p. 723 Ancient Syriac Documents.
The Book of the Laws of Divers Countries. 3356
Some days since we were calling 3357 to pay a visit to our brother Shemashgram, and Bardesan came and found us there. And when he had made inquiries after his health, 3358 and ascertained that he was well, he asked us, “What were you talking about? for I heard your voice outside as I was coming in.” For it was his habit, whenever he found us talking about anything before he came, 3359 to ask us, “What were you saying?” that he might talk with us about it.
“Avida here,” said we to him, “was saying to us, If God is one, as ye say, and if He is the creator of men, and if it is His will that you should do that which you are commanded, why did He not so create men that they should not be able to do wrong, but should constantly be doing that which is right? for in this way His will would have been accomplished.”
“Tell me, my son Avida,” said Bardesan to him, “why it has come into thy mind that the God of all is not One; or that He is One, but doth not will that men should behave themselves justly and uprightly?”
“If,” said Bardesan to him, “thou wishest to learn, it were for thy advantage to learn from some one who is older than they; but if to teach, it is not requisite for thee to ask them, but rather that thou shouldst induce them to ask thee what they wish. For teachers are asked questions, and do not themselves ask them; or, if they ever do ask a question, it is to direct the mind of the questioner, so that he may ask properly, and they may know what his desire is. For it is a good thing that a man should know how to ask questions.”
“Thou speakest becomingly,” 3360 said Bardesan. “But know, nevertheless, that he who asks questions properly, and wishes to be convinced, and approaches the way of truth without contentiousness, has no need to be bashful; because he is sure by means of the things I have mentioned to please him to whom his questions are addressed. If so be, therefore, my son, thou hast any opinion of thy own 3361 respecting this matter about which thou hast asked, tell it to us all; and, if we too approve of it, we shall express our agreement with thee; and, if we do not approve of it, we shall be under obligation to show thee why we do not approve of it. But if thou wast simply desirous of becoming acquainted with this subject, and hast no opinion of thy own about it, as a man who has but lately joined the disciples and is a recent inquirer, I will tell thee respecting it; so that thou mayest not go from us empty away. If, moreover, thou art pleased with those things which I shall say to thee, we have other things besides to tell thee 3362 concerning this matter; but, if thou art not pleased, we on our part shall have stated our views without any personal feeling.”
“I too,” said Avida, “shall be much gratified 3363 to hear and to be convinced: because it is not from another that I have heard of this subject, but I have spoken of it to my brethren here out of my own mind; and they have not cared to convince me; but they say, Only believe, p. 724 and thou wilt then be able to know everything. But for my part, I cannot believe unless I be convinced.”
“Not only,” said Bardesan, “is Avida unwilling to believe, but there are many others also who, because there is no faith in them, are not even capable of being convinced; but they are always pulling down and building up, and so are found destitute of all knowledge of the truth. But notwithstanding, since Avida is not willing to believe, lo! I will speak to you who do believe, concerning this matter about which he asks; and thus he too will hear something further about it.”
He began accordingly to address us as follows: “Many men are there who have not faith, and have not received knowledge from the True Wisdom. 3364 In consequence of this, they are not competent to speak and give instruction to others, nor are they readily inclined themselves to hear. For they have not the foundation of faith to build upon, nor have they any confidence on which to rest their hope. Moreover, because they are accustomed to doubt even concerning God, they likewise have not in them the fear of Him, which would of itself deliver them from all other fears: for he in whom there is no fear of God is the slave of all sorts of fears. For even with regard to those things of various kinds which they disbelieve, they are not certain that they disbelieve them rightly, but they are unsettled in their opinions, and have no fixed belief, 3365 and the taste of their thoughts is insipid in their own mouth; and they are always haunted with fear, and flushed with excitement, and reckless.
“But with regard to what Avida has said: How is it that God did not so make us that we should not sin and incur condemnation?—if man had been made so, he would not have belonged to himself, but would have been the instrument of him that moved him; and it is evident also, that he who moves an instrument as he pleases, moves it either for good or for evil. And how, in that case, would a man differ from a harp, on which another plays; or from a ship, which another guides: where the praise and the blame reside in the hand of the performer or the steersman, 3366 and the harp itself knows not what is played on it, nor the ship itself whether it be well steered and guided or ill, they being only instruments made for the use of him in whom is the requisite skill? But God in His benignity chose not so to make man; but by freedom He exalted him above many of His creatures, and even made him equal with the angels. For look at the sun, and the moon, and the signs of the zodiac, 3367 and all the other creatures which are greater than we in some points, and see how individual freedom has been denied them, and how they are all fixed in their course by decree, so that they may do that only which is decreed for them, and nothing else. For the sun never says, I will not rise at my appointed time; nor the moon, I will not change, nor wane, nor wax; nor does any one of the stars say, I will not rise nor set; nor the sea, I will not bear up the ships, nor stay within my boundaries; nor the mountains, We will not continue in the places in which we are set; nor do the winds say, We will not blow; nor the earth, I will not bear up and sustain whatsoever is upon me. But all these things are servants, and are subject to one decree: for they are the instruments of the wisdom of God, which erreth not.
