corrupt,” because he had not salted himself with the exercises of self-control, and so subdued his carnal appetites, but self-indulgently had yielded to them, and became corrupted in adultery. And hence, in Leviticus,3 every gift, unless it be seasoned with salt, is forbidden to be offered as an oblation to the Lord God. Now the whole spiritual meditation of the Scriptures is given to us as salt which stings in order to benefit, and which disinfects, without which it is impossible for a soul, by means of reason, to be brought to the Almighty; for “ye are the salt of the earth,” said the Lord to the apostles.

It is fitting, then, that a virgin should always love things which are honourable, and be distinguished among the foremost for wisdom and addicted to nothing slothful or luxurious, but should excel, and set her mind upon things worthy of the state of virginity, always putting away, by the word, the foulness of luxury, lest in any way some slight hidden corruption should breed the worm of incontinence; for “the unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord,” how she may please the Lord, “that she may be holy both in body and in spirit,” says the blessed Paul. But many of them who consider the hearing of the word quite a secondary matter, think they do great things if they give their attention to it for a little while. But discrimination must be exercised with respect to these; for it is not fitting to impart divine instruction to a nature which is careful about trifles, and low, and which counterfeits wisdom. For would it not be laughable to go on talking to those who direct all their energy towards things of little value, in order that they may complete most accurately those things which they want to bring to perfection, but do not think that the greatest pains are to be taken with those necessary things by which most of all the love of chastity would be increased in them?

chap. ii.—virginity a plant from heaven, introduced late; the advancement of mankind to perfection, how arranged.

For truly by a great stretch of power the plant of virginity was sent down to men from heaven, and for this reason it was not revealed to the first generations. For the race of mankind was still very small in number; and it was necessary that it should first be increased in number, and then brought to perfection. Therefore the men of old times thought it nothing unseemly to take their own sisters for wives, until the law coming separated them, and by forbidding that which at first had seemed to be right, declared it to be a sin, calling him cursed who should “uncover the nakedness” of his sister; God thus mercifully bringing to our race the needful help in due season, as parents do to their children. For they do not at once set masters over them, but allow them, during the period of childhood, to amuse themselves like young animals, and first send them to teachers stammering like themselves, until they cast off the youthful wool of the mind, and go onwards to the practice of greater things, and from thence again to that of greater still. And thus we must consider that the God and Father of all acted towards our forefathers. For the world, while still unfilled with men, was like a child, and it was necessary that it should first be filled with these, and so grow to manhood. But when hereafter it was colonized from end to end, the race of man spreading to a boundless extent, God no longer allowed man to remain in the same ways, considering how they might now proceed from one point to another, and advance nearer to heaven, until, having attained to the very greatest and most exalted lesson of virginity, they should reach to perfection; that first they should abandon the intermarriage of brothers and sisters, and marry wives from other families; and then that they should no longer have many wives, like brute beasts, as though born for the mere propagation of the species; and then that they should not be adulterers; and then again that they should go on to continence, and from continence to virginity, when, having trained themselves to despise the flesh, they sail fearlessly into the peaceful haven of immortality.

chap. iii.—by the circumcision of abraham, marriage with sisters forbidden; in the times of the prophets polygamy put a stop to; conjugal purity itself by degrees enforced.

If, however, any one should venture to find fault with our argument as destitute of Scripture proof, we will bring forward the writings of the prophets, and more fully demonstrate the truth of the statements already made. Now Abraham, when he first received the covenant of circumcision, seems to signify, by receiving circumcision in a member of his own body, nothing else than this, that one should no longer beget children with one born of the same parent; showing that every one should abstain from intercourse with his own sister, as his own flesh. And thus, from the time of Abraham, the custom of marrying with sisters has ceased; and from the times of the prophets the contracting of marriage with several wives has been done away with; for we read, “Go not after thy lusts, but refrain thyself front thine appetites;” for “wine and women will make men of understanding to fall away; “3 and in another place, “Let thy fountain be blessed; and rejoice with the wife of thy youth,” manifestly forbidding a plurality of wives. And Jeremiah clearly gives the name of “fed horses”5 to those who lust after other women; and we read, “The multiplying brood of the ungodly shall not thrive, nor take deep rooting from bastard slips, nor lay any fast foundation.”

Lest, however, we should seem prolix in collecting the testimonies of the prophets, let us again point out how chastity succeeded to marriage with one wife, taking away by degrees the lusts of the flesh, until it removed entirely the inclination for sexual intercourse engendered by habit. For presently one is introduced earnestly deprecating, from henceforth, this seduction, saying, “O Lord, Father, and Governor of my life, leave me not to their counsels; give me not a proud look; let not the greediness of the belly, nor lust of the flesh, take hold of me.” And in the Book of Wisdom, a book full of all virtue, the Holy Spirit, now openly drawing His hearers to continence and chastity, sings on this wise, “Better it is to have no children, and to have virtue, for the memorial thereof is immortal; because it is known with God and with men. When it is present men take example at it; and when it is gone they desire it: it weareth a crown and triumpheth for ever, having gotten the victory, striving for undefiled rewards.”8

chap. iv.—christ alone taught virginity, openly preaching the kingdom of heaven; the likeness of god to be attained in the light of the divine virtues.

We have already spoken of the periods of the human race, and how, beginning with the intermarriage of brothers and sisters, it went on to continence; and we have now left for us the subject of virginity. Let us then endeavour to speak of this as well as we can. And first let us inquire for what reason it was that no one of the many patriarchs and prophets and righteous men, who taught and did many noble things, either praised or chose the state of virginity. Because it was reserved for the Lord alone to he the first to teach this doctrine, since He alone, coming down to us, taught man to draw near to God; for it was fitting that He who was first and chief of priests, of prophets, and of angels, should also be saluted as first and chief of virgins. For in old times man was not yet perfect, and for this reason was unable to receive perfection, which is virginity. For, being made in the Image of God, he needed to receive that which was according to His Likeness; which the Word being sent down into the world to perfect, He first took upon Him our form, disfigured as it was by many sins, in order that we, for whose sake He bore it, might be able again to receive the divine form. For it is then that we are truly fashioned in the likeness of God, when we represent His features in a human life, like skilful painters, stamping them upon ourselves as upon tablets, learning the path which He showed us. And for this reason He, being God, was pleased to put on human flesh, so that we, beholding as on a tablet the divine Pattern of our life, should also be able to imitate Him who painted it. For He was not one who, thinking one thing, did another; nor, while He considered one thing to be right, taught another. But whatever things were truly useful and right, these He both taught and did.

chap. v.—christ, by preserving his flesh in-corrupt in virginity, draws to the exercise of virginity; the small number of virgins in proportion to the number of saints.

What then did the Lord, who is the Truth and the Light, take in hand when He came down from heaven? He preserved the flesh which He had taken upon Him incorrupt in virginity, so that we also, if we world come to the likeness of God and Christ, should endeavour to honour virginity. For the likeness of God is the avoiding of corruption. And that the Word, when He was incarnate, became chief Virgin, in the same way as He was chief Shepherd and chief Prophet of the Church, the Christ-possessed John shows us, saying, in the Book of the Revelation, “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His name and His Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder; and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth;” showing that the Lord is leader of the choir of virgins. And remark, in addition to this, how very great in the sight of God is the dignity of virginity: “These were redeemed from among men, being the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault,”2 he says, “and they follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.” And he clearly intends by this to teach us that the number of virgins was, from the beginning, restricted to so many, namely, a hundred and forty and four thousand, while the multitude of the other saints is innumerable. For let us consider what he means when discoursing of the rest. “I beheld a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues.” It is plain, therefore, as I said, that in the case of the other saints he introduces an unspeakable multitude, while in the case of those who are in a state of virginity he mentions only a very small number, so as to make a strong contrast with those who make up the innumerable number.4

This, O Arete, is my discourse to you on the subject of virginity. But, if I have omitted anything, let Theophila, who succeeds me, supply the omission.

discourse ii.—theophila.

chap. i.—marriage not abolished by the commendation of virginity.

And then, she said, Theophila spoke:—

Since Marcella has excellently begun this discussion without sufficiently completing it, it is necessary that I should endeavour to put a finish to it. Now, the fact that man has advanced by degrees to virginity, God urging him on from time to time, seems to me to have been admirably proved; but I cannot say the same as to the assertion that from henceforth they should no longer beget children. For I think I have perceived clearly from the Scriptures that, after He had brought in virginity, the Word did not altogether abolish the generation of children; for although the moon may be greater than the stars, the light of the other stars is not destroyed by the moonlight.

Let us begin with Genesis, that we may give its place of antiquity and supremacy to this scripture. Now the sentence and ordinance of God respecting the begetting of children is confessedly being fulfilled to this day, the Creator still fashioning man. For this is quite manifest, that God, like a painter, is at this very time working at the world, as the Lord also taught, “My Father worketh hitherto.”6 But when the rivers shall cease to flow and fall into the reservoir of the sea, and the light shall be perfectly separated from the darkness,—for the separation is still going on,—and the dry laud shall henceforth cease to bring forth its fruits with creeping things and four-footed beasts, and the predestined number of men shall be fulfilled; then from henceforth shall men abstain from the generation of children. But at present man must cooperate in the forming of the image of God, while the world exists and is still being formed; for it is said, “Increase and multiply.” And we must not be offended at the ordinance of the Creator, from which, moreover, we ourselves have our being. For the casting of seed into the furrows of the matrix is the beginning of the generation of men, so that bone taken from bone, and flesh from flesh, by an invisible power, are fashioned into another man. And in this way we must consider that the saying is fulfilled, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.”8

chap. ii.—generation something akin to the first formation of eve from the side and nature of adam; god the creator of men in ordinary generation.

And this perhaps is what was shadowed forth by the sleep and trance of the first man, which prefigured the embraces of connubial love. When thirsting for children a man falls into a kind of trance, softened and subdued by the pleasures of generation as by sleep, so that again something drawn from his flesh and from his bones is, as I said, fashioned into another man. For the harmony of the bodies being disturbed in the embraces of love, as those tell us who have experience of the marriage state, all the marrow-like and generative part of the blood, like a kind of liquid bone, coming together from all the members, worked into foam and curdled, is projected through the organs of generation into the living body of the female. And probably it is for this reason that a man is said to leave his father and his mother, since he is then suddenly unmindful of all things when united to his wife in the embraces of love, he is overcome by the desire of generation, offering his side to the divine Creator to take away from it, so that the father may again appear in the son.

Wherefore, if God still forms man, shall we not be guilty of audacity if we think of the generation of children as something offensive, which the Almighty Himself is not ashamed to make use of in working with His undefiled hands; for He says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee;” and to Job, “Didst thou take clay and form a living creature, and make it speak upon the earth?”3 and Job draws near to Him in supplication, saying, “Thine hands have made me and fashioned me.” Would it not, then, be absurd to forbid marriage unions, seeing that we expect that after us there will be martyrs, and those who shall oppose the evil one, for whose sake also the Word promised that He would shorten those days?5 For if the generation of children henceforth had seemed evil to God, as you said, for what reason will those who have come into existence in opposition to the divine decree and will be able to appear well-pleasing to God? And must not that which is begotten be something spurious, and not a creature of God, if, like a counterfeit coin, it is moulded apart from the intention and ordinance of the lawful authority? And so we concede to men the power of forming men.

chap. iii.—an ambiguous passage of scripture; not only the faithful but even prelates sometimes illegitimate.

But Marcella, interrupting, said, “O Theophila, there appears here a great mistake, and something contrary to what you have said; and do you think to escape under cover of the cloud which you have thrown around you? For there comes that argument, which perhaps any one who addresses you as a very wise person will bring forward: What do you say of those who are begotten unlawfully in adultery? For you laid it down that it was inconceivable and impossible for any one to enter into the world unless he was introduced by the will of the divine Ruler, his frame being prepared for him by God. And that you may not take refuge behind a safe wall, bringing forward the Scripture which says, ‘As for the children of the adulterers, they shall not come to their perfection, ‘ he will answer you easily, that we often see those who are unlawfully begotten coming to perfection like ripe fruit.

And if, again, you answer sophistically, ‘O, my friend, by those who come not to perfection I understand being perfected in Christ-taught righteousness; ‘he will say, ‘But, indeed, my worthy friend, very many who are begotten of unrighteous seed are not only numbered among those who are gathered into the flock of the brethren, but are often called even to preside over them. Since, then, it is clear, and all testify, that those who are born of adultery do come to perfection, we must not imagine that the Spirit was teaching respecting conceptions and births, but rather perhaps concerning those who adulterate the truth, who, corrupting the Scriptures by false doctrines, bring forth an imperfect and immature wisdom, mixing their error with piety.’ And, therefore, this plea being taken away from you, come now and tell us if those who are born of adultery are begotten by the will of God; for you said that it was impossible that the offspring of a man should be brought to perfection unless the Lord formed it and gave it life.”

chap. iv.—human generation, and the work of god therein set forth.

Theophila, as though caught round the middle by a strong antagonist, grew giddy, and with difficulty recovering herself, replied, “You ask a question, my worthy friend, which needs to be solved by an example, that you may still better understand how the creative power of God, pervading all things, is more especially the real cause in the generation of men, making those things to grow which are planted in the productive earth. For that which is sown is not to be blamed, but he who sows in a strange soil by unlawful embraces, as though purchasing a slight pleasure by shamefully selling his own seed. For imagine our birth into the world to be like some such thing as a house having its entrance lying close to lofty mountains; and that the house extends a great way down, far from the entrance, and that it has many holes behind, and that in this part it has circular.” “I imagine it,” said Marcella. “Well, then, suppose that a modeller seated within is fashioning many statues; imagine, again, that the substance of clay is incessantly brought to him from without, through the holes, by many men who do not any of them see the artist himself. Now suppose the house to be covered with mist and clouds, and nothing visible to those who are outside but only the holes.” “Let this also be supposed,” she said. “And that each one of those who are labouring together to provide the clay has one hole allotted to himself, into which he alone has to bring and deposit his own clay, not touching any other hole. And if, again, he shall officiously endeavour to open that which is allotted to another, let him be threatened with fire and scourges.

“Well, now, consider further what comes after this: the modeller within going round to the holes and taking privately for his modelling the clay which he finds at each hole, and having in a certain number of months made his model, giving it back through the same hole; having this for his rule, that every lump of clay which is capable of being moulded shall be worked up indifferently, even if it be unlawfully thrown by any one through another’s hole, for the clay has done no wrong, and, therefore, as being blameless, should be moulded and formed; but that he who, in opposition to the ordinance and law, deposited it in another’s hole, should be punished as a criminal and transgressor. For the clay should not be blamed, but he who did this in violation of what is right; for, through incontinence, having carried it away, he secretly, by violence, deposited it in another’s hole.” “You say most truly.”

chap. v.—the holy father follows up the same argument.

And now that these things are completed, it remains for you to apply this picture, my wisest of friends, to the things which have been already spoken of; comparing the house to the invisible nature of our generation, and the entrance adjacent to the mountains to the sending down of our souls from heaven, and their descent into the bodies; the holes to the female sex, and the modeller to the creative power of God, which, under the cover of generation, making use of our nature, invisibly forms us men within, working the garments for the souls. Those who carry the clay represent the male sex in the comparison; when thirsting for children, they bring and east in seed into the natural channels of the female, as those in the comparison cast clay into the holes. For the seed, which, so to speak, partakes of a divine creative power, is not to be thought guilty of the incentives to incontinence; and art always works up the matter submitted to it; and nothing is to be considered as evil in itself, but becomes so by the act of those who used it in such a way; for when properly and purely made use of, it comes out pure, but if disgracefully and improperly, then it becomes disgraceful. For how did iron, which was discovered for the benefit of agriculture and the arts, injure those who sharpened it for murderous battles? Or how did gold, or silver, or brass, and, to take it collectively, the whole of the workable earth, injure those who, ungratefully towards their Creator, make a wrong use of them by turning parts of them into various kinds of idols? And if any one should supply wool from that which had been stolen to the weaving art, that art, regarding this one thing only, manufactures the material submitted to it, if it will receive the preparation, rejecting nothing of that which is serviceable to itself, since that which is stolen is here not to be blamed, being lifeless. And, therefore, the material itself is to be wrought and adorned, but he who is discovered to have abstracted it unjustly should be punished. So, in like manner, the violators of marriage, and those who break the strings of the harmony of life, as of a harp, raging with lust, and letting loose their desires in adultery, should themselves be tortured and punished, for they do a great wrong stealing from the gardens of others the embraces of generation; but the seed itself, as in the case of the wool, should be formed and endowed with life.

chap. vi.—god cares even for adulterous births; angels given to them as guardians.

But what need is there to protract the argument by using such examples? for nature could not thus, in a little time, accomplish so great a work without divine help. For who gave to the bones their fixed nature? and who bound the yielding members with nerves, to be extended and relaxed at the joints? or who prepared channels for the blood, and a soft windpipe for the breath? or what god caused the humours to ferment, mixing them with blood and forming the soft flesh out of the earth, but only the Supreme Artist making us to be man, the rational and living image of Himself, and forming it like wax, in the womb, from moist slight seed? or by whose providence was it that the fœtus was not suffocated by damp when shut up within, in the connexion of the vessels? or who, after it was brought forth and had come into the light, changed it from weakness and smallness to size, and beauty, and strength, unless God Himself, the Supreme Artist, as I said, making by His creative power copies of Christ, and living pictures? Whence, also, we have received from the inspired writings, that those who are begotten, even though it be in adultery, are committed to guardian angels. But if they came into being in opposition to the will and the decree of the blessed nature of God, how should they be delivered over to angels, to be nourished with much gentleness and indulgence? and how, if they had to accuse their own parents, could they confidently, before the judgment seat of Christ, invoke Him and say, “Thou didst not, O Lord, grudge us this common light; but these appointed us to death, despising Thy command?” “For,” He says, “children begotten of unlawful beds are witnesses of wickedness against their parents at their trial.”

chap. vii.—the rational soul from god himself; chastity not the only good, although the best and most honoured.

And perhaps there will be room for some to argue plausibly among those who are wanting in discrimination and judgment, that this fleshly garment of the soul, being planted by men, is shaped spontaneously apart from the sentence of God. If, however, he should teach that the immortal being of the soul also is sown along with the mortal body, he will not be believed; for the Almighty alone breathes into man the undying and undecaying part, as also it is He alone who is Creator of the invisible and indestructible. For, He says, He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” And those artificers who, to the destruction of men, make images in human form, not perceiving and knowing their own Maker, are blamed by the Word, which says, in the Book of Wisdom, a book full of all virtue,3 “his heart is ashes, his hope is more vile than earth, and his life of less value than clay; forasmuch as he knew not his Maker, and Him that inspired into him an active soul, and breathed in a living spirit; ” that is, God, the Maker of all men; therefore, also, according to the apostle, He “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”5 And now, although this subject be scarcely completed, yet there are others which remain to be discussed. For when one thoroughly examines and understands those things which happen to man according to his nature, he will know not to despise the procreation of children, although he applauds chastity, and prefers it in honour. For although honey be sweeter and more pleasant than other things, we are not for that reason to consider other things bitter which are mixed up in the natural sweetness of fruits. And, in support of these statements, I will bring forward a trustworthy witness, namely, Paul, who says, “So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth bet ter.”7 Now the word, in setting forth that which is better and sweeter, did not intend to take away the inferior, but arranges so as to assign to each its own proper use and advantage. For there are some to whom it is not given to attain virginity; and there are others whom He no longer wills to be excited by procreations to lust, and to be defiled, but henceforth to meditate and to keep the mind upon the transformation of the body to the likeness of angels, when they “neither marry nor are given in marriage,” according to the infallible words of the Lord; since it is not given to all to attain that undefiled state of being a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven,9 but manifestly to those only who are able to preserve the ever-blooming and unfading flower of virginity. For it is the custom of the prophetic Word to compare the Church to a flower covered and variegated meadow, adorned and crowned not only with the flowers of virginity, but also with those of child-bearing and of continence; for it is written, “Upon thy right hand did stand the queen in a vesture of gold, wrought about with divers colours.”11

These words, O Arete, I bring according to my ability to this discussion in behalf of the truth.

And when Theophila had thus spoken, Theopatra said that applause arose from all the virgins approving of her discourse; and that when they became silent, after a long pause, Thaleia arose, for to her had been assigned the third place in the contest, that which came after Theophila. And she then, as I think, followed, and spoke.

discourse iii.—thaleia.

chap. i.—passages of holy scripture compared.

You seem to me, O Theophila, to excel all in action and in speech, and to be second to none in wisdom. For there is no one who will find fault with your discourse, however contentious and contradictory he may be. Yet, while everything else seems rightly spoken, one thing, my friend, distresses and troubles me, considering that that wise and most spiritual man—I mean Paul—would not vainly refer to Christ and the Church the union of the first man and woman, if the Scripture meant nothing higher than what is conveyed by the mere words and the history; for if we are to take the Scripture as a bare representation wholly referring to the union of man and woman, for what reason should the apostle, calling these things to remembrance, and guiding us, as I opine, into the way of the Spirit, allegorize the history of Adam and Eve as having a reference to Christ and the Church? For the passage in Genesis reads thus: “And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”2 But the apostle considering this passage, by no means, as I said, intends to take it according to its mere natural sense, as referring to the union of man and woman, as you do; for you, explaining the passage in too natural a sense, laid down that the Spirit is speaking only of conception and births; that the bone taken from the bones was made another man, and that living creatures coming together swell like trees at the time of conception. But he, more spiritually referring the passage to Christ, thus teaches: “He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.”

chap. ii.—the digressions of the apostle paul; the character of his doctrine: nothing in it contradictory; condemnation of origen, who wrongly turns everything into allegory.

Let it not disturb you, if, in discussing one class of subjects, he, i.e., Paul, should pass over into another, so as to appear to mix them up, and to import matters foreign to the subject under consideration, departing from the question, as now for instance. For wishing, as it seems, to strengthen most carefully the argument on behalf of chastity, he prepares the mode of argument beforehand, beginning with the more persuasive mode of speech. For the character of his speech being very various, and arranged for the purpose of progressive proof, begins gently, but flows forward into a style which is loftier and more magnificent. And then, again changing to what is deep, he sometimes finishes with what is simple and easy, and sometimes with what is more difficult and delicate; and yet introducing nothing which is foreign to the subject by these changes, but, bringing them all together according to a certain marvellous relationship, he works into one the question which is set forth as his subject. It is needful, then, that I should more accurately unfold the meaning of the apostle’s arguments, yet rejecting nothing of what has been said before. For you seem to me, O Theophila, to have discussed those words of the Scripture amply and clearly, and to have set them forth as they are without mistake. For it is a dangerous thing wholly to despise the literal meaning, as has been said, and especially of Genesis, where the unchangeable decrees of God for the constitution of the universe are set forth, in agreement with which, even until now, the world is perfectly ordered, most beautifully in accordance with a perfect rule, until the Lawgiver Himself having re-arranged it, wishing to order it anew, shall break up the first laws of nature by a fresh disposition. But, since it is not fitting to leave the demonstration of the argument unexamined—and, so to speak, half-lame—come let us, as it were completing our pair, bring forth the analogical sense, looking more deeply into the Scripture; for Paul is not to be despised when he passes over the literal meaning, and shows that the words extend to Christ and the Church.

chap. iii.—comparison instituted between the first and second adam.

And, first, we must inquire if Adam can be likened to the Son of God, when he was found in the transgression of the Fall, and heard the sentence, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” For how shall he be considered “the first-born of every creature,”6 who, after the creation of the earth and the firmament, was formed out of clay? And how shall he be admitted to be “the tree of life” who was cast out for his transgression, lest “he should again stretch forth his hand and eat of it, and live forever? “8 For it is necessary that a thing which is likened unto anything else, should in many respects be similar and analogous to that of which it is the similitude, and not have its constitution opposite and dissimilar. For one who should venture to compare the uneven to the even, or harmony to discord, would not be considered rational. But the even should be compared to that which in its nature is even, although it should be even only in a small measure; and the white to that which in its nature is white, even although it should be very small, and should show but moderately the whiteness by reason of which it is called white. Now, it is beyond all doubt clear to every one, that which is sinless and incorrupt is even, and harmonious, and bright as wisdom; but that which is mortal and sinful is uneven and discordant, and cast out as guilty and subject to condemnation.

chap. iv.—some things here hard and too slightly treated, and apparently not sufficiently brought out according to the rule of theology.

Such, then, I consider to be the objections urged by many who, despising, as it seems, the wisdom of Paul, dislike the comparing of the first man to Christ. For come, let us consider how rightly Paul compared Adam to Christ, not only considering him to be the type and image, but also that Christ Himself became the very same thing, because the Eternal Word fell upon Him. For it was fitting that the first-born of God, the first shoot, the only-begotten, even the wisdom of God, should be joined to the first-formed man, and first and first-born of mankind, and should become incarnate. And this was Christ, a man filled with the pure and perfect Godhead, and God received into man. For it was most suitable that the oldest of the Æons and the first of the Archangels, when about to hold communion with men, should dwell in the oldest and the first of men, even Adam. And thus, when renovating those things which were from the beginning, and forming them again of the Virgin by the Spirit, He frames the same2 just as at the beginning. When the earth was still virgin and untilled, God, taking mould, formed the reasonable creature from it without seed.

chap. v.—a passage of jeremiah examined.

And here I may adduce the prophet Jeremiah as a trustworthy and lucid witness, who speaks thus: “Then I went down to the potter’s house; and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” For when Adam, having been formed out of clay, was still soft and moist, and not yet, like a tile, made hard and incorruptible, sin ruined him, flowing and dropping down upon him like water. And therefore God, moistening him afresh and forming anew the same clay to His honour, having first hardened and fixed it in the Virgin’s womb, and united and mixed it with the Word, brought it forth into life no longer soft and broken; lest, being overflowed again by streams of corruption from without, it should become soft, and perish as the Lord in His teaching shows in the parable of the finding of the sheep; where my Lord says to those standing by, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost until he find it? and when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders rejoicing; and when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.”

chap. vi.—the whole number of spiritual sheep; man a second choir, after the angels, to the praise of god; the parable of the lost sheep explained.

Now, since He truly was and is, being in the beginning with God, and being God, He is the chief Commander and Shepherd of the heavenly ones, whom all reasonable creatures obey and attend, who tends in order and numbers the multitudes of the blessed angels. For this is the equal and perfect number of immortal creatures, divided according to their races and tribes, man also being here taken into the flock. For be also was created without corruption, that he might honour the king and maker of all things, responding to the shouts of the melodious angels which came from heaven. But when it came to pass that, by transgressing the commandment (of God), he suffered a terrible and destructive fall, being thus reduced to a state of death, for this reason the Lord says that He came from heaven into (a human) life, leaving the ranks and the armies of angels. For the mountains are to be explained by the heavens, and the ninety and nine sheep by the principalities and powers6 which the Captain and Shepherd left when He went down to seek the lost one. For it remained that man should be included in this catalogue and number, the Lord lifting him up and wrapping him round, that he might not again, as I said, be overflowed and swallowed up by the waves of deceit. For with this purpose the Word assumed the nature of man, that, having overcome the serpent, He might by Himself destroy the condemnation which had come into being along with man’s ruin. For it was fitting that the Evil One should be overcome by no other, but by him whom he had deceived, and whom he was boasting that he held in subjection, because no otherwise was it possible that sin and condemnation should be destroyed, unless that same man on whose account it had been said, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shall return,” should be created anew, and undo the sentence which for his sake had gone forth on all, that “as in Adam” at first “all die, even so” again “in Christ,” who assumed the nature and position of Adam, should “all be made alive.”

chap. vii.—the works of christ, proper to god and to man, the works of him who is one.

And now we seem to have said almost enough on the fact that man has become the organ and clothing of the Only-begotten, and what He was who came to dwell in him. But the fact that there is no moral inequality or discord may again be considered briefly from the beginning. For he speaks well who says that is in its own nature good and righteous and holy, by participation of which other things become good, and that wisdom is in connection with4 God, and that, on the other hand, sin is unholy and unrighteous and evil. For life and death, corruption and incorruption, are two things in the highest degree opposed to each other. For life is a moral equality, but corruption an inequality; and righteousness and prudence a harmony, but unrighteousness and folly a discord. Now, man being between these is neither righteousness itself, nor unrighteousness; but being placed midway between incorruption and corruption, to whichever of these he may incline is said to partake of the nature of that which has laid hold of him. Now, when he inclines to corruption, he becomes corrupt and mortal, and when to incorruption, he becomes incorrupt and immortal. For, being placed midway between the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, of the Fruit of which he tasted, he was changed into the nature of the latter, himself being neither the tree of life nor that of corruption; but having been shown forth as mortal, from his participation in and presence with corruption, and, again, as incorrupt and immortal by connection with and participation in life; as Paul also taught, saying, “Corruption shall not inherit incorruption, nor death life,”6 rightly defining corruption and death to be that which corrupts and kills, and not that which is corrupted and dies; and incorruption and life that which gives life and immortality, and not that which receives life and immortality. And thus man is neither a discord and an inequality, nor an equality and a harmony. But when he received discord, which is transgression and sin, he became discordant and unseemly; but when he received harmony, that is righteousness, he became a harmonious and seemly organ, in order that the Lord, the Incorruption which conquered death, might harmonize the resurrection with the flesh, not suffering it again to be inherited by corruption. And on this point also let these statements suffice.

chap. viii.—the bones and flesh of wisdom; the side out of which the spiritual eve is formed, the holy spirit; the woman the help-meet of adam; virgins betrothed to christ.

For it has been already established by no contemptible arguments from Scripture, that the first man may be properly referred to Christ Himself, and is no longer a type and representation and image of the Only-begotten, but has become actually Wisdom and the Word.

For man, having been composed, like water, of wisdom and life, has become identical with the very same untainted light which poured into him. Whence it was that the apostle directly referred to Christ the words which had been spoken of Adam. For thus will it be most certainly agreed that the Church is formed out of His bones and flesh; and it was for this cause that the Word, leaving His Father in heaven, came down to be “joined to His wife;” and slept in the trance of His passion, and willingly suffered death for her, that He might present the Church to Himself glorious and blameless, having cleansed her by the laver,8 for the receiving of the spiritual and blessed seed, which is sown by Him who with whispers implants it in the depths of the mind; and is conceived and formed by the Church, as by a woman. so as to give birth and nourishment to virtue. For in this way, too, the command, “Increase and multiply,” is duly fulfilled, the Church increasing daily in greatness and beauty and multitude, by the union and communion of the Word, who now still comes down to us and falls into a trance by the memorial of His passion; for otherwise the Church could not conceive believers, and give them new birth by the laver of regeneration, unless Christ, emptying Himself for their sake, that He might be contained by them, as I said, through the recapitulation of His passion, should die again, coming down from heaven, and being “joined to His wife,” the Church, should provide for a certain power being taken from His own side, so that all who are built up in Him should grow up, even those who are born again by the laver, receiving of His bones and of His flesh, that is, of His holiness and of His glory. For he who says that the bones and flesh of Wisdom are understanding and virtue, says most rightly; and that the side is the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete, of whom the illuminated2 receiving are fitly born again to incorruption. For it is impossible for any one to be a partaker of the Holy Spirit, and to be chosen a member of Christ, unless the Word first came down upon him and fell into a trance, in order that he, being filled with the Spirit, and rising again from sleep with Him who was laid to sleep for his sake, should be able to receive renewal and restoration. For He may fitly be called the side4 of the Word, even the sevenfold Spirit of truth, according to the prophet; of whom God taking, in the trance of Christ, that is, after His incarnation and passion, prepares a help-meet for Him6 —I mean the souls which are betrothed and given in marriage to Him. For it is frequently the case that the Scriptures thus call the assembly and mass of believers by the name of the Church, the more perfect in their progress being led up to be the one person and body of the Church. For those who are the better, and who embrace the truth more clearly, being delivered from the evils of the flesh, become, on account of their perfect purification and faith, a church and help-meet of Christ, betrothed and given in marriage to Him as a virgin, according to the apostle, so that receiving the pure and genuine seed of His doctrine, they may co-operate with Him, helping in preaching for the salvation of others. And those who are still imperfect and beginning their lessons, are born to salvation, and shaped, as by mothers, by those who are more perfect, until they are brought forth and regenerated unto the greatness and beauty of virtue; and so these, in their turn making progress, having become a church, assist in labouring for the birth and nurture of other children, accomplishing in the receptacle of the soul, as in a womb, the blameless will of the Word.

chap. ix.—the dispensation of grace in paul the apostle.

Now we should consider the case of the renowned Paul, that when he was not yet perfect in Christ, he was first born and suckled, Ananias preaching to him, and renewing him in baptism, as the history in the Acts relates. But when he was grown to a man, and was built up, then being moulded to spiritual perfection, he was made the help-meet and bride of the Word; and receiving and conceiving the seeds of life, he who was before a child, becomes a church and a mother, himself labouring in birth of those who, through him, believed in the Lord, until Christ was formed and born in them also. For he says, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you; ” and again, “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel.”9

It is evident, then, that the statement respecting Eve and Adam is to be referred to the Church and Christ. For this is truly a great mystery and a supernatural, of which I, from my weakness and dulness, am unable to speak, according to its worth and greatness. Nevertheless, let us attempt it. It remains that I speak to you on what follows, and of its signification.

chap. x.—the doctrine of the same apostle concerning purity.

Now Paul, when summoning all persons to sanctification and purity, in this way referred that which had been spoken concerning the first man and Eve in a secondary sense to Christ and the Church, in order to silence the ignorant, now deprived of all excuse. For men who are incontinent in consequence of the uncontrolled impulses of sensuality in them, dare to force the Scriptures beyond their true meaning, so as to twist into a defence of their incontinence the saying, “Increase and multiply; ” and the other, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother;”11 and they are not ashamed to run counter to the Spirit, but, as though born for this purpose, they kindle up the smouldering and lurking passion, fanning and provoking it; and therefore he, cutting off very sharply these dishonest follies and invented excuses, and having arrived at the subject of instructing them how men should behave to their wives, showing that it should be as Christ did to the Church, “who gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the Word,”13 he referred back to Genesis, mentioning the things spoken concerning the first man, and explaining these things as bearing on the subject before him, that he might take away occasion for the abuse of these passages from those who taught the sensual gratification of the body, under the pretext of begetting children.

chap. xi.—the same argument.

For consider, O virgins, how he, desiring with all his might that believers in Christ should be chaste, endeavours by many arguments to show them the dignity of chastity, as when he says,2 Now, concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman,” thence showing already very clearly that it is good not to touch a woman, laying it down. and setting it forth unconditionally. But afterwards, being aware of the weakness of the less continent, and their passion for intercourse, he permitted those who are unable to govern the flesh to use their own wives, rather than, shamefully transgressing, to give themselves up to fornication. Then, after having given this permission, he immediately added these words,4 “that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency; “which means, “if you, such as you are, cannot, on account of the incontinence and softness of your bodies, be perfectly continent, I will rather permit you to have intercourse with your own wives, lest, professing perfect continence, ye be constantly tempted by the evil one, and be inflamed with lust after other men’s wives.”


chap. xii.—paul an example to widows, and to those who do not live with their wives.

Come, now, and let us examine more carefully the very words which are before us, and observe that the apostle did not grant these things unconditionally to all, but first laid down the reason on account of which he was led to this. For, having set forth that “it is good for a man not to touch a woman,” he added immediately, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife”6 —that is, “on account of the fornication which would arise from your being unable to restrain your voluptuousness “—and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it tie with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.”8 And this is very carefully considered. “By permission,” he says, showing that he was giving counsel, “not of command; “for he receives command respecting chastity and the not touching of a woman, but permission respecting those who are unable, as I said, to chasten their appetites. These things, then, he lays down concerning men and women who are married to one spouse, or who shall hereafter be so; but we must now examine carefully the apostle’s language respecting men who have lost their wives, and women who have lost their husbands, and what he declares on this subject.

“I say therefore,” he goes on, “to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” Here also he persisted in giving the preference to continence. For, taking himself as a notable example, in order to stir them up to emulation, he challenged his hearers to this state of life, teaching that it was better that a man who had been bound to one wife should henceforth remain single, as lie also did.10 But if, on the other hand, this should be a matter of difficulty to any one, on account of the strength of animal passion, he allows that one who is in such a condition may, “by permission,” contract a second marriage; not as though he expressed the opinion that a second marriage was in itself flood, but judging it better than burning. Just as though, in the fast which prepares for the Easter celebration, one should offer food to an other who was dangerously ill, and say, “In truth, my friend, it were fitting and good that you should bravely hold out like us, and partake of the same things,12 for it is forbidden even to think of food to-day; but since you are held down and weakened by disease, and cannot bear it, therefore, ‘by permission, ‘ we advise you to eat food, lest, being quite unable, from sickness, to hold up against the desire for food, you perish.” Thus also the apostle speaks here, first saying that he wished all were healthy and continent, as he also was, but afterwards allowing a second marriage to those who are burdened with the disease of the passions, lest they should be wholly defiled by fornication, goaded on by the itchings of the organs of generation to promiscuous intercourse, considering such a second marriage far preferable to burning and indecency.

chap. xiii.—the doctrine of paul concerning virginity explained.

I have now brought to an end what I have to say respecting continence and marriage and chastity, and intercourse with men, and in which of these there is help towards progress in righteousness; but it still remains to speak concerning virginity—if, indeed, anything be prescribed on this subject. Let us then treat this subject also; for it stands thus: “Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress; I say, that it is good for a man so to be. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.” Having given his opinion with great caution respecting virginity, and being about to advise him who wished it to give his virgin in marriage, so that none of those things which conduce to sanctification should be of necessity and by compulsion, but according to the free purpose of the soul. for this is acceptable to God, he does not wish these things to be said as by authority, and as the mind of the Lord, with reference to the giving of a virgin in marriage; for after he had said,2 “if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned,” directly afterwards, with the greatest caution, he modified his statement, showing that he had advised these things by human permission, and not by divine. So, immediately after he had said, “if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned,” he added, “such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.” By which he means: “I sparing you, such as you are, consented to these things, because yon have chosen to think thus of them, that I may not seem to hurry you on by violence, and compel any one to this.4 But yet if it shall please you who find chastity hard to bear, rather to turn to marriage; I consider it to be profitable for you to restrain yourselves in the gratification of the flesh, not making your marriage an occasion for abusing your own vessels to uncleanness.” Then he adds, “But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none.” And again, going on and challenging them to the same things, he confirmed his statement, powerfully supporting the state of virginity, and adding expressly the following words to those which he had spoken before, he exclaimed,6 “I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” Now it is clear to all, without any doubt, that to care for the things of the Lord and to please God, is much better than to care for the things of the world and to please one’s wife. For who is there so foolish and blind, as not to perceive in this statement the higher praise which Paul accords to chastity? “And this,” he says,8 “I speak for your own profit, not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely.”

chap. xiv.—virginity a gift of god: the purpose of virginity not rashly to be adopted by any one.

Consider besides how, in addition to the words already quoted, he commends the state of virginity as a gift of God. Wherefore he rejects those of the more incontinent, who, under the influence of vain-glory, would advance to this state, advising them to marry, lest in their time of manly strength, the flesh stirring up the desires and passions, they should be goaded on to defile the soul. For let us consider what he lays down: “But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely towards his virgin,” he says,” if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let him marry:” properly here preferring marriage to “uncomeliness,” in the case of those who had chosen the state of virginity, but afterwards finding it intolerable and grievous, and in word boasting of their perseverance before men, out of shame, but indeed no longer having the power to persevere in the life of a eunuch. But for him who of his own free will and purpose decides to preserve his flesh in virgin purity, “having no necessity,”10 that is, passion calling forth his loins to intercourse, for there are, as it seems, differences in men’s bodies; such a one contending and struggling, and zealously abiding by his profession. and admirably fulfilling it, he exhorts to abide and to preserve it, according the highest prize to virginity. For he that is able, he says, and ambitious to preserve his flesh pure, does better; but he that is unable, and enters into marriage lawfully, and does not indulge in secret corruption, does well. And now enough has been said on these subjects.

Let any one who will, take in his hand the Epistle to the Corinthians, and, examining all its passages one by one, then consider what we have said, comparing them together, as to whether there is not a perfect harmony and agreement between them. These things, according to my power, O Arete, I offer to thee as my contribution on the subject of chastity.

Euboulios. Through many things, O Gregorion, she has scarcely come to the subject, having measured and crossed a mighty sea of words.

Gregorion. So it seems; but come, I must mention the rest of what was said in order, going through it and repeating it, while I seem to have the sound of it dwelling in my ears, before it flies away and escapes; for the remembrance of things lately heard is easily effaced from the aged.

Euboulios. Say on, then; for we have come to have the pleasure of hearing these discourses.

Gregorion. And then after, as you observed, Thaleia had descended from her smooth and unbroken course to the earth, Theopatra, she said, followed her in order, and spoke as follows.

discourse iv.—theopatra.


chap. i.—the necessity of praising virtue, for those who have the power.

If the art of speaking, O virgins, always went by the same ways, and passed along the same path, there would be no way to avoid wearying you for one who persisted in the arguments which had already been urged. But since there are of arguments myriads of currents and ways, God inspiring us “at sundry times and in divers manners,” who can have the choice of holding back or of being afraid? For he would not be free from blame to whom the gift has been given, if he failed to adorn that which is honourable with words of praise. Come then, we also, according to our gifts, will sing the brightest and most glorious star of Christ, which is chastity. For this way of the Spirit is very wide and large. Beginning, therefore, at the point from which we may say those things which are suitable and fitting to the subject before us, let us from thence consider it.

chap. ii.—the protection of chastity and virginity divinely given to men, that they may emerge from the mire of vices.

Now I at least seem to perceive that nothing has been such a means of restoring men to paradise, and of the change to incorruption, and of reconciliation to God, and such a means of salvation to men, by guiding us to life, as chastity. And I will now endeavour to show why I think so concerning these things, that having heard distinctly the power of the grace already spoken of, you may know of how great blessings it has become the giver to us. Anciently, then, after the fall of man, when he was cast out by reason of his transgression, the stream of corruption poured forth abundantly, and running along in violent currents, not only fiercely swept along whatever touched it from without, but also rushing within it, overwhelmed the souls of men. And they, continuously exposed to this, were carried along dumb and stupid, neglecting to pilot their vessels,3 from having nothing firm to lay hold of. For the senses of the soul, as those have said who are learned in these things, when, being overcome by the excitements to passion which fall upon them from without, they receive the sudden bursts of the waves of folly which rush into them, being darkened turn aside from the divine course its whole vessel, which is by nature easily guided. Wherefore God, pitying us who were in such a condition, and were able neither to stand nor to rise, sent down from heaven the best and most glorious help, virginity, that by it we might tie our bodies fast, like ships, and have a calm, coming to an anchorage without damage, as also the Holy Spirit witnesses. For this is said in the hundred and thirty-sixth psalm, where the souls send joyfully up to God a hymn of thanksgiving,5 as many as have been taken hold of and raised up to walk with Christ in heaven, that they might not be overwhelmed by the streams of the world and the flesh. Whence, also, they say that Pharaoh was a type of the devil in Egypt, since he mercilessly commanded the males to be cast into the river, but the females to be preserved alive. For the devil, ruling7 from Adam to Moses over this great Egypt, the world, took care to have the male and rational offspring of the soul carried away and destroyed by the streams of passions, but he longs for the carnal and irrational offspring to increase and multiply.

chap. iii.—that passage of david explained; what the harps hung upon the willows signify; the willow a symbol of chastity; the willows watered by streams.

But not to pass away from our subject, come, let us take in our hands and examine this psalm, which the pure and stainless souls sing to God, saying: “By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down; yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof,” clearly giving the name of harps to their bodies which they hung upon the branches of chastity, fastening them to the wood that they might not be snatched away and dragged along again by the stream of incontinence. For Babylon, which is interpreted “disturbance “or” confusion,” signifies this life around which the water flows, while we sit in the midst of which the water flows round us, as long as we are in the world, the rivers of evil always beating upon us. Wherefore, also, we are always fearful, and we groan and cry with weeping to God, that our harps may not be snatched off by the waves of pleasure, and slip down from the tree of chastity. For everywhere the divine writings take the willow as the type of chastity, because, when its flower is steeped in water, if it be drunk, it extinguishes whatever kindles sensual desires and passions within us, until it entirely renders barren, and makes every inclination to the begetting of children without effect, as also Homer indicated, for this reason calling the willows destructive of fruit.2 And in Isaiah the righteous are said to “spring up as willows by the water courses.” Surely, then, the shoot of virginity is raised to a great and glorious height, when the righteous, and he to whom it is given to preserve it and to cultivate it, bedewing it with wisdom, is watered by the gentlest streams of Christ. For as it is the nature of this tree to bud and grow through water, so it is the nature of virginity to blossom and grow to maturity when enriched by words, so that one can hang his body4 upon it.

chap. iv.—the author goes on with the interpretation of the same passage.

If, then, the rivers of Babylon are the streams of voluptuousness, as wise men say, which confuse and disturb the soul, then the willows must be chastity, to which we may suspend and draw up the organs of lust which overbalance and weigh down the mind, so that they may not be borne down by the torrents of incontinence, and be drawn like worms to impurity and corruption. For God has bestowed upon us virginity as a most useful and a serviceable help towards incorruption, sending it as an ally to those who are contending for and longing after Zion, as the psalm shows, which is resplendent charity and the commandment respecting it, for Zion is interpreted “The commandment of the watchtower.” Now, let us here enumerate the points which follow. For why do the souls declare that they were asked by those who led them captive to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? Surely because the Gospel teaches a holy and secret song, which sinners and adulterers sing to the Evil One. For they insult the commandments, accomplishing the will of the spirits of evil, and cast holy things to dogs, and pearls before swine,6 in the same manner as those of whom the prophet says with indignation, “They read the law without; “8 for the Jews were not to read the law going forth out of the gates of Jerusalem or out of their houses; and for this reason the prophet blames them strongly, and cries that they were liable to condemnation, because, while they were transgressing the commandments, and acting impiously towards God, they were pretentiously reading the law, as if, forsooth, they were piously observing its precepts; but they did not receive it in their souls, holding it firmly with faith, but rejected it, denying it by their works. And hence they sing the Lord’s song in a strange land, explaining the law by distorting and degrading it, expecting a sensual kingdom, and setting their hopes on this alien world, which the Word says will pass away, where those who carry them captive entice them with pleasures, lying in wait to deceive them.

chap. v.—the gifts of virgins, adorned with which they are presented to one husband, christ.

Now, those who sing the Gospel to senseless people seem to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land, of which Christ is not the husbandman; but those who have put on and shone in the most pure and bright, and unmingled and pious and becoming, ornament of virginity, and are found barren and unproductive of unsettled and grievous passions, do not sing the song in a strange land; because they are not borne thither by their hopes, nor do they stick fast in the lusts of their mortal bodies, nor do they take a low view of the meaning of the commandments, but well and nobly, with a lofty disposition, they have regard to the promises which are above, thirsting for heaven as a congenial abode, whence God, approving their dispositions, promises with an oath to give them choice honours, appointing and establishing them “above His chief joy;” for He says thus: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy;” meaning by Jerusalem, as I said, these very undefiled and incorrupt souls, which, having with self-denial drawn in the pure draught of virginity with unpolluted lips, are “espoused to one husband,” to be presented “as a chaste virgin to Christ” in heaven, “having gotten the victory, striving for undefiled rewards.”2 Hence also the prophet Isaiah proclaims, saying, “Arise, shine,4 for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” Now these promises, it is evident to every one, will be fulfilled after the resurrection. For the Holy Spirit does not speak of that well-known town in Judea; but truly of that heavenly city, the blessed Jerusalem, which He declares to be the assembly of the souls which God plainly promises to place first, “above His chief joy,” in the new dispensation, settling those who are clothed in the most white robe of virginity in the pure dwelling of unapproachable light; because they had it not in mind to put off their wedding garment—that is, to relax their minds by wandering thoughts.

chap. vi.—virginity to be cultivated and commended in every place and time.

Further, the expression in Jeremiah, “That a maid should not forget her ornaments, nor a bride her attire,”7 shows that she should not give up or loosen the band of chastity through wiles and distractions. For by the heart are properly denoted our heart and mind. Now the breastband, the girdle which gathers together and keeps firm the purpose of the soul to chastity, is love to God, which our Captain and Shepherd, Jesus, who is also our Ruler and Bridegroom, O illustrious virgins, commands both you and me to hold fast unbroken and sealed up even to the end; for one will not easily find anything else a greater help to men than this possession, pleasing and grateful to God. There-fore, I say, that we should all exercise and honour chastity, and always cultivate and commend it.

Let these first-fruits of my discourse suffice for thee, O Arete, in proof of my education and my zeal. “And I receive the gift,” she said that Arete replied, “and bid Thallousa speak after thee; for I must have a discourse from each one of you.” And she said that Thallousa, pausing a little, as though considering somewhat with herself, thus spoke.

discourse v.—thallousa.

chap. i.—the offering of chastity a great gift.

I pray you, Arete, that you will give your assistance now too, that I may seem to speak something worthy in the first place of yourself, and then of those who are present. For I am persuaded, having thoroughly learnt it from the sacred writings, that the greatest and most glorious offering and gift, to which there is nothing comparable, which men can offer to God, is the life of virginity. For although many accomplished many admirable things, according to their vows, in the law, they alone were said to fulfil a great vow who were willing to offer themselves of their free-will. For the passage runs thus: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, when either man or woman shall separate themselves … unto the Lord.”10 One vows to offer gold and silver vessels for the sanctuary when he comes, another to offer the tithe of his fruits, another of his property, another the best of his flocks, another consecrates his being; and no one is able to vow a great vow to the Lord, but he who has offered himself entirely to God.

chap. ii. abraham’s sacrifice of a heifer three years old, of a goat, and of a ram also three years old: its meaning; every age to be consecrated to god; the threefold watch and our age.

I must endeavour, O virgins, by a true exposition, to explain to you the mind of the Scripture according to its meaning. Now, he who watches over and restrains himself in part, and in part is distracted and wandering, is not wholly given up to God. Hence it is necessary that the perfect man offer up all, both the things of the soul and those of the flesh, so that he may be complete and not lacking. Therefore also God commands Abraham,12 “Take Me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle dove, and a young pigeon;” which is admirably said; for remark, that concerning those things, He also gives this command, Bring them Me and keep them free from the yoke, even thy soul uninjured, like a heifer, and your flesh, and your reason; the last like a goat, since he traverses lofty and precipitous places, and the other like a ram, that he may in nowise skip away, and fall and slip off from the right way. For thus shalt thou be perfect and blameless, O Abraham, when thou hast offered to Me thy soul, and thy sense, and thy mind, which He mentioned under the symbol of the heifer, the goat, and the ram of three years old, as though they represented the pure knowledge of the Trinity.

And perhaps He also symbolizes the beginning, the middle, and the end of our life and of our age, wishing as far as possible that men should spend their boyhood, their manhood, and their more advanced life purely, and offer them up to Him. Just as our Lord Jesus Christ commands in the Gospels, thus directing: “Let not your lights be extinguished, and let not your loins be loosed. Therefore also be ye like men who wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that, when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are ye, when he shall make you sit down, and shall come and serve you. And if he come in the second, or in the third watch, ye are blessed.” For consider, O virgins, when He mentions three watches of the night, and His three comings, He shadows forth in symbol our three periods of life, that of the boy, of the full-grown man, and of the old man; so that if He should come and remove us from the world while spending our first period, that is, while we are boys, He may receive us ready and pure, having nothing amiss; and the second and the third in like manner. For the evening watch is the time of the budding and youth of man, when the reason begins to be disturbed and to be clouded by the changes of life, his flesh gaining strength and urging him to lust. The second is the time when, afterwards advancing to a full-grown man, he begins to acquire stability, and to make a stand against the turbulence of passion and self-conceit. And the third, when most of the imaginations and desires fade away, the flesh now withering and declining to old age.

chap. iii.—far best to cultivate virtue from boyhood.

Therefore, it is becoming that we should kindle the unquenchable light of faith in the heart, and gird our loins with purity, and watch and ever wait for the Lord so that, if He should will to come and take any of us away in the first period of life, or in the second, or in the third, and should find us most ready, and working what He appointed, He may make us to lie down in the bosom of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. Now Jeremiah says, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth;” and “that his soul should not depart from the Lord.” It is good, indeed, from boyhood, to submit the neck to the divine Hand, and not to shake off, even to old age, the Rider who guides with pure mind, when the Evil One is ever dragging down the mind to that which is worse. For who is there that does not receive through the eyes, through the ears, through the taste and smell and touch, pleasures and delights, so as to become impatient of the control of continence as a driver, who checks and vehemently restrains the horse from evil? Another who turns his thoughts to other things will think differently; but we say that he offers himself perfectly to God who strives to keep the flesh undefiled from childhood, practising virginity; for it speedily brings great and much-desired gifts of hopes to those who strive for it, drying up the corrupting lusts and passions of the soul. But come, let us explain how we give ourselves up to the Lord.

chap. iv.—perfect consecration and devotion to god: what it is.

That which is laid down in the Book of Numbers, “greatly to vow a vow,” serves to show, as, with a little more explanation, I proceed to prove, that chastity is the great vow above all vows. For then am I plainly consecrated altogether to the Lord, when I not only strive to keep the flesh untouched by intercourse, but also unspotted by other kinds of unseemliness. For “the unmarried woman,” it is said,4 “careth for the things of the Lord, how she may please the Lord.;” not merely that she may bear away the glory in part of not being maimed in her virtue, but in both parts, according to the apostle, that she may be sanctified in body and spirit, offering up her members to the Lord. For let us say what it is to offer up oneself perfectly to the Lord. If, for instance, I open my mouth on some subjects, and close it upon others; thus, if I open it for the explanation of the Scriptures, for the praise of God, according to my power, in a true faith and with all due honour, and if close it, putting a door and a watch upon it against foolish discourse, my mouth is kept pure, and is offered up to God. “My tongue is a pen.”6 an organ of wisdom; for the Word of the Spirit writes by it in clearest letters, from the depth and power of the Scriptures, even the Lord, the swift Writer of the ages, that He quickly and swiftly registers and fulfils the counsel of the Father, hearing the words, “quickly spoil, swiftly plunder.” To such a Scribe the words may be applied, “My tongue is a pen;” for a beautiful pen is sanctified and offered to Him, writing things more lovely than the poets and orators who confirm the doctrines of men. If, too, I accustom my eyes not to lust after the charms of the body, nor to take delight in unseemly sights, but to look up to the things which are above, then my eyes are kept pure, and are offered to the Lord. If I shut my ears against detraction and slanders, and open them to the word of God, having intercourse with wise men,2 then have I offered up my ears to the Lord. If I keep my hands from dishonourable dealing, from acts of covetousness and of licentiousness, then are my hands kept pure to God. If I withhold my steps from going in perverse ways, then have I offered up my feet, not going to the places of public resort and banquets, where wicked men are found, but into the right way, fulfilling something of the4 commands. What, then, remains to me, if I also keep the heart pure, offering up all its thoughts to God; if I think no evil, if anger and wrath gain no rule over me, if I meditate in the law of the Lord day and night? And this is to preserve a great chastity, and to vow a great vow.

chap. v.—the vow of chastity, and its rites in the law; vines, christ, and the devil.

