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St. Ephraim

Prose Refutations Against Mani, Marcion and Bardaisan (II)


Translated by C.W. Mitchell.
Published by Williams and Norgate (1912)


The explanations of Bardaisan, Marcion and Mani as to the original cause of the Disturbance.

For Bardaisan had already (?) (i.e., before Mani) said. 'There arose a cause by chance, and the Wind was impelled against the Fire. Marcion said [concerning the . . . ] "that he saw a certain picture." (?) For we will not utter these other things which are after it (?); even though their mouths were fit to utter something which was not permissible. For (let us ask) whence sprang the cause, 0 Marcion, which first [made him aware of] that which was beneath him? And if the Good . . . which was above it did not perceive HULE seeing that it was under him, how did he perceive it anew or how did HULE (?) recently (ascend to regions) which are not natural for it?

And Mani said, concerning the Darkness [that its Sons began to rage and ascend to see what was above them outside the Darkness or that it acquired Thought]. And see how like the perverse crabs are to one another, Teach one of whom takes a devious course and goes forth, not to come to the Scriptures, but to turn aside from the Scriptures! And, perhaps, Satan, their father, took a somewhat devious course, because he is a native in Error- that is because they are foreigners from foreigners, who do not blaspheme at all. For let the circumcised foreigners prove that each of them is a drop of poison of the troubled sea. Whenever, therefore, it suits Mani, he brings their two sides into contact, like Sun and Shade, which cannot be mingled together.

And, again, when he is forced he destroys the first and mixes them together- the Good and the Evil- like water with water. And that he may not be refuted (by the argument) that if they had been near together, how did the Darkness recently desire the Light, as if it had suddenly met it, he constructed the theory that sometimes HULE acquired Thought. And in seeking to avoid refutation he came to such a point that he rightly suffered confusion. And because he was compelled he named two Roots; and because again he was plainly exposed he produced many Natures from the midst of two Natures. But a tongue which is in the power of Falsehood is turned by it as it (i.e., Falsehood) finds convenient.

For with regard to Light which the opponent and the abolisher of Darkness whenever it suits them, they say that it (i.e., the Darkness) had a Passion for it (i.e., the Light). And how does opposite love opposite, that is to say, how does the injured one love its injurer? or how does the eater have affection for that which is eaten, as the wolf for the lamb? Or will they, therefore, suppose the Light to be injured like the lamb? And (then) it had good reason to desire the Darkness (which is) like a wolf! But if they suppose that the Darkness is injured like the lamb, how does that which is injured have a Passion for its injurer? They attribute to Darkness that it desires, like the wolf, and that it is injured like a lamb; and when these two things are laid at the door of the Darkness, has not the true (opinion) perished from them (i.e., the Manichaeans), that is, have they not perished from the Truth? For those proofs and comparisons which they adduce are also confused like them (i.e., the Manichaeans).

The Domain of Good and Evil illustrated from the natural places of Fish and Moles.

But if there are two Domains, and Good and Evil who dwell in them, (now) I portray these from things external and with simple illustrations in order that they may be easy for their hearers. For let us suppose that there is a great and clear and pure river, and fine fish in it, and that there is a bad and filthy and foul sepulchre, and moles in it. Then let us set the moles which dwell in the Darkness as the likeness of the Sons of Darkness, and let us place the fine fish as a fine (?) type of the Sons of the Light and let us suppose that their Domains are bounded this by that, the water by sepulchral vaults, and the dry land by wet ground . . . if those fishes [do not] long to go up to the dry land and to soil themselves in mud and in the burrows of moles; is it not, therefore, incontestably clear that just as moles dislike going down to the water, so fishes disdain to go up to the dry land? And they are made to be neighbours one another; and in proportion as their boundaries approach one another, so much the further are their (natural) wills removed from one another; so that there is none of them which desires his neighbour's domain.

If, therefore, these things which are not Entities, and are not (derived) from Entities, and were not made from good and evil Natures- since if thou kill a mole and cast it to the fishes, the fishes will devour it- and if, therefore, these things which are near to one another in a certain sense are thus far strangers as regards their abodes and . . in their nature, and do not dare to cross their borders, how much more would it be right that Good and Evil should exist in their Nature and Domains, seeing that they are real Entities and really strangers to one another, and the reality of their Enmity is never lessened! For if it was lessened, that is due to Freedom and not to Essential-nature, (it is due) to Will and not to Nature; how, therefore, did the Darkness . . . to cross to the Domain of its opposite, and why ? - seeing that when a mole goes it goes into its own (proper place), and when it ceases (?) (it goes forth) and smells that it may reach the edge of the water and (then) returns again to go into its own (proper place). And so, also, a fish, to which are assigned its depths comes into its own (proper place), and when it ceases (?) it returns to its depths. Here are correct demonstrations which refute those who have introduced confused Teaching . . . For it is found that fishes and moles which come from Nature [stay in their own natural places]...

