Against the Christians
(Note to the Reader: Porphyry's 'Against the Christians' is a lost work, but fragments survive embedded in Macarius Magnes' refutation and elsewhere. This text is an edited version of David Braunsberg and Roger Pearse's reconstruction available at tertullian.org. Text has been edited for consistency of voice and rearranged for topicality. Chapter headings have been added.)
For in the first place who are these people? Are they Greeks or Barbarians? Or what can there be intermediate to these? And what do the Christians claim to be, not in regard to the name, because this is manifest to all, but in the manner and purpose of their life? For we see that they agree neither with the opinions of the Greeks, nor with the customs of the Barbarians. [Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel, I.2.1ff]
The Christians are unable logically to present a clear demonstration of the doctrine they hold, and think it enough to retain those who come to them by faith alone, and only teach their followers like irrational animals to shut their eyes and staunchly obey what they say without examining it at all, and call them therefore "the faithful" because of their faith as distinct from reason. They have apostatized from our ancestral gods; in recognizing the Hebrew oracles they honor the work of Barbarians more than those of the Greeks. [Eusebius, Demonstration of the Gospel I: 1: 8-11]
They can establish nothing by demonstration, but hold to an unreasoning faith. [Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel I: 3: 1]
If Christ declares Himself to be the Way of salvation, the Grace and the Truth, and affirms that in Him alone, and only to souls believing in Him, is the way of return to God, what has become of men who lived in the many centuries before Christ came? To pass over the time which preceded the founding of the kingdom of Latium, let us take the beginning of that power as if it were the beginning of the human race. In Latium itself gods were worshipped before Alba was built; in Alba, also, religious rites and forms of worship in the temples were maintained. Rome itself was for a period of not less duration, even for a long succession of centuries, unacquainted with Christian doctrine. What, then, has become of such an innumerable multitude of souls, who were in no wise blameworthy, seeing that He in whom alone saving faith can be exercised had not yet favored men with His advent? The whole world, moreover, was not less zealous than Rome itself in the worship practiced in the temples of the gods. Why, then did He who is called the Savior withhold Himself for so many centuries of the world? And let it not be said that provision had been made for the human race by the old Jewish law. It was only after a long time that the Jewish law appeared and flourished within the narrow limits of Syria, and after that, it gradually crept onwards to the coasts of Italy; but this was not earlier than the end of the reign of Caius, or, at the earliest, while he was on the throne. What, then, became of the souls of men in Rome and Latium who lived before the time of the Caesars, and were destitute of the grace of Christ, because He had not then come? [Augustine, Epistle 102: 8]
How can God be described as pitiful and of great mercy when from Adam to Moses and from Moses to the coming of Christ He has suffered all nations to die in ignorance of the Law and of His commandments? For Britain, that province so fertile in despots, the Scottish tribes, and all the barbarians round about as far as the ocean were alike without knowledge of Moses and the prophets. Why should Christ's coming have been delayed to the last times? Why should He not have come before so vast a number had perished? [Jerome, Epistle 133: 9]
And now they wonder that for so many years the plague has attacked the city, Asclepius and the other gods being no longer resident among us. For since Jesus began to be honored, no one ever heard of any public assistance from the gods. [Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel V: 1: 9ff]
Look at a similar saying, which is naturally suggested by it, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, verily I say unto you, ye shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea, and it shall not be impossible for you."
It is obvious therefore that any one who is unable to remove a mountain in accordance with this bidding, is not worthy to be reckoned one of the family of the faithful. So you are plainly refuted, for not only are the rest of Christians not reckoned among the faithful, but not even are any of your bishops or priests worthy of this saying. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 17]
Again, consider in detail that other passage, where He says, "Such signs shall follow them that believe: they shall lay hands upon sick folk, and they shall recover, and if they drink any deadly drug, it shall in no wise hurt them." So the right thing would be for those selected for the priesthood, and particularly those who lay claim to the episcopate or presidency, to make use of this form of test. The deadly drug should be set before them in order that the man who received no harm from the drinking of it might be given precedence of the rest. And if they are not bold enough to accept this sort of test, they ought to confess that they do not believe in the things Jesus said. For if it is a peculiarity of the faith to overcome the evil of a poison and to remove the pain of a sick man, the believer who does not do these things either has not become a genuine believer, or else, though his belief is genuine, the thing that he believes in is not potent but feeble. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 16]
The Life of Jesus
The evangelist says, "On the fortieth day they brought him to Jerusalem and returned to Nazareth from there." How can the day of his birth in Bethlehem have a circumcision eight days after it, and forty days later the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the things Simeon and Anna did for him, when an angel appeared to him the night he was born, after the arrival of the magi who came to worship him, and who opened their bags and offered him gifts? As it says, 'An angel appeared to him saying, Arise, take thy wife and the young child and go unto Egypt, for Herod seeketh the young child's life.' Now then, if he was taken to Egypt the very night he was born and was there until Herod died, how can he stay [in Bethlehem] for eight days and be circumcised? Or how can Luke fail to be caught in a lie when he tells us that Jesus was brought to Jerusalem after forty days? [Epiphanius, Against Heresies 51:8]
Come now, let us here mention another saying to you. Why is it that when the tempter tells Jesus "Cast thyself down from the temple," He does not do it, but says to him, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God," whereby it seems to me that He spoke in fear of the danger from the fall? For if, as you declare, He not only did various other miracles, but even raised up dead men by His word alone, He ought to have shown forthwith that He was capable of delivering others from danger by hurling Himself down from the height, and not receiving any bodily harm thereby. And the more so, because there is a passage of Scripture somewhere which says with regard to Him, "In their hands they shall bear thee up, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." So the really fair thing to do, was to demonstrate to those who were present in the temple that He was God's Son, and was able to deliver from danger both Himself and those who were His. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 18]
And if we would speak of this record likewise, it will appear to be really a piece of knavish nonsense, since Matthew says that two demons from the tombs met with Christ, and then that in fear of Him they went into the swine, and many were killed. But Mark did not shrink from making up an enormous number of swine, for he puts it thus: "He said unto him, Go forth, thou unclean spirit, from the man. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, Many. And he besought him that he would not cast him out of the country. And there was there a herd of swine feeding. And the demons besought him that he would suffer them to depart into the swine. And when they had departed into the swine, they rushed down the steep into the sea, about two thousand, and were choked; and they that fed them fled!" (Mark v. 8, etc.). What a myth! What humbug! What flat mockery! A herd of two thousand swine ran into the sea, and were choked and perished!
And when one hears how the demons besought Him that they might not be sent into the abyss, and how Christ was prevailed on and did not do so, but sent them into the swine, will not one say: "Alas, what ignorance! Alas, what foolish knavery, that He should take account of murderous spirits, which were working much harm in the world, and that He should grant them what they wished." What the demons wished was to dance through life, and make the world a perpetual plaything. They wanted to stir up the sea, and fill the world's whole theatre with sorrow. They wanted to trouble the elements by their disturbance, and to crush the whole creation by their hurtfulness. So at all events it was not right that, instead of casting these originators of evil, who had treated mankind so ill, into that region of the abyss which they prayed to be delivered from, He should be softened by their entreaty and suffer them to work another calamity.
If the incident is really true, and not a fiction (as we explain it), Christ's saying convicts Him of much baseness, that He should drive the demons from one man, and send them into helpless swine; also that He should terrify with panic those who kept them, making them fly breathless and excited, and agitate the city with the disturbance which resulted. For was it not just to heal the harm not merely of one man or two or three or thirteen, but of everybody, especially as it was for this purpose that He was testified to have come into this life? But to merely loose one man from bonds which were invisible, and to inflict similar bonds upon others; to free certain men happily from their fears, but to surround others with fears without reason—this should rightfully be called not right action but rascality.
And again, in taking account of enemies and allowing them to take up their abode in another place and dwell there, He is acting like a king who ruins the region that is subject to him. For the latter, being unable to drive the barbarians out of every country, sends them from one place to another to abide, delivering one country from the evil and handing another over to it. If therefore Christ in like manner, unable to drive the demon from His borders, sent him into the herd of swine, he does indeed work something practiced which can catch the ear, but it is also full of the suspicion of baseness. For when a right-thinking man hears this, he passes a judgment at once, forms his opinion on the narrative, and gives his vote in accordance with the matter. This is the way he will speak: "If he does not free from hurt everything beneath the sun, but pursues those that do the harm into different countries, and if he takes care of some, but has no heed of others, it is not safe to flee to this man and be saved. For he who is saved spoils the condition of him who is not, while he who is not saved becomes the accuser of him who is." Wherefore, according to my judgment, the record contained in this narrative is a fiction.
