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ANCIENT SYRIAC DOCUMENTS
Homily on Habib the Martyr
Homily on Guria and Shamuna
A Letter of Mara, Son of Serapion
ANCIENT SYRIAC DOCUMENTS
HOMILY ON HABIB THE MARTYR, COMPOSED BY MAR JACOB.
HABIB the martyr, clad in flame, hath called to me out of the fire,
That for him likewise I should fashion an image of beauty among the
Comrade of conquerors, lo! he beckoneth to me out of the burning,
That, as for the glory of his Lord, I should sing concerning him.
In the midst of live coals stands the heroic man, and lo! he calleth to me,
That I should fashion his image: but the blazing fire permits me not.
His love is fervid, glowing is his faith;
His fire also burneth, and who is adequate to recount his love?
Nay, by reason of that love which led the martyr into the fire,
No man is able to recount his beauties divine.
For who shall dare enter and see in the blazing fire
To whom he is like, and after what pattern he is to be fashioned among
Shall I fashion his image by the side of the youths, the children of the
With Hananiah shall I reckon Habib? I know not.
Lo! these were not burned there: how, then, is he like?
He,I say, like them, when he was burned and the youths not?
Which, I ask, the more beautiful--Habib the martyr, or Azariah?
Difficult for me is the image: how I am to look upon it, I know not.
Lo! Michael was not burned by the flame;
But Habib was burned: which, then, the more beautiful to him that
looketh upon him?
Who shall dare say that this is repulsive, or that;
Or not so comely this as that, to him that beholdeth him?
Three there are in the fire, and the flame cometh not near them;
But one was burned: and how shall I suffice to tell
That the Fourth farm is that of Him who went down into the midst of the
That He might fashion an image for Habib there along with these of the
He giveth a place in the fire to him who was burned,
That he may be, instead of Him the Fourth, by the side of the
And, if of the three the beauties be glorious, though they were not burned,
How shall not this one, who was burned, be mingled with the glorious?
If a man have the power either to be burned or not to be burned,
Of this man, who was burned, more exalted was the beauty than that of
But, inasmuch as the Lord is the control of all things,
He is to be praised, both where He rescues and where He delivers up.
Moreover, too, the will of the three who were not burned,
And of him who was burned, is one and the same, in this case and in
And, had its Lord commanded the fire to burn them,
Even those three on their part, burned they would have been;
And, if He had signified to it that it should not burn that one man also,
He would not have been burned; nor had it been of himself that he was
To go into the fire was of their own will, when they went in;
But that they were not burned--because the Lord of the fire willed and
Therefore one equal beauty is that of him who was burned,
And that of him who was not burned, because the will also was equal.
Beloved martyr! exalted is thy beauty; exalted is thy rank:
Graceful too thy crown, and mingled thy story with that of the
Choice gold art thou, and the fire hath tried thee, and resplendent is thy
And lo! into the King's crown art thou wrought, along with the
Good workman! who, in the doctrine of the Son of God,
Pursueth his course like a valiant man, because of the beauty of his
Habib the martyr was a teacher of that which is true;
A preacher also, whose mouth was full of faith.
Watchful was he, and prompt for service; and he encouraged with his
The household of the house of God, through his faith.
Of light was he full, and he wrestled with the darkness
Which overspread the country from the paganism which had darkened it.
With the Gospel of the Son was his mouth filled in the congregations;
And as it were a leader of the way did he become to the villages when
he arrived in them.
Zealous he was, because he was concerned for the doctrine
Divine, that he might establish the adherents of the faith.
At the time when the winds of the pagans blew, a lamp was he,
And flamed forth whilst they blew upon him, and went not out.
All on fire was he, and filled with the love of his Lord, and was concerned
For this--that he might speak of Him without hindrance.
The thorns of errour sprang up in the land from paganism;
And, as much as in him lay, he rooted them out by his diligence.
He taught, admonished, and confirmed in the faith,
The friends of Christ, who were harassed by persecutors.
Against sword and against fire did he wrestle,
With love hot as the flame, and was not afraid.
Like a two-edged brand, keen was
His faith, and against error did he contend.
Leaven did he prove to be in this land which had become exhausted
Through fondness for the idols of vanity which error had brought in.
He was like salt by reason of his savoury doctrine
To this region, which had become insipid through unbelief.
A deacon was he, and filled the place of a high-priest
By the preaching and teaching of that which is true.
He was to the flock a good shepherd whilst he was its overseer;
And his life laid he down for the flock while he tended it.
He chased away the wolf, and drove off from it the beast of prey.
And he repaired the breaches, and gathered the lambs into their folds.
He went out secretly and encouraged the congregations:
He strengthened them, and exhorted them, and held them up.
And he forged armour of faith, and put it on them,
That they might not be ignominiously overthrown by the paganism
The flocks of the fold of the Son of God were being laid waste
By persecutors: and he encouraged the lambs and the ewes.
And he was an advocate to the household of faith;
And he taught them not to be daunted by persecutors.
He taught them to run to meet death,
Without being afraid either of sword or of fire.
In the teaching of the Son of God he prospered,
So that his faith pursued its course without dread.
Then errour grew envious, became furious, and was maddened, because of him;
And she pursued after him, that she might shed upon the earth innocent
The Defamer, who hates the race of men,
Laid snares for him, that he might rid the place of his presence.
He who hateth the truth pursued after him to put him to death,
That he might make his voice to cease from the teaching of the house
And errour raised an outcry demanding that Habib should die, because she
Vexation goaded her on, and she sought to take away his life.
His story was talked about before the pagan judge of the country,
And the dear fame of him reached the king: who in great rage,
And because the diadem was interwoven with paganism, decreed death
Against Habib, because he was full of faith.
And, when the command reached the judge, he armed himself
With rage and fury; and, with a mind thirsting for blood,
And like hunters who lay nets for the young stag,
After Habib did they go out to catch him.
But this man was a preacher of the faith,
Who in the highway of the crucifixion was prospering;
And, that he might benefit by his teaching the children of his people,
His work embraced the countries round about him.
So, when error went out after him, she found him not:
Not that he was fled, but that he had gone out to preach the Gospel.
Then, because of the fury of the pagans, which was great beyond all that
His kindred and his mother did they seize for his sake.
Blessed art thou, O woman! mother since thou art of the martyr.
For wherefore was it that they seized thee and bound thee,
What do they require of thee, O thou full of beauty? What, I ask, have they
required of thee?
Lo! they require of thee that thou bring the martyr, that he may be a
Bring, oh bring thy sweet fruit to the place of the oblation--
The fruit whose smell is fragrant, that it may be incense to the
Fair shoot, thy cluster bring from where it is,
That its wine may be for a libation whose taste is sweet.
The lamb heard that they were seeking him, that he might be a sacrifice;
And he set out and came to the sacrificers rejoicing.
He heard that others also were being afflicted for his sake,
And he came that he might bear the suffering which was his, in the
stead of many.
The lot fell on him, to be himself alone a sacrifice;
And the fire that was to offer him up was looking out for him until he
Of the many who were bound for his sake
Not one single person was seized to die, but only he.
He it was that was worthy, and for him was martyrdom reserved;
And to snatch the martyr's place no man was able.
And therefore of his own will did he present himself
To the judge, that he might be seized, and die for Jesus' sake.
He heard that they sought him, and he came that he might be seized, even as
they sought him:
And he went in of himself before the judge, and dauntless was his look.
He hid not himself, nor did he wish to flee from the judge:
For with light was he imbued, and from the darkness he would not flee.
No robber was he, no murderer, no thief,
No child of night: but all his course was run in open day.
Wherefore from his flock should the good shepherd flee,
And leave his fold to be devoured by robbers?
Wherefore should the physician flee, who goeth forth to heal diseases,
And to cure souls by the blood of the Son of God?
A fearless countenance did the brave man carry with him, and a great
And to meet death he ran, rejoicing, for Jesus sake.
He went in, he stood before the judge, saying to him:
I am Habib, whom ye sought: lo! here I stand.
And the pagan trembled, and amazement seized him, and he marvelled at him--
At the man who was not afraid, either of sword or of fire.
While he thought that he was fleeing apace, he entered in and mocked him;
And the judge shook, for he saw him courageous in the very face of
A disciple he of that Son of God who said:
"Rise, come, let us go: for he that betrayeth me lo! is here."
And to the crucifiers, again, He said: "Whom seek ye?"
They say: "Jesus." And He said to them: "I am He."
The Son of God of His own will came to the cross;
And on Him the martyr looked, and presented himself uncompelled before
And the pagan beheld him, and was smitten with fear, and was exasperated
His rage was excited, and he began in his fury to put to him
And, as if he had been one who had shed on the ground the blood of the
He proceeded to question the saintly man, but he was not ashamed:
Menacing him, and trying to terrify him, and to frighten him,
And recounting the sufferings which were being prepared by him on his
But Habib, when questioned, was not afraid,
Was not ashamed, and was not frightened by the menaces he heard.
Lifting up his voice, he confessed Jesus, the Son of God--
That he was His servant, and was His priest, and His minister.
At the fury of the pagans, roaring at him like lions,
He trembled not, nor ceased from the confession of the Son of God.
He was scourged, and the scourgings were very dear to him,
Seeing that he bore a little of the stripes of the Son of God.
He was put into bonds, and he looked on his Lord, whom also they had
And his heart rejoiced that in the path of His sufferings he had begun
He ascended the block, and they tore him with combs, but his soul was
radiant with light,
Because he was deemed worthy that on him should come the agony of the
sufferings of crucifixion.
In the pathway of death had he set his face to walk,
And what could he desire to find in it but sufferings?
The fire of sacrifice was betrothed to him, and for her did he look;
And she on her part sent him combs, and stripes, and pains, to taste.
All the while that she was coming, she sent him sufferings, that by means
He might be prepared, so that when she met him she might not dismay
Sufferings purged him, so that, when the blazing fire should put him to the
There might not be any dross found in his choice gold.
And he endured the whole of the pains that came upon him,
That he might have experience of suffering, and in the burning stand
like a brave man.
And he accepted rejoicing the sufferings which he had to bear:
For he knew that at their termination he should find death.
And he was not afraid, either of death or of sufferings:
For with that wine of the crucifixion his heart was drunk.
He despised his body, while it was being dragged along by the persecutors;
And his limbs, while they were being torn asunder in bitter agony.
Scourges on his back, combs on his sides, stocks on his feet,
And fire in front of him: still was he brave and full of faith.
They taunted him: Lo! thou worshippest a man;
But he said: A man I worship not,
But God, who took a body and became man:
Him do I worship, because He is God with Him that begat Him.
The faith of Habib, the martyr, was full of light
And by it was enlightened Edessa, the faithful city.
The daughter of Abgar, whom Addraeus betrothed to the crucifixion--
Through it is her light, through it her truth and her faith.
Her king is from it, her martyrs from it, her truth from it;
The teachers also of her faith are from it.
Abgar believed that Thou an God, the Son of God;
And he received a blessing because of the beauty of his faith.
Sharbil the martyr, son of the Edessaeans, more-ever said:
My heart is led captive by God, who became man.
And Habib the martyr, who also was crowned at Edessa,
Confessed these things: that He took a body and became man;
That He is the Son of God, and also is God, and became man.
Edessa learned from teachers the things that are true:
Her king taught her, her martyrs taught her, the faith;
But to others, who were fraudulent teachers, she would not hearken.
Habib the martyr, in the ear of Edessa, thus cried aloud
Out of the midst of the fire: A man I worship not,
But God, who took a body and became man
Him do I worship. Thus confessed the martyr with uplifted voice.
From confessors torn with combs, burnt, raised up on the block, slain,
And from a righteous king, did Edessa learn the faith,
And she knows our Lord--that He is even God, the Son of God;
She also learned and firmly believed that He took a body and became
Not from common scribes did she learn the faith:
Her king taught her, her martyrs taught her; and she firmly believed
And, if she be calumniated as having ever worshipped a man,
She points to her martyrs, who died for Him as being God.
A man I worship not, said Habib,
Because it is written: "Cursed is he that putteth his trust in a
Forasmuch as He is God, I worship Him, yea submit to be burned
For His sake, nor will I renounce His faith.
This truth has Edessa held fast from her youth,
And in her old age she will not barter it away as a daughter of the
Her righteous king became to her a scribe, and from him she learned
Concerning our Lord--that He is the Son of God, yea God.
Addaeus, who brought the bridegroom's ring and put it on her hand,
Betrothed her thus to the Son of God, who is the Only-begotten.
Sharbil the priest, who made trial and proof of all gods,
Died, even as he said, "for God who became man."
Shamuna and Guria, for the sake of the Only-begotten,
Stretched out their necks to receive the stroke,and for Him died,
forasmuch as He is God.
And Habib the martyr, who was teacher of congregations,
Preached of Him, that He took a body and became man.
