Ante-nicene fathers

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Justin on the Sole Government of God.1

[Translated by the Rev. G. Reith, M.a.]


Chapter I.—Object of the Author.

Although human nature at first received a union of intelligence and safety to discern the truth, and the worship due to the one Lord of all, yet envy, insinuating the excellence of human greatness, turned men away to the making of idols; and this superstitious custom, after continuing for a long period, is handed down to the majority as if it were natural and true. It is the part of a lover of man, or rather of a lover of God, to remind men who have neglected it of that which they ought to know. For the truth is of itself sufficient to show forth, by means of those things which are contained under the pole of heaven, the order [instituted by] Him who has created them. But forgetfulness having taken possession of the minds of men, through the long-suffering of God, has acted recklessly in transferring to mortals the name which is applicable to the only true God; and from the few the infection of sin spread to the many, who were blinded by popular usage to the knowledge of that which was lasting and unchangeable. For the men of former generations, who instituted private and public rites in honour of such as were more powerful, caused forgetfulness of the Catholic2 faith to take possession of their posterity; but I, as I have just stated, along with a God-loving mind, shall employ the speech of one who loves man, and set it before those who have intelligence, which all ought to have who are privileged to observe the administration of the universe, so that they should worship unchange-ably Him who knows all things. This I shall do, not by mere display of words, but by altogether using demonstration drawn from the old poetry in Greek literature,3 and from writings very common amongst all. For from these the famous men who have handed down idol-worship as law to the multitudes, shall be taught and convicted by their own poets and literature of great ignorance.

Chapter II.—Testimonies to the Unity of God.

First, then, Aeschylus,4 in expounding the arrangement of his work,5 expressed himself also as follows respecting the only God:—

“Afar from mortals place the holy God,

Nor ever think that He, like to thyself,

In fleshly robes is clad; for all unknown

Is the great God to such a worm as thou.

Divers similitudes He bears; at times

He seems as a consuming fire that burns

Unsated; now like water, then again

In sable folds of darkness shrouds Himself.

Nay, even the very beasts of earth reflect

His sacred image; whilst the wind, clouds, rain,

The roll of thunder and the lightning flash,

Reveal to men their great and sovereign Lord.

Before Him sea and rocks, with every fount,

And all the water floods, in reverence bend;

And as they gaze upon His awful face,

Mountains and earth, with the profoundest depths

Of ocean, and the highest peaks of hills,

Tremble: for He is Lord Omnipotent;

And this the glory is of God Most High.”

But he was not the only man initiated in the knowledge of God; for Sophocles also thus describes the nature of the only Creator of all things, the One God:—

“There is one God, in truth there is but one,

Who made the heavens and the broad earth beneath,

The glancing waves of ocean, and the winds;

But many of us mortals err in heart,

And set up, for a solace in our woes,

Images of the gods in stone and brass,

Or figures carved in gold or ivory;

And, furnishing for these, our handiworks,

Both sacrifice and rite magnificent,

We think that thus we do a pious work.”

And Philemon also, who published many explanations of ancient customs, shares in the knowledge of the truth; and thus he writes:—

“Tell me what thoughts of God we should conceive?

One, all things seeing, yet Himself unseen.”

Even Orpheus, too, who introduces three hundred and sixty gods, will bear testimony in my favour from the tract called Diathecae, in which he appears to repent of his error by writing the following:—

“I’ll speak to those who lawfully may hear;

All others, ye profane, now close the doors!

And, O Musaeus, hearken thou to me,

Who offspring art of the light-bringing moon.

The words I tell thee now are true indeed,

And if thou former thoughts of mine hast seen,

Let them not rob thee of the blessed life;

But rather turn the depths of thine own heart

Unto that place where light and knowledge dwell.

Take thou the word divine to guide thy steps;

And walking well in the straight certain path,

Look to the one and universal King,

One, self-begotten, and the only One

Of whom all things, and we ourselves, are sprung.

