Early Syriac Documents

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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.

Introduction to Ancient Syriac Documents

1. The preceding Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents were inserted in vol. 20 of the Edinburgh series, quite out of place as it seems to me; and the more so, as other Syriac fragments were to follow.

2. In vol. 22, equally out of place, and mixed up with incongruous material, followed the very interesting work of Bardesanes, to which I now assign a natural collocation with the Edessene Memoirs.

3. In vol. 24, with the Liturgies and other mixed material, comes the third Syriac fagot, another valuable and very interesting contribution severed from its due connections.

The reader of this volume will rejoice to find Mr. Pratten's scattered but most instructive translations here brought together, and arranged in less confused sequence and relations one with another. The several announcements prefixed to each have, in like manner, been here gathered and set in order.

It may be worth while, just here, to direct attention to the latest views of scholarship upon Syria, its language and its antiquities. A learned critic, who often supplies one of our weekly newspapers with articles on the Oriental languages worthy of the best reviews, has directed attention [3351] to a searching critique of Mommsen's recent addition to his Roman History, of a chapter which "deals with Bible-lands in New-Testament times." Professor Nöldke of Strasburg, a leading Semitic scholar, in the Zeitschrift of the German Oriental Society, thus takes him to task:--

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"Syria enjoyed a higher prosperity under the Romans than Mommsen concedes, and this continued down into the Christian period. The Hellenization made rapid strides, but not in such a manner that the Greek language or Greek culture spread to a considerable degree; but rather, in such a way that European arts and manners of life were established, and that a number of elements of Occidental culture became powerful in the thinking and language of the educated. Mommsen, according to my conviction, considers the Hellenization of Syria to have advanced much farther than it actually had. That the language of the country had been entirely banished from the circles of the educated, and that it had assumed the position in reference to the Greek which the Celtic in full had assumed over against the Latin, is certainly an exaggerated view. The Aramaic was an old developed language (Cultursprache), which was already written before a single letter was seen in Latium. In the days of the Achæmenidian rulers this was the official language of Egypt, and even of Asia Minor, and was accordingly spread far beyond the original territory. Again we find this language in the days of the Roman emperors not only in Palmyra, but spread also in the whole country of the Nabatheans, and down to almost Medina; here again beyond its native limits, as the official written language. And that this was not merely a remnant of the former political supremacy is evident from the fact that the documents of Palmyra and those of the Nabatheans, in an equal manner, show a younger stage of development of language than that of the Achæmenidian period; this stage being virtually the same as is seen in the various Jewish literary works of that time."

As Mommsen is continuing his irreligious elaborations of history, it may be well to bear in mind his superficial ideas on such subjects, especially when he is reaching the affairs of early Christianity.

1. Our translator (Mr. Pratten) makes the following announcements:--

"The translation of the Syriac pieces which follow [3352] is based on a careful examination of that made by Dr. Cureton, the merits of which are cordially acknowledged. It will, however, be seen that it differs from that in many and important particulars.

"Many thanks are due to the Dean of Canterbury for his kindness in giving much valuable help."

2. He thus introduces the treatise of Bardesanes:--

"Bardesan, or Bardesanes, according to one account, was born at Edessa in 154 a.d., and it is supposed that he died sometime between 224 and 230. Eusebius says that he flourished in the time of Marcus Aurelius. He was for some time resident at the court of Abgar VI., King of Edessa, with whom he was on intimate terms. He at first belonged to the Gnostic sect of the Valentinians; but abandoning it, he seemed to come nearer the orthodox beliefs. In reality, it is said, he devised errours of his own. He wrote many works. Eusebius attributes the work now translated, The Book of Laws, or On Fate, to Bardesanes. Many modern critics have come to the conclusion that it was written by a scholar of Bardesanes, but that it gives us the genuine opinions and reasonings of Bardesanes. The question is of interest in connection with the Clementine Recognitions, which contain a large portion of the work. The Syriac was first published by Cureton in his Spicilegium."

3. In introducing the Mara bar Serapion and the Ambrose, [3353] he thus refers to his friend Dr. Payne Smith:--

The text of the two following short pieces [3354] is found in the Spicilegium Syriacum of the late Dr. Cureton. This careful scholar speaks of the second of these compositions as containing "some very obscure passages." The same remark holds good also of the first. Dr. Payne Smith describes them both as "full of difficulties." So far as these arise from errors in the text, they might have been removed, had I been able to avail myself of the opportunity kindly offered me by Dr. Rieu, Keeper of the Oriental mss. at the British Museum, of inspecting the original ms. As it is, several have, it is hoped, been successfully met by conjecture.

To Dr. R. Payne Smith, Dean of Canterbury, who, as on two previous occasions, has most kindly and patiently afforded me his valuable assistance, I beg to offer my very grateful acknowledgments.


[3351] New-York Independent, June 24, 1886. [3352] That is, in vol. xxii. of the Edinburgh edition. [3353] Vol. xxiv., ed. Edinburgh. The latter was formerly ascribed to Justin Martyr. [3354] The Ambrose and the Serapion.

Ancient Syriac Documents


Bardesan. [3355]

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?"

"I, sir," said Avida, "have asked these brethren, persons of my own age, in order that `they' may return me an answer."

"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."

"For my part," said Avida, "I wish to learn; but I began first of all to question my brethren here, because I was too bashful to ask thee."

"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, 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 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."

"But how," said I to him, "should those things which are fixed and regulated by decree be judged?"

"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."

"Those things," said Avida to him, "which thou hast said, are very good; but, lo! the commands which have been given to men are severe, and they cannot perform them."

"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?"

"Sayest thou of these deeds, O Bardesan," said Avida to him, "that they are easy 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 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."

"Possibly," said Avida, "a man may be able to abstain from the things that are bad; but as for doing the things that are good, what man is capable of this?"

"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."

"Avida here," said I to him, "has also been speaking thus: `It is from his nature that man does wrong; for, were he not naturally formed to do wrong, he would not do it.'"

"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, 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."

Again we questioned him, and said to him: "There are others who say that men are governed by the decree of Fate, so as to act at one time wickedly, and at another time well."

"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 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.

"And thus we men are found to be governed by Nature all alike, and by Fate variously, and by our freedom each as he chooses.

"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 genesis, [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 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."

"Prove me this," said Avida, "and I will be convinced by thee, and whatsoever thou shalt enjoin upon me I will do."

