|« Prev||Chapter I., Sections 1-23 translated from the…||Next »|
Translated from the Latin of Rufinus.
Chapter I.—That the Scriptures are Divinely Inspired.
1. But as it is not sufficient, in the discussion of matters of such importance, to entrust the decision to the human senses and to the human understanding, and to pronounce on things invisible as if they were seen by us,26982698 Visibiliter de invisibilibus pronunciare. we must, in order to establish the positions which we have laid down, adduce the testimony of Holy Scripture. And that this testimony may produce a sure and unhesitating belief, either with regard to what we have still to advance, or to what has been already stated, it seems necessary to show, in the first place, that the Scriptures themselves are divine, i.e., were inspired by the Spirit of God. We shall therefore with all possible brevity draw forth from the Holy Scriptures themselves, such evidence on this point as may produce upon us a suitable impression, (making our quotations) from Moses, the first legislator of the Hebrew nation, and from the words of Jesus Christ, the Author and Chief of the Christian religious system.26992699 Principis Christianorum religionis et dogmatis. For although there have been numerous legislators among the Greeks and Barbarians, and also countless teachers and philosophers who professed to declare the truth, we do not remember any legislator who was able to produce in the minds of foreign nations an affection and a zeal (for him) such as led them either voluntarily to adopt his laws, or to defend them with all the efforts of their mind. No one, then, has been able to introduce and make known what seemed to himself the truth, among, I do not say many foreign nations, but even amongst the individuals of one single nation, in such a manner that a knowledge and belief of the same should extend to all. And yet there can be no doubt that it was the wish of the legislators that their laws should be observed by all men, if possible; and of the teachers, that what appeared to themselves to be truth, should become known to all. But knowing that they could 350by no means succeed in producing any such mighty power within them as would lead foreign nations to obey their laws, or have regard to their statements, they did not venture even to essay the attempt, lest the failure of the undertaking should stamp their conduct with the mark of imprudence. And yet there are throughout the whole world—throughout all Greece, and all foreign countries—countless individuals who have abandoned the laws of their country, and those whom they had believed to be gods, and have yielded themselves up to the obedience of the law of Moses, and to the discipleship and worship of Christ; and have done this, not without exciting against themselves the intense hatred of the worshippers of images, so as frequently to be exposed to cruel tortures from the latter, and sometimes even to be put to death. And yet they embrace, and with all affection preserve, the words and teaching of Christ.
2. And we may see, moreover, how that religion itself grew up in a short time, making progress by the punishment and death of its worshippers, by the plundering of their goods, and by the tortures of every kind which they endured; and this result is the more surprising, that even the teachers of it themselves neither were men of skill,27002700 Satis idonei. nor very numerous; and yet these words are preached throughout the whole world, so that Greeks and Barbarians, wise and foolish, adopt the doctrines of the Christian religion.27012701 Religionem Christianæ doctrinæ. From which it is no doubtful inference, that it is not by human power or might that the words of Jesus Christ come to prevail with all faith and power over the understandings and souls of all men. For, that these results were both predicted by Him, and established by divine answers proceeding from Him, is clear from His own words: “Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.”27022702 Matt. x. 18. And again: “This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached among all nations.”27032703 Cf. Matt. xxiv. 14. And again: “Many shall say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not eaten and drunk in Thy name, and in Thy name cast out devils? And I will say unto them, Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity, I never knew you.”27042704 Cf. Matt. vii. 22, 23. If these 351sayings, indeed, had been so uttered by Him, and yet if these predictions had not been fulfilled, they might perhaps appear to be untrue,27052705 Fortasse minus vera esse viderentur. and not to possess any authority. But now, when His declarations do pass into fulfilment, seeing they were predicted with such power and authority, it is most clearly shown to be true that He, when He was made man, delivered to men the precepts of salvation.27062706 Salutaria præcepta.
3. What, then, are we to say of this, which the prophets had beforehand foretold of Him, that princes would not cease from Judah, nor leaders from between his thighs, until He should come for whom it has been reserved (viz., the kingdom), and until the expectation of the Gentiles should come? For it is most distinctly evident from the history itself, from what is clearly seen at the present day, that from the times of Christ onwards there were no kings amongst the Jews. Nay, even all those objects of Jewish pride,27072707 Illæ omnes ambitiones Judaicæ. of which they vaunted so much, and in which they exulted, whether regarding the beauty of the temple or the ornaments of the altar, and all those sacerdotal fillets and robes of the high priests, were all destroyed together. For the prophecy was fulfilled which had declared, “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king and prince: there shall be no victim, nor altar, nor priesthood, nor answers.”27082708 Cf. Hos. iii. 4. Quoted from the Septuagint. These testimonies, accordingly, we employ against those who seem to assert that what is spoken in Genesis by Jacob refers to Judah; and who say that there still remains a prince of the race of Judah—he, viz., who is the prince of their nation, whom they style Patriarch27092709 On the Patriarch of the Jews, cf. Milman’s History of the Jews, vol. ii. p. 399 sq., and vol. iii. p. 7 sq.—and that there cannot fail (a ruler) of his seed, who will remain until the advent of that Christ whom they picture to themselves. But if the prophet’s words be true, when he says, “The children of Israel shall abide many days without king, without prince; and there shall be no victim, nor altar, nor priesthood;”27102710 Deut. xxxii. and if, certainly, since the overthrow of the temple, victims are neither offered, nor any altar found, nor any priesthood exists, it is most certain that, as it is written, princes have departed from Judah, and a leader from between his thighs, until the coming of Him for whom it has been reserved. It is established, then, that He is come for whom it has been reserved, and in whom is the expectation of the Gentiles. And this manifestly seems to be fulfilled in the multitude of those who have believed on God through Christ out of the different nations.
3524. In the song of Deuteronomy,27112711 Deut. xxxii. also, it is prophetically declared that, on account of the sins of the former people, there was to be an election of a foolish nation,—no other, certainly, than that which was brought about by Christ; for thus the words run: “They have moved Me to anger with their images, and I will stir them up to jealousy; I will arouse them to anger against a foolish nation.”27122712 Deut. xxxii. 21. We may therefore evidently see how the Hebrews, who are said to have excited God’s anger by means of those (idols), which are no gods, and to have aroused His wrath by their images, were themselves also excited to jealousy by means of a foolish nation, which God hath chosen by the advent of Jesus Christ and His disciples. For the following is the language of the apostle: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men among you after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble (are called): but God has chosen the foolish things of the world, and the things which are not, to destroy the things which formerly existed.”27132713 1 Cor. i. 26–28. Carnal Israel, therefore, should not boast; for such is the term used by the apostle: “No flesh, I say, should glory in the presence of God.”27142714 1 Cor. i. 29.
