Ante-nicene fathers

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translations of

The Writings of the Fathers down to a.d. 325

The Rev. Alexander Roberts, D.D.,


James Donaldson, LL.D.,



revised and chronologically arranged, with brief prefaces and occasional notes


A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D.



Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing company

Grand Rapids, Michigan






Ta; ajrcai`a e[qh krateivtw.

The Nicene Council

Volume IV

Introductory Notice


I. On the Pallium


II. On the Apparel of Women

Book I

Book II


III. On the Veiling of Virgins


IV. To His Wife

Book I

Book II


V. On Exhortation to Chastity


VI. On Monogamy


VII. On Modesty


VIII. On Fasting. In Opposition to the Psychics


IX. De Fuga in Persecutione


X. Appendix

1. A Strain of Jonah the Prophet

2. A Strain of Sodom

3. Genesis

4. A Strain of the Judgment of the Lord

5. Five Books in Reply to Marcion


Minucius Felix

Introductory Note to Minucius Felix

The Octavius of Minucius Felix


Introductory Note to the Instructions of Commodianus

The Instructions of Commodianus in Favour of Christian Discipline. Against the Gods of the Heathens. (Expressed in Acrostics.)



Introductory Note to the Works of Origen

Prefatory Notice to Origen’s Works

Prologue of Rufinus

Origen de Principiis

Book I

Book II

Book III

Book IV


A Letter to Origen from Africanus About the History of Susanna

A Letter from Origen to Africanus

A Letter from Origen to Gregory


Origen Against Celsus

Book I

Book II

Book III

Book IV


Book V

Book VI

Book VII


Introductory Notice.

[a.d.200–250.] This fourth volume of our series is an exceptional one. It presents, under one cover, specimens of two of the noblest of the Christian Fathers; both of them exceptionally great in their influence upon the ages; both of them justly censurable for pitiable faults; each of them, in spite of such failings, endeared to the heart of Christendom by their great services to the Church; both of them geographically of Africa, but the one essentially Greek and the other a Latin; the one a builder upon the great Clementine foundations, the other himself a founder, the brilliant pioneer of Latin Christianity. The contrasts and the concurrences of such minds, and in them of the Alexandrian and Carthaginian schools, are most suggestive, and should be edifying.The works of both, as here given, are fractional. Tertullian overflows into this volume, after filling one before; the vast proportions of Origen’s labours forced the Edinburgh publishers to give specimens only.Minucius Felix and Commodian are thrown in as a sort of appendix to Tertullian, and illustrate the school and the Church of the same country. The Italian type does not yet appear Latin Christianity is essentially North-African, and is destined to continue such, conspicuously, till it has culminated in the genius of Augustine. From the first, the Orientals speculate concerning God; the Westerns deal with man Both schools “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.” And, once for all, it may be said, that if their language necessarily lacks the precision of technical theology, and enables those who have little sympathy with them to set them one against another on some points, and so to impair their value as witnesses, it is quite as easy, and far more just, to show the harmony of their ideas, even when they differ in their forms of speech. This has been triumphantly done by Bull, just as the same writer harmonizes St. James and St. Paul, working down to their common base in the Rock of Ages. The test of Ante-Nicene unity is the Nicene Symbol, in which the primitive writings find their ultimate expression. That Clement and Tertullian alike would have recognized as the faith; for the earlier Fathers were, in fact, its authors. The Nicene Fathers were compilers only, and professed only to embody in the Symbol what their predecessors had established and maintained.Let it be borne in mind that there is only one Oecumenical Symbol. The Creed called the Apostles’ is unknown to the East save as an orthodox confession of their Western brethren. The “Athanasian Creed” is only a Western hymn, like the Te Deum and has no oecumenical warrant as a symbol, though it embodies the common doctrine. The Filioque, wherever it appears, is apocryphal, and has no oecumenical force; while it is heretical (in Catholic theology) if it be held in a sense which destroys the One Source of divinity in the Father, its fons et origo. Surely, it is a noble exercise of mind and heart to see, in the splendid result of the Ante-Nicene conflicts with error, and in the enduring truth and perennial freshness of the Nicene Creed, the fulfilment of the promise of the Great Head of the Church, that the Spirit should abide with them for ever, and guide them into all truth.

