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Optatus of Milevis, Against the Donatists (1917) Book 4. pp.180-202.


An Answer is made to certain Arguments of Parmenian, drawn from various Passages in the Old Testament.

I. The Argument of this Book.

We have now, my brother Parmenian, shown openly and clearly that in charging us with asking for the help of the soldiers, you have calumniated us to no purpose.1 Now learn this also, that what you have said about the Sacraments and sacrifice of a sinner 2 refers to you rather than to us.

Since a man is not necessarily a sinner 3 because you have so chosen to term him, it would be equally easy for us, copying your gratuitous assumption,4 to say that you are the sinners. But assumptions of this kind on both, sides should be sent packing.5 Let neither of us judge the other with man's judgement.

It belongs to God to know who is guilty; His it is to pass judgement. Let then all of us, who are |181 but men, keep silence. Let God alone point out the sinner, whose sacrifice is unclean,6 and from whose hands one who wishes to be anointed should fear to receive unction.

How most clearly true this is, acknowledge, my brother Parmenian!

II. That the Donatists are the Brethren of Catholics.7

If, that is, you are freely content to hear this ascription of brotherhood which I have so often used. And I would beg of you to recognise that, however distasteful the word brother may be to you, still it has of necessity to be employed by us, lest perchance (considering the proof that it ought to be used) we should, by refraining from it, be blameworthy. For, if you are not willing to be my brother, I should begin to be unbrotherly,8 were I to keep silence concerning this name. For you are our brethren, and we are yours, as the Prophet says:

'Has not one God made you, and one Father begotten you?' 9

Nor can you avoid being our brethren, since to all has it been said:

'You are all gods and sons of the Most High.' 10

And both you and we have received the one command in the words: |182 

'Call no man your father on earth, because One is your Father in the Heavens.' 11

Our Saviour Christ alone is the Son of God by Birth,12 but both you and we have been made sons of God in the same manner, as it has been written in the Gospel:

'The Son of God has come. As many as received Him, to them has He given the power to become sons of God, to those who believe in His Name.' 13

We have both been made and are called His sons; you have been made His sons, but are not so called,14 because you are not willing to be in peace, or to listen to the Son of God Himself, when He says:

'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.' 15

Christ by His coming recalled God and man to Peace,16 and

'taking away the wall of partition, made both One.' 17

But you will not have peace with us, that is, with your brothers. For you cannot escape being our brothers----you whom together with us one Mother Church has borne from the same bowels of her Mysteries,18 and whom God the Father has received in the same manner as sons of adoption.

Wherefore Christ, foreseeing this time----how it |183 would come to pass that you should to-day be at variance with us, gave such commands with regard to prayer, that, at least in prayer,19 unity might remain, and that supplications might join those who should be torn asunder by faction. We pray for you, for we wish to do so, and you pray for us, even though you do not wish it. Otherwise let any one of you say:

'My Father, who art in Heaven,' and 'Give me my daily bread,' and 'Forgive me my trespasses, as I forgive him who trespasses against me.'

Accordingly, if things which have been prescribed may not be changed, you see that we have not been absolutely 20 divided from one another, whilst we willingly pray for you, and you (though unwillingly) pray for us. You perceive, my brother Parmenian, that the bonds of holy brotherhood between you and us do not admit of being absolutely 21 broken.

III. That the Donatists are sinners.

We have now to search for the sinner, at whose hands we should fear to receive unction, or whose sacrifice ought to be disowned.21

Let human mistrust give way, and the arguments of both sides keep silence. God alone shall point out who is a sinner. We read in the forty-eighth Psalm in the second division 22 that the Holy Ghost has said:

'But to the sinner God said.'

Here we have to give the whole attention of our mind, and see who is the sinner. |184 

For, if after we have read: 

"'But to the sinner God said,'

some such words as these were to follow:

'Thou hast snatched up arms, thou hast marched out of the camp,23 thou hast stood against the foe in battle array,'

then the soldier would have reason to fear, because he might seem to be the sinner. Or, if He said:

'Thou hast got together merchandise, thou hast gone on journeys, thou hast held fairs, thou hast bought and sold for the sake of profit,'

then the man of business would have to fear, because he might seem to be the sinner. Or, if He said:

'Thou hast built a ship, thou hast fitted it out with rigging and sails, thou hast seized 24 the winds favourable for a voyage,'

then the sailor would have to fear, because he might seem to be the sinner.

