Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Writings in Connection with the Manichæan Controversy.: Book XIII
Faustus asserts that even if the Old Testament could be shown to contain predictions, it would be of interest only to the Jews, pagan literature subserving the same purpose for Gentiles. Augustin shows the value of prophesy for Gentiles and Jews alike.
1. Faustus said: We are asked how we worship Christ when we reject the prophets, who declared the promise of His advent. It is doubtful whether, on examination, it can be shown that the Hebrew prophets foretold our Christ, that is, the Son of God. But were it so, what does it matter to us? If these testimonies of the prophets that you speak of were the means of converting any one from Judaism to Christianity, and if he should afterwards neglect these prophets, he would certainly be in the wrong, and would be chargeable with ingratitude. But we are by nature Gentiles, of the uncircumcision; as Paul says, born under another law. Those whom the Gentiles call poets were our first religious teachers, and from them we were afterwards converted to Christianity. We did not first become Jews, so as to reach Christianity through faith in their prophets; but were attracted solely by the fame, and the virtues, and the wisdom of our liberator Jesus Christ. If I were still in the religion of my fathers, and a preacher were to come using the prophets as evidence in favor of Christianity, I should think him mad for attempting to support what is doubtful by what is still more doubtful to a Gentile of another religion altogether. He would require first to persuade me to believe the prophets, and then through the prophets to believe Christ. And to prove the truth of the prophets, other prophets would be necessary. For if the prophets bear witness to Christ, who bears witness to the prophets? You will perhaps say that Christ and the prophets mutually support each other. But a Pagan, who has nothing to do with either, would believe neither the evidence of Christ to the prophets, nor that of the prophets to Christ. If the Pagan becomes a Christian, he has to thank his own faith, and nothing else. Let us, for the sake of illustration, suppose ourselves conversing with a Gentile inquirer. We tell him to believe in Christ, because He is God. He asks for proof. We refer him to the prophets. He asks, What prophets? We reply, The Hebrew. He smiles, and says that he does not believe them. We remind him that Christ testifies to them. He replies, laughing, that we must first make him believe in Christ. The result of such a conversation is that we are silenced, and the inquirer departs, thinking us more zealous than wise. Again, I say, the Christian Church, which consists more of Gentiles than of Jews, can owe nothing to Hebrew witnesses. If, as is said, any prophecies of Christ are to be found p. 200 in the Sibyl, 489 or in Hermes, 490 called Trismegistus, or Orpheus, or any heathen poet, they might aid the faith of those who, like us, are converts from heathenism to Christianity. But the testimony of the Hebrews is useless to us before conversion, for then we cannot believe them; and superfluous after, for we believe without them.
2. Augustin replied: After the long reply of last book, a short answer may suffice here. To one who has read that reply, it must seem insanity in Faustus to persist in denying that Christ was foretold by the Hebrew prophets, when the Hebrew nation was the only one in which the name Christ had a peculiar sacredness as applied to kings and priests; in which sense it continued to be applied till the coming of Him whom those kings and priests typified. Where did the Manichæan learn the name of Christ? If from Manichæus, it is very strange that Africans, not to speak of others, should believe the Persian Manichæus, since Faustus finds fault with the Romans and Greeks, and other Gentiles, for believing the Hebrew prophets as belonging to another race. According to Faustus, the predictions of the Sibyl, or Orpheus, or any heathen poet, are more suitable for leading Gentiles to believe in Christ. He forgets that none of these are read in the churches, whereas the voice of the Hebrew prophets, sounding everywhere, draws swarms of people to Christianity. When it is so evident that men are everywhere led to Christ by the Hebrew prophets, it is great absurdity to say that those prophets are not suitable for the Gentiles.
