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By Theophilus of Antioch

 

Theophilus was the sixth bishop of Antioch, the Apostle Paul’s home church. In the mid- to late-second century, he wrote a defense of Christianity based on a discussion he had had with a friend named Autolycus. The following section is the opening three chapters of the work.

 

From To Autolycus 1.1-3; translation from Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 2, pp. 89-90. Slightly modernized.—Ed.

 

 

A fluent tongue and an elegant style afford pleasure and such praise as vainglory delights in, to wretched men who have been corrupted in mind; the lover of truth does not give heed to ornamented speeches, but examines the real matter of the speech, what it is, and what kind it is. Since, then, my friend, you have assailed me with empty words, boasting of your gods of wood and stone, hammered and cast, carved and graven, which neither see nor hear, for they are idols, and the works of men’s hands; and since, besides, you call me a Christian, as if this were a damning name to bear, I, for my part, avow that I am a Christian, and bear this name beloved of God, hoping to be serviceable to God.[1] For it is not the case, as you suppose, that the name of God is hard to bear; but possibly you entertain this opinion of God, because you are yourself yet unserviceable to Him.

 

But if you say, “Show me thy God,” I would reply, “Show me yourself, and I will show you my God.” Show, then, that the eyes of your soul are capable of seeing, and the ears of your heart able to hear; for as those who look with the eyes of the body perceive earthly objects and what concerns this life, and discriminate at the same time between things that differ, whether light or darkness, white or black, deformed or beautiful, well-proportioned and symmetrical or disproportioned and awkward, or monstrous or mutilated; and as in like manner also, by the sense of hearing, we discriminate either sharp, or deep, or sweet sounds; so the same holds good regarding the eyes of the soul and the ears of the heart, that it is by them we are able to behold God. For God is seen by those who are enabled to see Him when they have the eyes of their soul opened: for all have eyes; some have cataracts,[2] and do not see the light of the sun. Yet it does not follow, because the blind do not see, that the light of the sun does not shine; but let the blind blame themselves and their own eyes. So also thou, O man – the eyes of your soul are covered by the cataracts of your sins and evil deeds. As a burnished mirror, so man ought to have his soul pure. When there is rust on the mirror, it is not possible to see a man’s face in the mirror; so also when there is sin in a man, such a man cannot behold God. Therefore, do show me yourself, whether you are not an adulterer, or a fornicator, or a thief, or a robber, or a plagiarizer; whether you do not corrupt boys; whether you are not insolent, or a slanderer, or passionate, or envious, or proud, or haughty; whether you are not a brawler, or covetous, or disobedient to parents; and whether you do not sell your children; for to those who do these things God is not manifest, unless they have first cleansed themselves from all impurity. All these things, then, involve you in darkness, as when a cataract on the eyes prevents one from beholding the light of the sun: thus also do iniquities, O man, involve you in darkness, so that you cannot see God.

 

You will say, then, to me, “Do you, who see God, explain to me the appearance of God.” Hear, O man. The appearance of God is ineffable and indescribable, and cannot be seen by eyes of flesh. For in glory He is incomprehensible, in greatness unfathomable, in height inconceivable, in power incomparable, in wisdom unrivalled, in goodness inimitable, in kindness unutterable. For if I say He is Light, I name but His own work; if I call Him Word, I name but His sovereignty; if I call Him Mind, I speak but of His wisdom; if I say He is Spirit, I speak of His breath; if I call Him Wisdom, I speak of His offspring; if I call Him Strength, I speak of His sway; if I call Him Power, I am mentioning His activity; if Providence, I but mention His goodness; if I call Him Kingdom, I but mention His glory; if I call Him Lord, I mention His being judge; if I call Him Judge, I speak of Him as being just; if I call Him Father, I speak of all things as being from Him; if I call Him Fire, I but mention His anger. You will say, then, to me, “Is God angry?” Yes; He is angry with those who act wickedly, but He is good, and kind, and merciful, to those who love and fear Him; for He is a chastener of the godly, and father of the righteous; but He is a judge and punisher of the impious.

 

[1] A play on words – in Greek, Christian sounds very similar to serviceable or good.

[2] Modified following the footnote of the Ante-Nicene Fathers translation.

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