Or, if after we have read:

'But to the sinner God said,' 

these words were to follow:

'Dissension and schism have been displeasing to thee, |185 thou hast agreed with thy brother and with the One Church, which is in all the world, thou hast communicated with the Seven Churches and with the Shrines of the Apostles.25 Thou hast embraced Unity'----

if these things were to be read immediately afterwards, then we should have to fear that we were the sinners.

But when God says:

'Why dost thou declare My commandments and take My covenant in thy mouth? For discipline thou hast despised, and thou hast cast My words behind thee. Sitting thou didst speak against thy brother, and didst lay a scandal against thy mother's son. Thou didst see a thief and didst run with him, and with adulterers thou hast been a partaker' 26;

then all these things have been said to you. Clear yourselves from all of them, if you can!

IV. That the Donatists are despisers of discipline.

So discipline has been held in contempt by you. To what end then dost thou. who dost not obey the covenant, recite the covenant, in which has been set forth the discipline which you 27 will not observe? For you cannot say that you observe something, against which you bear arms!

God says:

'Seek peace, and thou shalt obtain it.' 28

Thou hast rejected peace. Is not this to despise discipline? |186 

In the Gospel we read:

'On earth peace to men of good will.' 29

Thou wilt have neither peace nor good will. Is not this to despise discipline?

Moreover, we read in the hundred and thirty-second Psalm:

'Behold how good and pleasant it is to dwell together in unity.' 30

Thou 31 wilt not dwell in unity with thy brethren. Is not this to despise discipline?

Christ says in the Gospel:

'He who has once been cleansed, has no need to be cleansed anew.' 32

Thou by rebaptising dost cleanse anew. Is not this to despise discipline? God says:

'Touch not Mine anointed, and lay not thy hand upon My Prophets.' 33

You 34 have stripped so many priests of God of their dignities. Is not this to despise discipline?

Christ says:

'From this I know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.' 35

You hold in hatred us, who are surely your brethren; |187 nor have you been willing to imitate the Apostles, by whom Peter was beloved, though he denied his Lord.36 Is not this to despise discipline?

Thou 37 declarest the commandments 38 of God, and takest His covenant in thy mouth. How dost thou exhort: 'Seek peace,' though thou dost not possess peace? Thou recitest the covenant,39 and dost not obey the covenant, in which has been set forth discipline.

V. That the Donatists are slanderers and have propagated scandals.

You have been chosen to sit and teach the people,40 and you slander us who are your brethren. As I have said above, one Mother Church has given us birth, one God the Father has received us, and yet you 'lay scandals against' 41 us by forbidding each of your followers to salute us, or receive from us the customary signs of courtesy.42 |188 

Consider your haughty words, consider your discourses,43 consider the commands that you have given, turn over your actions in your minds, and you will then find out why the man who formerly asked you for the Sacraments, has feared to receive them at your hands.44

There is not one of you who does not mingle abuse of us with his discourses;43 not one of you who does not begin in one manner and continue in another.45 You begin the sacred readings on the Lord's Day,46 and unfold your comments in such a way as to do us wrong; you bring forth the Gospel, and heap abuse upon your brother in his absence; you pour hatred into the minds of those who listen to you, and by your teaching persuade men to live at enmity with one another. By all your discourses you 'lay scandals against' us. Therefore, to each one of you has it been said:

'Sitting thou didst speak against thy brother, and didst lay a scandal against thy mother's son.' 47

When God reproves the sinner and chides him that sits, it is clear that His words are addressed specially |189 to you, not to the people who have no permission to sit in the church.48 You see therefore that without a doubt to you should be referred the Divine Words:

'Sitting thou didst lay a scandal against thy mother's son.'