I will now endeavour to explain to you, O virgins, the rest of that which is prescribed; for this is attached to your duties, consisting of laws concerning virginity, which are useful as teaching how we should abstain, and how advance to virginity. For it is written thus: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord; he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried, all the days of his separation.” And this means, that he who has devoted and offered himself to the Lord shall not take of the fruits of the plant of evil, because of its natural tendency to produce intoxication and distraction of mind. For we perceive from the Scriptures two kinds of vines which were separate from each other, and were unlike. For the one is productive of immortality and righteousness; but the other of madness and insanity. The sober and joy-producing vine, from whose instructions, as from branches, there joyfully hang down clusters of graces, distilling love, is our Lord Jesus, who says expressly to the apostles,6 “I am the true vine, ye are the branches; and my Father is the husbandman.” But the wild and death-bearing vine is the devil, who drops down fury and poison and wrath, as Moses relates, writing concerning him, “For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.” The inhabitants of Sodom having gathered grapes from this, were goaded on to an unnatural and fruitless desire for males. Hence, also, in the time of Noah, men having given themselves up to drunkenness, sank down into unbelief, and, being overwhelmed by the deluge, were drowned. And Cain, too, having drawn from this, stained his fratricidal hands, and defiled the earth with the blood of his own family. Hence, too, the heathen, becoming intoxicated, sharpen their passions for murderous battles; for man is not so much excited, nor goes so far astray through wine, as from anger and wrath. A man does not become intoxicated and go astray through wine, in the same way as he does from sorrow, or from love, or from incontinence. And therefore it is ordered that a virgin shall not taste of this vine, so that she may be sober and watchful from the cares of life, and may kindle the shining torch of the light of righteousness for the Word. “Take heed to yourselves,” says the Lord,8 “lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon yon unawares, as a snare.”

chap. vi.—sikera, a manufactured and spurious wine, yet intoxicating; things which are akin to sins are to be avoided by a virgin; the altar of incense (a symbol of) virgins.

Moreover, it is not only forbidden to virgins in any way to touch those things which are made from that vine, but even such things as resemble them and are akin to them. For Sikera, which is manufactured, is called a spurious kind of wine, whether made of palms or of other fruit-trees. For in the same way that draughts of wine overthrow man’s reason, so do these exceedingly; and to speak the plain truth, the wise are accustomed to call by the name of Sikera all that produces drunkenness and distraction of mind, besides wine. In order, therefore, that the virgin may not, when guarding against those sins which are in their own nature evil, be defiled by those which are like them and akin to them, conquering the one and being conquered by the other, that is, decorating herself with textures of different cloths, or with stones and gold, and other decorations of the body, things which intoxicate the soul; on this account it is ordered that she do not give herself up to womanish weaknesses and laughter, exciting herself to wiles and foolish talking, which whirl the mind around and confuse it; as it is indicated in another place, “Ye shall not eat the hyæna and animals like it; nor the weasel and creatures of that kind.” For this is the straight and direct way to heaven, not merely not to avoid any stumbling-block which would trip up and destroy men who are agitated by a desire for luxuries and pleasures, but also from such things as resemble them.

Moreover, it has been handed down that the unbloody altar of God signifies the assembly of the chaste; thus virginity appears to be something great and glorious. Therefore it ought to be preserved undefiled and altogether pure, having no participation in the impurities of the flesh; but it should be set up before the presence of the testimony, gilded with wisdom, for the Holy of holies, sending forth a sweet savour of love to the Lord; for He says, “Thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim-wood shalt thou make it. And thou shalt make the staves of shittim-wood, and overlay them with gold. And thou shalt put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy-seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee. And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it; a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt-sacrifices nor meat-offering; neither shall ye pour drink-offering thereon.”

chap. vii.—the church intermediate between the shadows of the law and the realities of heaven.

If the law, according to the apostle, is spiritual, containing the images “of future good things,” come then, let us strip off the veil of the letter which is spread over it, and consider its naked and true meaning. The Hebrews were commanded to ornament the Tabernacle as a type of the Church, that they might be able, by means of sensible things, to announce beforehand the image of divine things. For the pattern which was shown to Moses4 in the mount, to which he was to have regard in fashioning the Tabernacle, was a kind of accurate representation of the heavenly dwelling, which we now perceive more clearly than through types, yet more darkly than if we saw the reality. For not yet, in our present condition, has the truth come unmingled to men, who are here unable to bear the sight of pure immortality, just as we cannot bear to look upon the rays of the sun. And the Jews declared that the shadow of the image (of the heavenly things which was afforded to them), was the third from the reality; but we clearly behold the image of the heavenly order; for the truth will be accurately made manifest after the resurrection, when we shall see the heavenly tabernacle (the city in heaven “whose builder and maker is God” “face to face,” and not “darkly” and “in part.”6

chap. viii.—the double altar, widows and virgins; gold the symbol of virginity.

Now the Jews prophesied our state, but we foretell the heavenly; since the Tabernacle was a symbol of the Church, and the Church of heaven. Therefore, these things being so, and the Tabernacle being taken for a type of the Church, as I said, it is fitting that the altars should signify some of the things in the Church. And we have already compared the brazen altar to the company and circuit of widows; for they are a living altar of God, to which they bring calves and tithes, and free-will offerings, as a sacrifice to the Lord; but the golden altar within the Holy of holies, before the presence of the testimony, on which it is forbidden to offer sacrifice and libation, has reference to those in a state of virginity, as those who have their bodies preserved pure, like unalloyed gold, from carnal intercourse. Now gold is commended for two reasons: the first, that it does not rust, and the second, that in its colour it seems in a measure to resemble the rays of the sun; and thus it is suitably a symbol of virginity, which does not admit any stain or spot, but ever shines forth with the light of the Word. Therefore, also, it stands nearer to God within the Holy of holies, and before the veil, with undefiled hands, like incense, offering up prayers to the Lord, acceptable as a sweet savour; as also John indicated, saying that the incense in the vials of the four-and-twenty elders were the prayers of the saints. This, then, I offer to thee, O Arete, on the spur of the moment, according to my ability, on the subject of chastity.

And when Thallousa had said this, Theopatra said that Arete touched Agathe with her sceptre, and that she, perceiving it, immediately arose and answered.

discourse vi.—agathe.

chap. i.—the excellence of the abiding glory of virginity; the soul made in the image of the image of god, that is of his son; the devil a suitor for the soul.

With great confidence of being able to persuade, and to carry on this admirable discourse, O Arete, if thou go with me, will I also endeavour, according to my ability, to contribute something to the discussion of the subject before us; something commensurate to my own power, and not to be compared with that which has already been spoken. For I should be unable to put forth in philosophizing anything that could compete with those things which have already been so variously and brilliantly worked out. For I shall seem to bear away the reproach of silliness, if I make an effort to match myself with my superiors in wisdom. If, however, you will bear even with those who speak as they can, I will endeavour to speak, not lacking at least in good will. And here let me begin.

We have all come into this world, O virgins, endowed with singular beauty, which has a relationship and affinity to divine wisdom. For the souls of men do then most accurately resemble Him who begat and formed them, when, reflecting the unsullied representation of His likeness, and the features of that countenance, to which God looking formed them to have an immortal and indestructible shape, they remain such. For the unbegotten and incorporeal beauty, which neither begins nor is corruptible, but is unchangeable, and grows not old and has need of nothing, He resting in Himself, and in the very light which is in unspeakable and inapproachable places, embracing all things in the circumference of His power, creating and arranging, made the soul after the image of His image. Therefore, also, it is reasonable and immortal. For being made after the image of the Only-begotten, as I said, it has an unsurpassable beauty, and therefore evil spirits2 love it, and plot and strive to defile its godlike and lovely image, as the prophet Jeremiah shows, reproaching Jerusalem, “Thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed;” speaking of her who prostituted herself to the powers which came against her to pollute her. For her lovers are the devil and his angels, who plan to defile and pollute our reasonable and clear-sighted beauty of mind by intercourse with themselves, and desire to cohabit with every soul which is betrothed to the Lord.

chap. ii.—the parable of the ten virgins.

If, then, any one will keep this beauty inviolate and unharmed, and such as He who constructed it formed and fashioned it, imitating the eternal and intelligible nature of which man is the representation and likeness, and will become like a glorious and holy image, he will be transferred thence to heaven, the city of the blessed, and will dwell there as in a sanctuary. Now our beauty is then best preserved undefiled and perfect when, protected by virginity, it is not darkened by the heat of corruption from without; but, remaining in itself, it is adorned with righteousness, being brought as a bride to the Son of God; as He also Himself suggests, exhorting that the light of chastity should be kindled in their flesh, as in lamps; since the number of the ten virgins signifies the souls that have believed in Jesus Christ, symbolizing by the ten the only right way to heaven. Now five of them were prudent and wise; and five were foolish and unwise, for they had not the forethought to fill their vessels with oil, remaining destitute of righteousness. Now by these He signifies those who strive to come to the boundaries of virginity, and who strain every nerve to fulfil this love, acting virtuously and temperately, and who profess and boast that this is their aim; but who, making light of it, and being subdued by the changes of the world, come rather to be sketches of the shadowy image of virtue, than workers who represent the living truth itself.

chap. iii.—the same endeavour and effort after virginity, with a different result.

Now when it is said that “the kingdom of heaven is likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom,” this means that the same way towards the goal had been entered upon, as is shown by the mark X.6 By profession they had equally proposed the same end, and therefore they are called ten, since, as I have said, they chose the same profession; but they did not, for all that, go forth in the same way to meet the bridegroom. For some provided abundant future nourishment for their lamps which were fed with oil, but others were careless, thinking only of the present. And, therefore, they are divided into two equal numbers of five, inasmuch as the one class preserved the five senses, which most people consider the gates of wisdom, pure and undefiled by sins; but the others, on the contrary, corrupted them by multitudes of sins, defiling themselves with evil. For having restrained them, and kept them free from righteousness, they bore a more abundant crop of transgressions, in consequence of which it came to pass that they were forbidden, and shut out from the divine courts. For whether, on the one hand, we do right, or, on the other, do wrong through these senses, our habits of good and evil are confirmed. And as Thallousa said that there is a chastity of the eyes, and of the ears, and of the tongue, and so on of the other senses; so here she who keeps inviolate the faith of the five pathways of virtue—sight, taste, smell, touch, and hearing—is called by the name of the five virgins, because she has kept the five forms of the sense pure to Christ, as a lamp, causing the light of holiness to shine forth clearly from each of them. For the flesh is truly, as it were, our five-lighted lamp, which the soul will bear like a torch, when it stands before Christ the Bridegroom, on the day of the resurrection, showing her faith springing out clear and bright through all the senses, as He Himself taught, saying, “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I if it be already kindled? “meaning by the earth our bodies, in which He wished the swift-moving and fiery operation of His doctrine to be kindled. Now the oil represents wisdom and righteousness; for while the soul rains down unsparingly, and pours forth these things upon the body, the light of virtue is kindled unquenchably, making its good actions to shine before men, so that our Father which is in heaven may be glorified.2

chap. iv.—what the oil in the lamps means.

Now they offered, in Leviticus, oil of this kind, “pure oil olive, beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually, without the veil … before the Lord.” But they were commanded to have a feeble light from the evening to the morning. For their light seemed to resemble the prophetic word, which gives encouragement to temperance, being nourished by the acts and the faith of the people. But the temple (in which the light was kept burning) refers to “the lot of their inheritance,”4 inasmuch as a light can shine in only one house. Therefore it was necessary that it should be lighted before day. For he says, “they shall burn it until the morning,” that is, until the coming of Christ. But the Sun of chastity and of righteousness having arisen, there is no need of other light.

So long, then, as this people treasured up nourishment for the light, supplying oil by their works, the light of continence was not extinguished among them, but was ever shining and giving light in the “lot of their inheritance.” But when the oil failed, by their turning away from the faith to incontinence, the light was entirely extinguished, so that the virgins have again to kindle their lamps by light transmitted from one to another, bringing the light of incorruption to the world from above. Let us then supply now the oil of good works abundantly, and of prudence, being purged from all corruption which would weigh us down; lest, while the Bridegroom tarries, our lamps may also in like manner be extinguished. For the delay is the interval which precedes the appearing of Christ. Now the slumbering and sleeping of the virgins signifies the departure from life; and the midnight is the kingdom of Antichrist, during which the destroying angel passes over the houses. But the cry which was made when it was said,7 “Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him,” is the voice which shall be heard from heaven, and the trumpet, when the saints, all their bodies being raised, shall be caught up, and shall go on the clouds to meet the Lord.

For it is to be observed that the word of God says, that after the cry all the virgins arose, that is, that the dead shall be raised after the voice which comes from heaven, as also Paul intimates, that “the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first;” that is the tabernacles,10 for they died, being put off by their souls. “Then we which are alive shall be caught up together with them,” meaning our souls. For we truly who are alive are the souls which, with the bodies, having put them on again, shall go to meet Him in the clouds, bearing our lamps trimmed, not with anything alien and worldly, but like stars radiating the light of prudence and continence, full of ethereal splendour.

chap. v.—the reward of virginity.

These, O fair virgins, are the orgies of our mysteries; these the mystic rites of those who are initiated in virginity; these the “undefiled rewards” of the conflict of virginity. I am betrothed to the Word, and receive as a reward the eternal crown of immortality and riches from the Father; and I triumph in eternity, crowned with the bright and unfading flowers of wisdom. I am one in the choir with Christ dispensing His rewards in heaven, around the unbeginning and never-ending King. I have become the torch-bearer of the unapproachable lights, and I join with their company in the new song of the archangels, showing forth the new grace of the Church; for the Word says that the company of virgins always follow the Lord, and have fellowship with Him wherever He is. And this is what John signifies in the commemoration of the hundred and forty-four thousand.2

Go then, ye virgin band of the new ages. Go, fill your vessels with righteousness, for the hour is coming when ye must rise and meet the bridegroom. Go, lightly leaving on one side the fascinations and the pleasures of life, which confuse and bewitch the soul; and thus shall ye attain the promises, “This I swear by Him who has shown me the way of life.” This crown, woven by the prophets, I have taken from the prophetic meadows, and offer to thee, O Arete.

Agathe having thus admirably brought her discourse to an end, she said, and having been applauded for what she had uttered, Arete again commanded Procilla to speak. And she, rising and passing before the entrance, spoke thus.

discourse vii.—procilla.

chap. i.—what the true and seemly manner of praising; the father greater than the son, not in substance, but in order; virginity the lily; faithful souls and virgins, the one bride of the one christ.

It is not lawful for me to delay, O Arete, after such discourses, seeing that I confide undoubtingly in the manifold wisdom of God, which gives richly and widely to whomsoever it wills. For sailors who have experience of the sea declare that the same wind blows on all who sail; and that different persons, managing their course differently, strive to reach different ports. Some have a fair wind; to others it blows across their course; and yet both easily accomplish their voyage. Now, in the same way, the “understanding Spirit, holy, one only,”4 gently breathing down from the treasures of the Father above, giving us all the clear fair wind of knowledge, will suffice to guide the course of our words without offence.

And now it is time for me to speak.

This, O virgins, is the one true and seemly mode of praising, when he who praises brings forward a witness better than all those who are praised. For thence one may learn with certainty that the commendation is given not from favour, nor of necessity, nor from repute, but in accordance with truth and an unflattering judgment. And so the prophets and apostles, who spoke more fully concerning the Son of God, and assigned to Him a divinity above other men, did not refer their praises of Him to the teaching of angels, but to Him upon whom all authority and power depend. For it was fitting that He who was greater than all things after the Father, should have the Father, who alone is greater than Himself, as His witness. And so I will not bring forward the praises of virginity from mere human report, but from Him who cares for us, and who has taken up the whole matter, showing that He is the husbandman of this grace, and a lover of its beauty, and a fitting witness. And this is quite clear, in the Song of Songs,6 to any one who is willing to see it, where Christ Himself, praising those who are firmly established in virginity, says, “As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters;” comparing the grace of chastity to the lily, on account of its purity and fragrance, and sweetness and joyousness. For chastity is like a spring flower, always softly exhaling immortality from its white petals. Therefore He is not ashamed to confess that He loves the beauty of its prime, in the following words:8 “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices! Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb; honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.”

These praises does Christ proclaim to those who have come to the boundaries of virginity, describing them all under the one name of His spouse; for the spouse must be betrothed to the Bridegroom, and called by His name. And, moreover, she must be undefiled and unpolluted, as a garden sealed, in which all the odours of the fragrance of heaven are grown, that Christ alone may come and gather them, blooming with incorporeal seeds. For the Word loves none of the things of the flesh, because He is not of such a nature as to be contented with any of the things which are corruptible, as hands, or face, or feet; but He looks upon and delights in the beauty which is immaterial and spiritual, not touching the beauty of the body.

chap. ii.—the interpretation of that passage of the canticles.

Consider now, O virgins, that, in saying to the bride, “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse,” He shows the clear eye of the understanding, when the inner man has cleansed it and looks more clearly upon the truth. For it is clear to every one that there is a twofold power of sight, the one of the soul, and the other of the body. But the Word does not profess a love for that of the body, but only that of the understanding, saying, “Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck;” which means, By the most lovely sight of thy mind, thou hast urged my heart to love, radiating forth from within the glorious beauty of chastity. Now the chains of the neck are necklaces which are composed of various precious stones; and the souls which take care of the body, place around the outward neck of the flesh this visible ornament to deceive those who behold; but those who live chastely, on the other hand, adorn themselves within with ornaments truly composed of various precious stones, namely, of freedom, of magnanimity, of wisdom, and of love, caring little for those temporal decorations which, like leaves blossoming for an hour, dry up with the changes of the body. For there is seen in man a twofold beauty, of which the Lord accepts that which is within and is immortal, saying, “Thou hast ravished my heart with one chain of thy neck;” meaning to show that He had been drawn to love by the splendour of the inner man shining forth in its glory, even as the Psalmist also testifies, saying, “The King’s daughter is all glorious within.”

chap. iii.—virgins being martyrs first among the companions of christ.

Let no one suppose that all the remaining company of those who have believed are condemned, thinking that we who are virgins alone shall be led on to attain the promises, not understanding that there shall be tribes and families and orders, according to the analogy of the faith of each. And this Paul, too, sets forth, saying, “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.” And the Lord does not profess to give the same honours to all; but to some He promises that they shall be numbered in the kingdom of heaven, to others the inheritance of the earth, and to others to see the Father.4 And here, also, He announces that the order and holy choir of the virgins shall first enter in company with Him into the rest of the new dispensation, as into a bridal chamber. For they were martyrs, not as bearing the pains of the body for a little moment of time, but as enduring them through all their life, not shrinking from truly wrestling in an Olympian contest for the prize of chastity; but resisting the fierce torments of pleasures and fears and griefs, and the other evils of the iniquity of men, they first of all carry off the prize, taking their place in the higher rank of those who receive the promise. Undoubtedly these are the souls whom the Word calls alone His chosen spouse and His sister, but the rest concubines and virgins and daughters, speaking thus: “There are threescore queens and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number. My dove, my undefiled, is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her: the daughters saw her and blessed her: yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.” For there being plainly many daughters of the Church, one alone is the chosen and most precious in her eyes above all, namely, the order of virgins.

chap. iv.—the passage explained; the queens, the holy souls before the deluge; the concubines, the souls of the prophets; the divine seed for spiritual offspring in the books of the prophets; the nuptials of the word in the prophets as though clandestine.

Now if any one should have a doubt about these things, inasmuch as the points are nowhere fully wrought out, and should still wish more fully to perceive their spiritual significance, namely, what the queens and the concubines and the virgins are, we will say that these may have been spoken concerning those who have been conspicuous for their righteousness from the beginning throughout the progress of time; as of those before the flood, and those after the flood, and so on of those after Christ. The Church, then, is the spouse. The queens are those royal souls before the deluge, who became well-pleasing to God, that is, those about Abel and Seth and Enoch. The concubines those after the flood, namely, those of the prophets, in whom, before the Church was betrothed to the Lord, being united to them after the manner of concubines, He sowed true words in an incorrupt and pure philosophy, so that, conceiving faith, they might bring forth to Him the Spirit of salvation. For such fruits do the souls bring forth with whom Christ has had intercourse, fruits which bear an ever-memorable renown. For if you will look at the books of Moses, or David, or Solomon, or Isaiah, or of the prophets who follow, O virgins, you will see what offspring they have left, for the saving of life, from their intercourse with the Son of God. Hence the Word has with deep perception called the souls of the prophets concubines, because He did not espouse them openly, as He did the Church, having killed for her the fatted calf.

chap. v.—the sixty queens: why sixty, and why queens; the excellence of the saints of the first age.

In addition to these matters, there is this also to be considered, so that nothing may escape us of things which are necessary, why He said that the queens were sixty, and the concubines eighty, and the virgins so numerous as not to be counted from their multitude, but the spouse one. And first let us speak of the sixty. I imagine that He named under the sixty queens, those who had pleased God from the first-made man in succession to Noah, for this reason, since these had no need of precepts and laws for their salvation, the creation of the world in six days being still recent. For they remembered that in six days God formed the creation, and those things which were made in paradise; and how man, receiving a command not to touch the tree of knowledge, ran aground, the author of evil having led him astray.3 Thence he gave the symbolical name of sixty queens to those souls who, from the creation of the world, in succession chose God as the object of their love, and were almost, so to speak, the offspring of the first age, and neighbours of the great six days’ work, from their having been born, as I said, immediately after the six days. For these had great honour, being associated with the angels, and often seeing God manifested visibly, and not in a dream. For consider what confidence Seth had towards God, and Abel, and Enos, and Enoch, and Methuselah, and Noah, the first lovers of righteousness, and the first of the first-born children who are written in heaven, being thought worthy of the kingdom, as a kind of first-fruits of the plants for salvation, coming out as early fruit to God. And so much may suffice concerning these.

chap. vi.—the eighty concubines, what; the knowledge of the incarnation communicated to the prophets.

It still remains to speak concerning the concubines. To those who lived after the deluge the knowledge of God was henceforth more remote, and they needed other instruction to ward off the evil, and to be their helper, since idolatry was already creeping in. Therefore God, that the race of man might not be wholly destroyed, through forgetfulness of the things which were good, commanded His own Son to reveal to the prophets His own future appearance in the world by the flesh, in which the joy and knowledge of the spiritual eighth day shall be proclaimed, which would bring the remission of sins and the resurrection, and that thereby the passions and corruptions of men would be circumcised. And, therefore, He called by the name of the eighty virgins the list of the prophets from Abraham, on account of the dignity of circumcision, which embraces the number eight, in accordance with which also the law is framed; because they first, before the Church was espoused to the Word, received the divine seed, and foretold the circumcision of the spiritual eighth day.

chap. vii.—the virgins, the righteous ancients; the church, the one only spouse, more excellent than the others.

Now he calls by the name of virgins, who belong to a countless assembly, those who, being inferior to the better ones, have practised righteousness, and have striven against sin with youthful and noble energy. But of these, neither the queens, nor the concubines, nor the virgins, are compared to the Church. For she is reckoned the perfect and chosen one beyond all these, consisting and composed of all the apostles, the Bride who surpasses all in the beauty of youth and virginity. Therefore, also, she is blessed and praised by all, because she saw and heard freely what those desired to see, even for a little time, and saw not, and to hear, but heard not. For “blessed,” said our Lord to His disciples, “are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” For this reason, then, the prophets count them blessed, and admire them, because the Church was thought worthy to participate in those things which they did not attain to hear or see. For “there are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number. My dove, my undefiled, is but one.”

chap. viii.—the human nature of christ his one dove.

Can any one now say otherwise than that the Bride is the undefiled flesh of the Lord, for the sake of which He left the Father and came down here, and was joined to it, and, being incarnate, dwelt in it? Therefore He called it figuratively a dove, because that creature is tame and domestic, and readily adapts itself to man’s mode of life. For she alone, so to speak, was found spotless and undefiled, and excelling all in the glory and beauty of righteousness, so that none of those who had pleased God most perfectly could stand near to her in a comparison of virtue. And for this reason she was thought worthy to become a partaker of the kingdom of the Only-begotten, being betrothed and united to Him. And in the forty-fourth psalm, the queen who, chosen out of many, stands at the right hand of God, clothed in the golden ornament of virtue, whose beauty the King desired,3 is, as I said, the undefiled and blessed flesh, which the Word Himself carried into the heavens, and presented at the right hand of God, “wrought about with divers colours,” that is, in the pursuits of immortality, which he calls symbolically golden fringes. For since this garment is variegated and woven of various virtues, as chastity, prudence, faith, love, patience, and other good things, which, covering, as they do, the unseemliness of the flesh, adorn man with a golden ornament.

chap. ix.—the virgins immediately after the queen and spouse.

Moreover, we must further consider what the Spirit delivers to us in the rest of the psalm, after the enthronization of the manhood assumed by the Word at the right hand of the Father. “The virgins,” He says, “that be her fellows shall bear her company, and shall be brought unto thee. With joy and gladness shall they be brought, and shall enter into the King’s palace.” Now, here the Spirit seems quite plainly to praise virginity, next, as we have explained, to the Bride of the Lord, who promises that the virgins shall approach second to the Almighty with joy and gladness, guarded and escorted by angels. For so lovely and desirable is in truth the glory of virginity, that, next to the Queen, whom the Lord exalts, and presents in sinless glory to the Father, the choir and order of virgins bear her company, assigned to a place second to that of the Bride. Let these efforts of mine to speak to thee, O Arete, concerning chastity, be engraven on a monument.

And Procilla having thus spoken, Thekla said, It is my turn after her to continue the contest; and I rejoice, since I too have the favouring wisdom of words, perceiving that I am, like a harp, inwardly attuned, and prepared to speak with elegance and propriety.

Arete. I most willingly hail thy readiness, O Thekla, in which I confide to give me fitting discourse, in accordance with thy powers; since thou wilt yield to none in universal philosophy and instruction, instructed by Paul in what is fitting to say of evangelical and divine doctrine.

discourse viii.—thekla.

chap. i.—methodius’ derivation of the word virginity: wholly divine; virtue, in greek ἀρετή, whence so called.

Well, then, let us first say, beginning from the origin of the name, for what cause this supreme and blessed pursuit was called παρθενία, what it aims at, what power it has, and afterwards, what fruits it gives forth. For almost all have been ignorant of this virtue as being superior to ten thousand other advantages of virtue which we cultivate for the purification and adornment of the soul. For virginity is divine by the change of one letter,7 as she alone makes him who has her, and is initiated by her incorruptible rites like unto God, than which it is impossible to find a greater good, removed, as it is, from pleasure and grief; and the wing of the soul sprinkled by it becomes stronger and lighter, accustomed daily to fly from human desires.

For since the children of the wise have said that our life is a festival, and that we have come to exhibit in the theatre the drama of truth, that is, righteousness, the devil and the demons plotting and striving against us, it is necessary for us to look upwards and to take our flight aloft, and to flee from the blandishments of their tongues, and from their forms tinged with the outward appearance of temperance, more than from the Sirens of Homer. For many, bewitched by the pleasures of error, take their flight downwards, and are weighed down when they come into this life, their nerves being relaxed and unstrung, by means of which the power of the wings of temperance is strengthened, lightening the downward tendency of the corruption of the body. Whence, O Arete, whether thou hast thy name, signifying virtue, because thou art worthy of being chosen for thyself, or because thou raisest2 and liftest up to heaven, ever going in the purest minds, come, give me thy help in my discourse, which thou hast thyself appointed me to speak.

chap. ii.—the lofty mind and constancy of the sacred virgins; the introduction of virgins into the blessed abodes before others.

Those who take a downward flight, and fall into pleasures, do not desist from grief and labours until, through their passionate desires, they fulfil the want of their intemperance, and, being degraded and shut out from the sanctuary, they are removed from the scene of truth, and, instead of procreating children with modesty and temperance, they rave in the wild pleasures of unlawful amours. But those who, on light wing, ascend into the supramundane life, and see from afar what other men do not see, the very pastures of immortality, bearing in abundance flowers of inconceivable beauty, are ever turning themselves again to the spectacles there; and, for this reason, those things are thought small which are here considered noble—such as wealth, and glory, and birth, and marriage; and they think no more of those things. But yet if any of them should choose to give up their bodies to wild beasts or to fire, and be punished, they are ready to have no care for pains, for the desire of them or the fear of them; so that they seem, while in the world, not to be in the world, but to have already reached, in thought and in the tendency of their desires, the assembly of those who are in heaven.

Now it is not right that the wing of virginity should, by its own nature, be weighed down upon the earth, but that it should soar upwards to heaven, to a pure atmosphere, and to the life which is akin to that of angels. Whence also they, first of all, after their call and departure hence, who have rightly and faithfully contended as virgins for Christ, bear away the prize of victory, being crowned by Him with the flowers of immortality. For, as soon as their souls have left the world, it is said that the angels meet them with much rejoicing, and conduct them to the very pastures already spoken of, to which also they were longing to come, contemplating them in imagination from afar, when, while they were yet dwelling in their bodies, they appeared to them divine.

chap. iii.—the lot and inheritance of virginity.

Furthermore, when they have come hither, they see wonderful and glorious and blessed things of beauty, and such as cannot be spoken to men. They see there righteousness itself and prudence, and love itself, and truth and temperance, and other flowers and plants of wisdom, equally splendid, of which we here behold only the shadows and apparitions, as in dreams, and think that they consist of the actions of men, because there is no clear image of them here, but only dim copies, which themselves we see often when making dark copies of them. For never has any one seen with his eyes the greatness or the form or the beauty of righteousness itself, or of understanding, or of peace; but there, in Him whose name is I AM,5 they are seen perfect and clear, as they are. For there is a tree of temperance itself, and of love, and of understanding, as there are plants of the fruits which grow here—as of grapes, the pomegranate, and of apples; and so, too, the fruits of those trees are gathered and eaten, and do not perish and wither, but those who gather them grow to immortality and a likeness to God. Just as he from whom all are descended, before the fall and the blinding of his eyes, being in paradise, enjoyed its fruits, God appointing man to dress and to keep the plants of wisdom. For it was entrusted to the first Adam to cultivate those fruits. Now Jeremiah saw that these things exist specially in a certain place, removed to a great distance from our world, where, compassionating those who have fallen from that good state, he says: “Learn where is wisdom, where is strength, where is understanding; that thou mayest know also where is length of days, and life, where is the light of the eyes, and peace. Who hath found out her place? or who hath come into her treasures?”
The virgins having entered into the treasures of these things, gather the reasonable fruits of the virtues, sprinkled with manifold and well-ordered lights, which, like a fountain, God throws up over them, irradiating that state with unquenchable lights. And they sing harmoniously, giving glory to God. For a pure atmosphere is shed over them, and one which is not oppressed by the sun.

chap. iv.—exhortation to the cultivation of virginity; a passage from the apocalypse is proposed to be examined.

Now, then, O Virgins, daughters of undefiled temperance, let us strive for a life of blessedness and the kingdom of heaven. And do ye unite with those before you in an earnest desire for the same glory of chastity, caring little for the things of this life. For immortality and chastity do not contribute a little to happiness, raising up the flesh aloft, and drying up its moisture and its clay-like weight, by a greater force of attraction. And let not the uncleanness which you hear creep in and weigh you down to the earth; nor let sorrow transform your joy, melting away your hopes in better things; but shake off incessantly the calamities which come upon you, not defiling your mind with lamentations. Let faith conquer wholly, and let its light drive away the visions of evil which crowd around the heart. For, as when the moon brightly shining fills the heaven with its light, and all the air becomes clear, but suddenly the clouds from the west, enviously rushing in, for a little while overshadow its light, but do not destroy it, since they are immediately driven away by a blast of the wind; so ye also, when causing the light of chastity to shine in the world, although pressed upon by afflictions and labours, do not grow weary and abandon your hopes. For the clouds which come from the Evil One are driven away by the Spirit, if ye, like your Mother, who gives birth to the male Virgin in heaven, fear nothing the serpent that lies in wait and plots against you; concerning whom I intend to discourse to you more plainly; for it is now time.

John, in the course of the Apocalypse, says: “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: and she, being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” So far we have given, in brief, the history of the woman and the dragon. But to search out and explain the solution of them is beyond my powers. Nevertheless, let me venture, trusting in Him who commanded to search the Scriptures.3 If, then, you agree with this, it will not be difficult to undertake it; for you will quite pardon me, if I am unable sufficiently to explain the exact meaning of the Scripture.

chap. v.—the woman who brings forth, to whom the dragon is opposed, the church; her adornment and grace.

The woman who appeared in heaven clothed with the sun, and crowned with twelve stars, and having the moon for her footstool, and being with child, and travailing in birth, is certainly, according to the accurate interpretation, our mother, O virgins, being a power by herself distinct from her children; whom the prophets, according to the aspect of their subjects, have called sometimes Jerusalem, sometimes a Bride, sometimes Mount Zion, and sometimes the Temple and Tabernacle of God. For she is the power which is desired to give light in the prophet, the Spirit crying to her:5 “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see; all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.” It is the Church whose children shall come to her with all speed after the resurrection, running to her from all quarters. She rejoices receiving the light which never goes down, and clothed with the brightness of the Word as with a robe. For with what other more precious or honourable ornament was it becoming that the queen should be adorned, to be led as a Bride to the Lord, when she had received a garment of light, and therefore was called by the Father? Come, then, let us go forward in our discourse, and look upon this marvelous woman as upon virgins prepared for a marriage, pure and undefiled, perfect and radiating a permanent beauty, wanting nothing of the brightness of light; and instead of a dress, clothed with light itself; and instead of precious stones, her head adorned with shining stars. For instead of the clothing which we have, she had light; and for gold and brilliant stones, she had stars; but stars not such as those which are set in the invisible heaven, but better and more resplendent, so that these may rather be considered as their images and likenesses.

chap. vi.—the works of the church, the bringing forth of children in baptism; the moon in baptism, the full moon of christ’s passion.

Now the statement that she stands upon the moon, as I consider, denotes the faith of those who are cleansed from corruption in the laver of regeneration, because the light of the moon has more resemblance to tepid water, and all moist substance is dependent upon her. The Church, then, stands upon our faith and adoption, under the figure of the moon, until the fulness of the nations come in, labouring and bringing forth natural men as spiritual men; for which reason too she is a mother. For just as a woman receiving the unformed seed of a man, within a certain time brings forth a perfect man, in the same way, one should say, does the Church conceive those who flee to the Word, and, forming them according to the likeness and form of Christ, after a certain time produce them as citizens of that blessed state. Whence it is necessary that she should stand upon the laver, bringing forth those who are washed in it. And in this way the power which she has in connection with the laver is called the moon, because the regenerate shine being renewed with a new ray,2 that is, a new light. Whence, also, they are by a descriptive term called newly-enlightened; the moon ever showing forth anew to them the spiritual full moon, namely, the period and the memorial of the passion, until the glory and the perfect light of the great day arise.

chap. vii.—the child of the woman in the apocalypse not christ, but the faithful who are born in the laver.

If any one, for there is no difficulty in speaking distinctly, should be vexed, and reply to what we have said: “But how, O virgins, can this explanation seem to you to be according to the mind of Scripture, when the Apocalypse plainly defines that the Church brings forth a male, while you teach that her labour-pains have their fulfilment in those who are washed in the laver?” We will answer, But, O faultfinder, not even to you will it be possible to show that Christ Himself is the one who is born. For long before the Apocalypse, the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word was fulfilled. And John speaks concerning things present and things to come. But Christ, long ago conceived, was not caught up to the throne of God when He was brought forth, from fear of the serpent injuring Him. But for this was He begotten, and Himself came down from the throne of the Father, that He should remain and subdue the dragon who made an assault upon the flesh. So that you also must confess that the Church labours and gives birth to those who are baptized. As the spirit says somewhere in Isaiah:5 “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” From whom did he flee? Surely from the dragon, that the spiritual Zion might bear a masculine people, who should come back from the passions and weakness of women to the unity of the Lord, and grow strong in manly virtue.

chap. viii.—the faithful in baptism males, configured to christ; the saints themselves christs.

Let us then go over the ground again from the beginning, until we come in course to the end, explaining what we have said. Consider if the passage seems to you to be explained to your mind. For I think that the Church is here said to give birth to a male; since the enlightened receive the features, and the image, and the manliness of Christ, the likeness of the form of the Word being stamped upon them, and begotten in them by a true knowledge and faith, so that in each one Christ is spiritually born. And, therefore, the Church swells and travails in birth until Christ is formed in us,8 so that each of the saints, by partaking of Christ, has been born a Christ. According to which meaning it is said in a certain scripture, “Touch not mine anointed,10 and do my prophets no harm,” as though those who were baptized into Christ had been made Christs by communication of the Spirit, the Church contributing here their clearness and transformation into the image of the Word. And Paul confirms this, teaching it plainly, where he says:12 “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened I with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” For it is necessary that the word of truth should be imprinted and stamped upon the souls of the regenerate.

chap. ix.—the son of god, who ever is, is to-day begotten in the minds and sense of the faithful.

Now, in perfect agreement and correspondence with what has been said, seems to be this which was spoken by the Father from above to Christ when He came to be baptized in the water of the Jordan, “Thou art my son: this day have I begotten thee;” for it is to be remarked that He was declared to be His Son unconditionally, and without regard to time; for He says “Thou art,” and not “Thou hast become,” showing that He had neither recently attained to the relation of Son, nor again, having begun before, after this had an end, but having been previously begotten,2 that He was to be, and was the same. But the expression, “This day have I begotten thee,” signifies that He willed that He who existed before the ages in heaven should be begotten on the earth—that is, that He who was before unknown should be made known. Now, certainly, Christ has never yet been born in those men who have never perceived the manifold wisdom of God—that is, has never been known, has never been manifested, has never appeared to them. But if these also should perceive the mystery of grace, then in them too, when they were converted and believed, He would be born in knowledge and understanding. Therefore from hence the Church is fitly said to form and beget the male Word in those who are cleansed. So far I have spoken according to my ability concerning the travail of the Church; and here we must change to the subject of the dragon and the other matters. Let us endeavour, then, to explain it in some measure, not deterred by the greatness of the obscurity of the Scripture; and if anything difficult comes to be considered, I will again help you to cross it like a river.

chap. x.—the dragon, the devil; the stars struck from heaven by the tail of the dragon, heretics; the numbers of the trinity, that is, the persons numbered; errors concerning them.

The dragon, which is great, and red, and cunning, and manifold, and seven-headed, and horned, and draws down the third part of the stars, and stands ready to devour the child of the woman who is travailing, is the devil, who lies in wait to destroy the Christ-accepted mind of the baptized, and the image and clear features of the Word which had been brought forth in them. But he misses and fails of his prey, the, regenerate being caught up on high to the throne of God—that is, the mind of those who are renovated is lifted up around the divine seat and the basis of truth against which there is no stumbling, being taught to look upon and regard the things which are there, so that it may not be deceived by the dragon weighing them down. For it is not allowed to him to destroy those whose thoughts and looks are upwards. And the stars, which the dragon touched with the end of his tail, and drew them down to earth, are the bodies of heresies; for we must say that the stars, which are dark, obscure, and falling, are the assemblies of the heterodox; since they, too, wish to be acquainted with the heavenly ones, and to have believed in Christ, and to have the seat of their soul in heaven, and to come near to the stars as children of light. But they are dragged down, being shaken out by the folds of the dragon, because they did not remain within the triangular forms of godliness, falling away from it with respect to an orthodox service. Whence also they are called the third part of the stars, as having gone astray with regard to one of the three Persons of the Trinity. As when they say, like Sabellios, that the Almighty Person of the Father Himself suffered; or as when they say, like Artemas, that the Person of the Son was born and manifested only in appearance;5 or when they contend, like the Ebionites, that the prophets spoke of the Person of the Spirit, of their own motion. For of Marcion and Valentinus, and those about Elkesaios and others, it is better not even to make mention.

chap. xi.—the woman with the male child in the wilderness the church; the wilderness belongs to virgins and saints; the perfection of numbers and mysteries; the equality and perfection of the number six; the number six related to christ; from this number, too, the creation and harmony of the world completed.

Now she who brings forth, and has brought forth, the masculine Word in the hearts of the faithful, and who passed, undefiled and uninjured by the wrath of the beast, into the wilderness, is, as we have explained, our mother the Church. And the wilderness into which she comes, and is nourished for a thousand two hundred and sixty days, which is truly waste and unfruitful of evils, and barren of corruption, and difficult of access and of transit to the multitude; but fruitful and abounding in pasture, and blooming and easy of access to the holy, and full of wisdom, and productive of life, is this most lovely, and beautifully wooded and well-watered abode of Arete. Here the south wind awakes, and the north wind blows, and the spices flow out,7 and all things are filled with refreshing dews, and crowned with the unfading plants of immortal life; in which we now gather flowers, and weave with sacred fingers the purple and glorious crown of virginity for the queen. For the Bride of the Word is adorned with the fruits of virtue. And the thousand two hundred and sixty days that we are staying here, O virgins, is the accurate and perfect understanding concerning the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit, in which our mother increases, and rejoices, and exults throughout this time, until the restitution of the new dispensation, when, coming into the assembly in the heavens, she will no longer contemplate the I AM through the means of human knowledge, but will clearly behold entering in together with Christ. For a thousand, consisting of a hundred multiplied by ten, embraces a full and perfect number, and is a symbol of the Father Himself, who made the universe by Himself, and rules all things for Himself. Two hundred embraces two perfect numbers united together, and is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, since He is the Author of our knowledge of the Son and the Father. But sixty has the number six multiplied by ten, and is a symbol of Christ, because the number six proceeding2 from unity is composed of its proper parts, so that nothing in it is wanting or redundant, and is complete when resolved into its parts. Thus it is necessary that the number six, when it is divided into even parts by even parts, should again make up the same quantity from its separated segment. For, first, if divided equally, it makes three; then, if divided into three parts, it makes two; and again, if divided by six, it makes one, and is again collected into itself. For when divided into twice three, and three times two, and six times one, when the three and the two and the one are put together, they complete the six again. But everything is of necessity perfect which neither needs anything else in order to its completion, nor has anything over. Of the other numbers, some are more than perfect, as twelve. For the half of it is six, and the third four, and the fourth three, and the sixth two, and the twelfth one. The numbers into which it can be divided, when put together, exceed twelve, this number not having preserved itself equal to its parts, like the number six. And those which are imperfect, are numbers like eight. For the half of it is four, and the fourth two, and the eighth one. Now the numbers into which it is divided, when put together, make seven, and one is wanting to its completion, not being in all points harmonious with itself, like six, which has reference to the Son of God, who came from the fulness of the Godhead into a human life. For having emptied Himself,4 and taken upon Him the form of a slave, He was restored again to His former perfection and dignity. For He being humbled, and apparently degraded, was restored again from His humiliation and degradation to His former completeness and greatness, having never been diminished from His essential perfection.

Moreover, it is evident that the creation of the world was accomplished in harmony with this number, God having made heaven and earth, and the things which are in them, in six days; the word of creative power containing the number six, in accordance with which the Trinity is the maker of bodies. For length, and breadth, and depth make up a body. And the number six is composed of triangles. On these subjects, however, there is not sufficient time at present to enlarge with accuracy, for fear of letting the main subject slip, in considering that which is secondary.

chap. xii.—virgins are called to the imitation of the church in the wilderness overcoming the dragon.

The Church, then, coming hither into this wilderness, a place unproductive of evils, is nourished, flying on the heavenward wings of virginity, which the Word called the “wings of great eagle,” having conquered the serpent, and driven away from her full moon the wintry clouds. It is for the sake of these things, meanwhile, that all these discourses are held, teaching us, O fair virgins, to imitate according to our strength our mother, and not to be troubled by the pains and changes and afflictions of life, that you may enter in exulting with her into the bride-chamber, showing your lamps. Do not, therefore, lose courage on account of the schemes and slanders of the beast, but bravely prepare for the battle, armed with the helmet of salvation,6 and the breastplate, and the greaves. For you will bring upon him an immense consternation when you attack him with great advantage and courage; nor will he at all resist, seeing his adversaries set in array by One more powerful; but the many-headed and many-faced beast will immediately allow you to carry off the spoils of the seven contests:—

“Lion in front, but dragon all behind,

And in the midst a she-goat breathing forth

Profuse the violence of flaming fire.

Her slew Bellerophon in truth. And this

Slew Christ the King; for many she destroyed,

Nor could they bear the fetid foam which burst

From out the fountain of her horrid jaws;”

unless Christ had first weakened and overcome her, making her powerless and contemptible before us.

chap. xiii.—the seven crowns of the beast to be taken away by victorious chastity; the ten crowns of the dragon, the vices opposed to the decalogue; the opinion of fate the greatest evil.

Therefore, taking to you a masculine and sober mind, oppose your armour to the swelling beast, and do not at all give way, nor be troubled because of his fury. For you will have immense glory if you overcome him, and take away the seven crowns which are upon him, on account of which we have to struggle and wrestle, according to our teacher Paul. For she who having first overcome the devil, and destroyed his seven heads, becomes possessed of the seven crowns of virtue, having gone through the seven great struggles of chastity. For incontinence and luxury is a head of the dragon; and whoever bruises this is wreathed with the crown of temperance. Cowardice and weakness is also a head; and he who treads upon this carries off the crown of martyrdom. Unbelief and folly, and other similar fruits of wickedness, is another head; and he who has overcome these and destroyed them carries off the honours connected with them, the power of the dragon being in many ways rooted up. Moreover, the ten horns and stings which he was said to have upon his heads are the ten opposites, O virgins, to the Decalogue, by which he was accustomed to gore and cast down the souls of many imagining and contriving things in opposition to the law, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” and to the other precepts which follow. Consider now the fiery and bitter horn of fornication, by which he casts down the incontinent; consider adultery, consider falsehood, covetousness, theft, and the other sister and related vices, which flourish by nature around his murderous heads, which if you root out with the aid of Christ, you will receive, as it were, divine heads, and will bloom with the crowns gained from the dragon. For it is our duty to prefer and to set forward the best things, who have received, above the earth-born, a commanding and voluntary mind, and one free from all necessity, so as to make choice like masters of the things which please us, not being in bondage to fate or fortune. And so no man would be master of himself and good, unless selecting the human example of Christ, and bringing himself to the likeness of Him, he should imitate Him in his manner of life. For of all evils the greatest which is implanted in many is that which refers the causes of sins to the motions of the stars, and says that our life is guided by the necessities of fate, as those say who study the stars, with much insolence. For they, trusting more in guessing than in prudence, that is, in something between truth and falsehood, go far astray from the sight of things as they are. Whence, if you permit me, O Arete, now that I have completed the discourse which you, my mistress, appointed to be spoken, I will endeavour, with your assistance and favour, to examine carefully the position of those who are offended, and deny that we speak the truth, when we say that man is possessed of free-will, and prove that

“They perish self-destroyed,

By their own fault,”

choosing the pleasant in preference to the expedient.

Arete. I do permit you and assist you; for your discourse will be perfectly adorned when you have added this to it.

chap. xiv.—the doctrine of mathematicians not wholly to be despised, when they are concerned about the knowledge of the stars; the twelve signs of the zodiac mythical names.

Thekla. Resuming then, let us first lay bare, in speaking of those things according to our power, the imposture of those who boast as though they alone had comprehended from what forms the heaven is arranged, in accordance with the hypothesis of the Chaldeans and Egyptians. For they say that the circumference of the world is likened to the turnings of a well-rounded globe, the earth having a central point. For its outline being spherical, it is necessary, they say, since there are the same distances of the parts, that the earth should be the centre of the universe, around which, as being older, the heaven is whirling. For if a circumference is described from the central point, which seems to be a circle,—for it is impossible for a circle to be described without a point, and it is impossible for a circle to be without a point,—surely the earth consisted before all, they say, in a state of chaos and disorganization. Now certainly the wretched ones were overwhelmed in the chaos of error, “because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened;” and their wise men said that nothing earth-born was more honourable or more ancient than the Olympians. Whence they are not mere children who know Christ, like the Greeks, who, burying the truth in fables and fictions, rather than in artistic words, ascribing human calamities to the heavens, are not ashamed to describe the circumference of the world by geometrical theorems and figures, and explain that the heaven is adorned with the images of birds and of animals that live in water and on dry land, and that the qualities of the stars were made from the calamities of the men of old, so that the movements of the planets, in their opinion, depended upon the same kind of bodies. And they say that the stars revolve around the nature of the twelve signs of the Zodiac, being drawn along by the passage of the circle of the Zodiac, so that through their intermingling they see the things which happen to many, according to their conjunctions and departures, their rising and setting.

For the whole heaven being spherical, and having the earth for its central point, as they think, because all the straight lines from the circumference falling upon the earth are equal to one another, holds back from the circles which surround it, of which the meridian is the greatest; and the second, which divides it into two equal parts, is the horizon; and the third, which separates these, the equinoctial; and on each side of this the two tropics, the summer and the winter—the one on the north, and the other on the south. Beyond is that which is called the axis, around which are the greater and lesser Bears, and beyond them is the tropic. And the Bears, turning about themselves, and weighing upon the axis, which passes through the poles, produce the motion of the whole world, having their heads against each other’s loins, and being untouched by our horizon.

Then they say that the Zodiac touches all the circles, making its movements diagonally, and that there are in it a number of signs, which are called the twelve signs of the Zodiac, beginning with the Ram, and going on to the Fishes, which, they say, were so determined from mythical causes; saying that it was the Ram that conveyed Helle, the daughter of Athamas, and her brother Phryxos into Scythia; and that the head of the Ox is in honour of Zeus, who, in the form of a Bull, carried over Europe into Crete; and they say the circle called the Galaxy, or milky way, which reaches from the Fishes to the Ram, was poured forth for Herakles from the breasts of Hera, by the commands of Zeus. And thus, according to them, there was no natal destiny before Europe or Phryxos, and the Dioscuroi, and the other signs of the Zodiac, which were placed among the constellations, from men and beasts. But our ancestors lived without destiny. Let us endeavour now to crush falsehood, like physicians, taking its edge off, and quenching it with the healing medicine of words, here considering the truth.

chap. xv.—arguments from the novelty of fate and generation; that golden age, early men; solid arguments against the mathematicians.

If it were better, O wretched ones, that man should be subject to the star of his birth, than that he should not, why was not his generation and birth from the very time when the race of man began to be? And if it was, what is the need of those which had lately been placed among the stars, of the Lion, the Crab, the Twins, the Virgin, the Bull, the Balance, the Scorpion, the Ram, the Archer, the Fishes, the Goat, the Watercarrier, Perseus, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Pegasus, Hydra, the Raven, the Cup, the Lyre, the Dragon, and others, from which you introduce, by your instructions, many to the knowledge of mathematics, or, rather, to a knowledge which is anathema? Well, then, either there was generation among those before, and the removal of these creatures above was absurd; or else there was not, and God changed human life into a better state and government than that of those who before that lived an inferior life. But the ancients were better than those of the present time; whence theirs was called the golden age. There was then no natal destiny.

If the sun, driving through the circles and passing along the signs of the Zodiac in his annual periods, accomplishes the changes and turnings of the seasons, how did those who were born before the signs of the Zodiac were placed among the stars, and the heaven was adorned with them, continue to exist, when summer, autumn, winter, and spring, were not as yet separated from each other, by means of which the body is increased and strengthened? But they did exist, and were longer lived and stronger than those who live now, since God then disposed the seasons in the same manner. The heaven was not then diversified by such shapes.

If the sun and the moon and the other stars were made for the division and protection of the members of the time, and for the adornment of the heaven, and the changes of the seasons, they are divine, and better than men; for these must needs pass a better life, and a blessed and peaceful one, and one which far exceeds our own life in righteousness and virtue, observing a motion which is well-ordered and happy. But if they are the causes of the calamities and mischief of mortals, and busy themselves in working the lasciviousness, and the changes and vicissitudes of life, then they are more miserable than men, looking upon the earth, and their weak and lawless actions, and doing nothing better than men, if at least our life depends upon their revolutions and movements.

chap. xvi.—several other things turned against the same mathematicians.

If no action is performed without a previous desire, and there is no desire without a want, yet the Divine Being has no wants, and therefore has no conception of evil. And if the nature of the stars be nearer in order to that of God, being better than the virtue of the best men, then the stars also are neither productive of evil, nor in want.

And besides, every one of those who are persuaded that the sun and moon and stars are divine, will allow that they are far removed from evil, and incapable of human actions which spring from the sense of pleasure and pain; for such abominable desires are unsuitable to heavenly beings. But if they are by nature exempt from these, and in no want of anything, how should they be the causes to men of those things which they do not will themselves, and from which they are exempt?

Now those who decide that man is not possessed of free-will, and affirm that he is governed by the unavoidable necessities of fate, and her unwritten commands, are guilty of impiety towards God Himself, making Him out to be the cause and author of human evils. For if He harmoniously orders the whole circular motion of the stars, with a wisdom which man can neither express nor comprehend, directing the course of the universe; and the stars produce the qualities of virtue and vice in human life, dragging men to these things by the chains of necessity; then they declare God to be the Cause and Giver of evils. But God is the cause of injury to no one; therefore fate is not the cause of all things.

Whoever has the least intelligence will confess that God is good, righteous, wise, true, helpful, not the cause of evils, free from passion, and everything of that kind. And if the righteous be better than the unrighteous, and unrighteousness be abominable to them, God, being righteous, rejoices in righteousness, and unrighteousness is hateful to Him, being opposed and hostile to righteousness. Therefore God is not the author of unrighteousness.

If that which profits is altogether good, and temperance is profitable to one’s house and life and friends, then temperance is good. And if temperance be in its nature good, and licentiousness be opposed to temperance, and that which is opposed to good be evil, then licentiousness is evil. And if licentiousness be in its nature evil, and out of licentiousness come adulteries, thefts, quarrels, and murders, then a licentious life is in its nature evil. But the Divine Being is not by nature implicated in evils. Therefore our birth is not the cause of these things.

If the temperate are better than the incontinent, and incontinence is abominable to them, and God rejoices in temperance, being free from the knowledge of passions, then incontinence is hateful also to God. Moreover, that the action which is in accordance with temperance, being a virtue, is better than that which is in accordance with incontinence, which is a vice, we may learn from kings and rulers, and commanders, and women, and children, and citizens, and masters, and servants, and pedagogues, and teachers; for each of these is useful to himself and to the public when he is temperate; but when he is licentious he is injurious to himself and to the public. And if there be any difference between a filthy man and a noble man, a licentious and a temperate; and if the character of the noble and the temperate be the better, and that of the opposite the worse; and if those of the better character be near to God and His friends, and those of the worse be far from Him and His enemies, those who believe in fate make no distinction between righteousness and unrighteousness, between filthiness and nobility, between licentiousness and temperance, which is a contradiction. For if good be opposed to evil, and unrighteousness be evil, and this be opposed to righteousness and righteousness be good, and good be hostile to evil, and evil be unlike to good, then righteousness is different from unrighteousness. And therefore God is not the cause of evils, nor does He rejoice in evils. Nor does reason commend them, being good. If, then, any are evil, they are evil in accordance with the wants and desires of their minds, and not by necessity.