All things are open to His piercing gaze,

While He Himself is still invisible;

Present in all His works, though still unseen,

He gives to mortals evil out of good,

Sending both chilling wars and tearful griefs;

And other than the Great King there is none.

The clouds for ever settle round His throne;

And mortal eyeballs in mere mortal eyes

Are weak to see Jove, reigning over all.

He sits established in the brazen heavens

Upon His throne; and underneath His feet

He treads the earth, and stretches His right hand

To all the ends of ocean, and around

Tremble the mountain ranges, and the streams,

The depths, too, of the blue and hoary sea.”

He speaks indeed as if he had been an eyewitness of God’s greatness. And Pythagoras6 agrees with him when he writes:—

“Should one in boldness say, Lo, I am God!

Besides the One—Eternal—Infinite,

Then let him from the throne he has usurped

Put forth his power and form another globe,

Such as we dwell in, saying, This is mine.

Nor only so, but in this new domain

For ever let him dwell. If this he can,

Then verily he is a god proclaimed.”

Chapter III.—Testimonies to a Future Judgment.

Then further concerning Him, that He alone is powerful, both to institute judgment on the deeds performed in life, and on the ignorance of the Deity [displayed by men], I can adduce witnesses from your own ranks; and first Sophocles,7 who speaks as follows:—

“That time of times shall come, shall surely come,

When from the golden ether down shall fall

Fire’s teeming treasure, and in burning flames

All things of earth and heaven shall be consumed;

And then, when all creation is dissolved,

The sea’s last wave shall die upon the shore,

The bald earth stript of trees, the burning air

No winged thing upon its breast shall bear.

There are two roads to Hades, well we know;8

By this the righteous, and by that the bad,

On to their separate fates shall tend; and He,

Who all things had destroyed, shall all things save.”

And Philemon9 again:—

“Think’st thou, Nicostratus, the dead, who here

Enjoyed whate’er of good life often man,

Escape the notice of Divinity,

As if they might forgotten be of Him?

Nay, there’s an eye of Justice watching all;

For if the good and bad find the same end,

Then go thou, rob, steal, plunder, at thy will,

Do all the evil that to thee seems good.

Yet be not thou deceived; for underneath

There is a throne and place of judgment set,

Which God the Lord of all shall occupy;

Whose name is terrible, nor shall I dare

To breathe it forth in feeble human speech.”

And Euripides:10

“Not grudgingly he gives a lease of life,

That we the holders may be fairly judged;

And if a mortal man doth think to hide

His daily guilt from the keen eye of God,

It is an evil thought; so if perchance

He meets with leisure-taking Justice, she

Demands him as her lawful prisoner:

But many of you hastily commit

A twofold sin, and say there is no God.

But, ah! there is; there is. Then see that he

Who, being wicked, prospers, may redeem

The time so precious, else hereafter waits

For him the due reward of punishment.”

Chapter IV.—God Desires Not Sacrifices, But Righteousness.

And that God is not appeased by the libations and incense of evil-doers, but awards vengeance in righteousness to each one, Philemon11 again shall bear testimony to me:—

“If any one should dream, O Pamphilus,

By sacrifice of bulls or goats—nay, then,

By Jupiter—of any such like things;

Or by presenting gold or purple robes,

Or images of ivory and gems;

If thus he thinks he may propitiate God,

He errs, and shows himself a silly one.

But let him rather useful be, and good,

Committing neither theft nor lustful deeds,

Nor murder foul, for earthly riches’ sake.

Let him of no man covet wife or child,

His splendid house, his wide-spread property,

His maiden, or his slave born ill his house,

His horses, or his cattle, or his beeves,

Nay, covet not a pin, O Pamphilus,

For God, close by you, sees whate’er you do.

He ever with the wicked man is wroth,

But in the righteous takes a pleasure still,

Permitting him to reap fruit of his toil,

And to enjoy the bread his sweat has won.

But being righteous, see thou pay thy vows,

And unto God the giver offer gifts.

Place thy adorning not in outward shows,

But in an inward purity of heart;

Hearing the thunder then, thou shall not fear,

Nor shall thou flee, O master, at its voice,

For thou art conscious of no evil deed,

And God, close by you, sees whate’er you do.”