3. Christ as foretold by the Hebrew prophets does not please you; but this is the Christ in whom the Gentile nations believe, with whom, according to you, Hebrew prophecy should have no weight. They receive the gospel which, as Paul says, "God had promised before by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures of His Son, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh." 491 So we read in Isaiah: "There shall be a Root of Jesse, which shall rise to reign in the nations; in Him shall the Gentiles trust." 492 And again: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel," 493 which is, being interpreted, God with us. Nor let the Manichæan think that Christ is foretold only as a man by the Hebrew prophets; for this is what Faustus seems to insinuate when he says, "Our Christ is the Son of God," as if the Christ of the Hebrews was not the Son of God. We can prove Christ the virgins son of Hebrew prophecy to be God. For the Lord Himself teaches the carnal Jews not to think that, because He is foretold as the son of David, He is therefore no more than that. He asks: "What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He?" They reply: "Of David." Then, to remind them of the name Emmanuel, God with us, He says: "How does David in the Spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?" 494 Here, then, Christ appears as God in Hebrew prophecy. What prophecy can the Manichæans show with the name of Christ in it?
4. Manichæus indeed was not a prophet of Christ, but calls himself an apostle, which is a shameless falsehood; for it is well known that this heresy began not only after Tertullian, but after Cyprian. In all his letters Manichæus begins thus: "Manichæus, an apostle of Jesus Christ." Why do you believe what Manichæus says of Christ? What evidence does he give of his apostleship? This very name of Christ is known to us only from the Jews, who, in their application of it to their kings and priests, were not individually, but nationally, prophets of Christ and Christs kingdom. What right has he to use this name, who forbids you to believe the Hebrew prophets, that he may make you the heretical disciples of a false Christ, as he himself is a false and heretical apostle? And if Faustus quotes as evidence in his own support some prophets who, according to him, foretell Christ, how will he satisfy his supposed inquirer, who will not believe either the prophets or Faustus? Will he take our apostles as witnesses? Unless he can find some apostles in life, he must read their writings; and these are all against him. They teach our doctrine that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, that He was the Son of God, of the p. 201 seed of David according to the flesh. He cannot pretend that the writings have been tampered with, for that would be to attack the credit of his own witnesses. Or if he produces his own manuscripts of the apostolic writings, he must also obtain for them the authority of the churches founded by the apostles themselves, by showing that they have been preserved and transmitted with their sanction. It will be difficult for a man to make me believe him on the evidence of writings which derive all their authority from his own word, which I do not believe.
5. But perhaps you believe the common report about Christ. Faustus makes a feeble suggestion of this kind as a last resource, to escape being obliged either to produce his worthless authorities, or to come under the power of those opposed to him. Well, if report is your authority, you should consider the consequences of trusting to such evidence. There are many bad things reported of you which you do not wish people to believe. Is it reasonable to make the same evidence true about Christ and false about yourselves? In fact, you deny the common report about Christ. For the report most widely spread, and which every one has heard repeated, is that which distinctly asserts that Christ was born of the seed of David, according to the promise made in the Hebrew Scriptures to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob: "In thy seed shall all nations be blessed." You will not admit this Hebrew testimony, but you do not seem to have any other. The authority of our books, which is confirmed by the agreement of so many nations, supported by a succession of apostles, bishops, and councils, is against you. Your books have no authority, for it is an authority maintained by only a few, and these the worshippers of an untruthful God and Christ. If they are not following the example of the beings they worship, their testimony must be against their own false doctrine. And, once more, common report gives a very bad account of you, and invariably asserts, in opposition to you, that Christ was of the seed of David. You did not hear the voice of the Father from heaven. You did not see the works by which Christ bore witness to Himself. The books which tell of these things you profess to receive, that you may maintain a delusive appearance of Christianity; but when anything is quoted against you, you say that the books have been tampered with. You quote the passage where Christ says, "If ye believe not me, believe the works;" and again, "I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me;" but you will not let us quote in reply such passages as these: "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think that ye have eternal life, and they are they that testify of me;" "If ye believed Moses, ye would believe me, for he wrote of me;" "They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them;" "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe though one rose from the dead." What have you to say for yourselves? Where is your authority? If you reject these passages of Scripture, in spite of the weighty authority in their favor, what miracles can you show? However, if you did work miracles, we should be on our guard against receiving their evidence in your case; for the Lord has forewarned us: "Many false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall do many signs and wonders, that they may deceive, if it were possible, the very elect: behold, I have told you before." 495 This shows that the established authority of Scripture must outweigh every other; for it derives new confirmation from the progress of events which happen, as Scripture proves, in fulfillment of the predictions made so long before their occurrence.