“They perish self-destroyed,

By their own fault.”

If destiny leads one on to kill a man, and to stain his hands with murder, and the law forbids this, punishing criminals, and by threats restrains the decrees of destiny, such as committing injustice, adultery, theft, poisoning, then the law is in opposition to destiny; for those things which destiny appointed the law prohibits, and those things which the law prohibits destiny compels men to do. Hence law is hostile to destiny. But if it be hostile, then lawgivers do not act in accordance with destiny; for by passing decrees in opposition to destiny they destroy destiny. Either, then, there is destiny and there was no need of laws; or there are laws and they are not in accordance with destiny. But it is impossible that anyone should be born or anything done apart from destiny; for they say it is not lawful for anyone even to move a finger apart from fate. And therefore it was in accordance with destiny that Minos and Dracon, and Lycurgus, and Solon, and Zaleukos were law-givers and appointed laws, prohibiting adulteries, murders, violence, rape, thefts, as things which neither existed nor took place in accordance with destiny. But if these things were in accordance with destiny, then the laws were not in accordance with destiny. For destiny itself would not be destroyed by itself, cancelling itself, and contending against itself; here appointing laws forbidding adultery and murders, and taking vengeance upon and punishing the wicked, and there producing murders and adulteries. But this is impossible: for nothing is alien and abhorrent to itself, and self-destructive, and at variance with itself. And, therefore, there is no destiny.

If everything in the world falls out in accordance with destiny, and nothing without it, then the law must needs be produced by destiny. But the law destroys destiny, teaching that virtue should be learnt, and diligently performed; and that vice should be avoided, and that it is produced by want of discipline. Therefore there is no destiny.

If destiny makes men to injure one another, and to be injured by one another, what need is there of laws? But if laws are made that they may check the sinful, God having a care for those who are injured, it were better that the evil should not act in accordance with Fate, than that they should be set right, after having acted. But God is good and wise, and does what is best. Therefore there is no fixed destiny.

Either education and habit are the cause of sins, or the passions of the soul, and those desires which arise through the body. But whichever of these be the cause, God is not the cause.

If it is better to be righteous than to be unrighteous, why is not man made so at once from his birth? But if afterwards he is tempered by instruction and laws, that he may become better, he is so tempered as possessing free-will, and not by nature evil.

If the evil are evil in accordance with destiny, by the decrees of Providence, they are not blameworthy and deserving of the punishment which is inflicted by the laws, since they live according to their own nature, and are not capable of being changed.

And, again, if the good, living according to their own proper nature, are praiseworthy, their natal destiny being the cause of their goodness; yet the wicked, living according to their own proper nature, are not blamable in the eye of a righteous judge. For, if we must speak plainly, he who lives according to the nature which belongs to him, in no way sins. For he did not make himself thus, but Fate; and he lives according to its motion, being urged on by unavoidable necessity. Then no one is bad. But some men are bad: and vice is blameworthy, and hostile to God, as reason has shown. But virtue is lovable and praiseworthy, God having appointed a law for the punishment of the wicked. Therefore there is no Fate.

chap. xvii.—the lust of the flesh and spirit: vice and virtue.

But why do I draw out my discourse to such length, spending the time with arguments, having set forth the things which are most necessary for persuasion, and to gain approval for that which is expedient; and having made manifest to all, by a few words, the inconsistency of their trick, so that it is now possible even for a child to see and perceive their error; and that to do good or evil is in our own power, and not decided by the stars. For there are two motions in us, the lust of the flesh and that of the soul, differing from each other, whence they have received two names, that of virtue and that of vice. And we ought to obey the most noble and most useful leading of virtue, choosing the best in preference to the base. But enough on these points. I must come to the end of my discourse; for I fear, and am ashamed, after these discourses on chastity, that I should be obliged to introduce the opinions of men who study the heavens, or rather who study nonsense, who waste their life with mere conceits, passing it in nothing but fabulous figments. And now may these offerings of ours, composed from the words which are spoken by God, be acceptable to thee, O Arete, my mistress.

Euboulios. How bravely and magnificently, O Gregorion, has Thekla debated!

Gregorion. What, then, would you have said, if you had listened to herself, speaking fluently, and with easy expression, with much grace and pleasure? So that she was admired by every one who attended, her language blossoming with words, as she set forth intelligently. and in fact picturesquely, the subjects on which she spoke, her countenance suffused with the blush of modesty; for she is altogether brilliant in body and soul.

Euboulios. Rightly do you say this, Gregorion, and none of these things is false; for I knew her wisdom also from other noble actions, and what sort of things she succeeded in speaking, giving proof of supreme love to Christ; and how glorious she often appeared in meeting the chief conflicts of the martyrs, procuring for herself a zeal equal to her courage, and a strength of body equal to the wisdom of her counsels.

Gregorion. Most truly do you also speak. But let us not waste time; for we shall often be able to discuss these and other subjects. But I must now first relate to you the discourses of the other virgins which followed, as I promised; and chiefly those of Tusiane and Domnina; for these still remain. When, then, Thekla ceased speaking these things, Theopatra said that Arete directed Tusiane to speak; and that she, smiling, passed before her and said.

discourse ix.—tusiane.

chap. i.—chastity the chief ornament of the true tabernacle; seven days appointed to the jews for celebrating the feast of tabernacles: what they signify; the sum of this septenary uncertain; not clear to any one when the consummation of the world will be; even now the fabric of the world completed.

O Arete, thou dearest boast to the lovers of virginity, I also implore thee to afford me thine aid, lest I should be wanting in words, the subject having been so largely and variously handled. Wherefore I ask to be excused exordium and introductions, lest, whilst I delay in embellishments suitable to them, I depart from the subject: so glorious, and honourable, and renowned a thing is virginity.

God, when He appointed to the true Israelites the legal rite of the true feast of the tabernacles, directed, in Leviticus, how they should keep and do honour to the feast; above all things, saying that each one should adorn his tabernacle with chastity. I will add the words themselves of Scripture, from which, without any doubt, it will be shown how agreeable to God, and acceptable to Him, is this ordinance of virginity: “In the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a Sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a Sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations; ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths; that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”2

Here the Jews, fluttering about the bare letter of Scripture, like drones about the leaves of herbs, but not about flowers and fruits as the bee, fully believe that these words and ordinances were spoken concerning such a tabernacle as they erect; as if God delighted in those trivial adornments which they, preparing, fabricate from trees, not perceiving the wealth of good things to come; whereas these things, being like air and phantom shadows, foretell the resurrection and the putting up of our tabernacle that had fallen upon the earth, which at length, in the seventh thousand of years, resuming again immortal, we shall celebrate the great feast of true tabernacles in the new and indissoluble creation, the fruits of the earth having been gathered in, and men no longer begetting and begotten, but God resting from the works of creation.

For since in six days God made the heaven and the earth, and finished the whole world, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made, and blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, so by a figure in the seventh month, when the fruits of the earth have been gathered in, we are commanded to keep the feast to the Lord, which signifies that, when this world shall be terminated at the seventh thousand years, when God shall have completed the world, He shall rejoice in us.5 For now to this time all things are created by His all-sufficient will and inconceivable power; the earth still yielding its fruits, and the waters being gathered together in their receptacles; and the light still severed from darkness, and the allotted number of men not yet being complete; and the sun arising to rule the day, and the moon the night; and four-footed creatures, and beasts, and creeping things arising from the earth, and winged creatures, and creatures that swim, from the water. Then, when the appointed times shall have been accomplished, and God shall have ceased to form this creation, in the seventh month, the great resurrection-day, it is commanded that the Feast of our Tabernacles shall be celebrated to the Lord, of which the things said in Leviticus are symbols and figures, which things, carefully investigating, we should consider the naked truth itself, for He saith, “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: to understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words Of the wise, and their dark sayings.”

Wherefore let it shame the Jews that they do not perceive the deep things of the Scriptures, thinking that nothing else than outward things are contained in the law and the prophets; for they, intent upon things earthly, have in greater esteem the riches of the world than the wealth which is of the soul. For since the Scriptures are in this way divided that some of them give the likeness of past events, some of them a type of the future, the miserable men, going back, deal with the figures of the future as if they were already things of the past. As in the instance of the immolation of the Lamb, the mystery of which they regard as solely in remembrance of the deliverance of their fathers from Egypt, when, although the first-born of Egypt were smitten, they themselves were preserved by marking the door-posts of their houses with blood. Nor do they understand that by it also the death of Christ is personified, by whose blood souls made safe and sealed shall be preserved from wrath in the burning of the world; whilst the first-born, the sons of Satan, shall be destroyed with an utter destruction by the avenging angels, who shall reverence the seal of the Blood impressed upon the former.

chap. ii.—figure, image, truth: law, grace, glory; man created immortal: death brought in by destructive sin.

And let these things be said for the sake of example, showing that the Jews have wonderfully fallen from the hope of future good, because they consider things present to be only signs of things already accomplished; whilst they do not perceive that the figures represent images, and images are the representatives of truth. For the law is indeed the figure and the shadow of an image, that is, of the Gospel; but the image, namely, the Gospel, is the representative of truth itself. For the men of olden time and the law foretold to us the characteristics of the Church, and the Church represents those of the new dispensation which is to come. Whence we, having received Christ, saying, “I am the truth,” know that shadows and figures have ceased; and we hasten on to the truth, proclaiming its glorious images. For now we know “in part,” and as it were “through a glass,”3 since that which is perfect has not yet come to us; namely, the kingdom of heaven and the resurrection, when “that which is in part shall be done away.” For then will all our tabernacles be firmly set up, when again the body shall rise, with bones again joined and compacted with flesh. Then shall we celebrate truly to the Lord a glad festal-day, when we shall receive eternal tabernacles, no more to perish or be dissolved into the dust of the tomb. Now, our tabernacle was at first fixed in an immoveable state, but was moved by transgression and bent to the earth, God putting an end to sin by means of death, lest man immortal, living a sinner, and sin living in him, should be liable to eternal curse. Wherefore he died, although he had not been created liable to death or corruption, and the soul was separated from the flesh, that sin might perish by death, not being able to live longer in one dead. Whence sin being dead and destroyed, again I shall rise immortal; and I praise God who by means of death frees His sons from death, and I celebrate lawfully to His honour a festal-day, adorning my tabernacle, that is my flesh, with good works, as there did the five virgins with the five-lighted lamps.

chap. iii.—how each one ought to prepare himself for the future resurrection.

In the first day of the resurrection I am examined whether I bring these things which are commanded, whether I am adorned with virtuous works, whether I am overshadowed by the boughs of chastity. For account the resurrection to be the erection of the tabernacle. Account that the things which are taken for the putting together of the tabernacle are the works of righteousness. I take, therefore, on the first day the things which are set down, that is, on the day in which I stand to be judged, whether I have adorned my tabernacle with the things commanded; if those things are found on that day which here in time we are commanded to prepare, and there to offer to God. But come, let us consider what follows.

“And ye shall take you,” He says, “on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows (and the tree of chastity) of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God.” The Jews, uncircumcised in heart, think that the most beautiful fruit of wood is the citron wood, on account of its size; nor are they ashamed to say that God is worshipped with cedar, to whom not all the quadrupeds of the earth would suffice as a burnt-offering or as incense for burning. And moreover, O hard breasts, if the citron appear beautiful to you, why not the pomegranate, and other fruits of trees, and amongst them apples, which much surpass the citron? Indeed, in the Song of Songs, Solomon having made mention of all these fruits, passes over in silence the citron only. But this deceives the unwary, for they have not understood that the tree of life2 which Paradise once bore, now again the Church has produced for all, even the ripe and comely fruit of faith.

Such fruit it is necessary that we bring when we come to the judgment-seat of Christ, on the first day of the feast; for if we are without it we shall not be able to feast with God, nor to have part, according to John, in the first resurrection. For the tree of life is wisdom first begotten of all. “She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her,” says the prophet;4 “and happy is every one that retaineth her.” “A tree planted by the waterside, that will bring forth his fruit in due season;” that is, learning and charity and discretion are imparted in due time to those who come to the waters of redemption.

He that hath not believed in Christ, nor hath understood that He is the first principle and the tree of life, since he cannot show to God his tabernacle adorned with the most goodly of fruits, how shall he celebrate the feast? How shall he rejoice? Desirest thou to know the goodly fruit of the tree? Consider the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, how pleasant they are beyond the children of men. Good fruit came by Moses, that is the Law, but not so goodly as the Gospel. For the Law is a kind of figure and shadow of things to come, but the Gospel is truth and the grace of life. Pleasant was the fruit of the prophets, but not so pleasant as the fruit of immortality which is plucked from the Gospel.

chap. iv.—the mind clearer when cleansed from sin; the ornaments of the mind and the order of virtue; charity deep and full; chastity the last ornament of all; the very use of matrimony to be restrained.

“And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees.” This signifies the exercise of divine discipline, by which the mind that subdues the passions is cleansed and adorned by the sweeping out and ejection from it of sins. For it is necessary to come cleansed and adorned to the feast, arrayed, as by a decorator, in the discipline and exercise of virtue. For the mind being cleansed by laborious exercises from the distracting thoughts which darken it, quickly perceives the truth; as the widow in the Gospels7 found the piece of money after she had swept the house and cast out the dirt, that is, the passions which obscure and cloud the mind, which increase in us from our luxuriousness and carelessness.

Whoso, therefore, desires to come to that Feast of Tabernacles, to be numbered with the saints, let him first procure the goodly fruit of faith, then palm branches, that is, attentive meditation upon and study of the Scriptures, afterwards the far-spreading and thickly-leaved branches of charity, which He commands us to take after the palm branches; most fitly calling charity dense boughs, because it is all thick and close and very fruitful, not having anything bare or empty, but all full, both branches and trunks. Such is charity, having no part void or unfruitful. For “though I sell all my goods and give to the poor, and though I yield up my body to the fire, and though I have so great faith that I can remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” Charity, therefore, is a tree the thickest and most fruitful of all, full and abounding, copiously abounding in graces.

After this, what else does He will that we should take? Willow branches; by that figure indicating righteousness, because “the just,” according to the prophet, shall spring up “as grass in the midst of the waters, as willows by the watercourses,” flourishing in the word. Lastly, to crown all, it is commanded that the bough of the Agnos tree be brought to decorate the Tabernacle, because it is by its very name the tree of chastity, by which those already named are adorned. Let the wanton now be gone, who, through their love of pleasure, reject chastity. How shall they enter into the feast with Christ who have not adorned their tabernacle with boughs of chastity, that God-making and blessed tree with which all who are hastening to that assembly and nuptial banquet ought to be begirt, and to cover their loins? For come, fair virgins, consider the Scripture itself, and its commands, how the Divine word has assumed chastity to be the crown of those virtues and duties that have been mentioned, showing how becoming and desirable it is for the resurrection, and that without it no one will obtain the promises which we who profess virginity supremely cultivate and offer to the Lord. They also possess it who live chastely with their wives, and do, as it were about the trunk, yield its lowly branches bearing chastity, not being able like us to reach its lofty and mighty boughs, or even to touch them; yet they, too, offer no less truly, although in a less degree, the branches of chastity.10 But those who are goaded on by their lusts, although they do not commit fornication, yet who, even in the things which are permitted with a lawful wife, through the heat of unsubdued concupiscence are excessive in embraces, how shall they celebrate the feast? how shall they rejoice, who have not adorned their tabernacle, that is their flesh, with the boughs of the Agnos, nor have listened to that which has been said, that “they that have wives be as though they had none?”

chap. v.—the mystery of the tabernacles.

Wherefore, above all other things, I say to those who love contests, and who are strong-minded, that without delay they should honour chastity, as a thing the most useful and glorious. For in the new and indissoluble creation, whoever shall not be found decorated with the boughs of chastity, shall neither obtain rest, because he has not fulfilled the command of God according to the law, nor shall he enter into the land of promise, because he has not previously celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. For they only who have celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles come to the Holy Land, setting out from those dwellings which are called tabernacles, until they come to enter into the temple and city of God, advancing to a greater and more glorious joy, as the Jewish types indicate. For like as the Israelites, having left the borders of Egypt, first came to the Tabernacles, and from hence, having again set forth, came into the land of promise, so also do we. For I also, taking my journey, and going forth from the Egypt of this life, came first to the resurrection, which is the true Feast of the Tabernacles, and there having set up my tabernacle, adorned with the fruits of virtue, on the first day of the resurrection, which is the day of judgment, celebrate with Christ the millennium of rest, which is called the seventh day, even the true Sabbath. Then again from thence I, a follower of Jesus, “who hath entered into the heavens,”3 as they also, after the rest of the Feast of Tabernacles, came into the laud of promise, come into the heavens, not continuing to remain in tabernacles—that is, my body not remaining as it was before, but, after the space of a thousand years, changed from a human and corruptible form into angelic size and beauty, where at last we virgins, when the festival of the resurrection is consummated, shall pass from the wonderful place of the tabernacle to greater and better things, ascending into the very house of God above the heavens, as, says the Psalmist, “in the voice of praise and thanksgiving, among such as keep holy day.” I, O Arete, my mistress, offer as a gift to thee this robe, adorned according to my ability.

Euboulios. I am much moved, O Gregorion, considering within myself in how great anxiety of mind Domnina must be from the character of the discourses, perplexed in heart as she is, and with good cause, fearing lest she should be at a loss for words, and should speak more feebly than the rest of the virgins, since they have spoken on the subject with such ability and variety. If, therefore, she was evidently moved, come and complete this too; for I wonder if she had anything to say, being the last speaker.

Gregorion. Theopatra told me, Euboulios, that she was greatly moved, but she was not perplexed from want of words. After, therefore, Tusiane had ceased, Arete looked at her and said, Come, my daughter, do thou also deliver a discourse, that our banquet may be quite complete. At this Domnina, blushing, and after a long delay, scarcely looking up, rose to pray, and turning round, invoked Wisdom to be her present helper. And when she had prayed, Theopatra said that suddenly courage came to her, and a certain divine confidence possessed her, and she said:—

discourse x.—domnina.

chap. i.—chastity alone aids and effects the most praiseworthy government of the soul.

O Arete, I also, omitting the long preludes of exordiums, will endeavour according to my ability to enter upon the subject, lest, by delaying upon those matters which are outside the subject in hand, I should speak of them at greater length than their importance would warrant. For I account it a very great part of prudence not to make long speeches, which merely charm the ears, before coming to the main question, but to begin forthwith at the point in debate. So I will begin from thence, for it is time.

Nothing can so much profit a man, O fair virgins, with respect to moral excellence, as chastity; for chastity alone accomplishes and brings it about that the soul should be governed in the noblest and best way, and should be set free, pure from the stains and pollutions of the world. For which reason, when Christ taught us to cultivate it, and showed its unsurpassable beauty, the kingdom of the Evil One was destroyed, who aforetime led captive and enslaved the whole race of men, so that none of the more ancient people pleased the Lord, but all were overcome by errors, since the law was not of itself sufficient to free the human race from corruption, until virginity, succeeding the law, governed men by the precepts of Christ. Nor truly had the first men so often run headlong into combats and slaughter, into lust and idolatry, if the righteousness that is by the law had been to them sufficient for salvation. Now truly they were then confused by great and frequent calamities; but from the time when Christ was incarnate, and armed and adorned His flesh with virginity, the savage tyrant who was master of incontinence was taken away, and peace and faith have dominion, men no longer turning so much as before to idolatry.

chap. ii.—the allegory of the trees demanding a king, in the book of judges, explained.

But lest I should appear to some to be sophistical, and to conjecture these things from mere probabilities, and to babble, I will bring forward to you, O virgins, from the Old Testament, written prophecy from the Book of Judges, to show that I speak the truth, where the future reign of chastity was already clearly foretold. For we read: “The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive-tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive-tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, where with by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? And the trees said to the fig-tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig-tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow; and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”

Now, that these things are not said of trees growing out of the earth, is clear. For inanimate trees cannot be assembled in council to choose a king, inasmuch as they firmly fixed by deep roots to the earth. But altogether are these things narrated concerning souls which, before the incarnation of Christ, too deeply luxuriating in transgressions, approach to God as suppliants, and ask His mercy, and that they may be governed by His pity and compassion, which Scripture expresses under the figure of the olive, because oil is of great advantage to our bodies, and takes away our fatigues and ailments, and affords light. For all lamp-light increases when nourished by oil. So also the mercies of God entirely dissolve death, and assist the human race, and nourish the light of the heart. And consider whether the laws, from the first created man until Christ in succession, were not set forth in these words by the Scripture by figments, in opposition to which the devil has deceived the human race. And it has likened the fig-tree to the command given to man in paradise, because, when he was deceived, he covered his nakedness with the leaves of a fig-tree;3 and the vine to the precept given to Noah at the time of the deluge, because, when overpowered by wine, he was mocked. The olive signifies the law given to Moses in the desert, because the prophetic grace, the holy oil, had failed from their inheritance when they broke the law. Lastly, the bramble not inaptly refers to the law which was given to the apostles for the salvation of the world; because by their instruction we have been taught virginity, of which alone the devil has not been able to make a deceptive image. For which cause, also, four Gospels have been given, because God has four times given the Gospel5 to the human race, and has instructed them by four laws, the times of which are clearly known by the diversity of the fruits. For the fig-tree, on account of its sweetness and richness, represents the delights of man, which he had in paradise before the fall. Indeed, not rarely, as we shall afterwards show, the Holy Spirit takes the fruit of the fig-tree as an emblem of goodness. But the vine, on account of the gladness produced by wine, and the joy of those who were saved from wrath and from the deluge, signifies the change produced from fear and anxiety into joy.7 Moreover, the olive, on account of the oil which it produces, indicates the compassion of God, who again, after the deluge, bore patiently when men turned aside to ungodliness, so that He gave them the law and manifested Himself to some, and nourished by oil the light of virtue, now almost extinguished.

chap. iii.—the bramble and the agnos the symbol of chastity; the four gospels, that is, teachings or laws, instructing to salvation.

Now the bramble commends chastity, for the bramble and the agnos is the same tree: by some it is called bramble, by others agnos. Perhaps it is because the plant is akin to virginity that it is called bramble and agnos; bramble, because of its strength and firmness against pleasures; agnos, because it always continues chaste. Hence the Scripture relates that Elijah, fleeing from the face of the woman Jezebel, at first came under a bramble, and there, having been heard, received strength and took food; signifying that to him who flies from the incitements of lust, and from a woman—that is, from pleasure—the tree of chastity is a refuge and a shade, ruling men from the coming of Christ, the chief of virgins. For when the first laws, which were published in the times of Adam and Noah and Moses, were unable to give salvation to man, the evangelical law alone has saved all.

And this is the cause why the fig-tree may be said not to have obtained the kingdom over trees, which, in a spiritual sense, mean men; and the fig-tree the command, because man desired, even after the fall, again to be subject to the dominion of virtue, and not to be deprived of the immortality of the paradise of pleasure. But, having transgressed, he was rejected and cast far away, as one who could no longer be governed by immortality, nor was capable of receiving it. And the first message to him after the transgression was preached by Noah, to which, if he had applied his mind, he might have been saved from sin; for in it he promised both happiness and rest from evils, if he gave heed to it with all his might, just as the vine promises to yield wine to those who cultivate it with care and labour. But neither did this law rule mankind, for men did not obey it, although zealously preached by Noah. But, after they began to be surrounded and drowning by the waters, they began to repent, and to promise that they would obey the commandments. Wherefore with scorn they are rejected as subjects; that is, they are contemptuously told that they cannot be helped by the law; the Spirit answering them back and reproaching them because they had deserted those men whom God had commanded to help them, and to save them, and make them glad; such as Noah and those with him. “Even to you, O rebellious,” said he, “I come, to bring help to you who are destitute of prudence, and who differ in nothing from dry trees, and who formerly did not believe me when I preached that you ought to flee from present things.”

chap. iv.—the law useless for salvation; the last law of chastity under the figure of the bramble.

And so those men, having been thus rejected from the divine care, and the human race having again given themselves up to error, again God sent forth, by Moses, a law to rule them and recall them to righteousness. But these, thinking fit to bid a long farewell to this law, turned to idolatry. Hence God gave them up to mutual slaughters, to exiles, and captivities, the law itself confessing, as it were, that it could not save them. Therefore, worn out with ills and afflicted, they again promised that they would obey the commandments; until God, pitying man the fourth time, sent chastity to rule over them, which Scripture consequently called the bramble. And she consuming pleasures threatens besides, that unless all undoubtingly obey her, and truly come to her, she will destroy all with fire, since there will be hereafter no other law or doctrine but judgment and fire. For this reason, man henceforth began to do righteousness, and firmly to believe in God, and to separate himself from the devil. Thus chastity was sent down, as being most useful and helpful to men. For of her alone was the devil unable to forge an imitation to lead men astray, as is the case with the other precepts.

chap. v.—the malignity of the devil as an imitator in all things; two kinds of fig-trees and vines.

The fig-tree, as I said, from the sweetness and excellence of its fruit, being taken as a type of the delights of paradise, the devil, having beguiled the man by its imitations, led him captive, persuading him to conceal the nakedness of his body by fig-leaves; that is, by their friction he excited him to sexual pleasure. Again, those that had been saved from the deluge, he intoxicated with a drink which was an imitation of the vine of spiritual joy; and again he mocked them, having stripped them of virtue. And what I say will hereafter be more clear.

The enemy, by his power, always imitates the forms of virtue and righteousness, not for the purpose of truly promoting its exercise, but for deception and hypocrisy. For in order that those who fly from death he may entice to death, he is outwardly dyed with the colours of immortality. And hence he wishes to seem a fig-tree or vine, and to produce sweetness and joy, and is “transformed into an angel of light,”4 ensnaring many by the appearance of piety.

For we find in the Sacred Writings that there are two kinds of fig-trees and vines, “the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil;” “wine that maketh glad the heart of man.”6 and wine which is the poison of dragons, and the incurable venom of asps. But from the time when chastity began to rule over men, the fraud was detected and overcome, Christ, the chief of virgins, overturning it. So both the true fig-tree and the true vine yield fruit after that the power of chastity has laid hold upon all men, as Joel the prophet preaches, saying: “Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field; for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig-tree and the vine do yield their strength. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for He hath given you food unto righteousness;”2 calling the former laws the vine and the fig, trees bearing fruit unto righteousness for the children of the spiritual Zion, which bore fruit after the incarnation of the Word, when chastity ruled over us, when formerly, on account of sin and much error, they had checked and destroyed their buds. For the true vine and the true fig-tree were not able to yield such nourishment to us as would be profitable for life, whilst as yet the false fig-tree, variously adorned for the purpose of fraud, flourished. But when the Lord dried up the false branches, the imitations of the true branches, uttering the sentence against the bitter fig-tree, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever,” then those which were truly fruit-bearing trees flourished and yielded food unto righteousness.

The vine, and that not in a few places, refers to the Lord Himself, and the fig-tree to the Holy Spirit, as the Lord “maketh glad the hearts of men,” and the Spirit healeth them. And therefore Hezekiah is commanded5 first to make a plaster with a lump of figs—that is, the fruit of the Spirit—that he may be healed—that is, according to the apostle—by love; for he says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance;” which, on account of their great pleasantness, the prophet calls figs. Micah also says, “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid.”7 Now it is certain that those who have taken refuge and rested under the Spirit, and under the shadow of the Word, shall not be alarmed, nor frightened by him who troubles the hearts of men.

chap. vi.—the mystery of the vision of zechariah.

Moreover, Zechariah shows that the olive shadows forth the law of Moses, speaking thus: “And the angel that talked with me came again and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, and said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it.… And two olive-trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.” And after a few words, the prophet, asking what are the olives on the right and left of the candlestick, and what the two olive-boughs in the hands of the two pipes, the angel answered and said: “These are the two sons of fruitfulness9 which stand by the Lord of the whole earth,” signifying the two first-born virtues that are waiting upon God, which, in His dwelling, supply around the wick, through the boughs, the spiritual oil of God, that man may have the light of divine knowledge. But the two boughs of the two olives are the law and the prophets, around, as it were, the lot of the inheritance, of which Christ and the Holy Spirit are the authors, we ourselves meanwhile not being able to take the whole fruit and the greatness of these plants, before chastity began to rule the world, but only their boughs—to wit, the law and the prophets—did we formerly cultivate, and those moderately, often letting them slip. For who was ever able to receive Christ or the Spirit, unless he first purified himself? For the exercise which prepares the soul from childhood for desirable and delectable glory, and carries this grace safely thither with ease, and from small toils raises up mighty hopes, is chastity, which gives immortality to our bodies; which it becomes all men willingly to prefer in honour and to praise above all things; some, that by its means they may be betrothed to the Word, practising virginity; and others, that by it they may be freed from the curse, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”11

This, O Arete, is the discourse on virginity which you required of me, accomplished according to my ability; which I pray, O mistress, although it is mediocre and short, that thou wilt receive with kindness from me who was chosen to speak last.

discourse xi.—arete.

chap. i.—the true and chaste virgins few; chastity a contest; thekla chief of virgins.

I do accept it, Theopatra related that Arete said, and approve of it all. For it is an excellent thing, even although you had not spoken so clearly, to take up and go through with earnestness those things which have been said, not to prepare a sweet entertainment for those who listen, but for correction, recollection, and abstinence. For whoever teaches that chastity is to be preferred and embraced first of all among my pursuits, rightly advises; which many think that they honour and cultivate, but which few, so to speak, really honour. For it is not one who has studied to restrain his flesh from the pleasure of carnal delight that cultivates chastity, if he do not keep in check the rest of the desires; but rather he dishonours it, and that in no small degree, by base lusts, exchanging pleasures for pleasures. Nor if he have strongly resisted the desires of the senses, but is lifted up with vainglory, and from this cause is able to repress the heats of burning lust, and reckon them all as nothing, can he be thought to honour chastity; for he dishonours it in that he is lifted up with pride, cleansing the outside of the cup and platter, that is, the flesh and the body, but injuring the heart by conceit and ambition. Nor when any one is conceited of riches is he desirous of honouring chastity; he dishonours it more than all, preferring a little gain to that to which nothing is comparable of those things that are in this life esteemed. For all riches and gold “in respect of it are as a little sand.” And neither does he who loves himself above measure, and eagerly considers that which is expedient for himself alone, regardless of the necessities of his neighbour, honour chastity, but he also dishonours it. For he who has repelled from himself charity, mercy, and humanity, is much inferior to those who honourably exercise chastity. Nor is it right, on the one hand, by the use of chastity to keep virginity, and, on the other hand, to pollute the soul by evil deeds and lust; nor here to profess purity and continence, and there to pollute it by indulgence in vices. Nor, again, here to declare that the things of this world bring no care to himself; there to be eager in procuring them, and in concern about them. But all the members are to be preserved intact and free from corruption; not only those which are sexual, but those members also which minister to the service of lusts. for it would be ridiculous to preserve the organs of generation pure, but not the tongue; or to preserve the tongue, but neither the eyesight, the ears, nor the hands; or lastly, to preserve these pure, but not the mind, defiling it with pride and anger.

It is altogether necessary for him who has resolved that he will not err from the practice of chastity, to keep all his members and senses clean and under restraint, as is customary with the planks of ships, whose fastenings the ship-masters diligently join together, lest by any means the way and access may lie open for sin to pour itself into the mind. For great pursuits are liable to great falls, and evil is more opposed to that which is really good than to that which is not good. For many who thought that to repress vehement lascivious desires constituted chastity, neglecting other duties connected with it, failed also in this, and have brought blame upon those endeavouring after it by the right way, as you have proved who are a model in everything, leading a virgin life in deed and word. And now what that is which becomes a virgin state has been described.

And you all in my hearing having sufficiently contended in speaking, I pronounce victors and crown; but Thekla with a larger and thicker chaplet, as the chief of you, and as having shone with greater lustre than the rest.

chap. ii.—thekla singing decorously a hymn, the rest of the virgins sing with her; john the baptist a martyr to chastity; the church the spouse of god, pure and virgin.

Theopatra said that Arete having said these things, commanded them all to rise, and, standing under the Agnos, to send up to the Lord in a becoming manner a hymn of thanksgiving; and that Thekla should begin and should lead the rest. And when they had stood up, she said that Thekla, standing in the midst of the virgins on the right of Arete, decorously sang; but the rest, standing together in a circle after the manner of a chorus, responded to her: “I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.”

Thekla. 1. From above, O virgins, the sound of a noise that wakes the dead has come, bidding us all to meet the Bridegroom in white robes, and with torches towards the east. Arise, before the King enters within the gates.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 2. Fleeing from the sorrowful happiness of mortals, and having despised the luxuriant delights of life and its love, I desire to be protected under Thy life-giving arms, and to behold Thy beauty for ever, O blessed One.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 3. Leaving marriage and the beds of mortals and my golden home for Thee, O King, I have come in undefiled robes, in order that I might enter with Thee within Thy happy bridal chamber.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 4. Having escaped, O blessed One, from the innumerable enchanting wiles of the serpent, and, moreover, from the flame of fire, and from the mortal-destroying assaults of wild beasts, I await Thee from heaven.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 5. I forget my own country, O Lord, through desire of Thy grace. I forget, also, the company of virgins, my fellows, the desire even of mother and of kindred, for Thou, O Christ, art all things to me.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 6. Giver of life art Thou, O Christ. Hail, light that never sets, receive this praise. The company of virgins call upon Thee, Perfect Flower, Love, Joy, Prudence, Wisdom, Word.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 7. With open gates, O beauteously adorned Queen, admit us within thy chambers. O spotless, gloriously triumphant Bride, breathing beauty, we stand by Christ, robed as He is, celebrating thy happy nuptials, O youthful maiden.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 8. The virgins standing without the chamber, with bitter tears and deep moans, wail and mournfully lament that their lamps are gone out, having failed to enter in due time the chamber of joy.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 9. For turning from the sacred way of life, unhappy ones, they have neglected to prepare sufficiency of oil for the path of life; bearing lamps whose bright light is dead, they groan from the inward recesses of their mind.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 10. Here are cups full of sweet nectar; let us drink, O virgins, for it is celestial drink, which the Bridegroom hath placed for those duly called to the wedding.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 11. Abel, clearly prefiguring Thy death, O blessed One, with flowing blood, and eyes lifted up to heaven, said, Cruelly slain by a brother’s hand, O Word, I pray Thee to receive me.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 12. Thy valiant son Joseph, O Word, won the greatest prize of virginity, when I a woman heated with desire forcibly drew him to an unlawful bed; but he giving no heed to her fled stripped, and crying aloud:—

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 13. Jephthah offered his fresh slaughtered virgin daughter a sacrifice to God, like a lamb; and she, nobly fulfilling the type of Thy body, O blessed One, bravely cried:—

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 14. Daring Judith, by clever wiles having cut off the head of the leader of the foreign hosts, whom previously she had allured by her beautiful form, without polluting the limbs of her body, with a victor’s shout said:—

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 15. Seeing the great beauty of Susanna, the two Judges, maddened with desire, said, O dear lady, we have come desiring secret intercourse with thee; but she with tremulous cries said:—

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 16. It is far better for me to die than to betray my nuptials to you, O mad for women, and so to suffer the eternal justice of God in fiery vengeance. Save me now, O Christ, from these evils.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 17. Thy Precursor, washing multitudes of men in flowing lustral water, unjustly by a wicked man, on account of his chastity, was led to slaughter; but as he stained the dust with his life-blood, he cried to Thee, O blessed One:—

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 18. The parent of Thy life, that unspotted Grace and undefiled Virgin, bearing in her womb without the ministry of man, by an immaculate conception,2 and who thus became suspected of having betrayed the marriage-bed, she, O blessed One, when pregnant, thus spoke:—

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 19. Wishing to see Thy nuptial day, O blessed One, as many angels as Thou, O King, calledst from above, bearing the best gifts to Thee, came in unsullied robes:—

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 20. In hymns, O blessed spouse of God, we attendants of the Bride honour Thee, O undefiled virgin Church of snow-white form, dark haired, chaste, spotless, beloved.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 21. Corruption has fled, and the tearful pains of diseases; death has been taken away, all folly has perished, consuming mental grief is no more; for again the grace of the God-Christ has suddenly shone upon mortals.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 22. Paradise is no longer bereft of mortals, for by divine decree he no longer dwells there as formerly, thrust out from thence when he was free from corruption, and from fear by the various wiles of the serpents, O blessed One.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 23. Singing the new song, now the company of virgins attends thee towards the heavens, O Queen, all manifestly crowned with white lilies, and bearing in their hands bright lights.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Thekla. 24. O blessed One, who inhabited the undefiled seats of heaven without beginning, who governed all things by everlasting power, O Father, with Thy Son, we are here, receive us also within the gates of life.

Chorus. I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

chap. iii.—which are the better, the continent, or those who delight in tranquillity of life? contests the peril of chastity: the felicity of tranquillity; purified and tranquil minds gods: they who shall see god; virtue disciplined by temptations.

Euboulios. Deservedly, O Gregorion, has Thekla borne off the chief prize.

Gregorion. Deservedly indeed.

Euboulios. But what about the stranger Telmisiake? Tell me, was she not listening from without? I wonder if she could keep silence on hearing of this banquet, and would not forthwith, as a bird flies to its food, listen to the things which were spoken.

Gregorion. The report is that she was present with Methodios when he inquired respecting these things of Arete. But it is a good as well as a happy thing to have such a mistress and guide as Arete, that is virtue.

Euboulios. But, Gregorion, which shall we say are the better, those who without lust govern concupiscence, or those who under the assaults of concupiscence continue pure?

Gregorion. For my part, I think those who are free from lust, for they have their mind undefiled, and are altogether uncorrupted, sinning in no respect.

Euboulios. Well, I swear by chastity, and wisely, O Gregorion. But lest in any wise I hinder you, if I gainsay your words, it is that I may the better learn, and that no one hereafter may refute me.

Gregorion. Gainsay me as you will, you have my permission. For, Euboulios, I think that I know sufficient to teach you that he who is not concupiscent is better than he who is. If I cannot, then there is no one who can convince you.

Euboulios. Bless me! I am glad that you answer me so magnanimously, and show how wealthy you are as regards wisdom.

Gregorion. A mere chatterer, so you seem to be, O Euboulios.

Euboulios. Why so?

Gregorion. Because you ask rather for the sake of amusement than of truth.

Euboulios. Speak fair, I pray you, my good friend; for I greatly admire your wisdom and renown. I say this because, with reference to the things that many wise men often dispute among themselves, you say that you not only understand them, but also vaunt that you can teach another.

Gregorion. Now tell me truly whether it is a difficulty with you to receive the opinion, that they who are not concupiscent excel those who are concupiscent, and yet restrain themselves? or are you joking?

Euboulios. How so, when I tell you that I do not know? But, come, tell me, O wisest lady, in what do the non-concupiscent and chaste excel the concupiscent who live chastely?

Gregorion. Because, in the first place, they have the soul itself pure, and the Holy Spirit always dwells in it, seeing that it is not distracted and disturbed by fancies and unrestrained thoughts, so as to pollute the mind. But they are in every way inaccessible to lust, both as to their flesh and to their heart, enjoying tranquillity from passions. But they who are allured from without, through the sense of sight, with fancies, and receiving lust flowing like a stream into the heart, are often not less polluted, even when they think that they contend and fight against pleasures, being vanquished in their mind.

Euboulios. Shall we then say that they who serenely live and are not disturbed by lusts are pure?

Gregorion. Certainly, For these are they whom God makes gods in the beatitudes; they who believe in Him without doubt. And He says that they shall look upon God with confidence, because they bring in nothing that darkens or confuses the eye of the soul for the beholding of God; but all desire of things secular being eliminated, they not only, as I said, preserve the flesh pure from carnal connection, but even the heart, in which, especially, as in a temple, the Holy Spirit rests and dwells, is open to no unclean thoughts.

Euboulios. Stay now; for I think that from hence we shall the better go on to the discovery of what things are truly the best; and, tell me, do you call anyone a good pilot?

Gregorion. I certainly do.

Euboulios. Whether is it he that saves his vessel in great and perplexing storms, or is it he who does so in a breathless calm?

Gregorion. He that does so in a great and perplexing storm.

Euboulios. Shall we not then say that the soul, which is deluged with the surging waves of the passions, and yet does not, on that account, weary or grow faint, but direct her vessel—that is, the flesh—nobly into the port of chastity, is better and more estimable than he that navigates in calm weather?

Gregorion. We will say so.

Euboulios. For to be prepared against the entrance of the gales of the Evil Spirit, and not to be cast away or overcome, but to refer all to Christ, and strongly to contend against pleasures, brings greater praise than he wins who lives a virgin life calmly and with ease.

Gregorion. It appears so.

Euboulios. And what saith the Lord? Does He not seem to show that he who retains continence, though concupiscent, excels him who, having no concupiscence, leads a virgin life?

Gregorion. Where does He say so?

Euboulios. Where, comparing a wise man to a house well founded, He declares him immoveable because he cannot be overthrown by rains, and floods, and winds; likening, as it would seem, these storms to lusts, but the immoveable and unshaken firmness of the soul in chastity to the rock.

Gregorion. You appear to speak what is true.

Euboulios. And what say you of the physician? Do you not call him the best who has been proved in great diseases, and has healed many patients?

Gregorion. I do.

Euboulios. But the one who has never at any time practised, nor ever had the sick in his hands, is he not still in all respects the inferior?

Gregorion. Yes.

Euboulios. Then we may certainly say that a soul which is contained by a concupiscent body, and which appeases with the medicaments of temperance the disorders arising from the heat of lusts, carries off the palm for healing, over one to whose lot it has fallen to govern aright a body which is free from lust.

Gregorion. It must be allowed.

Euboulios. And how is it in wrestling? Whether is the better wrestler he who has many and strong antagonists, and continually is contending without being worsted, or he who has no opponents?

Gregorion. Manifestly he who wrestles.

Euboulios. And, in wrestling, is not the athlete who contends the more experienced?

Gregorion. It must be granted.

Euboulios. Therefore it is clear that he whose soul contends against the impulses of lust, and is not borne down by it, but draws back and sets himself in array against it, appears stronger than he who does not lust.

Gregorion. True.

Euboulios. What then? Does it not appear to you, Gregorion, that there is more courage in being valiant against the assaults of base desires?

Gregorion. Yes, indeed.

Euboulios. Is not this courage the strength of virtue?

Gregorion. Plainly so.

Euboulios. Therefore, if endurance be the strength of virtue, is not the soul, which is troubled by lusts, and yet perseveres against them, stronger than that which is not so troubled?

Gregorion. Yes.

Euboulios. And if stronger, then better?

Gregorion. Truly.

Euboulios. Therefore the soul which is concupiscent, and exercises self-control, as appears from what has been said, is better than that which is not concupiscent, and exercises serf-control.

Gregorion. You speak truly, and I shall desire still more fully to discourse with you concerning these things. If, therefore, it pleases you, tomorrow I will come again to hear respecting them. Now, however, as you see, it is time to betake ourselves to the care of the outward man.




(We here behold only shadows, etc., p. 335.)

Schleiermacher, in commenting on Plato’s Symposium, remarks: “Even natural birth (i.e., in Plato’s system) was nothing but a reproduction of the same eternal form and idea.… The whole discussion displays the gradation, not only from that pleasure which arises from the contemplation of personal beauty through that which every larger object, whether single or manifold, may occasion, to that immediate pleasure of which the source is in the Eternal Beauty,” etc. Our author ennobles such theorizing by mounting up to the great I Am.


(Christ Himself is the one who is born, p. 337.)

Wordsworth, and many others of the learned, sustain our author’s comment on this passage. So Aquinas, ad loc., Bede, and many others. Methodius is incorrectly represented as rejecting the idea that “the woman” is the Blessed Virgin Mary, for no such idea existed for him to reject. He rejects the idea that the man-child is Christ; but that idea was connected with the supposition that the woman was the Church of the Hebrews bringing forth the Messiah. Gregory the Great regards the woman as the Christian Church. So Hippolytus:5 “By the woman … is meant most manifestly the Church, endued with the Father’s Word, whose brightness is above the sun,” etc. Bossuet says candidly, “C’est l’ Église, tout éclatante de la lumière de J. C.,” etc.

Now, note the progress of corruption, one fable engendering another. The text of Gen. 3:15, contrary to the Hebrew, the Seventy, the Syriac, and the Vulgate itself, in the best mss., is made to read, “She shall bruise thy head,” etc. The “woman,” therefore, becomes the Mother of our Lord, and the “great red dragon” (of verse 3), from which the woman “fled into the wilderness,” is next represented as under her feet (where the moon appears in the sacred narrative); and then the Immaculate Conception of her Holy Seed is transferred back to the mother of Mary, who is indecently discussed, and affirmed to have been blest with an “Immaculate Conception” when, in the ordinary process of nature, she was made the mother of the Virgin. So, then, the bull Ineffabilis comes forth, eighteen hundred years after the event, with the announcement that what thousands of saints and many bishops of Rome have denounced as a fable must be received by all Christians on peril of eternal damnation.8 The worst of it all is the fact, that, as the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God has heretofore been the only “Immaculate Conception” known to the faith of Christendom, thousands now imagine that this is what was only so lately set forth, and what we must therefore renounce as false.


Orthodoxus. The old man of Ithaca, according to the legend of the Greeks, when he wished to hear the song of the Sirens, on account of the charm of their voluptuous voice, sailed to Sicily in bonds, and stopped up the ears of his companions; not that he grudged them the hearing, or desired to load himself with bonds, but because the consequence of those singers’ music to those who heard it was death. For such, in the opinion of the Greeks, are the charms of the Sirens. Now I am not within hearing of any such song as this; nor have I any desire to hear the Sirens who chant men’s dirges, and whose silence is more profitable to men than their voice; but I pray to enjoy the pleasure of a divine voice, which, though it be often heard, I long to hear again; not that I am overcome with the charm of a voluptuous voice, but I am being taught divine mysteries, and expect as the result, not death but eternal salvation. For the singers are not the deadly Sirens of the Greeks, but a divine choir of prophets, with whom there is no need to stop the ears of one’s companions, nor to load one’s-self with bonds, in fear of the penalty of hearing. For, in the one case, the hearer, with the entrance of the voice, ceases to live; in the other, the more he hears, the better life will he enjoy, being led onwards by a divine Spirit. Let every one come, then, and hear the divine song without any fear. There are not with us the Sirens from the shore of Sicily, nor the bonds of Ulysses, nor the wax poured melting into men’s ears; but a loosening of all bonds, and liberty to listen to every one that approaches. For it is worthy of us to hear such a song as this; and to hear such singers as these, seems to me to be a thing to be prayed for. But if one wishes to hear the choir of the apostles as well, he will find the same harmony of song. For the others sang beforehand the divine plan in a mystical manner; but these sing an interpretation of what has been mystically announced by the former. Oh, concordant harmony, composed by the Divine Spirit! Oh, the comeliness of those who sing of the mysteries of God! Oh, that I also may join in these songs in my prayer. Let us then also sing the like song, and raise the hymn to the Holy Father, glorifying in the Spirit Jesus, who is in His bosom.

Shun not, man, a spiritual hymn, nor be ill-disposed to listen to it. Death belongs not to it; a story of salvation is our song. Already I seem to taste better enjoyments, as I discourse on such subjects as these; and especially when there is before me such a flowering meadow, that is to say, our assembly of those who unite in singing and hearing the divine mysteries. Wherefore I dare to ask you to listen to me with ears free from all envy, without imitating the jealousy of Cain, or persecuting your brother, like Esau,4 or approving the brethren of Joseph, because they hated their brother on account of his words; but differing far from all these, insomuch that each of you is used to speak the mind of his neighbour. And, on this account, there is no evil jealousy among you, as ye have undertaken to supply your brother’s deficiencies. O noble audience, and venerable company, and spiritual food! That I may ever have a right to share in such pleasures, be this my prayer!

Valentinian. As I was walking yesterday evening, my friend, along the shore of the sea, and was gazing on it somewhat intently, I saw an extraordinary instance of divine power, and a work of art produced by wise science, if at least such a thing may be called a work of art. For as that verse of Homer says,—

“As when two adverse winds blowing from Thrace,

Boreas and Zephyrus, the fishy deep

Vex sudden, all around, the sable flood

High curled, flings forth the salt weed on the shore;”—

So it seemed to me to have happened yesterday. For I saw waves very like mountain-tops, and, so to speak, reaching up to heaven itself. Whence I expected nothing else but that the whole land would be deluged, and I began to form in my mind a place of escape, and a Noah’s ark. But it was not as I thought; for, just as the sea rose to a crest, it broke up again into itself, without overstepping its own limits, having, so to speak, a feeling of awe for a divine decree. And as oftentimes a servant, compelled by his master to do something against his will, obeys the command through fear, while he dares not say a word of what he suffers in his unwillingness to do it, but, full of rage, mutters to himself,—somewhat so it appeared to me that the sea, as if enraged and confining its awe within itself, kept itself under, as not willing to let its Master perceive its anger.

On these occurrences I began to gaze in silence, and wished to measure in my mind the heaven and its sphere. I began to inquire whence it rises and where it sets; also what sort of motion it had—whether a progressive one, that is to say, one from place to place, or a revolving one; and, besides, how its movement is continued. And, of a truth, it seemed worth while to inquire also about the sun,—what is the manner of his being set in the heaven; also what is the orbit he traverses; also whither it is that, after a short time, he retires; and why it is that even he does not go out of his proper course: but he, too, as one may say, is observing a commandment of a higher power, and appears with us just when he is allowed to do so, and departs as if he were called away.

So, as I was investigating these things, I saw that the sunshine was departing, and the daylight failing, and that immediately darkness came on; and the sun was succeeded by the moon, who, at her first rising, was not of full size, but after advancing in her course presented a larger appearance. And I did not cease inquiring about her also, but examined the cause of her waning and waxing, and why it is that she, too, observes the revolution of days; and it seemed to me from all this that there is a divine government and power controlling the whole, which we may justly call God.

And thereupon I began to praise the Creator, as I saw the earth fast fixed, and living creatures in such variety, and the blossoms of plants with their many hues. But my mind did not rest upon these things alone; but thereupon I began to inquire whence they have their origin—whether from some source eternally co-existent with God, or from Himself alone, none co-existing with Him; for that He has made nothing out of that which has no existence appeared to me the right view to take, unless my reason were altogether untrustworthy. For it is the nature of things which come into being to derive their origin from what is already existing. And it seemed to me that it might be said with equal truth, that nothing is eternally co-existent with God distinct from Himself, but that whatever exists has its origin from Him, and I was persuaded of this also by the undeniable disposition of the elements, and by the orderly arrangement of nature about them.

So, with some such thoughts of the fair order of things, I returned home. But on the day following, that is today, as I came I saw two beings of the same race—I mean men—striking and abusing one another; and another, again, wishing to strip his neighbour. And now some began to venture upon a more terrible deed; for one stripped a corpse, and exposed again to the light of day a body that had been once hidden in the earth, and treated a form like his own with such insult as to leave the corpse to be food for dogs; while another bared his sword, and attacked a man like himself. And he wanted to procure safety by flight; but the other ceased not from pursuing, nor would control his anger. And why should I say more? It is enough that be attacked him, and at once smote him with his sword. So the wounded man became a suppliant to his fellow, and spread out his hands in supplication, and was willing to give up his clothing, and only made a claim for life. But the other did not subdue his anger, nor pity his fellow-man, nor would he see his own image in the being before him; but, like a wild beast, made preparations with his sword for feeding upon him. And now he was even putting his mouth to the body so like his own, such was the extent of his rage. And there was to be seen one man suffering injurious treatment, and another forthwith stripping him, and not even covering with earth the body which he denuded of clothing. But, in addition to these, there was another who, robbing others of their marriage rights, wanted to insult his neighbour’s wife, and urged her to turn to unlawful embraces, not wishing her husband to be father to a child of his own.

After that I began to believe the tragedies, and thought that the dinner of Thyestes had really taken place; and believed in the unlawful lust of Oinomaos, nor doubted of the strife in which brother drew the sword on brother.

So, after beholding such things as these, I began to inquire whence they arise, and what is their origin, and who is the author of such devices against men, whence came their discovery, and who is the teacher of them. Now to dare to say that God was the author of these things was impossible; for surely it could not even be said that they have from Him their substance, or their existence. For how were it possible to entertain these thoughts of God? For He is good, and the Creator of what is excellent, and to Him belongs nothing bad. Nay, it is His nature to take no pleasure in such things; but He forbids their production, and rejects those who delight in them, but admits into His presence those who avoid them. And how could it be anything but absurd to call God the maker of these things of which He disapproves? For He would not wish them not to be, if He had first been their creator; and He wishes those who approach Him to be imitators of Him.

Wherefore it seemed to me unreasonable to attribute these things to God, or to speak of them as having sprung from Him; though it must certainly be granted that it is possible for something to come into existence out of what has no existence, in case He made what is evil. For He who brought them into existence out of non-existence would not reduce them to the loss of it. And again, it must be said that there was once a time when God took pleasure in evil things, which now is not the case. Wherefore it seems to me impossible to say this of God. For it is unsuitable to His nature to attach this to Him. Wherefore it seemed to me that there is co-existent with Him somewhat which has the name of matter, from which He formed existing things, distinguishing between them with wise art, and arranging them in a fair order, from which also evil things seem to have come into being. For as this matter was without quality or form, and, besides this, was borne about without order, and was untouched by divine art, God bore no grudge against it, nor left it to be continually thus borne about, but began to work upon it, and wished to separate its best parts from its worst, and thus made all that it was fitting for God to make out of it; but so much of it as was like lees, so to speak, this being unfitted for being made into anything, He left as it was, since it was of no use to Him; and from this it seems to me that what is evil has now streamed down among men. This seemed to me the right view to take of these things. But, my friend, if you think that anything I have said is wrong, mention it, for I exceedingly desire to hear about these things.

Orthodoxus. I appreciate your readiness, my friend, and applaud your zeal about the subject; and as for the opinion which you have expressed respecting existing things, to the effect that God made them out of some underlying substance, I do not altogether find fault with it. For, truly, the origin of evil is a subject that has called out opinions from many men. Before you and me, no doubt, there have been many able men who have made the most searching inquiry into the matter. And some of them expressed the same opinion as you did, but others again represented God as the creator of these things, fearing to allow the existence of substance as coeval with Him; while the former, from fear of saying that God was the author of evil, thought fit to represent matter as coeval with Him.2 And it was the fate of both of these to fail to speak rightly on the subject, in consequence of their fear of God not being in agreement with an accurate knowledge of the truth.

But others declined to inquire about such a question at all, on the ground that such an inquiry is endless. As for me, however, my connection with you in friendship does not allow me to decline the subject of inquiry, especially when you announce your own purpose, that you are not swayed by prejudice,—although you had your opinion about the condition of things derived from your conjectures,—but say that you are confirmed in a desire of knowing the truth.