"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?"

"I have read books of astrology," [3430] said Avida, "but I do not know which are those of the Babylonians and which those of the Egyptians."

"The teaching of both countries," said Bardesan, "is the same."

"It is well known to be so," said Avida.

"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 neighbour's 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 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 arsenocoete, 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 Britons.--Among the Britons many men take one and the same wife.

"Laws of the Parthians.--Among the Parthians, on the other hand, one man takes many wives, and all of them keep to him only, because of the law which has been made there in that country.

"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, 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.

"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 withstand 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."

Here endeth the Book of the Laws of Countries.

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;

5 revolutions of Jupiter, 60 years;

40 revolutions of Mars, 60 years;

60 revolutions of the Sun, 60 years;

72 revolutions of Venus, 60 years;

150 revolutions of Mercury, 60 years;

720 revolutions of the Moon, 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:--

200 revolutions of Saturn, six thousands of years;

500 revolutions of Jupiter, 6 thousands of years;

4 thousand revolutions of Mars, 6 thousands of years;

Six thousand revolutions of the Sun, 6 thousands of years;

7 thousand and 200 revolutions of Venus, 6 thousands of years;

12 thousand revolutions of Mercury, 6 thousands of years;

72 thousand revolutions of the Moon, 6 thousands of years."

These things did Bardesan thus compute when desiring to show that this world would stand only six thousands of years.


[3355] Lit. "Son of Daisan," from a river so called near Edessa.--Hahn. [Elucidation I. "The Laws of Countries" is the title. For "Various Countries" I have used "Divers."] [3356] Called by Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iv. 30, The Discourse on Fate (;;O peri heimarmenes dialogos). 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." [3357] Lit. "going in." Cureton renders, "we went up." [3358] Lit. "felt him." [3359] Lit. "before him." Merx: "ehe er kam." [3360] The word used is formed from the Greek euschemonos. [Here observe what is said (in Elucidation I.) by Nöldke on the Hellenization theory of Mommsen, with reference to this very work; p. 742, infra.] [3361] Lit. "hast anything in thy mind." [3362] Lit. "there are for thee other things also." [3363] *** is here substituted for the *** of the text, which yields no sense. [3364] Lit. "the wisdom of the truth." [3365] Lit. "are not able to stand." [3366] Or, "in the hand of the operator;" but it is better to employ two words. [3367] Or, "and the sphere." [3368] The word ***, here used, occurs subsequently as a designation of the Gnostic Ćons. 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. [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 Eaton's Bampton Lectures for 1872, p. 79, ed. Pott, Young, and Co., New York, 1873. On St. Augustine, see Wordsworth's valuable remarks in his Bampton Lectures for 1881.] [3370] Gen. i. 27. The Hebrew itself, S+J+H+L+# S+L+E+B+¶ is given in Syriac characters, without translation. [3371] Cureton renders, "for which he is created." Merx has, "das ihn gemacht hat." [3372] The Greek stoicheia. [3373] ***, that which exists, especially that which has an independent existence, is used here of the Gnostic Ćons. 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." [3374] Lit. "of their nature." [3375] Lit. "the strength of their exactness," i.e., their exact (or complete) strength. Cureton has, "their force of energy." [3376] "being lessened," or "lowered." [3377] Lit. "do not take place by." [3378] Cureton renders, "have the use of his hands:" Merx gives "etwas erwirbt." [3379] Or "towns." [3380] Lit. "without ill-will." [3381] Lit. "every man in whom there is a soul." [3382] Lit. "can do rejoicing." [3383] The Greek zizania. [3384] Lit. "a mind the son of the free." [3385] Lit. "is the man's own." [3386] Lit. "is not sound in his nature." [3387] Cureton, "for good hope." But *** is a common expression for "in hope," as in Rom. viii. 20. [3388] Lit. "did one deed." [3389] Lit. "used one mind." [3390] Lit. "in whom there is a soul." [3391] Phusis. [3392] Lit. "as children of the free." [3393] Lit. "in which there is a soul." [3394] Lit. "let him see." [3395] Lit. "patient," i.e., tolerant of the craving which seeks gratification. [3396] Lit. "in which they had stood." [3397] Or "volitions." [3398] Lit. "have stood in." [3399] So Merx, "in either Rede." Cureton, "by a vain plea." [3400] Lit. "this knowledge of art (or skill)." [3401] To what other work of his he refers is not known. [3402] Cureton, "is capable." Dr. Payne Smith (Thes. Syr., s.v.) says, referring to *** as used in this passage: "eget, cupit, significare videtur." [3403] So Dr. Payne Smith. Merx renders, "Even that which men desire to do." Cureton has, "and the same men meditate to do." [3404] Lit. "the sevenths." [3405] Lit. "Chaldæans." [3406] Lit. "my weakness." [3407] Or "sects" (haireseis). [3408] Lit. "rich." [3409] ***, Shlitâne. [Of Angels, see vol. i. p. 269.] [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. [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 Parnell's Hermit, and Addison, Spectator, No. 237. But a valuable comment may be found in Wordsworth's Bampton Lectures (for 1881) on the one Religion, p. 5, Oxford, Parker, 1881.] [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." [3413] Read *** for ***. [3414] Lit. "in their descents." [3415] Lit. "in their descents." [3416] Or "nativity," "natal hour" (*** = place of birth, "Geburtshaus:" Merx). [3417] Lit. "this agent of change." Cureton, "this alternation." "Das diese Veränderung bewirkende Agens" is the rendering of Merx. [3418] Dr. Payne Smith thinks the reference to be to the Gnostic nous, psuche, and soma, 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." [3419] Lit. "are Nature's own." [3420] Lit. "a sufficiency in measure for all bodies." [3421] Lit. "be heads to." [3422] Lit. "know ye distinctly." [3423] Or "heads." [3424] Lit. "agent of change," as above. Merx: "das Veränderungs-princip." [3425] Lit. "excellence." [3426] i.e., zones of the earth. See p. 732, note 2, infra. [3427] Or, "power as to themselves." [3428] Lit. "the matter compels thee to be convinced." [3429] Lit. "Chaldæans." [3430] Lit. "Chaldaism." [3431] The Greek klima, denoting one of the seven belts (see p. 732, below) into which the earth's latitude was said to be divided. The Arabs also borrowed the word. [3432] Or "family." [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. [3434] Lit. "the signs of humanity." [3435] The text adds ***. [3436] Lit. "while Mars was witness to them." [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 19 and 1 Cor. xv. 44, 46, be = psuchikoi, having an animal nature, sensual. Eusebius and Cæsarius have spatalous, a word of similar force. [3438] Cureton's 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: kosmousai pollo chruso kai lithois barutimois tous hippous. 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. [3439] Lit. "possess." [3440] The zenith. [3441] Lit. "name," or "report." [3442] Lit. "made." [3443] Lit. "is not very angry." [3444] Eusebius has, Par' ;'Ellesi de kai hoi sophoi eromenous echontes ou psegontai. [3445] Lit. "how many times." [3446] The text of Eusebius and the Recognitions is followed, which agrees better with the context. The Syriac reads "Germans." [3447] So Eusebius: anchonimaio moro. Otherwise "suffocation." [3448] So called from containing each ten of the parts or degrees into which the zodiacal circle is divided. Cf. Hahn, Bardesanes Gnosticus, p. 72. [3449] Lit. "who surround the whole world." [3450] Lit. "have been in all the winds." [3451] Lit. "for." [3452] Lit. "able." [3453] Lit. "commands." [3454] According to Neander, General Church History, i. 109, this was the Abgar Bar Manu with whom Bardesan is said to have stood very high. His conversion is placed between 160 and 170 a.d. [3455] For ***, Merx, by omitting one ***, gives ***, "readings." But what is meant is not clear. Ephraem Syrus ascribes certain compositions of this name to Bardesanes. Cf. Hahn, Bard. Gnost., p. 28. [3456] Or "Hutra." [3457] Lit. "this man who is seen." [3458] Lit. "all natures." [3459] Lit. "this order." [3460] Lit. "natures." [3461] The Greek sunodoi. [3462] The five planets are called by their Greek names, Kronos, k.t.l.

