Created Sunday, Oct. 27, 2002                        updated Mar 1, 014

Post-Apostolic Writers on Interpreting the Bible


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Justin
Origen
Irenaeus
Eusebius, Philo, & Egypt
Uriel da Costa    New Mar 1 014

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It is not just I who suggest that much of the Bible, especially as regards prophecy, was written in a veiled, secret, mysterious sort of way, full of symbolism and figures. This is exactly the sort of language and idea that early writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries also suggested. Their words speak for themselves. Therefore, I consider it a serious error when modern day Christians interpret so much in such literal terms, ways, and ideas. I believe they are missing the boat.

The secret sort of language was intended to be secret and ambiguous so that God's enemies would not grasp its meaning, as I stated in first article on this subject, dealing with scriptural arguments exclusively. The early writer do not differ from what I suggest from the scriptures. So there are a number of witnesses who confirm this truth, just in case the scriptures are not enough, though they should be.

I have supplied 3 writers of the early churches who had much to say on this subject. Justin being the earliest writer and perhaps the best. Origen of the 3rd century, who is quite sensible on these matters, though failing in others. And Irenaeus also has some things to say on interpretation and the trustworthiness of the Bible.

I have tried in most places to modernize the language a little, eliminating the thou's, thy's, thee's, and such other archaic terms.


Justin
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2nd Apology, "Against Trypho"

Chap. 51
And when I ceased, Trypho said, "All the words of the prophecy you repeat, sir, are ambiguous, and have no force in proving what you wish to prove."

Chap. 65
And I answered, "If you spoke these words, Trypho, and then kept silence in simplicity and with no ill intent, neither repeating what goes before nor adding what comes after, you must be forgiven; but if [you have done so] because you imagined that you could throw doubt on the passage, in order that I might say the Scriptures contradicted each other, you have erred. But I shall not venture to suppose or to say such a thing; and if a Scripture which appears to be of such a kind be brought forward, and if there be a pretext [for saying] that it is contrary [to some other], since I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another, I shall admit rather that I do not understand what is recorded, and shall strive to persuade those who imagine that the Scriptures are contradictory, to be rather of the same opinion as myself.

Chap. 68
Isaiah has explained how that which was spoken by God to David in mystery would take place. But perhaps you are not aware of this, my friends, that there were many sayings written obscurely, or parabolically, or mysteriously, and symbolical actions, which the prophets who lived after the persons who said or did them expounded."

Chap. 77
For you know," continued I, "that the Holy Spirit often times announces such events by parables and similitudes; just as He did towards all the people in Jerusalem, frequently saying to them, 'Your father is an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite.

Chap. 90

"You know," said I, "that what the prophets said and did they veiled by parables and types, as you admitted to us; so that it was not easy for all to understand the most [of what they said], since they concealed the truth by these means, that those who are eager to find out and learn it might do so with much labor."

They answered, "We admitted this."

Chap. 36
And I said, "As you wish, Trypho, I shall come to these proofs which you seek in the fitting place; but now you will permit me first to recount the prophecies, which I wish to do in order to prove that Christ is called both God and Lord of hosts, and Jacob, in parable by the Holy Spirit.

Chap. 40
"The mystery, then, of the lamb which God enjoined to be sacrificed as the passover, was a type of Christ; with whose blood, in proportion to their faith in Him, they anoint their houses, i.e., themselves, who believe on Him.

Chap. 43
But since the mystery of His birth now demands our attention I shall speak of it.

Chap. 44
but some injunctions and acts were likewise mentioned in reference to the mystery of Christ

Chap. 52
And for this reason the Holy Spirit had uttered these truths in a parable, and obscurely.
'And He shall be the desire of nations,' meant symbolically His two advents

Chap. 63
Moses (as I mentioned before), when speaking in parable, said, that He would wash His garments in the blood of the grape; since His blood did not spring from the seed of man, but from the will of God.

Chap. 65
"Moreover, in the book of Exodus we have also perceived that the name of God Himself which, He says, was not revealed to Abraham or to Jacob, was Jesus, and was declared mysteriously through Moses.

Chap. 76
For if the prophets declared obscurely that Christ would suffer, and thereafter be Lord of all, yet that [declaration] could not be understood by any man until He Himself persuaded the apostles that such statements were expressly related in the Scriptures.

Chap. 81
[Isaiah 65] obscurely predicts a thousand years.

Chap. 106
And since He spoke this obscurely, it was to be understood by the audience that after His crucifixion He should rise again on the third day.

Chap. 100
For I have showed already that Christ is called both Jacob and Israel; and I have proved that it is not in the blessing of Joseph and Judah alone that what relates to Him was proclaimed mysteriously.

Chap. 113
For I have shown that Christ was proclaimed by the prophets in parables, a Stone and a Rock.

Extract of Justin
As the good of the body is health, so the good of the soul is knowledge, which is indeed a kind of health of soul, by which a likeness to God is attained.--Said to be from Justin quoted in the writings of JOHN OF DAMASCUS.


Origen
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First Principles - Book 1

Preface to Book 1

8. Then, finally, that the Scriptures were written by the Spirit of God, and have a meaning, not such only as is apparent at first sight, but also another, which escapes the notice of most. For those (words) which are written are the forms of certain mysteries, and the images of divine things. Respecting which there is one opinion throughout the whole Church, that the whole law is indeed spiritual; but that the spiritual meaning which the law conveys is not known to all, but to those only on whom the grace of the Holy Spirit is bestowed in the word of wisdom and knowledge.

Book 1

2. Those, moreover, who, on account of the expression "God is a Spirit," think that He is a body, are to be answered, I think, in the following manner. It is the custom of sacred Scripture, when it wishes to designate anything opposed to this gross and solid body, to call it spirit, as in the expression, "The letter kills, but the spirit gives life," where there can be no doubt that by "letter" are meant bodily things, and by "spirit" intellectual things, which we also term "spiritual."

The apostle, moreover, says, "Even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart: nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." For so long as any one is not converted to a spiritual understanding, a veil is placed over his heart, with which veil, i.e., a gross understanding, Scripture itself is said or thought to be covered: and this is the meaning of the statement that a veil was placed over the countenance of Moses when he spoke to the people, i.e., when the law was publicly read aloud. But if we turn to the Lord, where also is the word of God, and where the Holy Spirit reveals spiritual knowledge, then the veil is taken away, and with unveiled face we shall behold the glory of the Lord in the holy Scriptures.

6. God, therefore, is not to be thought of as being either a body or as existing in a body, but as an uncompounded intellectual nature, admitting within Himself no addition of any kind; so that He cannot be believed to have within him a greater and a less, but is such that He is in all parts M<greek>onas</greek>, and, so to speak, E<greek>nas</greek>, and is the mind and source from which all intellectual nature or mind takes its beginning. But mind, for its movements or operations, needs no physical space, nor sensible magnitude, nor bodily shape, nor color, nor any other of those adjuncts which are the properties of body or matter.

Wherefore that simple and wholly intellectual nature can admit of no delay or hesitation in its movements or operations, lest the simplicity of the divine nature should appear to be circumscribed or in some degree hampered by such adjuncts, and lest that which is the beginning of all things should be found composite and differing, and that which ought to be free from all bodily intermixture, in virtue of being the one sole species of Deity, so to speak, should prove, instead of being one, to consist of many things. That mind, moreover, does not require space in order to carry on its movements agreeably to its nature, is certain from observation of our own mind. For if the mind abide within its own limits, and sustain no injury from any cause, it will never, from diversity of situation, be retarded in the discharge of its functions; nor, on the other hand, does it gain any addition or increase of mobility from the nature of particular places. And here, if any one were to object, for example, that among those who are at sea, and tossed by its waves the mind is considerably less vigorous than it is wont to be on land, we are to believe that it is in this state, not from diversity of situation, but from the commotion or disturbance of the body to which the mind is joined or attached.