5. What are we to say, moreover, regarding those prophecies of Christ contained in the Psalms, especially the one with the superscription, “A song for the Beloved;”27152715 Ps. xlv. 1, 2. in which it is stated that “His tongue is the pen of a ready writer; fairer than the children of men;” that “grace is poured into His lips?” Now, the indication that grace has been poured upon His lips is this, that, after a short period had elapsed—for He taught only during a year and some months27162716 [See note infra, Contra Celsum, B. II. cap. xii. S.]—the whole world, nevertheless, became filled with His doctrine, and with faith in His religion. There arose, then, “in His days righteous men, and abundance of peace,”27172717 Cf. Ps. lxxii. 7. abiding even to the end, which end is entitled “the taking away of the moon;” and “His dominion shall extend from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.”27182718 Ps. lxxii. 8. There was a sign also given to the house of David. For a virgin conceived, and bare Emmanuel, which, when interpreted, signifies, “God with us: know it, O nations, and be overcome.”27192719 Cf. Isa. viii. 8, 9. Quoted from the Septuagint. For we are conquered and overcome, who are of the Gentiles, and remain as a kind of spoils of His victory, who have subjected our necks to His grace. Even the place of His birth was predicted in the prophecies of 353Micah, who said, “And thou, Bethlehem, land of Judah, art by no means small among the leaders of Judah: for out of thee shall come forth a Leader, who shall rule My people Israel.”27202720 Cf. Mic. v. 2 with Matt. ii. 6. The weeks of years, also, which the prophet Daniel had predicted, extending to the leadership of Christ,27212721 Cf. Dan. ix. 25. Ad ducem Christum; “To Messiah the Prince,” Auth. Vers. have been fulfilled. Moreover, he is at hand, who in the book of Job27222722 The allusion is perhaps to Job xli. 1. is said to be about to destroy the huge beast, who also gave power to his own disciples to tread on serpents and scorpions, and on all the power of the enemy, without being injured by him. But if any one will consider the journeys of Christ’s apostles throughout the different places, in which as His messengers they preached the Gospel, he will find that both what they ventured to undertake is beyond the power of man, and what they were enabled to accomplish is from God alone. If we consider how men, on hearing that a new doctrine was introduced by these, were able to receive them; or rather, when desiring often to destroy them, they were prevented by a divine power which was in them, we shall find that in this nothing was effected by human strength, but that the whole was the result of the divine power and providence,—signs and wonders, manifest beyond all doubt, bearing testimony to their word and doctrine.
6. These points now being briefly established, viz., regarding the deity of Christ, and the fulfilment of all that was prophesied respecting Him, I think that this position also has been made good, viz., that the Scriptures themselves, which contained these predictions, were divinely inspired,—those, namely, which had either foretold His advent, or the power of His doctrine, or the bringing over of all nations (to His obedience). To which this remark must be added, that the divinity and inspiration both of the predictions of the prophets and of the law of Moses have been clearly revealed and confirmed, especially since the advent of Christ into the world. For before the fulfilment of those events which were predicted by them, they could not, although true and inspired by God, be shown to be so, because they were as yet unfulfilled. But the coming of Christ was a declaration that their statements were true and divinely inspired, although it was certainly doubtful before that whether there would be an accomplishment of those things which had been foretold.
354If any one, moreover, consider the words of the prophets with all the zeal and reverence which they deserve, it is certain that, in the perusal and careful examination thus given them, he will feel his mind and senses touched by a divine breath, and will acknowledge that the words which he reads were no human utterances, but the language of God; and from his own emotions he will feel that these books were the composition of no human skill, nor of any mortal eloquence, but, so to speak, of a style that is divine.27232723 Divino, ut ita dixerim, cothurno. The splendour of Christ’s advent, therefore, illuminating the law of Moses by the light of truth, has taken away that veil which had been placed over the letter (of the law), and has unsealed, for every one who believes upon Him, all the blessings which were concealed by the covering of the word.
7. It is, however, a matter attended with considerable labour, to point out, in every instance, how and when the predictions of the prophets were fulfilled, so as to appear to confirm those who are in doubt, seeing it is possible for everyone who wishes to become more thoroughly acquainted with these things, to gather abundant proofs from the records of the truth themselves. But if the sense of the letter, which is beyond man, does not appear to present itself at once, on the first glance, to those who are less versed in divine discipline, it is not at all to be wondered at, because divine things are brought down somewhat slowly to (the comprehension of) men, and elude the view in proportion as one is either sceptical or unworthy. For although it is certain that all things which exist in this world, or take place in it, are ordered by the providence of God, and certain events indeed do appear with sufficient clearness to be under the disposal of His providential government, yet others again unfold themselves so mysteriously and incomprehensibly, that the plan of Divine Providence with regard to them is completely concealed; so that it is occasionally believed by some that particular occurrences do not belong to (the plan of) Providence, because the principle eludes their grasp, according to which the works of Divine Providence are administered with indescribable skill; which principle of administration, however, is not equally concealed from all. For even among men themselves, one individual devotes less consideration to it, another more; while by every man, He who is on earth, whoever is the inhabitant of heaven, is more acknowledged.27242724 “Nam et inter ipsos homines ab alio minus, ab alio amplius consideratur: plus vero ab omni homine, qui in terris est, quis-quis ille est cœli habitator, agnoscitur.” The translation of Rufinus, as Redepenning remarks, seems very confused. Probably also the text is corrupt. The Greek without doubt gives the genuine thought of Origen. By omitting the ab we approximate to the Greek, and get: “but he, whoever he be, who is inhabitant of heaven, is better known than any man who is on the earth;” or according to the punctuation in the old editions, “but he who is inhabitant of heaven is better known than any man on earth, whoever he be.” And the nature of bodies is clear to us in one way, that of trees in another, that of animals in a third; the nature of souls, again, is concealed in a different way; and the manner in which the diverse movements of ra355tional understandings are ordered by Providence, eludes the view of men in a greater degree, and even, in my opinion, in no small degree that of the angels also. But as the existence of divine providence is not refuted by those especially who are certain of its existence, but who do not comprehend its workings or arrangements by the powers of the human mind; so neither will the divine inspiration of holy Scripture, which extends throughout its body, be believed to be non-existent, because the weakness of our understanding is unable to trace out the hidden and secret meaning in each individual word, the treasure of divine wisdom being hid in the vulgar and unpolished vessels of words,27252725 In vilioribus et incomptis verborum vasculis. as the apostle also points out when he says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels,”27262726 Cf. 2 Cor. iv. 7. that the virtue of the divine power may shine out the more brightly, no colouring of human eloquence being intermingled with the truth of the doctrines. For if our books induced men to believe because they were composed either by rhetorical arts or by the wisdom of philosophy, then undoubtedly our faith would be considered to be based on the art of words, and on human wisdom, and not upon the power of God; whereas it is now known to all that the word of this preaching has been so accepted by numbers throughout almost the whole world, because they understood their belief to rest not on the persuasive words of human wisdom, but on the manifestation of the Spirit and of power. On which account, being led by a heavenly, nay, by a more than heavenly power, to faith and acceptance,27272727 Ad fidem credulitatemque. that we may worship the sole Creator of all things as our God, let us also do our utmost endeavour, by abandoning the language of the elements of Christ, which are but the first beginnings of wisdom, to go on to perfection, in order that that wisdom which is given to them who are perfect, may be given to us also. For such is the promise of him to whom was entrusted the preaching of this wisdom, in the words: “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, who will be brought to nought;”27282728 1 Cor. ii. 6. by which he shows that this wisdom of ours has nothing in common, so far as regards the beauty of language, with the wisdom of this world. This wisdom, then, will be inscribed more clearly and perfectly on our hearts, if it be made known to us according to the revelation of the mystery which has been hid from eternity,27292729 Temporibus eternis. but now is manifest through the Scriptures of prophecy, and the advent of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
