Eusebius of Caesarea: Praeparatio Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospel). Tr. E.H. Gifford (1903) -- Book 8
I. On the religious polity of Moses p. 348 a
II. Aristeas on the translation of the Jewish Scriptures p. 350 a
III. Letter of Demetrius Phalereus to Ptolemy, King of Egypt p. 351 a
IV. Letter of King Ptolemy, to Eleazar the High Priest of the Jews p. 352 b
V. Letter of Eleazar the High Priest to King Ptolemy p. 353 b
VI. Philo on the journey of the Israelites out of Egypt p. 355 c
VII. The same concerning the religious polity of Moses p. 357 d
VIII. Josephus on the polity of Moses p. 361 c
IX. Eleazar the High Priest's sketch of the thought allegorically expressed in the sacred laws. From the writings of Aristeas p. 370 c
X. Aristobulus on the mention of limbs as belonging to God p. 376 a
XI. Philo on the virtuous life of those Jews who of old time studied philosophy, from his Apology for the Jews p. 379 a
XII. On the same, from the treatise That every good man is free p. 381 b
XIII. Philo concerning God, and that the earth was created p. 384 d
XIV. The same author on The government of the world by God's Providence p. 386 a
IN the preceding Book, I have traced the lives of the Hebrews of old time before the appearance of Moses, men beloved of God who proved that title true by crowning themselves with the rewards of every virtue. Their pious doctrines also and instructions I described, and moreover their perfectly true and religious beliefs concerning God, which we have confessed that we Christians had come to love and to desire. And now, following the order of succession, I will pass on to the civil polity in the time of Moses, which after that first stage in religion presents a second, namely that which, is provided with legal ordinances quite peculiar to the Jewish nation.
For we shall prove at the proper opportunity that the institutions of Moses were suited to Jews alone, and not to the other nations of the world, nor were possible to be observed by all men, I mean by those who dwelt at a distance from the land of Judaea, whether Greeks or barbarians.
But now I am going to set forth this mode of life, I mean the life in the time of Moses, not in words of my own, but as before only in the words of the very authors who have been approved among the Jews for their hereditary learning: for I think it is proper for me to present the testimonies on which my proofs rest, in the same way as I began, through the authors properly belonging to each subject.
As therefore I called up Phoenicians, and Egyptians, and Greeks as witnesses of the matters well known among themselves in their own country, so it seems to me that the present occasion properly claims these Jewish witnesses, and not that I should myself be supposed to be giving a superficial sketch of matters foreign to me.
But before coming to this point, I think it necessary to set plainly before my readers, how the oracles of the Jews passed to the Greeks, and what was the method settled for the interpretation of the sacred writings entrusted to them; showing also the number and character of the interpreters, and the great zeal of the king, whereby those oracles came to be translated into the Greek language; for the explanation of these matters also will not be unadvisable in regard to my proof of the Preparation for the Gospel.
For when the light of the salutary preaching of our Saviour was all but ready to shine forth unto all men in the Roman empire, more than ordinary reason required that the prophecies concerning Him, and the mode of life of the pious Hebrews of old, and the lessons of their religious teaching, hidden from long ages in their native tongue, should now at length come forth to all the nations, to whom the knowledge of God was about to be introduced; and then God Himself, the author of these blessings, anticipating the future by His foreknowledge as God, arranged that the predictions concerning Him who was to appear before long as the Saviour of all mankind, and to establish Himself as the teacher of the religion of the One Supreme God to all the nations under the sun, should be revealed to them all, and be brought into the light by being accurately translated, and set up in public libraries. So God put it into the mind of King Ptolemy to accomplish this, in preparation, as it seems, for that participation in them by all the nations which was so soon to take place.
For we should not otherwise have got from the Jews those oracles which they would have hidden away for their jealousy of us; but these in consequence of the divinely ordered interpretation were vouchsafed to us in a translation by the men who were approved among them for intelligence and hereditary culture.
These things are described by Aristeas, a man who besides being learned was moreover engaged in the transactions of the time of the second Ptolemy, surnamed Philadelphus, in whose reign the translation of the Jewish Scriptures, made through the zeal of the king, was awarded a place in the libraries of Alexandria. But it is time to listen to the author himself relating the matter word for word in the following manner:
[ARISTEAS] 'WHEN Demetrius Phalereus was appointed over the king's library, he acquired large sums of money with the view of collecting all the books in the world, and by making purchases and transcriptions brought the king's purpose to completion, as far as in him lay.
'So being asked in our presence how many myriads there are of books, he answered----"Over twenty myriads, O king: and I shall endeavour to have the rest made up to fifty myriads in a short time. It has also been notified to me that the customs of the Jews are worthy of transcription and of a place in thy library."
'"What is there then," said the king, "to hinder you from doing this? For all that you can require has been assigned to you." And Demetrius replied----"An interpretation also is required; for in Judaea they use characters peculiar to themselves, just as the Egyptians use their own position of the letters, inasmuch as they have also a language of their own. And they are supposed to employ Syriac, but that is not so, for it is a different kind of language."
'And when the king understood everything, he ordered a letter to be written to the High Priest of the Jews, in order that the aforesaid matters might be completed.'
And further on he adds:
'And when this was accomplished, the king commanded Demetrius to report on the description of the Jewish books. For all matters were arranged by these kings in ordinances and with great accuracy, and nothing thrown off at random. For this reason also I have given a place to the report and to the copies of the letters, and to the number of the offerings sent, and the manufacture of each, because every one of them was distinguished by the grandeur of the parts and artistic skill. A copy of the report is as follows:'
'"To THE GREAT KING FROM DEMETRIUS.
'"IN accordance with thy command, O king, that the books which were wanting to the completion of the library might be collected, and that the parts which had been damaged might be properly restored, I have very carefully given my attention to these matters, and now present my report to thee.
'"There are wanting the books of the Law of the Jews, together with some few others. For they are expressed in Hebrew characters and language, and are rather carelessly written, and not as they are in the original, according to the report of those who know best, since they have not had the benefit of the king's providence.
'"But it is right that thou shouldest possess these also thoroughly corrected, because this legislation, being divine, is very full of wisdom and sincerity. For which reason both prose-writers and poets and the multitude of historians have avoided the mention of the aforesaid books, and of the men who ordered their life according to them, because, as Hecataeus of Abdera says, the mode of thought therein is of a pure and venerable character.
'"If therefore it seems good, O king, there shall be a letter written to the High Priest in Jerusalem, to send elderly men who have lived the most honourable lives, and are experienced in matters of their own Law, six from each tribe, in order that we may test the agreement by a large number, and after receiving the exact interpretation, may give it a distinguished place, in a manner worthy both of the circumstances and of thy purpose. Good fortune be ever thine."
'And when this report had been presented, the king commanded a letter to be written to Eleazar on this subject, informing him also of the release of the captives which had taken place. He also gave for the manufacture of bowls and cups, and a table, and flagons, fifty talents weight of gold, and seventy talents weight of silver, and a large quantity of precious stones.
'And he commanded the treasurers to give to the artists the choice of whatever they should prefer, and of current coin as much as a hundred talents for sacrifices and other things. Concerning the workmanship, we will give you information, as soon as we have gone through the copies of the letters. The king's letter was in the following form:'
'"KING PTOLEMY TO THE HIGH PRIEST ELEAZAR, GREETING AND HEALTH.
'"WHEREAS it happens that many Jews who were carried away from Jerusalem by the Persians in the time of their power, have been settled in our country, and many more have come with my father into Egypt as prisoners of war, of whom he enrolled many in the military class on higher pay, and likewise, when he judged the chief of them to be faithful, built fortresses and entrusted them to their charge, in order that through them the native Egyptians might be intimidated: and whereas we having succeeded to the kingdom deal very kindly with all men, and more especially with your fellow countrymen, for we have released more than ten myriads of them from captivity, by paying their masters the due price in money, and amending whatever wrong was done through the attacks of the mobs, having taken a pious resolution to do this and to dedicate a thank-offering to the Most High God, who has preserved our kingdom in peace and in the highest glory in all the world: we have also enrolled in the army those of the most vigorous age, and appointed those whom we judged capable to be about our person and worthy of trust about the court.
'"And whereas we wish to show favour to thee also and to all the Jews throughout the world, and to those who shall come after, we have purposed that your Law should be translated in the Greek language out of what you call the Hebrew language, in order that these books also may be kept in our library with the rest of the royal books.
'"Thou wilt, therefore, be acting well and in a manner deserving our favour, in choosing out men of honourable lives, advanced in years, who are skilled in the Law and able to interpret it, out of each tribe six, that so agreement may be obtained from the large number, because the inquiry concerns matters of great importance. For we think that if this is accomplished, we shall gain great glory from it.
'"Now concerning this business we have sent Andreas one of the chiefs of our bodyguard and Aristeas, men in honour with us, to converse with thee, and to bring the first-fruits of our offerings to the temple, with a hundred talents of silver for sacrifices and other things. And do thou also write to us on whatsoever thou desirest: for thou wilt gratify us, and be doing what deserves our friendship; for whatever things thou mayest prefer shall be performed as quickly as possible. Farewell."
'In answer to this, Eleazar wrote back appropriately as follows:'
'"ELEAZAR HIGH PRIEST TO KING PTOLEMY, TRUE FRIEND, GREETING.
'"IF thou art in good health thyself, and Queen Arsinoe thy sister, and thy children, that would be well, and as we wish; we ourselves also are well. On the receipt of thy letter we greatly rejoiced at thy purpose and noble design; and having assembled the whole people we read it before them, that they might know the reverence thou hast toward our God.
'"We exhibited also the cups which thou hast sent, twenty of gold, and thirty of silver, five bowls, and a table for dedication of offerings, and a hundred talents of silver for offering sacrifices, and for whatever repairs the temple may yet need; and these have been brought by Andreas, one of those honoured in thy presence, and Aristeas, noble and virtuous men, eminent in learning, and worthy in all respects of thy training and just esteem.
'"They communicated thy commands to us, and have also received from us an answer befitting thy deeds. For in all things whatsoever are expedient for thee. even if they are contrary to our natural disposition, we shall obey: since this is a mark of friendship and affection. For in many ways thou hast conferred upon our citizens benefits great and never to be forgotten.
'"Immediately, therefore, we offered sacrifices on behalf of thee, and thy sister and children, and friends; and all the people prayed that it may happen to thee always according to thy desire, and that God who ruleth over all may preserve thy kingdom in peace with honour.
'"Also, in order that the transcription of the sacred Law may be made conveniently and with safety, I chose out, in the presence of all, men of honour and virtue, of mature years, from each tribe six, and these I have sent with the Law. Thou wilt do well then, 0 righteous sovereign, in giving directions, as soon as the transcription of the books is made, that the men may be sent back to us again in safety. Farewell." '
Aristeas next interposes many statements concerning the proposed business, and after his account of the translation of the Scriptures adds in exact words:
'And as soon as these volumes had been read, the priests and the elder men among the interpreters and rulers of the city, and the leaders of the people stood up and said: "Since the interpretation of the books has been well and reverently made and accurately in every point, it is right that they should continue as they are, and that no revision take place." And when all had shouted in approval of this saying, they commanded that, as their custom is, any one who should make a revision by adding or by taking away or by changing anything at all in what had been written should be accursed: in which they did rightly, in order that it might be always preserved as an overflowing fountain.
'When this also had been announced to the king, he was greatly rejoiced: for he thought that the purpose which he entertained had been safely accomplished. And all was read over before him, and he greatly admired the mind of the Lawgiver, and said to Demetrius: "How is it that, when so great deeds had been performed, none of the historians or poets ever attempted to make mention of them?" And he replied: "Because the legislation was sacred, and had come through God, and some of those who attempted it were smitten by God and ceased from the attempt."
