The Seven Books of Arnobius Against the Heathen. (Cont.)Book I. (Cont.)

Arnobius (Cont.)

40. But He died nailed to the cross. What is that to the argument? For neither does the kind and disgrace of the death change His words or deeds, nor will the weight of His teaching appear less; because He freed Himself from the shackles of the body, not by a natural separation, but departed by reason of violence offered to Him. Pythagoras of Samos was burned to death in a temple, under an unjust suspicion of aiming at sovereign power. Did his doctrines lose their peculiar influence, because he breathed forth his life not willingly, but in consequence of a savage assault? In like manner Socrates, condemned by the decision of his fellow-citizens, suffered capital punishment: have his discussions on morals, on virtues, and on duties been rendered vain, because he was unjustly hurried from life? Others without number, conspicuous by their renown, their merit, and their public character, have experienced the most cruel forums of death, as Aquilius, Trebonius, and Regulus: were they on that account adjudged base after death, because they perished not by the common law of the fates, but after being mangled and tortured in the most cruel kind of death? No innocent person foully slain is ever disgraced thereby; nor is he stained by the mark of any baseness, who suffers severe punishment, not from his own deserts, but by reason of the savage nature of his persecutor.73


41. And yet, O ye who laugh because we worship one who died an ignominious death, do not ye too, by consecrating shrines to him, honour father Liber, who was torn limb from limb by the Titans? Have you not, after his punishment and his death by lightning, named Aesculapius, the discoverer of medicines, as the guardian and protector of health, of strength, and of safety? Do you not invoke the great Hercules himself by offerings, by victims, and by kindled frankincense, whom you yourselves allege to have been burned alive after his punishment,74 and to have been consumed on the fatal pyres? Do you not, with the unanimous approbation of the Gauls, invoke as a propitious75 and as a holy god, in the temples of the Great Mother,76 that Phrygian Atys77 who was mangled and deprived of his virility? Father Romulus himself, who was torn in pieces by the hands of a hundred senators, do you not call Quirinus Martius, and do you not honour him with priests and with gorgeous couches,78 and do you not worship him in most spacious temples; and in addition to all this, do you not affirm that he has ascended into heaven? Either, therefore, you too are to be laughed at, who regard as gods men slain by the most cruel tortures; or if there is a sure ground for your thinking that you should do so, allow us too to feel assured for what causes and on what grounds we do this.


42. You worship, says my opponent, one who was born a mere human being. Even if that were true, as has been already said in former passages, yet, in consideration of the many liberal gifts which He has bestowed on us, He ought to be called and be addressed as God. But since He is God in reality and without any shadow of doubt, do you think that we will deny that He is worshipped by us with all the fervour we are capable of, and assumed as the guardian of our body? Is that Christ of yours a god, then? some raving, wrathful, and excited man will say. A god, we will reply, and the god of the inner powers;79 and — what may still further torture unbelievers with the most bitter pains — He was sent to us by the King Supreme for a purpose of the very highest moment. My opponent, becoming more mad and more frantic, will perhaps ask whether the matter can be proved, as we allege. There is no greater proof than the credibility of the acts done by Him, than the unwonted excellence of the virtues He exhibited, than the conquest and the abrogation of all those deadly ordinances which peoples and tribes saw executed in the light of day,80 with no objecting voice; and even they whose ancient laws or whose country’s laws He shows to be full of vanity and of the most senseless superstition, (even they) dare not allege these things to be false. 


43. My opponent will perhaps meet me with many other slanderous and childish charges which are commonly urged. Jesus was a Magian;81 He effected all these things by secret arts. From the shrines of the Egyptians He stole the names of angels of might,82 and the religious system of a remote country. Why, O witlings, do you speak of things which you have not examined, and which are unknown to you, prating with the garrulity of a rash tongue? Were, then, those things which were done, the freaks of demons, and the tricks of magical arts? Can you specify and point out to me any one of all those magicians who have ever existed in past ages, that did anything similar, in the thousandth degree, to Christ? Who has done this without any power of incantations, without the juice of herbs and of grasses, without any anxious watching of sacrifices, of libations, or of seasons? For we do not press it, and inquire what they profess to do, nor in what kind of acts all their learning and experience are wont to be comprised. For who is not aware that these men either study to know beforehand things impending, which, whether they will or not, come of necessity as they have been ordained? or to inflict a deadly and wasting disease on whom they choose; or to sever the affections of relatives; or to open without keys places which are locked; or to seal the month in silence; or in the chariot race to weaken, urge on, or retard horses; or to inspire in wives, and in the children of strangers, whether they be males or females, the flames and mad desires of illicit love?83 Or if they seem to attempt anything useful, to be able to do it not by their own power, but by the might of those deities whom they invoke.


44. And yet it is agreed on that Christ performed all those miracles which He wrought without any aid from external things, without the observance of any ceremonial, without any definite mode of procedure, but solely by the inherent might of His authority; and as was the proper duty of the true God, as was consistent with His nature, as was worthy of Him, in the generosity of His bounteous power He bestowed nothing hurtful or injurious, but only that which is helpful, beneficial, and full of blessings good84 for men.


45. What do you say again, oh you85 — ? Is He then a man, is He one of us, at whose command, at whose voice, raised in the utterance of audible and intelligible words,86 infirmities, diseases, fevers, and other ailments of the body fled away? Was He one of us, whose presence, whose very sight, that race of demons which took possession of men was unable to bear, and terrified by the strange power, fled away? Was He one of us, to whose order the foul leprosy, at once checked, was obedient, and left sameness of colour to bodies formerly spotted? Was He one of us, at whose light touch the issues of blood were stanched, and stopped their excessive flow?87 Was He one of us, whose hands the waters of the lethargic dropsy fled from, and that searching88 fluid avoided; and did the swelling body, assuming a healthy dryness, find relief? Was He one of us, who bade the lame run? Was it His work, too, that the maimed stretched forth their hands, and the joints relaxed the rigidity89 acquired even at birth; that the paralytic rose to their feet, and persons now carried home their beds who a little before were borne on the shoulders of others; the blind were restored to sight, and men born without eyes now looked on the heaven and the day?


