Friday, June 01, 2018

Whatever Things Were Rightly Said

Today is the feast of St. Justin Martyr, patron saint of philosophers and also in a sense of this blog. From his Second Apology:

For I myself, when I discovered the wicked disguise which the evil spirits had thrown around the divine doctrines of the Christians, to turn aside others from joining them, laughed both at those who framed these falsehoods, and at the disguise itself, and at popular opinion; and I confess that I both boast and with all my strength strive to be found a Christian; not because the teachings of Plato are different from those of Christ, but because they are not in all respects similar, as neither are those of the others, Stoics, and poets, and historians. For each man spoke well in proportion to the share he had of the spermatic word, seeing what was related to it. But they who contradict themselves on the more important points appear not to have possessed the heavenly wisdom, and the knowledge which cannot be spoken against. Whatever things were rightly said among all men, are the property of us Christians. For next to God, we worship and love the Word who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that, becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing. For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted word that was in them. For the seed and imitation imparted according to capacity is one thing, and quite another is the thing itself, of which there is the participation and imitation according to the grace which is from Him.

Fully to understand this, you have to recognize that 'word' here is Logos, which can of course also be translated as 'reason'. Spermatikos logos here is related to the Stoic idea (more or less) that there is in everything a participation in Divine Reason that makes it unfold rationally in the way appropriate to it; it could also be translated as 'germinal reason' or 'seminal reason'.

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