"كتابات الآباء "
THE STROMATA, OR
MISCELLANIES: BOOK VII (Chap. I to Chap. X)
GNOSTIC A TRUE WORSHIPPER OF GOD, AND UNJUSTLY CALUMNIATED BY
UNBELIEVERS AS AN ATHEIST.
It is now time to show the Greeks that the Gnostic alone is truly
pious; so that the philosophers, learning of what description the
true Christian is, may condemn their own stupidity in rashly and
inconsiderately persecuting the [Christian] name, and without reason
calling those impious who know the true God. And clearer arguments
must be employed, I reckon, with the philosophers, so that they may
be able, from the exercise they have already had through their own
training, to understand, although they have not yet shown themselves
worthy to partake of the power of believing.
The prophetic sayings we shall not at present advert to, as we are
to avail ourselves of the Scriptures subsequently at the proper
places. But we shall point out summarily the points indicated by
them, in our delineation of Christianity, so that by taking the
Scriptures at once (especially as they do not yet comprehend their
utterances), we may not interrupt the continuity of the discourse.
But after pointing out the things indicated, proofs shall be shown
in abundance to those who have believed.
But if the assertions made by us appear to certain of the multitude
to be different from the Scriptures of the Lord, let it be known
that it is from that source that they have breath and life; and
taking their rise from them, they profess to adduce the sense only,
not the words. For further treatment, not being seasonable, will
rightly appear superfluous. Thus, not to look at what is urgent
would be excessively indolent and defective; and "blessed, in truth,
are they who, investigating the testimonies of the Lord, shall seek
Him with their whole heart." And the law and the prophets witness
of the Lord.
It is, then, our purpose to prove that the Gnostic alone is holy and
pious, and worships the true God in a manner worthy of Him; and that
worship meet for God is followed by loving and being loved by God.
He accordingly judges all excellence to be honourable according to
its worth; and judges that among the objects perceived by our
senses, we are to esteem rulers, and parents, and every one advanced
in years; and among subjects of instruction, the most ancient
philosophy and primeval prophecy; and among intellectual ideas, what
is oldest in origin, the timeless and unoriginated First Principle,
and Beginning of existences--the Son--from whom we are to learn the
remoter Cause, the Father, of the universe, the most ancient and the
most beneficent of all; not capable of expression by the voice, but
to be reverenced with reverence, and silence, and holy wonder, and
supremely venerated; declared by the Lord, as far as those who
learned were capable of comprehending, and understood by those
chosen by the Lord to acknowledge; "whose senses," says the apostle,
The service of God, then, in the case of the Gnostic, is his soul's
continual study and occupation, bestowed on the Deity in
ceaseless love. For of the service bestowed on men, one kind is that
whose aim is improvement, the other ministerial. The improvement of
the body is the object of the medical art, of the soul of
philosophy. Ministerial service is rendered to parents by children,
to rulers by subjects.
Similarly, also, in the Church, the elders attend to the department
which has improvement for its object; and the deacons to the
ministerial. In both these ministries the angels serve God, in
the management of earthly affairs; and the Gnostic himself ministers
to God, and exhibits to men the scheme of improvement, in the way in
which he has been appointed to discipline men for their amendment.
For he is alone pious that serves God rightly and unblameably in
human affairs. For as that treatment of plants is best through which
their fruits are produced and gathered in, through knowledge and
skill in husbandry, affording men the benefit accruing from them; so
the piety of the Gnostic, taking to itself the fruits of the men who
by his means have believed, when not a few attain to knowledge and
are saved by it, achieves by his skill the best harvest. And as
Godliness (<greek>qeo</greek>-<greek>prepeia</greek>) is the habit
which preserves what is becoming to God, the godly man is the only
lover of God, and such will he be who knows what is becoming, both
in respect of knowledge and of the life which must be lived by him,
who is destined to be divine (<greek>qep</greek>), and is already
being assimilated to God. So then he is in the first place a lover
of God. For as he who honours his father is a lover of his father,
so he who honours God is a lover of God.
Thus also it appears to me that there are three effects of gnostic
power: the knowledge of things; second, the performance of whatever
the Word suggests; and the third, the capability of delivering, in a
way suitable to God, the secrets veiled in the truth.
He, then, who is persuaded that God is omnipotent, and has learned
the divine mysteries from His only-begotten Son, how can he be an
atheist (<greek>apeos</greek>)? For he is an atheist who thinks that
God does not exist. And he is superstitious who dreads the demons;
who deifies all things, both wood and stone; and reduces to bondage
spirit, and man who possesses the life of reason.
CHAP. II.--THE SON THE RULER AND SAVIOUR OF ALL.
To know God is, then, the first step of faith; then, through
confidence in the teaching of the Saviour, to consider the doing of
wrong in any way as not suitable to the knowledge of God.
So the best thing on earth is the most pious man; and the best thing
in heaven, the nearer in place and purer, is an angel, the partaker
of the eternal and blessed life. But the nature of the Son, which is
nearest to Him who is alone the Almighty One, is the most perfect,
and most holy, and most potent, and most princely, and most kingly,
and most beneficent. This is the highest excellence, which orders
all things in accordance with the Father's will, and holds the helm
of the universe in the best way, with unwearied and tireless power,
working all things in which it operates, keeping in view its hidden
designs. For from His own point of view the Son of God is never
displaced; not being divided, not severed, not passing from place to
place; being always everywhere, and being contained nowhere;
complete mind, the complete paternal light; all eyes, seeing all
things, hearing all things, knowing all things, by His power
scrutinizing the powers. To Him is placed in subjection all the host
of angels and gods; He, the paternal Word, exhibiting a the holy
administration for Him who put [all] in subjection to Him.
Wherefore also all men are His; some through knowledge, and others
not yet so; and some as friends, some as faithful servants, some as
servants merely. This is the Teacher, who trains the Gnostic by
mysteries, and the believer by good hopes, and the hard of heart by
corrective discipline through sensible operation. Thence His
providence is in private, in public, and everywhere.
And that He whom we call Saviour and Lord is the Son of God, the
prophetic Scriptures explicitly prove. So the Lord of all, of Greeks
and of Barbarians, persuades those who are willing. For He does not
compel him who (through choosing and fulfilling, from Him, what
pertains to laying hold of it the hope) is able to receive salvation
It is He who also gave philosophy to the Greeks by means of the
inferior angels. For by an ancient and divine order the angels are
distributed among the nations. But the glory of those who believe
is "the Lord's portion." For either the Lord does not care for all
men; and this is the case either because He is unable (which is not
to be thought, for it would be a proof of weakness), or because He
is unwilling, which is not the attribute of a good being. And He who
for our sakes assumed flesh capable of suffering, is far from being
luxuriously indolent. Or He does care for all, which is befitting
for Him who has become Lord of all. For He is Saviour; not [the
Saviour] of some, and of others not. But in proportion to the
adaptation possessed by each, He has dispensed His beneficence both
to Greeks and Barbarians, even to those of them that were
predestinated, and in due time called, the faithful and elect. Nor
can He who called all equally, and assigned special honours to those
who have believed in a specially excellent way, ever envy any. Nor
can He who is the Lord of all, and serves above all the will of the
good and almighty Father, ever be hindered by another. But neither
does envy touch the Lord, who without beginning was impassible; nor
are the things of men such as to be envied by the Lord. But it is
another, he whom passion hath touched, who envies. And it cannot be
said that it is from ignorance that the Lord is not willing to save
humanity, because He knows not how each one is to be cared for. For
ignorance applies not to the God who, before the foundation of the
world, was the counsellor of the Father. For He was the Wisdom "in
which" the Sovereign God "delighted." For the Son is the power of
God, as being the Father's most ancient Word before the production
of all things, and His Wisdom. He is then properly called the
Teacher of the beings formed by Him. Nor does He ever abandon care
for men, by being drawn aside from pleasure, who, having assumed
flesh, which by nature is susceptible of suffering, trained it to
the condition of impossibility.
And how is He Saviour and Lord, if not the Saviour and Lord of all?
But He is the Saviour of those who have believed, because of their l
wishing to know; and the Lord of those who have not believed, till,
being enabled to confess him, they obtain the peculiar and
appropriate boon which comes by Him.
Now the energy of the Lord has a reference to the Almighty; and the
Son is, so to speak, an energy of the Father. Therefore, a hater of
man, the Saviour can never be; who, for His exceeding love to human
flesh, despising not its susceptibility to suffering, but investing
Himself with it, came for the common salvation of men; for the faith
of those who have chosen it, is common. Nay more, He will never
neglect His own work, because man alone of all the other living
creatures was in his creation endowed with a conception of God. Nor
can there be any other better and more suitable government for men
than that which is appointed by God.
