De Cibis Judaicis, On the Jewish Meats - Novatian
Translated by the Rev. Robert Ernest Wallis.
Text edited by Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson and
first published by T&T Clark in Edinburgh in 1867. Additional
introductionary material and notes provided for the American
edition by A. Cleveland Coxe, 1886.
Chapter I.  Argument. Novatian, a Roman Presbyter, During His
Retirement at the Time of the Decian Persecution, Being Urged by Various
Letters from His Brethren, Had Written Two Earlier Epistles Against the Jews
on the Subjects of Circumcision and the Sabbath, and Now Writes the Present
One on the Jewish Meats.
Although, most holy brethren, the day in which I receive your letters and
writings is most ardently longed for by me, and to be reckoned among the
chief and happiest for what else is there now to make me more joyous? 
still I think that the day is to be deemed not less notable, and among
special days, wherein I return to you similar communications, with the
affection of love that I owe you, and write you letters with a corresponding
interest. For nothing, most holy brethren, holds me bound with such bonds
nothing stirs and arouses me with such a stimulus of care and anxiety, as
the fear lest you should think that any disadvantage is suffered by you by
reason of my absence; and this I strive to remedy, in labouring to show
myself present with you by frequent letters. Although, therefore, the duty
which I owe, and the charge I have undertaken, and the very ministerial
office imposed upon me, require of me this necessity of writing letters, yet
you still further enhance it, by stirring me up to write through means of
your continual communications. And inclined although I am to those
periodical expressions of love, you urge me the more by showing that you
stand fast continually in the Gospel: whence it results, that by my letters
I am not so much instructing you who are already informed, as inciting you
who are already prepared. For you, who not only hold the Gospel pure and
purged from all stain of perverse doctrine, but also energetically teach the
same, seek not man for a master, since you show yourselves by these very
things to be teachers. Therefore as you run, I exhort you; and as you watch,
I stir you up; and as you contend against "the spiritual things of
wickedness,"  I address you; and as you press "in your course to the
prize of your calling in Christ,"  I urge you on, that, treading under
foot and rejecting as welt the sacrilegious calumnies of heretics as also
the idle fables of Jews, you may hold the sole word  and teaching of
Christ, so as worthily to claim for yourselves the authority of His name.
But how perverse are the Jews, and remote from the understanding of their
law, I have fully shown, as I believe, in two former letters,  wherein
it was absolutely proved that they are ignorant of what is the true
circumcision, and what the true Sabbath; and their ever increasing blindness
is confuted in this present epistle, wherein I have briefly discoursed
concerning their meats, because that in them they consider that they only
are holy, and that all others are defiled. 
Chapter II. Argument. He First of All Asserts that the Law is Spiritual; And
Thence, Man's First Food Was Only the Fruit Trees, and the Use of Flesh Was
Added, that the Law that Followed Subsequently  Was to Be Understood
Therefore, first of all, we must avail ourselves of that passage, "that the
law is spiritual; "  and if they deny it to be spiritual, they
assuredly blaspheme; if, avoiding blasphemy, they confess it to be
spiritual, let them read it spiritually. For divine things must be divinely
received, and must assuredly be maintained as holy. But a grave fault is
branded on those who attach earthly and human doctrine to sacred and
spiritual words; and this we must beware of doing. Moreover, we may beware,
if any things enjoined by God be so treated as if they were assumed to
diminish His authority, test, in calling some things impure and unclean,
their institution should dishonour their ordainer. For in reprobating what
He has made, He will appear to have condemned His own works, which He had
approved as good; and He will be designated as seeming capricious in both
cases, as the heretics indeed would have it; either in having blessed things
which were not clean, or in subsequently reprobating as not good, creatures
which He had blessed as both clean and good. And of this the enormity and
contradiction will remain for ever if that Jewish doctrine is persisted in,
which must be got rid of with all our ability; so that whatever is
irregularly delivered by them, may be taken away by us, and a suitable
arrangement of His works, and an appropriate and spiritual application of
the divine law, may be restored. But to begin from the beginning of things,
whence it behoves me to begin; the only food for the first men was fruit and
the produce of the trees. For afterwards, man's sin transferred his need
from the fruit-trees to the produce of the earth, when the very attitude of
his body attested the condition of his conscience. For although innocency
raised men up towards the heavens to pluck their food from the trees so long
