From the twenty-ninth Letter, of which the beginning is, ‘Sufficient for this present time is that which we have already written.’
The Lord proved the disciples2 , when He was asleep on the pillow, at which time a miracle was wrought, which is especially calculated to put even the wicked to shame. For when He arose, and rebuked the sea, and silenced the storm, He plainly shewed two things; that the storm of the sea was not from the winds, but from fear of its Lord Who walked upon it, and that the Lord Who rebuked it was not a creature, but rather its Creator, since a creature is not obedient to another creature. For although the Red Sea was divided before by Moses3 , yet it was not Moses who did it, for it came to pass, not because he spoke, but because God commanded. And if the sun stood still in Gibeon4 , and the moon in the valley of Ajalon, yet this was the work, not of the son of Nun, but of the Lord, Who heard his prayer. He it was Who both rebuked the sea, and on the cross caused the sun to be darkened5 .
Another Fragment6 .
And whereas what is human comes to an end, what is divine does not. For which reason also when we are dead, and when our nature is tired out, he raises us up, and leads us up [though] born of earth to heaven.
Another Fragment7 .
Here begins a letter of S. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, to his children. May God comfort you. I know moreover that not only this thing saddens you, but also the fact that while others have obtained the churches by violence, you are meanwhile cast out from your places. For they hold the places, but you the Apostolic Faith. They are, it is true, in the places, but outside of the true Faith; while you are outside the places indeed, but the Faith, within you. Let us consider whether is the greater, the place or the Faith. Clearly the true Faith. Who then has lost more, or who possesses more? He who holds the place, or he who holds the Faith? Good indeed is the place, when the Apostolic Faith is preached there, holy is it if the Holy One dwell there. (After a little:) But ye are blessed, who by faith are in the Church, dwell upon the foundations of the faith, and have full satisfaction, even the highest degree of faith which remains among you unshaken. For it has come down to you from Apostolic tradition, and frequently has accursed envy wished to unsettle it, but has not been able. On the contrary, they have rather been cut off by their attempts to do so. For this is it that is written, ‘Thou art the Son of the Living God8 ,’ Peter confessing it by revelation of the Father, and being told, ‘Blessed art thou Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood did not reveal it to theee,’ but ‘My Father Who is in heaven,’ and the rest. No one therefore will ever prevail against your Faith, most beloved brethren. For if ever God shall give back the churches (for we think He will) yet without9 such restoration of the churches the Faith is sufficient for us. And lest, speaking without the Scriptures, I should [seem to] speak too strongly, it is well to bring you to the testimony of Scriptures, for recollect that the Temple indeed was at Jerusalem; the Temple was not deserted, aliens had invaded it, whence also the Temple being at Jerusalem, those exiles went down to Babylon by the judgment of God, who was proving, or rather correcting them; while manifesting to them in their ignorance punishment [by means] of blood-thirsty enemies10 . And aliens indeed had held the Place, but knew not the Lord of the Place, while in that He neither gave answer nor spoke, they were deserted by the truth. What profit then is the Place to them?
For behold they that hold the Place are charged by them that love God with making it a den of thieves, and with madly making the Holy Place a house of merchandise, and a house of judicial business for themselves to whom it was unlawful to enter there. For this and worse than this is what we have heard, most beloved, from those who are come from thence. However really, then, they seem to hold the church, so much the more truly are they cast out. And they think themselves to be within the truth, but are exiled, and in captivity, and [gain] no advantage by the church alone. For the truth of things is judged …
1 If these fragments are authentic, the statement in the Index, that this year no letter could be sent, is an error.
3 (Ex 14,21,
4 (Jos 10,12,
5 (Mt 27,45,
6 From Cosmas; Migne 26,1436.
7 The following fragment (Migne, ib. p. 1189), was published by Montfaucon from a Colbertine Latin ms. of about 800 a.d. He conjectured that it belonged to a Festal Letter. On this hypothesis, which is, however, as Mai observes, by no means self-evident, we append it to the above fragments of Letter 29, since internal evidence connects it with the handing over of the churches at Alexandria to the partisans of George, June, 356. At any rate, in spite of the heading of the fragment, its beginning is clearly not preserved).
