Ante-nicene fathers

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Christ,83 who was called the Son of God before the ages, was manifested in the fulness of time, in order that He might cleanse us through His blood, who were under the power of sin, presenting us as pure sons to His Father, if we yield ourselves obediently to the chastisement of the Spirit. And in the end of time He shall come to do away with all evil, and to reconcile all things, in order that there may be an end of all impurities.


“And84 he found the jaw-bone of an ass.”85 It is to be observed that, after [Samson had committed] fornication, the holy Scripture no longer speaks of the things happily accomplished by him in connection with the formula, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him.”86 For thus, according to the holy apostle, the sin of fornication is perpetrated against the body, as involving also sin against the temple of God.87


This88 indicates the persecution against the Church set on foot by the nations who still continue in unbelief. But he (Samson) who suffered those things, trusted that there would be a retaliation against those waging this war. But retaliation through what means? First of all, by his betaking himself to the Rock89 not cognizable to the senses;90 secondly, by the finding of the jaw-bone of an ass. Now the type of the jaw-bone is the body of Christ.


Speaking always well of the worthy, but never ill of the unworthy, we also shall attain to the glory and kingdom of God.


In91 these things there was signified by prophecy that the people, having become transgressors, shall be bound by the chains of their own sins. But the breaking of the bonds of their own accord indicates that, upon repentance, they shall be again loosed from the shackles of sin.


It92 is not an easy thing for a soul, under the influence Of error, to be persuaded of the contrary opinion.


“And93 Balsam the son of Beor they slew with the sword.”94 For, speaking no longer by the Spirit of God, but setting up another law of fornication contrary to the law of God,95 this man shall no longer be reckoned as a prophet, but as a soothsayer. For, as he did not continue in the commandment of God, he received the just reward of his evil devices.


“The96 god of the world; ”97 that is, Satan, who was designated God to those who believe not.


The98 birth of John [the Baptist] brought the dumbness of Zacharias to an end. For he did not burden his father, when the voice issued forth from silence; but as when not believed it rendered him tongue-tied, so did the voice sounding out clearly set his father free, to whom he had both been announced and born. Now the voice and the burning light99 were a precursor of the Word and the Light.


As100 therefore seventy tongues are indicated by number, and from101 dispersion the tongues are gathered into one by means of their interpretation; so is that ark declared a type of the body of Christ, which is both pure and immaculate. For102 as that ark was gilded with pure gold both within and without, so also is the body of Christ pure and resplendent, being adorned within by the Word, and shielded on the outside by the Spirit, in order that from both [materials] the splendour of the natures might be exhibited together.


Now103 therefore, by means of this which has been already brought forth a long time since, the Word has assigned an interpretation. We are convinced that there exist [so to speak] two men in each one of us. The one is confessedly a hidden thing, while the other stands apparent; one is corporeal, the other spiritual; although the generation of both may be compared to that of twins. For both are revealed to the world as but one, for the soul was not anterior to the body in its essence; nor, in regard to its formation, did the body precede the soul: but both these were produced at one time; and their nourishment consists in purity and sweetness.


For104 then there shall in truth be a common joy consummated to all those who believe unto life, and in each individual shall be confirmed the mystery of the Resurrection, and the hope of incorruption, and the commencement of the eternal kingdom, when God shall have destroyed death and the devil. For that human nature and flesh which has risen again from the dead shall die no more; but after it had been changed to incorruption, and made like to spirit, when the heaven was opened, [our Lord] full of glory offered it (the flesh) to the Father.


Now,105 however, inasmuch as the books of these men may possibly have escaped your observation, but have come under our notice, I call your attention to them, that for the sake of your reputation you may expel these writings from among you, as bringing disgrace upon you, since their author boasts himself as being one of your company. For they constitute a stumbling-block to many, who simply and unreservedly receive, as coming from a presbyter, the blasphemy which they utter against God. Just [consider] the writer of these things, how by means of them he does not injure assistants [in divine service] only, who happen to be prepared in mind for blasphemies against God, but also damages those among us, since by his books he imbues their minds with false doctrines concerning God.