For a man the martyr would not have submitted to be burned in the fire;
But he was burned "for the sake of God who became man."
And Edessa is witness that thus he confessed while he was being burned:
And from the confession of a martyr that has been burned who is he that
All minds does faith reduce to silence and despise--
She that is full of light and stoopeth not to shadows.
She despiseth him that maligns the Son by denying that He is God;
Him too that saith "He took not a body and became man."
In faith which was full of truth he stood upon the fire;
And he became incense, and propitiated with his fragrance the Son of
In all his afflictions, and in all his tortures, and in all his sufferings,
Thus did he confess, and thus did he teach the blessed city.
And this truth did Edessa hold fast touching our Lord--
Even that He is God, and of Mary became a man.
And the bride hates him that denies His God-head,
And despises and contemns him that maligns His corporeal nature.
And she recognises Him as One in Godhead and in manhood--
The Only-begotten, whose body is inseparable from Him.
And thus did the daughter of the Parthians learn to believe,
And thus did she firmly hold, and thus does she teach him that listens
The judge, therefore, full of zeal for paganism, commanded
That the martyr should be led forth and burned in the fire which was
reserved for him.
And forthwith a strap was thrust into his mouth, as though he had been a
His confession being kept within his heart towards God.
And they hurried him away, and he went out from the judgment-hall,
That the hour was come when the crown should be given to his faith.
And there went out with him crowds of people, that they might bear him
Looking upon him, not as a dead man accompanied to his burial,
But as a man who was going away that by means of fire he might become a
And that there might be bestowed the crown which was by righteousness
reserved for him.
They looked upon him as upon a man entering into battle,
And around him were spears, and lances, andswords, but he vanquished
They beheld him going up like a champion from the contest,
And in his triumph chaplets were brought to him by those who beheld.
They looked upon him as he vanquished principalities and powers,
Which all made war with him, and he put them to shame.
The whole congregation of the followers of Christ exulted over him,
Because he raised up the friends(1) of the faith by the sufferings
which he bore.
There went forth with him the Church, a bride full of light;
And her face was beaming on the beloved martyr who was united to her.
Then did his mother, because it was the marriage-feast for her son,
Deck herself in garments nobler than her wont.
Since sordid raiment suited not the banquet-hall,
In magnificent attire all white she clad herself fight tastefully.
Hither to the battle came down love to fight
In the mother's soul--the love of nature, and the love of God.
She looked upon her son as he went forth to be put into the flame;
And, forasmuch as there was in her the love of the Lord, she suffered
The yearnings of her mother's womb cried out on behalf of its fruit;
But faith silenced them, so that their tumult ceased.
Nature shrieked over the limb which was severed from her;
But the love of the Lord intoxicated the soul, that she should not
Nature loved, but the love of the Lord did conquer in the strife
Within the soul of the mother, that she should not grieve for her
And instead of suffering, her heart was filled with all emotions of joy;
And, instead of mourning, she went forth in splendid apparel.
And she accompanied him as he went out to be burned, and was elate,
Because the love of the Lord vanquished that of nature.
And clad in white, as for a bridegroom, she made a marriage-feast--
She the mother of the martyr, and was blithe because of him.
"Shamuna the Second" may we call this blessed one:
Since, had seven been burned instead of one, she had been well content.
One she had, and she gave him to be food for the fire;
And, even as that one, if she had had seven, she had given them all.
He was cast into the fire, and the blaze kindled around him;
And his mother looked on, and grieved not at his burning.
Another eye, which gazeth upon the things unseen,
Was in her soul, and by reason of this she exulted when he was being
On the gems of light which are in martyrs' crowns she looked,
And on the glory which is laid up for them after their sufferings;
And on the promised blessings which they inherit yonder through their
And on the Son of God who clothes their limbs with light;
And on the manifold beauties of that kingdom which shall not be dissolved,
And on the ample door which is opened for them to enter in to God.
On these did the martyr's mother look when he was being burned,
And she rejoiced, she exalted, and in white did she go forth with him.
She looked upon him while the fire consumed his frame,
And, forasmuch as his crown was very noble, she grieved not.
The sweet root was thrown into the fire, upon the coals;
And it turned to incense, and cleansed the air from pollution.
With the fumes of sacrifice had the air been polluted,
And by the burning of this martyr was it cleansed.
The firmament was fetid with the exhalations from(1) the altars;
And there rose up the sweet perfume of the martyr, and it grew sweet
And the sacrifices ceased, and there was peace in the assemblies;
And the sword was blunted, that it should no more lay waste the friends
With Sharbil it began, with Habib it ended, in our land;
And from that time(2) even until now not one has it shin, since he was
Constantine, chief of conquerors, took the empire,
And the cross has trampled on the diadem of the emperor, and is set
upon his head.
Broken is the lofty horn of idolatry,
And from the burning of the martyr even until now not one has it
His smoke arose, and it became incense to the Godhead;
And by it was the air purged which was tainted by paganism,
And by his burning was the whole land cleansed:
Blessed be he that gave him a crown, and glory, and a good name!
Here endeth the Homily on Habib the martyr, composed by Mar Jacob.
A HOMILY ON GURIA AND SHAMUNA, COMPOSED BY MAR JACOB.
SHAMUNA and Guria, martyrs who made themselves illustrious in their
Have in love required of me to tell of their illustrious deeds.
To champions of the faith the doctrine calleth me,
That I should go and behold their contests and their crowns.
Children of the right hand, who have done battle against the left,
Have called me this day to recite the marvellous tale of their
Simple old men, who entered into the fight like heroes,
And nobly distinguished themselves in the strife of blood:
Those who were the salt of our land, and it was sweetened thereby,
And its savour was restored, which had become insipid through unbelief:
Candlesticks of gold, which were full of the oil of the crucifixion,
By which was lighted up all our region, which had turned to darkness:
Two lamps, of which, when all the winds were blowing
Of every kind of error, the lights were not put out;
Good labourers, who from the spring of day laboured
In the blessed vineyard of the house of God right duteously:
Bulwarks of our land, who became to us as it were a defence
Against all spoilers in all the wars that surrounded us:
Havens of peace, a place also of retreat for all that were distressed,
And a resting-place for the head of every one that was in need of
Two precious pearls, which were
An ornament for the bride of my lord Abgar,the Aramaean's son.
Teachers they were who practised their teaching in blood,
And whose faith was known by their sufferings.
On their bodies they wrote the story of the Son of God
With the marks of combs and scourges which thickly covered them.
They showed their love, not by words of the mouth alone,
But by tortures and by the rending of their limbs asunder.
For the love of the Son of God they gave up their bodies:
Since it beseemeth the lover that for his love he should give up
Fire and sword proved their love, how true it was;
And more beautiful than silver tried in a furnace of earth were their
They looked on God, and, because they saw His exalted beauties,
Therefore did they look with contempt upon their sufferings for His
The Sun of righteousness had arisen in their hearts;
And they were enlightened by it, and with HIS light chased they away
At the idols of vanity, which error had brought in, they laughed,
Instinct with the faith of the Son of God which is full of light.
The love of the Lord was as a fire in their hearts;
Nor could all the brambles of idolatry stand before it.
Fixed was their love on God unchangeably:(1)
And therefore did they look with scorn upon the sword,(2) all athirst
as it was for blood.
With guilelesshess and yet with wisdom stood they in the judgment-hall,
As they had been commanded by the Teacher of that which is true.
Despising as they did kindred and family, guileless were they;
Forasmuch, also, as possessions and wealth were held in no account by
Nor guileless only: for in the judgment-hall with the wisdom of serpents
They were heedful of the faith of the house ofGod.
When a serpent is seized and struck, he guards his head,
But gives up and leaves exposed all his body to his captors:
And, so long as his head is kept from harm, his life abideth in him;
But, if the head be struck, his life is left a prey to destruction.
The head of the soul is men's faith;
And, if this be preserved unharmed, by it is also preserved their
Even though the whole body be lacerated with blows,
Yet, so long as faith is preserved, the soul is alive;
But, if faith is struck down by unbelief,
Lost is the soul, and life has perished from the man.
Shamuna and Guria of the faith as men(4)
Were heedful, that it should not be struck down by persecutors:
For they knew that, if faith is preserved,
Both soul and body are preserved from destruction.
And, because of this, touching their faith were they solicitous,
That that should not be struck down in which their very life was
They gave up their bodies both to blows and to dislocation,(5)
Yea to every kind of torture, that their faith should not be stricken
And, even as the serpent also hides his head from blows,
So hid they their faith within their hearts;
And the body was smitten, and endured stripes, and bore sufferings:
But overthrown was not their faith which waswithin their hearts.
The mouth betrayeth the soul to death when it speaks,
And with the tongue, as with a sword, worketh slaughter.
And from it spring up both life and death to men:
Denying a man dies, confessing he lives, and the mouth hath power over
Denial is death, and in confession is the soul's life;
And power hath the mouth over them both, like a judge.
The word of the mouth openeth the door for death to enter in;
This, too, calleth for life, and it beameth forth upon the man.
Even the robber by one word of faith
Won him the kingdom, and became heir of paradise,(6) all fraught with
The wicked judges too, from the martyrs, the sons of the right hand,
Demanded that by word of mouth only they should blaspheme;
But, like true men holding fast the faith,
They uttered not a word by which unbelief might be served.
Shamuna, beauty of our faith, who is adequate to tell of thee?
All too narrow is my mouth for thy praise, too mean for thee to be
spoken of by it.
Thy truth is thy beauty, thy crown thy suffering, thy wealth thy stripes,
And by reason of thy blows magnificent is the beauty of thy
Proud of thee is our country, as of a treasury which is full of gold:
Since wealth art thou to us, and a coveted store which cannot be stolen
Guria, martyr, staunch hero of our faith,
Who shall suffice thee, to recount thy beauties divine?
Lo! tortures on thy body are set like gems of beryl,
And the sword on thy neck like a chain of choice gold.
Thy blood upon thy form is a robe of glory full of beauty,
And the scourging of thy back a vesture with which the sun may not
Radiant thou art and comely by virtue of these thy sufferings, so
And resplendent are thy beauties, because of the pains which are so
severe upon thee.
Shamuna, our riches, richer art thou than the rich:
For Io! the rich stand at thy door, that thou mayest relieve them.
Small thy village, poor thy country: who, then, gave thee
That lords of villages and cities should court thy favour?
Lo! judges in their robes and vestments
Take dust from thy threshold, as though it were the medicine of life.
The cross is rich, and to its worshippers increaseth riches;
And its poverty despiseth all the riches of the world.
Shamuna and Guria, sons of the poor, lo! at your doors
Bow down the rich, that they may receive from you supplies for their
The Son of God in poverty and want
Showed to the world that all its riches are as nothing,
His disciples, all fishermen, all poor, all weak,
All men of little note, became illustrious through His faith.
One fisherman, whose "village" too was a home of fishermen,(1)
He made chief over the twelve, yea head of the house.(2)
One a tentmaker, who aforetime was a persecutor,
He seized upon, and made him a chosen vessel for the faith.
Shamuna and Guria came from villages that were not wealthy,
And lo! in a great city became they lords;
And its chief men, its judges also, stand before their doors,
And they solicit their charity to satisfy their wants.
From their confession of the faith of the Son of God
These blessed men acquired. riches beyond compute.
Poor did He Himself become, and the poor made He rich;
And lo! enriched is the whole creation through His poverty.
The chosen martyrs did battle against error,
And in the confession of the Son of God stood they firm like valiant
They went in and confessed Him before the judge with look undaunted,(3)
That He too might confess them, even as they confessed Him, before His
There arose against them the war of pagans like a tempest;
But the cross was their helmsman, and steered them on.
They were required to sacrifice to lifeless images,
But they departed not from their confession of the Son of God.
The wind of idolatry blew in their faces,
But they themselves were as rocks piled up against the hurricane.
Like a swift whirlwind, error snatched at them;
But, forasmuch as they were sheltered by the crucifixion, it hurt them
The Evil One set on all his dogs to bark, that they might bite them;
But, forasmuch as they had the cross for a staff, they put them all to
But who is sufficient to tell of their contests,
Or their sufferings, or the rending asunder of their limbs?
Or who can paint the picture of their coronation,(4)
How they went up from the contest coveredwith glory?
To judgment they went in, but of the judge they took no account;
Nor were they anxious what they should say when questioned.
The judge menaced them, and multiplied his words of threatening;
And recounted tortures and all kinds of inflictions, that he might
He spake great words,(5) that by fright and intimidation,
By menaces too, he might incline them to sacrifice.
Yet the combatants despised the menaces, and the intimidations,
And the sentence of judgment, and all bodily deaths;
And they prepared themselves for insult and stripes, and for blows,
And for provocation, and to be dragged along, and to be burnt;
For imprisonment also, and for bonds, and for all evil things,
And for all tortures, and for all sufferings, rejoicing all the while.
