Dionysius (Cont.)Extant Fragments.

Part I. – Containing Various Sections of the Works.

I. – From the Two Books on the Promises.1

1. But as they produce a certain composition by Nepos,2 on which they insist very strongly, as if it demonstrated incontestably that there will be a (temporal) reign of Christ upon the earth, I have to say, that in many other respects I accept the opinion of Nepos, and love him at once for his faith, and his laboriousness, and his patient study in the Scriptures, as also for his great efforts in psalmody,3 by which even now many of the brethren are delighted. I hold the man, too, in deep respect still more, inasmuch as4 he has gone to his rest before us. Nevertheless the truth is to be prized and reverenced above all things else. And while it is indeed proper to praise and approve ungrudgingly anything that is said aright, it is no less proper to examine and correct anything which may appear to have been written unsoundly. If he had been present then himself, and had been stating his opinions orally, it would have been sufficient to discuss the question together without the use of writing, and to endeavour to convince the opponents, and carry them along by interrogation and reply. But the work is published, and is, as it seems to some, of a very persuasive character; and there are unquestionably some teachers, who hold that the law and the prophets are of no importance, and who decline to follow the Gospels, and who depreciate the epistles of the apostles, and who have also made large promises5 regarding the doctrine of this composition, as though it were some great and hidden mystery, and who, at the same time, do not allow that our simpler brethren have any sublime and elevated conceptions either of our Lord’s appearing in His glory and His true divinity, or of our own resurrection from the dead, and of our being gathered together to Him, and assimilated to Him, but, on the contrary, endeavour to lead them to hope6 for things which are trivial and corruptible, and only such as what we find at present in the kingdom of God. And since this is the case, it becomes necessary for us to discuss this subject with our brother Nepos just as if he were present.


2. After certain other matters, he adds the following statement: – Being then in the Arsinoitic7 prefecture – where, as you are aware, this doctrine was current long ago, and caused such division, that schisms and apostasies took place I in whole churches – I called together the presbyters and the teachers among the brethren in the villages, and those of the brethren also who wished to attend were present. I exhorted them to make an investigation into that dogma in public. Accordingly, when they had brought this book before us, as though it were a kind of weapon or impregnable battlement, I sat with them for three days in succession from morning till evening, and attempted to set them right on the subjects propounded in the composition. Then, too, I was greatly gratified by observing the constancy of the brethren, and their love of the truth, and their docility and intelligence, as we proceeded, in an orderly method, and in a spirit of moderation, to deal with questions, and difficulties, and concessions. For we took care not to press, in every way and with jealous urgency, opinions which had once been adopted, even although they might appear to be correct.8 Neither did we evade objections alleged by others; but we endeavoured as far as possible to keep by the subject in hand, and to establish the positions pertinent to it. Nor, again, were we ashamed to change our opinions, if reason convinced us, and to acknowledge the fact; but rather with a good conscience, and in all sincerity, and with open hearts9 before God, we accepted all that could be established by the demonstrations and teachings of the Holy Scriptures. And at last the author and introducer of this doctrine, whose name was Coracion, in the hearing of all the brethren present, made acknowledgment of his position, and engaged to us that he would no longer hold by his opinion, nor discuss it, nor mention it, nor teach it, as he had been completely convinced by the arguments of those opposed to it. The rest of the brethren, also, who were present, were delighted with the conference, and with the conciliatory spirit and the harmony exhibited by all.


3. Then, a little further on, he speaks of the Revelation of John as follows: – Now some before our time have set aside this book, and repudiated it entirely, criticising it chapter by chapter, and endeavouring to show it to be without either sense or reason. They have alleged also that its title is false; for they deny that John is the author. Nay, further, they hold that it can be no sort of revelation, because it is covered with so gross and dense a veil of ignorance. They affirm, therefore, that none of the apostles, nor indeed any of the saints, nor any person belonging to the Church, could be its author; but that Cerinthus,10 and the heretical sect founded by him, and named after him the Cerinthian sect, being desirous of attaching the authority of a great name to the fiction propounded by him, prefixed that title to the book. For the doctrine inculcated by Cerinthus is this: that there will be an earthly reign of Christ ; and as he was himself a man devoted to the pleasures of the body, and altogether carnal in his dispositions, he fancied11 that that kingdom would consist in those kinds of gratifications on which his own heart was set, – to wit, in the delights of the belly, and what comes beneath the belly, that is to say, in eating and drinking, and marrying, and in other things under the guise of which he thought he could indulge his appetites with a better grace,12 such as festivals, and sacrifices, and the slaying of victims. But I, for my part, could not venture to set this book aside, for there are many brethren who value it highly. Yet, having formed an idea of it as a composition exceeding my capacity of understanding, I regard it as containing a kind of hidden and wonderful intelligence on the several subjects which come under it. For though I cannot comprehend it, I still suspect that there is some deeper sense underlying the words. And I do not measure and judge its expressions by the standard of my own reason, but, making more allowance for faith, I have simply regarded them as too lofty for my comprehension; and I do not forthwith reject what I do not understand, but I am only the more filled with wonder at it, in that I have not been able to discern its import.13


4. After this, he examines the whole book of the Revelation; and having proved that it cannot possibly be understood according to the bald, literal sense, he proceeds thus: – When the prophet now has completed, so to speak, the whole prophecy, he pronounces those blessed who should observe it, and names himself, too, in the number of the same: “For blessed,” says he, “is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book; and I John who saw and heard these things.” (Rev_22:7, Rev_22:8) That this person was called John, therefore, and that this was the writing of a John, I do not deny. And I admit further, that it was also the work of some holy and inspired man. But I could not so easily admit that this was the apostle, the son of Zebedee, the brother of James, and the same person with him who wrote the Gospel which bears the title according to John, and the catholic epistle. But from the character of both, and the forms of expression, and the whole disposition and execution14 of the book, I draw the conclusion that the authorship is not his. For the evangelist nowhere else subjoins his name, and he never proclaims himself either in the Gospel or in the epistle.


