Yesterday and the day before, when we visited with punishment the man who deluded you, you became apostates from the law of your fathers. What induced you, my fellow-citizens, to abandon the law of your fathers, and to allow your minds to be led captive by him with whom we have just conversed, and thus be most ridiculously deluded, so as to become deserters from us to another name, and to the practices of another life? How is it that you take the beginning of your system from our worship, and when you have made some progress you treat it with disrespect, although you have no other foundation to show for your doctrines than our law?
Even although guilty of falsehood, you have not been able to give a color of credibility to your inventions. Like persons who in a fit of drunkenness lay violent hands upon themselves, you have corrupted your narratives from their original integrity, to a threefold, and fourfold, and many-fold degree, and have remodeled it, so that they might be able to answer objections.
Certain among you have abandoned the usages of our fathers under a pretense of explanations and allegories; and some of you, although, as ye pretend, interpreting them in a spiritual manner, nevertheless do observe the customs of our fathers; and some of you, without any such interpretation, are willing to accept Jesus as the subject of prophecy, and to keep the law of Moses according to the customs of the fathers, as having in the words the whole mind of the Spirit.
If anyone predicted to us that the Son of God was to visit mankind, he was one of our prophets, and the prophet of our God. John, who baptized Jesus, was a Jew as and Jesus observed all the Jewish usages including our sacrificial observances. We certainly hope that there will be a bodily resurrection and that we shall enjoy an eternal life; and the example and archetype of this will be him who is sent to us, and who will show that nothing is impossible with God. Where, then, is he, that we may see him and believe upon him? Did Jesus come into the world for this purpose, that we should not believe him?
Many other persons would appear such as he was, to those who were willing to be deceived. How should we, who have made known to all men that there is to come from God one who is to punish the wicked, treat him with disregard when he came? Why did we treat him, whom we announced beforehand, with dishonor? Was it that we might be chastised more than others?
The prophecies may be applied to ten thousand things more credibly than to Jesus -they declare the coming one to be a mighty potentate, Lord of all nations and armies. Nor did the prophets predict such a pestilence. From such signs and misinterpretations, and from proofs so mean, no one could prove him to be God, and the son of God. For as the sun, which enlightens all other objects, first makes himself visible, so ought the son of God to have done.
If your Logos is the son of God, we also give our assent to the same. Yet you do not present to view a pure and holy Logos, but a most degraded man, who was punished by scourging and crucifixion. The framers of the genealogies, from a feeling of pride, made Jesus to be descended from the first man, and from the kings of the Jews. The carpenter’s wife could not have been ignorant of the fact, had she been of such illustrious descent.
O most high and heavenly one! What God, on appearing to men, is received with incredulity or why, pray, is he not recognized by those who have been long looking for him? He makes use of threats, and reviles men on light grounds, when he says, ‘Woe unto you,’ and ‘I tell you beforehand.’ For by such expressions he manifestly acknowledges his inability to persuade; and this would not be the case with a god, or even a prudent man.
You deem Jesus to be the son of God, because he healed the lame and the blind; moreover, as they assert, he raised the dead. But, O light and truth! Jesus with his own voice expressly and distinctly declares, as you yourselves have recorded, that there will come to you even others, employing miracles of a similar kind who are wicked men, and sorcerers; and he calls him who makes use of such devices, one Satan.
So Jesus himself does not deny that these works at least are not at all divine, but proceed from wicked men; and being compelled by the force of truth, he at the same time not only laid open the doings of others, but convicted himself of the same acts. Is it not, then, a miserable inference, to conclude from the same works that the one is God and the other sorcerers? Why ought the others, because of these acts, to be accounted wicked rather than this man, seeing they have him as their witness against himself? For he has himself acknowledged that these are not the works of a divine nature, but the inventions of certain deceivers, and of thoroughly wicked men.
How should we deem him to be a god, who not only in other respects, as was currently reported, performed none of his promises, but who also, after we had convicted him, and condemned him as deserving of the punishment of death, was found attempting to conceal himself, and endeavoring to escape in a most disgraceful manner, and who was betrayed by those whom he called disciples? And yet, he who was a god could neither flee nor be led away a prisoner; and least of all could he be deserted and delivered up by those who had been his associates, whom he called his disciples, and had shared all things in common, and had had him for their teacher, who was deemed to be a Savior, and a son of the greatest God, and an angel.