'For he said that he had heard from Theopompus, that, when intending rather rashly to add to his history some of the passages which had been previously translated out of the Law, he had suffered from confusion of mind more than thirty days, but in the interval of relief he besought God that it might be made clear to him, what the reason of the occurrence was: and when he had been taught in a dream, that he had been over-curious in his desire to publish the divine oracles to common men, and had desisted, he was thus restored to his senses.
'From Theodectes also, the tragic poet, I was informed that as he was going to convert one of the events recorded in the Book into a drama he was stricken with cataract in the eyes, and having got a suspicion that it had happened to him for this reason, he propitiated God, and after many days was restored.
'And when the king had received, as I said before, the report from Demetrius concerning these books, he reverenced them, and commanded that great care should be taken of the books, and that they should be preserved in purity.'
Let this abridgement from the writing of the aforesaid author suffice: so now let us take a view of the polity established by the legislation of Moses from authors illustrious among that people. And I will give the first place to the remarks of Philo on the journeying of the Jews from Egypt, which they made under Moses as their leader, quoting from the first book of what he entitled Hypothetica, where, in making his defence of the Jews as against their accusers, he speaks as follows:
[PHILO IUDAEUS] 1 'THEIR ancient forefather was from Chaldaea, and this people, who had emigrated from Syria in old times, removed out of Egypt, as they were increasing in countless myriads, and the land was not sufficient for them; moreover they had been highly trained in youthful confidence of spirit, and God also began to indicate their departure by visions and dreams. Thus under divine influence they had fallen into a very great longing for the ancient land of their forefathers, from which that ancestor of theirs passed over into Egypt, either because God so determined, or he by some foresight of his own became most prosperous, so that from his time to the present the nation has existed and still continues, and is so exceedingly populous.'
Then after a few sentences he says:
'Their leader in this exodus and journey was a man superior in no respect, if you will have it so, to men in general; so often did they reproach him as a deceiver and a mischievous flatterer. Yet what a noble deceit and craft was that, whereby, when all the people were thirsty and hungry and ignorant of the way and in want of everything, he not only carried them through in perfect safety, and as it were in the midst of abundance, with free passage from the nations that lay between, but also kept them free from mutual dissension, and very obedient towards himself! This, too, he did not, as might be supposed, for a little while, but longer than even a single household would probably dwell together in unanimity and all abundance. And neither thirst nor hunger nor bodily disease, nor fear for the future, nor ignorance of what was to happen, stirred up against that deceiver the tribes who were deluded and perishing around him!
'Yet what would you have me say? That the man possessed any such great art, or power of eloquence, or wisdom, as to prevail over difficulties so many and so strange, which were leading them all on to destruction? For either we must admit that the men under him were not naturally ignorant nor discontented, but obedient and not wanting in provident, care for the future: or else, that though they were as bad as they could be, yet God soothed their discontents, and was, as it were, the presiding guardian both of their present and their future lot. For whichever of these cases may seem to you to be most true, it evidently is strongly in favour of praise and honour and admiration for the whole people.
'These then were the circumstances of the exodus. But after they had come into this land, how in time they became settled and got possession of the country, is shown in the sacred records. For my own part, however, I desire not so much to follow the method of history, as to describe what was probable according to any fair calculation concerning them.
'For which do you prefer, that still abounding in numbers, although they had been extremely afflicted, they were nevertheless strong, and then, with their arms in their hands, took forcible possession of the country, by conquering both Syrians and Phoenicians who were fighting in their own land? Or, are we to suppose that though they were unwarlike and unmanly, and extremely few, and unprovided with the means of war, they yet found respect in the eyes of these nations, and obtained the land with their willing consent? And that then after no long time they straightway built the Temple, and established the other requisites for religion and worship?
'These things seem to show that they were acknowledged even among their enemies to be most highly favoured of God. For enemies those necessarily were, whose land they had suddenly invaded, to take it from them.
'If then among these they met with respect and honour, is it not evident that they surpassed all others in good fortune? And what more than this are we to say next as the second or third point? Shall we speak of their good laws well obeyed, or of their holiness, and justice, and piety? So greatly did they admire that man, whoever he was who gave them their laws, that whatever he approved they approved also.
'Whether, therefore, he advised them from his own reasoning, or as he was divinely taught, they referred it all to God: and though many years have passed, I cannot say exactly how many, but more at all events than two thousand years, they have not altered even a single word of what had been written by him, but would rather endure to die ten thousand times, than yield to any persuasion contrary to his laws and customs.'
After these statements Philo gives an epitome of the civil government founded for the Jewish nation out of the laws of Moses, writing as follows:
[PHILO IUD.] 'Is there then among that people any of these customs or anything like them, anything seemingly mild and gentle, admitting solicitations of justice, and pretexts, and delays, and assessments, and subsequent mitigations of penalties? Nothing; but all is simple and clear. If thou commit sodomy or adultery, if thou violate a child, not to speak of a boy, but even a girl, in like manner if thou prostitute thyself, if even at an unsuitable age thou have suffered, or seem, or intend to suffer, anything disgraceful, the penalty is death.
'If thou outrage either a slave or a free man, if thou keep him in bonds, if thou take him away and sell him, if thou steal either common things or sacred, if thou be guilty of blasphemy, not only by deed but even by a chance word, against God Himself I may not even say (God forgive me for the very thought of such a thing), but against father or mother or thine own benefactor, again it is death, and that no common or ordinary death; but he who has only spoken blasphemy must be stoned to death, as though for blasphemous deeds he could not have been worse.
'There were other laws again, such as, that wives should be ruled by their husbands, not from any motive of insult, but with a view to obedience in all things: that parents should rule their children, for safety and greater care: that every one should be master of his own possessions, unless at least he had invoked God's name upon them, or gave them up as to God. But if it should happen that he so promised merely by a word, he is no longer allowed to lay hand or finger upon them, but is to be at once excluded from all.
'Speak not of plundering what belongs to the gods, nor of stealing what others have offered; but even in regard to his own property, if, as I said, a word has fallen from him unawares, yet having spoken it, he must be deprived of all: but if he repents or tries to correct what he has said, even his life is to be taken from him.
'Also in the case of others over whom a man has authority, there is the same principle. If a man declare a wife's aliment to be consecrated, he must cease to support her: if a father does so to a son, or a ruler to his subject, the effect is the same. A release also of what had been consecrated was the most perfect and complete, when the High Priest absolved, for under God he had the right to receive it: but next to this, the absolution granted by those who in each case have greater authority is allowed to declare that God is propitiated, so that it is not compulsory to undertake the consecration.
'There are countless other rules besides these, all that either rest upon unwritten customs and usages, or are contained in the laws themselves. Let no man himself do what he hates to have done to him: let him not take up what he did not lay down, neither from garden, wine-press, nor threshing-floor: let him not steal from a heap anything whatever, great or small; let him not begrudge fire to one that asks it; not shut up running waters; but to beggars and cripples collecting food, give it. as a pious offering to God.
'Hinder not a corpse from burial, but help them to cast on more earth, enough at least for natural piety: disturb not at all the graves or monuments of the departed: add not bonds nor any further trouble to him who is in distress: destroy not the generative power of men by excision, nor of women by abortive drugs and other contrivances. Deal not with animals contrary to the way which either God or a lawgiver has enjoined: destroy not seed: enslave not thy offspring. Substitute not an unjust balance, nor a short measure, nor false coin: betray not the secrets of friends in a quarrel. What place then, in God's name, can we give to those famous Buzygia?
'But look at other precepts besides these. Separate not parents from children, not even if they are thy captives; nor wife from husband, even if thou art their master by lawful purchase. These, doubtless, are very grave and important commandments: but there are others of a trifling and ordinary character.2 Rifle not the bird's nest under thy roof: reject not the supplication of animals which flee as it were sometimes for protection: abstain from any harm that may be even less than these. You may say that these are matters of no importance; but at all events the law which governs them is important, and is the cause of very careful observance; the warnings also are important, and the imprecations of utter destruction, and God's oversight of such matters, and His presence as an avenger in every place.'
Then after a few sentences he says:
'Are you not surprised that during a whole day, perchance, or rather not one day only, but many, and these not following one another in immediate succession, but after intervals of as many as seven days (while the custom of the ordinary days always prevailed as is natural), they yet should not have transgressed one of these commandments? Does not this (you may ask) result merely from their practice of self-restraint, so that they are equally strong to work actively in any labour, and to cease from their work if necessary? Certainly not. But the Lawgiver thought it was necessary, even though at the cost of some great and extraordinary pains, that they should not only be able equally to do or leave undone all other things, but that they should be moreover well acquainted with their ancestral laws and customs.
'What then did he do on these seventh days? He required them to assemble in the same place, and to sit down one with another in reverent and orderly manner, and listen to the laws, in order that none might be ignorant of them.
'And so in fact they do always meet together and sit down one with another, most of them in silence, except when it is customary to add a word of good omen to what is being read. But some priest who is present, or one of the old men, reads to them the holy laws, and explains each separately till nearly eventide: and after that they are allowed to depart with a knowledge of their holy laws, and with great improvement in piety.
'Do you not think this is more necessary for them than the most urgent business? So then they do not come to oracular interpreters with questions about what they should do or not do, nor do they of themselves act recklessly from ignorance of the laws; but whomsoever of them you accost and interrogate about the national customs, he can tell you readily and easily; and each seems qualified to impart a knowledge of the laws, husband to wife, and father to children, and master to servants.
'Moreover it is easy to speak concerning the seventh year in like manner, though not perhaps quite the same. For they do not themselves abstain from work, as on those seventh days, but they leave their land fallow until the time comes again, for the sake of productiveness. For they think that it is much better after having had a rest, and that then it may be tilled for the next year, without having been exhausted by the continuance of cultivation.
'The same thing you may see conducing to strength in our bodies; since it is not with a view to health only that physicians prescribe intervals of rest and certain relaxations from work: for what is always continuous and monotonous, especially in the case of labour, seems to be hurtful.
'And this is a proof of it: for if any one were to promise to cultivate the land itself for them much more this seventh year than before, and to yield up all the fruits entirely to them, they would by no means accept it. For they think that they not only themselves need to rest from their labours (though even if they did so, it would be nothing strange), but that their land needs to get some relaxation and repose for a fresh beginning of care and cultivation afterwards.
'Else what was there, on God's part, to hinder them in the past year from letting the land beforehand, and collecting from those who cultivated it their tribute of the (seventh) year's produce?
But, as I said, they will in no wise accept anything of this kind, from care, as I think, for the land.
'And of their humanity, the following is in truth a great proof. For since they themselves rest from their work in that year, they think that they ought not to collect or store up the fruits that are produced, as not accruing to them from their own labours: but inasmuch as it is God who has provided for them these fruits, which the land produces of its own accord, they think it right that any who choose or are in want, travellers and others, should enjoy them with impunity.
'Now on these points you have heard enough. For as to their Law having already established these rules for the seventh-day sabbaths you are not likely to question me, having probably often heard of this before from many physicians, and physiologists, and philosophers, what kind of influence it has upon the nature of all things, and especially upon the nature of man. This is the account of the seventh day.'
So far Philo. A similar account to his is given also by Josephus, in the second Book of his work On the Antiquity of the Jews, where he too writes in the following manner:
[JOSEPHUS] 3 'BUT who it was that made the best laws, and attained the worthiest belief concerning God, it is easy for us to discern from the laws themselves by comparing them one with another: for it is time now to speak of these points.
'Now although the particular differences in the customs and laws received among all mankind are infinite, one may go over them thus in a summary way.
