Ante-nicene fathers



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12. However, it was not by means of visions alone which were seen, and words which were proclaimed, but also in actual works, that He was beheld by the prophets, in order that through them He might prefigure and show forth future events beforehand. For this reason did Hosea the prophet take “a wife of whoredoms,” prophesying by means of the action, “that in committing fornication the earth should fornicate from the Lord,”309 that is, the men who are upon the earth; and from men of this stamp it will be God’s good pleasure to take out310 a Church which shall be sanctified by fellowship with His Son, just as that woman was sanctified by intercourse with the prophet. And for this reason, Paul declares that the “unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband.”311 Then again, the prophet names his children, “Not having obtained mercy,” and “Not a people,”312 in order that, as says the apostle, “what was not a people may become a people; and she who did not obtain mercy may obtain mercy. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said, This is not a people, there shall they be called the children of the living God.”313 That which had been done typically through his actions by the prophet, the apostle proves to have been done truly by Christ in the Church. Thus, too, did Moses also take to wife an Ethiopian woman, whom he thus made an Israelitish one, showing by anticipation that the wild olive tree is grafted into the cultivated olive, and made to partake of its fatness. For as He who was born Christ according to the flesh, had indeed to be sought after by the people in order to be slain, but was to be set free in Egypt, that is, among the Gentiles, to sanctify those who were there in a state of infancy, from whom also He perfected His Church in that place (for Egypt was Gentile from the beginning, as was Ethiopia also); for this reason, by means of the marriage of Moses, was shown forth the marriage of the Word;314 and by means of the Ethiopian bride, the Church taken from among the Gentiles was made manifest; and those who do detract from, accuse, and deride it, shall not be pure. For they shall be full of leprosy, and expelled from the camp of the righteous. Thus also did Rahab the harlot, while condemning herself, inasmuch as she was a Gentile, guilty of all sins, nevertheless receive the three spies,315 who were spying out all the land, and hid them at her home; [which three were] doubtless [a type of] the Father and the Son, together with the Holy Spirit. And when the entire city in which she lived fell to ruins at the sounding of the seven trumpets, Rahab the harlot was preserved, when all was over [in ultimis], together with all her house, through faith of the scarlet sign; as the Lord also declared to those who did not receive His advent,—the Pharisees, no doubt, nullify the sign of the scarlet thread, which meant the passover, and the redemption and exodus of the people from Egypt,—when He said, “The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of heaven before you.”316

Chapter XXI.—Abraham’s Faith Was Identical with Ours; This Faith Was Prefigured by the Words and Actions of the Old Patriarchs.

1. But that our faith was also prefigured in Abraham, and that he was the patriarch of our faith, and, as it were, the prophet of it, the apostle has very fully taught, when he says in the Epistle to the Galatians: “He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, [doeth he it] by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness. Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. But the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, announced beforehand unto Abraham, that in him all nations should be blessed. So then they which be of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham.”317 For which [reasons the apostle] declared that this man was not only the prophet of faith, but also the father of those who from among the Gentiles believe in Jesus Christ, because his faith and ours are one and the same: for he believed in things future, as if they were already accomplished, because of the promise of God; and in like manner do we also, because of the promise of God, behold through faith that inheritance [laid up for us] in the [future] kingdom.

2. The history of Isaac, too, is not without a symbolical character. For in the Epistle to the Romans, the apostle declares: “Moreover, when Rebecca had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac,” she received answer318 from the Word, “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth, it was said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people are in thy body; and the one people shall overcome the other, and the eider shall serve the younger.”319 From which it is evident, that not only [were there] prophecies of the patriarchs, but also that the children brought forth by Rebecca were a prediction of the two nations; and that the one should be indeed the greater, but the other the less; that the one also should be under bondage, but the other free; but [that both should be] of one and the same father. Our God, one and the same, is also their God, who knows hidden things, who knoweth all things before they can come to pass; and for this reason has He said, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”320

