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Chapter III.—An Ambiguous Passage of Scripture; Not Only the Faithful But Even Prelates Sometimes Illegitimate.

But Marcella, interrupting, said, “O Theophila, there appears here a great mistake, and something contrary to what you have said; and do you think to escape under cover of the cloud which you have thrown around you? For there comes that argument, which perhaps any one who addresses you as a very wise person will bring forward: What do you say of those who are begotten unlawfully in adultery? For you laid it down that it was inconceivable and impossible for any one to enter into the world unless he was introduced by the will of the divine Ruler, his frame being prepared for him by God. And that you may not take refuge behind a safe wall, bringing forward the Scripture which says, ‘As for the children of the adulterers, they shall not come to their perfection,’25372537    Wisd. iii. 16. he will answer you easily, that we often see those who are unlawfully begotten coming to perfection like ripe fruit.

And if, again, you answer sophistically, ‘O, my friend, by those who come not to perfection I understand being perfected in Christ-taught righteousness;’ he will say, ‘But, indeed, my worthy friend, very many who are begotten of unrighteous seed are not only numbered among those who are gathered into the flock of the brethren, but are often called even to preside over them.25382538    [Bastardy seems to have been regarded as washed out by baptism, thousands of pagan converts having been born under this stain.] Since, then, it is clear, and all testify, that those who are born of adultery do come to perfection, we must not imagine that the Spirit was teaching respecting conceptions and births, but rather perhaps concerning those who adulterate the truth, who, corrupting the Scriptures by false doctrines, bring forth an imperfect and immature wisdom, mixing their error with piety.’ And, therefore, this plea being taken away from you, come now and tell us if those who are born of adultery are begotten by the will of God; for you said that it was impossible that the offspring of a man should be brought to perfection unless the Lord formed it and gave it life.”

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