as they had a good conscience, yet sin, when committed, bent men down to the
earth and to the ground to gather its grain. Moreover, afterwards the use of
flesh was added, the divine favour supplying for human necessities the kinds
of meats generally fitting for suitable occasions. For while a more tender
meat was needed to nourish men who were both tender and unskilled, it was
still a food not prepared without toil, doubtless for their advantage, lest
they should again find a pleasure in sinning, if the labour imposed upon sin
did not exhort innocence. And since now it was no more a paradise to be
tended, but a whole world to be cultivated, the more robust food of flesh is
offered to men, that for the advantage of culture something more might be
added to the vigour of the human body. All these things, as I have said,
were by grace and by divine arrangement: so that either the most vigorous
food should not be given in too small quantity for men's support, and they
should be enfeebled for labour; or that the more tender meat should not be
too abundant, so that, oppressed beyond the measure of their strength, they
should not be able to bear it.  But the law which followed
subsequently ordained  the flesh foods with distinction: for some
animals it gave and granted for use,  as being clean; some it
interdicted as not clean, and conveying pollution to those that eat them.
Moreover, it gave this character to those that were clean, that those which
chew the cud and divide the hoofs are clean; those are unclean which do
neither one nor other of these things. So, in fishes also, the law said that
those indeed were clean which were covered with scales and supplied with
fins, but that those which were otherwise were not clean. Moreover, it
established a distinction among the fowls, and laid down what was to be
judged either an abomination, or clean. Thus the law ordained the exercise
of very great subtlety in making a separation among those animals which the
ancient appointment had gathered together into one form of blessing. What,
then, are we to say? Are the animals therefore unclean? But what else is it
to say that they are not clean, than that the law has separated them from
the uses of food? And what, moreover, is that that we have just now said?
Then God is the ordainer of things which are not clean; and the blame
attached to things which are made will recoil upon their Maker, who did not
produce them clean; to say which is certainly characteristic of extreme and
excessive folly: it is to accuse God as having created unclean things, and
to charge upon the divine majesty the guilt of having made things which are
abomination, especially when they were both pronounced "very good," 
and as being good have obtained the blessing from God Himself "that they
should increase and multiply." Moreover also they were reserved by the
command of the Creator in Noah's ark for the sake of their offspring, that
so being kept they might be proved to be needful; and being needful, they
might be proved to be good, although even in that case also there is a
distinction appended. But still, even then, the creation of those very
creatures that were not clean might have been utterly abolished, if it had
needed to be abolished on account of its own pollution.
Chapter III. Argument. And Thus Unclean Animals are Not to Be Reproached,
Lest the Reproach Be Thrown Upon Their Author; But When an Irrational Animal
is Rejected on Any Account, It is Rather that that Very Thing Should Be
Condemned in Man Who is Rational; And Therefore that in Animals the
Character, the Doings, and the Wills of Men are Depicted.
How far, then, must that law, which as I have shown by the authority of the
apostle is spiritual, be spiritually received in order that the divine and
sure idea of the law may be carried out? Firstly, we must believe that
whatever was ordained by God is clean and purified by the very authority of
His creation; neither must it be reproached, lest the reproach should be
thrown back upon its Author. Then too that the law was given to the children
of Israel for this purpose, that they might profit by it, and return to
those virtuous manners which, although they had received them from their
fathers, they had corrupted in Egypt by reason of their intercourse with a
barbarous people. Finally, also, those ten commandments on the tables teach
nothing new, but remind them of what had been obliterated that righteousness
in them, which had been put to sleep, might revive again as it were by the
afflatus of the law, after the manner of a smothered fire. But they could
profit by the perception that those vices were especially to be avoided in
men which the law had, condemned even in beasts.  For when an
irrational animal is rejected on any account, it is rather that very thing
which is condemned in the man, who is rational. And if in it anything which
it has by nature is characterized as a defilement, that same thing is most
to be blamed when it is found in man opposed to his nature. Therefore, in
order that men might be purified, the cattle were censured to wit, that men
also who had the same vices might be esteemed on a level with the brutes.