Ancient Syriac Documents


A Letter of Mara, Son of Serapion. [3463]

Mara, son of Serapion, to Serapion, my son: peace.

When thy master and guardian wrote me a letter, and informed me that thou wast very diligent in study, though so young in years, I blessed God that thou, a little boy, and without a guide to direct thee, hadst begun in good earnest; and to myself also this was a comfort--that I heard of thee, little boy as thou art, as displaying such greatness of mind and conscientiousness: [3464]a character which, in the case of many who have begun well, has shown no eagerness to continue.

On this account, lo, I have written for thee this record, touching that which I have by careful observation discovered in the world. For the kind of life men lead has been carefully observed by me. I tread the path of learning, [3465] and from the study of Greek philosophy [3466] have I found out all these things, although they suffered shipwreck when the birth of life took place. [3467]

Be diligent, then, my son, in attention to those things which are becoming for the free, [3468] so as to devote thyself to learning, and to follow after wisdom; and endeavour thus to become confirmed in those habits with which thou hast begun. Call to mind also my precepts, as a quiet person who is fond of the pursuit of learning. And, even though such a life should seem to thee very irksome, yet when thou hast made experience of it for a little while, it will become very pleasant to thee: for to me also it so happened. When, moreover, a person has left his home, and is able still to preserve his previous character, and properly does that which it behoves him to do, he is that chosen man who is called "the blessing of God," and one who does not find aught else to compare with his freedom. [3469] For, as for those persons who are called to the pursuit of learning, they are seeking to extricate themselves from the turmoils of time; and those who take hold upon wisdom, they are clinging to the hope of righteousness; and those who take their stand on truth, they are displaying the banner of their virtue; and those who cultivate philosophy, they are looking to escape from the vexations of the world. And do thou too, my son, thus wisely behave thyself in regard to these things, as a wise person who seeks to spend a pure life; and beware lest the gain which many hunger after enervate thee, and thy mind turn to covet riches, which have no stability. For, when they are acquired by fraud, they do not continue; nor, even when justly obtained, do they last; and all those things which are seen by thee in the world, as belonging to that which is only for a little time, are destined to depart like a dream: for they are but as the risings and settings of the seasons.

About the objects of that vainglory, too, of which the life of men is full, be not thou solicitous: seeing that from those things which give us joy there quickly comes to us harm. Most especially is this the case with the birth of beloved children. For in two respects it plainly brings us harm: in the case of the virtuous, our very affection for them torments us, and from their very excellence of character we suffer torture; and, in the case of the vicious, we are worried with their correction, and afflicted with their misconduct.

Thou hast heard, [3470] moreover, concerning our companions, that, when they were leaving Samosata, they were distressed about it, and, as if complaining of the time in which their lot was cast, said thus: "We are now far removed from our home, and we cannot return again to our city, or behold our people, or offer to our gods the greeting of praise." Meet was it that that day should be called a day of lamentation, because one heavy grief possessed them all alike. For they wept as they remembered their fathers, and they thought of their mothers [3471] with sobs, and they were distressed for their brethren, and grieved for their betrothed whom they had left behind. And, although we had heard that their [3472] former companions were proceeding to Seleucia, we clandestinely set out, and proceeded on the way towards them, and united our own misery with theirs. Then was our grief exceedingly violent, and fitly did our weeping abound, by reason of our desperate plight, and our wailing gathered itself into a dense cloud, [3473] and our misery grew vaster than a mountain: for not one of us had the power to ward off the disasters that assailed him. For affection for the living was intense, as well as sorrow for the dead, and our miseries were driving us on without any way of escape. For we saw our brethren and our children captives, and we remembered our deceased companions, who were laid to rest in a foreign [3474] land. Each one of us, too, was anxious for himself, lest he should have disaster added to disaster, or lest another calamity should overtake that which went before it. What enjoyment could men have that were prisoners, and who experienced things like these?

But as for thee, my beloved, be not distressed because in thy loneliness thou hast [3475] been driven from place to place. For to these things men are born, since they are destined to meet with the accidents of time. But rather let thy thought be this, that to wise men every place is alike, and that in every city the good have many fathers and mothers. Else, if thou doubt it, take thee a proof from what thou hast seen thyself. How many people who know thee not love thee as one of their own children; and what a host of women receive thee as they would their own beloved ones! Verily, as a stranger thou hast been fortunate; verily, for thy small love many people have conceived an ardent affection for thee.

