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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 27

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 27.—Concerning the Figments of the Physical Theologists, Who Neither Worship the True Divinity, Nor Perform the Worship Wherewith the True Divinity Should Be Served.

We see that these select gods have, indeed, become more famous than the rest; not, however, that their merits may be brought to light, but that their opprobrious deeds may not be hid.  Whence it is more credible that they were men, as not only poetic but also historical literature has handed down.  For this which Virgil says,

“Then from Olympus’ heights came down

Good Saturn, exiled from his throne

By Jove, his mightier heir;” 291

and what follows with reference to this affair, is fully related by the historian Euhemerus, and has been translated into Latin by Ennius.  And as they who have written before us in the Greek or in the Latin tongue against such errors as these have said much concerning this matter, I have thought it unnecessary to dwell upon it.  When I consider those physical reasons, then, by which learned and acute men attempt to turn human things into divine things, all I see is that they have been able to refer these things only to temporal works and to that which has a corporeal nature, and even though invisible still mutable; and this is by no means the true God.  But if this worship had been performed as the symbolism of ideas at least congruous with religion, though it would indeed have been cause of grief that the true God was not announced and proclaimed by its symbolism, nevertheless it could have been in some degree borne with, when it did not occasion and command the performance of such foul and abominable things.  But since it is impiety to worship the body or the soul for the true God, by whose indwelling alone the soul is happy, how much more impious is it to worship those things through which neither soul nor body can obtain either salvation or human honor?  Wherefore if with temple, priest, and sacrifice, which are due to the true God, any element of the world be worshipped, or any created spirit, even though not impure and evil, that worship is still evil, not because the things are evil by which the worship is performed, but because those things ought only to be used in the worship of Him to whom alone such worship and service are due.  But if any one insist that he worships the one true God,—that is, the Creator of every soul and of every body,—with stupid and monstrous idols, with human victims, with putting a wreath on the male organ, with the wages of unchastity, with the cutting of limbs, with emasculation, with the consecration of effeminates, with impure and obscene plays, such a one does not sin because he worships One who ought not to be worshipped, but because he worships Him who ought to be worshipped in a way in which He ought not to be worshipped.  But he who worships with such things,—that is, foul and obscene things,—and that not the true God, namely, the maker of soul and body, but a creature, even though not a wicked creature, whether it be soul or body, or soul and body together, twice sins against God, because he both worships for God what is not God, and also worships with such things as neither God nor what is not God ought to be worshipped with.  It is, indeed, manifest how these pagans worship,—that is, how shamefully and criminally they worship; but what or whom they worship would have been left in obscurity, had not their history testi p. 139 fied that those same confessedly base and foul rites were rendered in obedience to the demands of the gods, who exacted them with terrible severity.  Wherefore it is evident beyond doubt that this whole civil theology is occupied in inventing means for attracting wicked and most impure spirits, inviting them to visit senseless images, and through these to take possession of stupid hearts.



Virgil, Æneid, viii. 319–20.

Next: Chapter 28

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