Early Church Fathers
In the night-time Peter rose up and wakened us, and then sat down in his usual way, and said "Ask me questions about anything you like."1 And Sophonias was the first to begin to speak to him: "Will you explain to us who are eager to learn what is the real truth in regard to evil? "And Peter said: "I have already explained it in the course of my discussion with Simon; but because I stated the truth in regard to it in combination with other topics, it was not altogether clearly put; for many topics that seem to be of equal weight with the truth afford some kind of knowledge of the truth to the masses. So that, if now I state what I formerly stated to Simon along with many topics, do not imagine that you are not2 honoured with honour equal to his." And Sophonias said: "You are right; for if you now separate it for us from many of the topics that were then discussed, you will make the truth more evident."
And Peter said: "Listen, therefore, to the truth of the harmony in regard to the evil one. God appointed two kingdoms, and established two ages, determining that the present world should be given to the evil one, because it is small, and passes quickly away; but He promised to preserve for the good one the age to come, as it will be great and eternal. Man, therefore, He created with free-will, and possessing the capability of inclining to whatever actions he wishes. And his body consists of three parts, deriving its origin from the female; for it has lust, anger, and grief, and what is consequent on these. But the spirit not being uniform,3 but consisting of three parts, derives its origin from the male; and it is capable of reasoning, knowledge, and fear, and what is consequent on these. And each of these triads has one root, so that man is a compound of two mixtures, the female and the male. Wherefore also two ways have been laid before him-those of obedience and disobedience to law; and two kingdoms, have been established,-the one called4 the kingdom of heaven, and the other the kingdom of those who are now kings upon earth. Also two kings have been appointed, of whom the one is selected to rule by law over the present and transitory world, and his composition is such that he rejoices in the destruction of the wicked. But the other and good5 one, who is the King of the age to come, loves the whole nature of man; but not being able to have boldness in the present world, he counsels what is advantageous, like one who tries to conceal who he really is.6
"But of these two, the one7 acts violently towards the other by the command of God. Moreover, each man has power to obey whichever of them he pleases for the doing of good or evil. But if any one chooses to do what is good, he becomes the possession of the fixture good king; but if any one should do evil, he becomes the servant of the present evil one, who, having received power over him by just judgment on account of his sins, and wishing to use it8 before the coming age, rejoices in punishing him in the present life, and thus by gratifying, as it were, his own private passion, he accomplishes the will of God. But the other, being made to rejoice in power over the righteous, when he finds a righteous man, is exceedingly glad, and saves him with eternal life; and he also, as if gratifying himself, traces the gratification which he feels on account of these to God. Now it is within the power of every unrighteous than to repent and be saved; and every righteous man may nave to undergo punishment for sins committed at the end of his career. Moreover, these two leaders are the swift hands of God, eager to anticipate Him so as to accomplish His will. But that this is so, has been said even by the law in the person of God: `I will kill, and, I will make alive; I will strike, and I will heal.'9 For, in truth, He kills and makes alive. He kills through the left hand, that is, through the evil one, who has been so composed as to rejoice in afflicting the impious. And he saves and benefits through the right band, that is, through the good one, who has been made to rejoice in the good deeds and salvation of the righteous. Now these have not their substances outside of God: for there is no other primal source. Nor, indeed, have they been sent forth as animals from God, for they were of the same mind with Him; nor are they accidental,10 arising spontaneously in opposition to His will, since thus the greatest exercise of His power would have been destroyed. But from God have been sent forth the four first elements-heat and cold, moist and dry. In consequence of this, He is the father of every substance, but not of the disposition11 which may arise from the combination of the elements; for when these were combined from without, disposition was begotten in them as a child. The wicked one, then, having served God blamelessly to the end of the present world, can become good by a change in his composition,12 since he assuredly is not of one uniform substance whose sole bent is towards sin. For not even more does he do evil, although he is evil, since he has received power to afflict lawfully."
When Peter said this, Micah, who was himself one of his followers, asked: "What, then, is the reason why men sin? "And Peter said: "It is because they are ignorant that they will without doubt be punished for their evil deeds when judgment takes place.13 For this reason they, having lust, as I elsewhere said, for the continuance of life, gratify it in any accidental way, it may be by the vitiation of boys,14 or by some other flattering sin. For in consequence of their ignorance, as I said before, they are urged on through fearlessness to satisfy their lust in an unlawful manner. Wherefore God is not evil, who has rightly placed lust within man, that there may be a continuance of life, but they are most impious who have used the good of lust badly. The same considerations apply to anger also, that if one uses it righteously, as is within his power, he is pious; but going beyond measure, and taking judgment to himself,15 he is impious."