8. These particulars, then, being briefly stated regarding the inspiration of the sacred Scriptures by 356the Holy Spirit, it seems necessary to explain this point also, viz., how certain persons, not reading them correctly, have given themselves over to erroneous opinions, inasmuch as the procedure to be followed, in order to attain an understanding of the holy writings, is unknown to many. The Jews, in fine, owing to the hardness of their heart, and from a desire to appear wise in their own eyes, have not believed in our Lord and Saviour, judging that those statements which were uttered respecting Him ought to be understood literally, i.e., that He ought in a sensible and visible manner to preach deliverance to the captives, and first build a city which they truly deem the city of God, and cut off at the same time the chariots of Ephraim,27312731 Cf. Zech. ix. 10. and the horse from Jerusalem; that He ought also to eat butter and honey,27322732 Cf. Isa. vii. 15. in order to choose the good before He should come to know how to bring forth evil.27332733 Ut priusquam cognosceret proferre malum, eligeret bonum. They think, also, that it has been predicted that the wolf—that four-footed animal—is, at the coming of Christ, to feed with the lambs, and the leopard to lie down with kids, and the calf and the bull to pasture with lions, and that they are to be led by a little child to the pasture; that the ox and the bear are to lie down together in the green fields, and that their young ones are to be fed together; that lions also will frequent stalls with the oxen, and feed on straw. And seeing that, according to history, there was no accomplishment of any of those things predicted of Him, in which they believed the signs of Christ’s advent were especially to be observed, they refused to acknowledge the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ; nay, contrary to all the principles of human and divine law,27342734 Contra jus fasque. i.e., contrary to the faith of prophecy, they crucified Him for assuming to Himself the name of Christ. Thereupon the heretics, reading that it is written in the law, “A fire has been kindled in Mine anger;”27352735 Cf. Jer. xv. 14. and that “I the Lord am a jealous (God), visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation;”27362736 Cf. Ex. xx. 5. and that “it repenteth Me that I anointed Saul to be king;”27372737 Cf. 1 Sam. xv. 11. and, “I am the Lord, who make peace and create evil;”27382738 Cf. Isa. xlv. 7. and again, “There is not evil in a city which the Lord hath not done;”27392739 Cf. Amos iii. 6. and, “Evils came down from the Lord upon the gates of Jerusalem;”27402740 Cf. Mic. i. 12. and, “An evil spirit from the Lord plagued Saul;”27412741 Cf. 1 Sam. xvi. 14; xviii. 10. and reading many other passages similar to these, which are found in Scripture, they did not venture to assert that these were not the Scriptures of God, but they considered them to be the words of that creator God whom the Jews worshipped, and who, they judged, ought to be regarded as just only, and not also as good; but that the Saviour had come to announce to us a more perfect God, who, they allege; is not the creator of the world,—there being different and discordant opinions 357among them even on this very point, because, when they once depart from a belief in God the Creator, who is Lord of all, they have given themselves over to various inventions and fables, devising certain (fictions), and asserting that some things were visible, and made by one (God), and that certain other things were invisible, and were created by another, according to the vain and fanciful suggestions of their own minds. But not a few also of the more simple of those, who appear to be restrained within the faith of the Church, are of opinion that there is no greater God than the Creator, holding in this a correct and sound opinion; and yet they entertain regarding Him such views as would not be entertained regarding the most unjust and cruel of men.
9. Now the reason of the erroneous apprehension of all these points on the part of those whom we have mentioned above, is no other than this, that holy Scripture is not understood by them according to its spiritual, but according to its literal meaning. And therefore we shall endeavour, so far as our moderate capacity will permit, to point out to those who believe the holy Scriptures to be no human compositions, but to be written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and to be transmitted and entrusted to us by the will of God the Father, through His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, what appears to us, who observe things by a right way of understanding,27422742 The text, as it stands, is probably corrupt: “Propter quod conabimur pro mediocritate sensus nostri his, qui credunt Scripturas sanctas non humana verba aliqua esse composita, sed Sancti Spiritus inspiratione conscripta, et voluntate Dei patris per unigenitum filium suum Jesum Christum nobis quoque esse tradita et commissa, quæ nobis videntur, recta via intelligentiæ observantibus, demonstrare illam regulam et disciplinam, quam ab Jesu Christo traditam sibi apostoli per successionem posteris quoque suis, sanctam ecclesiam docentibus, tradiderunt.” to be the standard and discipline delivered to the apostles by Jesus Christ, and which they handed down in succession to their posterity, the teachers of the holy Church. Now, that there are certain mystical economies27432743 Dispensationes. indicated in holy Scripture, is admitted by all, I think, even the simplest of believers. But what these are, or of what kind they are, he who is rightly minded, and not overcome with the vice of boasting, will scrupulously27442744 Religiosius. acknowledge himself to be ignorant. For if anyone, e.g., were to adduce the case of the daughters of Lot, who seem, contrary to the law of God,27452745 Contra fas. to have had intercourse with their father, or that of the two wives of Abraham, or of the two sisters who were married to Jacob, or of the two handmaids who increased the number of his sons, what other answer could be returned than that these were certain mysteries,27462746 Sacramenta quædam. and forms of spiritual things, but that we are ignorant of what nature they are? Nay, even when we read of the construction of the tabernacle, we deem it certain that the written descriptions are the figures of certain hidden things; but to adapt these to their appropriate standards, and to open up 358and discuss every individual point, I consider to be exceedingly difficult, not to say impossible. That that description, however, is, as I have said, full of mysteries, does not escape even the common understanding. But all the narrative portion, relating either to the marriages, or to the begetting of the children, or to battles of different kinds, or to any other histories whatever, what else can they be supposed to be, save the forms and figures of hidden and sacred things? As men, however, make little effort to exercise their intellect, or imagine that they possess knowledge before they really learn, the consequence is that they never begin to have knowledge or if there be no want of a desire, at least, nor of an instructor, and if divine knowledge be sought after, as it ought to be, in a religious and holy spirit, and in the hope that many points will be opened up by the revelation of God—since to human sense they are exceedingly difficult and obscure—then, perhaps, he who seeks in such a manner will find what it is lawful27472747 Fas. to discover.