I have so many times proved that we have one mother, nor can you deny this----you who 'lay scandals against' us----though some of your party allege texts which they have not understood, in order to take away from us even what is usually shared by all men----the courtesy of salutation. For some of you refuse us the embraces that are customary in everyday life,49 and many are taught not to say 'God speed you' 50 to any one of us, and think that this is commanded by what they have read without understanding it, through not knowing of whom it was that an Apostle 51 has said:

'With such as these not even to take food,' nor 'say "God speed you"' to him, 'for their speech creepeth on like a spreading sore.' 52

This was said of heretics, whose teaching at that time began to be full of errors, for through the subtle seductiveness of their speech, they introduced diseases, |190 creeping along in the darkness, to corrupt the soundness of the Faith.53 Such a one was Marcion, who from a Bishop became an Apostate, and. brought in two Gods and two Christs; such was Ebion,54 who argued that not the Son but the Father had suffered; such Valentinus, who strove to take away from Christ His Flesh.

This is that speech which had a cancer 55 to torment the members of the Faith. This has been said also of the heretic Scorpian,56 who maintained that there ought to be no martyrdom. |191 

But let them keep their poisons for themselves, and let no discourse 57 with them be allowed, lest by listening to them simple minds be troubled, however slightly.

Wherefore these are they whose speech has to be avoided, lest it creep in, like a spreading sore.

This was said too of Arius, who endeavoured to teach that the Son of God was made out of non-existing substances,58 and not born of God----whose teaching, had it not been driven away by three hundred and eighteen Bishops in the Nicene Council, would, like a cancer, have entered the breasts of many.

This was said also of Photinus, a heretic of the present time, who has dared to say that the Son of God was merely a man, not God.

It may have been said of you as well, since your word has introduced no small cancer into the ears and minds of some. This is your word, which you address to the sons of Peace, when you say:

'You have perished. Look behind you. Your soul will be lost. How long do you hang back? 59 '

In this way have you made Penitents of the Faithful; thus have you destroyed the honours due to Priests.60 Behold! It is your word also, which to-day creeps on as a spreading sore, so that you forbid us the greetings and ordinary intercourse of life. |192 

But how could our teaching have produced any such result? We guard the sons of Peace with pure 61 teaching; we lead no strangers astray; we ruin no man. It is therefore clear that you daily 'lay scandals against' us, and it would be a long matter to go through all the ways in which you slander us, and all the kinds of scandal which you 'lay against' us.

VI. That the Donatists are thieves and on what ground.

For also when God says:

'Thou didst see a thief and didst run with him,' 62

concerning what kind of thievery think you that this has been said? Was it perhaps on account of some stolen article of clothing, or some pocket that had been picked,63 or about goods the stealing of which brings loss and gain to men?

Yes, without doubt such thefts as these are forbidden; but in this passage God rebukes those which are made from Himself. Do you ask what thefts are made from God? They are to be found amongst you! God's possession is the mass of the Faithful,64 from which that thief the Devil tries every day to steal something, striving to corrupt in some way or other the morals of a Christian man or woman, and thus to snatch away, if not the whole man----at any rate something or other from the man. |193 

Since you saw this Thief bringing force to bear against us, you have helped him by your deeds. For none are unaware, that everyone who is born (even though he may be born of Christian parents) cannot be without the unclean spirit, who must of necessity be driven out and separated from a man before the saving layer. This is effected by the exorcism,65 through which the unclean spirit is cast forth and driven, in flight, to desert places.

The house in the heart of the Believer is made empty, the house is made clean. God enters and dwells therein, even as says the Apostle:

'You are the Temple of God, and God dwells in you.' 66

Whereas then each [baptised] man is full of God, and that Thief the Devil is endeavouring to steal something away from him, you exorcise that faithful man by rebaptising him, and say to God, who dwells within him:

'Go forth, O cursed one,'

that there may be fulfilled what was spoken by Ezekiel the Prophet:

'And they spoke evil things to Me amongst My people for the sake of a handful of barley and a morsel of bread, that they might kill souls which ought not to die, whilst they announce to My people empty deceits.' 67 |194 

So God hears wrongful insults, which are not His due, and departs from such a dwelling as this; and the man who, when he entered the church, was full of God, goes out an empty vessel.