What, again, are we to say concerning the delusion [3476] which has taken up its abode in the world? Both by reason of toil [3477] painful is the journey through it, and by its agitations are we, like a reed by the force of the wind, bent now in this direction, now in that. For I have been amazed at many who cast away their children, and I have been astonished at others who bring up those that are not theirs. There are persons who acquire riches in the world, and I have also been astonished at others who inherit that which is not of their own acquisition. Thus mayest thou understand and see that we are walking under the guidance of delusion.

Begin and tell us, O wisest of men, [3478] on which of his possessions a man can place reliance, or concerning what things he can say that they are such as abide. Wilt thou say so of abundance of riches? they are snatched away. Of fortresses? they are spoiled. Of cities? they are laid waste. Of greatness? it is brought down. Of magnificence? it is overthrown. Of beauty? it withers. Or of laws? they pass away. Or of poverty? it is despised. Or of children? they die. Or of friends? they prove false. Or of the praises of men? jealousy goes before them.

Let a man, therefore, rejoice in his empire, like Darius; or in his good fortune, like Polycrates; or in his bravery, like Achilles; or in his wife, like Agamemnon; or in his offspring, like Priam; or in his skill, like Archimedes; or in his wisdom, like Socrates; or in his learning, like Pythagoras; or in his ingenuity, like Palamedes;--the life of men, my son, departs from the world, but their praises and their virtues abide for ever.

Do thou, then, my little son, choose thee that which fadeth not away. For those who occupy themselves with these things are called modest, and are beloved, and lovers of a good name.

When, moreover, anything untoward befalls thee, do not lay the blame on man, nor be angry against God, nor fulminate against the time thou livest in.

If thou shalt continue in this mind, thy gift is not small which thou hast received from God, which has no need of riches, and is never reduced to poverty. For without fear shalt thou pass thy life, [3479] and with rejoicing. For fear and apologies for one's nature belong not to the wise, but to such as walk contrary to law. For no man has even been deprived of his wisdom, as of his property.

Follow diligently learning rather than riches. For the greater are one's possessions, the greater is the evil attendant upon them. For I have myself observed that, where a man's goods are many, so also are the tribulations which happen to him; and, where luxuries are accumulated, there also do sorrows congregate; and, where riches are abundant, there is stored up the bitterness of many a year.

If, therefore, thou shalt behave with understanding, and shalt diligently watch over thy conduct, God will not refrain from helping thee, nor men from loving thee.

Let that which thou art able to acquire suffice thee; and if, moreover, thou art able to do without property, thou shalt be called blessed, and no man whatsoever shall be jealous of thee.

And remember also this, that nothing will disturb thy life very greatly, except it be the love of gain; and that no man after his death is called an owner of property: because it is by the desire of this that weak men are led captive, and they know not that a man dwells among his possessions only in the manner of a chance-comer, and they are haunted with fear because these possessions are not secured to them: for they abandoned that which is their own, and seek that which is not theirs.

What are we to say, when the wise are dragged by force by the hands of tyrants, and their wisdom is deprived of its freedom [3480] by slander, and they are plundered for their superior intelligence, without the opportunity of making a defence? They are not wholly to be pitied. For what benefit did the Athenians obtain by putting Socrates to death, seeing that they received as retribution for it famine and pestilence? Or the people of Samos by the burning of Pythagoras, seeing that in one hour the whole [3481] of their country was covered with sand? Or the Jews by the murder of their Wise King, seeing that from that very time their kingdom was driven away from them? For with justice did God grant a recompense to the wisdom of all three of them. For the Athenians died by famine; and the people of Samos were covered by the sea without remedy; and the Jews, brought to desolation and expelled from their kingdom, are driven away into every land. Nay, Socrates did "not" die, because of Plato; nor yet Pythagoras, because of the statue of Hera; nor yet the Wise King, because of the new laws which he enacted.

Moreover I, my son, have attentively observed mankind, in what a dismal state of ruin they are. And I have been amazed that they are not utterly prostrated [3482] by the calamities which surround them, and that even their wars [3483] are not enough for them, nor the pains they endure, nor the diseases, nor the death, nor the poverty; but that, like savage beasts, they must needs rush upon one another in their enmity, trying which of them shall inflict the greater mischief on his fellow. For they have broken away from the bounds of truth, and transgress all honest laws, because they are bent on fulfilling their selfish desires; for, whensoever a man is eagerly set on obtaining that which he desires, how is it possible that he should fitly do that which it behoves him to do? and they acknowledge no restraint, [3484] and but seldom stretch out their hands towards truth and goodness, but in their manner of life behave like the deaf [3485] and the blind. Moreover, the wicked rejoice, and the righteous are disquieted. He that has, denies that he has; and he that has not, struggles to acquire. The poor seek help, and the rich hide their wealth, and every man laughs at his fellow. Those that are drunken are stupefied, and those that have recovered themselves are ashamed. [3486]Some weep, and some sing; and some laugh, and others are a prey to care. They rejoice in things evil, and a man that speaks the truth they despise.

Should a man, then, be surprised when the world is seeking to wither him with its scorn, seeing that they and he have not one and the same manner of life? "These" are the things for which they care. One of them is looking forward to the time when in battle he shah obtain the renown of victory; yet the valiant perceive not by how many foolish objects of desire a man is led captive in the world. But would that for a little while self-repentance visited them! For, while victorious by their bravery, they are overcome by the power of covetousness. For I have made trial of men, and with this result: that the one thing on which they are intent, is abundance of riches. Therefore also it is that they have no settled purpose; but, through the instability of their minds, a man is of a sudden cast down from his elation of spirit to be swallowed up with sadness. They look not at the vast wealth of eternity, nor consider that every visitation of trouble is conducting us all alike to the same final period. For they are devoted to the majesty of the belly, that huge blot on the character of the vicious.

Moreover, as regards this letter which it has come into my mind to write to thee, it is not enough to read it, but the best thing is that it be put in practice. [3487]For I know for myself, that when thou shalt have made experiment of this mode of life, it will be very pleasant to thee, and thou wilt be free from sore vexation; because it is only on account of children that we tolerate riches. [3488]

Put, therefore, sadness away from thee, O most beloved of mankind,--a thing which never in anywise benefits a man; and drive care away from thee, which brings with it no advantage whatsoever. For we have no resource or skill that can avail us--nothing but a great mind able to cope with the disasters and to endure the tribulations which we are always receiving at the hands of the times. For at these things does it behove us to look, and not only at those which are fraught with rejoicing and good repute.