“Not so, however, with man: for, if everything ministered, who would be he that is ministered to? And, if everything were ministered to, who would be he that ministered? In that case, too, there would not be one thing diverse from another: yet that which is one, and in which there is no diversity of parts, is a being 3368 which up to this time has not been fashioned. But those things which are destined 3369 for ministering have been fixed in the power of man: because in the image of Elohim 3370 was he made. Therefore have these things, in the benignity of God, been given to him, that they may minister to him for a season. It has also been given to him to be guided by his own will; so that whatever he is able to do, if he will he may do it, and if he do not will he may not do it, and that so he may justify himself or condemn. For, had he been made so as not to be able to do evil and thereby incur condemnation, in like manner also the good which he did would not have been his own, and he could not have been justified by it. For, if any one should not of his own will do that which is good or that which is evil, his justification and his condemnation would rest simply with that Fortune to which he is subjected. 3371
“It will therefore be manifest to you, that the goodness of God is great toward man, and that p. 725 freedom has been given to him in greater measure than to any of those elemental bodies 3372 of which we have spoken, in order that by this freedom he may justify himself, and order his conduct in a godlike manner, and be copartner with angels, who are likewise possessed of personal freedom. For we are sure that, if the angels likewise had not been possessed of personal freedom, they would not have consorted with the daughters of men, and sinned, and fallen from their places. In like manner, too, those other angels, who did the will of their Lord, were, by reason of their self-control, raised to higher rank, and sanctified, and received noble gifts. For every being in existence is in need of the Lord of all; of His gifts also there is no end.
Know ye, however, notwithstanding what I have said, that even those things of which I have spoken as subsisting by decree are not absolutely destitute of all freedom; and on this account, at the last day, they will all be made subject to judgment.”
“Not inasmuch as they are fixed, O Philip,” said he, “will the elements be judged, but inasmuch as they are endowed with power. For beings 3373 are not deprived of their natural properties 3374 when they come to be fashioned, but only of the full exercise of their strength, 3375 suffering a decrease 3376 of power through their intermingling one with another, and being kept in subjection by the power of their Maker; and in so far as they are in subjection they will not be judged, but in respect of that only which is under their own control.”
“This,” said Bardesan, “is the saying of one who has not the will to do that which is right; nay, more, of him who has already yielded obedience and submission to his foe. For men have not been commanded to do anything but that which they are able to do. For the commandments set before us are only two, and they are such as are compatible with freedom and consistent with equity: one, that we refrain from everything which is wrong, and which we should not like to have done to ourselves; and the other, that we should do that which is right, and which we love and are pleased to have done to us likewise. Who, then, is the man that is too weak to avoid stealing, or to avoid lying, or to avoid acts of profligacy, or to avoid hatred and deception? For, lo! all these things are under the control of the mind of man; and are not dependent on 3377 the strength of the body, but on the will of the soul. For even if a man be poor, and sick, and old, and disabled in his limbs, he is able to avoid doing all these things. And, as he is able to avoid doing these things, so is he able to love, and to bless, and to speak the truth, and to pray for what is good for every one with whom he is acquainted; and if he be in health, and capable of working, 3378 he is able also to give of that which he has; moreover, to support with strength of body him that is sick and enfeebled—this also he can do.
“Who, then, it is that is not capable of doing that which men destitute of faith complain of, I know not. For my part, I think that it is precisely in respect to these commandments that man has more power than in anything else. For they are easy, and there are no circumstances that can hinder their performance. For we are not commanded to carry heavy loads of stones, or of timber, or of anything else, which those only who have great bodily strength can do; nor to build fortresses 3379 and found cities, which kings only can do; nor to steer a ship, which mariners only have the skill to steer; nor to measure and divide land, which land-measurers only know how to do; nor to practise any one of those arts which are possessed by some, while the rest are destitute of them. But there have been given to us, in accordance with the benignity of God, commandments having no harshness in them 3380 —such as any living man whatsoever 3381 may rejoice to do. 3382 For there is no man that does not rejoice when he does that which is right, nor any one that is not gladdened within himself if he abstains from things that are bad—except those who were not created for this good thing, and are called tares. 3383 For would not the judge be unjust who should censure a man with regard to any such thing as he has not the ability to do?”
“To him that hath the will,” said Bardesan, “I have said, and do still say, that they are easy. For this obedience I contend for is the proper behaviour of a free mind, 3384 and of the soul which has p. 726 not revolted against its governors. As for the action of the body, there are many things which hinder it: especially old age, and sickness, and poverty.”
“It is easier,” said Bardesan, “to do good than to abstain from evil. For the good comes from the man himself, 3385 and therefore he rejoices whenever he does good; but the evil is the work of the Enemy, and therefore it is that, only when a man is excited by some evil passion, and is not in his sound natural condition, 3386 he does the things that are bad. For know, my son, that for a man to praise and bless his friend is an easy thing; but for a man to refrain from taunting and reviling one whom he hates is not easy: nevertheless, it is possible. When, too, a man does that which is right, his mind is gladdened, and his conscience at ease, and he is pleased for every one to see what he does. But, when a man behaves amiss and commits wrong, he is troubled and excited, and full of anger and rage, and distressed in his soul and in his body; and, when he is in this state of mind, he does not like to be seen by any one; and even those things in which he rejoices, and which are accompanied with praise and blessing from others, are spurned from his thoughts, while those things by which he is agitated and disturbed are rendered more distressing to him because accompanied by the curse of conscious guilt.
“Perhaps, however, some one will say that fools also are pleased when they do abominable things. Undoubtedly: but not because they do them as such, nor because they receive any conmendation for them, nor because they do them with a good hope; 3387 nor does the pleasure itself stay long with them. For the pleasure which is experienced in a healthy state of the soul, with a good hope, is one thing; and the pleasure of a diseased state of the soul, with a bad hope, is another. For lust is one thing, and love is another; and friendship is one thing, and good-fellowship another; and we ought without any difficulty to understand that the false counterfeit of affection which is called lust, even though there be in it the enjoyment of the moment, is nevertheless widely different from true affection, whose enjoyment is for ever, incorruptible and indestructible.”
“If all men,” said Bardesan, “acted alike, 3388 and followed one bias, 3389 it would then be manifest that it was their nature that guided them, and that they had not that freedom of which I have been speaking to you. That you may understand, however, what is nature and what is freedom, I will proceed to inform you.
