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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:
ATHENAGORAS: Chapter XIX.—The Philosophers Agree with the Poets Respecting the Gods.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XIX.—The Philosophers Agree with the Poets Respecting the Gods.

Such was the beginning of the existence both of their gods and of the universe. Now what are we to make of this? For each of those things to which divinity is ascribed is conceived of as having existed from the first. For, if they have come into being, having previously had no existence, as those say who treat of the gods, they do not exist. For, a thing is either uncreated and eternal, or created and perishable. Nor do I think one thing and the philosophers another. “What is that which always is, and has no origin; or what is that which has been originated, yet never is?” 760 Discoursing of the intelligible and the sensible, Plato teaches that p. 138 that which always is, the intelligible, is unoriginated, but that which is not, the sensible, is originated, beginning to be and ceasing to exist. In like manner, the Stoics also say that all things will be burnt up and will again exist, the world receiving another beginning. But if, although there is, according to them, a twofold cause, one active and governing, namely providence, the other passive and changeable, namely matter, it is nevertheless impossible for the world, even though under the care of Providence, to remain in the same state, because it is created—how can the constitution of these gods remain, who are not self-existent, 761 but have been originated? And in what are the gods superior to matter, since they derive their constitution from water? But not even water, according to them, is the beginning of all things. From simple and homogeneous elements what could be constituted? Moreover, matter requires an artificer, and the artificer requires matter. For how could figures be made without matter or an artificer? Neither, again, is it reasonable that matter should be older than God; for the efficient cause must of necessity exist before the things that are made.


Footnotes

137:760

Plat., Tim., p. 27, D.

138:761

Literally, “by nature.”


Next: Chapter XX.—Absurd Representations of the Gods.

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