On Those Who Offer Sacrifice
I. The law chooses that a person who brings a sacrifice shall be pure, both in body and soul;-- pure in soul from all passions, and diseases, and vices, which can be displayed either in word or deed; and pure in body from all such things as a body is usually defiled by. And it has appointed a burning purification for both these things; for the soul, by means of the animals which are duly fit for sacrifices; and for the body, by ablutions and sprinklings; concerning which we will speak presently; for it is fit to assign the pre-eminence in honor in every point to the superior and dominant part of the qualities existing in us, namely, to the soul. What, then, is the mode of purifying the soul?
"Look," says the law, "take care that the victim which thou bringest to the altar is perfect, wholly without participation in any kind of blemish, selected from many on account of its excellence, by the uncorrupted judgments of the priests, and by their most acute sight, and by their continual practice derived from being exercised in the examination of faultless victims. For if you do not see this with your eyes more than with your reason, you will not wash off all the imperfections and stains which you have imprinted on your whole life, partly in consequence of unexpected events, and partly by deliberate purpose; for you will find that this exceeding accuracy of investigation into the animals, figuratively signifies the amelioration of your own disposition and conduct; for the law was not established for the sake of irrational animals, but for that of those who have intellect and reason." So that the real object taken care of is not the condition of the victims sacrificed in order that they may have no blemish, but that of the sacrificers that they may not be defiled by any unlawful passion.
The body then, as I have already said, he purifies with ablutions and besprinklings, and does not allow a person after he has once washed and sprinkled himself, at once to enter within the sacred precincts, but bids him wait outside for seven days, and to be besprinkled twice, on the third day and on the seventh day; and after this it commands him to wash himself once more, and then it admits him to enter the sacred precincts and to share in the sacred ministrations.
II. We must consider what great prudence and philosophical wisdom is displayed in this law; for nearly all other persons are besprinkled with pure water, generally in the sea, some in rivers, and others again in vessels of water which they draw from fountains. But Moses, having previously prepared ashes which had been left from the sacred fire (and in what manner shall be explained hereafter), appointed that it should be right to take some of them and to put them in a vessel, and then to pour water upon them, and then, dipping some branches of hyssop in the mixture of ashes and water, to sprinkle it over those who were to be purified. And the cause of this proceeding may very probably be said to be this:--
The lawgiver's intention is that those who approach the service of the living God should first of all know themselves and their own essence. For how can the man who does not know himself ever comprehend the supreme and all-excelling power of God? Therefore, our bodily essence is earth and water, of which he reminds us by this purification, conceiving that this result -- namely, to know one's self, and to know also of what one is composed, of what utterly valueless substances mere ashes and water are -- is of itself the most beneficial purification. For when a man is aware of this he will at once reject all vain and treacherous conceit, and, discarding haughtiness and pride, he will seek to become pleasing to God, and to conciliate the merciful power of that Being who hates arrogance.
For it is said somewhere with great beauty, "He that exhibits over proud words or actions offends not men alone but God also, the maker of equality and of every thing else that is most excellent." Therefore, to us who are amazed and excited by this sprinkling the very elements themselves, earth and water, may almost be said to utter distinct words, and to say plainly, we are the essence of your bodies; nature having mixed us together, divine art has fashioned us into the figure of a man. Being made of us when you were born, you will again be dissolved into us when you come to die; for it is not the nature of any thing to be destroyed so as to become non-existent; but the end brings it back to those elements from which its beginnings come.
III. But now it is necessary to fulfill our promise and to explain the peculiar propriety involved in this use of ashes. For they are not merely the ashes of wood which has been consumed by fire, but also of an animal particularly suited for this kind of purification. For the law orders [Numbers 19:1] that a red heifer, which has never been brought under the yoke, shall be sacrificed outside of the city, and that the high priest, taking some of the blood, shall seven times sprinkle with it all the things in front of the temple, and then shall burn the whole animal, with its hide and flesh, and with the belly full of all the entrails. And when the flame begins to pour down, then it commands that these three things shall be thrown into the middle of it, a stick of cedar, a stick of hyssop, and a bunch of saffron; and then, when the fire is wholly extinguished, it commands that some man who is clean shall collect the ashes, and shall again place them outside of the city in some open place.