“The nature of man is, that he should be born, and grow up, and rise to his full stature, and produce children, and grow old, eating and drinking, and sleeping and waking, and that then he should die. These things, because they are of nature, belong to all men; and not to all men only, but also to all animals whatsoever, 3390 and some of them also to trees. For this is the work of physical nature, 3391 which makes and produces and regulates everything just as it has been commanded. Nature, I say, is found to be maintained among animals also in their actions. For the lion eats flesh, in accordance with his nature; and therefore all lions are eaters of flesh. The sheep eats grass; and therefore all sheep are eaters of grass. The bee makes honey, by which it is sustained; therefore all bees are makers of honey. The ant collects for herself a store in summer, from which to sustain herself in winter; and therefore do all ants act likewise. The scorpion strikes with its sting him who has not hurt it; and thus do all scorpions strike. Thus all animals preserve their nature: the eaters of flesh do not eat herbage; nor do the eaters of herbage eat flesh.
“Men, on the contrary, are not governed thus; but, whilst in the matters pertaining to their bodies they preserve their nature like animals, in the matters pertaining to their minds they do that which they choose, as those who are free, 3392 and endowed with power, and as made in the likeness of God. For there are some of them that eat flesh, and do not touch bread; and there are some of them that make a distinction between the several kinds of flesh-food; and there are some of them that do not eat the flesh of any animal whatever. 3393 There are some of them that become the husbands of their mothers, and of their sisters, and of their daughters; and there are some who do not consort with women at all. There are those who take it upon themselves to inflict vengeance, like lions and leopards; and there are those who strike him that has not done them any wrong, like scorpions; and there are those that are led like sheep, and do not harm their conductors. There are some that behave themselves with kindness, p. 727 and some with justice, and some with wickedness.
“If any one should say that each one of them has a nature so to do, let him be assured 3394 that it is not so. For there are those who once were profligates and drunkards; and, when the admonition of good counsels reached them, they became pure and sober, 3395 and spurned their bodily appetites. And there are those who once behaved with purity and sobriety; and when they turned away from right admonition, and dared to set themselves against the commands of Deity and of their teachers, they fell from the way of truth, and became profligates and revellers. And there are those who after their fall repented again, and fear came and abode upon them, and they turned themselves afresh towards the truth which they had before held. 3396
“What, therefore, is the nature of man? For, lo! all men differ one from another in their conduct and in their aims, 3397 and such only as are of 3398 one mind and of one purpose resemble one another. But those men who, up to the present moment, have been enticed by their appetites and governed by their anger, are resolved to ascribe any wrong they do to their Maker, that they themselves may be found faultless, and that He who made them may, in the idle talk of men, 3399 bear the blame. They do not consider that nature is amenable to no law. For a man is not found fault with for being tall or short in his stature, or white or black, or because his eyes are large or small, or for any bodily defect whatsoever; but he is found fault with if he steal, or lie, or practise deceit, or poison another, or be abusive, or do any other such-like things.
“From hence, lo! it will be evident, that for those things which are not in our own hands, but which we have from nature, we are in no wise condemned, nor are we in any wise justified; but by those things which we do in the exercise of our personal freedom, if they be right we are justified and entitled to praise, and if they be wrong we are condemned and subjected to blame.”
“I too am aware, O Philip and Baryama,” said he to us, “that there are such men: those who are called Chaldæans, and also others who are fond of this subtle knowledge, 3400 as I myself also once was. For it has been said by me in another place, 3401 that the soul of man longs 3402 to know that which the many are ignorant of, and those men make it their aim to do this; 3403 and that all the wrong which men commit, and all that they do aright, and all those things which happen to them, as regards riches and poverty, and sickness and health, and blemishes of the body, come to them through the governance of those stars which are called the Seven; 3404 and that they are, in fact, governed by them. But there are others who affirm the opposite of these things,—how that this art is a lying invention of the astrologers; 3405 or that Fate has no existence whatever, but is an empty name; that, on the contrary, all things, great and small, are placed in the hands of man; and that bodily blemishes and faults simply befall and happen to him by chance. But others, again, say that whatsoever a man does he does of his own will, in the exercise of the freedom which has been given to him, and that the faults and blemishes and other untoward things which befall him he receives as punishment from God.
“For myself, however according to my weak judgment, 3406 the matter appears to stand thus: that these three opinions 3407 are partly to be accepted as true, and partly to be rejected as false;—accepted as true, because men speak after the appearances which they see, and also because these men see how things come upon them as if accidentally; to be set aside as fallacious, because the wisdom of God is too profound 3408 for them—that wisdom which founded the world, and created man, and ordained Governors, and gave to all things the degree of pre-eminence which is suited to every one of them. What I mean is, that this power is possessed by God, and the Angels, and the Potentates, 3409 and the Governors, 3410 and the Elements, and men, and animals; but that this power has not been given to all these orders of beings of which I have spoken in respect to everything (for He that has power over everything is One); but over some things they have power, and over some things they have not power, as I have been saying: in order that in those things over which they have power the p. 728 goodness of God may be seen, and in those over which they have no power they may know that they have a Superior.