46. Was He one of us, I say, who by one act of intervention at once healed a hundred or more afflicted with various infirmities and diseases; at whose word only the raging and maddened seas were still, the whirlwinds and tempests were lulled; who walked over the deepest pools with unwet foot; who trod the ridges of the deep, the very waves being astonished, and nature coining under bondage; who with live loaves satisfied five thousand of His followers: and who, lest it might appear to the unbelieving and bard of heart to be an illusion, filled twelve capacious baskets with the fragments that remained? Was He one of us, who ordered the breath that had departed to return to the body, persons buried to come forth from the tomb, and after three days to be loosed from the swathings of the undertaker? Was He one of us, who saw clearly in the hearts of the silent what each was pondering,90 what each had in his secret thoughts? Was He one of us, who, when He uttered a single word, was thought by nations far removed from one another and of different speech to be using well-known sounds, and the peculiar language of each?91 Was He one of us, who, when He was teaching His followers the duties of a religion that could not be gainsaid, suddenly filled the whole world, and showed how great He was and who He was, by unveiling the boundlessness of His authority? Was He one of us, who, after His body had been laid in the tomb, manifested Himself in open day to countless numbers of men; who spoke to them, and listened to them; who taught them, reproved and admonished them; who, lest they should imagine that they were deceived by unsubstantial fancies, showed Himself once, a second time, aye frequently, in familiar conversation; who appears even now to righteous men of unpolluted mind who love Him, not in airy dreams, but in a form of pure simplicity;92 whose name, when heard, puts to flight evil spirits, imposes silence on soothsayers, prevents men from consulting the augurs, causes the efforts of arrogant magicians to be frustrated, not by the dread of His name, as you allege, but by the free exercise of a greater power?


47. These facts set forth in sanctuary we have put forward, not on the supposition that the greatness of the agent was to be seen in these virtues alone.93 For however great these things be, how excessively petty and trifling will they be found to be, if it shall be revealed from what realms He has come, of what God He is the minister! But with regard to the acts which were done by Him, they were performed, indeed, not that He might boast Himself into empty ostentation, but that hardened and unbelieving men might be assured that what was professed was not deceptive, and that they might now learn to imagine, from the beneficence of His works, what a true god was. At the same time we wish this also to be known,94 when, as was said, an enumeration of His acts has been given in summary, that Christ was able to do not only those things which He did, but that He could even overcome the decrees of fate. For if, as is evident, and as is agreed by all, infirmities and bodily sufferings, if deafness, deformity, and dumbness, if shrivelling of the sinews and the loss of sight happen to us, and are brought on us by the decrees of fate and if Christ alone has corrected this, has restored and cared man, it is clearer than the sun himself that He was more powerful than the fates are when He has loosened and overpowered those things which were bound with everlasting knots, and fixed by unalterable necessity.


48. But, says some one, you in vain claim so much for Christ, when we now know, and have in past times known, of other gods both giving remedies to many who were sick, and healing the diseases and the infirmities of many men. I do not inquire, I do not demand, what god did so, or at what time; whom he relieved, or what shattered frame he restored to sound health: this only I long to hear, whether, without the addition of any substance — that is, of any medical application — he ordered diseases to fly away from men at a touch; whether he commanded and compelled the cause of ill health to be eradicated, and the bodies of the weak to return to their natural strength. For it is known that Christ, either by applying His hand to the parts affected, or by the command of His voice only, opened the ears of the deaf, drove away blindness from the eyes, gave speech to the dumb, loosened the rigidity of the joints, gave the power of walking to the shrivelled, — was wont to heal by a word and by an order, leprosies, agues, dropsies, and all other kinds of ailments, which some fell power95 has willed that the bodies of men should endure. What act like these have all these gods done, by whom you allege that help has been brought to the sick and the imperilled? for if they have at any time ordered, as is reported, either that medicine or a special diet be given to some,96 or that a draught be drunk off, or that the juices of plants and of blades be placed97 on that which causes uneasiness or have ordered that persons should walk, remain at rest, or abstain from something hurtful, — and that this is no great matter, and deserves no great admiration, is evident, if you will attentively examine it — a similar mode of treatment is followed by physicians also, a creature earth-born and not relying on true science, but founding on a system of conjecture, and wavering in estimating probabilities. Now there is no special merit in removing by remedies those ailments which affect men: the healing qualities belong to the drugs — not virtues inherent in him who applies them; and though it is praiseworthy to know by what medicine or by what method it may be suitable for persons to be treated, there is room for this credit being assigned to man, but not to the deity. For it is, at least, no discredit that he98 should have improved the health of man by things taken from without: it is a disgrace to a god that he is not able to effect it of himself, but that he gives soundness and safety only by the aid of external objects.


49. And since you compare Christ and the other deities as to the blessings of health bestowed, how many thousands of infirm persons do you wish to be shown to you by us; how many persons affected with wasting diseases, whom no appliances whatever restored, although they went as suppliants through all the temples, although they prostrated themselves before the gods, and swept the very thresholds with their lips — though, as long as life remained, they wearied with prayers, and importuned with most piteous vows Aesculapius himself, the health-giver, as they call him? Do we not know that some died of their ailments? that others grew old by the torturing pain of their diseases? that others began to live a more abandoned life after they had wasted their days99 and nights in incessant prayers, and in expectation of mercy?100 Of what avail is it, then, to point to one or another who may have been healed, when so many thousands have been left unaided, and the shrines are full of all the wretched and the unfortunate? Unless, perchance, you say that the gods help the good, but that the miseries of the wicked are overlooked. And yet Christ assisted the good and the bad alike; nor was there any one rejected by Him, who in adversity sought help against violence and the ills of fortune. For this is the mark of a true god and of kingly power, to deny his bounty to none, and not to consider who merits it or who does not; since natural infirmity and not the choice of his desire, or of his sober judgment, makes a sinner. To say, moreover, that aid is given by the gods to the deserving when in distress, is to leave undecided and render doubtful what you assert: so that both he who has been made whole may seem to have been preserved by chance, and he who is not may appear to have been unable to banish infirmity, not because of his demerit, but by reason of a heaven-sent weakness.101