They were not alarmed nor affrighted, nor dismayed,
Nor did the sharpness of the tortures bend them to sacrifice.
Their body they despised, and as dung upon the ground accounted they it:
For they knew that, the more it was beaten, the more would its beauty
And, the more the judge increased his menaces to alarm them,
The more did they show their contempt of him, having no fear of his
He kept telling them what tortures he had prepared for them;
And they continued telling him about Gehenna which was reserved for
By those things which he told them he tried to frighten them to sacrifice;
And they spoke to him about the fearful judgment yonder.
Truth is wiser than wise words,
And very hateful, however much it may be odorned, is falsehood.
Shamuna and Guria went on speaking truth,
While the judge continued to utter falsehood.
And therefore were they not afraid of his threatening,
Because all his menaces against the truth were accounted by them as
The intercourse of the world they despised, they contemned and scorned, yea
And to return to it they had no wish, or to enter it again.
From the place of judgment they set their faces to depart
To that meeting-place for them all, the life of the new world.
They cared neither for possessions nor for houses,
Nor for the advantages of this world, so full of evil.
In the world of light was their heart bound captive with God,
And to "that" country did they set their face to depart;
And they looked to the sword, to come and be a bridge
To let them pass over to God, for whom they were longing.
This world they accounted as a little tent,
But that yonder as a city full of beauties;
And they were in haste by the sword to depart hence
To the land of light, which is full of blessing for those who are
worthy of it.
The judge commanded to hang them up by their arms,
And without mercy did they stretch them out in bitter agony.
A demon's fury breathed rage into the heart of the judge,
And embittered him against the stedfast ones, inciting him to crush
And between the height and the depth he stretched them out to afflict them:
And they were a marvel to both sides, when they saw how much they
At the old men's frame heaven and earth marvelled,
To see how much suffering it bore nor cried out for help under their
Hung up and dragged along are their feeble bodies by their arms,
Yet is there deep silence, nor is there one that cries out for help or
Amazed were all who beheld their contests,
To see how calmly the outstretched forms bore the inflictions laid upon
Amazed too was Satan at their spotless frames,
To see what weight of affliction they sustained without a groan.
Yea, and gladdened too were the angels by that fortitude of theirs,
To see how patiently it bore that contest so terrible that was.
But, as combatants who were awaiting their crowns,
There entered no sense of weariness into their minds.
Nay, it was the judge that grew weary; yea, he was astonished:
But the noble men before him felt no wearinessin their afflictions.
He asked them whether they would consent to sacrifice;
But the mouth was unable to speak from pain.
Thus did the persecutors increase their inflictions,
Until they gave no place for the word to be spoken.
Silent was the mouth from the inflictions laid on their limbs;
But the will, like that of a hero, was nerved with fortitude from
Alas for the persecutors! how destitute were they of righteousness!
But the children of light--how were they clad in faith!
They demand speech, when there is no place for speaking,
Since the word of the mouth was forbidden them by pain.
Fast bound was the body, and silent the mouth, and it was unable
To utter the word when unrighteously questioned.
And what should the martyr do, who had no power to say,
When he was questioned, that he would not sacrifice?
All silent were the old men full of faith,
And from pain they were incapable of speaking.
Yet questioned they were: and in what way, if a man is silent
When he is questioned, shall he assent to that which is said?
But the old men, that they might not be thought to assent,
Expressed clearly by signs the word which it behoved them to speak.
Their heads they shook, and, instead of speech, by a dumb sign they showed
The resolve of the new man that was within.
Their heads hung down, signifying amidst their pains
That they were not going to sacrifice, and every one understood their
As long as there was in them place for speech, with speech did they
But, when it was forbidden them by pain, they spake with a dumb sign.
Of faith they spoke both with the voice and without the voice:
So that, when speaking and also when silent, they were alike stedfast.
Who but must be amazed at the path of life, how narrow it is,
And how straight to him that desires to walk in it?
Who but must marvel to see that, when the will is watchful and ready,
It is very broad and full of light to him that goeth therein?
About the path are ditches; full also is it of pitfalls;
And, if one turn but a little aside from it, a ditch receives him.
That dumb sign only is there between the right and the left,
And on "Yea" and "Nay" stand(1) sin and righteousness.
By a dumb sign only did the blessed men plainly signify that they would
And in virtue of a single dumb sign did the path lead them to Eden;
And, if this same dumb sign had inclined and turned down but a little
Toward the depth, the path of the old men would have been to Gehenna.
Upwards they made a sign, to signify that upwards were they prepared to
And in consequence of that sign they ascended and mingled with the
Between sign and sign were Paradise and Gehenna:
They made a sign that they would not sacrifice, and they inherited the
place of the kingdom.
Even while they were Silent they were advocates for the Son of God:
For not in multitude of words doth faith consist.
That fortitude of theirs was a full-voiced confession,
And as though with open mouth declared they their faith by signs;
And every one knew what they were saying, though silent,
And enriched and increased was the faith of the house of God;
And error was put to shame by reason of two old men, who, though they spake
Vanquished it; and they kept silence, and their faith stood fast.
And, though tempestuous accents were heard from the judge,
And the commands of the emperor were dreadful, yea violent,
And paganism had a bold face and an open mouth,
And its voice was raised, and silent were the old men with pain,
Yet null and void became the command and drowned was the voice of the
And without speech the mute sign of the martyrs bore off the palm.
Talking and clamour, and the sound of stripes, on the left;
And deep silence and suffering standing on the right;
And, by one mute sign with which the old men pointed above their heads,
The head of faith was lifted up, and error was put to shame.
Worsted in the encounter were they who spoke, and the victory was to the
For, voiceless they uttered by signs the discourse of faith.
They took them down, because they had vanquished while silent;
And they put them in bonds, threatening yet to vanquish them.
Bonds and a dungeon void of light were by the martyrs
Held of no account--yea rather as the light which has no end.
To be without bread, and without water, and without light,
Pleased them well, because of the love of the Son of God.
The judge commanded by their feet to hang them up
With their heads downwards, by a sentence all unrighteous:
Hanged up was Shamuna with his head downwards; and he prayed
In prayer pure and strained clear by pain.
Sweet fruit was hanging on the tree in that judgment-hall,
And its taste and smell made the very denizens of heaven to marvel.
Afflicted was his body, but sound was his faith;
Bound fast was his person, but unfettered was his prayer over his deed.
For, prayer nothing whatsoever turneth aside,
And nothing hindereth it--not even sword, not even fire.
His form was turned upside down, but his prayer was unrestrained,
And straight was its path on high to the abode of the angels.
The more the affliction of the chosen martyr was increased,
The more from his lips was all confession heard.
The martyrs longed for the whetted sword affectionately,
And sought it as a treasure full of riches.
A new work has the Son of God wrought in the world--
That dreadful death should be yearned for by many.
That men should run to meet the sword is a thing unheard of,
Except they were those whom Jesus has enlisted in His service by His
That death is bitter, every one knoweth lo! from earliest time:
To martyrs alone is it not bitter to be slain.
They laughed at the whetted sword when they saw it,
And greeted it with smiles: for it was that which was the occasion of
As though it had been something hated, they left the body to be beaten:
Even though loving it, they held it not back from pains.
For the sword they waited, and the sword went forth and crowned them:
Because for it they looked; and it came to meet them, even as they
The Son of God slew death by His crucifixion;
And, inasmuch as death is slain, it caused no suffering to the martyrs.
With a wounded serpent one playeth without fear;
A slain lion even a coward will drag along:
The great serpent our Lord crushed by His crucifixion;
The dread lion did the Son of God slay by His sufferings.
Death bound He fast, and laid him prostrate and trampled on him at the gate
And now whosoever will draweth near and mocketh at him, because he is
These old men, Shamuna and Guria, mocked at death,
As at that lion which by the Son of God was slain.
The great serpent, which slew Adam among the trees,
Who could seize, so long as he drank not of the blood of the cross?
The Son of God crushed the dragon by His crucifixion,
And lo! boys and old men mock at the wounded serpent.
Pierced is the lion with the spear which pierced the side of the Son of
And whosoever will trampleth on him, yea mocketh at him.
The Son of God--He is the cause of all good things,
And Him doth it behove every mouth to celebrate.
He did Himself espouse the bride with the blood which flowed from His
And of His wedding-friends He demanded as a nuptial gift the blood
of their necks.
The Lord of the wedding-feast hung on the cross in nakedness,
And whosoever came to be a guest, He let fall His blood upon him.
Shamuna and Guria gave up their bodies for His sake
To sufferings and tomes and to all the various forms of woe.
At Him they looked as He was mocked by wicked men,
And thus did they themselves endure mockery without a groan.
Edessa was enriched by your slaughter, O blessed ones:
For ye adorned her with your crowns and with your sufferings.
Her beauty are ye, her bulwark ye, her salt ye,
Her riches and her store, yea her boast and all her treasure.
Faithful stewards are ye:
Since by your sufferings ye did array the bride in beauty.
The daughter of the Parthians, who was espoused to the cross,
Of you maketh her boast: since by your teaching lo! she was
Her advocates are ye; scribes who, though silent, vanquished
All error, whilst its voice was uplifted high in unbelief.
Those old men of the daughter of the Hebrews were sons of Belial,
False witnesses, who killed Naboth, feigning themselves to be true.
Her did Edessa outdo by her two old men full of beauty,
Who were witnesses to the Son of God, and died like Naboth.
Two were there, and two here, old men;
And these were called witnesses, and witnesses those.
Let us now see which of them were witnesses chosen of God,
And which city is beloved by reason of her old men and of her
Lo! the sons of Belial who slew Naboth are witnesses;
And here Shamuna and Guria, again, are witnesses.
Let us now see which witnesses, and which old men,
And which city can stand with confidence before God.
Sons of Belial were those witnesses of that adulterous woman,
And lo! their shame is all portrayed in their names.
Edessa's just and righteous old men, her witnesses,
Were like Naboth, who himself also was slain for righteousness' sake.
They were not like the two lying sons of Belial,
Nor is Edessa like Zion, which also crucified the Lord.
Like herself her old men were false, yea dared
To shed on the ground innocent blood wickedly.
But by these witnesses here lo! the truth is spoken.--
Blessed be He who gave us the treasure-store of their crowns!
Here endeth the Homily on Guria and Shamuna.
ANCIENT SYRIAC DOCUMENTS
THE BOOK OF THE LAWS OF DIVERS COUNTRIES.
SOME days since we were calling to pay a visit to our brother
Shemashgram, and Bardesan came and found us there. And when he had made
inquiries after his health, and ascertained that he was well, he asked
us, "What were you talking about? for I heard your voice outside as I was
coming in." For it was his habit, whenever he found us talking about
anything before he came, to ask us, "What were you saying?" that he
might talk with us about it.
"Avida here," said we to him," was saying to us, ' If God is one, as ye
say, and if He is the creator of men, and if it is His will that you should
do that which you are commanded, why did He not so create men that they
should not be able to do wrong, but should constantly be doing that which
is right? for in this way His will would have been accomplished.'"
"Tell me, my son Avida," said Bardesan to him, "why it has come into
thy mind that the God of all is not One; or that He is One, but doth not
will that men should behave themselves justly and uprightly?"
"I, sir," said Avida, "have asked these brethren, persons of my own
age, in order that 'they' may return me an answer."
"If," said Bardesan to him, "thou wishest to learn, it were for thy
advantage to learn from some one who is older than they; but if to teach,
it is not requisite for ' thee' to ask 'them,' but rather that thou
shouldst induce ' them ' to ask ' thee' what they wish. For teachers are '
asked ' questions, and do not themselves ask them; or, if they ever do ask
a question, it is to direct the mind of the questioner, so that he may ask
properly, and they may know what his desire is. For it is a good thing that
a man should know how to ask questions."
"For my part," said Avida, "I wish to learn; but I began first of all
to question my brethren here, because I was too bashful to ask thee."
"Thou speakest becomingly," said Bardesan. "But know, nevertheless,
that he who asks questions properly, and wishes to be convinced, and
approaches the way of truth without contentiousness, has no need to be
bashful; because he is sure by means of the things I have mentioned to
please him to whom his questions are addressed. If so be, therefore, my
son, thou hast any opinion of thy own respecting this matter about which
thou hast asked, tell it to us all; and, if we too approve of it, we shall
express our agreement with thee; and, if we do not approve of it, we shall
be under obligation to show thee why we do not approve of it. But if thou
wast simply desirous of becoming acquainted with this subject, and hast no
opinion of thy own about it, as a man who has but lately joined the
disciples and is a recent inquirer, I will tell thee respecting it; so that
thou mayest not go from us empty away. If, moreover, thou art pleased with
those things which I shall say to thee, we have other things besides to
tell thee s concerning this matter; but, if thou art not pleased, we on our
part shall have stated our views without any personal feeling."