“There is, then, such a thing as Fate, as the astrologers say. That everything, moreover, is not under the control of our will, is apparent from this—that the majority of men have had the will to be rich, and to exercise dominion over their fellows, and to be healthy in their bodies, and to have things in subjection to them as they please; but that wealth is not found except with a few, nor dominion except with one here and another there, nor health of body with all men; and that even those who are rich do not have complete possession of their riches, nor do those who are in power have things in subjection to them as they wish, but that sometimes things are disobedient to them as they do not wish; and that at one time the rich are rich as they desire, and at another time they become poor as they do not desire; and that those who are thoroughly poor have dwellings such as they do not wish, and pass their lives in the world as they do not like, and covet many things which only flee from them. Many have children, and do not rear them; others rear them, and do not retain possession of them; others retain possession of them, and they become a disgrace and a sorrow to their parents. Some are rich, as they wish, and are afflicted with ill-health, as they do not wish; others are blessed with good health, as they wish, and afflicted with poverty, as they do not wish. There are those who have in abundance the things they wish for, and but few of those things for which they do not wish; and there are others who have in abundance the things they do not wish for, and but few of those for which they do wish. 3411
“And so the matter is found to stand thus: that wealth, and honours, and health, and sickness, and children, and all the other various objects of desire, are placed under the control of Fate, and are not in our own power; but that, on the contrary, while we are pleased and delighted with such things as are in accordance with our wishes, towards such as we do not wish for we are drawn by force; and, from those things which happen to us when we are not pleased, it is evident that those things also with which we are pleased do not happen to us because we desire them; but that things happen as they do happen, and with some of them we are pleased, and with others not.
“But let us now proceed to show with respect to Fate that it has not power over everything. Clearly not: because that which is called Fate is itself nothing more than a certain order of procession, 3412 which has been given to the Potentates and Elements by God; and, in conformity with this said procession and order, intelligences 3413 undergo change when they descend 3414 to be with the soul, and souls undergo change when they descend 3415 to be with bodies; and this order, under the name of Fate and γένεσις, 3416 is the agent of the changes 3417 that take place in this assemblage of parts of which man consists, 3418 which is being sifted and purified for the benefit of whatsoever by the grace of God and by goodness has been benefited, and is being and will continue to be benefited until the close of all things.
“The body, then, is governed by Nature, the soul also sharing in its experiences and sensations; and the body is neither hindered nor helped by Fate in the several acts it performs. For a man does not become a father before the age of fifteen, nor does a woman become a mother before the age of thirteen. In like manner, too, there is a law for old age: for women then become incapable of bearing, and men cease to possess the natural power of begetting children; while other animals, which are likewise governed by their nature, do, even before those ages I have mentioned, not only produce offspring, but also become too old to do so, just as the bodies of men also, when they are grown old, cease to propagate: nor is Fate able to give them offspring at a time when the body has not the natural power to give them. Neither, again, is Fate able to preserve the body of man in life without meat and drink; nor yet, even when it has meat and drink, to grant it exemption from death: for these and many other things belong exclusively to Nature. 3419
“But, when the times and methods of Nature p. 729 have had their full scope, then does Fate come and make its appearance among them, and produce effects of various kinds: at one time helping Nature and augmenting its power, and at another crippling and baffling it. Thus, from Nature comes the growth and perfecting of the body; but apart from Nature, that is by Fate, come diseases and blemishes in the body. From Nature comes the union of male and female, and the unalloyed happiness of them both; but from Fate comes hatred and the dissolution of the union, and, moreover, all that impurity and lasciviousness which by reason of the natural propensity to intercourse men practise in their lust. From Nature comes birth and children; and from Fate, that sometimes the children are deformed, and sometimes are cast away, and sometimes die before their time. From Nature comes a supply of nourishment sufficient for the bodies of all creatures; 3420 and from Fate comes the want of sustenance, and consequent suffering in those bodies; and so, again, from the same Fate comes gluttony and unnecessary luxury. Nature ordains that the aged shall be judges for the young, and the wise for the foolish, and that the strong shall be set over 3421 the weak, and the brave over the timid; but Fate brings it to pass that striplings are set over the aged, and the foolish over the wise, and that in time of war the weak command the strong, and the timid the brave.
“You must distinctly understand 3422 that, in all cases in which Nature is disturbed from its direct course, its disturbance comes by reason of Fate; and this happens because the Chiefs 3423 and Governors, with whom rests that agency of change 3424 which is called Nativity, are opposed to one another. Some of them, which are called Dexter, are those which help Nature, and add to its predominance, 3425 whenever the procession is favourable to them, and they stand in those regions of the zodiac which are in the ascendant, in their own portions. 3426 Those, on the contrary, which are called Sinister are evil, and whenever they in their turn are in possession of the ascendant they act in opposition to Nature; and not on men only do they inflict harm, but at times on animals also, and trees, and fruits, and the produce of the year, and fountains of water, and, in short, on everything that is comprised within Nature, which is under their government.
“And in consequence of this,—namely, the divisions and parties which exist among the Potentates,—some men have thought that the world is governed by these contending powers without any superintendence from above. But that is because they do not understand that this very thing—I mean the parties and divisions subsisting among them,—and the justification and condemnation consequent on their behaviour, belong to that constitution of things founded in freedom which has been given by God, to the end that these agents likewise, by reason of their self-determining power, 3427 may be either justified or condemned. Just as we see that Fate crushes Nature, so can we also see the freedom of man defeating and crushing Fate itself,—not, however, in everything,—just as also Fate itself does not in everything defeat Nature. For it is proper that the three things, Nature, and Fate, and Freedom, should be continued in existence until the procession of which I before spoke be completed, and the appointed measure and number of its evolutions be accomplished, even as it seemed good to Him who ordains of what kind shall be the mode of life and the end of all creatures, and the condition of all beings and natures.”
“I am convinced,” said Avida, “by the arguments thou hast brought forward, that it is not from his nature that a man does wrong, and also that all men are not governed alike. If thou canst further prove also that it is not from Fate and Destiny that those who do wrong so act, then will it be incumbent on us to believe that man possesses personal freedom, and by his nature has the power both to follow that which is right and to avoid that which is wrong, and will therefore also justly be judged at the last day.”
