Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

Chapter V.—The Holy Soul a More Excellent Temple Than Any Edifice Built by Man.

For is it not the case that rightly and truly we do not circumscribe in any place that which cannot be circumscribed; nor do we shut up in temples made with hands that which contains all things? What work of builders, and stonecutters, and mechanical art can be holy? Superior to these are not they who think that the air, and the enclosing space, or rather the whole world and the universe, are meet for the excellency of God?

It were indeed ridiculous, as the philosophers themselves say, for man, the plaything 3545 of God, to make God, and for God to be the plaything 3546 of art; since what is made is similar and the same to that of which it is made, as that which is made of ivory is ivory, and that which is made of gold golden. Now the images and temples constructed by mechanics are made of inert matter; so that they too are inert, and material, and profane; and if you perfect the art, they partake of mechanical coarseness. Works of art cannot then be sacred and divine.

And what can be localized, there being nothing that is not localized? Since all things are in a place. And that which is localized having been formerly not localized, is localized by something. If, then, God is localized by men, He was once not localized, and did not exist at all. For the non-existent is what is not localized; since whatever does not exist is not localized. And what exists cannot be localized by what does not exist; nor by another entity. For it is also an entity. It follows that it must be by itself. And how shall anything generate itself? Or how shall that which exists place itself as to being? Whether, being formerly not localized, has it localized itself? But it was not in existence; since what exists not is not localized. And its localization being supposed, how can it afterwards make itself what it previously was?

But how can He, to whom the things that are belong, need anything? But were God possessed of a human form, He would need, equally with man, food, and shelter, and house, and the attendant incidents. Those who are like in form and affections will require similar sustenance. And if sacred (το ἱερόν) has a twofold application, designating both God Himself and the structure raised to His honour, 3547 how shall we not with propriety call the Church holy, through knowledge, made for the honour of God, sacred (ἱερόν) to God, of great value, and not constructed by mechanical art, nor embellished by the hand of an impostor, but by the will of God fashioned into a temple? For it is not now the place, but the assemblage of the elect, 3548 that I call the Church. This temple is better for the reception of the greatness of the dignity of God. For the living creature which is of high value, is made sacred by that which is worth all, or rather which has no equivalent, in virtue of the exceeding sanctity of the latter. Now this is the Gnostic, who is of great value, who is honoured by God, in whom God is enshrined, that is, the knowledge respecting God is consecrated. Here, too, we shall find the divine likeness and the holy image in the righteous soul, when it is blessed in being purified and performing blessed deeds. Here also we shall find that which is localized, and that which is being localized,—the former in the case of those who are already Gnostics, and the latter in the case of those p. 531 capable of becoming so, although not yet worthy of receiving the knowledge of God. For every being destined to believe is already faithful in the sight of God, and set up for His honour, an image, endowed with virtue, dedicated to God.



A Platonic phrase: παίγνιον Θεοῦ.


So Sylburgius, who, instead of παιδιᾶς τέχνης of the text, reads παιδιὰν τέχνης.


God Himself is ὶερός, and everything dedicated to Him.


Montacutius suggests ἐκκλήτων, from its connection with Εκκλησία, instead of ἐκλεκτῶν. [Notes 3 and 5, p. 290, supra.]

Next: Chapter VI.—Prayers and Praise from a Pure Mind, Ceaselessly Offered, Far Better Than Sacrifices.