And what figurative meanings he conceals under these orders as symbols, we have accurately explained in another treatise, in which we have discussed the allegories.
It is necessary, therefore, for those who are about to go into the temple to partake of the sacrifice, to be cleansed as to their bodies and as to their souls before their bodies. For the soul is the mistress and the queen, and is superior in every thing, as having received a more divine nature. And the things which cleanse the mind are wisdom and the doctrines of wisdom, which lead it to the contemplation of the world and the things in it; and the sacred chorus of the rest of the virtues, and honorable and very praiseworthy actions in accordance with the virtues. Let the man, therefore, who is adorned with these qualities go forth in cheerful confidence to the temple which most nearly belongs to him, the most excellent of all abodes to offer himself as a sacrifice. But let him in whom covetousness and a desire of unjust things dwell and display themselves, cover his head and be silent, checking his shameless folly and his excessive impudence, in those matters in which caution is profitable; for the temple of the truly living God may not be approached by unholy sacrifices.
I should say to such a man: My good man, God is not pleased even though a man bring hecatombs to his altar; for he possesses all things as his own, and stands in need of nothing. But he delights in minds which love God, and in men who practice holiness, from whom he gladly receives cakes and barley, and the very cheapest things, as if they were the most valuable in preference to such as are most costly. And even if they bring nothing else, still when they bring themselves, the most perfect completeness of virtue and excellence, they are offering the most excellent of all sacrifices, honoring God, their Benefactor and Savior, with hymns and thanksgivings; the former uttered by the organs of the voice, and the latter without the agency of the tongue or mouth, the worshippers making their exclamations and invocations with their soul alone, and only appreciable by the intellect, and there is but one ear, namely, that of the Deity which hears them. For the hearing of men does not extend so far as to be sensible of them.
IV. And that this statement is true, and not mine but that of nature, is testified to a certain degree by the evident nature of the thing itself, which affords a manifest proof which none can deny who do not cleave to credulity out of a contentious disposition. It is testified also by the law which commands two altars to be prepared, differing both as to the materials of which they are made, as to the places in which they are erected, and as to the purposes to which they are applied; for one is made of stones, carefully selected so to fit one another, and unhewn, and it is erected in the open air, near the steps of the temple, and it is for the purpose of sacrificing victims which contain blood in them. And the other is made of gold, and is erected in the inner part of the temple, within the first veil, and may not be seen by any other human being except those of the priests who keep themselves pure, and it is for the purpose of offering incense upon; from which it is plain that God looks upon even the smallest offering of frankincense by a holy man as more valuable than ten thousand beasts which may be sacrificed by one who is not thoroughly virtuous. For in proportion, I imagine, as gold is more valuable than stones, and as the things within the inner temple are more holy than those without, in the same proportion is the gratitude displayed by offerings of incense superior to that displayed by the sacrifice of victims full of blood, on which account the altar of incense is honored not only in the costliness of its materials, and in the manner of its erection, and in its situation, but also in the fact that it ministers every day before any thing else to the thanksgivings to be paid to God. For the law does not permit the priest to offer the sacrifice of the whole burnt offering outside before he has offered incense within at the earliest dawn. [Exodus 30:8.]
And this command is a symbol of nothing else but of the fact that in the eyes of God it is not the number of things sacrificed that is accounted valuable, but the purity of the rational spirit of the sacrificer. Unless, indeed, one can suppose that a judge who is anxious to pronounce a holy judgment will never receive gifts from any of those whose conduct comes before his tribunal, or that, if he does receive such presents, he will be liable to an accusation of corruption; and that a good man will not receive gifts from a wicked person, not even though he may be poor and the other rich, and he himself perhaps in actual want of what he would so receive; and yet that God can be corrupted by bribes, who is most all-sufficient for himself and who has no need of any thing created; who, being himself the first and most perfect good thing, the everlasting fountain of wisdom, and justice, and of every virtue, rejects the gifts of the wicked. And is not the man who would offer such gifts the most shameless of all men, if he offers a portion of the things which he has acquired by doing injury, or by rapine, or by false denial, or by robbery, to God as if he were a partner in his wickedness? O most miserable of all men!