And a little further on he adds: – John, moreover, nowhere gives us the name, whether as of himself directly (in the first person), or as of another (in the third person). But the writer of the Revelation puts himself forward at once in the very beginning, for he says: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which He gave to him to show to His servants quickly; and He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bare record of the Word of God, and of his testimony, and of all things that he saw.” (Rev_1:1, Rev_1:2) And then he writes also an epistle, in which he says: “John to the seven churches which are in Asia, grace be unto you, and peace.” The evangelist, on the other hand, has not prefixed his name even to the catholic epistle; but without any circumlocution, he has commenced at once with the mystery of the divine revelation itself in these terms: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes.” (1Jo_1:1) And on the ground of such a revelation as that the Lord pronounced Peter blessed, when He said: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Mat_16:17) And again in the second epistle, which is ascribed to John, the apostle, and in the third, though they are indeed brief, John is not set before us by name; but we find simply the anonymous writing, “The elder.” This other author, on the contrary, did not even deem it sufficient to name himself once, and then to proceed with his narrative; but he takes up his name again, and says: “I John, who also am your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev_1:9) And likewise toward the end he speaks thus: “Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book; and I John who saw these things and heard them.” (Rev_22:7, Rev_22:8) That it is a John, then, that writes these things we must believe, for he himself tells us.


5. What John this is, however, is uncertain. For he has not said, as he often does in the Gospel, that he is the disciple beloved by the Lord, or the one that leaned on His bosom, or the brother of James, or one that was privileged to see and hear the Lord. And surely he would have given us some of these indications if it had been his purpose to make himself clearly known. But of all this he offers us nothing; and he only calls himself our brother and companion, and the witness of Jesus, and one blessed with the seeing and hearing of these revelations. I am also of opinion that there were many persons of the same name with John the apostle, who by their love for him, and their admiration and emulation of him, and their desire to be loved by the Lord as he was loved, were induced to embrace also the same designation, just as we find many of the children of the faithful called by the names of Paul and Peter.15 There is, besides, another John mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, with the surname Mark, whom Barnabas and Paul attached to themselves as companion, and of whom again it is said: “And they had also John to their minister.” (Act_13:5) But whether this is the one who wrote the Revelation, I could not say. For it is not written that he came with them into Asia. But the writer says: “Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.” (Act_13:13) I think, therefore, that it was some other one of those who were in Asia. For it is said that there were two monuments in Ephesus, and that each of these bears the name of John.


6. And from the ideas, and the expressions, and the collocation of the same, it may be very reasonably conjectured that this one is distinct from that.16 For the Gospel and the Epistle agree with each other, and both commence in the same way. For the one opens thus, “In the beginning was the Word;” while the other opens thus, “That which was from the beginning.” The one says: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father.” (Joh_1:14) The other says the same things, with a slight alteration: “That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life: and the life was manifested.” (1Jo_1:1, 1Jo_1:2) For these things are introduced by way of prelude, and in opposition, as he has shown in the subsequent parts, to those who deny that the Lord is come in the flesh. For which reason he has also been careful to add these words: “And that which we have seen we testify, and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us: that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.” (1Jo_1:2, 1Jo_1:3) Thus he keeps to himself, and does not diverge inconsistently from his subjects, but goes through them all under the same heads and in the same phraseologies, some of which we shall briefly mention. Thus the attentive reader will find the phrases, “the life,” “the light,” occurring often in both; and also such expressions as fleeing from darkness, holding the truth, grace, joy, the flesh and the blood of the Lord, the judgment, the remission of sins, the love of God toward us, the commandment of love on our side toward each other; as also, that we ought to keep all the commandments, the conviction of the world, of the devil, of Antichrist, the promise of the Holy Spirit, the adoption of God, the faith required of us in all things, the Father and the Son, named as such everywhere. And altogether, through their whole course, it will be evident that the Gospel and the Epistle are distinguished by one and the same character of writing. But the Revelation is totally different, and altogether distinct from this; and I might almost say that it does not even come near it, or border upon it. Neither does it contain a syllable in common with these other books. Nay more, the Epistle – for I say nothing of the Gospel – does not make any mention or evince any notion of the Revelation and the Revelation, in like manner, gives no note of the Epistle. Whereas Paul gives some indication of his revelations in his epistles; which revelations, however, he has not recorded in writing by themselves.


7. And furthermore, on the ground of difference in diction, it is possible to prove a distinction between the Gospel and the Epistle on the one hand, and the Revelation on the other. For the former are written not only without actual error as regards the Greek language, but also with the greatest elegance, both in their expressions and in their reasonings, and in the whole structure of their style. They are very far indeed from betraying any barbarism or solecism, or any sort of vulgarism, in their diction. For, as might be presumed, the writer possessed the gift of both kinds of discourse,17 the Lord having bestowed both these capacities upon him, viz., that of knowledge and that of expression. That the author of the latter, however, saw a revelation, and received knowledge and prophecy, I do not deny. Only I perceive that his dialect and language are not of the exact Greek type, and that he employs barbarous idioms, and in some places also solecisms. These, however, we are under no necessity of seeking out at present. And I would not have any one suppose that I have said these things in the spirit of ridicule; for I have done so only with the purpose of setting right this matter of the dissimilarity subsisting between these writings.18


II. – From the Books on Nature.19

I. In Opposition to Those of the School of Epicurus Who Deny the Existence of a Providence, and Refer the Constitution of the Universe to Atomic Bodies.