Devote thyself to wisdom, the fount of all things good, the treasure that faileth not. There shalt thou lay thy head, and be at ease. For this shall be to thee father and mother, and a good companion for thy life.

Enter into closest intimacy with fortitude and patience, those virtues which are able successfully to encounter the tribulations that befall feeble men. For so great is their strength, that they are adequate to sustain hunger, and can endure thirst, and mitigate every trouble. With toil, moreover, yea even with dissolution, they make right merry.

To these things give diligent attention, and thou shalt lead an untroubled life, and I also shall have comfort, [3489] and thou shalt be called "the delight of his parents."

For in that time of yore, when our city was standing in her greatness, thou mayest be aware that against many persons among us abominable words were uttered; but for ourselves, [3490] we acknowledged long ago that we received love, no less than honour, to the fullest extent from the multitude of her people: it was the state of the times only that forbade our completing those things which we had resolved on doing. [3491]And here also in the prison-house we give thanks to God that we have received the love of many: for we are striving to our utmost to maintain a life of sobriety and cheerfulness; [3492] and, if anyone drive us by force, he will but be bearing public testimony against himself, that he is estranged from all things good, and he will receive disgrace and shame from the foul mark of shame that is upon him. For we have shown our truth--that truth which in our now ruined kingdom we possessed not. [3493]But, if the Romans shall permit us to go back to our own country, as called upon by justice and righteousness to do, they will be acting like humane men, and will earn the name of good and righteous, and at the same time will have a peaceful country in which to dwell: for they will exhibit their greatness when they shall leave us free men, and we shall be obedient to the sovereign power which the time has allotted to us. But let them not like tyrants, drive us as though we were slaves. Yet, if it has been already determined what shall be done, we shall receive nothing more dreadful than the peaceful death which is in store for us.

But thou, my little son, if thou resolve diligently to acquaint thyself with these things, first of all put a check on appetite, and set limits to that in which thou art indulging. Seek the power to refrain from being angry; and, instead of yielding to outbursts of passion, listen to the promptings of kindness.

For myself, what I am henceforth solicitous about is this--that, so far as I have recollections of the past, I may leave behind me a book containing them, and with a prudent mind finish the journey which I am appointed to take, and depart without suffering out of the sad afflictions of the world. For my prayer is, that I may receive my dismissal; and by what kind of death concerns me not. But, if any one should be troubled or anxious about this, I have no counsel to give him: for yonder, in the dwelling-place of all the world, will he find us before him.

One of his friends asked Mara, son of Serapion, when in bonds at his side: "Nay, by thy life, Mara, tell me what cause of laughter thou hast seen, that thou laughest." "I am laughing," said Mara, "at Time: [3494]inasmuch as, although he has not borrowed any evil from me, he is paying me back."

Here endeth the letter of Mara, son of Serapion.


[3463] [Elucidation I. p. 742, infra. See p. 722, supra.] [3464] Lit. "good conscience." [3465] Or, "my daily converse is with learning." So Dr. Payne Smith is inclined to take these difficult words, supplying, as Cureton evidently does, the pronoun ***. The construction would be easier if we could take the participle *** as a passive, and render: "It (the kind of life men lead) has been explored by me by means of study." [3466] Lit. "Græcism." [3467] The meaning probably is, that the maxims referred to lost their importance for him when he entered upon the new life of a Christian (so Cureton), or their importance to mankind when Christianity itself was born into the world. But why he did not substitute more distinctive Christian teaching is not clear. Perhaps the fear of persecution influenced him. [3468] That is, the matters constituting "a liberal education." [3469] Cureton's less literal rendering probably gives the true sense: "with whose liberty nothing else can be compared." [3470] Cureton: "I have heard." The unpointed text is here ambiguous. [3471] Read ***, instead of ***, "peoples." [3472] Perhaps "our" is meant. [3473] Cureton: "and the dark cloud collected our sighs." But the words immediately following, as well as the fact that in each of the clauses the nominative is placed last, favours the rendering given. [3474] Lit., "borrowed." [3475] Lit., "because thy loneliness has." [3476] Or "error." He may refer either to the delusion of those who pursue supposed earthly good, or to the false appearances by which men are deceived in such pursuit. [3477] For *** read ***. [3478] Cureton: "A sage among men once began to say to us." This would require ***, not ***. [3479] ***. [3480] Lit., "made captive." [3481] For *** read ***. [3482] No verb is found in the lexicons to which *** can be referred. It may perhaps be Eshtaphel of a verb ***, cognate with ***, "to be bent." [3483] For *** read ***. [3484] Or "moderation." [3485] Cureton: "dumb." The word *** has both senses. [3486] Or "penitent." [3487] So Dr. Payne Smith, who is inclined to take *** in the sense, "it goes before, it is best, with respect to it." Cureton translates, "it should also proceed to practice," joining *** with the participle just mentioned; whereas Dr. Smith connects it with ***, thus: "but that it should be put in practice is best with respect to it." [3488] This appears to show that the life of learned seclusion which he has been recommending is one of celibacy--monasticism. [3489] Or, "and thou shalt be to me a comfort," as Cureton. [3490] That is, "myself." [3491] Such appears to be the sense of this obscure passage. The literal rendering is, "We acknowledged of old that we received equal love and honour to the fullest extent from her multitude" (or, from her greatness); "but the time forbade our completing those things which were already accomplished in our mind." What things he refers to (for his words seem to have a particular reference) is not clear. The word rendered "greatness," or "multitude," is in reality two words in pointedmss. Here it does not appear, except from the sense, which is intended. [3492] Lit., "We are putting ourself to the proof to see how far we can stand in wisdom," etc. [3493] "This is a very hopeless passage....Perhaps the codex has ***, `the kingdom of our ruin,' i.e., the ruined country in which we used to dwell. For possibly it refers to what he has said before about the ruined greatness of his city, captured by the Romans. I suppose Mara was a Persian."--Dr. Payne Smith. [3494] Or, "the time."

Ancient Syriac Documents


Ambrose. [3495]

A memorial [3496] a which Ambrose, a chief man of Greece, wrote: who became a Christian, and all his fellow-senators raised an outcry against him; and he fled from them, and wrote and pointed out to them all their foolishness.