The Devil, who wished, like a thief, to steal something, sees that the whole, from which he was striving to snatch some little thing, has become his by your assistance. Wherefore, of you God said:

'Thou didst see a thief and didst run together with him.' 68 

Again it has been written in the Gospel:

'But when God shall have left a man, he remains an empty vessel, but the unclean spirit wandering through desert places, says, in his hunger 69: " My house is empty," 70 that is to say, He who had shut me out has been Himself shut out. " I will go back and dwell therein." And he brings with him seven others more wicked, and he shall dwell there, and that man's last state shall be worse than his first.'

That is:

'Thou didst see a thief and didst run together with him, and with adulterers didst cast thy lot.'

He terms heretics adulterers, and their churches adulterous,71 which Christ contemns and disowns 72 in the Canticle of Canticles, as though He should say:

'Why do you make churches that "are not wanted 73"?' |195 

'One is My beloved, one is My Spouse, one is My dove' 74

that is, the Catholic Church, in which you too might be.75 And yet by rebaptising you have chosen to cast your lot amongst adulterers.

It has been most clearly proved by divine witness that you are sinners. It has also been shown that thine auxiliaries have warred against thee,76 for thou hast brought up to thy relief 77 the saying of the Prophet:

'The sacrifice of the sinner, is as of one who would offer in sacrifice a dog.' 78

Now, if you have any shame, recognise with grief that you are the sinners.

VII. In what sense it has been said: Let not the oil of the sinner anoint My Head.

Also learn this, whose Word it is:

'Let not the oil of the sinner anoint My Head.' 79

For whose voice is this thou hast not understood? It is surely the voice of Christ, who had not yet been anointed, when He prayed that the oil of the sinner should not soil His Head. Thou hast said, without |196 understanding, that David the Prophet feared the oil of the sinner.

The Psalmist had already been anointed by Samuel. There was then no reason why he should be anointed a second time. Consequently it is the voice of Christ, which says:

'Let not the oil of the sinner anoint My Head.'

It is a prayer, not a command; the expression of a desire, not a precept. For, were it a command, He would have said:

'The oil of the sinner shall not anoint My Head.'

It is therefore the Voice of the Son of God, even then fearing to meet the oil of the sinner, that is of any man whomsoever, for no man is without sin, but God alone. Accordingly His Son feared the oil of man, for it would have been shameful that God should be anointed by man. Accordingly He prays the Father that He should not be anointed by man, but by God the Father Himself. It is then the Son who asks; let us see whether the Father has granted the request.

This the Holy Spirit points out and makes clear in the forty-fourth Psalm, wherein He says to the Son Himself:

'The Lord thy God shall anoint Thee with the oil of gladness differently 80 from Thy fellows.'

His fellows had been the priests and kings of the Jews, each of whom was known to have been anointed |197 by men. But, since it was right that the Son should be anointed by the Father----God by God----as the Son asked and the Spirit announced that it had been promised----this the Father fulfilled in the Jordan. For when the Son of God, our Saviour, came there, He was pointed out to John with these words 81:

'Behold the Lamb of God; He it is who taketh away the sins of the world.' 82

He went down into the water, not that there was anything in God that could be cleansed, but the water had to come before the oil that was to come after, thus to commence and ordain and fulfil the Mysteries of Baptism.83

For when the waters went over Him, and He was held in the hands of John, the Mystery followed in due order, and the Father fulfilled that for which the Son had prayed, and the Holy Ghost had announced was to come. The Heaven was opened, as the Father anointed. Forthwith the spiritual oil descended in the likeness of a Dove, and sat upon His Head and flowed over Him. On this account He was first called Christ, when He was anointed by God the Father. And lest it might seem that the laying on of hands was lacking to Him, the Voice of God was heard, saying from the cloud:

'This is My well-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.84 Hear ye Him.' 85  |198 

Here, therefore, we find the meaning of that which was written:

'Let not the oil of the sinner anoint My Head.'