Is the universe one coherent whole, as it seems to be in our own judgment, as well as in that of the wisest of the Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Pythagoras, and the Stoics and Heraclitus? or is it a duality, as some may possibly have conjectured? or is it indeed something manifold and infinite, as has been the opinion of certain others who, with a variety of mad speculations and fanciful usages of terms, have sought to divide and resolve the essential matter20 of the universe, and lay down the position that it is infinite and unoriginated, and without the sway of Providence?21 For there are those who, giving the name of atoms to certain imperishable and most minute bodies which are supposed to be infinite in number, and positing also the existence of a certain vacant space of an unlimited vastness, allege that these atoms, as they are borne along casually in the void, and clash all fortuitously against each other in an unregulated whirl, and become commingled one with another in a multitude of forms, enter into combination with each other, and thus gradually form this world and all objects in it; yea, more, that they construct infinite worlds. This was the opinion of Epicurus and Democritus; only they differed in one point, in so far as the former supposed these atoms to be all most minute and consequently imperceptible, while Democritus held that there were also some among them of a very large size. But they both hold that such atoms do exist, and that they are so called on account of their indissoluble consistency. There are some, again, who give the name of atoms to certain bodies which are indivisible into parts, while they are themselves parts of the universe, out of which in their undivided state all things are made up, and into which they are dissolved again. And the allegation is, that Diodorus was the person who gave them their names as bodies indivisible into parts.22 But it is also said that Heraclides attached another name to them, and called them “weights;”23 and from him the physician Asclepiades also derived that name.24


II. A Refutation of This Dogma on the Ground of Familiar Human Analogies.

How, shall we bear with these men who assert that all those wise, and consequently also noble, constructions (in the universe) are only the works of common chance? those objects, I mean, of which each taken by itself as it is made, and the whole system collectively, were seen to be good by Him by whose command they came into existence. For, as it is said, “God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Gen_1:31) But truly these men do not reflect on25 the analogies even of small familiar things which might come under their observation at any time, and from which they might learn that no object of any utility, and fitted to be serviceable, is made without design or by mere chance, but is wrought by skill of hand, and is contrived so as to meet its proper use. And when the object falls out of service and becomes useless, then it also begins to break up indeterminately, and to decompose and dissipate its materials in every casual and unregulated way, just as the wisdom by which it was skilfully constructed at first no longer controls and maintains it. For a cloak, for example, cannot be made without the weaver, as if the warp could be set aright and the woof could be entwined with it by their own spontaneous action; while, on the other hand, if it is once worn out, its tattered rags are flung aside. Again, when a house or a city is built, it does not take on its stones, as if some of them placed themselves spontaneously upon the foundations, and others lifted themselves up on the several layers, but the builder carefully disposes the skilfully prepared stones in their proper positions; while if the structure happens once to give way, the stones are separated and cast down and scattered about. And so, too, when a ship is built, the keel does not lay itself, neither does the mast erect itself in the centre, nor do all the other timbers take up their positions casually and by their own motion. Nor, again, do the so-called hundred beams in the wain fit themselves spontaneously to the vacant spaces they severally light on. But the carpenter in both cases puts the materials together in the right way and at the right time.26 And if the ship goes to sea and is wrecked, or if the wain drives along on land and is shattered, their timbers are broken up and cast abroad anywhere, – those of the former by the waves, and those of the latter by the violence of the impetus. In like manner, then, we might with all propriety say also to these men, that those atoms of theirs, which remain idle and unmanipulated and useless, are introduced vainly. Let them, accordingly, seek for themselves to see into what is beyond the reach of sight, and conceive what is beyond the range of conception;27 unlike him who in these terms confesses to God that things like these had been shown him only by God Himself: “Mine eyes did see Thy work, being till then imperfect.”28 But when they assert now that all those things of grace and beauty, which they declare to be textures finely wrought out of atoms, are fabricated spontaneously by these bodies without either wisdom or perception in them, who can endure to hear29 them talk in such terms of those unregulated30 atoms, than which even the spider, that plies its proper craft of itself, is gifted with more sagacity?