6. Are, then, your doctrines so manifestly true, that they require no support from miracles or from any testimony? Show us these self-evident truths, if you have anything of the kind to show. Your legends, as we have already seen, are long and silly, old wives fables for the amusement of women and children. The beginning is detached from the rest, the middle is unsound, and the end is a miserable failure. If you begin with the immortal, invisible, incorruptible God, what need was there of His fighting with the race of darkness? And as for the middle of your theory, what becomes of the incorruptibility and unchangeableness of God, when His members in fruits and vegetables are purified by your mastication and digestion? And for the end, is it just that the wretched soul should be punished with lasting confinement in the mass of darkness, because its God is unable to cleanse it of the defilement contracted from evil external to itself in the fulfillment of His own commission? You are at a loss for a reply. See the worthlessness of your boasted manuscripts, numerous and valuable as you say they are! Alas for the toils of the antiquaries! Alas for the property of the unhappy owners! Alas for the food of the deluded followers! Destitute as you are of Scripture authority, of the power of miracles, of moral excellence, and of sound doctrine, p. 202 depart ashamed, and return penitent, confessing that true Christ, who is the Saviour of all who believe in Him, whose name and whose Church are now displayed as they were of old foretold, not by some being issuing from subterranean darkness, but by a nation in a distinct kingdom established for this purpose, that there those things might be figuratively predicted of Christ which are now in reality fulfilled, and the prophets might foretell in writing what the apostles now exhibit in their preaching.
7. Let us suppose, then, a conversation with a heathen inquirer, in which Faustus described us as making a poor appearance, though his own appearance was much more deplorable. If we say to the heathen, Believe in Christ, for He is God, and, on his asking for evidence, produce the authority of the prophets, if he says that he does not believe the prophets, because they are Hebrew and he is a Gentile, we can prove the truth of the prophets from the actual fulfillment of their prophecies. He could scarcely be ignorant of the persecutions suffered by the early Christians from the kings of this world; or if he was ignorant, he could be informed from history and the records of imperial laws. But this is what we find foretold long ago by the prophet, saying, "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the princes take counsel together against the Lord, and against His Christ." The rest of the Psalm shows that this is not said of David. For what follows might convince the most stubborn unbeliever: "The Lord said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Thy possession." 496 This never happened to the Jews, whose king, David was, but is now plainly fulfilled in the subjection of all nations to the name of Christ. This and many similar prophecies, which it would take too long to quote, would surely impress the mind of the inquirer. He would see these very kings of the earth now happily subdued by Christ, and all nations serving Him; and he would hear the words of the Psalm in which this was so long before predicted: "All the kings of the earth shall bow down to Him; all nations shall serve Him." 497 And if he were to read the whole of that Psalm, which is figuratively applied to Solomon, he would find that Christ is the true King of peace, for Solomon means peaceful; and he would find many things in the Psalm applicable to Christ, which have no reference at all to the literal King Solomon. Then there is that other Psalm where God is spoken of as anointed by God, the very word anointed pointing to Christ, showing that Christ is God, for God is represented as being anointed. 498 In reading what is said in this Psalm of Christ and of the Church, he would find that what is there foretold is fulfilled in the present state of the world. He would see the idols of the nations perishing from off the earth, and he would find that this is predicted by the prophets, as in Jeremiah, "Then shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth, and from under heaven;" 499 and again, "O Lord, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto Thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods? Therefore, behold, I will at that time cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that I am the Lord." 500 Hearing these prophecies, and seeing their actual fulfillment, I need not say that he would be affected; for we know by experience how the hearts of believers are confirmed by seeing ancient predictions now receiving their accomplishment.