'For some entrusted the authority of their civil government to monarchies, and some to oligarchical dynasties, and others to the commons. Our Lawgiver, however, paid no regard at all to these, but rendered our government, as one might call it by a strained expression, a Theocracy, ascribing the authority and the power to God, and persuading all the people to look unto Him, as being the Author of all good things, both those which are possessed by all men in common, and whatever they themselves obtained by praying to Him in difficulties; persuading them also that it was not possible for any either of one's actions or of one's inward thoughts to escape His knowledge.
'But Him he represented as uncreated, and for ever unchangeable, surpassing in beauty all mortal form, and unknown in His essential nature, though known to us by His power.
'I do not now stay to show that the wisest among the Greeks were taught to entertain these thoughts of God from the principles which he supplied: but that these thoughts are honourable and becoming to God's nature and majesty, they have borne strong testimony; for Pythagoras and Anaxagoras and Plato, and the Stoic philosophers who came after him, and almost all others, have evidently entertained such thoughts of God's nature.
'But whereas these men addressed their philosophy to few, and did not dare to publish the truth of their doctrine to multitudes prejudiced with other opinions, our Legislator, inasmuch as he made his actions agree with his laws, not only persuaded the men of his own time, but also inspired those who were to be begotten of them in every age with a belief in God that nothing could remove.
'And the reason was, that he far surpassed all others in the tendency of his legislation towards utility. For he did not make religion a part of virtue, but made other things parts of religion, and so looked at them all together and established them: I mean justice, temperance, fortitude, and the agreement of fellow citizens one with another in all things.
'For all our actions and occupations, and all our discourse, have reference to piety towards our God: and none of these did he leave unexamined nor undetermined.
'For there are in all education and moral training two methods, the one of which instructs by word, and the other by the training of moral habits. Other legislators therefore were divided in their judgements, and having chosen the one of these ways, each whichever pleased him, neglected the other. As for instance the Lacedaemonians and Cretans used to educate by habits, not by words; but the Athenians, and nearly all the other Greeks, enjoined by the laws what things men ought to do or leave undone, but took little care to habituate them thereto by actual deeds.
'Our Lawgiver, however, combined both these ways with great care; for he neither left the practice of moral habits without explanation in words, nor suffered the teaching of the Law to go unpractised; but beginning at once from the nurture of infancy and from every man's domestic mode of life, he left none even of the smallest matters freely dependent upon the wishes of those who were to deal with them; but even about kinds of food, from which one must abstain, and which one must adopt, and concerning those who should live in common with them, and concerning their diligence in labour and on the other hand their rest, he himself made the Law a limit and a rule, in order that living under this as a father and a master we might neither wilfully nor through ignorance commit any sin.
'For he did not leave even the excuse from ignorance, but appointed the Law to be both the best and most necessary instruction, to be heard by them not merely once, nor twice nor many times; but every week he commanded them to desist from all other employments, and assemble for the hearing of the Law, and to learn it thoroughly and exactly, a thing which all legislators seem to have neglected.
'And so far are the greatest part of mankind from living according to their own laws, that they hardly even know them; but when they sin, then they learn from others, that they have transgressed the law. Those too who administer the greatest and most absolute powers among them acknowledge their ignorance, for they appoint those who profess to be expert in the laws to preside with them over the administration of affairs.
'But any one of us whom a man might ask about the laws would tell them all more easily th'an his own name. So by learning them thoroughly as soon as ever we become sensible of anything, we have them engraven as it were on our souls: and while there are few who transgress, no plea can possibly save from punishment.
'It is this before all things that has produced in us so wonderful an agreement. For to have one and the same opinion concerning God, and no difference between one and another, is our daily life and customs, produces a most excellent harmony in men's moral dispositions.
'For among us alone a man will hear no statements concerning God contradictory one to another, though such things are frequent in other nations; for not only by ordinary men is the casual feeling of each expressed, but even among some of the philosophers there has been the same rashness of utterance, some having undertaken to exterminate God's nature altogether by their arguments, while others deprive Him of His providence over mankind. Nor will one observe any difference in the habits of life; but among us there is a community in all men's actions, and unity of statement, in agreement with the Law, concerning God, declaring that He takes oversight of all things.
'Moreover in regard to our habits of life, a man may learn even from women and servants that all other things must have piety for their end. Hence also has resulted the charge which some bring against us, that we have not produced men who were inventors of novelties in words or in works.
'For others think it a fine thing to abide by no customs derived from their forefathers, and testify to the shrewd wisdom of those who are boldest in transgressing them: but we on the contrary have understood that the only wisdom and virtue is neither in act nor in thought to contradict at all the original enactments of our Law.
'And this conduct may reasonably be considered a proof that the Law was admirably ordained. For ordinances which have not this character are proved by the tests of experience to require amendment: but for us, who were persuaded that the Law was from the beginning ordained in accordance with God's will, it would thenceforth have been impious not to guard it safely.
'For what part of it could one have altered? Or what could one have discovered better, or what transferred from other laws as more useful? Should the whole constitution of the state have been altered? But what could be nobler or more just than the constitution which has made God ruler of the whole, and allows the administration of the chief affairs to the priests in common, but withal has entrusted the government over the other priests to the Chief Priest of all?
'These from the very first the Lawgiver appointed to their honourable office, not as superior in wealth nor in any other accidental advantages; but he placed the service of God in the hands of those of his companions who excelled others in persuasiveness and prudence.
'And herein was an exact care both of the Law and of the other institutions: for the priests were appointed overseers of all things, and judges of disputed matters, and punishers of those who had been condemned.
'What government then could be more holy than this? Or what honour more befitting to God, since the whole people were trained to religion, and the priests entrusted with an especial superintendence, and the whole state administered in the manner of a religious solemnity?
'For what other nations call "mysteries" and "solemnities," and cannot observe in practice for a few days, these things we observe through our whole lifetime with much delight and unalterable purpose.
'What then are these premonitions and proclamations? They are simple and easily known. And the first and leading precept is that which says of God, God holds all things together, being all-perfect, and blessed, sufficing for Himself and for all; He is the beginning, middle, and end of all things, manifest in His works and gifts, and more conspicuous than any other being whatsoever, but to us in form and magnitude most invisible.
'Every material, costly though it be, is unworthy to form His image; and every art unskilled to conceive a similitude: no likeness of Him was ever seen or conceived, or may without impiety be represented.
'His works we behold, light, heaven, earth, sun and moon, waters, generations of animals, produce of fruits. These things God made, not with hands, not with labour, not with need of any fellow workers, but when He willed them to be beautiful, at once they were born in beauty.
'Him all must follow, and serve Him in the practice of virtue; for this mode of worshipping God is the most holy.
'One temple of One God (for like is ever dear to like), a temple common to all men for the common God of all. The priests continually serve Him, and their leader is ever the first by birth. He together with his fellow priests is to offer sacrifices to God, to guard the laws, to judge of disputed matters, to punish the convicted. Whoever refuses to obey him must suffer punishment, as guilty of impiety towards God Himself.
'The sacrifices which we offer are not for our own surfeit and drunkenness (for these things are contrary to God's will, and may be made a pretext for insolence and extravagance), but are sober, orderly, and simply arranged, that in sacrificing men may be most temperate. Also at the sacrifices we must first pray for the common salvation, and then for ourselves, for we are made for fellowship; and he who esteems this higher than his private interest would be most acceptable to God.
'In prayer let God be invoked and entreated, not that He give good things (for He has given them of His own free will, and has imparted them in common to all), but that we may be able to receive them, and, when we have gotten, to keep them.
'At the offering of sacrifices the Law has prescribed purifications from mourning for the dead, from defilement, from conjugal intercourse, and many other things, which it would be too long now to write. Such is our doctrine concerning God and His worship, and the same is also our law.4
'Now what are the laws concerning marriages? Our law recognizes no other than the natural intercourse with a wife, and that, if it is to be for the sake of children. The intercourse of males it abhors; and should any one attempt it, the penalty is death.
'It bids men marry, not out of regard to dowry, nor by forcible abduction, nor yet by crafty and deceitful persuasion, but to ask a woman in marriage from him who has the right to give her, and a woman suitable in respect of kin. Woman, it says, is inferior to man in all things: therefore let her obey, not to be insulted, but that she may be ruled: for God gave power to the man.
'With her alone the husband must consort, and to attempt another's wife is unholy. But should any one do this, no entreaty can save him from death; nor if he should violate a virgin betrothed to another man, nor if he should entice a married woman.
'All children the Law ordered to be reared; and forbade women to cause abortion or to destroy what is begotten: but if discovered, she would be guilty of child-murder, for destroying life, and diminishing the human race.
'So then if any should proceed to defile the marriage-bed, he can no longer be pure. Even after the lawful intercourse of man and wife, the Law enjoins ablution: it supposed this act to involve a transference of part of the soul to another place. For by growing into union with bodies the soul suffers ill, and again when separated from them by death. For which reason, in all such cases, the Law appointed purifications.
'Moreover, not even on the birthdays of children did it permit us to celebrate a feast and make pretexts for drunkenness; but it directed the very beginning of education to be temperate, and commanded us to instruct children in the learning that relates to the laws, and that they should be acquainted with the deeds of their forefathers; in order that they may imitate these deeds, and being bred up in those laws may neither transgress them, nor have any excuse from ignorance.
'It provided for the reverence due to the dead, not by costly funeral rites, nor by erection of conspicuous monuments, but appointed the nearest relations to perform the usual obsequies, and made it customary for all who were passing by at the time of a burial to draw near and join in the mourning. It also commands that the house and its inhabitants be purified from the defilement of death, in order that one who has committed murder may be very far from thinking that he is undefiled.
'It ordained the honour of parents to be next to that of God; and the son who does not requite the benefits received from them, but fails in any point, it delivers over to be stoned.
'It also says that the young must pay honour to every elder, since the eldest of all things is God.
'It does not permit the concealment of anything from friends, because that is no friendship which does not trust in all things: and if any enmity occur, it has forbidden the disclosure of their secrets.
'Should any one acting as a judge take bribes, the penalty is death. If one disregards a suppliant, when it is in his power to help him, he is responsible. What a man did not lay down, he must not take up. He is not to touch anything belonging to another. If he has lent money, he must not take usury. These ordinances, and many like to these, bind close our fellowship with one another.
'But it is worth while to see also what was the mind of our Lawgiver in regard to equity towards men of other nations: for it will appear that he made the best of all provision, that we might neither destroy our own institutions, nor begrudge those who wished to share in them.
'For all who are willing to come and live under the same laws with us, he receives in a friendly spirit, considering that affinity consists not only in race, but also in the purpose of life: but those who come to us only casually he did not wish to be mixed up in close communion with us.
'He has, however, prescribed the other gifts which we are bound to impart; to supply to all that are in need fire, water, and food, to show them the roads, not to leave a corpse unburied.
'Also in the treatment of those who are judged to be our enemies we must be equitable: for he does not let us ravage their land with fire, nor has he permitted us to cut down fruit-trees; nay more, he has forbidden us to spoil those who have fallen in battle, and has provided for captives, that no outrage be done to them, especially to women.
'So far did he carry his zeal to teach us gentleness and humanity, that he did not neglect the care even of brute beasts; but permitted only the accustomed use of them, and forbade all other. Any of them which take refuge in our houses, like suppliants as it were, he forbade us to destroy; nor did he suffer us to slay the parents with the young: he bade us spare the labouring cattle even in an enemy's country, and not put them to death.
'Thus did he provide on all sides what tended to clemency, by using the aforesaid laws to instruct us, and on the other hand enacting the penal laws without any excuse against those who transgress. For most of the transgressors the penalty is death, if one commit adultery, if he violate a damsel, if he dare to make attempt on a man, if one so attempted submit to be abused.
