BOOK 5 CHAPTER 10.—THE OPINION OF THE APOSTLES ON VEILING THE MYSTERIES OF THE FAITH.
Rightly, therefore, the divine apostle says, “By revelation the mystery was made known to me (as I wrote before in brief, in accordance with which, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets.” For there is an instruction of the perfect, of which, writing to the Colossians, he says, “We cease not to pray for you, and beseech that ye may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye may walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing; being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might according to the glory of His power.” And again he says, “According to the disposition of the grace of God which is given me, that ye may fulfil the word of God; the mystery which has been hid from ages and generations, which now is manifested to His saints: to whom God wished to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations.” So that, on the one hand, then, are the mysteries which were hid till the time of the apostles, and were delivered by them as they received from the Lord, and, concealed in the Old Testament, were manifested to the saints. And, on the other hand, there is “the riches of the glory of the mystery in the Gentiles,” which is faith and hope in Christ; which in another place he has called the “foundation.” And again, as if in eagerness to divulge this knowledge, he thus writes: “Warning every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man (the whole man) perfect in Christ;” not every man simply, since no one would be unbelieving. Nor does he call every man who believes in Christ perfect; but he says all the man, as if he said the whole man, as if purified in body and soul. For that the know- ledge does not appertain to all, he expressly adds: “Being knit together in love, and unto all the riches of the full assurance of knowledge, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God in Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.” “Continue in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving.” And thanksgiving has place not for the soul and spiritual blessings alone, but also for the body, and for the good things of the body. And he still more clearly reveals that knowledge belongs not to all, by adding: “Praying at the same time for you, that God would open to us a door to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am bound; that I may make it known as I ought to speak.” For there were certainly, among the Hebrews, some things delivered unwritten. “For when ye ought to be teachers for the time,” it is said, as if they had grown old in the Old Testament, “ye have again need that one teach you which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partaketh of milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe, being instructed with the first lessons. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, who by reason of use have their senses exercised so as to distinguish between good and evil. Wherefore, leaving the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection.”
Barnabas, too, who in person preached the word along with the apostle in the ministry of the Gentiles, says, “I write to you most simply, that ye may understand.” Then below, exhibiting already a clearer trace of gnostic tradition, he says, “What says the other prophet Moses to them? Lo, thus saith the Lord God, Enter ye into the good land which the Lord God sware, the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and ye received for an inheritance that land, flowing with milk and honey.” What says knowledge? Learn, hope, it says, in Jesus, who is to be manifested to you in the flesh. For man is the suffering land; for from the face of the ground was the formation of Adam. What, then, does it say in reference to the good land, flowing with milk and honey? Blessed be our Lord, brethren, who has put into our hearts wisdom, and the understanding of His secrets. For the prophet says, “Who shall understand the Lord’s parable but the wise and understanding, and he that loves his Lord?” It is but for few to comprehend these things. For it is not in the way of envy that the Lord announced in a Gospel, “My mystery is to me, and to the sons of my house;” placing the election in safety, and beyond anxiety; so that the things pertaining to what it has chosen and taken may be above the reach of envy. For he who has not the knowledge of good is wicked: for there is one good, the Father; and to be ignorant of the Father is death, as to know Him is eternal life, through participation in the power of the incorrupt One. And to be incorruptible is to participate in divinity; but revolt from the knowledge of God brings corruption. Again the prophet says: “And I will give thee treasures, concealed, dark, unseen; that they may know that I am the Lord.” Similarly David sings: “For, lo, Thou hast loved truth; the obscure and hidden things of wisdom hast Thou showed me.” “Day utters speech to day” (what is clearly written), “and night to night proclaims knowledge” (which is hidden in a mystic veil); “and there are no words or utterances whose voices shall not be heard” by God, who said, “Shall one do what is secret, and I shall not see him?
Wherefore instruction, which reveals hidden things, is called illumination, as it is the teacher only who uncovers the lid of the ark, contrary to what the poets say, that “Zeus stops up the jar of good things, but opens that of evil.” “For I know,” says the apostle, “that when I come to you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ;” designating the spiritual gift, and the gnostic communication, which being present he desires to impart to them present as “the fulness of Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery sealed in the ages of eternity, but now manifested by the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all the nations, in order to the obedience of faith,” that is, those of the nations who believe that it is. But only to a few of them is shown what those things are which are contained in the mystery.
Rightly then, Plato, in the Epistles, treating of God, says: “We must speak in enigmas; that should the tablet come by any mischance on its leaves either by sea or land, he who reads may remain ignorant.” For the God of the universe, who is above all speech, all con- ception, all thought, can never be committed to writing, being inexpressible even by His own power. And this too Plato showed, by saying: “Considering, then, these things, take care lest some time or other you repent on account of the present things, departing in a manner unworthy. The greatest safeguard is not to write, but learn; for it is utterly impossible that what is written will not vanish.” Akin to this is what the holy Apostle Paul says, preserving the prophetic and truly ancient secret from which the teachings that were good were derived by the Greeks: “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them who are perfect; but not the wisdom of this world, or of the princes of this world, that come to nought; but we speak the wisdom of God hidden in a mystery.” Then proceeding, he thus inculcates the caution against the divulging of his words to the multitude in the following terms: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as to carnal, even to babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, not with meat: for ye were not yet able; neither are ye now able. For ye are yet carnal.” If, then, “the milk” is said by the apostle to belong to the babes, and “meat” to be the food of the full-grown, milk will be understood to be catechetical instruction—the first food, as it were, of the soul. And meat is the mystic contemplation; for this is the flesh and the blood of the Word, that is, the comprehension of the divine power and essence. “Taste and see that the Lord is Christ,” it is said. For so He imparts of Himself to those who partake of such food in a more spiritual manner; when now the soul nourishes itself, according to the truth-loving Plato. For the knowledge of the divine essence is the meat and drink of the divine Word. Wherefore also Plato says, in the second book of the Republic, “It is those that sacrifice not a sow, but some great and difficult sacrifice,” who ought to inquire respecting God. And the apostle writes, “Christ our passover was sacrificed for us;”—a sacrifice hard to procure, in truth, the Son of God consecrated for us.
