Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Anti-Marcion/The Prescription Against Heretics/Chapter XXXIX
Chapter XXXIX.—What St. Paul Calls Spiritual Wickednesses Displayed by Pagan Authors, and by Heretics, in No Dissimilar Manner. Holy Scripture Especially Liable to Heretical Manipulation. Affords Material for Heresies, Just as Virgil Has Been the Groundwork of Literary Plagiarisms, Different in Purport from the Original.
These were the ingenious arts of “spiritual wickednesses,” wherewith we also, my brethren, may fairly expect to have “to wrestle,” as necessary for faith, that the elect may be made manifest, (and) that the reprobate may be discovered. And therefore they possess influence, and a facility in thinking out and fabricating errors, which ought not to be wondered at as if it were a difficult and inexplicable process, seeing that in profane writings also an example comes ready to hand of a similar facility. You see in our own day, composed out of Virgil, a story of a wholly different character, the subject-matter being arranged according to the verse, and the verse according to the subject-matter. In short, Hosidius Geta has most completely pilfered his tragedy of Medea from Virgil. A near relative of my own, among some leisure productions of his pen, has composed out of the same poet The Table of Cebes. On the same principle, those poetasters are commonly called Homerocentones, “collectors of Homeric odds and ends,” who stitch into one piece, patchwork fashion, works of their own from the lines of Homer, out of many scraps put together from this passage and from that (in miscellaneous confusion). Now, unquestionably, the Divine Scriptures are more fruitful in resources of all kinds for this sort of facility. Nor do I risk contradiction in saying that the very Scriptures were even arranged by the will of God in such a manner as to furnish materials for heretics, inasmuch as I read that “there must be heresies,” which there cannot be without the Scriptures.
- See Eph. vi. 12, and 1 Cor. xi. 18.
- Oehler reads “ex Vergilio,” although the Codex Agobard. as “ex Virgilio.”
- Denique. [“Getica lyra.”]
- Nec periclitor dicere. [Truly, a Tertullianic paradox; but compare 2 Pet. iii. 16. N.B. Scripture the test of heresy.]
- 1 Cor. xi. 19.