The editor-in-chief, who has been forced to labour unassisted in the preceding volumes, has been so happy as to find a valued collaborator in editing the works of Origen, who has also relieved him of the task of proof-reading almost entirely throughout this volume, excepting on his own pages of prefaces or annotations. In spite’ of the fact that a necessity for despatch requires the printing to be done from single proofs, it is believed that this volume excels its predecessors in typographical accuracy,—a merit largely due to the eminent skill of the Boston press from which it proceeds, but primarily to the pains of the Rev. Dr. Spencer, an expert in such operations.

For the favour and generous spirit with which his Christian brethren have welcomed and encouraged this undertaking, the editor is grateful to them, and to the common Lord and Master of us all.October, 1885.


I. On the Pallium.1

[Translated by the Rev. S. Thelwall.]

Chapter I.—Time Changes Nations’ Dresses—And Fortunes,

Men of Carthage, ever princes of Africa, ennobled by ancient memories, blest with modern felicities, I rejoice that times are so prosperous with you that you have leisure to spend and pleasure to find in criticising dress. These are the “piping times of peace” and plenty. Blessings rain from the empire and from the sky. Still, you too of old time wore your garments—your tunics—of another shape; and indeed they were in repute for the skill of the weft, and the harmony of the hue, and the due proportion of the size, in that they were neither prodigally long across the shins, nor immodestly scanty between the knees, nor niggardly to the arms, nor tight to the hands, but, without being shadowed by even a girdle arranged to divide the folds, they stood on men’s backs with quadrate symmetry. The garment of the mantle extrinsically—itself too quadrangular—thrown back on either shoulder, and meeting closely round the neck in the gripe of the buckle, used to repose on the shoulders.2 Its counterpart is now the priestly dress, sacred to Aesculapius, whom you now call your own. So, too, in your immediate vicinity, the sister State3 used to clothe (her citizens); and wherever else in Africa Tyre (has settled).4 But when the urn of worldly5 lots varied, and God favoured the Romans, the sister State, indeed, of her own choice hastened to effect a change; in order that when Scipio put in at her ports she might already beforehand have greeted him in the way of dress, precocious in her Romanizing. To you, however, after the benefit in which your injury resulted, as exempting you from the infinity of age, not (deposing you) from your height of eminence,—after Gracchus and his foul omens, after Lepidus and his rough jests, after Pompeius and his triple altars, and Caesar and his long delays, when Statilius Taurus reared your ramparts, and Sentius Saturninus pronounced the solemn form of your inauguration,—while concord lends her aid, the gown is offered. Well! what a circuit has it taken! from Pelasgians to Lydians;6 from Lydians to Romans: in order that from the shoulders of the sublimer people it should descend to embrace Carthaginians! Henceforth, finding your tunic too long, you suspend it on a dividing cincture; and the redundancy of your now smooth toga7 you support by gathering it together fold upon fold; and, with whatever other garment social condition or dignity or season clothes you, the mantle, at any rate, which used to be worn by all ranks and conditions among you, you not only are unmindful of, but even deride. For my own part, I wonder not (thereat), in the face of a more ancient evidence (of your forgetfulness). For the ram withal—not that which Laberius8 (calls)

“Back-twisted-horned, wool-skinned, stones-dragging,”but a beam-like engine it is, which does military service in battering walls—never before poised by any, the redoubted Carthage,

“Keenest in pursuits of war,”9 is said to have been the first of all to have equipped for the oscillatory work of pendulous impetus;10 modelling the power of her engine after the choleric fury of the head-avenging beast.11 When, however, their country’s fortunes are at the last gasp, and the ram, now turned Roman, is doing his deeds of daring against the ramparts which erst were his own, forthwith the Carthaginians stood dumbfounded as at a “novel” and “strange” ingenuity: “so much doth Time’s long age avail to change!”12 Thus, in short, it is that the mantle, too, is not recognised.

