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Chapter III.—Plagiarism by the Greeks of the Miracles Related in the Sacred Books of the Hebrews.
And now they are convicted not only of borrowing doctrines from the Barbarians, but also of relating as prodigies of Hellenic mythology the marvels found in our records, wrought through divine power from above, by those who led holy lives, while devoting attention to us. And we shall ask at them whether those things which they relate are true or false. But they will not say that they are false; for they will not with their will condemn themselves of the very great silliness of composing falsehoods, but of necessity admit them to be true. And how will the prodigies enacted by Moses and the other prophets any longer appear to them incredible? For the Almighty God, in His care for all men, turns some to salvation by commands, some by threats, some by miraculous signs, some by gentle promises.
Well, the Greeks, when once a drought had wasted Greece for a protracted period, and a dearth of the fruits of the earth ensued, it is said, those that survived of them, having, because of the famine, come as suppliants to Delphi, asked the Pythian priestess how they should be released from the calamity. She announced that the only help in their distress was, that they should avail themselves of the prayers of Æacus. Prevailed on by them, Æacus, ascending the Hellenic hill, and stretching out pure32373237 i.e., washed. hands to heaven, and invoking the common32383238 Eusebius reads, “invoking the common Father, God,” viz., Πανελλήνιος Ζεύς, as Pausanias relates. God, besought him to pity wasted Greece. And as he prayed, thunder sounded, out of the usual course of things, and the whole surrounding atmosphere was covered with clouds. And impetuous and continued rains, bursting down, filled the whole region. The result was a copious and rich fertility wrought by the husbandry of the prayers of Æacus.
“And Samuel called on the Lord,” it is said, “and the Lord gave forth His voice, and rain in the day of harvest.”32393239 1 Sam. xi. 18. Do you see that “He who sendeth His rain on the just and on the 487unjust”32403240 Matt. v. 45. by the subject powers is the one God? And the whole of our Scripture is full of instances of God, in reference to the prayers of the just, hearing and performing each one of their petitions.
Again, the Greeks relate, that in the case of a failure once of the Etesian winds, Aristæus once sacrificed in Ceus to Isthmian Zeus. For there was great devastation, everything being burnt up with the heat in consequence of the winds which had been wont to refresh the productions of the earth, not blowing, and he easily called them back.
And at Delphi, on the expedition of Xerxes against Greece, the Pythian priestess having made answer:—
“O Delphians, pray the winds, and it will be better,”—
they having erected an altar and performed sacrifice to the winds, had them as their helpers. For, blowing violently around Cape Sepias, they shivered the whole preparations of the Persian expedition. Empedocles of Agrigentum was called “Checker of Winds.” Accordingly it is said, that when, on a time, a wind blew from the mountain of Agrigentum, heavy and pestiferous for the inhabitants, and the cause also of barrenness to their wives, he made the wind to cease. Wherefore he himself writes in the lines:—
“Thou shalt the might of the unwearied winds make still,
Which rushing to the earth spoil mortals’ crops,
And at thy will bring back the avenging blasts.”
And they say that he was followed by some that used divinations, and some that had been long vexed by sore diseases.32413241 Instead of νοῦσον σιδηρόν, the sense requires that we should, with Sylburgius, read νούσοισι δηρόν. They plainly, then, believed in the performance of cures, and signs and wonders, from our Scriptures. For if certain powers move the winds and dispense showers, let them hear the psalmist: “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!”32423242 Ps. lxxxiv. 1. This is the Lord of powers, and principalities, and authorities, of whom Moses speaks; so that we may be with Him. “And ye shall circumcise your hard heart, and shall not harden your neck any more. For He is Lord of lords and God of gods, the great God and strong,”32433243 Deut. x. 16, 17. and so forth. And Isaiah says, “Lift your eyes to the height, and see who hath produced all these things.”32443244 Isa. xl. 26.