And Sophonias said again: "Your great patience, my lord Peter, gives us boldness to ask you many questions for the sake of accuracy. Wherefore we make our inquiries with confidence in every direction. I remember, then, that Simon said yesterday, in his discussion with you, that the evil one, if he was born of God, possesses in consequence the same substance as He does who sent him forth, and he ought to have been good, and not wicked. But you answered that this was not always the case, since many wicked sons are born of good parents, as from Adam two unlike16 sons were begotten, one of whom was bad and the other good. And when Simon found fault with you for having used human examples, you answered that in this way we ought not to admit that God begets at all; for this also is a human example. And I, Sophonias, admit that God begets; but I do not allow that He begets what is bad, even though the good among men beget bad children. And do not imagine17 that I am without reason attributing to God some of the qualities that distinguish men, and refusing to attribute others, when I grant that He begets, but do not allow that He begets what is unlike Himself. For men, as you might expect, beget sons who are unlike them in their dispositions for the following reason. Being composed of four parts, they change their bodies variously, according to the various changes of the year; and thus, the appropriate change either of increase or decrease taking place in the human booty, each season destroys the harmonious combination. Now, when the combinations do not always remain exactly in the same position, the seeds, having sometimes one combination, sometimes another, are sent off; and these are followed, according to the combination belonging to the season, by dispositions either good or bad. But in the case of God we cannot suppose any such thing; for, being unchangeable and always existing, whenever He wishes to send forth, there is an absolute necessity that what is sent forth should be in all respects in the same position as that which has begotten, I mean in regard to substance and disposition. But if any one should wish to maintain that He is changeable, I do not know how it is possible for him to maintain that He is immortal."
When Peter heard this, he thought for a little, and said: "I do not think that any one can converse about evil without doing the will of the evil one. Therefore knowing this, I do not know what I shall do, whether I shall be silent or speak. For if I be silent, I should incur the laughter of the multitude, because, professing to proclaim the truth, I am ignorant of the explanation of vice But if I should state my opinion, I am afraid lest it be not at all pleasing to God that we should seek after evil, for only seeking after good is pleasing to Him. However, in my reply to the statements of Sophonias, I shall make my ideas more plain. I then agree with him in thinking that we ought not to attribute to God all the qualities of men. For instance, men not having bodies that are convertible are not converted; but they have a nature that admits of alteration by the lapse of time through the seasons of the year. But this is not the case with God; for through His inborn18 Spirit He becomes, by a power which cannot be described, whatever body He likes. And one can the more easily believe this, as the air, which has received such a nature from Him, is converted into dew by the incorporeal mind permeating it, and being thickened becomes water, and water being compacted becomes stone and earth, and stones through collision light up fire. According to such19 a change and conversion, air becomes first water, and ends in being fire through conversions, and the moist is converted into its natural opposite. Why? Did not God convert the rod of Moses into an animal, making it a serpent,20 which He reconverted into a rod? And by means of this very converted rodhe converted the water of the Nile21 into blood, which again he reconverted into water. Yea, even man, who is dust, He changed by the inbreathing of His breath22 into flesh, and changed him back again into dust.23 And was not Moses,24 who himself was flesh, converted into the grandest light, so that the sons of Israel could not look him in the face? Much more, then, is God completely able to convert Himself into whatsoever He wishes.