III. A Refutation on the Ground of the Constitution of the Universe.

Or who can bear to hear it maintained, that this mighty habitation, which is constituted of heaven and earth, and which is called “Cosmos” on account of the magnitude and the plenitude of the wisdom which has been brought to bear upon it, has been established in all its order and beauty by those atoms which hold their course devoid of order and beauty, and that that same state of disorder has grown into this true Cosmos, Order? Or who can believe that those regular movements and courses are the products of a certain unregulated impetus? Or who can allow that the perfect concord subsisting among the celestial bodies derives its harmony from instruments destitute both of concord and harmony? Or, again, if there is but one and the same substance31 in all things, and if there is the same incorruptible nature32 in all, – the only elements of difference being, as they aver, size and figure, – how comes it that there are some bodies divine and perfect,33 and eternal,34 as they would phrase it, or lasting,35 as some one may prefer to express it; and among these some that are visible and others that are invisible, – the visible including such as sun, and moon, and stars, and earth, and water; and the invisible including gods, and demons, and spirits? For the existence of such they cannot possibly deny however desirous to do so. And again, there are other objects that are long-lived, both animals and plants. As to animals, there are, for example, among birds, as they say, the eagle, the raven, and the phoenix; and among creatures living on land, there are the stag, and the elephant, and the dragon; and among aquatic creatures there are the whales, and such like monsters of the deep. And as to trees, there are the palm, and the oak, and the persea;36 and among trees, too, there are some that are evergreens, of which kind fourteen have been reckoned up by some one; and there are others that only bloom for a certain season, and then shed their leaves. And there are other objects, again – which indeed constitute the vast mass of all which either grow or are begotten – that have an early death and a brief life. And among these is man himself, as a certain holy scripture says of him: “Man that is born of woman is of few days.” (Job_14:1) Well, but I suppose they will reply that the varying conjunctions of the atoms account fully for differences37 so great in the matter of duration. For it is maintained that there are some things that are compressed together by them, and firmly interlaced, so that they become closely compacted bodies, and consequently exceedingly hard to break up; while there are others in which more or less the conjunction of the atoms is of a looser and weaker nature, so that either quickly or after some time they separate themselves from their orderly constitution. And, again, there are some bodies made up of atoms of a definite kind and a certain common figure, while there are others made up of diverse atoms diversely disposed. But who, then, is the sagacious discriminator,38 that brings certain atoms into collocation, and separates others; and marshals some in such wise as to form the sun, and others in such a way as to originate the moon, and adapts all in natural fitness, and in accordance with the proper constitution of each star? For surely neither would those solar atoms, with their peculiar size and kind, and with their special mode of collocation, ever have reduced themselves so as to effect the production of a moon; nor, on the other hand, would the conjunctions of these lunar atoms ever have developed into a sun. And as certainly neither would Arcturus, resplendent as he is, ever boast his having the atoms possessed by Lucifer, nor would the Pleiades glory in being constituted of those of Orion. For well has Paul expressed the distinction when he says: “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.” (1Co_15:41) And if the coalition effected among them has been an unintelligent one, as is the case with soulless39 objects, then they must needs have had some sagacious artificer; and if their union has been one without the determination of will, and only of necessity, as is the case with irrational objects, then some skilful leader40 must have brought them together and taken them under his charge. And if they have linked themselves together spontaneously, for a spontaneous work, then some admirable architect must have apportioned their work for them, and assumed the superintendence among them; or there must have been one to do with them as the general does who loves order and discipline, and who does not leave his army in an irregular condition, or suffer all things to go on confusedly, but marshals the cavalry in their proper succession, and disposes the heavy-armed infantry in their due array, and the javelin-men by themselves, and the archers separately, and the slingers in like manner, and sets each force in its appropriate position, in order that all those equipped in the same way may engage together. But if these teachers think that this illustration is but a joke, because I institute a comparison between very large bodies and very small, we may pass to the very smallest.


Then we have what follows: – But if neither the word, nor the choice, nor the order of a ruler is laid upon them, and if by their own act they keep themselves right in the vast commotion of the stream in which they move, and convey themselves safely through the mighty uproar of the collisions, and if like atoms meet and group themselves with like, not as being brought together by God, according to the poet’s fancy, but rather as naturally recognising the affinities subsisting between each other, then truly we have here a most marvellous democracy of atoms, wherein friends welcome and embrace friends, and all are eager to sojourn together in one domicile; while some by their own determination have rounded themselves off into that mighty luminary the sun, so as to make day; and others have formed themselves into many pyramids of blazing stars, it may be, so as to crown also the whole heavens; and others have reduced themselves into the circular figure, so as to impart a certain solidity to the ether, and arch it over, and constitute it a vast graduated ascent of luminaries, with this object also, that the various conventions of the commoner atoms may select settlements for themselves, and portion out the sky among them for their habitations and stations.


Then, after certain other matters, the discourse proceeds thus: – But inconsiderate men do not see even things that are apparent, and certainly they are far from being cognisant of things that are unapparent. For they do not seem even to have any notion of those regulated risings and settings of the heavenly bodies, – those of the sun, with all their wondrous glory, no less than those of the others; nor do they appear to make due application of the aids furnished through these to men, such as the day that rises clear for man’s work, and the night that overshadows earth for man’s rest. “For man,” it is said, “goeth forth unto his work, and to his labour, until the evening.” (Psa_104:23) Neither do they consider that other revolution, by which the sun makes out for us determinate times, and convenient seasons, and regular successions, directed by those atoms of which it consists. But even though men like these – and miserable men they are, however they may believe themselves to be righteous – may choose not to admit it, there is a mighty Lord that made the sun, and gave it the impetus41 for its course by His words. O ye blind ones, do these atoms of yours bring you the winter season and the rains, in order that the earth may yield food for you, and for all creatures living on it? Do they introduce summertime, too, in order that ye may gather their fruits from the trees for your enjoyment? And why, then, do ye not worship these atoms, and offer sacrifices to them as the guardians of earth’s fruits?42 Thankless surely are ye, in not setting solemnly apart for them even the most scanty first-fruits of that abundant bounty which ye receive from them.