50. Moreover, by His own power He not only performed those miraculous deeds which have been detailed by us in summary, and not as the importance of the matter demanded; but, what was more sublime, He has permitted many others to attempt them, and to perform them by the use of His name. For when He foresaw that you were to be the detractors of His deeds and of His divine work, in order that no lurking suspicion might remain of His having lavished these gifts and bounties by magic arts, from the immense multitude of people, which with admiring wonder strove to gain His favour, He chose fishermen, artisans, rustics, and unskilled persons of a similar kind, that they being sent through various nations should perform all those miracles without any deceit and without any material aids. By a word He assuaged the racking pains of the aching members; and by a word they checked the writhings of maddening sufferings. By one command He drove demons from the body, and restored their senses to the lifeless; they, too, by no different command, restored to health and to soundness of mind those labouring under the inflictions of these demons.102 By the application of His hand He removed the marks of leprosy; they, too, restored to the body its natural skin by a touch not dissimilar. He ordered the dropsical and swollen flesh to recover its natural dryness; and His servants in the same manner stayed the wandering waters, and ordered them to glide through their own channels, avoiding injury to the frame. Sores of immense size, refusing to admit of healing, He restrained from further feeding on the flesh, by the interposition of one word; and they in like manner, by restricting its ravages, compelled the obstinate and merciless cancer to confine itself to a scar. To the lame He gave the power of walking, to the dark eyes sight, the dead He recalled to life; and not less surely did they, too, relax the tightened nerves, fill the eyes with light already lost, and order the dead to return from the tombs, reversing the ceremonies of the funeral rites. Nor was anything calling forth the bewildered admiration of all done by Him, which He did not freely allow, to be performed by those humble and rustic men, and which He did not put in their power.


51. What say ye, O minds incredulous, stubborn, hardened? Did that great Jupiter Capitolinus of yours give to any human being power of this kind? Did he endow with this right any priest of a curia, the Pontifex Maximus, nay, even the Dialis, in whose name he is revealed as the god of life?103 I shall not say, did he impart power to raise the dead, to give light to the blind, restore the normal condition of their members to the weakened and the paralyzed, but did he even enable any one to check a pustule, a hang-nail, a pimple, either by the word of his mouth or the touch of his hand? Was this, then, a power natural to man, or could such a right be granted, could such a licence be given by the mouth of one reared on the vulgar produce of earth; and was it not a divine and sacred gift? or if the matter admits of any hyperbole, was it not more than divine and sacred? For if you do that which you are able to do, and what is compatible with your strength and your ability, there is no ground for the expression of astonishment; for you will have done that which you were able, and which your power was bound to accomplish, in order that there should be a perfect correspondence104 between the deed and the doer. To be able to transfer to a man your own power, share with the frailest being the ability to perform that which you alone are able to do, is a proof of power supreme over all, and holding in subjection the causes of all things, and the natural laws of methods and of means.


52. Come, then, let some Magian Zoroaster105 arrive from a remote part of the globe, crossing over the fiery zone,106 if we believe Hermippus as an authority. Let these join him too — that Bactrian, whose deeds Ctesias sets forth in the first book of his History; the Armenian, grandson of Hosthanes;107 and Pamphilus, the intimate friend of Cyrus; Apollonius, Damigero, and Dardanus; Velus, Julianus, and Baebulus; and if there be any other one who is supposed to have especial powers and reputation in such magic arts. Let them grant to one of the people to adapt the mouths of the dumb for the purposes of speech, to unseal the ears of the deaf, to give the natural powers of the eye to those born without sight, and to restore feeling and life to bodies long cold in death. Or if that is too difficult, and if they cannot impart to others the power to do such acts, let themselves perform them, and with their own rites. Whatever noxious herbs the earth brings forth from its bosom, whatever powers those muttered words and accompanying spells contain — these let them add, we envy them not; those let them collect, we forbid them not. We wish to make trial and to discover whether they can effect, with the aid of their gods, what has often been accomplished by unlearned Christians with a word only.


53. Cease in your ignorance to receive such great deeds with abusive language, which will in no wise injure him who did them, but which will bring danger to yourselves — danger, I say, by no means small, but one dealing with matters of great,108 aye, even the greatest importance, since beyond a doubt the soul is a precious thing, and nothing can be found dearer to a man than himself. There was nothing magical, as you suppose, nothing human, delusive, or crafty in Christ; no deceit lurked in Him,109 although you smile in derision, as your wont is, and though you split with roars of laughter. He was God on high, God in His inmost nature, God from unknown realms, and was sent by the Ruler of all as a Saviour God; whom neither the sun himself, nor any stars, if they have powers of perception, not the rulers and princes of the world, nor, in fine, the great gods, or those who, reigning themselves so, terrify the whole human race, were able to know or to guess whence and who He was — and naturally so. But110 when, freed from the body, which He carried about as but a very small part of Himself, He allowed Himself to be seen, and let it be known how great He was, all the elements of the universe bewildered by the strange events were thrown into confusion. An earthquake shook the world, the sea was heaved up from its depths, the heaven was shrouded in darkness, the sun’s fiery blaze was checked, and his heat became moderate;111 for what else could occur when He was discovered to be God who heretofore was reckoned one of us?


54. But you do not believe these things; yet those who witnessed their occurrence, and who saw them done before their eyes — the very best vouchers and the most trustworthy authorities — both believed them themselves, and transmitted them to us who follow them, to be believed with no scanty measure of confidence. Who are these? you perhaps ask. Tribes, peoples, nations, and that incredulous human race; but112 if the matter were not plain, and, as the saying is, clearer than day itself, they would never grant their assent with so ready belief to events of such a kind. But shall we say that the men of that time were untrustworthy, false, stupid, and brutish to such a degree that they pretended to have seen what they never had seen, and that they put forth under false evidence, or alleged with childish asseveration things which never took place, and that when they were able to live in harmony and to maintain friendly relations with you, they wantonly incurred hatred, and were held in execration?