BOOK 5 CHAPTER 12.—GOD CANNOT BE EMBRACED IN WORDS OR BY THE MIND.
“For both is it a difficult task to discover the Father and Maker of this universe; and having found Him, it is impossible to declare Him to all. For this is by no means capable of expression, like the other subjects of instruction,” says the truth-loving Plato. For he that had heard right well that the all-wise Moses, ascending the mount for holy contemplation, to the summit of intellectual objects, necessarily commands that the whole people do not accompany him. And when the Scripture says, “Moses entered into the thick darkness where God was,” this shows to those capable of understanding, that God is invisible and beyond expression by words. And “the darkness”—which is, in truth, the unbelief and ignorance of the multitude—obstructs the gleam of truth. And again Orpheus, the theologian, aided from this quarter, says:— “One is perfect in himself, and all things are made the progeny of one,” or, “are born;” for so also is it written. He adds:— “Him No one of mortals has seen, but He sees all.” And he adds more clearly:— “Him see I not, for round about, a cloud Has settled; for in mortal eyes are small, And mortal pupils—only flesh and bones grow there.” To these statements the apostle will testify: “I know a man in Christ, caught up into the third heaven, and thence into Paradise, who heard unutterable words which it is not lawful for a man to speak,”—intimating thus the impossibility of expressing God, and indicating that what is divine is unutterable by human power; if, indeed, he begins to speak above the third heaven, as it is lawful to initiate the elect souls in the mysteries there. For I know what is in Plato (for the examples from the barbarian philosophy, which are many, are suggested now by the composition which, in accordance with promises previously given, waits the suitable time). For doubting, in Timæus, whether we ought to regard several worlds as to be understood by many heavens, or this one, he makes no distinction in the names, calling the world and heaven by the same name. But the words of the statement are as follows: “Whether, then, have we rightly spoken of one heaven, or of many and infinite? It were more correct to say one, if indeed it was created according to the model.” Further, in the Epistle of the Romans to the Corinthians it is written, “An ocean illimitable by men and the worlds after it.” Consequently, therefore, the noble apostle exclaims, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!” And was it not this which the prophet meant, when he ordered unleavened cakes to be made, intimating that the truly sacred mystic word, respecting the unbegotten and His powers, ought to be concealed? In confirmation of these things, in the Epistle to the Corinthians the apostle plainly says: “Howbeit we speak wisdom among those who are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world, or of the princes of this world, that come to nought. But we speak the wisdom of God hidden in a mystery.” And again in another place he says: “To the acknowledgment of the mystery of God in Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” These things the Saviour Himself seals when He says: “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” And again the Gospel says that the Saviour spake to the apostles the word in a mystery. For prophecy says of Him: “He will open His mouth in parables, and will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.” And now, by the parable of the leaven, the Lord shows concealment; for He says, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” For the tripartite soul is saved by obedience, through the spiritual power hidden in it by faith; or because the power of the word which is given to us, being strong and powerful, draws to itself secretly and invisibly every one who receives it, and keeps it within himself, and brings his whole system into unity. Accordingly Solon has written most wisely respecting God thus:— “It is most difficult to apprehend the mind’s invisible measure Which alone holds the boundaries of all things.” For “the divine,” says the poet of Agrigenturn,— “Is not capable of being approached with our eyes, Or grasped with our hands; but the highway
Of persuasion, highest of all, leads to men’s minds.” And John the apostle says: “No man hath seen God at any time. The only-begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him,”—calling invisibility and ineffableness the bosom of God. Hence some have called it the Depth, as containing and embosoming all things, inaccessible and boundless. This discourse respecting God is most difficult to handle. For since the first principle of everything is difficult to find out, the absolutely first and oldest principle, which is the cause of all other things being and having been, is difficult to exhibit. For how can that be expressed which is neither genus, nor difference, nor species, nor individual, nor number; nay more, is neither an event, nor that to which an event happens? No one can rightly express Him wholly. For on account of His greatness He is ranked as the All, and is the Father of the universe. Nor are any parts to be predicated of Him. For the One is indivisible; wherefore also it is infinite, not considered with reference to inscrutability, but with reference to its being without dimensions, and not having a limit. And therefore it is without form and name. And if we name it, we do not do so properly, terming it either the One, or the Good, or Mind, or Absolute Being, or Father, or God, or Creator, or Lord. We speak not as supplying His name; but for want, we use good names, in order that the mind may have these as points of support, so as not to err in other respects. For each one by itself does not express God; but all together are indicative of the power of the Omnipotent. For predicates are expressed either from what belongs to things themselves, or from their mutual relation. But none of these are admissible in reference to God. Nor any more is He apprehended by the science of demonstration. For it depends on primary and better known principles. But there is nothing antecedent to the Unbegotten. It remains that we understand, then, the Unknown, by divine grace, and by the word alone that proceeds from Him; as Luke in the Acts of the Apostles relates that Paul said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For in walking about, and beholding the objects of your worship, I found an altar on which was inscribed, To the Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you.”