[Moles akin to the Darkness are not anxious to cross the boundary] of fishes, the sons of water. And how do they flee from this boundary and rank of the Sons of the Light; and (yet) the Darkness, their Father, made an Assault to enter within the boundaries of the Sons of the Light, and why are (the words) 'refined,' and 'first' (used to describe him)? But if their Father made an Assault, but they flee, it is found that these blind and dark moles do (in reality) come from the nature and abode of the Good (World of Light). For, behold, they flee from their opposite. Nor (even) like these blind moles is the perception of Souls which see and hear and speak and perceive that they may flee from the vile boundary of the Darkness.

How can Darkness swallow Light?

Again, let us turn and ask the advocates of Error, that is, its Preachers- how were the Sons of the Light cast into the mouths of the Sons of the Darkness? And how did the Darkness swallow the Light - a thing which is not natural to it? But the nature of both is that the Light swallows and the Darkness is swallowed. And if here (in our world) the Light swallows the Darkness as experience shows, but there the Light is swallowed, as the Heretics say, it is clear that this Darkness which is swallowed here is not akin to that Darkness which swallows there; just as also the Light which swallows the Darkness is not akin to that which is swallowed by the Darkness. And if they strive to make a stand, again they fall. For one fall is not sufficient for them. For really it is not a case of falling at all. For this takes place (only) where there has been standing; they are always prostrate- they do not wish to stand.

Again, let them understand (?) that as regards this Light which swallows the Darkness here with us, and this Darkness which here amongst us is swallowed by the Light, it it is the nature of that which swallows to swallow, and of that which is swallowed to disappear. Or has the Creator's own will changed their natures? And if it is due to (His) Will, where was their (unchangeable) Nature? If he is one who submitted (?) himself there, and is the Light-God who did not aid himself, whose Light was swallowed by the Darkness, how has he to-day changed the nature of the Darkness that it should be swallowed by the Light? For they say that he is the Maker. And, if the Darkness changed its nature, it is unlikely that it would bring itself to the weakness, so that he who swallowed them is swallowed to-day. Since that true saying demands that natures essentially fixed cannot be changed; but that Freewill, because He created it to say everything, proclaims by name those Entities whose true nature it cannot declare. But, because those names belong to the Entities, the Entities of the substances (?) are changed. For if the substances (?) of the Entities had been like the names of the Entities, and were fixed natures, they could not be changed; because a thing which exists in the natural condition of its original Essence, so exists as it is, and so remains for ever and ever.

But let us inquire about the nature of this Darkness, whether this is natural to it, (namely), that it should be Swallowed by the Light, just as our sight proves . . .that it (i.e., the Darkness), too, is swallowed here so that both here and there it has an essential Nature. For one Entity cannot be divided into two Entities, even though the Heretics speak absurdities. And if the nature of the Light around us, as it proves about itself, is such that it swallow, and is not swallowed, and there is no means whereby Light is swallowed by Darkness, at any time and for all time to come, it is clear . . . that as it swallows the Darkness here, so it swallows there, and was not swallowed (by the Darkness).

Refutatory Summary

Also the perverse ones do perversely proclaim the Teaching -but here [we have correctly refuted what] they say concerning the Light and the Darkness . . . we hear that it was done there in quite a contrary and opposite way. On which (opinion), therefore, is it right that we should stand -on the cunning tale which is proclaimed preposterously, or on true evidence, whereof the correctness is seen by practice?... For not a little . . . because it was not right that they should be a little ashamed. For . . . to speak . . . against that rightly . . . but also those who believe. (?) For according to the great falsehood and untruth . . . difficult . . . he gives them a preposterous account of a thing which we see in practice correctly every day. For it seems that he made them drunk first, and then he told them a tale. For he was afraid of the truth of Nature, lest it should refute him. But, if not, how (?) was the perverse tale not disgraced in their ears, that, while they see that the Light swallows the Darkness here, they think that there it (i.e., the Light) is swallowed by the Darkness?