55. But if this record of events is false, as you say, how comes it that in so short a time the whole world has been filled with such a religion? or how could nations dwelling widely apart, and separated by climate and by the convexities of heaven,113 unite in one conclusion? They have been prevailed upon, say my opponents, by mere assertions, been led into vain hopes; and in their reckless madness have chosen to incur voluntarily the risks of death, although they had hitherto seen nothing of such a kind as could by its wonderful and strange character induce them to adopt this manner of worship. Nay, because they saw all these things to be done by Christ Himself and by His apostles, who being sent throughout the whole world carried with them the blessings of the Father, which they dispensed in benefiting114 as well the minds as the bodies of men; overcome by the force of the very truth itself they both devoted themselves to God, and reckoned it as but a small sacrifice to surrender their bodies to you and to give their flesh to be mangled.


56. But our writers, we shall be told, have put forth these statements with false effrontery; they have extolled115 small matters to an inordinate degree, and have magnified trivial affairs with most pretentious boastfulness. And116 would that all things could have been reduced to writing, — both those which were done by Himself, and those which were accomplished by His apostles with equal authority and power. Such an assemblage of miracles, however, would make you more incredulous; and perhaps you might be able to discover a passage from which117 it would seem very probable, both that additions were made to facts, and that falsehoods were inserted in writings and commentaries. But in nations which were unknown to the writers, and which themselves knew not the use of letters, all that was done could not have been embraced in the records or even have reached the ears of all men; or, if any were committed to written and connected narrative, some insertions and additions would have been made by the malevolence of the demons and of men like to them, whose care and study it is to obstruct118 the progress of this truth: there would have been some changes and mutilations of words and of syllables, at once to mar the faith of the cautious and to impair the moral effect of the deeds. But it will never avail them that it be gathered from written testimony only who and what Christ was; for His cause has been put on such a basis, that if what we say be admitted to be true, He is by the confession of all proved to have been God.


57. You do not believe our writings, and we do not believe yours. We devise falsehoods concerning Christ, you say; and you put forth baseless and false statements concerning your gods: for no god has descended from heaven, or in his own person and life has sketched out your system, or in a similar way thrown discredit on our system and our ceremonies. These were written by men; those, too, were written by men — set forth in human speech; and whatever you seek to say concerning our writers, remember that about yours, too, you will find these things said with equal force. What is contained in your writings you wish to be treated as true; those things, also, which are attested in our books, you must of necessity confess to be true. You accuse our system of falsehood; we, too, accuse yours of falsehood. But ours is more ancient, say you, therefore most credible and trustworthy; as if, indeed, antiquity were not the most fertile source of errors, and did not herself put forth those things which in discreditable fables have attached the utmost infamy to the gods. For could not falsehoods have been both spoken and believed ten thousand years ago, or is it not most probable that that which is near to our own time should be more credible than that which is separated by a long term of years? For these of ours are brought forward on the faith of witnesses, those of yours on the ground of opinions; and it is much more natural that there should be less invention in matters of recent occurrence, than in those far removed in the darkness of antiquity.


58. But they were written by unlearned and ignorant ripen, and should not therefore be readily believed. See that this be not rather a stronger reason for believing that they have not been adulterated by any false statements, but were put forth by men of simple mind, who knew not how to trick out their tales with meretricious ornaments. But the language is mean and vulgar. For truth never seeks deceitful polish, nor in that which is well ascertained and certain does it allow itself to be led away into excessive prolixity. Syllogisms, enthymemes, definitions, and all those ornaments by which men seek to establish their statements, aid those groping for the truth, but do not clearly mark its great features. But he who really knows the subject under discussion, neither defines, nor deduces, nor seeks the other tricks of words by which an audience is wont to be taken in, and to be beguiled into a forced assent to a proposition.


59. Your narratives, my opponent says, are overrun with barbarisms and solecisms, and disfigured by monstrous blunders. A censure, truly, which shows a childish and petty spirit; for if we allow that it is reasonable, let us cease to use certain kinds of fruit because they grow with prickles on them, and other growths useless for food, which on the one hand cannot support us, and yet do not on the other hinder us from enjoying that which specially excels, and which nature has designed to be most wholesome for us. For how, I pray you, does it interfere with or retard the comprehension of a statement, whether anything be pronounced smoothly119 or with uncouth roughness? whether that have the grave accent which ought to have the acute, or that have the acute which ought to have the grave? Or how is the truth of a statement diminished, if an error is made in number or case, in preposition, participle, or conjunction? Let that pomposity of style and strictly regulated diction be reserved for public assemblies, for lawsuits, for the forum and the courts of justice, and by all means be handed over to those who, striving after the soothing influences of pleasant sensations, bestow all their care upon splendour of language. But when we are discussing matters far removed from mere display, we should consider what is said, not with what charm it is said nor how it tickles the ears, but what benefits it confers on the hearers, especially since we know that some even who devoted themselves to philosophy, not only disregarded refinement of style, but also purposely adopted a vulgar meanness when they might have spoken with greater elegance and richness, lest forsooth they might impair the stern gravity of speech and revel rather in the pretentious show of the Sophists. For indeed it evidences a worthless heart to seek enjoyment in matters of importance; and when you have to deal with those who are sick and diseased, to pour into their ears dulcet sounds, not to apply a remedy to their wounds. Yet, if you consider the true state of the case, no language is naturally perfect, and in like manner none is faulty. For what natural reason is there, or what law written in the constitution of the world, that paries should be called hic,120 and sella hoec? — since neither have they sex distinguished by male and female, nor can the most learned man tell me what hic and hoec are, or why one of them denotes the male sex while the other is applied to the female. These conventionalities are man’s, and certainly are not indispensable to all persons for the use of forming their language; for paries might perhaps have been called hoec, and sella hic, without any fault being found, if it had been agreed upon at first that they should be so called, and if this practice had been maintained by following generations in their daily conversation. And yet, O you who charge our writings with disgraceful blemishes, have you not these solecisms in those most perfect and wonderful books of yours? Does not one of you make the plural of uter, utria? another utres?121 Do you not also say coelus and coelum, filus and filum, crocus and crocum, fretus and fretum? Also hoc pane and hic panis, hic sanguis and hoc sanguen? Are not candelabrum and jugulum in like manner written jugulus and candelaber? For if each noun cannot have more than one gender, and if the same word cannot be of this gender and of that, for one gender cannot pass into the other, he commits as great a blunder who utters masculine genders under the laws of feminines, as he who applies masculine articles to feminine genders. And yet we see you using masculines as feminines, and feminines as masculines, and those which yon call neuter both in this way and in that, without any distinction. Either. therefore, it is no blunder to employ them indifferently, and in that case it is vain for you to say that our works are disfigured with monstrous solecisms; or if the way in which each ought to be employed is unalterably fixed, you also are involved in similar errors, although you have on your side all the Epicadi, Caesellii, Verrii, Scauri, and Nisi.