It is then always proper for the one who is superior by nature to be
over the inferior, and for him who is capable of managing aught well
to have the management of it assigned to him. Now that which truly
rules and presides is the Divine Word and His providence, which
inspects all things, and despises the care of nothing belonging to
Those, then, who choose to belong to Him, are those who are
perfected through faith. He, the Son, is, by the will of the
Almighty Father, the cause of all good things, being the first
efficient cause of motion--a power incapable of being apprehended by
sensation. For what He was, was not seen by those who, through the
weakness of the flesh, were incapable of taking in [the reality].
But, having assumed sensitive flesh, He came to show man what was
possible through obedience to the commandments. Being, then, the
Father's power, He easily prevails in what He wishes, leaving not
even the minutest point of His administration unattended to. For
otherwise the whole would not have been well executed by Him.
But, as I think, characteristic of the highest power is the accurate
scrutiny of all the parts, reaching even to the minutest,
terminating in the first Administrator of the universe, who by the
will of the Father directs the salvation of all; some overlooking,
who are set under others, who are set over them, till you come to
the great High Priest. For on one original first Principle, which
acts according to the [Father's] will, the first and the second and
the third depend. Then at the highest extremity of the visible world
is the blessed band of angels; and down to ourselves there are
ranged, some under others, those who, from One and by One, both are
saved and save.
As, then, the minutest particle of steel is moved by the spirit of
the Heraclean stone when diffused over many steel rings; so
also, attracted by the Holy Spirit, the virtuous are added by
affinity to the first abode, and the others in succession down to
the last. But those who are bad from infirmity, having fallen from
vicious insatiableness into a depraved state, neither controlling
nor controlled, rush round and round, whirled about by the passions,
and fall down to the ground.
For this was the law from the first, that virtue should be the
object of voluntary choice. Wherefore also the commandments,
according to the Law, and before the Law, not given to the upright
(for the law is not appointed for a righteous man) , ordained
that he should receive eternal life and the blessed prize, who chose
But, on the other hand, they allowed him who had been delighted with
vice to consort with the objects of his choice; and, on the other
hand, that the soul, which is ever improving in the acquisition
of virtue and the increase of righteousness, should obtain a better
place in the universe, as tending in each step of advancement
towards the habit of impassibility, till "it come to a perfect
man," to the excellence at once of knowledge and of inheritance.
These salutary revolutions, in accordance with the order of change,
are distinguished both by times, and places, and honours, and
cognitions, and heritages, and ministries, according to the
particular order of each change, up to the transcendent and
continual contemplation of the Lord in eternity.
Now that which is lovable leads, to the contemplation of itself,
each one who, from love of knowledge, applies himself entirely to
contemplation. Wherefore also the Lord, drawing the commandments,
both the first which He gave, and the second, from one fountain,
neither allowed those who were before the law to be without law, nor
permitted those who were unacquainted with the principles of the
Barbarian philosophy to be without restraint. For, having furnished
the one with the commandments, and the other with philosophy, He
shut up unbelief to the Advent. Whence every one who believes not
is without excuse. For by a different process of advancement, both
Greek and Barbarian, He leads to the perfection which is by
And if any one of the Greeks, passing over the preliminary training
of the Hellenic philosophy, proceeds directly to the true teaching,
he distances others, though an unlettered man, by choosing the
compendious process of salvation by faith to perfection.
Everything, then, which did not hinder a man's choice from being
free, He made and rendered auxiliary to virtue, in order that there
might be revealed somehow or other, even to those capable of seeing
but dimly, the one only almighty, good God--from eternity to
eternity saving by His Son.
And, on the other hand, He is in no respect whatever the cause of
evil. For all things are arranged with a view to the salvation of
the universe by the Lord of the universe, both generally and
particularly. It is then the function of the righteousness of
salvation to improve everything as far as practicable. For even
minor marten are arranged with a view to the salvation of that which
is better, and for an abode suitable for people's character. Now
everything that is virtuous changes for the better; having as the
proper cause of change the free choice of knowledge, which the
soul has in its own power. But necessary corrections, through the
goodness of the great overseeing Judge, both by the attendant
angels, and by various acts of anticipative judgment, and by the
perfect judgment, compel egregious sinners to repent.
CHAP. III.--THE GNOSTIC AIMS AT THE NEAREST LIKENESS POSSIBLE TO
GOD AND HIS SON.
Now I pass over other things in silence, glorifying the Lord. But I
affirm that gnostic souls, that surpass in the grandeur of
contemplation the mode of life of each of the holy ranks, among whom
the blessed abodes of the gods are allotted by distribution,
reckoned holy among the holy, transferred entire from among the
entire, reaching places better than the better places, embracing the
divine vision not in mirrors or by means of mirrors, but in the
transcendently clear and absolutely pure insatiable vision which is
the privilege of intensely loving souls, holding festival through
endless ages, remain honoured with the indentity of all excellence.
Such is the vision attainable by "the pure in heart." This is the
function of the Gnostic, who has been perfected, to have convene
with God through the great High Priest, being made like the Lord, up
to the measure of his capacity, in the whole service of God, which
tends to the salvation of men, through care of the beneficence which
has us for its object; and on the other side through worship,
through teaching and through beneficence in deeds. The Gnostic even
forms and creates himself; and besides also, he, like to God, adorns
those who hear him; assimilating as far as possible the moderation
which, arising from practice, tends to impossibility, to Him who by
nature possesses impossibility; and especially having uninterrupted
converse and fellowship with the Lord. Mildness, I think, and
philanthropy, and eminent piety, are the rules of gnostic
assimilation. I affirm that these virtues "are a sacrifice
acceptable in the sight of God; " heart with Scripture alleging
that" right knowledge is the holocaust of God; each man who is
admitted to holiness being illuminated in order to indissoluble
For "to bring themselves into captivity," and to slay themselves,
putting to death "the old man, who is through lusts corrupt," and
raising the new man from death, "from the old conversation," by
abandoning the passions, and becoming free of sin, both the Gospel
and the apostle enjoin.
It was this, consequently, which the Law intimated, by ordering the
sinner to be cut off, and translated from death to life, to the
impossibility that is the result of faith; which the teachers of the
Law, not comprehending, inasmuch as they regarded the law as
contentions, they have given a handle to those who attempt idly to
calumniate the Law. And for this reason we rightly do not sacrifice
to God, who, needing nothing, supplies all men with all things; but
we glorify Him who gave Himself in sacrifice for us, we also
sacrificing ourselves; from that which needs nothing to that which
needs nothing, and to that which is impassible from that which is
impassible. For in our salvation alone God delights. We do not
therefore, and with reason too, offer sacrifice to Him who is not
overcome by pleasures, inasmuch as the fumes of the smoke stop far
beneath, and do not even reach the thickest clouds; but those they
reach are far from them. The Deity neither is, then, in want of
aught, nor loves pleasure, or gain, or money, being full, and
supplying all things to everything that has received being and has
wants. And neither by sacrifices nor offerings, nor on the other
hand by glory and honour, is the Deity won over; nor is He
influenced by any such things; but He appears only to excellent and
good men, who will never betray justice for threatened fear, nor by
the promise of considerable gifts.
But those who have not seen the self-determination of the human
soul, and its incapability of being treated as a slave in what
respects the choice of life, being disgusted at what is done through
rude injustice, do not think that there is a God. On a par with
these in opinion, are they who, falling into licentiousness in
pleasures, and grievous pains, and unlooked-for accidents, and
bidding defiance to events, say that there is no God, or that,
though existing, He does not oversee all things. And others there
are, who are persuaded that those they reckon gods are capable of
being prevailed upon by sacrifices and gifts, favouring, so to
speak, their prof-ligacies; and will not believe that He is the only
true God, who exists in the invariablehess of righteous goodness.
The Gnostic, then, is pious, who cares first for himself, then for
his neighbours, that they may become very good. For the son
gratifies a good father, by showing himself good and like his
father; and in like manner the subject, the governor. For believing
and obeying are in our own power.
But should any one suppose the cause of evils to be the weakness of
matter, and the involuntary impulses of ignorance, and (in his
stupidity) irrational necessities; he who has become a Gnostic has
through instruction superiority over these, as if they were wild
beasts; and in imitation of the divine plan, he does good to such as
are willing, as far as he can. And if ever placed in authority, like
Moses, he will rule for the salvation of the governed; and will tame
wildness and faithlessness, by recording honour for the most
excellent, and punishment for the wicked, in accordance with reason
for the sake of discipline.
