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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Manichæan Controversy.: Chapter 12

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 12.—The Wild Fancies of Manichæus.  The Battle Before the Constitution of the World.

14.  "Of that matter," he says, "beloved brother of Patticus, of which you told me, saying that you desired to know the manner of the birth of Adam and Eve, whether they p. 135 were produced by a word or sprung from matter, I will answer you as is fit.  For in various writings and narratives we find different assertions made and different descriptions given by many authors.  Now the real truth on the subject is unknown to all peoples, even to those who have long and frequently treated of it.  For had they arrived at a clear knowledge of the generation of Adam and Eve, they would not have remained liable to corruption and death."  Here, then, is a promise to us of clear knowledge of this matter, so that we shall not be liable to corruption and death.  And if this does not suffice, see what follows:  "Necessarily," he says, "many things have to be said by way of preface, before a discovery of this mystery free from all uncertainty can be made."  This is precisely what I asked for, to have such evidence of the truth as to free my knowledge of it from all uncertainty.  And even were the promise not made by this writer himself, it was proper for me to demand and to insist upon this, so that no opposition should make me ashamed of becoming a Manichæan from a Catholic Christian, in view of such a gain as that of perfectly clear and certain truth.  Now, then, let us hear what he has to state.

15.  "Accordingly," he says, "hear first, if you please, what happened before the constitution of the world, and how the battle was carried on, that you may be able to distinguish the nature of light from that of darkness."  Such are the utterly false and incredible statements which this writer makes.  Who can believe that any battle was fought before the constitution of the world?  And even supposing it credible, we wish now to get something to know, not to believe.  For to say that the Persians and Scythians long ago fought with one another is a credible statement; but while we believe it when we read or hear it, we cannot know it as a fact of experience or as a truth of the understanding.  So, then, as I would repudiate any such statement on the ground that I have been promised something, not that I must believe on authority, but that I shall understand without any ambiguity; still less will I receive statements which are not only uncertain, but incredible.  But what if he have some evidence to make these things clear and intelligible?  Let us hear, then, if we can, what follows with all possible patience and forbearance.

Next: Chapter 13

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