Wherefore I will willingly turn to the discussion of the question. But I wish this companion of mine here to listen to our conversation. For, indeed, he seems to have much the same opinions about these things as you have, wherefore I wish that you should both have a share in the discussion. For whatever I should say to you, situated as you are, I shall say just as much to him. If, then, you are indulgent enough to think I speak truly on this great subject, give an answer to each question I ask; for the result of this will be that you will gain a knowledge of the truth, and I shall not carry on my discussion with you at random.

Valentinian. I am ready to do as you say; and therefore be quite ready to ask those questions from which you think I may be able to gain an accurate knowledge of this important subject. For the object which I have set before myself is not the base one of gaining a victory, but that of becoming thoroughly acquainted with the truth. Wherefore apply yourself to the rest of the discussion.

Orthodoxus. Well, then, I do not suppose you are ignorant that it is impossible for two uncreated things to exist together, although you seem to have expressed nearly as much as this in an earlier part of the conversation. Assuredly we must of necessity say one of two things: either that God is separate from matter, or, on the other hand, that He is inseparable from it. If, then, one would say that they are united, he will say that which is uncreated is one only, for each of the things spoken of will be a part of the other; and as they are parts of each other, there will not be two uncreated things, but one composed of different elements. For we do not, because a man has different members, break him up into many beings. But, as the demands of reason require, we say that a single being, man, of many parts, has been created by God. So it is necessary, if God be not separate from matter, to say that which is uncreated is one only; but if one shall say that He is separate, there must necessarily be something intermediate between the two, which makes their separation evident. For it is impossible to estimate the distance of one thing from another, unless there be something else with which the distance between them may be compared. And this holds good, not only as far as the instance before us, but also to any number of others. For the argument which we advanced in the case of two uncreated things would of necessity be of equal force, were the uncreated things granted to be three in number. For I should ask also respecting them, whether they are separate from each other, or, on the other hand, are united each to its neighbour. For if any one resolve to say that they are united, he will be told the same as before; if, again, that they are separate, he will not escape the necessary existence of that which separates them.

If, then, any one were to say that there is a third account which might fitly be given of uncreated things, namely, that neither is God separate from matter, nor, again, are they united as part of a whole; but that God is locally situate in matter, and matter in God, he must be told as the consequence, that if we say that God is placed in matter, we must of necessity say that He is contained within limits, and circumscribed by matter. But then He must, equally with matter, be carried about without order. And that He rests not, nor remains by Himself, is a necessary result of that in which He is being carried, now this way, and now that. And besides this, we must say that God was in worse case still.

For if matter were once without order, and He, determining to change it for the better, put it into order, there was a time when God was in that which had no order. And I might fairly ask this question also, whether God filled matter completely, or existed in some part of it. For if one resolve to say that God was in some part of matter, how far smaller than matter does he make Him; that is, if a part of it contained God altogether. But if he were to say that He is in all of it, and is extended through the whole of matter, he must tell us how He wrought upon it. For we must say that there was a sort of contraction of God, which being effected, He wrought upon that from which He was withdrawn, or else that He wrought in union with matter, without having a place of withdrawal. But if any one say that matter is in God, there is equal need of inquiry, namely, whether it is by His being separated from Himself, and as creatures exist in the air, by His being divided and parted for the reception of the beings that are in Him; or whether it is locally situated, that is to say, as water in land; for if we were to say, as in the air, we must say that God is divisible; but if, as water in earth,—since matter was without order and arrangement, and besides, contained what was evil,—we must say that in God were to be found the disorderly and the evil. Now this seems to me an unbecoming conclusion, nay, more a dangerous one. For you wish for the existence of matter, that you may avoid saying that God is the author of evil; and, determining to avoid this, you say that He is the receptacle of evil.

If, then, under the supposition that matter is separate from created substances, you had said that it is uncreated, I should have said much about it, to prove that it is impossible for it to be uncreated; but since you say that the question of the origin of evil is the cause of this supposition, it therefore seems to me right to proceed to inquire into this. For when it is clearly stated how evil exists, and that it is not possible to say that God is the cause of evil, because of matter being subject to Him, it seems to me to destroy such a supposition, to remark, that if God created the qualities which did not exist, He equally created the substances.

Do you say, then, that there co-exists with God matter without qualities out of which He formed the beginning of this world?

Valentinian. So I think.

Orthodoxus. If, then, matter had no qualities, and the world were produced by God, and qualities exist in the world, then God is the maker of qualities?

Valentinian. It is so.

Orthodoxus. Now, as I heard you say some time ago that it is impossible for anything to come into being out of that which has no existence, answer my question: Do you think that the qualities of the world were not produced out of any existing qualities?

Valentinian. I do.

Orthodoxus. And that they are something distinct from substances?

Valentinian. Yes.

Orthodoxus. If, then, qualities were neither made by God out of any ready at hand, nor derive their existence from substances, because they are not substances, we must say that they were produced by God out of what had no existence. Wherefore I thought you spoke extravagantly in saying that it was impossible to suppose that anything was produced by God out of what did not exist.

But let our discussion of this matter stand thus. For truly we see among ourselves men making things out of what does not exist, although they seem for the most part to be making them with something. As, for instance, we may have an example in the case of architects; for they truly do not make cities out of cities, nor in like manner temples out of temples.

But if, because substances underlie these things, you think that the builders make them out of what does exist, you are mistaken in your calculation. For it is not the substance which makes the city or the temples, but art applied to substance. And this art is not produced out of some art which lies in the substances themselves, but from that which is not in them.

But you seem likely to meet me with this argument: that the artificer makes the art which is connected with the substance out of the art which he has. Now I think it is a good reply to this to say, that in man it is not produced from any art lying beneath; for it is not to be granted that substance by itself is art. For art is in the class of accidents, and is one of the things that have an existence only when they are employed about some substance. For man will exist even without the art of building, but it will have no existence unless man be previously in being. Whence we must say that it is in the nature of things for arts to be produced in men out of what has no existence. If, then, we have shown that this is so in the case of men, why was it improper to say that God is able to make not only qualities, but also substances, out of that which has no existence? For as it appears possible for something to be produced out of what exists not, it is evident that this is the case with substances. To return to the question of evil. Do you think evil comes under the head of substances, or of qualities of substances?

Valentinian. Of qualities.

Orthodoxus. But matter was found to be without quality or form?

Valentinian. It was.

Orthodoxus. Well, then, the connection of these names with substance is owing to its accidents. For murder is not a substance, nor is any other evil; but the substance receives a cognate name from putting it into practice. For a man is not (spoken of as) murder, but by committing it he receives the derived name of murderer, without being himself murder; and, to speak concisely, no other evil is a substance; but by practising any evil, it can be called evil. Similarly consider, if you imagine anything else to be the cause of evil to men, that it too is evil by reason of its acting by them, and suggesting the committal of evil. For a man is evil in consequence of his actions. For he is said to be evil, because he is the doer of evil. Now what a man does, is not the man himself, but his activity, and it is from his actions that he receives the title of evil. For if we were to say that he is that which he does, and he commits murders, adulteries, and such-like, he will be all these. Now if he is these, then when they are produced he has an existence, but when they are not, he too ceases to be. Now these things are produced by men. Men then will be the authors of them, and the causes of their existing or not existing. But if each man is evil in consequence of what he practises, and what he practises has an origin, he also made a beginning in evil, and evil too had a beginning. Now if this is the case, no one is without a beginning in evil, nor are evil things without an origin.

Valentinian. Well, my friend, you seem to me to have argued sufficiently against the other side. For you appeared to draw right conclusions from the premises which we granted to the discussion. For truly if matter is without qualities, then God is the maker of qualities; and if evils are qualities, God will be the author of evils. But it seems to me false to say that matter is without qualities; for it cannot be said respecting any substance that it is without qualities. But indeed, in the very act of saying that it is without qualities, you declare that it has a quality, by describing the character of matter, which is a kind of quality. Therefore, if you please, begin the discussion from the beginning; for it seems to me that matter never began to have qualities. For such being the case, I assert, my friend, that evil arises from its emanation.

Orthodoxus. If matter were possessed of qualities from eternity, of what will God be the creator? For if we say substances, we speak of them as pre-existing; if, again, we say qualities, these too are declared to have an existence. Since, then, both substances and qualities exist, it seems to me superfluous to call God a creator. But answer me a question. In what way do you say that God was a creator? Was it by changing the existence of those substances into non-existence, or by changing the qualities while He preserved the substances?

Valentinian. I think that there was no change of the substances, but only of the qualities; and in respect to these we call God a creator. And just as if one might chance to say that a house was made of stones, it cannot be said of them that they do not still continue stones in substance, because they are called a house; for I affirm that the house is made by the quality of construction. So I think that God, while substance remained, produced a change of its qualifies, by reason of which I say that this world was made by God.

Orthodoxus. Do you think, too, that evil is among the qualities of substances?

Valentinian. I do.

Orthodoxus. And were these qualities in matter from the first, or had they a beginning?

Valentinian. I say that these qualities were eternally co-existent with matter.

Orthodoxus. But do you not say that God has made a change in the qualities?

Valentinian. I do say this.

Orthodoxus. For the better?

Valentinian. I think so.

Orthodoxus. If, then, evil is among the qualities of matter, and its qualities were changed by God for the better, the inquiry must be made whence evil arose. For either all of them, being evil, underwent a change for the better, or some of them being evil, and some not, the evil ones were not changed for the better; but the rest, as far as they were found superior, were changed by God for the sake of order.

Valentinian. That is the opinion I held from the beginning.

Orthodoxus. How, then, do you say it was that He left the qualities of evil as they were? Was it that He was able to do away with them, or that, though He wished to do so, He was unable? For if you say that He was able, but disinclined to do so, He must be the author of these things; because, while He had power to bring evil to an end, He allowed it to remain as it was, especially when He had begun to work upon matter. For if He had had nothing at all to do with matter, He would not have been the author of what He allowed to remain. But since He works upon a part of it, and leaves a part of it to itself, while He has power to change it for the better, I think He is the author of evil, since He left part of matter in its vileness. He wrought then for the ruin of a part; and, in this respect, it seems to me that this part was chiefly injured by His arranging it in matter, so that it became partaker of evil. For before matter was put in order, it was without the perception of evil; but now each of its parts has the capacity of perceiving evil. Now, take an example in the case of man. Previously to becoming a living creature, he was insensible to evil; but from the time when he is fashioned by God into the form of man, he gains the perception of approaching evil. So this act of God, which you say was done for the benefit of matter, is found to have happened to it rather for the worse. But if you say that God was not able to stop evil, does the impossibility result from His being naturally weak, or from His being overcome by fear, and in subjection to some more powerful being? See which of these you would like to attribute to the almighty and good God. But, again, answer me about matter. Is matter simple or compound? For if matter be simple and uniform, and the universe compound, and composed of different substances, it is impossible to say that it is made of matter, because compound things cannot be composed of one pure and simple ingredient. For composition indicates the mixture of several simple things. But if, on the other hand, you say that matter is compound, it has been entirely composed of simple elements, and they were once each separately simple, and by their composition matter was produced; for compound things derive their composition from simple things. So there was once a time when matter did not exist—that is to say, before the combination of the simple elements. But if there was once a time when matter did not exist, and there was never a time when what is uncreated did not exist, then matter is not uncreated. And from this it follows that there are many things which are uncreated. For if God were uncreated, and the simple elements of which matter was composed were uncreated, the number of the uncreated would be more than two. But to omit inquiring what are the simple elements, matter or form—for this would be followed by many absurdities—let me ask, do you think that nothing that exists is contrary to itself?

Valentinian. I do.

Orthodoxus. Yet water is contrary to fire, and darkness to light, and heat to cold, and moisture to dryness.

Valentinian. I think it is.

Orthodoxus. If, then, nothing that exists is contrary to itself, and these are contrary to one another, they will not be one and the same matter—no, nor formed from one and the same matter. But, again, I wish to ask, do you think that the parts of a thing are not destructive of one another?

Valentinian. I do.

Orthodoxus. And that fire and water, and the rest likewise, are parts of matter?

Valentinian. I hold them to be so.

Orthodoxus. Why, then, do you not think that water is destructive of fire, and light of darkness, and so on with the rest?

Valentinian. I do.

Orthodoxus. Then, if parts of a thing are not destructive of one another, and these are found to be so, they will not be parts of the same thing. But if they are not parts of the same thing, they will not be parts of one and the same matter. And, indeed, they will not be matter either, because nothing that exists is destructive of itself. And this being the case with the contraries, it is shown that they are not matter. This is enough on the subject of matter.

Now we must come to the examination of evils, and must necessarily inquire into the evils among men. As to these, are they forms of the principle of evil, or parts of it? If forms, evil will not have a separate existence distinct from them, because the species are to be sought for in the forms, and underlie them. But if this is the case, evil has an origin. For its forms are shown to have an origin—such as murder, and adultery, and the like. But if you will have them to be parts of some principle of evil, and they have an origin, it also must have an origin. For those things whose parts have an origin, are of necessity originated likewise. For the whole consists of parts. And the whole will not exist if the parts do not, though there may be some parts, even if the whole be not there.

Now there is nothing existing of which one part is originated, and another part not. But if I were even to grant this, then there was a time when evil was not complete, namely, before matter was wrought by God. And it attains completeness when man is produced by God; for man is the maker of the parts of evil. And from this it follows that the cause of evil being complete, is God the Creator, which it is impious to say. But if you say that evil is neither of the things supposed, but is the doing of something evil, you declare that it has an origin. For the doing of a thing makes the beginning of its existence. And besides this, you have nothing further to pronounce evil. For what other action have you to point out as such, except what happens among men? Now, it has been already shown that he who acts is not evil according to his being, but in accordance with his evil doing.

Because there is nothing evil by nature, but it is by use that evil things become such. So I say, says he, that man was made with a free-will, not as if there were already evil in existence, which he had the power of choosing if he wished, but on account of his capacity of obeying or disobeying God.

For this was the meaning of the gift of Free Will. And man after his creation receives a commandment from God; and from this at once rises evil, for he does not obey the divine command; and this alone is evil, namely, disobedience, which had a beginning.

For man received power, and enslaved himself, not because he was overpowered by the irresistible tendencies of his nature, nor because the capacity with which he was gifted deprived him of what was better for him; for it was for the sake of this that I say he was endowed with it (but he received the power above mentioned), in order that he may obtain an addition to what he already possesses, which accrues to him from the Superior Being in consequence of his obedience, and is demanded as a debt from his Maker. For I say that man was made not for destruction, but for better things. For if he were made as any of the elements, or those things which render a similar service to God, he would cease to receive a reward befitting deliberate choice, and would be like an instrument of the maker; and it would be unreasonable for him to suffer blame for his wrong-doings, for the real author of them is the one by whom he is used. But man did not understand better things, since he did not know the author (of his existence), but only the object for which he was made. I say therefore that God, purposing thus to honour man, and to grant him an understanding of better things, has given him the power of being able to do what he wishes, and commends the employment of his power for better things; not that He deprives him again of free-will, but wishes to deprives him again of free-will, but wishes to point out the better way. For the power is present with him, and he receives the commandment; but God exhorts him to turn his power of choice to better things. For as a father exhorts his son, who has power to learn his lessons, to give more attention to them, inasmuch as, while he points out this as the better course, he does not deprive his son of the power which he possessed, even if he be not inclined to learn willingly; so I do not think that God, while He urges on man to obey His commands, deprives him of the power of purposing and withholding obedience. For He points out the cause of His giving this advice, in that He does not deprive him of the power. But He gives commands, in order that man may be able to enjoy better things. For this is the consequence of obeying the commands of God. So that He does not give commands in order to take away the power which He has given, but in order that a better gift may be bestowed, as to one worthy of attaining greater things, in return for his having rendered obedience to God, while he had power to withhold it. I say that man was made with free-will, not as if there were already existing same evil, which he had the power of choosing if he wished, … but that the power of obeying and disobeying God is the only cause.2

For this was the object to be obtained by free-will. And man after his creation receives a commandment from God, and from this at once rises evil; for he does not obey the divine command, and this alone is evil, namely, disobedience, which had a beginning. For no one has it in his power to say that it is without an origin, when its author had an origin. But you will be sure to ask whence arose this disobedience. It is clearly recorded in Holy Scripture, by which I am enabled to say that man was not made by God in this condition, but that he has come to it by some teaching. For man did not receive such a nature as this. For if it were the case that his nature was such, this would not have come upon him by teaching. Now one says in Holy Writ, that “man has learnt (evil).” I say, then, that disobedience to God is taught. For this alone is evil which is produced in opposition to the purpose of God, for man would not learn evil by itself. He, then, who teaches evil is the Serpent.

For my part, I said that the beginning of evil was envy, and that it arose from man’s being distinguished by God with higher honour. Now evil is disobedience to the commandment of God.


part i.

i. God did not make evil, nor is He at all in any way the author of evil; but whatever failed to keep the law, which He in all justice ordained, after being made by Him with the faculty of free-will, for the purpose of guarding and keeping it, is called evil. Now it is the gravest fault to disobey God, by overstepping the bounds of that righteousness which is consistent with free-will.

ii. Now the question has already been raised, and answered,4 that the “coats of skins” are not bodies. Nevertheless, let us speak of it again, for it is not enough to have mentioned it once. Before the preparation of these coats of skins, the first man himself acknowledges that he has both bones and flesh; for when he saw the woman brought to him: “This is now,” he cried,6 “bone of me bone, and flesh of my flesh.” And again: “She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” For I cannot endure the trifling of some who shamelessly do violence to Scripture, in order that their opinion, that the resurrection is without flesh, may find support; supposing rational bones and flesh, and in different ways changing it backwards and forwards by allegorizing. And Christ confirms the taking of these things as they are written, when, to the question of the Pharisees about putting away a wife, He answers: “Have ye not read that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female; and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father,”8 and so on.

iii. But it is evidently absurd to think that the body will not co-exist with the soul in the eternal state, because it is a bond and fetters; in order that, according to their view, we who are to live in the kingdom of light may not be for ever condemned to be bondmen of corruption. For as the question has been sufficiently solved, and the statement refuted in which they defined the flesh to be the soul’s chain, the argument also is destroyed, that the flesh will not rise again, lest, if we resume it, we be prisoners in the kingdom of light.

iv. In order, then, that man might not be an undying or ever-living evil, as would have been the case if sin were dominant within him, as it had sprung up in an immortal body, and was provided with immortal sustenance, God for this cause pronounced him mortal, and clothed him with mortality. For this is what was meant by the coats of skins, in order that, by the dissolution of the body, sin might be altogether destroyed from the very roots, that there might not be left even the smallest particle of root from which new shoots of sin might again burst forth.

v. For as a fig-tree, which has grown in the splendid buildings of a temple, and has reached a great size, and is spread over all the joints of the stones with thickly-branching roots, ceases not to grow, till, by the loosening of the stones from the place in which it sprung up, it is altogether torn away; for it is possible for the stones to be fitted into their own places, when the fig-tree is taken away, so that the temple may be preserved, having no longer to support what was the cause of its own destruction; while the fig-tree, torn away by the roots, dies; in the same way also, God, the builder, checked by the seasonable application of death, His own temple, man, when he had fostered sin, like a wild fig-tree, “killing,”10 in the words of Scripture, “and making alive,” in order that the flesh, after sin is withered and dead, may, like a restored temple, be raised up again with the same parts, uninjured and immortal, while sin is utterly and entirely destroyed. For while the body still lives, before it has passed through death, sin must also live with it, as it has its roots concealed within us, even though it be externally checked by the wounds inflicted by corrections and warnings; since, otherwise, it would not happen that we do wrong after baptism, as we should be entirely and absolutely free from sin. But now, even after believing, and after the time of being touched by the water of sanctification, we are oftentimes found in sin. For no one can boast of being so free from sin as not even to have an evil thought. So that it is come to pass that sin is now restrained and lulled to sleep by faith, so that it does not produce injurious fruits, but yet is not torn up by the roots. For the present we restrain its sprouts, such as evil imaginations, “lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble” us, not suffering its leaves to unclose and open into shoots; while the Word, like an axe, cuts at its roots which grow below. But hereafter the very thought of evil will disappear.

vi. But come now, since there is need of many examples in matters of this kind, let us examine them particularly from this point of view, without desisting till our argument ends in clearer explanation and proof. It appears, then, as if an eminent craftsman were to cast over again a noble image, wrought by himself of gold or other material, and beautifully proportioned in all its members, upon his suddenly perceiving that it had been mutilated by some infamous man, who, too envious to endure the image being beautiful, spoiled it, and thus enjoyed the empty pleasure of indulged jealousy. For take notice, most wise Aglaophon, that, if the artificer wish that upon which he has bestowed so much pains and care and labour, shall be quite free from injury, he will be impelled to melt it down, and restore it to its former condition. But if he should not cast it afresh, nor reconstruct it, but allow it to remain as it is, repairing and restoring it, it must be that the image, being passed through the fire and forged, cannot any longer be preserved unchanged, but will be altered and wasted. Wherefore, if he should wish it to be perfectly beautiful and faultless, it must be broken up and recast, in order that all the disfigurements and mutilations inflicted upon it by treachery and envy, may be got rid of by the breaking up and recasting of it, while the image is restored again uninjured and unalloyed to the same form as before, and made as like itself as possible. For it is impossible for an image under the hands of the original artist to be lost, even if it be melted down again, for it may be restored; but it is possible for blemishes and injuries to be put off, for they melt away and cannot be restored; because in every work of art the best craftsman looks not for blemish or failure, but for symmetry and correctness in his work. Now God’s plan seems to me to have been the same as that which prevails among ourselves. For seeing man, His fairest work, corrupted by envious treachery, He could not endure, with His love for man, to leave him in such a condition, lest he should be for ever faulty, and bear the blame to eternity; but dissolved him again into his original materials, in order that, by remodelling, all the blemishes in him might waste away and disappear. For the melting down of the statue in the former case corresponds to the death and dissolution of the body in the latter, and the remoulding of the material in the former, to the resurrection after death in the latter; as also saith the prophet Jeremiah, for he addresses the Jews in these words, “And I went down to the potter’s house; and, behold, he wrought a work upon the stones. And the vessel which he made in his hands was broken; and again he made another vessel, as it pleased him to make it. And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Cannot I do to you as this potter, O house of Israel? Behold, as the clay of the potter are ye in my hands.”

vii. For I call your attention to this, that, as I said, after man’s transgression the Great Hand was not content to leave as a trophy of victory its own work, debased by the Evil One, who wickedly injured it from motives of envy; but moistened and reduced it to clay, as a potter breaks up a vessel, that by the remodelling of it all the blemishes and bruises in it may disappear, and it may be made afresh faultless and pleasing.

viii. But it is not satisfactory to say that the universe will be utterly destroyed, and sea and air and sky will be no longer. For the whole world will be deluged with fire from heaven, and burnt for the purpose of purification and renewal; it will not, however, come to complete ruin and corruption. For if it were better for the world not to be than to be, why did God, in making the world, take the worse course? But God did not work in vain, or do that which was worst. God therefore ordered the creation with a view to its existence and continuance, as also the Book of Wisdom confirms, saying, “For God created all things that they might have their being; and the generations of the world were healthful, and there is no poison of destruction in them.” And Paul clearly testifies this, saying, “For the earnest expectation of the creature4 waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him that subjected the same in hope: because the creature6 itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” For the creation was made subject to vanity, he says, and he expects that it will be set free from such servitude, as he intends to call this world by the name of creation. For it is not what is unseen but what is seen that is subject to corruption. The creation, then, after being restored to a better and more seemly state, remains, rejoicing and exulting over the children of God at the resurrection; for whose sake it now groans and travails,2 waiting itself also for our redemption from the corruption of the body, that, when we have risen and shaken off the mortality of the flesh, according to that which is written, “Shake off the dust, and arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem,” and have been set free from sin, it also shall be freed from corruption and be subject no longer to vanity, but to righteousness. Isaiah says, too, “For as the new heaven and the new earth which I make, remaineth before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name be;”4 and again, “Thus saith the Lord that created the heaven, it is He who prepared the earth and created it, He determined it; He created it not in vain, but formed it to be inhabited.” For in reality God did not establish the universe in vain, or to no purpose but destruction, as those weak-minded men say, but to exist, and be inhabited, and continue. Wherefore the earth and the heaven must exist again after the conflagration and shaking of all things.

ix. But if our opponents say, How then is it, if the universe be not destroyed, that the Lord says that “heaven and earth shall pass away;” and the prophet, that “the heaven shall perish as smoke, and the earth shall grow old as a garment;”7 we answer, because it is usual for the Scriptures to call the change of the world from its present condition to a better and more glorious one, destruction; as its earlier form is lost in the change of all things to a state of greater splendour; for there is no contradiction nor absurdity in the Holy Scriptures. For not “the world” but the “fashion of this world” passeth away, it is said; so it is usual for the Scriptures to call the change from an earlier form to a better and more comely state, destruction; just as when one calls by the name of destruction the change from a childish form into a perfect man, as the stature of the child is turned into manly size and beauty. We may expect that the creation will pass away, as if it were to perish in the burning, in order that it may be renewed, not however that it will be destroyed, that we who are renewed may dwell in a renewed world without taste of sorrow; according as it is said, “When Thou lettest Thy breath go forth, they shall be made, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth;” God henceforth providing for the due temperature of that which surrounds it. For as the earth is to exist after the present age,10 there must be by all means inhabitants for it, who shall no longer be liable to death, nor shall marry, nor beget children, but live in all happiness, like the angels, without change or decay. Wherefore it is silly to discuss in what way of life our bodies will then exist, if there is no longer air, nor earth, nor anything else.

x. But in addition to what has been said, there is this point worth consideration, since it misleads very much, if we may be outspoken about matters of such importance, Aglaophon. For you said that the Lord declared plainly that those who shall obtain the resurrection shall then be as the angels.12 You brought this objection: The angels, being without flesh, are on this account in the utmost happiness and glory. We must then, as we are to be made equal to the angels, be like them stripped of flesh, and be angels. But you overlooked this, my excellent friend, that He who created and set in order the universe out of nothing, ordained the nature of immortal beings to be distributed not only among angels and ministers, but also among principalities, and thrones, and powers. For the race of angels is one, and that of principalities and powers another; because immortal beings are not all of one order, and constitution, and tribe, and family, but there are differences of race and tribe. And neither do the cherubim, departing from their own nature, assume the form of angels; nor, again, do angels assume the form of the others. For they cannot be anything but what they are and have been made. Moreover, man also having been appointed by the original order of things to inhabit the world, and to rule over all that is in it, when he is immortal, will never be changed from being a man into the form either of angels or any other; for neither do angels undergo a change from their original form to another. For Christ at His coming did not proclaim that the human nature should, when it is immortal, be remoulded or transformed into another nature, but into what it was before the fall. For each one among created things must remain in its own proper place, that none may be wanting to any, but all may be full: heaven of angels, thrones of powers, luminaries of ministers; and the more divine spots, and the undefiled and untainted luminaries, with seraphim, who attend the Supreme Council, and uphold the universe; and the world of men. For if we granted that men are changed into angels, it would follow that we say that angels also are changed into powers, and these into one thing and the other, until our argument proceed too far for safety.

xi. Neither did God, as if He had made man badly, or committed a mistake in the formation of him, determine afterwards to make an angel, repenting of His work, as the worst of craftsmen do; nor did He fashion man, after He had wished originally to make an angel, and failed; for this would be a sign of weakness, etc. Why even then did He make man and not angels, if He wished men to be angels and not men? Was it because He was unable? It is blasphemy to suppose so. Or was He so busy in making the worse as to loiter about the better? This too is absurd. For He does not fail in making what is good, nor defers it, nor is incapable of it; but He has the power to act how and when He pleases, inasmuch as He is Himself power. Wherefore it was because He intended man to be man, that He originally made him so. But if He so intended—since He intends what is good—man is good. Now man is said to be composed of soul and body; he cannot then exist without a body, but with a body, unless there be produced another man besides man. For all the orders of immortal beings must be preserved by God, and among these is man. “For,” says the Book of Wisdom, “God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of His own eternity.” The body then perishes not; for man is composed of soul and body.

xii. Wherefore observe that these are the very things which the Lord wished to teach to the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the flesh. For this was the opinion of the Sadducees. Whence it was that, having contrived the parable about the woman and the seven brethren, that they might cast doubt upon the resurrection of the flesh, “There came to Him,” it is said, “the Sadducees also, who say that there is no resurrection.” Christ, then, if there had been no resurrection of the flesh, but the soul only were saved, would have agreed with their opinion as a right and excellent one. But as it was, He answered and said, “In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels in heaven,”3 not on account of having no flesh, but of not marrying nor being married, but being henceforth incorruptible. And He speaks of our being near the angels in this respect, that as the angels in heaven, so we also in paradise, spend our time no more in marriage-feasts or other festivities. but in seeing God and cultivating life, under the direction of Christ. For He did not say “they shall be angels,” but like angels, in being, for instance, crowned, as it is written, with glory and honour; differing a little from the angels, while near to being angels. Just as if He had said, while observing the fair order of the sky, and the stillness of the night, and everything illumined by the heavenly light of the moon, “the moon shines like the sun.” We should not then say that He asserted that the moon was absolutely the sun, but like the sun. As also that which is not gold, but approaching the nature of gold, is said not to be gold, but to be like gold. But if it were gold, it would be said to be, and not to be like, gold. But since it is not gold, but approaching to the nature of it, and has the appearance of it, it is said to be like gold; so also when He says that the saints shall, in the resurrection, be like the angels, we do not understand Him to assert that they will then be actually angels, but approaching to the condition of angels. So that it is most unreasonable to say, “Since Christ declared that the saints in the resurrection appear as angels, therefore their bodies do not rise,” although the very words employed give a clear proof of the real state of the case. For the term “resurrection” is not applied to that which has not fallen, but to that which has fallen and rises again; as when the prophet says, “I will also raise up again the tabernacle of David which has fallen down.”5 Now the much-desired tabernacle of the soul is fallen, and sunk down into “the dust of the earth.” For it is not that which is not dead, but that which is dead, that is laid down. But it is the flesh which dies; the soul is immortal. So, then, if the soul be immortal, and the body be the corpse, those who say that there is a resurrection, but not of the flesh, deny any resurrection; because it is not that which remains standing, but that which has fallen7 and been laid down, that is set up; according to that which is written, “Does not he who falls rise again, and he who turns aside return?”

xiii. Since flesh was made to border on incorruption and corruption, being itself neither the one nor the other, and was overcome by corruption for the sake of pleasure, though it was the work and property of incorruption; therefore it became corruptible, and was laid in the dust of the earth. When, then, it was overcome by corruption, and delivered over to death through disobedience, God did not leave it to corruption, to be triumphed over as an inheritance; but,after conquering death by the resurrection, delivered it again to incorruption, in order that corruption might not receive the property of incorruption, but incorruption that of corruption. Therefore the apostle answers thus, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” Now the corruptible and mortal putting on immortality, what else is it but that which is “sown in corruption and raised in incorruption,”2 —for the soul is not corruptible or mortal; but this which is mortal and corrupting is of flesh,—in order that, “as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly?” For the image of the earthy which we have borne is this, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”4 But the image of the heavenly is the resurrection from the dead, and incorruption, in order that “as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life.” But if any one were to think that the earthy image is the flesh itself, but the heavenly image some other spiritual body besides the flesh; let him first consider that Christ, the heavenly man, when He appeared, bore the same form of limbs and the same image of flesh as ours, through which also He, who was not man, became man, that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”6 For if He bore flesh for any other reason than that of setting the flesh free, and raising it up, why did He bear flesh superfluously, as He purposed neither to save it, nor to raise it up? But the Son of God does nothing superfluously. He did not then take the form of a servant uselessly, but to raise it up and save it. For He truly was made man, and died, and not in mere appearance, but that He might truly be shown to be the first begotten from the dead, changing the earthy into the heavenly, and the mortal into the immortal. When, then, Paul says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” he does not give a disparaging opinion of the regeneration of the flesh, but would teach that the kingdom of God, which is eternal life, is not possessed by the body, but the body by the life. For if the kingdom of God, which is life, were possessed by the body, it would happen that the life would be consumed by corruption. But now the life possesses what is dying, in order that “death may be swallowed up in victory”8 by life, and the corruptible may he seen to be the possession of incorruption and immortality, while it becomes unbound and free from death and sin, but the slave and servant of immortality; so that the body may be the possession of incorruption, and not incorruption that of the body.

xiv. If, then, out of such a drop, small, and previously without any existence, in its actual state of moistness, contractedness, and insignificance, in fact out of nothing, man is brought into being, how much rather shall man spring again into being out of a previously existing man? For it is not so difficult to make anything anew after it has once existed and fallen into decay, as to produce out of nothing that which has never existed. Now, in case we choose to exhibit the seminal fluid discharged from a man, and place by it a corpse, each by itself, which of them, as they both lie exposed to view, will the spectators think most likely to become a man—that drop, which is nothing at all, or that which has already shape, and size, and substance? For if the very thing which is nothing at all, merely because God pleases, becomes a man, how much rather shall that which has existence and is brought to perfection become again a man, if God pleases? For what was the purpose of the theologian Moses, in introducing, under a mystical sense, the Feast of Tabernacles in the Book of Leviticus? Was it that we may keep a feast to God, as the Jews with their low view of the Scriptures interpret it? as if God took pleasure in such tabernacles, decked out with fruits and boughs and leaves, which immediately wither and lose their verdure. We cannot say so. Tell me, then, what was the object of the Feast of Tabernacles? It was introduced to point to this real tabernacle of ours, which, after it was fallen down to corruption through the transgression of the law, and broken up by sin, God promised to put together again, and to raise up in incorruptibility, in order that we may truly celebrate in His honour the great and renowned Feast of Tabernacles at the resurrection; when our tabernacles are put together in the perfect order of immortality and harmony, and raised up from the dust in incorruption; when the dry bones, according to the most true prophecy, shall hear a voice, and be brought to their joints by God, the Creator and Perfect Artificer, who will then renew the flesh and bind it on, no more with such ties as those by which it was at first held together, but by such as shall be for ever undecaying and indissoluble. For I once saw10 on Olympus, which is a mountain of Lycia, fire bursting up from the ground spontaneously on the summit of the mountain; and by it was standing an Agnos tree, so flourishing, green, and shady, that one might suppose a never-failing stream of water had nourished its growth, rather than what was really the case. For which cause, therefore, though the natures of things are corruptible, and their bodies consumed by fire, and it is impossible for things which are once of an inflammable nature to remain unaffected by fire; yet this tree, so far from being burnt, is actually more vigorous and green than usual, though it is naturally inflammable, and that too when the fire is glowing about its very roots. I certainly cast some boughs of trees from the adjoining wood on to the place where the fire burst forth, and they immediately caught fire and were burnt to ashes. Now, then, tell me why it is that which cannot bear even to feel the heat of the sun, but withers up under it unless it be sprinkled with water, is not consumed when beset by such fiery heat, but both lives and thrives? What is the meaning of this marvel? God appointed this as an example and introduction to the day that is coming, in order that we may know more certainly that, when all things are deluged with fire from heaven, the bodies which are distinguished by chastity and righteousness will be taken up by Him as free from all injury from the fire as from cold water. For truly, O beneficent and bountiful Lord, “the creature that serveth Thee, who art the Maker, increaseth his strength against the unrighteous for their punishment, and abateth his strength for the benefit of such as put their trust in Thee;” and at Thy pleasure fire cools, and injures nothing that Thou determinest to be preserved; and again, water burns more fiercely than fire, and nothing opposes Thine unconquerable power and might. For Thou createdst all things out of nothing; wherefore also Thou changest and transformest all things as Thou wilt, seeing they are Thine, and Thou alone art God.

xv. The apostle certainly, after assigning the planting and watering to art and earth and water, conceded the growth to God alone, where he says, “Neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” For he knew that Wisdom, the first-born of God, the parent and artificer of all things, brings forth everything into the world; whom the ancients called Nature and Providence, because she, with constant provision and care, gives to all things birth and growth. “For,” says the Wisdom of God, “my Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”3 Now it is on this account that Solomon called Wisdom the artificer of all things, since God is in no respect poor, but able richly to create, and make, and vary, and increase all things.

xvi. God, who created all things, and provides and cares for all things, took dust from the ground, and made our outer man.

part ii.

the second discourse on the resurrection.

For instance, then, the images of our kings here, even though they be not formed of the more precious materials—gold or silver—are honoured by all. For men do not, while they treat with respect those of the far more precious material, slight those of a less valuable, but honour every image in the world, even though it be of chalk or bronze. And one who speaks against either of them, is not acquitted as if he had only spoken against clay, nor condemned for having despised gold, but for having been disrespectful towards the King and Lord Himself. The images of God’s angels, which are fashioned of gold, the principalities and powers, we make to His honour and glory.

part iii.

i. from the discourse on the resurrection.

I. Read the Book on the Resurrection by St. Methodius, Bishop and Martyr, of which that which follows is a selection, that the body is not the fetter of the soul, as Origen thought, nor are souls called by the prophet Jeremiah “fettered” on account of their being within bodies. For he lays down the principle that the body does not hinder the energies of the soul, but that rather the body is carried about with it, and cooperates in whatever the soul commits to it. But how are we to understand the opinion of Gregory the theologian, and many others?

ii. That Origen said that the body was given to the soul as a fetter after the fall, and that previously it lived without a body; but that this body which we wear is the cause of our sins; wherefore also he called it a fetter, as it can hinder the soul from good works.

iii. That if the body was given to the soul after the fall as a fetter, it must have been given as a fetter upon the evil or the good. Now it is impossible that it should be upon the good; for no physician or artificer gives to that which has gone wrong a remedy to cause further error, much less would God do so. It remains, then, that it was a fetter upon evil. But surely we see that, at the beginning, Cain, clad in this body, committed murder; and it is evident into what wickedness those who succeeded him ran. The body is not, then, a fetter upon evil, nor indeed a fetter at all; nor was the soul clothed in it for the first time after the fall.

iv. That man, with respect to his nature, is most truly said to be neither soul without body, nor, on the other hand, body without soul; but a being composed out of the union of soul and body into one form of the beautiful. But Origen said that the soul alone is man, as did Plato.

v. That there is a difference between man and other living creatures; and to them are given varieties of natural form and shape, as many as the tangible and visible forces of nature produced at the command of God; while to him was given the form and image of God, with every part accurately finished, after the very original likeness of the Father and the only-begotten Son. Now we must consider how the saint states this.

vi. He says that Phidias the statuary, after he had made the Pisæan image of ivory, ordered oil to be poured out before it, that, as far as he could secure it, it might be preserved imperishable.

vii. He says, as was said also by Athenagoras, that the devil is a spirit, made by God, in the neighbourhood of matter, as of course the rest of the angels are, and that he was entrusted with the oversight of matter, and the forms of matter. For, according to the original constitution of angels, they were made by God, in His providence, for the care of the universe; in order that, while God exercises a perfect and general supervision over the whole, and keeps the supreme authority and power over all—for upon Him their existence depends—the angels appointed for this purpose take charge of particulars. Now the rest of them remained in the positions for which God made and appointed them; but the devil was insolent, and having conceived envy of us, behaved wickedly in the charge committed to him; as also did those who subsequently were enamoured of fleshly charms, and had illicit intercourse with the daughters of men.2 For to them also, as was the case with men, God granted the possession of their own choice. And how is this to be taken?

viii. He says that by the coats of skins is signified death. For he says of Adam, that when the Almighty God saw that by treachery he, an immortal being, had become evil, just as his deceiver the devil was, He prepared the coats of skins on this account; that when he was thus, as it were, clothed in mortality, all that was evil in him might die in the dissolution of the body.

ix. He holds that St. Paul had two revelations. For the apostle, he says, does not suppose paradise to be in the third heaven, in the opinion of those who knew how to observe the niceties of language, when he says, “I know such a man caught up to the third heaven; and I know such a man, whether in the body or out of the body, God knoweth, that was caught up into paradise.” Here he signifies that he has seen two revelations, having been evidently taken up twice, once to the third heaven, and once into paradise. For the words, “I know such a man caught up,” make it certain that he was personally shown a revelation respecting the third heaven. And the words which follow, “And I know such a man, whether in the body or out of the body, God knoweth, that he was caught up into paradise,” show that another revelation was made to him respecting paradise. Now he was led to make this statement by his opponent’s having laid it down from the apostle’s words that paradise is a mere conception, as it is above the heaven, in order to draw the conclusion that life in paradise is incorporeal.4

x. He says that it is in our power to do, or to avoid doing, evil; since otherwise we should not be punished for doing evil, nor be rewarded for doing well; but the presence or absence of evil thoughts does not depend upon ourselves. Wherefore even the sainted Paul says, “For what I would, that do I not, but what I would not, that I do;” that is to say, “My thoughts are not what I would, but what I would not.” Now he says that the habit of imagining evil is rooted out by the approach of physical death,6 —since it was for this reason that death was appointed by God for the sinner, that evil might not remain for ever.

But what is the meaning of this statement? It is to be noted that it has been made by others of our Fathers as well. What is the meaning, seeing that those who meet death find in it at the time neither increase nor decrease of sins?

ii. a synopsis of some apostolic words from the same discourse.

i. Read a compendious interpretation of some apostolic words from the same discourse. Let us see, then, what it is that we have endeavoured to say respecting the apostle. For this saying of his, “I was alive without the law once,” refers to the life which was lived in paradise before the law, not without a body, but with a body, by our first parents, as we have shown above; for we lived without concupiscence, being altogether ignorant of its assaults. For not to have a law according to which we ought to live, nor a power of establishing what manner of life we ought to adopt, so that we might justly be approved or blamed, is considered to exempt a person from accusation. Because one cannot lust after those things from which he is not restrained, and even if he lusted after them, he would not be blamed. For lust is not directed to things which are before us, and subject to our power, but to those which are before us, and not in our power. For how should one care for a thing which is neither forbidden nor necessary to him? And for this reason it is said, “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” For when (our first parents) heard, “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,”2 then they conceived lust, and gathered it. Therefore was it said, “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet;”
nor would they have desired to eat, except it had been said, “Thou shalt not eat of it.” For it was thence that sin took occasion to deceive me. For when the law was given, the devil had it in his power to work lust in me; “for without the law, sin was dead;” which means, “when the law was not given, sin could not be committed.” But I was alive and blameless before the law, having no commandment in accordance with which it was necessary to live; “but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.”4 For after God had given the law, and had commanded me what I ought to do, and what I ought not to do, the devil wrought lust in me. For the promise of God which was given to me, this was for life and incorruption, so that obeying it I might have ever-blooming life and joy unto incorruption; but to him who disobeyed it, it would issue in death. But the devil, whom he calls sin, because he is the author of sin, taking occasion by the commandment to deceive me to disobedience, deceived and slew me, thus rendering me subject to the condemnation, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shall surely die.” “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just and good;”6 because it was given, not for injury, but for safety; for let us not suppose that God makes anything useless or hurtful. What then? “Was then that which is good made death unto me?” namely, that which was given as a law, that it might be the cause of the greatest good? “God forbid.” For it was not the law of God that became the cause of my being brought into subjection to corruption, but the devil; that he might be made manifested who, through that which is good, wrought evil; that the inventor of evil might become and be proved the greatest of all sinners. “For we know that the law is spiritual;”8 and therefore it can in no respect be injurious to any one; for spiritual things are far removed from irrational lust and sin. “But I am carnal, sold under sin;” which means: But I being carnal, and being placed between good and evil as a voluntary agent, am so that I may have it in my power to choose what I will. For “behold I set before thee life and death;”10 meaning that death would result from disobedience of the spiritual law, that is of the commandment; and from obedience to the carnal law, that is the counsel of the serpent; for by such a choice “I am sold” to the devil, fallen under sin. Hence evil, as though besieging me, cleaves to me and dwells in me, justice giving me up to be sold to the Evil One, in consequence of having violated the law. Therefore also the expressions: “That which I do, I allow not,” and “what I hate, that do I,” are not to be understood of doing evil, but of only thinking it. For it is not in our power to think or not to think of improper things, but to act or not to act upon our thoughts. For we cannot hinder thoughts from coming into our minds, since we receive them when they are inspired into us from without; but we are able to abstain from obeying them and acting upon them. Therefore it is in our power to will not to think these things; but not to bring it about that they shall pass away, so as not to come into the mind again; for this does not lie in our power, as I said; which is the meaning of that statement, “The good that I would, I do not;”12 for I do not will to think the things which injure me; for this good is altogether innocent. But “the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do;”
not willing to think, and yet thinking what I do not will. And consider whether it was not for these very things that David entreated God, grieving that he thought of those things which he did not will: “O cleanse Thou me from my secret faults. Keep Thy servant also from presumptuous sins, lest they get the dominion over me; so shall I be undefiled, and innocent from the great offence.” And the apostle too, in another place: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”14

ii. But if any one should venture to oppose this statement, and reply, that the apostle teaches that we hate not only the evil which is in thought, but that we do that which we will not, and we hate it even in the very act of doing it, for he says, “The good which I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do;” if he who says so speaks the truth, let us ask him to explain what was the evil which the apostle hated and willed not to do, but did; and the good which he willed to do, but did not; and conversely, whether as often as he willed to do good, so often he did not do the good which he willed, but did the evil which he willed not? And how he can say, when exhorting us to shake off all manner of sin, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ?”2 Thus he meant the things already mentioned which he willed not to do, not to be done, but only to be thought of. For how otherwise could he be an exact imitation of Christ? It would be excellent then, and most delightful, if we had not those who oppose us, and contend with us; but since this is impossible, we cannot do what we will. For we will not to have those who lead us to passion, for then we could be saved without weariness and effort; but that does not come to pass which we will, but that which we will not. For it is necessary, as I said, that we should be tried. Let us not then, O my soul, let us not give in to the Evil One; but putting on “the whole armour of God,” which is our protection, let us have “the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel (of peace). Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God,” that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of Christ,”4 “for we wrestle not against flesh and blood;” for that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not: but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me—that is, in my flesh—dwelleth no good thing.”6 And this is rightly said. For remember how it has been already shown that, from the time when man went astray and disobeyed the law, thence sin, receiving its birth from his disobedience, dwelt in him. For thus a commotion was stirred up, and we were filled with agitations and foreign imaginations, being emptied of the divine inspiration and filled with carnal desire, which the cunning serpent infused into us. And, therefore, God invented death for our sakes, that He might destroy sin, lest rising up in us immortals, as I said, it should be immortal. When the apostle says, “for I know that in me—that is, in my flesh—dwelleth no good thing,” by which words he means to indicate that sin dwells in us, from the transgression, through lust; out of which, like young shoots, the imaginations of pleasure rise around us. For there are two kinds of thoughts in us; the one which arises from the lust which lies in the body, which, as I said, came from the craft of the Evil Spirit; the other from the law, which is in accordance with the commandment, which we had implanted in us as a natural law, stirring up our thoughts to good, when we delight in the law of God according to our mind, for this is the inner man; but in the law of the devil according to the lust which dwells in the flesh. For he who wars against and opposes the law of God, that is, against the tendency of the mind to good, is the same who stirs up the carnal and sensual impulses to lawlessness.

iii. For the apostle here sets forth clearly, as I think, three laws: One in accordance with the good which is implanted in us, which clearly he calls the law of the mind. One the law which arises from the assault of evil, and which often draws on the soul to lustful fancies, which, he says, “wars against the law of the mind.” And the third, which is in accordance with sin, settled in the flesh from lust, which he calls the “law of sin which dwells in our members;”8 which the Evil One, urging on, often stirs up against us, driving us to unrighteousness and evil deeds. For there seems to be in ourselves one thing which is better and another which is worse. And when that which is in its nature better is about to become more powerful than that which is worse, the whole mind is carried on to that which is good; but when that which is worse increases and overbalances, man is on the contrary urged on to evil imaginations. On account of which the apostle prays to be delivered from it, regarding it as death and destruction; as also does the prophet when he says, “Cleanse Thou me from my secret faults.” And the same is denoted by the words, “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”10 By which he does not mean that the body is death, but the law of sin which is in his members, lying hidden in us through the transgression, and ever deluding the soul to the death of unrighteousness. And he immediately adds, clearly showing from what kind of death he desired to be delivered, and who he was who delivered him, “I thank God, through Jesus Christ.” And it should be considered, if he said that this body was death, O Aglaophon, as you supposed, he would not afterwards mention Christ as delivering him from so great an evil. For in that case what a strange thing should we have had from the advent of Christ? And how could the apostle have said this, as being able to be delivered from death by the advent of Christ; when it was the lot of all to die before Christ’s coming into the world? And, therefore, O Aglaophon, he says not that this body was death, but the sin which dwells in the body through lust, from which God has delivered him by the coming of Christ. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death;” so that “He that raised up Jesus from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you;” having “condemned sin” which is in the body to its destruction; “that the righteousness of the law”2 of nature which draws us to good, and is in accordance with the commandment, might be kindled and manifested. For the good which “the law” of nature “could not do, in that it was weak,” being overcome by the lust which lies in the body, God gave strength to accomplish, “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh;” so that sin being condemned, to its destruction, so that it should never bear fruit in the flesh, the righteousness of the law of nature might be fulfilled, abounding in the obedience of those who walk not according to the lust of the flesh, but according to the lust and guidance of the Spirit; “for the law of the Spirit of life,” which is the Gospel, being different from earlier laws, leading by its preaching to obedience and the remission of sins, delivered us from the law of sin and death, having conquered entirely sin which reigned over our flesh.

iv. He says that plants are neither nourished nor increased from the earth. For he says, let any one consider how the earth can be changed and taken up into the substance of trees. For then the place of the earth which lay around, and was drawn up through the roots into the whole compass of the tree, where the tree grew, must needs be hollowed out; so that such a thing as they hold respecting the flux of bodies, is absurd. For how could the earth first enter in through the roots into the trunks of the plants, and then, passing through their channels into all their branches, be turned into leaves and fruit? Now there are large trees, such as the cedar, pines, firs, which annually bear much leaves and fruit; and one may see that they consume none of the surrounding earth into the bulk and substance of the tree. For it would be necessary, if it were true that the earth went up through the roots, and was turned into wood, that the whole place where the earth lay round about them should be hollowed out; for it is not the nature of a dry substance to flow in, like a moist substance, and fill up the place of that which moves away. Moreover, there are fig-trees, and other similar plants, which frequently grow in the buildings of monuments, and yet they never consume the entire building into themselves. But if any one should choose to collect their fruit and leaves for many years, he would perceive that their bulk had become much larger than the earth upon the monuments. Hence it is absurd to suppose that the earth is consumed into the crop of fruits and leaves; and even if they were all made by it, they would be so only as using it for their seat and place. For bread is not made without a mill, and a place, and time, and fire; and yet bread is not made out of any of these things. And the same may be said of a thousand other things.

v. Now the followers of Origen bring forward this passage, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved,” and so forth, to disprove the resurrection of the body, saying that the “tabernacle” is the body, and the “house not made with hands” “in the heavens” is our spiritual clothing. Therefore, says the holy Methodius, by this earthly house must metaphorically5 be understood our short-lived existence here, and not this tabernacle; for if you decide to consider the body as being the earthly house which is dissolved, tell us what is the tabernacle whose house is dissolved? For the tabernacle is one thing, and the house of the tabernacle another, and still another we who have the tabernacle. “For,” he says, “if our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved”—by which he points out that the souls are ourselves, that the body is a tabernacle, and that the house of the tabernacle figuratively represents the enjoyment of the flesh in the present life. If, then, this present life of the body be dissolved like a house, we shall have that which is not made with hands in the heavens. “Not made with hands,” he says, to point out the difference; because this life may be said to be made with hands, seeing that all the employments and pursuits of life are carried on by the hands of men. For the body, being the workmanship of God, is not said to be made with hands, inasmuch as it is not formed by the arts of men. But if they shall say that it is made with hands, because it was the workmanship of God, then our souls also, and the angels, and the spiritual clothing in the heavens, are made with hands; for all these things, also, are the workmanship of God. What, then, is the house which is made with hands? It is, as I have said, the short-lived existence which is sustained by human hands. For God said, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread;” and when that life is dissolved, we have the life which is not made with hands. As also the Lord showed, when He said: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”2 For what the Lord then called “habitations,” the apostle here calls “clothing.”4 And what He there calls “friends” “of unrighteousness,” the apostle here calls “houses” “dissolved.” As then, when the days of our present life shall fail, those good deeds of beneficence to which we have attained in this unrighteous life, and in this “world” which “lieth in wickedness,” will receive our souls; so when this perishable life shall be dissolved, we shall have the habitation which is before the resurrection—that is, our souls shall be with God, until we shall receive the new house which is prepared for us, and which shall never fall. Whence also “we groan,” “not for that we would be unclothed,” as to the body, “but clothed upon”6 by it in the other life. For the “house in heaven,” with which we desire to be “clothed,” is immortality; with which, when we are clothed, every weakness and mortality will be entirely “swallowed up” in it, being consumed by endless life. “For we walk by faith, not by sight;” that is, for we still go forward by faith, viewing the things which are beyond with a darkened understanding, and not clearly, so that we may see these things, and enjoy them, and be in them. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.”8 By flesh, he did not mean flesh itself, but the irrational impulse towards the lascivious pleasures of the soul. And therefore when he says, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” he adds the explanation, “Neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” Now corruption is not the thing which is corrupted, but the thing which corrupts. For when death prevails the body sinks into corruption; but when life still remains in it, it stands uncorrupted. Therefore, since the flesh is the boundary between corruption and incorruption, not being either corruption or incorruption, it was vanquished by corruption on account of pleasure, although it was the work and the possession of incorruption. Therefore it became subject to corruption. When, then, it had been overcome by corruption, and was given over to death for chastisement, He did not leave it to be vanquished and given over as an inheritance to corruption; but again conquering death by the resurrection, He restored it to incorruption, that corruption might not inherit incorruption, but incorruption that which is corruptible. And therefore the apostle answers, “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal immortality.” But the corruptible and mortal putting on incorruption and immortality, what else is this, but that which is sown in corruption rising in incorruption?10 For, “as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” For the “image of the earthly” which we have borne refers to the saying, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.”12 And the “image of the heavenly is the resurrection from the dead and incorruption.”

vi. Now Justin of Neapolis, a man not far removed either from the times or from the virtues of the apostles, says that which is mortal is inherited, but that life inherits; and that flesh dies, but that the kingdom of heaven lives. When then, Paul says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven,”14 he does not so speak as seeming to slight the regeneration of the flesh, but as teaching that the kingdom of God, which is eternal life, is not inherited by the body, but the body by life. For if the kingdom of God, which is life, were inherited by the body, it would happen that life was swallowed up by corruption. But now life inherits that which is mortal, that death may be swallowed up of life unto victory, and that which is corruptible appear the possession of incorruption; being made free from death and sin, and become the slave and subject of immortality, that the body may become the possession of incorruption, and not incorruption of the body.

vii. Now the passage, “The dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive,” St. Methodius thus explains: Those are our bodies; for the souls are we ourselves, who, rising, resume that which is dead from the earth; so that being caught up with them to meet the Lord, we may gloriously celebrate the splendid festival of the resurrection, because we have received our everlasting tabernacles, which shall no longer die nor be dissolved.

viii. I saw, he says, on Olympus (Olympus is a mountain in Lycia), a fire spontaneously arising on the top of the mountain from the earth, beside which is the plant Puragnos, so flourishing, green, and shady, that it seemed rather as though it grew from a fountain. For what cause, although they are by nature corruptible, and their bodies consumed by fire, was this plant not only not burnt, but rather more flourishing, although in its nature it is easily burnt, and the fire was burning about its roots? Then I cast branches of trees out of the surrounding wood into the place where the fire streamed forth, and, immediately bursting up into flame, they were converted into cinders. What then is the meaning of this contradiction? This God appointed as a sign and prelude of the coming Day, that we may know that, when all things are overwhelmed by fire, the bodies which are endowed with chastity and righteousness shall pass through it as though it were cold water.

ix. Consider, he says, whether too the blessed John, when he says, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it: and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them,” does not mean the parts which are given up by the elements for the reconstruction of each one? By the sea is meant the moist element; by hell,3 the air, derived from ἀειδές, because it is invisible, as was said by Origen; and by death, the earth, because those who die are laid in it; whence also it is called in the Psalms the “dust of death,” Christ saying that He is brought “into the dust of death.”

x. For, he says, whatever is composed and consists of pure air and pure fire, and is of like substance with the angelic beings, cannot have the nature of earth and water; since it would then be earthy. And of such nature, and consisting of such things, Origen has shown that the body of man shall be which shall rise, which he also said would be spiritual.

xi. And he asks what will be the appearance of the risen body, when this human form, as according to him useless, shall wholly disappear; since it is the most lovely of all things which are combined in living creatures, as being the form which the Deity Himself employs, as the most wise Paul explains: “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God;” in accordance with which the rational bodies of the angels are set in order? will it be circular, or polygonal, or cubical, or pyramidal? For there are very many kinds of forms; but this is impossible.6 Well then, what are we to think of the assertion, that the godlike shape is to be rejected as more ignoble, for he himself allows that the soul is like the body, and that man is to rise again without hands or feet?

xii. The transformation, he says, is the restoration into an impassible and glorious state. For now the body is a body of desire and of humiliation, and therefore Daniel was called “a man of desires.”8 But then it will be transfigured into an impassible body, not by the change of the arrangement of the members, but by its not desiring carnal pleasures.