I should say to such a man, "You must be expecting one of two things. Either that you will be able to pass undetected, or that you will be discovered. Therefore, if you expect to be able to pass undetected, you are ignorant of the power of God, by which he at the same time sees everything and hears everything. And if you think that you will be discovered, you are most audacious in (when you ought rather to endeavor to conceal the wicked actions which you have committed) bringing forward to light specimens of all your iniquitous deeds, and giving yourself airs, and dividing the fruits of them with God, bringing him unholy first fruits. And have you not considered this, that the law does not admit of lawlessness, nor does the light of the sun admit of darkness; but God is the archetypal model of all laws, and the sun, which can be appreciated only by the intellect, is the archetypal model of that which is visible to the senses, bringing forth from its invisible fountains visible light to afford to him who sees."
V. Moreover, there are other commandments relating to the altar. The law says, "A fire shall be kept burning on the altar which shall never be extinguished, but shall be kept burning for ever." [Leviticus 6:9.] I think with great reason and propriety; for, since the graces of God are everlasting, and unceasing, and uninterrupted, which we now enjoy day and night, and since the symbol of gratitude is the sacred flame, it is fitting that it should be kindled, and that it should remain unextinguished for ever. And, perhaps, the lawgiver designed by this command to connect the old with the new sacrifices, and to unite the two by the duration and presence of the same fire by which all such sacrifices are consecrated, in order to demonstrate the fact that all perfect sacrifices consisted in thanksgiving, although, according to the diversity of the occasions on which they are offered, more victims are offered at one time and fewer at another. But some are verbal symbols of things appreciable only by the intellect, and the mystical meaning which is concealed beneath them must be investigated by those who are eager for truth in accordance with the rules of allegory.
The altar of God is the grateful soul of the wise man, being compounded of perfect numbers undivided and indivisible; for no part of virtue is useless. On this soul the sacred fire is continually kept burning, preserved with care and unextinguishable. But the light of the mind is wisdom; as, on the contrary, the darkness of the soul is folly. For what the light discernible by the outward senses is to the eyes, that is knowledge to reason with a view to the contemplation of incorporeal things discernible only by the intellect, the light of which is continually shining and never extinguished.
VI. After this the law says, "On every offering you shall add salt." [Leviticus 2:13.] By which injunction, as I have said before, he figuratively implies a duration for ever; for salt is calculated to preserve bodies, being placed in the second rank as inferior only to the soul; for as the soul is the cause of bodies not being destroyed, so likewise is salt, which keeps them together in the greatest degree, and to some extent makes them immortal. On which account the law calls the altar 'thysiasterion,' giving it a peculiar name of especial honor, from its preserving ('diatereo') the sacrifices ('tas thysias') in a proper manner, and this too though the flesh is consumed by fire; so as to afford the most evident proof possible that God looks not upon the victims as forming the real sacrifice, but on the mind and willingness of him who offers them, that so the durability and firmness of the altar may be ensured by virtue.
Moreover, it also ordains that every sacrifice shall be offered up without any leaven or honey, not thinking it fit that either of these things should be brought to the altar. The honey, perhaps, because the bee which collects it is not a clean animal, inasmuch as it derives its birth, as the story goes, from the putrefaction and corruption of dead oxen, just as wasps spring from the bodies of horses. Or else this may be forbidden as a figurative declaration that all superfluous pleasure is unholy, making, indeed, the things which are eaten sweet to the taste, but inflicting bitter pains difficult to be cured at a subsequent period, by which the soul must of necessity be agitated and thrown into confusion, not being able to settle on any sure resting place.
And leaven is forbidden on account of the rising which it causes; this prohibition again having a figurative meaning, intimating that no one who comes to the altar ought at all to allow himself to be elated, being puffed up by insolence; but that such persons may keep their eyes fixed on the greatness of God, and so obtain a proper conception of the weakness of all created beings, even if they be very prosperous; and that so cherishing correct notions they may correct the arrogant loftiness of their minds, and discard all treacherous self-conceit.