For pre-eminently a divine image, resembling God, is the soul of a
righteous man; in which, through obedience to the commands, as in a
consecrated spot, is enclosed and enshrined the Leader of mortals
and of immortals, King and Parent of what is good, who is truly law,
and right, and eternal Word, being the one Saviour individually to
each, and in common to all.
He is the true Only-begotten, the express image of the glory of the
universal King and Almighty Father, who impresses on the Gnostic the
seal of the perfect contemplation, according to His own image; so
that there is now a third divine image, made as far as possible like
the Second Cause, the Essential Life, through which we live the true
life; the Gnostic, as we regard him, being described as moving amid
things sure and wholly immutable.
Ruling, then, over himself and what belongs to him, and possessing a
sure grasp, of divine science, he makes a genuine approach to the
truth. For the knowledge and apprehension of intellectual objects
must necessarily be called certain scientific knowledge, whose
function in reference to divine things is to consider what is the
First Cause, and what that "by whom all things were made, and
without whom nothing was made; " and what things, on the other
hand, are as pervasive, and what is comprehensive; what conjoined,
what disjoined; and what is the position which each one of them
holds, and what power and what service each contributes. And again.
among human things, what man himself is, and what he has naturally
or preternaturally; and how, again, it becomes him to do or to
suffer; and what are his virtues and what his vices; and about
things good, bad, and indifferent; also about fortitude, and
prudence, and self-restraint, and the virtue which is in all
respects complete, namely, righteousness.
Further, he employs prudence and righteousness in the acquisition of
wisdom, and fortitude, not only in the endurance of circumstances,
but also in restraining pleasure and desire, grief and anger;
and, in general, to withstand everything which either by any
force or fraud entices us. For it is not necessary to endure vices
and virtues, but it is to be persuaded to bear things that inspire
Accordingly, pain is found beneficial in the healing art, and in
discipline, and in punishment; and by it men's manners are corrected
to their advantage. Forms of fortitude are endurance, magnanimity,
high spirit, liberality, and grandeur. And for this reason he
neither meets with the blame or the bad opinion of the multitude;
nor is he subjected to opinions or flatteries. But in the indurance
of toils and at the same time in the discharge of any duty, and
in his manly superiority to all circumstances, he appears truly a
man (<greek>anhr</greek>) among the rest of human beings. And, on
the other hand, maintaining prudence, he exercises moderation in the
calmness of his soul; receptive of what is commanded, as of what
belongs to him, entertaining aversion to what is base, as alien to
him; become decorous and supramundane, he does everything with
decorum and in order, and transgresses in no respect, and in
nothing. Rich he is in the highest degree in desiring nothing, as
having few wants; and being in the midst of abundance of all good
through the knowledge of the good. For it is the first effect of his
righteousness, to love to spend his time and associate with those of
his own race both in earth and heaven. So also he is liberal of what
he possesses. And being a lover of men, he is a hater of the wicked,
entertaining a perfect aversion to all villany. He must consequently
learn to be faithful both to himself and his neighbours, and
obedient to the commandments. For he is the true servant of God who
spontaneously subjects himself to His commands. And he who already,
not through the commandments, but through knowledge itself, is pure
in heart, is the friend of God. For neither are we born by nature
possessing virtue, nor after we are born does it grow naturally, as
certain parts of the body; since then it would neither be voluntary
nor praiseworthy. Nor is virtue, like speech, perfected by the
practice that results from everyday occurrences (for this is very
much the way in which vice originates). For it is not by any art,
either those of acquisition, or those which relate to the care of
the body, that knowledge is attained. No more is it from the
curriculum of instruction. For that is satisfied if it can only
prepare and sharpen the soul. For the laws of the state are
perchance able to restrain bad actions; but persuasive words, which
but touch the surface, cannot produce a scientific permanence of the
Now the Greek philosophy, as it were, purges the soul, and prepares
it beforehand for the reception of faith, on which the Truth builds
up the edifice of knowledge.
This is the true athlete--he who in the great stadium, the fair
world, is crowned for the true victory over all the passions. For He
who prescribes the contest is the Almighty God, and He who awards
the prize is the only-begotten: Son of God. Angels and gods are
spectators; and the contest, embracing all the varied exercises, is
"not against flesh and blood," but against the spiritual powers
of inordinate passions that work through the flesh. He who obtains
the mastery in these struggles, and overthrows the tempter,
menacing, as it were, with certain contests, wins immortality. For
the sentence of God in most righteous judgment is infallible. The
spectators are summoned to the contest, and the athletes contend
in the stadium; the one, who has obeyed the directions of the
trainer, wins the day. For to all, all rewards proposed by God are
equal; and He Himself is unimpeachable. And he who has power
receives mercy, and he that has exercised will is mighty.
So also we have received mind, that we may know what we do. And the
maxim "Know thyself" means here to know for what we are born. And we
are born to obey the commandments, if we choose to be willing to be
saved. Such is the Nemesis,s through which there is no escaping from
God. Man's duty, then, is obedience to God, who has proclaimed
salvation manifold by the commandments. And confession is
thanksgiving. For the beneficent first begins to do good. And he who
on fitting considerations readily receives and keeps the
commandments, is faithful (<greek>pistos</greek>); and he who by
love requites benefits as far as he is able, is already a friend.
One recompense on the part of men is of paramount importance--the
doing of what is pleasing to God. As being His own production, and a
result akin to Himself, the Teacher and Saviour receives acts of
assistance and of improvement on the part of men as a personal
favour and honour; as also He regards the injuries inflicted on
those who believe on Him as ingratitude and dishonour to Himself.
For what other dishonour can touch God ? Wherefore it is impossible
to render a recompense at all equivalent to the boon received from
And as those who maltreat property insult the owners, and those who
maltreat soldiers insult the commander, so also the ill-usage of His
consecrated ones is contempt for the Lord.
For, just as the sun not only illumines heaven and the whole world,
shining over land and sea, but also through windows and small chinks
sends his beams into the innermost recesses of houses, so the Word
diffused everywhere casts His eye-glance on the minutest
circumstances of the actions of life.
CHAP. IV.--THE HEATHENS MADE GODS LIKE THEMSELVES, WHENCE SPRINGS
Now, as the Greeks represent the gods as possessing human forms, so
also do they as possessing human passions. And as each of them
depict their forms similar to themselves, as Xenophanes says,
"Ethiopians as black and apes, the Thracians ruddy and tawny;" so
also they assimilate their souls to those who form them: the
Barbarians, for instance, who make them savage and wild; and the
Greeks, who make them more civilized, yet subject to passion.
Wherefore it stands to reason, that the ideas entertained of God by
wicked men must be bad, and those by good men most excellent. And
therefore he who is in soul truly kingly and gnostic, being likewise
pious and free from superstition, is persuaded that He who alone is
God is honourable, venerable, august, beneficent, the doer of good,
the author of all good things, but not the cause of evil. And
respecting the Hellenic superstition we have, as I think, shown
enough in the book entitled by us The Exhortation, availing
ourselves abundantly of the history bearing on the point. There is
no need, then, again to make a long story of what has already been
clearly stated. But in as far as necessity requires to be pointed
out on coming to the topic, suffice it to adduce a few out of many
considerations in proof of the impiety of those who make the
Divinity resemble the worst men. For either those Gods of theirs are
injured by men, and are shown to be inferior to men on being injured
by us; or, if not so, how is it that they are incensed at those by
whom they are not injured, like a testy old wife roused to wrath?
As they say that Artemis was enraged at the Aetolians on account of
OEneus. For how, being a goddess, did she not consider that he
had neglected to sacrifice, not through contempt, but out of
inadvertence, or under the idea that he had sacrificed?
And Latona, arguing her case with Athene, on account of the
latter being incensed at her for having brought forth in the temple,
Torn from the dead you love to see. And these
To you are not unclean. But you regard
My parturition here a horrid thing,
Though other creatures in the temple do
No harm by bringing forth their young."
It is natural, then, that having a superstitious dread of those
irascible [gods], they imagine that all events are signs and causes
of evils. If a mouse bore through an altar built of clay, and for
want of something else gnaw through an oil flask; if a cock that is
being fattened crow in the evening, they determine this to be a sign
Of such a one Menander gives a comic description in The Supersitios
"A. Good luck be mine, ye honoured gods!
Tying my ,right shoe's string,
I broke it."
"B. Most likely, silly fool,
For it was rotten, and you, niggard, you
Would not buy new ones."
It was a clever remark of Antiphon, who (when one regarded it as an
ill omen that the sow had eaten her pigs), on seeing her emaciated
through the niggardliness of the person that kept her, said,
Congratulate yourself on the omen that, being so hungry, she did not
eat your own children.