"But perhaps some one of you thinks that one may become something under the influence of one, and another under the influence of another, but no one can change himself into whatever he wishes, and that it is the characteristic of one who grows old, and who must die according to his nature,25 to change, but we ought not to entertain such thoughts of immortal beings. For were not angels, who are free from old age, and of a fiery substance,26 changed into flesh,-those, for instance, who received (the hospitality of Abraham,27 whose feet men washed, as if they were the feet of men of like substance?28 Yea, moreover, with Jacob,29 who was a man, there wrestled an angel, converted into flesh that he might be able to come to close quarters with him. And, in like manner, after he had wrestled by his own will, he was converted into his own natural form; and now, when he was changed into fire, he did not burn up the broad sinew of Jacob, but he inflamed it, and made him lame. Now, that which cannot become anything else, whatever it may wish, is mortal, inasmuch as it is subject to its own nature; but he who can become whatever he wishes, whenever he wishes, is immortal, returning to a new condition, inasmuch as he has control over his own nature. Wherefore much more does the power of God change the substance of the body into whatever He wishes and whenever He wishes; and by the change that takes place30 He sends forth what, on the one hand, is of similar substance, but, on the other, is not of equal power. Whatever, then, he who sends forth turns into a different substance, that he can again turn back into his own;31 but he who is sent forth, arising in consequence of the change which proceeds from him, and being his child, cannot become anything else without the will of him who sent him forth, unless he wills it."
When Peter said this, Micah,32 who was himself also one of the companions that attended on him, said: "I also should like to learn from you if the good one has been produced in the same way that the evil one came into being. But if they came into being in a similar manner, then they are brothers in my opinion." And Peter said: "They have not come into being in a similar way: for no doubt you remember what I said in the beginning, that the substance of the body of the wicked one, being fourfold in origin, was carefully selected and sent forth by God; but when it was combined externally, according to the will of Him who sent it forth, there arose, in consequence of the combination, the disposition which rejoices in evils:33 so that you may see that the substance, fourfold in origin, which was sent forth by Him, and which also always exists, is the child of God; but that the accidentally arising disposition which rejoices in evils has supervened when the substance34 was combined externally by him. And thus disposition has not been begotten by God, nor by any one else, nor indeed has it been sent forth by Him, nor has it come forth spontaneously,35 nor did it always exist, like the substance before the combination; but it has come on as an accident by external combination, according to the will of God. And we have often said that it must be so. But the good one having been begotten from the most beautiful change of God, and not having arisen accidentally through an external combination, is really His Son. Yet, since these doctrines are unwritten, and are confirmed to us only by conjecture, let us by no means deem it as absolutely certain that this is the true state of the case. For if we act otherwise, our mind will cease from investigating the truth, in the belief that it has already fully comprehended it. Remember these things, therefore; for I must not state such things to all, but only to those who are found after trial most trustworthy. Nor ought we rashly to maintain such assertions towards each other, nor ought ye to dare to speak as if you were accurately acquainted with the discovery of secret truths, but you ought simply to reflect over them in silence; for in stating, perchance, that a matter is so,36 he who says it will err, and he will suffer punishment for having dared to speak even to himself what has been honoured with silence."
When Peter said this, Lazarus, who also was one of his followers, said: "Explain to us the harmony, how it can be reasonable that the wicked one should be appointed by the righteous God to be the punisher of the impious, and yet should himself afterwards be sent into lower darkness along with his angels and with sin-nets: for I remember that the Teacher Himself said this."37 And Peter said: "I indeed allow that the evil one does no evil, inasmuch as he is accomplishing the law given to him. And although he has an evil disposition, yet through fear of God he does nothing unjustly; but, accusing the teachers of truth so as to entrap the unwary, he is himself named the accuser (the devil). But the statement of our unerring Teacher, that he and his angels, along with the deluded sinners, shall go into lower darkness, admits of the following explanation. The evil one, having obtained the lot38 of rejoicing in darkness according to his composition, delights to go down to the darkness of Tartarus along with angels who are his fellow-slaves; for darkness is dear to fire. But the souls of men, being drops of pure light, are absorbed by the substance fire, which is of a different class; and not possessing a nature capable of dying, they are punished according to their deserts. But if he who is the leader of men39 into vice is not sent into darkness, as not rejoicing in it, then his composition, which rejoices in evils, cannot be changed by another combination into the disposition for good. And thus he will be adjudged to be with the good,40 all the more because, having obtained a composition which rejoices in evils, through fear of God he has done nothing contrary to the decrees of the law of God. And did not the Scripture by a mysterious hint41 point out by the statement42 that the rod of the high priest Aaron became a serpent, and was again converted into a rod, that a change in the composition of the wicked one would afterwards take place? "
And after Lazarus, Joseph, who also was one of his followers, said: "You have spoken all things rightly. Teach me also this, as I am eager to know it, why, when you give the same discourses to all, some believe and others disbelieve? "And Peter said: "It is because my discourses are not charms, so that every one that hears them must without hesitation believe them. The fact that some believe, and others do not, points out to the intelligent the freedom of the will."And when he said this, we all blessed him.