But if the Creator and maker of the universe, who has no need of anything which he has created, not looking at the exceeding greatness of his own power and at his own authority, but at your weakness, gives you a share of his own merciful power, supplying the deficiencies with which you are overwhelmed, how do you think it fitting that you should behave towards men who are akin to you by nature, and who are springing from the same elements with yourself, when you have brought nothing into the world, not even yourself? For, my fine fellow, you came naked into the world, and you shall leave it again naked, having received the interval between your birth and death as a loan from God; during which what ought you to do rather than take care to live in communion and harmony with your fellow creatures, studying equality, and humanity, and virtue, repudiating unequal, and unjust, and irreconcilable unsociable wickedness, which makes that animal which is by nature the most gentle of all, namely, man, a cruel and untractable monster?
VII. Again, the law commands that candles shall be kept burning from evening until morning [Leviticus 24:2] on the sacred candlesticks within the veil, on many accounts. One of which is that the holy places may be kept illuminated without any interruption after the cessation of the light of day, being always kept free from any participation in darkness, just as the stars themselves are, for they too, when the sun sets, exhibit their own light, never forsaking the place which was originally appointed for them in the world. Secondly, in order that by night, also, a rite akin to and closely resembling the sacrifices by day may be performed so as to give pleasure to God, and that no time or occasion fit for offering thanksgiving may ever be left out, which is a duty most suitable and natural for night; for it is not improper to call the blaze of the most sacred light in the innermost shrine itself a sacrifice.
The third, which is a reason of the very greatest importance, is this. Since we are not only well treated while we are awake, but also when we are asleep, inasmuch as the mighty God gives sleep as a great assistance to the human race, for the benefit of both their bodies and souls, of their bodies as being by it relieved of the labors of the day, and of their souls as being lightened by it of all their cares, and being restored to themselves after all the disorder and confusion caused by the outward senses, and as being then enabled to retire within and commune with themselves, the law has very properly thought fit to make a distinction of the actions of thanksgiving, so that sacrifices may be made on behalf of those who are awake by means of the victims which are offered, and on behalf of those who are asleep, and of those who are benefited by sleep, by the lighting of the sacred candles.
VIII. These, then, and other commandments like them, are those which are established for the purpose of promoting piety, by express injunctions and prohibitions. But those which are in accordance with philosophical suggestions and recommendations must be explained in this manner; for the lawgiver, in effect, says, "God, O mind of man! demands nothing of you which is either oppressive, or uncertain, or difficult, but only such things as are very simple and easy. And these are, to love him as your benefactor; and if you fail to do so, at all events, to fear him as your Governor and Lord, and to enter zealously upon all the paths which may please him, and to serve him in no careless or superficial manner, but with one's whole soul thoroughly filled as it ought to be with God-loving sentiments, and to cleave to his commandments, and to honor justice, by all which means the world itself continues constantly in the same nature without ever changing, and all other things which are contained in the world have a tendency towards improvement, such as the sun and the moon, and the whole multitude of the rest of the stars, and the entire heaven.
But the mountains of the earth are elevated to the greatest possible height, and the champaign country, like other fusible essences, is spread over a body of wide extent, and the sea also changes so as to become united with sweet waters, and the rains also become in their turn similar to the sea. Therefore every one of those things is still fixed within the same boundaries as those within which it was originally created, when it was first disposed of in regular order. But you shall be better, living quite irreproachably. And what of all these things is either grievous or laborious? You are not compelled to pass over unnavigable seas; or, when tossed about by the billows of the middle of winter and the force of contrary winds, to wander about the sea in every direction; or to travel on foot over rough and pathless byways, always being in dread of the haunts of robbers, or of the attacks of wild beasts; or to watch all night to protect your walls in the open air, while the enemy are lying in ambush for you, and threatening you with the very extremity of danger.
IX. Come, now, let no unpleasant topics be brought up in pleasant circumstances. We must use words of good omen with reference to such advantageous matters. It is only necessary for the mind to consent and everything will be ready. Are you not aware that both that heaven which is invisible to the outward senses, and that likewise which is appreciable only by the intellect, belongs to God: the heaven of heavens as we may call it; and again, that the earth and all that is in it, and the whole world, both that which is visible and that which is invisible and incorporeal, being a model of the real heaven? But, nevertheless, he selected out of the whole race of mankind those who were really men for their superior excellence; and he elected them and thought them worthy of the highest possible honor, calling them to the service of himself, to that everlasting fountain of all that is good; from which he has showered forth other virtues, drawing forth, at the same time, for our enjoyment, combined with the greatest possible advantage, a drink contributing more than ever nectar, or at all events not less, to make those who drink of it immortal.
