Chapter IV.—On the Error of Idolatrous Worship.
Whatever has had a beginning, has also an end. Now that which is a beginning in respect of time, is called a generation: and whatever is by generation is subject to corruption, and its beauty 3383 is impaired by the lapse of time. How, then, can they whose origin is from corruptible generation, be immortal? Again, this supposition has gained credit with the ignorant multitude, that marriages, and the birth of children, are usual among the gods. Granting, then, such offspring to be immortal, and continually produced, the race must of necessity multiply to excess: and if this were so, where is the heaven, or the earth, which could contain so vast and still increasing a multitude of gods? But what shall we say of those men who represent these celestial beings as joined in incestuous union with their sister goddesses, and charge them with adultery and impurity? 3384 We declare, further, with all confidence, that the very honors and worship which these deities receive from men are accompanied by acts of wantonness and profligacy. Once more; the experienced and skillful sculptor, having formed the conception of his design, perfects his work according to the rules of art; and in a little while, as if forgetful of himself, idolizes his own creation, and adores it as an immortal god, while yet he admits that himself, the author and maker of the image, is a mortal man. Nay, they even show the graves and monuments of those whom they deem immortal, and bestow divine honors on the dead: not knowing that that which is truly blessed and incorruptible needs no distinction which perishable men can give: for that Being, who is seen by the mental eye, and conceived by the intellect alone, requires to be distinguished by no external form, and admits no figure to represent its character and likeness. But the honors of which we speak are given to those who have yielded to the power of death: they once were men, and tenants, while they lived, of a mortal body.
A favorite theme of the Christian apologists. Cf. long list given in the Clementine Recognitions, X. 22.