Once more, if you regard it as not fiction, but bearing some relation to truth, there is really plenty to laugh at for those who like to open their mouths. For come now, here is a point we must carefully inquire into: how was it that so large a herd of swine was being kept at that time in the land of Judaea, seeing that they were to the Jews from the beginning the most unclean and hated form of beast? And, again, how were all those swine choked, when it was a lake and not a deep sea? It may be left to babes to make a decision about all this. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 4]
These are the tricks of the demons; they do not really cry out, but feign their torments. [Jerome, Against Vigilantius, 10]
The Evangelists were inventors and not historians of the events concerning Jesus. For each of them wrote an account of the Passion which was not harmonious but as contradictory as could be. For one records that, when he was crucified, a certain man filled a sponge with vinegar and brought it to him (Mark xv. 36). But another says in a different way, "When they had come to the place Golgotha, they gave him to drink wine mingled with gall, and when he had tasted it, he would not drink" (Matt. xxvii. 33). And a little further, "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice saying, Eloim, Eloim, lama sabachthani? That is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This is Matthew (v. 46). And another says, "Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar. Having therefore bound a vessel full of the vinegar with a reed, they offered it to his mouth. When therefore he had taken the vinegar, Jesus said, It is finished, and having bowed his head, he gave up the ghost" (John xix. 29). But another says, "And he cried out with a loud voice and said, Father, into thy hands I will commend my spirit." This happens to be Luke (Luke xxiii. 46). From this out-of-date and contradictory record, one can receive it as the statement of the suffering, not of one man, but of many. For if one says "Into thy hands I will commend my spirit," and another "It is finished," and another "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and another "My God, my God, why didst thou reproach me?" it is plain that this is a discordant invention, and either points to many who were crucified, or one who died hard and did not give a clear view of his passion to those who were present. But if these men were not able to tell the manner of his death in a truthful way, and simply repeated it by rote, neither did they leave any clear record concerning the rest of the narrative." [Macarius, Apocriticus II:12]
It will be proved from another passage that the accounts of his death were all a matter of guess-work. For John writes: "But when they came to Jesus, when they saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs; but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water." For only John has said this, and none of the others. Wherefore he is desirous of bearing witness to himself when he says: "And he that saw it hath borne witness, and his witness is true" (v. 35). This is haply, as it seems to me, the statement of a simpleton. For how is the witness true when its object has no existence? For a man witnesses to something real; but how can witness be spoken of concerning a thing which is not real? [Macarius, Apocriticus, II:13]
Peter no Rock
It is only natural that there is much that is unseemly in all this long-winded talk thus poured out. The words, one might say, provoke a battle of inconsistency against each other. How would some man in the street be inclined to explain that Gospel saying, which Jesus addresses to Peter when He says, "Get thee behind me, Satan, thou art an offense unto me, for thou mindest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men" (Matt. xvi. 23), and then in another place, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven"? For if He so condemned Peter as to call him Satan, and thought of him as cast behind Him, and an offense, and one who had received no thought of what was divine in his mind; and if He so rejected him as having committed mortal sin, that He was not prepared to have him in His sight any more, but thrust him behind Him into the throng of the outcast and vanished; how is it right to find this sentence of exclusion against the leader and "chief of the disciples"? At any rate, if any one who is in his sober senses ruminates over this, and then hears Christ say (as though He had forgotten the words He had uttered against Peter), "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church," and "To thee I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven,"—will he not laugh aloud till he nearly bursts his mouth? Will he not open it wide as he might from his seat in the theatre? Will he not speak with a sneer and hiss loudly? Will he not cry aloud to those who are near him? Either when He called Peter Satan He was drunk and overcome with wine, and He spoke as though in a fit; or else, when He gave this same disciple the keys of the kingdom of heaven, He was painting dreams, in the imagination of His sleep. For pray how was Peter able to support the foundation of the Church, seeing that thousands of times he was readily shaken from his judgment? What sort of firm reasoning can be detected in him, or where did he show any unshaken mental power, seeing that, though he heard what Jesus had said to him, he was terribly frightened because of a sorry maidservant, and three times foreswore himself, although no great necessity was laid upon him? We conclude then that, if He was right in taking him up and calling him Satan, as having failed of the very essence of godliness, He was inconsistent, as though not knowing what He had done, in giving him the authority of leadership. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 19]
It is also plain that Peter is condemned of many falls, from the statement in that passage where Jesus said to him, "I say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven shalt thou forgive the sin of him that does wrong." But though he received this commandment and injunction, he cut off the ear of the high-priest's servant who had done no wrong, and did him harm although he had not sinned at all. For how did he sin, if he went at the command of his master to the attack which was then made on Christ? [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 20]
This Peter is convicted of doing wrong in other cases also. For in the case of a certain man called Ananias, and his wife Sapphira, because they did not deposit the whole price of their land, but kept back a little for their own necessary use, Peter put them to death, although they had done no wrong. For how did they do wrong, if they did not wish to make a present of all that was their own? But even if he did consider their act to be one of wrongdoing, he ought to have remembered the commands of Jesus, who had taught him to endure as many as four hundred and ninety sins against him; he would then at least have pardoned one, if indeed what had occurred could really in any sense be called a sin. And there is another thing which he ought to have borne in mind in dealing with others—namely, how he himself, by swearing that he did not know Jesus, had not only told a lie, but had foresworn himself, in contempt of the judgment and resurrection to come. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 21]
We read in the Acts of the Apostles how they all sold their possessions and laid the price of them at the apostles' feet and "distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." But Ananias and Sapphira, having made a vow, offered their money to God; and keeping back for their own use a part, drew down on themselves suddenly the avenging stroke. The apostle Peter called down death upon them. [Jerome, Epistle 130:14]
This man who stood first in the band of the disciples, taught as he had been by God to despise death, but escaping when seized by Herod, became a cause of punishment to those who guarded him. For after he had escaped during the night, when day came there was a stir among the soldiers as to how Peter had got out. And Herod, when he had sought for him and failed to find him, examined the guards, and ordered them to be "led away," that is to say, put to death. So it is astonishing how Jesus gave the keys of heaven to Peter, if he were a man such as this; and how to one who was disturbed with such agitation and overcome by such experiences did He say "Feed my lambs"? For I suppose the sheep are the faithful who have advanced to the mystery of perfection, while the lambs stand for the throng of those who are still catechumens, fed so far on the gentle milk of teaching. Nevertheless, Peter is recorded to have been crucified after feeding the lambs not even for a few months, although Jesus had said that the gates of Hades should not prevail against him. Again, Paul condemned Peter when he said, "For before certain came from James, he ate with the Gentiles, but when they came he separated himself, fearing those of the circumcision; and many Jews joined with him in his hypocrisy" (Gal. ii. 12). In this likewise there is abundant and important condemnation, that a man who had become interpreter of the divine mouth should live in hypocrisy, and behave himself with a view to pleasing men. Moreover, the same is true of his taking about a wife, for this is what Paul says: "Have we not power to take about a sister, a wife, as also the rest of the apostles, and Peter?" (1 Cor. ix. 5). And then he adds (2 Cor. xi. 13), "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers." If then Peter is related to have been involved in so many base things, is it not enough to make one shudder to imagine that he holds the keys of heaven, and looses and binds, although he is fast bound, so to speak, in countless inconsistencies. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 22]
Paul a Liar
You seem to me very much like inexperienced captains, who, while still afloat on the voyage that lies before them, look on themselves as afloat on another sea. Even thus are you seeking for other passages to be laid down by us, although you have not completed the vital points in the questions which you still have on hand.
If you are really filled with boldness about the questions, and the points of difficulty have become clear to you, tell us how it was that Paul said, "Being free, I made myself the slave of all, in order that I might gain all" (1 Cor. ix. 19), and how, although he called circumcision "concision," he himself circumcised a certain Timothy, as we are taught in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts xvi. 3). Oh, the downright stupidity of it all! It is such a stage as this that the scenes in the theatre portray, as a means of raising laughter. Such indeed is the exhibition which jugglers give. For how could the man be free who is a slave of all? And how can the man gain all who apes all? For if he is without law to those who are without law, as he himself says, and he went with the Jews as a Jew and with others in like manner, truly he was the slave of manifold baseness, and a stranger to freedom and an alien from it; truly he is a servant and minister of other people's wrong doings, and a notable zealot for unseemly things, if he spends his time on each occasion in the baseness of those without law, and appropriates their doings to himself.
These things cannot be the teachings of a sound mind, nor the setting forth of reasoning that is free. But the words imply some one who is somewhat crippled in mind, and weak in his reasoning. For if he lives with those who are without law, and also in his writings accepts the Jews' religion gladly, having a share in each, he is confused with each, mingling with the falls of those who are base, and subscribing himself as their companion. For he who draws such a line through circumcision as to remove those who wish to fulfill it, and then performs circumcision himself, stands as the weightiest of all accusers of himself when he says: "If I build again those things which I loosed, I establish myself as a transgressor." [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 30]
This same Paul, who often when he speaks seems to forget his own words, tells the chief captain that he is not a Jew but a Roman, although he had previously said, "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, and brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the exact teaching of the law of my fathers." But he who said, "I am a Jew," and "I am a Roman," is neither thing, although he attaches himself to both. For he who plays the hypocrite and speaks of what he is not, lays the foundation of his deeds in guile, and by putting round him a mask of deceit, he cheats the clear issue and steals the truth, laying siege in different ways to the soul's understanding, and enslaving by the juggler's art those who are easily influenced. The man who welcomes in his life such a principle as this, differs not at all from an implacable and bitter foe, who enslaving by his hypocrisy the minds of those beyond his own borders, takes them all captive in inhuman fashion. So if Paul is in pretense at one time a Jew, at another a Roman, at one time without law, and at another a Greek, and whenever he wishes is a stranger and an enemy to each thing, by stealing into each, he has made each useless, robbing each of its scope by his flattery.