But those men are to be pitied, and are altogether miserable, who have never banquetted on the labors of virtue; and they have remained to the end the most miserable of all men who have been always ignorant of the taste of moral excellence, when it was in their power to have feasted on and luxuriated among justice and equality. But these men are uncircumcised in their hearts, as the law expresses it, and by reason of the hardness of their hearts they are stubborn, resisting and breaking their traces in a restive manner; whom the Lord reproves, saying, "Be ye circumcised as to your hard-heartedness [Deuteronomy 10:16];" that means, "do ye eradicate the overbearing character of your dominant part, which the immoderate impulses of the passing hour have sown and caused to grow within you, and which the wicked husbandman of the soul, folly, planted.
Again, it says, "Let not your necks be stiff [Deuteronomy 10:18]," that is to say, let not your mind be unbending and self-willed, and let it not admit into itself that most blameable ignorance of excessive perverseness. But discarding obstinacy and moroseness of nature as an enemy, let it change so as to become gentle, and inclined to obey the laws of nature. Do you not see that the most important and greatest of all the powers of the living God are his beneficent and his punishing power? And his beneficent power is called God, since it is by means of this that he made and arranged the universe. And the other, or punishing power, is called Lord, on which his sovereignty over the universe depends. And God is God, not only of men, but also of gods; and he is mighty, being truly strong and truly powerful. [Deuteronomy 10:17.]
X. But, nevertheless, though he is so great in excellence and in power, he feels pity and compassion for all those who are most completely sunk in want and distress, not considering it beneath his dignity to be the judge in the causes of proselytes, and orphans, and widows, and disregarding kings and tyrants, and men in high commands, and honoring the humility of those men above mentioned, I mean the proselytes, with precedence, on this account. These men, having forsaken their country and their national customs in which they were bred up, which, however, were full of the inventions of falsehood and pride, becoming genuine lovers of truth, have come over to piety; and becoming in all worthiness suppliants and servants of the true and living God, they very properly receive a precedence which they have deserved, having found the reward of their fleeing to God in the assistance which they now receive from him. And in the case of orphans and widows, since they have been deprived of their natural protectors, the one class having lost their parents, and the others their husbands, they have no refuge whatever to which they can flee, no aid which they can hope for from man, being utterly destitute; on which account they are not deprived of the greatest hope of all, the hope of relief from God, who, because of his merciful character, does not refuse to provide and to care for persons so wholly desolate.
"Let then," says the law, "God alone be thy boast, and thy greater glory." [Deuteronomy 10:21.] And do not pride thyself either on thy wealth, or on thy glory, or on the beauty of thy person, or on thy strength, or on anything of the same kind as the objects at which foolish empty-headed persons are apt to be elated; considering that, in the first place, these things have no connection at all with the nature of good, and secondly, that they are liable to rapid changes, fading away in a manner before they have time to flourish permanently. And let us cling to the custom of addressing our supplications to him, and let us not, after we have subdued our enemies, imitate their impiety in those matters of conduct in which they fancy that they are acting piously, burning their sons and their daughters to their gods, not, indeed, that it is the custom of all the barbarians to burn their children. For they are not become so perfectly savage in their natures as to endure in time of peace to treat their nearest and dearest relatives as they would scarcely treat their irreconcilable enemies in time of war.
But that they do in reality inflame and corrupt the souls of the children of whom they are the parents from the very moment that they are out of their swaddling clothes; not imprinting on their minds, while they are still tender, any true opinions respecting the one only and truly living God. Let us not then be overcome by, and fall down before, and yield to their good fortune as if they had prevailed by reason of their piety. For present prosperity is given to many persons for a snare, being only a bait to be followed by excessive and incurable evils. And it is very likely that even men who are unworthy may be allowed to be successful, not for their own sakes, but in order that we who act impiously may be more vehemently grieved and pained, who having been born in a God-fearing city, and having been bred up in laws which would imbue men with every virtue, and having been instructed from our earliest youth in all such pursuits as are most honorable to men, neglect them all, and cling only to such practices as deserve to be neglected, considering all good things as subjects for amusement, and looking upon things fit only for sport as seriously good.
