Chapter VIII.—Of the Question Why, If Christ is Believed to Have Been the Wisest of Men on the Testimony of Common Narrative Report, He Should Not Be Believed to Be God on the Testimony of the Superior Report of Preaching.
13. Besides this, they ought to tell us by what means they have succeeded in acquiring their knowledge of this fact that He was the wisest of men, or how it has had the opportunity of reaching their ears. If they have been made acquainted with it simply by current report, then is it the case that common report forms a more trustworthy informant 544 on the subject of His history than those disciples of His who, as they have gone and preached of Him, have disseminated the same report like a penetrating savour throughout the whole world? 545 In fine, they ought to prefer the one kind of report to the other, and believe that account of His life which is the superior of the two. For this report, 546 indeed, which is spread abroad with a wonderful clearness from that Church catholic 547 at whose extension through the whole world those persons are so astonished, prevails in an incomparable fashion over the unsubstantial rumours with which men like them occupy themselves. This report, furthermore, which carries with it such weight and such currency, 548 that in dread of it they can p. 83 only mutter their anxious and feeble snatches of paltry objections within their own breasts, as if they were more afraid now of being heard than wishful to receive credit, proclaims Christ to be the only-begotten Son of God, and Himself God, 549 by whom all things were made. If, therefore, they choose report as their witness, why does not their choice fix on this special report, which is so pre-eminently lustrous in its remarkable definiteness? And if they desire the evidence of writings, why do they not take those evangelical writings which excel all others in their commanding authority? On our side, indeed, we accept those statements about their deities which are offered at once in their most ancient writings and by most current report. But if these deities are to be considered proper objects for reverence, why then do they make them the subject of laughter in the theatres? And if, on the other hand, they are proper objects for laughter, the occasion for such laughter must be all the greater when they are made the objects of worship in the theatres. It remains for us to look upon those persons as themselves minded to be witnesses concerning Christ, who, by speaking what they know not, divest themselves of the merit of knowing what they speak about. Or if, again, they assert that they are possessed of any books which they can maintain to have been written by Him, they ought to produce them for our inspection. For assuredly those books (if there are such) must be most profitable and most wholesome, seeing they are the productions of one whom they acknowledge to have been the wisest of men. If, however, they are afraid to produce them, it must be because they are of evil tendency; but if they are evil, then the wisest of men cannot have written them. They acknowledge Christ, however, to be the wisest of men, and consequently Christ cannot have written any such thing.
The words stand, as above, in the great majority of mss.: tam celebris, ut eam timendo isti trepidas et tepidas contradictiunculas in sinu suo rodant, jam plus metuentes audiri quam volentes credi, Filium Dei Unigenitum et Deum prædicat Christum? In some mss. and editions the sense is altered by inserting est after celebris, and substituting nolentes for volentes, and prædicari for prædicat; so that it becomes = that report is of such distinguished currency, that in dread of it they can only mutter, etc.…as now rather fearing to be heard than refusing to admit the belief that Christ is proclaimed to be the only-begotten Son of God, etc. See Migne.—Tr.