"And what wonder is it," says Bion, "if the mouse, finding nothing
to eat, gnaws the bag?" For it were wonderful if (as Arcesilaus
argued in fun) "the bag had eaten the mouse."
Diogenes accordingly remarked well to one who wondered at finding a
serpent coiled round a pestle: "Don't wonder; for it would have been
more surprising if you had seen the pestle coiled round the serpent,
and the serpent straight."
For the irrational creatures must run, and scamper, and fight, and
breed, and die; and these things being natural to them, can never be
unnatural to us.
"And many birds beneath the sunbeams walk."
And the comic poet Philemon treats such points in comedy:--
"When I see one who watches who has sneezed,
Or who has spoke; or looking, who goes on,
I straightway in the market sell him off.
Each one of us walks, talks, and sneezes too,
For his own self, not for the citizens:
According to their nature things turn out."
Then by the practice of temperance men seek health: and by cramming
themselves, and wallowing in potations at feasts, they attract
There are many, too, that dread inscriptions set up. Very cleverly
Diogenes, on finding in the house of a bad man the inscription,
"Hercules, for victory famed, dwells here; let nothing bad enter,"
remarked, "And how shall the master of the house go in ?"
The same people, who worship every stick and greasy stone, as the
saying is, dreads tufts of tawny wool, and lumps of salt, and
torches, and squills, and sulphur, bewitched by sorcerers, in
certain impure rites of expiation. But God, the true God, recognises
as holy only the character of the righteous man,--as unholy, wrong
You may see the eggs, taken from those who have been purified,
hatched if subjected to the necessary warmth. But this could not
take place if they had had transferred to them the sins of the man
that had undergone purification. Accordingly the comic poet Diphilus
facetiously writes, in comedy, of sorcerers, in the following
"Purifying Proetus' daughters, and their father
Proetus Abantades, and fifth, an old wife to boot,
So many people's persons with one torch, one squill,
With sulphur and asphalt of the loud-sounding sea,
From the placid-flowing, deep-flowing ocean.
But blest air through the clouds send Anticyra
That I may make this bug into a drone."
For well Menander remarks:--
"Had you, O Phidias, any real ill,
You needs must seek for it a real cure;
Now 'tis not so. And for the unreal ill
I've found an unreal cure Believe that it
Will do thee good. Let women in a ring
Wipe thee, and from three fountains water bring.
Add salt and lentils; sprinkle then thyself.
Each one is pure, who s conscious of no sin."
For instance, the tragedy says:--
Menelaus. "What disease, Orestes, is destroying thee?"
Orestes. "Conscience. For horrid deeds I know I've done."
For in reality there is no other purity but abstinence from sins.
Excellently then Epicharmus says:--
"If a pure mind thou hast,
In thy whole body thou art pure."
Now also we say that it is requisite to purify the soul from corrupt
and bad doctrines by right reason; and so thereafter to the
recollection of the principal heads of doctrine. Since also before
the communication of the mysteries they think it right to apply
certain purifications to those who are to be initiated; so it is
requisite for men to abandon impious opinion, and thus turn to the
CHAP. V.--THE HOLY SOUL A MORE EXCELLENT TEMPLE THAN ANY EDIFICE
BUILT BY MAN.
For is it not the case that rightly and truly we do not circumscribe
in any place that which cannot be circumscribed; nor do we shut up
in temples made with hands that which contains all things ? What
work of builders, and stonecutters, and mechanical art can be holy?
Superior to these are not they who think that the air, and the
enclosing space, or rather the whole world and the universe, are
meet for the excellency of God ?
It were indeed ridiculous, as the philosophers themselves say, for
man, the plaything of God, to make God, and for God to be the
plaything of art; since what is made is similar and the same to
that of which it is made, as that which is made of ivory is ivory,
and that which is made of gold golden. Now the images and temples
constructed by mechanics are made of inert matter; so that they too
are inert, and material, and profane; and if you perfect the art,
they partake of mechanical coarseness. Works of art cannot then be
sacred and divine.
And what can be localized, there being nothing that is not localized
? Since all things are in a place. And that which is localized
having been formerly not localized, is localized by something. If,
then, God is localized by men, He was once not localized, and did
not exist at all. For the non-existent is what is not localized;
since whatever does not exist is not localized. And what exists
cannot be localized by what does not exist; nor by another entity.
For it is also an entity. It follows that it must be by itself. And
how shall anything generate itself ? Or how shall that which exists
place itself as to being? Whether, being formerly not localized, has
it localized itself ? But it was not in existence; since what exists
not is not localized. And its localization being supposed, how can
it afterwards make itself what it previously was?
But how can He, to whom the things that are belong, need anything?
But were God possessed of a human form, He would need, equally with
man, food, and shelter, and house, and the attendant incidents.
Those who are like in form and affections will require similar
sustenance. And if sacred (<greek>tp</greek> <greek>ier?n</greek>)
has a twofold application, designating both God Himself and the
structure raised to His honour, how shall we not with propriety
call the Church holy, through knowledge, made for the honour of God,
sacred (<greek>ieron</greek>) to God, of great value, and not
constructed by mechanical art, nor embellished by the hand of an
impostor, but by the will of God fashioned into a temple ? For it is
not now the place, but the assemblage of the elect, that I call
the Church. This temple is better for the reception of the greatness
of the dignity of God. For the living creature which is of high
value, is made sacred by that which is worth all, or rather which
has no equivalent, in virtue of the exceeding sanctity of the
latter. Now this is the Gnostic, who is of great value, who is
honoured by God, in whom God is enshrined, that is, the knowledge
respecting God is consecrated. Here, too, we shall find the divine
likeness and the holy image in the righteous soul, when it is
blessed in being purified and performing blessed deeds. Here also we
shall find that which is localized, and that which is being
localized,--the former in the case of those who are already
Gnostics, and the latter in the case of those capable of becoming
so, although not yet worthy of receiving the knowledge of God. For
every being destined to believe is already faithful in the sight of
God, and set up for His honour, an image, endowed with virtue,
dedicated to God.
CHAP. VI.--PRAYERS AND PRAISE FROM A PURE MIND, CEASELESSLY
OFFERED, FAR BETTER THAN SACRIFICES.
As, then, God is not circumscribed by place, neither is ever
represented by the form of a living creature; so neither has He
similar passions, nor has He wants like the creatures, so as to
desire sacrifice, from hunger, by way of food. Those creatures which
are affected by passion are all mortal. And it is useless to bring
food to one who is not nourished.
And that comic poet Pherecrates, in The Fugitives, facetiously
represents the gods themselves as finding fault with men on the
score of their sacred rites:--
"When to the gods you sacrifice,
Selecting what our portion is,
'Tis shame to tell, do ye not take,
And both the thighs, clean to the groins,
The loins quite bare, the backbone, too,
Clean scrape as with a file,
Them swallow, and the remnant give
To us as if to dogs? And then,
As if of one another 'shamed,
With heaps of salted barley hide."
And Eubulus, also a comic poet, thus writes respecting sacrifices:--
"But to the gods the tail alone
And thigh, as if to paederasts you sacrifice."
And introducing Dionysus in Semele, he represents him disputing:--
"First if they offer aught to me, there are
Who offer blood, the bladder, not the heart
Or caul. For I no flesh do ever eat
That's sweeter than the thigh."
And Menander writes:--
"The end of the loin,
The bile, the bones uneatable, they set
Before the gods; the rest themselves consume."
For is not the savour of the holocausts avoided by the beasts? And
if in reality the savour is the guerdon of the gods of the Greeks,
should they not first deify the cooks, who are dignified with equal
happiness, and worship the chimney itself, which is closer still to
the much-prized savour?
And Hesiod says that Zeus, cheated in a division of flesh by
Prometheus, received the white bones of an ox, concealed with
cunning art, in shining fat:--
"Whence to the immortal gods the tribes of men
The victim's white bones on the altars burn."
But they will by no means say that the Deity, enfeebled through the
desire that springs from want, is nourished. Accordingly, they will
represent Him as nourished without desire like a plant, and like
beasts that burrow. They say that these grow innoxiously, nourished
either by the density in the air, or from the exhalations proceeding
from their own body. Though if the Deity, though needing nothing, is
according to them nourished, what necessity has He for food, wanting
nothing? But if, by nature needing nothing, He delights to be
honoured, it is not without reason that we honour God in prayer; and
thus the best and holiest sacrifice with righteousness we bring,
presenting it as an offering to the most righteous Word, by whom we
receive knowledge, giving glory by Him for what we have learned.
The altar, then, that is with us here, the terrestrial one, is the
congregation of those who devote themselves to prayers, having as it
were one common voice and one mind.