'In the case of slaves, also, the Law is equally inexorable. Moreover, if any one should cheat in regard to measures or weights, or in an unfair and fraudulent sale, and if one steal another's property, and take up what he did not lay down, for all these there are penalties, not merely such as in other nations but more severe.
'For in regard to injury to parents, or impiety towards God, if a man even think of it, he is immediately put to death.
'For those, however, who act in all things according to the laws there is a reward not of silver nor gold, no, nor yet a crown of wild-olive or parsley, with a corresponding proclamation; but each man who has the testimony of his own conscience is persuaded by the prophetic declaration of the Lawgiver, and by God's confirmation of his faith, that to those who have constantly kept His laws, and would readily die, if it were needful in their defence, God granted that they should be born again, and receive in exchange a better life.
'I should hesitate to write thus now, were it not manifest to all by their actions that many of our countrymen many times ere now, to avoid uttering a word against the Law, have nobly preferred to endure all sufferings. And yet had it not been the case that our nation is well known to all men, and that our voluntary obedience to the laws is manifest, but had some one either read them to the Greeks, saying that he had written them himself, or had asserted that somewhere out of the limits of the known world he had met with men, who held such a reverent notion concerning God, and had through long ages lived in constant obedience to such laws, I think that all men would have marvelled, because of the continual changes among themselves. At all events when men have attempted to write anything of a like kind in regard to polity and laws, they charge them with having made a collection of marvels, and assert that they adopted impossible assumptions.
'And here I say nothing of those other philosophers who dealt with any such subject in their writings: but Plato, though admired among the Greeks, both as distinguished by gravity of life, and as having surpassed all who have been engaged in philosophy in power of expression and persuasiveness, is little better than scoffed at continually and ridiculed by those who claim to be clever in political matters.
'And yet any one examining his writings would constantly find things milder and more nearly like the customs of mankind in general. And Plato himself has confessed that it was not safe to publish the true opinion concerning God to the unintelligent multitudes. Some, however, think that Plato's discourses are empty words written in a fine style of great authority.
Among lawgivers Lycurgus has been most admired; and all men sing the praises of Sparta for having so long patiently endured his laws.
'Well then, let it be confessed that this is a proof of virtue, to be obedient to the laws. But let those who admire the Lacedaemonians compare their duration with the more than two thousand years of our political constitution: and let them further consider that though the Lacedaemonians seemed to observe their laws strictly so long as they retained their own liberty, yet when changes of fortune occurred to them they forgot almost all their laws: but we, though involved in countless vicissitudes, because of the changes of the ruling monarchs of Asia, yet never even in the extremities of danger betrayed our laws.'
These are the statements of Josephus concerning the political constitution of the Jews established by Moses. But with regard to the allegorical meaning shadowed out in the laws enacted by him, though I might say much, I think it sufficient to mention the narratives of Eleazar and Aristobulus, men originally of Hebrew descent, and, as to date, distinguished in the times of the Ptolemies.
Of these Eleazar, as we showed a little above, had been honoured with the dignity of the High-Priesthood, and when the ambassadors had come to him from the king for the sake of the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek tongue, he sketches out the nature of the allegorical sense in the sacred laws, and presents the doctrine of his discourse in the following form:
[ARISTEAS] 5 'IT is worth while to mention briefly the information which he gave in answer to our inquiries: for some things included in the legislation usually seem to most persons to be over-scrupulous, I mean about meats and drinks, and the animals supposed to be unclean.
'For when we asked why, though there is but one and the same creation, some animals are considered unclean for eating and some even for touching, the legislation, which is superstitious in most things, is especially superstitious in these distinctions; in answer to this he began as follows.
'You observe, he said, what an effect is wrought in us by our modes of life and our associations, because, by associating with the bad, men catch their depravities, and are miserable through their whole life. But if they live with wise and prudent persons, instead of ignorance they secure an improvement in their mode of life.
'Our Lawgiver therefore determined first the things pertaining to godliness and righteousness, and gave particular instructions concerning them, not by prohibitions only, but also by examples, showing manifestly both the injurious effects, and the visitations wrought by God upon the guilty.
'For he explained first of all that God is One alone, and that His power is made manifest through all things, every place being filled with His dominion; and nothing that is secretly done by men on earth escapes His knowledge, but all a man's deeds stand open and manifest before Him, as also the things that shall be.
'Working out these truths therefore accurately, and having made them clear, he showed that if a man should even think of working wickedness, not to say, perpetrate it, he would not escape detection; for he showed that the power of God pervades the whole legislation.
'Having therefore made this commencement, he also showed that all mankind except ourselves believe that there are many gods, though they are themselves far more powerful than those whom they vainly worship. For when they have made statues of stone or wood, they say that they are images of those who invented something useful to them in life, and they fall down and worship them, though they have proof at hand of their insensibility.
'For to ascribe it to this cause, I mean to their invention, would be utterly foolish; since they only took some of the things already created, and by combining them showed more clearly that their constitution is most useful, but did not themselves make them: wherefore it was a vain and foolish thing to make gods of men like themselves.
'For even now there are many men more inventive and more learned than those of former times, and they should at once fall down and worship them!
'The makers of these images and authors of these legends think that they are the wisest of the Greeks. For of the other utterly foolish people why need we even speak, Egyptians and the like, who have placed their reliance upon wild beasts and most kinds of creeping things and cattle, and worship them, and offer sacrifice to them both while living and when dead?
'So then our Lawgiver in his wisdom having taken a comprehensive view of everything, and having been prepared by God for knowledge of the whole, hedged us round with unbroken ramparts and with walls of iron, so that we might not be mixed up at all with any of the other nations, but remain pure in body and soul, freed from vain imaginations, and worshipping the One God more than the whole creation.
'Hence the leading priests of the Egyptians, having looked closely into many matters, and gained a knowledge of our affairs, surname us men of God: a title which belongs to no others, except any who worship the true God; but the rest are men (not of God, but) of meats and drinks and clothing; for they are wholly disposed to betake themselves to these things.
'By our people such things are held in no esteem, but throughout their whole life their contemplation is concerned with the government of God. Lest therefore by sharing in any defilement, or associating with evil, we should ourselves become depraved, they hedged us round on all sides with rules of abstinence, by lawful meats and drinks, and touch, and hearing, and sight.
'For, speaking generally, all things are alike in reference to the natural order, as being governed by one power, and yet taken singly there is a deep reason in each case as to the things which we abstain from using, and those which we use in common.
'To give an example, I will run over one or two things and explain them to you. For I would not have you fall into the degraded notion that Moses enacted these laws from superstitious scruples on account of flies, and weasels, or such things as these; but all things have been reverently ordered with a view to holy circumspection, and perfecting of moral dispositions, for righteousness' sake.
'For all the birds that we use are tame and distinguished by cleanliness, feeding on various kinds of grain and pulse, as pigeons, doves, moor-fowls, partridges, geese also, and all other birds of this kind. But the birds which are forbidden you will find to be fierce and carnivorous, a tyrannizing over the others by the strength with which they are endowed, and feeding with cruelty upon the wasteful slaughter of the tame birds before-mentioned. And not only so, but they also seize lambs and kids, and hurt human beings too, whether alive or dead.
'So by calling them unclean he by them gave a sign, that those for whom the legislation is ordained must practise justice in their soul, and not tyrannize over any one in reliance upon their own strength, nor rob them of any single thing, but steer their course of life according to justice, as the tame animals among the birds before-mentioned consume the kinds of pulse that grow upon the earth, and do not tyrannize to the destruction either of those beneath them or of their own kind.
'The Lawgiver therefore taught that by such means as these indications are given to the wise, to be just, and accomplish nothing by violence, and not tyrannize over others in reliance upon their own strength.
'For whereas it was not proper even to touch the animals before-mentioned on account of their several dispositions, ought we not to guard by all means against our moral habits being broken down to this degree?
'So then all the permissions given in case of these birds and of the cattle he has set forth in a figurative sense. For the division of the hoof and separation of the claws is a sign that we should make a distinction in every particular of our actions towards the side of right. 'For the strength of our whole bodies when in action depends for support upon the shoulders and the legs: therefore by the signification herein given he obliges us to perform all our actions with discrimination towards justice; and especially because we have been distinctly set apart from all men.
'For the majority of the other nations defile themselves by promiscuous intercourse, working great iniquity; and whole districts and cities pride themselves hereupon. For they not only have intercourse with males, but also defile women after child-birth, and even daughters: but from these nations we have been distinctly separated.
'But as man is the object to which the aforesaid symbol of separation refers, so has the Lawgiver also characterized the symbol of memory as referring to him. For all animals which divide the hoof and chew the cud manifestly set forth to the thoughtful the idea of memory. For rumination is nothing else than a reminiscence of life and sustenance.
'For life is wont to be sustained by means of food. Wherefore he exhorts us by the Scripture in these words: "Thou shalt surely remember the Lord God, who wrought in thee those great and wonderful things." 6
'For when closely observed they are manifestly glorious, first the construction of the body, and the distribution of the food, and the distinction of each separate limb, and far more the orderly disposition of the senses, the action of the mind and its invisible movement, its quickness in acting according to each occurrence, and its invention of arts, have a delightful character.
'Wherefore he exhorts us to remember how the aforesaid parts are held together and preserved by a divine power. For he has marked out every place and time with a view to our continually remembering the God who rules them, while we observe the beginning, and the middle, and the end of each.
'For in the case of meats and drinks he bids us first consecrate a part, and then straightway use the rest. Moreover from the borders of our garments he has given us a symbol of remembrance: and in like manner he has commanded us also to set the inspired words upon our gates and doors, to be a remembrance of God. Also upon our hands he expressly commands the symbol to be fastened, clearly showing that we ought to perform every action in righteousness, keeping a remembrance of our own creation, but in all things remembering the fear of God.
'He bids men also when lying down to sleep, and rising up, and walking in the way, to meditate upon the works of God, not only in word, but also by observing distinctly their own movement and their self-consciousness, when they are going to sleep, and then their waking, how the alternation of these states is divine and incomprehensible.
'There has been shown to you also the excellence of the analogy in regard to distinction and memory, according to our explanation of the division of the hoof and the chewing of the cud. For the laws have not been enacted without consideration and just according to what came into the mind; but with a view to truth and to the indication of right reason.
'For after the several directions about meats and drinks and cases of touching, he bids us neither to do nor to listen to anything thoughtlessly, nor to resort to injustice by employing the mastery of language.
'In the case of the wild animals also the same principle may be discovered. For the disposition of the weasel, and of mice, and such animals as these, which have been expressly mentioned, is destructive. For mice defile and damage all things, not only for their own food, but even so far as to render utterly useless to man everything whatsoever it falls in their way to damage.
'The weasel-kind too is singular: for, besides what has been said above, it has a mischievous constitution; for it conceives through the ears, and brings forth by the mouth. For this reason therefore such a disposition is declared impure for mankind. For by embodying in speech all that they have received through hearsay, they involve others in evils, and being themselves utterly defiled by the pollution of their impiety, work no ordinary impurity.
'And your king, as we are informed, does quite right in destroying such men.
'Then, said I, you mean, I suppose, the informers; for he continually exposes them to tortures and to painful kinds of death.
'Why yes, he said, I do mean these: for watching for men's destruction is an unholy thing: and our law commands us to hurt nobody by word nor deed.
'On these subjects therefore it is enough for a brief description to have shown you, that all things have been regulated with a view to righteousness, and nothing has been appointed by the Scripture at random nor in a fabulous way; but in order that throughout our whole life we may in our actual conduct practise righteousness towards all men, remembering the God who is our Governor.