8. In the same prophet the inquirer would find clear proof that Christ is not merely one of the great men that have appeared in the world. For Jeremiah goes on to say: "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord: for he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places of the wilderness, in a salt land not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is: for he shall be as a tree beside the water, that spreadeth out its roots by the river: he shall not fear when heat cometh, but his leaf shall be green; he shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." 501 On hearing this curse pronounced in the figurative language of prophecy on him that trusts in man, and the blessing in similar style on him that trusts in God, the inquirer might have doubts about our doctrine, in which we teach not only that Christ is God, so that our trust is not in man, but also that He is man because He took our p. 203 nature. So some err by denying Christs humanity, while they allow His divinity. Others, again, assert His humanity, but deny His divinity, and so either become infidels or incur the guilt of trusting in man. The inquirer, then, might say that the prophet says only that Christ is God, without any reference to His human nature; whereas, in our apostolic doctrine, Christ is not only God in whom we may safely trust, but the Mediator between God and man—the man Jesus. The prophet explains this in the words in which he seems to check himself, and to supply the omission: "His heart," he says "is sorrowful throughout; and He is man, and who shall know Him?" 502 He is man, in order that in the form of a servant He might heal the hard in heart, and that they might acknowledge as God Him who became man for their sakes, that their trust might be not in man, but in God-man. He is man taking the form of a servant. And who shall know Him? For "He was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal to God." 503 He is man, for "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." And who shall know Him? For "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." 504 And truly His heart was sorrowful throughout. For even as regards His own disciples His heart was sorrowful, when He said, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet have ye not known me?" "Have I been so long time with you" answers to the words "He is man," and "Have ye not known me?" to "Who shall know Him?" And the person is none other but He who says, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." 505 So that our trust is not in man, to be under the curse of the prophet, but in God-man, that is, in the Son of God, the Saviour Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and man. In the form of a servant the Father is greater than He; in the form of God He is equal with the Father.
9. In Isaiah we read: "The pride of man shall be brought low; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. And they shall hide the workmanship of their hands in the clefts of the rocks, and in dens and caves of the earth, from fear of the Lord, and from the glory of His power, when He shall arise to shake terribly the earth. For in that day a man shall cast away his idols of gold and silver, which they have made to worship, as useless and hurtful." 506 Perhaps the inquirer himself, who, as Faustus supposes, would laugh and say that he does not believe the Hebrew prophets, has hid idols made with hands in some cleft, or cave, or den. Or he may know a friend, or neighbor, or fellow-citizen who has done this from the fear of the Lord, who by the severe prohibition of the kings of the earth, now serving and bowing down to him, as the prophet predicted, shakes the earth, that is, breaks the stubborn heart of worldly men. The inquirer is not likely to disbelieve the Hebrew prophets, when he finds their predictions fulfilled, perhaps in his own person.
10. One might rather fear that the inquirer, in the midst of such copious evidence, would say that the Christians composed those writings when the events described had already begun to take place, in order that those occurrences might appear to be not due to a merely human purpose, but as if divinely foretold. One might fear this, were it not for the widely spread and widely known people of the Jews; that Cain, with the mark that he should not be killed by any one; that Ham, the servant of his brethren, carrying as a load the books for their instruction. From the Jewish manuscripts we prove that these things were not written by us to suit the event, but were long ago published and preserved as prophecies in the Jewish nation. These prophecies are now explained in their accomplishment: for even what is obscure in them—because these things happened to them as an example, and were written for our benefit, on whom the ends of the world are come—is now made plain; and what was hidden in the shadows of the future is now visible in the light of actual experience.