Now, if nourishing substances taken in by the nostrils are diviner
than those taken in by the mouth, yet they infer respiration. What,
then, do they say of God? Whether does He exhale like the tribe of
oaks? Or does He only inhale, like the aquatic animals, by the
dilatation of their gills? Or does He breathe all round, like the
insects, by the compression of the section by means of their wings?
But no one, if he is in his senses, will liken God to any of these.
And the creatures that breathe by the expansion of the lung towards
the thorax draw in the air. Then if they assign to God viscera, and
arteries, and veins, and nerves, and parts, they will make Him in
nothing different from man.
Now breathing together (<greek>sumpnoia</greek>) is properly said of
the Church. For the sacrifice of the Church is the word breathing as
incense from holy souls, the sacrifice and the whole mind being
at the same time unveiled to God. Now the very ancient altar in
Delos they celebrated as holy; which alone, being undefiled by
slaughter and death, they say Pythagoras approached. And will they
not believe us when we say that the righteous soul is the truly
sacred altar, and that incense arising from it is holy prayer? But I
believe sacrifices were invented by men to be a pretext for eating
flesh. But without such idolatry he who wished might have
partaken of flesh.
For the sacrifices of the Law express figuratively the piety which
we practise, as the turtle-dove and the pigeon offered for sins
point out that the cleansing of the irrational part of the soul is
acceptable to God. But if any one of the righteous does not burden
his soul by the eating of flesh, he has the advantage of a rational
reason, not as Pythagoras and his followers dream of the
transmigration of the soul.
Now Xenocrates, treating by himself of "the food derived from
animals," and Polemon in his work On Life according, to Nature, seem
clearly to say that animal food is unwholesome, inasmuch as it has
already been elaborated and assimilated to the souls of the
So also, in particular, the Jews abstain from swine's flesh on the
ground of this animal being unclean; since more than the other
animals it roots up, and destroys the productions of the ground. But
if they say that the animals were assigned to men--and we agree with
them--yet it was not entirely for food. Nor was it all animals, but
such as do not work. Wherefore the comic poet Plato says not badly
in the drama of The Feasts:--
"For of the quadrupeds we should not slay
In future aught but swine. For these have flesh
Most toothsome; and about the pig is nought
For us, excepting bristles, mud, and noise."
Whence AEsop said not badly, that "swine squeaked out very loudly,
because, when they were dragged, they knew that they were good for
nothing but for sacrifice."
Wherefore also Cleanthes says, "that they have soul instead of
salt," that their flesh may not putrefy. Some, then, eat them as
useless, others as destructive of fruits. And others do not eat
them, because the animal has a strong sensual propensity.
So, then, the law sacrifices not the goat, except in the sole case
of the banishment of sins; since pleasure is the metropolis of
vice. It is to the point also that it is said that the eating of
goat's flesh contributes to epilepsy. And they say that the greatest
increase is produced by swine's flesh. Wherefore it is beneficial to
those who exercise the body; but to those who devote themselves to
the development of the soul it is not so, on account of the hebetude
that results from the eating of flesh. Perchance also some Gnostic
will abstain from the eating of flesh for the sake of training, and
in order that the flesh may not grow wanton in amorousness. "For
wine," says Androcydes, "and gluttonous feeds of flesh make the body
strong, but the soul more sluggish." Accordingly such food, in order
to clear understanding, is to be rejected.
Wherefore also the Egyptians, in the purifications practised among
them, do not allow the priests to feed on flesh; but they use
chickens, as lightest; and they do not touch fish, on account of
certain fables, but especially on account of such food making the
flesh flabby. But now terrestrial animals and birds breathe the same
air as our vital spirits, being possessed of a vital principle
cognate with the air. But it is said that fishes do not breathe this
air, but that which was mixed with the water at the instant of its
first creation, as well as with the rest of the elements, which is
also a sign of the permanence of matter.
Wherefore we ought to offer to God sacrifices not costly, but such
as He loves. And that compounded incense which is mentioned in the
Law, is that which consists of many tongues and voices in prayer,
or rather of different nations and natures, prepared by the gift
vouchsafed in the dispensation for "the unity of the faith," and
brought together in praises, with a pure mind, and just and right
conduct, from holy works and righteous prayer. For in the elegant
language of poetry,--
"Who is so great a fool, and among men
So very easy of belief, as thinks
The gods, with fraud of fleshless bones and bile
All burnt, not fit for hungry dogs to eat,
Delighted are, and take this as their prize,
And favour show to those who treat them thus,"
though they happen to be tyrants and robbers?
But we say that the fire sanctifies s not flesh, but sinful souls;
meaning not the all-devouring vulgar fire but that of wisdom,
which pervades the soul passing through the fire.
CHAP. VII.--WHAT SORT OF PRAYER THE GNOSTIC EMPLOYS, AND HOW IT
iS HEARD BY GOD.
Now we are commanded to reverence and to honour the same one, being
persuaded that He is Word, Saviour, and Leader, and by Him, the
Father, not on special days, as some others, but doing this
continually in our whole life, and in every way. Certainly the elect
race justified by the precept says, "Seven times a day have I
praised Thee." Whence not in a specified place, or selected
temple, or at certain festivals and on appointed days, but during
his whole life, the Gnostic in every place, even if he be alone by
himself, and wherever he has any of those who have exercised the
like faith, honours God, that is, acknowledges his gratitude for the
knowledge of the way to live.
And if the presence of a good man, through the respect and reverence
which he inspires, always improves him with whom he associates, with
much more reason does not he who always holds uninterrupted converse
with God by knowledge, life, and thanksgiving, grow at every step
superior to himself in all respects--in conduct, in words, in
disposition? Such an one is persuaded that God is ever beside him,
and does not suppose that He is confined in certain limited places;
so that under the idea that at times he is without Him, he may
indulge in excesses night and day.
Holding festival, then, in our whole life, persuaded that God is
altogether on every side present, we cultivate our fields, praising;
we sail the sea, hymning; in all the rest of our conversation we
conduct ourselves according to rule. The Gnostic, then, is very
closely allied to God, being at once grave and cheerful in all
things,--grave on account of the bent of his soul towards the
Divinity, and cheerful on account of his consideration of the
blessings of humanity which God hath given us.
Now the excellence of knowledge is evidently presented by the
prophet when he says, "Benignity, and instruction, and knowledge
teach me," magnifying the supremacy of perfection by a climax.
He is, then, the truly kingly man; he is the sacred high priest of
God. And this is even now observed among the most sagacious of the
Barbarians, in advancing the sacerdotal caste to the royal power.
He, therefore, never surrenders himself to the rabble that rules
supreme over the theatres, and gives no admittance even in a dream
to the things which are spoken, done, and seen for the sake of
alluring pleasures; neither, therefore, to the pleasures of sight,
nor the various pleasures which are found in other enjoyments, as
costly incense and odours, which bewitch the nostrils, or
preparations of meats, and indulgences in different wines, which
ensnare the palate, or fragrant bouquets of many flowers, which
through the senses effeminate the soul. But always tracing up to God
the grave enjoyment of all things, he offers the first-fruits of
food, and drink, and unguents to the Giver of all, acknowledging his
thanks in the gift and in the use of them by the Word given to him.
He rarely goes to convivial banquets of all and sundry, unless the
announcement to him of the friendly and harmonious character of the
entertainment induce him to go. For he is convinced that God knows
and perceives all things--not the words only, but also the thought;
since even our sense of hearing, which acts through the passages of
the body, has the apprehension [be longing to it] not through
corporeal power, but through a psychical perception, and the
intelligence which distinguishes significant sounds. God is not,
then, possessed of human form, so as to hear; nor needs He senses,
as the Stoics have decided, "especially hearing and sight; for He
could never otherwise apprehend." But the susceptibility of the air,
and the intensely keen perception of the angels, and the power
which reaches the soul's consciousness, by ineffable power and
without sensible hearing, know all things at the moment of thought.
And should any one say that the voice does not reach God, but is
rolled downwards in the air, yet the thoughts of the saints cleave
not the air only, but the whole world. And the divine power, with
the speed of light, sees through the whole soul. Well! Do not also
volitions speak to God, uttering their voice? And are they not
conveyed by conscience? And what voice shall He wait for, who,
according to His purpose, knows the elect already, even before his
birth, knows what is to be as already existent? Does not the light
of power shine down to the very bottom of the whole soul; "the lamp
of knowledge," as the Scripture says, searching "the recesses"? God
is all ear and all eye, if we may be permitted to use these
In general, then, an unworthy opinion of God preserves no piety,
either in hymns, or discourses, or writings, or dogmas, but diverts
to grovelling and unseemly ideas and notions. Whence the
commendation of the multitude differs nothing from censure, in
consequence of their ignorance of the truth. The objects, then, of
desires and aspirations, and, in a word, of the mind's impulses, are
the subjects of prayers. Wherefore, no man desires a draught, but to
drink what is drinkable; and no man desires an inheritance, but to
inherit. And in like manner no man desires knowledge, but to know;
or a right government, but to take part in the government. The
subjects of our prayers, then, are the subjects of our requests, and
the subjects of requests are the objects of desires. Prayer, then,
and desire, follow in order, with the view of possessing the
blessings and advantages offered.