Chapter II.—The Law of Change, or Mutation, Universal.

Draw we now our material from some other source, lest Punichood either blush or else grieve in the midst of Romans. To change her habit is, at all events, the stated function of entire nature. The very world13 itself (this which we inhabit) meantime discharges it. See to it Anaximander, if he thinks there are more (worlds): see to it, whoever else (thinks there exists another) anywhere at the region of the Meropes, as Silenus prates in the ears of Midas,14 apt (as those cars are15 ), it must be admitted, for even huger fables. Nay, even if Plato thinks there exists one of which this of ours is the image, that likewise must necessarily have similarly to undergo mutation; inasmuch as, if it is a “world,”16 it will consist of diverse substances and offices, answerable to the form of that which is here the “world: ”17 for “world” it will not be if it be not just as the “world” is. Things which, in diversity, tend to unity, are diverse by demutation. In short, it is their vicissitudes which federate the discord of their diversity. Thus it will be by mutation that every “world”18 will exist whose corporate structure is the result of diversities, and whose attemperation is the result of vicissitudes. At all events, this hostelry of ours19 is versiform,—a fact which is patent to eyes that are closed, or utterly Homeric.20 Day and night revolve in turn. The sun varies by annual stations, the moon by monthly phases. The stars—distinct in their confusion—sometimes drop, sometimes resuscitate, somewhat. The circuit of the heaven is now resplendent with serenity, now dismal with cloud; or else rain-showers come rushing down, and whatever missiles (mingle) with them: thereafter (follows) a slight sprinkling, and then again brilliance. So, too, the sea has an ill repute for honesty; while at one time, the breezes equably swaying it, tranquillity gives it the semblance of probity, calm gives it the semblance of even temper; and then all of a sudden it heaves restlessly with mountain-waves. Thus, too, if you survey the earth, loving to clothe herself seasonably, you would nearly be ready to deny her identity, when, remembering her green, you behold her yellow, and will ere long see her hoary too. Of the rest of her adornment also, what is there which is not subject to interchanging mutation—the higher ridges of her mountains by decursion, the veins of her fountains by disappearance, and the pathways of her streams by alluvial formation? There was a time when her whole orb, withal, underwent mutation, overrun by all waters. To this day marine conchs and tritons’ horns sojourn as foreigners on the mountains, eager to prove to Plato that even the heights have undulated. But withal, by ebbing out, her orb again underwent a formal mutation; another, but the same. Even now her shape undergoes local mutations, when (some particular) spot is damaged; when among her islands Delos is now no more, Samos a heap of sand, and the Sibyl (is thus proved) no liar;21 when in the Atlantic (the isle) that was equal in size to Libya or Asia is sought in vain;22 when formerly a side of Italy, severed to the centre by the shivering shock of the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian seas, leaves Sicily as its relics; when that total swoop of discission, whirling backwards the contentious encounters of the mains, invested the sea with a novel vice, the vice not of spuing out wrecks, but of devouring them! The continent as well suffers from heavenly or else from inherent forces. Glance at Palestine. Where Jordan’s river is the arbiter of boundaries, (behold) a vast waste, and a bereaved region, and bootless land! And once (there were