Learn, then, though late, my brother Parmenian, the nature of the truth, for now is the time for learning how to find it.86

VIII. That heretics are children of adulterers.

And with regard to that which you have quoted from the Prophet Solomon 87:

'The children of adulterers shall not come to perfection, and bastard slips cannot take deep roots,'

this may well be understood to have been said in a literal sense. For, if you take it figuratively, you have excused those who are actually guilty of adultery. But grant that it was said in figure. In that case it has been spoken of heretics, whose sacraments are like invalid wedlock, in whose beds is to be found iniquity, where the very seeds [of life] have been corrupted to the destruction of the Faith.88 |199 

When Valentinus maintains that the Son of God was on earth in a phantasm, not in Flesh, he corrupted his own faith and that of his followers. The seed of [spiritual] birth has been rooted out in those who have not believed that the Son of God was born in the Flesh of Mary the Virgin, and that in the Flesh He suffered.

IX. That a certain passage in Jeremiah is to be understood of the idolatrous Jews.

Now with regard to what you mention that you have read in the Prophet Jeremiah that the people of God have done two evil things in that

'they forsook the Fountain of living water, and digged to themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water' 89;

you have indeed read this, but have been unwilling to understand the real state of the case.

In your love for bringing charges, you have twisted round everything so as to abuse Catholics, and, to suit your own purposes, you have attempted to digress a great deal according to your own whims.90 For if you imagine that everything which has been written by the Prophets belongs to our own times, you are making excuses for the Jews, concerning whom it is certain that it was written, that they forsook the Living God, the True God, the God who had bestowed His Blessings upon them, and made for themselves idols----that is to say, broken cisterns, which can hold no water.

In God the Everlasting Majesty flows over,91 even |200 as, in a fountain, water freely gushes forth from its channels. But idols, unless they be made, have no being, and wells, unless they be dug, hold no water in their depth.92 Cisterns cannot be hollowed out without skill and tools, nor can idols be made without a craftsman. In idols there is no virtue that belongs to them,93 but it is given and applied to them through the mistake of man. Virtue is believed to be in an idol, which is not there of its own nature. A cistern, the making of which is a weary work,94 is broken with deliberation, so that neither has it water of itself, nor of itself can it hold the water that it has received. Similarly an idol is not anything of itself, and, whilst it is being worshipped, is nothing.

This is the meaning of the Word of God, that His people did two evil things, in that they abandoned the fountain of living water and made for themselves broken cisterns which they had themselves dug out. For the people of Israel had forsaken the true water, had not recognised the Divine Majesty, and had followed the evil worship of idols.

This it is over which God grieves, this it is at which He says that the Heaven has shuddered. |201 

For God grieves over the same thing through the Prophet Isaiah, when in this matter He calls to witness two elements with these words:

'Hear, O Heaven, and perceive with thine ears, O Earth. I have brought up and have exalted children. But they have forsaken Me.' 95

How is it, my brother Parmenian, that you have had nothing to say concerning this passage? Or why is it that there is here no mention of water? It will be seen that, through your love of fault-finding, you have done such violence to the Law, that, whenever you read anything of water, you have, by some conjuring tricks, twisted it round for your purposes of hatred, and have made a sort of drag-net out of malicious arguments, and have thus drawn to yourself all things which in themselves are good.

For what intelligence have you shown 96 with regard to this passage in Jeremy, since God cries out that He has been forsaken, and that cisterns have thus been made? His wrath is concerning Himself, not concerning something which is His, for the Baptismal Water belongs to God, but is not God Himself.97 And if you think that you [and your baptism] have been deserted, pray when were any of you baptised 98 among us, so that it |202 should be true that they who deserted your [baptism] came to us? 99

So we have shown that what you have said about the Sacraments and sacrifice of a sinner tells not against us, but against yourselves.

[Footnotes moved to the end and renumbered]

1. 1  Cf. iii, 4.

2. 2  de oleo et sacrificio peccatoris. For this phrase cf. i, 5, 6, 7; iv, 7, 9. For oleum cf. note 3, p. 11.

3. 3  non ille debet esse peccator.

4. 4  vestram praesumptionem. The Donatists boastfully claimed that the validity of the Sacraments depended upon their personal holiness. This was the 'presumption' with which they started.

5. 5  facessat ex utraque parte praesumptio. Cf. 'facesse Tarquinios' (Liv. i, 47).

