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

Arnobius (Cont.)

75. You may object and rejoin, Why was the Saviour sent forth so late? In unbounded, eternal ages, we reply, nothing whatever should be spoken of as late. For where there is no end and no beginning, nothing is too soon,508 nothing too late. For time is perceived from its beginnings and endings, which an unbroken line and endless509 succession of ages cannot have. For what if the things themselves to which it was necessary to bring help, required that as a fitting time? For what if the condition of antiquity was different from that of later times? What if it was necessary to give help to the men of old in one way, to provide for their descendants in another? Do ye not hear your own writings read, telling that there were once men who were demi-gods, heroes with immense and huge bodies? Do you not read that infants on their mothers’ breasts shrieked like. Stentors,510 whose bones, when dug up in different parts of the earth, have made the discoverers almost doubt that they were the remains of human limbs? So, then, it may be that Almighty God, the only God, sent forth Christ then indeed, after that the human race, becoming feebler, weaker, began to be such as we are. If that which has been done now could have been done thousands of years ago, the Supreme Ruler would have done it; or if it had been proper, that what has been done now should be accomplished as many thousands after this, nothing compelled God to anticipate the necessary lapse511 of time. His plans512 are executed in fixed ways; and that which has been once decided on, can in no wise be changed again.513


76. Inasmuch then, you say, as you serve the Almighty God, and trust that He cares for your safety and salvation, why does He suffer you to be exposed to such storms of persecution, and to undergo all kinds of punishments and tortures? Let us, too, ask in reply, why, seeing that you worship so great and so innumerable gods, and build temples to them, fashion images of gold, sacrifice herds of animals, and all heap up514 boxfuls of incense on the already loaded altars, why you live subject to so many dangers and storms of calamity, with which many fatal misfortunes vex you every day? Why, I say, do your gods neglect to avert from you so many kinds of disease and sickness, shipwrecks, downfalls, conflagrations, pestilences, barrenness, loss of children, and confiscation of goods, discords, wars, enmities, captures of cities, and the slavery of those who are robbed of their rights of free birth?515 But, my opponent says, in such mischances we, too, are in no wise helped by God. The cause is plain and manifest. For no hope has been held out to us with respect to this life, nor has any help been promised or516 aid decreed us for what belongs to the husk of this flesh, — nay, more, we have been taught to esteem and value lightly all the threats of fortune, whatever they be; and if ever any very grievous calamity has assailed us, to count as pleasant in that misfortune517 the end which must follow, and not to fear or flee from it, that we may be the more easily released from the bonds of the body, and escape from our darkness and518 blindness.


77. Therefore that bitterness of persecution of which you speak is our deliverance and not persecution, and our ill-treatment will not bring evil upon us, but will lead us to the light of liberty. As if some senseless and stupid fellow were to think that he never punished a man who had been put into prison519 with severity and cruelty, unless he were to rage against the very prison, break its stones in pieces, and burn its roof, its wall, its doors; and strip, overthrow, and dash to the ground its other parts, not knowing that thus he was giving light to him whom he seemed to be injuring, and was taking from him the accursed darkness: in like manner, you too, by the flames, banishments, tortures, and monsters with which you tear in pieces and rend asunder our bodies, do not rob us of life, but relieve us of our skins, not knowing that, as far as you assault and seek to rage against these our shadows and forms, so far you free us from pressing and heavy chains, and cutting our bonds, make us fly up to the light.


78. Wherefore, O men, refrain from obstructing what you hope for by vain questions; nor should you, if anything is otherwise than you think, trust your own opinions rather than that which should be reverenced.520 The times, full of dangers, urge us, and fatal penalties threaten us; let us flee for safety to God our Saviour, without demanding the reason of the offered gift. When that at stake is our souls’ salvation and our own interests, something must be done even without reason, as Arrhianus approves of Epictetus having said.521 We doubt, we hesitate, and suspect the credibility of what is said; let us commit ourselves to God, and let not our incredulity prevail more with us than the greatness of His name and power, lest, while we are seeking out arguments for ourselves, through which that may seem false which we do not wish and deny to be true, the last day steal upon us, and we be found in the jaws of our enemy, death. 





508 These words having been omitted by Oberthür, are omitted by Orelli also, as in previous instances.

509 The MS and first ed. read etiam moderata continuatio; corrected, et immod. con. by Gelenius.

510 So the edd., reading infantes stentoreos, except Oehler, who retains the MS reading centenarios, which he explains as “having a hundred” heads or hands, as the case might be, e.g., Typhon, Briareus, etc.

511 Lit., “measure.”

512 Lit., “things.”

513 Lit., “can be changed with no novelty.”

514 Lit., “provide,” conficiatis, which, however, some would understand “consume.”

515 Lit., “slaveries, their free births being taken away.”

516 Lit., “and.”

517 So the MS, first five edd., Hild., and Oehler, reading adscribere infortunio voluptatem, which is omitted in the other edd. as a gloss which may have crept in from the margin.

518 Lit., “our dark.”

519 The MS and both Roman edd. read in carcerem natum inegressum; LB. and later edd. have received from the margin of Ursinus the reading translated above, datum, omitting the last word altogether, which Oehler, however, would retain as equivalent to “not to be passed from.”

520 Lit., “than an august thing.”

521 Orelli refers to Arrh., i. 12; but the doctrine there insisted on is the necessity of submission to what is unavoidable. Oehler, in addition, refers to Epict., xxxii. 3, where, however, it is merely attempted to show that when anything is withheld from us, it is just as goods are unless paid for, and that we have therefore no reason to complain. Neither passage can be referred to here, and it seems as though Arnobius has made a very loose reference which cannot be specially identified.