10. But lest this difficulty perhaps should be supposed to exist only in the language of the prophets, seeing the prophetic style is allowed by all to abound in figures and enigmas, what do we find when we come to the Gospels? Is there not hidden there also an inner, namely a divine sense, which is revealed by that grace alone which he had received who said, “But we have the mind of Christ, that we might know the things freely given to us by God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Spirit teacheth?”27482748 Cf. 1 Cor. ii. 16 and 12, 13. And if one now were to read the revelations which were made to John, how amazed would he not be that there should be contained within them so great an amount of hidden, ineffable mysteries,27492749 Tantam occultationem ineffabilium sacramentorum. in which it is clearly understood, even by those who cannot comprehend what is concealed, that something certainly is concealed. And yet are not the Epistles of the Apostles, which seem to some to be plainer, filled with meanings so profound, that by means of them, as by some small receptacle,27502750 Per breve quoddam receptaculum. the clearness of incalculable light27512751 Immensæ lucis claritas. appears to be poured into those who are capable of understanding the meaning of divine wisdom? And therefore, because this is the case, and because there are many who go wrong in this life, I do not consider that it is easy to pronounce, without danger, that anyone knows or understands those things, which, in order to be opened up, need the key of knowledge; which key, the Saviour declared, lay with those who were skilled in the law. And here, although it is a digression, I think we should inquire of those who assert that before the advent of the Saviour there was no truth among those who were engaged in the study of the 359law, how it could be said by our Lord Jesus Christ that the keys of knowledge were with them, who had the books of the prophets and of the law in their hands. For thus did He speak: “Woe unto you, ye teachers of the law, who have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them who wished to enter in ye hindered.”27522752 Luke xi. 52.
11. But, as we had begun to observe, the way which seems to us the correct one for the understanding of the Scriptures, and for the investigation of their meaning, we consider to be of the following kind: for we are instructed by Scripture itself in regard to the ideas which we ought to form of it. In the Proverbs of Solomon we find some such rule as the following laid down, respecting the consideration of holy Scripture: “And do thou,” he says, “describe these things to thyself in a threefold manner, in counsel and knowledge, and that thou mayest answer the words of truth to those who have proposed them to thee.”27532753 Cf. Prov. xxii. 20, 21. The Masoretic text reads, ךךעֲירִוׁהלְ .תעַרָוָ תוֹצע“מֹבְּ (סישִׁלִשָׁ, keri) סוׁשׁלִשָׁ ךךלְ יתִּבְתַכָ אׁלהְ .ךךיחֶלְשֹׁלְ תמֶאֱ סירִמָאֲ בישִהָלְ תמֶאֱ יר”מְאִ טְשְק Each one, then, ought to describe in his own mind, in a threefold manner, the understanding of the divine letters,—that is, in order that all the more simple individuals may be edified, so to speak, by the very body of Scripture; for such we term that common and historical sense: while, if some have commenced to make considerable progress, and are able to see something more (than that), they may be edified by the very soul of Scripture. Those, again, who are perfect, and who resemble those of whom the apostle says, “We speak wisdom among them that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, who will be brought to nought; but we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, which God hath decreed before the ages unto our glory;”27542754 1 Cor. ii. 6, 7.—all such as these may be edified by the spiritual law itself (which has a shadow of good things to come), as if by the Spirit. For as man is said to consist of body, and soul, and spirit, so also does sacred Scripture, which has been granted by the divine bounty27552755 Largitione. for the salvation of man; which we see pointed out, moreover, in the little book of The Shepherd, which seems to be despised by some, where Hermas is commanded to write two little books, and afterwards to announce to the presbyters of the Church what he learned from the Spirit. For these are the words that are written: “And you will write,” he says, “two books; and you will give the one to Clement, and the other to Grapte.27562756 [Hermas, vol. ii. pp. 3, 8, 12, this series. Origen seems to overrule this contempt of a minority; and, what is more strange, he appears to have accepted the fiction of the Pauline Hermas as authentic history. How naturally this became the impression in the East has been explained; and the De Principiis, it must not be forgotten, was not the product of the author’s mature mind.] And let Grapte admonish the widows and orphans, and let Clement send through all the cities 360which are abroad, while you will announce to the presbyters of the Church.” Grapte, accordingly, who is commanded to admonish the orphans and widows, is the pure understanding of the letter itself; by which those youthful minds are admonished, who have not yet deserved to have God as their Father, and are on that account styled orphans. They, again, are the widows, who have withdrawn themselves from the unjust man, to whom they had been united contrary to law; but who have remained widows, because they have not yet advanced to the stage of being joined to a heavenly Bridegroom. Clement, moreover, is ordered to send into those cities which are abroad what is written to those individuals who already are withdrawing from the letter,—as if the meaning were to those souls who, being built up by this means, have begun to rise above the cares of the body and the desires of the flesh; while he himself, who had learned from the Holy Spirit, is commanded to announce, not by letter nor by book, but by the living voice, to the presbyters of the Church of Christ, i.e., to those who possess a mature faculty of wisdom, capable of receiving spiritual teaching.