CHAPTER 14.—GREEK PLAGIARISM FROM THE HEBREWS.
Let us add in completion what follows, and exhibit now with greater clearness the plagiarism of the Greeks from the Barbarian philosophy.
Now the Stoics say that God, like the soul, is essentially body and spirit. You will find all this explicitly in their writings. Do not consider at present their allegories as the gnostic truth presents them; whether they show one thing and mean another, like the dexterous athletes. Well, they say that God pervades all being; while we call Him solely Maker, and Maker by the Word. They were misled by what is said in the book of Wisdom: “He pervades and passes through all by reason of His purity;” since they did not understand that this was said of Wisdom, which was the first of the creation of God.
So be it, they say. But the philosophers, the Stoics, and Plato, and Pythagoras, nay more, Aristotle the Peripatetic, suppose the existence of matter among the first principles; and not one first principle. Let them then know that what is called matter by them, is said by them to be without quality, and without form, and more daringly said by Plato to be non-existence. And does he not say very mystically, knowing that the true and real first cause is one, in these very words: “Now, then, let our opinion be so. As to the first principle or principles of the universe, or what opinion we ought to entertain about all these points, we are not now to speak, for no other cause than on account of its being difficult to explain our sentiments in accordance with the present form of discourse.” But undoubtedly that prophetic expression, “Now the earth was invisible and formless,” supplied them with the ground of material essence.
And the introduction of “chance” was hence suggested to Epicurus, who misapprehended the statement, “Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.” And it occurred to Aristotle to extend Providence as far as the moon from this psalm: “Lord, Thy mercy is in the heavens; and Thy truth reacheth to the clouds.” For the explanation of the prophetic mysteries had not yet been revealed previous to the advent of the Lord.
Punishments after death, on the other hand, and penal retribution by fire, were pilfered from the Barbarian philosophy both by all the poetic Muses and by the Hellenic philosophy. Plato, accordingly, in the last book of the Republic, says in these express terms: “Then these men fierce and fiery to look on, standing by, and hearing the sound, seized and took some aside; and binding Aridæus and the rest hand, foot, and head, and throwing them down, and flaying them, dragged them along the way, tearing their flesh with thorns.” For the fiery men are meant to signify the angels, who seize and punish the wicked. “Who maketh,” it is said, “His angels spirits; His ministers flaming fire.” It follows from this that the soul is immortal. For what is tortured or corrected being in a state of sensation lives, though said to suffer. Well! Did not Plato know of the rivers of fire and the depth of the earth, and Tartarus, called by the Barbarians Gehenna, naming, as he does prophetically, Cocytus, and Acheron, and Pyriphlegethon, and introducing such corrective tortures for discipline?
But indicating “the angels” as the Scripture says, “of the little ones, and of the least, which see God,” and also the oversight reaching to us exercised by the tutelary angels, he shrinks not from writing, “That when all the souls have selected their several lives, accord- ing as it has fallen to their lot, they advance in order to Lachesis; and she sends along with each one, as his guide in life, and the joint accomplisher of his purposes, the demon which he has chosen.” Perhaps also the demon of Socrates suggested to him something similar.
Nay, the philosophers. having so heard from Moses, taught that the world was created. And so Plato expressly said, “Whether was it that the world had no beginning of its existence, or derived its beginning from some beginning? For being visible, it is tangible; and being tangible, it has a body.” Again, when he says, “It is a difficult task to find the Maker and Father of this universe,” he not only showed that the universe was created, but points out that it was generated by him as a son, and that he is called its father, as deriving its being from him alone, and springing from non-existence. The Stoics, too, hold the tenet that the world was created.
And that the devil so spoken of by the Barbarian philosophy, the prince of the demons, is a wicked spirit, Plato asserts in the tenth book of the Laws, in these words: “Must we not say that spirit which pervades the things that are moved on all sides, pervades also heaven? Well, what? One or more? Several, say I, in reply for you. Let us not suppose fewer than two—that which is beneficent, and that which is able to accomplish the opposite.” Similarly in the Phœdrus he writes as follows: “Now there are other evils. But some demon has mingled pleasure with the most things at present.” Further, in the tenth book of the Laws, he expressly emits that apostolic sentiment, “Our contest is not with flesh and blood, but principalities, with powers, with the spiritual things of those which are in heaven;” writing thus: “For since we are agreed that heaven is full of many good beings; but it is also full of the opposite of these, and more of these; and as we assert such a contest is deathless, and requiring marvellous watchfulness.”
Again the Barbarian philosophy knows the world of thought and the world of sense—the former archetypal, and the latter the image of that which is called the model; and assigns the former to the Monad, as being perceived by the mind, and the world of sense to the number six. For six is called by the Pythagoreans marriage, as being the genital number; and he places in the Monad the invisible heaven and the holy earth, and intellectual light. For “in the beginning,” it is said, “God made the heaven and the earth; and the earth was invisible.” And it is added, “And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.” And in the material cosmogony He creates a solid heaven (and what is solid is capable of being perceived by sense), and a visible earth, and a light that is seen. Does not Plato hence appear to have left the ideas of living creatures in the intellectual world, and to make intellectual objects into sensible species according to their genera? Rightly then Moses says, that the body which Plato calls “the earthly tabernacle” was formed of the ground, but that the rational soul was breathed by God into man’s face. For there, they say, the ruling faculty is situated; interpreting the access by the senses into the first man as the addition of the soul.