After a short break he proceeds thus: – Moreover, those stars which form a community so multitudinous and various, which these erratic and ever self-dispersing atoms have constituted, have marked off by a kind of covenant the tracts for their several possessions, portioning these out like colonies and governments, but without the presidency of any founder or house-master; and with pledged fealty and in peace they respect the laws of vicinity with their neighbours, and abstain from passing beyond the boundaries which they received at the outset, just as if they enjoyed the legislative administration of true princes in the atoms. Nevertheless these atoms exercise no rule. For how could these, that are themselves nothing, do that? But listen to the divine oracles: “The works of the Lord are in judgment; from the beginning, and from His making of them, He disposed the parts thereof. He garnished His works for ever, and their principles43 unto their generations.” (Ecclus. 16:26, 27)


Again, after a little, he proceeds thus: – Or what phalanx ever traversed the plain in such perfect order, no trooper outmarching the others, or falling out of rank, or obstructing the course, or suffering himself to be distanced by his comrades in the array, as is the case with that steady advance in regular file, as it were, and with close-set shields, which is presented by this serried and unbroken and undisturbed and unobstructed progress of the hosts of the stars? Albeit by side inclinations and flank movements certain of their revolutions become less clear. Yet, however that may be, they assuredly always keep their appointed periods, and again bear onward determinately to the positions from which they have severally risen, as if they made that their deliberate study. Wherefore let these notable anatomizers of atoms,44 these dividers of the indivisible, these compounders of the uncompoundable, these adepts in the apprehension of the infinite, tell us whence comes this circular march and course of the heavenly bodies, in which it is not any single combination of atoms that merely chances all unexpectedly to swing itself round in this way;45 but it is one vast circular choir that moves thus, ever equally and concordantly, and whirls in these orbits. And whence comes it that this mighty multitude of fellow-travellers, all unmarshalled by any captain, all ungifted with any determination of will, and all unendowed with any knowledge of each other, have nevertheless held their course in perfect harmony? Surely, well has the prophet ranked this matter among things which are impossible and undemonstrable, – namely, that two strangers should walk together. For he says, “Shall two come to the same lodging unless they know each other?”46


IV. A Refutation of the Same on the Grounds of the Human Constitution.

Further, those men understand neither themselves nor what is proper to themselves. For if any of the leaders in this impious doctrine only considered what manner of person he is himself, and whence he comes, he would surely be led to a wise decision, like one who has obtained understanding of himself, and would say, not to these atoms, but to his Father and Maker, “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me.” (Psa_119:73) And he would take up, too, this wonderful account of his formation as it has been given by one of old: “Hast Thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me as choose? Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews. Thou hast granted me life and favour, and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.”47 For of what quantity and of what origin were the atoms which the father of Epicurus gave forth from himself when he begat Epicurus? And how, when they were received within his mother’s womb, did they coalesce, and take form and figure? and how were they put in motion and made to increase? And how did that little seed of generation draw together the many atoms that were to constitute Epicurus, and change some of them into skin and flesh for a covering, and make bone of others for erectness and strength, and form sinews of others for compact contexture? And how did it frame and adapt the many other members and parts – heart and bowels, and organs of sense, some within and some without – by which the body is made a thing of life? For of all these things there is not one either idle or useless: not even the meanest of them – the hair, or the nails, or such like – is so; but all have their service to do, and all their contribution to make, some of them to the soundness of bodily constitution, and others of them to beauty of appearance. For Providence cares not only for the useful, but also for the seasonable and beautiful.48 Thus the hair is a kind of protection and covering for the whole head, and the beard is a seemly ornament for the philosopher. It was Providence, then, that formed the constitution of the whole body of man, in all its necessary parts, and imposed on all its members their due connection with each other, and measured out for them their liberal supplies from the universal resources. And the most prominent of these show clearly, even to the uninstructed, by the proof of personal experience, the value and service attaching to them: the head, for example, in the position of supremacy, and the senses set like a guard about the brain, as the ruler in the citadel; and the advancing eyes, and the reporting ears; and the taste which, as it were, is the tribute-gatherer;49 and the smell, which tracks and searches out its objects: and the touch, which manipulates all put under it.

Hence we shall only run over in a summary way, at present, some few of the works of an all-wise Providence; and after a little we shall, if God grant it, go over them more minutely, when we direct our discourse toward one who has the repute of greater learning. So, then, we have the ministry of the hands, by which all kinds of works are wrought, and all skilful professions practised, and which have all their various faculties furnished them, with a view to the discharge of one common function; and we have the shoulders, with their capacity for bearing burdens; and the fingers, with their power of grasping; and the elbows, with their faculty of bending, by which they can turn inwardly, upon the body, or take an outward inclination, so as to be able either to draw objects toward the body, or to thrust them away from it. We have also the service of the feet, by which the whole terrestrial creation is made to come under our power, the earth itself is traversed thereby, the sea is made navigable, the rivers are crossed, and intercourse is established for all with all things. The belly, too, is the storehouse of meats, with all its parts arranged in their proper collocations, so that it apportions for itself the right measure of aliment, and ejects what is over and above that. And so is it with all the other things by which manifestly the due administration of the constitution of man is wisely secured.50 Of all these, the intelligent and the unintelligent alike enjoy the same use; but they have not the same comprehension of them.51 For there are some who refer this whole economy to a power which they conceive to be a true divinity,52 and which they apprehend as at once the highest intelligence in all things, and the best benefactor to themselves, believing that this economy is all the work of a wisdom and a might which are superior to every other, and in themselves truly divine. And there are others who aimlessly attribute this whole structure of most marvellous beauty to chance and fortuitous coincidence. And in addition to these, there are also certain physicians, who, having made a more effective examination into all these things, and having investigated with utmost accuracy the disposition of the inward parts in especial, have been struck with astonishment at the results of their inquiry, and have been led to deify nature itself. The notions of these men we shall review afterwards, as far as we may be able, though we may only touch the surface of the subject.53 Meantime, to deal with this matter generally and summarily, let me ask who constructed this whole tabernacle of ours, so lofty, erect, graceful, sensitive, mobile, active, and apt for all things? Was it, as they say, the irrational multitude of atoms? Nay, these, by their conjunctions, could not mould even an image of clay, neither could they hew and polish a statue of stone; nor could they cast and finish an idol of silver or gold; but arts and handicrafts calculated for such operations have been discovered by men who fabricate these objects.54 And if, even in these, representations and models cannot be made without the aid of wisdom, how can the genuine and original patterns of these copies have come into existence spontaneously? And whence have come the soul, and the intelligence, and the reason, which are born with the philosopher? Has he gathered these from those atoms which are destitute alike of soul, and intelligence, and reason? and has each of these atoms inspired him with some appropriate conception and notion? And are we to suppose that the wisdom of man was made up by these atoms, as the myth of Hesiod tells us that Pandora was fashioned by the gods? Then shall the Greeks have , to give up speaking of the various species of poetry, and music, and astronomy, and geometry, and all the other arts and sciences, as the inventions and instructions of the gods, and shall have to allow that these atoms are the only muses with skill and wisdom for all subjects. For this theogony, constructed of atoms by Epicurus, is indeed something extraneous to the infinite worlds of order,55 and finds its refuge in the infinite disorder.56





