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ANF04. Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second
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Chapter XXV.

And perhaps there is a danger as great as that which degrades the name of “God,” or of “the Good,” to improper objects, in changing the name of God according to a secret system, and applying those which belong to inferior beings to greater, and vice versa.  And I do not dwell on this, that when the name of Zeus is uttered, there is heard at the same time that of the son of Kronos and Rhea, and the husband of Hera, and brother of Poseidon, and father of Athene, and Artemis, who was guilty of incest with his own daughter Persephone; or that Apollo immediately suggests the son of Leto and Zeus, and the brother of Artemis, and half-brother of Hermes; and so with all the other names invented by these wise men of Celsus, who are the parents of these opinions, and the ancient theologians of the Greeks.  For what are the grounds for deciding that he should on the one hand be properly called Zeus, and yet on the other should not have Kronos for his father and Rhea for his mother?  And the same argument applies to all the others that are called gods.  But this charge does not at all apply to those who, for some mysterious reason, refer the word Sabaoth, or Adonai, or any of the other names to the (true) God.  And when one is able to philosophize about the mystery of names, he will find much to say respecting the titles of the angels of God, of whom one is called Michael, and another Gabriel, and another Raphael, appropriately to the duties which they discharge in the world, according to the will of the God of all things.  And a similar philosophy of names applies also to our Jesus, whose name has already been seen, in an unmistakeable manner, to have expelled myriads of evil spirits from the souls and bodies (of men), so great was the power which it exerted upon those from whom the spirits were driven out.  And while still upon the subject of names, we have to mention that those who are skilled in the use of incantations, relate that the utterance of the same incantation in its proper language can accomplish what the spell professes to do; but when translated into any other tongue, it is observed to become inefficacious and feeble.  And thus it is not the things signified, but the qualities and peculiarities of words, which possess a certain power for this or that purpose.  And so on such grounds as these we defend the conduct of the Christians, when they struggle even to death to avoid calling God by the name of Zeus, or to give Him a name from any other language.  For they either use the common name—God—indefinitely, or with some such addition as that of the “Maker of all things,” “the Creator of heaven and earth”—He who sent down to the human race those good men, to whose names that of God being added, certain mighty works are wrought among men.  And much more besides might be said on the subject of names, against those who think that we ought to be indifferent as to our use of them.  And if the remark of Plato in the Philebus should surprise us, when he says, “My fear, O Protagoras, about the names of the gods is no small one,” seeing Philebus in his discussion with Socrates had called pleasure a “god,” how shall we not rather approve the piety of the Christians, who apply none of the names used in the mythologies to the Creator of the world?  And now enough on this subject for the present.

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