Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter XXV.—Plato an Imitator of Moses in Framing Laws.
Chapter XXV.—Plato an Imitator of Moses in Framing Laws.
Plato the philosopher, aided in legislation by the books of Moses, censured the polity of Minos, and that of Lycurgus, as having bravery alone as their aim; while he praised as more seemly the polity which expresses some one thing, and directs according to one precept. For he says that it becomes us to philosophize with strength, and dignity, and wisdom,—holding unalterably the same opinions about the same things, with reference to the dignity of heaven. Accordingly, therefore, he interprets what is in the law, enjoining us to look to one God and to do justly. Of politics, he says there are two kinds,—the department of law, and that of politics, strictly so called.
And he refers to the Creator, as the Statesman (ὁ πολιτικός) by way of eminence, in his book of this name (ὁ πολιτικός); and those who lead an active and just life, combined with contemplation, he calls statesmen (πολιτικοί). That department of politics which is called “Law,” he divides into administrative magnanimity and private good order, which he calls orderliness; and harmony, and sobriety, which are seen when rulers suit their subjects, and subjects are obedient to their rulers; a result which the system of Moses sedulously aims at effecting. Further, that the department of law is founded on generation, that of politics on friendship and consent, Plato, with the aid he received, affirms; and so, coupled with the laws the philosopher in the Epinomis, who knew the course of all generation, which takes place by the instrumentality of the planets; and the other philosopher, Timæus, who was an astronomer and student of the motions of the stars, and of their sympathy and association with one another, he consequently joined to the “polity” (or “republic”). Then, in my opinion, the end both of the statesman, and of him who lives according to the law, is contemplation. It is necessary, therefore, that public affairs should be rightly managed. But to philosophize is best. For he who is wise will live concentrating all his energies on knowledge, directing his life by good deeds, despising the opposite, and following the pursuits which contribute to truth. And the law is not what is decided by law (for what is seen is not vision), nor every opinion (not certainly what is evil). But law is the opinion which is good, and what is good is that which is true, and what is true is that which finds “true being,” and attains to it. “He who is,” 2109 says Moses, “sent me.” In accordance with which, namely, good opinion, some have called law, right reason, which enjoins what is to be done and forbids what is not to be done.
“I AM,” A.V.: Ex. iii. 14.
Next: Chapter XXVI.—Moses Rightly Called a Divine Legislator, And, Though Inferior to Christ, Far Superior to the Great Legislators of the Greeks, Minos and Lycurgus.
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