A Plea for the Christians

Chapter 18

Table of Contents

Catalogue of Titles

Logos Virtual Library


Athenagoras (fl. 177)

A Plea for the Christians

Translated by B. P. Pratten

Chapter 18

But, since it is affirmed by some that, although these are only images, yet there exist gods in honour of whom they are made; and that the supplications and sacrifices presented to the images are to be referred to the gods, and are in fact made to the gods; and that there is not any other way of coming to them, for

’Tis hard for man
To meet in presence visible a God;

and whereas, in proof that such is the fact, they adduce the energies possessed by certain images, let us examine into the power attached to their names. And I would beseech you, greatest of emperors, before I enter on this discussion, to be indulgent to me while I bring forward true considerations; for it is not my design to show the fallacy of idols, but, by disproving the calumnies vented against us, to offer a reason for the course of life we follow. May you, by considering yourselves, be able to discover the heavenly kingdom also! For as all things are subservient to you, father and son, who have received the kingdom from above (for “the king’s soul is in the hand of God,” saith the prophetic Spirit), so to the one God and the Logos proceeding from Him, the Son, apprehended by us as inseparable from Him, all things are in like manner subjected. This then especially I beg you carefully to consider. The gods, as they affirm, were not from the beginning, but every one of them has come into existence just like ourselves. And in this opinion they all agree. Homer speaks of

Old Oceanus,
The sire of gods, and Tethys;

and Orpheus (who, moreover, was the first to invent their names, and recounted their births, and narrated the exploits of each, and is believed by them to treat with greater truth than others of divine things, whom Homer himself follows in most matters, especially in reference to the gods)—he, too, has fixed their first origin to be from water:—

Oceanus, the origin of all.

For, according to him, water was the beginning of all things, and from water mud was formed, and from both was produced an animal, a dragon with the head of a lion growing to it, and between the two heads there was the face of a god, named Heracles and Kronos. This Heracles generated an egg of enormous size, which, on becoming full, was, by the powerful friction of its generator, burst into two, the part at the top receiving the form of heaven (ουρανος), and the lower part that of earth (γη). The goddess Gê moreover, came forth with a body; and Ouranos, by his union with Gê, begat females, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos; and males, the hundred-handed Cottys, Gyges, Briareus, and the Cyclopes Brontes, and Steropes, and Argos, whom also he bound and hurled down to Tartarus, having learnt that he was to be ejected from his government by his children; whereupon Gê, being enraged, brought forth the Titans.

The godlike Gaia bore to Ouranos
Sons who are by the name of Titans known,
Because they vengeance took on Ouranos,
Majestic, glitt’ring with his starry crown.

Chapter 17

Chapter 19