We conclude then that he is a liar and manifestly brought up in an atmosphere of lying. And it is beside the point for him to say: "I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not" (Rom. ix. 1). For the man who has just now conformed to the law, and to-day to the Gospel, is rightly regarded as knavish and hollow both in private and in public life. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 31]
That he dissembles the Gospel for the sake of vainglory, and the law for the sake of covetousness, is plain from his words, "Who ever goeth to war at his own charges? Who shepherdeth the flock and doth not eat of the milk of the flock?" (1 Cor. ix. 7). And, in his desire to get hold of these things, he calls in the law as a supporter of his covetousness, saying, "Or doth not the law say these things? For in the law of Moses it is written, Thou shall not muzzle an ox that is treading out the corn " (v. 9). Then he adds a statement which is obscure and full of nonsense, by way of cutting off the divine forethought from the brute beasts, saying, "Doth God take care of the oxen, or doth he say it on our account? On our account it was written" (v. 10). It seems to me that in saying this he is mocking the wisdom of the Creator, as if it contained no forethought for the things that had long ago been brought into being. For if God does not take care of oxen, pray, why is it written, "He hath subjected all things, sheep and oxen and beasts and birds and the fishes" (Ps. viii. 8-9)? If He takes account of fishes, much more of oxen which plough and labor. Wherefore I am amazed at such an impostor, who pays such solemn respect to the law because he is insatiable, for the sake of getting a sufficient contribution from those who are subject to him. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 32]
Then he suddenly turns like a man who jumps up from sleep scared by a dream, with the cry, "I Paul bear witness that if any man do one thing of the law, he is a debtor to do the whole law" (Gal. v. 3). This is instead of saying simply that it is not right to give heed to those things that are spoken by the law. This fine fellow, sound in mind and understanding, instructed in the accuracy of the law of his fathers, who had so often cleverly recalled Moses to mind, appears to be soaked with wine and drunkenness; for he makes an assertion which removes the ordinance of the law, saying to the Galatians, "Who bewitched you that ye should not obey the truth," that is, the Gospel? (Gal. iii. 1). Then, exaggerating, and making it horrible for a man to obey the law, he says, "As many as are under the law are under a curse" (Gal. iii. 10). The man who writes to the Romans "The law is spiritual" (vii. 14), and again, "The law is holy and the commandment holy and just," places under a curse those who obey that which is holy! Then, completely confusing the nature of the question, he confounds the whole matter and makes it obscure, so that he who listens to him almost grows dizzy, and dashes against the two things as though in the darkness of the night, stumbling over the law, and knocking against the Gospel in confusion, owing to the ignorance of the man who leads him by the hand. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 33]
For see here, look at this clever fellow's record. After countless utterances which he took from the law in order to get support from it, he made void the judgment of his own words by saying, "For the law entered that the offense might abound"; and before these words, "The goad of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law" (1 Cor. xv. 56). He practically sharpens his own tongue like a sword, and cuts the law to pieces without mercy limb by limb. And this is the man who in many ways inclines to obey the law, and says it is praiseworthy to live according to it. And by taking hold of this ignorant opinion, which he does as though by habit, he has overthrown his own judgments on all other occasions. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 34]
When he speaks again of the eating of things sacrificed to idols, he simply teaches that these matters are indifferent, telling them not to be inquisitive nor to ask questions, but to eat things even though they be sacrificed to idols, provided only that no one speaks to them in warning. Wherein he is represented as saying, "The things which they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, but I would not that you should have fellowship with demons" (1 Cor. x. 20).
Thus he speaks and writes: and again he writes with indifference about such eating, "We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one" (1 Cor. viii. 4), and a little after this, "Meat will not commend us to God, neither, if we eat, are we the better, neither, if we eat not, are we the worse" (v. 8). Then, after all this prating of quackery, he ruminated, like a man lying in bed, and said, "Eat all that is sold in the shambles, asking no questions for conscience' sake, for the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" (1 Cor. x. 25-26). Oh, what a stage farce, got from no one! Oh, the monstrous inconsistency of his utterance! A saying which destroys itself with its own sword! Oh, novel kind of archery, which turns against him who drew the bow, and strikes him! [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 35]
What does Paul mean by saying that the fashion of the world passes away? And how is it possible for them that have to be as though they had not, and they that rejoice as though they rejoiced not, and how can the other old-wives' talk be credible? For how is it possible for him that has to become as though he had not? And how is it credible that he who rejoices should be as though he rejoiced not? Or how can the fashion of this world pass away? What is it that passes away, and why does it do so? For if the Creator were to make it pass away He would incur the charge of moving and altering that which was securely founded. Even if He were to change the fashion into something better, in this again He stands condemned, as not having realized at the time of creation a fitting and suitable fashion for the world, but having created it incomplete, and lacking the better arrangement. In any case, how is one to know that it is into what is good that the world would change if it came to an end late in time? And what benefit is there in the order of phenomena being changed? And if the condition of the visible world is gloomy and a cause for grief, in this, too, the Creator hears the sound of protest, being reduced to silence by the sound of reasonable charges against Him, in that He contrived the parts of the earth in grievous fashion, and in violation of the reasonableness of nature, and afterwards repented, and decided to change the whole. Perchance Paul by this saying teaches him that has, to be minded as though he had not, in the sense that the Creator, having the world, makes the fashion of it pass away, as though He had it not. And he says that he that rejoices does not rejoice, in the sense that the Creator is not pleased when He looks upon the fair and beautiful thing He has created, but, as being much grieved over it, He formed the plan of transferring and altering it. So then let us pass over this trivial saying with mild laughter. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 1]
Let us consider another wise remark of his, astounding and perverted, wherein he says, "We which are alive and remain, shall not go before them that are asleep unto the coming of the Lord, for the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive shall be caught up together with them in a cloud, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. iv. 15-17). Here is a thing that indeed rises in the air and shoots up to heaven, an enormous and far-reaching lie. This, when recited to the beasts without understanding, causes even them to bellow and croak out their sounding din in reply, when they hear of men in the flesh flying like birds in the air, or carried on a cloud. For this boast is a mighty piece of quackery, that living things, pressed down by the burden of physical bulk, should receive the nature of winged birds, and cross the wide air like some sea, using the cloud as a chariot. Even if such a thing is possible, it is monstrous, and apart from all that is suitable. For nature which created all things from the beginning appointed places befitting the things which were brought into being, and ordained that each should have its proper sphere, the sea for the water creatures, the land for those of the dry ground, the air for winged creatures, and the higher atmosphere for heavenly bodies. If one of these were moved from its proper abode, it would disappear on arrival in a strange condition and abode. For instance, if you wanted to take a creature of the water and force it to live on the dry land, it is readily destroyed and dies. Again, if you throw a land animal of a dry kind into the water, it will be drowned. And if you cut off a bird from the air, it will not endure it, and if you remove a heavenly body from the upper atmosphere, it will not stand it. Neither has the divine and active Word of God done this, nor ever will do it, although He is able to change the lot of the things that come into being. For He does not do and purpose anything according to His own ability, but according to its suitability He preserves things, and keeps the law of good order. So, even if He is able to do so, He does not make the earth to be sailed over, nor again does He make the sea to be ploughed or tilled; nor does He use His power in making virtue into wickedness nor wickedness into virtue, nor does He adapt a man to become a winged creature, nor does He place the stars below and the earth above.
Wherefore we may reasonably declare that it is full of twaddle to say that men will ever be caught up into the air.
And Paul's lie becomes very plain when he says, "We which are alive." For it is three hundred years since he said this, and no body has anywhere been caught up, either Paul's or any one else's. So it is time this saying of Paul became silent, for it is driven away in confusion. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 2]
Rightly did Homer order the manly Greeks to be silent, as they had been trained: he published abroad the wavering sentiment of Hector, addressing the Greeks in measured language, saying, 'Stay, ye Argives; smite not, ye Achaean youths; for Hector of the waving plume is resolved to speak a word.'" Even so we now all sit in quietness here; for the interpreter of the Christian doctrines promises us and surely affirms that he will unravel the dark passages of the Scriptures.
Tell therefore, my good sir, to us who are following what you have to say, what the Apostle means when he says, "But such were some of you" (plainly something base), "but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. vi. 11). For we are surprised and truly perplexed in mind at such things, if a man, when once he is washed from so many defilements and pollutions, shows himself to be pure; if by wiping off the stains of so much weakness in his life, fornication, adultery, drunkenness, theft, unnatural vice, poisoning, and countless base and disgusting things, and simply by being baptized and calling on the name of Christ, he is quite easily freed from them, and puts off the whole of his guilt just as a snake puts off his old slough. Who is there who would not, on the strength of these, venture on evil deeds, some mentionable and others not, and do such things as are neither to be uttered in speech nor endured in deeds, in the knowledge that he will receive remission from so many criminal actions only by believing and being baptized, and in the hope that he will after this receive pardon from Him who is about to judge the quick and the dead? These things incline the man who hears them to commit sin, and in each particular he is thus taught to practice what is unlawful. These things have the power to set aside the training of the law, and cause righteousness itself to be of no avail against the unrighteous. They introduce into the world a form of society which is without law, and teach men to have no fear of ungodliness; when a man sets aside a pile of countless wrongdoings simply by being baptized. Such then is the boastful fiction of the saying. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 19]
Let us look at what was said to Paul, "The Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee" (Acts xviii. 9-10). And yet no sooner was he seized in Rome than this fine fellow, who said that we should judge angels, had his head cut off. And Peter again, who received authority to feed the lambs, was nailed to a cross and impaled on it. And countless others, who held opinions like theirs, were either burnt, or put to death by receiving some kind of punishment or maltreatment. This is not worthy of the will of God, nor even of a godly man, that a multitude of men should be cruelly punished through their relation to His own grace and faith, while the expected resurrection and coming remains unknown. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 4]
In his epistles we find another saying like these, where he praises virginity, and then turns round and writes, "In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats" (1 Tim. iv. 1 and 3). And in the Epistle to the Corinthians he says, "But concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord" (1 Cor. vii. 25). Therefore he that remains single does not do well, nor will he that refrains from marriage as from an evil thing lead the way in obedience, since they have not a command from Jesus concerning virginity. And how is it that certain people boast of their virginity as if it were some great thing, and say that they are filled with the Holy Ghost similarly to her who was the mother of Jesus?
But we will now cease our attack on Paul, knowing what a battle of the giants he arms against him by his language. But if you are possessed of any resources for replying to these questions, answer without delay. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 36]
Sayings of Jesus
If indeed it was necessary to express that other utterance, as Jesus says, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes," and as it is written in Deuteronomy (xxix. 29), "The hidden things for the Lord our God, and the manifest things for us," therefore the things that are written for the babes and the ignorant ought to be clearer and not wrapped in riddles. For if the mysteries have been hidden from the wise, and unreasonably poured out to babes and those that give suck, it is better to be desirous of senselessness and ignorance, and this is the great achievement of the wisdom of Him who came to earth, to hide the rays of knowledge from the wise, and to reveal them to fools and babes. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 9]
Let us touch on another piece of teaching even more fabulous than this, and obscure as night, contained in the words, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed"; and again, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven"; and once more, "It is like unto a merchant seeking goodly pearls." These imaginings do not come from (real) men, nor even from women who put their trust in dreams. For when any one has a message to give concerning great and divine matters, he is obliged to make use of common things which pertain to men, in order to make his meaning clear, but not such degraded and unintelligible things as these. These sayings, besides being base and unsuitable to such matters, have in themselves no intelligent meaning or clearness. And yet it was fitting that they should be very clear indeed, because they were not written for the wise or understanding, but for babes. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 8]
Come, let us unfold for you another saying from the Gospel which is absurdly written without any credibility, and has a still more absurd narrative attached to it. It was when Jesus, after sending on the disciples to cross the sea after a feast, Himself came upon them at the fourth watch of the night when they were terribly troubled by the surging of the storm, for they were toiling all night against the force of the waves.
