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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter XXIX.—The Greeks But Children Compared with the Hebrews.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXIX.—The Greeks But Children Compared with the Hebrews.

Whence most beautifully the Egyptian priest in Plato said, “O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children, not having in your souls a single ancient opinion received through tradition from antiquity. And not one of the Greeks is an old man;” 2136 meaning by old, I suppose, those who know what belongs to the more remote antiquity, that is, our literature; and by young, those who treat of what is more recent and made the subject of study by the Greeks,—things of yesterday and of recent date as if they were old and ancient. Wherefore he added, “and no study hoary with time;” for we, in a kind of barbarous way, deal in homely and rugged metaphor. Those, therefore, whose minds are rightly constituted approach the interpretation utterly destitute of artifice. And of the Greeks, he says that their opinions” differ but little from myths.” For neither puerile fables nor stories current among children are fit for listening to. And he called the myths themselves “children,” as if the progeny of those, wise in their own conceits among the Greeks, who had but little insight; meaning by the “hoary studies” the truth which was possessed by the barbarians, dating from the highest antiquity. To which expression he opposed the phrase “child fable,” censuring the mythical character of the attempts of the moderns, as, like children, having nothing of age in them, and affirming both in common—their fables and their speeches—to be puerile.

Divinely, therefore, the power which spoke to Hermas by revelation said, “The visions and revelations are for those who are of double mind, who doubt in their hearts if these things are or are not.” 2137

Similarly, also, demonstrations from the resources of erudition, strengthen, confirm, and establish demonstrative reasonings, in so far as men’s minds are in a wavering state like young people’s. “The good commandment,” then, according to the Scripture, “is a lamp, and the law is a light to the path; for instruction corrects the ways of life.” 2138 “Law is monarch of all, both of mortals and of immortals,” says Pindar. I understand, however, by these words, Him who enacted law. And I regard, as spoken of the God of all, the following utterance of Hesiod, though spoken by the poet at random and not with comprehension:—

“For the Saturnian framed for men this law:
Fishes, and beasts, and winged birds may eat
Each other, since no rule of right is theirs;
But Right (by far the best) to men he gave.”

Whether, then, it be the law which is connate and natural, or that given afterwards, which is meant, it is certainly of God; and both the law of nature and that of instruction are one. Thus also Plato, in The Statesman, says that the lawgiver is one; and in The Laws, that he who shall understand music is one; teaching by these words that the Word is one, and God is one. And Moses manifestly calls the Lord a covenant: “Behold I am my Covenant with thee,” 2139 having previously told him not to seek the covenant in writing. 2140 For it is a covenant which God, the Author of all, makes. For God is called Θεός, from θέσις (placing), and order or arrangement. And in the Preaching 2141 of Peter you will find the Lord called Law and Word. But at this point, let our first Miscellany 2142 of gnostic notes, according to the true philosophy, come to a close.



[Timæus, p. 22, B.—S.]


[See Shepherd of Hermas, i. p. 14, ante. S.]


Prov. vi. 23.


Gen. xvii. 4. “As for me, behold, My convenant is with thee.”—A.V.


The allusion here is obscure. The suggestion has been made that it is to ver. 2 of the same chapter, which is thus taken to intimate that the covenant would be verbal, not written.


Referring to an apocryphal book so called. [This book is not cited as Scripture, but (valeat quantum) as containing a saying attributed to St. Peter. Clement quotes it not infrequently. A very full and valuable account of it may be found in Lardner, vol. ii. p. 252, et seqq. Not less valuable is the account given by Jones, On the Canon, vol. i. p. 355. See all Clement’s citations, same volume, p. 345, et seqq.]



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