Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Writings in Connection with the Manichæan Controversy.: Book XXVIII
Faustus recurs to the genealogy and insists upon examining it as regards its consistency with itself. Augustin takes his stand on Scripture authority and maintains that Matthews statements as to the birth of Christ must be accepted as final.
1. Faustus said: Christ, you say, could not have died, had He not been born. I reply, If He was born, He cannot have been God; or if He could both be God and be born, why could He not both be born and die? Plainly, arguments and necessary consequences are not applicable to those matters, where the question is of the account to be given of Jesus. The answer must be obtained from His own statements, or from the statements of His apostles regarding Him. The genealogy must be examined as regards its consistency with itself, instead of arguing from the supposition of Christs death to the p. 325 fact of His birth; for He might have suffered without having been born, or He might have been born, and yet never have suffered; for you yourselves acknowledge that with God nothing is impossible, which is inconsistent with the denial that Christ could have suffered without having been born.
2. Augustin replied: You are always answering arguments which no one uses, instead of our real arguments, which you cannot answer. No one says that Christ could not die if He had not been born; for Adam died though he had not been born. What we say is, Christ was born, because this is said not by this or that heretic, but in the holy Gospel; and He died, for this too is written, not in some heretical production, but in the holy Gospel. You set aside argument on the question of the true account to be given of Jesus, and refer to what He says of Himself, and what His apostles say of Him; and yet, when I begin to quote the Gospel of His apostle Matthew, where we have the whole narrative of Christs birth, you forthwith deny that Matthew wrote the narrative, though this is affirmed by the continuous testimony of the whole Church, from the days of apostolic presidency to the bishops of our own time. What authority will you quote against this? Perhaps some book of Manichæus, where it is denied that Jesus was born of a virgin. As, then, I believe your book to be the production of Manichæus, since it has been kept and handed down among the disciples of Manichæus, from the time when he lived to the present time, by a regular succession of your presidents, so I ask you to believe the book which I quote to have been written by Matthew, since it has been handed down from the days of Matthew in the Church, without any break in the connection between that time and the present. The question then is, whether we are to believe the statements of an apostle who was in the company of Christ while He was on earth, or of a man away in Persia, born long after Christ. But perhaps you will quote some other book bearing the name of an apostle known to have been chosen by Christ; and you will find there that Christ was not born of Mary. Since, then, one of the books must be false, the question in this case is, whether we are to yield our belief to a book acknowledged and approved as handed down from the beginning in the Church founded by Christ Himself, and maintained through the apostles and their successors in an unbroken connection all over the world to the present day; or to a book which this Church condemns as unknown, and which, moreover, is brought forward by men who prove their veracity by praising Christ for falsehood.
3. Here you will say, Examine the genealogy as given in the two Gospels, and see if it is consistent with itself. The answer to this has been given already. 1009 Your difficulty is how Joseph could have two fathers. But even if you could not have thought of the explanation, that one was his own father, and the other adopted, you should not have been so ready to put yourself in opposition to such high authority. Now that this explanation has been given you, I call upon you to acknowledge the truth of the Gospel, and above all to cease your mischievous and unreasonable attacks upon the truth.
4. Faustus most plausibly refers to what Jesus said of Himself. But how is this to be known except from the narratives of His disciples? And if we do not believe them when they tell us that Christ was born of a virgin, how shall we believe what they record as said by Christ of Himself? For, as regards any writing professing to come immediately from Christ Himself, if it were really His, how is it not read and acknowledged and regarded as of supreme authority in the Church, which, beginning with Christ Himself, and continued by His apostles, who were succeeded by the bishops, has been maintained and extended to our own day, and in which is found the fulfillment of many former predictions, while those concerning the last days are sure to be accomplished in the future? In regard to the appearance of such a writing, it would require to be considered from what quarter it issued. Supposing it to have issued from Christ Himself, those in immediate connection with Him might very well have received it, and have transmitted it to others. In this case, the authority of the writing would be fully established by the traditions of various communities, and of their presidents, as I have already said. Who, then, is so infatuated as in our day to believe that the Epistle of Christ issued by Manichæus is genuine, or to disbelieve Matthews narrative of Christs words and actions? Or, if the question is of Matthew being the real author, who would not, in this also, believe what he finds in the Church, which has a distinct history in unbroken connection from the days of Matthew to the present time, rather than a Persian interloper, who comes more than two hundred years after, and wishes us to believe his account of Christs words and actions rather than that of Matthew; whereas, even in the case of the Apostle Paul, who was called from p. 326 heaven after the Lords ascension, the Church would not have believed him, had there not been apostles in life with whom he might communicate, and compare his gospel with theirs, so as to be recognized as belonging to the same society? When it was ascertained that Paul preached what the apostles preached, and that he lived in fellowship and harmony with them, and when Gods testimony was added by Pauls working miracles like those done by the apostles, his authority became so great, that his words are now received in the Church, as if, to use his own appropriate words, Christ were speaking in him. 1010 Manichæus, on the other hand, thinks that the Church of Christ should believe what he says in opposition to the Scriptures, which are supported by such strong and continuous evidence, and in which the Church finds an emphatic injunction, that whoever preaches to her differently from what she has received must be anathema. 1011
5. Faustus tells us that he has good grounds for concluding that these Scriptures are unworthy of credit. And yet he speaks of not using arguments. But the argument too shall be refuted. The end of the whole argument is to bring the soul to believe that the reason of its misery in this world is, that it is the means of preventing God from being deprived of His kingdom, and that Gods substance and nature is so exposed to change, corruption, injury, and contamination, that part of it is incurably defiled, and is consigned by Himself to eternal punishment in the mass of darkness, though, when it was in harmless union with Himself, and guilty of no crime, He knowingly sent it where it was to suffer defilement. This is the end of all your arguments and fictions; and would that there were an end of them as regards your heart and your lips, that you might sometime desist from believing and uttering those execrable blasphemies! But, says Faustus, I prove from the writings themselves that they cannot be in all points trustworthy, for they contradict one another. Why not say, then, that they are wholly untrustworthy, if their testimony is inconsistent and self-contradictory? But, says Faustus, I say what I think to be in accordance with truth. With what truth? The truth is only your own fiction, which begins with Gods battle, goes on to His contamination, and ends with His damnation. No one, says Faustus, believes writings which contradict themselves. But if you think they do this, it is because you do not understand them; for your ignorance has been manifested in regard to the passages you have quoted in support of your opinion, and the same will appear in regard to any quotations you may still make. So there is no reason for our not believing these writings, supported as they are by such weighty testimony; and this is itself the best reason for pronouncing accursed those whose preaching differs from what is there written.
2 Cor. xiii. 3.326:1011
Gal. 1:8, 9.
Next: Book XXIX
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