For it seems to be contrary to nature, as it were, for a human body to live at sea; and for that reason it appears, by a sort of inequality of its own, to enter upon its mental operations in a slovenly and irregular manner, and to perform the acts of the intellect with a duller sense, in as great degree as those who on land are prostrated with fever; with respect to whom it is certain, that if the mind does not discharge its functions as well as before, in consequence of the attack of disease, the blame is to be laid not upon the place, but upon the bodily malady, by which the body, being disturbed and disordered, renders to the mind its customary services under by no means the well-known and natural conditions: for we human beings are animals composed of a union of body and soul, and in this way (only) was it possible for us to live upon the earth. But God, who is the beginning of all things, is not to be regarded as a composite being, lest perchance there should be found to exist elements prior to the beginning itself, out of which everything is composed, whatever that be which is called composite.

Neither does the mind require bodily magnitude in order to perform any act or movement; as when the eye by gazing upon bodies of larger size is dilated, but is compressed and contracted in order to see smaller objects. The mind, indeed, requires magnitude of an intellectual kind, because it grows, not after the fashion of a body, but after that of intelligence. For the mind is not enlarged, together with the body, by means of corporal additions, up to the twentieth or thirtieth year of life; but the intellect is sharpened by exercises of learning, and the powers implanted within it for intelligent purposes are called forth; and it is rendered capable of greater intellectual efforts, not being increased by bodily additions, but carefully polished by learned exercises. But these it cannot receive immediately from boyhood, or from birth, because the framework of limbs which the mind employs as organs for exercising itself is weak and feeble; and it is unable to bear the weight of its own operations, or to exhibit a capacity for receiving training.

7. Those who assert this, doubtless do so to the disparagement of that better substance which is within them; nay, by so doing, they even do wrong to God Himself, when they imagine He may be understood by means of a bodily nature, so that according to their view He is a body, and that which may be understood or perceived by means of a body; and they are unwilling to have it understood that the mind bears a certain relationship to God, of whom the mind itself is an intellectual image, and that by means of this it may come to some knowledge of the nature of divinity, especially if it be purified and separated from bodily matter.

8. But perhaps these declarations may seem to have less weight with those who wish to be instructed in divine things out of the holy Scriptures, and who seek to have it proved to them from that source how the nature of God surpasses the nature of bodies. See, therefore, if the apostle does not say the same thing, when, speaking of Christ, he declares, that" He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature." Not, as some suppose, that the nature of God is visible to some and invisible to others: for the apostle does not say "the image of God invisible" to men or "invisible" to sinners, but with unvarying constancy pronounces on the nature of God in these words: "the image of the invisible God." Moreover, John, in his Gospel, when asserting that "no one hath seen God at any time," manifestly declares to all who are capable of understanding, that there is no nature to which God is visible: not as if, He were a being who was visible by nature, and merely escaped or baffled the view of a frailer creature, but because by the nature of His being it is impossible for Him to be seen. And if you should ask of me what is my opinion regarding the Only-begotten Himself, whether the nature of God, which is naturally invisible, be not visible even to Him, let not such a question appear to you at once to be either absurd or impious, because we shall give you a logical reason. It is one thing to see, and another to know: to see and to be seen is a property of bodies; to know and to be known, an attribute of intellectual being. Whatever, therefore, is a property of bodies, cannot be predicated either of the Father or of the Son; but what belongs to the nature of deity is common to the Father and the Son. Finally, even He Himself, in the Gospel, did not say that no one has seen the Father, save the Son, nor any one the Son, save the Father; but His words are: "No one knows the Son, save the Father; nor any one the Father, save the Son." By which it is clearly shown, that whatever among bodily natures is called seeing and being seen, is termed, between the Father and the Son, a knowing and being known, by means of the power of knowledge, not by the frailness of the sense of sight.

Because, then, neither seeing nor being seen can be properly applied to an incorporeal and invisible nature, neither is the Father, in the Gospel, said to be seen by the Son, nor the Son by the Father, but the one is said to be known by the other.

9. Here, if any one lay before us the passage where it is said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," from that very passage, in my opinion, will our position derive additional strength; for what else is seeing God in heart, but, according to our exposition as above, understanding and knowing Him with the mind? For the names of the organs of sense are frequently applied to the soul, so that it may be said to see with the eyes of the heart, i.e., to perform an intellectual act by means of the power of intelligence. So also it is said to hear with the ears when it perceives the deeper meaning of a statement. So also we say that it makes use of teeth, when it chews and eats the bread of life which comes down from heaven.

In like manner, also, it is said to employ the services of other members, which are transferred from their bodily appellations, and applied to the powers of the soul, according to the words of Solomon, "You will find a divine sense." For he knew that there were within us two kinds of senses: the one mortal, corruptible, human; the other immortal and intellectual, which he now termed divine. By this divine sense, therefore, not of the eyes, but of a pure heart, which is the mind, God may be seen by those who are worthy. For you will certainly find in all the Scriptures, both old and new, the term "heart" repeatedly used instead of "mind," i.e., intellectual power. In this manner, therefore, although far below the dignity of the subject, have we spoken of the nature of God, as those who understand it under the limitation of the human understanding. In the next place, let us see what is meant by the name of Christ.

Chap 5.-- On Rational Natures.
4. . For if it is related that he who is called the prince of Tyre was amongst the saints, and was without stain, and was placed in the paradise of God, and adorned also with a crown of comeliness and beauty, is it to be supposed that such an one could be in any degree inferior to any of the saints?

can so enfeeble the meaning as to suppose that this language is used of some man or saint, not to say the prince of Tyre? Or what fiery stones can he imagine in the midst of which any man could live? Or who could be supposed to be stainless from the very day of his creation, and wickedness being afterwards discovered in him, it be said of him then that he was cast forth upon the earth?

this one which we know on earth is the model; and the souls of the Tyrians, whether they are those of the former or those which belong to that Tyre which is spiritually understood

5. . Prepare your sons for death on account of the sins of your father, lest they rise again and inherit the earth, and fill the earth with wars.

Book 2
Chap. 3

1. but a process through which, by means of instruction and rational training, those may arrive at a fuller understanding of the truth who have devoted themselves in the present life to these pursuits, and who, after having had their minds purified, have advanced onwards so as to become capable of attaining divine wisdom.

Chap. 5
2. Even the Savior Himself, the Son of the good God, protests in the Gospels, and declares that "if signs and wonders had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes." And when He had come near to those very cities, and had entered their territory, why, pray, does He avoid entering those cities, and exhibiting to them abundance of signs and wonders, if it were certain that they would have repented, after they had been performed, in sackcloth and ashes?

Book 3
Chap. 3 -- On Threefold Wisdom.

1. The holy apostle, wishing to teach us some great and hidden truth respecting science and wisdom, says, in the first Epistle to the Corinthians: "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of the world, that come to naught: but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of the world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." In this passage, wishing to describe the different kinds of wisdom, he points out that there is a wisdom of this world, and a wisdom of the princes of this world, and another wisdom of God. But when he uses the expression "wisdom of the princes of this world," I do not think that he means a wisdom common to all the princes of this world, but one rather that is peculiar to certain individuals among them.

And again, when he says, "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory," we must inquire whether his meaning be, that this is the same wisdom of God which was hidden from other times and generations, and was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets, and Which was also that wisdom of God before the advent of the Savior, by means of which Solomon obtained his wisdom, and in reference to which the language of the Savior Himself declared, that what He taught was greater than Solomon, in these words, "Behold, a greater than Solomon is here,"--words which show, that those who were instructed by the Savior were instructed in something higher than the knowledge of Solomon.

2. . The wisdom of the princes of this world, on the other hand, we understand to be such as the secret and occult philosophy, as they call it, of the Egyptians, and the astrology of the Chaldeans and Indians, who make profession of the knowledge of high things, and also that manifold variety of opinion which prevails among the Greeks regarding divine things.

Accordingly, in the holy Scriptures we find that there are princes over individual nations; as in Daniel we read that there was a prince of the kingdom of Persia, and another prince of the kingdom of Graecia, who are clearly shown, by the nature of the passage, to be not human beings, but certain powers. In the prophecies of Ezekiel, also, the prince of Tyre is unmistakably shown to be a kind of spiritual power. When these, then, and others of the same kind, possessing each his own wisdom, and building up his own opinions and sentiments, beheld our Lord and Savior professing and declaring that He had for this purpose come into the world, that all the opinions of science, falsely so called, might be destroyed, not knowing what was concealed within Him, they forthwith laid a snare for Him: for "the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers assembled together, against the Lord and His Christ."