Wherefore also man is said “to have been made in [God’s] image and likeness.” For the image of God is the divine and royal Word, the impassible man; and the image of the image is the human mind. And if you wish to apprehend the likeness by another name, you will find it named in Moses, a divine correspondence. For he says, “Walk after the Lord your God, and keep His commandments.” And I reckon all the virtuous, servants and followers of God. Hence the Stoics say that the end of philosophy is to live agreeable to nature; and Plato, likeness to God, as we have shown in the second Miscellany. And Zeno the Stoic, borrowing from Plato, and he from the Barbarian philosophy, says that all the good are friends of one another. For Socrates says in the Phœdrus, “that it has not been ordained that the bad should be a friend to the bad, nor the good be not a friend to the good;” as also he showed sufficiently in the Lysis, that friendship is never preserved in wickedness and vice. And the Athenian stranger similarly says, “that there is conduct pleasing and conformable to God, based on one ancient ground-principle, That like loves like, provided it be within measure. But things beyond measure are congenial neither to what is within nor what is beyond measure. Now it is the case that God is the measure to us of all things.” Then proceeding, Plato adds: “For every good man is like every other good man; and so being like to God, he is liked by every good man and by God.” At this point I have just recollected the following. In the end of the Timæus he says: “You must necessarily assimilate that which perceives to that which is perceived, according to its original nature; and it is by so assimilating it that you attain to the end of the highest life proposed by the gods to men, for the present or the future time.” For those have equal power with these. He, who seeks, will not stop till he find; and having found, he will wonder; and wondering, he will reign; and reigning, he will rest. And what? Were not also those expressions of Thales derived from these? The fact that God is glorified for ever, and that He is expressly called by us the Searcher of hearts, he interprets. For Thales being asked, What is the divinity? said, What has neither beginning nor end. And on another asking, “If a man could elude the knowledge of the Divine Being while doing aught?” said, “How could he who cannot do so while thinking?”
Further, the Barbarian philosophy recognises good as alone excellent, and virtue as sufficient for happiness, when it says, “Behold, I have set before your eyes good and evil, life and death, that ye may choose life.” For it calls good, “life,” and the choice of it excellent, and the choice of the opposite “evil.” And the end of good and of life is to become a lover of God: “For this is thy life and length of days,” to love that which tends to the truth. And these points are yet clearer. For the Saviour, in enjoining to love God and our neighbour, says, “that on these two commandments hang the whole law and the prophets.” Such are the tenets promulgated by the Stoics; and before these, by Socrates, in the Phœdrus, who prays, “O Pan, and ye other gods, give me to be beautiful within.” And in the Theœtetus he says expressly, “For he that speaks well (καλῶς) is both beautiful and good.” And in the Protagoras he avers to the companions of Protagoras that he has met with one more beautiful than Alcibiades, if indeed that which is wisest is most beautiful. For he said that virtue was the soul’s beauty, and, on the contrary, that vice was the soul’s deformity. Accordingly, Antipatrus the Stoic, who composed three books on the point, “That, according to Plato, only the beautiful is good,” shows that, according to him, virtue is sufficient for happiness; and adduces several other dogmas agreeing with the Stoics. And by Aristobulus, who lived in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, who is mentioned by the composer of the epitome of the books of the Maccabees, there were abundant books to show that the Peripatetic philo- sophy was derived from the law of Moses and from the other prophets. Let such be the case.
Plato plainly calls us brethren, as being of one God and one teacher, in the following words: “For ye who are in the state are entirely brethren (as we shall say to them, continuing our story). But the God who formed you, mixed gold in the composition of those of you who are fit to rule, at your birth, wherefore you are most highly honoured; and silver in the case of those who are helpers; and steel and brass in the case of farmers and other workers.” Whence, of necessity, some embrace and love those things to which knowledge pertains; and others matters of opinion. Perchance he prophesies of that elect nature which is bent on knowledge; if by the supposition he makes of three natures he does not describe three politics, as some supposed: that of the Jews, the silver; that of the Greeks, the third; and that of the Christians, with whom has been mingled the regal gold, the Holy Spirit, the golden.
And exhibiting the Christian life, he writes in the Theætetus in these words: “Let us now speak of the highest principles. For why should we speak of those who make an abuse of philosophy? These know neither the way to the forum, nor know they the court or the senate-house, or any other public assembly of the state. As for laws and decrees spoken or written, they neither see nor hear them. But party feelings of political associations and public meetings, and revels with musicians [occupy them]; but they never even dream of taking part in affairs. Has any one conducted himself either well or ill in the state, or has aught evil descended to a man from his forefathers?—it escapes their attention as much as do the sands of the sea. And the man does not even know that he does not know all these things; but in reality his body alone is situated and dwells in the state, while the man himself flies, according to Pindar, beneath the earth and above the sky, astronomizing, and exploring all nature on all sides.
Again, with the Lord’s saying, “Let your yea be yea, and your nay nay,” may be compared the following: “But to admit a falsehood, and destroy a truth, is in nowise lawful.” With the prohibition, also, against swearing agrees the saying in the tenth book of the Laws: “Let praise and an oath in everything be absent.”
And in general, Pythagoras, and Socrates, and Plato say that they hear God’s voice while closely contemplating the fabric of the universe, made and preserved unceasingly by God. For they heard Moses say, “He said, and it was done,” describing the word of God as an act.
And founding on the formation of man from the dust, the philosophers constantly term the body earthy. Homer, too, does not hesitate to put the following as an imprecation:—
“But may you all become earth and water.”
As Esaias says, “And trample them down as clay.” And Callimachus clearly writes:—
“That was the year in which Birds, fishes, quadrupeds, Spoke like Prometheus’ clay.”