Then he says, refuting Origen, Origen therefore thinks that the same flesh will not be restored to the soul, but that the form of each, according to the appearance by which the flesh is now distinguished, shall arise stamped upon another spiritual body; so that every one will again appear the same form; and that this is the resurrection which is promised. For, he says, the material body being fluid, and in no wise remaining in itself, but wearing out and being replaced around the appearance by which its shape is distinguished, and by which the figure is contained, it is necessary that the resurrection should be only that of the form.

xiii. Then, after a little, he says: If then, O Origen, you maintain that the resurrection of the body changed into a spiritual body is to be expected only in appearance, and put forth the vision of Moses and Elias as a most convincing proof of it; saying that they appeared after their departure from life, preserving no different appearance from that which they had from the beginning; in the same way will be the resurrection of all men. But Moses and Elias arose and appeared with this form of which you speak, before Christ suffered and rose. How then could Christ be celebrated by prophets and apostles as “the first begotten of the dead?” For if the Christ is believed to be the first begotten of the dead, He is the first begotten of the dead as having risen before all others. But Moses appeared to the apostles before Christ suffered, having this form in which you say the resurrection is fulfilled. Hence then, there is no resurrection of the form without the flesh. For either there is a resurrection of the form as you teach, and then Christ is no longer “the first begotten of the dead,” from the fact that souls appeared before Him, having this form after death; or He is truly the first begotten, and it is quite impossible that any should have been thought meet for a resurrection before Him, so as not to die again. But if no one arose before Him, and Moses and Elias appeared to the apostles not having flesh, but only its appearance, the resurrection in the flesh is clearly manifested. For it is most absurd that the resurrection should be set forth only in form, since the souls, after their departure from the flesh, never appear to lay aside the form which, he says, rises again. But if that remains with them, so that it cannot be taken away, as with the soul of Moses and Elias; and neither perishes, as you think, nor is destroyed, but is everywhere present with them; then surely that form which never fell cannot be said to rise again.

xiv. But if any one, finding this inadmissible, answers, But how then, if no one rose before Christ went down into Hades, are several recorded as having risen before Him? Among whom is the son of the widow of Sarepta, and the son of the Shunammite, and Lazarus. We must say: These rose to die again; but we are speaking of those who shall never die after their rising. And if any one should speak doubtfully concerning the soul of Elias, as that the Scriptures say that he was taken up in the flesh, and we say that he appeared to the apostles divested of the flesh, we must say, that to allow that he appeared to the apostles in the flesh is more in favour of our argument. For it is shown by this case that the body is susceptible of immortality, as was also proved by the translation of Enoch. For if he could not receive immortality, he could not remain in a state of insensibility so long a time. If, then, he appeared with the body, that was truly after he was dead, but certainly not as having arisen from the dead. And this, we may say, if we agree with Origen when he says that the same form is given to the soul after death; when it is separated from the body, which is of all things the most impossible, from the fact that the form of the flesh was destroyed before by its changes, as also the form of the melted statue before its entire dissolution. Be cause the quality cannot be separated from the material, so as to exist by itself; for the shape which disappears around the brass is separated from the melted statue, and has not longer a substantial existence.

xv. Since the form is said to be separated in death from the flesh, come, let us consider in how many ways that which is separated is said to be separated. Now a thing is said to be separated from another either in act and subsistence, or in thought; or else in act, but not in subsistence. As if, for instance, one should separate from each other wheat and barley which had been mingled together; in as far as they are separated in motion, they are said to be separated in act in as far as they stand apart when separated, they are said to be separated in subsistence. They are separated in thought when we separate matter from its qualities, and qualities from matter; in act, but not in subsistence, when a thing separated from another no longer exists, not having a substantive existence. And it may be observed that it is so also in mechanics, when one looks upon a statue or a brazen horse melted. For, when he considers these things, he will see their natural form changing; and they alter into another figure from which the original form disappears. For if any one should melt down the works formed into the semblance of a man or a horse, he will find the appearance of the form disappearing, but the material itself remaining. It is, therefore, untenable to say, that the form shall arise in nowise corrupted, but that the body in which the form was stamped shall be destroyed.

xvi. But he says that it will be so; for it will be changed in a spiritual body. Therefore, it is necessary to confess that the very same forth as at first does not arise, from its being changed and corrupted with the flesh. For although it be changed into a spiritual body, that will not be properly the original substance, bat a certain resemblance of it, fashioned in an ethereal body. If, however, it is not the same form, nor yet the body which arises, then it is another in the place of the first. For that which is like, being different from that which it resembles, cannot be that very first thing in accordance with which it was made.

xvii. Moreover, he says that is the appearance or form which shows forth the identity of the members in the distinctive character of the form.

xviii. And, when Origen allegorises that which is said by the prophet Ezekiel concerning the resurrection of the dead, and perverts it to the return of the Israelites from their captivity in Babylon, the saint in refuting him, after many other remarks, says this also: For neither did they obtain a perfect liberty, nor did they overcome their enemies by a greater power, and dwell again in Jerusalem; and when they frequently intended to build (the temple), they were prevented by other nations. Whence, also, they were scarce able to build that in forty-six years, which Solomon completed from the foundations in seven years. But what need we say on this subject? For from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and those who after him reigned over Babylon, until the time of the Persian expedition against the Assyrians, and the empire of Alexander, and the war which was stirred up by the Romans against the Jews, Jerusalem was six times overthrown by its enemies. And this is recorded by Josephus, who says: “Jerusalem was taken in the second year of the reign of Vespasian. It had been taken before five times; but now for the second time it was destroyed. For Asochæus, king of Egypt, and after him Antiochus, next Pompey, and after these Sosius, with Herod, took the city and burnt it; but before these, the king of Babylon conquered and destroyed it.”

xix. He says that Origen holds these opinions which he refutes. And there may be a doubt concerning Lazarus and the rich man. The simpler persons think that these things were spoken as though both were receiving their due for the things which they had done in life in their bodies; but the more accurate think that, since no one is left in life after the resurrection, these things do not happen at the resurrection. For the rich man says: “I have five brethren; … lest they also come into this place of torment,” send Lazarus, that he may tell them of those things which are here. And, therefore, if we ask respecting the “tongue,” and the “finger,” and “Abraham’s bosom,” and the reclining there, it may perhaps be that the soul receives in the change a form similar in appearance to its gross and earthly body. If, then, any one of those who have fallen asleep is recorded as having appeared, in the same way he has been seen in the form which he had when he was in the flesh. Besides, when Samuel appeared, it is clear that, being seen, he was clothed in a body;2 and this must especially be admitted, if we are pressed by arguments which prove that the essence of the soul is incorporeal, and is manifested by itself. But the rich man in torment, and the poor man who was comforted in the bosom of Abraham, are said, the one to be punished in Hades, and the other to be comforted in Abraham’s bosom, before the appearing of the Saviour, and before the end of the world, and therefore before the resurrection; teaching that now already, at the change, the soul uses a body. Wherefore, the saint says as follows: Setting forth that the soul, after its removal hence, has a form similar in appearance to this sensitive body; does Origen represent the soul, after Plato, as being incorporeal? And how should that which, after removal from the world, is said to have need of a vehicle and a clothing, so that it might not be found naked, be in itself other than incorporeal? But if it be incorporeal, must it not also be incapable of passion? For it follows, from its being incorporeal, that it is also impassible and imperturbable. If, then, it was not distracted by any irrational desire, neither was it changed by a pained or suffering body. For neither can that which is incorporeal sympathize with a body, nor a body with that which is incorporeal, if,4 indeed, the soul should seem to be incorporeal, in accordance with what has been said. But if it sympathize with the body, as is proved by the testimony of those who appear, it cannot be incorporeal. Therefore God alone is celebrated, as the unbegotten, independent, and unwearied nature; being incorporeal, and therefore invisible; for “no man hath seen God.” But souls, being rational bodies, are arranged by the Maker and Father of all things into members which are visible to reason, having received this impression. Whence, also, in Hades, as in the case of Lazarus and the rich man, they are spoken of as having a tongue, and a finger, and the other members; not as though they had with them another invisible body, but that the souls themselves, naturally, when entirely stripped of their covering, are such according to their essence.

xx. The saint says at the end: The words, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living,” must be taken as referring to souls and bodies; the souls being the living, as being immortal, and the bodies being dead.

xxi. Since the body of man is more honourable than other living creatures, because it is said to have been formed by the hands of God, and because it has attained to be the vehicle of the reasonable soul; how is it that it is so short-lived, shorter even than some of the irrational creatures? Is it not clear that its long-lived existence will be after the resurrection?



from the book on the resurrection.

i. The history of Jonah contains a great mystery. For it seems that the whale signifies Time, which never stands still, but is always going on, and consumes the things which are made by long and shorter intervals. But Jonah, who fled from the presence of God, is himself the first man who, having transgressed the law, fled from being seen naked of immortality, having lost through sin his confidence in the Deity. And the ship in which he embarked, and which was tempest-tossed, is this brief and hard life in the present time; just as though we had turned and removed from that blessed and secure life, to that which was most tempestuous and unstable, as from solid land to a ship. For what a ship is to the land, that our present life is to that which is immortal. And the storm and the tempests which beat against us are the temptations of this life, which in the world, as in a tempestuous sea, do not permit us to have a fair voyage free from pain, in a calm sea, and one which is free from evils. And the casting of Jonah from the ship into the sea, signifies the fall of the first man from life to death, who received that sentence because, through having sinned, he fell from righteousness: “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”3 And his being swallowed by the whale signifies our inevitable removal by time. For the belly in which Jonah, when he was swallowed, was concealed, is the all-receiving earth, which receives all things which are consumed by time.

ii. As, then, Jonah spent three days and as many nights in the whale’s belly, and was delivered up sound again, so shall we all, who have passed through the three stages of our present life on earth—I mean the beginning, the middle, and the end, of which all this present time consists—rise again. For there are altogether three intervals of time, the past, the future, and the present. And for this reason the Lord spent so many days in the earth symbolically, thereby teaching clearly that when the fore-mentioned intervals of time have been fulfilled, then shall come our resurrection, which is the beginning of the future age, and the end of this. For in that age there is neither past nor future, but only the present. Moreover, Jonah having spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, was not destroyed by his flesh being dissolved, as is the case with that natural decomposition which takes place in the belly, in the case of those meats which enter into it, on account of the greater heat in the liquids, that it might be shown that these bodies of ours may remain undestroyed. For consider that God had images of Himself made as of gold, that is of a purer spiritual substance, as the angels; and others of clay or brass, as ourselves. He united the soul which was made in the image of God to that which was earthy. As, then, we must here honour all the images of a king, on account of the form which is in them, so also it is incredible that we who are the images of God should be altogether destroyed as being without honour. Whence also the Word descended into our world, and was incarnate of our body, in order that, having fashioned it to a more divine image, He might raise it incorrupt, although it had been dissolved by time. And, indeed, when we trace out the dispensation which was figuratively set forth by the prophet, we shall find the whole discourse visibly extending to this.

Extracts From The Work On Things Created.

i. This selection is made, by way of compendium or synopsis, from the work of the holy martyr and bishop Methodius, concerning things created. The passage, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine,” is explained by Origen as signifying that the pearls are the more mystical teachings of our God-given religion, and the swine those who roll in impiety and in all kinds of pleasures, as swine do in mud; for he said that it was taught by these words of Christ not to cast about the divine teachings, inasmuch as they could not bear them who were held by impiety and brutal pleasures. The great Methodius says: If we must understand by pearls the glorious and divine teachings, and by swine those who are given up to impiety and pleasures, from whom are to be withheld and hidden the apostle’s teachings, which stir men up to piety and faith in Christ, see how you say that no Christians can be converted from their impiety by the teachings of the apostles. For they would never cast the mysteries of Christ to those who, through want of faith, are like swine. Either, therefore, these things were cast before all the Greeks and other unbelievers, and were preached by the disciples of Christ, and converted them from impiety to the faith of Christ, as we believers certainly confess, and then the words, “Cast not your pearls before swine,” can no longer mean what has been said; or meaning this, we must say that faith in Christ and deliverance from impiety have been accorded to none of the unbelievers, whom we compare to swine, by the apostolic instructions enlightening their souls like pearls. But this is blasphemous. Therefore the pearls in this place are not to be taken to mean the deepest doctrines, and the swine the impious; nor are we to understand the words, “Cast not your pearls before swine,” as forbidding us to cast before the impious and unbelieving the deep and sanctifying doctrines of faith in Christ; but we must take the pearls to mean virtues, with which the soul is adorned as with precious pearls; and not to cast them before swine, as meaning that we are not to cast these virtues, such as chastity, temperance, righteousness, and truth, that we are not to cast these to impure pleasures, for these are like swine, lest they, fleeing from the virtues, cause the soul to live a swinish and a vicious life.

ii. Origen says that what he calls the Centaur is the universe which is co-eternal with the only wise and independent God. For he says, since there is no workman without some work, or maker without something made, so neither is there an Almighty without an object of His power. For the workman must be so called from his work, and the maker from what he makes, and the Almighty Ruler from that which He rules over. And so it must be, that these things were made by God from the beginning, and that there was no time in which they did not exist. For if there was a time when the things that are made did not exist, then, as there were no things which had been made, so there was no maker; which you see to be an impious conclusion. And it will result that the unchangeable and unaltered God has altered and changed. For if He made the universe later, it is clear that He passed from not making to making. But this is absurd in connection with what has been said. It is impossible, therefore, to say that the universe is not unbeginning and co-eternal with God. To whom the saint replies, in the person of another, asking, “Do you not consider God the beginning and fountain of wisdom and glory, and in short of all virtue in substance and not by acquisition?” “Certainly,” he says. “And what besides? Is He not by Himself perfect and independent?” “True; for it is impossible that he who is independent should have his independence from another. For we must say, that all which is full by another is also imperfect. For it is the thing which has its completeness of itself, and in itself alone, which can alone be considered perfect.” “You say most truly. For would you pronounce that which is neither by itself complete, nor its own completeness, to be independent?” “By no means For that which is perfect through anything else must needs be in itself imperfect.” “Well, then shall God be considered perfect by Himself, and not by some other?” “Most rightly.” “Then God is something different from the world, and the world from God?” “Quite so.” “We must not then say that God is perfect, and Creator, and Almighty, through the world?” “No; for He must surely by Himself, and not by the world, and that changeable, be found perfect by Himself.” “Quite so.” “But you will say that the rich man is called rich on account of his riches? And that the wise man is called wise not as being wisdom itself, but as being a possessor of substantial wisdom?” “Yes.” “Well, then, since God is something different from the world, shall He be called on account of the world rich, and beneficent, and Creator?” “By no means. Away with such a thought!” “Well, then, He is His own riches, and is by Himself rich and powerful.” “So it seems.” “He was then before the world altogether independent, being Father, and Almighty, and Creator; so that He by Himself, and not by another, was this.” “It must be so.” “Yes; for if He were acknowledged to be Almighty on account of the world, and not of Himself, being distinct from the world,—may God forgive the words, which the necessity of the argument requires,—He would by Himself be imperfect and have need of these things, through which He is marvellously Almighty and Creator. We must not then admit this pestilent sin of those who say concerning God, that He is Almighty and Creator by the things which He controls and creates, which are changeable, and that He is not so by Himself.

iii. Now consider it thus: “If, you say, the world was created later, not existing before, then we must change the passionless and unchangeable God; for it must needs be, that he who did nothing before, but afterwards, passes from not doing to doing, changes and is altered.” Then I said, “Did God rest from making the world, or not?” “He rested.” “Because otherwise it would not have been completed.” “True.” “If, then, the act of making, after not making, makes an alteration in God, does not His ceasing to make after making the same?” “Of necessity.” “But should you say that He is altered as not doing to-day, from what He was, when He was doing?” “By no means. There is no necessity for His being changed, when He makes the world from what He was when He was not making it; and neither is there any necessity for saying that the universe must have co-existed with Him, on account of our not being forced to say that He has changed, nor that the universe is co-eternal with Him.”

iv. But speak to me thus: “Should you call that a thing created which had no beginning of its creation?” “Not at all.” “But if there is no beginning of its creation, it is of necessity uncreated. But if it was created, you will grant that it was created by some cause. For it is altogether impossible that it should have a beginning without a cause.” “It is impossible.” “Shall we say, then, that the world and the things which are in it, having come into existence and formerly not existing, are from any other cause than God?” “It is plain that they are from God.” “Yes; for it is impossible that which is limited by an existence which has a beginning should be co-existent with the infinite.” “It is impossible.” “But again, O Centaur, let us consider it from the beginning. Do you say that the things which exist were created by Divine knowledge or not?” “Oh, begone, they will say; not at all.” “Well, but was it from the elements, or from matter, or the firmaments, or however you choose to name them, for it makes no difference; these things existing beforehand uncreated and borne along in a state of chaos; did God separate them and reduce them all to order, as a good painter who forms one picture out of many colours?” “No, nor yet this.” For they will quite avoid making a concession against themselves, lest agreeing that there was a beginning of the separation and transformation of matter, they should be forced in consistency to say, that in all things God began the ordering and adorning of matter which hitherto had been without form.

v. But come now, since by the favour of God we have arrived at this point in our discourse; let us suppose a beautiful statue standing upon its base; and that those who behold it, admiring its harmonious beauty, differ among themselves, some trying to make out that it had been made, others that it had not. I should ask them: For what reason do you say that it was not made? on account of the artist, because he must be considered as never resting from his work? or on account of the statue itself? If it is on account of the artist, how could it, as not being made, be fashioned by the artist? But if, when it is moulded of brass, it has all that is needed in order that it may receive whatever impression the artist chooses, how can that be said not to be made which submits to and receives his labour? If, again, the statue is declared to be by itself perfect and not made, and to have no need of art, then we must allow, in accordance with that pernicious heresy, that it is self-made. If perhaps they are unwilling to admit this argument, and reply more inconsistently, that they do not say that the figure was not made, but that it was always made, so that there was no beginning of its being made, so that artist might be said to have this subject of his art without any beginning. Well then, my friends, we will say to them, if no time, nor any age before can be found in the past, when the statue was not perfect, will you tell us what the artist contributed to it, or wrought upon it? For if this statue has need of nothing, and has no beginning of existence, for this reason, according to you, a maker never made it, nor will any maker be found. And so the argument seems to come again to the same conclusion, and we must allow that it is self-made. For if an artificer is said to have moved a statue ever so slightly, he will submit to a beginning, when he began to move and adorn that which was before unadorned and unmoved. But the world neither was nor will be for ever the same. Now we must compare the artificer to God, and the statue to the world. But how then, O foolish men, can you imagine the creation to be co-eternal with its Artificer, and to have no need of an artificer? For it is of necessity that the co-eternal should never have had a beginning of being, and should be equally uncreated and powerful with Him. But the uncreated appears to be in itself perfect and unchangeable, and it will have need of nothing, and be free from corruption. And if this be so, the world can no longer be, as you say it is, capable of change.

vi. He says that the Church is so called from being called out2 with respect to pleasures.

vii. The saint says: We said there are two kinds of formative power in what we have now acknowledged; the one which works by itself what it chooses, not out of things which already exist, by its bare will, without delay, as soon as it wills. This is the power of the Father. The other which adorns and embellishes, by imitation of the former, the things which already exist. This is the power of the Son, the almighty and powerful hand of the Father, by which, after creating matter not out of things which were already in existence, He adorns it.

viii. The saint says that the Book of Job is by Moses. He says, concerning the words, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” that one will not err who says that the “Beginning” is Wisdom. For Wisdom is said by one of the Divine band to speak in this manner concerning herself: “The Lord created me the beginning of His ways for His works: of old He laid my foundation.”4 It was fitting and more seemly that all things which came into existence, should be more recent than Wisdom, since they existed through her. Now consider whether the saying: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God;” __ whether these statements be not in agreement with those. For we must say that the Beginning, out of which the most upright Word came forth, is the Father and Maker of all things, in whom it was. And the words, “The same was in the beginning with God,” seem to indicate the position of authority of the Word, which He had with the Father before the world came into existence; “beginning” signifying His power. And so, after the peculiar unbeginning beginning, who is the Father, He is the beginning of other things, by whom all things are made.

ix. He says that Origen, after having fabled many things concerning the eternity of the universe, adds this also: Nor yet from Adam, as some say, did man, previously not existing, first take his existence and come into the world. Nor again did the world begin to be made six days before the creation of Adam. But if any one should prefer to differ in these points, let him first say, whether a period of time be not easily reckoned from the creation of the world, according to the Book of Moses, to those who so receive it, the voice of prophecy here proclaiming: “Thou art God from everlasting, and world without end.… For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday: seeing that is past as a watch in the night.” For when a thousand years are reckoned as one day in the sight of God, and from the creation of the world to His rest is six days, so also to our time, six days are defined, as those say who are clever arithmeticians. Therefore, they say that an age of six thousand years extends from Adam to our time. For they say that the judgment will come on the seventh day, that is in the seventh thousand years. Therefore, all the days from our time to that which was in the beginning, in which God created the heaven and the earth, are computed to be thirteen days; before which God, because he had as yet created nothing according to their folly, is stripped of His name of Father and Almighty. But if there are thirteen days in the sight of God from the creation of the world, how can Wisdom say, in the Book of the Son of Sirach: “Who can number the sand of the sea, and the drops of rain, and the days of eternity?”7 This is what Origen says seriously, and mark how he trifles.

From the Works of Methodius Against Porphyry.


This, in truth, must be called most excellent and praiseworthy, which God Himself considers excellent, even if it be despised and scoffed at by all. For things are not what men think them to be.


Then repentance effaces every sin, when there is no delay after the fall of the soul, and the disease is not suffered to go on through a long interval. For then evil will not have power to leave its mark in us, when it is drawn up at the moment of its being set down like a plant newly planted.


In truth, our evil comes out of our want of resemblance to God, and our ignorance of Him; and, on the other hand, our great good consists in our resemblance to Him. And, therefore, our conversion and faith in the Being who is incorruptible and divine, seems to be truly our proper good, and ignorance and disregard of Him our evil; if, at least, those things which are produced in us and of us, being the evil effects of sin, are to be considered ours.

From His Discourse Concerning Martyrs.

For martyrdom is so admirable and desirable, that the Lord, the Son of God Himself, honouring it, testified, “He thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” that he might honour man to whom He descended with this gift.

General Note.

The Banquet appears to me a genuine work, although, like other writings of this Father, it may have been corrupted. Tokens of such corruptions are not wanting, and there can be little doubt that Methodius the monkish artist and missionary of the ninth century has been often copied into the works of his earlier namesake.

In a fragment, for example, found on a preceding page, there is a passage on God’s image in angels and men, which appears in its more probable form in another fragment,8 discovered by Combefis. As quoted by St. John Damascene, it is enough to say of it, with the candid Dupin, “I very much question whether the passage belongs to Methodius; or, if it does, it must be taken in another sense than that in which Damascene understood it, … as the words which immediately precede seem to intimate.” That it is a positive anachronism in any other sense, is proved by the history of Images, on which see Epiphanius, quoted by Faber, Difficulties of Romanism, p. 488, ed. 1830. He gives St. Jerome, Opp., ii. p. 177. A learned friend suggests that the Rev. J. Endell Tyler’s popular work on Primitive Christian Worship may supply an accessible reference. It is a very good thought, for the whole book is worth reading, on other points also.


On the Day that They Met in the Temple.

i. Although I have before, as briefly as possible, in my dialogue on chastity, sufficiently laid the foundations, as it were, for a discourse on virginity, yet to-day the season has brought forward the entire subject of the glory of virginity, and its incorruptible crown, for the delightful consideration of the Church’s foster-children. For to-day the council chamber of the divine oracles is opened wide, and the signs prefiguring this glorious day, with its effects and issues, are by the sacred preachers read over to the assembled Church. To-day the accomplishment of that ancient and true counsel is, in fact and deed, gloriously manifested to the world. To-day, without any covering, and with unveiled face, we see, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, and the majesty of the divine ark itself. To-day, the most holy assembly, bearing upon its shoulders the heavenly joy that was for generations expected, imparts it to the race of man. “Old things are passed away”3 —-things new burst forth into flowers, and such as fade not away. No longer does the stern decree of the law bear sway, but the grace of the Lord reigneth, drawing all men to itself by saving long-suffering. No second time is an Uzziah invisibly punished, for daring to touch what may not be touched; for God Himself invites, and who will stand hesitating with fear? He says: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.”5 Who, then, will not run to Him? Let no Jew contradict the truth, looking at the type which went before the house of Obededom. The Lord has “manifestly come to His own.” And sitting on a living and not inanimate ark, as upon the mercy-seat, He comes forth in solemn procession upon the earth. The publican, when he touches this ark, comes away just; the harlot, when she approaches this, is remoulded, as it were, and becomes chaste; the leper, when he touches this, is restored whole without pain. It repulses none; it shrinks from none; it imparts the gifts of healing, without itself contracting any disease; for the Lord, who loves and cares for man, in it makes His resting-place. These are the gifts of this new grace. This is that new and strange thing that has happened under the sun8 —a thing that never had place before, nor will have place again. That which God of His compassion toward us foreordained has come to pass, He hath given it fulfilment because of that love for man which is so becoming to Him. With good right, therefore, has the sacred trumpet sounded, “Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” And what shall I conceive, what shall I speak worthy of this day? I am struggling to reach the inaccessible, for the remembrance of this holy virgin far transcends all words of mine. Wherefore, since the greatness of the panegyric required completely puts to shame our limited powers, let us betake ourselves to that hymn which is not beyond our faculties, and boasting in our own10 unalterable defeat, let us join the rejoicing chorus of Christ’s flock, who are keeping holyday. And do you, my divine and saintly auditors, keep strict silence, in order that through the narrow channel of ears, as into the harbour of the understanding, the vessel freighted with truth may peacefully sail. We keep festival, not according to the vain customs of the Greek mythology; we keep a feast which brings with it no ridiculous or frenzied banqueting of the gods, but which teaches us the wondrous condescension to us men of the awful glory of Him who is God over all.12

ii. Come, therefore, Isaiah, most solemn of preachers and greatest of prophets, wisely unfold to the Church the mysteries of the congregation in glory, and incite our excellent guests abundantly, to satiate themselves with enduring dainties, in order that, placing the reality which we possess over against that mirror of thine, truthful prophet as thou art, thou mayest joyfully clap thine hands at the issue of thy predictions. It came to pass, he says, “in the year in which king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the house was full of His glory. And the seraphim stood round about him: each one had six wings. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory. And the posts of the door were moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said, Woe is me! I am pricked to the heart, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. And one of the seraphim was sent unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go unto this people? Then said I, Here am I; send me. And He said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, bat understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.” These are the proclamations made beforehand by the prophet through the Spirit. Do thou, dearly beloved, consider the force of these words. So shalt thou understand the issue of these sacramental2 symbols, and know both what and how great this assembling together of ourselves is. And since the prophet has before spoken of this miracle, come thou, and with the greatest ardour and exultation, and alacrity of heart, together with the keenest sagacity of thine intelligence, and therewith approach Bethlehem the renowned, and place before thy mind an image clear and distinct, comparing the prophecy with the actual issue of events. Thou wilt not stand in need of many words to come to a knowledge of the matter; only fix thine eyes on the things which are taking place there. “All things truly are plain to them that understand, and right to them that find knowledge.” For, behold, as a throne high and lifted up by the glory of Him that fashioned it, the virgin-mother is there made ready, and that most evidently for the King, the Lord of hosts. Upon this, consider the Lord now coming unto thee in sinful flesh. Upon this virginal throne, I say, worship Him who now comes to thee by this new and ever-adorable way. Look around thee with the eye of faith, and thou wilt find around Him, as by the ordinance of their courses,4 the royal and priestly company of the seraphim. These, as His body-guard, are ever wont to attend the presence of their king. Whence also in this place they are not only said to hymn with their praises the divine substance of the divine unity, but also the glory to be adored by all of that one of the sacred Trinity, which now, by the appearance of God in the flesh, hath even lighted upon earth. They say: “The whole earth is full of His glory.” For we believe that, together with the Son, who was made man for our sakes, according to the good pleasure of His will, was also present the Father, who is inseparable from Him as to His divine nature, anal also the Spirit, who is of one and the same essence with Him.6 For, as says Paul, the interpreter of the divine oracle, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”8 He thus shows that the Father was in the Son, because that one and the same will worked in them.

iii. Do thou, therefore, O lover of this festival, when thou hast considered well the glorious mysteries of Bethlehem, which were brought to pass for thy sake, gladly join thyself to the heavenly host, which is celebrating magnificently thy salvation. As once David did before the ark, so do thou, before this virginal throne, joyfully lead the dance. Hymn with gladsome song the Lord, who is always and everywhere present, and Him who from Teman,10 as says the prophet, hath thought fit to appear, and that in the flesh, to the race of men. Say, with Moses, “He is my God, and I will glorify Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.” Then, after thine hymn of thanksgiving, we shall usefully inquire what cause aroused the King of Glory to appear in Bethlehem. His compassion for us compelled Him, who cannot be compelled, to be born in a human body at Bethlehem. But what necessity was there that He, when a suckling infant,12 that He who, though both in time, was not limited by time, that He, who though wrapped in swaddling clothes, was not by them held fast, what necessity was there that He should be an exile and a stranger from His country? Should you, forsooth, wish to know this, ye congregation most holy, and upon whom the Spirit of God hath breathed, listen to Moses proclaiming plainly to the people, stimulating them, as it were, to the knowledge of this extraordinary nativity, and saying, “Every male that openeth the womb, shall be called holy to the Lord.” O wondrous circumstance! “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”2 It became indeed the Lord of the law and the prophets to do all things in accordance with His own law, and not to make void the law, but to fulfil it, and rather to connect with the fulfilment of the law the beginning of His grace. Therefore it is that the mother, who was superior to the law, submits to the law. And she, the holy and undefiled one, observes that time of forty days that was appointed for the unclean. And He who makes us free from the law, became subject to the law; and there is offered for Him, who hath sanctified us, a pair of clean birds, in testimony of those who approach clean and blameless. Now that parturition was polluted, and stood not in need of expiatory victims, Isaiah is our witness, who proclaims distinctly to the whole earth under the sun: “Before she travailed,” he says, “she brought forth; before her pains came, she escaped, and brought forth a man-child.”4 Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? The most holy virgin mother, therefore, escaped entirely the manner of women even before she brought forth: doubtless, in order that the Holy Spirit, betrothing her unto Himself, and sanctifying her, she might conceive without intercourse with man. She hath brought forth her first-born Son, even the only-begotten Son of God, Him, I say, who in the heavens above shone forth as the only-begotten, without mother, from out His Father’s substance, and preserved the virginity of His natural unity undivided and inseparable; and who on earth, in the virgin’s nuptial chamber, joined to Himself the nature of Adam, like a bridegroom, by an inalienable union, and preserved His mother’s purity uncorrupt and un injured—Him, in short, who in heaven was begotten without corruption, and on earth brought forth in a manner quite unspeakable. But to return to our subject.

iv. Therefore the prophet brought the virgin from Nazareth, in order that she might give birth at Bethlehem to her salvation-bestowing child, and brought her back again to Nazareth, in order to make manifest to the world the hope of life. Hence it was that the ark of God removed from the inn at Bethlehem, for there He paid to the law that debt of the forty days, due not to justice but to grace, and rested upon the mountains of Sion, and receiving into His pure bosom as upon a lofty throne, and one transcending the nature of man, the Monarch of all, she presented Him there to God the Father, as the joint-partner of His throne and inseparable from His nature, together with that pure and undefiled flesh which he had of her substance assumed. The holy mother goes up to the temple to exhibit to the law a new and strange wonder, even that child long expected, who opened the virgin’s womb, and yet did not burst the barriers of virginity; that child, superior to the law, who yet fulfilled the law; that child that was at once before the law, and yet after it; that child, in short, who was of her incarnate beyond the law of nature.6 For in other cases every womb being first opened by connection with a man, and, being impregnated by his seed, receives the beginning of conception, and by the pangs which make perfect parturition, doth at length bring forth to light its offspring endowed with reason, and with its nature consistent, in accordance with the wise provision of God its Creator. For God said, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” But the womb of this virgin, without being opened before, or being impregnated with seed, gave birth to an offspring that transcended nature, while at the same time it was cognate to it, and that without detriment to the indivisible unity, so that the miracle was the more stupendous, the prerogative of virginity likewise remaining intact. She goes up, therefore to the temple, she who was more exalted than the temple, clothed with a double glory—the glory, I say, of undefiled virginity, and that of ineffable fecundity, the benediction of the law, and the sanctification of grace. Wherefore he says who saw it: “And the whole house was full of His glory, and the seraphim stood round about him; and one cried unto another, and said. Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” As also the blessed prophet Habakkuk has charmingly sung, saying, “In the midst of two living creatures thou shalt be known: as the years draw nigh thou shalt be recognised—when the time is come thou shalt be shown forth.” See, I pray you, the exceeding accuracy of the Spirit. He speaks of knowledge, recognition, showing forth. As to the first of these: “In the midst of two living creatures thou shalt be known,”2 he refers to that overshadowing of the divine glory which, in the time of the law, rested in the Holy of holies upon the covering of the ark, between the typical cherubim, as He says to Moses, “There will I be known to thee.” But He refers likewise to that concourse of angels, which hath now come to meet us, by the divine and ever adorable manifestation of the Saviour Himself in the flesh, although He in His very nature cannot be beheld by us, as Isaiah has even before declared. But when He says, “As the years draw nigh, thou shalt be recognised,” He means, as has been said before, that glorious recognition of our Saviour, God in the flesh, who is otherwise invisible to mortal eye; as somewhere Paul, that great interpreter of sacred mysteries, says: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”4 And then, as to that which is subjoined, “When the time is come, Thou shalt be shown forth,” what exposition doth this require, if a man diligently direct the eye of his mind to the festival which we are now celebrating? “For then shalt Thou be shown forth,” He says, “as upon a kingly charger, by Thy pure and chaste mother, in the temple, and that in the grace and beauty of the flesh assumed by Thee.” All these things the prophet, summing up for the sake of greater clearness, exclaims in brief: “The Lord is in His holy temple;” “Fear before Him all the earth.”6

v. Tremendous, verily, is the mystery connected with thee, O virgin mother, thou spiritual throne, glorified and made worthy of God. Thou hast brought forth, before the eyes of those in heaven and earth, a pre-eminent wonder. And it is a proof of this, and an irrefragable argument, that at the novelty of thy supernatural child-bearing, the angels sang on earth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men,”8 by their threefold song bringing in a threefold holiness. Blessed art thou among the generations of women, O thou of God most blessed, for by thee the earth has been filled with that divine glory of God; as in the Psalms it is sung: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, and the whole earth shall be filled with His glory. Amen. Amen.”10 And the posts of the door, says the prophet, moved at the voice of him that cried, by which is signified the veil of the temple drawn before the ark of the covenant, which typified thee, that the truth might be laid open to me, and also that I might be taught, by the types and figures which went before, to approach with reverence and trembling to do honour to the sacred mystery which is connected with thee; and that by means of this prior shadow-painting of the law I might be restrained from boldly and irreverently contemplating with fixed gaze Him who, in His incomprehensibility, is seated far above all. For if to the ark, which was the image and type of thy sanctity, such honour was paid of God that to no one but to the priestly order only was the access to it open, or ingress allowed to behold it, the veil separating it off, and keeping the vestibule as that of a queen, what, and what sort of veneration is due to thee from us who are of creation the least, to thee who art indeed a queen; to thee, the living ark of God, the Lawgiver; to thee, the heaven that contains Him who can be contained of none? For since thou, O holy virgin,12 hast dawned as a bright day upon the world; and hast brought forth the Sun of Righteousness, that hateful horror of darkness has been chased away; the power of the tyrant has been broken, death hath been destroyed, hell swallowed up, and all enmity dissolved before the face of peace; noxious diseases depart now that salvation looks forth; and the whole universe has been filled with the pure and clear light of truth. To which things Solomon alludes in the Book of Canticles, and begins thus: “My beloved is mine, and I am his; he feedeth among the lilies until the day break, and the shadows flee away.” Since then, the God of gods hath appeared in Sion, and the splendour of His beauty hath appeared in Jerusalem; and “a light has sprung up for the righteous, and joy for those who are true of heart.”14 According to the blessed David, the Perfecter and Lord of the perfected hath, by the Holy Spirit, called the teacher and minister of the law to minister and testify of those things which were done.

vi. Hence the aged Simeon, putting off the weakness of the flesh, and putting on the strength of hope, in the face of the law hastened to receive the Minister of the law, the Teacher with authority, the God of Abraham, the Protector of Isaac, the Holy One of Israel, the Instructor of Moses; Him, I say, who promised to show him His divine incarnation, as it were His hinder parts;2 Him who, in the midst of poverty, was rich; Him who in infancy was before the ages; Him who, though seen, was invisible; Him who in comprehension was incomprehensible; Him who, though in littleness, yet surpassed all magnitude—at one and the same time in the temple and in the highest heavens—on a royal throne, and on the chariot of the cherubim; Him who is both above and below continuously; Him who is in the form of a servant, and in the form of God the Father; a subject, and yet King of all. He was entirely given up to desire, to hope, to joy; he was no longer his own, but His who had been looked for. The Holy Spirit had announced to him the joyful tidings, and before he reached the temple, carried aloft by the eyes of his understanding, as if even now he possessed what he had longed for, he exulted with joy. Being thus led on, and in his haste treading the air with his steps, he reaches the shrine hitherto held sacred; but, not heeding the temple, he stretches out his holy arms to the Ruler of the temple, chanting forth in song such strains as become the joyous occasion: I long for Thee, O Lord God of my fathers, and Lord of mercy, who hast deigned, of Thine own glory and goodness, which provides for all, of Thy gracious condescension, with which Thou inclinest towards us, as a Mediator bringing peace, to establish harmony between earth and heaven. I seek Thee, the Great Author of all. With longing I expect Thee who, with Thy word, embracest all things. I wait for Thee, the Lord of life and death. For Thee I look, the Giver of the law, and the Successor of the law. I hunger for Thee, who quickenest the dead; I thirst for Thee, who refreshest the weary; I desire Thee, the Creator and Redeemer of the world. Thou art our God, and Thee we adore; Thou art our holy Temple, and in Thee we pray; Thou art our Lawgiver, and Thee we obey; Thou art God of all things the First. Before Thee was no other god begotten of God the Father; neither after Thee shall there be any other son consubstantial and of one glory with the Father. And to know Thee is perfect righteousness, and to know Thy power is the root of immortality.4 Thou art He who, for our salvation, was made the head stone of the corner, precious and honourable, declared before to Sion. For all things are placed under Thee as their Cause and Author, as He who brought all things into being out of nothing, and gave to what was unstable a firm coherence; as the connecting Band and Preserver of that which has been brought into being; as the Framer of things by nature different; as He who, with wise and steady hand, holds the helm of the universe; as the very Principle of all good order; as the irrefragable Bond of concord and peace. For in Thee we live, and move, and have our being.6 Wherefore, O Lord my God, I will glorify Thee, I will praise Thy name; for Thou hast done wonderful things; Thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth; Thou art clothed with majesty and honour. For what is more splendid for a king than a purple robe embroidered around with flowers, and a shining diadem? Or what for God, who delights in man, is more magnificent than this merciful assumption of the manhood, illuminating with its resplendent rays those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death?8 Fitly did that temporal king and Thy servant once sing of Thee as the King Eternal, saying, Thou art fairer than the children of men, who amongst men art very God and man. For Thou hast girt, by Thy incarnation, Thy loins with righteousness, and anointed Thy veins with faithfulness, who Thyself art very righteousness and truth, the joy and exultation of all.10 Therefore rejoice with me this day, ye heavens, for the Lord hath showed mercy to His people. Yea, let the clouds drop the dew of righteousness upon the world; let the foundations of the earth sound a trumpet-blast to those in Hades, for the resurrection of them that sleep is come. Let the earth also cause compassion to spring up to its inhabitants; for I am filled with comfort; I am exceeding joyful since I have seen Thee, the Saviour of men.12

vii. While the old man was thus exultant, and rejoicing with exceeding great and holy joy, that which had before been spoken of in a figure by the prophet Isaiah, the holy mother of God now manifestly fulfilled. For taking, as from a pure and undefiled altar, that coal living and ineffable, with man’s flesh invested, in the embrace of her sacred hands, as it were with the tongs, she held Him out to that just one, addressing and exhorting him, as it seems to me, in words to this effect: Receive, O reverend senior, thou of priests the most excellent, receive the Lord, and reap the full fruition of that hope of thine which is not left widowed and desolate. Receive, thou of men the most illustrious, the unfailing treasure, and those riches which can never be taken away. Take to thine embrace, O thou of men most wise, that unspeakable might, that unsearchable power, which can alone support thee. Embrace, thou minister of the temple, the Greatness infinite, and the Strength incomparable. Fold thyself around Him who is the very life itself, and live, O thou of men most venerable. Cling closely to incorruption and be renewed, O thou of men most righteous. Not too bold is the attempt; shrink not from it then, O thou of men most holy. Satiate thyself with Him thou hast longed for, and take thy delight in Him who has been given, or rather who gives Himself to thee, O thou of men most divine. Joyfully draw thy light, O thou of men most pious, from the Sun of Righteousness, that gleams around thee through the unsullied mirror of the flesh. Fear not His gentleness, nor let His clemency terrify thee, O thou of men most blessed. Be not afraid of His lenity, nor shrink from His kindness, O thou of men most modest. Join thyself to Him with alacrity, and delay not to obey Him. That which is spoken to thee, and held out to thee, savours not of over-boldness. Be not then reluctant, O thou of men the most decorous. The flame of the grace of my Lord does not consume, but illuminates thee, O thou of men most just. Let the bush which set forth me in type, with respect to the verity of that fire which yet had no subsistence, teach thee this, O thou who art in the law the best instructed.2 Let that furnace which was as it were a breeze distilling dew persuade thee, O master, of the dispensation of this mystery. Then, beside all this, let my womb be a proof to thee, in which He was contained, who in nought else was ever contained, of the substance of which the incarnate Word yet deigned to become incarnate. The blast of the trumpet does not now terrify those who approach, nor a second time does the mountain all on smoke cause terror to those who draw nigh, nor indeed does the law punish relentlessly4 those who would boldly touch. What is here present speaks of love to man; what is here apparent, of the Divine condescension. Thankfully, then, receive the God who comes to thee, for He shall take away thine iniquities, and thoroughly purge thy sins. In thee, let the cleansing of the world first, as in type, have place. In thee, and by thee, let that justification which is of grace become known beforehand to the Gentiles. Thou art worthy of the quickening first-fruits. Thou hast made good use of the law. Use grace henceforth. With the letter thou hast grown weary; in the spirit be renewed. Put off that which his old, and clothe thyself with that which is new. For of these matters I think not that thou art ignorant.

viii. Upon all this that righteous man, waxing bold and yielding to the exhortation of the mother of God, who is the handmaid of God in regard to the things which pertain to men, received into his aged arms Him who in infancy was yet the Ancient of days, and blessed God, and said, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.” I have received from Thee a joy unmixed with pain. Do thou, O Lord, receive me rejoicing, and singing of Thy mercy and compassion. Thou hast given unto me this joy of heart. I render unto Thee with gladness my tribute of thanksgiving. I have known the power of the love of God. Since, for my sake, God of Thee begotten, in a manner ineffable, and without corruption, has become man. I have known the inexplicable greatness of Thy love and care for us, for Thou hast sent forth Thine own bowels to come to our deliverance. Now, at length, I understand what I had from Solomon learned: “Strong as death is love: for by it shall the sting of death be done away, by it shall the dead see life, by it shall even death learn what death is, being made to cease from that dominion which over us he exercised. By it, also, shall the serpent, the author of our evils, be taken captive and overwhelmed.”6 Thou hast made known to us, O Lord, Thy salvation, causing to spring up for us the plant of peace, and we shall no longer wander in error. Thou hast made known to us, O Lord, that Thou hast not unto the end overlooked Thy servants; neither hast Thou, O beneficent One, forgotten entirely the works of Thine hands. For out of Thy compassion for our low estate Thou hast shed forth upon us abundantly that goodness of Thine which is inexhaustible, and with Thy very nature cognate, having redeemed us by Thine only begotten Son, who is unchangeably like to Thee, and of one substance with Thee; judging it unworthy of Thy majesty and goodness to entrust to a servant the work of saving and benefiting Thy servants, or to cause that those who had offended should be reconciled by a minister. But by means of that light, which is of one substance with Thee, Thou hast given light to those that sat in darkness8 and in the shadow of death, in order that in Thy light they might see the light of knowledge; and it has seemed good to Thee, by means of our Lord and Creator, to fashion us again unto immortality; and Thou hast graciously given unto us a return to Paradise by means of Him who separated us from the joys of Paradise; and by means of Him who hath power to forgive sins Thou hast2 blotted out the handwriting which was against us. Lastly, by means of Him who is a partaker of Thy throne, and who cannot be separated from Thy divine nature, Thou hast given unto us the gift of reconciliation, and access unto Thee with confidence, in order that, by the Lord who recognises the sovereign authority of none, by the true and omnipotent God, the subscribed sanction, as it were, of so many and such great blessings might constitute the justifying gifts of grace to be certain and indubitable rights to those who have obtained mercy. And this very thing the prophet before had announced in the words: No ambassador, nor angel, but the Lord Himself saved them; because He loved them, and spared them, and He took them up, and exalted them.4 And all this was, not of works of righteousness which we have done, nor because we loved Thee,—for our first earthly fore-father, who was honourably entertained in the delightful abode of Paradise, despised Thy divine and saving commandment, and was judged unworthy of that life-giving place, and mingling his seed with the bastard off-shoots of sin, he rendered it very weak;—but Thou, O Lord, of Thine own self, and of Thine ineffable love toward the creature of Thine hands, hast confirmed Thy mercy toward us, and, pitying our estrangement from Thee, hast moved Thyself at the sight of our degradation6 to take us into compassion. Hence, for the future, a joyous festival is established for us of the race of Adam, because the first Creator of Adam of His own free-will has become the Second Adam. And the brightness of the Lord our God hath come down to sojourn with us, so that we see God face to face, and are saved. Therefore, O Lord, I seek of Thee to be allowed to depart. I have seen Thy salvation; let me be delivered from the bent yoke of the letter. I have seen the King Eternal, to whom no other succeeds; let me be set free from this servile and burdensome chain. I have seen Him who is by nature my Lord and Deliverer; may I obtain, then, His decree for my deliverance. Set me free from the yoke of condemnation, and place me under the yoke of justification. Deliver me from the yoke of the curse, and of the letter that killeth; and enrol me in the blessed company of those who, by the grace of this Thy true Son, who is of equal glory and power with Thee, have been received into the adoption of sons.

ix. Let then, says he, what I have thus far said in brief, suffice for the present as my offering of thanks to God. But what shall I say to thee, O mother-virgin and virgin-mother? For the praise even of her who is not man’s work exceeds the power of man. Wherefore the dimness of my poverty I will make bright with the splendour of the gifts of the spirits that around thee shine, and offering to thee of thine own, from the immortal meadows I will pluck a garland for thy sacred and divinely crowned head. With thine ancestral hymns will I greet thee, O daughter of David, and mother of the Lord and God of David. For it were both base and inauspicious to adorn thee, who in thine own glory excellest with that which belongeth unto another. Receive, therefore, O lady most benignant, gifts precious, and such as are fitted to thee alone, O thou who art exalted above all generations, and who, amongst all created things, both visible and invisible, shinest forth as the most honourable. Blessed is the root of Jesse, and thrice blessed is the house of David, in which thou hast sprung up. God is in the midst of thee, and thou shalt not be moved, for the Most High hath made holy the place of His tabernacle. For in thee the covenants and oaths made of God unto the fathers have received a most glorious fulfilment, since by thee the Lord hath appeared, the God of hosts with us. That bush which could not be touched,9 which beforehand shadowed forth thy figure endowed with divine majesty, bare God without being consumed, who manifested Himself to the prophet just so far as He willed to be seen. Then, again, that hard and rugged rock, which imaged forth the grace and refreshment which has sprung out from thee for all the world, brought forth abundantly in the desert out of its thirsty sides a healing draught for the fainting people. Yea, moreover, the rod of the priest which, without culture, blossomed forth in fruit,11 the pledge and earnest of a perpetual priesthood, furnished no contemptible symbol of thy supernatural child-bearing. What, moreover? Hath not the mighty Moses expressly declared, that on account of these types of thee, hard to be understood,13 he delayed longer on the mountain, in order that he might learn, O holy one, the mysteries that with thee are connected? For being commanded to build the ark as a sign and similitude of this thing, he was not negligent in obeying the command, although a tragic occurrence happened on his descent from the mount; but having made it in size five cubits and a half, he appointed it to be the receptacle of the law, and covered it with the wings of the cherubim, most evidently pre-signifying thee, the mother of God, who hast conceived Him without corruption, and in an ineffable manner brought forth Him who is Himself, as it were, the very consistence of incorruption, and that within the limits of the five and a half circles of the world. On thy account, and the undefiled Incarnation of God, the Word, which by thee had place for the sake of that flesh which immutably and indivisibly remains with Him for ever. The golden pot also, as a most certain type, preserved the manna contained in it, which in other cases was changed day by day, unchanged, and keeping fresh for ages. The prophet Elijah2 likewise, as prescient of thy chastity, and being emulous of it through the Spirit, bound around him the crown of that fiery life, being by the divine decree adjudged superior to death. Thee also, prefiguring his successor Elisha, having been instructed by a wise master, and anticipating thy presence who wast not yet born, by certain sure indications of the things that would have place hereafter,4 ministered help and healing to those who were in need of it, which was of a virtue beyond nature; now with a new cruse, which contained healing salt, curing the deadly waters, to show that the world was to be recreated by the mystery manifested in thee; now with unleavened meal, in type responding to thy child-bearing, without being defiled by the seed of man, banishing from the food the bitterness of death; and then again, by efforts which transcended nature, rising superior to the natural elements in the Jordan, and thus exhibiting, in signs beforehand, the descent of our Lord into Hades, and His wonderful deliverance of those who were held fast in corruption. For all things yielded and succumbed to that divine image which prefigured thee.

x. But why do I digress, and lengthen out my discourse, giving it the rein with these varied illustrations, and that when the truth of thy matter stands like a column before the eye, in which it were better and more profitable to luxuriate and delight in? Wherefore, bidding adieu to the spiritual narrations and wondrous deeds of the saints throughout all ages, I pass on to thee who art always to be had in remembrance, and who holdest the helm, as it were, of this festival.

Blessed art thou, all-blessed, and to be desired of all. Blessed of the Lord is thy name, full of divine grace, and grateful exceedingly to God, mother of God, thou that givest light to the faithful. Thou art the circumscription, so to speak, of Him who cannot be circumscribed; the root of the most beautiful flower; the mother of the Creator; the nurse of the Nourisher; the circumference of Him who embraces all things; the upholder of Him7 who upholds all things by His word; the gate through which God appears in the flesh; the tongs of that cleansing coal;9 the bosom in small of that bosom which is all-containing; the fleece of wool, the mystery of which cannot be solved; the well of Bethlehem,11 that reservoir of life which David longed for, out of which the draught of immortality gushed forth; the mercy-seat from which God in human form was made known unto men; the spotless robe of Him who clothes Himself with light as with a garment.13 Thou hast lent to God, who stands in need of nothing, that flesh which He had not, in order that the Omnipotent might become that which it was his good pleasure to be. What is more splendid than this? What than this is more sublime? He who fills earth and heaven, whose are all things, has become in need of thee, for thou hast lent to God that flesh which He had not. Thou hast clad the Mighty One with that beauteous panoply of the body by which it has become possible for Him to be seen by mine eyes. And I, in order that I might freely approach to behold Him, have received that by which all the fiery darts of the wicked shall be quenched.15 Hail! hail! mother and handmaid of God. Hail! hail! thou to whom the great Creditor of all is a debtor. We are all debtors to God, but to thee He is Himself indebted.

