Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

æons, and makes no distinction between Christ and Jesus. It is also true that he suggests the possibility of souls being created by secondary causes (rebus non principalibus, bk. II, sec. 53).

The narrative of Christ's miracles and crucifixion, which Arnobius had heard, must have differed considerably from that in our Gospels, if we may judge from his references to them. Thus, he says, speaking of Christ's divinity as proved by his miracles :

Was he one of us . . . who used, with a single intervention, to at once cure one hundred or more persons afflicted with various weaknesses and diseases ... who used to walk over the deepest pools with unwet feet? ... Was he one of us who, when uttering a single word, used to be thought by distinct races, speaking widely different languages, to use words of familiar sound and speech proper to each one ? Was he one of us who, when he was teaching his followers the duties of true religion, would on a sudden fill the whole world, and show his greatness and his nature by unveiling the boundlessness of his authority (Bk. I, c. 46).

In his mention of the crucifixion, he says :

But after that Christ, when stripped of his body, which he used to carry about as [only] a small part of himself, allowed himself to be seen and his greatness to be known, all the elements of the universe were terrified and disturbed at the strangeness of the events, the earth shook and trembled, the sea flowed back completely, the sky was hidden by dense darkness, the sun's fiery orb stiffened as his heat became tepid, for what else could take place after that he was recognised as God who immediately before was considered one of us (Bk. I, c, 53).

Although Arnobius refers to the divine character of Christ's teaching, he nowhere quotes directly any of his sayings, but speaks in general terms of Christ as one “who has shown us what God is, who he is, his greatness and his nature” (Bk. I, c. 38), and tells us that we learn from Christ's precepts “ that evil ought not to be requited

with evil; that it is more excellent to endure than to inflict wrong, and to pour out one's own blood rather than stain one's hands and conscience with that of another" (Bk. I, c. 6).

Like Paley and Thomas Chalmers, he appeals to the value of credible testimony in support of Christianity. He asks (Bk. I, c. 54) whether the eyewitnesses of Christ's miracles “were deceptive, lying, stupid and foolish to such an extent as to pretend to have seen what they never had seen, and bring forward on false testimony, or maintain with childish assertion, things which had never taken place at all, and, when able both to live sociably and enjoy unbroken relations with you, to incur unnecessary enmities, and be reckoned accursed ?”.

Again, when his opponents are supposed to have boasted of the antiquity of their religion, he admits the antiquity, but denies the ipso facto greater credibility. “ For," says he (Bk. I, c. 57), “ could not falsehoods have been both heard and believed ten thousand years ago, or is it not extremely probable that credence should attach to what is near and close at hand rather than to what is separated [from us] by a long interval ? For the one set of facts is adduced by witnesses, the other reported by rumours: and there is a much greater tendency for there to be less fiction in matters of recent occurrence than in those far withdrawn into the darkness of antiquity."

It is obvious, also, from this passage, that he was unacquainted with the Jewish scriptures, whose antiquity he might have maintained in argument.

Arnobius would now be scarcely considered orthodox on the subject of the life after death. He claims the authority of Christ for his views, but never quotes the words of Christ. His view is, that souls after death are in an intermediate state, and go to heaven or hell according

wa

to whether they have known God or not; and that hell is not a place of everlasting torment, but one where souls are consumed in rivers of flame.

The necessity for souls to know God reminds us of John xvii, 3: “And this is the life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”

But many of the pagan philosophers held that souls could not die, and that every soul partakes in its nature of the divine essence. Against these philosophers Arnobius, forgetful of the fact that at the beginning of his book he had spoken of the Supreme God (Deus Princeps) as the creator, “ without whom there would certainly be nothing to bear any name and [have] any substance,” argues that man cannot be the creation of the Supreme God because of his imperfections of mind and body, his vices and his sufferings. He thus concludes the argument. (Bk. II, C. 46)—