8 (Mt 16,16-17,
9 Text corrupt.
10 Lat. somewhat obscure.
Of the particular books and their number, which are accepted by the Church. From the thirty-ninth Letter of Holy Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, on the Paschal festival; wherein he defines canonically what are the divine books which are accepted by the Church.
… 1. They have1 fabricated books which they call books of tables2 , in which they shew stars, to which they give the names of Saints. And therein of a truth they have inflicted on themselves a double reproach: those who have written such books, because they have perfected themselves in a lying and contemptible science; and as to the ignorant and simple, they have led them astray by evil thoughts concerning the right faith established in all truth and upright in the presence of God.
… 2. But3 since we have made mention of heretics as dead, but of ourselves as possessing the Divine Scriptures for salvation; and since I fear lest, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians4 , some few of the simple should be beguiled from their simplicity and purity, by the subtilty of certain men, and should henceforth read other books—those called apocryphal—led astray by the similarity of their names with the true books; I beseech you to bear patiently, if I also write, by way of remembrance, of matters with which you are acquainted, influenced by the need and advantage of the Church.
3. In proceeding to make mention of these things, I shall adopt, to commend my undertaking, the pattern of Luc the Evangelist, saying on my own account: ‘Forasmuch as some have taken in hand5 ,’ to reduce into order for themselves the books termed apocryphal, and to mix them up with the divinely inspired Scripture, concerning which we have been fully persuaded, as they who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word, delivered to the fathers; it seemed good to me also, having been urged thereto by true brethren, and having learned from the beginning, to set before you the books included in the Canon, and handed down, and accredited as Divine; to the end that any one who has fallen into error may condemn those who have led him astray; and that he who has continued stedfast in purity may again rejoice, having these things brought to his remembrance.
4. There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and names being as follows. The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next Leviticus, after that Numbers, and then Deuteronomy. Following these there is Joshua, the son of Nun, then Judges, then Rt And again, after these four books of Kings, the first and second being reckoned as one book, and so likewise the third and fourth as one book. And again, the first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as one book. Again Ezra, the first and second6 are similarly one book. After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs, next Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Job follows, then the Prophets, the twelve being reckoned as one book. Then Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations, and7 the epistle, one book; afterwards, Ezekiel and Daniel, each one book. Thus far constitutes the Old Testament.
5. Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John.
6. These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me8 .’
7. But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple.
1 This section is preserved in the Coptic (Memphitic) Life of S. Theodore (Amálineau Ann. du Musée Guimet. xvii. p. 239). Its contents and the context in which it is quoted appear decisive for its identification as part of Letter 39. But the Letter from which the fragment comes is stated in the context to have been received by Theodore in the spring previous to his death. If Theodore died in 364, as seems probable on other grounds (see (p. 569, note 3), the speech from which our fragment comes must have been written for him by his biographer. This is not unlikely, nor does it throw any suspicion on the genuineness of the fragment itself.
2 Copt). apogrammwn: astrological charts or tables appear to be meant.
3 The remainder of the thirty-ninth Letter has long been before the world, having been preserved, with the heading of the Letter, in the original Greek, by Theodorus Balsamon. It may be found in the first volume of the Benedictine edition of the works of S. Athan. tom. i. p. 767. ed. 1777). [Migne, ubi supra]. A Syriac translation of it was discovered by Cureton in an anonymous Commentary on the Scriptures in the collection of the British Museum (Cod. 12, 168). This translation commences only at the quotation from S. Luke. The Syriac is apparently the work of a different translator.
4 (2Co 11,3,
5 (Lc 1,1).
6 i.e. Esd and Nehemiah.
