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Chapter XXXVIII.

In the next place, as it is his object to slander our Scriptures, he ridicules the following statement:  “And God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept:  and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.  And the rib, which He had taken from the man, made He a woman,”38493849    Cf. Gen. ii. 21, 22. and so on; without quoting the words, which would give the hearer the impression that they are spoken with a figurative meaning.  He would not even have it appear that the words were used allegorically, although he says afterwards, that “the more modest among Jews and Christians are ashamed of these things, and endeavour to give them somehow an allegorical signification.”  Now we might say to him, Are the statements of your “inspired” Hesiod, which he makes regarding the woman in the form of a myth, to be explained allegorically, in the sense that she was given by Jove to men as an evil thing, and as a retribution for the theft of “the fire;”38503850    ἀντὶ τοῦ πυρός. while that regarding the woman who was taken from the side of the man (after he had been buried in deep slumber), and was formed by God, appears to you to be related without any rational meaning and secret signification?38513851    χωρὶς παντὸς λόγου καί τινος ἐπικρύψεως.  But is it not uncandid, not to ridicule the former as myths, but to admire them as philosophical ideas in a mythical dress, and to treat with contempt38523852    μοχθίζειν. the latter, as offending the understanding, and to declare that they are of no account?  For if, because of the mere phraseology, we are to find fault with what is intended to have a secret meaning, see whether the following lines of Hesiod, a man, as you say,” inspired,” are not better fitted to excite laughter:—

“‘Son of Iapetus!’ with wrathful heart

Spake the cloud-gatherer:  ‘Oh, unmatched in art!

Exultest thou in this the flame retrieved,

And dost thou triumph in the god deceived?

But thou, with the posterity of man,

Shalt rue the fraud whence mightier ills began;

I will send evil for thy stealthy fire,

While all embrace it, and their bane desire.’

The sire, who rules the earth, and sways the pole,

Had said, and laughter fill’d his secret soul.

He bade the artist-god his hest obey,

And mould with tempering waters ductile clay:

Infuse, as breathing life and form began,

The supple vigour, and the voice of man:

Her aspect fair as goddesses above,

A virgin’s likeness, with the brows of love.

He bade Minerva teach the skill that dyes

The web with colours, as the shuttle flies;

He called the magic of Love’s Queen to shed

A nameless grace around her courteous head;

Instil the wish that longs with restless aim,

And cares of dress that feed upon the frame:

Bade Hermes last implant the craft refined

Of artful manners, and a shameless mind.

He said; their king th’ inferior powers obeyed:

The fictile likeness of a bashful maid

Rose from the temper’d earth, by Jove’s behest,

Under the forming god; the zone and vest

Were clasp’d and folded by Minerva’s hand:

The heaven-born graces, and persuasion bland

Deck’d her round limbs with chains of gold:  the hours

Of loose locks twined her temples with spring flowers.

The whole attire Minerva’s curious care

Form’d to her shape, and fitted to her air.

But in her breast the herald from above,

Full of the counsels of deep thundering Jove,

Wrought artful manners, wrought perfidious lies,

And speech that thrills the blood, and lulls the wise.

Her did th’ interpreter of gods proclaim,

And named the woman with Pandora’s name;

Since all the gods conferr’d their gifts, to charm,

For man’s inventive race, this beauteous harm.”38533853    Hesiod, Works and Days, i. 73–114 (Elton’s translation [in substance.  S.]).

Moreover, what is said also about the casket is fitted of itself to excite laughter; for example:—

“Whilome on earth the sons of men abode

From ills apart, and labour’s irksome load,

And sore diseases, bringing age to man;

Now the sad life of mortals is a span.

The woman’s hands a mighty casket bear;

She lifts the lid; she scatters griefs in air:

Alone, beneath the vessel’s rims detained,

Hope still within th’ unbroken cell remained,

Nor fled abroad; so will’d cloud-gatherer Jove:

The woman’s hand had dropp’d the lid above.”38543854    Hesiod, Works and Days, i.125–134 (Elton’s translation [in substance.  S.]).

Now, to him who would give to these lines a grave allegorical meaning (whether any such meaning be contained in them or not), we would say:  Are the Greeks alone at liberty to convey a philosophic meaning in a secret covering? or perhaps also the Egyptians, and those of the Barbarians who pride themselves upon their mysteries and the truth (which is concealed within them); while the Jews alone, with their lawgiver and historians, appear to you the most unintelligent of men?  And is this the only nation which has not received a share of divine power, and which yet was so grandly instructed how to rise upwards to the uncreated nature of God, and to gaze on Him alone, and to expect from Him alone (the fulfilment of) their hopes?

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