But to say the same things again and again, let this belief, so monstrous and impious, be put far from us, that that God, who is the Saviour of all things, the source of all virtues and a pillar of kindness, and, to exalt him with human praise, the most wise and just [God] who makes all things complete and of a nature to retain the marks of his perfection, either made anything defective or crooked, or was the cause of misery or danger to any being, or arranged and ordered and ordained to flow from his own arrangement the very acts in which man's life is passed and occupied. These things are beneath him and such as destroy the force of his greatness; and for him to be the author of these creations is so far removed from credence that whoever has conceived that man is sprung from him, incurs the charge of sacrilegious impiety [man], a creature unhappy and miserable, who grieves over his existence, hates and sorrows over his condition, and who perceives that he was produced for no other reason than lest evils should not have matter for their diffusion, and that there might always be wretched men on whose tortures might feed a secret and cruel power hostile to humanity.

His view of human life is not a very cheerful one, and may certainly be held to err on the side of pessimism.

To the question, Who made souls if the Supreme God did not ? four apologist pleads ignorance (Bk. II, c. 47): but he holds that they could not have come to earth of their own accord, as that would necessitate permission on the part of the Supreme God to leave their former abode (Bk. II, c. 44)...

It is evident that Arnobius found it impossible to reconcile the natural world and the laws of nature with the rule of a Supreme Deity, such as the Heavenly Father of Jesus Christ. Was he quite wrong in his refusal to believe that God is the sole creator and ruler of this world as it is ?

PART II. I now come to the second part of my paper, which is the consideration of this question.

The Christian ideas of God and creation may fairly be supposed to be derived from the Gospels, the Epistles and the 0. T.

In the synoptic gospels, Jesus speaks of God as the Heavenly Father, more particularly of himself and his disciples, but also of the Jewish nation and mankind in general. He is a God of mercy who sends his rain upon the just and unjust alike, and who welcomes back the repentant sinner. Still an impression is also conveyed that he is the God of the Jews first, who are his sons, while the Gentiles are as the dogs eating the crumbs that fall from the children's table. The kingdom of God is offered to the Jews first, and to the rest of mankind only after its rejection by the Jews (Matt. xxi, 43). Jesus is sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. xv, 24).

The account of creation given in the Book of Genesis is apparently accepted by Jesus, who does not give any explanation of the origin of evil. He ascribes diseases to the power of Satan, but does not tell his followers who Satan is, probably because they already held distinct views regarding him, which unfortunately appear to have been lost. He informs his disciples that he had seen Satan fall like lightning from heaven, without adding any explanation of the fact. We are told by S. Matthew and S. Luke that Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, but why he had the power to do so is not stated.

In S. John's Gospel God is represented as the Spirit of Truth who so loves the world that he sends his only begotten Son to save the world. He is the Heavenly Father of Christ and of the Christians, but not apparently of others, as may be inferred from such texts as the following :-“As many as received him, he gave to them power to become children of God” (i, 12). “He that loves me shall be loved by my Father” (xiv, 21). “I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you” (xv, 19). “I do not ask concerning the world, but concerning those whom thou has given to me, because they are thine” (xvii, 9).

The ruler* (öpxwv) of this world— presumably Satanis judged, and shall be cast out, but is still able by his coming to hasten the death of Christ. At least so I understand ch. xiv, 30: “I will not talk much more with you, for the ruler of this world cometh and hath nothing in me."

* The äpxwv of S. John reminds us somewhat in his attributes of the äpxwv of Basilides (125 A.D.). Bishop Lightfoot's note on Galatians i, 4, is of interest in this connection. “This age, this world, is under a 'god' (2 Cor. iv, 4), or 'rulers' (1 Cor. ii, 6) of its own, who are opposed to the Eternal God, the King of the ages, ó Bacileùs twv aiwvwv (1 Tim. i, 17). See especially Ephes. ii, 2–7, and comp., pseudo Clemen, 2 Cor., $ 6."

« ElőzőTovább »