But their snares being discovered, and the plans which they had attempted to carry out being made manifest when they crucified the Lord of glory, therefore the apostle says, "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, who are brought to nothing, which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."

3. We must, indeed, endeavor to ascertain whether that wisdom of the princes of this world, with which they endeavor to imbue men, is introduced into their minds by the opposing powers, with the purpose of ensnaring and injuring them, or only for the purpose of deceiving them,

Lastly, many Greek writers have been of opinion that the art of poetry cannot exist without madness; whence also it is several times related in their histories, that those whom they call poets were suddenly filled with a kind of spirit of madness.

And what are we to say also of those whom they call diviners, from whom, by the working of those demons who have the mastery over them, answers are given in carefully constructed verses? Those persons, too, whom they term Magi or Malevolent, frequently, by invoking demons over boys of tender years, have made them repeat poetical compositions which were the admiration and amazement of all.

Now these effects we are to suppose are brought about in the following manner: As holy and immaculate souls, after devoting themselves to God with all affection and purity, and after preserving themselves free from all contagion of evil spirits, and after being purified by lengthened abstinence, and imbued with holy and religious training, assume by this means a portion of divinity, and earn the grace of prophecy, and other divine gifts;

So also are we to suppose that those who place themselves in the way of the opposing powers, i.e., who purposely admire and adopt their manner of life and habits, receive their inspiration, and become partakers of their wisdom and doctrine. And the result of this is, that they are filled with the working of those spirits to whose service they have subjected themselves.

4. But a man receives the energy, i.e., the working, of a good spirit, when he is stirred and incited to good, and is inspired to heavenly or divine things; as the holy angels and God Himself wrought in the prophets, arousing and exhorting them by their holy suggestions to a better course of life, yet so, indeed, that it remained within the will and judgment of the individual, either to be willing or unwilling to follow the call to divine and heavenly things. And from this manifest distinction, it is seen how the soul is moved by the presence of a better spirit, i.e., if it encounter no perturbation or alienation of mind whatever from the impending inspiration, nor lose the free control of its will; as, for instance, is the case with all, whether prophets or apostles, who ministered to the divine responses without any perturbation of mind. Now, that by the suggestions of a good spirit the memory of man is aroused to the recollection of better things, we have already shown by previous instances, when we mentioned the cases of Mordecai and Artaxerxes.

Chap. 5 -- That the World Took Its Beginning In Time

1. And now, since there is one of the articles of the Church which is held principally in consequence of our belief in the truth of our sacred history, viz. that this world was created and took its beginning at a certain time, and, in conformity to the cycle of time decreed to all things, is to be destroyed on account of its corruption, there seems no absurdity in re-discussing a few points connected with this subject. And so far, indeed, as the credibility of Scripture is concerned, the declarations on such a matter seem easy of proof. Even the heretics, although widely opposed on many other things, yet on this appear to be at one, yielding to the authority of Scripture.

Concerning, then, the creation of the world,

[{There is missing text here due to damage to original material translation.}]

. . . tion of Scripture can give us more information regarding it, than the account which Moses has transmitted respecting its origin? And although it comprehends matters of profounder significance than the mere historical narrative appears to indicate, and contains very many things that are to be spiritually understood, and employs the letter, as a kind of veil, in treating of profound and mystical subjects; nevertheless the language of the narrator shows that all visible things were created at a certain time.

But with regard to the consummation of the world, Jacob is the first who gives any information, in addressing his children in the words: "Gather yourselves together unto me, you sons of Jacob, that I may tell you what shall be in the last days," or "after the last days." If, then, there be "last days," or a period "succeeding the last days," the days which had a beginning must necessarily come to an end. David, too, declares: "The heavens shall perish, but you shall endure; yea, all of them shall wax old as does a garment: as a vesture shall you change them, and they shall be changed: but you art the same, and Your years shall have no end." Our Lord and Savior, indeed, in the words, "He who made them at the beginning, made them male and female," Himself bears witness that the world was created; and again, when He says, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not pass away," He points out that they are perishable, and must come to an end.

The apostle, moreover, in declaring that "the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God," manifestly announces the end of the world; as he does also when he again says, "The fashion of this world passes away." Now, by the expression which he employs, "that the creature was made subject to vanity," he shows that there was a beginning to this world: for if the creature were made subject to vanity on account of some hope, it was certainly made subject from a cause; and seeing it was from a cause, it must necessarily have had a beginning: for, without some beginning, the creature could not be subject to vanity, nor could that (creature) hope to be freed from the bondage of corruption, which had not begun to serve.
But any one who chooses to search at his leisure, will find numerous other passages in holy Scripture in which the world is both said to have a beginning and to hope for an end.

Book 4
Chap. 1 -- That The Scriptures Are Divinely Inspired

7. Many, not understanding the Scriptures in a spiritual sense, but incorrectly, have fallen into heresies.

10. But lest this difficulty perhaps should be supposed to exist only in the language of the prophets, seeing the prophetic style is allowed by all to abound in figures and enigmas, what do we find when we come to the Gospels? Is there not hidden there also an inner, namely a divine sense, which is revealed by that grace alone which he had received who said, "But we have the mind of Christ, that we might know the things freely given to us by God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Spirit teaches?" And if one now were to read the revelations which were made to John, how amazed would he not be that there should be contained within them so great an amount of hidden, ineffable mysteries, in which it is clearly understood, even by those who cannot comprehend what is concealed, that something certainly is concealed.

And yet are not the Epistles of the Apostles, which seem to some to be plainer, filled with meanings so profound, that by means of them, as by some small receptacle, the clearness of incalculable light appears to be poured into those who are capable of understanding the meaning of divine wisdom?

11. But, as we had begun to observe, the way which seems to us the correct one for the understanding of the Scriptures, and for the investigation of their meaning, we consider to be of the following kind: for we are instructed by Scripture itself in regard to the ideas which we ought to form of it. In the Proverbs of Solomon we find some such rule as the following laid down, respecting the consideration of holy Scripture: "And do you," he says, "describe these things to yourself in a threefold manner, in counsel and knowledge, and that you may answer the words of truth to those who have proposed them to you."

Each one, then, ought to describe in his own mind, in a threefold manner, the understanding of the divine letters,--that is, in order that all the more simple individuals may be edified, so to speak; by the very body of Scripture; for such we term that common and historical sense: while, if some have commenced to make considerable progress, and are able to see something more (than that), they may be edified by the very soul of Scripture. Those, again, who are perfect, and who resemble those of whom the apostle says, "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, who will be brought to nothing; but we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, which God hath decreed before the ages unto our glory;"--all such as these may be edified by the spiritual law itself (which has a shadow of good things to come), as if by the Spirit.

16. Now who is there, pray, possessed of understanding, that will regard the statement as appropriate, that the first day, and the second, and the third, in which also both evening and morning are mentioned, existed without sun, and moon, and stars--the first day even without a sky? And who is found so ignorant as to suppose that God, as if He had been a husbandman, planted trees in paradise, in Eden towards the east, and a tree of life in it, i.e., a visible and palpable tree of wood, so that any one eating of it with bodily teeth should obtain life, and, eating again of another tree, should come to the knowledge of good and evil?

No one, I think, can doubt that the statement that God walked in the afternoon in paradise, and that Adam lay hid under a tree, is related figuratively in Scripture, that some mystical meaning may be indicated by it. The departure of Cain from the presence of the Lord will manifestly cause a careful reader to inquire what is the presence of God, and how any one can go out from it. But not to extend the task which we have before us beyond its due limits, it is very easy for any one who pleases to gather out of holy Scripture what is recorded indeed as having been done, but what nevertheless cannot be believed as having reasonably and appropriately occurred according to the historical account.

19. And yet I have no doubt that an attentive reader will, in numerous instances, hesitate whether this or that history can be considered to be literally true or not; or whether this or that precept ought to be observed according to the letter or no. And therefore great pains and labor are to be employed, until every reader reverentially understand that he is dealing with divine and not human words inserted in the sacred books.