XI. And if, indeed, any one assuming the name and appearance of a prophet [Deuteronomy 13:1], appearing to be inspired and possessed by the Holy Spirit, were to seek to lead the people to the worship of those who are accounted gods in the different cities, it would not be fitting for the people to attend to him being deceived by the name of a prophet. For such an one is an impostor and not a prophet, since he has been inventing speeches and oracles full of falsehood, even though a brother, or a son, or a daughter, or a wife, or a steward, or a firm friend, or any one else who seems to be well-intentioned towards one should seek to lead one in a similar course; exhorting one to be cheerful among the multitude, and to approach the same temples and to adopt the same sacrifices; but such an one should be punished as a public and common enemy, and we should think but little of any relationship, and one should relate his recommendations to all the lovers of piety, who with all speed and without any delay would hasten to inflict punishment on the impious man, judging it a virtuous action to be zealous for his execution.
For we should acknowledge only one relationship, and one bond of friendship, namely, a mutual zeal for the service of God, and a desire to say and do everything that is consistent with piety. And these bonds which are called relationships of blood, being derived from one's ancestors, and those connections which are derived from intermarriages and from other similar causes, must all be renounced, if they do not all hasten to the same end, namely, the honor of God which is the one indissoluble bond of all united good will. For such men will lay claim to a more venerable and sacred kind of relationship; and the law confirms my assertion, where it says that those who do what is pleasing to nature and virtuous are the sons of God, for it says, "Ye are the sons of the Lord your God [Deuteronomy 14:1]," inasmuch as you will be thought worthy of his providence and care in your behalf as though he were your father. And that care is as much superior to that which is shown by a man's own parents, as I imagine the being who takes it is superior to them.
XII. In addition to this the lawgiver also entirely removes out of his sacred code of laws all ordinances respecting initiations, and mysteries, and all such trickery and buffoonery; not choosing that men who are brought up in such a constitution as that which he was giving should be busied about such matters, and, placing their dependence on mystic enchantments, should be led to neglect the truth, and to pursue those objects which have very naturally received night and darkness for their portion, passing over the things which are worthy of light and of day. Let no one, therefore, of the disciples or followers of Moses either be initiated himself into any mysterious rites of worship, or initiate any one else; for both the act of learning and that of teaching such initiations is an impiety of no slight order.
For if these things are virtuous, and honorable, and profitable, why do ye, O ye men who are initiated, shut yourselves up in dense darkness, and limit your benefits to just three or four men, when you might bring down the advantages which you have to bestow into the middle of the market place, and benefit all men; so that every one might without hindrance partake of a better and more fortunate life? for envy is never found in conjunction with virtue. Let men who do injurious things be put to shame, and seeking hiding places and recesses in the earth, and deep darkness, hide themselves, concealing their lawless iniquity from sight, so that no one may behold it. But to those who do such things as are for the common advantage, let there be freedom of speech, and let them go by day through the middle of the market place where they will meet with the most numerous crowds, to display their own manner of life in the pure sun, and to do good to the assembled multitudes by means of the principal of the outward senses, giving them to see those things the sight of which is most delightful and most impressive, and hearing and feasting upon salutary speeches which are accustomed to delight the minds even of those men who are not utterly illiterate.
Do you not see that nature has concealed none of those works which are deservedly celebrated and honorable, but has exhibited openly the stars and the whole of heaven, so as to cause the sight pleasure, and to excite a desire for philosophy, and she also displays her seas, and fountains, and rivers, and the excellencies of the atmosphere, and the beautiful adaptation of the winds to the various seasons of the year, and of plants, and of animals, and, moreover, the innumerable species of fruits, for the use and enjoyment of men? Would it not have been right, then, for you, following her example and design, to give to those who are worthy of it all things that are necessary for their advantage? But now it very often happens that no good men at all are initiated by them, but that sometimes robbers, and wreckers, and companies of debauched and polluted women are, when they have given money enough to those who initiate them, and who reveal to them the mysteries which they call sacred. But let all such men be driven away and expelled from that city, and denied all share in that constitution, in which honor and truth are reverenced for their own sake. And this is enough to say on this subject.