11. The inquirer might bring forward as a difficulty the fact that those in whose books these prophecies are found are not united with us in the gospel. But when convinced that this also is foretold, he would feel how strong the evidence is. The prophecies of the unbelief of the Jews no one can avoid seeing, no one can pretend to be blind to them. No one can doubt that Isaiah spoke of the Jews when he said, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his masters crib; but Israel hath not known, and my people hath not considered;" 507 or again, in the words quoted by the apostle, "I have stretched out my hands all the day to a wicked and gainsaying people;" 508 and especially where he says, "God has given them the spirit of remorse, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, and should not understand," 509 and many similar passages. If the p. 204 inquirer objected that it was not the fault of the Jews if God blinded them so that they did not know Christ, we should try in the simplest manner possible to make him understand that this blindness is the just punishment of other secret sins known to God. We should prove that the apostle recognizes this principle when he says of some persons, "God gave them up to the lusts of their own hearts, and to a reprobate mind, to do things not convenient;" 510 and that the prophets themselves speak of this. For, to revert to the words of Jeremiah, "He is man, and who shall know Him?" lest it should be an excuse for the Jews that they did not know,—for if they had known, as the apostle says, "they would not have crucified the Lord of glory," 511 —the prophet goes on to show that their ignorance was the result of secret criminality; for he says: "I the Lord search the heart and try the reins, to give to every one according to his ways, and according to the fruits of his doings."
12. If the next difficulty in the mind of the inquirer arose from the divisions and heresies among those called Christians, he would learn that this too is taken notice of by the prophets. For, as if it was natural that, after being satisfied about the blindness of the Jews, this objection from the divisions among Christians should occur, Jeremiah, observing this order in his prophecy, immediately adds in the passage already quoted: "The partridge is clamorous, gathering what it has not brought forth, making riches without judgment." For the partridge is notoriously quarrelsome, and is often caught from its eagerness in quarreling. So the heretics discuss not to find the truth, but with a dogged determination to gain the victory one way or another, that they may gather, as the prophet says, what they have not brought forth. For those whom they lead astray are Christians already born of the gospel, whom the Christian profession of the heretics misleads. Thus they make riches not with judgment, but with inconsiderate haste. For they do not consider that the followers whom they gather as their riches are taken from the genuine original Christian society, and deprived of its benefits; and as the apostle describes these heretics in the words: "As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so they also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest to all men, as theirs also was." 512 So the prophet goes on to say of the partridge, which gathers what it has not brought forth: "In the midst of his days they shall leave him, and in the end he shall be a fool;" that is, he who at first misled people by a promising display of superior wisdom, shall be a fool, that is, shall be seen to be a fool. He will be seen when his folly is manifest to all men, and to those to whom he was at first a wise man he will then be a fool.
13. As if anticipating that the inquirer would ask next by what plain mark a young disciple, not yet able to distinguish the truth among so many errors, might find the true Church of Christ, since the clear fulfillment of so many predictions compelled him to believe in Christ, the prophet answers this question in what follows, and teaches that the Church of Christ, which he describes prophetically, is conspicuously visible. His words are: "A glorious high throne is our sanctuary." 513 This glorious throne is the Church of which the apostle says: "The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." 514 The Lord also, foreseeing the conspicuousness of the Church as a help to young disciples who might be misled, says, "A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." 515 Since, then, a glorious high throne is our sanctuary, no attention is to be paid to those who would lead us into sectarianism, saying, "Lo, here is Christ," or "Lo there." Lo here, lo there, speaks of division; but the true city is on a mountain, and the mountain is that which, as we read in the prophet Daniel, grew from a little stone till it filled the whole earth. 516 And no attention should be paid to those who, professing some hidden mystery confined to a small number, say, Behold, He is in the chamber; behold, in the desert: for a city set on an hill cannot be hid, and a glorious high throne is our sanctuary.