Beginning his discourse, [3497] he answered and said:--

Think not, men of Greece, that my separation from your customs has been made without a just and proper reason. For I acquainted myself with all your wisdom, consisting of poetry, of oratory, of philosophy; and when I found not there anything agreeable to what is right, or that is worthy of the divine nature, I resolved to make myself acquainted with the wisdom of the Christians also, and to learn and see who they are, and when they took their rise, and what is the nature of this new and strange wisdom of theirs, [3498] or on what good hopes those who are imbued with it rely, that they speak only that which is true.

Men of Greece, when I came to examine the Christian writings, I found not any folly [3499] in them, as I had found in the celebrated Homer, who has said concerning the wars of the two trials: [3500]"Because of Helen, many of the Greeks perished at Troy, away from their beloved home." [3501]For, first of all, we are told [3502] concerning Agamemnon their king, that by reason of the foolishness of his brother Menelaus, and the violence of his madness, and the uncontrollable nature of his passion, he resolved to go and rescue Helen from the hands of a certain leprous [3503] shepherd; and afterwards, when the Greeks had become victorious in the war, and burnt cities, and taken women and children captive, and the land was filled with blood, and the rivers with corpses, Agamemnon himself also was found to be taken captive by his passion for Briseis. Patroclus, again, we are told, was slain, and Achilles, the son of the goddess Thetis, mourned over him; Hector was dragged along the ground, and Priam and Hecuba together were weeping over the loss of their children; Astyanax, the son of Hector, was thrown down from the walls of Ilion, and his mother Andromache the mighty Ajax bore away into captivity; and that which was taken as booty was after a little while, all squandered in sensual indulgence.

Of the wiles of Odysseus the son of Laertes, and of his murders, who shall tell the tale? For of a hundred and ten suitors did his house in one day become the grave, and it was filled with corpses and blood. He, too, it was that by his wickedness gained the praises of men, because through his pre-eminence in craft he escaped detection; he, too, it was who, you say, sailed upon the sea, and heard not the voice of the Sirens only because he stopped his ears with wax. [3504]

The famous Achilles, again, the son of Peleus, who bounded across the river, and routed [3505] the Trojans, and slew Hector,--this said hero of yours became the slave of Philoxena, and was overcome by an Amazon as she lay dead and stretched upon her bier; and he put off his armour, and arrayed himself in nuptial garments, and finally fell a sacrifice to love.

Thus much concerning your great "men;" [3506] and thou, Homer, hadst deserved forgiveness, if thy silly story-telling had gone so far only as to prate about men, and not about the gods. As for what he says about the gods, I am ashamed even to speak of it: for the stories that have been invented about them are very wicked and shocking; passing strange, [3507] too, and not to be believed; and, if the truth must be told, [3508] fit only to be laughed at. For a person will be compelled to laugh when he meets with them, and will not believe them when he hears them. For think of gods who did not one of them observe the laws of rectitude, or of purity, or of modesty, but were adulterers, and spent their time in debauchery, and yet were not condemned to death, as they ought to have been!

Why, the sovereign of the gods, the very "father of gods and men," not only, as ye say, was an adulterer (this was but a light thing), but even slew his own father, and was a pæderast. I will first of all speak of his adultery, though I blush to do so: for he appeared to Antiope as a satyr, and descended upon Danaë as a shower of gold, and became a bull for Europa, and a swan for Leda; whilst the love of Semele, the mother of Dionysus, exposed both his own ardency of passion and the jealousy of the chaste Hera. Ganymede the Phrygian, too, he carried off disguised as an eagle, that the fair and comely boy, forsooth, might serve as cup-bearer to him. This said sovereign of the gods, moreover killed his father Kronos, that he might seize upon his kingdom.

Oh! to how many charges is the sovereign of the gods amenable, [3509] and how many deaths does he deserve to die, as an adulterer, and as a sorcerer, [3510] and as a pæderast! Read to the sovereign of the gods, O men of Greece, the law concerning parricide, and the condemnation pronounced on adultery, and about the shame that attaches to the vile sin of pæderasty. How many adulterers has the sovereign of the gods indoctrinated in sin! Nay, how many pæderasts, and sorcerers, and murderers! So that, if a man be found indulging his passions, he must not be put to death: because he has done this that he may become like the sovereign of the gods; and, if he be found a murderer, he has an excuse in the sovereign of the gods; and, if a man be a sorcerer, he has learned it from the sovereign of the gods; and, if he be a pæderast, the sovereign of the gods is his apologist. Then, again, if one should speak of courage, Achilles was more valiant that this said sovereign of the gods: for he slew the man that slew his friend; but the sovereign of the gods wept over Sarpedon his son when he was dying, being distressed for him.

Pluto, again, who is a god, carried off Kora, [3511] and the mother of Kora was hurrying hither and thither searching for her daughter in all desert places; and, although Alexander Paris, when he had carried off Helen, paid the penalty of vengeance, as having made himself her lover by force, yet Pluto, who is a god, when he carried off Kora, remained without rebuke; and, although Menelaus, who is a man, knew how to search for Helen his wife, yet Demeter, who is a goddess, knew not where to search for Kora her daughter.

Let Hephæstus put away jealousy from him, and not indulge resentment. [3512]For he was hated, [3513] because he was old and lame; while Ares was loved, because he was a youth and beautiful in form. There was, however, a reproof administered in respect of the adultery. Hephæstus was not, indeed, at first aware of the love existing between Venus [3514] his wife and Ares; but, when he did become acquainted with it, Hephæstus said: "Come, see a ridiculous and senseless piece of behaviour--how to me, who am her own, Venus, the daughter of the sovereign of the gods, is offering insult--to me, I say, who am her own, and is paying honour to Ares, who is a stranger to her." But to the sovereign of the gods it was not displeasing: for he loved such as were like these. Penelope, moreover, remained a widow twenty years, because she was expecting the return of her husband Odysseus, and busied herself with cunning tasks, [3515] and persevered in works of skill, while all those suitors kept pressing her to marry them; but Venus, who is a goddess, when Hephæstus her husband was close to her, deserted him, because she was overcome by love for Ares. Hearken, men of Greece: which of you would have dared to do this, or would even have endured to see it? And, if any one "should" dare to act so, what torture would be in store for him, or what scourgings!