XIII. But the law, being most especially an interpreter of equal communion, and of courteous humanity among men, has preserved the honor and dignity of each virtue; not permitting any one who is incurably sunk in vice to flee to them, but rejecting all such persons and repelling them to a distance. Therefore, as it was aware that no inconsiderable number of wicked men are often mingled in these assemblies, and escape notice by reason of the crowds collected there, in order to prevent that from being the case in this instance, he previously excludes all who are unworthy from the sacred assembly, beginning in the first instance with those who are afflicted with the disease of effeminacy, men-women, who, having adulterated the coinage of nature, are willingly driven into the appearance and treatment of licentious women. He also banishes all those who have suffered any injury or mutilation in their most important members, and those who, seeking to preserve the flower of their beauty so that it may not speedily wither away, have altered the impression of their natural manly appearance into the resemblance of a woman.
The law also excludes not only all harlots, but also those who being born of a harlot bear about them the disgrace of their mother, because their original birth and origin have been adulterated. For this passage (if there is any passage at all in the whole scripture which does so) admits of an allegorical interpretation; for there is not one description only of impious and unholy men, but there are many and different. For some persons affirm that the incorporeal ideas are only an empty name, having no participation in any real fact, removing the most important of all essences from the list of existing things, though it is in fact the archetypal model of all things which are the distinctive qualities of essence, in accordance with which each thing is assigned to its proper species and limited to its proper dimensions.
The sacred pillars of the law call all these men broken; for such an injury as is implied by that term leaves a man destitute of all distinctive quality and species, and what is so broken is nothing else, to speak the strict truth, than mere shapeless material.
Thus, the doctrine which takes away species throws every thing into confusion, and moreover brings back that want of proper form which existed before the elements were reduced into proper order. And what can be more absurd than this? For it is out of that essence that God created every thing, without indeed touching it himself, for it was not lawful for the all-wise and all-blessed God to touch materials which were all misshapen and confused, but he created them by the agency of his incorporeal powers, of which the proper name is ideas, which he so exerted that every genus received its proper form.
But this opinion has created great irregularity and confusion. For when it takes away the things by means of which the distinctive qualities exist, it at the same time takes away the distinctive qualities themselves. But other persons, as if they were engaged in a contest of wickedness, being anxious to carry off the prizes of victory, go beyond all others in impiety, joining to their denial of the ideas a negative also of the being of God, as if he had no real existence but were only spoken of for the sake of what is beneficial to men.
Others, again, out of fear of that Being who appears to be present everywhere and to see every thing, are barren of wisdom, but devoted to the maintenance of that which is the greatest of all wickednesses, namely impiety. There is also a third class, who have entered on the contrary path, guiding a multitude of men and women, of old and young, filling the world with arguments in favor of a multiplicity of rulers, in order by such means to eradicate all notions of the one and truly living God from the minds of men. These are they who are symbolically called by the law the sons of a harlot. For as mothers who are harlots do not know who is the real father of their children, and cannot register him accurately, but have many, or I might almost say all men, their lovers and associates, the same is the case with those who are ignorant of the one true God. For, inventing a great number whom they falsely call gods, they are blinded as to the most important of all existing things which they ought to have thoroughly learnt, if not alone, at all events as the first and greatest of all things from their earliest childhood; for what can be a more honorable thing to learn than the knowledge of the true and living God?
XIV. The law also excludes a fourth class, and a fifth, both hastening to the same end, but not with the same intention; for, as they are both followers of the same great evil, self-will, they have divided between them the whole soul as a kind of common inheritance, consisting of a rational and an irrational part; and the one class has appropriated the rational part, which is the mind, and the other the irrational part which is again subdivided into the outward senses; therefore, the champions of the mind attribute to it the predominance in and supreme authority over all human affairs, and affirm that it is able to preserve all past things in its recollection, and to comprehend all present things with great vigor, and to divine the future by probable conjecture; for this is the faculty which sowed and planted all the fertile soil in both the mountainous and champaign districts of the earth, and which invented agriculture, the most useful of all sciences for human life. This also is the faculty which surveyed the heaven, and by a proper contemplation of it made the earth accessible to ships by an ingenuity beyond all powers of description; this, also invented letters, and music, and the whole range of encyclical instruction, and brought them to perfection. This also, is the parent of that greatest of all good things, philosophy, and by means of its different parts it has benefited human life, proceeding by the logical portion of it to an infallible interpretation of difficulties, and by its moral part to a correction of the manners and dispositions of men; and by its physical division to the knowledge of the heaven and the world.