Whence it results, that not only were the animals not condemned by their
Creator because of His agency;  but that men might be instructed in
the brutes to return to the unspotted nature of their own creation. For we
must consider how the Lord distinguishes clean and not clean. The creatures
that are clean, it says, both chew the cud and divide the hoof; the unclean
do neither, or only one of the two. All these things were made by one
Workman, and He who made them Himself blessed them. Therefore I regard the
creation of both as clean, because both He who created them is holy, and
those things which were created are not in fault in being that which they
were made. For it has never been customary for nature, but for a perverted
will, to bear the blame of guilt. What, then, is the case? In the animals it
is the characters, and doings, and wills of men that are depicted. 
They are clean if they chew the cud; that is, if they ever have in their
mouth as food the divine precepts. They divide the hoof, if with the firm
step of innocency they tread the ways of righteousness, and of every virtue
of life. For of those creatures which divide the foot into two hoofs the
walk is always vigorous; the tendency to slip of one part of the hoof being
sustained by the firmness of the other, and so retained in the substantial
footstep. Thus they who do neither are unclean, whose walk is neither firm
in virtues; nor do they digest the food of the divine precepts after the
manner of that chewing of the cud. And they, too, who do one of these things
are not themselves clean either, inasmuch as they are maimed of the other,
and not perfect in both. And these are they who do both, as believers, and
are clean; or one of the two, as Jews and heretics, and are blemished; or
neither, as the Gentiles, and are consequently unclean. Thus in the animals,
by the law, as it were, a certain mirror of human life is established,
wherein men may consider the images of penalties; so that everything which
is vicious in men, as committed against nature, may be the more condemned,
when even those things, although naturally ordained in brutes, are in them
blamed.  For that in fishes the roughness of scales is regarded as
constituting their cleanness; rough, and rugged, and unpolished, and
substantial, and grave manners are approved in men; while those that are
without scales are unclean; because trifling, and fickle, and faithless, and
effeminate manners are disapproved. Moreover, what does the law mean when it
says, "Thou shalt not eat the camel? "  except that by the example
of that animal it condemns a life nerveless  and crooked with
crimes. Or when it forbids the swine to be taken for food? It assuredly
reproves a life filthy and dirty, and delighting in the garbage of vice,
placing its supreme good not in generosity of mind, but in the flesh alone.
Or when it forbids the hare? It rebukes men deformed into women. And who
would use the body of the weasel for food? But in this case it reproves
theft. Who would eat the lizard? But it hates an aimless waywardness of
life. Who the eft? But it execrates mental stains. Who would eat the hawk,
who the kite, who the eagle? But it hates plunderers and violent people who
live by crime. Who the vulture? But it holds accursed those who seek for
booty by the death of others. Or who the raven? But it holds accused crafty
wills. Moreover, when it forbids the sparrow, it condemns intemperance; when
the owl, it hates those who fly from the light of truth; when the swan, the
proud with high neck; when the sea-mew, too talkative an intemperance of
tongue; when the bat, those who seek the darkness of night as well as of
error. These things, then, and the like to these, the law holds accursed in
animals, which in them indeed are not blame-worthy, because they are born in
this condition; in man they are blamed, because they are sought for contrary
to his nature, not by his creation, but by his error.