Now the fourth watch is the tenth hour of the night, after which three further hours are left. But those who relate the truth about that locality say that there is not a sea there, but a small lake coming from a river under the hill in the country of Galilee, beside the city of Tiberias; this is easy for small boats to sail across in not more than two hours, nor can it admit of either wave or storm. So Mark goes very wide of the truth when he very absurdly gives the fabulous record that, when nine hours of the night had passed, Jesus proceeded at the tenth, namely the fourth watch of the night, and found the disciples sailing on the pond. Then he calls it a sea, and not merely that, but a stormy sea, and a terribly angry one, causing them fear with the tossing of the waves. He does this in order that he may thereupon introduce Christ as working some mighty miracle in having caused a great and fearful storm to cease, and saved the disciples in their danger from the deep, and from the sea. From such childish records we know the Gospel to be a sort of cunningly woven curtain. Wherefore we investigate each point the more carefully.[Macarius, Apocriticus III: 6]
Let us examine another saying even more baffling than these, when He says, "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven."
If it be indeed the case that any one who is rich is not brought into the so-called kingdom of heaven though he have kept himself from the sins of life, such as murder, theft, adultery, cheating, impious oaths, body-snatching, and the wickedness of sacrilege, of what use is just dealing to righteous men, if they happen to be rich? And what harm is there for poor men in doing every unholy deed of baseness? For it is not virtue that takes a man up to heaven, but lack of possessions. For if his wealth shuts out the rich man from heaven, by way of contrast his poverty brings a poor man into it. And so it becomes lawful, when a man has learnt this lesson, to pay no regard to virtue, but without let or hindrance to cling to poverty alone, and the things that are most base. This follows from poverty being able to save the poor man, while riches shut out the rich man from the undefiled abode.
Wherefore it seems to me that these cannot be the words of Christ, if indeed He handed down the rule of truth, but of some poor men who wished, as a result of such vain talking, to deprive the rich of their substance. At any rate, no longer ago than yesterday, reading these words to women of noble birth, "Sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven," they persuaded them to distribute to poor men all the substance and possession which they had, and, themselves entering into a state of want, to gather by begging, turning from a position of freedom to unseemly asking, and from prosperity to a pitiable character, and in the end, being compelled to go to the houses of the rich (which is the first thing, or rather the last thing, in disgrace and misfortune), and thus to lose their own belongings under the pretext of godliness, and to covet those of others under the force of want.
Accordingly, it seems to me that these are the words of some woman in distress. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 5]
Come now, let us also make clear the question of those two sayings: "None is good save God," and "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good." [Macarius, Apocriticus II: 9]
And there is another dubious little saying which one may manifestly take hold of, when Christ says: "Take heed that no man deceive you; for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many." And behold! Three hundred years have passed by, and even more, and no one of the kind has anywhere appeared. Unless indeed you are going to adduce Apollonius of Tyana, a man who was adorned with all philosophy. But you would not find another. Yet it is not concerning one but concerning many that He says that such shall arise. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 5]
Moreover, as we have found another inconsequent little utterance spoken by Christ to His disciples, we have decided not to remain silent about this either. It is where He says, "The poor ye have always, but me ye have not always." The reason for this statement is as follows: A certain woman brought an alabaster box of ointment and poured it on His head. And when they saw it, and complained of the unseasonableness of the action, He said, "Why do ye trouble the woman? She hath wrought a good work on me. The poor ye have always, but me ye have not always." For they raised no small murmuring, that the ointment was not rather sold for a great price, and given to the poor for expenditure on their hunger. Apparently as the result of this inopportune conversation, He uttered this nonsensical saying, declaring that He was not always with them, although elsewhere He confidently affirmed and said to them, "I shall be with you until the end of the world" (Matt, xxviii. 20). But when He was disturbed about the ointment, He denied that He was always with them. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 7]
Moreover, there is another saying which is full of obscurity and full of stupidity, which was spoken by Jesus to His disciples. He said, "Fear not them that kill the body," and yet He Himself being in an agony and keeping watch in the expectation of terrible things, besought in prayer that His passion should pass from Him, and said to His intimate friends, "Watch and pray, that the temptation may not pass by you." For these sayings are not worthy of God's Son, nor even of a wise man who despises death. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 2]
Why did not Christ utter anything worthy of one who was wise and divine, when brought either before the high-priest or before the governor? He might have given instruction to His judge and those who stood by and made them better men. But He endured to be smitten with a reed and spat on and crowned with thorns, unlike Apollonius, who, after speaking boldly to the Emperor Domitian, disappeared from the royal court, and after not many hours was plainly seen in the city then called Dicaearchia, but now Puteoli. But even if Christ had to suffer according to God's commands, and was obliged to endure punishment, yet at least He should have endured His Passion with some boldness, and uttered words of force and wisdom to Pilate His judge, instead of being mocked like any gutter-snipe. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 1]
There is also another argument whereby this corrupt opinion can be refuted. I mean the argument about that Resurrection of His which is such common talk everywhere, as to why Jesus, after His suffering and rising again (according to your story), did not appear to Pilate who punished Him and said He had done nothing worthy of death, or to Herod King of the Jews, or to the High-priest of the Jewish race, or to many men at the same time and to such as were worthy of credit, and more particularly among Romans both in the Senate and among the people. The purpose would be that, by their wonder at the things concerning Him, they might not pass a vote of death against Him by common consent, which implied the impiety of those who were obedient to Him. But He appeared to Mary Magdalene, a coarse woman who came from some wretched little village, and had once been possessed by seven demons, and with her another utterly obscure Mary, who was herself a peasant woman, and a few other people who were not at all well known. And that, although He said: "Henceforth shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds." For if He had shown Himself to men of note, all would believe through them, and no judge would punish them as fabricating monstrous stories. For surely it is neither pleasing to God nor to any sensible man that many should be subjected on His account to punishments of the gravest kind. [Macarius, Apocriticus II: 14]
How is it that Christ said, "If I bear witness to myself, my witness is not true," and yet He did bear witness to Himself, as He was accused of doing when He said, "I am the light of the world"? (John viii. 12, 13). [Macarius, Apocriticus II: 11]
Again the following saying appears to be full of stupidity: "If ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote concerning me." He said it, but all the same nothing which Moses wrote has been preserved. For all his writings are said to have been burnt along with the temple. All that bears the name of Moses was written 1180 years afterwards, by Ezra and those of his time. And even if one were to concede that the writing is that of Moses, it cannot be shown that Christ was anywhere called God, or God the Word, or Creator. And pray who has spoken of Christ as crucified? [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 3]
You are like the more audacious among those who run in a race, and proclaim their victory until the contest comes, challenging many to run in the course; for you have taken up the same attitude, in your desire to bring in another inquiry from the starting-point, as one might say. Speak to us therefore, my friend, beginning from the following point:—
That saying of the Teacher is a far-famed one, which says, "Except ye eat my flesh and drink my blood, ye have no life in yourselves." Truly this saying is not merely beast-like and absurd, but is more absurd than any absurdity, and more beast-like than any fashion of a beast, that a man should taste human flesh, and drink the blood of members of the same tribe and race, and that by doing this he should have eternal life. For, tell, me, if you do this, what excess of savagery do you introduce into life? Rumor does not record—I do not say, this action, but even the mention of this strange and novel deed of impiety. The phantoms of the Furies never revealed this to those who lived in strange ways, nor would the Potidasans have accepted it unless they had been reduced by a savage hunger. Once the banquet of Thyestes became such, owing to a sister's grief, and the Thracian Tereus took his fill of such food unwillingly. Harpagus was deceived by Astyages when he feasted on the flesh of his dearest, and it was against their desire that all these underwent such a pollution. But no one living in a state of peace prepared such a table in his life; no one learnt from a teacher any knowledge so foul. If you look up Scythia in the records, and go through the Macrobian Ethiopians, and if you career through the ocean girdle round about, you will find men who eat, live, and devour roots; you will hear of men who eat reptiles and feed on mice, but they refrain altogether from human flesh.
What then does this saying mean? [Even if there is a mystical meaning hidden in it, yet that does not pardon the outward significance, which places men lower than the beasts. Men have made up strange tales, but nothing so pernicious as this, with which to gull the simple.]
Wherefore it seems to me that neither Mark nor Luke nor even Matthew recorded this, because they regarded the saying as not a comely one, but strange and discordant, and far removed from practiced life. Even you yourself could scarcely be pleased at reading it, and far less any man who has had the advantage of a liberal education. [Macarius, Apocriticus III: 15]
Come now, let us listen to that shadowy saying also which was directed against the Jews, when He said, "Ye cannot hear my word, because ye are of your father the devil (Slanderer), and ye wish to do the lusts of your father." Explain to us then who the Slanderer is, who is the father of the Jews. For those who do the lusts of their father, do so fittingly, as yielding to the desire of their father, and out of respect for him. And if the father is evil, the charge of evil must not be fastened on the children. Who then is that father, by doing whose lusts they did not hearken to Christ? For when the Jews said, "We have one father, even God," He sets aside this statement by saying, "Ye are of your father the Slanderer" (that is, Ye are of the Slanderer). Who then is that Slanderer, and where does he chance to be? And by slandering whom did he obtain this epithet? For he does not seem to have this name as an original one, but as the result of something that happened. (Whatever we learn, we shall understand as we ought.) For if it is from a slander that he is called Slanderer, among whom did he appear and work the forbidden action? Even in this, it is he who accepts the slander who will appear unscrupulous, while he that is slandered is most wronged. And it will be seen that it was not the Slanderer himself who did any wrong, but he who showed him the excuse for the slander. It is the man who places a stake on the road at night who is responsible, and not the man who walks along and stumbles over it. It is the man who fixed it there who receives the blame. Just so, it is he who places an occasion of slander in the way who does the greater wrong, not he who takes hold of it or he who receives it.