"I too," said Avida, "shall be much gratified to hear and to be
convinced: because it is not from another that I have heard of this
subject, but I have spoken of it to my brethren here out of my own mind;
and they have not cared to convince me; but they say, 'Only believe, and
thou wilt then be able to know everything. ' But for my part, I cannot
believe unless I be convinced."
"Not only," said Bardesan, "is Avida unwilling to believe, but there
are many others also who, because there is no faith in them, are not even
capable of being convinced; but they are always pulling down and building
up, and so are found destitute of all knowledge of the truth. But
notwithstanding, since Avida is not willing to believe, lo! I will speak to
you who do believe, concerning this matter about which he asks; and thus he
too will hear something further about it."
He began accordingly to address us as follows: "Many men are there who
have not faith, and have not received knowledge from the True Wisdom. In
consequence of this, they are not competent to speak and give instruction
to others, nor are they readily inclined themselves to hear. For they have
not the foundation of faith to build upon, nor have they any confidence on
which to rest their hope. Moreover, because they are accustomed to doubt
even concerning God, they likewise have not in them the fear of Him, which
would of itself deliver them from all other fears: for he in whom there is
no fear of God is the slave of all sorts of fears. For even with regard to
those things of various kinds which they disbelieve, they are not certain
that they disbelieve them rightly, but they are unsettled in their
opinions, and have no fixed belief, and the taste of their thoughts is
insipid in their own mouth; and they are always haunted with fear, and
flushed with excitement, and reckless.
"But with regard to what Avida has said: 'How is it that God did not so
make us that we should not sin and incur condemnation?'--if man had been
made so, he would not have belonged to himself, but would have been the
instrument of him that moved him; and it is evident also, that he who moves
an instrument as he pleases, moves it either for good or for evil. And how,
in that case, would a man differ from a harp, on which another plays; or
from a ship, which another guides: where the praise and the blame reside in
the hand of the performer or the steersman, and the harp itself knows
not what is played on it, nor the ship itself whether it be well steered
and guided or ill, they being only instruments made for the use of him in
whom is the requisite skill? But God in His benignity chose not so to make
man; but by freedom He exalted him above many of His creatures, and even
made him equal with the angels. For look at the sun, and the moon, and the
signs of the zodiac, and all the other creatures which are greater than
we in some points, and see how individual freedom has been denied them, and
how they are all fixed in their course by decree, so that they may do that
only which is decreed for them, and nothing else. For the sun never says, I
will not rise at my appointed time; nor the moon, I will not change, nor
wane, nor wax; nor does any one of the stars say, I will not rise nor set;
nor the sea, I will not bear up the ships, nor stay within my boundaries;
nor the mountains, We will not continue in the places in which we are set;
nor do the winds say, We will not blow; nor the earth, I will not hear up
and sustain whatsoever is upon me. But all these things are servants, and
are subject to one decree: for they are the instruments of the wisdom of
God, which erreth not.
"Not so, however, with man: for, if everything ministered, who would be
he that is ministered to? And, if everything were ministered to, who would
be he that ministered? In that case, too, there would not be one thing
diverse from another: yet that which is one, and in which there is no
diversity of parts, is a beings which up to this time has not been
fashioned. But those things which are destined for ministering have been
fixed in the power of man: because in the image of Elohim was he made.
Therefore have these things, in the benignity of God, been given to him,
that they may minister to him for a season. It has also been given to him
to he guided by his own will; so that whatever he is able to do, if he will
he may do it, and if he do not will he may not do it, and that so he may
justify himself or condemn. For, had he been made so as not to be able to
do evil and thereby incur condemnation, in like manner also the good which
he did would not have been his own, and he could not have been justified by
it. For, if any one should not of his own will do that which is good or
that which is evil, his justification and his condemnation would rest
simply with that Fortune to which he is subjected.
"It will therefore be manifest to you, that the goodness of God is
great toward man, and that freedom has been given to him in greater measure
than to any of those elemental bodies of which we have spoken, in order
that by this freedom he may justify himself, and order his conduct in a
godlike manner, and be copartner with angels, who are likewise possessed of
personal freedom. For we are sure that, if the angels likewise had not been
possessed of personal freedom, they would not have consorted with the
daughters of men, and sinned, and fallen from their places. In like manner,
too, those other angels, who did the will of their Lord, were, by reason of
their self-control, raised to higher rank, and sanctified, and received
noble gifts. For every being in existence is in need of the Lord of all; of
His gifts also there is no end.
Know ye, however, notwithstanding what I have said, that even those
things of which I have spoken as subsisting by decree are not absolutely
destitute of all freedom; and on this account, at the last day, they will
all be made subject to judgment."
"But how," said I to him, "should those things which are fixed and
regulated by decree be judged?"
"Not inasmuch as they are fixed, O Philip," said he, "will the elements
be judged, but inasmuch as they are endowed with power. For beings are
not deprived of their natural properties when they come to be fashioned,
but only of the full exercise of their strength, suffering a decrease
of power through their intermingling one with another, and being kept in
subjection by the power of their Maker; and in so far as they are in
subjection they will not be judged, but in respect of that only which is
under their own control."
"Those things," said Avida to him, "which thou hast said, are very
good; but, lo! the commands which have been given to men are severe, and
they cannot perform them."
"This," said Bardesan, "is the saying of one who has not the will to do
that which is right; nay, more, of him who has already yielded obedience
and submission to his foe. For men have not been commanded to do anything
but that which they are able to do. For the commandments set before us are
only two, and they are such as are compatible with freedom and consistent
with equity: one, that we refrain from everything which is wrong, and which
we should not like to have done to ourselves; and the other, that we should
do that which is right, and which we love and are pleased to have done to
us likewise. Who, then, is the man that is too weak to avoid stealing, or
to avoid lying, or to avoid acts of profligacy, or to avoid hatred and
deception? For, lo! all these things are under the control of the mind of
man; and are not dependent on the strength of the body, but on the will
of the soul. For even if a man be poor, and sick, and old, and disabled in
his limbs, he is able to avoid doing all these things. And, as he is able
to avoid doing these things, so is he able to love, and to bless, and to
speak the truth, and to pray for what is good for every one with whom he is
acquainted; and if he be in health, and capable of working, he is able
also to give of that which he has; moreover, to support with strength of
body him that is sick and enfeebled--this also he can do.
"Who, then, it is that is not capable of doing that which men destitute
of faith complain of, I know not. For my part, I think that it is precisely
in respect to these commandments that man has more power than in anything
else. For they are easy, and there are no circumstances that can hinder
their performance. For we are not commanded to carry heavy loads of stones,
or of timber, or of anything else, which those only who have great bodily
strength can do; nor to build fortresses and found cities, which kings
only can do; nor to steer a ship, which mariners only have the skill to
steer; nor to measure and divide land, which land-measurers only know how
to do; nor to practise any one of those arts which are possessed by some,
while the rest are destitute of them. But there have been given to us, in
accordance with the benignity of God, commandments having no harshness in
them--such as any living man whatsoever may rejoice to do. For
there is no man that does not rejoice when he does that which is fight, nor
any one that is not gladdened within himself if he abstains from things
that are bad--except those who were not created for this good thing, and
are called tares. For would not the judge be unjust who should censure
a man with regard to any such thing as he has not the ability to do?"
"Sayest thou of these deeds, O Bardesan," said Avida to him, "that they
are easy to do?"
"To him that hath the will," said Bardesan, "I have said, and do still
say, that they are easy. For this obedience I contend far is the proper
behaviour of a free mind, and of the soul which has not revolted
against its governors. As for the action of the body, there are many things
which hinder it: especially old age, and sickness, and poverty."
"Possibly," said Avida," a man may be able to abstain from the things
that are bad; but as for doing the things that are good, what man is
capable of this?"
"It is easier," said Bardesan, "to do good than to abstain from evil.
For the good comes from the man himself, and therefore he rejoices
whenever he does good; but the evil is the work of the Enemy, and therefore
it is that, only when a man is excited by some evil passion, and is not in
his sound natural condition, he does the things that are bad. For know,
my son, that for a man to praise and bless his friend is an easy thing; but
for a man to refrain from taunting and reviling one whom he hates is not
easy: nevertheless, it is possible. When, too, a man does that which is
right, his mind is gladdened, and his conscience at ease, and he is pleased
for every one to see what he does. But, when a man behaves amiss and
commits wrong, he is troubled and excited, and full of anger and rage, and
distressed in his soul and in his body; and, when he is in this state of
mind, he does not like to be seen by any one; and even those things in
which he rejoices, and which are accompanied with praise and blessing from
others, are spurned from his thoughts, while those things by which he is
agitated and disturbed are rendered more distressing to him because
accompanied by the curse of conscious guilt.
"Perhaps, however, some one will say that fools also are pleased when
they do abominable things. Undoubtedly: but not because they do them as
such, nor because they receive any conmendation far them, nor because they
do them with a good hope; nor does the pleasure itself stay long with
them. For the pleasure which is experienced in a healthy state of the soul,
with a good hope, is one thing; and the pleasure of a diseased state of the
soul, with a bad hope, is another. For lust is one thing, and love is
another; and friendship is one thing, and good-fellowship another; and we
ought without any difficulty to understand that the false counterfeit of
affection which is called lust, even though there be in it the enjoyment of
the moment, is nevertheless widely different from true affection, whose
enjoyment is for ever, incorruptible and indestructible."
"Avida here," said I to him, "has also been speaking thus: ' It is from
his nature that man does wrong; for, were he not naturally formed to do
wrong, he would not do it.'"
"If all men," said Bardesan, "acted alike, and followed one bias,
it would then be manifest that it was their nature that guided them, and
that they had not that freedom of which I have been speaking to you. That
you may understand, however, what is nature and what is freedom, I will
proceed to inform you.
"The nature of man is, that he should be born, and grow up, and rise to
his full stature, and produce children, and grow old, eating and drinking,
and sleeping and waking, and that then he should die. These things, because
they are of nature, belong to all men; and not to all men only, but also to
all animals whatsoever, and some of them also to trees. For this is the
work of physical nature, which makes and produces and regulates
everything just as it has been commanded. Nature, I say, is found to be
maintained among animals also in their actions. For the lion eats flesh, in
accordance with his nature; and therefore all lions are eaters of flesh.
The sheep eats grass; and therefore all sheep are eaters of grass, The bee
makes honey, by which it is sustained; therefore all bees are makers of
honey. The ant collects for herself a store in summer, from which to
sustain herself in winter; and therefore do all ants act likewise. The
scorpion strikes with its sting him who has not hurt it; and thus do all
scorpions strike. Thus all animals preserve their nature: the eaters of
flesh do not eat herbage; nor do the eaters of herbage eat flesh.
"Men, on the contrary, are not governed thus; but, whilst in the
matters pertaining to their bodies they preserve their nature like animals,
in the matters pertaining to their minds they do that which they choose, as
those who are free, and endowed with power, and as made in the likeness
of God. For there are some of them that eat flesh, and do not touch bread;
and there are some of them that make a distinction between the several
kinds of flesh-food; and there are some of them that do not eat the flesh
of any animal whatever. There are some of them that become the husbands
of their mothers, and of their sisters, and of their daughters; and there
are some who do not consort with women at all. There are those who take it
upon themselves to inflict vengeance, like lions and leopards; and there
are those who strike him that has not done them any wrong, like scorpions;
and there are those that are led like sheep, and do not harm their
conductors. There are some that behave themselves with kindness, and some
with justice, and some with wickedness.
"If any one should say that each one of them has a nature so to do, let
him be assured that it is not so. For there are those who once were
profligates and drunkards; and, when the admonition of good counsels
reached them, they became pure and sober, and spurned their bodily
appetites. And there are those who once behaved with purity and sobriety;
and when they turned away from right admonition, and dared to set
themselves against the commands of Deity and of their teachers, they fell
from the way of truth, and became profligates and revellers. And there are
those who after their fall repented again, and fear came and abode upon
them, and they turned themselves afresh towards the truth which they had
"What, therefore, is the nature of man? For, lo! all men differ one
from another in their conduct and in their aims, and such only as are
of one mind and of one purpose resemble one another. But those men who,
up to the present moment, have been enticed by their appetites and governed
by their anger, are resolved to ascribe any wrong they do to their Maker,
that they themselves may be found faultless, and that He who made them may,
in the idle talk of men, bear the blame. They do not consider that
nature is amenable to no law. For a man is not found fault with for being
tall or short in his stature, or white or black, or because his eyes are
large or small, or for any bodily defect whatsoever; but he is found fault
with if he steal, or lie, or practise deceit, or poison another, or be
abusive, or do any other such-like things.