20. The understanding, therefore, of holy Scripture which we consider ought to be deservedly and consistently maintained, is of the following kind. A certain nation is declared by holy Scripture to have been chosen by God upon the earth, which nation has received several names: for sometimes the whole of it is termed Israel, and sometimes Jacob; and it was divided by Jeroboam son of Nebat into two portions; and the ten tribes which were formed under him were called Israel, while the two remaining ones (with which were united the tribe of Levi, and that which was descended from the royal race of David) was named Judah. Now the whole of the country possessed by that nation, which it had received from God, was called Judea, in which was situated the metropolis, Jerusalem; and it is called metropolis, being as it were the mother of many cities, the names of which you will frequently find mentioned here and there in the other books of Scripture, but which are collected together into one catalogue in the book of Joshua the son of Nun.

21. This, then, being the state of the case, the holy apostle desiring to elevate in some degree, and to raise our understanding above the earth, says in a certain place, "Behold Israel after the flesh;" by which he certainly means that there is another Israel which is not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. And again in another passage, "For they are not all Israelites who are of Israel."

22. Being taught, then, by him that there is one Israel according to the flesh, and another according to the Spirit,

Whatever, then, is either narrated or predicted of Jerusalem, must, if we accept the words of Paul as those of Christ speaking in him, be understood as spoken in conformity with his opinion regarding that city which he calls the heavenly Jerusalem, and all those places or cities which are said to be cities of the holy land, of which Jerusalem is the metropolis. For we are to suppose that it is from these very cities that the Savior, wishing to raise us to a higher grade of intelligence, promises to those who have well managed the money entrusted to them by Himself, that they are to have power over ten or five cities.

If, then, the prophecies delivered concerning Judea, and Jerusalem, and Judah, and Israel, and Jacob, not being understood by us in a carnal sense, signify certain divine mysteries, it certainly follows that those prophecies also which were delivered either concerning Egypt or the Egyptians, or Babylonia and the Babylonians, and Sidon and the Sidonians, are not to be understood as spoken of that Egypt which is situated on the earth, or of the earthly Babylon, Tyre, or Sidon.

Nor can those predictions which the prophet Ezekiel delivered concerning Pharaoh king of Egypt, apply to any man who may seem to have reigned over Egypt, as the nature of the passage itself declares. In a similar manner also, what is spoken of the prince of Tyre cannot be understood of any man or king of Tyre. And how could we possibly accept, as spoken of a man, what is related in many passages of Scripture, and especially in Isaiah, regarding Nebuchadnezzar? For he is not a man who is said to have "fallen from heaven," or who was "Lucifer," or who "arose in the morning." But with respect to those predictions which are found in Ezekiel concerning Egypt, such as that it is to be destroyed in forty years, so that the foot of man should not be found within it, and that it should suffer such devastation, that throughout the whole land the blood of men should rise to the knees, I do not know that any one possessed of understanding could refer this to that earthly Egypt which adjoins Ethiopia.

26. But let it be sufficient for us in all these matters to adapt our understanding to the rule of religion, and so to think of the words of the Holy Spirit as not to deem the language the ornate composition of feeble human eloquence, but to hold, according to the scriptural statement, that" all the glory of the King is within," and that the treasure of divine meaning is enclosed within the flail vessel of the common letter. And if any curious reader were still to ask an explanation of individual points, let him come and hear, along with ourselves, how the Apostle Paul, seeking to penetrate by help of the Holy Spirit, who searches even the "deep things" of God, into the depths of divine wisdom and knowledge, and yet, unable to reach the end, so to speak, and to come to a thorough knowledge, exclaims in despair and amazement, "Oh the depth of the riches of the knowledge and wisdom of God!" Now, that it was from despair of attaining a perfect understanding that he uttered this exclamation, listen to his own words: "How unsearchable are God's judgments! and His ways, how past finding out! " For he did not say that God's judgments were difficult to discover, but that they were altogether inscrutable; nor that it was (simply) difficult to trace out His ways, but that they were altogether past finding out.

For however far a man may advance in his investigations, and how great so ever the progress that he may make by unremitting study, assisted even by the grace of God, and with his mind enlightened, he will not be able to attain to the end of those things which are the object of his inquiries. Nor can any created mind deem it possible in any way to attain a full comprehension (of things); but after having discovered certain of the objects of its research, it sees again others which have still to be sought out. And even if it should succeed in mastering these, it will see again many others succeeding them which must form the subject of investigation. And on this account, therefore, Solomon, the wisest of men, beholding by his wisdom the nature of things, says, "I said, I will become wise; and wisdom herself was made far from me, far further than it was; and a profound depth, who shall find? "


Irenaeus -- Against the Heresies
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Book 2
Chap. 27

PROPER MODE OF INTERPRETING PARABLES AND OBSCURE PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE.

1. A sound mind, and one which does not expose its possessor to danger, and is devoted to piety and the love of truth, will eagerly meditate upon those things which God has placed within the power of mankind, and has subjected to our knowledge, and will make advancement in [acquaintance with] them, rendering the knowledge of them easy to him by means of daily study. These things are such as fall [plainly] under our observation, and are clearly and unambiguously in express terms set forth in the Sacred Scriptures. And therefore the parables ought not to be adapted to ambiguous expressions.

For, if this be not done, both he who explains them will do so without danger, and the parables will receive a like interpretation from all, and the body of truth remains entire, with a harmonious adaptation of its members, and without any collision [of its several parts]. But to apply expressions which are not clear or evident to interpretations of the parables, such as every one discovers for himself as inclination leads him, [is absurd.] For in this way no one will possess the rule of truth; but in accordance with the number of persons who explain the parables will be found the various systems of truth, in mutual opposition to each other, and setting forth antagonistic doctrines, like the questions current among the Gentile philosophers.

2. According to this course of procedure, therefore, man would always be inquiring but never finding, because he has rejected the very method of discovery. And when the Bridegroom comes, he who has his lamp untrimmed, and not burning with the brightness of a steady light, is classed among those who obscure the interpretations of the parables, forsaking Him who by His plain announcements freely imparts gifts to all who come to Him, and is excluded from His marriage-chamber.

Since, therefore, the entire Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospels, can be clearly, unambiguously, and harmoniously understood by all, although all do not believe them; and since they proclaim that one only God, to the exclusion of all others, formed all things by His word, whether visible or invisible, heavenly or earthly, in the water or under the earth, as I have shown from the very words of Scripture; and since the very system of creation to which we belong testifies, by what falls under our notice, that one Being made and governs it,--those persons will seem truly foolish who blind their eyes to such a clear demonstration, and will not behold the light of the announcement [made to them]; but they put fetters upon themselves, and every one of them imagines, by means of their obscure interpretations of the parables, that he has found out a God of his own.

For that there is nothing whatever openly, expressly, and without controversy said in any part of Scripture respecting the Father conceived of by those who hold a contrary opinion, they themselves testify, when they maintain that the Savior privately taught these same things not to all, but to certain only of His disciples who could comprehend them, and who understood what was intended by Him through means of arguments, enigmas, and parables. They come, [in fine,] to this, that they maintain there is one Being who is proclaimed as God, and another as Father, He who is set forth as such through means of parables and enigmas.

3. But since parables admit of many interpretations, what lover of truth will not acknowledge, that for them to assert God is to be searched out from these, while they desert what is certain, indubitable, and true, is the part of men who eagerly throw themselves into danger, and act as if destitute of reason? And is not such a course of conduct not to build one's house upon a rock which is firm, strong, and placed in an open position, but upon the shifting sand? Hence the overthrow of such a building is a matter of ease.

Chap. 28

1. Having therefore the truth itself as our rule and the testimony concerning God set clearly before us, we ought not, by running after numerous and diverse answers to questions, to cast away the firm and true knowledge of God. But it is much more suitable that we, directing our inquiries after this fashion, should exercise ourselves in the investigation of the mystery and administration of the living God, and should increase in the love of Him who has done, and still does, so great things for us; but never should fall from the belief by which it is most clearly proclaimed . . .

2. If, however, we cannot discover explanations of all those things in Scripture which are made the subject of investigation, yet let us not on that account seek after any other God besides Him who really exists. For this is the very greatest impiety. We should leave things of that nature to God who created us, being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit; but we, inasmuch as we are inferior to, and later in existence than, the Word of God and His Spirit, are on that very account destitute of the knowledge of His mysteries.