The Gnostic, then, who is such by possession, makes his prayer and
request for the truly good things which appertain to the soul, and
prays, he himself also contributing his efforts to attain to the
habit of goodness, so as no longer to have the things that are good
as certain lessons belonging to him, but to be good.
Wherefore also it is most incumbent on such to pray, knowing as they
do the Divinity rightly, and having the moral excellence suitable to
him; who know what things are really good, and what are to be asked,
and when and how in each individual case. It is the extremest
stupidity to ask of them who are no gods, as if they were gods; or
to ask those things which are not beneficial, begging evils for
themselves under the appearance of good things.
Whence, as is right, there being only one good God, that some good
things be given from Him alone, and that some remain, we and the
angels pray. But not similarly. For it is not the same thing to pray
that the gift remain, and to endeavour to obtain it for the first
The averting of evils is a species of prayer; but such prayer is
never to be used for the injury of men, except that the Gnostic, in
devoting attention to righteousness, may make use of this petition
in the case of those who are past feeling.
Prayer is, then, to speak more boldly, converse with God. Though
whispering, consequently, and not opening the lips, we speak in
silence, yet we cry inwardly. For God hears continually all the
inward converse. So also we raise the head and lift the hands to
heaven, and set the feet in motion at the closing utterance of
the prayer, following the eagerness of the spirit directed towards
the intellectual essence; and endeavouring to abstract the body from
the earth, along with the discourse, raising the soul aloft, winged
with longing for better things, we compel it to advance to the
region of holiness, magnanimously despising the chain of the flesh.
For we know right well, that the Gnostic willingly passes over the
whole world, as the Jews certainly did over Egypt, showing clearly,
above all, that he will be as near as possible to God.
Now, if some assign definite hours for prayer--as, for example, the
third, and sixth, and ninth--yet the Gnostic prays throughout his
whole life, endeavouring by prayer to have fellowship with God.
And, briefly, having reached to this, he leaves behind him all that
is of no service, as having now received the perfection of the man
that acts by love. But the distribution of the hours into a
threefold division, honoured with as many prayers, those are
acquainted with, who know the blessed triad of the holy abodes.
Having got to this point, I recollect the doctrines about there
being no necessity to pray, introduced by certain of the heterodox,
that is, the followers of the heresy of Prodicus. That they may not
then be inflated with conceit about this godless wisdom of theirs,
as if it were strange, let them learn that it was embraced before by
the philosophers called Cyrenaics. Nevertheless, the unholy
knowledge (gnosis) of those falsely called [Gnostics] shall meet
with confutation at a fitting time; so that the assault on them, by
no means brief, may not, by being introduced into the commentary,
break the discourse in hand, in which we are showing that the only
really holy and pious man is he who is truly a Gnostic according to
the rule of the Church, to whom alone the petition made in
accordance with the will of God is granted, on asking and on
thinking. For as God can do all that He wishes, so the Gnostic
receives all that he asks. For, universally, God knows those who are
and those who are not worthy of good things; whence He gives to each
what is suitable. Wherefore to those that are unworthy, though they
ask often, He will not give; but He will give to those who are
Nor is petition superfluous, though good things are given without
Now thanksgiving and request for the conversion of our neighbours is
the function of the Gnostic; as also the Lord prayed, giving thanks
for the accomplishment of His ministry, praying that as many as
possible might attain to knowledge; that in the saved, by salvation,
through knowledge, God might be glorified, and He who is alone good
and alone Saviour might be acknowledged through the Son from age to
age. But also faith, that one will receive, is a species of prayer
gnostically laid up in store.
But if any occasion of converse with God becomes prayer, no
opportunity of access to God ought to be omitted. Without doubt, the
holiness of the Gnostic, in union with [God's] blessed Providence,
exhibits in voluntary confession the perfect beneficence of God. For
the holiness of the Gnostic, and the reciprocal benevolence of the
friend of God, are a kind of corresponding movement of providence.
For neither is God involuntarily good, as the fire is warming; but
in Him the imparting of good things is voluntary, even if He receive
the request previously. Nor shall he who is saved be saved against
his will, for he is not inanimate; but he will above all voluntarily
and of free choice speed to salvation. Wherefore also man received
the commandments in order that he might be self-impelled, to
whatever he wished of things to be chosen and to be avoided.
Wherefore God does not do good by necessity, but from His free
choice benefits those who spontaneously turn. For the Providence
which extends to us from God is not ministerial, as that service
which proceeds from inferiors to superiors. But in pity for our
weakness, the continual dispensations of Providence work, as the
care of shepherds towards the sheep, and of a king towards his
subjects; we ourselves also conducting ourselves obediently towards
our superiors, who take the management of us, as appointed, in
accordance with the commission from God with which they are
Consequently those who render the most free and kingly service,
which is the result of a pious mind and of knowledge, are servants
and attendants of the Divinity. Each place, then, and time, in which
we entertain the idea of God, is in reality sacred.
When, then, the man who chooses what is right, and is at the same
time of thankful heart, makes his request in prayer, he contributes
to the obtaining of it, gladly taking hold in prayer of the thing
desired. For when the Giver of good things perceives the
susceptibility on our part, all good things follow at once the
conception of them. Certainly in prayer the character is sifted, how
it stands with respect to duty.
But if voice and expression are given us, for the sake of
understanding, how can God not hear the soul itself, and the mind,
since assuredly soul hears soul, and mind, mind? Whence God does not
walt for loquacious tongues, as interpreters among men, but knows
absolutely the thoughts of all; and what the voice intimates to us,
that our thought, which even before the creation He knew would come
into our mind, speaks to God. Prayer, then, may be uttered without
the voice, by concentrating the whole spiritual nature within on
expression by the mind, in un-distracted turning towards God.
And since the dawn is an image of the day of birth, and from that
point the light which has shone forth at first from the darkness
increases, there has also dawned on those involved in darkness a day
of the knowledge of truth. In correspondence with the manner of the
sun's rising, prayers are made looking towards the sunrise in the
east. Whence also the most ancient temples looked towards the west,
that people might be taught to turn to the east when facing the
images. "Let my prayer be directed before Thee as incense, the
uplifting of my hands as the evening sacrifice," say the Psalms.
In the case of wicked men, therefore, prayer is most injurious, not
to others alone, but to themselves also. If, then, they should ask
and receive what they call pieces of good fortune, these injure them
after they receive them, being ignorant how to use them. For they
pray to possess what they have not, and they ask things which seem,
but are not, good things. But the Gnostic will ask the permanence
of the things he possesses, adaptation for what is to take place,
and the eternity of those things which he shall receive. And the
things which are really good, the things which concern the soul, he
prays that they may belong to him, and remain with him. And so he
desires not anything that is absent, being content with what is
present. For he is not deficient in the good things which are proper
to him; being already sufficient for himself, through divine grace
and knowledge. But having become sufficient in himself, he stands in
no want of other things. But knowing the sovereign will, and
possessing as soon as he prays, being brought into close contact
with the almighty power, and earnestly desiring to be spiritual,
through boundless love, he is united to the Spirit.
Thus he, being magnanimous, possessing, through knowledge, what is
the most precious of all, the best of all, being quick in applying
himself to contemplation, retains in his soul the permanent energy
of the objects of his contemplation, that is the perspicacious
keenness of knowledge. And this power he strives to his utmost to
acquire, by obtaining command of all the influences which war
against the mind; and by applying himself without intermission to
speculation, by exercising himself in the training of abstinence
from pleasures, and of fight conduct in what he does; and besides,
furnished with great experience both in study and in life, he has
freedom of speech, not the power of a babbling tongue, but a power
which employs plain language, and which neither for favour nor fear
conceals aught of the things which may be worthily said at the
fitting time, in which it is highly necessary to say them. He, then,
having received the things respecting God from the mystic choir of
the truth itself, employs language which urges the magnitude of
virtue in accordance with its worth; and shows its results with an
inspired elevation of prayer, being associated gnostically, as far
as possible, with intellectual and spiritual objects.
