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scription at Athens was in the singular number, as St. Paul quotes it.
The opinions of learned moderns have been very different. Many maintain the genuineness of the inscription, as cited by St. Paul. But Le Clerc says, that 9 though the inscription was in the plural number, St. Paul was in the right to allege it in the singular number.
In the year 1724 was published at Cambridge a Latin sermon upon this subject. I read it when it came out; but I know not now where to find it. I remember well, that it is a very learned and elaborate discourse; and I made some extracts which are still by me: but they are defective and imperfect. However, I perceive by them, that thes author, Dr. Drake, asserted the inscription to have been in the singular number ; though my extracts are not particular enough, to show how he made it out. But I know, that he argued from the place of Ecumenius above quoted by me, and likewise from the Dialogue Philopatris, which I also shall quote by and by,
Having seen the judgment of learned christians, ancient and modern, I here intend to propose my own observations.
Diogenes Laërtius informs us, that the Athenians, by the direction of an oracle, sent for Epimenides to purify, or expiate tbeir city, when they were afflicted with a pestilence; Epimenides, when he came to Athens, took several sheep, some black, some white, and then let them go where they would, directing those who followed them, when any ne should lie down, to sacrifice it to the god to whom it belonged; which in the Latin version is rendered,t« to the god * next the place. Which translation, as I perceive by my extracts, is disliked by Dr. Drake. He therefore translates in this manner: to “the proper god,u to whom that affair
? Quamvis plurali numero legeretur inscriptio, Ayvw 5015 Okols, recte de • Deo Ignoto ' locutus est Paulus, qui plurali numero continetur singularis. Cleric. H. E. A. 52. p. 374, in notis.
r • Ara Ignota Deo sacra :' ad Clerum habita Cantabrigiæ vii. Idus Julii 1724, pro gradu Doctoratûs in sacrâ Theologiâ. Auctore Samuele Drake, S. T. P. Collegii Divi Johannis Evangelistæ Socio.--Cantab. 1724.
s Fatendum tamen est, plures fuisse olim Deos, quorum opem auxiliumque anonymis aris invocabant ---Hanc autem, de quâ speciatim egit apostolus, inscriptionem singulari fuisse numero prolatam confirmat ipsius Pauli fides, industria, non sequioris ætatis testimonio, non Hieronymi conjecturæ posthabenda. Drake, ubi supra, p. 5. In excerptis nostris.
+ His qui illas sequebantur, ubicumque illæ accubuissent, singulas mactarent loci ejus proximo Deo.
Hujus [Epimenidis) consilio monitos tradit Athenienses, cum patrios deos frustra fatigărint, sacra ut facerent, aramque construerent, TQ TT POONKOVT. OEQI : non, ut male Laërtii interpres—' loci ejus proximo Deo:' verum Deo conve
belonged, to him, whoever he was, who should remove the • inflicted pestilence.' Dr. Doddridge, reciting this paragraph in his notes upon Acts, ch. xvii. understands the direction to be,' when the sheep lay down, to sacrifice them to *the god, near whose temple or altar they then were.'
There is another sense, which appears to me to be very obvious, and therefore I think to be right. Epimenides took with him up to the Areopagus several sheep, ' some black,
some white.' And when he let them go, he directed, that each one, when it lay down, ó should be sacrificed to the 'god to which it appertained, or belonged,' ut eam mactarent Deo, ad quem pertineret. Black sacrifices were offered to some gods, white to others. Epimenides knew not by what god the pestilence had been inflicted upon the Athenians. When he was desired to purify the city, in order to its deliverance, he chose out sacrifices of different kinds, black sheep, and white sheep, and led them up to the Areopagus; and from that place, the citadel or the seat of the senate and of the court of judicature, he sent out the sheep, as in the name of the whole city and commonwealth, to be sacrificed, in order to appease the offended deity, whoever he was. A sheep with a black fleece, when it lay down, was to be offered to a deity who delighted in such sacrifices. A sheep with a white fleece was to be offered to a deity, to whom white sacrifices were acceptable. By this means he hoped to ingratiate the offended deity, whoever he was.