1 In opposition to Noëtus, a bishop in Egypt. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., vii 24 and 25. Eusebius introduces this extract in the following terms: “There are also two books of his on the subject of the promises. The occasion of writing these was furnished him by a certain Nepos, a bishop in Egypt, who taught that the promises which were given to holy men in the sacred Scriptures were to be understood according to the Jewish sense of the same; and affirmed that there would be some kind of a millennial period, plenished with corporeal delights, upon this earth. And as he thought that he could establish this opinion of his by the Revelation of John, he had composed a book on this question, entitled Refutation of the Allegorists. This, therefore, is sharply attacked by Dionysius in his books on the Promises. and in the first of these books he states his own opinion on the subject; while in the second he gives us a discussion on the Revelation of John, in the introduction to which he makes mention of Nepos.” [Of this Noëtus, see the Philosophumena, vol. 5., this series.]

2 As it is clear from this passage that this work by Dionysius was written against Nepos, it is strange that in his preface to the eighteenth book of his Commentaries on Isaiah, Jerome should affirm it to have been composed against Irenaeus of Lyons. Irenaeus was certainly of the number of those who held millennial views, and who had been persuaded to embrace such by Papias, as Jerome himself tells us in the Catalogus, and as Eusebius explains towards the close of the third book of his History. But that this book by Dionysius was written not against Irenaeus, but against Nepos, is evident, not only from this passage in Eusebius, but also from Jerome himself, in his work On Ecclesiastical Writers, where he speaks of Dionysius. – Vales. [Compare (this series, infra) the comments of Victorinus of Petau for a Western view of the millennial subject.]

3 τῆς πολλῆς ψαλμῳδίας. Christophorsonus interprets this of psalms and hymns composed by Nepos. It was certainly the practice among the ancient Christians to compose psalms and hymns in honour of Christ. Eusebius bears witness to this in the end of the fifth book of his History. Mention is made of these psalms in the Epistle of the Council of Antioch against Paul of Samosata, and in the penultimate canon of the Council of Laodicea, where there is a clear prohibition of the use of ψαλμοι ἰδιωτικοί in the church, i.e., of psalms composed by private individuals. For this custom had obtained great prevalence, so that many persons composed psalms in honour of Christ, and got them sung in the church. It is psalms of this kind, consequently, that the Fathers of the Council of Laodicea forbid to be sung thereafter in the church, designating them ἰδιωτικοί, i.e., composed by unskilled men, and not dictated by the Holy Spirit. Thus is the matter explained by Agobardus in his book De ritu canendi psalmos in Ecclesia. – Vales. [See vol. v., quotation from Pliny.]

4 ταυτῆ μᾶλλον ᾖ προσανεπαύσατο: it may mean, perhaps, for the way in which he has gone to his rest before us.

5 κατεπαγγελλομένων, i.e., diu ante promittunt quam tradunt. The metaphor is taken from the mysteries of the Greeks, who were wont to promise great and marvellous discoveries to the initiated, and then kept them on the rack by daily expectation, in order to confirm their judgment and reverence by such suspense in the conveyance of knowledge, as Tertullian says in his book Against the Valentinians. – Vales. [Vol. 3. p. 503.]

6 Reading ἐλπιζειν ἀναπειθόντων for ἐλπιζόμενα πειθόντων, with the Codex Mazarin.

7 ἐν μὲν οὖν τῷ Ἀρσενοείτῃ. In the three codices here, as well as in Nicephorus and Ptolemy, we find this scription, although it is evident that the word should be written Ἀρσινοείτῃ, as the district took its name from Queen Arsinoe. – Vales.

8 εί καὶ φαίνοιντο. There is another reading, εί καὶ μη φαίνοιντο, although they might not appear to be correct. Christophorsonus renders is: ne illis quae fuerant ante ab ipsis decreta, si quidquam in eis veritati repugnare videretur, mordicus adhaererent praecavebant.