“Art thou,” said Bardesan, “by the fact that all men are not governed alike, convinced that it is not from their nature that they do wrong? Why, then, thou canst not possibly escape the conviction 3428 that neither also from Fate exclusively do they do wrong, if we are able to show thee that the sentence of the Fates and Potentates does not influence all men alike, but that we have freedom in our own selves, so that we can avoid serving physical nature and being influenced by the control of the Potentates.”
“Hast thou,” said Bardesan, “read the books of the astrologers 3429 who are in Babylon, in which is described what effects the stars have in their various combinations at the Nativities of men; and the books of the Egyptians, in which are described all the various characters which men happen to have?”
“Listen, then,” said Bardesan, “and observe, that that which the stars decree by their Fate and their portions is not practised by all men alike who are in all parts of the earth. For men have made laws for themselves in various countries, in the exercise of that freedom which was given them by God: forasmuch as this gift is in its very nature opposed to that Fate emanating from the Potentates, who assume to themselves that which was not given them. I will begin my enumeration of these laws, so far as I can remember them, from the East, the beginning of the whole world:—
“Laws of the Seres.—The Seres have laws forbidding to kill, or to commit impurity, or to worship idols; and in the whole of Serica there are no idols, and no harlots, nor any one that kills a man, nor any that is killed: although they, like other men, are born at all hours and on all days. Thus the fierce Mars, whensoever he is posited in the zenith, does not overpower the freedom of the Seres, and compel a man to shed the blood of his fellow with an iron weapon; nor does Venus, when posited with Mars, compel any man whatever among the Seres to consort with his neighbours wife, or with any other woman. Rich and poor, however, and sick people and healthy, and rulers and subjects, are there: because such matters are given into the power of the Governors.
“Laws of the Brahmans who are in India.—Again, among the Hindoos, the Brahmans, of whom there are many thousands and tens of thousands, have a law forbidding to kill at all, or to pay reverence to idols, or to commit impurity, or to eat flesh, or to drink wine; and among these people not one of these things ever takes place. Thousands of years, too, have elapsed, during which these men, lo! have been governed by this law which they made for themselves.
“Another Law which is in India.—There is also another law in India, and in the same zone, 3431 prevailing among those who are not of the caste 3432 of the Brahmans, and do not embrace their teaching, bidding them serve idols, and commit impurity, and kill, and do other bad things, which by the Brahmans are disapproved. In the same zone of India, too, there are men who are in the habit of eating the flesh of men, just as all other nations eat the flesh of animals. Thus the evil stars have not compelled the Brahmans to do evil and impure things; nor have the good stars prevailed on the rest of the Hindoos to abstain from doing evil things; nor have those stars which are well located in the regions which properly belong to them, 3433 and in the signs of the zodiac favourable to a humane disposition, 3434 prevailed on those who eat the flesh of men to abstain from using this foul and abominable food.
“Laws of the Persians.—The Persians, again, have made themselves laws permitting them to take as wives their sisters, and their daughters, and their daughters daughters; and there are some who go yet further, and take even their mothers. Some of these said Persians are scattered abroad, away from their country, and are found in Media, and in the country of the Parthians, 3435 and in Egypt, and in Phrygia (they are called Magi); and in all the countries and zones in which they are found, they are governed by this law which was made for their fathers. Yet we cannot say that for all the Magi, and for the rest of the Persians, Venus was posited with the Moon and with Saturn in the house of Saturn in her portions, while the aspect of Mars was toward them. 3436 There are many places, too, in the kingdom of the Parthians, where men kill their wives, and their brothers, and their children, and incur no penalty; while among the Romans and the Greeks, he that kills one of these incurs capital punishment, the severest of penalties.
“Laws of the Geli.—Among the Geli the women sow and reap, and build, and perform all the tasks of labourers, and wear no raiment of colours, and put on no shoes, and use no pleasant ointments; nor does any one find fault with them when they consort with strangers, or cultivate intimacies with their household slaves. But the husbands of these Gelæ are dressed in garments of colours, and ornamented with gold and jewels, and anoint themselves with pleasant ointments. Nor is it on account of any effeminacy on their part that they act in this manner, but on account of the law which has been made for them: in fact, all the men are fond of hunting and addicted to war. But we cannot say that for all the women of the Geli Venus was posited in Capricorn or in Aquarius, in a position of ill luck; nor can we possibly say that for all the Geli Mars and Venus were posited in p. 731 Aries, where it is written that brave and wanton 3437 men are born.
“Laws of the Bactrians.—Among the Bactrians, who are called Cashani, the women adorn themselves with the goodly raiment of men, and with much gold, and with costly jewels; and the slaves and handmaids minister to them more than to their husbands; and they ride on horses decked out with trapping of gold and with precious stones. 3438 These women, moreover, do not practise continency, but have intimacies with their slaves, and with strangers who go to that country; and their husbands do not find fault with them, nor have the women themselves any fear of punishment, because the Cashani look upon 3439 their wives only as mistresses. Yet we cannot say that for all the Bactrian women Venus and Mars and Jupiter are posited in the house of Mars in the middle of the heavens, 3440 the place where women are born that are rich and adulterous, and that make their husbands subservient to them in everything.
“Laws of the Racami, and of the Edessæans, and of the Arabians.—Among the Racami, and the Edessæans, and the Arabians, not only is she that commits adultery put to death, but she also upon whom rests the suspicion 3441 of adultery suffers capital punishment.
