Christianity and Greek Philosophy: Or, the Relation between Spontaneous and Reflective Thought in Greece and the Positive Teaching of Christ and His Apostles

By B. F. Cocker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV. THE RELIGION OF THE ATHENIANS: ITS MYTHOLOGICAL AND SYMBOLICAL ASPECTS.

"That there is one Supreme Deity, both philosophers and poets, and even the vulgar worshippers of the gods themselves frequently acknowledge; which because the assertors of gods well understood, they affirm these gods of theirs to preside over the several parts of the world, yet so that there is only one chief governor. Whence it follows, that all their other gods can be no other than ministers and officers which one greatest God, who is omnipotent, hath variously appointed, and constituted, so as to serve his command." -- LACTANTIUS.

THE conclusion reached in the previous chapter that the Athenians were believers in and worshippers of the One Supreme God, has been challenged with some considerable show of reason and force, on the ground that they were Polytheists and Idolaters.

An objection which presents itself so immediately on the very face of the sacred narrative, and which is sustained by the unanimous voice of history, is entitled to the fullest consideration. And as the interests of truth are infinitely more precious than the maintenance of any theory, however plausible, we are constrained to accord to this objection the fullest weight, and give to it the most impartial consideration. We can not do otherwise than at once admit that the Athenians were Polytheists -- they worshipped "many gods" besides "the unknown God." It is equally true that they were Idolaters -- they worshipped images or statues of the gods, which images were also, by an easy metonymy, called "gods."

But surely no one supposes that this is all that can be said, upon the subject, and that, after such admissions, the discussion must be closed. On the contrary, we have, as yet, scarce caught a glimpse of the real character and genius of Grecian

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