7 i.e. Baruch vi.—The Syriac has the conjunction, which is rejected by the Benedictine editors.
8 (Mt 22,29 Jn 5,39,
‘Ye are they that have continued with Me in My temptations; and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me, that ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom2 .’ Being called, then, to the great and heavenly Supper, in that upper room which has been swept, let us ‘cleanse ourselves,’ as the Apostle exhorted, ‘from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God3 ;’ that so, being spotless within and without,—without, clothing ourselves with temperance and justice; within, by the Spirit, rightly dividing the word of truth—we may hear, ‘Enter into the joy of thy Lord4 .’
1 The following fragments are, except Letter 44, preserved in the original Greek, by Cosmas (Migne 26,1440 sqq.).
3 (2Co 7,1,
4 (Mt 25,21,
For we have been called, brethren, and are now called together, by Wisdom, and according to the Evangelical parable, to that great and heavenly Supper, and sufficient for every creature; I mean, to the Passover,—to Christ, Who is sacrificed; for ‘Christ our Passover is sacrificed.’ (And afterwards:) They, therefore, that are thus prepared shall hear, ‘Enter into the joy of thy Lord1 .’
1 Mt 25,21 and 1Co 5,7.
Of us, then, whose also is the Passover, the calling is from above, and ‘our conversation is in heaven,’ as Paul says; ‘For we have here no abiding city, but we seek that which is to come1 ,’ whereto, also, looking forward, we properly keep the feast. (And again, afterwards:) Heaven truly is high, and its distance from us infinite; for ‘the heaven of heavens,’ says he, ‘is the Lord’s2 .’ But not, on that account, are we to be negligent or fearful, as though the way thereto were impossible; but rather should we be zealous. Yet not, as in the case of those who formerly, removing from the east and finding a plain in Senaar, began [to build a tower], is there need for us to bake bricks with fire, and to seek slime for mortar; for their tongues were confounded, and their work was destroyed. But for us the Lord has consecrated a way through His blood, and has made it easy. (And again:)For not only has He afforded us consolation respecting the distance, but also in that He has come and opened the door for us which was once shut. For, indeed, it was shut from the time He cast out Adam from the delight of Paradise, and set the Cherubim and the flaming sword, that turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life—now, however, opened wide. And He that sitteth upon the Cherubim having appeared with greater grace and loving-kindness, led into Paradise with himself the thief who confessed, and having entered heaven as our forerunner, opened the gates to all. (And again:) Paul also, ‘pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling3 ,’ by it was taken up to the third heaven, and having seen those things which are above, and then descended, he teaches us, announcing what is written to the Hebrews, and saying, ‘For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, and clouds, and darkness, and a tempest, and to the voice of words. But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven4 .’ Who would not wish to enjoy the high companionship with these! Who not desire to be enrolled with these, that he may hear with them, ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world 5 .’
1 (Ph 3,20 He 13,14.
2 (Ps 115,16,
3 (Ph 3,14,
5 (Mt 25,34,
And again, from the forty-fourth Letter, of which the commencement is, ‘All that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ did instead of us and for us1 .’
When therefore the servants of the Chief Priests and the Scribes saw these things, and heard from Jesus, ‘Whosoever is athirst, let him come to Me and drink2 ;’ they perceived that this was not a mere man like themselves, but that this was He Who gave water to the saints, and that it was He Who was announced by the prophet Isaiah. For He was truly the splendour of the light3 , and the Word of God. And thus as a river from the fountain he gave drink also of old to Paradise; but now to all men He gives the same gift of the Spirit, and says, ‘If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink.’ Whosoever ‘believeth on Me, as saith the Scripture, rivers of living water shall flow out of his belly4 .’ This was not for man to say, but for the living God, Who truly vouchsafes life, and gives the Holy Spirit.