And as we were going to take our meals,43 some one ran in and said: "Appion Pleistonices has just come with Annubion from Antioch, and he is lodging with Simon." And my father hearing this, and rejoicing, said to Peter: "If you permit me, I shall go to salute Appion and Annubion, who have been my friends from childhood. For perchance I shall persaude Annubion to discuss genesis with Clement." And Peter said: "I permit you, and I praise you for fulfilling the duties of a friend. But now consider how in the providence of God there come together from all quarters considerations which contribute to your full assurance, rendering the harmony complete. But I say this because the arrival of Annubion happens advantageously for you." And my father: "In truth, I see that this is the case." And saying this, he went to Simon.
Now all of us who were with Peter asked each other questions the whole of the night, and continued awake, because of the pleasure and joy we derived from what was said. But when at length the dawn began to break, Peter, looking at me and my brothers, said: "I am puzzled to think what your father has been about." And just as he was saying this, our father came in and caught Peter talking to us of him; and seeing him displeased, he accosted him, and rendered an apology for having slept outside. But we were amazed when we looked at him: for we saw the form of Simon, but heard the voice of our father Faustus. And when we were fleeing from him, and abhorring him, our father was astonished at receiving such harsh and hostile treatment from us. But Peter alone saw his natural shape, and said to us: "Why do you in horror turn away from your own father? "But we and our mother said: "It is Simon that we see before us, with the voice of our father." And Peter said: "You recognise only his voice, which is unaffected by magic; but as my eyes also are unaffected by magic, I can see his form as it really is, that he is not Simon, but your father Faustus." Then, looking to my father, he said: "It is not your own true form that is seen by them, but that of Simon, our deadliest foe, and a most impious man."44
While Peter was thus talking, there entered one of those who had gone before to Antioch, and who, coming back from Antioch, said to Peter: "I wish you to know, my lord, that Simon, by doing many miracles publicly in Antioch, and calling you a magician and a juggler and a murderer,45 has worked them up to such hatred against you, that every man is eager to taste your very flesh if you should sojourn there.46 Wherefore we who went before, along with our brethren who were in pretence attached by you to Simon, seeing the city raging wildly against you, met secretly and considered what we ought to do. And assuredly, while we were in great perplexity, Cornelius the centurion arrived, who had been sent by the emperor to the governor of the province. He was the person whom our Lord cured when he was possessed of a demon in Caesarea. This man we sent for secretly; and informing him of the cause of our despondency, we begged his help. He promised most readily that he would alarm Simon, and make him take to flight, if we should assist him in his effort. And when we all promised that we should readily do everything, he said, `I shall spread abroad the news47 through many friends that I have secretly come to apprehend him; and I shall pretend that I am in search of him, because the emperor, having put to death many magicians, and having received information in regard to him, has sent me to search him out, that he may punish him as he punished the magicians before him; while those of your party who are with him must report to him, as if they had heard it from a secret source, that I have been sent to apprehend him. And perchance when he hears it from them, he will be alarmed and take to flight.' When, therefore, we had intended to do something else, nevertheless the affair turned out in the following way. For when he heard the news from many strangers who gratified him greatly by secretly informing him, and also from our brethren who pretended to be attached to him, and took it as the opinion of his own followers, he resolved on retiring. And hastening away from Antioch, he has come here with Athenodorus, as we have heard. Wherefore we advise you not yet to enter that city, until we ascertain whether they can forget in his absence the accusations which he brought against you."
When the person who had gone before gave this report, Peter looked to my father, and said: "You hear, Faustus; the change in your form has been caused by Simon the magician, as is now evident. For, thinking that a servant48 of the emperor was seeking him to punish him, he became afraid and fled, putting you into his own shape, that if you were put to death, your children might have sorrow." When my father heard this, he wept and lamented, and said: "You have conjectured rightly, Peter. For Annubion, who is my dear friend,49 hinted his design to me; but I did not believe him, miserable man that I am,50 since I deserved to suffer."