Kronos, again, who is a god, who devoured all those children of his, was not even brought before a court of justice. They further tell us that the sovereign of the gods, his son, was the only one that escaped from him; and that the madness of Kronos his father was cheated of its purpose because Rhea his wife, the mother of the sovereign of the gods, offered him a stone in the place of the said sovereign of the gods, his son, to prevent him from devouring him. Hearken, men of Greece, and reflect upon this madness! Why, even the dumb animal that grazes in the field knows its proper food, and does not touch strange food; the wild beast, too, and the reptile, and the bird, know their food. As for men, I need not say anything about them: ye yourselves are acquainted with their food, and understand it well. But Kronos, who is a god, not knowing his proper food, ate up a stone!

Therefore, O men of Greece, if ye will have such gods as these, do not find fault with one another when ye do such-like things. Be not angry with thy son when he forms the design to kill thee: because he thus resembles the sovereign of the gods. And, if a man commit adultery with thy wife, why dost thou think of him as an enemy, and yet to the sovereign of the gods, who is like him, doest worship and service? Why, too, dost thou find fault with thy wife when she has committed adultery and leads a dissolute life, [3516] and yet payest honour to Venus, and placest her images in shrines? Persuade your Solon to repeal his laws; Lycurgus, also, to make no laws; let the Areopagus repeal [3517] theirs, and judge no more; and let the Athenians have councils no longer. Let the Athenians discharge Socrates from his office: for no one like Kronos has ever come before him. Let them not put to death Orestes, who killed his mother: for, lo! the sovereign of the gods did worse things than these to his father. OEdipus also too hastily inflicted mischief on himself, in depriving his eyes of sight, because he had killed his mother unwittingly: for he did not think about [3518] the sovereign of the gods, who killed his father and yet remained without punishment. Medea, again, who killed her children, the Corinthians banish from their country; and yet they do service and honour to Kronos, who devoured his children. Then, too, as regards Alexander Paris--he was right in carrying off Helen: for he did it that he might become like Pluto, who carried off Kora. Let your men be set free from law, and let your cities be the abode of wanton women, and a dwelling-place for sorcerers.

Wherefore, O men of Greece, seeing that your gods are grovelling like yourselves, and your heroes destitute of courage, [3519] as your dramas tell and your stories declare--then, again, what shall be said of the tribulations of Orestes; and the couch of Thyestes; and the foul taint in the family of Pelops; and concerning Danaus, who through jealousy killed his sons-in-law, and deprived them of offspring; the banquet of Thyestes, too, feeding upon the corpse set before him by way of vengeance for her whom he had wronged; about Procne also, to this hour screaming as she flies; her sister too, warbling, with her tongue cut out? [3520]What, moreover, is it fitting to say about the murder committed by OEdipus, who took his own mother to wife, and whose brothers killed one another, they being at the same time his sons?

Your festivals, too, I hate; for there is no moderation where they are; the sweet flutes also, dispellers of care, which play as an incitement to dancing; [3521] and the preparation of ointments, wherewith ye anoint yourselves; and the chaplets which ye put on. In the abundance of your wickedness, too, ye have forgotten shame, and your understandings have become blinded, and ye have been infuriated [3522] by the heat of passion, and have loved the adulterous bed. [3523]

Had these things been said by another, perhaps our adversaries would have brought an accusation against him, on the plea that they were untrue. But your own poets say them, and your own hymns and dramas declare them.

Come, therefore, and be instructed in the word of God, and in the wisdom which is fraught with comfort. Rejoice, and become partakers of it. Acquaint yourselves with the King Immortal, and acknowledge His servants. For not in arms do they make their boast, nor do they commit murders: because our Commander has no delight in abundance of strength, nor yet in horsemen and their gallant array, nor yet in illustrious descent; but He delights in the pure soul, fenced round by a rampart of righteousness. The word of God, moreover, and the promises of our good King, and the works of God, are ever teaching us. Oh the blessedness of the soul that is redeemed by the power of the word! Oh the blessedness of the trumpet of peace without war! Oh the blessedness of the teaching which quenches the fire of appetite! which, though it makes not poets, nor fits men to be philosophers, nor has among its votaries the orators of the crowd; yet instructs men, and makes the dead not to die, and lifts men from the earth as gods up to the region which is above the firmament. Come, be instructed, and be like me: for I too was once as ye are.


[3495] This piece has much in common with the Discourse to the Greeks (Logos pros ;'Ellenas), ascribed by many to Justin, which is contained in vol. i. pp. 271-272 of this series. Two things seem to be evident: (1) That neither of the two pieces is the original composition: for each contains something not found in the other; (2) That the original was in Greek: for the Syriac has in some instances evidently mistranslated the Greek. [3496] The Greek hupomnemata. [3497] Lit., "and in the beginning of his words." [3498] Lit. "what is the newness and strangeness of it." [3499] The word also means "sin;" and this notion is the more prominent of the two in what follows. [3500] It is difficult to assign any satisfactory meaning to the word ***, which appears, however, to be the reading of the ms., since Cureton endeavours to justify the rendering given. "Calamities," a sense the word will also bear, seems no easier of explanation. If we could assume the meaning to be "nations" (nationes), a word similar in sound to that found in the text, explaining it of heathen peoples, Gentiles (comp. Tertullian, De Idol., 22, "per deos nationum"), this might seem to meet the difficulty. But there is no trace in this composition of a Latin influence: if a foreign word must be used, we should rather have expected the Greek ethne. [3501] Il., ii. 177 sq. [3502] Lit., "they say." [3503] It has been proposed to substitute in the Greek copy liparou, "dainty," for leprou. But the Syriac confirms the ms. reading. The term is thought to be expressive of the contempt in which shepherds were held. See vol. i. p. 271, note 1. [3504] In the Greek this is adduced as an evidence of his weakness: "because he was unable to stop his ears by his self-control (phronesei)." [3505] ***, the reading of the text, which can only mean "fled," is manifestly incorrect. The Aphel of this verb, ***, "caused to flee," is suggested by Dr. Payne Smith, who also proposes ***, "exstirpavit." [3506] Or, "your heroes." [3507] This is not intended as a translation of ***, which is literally "conquered." Dr. Payne Smith thinks it just possible that there was in the Greek some derivative of huperballo ="to surpass belief," which the Syrian translator misunderstood. [3508] This is conjectured to be the meaning of what would be literally rendered, "et id quod coactum est." [3509] Lit., "of how many censures is...full." [3510] Since he could change his form to suit his purpose. [3511] That is, "the Daughter" (namely, of Demeter), the name under which Proserpine was worshipped in Attica. [3512] Because the behaviour of which he had to complain was sanctioned by the highest of the gods. [3513] For ***, "was tried," read ***. The Greek has memiseto. Cureton: "forgotten." [3514] The word is "Balthi." [3515] Dr. Payne Smith reads *** instead of ***, word which, as Cureton says, is not in the lexicons. [3516] The reading of the Greek copy, akolastos zosan, is here given. The Syrian adapter, misunderstanding akolastos, renders: "and is without punishment." [3517] Cureton, "break." [3518] Lit. "look at." [3519] So in the Greek copy. The Syriac, which has "valiant," appears to have mistaken anandroi for andreioi. [3520] The tradition seems to be followed which makes Procne to have been changed into a swallow, and her sister (Philomela) into a nightingale. [3521] Cureton: "play with a tremulous motion." But the Syriac very well answers to the Greek ekkaloumenoi pros oistrodeis kineseis, if we take *** to denote result: q.d., "so as to produce movement." [3522] Greek, ekbakcheuomenoi. [3523] Lit. "bed of falsity." [Compare notes on vol. i. pp. 271, 272.]