The106 sacred books acknowledge with regard to Christ, that as He is the Son of man, so is the same Being not a [mere] man; and as He is flesh, so is He also spirit, and the Word of God, and God. And as He was born of Mary in the last times, so did He also proceed from God as the First-begotten of every creature; and as He hungered, so did He satisfy [others]; and as He thirsted, so did He of old cause the Jews to drink, for the “Rock was Christ”107 Himself: thus does Jesus now give to His believing people power to drink spiritual waters, which spring up to life eternal.108 And as He was the son of David, so was He also the Lord of David. And as He was from Abraham, so did He also exist before Abraham.109 And as He was the servant of God, so is He the Son of God, and Lord of the universe. And as He was spit upon ignominiously, so also did He breathe the Holy Spirit into His disciples.110 And as He was saddened, so also did He give joy to His people. And as He was capable of being handled and touched, so again did He, in a non-apprehensible form, pass through the midst of those who sought to injure Him,111 and entered without impediment through closed doors.112 And as He slept, so did He also rule the sea, the winds, and the storms. And as He suffered, so also is He alive, and life-giving, and healing all our infirmity. And as He died, so is He also the Resurrection of the dead. He suffered shame on earth, while He is higher than all glory and praise in heaven; who, “though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by divine power; ”113 who “descended into the lower parts of the earth,” and who “ascended up above the heavens; ”114 for whom a manger sufficed, yet who filled all things; who was dead, yet who liveth for ever and ever. Amen.


With115 regard to Christ, the law and the prophets and the evangelists have proclaimed that He was born of a virgin, that He suffered upon a beam of wood, and that He appeared from the dead; that He also ascended to the heavens, and was glorified by the Father, and is the Eternal King; that He is the perfect Intelligence, the Word of God, who was begotten before the light; that He was the Founder of the universe, along with it (light), and the Maker of man; that He is All in all: Patriarch among the patriarchs; Law in the laws; Chief Priest among priests; Ruler among kings; the Prophet among prophets; the Angel among angels; the Man among men; Son in the Father; God in God; King to all eternity. For it is He who sailed [in the ark] along with Noah, and who guided Abraham; who was bound along with Isaac, and was a Wanderer with Jacob; the Shepherd of those who are saved, and the Bridegroom of the Church; the Chief also of the cherubim, the Prince of the angelic powers; God of God; Son of the Father; Jesus Christ; King for ever and ever. Amen.


The116 law and the prophets and evangelists have declared that Christ was born of a virgin, and suffered on the cross; was raised also from the dead, and taken up to heaven; that He was glorified, and reigns for ever. He is Himself termed the Perfect Intellect, the Word of God. He is the First-begotten,117 after a transcendent manner, the Creator of man; All in all; Patriarch among the patriarchs; Law in the law; the Priest among priests; among kings Prime Leader; the Prophet among the prophets; the Angel among angels; the Man among men; Son in the Father; God in God; King to all eternity. He was sold with Joseph, and He guided Abraham; was bound along with Isaac, and wandered with Jacob; with Moses He was Leader, and, respecting the people, Legislator. He preached in the prophets; was incarnate of a virgin; born in Bethlehem; received by John, and baptized in Jordan; was tempted in the desert, and proved to be the Lord. He gathered the apostles together, and preached the kingdom of heaven; gave light to the blind, and raised the dead; was seen in the temple, but was not held by the people as worthy of credit; was arrested by the priests, conducted before Herod, and condemned in the presence of Pilate; He manifested Himself in the body, was suspended upon a beam of wood, and raised from the dead; shown to the apostles, and, having been carried up to heaven, sitteth on the right hand of the Father, and has been glorified by Him as the Resurrection of the dead. Moreover, He is the Salvation of the lost, the Light to those dwelling in darkness, and Redemption to those who have been born; the Shepherd of the saved, and the Bridegroom of the Church; the Charioteer of the cherubim, the Leader of the angelic host; God of God; Jesus Christ our Saviour.


“Then118 drew near unto Him the mother of Zebedee’s children, with her sons, worshipping, and seeking a certain thing from Him.”119 These people are certainly not void of understanding, nor are the words set forth in that passage of no signification: being stated beforehand like a preface, they have some agreement with those points formerly expounded.

“Then drew near.” Sometimes virtue excites our admiration, not merely on account of the display which is given of it, but also of the occasion when it was manifested. I may refer, for example, to the premature fruit of the grape, or of the fig, or to any fruit whatsoever, from which, during its process [of growth], no man expects maturity or full development; yet, although any one may perceive that it is still somewhat imperfect, he does not for that reason despise as useless the immature grape when plucked, but he gathers it with pleasure as appearing early in the season; nor does he consider whether the grape is possessed of perfect sweetness; nay, he at once experiences satisfaction from the thought that this one has appeared before the rest. Just in the same way does God also, when He perceives the faithful possessing wisdom though still imperfect, and but a small degree of faith, overlook their defect in this respect, and therefore does not reject them; nay, but on the contrary, He kindly welcomes and accepts them as premature fruits, and honours the mind, whatsoever it may be, which is stamped with virtue, although not yet perfect. He makes allowance for it, as being among the harbingers of the vintage,120 and esteems it highly, inasmuch as, being of a readier disposition than the rest, it has forestalled, as it were, the blessing to itself.