Again, Plato, in Timaeus,12 says: “But if any one on consideration should actually institute a rigid inquiry, he would be ignorant of the distinction between the human and the divine nature; because God mingles many13 things up into one, [and again is able to dissolve one into many things, ] seeing that He is endued with knowledge and power; but no man either is, or ever shall be, able to perform any of these.”

Chapter V.—The Vain Pretensions of False Gods.

But concerning those who think that they shall share the holy and perfect name, which some have received by a vain tradition as if they were gods, Menander in the Auriga says:—

“If there exists a god who walketh out

With an old woman, or who enters in

By stealth to houses through the folding-doors,

He ne’er can please me; nay, but only he

Who stays at home, a just and righteous God,

To give salvation to His worshippers.”

The same Menander, in the Sacerdos, says:—

“There is no God, O woman, that can save

One man by another; if indeed a man,

With sound of tinkling cymbals, charm a god

Where’er he listeth, then assuredly

He who doth so is much the greater god.

But these, O Rhode, are but the cunning schemes

Which daring men of intrigue, unabashed,

Invent to earn themselves a livelihood,

And yield a laughing-stock unto the age.”

Again, the same Menander, stating his opinion about those who are received as gods, proving rather that they are not so, says:—

“Yea, if I this beheld, I then should wish

That back to me again my soul returned.

For tell me where, O Getas, in the world

‘Tis possible to find out righteous gods? ”

And in the Depositum:—

“There’s an unrighteous judgment, as it seems,

Even with the gods.”

And Euripides the tragedian, in Orestes, says:—

“Apollo having caused by his command

The murder of the mother, knoweth not

What honesty and justice signify.

We serve the gods, whoever they may be;

But from the central regions of the earth

You see Apollo plainly gives response

To mortals, and whate’er he says we do.

I him obeyed, when she that bore me fell

Slain by my hand: he is the wicked man.

Then slay him, for ‘twas he that sinned, not I.

What could I do? Think you not that the god

Should free me from the blame which I do bear? ”

The same also in Hippolytus:—

“But on these points the gods do not judge right.”

And in Ion:—

“But in the daughter of Erechtheus

What interest have I? for that pertains

Not unto such as me. But when I come

With golden vessels for libations, I

The dew shall sprinkle, and yet needs must warn

Apollo of his deeds; for when he weds

Maidens by force, the children secretly

Begotten he betrays, and then neglects

When dying. Thus not you; but while you may

Always pursue the virtues, for the gods

Will surely punish men of wickedness.

How is it right that you, who have prescribed

Laws for men’s guidance, live unrighteously?

But ye being absent, I shall freely speak,

And ye to men shall satisfaction give

For marriage forced, thou Neptune, Jupiter,

Who over heaven presides. The temples ye

Have emptied, while injustice ye repay.

And though ye laud the prudent to the skies,

Yet have ye filled your hands with wickedness.

No longer is it right to call men ill

If they do imitate the sins14 of gods;15

Nay, evil let their teachers rather be.”

And in Archelaus:—

“Full oft, my son, do gods mankind perplex.”

And in Bellerophon:—

“They are no gods, who do not what is right.”

And again in the same:—

“Gods reign in heaven most certainly, says one;

But it is false,—and let not him

Who speaks thus, be so foolish as to use

Ancient tradition, or to pay regard

Unto my words: but with unclouded eye

Behold the matter in its clearest light.

Power absolute, I say, robs men of life

And property; transgresses plighted faith;

Nor spares even cities, but with cruel hand

Despoils and devastates them ruthlessly.

But they that do these things have more success

Than those who live a gentle pious life;

And cities small, I know, which reverence gods,

Submissive bend before the many spears

Of larger impious ones; yea, and methinks

If any man lounge idly, and abstain

From working with his hands for sustenance,

Yet pray the gods; he very soon will know

If they from him misfortunes will avert.”

