10. And why speak of the prophecies, which we ail know to be full of enigmas and dark sayings? And, coming to the Gospels, if we are to find their exact sense, inasmuch as that sense is the mind of Christ, there is need of the grace given to him who said, "We have the mind of Christ, that we may know the things freely given to us by God; which things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth."44 And who, again, can read the things revealed to John without astonishment at the ineffable mysteries therein concealed, mysteries, plainly enough, though a man does not understand what is written? As for the letters of the Apostles, could any critic find them clear and easily intelligible, seeing they contain countless things of the greatest importance and thronging thoughts, seen as through a lattice,45 and by no means easy of access? Wherefore, seeing that this is the case, and that vast numbers go wrong, it is somewhat dangerous when we read to lightly declare that one understands what requires that key of knowledge which was with the lawyers. And I wish they who will not allow that men had the truth before Christ came would tell us what our Lord Jesus Christ means by saying that the key of knowledge was in the keeping of the lawyers, for, according to our opponents, the lawyers had no books containing the secrets of knowledge, and complete mysteries. The precise words are these: "Woe unto you lawyers! for ye took away|12the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered."46
11. The right way, then, to read the Scriptures and extract their meaning, so far as we have been able to discover from examining the oracles themselves, appears to be as follows:----Solomon in the Proverbs gives a rule respecting the Divine doctrines of Scripture to this effect: "Do thou thrice record them with counsel and knowledge that thou mayest answer with words of truth to those who try thee with hard questions."47 A man ought then in three ways to record in his own soul the purposes of the Holy Scriptures; that the simple may be edified by, as it were, the flesh of Scripture (for thus we designate the primary sense), the more advanced by its soul, and the perfect by the spiritual law, which has a shadow of the good things to come. For the perfect man resembles those of whom the Apostle speaks: "Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect; yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, which are coming to nought: but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory,48 from the spiritual law which hath a shadow of the good things to come.49 As man consists of body, soul, and spirit, so too does Scripture which has been granted by God for the salvation of men. And thus we explain that passage in The Shepherd,----a book which some treat with contempt, ----in which Hermas is commanded to write two books, and then read to the elders of the Church what he has learned from the Spirit.50 "Thou shalt write two books, and give one to Clement and one to Grapte. And Grapte shall admonish the widows and orphans, Clement shall send to the cities abroad, and thou shalt read to the elders of the Church." Grapte, who admonishes the widows and orphans, is the bare letter of Scripture; it admonishes those readers whose souls are in the stage of childhood, and who cannot|13yet call God their Father, and are therefore styled "orphans"; it moreover admonishes souls,51 no longer consorting with the unlawful bridegroom, but remaining in a widowed state because not yet worthy of the true Bridegroom. Clement, the reader who has got beyond the letter, is said to send what is said to the cities abroad, that is to say, the souls which have escaped from the bodily desires and lower aims. And next the writing is forsaken, and the disciple himself of the Spirit is bidden "read" to the wise and hoary-headed elders of the whole Church of God with the living voice.