'So concerning lawful meats and things unclean, creeping things and wild beasts, the whole system aims at righteousness, aud the just intercourse of mankind.
'To me then he seemed to have made a good defence on the several points. For with reference also to the calves and rams and goats which were to be offered, he said that we should take these from the herds and flocks and make them tame, and offer no wild or fierce animal, that the offerers of the sacrifices, having perceived the symbolic meaning of the lawgiver, might feel no arrogant self-consciousness.
'For he who brings the sacrifice makes the offering of the whole disposition, of his own soul. Therefore on these points also I think that the particulars of our conversation are worthy of consideration, because of the august character of the law, which I have been led on to explain clearly to you, Philocrates, for the love of learning which you entertain.'
These are the accurate distinctions concerning the idea set forth allegorically in the sacred laws, which the High Priest gave to those Greeks who had come to him, thinking them likely to meet with the translations of the Scriptures which were about to be published. But it is time to hear what Aristobulus, who had partaken of Aristotle's philosophy in addition to that of his own country, declared concerning the passages in the Sacred Books which are currently understood to refer to limbs of God's body. This is that very man who is mentioned in the beginning of the Second Book of Maccabees:7 and in his writing addressed to King Ptolemy he too explains this principle.
[ARISTOBULUS] 'WHEN, however, we had said enough in answer to the questions put before us, you also, O king, did further demand, why by our law there are intimations given of hands, and arm, and face, and feet, and walking, in the case of the Divine Power: which things shall receive a becoming explanation, and will not at all contradict the opinions which we have previously expressed.
'But I would entreat you to take the interpretations in a natural way, and to hold fast the fitting conception of God, and not to fall off into the idea of a fabulous anthropomorphic constitution.
'For our lawgiver Moses, when he wishes to express his meaning in various ways, announces certain arrangements of nature and preparations for mighty deeds, by adopting phrases applicable to other things, I mean to things outward and visible.
'Those therefore who have a good understanding admire his wisdom, and the divine inspiration in consequence of which he has been proclaimed a prophet;8 among whom are the aforesaid philosophers and many others, including poets, who have borrowed important suggestions from him, and are admired accordingly.
'But to those who are devoid of power and intelligence, and only cling close to the letter, he does not appear to explain any grand idea.
'I shall begin then to interpret each particular signification, as far as I may be able. But if I shall fail to hit upon the truth, and to persuade you, do not impute the inconsistency to the Lawgiver, but to my want of ability to distinguish clearly the thoughts in his mind.
'First then the word "hands" evidently has, even in our own case, a more general meaning. For when you as a king send out forces, wishing to accomplish some purpose, we say, The king has a mighty hand, and the hearers' thoughts are carried to the power which you possess.
'Now this is what Moses also signifies in our Law, when he speaks thus : "God brought thee forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand";9 and again: "I will put forth My hand," saith God, "and will smite the Egyptians." 10 Again in the account of the death of the cattle Moses says to Pharaoh : "Behold, the hand of the Lord shall be upon thy cattle, and upon all that are in the fields a great death." 11 So that the "hands" are understood of the power of God: for indeed it is easy to perceive that the whole strength of men and their active powers are in their hands.
'Wherefore our Lawgiver, in saying that the effects are God's hands, has made the word a beautiful metaphor of majesty. The constitution too of the world may well be called for its majesty God's standing; for God is over all, and all things are subject unto Him, and have received from Him their station, so that men may comprehend that they are immovable. Now my meaning is like this, that heaven has never become earth, and earth heaven, nor the sun become the shining moon, nor again the moon become the sun, nor rivers seas, nor seas rivers.
'And again in the case of living beings there is the same principle. For man will never be beast, nor beast man. In the case of all the rest too the same rule exists, of plants and all other things: they are not interchangeable, but are subject to the same changes in themselves, and to decay.
'In these ways then God may rightly be spoken of as standing, since all things are set under Him. It is said too in the book of the Law that there was a descent of God upon the mountain, at the time when He was giving the Law, in order that all might behold the operation of God: for this is a manifest descent; and so any one wishing to guard safely the doctrine of God would interpret these circumstances as follows.12
'It is declared that the mountain burned with fire, as the Lawgiver says, because God had descended upon it, and that there were the voices of trumpets, and the fire blazing so that none could withstand it.
'For while the whole multitude, not less than a thousand thousands, besides those of unfit age, were assembled around the mount, the circuit of it being not less than five days' journey, in every part of the view around them all as they were encamped the fire was seen blazing.
'So that the descent was not local; for God is everywhere. But whereas the power of fire is beyond all things marvellous because it consumes everything, he could not have shown it blazing irresistibly, yet consuming nothing, unless there were the efficacy given to it from God.
'For though the places were all ablaze, the fire did not actually consume any of the things which grew upon that mountain: but the herbage of all remained untouched by fire, and the voices of trumpets were loudly heard together with the lightning-like flashing of the fire, though there were no such instruments present nor any that sounded them, but all things were done by divine arrangement.
'So that it is plain that the divine descent took place for these reasons, that the spectators might have a manifest comprehension of the several circumstances, that neither the fire which, as I said before, burnt nothing, nor the voices of the trumpets were produced by human action or a supply of instruments, but that God without any aid was exhibiting His own all-pervading majesty.'
Thus far Aristobulus. Now since we have gone through the commandments of the Sacred Laws, and the nature of the idea allegorically expressed in them, it would be next in order to indicate the following point, that the whole Jewish nation is divided into two sections. And while the Lawgiver meant to lead the multitude on gently by the precepts of the laws as enjoined according to the literal sense, the other class, consisting of those who had acquired a habit of virtue, he meant to exempt from this sense, and required them to give attention to a philosophy of a diviner kind too highly exalted for the multitude, and to contemplation of the things signified in the meaning of the laws.
Now this was the class of Jewish philosophers at whose strict course of life thousands even of foreigners were struck with admiration, while the most distinguished of their own countrymen, Josephus and Philo, and many others deemed them worthy of everlasting remembrance. But passing by most of these statements, I will be content at present, just merely for the sake of an example, with the testimony of Philo concerning the said persons, which he has set down in many places of his own memoirs. And of these do you take and read the following from his Apology for the Jews:
[PHILO] 13 'BUT our Lawgiver trained to community of living many thousands of his disciples, who are called Essenes because, as I suppose, of their holiness. They dwell in many cities of Judaea and many villages, and in large and populous societies.
'Their sect is formed not by family-descent, for descent is not reckoned among matters of choice, but on account of zeal for virtue and a longing for brotherly love.
'Accordingly there is among the Essenes no mere child, nor even a scarce-bearded lad, or young man; since of such as these the moral dispositions are unstable and apt to change in accordance with their imperfect age: but they are all men full-grown and already verging upon old age, as being no longer swept by the flood of bodily impulses, nor led by their passions, but in the enjoyment of the genuine and only real liberty.
'And their mode of life is an evidence of this liberty: none ventures to acquire any private property at all, no house, nor slave, nor farm, nor cattle, nor any of the other things which procure or minister to wealth; but they deposit them all in public together, and enjoy the benefit of all in common.
'And they dwell together in one place, forming clubs and messes in companies, and they pass their whole time in managing every kind of business for the common good.
'But different members have different occupations, to which they strenuously devote themselves, and toil on with unwearied patience, making no excuses of cold or heat or any changes of weather: but before the sun is up they turn to their usual employments, and hardly give up at its setting, delighting in. work no less than those who are being trained in gymnastic contests.
'For whatever occupation they follow, they imagine that these exercises are more beneficial to life, and more pleasant to soul and body, and more permanent than athletics, because they do not become unseasonable as the vigour of the body declines.
'For some of them labour in the fields, being skilled in matters relating to sowing and tillage, and others are herdsmen, being masters of all kinds of cattle; and some attend to swarms of bees.
'Others again are craftsmen in various arts, who, in order to avoid any of the sufferings which the wants of the necessaries of life impose, reject none of the innocent ways of gaining a livelihood.
'Of the men then who thus differ in occupation every one on receiving his wages gives them to one person who is the appointed steward: and he, on receiving them, immediately purchases the necessary provisions, and supplies abundance of food, and all other things of which man's life is in need.
'And they who live together and share the same table are content with the same things every day, being lovers of frugality, and abhorring prodigality as a disease of soul and body.
'Not only have they a common table, but also common raiment: for there are set out in winter thick cloaks, and in summer cheap tunics, so that any one who will may easily take'whichever he likes, since what belongs to one is considered to belong to all, and the property of all to be on the other hand the property of each one.
'Moreover if any of them should fall sick, he is medically treated out of the common resources, and attended by the care and anxiety of all. And so the old men, even if they happen to be childless, are wont to end their life in a very happy and bright old age, inasmuch as they are blest with sons both many and good, being held worthy of attention and honour by so many, who from free good will rather than from any bond of natural birth feel it right to cherish them.
'Further then as they saw with keen discernment the thing which alone, or most of all, was likely to dissolve their community, they repudiated marriage and also practised continence in an eminent degree. For no Essene takes to himself a wife, because woman is immoderately selfish and jealous, and terribly clever in decoying a man's moral inclinations, and bringing them into subjection by continual cajoleries.
'For when, by practising flattering speeches and the other arts as of an actress on the stage, she has deluded eyes and ears, then as having thoroughly deceived the servants she proceeds to cajole the master mind.
'And should she have children, she is filled with pride and boldness of speech, and what she formerly used to hint under the disguise of irony, all this she now speaks out with greater audacity, and shamelessly compels him to practices, every one of which is hostile to community of life.
'For the man who is either ensnared by the charms of a wife, or by force of natural affection makes children Ins first care, is no longer the same towards others, but has unconsciously become changed from a free man to a slave.
'So enviable then is the life of these Essenes, that not only private persons, but also great kings are filled with admiration and amazement at the men, and make their venerable character still more venerable by marks of approbation and honour.'
Let this quotation suffice from the aforesaid book: but from that on the theme That every good man is free, I will bring forward the following statements:
[PHILO] 14 'ALSO Syria in Palestine, which is occupied by no small part of the very populous nation of the Jews, is not unproductive of honourable virtue.
'There are said to be some among them named Essenes, in number above four thousand, deriving their name, though not, according to my opinion, in an accurate form of the Greek language, from holiness ( o(sio&thtoj ), because they have devoted themselves above all men to the service of God, not by offering animal sacrifices, but by endeavouring to render their own thoughts holy and reverent.
'These men, in the first place, dwell in villages, and avoid the cities because of the civilized vices of the citizens, knowing that an incurable contagion arises in the soul from a man's associates, just as a disease from a pestilential atmosphere.
'Of these men some benefit themselves and their neighbours by tilling the ground, and some by pursuing any arts that contribute to peace; not laying up treasures of silver and gold, nor acquiring large sections of land from desire of revenues, but procuring only enough for the necessary wants of life.
'For they alone of nearly all mankind having neither money nor possessions themselves (from set purpose more than from want of good fortune), are considered to be most wealthy, because they judge moderate wants and contentedness to be, as they really are, abundance.
'Of darts, or javelins, or daggers, or helmet, or breastplate, or shield, you would find no maker among them, nor in short any maker of arms or engines, or any one employed about implements of war: nor yet about things which in times of peace may easily slip into mischievous use: for of commerce, or trade, or ship-owning they do not even dream, abjuring the incentives to covctousness.
'There is not a single slave among them, but all are free, giving help to each other in turn: and masters they condemn, not only as unjust in outraging equality, but also as impious in destroying the holy law of nature, which like a mother having borne and nourished all alike, made them all genuine brothers, not only in name but in very truth.
