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Athenagoras - A Plea for the Christians

Chapter V.—Testimony of the Poets to the Unity of God.

Chapter V.--Testimony of the Poets to the Unity of God. [709]

Poets and philosophers have not been voted atheists for inquiring concerning God. Euripides, speaking of those who, according to popular preconception, are ignorantly called gods, says doubtingly:--

"If Zeus indeed does reign in heaven above,

He ought not on the righteous ills to send." [710]

But speaking of Him who is apprehended by the understanding as matter of certain knowledge, he gives his opinion decidedly, and with intelligence, thus:--

"Seest thou on high him who, with humid arms,

Clasps both the boundless ether and the earth?

Him reckon Zeus, and him regard as God." [711]

For, as to these so-called gods, he neither saw any real existences, to which a name is usually assigned, underlying them ("Zeus," for instance: "who Zeus is I know not, but by report"), nor that any names were given to realities which actually do exist (for of what use are names to those who have no real existences underlying them?); but Him he did see by means of His works, considering with an eye to things unseen the things which are manifest in air, in ether, on earth. Him therefore, from whom proceed all created things, and by whose Spirit they are governed, he concluded to be God; and Sophocles agrees with him, when he says:--

"There is one God, in truth there is but one,

Who made the heavens, and the broad earth beneath." [712]

[Euripides is speaking] of the nature of God, which fills His works with beauty, and teaching both where God must be, and that He must be One.