Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol I:
Early Church Fathers
JUSTIN MARTYR: Chapter II.—Testimonies to the unity...
Chapter II.—Testimonies to the unity of God.
First, then, Æschylus, 2597
in expounding the arrangement of his work, 2598
expressed himself also as follows respecting the only God:—
“Afar from mortals place the holy God,
Nor ever think that He, like to thyself,
In fleshly robes is clad; for all unknown
Is the great God to such a worm as thou.
Divers similitudes He bears; at times
He seems as a consuming fire that burns
Unsated; now like water, then again
In sable folds of darkness shrouds Himself.
Nay, even the very beasts of earth reflect
His sacred image; whilst the wind, clouds, rain,
The roll of thunder and the lightning flash,
Reveal to men their great and sovereign Lord.
Before Him sea and rocks, with every fount,
And all the water floods, in reverence bend;
And as they gaze upon His awful face,
Mountains and earth, with the profoundest depths
Of ocean, and the highest peaks of hills,
Tremble: for He is Lord Omnipotent;
And this the glory is of God Most High.”
But he was not the only man initiated in the knowledge of God; for Sophocles also thus describes the nature of the only Creator of all things, the One God:—
“There is one God, in truth there is but one,
Who made the heavens and the broad earth beneath,
The glancing waves of ocean, and the winds;
But many of us mortals err in heart,
And set up, for a solace in our woes,
Images of the gods in stone and brass,
Or figures carved in gold or ivory;
And, furnishing for these, our handiworks,
Both sacrifice and rite magnificent,
We think that thus we do a pious work.”
And Philemon also, who published many explanations of ancient customs, shares in the knowledge of the truth; and thus he writes:—
“Tell me what thoughts of God we should conceive?
One, all things seeing, yet Himself unseen.”
Even Orpheus, too, who introduces three hundred and sixty gods, will bear testimony in my p. 291 favour from the tract called Diathecæ, in which he appears to repent of his error by writing the following:—
“Ill speak to those who lawfully may hear;
All others, ye profane, now close the doors!
And, O Musæus, hearken thou to me,
Who offspring art of the light-bringing moon.
The words I tell thee now are true indeed,
And if thou former thoughts of mine hast seen,
Let them not rob thee of the blessed life;
But rather turn the depths of thine own heart
Unto that place where light and knowledge dwell.
Take thou the word divine to guide thy steps;
And walking well in the straight certain path,
Look to the one and universal King,
One, self-begotten, and the only One
Of whom all things, and we ourselves, are sprung.
All things are open to His piercing gaze,
While He Himself is still invisible;
Present in all His works, though still unseen,
He gives to mortals evil out of good,
Sending both chilling wars and tearful griefs;
And other than the Great King there is none.
The clouds for ever settle round His throne;
And mortal eyeballs in mere mortal eyes
Are weak to see Jove, reigning over all.
He sits established in the brazen heavens
Upon His throne; and underneath His feet
He treads the earth, and stretches His right hand
To all the ends of ocean, and around
Tremble the mountain ranges, and the streams,
The depths, too, of the blue and hoary sea.”
He speaks indeed as if he had been an eyewitness of Gods greatness. And Pythagoras 2599
agrees with him when he writes:—
“Should one in boldness say, Lo, I am God!
Besides the One—Eternal—Infinite,
Then let him from the throne he has usurped
Put forth his power and form another globe,
Such as we dwell in, saying, This is mine.
Nor only so, but in this new domain
For ever let him dwell. If this he can,
Then verily he is a god proclaimed.”
Grotius supposes this to be Æschylus the younger in some prologue.
This may also be translated: “expounding the set of opinions prevalent in his day.”
“Pythagorei cujusdam fetus.”—Otto, after Goezius.
Next: Chapter III.—Testimonies to a future...