“Laws in Hatra.—There is a law in force 3442 in Hatra, that whosoever steals any little thing, even though it were worthless as water, shall be stoned. Among the Cashani, on the contrary, if any one commits such a theft as this, they merely spit in his face. Among the Romans, too, he that commits a small theft is scourged and sent about his business. On the other side of the Euphrates, and as you go eastward, he that is stigmatized as either a thief or a murderer does not much resent it; 3443 but, if a man be stigmatized as an arsenocœte, he will avenge himself even to the extent of killing his accuser.
“Laws.…—Among 3444 …boys…to us, and are not…Again, in all the region of the East, if any persons are thus stigmatized, and are known to be guilty, their own fathers and brothers put them to death; and very often 3445 they do not even make known the graves where they are buried.
“Such are the laws of the people of the East. But in the North, and in the country of the Gauls 3446 and their neighbours, such youths among them as are handsome the men take as wives, and they even have feasts on the occasion; and it is not considered by them as a disgrace, nor as a reproach, because of the law which prevails among them. But it is a thing impossible that all those in Gaul who are branded with this disgrace should at their Nativities have had Mercury posited with Venus in the house of Saturn, and within the limits of Mars, and in the signs of the zodiac to the west. For, concerning such men as are born under these conditions, it is written that they are branded with infamy, as being like women.
“Laws of the Amazons.—As regards the Amazons, they, all of them, the entire nation, have no husbands; but like animals, once a year, in the spring-time, they issue forth from their territories and cross the river; and, having crossed it, they hold a great festival on a mountain, and the men from those parts come and stay with them fourteen days, and associate with them, and they become pregnant by them, and pass over again to their own country; and, when they are delivered, such of the children as are males they cast away, and the females they bring up. Now it is evident that, according to the ordinance of Nature, since they all became pregnant in one month, they also in one month are all delivered, a little sooner or a little later; and, as we have heard, all of them are robust and warlike; but not one of the stars is able to help any of those males who are born so as to prevent their being cast away.
“The Book of the Astrologers.—It is written in the book of the astrologers, that, when Mercury is posited with Venus in the house of Mercury, he produces painters, sculptors, and bankers; but that, when they are in the house of Venus, they produce perfumers, and dancers, p. 732 and singers, and poets. And yet, in all the country of the Tayites and of the Saracens, and in Upper Libya and among the Mauritanians, and in the country of the Nomades, which is at the mouth of the Ocean, and in outer Germany, and in Upper Sarmatia, and in Spain, and in all the countries to the north of Pontus, and in all the country of the Alanians, and among the Albanians, and among the Zazi, and in Brusa, which is beyond the Douro, one sees neither sculptors, nor painters, nor perfumers, nor bankers, nor poets; but, on the contrary, this decree of Mercury and Venus is prevented from influencing the entire circumference of the world. In the whole of Media, all men when they die, and even while life is still remaining in them, are cast to the dogs, and the dogs eat the dead of the whole of Media. Yet we cannot say that all the Medians are born having the Moon posited with Mars in Cancer in the day-time beneath the earth: for it is written that those whom dogs eat are so born. The Hindoos, when they die, are all of them burnt with fire, and many of their wives are burnt along with them alive. But we cannot say that all those women of the Hindoos who are burnt had at their Nativity Mars and the Sun posited in Leo in the night-time beneath the earth, as those persons are born who are burnt with fire. All the Germans die by strangulation, 3447 except those who are killed in battle. But it is a thing impossible, that, at the Nativity of all the Germans the Moon and Hora should have been posited between Mars and Saturn. The truth is, that in all countries, every day, and at all hours, men are born under Nativities diverse from one another, and the laws of men prevail over the decree of the stars, and they are governed by their customs. Fate does not compel the Seres to commit murder against their wish, nor the Brahmans to eat flesh; nor does it hinder the Persians from taking as wives their daughters and their sisters, nor the Hindoos from being burnt, nor the Medes from being devoured by dogs, nor the Parthians from taking many wives, nor among the Britons many men from taking one and the same wife, nor the Edessæans from cultivating chastity, nor the Greeks from practising gymnastics,…, nor the Romans from perpetually seizing upon other countries, nor the men of the Gauls from marrying one another; nor does it compel the Amazons to rear the males; nor does his Nativity compel any man within the circumference of the whole world to cultivate the art of the Muses; but, as I have already said, in every country and in every nation all men avail themselves of the freedom of their nature in any way they choose, and, by reason of the body with which they are clothed, do service to Fate and to Nature, sometimes as they wish, and at other times as they do not wish. For in every country and in every nation there are rich and poor, and rulers and subjects, and people in health and those who are sick—each one according as Fate and his Nativity have affected him.”
“Of these things, Father Bardesan,” said I to him, “thou hast convinced us, and we know that they are true. But knowest thou that the astrologers say that the earth is divided into seven portions, which are called Zones; and that over the said portions those seven stars have authority, each of them over one; and that in each one of the said portions the will of its own Potentate prevails; and that this is called its law?”
“First of all, know thou, my son Philip,” said he to me, “that the astrologers have invented this statement as a device for the promotion of error. For, although the earth be divided into seven portions, yet in every one of the seven portions many laws are to be found differing from one another. For there are not seven kinds of laws only found in the world, according to the number of the seven stars; nor yet twelve, according to the number of the signs of the zodiac; nor yet thirty-six, according to the number of the Decani. 3448 But there are many kinds of laws to be seen as you go from kingdom to kingdom, from country to country, from district to district, and in every abode of man, differing one from another. For ye remember what I said to you—that in one zone, that of the Hindoos, there are many men that do not eat the flesh of animals, and there are others that even eat the flesh of men. And again, I told you, in speaking of the Persians and the Magi, that it is not in the zone of Persia only that they have taken for wives their daughters and their sisters, but that in every country to which they have gone they have followed the law of their fathers, and have preserved the mystic arts contained in that teaching which they delivered to them. And again, remember that I told you of many nations spread abroad over the entire circuit of the world, 3449 who have not been confined to any one zone, but have dwelt in every quarter from which the wind blows, 3450 and in all the zones, and who have not the arts which Mercury and Venus are said to have given when in conjunction with each other. Yet, if laws were regulated by zones, this could not be; but they clearly are not: because those men I have spoken of are at a wide remove from having anything in common with many other men in their habits of life.
