Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. VII.—Of all the parts of the body
Chap. VII.—Of All the Parts of the Body.
God therefore connected and bound together the parts which strengthen 1845 the body, which we call bones, being knotted and joined to one another by sinews, which the mind might make use of, as bands, 1846 if it should wish to hasten forward or to lag behind; and, indeed, without any labour or effort, but with a very slight inclination, it might moderate and guide the mass of the whole body. But He covered these with the inward organs, 1847 as was befitting to each place, that the parts which were solid might be enclosed and concealed. Also He mixed with the inward organs, veins as streams divided through the whole body, through which the moisture and the blood, running in different directions, might bedew all the limbs with the vital juices; and He fashioned these inward organs after that manner which was befitting to each kind and situation, and covered them with skin drawn over them, which He either adorned with beauty only, or covered with thick hair, or fenced with scales, or adorned with brilliant feathers. But that is a wonderful contrivance of God, that one arrangement and one state exhibits innumerable varieties of animals. For in almost all things which breathe there is the same connection and arrangement of the limbs. For first of all is the head, and annexed to this the neck; also the breast adjoined to the neck, and the shoulders projecting from it, the belly adhering to the breast; also the organs of generation subjoined to the belly; in the last place, the thighs and feet. Nor do the limbs only keep their own course and position in all, but also the parts of the limbs. For in the head itself alone the ears occupy a fixed position, the eyes a fixed position, likewise the nostrils, the mouth also, and in the teeth and tongue. And though all these things are the same in all animals, yet there is an infinite and manifold diversity of the things formed; because those things of which I have spoken, being either more drawn out or more contracted, are comprehended by lineaments differing in various ways. What! is not that divine, that in so great a multitude of living creatures each animal is most excellent in its own class and species?—so that if any part should be taken from one to another, the necessary result would be, that nothing would be more embarrassed for use, nothing more unshapely to look upon; as if you should give a prolonged neck to an elephant, or a short neck to a camel; or if you should attach feet or hair to serpents, in which the length of the body equally stretched out required nothing else, except that being marked as to their backs with spots, and supporting themselves by their smooth scales, with winding courses they should glide into slippery tracts. But in quadrupeds the same designer lengthened out the arrangement of the spine, which is drawn out from the top of the head to a greater length on the outside of the body, and pointed it into a tail, that the parts of the body which are offensive might either be covered on account of their unsightliness, or be protected on account of their tenderness, so that by its motion certain minute and injurious animals might be driven away from the body; and if you should take away this member, the animal would be imperfect and weak. But where there is reason and the hand, that is not so necessary as a covering of hair. To such an extent are all things most befittingly arranged, each in its own class, that nothing can be conceived more unbecoming than a quadruped which is naked, or a man that is covered.
But, however, though nakedness itself on the part of man tends in a wonderful manner to beauty, yet it was not adapted to his head; for what great deformity there would be in this, is evident from baldness. Therefore He clothed the head with hair; and because it was about to be on the top, He added it as an ornament, as it were, to the highest summit of the building. And this ornament is not collected into a circle, or rounded into the figure of a cap, lest it should be unsightly by leaving some parts bare; but it is freely poured forth in some places, and withdrawn in others, according to the comeliness of each place. Therefore, the forehead entrenched by a circumference, and the hair put forth from the temples before the ears, and the uppermost parts of these being surrounded after the manner of a crown, and all the back part of the head covered, display an appearance of wonderful comeliness. Then the nature of the beard contributes in an incredible degree to distinguish the maturity of bodies, or to the distinction of sex, or to the beauty of manliness and strength; so that it appears that the system of the whole work would not have been in agreement, if anything had been made otherwise than it is.
Next: Chap. VIII.—Of the parts of man: the eyes and ears
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