And Menander in Diphilus:16

“Therefore ascribe we praise and honour great

To Him who Father is, and Lord of all;

Sole maker and preserver of mankind,

And who with all good things our earth has stored.”

The same also in the Piscatores:—

“For I deem that which nourishes my life

Is God; but he whose custom ‘tis to meet

The wants of men,—He needs not at our hands

Renewed supplies, Himself being all in all.”17

The same in the Fratres:—

“God ever is intelligence to those

Who righteous are: so wisest men have thought.”

And in the Tibicinae:—

“Good reason finds a temple in all things

Wherein to worship; for what is the mind,

But just the voice of God within us placed? ”

And the tragedian in Phrixus:—

“But if the pious and the impious

Share the same lot, how could we think it just,

If Jove, the best, judges not uprightly? ”

In Philoctetes:—

“You see how honourable gain is deemed

Even to the gods; and how he is admired

Whose shrine is laden most with yellow gold.

What, then, doth hinder thee, since it is good

To be like gods, from thus accepting gain? ”

In Hecuba:—

“O Jupiter I whoever thou mayest be,

Of whom except in word all knowledge fails; ”


“Jupiter, whether thou art indeed

A great necessity, or the mind of man,

I worship thee!”

Chapter VI.—We Should Acknowledge One Only God.

Here, then, is a proof of virtue, and of a mind loving prudence, to recur to the communion of the unity,18 and to attach one’s self to prudence for salvation, and make choice of the better things according to the free-will placed in man; and not to think that those who are possessed of human passions are lords of all, when they shall not appear to have even equal power with men. For in Homer,19 Demodocus says he is self-taught—

“God inspired me with strains”—

though he is a mortal. Aesculapius and Apollo are taught to heal by Chiron the Centaur,—a very novel thing indeed, for gods to be taught by a man. What need I speak of Bacchus, who the poet says is mad? or of Hercules, who he says is unhappy? What need to speak of Mars and Venus, the leaders of adultery; and by means of all these to establish the proof which has been undertaken? For if some one, in ignorance, should imitate the deeds which are said to be divine, he would be reckoned among impure men, and a stranger to life and humanity; and if any one does so knowingly, he will have a plausible excuse for escaping vengeance, by showing that imitation of godlike deeds of audacity is no sin. But if any one should blame these deeds, he will take away their well-known names, and not cover them up with specious and plausible words. It is necessary, then, to accept the true and invariable Name, not proclaimed by my words only, but by the words of those who have introduced us to the elements of learning, in order that we may not, by living idly in this present state of existence, not only as those who are ignorant of the heavenly glory, but also as having proved ourselves ungrateful, render our account to the Judge.

Fragments of the Lost Work of Justin on the Resurrection

[Translated by the Rev. M. Dods, M.a.]


Chapter I.—The Self-Evidencing Power of Truth.

The word of truth is free, and carries its own authority, disdaining to fall under any skilful argument, or to endure the logical scrutiny of its hearers. But it would be believed for its own nobility, and for the confidence due to Him who sends it. Now the word of truth is sent from God; wherefore the freedom claimed by the truth is not arrogant. For being sent with authority, it were not fit that it should be required to produce proof of what is said; since neither is there any proof beyond itself, which is God. For every proof is more powerful and trustworthy than that which it proves; since what is disbelieved, until proof is produced, gets credit when such proof is produced, and is recognised as being what it was stated to be. But nothing is either more powerful or more trustworthy than the truth; so that he who requires proof of this is like one who wishes it demonstrated why the things that appear to the senses do appear. For the test of those things which are received through the reason, is sense; but of sense itself there is no test beyond itself. As then we bring those things which reason hunts after, to sense, and by it judge what kind of things they are, whether the things spoken be true or false, and then sit in judgment no longer, giving full credit to its decision; so also we refer all that is said regarding men and the world to the truth, and by it judge whether it be worthless or no. But the utterances of truth we judge by no separate test, giving full credit to itself. And God, the Father of the universe, who is the perfect intelligence, is the truth. And the Word, being His Son, came to us, having put on flesh, revealing both Himself and the Father, giving to us in Himself resurrection from the dead, and eternal life afterwards. And this is Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. He, therefore, is Himself both the faith and the proof of Himself and of all things. Wherefore those who follow Him, and know Him, having faith in Him as their proof, shall rest in Him. But since the adversary does not cease to resist many, and uses many and divers arts to ensnare them, that he may seduce the faithful from their faith, and that he may prevent the faithless from believing, it seems to me necessary that we also, being armed with the invulnerable doctrines of the faith, do battle against him in behalf of the weak.

