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oracle, he adds himself: “Therefore,” says he, “the oracle declared him to be a most pious man, and his soul, like the souls of other pious men, after death favoured with immortality; and that the mistaken christians worship this. And,” says he, “when we asked, why then was he condemned 2 The goddess answered; The body indeed is ever liable to debilitating torments; but the soul of the pious dwells in the heavenly mansion. But that soul has fatally been the occasion to many other souls to be involved in error, to whom it has not been given to acknowledge the immortal Jove. But himself is pious, and gone to heaven as other pious men do. Him therefore thou shalt not blaspheme, but pity the folly of men because of the danger they are in.”’ ‘Who" is so weak,’ says Augustine, “as not to perceive, that these oracles were contrived by a cunning man, and an enemy to the christians ? or at least that those answers were given by impure demons, with this view, that because they commend Christ, they may be thought to speak “truly, when they blame the christians? and thereby, if “ possible, shut up the way of salvation in which all chris“tians are.” Augustine has afterwards another quotation from this work, which I shall not transcribe. I only observe, ‘ that" “Jesus is there spoken of as one of the Hebrew wise men, ‘as had been before declared in the oracles of Apollo.’ That whole quotation is taken from Augustine's large work, Of the City of God, supposed to have been written by him between the years 413 and 426. He has also referred to this book, as Porphyry’s, in his work of the Consent of the Evangelists, written about the year 400, where
* Quisita stultus est, ut non intelligat, aut ab homine callido, eoque christianis inimicissimo, haec oracula fuisse conficta, aut consilio simili, ab impuris daemonibus ista fuisse responsa; ut, scilicet, quoniam laudant Christum, propterea credantur veraciter vituperare christianos; atque ita, si possint, intercludant viam salutis aeternae, in quâ sit quisque christianus. Ib. n. 3.
* Ab his sapientes Hebræorum, quorum iste etiam Jesus unus fuit, sicut audisti divina Apollinis, quae superius dicta sunt. n. 4. ib.
* Quid quod isti vani Christi laudatores, et christianæ religionis obliqui obtrectatores, propterea non audent blasphemare Christum, quia quidam philosophi eorum, sicut in libris suis Porphyrius Siculus prodidit, consuluerunt deos suos, quid de Christo responderent, illi autem oraculis suis Christum laudare compulsi Sunt. Nec mirum, cum et in evangelio legamuseum damones fuisse confessos——Ac per hoc isti ne contra deorum suorum responsa conentur, continent blasphemias a Christo, et eas in discipulos ejus effundunt. Mihi autem videtur, quod illi dii gentium, quos philosophi Paganorum consulere potuerunt, etiam side discipulis Christi interrogarentur, ipsos quoque laudare cogerentur. De Consensu Evangelist. l. i. cap. 15. Tom. iii. P. 2.
he speaks too favourably of it. I shall not translate it; but I have transcribed the passage below in Augustine's own words. I shall now make remarks. (1.) Augustine's quotations of this work are somewhat different from those in Eusebius; which, perhaps, is owing to the translation; for Augustine intimates, that the Latin translation which he made use of was not very exact. (2.) The quotations of this book in Eusebius and Augustine agree in the main; for in both the worship of the God of the Jews is recommended, and honourable mention is made of Christ, as a most excellent man, and gone to heaven. (3.) Therefore this is not a work of Porphyry: for in his work against the christians, as Eusebius says, he had ‘equally reviled the Jewish people, and us, Moses, and the ‘Jewish prophets.” (4.) Here is a story concerning Porphyry's wife which we have not found in Eusebius; it is very likely to be a fiction of the writer of this work, for we do not meet with it elsewhere; nor is the character of this work such, as alone, without any other voucher, to give it much credit. However, agreeably enough to the general design of this work, here is an honourable testimony given to the christians, that they were very steady in the belief and profession of their principles. (5.) In this book, as cited by Augustine and also by Eusebius before, are some reflections upon christians; they are spoken of as ‘in error, corrupted, and polluted.’ These reflections were inserted, as seems to me, for a disguise; that the author might cover his real intention; his design was to recommend christianity: but he had assumed the character of a heathen and enemy; the better to keep up that appearance, he casts out reflections upon the followers of Jesus. However, he does not blame them for believing in Jesus: he recommends him to all as ‘most pious, and “excellent, and gone to heaven.’ His reflections upon the christians therefore, as ‘ in error and corrupted, relate not to the general scheme of christianity, which was right, but to some opinions maintained by some of its professors: and indeed all these reflections upon christians, as erroneous and ignorant, I consider as arguments of the late original of this work; and that it was not composed till some while after the conversion of Constantine. I am not positive what opinions the author intends, but he may have an eye to the disputes concerning the Arian and other Trinitarian doctrines, which must have been controverted in the year 315 or sooner, before which time Porphyry had died. (6.) The conclusion to be made from the whole is, that this is not a work of Porphyry, a heathen philosopher and enemy to christianity, but of a christian and patron of christianity. Augustine himself doubted of the genuineness of this work, and of the oracles contained in it; though he shows it rather too much respect, when he proceeds to allege it as an argument in behalf of the true Deity, saying, as above, ‘He is God, whom Porphyry the most learned of the phi* losophers, and the oracles alleged by him, acknowledge * to be the true God.” Augustine says very truly, ‘ It is plain, that it is the ‘ work of some cunning man.’ The self-contradictions, or the seeming self-contradictions and inconsistences, are plain proofs of insincerity, design, and artifice. It is the artifice or forgery of some christian, designed and contrived to serve the interests of christianity in general, and possibly likewise of some particular notions of the author himself. Augustine, though he suspects it to be a contrivance, imagines it may be the contrivance, not of a christian, but of an enemy to christians; but, so far as can be judged from what we have remaining of this work, it is not the work of an enemy, but of a friend to christianity. Undoubtedly, it was needful to cover the forgery of these oracles, and the real character of the writer, by some things that had the appearance of heathenism ; for the assumed character of the writer is that of an heathen, and an enemy to christianity; there is no doubt of that. He must therefore say some things to the disadvantage of christianity itself, or of the professors of it; accordingly, he has here and there blamed the christians with some freedom and seeming sharpness; and now and then, as it should seem from Augustine's account, (though that does not appear in Eusebius,) he did also, in an obscure manner, speak disrespectfully of Christ himself. But, that the writer held christian notions, and designed to favour the cause of christianity, is evident from his commendations of the Jews, from his recommending the worship of the God of the Jews as the true and great God; and in that, when he said any thing to the disadvantage of JESUs he spoke obscurely, when to his advantage he spoke clearly. So this appears in Augustine's own account. Having shown what the author had said of the justice of the death of Christ, in ambiguous terms, he adds: “But let us proceed to clearer WOL. VII, 2 H
things: Where the oracle and the writer plainly commend Christ ; and the difference between these passages, in which Christ is reproached, from those in which he is commended, is thus represented by Augustine; the former things were spoken by the gods “when asleep, these when they awaked.” How favourable to the christian cause this work was understood to be by Theodoret, manifestly appears from what we quoted from him some while ago, where he calls upon the heathen people, and asks them: “Why do you ‘ not hearken to your own philosopher, and receive the “ oracle of the Delphic tripod, and learn of the Hebrew ‘prophets and apostles?” Add to all this the many quotations of this work in Eusebius's Evangelical Preparation, all, some way or other, on the side of christianity, and directly, or indirectly, reviling the heathen deities and their worship; and it can be no longer doubted, that the design of this work was to favour christianity, and weaken heathenism; therefore it was not composed by Porphyry. Eusebius, as may be remembered, introduceth his first Quotation of this work in his Preparation in this manner: “But ‘ I shall not now insist upon the testimonies of friends, ‘which might be reckoned of little value, but of strangers: ‘ and who of all the Greek historians or philosophers can be ‘more fitly alleged, than he who in our time gained so much ‘ reputation by writing against us?' And again, in his Demonstration, addressing himself to heathen people, he says: ‘Whats more credible assurance can you have of this than ‘the testimony of our enemy?' The composer of this work, (whoever he was,) had the same thought. Having formed a design to exhibit a covert testimony in behalf of christianity in the name of some learned heathen, and to bring it into oracular answers of heathen deities, he supposed, that no fitter name could be taken than that of Porphyry's ; who was in great repute for learning, and had not long since published the bitterest invectives against Jews and christians, and the strongest arguments that had ever been alleged against their scriptures; and he hoped by this work to overthrow Porphyry’s long work against the christians, which had done so much mischief. But it is wonderful that Eusebius should be so easily deceived, and adopt the same thought, and be pleased with it. * Pr. Ev. l. iv. p. 142. * Dem. Ev. l. iii. p. 134. A.
Upon the whole, this work is the artifice of some cunning but not wise christian.
I presume I have now said enough to justify my not alleging any passages from this work, as testimonies of Porphyry, or of any other heathen writer, in favour of christianity.
And though this argument has detained us a great while, perhaps the length of it may be excused, when it is considered, how long the genuineness of this work has been admitted by learned men with great unanimity, and has been suspected by a very few only. If the several reasons here alleged are not impertinent, but to the purpose, the whole argument ought not to be charged with prolixity; learned men, as well as others, are oftentimes hard to be convinced of the falsehood of an opinion once embraced by them; nor will they yield till they are overwhelmed by a heap of reasons.
This argument is not very honourable to our ecclesiastical historian; I acknowledge it, but I cannot help it; truth must be asserted. So" says the learned and generous Heumann, arguing against such as were unwilling to allow a fault in Socrates, when he recorded the story of Porphyry's having deserted christianity.
* Quis, inquam, non videat, narrationem istam esse referendam inter viles panmos purpura historiae ecclesiasticae assutos ab hominibus minus circumspectis Nec audio Celeb. Siberum, parcendum esse ducentem auctoritati Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum. Imo vero non parcamus erroribus veterum, nec ullā quantumvis clari scriptoris auctoritate absterreamus ab investigatione veri. Veterum libros legere nos oportet criticis oculis. Atqui critici est, fugere omnem Trpoowwoxmptav. Heumann. Ep. Miscell. T. iii. p. 59, 60.