14. After considering these instances of the fulfillment of prophecy about kings and people acting as persecutors, and then becoming believers, about the destruction of idols, about the blindness of the Jews, about their testimony to the writings which they have preserved, about the folly of heretics, about the dignity of the Church of true and genuine Christians, the inquirer would most reasonably receive the testimony of these prophets about the divinity of Christ. No doubt, if we were to begin by urging him to believe prophecies yet unfulfilled, he might justly answer, What have I to do with these prophets, of whose truth I have no evidence? But, in view of the manifest accomplishment of so many remarkable predictions, no candid perp. 205 son would despise either the things which were thought worthy of being predicted in those early times with so much solemnity, or those who made the predictions. To none can we trust more safely, as regards either events long past or those still future, than to men whose words are supported by the evidence of so many notable predictions having been fulfilled.
15. If any truth about God or the Son of God is taught or predicted in the Sibyl or Sibyls, or in Orpheus, or in Hermes, if there ever was such a person, or in any other heathen poets, or theologians, or sages, or philosophers, it may be useful for the refutation of Pagan error, but cannot lead us to believe in these writers. For while they spoke, because they could not help it, of the God whom we worship, they either taught their fellow-countrymen to worship idols and demons, or allowed them to do so without daring to protest against it. But our sacred writers, with the authority and assistance of God, were the means of establishing and preserving among their people a government under which heathen customs were condemned as sacrilege. If any among this people fell into idolatry or demon-worship, they were either punished by the laws, or met by the awful denunciations of the prophets. They worshipped one God, the maker of heaven and earth. They had rites; but these rites were prophetic, or symbolical of things to come, and were to cease on the appearance of the things signified. The whole state was one great prophet, with its king and priest symbolically anointed which was discontinued, not by the wish of the Jews themselves, who were in ignorance through unbelief, but only on the coming of Him who was God, anointed with spiritual grace above His fellows, the holy of holies, the true King who should govern us, the true Priest who should offer Himself for us. In a word, the predictions of heathen ingenuity regarding Christs coming are as different from sacred prophecy as the confession of devils from the proclamation of angels.
16. By such arguments, which might be expanded if we were discussing with one brought up in heathenism, and might be supported by proofs in still greater number, the inquirer whom Faustus has brought before us would certainly be led to believe, unless he preferred his sins to his salvation. As a believer, he would be taken to be cherished in the bosom of the Catholic Church, and would be taught in due course the conduct required of him. He would see many who do not practise the required duties; but this would not shake his faith, even though these people should belong to the same Church and partake of the same sacraments as himself. He would understand that few share in the inheritance of God, while many partake in its outward signs; that few are united in holiness of life, and in the gift of love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us, which is a hidden spring that no stranger can approach; and that many join in the solemnity of the sacrament, which he that eats and drinks unworthily eats and drinks judgment to himself, while he who neglects to eat it shall not have life in him, 517 and so shall never reach eternal life. He will understand, too, that the good are called few as compared with the multitude of the evil, but that as scattered over the world there are very many growing among the tares, and mixed with the chaff, till the day of harvest and of purging. As this is taught in the Gospel, so is it foretold by the prophets. We read, "As a lily among thorns, so is my beloved among the daughters;" 518 and again, "I have dwelt in the tabernacles of Kedar; peaceful among them that hated peace;" 519 and again, "Mark in the forehead those who sigh and cry for the iniquities of my people, which are done in the midst of them." 520 The inquirer would be confirmed by such passages; and being now a fellow-citizen with the saints and of the household of God, no longer an alien from Israel, but an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile, would learn to utter from a guileless heart the words which follow in the passage of Jeremiah already quoted, "O Lord, the patience of Israel: let all that forsake Thee be dismayed." After speaking of the partridge that is clamorous, and gathers what it has not brought forth; and after extolling the city set on an hill which cannot be hid, to prevent heretics from drawing men away from the Catholic Church; after the words, "A glorious high throne is our sanctuary," he seems to ask himself, What do we make of all those evil men who are found mixed with the Church, and who become more numerous as the Church extends, and as all nations are united in Christ? And then follow the words, "O Lord, the patience of Israel." Patience is necessary to obey the command, "Suffer both to grow together till the harvest." 521 Impatience towards the evil might lead to forsaking the good, who in the strict sense are the body of Christ, and to forsake them would be to forsake Him. So the prophet goes on to say, "Let all that forsake Thee be dismayed; let those who have departed to the earth be confounded." The earth is man trusting in himself, and inducp. 206 ing others to trust in him. So the prophet adds: "Let them be overthrown, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of life." This is the cry of the partridge, that it has got the fountain of life, and will give it; and so men are gathered to it, and depart from Christ, as if Christ, whose name they had professed, had not fulfilled His promise. The partridge gathers those whom it has not brought forth. And in order to do this, it declares, The salvation which Christ promises is with me; I will give it. In opposition to this the prophet says: "Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved." So we read in the apostle, "Let no man glory in men;" 522 or in the words of the prophet, "Thou art my praise." 523 Such is a specimen of instruction in apostolic and prophetic doctrine, by which a man may be built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.