And there is no cause for wonder if this is the case with us as respects things spiritual and heavenly, and such as require to be made known to us by revelation, since many even of those things which lie at our very feet (I mean such as belong to this world, which we handle, and see, and are in close contact with) transcend out knowledge, so that even these we must leave to God. For it is fitting that He should excel all [in knowledge]. For how stands the case, for instance, if we endeavor to explain the cause of the rising of the Nile? We may say a great deal, plausible or otherwise, on the subject; but what is true, sure, and incontrovertible regarding it, belongs only to God.

Then, again, the dwelling-place of birds--of those, I mean, which come to us in spring, but fly away again on the approach of autumn--though it is a matter connected with this world, escapes our knowledge. What explanation, again, can we give of the flow and ebb of the ocean, although every one admits there must be a certain cause [for these phenomena]? Or what can we say as to the nature of those things which lie beyond it? What, moreover, can we say as to the formation of rain, lightning, thunder, gatherings of clouds, vapors, the bursting forth of winds, and such like things; of tell as to the storehouses of snow, hail, and other like things? [What do we know respecting] the conditions requisite for the preparation of clouds, or what is the real nature of the vapors in the sky? What as to the reason why the moon waxes and wanes, or what as to the cause of the difference of nature among various waters, metals, stones, and such like things? On all these points we may indeed say a great deal while we search into their causes, but God alone who made them can declare the truth regarding them.

3. If, therefore, even with respect to creation, there are some things [the knowledge of] Which belongs only to God, and others which come with in the range of our own knowledge, what ground is there for complaint, if, in regard to those things which we investigate in the Scriptures (which are throughout spiritual), we are able by the grace of God to explain some of them, while we must leave others in the hands of God, and that not only in the present world, but also in that which is to come, so that God should for ever teach, and man should for ever learn the things taught him by God? As the apostle has said on this point, that, when other things have been done away, then these three, "faith, hope, and charity, shall endure."

If, therefore, according to the rule which I have stated, we leave some questions in the hands of God, we shall both preserve our faith uninjured, and shall continue without danger; and all Scripture, which has been given to us by God, shall be found by us perfectly consistent; and the parables shall harmonize with those passages which are perfectly plain; and those statements the meaning of which is clear, shall serve to explain the parables; and through the many diversified utterances [of Scripture] there shall be heard one harmonious melody in us, praising in hymns that God who created all things.

If, for instance, any one asks, "What was God doing before He made the world?" we reply that the answer to such a question lies with God Himself. For that this world was formed perfect by God, receiving a beginning in time, the Scriptures teach us; but no Scripture reveals to us what God was employed about before this event. The answer therefore to that question remains with God, and it is not proper for us to aim at bringing forward foolish, rash, and blasphemous suppositions [in reply to it]; so, as by one's imagining that he has discovered the origin of matter, he should in reality set aside God Himself who made all things.

4. But since God is all mind, all reason, all active spirit, all light, and always exists one and the same, as it is both beneficial for us to think of God, and as we learn regarding Him from the Scriptures, such feelings and divisions [of operation] cannot fittingly be ascribed to Him. For our tongue, as being carnal, is not sufficient to minister to the rapidity of the human mind, inasmuch as that is of a spiritual nature, for which reason our word is restrained within us, and is not at once expressed as it has been conceived by the mind, but is uttered by successive efforts, just as the tongue is able to serve it.

6. But, beyond reason inflated [with your own wisdom], you presumptuously maintain that you are acquainted with the unspeakable mysteries of God; while even the Lord, the very Son of God, allowed that the Father alone knows the very day and hour of judgment, when He plainly declares, "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, neither the Son, but the Father only." If, then, the Son was not ashamed to ascribe the knowledge of that day to the Father only, but declared what was true regarding the matter, neither let us be ashamed to reserve for God those greater questions which may occur to us. For no man is superior to his master. If any one, therefore, says to us, "How then was the Son produced by the Father?" we reply to him, that no man understands that production, or generation, or calling, or revelation, or by whatever name one may describe His generation, which is in fact altogether indescribable.

. . . but the Father only who begot, and the Son who was begotten. Since therefore His generation is unspeakable, those who strive to set forth generations and productions cannot be in their right mind, inasmuch as they undertake to describe things which are indescribable. For that a word is uttered at the bidding of thought and mind, all men indeed well understand. Those, therefore, who have excogitated [the theory of] emissions have not discovered anything great, or revealed any abstruse mystery, when they have simply transferred what all understand to the only-begotten Word of God; and while they style Him unspeakable and unnamable, they nevertheless set forth the production and formation of His first generation, as if they themselves had assisted at His birth, thus assimilating Him to the word of mankind formed by emissions.

7. But we shall not be wrong if we affirm the same thing also concerning the substance of matter, that God produced it. For we have learned from the Scriptures that God holds the supremacy over all things. But whence or in what way He produced it, neither has Scripture anywhere declared; nor does it become us to conjecture, so as, in accordance with our own opinions, to form endless conjectures concerning God, but we should leave such knowledge in the hands of God Himself.

In like manner, also, we must leave the cause why, while all things were made by God, certain of His creatures sinned and revolted from a state of submission to God, and others, indeed the great majority, persevered, and do still persevere, in [willing] subjection to Him who formed them, and also of what nature those are who sinned, and of what nature those who persevere,--[we must, I say, leave the cause of these things] to God and His Word, to whom alone He said, "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool."

But as for us, we still dwell upon the earth, and have not yet sat down upon His throne. For although the Spirit of the Savior that is in Him "searcheth all things, even the deep things of God," yet as to us "there are diversities of gifts, differences of administrations, and diversities of operations;" and we, while upon the earth, as Paul also declares, "know in part, and prophesy in part." Since, therefore, we know but in part, we ought to leave all sorts of [difficult] questions in the hands of Him who in some measure, [and that only,] bestows grace on us.

That eternal fire, [for instance,] is prepared for sinners, both the Lord has plainly declared, and the rest of the Scriptures demonstrate. And that God fore-knew that this would happen, the Scriptures do in like manner demonstrate, since He prepared eternal fire from the beginning for those who were [afterwards] to transgress [His commandments]; but the cause itself of the nature of such transgressors neither has any Scripture informed us, nor has an apostle told us, nor has the Lord taught us.

It becomes us, therefore, to leave the knowledge of this matter to God, even as the Lord does of the day and hour [of judgment], and not to rush to such an extreme of danger, that we will leave nothing in the hands of God, even though we have received only a measure of grace [from Him in this world]. But when we investigate points which are above us, and with respect to which we cannot reach satisfaction, [it is absurd] that we should display such an extreme of presumption as to lay open God, and things which are not yet discovered, as if already we had found out, by the vain talk . . .

8. Moreover, they possess no proof of their system, which has but recently been invented by them, sometimes resting upon certain numbers, sometimes on syllables, and sometimes, again, on names; and there are occasions, too, when, by means of those letters which are contained in letters, by parables not properly interpreted, or by certain [baseless] conjectures, they strive to establish that fabulous account which they have devised.

For if any one should inquire the reason why the Father, who has fellowship with the Son in all things, has been declared by the Lord alone to know the hour and the day [of judgment], he will find at present no more suitable, or becoming, or safe reason than this (since, indeed, the Lord is the only true Master), that we may learn through Him that the Father is above all things. For "the Father," says He, "is greater than I." The Father, therefore, has been declared by our Lord to excel with respect to knowledge; for this reason, that we, too, as long as we are connected with the scheme of things in this world, should leave perfect knowledge, and such questions [as have been mentioned], to God, and should not by any chance, while we seek to investigate the sublime nature of the Father, fall into the danger of starting the question whether there is another God above God.

9. But if any lover of strife contradict what I have said, and also what the apostle affirms, that "we know in part, and prophesy in part," and imagine that he has acquired not a partial, but a universal, knowledge of all that exists,--being such an one as Valentinus, or Ptolemaeus, or Basilides, or any other of those who maintain that they have searched out the deep things of God, -- let him not (arraying himself in vainglory) boast that he has acquired greater knowledge than others with respect to those things which are invisible, or cannot be placed under our observation; but let him, by making diligent inquiry, and obtaining information from the Father, tell us the reasons (which we know not) of those things which are in this world,--as, for instance, the number of hairs on his own head, and the sparrows which are captured day by day, and such other points with which we are not previously acquainted,--so that we may credit him also with respect to more important points.