And the same again:—
“If thee Prometheus formed, And thou art not of other clay.”
Hesiod says of Pandora:—
His offspring; . . . . ”
“And bade Hephæstus, famed, with all his speed, Knead earth with water, and man’s voice and mind Infuse.”
The Stoics, accordingly, define nature to be artificial fire, advancing systematically to generation. And God and His Word are by Scripture figuratively termed fire and light. But how? Does not Homer himself, is not Homer himself, paraphrasing the retreat of the water from the land, and the clear uncovering of the dry land, when he says of Tethys and Oceanus:—
“For now for a long time they abstain from Each other’s bed and love?”
Again, power in all things is by the most intellectual among the Greeks ascribed to God; Epicharmus—he was a Pythagorean—saying:—
“Nothing escapes the divine. This it behoves thee to know. He is our observer. To God nought is impossible.”
And the lyric poet:—
“And God from gloomy night
Can raise unstained light,
And can in darksome gloom obscure The day’s refulgence pure.”
He alone who is able to make night during the period of day is God. In the Phœnomena Aratus writes thus:—
“With Zeus let us begin; whom let us ne’er, Being men, leave unexpressed. All full of Zeus, The streets, and throngs of men, and full the sea, And shores, and everywhere we Zeus enjoy.”
that is, by creation.
“Who, bland to men,
Propitious signs displays, and to their tasks Arouses. For these signs in heaven He fixed, The constellations spread, and crowned the year With stars; to show to men the seasons’ tasks, That all things may proceed in order sure.
Him ever first, Him last too, they adore:
Hail Father, marvel great—great boon to men.”
And before him, Homer, framing the world in accordance with Moses on the Vulcan- wrought shield, says:—
“On it he fashioned earth, and sky, and sea,
And all the signs with which the heaven is crowned.”
For the Zeus celebrated in poems and prose compositions leads the mind up to God. And already, so to speak, Democritus writes, “that a few men are in the light, who stretch out their hands to that place which we Greeks now call the air. Zeus speaks all, and he hears all, and distributes and takes away, and he is king of all.” And more mystically the Bœotian Pindar, being a Pythagorean, says:—
“One is the race of gods and men, And of one mother both have breath;”
that is, of matter: and names the one creator of these things, whom he calls Father, chief artificer, who furnishes the means of advancement on to divinity, according to merit.
For I pass over Plato; he plainly, in the Epistle to Erastus and Coriscus, is seen to exhibit the Father and Son somehow or other from the Hebrew Scriptures, exhorting in these words: “In invoking by oath, with not illiterate gravity, and with culture, the sister of gravity, God the author of all, and invoking Him by oath as the Lord, the Father of the Leader, and author; whom if ye study with a truly philosophical spirit, ye shall know.” And the address in the Timœus calls the creator, Father, speaking thus: “Ye gods of gods, of whom I am Father; and the Creator of your works.” So that when he says, “Around the king of all, all things are, and because of Him are all things; and he [or that] is the cause of all good things; and around the second are the things second in order; and around the third, the third,” I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father. And the same, in the tenth book of the Republic, mentions Eros the son of Armenius, who is Zoroaster. Zoroaster, then, writes: “These were composed by Zoroaster, the son of Armenius, a Pamphylian by birth: having died in battle, and been in Hades, I learned them of the gods.” This Zoroaster, Plato says, having been placed on the funeral pyre, rose again to life in twelve days. He alludes perchance to the resurrection, or perchance to the fact that the path for souls to ascension lies through the twelve signs of the zodiac; and he himself says, that the descending pathway to birth is the same. In the same way we are to understand the twelve labours of Hercules, after which the soul obtains release from this entire world. I do not pass over Empedocles, who speaks thus physically of the renewal of all things, as consisting in a transmutation into the essence of fire, which is to take place. And most plainly of the same opinion is Heraclitus of Ephesus, who considered that there was a world everlasting, and recognised one perishable—that is, in its arrangement, not being different from the former, viewed in a certain aspect. But that he knew the imperishable world which consists of the universal essence to be everlastingly of a certain nature, he makes clear by speaking thus: “The same world of all things, neither any of the gods, nor any one of men, made. But there was, and is, and will be ever-living fire, kindled according to measure, and quenched according to measure.” And that he taught it to be generated and perishable, is shown by what follows: “There are transmutations of fire,—first, the sea; and of the sea the half is land, the half fiery vapour.” For he says that these are the effects of power. For fire is by the Word of God, which governs all things, changed by the air into moisture, which is, as it were, the germ of cosmical change; and this he calls sea. And out of it again is produced earth, and sky, and all that they contain. How, again, they are restored and ignited, he shows clearly in these words: “The sea is diffused and measured according to the same rule which subsisted before it became earth.” Similarly also respecting the other elements, the same is to be understood. The most renowned of the Stoics teach similar doctrines with him, in treating of the conflagration and the government of the world, and both the world and man properly so called, and of the continuance of our souls.
Plato, again, in the seventh book of the Republic, has called “the day here nocturnal,” as I suppose, on account of “the world-rulers of this darkness;” and the descent of the soul into the body, sleep and death, similarly with Heraclitus. And was not this announced, oracularly, of the Saviour, by the Spirit, saying by David, “I slept, and slumbered; I awoke: for the Lord will sustain me;“ For He not only figuratively calls the resurrection of Christ rising from sleep; but to the descent of the Lord into the flesh he also applies the figurative term sleep. The Saviour Himself enjoins, “Watch;” as much as to say, “Study how to live, and endeavour to separate the soul from the body.”