'But this natural kinship has been thrown into disorder by the excessive prosperity of insidious covetousness, which has wrought alienation instead of kindred affection, and hatred instead of friendship.
'Of philosophy they have left the logical branch to word-catchers, as being unnecessary to the attainment of virtue, and the physical branch to star-gazers, as too high for human nature, except so much of it as is made a study concerning the existence of God and the creation of the universe, but the ethical branch they study very elaborately, under the training of their ancestral laws, the meaning of which it is impossible for the human soul to discern without divine inspiration.
'These laws they are repeatedly taught both at all other times, and especially on every seventh day. For the seventh day is regarded as holy, and on it they abstain from their other works, and come to their holy places, which are called synagogues, and sit in ranks according to their ages, the young below the elder, and listen attentively in becoming order: and while some one takes and reads their sacred books, another of the most experienced comes forward and expounds all that is not easily intelligible: for most subjects are treated among them by symbols with a zealous imitation of antiquity.
'So they are taught piety, holiness, justice, economy, statesmanship, and the knowledge of things which are in reality good, or bad. or indifferent; the choice of what is right, and the avoidance of the contrary, by using laws and rules of three kinds, namely the love of God, the love of virtue, and the love of mankind.
'First then of the love of God thousands of examples are supplied by the constant and uninterrupted purity of their whole course of life, such as their abstinence from oaths, their freedom from falsehood, their belief that the Deity is the cause of all good and of no evil: examples too of their love of virtue, in their freedom from the love of money, of glory, of pleasure, in their continence, their endurance, also their frugality, simplicity, contentedness, their freedom from conceit, their obedience to law, their steadfastness, and all qualities of like character to these: examples also are seen of their love of man in good-will, equality, and community of interests surpassing all description, about which nevertheless it will not be out of season to say a few words.
'In the first place then no single person has any private house, which is not found to be also common to all. For in addition to their living together in companies, the house is also thrown open to those of the same sect who come from other parts.
'Next there is one and the same store and expenditure for all: their garments also are common, and so is their food as they have formed themselves into messes. For among no other people could any one find a common use of the same roof, the same mode of life, and the same table, more firmly established in practice, and perhaps with good reason.
'For whatever they receive as wages after a day's work, they do not keep as their own, but bring it out in public, and supply the benefit of it in common for all who wish to use it. The sick also are not neglected because they are unable to earn anything, but have ready at hand from the common stock what is needed for their sick-diet, so as to spend with perfect freedom out of that larger abundance.
'For elders there is reverence and care, such as parents receive from their own children, their old age being cherished by countless hands and thoughts amid all abundance. Such are the hardy athletes of virtue produced by the philosophy which is free from the superfluous pomp of Greek names, and proposes as exercises those praiseworthy actions, from which the freedom that cannot be enslaved derives its support.
'And of this there is proof, since many tyrants have at various times risen up against our country, who exhibited different natural dispositions and purposes: for some of them, endeavouring to surpass the untamed fierceness of wild beasts, omitted no measures of cruelty, nor ever ceased from slaughtering their subjects in droves, or even, like cooks, tearing them in pieces, limb from limb, while yet alive, until they suffered the same calamities themselves from the justice which keeps watch over human affairs.
'And others converting their wild excitement and frenzy into another kind of wickedness, contrived an indescribable cruelty, while talking gently, and under the disguise of softer language yet betraying the heavy wrath of their disposition, and fawning like venomous dogs, became the authors of irremediable mischief and left in every city memorials of their own impiety and hatred of mankind in the never-to-be forgotten miseries of the sufferers.
'But yet none either of those monsters of cruelty or of those masters of guile and treachery was able to lay anything to the charge of the aforesaid society of the Essenes or Saints; but all were overcome by the noble virtue of the men, and behaved towards them as being free and independent by nature, singing the praises of their joint meals and of that fellowship surpassing all description, which is the clearest proof of a perfect and most happy life.'
It may suffice then that the particulars of the philosophic kind of training and public life among the Jews are set forth by these extracts; and our discourse has previously described the other kind of life, which the divine laws ordained for the mass of the whole nation.
After this then what is left, but to prove also that the theological tenets of the moderns are in harmony with the religious beliefs of their forefathers, so that our discussion of this subject also may be rendered complete?
Since therefore the oracles of the inspired Scripture are set forth in the Book preceding this, let us on the present occasion closely examine the thoughts of the wise men among the Jews, that we may learn what qualities the Hebrews have shown both in theology and in excellence of speech. Again therefore we must have recourse to Philo, from his first Book On the Law.
[PHILO] 15 'FOR some who admired the world itself more than its Maker represented it as being uncreated and eternal, bringing a false and impious charge of great inactivity against God; whereas they ought on the contrary to have been struck with admiration of His powers as Creator and Father, instead of extolling the world beyond the bounds of moderation.
'But Moses having early attained to the very summit of philosophy, and having been taught by divine oracles the many most binding laws of nature, knew of course that in existing things there must necessarily be both an active cause, and passive principle: and that the active cause, the mind of the universe, is most pure and unmixed, superior to science, and superior to absolute goodness and absolute beauty; while the passive principle is without life, and incapable of self-movement, but having been moved, and newly fashioned, and animated by the mind, has changed this world into the most perfect work: those therefore who assert that it is uncreated have unconsciously cut away the most beneficial and indispensable of the inducements to piety, that is, Providence.
'For reason proves that the Father and Creator should care for that which He has made. For a human father aims at the preservation of his offspring, and an artificer of the works which he has made, and wards off by all means whatever is hurtful, but longs to provide in every way all that is useful and profitable; whereas towards that which he has not made there is no feeling of appropriation in him who has not made it.
'Thus it is an undesirable and unprofitable doctrine to maintain that there is anarchy in this world, as in a city, as though it had neither the ephor, nor arbitrator, nor judge, by whom lawfully all things should be administered and superintended.
'But that great man Moses deemed that the uncreated was most alien from the visible, since all that can be perceived by the senses is subject to generation and to changes, never remaining in the same conditions: he therefore attributed eternity to that which is invisible and only perceived by the mind, as being a brotherly and kindred quality, while to the sensible he assigned "creation" ( ge/nesin ) as its proper denomination.
'Since therefore this world is visible and sensible, it must necessarily be also created; wherefore it was not beside the mark that he described its creation with a noble description of the nature of God.'
This then is what he has said on the subject of the world haying been created. And the same author in his treatise On Providence states some very vigorous arguments on the question of the universe being administered by Providence, setting out first the objections of the atheists, and answering them in order. And since most of these, though they may appear to be rather long, are nevertheless necessary, I will set them forth in a concise form. He arranges the discussion in the following manner:
[PHILO] 16 'Do you say that a Providence exists amid so great confusion and disorder of affairs? For which of the conditions of human life has been arranged in order? Nay rather, which is not full of disorder and destruction? Or are you alone ignorant that good things come to the worst and most wicked of mankind in riotous abundance, riches, reputation, honours in the opinion of the multitude, chief power again, health, fine senses, beauty, strength, enjoyment of pleasures uninterrupted because both of the abundance of means, and of the perfectly settled and good constitution of the body, while those who love and practise wisdom and every kind of virtue are, I may almost say, all of them poor, obscure, unhonoured, and of low estate?'
After saying these and numberless other things besides in disproof of Providence, he next proceeds to solve the objections by the following arguments:
'God is not a tyrant who has practised cruelty and violence and all the acts of a despot's merciless rule, but as a king invested with gentle and lawful authority, He governs the whole heaven and the world in righteousness.
'Now a king has no more appropriate title than "father": for what parents are to children in human relationships, such is a king to a city, and God to the world, having combined in indissoluble union by unalterable laws of nature two most noble qualities, the authority of the ruler and the kindly care of a guardian.
'Just as parents therefore do not altogether neglect their dissolute sons, but taking compassion upon their unhappiness watch over and care for them, considering that it is the part of irreconcilable enemies to exult over their misfortunes, but of friends and kinsmen to lighten their disasters. And oftentimes they lavish their gifts upon these more than upon their well-conducted children, knowing certainly that the prudent conduct of the latter is an abundant source of wealth, while their parents are the only hope of the former, and if they lose this, they will be destitute even of the necessaries of life.
'In the same way God also, being the father of the rational intellect, cares for all who have been endowed with reason, and takes thought even for those who live a culpable life, both giving them opportunity for amendment, and at the same time not transgressing His own merciful nature, which has goodness for its attendant and such kindness towards man as is worthy to pervade the divinely ordered world.
'This then is one argument which thou, my soul, must meanwhile receive as a sacred deposit from Him, and a second consistent and harmonious with it of the following kind. Never be thou so far misled from the truth as to suppose any one of the wicked to be divinely favoured, even though he be richer than Croesus, and more sharp-sighted than Lynceus, and stronger than Milo of Crotona, and more beautiful than Ganymede,
"Whom for his beauty's sake the gods caught up
To heaven, to be the cupbearer of Zeus." 17
'His own divine faculty at least, I mean his mind, he has shown to be the slave of innumerable masters, of love, desire, pleasure, fear, sorrow, folly, intemperance, cowardice, injustice, and so could never be divinely favoured, even if the multitude, failing of a true judgement, think him so, through being bribed by a double evil, pride and false opinion, evils strong to ensnare and mislead souls without ballast, and about which most of mankind are anxious.
'If, however, with the eye of the soul steadily fixed thou shouldest desire to survey the thought of God, so far as is possible for human reason, thou wilt have a clearer perception of the only true good, and wilt laugh at the things of this world, which thou wert erewhile disposed to admire. For it is ever the case that in the absence of the better things the worse are held in honour, as inheriting their place: but when the better have appeared, they withdraw, and are content with the second prize. 'Being therefore struck with: admiration of that godlike goodness and beauty, thou wilt thoroughly understand, that with God none of the things before-mentioned has been held worthy in itself to be ranked as good; because mines of silver and of gold are the most useless part of the earth, wholly and utterly inferior to that which is given up to the production of fruits.
'For abundance of money is not the same thing as food, without which one cannot live. One most clear test of this is hunger, whereby what is really necessary and useful is put to proof: for a hungry man would gladly give all the treasures in the world in exchange for a little food.
'But when the abundance of the necessaries of life flows in an immense and unchecked stream, and is poured out over the cities, while indulging luxuriously in the gifts of nature, we disdain to rest content upon them alone, but making insolent surfeit the ruling principle of life, and eagerly pursuing gains of silver and gold, we equip ourselves with all things from which we may hope for any gain, and as if blinded by love of money we no longer discern in our mind that silver and gold are mere lumps of earth, for which instead of peace there is constant and uninterrupted war.
'Our garments indeed, as the poets somewhere say, are "the bloom of sheep," 18 and as to the artistic skill in making them they are the weavers' glory. And if any one thinks much of reputation, and welcomes the approval of the worthless, let him know that he is also worthless himself; for like takes pleasure in like. 'But let him pray to get a share of purifications for the healing of his ears, for through them the chief disorders invade the soul. Also let all who are proud of their bodily vigour learn not to be arrogant, by looking at the countless herds of animals tame and untamed, who are born with strength and vigour: for it is a most absurd thing for a man to pride himself on the good qualities of beasts, and that too though surpassed by them.
'And why should any man of good sense exult in bodily beauty, which a short time extinguishes by withering up its deceitful prime, before it has flourished its full time; and that too though in lifeless things he sees highly prized works of painters, and modellers, and other artists, in pictures, and statues, and embroidered tapestries----works renowned in every city both in Greece and in barbarous countries?