For He who said, “Honour thy father and thy mother,” will have most assuredly, as Himself willing to be proved by such proofs, kept inviolate that grace, and His own decree towards her who ministered to Him that nativity to which He voluntarily stooped, and will have glorified with a divine honour her whom He, as being without a father, even as she was without a husband, Himself has written down as mother. Even so must these things be. For the hymns17 which we offer to thee, O thou most holy and admirable habitation of God, are no merely useless and ornamental words. Nor, again, is thy spiritual laudation mere secular trifling, or the shoutings of a false flattery, O thou who of God art praised; thou who to God gavest suck; who by nativity givest unto mortals their beginning of being, but they are of clear and evident truth. But the time would fail us, ages and succeeding generations too, to render unto thee thy fitting salutation as the mother of the King Eternal, even as somewhere the illustrious prophet says, teaching us how incomprehensible thou art.2 How great is the house of God, and how large is the place of His possession! Great, and hath none end, high and unmeasurable. For verily, verily, this prophetic oracle, and most true saying, is concerning thy majesty; for thou alone hast been thought worthy to share with God the things of God; who hast alone borne in the flesh Him, who of God the Father was the Eternally and Only-Begotten. So do they truly believe who hold fast to the pure faith.

xi. But for the time that remains, my most attentive hearers, let us take up the old man, the receiver of God, and our pious teacher, who hath put in here, as it were, in safety from that virginal sea, and let us refresh him, both satisfied as to his divine longing, and conveying to us this most blessed theology; and let us ourselves follow out the rest of our discourse, directing our course unerringly with reference to our prescribed end, and that under the guidance of God the Almighty, so shall we not be found altogether unfruitful and unprofitable as to what is required of us. When, then, to these sacred rites, prophecy and the priesthood had been jointly called, and that pair of just ones elected of God—Simeon, I mean, and Anna, bearing in themselves most evidently the images of both peoples—had taken their station by the side of that glorious and virginal throne,—for by the old man was represented the people of Israel, and the law now waxing old; whilst the widow represents the Church of the Gentiles, which had been up to this point a widow,—the old man, indeed, as personating the law, seeks dismissal; but the widow, as personating the Church, brought her joyous confession of faith, and spake of Him to all that looked for redemption in Jerusalem, even as the things that were spoken of both have been appositely and excellently recorded, and quite in harmony with the sacred festival. For it was fitting and necessary that the old man who knew so accurately that decree of the law, in which it is said: Hear Him, and every soul that will not hearken unto Him shall be cut off from His people,5 should seek a peaceful discharge from the tutorship of the law; for in truth it were insolence and presumption, when the king is present and addressing the people, for one of his attendants to make a speech over against him, and that to this man his subjects should incline their ears. It was necessary, too, that the widow who had been increased with gifts beyond measure, should in festal strains return her thanks to God; and so the things which there took place were agreeable to the law. But, for what remains, it is necessary to inquire how, since the prophetic types and figures bear, as has been shown, a certain analogy and relation to this prominent feast, it is said that the house was filled with smoke. Nor does the prophet say this incidentally, but with significance, speaking of that cry of the Thrice-Holy, uttered by the heavenly seraphs. You will discover the meaning of this, my attentive hearer, if you do but take up and examine what follows upon this narration: For hearing, he says, ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing, ye shall see, and not perceive.7 When, therefore, the foolish Jewish children had seen the glorious wonders which, as David sang, the Lord had performed in the earth, and had seen the sign from the depth and from the height meeting together, without division or confusion; as also Isaiah had before declared, namely, a mother beyond nature, and an offspring beyond reason; an earthly mother and a heavenly son; a new taking of man’s nature, I say, by God, and a child-bearing without marriage; what in creation’s circuit could be more glorious and more to be spoken of than this! yet when they had seen this it was all one as if they had not seen it; they closed their eyes, and in respect of praise were supine. Therefore the house in which they boasted was filled with smoke.

xii. And in addition to this, when besides the spectacle, and even beyond the spectacle, they heard an old man, very righteous, very worthy of credit, worthy also of emulation, inspired by the Holy Spirit, a teacher of the law, honoured with the priesthood, illustrious in the gift of prophecy, by the hope which he had conceived of Christ, extending the limits of life, and putting off the debt of death—when they saw him, I say, leaping for joy, speaking words of good omen, quite transformed with gladness of heart, entirely rapt in a divine and holy ecstasy; who from a man had been changed into an angel by a godly change, and, for the immensity of his joy, chanted his hymn of thanksgiving, and openly proclaimed the “Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.” Not even then were they willing to hear what was placed within their hearing, and held in veneration by the heavenly beings themselves; wherefore the house in which they boasted was filled with smoke. Now smoke is a sign and sure evidence of wrath; as it is written, “There went up a smoke in His anger, and fire from His countenance devoured;”2 and in another place, “Amongst the disobedient people shall the fire burn,” which plainly, in the revered Gospels, our Lord signified, when He said to the Jews, “Behold your house is left unto you desolate.”4 Also, in another place, “The king sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their city.” Of such a nature was the adverse reward of the Jews for their unbelief, which caused them to refuse to pay to the Trinity the tribute of praise. For after that the ends of the earth were sanctified, and the mighty house of the Church was filled, by the proclamation of the Thrice Holy, with the glory of the Lord, as the great waters cover the seas,6 there happened to them the things which before had been declared, and the beginning of prophecy was confirmed by its issue, the preacher of truth signifying, as has been said, by the Holy Spirit, as it were in an example, the dreadful destruction which was to come upon them, in the words: “In the year in which king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord”—Uzziah, doubtless, as an apostate, being taken as the representative of the whole apostate body—the head of which he certainly was—who also, paying the penalty due to his presumption, carried on his forehead, as upon a brazen statue, the divine vengeance engraved, by the loathsomeness of leprosy, exhibiting to all the retribution of their loathsome impiety. Wherefore with divine wisdom did he, who had foreknowledge of these events, oppose the bringing in of the thankful Anna to the casting out of the ungrateful synagogue. Her very name also pre-signifies the Church, that by the grace of Christ and God is justified in baptism. For Anna is, by interpretation, grace.

xiii. But here, as in port, putting in the vessel that bears the ensign of the cross, let us reef the sails of our oration, in order that it may be with itself commensurate. Only first, in as few words as possible, let us salute the city of the Great King together with the whole body of the Church, as being present with them in spirit, and keeping holy-day with the Father, and the brethren most held in honour there. Hail, thou city of the Great King, in which the mysteries of our salvation are consummated. Hail, thou heaven upon earth, Sion, the city that is for ever faithful unto the Lord. Hail, and shine thou Jerusalem, for thy light is come, the Light Eternal, the Light for ever enduring, the Light Supreme, the Light Immaterial, the Light of one substance with God and the Father, the Light which is in the Spirit, and in which is the Father; the Light which illumines the ages; the Light which gives light to mundane and supramundane things, Christ our very God. Hail, city sacred and elect of the Lord. Joyfully keep thy festal days, for they will not multiply so as to wax old and pass away. Hail, thou city most happy, for glorious things are spoken of thee; thy priest shall be clothed with righteousness, and thy saints shall shout for joy, and thy poor shall be satisfied with bread.8 Hail! rejoice, O Jerusalem, for the Lord reigneth in the midst of thee. That Lord, I say, who in His simple and immaterial Deity, entered our nature, and of the virgin’s womb became ineffably incarnate; that Lord, who was partaker of nothing else save the lump of Adam, who was by the serpent tripped up. For the Lord laid not hold of the seed of angels10 —those, I say, who fell not away from that beauteous order and rank that was assigned to them from the beginning. To us He condescended, that Word who was always with the Father co-existent God. Nor, again, did He come into the world to restore; nor will He restore, as has been imagined by some impious advocates of the devil, those wicked demons who once fell from light; but when the Creator and Framer of all things had, as the most divine Paul says, laid hold of the seed of Abraham, and through him of the whole human race, He was made man for ever, and without change, in order that by His fellowship with us, and our joining on to Him, the ingress of sin into us might be stopped, its strength being broken by degrees, and itself as wax being melted, by that fire which the Lord, when He came, sent upon the earth. Hail to thee, thou Catholic Church,12 which hast been planted in all the earth, and do thou rejoice with us. Fear not, little flock, the storms of the enemy, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom, and that you should tread upon the necks of your enemies.14 Hail, and rejoice, thou that wast once barren, and without seed unto godliness, but who hast now many children of faith. Hail, thou people of the Lord, thou chosen generation, thou royal priesthood, thou holy nation, thou peculiar people—show forth His praises who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; and for His mercies glorify Him.2

xiv. Hail to thee for ever, thou virgin mother of God, our unceasing joy, for unto thee do I again return. Thou art the beginning of our feast; thou art its middle and end;4 the pearl of great price that belongest unto the kingdom; the fat of every victim, the living altar of the bread of life. Hail, thou treasure of the love of God. Hail, thou fount of the Son’s love for man. Hail, thou overshadowing mount of the Holy Ghost. Thou gleamedst, sweet gift-bestowing mother, of the light of the sun; thou gleamedst with the insupportable fires of a most fervent charity, bringing forth in the end that which was conceived of thee before the beginning, making manifest the mystery hidden and unspeakable, the invisible Son of the Father—the Prince of Peace, who in a marvellous manner showed Himself as less than all littleness. Wherefore, we pray thee, the most excellent among women, who boastest in the confidence of thy maternal honours, that thou wouldest unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in thee, and who in hymns august celebrate the memory, which will ever live, and never fade away. And do thou also, O honoured and venerable Simeon, thou earliest host of our holy religion, and teacher of the resurrection of the faithful, be our patron and advocate with that Saviour God, whom thou wast deemed worthy to receive into thine arms. We, together with thee, sing our praises to Christ, who has the power of life and death, saying, Thou art the true Light, proceeding from the true Light; the true God, begotten of the true God; the one Lord, before Thine assumption of the humanity; that One nevertheless, after Thine assumption of it, which is ever to be adored; God of Thine own self and not by grace, but for our sakes also perfect man; in Thine own nature the King absolute and sovereign, but for us and for our salvation existing also in the form of a servant, yet immaculately and without defilement. For Thou who art incorruption hast come to set corruption free, that Thou mightest render all things uncorrupt. For Thine is the glory, and the power, and the greatness, and the majesty, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen.


i. Blessed be God; let us proceed, brethren, from wonders to the miracles of the Lord, and as it were, from strength to strength. For just as in a golden chain the links are so intimately joined and connected together, as that the one holds the other, and is fitted on to it, and so carries on the chain—even so the miracles that have been handed down by the holy Gospels, one after the other, lead on the Church of God, which delights in festivity, and refresh it, not with the meat that perisheth, but with that which endureth unto everlasting life.3 Come then, beloved, and let us, too, with prepared hearts, and with ears intent, listen to what the Lord our God shall say unto us out of the prophets and Gospels concerning this most sacred feast. Verily, He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints, and to those which turn their hearts unto Him. To-day, the trumpet-blast of the prophets have roused the world, and have made glad and filled with joyfulness the churches of God that are everywhere amongst the nations. And, summoning the faithful from the exercise of holy fasting, and from the palæstra, wherein they struggle against the lusts of the flesh, they have taught them to sing a new hymn of conquest and a new song of peace to Christ who giveth the victory. Come then, every one, and let us rejoice in the Lord; O come, all ye people, and let us clap our hands, and make a joyful noise to God our Saviour, with the voice of melody.5 Let no one be without portion in this grace; let no one come short of this calling; for the seed of the disobedient is appointed to destruction.—Let no one neglect to meet the King, lest he be shut out from the Bridegroom’s chamber.—Let no one amongst us be found to receive Him with a sad countenance, lest he be condemned with those wicked citizens—the citizens, I mean, who refused to receive the Lord as King over them. Let us all come together cheerfully; let us all receive Him gladly, and hold our feast with all honesty. Instead of our garments, let us strew our hearts before Him,7 In psalms and hymns, let us raise to Him our shouts of thanksgiving; and, without ceasing, let us exclaim, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord;” for blessed are they that bless Him, and cursed are they that curse Him.9 Again I will say it, nor will I cease exhorting you to good, Come, beloved, let us bless Him who is blessed, that we may be ourselves blessed of Him. Every age and condition does this discourse summon to praise the Lord; kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth; both young men and maidens—and what is new in this miracle, the tender and innocent age of babes and sucklings hath obtained the first place in raising to God with thankful confession the hymn which was of God taught them in the strains in which Moses sang before to the people when they came forth out of Egypt—namely, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

ii. To-day, holy David rejoices with great joy, being by babes despoiled of his lyre, with whom also, in spirit, leading the dance, and rejoicing together, as of old, before the ark of God, he mingles musical harmony, and sweetly lisps out in stammering voice, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Of whom shall we inquire? Tell us, O prophet, who is this that cometh in the name of the Lord? He will say it is not my part to-day to teach you, for He hath consecrated the school to infants, who hath out of the mouth of babes and sucklings perfected praise to destroy the enemy and the avenger,12 in order that by the miracle of these the hearts of the fathers might be turned to the children, and the disobedient unto the wisdom of the just. Tell us, then, O children, whence is this, your beautiful and graceful contest of song? Who taught it you? Who instructed you? Who brought you together? What were your tablets? Who were your teachers? Do but you, they say, join us as our companions in this song and festivity, and you will learn the things which were by Moses and the prophet earnestly longed for. Since then the children have invited us, and have given unto us the right hand of fellowship,2 let us come, beloved, and ourselves emulate that holy chorus, and with the apostles, let us make way for Him who ascends over the heaven of heavens towards the East, and who, of His good pleasure, is upon the earth mounted upon an ass’s colt. Let us, with the children, raise the branches aloft, and with the olive branches make glad applaud, that upon us also the Holy Spirit may breathe, and that in due order we may raise the God-taught strain: “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”4 To-day, also, the patriarch Jacob keeps feast in spirit, seeing his prophecy brought to a fulfilment, and with the faithful adores the Father, seeing Him who bound his foal to the vine, mounted upon an ass’s colt. To-day the foal is made ready, the irrational exemplar of the Gentiles, who before were irrational, to signify the subjection of the people of the Gentiles; and the babes declare their former state of childhood, in respect of the knowledge of God, and their after perfecting, by the worship of God and the exercise of the true religion. To-day, according to the prophet,6 is the King of Glory glorified upon earth, and makes us, the inhabitants of earth, partakers of the heavenly feast, that He may show Himself to be the Lord of both, even as He is hymned with the common praises of both. Therefore it was that the heavenly hosts sang, announcing salvation upon earth, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” And those below, joining in harmony with the joyous hymns of heaven, cried: “Hosanna in the highest; Hosanna to the Son of David.” In heaven the doxology was raised, “Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His place;”8 and on earth was this caught up in the words, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

iii. But while these things were doing, and the disciples were rejoicing and praising God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven, and glory in the highest; the city began to inquire, saying, Who is this?10 stirring up its hardened and inveterate envy against the glory of the Lord. But when thou hearest me say the city, understand the ancient and disorderly multitude of the synagogue. They ungratefully and malignantly ask, Who is this? as if they had never yet seen their Benefactor, and Him whom divine miracles, beyond the power of man, had made famous and renowned; for the darkness comprehended not that unsetting light which shone in upon it. Hence quite appositely with respect to them hath the prophet Isaiah exclaimed, saying, Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. And who is blind, but my children? and deaf, but they that have the dominion over them?12 And the servants of the Lord have become blind; ye have often seen, but ye observed not; your ears are opened, yet ye hear not. See, beloved, how accurate are these words; how the Divine Spirit, who Himself sees beforehand into the future, has by His saints foretold of things future as if they were present. For these thankless men saw, and by means of His miracles handled the wonder-working God, and yet remained in unbelief. They saw a man, blind from his birth, proclaiming to them the God who had restored his sight. They saw a paralytic, who had grown up, as it were, and become one with his infirmity, at His bidding loosed from his disease.14 They saw Lazarus, who was made an exile from the region of death. They heard that He had walked on the sea.16 They heard of the wine that, without previous culture, was ministered; of the bread that was eaten at that spontaneous banquet;18 they heard that the demons had been put to flight; the sick restored to health. Their very streets proclaimed His deeds of wonder; their roads declared His healing power to those who journeyed on them. All Judea was filled with His benefit; yet now, when they hear the divine praises, they inquire, Who is this? O the madness of these falsely-named teachers! O incredulous fathers! O foolish seniors! O seed of the shameless Canaan, and not of Judah the devout!20 The children acknowledge their Creator, but their unbelieving parents said, Who is this? The age that was young and inexperienced sang praises to God, while they that had waxen old in wickedness inquired, Who is this? Sucklings praise His Divinity, while seniors utter blasphemies; children piously offer the sacrifice of praise, whilst profane priests are impiously indignant.

iv. O ye disobedient as regards the wisdom of the just, turn your hearts to your children. Learn the mysteries of God; the very thing itself which is being done bears witness that it is God that is thus hymned by uninstructed tongues. Search the Scriptures, as ye have heard2 from the Lord; for they are they which testify of Him, and be not ignorant of this miracle. Hear ye men without grace, and thankless, what good tidings the prophet Zechariah brings to you. He says, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; behold thy King cometh unto thee: just and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon the foal of an ass. Why do ye repel the joy? Why, when the sun shineth, do ye love darkness? Why do ye against unconquerable peace meditate war? If, therefore, ye be the sons of Zion, join in the dance together with your children. Let the religious service of your children be to you a pretext for joy. Learn from them who was their Teacher; who called them together; whence was the doctrine; what means this new theology and old prophecy. And if no man hath taught them this, but of their own accord they raise the hymn of praise, then recognise the work of God, even as it is written in the law: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou perfected praise.”4 Redouble, therefore, your joy, that you have been made the fathers of such children who, under the teaching of God, have celebrated with their praises things unknown to their seniors. Turn your hearts to your children, and close not your eyes against the truth. But if you remain the same, and hearing, hear not, and seeing, perceive not,6 and to no purpose dissent from your children, then shall they be your judges, according to the Saviour’s word. Well, therefore, even this thing also, together with others, has the prophet Isaiah spoken before of you, saying, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. But when they see their children doing my works, they shall for me sanctify My name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. They also that err in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn obedience, and the stammering tongues shall learn to speak peace.8 Seest thou, O foolish Jew, how from the beginning of his discourse, the prophet declares confusion to you because of your unbelief. Learn even from him how he proclaims the God-inspired hymn of praise that is raised by your children, even as the blessed David hath declared beforehand, saying, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou perfected praise. Either then,—as is right,—claim the piety of your children for your own, or devoutly give your children unto us. We with them will lead the dance, and to the new glory will sing in concert the divinely-inspired hymn.

v. Once, indeed, the aged Simeon met the Saviour, and received in his arms, as an infant, the Creator of the world, and proclaimed Him to be Lord and God; but now, in the place of foolish elders, children meet the Saviour, even as Simeon did, and instead of their arms, strew under Him the branches of trees, and bless the Lord God seated upon a colt, as upon the cherubim, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; and together with these let us also exclaim, Blessed is He that cometh, God the King of Glory, who, for our sakes, became poor, yet, in His own proper estate, being ignorant of poverty, that with His bounty He might make us rich. Blessed is He who once came in humility, and who will hereafter come again in glory: at the first, lowly, and seated upon an ass’s colt, and by infants extolled in order that it might be fulfilled which was written: Thy goings have been seen, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary; but at the second time seated on the clouds, in terrible majesty, by angels and powers attended. O the mellifluous tongue of the children! O the sincere doctrine of those who are well pleasing to God! David in prophecy hid the spirit under the letter; children, opening their treasures, brought forth riches upon their tongues, and, in language full of grace, invited clearly all men to enjoy them. Therefore let us with them draw forth the unfading riches. In our bosoms insatiate, and in treasure-houses which cannot be filled, let us lay up the divine gifts. Let us exclaim without ceasing, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Very God, in the name of the Very God, the Omnipotent from the Omnipotent, the Son in the name of the Father. The true King from the true King, whose kingdom, even as His who begat Him, is with eternity, coeval and pre-existent to it. For this is common to both; nor does the Scripture attribute this honour to the Son, as if it came from another source, nor as if it had a beginning, or could be added to or diminished—away with the thought!—but as that which is His of right by nature, and by a true and proper possession. For the kingdom of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is one, even as their substance is one and their dominion one. Whence also, with one and the same adoration, we worship the one Deity in three Persons, subsisting without beginning, uncreate, without end, and to which there is no successor. For neither will the Father ever cease to be the Father, nor again the Son to be the Son and King, nor the Holy Ghost to be what in substance and personality He is. For nothing of the Trinity will suffer diminution, either in respect of eternity, or of communion, or of sovereignty. For not on that account is the Son of God called king, because for our sakes He was made man, and in the flesh cast down the tyrant that was against us, having, by taking this upon Him, obtained the victory over its cruel enemy, but because He is always Lord and God; therefore it is that now, both after His assumption of the flesh and for ever, He remains a king, even as He who begat Him. Speak not, O heretic, against the kingdom of Christ, lest thou dishonour Him who begat Him. If thou art faithful, in faith approach Christ, our very God, and not as using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness. If thou art a servant, with trembling be subject unto thy Master; for he who fights against the Word is not a well-disposed servant, but a manifest enemy, as it is written: He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him.

vi. But let us, beloved, return in our discourse to that point whence we digressed, exclaiming, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: that good and kind Shepherd, voluntarily to lay down His life for His sheep. That just as hunters take by a sheep the wolves that devour sheep, even so the Chief Shepherd, offering Himself as man to the spiritual wolves and those who destroy the soul, may make His prey of the destroyers by means of that Adam who was once preyed on by them. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: God against the devil; not manifestly in His might, which cannot be looked on, but in the weakness of the flesh, to bind the strong man2 that is against us. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: the King against the tyrant; not with omnipotent power and wisdom, but with that which is accounted the foolishness of the cross, which hath reft his spoils from the serpent who is wise in wickedness. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: the True One against the liar; the Saviour against the destroyer; the Prince of Peace4 against him who stirs up wars; the Lover of mankind against the hater of mankind. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: the Lord to have mercy upon the creature of His hands. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: the Lord to save man who had wandered in error; to put away error; to give light to those who are in darkness; to abolish the imposture of idols; in its place to bring in the saving knowledge of God; to sanctify the world; to drive away the abomination and misery of the worship of false gods. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: the one for the many; to deliver the poor out of the hands of them that are too strong for him, yea, the poor and needy from him that spoileth him. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, to pour wine and oil upon him who had fallen amongst thieves,6 and had been passed by. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: to save us by Himself, as says the prophet; no ambassador, nor angel, but the Lord Himself saved us. Therefore we also bless Thee, O Lord; Thou with the Father and the Holy Spirit art blessed before the worlds and for ever. Before the world, indeed, and until now being devoid of body, but now and for ever henceforth possessed of that divine humanity which cannot be changed, and from which Thou art never divided.

vii. Let us look also at what follows. What says the most divine evangelist? When the Lord had entered into the temple, the blind and the lame came to Him; and He healed them. And when the chief priests and Pharisees saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, they brooked not this honour that was paid Him, and therefore they came to Him, and thus spake, Hearest Thou not what these say? As if they said, Art Thou not grieved at hearing from these innocents things which befit God, and God alone? Has not God of old made it manifest by the prophet, “My glory will I not give unto another;”9 and how dost Thou, being a man, make Thyself God? But what to this answers the long-suffering One, He who is abundant in mercy,11 and slow to wrath? He bears with these frenzied ones; with an apology He keeps their wrath in check; in His turn He calls the Scriptures to their remembrance; He brings forward testimony to what is done, and shrinks not from inquiry. Wherefore He says, Have ye never heard Me saying by the prophet, Then shall ye know that I am He that doth speak?13 nor again, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou perfected praise because of Thine enemies, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger? Which without doubt are ye, who give heed unto the law, and read the prophets, while yet ye despise Me who, both by the law and the prophets, have been beforehand proclaimed. Ye think, indeed, under a pretence of piety, to avenge the glory of God, not understanding that he that despiseth Me despiseth My Father also. I came forth from God, and am come into the world,2 and My glory is the glory of My Father also. Even thus these foolish ones, being convinced by our Saviour-God, ceased to answer Him again, the truth stopping their mouths; but adopting a new and foolish device, they took counsel against Him. But let us sing, Great is our Lord, and great is His power; and of His understanding there is no number. For all this was done that the Lamb and Son of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, might, of His own will, and for us, come to His saving Passion, and might be recognised, as it were, in the market and place of selling; and that those who bought Him might for thirty pieces of silver covenant for Him who, with His life-giving blood, was to redeem the world; and that Christ, our passover, might be sacrificed for us, in order that those who were sprinkled with His precious blood, and sealed on their lips, as the posts of the door,4 might escape from the darts of the destroyer; and that Christ having thus suffered in the flesh, and having risen again the third day, might, with equal honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be by all created things equally adored; for to Him every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, sending up glory to Him, for ever and ever. Amen.


The candid Dupin says that we owe this to Pere Combefis,7 on the authority of a ms. in the Royal Library of Paris. It appeared in Sir Henry Savile’s edition of Chrysostom ascribed to that Father. Dupin doubts as to parts of this homily, if not as to the whole. He adds, “The style of Methodius is Asiatic, diffuse, swelling, and abounding in epithet. His expressions are figurative, and the turn of his sentences artificial. He is full of similitudes and far-fetched allegories. His thoughts are mysterious, and he uses many words to say a few things.” His doctrine, apart from these faults, is sound, and free from some errors common to the ancients: such faults as I have frequently apologized for in Origen, whom Methodius so generally condemns.

Three Fragments from the Homily on the Cross and Passion of Christ.


Methodius, Bishop, to those who say: What doth it profit us that the Son of God was crucified upon earth, and made man? And wherefore did He endure to suffer in the manner of the cross, and not by some other punishment? And what was the advantage of the cross?

Christ, the Son of God, by the command of the Father, became conversant with the visible creature, in order that, by overturning the dominion of the tyrants, the demons, that is, He might deliver our souls from their dreadful bondage, by reason of which our whole nature, intoxicated by the draughts of iniquity, had become full of tumult and disorder, and could by no means return to the remembrance of good and useful things. Wherefore, also, it was the more easily carried away to idols, inasmuch as evil had overwhelmed it entirely, and had spread over all generations, on account of the change which had come over our fleshy tabernacles in consequence of disobedience; until Christ, the Lord, by the flesh in which He lived and appeared, weakened the force of Pleasure’s onslaughts, by means of which the infernal powers that were in arms against us reduced our minds to slavery, and freed mankind from all their evils. For with this end the Lord Jesus both wore our flesh, and became man, and by the divine dispensation was nailed to the cross; in order that by the flesh in which the demons had proudly and falsely feigned themselves gods, having carried our souls captive unto death by deceitful wiles, even by this they might be overturned, and discovered to be no gods. For he prevented their arrogance from raising itself higher, by becoming man; in order that by the body in which the race possessed of reason had become estranged from the worship of the true God, and had suffered injury, even by the same receiving into itself in an ineffable manner the Word of Wisdom, the enemy might be discovered to be the destroyers and not the benefactors of our souls. For it had not been wonderful if Christ, by the terror of His divinity, and the greatness of His invincible power, had reduced to weakness the adverse nature of the demons. But since this was to cause them greater grief and torment, for they would have preferred to be overcome by one stronger than themselves, therefore it was that by a man He procured the safety of the race; in order that men, after that very Life and Truth had entered into them in bodily form, might be able to return to the form and light of the Word, overcoming the power of the enticements of sin; and that the demons, being conquered by one weaker than they, and thus brought into contempt, might desist from their over-bold confidence, their hellish wrath being repressed. It was for this mainly that the cross was brought in, being erected as a trophy against iniquity, and a deterrent from it, that henceforth man might be no longer subject to wrath, after that he had made up for the defeat which, by his disobedience, he had received, and had lawfully conquered the infernal powers, and by the gift of God had been set free from every debt. Since, therefore, the first-born Word of God thus fortified the manhood in which He tabernacled with the armour of righteousness, He overcame, as has been said, the powers that enslaved us by the figure of the cross, and showed forth man, who had been oppressed by corruption, as by a tyrant power, to be free, with unfettered hands. For the cross, if you wish to define it, is the confirmation of the victory, the way by which God to man descended, the trophy against material spirits, the repulsion of death, the foundation of the ascent to the true day; and the ladder for those who are hastening to enjoy the light that is there, the engine by which those who are fitted for the edifice of the Church are raised up from below, like a stone four square, to be compacted on to the divine Word. Hence it is that our kings, perceiving that the figure of the cross is used for the dissipating of every evil, have made vexillas, as they are called in the Latin language. Hence the sea, yielding to this figure, makes itself navigable to men. For every creature, so to speak, has, for the sake of liberty, been marked with this sign; for the birds which fly aloft, form the figure of the cross by the expansion of their wings; and man himself, also, with his hands outstretched, represents the same. Hence, when the Lord had fashioned him in this form, in which He had from the beginning framed him, He joined on his body to the Deity, in order that it might be henceforth an instrument consecrated to God, freed from all discord and want of harmony. For man cannot, after that he has been formed for the worship of God, and hath sung, as it were, the incorruptible song of truth, and by this hath been made capable of holding the Deity, being fitted to the lyre of life as the chords and strings, he cannot, I say, return to discord and corruption.


the same methodius to those who are ashamed of the cross of christ.

Some think that God also, whom they measure with the measure of their own feelings, judges the same thing that wicked and foolish men judge to be subjects of praise and blame, and that He uses the opinions of men as His rule and measure, not taking into account the fact that, by reason of the ignorance that is in them, every creature falls short of the beauty of God. For He draws all things to life by His Word, from their universal substance and nature. For whether He would have good, He Himself is the Very Good, and remains in Himself; or, whether the beautiful is pleasing to Him, since He Himself is the Only Beautiful, He beholds Himself, holding in no estimation the things which move the admiration of men. That, verily, is to be accounted as in reality the most beautiful and praiseworthy, which God Himself esteems to be beautiful, even though it be contemned and despised by all else—not that which men fancy to be beautiful. Whence it is, that although by this figure He hath willed to deliver the soul from corrupt affections, to the signal putting to shame of the demons, we ought to receive it, and not to speak evil of it, as being that which was given us to deliver us, and set us free from the chains which for our disobedience we incurred. For the Word suffered, being in the flesh affixed to the cross, that He might bring man, who had been deceived by error, to His supreme and godlike majesty, restoring him to that divine life from which he had become alienated. By this figure, in truth, the passions are blunted; the passion of the passions having taken place by the Passion, and the death of death by the death of Christ, He not having been subdued by death, nor overcome by the pains of the Passion. For neither did the Passion cast Him down from His equanimity, nor did death hurt Him, but He was in the passible remaining impassible, and in the mortal remaining immortal, comprehending all that the air, and this middle state, and the heaven above contained, and attempering the mortal to the immortal divinity. Death was vanquished entirely; the flesh being crucified to draw forth its immortality.


the same methodius: how christ the son of god, in a brief and definite time, being enclosed by the body, and existing impassible, became obnoxious to the passion.

For since this virtue was in Him, now it is of the essence of power to be contracted in a small space, and to be diminished, and again to be expanded in a large space, and to be increased. But if it is possible for Him to be with the larger extended, and to be made equal, and yet not with the smaller to be contracted and diminished, then power is not in Him. For if you say that this is possible to power, and that impossible, you deny it to be power; as being infirm and incapable with regard to the things which it cannot do. Nor again, further, will it ever contain any excellence of divinity with respect to those things which suffer change. For both man and the other animals, with respect to those things which they can effect, energise; but with respect to those things which they cannot perform, are weak, and fade away. Wherefore for this cause the Son of God was in the manhood enclosed, because this was not impossible to Him. For with power He suffered, remaining impassible; and He died, bestowing the gift of immortality upon mortals. Since the body, when struck or cut by a body, is just so far struck or cut as the striker strikes it, or he that cuts it cut it. For according to the rebound of the thing struck, the blow reflects upon the striker, since it is necessary that the two must suffer equally, both the agent and the sufferer. If, in truth, that which is cut, from its small size, does not correspond to that which cuts it, it will not be able to cut it at all. For if the subject body does not resist the blow of the sword, but rather yields to it, the operation will be void of effect, even as one sees in the thin and subtle bodies of fire and air; for in such cases the impetus of the more solid bodies is relaxed, and remains without effect. But if fire, or air, or stone, or iron, or anything which men use against themselves for the purposes of mutual destruction—if it is not possible to pierce or divide these, because of the subtle nature which they possess, why should not rather Wisdom remain invulnerable and impassible, in nothing injured by anything, even though it were conjoined to the body which was pierced and transfixed with nails, inasmuch as it is purer and more excellent than any other nature, if you except only that of God who begat Him?

Some Other Fragments of the Same Methodius.


But, perhaps, since the friends of Job imagined that they understood the reason why he suffered such things, that just man, using a long speech to them, confesses that the wisdom of the divine judgment is incomprehensible, not only to him, but also to every man, and declares that this earthly region is not the fitting place for understanding the knowledge of the divine counsels. One might say, that perfect and absolute piety—a thing plainly divine, and of God alone given to man, is in this place called wisdom. But the sense of the words is as follows: God, he says, hath given great things unto men, sowing, as it were, in their nature the power of discovery, together with wisdom, and the faculty of art. And men having received this, dig metals out of the earth, and cultivate it; but that wisdom which is conjoined with piety, it is not possible in any place to discover. Man cannot obtain it from his own resources, nor can he give it unto others. Hence it was that the wise men of the Greeks, who in their own strength sought to search out piety, and the worship of the Deity, did not attain their end. For it is a thing, as we have said, which exceeds human strength, the gift and the grace of God; and therefore from the beginning, partly by visions, partly by the intervention of angels, partly by the discourses of the divinely-inspired prophets, God instructed man in the principles of true religion. Nay, moreover, that contemplative wisdom by which we are impelled to the arts, and to other pursuits, and with which we are all in common, just and unjust, alike endued, is the gift of God: if we have been made rational creatures, we have received this. Wherefore, also, in a former place it was said, as of a thing that is of God bestowed, “Is it not the Lord who teacheth understanding and knowledge? ”


Observe that the Lord was not wont from the begining to speak with man; but after that the soul was prepared, and exercised in many ways, and had ascended into the height by contemplation, so far as it is possible for human nature to ascend, then is it His wont to speak, and to reveal His Word unto those who have attained unto this elevation. But since the whirlwind is the producer of the tempests, and Job, in the tempest of his afflictions, had not made shipwreck of his faith, but his constancy shone forth the rather; therefore it was that He who gave him an answer answered him by the whirlwind, to signify the tempest of calamity which had befallen him; but, because He changed the stormy condition of his affairs into one of serene tranquillity, He spoke to him not only by the whirlwind, but in clouds also.


Many have descended into the deep, not so as to walk on it, but so as to be by its bonds restrained. Jesus alone walked on the deep, where there are no traces of walkers, as a free man. For He chose death, to which He was not subject, that He might deliver those who were the bondslaves of death; saying to the prisoners, “Go forth; and to them that are in darkness, show yourselves.” With which, also, the things which follow are consistent.


Seest thou how, at the end of the contest, with a loud proclamation he declares the praises of the combatant, and discovers that which was in his afflictions hidden. in the words: “Thinkest thou that I had else answered thee, but that thou shouldest appear just? ” This is the salve of his wounds, this the reward of his patience. For as to what followed, although he received double his former possessions, these may seem to have been given him by divine providence as small indeed, and for trifling causes, even though to some they may appear great.

fragment, uncertain.

Thou contendest with Me, and settest thyself against Me, and opposest those who combat for Me. But where weft thou when I made the world? What wert thou then? Hadst thou yet, says He, fallen from thy mother? for there was darkness, in the beginning of the world’s creation, He says, upon the face of the deep. Now this darkness was no created darkness, but one which of set purpose had place, by reason of the absence of light.


But Methodius: The Holy Spirit, who of God is given to all men, and of whom Solomon said, “For Thine incorruptible Spirit is in all things,” He receives for the conscience, which condemns the offending soul.


the same methodius.

I account it a greater good to be reproved than to reprove, inasmuch as it is more excellent to free oneself from evil than to free another.


the same methodius.

Human nature cannot clearly perceive pure justice in the soul, since, as to many of its thoughts, it is but dim-sighted.


the same methodius.

Wickedness never could recognise virtue or its own self.


the same methodius.

Justice, as it seems, is four square, on all sides equal and like.

The just judgment of God is accommodated to our affections; and such as our estate is, proportionate and similar shall the retribution be which is allotted us.



The beginning of every good action has its foundation in our wills, but the conclusion is of God.


Perhaps these three persons of our ancestors, being in an image the consubstantial representatives of humanity, are, as also Methodius thinks, types of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, the innocent and unbegotten Adam being the type and resemblance of God the Father Almighty, who is uncaused, and the cause of all; his begotten son6 shadowing forth the image of the begotten Son and Word of God; whilst Eve, that proceedeth forth from Adam, signifies the person and procession of the Holy Spirit.8


(Vexillas,—as they are called, p. 399.)

It is very curious to note how certain ideas are inherited from the earliest Fathers, and travel down, as here, to find a new expression in a distant age. Here our author reflects Justin Martyr, and the Labarum10 itself is the outcrop of what Justin wrote to Antoninus Pius.


[translated by archdeacon hamilton bryce, ll.d., d.c.l., and hugh campbell, m.a.]

Introductory Notice



[a.d. 297–303.] Arnobius appears before us, not as did the earlier apologists, but as a token that the great struggle was nearing its triumphant close. He is a witness that Minucius Felix and Tertullian had not preceded him in vain. He is a representative character, and stands forth boldly to avow convictions which were, doubtless, now struggling into light from the hearts of every reflecting pagan in the empire. In all probability it was the alarm occasioned by tokens that could not be suppressed—of a spreading and deepening sense of the nothingness of Polytheism—that stimulated the Œcumenical rage of Diocletian, and his frantic efforts to crush the Church, or, rather, to overwhelm it in a deluge of flame and blood.

In our author rises before us another contributor to Latin Christianity, which was still North-African in its literature, all but exclusively. He had learned of Tertullian and Cyprian what he was to impart to his brilliant pupil Lactantius. Thus the way was prepared for Augustine, by whom and in whom Latin Christianity was made distinctly Occidental, and prepared for the influence it has exerted, to this day, under the mighty prestiges of his single name.

And yet Arnobius, like Boethius afterwards, is much discredited, and has even been grudged the name of a Christian. Coleridge is one of the many who have disparaged Arnobius, but he always talked like an inspired madman, and often contradicted himself. Enough to say, that, emerging from gross heathenism in mature life, and forced to learn as he could what is now taught to Christian children, our author is a witness to the diffusion of truth in his day. He shows also such a faculty of assimilation, that, as a practical Christian, Coleridge himself does not shine in comparison; and if, as is probable, he closed his life in martyrdom, we may well be ashamed to deny him our gratitude and the tribute of our praise. Our author is an interesting painter of many features of paganism in conflict with the Church, which we gain from no one else. Economizing Clement of Alexandria, he advances to an assured position and form of assault. He persistently impeaches Jove himself in a daring confidence that men will feel his terrible charges to be true, and that the victory over heathenism is more than half gained already. I doubt not that, as a heathen, he was influenced by a dream to study Christianity. As a believer, he discarded dreams as vain. Converted late in life, we need not wonder at some tokens of imperfect knowledge; but, on the whole, he seems a well-informed disciple, and shows how thoroughly the catechumens were trained. But what does he prove? In short, he gives us a most fascinating insight into the mental processes by which he, and probably Constantine soon after him, came to the conclusion that heathenism was outworn and must disappear. He proves that the Church was salt that had not “lost its savour.” It is true, that, reasoning with pagans, he does not freely cite the Scriptures, which had no force with them; yet his references to the facts of Scripture show that he had studied them conscientiously, and could present the truths of the Gospel clearly and with power. Lardner has demonstrated this in a fair spirit and with conclusive evidence. Referring the reader to his admirable criticisms, I am glad to say that a full and satisfactory outline of his career is presented in the following:—


§ 1. Arnobius has been most unjustly neglected in modern times; but some excuse for this may be found in the fact that even less attention seems to have been paid to him in the ages immediately succeeding his own. We find no mention of him in any author except Jerome; and even Jerome has left only a few lines about him, which convey very little information.

In his list of ecclesiastical writers he says, “During the reign of Diocletian, Arnobius taught rhetoric with the greatest success, at Sicca, in Africa, and wrote against the heathen the books extant;” and again speaks of this work more particularly when he says,3 “Arnobius published seven books against the heathen.” In his Chronicon, however, he writes under the year 2342, “Arnobius is considered a distinguished rhetorician in Africa, who, while engaged at Sicca in teaching young men rhetoric, was led by visions to the faith; and not being received by the bishop as hitherto a persistent enemy to Christ, composed very excellent books against his former belief.” It must at once be seen that there is here a mistake, for Arnobius is put some twenty-three years later than in the former passage. Jerome himself shows us that the former date is the one he meant, for elsewhere5 he speaks of Lactantius as the disciple of Arnobius. Lactantius, in extreme old age, was appointed tutor of Constantine’s son Crispus; and this, we are told in the Chronicon, was in the year 317. No one will suppose that if the disciple was a very old man in 317, his master could have been in his prime in 326. It is certain, therefore, that this date is not correct; and it seems very probable that Oehler’s conjecture is true, who supposes that Jerome accidentally transposed his words from the year 303 to the place where we find them, misled by noticing the vicenalia of Constantine when he was looking for those of Diocletian.

It is with some difficulty that we can believe that Arnobius was led to embrace Christianity by dreams, as he speaks of these with little respect, —which he could hardly have done if by them the whole course of his life had been changed; but in our utter ignorance we cannot say that this may not have been to some extent the case. The further statement, that his apology for Christianity was submitted as a proof of his sincerity to the bishop of Sicca, is even less credible,—for these two reasons, that it is evidently the fruit not of a few weeks’ but of protracted labour, and that it is hardly likely that any bishop would have allowed some parts of it to pass into circulation. It is just possible that the first or third books may have been so presented; but it is not credible that any pledge would be required of a man seeking to cast in his lot with the persecuted and terrified Church referred to in the fourth.

§ 2. If we learn but little from external sources as to the life of Arnobius, we are not more fortunate when we turn to his own writings. One or two facts, however, are made clear; and these are of some importance. “But lately,” he says, “O blindness, I worshipped images just brought from the furnaces, gods made on anvils and forged with hammers: now, led by so great a teacher into the ways of truth, I know what all these things are.” We have thus his own assurance of his conversion from heathenism. He speaks of himself, however, as actually a Christian,—not as a waverer, not as one purposing to forsake the ancient superstitions and embrace the new religion, but as a firm believer, whose faith is already established, and whose side has been taken and stedfastly maintained. In a word, he refers to himself as once lost in error, but now a true Christian.

Again, in different passages he marks pretty accurately the time or times at which he wrote. Thus, in the first book he speaks of about three hundred years as the time during which Christianity had existed; and in the second,2 of a thousand and fifty, or not many less, having elapsed since the foundation of Rome. There has been much discussion as to what era is here referred to; and it has been pretty generally assumed that the Fabian must be intended,—in which case 303 would be the year meant. If it is observed, however, that Arnobius shows an intimate acquaintance with Varro, and great admiration for him, it will probably be admitted that it is most likely that the Varronian, or common, era was adopted by him; and in this case the year referred to will be 297 a.d. This coincides sufficiently with the passage in the first book, and is in harmony with the idea which is there predominant,—the thought, that is, of the accusation so frequently on the lips of the heathen, that Christianity was the cause of the many and terrible afflictions with which the empire was visited. These accusations, ever becoming more bitter and threatening, would naturally be observed with care and attention by thoughtful Christians towards the close of the third century; and accordingly we find that the words with which Arnobius begins his apology, express the feeling of awakening anxiety with which he viewed the growth of this fear and hatred in the minds of the heathen. He declares, in effect, that one great object—indeed the main object—which he had proposed to himself, was to show that it was not because of the Christians that fresh evils and terrible calamities were continually assailing the state. And it must be remembered that we cannot refer such a proposal to a later period than that assigned. It would certainly not have occurred to a Christian in the midst of persecution, with death overhanging him, and danger on every side, to come forward and attempt calmly to show the heathen that there was no reason for their complaints against the Christians. In the later books there is a change in tone, upon which we cannot now dwell, although it is marked. In one passage he asks indignantly, “Why should our writings be given to the flames, our meetings be cruelly broken up, in which prayer is offered to the supreme God, peace and pardon are asked for all in authority, for soldiers, kings, friends, enemies?” In the calm tranquillity of the last half of the third century these words could hardly have been written, but they are a striking testimony to the terms of the imperial edict issued in the year 303 a.d. So, too, the popular expression of anger and disgust at the anti-pagan character of some of Cicero’s works belongs to the incipient stages of persecution.

Nor must it be supposed that the whole work may be referred to the era which ensued after the abdication of Diocletian, in 305. From this time an apology for Christianity with such a design would have been an anachronism, for it was no longer necessary to disarm the fears of the heathen by showing that the gods could not be enraged at the Christians. It has further to be noticed, that although it is perfectly clear that Arnobius spent much time on his apology, it has never been thoroughly revised, and does not seem to have been ever finished.

We surely have in all this sufficient reason to assign the composition of these books adversus Genres to the end of the third and beginning of the fourth centuries. Beyond this we cannot go, for we have no data from which to derive further inferences.

§ 3. We have seen that the facts transmitted to us are very few and scanty indeed; but, few as they are, they suggest an interesting picture. Arnobius comes before us in Sicca; we are made spectators of two scenes of his life there, and the rest—the beginning and the end—are shrouded in darkness. Sicca Veneria was an important town, lying on the Numidian border, to the south-west of Carthage. As its name signifies, it was a seat of that vile worship of the goddess of lust, which was dear to the Phœnician race. The same cultus was found there which disgraced Corinth; and in the temple of the goddess the maidens of the town were wont to procure for themselves, by the sacrifice of their chastity, the dowries which the poverty of their parents could not provide.

In the midst of traditions of such bestial foulness Arnobius found himself,—whether as a native, or as one who had been led to settle there. He has told us himself how true an idolater he was, how thoroughly he complied with the ceremonial demands of superstition; but the frequency and the vehemence of language with which his abhorrence of the sensuality of heathenism is expressed, tell us as plainly that practices so horrible had much to do in preparing his mind to receive another faith.

In strong contrast to the filthy indulgences with which paganism gratified its adherents, must have appeared the strict purity of life which was enjoined by Christianity and aimed at by its followers; and perhaps it was in such a place as Sicca that considerations of this nature would have most influence. There, too. the story of Cyprian’s martyrdom must have been well known,—may indeed have been told in the nursery of the young Arnobius,—and many traditions must have been handed down about the persistency with which those of the new religion had held fast their faith, in spite of exile, torture, and death. However distorted such tales might be, there would always remain in them the evidence of so exalted nobility of spirit, that every disclosure of the meanness and baseness of the old superstition must have induced an uneasy feeling as to whether that could be impiety which ennobled men,—that piety which degraded them lower than the brutes.

For some time all went well with Arnobius. He was not too pure for the world, and his learning and eloquence won him fame and success in his profession. But in some way, we know not how, a higher learning was communicated to him, and the admired rhetorician became first a suspected, then a persecuted Christian. He has left us in no doubt as to the reason of the change. Upon his darkness, he says, there shone out a heavenly light, a great teacher appeared to him and pointed out the way of truth; and he who had been an earnest worshipper of images, of stones, of unknown gods, was now as earnest, as zealous in his service of the true God. Of the trials which he must have endured we know nothing. A terrible persecution swept over the world, and many a Christian perished in it. Such a man as Arnobius must have been among the first to be assailed, but we hear of him no more. With his learning and talents he could not have failed to make himself a name in the Church, or outside its pale, if he had lived. The conclusion seems inevitable, that he was one of the victims of that last fiery trial to which Christians under the Roman empire were exposed.

§ 4. The vast range of learning shown in this apology has been admitted on all sides. Even Jerome says that it should at times be read on account of the learning displayed in it. In another passage Jerome says,3 “Arnobius is unequal and prolix, confused from want of arrangement.” This may be admitted to a certain extent; but although such defects are to be found in his work, they are certainly not characteristic of Arnobius. So, too, many passages may be found strangely involved and mystical, and it is at times hard to understand what is really meant. Solecisms and barbarisms are also met with, as Nourry has objected, so that it cannot be said that Arnobius writes pure Latin. Still we must not be misled into supposing that by enumerating these defects we have a fair idea of his style.

If we remember that no man can wholly escape the influences of his age, and that Arnobius was so warm an admirer of Varro and Lucretius that he imitated their style and adopted their vocabulary, we shall be able to understand in what way he may be fairly spoken of as a good writer, although not free from defects. His style is, in point of fact, clear and lucid, rising at times into genuine eloquence; and its obscurity and harshness are generally caused by an attempt to express a vague and indefinite idea. Indeed very considerable power of expression is manifested in the philosophical reasonings of the second book, the keen satire of the fourth and fifth, and the vigorous argument of the sixth and seventh.

Jerome’s last stricture is scarcely applicable. Arnobius wrote adversus Gentes; he addressed himself to meet the taunts and accusations of the heathen, and in so doing he retorts upon them the charges which they preferred against the Christians. His work must therefore be criticised from this standpoint, not as a systematic exposition or vindication of Christianity. Christianity is indeed defended, but it is by attacking heathenism. We must consider, also, that evidently the work was not revised as a whole, and that the last book would have been considerably altered had Arnobius lived or found opportunity to correct it. If we remember these things, we shall find little to object to in the arrangement.

After making all deductions, it may be said fairly that in Arnobius the African Church found no unfitting champion. Living amidst impurity and corruption, and seeing on every side the effects of a superstitious and sensual faith, he stands forward to proclaim that man has a nobler ideal set before him than the worship of the foul imaginations of his depraved fancy, to call his fellows to a purer life, and to point out that the Leader who claims that men should follow Him is both worthy and able to guide. This he does with enthusiasm, vigour, and effect; and in doing this he accomplishes his end.

§ 5. Various opinions have been entertained as to the position which Arnobius occupied with regard to the Bible. We cannot here enter into a discussion of these, and shall merely present a brief statement of facts.

It is evident that with regard to the Jews and the Old Testament Arnobius was in a state of perfect ignorance; for he confounds the Sadducees with the Pharisees, makes no allusion to the history of the Israelites, and shows that he was not acquainted with their forms of sacrifice.3

He was evidently well acquainted with the life of Christ and the history of the Church, and alludes at times to well-known Christian sayings; but how far in so doing he quotes the Gospels and Epistles, is not easily determined. Thus it has been supposed, and with some probability, that in referring to the miracles of Christ he must allude to the Gospels as recording them. But it must be observed that he ascribes to Christ a miracle of which the New Testament makes no mention,—of being understood by men of different nations, as though He spoke in several languages at the same moment. So, too, his account5 of the passion differs from that of the New Testament. On the other hand, we find that he speaks of Christ as having taught men “not to return evil for evil,” as “the way of salvation, the door of life, by whom alone there is access to the light,” and as having been seen by “countless numbers of men” after His resurrection.8 Still further, he makes frequent references to accounts of Christ written by the apostles and handed down to their followers, and asks why their writings should be burned.10 In one place, also, he asks, “Have the well-known words never rung in your ears, that the wisdom of man is foolishness with God?” where the reference seems to be very distinct;12 but he nowhere says that he is quoting, or mentions any books.

This is, however, less remarkable when we take into account his mode of dealing with Clemens Alexandrinus and Cicero. The fourth, fifth, and sixth books are based on these two authors, and from Clement, in particular, whole sentences are taken unchanged. Yet the only reference made to either is the very general allusion in the third and fourth books.2

On the other hand, he quotes frequently and refers distinctly to many authors, and is especially careful to show that he has good authority for his statements, as will be seen by observing the number of books to which he refers on the mysteries and temples. If we bear this in mind, the principle which guided him seems to have been, that when he has occasion to quote an author once or twice, he does so by name, but that he takes it for granted that every one knows what are the great sources of information, and that it is therefore unnecessary to specify in each case what is the particular authority.

There are many interesting questions connected with his subject, but these we must for the present leave untouched.

§ 6. No other works by Arnobius have been preserved, and only two mss. are known to exist. Of these, the one in Brussels is merely a transcript of that preserved in the public library at Paris, on which all editions have been based. This is a ms. of the ninth or tenth century, and contains the Octavius of Minucius Felix immediately after the seventh book adversus Gentes, in consequence of which that treatise was at first printed as the eighth book of Arnobius. Although it has been collated several times, we are still in doubt as to its true readings,—Hildebrand, who last examined it, having done so with too little care.

The first edition was printed at Rome in 1542, and was followed by that of Gelenius,4 in which much was done for the emendation of the text; but arbitrary conjectures were too frequently admitted. Next in order follow those of Canterus, who did especial service by pointing out what use Arnobius has made of Clement, Ursinus,6 Elmenhorst, Stewechius,8 Heraldus, and the Leyden10
variorum edition, based on a recension of the text by Salmasius. The later editions are those of Oberthür,12 whose text is adopted by Orelli, Hildebrand,14 and Oehler. Oberthür’s edition is of little importance, and that of Orelli is valuable solely as a collection of notes gathered from many sources into a crude and undigested mass. Hildebrand seems to have taken too little pains with his work; and Oehler, whose critical sagacity and industry might have given us a most satisfactory edition, was unfortunately hampered by want of space.

No edition of Arnobius has been published in England; and the one Englishman who has taken any pains with this author seems to be John Jones, who, under the pseudonym of Leander de St. Martino, prepared summaries, which were added to a reprint of Stewechius at Douay, 1634. As this edition has not come into our hands, we are unable to speak of it more particularly.

§ 7. It will be observed that adversus Genres is the title of this work in all editions except those of Hildebrand and Oehler, in which it is adversus Nationes. The difference is very slight, but it may be well to mention that neither can be said with certainty to be correct. The first is the form used by Jerome in two passages of his writings; and as he must have seen earlier mss. than that now extant, he is supposed to give the title which he found in them. In the Paris ms., however, at the end of the second book, the subscription is, “The second book of Arnobius adversus Nationes ends;” and it has been argued that, as the copyist would hardly have gone so far astray, while it is quite possible that Jerome did not attempt to do more than indicate generally the purpose of the book without quoting its titlepage, this must be the true title. The first page of the existing ms. is torn away, and the question remains therefore undecided: fortunately its decision is not of the slightest importance.

§ 8. This translation of Arnobius was begun in the hope that it would be possible to adhere throughout to the text of Orelli, and that very little attention to the various readings would be found necessary. This was, however, found to be impossible, not merely because Hildebrand’s collation of the Pads ms. showed how frequently liberties had been taken with the text, but on account of the corrupt state of the text itself.

It has therefore been thought advisable to lay before the reader a close translation founded on the ms., so far as known. A conjectural reading has in no case been adopted without notice.

Throughout the Work use has been made of four editions,—Oehler’s, Oreilli’s, Hildebrand’s, and that of Leyden; other editions being consulted only for special reasons.

It is to be regretted that our knowledge of the single ms. of Arnobius is still incomplete; but it is hoped that this will soon be remedied, by the publication of a revised text, based upon a fresh collation of the ms., with a complete apparatus and a carefully digested body of notes.


(adversus gentes.)


1. Since I have found some who deem themselves very wise in their opinions, acting as if they were inspired, and announcing with all the authority of an oracle,2 that from the time when the Christian people began to exist in the world the universe has gone to ruin, that the human race has been visited with ills of many kinds, that even the very gods, abandoning their accustomed charge, in virtue of which they were wont in former days to regard with interest our affairs, have been driven from the regions of earth,—I have resolved, so far as my capacity and my humble power of language will allow, to oppose public prejudice, and to refute calumnious accusations; lest, on the one hand, those persons should imagine that they are declaring some weighty matter, when they are merely retailing vulgar rumours; and on the other, lest, if we refrain from such a contest, they should suppose that they have gained a cause, lost by its own inherent demerits, not abandoned by the silence of its advocates. For I should not deny that charge is a most serious one, and that we fully deserve the hatred attaching to public enemies,4 if it should appear that to us are attributable causes by reason of which the universe has deviated from its laws, the gods have been driven far away, and such swarms of miseries have been inflicted on the generations of men.

