Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. XXIII.—Of the ages of vain superstitions, and the times at which they commenced
Chap. xxiii.—of the ages of vain superstitions, and the times at which they commenced.
Now, since we have ascertained the origin of vain superstitions, it remains that we should also collect the times during which they whose memory is honoured lived. Theophilus, 108 in his book written to Autolycus respecting the times, 109 says that Thallus relates in his history, that Belus, who is worshipped by the Babylonians and Assyrians, is found to have lived 322 years before the Trojan war; that Belus, moreover, was contemporary with Saturnus, and that they both grew up at one time;—which is so true, that it may be inferred by reason itself. For Agamemnon, who carried on the Trojan war, was the fourth 110 in descent from Jupiter; and Achilles and Ajax were of the third 111 descent from him; and Ulysses was related in the same degree. Priam, indeed, was distant by a long series of descents. But according to some authorities, Dardanus and Iasius were sons of Coritus, not of Jupiter. For if it had been so, Jupiter could not have formed that unchaste connection with Ganymede, his own descendant. Therefore, if you divide the years which are in agreement, the number will be found in harmony with the parents of those whom I have named above. Now, from the destruction of the Trojan city fourteen hundred and seventy years are made up. From this calculation of times, it is manifest that Saturnus has not been born more than eighteen hundred years, and he also was the father of all the gods. Let them not glory, then, in the antiquity of their sacred rites, since both their origin and system and times have been ascertained. There still remain some things which may be of great weight for the disproving of false religions; but I have determined now to bring this book to an end, that it may not exceed moderate limits. For those things must be followed up more fully, that, having refuted all things which seem to oppose the truth, we may be able to instruct in true religion men who, through ignorance of good things, wander in uncertainty. But the first step towards wisdom is to understand what is false; the second, to ascertain what is true. Therefore he who shall have profited by this first discussion of mine, in which we have exposed false things, will be excited to the knowledge of the truth, than which no pleasure is more gratifying to man; and he will now be worthy of the wisdom of heavenly training, who shall approach with willingness and preparation to the knowledge of the other subjects.
Theophilus was bishop of Antioch in the latter part of the second century. He was originally a heathen, and was converted to Christianity, as he tells us, by the reading of the Scriptures. [See vol. ii. pp. 87 and 120, this series.]39:109
De Temporibus. Among the extant works of Theophilus there is not any with this title, but his work to Autolycus contains an apology for Christianity in three books. It is to this that Lactantius here refers.39:110
Abnepos, son of a great-grandchild.39:111
Next: Book II. Of the Origin of Error
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