No good general and leader of great multitudes was ever betrayed, nor even a wicked captain of robbers and commander of very wicked men, who seemed to be of any use to his associates; but Jesus, having been betrayed by his subordinates, neither governed like a good general, nor, after deceiving his disciples, produced in the minds of the victims of his deceit that feeling of good-will which, so to speak, would be manifested towards a brigand chief.
Although I could state many things regarding the events of the life of Jesus which are true, and not like those which are recorded by the disciples, I willingly omit them. The disciples of Jesus, having no undoubted fact on which to rely, devised the fiction that he foreknew everything before it happened. The disciples of Jesus wrote such accounts regarding him, by way of extenuating the charges that told against him: as if any one were to say that a certain person was a just man, and yet were to show that he was guilty of injustice; or that he was pious, and yet had committed murder; or that he was immortal, and yet was dead; subjoining to all these statements the remark that he had foretold all these things.
For you do not even allege this, that he seemed to wicked men to suffer this punishment, though not undergoing it in reality; but, on the contrary, you acknowledge that he openly suffered. How is it credible that Jesus could have predicted these things? How could the dead man be immortal? What god, or spirit, or prudent man would not, on foreseeing that such events were to befall him, avoid them if he could; whereas he threw himself headlong into those things which he knew beforehand were to happen?
How is it that, if Jesus pointed out beforehand both the traitor and the perjurer, they did not fear him as a god, and cease, the one from his intended treason, and the other from his perjury? But these persons betrayed and denied him without manifesting any concern about him. It is always the case that, when a man against whom a plot is formed comes to the knowledge of it and makes known to the conspirators that he is acquainted with their design, the latter are turned from their purpose, and keep upon their guard.
Not because these things were predicted did they come to pass, for that is impossible; but since they have come to pass, their being predicted is shown to be a falsehood: for it is altogether impossible that those who heard beforehand of the discovery of their designs, should carry out their plans of betrayal and denial. These events he predicted as being a god, and the prediction must by all means come to pass. God, therefore, who above all others ought to do good to men, and especially to those of his own household, led on his own disciples and prophets, with whom he was in the habit of eating and drinking, to such a degree of wickedness, that they became impious and unholy men. Now, of a truth, he who shared a man’s table would not be guilty of conspiring against him; but after banqueting with God, he became a conspirator.
And, what is still more absurd, God himself plotted against the members of his own table, by converting them into traitors and villains! He who was partaker of a man’s table would not conspire against him; and if he would not conspire against a man, much less would he plot against a god after banqueting with him. And, which is still more absurd, God himself conspired against those who sat at his table, by converting them into traitors and impious men. If he had determined upon these things, and underwent chastisement in obedience to his Father, it is manifest that, being a god, and submitting voluntarily, those things that were done agreeably to his own decision were neither painful nor distressing.
Why does he mourn, and lament, and pray to escape the fear of death, expressing himself in terms like these: ‘O Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me?’ though nothing at that time was done to Jesus which was either painful or distressing. But what great deeds did Jesus perform as being a god? Did he put his enemies to shame, or bring to a ridiculous conclusion what was designed against him? In the Bacchae of Euripides, Dionysus says “The divinity himself will liberate me whenever I wish.” But no calamity happened even to him who condemned him, as there did to Pentheus, viz., madness or deception; neither to those who mocked Jesus, and put on him the purple robe, and the crown of thorns, and placed the reed in his hand.
If not before, yet why now, at least, does he not give some manifestation of his divinity, and free himself from this reproach, and take vengeance upon those who insult both him and his Father? What is the nature of the ichor in the body of the crucified Jesus? Is it such as flows in the bodies of the immortal gods? He rushed with open mouth to drink of the vinegar and the gall, and could not endure his thirst as any ordinary man frequently endures it.
You, O sincere believers, find fault with us, because we do not recognize this individual as God, nor agree with you that he endured these sufferings for the benefit of mankind, in order that we also might despise punishment. Having gained over no one during his life, not even his own disciples underwent these punishments and sufferings. You will not, I suppose, say of him, that, after failing to gain over those who were in this world, he went to Hades to gain over those who were there.