"From hence, lo! it will be evident, that for those things which are
not in our own hands, but which we have from nature, we are in no wise
condemned, nor are we in any wise justified; but by those things which we
do in the exercise of our personal freedom, if they be right we are
justified and entitled to praise, and if they be wrong we are condemned and
subjected to blame."
Again we questioned him, and said to him: "There are others who say
that men are governed by the decree of Fate, so as to act at one time
wickedly, and at another time well."
"I too am aware, O Philip and Baryama," said he to us, "that there are
such men: those who are called Chaldaeans, and also others who are fond of
this subtle knowledge, as I myself also once was. For it has been said
by me in another place, that the soul of man longs to know that which
the many are ignorant of, and those men make it their aim to do this;
and that all the wrong which men commit, and all that they do aright, and
all those things which happen to them, as regards riches and poverty, and
sickness and health, and blemishes of the body, come to them through the
governance of those stars which are called the Seven; and that they
are, in fact, governed by them. But there are others who affirm the
opposite of these things,--how that this art is a lying invention of the
astrologers; or that Fate has no existence whatever, but is an empty
name; that, on the contrary, all things, great and small, are placed in the
hands of man; and that bodily blemishes and faults simply befall and happen
to him by chance. But others, again, say that whatsoever a man does he does
of his own will, in the exercise of the freedom which has been given to
him, and that the faults and blemishes and other untoward things which
befall him he receives as punishment from God.
"For myself, however according to my weak judgment, the matter
appears to stand thus: that these three opinions are partly to be
accepted as true, and partly to be rejected as false;--accepted as true,
because men speak after the appearances which they see, and also because
these men see how things come upon them as if accidentally; to be set aside
as fallacious, because the wisdom of God is too profound for them--that
wisdom which rounded the world, and created man, and ordained Governors,
and gave to all things the degree of pre-eminence which is suited to every
one of them. What I mean is, that this power is possessed by God, and the
Angels, and the Potentates, and the Governors, and the Elements,
and men, and animals; but that this power has not been given to all these
orders of beings of which I have spoken in respect to everything (for He
that has power over everything is One); but over some things they have
power, and over some things they have not power, as I have been saying: in
order that in those things over which they have power the goodness of God
may be seen, and in those over which they have no power they may know that
they have a Superior.
"There is, then, such a thing as Fate, as the astrologers say. That
everything, moreover, is not under the control of our will, is apparent
from this--that the majority of men have had the will to be rich, and to
exercise dominion over their fellows, and to be healthy in their bodies,
and to have things in subjection to them as they please; but that wealth is
not found except with a few, nor dominion except with one here and another
there, nor health of body with all men; and that even those who are rich do
not have complete possession of their riches, nor do those who are in power
have things in subjection to them as they wish, but that sometimes things
are disobedient to them as they do not wish; and that at one time the rich
are rich as they desire, and at another time they become poor as they do
not desire; and that those who are thoroughly poor have dwellings such as
they do not wish, and pass their lives in the world as they do not like,
and covet many things which only flee from them. Many have children, and do
not rear them; others rear them, and do not retain possession of them;
others retain possession of them, and they become a disgrace and a sorrow
to their parents. Some are rich, as they wish, and are afflicted with ill-
health, as they do not wish; others are blessed with good health, as they
wish, and afflicted with poverty, as they do not wish. There are those who
have in abundance the things they wish for, and but few of those things for
which they do not wish; and there are others who have in abundance the
things they do not wish for, and but few of those for which they do
"And so the matter is found to stand thus: that wealth, and honours,
and health, and sickness, and children, and all the other various objects
of desire, are placed under the control of Fate, and are not in our own
power; but that, on the contrary, while we are pleased and delighted with
such things as are in accordance with our wishes, towards such as we do not
wish for we are drawn by force; and, from those things which happen to us
when we are not pleased, it is evident that those things also with which we
are pleased do not happen to us because we desire them; but that things
happen as they do happen, and with some of them we are pleased, and with
"And thus we men are found to be governed by Nature all alike, and by
Fate variously, and by our freedom each as he chooses.
"But let us now proceed to show with respect to Fate that it has not
power over everything. Clearly not: because that which is called Fate is
itself nothing more than a certain order of procession, which has been
given to the Potentates and Elements by God; and, in conformity with this
said procession and order, intelligences undergo change when they
descend to be with the soul, and souls undergo change when they
descend to be with bodies; and this order, under the name of Fate and
genesid, is the agent of the changes that take place
in this assemblage of parts of which man consists, which is being sired
and purified for the benefit of whatsoever by the grace of God and by
goodness has been benefited, and is being and will continue to be benefited
until the close of all things.
"The body, then, is governed by Nature, the soul also sharing in its
experiences and sensations; and the body is neither hindered nor helped by
Fate in the several acts it performs. For a man does not become a father
before the age of fifteen, nor does a woman become a mother before the age
of thirteen. In like manner, too, there is a law for old age: for women
then become incapable of bearing, and men cease to possess the natural
power of begetting children; while other animals, which are likewise
governed by their nature, do, even before those ages I have mentioned, not
only produce offspring, but also become too old to do so, just as the
bodies of men also, when they are grown old, cease to propagate: nor is
Fate able to give them offspring at a time when the body has not the
natural power to give them. Neither, again, is Fate able to preserve the
body of man in life without meat and drink; nor yet, even when it has meat
and drink, to grant it exemption from death: for these and many other
things belong exclusively to Nature.
"But, when the times and methods of Nature have had their full scope,
then does Fate come and make its appearance among them, and produce effects
of various kinds: at one time helping Nature and augmenting its power, and
at another crippling and baffling it. Thus, from Nature comes the growth
and perfecting of the body; but apart from Nature, that is by Fate, come
diseases and blemishes in the body. From Nature comes the union of male and
female, and the unalloyed happiness of them both; but from Fate comes
hatred and the dissolution of the union, and, moreover, all that impurity
and lasciviousness which by reason of the natural propensity to intercourse
men practise in their lust. From Nature comes birth and children; and from
Fate, that sometimes the children are deformed, and sometimes are cast
away, and sometimes die before their time. From Nature comes a supply of
nourishment sufficient for the bodies of all creatures; and from Fate
comes the want of sustenance, and consequent suffering in those bodies; and
so, again, from the same Fate comes gluttony and unnecessary luxury. Nature
ordains that the aged shall be judges for the young, and the wise for the
foolish, mid that the strong shall be set over the weak, and the brave
over the timid; but Fate brings it to pass that striplings are set over the
aged, and the foolish over the wise, and that in time of war the weak
command the strong, and the timid the brave.
"You must distinctly understand that, in all cases in which Nature
is disturbed from its direct course, its disturbance comes by reason of
Fate; and this happens because the Chiefs and Governors, with whom rests
that agency of change which is called Nativity, are opposed to one
another. Some of them, which are called Dexter, are those which help
Nature, and add to its predominance, whenever the procession is
favourable to them, and they stand in those regions of the zodiac which are
in the ascendant, in their own portions.  Those, on the contrary, which
are called Sinister are evil, and whenever they in their turn are in
possession of the ascendant they act in opposition to Nature; and not on
men only do they inflict harm, but at times on animals also, and trees, and
fruits, and the produce of the year, and fountains of water, and, in short,
on everything that is comprised within Nature, which is under their
"And in consequence of this,--namely, the divisions and parties which
exist among the Potentates,--some men have thought that the world is
governed by these contending powers without any superintendence from above.
But that is because they do not understand that this very thing--I mean the
parties and divisions subsisting among them,--and the justification and
condemnation consequent on their behaviour, belong to that constitution of
things rounded in freedom which has been given by God, to the end that
these agents likewise, by reason of their self-determining power, may be
either justified or condemned. Just as we see that Fate crushes Nature, so
can we also see the freedom of man defeating and crushing Fate itself,--
not, however, in everything,--just as also Fate itself does not in
everything defeat Nature. For it is proper that the three things, Nature,
and Fate, and Freedom, should be continued in existence until the
procession of which I before spoke be completed, and the appointed measure
and number of its evaluations be accomplished, even as it seemed good to
Him who ordains of what kind shall be the mode of life and the end of all
creatures, and the condition of all beings and natures. "
"I am convinced," said Avida, "by the arguments thou hast brought
forward, that it is not from his nature that a man does wrong, and also
that all men are not governed alike. If thou canst further prove also that
it is not from Fate and Destiny that those who do wrong so act, then will
it be incumbent on us to believe that man possesses personal freedom, and
by his nature has the power both to follow that which is right and to avoid
that which is wrong, and will therefore also justly be judged at the last
"Art thou," said Bardesan, "by the fact that all men are not governed
alike, convinced that it is not from their nature that they do wrong? Why,
then, thou canst not possibly escape the conviction that neither also
from Fate exclusively do they do wrong, if we are able to show thee that
the sentence of the Fates and Potentates does not influence all men alike,
but that we have freedom in our own selves, so that we can avoid serving
physical nature and being influenced by the control of the Potentates."
"Prove me this," said Avida, "and I will be convinced by thee, and
whatsover thou shalt enjoin upon me I will do."
"Hast thou," said Bardesan, " read the books of the astrologers ,o who
are in Babylon, in which is described what effects the stars have in their
various combinations at the Nativities of men; and the books of the
Egyptians, in which are described all the various characters which men
happen to have?"
"I have read books of. astrology," said Avida, "but I do not know
which are those of the Babylonians and which those of the Egyptians."
"The teaching of both countries," said Bardesan, "is the same."
"It is well known to be so," said Avida.
"Listen, then," said Bardesan, "and observe, that that which the stars
decree by their Fate and their portions is not practised by all men alike
who are in all parts of the earth. For men have made laws for themselves in
various countries, in the exercise of that freedom which was given them by
God: forasmuch as this gift is in its very nature opposed to that Fate
emanating from the Potentates, who assume to themselves that which was not
given them. I will begin my enumeration of these laws, so far as I can
remember them, from the East, the beginning of the whole world:--
"Laws of the Seres.--The Seres have laws forbidding to kill, or to
commit impurity, or to worship idols; and in the whole of Serica there are
no idols, and no harlots, nor any one that kills a man, nor any that is
killed: although they, like other men, are born at all hours and on all
days. Thus the fierce Mars, whensoever he is ' posited' in the zenith, does
not overpower the freedom of the Seres, and compel a man to shed the blood
of his fellow with an iron weapon; nor does Venus, when posited with Mars,
compel any man whatever among the Seres to consort with his neighbour's
wife, or with any other woman. Rich and poor, however, and sick people and
healthy, and rulers and subjects, are there: because such matters are given
into the power of the Governors.
"Laws of the Brahmans who are in India.Again, among the Hindoos, the
Brahmans, of whom there are many thousands and tens of thousands, have a
law forbidding to kill at all, or to pay reverence to idols, or to commit
impurity, or to eat flesh, or to drink wine; and among these people not one
of these things ever takes place. Thousands of years, too, have elapsed,
during which these men, lo! have been governed by this law which they made
"Another Law which is in India.--There is also another law in India,
and in the same zone, prevailing among those who are not of the caste
of the Brahmans, and do not embrace their teaching, bidding them serve
idols, and commit impurity, and kill, and do other bad things, which by the
Brahmans are disapproved. In the same zone of India, too, there are men who
are in the habit of eating the flesh of men, just as all other nations eat
the flesh of animals. Thus the evil stars have not compelled the Brahmans
to do evil and impure things; nor have the good stars prevailed on the rest
of the Hindoos to abstain from doing evil things; nor have those stars
which are well 'located' in the regions which properly belong to them,
and in the signs of the zodiac favourable to a humane disposition,
prevailed on those who eat the flesh of men to abstain from using this foul
and abominable food.
"Laws of the Persians.--The Persians, again, have made themselves laws
permitting them to take as wives their sisters, and their daughters, and
their daughters' daughters; and there are some who go yet further, and take
even their mothers. Some of these said Persians are scattered abroad, away
from their country, and are found in Media, and in the country of the
Parthians, and in Egypt, and in Phrygia (they are called Magi); and in
all the countries and zones in which they are found, they are governed by
this law which was made for their fathers. Yet we cannot say that for all
the Magi, and for the rest of the Persians, Venus was posited with the Moon
and with Saturn in the house of Saturn in her portions, while the aspect of
Mars was toward them. There are many places, too, in the kingdom of the
Parthians, where men kill their wives, and their brothers, and their
children, and incur no penalty; while among the Romans and the Greeks, he
that kills one of these incurs capital punishment, the severest of
"Laws of the Geli.--Among the Geli the women sow and reap, and build,
and perform all the tasks of labourers, and wear no raiment of colours, and
put on no shoes, and use no pleasant ointments; nor does any one find fault
with them when they consort with strangers, or cultivate intimacies with
their household slaves. But the husbands of these Gelae are dressed in
garments of colours, and ornamented with gold and jewels, and anoint
themselves with pleasant ointments. Nor is it on account of any effeminacy
on their part that they act in this manner, but on account of the law which
has been made for them: in fact, all the men are fond of hunting and
addicted to war. But we cannot say that for all the women of the Geli Venus
was posited in Capricorn or in Aquarius, in a position of ill luck; nor can
we possibly say that for all the Geli Mars and Venus were posited in Aries,
where it is written that brave and wanton men are born.