Whence he is always mild and meek, accessible, affable,
long-suffering, grateful, endued with a good conscience. Such a man
is rigid, not alone so as not to be corrupted, but so as not to be
tempted. For he never exposes his soul to submission, or capture at
the hands of Pleasure and Pain. If the Word, who is Judge, call; he,
having grown inflexible, and not indulging a whir the passions,
walks unswervingly where justice advises him to go; being very well
persuaded that all things are managed consummately well, and that
progress to what is better goes on in the case of souls that have
chosen virtue, till they come to the Good itself, to the Father's
vestibule, so to speak, close to the great High Priest. Such is our
Gnostic, faithful, persuaded that the affairs of the universe are
managed in the best way. Particularly, he is well pleased with all
that happens. In accordance with reason, then, he asks for none of
those things in life required for necessary use; being persuaded
that God, who knows all things, supplies the good with whatever is
for their benefit, even though they do not ask.
For my view is, that as all things are supplied to the man of art
according to the rules of art, and to the Gentile in a Gentile way,
so also to the Gnostic all things are supplied gnostically. And the
man who turns from among the Gentiles will ask for faith, while he
that ascends to knowledge will ask for the perfection of love. And
the Gnostic, who has reached the summit, will pray that
contemplation may grow and abide, as the common man will for
continual good health.
Nay, he will pray that he may never fall from virtue; giving his
most strenuous co-operation in order that he may become infallible.
For he knows that some of the angels, through carelessness, were
hurled to the earth, not having yet quite reached that state of
oneness, by extricating themselves from the propensity to that of
But him, who from this has trained himself to the summit of
knowledge and the elevated height of the perfect man, all things
relating to time and place help on, now that he has made it his
choice to live infallibly, and subjects himself to training in order
to the attainment of the stability of knowledge on each side. But in
the case of those in whom there is still a heavy corner, leaning
downwards, even that part which has been elevated by faith is
dragged down. In him, then, who by gnostic training has acquired
virtue which cannot be lost, habit becomes nature. And just as
weight in a stone, so the knowledge of such an one is incapable of
being lost. Not without, but through the exercise of will, and by
the force of reason, and knowledge, and Providence, is it brought to
become incapable of being lost. Through care it becomes incapable of
being lost. He will employ caution so as to avoid sinning, and
consideration to prevent the loss of virtue.
Now knowledge appears to produce consideration, by teaching to
perceive the things that are capable of contributing to the
permanence of virtue. The highest thing is, then, the knowledge of
God; wherefore also by it virtue is so preserved as to be incapable
of being lost. And he who knows God is holy and pious. The Gnostic
has consequently been demonstrated by us to be the only pious man.
He rejoices in good things present, and is glad on account of those
promised, as if they were already present. For they do not elude his
notice, as if they were still absent, because he knows by
anticipation what sort they are. Being then persuaded by knowledge
how each future thing shall be, he possesses it. For want and defect
are measured with reference to what appertains to one. If, then, he
possesses wisdom, and wisdom is a divine thing, he who partakes of
what has no want will himself have no want. For the imparting of
wisdom does not take place by activity and receptivity moving and
stopping each other, or by aught being abstracted or becoming
defective. Activity is therefore shown to be undiminished in the act
of communication. So, then, our Gnostic possesses all good things,
as far as possible; but not likewise in number; since otherwise he
would be incapable of changing his place through the due inspired
stages of advancement and acts of administration.
Him God helps, by honouring him with closer oversight. For were not
all things made for the sake of good men, for their possession and
advantage, or rather salvation? He will not then deprive, of the
things which exist for the sake of virtue, those for whose sake they
were created. For, evidently in honour of their excellent nature and
their holy choice, he inspires those who have made choice of a good
life with strength for the rest of their salvation; exhorting some,
and helping others, who of themselves have become worthy. For all
good is capable of being produced in the Gnostic; if indeed it is
his aim to know and do everything intelligently. And as the
physician ministers health to those who co-operate with him in order
to health, so also God ministers eternal salvation to those who
co-operate for the attainment of knowledge and good conduct; and
since what the commandments enjoin are in our own power, along with
the performance of them, the promise is accomplished.
And what follows seems to me to be excellently said by the Greeks.
An athlete of no mean reputation among those of old, having for a
long time subjected his body to thorough training in order to the
attainment of manly strength, on going up to the Olympic games, cast
his eye on the statue of the Pisaean Zeus, and said: "O Zeus, if all
the requisite preparations for the contest have been made by me,
come, give me the victory, as is right." For so, in the case of the
Gnostic, who has unblameably and with a good conscience fulfilled
all that depends on him, in the direction of learning, and training,
and well-doing, and pleasing God, the whole contributes to carry
salvation on to perfection. From us, then, are demanded the things
which are in our own power, and of the things which pertain to us,
both present and absent, the choice, and desire, and possession, and
use, and permanence.
Wherefore also he who holds converse with God must have his soul
immaculate and stainlessly pure, it being essential to have made
himself perfectly good.
But also it becomes him to make all his prayers gently with the
good. For it is a dangerous thing to take part in others' sins.
Accordingly the Gnostic will pray along with those who have more
recently believed, for those things in respect of which it is their
duty to act together. And his whole life is a holy festival. His
sacrifices are prayers, and praises, and readings in the Scriptures
before meals, and psalms and hymns during meals and before bed, and
prayers also again during night. By these he unites himself to the
divine choir, from continual recollection, engaged in contemplation
which has everlasting remembrance.
And what? Does he not also know the other kind of sacrifice, which
consists in the giving both of doctrines and of money to those who
need? Assuredly. But he does not use wordy prayer by his mouth;
having learned to ask of the Lord what is requisite. In every place,
therefore, but not ostensibly and visibly to the multitude, he will
pray. But while engaged in walking, in conversation, while in
silence, while engaged in reading and in works according to reason,
he in every mood prays. If he but form the thought in the secret
chamber of his soul, and call on the Father "with unspoken
groanings," He is near, and is at his side, while yet speaking.
Inasmuch as there are but three ends of all action, he does
everything for its excellence and utility ; but doing aught for the
sake of pleasure, he leaves to those who pursue the common life.
CHAP. VIII.--THE GNOSTIC SO ADDICTED TO TRUTH AS NOT TO NEED TO
USE AN OATH.
The man of proved character in such piety is far from being apt to
lie and to swear. For an oath is a decisive affirmation, with the
taking of the divine name. For how can he, that is once faithful,
show himself unfaithful, so as to require an oath; and so that his
life may not be a sure and decisive oath? He lives, and walks, and
shows the trustworthiness of his affirmation in an unwavering and
sure life and speech. And if the wrong lies in the judgment of one
who does and says [something], and not in the suffering of one who
has been wronged, he will neither lie nor commit perjury so as to
wrong the Deity, knowing that it by nature is incapable of being
harmed. Nor yet will he lie or commit any transgression, for the
sake of the neighbour whom he has learned to love, though he be not
on terms of intimacy. Much more, consequently, will he not lie or
perjure himself on his own account, since he never with his will can
be found doing wrong to himself.
But he does not even swear, preferring to make averment, in
affirmation by "yea," and in denial by "nay." For it is an oath to
swear, or to produce anything from the mind in the way of
confirmation in the shape of an oath. It suffices, then, with him,
to add to an affirmation or denial the expression" I say truly," for
confirmation to those who do not perceive the certainty of his
answer. For he ought, I think, to maintain a life calculated to
inspire confidence towards those without, so that an oath may not
even be asked; and towards himself and those with whom he
associates? good feeling, which is voluntary righteousness.
The Gnostic swears truly, but is not apt to swear, having rarely
recourse to an oath, just as we have said. And his speaking truth on
oath arises from his accord with the truth. This speaking truth on
oath, then, is found to be the result of correctness in duties.
Where, then, is the necessity for an oath to him who lives in
accordance with the extreme of truth? He, then, that does not
even swear will be far from perjuring himself. And he who does not
transgress in what is ratified by compacts, will never swear; since
the ratification of the violation and of the fulfilment is by
actions; as certainly lying and perjury in affirming and swearing
are contrary to duty. But he who lives justly, transgressing in none
of his duties, when the judgment of truth is scrutinized, swears
truth by his acts. Accordingly, testimony by the tongue is in his
Therefore, persuaded always that God is everywhere, and fearing not
to speak the truth, and knowing that it is unworthy of him to lie,
he is satisfied with the divine consciousness and his own alone
And so he lies not, nor does aught contrary to his compacts. And so
he swears not even when asked for his oath ; nor does he ever deny,
so as to speak falsehood, though he should die by tortures.
CHAP. IX.--THOSE WHO TEACH OTHERS, OUGHT TO EXCEL IN VIRTUES.
