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Chapter V.—Testimony of the Poets to the Unity of God. 709

Poets and philosophers have not been voted atheists for inquiring concerning God. Euripides, speaking of those who, according to popular preconception, are ignorantly called gods, says doubtingly:—

“If Zeus indeed does reign in heaven above,
He ought not on the righteous ills to send.” 710

But speaking of Him who is apprehended by the understanding as matter of certain knowledge, he gives his opinion decidedly, and with intelligence, thus:—

“Seest thou on high him who, with humid arms,
Clasps both the boundless ether and the earth?
Him reckon Zeus, and him regard as God.” 711

For, as to these so-called gods, he neither saw any real existences, to which a name is usually assigned, underlying them (“Zeus,” for instance: “who Zeus is I know not, but by report”), nor that any names were given to realities which actually do exist (for of what use are names to those who have no real existences underlying them?); but Him he did see by means of His works, considering with an eye to things unseen the things which are manifest in air, in ether, on earth. Him therefore, from whom proceed all created things, and by whose Spirit they are governed, he concluded to be God; and Sophocles agrees with him, when he says:—

“There is one God, in truth there is but one,
Who made the heavens, and the broad earth beneath.” 712

[Euripides is speaking] of the nature of God, which fills His works with beauty, and teaching both where God must be, and that He must be One.



[De Maistre, who talks nothing but sophistry when he rides his hobby, and who shocked the pope himself by his fanatical effort to demonstrate the papal system, is, nevertheless, very suggestive and interesting when he condescends to talk simply as a Christian. See his citations showing the heathen consciousness of one Supreme Being. Soirées de St. Pétersbourg, vol. i. pp. 225, 280; vol. ii. pp. 379, 380.]


From an unknown play.


From an unknown play; the original is ambiguous; comp. Cic. De Nat Deorum, ii. c. 25, where the words are translated—“Seest thou this boundless ether on high which embraces the earth in its moist arms? Reckon this Zeus.” Athenagoras cannot so have understood Euripides.


Not found in his extant works.

Next: Chapter VI.—Opinions of the Philosophers as to the One God.