12. This point, indeed, is not to be passed by without notice, viz., that there are certain passages of Scripture where this “body,” as we termed it, i.e., this inferential historical sense,27572757 Consquentia historialis intelligentiæ. is not always found, as we shall prove to be the case in the following pages, but where that which we termed “soul” or “spirit” can only be understood. And this, I think, is indicated in the Gospels, where there are said to be placed, according to the manner of purification among the Jews, six water-vessels, containing two or three firkins27582758 Metretes. a-piece; by which, as I have said, the language of the Gospel seems to indicate, with respect to those who are secretly called by the apostle “Jews,” that they are purified by the word of Scripture,—receiving indeed sometimes two firkins, i.e., the understanding of the “soul” or “spirit,” according to our statement as above; sometimes even three (firkins), when in the reading (of Scripture) the “bodily” sense, which is the “historical,” may be preserved for the edification of the people. Now six water-vessels are appropriately spoken of, with regard to those persons who are purified by being placed in the world; for we read that in six days—which is the perfect number—this world and all things in it were finished. How great, then, is the utility of this first “historical” sense which we have mentioned, is attested by the multitude of all believers, who believe with adequate faith and simplicity, and does not need much argument, because it is openly manifest to all; whereas of that sense which we have called above the “soul,” as it were, of Scripture, the Apostle Paul has given us numerous examples in the first Epistle to the Corinthians. For we find the expression, “Thou shalt not muzzle the 361mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.”27592759 Cf. 1 Cor. ix. 9 and Deut. xxv. 4. And afterwards, when explaining what precept ought to be understood by this, he adds the words: “Doth God take care for oxen? or saith He it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written; that he who plougheth should plough in hope, and he that thresheth, in hope of partaking.”27602760 Cf. 1 Cor. ix. 9, 10. Very many other passages also of this nature, which are in this way explained of the law, contribute extensive information to the hearers.
13. Now a “spiritual” interpretation is of this nature: when one is able to point out what are the heavenly things of which these serve as the patterns and shadow, who are Jews “according to the flesh,” and of what things future the law contains a shadow, and any other expressions of this kind that may be found in holy Scripture; or when it is a subject of inquiry, what is that wisdom hidden in a mystery which “God ordained before the world for our glory, which none of the princes of this world knew;”27612761 Cf. 1 Cor. ii. 7. or the meaning of the apostle’s language, when, employing certain illustrations from Exodus or Numbers, he says: “These things happened to them in a figure,27622762 In figurâ. Greek (text. recept.) τύποι. Lachmann reads τυπικῶς. and they are written on our account, on whom the ends of the ages have come.”27632763 1 Cor. x. 11. Now, an opportunity is afforded us of understanding of what those things which happened to them were figures, when he adds: “And they drank of that spiritual Rock which followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”27642764 1 Cor. x. 4. In another Epistle also, when referring to the tabernacle, he mentions the direction which was given to Moses: “Thou shalt make (all things) according to the pattern which was showed thee in the mount.”27652765 Cf. Ex. xxv. 40 and Heb. viii. 5. And writing to the Galatians, and upbraiding certain individuals who seem to themselves to read the law, and yet without understanding it, because of their ignorance of the fact that an allegorical meaning underlies what is written, he says to them in a certain tone of rebuke: “Tell me, ye who desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons; the one by a bond-maid, the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bond-woman was born according to the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants.”27662766 Gal. iv. 21–24. And here this point is to be attended to, viz., the caution with which the apostle employs the expression, “Ye who are under the law, do ye not hear the law?” Do ye not hear, i.e., do ye not understand and know? In the Epistle to the Colossians, again, briefly summing up and condensing the meaning of the whole law, he says: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of holy days, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath, which are a shadow of things to come.”27672767 Col. ii. 16. Writing to the Hebrews 362also, and treating of those who belong to the circumcision, he says: “Those who serve to the example and shadow of heavenly things.”27682768 Heb. viii. 5. Now perhaps, through these illustrations, no doubt will be entertained regarding the five books of Moses, by those who hold the writings of the apostle, as divinely inspired. And if they require, with respect to the rest of the history, that those events which are contained in it should be considered as having happened for an ensample to those of whom they are written, we have observed that this also has been stated in the Epistle to the Romans, where the apostle adduces an instance from the third book of Kings, saying, “I have left me seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal;”27692769 Rom. xi. 4; cf. 1 Kings xix. 18. which expression Paul understood as figuratively spoken of those who are called Israelites according to the election, in order to show that the advent of Christ had not only now been of advantage to the Gentiles, but that very many even of the race of Israel had been called to salvation.
14. This being the state of the case, we shall sketch out, as if by way of illustration and pattern, what may occur to us with regard to the manner in which holy Scripture is to be understood on these several points, repeating in the first instance, and pointing out this fact, that the Holy Spirit, by the providence and will of God, through the power of His only-begotten Word, who was in the beginning God with God, enlightened the ministers of truth, the prophets and apostles, to understand the mysteries of those things or causes which take place among men, or with respect to men.27702770 Quæ inter homines, vel de hominibus geruntur. And by “men,” I now mean souls that are placed in bodies, who, relating those mysteries that are known to them, and revealed through Christ, as if they were a kind of human transactions, or handing down certain legal observances and injunctions, described them figuratively;27712771 Figuraliter describebant. not that anyone who pleased might view these expositions as deserving to be trampled under foot, but that he who should devote himself with all chastity, and sobriety, and watchfulness, to studies of this kind, might be able by this means to trace out the meaning of the Spirit of God, which is perhaps lying profoundly buried, and the context, which may be pointing again in another direction than the ordinary usage of speech would indicate. 363And in this way he might become a sharer in the knowledge of the Spirit, and a partaker in the divine counsel, because the soul cannot come to the perfection of knowledge otherwise than by inspiration of the truth of the divine wisdom. Accordingly, it is of God, i.e., of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, that these men, filled with the Divine Spirit, chiefly treat; then the mysteries relating to the Son of God—how the Word became flesh, and why He descended even to the assumption of the form of a servant—are the subject, as I have said, of explanation by those persons who are filled with the Divine Spirit. It next followed, necessarily, that they should instruct mortals by divine teaching, regarding rational creatures, both those of heaven and the happier ones of earth; and also (should explain) the differences among souls, and the origin of these differences; and then should tell what this world is, and why it was created; whence also sprung the great and terrible wickedness which extends over the earth. And whether that wickedness is found on this earth only, or in other places, is a point which it was necessary for us to learn from divine teaching. Since, then, it was the intention of the Holy Spirit to enlighten with respect to these and similar subjects, those holy souls who had devoted themselves to the service of the truth, this object was kept in view, in the second place, viz., for the sake of those who either could not or would not give themselves to this labour and toil by which they might deserve to be instructed in or to recognise things of such value and importance, to wrap up and conceal, as we said before, in ordinary language, under the covering of some history and narrative of visible things, hidden mysteries. There is therefore introduced the narrative of the visible creation, and the creation and formation of the first man; then the offspring which followed from him in succession, and some of the actions which were done by the good among his posterity, are related, and occasionally certain crimes also, which are stated to have been committed by them as being human; and afterwards certain unchaste or wicked deeds also are narrated as being the acts of the wicked. The description of battles, moreover, is given in a wonderful manner, and the alternations of victors and vanquished, by which certain ineffable mysteries are made known to those who know how to investigate statements of that kind. By an admirable discipline of wisdom, too, the law of truth, even of the prophets, is implanted in the Scriptures of the law, each of which is woven by a divine art of wisdom, as a kind of covering and veil of spiritual truths; and this is what we have called the “body” of Scripture, so that also, in this way, what we have called the covering of the letter, woven by the art of wisdom, might be capable of edifying and profiting many, when others would derive no benefit.
