Chapter XXV.—Of the Fact that the False Gods Do Not Forbid Others to Be Worshipped Along with Themselves. That the God of Israel is the True God, is Proved by His Works, Both in Prophecy and in Fulfilment.
38. But further, in the case of the gods of the Gentiles (in their willingness to worship whom they exhibit their unwillingness to worship that God who cannot be worshipped together with them), let them tell us the reason why no one is found in the number of their deities who thinks of interdicting the worship of another; while they institute them in different offices and functions, and hold them to preside each one over objects which pertain properly to his own special province. For if Jupiter does not prohibit the worship of Saturn, because he is not to be taken merely for a man, who drove another man, namely his father, out of his kingdom, but either for the body of the heavens, or for the spirit that fills both heaven and earth, and because thus he cannot prevent that supernal mind from being worshipped, from which he is said to have emanated: if, on the same principle also, Saturn cannot interdict the worship of Jupiter, because he is not [to be supposed to be merely] one who was conquered by that other in rebellion,—as was the case with a person of the same name, by the hand of some one or other called Jupiter, from whose arms he was fleeing when he came into Italy,—and because the primal mind favours the mind that springs from it: yet Vulcan at least might [be expected to] put under the ban the worship of Mars, the paramour of his wife, and Hercules [might be thought likely to interdict] the worship of Juno, his persecutor. What kind of foul consent must subsist among them, if even Diana, the chaste virgin, fails to interdict the worship, I do not say merely of Venus, but even of Priapus? For if the same individual decides to be at once a hunter and a farmer, he must be the servant of both these deities; and yet he will be ashamed to do even so much as erect temples for them side by side. But they may aver, that by interpretation Diana means a certain virtue, be it what they please; and they may tell us that Priapus really denotes the deity of fecundity, 607 —to such an effect, at any rate, that Juno may well be ashamed to have such a coadjutor in the task of making females fruitful. They may say what they please; they may put any explanation upon these things which in their wisdom they think fit: only, in spite of all that, the God of Israel will confound all their argumentations. For in prohibiting all those p. 93 deities from being worshipped, while His own worship is hindered by none of them, and in at once commanding, foretelling, and effecting destruction for their images and sacred rites, He has shown with sufficient clearness that they are false and lying deities, and that He Himself is the one true and truthful God.
39. Moreover, to whom should it not seem strange that those worshippers, now become few in number, of deities both numerous and false, should refuse to do homage to Him of whom, when the question is put to them as to what deity He is; they dare not at least assert, whatever answer they may think to give, that He is no God at all? For if they deny His deity, they are very easily refuted by His works, both in prophecy and in fulfilment. I do not speak of those works which they deem themselves at liberty not to credit, such as His work in the beginning, when He made heaven and earth, and all that is in them. 608 Neither do I specify here those events which carry us back into the remotest antiquity, such as the translation of Enoch, 609 the destruction of the impious by the flood, and the saving of righteous Noah and his house from the deluge, by means of the [ark of] wood. 610 I begin the statement of His doings among men with Abraham. To this man, indeed, was given by an angelic oracle an intelligible promise, which we now see in its realization. For to him it was said, “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.” 611 Of his seed, then, sprang the people of Israel, whence came the Virgin Mary, who was the mother of Christ; and that in Him all the nations are blessed, let them now be bold enough to deny if they can. This same promise was made also to Isaac the son of Abraham. 612 It was given again to Jacob the grandson of Abraham. This Jacob was also called Israel, from whom that whole people derived both its descent and its name so that indeed the God of this people was called the God of Israel: not that He is not also the God of the Gentiles, whether they are ignorant of Him or now know Him; but that in this people He willed that the power of His promises should be made more conspicuously apparent. For that people, which at first was multiplied in Egypt, and after a time was delivered from a state of slavery there by the hand of Moses, with many signs and portents, saw most of the Gentile nations subdued under it, and obtained possession also of the land of promise, in which it reigned in the person of kings of its own, who sprang from the tribe of Judah. This Judah, also, was one of the twelve sons of Israel, the grandson of Abraham. And from him were descended the people called the Jews, who, with the help of God Himself, did great achievements, and who also, when He chastised them, endured many sufferings on account of their sins, until the coming of that Seed to whom the promise was given, in whom all the nations were to be blessed, and [for whose sake] they were willingly to break in pieces the idols of their fathers.
Reading fecunditatis. Fœditatis, foulness, also occurs.93:608
Gen. i. 1.93:609
Gen. v. 24.93:610
Gen. xxii. 18.93:612
Gen. xxvi. 4.