It follows in Laërtius : • And so the plague ceased. Hence it has come to pass, that to this present time, may be found in the boroughs of the Athenians, anonymous altars, a memorial of the expiation then made.'
• In the boroughs of the Athenians.' So I have translated, κατα τ8ς δημος των Αθηναίων. Of them Potter speaks in this manner: • These' Amuoi were little boroughs in Attica,
several of which were reckoned together in the business • of the commonwealth; yet had separate habitations, and • distinct rites, and gods too; for each of them adored • peculiar deities; and yet all unanimously agreed in wor
shipping Minerva, who was the tutelar goddess of the • whole country' *nienti,' Deo, ad quem res ista pertinebat: ei, quisquis tandem is fuerit, qui immissam luem propulsaret. Drake, ubi supra, p. 6.
Which seems to me to be much the same with that of Grotius--Sicut Laërtius, originem hujus rei narrans, dicit ab Epimenide monitos Athenienses, ut sacra facerent tu te poonkovri Oɛq, id est . ei Deo, ad quem ea res pertineret, non addito nomine. Grotius.
"Potter's Antiquities of Greece, B. i. ch. ix. p. 50. vol. i. Oxford. 1699.
Thus I have explained this paragraph as I am able. I am now to make some observations; but they will be no more than two only. First, there were several anonymous altars at Athens; and in the adjoining country. We know pot how many sheep Epimenides took up with him to the Areopagus, and then let them go away at pleasure; but they would all lie down when weary, if not before ; some, it is likely, in the streets, or other public places of the city of Athens; others in the adjacent country; where they were sacrificed to the god, to whom they were supposed to appertain, according to their different colours. And the city being hereby expiated, and purified, and delivered from the pestilence, there was an anonymous altar erected in every place, where a sacrifice had been inade, in memorial of the obtained deliverance. Secondly, all these altars were in the singular number. For each sheep, when it . lay down, was to be sacrificed to the god to whom it appertained.
Thus then, according to this curious history in Laërtius, St. Paul must have been in the right, when he said, “ he had found an altar with this inscription; To the Unknown God.” And even to the time of Laërtius, there were still such anonymous altars to be found in the boroughs of the Athenians.
Let us now observe some other heathen writers; where, possibly, we may find some things confirming these observations, or however at least casting farther light upon thein. I shall first quote Pausanias, who fourished and wrote before the end of the second century. Having mentioned an altar of Jupiter Olympus, he says, “and" nigh unto it is an * altar of unknown gods.' He does not say, 'the altar,' but 'an altar. Therefore there may have been several such altars, as Laërtius says. And when he says, ' an altar of
unknown gods,' he needs not to be understood to mean, that the inscription was in the plural number; it may have been, and probably was, in the singular number.
In another place Pausanias speaks of altars * of gods called unknown, and of heroes, and of the sons of Theseus, • and Phalerus.' The inscription of this altar likewise may have been in the singular number; but as there were several altars at Athens, or near it, inscribed · To the Unknown • God, it was natural enough for some writers to call them
* Καλειται δε Ολυμπια Διος. Προς αυτω δ' εσιν αγνωσων θεων βωμος. Pausan, I. v. p. 412.
Βωμοι δε θεων τε ονομαζομενων αγνωσων, και ηρωων, και παιδων των θησεως, και Φαληρά. Paus. 1. i. p. 4.
* altars of unknown gods.' So says Grotius: When y • Pausanias says, that there were at Athens altars of un• known gods, he means that there were many altars with * such an inscription, “ To the Unknown God:” though, . possibly, there were some with an inscription in the plural * number, whilst others were in the singular.' Oleariusz has expressed himself in the like manner.
The first observation appears to me very right. The second observation, “that there might be also some altars • in the plural number, to " unknown gods," ' is a supposition without proof or evidence, so far as I see, and therefore may not be true.
Philostratus records it, as an observation of Apollonius Tyanæus, that a we are never to speak disrespectfully of
any of the gods; intiinating also at the same time, that • there was some special reason to be upon the guard in • that respect, at Athens, where are altars to unknown i demons.
