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Chapter III.—Against the Sophists.

There is a great crowd of this description: some of them, enslaved to pleasures and willing to disbelieve, laugh at the truth which is worthy of all reverence, making sport of its barbarousness. Some others, exalting themselves, endeavour to discover calumnious objections to our words, furnishing captious questions, hunters out of paltry sayings, practicers of miserable artifices, wranglers, dealers in knotty points, as that Abderite says:—

“For mortals’ tongues are glib, and on them are many speeches;
And a wide range for words of all sorts in this place and that.”


“Of whatever sort the word you have spoken, of the same sort you must hear.”

Inflated with this art of theirs, the wretched Sophists, babbling away in their own jargon; toiling their whole life about the division of names and the nature of the composition and conjunction of sentences, show themselves greater chatterers than turtle-doves; scratching and tickling, not in a manly way, in my opinion, the ears of those who wish to be tickled.

“A river of silly words—not a dropping;”

just as in old shoes, when all the rest is worn and is falling to pieces, and the tongue alone remains. The Athenian Solon most excellently enlarges, and writes:—

“Look to the tongue, and to the words of the glozing man,
But you look on no work that has been done;
But each one of you walks in the steps of a fox,
And in all of you is an empty mind.”

This, I think, is signified by the utterance of the Saviour, “The foxes have holes, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.” 1840 For on the believer alone, who is separated entirely from the rest, who by the Scripture are called wild beasts, rests the head of the universe, the kind and gentle Word, “who taketh the wise in their own craftiness. For the Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain;” 1841 the Scripture calling those the wise (σοφούς) who are skilled in words and arts, sophists (σοφιστάς). Whence the Greeks also applied the denominative appellation of wise and sophists (σοφοί, σοφισταί) to those who were versed in anything Cratinus accordingly, having in the Archilochii enumerated the poets, said:—

“Such a hive of sophists have ye examined.”

And similarly Iophon, the comic poet, in Flute-playing Satyrs, says:—

“For there entered
A band of sophists, all equipped.”

Of these and the like, who devote their attention to empty words, the divine Scripture most excellently says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 1842



Matt. viii. 20; Luke ix. 58.


Job v. 13; 1 Cor. 3:19, 20; Ps. xciv. 11.


Isa. xxix. 14; 1 Cor. i. 19.

Next: Chapter IV.—Human Arts as Well as Divine Knowledge Proceed from God.