And tell me another thing. Is the Slanderer subject to human affections or not? If he is not, he would never have slandered. But if he is subject, he ought to meet with forgiveness; for no one who is troubled by bodily ailments is judged as a wrongdoer, but receives pity from all as being sorely tried. [Macarius, Apocriticus II: 16]
Any one will feel quite sure that the records are mere fairy tales, if he reads another piece of clap-trap that is written in the Gospel, where Christ says: "Now is the judgment of the world, now the ruler of this world shall be cast outside" (John xii. 31). For tell me, in the name of God, what is this judgment which then takes place, and who is the ruler of the world who is cast outside? If indeed you intend to say it is the Emperor, I answer that there is no sole ruler (for many rule the world), nor was he cast down. But if you mean some one who is abstract and incorporeal, he cannot be cast outside. For where should he be cast, to whom it fell to be the ruler of the world? If you are going to reply that there exists another world somewhere, into which the ruler will be cast, pray tell us this from a record which can convince us. But if there is not another (and it is impossible that two worlds should exist) where should the ruler be cast, if it be not in that world in which he happens to be already? And how is a man cast down in that world in which he is? Unless it is like the case of an earthenware vessel, which, if it and its contents are broken, a man causes to be cast outside, not into the void, but into another body of air or earth, or perhaps of something else. If then in like manner, when the world is broken (which is impossible), he that is in it will be cast outside, what sort of place is there outside into which he will be cast? And what is there peculiar in that place in the way of quantity and quality, height and depth, length or breadth? For if it is possessed of these things, then it follows that it is a world. And what is the cause of the ruler of the world being cast out, as if he were a stranger to the world? If he be a stranger, how did he rule it? And how is he cast out? By his own will, or against it? Clearly against it. That is plain from the language, for that which is "cast out," is cast out unwillingly. But the wrong-doer is not he that endures force, but he that uses it.
All this obscure nonsense in the Gospels ought to be offered to silly women, not to men. For if we were prepared to investigate such points more closely, we should discover thousands of obscure stories which do not contain a single word worth finding. [Macarius, Apocriticus II: 15]
It is right to examine another matter of a much more reasonable kind (I say this by way of contrast), "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." Christ unravels these things to the multitude about His own coming to earth. If then it was on account of those who are weak, as He Himself says, that He faced sins, were not our forefathers weak, and were not our ancestors diseased with sin? And if indeed those who are whole need not a physician, and He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance, so that Paul speaks thus: "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief" (1 Tim. i. 15); if then this is so, and he that has gone astray is called, and he that is diseased is healed, and the unrighteous is called, but the righteous is not, it follows that he who was neither called nor in need of the healing of the Christians would be a righteous man who had not gone astray. For he who has no need of healing is the man who turns away from the word which is among the faithful, and the more he turns away from it, the more righteous and whole he is, and the less he goes astray. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 10]
We must mention also that saying which Matthew gave us, in the spirit of a slave who is made to bend himself in a mill-house, when he said, "And the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, and then shall the end come." For lo, every quarter of the inhabited world has experience of the Gospel, and all the bounds and ends of the earth possess it complete, and nowhere is there an end, nor will it ever come. So let this saying only be spoken in a corner! [Macarius, Apocriticus IV:3]
But let us make a thorough investigation concerning the single rule of the only God and the manifold rule of those who are worshipped as gods. You do not know how to expound the doctrine even of the single rule. For a monarch is not one who is alone in his existence, but who is alone in his rule. Clearly he rules over those who are his fellow-tribesmen, men like himself, just as the Emperor Hadrian was a monarch, not because he existed alone, nor because he ruled over oxen and sheep (over which herdsmen or shepherds rule), but because he ruled over men who shared his race and possessed the same nature. Likewise God would not properly be called a monarch, unless He ruled over other gods; for this would befit His divine greatness and His heavenly and abundant honor. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 20]
I could also give proof to you of that insidious name of "gods" from the law, when it cries out and admonishes the hearer with much reverence, "Thou shalt not revile gods, and thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people." For it does not speak to us of other gods than those already within our reckoning, from what we know in the words, "Thou shalt not go after gods" (Jer. vii. 6); and again, "If ye go and worship other gods" (Deut. xii. 28). It is not men, but the gods who are held in honor by us, that are meant, not only by Moses, but by his successor Joshua. For he says to the people, "And now fear him and serve him alone, and put away the gods whom your fathers served" (Josh. xxiv. 14). And it is not concerning men, but incorporeal beings that Paul says, "For though there be that are called gods, whether on earth or in heaven, yet to us there is but one God and Father, of whom are all things" (1 Cor. viii. 5). Therefore you make a great mistake in thinking that God is angry if any other is called a god, and obtains the same title as Himself. For even rulers do not object to the title from their subjects, nor masters from slaves. And it is not right to think that God is more petty-minded than men. Enough then about the fact that gods exist, and ought to receive honor. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 23]
At any rate, if you say that angels stand before God, who are not subject to feeling and death, and immortal in their nature, whom we ourselves speak of as gods, because they are close to the Godhead, why do we dispute about a name? And are we to consider it only a difference of nomenclature? For she who is called by the Greeks Athene is called by the Romans Minerva; and the Egyptians, Syrians, and Thracians address her by some other name. But I suppose nothing in the invocation of the goddess is changed or lost by the difference of the names. The difference therefore is not great, whether a man calls them gods or angels, since their divine nature bears witness to them, as when Matthew writes thus: "And Jesus answered and said, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God; for in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels in heaven" (Matt. xxii. 29-30). Since therefore He confesses that the angels have a share in the divine nature, those who make a suitable object of reverence for the gods, do not think that the god is in the wood or stone or bronze from which the image is manufactured, nor do they consider that, if any part of the statue is cut off, it detracts from the power of the god. For the images of living creatures and the temples were set up by the ancients for the sake of remembrance, in order that those who approach thither might come to the knowledge of the god when they go; or, that, as they observe a special time and purify themselves generally, they may make use of prayers and supplications, asking from them the things of which each has need. For if a man makes an image of a friend, of course he does not think that the friend is in it, or that the limbs of his body are included in the various parts of the representation; but honor is shown towards the friend by means of the image. But in the case of the sacrifices that are brought to the gods, these are not so much a bringing of honor to them as a proof of the inclination of the worshippers, to show that they are not without a sense of gratitude. It is reasonable that the form of the statues should be the fashion of a man, since man is reckoned to be the fairest of living creatures and an image of God. It is possible to get hold of this doctrine from another saying, which asserts positively that God has fingers, with which He writes, saying, "And he gave to Moses the two tables which were written by the finger of God" (Exod. xxxi. 18). Moreover, the Christians also, imitating the erection of the temples, build very large houses, into which they go together and pray, although there is nothing to prevent them from doing this in their own houses, since the Lord certainly hears from every place. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 21]
But even supposing any one of the Greeks were so light-minded as to think that the gods dwell within the statues, his idea would be a much purer one than that of the man who believes that the Divine entered into the womb of the Virgin Mary, and became her unborn child, before being born and swaddled in due course, for it is a place full of blood and gall, and things more unseemly still. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 22]
They find fault with the sacred ceremonies, the sacrificial victims, the burning of incense, and all the other parts of worship in our temples; and yet the same kind of worship had its origin in antiquity with themselves, or from the God whom they worship, for He is represented by them as having been in need of the first-fruits. [Augustine, Epistle 102: 16]
Will you have the goodness to instruct me as to whether Solomon said truly or not that God has no Son? [Augustine, Epistle 102: 28]
The evangelist Matthew says:—"Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Behold a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son and they shall call his name Emmanuel." The rendering of the Septuagint is, "Behold a virgin shall receive seed and shall bring forth a son, and ye shall call his name Emmanuel." Obviously 'to receive seed' is not the exact equivalent of 'to be with child,' and 'ye shall call' differs from 'they shall call.' Moreover in the Hebrew we read thus, "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.". . .In the same evangelist we read that Herod was troubled at the coming of the Magi and that gathering together the scribes and the priests he demanded of them where Christ should be born and that they answered him, "In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet; And thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah art not the least among the princes of Judah, for out of thee shall come a governor that shall rule my people Israel." In the Vulgate this passage appears as follows:—"And thou Bethlehem, the house of Ephratah, art small to be among the thousands of Judah, yet one shall come out of thee for me to be a prince in Israel." You will be more surprised still at the difference in words and order between Matthew and the Septuagint if you look at the Hebrew which runs thus:—"But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel." Consider one by one the words of the evangelist:—"And thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah." For "the land of Judah" the Hebrew has "Ephratah" while the Septuagint gives "the house of Ephratah." The evangelist writes, "art not the least among the princes of Judah." In the Septuagint this is, "art small to be among the thousands of Judah," while the Hebrew gives, "though thou be little among the thousands of Judah." There is a contradiction here—and that not merely verbal—between the evangelist and the prophet; for in this place at any rate both Septuagint and Hebrew agree. The evangelist says that he is not little among the princes of Judah, while the passage from which he queries says exactly the opposite of this, "Thou art small indeed and little; but yet out of thee, small and little as thou art, there shall come forth for me a leader in Israel." Moreover the last clause "to rule" or "to feed my people Israel" clearly runs differently in the original. [Jerome, Epistle 57:8-9]
In the next place, what are we to believe concerning Jonah, who is said to have been three days in a whale's belly? The thing is utterly improbable and incredible, that a man swallowed with his clothes on should have existed in the inside of a fish. If, however, the story is figurative, be pleased to explain it. Again, what is meant by the story that a gourd sprang up above the head of Jonah after he was vomited by the fish? What was the cause of this gourd's growth? [Augustine, Epistle 102: 30]
Some persons, desiring to find a solution of the baseness of the Jewish Scriptures rather than abandon them, have had recourse to explanations inconsistent and incongruous with the words written, which explanations, instead of supplying a defense of the foreigners, contain rather approval and praise of themselves. For they boast that the plain words of Moses are enigmas, and regard them as oracles full of hidden mysteries; and having bewildered the mental judgment by folly, they make their explanations.