"Laws of the Bactrians.--Among the Bactrians, who are called Cashani,
the women adorn themselves with the goodly raiment of men, and with much
gold, and with costly jewels; and the slaves and handmaids minister to them
more than to their husbands; and they ride on horses decked out with
trapping of gold and with precious stones. These women, moreover, do not
practise continency, but have intimacies with their slaves, and with
strangers who go to that country; and their husbands do not find fault with
them, nor have the women themselves any fear of punishment, because the
Cashani look upon their wives only as mistresses. Yet we cannot say that
for all the Bactrian women Venus and Mars and Jupiter are posited in the
house of Mars in the middle of the heavens, the place where women are
born that are rich and adulterous, and that make their husbands subservient
to them in everything.
"Laws of the Racami, and of the Edessaeans, and of the Arabians.--Among
the Racami, and the Edessaeans, and the Arabians, not only is she that
commits adultery put to death, but she also upon whom rests the
suspicion of adultery suffers capital punishment.
"Laws in Hatra.--There is a law in force in Hatra, that whosoever
steals any little thing, even though it were worthless as water, shall be
stoned. Among the Cashani, on the contrary, if any one commits such a theft
as this, they merely spit in his face. Among the Romans, too, he that
commits a small theft is scourged and sent about his business. On the other
side of the Euphrates, and as you go eastward, he that is stigmatized as
either a thief or a murderer does not much resent it; but, if a man be
stigmatized as an arsenocoete, he will avenge himself even to the extent of
killing his accuser.
"Laws....--Among ... boys ... to us, and are not ... Again, in all
the region of the East, if any persons are thus stigmatized, and are known
to be guilty, their than fathers and brothers put them to death; and very
often they do not even make known the graves where they are buried.
"Such are the laws of the people of the East. But in the North, and in
the country of the Gauls and their neighbours, such youths among them
as are handsome the men take as wives, and they even have feasts on the
occasion; and it is not considered by them as a disgrace, nor as a
reproach, because of the law which prevails among them. But it is a thing
impossible that all those in Gaul who are branded with this disgrace should
at their Nativities have had Mercury posited with Venus in the house of
Saturn, and within the limits of Mars, and in the signs of the zodiac to
the west. For, concerning such men as are born under these conditions, it
is written that they are branded with infamy, as being like women.
"Laws of the Britons. "--Among the Britons many men take one and the
"Laws of the Parthians.--Among the Parthians, on the other hand, one
man takes many wives, and all of them keep to him only, because of the law
which has been made there in that country.
"Laws of the Amazons.--As regards the Amazons, they, all of them, the
entire nation, have no husbands; but like animals, once a year, in the
spring-time, they issue forth from their territories and cross the river;
and, having crossed it, they hold a great festival on a mountain, and the
men from those parts come and stay with them fourteen days, and associate
with them, and they become pregnant by them, and pass over again to their
own country; and, when they are delivered, such of the children as are
males they cast away, and the females they bring up. Now it is evident
that, according to the ordinance of Nature, since they all became pregnant
in one month, they also in one month are all delivered, a little sooner or
a little later; and, as we have heard, all of them are robust and warlike;
but not one of the stars is able to help any of those males who are born so
as to prevent their being east away.
"The Book of the Astrologers.--It is written in the book of the
astrologers, that, when Mercury is posited with Venus in the house of
Mercury, he produces painters, sculptors, and bankers; but that, when they
are in the house of Venus, they produce perfumers, and dancers, and
singers, and poets. And yet, in all the country of the Tayites and of the
Saracens, and in Upper Libya and among the Mauritanians, and in the country
of the Nomades, which is at the mouth of the Ocean, and in outer Germany,
and in Upper Sarmatia, and in Spain, and in all the countries to the north
of Pontus, and in all the country of the Alanians, and among the Albanians,
and among the Zazi, and in Brusa, which is beyond the Douro, one sees
neither sculptors, nor painters, nor perfumers, nor bankers, nor poets;
but, on the contrary, this decree of Mercury and Venus is prevented from
influencing the entire circumference of the world. In the whole of Media,
all men when they die, and even while life is still remaining in them, are
cast to the dogs, and the dogs eat the dead of the whole of Media. Yet we
cannot say that all the Medians are born having the Moon posited with Mars
in Cancer in the day-time beneath the earth: for it is written that those
whom dogs eat are so born. The Hindoos, when they die, are all of them
burnt with fire, and many of their wives are burnt along with them alive.
But we cannot say that all those women of the Hindoos who are burnt had at
their Nativity Mars and the Sun posited in Leo in the night-time beneath
the earth, as those persons are born who are burnt with fire. All the
Germans die by strangulation, except those who are killed in battle. But
it is a thing impossible, that, at the Nativity of all the Germans the Moon
and Hora should have been posited between Mars and Saturn. The truth is,
that in all countries, every day, and at all hours, men are born under
Nativities diverse from one another, and the laws of men prevail over the
decree of the stars, and they are governed by their customs. Fate does not
compel the Seres to commit murder against their wish, nor the Brahmans to
eat flesh; nor does it hinder the Persians from taking as wives their
daughters and their sisters, nor the Hindoos from being burnt, nor the
Medes from being devoured by dogs, nor the Parthians from taking many
wives, nor among the Britons many men from taking one and the same wife,
nor the Edessaeans from cultivating chastity, nor the Greeks from
practising gymnastics, ... , nor the Romans from perpetually seizing upon
other countries, nor the men of the Gauls from marrying one another; nor
does it compel the Amazons to rear the males; nor does his Nativity compel
any man within the circumference of the whole world to cultivate the art of
the Muses; but, as I have already said, in every country and in every
nation all men avail themselves of the freedom of their nature in any way
they choose, and, by reason of the body with which they are clothed, do
service to Fate and to Nature, sometimes as they wish, and at other times
as they do not wish. For in every country and in every nation there are
rich and poor, and rulers and subjects, and people in health and those who
are sick--each one according as Fate and his Nativity have affected him."
"Of these things, Father Bardesan," said I to him, "thou hast convinced
us, and we know that they are true. But knowest thou that the astrologers
say that the earth is divided into seven portions, which are called Zones;
and that over the said portions those seven stars have authority, each of
them over one; and that in each one of the said portions the will of its
own Potentate prevails; and that this is called its law?"
"First of all, know thou, my son Philip," said he to me, "that the
astrologers have invented this statement as a device for the promotion of
error. For, although the earth be divided into seven portions, yet in every
one of the seven portions many laws are to be found differing from one
another. For there are not seven kinds of laws only found in the world,
according to the number of the seven stars; nor yet twelve, according to
the number of the signs of the zodiac; nor yet thirty-six, according to the
number of the Decani. But there are many kinds of laws to be seen as you
go from kingdom to kingdom, from country to country, from district to
district, and in every abode of man, differing one from another. For ye
remember what I said to you--that in one zone, that of the Hindoos, there
are many men that do not eat the flesh of animals, and there are others
that even eat the flesh of men. And again, I told you, in speaking of the
Persians and the Magi, that it is not in the zone of Persia only that they
have taken for wives their daughters and their sisters, but that in every
country to which they have gone they have followed the law of their
fathers, and have preserved the mystic arts contained in that teaching
which they delivered to them. And again, remember that I told you of many
nations spread abroad over the entire circuit of the world, who have not
been confined to any one zone, but have dwelt in every quarter from which
the wind blows, and in all the zones, and who have not the arts which
Mercury and Venus are said to have given when in conjunction with each
other. Yet, if laws were regulated by zones, this could not be; but they
clearly are not: because those men I have spoken of are at a wide remove
from having anything in common with many other men in their habits of life.
"Then, again, how many wise men, think ye, have abolished from their
countries laws which appeared to them not well made? How many laws, also,
are there which have been set aside through necessity? And how many kings
are there who, when they have got possession of countries which did not
belong to them, have abolished their established laws, and made such other
laws as they chose? And, whenever these things occurred, no one of the
stars was able to preserve the law. Here is an instance at hand for you to
see for yourselves: it is but as yesterday since the Romans took possession
of Arabia, and they abolished all the laws previously existing there, and
especially the circumcision which they practised. The truth is, that he
who is his own master is sometimes compelled to obey the law imposed on him
by another, who himself in turn becomes possessed of the power to do as he
"But let me mention to you a fact which more than anything else is
likely to convince the foolish, and such as are wanting in faith. All
the Jews, who received the law through Moses, circumcise their male
children on the eighth day, without waiting for the coming of the proper
stars, or standing in fear of the law of the country where they are living.
Nor does the star which has authority over the zone govern them by force;
but, whether they be in Edom, or in Arabia, or in Greece, or in Persia, or
in the north, or in the south, they carry out this law which was made for
them by their fathers. It is evident that what they do is not from
Nativity: for it is impossible that for all the Jews, on the eighth day, on
which they are circumcised, Mars should ' be in the ascendant,' so that
steel should pass upon them, and their blood be shed. Moreover, all of
them, wherever they are, abstain from paying reverence to idols. One day in
seven, also, they and their children cease from all work,from all building,
and from all travelling, and from all buying and selling; nor do they kill
an animal on the Sabbath-day, nor kindle a fire, nor administer justice;
and there is not found among them any one whom Fate compels, either to
go to law on the Sabbath-day and gain his cause, or to go to law and lose
it, or to pull down, or to build up, or to do any one of those things which
are done by all those men who have not received this law. They have also
other things in respect to which they do not on the Sabbath conduct
themselves like the rest of mankind, though on this same day they both
bring forth and are born, and fall sick and die: for these things do not
pertain to the power of man.
"In Syria and in Edessa men used to part with their manhood in honour
of Tharatha; but, when King Abgar became a believer he commanded that
every one that did so should have his hand cut off, and from that day until
now no one does so in the country of Edessa.
"And what shall we say of the new race of us Christians, whom Christ at
His advent planted in every country and in every region? for, lo! wherever
we are, we are all called after the one name of Christ--Christians. On one
day, the first of the week, we assemble ourselves together, and on the days
of the readings we abstain from taking sustenance. The brethren who are
in Gaul do not take males for wives, nor those who are in Parthia two
wives; nor do those who are in Judges circumcise themselves; nor do our
sisters who are among the Geli consort with strangers; nor do those
brethren who are in Persia take their daughters for wives; nor do those who
are in Media abandon their dead, or bury them alive, or give them as food
to the dogs; nor do those who are in Edessa kill their wives or their
sisters when they commit impurity, but they withdraw from them, and give
them over to the judgment of God; nor do those who are in Hatra stone
thieves to death; but, wherever they are, and in whatever place they are
found, the laws of the several countries do not hinder them from obeying
the law of their Sovereign, Christ; nor does the Fate of the celestial
Governors compel them to make use of things which they regard as impure.
"On the other hand, sickness and health, and riches and poverty, things
which are not within the scope of their freedom, befall them wherever they
are. For although the freedom of man is not influenced by the compulsion of
the Seven, or, if at any time it is influenced, it is able to withstand the
influences exerted upon it, yet, an the other hand, this same man,
externally regarded, cannot on the instant liberate himself from the
command of his Governors: for he is a slave and in subjection. For, if we
were able to do everything, we should ourselves be everything; and, if we
had not the power to do anything, we should be the tools of others.
"But, when God wills them, all things are possible, and they may take
place without hindrance: for there is nothing that can stay that Great and
Holy Will. For even those who think that they successfully withstand it, do
not withstand it by strength, but by wickedness and error. And this may go
on for a little while, because He is kind and forbearing towards all beings
that exist, so as to let them remain as they are, and be governed by
their own will, whilst notwithstanding they are held in check by the works
which have been done and by the arrangements which have been made for their
help. For this well-ordered constitution of things and this government
which have been instituted, and the intermingling of one with another,
serve to repress the violence of these beings, so that they should not
inflict harm on one another to the full, nor yet to the full suffer harm,
as was the case with them before the creation of the world. A time is also
coming when this propensity to inflict harm which still remains in them
shall be brought to an end, through the teaching which shall be given them
amidst intercourse of another kind. And at the establishment of that new
world all evil commotions shall cease, and all rebellions terminate, and
the foolish shall be convinced, and all deficiencies shall be filled up,
and there shall be quietness and peace, through the gift of the Lord of all
Here endeth the Book of the Laws of Countries.