60. But, say my opponents, if Christ was God, why did He appear in human shape, and why was He cut off by death after the manner of men? Could that power which is invisible, and which has no bodily substance, have come upon earth and adapted itself to the world and mixed in human society, otherwise than by taking to itself some covering of a more solid substance, which might bear the gaze of the eyes, and on which the look of the least observant might fix itself? For what mortal is there who could have seen Him, who could have distinguished Him, if He had decreed to come upon the earth such as He is in His own primitive nature, and such as He has chosen to be in His own proper character and divinity? He took upon Him, therefore, the form of man; and under the guise of our race He imprisoned His power, so that He could be seen and carefully regarded, might speak and teach, and without encroaching on the sovereignty and government of the King Supreme, might carry out all those objects for the accomplishment of which He had come into the world.


61. What, then, says my opponent, could not the Supreme Ruler have brought about those things which He had ordained to be done in the world, without feigning Himself a man? If it were necessary to do as you say, He perhaps would have done so; because it was not necessary, He acted otherwise. The reasons why He chose to do it in this way, and did not choose to do it in that, are unknown, being involved in so great obscurity, and comprehensible by scarcely any; but these you might perhaps have understood if you were not already prepared not to understand, and were not shaping your course to brave unbelief, before that was explained to you which you sought to know and to hear.


62. But, you will say, He was cut off by death as men are. Not Christ Himself; for it is impossible either that death should befall what is divine, or that that should waste away and disappear in death which is one in its substance, and not compounded, nor formed by bringing together any parts. Who, then, you ask, was seen hanging on the cross? Who dead? The human form,122 I reply, which He had put on,123 and which He bore about with Him. It is a tale passing belief, you say, and wrapt in dark obscurity; if you will, it is not dark, and is established by a very close analogy.124 If the Sibyl, when she was uttering and pouring forth her prophecies and oracular responses, was filled, as you say, with Apollo’s power, had been cut down and slain by impious robbers,125 would Apollo be said to have been slain in her? If Bacis,126 if Helenus, Marcius,127 and other soothsayers, had been in like manner robbed of life and light when raving as inspired, would any one say that those who, speaking by their mouths, declared to inquirers what should be done,128 had perished according to the conditions of human life? The death of which you speak was that of the human body which He had assumed,129 not His own — of that which was borne, not of the bearer; and not even this death would He130 have stooped to suffer, were it not that a matter of such importance was to be dealt with, and the inscrutable plan of fate131 brought to light in hidden mysteries.


63. What are these hidden and unseen mysteries, you will say, which neither men can know, nor those even who are called gods of the world can in any wise reach by fancy and conjecture; which none can discover,132 except those whom Christ Himself has thought fit to bestow the blessing of so great knowledge upon, and to lead into the secret recesses of the inner treasury of wisdom? Do you then see that if He had determined that none should do Him violence, He should have striven to the utmost to keep off from Him His enemies, even by directing His power against them?133 Could not He, then, who had restored their sight to the blind, make His enemies blind if it were necessary? Was it hard or troublesome for Him to make them weak, who had given strength to the feeble? Did He who bade134 the lame walk, not know how to take from them all power to move their limbs,135 by making their sinews stiff?136 Would it have been difficult for Him who drew the dead from their tombs to inflict death on whom He would? But because reason required that those things which had been resolved on should be done here also in the world itself, and in no other fashion than was done, He, with gentleness passing understanding and belief, regarding as but childish trifles the wrongs which men did Him, submitted to the violence of savage and most hardened robbers;137 nor did He think it worth while to take account of what their daring had aimed at, if He only showed to His disciples what they were in duty bound to look for from Him. For when many things about the perils of souls, many evils about their …; on the other hand, the Introducer,138 the Master and Teacher directed His laws and ordinances, that they might find their end in fitting duties;139 did He not destroy the arrogance of the proud? Did He not quench the fires of lust? Did He not check the craving of greed? Did He not wrest the weapons from their hands, and rend from them all the sources140 of every form of corruption? To conclude, was He not Himself gentle, peaceful, easily approached, friendly when addressed?141 Did He not, grieving at men’s miseries, pitying with His unexampled benevolence all in any wise afflicted with troubles and bodily ills,142 bring them back and restore them to soundness?