And the Lord’s day Plato prophetically speaks of in the tenth book of the Republic, in these words: “And when seven days have passed to each of them in the meadow, on the eighth they are to set out and arrive in four days.” By the meadow is to be understood the fixed sphere, as being a mild and genial spot, and the locality of the pious; and by the seven days each motion of the seven planets, and the whole practical art which speeds to the end of rest. But after the wandering orbs the journey leads to heaven, that is, to the eighth motion and day. And he says that souls are gone on the fourth day, pointing out the passage through the four elements. But the seventh day is recognised as sacred, not by the Hebrews only, but also by the Greeks; according to which the whole world of all animals and plants revolve. Hesiod says of it:—
“The first, and fourth, and seventh day were held sacred.”
“And on the seventh the sun’s resplendent orb.”
“And on the seventh then came the sacred day.”
“The seventh was sacred.”
“It was the seventh day, and all things were accomplished.”
“And on the seventh morn we leave the stream of Acheron.”
Callimachus the poet also writes:—
“It was the seventh morn, and they had all things done.”
“Among good days is the seventh day, and the seventh race.”
“The seventh is among the prime, and the seventh is perfect.”
The Elegies of Solon, too, intensely deify the seventh day.
And how? Is it not similar to Scripture when it says, “Let us remove the righteous man
from us, because he is troublesome to us?” when Plato, all but predicting the economy of salvation, says in the second book of the Republic as follows: “Thus he who is constituted just shall be scourged, shall be stretched on the rack, shall be bound, have his eyes put out; and at last, having suffered all evils, shall be crucified.”
And the Socratic Antisthenes, paraphrasing that prophetic utterance, “To whom have ye likened me? saith the Lord,” says that “God is like no one; wherefore no one can come to the knowledge of Him from an image.”
Xenophon too, the Athenian, utters these similar sentiments in the following words: “He who shakes all things, and is Himself immoveable, is manifestly one great and powerful. But what He is in form, appears not. No more does the sun, who wishes to shine in all dir- ections, deem it right to permit any one to look on himself. But if one gaze on him auda- ciously, he loses his eyesight.”
“What flesh can see with eyes the Heavenly, True, Immortal God, whose dwelling is the poles?
Not even before the bright beams of the sun
Are men, as being mortal, fit to stand,”—
“Now all the seven were made in starry heaven, In circles shining as the years appear.”
the Sibyl had said before. Rightly, then, Xenophanes of Colophon, teaching that God is one and incorporeal, adds:—
“One God there is ’midst gods and men supreme; In form, in mind, unlike to mortal men.”
“But men have the idea that gods are born,
And wear their clothes, and have both voice and shape.”
“But had the oxen or the lions hands,
Or could with hands depict a work like men, Were beasts to draw the semblance of the gods, The horses would them like to horses sketch, To oxen, oxen, and their bodies make
Of such a shape as to themselves belongs.”
Let us hear, then, the lyric poet Bacchylides speaking of the divine:—
“Who to diseases dire never succumb,
And blameless are; in nought resembling men.”
And also Cleanthes, the Stoic, who writes thus in a poem on the Deity:—
“If you ask what is the nature of the good, listen— That which is regular, just, holy, pious, Self-governing, useful, fair, fitting,
Grave, independent, always beneficial,
That feels no fear or grief, profitable, painless, Helpful, pleasant, safe, friendly,
Held in esteem, agreeing with itself: honourable, Humble, careful, meek, zealous,
Perennial, blameless, ever-during.”
And the same, tacitly vilifying the idolatry of the multitude, adds:—
“Base is every one who looks to opinion, With the view of deriving any good from it.”
We are not, then, to think of God according to the opinion of the multitude.
“For I do not think that secretly, Imitating the guise of a scoundrel, He would go to thy bed as a man,”
says Amphion to Antiope. And Sophocles plainly writes:—
“His mother Zeus espoused,
Not in the likeness of gold, nor covered With swan’s plumage, as the Pleuronian girl He impregnated; but an out and out man.”
He further proceeds, and adds:—
“And quick the adulterer stood on the bridal steps.”
Then he details still more plainly the licentiousness of the fabled Zeus:—
“But he nor food nor cleansing water touched, But heart-stung went to bed, and that whole night Wantoned.”
But let these be resigned to the follies of the theatre.
Heraclius plainly says: “But of the word which is eternal men are not able to understand,
both before they have heard it, and on first hearing it.” And the lyrist Melanippides says in song:—
“Hear me, O Father, Wonder of men, Ruler of the ever-living soul.”
And Parmenides the great, as Plato says in the Sophist, writes of God thus:— “Very much, since unborn and indestructible He is,
Whole, only-begotten, and immoveable, and unoriginated.”
Hesiod also says:—
“For He of the immortals all is King and Lord.
With God none else in might may strive.”
Nay more, Tragedy, drawing away from idols, teaches to look up to heaven. Sophocles, as Hecatæus, who composed the histories in the work about Abraham and the Egyptians, says, exclaims plainly on the stage:—
“One in very truth, God is One,
Who made the heaven and the far-stretching earth, The Deep’s blue billow, and the might of winds. But of us mortals, many erring far
In heart, as solace for our woes, have raised
Images of gods—of stone, or else of brass,
Or figures wrought of gold or ivory;
And sacrifices and vain festivals
To these appointing, deem ourselves devout.”
And Euripides on the stage, in tragedy, says:—
“Dost thou this lofty, boundless Ether see, Which holds the earth around in the embrace Of humid arms? This reckon Zeus,
And this regard as God.”