The Light and the Darkness have no bodies

And the Darkness when it is swallowed here by the Light has not even a body; for nothing is separated from itself (i.e., the Darkness), seeing that it vanishes altogether. But a house full of darkness shows that if a man opens the doors and windows in the daytime, whither can that darkness, which is in it, go up [to hide]? There is no room for it to go outside, for the Light which is from outside absorbs it. If we say that it stays within, it does not remain there. For the rays of the Sun entering pursue it. And if it does not exist within, and goes out, it is clear that it has all come to an end; and with it has come to an end all that Teaching which says that it (i.e., Darkness) has a kind of body in reality. For in this manner it (i.e., the Teaching) says that it has a body, in that "it verily ate those brilliant Shining Ones (ZIWANE) who were east into its mouth." So Darkness and Light have become composite bodies- a thing which nature does not teach. For a man never eats Light nor ever swallows Darkness.

The body has not the same nature as Darkness, nor has the soul the same nature as Light

And if this Body with which we are clothed is of the same nature as the Darkness, as they say, and this Soul which is in us is of the same nature as the Light, when we look at these two natures which are in us, and at the two (natures) of Light and Darkness which are outside of us, they are refuted (and shown) that these are not from those, neither these from those. For how can the bright Soul which is within be overcome by the Body which is akin to the Darkness? For the outer Light which is akin to it (i.e., the Soul) overcomes the Darkness. Moreover, how does this Body overwhelm the bright Soul, seeing that this outer Darkness which is akin to it is consumed and swallowed by the Light?

The Sons of Light were not used as bait to catch the Sons of Darkness

And as for these things which are obvious even to simpletons and madmen, how do they who will not distinguish between statements which are correct, and those which are self contradictory, applaud them when they hear them ? For how dost thou receive (this) into thy mind, 0 wise Hearer, and how is there a (healthy) ear... that thou shouldst hear . . when . . . and explains with explanations which are worthy of ridicule?... [for he says) that the Primal Man (?) cast (?) "the Sons of the Light into the mouths of the Sons of the Darkness as (into the mouths) of hunters, and that the Light was pleasant and agreeable and sweet to those Sons of the Darkness; and thus they were found to eat them greedily, and they were cast in and entered into their midst and were mixed with them." 0 how exceedingly ridiculous that a man . . . 0 what vile blasphemy! wolves eat lambs and lions eat calves, and the eater and the eaten are quite content with one another! And these are bodies, and these are composite things, and both of them if . . . the Sons of the Darkness are bodies because (they have) bodies as they say (but) the nature of the Sons of the Light is spiritual, as they say; for this Light, too, is akin to them, how is it fitting (that) this thing which is mingled (with the Darkness) should be held fast? And the Soul which dwells in the Body [would not be held fast] since it is akin to it . . . so that if the Soul was akin to the Darkness . . . this [perterbed] Body . . . lo, they are akin to its nature as they say [for] that Darkness . . . and as the wise ones profess...

* * * * * *

Darkness by the Primal [Man] who bore it, he would have died; since it is difficult . . . which (is) in its Essence and also the Parts . . . which he slew...because they teach that the Darkness has a nature . . . and goes into anything which he catches. And, therefore, if the Sons of the Light were eaten and entered into the Belly and were digested in the stomach, it must be that they were dissolved in the excrement and waste refuse. For these are plausible statements to be made by their own about their own! And, therefore, those Sons of the Light are natures which can be dissolved and destroyed. And it is proper to ask concerning this nature, as to how it existed from all eternity. For if they were compounded they are also dissolved . . . and also destroyed; they are not the thing which they were before they were destroyed; and besides this it is clear that if he collects and compounds them, has compounded them from the beginning. And if from all eternity they have not been compounded? but are natures which are not composite (they spring) from an Existence which is not composite. So that by plain things they have been refuted who speak much falsehood about secret things akin to the body, as they say, that body is found not only [unable] to eat or to destroy or to torture . . . but, also, it is unable to understand their plain things . . . as they say, [that as] the Darkness ate the Light . . . which was in it, and it was all inside the Darkness . . . how did it eternally and from the beginning both seize it and feel it . . . into its midst. . and how. . . .?

Judge judged and the tormenting Fire

But they say these things in addition to those other things, (namely), "that the Souls came to the Judge." For if that nature is one, how can part of it judge and part of it be judged? And also the Souls are part of the Essence (?), how (does there spring) from it one who torments and one who is tormented? And if, too, the fire which torments is akin to him who torments, and to those who are tormented, what ear is there which can endure this blasphemy that the judge and the judged and the tormentor are from one good Essence, as they say? And how are there in it these three opposites? For He also who judges the judged came hither in his entirety and was mixed with the Body; thus he sinned and offended just as those Souls who are from him offended. And if these Souls had stayed in their (native) Domain and had not come hither, these would have possessed it, after he had gone thither. And how are they true natures, those natures which did not preserve their Essence?

