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Chapter VII.—The Utility of Fear. Objections Answered.

Those, who denounce fear, assail the law; and if the law, plainly also God, who gave the law. For these three elements are of necessity presented in the subject on hand: the ruler, his administration, and the ruled. If, then, according to hypothesis, they abolish the law; then, by necessary consequence, each one who is led by lust, courting pleasure, must neglect what is right and despise the Deity, and fearlessly indulge in impiety and injustice together, having dashed away from the truth.

Yea, say they, fear is an irrational aberration, 2223 and perturbation of mind. What sayest thou? And how can this definition be any longer maintained, seeing the commandment is given me by the Word? But the commandment forbids, hanging fear over the head of those who have incurred 2224 admonition for their discipline.

Fear is not then irrational. It is therefore rational. How could it be otherwise, exhorting as it does, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Than shalt not bear false witness? But if they will quibble about the names, let the philosophers term the fear of the law, cautious fear, (εὐλάβεια) p. 355 which is a shunning (ἔκκλισις) agreeable to reason. Such Critolaus of Phasela not inaptly called fighters about names (ὀνοματομάκοι). The commandment, then, has already appeared fair and lovely even in the highest degree, when conceived under a change of name. Cautious fear (εὐλάβεια) is therefore shown to be reasonable, being the shunning of what hurts; from which arises repentance for previous sins. “For the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; good understanding is to all that do it.” 2225 He calls wisdom a doing, which is the fear of the Lord paving the way for wisdom. But if the law produces fear, the knowledge of the law is the beginning of wisdom; and a man is not wise without law. Therefore those who reject the law are unwise; and in consequence they are reckoned godless (ἄθεοι). Now instruction is the beginning of wisdom. “But the ungodly despise wisdom and instruction,” 2226 saith the Scripture.

Let us see what terrors the law announces. If it is the things which hold an intermediate place between virtue and vice, such as poverty, disease, obscurity, and humble birth, and the like, these things civil laws hold forth, and are praised for so doing. And those of the Peripatetic school, who introduce three kinds of good things, and think that their opposites are evil, this opinion suits. But the law given to us enjoins us to shun what are in reality bad things—adultery, uncleanness, pæderasty, ignorance, wickedness, soul-disease, death (not that which severs the soul from the body, but that which severs the soul from truth). For these are vices in reality, and the workings that proceed from them are dreadful and terrible. “For not unjustly,” say the divine oracles, “are the nets spread for birds; for they who are accomplices in blood treasure up evils to themselves.” 2227 How, then, is the law still said to be not good by certain heresies that clamorously appeal to the apostle, who says, “For by the law is the knowledge of sin?” 2228 To whom we say, The law did not cause, but showed sin. For, enjoining what is to be done, it reprehended what ought not to be done. And it is the part of the good to teach what is salutary, and to point out what is deleterious; and to counsel the practice of the one, and to command to shun the other. Now the apostle, whom they do not comprehend, said that by the law the knowledge of sin was manifested, not that from it it derived its existence. And how can the law be not good, which trains, which is given as the instructor (παιδαγωγός) to Christ, 2229 that being corrected by fear, in the way of discipline, in order to the attainment of the perfection which is by Christ? “I will not,” it is said, “the death of the sinner, as his repentance.” 2230 Now the commandment works repentance; inasmuch as it deters 2231 from what ought not to be done, and enjoins good deeds. By ignorance he means, in my opinion, death. “And he that is near the Lord is full of stripes.” 2232 Plainly, he, that draws near to knowledge, has the benefit of perils, fears, troubles, afflictions, by reason of his desire for the truth. “For the son who is instructed turns out wise, and an intelligent son is saved from burning. And an intelligent son will receive the commandments.” 2233 And Barnabas the apostle having said, “Woe to those who are wise in their own conceits, clever in their own eyes,” 2234 added, “Let us become spiritual, a perfect temple to God; let us, as far as in us lies, practice the fear of God, and strive to keep His commands, that we may rejoice in His judgments.” 2235 Whence “the fear of God” is divinely said to be the beginning of wisdom. 2236



Instead of ἔκκλισις, it has been proposed to read ἔκλυσις, a term applied by the Stoics to fear; but we have ἔκκλισις immediately after.


According to the correction and translation of Lowth, who reads τῶν οὔτῶ ἐπιδεχομένων instead of τὸν οὔτως, etc., of the text.


Ps. cxi. 10.


Prov. i. 7.


Prov. 1:17, 18, “Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird, and they lay wait for their own blood.”


Rom. iii. 20.


Gal. iii. 24.


Ezek. xxxiii. 11, xviii. 23, 32.


Adopting the conjecture which, by a change from the accusative to the nominative, refers “deters,” and “enjoins,” to the commandment instead of to repentance, according to the teaching of the text.


Judith viii. 27.


Prov. 10:4, 5, 8.


Isa. v. 21.


[See vol. i. p. 139. S.]


Prov. i. 7.

Next: Chapter VIII.—The Vagaries of Basilides and Valentinus as to Fear Being the Cause of Things.