17. Faustus has not told us how he would prove the divinity of Christ to the heathen, whom he makes to say: I believe neither the prophets in support of Christ, nor Christ in support of the prophets. It would be absurd to suppose that such a man would believe what Christ says of Himself, when he disbelieves what He says of others. For if he thinks Him unworthy of credit in one case, he must think Him so in all, or at least more so when speaking of Himself than when speaking of others. Perhaps, failing this, Faustus would read to him the Sibyls and Orpheus, and any heathen prophecies about Christ that he could find. But how could he do this, when he confesses that he knows none? His words are: "If, as is said, any prophecies of Christ are to be found in the Sibyl, or in Hermes, called Trismegistus, or Orpheus, or any heathen poet." How could he read writings of which he knows nothing, and which he supposes to exist only from report, to one who will not believe either the prophets or Christ? What, then, would he do? Would he bring forward Manichæus as a witness to Christ? The opposite of this is what the Manichæans do. They take advantage of the widespread fragrance of the name of Christ to gain acceptance for Manichæus, that the edge of their poisoned cup may be sweetened with this honey. Taking hold of the promises of Christ to His disciples that He would send the Paraclete, that is, the Comforter or Advocate, they say that this Paraclete is Manichæus, or in Manichæus, and so steal an entrance into the minds of men who do not know when He who was promised by Christ really came. Those who have read the canonical book called the Acts of the Apostles find a reference to Christs promise, and an account of its fulfillment. Faustus, then, has no proof to give to the inquirer. It is not likely that any one will be so infatuated as to take the authority of Manichæus when he rejects that of Christ. Would he not reply in derision, if not in anger, Why do you ask me to believe Persian books, when you forbid me to believe Hebrew books? The Manichæan has no hold on the inquirer, unless he is already in some way convinced of the truth of Christianity. When he finds him willing to believe Christ, then he deludes him with the representation of Christ given by Manichæus. So the partridge gathers what it has not brought forth. When will you whom he gathers leave him? When will you see him to be a fool, who tells you that Hebrew testimony is worthless in the case of unbelievers, and superfluous to believers?