64. What, then, constrains you, what excites you to revile, to rail at, to hate implacably Him whom no man143 can accuse of any crime?144 Tyrants and your kings, who, putting away all fear of the gods, plunder and pillage the treasuries of temples; who by proscription, banishment,145 and slaughter, strip the state of its nobles? who, with licentious violence, undermine and wrest away the chastity of matrons and maidens, — these men you name indigites and divi; and you worship with couches, altars, temples, and other service, and by celebrating their games and birthdays, those whom it was fitting that you should assail with keenest146 hatred. And all those, too, who by writing books assail in many forms with biting reproaches public manners; who censure, brand, and tear in pieces your luxurious habits and lives; who carry down to posterity evil reports of their own times147 in their enduring writings; who seek to persuade men that the rights of marriage should be held in common;148 who lie with boys, beautiful, lustful, naked; who declare that you are beasts, runaways, exiles, and mad and frantic slaves of the most worthless character, — all these with wonder and applause you exalt to the stars of heaven, you place in the shrines of your libraries, you present with chariots and statues, and as much as in you lies, gift with a kind of immortality, as it were, by the witness which immortal titles bear to them. Christ alone you would tear in pieces,149 you would rend asunder, if you could do so to a god; nay, Him alone you would, were it allowed, gnaw with bloody months, and break His bones in pieces, and devour Him like beasts of the field. For what that He has done, tell, I pray you, for what crime?150 What has He done to turn aside the course of justice, and rouse you to hatred made fierce by maddening torments? Is it because He declared that He was sent by the only true King to be your soul’s guardian. and to bring to you the immortality which you believe that you already possess, relying on the assertions of a few men? But even if you were assured that He spoke falsely, that He even held out hopes without the slightest foundation, not even in this case do I see any reason that you should hate and condemn Him with bitter reproaches. Nay, if you were kind and gentle in spirit, you ought to esteem Him even for this alone, that He promised to you things which you might well wish and hope for; that He was the bearer of good news; that His message was such as to trouble no one’s mind, nay, rather to fill all with less anxious expectation.151


65. Oh ungrateful and impious age, prepared152 for its own destruction by its extraordinary obstinacy! If there had come to you a physician from lands far distant and unknown to you before, offering some medicine to keep off from you altogether every kind of disease and sickness, would you not all eagerly hasten to him? Would you not with every kind of flattery and honour receive him into your houses, and treat him kindly? Would you not wish that that kind of medicine should be quite sure, and should be genuine, which promised that even to the utmost limits of life you should be free from such countless bodily distresses? And though it were a doubtful matter, you would yet entrust yourselves to him; nor would you hesitate to drink the unknown draught, indited by the hope of health set before you and by the love of safety.153 Christ shone out and appeared to tell us news of the utmost importance, bringing an omen of prosperity, and a message of safety to those who believe. What, I pray you, means154 this cruelty, what such barbarity, nay rather, to speak more truly, scornful155 pride, not only to harass the messenger and bearer of so great a gift with taunting words; but even to assail Him with fierce hostility, and with all the weapons which can be showered upon Him, and with all modes of destruction? Are His words displeasing, and are you offended when you hear them? Count them as but a soothsayer’s empty tales. Does He speak very stupidly, and promise foolish gifts? Laugh with scorn as wise men, and leave Him in His folly156 to be tossed about among His errors. What means this fierceness, to repeat what has been said more than once; what a passion, so murderous? to declare implacable hostility towards one who has done nothing to deserve it at your hands; to wish, if it were allowed you, to tear Him limb from limb, who not only did no man any harm, but with uniform kindness157 told His enemies what salvation was being brought to them from God Supreme, what must be done that they might escape destruction and obtain an immortality which they knew not of? And when the strange and unheard-of things which were held out staggered the minds of those who heard Him, and made them hesitate to believe, though master of every power and destroyer of death itself He suffered His human form to be slain, that from the result158 they might know that the hopes were safe which they had long entertained about the soul’s salvation, and that in no other way could they avoid the danger of death.





73 So all the later edd.; but in the MS., 1st and 2nd Roman edd., and in those of Gelenius and Canterus, this clause reads, cruciatoris perpetitur saevitatem — “but suffers the cruelty of his persecutor.”

74 The words post poenas in the text are regarded as spurious by Orelli, who supposes them to have crept in from the preceding sentence: but they may be defended as sufficiently expressing the agonies which Hercules suffered through the fatal shirt of Nessus.

75 The words deum propitium are indeed found in the MS., but according to Rigaltius are not in the same handwriting as the rest of the work.

76 Cybele, whose worship was conjoined with that of Atys.

77 So Orelli, but the MS. Attis.

78 This refers to the practice of placing the images of the gods on pillows at feasts. In the temples there were pulvinaria, or couches, specially for the purpose.

79 The phrase potentiarum interiorum is not easily understood. Orelli is of the opinion that it means those powers which in the Bible are called the “powers of heaven,” the “army of heaven,” i.e., the angels. The Jews and the early Fathers of the Church divided the heaven into circles or zones, each inhabited by its peculiar powers or intelligent natures, differing in dignity and in might. The central place was assigned to God Himself, and to Christ, who sat on His right hand, and who is called by the Fathers of the Church the “Angel of the Church,” and the “Angel of the New Covenant.” Next in order came “Thrones,” “Archangels,” “Cherubim and Seraphim,” and most remote from God’s throne, the “Chorus of Angels,” the tutelar genii of men. The system of zones and powers seems to have been derived from the Chaldeans, who made a similar division of the heavens. According to this idea, Arnobius speaks of Christ as nearest to the Father, and God of the “inner powers,” who enjoyed God’s immediate presence. Reference is perhaps made to some recondite doctrine of the Gnostics. It may mean, however, the more subtile powers of nature, as affecting both the souls of men and the physical universe.

80 So Orelli with most edd., following Ursinus, for the MS. suo ge-ne-ri-s sub limine, which might, however, be retained, as if the sense were that these ordinances were coeval with man’s origin, and translated, “tribes saw at the beginning of their race.”

81 Magus, almost equivalent to sorcerer.

82 Arnobius uses nomina, “names,” with special significance, because the Magi in their incantations used barbarous and fearful names of angels and of powers, by whose influence they thought strange and unusual things were brought to pass.

83 All these different effects the magicians of old attempted to produce: to break family ties by bringing plagues into houses, or by poisons; open doors and unbind chains by charms (Orig., contra Cels., ii.); affect horses in the race — of which Hieronymus in his Life of Hilarion gives an example; and use philters and love potions to kindle excessive and unlawful desires.

84 So Orelli and most edd., following a marginal reading of Ursinus, auxiliaribus plenum bonis (for the MS. nobis).

85 In the height of his indignation and contempt, the writer stops short and does not apply to his opponents any new epithet.

86 This is contrasted with the mutterings and strange words used by the magicians.

87 So the MS. according to Oehler, and seemingly Heraldus; but according to Orelli, the MS, reads immoderati (instead of — os) cohibebant fluores, which Meursius received as equivalent to “the excessive flow stayed itself.”