2. Let us therefore examine carefully the real significance of that opinion, and what is the nature of the allegation; and laying aside all desire for wrangling, by which the calm view of subjects is wont to be dimmed, and even intercepted, let us test, by fairly balancing the considerations on both sides, whether that which is alleged be true. For it will assuredly be proved by an array of convincing arguments, not that we are discovered to be more impious, but that they themselves are convicted of that charge who profess to be worshippers of the deities, and devotees of an antiquated superstition. And, in the first place, we ask this of them in friendly and calm language: Since the name of the Christian religion began to be used on the earth, what phenomenon, unseen before, unheard of before, what event contrary to the laws established in the beginning, has the so-called “Nature of Things” felt or suffered? Have these first elements, from which it is agreed that all things were compacted, been altered into elements of an opposite character? Has the fabric of this machine and mass of the universe, by which we are all covered, and in which we are held enclosed, relaxed in any part, or broken up? Has the revolution of the globe, to which we are accustomed, departing from the rate of its primal motion, begun either to move too slowly, or to be hurried onward in headlong rotation? Have the stars begun to rise in the west, and the setting of the constellations to take place in the east? Has the sun himself, the chief of the heavenly bodies, with whose light all things are clothed, and by whose heat all things are vivified, blazed forth with increased vehemence? has he become less warm, and has he altered for the worse into opposite conditions that well-regulated temperature by which he is wont to act upon the earth? Has the moon ceased to shape herself anew, and to change into former phases by the constant recurrence of fresh ones? Has the cold of winter, has the heat of summer, has the moderate warmth of spring and autumn, been modified by reason of the intermixture of ill-assorted seasons? Has the winter begun to have long days? has the night begun to recall the very tardy twilights of summer? Have the winds at all exhausted their violence? Is the sky not collected into clouds by reason of the blasts having lost their force, and do the fields when moistened by the showers not prosper? Does the earth refuse to receive the seed committed to it, or will not the trees assume their foliage? Has the flavour of excellent fruits altered, or has the vine changed in its juice? Is foul blood pressed forth from the olive berries, and is oil no longer supplied to the lamp, now extinguished? Have animals of the land and of the sea no sexual desires, and do they not conceive young? Do they not guard, according to their own habits and their own instinct, the offspring generated in their wombs? In fine, do men themselves, whom an active energy with its first impulses has scattered over habitable lands, not form marriages with due rites? Do they not beget dear children? do they not attend to public, to individual, and to family concerns? Do they not apply their talents as each one pleases, to varied occupations, to different kinds of learning? and do they not reap the fruit of diligent application? Do those to whom it has been so allotted, not exercise kingly power or military authority? Are men not every day advanced in posts of honour, in offices of power? Do they not preside in the discussions of the law courts? Do they not explain the code of law? do they not expound the principles of equity? All other things with which the life of man is surrounded, in which it consists, do not all men in their own tribes practise, according to the established order of their country’s manners?

3. Since this is so, and since no strange influence has suddenly manifested itself to break the continuous course of events by interrupting their succession, what is the ground of the allegation, that a plague was brought upon the earth after the Christian religion came into the world, and after it revealed the mysteries of hidden truth? But pestilences, say my opponents, and droughts, wars, famines, locusts, mice, and hailstones, and other hurtful things, by which the property of men is assailed, the gods bring upon us, incensed as they are by your wrong-doings and by your transgressions. If it were not a mark of stupidity to linger on matters which are already clear, and which require no defence, I should certainly show, by unfolding the history of past ages, that those ills which you speak of were not unknown, were not sudden in their visitation; and that the plagues did not burst upon us, and the affairs of men begin to be attacked by a variety of dangers, from the time that our sect won the honour3 of this appellation. For if we are to blame, and if these plagues have been devised against our sin, whence did antiquity know these names for misfortunes? Whence did she give a designation to wars? By what conception could she indicate pestilence and hailstorms, or how could she introduce these terms among her words, by which speech was rendered plain? For if these ills are entirely new, and if they derive their origin from recent transgressions, how could it be that the ancients coined terms for these things, which, on the one hand, they knew that they themselves had never experienced, and which, on the other, they had not heard of as occurring in the time of their ancestors? Scarcity of produce, say my opponents, and short supplies of grain, press more heavily on us. For, I would ask, were the former generations, even the most ancient, at any period wholly free from such an inevitable calamity? Do not the very words by which these ills are characterized bear evidence and proclaim loudly that no mortal ever escaped from them with entire immunity? But if the matter were difficult of belief, we might urge, on the testimony of authors, how great nations, and what individual nations, and how often such nations experienced dreadful famine, and perished by accumulated devastation. Very many hailstorms fall upon and assail all things. For do we not find it contained and deliberately stated in ancient literature, that even showers of stones often ruined entire districts? Violent rains cause the crops to perish, and proclaim barrenness to countries:—were the ancients, indeed, free from these ills, when we have known of5 mighty rivers even being dried up, and the mud of their channels parched? The contagious influences of pestilence consume the human race:—ransack the records of history written in various languages, and you will find that all countries have often been desolated and deprived of their inhabitants. Every kind of crop is consumed, and devoured by locusts and by mice:—go through your own annals, and you will be taught by these plagues how often former ages were visited by them, and how often they were brought to the wretchedness of poverty. Cities shaken by powerful earthquakes totter to their destruction:—what! did not bygone days witness cities with their populations engulphed by huge rents of the earth? or did they enjoy a condition exempt from such disasters?

4. When was the human race destroyed by a flood? was it not before us? When was the world set on fire, and reduced to coals and ashes? was it not before us? When were the greatest cities engulphed in the billows of the sea? was it not before us? When were wars waged with wild beasts, and battles fought with lions?3 was it not before us? When was ruin brought on whole communities by poisonous serpents? was it not before us? For, inasmuch as you are wont to lay to our blame the cause of frequent wars, the devastation of cities, the irruptions of the Germans and the Scythians, allow me, with your leave, to say,—In your eagerness to calumniate us, you do not perceive the real nature of that which is alleged.

5. Did we bring it about, that ten thousand years ago a vast number of men burst forth from the island which is called the Atlantis of Neptune, as Plato tells us, and utterly ruined and blotted out countless tribes? Did this form a prejudice against us, that between the Assyrians and Bactrians, under the leadership of Ninus and Zoroaster of old, a struggle was maintained not only by the sword and by physical power, but also by magicians, and by the mysterious learning of the Chaldeans? Is it to be laid to the charge of our religion, that Helen was carried off under the guidance and at the instigation of the gods, and that she became a direful destiny to her own and to after times? Was it because of our name, that mad-cap Xerxes let the ocean in upon the land, and that he marched over the sea on foot? Did we produce and stir into action the causes, by reason of which one youth, starting from Macedonia, subjected the kingdoms and peoples of the East to captivity and to bondage? Did we, forsooth, urge the deities into frenzy, so that the Romans lately, like some swollen torrent, overthrew all nations, and swept them beneath the flood? But if there is no man who would dare to attribute to our times those things which took place long ago, how can we be the causes of the present misfortunes, when nothing new is occurring, but all things are old, and were unknown to none of the ancients?

6. Although you allege that those wars which you speak of were excited through hatred of our religion, it would not be difficult to prove, that after the name of Christ was heard in the world, not only were they not increased, but they were even in great measure diminished by the restraining of furious passions. For since we, a numerous band of men as we are, have learned from His teaching and His laws that evil ought not to be requited with evil, that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another, an ungrateful world is now for a long period enjoying a benefit from Christ, inasmuch as by His means the rage of savage ferocity has been softened, and has begun to withhold hostile hands from the blood of a fellow-creature. But if all without exception, who feel that they are men not in form of body but in power of reason, would lend an ear for a little to His salutary and peaceful rules, and would not, in the pride and arrogance of enlightenment, trust to their own senses rather than to His admonitions, the whole world, having turned the use of steel into more peaceful occupations, would now be living in the most placid tranquillity, and would unite in blessed harmony, maintaining inviolate the sanctity of treaties.

7. But if, say my opponents, no damage is done to human affairs by you, whence arise those evils by which wretched mortals are now oppressed and overwhelmed? You ask of me a decided statement, which is by no means necessary to this cause. For no immediate and prepared discussion regarding it has been undertaken by me, for the purpose of showing or proving from what causes and for what reasons each event took place; but in order to demonstrate that the reproaches of so grave a charge are far removed from our door. And if I prove this, if by examples and8 by powerful arguments the truth of the matter is made clear, I care not whence these evils come, or from what sources and first beginnings they flow.

8. And yet, that I may not seem to have no opinion on subjects of this kind, that I may not appear when asked to have nothing to offer, I may say, What if the primal matter which has been diffused through the four elements of the universe, contains the causes of all miseries inherent in its own constitution? What if the movements of the heavenly bodies produce these evils in certain signs, regions, seasons, and tracts, and impose upon things placed under them the necessity of various dangers? What if, at stated intervals, changes take place in the universe, and, as in the tides of the sea, prosperity at one time flows, at another time ebbs, evils alternating with it? What if those impurities of matter which we tread trader our feet have this condition imposed upon them, that they give forth the most noxious exhalations, by means of which this our atmosphere is corrupted, and brings pestilence on our bodies, and weakens the human race? What if—and this seems nearest the truth—whatever appears to us adverse, is in reality not an evil to the world itself? And what if, measuring by our own advantages all things which take place, we blame the results of nature through ill-formed judgments? Plato, that sublime head and pillar of philosophers, has declared in his writings, that those cruel floods and those conflagrations of the I world are a purification of the earth; nor did that wise man dread to call the overthrow of the human race, its destruction, ruin, and death, a renewal of things, and to affirm that a youthfulness, as it were, was secured by this renewed strength.

9. It rains not from heaven, my opponent says, and we are in distress from some extraordinary deficiency of grain crops. What then, do you demand that the elements should be the slaves of your wants? and that you may be able to live more softly and more delicately, ought the compliant seasons to minister to your convenience? What if, in this way, one who is intent on voyaging complains that now for a long time there are no winds, and that the blasts of heaven have for ever lulled? Is it therefore to be said that peacefulness of the universe is pernicious, because it interferes with the wishes of traders? What if one, accustomed to bask himself in the sun, and thus to acquire dryness of body, similarly complains that by the clouds the pleasure of serene weather is taken away? Should the clouds, therefore, be said to hang over with an injurious veil, because idle lust is not permitted to scorch itself in the burning heat, and to devise excuses for drinking? All these events which are brought to pass, and which happen under this mass of the universe, are not to be regarded as sent for our petty advantages, but as consistent with the plans and arrangements of Nature herself.

10. And if anything happens which does not foster ourselves or our affairs with joyous success, it is not to be set down forthwith as an evil, and as a pernicious thing. The world rains or does not rain: for itself it rains or does not rain; and, though you perhaps are ignorant of it, it either diminishes excessive moisture by a burning drought, or by the outpouring of rain moderates the dryness extending over a very long period. It raises pestilences, diseases, famines, and other baneful forms of plagues: how can you tell whether it does not thus remove that which is in excess, and whether, through loss to themselves, it does not fix a limit to things prone to luxuriance?

11. Would you venture to say that, in this universe, this thing or the other thing is an evil, whose origin and cause you are unable to explain and to analyze? And because it interferes with your lawful, perhaps even your unlawful pleasures, would you say that it is pernicious and adverse? What, then, because cold is disagreeable to your members, and is wont to chill3 the warmth of your blood, ought not winter on that account to exist in the world? And because you are unable to endure the hottest rays of the sun, is summer to be removed from the year, and a different course of nature to be instituted under different laws? Hellebore is poison to men; should it therefore not grow? The wolf lies in wait by the sheepfolds; is nature at all in fault, because she has produced a beast most dangerous to sheep? The serpent by his bite takes away life; a reproach, forsooth, to creation, because it has added to animals monsters so cruel.

12. It is rather presumptuous, when you are not your own master, even when yon are the property of another, to dictate terms to those more powerful; to wish that should happen which you desire, not that which you have found fixed in things by their original constitution. Wherefore, if you wish that your complaints should have a basis, you must first inform us whence you are, or who you are; whether the world was created and fashioned for you, or whether you came into it as sojourners from other regions. And since it is not in your power to say or to explain for what purpose you live beneath this vault of heaven, cease to believe that anything belongs to you; since those things which take place are not brought about in favour of a part, but have regard to the interest of the whole.

13. Because of the Christians, my opponents say, the gods inflict upon us all calamities, and ruin is brought on our crops by the heavenly deities. I ask, when you say these things, do you not see that you are accusing us with bare-faced effrontery, with palpable and clearly proved falsehoods? It is almost three hundred years —something less or more—since we Christians2 began to exist, and to be taken account of in the world. During all these years, have wars been incessant, has there been a yearly failure of the crops, has there been no peace on earth, has there been no season of cheapness and abundance of all things? For this must first be proved by him who accuses us, that these calamities have been endless and incessant, that men have never had a breathing time at all, and that without any relaxation they have undergone dangers of many forms.

14. And yet do we not see that, in these years and seasons that have intervened, victories innumerable have been gained from the conquered enemy,—that the boundaries of the empire have been extended, and that nations whose names we had not previously heard, have been brought under our power,—that very often there have been the most plentiful yields of grain, seasons of cheapness, and such abundance of commodities, that all commerce was paralyzed, being prostrated by the standard of prices? For in what manner could affairs be carried on, and how could the human race have existed even to this time, had not the productiveness of nature continued to supply all things which use demanded?

15. Sometimes, however, there were seasons of scarcity; yet they were relieved by times of plenty. Again, certain wars were carried on contrary to our wishes. But they were afterwards compensated by victories and successes. What shall we say, then?—that the gods at one time bore in mind our acts of wrong-doing, at another time again forgot them? If, when there is a famine, the gods are said to be enraged at us, it follows that in time of plenty they are not wroth, and ill-to-be-appeased; and so the matter comes to this, that they both lay aside and resume anger with sportive whim, and always renew their wrath afresh by the recollection of the causes of offence.

16. Yet one cannot discover by any rational process of reasoning, what is the meaning of these statements. If the gods willed that the Alemanni and the Persians should be overcome because Christians dwelt among their tribes, how did they grant victory to the Romans when Christians dwelt among their peoples also? If they willed that mice and locusts should swarm forth in prodigious numbers in Asia and in Syria because Christians dwelt among their tribes too, why was there at the same time no such phenomenon in Spain and in Gaul, although innumerable Christians lived in those provinces also?7 If among the Gætuli and the Tinguitani they sent dryness and aridity on the crops on account of this circumstance, why did they in that very year give the most bountiful harvest to the Moors and to the Nomads, when a similar religion had its abode in these regions as well? If in any one state whatever they have caused many to die with hunger, through disgust at our name, why have they in the same state made wealthier, ay, very rich, by the high price of corn, not only men not of our booty, but even Christians themselves? Accordingly, either all should have had no blessing if we are the cause of the evils, for we are in all nations; or when you see blessings mixed with misfortunes, cease to attribute to us that which damages your interests, when we in no respect interfere with your blessings and prosperity. For if I cause it to be ill with you, why do I not prevent it from being well with you? If my name is the cause of a great dearth, why am I powerless to prevent the greatest productiveness? If I am said to bring the ill luck of a wound being received in war, why, when the enemy are slain, am I not an evil augury; and why am I not set forth against good hopes, through the ill luck of a bad omen?

17. And yet, O ye great worshippers and priests of the deities, why, as you assert that those most holy gods are enraged at Christian communities, do you not likewise perceive, do you not see what base feelings, what unseemly frenzies, you attribute to your deities? For, to be angry, what else is it than to be insane, to rave, to be urged to the lust of vengeance, and to revel in the troubles of another’s grief, through the madness of a savage disposition? Your great gods, then, know, are subject to and feel that which wild beasts, which monstrous brutes experience, which the deadly plant natrix contains in its poisoned roots. That nature which is superior to others, and which is based on the firm foundation of unwavering virtue, experiences, as you allege, the instability which is in man, the faults which are in the animals of earth. And what therefore follows of necessity, but that from their eyes flashes dart, flames burst forth, a panting breast emits a hurried breathing from their mouth, and by reason of their burning words their parched lips become pale?

18. But if this that you say is true,—if it has been tested and thoroughly ascertained both that the gods boil with rage, and that an impulse of this kind agitates the divinities with excitement, on the one hand they are not immortal, and on the other they are not to be reckoned as at all partaking of divinity. For wherever, as the philosophers hold, there is any agitation, there of necessity passion must exist. Where passion is situated, it is reasonable that mental excitement follow. Where there is mental excitement, there grief and sorrow exist. Where grief and sorrow exist, there is already room for weakening and decay; and if these two harass them, extinction is at hand, viz. death, which ends all things, and takes away life from every sentient being.

19. Moreover, in this way you represent them as not only unstable and excitable, but, what all agree is far removed from the character of deity, as unfair in their dealings, as wrong-doers, and, in fine, as possessing positively no amount of even moderate fairness. For what is a greater wrong than to be angry with some, and to injure others, to complain of human beings, and to ravage the harmless corn crops, to hate the Christian name, and to ruin the worshippers of Christ with every kind of loss?

20. Do they on this account wreak their wrath on you too, in order that, roused by your own private wounds, you may rise up for their vengeance? It seems, then, that the gods seek the help of mortals; and were they not protected by your strenuous advocacy, they are not able of themselves to repel and to avenge2 the insults offered them. Nay rather, if it be true that they burn with anger, give them an opportunity of defending themselves, and let them put forth and make trial of their innate powers, to take vengeance for their offended dignity. By heat, by hurtful cold, by noxious winds, by the most occult diseases, they can slay us, they can consume us, and they can drive us entirely from all intercourse with men; or if it is impolitic to assail us by violence, let them give forth some token of their indignation,4 by which it may be clear to all that we live under heaven subject to their strong displeasure.

21. To you let them give good health, to us bad, ay, the very worst. Let them water your farms with seasonable showers; from our little fields let them drive away all those rains which are gentle. Let them see to it that your sheep are multiplied by a numerous progeny; on our flocks let them bring luckless barrenness. From your olive-trees and vineyards let them bring the full harvest; but let them see to it that from not one shoot of ours one drop be expressed. Finally, and as their worst, let them give orders that in your mouth the products of the earth retain their natural qualities; but, on the contrary that in ours the honey become bitter, the flowing oil grow rancid, and that the wine when sipped, be in the very lips suddenly changed into disappointing vinegar.

22. And since facts themselves testify that this result never occurs, and since it is plain that to us no less share of the bounties of life accrues, and to you no greater, what inordinate desire is there to assert that the gods are unfavourable, nay, inimical to the Christians, who, in the greatest adversity, just as in prosperity, differ from you in no respect? If you allow the truth to be told you, and that, too, without reserve, these allegations are but words,—words, I say; nay, matters believed on calumnious reports not proved by any certain evidence.

23. But the true gods, and those who are worthy to have and to wear the dignity of this name, neither conceive anger nor indulge a grudge, nor do they contrive by insidious devices what may be hurtful to another party. For verily it is profane, and surpasses all acts of sacrilege, to believe that wise and most blessed nature is uplifted in mind if one prostrates himself before it in humble adoration; and if this adoration be not paid, that it deems itself despised, and regards itself as fallen from the pinnacle of its glory. It is childish, weak, and petty, and scarcely becoming for those whom the experience of learned men has for a long time called demigods and heroes,6 not to be versed in heavenly things, and, divesting themselves of their own proper state, to be busied with the coarser matter of earth.

24. These are your ideas, these are your sentiments, impiously conceived, and more impiously believed. Nay, rather, to speak out more truly, the augurs, the dream interpreters, the soothsayers, the prophets, and the priestlings, ever vain, have devised these fables; for they, fearing that their own arts be brought to nought, and that they may extort but scanty contributions from the devotees, now few and infrequent, whenever they have found you to be willing that their craft should come into disrepute, cry aloud, The gods are neglected, and in the temples there is now a very thin attendance. Former ceremonies are exposed to derision, and the time-honoured rites of institutions once sacred have sunk before the superstitions of new religions. Justly is the human race afflicted by so many pressing calamities, justly is it racked by the hardships of so many toils. And men—a senseless race—being unable, from their inborn blindness, to see even that which is placed in open light, dare to assert in their frenzy what you in your sane mind do not blush to believe.

25. And lest any one should suppose that we, through distrust in our reply, invest the gods with the gifts of serenity, that we assign to them minds free from resentment, and far removed from all excitement, let us allow, since it is pleasing to you, that they put forth their passion upon us, that they thirst for our blood, and that now for a long time they are eager to remove us from the generations of men. But if it is not troublesome to you, if it is not offensive, if it is a matter of common duty to discuss the points of this argument not on grounds of partiality, but on those of truth, we demand to hear from you what is the explanation of this, what the cause, why, on the one hand, the gods exercise cruelty on us alone, and why, on the other, men burn against us with exasperation. You follow, our opponents say, profane religious systems, and you practise rites unheard of throughout the entire world. What do you, O men, endowed with reason, dare to assert? What do you dare to prate of? What do you try to bring forward in the recklessness of unguarded speech? To adore God as the highest existence, as the Lord of all things that be, as occupying the highest place among all exalted ones, to pray to Him with respectful submission in our distresses, to cling to Him with all our senses, so to speak, to love Him, to look up to Him with faith,—is this an execrable and unhallowed religion, full of impiety and of sacrilege, polluting by the superstition of its own novelty ceremonies instituted of old?

26. Is this, I pray, that daring and heinous iniquity on account of which the mighty powers of heaven whet against us the stings of passionate indignation, on account of which you yourselves, whenever the savage desire has seized you, spoil us of our goods, drive us from the homes of our fathers, inflict upon us capital punishment, torture, mangle, barn us, and at the last expose us to wild beasts, and give us to be torn by monsters? Whosoever condemns that in us, or considers that it should be laid against us as a charge, is he deserving either to be called by the name of man, though he seem so to himself? or is he to be believed a god, although he declare himself to be so by the mouth of a thousand prophets? Does Trophonius,3 or Jupiter of Dodona, pronounce us to be wicked? And will he himself be called god, and be reckoned among the number of the deities, who either fixes the charge of impiety on those who serve the King Supreme, or is racked with envy because His majesty and His worship are preferred to his own?

Is Apollo whether called Delian or Clarian, Didymean, Philesian, or Pythian, to be reckoned divine, who either knows not the Supreme Ruler, or who is not aware that He is entreated by us in daily prayers? And although he knew not the secrets of our hearts, and though he did not discover what we hold in our inmost thoughts, yet he might either know by his ear, or might perceive by the very tone of voice which we use in prayer, that we invoke God Supreme, and that we beg from Him what we require.

27. This is not the place to examine all our traducers, who they are, or whence they are, what is their power, what their knowledge, why they tremble at the mention of Christ, why they regard his disciples as enemies and as hateful persons; but with regard to ourselves to state expressly to those who will exercise common reason, in terms applicable to all of us alike,—We Christians are nothing else than worshippers of the Supreme King and Head, under our Master, Christ. If you examine carefully, you will find that nothing else is implied in that religion. This is the sum of all that we do; this is the proposed end and limit of sacred duties. Before Him we all prostrate ourselves, according to our custom; Him we adore in joint prayers; from Him we beg things just and honourable, and worthy of His ear. Not that He needs our supplications, or loves to see the homage of so many thousands laid at His feet. This is our benefit, and has a regard to our advantage. For since we are prone to err, and to yield to various lusts and appetites through the fault of our innate weakness, He allows Himself at all times to be comprehended in our thoughts, that whilst we entreat Him and strive to merit His bounties, we may receive a desire for purity, and may free ourselves from every stain by the removal of all our shortcomings.

28. What say ye, O interpreters of sacred and of divine law? Are they attached to a better cause who adore the Lares Grundules, the Aii Locutii, and the Limentini,2 than we who worship God the Father of all things, and demand of Him protection in danger and distress? They, too, seem to you wary, wise, most sagacious, and not worthy of any blame, who revere Fauni and Fatuæ, and the genii of states, who worship Pausi and Bellonæ:—we are pronounced dull, doltish, fatuous, stupid, and senseless, who have given ourselves up to God, at whose nod and pleasure everything which exists has its being, and remains immoveable by His eternal decree. Do you put forth this opinion? Have you ordained this law? Do you publish this decree, that he be crowned with the highest honours who shall worship your slaves? that he merit the extreme penalty of the cross who shall offer prayers to you yourselves, his masters? In the greatest states, and in the most powerful nations, sacred rites are performed in the public name to harlots, who in old days earned the wages of impurity, and prostituted themselves to the lust of all;4
and yet for this there are no swellings of indignation on the part of the deities. Temples have been erected with lofty roofs to cats, to beetles, and to heifers: —the powers of the deities thus insulted are silent; nor are they affected with any feeling of envy because they see the sacred attributes of vile animals put in rivalry with them. Are the deities inimical to us alone? To us are they most unrelenting, because we worship their Author, by whom, if they do exist, they began to be, and to have the essence of their power and their majesty, from whom, having obtained their very divinity, so to speak, they feel that they exist, and realize that they are reckoned among things that be, at whose will and at whose behest they are able both to perish and be dissolved, and not to be dissolved and not to perish?6 For if we all grant that there is only one great Being, whom in the long lapse of time nought else precedes, it necessarily follows that after Him all things were generated and put forth, and that they burst into an existence each of its kind. But if this is unchallenged and sure, you will be compelled as a consequence to confess, on the one hand, that the deities are created,8 and on the other, that they derive the spring of their existence from the great source of things. And if they are created and brought forth, they are also doubtless liable to annihilation and to dangers; but yet they are believed to be immortal, ever-existent, and subject to no extinction. This is also a gift from God their Author, that they have been privileged to remain the same through countless ages, though by nature they are fleeting, and liable to dissolution.

29. And would that it were allowed me to deliver this argument with the whole world formed, as it were, into one assembly, and to be placed in the hearing of all the human race! Are we therefore charged before you with an impious religion? and because we approach the Head and Pillar of the universe with worshipful service, are we to be considered—to use the terms employed by you in reproaching us—as persons to be shunned, and as godless ones? And who would more properly bear the odium of these names than he who either knows, or inquires after, or believes any other god rather than this of ours? To Him do we not owe this first, that we exist, that we are said to be men, that, being either sent forth from Him, or having fallen from Him, we are confined in the darkness of this body?10 Does it not come from Him that we walk, that we breathe and live? and by the very power of living, does He not cause us to exist and to move with the activity of animated being? From this do not causes emanate, through which our health is sustained by the bountiful supply of various pleasures? Whose is that world in which you live? or who hath authorized you to retain its produce and its possession? Who hath given that common light, enabling us to see distinctly all things lying beneath it, to handle them, and to examine them? Who has ordained that the fires of the sun should exist for the growth of things, lest elements pregnant with life should be numbed by settling down in the torpor of inactivity? When you believe that the sun is a deity, do you not ask who is his founder, who has fashioned him? Since the moon is a goddess in your estimation, do you in like manner care to know who is her author and framer?

30. Does it not occur to you to reflect and to examine in whose domain you live? on whose property you are? whose is that earth which you till? whose is that air which you inhale, and return again in breathing? whose fountains do you abundantly enjoy? whose water? who has regulated the blasts of the wind? who has contrived the watery clouds? who has discriminated the productive powers of seeds by special characteristics? Does Apollo give you rain? Does Mercury send yon water from heaven? Has Æsculapius, Hercules, or Diana devised the plan of showers and of storms? And how can this be, when you give forth that they were born on earth, and that at a fixed period they received vital perceptions? For if the world preceded them in the long lapse of time, and if before they were born nature already experienced rains and storms, those who were born later have no right of rain-giving, nor can they mix themselves up with those methods which they found to be in operation here, and to be derived from a greater Author.

31. O greatest, O Supreme Creator of things invisible! O Thou who art Thyself unseen, and who art incomprehensible! Thou art worthy, Thou art verily worthy—if only mortal tongue may speak of Thee—that all breathing and intelligent nature should never cease to feel and to return thanks; that it should throughout the whole of life fall on bended knee, and offer supplication with never-ceasing prayers. For Thou art the first cause; in Thee created things exist, and Thou art the space in which rest the foundations of all things, whatever they be. Thou art illimitable, unbegotten, immortal, enduring for aye, God Thyself alone, whom no bodily shape may represent, no outline delineate; of virtues inexpressible, of greatness indefinable; unrestricted as to locality, movement, and condition, concerning whom nothing can be clearly expressed by the significance of man’s words. That Thou mayest be understood, we must be silent; and that erring conjecture may track Thee through the shady cloud, no word must be uttered. Grant pardon, O King Supreme, to those who persecute Thy servants; and in virtue of Thy benign nature, forgive those who fly from the worship of Thy name and the observance of Thy religion. It is not to be wondered at if Thou art unknown; it is a cause of greater astonishment if Thou art clearly comprehended.

But perchance some one dares—for this remains for frantic madness to do—to be uncertain, and to express doubt whether that God exists or not; whether He is believed in on the proved truth of reliable evidence, or on the imaginings of empty rumour. For of those who have given themselves to philosophizing, we have heard that some deny the existence of any divine power, that others3 inquire daily whether there be or not; that others construct the whole fabric of the universe by chance accidents and by random collision, and fashion it by the concourse of atoms of different shapes; with whom we by no means intend to enter at this time on a discussion of such perverse convictions.5 For those who think wisely say, that to argue against things palpably foolish, is a mark of greater folly.

32. Our discussion deals with those who, acknowledging that there is a divine race of beings, doubt about those of greater rank and power, whilst they admit that there are deities inferior and more humble. What then? Do we strive and toil to obtain such results by arguments? Far hence be such madness; and, as the phrase is, let the folly, say I, be averted from us. For it is as dangerous to attempt to prove by arguments that God is the highest being, as it is to wish to discover by reasoning of this kind that He exists. It is a matter of indifference whether you deny that He exists, or affirm it and admit it; since equally culpable are both the assertion of such a thing, and the denial of an unbelieving opponent.

33. Is there any human being who has not entered on the first day of his life with an idea of that Great Head? In whom has it not been implanted by nature, on whom has it not been impressed, aye, stamped almost in his mother’s womb even, in whom is there not a native instinct, that He is King and Lord, the ruler of all things that be? In fine, if the dumb animals even could stammer forth their thoughts, if they were able to use our languages; nay, if trees, if the clods of the earth, if stones animated by vital perceptions were able to produce vocal sounds, and to utter articulate speech, would they not in that case, with nature as their guide and teacher, in the faith of uncorrupted innocence, both feel that there is a God, and proclaim that He alone is Lord of all?

34. But in vain, says one, do you assail us with a groundless and calumnious charge, as if we deny that there is a deity of a higher kind, since Jupiter is by us both called and esteemed the best and the greatest; and since we have dedicated to him the most sacred abodes, and have raised huge Capitols. You are endeavouring to connect together things which are dissimilar, and to force them into one class, thereby introducing confusion. For by the unanimous judgment of all, and by the common consent of the human race, the omnipotent God is regarded as having never been born, as having never been brought forth to new light, and as not having begun to exist at any time or century. For He Himself is the source of all things, the Father of ages and of seasons. For they do not exist of themselves, but from His everlasting perpetuity they move on in unbroken and ever endless flow. Yet Jupiter indeed, as you allege, has both father and mother, grandfathers, grandmothers, and brothers: now lately conceived in the womb of his mother, being completely formed and perfected in ten months, he burst with vital sensations into light unknown to him before. If, then, this is so, how can Jupiter be God supreme, when it is evident that He is everlasting, and the former is represented by you as having had a natal day, and as having uttered a mournful cry, through terror at the strange scene?

35. But suppose they be one, as you wish, and not different in any power of deity and in majesty, do you therefore persecute us with undeserved hatred? Why do you shudder at the mention of our name as of the worst omen, if we too worship the deity whom you worship? or why do you contend that the gods are friendly to you, but inimical, aye, most hostile to us, though our relations to them are the same? For if one religion is common to us and to you, the anger of the gods is stayed; but if they are hostile to us alone it is plain that both you and they have no knowledge of God. And that God is not Jove, is evident by the very wrath of the deities.

36. But, says my opponent, the deities are not inimical to you, because you worship the omnipotent God; but because you both allege that one born as men are, and put to death on the cross, which is a disgraceful punishment even for worthless men, was God, and because you believe that He still lives, and because you worship Him in daily supplications. If it is agreeable to you, my friends, state clearly what deities those are who believe that the worship of Christ by us has a tendency to injure them? Is it Janus, the founder of the Janiculum, and Saturn, the author of the Saturnian state? Is it Fauna Fatua, the wife of Faunus, who is called the Good Goddess, but who is better and more deserving of praise in the drinking of wine? Is it those gods Indigetes who swim in the river, and live in the channels of the Numicius, in company with frogs and little fishes? Is it Æsculapius and father Bacchus, the former born of Coronis, and the other dashed by lightning from his mother’s womb? Is it Mercury, son of Maia, and what is more divine, Maia the beautiful? Is it the bow-bearing deities Diana and Apollo, who were companions of their mother’s wanderings, and who were scarcely safe in floating islands? Is it Venus, daughter of Dione, paramour of a man of Trojan family, and the prostituter of her secret charms? Is it Ceres, born in Sicilian territory, and Proserpine, surprised while gathering flowers? Is it the Theban or the Phœnician Hercules,—the latter buried in Spanish territory, the other burned by fire on Mount Œta? Is it the brothers Castor and Pollux, sons of Tyndareus,—the one accustomed to tame horses, the other an excellent boxer, and unconquerable with the untanned gauntlet? Is it the Titans and the Bocchores of the Moors, and the Syrian deities, the offspring of eggs? Is it Apis, born in the Peloponnese, and in Egypt called Serapis? Is it Isis, tanned by Ethiopian suns, lamenting her lost son and husband torn limb from limb? Passing on, we omit the royal offspring of Ops, which your writers have in their books set forth for your instruction, telling you both who they are, and of what character. Do these, then, hear with offended ears that Christ is worshipped, and that He is accepted by us and regarded as a divine person? And being forgetful of the grade and state in which they recently were, are they unwilling to share with another that which has been granted to themselves? Is this the justice of the heavenly deities? Is this the righteous judgment of the gods? Is not this a kind of malice and of greed? is it not a species of base envy, to wish their own fortunes only to rise,—those of others to be lowered, and to be trodden down in despised lowliness?

37. We worship one who was born a man. What then? do you worship no one who was born a man? Do you not worship one and another, aye, deities innumerable? Nay, have you not taken from the number of mortals all those whom you now have in your temples; and have you not set them in heaven, and among the constellations? For if, perchance, it has escaped you that they once partook of human destiny, and of the state common to all men, search the most ancient literature, and range through the writings of those who, living nearest to the days of antiquity, set forth all things with undisguised truth and without flattery: you will learn in detail from what fathers, from what mothers they were each sprung, in what district they were born, of what tribe; what they made, what they did, what they endured, how they employed themselves, what fortunes they experienced of an adverse or of a favourable kind in discharging their functions. But if, while you know that they were born in the womb, and that they lived on the produce of the earth, you nevertheless upbraid us with the worship of one born like ourselves, you act with great injustice, in regarding that as worthy of condemnation in us which you yourselves habitually do; or what you allow to be lawful for you, you are unwilling to be in like manner lawful for others.

38. But in the meantime let us grant, in submission to your ideas, that Christ was one of us—similar in mind, soul, body, weakness, and condition; is He not worthy to be called and to be esteemed God by us, in consideration of His bounties, so numerous as they are? For if you have placed in the assembly of the gods Liber, because he discovered the use of wine; Ceres, because she discovered the use of bread; Æsculapius, because he discovered the use of herbs; Minerva, because she produced the olive; Triptolemus, because he invented the plough; Hercules, because he overpowered and restrained wild beasts and robbers, and water-serpents of many heads,—with how great distinctions is He to be honoured by us, who, by instilling His truth into our hearts, has freed us from great errors; who, when we were straying everywhere, as if blind and without a guide, withdrew us from precipitous and devious paths, and set our feet on more smooth places; who has pointed out what is especially profitable and salutary for the human race; who has shown us what God is,2 who He is, how great and how good; who has permitted and taught us to conceive and to understand, as far as our limited capacity can, His profound and inexpressible depths; who, in in His great kindness, has caused it to be known by what founder, by what Creator, this world was established and made; who has explained the nature of its origin and essential substance, never before imagined in the conceptions of any; whence generative warmth is added to the rays of the sun; why the moon, always uninjured4 in her motions, is believed to alternate her light and her obscurity from intelligent causes; what is the origin of animals, what rules regulate seeds; who designed man himself, who fashioned him, or from what kind of material did He compact the very build of bodies; what the perceptions are; what the soul, and whether it flew to us of its own accord, or whether it was generated and brought into existence with our bodies themselves; whether it sojourns with us, partaking of death, or whether it is gifted with an endless immortality; what condition awaits us when we shall have separated from our bodies relaxed in death; whether we shall retain our perceptions,6 or have no recollection of our former sensations or of past memories; who has restrained8 our arrogance, and has caused our necks, uplifted with pride, to acknowledge the measure of their weakness; who hath shown that we are creatures imperfectly formed, that we trust in vain expectations, that we understand nothing thoroughly, that we know nothing, and that we do not see those things which are placed before our eyes; who has guided us from false superstitions to the true religion,—a blessing which exceeds and transcends all His other gifts; who has raised our thoughts to heaven from brutish statues formed of the vilest clay, and has caused us to hold converse in thanksgiving and prayer with the Lord of the universe.

39. But lately, O blindness, I worshipped images produced from the furnace, gods made on anvils and by hammers, the bones of elephants, paintings, wreaths on aged trees; whenever I espied an anointed stone and one bedaubed with olive oil, as if some power resided in it I worshipped it, I addressed myself to it and begged blessings from a senseless stock.10 And these very gods of whose existence I had convinced myself, I treated with gross insults, when I believed them to be wood, stone, and bones, or imagined that they dwelt in the substance of such objects. Now, having been led into the paths of truth by so great a teacher, I know what all these things are, I entertain honourable thoughts concerning those which are worthy, I offer no insult to any divine name; and what is due to each, whether inferior or superior, I assign with clearly-defined gradations, and on distinct authority. Is Christ, then, not to be regarded by us as God? and is He, who in other respects may be deemed the very greatest, not to be honoured with divine worship, from whom we have already received while alive so great gifts, and from whom, when the day comes, we expect greater ones?

40. But He died nailed to the cross. What is that to the argument? For neither does the kind and disgrace of the death change His words or deeds, nor will the weight of His teaching appear less; because He freed Himself from the shackles of the body, not by a natural separation, but departed by reason of violence offered to Him. Pythagoras of Samos was burned to death in a temple, under an unjust suspicion of aiming at sovereign power. Did his doctrines lose their peculiar influence, because he breathed forth his life not willingly, but in consequence of a savage assault? In like manner Socrates, condemned by the decision of his fellow-citizens, suffered capital punishment: have his discussions on morals, on virtues, and on duties been rendered vain, because he was unjustly hurried from life? Others without number, conspicuous by their renown, their merit, and their public character, have experienced the most cruel forums of death, as Aquilius, Trebonius, and Regulus: were they on that account adjudged base after death, because they perished not by the common law of the fates, but after being mangled and tortured in the most cruel kind of death? No innocent person foully slain is ever disgraced thereby; nor is he stained by the mark of any baseness, who suffers severe punishment, not from his own deserts, but by reason of the savage nature of his persecutor.

41. And yet, O ye who laugh because we worship one who died an ignominious death, do not ye too, by consecrating shrines to him, honour father Liber, who was torn limb from limb by the Titans? Have you not, after his punishment and his death by lightning, named Æsculapius, the discoverer of medicines, as the guardian and protector of health, of strength, and of safety? Do you not invoke the great Hercules himself by offerings, by victims, and by kindled frankincense, whom you yourselves allege to have been burned alive after his punishment, and to have been consumed on the fatal pyres? Do you not, with the unanimous approbation of the Gauls, invoke as a propitious3 and as a holy god, in the temples of the Great Mother, that Phrygian Atys5 who was mangled and deprived of his virility? Father Romulus himself, who was torn in pieces by the hands of a hundred senators, do you not call Quirinus Martius, and do you not honour him with priests and with gorgeous couches, and do you not worship him in most spacious temples; and in addition to all this, do you not affirm that he has ascended into heaven? Either, therefore, you too are to be laughed at, who regard as gods men slain by the most cruel tortures; or if there is a sure ground for your thinking that you should do so, allow us too to feel assured for what causes and on what grounds we do this.

42. You worship, says my opponent, one who was born a mere human being. Even if that were true, as has been already said in former passages, yet, in consideration of the many liberal gifts which He has bestowed on us, He ought to be called and be addressed as God. But since He is God in reality and without any shadow of doubt, do you think that we will deny that He is worshipped by us with all the fervour we are capable of, and assumed as the guardian of our body? Is that Christ of yours a god, then? some raving, wrathful, and excited man will say. A god, we will reply, and the god of the inner powers; and—what may still further torture unbelievers with the most bitter pains—He was sent to us by the King Supreme for a purpose of the very highest moment. My opponent, becoming more mad and more frantic, will perhaps ask whether the matter can be proved, as we allege. There is no greater proof than the credibility of the acts done by Him, than the unwonted excellence of the virtues He exhibited, than the conquest and the abrogation of all those deadly ordinances which peoples and tribes saw executed in the light of day, with no objecting voice; and even they whose ancient laws or whose country’s laws He shows to be full of vanity and of the most senseless superstition, (even they) dare not allege these things to be false.

43. My opponent will perhaps meet me with many other slanderous and childish charges which are commonly urged. Jesus was a Magian; He effected all these things by secret arts. From the shrines of the Egyptians He stole the names of angels of might,2 and the religious system of a remote country. Why, O witlings, do you speak of things which you have not examined, and which are unknown to you, prating with the garrulity of a rash tongue? Were, then, those things which were done, the freaks of demons, and the tricks of magical arts? Can you specify and point out to me any one of all those magicians who have ever existed in past ages, that did anything similar, in the thousandth degree, to Christ? Who has done this without any power of incantations, without the juice of herbs and of grasses, without any anxious watching of sacrifices, of libations, or of seasons? For we do not press it, and inquire what they profess to do, nor in what kind of acts all their learning and experience are wont to be comprised. For who is not aware that these men either study to know beforehand things impending, which, whether they will or not, come of necessity as they have been ordained? or to inflict a deadly and wasting disease on whom they choose; or to sever the affections of relatives; or to open without keys places which are locked; or to seal the month in silence; or in the chariot race to weaken, urge on, or retard horses; or to inspire in wives, and in the children of strangers, whether they be males or females, the flames and mad desires of illicit love? Or if they seem to attempt anything useful, to be able to do it not by their own power, but by the might of those deities whom they invoke.

44. And yet it is agreed on that Christ performed all those miracles which He wrought without any aid from external things, without the observance of any ceremonial, without any definite mode of procedure, but solely by the inherent might of His authority; and as was the proper duty of the true God, as was consistent with His nature, as was worthy of Him, in the generosity of His bounteous power He bestowed nothing hurtful or injurious, but only that which is helpful, beneficial, and full of blessings good for men.

45. What do you say again, oh you —? Is He then a man, is He one of us, at whose command, at whose voice, raised in the utterance of audible and intelligible words,6 infirmities, diseases, fevers, and other ailments of the body fled away? Was He one of us, whose presence, whose very sight, that race of demons which took possession of men was unable to bear, and terrified by the strange power, fled away? Was He one of us, to whose order the foul leprosy, at once checked, was obedient, and left sameness of colour to bodies formerly spotted? Was He one of us, at whose light touch the issues of blood were stanched, and stopped their excessive flow? Was He one of us, whose hands the waters of the lethargic dropsy fled from, and that searching8 fluid avoided; and did the swelling body, assuming a healthy dryness, find relief? Was He one of us, who bade the lame run? Was it His work, too, that the maimed stretched forth their hands, and the joints relaxed the rigidity acquired even at birth; that the paralytic rose to their feet, and persons now carried home their beds who a little before were borne on the shoulders of others; the blind were restored to sight, and men born without eyes now looked on the heaven and the day?

46. Was He one of us, I say, who by one act of intervention at once healed a hundred or more afflicted with various infirmities and diseases; at whose word only the raging and maddened seas were still, the whirlwinds and tempests were lulled; who walked over the deepest pools with unwet foot; who trod the ridges of the deep, the very waves being astonished, and nature coming under bondage; who with five loaves satisfied five thousand of His followers; and who, lest it might appear to the unbelieving and hard of heart to be an illusion, filled twelve capacious baskets with the fragments that remained? Was He one of us, who ordered the breath that had departed to return to the body, persons buried to come forth from the tomb, and after three days to be loosed from the swathings of the undertaker? Was He one of us, who saw clearly in the hearts of the silent what each was pondering, what each had in his secret thoughts? Was He one of us, who, when He uttered a single word, was thought by nations far removed from one another and of different speech to be using well-known sounds, and the peculiar language of each?11 Was He one of us, who, when He was teaching His followers the duties of a religion that could not be gainsaid, suddenly filled the whole world, and showed how great He was and who He was, by unveiling the boundlessness of His authority? Was He one of us, who, after His body had been laid in the tomb, manifested Himself in open day to countless numbers of men; who spoke to them, and listened to them; who taught them, reproved and admonished them; who, lest they should imagine that they were deceived by unsubstantial fancies, showed Himself once, a second time, aye frequently, in familiar conversation; who appears even now to righteous men of unpolluted mind who love Him, not in airy dreams, but in a form of pure simplicity; whose name, when heard, puts to flight evil spirits, imposes silence on soothsayers, prevents men from consulting the augurs, causes the efforts of arrogant magicians to be frustrated, not by the dread of His name, as you allege, but by the free exercise of a greater power?

47. These facts set forth in summary we have put forward, not on the supposition that the greatness of the agent was to be seen in these virtues alone. For however great these things be, how excessively petty and trifling will they be found to be, if it shall be revealed from what realms He has come, of what God He is the minister! But with regard to the acts which were done by Him, they were performed, indeed, not that He might boast Himself into empty ostentation, but that hardened and unbelieving men might be assured that what was professed was not deceptive, and that they might now learn to imagine, from the beneficence of His works, what a true god was. At the same time we wish this also to be known,3 when, as was said, an enumeration of His acts has been given in summary, that Christ was able to do not only those things which He did, but that He could even overcome the decrees of fate. For if, as is evident, and as is agreed by all, infirmities and bodily sufferings, if deafness, deformity, and dumbness, if shrivelling of the sinews and the loss of sight happen to us, and are brought on us by the decrees of fate, and if Christ alone has corrected this, has restored and cared man, it is clearer than the sun himself that He was more powerful than the fates are when He has loosened and overpowered those things which were bound with everlasting knots, and fixed by unalterable necessity.

48. But, says some one, you in vain claim so much for Christ, when we now know, and have in past times known, of other gods both giving remedies to many who were sick, and healing the diseases and the infirmities of many men. I do not inquire, I do not demand, what god did so, or at what time; whom he relieved, or what shattered frame he restored to sound health: this only I long to hear, whether, without the addition of any substance—that is, of any medical application—he ordered diseases to fly away from men at a touch; whether he commanded and compelled the cause of ill health to be eradicated, and the bodies of the weak to return to their natural strength. For it is known that Christ, either by applying His hand to the parts affected, or by the command of His voice only, opened the ears of the deaf, drove away blindness from the eyes, gave speech to the dumb, loosened the rigidity of the joints, gave the power of walking to the shrivelled,—was wont to heal by a word and by an order, leprosies, agues, dropsies, and all other kinds of ailments, which some fell power has willed that the bodies of men should endure. What act like these have all these gods done, by whom you allege that help has been brought to the sick and the imperilled? for if they have at any time ordered, as is reported, either that medicine or a special diet be given to some,5 or that a draught be drunk off, or that the juices of plants and of blades be placed on that which causes uneasiness or have ordered that persons should walk, remain at rest, or abstain from something hurtful,—and that this is no great matter, and deserves no great admiration, is evident, if you will attentively examine it—a similar mode of treatment is followed by physicians also, a creature earth-born and not relying on true science, but founding on a system of conjecture, and wavering in estimating probabilities. Now there is no special merit in removing by remedies those ailments which affect men: the healing qualities belong to the drugs—not virtues inherent in him who applies them; and though it is praiseworthy to know by what medicine or by what method it may be suitable for persons to be treated, there is room for this credit being assigned to man, but not to the deity. For it is, at least, no discredit that he should have improved the health of man by things taken from without: it is a disgrace to a god that he is not able to effect it of himself, but that he gives soundness and safety only by the aid of external objects.

49. And since you compare Christ and the other deities as to the blessings of health bestowed, how many thousands of infirm persons do you wish to be shown to you by us; how many persons affected with wasting diseases, whom no appliances whatever restored, although they went as suppliants through all the temples, although they prostrated themselves before the gods, and swept the very thresholds with their lips—though, as long as life remained, they wearied with prayers, and importuned with most piteous vows Æsculapius himself, the health-giver, as they call him? Do we not know that some died of their ailments? that others grew old by the torturing pain of their diseases? that others began to live a more abandoned life after they had wasted their days and nights in incessant prayers, and in expectation of mercy?2 Of what avail is it, then, to point to one or another who may have been healed, when so many thousands have been left unaided, and the shrines are full of all the wretched and the unfortunate? Unless, perchance, you say that the gods help the good, but that the miseries of the wicked are overlooked. And yet Christ assisted the good and the bad alike; nor was there any one rejected by Him, who in adversity sought help against violence and the ills of fortune. For this is the mark of a true god and of kingly power, to deny his bounty to none, and not to consider who merits it or who does not; since natural infirmity and not the choice of his desire, or of his sober judgment, makes a sinner. To say, moreover, that aid is given by the gods to the deserving when in distress, is to leave undecided and render doubtful what you assert: so that both he who has been made whole may seem to have been preserved by chance, and he who is not may appear to have been unable to banish infirmity, not because of his demerit, but by reason of a heaven-sent weakness.

50. Moreover, by His own power He not only performed those miraculous deeds which have been detailed by us in summary, and not as the importance of the matter demanded; but, what was more sublime, He has permitted many others to attempt them, and to perform them by the use of His name. For when He foresaw that you were to be the detractors of His deeds and of His divine work, in order that no lurking suspicion might remain of His having lavished these gifts and bounties by magic arts, from the immense multitude of people, which with admiring wonder strove to gain His favour, He chose fishermen, artisans, rustics, and unskilled persons of a similar kind, that they being sent through various nations should perform all those miracles without any deceit and without any material aids. By a word He assuaged the racking pains of the aching members; and by a word they checked the writhings of maddening sufferings. By one command He drove demons from the body, and restored their senses to the lifeless; they, too, by no different command, restored to health and to soundness of mind those labouring under the inflictions of these demons. By the application of His hand He removed the marks of leprosy; they, too, restored to the body its natural skin by a touch not dissimilar. He ordered the dropsical and swollen flesh to recover its natural dryness; and His servants in the same manner stayed the wandering waters, and ordered them to glide through their own channels, avoiding injury to the frame. Sores of immense size, refusing to admit of healing, He restrained from further feeding on the flesh, by the interposition of one word; and they in like manner, by restricting its ravages, compelled td the obstinate and merciless cancer to confine itself to a scar. To the lame He gave the power of walking, to the dark eyes sight, the dead He recalled to life; and not less surely did they, too, relax the tightened nerves, fill the eyes with light already lost, and order the dead to return from the tombs, reversing the ceremonies of the funeral rites. Nor was anything calling forth the bewildered admiration of all done by Him, which He did not freely allow, to be performed by those humble and rustic men, and which He did not put in their power.

51. What say ye, O minds incredulous, stubborn, hardened? Did that great Jupiter Capitolinus of yours give to any human being power of this kind? Did he endow with this right any priest of a curia, the Pontifex Maximus, nay, even the Dialis, in whose name he is revealed as the god of life? I shall not say, did he impart power to raise the dead, to give light to the blind, restore the normal condition of their members to the weakened and the paralyzed, but did he even enable any one to check a pustule, a hang-nail, a pimple, either by the word of his mouth or the touch of his hand? Was this, then, a power natural to man, or could such a right be granted, could such a licence be given by the mouth of one reared on the vulgar produce of earth; and was it not a divine and sacred gift? or if the matter admits of any hyperbole, was it not more than divine and sacred? For if you do that which you are able to do, and what is compatible with your strength and your ability, there is no ground for the expression of astonishment; for you will have done that which you were able, and which your power was bound to accomplish, in order that there should be a perfect correspondence between the deed and the doer. To be able to transfer to a man your own power, share with the frailest being the ability to perform that which you alone are able to do, is a proof of power supreme over all, and holding in subjection the causes of all things, and the natural laws of methods and of means.

52. Come, then, let some Magian Zoroaster arrive from a remote part of the globe, crossing over the fiery zone,3 if we believe Hermippus as an authority. Let these join him too—that Bactrian, whose deeds Ctesias sets forth in the first book of his History; the Armenian, grandson of Hosthanes; and Pamphilus, the intimate friend of Cyrus; Apollonius, Damigero, and Dardanus; Velus, Julianus, and Bæbulus; and if there be any other one who is supposed to have especial powers and reputation in such magic arts. Let them grant to one of the people to adapt the mouths of the dumb for the purposes of speech, to unseal the ears of the deaf, to give the natural powers of the eye to those born without sight, and to restore feeling and life to bodies long cold in death. Or if that is too difficult, and if they cannot impart to others the power to do such acts, let themselves perform them, and with their own rites. Whatever noxious herbs the earth brings forth from its bosom, whatever powers those muttered words and accompanying spells contain—these let them add, we envy them not; those let them collect, we forbid them not. We wish to make trial and to discover whether they can effect, with the aid of their gods, what has often been accomplished by unlearned Christians with a word only.

53. Cease in your ignorance to receive such great deeds with abusive language, which will in no wise injure him who did them, but which will bring danger to yourselves—danger, I say, by no means small, but one dealing with matters of great, aye, even the greatest importance, since beyond a doubt the soul is a precious thing, and nothing can be found dearer to a man than himself. There was nothing magical, as you suppose, nothing human, delusive, or crafty in Christ; no deceit lurked in Him,6 although you smile in derision, as your wont is, and though you split with roars of laughter. He was God on high, God in His inmost nature, God from unknown realms, and was sent by the Ruler of all as a Saviour God; whom neither the sun himself, nor any stars, if they have powers of perception, not the rulers and princes of the world, nor, in fine, the great gods, or those who, feigning themselves so, terrify the whole human race, were able to know or to guess whence and who He was—and naturally so. But when, freed from the body, which He carried about as but a very small part of Himself, He allowed Himself to be seen, and let it be known how great He was, all the elements of the universe bewildered by the strange events were thrown into confusion. An earthquake shook the world, the sea was heaved up from its depths, the heaven was shrouded in darkness, the sun’s fiery blaze was checked, and his heat became moderate; for what else could occur when He was discovered to be God who heretofore was reckoned one of us?