But if those who are perfect do not yet understand the very things in their hands, and at their feet, and before their eyes, and on the earth, and especially the rule followed with respect to the hairs of their head, how can we believe them regarding things spiritual, and super-celestial, and those which, with a vain confidence, they assert to be above God? So much, then, I have said concerning numbers, and names, and syllables, and questions respecting such things as are above our comprehension, and concerning their improper expositions of the parables: [I add no more on these points,] since you yourself may enlarge upon them.

Chap. 30

9. He (the Creator) made all things freely, and by His own power, and arranged and finished them, and His will is the substance of all things, then He is discovered to be the one only God who created all things, who alone is Omnipotent, and who is the only Father rounding and forming all things, visible and invisible, such as may be perceived by our senses and such as cannot, heavenly and earthly, "by the word of His power;" and He has fitted and arranged all things by His wisdom, while He contains all things, but He Himself can be contained by no one: He is the Former, He the Builder, He the Discoverer, He the Creator, He the Lord of all; and there is no one besides Him, or above Him, neither has He any mother, as they falsely ascribe to Him; nor is there a second God . . .

But there is one only God, the Creator--He who is above every Principality, and Power, and Dominion, and Virtue: He is Father, He is God, He the Founder, He the Maker, He the Creator, who made those things by Himself, that is, through His Word and His Wisdom--heaven and earth, and the seas, and all things that are in them: He is just; He is good; He it is who formed man, who planted paradise, who made the world, who gave rise to the flood, who saved Noah; He is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of the living: He it is whom the law proclaims, whom the prophets preach, whom Christ reveals, whom the apostles make known to us, and in whom the Church believes. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: through His Word, who is His Son, through Him He is revealed and manifested to all to whom He is revealed; for those [only] know Him to whom the Son has revealed Him. But the Son, eternally co-existing with the Father, from of old, yea, from the beginning, always reveals the Father to Angels, Archangels, Powers, Virtues, and all to whom He wills that God should be revealed.

>> Now in our next writer, Eusebius of Caesarea, who we might call a church historian, we are introduced to an account from Philo of Alexandria, which describes the Christian community in Egypt. <<



Eusebius, Philo, & Egypt
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The following account of Eusebius in turn gives an account provided by Philo, a well known sort of Jewish Philosopher of the mid to later 1st century who observed Christians and their habits. It is a fascinating account with something to teach us as regards how they understood and interpreted the Bible. It should be kept in mind that Philo of Alexandria was a Jew but was not under the strict control that Jews were in Judea.

So the views of Philo are not necessarily representative of Judaism in Judea and He probably did not know Christians as Judean Jews did. He does not seem to object to them and he may have used information from others about these Christians he calls Therapeut. He must have been aware of the to some extent since he says they were most abundant right there in Alexandria where he lived. So Philo speaks of them with a neutral admiration as to their dedication and the like. Philo is a welcomed objective witness to these Therpeut.

Also note that Eusebius narrates Philo and Philo's words are enclosed by quotation marks: "".  Eusebius' words are not. Mine are red and in brackets during Eusebius.

Eusebius' Church History: Book II (2)
Chapter 16: Mark first proclaimed Christianity to the Inhabitants of Egypt

And they say that this Mark was the first that was sent to Egypt, and that he proclaimed the Gospel which he had written, and first established churches in Alexandria. And the multitude of believers, both men and women, that were collected there at the very outset, and lived lives of the most philosophical and excessive asceticism, was so great, that Philo thought it worth while to describe their pursuits, their meetings, their entertainments, and their whole manner of life."

[{Christians seemed to exhibit excessive asceticism in the eyes of people in general, perhaps. But I doubt Eusebius saw it that way. We will see for our selves.}]

Book 2 chap 17:

In the work to which he gave the title, On a Contemplative Life or on Suppliants, after affirming in the first place that he will add to those things which he is about to relate nothing contrary to truth or of his own invention, he says that these men were called Therapeut' and the women that were with them Therapeutrides. He then adds the reasons for such a name, explaining it from the fact that they applied remedies and healed the souls of those who came to them, by relieving them like physicians, of evil passions, or from the fact that they served and worshipped the Deity in purity and sincerity. Whether Philo himself gave them this name, employing an epithet well suited to their mode of life, or whether the first of them really called themselves so in the beginning, since the name of Christians was not yet everywhere known, we need not discuss here. He bears witness, however, that first of all they renounce their property. When they begin the philosophical mode of life, he says, they give up their goods to their relatives, and then, renouncing all the cares of life, they go forth beyond the walls and dwell in lonely fields and gardens, knowing well that intercourse with people of a different character is unprofitable and harmful.

[{ Eusebius writes in the 4th century, speaking of Philo's time, near to Christ. But we see things similar to what Christians did in Acts 2. They leave their worldly possessions behind, either selling their houses or leaving them to relatives, too. Unlike Christians in Acts, they leave the city behind and live in more remote and isolated places. This can be confirmed by archaeology, where Coptic Christians lived in desert places, years and centuries later. They did this to avoid being too influenced by the population who lived apart from God's ways. We might wonder how much of this was at the direction of Mark or whether these "Egyptian" Christians of probable Jewish, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian lineage in that country did not become extreme on their own account, if indeed, it is extreme.

Even today, we see many people not even Christian, who head out for the suburbs and rural areas to escape the less favorable conditions that exist in densely populated cities. And today there also exist small groups such as the Amish, Hutterites, the Bruderhof, and perhaps a few others of some Christians persuasion who prefer an existence more isolated from the world in general. }]

They did this at that time, as seems probable, under the influence of a spirited and ardent faith, practicing in emulation the prophets' mode of life. For in the Acts of the Apostles, a work universally acknowledged as authentic, it is recorded that all the companions of the apostles sold their possessions and their property and distributed to all according to the necessity of each one, so that no one among them was in want. "For as many as were possessors of lands or houses," as the account says, "sold them and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet, so that distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."

[{ It would seem that Eusebius also recognizes that how they lived was a little bit more extreme than what was common for Christians in most provinces of the Roman Empire. But as he points out, the prophets were also noted for ascetic lives as well. So it really is not unusual. And Alexandria did turn out to be a Christians center of notable education and prolific reputable writers and scholars of the Christian faith. }]

Philo bears witness to facts very much like those here described and then adds the following account: "Everywhere in the world is this race found. For it was fitting that both Greek and Barbarian should share in what is perfectly good. But the race particularly abounds in Egypt, in each of its so-called nomes, and especially about Alexandria. The best men from every quarter emigrate, as if to a colony of the Therapeut's fatherland, to a certain very suitable spot which lies above the lake Maria upon a low hill excellently situated on account of its security and the mildness of the atmosphere."

[{ The Word and Faith seemed to abound in Egypt. And they sought out a place to live, not based on material prosperity, but on security and mild climate. }]

And then a little further on, after describing the kind of houses which they had, he speaks as follows concerning their churches, which were scattered about here and there:

"In each house there is a sacred apartment which is called a sanctuary and monastery, where, quite alone, they perform the mysteries of the religious life. They bring nothing into it, neither drink nor food, nor any of the other things which contribute to the necessities of the body, but only the laws, and the inspired oracles of the prophets, and hymns and such other things as augment and make perfect their knowledge and piety."

[{ What Philo seems to describe is a room dedicated to scrolls or a codex like books containing the laws, prophets, hymns, and the like, dedicated to God. Today we might call this a library or office. But it was dedicated to Godly matters, not business. Many people today have bookshelves or collections of their own so it is not anything unusual. But it is quite clear that they were very dedicated and occupied with Christian learning and devotion. Are we listening? }]

And after some other matters he says:

"The whole interval, from morning to evening, is for them a time of exercise. For they read the holy Scriptures, and explain the philosophy of their fathers in an allegorical manner, regarding the written words as symbols of hidden truth which is communicated in obscure figures. They have also writings of ancient men, who were the founders of their sect, and who left many monuments of the allegorical method. These they use as models, and imitate their principles."

