Explanations of the customs of the people showing what is meant by the word, "Unclean." The essence and origin of the "God-Belief." Verses 48-44 give a picturesque description of the Divinity of physiology.
IT is worth while to mention briefly the information which he gave in reply to our questions.
2 For I suppose that most people feel a curiosity with regard to some of the enactments in the law, especially those about meats and drinks and animals recognised as unclean.
3 When we asked why, since there is but one form of creation, some animals are regarded as unclean for eating, and others unclean even to the touch (for though the law is scrupulous on most points, it is specially scrupulous on such matters as these) he began his reply as follows:
4 'You observe,' he said, 'what an effect our modes of life and our associations produce upon us; by associating with the bad, men catch their depravities and become miserable throughout their life; but if they live with the wise and prudent, they find the means of escaping from ignorance and amending their lives.
5 Our lawgiver first of all laid down the principles of piety and righteousness and inculcated them point by point, not merely by prohibitions but by the use of examples as well, demonstrating the injurious effects of sin and the punishments inflicted by God upon the guilty.
6 For he proved first of all that there is only one God and that his power is manifested throughout the universe, since every place is filled with his sovereignty and none of the things which are wrought in secret by men upon the earth escapes His knowledge.
7 For all that a man does and all that is to come to pass in the future are manifest to Him.
8 Working out these truths carefully and having made them plain, he showed that even if a man should think of doing evil--to say nothing of actually effecting it,--he would not escape detection, for he made it clear that the power of God pervaded the whole of the law.
9 Beginning from his starting point, he went on to show that all mankind except ourselves believe in the existence of many gods, though they themselves are much more powerful than the beings whom they vainly worship.
10 For when they have made statues of stone and wood, they say that they are the images of those who have invented something useful for life and they worship them, though they have clear proof that they possess no feeling.
11 For it would be utterly foolish to suppose that any one became a god in virtue of his inventions.
12 For the inventors simply took certain objects already created and by combining them together, showed that they possessed a fresh utility: they did not themselves create the substance of the thing, and so it is a vain and foolish thing for people to make gods of men like themselves.
13 For in our times there are many who are much more inventive and much more learned than the men of former days who have been deified, and yet they would never come to worship them.
14 The makers and authors of these myths think that they are the wisest of the Greeks.
15 Why need we speak of other infatuated people, Egyptians and the like, who place their reliance upon wild beasts and most kinds of creeping things and cattle, and worship them, and offer sacrifices to them both while living and when dead?
16 Now our Lawgiver being a wise man and specially endowed by God to understand all things, took a comprehensive view of each particular detail, and fenced us round with impregnable ramparts and walls of iron, that we might not mingle at all with any of the other nations, but remain pure in body and soul, free from all vain imaginations, worshipping the one Almighty God above the whole creation.
17 Hence the leading Egyptian priests having looked carefully into many matters, and being cognizant with our affairs, call us "men of God."
18 This is a title which does not belong to the rest of mankind but only to those who worship the true God.
19 The rest are men not of God but of meats and drinks and clothing.
20 For their whole disposition leads them to find solace in these things are reckoned of no account, but throughout their things.
21 Among our people such
whole life their main consideration is the sovereignty of God.
22 Therefore lest we should be corrupted by any abomination, or our lives be perverted by evil communications, he hedged us round on all sides by rules of purity, affecting alike what we eat, or drink, or touch, or hear, or see.
23 For though, speaking generally, all things are alike in their natural constitution, since they are all governed by one and the same power, yet there is a deep reason in each individual case why we abstain from the use of certain things and enjoy the common use of others.
24 For the sake of illustration I will run over one or two points and explain them to you.
25 For you must not fall into the degrading idea that it was out of regard to mice and weasels and other such things that Moses drew up his laws with such exceeding care. 1
26 All these ordinances were made for the sake of righteousness to aid the quest for virtue and the perfecting of character.
27 For all the birds that we use are tame and distinguished by their cleanliness, feeding on various kinds of grain and pulse, such as for instance pigeons, turtle-doves, locusts, partridges, geese also, and all other birds of this class.
28 But the birds which are forbidden you will find to be wild and carnivorous, tyrannising over the others by the strength which they possess, and cruelly obtaining food by preying of the tame birds enumerated above.
29 And not only so, but they seize lambs and kids, and injure human beings too, whether dead or alive, and so by naming them unclean, he gave a sign by means of them that those, for whom the
legislation was ordained, must practise righteousness in their hearts and not tyrannise over any one in reliance upon their own strength nor rob them of anything, but steer their course of life in accordance with justice, just as the tame birds, already mentioned, consume the different kinds of pulse that grow upon the earth and do not tyrannise to the destruction of their own kindred.
30 Our legislator taught us therefore that it is by such methods as these that indications are given to the wise, that they must be just and effect nothing by violence, and refrain from tyrannising over others in reliance upon their own strength.
31 For since it is considered unseemly even to touch such unclean animals, as have been mentioned, on account of their particular habits, ought we not to take every precaution lest our own characters should be destroyed to the same extent?
