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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol I:
MATHETES: Chapter IV.—The other observances of...

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IV.—The other observances of the Jews.

But as to their scrupulosity concerning meats, and their superstition as respects the Sabbaths, and their boasting about circumcision, and their fancies about fasting and the new moons, which are utterly ridiculous and unworthy of notice,—I do not 275 think that you require to learn anything from me. For, to accept some of those things which have been formed by God for the use of men as properly formed, and to reject others as useless and redundant,—how can this be lawful? And to speak falsely of God, as if He forbade us to do what is good on the Sabbath-days,—how is not this impious? And to glory in the circumcision 276 of the flesh as a proof of election, and as if, on account of it, they were specially beloved by God,—how is it not a subject of ridicule? And as to their observing months and days, 277 as if waiting upon 278 the stars and the moon, and their distributing, 279 according to their own tendencies, the appointments of God, and the vicissitudes of the seasons, some for festivities, 280 and others for mourning,—who would deem this a part of divine worship, and not much rather a manifestation of folly? I suppose, then, you are sufficiently convinced that the Christians properly abstain from the vanity and error common [to both Jews and Gentiles], and from the busy-body spirit and vain boasting of the Jews; but you must not hope to learn the mystery of their peculiar mode of worshipping God from any mortal.



Otto, resting on ms. authority, omits the negative, but the sense seems to require its insertion.


Literally, “lessening.”


Comp. Gal. iv. 10.


This seems to refer to the practice of Jews in fixing the beginning of the day, and consequently of the Sabbath, from the rising of the stars. They used to say, that when three stars of moderate magnitude appeared, it was night; when two, it was twilight; and when only one, that day had not yet departed. It thus came to pass (according to their night-day (νυχθήμερον) reckoning), that whosoever engaged in work on the evening of Friday, the beginning of the Sabbath, after three stars of moderate size were visible, was held to have sinned, and had to present a trespass-offering; and so on, according to the fanciful rule described.


Otto supplies the lacuna which here occurs in the mss. so as to read καταδιαιρεῖν.


The great festivals of the Jews are here referred to on the one hand, and the day of atonement on the other.

Next: Chapter V.—The manners of the...

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