18. If believers are to throw away all the books which have led them to believe, I see no reason why they should continue reading the Gospel itself. The Gospel, too, must be worthless to this inquirer, who, according to Faustus pitiful supposition, rejects with ridicule the authority of Christ. And to the believer it must be superfluous, if true notices of Christ are superfluous to believers. And if the Gospel should be read by the believer, that he may not forget what he has believed, so should the prophets, that he may not forget why he believed. For if he forgets this his faith cannot be firm. By this principle, you should throw away the books of Manichæus, on the authority of which you already believe that light—that is, God—fought with darkness, and that, in order to bind darkness, the light was first swallowed up and bound, and polluted and mangled by darkness, to be restored, and liberated, and purified, and healed by your eating, for which you are rewarded by not being condemned to the mass of darkness for ever, along with that part of the light which cannot be extricated. This fiction is sufficiently published by your practice and your words. Why do you seek for the testimony of books, and add to the embarrassment of your God by the consumption of strength in the needless task of writing manuscripts? Burn all your parchments, with their finely-ornamented binding; so you will be rid of a useless burden, and your God who suffers confinement in the volume will be set free. What a mercy it would be to the members of your God, if you could boil your books and eat them! There might be a difficulty, however, from the prohibition of animal food. Then the writing must share in the impurity p. 207 of the sheepskin. Indeed, you are to blame for this, for, like what you say was done in the first war between light and darkness, you brought what was clean in the pen in contact with the uncleanness of the parchment. Or perhaps, for the sake of the colors, we may put it the other way; and so the darkness would be yours, in the ink which you brought against the light of the white pages. If these remarks irritate you, you should rather be angry with yourselves for believing doctrines of which these are the necessary consequences. As for the books of the apostles and prophets, we read them as a record of our faith, to encourage our hope and animate our love. These books are in perfect harmony with one another; and their harmony, like the music of a heavenly trumpet, wakens us from the torpor of worldliness, and urges us on to the prize of our high calling. The apostle, after quoting from the prophets the words, "The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on me," goes on to speak of the benefit of reading the prophets: "For whatsoever things were written beforetime were written for our learning; that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope." 524 If Faustus denies this, we can only say with Paul, "If any one shall preach to you another doctrine than that ye have received, let him be accursed." 525
[On the Sibylline books, see article by G. H. Schodde in the Schaff-Hertzog Encyclopædia of Religious Knowledge, and the works there referred to. The Christian writers of the first three centuries seem not to have suspected the real character of these pseudo-prophetical writings, and to have regarded them as remarkable testimonies from the heathen world to the Truth of the Christian religion.—A.H.N.]200:490
["The Mercurius or Hermes Trismegistus of legend was a personage, an Egyptian sage or succession of sages, who, since the time of Plato, has been identified with the Thoth (the name of the month September), of that people.… He was considered to be the impersonation of the religion, art, learning and sacerdotal discipline of the Egyptian priesthood. He was by several of the Fathers, and, in modern times, by three of his earliest editors, supposed to have existed before the time of Moses, and to have obtained the appellation of Thrice greatest, from his threefold learning and rank of Philosopher, Priest and King, and that of Hermes, or Mercurius, as messenger and authoritative interpreter of divine things." The author of the books that go under the name of Hermes Trismegistus is thought to have lived about the beginning of the second century, and was a Christian Neo-Platonist. See J. C. Chambers: The Theological and Philosophical Works of Hermes Trismegistus, translated from the original Greek, with Preface, Notes and Index, Edinburh, 1882.—A.H.N.]200:491
Rom. 1:2, 3.200:492
Isa. xi. 10.200:493
Isa. vii. 14.200:494
Matt. xxii. 42-44.201:495
Matt. 24:24, 25.202:496
Ps. 2:7, 8.202:497
Ps. lxxii. 10.202:498
Ps. xlv. 7.202:499
Jer. x. 11.202:500
Jer. xvi. 19-21.202:501
Jer. xvii. 5-8.203:502
Jer. xvii. 9.203:503
Phil. ii. 6.203:504
John i. 1.203:505
John xiv. 9.203:506
Isa. ii. 17-20.203:507
Isa. i. 3.203:508
Isa. 65:2, Rom. 10:21.203:509
Isa. 6:10, Rom. 11:0.204:510
Rom. i. 28.204:511
1 Cor. ii. 8.204:512
2 Tim. iii. 8.204:513
Jer. xvii. 12.204:514
1 Cor. iii. 17.204:515
Matt. v. 14.204:516
Dan. 2:34, 35.205:517
John vi. 54.205:518
Cant. ii. 2.205:519
Ps. cxx. 7.205:520
Ezek. ix. 1.205:521
Matt. xiii. 30.206:522
1 Cor. iii. 21.206:523
Jer. xvii. 14.207:524
Rom. xv. 4.207:525
Gal. i. 9.
Next: Book XIV
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: http://St-Takla.org / Contact us at