As an example of this absurdity take a man whom I met when I was young, and who was then greatly celebrated and still is, on account of the writings which he has left. I refer to Origen, who is highly honored by the teachers of these doctrines. For this man, having been a hearer of Ammonius, who had attained the greatest proficiency in philosophy of any in our day, derived much benefit from his teacher in the knowledge of the sciences; but as to the correct choice of life, he pursued a course opposite to his. For Ammonius, being a Christian, and brought up by Christian parents, when he gave himself to study and to philosophy straightway conformed to the life required by the laws. But Origen, having been educated as a Greek in Greek literature, went over to the barbarian recklessness. And carrying over the learning which he had obtained, he hawked it about, in his life conducting himself as a Christian and contrary to the laws, but in his opinions of material things and of the Deity being like a Greek, and mingling Grecian teachings with foreign fables. For he was continually studying Plato, and he busied himself with the writings of Numenius and Cronius, Apollophanes, Longinus, Moderatus, and Nicomachus, and those famous among the Pythagoreans. And he used the books of Chaeremon the Stoic, and of Cornutus. Becoming acquainted through them with the figurative interpretation of the Grecian mysteries, he applied it to the Jewish Scriptures. [Eusebius, History of the Church, VI: 19:1-12]
Ammonius became a Greek again, after being a Christian. [Jerome, Illustrious Men 55]
New Heavens and New Earth
By way of giving plenty of such sayings, let me quote also what was said in the Apocalypse of Peter. He thus introduces the statement that the heaven will be judged together with the earth. "The earth shall present all men to God in the day of judgment, itself too being about to be judged, together with the heaven which contains it." No one is so uneducated or so stupid as not to know that the things which have to do with earth are subject to disturbance, and are not naturally such as to preserve their order, but are uneven; whereas the things in heaven have an order which remains perpetually alike, and always goes on in the same way, and never suffers alteration, nor indeed will it ever do so. For it stands as God's most exact piece of workmanship. Wherefore it is impossible that the things should be undone which are worthy of a better fate, as being fixed by a divine ordinance which cannot be touched.
And why will heaven be judged? Will it some day be shown to have committed some sin, though it preserves the order which from the beginning was approved by God, and abides in sameness always? Unless indeed some one will address the Creator, slanderously asserting that heaven is deserving of judgment, as having allowed the judge to speak any portents against it which are so wondrous and so great. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 6]
And it makes this statement again, which is full of impiety, saying: "And all the might of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heaven shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all the stars shall fall as leaves from a vine, and as leaves fall from a fig tree." And another boast is made in portentous falsehood and monstrous quackery: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away " (Matt. xxiv. 35). For, pray, how could any one say that the words of Jesus would stand, if heaven and earth no longer existed? Moreover, if Christ were to do this and bring heaven down, He would be imitating the most impious of men, even those who destroy their own children. For it is acknowledged by the Son that God is Father of heaven and earth when He says: "Father, Lord of heaven and earth" (Matt. xi. 25). And John the Baptist magnifies heaven and declares that the divine gifts of grace are sent from it, when he says: "A man can do nothing, except it be given him from heaven" (John iii. 27). And the prophets say that heaven is the holy habitation of God, in the words: "look down from thy holy habitation, and bless thy people Israel" (Deut. xxvi. 15).
If heaven, which is so great and of such importance in the witness borne to it, shall pass away, what shall be the seat thereafter of Him who rules over it? And if the element of earth perishes, what shall be the footstool of Him who sits there, for He says: "The heaven is my throne, and the earth is the footstool of my feet." So much for the passing away of heaven and earth. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 7]
Christ threatens eternal punishment to those who do not believe in Him; and yet He says in another place, "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Here is something sufficiently absurd and contradictory; for if He is to award punishment according to measure, and all measure is limited by the end of time, what mean these threats of eternal punishment? [Augustine, Epistle 102: 22]
Which of two kinds of resurrection corresponds to that which is promised? Is it that of Christ, or that of Lazarus? If the former, how can this correspond with the resurrection of those who have been born by ordinary generations, seeing that He was not thus born? If, on the other hand, the resurrection of Lazarus is said to correspond to ours, here also there seems to be a discrepancy, since the resurrection of Lazarus was accomplished in the case of a body not yet dissolved, but the same body in which he was known by the name of Lazarus; whereas ours is to be rescued after many centuries from the mass in which it has ceased to be distinguishable from other things. Again, if our state after the resurrection is one of blessedness, in which the body shall be exempt from every kind of wound, and from the pain of hunger, what is meant by the statement that Christ took food, and showed his wounds after His resurrection? For if He did it to convince the doubting, when the wounds were not real, He practiced on them a deception; whereas, if He showed them what was real, it follows that wounds received by the body shall remain in the state which is to ensue after resurrection. [Augustine, Epistle 102: 2]
Let us once again discuss the question of the resurrection of the dead. For what is the reason that God should act thus, and upset in this random way the succession of events that has held good until now, whereby He ordained that races should be preserved and not come to an end, though from the beginning He has laid down these laws and framed things thus? The things which have once been determined by God, and preserved through such long ages, ought to be everlasting, and ought not to be condemned by Him who wrought them, and destroyed as if they had been made by some mere man, and arranged as mortal things by one who is himself a mortal. Wherefore it is ridiculous if, when the whole is destroyed, the resurrection shall follow, and if He shall raise—shall we say?—the man who died three years before the resurrection, and along with him Priam and Nestor who died a thousand years before, and others who lived before them from the beginning of the human race. And if any one is prepared to grasp even this, he will find that the question of the resurrection is one full of silliness. For many have often perished in the sea, and their bodies have been consumed by fishes, while many have been eaten by wild beasts and birds. How then is it possible for their bodies to rise up? Come then, and let us put to the test this statement which is so lightly made. Let us take an example. A man was shipwrecked, the mullets devoured his body, next these were caught and eaten by some fishermen, who were killed and devoured by dogs; when the dogs died ravens and vultures feasted on them and entirely consumed them. How then will the body of the shipwrecked man be brought together, seeing that it was absorbed by so many creatures? Again, suppose another body to have been consumed by fire, and another to have come in the end to the worms, how is it possible for it to return to the essence which was there from the beginning?
You will tell me that this is possible with God, but this is not true. For all things are not possible with Him; He simply cannot bring it about that Homer should not have become a poet, or that Troy should not be taken. Nor indeed can He make twice two, which make the number four, to be reckoned as a hundred, even though this may seem good to Him. Nor can God ever become evil, even though He wishes; nor would He be able to sin, as being good by nature. If then He is unable to sin or to become evil, this does not befall Him through His weakness. In the case of those who have a disposition and fitness for a certain thing, and then are prevented from doing it, it is clear that it is by their weakness that they are prevented. But God is by nature good, and is not prevented from being evil; nevertheless, even though He is not prevented, he cannot become bad.
And pray consider a further point. How unreasonable it is if the Creator shall stand by and see the heaven melting, though no one ever conceived anything more wonderful than its beauty, and the stars falling, and the earth perishing; and yet He will raise up the rotten and corrupt bodies of men, some of them, it is true, belonging to admirable men, but others without charm or symmetry before they died, and affording a most unpleasant sight. Again, even if He could easily make them rise in a comely form, it would be impossible for the earth to hold all those who had died from the beginning of the world, if they were to rise again. [Macarius, Apocriticus IV: 24]
History of the Jews (Book IV)
Of the affairs of the Jews the truest history, because the most in accordance with their places and names, is that of Sanchuniathon of Berytus, who received the records from Hierombalus the priest of the god Ieuo; he dedicated his history to Abibalus king of Berytus, and was approved by him and by the investigators of truth in his time. Now the times of these men fall even before the date of the Trojan war, and approach nearly to the times of Moses, as is shown by the successions of the kings of Phoenicia. And Sanchuniathon, who made a complete collection of ancient history from the records in the various cities and from the registers in the temples, and wrote in the Phoenician language with a love of truth, lived in the reign of Semiramis, the queen of the Assyrians, who is recorded to have lived before the Trojan war or in those very times. And the works of Sanchuniathon were translated into the Greek tongue by Philo of Byblos. [Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel, I: 9: 20ff.]
Book of Daniel (Book XII)
The book of Daniel was written not by the man whom it is named after, but by someone who lived in Judaea at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes; and so instead of Daniel predicting the future, this writer describes what has already happened. So whatever he mentions up to the time of Antiochus is true history, but whatever he touches on after that time, because the writer could not foretell the future, is fiction.
To understand the last part of the book of Daniel, is it necessary to consult many Greek histories: namely the histories of Suctorius Callinicus, Diodorus, Hieronymus, Polybius, Posidonius, Claudius Theo and Andronicus Alipius, whose accounts I am following. Josephus and the authors whom Josephus quotes [especially our Livius, Pompeius Trogus, and Justinus, all tell the history of the period which is referred to in the final vision, and] also describe the wars between Syria and Egypt, that is between Seleucus and Antiochus and the Ptolemaei, from Alexander up until the reign of Caesar Augustus.
Both of the last two beasts (the Macedonians and the Romans) refer to the Macedonian empire ... the "leopard" is Alexander himself, and the beast which is different from the rest is the four successors of Alexander. Ten cruel kings up until Antiochus Epiphanes are not the kings of one kingdom, for instance of Macedonia, Egypt, or Syria, but a single line of kings out of the different kingdoms. The words "a mouth speaking boastfully" refer not to the Antichrist but to Antiochus.
The little horn, which came up after the ten horns, may be Antiochus Epiphanes, and the three horns which were uprooted out of the ten horns are Ptolemaeus VI Philometor, Ptolemaeus VII Euergetes, and Artaxias the king of Armenia. Of these, the first two died long before Antiochus was born; we know that Antiochus fought against Artaxias, but Artaxias remained in possession of his kingdom as before.