Chapter IV. Argument. To These Things Also Was Added Another Reason for
Prohibiting Many Kinds of Meats to the Jews; To Wit, for the Restraint of
the Intemperance of the People, and that They Might Serve the One God.
To these considerations, then, thus enumerated, were added also other
reasons for which many kinds of meats were withheld from the Jews; and that
this might be so, many things were called unclean, not as being condemned in
themselves, but that the Jews might be restrained to the service of one God;
because frugality and moderation in appetite were becoming to those who were
chosen for this purpose. And such moderation is always found to be
approximate to religion, nay, so to speak, rather related and akin to it;
for luxury is inimical to holiness. For how shall religion be spared by it,
when modesty is not spared? Luxury does not entertain the fear of God; since
while pleasures hurry it on, it is carried forward to the sole daring of its
desires: for the reins being loosened, it increases in the application of
expense without measure, as if it were its food, exceeding its patrimony
with its modesty; or as a torrent rushing from the mountain-peaks not only
overleaps what is opposed to it, but carries with it those very hindrances
for the destruction of other things. Therefore these remedies were sought
for to restrain the intemperance of the people, that in proportion as luxury
was diminished, virtuous manners might be increased. For what else did they
deserve, than that they should be restrained from using all the pictures of
divers meats, who dared to prefer the vilest meats of the Egyptians to the
divine banquets of manna, preferring the juicy meats of their enemies and
masters to their liberty? They were truly worthy that the slavery which they
had coveted should pamper them, if the food that was more desirable and free
was so ill pleasing to them.
Chapter V. Argument. But There Was a Limit to the Use of These Shadows or
Figures; For Afterwards, When the End of the Law, Christ, Came, All Things
Were Said by the Apostle to Be Pure to the Pure, and the True and Holy Meat
Was a Right Faith and an Unspotted Conscience.
And thus there was a certain ancient time, wherein those shadows or figures
were to be used, that meats should be abstained from which had indeed been
commended by their creation, but had been prohibited by the law. But now
Christ, the end of the law, has come, disclosing all the obscurities of the
law all those things which antiquity had covered with the clouds of
sacraments. For the illustrious Master, and the heavenly Teacher, and the
ordainer of the perfected truth, has come, under whom at length it is
rightly said: "To the pure all things are pure but unto them that are
defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and conscience
is defiled."  Moreover, in another place: "For every creature of God
is good, and nothing to be refused which is received with thanksgiving; for
it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer."  Again, in another
place: "The Spirit expressly says that in the last days some shall depart
from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, doctrines of demons,
speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron,
forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats which God hath
created to be received with thanksgiving by them which believe and those who
know God."  Moreover, in another passage: "Everything that is sold
in the market-place eat, asking nothing."  From these things it is
plain that all those things are returned to their original blessedness now
that the law is finished, and that we must not revert to the special
observances of meats, which observances were ordained for a certain reason,
but which evangelical liberty has now taken away, their discharge being
given. The apostle cries out: "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but
righteousness, and peace. and joy."  Also elsewhere: "Meats for the
belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now
the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the
body."  God is not worshipped by the belly nor by meats, which the
Lord says will perish, and are "purged" by natural law in the draught.
 For he who worships the Lord by meats, is merely as one who has his
belly for his Lord. The meat, I say, true, and holy, and pure, is a true
faith, an unspotted conscience, and an innocent soul. Whosoever is thus fed,
feeds also with Christ. Such a banqueter is God's guest: these are the
feasts that feed the angels, these are the tables which the martyrs make.
Hence is that word of the law: "Man cloth not live by bread alone, but by
every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God."  Hence, too,
that saying of Christ: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and
to finish His work."  Hence, "Ye seek me not because ye saw the
miracles, but because ye did eat of my loaves and were filled. But labour
not for the meat which perisheth, but for the meat which endureth to life
eternal, which the Son of man will give you; for Him hath the Father
sealed."  By righteousness, I say, and by continency, and by the
rest of the virtues, God is worshipped. For Zecharias also tells us, saying:
"If ye eat or drink, is it not ye that eat or drink? "  declaring
thereby that meat or drink attain not unto God, but unto man: for neither is
God fleshly, so as to be pleased with flesh; nor is He careful  for
these pleasures, so as to rejoice in our food.  God rejoices in our
faith alone, in our innocency alone, in our truth alone, in our virtues
alone. And these dwell not in our belly, but in our soul; and these are
acquired for us by divine awe and heavenly fear, and not by earthly food.