And in the drama of Pirithous, the same writes those lines in tragic vein:—
“Thee, self-sprung, who on Ether’s wheel
Hast universal nature spun,
Around whom Light and dusky spangled Night, The countless host of stars, too, ceaseless dance.”
For there he says that the creative mind is self-sprung. What follows applies to the universe, in which are the opposites of light and darkness.
Æschylus also, the son of Euphorion, says with very great solemnity of God:—
“Ether is Zeus, Zeus earth, and Zeus the heaven; The universe is Zeus, and all above.”
I am aware that Plato assents to Heraclitus, who writes: “The one thing that is wise alone will not be expressed, and means the name of Zeus.” And again, “Law is to obey the will of one.” And if you wish to adduce that saying, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear,” you will find it expressed by the Ephesian2291 to the following effect: “Those that hear without understanding are like the deaf. The proverb witnesses against them, that when present they are absent.”
But do you want to hear from the Greeks expressly of one first principle? Timæus the Locrian, in the work on Nature, shall testify in the following words: “There is one first principle of all things unoriginated. For were it originated, it would be no longer the first principle; but the first principle would be that from which it originated.” For this true opinion was derived from what follows: “Hear,” it is said, “O Israel; the Lord thy God is one, and Him only shalt thou serve.”
“Lo He all sure and all unerring is,”
says the Sibyl.
Homer also manifestly mentions the Father and the Son by a happy hit of divination in
the following words:—
“If Outis, alone as thou art, offers thee violence, And there is no escaping disease sent by Zeus,— For the Cyclopes heed not Ægis-bearing Zeus.”
And before him Orpheus said, speaking of the point in hand:— “Son of great Zeus, Father of Ægis-bearing Zeus.”
And Xenocrates the Chalcedonian, who mentions the supreme Zeus and the inferior Zeus, leaves an indication of the Father and the Son. Homer, while representing the gods as subject to human passions, appears to know the Divine Being, whom Epicurus does not so revere. He says accordingly:—
“Why, son of Peleus, mortal as thou art,
With swift feet me pursuest, a god Immortal? Hast thou not yet known That I am a god?”
For he shows that the Divinity cannot be captured by a mortal, or apprehended either with feet, or hands, or eyes, or by the body at all. “To whom have ye likened the Lord? or to what likeness have ye likened Him?” says the Scripture. Has not the artificer made the image? or the goldsmith, melting the gold, has gilded it, and what follows.
The comic poet Epicharmus speaks in the Republic clearly of the Word in the following terms:—
“The life of men needs calculation and number alone,
And we live by number and calculation, for these save mortals.”
He then adds expressly:—
“Reason governs mortals, and alone preserves manners.”
“There is in man reasoning; and there is a divine Reason. Reason is implanted in man to provide for life and sustenance, But divine Reason attends the arts in the case of all,
Teaching them always what it is advantageous to do.
For it was not man that discovered art, but God brought it;
And the Reason of man derives its origin from the divine Reason.”
The Spirit also cries by Isaiah: “Wherefore the multitude of sacrifices? saith the Lord. I am full of holocausts of rams, and the fat of lambs and the blood of bulls I wish not;” and a little after adds: “Wash you, and be clean. Put away wickedness from your souls,” and so forth.
Menander, the comic poet, writes in these very words:— “If one by offering sacrifice, a crowd
Of bulls or kids, O Pamphilus, by Zeus.
Or such like things; by making works of art, Garments of gold or purple, images
Of ivory or emerald, deems by these
God can be made propitious, he does err,
And has an empty mind. For the man must prove A man of worth, who neither maids deflowers, Nor an adulterer is, nor steals, nor kills
For love of worldly wealth, O Pamphilus.
Nay, covet not a needle’s thread. For God
Thee sees, being near beside thee.” . . .
“I am a God at hand,” it is said by Jeremiah, “and not a God afar off. Shall a man do aught in secret places, and I shall not see him?”
And again Menander, paraphrasing that Scripture, “Sacrifice a sacrifice of righteousness, and trust in the Lord,” thus writes:—
“And not a needle even that is Another’s ever covet, dearest friend;
For God in righteous works delights, and so Permits him to increase his worldly wealth,
Who toils, and ploughs the land both night and day. But sacrifice to God, and righteous be,
Shining not in bright robes, but in thy heart;
And when thou hear’st the thunder, do not flee, Being conscious to thyself of nought amiss,
Good sir, for thee God ever present sees.”
“Whilst thou art yet speaking,” says the Scripture, “I will say, Lo, here I am.” Again Diphilus, the comic poet, discourses as, follows on the judgment:—
“Think’st thou, O Niceratus, that the dead, Who in all kinds of luxury in life have shared, Escape the Deity, as if forgot?
There is an eye of justice, which sees all.
For two ways, as we deem, to Hades lead— One for the good, the other for the bad.
But if the earth hides both for ever, then
Go plunder, steal, rob, and be turbulent.
But err not. For in Hades judgment is,
Which God the Lord of all will execute, Whose name too dreadful is for me to name, Who gives to sinners length of earthly life.
If any mortal thinks, that day by day,
While doing ill, he eludes the gods’ keen sight, His thoughts are evil; and when justice has The leisure, he shall then detected be
So thinking. Look, whoe’er you be that say That there is not a God. There is, there is.
If one, by nature evil, evil does,
Let him redeem the time; for such as he
Shall by and by due punishment receive.”