9 ἡπλωμέναις ταῖς καρδίαις. Christophorus renders it, puris erga Deum ac simplisibus animis; Musculus gives, cordibus ad Deum expansis; and Rufinus, patefactis cordibus. [The pictures here given of a primitive synod searching the Scriptures under such a presidency, and exhibiting such tokens of brotherly love, mutual subordination (1Pe_5:5), and a prevailing love of the truth, is to me one of the most fascinating of patristic sketches. One cannot but reflect upon the contrast presented in every aspect by the late Council of the Vatican.]

10 This passage is given substantially by Eusebius also in book iii. c. 28.

11 The text gives ὀνειροπολεῖν, for which ὀνειροπολει or ὠνειροπόλει is to be read.

12 δι ̓ ὧν ευφημότερον ταῦτα ᾠήθη ποριεῖσθαι. The old reading was εὐθυμότερον; but the present reading it given in the MSS., Cod. Maz., and Med., as also in Eusebius, iii. 28, and in Nicephorus, iii. 14. So Rufinus renders it: et ut aliquid sacratius dicere videretur, legales aiebat festivitates rursum celebrandas. [These gross views of millennial perfection entailed upon subsequent ages a reactionary neglect of the study of the Second Advent. A Papal aphorism, preserved by Roscoe, embodies all this: “Sub umbilico nulla religio.” It was fully exemplified, even under Leo X.]

13 [The humility which moderates and subdues our author’s pride of intellect in this passage is, to me, most instructive as to the limits prescribed to arguments in what Coleridge calls “the faith of reason.”]

14 διεξαγωγῆς λεγομἐνης. Musculus renders it tractatum libri; Christophorsonus gives discursum; and Valesius takes it as equivalent to οἰκονομιαν, as διεξαγαγεῖν is the same as διοικεῖν.

15 It is worthwhile to note his passage of Dionysius on the ancient practice of the Christians, in giving their children the names of Peter and Paul, which they did both in order to express the honour and affection in which they held these saints, and to secure that their children might be dear and acceptable to God, just as those saints were. Hence it is that Chrysostom in his first volume, in his oration on St. Meletius, says that the people of Antioch had such love and esteem for Meletius, that the parents called their children by his name, in order that they might have their homes adorned by his presence. And the same Chrysostom, in his twenty-first homily on Genesis, exhorts his hearers not to call their children carelessly by the names of their grandfathers, or great-grandfathers, or men of fame; but rather by the names of saintly men, who have been shining patterns of virtue, in order that the children might be fired with the desire of virtue by their example. – Vales. [A chapter in the history of civilization might here be given on the origin of Christian names and on the motives which should influence Christians in the bestowal of names. The subject is treated, after Plato, by De Maistre.]

16 This is the second argument by which Dionysius reasoned that the Revelation and the Gospel of John are not by one author. For the first argument which he used in proof of this is drawn from the character and usage of the two writers; and this argument Dionysius has prosecuted up to this point. Now, however, he adduces a second argument, drawn from the words and ideas of the two writers, and from the collocation of the expressions. For, with Cicero, I thus interpret the word σύνταξιν. See the very elegant book of Dionysius Hal. entitled Περὶ συντάξεως ὀνομάτων – On the Collocation of Names; although in this passage σύνταξις appears to comprehend the disposition of sentences as well as words. Further, from this passage we can see what experience Dionysius had in criticism; for it is the critic’s part to examine the writings of the ancients, and distinguish what is genuine and authentic from what is spurious and counterfeit. – Vales.

17 The old reading was, τον λόγον, τὴν γνῶσιν. Valesius expunges the τὴν γνῶσιν, as disturbing the sense, and as absent in various codices. Instead also of the reading, τόν τε τῆς σοφίας, τόν τε φράσεως, which is the reading of various manuscripts, and is accepted in the translation. Valesius understands that by the ἑκάτερον λόγον Dionysius means the λόγος ἐνδιάθετος and the λόγος προφορικός, that is, the subjective discourse, or reason in the mind, and the objective discourse, or utterance of the same.

18 [The jealousy with which, while the canon of New Testament Scripture was forming, every claim was sifted, is well illustrated in this remarkable essay. Observe its critical skill and the fidelity with which he exposes the objections based on the style and classicality of the Evangelist. The Alexandrian school was one of bold and original investigation, always subject in spirit, however, to the great canon of Prescription.]

19 Against Epicureans. In Eusebius, Praepar. Evangel., book xiv. ch. 23-27. Eusebius introduces this extract in terms to the following effect: It may be well now to subjoin some few arguments out of the many which are employed in his disputation against the Epicureans, by the bishop of Dionysius, a man who professed a Christian philosophy, as they are found in the work which he composed on Nature. But peruse thou the writer’s statements in his own terms.

20 οὐσίαν.

21 ἀπρονόητον.

22 τῶν ἀμερῶν.

23 ὄγκους.

24 ἐκληρονόμησε τὸ ὄνομα. Eusebius subjoins this remark: ταῦτ ̓ εἰπὼν, ἑξῆς ἀνασκευάζει τὸ δόγμα διὰ πολλῶν, ἀτὰρ δὲ διὰ τούτων, = having said thus much, he (Dionysius) proceeds to demolish this doctrine by many arguments, and among others by what follows. – Gall.

25 The text is, ἀλλ ̓ οὐδε ἀπὸ τῶν μικρῶν τῶν συνήθων καὶ παρὰ πόδας νουθετούντων, etc. We adopt Viger’s suggestion, and read νουθετοῦνται.