3. If any one, again, will look into Jacob’s actions, he shall find them not destitute of meaning, but full of import with regard to the dispensations. Thus, in the first place, at his birth, since he laid hold on his brother’s heel,321 he was called Jacob, that is, the supplanter—one who holds, but is not held; binding the feet, but not being bound; striving and conquering; grasping in his hand his adversary’s heel, that is, victory. For to this end was the Lord born, the type of whose birth he set forth beforehand, of whom also John says in the Apocalypse: “He went forth conquering, that He should conquer.”322 In the next place, [Jacob] received the rights of the first-born, when his brother looked on them with contempt; even as also the younger nation received Him, Christ, the first-begotten, when the elder nation rejected Him, saying, “We have no king but Caesar.”323 But in Christ every blessing [is summed up], and therefore the latter people has snatched away the blessings of the former from the Father, just as Jacob took away the blessing of this Esau. For which cause his brother suffered the plots and persecutions of a brother, just as the Church suffers this self-same thing from the Jews. In a foreign country were the twelve tribes born, the race of Israel, inasmuch as Christ was also, in a strange country, to generate the twelve-pillared foundation of the Church. Various coloured sheep were allotted to this Jacob as his wages; and the wages of Christ are human beings, who from various and diverse nations come together into one cohort of faith, as the Father promised Him, saying, “Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.”324 And as from the multitude of his sons the prophets of the Lord [afterwards] arose, there was every necessity that Jacob should beget sons from the two sisters, even as Christ did from the two laws of one and the same Father; and in like manner also from the handmaids, indicating that Christ should raise up sons of God, both from freemen and from slaves after the flesh, bestowing upon all, in the same manner, the gift of the Spirit, who vivifies us.325 But he (Jacob) did all things for the sake of the younger, she who had the handsome eyes,326 Rachel, who prefigured the Church, for which Christ endured patiently; who at that time, indeed, by means of His patriarchs and prophets, was prefiguring and declaring beforehand future things, fulfilling His part by anticipation in the dispensations of God, and accustoming His inheritance to obey God, and to pass through the world as in a state of pilgrimage, to follow His word, and to indicate beforehand things to come. For with God there is nothing without purpose or due signification.

Chapter XXII.—Christ Did Not Come for the Sake of the Men of One Age Only, But for All Who, Living Righteously and Piously, Had Believed Upon Him; And for Those, Too, Who Shall Believe.

1 Now in the last days, when the fulness of the time of liberty had arrived, the Word Himself did by Himself “wash away the filth of the daughters of Zion,”327 when He washed the disciples’ feet with His own hands.328 For this is the end of the human race inheriting God; that as in the beginning, by means of our first [parents], we were all brought into bondage, by being made subject to death; so at last, by means of the New Man, all who from the beginning [were His] disciples, having been cleansed and washed from things pertaining to death, should come to the life of God. For He who washed the feet of the disciples sanctified the entire body, and rendered it clean. For this reason, too, He administered food to them in a recumbent posture, indicating that those who were lying in the earth were they to whom He came to impart life. As Jeremiah declares, “The holy Lord remembered His dead Israel, who slept in the land of sepulture; and He descended to them to make known to them His salvation, that they might be saved.”329 For this reason also were the eyes of the disciples weighed down when Christ’s passion was approaching; and when, in the first instance, the Lord found them sleeping, He let it pass,—thus indicating the patience of God in regard to the state of slumber in which men lay; but coming the second time, He aroused them, and made them stand up, in token that His passion is the arousing of His sleeping disciples, on whose account “He also descended into the lower parts of the earth,”330 to behold with His eyes the state of those who were resting from their labours,331 in reference to whom He did also declare to the disciples: “Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see and hear what ye do see and hear.”332

2. For it was not merely for those who believed on Him in the time of Tiberius Caesar that Christ came, nor did the Father exercise His providence for the men only who are now alive, but for all men altogether, who from the beginning, according to their capacity, in their generation have both feared and loved God, and practised justice and piety towards their neighbours, and have earnestly desired to see Christ, and to hear His voice. Wherefore He shall, at His second coming, first rouse from their sleep all persons of this description, and shall raise them up, as well as the rest who shall be judged, and give them a place in His kingdom. For it is truly “one God who” directed the patriarchs towards His dispensations, and “has justified the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith.”333 For as in the first we were prefigured, so, on the other hand, are they represented in us, that is, in the Church, and receive the recompense for those things which they accomplished.

Chapter XXIII.—The Patriarchs and Prophets by Pointing Out the Advent of Christ, Fortified Thereby, as It Were, the Way of Posterity to the Faith of Christ; And So the Labours of the Apostles Were Lessened Inasmuch as They Gathered in the Fruits of the Labours of Others.

1. For which reason the Lord declared to the disciples: “Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look upon the districts (regiones), for they are white [already] to harvest. For the harvest-man receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal, that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. For in this is the saying true, that one soweth and another reapeth. For I have sent you forward to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour; other men have laboured, and ye have entered into their labours.”334 Who, then, are they that have laboured, and have helped forward the dispensations of God? It is clear that they are the patriarchs and prophets, who even prefigured our faith, and disseminated through the earth the advent of the Son of God, who and what He should be: so that posterity, possessing the fear of God, might easily accept the advent of Christ, having been instructed by the prophets. And for this reason it was, that when Joseph became aware that Mary was with child, and was minded to put her away privily, the angel said to him in sleep: “Fear not to take to thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. For she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.”335 And exhorting him [to this], he added: “Now all this has been done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken from the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel; ”thus influencing him by the words of the prophet, and warding off blame from Mary, pointing out that it was she who was the virgin mentioned by Isaiah beforehand, who should give birth to Emmanuel. Wherefore, when Joseph was convinced beyond all doubt, he both did take Mary, and joyfully yielded obedience in regard to all the rest of the education of Christ, undertaking a journey into Egypt and back again, and then a removal to Nazareth. [For this reason, ] those who knew not the Scriptures nor the promise of God, nor the dispensation of Christ, at last called him the father of the child. For this reason, too, did the Lord Himself read at Capernaum the prophecies of Isaiah:336 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me; to preach the Gospel to the poor hath He sent Me, to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and sight to the blind.”337 At the same time, showing that it was He Himself who had been foretold by Esaias the prophet, He said to them: “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