When my father said this, after no long time Annubion came51 to us to announce to us the flight of Simon, and how that very night he had hurried to Judaea. And he found our father wailing, and with lamentations saying: "Alas, alas! unhappy man! I did not believe when I was told that he was a magician. Miserable man that I am! I have been recognised for one day by my wife and children, and have speedily gone back to my previous sad condition when I was still ignorant." And my mother lamenting, plucked her hair; and we groaned in distress on account of the transformation of our father, and could not comprehend what in the world it could be. But Annubion stood speechless, seeing and hearing these things; while Peter said to us, his children, in the presence of all: "Believe me, this is Faustus your father. Wherefore I urge you to attend to him as being your father. For God will vouchsafe some occasion for his putting off the shape of Simon, and exhibiting again distinctly that of your father." And saying this, and looking to my father, he said: "I permitted you to salute Appion and Annubion, since you asserted that they were your friends from childhood, but I did not permit you to associate with the magician Simon."
And my father said: "I have sinned; I confess it." And Annubion said: "I also along with him beg you to forgive the noble and good old man who has been deceived: for the unfortunate man has been the sport of that notorious fellow. But I shall tell you how it took place.52 The good old man came to salute us. But at that very hour we who were there happened to be listening to Simon, who wished to run away that night, for he had heard that some people had come to Laodicea in search of him by the command of the emperor. But as Faustus was entering, he turned53 his own rage on him, and thus addressed us: `Make him, when he comes, share your meals; and I will prepare an ointment, so that, when he has supped, he may take some of it, and anoint his face with it, and then he will appear to all to have my shape. But I will anoint you with the juice54 of some plant, and then you will not be deceived by his new55 shape; but to all others Faustus will seem to be Simon.'
"And while he stated this beforehand, I said, `What, then, is the advantage you now expect to get from such a contrivance? 'And Simon said, `First, those who seek me, when they apprehend him, will give up the search after me. But if he be executed by the hand of the emperor, very great sorrow will fall upon his children, who left me, and fleeing to Peter, now aid him in his work.' And now, Peter, I confess the truth to you: I was prevented by fear of Simon from informing Faustus of this. But Simon did not give us an opportunity for private conversation, lest some one of us might reveal56 to him the wicked design of Simon. Simon then rose up in the middle of the night and fled to Judaea, convoyed by Appion and Athenodorus. Then I pretended that I was sick, in order that, remaining after they had gone, I might make Faustus go back immediately to his own people, if by any chance he might be able, by being concealed with you, to escape observation, lest, being caught as Simon by those who were in search of Simon, he might be put to death through the wrath of the emperor. At the dead of night, therefore, I sent him away to you; and in my anxiety for him I came by night to see him, with the intention of returning before those who convoyed Simon should return." And looking to us, he said: "I, Annubion, see the true shape of your father; for I was anointed, as I related to you before, by Simon himself, that the true shape of Faustus might be seen by my eyes. Astonished, therefore, I exceedingly wonder at the magic power of Simon, in that standing57 you do not recognise your own father." And while our father and our mother and we ourselves wept on account of the calamity common to all of us, Annubion also through sympathy wept with us.
Then Peter promised to us to restore the shape of our father, and he said to him: "Faustus, you heard how matters stand with us. When, therefore, the deceptive shape which invests you has been useful to us, and you have assisted us in doing what I shall tell you to do, then I shall restore to you your true form, when you have first performed my commands." And when my father said, "I shall do everything that is in my power most willingly; only restore to my own people my own form; "Peter answered, "You yourself heard with your own ears how those who went before me came back from Antioch, and said that Simon had been there, and had strongly excited the multitudes against me by calling me a magician and a murderer, a deceiver and a juggler, to such an extent that all the people there were eager to taste my flesh. You will do, then, as I tell you. You will leave Clement with me, and you will go before us into Antioch with your wife, and your sons Faustinus and Faustinianus. And some others will accompany you whom I deem capable of helping forward my design.