there) cities, and flourishing peoples, and the soil yielded its fruits.23 Afterwards, since God is a Judge, impiety earned showers of fire: Sodom’s day is over, and Gomorrah is no more; and all is ashes; and the neighbour sea no less than the soil experiences a living death! Such a cloud overcast Etruria, burning down her ancient Volsinii, to teach Campania (all the more by the ereption of her Pompeii) to look expectantly upon her own mountains. But far be (the repetition of such catastrophes)! Would that Asia, withal, were by this time without cause for anxiety about the soil’s voracity! Would, too, that Africa had once for all quailed before the devouring chasm, expiated by the treacherous absorption of one single camp!24 Many other such detriments besides have made innovations upon the fashion of our orb, and moved (particular) spots (in it). Very great also has been the licence of wars. But it is no less irksome to recount sad details than (to recount) the vicissitudes of kingdoms, (and to show) how frequent have been their mutations, from Ninus the progeny of Belus, onwards; if indeed Ninus was the first to have a kingdom, as the ancient profane authorities assert. Beyond his time the pen is not wont (to travel), in general, among you (heathens). From the Assyrians, it may be, the histories of “recorded time”25 begin to open. We, however, who are habitual readers of divine histories, are masters of the subject from the nativity of the universe26 itself. But I prefer, at the present time, joyous details, inasmuch as things joyous withal are subject to mutation. In short, whatever the sea has washed away, the heaven burned down, the earth undermined, the sword shorn down, reappears at some other time by the turn of compensation.27 For in primitive days not only was the earth, for the greater part of her circuit, empty and uninhabited; but if any particular race had seized upon any part, it existed for itself alone. And so, understanding at last that all things worshipped themselves, (the earth) consulted to weed and scrape her copiousness (of inhabitants), in one place densely packed, in another abandoning their posts; in order that thence (as it were from grafts and settings) peoples from peoples, cities from cities, might be planted throughout every region of her orb.28 Transmigrations were made by the swarms of redundant races. The exuberance of the Scythians fertilizes the Persians; the Phoenicians gush out into Africa; the Phrygians give birth to the Romans; the seed of the Chaldeans is led out into Egypt; subsequently, when transferred thence, it becomes the Jewish race.29 So, too, the posterity of Hercules, in like wise, proceed to occupy the Peloponnesus for the behoof of Temenus. So, again, the Ionian comrades of Neleus furnish Asia with new cities: so, again, the Corinthians with Archias, fortify Syracuse. But antiquity is by this time a vain thing (to refer to), when our own careers are before our eyes. How large a portion of our orb has the present age30 reformed! how many cities has the triple power of our existing empire either produced, or else augmented, or else restored! While God favours so many Augusti unitedly, how many populations have been transferred to other localities! how many peoples reduced! how many orders restored to their ancient splendour! how many barbarians baffled! In truth, our orb is the admirably cultivated estate of this empire; every aconite of hostility eradicated; and the cactus and bramble of clandestinely crafty familiarity31 wholly uptorn; and (the orb itself) delightsome beyond the orchard of Alcinous and the rosary of Midas. Praising, therefore, our orb in its mutations, why do you point the finger of scorn at a man?