[{ It was well recognized that they interpreted scripture in an allegorical manner. What a contrast between this and modern worshippers who seem to take a fundamentalist literal approach to the Bible. They also seem to have the writings of the Apostles, their "ancient men" who founded the so called sect. These also used an allegorical method of writing, according to Philo. He could recognize that but why is it we do not grasp that? }]

Eusebius:
These things seem to have been stated by a man who had heard them expounding their sacred writings.
But it is highly probable that the works of the ancients, which he says they had, were the Gospels and the writings of the apostles, and probably some expositions of the ancient prophets, such as are contained in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in many others of Paul's Epistles. Then again he writes as follows concerning the new psalms which they composed: "So that they not only spend their time in meditation, but they also compose songs and hymns to God in every variety of metre and melody, though they divide them, of course, into measures of more than common solemnity."

[{ They were musically inclined. That is kind of interesting. They made use of a great variety of music, but noted for their solemnity. It also seems to me that there are more proper types of music in regards to worship and some types that are not so proper. }]

"Having laid down temperance as a sort of foundation in the soul, they build upon it the other virtues. None of them may take food or drink before sunset, since they regard philosophizing as a work worthy of the light, but attention to the wants of the body as proper only in the darkness, and therefore assign the day to the former, but to the latter a small portion of the night. But some, in whom a great desire for knowledge dwells, forget to take food for three days; and some are so delighted and feast so luxuriously upon wisdom, which furnishes doctrines richly and without stint, that they abstain even twice as long as this, and are accustomed, after six days, scarcely to take necessary food."

[{ Well, I can not fault them for appreciating and pursuing wisdom and knowledge so devoutly. We do not do it enough while their lives revolved around Godly wisdom and understanding. That is most commendable and proper. But they did seem kind of extreme in their denying the body as extremely as they did. Taking in food and drink is necessary and proper, and if possible, to enjoy their food, even as Ecclesiastes gives us this as a reward for our hard work. So we can see some extremism developing among the followers. That is not likely a positive sign, but I do believe we do not pursue Godly knowledge and understanding nearly as much as we should. We do not take our devotion to God and our own lives seriously. Though not to the degree perhaps that was done by the Egyptian brothers, we should put the study of God's word first in our lives. }]

For they say that there were women also with those of whom we are speaking, and that the most of them were aged virgins who had preserved their chastity, not out of necessity, as some of the priestesses among the Greeks, but rather by their own choice, through zeal and a desire for wisdom. And that in their earnest desire to live with it as their companion they paid no attention to the pleasures of the body, seeking not mortal but immortal progeny, which only the pious soul is able to bear of itself. Then after a little he adds still more emphatically:

"They expound the Sacred Scriptures figuratively by means of allegories. For the whole law seems to these men to resemble a living organism, of which the spoken words constitute the body, while the hidden sense stored up within the words constitutes the soul. This hidden meaning has first been particularly studied by this sect, which sees, revealed as in a mirror of names, the surpassing beauties of the thoughts."

[{ It is amazing that so devoted and perhaps excited by their studies, women would often remain unmarried to pursue their education in Godly understanding. While this seems a bit extreme, there certainly is nothing wrong with it. Given the all people seem so unsteady and unpredictable, marriage is certainly a gamble and can turn out to be as Paul put it, "tribulation in the flesh." But a couple could as easily study God's word together as apart, if that is what both want. But if both are not in agreement on this, then there could be conflict and of course, if they have kids, that cold certainly take up a lot of time and expense that could rob much time from God, but justifiably so since the kids should receive that time for learning about God.

Philo also takes notice of how much they focus on the hidden meaning of the scriptures and the law. They recognized the figurative and allegorical meanings. As we have seen by studying the law here, there was a lot of symbolic sense to it all. Sadly, this understanding has been forgotten over the centuries so that many today believe we should observe the sabbath and on its true day, Saturday, as if we were observing it on Sunday when we are not and never have observed it at all. And some take everything literally, not understanding the more figurative meaning behind the words of Jesus and his Apostles, as well as the ancient prophets. }]

Why is it necessary to add to these things their meetings and the respective occupations of the men and of the women during those meetings, and the practices which are even to the present day habitually observed by us, especially such as we are accustomed to observe at the feast of the Savior's passion, with fasting and night watching and study of the divine Word.

These things the above-mentioned author has related in his own work, indicating a mode of life which has been preserved to the present time by us alone, recording especially the vigils kept in connection with the great festival, and the exercises performed during those vigils, and the hymns customarily recited by us, and describing how, while one sings regularly in time, the others listen in silence, and join in chanting only the close of the hymns; and how, on the days referred to they sleep on the ground on beds of straw, and to use his own words, "taste no wine at all, nor any flesh, but water is their only drink, and the relish with their bread is salt and hyssop."

End of Eusebius on Philo

I neglected to mention in Justin's accounting of the weekly observance f the Lord's Supper, that they met at night, likely on Saturday evening, which was considered the beginning of the next day, Sunday, the first day of the week. We usually meet in the day, right? So too, night watching is mentioned. Eusebius mentions that on days of fasting, I assume, they sleep on beds of straw and in their fasting, only drink water along with bread and a relish of salt and hyssop. Quite austere, huh? They certainly seemed much more devoted than we are.

Of course, persecution helped, and even forced them to be much more vigilant and alert, even dedicated and serious. We note this among the young during the Vietnam war. They were much more serious, activist, thoughtful, and motivated. With their friends getting killed frequently in Vietnam, they had good reason to be more thoughtful about life and their future. When there is a crisis in our lives, it forces us to think and helps put things in proper perspective, arranging our priorities in a more sensible way. I suspect persecution had this effect on Christians of those early centuries of its infancy.

But not to worry! The Bible makes it clear we will have persecution again before it is all over. If we are to survive the coming persecution, which many will not be expecting, including many Christians, we will have to have made proper preparations in our minds and hearts or we will not be able to brave that persecution. So now is the time to get to know God's word and purpose and prepare ourselves for our final test.


Uriel da Costa        Added Feb 23 014
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Uriel came long after the Apostles. Only problem is, Uriel did not profess to be a Christian. His Jewish-Portuguese family had been forced to convert to Catholicism. Now let me make it clear that I do not equate Catholicism with Christianity. But being on the high seas as a trader who made a good living off his trading as a shipping merchant, Uriel rejected Catholicism, not seeing it as any good, which I heartily agree with. In fact, all of Christianity at that time, I'll call it 1600 AD, a sort of mid-point in his life, was all corrupt and filthy dirty with spiritual-political whoredom with the nations.

So Uriel decided to explore is earlier family heritage of Judaism. He went back, not to the Talmud, as many might have at that time, but to the law of Moses. Though being a Jew, Uriel saw into the scriptures accurately. In fact, we might wonder if there was any previous influence among Christian teachings. But given that Christianity did not recognize a lot of its own figurative and allegorical writings and teachings, one would be left to wonder how Uriel got blood from a rock, so to speak. Uriel's insights into that law, intersect with the goals of this article. That he was a fully professed Jew who had a great reverence for the Law handed to Moses by God, is why his witness is so important. It is not exclusive to either religion.

Uriel published all his thoughts on why the Law of God was right and just; and why the Talmud was a rejection of the Law of God. But this is not my concern here. My concern here is on the figurative allegorical nature of many scriptures in the Bible. And why is this still a concern in 2014? I visit many sites on the net looking at prophecies and interpretations of those. And despite my Interpretation articles being around since 1999 and 2002, the message has not gotten thru to many. I see continual wavering over whether a particular passage is figurative or literal.

This is absurd. The few rare places of being literal hardly justify a continual or just frequent use of literal interpretation. By far and away, nearly everything in prophecy is figurative and allegorical. Jesus spoke no other way and yet, still, none seem to comprehend this, but evidently God has chosen not to open their eyes so that you can readily recognize them as being phonies.

Examination of Pharisaic Traditions, published in Portuguese originally and a facsimile copy of the unique copy in the Royal Library of Copenhagen Denmark, is the only copy known to exist. Rabbis made sure all other copies were destroyed. So much for freedom of religion, huh?