6. 1  cuius sacrificium est canina victima. Canina = Like that of a dog. Cf. infra iv, 6: quasi qui victimet canem. The reference is to Deut. xxiii, 18: 'Non offeres pretium canis in domo Domini Dei tui'; cf. also Is. lxvi, 3: 'Facinorosus qui sacrificat Mihi vitulum, quasi qui canem occidat' (the reading of St. Aug. c. ep. Par men. ii, 5).

7. 2  The whole of this chapter is a digression (cf. i, 3).

8. 3  impius.

9. 4 Malach. ii, 10.

10. 5 Ps. lxxxi, 6.

11. 1 Matt. xxiii, 9.

12. 2 solus natus est Filius Dei.

13. 3 John i, 11.

14. 4 They had been made the sons of God by Baptism, but had, by reason of their schism, lost their right to the title.

15. 5  Matt. v, 9.

16. 6  Deum et hominem revocavit in Pacem. A very strong phrase.

17. 7  Eph. ii, 13.

18. 8  quos iisdem Sacramentorum visceribus (cf. ii, 10).

19. 1 The Lord's Prayer.

20. 2 in totum.

21. 3  cuius potuit vel oleum timeri, vel sacrificium repudiavi.

22. 4  sub secundo diapsalmate. Ps. xlix, 16. For Diapsalma cf. S. August. Enarr. in Ps. iv, 4; Quaest. ex utroque mixtim (Migne, P.L. p. 2334); S. Hieron. Ep. xxviii, De Voce Diapsalma.

23. 1 processisti de castris. This is the reading of G. It is probably a conjecture but seems to give the right sense. RBv read proiecisti castris, which it is not possible to translate. Ziwsa conjectures proiecisti te castris (thou hast flung itself upon fortresses), but this is hardly Latin. Besides Optatus is not likely to have represented an army as first attacking, and afterwards as standing in array against the enemy in the field.

24. 2 captasti.

25. 1  Cf. ii, 14.

26. 2  Ps. xlix, 16, 17, 18, 20.

27. 3  St. Optatus here passes abruptly from the singular to the plural number, from Parmenian individually to the Donatists collectively.

28. 4  Ps. xxxiii, 15.

29. 1 Luke ii, 14.

30. 2 Ps. cxxxii, 1.

31. 3 Here St. Optatus returns  to the singular. 

32. 4 John xiii, 10.

33. 5 Ps, civ, 15.

34. 6 We have the plural once  more. 

35. 7 John xiii, 34.

36. 1 Cf. vii, 3.

37. 2 We have the singular again.

38. 3  iustificationes.

39. 4  Ziwsa has added at the beginning of this last sentence a second quomodo and places a note of interrogation at the end (Quomodo testamentum vecitas?). This addition (for which no reason is given) seems unnecessary. The vecitas testamentum corresponds well with the exponis iustificationes Dei etc. of the beginning of the paragraph.

40. 5  electi estis, qui sedentes populum doceatis. To sit, i.e. when teaching the people. We learn from St. Augustine (Hom. xxvi; Tract. xix and cxii in S. Ioan.; in Expos. Ps. cxlvii etc.) that in the Churches of Africa the Bishops only were allowed to sit (though an exception was made in favour of those who were ill or tired, at least when the reading was long). He tells us, however, that a far better custom prevailed in some European Churches: 'longe consultius in quibusdam ecclesiis transmarinis, non solum antistites sedentes loquuntur ad populum, sed ipsi etiam populo sedilia subiacent' (de Catech. rudibus, c. xiii).

41. 6 Ps. xlix, 20.

42. 7 ne nos salutent, ne a nobis dignationem accipiant. In the early days of Christianity, Christians were accustomed to salute one

another with the kiss of peace, not only at a stated time in the church during divine service, but also when meeting in the street. Casaubon points out that in Low Latin dignatio was used for facilitas or humanitas and quotes from Sidonius Apollinaris the phrase 'dignitate clarus, dignatione communis.' (For legitimum, cf. note 5, p. 164.)

43. 1  tractatus----i.e. ad populum = sermons. Ziwsa, however, gives libellus as its equivalent.