1 See Letter 27, note 1.
2 (Jn 7,37,
3 Cf. He 1,3.
4 (Jn 7,37-38,
Let us all take up our sacrifices, observing distribution to the poor, and enter into the holy place, as it is written; ‘whither also our forerunner Jesus is entered for us, having obtained eternal redemption1 .’ …(From the same:) …And this is a great proof that, whereas we were strangers, we are called friends; from being formerly aliens, we are become fellow-citizens with the saints, and are called children of the Jerusalem which is above, whereof that which Solomon built was a type. For if Moses made all things according to the pattern shewed him in the mount, it is clear that the service performed in the tabernacle was a type of the heavenly mysteries, whereto the Lord, desirous that we should enter, prepared for us the new and abiding way. And as all the old things were a type of the new, so the festival that now is, is a type of the joy which is above, to which coming with psalms and spiritual songs, let us begin the fasts2 ).
1 (He 6,20 He 9,12,
2 This fragment is the latest writing of Athanasius that we possess).
Athanasius to the presbyters and deacons and the people of the Catholic Church in the Mareotis, brethren beloved and longed for, greeting in the Lord.
The holy council has praised your piety in Christ. They have all acknowledged your spirit and fortitude in all things, in that ye did not fear threats, and though you had to bear insults and persecutions against your piety you held out. Your letters when read out to all produced tears and enlisted universal sympathy. They loved you though absent, and reckoned your persecutions as their own. Their letter to you is a proof of their affection: and although it would suffice to include you along with the holy Church of Alexandria2 , yet the holy synod has written separately to you in order that ye may be encouraged not to give way on account of your sufferings, but to give thanks to God; because your patience shall have good fruit.
Formerly the character of the heretics was not evident. But now it is revealed and laid open to all. For the holy synod has taken cognisance of the calumnies these men have concocted against you, and has had them in abhorrence, and has deposed Theodore, Valens, Ursacius, in Alexandria3 and the Mareotis by consent of all. The same notice has been given to other Churches also. And since the cruelty and tyranny practised by them against the Churches can no longer be borne, they have been cast out from the episcopate and expelled from the communion of all. Moreover of Gregory they were unwilling even to make mention, for since the man has lacked the very name of bishop, they thought it superfluous to name him. But on account of those who are deceived by him they have mentioned his name; not because he seemed worthy of mention, but that those deceived by him might thereby recognise his infamy and blush at the kind of man with whom they have communicated. You will learn what has been written about them from the previous document4 : and though not all of the bishops came together to sign, yet it was drawn up by all, and they signed for all. Salute one another with a holy kiss. All the brethren salute you.
I, Protogenes5 , bishop, desire that you may be preserved in the Lord, beloved and longed for.
I, Athenodorus*, bishop, desire that ye may be preserved in the Lord, most beloved brethren). [Other signatures] Julian, Ammonius, Aprianus, Marcellus, Gerontius*, Porphyrius*, Zosimus, Asclepius, Appian, Eulogius, Eugenius, Liodorus (26), Martyrius, Eucarpus, Lucius*, Caloes. Maximus: by letters from the Gauls I desire that ye may be preserved in the Lord, beloved. We, Arcidamus and Philoxenus, presbyters, and Leo a deacon, from Rome, desire that ye may be preserved. I, Gaudentius, bishop of Naissus, desire that ye may be preserved in the Lord). [Also] Florentius of Meria in Pannonia, Ammianus (9), of Castellum in Pannonia, Januarius of Beneventum, Praetextatus of Narcidonum in Pannonia, Hyperneris (48) of Hypata in Thessaly, Castus of Caesaraugusta, Severus of Calcisus in Thessaly, Julian of Therae Heptapolis6 , Lucius of Verona, Eugenius (35) of Hecleal Cycbinae7 , Zosimus (92) of Lychni8 Sunosion in Apulia9 , Hermogenes of Syceon10 , Thryphos of Magara, Paregorius* of Caspi, Caloes (21) of Castromartis, Ireneus of Syconis, Macedonius of Lypianum, Martyrius of Naupacti, Palladius of Dius, Broseus (87) of Lu[g]dunum in Gaul, Ursacius of Brixia, Amantius of Viminacium, by the presbyter Maximus, Alexander of Gypara in Achaia, Eutychius of Mothona, Aprianus of Petavio in Pannonia, Antigonus of Pallene in Macedonia, Dometius* of Acaria Constantias, Olympius of Enorodope11 , Zosimus of Oreomarga, Protasius of Milan, Marc of Siscia on the Save, Eucarpus of Opûs in Achaia, Vitalis* of Vertara in Africa, Helianus of Tyrtana, Symphorus of Herapythae in Crete, Mosinius (64) of Heracla, Eucissus of Chisamus12 , Cydonius of Cydonia13 ).