And they have also collected and assembled many other praises of the mind on which they dwell, having a continual reference to the species already mentioned, about which we have not at the present time leisure to occupy ourselves.
XV. But the champions of the outward senses extol their praises, also, with great energy and magnificence; enumerating in their discourse all the wants which are supplied by their means, and they say that two of them are the causes of living; smell and taste; and two of living well, seeing and hearing; therefore, by means of taste the nourishment derived from food is conveyed into the system, and by means of the nostrils the air on which every living thing depends; for this also is a continual food, which nourishes and preserves men, not only while they are awake, but also while they are asleep. And the proof of this is clear; for if the passage of the breath be obstructed for even the shortest period, to such a degree as wholly to cut off the air which is intended by nature to be conveyed into the system from without, inevitable death will of necessity ensue.
Again, of the more philosophical of the outward senses by means of which the living well is produced, the power of sight beholds the light which is the most beautiful of all essences, and by means of the light it beholds all other things, the sun, the moon, the stars, the heaven, the earth, the sea, the innumerable varieties of plants and animals, and in short all bodies, and shapes, and odors, and magnitudes whatever, the sight of which has given birth to excessive wisdom, and has begotten a great desire for knowledge.
And even without reckoning the advantage derived from these things; sight also affords us the greatest benefits in respect of the power of distinguishing one's relatives and strangers, and friends, and avoiding what is injurious and choosing what is beneficial.
Now each of the other parts of the body has been created with reference to appropriate uses, which are of great importance, as, for instance, the feet were made for walking, and for all the other uses to which the legs can be applied; again, the hands were created for the purpose of doing, or giving, or taking anything; and the eyes, as a sort of universal good, afford both to the hands and feet, and to all the other parts of the body the cause of being able to act or move rightly; and that this is the case is most unerringly demonstrated by the evidence of those who have suffered any mutilation in these members, who cannot in real truth be said to have either feet or hands, and who by the reality of their condition prove the correctness of their name, which they say that men of old gave them not so much by way of reproach as out of compassion, calling them impotent, out of surprise at what they see.
Again, hearing is the thing by which melodies and rhythm, and all parts and divisions of music are distinguished; for song and speech are salutary and wholesome medicines, the one charming the passions and the inharmonious qualities within us by its rhythm, and our unmelodious qualities by its melodies, and bridling our immoderate vehemence by its fixed measures; and each of those parts of it are various and multiform, as the musicians and poets do testify, whom we must believe; and speech, checking and cutting short all the impulses which lead to wickedness, and healing those who are under the dominion of folly and misery, and strengthening those who are inclined to yield in a cowardly manner, and subduing those who resist more obstinately, becomes thus the cause of the greatest advantages.
XVI. The advocates of the mind and of the outward senses, having put these arguments together, make gods of both of them, the one deifying the first, and the other the last; both classes out of their self-will and self-conceit forgetting the truly living God. On which account the lawgiver very naturally excludes them all from the sacred assembly, calling those who would take away the ideas, broken in the stones, and those too who are utterly atheistical, to whom he has given the appropriate name of eunuchs; and those who are the teachers of an opposite system of theogony, whom he calls the sons of a harlot; and besides all these classes he excludes also the self-willed and self-conceited, some of whom have deified reason, and others have called each separate one of the outward senses gods.
For all these men are hastening to the same end, even though they are not all influenced by the same intentions.
But we who are the followers and disciples of the prophet Moses, will never abandon our investigation into the nature of the true God; looking upon the knowledge of him as the true end of happiness; and thinking that the true everlasting life, as the law says [Deuteronomy 4:4], is to live in obedience to and worship of God; in which precept it gives us a most important and philosophical lesson; for in real truth those who are atheists are dead as to their souls, but those who are marshalled in the ranks of the true living God, as his servants, enjoy an everlasting life.