44. 2  et invenietis oleum vestrum timuisse, qui rogabat. Du Pin rejects this sentence, as not being consistent with the context; but it is found in all the MSS.

45. 3  qui non aut aliud initiet aut aliud explicet.

46. 4  lectiones dominicas.

47. 5 Ps. xlix, 20.

48. 1  non ad populum qui in Ecclesia non habent sedendi licentiam. Cf. supra: 'Electi estis, qui sedentes populum doceatis,' where see note.

49. 2  in perfunctoria salutatione oscula denegatis solita.

50. 3  Ave.

51. 4 Apostolus.

52. 5 We have here three passages joined together in one sentence----1 Cor. v, 11; 2 John 10; 2 Tim. ii, 17. Parmenian (or possibly some other Donatist) had quoted all the three texts. St. Optatus supposes the context known, and cites a portion of each, without continuing them.

53. 1  quorum caeperat illis temporibus vitiosa esse doctrina, qui subtili seductione verborum morbis obscure serpentibus corrumperent fidei sanitatem.

54. 2  The MSS. have Ebion. Du Pin substituted Praxeas who was accused by Tertullian. 'Patrem cruci fixit.' St. Optatus probably wrote Ebion by a slip of the pen.

55. 3  qui habuit cancer. St. Augustine (De Bapt. con. Donat. iv, 12) writes that he would have understood the words in 2 Tim. ii, 17 (quoted above by St. Optatus), 'serpit eorum sermo velut cancer,' of wicked men within the Church, but that the authority of St. Cyprian will not admit of this interpretation. He proceeds, however, to argue against St. Cyprian, who had written (Ep. ad Iubaianum): 'Nam cum dicant [Apostoli] sermonem eorum [haereticorum] ut cancer serpere, quomodo is sermo dare remissam peccatorum qui ut cancer serpit ad aures audientium?' To this Augustine makes answer: 'Nec foris, sicut nec intus, quisquam qui ex parte diaboli est, potest vel in se vel in quoquam maculare Sacramentum quod Christi est . . . cum Baptisma verbis evangelicis datur ... si quis per hominem perversum id accipiens . . . remissionem accipit peccatorum non per verba sicut cancer serpentia, sed per Evangelica Sacramenta de caelesti fonte manantia.'

56. 4  St. Optatus seems to have been led astray here by the fact that Tertullian gave the inscription of Scorpiace to the book which he wrote against the heretics, who had attacked the martyrs. Hence apparently he thought that there had been a heretic called Scorpian. But at the commencement of this book Tertullian attacks no individual, but terms Gnostics, Valentinians and other heretics in general Scorpios.

57. 1 relatio. Relatio = recounting, i.e. narrative or teaching (from referre, to relate). Ziwsa says = sermo.

58. 2 ex nullis substantiis ( = ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων) factum esse.

59. 3 quamdiu vos tenetis? = quamdiu apud Catholicos manetis? Ziwsa says that se tenere here = zögern, sich aufrecht erhalten.

60. 4 Cf. i, 2; ii, 24 supra etc.

61. 1  simplici. Simplex = unadulterated, unmixed by any new teaching or heresy.

62. 2  Ps. xlix, 18.

63. 3  aut de involato gremio. Gremium----the fold of the garment-----pocket. Involato not from in-volare = to swoop upon, but from the unusual verb in-vola-re from vola, the palm of the hand, = to place in the palm of the hand----to steal (cf. French voler).

64. 4  possessio Dei est turba Fidelium.

65. 1  nam neminem fugit quod omnis homo qui nascitur, quamvis de parentibus Christianis nascatur, sine spiritu immundo esse non possit, quem necesse sit ante salutare lavacrum ab homine excludi et separari. Hoc exorcismus operatur etc. We see the importance which Optatus attached to the very ancient pre-baptismal exorcism.

66. 2  1 Cor. iii, 16.

67. 3 Ez. xiii, 19: maledicebant . . . vanas seductiones (Vulgate 'violabant , . . mentientes populo Meo credenti mendaciis').

68. 1 Ps. xlix, 18.

69. 2 ieiunus.

70. 3  We have here a paraphrase of Matt. xii, 43-45.

71. 4  Cf. note 4, p. 18.