p. 733 “Then, again, how many wise men, think ye, have abolished from their countries laws which appeared to them not well made? How many laws, also, are there which have been set aside through necessity? And how many kings are there who, when they have got possession of countries which did not belong to them, have abolished their established laws, and made such other laws as they chose? And, whenever these things occurred, no one of the stars was able to preserve the law. Here is an instance at hand for you to see for yourselves: it is but as yesterday since the Romans took possession of Arabia, and they abolished all the laws previously existing there, and especially the circumcision which they practised. The truth is, 3451 that he who is his own master is sometimes compelled to obey the law imposed on him by another, who himself in turn becomes possessed of the power to do as he pleases.
“But let me mention to you a fact which more than anything else is likely 3452 to convince the foolish, and such as are wanting in faith. All the Jews, who received the law through Moses, circumcise their male children on the eighth day, without waiting for the coming of the proper stars, or standing in fear of the law of the country where they are living. Nor does the star which has authority over the zone govern them by force; but, whether they be in Edom, or in Arabia, or in Greece, or in Persia, or in the north, or in the south, they carry out this law which was made for them by their fathers. It is evident that what they do is not from Nativity: for it is impossible that for all the Jews, on the eighth day, on which they are circumcised, Mars should be in the ascendant, so that steel should pass upon them, and their blood be shed. Moreover, all of them, wherever they are, abstain from paying reverence to idols. One day in seven, also, they and their children cease from all work, from all building, and from all travelling, and from all buying and selling; nor do they kill an animal on the Sabbath-day, nor kindle a fire, nor administer justice; and there is not found among them any one whom Fate compels, 3453 either to go to law on the Sabbath-day and gain his cause, or to go to law and lose it, or to pull down, or to build up, or to do any one of those things which are done by all those men who have not received this law. They have also other things in respect to which they do not on the Sabbath conduct themselves like the rest of mankind, though on this same day they both bring forth and are born, and fall sick and die: for these things do not pertain to the power of man.
“In Syria and in Edessa men used to part with their manhood in honour of Tharatha; but, when King Abgar 3454 became a believer he commanded that every one that did so should have his hand cut off, and from that day until now no one does so in the country of Edessa.
“And what shall we say of the new race of us Christians, whom Christ at His advent planted in every country and in every region? for, lo! wherever we are, we are all called after the one name of Christ—Christians. On one day, the first of the week, we assemble ourselves together, and on the days of the readings 3455 we abstain from taking sustenance. The brethren who are in Gaul do not take males for wives, nor those who are in Parthia two wives; nor do those who are in Judæa circumcise themselves; nor do our sisters who are among the Geli consort with strangers; nor do those brethren who are in Persia take their daughters for wives; nor do those who are in Media abandon their dead, or bury them alive, or give them as food to the dogs; nor do those who are in Edessa kill their wives or their sisters when they commit impurity, but they withdraw from them, and give them over to the judgment of God; nor do those who are in Hatra 3456 stone thieves to death; but, wherever they are, and in whatever place they are found, the laws of the several countries do not hinder them from obeying the law of their Sovereign, Christ; nor does the Fate of the celestial Governors compel them to make use of things which they regard as impure.
“On the other hand, sickness and health, and riches and poverty, things which are not within the scope of their freedom, befall them wherever they are. For although the freedom of man is not influenced by the compulsion of the Seven, or, if at any time it is influenced, it is able to withstand the influences exerted upon it, yet, on the other hand, this same man, externally regarded, 3457 cannot on the instant liberate himself from the command of his Governors: for he is a slave and in subjection. For, if we were able to do everything, we should ourselves be everything; and, if we had not the power to do anything, we should be the tools of others.
“But, when God wills them, all things are possible, and they may take place without hindrance: for there is nothing that can stay that Great and Holy Will. For even those who think that they successfully withstand it, do not withp. 734 stand it by strength, but by wickedness and error. And this may go on for a little while, because He is kind and forbearing towards all beings that exist, 3458 so as to let them remain as they are, and be governed by their own will, whilst notwithstanding they are held in check by the works which have been done and by the arrangements which have been made for their help. For this well-ordered constitution of things 3459 and this government which have been instituted, and the intermingling of one with another, serve to repress the violence of these beings, 3460 so that they should not inflict harm on one another to the full, nor yet to the full suffer harm, as was the case with them before the creation of the world. A time is also coming when this propensity to inflict harm which still remains in them shall be brought to an end, through the teaching which shall be given them amidst intercourse of another kind. And at the establishment of that new world all evil commotions shall cease, and all rebellions terminate, and the foolish shall be convinced, and all deficiencies shall be filled up, and there shall be quietness and peace, through the gift of the Lord of all existing beings.”