88 Penetrabilis, “searching,” i.e., finding its way to all parts of the body.

89 So Orelli, LB., Elmenhorst, and Stewechius, adopting a marginal reading of Ursinus, which prefixes im — to the MS. mobilitates — “looseness” — retained by the other edd.

90 Cf. Joh_2:25. [He often replies to thoughts not uttered.]

91 No such miracle is recorded of Christ, and Oehler suggests with some probability that Arnobius may have here fallen into confusion as to what is recorded of the apostles on the day of Pentecost.

92 The Latin is, per purae speciem simplicitatis, which is not easily understood, and is less easily expressed.

93 [I have already directed attention to Dominic Diodati’s essay, De Christo Graece loquente, ed. London, 1843.]

94 So almost all edd.; but the MS. and 1st and 2nd Roman edd. read scire — “to know,” etc.

95 See book ii. chap. 36, infra.

96 The gods in whose temples the sick lay ordered remedies through the priests.

97 So all edd. except LB., which reads with the MS. superponere — “that (one) place the juices,” etc.

98 That is, the physician.

99 So the edd., reading tri-v-erunt, for the MS. tri-bu-erunt — “given up,” which is retained in the first ed.

100 Pietatis, “of mercy,” in which sense the word is often used in late writers. Thus it was from his clemency that Antoninus, the Roman emperor, received the title of Pius.

101 So most edd., following a marginal reading of Ursinus, which prefixes in — to the MS. firmitate.

102 “They, too, … those labouring under the infliction of these:” so LB., with the warm approval of Orelli (who, however, with previous edd., retains the MS. reading in his text) and others, reading sub eorum t-ortantes (for MS. p — )et illi se casibus; Heraldus having suggested rotantes. This simple and elegant emendation makes it unnecessary to notice the harsh and forced readings of earlier edd.

103 So understood by Orelli, who reads quo Dius est, adopting the explanation of Dialis given by Festus. The MS., however, according to Crusius, reads, Dialem, quod ejus est flaminem isto jure donavit; in which case, from the position of the quod, the meaning might be, “which term is his,” or possibly, “because he (i.e., the priest) is his,” only that in the latter case a pronoun would be expected: the commentators generally refer it to the succeeding jure, with this “right,” which is his. Canterus reads, quod majus est, i.e., than the Pontifex Maximus. [Compare vol. 4. p. 74, note 4.]

104 So the MS reading aequalitas, which is retained by Hild. and Oehler; all other editions drop the ae — “that the quality of deed and doer might be one.”

105 This passage has furnished occasion for much discussion as to text and interpretation. In the text Orelli’s punctuation has been followed, who regards Arnobius as mentioning four Zoroasters — the Assyrian or Chaldean, the Bactrian (cf. c. 5 of this book), the Armenian, and finally the Pamphylian, or Pamphilos, who, according to Clem. Alex. (Strom. [vol. 2. p. 469]), is referred to in Plato’s Republic, book x., under the name Er; Meursius and Salmasius, however, regarding the whole as one sentence, consider that only three persons are so referred to, the first being either Libyan or Bactrian, and the others as with Orelli. To seek to determine which view is most plausible even, would be a fruitless task, as will be evident on considering what is said in the index under Zoroaster. [Jowett’s Plato, ii. 121.]

106 So Orelli, reading venieat qu-is su-per igneam zonam. LB. reads for the second and third words, quae-so per — “let there come, I pray you, through,” etc., from the MS quae super; while Heraldus would change the last three words into Azonaces, the name of the supposed teacher of Zoroaster. By the “fiery zone” Salmasius would understand Libya; but the legends should be borne in mind which spoke of Zoroaster as having shown himself to a wondering multitude from a hill blazing with fire, that he might teach them new ceremonies of worship, or as being otherwise distinguished in connection with fire. [Plato, Rep., p. 446, Jowett’s trans.]

107 So Stewechius, Orelli, and others, for the MS Zostriani — “grandson of Zostrianus,” retained in the 1st ed. and LB.

108 So the edd., reading in rebus eximiis for the MS exi-gui-is, which would, of course, give an opposite and wholly unsuitable meaning.

109 So generally, Heraldus having restored delitu-it in Christo from the MS, which had omitted -it, for the reading of Gelenius, Canterus, and Ursinus, delicti — “no deceit, no sin was,” etc.

110 So emended by Salmasius, followed by most later edd. In the earlier edd. the reading is et merito exutus a corpore (Salm. reading at instead of a, and inserting a period after mer.) — “and when rightly freed from the body,” etc.

111 It may be instructive to notice how the simpler narrative of the Gospels is amplified. Matthew (Mat_27:51) says that the earth trembled, and Luke (Luk_23:45) that the sun was darkened; but they go no further. [See p. 301, note 21, supra.]

112 Or, “which if … itself, would never,” etc. [Not the confidence of this appeal to general assent.]

113 That is, by the climate and the inclination of the earth’s surface.

114 So the 1st ed., Ursinus, Elmenhorst, Orelli, and Hildebrand, reading munerandis, which is found in the MS in a later handwriting, for the original reading of the MS is munera dis.

115 According to Rigaltius the MS reads ista promiserunt in immensum — “have put forth (i.e., exaggerated) these things to an immense degree falsely, small matters and trivial affairs have magnified, etc.; while by a later hand has been superscribed over in immensum, in ink of a different colour, extulere — “have extolled.”

116 So the MS, 1st ed., and Hildebrand, while all others read atqu-i — “but.”

117 So LB., reading quo for the MS quod.

118 So most edd., reading intercip-ere for the MS intercipi — “it is that the progress be obstructed,” etc.

119 So Orelli and Hildebrand, reading glabre from a conjecture of Grotius, for the MS grave.

120 i.e., that the one should be masculine, the other feminine.

121 i.e., does not one of you make the plural of uter masc., another neut.? [Note the opponent’s witness to the text of the Gospels.]

122 So the MS, followed by Hildebrand and Oehler, reads and punctuates quis mortuus? homo, for which all edd. read mortuus est? “Who died?”