And such the apostle fitly rebuked, as "obeying the superstitions of angels,
puffed up by their fleshly mind; not holding Christ the head, from whom all
the body, joined together by links, and inwoven and grown together by mutual
members in the bond of charity, increaseth to God; "  but observing
those things: "Touch not, taste not, handle not; which indeed seem to have a
form of religion, in that the body is not spared."  Yet there is no
advantage at all of righteousness, while we are recalled by a voluntary
slavery to those elements to which by baptism we have died.
Chapter VI. Argument. But, on the Ground that Liberty in Meats is Granted to
Us, There is No Permission of Luxury, There is No Taking Away of Continence
and Fasting: for These Things Greatly Become the Faithful, To Wit, that They
Should Pray to God, and Give Him Thanks, Not Only by Day, But by Night.
But from the fact that liberty of meats is granted to us, it does not of
necessity follow that luxury is allowed us; nor because the Gospel has dealt
with us very liberally, has it taken away continency. By this, I say, the
belly is not provided for, but the form of meats was shown: it was made
manifest what was right, not that we might go into the gulf of desire, but
to give a reason for the law. But nothing has so restrained intemperance as
the Gospel; nor has any one given such strict laws against gluttony as
Christ, who is said to have pronounced even the poor blessed, and the
hungering and thirsting happy, the rich miserable; to whom, obeying the
government of their belly and their palate, the material of their lusts
could never be wanting, so that their servitude could not cease; who think
it an argument of their happiness to desire as much as they can, except that
they are thus able to attain less than they desire. For, moreover,
preferring Lazarus in his very hunger and in his sores themselves, and with
the rich man's dogs, He restrained the destroyers of salvation, the belly
and the palate, by examples. The apostle also, when he said, "Having food
and raiment, we are therewith content,"  laid down the law of
frugality and continency; and thinking that it would be of little advantage
that he had written, he also gave himself as an example of what he had
written, adding not without reason, that "avarice is the root of all evils;
"  for it follows in the footsteps of luxury. Whatever the latter
has wasted by vice, the former restores by crime; the circle of crimes being
re-trodden, that luxury may again take away whatever avarice had heaped
together. Nor yet are there wanting, among such things, those who, although
they have claimed to themselves the sound of the Christian name, afford
instances and teachings of intemperance; whose vices have come even to that
pitch, that while fasting they drink in the early morning, not thinking it
Christian to drink after meat, unless the wine poured into their empty and
unoccupied veins should have gone down directly after sleep: for they seem
to have less relish of what they drink if food be mingled with the wine.
Thus you may see such in a new kind, still fasting and already drunk, not
running to the tavern, but carrying the tavern about with them; and if any
one of them offers a salute, he gives not a kiss, but drinks a health. What
can they do after meat, whom meat finds intoxicated? Or in what kind of
state does the sun at his setting leave them, whom at his rising he looks
upon as already stupid with wine? But things which are detestable are not to
be taken as our examples. For those things only are to be taken by which our
soul may be made better; and although in the Gospel the use of meats is
universally given to us, yet it is understood to be given to us only with
the law of frugality and continence. For these things are even greatly
becoming to the faithful, to wit, those who are about to pray to God and to
give Him thanks, not only by day, but by night also; which cannot be if the
mind, stupefied by meat and wine, should not prevail to shake off heavy
sleep and the load heaped upon the breast.
