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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 9

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 9.—Concerning the Power of Jupiter, and a Comparison of Jupiter with Janus.

But they also show whom they would have Jove (who is also called Jupiter) understood to be.  He is the god, say they, who has the power of the causes by which anything comes to be in the world.  And how great a thing this is, that most noble verse of Virgil testifies:

“Happy is he who has learned the causes of things.” 268

But why is Janus preferred to him?  Let that p. 128 most acute and most learned man answer us this question.  “Because,” says he, “Janus has dominion over first things, Jupiter over highest 269 things.  Therefore Jupiter is deservedly held to be the king of all things; for highest things are better than first things:  for although first things precede in time, highest things excel by dignity.”

Now this would have been rightly said had the first parts of things which are done been distinguished from the highest parts; as, for instance, it is the beginning of a thing done to set out, the highest part to arrive.  The commencing to learn is the first part of a thing begun, the acquirement of knowledge is the highest part.  And so of all things:  the beginnings are first, the ends highest.  This matter, however, has been already discussed in connection with Janus and Terminus.  But the causes which are attributed to Jupiter are things effecting, not things effected; and it is impossible for them to be prevented in time by things which are made or done, or by the beginnings of such things; for the thing which makes is always prior to the thing which is made.  Therefore, though the beginnings of things which are made or done pertain to Janus, they are nevertheless not prior to the efficient causes which they attribute to Jupiter.  For as nothing takes place without being preceded by an efficient cause, so without an efficient cause nothing begins to take place.  Verily, if the people call this god Jupiter, in whose power are all the causes of all natures which have been made, and of all natural things, and worship him with such insults and infamous criminations, they are guilty of more shocking sacrilege than if they should totally deny the existence of any god.  It would therefore be better for them to call some other god by the name of Jupiter—some one worthy of base and criminal honors; substituting instead of Jupiter some vain fiction (as Saturn is said to have had a stone given to him to devour instead of his son,) which they might make the subject of their blasphemies, rather than speak of that god as both thundering and committing adultery,—ruling the whole world, and laying himself out for the commission of so many licentious acts,—having in his power nature and the highest causes of all natural things, but not having his own causes good.

Next, I ask what place they find any longer for this Jupiter among the gods, if Janus is the world; for Varro defined the true gods to be the soul of the world, and the parts of it.  And therefore whatever falls not within this definition, is certainly not a true god, according to them.  Will they then say that Jupiter is the soul of the world, and Janus the body —that is, this visible world?  If they say this, it will not be possible for them to affirm that Janus is a god.  For even, according to them, the body of the world is not a god, but the soul of the world and its parts.  Wherefore Varro, seeing this, says that he thinks God is the soul of the world, and that this world itself is God; but that as a wise man though he consists of soul and body, is nevertheless called wise from the soul, so the world is called God from the soul, though it consists of soul and body.  Therefore the body of the world alone is not God, but either the soul of it alone, or the soul and the body together, yet so as that it is God not by virtue of the body, but by virtue of the soul.  If, therefore, Janus is the world, and Janus is a god, will they say, in order that Jupiter may be a god, that he is some part of Janus?  For they are wont rather to attribute universal existence to Jupiter; whence the saying, “All things are full of Jupiter.” 270   Therefore they must think Jupiter also, in order that he may be a god, and especially king of the gods, to be the world, that he may rule over the other gods—according to them, his parts.  To this effect, also, the same Varro expounds certain verses of Valerius Soranus 271 in that book which he wrote apart from the others concerning the worship of the gods. These are the verses:

“Almighty Jove, progenitor of kings, and things, and gods,

And eke the mother of the gods, god one and all.”

But in the same book he expounds these verses by saying that as the male emits seed, and the female receives it, so Jupiter, whom they believed to be the world, both emits all seeds from himself and receives them into himself.  For which reason, he says, Soranus wrote, “Jove, progenitor and mother;” and with no less reason said that one and all were the same.  For the world is one, and in that one are all things.



Georgic, ii. 470.


Summa, which also includes the meaning—last.


Virgil, Eclog. iii. 60, who borrows the expression from the Phœnomena of Aratus.


Soranus lived about B.C. 100.  See Smith’s Dict.

Next: Chapter 10

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