Bardesan, therefore, an aged man, and one celebrated for his knowledge of events, wrote, in a certain work which was composed by him, concerning the synchronisms 3461 with one another of the luminaries of heaven, speaking as follows:—
Two revolutions of Saturn, 3462 60 years;
And this,” says he, “is one synchronism of them all; that is, the time of one such synchronism of them. So that from hence it appears that to complete 100 such synchronisms there will be required six thousands of years. Thus:—
Called by Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iv. 30, The Discourse on Fate (῾Ο περὶ εἱμαρμένης διάλογος). This is more correct than the title above given: the “Laws” are adduced only as illustrations of the argument of the piece. The subject would, however, be more properly given as “The Freedom of the Will.”723:3357 723:3358 723:3359 723:3360 723:3361 723:3362 723:3363 724:3364 724:3365 724:3366 724:3367 724:3368
The word ***, here used, occurs subsequently as a designation of the Gnostic Æons. Here, as Merx observes, it can hardly go beyond its original meaning of ens, entia, Wesen, that which is. It evidently refers, however, in this passage to a system of things, a world.724:3369
Lit. “required.” [It is a phenomenon to find this early specimen of “anthropology” emanating from the far East, and anticipating the Augustinian controversies on “fixed fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute.” Yet the West did not originate the discussion. See vol. iv. p. 320. See the ethical or metaphysical side of free-will discussed in Eatons Bampton Lectures for 1872, p. 79, ed. Pott, Young, & Co., New York, 1873. On St. Augustine, see Wordsworths valuable remarks in his Bampton Lectures for 1881.]724:3370
Gen. i. 27. The Hebrew itself, סיהלא סלעבֶ is given in Syriac characters, without translation.724:3371 725:3372 725:3373
***, that which exists, especially that which has an independent existence, is used here of the Gnostic Æons. They were so called in respect of their pre-existence, their existence independent of time or creation. When they came to be “created,” or more properly “fashioned,” they were called “emanations.”725:3374 725:3375 725:3376 725:3377 725:3378 725:3379 725:3380 725:3381 725:3382 725:3383 725:3384 726:3385 726:3386 726:3387
Cureton, “for good hope.” But *** is a common expression for “in hope,” as in Rom. viii. 20.726:3388 726:3389 726:3390 726:3391 726:3392 726:3393 727:3394 727:3395 727:3396 727:3397 727:3398 727:3399 727:3400 727:3401 727:3402 727:3403 727:3404 727:3405 727:3406 727:3407 727:3408 727:3409 727:3410
***, Medabhrâne. Merx, p. 74, referring to the Peshito of Gen. i. 16, thinks that by the Potentates are meant the sun and moon, and by the Governors the five planets.728:3411
[The book of Job and the Book of Ecclesiastes, with the eloquent and pathetic remonstrance (chap. iii. 18–22) “concerning the estate of the sons of men,” are proofs that God foresaw the struggles of faith against the apparently unequal ways and rulings of Providence. For popular answers see Parnells Hermit, and Addison, Spectator, No. 237. But a valuable comment may be found in Wordsworths Bampton Lectures (for 1881) on the one Religion, p. 5, Oxford, Parker, 1881.]728:3412
Merx renders *** by “emanation,” quoting two passages from Eph. Syr. where the root *** is used of the issuing of water from a fountain. Dr. Payne Smith says: “The word seems to mean no more than cursus: cf. Eusb., Theoph., i. 31. 5, 55. 1, 83, 22, where it is used of the stars; and i. 74. 13, where it means the course of nature.”728:3413 728:3414 728:3415 728:3416 728:3417 728:3418
Dr. Payne Smith thinks the reference to be to the Gnostic νοῦς, ψυχή, and σῶμα, which seem to be spoken of just before. This difficult passage is rendered by Cureton: “And this alternation itself is called the Fortune, and the Nativity of this assemblage, which is being sifted and purified for the assistance of that which,” etc. Merx has, “…zur Unterstützung des Dinges, welches…unterstützt worden ist und unterstützt bleibt bis zur Vernichtung des Weltalls.”728:3419 729:3420 729:3421 729:3422 729:3423 729:3424 729:3425 729:3426 729:3427 729:3428 729:3429 730:3430 730:3431 730:3432 730:3433
That is, their own “houses,” as below. Each house had one of the heavenly bodies as its “lord,” who was stronger, or better “located” in his own house than in any other. Also, of two planets equally strong in other respects, that which was in the strongest house was the stronger. The strength of the houses was determined by the order in which they rose, the strongest being that about to rise, which was called the ascendant.730:3434 730:3435 730:3436 731:3437
The difficult word *** is not found in the lexicons. Dr. Payne Smith remarks that it could only come from ***, which verb, however, throws away its ***, so that the form would be ***. He suggests, doubtfully, that the right reading is ***, from ***, which is used occasionally for appetite, and forms such an adjective in the sense of animosus, animâ præditus; and that if so, it may, like *** in Jude 1:19, 1 Cor. 15:44, 46, be = ψυχικοί, having an animal nature, sensual. Eusebius and Cæsarius have σπατάλους, a word of similar force.731:3438
Curetons rendering, “and some adorn themselves,” etc., is not so good, as being a repetition of what has already been said. It is also doubtful whether the words can be so construed. The Greek of Eusebius gives the sense as in the text: κοσμοῦσαι πολλῷ χρυσῷ καὶ λίθοις βαρυτίμοις τοὺς ἵππους. If ***, horses, be masc., or masc. only, as Bernstein gives it, the participle should be altered to the same gender. But Dr. Payne Smith remarks that Amira in his Grammar makes it fem. Possibly the word takes both genders; possibly, too, the women of Bactria rode on mares.731:3439 731:3440 731:3441 731:3442 731:3443 731:3444 731:3445 731:3446 732:3447 732:3448 732:3449 732:3450 733:3451 733:3452 733:3453 733:3454 733:3455 733:3456 733:3457 734:3458 734:3459 734:3460 734:3461 734:3462
©st-takla.org : Saint Takla Haymanout Website: General Portal for the Coptic Orthodox Church Faith, Egypt / Contact us at:
Bible | Daily Readings | Agbeya | Books | Lyrics | Gallery | Media | Links | Contact us