36415. But as if, in all the instances of this covering (i.e., of this history), the logical connection and order of the law had been preserved, we would not certainly believe, when thus possessing the meaning of Scripture in a continuous series, that anything else was contained in it save what was indicated on the surface; so for that reason divine wisdom took care that certain stumbling-blocks, or interruptions,27722772 Intercapedines. to the historical meaning should take place, by the introduction into the midst (of the narrative) of certain impossibilities and incongruities; that in this way the very interruption of the narrative might, as by the interposition of a bolt, present an obstacle to the reader, whereby he might refuse to acknowledge the way which conducts to the ordinary meaning; and being thus excluded and debarred from it, we might be recalled to the beginning of another way, in order that, by entering upon a narrow path, and passing to a loftier and more sublime road, he might lay open the immense breadth of divine wisdom.27732773 Ut ita celsioris cujusdam et eminentioris tramitis per angusti callis ingressum immensam divinæ scientiæ latitudinem pandat. This, however, must not be unnoted by us, that as the chief object of the Holy Spirit is to preserve the coherence of the spiritual meaning, either in those things which ought to be done or which have been already performed, if He anywhere finds that those events which, according to the history, took place, can be adapted to a spiritual meaning, He composed a texture of both kinds in one style of narration, always concealing the hidden meaning more deeply; but where the historical narrative could not be made appropriate to the spiritual coherence of the occurrences, He inserted sometimes certain things which either did not take place or could not take place; sometimes also what might happen, but what did not: and He does this at one time in a few words, which, taken in their “bodily” meaning, seem incapable of containing truth, and at another by the insertion of many. And this we find frequently to be the case in the legislative portions, where there are many things manifestly useful among the “bodily” precepts, but a very great number also in which no principle of utility is at all discernible, and sometimes even things which are judged to be impossibilities. Now all this, as we have remarked, was done by the Holy Spirit in order that, seeing those events which lie on the surface can be neither true nor useful, we may be led to the investigation of that truth which is more deeply concealed, and to the ascertaining of a meaning worthy of God in those Scriptures which we believe to be inspired by Him.
16. Nor was it only with regard to those Scriptures which were composed down to the advent of Christ that the Holy Spirit thus dealt; but as being one and the same Spirit, and proceeding from one God, He dealt in the same way with the evangelists and apostles. For even those narratives which He in365spired them to write were not composed without the aid of that wisdom of His, the nature of which we have above explained. Whence also in them were intermingled not a few things by which, the historical order of the narrative being interrupted and broken up, the attention of the reader might be recalled, by the impossibility of the case, to an examination of the inner meaning. But, that our meaning may be ascertained by the facts themselves, let us examine the passages of Scripture. Now who is there, pray, possessed of understanding, that will regard the statement as appropriate,27742774 Consequenter, alii “convenienter.” that the first day, and the second, and the third, in which also both evening and morning are mentioned, existed without sun, and moon, and stars—the first day even without a sky? And who is found so ignorant as to suppose that God, as if He had been a husbandman, planted trees in paradise, in Eden towards the east, and a tree of life in it, i.e., a visible and palpable tree of wood,27752775 Lignum. so that anyone eating of it with bodily teeth should obtain life, and, eating again of another tree, should come to the knowledge of good and evil? No one, I think, can doubt that the statement that God walked in the afternoon in paradise, and that Adam lay hid under a tree, is related figuratively in Scripture, that some mystical meaning may be indicated by it. The departure of Cain from the presence of the Lord will manifestly cause a careful reader to inquire what is the presence of God, and how anyone can go out from it. But not to extend the task which we have before us beyond its due limits, it is very easy for anyone who pleases to gather out of holy Scripture what is recorded indeed as having been done, but what nevertheless cannot be believed as having reasonably and appropriately occurred according to the historical account. The same style of Scriptural narrative occurs abundantly in the Gospels, as when the devil is said to have placed Jesus on a lofty mountain, that he might show Him from thence all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. How could it literally come to pass, either that Jesus should be led up by the devil into a high mountain, or that the latter should show him all the kingdoms of the world (as if they were lying beneath his bodily eyes, and adjacent to one mountain), i.e., the kingdoms of the Persians, and Scythians, and Indians? or how could he show in what manner the kings of these kingdoms are glorified by men? And many other instances similar to this will be found in the Gospels by anyone who will read them with attention, and will observe that in those narratives which appear to be literally recorded, there are inserted and interwoven things which cannot be admitted historically, but which may be accepted in a spiritual signification.27762776 [See note, p. 262, supra. See also Dr. Lee, The Inspiration of Holy Scripture, pp. 523–527. S.]
36617. In the passages containing the commandments also, similar things are found. For in the law Moses is commanded to destroy every male that is not circumcised on the eighth day, which is exceedingly incongruous;27772777 Inconsequens. since it would be necessary, if it were related that the law was executed according to the history, to command those parents to be punished who did not circumcise their children, and also those who were the nurses of little children. The declaration of Scripture now is, “The uncircumcised male, i.e., who shall not have been circumcised, shall be cut off from his people.”27782778 Cf. Gen. xvii. 14. And if we are to inquire regarding the impossibilities of the law, we find an animal called the goat-stag,27792779 Tragelaphus; “wild goat,” Auth. Vers. Deut. xiv. 5; Heb. וֹקּאַ, ἅπαξ λεγ. which cannot possibly exist, but which, as being in the number of clean beasts, Moses commands to be eaten; and a griffin,27802780 Gryphus; “ossifrage,” Auth. Vers. Lev. xi. 13; Heb. סרֶפֶ. which no one ever remembers or heard of as yielding to human power, but which the legislator forbids to be used for food. Respecting the celebrated27812781 Opinatissimâ. observance of the Sabbath also he thus speaks: “Ye shall sit, everyone in your dwellings; no one shall move from his place on the Sabbath-day.”27822782 Cf. Ex. xvi. 29. Which precept it is impossible to observe literally; for no man can sit a whole day so as not to move from the place where he sat down. With respect to each one of these points now, those who belong to the circumcision, and all who would have no more meaning to be found in sacred Scripture than what is indicated by the letter, consider that there should be no investigation regarding the goat-stag, and the griffin, and the vulture; and they invent some empty and trifling tales about the Sabbath, drawn from some traditional sources or other, alleging that everyone’s place is computed to him within two thousand cubits.27832783 Ulnas. Others, again, among whom is Dositheus the Samaritan, censure indeed expositions of this kind, but themselves lay down something more ridiculous, viz., that each one must remain until the evening in the posture, place, or position in which he found himself on the Sabbath-day; i.e., if found sitting, he is to sit the whole day, or if reclining, he is to recline the whole day. Moreover, the injunction which runs, “Bear no burden on the Sabbath-day,”27842784 Jer. xvii. 21. seems to me an impossibility. For the Jewish doctors, in consequence of these (prescriptions), have betaken themselves, as the holy apostle says, to innumerable fables, saying that it is not accounted a burden if a man wear shoes without nails, but that it is a burden if shoes with nails be worn; and that if it be carried on one shoulder, they consider it a burden but if on both, they declare it to be none.