1 This and the following letters were first printed by Scipio Maffei from a Latin ms. in the Chapter Library of Verona, along with the Historia Acephala. They were included in Galland, Bibl. Patr. vol. 5, and in Justiniani’s Ed. of Athanasius (Padua, 1777). The letters are printed in Migne, 26,1333, sqq., along with one (from the same source) addressed by the Council to the Mareotic Churches. Hefele doubts their genuineness, but without reason (ii. 166, E. Tra.) The list of signatures (an independent source of information, supr. p. 147) alone proves the contrary. The two letters may be taken as a supplement to the documents given, Apol. c. Ar. 37–50 (see (also p. 147), with which they have many points of resemblance. The Latin is very bad and occasionally without sense; it bears clear traces of being a rendering by an unskilful hand from Greek.
2 In the letter referred to in note 1.
3 i.e. has given notice to those places of their deposition
4 The letter of the Council.
5 For the probably correct names and sees, see p. 147, sq. The asterisk denotes signatories of the letter of the Council to the Mareotis, the numbers in brackets denote those of the list on pp. 147, sq.
6 There was divided into seven districts. Herod. 4,153.
7 These two sees are a puzzle.
8 These two sees are a puzzle.
9 Probably Canusium, the name of Stercorius being lost, lurks in this corruption.
10 In Galatia?
11 Aeni in Thrace. D.C.B. 4,75 (3).
12 In Crete, near Cydonia.
13 59 signatures, to which add Stercorius (note 8) and Athanasius, making 61).
Athanasius to all the presbyters and deacons of the holy Catholic Church at Alexandria and the Parembola, brethren most beloved, greeting.
In writing this I must begin my letter, most beloved brethren, by giving thanks to Christ. But now this is especially fitting, since both many things and great, done by the Lord, deserve our thanks1 , and those who believe in Him ought not to be ungrateful for His many benefits. We thank the Lord therefore, who always manifests us to all in the faith, who also has at this time done many wonderful things for the Church. For what the heretical party of Eusebius and heirs of Arius have maintained and spread abroad, all the bishops who assembled have pronounced false and fictitious. And the very men who are thought terrible by many, like those who are called giants, were counted as nothing, and rightly so, for just as the darkness is illuminated when light comes, so, iniquity is unveiled by the coming of the just, and when the good are present, the worthless are exposed.
