Argument. --And Thus Unclean Animals are not to be Reproached, Lest the Reproach be Thrown Upon their Author; but when an Irrational Animal is Rejected On
How far, then, must that law, which -- as I have shown by the authority of the apostle -- is spiritual, be spiritually received in order that the divine and sure idea of the law may be carried out? Firstly, we must believe that whatever was ordained by God is clean and purified by the very authority of His creation; neither must it be reproached, lest the reproach should be thrown back upon its Author. Then too that the law was given to the children of Israel for this purpose, that they might profit by it, and return to those virtuous manners which, although they had received them from their fathers, they had corrupted in Egypt by reason of their intercourse with a barbarous people. Finally, also, those ten commandments on the tables teach nothing new, but remind them of what had been obliterated -- that righteousness in them, which had been put to sleep, might revive again as it were by the afflatus of the law, after the manner of a smothered fire. But they could profit by the perception that those vices were especially to be avoided in men which the law had condemned even in beasts. [5316] For when an irrational animal is rejected on any account, it is rather that very thing which is condemned in the man, who is rational. And if in it anything which it has by nature is characterized as a defilement, that same thing is most to be blamed when it is found in man opposed to his nature. Therefore, in order that men might be purified, the cattle were censured -- to wit, that men also who had the same vices might be esteemed on a level with the brutes. Whence it results, that not only were the animals not condemned by their Creator because of His agency; [5317] but that men might be instructed in the brutes to return to the unspotted nature of their own creation. For we must consider how the Lord distinguishes clean and not clean. The creatures that are clean, it says, both chew the cud and divide the hoof; the unclean do neither, or only one of the two. All these things were made by one Workman, and He who made them Himself blessed them. Therefore I regard the creation of both as clean, because both He who created them is holy, and those things which were created are not in fault in being that which they were made. For it has never been customary for nature, but for a perverted will, to bear the blame of guilt. What, then, is the case? In the animals it is the characters, and doings, and wills of men that are depicted. [5318] They are clean if they chew the cud; that is, if they ever have in their mouth as food the divine precepts. They divide the hoof, if with the firm step of innocency they tread the ways of righteousness, and of every virtue of life. For of those creatures which divide the foot into two hoofs the walk is always vigorous; the tendency to slip of one part of the hoof being sustained by the firmness of the other, and so retained in the substantial footstep. Thus they who do neither are unclean, whose walk is neither firm in virtues; nor do they digest the food of the divine precepts after the manner of that chewing of the cud. And they, too, who do one of these things are not themselves clean either, inasmuch as they are maimed of the other, and not perfect in both. And these are they who do both, as believers, and are clean; or one of the two, as Jews and heretics, and are blemished; or neither, as the Gentiles, and are consequently unclean. Thus in the animals, by the law, as it were, a certain mirror of human life is established, wherein men may consider the images of penalties; so that everything which is vicious in men, as committed against nature, may be the more condemned, when even those things, although naturally ordained in brutes, are in them blamed. [5319] For that in fishes the roughness of scales is regarded as constituting their cleanness; rough, and rugged, and unpolished, and substantial, and grave manners are approved in men; while those that are without scales are unclean; because trifling, and fickle, and faithless, and effeminate manners are disapproved. Moreover, what does the law mean when it says, "Thou shalt not eat the camel?" [5320] -- except that by the example of that animal it condemns a life nerveless [5321] and crooked with crimes. Or when it forbids the swine to be taken for food? It assuredly reproves a life filthy and dirty, and delighting in the garbage of vice, placing its supreme good not in generosity of mind, but in the flesh alone. Or when it forbids the hare? It rebukes men deformed into women. And who would use the body of the weasel for food? But in this case it reproves theft. Who would eat the lizard? But it hates an aimless waywardness of life. Who the eft? But it execrates mental stains. Who would eat the hawk, who the kite, who the eagle? But it hates plunderers and violent people who live by crime. Who the vulture? But it holds accursed those who seek for booty by the death of others. Or who the raven? But it holds accused crafty wills. Moreover, when it forbids the sparrow, it condemns intemperance; when the owl, it hates those who fly from the light of truth; when the swan, the proud with high neck; when the sea-mew, too talkative an intemperance of tongue; when the bat, those who seek the darkness of night as well as of error. These things, then, and the like to these, the law holds accursed in animals, which in them indeed are not blameworthy, because they are born in this condition; in man they are blamed, because they are sought for contrary to his nature, not by his creation, but by his error.


[5316] [See chap. ii. p. 645, supra, note 9.]

[5317] Sui culpa.

[5318] [The moral uses of the animal creation are recognised in all languages; as when we say of men, a serpent, a fox, a hog, an ass, etc.; so otherwise, a lion, a lamb, an eagle, a dove, etc.]

[5319] [Novatian was a keen analyst, and his allegorial renderings are logical generally, though sometimes fanciful.]

[5320] Leviticus 11:4. [Jones of Nayland, vol. iii., Disquisition, ed. 1801.]

[5321] "Enervem," but more probably "informem."

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