36718. And now, if we institute a similar examination with regard to the Gospels, how shall it appear otherwise than absurd to take the injunction literally, “Salute no man by the way?”27852785 Luke x. 4. And yet there are simple individuals, who think that our Saviour gave this command to His apostles! How, also, can it appear possible for such an order as this to be observed, especially in those countries where there is a rigorous winter, attended by frost and ice, viz., that one should possess “neither two coats, nor shoes?”27862786 Luke x. 4. And this, that when one is smitten on the right cheek, he is ordered to present the left also, since everyone who strikes with the right hand smites the left cheek? This precept also in the Gospels must be accounted among impossibilities, viz., that if the right eye “offend” thee, it is to be plucked out; for even if we were to suppose that bodily eyes were spoken of, how shall it appear appropriate, that when both eyes have the property of sight, the responsibility of the “offence” should be transferred to one eye, and that the right one? Or who shall be considered free of a crime of the greatest enormity, that lays hands upon himself? But perhaps the Epistles of the Apostle Paul will appear to be beyond this. For what is his meaning, when he says, “Is any man called, being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised.”27872787 1 Cor. vii. 18. This expression indeed, in the first place, does not on careful consideration seem to be spoken with reference to the subject of which he was treating at the time, for this discourse consisted of injunctions relating to marriage and to chastity; and these words, therefore, will have the appearance an unnecessary addition to such a subject. In the second place, however, what objection would there be, if, for the sake of avoiding that unseemliness which is caused by circumcision, a man were able to become uncircumcised?27882788 Secundo vero, quid obesset, si obscœnitatis vitandæ causa ejus, quæ ex circumcisione est, posset aliquis revocare præputium? And, in the third place, that is altogether impossible.
The object of all these statements on our part, is to show that it was the design of the Holy Spirit, who deigned to bestow upon us the sacred Scriptures, to show that we were not to be edified by the letter alone, or by everything in it,—a thing which we see to be frequently impossible and inconsistent; for in that way not only absurdities, but impossibilities, would be the result; but that we are to understand that certain occurrences were interwoven in this “visible” history, which, when considered and un368derstood in their inner meaning, give forth a law which is advantageous to men and worthy of God.
19. Let no one, however, entertain the suspicion that we do not believe any history in Scripture to be real, because we suspect certain events related in it not to have taken place; or that no precepts of the law are to be taken literally, because we consider certain of them, in which either the nature or possibility of the case so requires, incapable of being observed; or that we do not believe those predictions which were written of the Saviour to have been fulfilled in a manner palpable to the senses; or that His commandments are not to be literally obeyed. We have therefore to state in answer, since we are manifestly so of opinion, that the truth of the history may and ought to be preserved in the majority of instances. For who can deny that Abraham was buried in the double cave27892789 Duplici spelunca. at Hebron, as well as Isaac and Jacob, and each of their wives? Or who doubts that Shechem was given as a portion to Joseph?27902790 Cf. Gen. xlviii. 22 and Josh. xxiv. 32. or that Jerusalem is the metropolis of Judea, on which the temple of God was built by Solomon?—and countless other statements. For the passages which hold good in their historical acceptation are much more numerous than those which contain a purely spiritual meaning. Then, again, who would not maintain that the command to “honour thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee,”27912791 Cf. Ex. xx. 12 and Eph. vi. 2, 3. is sufficient of itself without any spiritual meaning, and necessary for those who observe it? especially when Paul also has confirmed the command by repeating it in the same words. And what need is there to speak of the prohibitions, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not bear false witness,”27922792 Cf. Ex. xx. 13–16. and others of the same kind? And with respect to the precepts enjoined in the Gospels, no doubt can be entertained that very many of these are to be literally observed, as, e.g., when our Lord says, “But I say unto you, Swear not at all;”27932793 Cf. Matt. v. 34. and when He says, “Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart;”27942794 Matt. v. 28. the admonitions also which are found in the writings of the Apostle Paul, “Warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient towards all men,”27952795 1 Thess. v. 14. and very many others. And yet I have no doubt that an attentive reader will, in numerous instances, hesitate whether this or that history can be considered to be literally true or not; or whether this or that precept ought to be observed according to the letter or no. And therefore great pains and labour are to be employed, until every reader reverentially understand that he is dealing with divine and not human words inserted in the sacred books.
36920. The understanding, therefore, of holy Scripture which we consider ought to be deservedly and consistently maintained, is of the following kind. A certain nation is declared by holy Scripture to have been chosen by God upon the earth, which nation has received several names: for sometimes the whole of it is termed Israel, and sometimes Jacob; and it was divided by Jeroboam son of Nebat into two portions; and the ten tribes which were formed under him were called Israel, while the two remaining ones (with which were united the tribe of Levi, and that which was descended from the royal race of David) was named Judah. Now the whole of the country possessed by that nation, which it had received from God, was called Judea, in which was situated the metropolis, Jerusalem; and it is called metropolis, being as it were the mother of many cities, the names of which you will frequently find mentioned here and there in the other books of Scripture, but which are collected together into one catalogue in the book of Joshua the son of Nun.27962796 In libro Jesu Naue.
21. This, then, being the state of the case, the holy apostle desiring to elevate in some degree, and 370to raise our understanding above the earth, says in a certain place, “Behold Israel after the flesh;”27972797 1 Cor. x. 18. by which he certainly means that there is another Israel which is not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. And again in another passage, “For they are not all Israelites who are of Israel.”27982798 Rom. ix. 6.
