Chapter XIX.—His Second Suggestion.
“Again, the wicked serpent suggests another opinion to men, which many of you are in the habit of bringing forward,—that there is, as we say, one God, who is Lord of all; but these also, they say, are gods. For as there is one Cæsar, and he has under him many judges,—for example, prefects, consuls, tribunes, and other officers,—in like manner we think, that while there is one God greater than all, yet still that these gods are ordained in this world, after the likeness of those officers of whom we have spoken, subject indeed to that greater God, yet ruling us and the things that are in this world. In answer to this, I shall show you how, in those very things which you propose for deception, you are confuted by the reasons of truth. You say that God occupies the place of Cæsar, and those who are called gods represent His judges and officers. Hold then, as you have adduced it, by the example of Cæsar; and know that, as one of Cæsars judges or administrators, as prefects, proconsuls, generals, or tribunes, may lawfully take the name of Cæsar,—or else both he who should take it and those who should confer it should be destroyed together,—so also in this case you ought to observe, that if any one give the name of God to any but Himself, and he accept it, they shall partake one and the same destruction, by a much more terrible fate than the servants of Cæsar. For he who offends against Cæsar shall undergo temporal destruction; but he who offends against Him who is the sole and true God, shall suffer eternal punishment, and that deservedly, as having injured by a wrongful condition the name which is unique. 765
The writer means, that insult is offered to that name which belongs to God alone by giving it to others, and thus placing it in a position which is unjust to it.