2. For this reason, also, Philip, when he had discovered the eunuch of the Ethiopians’ queen reading these words which had been written: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb is dumb before the shearer, so He opened not His mouth: in His humiliation His judgment was taken away; ”338 and all the rest which the prophet proceeded to relate in regard to His passion and His coming in the flesh, and how He was dishonoured by those who did not believe Him; easily persuaded him to believe on Him, that He was Christ Jesus, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and suffered whatsoever the prophet had predicted, and that He was the Son of God, who gives eternal life to men. And immediately when [Philip] had baptized him, he departed from him. For nothing else [but baptism] was wanting to him who had been already instructed by the prophets: he was not ignorant of God the Father, nor of the rules as to the [proper] manner of life, but was merely ignorant of the advent of the Son of God, which, when he had become acquainted with, in a short space of time, he went on his way rejoicing, to be the herald in Ethiopia of Christ’s advent. Therefore Philip had no great labour to go through with regard to this man, because he was already prepared in the fear of God by the prophets. For this reason, too, did the apostles, collecting the sheep which had perished of the house of Israel, and discoursing to them from the Scriptures, prove that this crucified Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God; and they persuaded a great multitude, who, however, [already] possessed the fear of God. And there were, in one day, baptized three, and four, and five thousand men.339

Chapter XXIV.—The Conversion of the Gentiles Was More Difficult Than that of the Jews; The Labours of Those Apostles, Therefore Who Engaged in the Former Task, Were Greater Than Those Who Undertook the Latter.

I. Wherefore also Paul, since he was the apostle of the Gentiles, says, “I laboured more than they all.”340 For the instruction of the former, [viz., the Jews, ] was an easy task, because they could allege proofs from the Scriptures, and because they, who were in the habit of hearing Moses and the prophets, did also readily receive the First-begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the life of God,—Him who, by the spreading forth of hands, did destroy Amalek, and vivify man from the wound of the serpent, by means of faith which was [exercised] towards Him. As I have pointed out in the preceding book, the apostle did, in the first place, instruct the Gentiles to depart from the superstition of idols, and to worship one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and the Framer of the whole creation; and that His Son was His Word, by whom He founded all things; and that He, in the last times, was made a man among men; that He reformed the human race, but destroyed and conquered the enemy of man, and gave to His handiwork victory against the adversary. But although they who were of the circumcision still did not obey the words of God, for they were despisers, yet they were previously instructed not to commit adultery, nor fornication, nor theft, nor fraud; and that whatsoever things are done to our neighbours’ prejudice, were evil, and detested by God. Wherefore also they did readily agree to abstain from these things, because they had been thus instructed.

2. But they were bound to teach the Gentiles also this very thing, that works of such a nature were wicked, prejudicial, and useless, and destructive to those who engaged in them. Wherefore he who had received the apostolate to the Gentiles,341 did labour more than those who preached the Son of God among them of the circumcision. For they were assisted by the Scriptures, which the Lord confirmed and tiff-filled, in coming such as He had been announced; but here, [in the case of the Gentiles, ] there was a certain foreign erudition, and a new doctrine [to be received, namely], that the gods of the nations not only were no gods at all, but even the idols of demons; and that there is one God, who is “above all principality, and dominion, and power, and every name which is named; ”342 and that His Word, invisible by nature, was made palpable and visible among men, and did descend “to death, even the death of the cross; ”343 also, that they who believe in Him shall be incorruptible and not subject to suffering, and shall receive the kingdom of heaven. These things, too, were preached to the Gentiles by word, without [the aid of] the Scriptures: wherefore, also, they who preached among the Gentiles underwent greater labour. But, on the other hand, the faith of the Gentiles is proved to be of a more noble description, since they followed the word of God without the instruction [derived] from the [sacred] writings (sine instructione literarum).

Chapter XXV.—Both Covenants Were Prefigured in Abraham, and in the Labour of Tamar; There Was, However, But One and the Same God to Each Covenant.