Daniel 2:40: This is the people of Israel, who, it is said, will be the strongest power at the end of the ages, and will crush all realms and will rule forever.
Daniel 2:47: A very proud king would never worship a mere captive.
Daniel 2:48: The faithless prophet did not reject the gifts and willingly accepted honor of the Babylonians.
Daniel 3:98ff (or 4: 1ff.): The epistle of Nebuchadnezzar was inserted in the volume of the prophet, showing the book to have been manufactured by some other author, not the product of Daniel himself.
Daniel 5:10: She was the king's wife, and knows more than her husband does.
Daniel 7:13-14: The little horn is Antiochus.
Daniel 9:1: This is not the Darius who along with Cyrus conquered the Chaldaeans and Babylonians, but the Darius in whose second year the temple was built, or the Darius who was conquered by Alexander, the king of the Macedonians.
Daniel 11:2: He says that four kings will arise in Persia after Cyrus: Cambyses the son of Cyrus, Smerdes the Magus, who married Pantaptes the daughter of Cambyses, and after Smerdes was killed (?) by the seven magi and Darius came to power in his place, the same Pantaptes married Darius and bore him a son Xerxes. Xerxes was a very powerful and wealthy king, and invaded Greece with an enormous army, as is related in the histories of Greece. He burnt down Athens when Callias was archon, and at that time there was a battle at Thermopylae and a sea battle at Salamis. Around the same time, Sophocles and Euripides were in their prime and Themistocles fled to the Persians, where he died after drinking bull's blood. Therefore Darius, who was defeated by Alexander, was the fourth king.
Daniel 11:3-4: [Alexander] was the son of Philippus. He defeated the Illyrians and Thracians, conquered Greece and destroyed Thebes. Then he crossed over to Asia, defeated the generals of Darius and captured the city of Sardis. Afterwards he conquered India and founded the city of Alexandria, and when he was 32 years old and had reigned for 12 years, he died at Babylon. After Alexander, his empire was divided amongst "the four winds of heaven"; in Egypt the first king was Ptolemaeus the son of Lagus . . . in Macedonia, Philippus Aridaeus the brother of Alexander . . . in Syria and Babylonia and the eastern provinces, Seleucus Nicanor . . . in Asia and Pontus and the other provinces of that region, Antigonus . . . who succeeded [his?] brother Philippus as king of the Macedonians, because [Philippus] did not have any children . . . and as well as these four kingdoms, the Macedonian empire was chopped up further amongst minor and insignificant kings, Perdiccas and Craterus and Lysimachus. Cappadocia and Armenia, Bithynia and Heracleia, Bosphorus and some other provinces threw off Macedonian control, and appointed their own separate kings.
Daniel 11:5: Ptolemaeus the son of Lagus . . . was the first to rule in Egypt. He was very prudent, brave and rich, and became so powerful that he restored Pyrrhus the king of Epirus to his kingdom after he had been expelled. He gained control of Cyprus and Phoenicia, and after defeating Demetrius the son of Antigonus, he gave back to Seleucus the part of his kingdom which had been seized by Antigonus. He also gained control of Caria and many other islands, cities, and regions, which we do not need to list here . . . Ptolemaeus Philadelphus, the son of the first Ptolemaeus, was the second king of Egypt. In his reign the seventy translators [translated the Jewish scriptures into Greek] . . . Demetrius of Phalerum, the Greek orator and philosopher, was in charge of his library. This Ptolemaeus was even more powerful than his father; the histories state that he had 200,000 foot-soldiers, 20,000 cavalrymen, 2,000 chariots, and 400 elephants. He was the first to bring elephants out of Ethiopia. He had 1,500 war ships [of the type now called "Liburnian"] and another 1,000 ships to carry supplies for the soldiers. He also possessed a huge amount of gold and silver; each year he received from Egypt 14,800 talents of silver and 1,500,000 artabae of corn [an artaba is a measure equivalent to two and a third modii].
Daniel 11:6-9: The first king of Syria was Seleucus Nicanor; the second was Antiochus Soter; the third was Antiochus Theos ["the God"] . . . who fought many wars against Ptolemaeus Philadelphus, using all the forces of Babylon and the East. So after many years Ptolemaeus Philadelphus, in order to put an end to this troublesome war, gave his daughter Berenice as a wife to Antiochus, although Antiochus had two sons, Seleucus Callinicus and another Antiochus, by his previous wife Laodice. Ptolemaeus led Berenice out to Pelusium, and sent with her an immense amount of gold and silver, so that she was given the name Phernophoros ["dowry-bringer"]. At that time, Antiochus said that he regarded Berenice as his queen and Laodice as his concubine, but much later, won over by his love for her, he restored Laodice and her children to their royal status. Laodice, fearing that Seleucus might change his mind again and give preference to Berenice, murdered her husband by persuading his servants to poison him. She handed over Berenice and her son by Antiochus to be killed by Icadion and Gennaeus, the leaders of Antioch, and she set up her elder son, Seleucus Callinicus, as king in his father's place . . . After the murder of Berenice and the death of her father Ptolemaeus Philadelphus in Egypt, Berenice's brother Ptolemaeus Euergetes became the third king [of Egypt] . . . and he arrived with a large army and invaded the province . . . of Seleucus Callinicus, who was reigning in Syria with his mother Laodice. Ptolemaeus worsted them and was so successful that he conquered Syria and Cilicia and the Eastern regions on the other side of the Euphrates, and almost the whole of Asia. When he heard that a rebellion had started in Egypt, he ransacked the kingdom of Seleucus and carried off 40,000 talents of silver and 2,500 precious vessels and statues of gods, including those which Cambyses had carried off after conquering Egypt. Later the Egyptians gave their king the name Euergetes ["benefactor"] because he had brought back their gods after so many years. Ptolemaeus kept Syria for himself, but gave away Cilicia to be governed by his friend Antiochus, and he gave the provinces on the other side of the Euphrates to another leader, called Xanthippus.
Daniel 11:10-14: After the rout and death of Seleucus Callinicus, his sons Seleucus Ceraunus and Antiochus, called the Great, who were spurred on by the hope of victory and revenge for their father, collected an army and made war on Ptolemaeus Philopator. Seleucus, the elder brother, was plotted against and killed by Nicanor and Apaturius in the third year of his reign. The army in Syria summoned his brother Antiochus the Great from Babylon to take over as king . . . Antiochus the Great came from Babylon to Syria, which at that time was held by Ptolemaeus Philopator the son of Euergetes, who was the fourth king of Egypt. When he attacked the generals of Ptolemaeus, he did indeed gain control of Syria, through the treachery of Theodotus . . . He was made so bold by his contempt for Philopator, who was sunk in luxury and was said to be devoted to the magic arts, that he launched an outright attack on the Egyptians . . . Ptolemaeus Philopator, after losing Syria through the treachery of Theodotus, assembled a vast army and advanced against Antiochus the Great . . . In a battle near the town of Raphia, which is on the borders of Egypt, Antiochus lost his entire army and was almost captured while escaping through the desert. He retreated from Syria, and eventually the war was concluded with a treaty on certain conditions.
Daniel 11:13-14: Antiochus regarded with contempt the worthlessness of Ptolemaeus Philopator, because Ptolemaeus was enslaved to the harp-player Agathoclea and also kept her brother Agathocles as a catamite, whom he later appointed to be leader of Egypt. Antiochus collected an enormous army from the regions east of Babylon, and after the death of Ptolemaeus Philopator he broke the treaty and led his army against Ptolemaeus's son, who was then four years old and was called Ptolemaeus Epiphanes. Agathocles was such an arrogant and dissolute leader that the provinces which had previously been subject to Egypt rose in rebellion, and Egypt itself was troubled by revolts. Also, Philippus the king of the Macedonians and Antiochus the Great made a pact, and fought against Agathocles and Ptolemaeus Epiphanes on these terms, that each would add to his kingdom the neighboring cities in the empire of Ptolemaeus . . . And when Antiochus had gained control of Judaea, Scopas the Aetolian was sent to be general of Ptolemaeus' forces. He fought bravely against Antiochus, recaptured Judaea, and returned to Egypt along with the foremost supporters of Ptolemaeus.
Daniel 11:15-16: Antiochus, wishing to recover Judaea and numerous cities of Syria, defeated Scopas the general of Ptolemaeus in a battle near the source of the river Jordan, where Paneas is now situated, and penned him up along with 10,000 soldiers in Sidon, where he besieged him. Ptolemaeus sent the illustrious generals Aeropus, Menocles, and Damoxenus to rescue him, but they could break the siege, until Scopas was starved into surrender and was allowed to leave with his forces after giving up his weapons. When Daniel says "he will build up siege ramps" he means that for a long time Antiochus attacked the garrison of Scopas in the citadel of Jerusalem with the help of the Jews, and he captured other cities which had belonged to Ptolemaeus, in Syria and Cilicia and Lycia. At that time he captured Aphrodisias, Soli, Zephyrium, Mallus, Anemurium, Selenum, Coracesium, Corycus, Andriace, Limyra, Patara, Xanthus, and last of all Ephesus. All of this is related in the histories of Greece and Rome.
Daniel 11:17-19: Antiochus wanted not only to possess Syria, Cilicia, Lycia, and the other provinces which had belonged to Ptolemaeus, but also to extend his realm into Egypt. So through the influence of Eucles of Rhodes he betrothed his daughter Cleopatra to Ptolemaeus, in the seventh year of the boy's reign. In the thirteenth year, he handed over Cleopatra to be Ptolemaeus' wife, and gave Coele Syria and Judaea as her dowry . . . but he did not succeed in gaining control of Egypt, because Ptolemaeus Epiphanes and his ministers were wary of being tricked, and also Cleopatra supported her husband rather than her father. Therefore Antiochus turned his attention to Asia; he fought a naval battle against numerous islands, and captured Rhodes, Samos, Colophon, Phocaea, and many other islands. But he was confronted by L. Scipio Nasica, along with his brother P. Scipio Africanus, who had defeated Hannibal. Because the consul Nasica, the brother of Africanus, was slow-witted and the senate did not want to entrust him with a war against a very powerful king, Africanus had taken up a voluntary post as his officer, to avoid any insult to his brother. And so Antiochus was defeated, and was ordered by the Romans to restrict his kingdom to the other side of the Taurus mountains. From there, he withdrew to Apamea and Susa and reached the furthest cities of his kingdom. He was killed with all his army while fighting against the Elymaeans.