Chapter VII. Argument. Moreover, We Must Be Careful that No One Should Think
that This Licence May Be Carried to Such an Extent as that He May Approach
to Things Offered to Idols.
But it must be very greatly guarded against in the use of food, and we must
be warned lest any should think that liberty is permitted to that degree
that even he may approach to what has been offered to idols. For, as far as
pertains to God's creation, every creature is clean. But when it has been
offered to demons, it is polluted so long as it is offered to the idols; and
as soon as this is done, it belongs no longer to God, but to the idol. And
when this creature is taken for food, it nourishes the person who so takes
it for the demon, not for God, by making him a fellow-guest with the idol,
not with Christ, as rightly do the Jews also.  And the meaning of
these meats being perceived, and the counsel of the law being considered,
and the kindness of the Gospel grace being known, and the rigour of
temperance being observed, and the pollution of things offered to idols
being rejected, we who keep the rule of truth throughout all things, ought
to give thanks to God through Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord, to whom be
praise, and honour, and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.A letter written to
Cyprian by Novatian the Roman presbyter, in the name of the Roman clergy,
will be found translated (Ep. xxx.) at p. 308, this volume.
 Entitled "A Letter of Novatian, the Roman Presbyter."
 " Liberiorem," translated, according to a plausible emendation,as "
 Eph. vi. 12.
 Phil. iii. 14.
 These letters are not extant, but they are mentioned by Jerome, De
vir. Illustr., ch. lxx.
 [ 1 Cor. vi. 13. A passage probably connected with the Jewish
superstition. But see the Peshito-Syriac version on Mark vii. 19.Compare
Murdock's version ad loc., ed. 1855.]
 Which, distinguishing between meats, granted certain animals as
clean, and interdicted certain others as not clean, especially as all
animals were declared "very good," and even unclean animals were reserved
for offspring in Noah's ark, although they otherwise might have been got rid
of, if they ought to have been destroyed on account of their uncleanness.
 [The divers animals are also parables illustrating human passions and
appetites. See Jones of Nayland, vol. xi. p. 1.]
 Rom. vii. 14.
 This sentence is very unintelligible, but it is the nearest
approach to a meaning that can be gathered from the original.
 [ Gen. ix. 3. The Noachic covenant was Catholic, and foreshadowed
Acts x. 15, although clean and unclean beasts were recognised as by natural
classification. Gen. vii. 2. Argue as in Gal. iii. 17.]
 Or, as some read, "for eating," substituting " esum" for "
 Gen. i. 31.
 [See chap. ii. p. 645, note 9. supra.]
 Sui culpa.
 [The moral uses of the animal creation are recognised in all
languages: as when we say of men, a serpent, a fox, a hog, an ass, etc.; so
otherwise, a lion, a lamb, an eagle, a dove, etc.]
 [Novatian was a keen analyst, and his allegorial renderings are
logical generally, though sometimes fanciful.]
 Lev. xi. 4. [Jones of Nayland, vol. iii., Disquisition, ed.
 " Enervem," but more probably " informem."
 Tit. i. 15.
 1 Tim. iv. 4, 5.
 1 Tim. iv. 1, 2, 3.
 1 Cor. x. 25.
 Rom. xiv. 17.
 1 Cor. vi. 13.
 [Or lower bowel, Mark vii. 19; Matt. xv. 17. See cap. i. note 7,
p. 645, supra. It throws off refuse, leaving food only to the system.]
 Deut. viii. 3.
 John iv. 34.
 John vi. 26, 27.
 Zech. vii. 6, LXX.
 " Attonitus" is assumed to be rightly read " attentus."
 [ 1 Tim. iv. 4, 1 Tim. vi. 17. Against the Encratites (vol i. p.
353) but not against moderation (vol. ii. p. 237, this series).]
 Col. ii. 18, 19.
 Col. ii. 21-23.
 1 Tim. vi. 8.
 1 Tim. vi. 10.
 Scil. abstain. [But see 1 Cor. viii. 4, etc.]
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