Chapter III.—Beasts Similarly Subject to the Law of Mutation.

Beasts, too, instead of a garment, change their form. And yet the peacock withal has plumage for a garment, and a garment indeed of the choicest; nay, in the bloom of his neck richer than any purple, and in the effulgence of his back more gilded than any edging, and in the sweep of his tail more flowing than any train; many-coloured, diverse-coloured, and versi-coloured; never itself, ever another, albeit ever itself when other; in a word, mutable as oft as moveable. The serpent, too, deserves to be mentioned, albeit not in the same breath as the peacock; for he too wholly changes what has been allotted him—his hide and his age: if it is true, (as it is,) that when he has felt the creeping of old age throughout him, he squeezes himself into confinement; crawls into a cave and out of his skin simultaneously; and, clean shorn on the spot, immediately on crossing the threshold leaves his slough behind him then and there, and uncoils himself in a new youth: with his scales his years, too, are repudiated. The hyena, if you observe, is of an annual sex, alternately masculine and feminine. I say nothing of the stag, because himself withal, the witness of his own age, feeding on the serpent, languishes—from the effect of the poison—into youth. There is, withal,

“A tardigrade field-haunting quadruped,

Humble and rough.”

The tortoise of Pacuvius, you think? No. There is another beastling which the versicle fits; in size, one of the moderate exceedingly, but a grand name. If, without previously knowing him, you hear tell of a chameleon, you will at once apprehend something yet more huge united with a lion. But when you stumble upon him, generally in a vineyard, his whole bulk sheltered beneath a vine leaf, you will forthwith laugh at the egregious audacity of the name, inasmuch as there is no moisture even in his body, though in far more minute creatures the body is liquefied, The chameleon is a living pellicle. His headkin begins straight from his spine, for neck he has none: and thus reflection32 is hard for him; but, in circumspection, his eyes are outdarting, nay, they are revolving points of light. Dull and weary, he scarce raises from the ground, but drags, his footstep amazedly, and moves forward,—he rather demonstrates, than takes, a step: ever fasting, to boot, yet never fainting; agape he feeds; heaving, bellowslike, he ruminates; his food wind. Yet withal the chameleon is able to effect a total self-mutation, and that is all. For, whereas his colour is properly one, yet, whenever anything has approached him, then he blushes. To the chameleon alone has been granted—as our common saying has it—to sport with his own hide.

Much had to be said in order that, after due preparation, we might arrive at man. From whatever beginning you admit him as springing, naked at all events and ungarmented he came from his fashioner’s hand: afterwards, at length, without waiting for permission, he possesses himself, by a premature grasp, of wisdom. Then and there hastening to forecover what, in his newly made body, it was not yet due to modesty (to forecover), he surrounds himself meantime with fig-leaves: subsequently, on being driven from the confines of his birthplace because he had sinned, he went, skinclad, to the world33 as to a mine.34

But these are secrets, nor does their knowledge appertain to all. Come, let us hear from your own store—(a store) which the Egyptians narrate, and Alexander35 digests, and his mother reads—touching the time of Osiris,36 when Ammon, rich in sheep, comes to him out of Libya. In short, they tell us that Mercury, when among them, delighted with the softness of a ram which he had chanced to stroke, flayed a little ewe; and, while he persistently tries and (as the pliancy of the material invited him) thins out the thread by assiduous traction, wove it into the shape of the pristine net which he had joined with strips of linen. But you have preferred to assign all the management of wool-work and structure of the loom to Minerva; whereas a more diligent workshop was presided over by Arachne. Thenceforth material (was abundant). Nor do I speak of the sheep of Miletus, and Selge, and Altinum, or of those for which Tarentum or Baetica is famous, with nature for their dyer: but (I speak of the fact) that shrubs afford you clothing, and the grassy parts of flax, losing their greenness, turn white by washing. Nor was it enough to plant and sow your tunic, unless it had likewise fallen to your lot to fish for raiment. For the sea withal yields fleeces, inasmuch as the more brilliant shells of a mossy wooliness furnish a hairy stuff. Further: it is no secret that the silkworm—a species of wormling it is—presently reproduces safe and sound (the fleecy threads) which, by drawing them through the air, she distends more skilfully than the dial-like webs of spiders, and then devours. In like manner, if you kill it, the threads which you coil are forthwith instinct with vivid colour.

The ingenuities, therefore, of the tailoring art, superadded to, and following up, so abundant a store of materials—first with a view to coveting humanity, where Necessity led the way; and subsequently with a view to adorning withal, ay, and inflating it, where Ambition followed in the wake—have promulgated the various forms of garments. Of which forms, part are worn by particular nations, without being common to the rest; part, on the other hand, universally, as being useful to all: as, for instance, this Mantle, albeit it is more Greek (than Latin), has yet by this time found, in speech, a home in Latium. With the word the garment entered. And accordingly the very man who used to sentence Greeks to extrusion from the city, but learned (when he was now advanced in years) their alphabet and speech—the self-same Cato, by baring his shoulder at the time of his praetorship, showed no less favour to the Greeks by his mantle-like garb.

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