123 Here, as in the whole discussion in the second book on the origin and nature of the soul, the opinions expressed are Gnostic, Cerinthus saying more precisely that Christ having descended from heaven in the form of a dove, dwelt in the body of Jesus during His life, but removed from it before the crucifixion.

124 So the MS by changing a single letter, with LB. and others, similitudine proxim-a (MS o) constitutum; while the first ed., Gelenius, Canterus, Ursinus, Orelli, and others, read -dini proxime — “settled very closely to analogy.”

125 In the original latronibus; here, as in the next chapter, used loosely to denote lawless men.

126 So emended by Mercerus for the MS vatis.

127 So read in the MS — not -tius, as in LB. and Orelli.

128 Lit., “the ways of things” — vias rerum.

129 The MS reads unintelligibly assumpti-o hominis fuit, which was, however, retained in both Roman edd., although Ursinus suggested the dropping of the o, which has been done by all later edd.

130 The MS reads, quam nec ipsam perpeti succubuisset vis — “would his might,” i.e., “would He with His great power have stooped.” Orelli simply omits vis as Canterus, and seemingly the other later edd. do.

131 The MS and 1st ed. read sati-s, which has clearly arisen from f being confounded with the old form of s.

132 The construction is a little involved, quae nulli nec homines scire nec ipsi qui appellantur dii mundi queunt — “which none, neither men can know, nor those … of the world can reach, except those whom,” etc.

133 In the Latin, vel potestate inversa, which according to Oehler in the MS reading, while Orelli speaks of it as an emendation of LB. (where it is certainly found, but without any indication of its source), and with most edd. reads universa — “by His universal power.”

134 So the MS according to Hildebrand, reading praecipi-bat. Most edd., however, following Gelenius, read faciebat — “made them lame.”

135 Lit., “to bind fast the motions of the members,” adopting the reading of most edd., motus alligare membrorum (MS c-al-igare)

136 The MS reads nervorum duritia-m, for which Ursinus, with most edd., reads as above, merely dropping m; Hildebrand and Oehler insert in, and read, from a conjecture of Ursinus adopted by Elmenhorst, c-ol-ligare — “to bind into stiffness.”

137 Ursinus suggested di-, “most terrible,” for the MS durissimis.

138 So the MS reading, multa mala de illarum contra insinuator (mala is perhaps in the abl., agreeing with a lost word), which has been regarded by Heraldus and Stewechius, followed by Orelli, as mutilated, and is so read in the first ed., and by Ursinus and LB. The passage is in all cases left obscure and doubtful, and we may therefore be excused discussing its meaning here.

139 Lit., “to the ends of fitting duties.”

140 In the original, seminaria adscidit, — the former word used of nurseries for plants, while the latter may be either as above (from abscindo), or may mean “cut off” (from abscido); but in both cases the general meaning is the same, and the metaphor is in either slightly confused.

141 Lit., “familiar to be accosted,” — the supine, as in the preceding clause.

142 So the edd., reading corporalibus affectos malis, but the MS inserts after malis the word morbis (“with evil bodily diseases”); but according to Hildebrand this word is marked as spurious.

143 So the edd., reading nemo h-om-i-n-um, except Hildebrand and Oehler, who retain the MS om-n-i-um — “no one of all.”

144 Joh_7:46: “Which of you convinceth me of sin?”

145 So Heraldus and LB., followed by later edd., reading exiliis for the MS ex-uis, for which Gelenius, Canterus, and Ursinus read et suis — “and by their slaughters.”

146 Here, as frequently in Arnobius, the comparative is used instead of the superlative.

147 “To posterity evil reports of their own time” — sui temporis posteris notas — so emended by Ursinus, followed by Orelli and Hildebrand, for the MS in temporis posteri-s, retained by LB., and with the omission of s in the 1st ed.; but this requires our looking on the passage as defective.

148 The reference is clearly to the well-known passage in Plato’s Republic. [See the sickening details, book v. p. 282, Jowett’s trans.]

149 So Gelenius, LB., and Orelli, reading con-v-ell-e-re for the MS con-p-ell-a-re, “to accost” or “abuse,” which is out of place here. Canterus suggested com-p-il-are, “to plunder,” which also occurs in the sense “to cudgel.”

150 Supply, “do you pursue Him so fiercely?”

151 These words are followed in the edition of Gelenius by ch. 2-5 of the second book, seemingly without any mark to denote transposition; while Ursinus inserted the same chapters — beginning, however, with the last sentence of the first chapter (read as mentioned in the note on it) — but prefixed an asterisk, to mark a departure from the order of the MS. The later editors have not adopted either change.

152 So Ursinus suggested in the margin, followed by LB. and Orelli, reading in privatum perniciem p-a-r-atum for the MS p-r-iv-atum, which is clearly derived from the preceding privatam, but is, though unintelligible also, retained in the two Roman edd. The conclusion of the sentence is, literally, “obstinacy of spirit.”

153 In the original, spe salutis proposita atque amore incolumitatis.

154 Lit., “is” — est.

155 So all the edd., reading fastidi-os-um supercilium, which Crusius says the MS reads with os omitted, i.e., “pride, scorn.”

156 So the edd., reading fatuita-tem, for the MS fatuita-n-tem, which may, however, point to a verb not found elsewhere.

157 i.e., to friends and foes alike. The MS reads aequaliter benignus hostibus dicere, which is retained by Orelli, supposing an ellipsis of fuerit, i.e., “He was kind to say,” which might be received; but it is more natural to suppose that -t has dropped off, and read diceret as above, with the two Roman editions and LB. Gelenius, followed by Ursinus, emended omnibus docuerit — “with uniform kindness taught to all.” It may be well to give here an instance of the very insufficient grounds on which supposed references to Scripture are sometimes based. Orelli considers that Arnobius here refers (videtur respexisse, he says) to Col_1:21, Col_1:22, “You, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death,” to which, though the words which follow might indeed by thought to have a very distant resemblance, they can in no way be shown to refer.

158 i.e., from His resurrection, which showed that death’s power was broken by Him.