26 The text is, ἑκατέρας συνεκόμισε καιριον, for which Viger proposes εις τὸν ἑκατέρας, etc.

27 The text gives, ὁράτωσαν γὰρ τὰς ἀθεάτους ἐκεῖνοι, καὶ τὰς ἀνοήτους νοείτωσαν, οὐχ ὁμοίως ἐκείνῳ, etc. The passage seems corrupt. Some supply φύσεις as the subject intended in the ἀθεάτους and ἀνοήτους; but that leaves the connection still obscure. Viger would read, with one MS., ἀθέτους instead of ἀθάετους, and makes this then the sense: that those Epicureans are bidden study more closely these unregulated and stolid (ἀνοήτους) atoms, not looking at them with a merely cursory and careless glance, as David acknowledges was the case with him in the thoughts of his own imperfect nature, in order that they may the more readily understand how out of such confusion as that in which they are involved nothing orderly and finished could possibly have originated. [P. 86, note 29, infra.]

28 Psa_139:16. The text gives, τὸ ἀκατέργαστόν σου ἴδωσαν οἱ ὀφθαλμοι μου. This strange reading, instead of the usual τὸ ἀκατέργαστόν μου εἶδον (or ιδον) οἱ ὀφθαλμοι σου, is found also in the Alexandrine exemplar of the Septuagint, which gives, τὸ ἀκατεργαστόν σου εἰδοσαν οἱ ὀφθαλμοί μου, and in the Psalter of S. Germanus in Calmet, which has, imperfectum tuum viderunt oculi mei. Viger renders it thus: quod ex tuis operibus imperfectum adhuc et impolitum videbatur, oculi tandem mei perviderunt; i.e., They works, which till now seemed imperfect and unfinished, my eyes have at greater length discerned clearly; to wit, because being now penetrated by greater light from Thee, they have ceased to be dim-sighted. See Viger’s note in Migne.

29 [The reproduction of all this outworn nonsense in our age claims for itself the credit of progressive science. It has had its day, and its destiny is to be speedily wiped out by the next school of thinkers. Meanwhile let the believer’s answer be found in Isa_37:22, Isa_37:23.]

30 ἀῤῥυθμους.

31 οὐσίας.

32 φύσεως.

33 ἀκήρατα.

34 αἰώνια.

35 μακραίωνα.

36 περσέα, a sacred tree of Egypt and Persia, the fruit of which grew from the stem.

37 The text gives διαφθορᾶς, for which Viger suggests διαφορᾶς.

38 φιλοκρίνων.

39 ἀψύχων.

40 ἀγελάρχης.

41 [Our author touches with sagacity this crux of theory: whence comes force, the origin and perpetuation of impetus? Christianity has thus anticipated the defects of “modern science.”]

42 ταῖς ἐπικάρποις.

43 ἀρχάς.

44 τὠν ἀτόμων τομεῖς.

45 ουτω σφενδονισθέντος.

46 This sentence, which is quoted as from the Scriptures, is found nowhere there, at least verbatim et ad litteram. [Amo_3:3.]

47 Job_10:10-12. [The milky element (sperma) marvellously changed into flesh, and the embroidery of the human anatomy, are here admirably brought out. Compare Psa_139:12-16; also p. 86, note 28, supra.]

48 [Ecc_3:11. Note the force of the word Cosmos. Coleridge’s Aids to Reflection, p. 251, ec. New York, 1840. Also, Coleridge’s fancy about the τὸ καλόν quasi καλοῦν.]

49 ἐδωδὴ ωσπερ φορολογοῦσα.

50 The text is, καὶ τὰ ἄλλα δι ̓ οσων ἐμφανῶς ἡ διοίκησις τἤς ἀνθρωπείου μεμηχάνηται διανομῆς. Viger proposes διαμονῆς for διανομῆς, and renders the whole thus: “ac caetera quorum vi humanae firmitatis et conservationis ratio continetur.”

51 The text is, ὧν ὁμοιως τοις ἄφροσιν ἔχοντες οἱ σοφοὶ τὴν κρίσιν, οὐκ ἴσχουσι τὴν γνῶσιν. We adopt Viger’s suggestion, and read χρῆσιν for κρίσιν.

52 We read, with Viger, θεότητα for ἀθεότητα. The text gives οὶ μὲν γὰρ εἰς ἣν ἂν οἰηθῶσιν ἀθεότητα, etc., which might possibly mean something like this: There are some who refer the whole economy to a power which these (others) may deem to be no divinity, (but which is) the highest intelligence in all things, and the best benefactor, etc. Or the sense might be = There are some who refer this most intelligent and beneficent economy to a power which they deem to be no divinity, though they believe the same economy to be the work of a wisdom, etc.

53 The text is, ἡμεῖς δὲ υστερον ὡς ἂν οἶοί τε γενώμεθα, κἂν ἐπιπολῆς, ἀναθεωρήσομεν. Viger renders it thus: “Nos eam postea, jejune fortassis et exiliter, ut pro facultate nostra, prosequemur.” He proposes, however, to read ἐπὶ πολλοις (sc. ῥήμασι or λόγοις) for ἐπιπολῆς.

54 The text is, χειρουργίαι τούτων ὑπ ̓ ἀνθρώπων ευρηνται σωματουργῶν. Viger proposes σωματουργοι, “handicrafts for the construction of such bodies have been discovered by men.”

55 κοσμων. [See note 48, p. 88, supra.]

56 ἀκοσμίαν.