72. 5 aspernatur et repudiat. 

73. 6 non necessarias. Cf. note 3, p. 121.

74. 1  Cant. vi, 8.

75. 2  Catholica, in qua . . . esse, Cf. iii, 3: 'in Christi Catholica habitabant,' etc.

76. 3  tua auxilia contra te militasse. We have this abrupt transition to the singular in order to emphasise the fact that Parmenian had quoted this text, which is now turned against him.

77. 4  in auxilium addideras.

78. 5  Is. lxvi, 3: quasi qui victimet canem. We read in the Vulgate 'quasi qui excerebret canem.' The word victimo is used in the sense of sacrifice by Apuleius. Excerebrare (literally to beat out the brains) is found only in the Vulgate. It is translated in the Douay Version: 'He that killeth in sacrifice.' (Cf. note 1, p. 181.)

79. 6  Ps. cxl, 6.

80. 1 aliter a consortibus tuis. (The Vulgate has 'prae consortibus tuis,') Ps. xliv, 8.

81. 1 Ad Ioannem ostensus est his verbis.

82. 2 John i, 29.

83. 3  In Confirmation: Cf. Tixeront (op. cit. ii, 314).

84. 4  de quo bene sensi.

85. 5 Matt. iii, 17; Mark i, 11; Luke ix, 35; 2 Pet. i, 17.

86. 1  ration em veritatis, f rater Parmeniane, vel sero, addisce, quoniam nunc tempus est invenire discendi. G reads tempus discendi invenisti ----evidently an emendation, but the rhythm is wrong, and the reading of the other MSS. gives good sense. Casaubon suggests the very violent and unnecessary change Nunc non tempus est iuvenile discendi.

87. 2  Sap. iii, 16; iv, 3: filios adulterorum inconsummatos et spuria vitulamina altas radices dare non posse. (Vulgate: 'Filii adulterorum in inconsummatione erunt, et spuria vitulamina non dabunt radices altas.' )

88. 3 apud quos sunt sacramentorum falsa connubia, et in quorum toris iniquitas invenitur, ubi in exterminium Fidei corrupta sunt semina. For toris Du Pin reads choris with v. But the MSS, have toris, and the reference to Sap. iii, 16 makes this reading certain (cf. also note 4, p. 18).

89. 1 Jer. ii, 13.

90. 2 multum ad arbitrium tuum declinare conatus es. RBv have destinare.

91. 3 in Deo perennis Maiestas exundat. This passage is absolutely corrupt in RBv. Ideo perennis male destans exultant, sicut in fonte aqua largiter defluentibus venis exuberant. From G it is clear that Ideo should be in Deo and that male destans should be Maiestas. Casaubon conjectured exundat for exultant and exuberat for exuberant. Ziwsa accepts this emendation. It is the text which I have translated.

92. 1  sinus capaces habere non possunt.

93. 2  in idolis virtus naturalis nulla est.

94. 3  cuius fabrica vexatio est Gb, vexationes RB. Casaubon conjectured 'cuius si fabrica vitiata est aquam nec habeat etc'

95. 1  Is. i, 2 (cf. Jer. ii, 13).

96. 2  qualis est tuus intellectus----of what kind is your understanding?

97. 3  pro Se irascitur, non pro re sua. Aqua enim baptismatis res Dei est, non Deus. Parmenian had taken fons aquas vivae to be true baptism, which Catholics had forsaken, whereas St. Optatus points out that it refers to God Himself.

98. 4  baptizati, i.e. rebaptised.

99. 1 et si [vos G] putatis desertos esse, quando apud vos fuerunt, qui apud nos baptizati sunt, ut merito vestri desertores ad nos venire viderentur? (For, apud vos fuerunt BG read apud nos fuerunt; for qui apud nos etc. RB read quia etc.) The Latin of this passage is obscure and the text not certain, but the argument of Optatus is clear. 'You say that we have deserted the font of true baptism, but, granted that you have true baptism, has your baptism ever been "deserted" by those that came over from you to us? We have never rebaptised any who had received baptism at your hands.' Viderentur is (as so often in Optatus) used pleonastically.

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Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts