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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IV:
Against the Heathen. (Contra Gentes.): Human sacrifice. Its absurdity. Its prevalence. Its calamitous results.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

§25. Human sacrifice. Its absurdity. Its prevalence. Its calamitous results.

But some have been led by this time to such a pitch of irreligion and folly as to slay and to offer in sacrifice to their false gods even actual men, whose figures and forms the gods are. Nor do they see, wretched men, that the victims they are slaying are the patterns of the gods they make and worship, and to whom they are offering the men. For they are offering, one may say, equals to equals, or rather, the higher to the lower; for they are offering living creatures to dead, and rational beings to things without motion. 2. For the Scythians who are called Taurians offer in sacrifice to their Virgin, as they call her, survivors from wrecks, and such Greeks as they catch, going thus far in impiety against men of their own race, and thus exposing the savagery of their gods, in that those whom Providence has rescued from danger and from the sea, they slay, almost fighting against Providence; because they frustrate the kindness of Providence by their own brutal character. But others, when they are returned victorious from war, thereupon dividing their prisoners into hundreds, and taking a man from each, sacrifice to Ares the man they have picked out from each hundred. 3. Nor is it only Scythians who commit these abominations on account of the ferocity natural to them as barbarians: on the contrary, this deed is a special result of the wickedness connected with idols and false gods. For the Egyptians used formerly to offer victims of this kind to Hera, and the Phœnicians and Cretans used to propitiate Cronos in their sacrifices of children. And even the ancient Romans used to worship Jupiter Latiarius, as he was called, with human sacrifices, and some in one way, some in another, but all 139 without exception committed and incurred the pollution: they incurred it by the mere perpetration of the murderous deeds, while they polluted their own temples by filling them with the smoke of such sacrifices. 4. This then was the ready source of numerous evils to mankind. For seeing that their false gods were pleased with these things, they forthwith imitated their gods with like misdoings, thinking that the imitation of superior beings, as they considered them, was a credit to themselves. Hence mankind was thinned by murders of grown men and children, and by licence of all kinds. For nearly every city is full of licentiousness of all kinds, the result of the savage character of its gods; nor is there one of sober life in the idols’ temples 140 save only he whose licentiousness is witnessed to by them all 141 .



On human sacrifice see Saussaye, §17, and Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, pp. 343 sqq., especially p. 347, note 1, for references to examples near the time of this treatise.


Reading εἰδωλείοις conj. Marr.


i.e. among the licentious worshippers the lifeless image is the only one free from vice, although the worshippers credit him with divine attributes, and therefore, according to their superstition, with a licentious life.

Next: The moral corruptions of Paganism all admittedly originated with the gods.

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