The gnostic dignity is augmented and increased by him who has
undertaken the first place in the teaching of others, and received
the dispensation by word and deed of the greatest good on earth, by
which he mediates contact and fellowship with the Divinity. And as
those who worship terrestrial things pray to them as if they heard,
confirming compacts before them; so, in men who are living images,
the true majesty of the Word is received by the trustworthy teacher;
and the beneficence exerted towards them is carried up to the Lord,
after whose image he who is a true man by instruction creates and
harmonizes, renewing to salvation the man who receives instruction.
For as the Greeks called steel Ares, and wine Dionysus on account of
a certain relation; so the Gnostic considering the benefit of his
neighbours as his own salvation, may be called a living image of the
Lord, not as respects the peculiarity of form, but the symbol of
power and similarity of preaching.
Whatever, therefore, he has in his mind, he bears on his tongue, to
those who are worthy to hear, speaking as well as living from assent
and inclination. For he both thinks and speaks the truth; unless at
any time, medicinally, as a physician for the safety of the sick, he
may deceive or tell an untruth, according to the Sophists.
To illustrate: the noble apostle circumcised Timothy, though loudly
declaring and writing that circumcision made with hands profits
nothing. But that he might not, by dragging all at once away from
the law to the circumcision of the heart through faith those of the
Hebrews who were reluctant listeners, compel them to break away from
the synagogue, he, "accommodating himself to the Jews, became a Jew
that he might gain all." He, then, who submits to accommodate
himself merely for the benefit of his neighbours, for the salvation
of those for whose sake he accommodates himself, not partaking in
any dissimulation through the peril impending over the just from
those who envy them, such an one by no means acts with
compulsion. But for the benefit of his neighbours alone, he will
do things which would not have been done by him primarily, if he did
not do them on their account. Such an one gives himself for the
Church, for the disciples whom he has begotten in faith; for an
example to those who are capable of receiving the supreme economy of
the philanthropic and God-loving Instructor, for confirmation of the
truth of his words, for the exercise of love to the Lord. Such an
one is unenslaved by fear, true in word, enduring in labour, never
willing to lie by uttered word, and in it always securing
sinlessness; since falsehood, being spoken with a certain deceit, is
not an inert word, but operates to mischief.
On every hand, then, the Gnostic alone testifies to the truth in
deed and word. For he always does rightly in all things, both in
word and action, and in thought itself.
Such, then, to speak cursorily, is the piety of the Christian. If,
then, he does these things according to duty and right reason, he
does them piously and justly. And if such be the case, the Gnostic
alone is really both pious, and just, and God-fearing.
The Christian is not impious. For this was the point incumbent on us
to demonstrate to the philosophers; so that he will never in any way
do aught bad or base (which is unjust). Consequently, therefore, he
is not impious; but he alone fears God, holily and dutifully
worshipping the true God, the universal Ruler, and King, and
Sovereign, with the true piety.
CHAP. X.--STEPS TO PERFECTION.
For knowledge (gnosis), to speak generally, a perfecting of man as
man, is consummated by acquaintance with divine things, in
character, life, and word, accordant and conformable to itself and
to the divine Word. For by it faith is perfected, inasmuch as it is
solely by it that the believer becomes perfect. Faith is an internal
good, and without searching for God, confesses His existence, and
glorifies Him as existent. Whence by starting from this faith, and
being developed by it, through the grace of God, the knowledge
respecting Him is to be acquired as far as possible.
Now we assert that knowledge (gnosis) differs from the wisdom
(<greek>sofia</greek>), which is the result of teaching. For as far
as anything is knowledge, so far is it certainly wisdom; but in as
far as aught is wisdom, it is not certainly knowledge. For the term
wisdom appears only in the knowledge of the uttered word.
But it is not doubting in reference to God, but believing, that is
the foundation of knowledge. But Christ is both the foundation and
the superstructure, by whom are both the beginning and the ends. And
the extreme points, the beginning and the end--I mean faith and
love--are not taught. But knowledge, conveyed from communication
through the grace of God as a deposit, is entrusted to those who
show themselves worthy of it; and from it the worth of love beams
forth from light to light. For it is said, "To him that hath shall
be given:" to faith, knowledge; and to knowledge, love; and to
love, the inheritance.
And this takes place, whenever one hangs on the Lord by faith, by
knowledge, by love, and ascends along with Him to where the God and
guard of our faith and love is. Whence at last (on account of the
necessity for very great preparation and previous training in order
both to hear what is said, and for the composure of life, and for
advancing intelligently to a point beyond the righteousness of the
law) it is that knowledge is committed to those fit and selected for
it. It leads us to the endless and perfect end, teaching us
beforehand the future life that we shall lead, according to God, and
with gods; after we are freed from all punishment and penalty which
we undergo, in consequence of our sins, for salutary discipline.
After which redemption the reward and the honours are assigned to
those who have become perfect; when they have got done with
purification, and ceased from all service, though it be holy
service, and among saints. Then become pure in heart, and near to
the Lord, there awaits them restoration to everlasting
contemplation; and they are called by the appellation of gods, being
destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first
put in their places by the Saviour.
Knowledge is therefore quick in purifying, and fit for that
acceptable transformation to the better. Whence also with ease it
removes [the soul] to what is akin to the soul, divine and holy, and
by its own light conveys man through the mystic stages of
advancement; till it restores the pure in heart to the crowning
place of rest; teaching to gaze on God, face to face, with knowledge
and comprehension. For in this consists the perfection of the
gnostic soul, in its being with the Lord, where it is in immediate
subjection to Him, after rising above all purification and service.
Faith is then, so to speak, a comprehensive knowledge of the
essentials; and knowledge is the strong and sure demonstration of
what is received by faith, built upon faith by the Lord's teaching,
conveying [the soul] on to infallibility, science, and
comprehension. And, in my view, the first saving change is that from
heathenism to faith, as I said before; and the second, that from
faith to knowledge. And the latter terminating in love, thereafter
gives the loving to the loved, that which knows to that which is
known. And, perchance, such an one has already attained the
condition of "being equal to the angels." Accordingly, after the
highest excellence in the flesh, changing always duly to the better,
he urges his flight to the ancestral hall, through the holy
septenniad [of heavenly abodes] to the Lord's own mansion; to be a
light, steady, and continuing eternally, entirely and in every part
The first mode of the Lord's operation mentioned by us is an
exhibition of the recompense resulting from piety. Of the very great
number of testimonies that there are, I shall adduce one, thus
summarily expressed by the prophet David: "Who shall ascend to the
hill of the Lord, or who shall stand in His holy place? He who is
guiltless in his hands, and pure in his heart; who hath not lifted
up his soul to vanity, or sworn deceitfully to his neighbour. He
shall receive blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God his
Saviour. This is the generation of them that seek the Lord, that
seek the face of the God of Jacob." The prophet has, in my
opinion, concisely indicated the Gnostic. David, as appears, has
cursorily demonstrated the Saviour to be God, by calling Him "the
face of the God of Jacob," who preached and aught concerning the
Spirit. Wherefore also the apostle designates as "the express image
(<greek>karakthra</greek>) of the glory of the Father " the Son,
who taught the truth respecting God, and expressed the fact that the
Almighty is the one and only God and Father, "whom no man knoweth
but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him." That God
is one is intimated by those "who seek the face of the God of
Jacob;" whom being the only God, our Saviour and God characterizes
as the Good Father. And "the generation of those that seek Him" is
the elect race, devoted to inquiry after knowledge. Wherefore also
the apostle says, "I shall profit you nothing, unless I speak to
you, either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophecy, or by
Although even by those who are not Gnostics some things are done
rightly, yet not according to reason; as in the case of fortitude.
For some who are naturally high-spirited, and have afterwards
without reason fostered this disposition, rush to many things, and
act like brave men, so as sometimes to succeed in achieving the same
things; just as endurance is easy for mechanics. But it is not from
the same cause, or with the same object; not were they to give their
whole body. "For they have not love," according to the apostle.
All the action, then, of a man possessed of knowledge is right
action; and that done by a man not possessed of knowledge is: wrong
action, though he observe a plan; since it is not from reflection
that he acts bravely, nor does he direct his action in those things
which proceed from virtue to virtue, to any useful purpose.
The same holds also with the other virtues. So too the analogy is
preserved in religion. Our Gnostic, then, not only is such in
reference to holiness; but corresponding to the piety of knowledge
are the commands respecting the rest of the conduct of life. For it
is our purpose at present to describe the life of the Gnostic,
not to present the system of dogmas, which we shall afterwards
explain at the fitting time, preserving the order of topics.