'Of these things therefore, as I said before, none is by God held worthy to be ranked as good. And why should we wonder, if they are not so esteemed by God? For neither are they so esteemed among men who are beloved of God, by whom true excellence and beauty are held in honour, as they enjoy a well-endowed nature, and have improved that nature by study and exercise, which are the creations of a genuine philosophy.
'But as many as devoted themselves to a spurious learning did not imitate even the physicians who heal the body that is the slave of the soul, though professing as they do to heal the mistress, the soul herself. For those physicians of the body, when any rich man has fallen sick, even if he be the great king, pass by all the colonnades, the men's chambers, the women's chambers, pictures, silver, gold uncoined or coined, abundance of drinking-vessels or of tapestries, and all the other celebrated ornaments of kings, and moreover disregard the crowd of servants, and the attendance of friends or relations and subjects high in office, even his bodyguards, and when they have reached the bedside pay no thought to the decorations of his person, nor wonder that the couches are inlaid with precious stones and are of solid gold, neither that the coverlets are of the finest web or embroidered linen, nor that the patterns of his garments are of varied beauty; but even pull off the blankets that cover him, and take hold of his hands, and pressing the veins note the pulsations carefully, whether they are healthy. Oftentimes too they even draw up his shirt, and examine whether the belly is distended, whether the chest is inflamed, whether the heart beats irregularly: and then they apply the proper treatment.
'And the philosophers also, who profess to practise the art of healing the kingly nature of the soul, ought to disregard all the vain figments of false opinions, and pass on within and feel the mind itself, whether its pulsations are unequally quickened by anger, and unnaturally excited: also to touch the tongue, whether it is rough and slanderous, whether it is given to wantonness and extravagance: to feel the belly also, whether it is distended with some insatiable form of desire: and to make a general examination of the several passions, disorders, and infirmities, if they seem to be complicated, in order that they may not mistake the remedies conducive to a cure.
'But now being dazzled by the brilliancy of the external things around them, as they are impotent to discern an intellectual light, they have been for ever wandering in error, not having been able to reach the sovereign reason; but coming hardly so far as the outer portals, and being struck with admiration of the attendants who stand at the gates of virtue, wealth and honour and health and things of the like kind, they proceeded to worship them.
'But in fact as it is the excess of madness to use the blind as judges of colour, or deaf men of musical sounds, so it is to take evil men as judges of what is truly good: for these likewise are blinded in their master faculty of thought, over which folly has shed a deep darkness.
'Do we then wonder now that a Socrates and this or that virtuous man continued in poverty, as men who never practised any of the arts which lead to gain, nor even deigned to accept what they might have taken from rich friends or from kings who offered them large gifts, because they regarded the attainment of virtue as the one thing good and beautiful, and while labouring at that took no account of whatever else was good?
'And who would not thus disregard things spurious to provide the genuine? And if as partakers of a mortal body, and burdened with the misfortunes of humanity, and living in the midst of such a multitude of unrighteous men, the number of whom it would not be easy to discover, if, I say, they were plotted against, why should we lay the blame on their nature, when we ought rather to reproach the cruelty of their assailants?
'For if they had been in a pestilential atmosphere, they must certainly have fallen sick; and wickedness is more, or certainly not less, destructive than a pestilential climate. And as the wise man, if he were to spend his time in the open air, when it is raining, must necessarily get wet through, and when a cold north wind is blowing must be pinched with cold and shivering, and in the height of summer must be scorched with heat, since it is a law of nature that our bodies are affected in accordance with the changes of the seasons; in the same way the man who dwells in places of this kind,
"Mid murders, famines, and all kinds of death," 19
must in return necessarily incur the penalties which result from such evils.
'For in the case of Polycrates, when for his dreadful deeds of injustice and impiety he met with a requital in the worse misery of his subsequent life----to which you must add how he was punished by the great king, and was impaled, in fulfilment of an oracle,----"I know," said he, "that not long ago I seemed to see myself being anointed by the sun and washed by Zeus." 20 For these enigmatical utterances expressed in figurative language, though originally obscure, received the most manifest confirmation through the facts which followed.
'And not only at the end, but throughout his whole life from the beginning, he had been unconscious that his soul was impaled before his body was: for he was worried by perpetual fear and trembling at the multitude of those who were plotting against him, and well knew that he had not one friend, but only enemies implacable because of their misery.
'The authors too of the history of Sicily bear witness to the: unavailing and perpetual caution (of Dionysius), and say that he entertained suspicions of the wife who was dearest to his soul.21 And a proof of it was this: he ordered the entrance into his apartment, by which she would have to come to him, to be loosely covered with planks, that she might never creep upon him unobserved, but might give notice of her arrival by the creaking and rattling of her passage over the boards; also that she was to come to him not simply undressed, but naked even in all those parts which ought not to be seen by men. And in addition to this, he ordered the continuity of the ground at the entrance to be cut across to the width and depth of a farm-dyke, because he feared lest some attempt at a plot should be concealed from observation, and this was sure to be detected by leaps or long strides.
'How full of miseries then was the man who took these precautions and devices in the case of a wife, whom he ought to have trusted before all others! But in fact he was like those who, in order to observe more clearly the natural phenomena in the sky, climb precipices on a rugged mountain, and when they have with difficulty reached an overhanging ledge are neither able to ascend any further from failure of strength for the remaining height, nor have courage to descend, but turn giddy at the sight of the chasms below.
'For having been enamoured of despotic power as a godlike and enviable lot, he began to suspect that it was neither safe to remain nor to run away: for if he remained, there were innumerable evils rushing on like a torrent one after another against him; and if he wished to run away, there was the risk of his life hanging over him, from men armed against him if not in their bodies yet certainly in their thoughts.
'And this is made manifest also by the practical test which Dionysius is said to have employed against the friend who praised the happy life of despotic rulers. For having invited him to a display of a most brilliant and costly banquet, he ordered a well-sharpened axe to be suspended over him by a very slight thread: and when on reclining he suddenly saw this, he was neither bold enough to rise up out of his place because of the tyrant, nor able from fear to enjoy any of the luxuries provided for him; but giving no heed to the abundant and costly pleasures, he sat with neck and eyes stretched upwards expecting his own destruction.
'And when Dionysius perceived it, he said, Do you then now understand this celebrated and enviable life of ours? For such, if one would not flatter himself, is its real nature, since it contains great abundance of supplies, without the enjoyment of any one good thing, but terrors coming one after another, and dangers for; which there is no remedy, and a disease more grievous than any cancerous and wasting sickness, which is continually threatening irremediable destruction.
'But the inexperienced multitude being deceived by the brilliant display are affected in the same way as those who are ensnared by ugly courtesans, who veil their ugliness by dress and gold ornaments, and pencil their eyes, and fabricate a false beauty for want of genuine to catch the beholders.
'Such is the heavy fate with which the over-prosperous are burdened, and of which they estimate the excessive evils in their own mind and do not conceal them; but, like those who are forced by pain to acknowledge their infirmities, they give utterance to perfectly sincere expressions which are forced from them by suffering, while they live surrounded with penalties both present and expected, like beasts that are being fatted for sacrifice; for these also receive the utmost care in order that they may be slaughtered to make a plentiful feast of meat.
'Some men also have been not obscurely but manifestly punished for sacrilegious gains: to give a list of their whole number would be a superfluous labour, but one fact may suffice to stand as an example of all. It is said then by the historians of the sacred war in Phocis, that whereas there was a law established that he who plundered a temple should be cast down a precipice, or drowned in the sea, or burnt to death, three men who had plundered the temple at Delphi, Philomelus, and Onomarchus, and Phayllus, divided the punishments among them. For the first was hurled down over a rugged and stony cliff by the fall of a rock, and crushed to death; the second was carried by his horse, which had run away, down to the sea, and being overwhelmed by the tide, went down, horse and all, into a yawning gulf. And Phayllus either wasted away by a consumptive disease (for the story about him is twofold), or perished by being burnt in the conflagration of the temple at Abae.
'To say that these things happened by mere chance is a very perverse contention. For though it would have been reasonable to allege the uncertainty of fortune as an explanation, if some only had been punished either at different times or by other kinds of punishment; yet when the whole band were punished, and that about the same time, and not by other punishments, but by those which were included in the laws, there is good reason to affirm that they were overtaken by the judgement of God.
'But if any of the violent men who have been left unmentioned, and who have risen up against the people, and enslaved not only other communities but also their native countries, remained unpunished to the end, there is nothing wonderful in that. For in the first place man judgeth not as God judgeth, because, while we search out only visible facts, He noiselessly enters into the recesses of the soul, and beholds the thought as clear as in the sunlight, stripping off the coverings in which it is wrapped up, and surveying its devices in their naked truth, and instantly distinguishing the false coinage from the true.
'Never therefore let us prefer our own judgement to that of God, and say that it is more unerring and more full of wisdom; for that is impious. For in the one the causes of error are many, illusions of the senses, insidious passions, the very formidable leaguer of vices; but in the other there is nothing that tends to deception, but justice and truth, whereby each action is judged and naturally rectified in a satisfactory manner.
'In the next place do not think, my good friend, that a temporary despotism brings no advantage, for neither is punishment unprofitable, but for the good it is either more beneficial, or not unnecessary, to suffer retribution; for which cause this is embodied in all laws that are rightly constituted, and the lawgivers are commended by all: for punishment is in a law what a tyrant is in a people.
'Whenever therefore a terrible want and scarcity of virtue has overtaken the cities, while an abundance of folly overflows them, then God desiring to draw off the stream of wickedness, as it were the flood of a winter torrent, in order to purify our race, gives strength and power to those who are in their natures fitted to rule.
'For wickedness is not purged away without the help of some stern soul. And in the same way as cities support public executioners to suppress murderers and traitors and sacrilegious persons, not because they approve the disposition of the men, but. because they find by experience the usefulness of their service; in the same way the guardian of the great metropolis of this world sets up tyrants like public executioners over the cities in which He perceives violence, injustice, impiety, and all the other evils in full flood, that so He may at length stop and abate them.
'Then also with regard to the agents, as having given their service from an impure and ruthless spirit, He thinks it right to prosecute them last of all, as being in a manner ringleaders. For just as the power of fire, after it has consumed the fuel thrown upon it, feeds at last upon itself, in the same way those also who have gained despotic power over peoples, when they have exhausted the cities and emptied them of men, perish after them at last in satisfaction of the vengeance due for all.
'And why do we wonder, if God makes use of tyrants to drive away a flood of wickedness spread abroad in cities and countries and nations? For He often does this by Himself without using other assistants, inflicting either famine or pestilence or earthquake and any other visitations of God, by which great crowds and multitudes of men perish every day and a large portion of the habitable world is left desolate, because of His desire to maintain virtue.
'Enough however, I think, at least for the present, has been said to prove that no wicked man is happy, a fact by which the existence of a providence is most strongly established. But if you are not yet convinced, speak out boldly the doubt still lurking in your mind: for by discussing the question both together we shall know which way the truth lies.'
And after other things he says again:
[PHILO IUD.] 22 'Storms of wind and rain were not wrought by God, as you used to think, for the hurt of those at sea, or of men who till the ground, but for the benefit of our whole race. For by rains He purifies the earth, and by winds the whole region beneath the moon; and by both together He nourishes plants and animals, and makes them grow, and brings them to perfection.
'And if sometimes He hurts those who are voyaging or tilling the earth out of due season, there is nothing wonderful in this; for they are but a small part, and His care is for the whole race of mankind. As therefore the anointing in the gymnasium is appointed for the benefit of all, yet the gymnasiarch, on account of political necessities, often changes the usual order of time, whereby some of those who were to be anointed are too late; so also God in His care for the whole world, as it were a city, is wont to make summers wintry, and winters like spring, for the general benefit, even though some shipmasters or tillers of the ground would probably be injured by the irregularities of these seasons.