For you yourselves, beloved, are not ignorant what the successors of the ill-named heresy of Eusebius did, namely Theodore, Narcissus, Valens, Ursacius, and the worst of them all, George, Stephen, Acacius, Menophantus, and their colleagues, for their madness is manifest to all; nor has it escaped your observation what they committed against the Churches. For you were the first they injured, your Church the first they tried to corrupt. But they who did so many great things, and were, as I said above, terrible to the minds of all, have been so frightened as to pass all imagination. For not only did they fear the Roman Synod, not only when invited to it did they excuse themselves, but, now also having arrived at Sardica, so conscience-stricken were they, that when they had seen the judges, they were astonished. So they fainted in their minds. Verily, one might say to them: ‘Death, where is thy sting, Death, where is thy victory?’ For neither did it go as they wished, for them to give judgment as they pleased; this time they could not over-reach whom they would. But they saw faithful men, that cared for justice, nay rather, they saw our Lord Himself among them, like the demons of old from the tombs; for being sons of falsehood, they could not bear to see the truth. So Theodore, Narcissus, and Ursacius, with their friends said as follows2 : ‘Stay, what have we to do with you, men of Christ? We know that you are true, and fear to be convicted: we shrink from confessing our calumnies to your face. We have nothing to do with you; for you are Christians, while we are foes to Christ; and while with you truth is powerful, we have learned to over-reach. We thought our deeds were hid; we did not think that we were now coming to judgment; why do you expose our deeds before their time; and by exposing us vex us before the day?’ and although they are of the worst character and walk in darkness, yet they have learnt at last that there is no agreement between light and darkness, and no concord between Christ and Belial. Accordingly, beloved brethren, since they knew what they had done, and saw their victims3 ready as accusers, and the witnesses before their eyes, they followed the example of Cain and fled like him; in that they greatly wandered4 , for they imitated his flight, and so have received his condemnation. For the holy council knows their works; it has heard our blood crying aloud, heard from themselves the voices of the wounded. All the Bishops know how they have sinned, and how many things they have done against our Churches and others; and accordingly they have expelled these men from the Churches like Cain. For who did not weep when your letter was read? who did not groan to see whom those men had exiled? Who did not reckon your tribulations his own? Most beloved brethren, you suffered formerly when they were committing evil against you, and perhaps it is no long time since the war has ceased. Now, however, all the Bishops who assembled and heard what you have suffered, grieved and lamented just as you did when you suffered the injuries and5 they shared your grief at that time
On account of these deeds then, and all the others which they have committed against the Churches, the holy general council has deposed them all, and not only has judged them aliens from the Church, but has held them unworthy to be called Christians. For how can men be called Christians who deny Christ? And how can men be admitted to church who do evil against the Churches? Accordingly, the holy council has sent to the Churches everywhere, that they may be marked among all, so that they who were deceived by them may now return to full assurance and truth. Do not therefore fail, beloved brethren; like servants of God, and professors of the faith of Christ, be tried in the Lord, and let not tribulation cast you down, neither let troubles caused by the heretics who plot against you make you sad. For you have the sympathy of the whole world in your grief, and what is more, it bears you all in mind. Now I think that those deceived by them will, when they see the severe sentence of the Council, turn aside from them and reject their impiety. If, however, even after this their hand is lifted up, do you not be astonished, nor fear if they rage; but pray and raise your hands to God, and be sure that the Lord will not tarry but will perform all things according to your will. I could wish indeed to write you a longer letter with a detailed account of what has taken place, but since the presbyters and deacons are competent to tell you in person of all they have seen, I have refrained from writing much. One thing alone I charge you, considering it a necessity, that having the fear of the Lord before your eyes you will put Him first, and carry on all things with your wonted concord as men of wisdom and understanding. Pray for us, bearing in mind the necessities of the widows6 , especially since the enemies of truth have taken away what belongs to them. But let your love overcome the malice of the heretics. For we believe that according to your prayers the Lord will be gracious and permit me to see you speedily. Meanwhile you will learn the proceedings at the Synod by what all the Bishops have written to you, and from the appended letter you will perceive the deposition of Theodore, Narcissus, Stephen, Acacius, George, Menophantus, Ursacius and Valens. For Gregory they did not wish to mention: since they thought it superfluous to name a man who lacked the very name of bishop. Yet for the sake of those deceived by him they have mentioned his name, not that his name was worthy of mention, but in order that those deceived by him may learn his infamy and blush for the sort of man they have communicated with7 : I pray that you may be preserved in the Lord, brethren most beloved and longed for.