32 Wherefore all the rules which he has laid down with regard to what is permitted in the case of these birds and other animals, he has enacted with the object of teaching us a moral lesson.
33 For the division of the hoof and the separation of the claws are intended to teach us that we must discriminate between our individual actions with a view to the practice of virtue.
34 For the strength of our whole body and its activity depend upon our shoulders and limbs.
35 Therefore he compels us to recognise that we must perform all our actions with discrimination according to the standard of righteousness,--more especially because we have been distinctly separated from the rest of mankind.
36 For most other men defile themselves by promiscuous intercourse, thereby working great iniquity, and whole countries and cities pride themselves upon such vices.
37 For they not only have intercourse with men but they defile their own mothers and even their daughters.
38 But we have been kept separate from such sins.
39 And the people who have been separated in the aforementioned way are also characterised by the Lawgiver as possessing the gift of memory.
40 For all animals "which are cloven-footed and chew the cud" represent to the initiated the symbol of memory.
41 For the act of chewing the cud is nothing else than the reminiscence of life and existence.
42 For life is wont to be sustained by means of food, wherefor he exhorts us in the Scripture also in these words: "Thou shalt surely remember the Lord that wrought in thee those great and wonderful things."
43 For when they are properly conceived, they are manifestly great and glorious; first the construction of the body and the disposition of the food and the separation of each individual limb and, for more, the organisation of the senses, the operation and invisible movement of the mind, the rapidity of its particular actions and its discovery of the arts, display an infinite resourcefulness.
44 Wherefore he exhorts us to remember that the aforesaid parts are kept together by the divine power with consummate skill.
45 For he has marked out every time and place that we may continually remember the God who rules and preserves us.
46 For in the matter of meats and drinks he bids us first of all offer part as a sacrifice and then forthwith enjoy our meal.
47 Moreover, upon our garments he has given us a symbol of remembrance, and in like manner he has ordered us to put the divine oracles upon our gates and doors as a remembrance of God.
48 And upon our hands, too, he expressly orders the symbol to be fastened, clearly showing that we ought to perform every act in righteousness, remembering our own creation, and above all the fear of God.
49 He bids men also, when lying down to sleep and rising tip again, to meditate upon the works of God, not only in word, but by observing distinctly the change and impression produced upon them, when they are going to sleep, and also their waking, how divine and incomprehensible the change from one of these states to the other is.
50 The excellency of the analogy in regard to discrimination and memory has now been pointed out to you, according to our interpretation of "the cloven hoof and the chewing of the cud."
51 For our laws have not been drawn up at random or in accordance with the first casual thought that occurred to the mind, but with a view to truth and the indication of right reason.
52 For by means of the directions which he gives with regard to meats and drinks and particular cases of touching, he bids us neither to do nor listen to anything thoughtlessly nor to resort to injustice by the abuse of the power of reason.
53 In the case of the wild animals, too, the same principle may be discovered.
54 For the character of the weasel and of mice and such animals as these, which are expressly mentioned, is destructive.
55 Mice defile and damage
everything, not only for their own food but even to the extent of rendering absolutely useless to man whatever it falls in their way to damage.
56 The weasel class, too, is peculiar: for besides what has been said, it has a characteristic which is defiling: It conceives through the ears and brings forth through the mouth.
57 And it is for this reason that a like practice is declared unclean in men.
58 For by embodying in speech all that they receive through the ears, they involve others in evils and work no ordinary impurity, being themselves altogether defiled by the pollution of impiety.
59 And your king, as we are informed, does quite right in destroying such men.'
60 Then I said 'I suppose you mean the informers, for he constantly exposes them to tortures and to painful forms of death.'
61 'Yes,' he replied, 'these are the men I mean; for to watch for men's destruction is an unholy thing.
62 And our law forbids us to injure any one either by word or deed.
63 My brief account of these matters ought to have convinced you, that all our regulations have been drawn up with a view to righteousness, and that nothing has been enacted in the Scripture thoughtlessly or without due reason, but its purpose is to enable us throughout our whole life and in all our actions to practise righteousness before all men, being mindful of Almighty God.
64 And so concerning meats and things unclean, creeping things, and wild beasts, the whole system aims at righteousness and righteous relationships between man and man.'
65 He seemed to me to have made a good defence on all the points; for in reference also to the calves and rams and goats which are offered, he said that it was necessary to take them from the herds and flocks, and sacrifice tame animals and offer nothing wild, that the offerers of the sacrifices might understand the symbolic meaning of the lawgiver and not be under the influence of an arrogant self-consciousness.
66 For he, who offers a sacrifice, makes an offering also of his own soul in all its moods.
67 I think that these particulars with regard to our discussion are worth narrating, and on account of the sanctity and natural meaning of the law, I have been induced to explain them to you clearly, Philocrates, because of your own devotion to learning.
158:1 Compare this quaint idea with 1 Corinthians, IX, 9.