Daniel 11:20: "There will arise in his place a vile man": This is not Seleucus Philopator, the son of Antiochus the Great, who achieved nothing worthy of his father's Syrian empire, and died ingloriously without any fighting, but Ptolemaeus Epiphanes, who plotted against Seleucus and prepared an army to fight against him, and because of this was poisoned by his own generals. When someone asked this Ptolemaeus what money he possessed to pay for such a venture, he replied that his friends were his money-bags. When this saying became publicly known, the generals became afraid that he would strip them of their wealth, and therefore they treacherously killed him. But how could Ptolemaeus "arise in the place" of Antiochus the Great, when he never achieved this; especially since the Septuagint translated this phrase as "a shoot will rise up from his root"? The Jews prefer this to mean Tryphon, a contemptible man and not worthy of the honor of royalty, who seized the kingdom from the boy while acting as his guardian.
Daniel 11:21: "He will be succeeded by a contemptible person": Up to this point Christian writers follow the order of history, and there is no disagreement between us. But what follows from here to the end of the book is correctly interpreted as referring to Antiochus Epiphanes, the brother of Seleucus and son of Antiochus the Great, who reigned for 11 years in Syria after Seleucus and captured Jerusalem. The persecution of the law of God and the wars of the Maccabees are said to have taken place during his reign. However our writers think that all these prophecies refer to the Antichrist. Therefore we will follow the order of the narrative, and in each comment we will briefly note the opinions of our adversaries and of our own writers. In Seleucus' place, they say, will stand his brother Antiochus Epiphanes. He was not at first "given the honor of royalty" by Ptolemaeus' supporters in Syria, but later he obtained the kingdom of Syria by pretending clemency . . . and Daniel says that not only did Antiochus conquer Ptolemaeus by deceit, but also he overcame Judas Maccabaeus by trickery . . . this does not refer to Ptolemaeus Epiphanes, the fifth king of Egypt, but to Ptolemaeus Philopator, the son of Cleopatra the sister of Antiochus; so Antiochus was his uncle. After the death of Cleopatra, Eulaeus the eunuch, the guardian of Ptolemaeus, together with Lenaeus attempted to regain Syria, which Antiochus had dishonestly seized, and war broke out between the young Ptolemaeus and his uncle. In a battle in between Pelusium and Mount Casius, the generals of Ptolemaeus were defeated and Antiochus, after sparing the boy and pretending to be his friend, went up to Memphis where he was proclaimed king of Egypt in the traditional fashion. He said that he was protecting the boy's interests, and with a moderately sized army he subjugated the whole of Egypt. He entered into flourishing and wealthy cities, and "achieved what neither his fathers nor his forefathers did"; none of them had plundered Egypt in this way, and he was so clever that by his deceit he undermined the prudent plans of the boy's ministers. The account of Suctorius describes these events in great detail . . .
Daniel 11:25-28: This refers to Antiochus, who marched with a large army against Ptolemaeus, his sister's son . . . The generals of Ptolemaeus confronted him with a strong force and brave spirits, but they could not prevail against the deceitful plots of Antiochus, who pretended to make peace with his sister's son and ate bread with him and afterwards occupied Egypt . . . No-one can doubt that Antiochus made peace with Ptolemaeus and dined with him and then plotted against him, "but to no avail", because he was unable to conquer his kingdom, and was expelled by the soldiers of Ptolemaeus.
Daniel 11:29-30: The histories of Greece and Rome relate that when Antiochus returned after being expelled by the Egyptians, he came to Judaea . . . and plundered the temple and took away a vast amount of gold. After placing a garrison of Macedonians in the citadel, he returned to his own country. [Two years later] he again gathered an army against Ptolemaeus, and invaded the South. While the two Ptolemaeus brothers, the sons of Cleopatra and nephews of Antiochus, were being besieged in Alexandria, some Roman envoys arrived. One of the envoys, Marcus Popilius Laenas, met Antiochus by the shore and handed him the senatus consultum, in which Antiochus was ordered to withdraw from the territory of the friends of the Roman people and to be content with his own kingdom. When Antiochus tried to defer a reply until he had consulted with his friends, Popilius is said to have drawn a circle round him with the stick which he was carrying and to have said, "The Roman people tell you to make a decision and reply within this space." Alarmed by this statement, the king said, "If this is what the Roman senate and people wish, I must withdraw"; and so he immediately led away his army. He is described as "struck down", not because he died, but because he lost all his extreme arrogance.
Daniel 11:31: They suggest that this refers to the men who were sent by Antiochus two years after he plundered the temple, to exact tribute from the Jews and to prohibit the worship of God. They placed in the temple at Jerusalem an image of Olympian Zeus and statues of Antiochus, which he calls here "the abomination of the desolation", at the time when the burnt offering and the continual sacrifice were removed.
Daniel 11:34-35: "A little help" refers to Mattathias, from the village of Modin, who rebelled against the generals of Antiochus . . . Mattathias is called "a little help" because he died in battle, and afterwards his son Judas Maccabaeus died fighting, and Judas' other brothers were confounded by the deceit of their enemies.
Daniel 11:36: "The king will do as he pleases": The Jews think that this passage refers to the Antichrist . . . But it refers to Antiochus Epiphanes, because [he arose as an opponent of the worship of God and] he became so haughty that he ordered his own image to be set up in the temple at Jerusalem . . . Polybius and Diodorus, who wrote "libraries of history", relate that he not only acted against the Jewish god, but also was inflamed by greed to attack the extremely wealthy temple of Diana in Elymais. The guards of the temple and the surrounding nations overcame him, and he was driven mad by visions and terrors, until eventually he died. They assert that this happened to him because he had tried to violate the temple of Diana.
Daniel 11:37: [Antiochus] indulged in excessive luxury, and brought such dishonor on the royal title by his fornication and depravity, that he publicly consorted with mimes and prostitutes and satisfied his lusts in the presence of his subjects. The god Maozim is Zeus: in the village of Modin, which was the home of Mattathias and his sons, the generals set up a statue of Zeus and forced the Jews to offer sacrifices to him, that is to the god Modin.
Daniel 11:37-39: Likewise in regard to the statement, "…and he shall take measures to fortify Maozin, together with a strange god whom he has acknowledged; and he shall increase glory and grant them power over many, and shall divide the land as a free gift,"… this means that the man is going to fortify the citadel in Jerusalem and will station garrisons in the rest of the cities, and will instruct the Jews to worship a strange god, which doubtless means Jupiter. And displaying the idol to them, he will persuade them that they should worship it. Then he will bestow upon the deluded both honor and very great glory, and he shall deal with the rest who have borne rule in Judaea, and apportion estates unto them in return for their falsehood, and shall distribute gifts.
Daniel 11:40-41: This too refers to Antiochus, because in the 11th year of his reign he again fought against his sister's son, Ptolemaeus Philometor. When Ptolemaeus heard that Antiochus was coming, he assembled an army many thousands strong. But Antiochus "stormed out" against many countries "with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships" and devastated them all as he swept through them. He "invaded the glorious country", that is Judaea . . . and he fortified the citadel with the ruins of the city wall, and then he set off for Egypt . . . They say that Antiochus, while hastening against Ptolemaeus . . . did not harm the Idumaeans, Moabites, or Ammonites who lived on the border of Judaea, lest by becoming involved in a different war he should give Ptolemaeus the chance to build up his strength.
Daniel 11:44-45: This passage refers to Antiochus. While fighting against the Egyptians, and crossing the land of the Libyans and Ethiopians, he will hear that war is being carried out against him in the North and the East. So he will return, he will capture Aradus despite its resistance, and he will devastate all the coast of the province of Phoenicia. And he will immediately proceed against Artaxias, the king of Armenia, who will arise from the East, and after killing many of Artaxias' army he will place his tent in the place called Apednus, which is situated between the two broad rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. The translation of Theodotion says at this point "between the sea on top of the holy mountain of Saba". Saba is the name of a mountain in either Armenia or Mesopotamia; it is unclear why it is holy . . . "and he will come to the summit of this mountain" in the province of Elymais, which is the most easterly region of Persia. There he tried to plunder the temple of Diana, which contained innumerable offerings, but he was routed by the barbarians, who regarded the temple with remarkable veneration. He was consumed with remorse, and died at Tabae, a town in Persia.
Daniel 12:1: This also refers to Antiochus, who when he went to Persia left Lysias, the governor of Antioch and Phoenicia, as commander of the army, with orders to attack the Jews and capture the city of Jerusalem. Josephus, the Jewish historian, relates all this, how there was "distress such as has not happened" but the people of Israel won the victory and "were delivered"; the generals of Antiochus were killed and Antiochus himself died in Persia . . . The history of the Maccabees relates that many of the Jews fled into the wilderness, with Mattathias and Judas Maccabaeus as their leaders. They hid in caves and in the hollows of rocks, and emerged again after the Jewish victory. This is predicted by the metaphor of the resurrection of the dead.
Daniel 12:7: "A time, times and half a time" is three and a half years . . . this refers to Antiochus and the three and a half years in which the temple was abandoned.
Daniel 12:11: The 1,290 days were fulfilled in the time of Antiochus through the desolation of the temple.
Daniel 12:12: The 45 days which are in addition to the 1,290 days refer to the length of time of the victory over the generals of Antiochus, when Judas Maccabaeus fought bravely against them, cleansed the temple, cast down the idol, and offered sacrifices in the temple of God.
Daniel 12:13: All these things which were spoken actually refer to Antiochus alone. [Jerome's Commentary of Daniel]