1 Latin hardly translateable.
2 Cf). Hist. Ar. and Introd. Fialon, p. 209, remarks on the uncritical adoption (by Fleury and his plagiarist Rohrbacher) of these satirical colloquies as an authentic account of what was actually said.
3 Lat. ‘quaecunque miserrimos videntes accusatores, testes prae oculis habentes:’ apparently a barbarous rendering of idonte" kai ton" parAE autwn paqonta", tou" kathgorou", tou" elegcou" pro ofqalmwn econte", as in Apol. Ar. 45.
4 ‘Granditer erraverunt,’ either for makran apefugon, or for sfodra eplhmmelhsan: no verb elsewhere used in this connection in Athanasius exactly corresponds to ‘erraverunt,’ nor is the flight to Philippopolis elsewhere compared, as here, to that of Cain. But the latter comparison is often used by Ath. in other connections.
5 illis …erat dolor communis illo tempore quo processistis The Latin has quite lost the sense).
6 For the filoptwcia of Athanasius, cf). Hist. Ar. 61, Vit. Ant. 17, 30, and the stress laid on the hardship of the artoi (as here) in Encycl. 4, Hist. Ar. ubi supr. and 72.
‘tamen, et hoc cure illis.’
All things made by God are beautiful and pure, for the Word of God has made nothing useless or impure. For ‘we are a sweet savour of Christ in them that are being saved2 ,’ as the Apostle says. But since the devil’s darts are varied and subtle, and he contrives to trouble those who are of simpler mind, and tries to hinder the ordinary exercises of the brethren, scattering secretly among them thoughts of uncleanness and defilement; come let us briefly dispel the error of the evil one by the grace of the Saviour, and confirm the mind of the simple. For ‘to the pure all things are pure,’ but both the conscience and all that belongs to the unclean are defiled3 . I marvel also at the craft of the devil, in that, although he is corruption and mischief itself, he suggests thoughts under the show of purity; but with the result of a snare rather than a test. For with the object, as I said before, of distracting ascetics from their customary and salutary meditation, and of appearing to overcome them, he stirs some such buzzing thoughts as are of no profit in life, vain questions and frivolities which one ought to put aside. For tell me, beloved and most pious friend, what sin or uncleanness there is in any natural secretion,—as though a man were minded to make a culpable matter of the cleanings of the nose or the sputa from the mouth? And we may add also the secretions of the belly, such as are a physical necessity of animal life. Moreover if we believe man to be, as the divine Scriptures say, a work of God’s hands, how could any defiled work proceed from a pure Power? and if, according to the divine Acts of the Apostles4 , ‘we are God’s offspring,’ we have nothing unclean in ourselves. For then only do we incur defilement, when we commit sin, that foulest of things. But when any bodily excretion takes place independently of will, then we experience this, like other things, by a necessity of nature. But since those whose only pleasure is to gainsay what is said aright, or rather what is made by God, pervert even a saying in the Gospels, alleging that ‘not that which goeth in defileth a man, but that which goeth out5 ,’ we are obliged to make plain this unreasonableness,—for I cannot call it a question—of theirs. For firstly, like unstable persons, they wrest the Scriptures6 to their own ignorance. Now the sense of the divine oracle is as follows. Certain persons, like these of today, were in doubt about meats. The Lord Himself, to dispel their ignorance, or it may be to unveil their deceitfulness, lays down that, not what goes in defiles the man, but what goes out. Then he adds exactly whence they go out, namely from the heart. For there, as he knows, are the evil treasures of profane thoughts and other sins. But the Apostle teaches the same thing more concisely, saying, ‘But meat shall not bring us before God7 .’ Moreover, one might reasonably say no natural secretion will bring us before him for punishment. But possibly medical men (to put these people to shame even at the hands of outsiders) will support us on this point, telling us that there are certain necessary passages accorded to the animal body, to provide for the dismissal of the superfluity of what is secreted in our several parts; for example, for the superfluity of the head, the hair and the watery discharges from the head, and the purgings of the belly, and that superfluity again of the seminative channels. What sin then is there in God’s name, elder most beloved of God, if the Master who made the body willed and made these parts to have such passages? But since we must grapple with the objections of evil persons, as they may say, ‘If the organs have been severally fashioned by the Creator, then there is no sin in their genuine use,’ let us stop them by asking this question: What do you mean by use? That lawful use which God permitted when He said, ‘Increase and multiply, and replenish the earth8 ,’ and which the Apostle approves in the words, ‘Marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled9 ,’ or that use which is public, yet carried on stealthily and in adulterous fashion? For in other matters also which go to make up life, we shall find differences according to circumstances. For example, it is not right to kill, yet in war it is lawful and praiseworthy to destroy the enemy; accordingly not only are they who have distinguished themselves in the field held worthy of great honours, but monuments are put up proclaiming their achievements. So that the same act is at one time and under some circumstances unlawful, while under others, and at the right time, it is lawful and permissible. The same reasoning applies to the relation of the sexes. He is blessed who, being freely yoked in his youth, naturally begets children. But if he uses nature licentiously, the punishment of which the Apostle10 writes shall await whoremongers and adulterers.
For there are two ways in life, as touching these matters. The one the more moderate and ordinary, I mean marriage; the other angelic and unsurpassed, namely virginity. Now if a man choose the way of the world, namely marriage, he is not indeed to blame; yet he will not receive such great gifts as the other. For he will receive, since he too brings forth fruit, namely thirtyfold11 . But if a man embrace the holy and unearthly way, even though, as compared with the former, it be rugged and hard to accomplish, yet it has the more wonderful gifts: for it grows the perfect fruit, namely an hundredfold. So then their unclean and evil objections had their proper solution long since given in the divine Scriptures. Strengthen then, father, the flocks12 under you, exhorting them from the Apostolic writings, guiding them from the Evangelical, counselling them from the Psalms, and saying, ‘quicken me according to Thy Word13 ;’ but by ‘Thy Word,’ is meant that we should serve Him with a pure heart. For knowing this, the Prophet says, as if interpreting himself, ‘Make me a clean heart, O God14 ,’ lest filthy thoughts trouble me. David again, ‘And stablish me with Thy free spirit15 ,’ that even if ever thoughts disturb me, a certain strong power from Thee may stablish me, acting as a support. Giving then this and the like advice, say with regard to those who are slow to obey the truth, ‘I will teach Thy ways unto the wicked,’ and, confident in the Lord that you will persuade them to desist from such wickedness, sing ‘and sinners shall be converted unto Thee16 .’ And be it granted, that they who raise malicious questions may cease from such vain labour, and that they who doubt in their simplicity may be strengthened with a ‘free spirit;’ while as many of you as surely know the truth, hold it unbroken and unshaken in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom be to the Father glory and might, together with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 See Migne xxvi. 1169, sqq.; Prolegg. ch. ii, §7. Amun, probably the Nitrian monk (supr. p. 212, and D.C.B. 1,102 init).. At any rate, Athanasius addresses his correspondent as ‘elder’ and ‘father,’ which accords well with the language of Vit. Ant. ubi supr. The letter states clearly Athanasius’ opinion as to the relative value of the celibate and married state. It also shews the healthy good sense of the great bishop in dealing with the morbid scrupulosity which even at that early date had begun to characterise certain circles in the Monastic world.
2 (2Co 2,15
3 (Tt 1,15 Tt 1,
4 (Ac 17,28).
5 (Mt 15,11,
6 (2P 3,16,
7 (1Co 8,8,
8 (Gn 1,28,
9 (He 13,4,
10 (He 13,4,
11 See Mc 4,20, &c.
12 This is a clear reference to the Monastic Societies which had now long existed in the Nitrian desert.
13 (Ps 119,107,
14 (Ps 51,10,
15 Ps 51,12.
16 Ps 51,13.