(Mara, son of Serapion, p. 735.)

I cannot withhold from the student the valuable hints concerning "the dialect of Edessa" by which Professor Nöldke [3524] corrects the loose ideas of Mommsen, more especially because the fresh work of Mommsen will soon be in our hands, and general credit will be attached to specious representations which are sure to have a bearing on his ulterior treatment of Christianity and the Roman Empire.

Of the Syriac language Professor Nöldke says:--

"It was the living language of Syria which here appears as the language of writing. In Syria it had long ago been compelled to yield to the Greek as the official language, but private writings were certainly yet to a great extent written in Aramaic. We cannot lay much stress upon the fact that the respectable citizen in the Orient would have the schoolmaster of the village compose a Greek inscription for his tomb, of which he undoubtedly understood but little himself. And what a Greek this often was! That no books written by Aramaic Gentiles have been preserved for us, does not decide against the existence of the Aramaic as the language of literature in that day; for how could such Gentile works have been preserved for us? To this must be added, that that particular dialect which afterward became the common literary language of Aramaic Christendom--namely, that of Edessa--certainly had in the Gentile period already been used for literary purposes. The official report of the great flood in the year 201, which is prefixed to the Edessa Chronicles, is written by a Gentile. To the same time must be ascribed the letter, written in good Edessan language by the finely educated Marâ bar Serapion, from the neighbouring Samosata, who, notwithstanding his good-will toward youthful Christianity, was no Christian, but represented rather the ethical stand-point of the Stoicism so popular at that time. The fixed settling of Syriac orthography must have taken place at a much earlier period than the hymns of Bardesanes and his school, which are for us very old specimens of that language, since these hymns represent a versification much younger than the stage of development which is presupposed in this orthography. In general, it must be granted that the dialect of Edessa had been thoroughly developed already in pre-Christian times; otherwise, it could not have been so fixed and firm in writing and forms of expression. And the Syriac Dialogue on Fate, which presupposes throughout the third century, treats of scientific questions, according to Greek models, with such precision that we again see that this was not the beginning, but rather the close, of a scientific Syriac literature, which flourished already when there were but few or possibly no Christians there. Of course I recognise, with Mommsen, that Edessa offered a better protection to the national language and literature than did the cities of Syria proper; but circumstances were not altogether of a different nature in this regard in Haleb, Hems, and Damascus than they were in Edessa and Jerusalem. If, as is known, the common mass spoke Aramaic in the metropolitan city of Antiochia, it cannot safely be accepted that in the inland districts the Greek was not the language of the `educated,' but only of those who had specially learned it. The Macedonian and Greek colonists have certainly only in a very small part retained this language in those districts down to the Roman period. In most cases they have been in a minority from the beginning over against the natives. Further, as the descendants of old soldiers, they can scarcely be regarded as the called watchmen of Greek custom and language."


[3524] For previous quotations refer to p. 721, supra.


(No verb is found in the lexicons, etc., note 3, p. 737.)

The study of Syriac is just beginning to be regarded as only less important to the theologian than that of the Hebrew. The twain will be found a help, each to the other, if one pursues the study of the cognate languages together. In fact, the Book of Daniel demands such a preparation for its enjoyment and adequate comprehension. [3525] Let me commend to every reader the admirable example of Beveridge, who at eighteen years of age produced a grammar of the Syriac language, and also a Latin essay on the importance of cultivating this study, as that of the vernacular of our Lord Himself. This little treatise is worthy of careful reading; and right worthy of note is the motto which he prefixed to it,--"Estote imitatores mei, sicut et ego sum Christi" (1 Cor. xi. 1).

When one thinks of the difficulties even yet to be overcome in mastering the language,--the want of a complete lexicon, etc., [3526] --it is surprising to think of Beveridge's pioneer labours in extreme youth. Gutbir's Lexicon Syriacum had not yet appeared, nor his edition of the Peshito, which preceded it, though Brian Walton's great name and labours were his noble stimulants. Nobody can read the touching account which Gutbir [3527] gives of his own enthusiastic and self-sacrificing work, without feeling ashamed of the slow progress of Oriental studies in the course of two centuries since the illustrious Pocock gave his grand example to English scholarship. All honour to our countryman Dr. Murdock, who late in life entered upon this charming pursuit, and called on others to follow him. [3528]May I not venture to hope that even these specimens of what may be reaped from the field of Aramaic literature may inspire my young countrymen to take the lead in elucidating the Holy Scriptures from this almost unopened storehouse of "treasures new and old"?


[3525] It must not be inferred that I speak as a Syriac scholar. I have laboured unsuccessfully, and late in life, to repair my sad neglect at an earlier period; and I can speak only as a penitent. [3526] Dean Payne Smith has assumed the unfinished task of Bernstein. [3527] See his Preface to the Testament, published at Hamburg a.d. 1664. He had the type cut at his personal expense, and set up the press and lodged the printers in his own house. [3528] See his translation of the Peshito Syriac version, Stanford & Swords (Bishop Hobart's publishers), New York, 1855.

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