But neither does this necessarily imply, that there were altars with inscriptions to “ unknown gods” in the plural number. It implies no more, than that there were several altars with that inscription “ To the Unknown God.” And farther: We are hereby led to think, that inscriptions to " the Unknown God” were peculiar to the Athenians. There were no such inscriptions any where else.
I come now at length to the Dialogue Philopatris, quoted by Dr. Drake, and others, as a work of Lucian; but I rather think, of some anonymous heathen author in the fourth century.
Here Critias confirms what he says, swearing • b by the - Unknown God at Athens.' And near the end of the Dialogue: · But let us find out the Unknown God at Athens, • and stretching our hands to heaven, offer to him our praises and thanksgivings, that we are worthy to live
y Cum Pausanias ait, aras Athenis fuisse Otwv ayvwswv, hoc vult, multas fuisse aras tali inscriptione Deq ayvw5Q; quanquam potuere et aliæ esse pluraliter inscriptæ, aliæ singulariter. Grot. ad Act. xvii.
z Cæteri auctores omnes, qui altarium meminerunt twv ayvw5wv, plurali numero illos deos efferunt. Puto tamen Pausaniæ et Philostrati loca viris doctis observata, in quibus ßwuwv Oswv ayvw5wv mentio, ita accipi posse, ut aræ exstitisse multæ intelligantur, quorum singulis, aut saltem quibusdam ex iis inscriptio fuerit, Oew ayvwsip. Olearius apud Wolf. in Act. Ap. xvii. 23.
σωφρονεςερον γαρ το περι παντων θεων ευ λεγειν, και ταυτα Αθηνηolv, 8 kai ayvwswv daquovwv Bwjoc idpuvrai. Philost. Apoll. Tyan. I. vi. cap. p. 252. Conf. Suid. V. Teuaoiwy.
Nn tov aYvwsov Ev Aonvais. Lucian. Philop. p. 767. T. ii. Græv. • Ημεις δε, τον Αθηναις αγνωςον εφευροντες, και προσκυνησαντες, χειρας εις ερανον εκτειναντες, τετω ευχαρισησομεν. κ. λ. Ιbid. p. 780.
* under so great an empire, and leave others to trifle as they • please.
Which must lead us to think that the inscription at Athens was in the singular number. There can be no reason assigned, why this author, doing his utmost to expose and ridicule the christians, should adopt the singular number, if the inscription was plural.
Thus I have now illustrated this text by the testimonies of heathen authors, who wrote whilst these altars with their inscriptions were in being; Diogenes Laërtius, Pausanias, Philostratus, and the author of Philopatris. The inscription upon the altar at Athens was in the singular number nor does it appear, that there were any in the plural to “ Unknown Gods." And this inscription seems to have been peculiar to the Athenians. _It does not appear that there were any altars inscribed “ To the Unknown God in any other countries. But when I say, these altars were peculiar to the Athenians, I do not intend the city of Athens alone; for there were several like altars in the boroughs of the Athenians, and possibly in some other adjoining places. The altar observed by Paul, probably, was in some street or open place of the city of Athens; the altars mentioned by Pausanias were elsewhere. That which I first quoted from him was at Olympia; the other was at Phalerus, asu he expressly says, which was the nearest sea-port to Athens, and not far off from the city.
I shall now recite the observations of the late Mr, Hallet of Exeter. Having argued the great ignorance of the heathen people concerning the Deity, and having alleged several texts from the New Testament to the same purpose, he goes on: · The same St. Paul, when he was at Athens,
where, if any where, the heathens should have known · better, took notice, that the people had no knowledge of the true God. He found there an altar erected “ to the Unknown God," Acts xvii. 23, that is, they did not know by 6 what name to call him. This is manifest froin the occasion
of erecting the altar, which was this; About 600 years • before our Saviour's birth, there was a pestilence at Athens. • In order to get it removed, upon the advice of the philosopher Epimenides, (who appears by this to have been as ignorant of the true God as the Athenian populace,) the ' people sacrificed many sheep, not to any particular idol, • but to that god, be he who he would, who was able to d ο δε επι Φαληρω, καθα και προτερον είρηται μοι
Paus. p. 4. e Mr. Hallet's Notes and Discourses upon Texts of Scripture, vol. i. p