Abraham therefore, Isaac, and Jacob, our fathers, are to be esteemed before all, since they did indeed afford us such early examples of virtue. How many martyrs can be compared to Daniel? How many martyrs, I ask, can rival the three youths in Babylon, although the memory of the former has not been brought before us so conspicuously as that of the latter? These were truly first-fruits, and indications of the [succeeding] fructification. Hence God has directed their life to be recorded, as a model for those who should come after.

And that their virtue was thus accepted by God, as the first-fruits of the produce, hear what He has Himself declared: “As a grape,” He says, “I have found Israel in the wilderness, and as first-ripe figs your fathers.”121 Call not therefore the faith of Abraham merely blessed because he believed. Do you wish to look upon Abraham with admiration? Then behold how that one man alone professed piety when in the world six hundred had been contaminated with error. Dost thou wish Daniel to carry thee away to amazement? Behold that [city] Babylon, haughty in the flower and pride of impiousness, and its inhabitants completely given over to sin of every description. But he, emerging from the depth, spat out the brine of sins, and rejoiced to plunge into the sweet waters of piety. And now, in like manner, with regard to that mother of Zebedee’s children, do not admire merely what she said, but also the time at which she uttered these words. For when was it that she drew near to the Redeemer? Not after the resurrection, nor after the preaching of His name, nor after the establishment of His kingdom; but it was when the Lord said, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they shall kill Him, and on the third day He shall rise again.”

These things the Saviour told in reference to His sufferings and cross; to these persons He predicted His passion. Nor did He conceal the fact that it should be of a most ignominious kind, at the hands of the chief priests. This woman, however, had attached another meaning to the dispensation of His sufferings. The Saviour was foretelling death; and she asked for the glory of immortality. The Lord was asserting that He must stand arraigned before impious judges; but she, taking no note of that judgment, requested as of the judge: “Grant,” she said, “that these my two sons may sit, one on the right hand, and the other on the left, in Thy glory.” In the one case the passion is referred to, in the other the kingdom is understood. The Saviour was speaking of the cross, while she had in view the glory which admits no suffering. This woman, therefore, as I have already said, is worthy of our admiration, not merely for what she sought, but also for the occasion of her making the request.

She did indeed suffer, not merely as a pious person, but also as a woman. For, having been instructed by His words, she considered and believed that it would come to pass, that the kingdom of Christ should flourish in glory, and walk in its vastness throughout the world, and be increased by the preaching of piety. She understood, as was [in fact] the case, that He who appeared in a lowly guise had delivered and received every promise. I will inquire upon another occasion, when I come to treat upon this humility, whether the Lord rejected her petition concerning His kingdom. But she thought that the same confidence would not be possessed by her, when, at the appearance of the angels, He should be ministered to by the angels, and receive service from the entire heavenly host. Taking the Saviour, therefore, apart in a retired place, she earnestly desired of Him those things which transcend every human nature.


The American editor omitted in the proper place (p. 315, note 4, after what is said by the translator) to insert this important note: viz.,—

[On this matter of quotations from anonymous authors of the apostolic times, not infrequently made by Irenaeus, consult the importatnt tractate of Dr. Routh, in his Reliquiae Sacrae, vol. i. 45–68.]parparpar


11 This refers to the first volume only of the original series.

11 In the only known ms. of this Epistle, the title is thus given at the close.

22 [Note the fact that the Corinthians asked this of their brethren, the personal friends of their apostle St. Paul. Clement’s own name does not appear in this Epistle.]

33 Literally, “is greatly blasphemed.”

44 Literally, “did not prove your all-virtuous and firm faith.”

55 Eph. v. 21; 1 Pet. v. 5.

66 Acts xx. 35.

77 Literally, “ye embraced it in your bowels.” [Concerning the complaints of Photius (ninth century) against Clement, see Bull’s Defensio Fidei Nicaenae, Works, vol. v. p. 132.]