For, consider the pure and righteous Body, how it is not such as the apostates state (when they say), "that the Body is a covering which is from the evil Nature," nor is the Soul as they say, from a pure Root. For the eyes of the glorious body clothe themselves with chastity, its ears with purity, its limbs with glory, its senses with holiness, in its mouth is praise and on its tongue is thanksgiving, and in its lips is blessing, in its feet is the habit of visiting the sick, in its hands alms for the needy, in its heart is true faith, and in its . . . love (?). And that wall was built by God and [He made it to be] a pure shrine for Him, and a temple . . . for its architect when in (?) the body . . . he (i.e., Mani) says . . . that it (i.e., the Body) is from a nature so that it sins . . . it is a shame to them since it shows that the Body . . . And if they are not persuaded to secret sin, they will be persuaded by a devil. How did he (?) force...

The Soul is not neccessarily pure.

Consider again the refined Soul about which they say that its nature is from the Good (Being), it shows concerning its nature . . . the Body is . . . (a nature) which is evil. Also . . . the ' refined' Soul which they say is the Daughter of the Light puts on that Darkness in its deeds and in its conduct. . . . And if (it is) from God [how does it revile Him?] . . . and if (it is) from [the Holy One, how is it impure]...and if (it is) from . . . behold it puts on . . . and if it is from the Good (Being), how has it become a den and nest of unmixed Evil? And if all this was pleasant in the midst of Satan, how do they say that some of these Souls who sin much and do much wickedness, and blaspheme much, and are guilty of great unbelief are found like dregs in the midst of one whom they call BOLOS? [note: i.e.Greek Diabolos]. As they say that "when the fire dissolves all his interior, there is collected every portion of the Light which was mixed and mingled among created things, and who have done much wickedness are assigned to the realm of the Darkness when he is tortured." And if it (i.e., the Light) is a nature which pleases him, as the beginning of their Teaching says, how is it the cause of his torment, as the end of their fabricated system says? But that that Luminous Nature should become at one time his enjoyment, and [that he should like it] and enjoy it, and that, again it should be assigned to his realm, and that he (i.e., the Daikness) should be imprisoned and tortured therein- this may happen in the cases of changeable Natures which are created out of nothing: according to the Will of the Creator they can be changed to anything.

For loose dust of the earth is the dwelling of every creeping thing, and according to its liking it crawls in it and dwells in it. But if any one by regulation associates two Natures with the Nature, that is to say, so that it may be moulded with water by the hand of the workman, and receive strength from fire, then there springs from it a vessel and a prison-house to torture . . . that creeping thing which lay in it when it was dust, and crawled in it, and was delighted when it was clay. When it becomes a vessel moulded and baked in an oven, it becomes the torturer of those that are imprisoned in it.

If, therefore, the Darkness is finally tormented by that Luminous Nature in which it takes pleasure, what was the cause of the negligence long ago (which brought it about) that the Darkness obtained dominion over all this and took pleasure therein? And what is the cause of its fierceness so that at last the Darkness is imprisoned and tormented in it? If its 'Essential nature' has this strength, then where was it formerly? But if this energy comes from another place, why did it not come formerly? So that instead of the Grave which is now built stupidly for the Darkness, an impregnable wall should have been built, and thus there would have been (a Separation) between the two Domains, (such a wall) as it would be fitting for the Good (Being) to make, and right for the Just (Being) to keep in repair, and proper for the Wise (Being) to guard. But after those atrocities which the Darkness wrought upon the Light, and after those blasphemies which the Souls blasphemed against their Father, and after they committed fornication and folly and polluted and disgraced themselves, and after great blemishes have appeared in them, so that, although their wounds may be healed, they cannot be effaced, and the places of their spots cannot be covered up, after all this Strife and Contention, and after all this misery and loss- even if there was a gain, the gain of such things would not be equal to the loss- he has planned to-day to build a Grave for the Darkness so that at last it may be imprisoned there.

And how can a Grave limit him who is infinite? For if the Darkness can be limited, then the Light also can be limited. And if the Good (Being) cannot be limited, but the Evil One can be limited, it is clear that this Evil One who can be limited is not an (eternal) Entity, the Companion of that Good (Being) who is not limited; and it is found that that which limits an (eternal) Entity, and that which is limited by whoever is able to limit him, is a creature. But if he is not a creature and is an (eternal) Entity, an Entity cannot limit an Entity without itself being also limited by that other one, his equal, which is limited.



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