'Knowing therefore that the mutual interchanges of the elements, out of which the world was compacted and still consists, is a very necessary work, He keeps them free from hindrance; and frosts and snows and other things of like kind follow upon the cooling of the atmosphere, and again lightnings and thunderstorms follow upon the collision and friction of the clouds: none of which things perhaps is the direct work of providence, but these are consequences of rains and winds which are the causes of life and nourishment and growth to things on earth.
'As for example, when from rivalry a gymnasiarch often incurs unlimited expenses, some of the ill-bred being drenched with oil instead of water, shake off drops upon the ground, and then immediately there is the most slippery mud, yet no one in his right senses would say that the mud and the slipperiness had been made by the intention of the gymnasiarch, but that they had been accidental consequences of the abundance of the supplies (of oil).
'Again, a rainbow and a halo and all things of like kind arc-consequences of the sun's rays being mingled with the clouds, not primary works of nature, but accidents which follow upon the natural operations. Not but what these also supply some necessary use to the wiser sort of men; for from these signs they draw conjectures, and so foretell calms and winds, and fine weather and storms.
'Do you not see the porticoes in the city? Most of these face towards the south, in order that those who walk in them may be warmed in winter, and catch the breeze in summer. But there is also another indirect consequence, which does not follow by the intention of the person who arranged them. And what is this? The shadows which fall away from our feet mark to our experience the different hours.
'Fire moreover is a most necessary product of nature, and smoke is a further consequence of it. But nevertheless smoke itself sometimes offers an advantage. For instance in the case of beacon fires at midday, when the fire grows dim from the beams of the sun shining down upon it, the approach of enemies is indicated by smoke.
'The same kind of explanation as in the case of the rainbow is also true of eclipses, for eclipses are the consequences of the divine natures of the sun and moon; and they are indications either of the death of kings, or of the destruction of cities, a fact to which Pindar obscurely alluded on the occasion of an eclipse in the passage previously quoted.23
'The circle too of the Milky Way partakes of the same essential nature as the other constellations, and though the cause of it is difficult to explain, those who are accustomed to investigate the principles of nature should not shrink from it; for the discovery of such things is most beneficial, and the inquiry is also most delightful in itself to those who are fond of learning.
'As therefore the sun and moon, so also all the heavenly bodies have been made by providence, even though we in our inability to trace out their several natures and powers may be silent about them.
'Earthquakes too, and pestilences and thunderbolts, and all tilings of this kind, though said to be sent from God. are not so in truth (for God is not the cause of any evil at all), but these are produced by the changes of the elementary atoms, and are not primary works of nature, but follow necessary laws as consequences of the primary operations.
'If then some of the more refined experience their share in the damage which these things cause, they must not lay the blame upon the administration. For in the first place it does not follow, if certain persons are held among us to be virtuous, that they are so in reality, since God's means of judgement are more exact than any formed according to the standard of the human mind. And in the second place foresight is content to look to the most comprehensive laws of the universe, just as in monarchies and military governments it looks to the cities and the armies, not to any one casual individual of the neglected and obscure.
'Some too say that just as it is customary when tyrants are slain that their relatives also should be put to death, in order that wrong doings may be checked by the magnitude of the punishment, in like manner also in pestilential diseases some of the innocent perish with the rest, in order that the others may prudently keep aloof; apart from the fact that those who venture into a pestilential atmosphere must necessarily fall sick, just as those on board ship in a storm share equally in the danger.
'Wild beasts too of great strength (for I must not pass over this in silence, although with your powerful eloquence you were inclined to anticipate my defence and pull it in pieces) have been created for the sake of training men for the conflicts of war. For gymnastic exercises and constant hunting are excellent for hardening and nerving men's bodies, and, what is more important than their bodies, accustom their souls in the steadfastness of their strength to disregard any sudden assaults of enemies.
'But those who are of a peaceable nature are allowed to pass their lives shut up not only within walls but also within chamber-doors, safe from hostile designs, with abundant herds of tame animals for their enjoyment; since boars, and lions, and other beasts of like disposition are by their own natural inclination driven far away from a town, from a desire to suffer no harm from the devices of men.
'And if any from indolence live carelessly amid the lairs of wild beasts unarmed and unprepared let them blame themselves and not nature for what happens, because they neglected to take precautions as they might have done. For instance, ere now at horse-races I have seen some persons give way to thoughtlessness, who when they ought to have been sitting in their places, and looking on in an orderly manner, stood in the course, and being knocked over by the rush of the four-horsed chariots, were crushed by the hoofs and wheels, and met the rewards of their folly.
'On this subject then enough has been said. But of reptiles the venomous kinds have not been created according to providential design, but in the way of natural consequence, as I said before. For they are quickened into life, when the moisture that is in them changes to excessive heat. Some also are vivified by putrefaction, as worms by putrid food, and lice by sweat. But all which have their origin from a proper substance, in the primary and natural way of seminal generation, are reasonably ascribed to providence.
'About these also, as having been created for the benefit of man, I have heard two accounts, which I must not conceal. The one was of the following kind: some said that the venomous reptiles were useful for many medical purposes, and that those who regularly pursue the art, by using them scientifically for suitable cases, are well supplied with antidotes, to the unexpected cure of persons in the most dangerous condition; and to the present day one may see those who undertake to practise medicine in no idle or careless fashion, employing the several venomous reptiles in the composition of their remedies, not without careful consideration.
'But the other story was not medical, but philosophical, as it seems. For it asserted that these animals are prepared by God as punishments for sinners, as scourges or even iron by generals and leaders. On which account, though quiet at other times, they are stirred up to violence against the condemned, whose nature passes sentence of death upon itself in its own incorruptible tribunal.
'But that they have their holes especially in houses is false, for they are usually seen outside a town in open fields and desert places, avoiding man as their master. Not but what, if it is true, there is some reason in it; for refuse and filth in large quantities are heaped up in corners, and they like to slip in under these, besides that the smell also has an attractive force.
'If swallows also live among us, it is nothing strange, for we abstain from hunting them. And the desire of safety is implanted not only in rational souls, but also in irrational. But none of those animals which we use for food lives among us, because of our designs against them, except in nations where the use of such animals is forbidden by law.
'On the sea-coast of Syria there is a city named Ascalon. Having been there at the time when I was journeying to the Temple of my fathers to offer prayers and sacrifices, I saw an incredible number of pigeons upon the roads and at every house. And when I asked the cause, they said that it was not lawful to catch them, for the inhabitants had been forbidden from ancient times to use them for food. So thoroughly has the animal grown tame from fearlessness, that it constantly came not only under the same roof but also to the same table, and revelled in its freedom from attack.
'But in Egypt there is a still more wonderful thing to be seen. For the crocodile, the most troublesome of all animals, addicted also to devouring men, being born and bred in the most sacred waters of the Nile, although it lives in the depths is conscious of the benefit bestowed upon it. For among the people by whom it is honoured it multiplies exceedingly, but never appears at all among those who injure it: so that in some places even the boldest of voyagers dare not put down even the tip of a finger where the crocodiles congregate in shoals, while in other places even the most timid persons leap out and swim in sport.
'But in the country of the Cyclopes, since their race is a legendary fiction, in the absence of sowing and husbandmen there grows no eatable fruit, just as nothing is produced out of that which does not exist. We must not accuse Greece of being poor and barren, for here also there is much deep rich soil. And if the country of the barbarians excels in fruitfulness, then though superabounding in food, it falls short in the people to be fed, for whose sake the food is produced. For Greece alone is truly the mother of men, as giving birth to a plant of heavenly origin, and a godlike germ which has been brought to perfection, namely reasoning united to science. And the cause is this: by the lightness of the atmosphere the mind is naturally sharpened.
'Wherefore also Heracleitus makes no mistake in saying, "Where the soil is dry, the soul is most wise and virtuous." 24 And this one might conjecture also from the fact that the sober and frugal are more intelligent, while those who are always filling themselves with drink and food are least sensible, inasmuch as their reason is drowned by the things which overlay it.
'Wherefore in the land of the barbarians plants and trunks of trees are very tall from being well nourished, and the most prolific of irrational animals it produces abundantly, but very little intelligence: because the successive and continuous exhalations of earth and water have prevailed to hinder it from being raised up out of the air which is its source.
'But the various kinds of fishes and birds and land animals are no reasons for accusing nature as inviting us to luxury, but a terrible reproach to our intemperate use of them. For to the completeness of the universe, that order might exist in every part of it, it was necessary that all species of animals should be produced; but it was not necessary that man, the creature most akin to wisdom, should rush to feast upon them, and change his nature into the fierceness of wild beasts.
'Wherefore even to the present day those who have regard to temperance abstain altogether from them all, and feed with the sweetest enjoyment upon green vegetables and fruits of trees as their dainties. But against those who think that the feasting upon the aforesaid animals is according to nature there have risen up in various cities teachers, censors, lawgivers, whose care it has been to check men's immoderate appetites, by not permitting an unscrupulous use of all things to them all.
'Roses also and crocuses, and all the other variety of flowers, are meant, if for health, yet not all for pleasure. For their virtues are infinite, and they are beneficial of themselves by their scents, filling us all with fragrance; and far more beneficial in the medicinal compositions of drugs. For some of them when compounded make their own virtues more conspicuous, just like the union of male and female for the generation of an animal, each separately not being fitted by nature to effect what both can do combined.
'These arguments I have been obliged to state in answer to the rest of the questions raised by you, and they are sufficient to produce a satisfactory belief, in those who are not contentious on the subject, of God's careful superintendence of human affairs.'
These then are the brief extracts which. I have made from the writer before mentioned, both by way of showing what sort of men the Hebrews have been according to the testimony of the moderns, and at the same time of clearly establishing the facts of their pious judgement concerning God, and of their agreement with their forefathers. But now it is time to pass from this point to the testimonies of foreigners on the same subjects.
[Footnotes numbered and moved to the end]
1. 355 c 1 Philo Iud. Hypothetica, a Fragment preserved by Eusebius
2. 359 b 6 Deut. xxii. 6
3. 361 c 2 Josephus, c. Apion, ii. 16
4. 366 a 9 Lev. xii. 2; xxii. 4
5. 370 c 1 Letter of Aristeas
6. 373 d 1 Cf. Deut. vii. 18
7. 375 d 8 2 Macc. i. 10
8. 376 c 3 Deut. xviii. 15, 18
9. d 11 Ex. xiii. 9, 16
10. d 12 Ex. iii. 20
11. 377 a 1 Ex. ix. 3
12. 377 c 2 Ex. xix. 18, 20
13. 379 a 1 Philo Judaeus, ii. p. 632 (Mang.), a Fragment preserved by Eusebius
14. 381 b 5 Philo Judaeus, That every good man is free, ii. p. 457 (Mang.)
15. 384 d 4 Philo Judaeus, On the Creation of the World, p. 2 (Mang.)
16. 386 a 1 Philo Judaeus, On Providence, a Fragment preserved by Eusebius, p. 634 (Mang.)
17. 387 b 1 Homer, Il. xx. 234
18. 388 a 6 Homer, Il. xiii. 599
19. 390 c 6 Empedocles 19 (Mullach)
20. d 1 Herodotus iii. 25
21. 391 a 2 Cicero, Tusc. Disput. v. 20
22. 394 c 5 Philo Jud. Fr. ii. p. 642 (Mang.)
23. 395 d 8 The Fragment 'previously quoted' is only preserved in Aucher's Latin translation from the Armenian version of Philo On Providence, 5 80
24. 399 a 6 Heracleiti Relliquiae, lxxiv-lxxvi (Bywater)
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2003. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.
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