13. That we may profit by the primary sense of Scripture, even if we go no further, is evident from the multitudes of true and simple-minded believers. Let us, however, take what Paul saysin the first Epistle to the |14Corinthians as an example of the higher "soul" interpretation. "It is written," he says, "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn."56 Then, going on to explain this law, he adds, "Is it for the oxen that God careth, or saith he it altogether for our sake? Yea, for our sake it was written: because he that ploweth ought to plow in hope, and he that thresheth, to thresh in hope of partaking." And, indeed, very many passages so interpreted as to suit the great body of believers, and edifying for those who have no ear for better things, have more or less the same stamp. But spiritual interpretation is for one who is able to show the nature of the heavenly things,57 of which the Jews after the flesh served the copy and shadow, and what the good things to come are of which the law is a shadow. And in general, according to the apostolic command, we must everywhere seek wisdom in a mystery, "even the wisdom which hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the world unto the glory of the righteous; which none of the rulers of this world knoweth."58 The same Apostle, referring to certain incidents in Exodus and Numbers, somewhere says, "These things happened unto them by way of figure: and they were written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages are come";59 and he hints at the things of which they were figures, saying, "For they drank of a spiritual Rock that followed them: and the Rock was Christ."60 And in the sketch of the tabernacle which he gives in another epistle he quotes the words, "Thou shalt make all things according to the pattern which was shewed thee in the Mount."61 Again, in the Epistle to the Galatians, as it were reproaching those who think they read the law though they do not understand it, and giving his judgment that as many as think there are no allegories in what is written, do not understand, he goes on to say, "Tell me ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?62 |15For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman. Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh, but the son by the freewoman is born through promise. Which things contain an allegory: for these women are two covenants," and so on. We must carefully note exactly what he says: "Ye that desire to be under the law": not "Ye that are under the law"; and, "Do you not hear the law?": the hearing in his judgment being the understanding and knowing. And also in the Epistle to the Colossians, where he epitomises the meaning of the whole giving of the law, he says, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come."63 Further, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, arguing concerning those of the Circumcision, he writes thus: "Who serve that which is a copy and shadow of the heavenly things."64 This will probably suffice to remove all doubts respecting the five books, called the Books of Moses, from the minds of those who really believe the Apostle to be a Divine65 man; but they may wish to learn whether the rest of the history is also figurative. Now we must carefully note that the passage in Romans from the third Book of Kings, "I have left for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal,"66 was taken by Paul as applying to the Israelites according to the election,67 for that not only have the Gentiles benefited by the coming of Christ, but also some of the holy68 race.
1. One term, law, may be used, but the scriptural account of "law" is not everywhere one and the same. A reader must therefore in every place consider with the utmost care first the literal meaning of the word "law," then the special significance of it. This is only what we do with most other words; for there are other instances of equivocal scriptural terms, such as confuse readers who suppose that because the word is the same the meaning|48must be the same wherever it is found. Now the word "law" is intended to serve not everywhere the same purpose, but many purposes; we will, therefore, passing by the numerous passages requiring careful reasoning because they suggest an objection which calls for an answer, set forth all such as may effectually convince anybody that the word "law" has many meanings. As an illustration let us take what is said in the Epistle to the Galatians. "As many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one which continueth riot in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them."197 It is clear that we have here the literal law of Moses, enjoining on those under it what they are to do, and forbidding what they must not do. And we have no less clearly the meaning of the passage in the same Epistle, "The law was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made; and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator";198 and of another, "So that the law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor. For ye are all sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus."199 And that "law" also denotes the historical writings of Moses we may gather from the passage in the same epistle ----"Tell me ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman. Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the son by the freewoman is born through the promise."200
6. Then, in express terms, Celsus says, "If they will be good enough to answer me, not as if I were a novice, for I know all about it," and so on. In reply to this claim to know "all about it," which is an astounding piece of swagger, we must observe that if he had read the Scriptures, above all, the prophetical writings, which we admit are full of dark sayings and things obscure to the many, and if he had studied the parables in the Gospels, and the texts of Scripture containing the Law and the history of the Jewish people, and the utterances of the Apostles, and, reading with a fair and open mind, had wished to get at the meaning, he would not have been so bold as to say, "I know all about it." Not even we who spend ourselves upon these studies would claim to know "all about it," for truth is dear to us. Not one of us will say "I know all that Epicurus taught," nor will boast that he knows the whole of Plato; the truth being that there are numerous points as to which even the expounders of the doctrines are not agreed. Who would be so bold as to say, "I know all about the Stoic or Peripatetic philosophy "? though it might happen that hearing some illiterate blockheads, unconscious of their own ignorance, boasting of their universal knowledge, a man might on the authority of such teachers suppose that he himself knew everything. Celsus seems to me to have acted much the same as if a traveller in Egypt (where those who are familiar with the national literature indulge in many speculations on what are regarded as Divine institutions, but the unlearned are greatly elated when they hear certain myths without understanding the principles involved) were to think he was acquainted with all the wisdom of the Egyptians, though, in fact, he was a disciple of the ignorant, and never came into touch with any of the priests, nor was taught the mysterious doctrines of the Egyptians by one of them. And what I have said about the Egyptians, wise and ignorant, holds good, as we may|92see, of the Persians. They have their mysteries, celebrated by the learned on principles of reason, but taken symbolically by the masses and ordinary people. And the same applies to the Syrians and Indians, and all who have myths and literature. 2b1af7f3a8