Bardesan, therefore, an aged man, and one celebrated for his knowledge
of events, wrote, in a certain work which was composed by him, concerning
the synchronisms with one another of the luminaries of heaven, speaking
as follows :--
Two revolutions of Saturn, 60 years;
5 revolutions of Jupiter, 60 years;
40 revolutions of Mars, 60 years;
60 revolutions of the Sun, 60 years;
72 revolutions of Venus, 60 years;
150 revolutions of Mercury, 60 years;
720 revolutions of the Moon, 60 years.
And this," says he, "is one synchronism of them all; that is, the time of
one such synchronism of them. So that from hence it appears that to
complete too such synchronisms there will be required six thousands of
years. Thus :--
200 revolutions of Saturn, six thousands of years;
500 revolutions of Jupiter, 6 thousands of years;
4 thousand revolutions of Mars, 6 thousands of years;
Six thousand revolutions of the Sun, 6 thousands of years;
7 thousand and 200 revolutions of Venus, 6 thousands of years;
12 thousand revolutions of Mercury, 6 thousands of years;
72 thousand revolutions of the Moon, 6 thousands of years."
These things did Bardesan thus compute when desiring to show that this
world would stand only six thousands of years.
ANCIENT SYRIAC DOCUMENTS
A LETTER OF MARA, SON OF SERAPION.
MARA, son of Serapion, to Serapion, my son: peace.
When thy master and guardian wrote me a letter, and informed me that
thou wast very diligent in study, though so young in years, I blessed God
that thou, a little boy, and without a guide to direct thee, hadst begun in
good earnest; and to myself also this was a comfort--that I heard of thee,
little boy as thou art, as displaying such greatness of mind and
conscientiousness: a character which, in the case of many who have begun
well, has shown no eagerness to continue.
On this account, lo, I have written for thee this record, touching that
which I have by careful observation discovered in the world. For the kind
of life men lead has been carefully observed by me. I tread the path of
learning, and from the study of Greek philosophy have I found out all
these things, although they suffered shipwreck when the birth of life took
Be diligent, then, my son, in attention to those things which are
becoming for the free, so as to devote thyself to learning, and to
follow after wisdom; and endeavour thus to become confirmed in those habits
with which thou hast begun. Call to mind also my precepts, as a quiet
person who is fond of the pursuit of learning. And, even though such a life
should seem to thee very irksome, yet when thou hast made experience of it
for a little while, it will become very pleasant to thee: for to me also it
so happened. When, moreover, a person has left his home, and is able still
to preserve his previous character, and properly does that which it
behoves him to do, he is that chosen man who is called "the blessing of
God," and one who does not find aught else to compare with his freedom.
For, as for those persons who are called to the pursuit of learning, they
are seeking to extricate themselves from the turmoils of time; and those
who take hold upon wisdom, they are clinging to the hope of righteousness;
and those who take their stand on truth, they are displaying the banner of
their virtue; and those who cultivate philosophy, they are looking to
escape from the vexations of the world. And do thou too, my son, thus
wisely behave thyself in regard to these things, as a wise person who seeks
to spend a pure life; and beware lest the gain which many hunger after
enervate thee, and thy mind turn to covet riches, which have no stability.
For, when they are acquired by fraud, they do not continue; nor, even when
justly obtained, do they last; and all those things which are seen by thee
in the world, as belonging to that which is only for a little time, are
destined to depart like a dream: for they are but as the risings and
settings of the seasons.
About the objects of that vainglory, too, of which the life of men is
full, be not thou solicitous: seeing that from those things which give us
joy there quickly comes to us harm. Most especially is this the case with
the birth of beloved children. For in two respects it plainly brings us
harm: in the case of the virtuous, our very affection for them torments us,
and from their very excellence of character we Suffer torture; and, in the
case of the vicious, we are worried with their correction, and afflicted
with their misconduct.
Thou hast heard, moreover, concerning our companions, that, when
they were leaving Samosata, they were distressed about it, and, as if
complaining of the time in which their lot was cast, said thus: "We are now
far removed from our home, and we cannot return again to our city, or
behold our people, or offer to our gods the greeting of praise." Meet was
it that that day should be called a day of lamentation, because one heavy
grief possessed them all alike. For they wept as they remembered their
fathers, and they thought of their mothers with sobs, and they were
distressed for their brethren, and grieved for their betrothed whom they
had left behind. And, although we had heard that their former companions
were proceeding to Seleucia, we clandestinely set out, and proceeded on the
way towards them, and united our own misery with theirs. Then was our grief
exceedingly violent, and fitly did our weeping abound, by reason of our
desperate plight, and our wailing gathered itself into a dense cloud,
and our misery grew raster than a mountain: for not one of us had the power
to ward off the disasters that assailed him. For affection for the living
was intense, as well as sorrow for the dead, and our miseries were driving
us on without any way of escape. For we saw our brethren and our children
captives, and we remembered our deceased companions, who were laid to rest
in a foreign land. Each one of us, too, was anxious for himself, lest he
should have disaster added to disaster, or lest another calamity should
overtake that which went before it. What enjoyment could men have that were
prisoners, and who experienced things like these?
But as for thee, my beloved, be not distressed because in thy
loneliness thou hast been driven from place to place. For to these
things men are born, since they are destined to meet with the accidents of
time. But rather let thy thought be this, that to wise men every place is
alike, and that in every city the good have many fathers and mothers. Else,
if thou doubt it, take thee a proof from what thou hast seen thyself. How
many people who know thee not love thee as one of their own children; and
what a host of women receive thee as they would their own beloved ones
!Verily, as a stranger thou hast been fortunate; verily, for thy small love
many people have conceived an ardent affection for thee.
What, again, are we to say concerning the delusion which has taken
up its abode in the world? Both by reason of toil painful is the journey
through it, and by its agitations are we, like a reed by the force of the
wind, bent now in this direction, now in that. For I have been amazed at
many who cast away their children, and I have been astonished at others who
bring up those that are not theirs. There are persons who acquire riches in
the world, and I have also been astonished at others who inherit that which
is not of their own acquisition. Thus mayest thou understand and see that
we are walking under the guidance of delusion.
Begin and tell us, O wisest of men, on which of his possessions a
man can place reliance, or concerning what things he can say that they are
such as abide. Wilt thou say so of abundance of riches? they are snatched
away. Of fortresses? they are spoiled. Of cities? they are laid waste. Of
greatness? it is brought down. Of magnificence? it is overthrown. Of
beauty? it withers. Or of laws? they pass away. Or of poverty? it is
despised. Or of children? they die. Or of friends? they prove false. Or of
the praises of men? jealousy goes before them.
Let a man, therefore, rejoice in his empire, like Darius; or in his
good fortune, like Polycrates; or in his bravery, like Achilles; or in his
wife, like Agamemnon; or in his offspring, like Priam; or in his skill,
like Archimedes; or in his wisdom, like Socrates; or in his learning, like
Pythagoras; or in his ingenuity, like Palamedes;--the life of men, my son,
departs from the world, but their praises and their virtues abide for ever.
Do thou, then, my little son, choose thee that which fadeth not away.
For those who occupy themselves with these things are called modest, and
are beloved, and lovers of a good name.
When, moreover, anything untoward befalls thee, do not lay the blame on
man, nor be angry against God, nor fulminate against the time thou livest
If thou shalt continue in this mind, thy gift it not small which thou
hast received from God, which has no need of riches, and is never reduced
to poverty. For without fear shalt thou pass thy life, and with
rejoicing. For fear and apologies for one's nature belong not to the wise,
but to such as walk contrary to law. For no man has even been deprived of
his wisdom, as of his property.
Follow diligently learning rather than riches. For the greater are
one's possessions, the greater is the evil attendant upon them. For I have
myself observed that, where a man's goods are many, so also are the
tribulations which happen to him; and, where luxuries are accumulated,
there also do sorrows congregate; and, where riches are abundant, there is
stared up the bitterness of many a year.
If, therefore, thou shalt behave with understanding, and shalt
diligently watch over thy conduct, God will not refrain from helping thee,
nor men from loving thee.
Let that which thou art able to acquire suffice thee; and if, moreover,
thou art able to do without property, thou shale be called blessed, and no
man whatsover shall be jealous of thee.
And remember also this, that nothing will disturb thy life very
greatly, except it be the love of gain; and that no man after his death is
called an owner of property: because it is by the desire of this that weak
men are led captive, and they know not that a man dwells among his
possessions only in the manner of a chance-comer, and they are haunted with
fear because these possessions are not secured to them: for they abandoned
that which is their own, and seek that which is not theirs.
What are we to say, when the wise are dragged by force by the hands of
tyrants, and their wisdom is deprived of its freedom by slander, and
they are plundered for their superior intelligence, without the opportunity
of making a defence? They are not wholly to be pitied. For what benefit did
the Athenians obtain by putting Socrates to death, seeing that they
received as retribution for it famine and pestilence? Or the people of
Samos by the burning of Pythagoras, seeing that in one hour the. whole
of their country was covered with sand? Or the Jews by the murder of their
Wise King, seeing that from that very time their kingdom was driven away
from them? For with justice did God grant a recompense to the wisdom of all
three of them. For the Athenians died by famine; and the people of Samos
were covered by the sea without remedy; and the Jews, brought to desolation
and expelled from their kingdom, are driven away into Every land. Nay,
Socrates did "not" die, because of Plato; nor yet Pythagoras, because of
the statue of Hera; nor yet the Wise King, because of the new laws which he
Moreover I, my son, have attentively observed mankind, in what a dismal
state of ruin they are. And I have been amazed that they are not utterly
prostrated by the calamities which surround them, and that even their
wars are not enough for them, nor the pains they endure, nor the
diseases, nor the death, nor the poverty; but that, like savage beasts,
they must needs rush upon one another in their enmity, trying which of them
shall inflict the greater mischief on his fellow. For they have broken away
from the bounds of truth, and transgress all honest laws, because they are
bent on fulfilling their selfish desires; for, whensoever a man is eagerly
set on obtaining that which he desires, how is it possible that he should
fitly do that which it behoves him to do? and they acknowledge no
restraint, and but seldom stretch out their hands towards truth and
goodness, but in their manner of life behave like the deaf and the
blind. Moreover, the wicked rejoice, and the righteous are disquieted. He
that has, denies that he has; and he that has not, struggles to acquire.
The poor seek help, and the rich hide their wealth, and every man laughs at
his fellow. Those that are drunken are stupefied, and those that have
recovered themselves are ashamed. Some weep, and some sing; and some
laugh, and others are a prey to care. They rejoice in things evil, and a
man that speaks the truth they despise.
Should a man, then, be surprised when the world is seeking to wither
him with its scorn, seeing that they and he have not one and the same
manner of life? "These" are the things for which they care. One of them is
looking forward to the time when in battle he shah obtain the renown of
victory; yet the valiant perceive not by how many foolish objects of desire
a man is led captive in the world. But would that for a little while self-
repentance visited them! For, while victorious by their bravery, they are
overcome by the power of covetousness. For I have made trial of men, and
with this result: that the one thing on which they are intent, is abundance
of riches. Therefore also it is that they have no settled purpose; but,
through the instability of their minds, a man is of a sudden cast down from
his elation of spirit to be swallowed up with sadness. They look not at the
vast wealth of eternity, nor consider that every visitation of trouble is
conducting us all alike to the same final period. For they are devoted to
the majesty of the belly, that huge blot an the character of the vicious.
Moreover, as regards this letter which it has come into my mind to
write to thee, it is not enough to read it, but the best thing is that it
be put in practice. For I know for myself, that when thou shale have
made experiment of this mode of life, it will be very pleasant to thee, and
thou wilt be free from sore vexation; because it is only on account of
children that we tolerate riches.
Put, therefore, sadness away from thee, O most beloved of mankind,--a
thing which never in anywise benefits a man; and drive care away from thee,
which brings with it no advantage whatsoever. For we have no resource or
skill that can avail us--nothing but a great mind able to cope with the
disasters and to endure the tribulations which we are always receiving at
the hands of the times. For at these things does it behove us to look, and
not only at those which are fraught with rejoicing and good repute.
Devote thyself to wisdom, the fount of all things good, the treasure
that faileth not. There shalt thou lay thy head, and be at ease. For this
shall be to thee father and mother, and a good companion for thy life.
Enter into closest intimacy with fortitude and patience, those virtues
which are able successfully to encounter the tribulations that befall
feeble men. For so great is their strength, that they are adequate to
sustain hunger, and can endure thirst, and mitigate every trouble. With
toil, moreover, yea even with dissolution, they make right merry.
To these things give diligent attention, and thou shalt lead an
untroubled life, and I also Shall have comfort, and thou shalt be called
"the delight of his parents."