"When you are with these in Antioch, while you look like Simon, proclaim publicly your repentance, saying, `I Simon proclaim this to you: I confess58 that all my statements in regard to Peter are utterly false;59 for he is not a deceiver, nor a murderer, nor a juggler; nor are any of the evil things true which I, urged on by wrath, said previously in regard to him. I myself therefore beg of you, I who have been the cause of your hatred to him, cease from hating him; for he is the true apostle of the true Prophet that was sent by God for the salvation of the world. Wherefore also I counsel you to believe what he preaches;60 for if you do not, your whole city will be utterly destroyed. Now I wish you to know for what reason I have made this confession to you. This night angels of God scourged me, the impious one, terribly, as being an enemy to the herald of the truth. I beseech you, therefore, do not listen to me, even if I myself should come at another time and attempt to say anything against Peter. For I confess to you I am a magician, I am a deceiver, I am a juggler. Yet perhaps it is possible for me by repentance to wipe out the sins which were formerly committed by me.' "
When Peter suggested this, my father said: "I know what you want; wherefore take no trouble. For assuredly I shall take good care, when I reach that place, to make such statements in regard to you as I ought to make." And Peter again suggested: "When, then, you perceive the city changing from its hatred of me, and longing to see me, send information to me of this, and I shall come to you immediately. And when I arrive there, that same day I shall remove the strange shape which now invests you, and I shall make your own unmistakeably visible to your own people and to all others." Saying this, he made his sons, my brothers, and our mother Mattidia to go along with him; and he also commanded some of his more intimate acquaintances to accompany him. But my mother was61 unwilling to go with him, and said: "I seem to be an adulteress if I associate with the shape of Simon; but if I shall be compelled to go along with him,62 it is impossible for me to recline on the same couch with him! But I do not know if I shall be persuaded to go along with him." And while she was very unwilling to go, Annubion urged her, saying: "Believe me and Peter, and the very voice itself, that this is Faustus your husband, whom I love not less than you. And I myself will go63 along with him." When Annubion said this, our mother promised to go with him.
But Peter said: "God arranges our affairs in a most satisfactory manner;64 for we have with us Annubion the astrologer.65 For when we arrive at Antioch, he will in future discourse regarding genesis, giving us his genuine opinions as a friend." Now when, after midnight, our father hurried with those whom Peter had ordered to go along with him and with Annubion to Antioch, which was near, early next day, before Peter went forth to discourse, Appion and Athenodorus, who had convoyed Simon, returned to Laodicea in search of our father. But Peter, ascertaining the fact, urged them to enter. And when they came in and sat down, and said, "Where is Faustus? "Peter answered: "We know not; for since the evening, when he went to you, he has not been seen by his kinsmen. But yesterday morning Simon came in search of him; and when we made no reply to him, something seemed to come over him,66 for he called himself Faustus; but not being believed, he wept and lamented, and threatened to kill himself, and then rushed out in the direction of the sea."
When Appion and those who were with him heard this, they howled and lamented, saying: "Why did you not receive him? "And when at the same time Athenodorus wished to say to me, "It was Faustus, your father; "Appion anticipated him, and said, "We learned from some one that Simon, finding him, urged him to go along with him,67 Faustus himself entreating him, since he did not wish to see his sons after they had become Jews. And hearing this, we came, for his own sake, in search of him. But since he is not here, it is plain that he spake the truth who gave us the information which we, hearing it from him, have given to you." And I Clement, perceiving the design of Peter, that he wished to beget a suspicion in them that he intended to look out among them for the old man, that they might be afraid and take to flight, assisted in his design, and said to Appion: "Listen to me, my dearest Appion. We were eager to give to him, as being our father, what we ourselves deemed to be good. But if he himself did not wish to receive it, but, on the contrary, fled from us in horror, I shall make a somewhat harsh remark, `Nor do we care for him.'" And when I said this, they went away, as if irritated by my savageness; and, as we learn next day, they went to Judaea in the track of Simon.
Now, when ten days had passed away, there came one of our people68 from our father to announce to us how our father stood forward publicly in the shape of Simon, accusing him;69 and how by praising Peter he had made the whole city of Antioch long for him: and in consequence of this, all said that they were eager to see him, and that there were some who were angry with him as being Simon, on account of their surpassing affection for Peter, and wished to lay hands on Faustus, believing he was Simon. Wherefore he, fearing that he might be put to death, had sent to request Peter to come immediately if he wished to meet him alive, and to appear at the proper time to the city, when it was at the height of its longing for him.70 Peter, hearing this, called the multitude together to deliberate, and appointed one of his attendants bishop; and having remained three days in Laodicea baptizing and healing, he hastened to the neighboring city of Antioch. Amen.