88 1 Pet. ii. 17.

99 So, in the ms., but many have suspected that the text is here corrupt. Perhaps the best emendation is that which substitutes sunaisqhsew", “compassion,” for suneidhsew", “conscience.”

1010 Tit. iii. 1.

1111 Prov. vii. 3.

1212 Literally, “enlargement”

1313 Deut. xxxii. 15.

1414 It seems necessary to refer autou to God, in opposition to the translation given by Abp. Wake and others.

1515 Literally, “Christ;” comp. 2 Cor. i. 21, Eph. iv. 20.

1616 Wisd. ii. 24.

1717 Gen. iv. 3–8. The writer here, as always, follows the reading of the Septuagint, which in this passage both alters and adds to the Hebrew text. We have given the rendering approved by the best critics; but some prefer to translate, as in our English version, “unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” See, for an ancient explanation of the passage, Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., iv. 18, 3.

1818 Gen. xxvii. 41, etc.

1919 Gen. xxxvii.

2020 Ex. ii. 14.

2121 Num. xii. 14, 15. [In our copies of the Septuagint this is not affirmed of Aaron.]

2222 Num. xvi. 33.

2323 1 Kings xviii. 8, etc.

2424 Literally, “those who have been athletes.”

2525 Some fill up the lacunnae here found in the ms. so as to read, “have come to a grievous death.”

2626 Literally, “good.” [The martyrdom of St. Peter is all that is thus connected with his arrival in Rome. His numerous labours were restricted to the Circumcision.]

2727 Seven imprisonments of St. Paul are not referred to in Scripture.

2828 Archbishop Wake here reads “scourged.” We have followed the most recent critics in filling up the numerous lacunnae in this chapter.

2929 Some think Rome, others Spain, and others even Britain, to be here referred to. [See note at end.]

3030 That is, under Tigellinus and Sabinus, in the last year of the Emperor Nero; but some think Helius and Polycletus referred to; and others, both here and in the preceding sentence, regard the words as denoting simply the witness borne by Peter and Paul to the truth of the gospel before the rulers of the earth.

3131 Some suppose these to have been the names of two eminent female martyrs under Nero; others regard the clause as an interpolation. [Many ingenious conjectures might be cited; but see Jacobson’s valuable note, Patres Apostol., vol. i. p. 30.]

3232 Literally, “have reached to the stedfast course of faith.”

3333 Gen. ii. 23.

3434 Some insert “Father.”

3535 Gen. vii.; 1 Pet. iii. 20; 2 Pet. ii. 5.

3636 Jonah iii.

3737 Ezek. xxxiii. 11.

3838 Ezek. xviii. 11.

3939 Comp. Isa. i. 18.

4040 These words are not found in Scripture, though they are quoted again by Clem. Alex. (Paedag., i. 10) as from Ezekiel.

4141 Isa. i. 16–20.

4242 Some read mataiologian, “vain talk.”

4343 Gen. v. 24; Heb. xi. 5. Literally, “and his death was not found.”

4444 Isa. xli. 8; 2 Chron. xx. 7; Judith viii. 19; James ii. 23.

4545 Gen. xii. 1–3.

4646 Gen. xiii. 14–16.

4747 Gen. xv. 5, 6; Rom. iv. 3.

4848 Gen. xxi. 22; Heb. xi. 17.

4949 Gen. xix.; comp. 2 Pet. ii. 6–9.

5050 So Joseph, Antiq., i. 11, 4; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., iv. 31.

5151 Literally, “become a judgment and sign.”

5252 Josh. ii.; Heb. xi. 31.

5353 Others of the Fathers adopt the same allegorical interpretation, e.g., Justin Mar., Dial. c. Tryph., n. 111; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., iv. 20. [The whole matter of symbolism under the law must be more thoroughly studied if we would account for such strong language as is here applied to a poetical or rhetorical figure.]

5454 Jer. ix. 23, 24; 1 Cor. i. 31; 2 Cor. x. 17.

5555 Comp. Matt. vi. 12–15, vii. 2; Luke vi. 36–38.

5656 Isa. lxvi. 2.

5757 Prov. ii. 21, 22.

5858 Ps. xxxvii. 35–37. “Remnant” probably refers either to the memory or posterity of the righteous.

5959 Isa. xxix. 13; Matt. xv. 8; Mark vii. 6.

6060 Ps. lxii. 4.

6161 Ps. lxxviii. 36, 37.

6262 Ps. xxxi. 18.

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