And some say that plagues, and hail-storms, and tempests, and the like, are wont to take place, not alone in consequence of material disturbance, but also through anger of demons and bad angels. For instance, they say that the Magi at Cleone, watching the phenomena of the skies, when the clouds are about to discharge hail, avert the threatening of wrath by incantations and sacrifices. And if at any time there is the want of an animal, they are satisfied with bleeding their own finger for a sacrifice. The prophetess Diotima, by the Athenians offering sacrifice previous to the pestilence, effected a delay of the plague for ten years. The sacrifices, too, of Epimenides of Crete, put off the Persian war for an equal period. And it is considered to be all the same whether we call these spirits gods or angels. And those skilled in the matter of consecrating statues, in many of the temples have erected tombs of the dead, calling the souls of these Dæmons, and teaching them to be worshipped by men; as having, in consequence of the purity of their life, by the divine foreknowledge, received the power of wandering about the space around the earth in order to minister to men. For they knew that some souls were by nature kept in the body. But of these, as the work proceeds, in the treatise on the angels, we shall discourse.
Democritus, who predicted many things from observation of celestial phenomena, was called “Wisdom” (Σοφία). On his meeting a cordial reception from his brother Damasus, he predicted that there would be much rain, judging from certain stars. Some, accordingly, convinced by him, gathered their crops; for being in summer-time, they were still on the threshing-floor. But others lost all, unexpected and heavy showers having burst down.
How then shall the Greeks any longer disbelieve the divine appearance on Mount Sinai, when the fire burned, consuming none of the things that grew on the mount; and the sound of trumpets issued forth, breathed without instruments? For that which is called the descent on the mount of God is the advent of divine power, pervading the whole world, and proclaiming “the light that is inaccessible.”32453245 1 Tim. vi. 16.
For such is the allegory, according to the Scripture. But the fire was seen, as Aristobulus32463246 [Of this Aristobulus, see 2 Maccab. i. 10, and Euseb., Hist., book vii. cap. 32. Elucidation II.] says, while the whole multitude, amounting to not less than a million, besides those under age, were congregated around the mountain, the circuit of the mount not being less than five days’ journey. Over the whole place of the vision the burning fire was seen by them all encamped as it were around; so that the descent was not local. For God is everywhere.
Now the compilers of narratives say that in the island of Britain32473247 [See the unsatisfactory note in ed. Migne, ad locum.] there is a cave situated under a mountain, and a chasm on its summit; 488and that, accordingly, when the wind falls into the cave, and rushes into the bosom of the cleft, a sound is heard like cymbals clashing musically. And often in the woods, when the leaves are moved by a sudden gust of wind, a sound is emitted like the song of birds.
Those also who composed the Persics relate that in the uplands, in the country of the Magi, three mountains are situated on an extended plain, and that those who travel through the locality, on coming to the first mountain, hear a confused sound as of several myriads shouting, as if in battle array; and on reaching the middle one, they hear a clamour louder and more distinct; and at the end hear people singing a pæan, as if victorious. And the cause, in my opinion, of the whole sound, is the smoothness and cavernous character of the localities; and the air, entering in, being sent back and going to the same point, sounds with considerable force. Let these things be so. But it is possible for God Almighty,32483248 [See interesting remarks of Professor Cook, Religion and Chemistry (first edition), p. 44. This whole passage of our author, on the sounds of Sinai and the angelic trumpets, touches a curious matter, which must be referred, as here, to the unlimited power of God.] even without a medium, to produce a voice and vision through the ear, showing that His greatness has a natural order beyond what is customary, in order to the conversion of the hitherto unbelieving soul, and the reception of the commandment given. But there being a cloud and a lofty mountain, how is it not possible to hear a different sound, the wind moving by the active cause? Wherefore also the prophet says, “Ye heard the voice of words, and saw no similitude.”32493249 Deut. iv. 12. You see how the Lord’s voice, the Word, without shape, the power of the Word, the luminous word of the Lord, the truth from heaven, from above, coming to the assembly of the Church, wrought by the luminous immediate ministry.
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