54. But you do not believe these things; yet those who witnessed their occurrence, and who saw them done before their eyes—the very best vouchers and the most trustworthy authorities—both believed them themselves, and transmitted them to us who follow them, to be believed with no scanty measure of confidence. Who are these? you perhaps ask. Tribes, peoples, nations, and that incredulous human race; but if the matter were not plain, and, as the saying is, clearer than day itself, they would never grant their assent with so ready belief to events of such a kind. But shall we say that the men of that time were untrustworthy, false, stupid, and brutish to such a degree that they pretended to have seen what they never had seen, and that they put forth under false evidence, or alleged with childish asseveration things which never took place, and that when they were able to live in harmony and to maintain friendly relations with you, they wantonly incurred hatred, and were held in execration?

55. But if this record of events is false, as you say, how comes it that in so short a time the whole world has been filled with such a religion? or how could nations dwelling widely apart, and separated by climate and by the convexities of heaven, unite in one conclusion? They have been prevailed upon, say my opponents, by mere assertions, been led into vain hopes; and in their reckless madness have chosen to incur voluntarily the risks of death, although they had hitherto seen nothing of such a kind as could by its wonderful and strange character induce them to adopt this manner of worship. Nay, because they saw all these things to be done by Christ Himself and by His apostles, who being sent throughout the whole world carried with them the blessings of the Father, which they dispensed in benefiting as well the minds as the bodies of men; overcome by the force of the very truth itself they both devoted themselves to God, and reckoned it as but a small sacrifice to surrender their bodies to you and to give their flesh to be mangled.

56. But our writers, we shall be told, have put forth these statements with false effrontery; they have extolled small matters to an inordinate degree, and have magnified trivial affairs with most pretentious boastfulness. And4 would that all things could have been reduced to writing,—both those which were done by Himself, and those which were accomplished by His apostles with equal authority and power. Such an assemblage of miracles, however, would make you more incredulous; and perhaps you might be able to discover a passage from which it would seem very probable, both that additions were made to facts, and that falsehoods were inserted in writings and commentaries. But in nations which were unknown to the writers, and which themselves knew not the use of letters, all that was done could not have been embraced in the records or even have reached the ears of all men; or, if any were committed to written and connected narrative, some insertions and additions would have been made by the malevolence of the demons and of men like to them, whose care and study it is to obstruct6 the progress of this truth: there would have been some changes and mutilations of words and of syllables, at once to mar the faith of the cautious and to impair the moral effect of the deeds. But it will never avail them that it be gathered from written testimony only who and what Christ was; for His cause has been put on such a basis, that if what we say be admitted to be true, He is by the confession of all proved to have been God.

57. You do not believe our writings, and we do not believe yours. We devise falsehoods concerning Christ, you say; and you put forth baseless and false statements concerning your gods: for no god has descended from heaven, or in his own person and life has sketched out your system, or in a similar way thrown discredit on our system and our ceremonies. These were written by men; those, too, were written by men—set forth in human speech; and whatever you seek to say concerning our writers, remember that about yours, too, you will find these things said with equal force. What is contained in your writings you wish to be treated as true; those things, also, which are attested in our books, you must of necessity confess to be true. You accuse our system of falsehood; we, too, accuse yours of falsehood. But ours is more ancient, say you, therefore most credible and trustworthy; as if, indeed, antiquity were not the most fertile source of errors, and did not herself put forth those things which in discreditable fables have attached the utmost infamy to the gods. For could not falsehoods have been both spoken and believed ten thousand years ago, or is it not most probable that which is near to our own time should be more credible than that which is separated by a long term of years? For these of ours are brought forward on the faith of witnesses, those of yours on the ground of opinions; and it is much more natural that there should be less invention in matters of recent occurrence, than in those far removed in the darkness of antiquity.

58. But they were written by unlearned and ignorant men, and should not therefore be readily believed. See that this be not rather a stronger reason for believing that they have not been adulterated by any false statements, but were put forth by men of simple mind, who knew not how to trick out their tales with meretricious ornaments. But the language is mean and vulgar. For truth never seeks deceitful polish, nor in that which is well ascertained and certain does it allow itself to be led away into excessive prolixity. Syllogisms, enthymemes, definitions, and all those ornaments by which men seek to establish their statements, aid those groping for the truth, but do not clearly mark its great features. But he who really knows the subject under discussion, neither defines, nor deduces, nor seeks the other tricks of words by which an audience is wont to be taken in, and to be beguiled into a forced assent to a proposition.

59. Your narratives, my opponent says, are overrun with barbarisms and solecisms, and disfigured by monstrous blunders. A censure, truly, which shows a childish and petty spirit; for if we allow that it is reasonable, let us cease to use certain kinds of fruit because they grow with prickles on them, and other growths useless for food, which on the one hand cannot support us, and yet do not on the other hinder us from enjoying that which specially excels, and which nature has designed to be most wholesome for us. For how, I pray you, does it interfere with or retard the comprehension of a statement, whether anything be pronounced smoothly or with uncouth roughness? whether that have the grave accent which ought to have the acute, or that have the acute which ought to have the grave? Or how is the truth of a statement diminished, if an error is made in number or case, in preposition, participle, or conjunction? Let that pomposity of style and strictly regulated diction be reserved for public assemblies, for lawsuits, for the forum and the courts of justice, and by all means be handed over to those who, striving after the soothing influences of pleasant sensations, bestow all their care upon splendour of language. But when we are discussing matters far removed from mere display, we should consider what is said, not with what charm it is said nor how it tickles the ears, but what benefits it confers on the hearers, especially since we know that some even who devoted themselves to philosophy, not only disregarded refinement of style, but also purposely adopted a vulgar meanness when they might have spoken with greater elegance and richness, lest forsooth they might impair the stern gravity of speech and revel rather in the pretentious show of the Sophists. For indeed it evidences a worthless heart to seek enjoyment in matters of importance; and when you have to deal with those who are sick and diseased, to pour into their ears dulcet sounds, not to apply a remedy to their wounds. Yet, if you consider the true state of the case, no language is naturally perfect, and in like manner none is faulty. For what natural reason is there, or what law written in the constitution of the world, that paries should be called hic, and sella hœc?—since neither have they sex distinguished by male and female, nor can the most learned man tell me what hic and hœc are, or why one of them denotes the male sex while the other is applied to the female. These conventionalities are man’s, and certainly are not indispensable to all persons for the use of forming their language; for paries might perhaps have been called hœc, and sella hic, without any fault being found, if it had been agreed upon at first that they should be so called, and if this practice had been maintained by following generations in their daily conversation. And yet, O you who charge our writings with disgraceful blemishes, have you not these solecisms in those most perfect and wonderful books of yours? Does not one of you make the plur. of uter, utria? another utres? Do you not also say cœlus and cœlum, filus and filum, crocus and crocum, fretus and fretum? Also hoc pane and hic panis, hic sanguis and hoc sanguen? Are not candelabrum and jugulum in like manner written jugulus and candelaber? For if each noun cannot have more than one gender, and if the same word cannot be of this gender and of that, for one gender cannot pass into the other, he commits as great a blunder who utters masculine genders under the laws of feminines, as he who applies masculine articles to feminine genders. And yet we see you using masculines as feminines, and feminines as masculines, and those which you call neuter both in this way and in that, without any distinction. Either. therefore, it is no blunder to employ them indifferently, and in that case it is vain for you to say that our works are disfigured with monstrous solecisms; or if the way in which each ought to be employed is unalterably fixed, you also are involved in similar errors, although you have on your side all the Epicadi, Cæsellii, Verrii, Scauri, and Nisi.

60. But, say my opponents, if Christ was God, why did He appear in human shape, and why was He cut off by death after the manner of men? Could that power which is invisible, and which has no bodily substance, have come upon earth and adapted itself to the world and mixed in human society, otherwise than by taking to itself some covering of a more solid substance, which might bear the gaze of the eyes, and on which the look of the least observant might fix itself? For what mortal is there who could have seen Him, who could have distinguished Him, if He had decreed to come upon the earth such as He is in His own primitive nature, and such as He has chosen to be in His own proper character and divinity? He took upon Him, therefore, the form of man; and under the guise of our race He imprisoned His power, so that He could be seen and carefully regarded, might speak and teach, and without encroaching on the sovereignty and government of the King Supreme, might carry out all those objects for the accomplishment of which He had come into the world.

61. What, then, says my opponent, could not the Supreme Ruler have brought about those things which He had ordained to be done in the world, without feigning Himself a man? If it were necessary to do as you say, He perhaps would have done so; because it was not necessary, He acted otherwise. The reasons why He chose to do it in this way, and did not choose to do it in that, are unknown, being involved in so great obscurity, and comprehensible by scarcely any; but these you might perhaps have understood if you were not already prepared not to understand, and were not shaping your course to brave unbelief, before that was explained to you which you sought to know and to hear.

62. But, you will say, He was cut off by death as men are. Not Christ Himself; for it is impossible either that death should befall what is divine, or that should waste away and disappear in death which is one in its substance, and not compounded, nor formed by bringing together any parts. Who, then, you ask, was seen hanging on the cross? Who dead? The human form, I reply, which He had put on, and which He bore about with Him. It is a tale passing belief, you say, and wrapt in dark obscurity; if you will, it is not dark, and is established by a very close analogy. If the Sibyl, when she was uttering and pouring forth her prophecies and oracular responses, was filled, as you say, with Apollo’s power, had been cut down and slain by impious robbers,4 would Apollo be said to have been slain in her? If Bacis, if Helenus, Marcius,6 and other sooth sayers, had been in like manner robbed of life and light when raving as inspired, would any one say that those who, speaking by their mouths, declared to inquirers what should be done, had perished according to the conditions of human life? The death of which you speak was that of the human body which He had assumed, not His own—of that which was borne, not of the bearer; and not even this death would He have stooped to suffer, were it not that a matter of such importance was to be dealt with, and the inscrutable plan of fate10 brought to light in hidden mysteries.

63. What are these hidden and unseen mysteries, you will say, which neither men can know, nor those even who are called gods of the world can in any wise reach by fancy and conjecture; which none can discover, except those whom Christ Himself has thought fit to bestow the blessing of so great knowledge upon, and to lead into the secret recesses of the inner treasury of wisdom? Do you then see that if He had determined that none should do Him violence, He should have striven to the utmost to keep off from Him His enemies, even by directing His power against them? Could not He, then, who had restored their sight to the blind, make His enemies blind if it were necessary? Was it hard or troublesome for Him to make them weak, who had given strength to the feeble? Did He who bade the lame walk, not know how to take from them all power to move their limbs,14 by making their sinews stiff? Would it have been difficult for Him who drew the dead from their tombs to inflict death on whom He would? But because reason required that those things which had been resolved on should be done here also in the world itself, and in no other fashion than was done, He, with gentleness passing understanding and belief, regarding as but childish trifles the wrongs which men did Him, submitted to the violence of savage and most hardened robbers;16 nor did He think it worth while to take account of what their daring had aimed at, if He only showed to His disciples what they were in duty bound to look for from Him. For when many things about the perils of souls, many evils about their …; on the other hand, the Introducer, the Master and Teacher directed His laws and ordinances, that they might find their end in fitting duties; did He not destroy the arrogance of the proud? Did He not quench the fires of lust? Did He not check the craving of greed? Did He not wrest the weapons from their hands, and rend from them all the sources2 of every form of corruption? To conclude, was He not Himself gentle, peaceful, easily approached, friendly when addressed? Did He not, grieving at men’s miseries, pitying with His unexampled benevolence all in any wise afflicted with troubles and bodily ills,4 bring them back and restore them to soundness?

64. What, then, constrains you, what excites you to revile, to rail at, to hate implacably Him whom no man can accuse of any crime?6 Tyrants and your kings, who, putting away all fear of the gods, plunder and pillage the treasuries of temples; who by proscription, banishment, and slaughter, strip the state of its nobles? who, with licentious violence, undermine and wrest away the chastity of matrons and maidens,—these men you name indigites and divi; and you worship with couches, altars, temples, and other service, and by celebrating their games and birthdays, those whom it was fitting that you should assail with keenest hatred. And all those, too, who by writing books assail in many forms with biting reproaches public manners; who censure, brand, and tear in pieces your luxurious habits and lives; who carry down to posterity evil reports of their own times9 in their enduring writings; who seek to persuade men that the rights of marriage should be held in common; who lie with boys, beautiful, lustful, naked; who declare that you are beasts, runaways, exiles, and mad and frantic slaves of the most worthless character,—all these with wonder and applause you exalt to the stars of heaven, you place in the shrines of your libraries, you present with chariots and statues, and as much as in you lies, gift with a kind of immortality, as it were, by the witness which immortal titles bear to them. Christ alone you would tear in pieces, you would rend asunder, if you could do so to a god; nay, Him alone you would, were it allowed, gnaw with bloody mouths, and break His bones in pieces, and devour Him like beasts of the field. For what that He has done, tell, I pray you, for what crime? What has He done to turn aside the course of justice, and rouse you to hatred made fierce by maddening torments? Is it because He declared that He was sent by the only true King to be your soul’s guardian. and to bring to you the immortality which you believe that you already possess, relying on the assertions of a few men? But even if you were assured that He spoke falsely, that He even held out hopes without the slightest foundation, not even in this case do I see any reason that you should hate and condemn Him with bitter reproaches. Nay, if you were kind and gentle in spirit, you ought to esteem Him even for this alone, that He promised to you things which you might well wish and hope for; that He was the bearer of good news; that His message was such as to trouble no one’s mind, nay, rather to fill all with less anxious expectation.

65. Oh ungrateful and impious age, prepared for its own destruction by its extraordinary obstinacy! If there had come to you a physician from lands far distant and unknown to you before, offering some medicine to keep off from you altogether every kind of disease and sickness, would you not all eagerly hasten to him? Would you not with every kind of flattery and honour receive him into your houses, and treat him kindly? Would you not wish that kind of medicine should be quite sure, and should be genuine, which promised that even to the utmost limits of life you should be free from such countless bodily distresses? And though it were a doubtful matter, you would yet entrust yourselves to him; nor would you hesitate to drink the unknown draught, incited by the hope of health set before you and by the love of safety. Christ shone out and appeared to tell us news of the utmost importance, bringing an omen of prosperity, and a message of safety to those who believe. What, I pray you, means this cruelty, what such barbarity, nay rather, to speak more truly, scornful2 pride, not only to harass the messenger and bearer of so great a gift with taunting words; but even to assail Him with fierce hostility, and with all the weapons which can be showered upon Him, and with all modes of destruction? Are His words displeasing, and are you offended when you hear them? Count them as but a soothsayer’s empty tales. Does He speak very stupidly, and promise foolish gifts? Laugh with scorn as wise men, and leave Him in His folly to be tossed about among His errors. What means this fierceness, to repeat what has been said more than once; what a passion, so murderous? to declare implacable hostility towards one who has done nothing to deserve it at your hands; to wish, if it were allowed you, to tear Him limb from limb, who not only did no man any harm, but with uniform kindness4 told His enemies what salvation was being brought to them from God Supreme, what must be done that they might escape destruction and obtain an immortality which they knew not of? And when the strange and unheard-of things which were held out staggered the minds of those who heard Him, and made them hesitate to believe, though master of every power and destroyer of death itself He suffered His human form to be slain, that from the result they might know that the hopes were safe which they had long entertained about the soul’s salvation, and that in no other way could they avoid the danger of death.


1. Here, if any means could be found, I should wish to converse thus with all those who hate the name of Christ, turning aside for a little from the defence primarily set up:—If you think it no dishonour to answer when asked a question, explain to us and say what is the cause, what the reason, that you pursue Christ with so bitter hostility? or what offences you remember which He did, that at the mention of His name you are roused to bursts of mad and savage fury? Did He ever, in claiming for Himself power as king, fill the whole world with bands of the fiercest soldiers; and of nations at peace from the beginning, did He destroy and put an end to some, and compel others to submit to His yoke and serve Him? Did He ever, excited by grasping avarice, claim as His own by right all that wealth to have abundance of which men strive eagerly? Did He ever, transported with lustful passions, break down by force the barriers of purity, or stealthily lie in wait for other men’s wives? Did He ever, puffed up with haughty arrogance, inflict at random injuries and insults, without any distinction of persons? (B) And if He was not worthy that you should listen to and believe Him, yet He should not have been despised by you even on this account, that He showed to you things concerning your salvation, that He prepared for you a path to heaven, and the immortality for which you long; although10 He neither extended the light of life to all, nor delivered all from the danger which threatens them through their ignorance.

2. But indeed, some one will say, He deserved our hatred because He has driven religion from the world, because He has kept men back from seeking to honour the gods.3 Is He then denounced as the destroyer of religion and promoter of impiety, who brought true religion into the world, who opened the gates of piety to men blind and verily living in impiety, and pointed out to whom they should bow themselves? Or is there any truer religion—one more serviceable, powerful, and right—than to have learned to know the supreme God, to know how to pray to God Supreme, who alone is the source and fountain of all good, the creator, founder, and framer of all that endures, by whom all things on earth and all in heaven are quickened, and filled with the stir of life, and without whom there would assuredly be nothing to bear any name, and have any substance? But perhaps you doubt whether there is that ruler of whom we speak, and rather incline to believe in the existence of Apollo, Diana, Mercury, Mars. Give a true judgment; and, looking round on all these things which we see, any one will rather doubt whether all the other gods exist, than hesitate with regard to the God whom we all know by nature, whether when we cry out, O God, or when we make God the witness of wicked deeds, and raise our face to heaven as though He saw us.

3. But He did not permit men to make supplication to the lesser gods. Do you, then, know who are, or where are the lesser gods? Has mistrust of them, or the way in which they were mentioned, ever touched you, so that you are justly indignant that their worship has been done away with and deprived of all honour? But if haughtiness of mind and arrogance,9 as it is called by the Greeks, did not stand in your way and hinder you, you might long ago have been able to understand what He forbade to be done, or wherefore; within what limits He would have true religion lie; what danger arose to you from that which you thought obedience? or from what evils you would escape if you broke away from your dangerous delusion.

4. But all these things will be more clearly and distinctly noticed when we have proceeded further. For we shall show that Christ did not teach the nations impiety, but delivered ignorant and wretched men from those who most wickedly wronged them. We do not believe, you say, that what He says is true. What, then? Have you no doubt as to the things which12 you say are not true, while, as they are only at hand, and not yet disclosed they can by no means be disproved? But He, too, does not prove what He promises. It is so; for, as I said, there can be no proof of things still in the future. Since, then, the nature of the future is such that it cannot be grasped and comprehended by any anticipation, is it not more rational,15 of two things uncertain and hanging in doubtful suspense, rather to believe that which carries with it some hopes, than that which brings none at all? For in the one case there is no danger, if that which is said to be at hand should prove vain and groundless; in the other there is the greatest loss, even the loss of salvation, if, when the time has come, it be shown that there was nothing false in what was declared.

5. What say you, O ignorant ones, for whom we might well weep and be sad? Are you so void of fear that these things may be true which are despised by you and turned to ridicule? and do you not consider with yourselves at least, in your secret thoughts, lest that which to-day with perverse obstinacy you refuse to believe, time may too late show to be true, and ceaseless remorse punish you? Do not even these proofs at least give you faith to believe, viz., that already, in so short and brief a time, the oaths of this vast army have spread abroad over all the earth? that already there is no nation so rude and fierce that it has not, changed by His love, subdued its fierceness, and with tranquillity hitherto unknown, become mild in disposition? that men endowed with so great abilities, orators, critics, rhetoricians, lawyers, and physicians, those, too, who pry into the mysteries of philosophy, seek to learn these things, despising those in which but now they trusted? that slaves choose to be tortured by their masters as they please, wives to be divorced, children to be disinherited by their parents, rather than be unfaithful to Christ and cast off the oaths of the warfare of salvation? that although so terrible punishments have been denounced by you against those who follow the precepts of this religion, it increases even more, and a great host strives more boldly against all threats and the terrors which would keep it back, and is roused to zealous faith by the very attempt to hinder it? Do you indeed believe that these things happen idly and at random? that these feelings are adopted on being met with by chance? Is not this, then, sacred and divine? Or do you believe that, without God’s grace, their minds are so changed, that although murderous hooks and other tortures without number threaten, as we said, those who shall believe, they receive the grounds of faith with which they have become acquainted, as if carried away (A) by some charm, and by an eager longing for all the virtues,7 and prefer the friendship of Christ to all that is in the world?

6. But perhaps those seem to you weak-minded and silly, who even now are uniting all over the world, and joining together to assent with that readiness of belief at which you mock. What then? Do you alone, imbued10 with the true power of wisdom and understanding, see something wholly different and profound? Do you alone perceive that all these things are trifles? you alone, that those things are mere words and childish absurdities which we declare are about to come to us from the supreme Ruler? Whence, pray, has so much wisdom been given to you? whence so much subtlety and wit? Or from what scientific training have you been able to gain so much wisdom, to derive so much foresight? Because you are skilled in declining verbs and nouns by cases and tenses, and in avoiding barbarous words and expressions; because you have learned either to express yourselves in13 harmonious, and orderly, and fitly-disposed language, or to know when it is rude and unpolished; because you have stamped on your memory the Fornix of Lucilius,15 and Marsyas of Pomponius; because you know what the issues to be proposed in lawsuits are, how many kinds of cases there are, how many ways of pleading, what the genus is, what the species, by what methods an opposite is distinguished from a contrary,—do you therefore think that you know what is false, what true, what can or cannot be done, what is the nature of the lowest and highest? Have the well-known words never rung in your ears, that the wisdom of man is foolishness with God?

7. In the first place, you yourselves, too, see clearly that, if you ever discuss obscure subjects, and seek to lay bare the mysteries of nature, on the one hand you do not know the very things which you speak of, which you affirm, which you uphold very often with especial zeal, and that each one defends with obstinate resistance his own suppositions as though they were proved and ascertained truths. For how can we of ourselves know whether we perceive the truth, even if all ages be employed in seeking out knowledge—we whom some envious power brought forth, and formed so ignorant and proud, that, although we know nothing at all, we yet deceive ourselves, and are uplifted by pride and arrogance so as to suppose ourselves possessed of knowledge? For, to pass by divine things, and those plunged in natural obscurity, can any man explain that which in the Phædrus3 the well-known Socrates cannot comprehend—what man is, or whence he is, uncertain, changeable, deceitful, manifold, of many kinds? for what purposes he was produced? by whose ingenuity he was devised? what he does in the world? (C) why he undergoes such countless ills? whether the earth gave life to him as to worms and mice, being affected with decay through the action of some moisture; or whether he received5 these outlines of body, and this cast of face, from the hand of some maker and framer? Can he, I say, know these things, which lie open to all, and are recognisable by the senses common to all,—by what causes we are plunged into sleep, by what we awake? in what ways dreams are produced, in what they are seen? nay rather—as to which Plato in the Theœtetus is in doubt—whether we are ever awake, or whether that very state which is called waking is part of an unbroken slumber? and what we seem to do when we say that we see a dream? whether we see by means of rays of light proceeding towards the object,8 or images of the objects fly to and alight on the pupils of our eyes? whether the flavour is in the things tasted, or arises from their touching the palate? from what causes hairs lay aside their natural darkness, and do not become gray all at once, but by adding little by little? why it is that all fluids, on mingling, form one whole; that oil, on the contrary, does not suffer the others to be poured into it, but is ever brought together clearly into its own impenetrable10 substance? finally, why the soul also, which is said by you to be immortal and divine, is sick in men who are sick, senseless in children, worn out in doting, silly, and crazy old age? Now the weakness and wretched ignorance of these theories is greater on this account, that while it may happen that we at times say something which is true, we cannot be sure even of this very thing, whether we have spoken the truth at all.

8. And since you have been wont to laugh at our faith, and with droll jests to pull to pieces our readiness of belief too, say, O wits, soaked and filled with wisdom’s pure draught, is there in life any kind of business demanding diligence and activity, which the doers undertake, engage in, and essay, without believing that it can be done? Do you travel about, do you sail on the sea without believing that you will return home when your business is done? Do you break up the earth with the plough, and fill it with different kinds of seeds without believing that you will gather in the fruit with the changes of the seasons? Do you unite with partners in marriage, without believing that it will be pure, and a union serviceable to the husband? Do you beget children without believing that they will pass16 safely through the different stages of life to the goal of age? Do you commit your sick bodies to the hands of physicians, without believing that diseases can be relieved by their severity being lessened? Do you wage wars with your enemies, without believing that you will carry off the victory by success in battles? Do you worship and serve the gods without believing that they are, and that they listen graciously to your prayers?

9. What, have you seen with your eyes, and handled with your hands, those things which you write yourselves, which you read from time to time on subjects placed beyond human knowledge? Does not each one trust this author or that? That which any one has persuaded himself is said with truth by another, does he not defend with a kind of assent, as it were, like that of faith? Does not he who says that fire or water is the origin of all things, pin his faith to Thales or Heraclitus? he who places the cause of all in numbers, to Pythagoras of Samos, and to Archytas? he who divides the soul, and sets up bodiless forms, to Plato, the disciple of Socrates? he who adds a fifth element to the primary causes, to Aristotle, the father of the Peripatetics? he who threatens the world with destruction by fire, and says that when the time comes it will be set on fire, to Panætius, Chrysippus, Zeno? he who is always fashioning worlds from atoms, and destroying them, to Epicurus, Democritus, Metrodorus? he who says that nothing is comprehended by man, and that all things are wrapt in dark obscurity, to Archesilas,5 to Carneades?—to some teacher, in fine, of the old and later Academy?

10. Finally, do not even the leaders and founders of the schools already mentioned, say those very things7 which they do say through belief in their own ideas? For, did Heraclitus see things produced by the changes of fires? Thales, by the condensing of water? Did Pythagoras see them spring from number? Did Plato see the bodiless forms? Democritus, the meeting together of the atoms? Or do those who assert that nothing at all can be comprehended by man, know whether what they say is true, so as to understand that the very proposition which they lay down is a declaration of truth?11 Since, then, you have discovered and learned nothing, and are led by credulity to assert all those things which you write, and comprise in thousands of books; what kind of judgment, pray, is this, so unjust that you mock at faith in us, while you see that you have it in common with our readiness of belief? But you say you believe wise men, well versed in all kinds of learning!—those, forsooth, who know nothing, and agree in nothing which they say; who join battle with their opponents on behalf of their own opinions, and are always contending fiercely with obstinate hostility; who, overthrowing, refuting, and bringing to nought the one the other’s doctrines, have made all things doubtful, and have shown from their very want of agreement that nothing can he known.

11. But, supposing that these things do not at all hinder or prevent your being bound to believe and hearken to them in great measure; and what reason is there either that you should have more liberty in this respect, or that we should have less? You believe Plato, Cronius,15 Numenius, or any one you please; we believe and confide in Christ. How unreasonable it is, that when we both abide17 by teachers, and have one and the same thing, belief, in common, you should wish it to be granted to you to receive what is so said by them, but should be unwilling to hear and see what is brought forward by Christ! And yet, if we chose to compare cause with cause, we are better able to point out what we have followed in Christ, than you to point out what you have followed in the philosophers. And we, indeed, have followed in him these things—those glorious works and most potent virtues which he manifested and displayed in diverse miracles, by which any one might be led to feel the necessity of believing, and might decide with confidence that they were not such as might be regarded as man’s, but such as showed some divine and unknown power. What virtues did you follow in the philosophers, that it was more reasonable for you to believe them than for us to believe Christ? Was any one of them ever able by one word, or by a single command, I will not say to restrain, to check the madness of the sea or the fury of the storm; to restore their sight to the blind, or give it to men blind from their birth; to call the dead back to life; to put an end to the sufferings of years; but—and this is much easier2 —to heal by one rebuke a boil, a scab, or a thorn fixed in the skin? Not that we deny either that they are worthy of praise for the soundness of their morals, or that they are skilled in all kinds of studies and learning; for we know that they both speak in the most elegant language, and that their words flow in polished periods; that they reason in syllogisms with the utmost acuteness; that they arrange their inferences in due order; that they express, divide, distinguish principles by definitions; that they say many things about the different kinds of numbers, many things about music; that by their maxims and precepts they settle the problems of geometry also. But what has that to do with the case? Do enthymemes, syllogisms, and other such things, assure us that these men know what is true? or are they therefore such that credence should necessarily be given to them with regard to very obscure subjects? A comparison of persons must be decided, not by vigour of eloquence, but by the excellence of the works which they have done. He must not be called a good teacher who has expressed himself clearly,6 but he who accompanies his promises with the guarantee of divine works.

12. You bring forward arguments against us, and speculative quibblings, which—may I say this without displeasing Him—if Christ Himself were to use in the gatherings of the nations, who would assent? who would listen? who would say that He decided8 anything clearly? or who, though he were rash and utterly credulous, would follow Him when pouring forth vain and baseless statements? His virtues have been made manifest to you, and that unheard-of power over things, whether that which was openly exercised by Him or that which was used over the whole world by those who proclaimed Him: it has subdued the fires of passion, and caused races, and peoples, and nations most diverse in character to hasten with one accord to accept the same faith. For the deeds can be reckoned up and numbered which have been done in India, among the Seres, Persians, and Medes; in Arabia, Egypt, in Asia, Syria; among the Galatians, Parthians, Phrygians; in Achaia, Macedonia, Epirus; in all islands and provinces on which the rising and setting sun shines; in Rome herself, finally, the mistress of the world, in which, although men are busied with the practices introduced by king13 Numa, and the superstitious observances of antiquity, they have nevertheless hastened to give up their fathers’ mode of life, and attach themselves to Christian truth. For they had seen the chariot15 of Simon Magus, and his fiery car, blown into pieces by the mouth of Peter, and vanish when Christ was named. They had seen him, I say, trusting in false gods, and abandoned by them in their terror, borne down headlong by his own weight, lie prostrate with his legs broken; and then, when he had been carried to Brunda, worn out with anguish and shame, again cast himself down from the roof of a very lofty house. But all these deeds you neither know nor have wished to know, nor did you ever consider that they were of the utmost importance to you; and while you trust your own judgments, and term that wisdom which is over-weening conceit, you have given to deceivers—to those guilty ones, I say, whose interest it is that the Christian name be degraded—an opportunity of raising clouds of darkness, and concealing truths of so much importance; of robbing you of faith, and putting scorn in its place, in order that, as they already feel that an end such as they deserve threatens them, they might excite in you also a feeling through which you should run into danger, and be deprived of the divine mercy.

13. Meantime, however, O you who wonder and are astonished at the doctrines of the learned, and of philosophy, do you not then think it most unjust to scoff, to jeer at us as though we say foolish and senseless things, when you too are found to say either these or just such things which you laugh at when said and uttered by us? Nor do I address those who, scattered through various bypaths of the schools, have formed this and that insignificant party through diversity of opinion. You, you I address, who zealously follow Mercury, Plato, and Pythagoras, and the rest of you who are of one mind, and walk in unity in the same paths of doctrine. Do you dare to laugh at us because we2 revere and worship the Creator and Lord of the universe, and because we commit and entrust our hopes to Him? What does your Plato say in the Theœtetus, to mention him especially? Does he not exhort the soul to flee from the earth, and, as much as in it lies, to be continually engaged in thought and meditation about Him? Do you dare to laugh at us, because we say that there will be a resurrection of the dead? And this indeed we confess that wee say, but maintain that it is understood by you otherwise than we hold it. What says the same Plato in the Politicus? Does he not say that, when the world has begun to rise out of the west and tend towards the east, men will again burst forth from the bosom of the earth, aged, grey-haired, bowed down with years; and that when the remoter6 years begin to draw near, they will gradually sink down to the cradles of their infancy, through the same steps by which they now grow to manhood?8 Do you dare to laugh at us because we see to the salvation of our souls?—that is, ourselves care for ourselves: for what are we men, but souls shut up in bodies?—You, indeed, do not take every pains for their safety, in that you do not refrain from all vice and passion; about this you are anxious, that you may cleave to your bodies as though inseparably bound to them. —What mean those mystic rites,11 in which you beseech some unknown powers to be favourable to you, and not put any hindrance in your way to impede you when returning to your native seats?

14. Do you dare to laugh at us when we speak of hell, and fires13 which cannot be quenched, into which we have learned that souls are cast by their foes and enemies? What, does not your Plato also, in the book which he wrote on the immortality of the soul, name the rivers Acheron, Styx, Cocytus, and Pyriphlegethon, and assert that in them souls are rolled along, engulphed, and burned up? But though a man of no little wisdom, and of accurate judgment and discernment, he essays a problem which cannot be solved; so that, while he says that the soul is immortal, everlasting, and without bodily substance, he yet says that they are punished, and makes them suffer pain.16 But what man does not see that which is immortal, which is simple, cannot be subject to any pain; that, on the contrary, cannot be immortal which does suffer pain? And yet his opinion is not very far from the truth. For although the gentle and kindly disposed man thought it inhuman cruelty to condemn souls to death, he yet not unreasonably18 supposed that they are cast into rivers blazing with masses of flame, and loathsome from their foul abysses. For they are cast in, and being annihilated, pass away vainly in everlasting destruction. For theirs is an intermediate20 state, as has been learned from Christ’s teaching; and they are such that they may on the one hand perish if they have not known God, and on the other be delivered from death if they have given heed to His threats and proffered favours. And to make manifest what is unknown, this is man’s real death, this which leaves nothing behind. For that which is seen by the eyes is only a separation of soul from body, not the last end—annihilation: this, I say, is man’s real death, when souls which know not God shall4 be consumed in long-protracted torment with raging fire, into which certain fiercely cruel beings shall cast them, who were unknown before Christ, and brought to light only by His wisdom.

15. Wherefore there is no reason that should mislead us, should hold out vain hopes to us, which is said by some men till now unheard of,8 and carried away by an extravagant opinion of themselves, that souls are immortal, next in point of rank to the God and ruler of the world, descended from that parent and sire, divine, wise, learned, and not within reach of the body by contact. Now, because this is true and certain, and because we have been produced by Him who is perfect without flaw, we live unblameably, I suppose, and therefore without blame; are good, just, and upright, in nothing depraved; no passion overpowers, no lust degrades us; we maintain vigorously the unremitting practice of all the virtues. And because all our souls have one origin, we therefore think exactly alike; we do not differ in manners, we do not differ in beliefs; we all know God; and there are not as many opinions as there are men in the world, nor are these divided in infinite variety.

16. But, they say, while we are moving swiftly down towards our mortal bodies, causes pursue us from the world’s circles,12 through the working of which we become bad, ay, most wicked; burn with lust and anger, spend our life in shameful deeds, and are given over to the lust of all by the prostitution of our bodies for hire. And how can the material unite with the immaterial? or how can that which God has made, be led by weaker causes to degrade itself through the practice of vice? Will you lay aside your habitual arrogance, O men, who claim God as your Father, and maintain that you are immortal, just as He is? Will you inquire, examine, search what you are yourselves, whose you are, of what parentage you are supposed to be, what you do in the world, in what way you are born, how you leap to life? Will you, laying aside all partiality, consider in the silence of your thoughts that we are creatures either quite like the rest, or separated by no great difference? For what is there to show that we do not resemble them? or what excellence is in us, such that we scorn to be ranked as creatures? Their bodies are built up on bones, and bound closely together by sinews; and our bodies are in like manner built up on bones, and bound closely together by sinews. They inspire the air through nostrils, and in breathing expire it again; and we in like manner drew in the air, and breathed it out with frequent respirations. They have been arranged in classes, female and male; we, too, have been fashioned by our Creator into the same sexes. Their young are born from the womb, and are begotten through union of the sexes; and we are born from sexual embraces, and are brought forth and sent into life from our mothers’ wombs. They are supported by eating and drinking, and get rid of the filth which remains by the lower parts; and we are supported by eating and drinking, and that which nature refuses we deal with in the same way. Their care is to ward off death-bringing famine, and of necessity to be on the watch for food. What else is our aim in the business of life, which presses so much upon us,15 but to seek the means by which the danger of starvation may be avoided, and carking anxiety put away? They are exposed to disease and hunger, and at last lose their strength by reason of age. What, then? are we not exposed to these evils, and are we not in like manner weakened by noxious diseases, destroyed by wasting age? But if that, too, which is said in the more hidden mysteries is true, that the souls of wicked men, on leaving their human bodies, pass into cattle and other creatures, it is even more clearly shown that we are allied to them, and not separated by any great interval, since it is on the same ground that both we and they are said to be living creatures, and to act as such.

17. But we have reason, one will say, and excel the whole race of dumb animals in understanding. I might believe that this was quite true, if all men lived rationally and wisely, never swerved aside from their duty, abstained from what is forbidden, and withheld themselves from baseness, and if no one through folly and the blindness of ignorance demanded what is injurious and dangerous to himself. I should wish, however, to know what this reason is, through which we are more excellent than all the tribes of animals. Is it because we have made for ourselves houses, by which we can avoid the cold of winter and heat of summer? What! do not the other animals show forethought in this respect? Do we not see some build nests as dwellings for themselves in the most convenient situations; others shelter and secure themselves in rocks and lofty crags; others burrow in the ground, and prepare for themselves strongholds and lairs in the pits which they have dug out? But if nature, which gave them life, had chosen to give to them also hands to help them, they too would, without doubt, raise lofty buildings and strike out new works of art. Yet, even in those things which they make with beaks and claws, we see that there are many appearances of reason and wisdom which we men are unable to copy, however much we ponder them, although we have hands to serve us dexterously in every kind of work.

18. They have not learned, I will be told, to make clothing, seats, ships, and ploughs, nor, in fine, the other furniture which family life requires.These are not the gifts of science, but the suggestions of most pressing necessity; nor did the arts descend with men’s souls from the inmost heavens, but here on earth have they all been painfully sought out and brought to light, and gradually acquired in process of time by careful thought. But if the soul3 had in itself the knowledge which it is fitting that a race should have indeed which is divine and immortal, all men would from the first know everything; nor would there be an age unacquainted with any art, or not furnished with practical knowledge. But now a life of want and in need of many things, noticing some things happen accidentally to its advantage, while it imitates, experiments, and tries, while it fails, remoulds, changes, from continual failure has procured for itself and wrought out some slight acquaintance with the arts, and brought to one issue the advances of many ages.

19. But if men either knew themselves thoroughly, or had the slightest knowledge of God, they would never claim as their own a divine and immortal nature; nor would they think themselves something great because they have made for themselves gridirons, basins, and bowls,6 because they have made under-shirts, outer-shirts, cloaks, plaids, robes of state, knives, cuirasses and swords, mattocks, hatchets, ploughs. Never, I say, carried away by pride and arrogance, would they believe themselves to be deities of the first rank, and fellows of the highest in his exaltation, because they8 had devised the arts of grammar, music, oratory, and geometry. For we do not see what is so wonderful in these arts, that because of their discovery the soul should be believed to be above the sun as well as all the stars, to surpass both in grandeur and essence the whole universe, of which these are parts. For what else do these assert that they can either declare or teach, than that we may learn to know the rules and differences of nouns, the intervals in the sounds of different tones, that we may speak persuasively in lawsuits, that we may measure the confines of the earth? Now, if the soul had brought these arts with it from the celestial regions, and it were impossible not to know them, all men would long before this be busied with them over all the earth, nor would any race of men be found which would not be equally and similarly instructed in them all. But now how few musicians, logicians, and geometricians are there in the world! how few orators, poets, critics! From which it is clear, as has been said pretty frequently, that these things were discovered under the pressure of time and circumstances, and that the soul did not fly hither divinely taught, because neither are all learned, nor can all learn; and10 there are very many among them somewhat deficient in shrewdness, and stupid, and they are constrained to apply themselves to learning only by fear of stripes. But if it were a fact that the things which we learn are but reminiscences —as has been maintained in the systems of the ancients—as we start from the same truth, we should all have learned alike, and remember alike—not have diverse, very numerous, and inconsistent opinions. Now, however, seeing that we each assert different things, it is clear and manifest that we have brought nothing from heaven, but become acquainted with what has arisen here, and maintain what has taken firm root in our thoughts.

20. And, that we may show you more clearly and distinctly what is the worth of man, whom you believe to be very like the higher power, conceive this idea; and because it can be done if we come into direct contact with it, let us conceive it just as if we came into contact. Let us then imagine a place dug out in the earth, fit for dwelling in, formed into a chamber, enclosed by a roof and walls, not cold in winter, not too warm in summer, but so regulated and equable that we suffer neither cold nor the violent heat of summer. To this let there not come any sound or cry whatever,2 of bird, of beast, of storm, of man—of any noise, in fine, or of the thunder’s terrible crash. Let us next devise a way in which it may be lighted not by the introduction of fire, nor by the sight of the sun, but let there be some counterfeit4 to imitate sunlight, darkness being interposed. Let there not be one door, nor a direct entrance, but let it be approached by tortuous windings, and let it never be thrown open unless when it is absolutely necessary.

21. Now, as we have prepared a place for our idea, let us next receive some one born to dwell there, where there is nothing but an empty void, —one of the race of Plato, namely, or Pythagoras, or some one of those who are regarded as of superhuman wit, or have been declared most wise by the oracles of the gods. And when this has been done, he must then be nourished and brought up on suitable food. Let us therefore provide a nurse also, who shall come to him always naked, ever silent, uttering not a word, and shall not open her mouth and lips to speak at all, but after suckling him, and doing what else is necessary, shall leave him fast asleep, and remain day and night before the closed doors; for it is usually necessary that the nurse’s care should be near at hand, and that she should watch his varying motions. But when the child begins to need to be supported by more substantial food, let it be borne in by the same nurse, still undressed, and maintaining the same unbroken silence. Let the food, too, which is carried in be always precisely the same, with no difference in the material, and without being re-cooked by means of different flavours; but let it be either pottage of millet, or bread of spelt, or, in imitation of the ancients, chestnuts roasted in the hot ashes, or berries plucked from forest trees. Let him moreover, never learn to drink wine, and let nothing else be used to quench his thirst than pure cold water from the spring, and that if possible raised to his lips in the hollow of his hands. For habit, growing into second nature, will become familiar from custom; nor will his desire extend further, not knowing that there is anything more to be sought after.

22. To what, then, you ask, do these things tend? We have brought them forward in order that—as it has been believed that the souls of men are divine, and therefore immortal, and that they come to their human bodies with all knowledge—we may make trial from this child, whom we have supposed to be brought up in this way, whether this is credible, or has been rashly believed and taken for granted, in consequence of deceitful anticipation. Let us suppose, then, that he grows up, reared in a secluded, lonely spot, spending as many, years as you choose, twenty or thirty,—nay, let him be brought into the assemblies of men when he has lived through forty years; and if it is true that he is a part of the divine essence, and lives here sprung from the fountains of life, before he makes acquaintance with anything, or is made familiar with human speech, let him be questioned and answer who he is, or from what father in what regions he was born, how or in what way brought up; with what work or business he has been engaged during the former part of his life. Will he not, then, stand speechless, with less wit and sense than any beast, block, stone? Will he not, when brought into contact with strange and previously unknown things, be above all ignorant of himself? If you ask, will he be able to say what the sun is, the earth, seas, stars, clouds, mist, showers. thunder, snow. hail? Will he be able to know what trees are, herbs, or grasses, a bull, a horse, or ram, a camel, elephant, or kite?10

23. If you give a grape to him when hungry, a must-cake, an onion, a thistle, a cucumber, a fig, will he know that his hunger can be appeased by all these, or of what kind each should be to be fit for eating? If you made a very great fire, or surrounded him with venomous creatures, will he not go through the midst of flames, vipers, tarantulæ, without knowing that they are dangerous, and ignorant even of fear? But again, if you set before him garments and furniture, both for city and country life, will he indeed be able to distinguish2 for what each is fitted? to discharge what service they are adapted? Will he declare for what purposes of dress the stragula was made, the coif,4 zone, fillet, cushion, handkerchief, cloak, veil, napkin, furs,6 shoe, sandal, boot? What, if you go on to ask what a wheel is, or a sledge, a winnowing-fan, jar, tub, an oil-mill, ploughshare, or sieve, a mill-stone, ploughtail, or light hoe; a carved seat, a needle, a strigil, a layer, an open seat, a ladle, a platter, a candlestick, a goblet, a broom, a cup, a bag; a lyre, pipe, silver, brass, gold,8 a book, a rod, a roll, and the rest of the equipment by which the life of man is surrounded and maintained? Will he not in such circumstances, as we said, like an ox10 or an ass, a pig, or any beast more senseless, look at these indeed, observing their various shapes, but12 not knowing what they all are, and ignorant of the purpose for which they are kept? If he were in any way compelled to utter a sound, would he not with gaping mouth shout something indistinctly, as the dumb usually do?

24. Why, O Plato, do you in the Meno put to a young slave certain questions relating to the doctrines of number, and strive to prove by his answers that what we learn we do not learn, but that we merely call back to memory those things which we knew in former times? Now, if he answers you correctly,—for it would not be becoming that we should refuse credit to what you say,—he is led to do so not by his real knowledge, but by his intelligence; and it results from his having some acquaintance with numbers, through using them every day, that when questioned he follows your meaning, and that the very process of multiplication always prompts him. But if you are really assured that the souls of men are immortal and endowed with knowledge when they fly hither, cease to question that youth whom you see to be ignorant and accustomed to the ways of men;16 call to you that man of forty years, and ask of him, not anything out of the way or obscure about triangles, about squares, not what a cube is, or a second power, the ratio of nine to eight, or finally, of four to three; but ask him that with which all are acquainted—what twice two are, or twice three. We wish to see, we wish to know, what answer he gives when questioned—whether he solves the desired problem. In such a case will he perceive, although his ears are open, whether you are saying anything, or asking anything, or requiring some answer from him? and will he not stand like a stock, or the Marpesian rock,18 as the saying is, dumb and speechless, not understanding or knowing even this—whether you are talking with him or with another, conversing with another or with him; whether that is intelligible speech which you utter, or merely a cry having no meaning, but drawn out and protracted to no purpose?

25. What say you, O men, who assign to yourselves too much of an excellence not your own? Is this the learned soul which you describe, immortal, perfect, divine, holding the fourth place under God the Lord of the universe, and under the kindred spirits, and proceeding from the fountains of life?21 This is that precious being man, endowed with the loftiest powers of reason, who is said to be a microcosm, and to be made and formed after the fashion of the whole universe, superior, as has been seen, to no brute, more senseless than stock or stone; for he is unacquainted with men, and always lives, loiters idly in the still deserts although he were rich, lived years without number, and never escaped from the bonds of the body. But when he goes to school, you say, and is instructed by the teaching of masters, he is made wise, learned, and lays aside the ignorance which till now clung to him. And an ass, and an ox as well, if compelled by constant practice, learn to plough and grind; a horse, to submit to the yoke, and obey the reins in running; a camel, to kneel down when being either loaded or unloaded; a dove, when set free, to fly back to its master’s house; a dog, on finding game, to check and repress its barking; a parrot, too, to articulate words; and a crow to utter names.

26. But when I hear the soul spoken of as something extraordinary, as akin and very nigh to God, and as coming hither knowing all about past times, I would have it teach, not learn; and not go back to the rudiments, as the saying is, after being advanced in knowledge, but hold fast the truths it has learned when it enters its earthly body. For unless it were so, how could it be discerned whether the soul recalls to memory or learns for the first time that which it hears; seeing that it is much easier to believe that it learns what it is unacquainted with, than that it has forgot what it knew but a little before, and that its power of recalling former things is lost through the interposition of the body? And what becomes of the doctrine that souls, being bodiless, do not have substance? For that which is not connected with any bodily form is not hampered by the opposition of another, nor can anything be led4 to destroy that which cannot be touched by what is set against it. For as a proportion established in bodies remains unaffected and secure, though it be lost to sight in a thousand cases; so must souls, if they are not material, as is asserted, retain their knowledge of the past, however thoroughly they may have been enclosed in bodies.6 Moreover, the same reasoning not only shows that they are not incorporeal, but deprives them of all immortality even, and refers them to the limits within which life is usually closed. For whatever is led by some inducement to change and alter itself, so that it cannot retain its natural state, must of necessity be considered essentially passive. But that which is liable and exposed to suffering, is declared to be corruptible by that very capacity of suffering.

27. So then, if souls lose all their knowledge on being lettered with the body, they must experience something of such a nature that it makes them become blindly forgetful. For they cannot, without becoming subject to anything whatever, either lay aside their knowledge while they maintain their natural state, or without change in themselves pass into a different state. Nay, we rather think that what is one, immortal, simple, in whatever it may be, must always retain its own nature, and that it neither should nor could be subject to anything, if indeed it purposes to endure and abide within the limits of true immortality. For all suffering is a passage for death and destruction, a way leading to the grave, and bringing an end of life which may not be escaped from; and if souls are liable to it, and yield to its influence and assaults, they indeed have life given to them only for present use, not as a secured possession,9 although some come to other conclusions, and put faith in their own arguments with regard to so important a matter.

28. And yet, that we may not be as ignorant when we leave you as before, let us hear from you how you say that the soul, on being enwrapt in an earthly body, has no recollection of the past; while, after being actually placed in the body itself, and rendered almost senseless by union with it, it holds tenaciously and faithfully the things which many years before, eighty if you choose to say so, or even more, it either did, or suffered, or said, or heard. For if, through being hampered by the body, it does not remember those things which it knew long ago, and before it came into this world, there is more reason that it should forget those things which it has done from time to time since being shut up in the body, than those which it did before entering it, while not yet connected with men. For the same body which13 deprives of memory the soul which enters it, should cause what is done within itself also to be wholly forgotten; for one cause cannot bring about two results, and these opposed to each other, so as to make some things to be forgotten, and allow others to be remembered by him who did them. But if souls, as you call them, are prevented and hindered by their fleshly members from recalling their former knowledge, how do they remember what has been arranged16 in these very bodies, and know that they are spirits, and have no bodily substance, being exalted by their condition as immortal beings? how do they know what rank they hold in the universe, in what order they have been set apart from other beings? how they have come to these, the lowest parts of the universe? what properties they acquired, and from what circles, in gliding along towards these regions? How, I say, do they know that they were very learned, and have lost their knowledge by the hindrance which their bodies afford them? For of this very thing also they should have been ignorant, whether their union with the body had brought any stain upon them; for to know what you were, and what to-day you are not, is no sign that you have lost your memory,3 but a proof and evidence that it is quite sound.

29. Now, since it is so, cease, I pray you, cease to rate trifling and unimportant things at immense values. Cease to place man in the upper ranks, since he is of the lowest; and in the highest orders, seeing that his person only is taken account of, that he is needy, poverty-stricken in his house and dwelling,6 and was never entitled to be declared of illustrious descent. For while, as just men and upholders of righteousness, you should have subdued pride and arrogance, by the evils of which we are all uplifted and puffed up with empty vanity; you not only hold that these evils arise naturally, but—and this is much worse—you have also added causes by which vice should increase, and wickedness remain incorrigible. For what man is there, although of a disposition which ever shuns what is of bad repute and shameful, who, when he hears it said by very wise men that the soul is immortal, and not subject to the decrees of the fates,8 would not throw himself headlong into all kinds of vice, and fearlessly engage in and set about unlawful things? who would not, in short, gratify his desires in all things demanded by his unbridled lust, strengthened even further by its security and freedom from punishment? For what will hinder him from doing so? The fear of a power above and divine judgment? And how shall he be overcome by any fear or dread who has been persuaded that he is immortal, just as the supreme God Himself, and that no sentence can be pronounced upon him by God, seeing that there is the same immortality in both, and that the one immortal being cannot be troubled by the other, which is only its equal?

30. But will he not be terrified by the punishments in Hades, of which we have heard, assuming also, as they do, many forms of torture? And who will be so senseless and ignorant of consequences,14 as to believe that to imperishable spirits either the darkness of Tartarus, or rivers of fire, or marshes with miry abysses, or wheels sent whirling through the air, can in any wise do harm? For that which is beyond reach, and not subject to the laws of destruction, though it be surrounded by all the flames of the raging streams, be rolled in the mire, overwhelmed by the fall of overhanging rocks and by the overthrow of huge mountains, must remain safe and untouched without suffering any deadly harm.

Moreover, that conviction not only leads on to wickedness, from the very freedom to sin which it suggests, but even takes away the ground of philosophy itself, and asserts that it is vain to undertake its study, because of the difficulty of the work, which leads to no result. For if it is true that souls know no end, and are ever advancing with all generations, what danger is there in giving themselves up to the pleasures of sense—despising and neglecting the virtues by regard to which life is more stinted in its pleasures, and becomes less attractive—and in letting loose their boundless lust to range eagerly and unchecked through all kinds of debauchery? Is it the danger of being worn out by such pleasures, and corrupted by vicious effeminacy? And how can that be corrupted which is immortal, which always exists, and is subject to no suffering? Is it the danger of being polluted by foul and base deeds? And how can that be defiled which has no corporeal substance; or where can corruption seat itself, where there is no place on which the mark of this very corruption should fasten?

But again, if souls draw near to the gates of death, as is laid down in the doctrine of Epicurus, in this case, too, there is no sufficient reason why philosophy should be sought out, even if it is true that by it souls are cleansed and made pure from all uncleanness.2 For if they all die, and even in the body4 the feeling characteristic of life perishes, and is lost; it is not only a very great mistake, but shows stupid blindness, to curb innate desires, to restrict your mode of life within narrow limits, not yield to your inclinations, and do what our passions have demanded and urged, since no rewards await you for so great toil when the day of death comes, and you shall be freed from the bonds of the body.

31. A certain neutral character, then, and undecided and doubtful nature of the soul, has made room for philosophy, and found out a reason for its being sought after: while, that is, that fellow is full of dread because of evil deeds of which he is guilty; another conceives great hopes if he shall do no evil, and pass his life in obedience to7 duty and justice. Thence it is that among learned men, and men endowed with excellent abilities, there is strife as to the nature of the soul, and some say that it is subject to death, and cannot take upon itself the divine substance; while others maintain that it is immortal, and cannot sink under the power of death. But this is brought about by the law of the soul’s neutral character: because, on the one hand, arguments present themselves to the one party by which it is found that the soul10 is capable of suffering, and perishable; and, on the other hand, are not wanting to their opponents, by which it is shown that the soul is divine and immortal.

32. Since these things are so, and we have been taught by the greatest teacher that souls are set not far from the gaping jaws of death; that they can, nevertheless, have their lives prolonged by the favour and kindness of the Supreme Ruler if only they try and study to know Him,—for the knowledge of Him is a kind of vital leaven12 and cement to bind together that which would otherwise fly apart,—let them, then, laying aside their savage and barbarous nature, return to gentler ways, that they may be able to be ready for that which shall be given.14 What reason is there that we should be considered by you brutish, as it were, and stupid, if we have yielded and given ourselves up to God our deliverer, because of these fears? We often seek out remedies for wounds and the poisoned bites of serpents, and defend ourselves by means of thin plates sold by Psylli16 or Marsi, and other hucksters and impostors; and that we may not be inconvenienced by cold or intense heat,18 we provide with anxious and careful diligence coverings in houses and clothing.

33. Seeing that the fear o