I. For thus it had behoved the sons of Abraham [to be], whom God has raised up to him from the stones,344 and caused to take a place beside him who was made the chief and the forerunner of our faith (who did also receive the covenant of circumcision, after that justification by faith which had pertained to him, when he was yet in uncircumcision, so that in him both covenants might be prefigured, that he might be the father of all who follow the Word of God, and who sustain a life of pilgrimage in this world, that is, of those who from among the circumcision and of those from among the uncircumcision are faithful, even as also “Christ345 is the chief corner-stone” sustaining all things); and He gathered into the one faith of Abraham those who, from either covenant, are eligible for God’s building. But this faith which is in uncircumcision, as connecting the end with the beginning, has been made [both] the first and the last. For, as I have shown, it existed in Abraham antecedently to circumcision, as it also did in the rest of the righteous who pleased God: and in these last times, it again sprang up among mankind through the coming of the Lord. But circumcision and the law of works occupied the intervening period.346

2. This fact is indeed set forth by many other [occurrences], but typically by [the history of] Thamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law.347 For when she had conceived twins, one of them put forth his hand first; and as the midwife supposed that he was the first-born, she bound a scarlet token on his hand. But after this had been done, and he had drawn back his hand, his brother Phares came forth the first; then, after him, Zara, upon whom was the scarlet line, [was born] the second: the Scripture clearly pointing out that people which possessed the scarlet sign, that is, faith in a state of circumcision, which was shown beforehand, indeed, in the patriarchs first; but after that withdrawn, that his brother might be born; and also, in like manner, him who was the elder, as being born in the second place, [him] who was distinguished by the scarlet token which was [fastened] on him, that is, the passion of the Just One, which was prefigured from the beginning in Abel, and described by the prophets, but perfected in the last times in the Son of God.

3. For it was requisite that certain facts should be announced beforehand by the fathers in a paternal manner, and others prefigured by the prophets in a legal one, but others, described after the form of Christ, by those who have received the adoption; while in one God are all things shown forth. For although Abraham was one, he did in himself prefigure the two covenants, in which some indeed have sown, while others have reaped; for it is said, “In this is the saying true, that it is one ‘people’ who sows, but another who shall reap; ”348 but it is one God who bestows things suitable upon both—seed to the sower, but bread for the reaper to eat. Just as it is one that planteth, and another who watereth, but one God who giveth the increase.349 For the patriarchs and prophets sowed the word [concerning] Christ, but the Church reaped, that is, received the fruit. For this reason, too, do these very men (the prophets) also pray to have a dwelling-place in it, as Jeremiah says, “Who will give me in the desert the last dwelling-place? ”350 in order that both the sower and the reaper may rejoice together in the kingdom of Christ, who is present with all those who were from the beginning approved by God, who granted them His Word to be present with them.351

Chapter XXVI.—The Treasure Hid in the Scriptures is Christ; The True Exposition of the Scriptures is to Be Found in the Church Alone.

1. If any one, therefore, reads the Scriptures with attention, he will find in them an account of Christ, and a foreshadowing of the new calling (vocationis). For Christ is the treasure which was hid in the field,352 that is, in this world (for “the field is the world”353 ); but the treasure hid in the Scriptures is Christ, since He was pointed out by means of types and parables. Hence His human nature could not354 be understood, prior to the consummation of those things which had been predicted, that is, the advent of Christ. And therefore it was said to Daniel the prophet: “Shut up the words, and seal the book even to the time of consummation, until many learn, and knowledge be completed. For at that time, when the dispersion shall be accomplished, they shall know all these things.”355 But Jeremiah also says, “In the last days they shall understand these things.”356 For every prophecy, before its fulfilment, is to men [full of] enigmas and ambiguities. But when the time has arrived, and the prediction has come to pass, then the prophecies have a clear and certain exposition. And for this reason, indeed, when at this present time the law is read to the Jews, it is like a fable; for they do not possess the explanation of all things pertaining to the advent of the Son of God, which took place in human nature; but when it is read by the Christians, it is a treasure, hid indeed in a field, but brought to light by the cross of Christ, and explained, both enriching the understanding of men, and showing forth the wisdom of God and declaring His dispensations with regard to man, and forming the kingdom of Christ beforehand, and preaching by anticipation the inheritance of the holy Jerusalem, and proclaiming beforehand that the man who loves God shall arrive at such excellency as even to see God, and hear His word, and from the hearing of His discourse be glorified to such an extent, that others cannot behold the glory of his countenance, as was said by Daniel: “Those who do understand, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and many of the righteous357 as the stars for ever and ever.”358 Thus, then, I have shown it to be,359 if any one read the Scriptures. For thus it was that the Lord discoursed with, the disciples after His resurrection from the dead, proving to them from the Scriptures themselves “that Christ must suffer, and enter into His glory, and that remission of sins should be preached in His name throughout all the world.”360 And the disciple will be perfected, and [rendered] like the householder, “who bringeth forth from his treasure things new and old.”361




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