polytheist extractions

Porphyry, as quoted in Macarius Magnes’ Apocriticus 4.21; 23

“At any rate, if you say that angels stand before god, who are not subject to feeling and death, and immortal in their nature, whom we ourselves speak of as gods, because they are close to the godhead, why do we dispute about a name? And are we to consider it only a difference of nomenclature? For she who is called by the Greeks Athene is called by the Romans Minerva; and the Egyptians, Syrians, and Thracians address her by some other name. But I suppose nothing in the invocation of the goddess is changed or lost by the difference of the names. The difference therefore is not great, whether a man calls them gods or angels, since their divine nature bears witness to them, as when Matthew writes thus: ‘And Jesus answered and said, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of god; for in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels in heaven’ (Matt. xxii. 29-30). Since therefore he confesses that the angels have a share in the divine nature, those who make a suitable object of reverence for the gods, do not think that the god is in the wood or stone or bronze from which the image is manufactured, nor do they consider that, if any part of the statue is cut off, it detracts from the power of the god. For the images of living creatures and the temples were set up by the ancients for the sake of remembrance, in order that those who approach thither might come to the knowledge of the god when they go; or, that, as they observe a special time and purify themselves generally, they may make use of prayers and supplications, asking from them the things of which each has need. For if a man makes an image of a friend, of course he does not think that the friend is in it, or that the limbs of his body are included in the various parts of the representation; but honour is shown towards the friend by means of the image. But in the case of the sacrifices that are brought to the gods, these are not so much a bringing of honour to them as a proof of the inclination of the worshippers, to show that they are not without a sense of gratitude. It is reasonable that the form of the statues should be the fashion of a man, since man is reckoned to be the fairest of living creatures and an image of god. It is possible to get hold of this doctrine from another saying, which asserts positively that god has fingers, with which he writes, saying, ‘And he gave to Moses the two tables which were written by the finger of god’ (Exod. xxxi. 18). Moreover, the Christians also, imitating the erection of the temples, build very large houses, into which they go together and pray, although there is nothing to prevent them from doing this in their own houses, since the lord certainly hears from every place … I could also give proof to you of that insidious name of ‘gods’ from the law, when it cries out and admonishes the hearer with much reverence, ‘Thou, shalt not revile gods, and thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.’ For it does not speak to us of other gods than those already within our reckoning, from what we know in the words, ‘Thou shalt not go after gods’ (Jer. vii. 6); and again, ‘If ye go and worship other gods’ (Deut. xii. 28). The gods we honour are mentioned not only by Moses but by his successor Joshua as well. For he says to the people, ‘And now fear him and serve him alone, and put away the gods whom your fathers served’ (Josh. xxiv. 14). And further Paul says, ‘For though there be that are called gods, whether on earth or in heaven, yet to us there is but one god and father, of whom are all things” (1 Cor. viii. 5). Therefore you make a great mistake in thinking that god is angry if any other is called a god, and obtains the same title as himself. For even rulers do not object to the title from their subjects, nor masters from slaves. And it is not right to think that god is more petty-minded than men. Enough then about the fact that gods exist, and ought to receive honour.” – Porphyry, as quoted in Macarius Magnes’ Apocriticus 4.21; 23


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