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ANF08. The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, The Clementia, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First
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Chapter V.—Good and Evil.

Then the old man said:  “There is a saying very prevalent among the Greek philosophers, to the effect that there is in reality neither good nor evil in the life of man; but that men call things good or evil as they appear to them, prejudiced by the use and custom of life.  For not even murder is really an evil, because it sets the soul free from the bonds of the flesh.  Further, they say that even just judges put to death those who commit crimes; but if they knew homicide to be an evil, just men would not do that.  Neither do they say that adultery is an evil; for if the husband does not know, or does not care, there is, they say, no evil in it.  But neither, say they is theft an evil; for it takes away what one does not possess from another who has it.  And, indeed, it ought to be taken freely and openly; but in that it is done secretly, that is rather a reproof of his inhumanity from whom it is secretly taken.  For all men ought to have the common use of all things that are in this world; but through injustice one says that this is his, and another that that is his, and so division is caused among men.  In short, a certain man, the wisest among the Greeks,858858    Allusion is made to Socrates and community of wives, as stated in the Republic of Plato. knowing that these things are so, says that friends should have all things common.  Now, in all things unquestionably wives are included.  He says also that, as the air and the sunshine cannot be divided, so neither ought other things to be divided, which are given in this world to all to be possessed in common, but should be so possessed.  But I wished to say this, because I am desirous to turn to well-doing, and I cannot act well unless I first learn what is good; and if I can understand that, I shall thereby perceive what is evil, that is, opposite to good.


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