37122. Being taught, then, by him that there is one Israel according to the flesh, and another according to the Spirit, when the Saviour says, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,”27992799 Matt. xv. 24. we do not understand these words as those do who savour of earthly things, i.e., the Ebionites, who derive the appellation of “poor” from their very name (for “Ebion” means “poor” in Hebrew28002800 Ebion, Heb. ןוֹיבְאֶ, (from הבָאָ, to desire), lit. “wishing,” “desiring;” secondarily, “poor.”); but we understand that there exists a race of souls which is termed “Israel,” as is indicated by the interpretation of the name itself: for Israel is interpreted to mean a “mind,” or “man seeing God.” The apostle, again, makes a similar revelation respecting Jerusalem, saying, “The Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.”28012801 Gal. iv. 26. And in another of his Epistles he says: “But ye are come unto mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, and to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to the Church of the first-born which is written in heaven.”28022802 Cf. Heb. xii. 22, 23. If, then, there are certain souls in this world who are called Israel, and a city in heaven which is called Jerusalem, it follows that those cities which are said to belong to the nation of Israel have the heavenly Jerusalem as their metropolis; and that, agreeably to this, we understand as referring to the whole of Judah (of which also we are of opinion that the prophets have spoken in certain mystical narratives), any predictions delivered either regarding Judea or Jerusalem, or invasions of any kind, which the sacred histories declare to have happened to Judea or Jerusalem. Whatever, then, is either narrated or predicted of Jerusalem, must, if we accept the words of Paul as those of Christ speaking in him, be understood as spoken in conformity with his opinion regarding that city which he calls the heavenly Jerusalem, and all those places or cities which are said to be cities of the holy land, of which Jerusalem is the metropolis. For we are to suppose that it is from these very cities that the Saviour, wishing to raise us to a higher grade of intelligence, promises to those who have well managed the money entrusted to them by Himself, that they are to have power over ten or five cities. If, then, the prophecies delivered concerning Judea, and Jerusalem, and Judah, and Israel, and Jacob, not being understood by us in a carnal sense, signify certain divine mysteries, it certainly follows that those prophecies also which were delivered either concerning Egypt or the Egyptians, 372or Babylonia and the Babylonians, and Sidon and the Sidonians, are not to be understood as spoken of that Egypt which is situated on the earth, or of the earthly Babylon, Tyre, or Sidon. Nor can those predictions which the prophet Ezekiel delivered concerning Pharaoh king of Egypt, apply to any man who may seem to have reigned over Egypt, as the nature of the passage itself declares. In a similar manner also, what is spoken of the prince of Tyre cannot be understood of any man or king of Tyre. And how could we possibly accept, as spoken of a man, what is related in many passages of Scripture, and especially in Isaiah, regarding Nebuchadnezzar? For he is not a man who is said to have “fallen from heaven,” or who was “Lucifer,” or who “arose in the morning.” But with respect to those predictions which are found in Ezekiel concerning Egypt, such as that it is to be destroyed in forty years, so that the foot of man should not be found within it, and that it should suffer such devastation, that throughout the whole land the blood of men should rise to the knees, I do not know that anyone possessed of understanding could refer this to that earthly Egypt which adjoins Ethiopia. But let us see whether it may not be understood more fittingly in the following manner: viz., that as there is a heavenly Jerusalem and Judea, and a nation undoubtedly which inhabits it, and is named Israel; so also it is possible that there are certain localities near to these which may seem to be called either Egypt, or Babylon, or Tyre, or Sidon, and that the princes of these places, and the souls, if there be any, that inhabit them, are called Egyptians, Babylonians, Tyrians, and Sidonians. From whom also, according to the mode of life which they lead there, a sort of captivity would seem to result, in consequence of which they are said to have fallen from Judea into Babylonia or Egypt, from a higher and better condition, or to have been scattered into other countries.
23. For perhaps as those who, departing this world in virtue of that death which is common to all, are arranged, in conformity with their actions and deserts—according as they shall be deemed worthy—some in the place which is called “hell,”28032803 Infernus. others in the bosom of Abraham, and in different localities or mansions; so also from those places, as if dying there, if the expression can be used,28042804 Velut illic, si dici potest, morientes. do they come down from the “upper world”28052805 A superis. to this “hell.” For that “hell” to which the souls of the dead are conducted from this world, is, I believe, on account of this distinction, called the “lower hell” by Scripture, as is said in the book of Psalms: “Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.”28062806 Cf. Ps. xxx. 3. and Deut. xxxii. 22. Everyone, accordingly, of those who descend to the earth is, according to his deserts, or agreeably to the position which he occupied there, ordained to be born in this world, in a different country, or among a different 373nation, or in a different mode of life, or surrounded by infirmities of a different kind, or to be descended from religious parents, or parents who are not religious; so that it may sometimes happen that an Israelite descends among the Scythians, and a poor Egyptian is brought down to Judea. And yet our Saviour came to gather together the lost sheep of the house of Israel; and as many of the Israelites did not accept His teaching, those who belonged to the Gentiles were called. From which it will appear to follow, that those prophecies which are delivered to the individual nations ought to be referred rather to the souls, and to their different heavenly mansions. Nay, the narratives of the events which are said to have happened either to the nation of Israel, or to Jerusalem, or to Judea, when assailed by this or that nation, cannot in many instances be understood as having actually28072807 Corporaliter. occurred, and are much more appropriate to those nations of souls who inhabit that heaven which is said to pass away, or who even now are supposed to be inhabitants of it.
If now anyone demand of us clear and distinct declarations on these points out of holy Scripture, we must answer that it was the design of the Holy Spirit, in those portions which appear to relate the history of events, rather to cover and conceal the meaning: in those passages, e.g., where they are said to go down into Egypt, or to be carried captive to Babylonia, or when in these very countries some are said to be brought to excessive humiliation, and to be placed under bondage to their masters; while others, again, in these very countries of their captivity, were held in honour and esteem, so as to occupy positions of rank and power, and were appointed to the government of provinces;—all which things, as we have said, are kept hidden and covered in the narratives of holy Scripture, because “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hid in a field; which when a man findeth, he hideth it, and for joy thereof goeth away and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”28082808 Matt. xiii. 44. By which similitude, consider whether it be not pointed out that the very soil and surface, so to speak, of Scripture—that is, the literal meaning—is the field, filled with plants and flowers of all kinds; while that deeper and profounder “spiritual” meaning are the very hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge which the Holy Spirit by Isaiah calls the dark and invisible and hidden treasures, for the finding out of which the divine help is required: for God alone can burst the brazen gates by which they are enclosed and concealed, and break in pieces the iron bolts and levers by which access is prevented to all those things which are written and concealed in Genesis respecting the different kinds of souls, and of those seeds and generations which either have a close connection with Israel28092809 Ad propinquitatem pertinent Israel. or are widely separated from his descendants; as well as what is that descent 374of seventy souls into Egypt, which seventy souls became in that land as the stars of heaven in multitude. But as not all of them were the light of this world—“for all who are of Israel are not Israel”28102810 Rom. ix. 6.—they grow from being seventy souls to be an important people,28112811 Ex ipsis Septuaginta animabus fiunt aliqui. and as the “sand by the sea-shore innumerable.”
|« Prev||Chapter I., Sections 1-23 translated from the…||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version