H P Salomon is the Author/Translator of the Portuguese into English, Publisher Leiden ; New York : Brill, 1993. I submit this material for discussion under the "fair use" clause of the Copyright Act of the USA. Uriel is in black text and my comments in >>brackets with brown letters.<<


Page 290
Chapter 8        On the Use of Tefillin37

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The use of tefillin is an abuse and an invention of men who misunderstood and misinterpreted the Law; as such it should be judged and rejected:

1.  Because the Law neither commanded these so-called tefillin to be made, nor indicated their shape or form; in fact, their very name is unknown to the Law and the Castilian version had no right to render the word totafot ["frontlets"] by another Hebrew word [tefillin] which nowhere occurs in Scripture.' Had the Law wanted such things to be made, it would firstly have commanded them, then indicated their shape or form as it did with sisit, commanding its making and explaining its colour and application [Nm. 15: 38]. This pattern is invariably followed throughout the Law, whenever specific practices are prescribed.

>>Below is why I have such admiration for Uriel's mind. Uriel gave much thought to the law in order to recognize what he did below. I have written on the common nature of the scriptures to write/speak in figurative allegorical ways. I wrote 2 articles on it, "How to Understand & Interpret the Bible (1999)" and "Post-Apostolic Writers on Interpreting the Bible (2002)."  <<

2.  The verses from which they derive the precept of tefillin had first to be misinterpreted by their commentators to yield the meaning they desired. The language of the Law in these verses is figurative, as in many other instances, and not literal. To be in harmony with the spirit of the lawgiver, it is necessary to understand allegorically:

        And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart 1...) And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thy eyes [Dt. 6: 6, 8].  

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In these verses the intermediary of the Law, as a good and wise master, gives the people an emphatic command to remember God's love firstly in their hearts, repository of thoughts, next on their tongue and, finally availing himself of a rhetorical manner of speech , he tells them that they should remember these words as if they carried them for a sign on the hand and as a constant presence before their eyes, so that they might never forget. This is supported by another verse in the Law, which speaks similarly:

        And it shall be for thee as a sign upon thy hand, and for a memorial between thy eyes [...] [Ex. 13: 9].

And soon afterwards it changes its formulation and says:

        And it shall be for a sign upon thy hand, and for frontlets between thy eyes [...] [Ex. 13: 16].

Thus, the Law uses "memorial" and "frontlets" interchangeably, which demonstrates that the words "for frontlets" mean "for a memorial," and the words "for a memorial" hardly signify something written and enclosed in a box on one's forehead. Such allegorical and vivid forms of expression are often used in the Law. Thus it calls the people "stiffnecked," to describe their great obstinacy. To better convey the image of oppression, it speaks of the Lord breaking the yoke which they bore on their necks in Egypt [cf. Lv. 26: 13]. The promised land's lushness and luxuriance is metaphorically expressed by: a land flowing with milk and honey. All these are allegories "allegory," so that every one may understand, is when words say one thing and suggest another).

In the same manner spoke Selomo:

        Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind ye them upon thy necks: write them upon the table of thine heart [...] [Pr. 3: 3].

And in the Song of Songs:

        Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm [...] [S. of S. 8: 6].

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This means: 'remember me':

        Upon the palms of my hands I have inscribed thee: thy walls constantly before me [Is. 49: 16]:

'You are ever present in my memory'. The adversaries hold that the sign is a concrete and visible thing and refuse to see that the language of the Law is figurative rather than literal. For even the word "seal," which would normally denote a concrete and visible object, is here [S. of S. 8,6] not literally interpreted by anyone.

3.  Further proof: for a man to go the whole day with his arm strapped, imprisoned and encumbered, for all his natural and servile tasks, is improper, inconvenient and repugnant and it would be nothing less to carry those bonds and impediments on one's arm and head, especially as one would be required to wear them at all times. But the Law did not prescribe nor could it prescribe such improprieties, inconveniences and impossibilities.

>>Put in just slightly different words, could God be so absurd as to make us go about in bonds? To make what point? What for? Why? God is not insane. But those who embrace ridiculous interpretations make God out to be an idiot. People who do that do not live too long, I hear.<<

4.  For if the precept of putting on tefillin were a precept of the Law, this precept would be obligatory not just all day, but every day, because the Law made no exceptions; this, however, is not the custom, and on sabbaths and holy days the people are exempt. Therefore the provision is either entirely man-made, or it was against the Law that the people were exempted (we shall not include here their absurd response39), but it yet will be shown that the provision is in fact man-made.  

>>Uriel beings up a good point here. so often in these contradictions, we have them doing stupid things and yet, also not doing them when they should be doing it either all the time or not at all. It is one contradiction upon another. Absurdity upon absurdity. By their fruits you will know them.<<

5.  The regulations concerning the form and shape and the placing of the tefillin are all erroneous and misguided; they are not rules of the Law. It is also erroneous though actually quite funny to say that the leather of these cubes and encasements must be made of skin of an animal that may be eaten, because thus one complies with the precept:

        [...] that the Law of the Lord may be in thy mouth [...] [Ex. 13: 9].  

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It is equally erroneous to say that the knot on the left arm must be on a spot that faces and can be placed on the heart, in compliance with the precept:

        And these words [...] shall be on thy heart [Dt. 6: 6].

The tenor of these and other foolish rules betray the origin of the tefillin and their ritual.

6.  The Jews who are called Sadducees neither had nor have this custom, and the name Sadducee is as ancient as the name Pharisee (these names having come into use during the time of the Second Temple to identify them and distinguish them from each other). So the custom and testimony of the former confirm the truth which is derived from the Law and confound the contrary, superstitious, erroneous abuse, as does the Law itself.

>>>End of Uriel's book quotes

>>How humiliating can it be to have the Sadducees make you look bad? This is how far gone the Pharisees were.<<


Truth 1 speaking now!

It matters not, if you are Jewish or Christian. The truth is the same. As a song sings, "Who do you love?" (I best know George Thorogood's version.) But it should be pretty evident to both groups that figurative allegorical ways of speaking and writing were essential to God's choice of how to record and transmit prophecies to the world.

But I will add here that since discovering Uriel and reading him, more things have come to my mind at this time and not a time prior to 2014. You have to be real nervous about anyone that wants to change God's word or create a phony book or scroll. And as well, anyone who makes silly, stupid, absurd, ridiculous interpretations, is not from God and is not following God with their heart.

I make this point as I look at Christianity playing political footsies in bed with governments, fights wars for governments (a.k.a. the devil), often leading to them having to kill other Christians, at least in name. They also preach absurd doctrines about the supposed trinity, hell, immortal soul, abortion, authority of clergy, and many more sins too numerous to write down here.

Interpretation is an outward manifestation of the heart. Soon, the world will introduce a false messiah and god, who will make wonderful promises and perform seemingly remarkable signs, wonders, portents, miracles, but all will be used to deceive the masses of the world. But these signs and the direction this "messiah" takes will be against the Bible's instructions. Further, the signs and wonders will also have their limits. But regardless, this "messiah" (a lying deceiving one) will OK so many things the Bible does not allow.

We know the false messiah antichrist is up to no good. But neither is anyone else who advocates humans messing the God's words, laws, or prophecies. Warped thinking reflects a warped mind. I do not want to be a pessimist but find it hard to be anything but that! I do not find a lot of hope for those belonging to organized mainstream denominational Christianity or Judaism based on the Talmud. God looks for those who raise above their heritage of family line, religion, politics and the like; and seek out the truth for themselves. We need to base our ideas and beliefs on solid ground. I think that should be obvious enough. People who do not do this are likely not going to make it.

How we interpret the Bible matters a lot. Many prophecies right now and being grossly twisted and distorted because of idiots making too many literal interpretations. Further, anyone who thinks its going to be easy to understand prophecy or that it can be done without much effort or reading, and applying your mind to it with diligence, you are so very wrong and you are not fit for God's Kingdom. You need to make change now and a change fast. Why not start right here with this and the other article on Interpretation and other articles all found on the Interpreting and Understanding The Bible page. I link to it at the end just below.

You need to get this very serious issue right. But most never go near it. Its your choice.


Related Articles                Interpreting and Understanding The Bible
How to Interpret the Bible
Post-Apostolic Writers on Interpreting Scripture
Why We Can Trust the Bible Only
Tolerance and Individual Thinking
The Psychology Factor
The Great Apostasy
Lying Signs and Wonders
Christian Discipline
Christian Requirements
Christian Community
Christian Test
God's Institution - The Nation of Israel
Church Beginnings


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