Chapter II.—Objections to the Resurrection of the Flesh.

They who maintain the wrong opinion say that there is no resurrection of the flesh; giving as their reason that it is impossible that what is corrupted and dissolved should be restored to the same as it had been. And besides the impossibility, they say that the salvation of the flesh is disadvantageous; and they abuse the flesh, adducing its infirmities, and declare that it only is the cause of our sins, so that if the flesh, say they, rise again, our infirmities also rise with it. And such sophistical reasons as the following they elaborate: If the flesh rise again, it must rise either entire and possessed of all its parts, or imperfect. But its rising imperfect argues a want of power on God’s part, if some parts could be saved, and others not; but if all the parts are saved, then the body will manifestly have all its members. But is it not absurd to say that these members will exist after the resurrection from the dead, since the Saviour said, “They neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but shall be as the angels in heaven? ”1 And the angels, say they, have neither flesh, nor do they eat, nor have sexual intercourse; therefore there shall be no resurrection of the flesh. By these and such like arguments, they attempt to distract men from the faith. And there are some who maintain that even Jesus Himself appeared only as spiritual, and not in flesh, but presented merely the appearance of flesh: these persons seek to rob the flesh of the promise. First, then, let us solve those things which seem to them to be insoluble; then we will introduce in an orderly manner the demonstration concerning the flesh, proving that it partakes of salvation.

Chapter III.—If the Members Rise, Must They Discharge the Same Functions as Now?

They say, then, if the body shall rise entire, and in possession of all its members, it necessarily follows that the functions of the members shall also be in existence; that the womb shall become pregnant, and the male also discharge his function of generation, and the rest of the members in like manner. Now let this argument stand or fall by this one assertion. For this being proved false, their whole objection will be removed. Now it is indeed evident that the members which discharge functions discharge those functions which in the present life we see but it does not follow that they necessarily discharge the same functions from the beginning. And that this may be more clearly seen, let us consider it thus. The function of the womb is to become pregnant; and of the member of the male to impregnate. But as, though these members are destined to discharge such functions, it is not therefore necessary that they from the beginning discharge them (since we see many women who do not become pregnant, as those that are barren, even though they have wombs), so pregnancy is not the immediate and necessary consequence of having a womb; but those even who are not barren abstain from sexual intercourse, some being virgins from the first, and others from a certain time. And we see men also keeping themselves virgins, some from the first, and some from a certain time; so that by their means, marriage, made lawless through lust, is destroyed.2 And we find that some even of the lower animals, though possessed of wombs, do not bear, such as the mule; and the male mules do not beget their kind. So that both in the case of men and the irrational animals we can see sexual intercourse abolished; and this, too, before the future world. And our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, for no other reason than that He might destroy the begetting by lawless desire, and might show to the ruler3 that the formation of man was possible to God without human intervention. And when He had been born, and had submitted to the other conditions of the flesh,—I mean food, drink, and clothing,—this one condition only of discharging the sexual function He did not submit to; for, regarding the desires of the flesh, He accepted some as necessary, while others, which were unnecessary, He did not submit to. For if the flesh were deprived of food, drink, and clothing, it would be destroyed; but being deprived of lawless desire, it suffers no harm. And at the same time He foretold that, in the future world, sexual intercourse should be done away with; as He says, “The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage; but the children of the world to come neither marry nor are given in marriage, but shall be like the angels in heaven.”4 Let not, then, those that are unbelieving marvel, if in the world to come He do away with those acts of our fleshly members which even in this present life are abolished.

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