And with this agrees the tragedy in the following lines:—
“For there shall come, shall come that point of time, When Ether, golden-eyed, shall ope its store
Of treasured fire; and the devouring flame,
Raging, shall burn all things on earth below,
And all above.” …
And after a little he adds:—
“And when the whole world fades, And vanished all the abyss of ocean’s waves
Philemon, part to Euripides.
“But one a scion of Chaldean race;
For he the sun’s path knew right well, And how the motion of the sphere about The earth proceeds, in circle moving Equally around its axis, how the winds Their chariot guide o’er air and sea.”
And earth of trees is bare; and wrapt in flames, The air no more begets the winged tribes; Then He who all destroyed, shall all restore.”
We shall find expressions similar to these also in the Orphic hymns, written as follows:—
“For having hidden all, brought them again To gladsome light, forth from his sacred heart, Solicitous.”
And if we live throughout holily and righteously, we are happy here, and shall be happier after our departure hence; not possessing happiness for a time, but enabled to rest in eternity.
“At the same hearth and table as the rest Of the immortal gods, we sit all free
Of human ills, unharmed,”
says the philosophic poetry of Empedocles. And so, according to the Greeks, none is so great as to be above judgment, none so insignificant as to escape its notice.
And the same Orpheus speaks thus:—
“But to the word divine, looking, attend, Keeping aright the heart’s receptacle
Of intellect, and tread the straight path well, And only to the world’s immortal King Direct thy gaze.”
And again, respecting God, saying that He was invisible, and that He was known to but one, a Chaldean by race—meaning either by this Abraham or his son—he speaks as follows:—
Then, as if paraphrasing the expression, “Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool,” he adds:—
“But in great heaven, He is seated firm
Upon a throne of gold, and ’neath His feet
The earth. His right hand round the ocean’s bound He stretches; and the hills’ foundations shake
To the centre at His wrath, nor can endure
His mighty strength. He all celestial is,
And all things finishes upon the earth.
He the Beginning, Middle is, and End.
But Thee I dare not speak. In limbs
And mind I tremble. He rules from on high.”
And so forth. For in these he indicates these prophetic utterances: “If Thou openest the heaven, trembling shall seize the mountains from Thy presence; and they shall melt, as wax melteth before the fire;” and in Isaiah, “Who hath measured the heaven with a span, and the whole earth with His fist? Again, when it is said:—
“Ruler of Ether, Hades, Sea, and Land,
Who with Thy bolts Olympus’ strong-built home
Dost shake. Whom demons dread, and whom the throng Of gods do fear. Whom, too, the Fates obey,
Relentless though they be. O deathless One,
Our mother’s Sire! whose wrath makes all things reel; Who mov’st the winds, and shroud’st in clouds the world, Broad Ether cleaving with Thy lightning gleams,—
Thine is the order ’mongst the stars, which run
As Thine unchangeable behests direct.
Before Thy burning throne the angels wait, Much-working, charged to do all things, for men.
Thy young Spring shines, all prank’d with purple flowers; Thy Winter with its chilling clouds assails;
Thine Autumn noisy Bacchus distributes.”
Then he adds, naming expressly the Almighty God:—
“Deathless Immortal, capable of being To the immortals only uttered! Come, Greatest of gods, with strong Necessity. Dread, invincible, great, deathless One, Whom Ether crowns.” …
By the expression “Sire of our Mother” (μητροπάτωρ) he not only intimates creation out of nothing, but gives occasion to those who introduce emissions of imagining a consort of the Deity. And he paraphrases those prophetic Scripture—that in Isaiah, “I am He that fixes the thunder, and creates the wind; whose hands have founded the host of heaven;”2313 and that in Moses, “Behold, behold that I am He, and there is no god beside me: I will kill, and I will make to live; I will smite, and I will heal: and there is none that shall deliver out of my hands.”
“And He, from good, to mortals planteth ill, And cruel war, and tearful woes,”
according to Orpheus.
Such also are the words of the Parian Archilochus.
“O Zeus, thine is the power of heaven, and thou Inflict’st on men things violent and wrong.”
Again let the Thracian Orpheus sing to us:—
“His right hand all around to ocean’s bound He stretches; and beneath His feet is earth.”
These are plainly derived from the following: “The Lord will save the inhabited cities, and grasp the whole land in His hand like a nest;” “It is the Lord that made the earth by His power,” as saith Jeremiah, “and set up the earth by His wisdom.” Further, in addition
For οὐρανοὺς ὸρᾶς we read ἀνθρώπους (which is the reading of Eusebius); and δρῇς (Sylburgius’s to these, Phocylides, who calls the angels demons, explains in the following words that some of them are good, and others bad (for we also have learned that some are apostate):—
“Demons there are—some here, some there—set over men; Some, on man’s entrance [into life], to ward off ill.”
Rightly, then, also Philemon, the comic poet demolishes idolatry in these words:—
“Fortune is no divinity to us:
There’s no such god. But what befalls by chance And of itself to each, is Fortune called.”
And Sophocles the tragedian says:—
“Not even the gods have all things as they choose, Excepting Zeus; for he beginning is and end.”
“One Might, the great, the flaming heaven, was One Deity. All things one Being were; in whom All these revolve fire, water, and the earth.”
And so forth.
Pindar, the lyric poet, as if in Bacchic frenzy, plainly says:—
“What is God? The All.”
“God, who makes all mortals.”
And when he says,—
“How little, being a man, dost thou expect Wisdom for man? ’Tis hard for mortal mind The counsels of the gods to scan; and thou Wast of a mortal mother born,”
he drew the thought from the following: “Who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who was His counsellor?” Hesiod, too, agrees with what is said above, in what he writes:—