For in that time of yore, when our city was standing in her greatness,
thou mayest be aware that against many persons among us abominable words
were uttered; but for ourselves, we acknowledged long ago that we
received love, no less than honour, to the fullest extent from the
multitude of her people: it was the state of the times only that forbade
our completing those: things which we had resolved on doing. And here
also in the prison-house we give thanks to God that we have received the
love of many: for we are striving to our utmost to maintain a life of
sobriety and cheerfulness; and, if any one drive us by force, he will
but be bearing public testimony against himself, that he is estranged from
all things good, and he will receive disgrace and shame from the foul mark
of shame that is upon him. For we have shown our truth--that truth which in
our now ruined kingdom we possessed not. But, if the Romans shall permit
us to go back to our own country, as called upon by justice and
righteousness to do, they will be acting like humane men, and will earn the
name of good and righteous, and at the same time will have a peaceful
country in which to dwell: for they will exhibit their greatness when they
shall leave us free men, and we shall be obedient to the sovereign power
which the time has allotted to us. But let them not like tyrants, drive us
as though we were slaves. Yet, if it has been already determined what shall
be done, we shall receive nothing more dreadful than the peaceful death
which is in store for us.
But thou, my little son, if thou resolve diligently to acquaint thyself
with these things, first of all put a check on appetite, and set limits to
that in which thou art indulging. Seek the power to refrain from being
angry; and, instead of yielding to outbursts of passion, listen to the
promptings of kindness.
For myself, what I am henceforth solicitous about is this--that, so far
as I have recollections of the past, I may leave behind me a book
containing them, and with a prudent mind finish the journey which I am
appointed to take, and depart without suffering out of the sad afflictions
of the world. For my prayer is, that I may receive my dismissal; and by
what kind of death concerns me not. But, if any one should be troubled or
anxious about this, I have no counsel to give him: for yonder, in the
dwelling-place of all the world, will he find us before him.
One of his friends asked Mara, son of Serapion, when in bonds at his
side: "Nay, by thy life, Mara, tell me what cause of laughter thou hast
seen, that thou laughest." "I am laughing," said Mara, "at Time:
inasmuch as, although he has not borrowed any evil from me, he is paying me
Here endeth the letter of Mara, son of Serapion.
ANCIENT SYRIAC DOCUMENTS
A MEMORIAL a which Ambrose, a chief man of Greece, wrote: who became
a Christian, and all his fellow-senators raised an outcry against him; and
he fled from them, and wrote and pointed out to them all their foolishness.
Beginning his discourse, he answered and said:--
Think not, men of Greece, that my separation from your customs has been
made without a just and proper reason. For I acquainted myself with all
your wisdom, consisting of poetry, of oratory, of philosophy; and when I
found not there anything agreeable to what is right, or that is worthy of
the divine nature, I resolved to make myself acquainted with the wisdom of
the Christians also, and to learn and see who they are, and when they took
their rise, and what is the nature of this new and strange wisdom of
theirs, or on what good hopes those who are imbued with it rely, that
they speak only that which is true.
Men of Greece, when I came to examine the Christian writings, I found
not any folly sin them, as I had found not any folly in them, as I had
found in the celebrated Homer, who has said concerning the wars of the two
trials: "Because of Helen, many of the Greeks perished at Troy, away
from their beloved home." For, first of all, we are told concerning
Agamemnon their king, that by reason of the foolishness of his brother
Menelaus, and the violence of his madness, and the uncontrollable nature of
his passion, he resolved to go and rescue Helen from the hands of a certain
leprous shepherd; and afterwards, when the Greeks had become victorious
in the war, and burnt cities, and taken women and children captive, and the
land was filled with blood, and the rivers with corpses, Agamemnon himself
also was found to be taken captive by his passion for Briseis. Patroclus,
again, we are told, was slain, and Achilles, the son of the goddess Thetis,
mourned over him; Hector was dragged along the ground, and Priam and Hecuba
together were weeping over the loss of their children; Astyanax, the son of
Hector, was thrown down from the walls of Ilion, and his mother Andromache
the mighty Ajax bore away into captivity; and that which was taken as booty
was after a little while, all squandered in sensual indulgence.
Of the wiles of Odysseus the son of Laertes, and of his murders, who
shall tell the tale? For of a hundred and ten suitors did his house in one
day become the grave, and it was filled with corpses and blood. He, too, it
was that by his wickedness gained the praises of men, because through his
pre-eminence in craft he escaped detection; he, too, it was who, you say,
sailed upon the sea, and heard not the voice of the Sirens only because he
stopped his ears with wax.
The famous Achilles, again, the son of Peleus, who bounded across the
river, and routed the Trojans, and slew Hector,--this said hero of
yours became the slave of Philoxena, and was overcome by an Amazon as she
lay dead and stretched upon her bier; and he put off his armour, and
arrayed himself in nuptial garments, and finally fell a sacrifice to love.
Thus much concerning your great "men;" and thou, Homer, hadst
deserved forgiveness, if thy silly story-telling had gone so far only as to
prate about men, and not about the gods. As for what he says about the
gods, I am ashamed even to speak of it: for the stories that have been
invented about them are very wicked and shocking; passing stranger too, and
not to be believed; and, if the truth must be told, fit only to be
laughed at. For a person will be compelled to laugh when he meets with
them, and will not believe them when he hears them. For think of gods who
did not one of them observe the laws of rectitude, or of purity, or of
modesty, but were adulterers, and spent their time in debauchery, and yet
were not condemned to death, as they ought to have been!
Why, the sovereign of the gods, the very "father of gods and men," not
only, as ye say, was an adulterer (this was but a light thing), but even
slew his own father, and was a paederast. I will first of all speak of his
adultery, though I blush to do so: for he appeared to Antiope as a satyr,
and descended upon Danae as a shower of gold, and became a bull for Europa,
and a swan for Leda; whilst the love of Semele, the mother of Dionysus,
exposed both his own ardency of passion and the jealousy of the chaste
Hera. Ganymede the Phrygian, too, he carried off disguised as an eagle,
that the fair and comely boy, forsooth, might serve as cup-bearer to him.
This said sovereign of the gods, moreover killed his father Kronos, that he
might seize upon his kingdom.
Oh! to how many charges is the sovereign of the gods amenable, and
how many deaths does he deserve to die, as an adulterer, and as a
sorcerer, and as a paederast! Read to the sovereign of the gods, O men
of Greece, the law concerning parricide, and the condemnation pronounced on
adultery, and about the shame that attaches to the vile sin of paederasty.
How many adulterers has the sovereign of the gods indoctrinated in sin!
Nay, how many paederasts, and sorcerers, and murderers! So that, if a man
be found indulging his passions, he must not be put to death: because he
has done this that he may become like the sovereign of the gods; and, if he
be found a murderer, he has an excuse in the sovereign of the gods; and, if
a man be a sorcerer, he has learned it from the sovereign of the gods; and,
if he be a paederast, the sovereign of the gods is his apologist. Then,
again, if one should speak of courage, Achilles was more valiant that this
said sovereign of the gods: for he slew the man that slew his friend; but
the sovereign of the gods wept over Sarpedon his son when he was dying,
being distressed for him.
Pluto, again, who is a god, carried off Kora, and the mother of Kora
was hurrying hither and thither searching for her daughter in all desert
places; and, although Alexander Paris, when he had carried off Helen, paid
the penalty of vengeance, as having made himself her lover by force, yet
Pluto, who is a god, when he carried off Kora, remained without rebuke;
and, although Menelaus, who is a man, knew how to search for Helen his
wife, yet Demeter, who is a goddess, knew not where to search for Kora her
Let Hephaestus put away jealousy from him, and not indulge
resentment. For he was hated, because he was old and lame; while Ares
was loved, because he was a youth and beautiful in form. There was,
however, a reproof administered in respect of the adultery. Hephaestus was
not, indeed, at first aware of the love existing between Venus his wife
and Ares; but, when he did become acquainted with it, Hephaestus said:
"Come, see a ridiculous and senseless piece of behaviour--how to me, who am
her own, Venus, the daughter of the sovereign of the gods, is offering
insult--to me, I say, who am her own, and is paying honour to Ares, who is
a stranger to her." But to the sovereign of the gods it was not
displeasing: for he loved such as were like these. Penelope, moreover,
remained a widow twenty years, because she was expecting the return of her
husband Odysseus, and busied herself with cunning tasks, and persevered
in works of skill, while all those suitors kept pressing her to marry them;
but Venus, who is a goddess, when Hephaestus her husband was close to her,
deserted him, because she was overcome by love for Ares. Hearken, men of
Greece: which of you would have dared to do this, or would even have
endured to see it? And, if any one "should" dare to act so, what torture
would be in store for him, or what scourgings!
Kronos, again, who is a god, who devoured all those children of his,
was not even brought before a court of justice. They further tell us that
the sovereign of the gods, his son, was the only one that escaped from him;
and that the madness of Kronos his father was cheated of its purpose
because Rhea his wife, the mother of the sovereign of the gods, offered him
a stone in the place of the said sovereign of the gods, his son, to prevent
him from devouring him. Hearken, men of Greece, and reflect upon this
madness! Why, even the dumb animal that grazes in the field knows its
proper food, and does not touch strange food; the wild beast, too, and the
reptile, and the bird, know their food. As for men, I need not say anything
about them: ye yourselves are acquainted with their food, and understand it
well. But Kronos, who is a god, not knowing his proper food, ate up a
Therefore, O men of Greece, if ye will have such gods as these, do not
find fault with one another when ye do such-like things. Be not angry with
thy son when he forms the design to kill thee: because he thus resembles
the sovereign of the gods. And, if a man commit adultery with thy wife, why
dost thou think of him as an enemy, and yet to the sovereign of the gods,
who is like him, doest worship and service? Why, too, dost thou find fault
with thy wife when she has committed adultery and leads a dissolute
life, and yet payest honour to Venus, and placest her images in shrines?
Persuade your Solon to repeal his laws; Lycurgus, also, to make no laws;
let the Areopagus repeal theirs, and judge no more; and let the
Athenians have councils no longer. Let the Athenians discharge Socrates
from his office: for no one like Kronos has ever come before him. Let them
not put to death Orestes, who killed his mother: for, lo! the sovereign of
the gods did worse things than these to his father. OEdipus also too
hastily inflicted mischief on himself, in depriving his eyes of sight,
because he had killed his mother unwittingly: for he did not think about
the sovereign of the gods, who killed his father and yet remained without
punishment. Medea, again, who killed her children, the Corinthians banish
from their country; and yet they do service and honour to Kronos, who
devoured his children. Then, too, as regards Alexander Paris--he was fight
in carrying off Helen: for he did it that he might become like Pluto, who
carded off Kora. Let your men be set free from law, and let your cities be
the abode of wanton women, and a dwelling-place for sorcerers.
Wherefore, O men of Greece, seeing that your gods are grovelling like
yourselves, and your heroes destitute of courage, as your dramas tell
and your stories declare--then, again, what shall be said of the
tribulations of Orestes; and the couch of Thyestes; and the foul taint in
the family of Pelops; and concerning Danaus, who through jealousy killed
his sons-in-law, and deprived them of offspring; the banquet of Thyestes,
too, feeding upon the corpse set before him by way of vengeance for her
whom he had wronged; about Procne also, to this hour screaming as she
flies; her sister too, warbling, with her tongue cut out? What,
moreover, is it fitting to say about the murder committed by OEdipus, who
took his own mother to wife, and whose brothers killed one another, they
being at the same time his sons?
Your festivals, too, I hate; for there is no moderation where they are;
the sweet flutes also, dispellers of care, which play as an incitement to
dancing; and the preparation of ointments, wherewith ye anoint
yourselves; and the chaplets which ye put on. In the abundance of your
wickedness, too, ye have forgotten shame, and your understandings have
become blinded, and ye have been infuriated by the heat of passion, and
have loved the adulterous bed.
Had these things been said by another, perhaps our adversaries would
have brought an accusation against him, an the plea that they were untrue.
But your own poets say them, and your own hymns and dramas declare them.
Come, therefore, and be instructed in the word of God, and in the
wisdom which is fraught with comfort. Rejoice, and become partakers of it.
Acquaint yourselves with the King Immortal, and acknowledge His servants.
For not in arms do they make their boast, nor do they commit murders:
because our Commander has no delight in abundance of strength, nor yet in
horsemen and their gallant array, nor yet in illustrious descent; but He
delights in the pure soul, fenced round by a rampart of righteousness. The
word of God, moreover, and the promises of our good King, and the works of
God, are ever teaching us. Oh the blessedness of the soul that is redeemed
by the power of the word! Oh the blessedness of the trumpet of peace
without war! Oh the blessedness of the teaching which quenches the fire of
appetite! which, though it makes not poets, nor fits men to be
philosophers, nor has among its votaries the orators of the crowd; yet
instructs men, and makes the dead not to die, and lifts men from the earth
as gods up to the region which is above the firmament. Come, be instructed,
and be like me: for I too was once as ye are.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published
by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in
1867. (ANF 8, Roberts and Donaldson). The digital version is by The
Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.