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Chapter XVIII.—The Use of Philosophy to the Gnostic.
Greek philosophy the recreation of the Gnostic.
Now our Gnostic always occupies himself with the things of highest importance. But if at any time he has leisure and time for relaxation from what is of prime consequence, he applies himself to Hellenic philosophy in preference to other recreation, feasting on it as a kind of dessert at supper.3495
It is well indeed to know all. But the man whose soul is destitute of the ability to reach to acquaintance with many subjects of study, will select the principal and better subjects alone. For real science (ἐπιστήμη, which we affirm the Gnostic alone possesses) is a sure comprehension (κατάληψις), leading up through true and sure reasons to the knowledge (γνῶσις) of the cause. And he, who is acquainted with what is true respecting any one subject, becomes of course acquainted with what is false respecting it.
But if we are not to philosophize, what then? (For no one can condemn a thing without first knowing it): the consequence, even in that case, is that we must philosophize.3496
Such, then, being the case, the Greeks ought by the Law and the Prophets to learn to worship one God only, the only Sovereign; then to be taught by the apostle, “but to us an idol is nothing in the world,”3497
For intensification of the righteousness which is according to the law shows the Gnostic. So one who is placed in the head, which is that which rules its own body—and who advances to the summit of faith, which is the knowledge (gnosis) itself, for which all the organs of perception exist—will likewise obtain the highest inheritance.
The primacy of knowledge the apostle shows to those capable of reflection, in writing to those Greeks of Corinth, in the following terms: “But having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be magnified in you according to our rule abundantly, to preach the Gospel beyond you.”3500
But let those who vaunt on account of having apprehended the truth tell us from whom they boast of having heard it. They will not say from God, but will admit that it was from men. And if so, it is either from themselves that they have learned it lately, as some of them arrogantly boast, or from others like them. But human teachers, speaking of God, are not reliable, as men. For he that is man cannot speak worthily the truth concerning God: the feeble and mortal [cannot speak worthily] of the Unoriginated and Incorruptible—the work, of the Workman. Then he who is incapable of speaking what is true respecting himself, is he not much less reliable in what concerns God? For just as far as man is inferior to God in power, so much feebler is man’s speech than Him; although he do not declare God, but only speak about God and the divine word. For human speech is by nature feeble, and incapable of uttering God. I do not say His name. For to name it is common, not to philosophers only, but also to poets. Nor [do I say] His essence; for this is impossible, but the power and the works of God.
Those even who claim God as their teacher, with difficulty attain to a conception of God, grace aiding them to the attainment of their modicum of knowledge; accustomed as they are to contemplate the will [of God] by the will, and the Holy Spirit by the Holy Spirit. “For the Spirit searches the deep things of God. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit.”3504
Assuredly of the coming of the Lord, who has taught us, to men, there were a myriad indicators, heralds, preparers, precursors, from the beginning, from the foundation of the world, intimating beforehand by deeds and words, prophesying that He would come, and where, and how, what should be the signs. From afar certainly Law and Prophecy kept Him in view beforehand. And then the precursor pointed Him out as present. After whom the heralds point out by their teaching the virtue of His manifestation.
Universal diffusion of the Gospel a contrast to philosophy.
But the word of our Teacher remained not in Judea alone, as philosophy did in Greece; but was diffused over the whole world, over every nation, and village, and town, bringing already over to the truth whole houses, and each individual of those who heard it by him himself, and not a few of the philosophers themselves.
Having then moulded, as it were, a statue of the
Gnostic, we have now shown who he is; indicating in outline, as it were,
both the greatness and beauty of his character. What he is as to the
study of physical phenomena shall be shown afterwards, when we begin to
treat of the creation of the world.