Nunc de sacrificio ipso pauca dicemus. “ebur” inquit Plato “non castum donum Deo.” [cf. Nomoi 12.956a] quid ergo? picta scilicet ex texta pretiosa? immo vero non castum donum Deo, quidquid corrumpi, quidquid subripi potest. sed sicut hoc vidit, non oportere viventi offerre aliquid, quod sit ex mortuo corpore, cur illud non vidit, non debere incorporali corporale munus offerri? quanto melius et verius Seneca: “vultisne vos” inquit “deum cogitare magnum et placidum, et maiestate leni verendum, amicum et semper in proximo, non immolationibus et sanguine multo colendum—quae enim ex trucidatione immerentium voluptas est?—, sed mente pura, bono honestoque proposito? non templa illi congestis in altitudinem saxis exstruenda sunt: in suo cuique consecrandus est pectore.” [Seneca Minor, fr. 123] vestes igitur et gemmas et cetera quae habentur in pretio si quis putet Deo cara, is plane quid sit Deus nescit: cui putat voluptati esse eas res quas etiam homo si contempserit, iure laudabitur. quid ergo castum, quid Deo dignum, nisi quod ipse in illa divina lege sua poposcit? duo sunt, quae offerri debeant, donum et sacrificium, donum in perpetuum, sacrificium ad tempus. verum apud istos, qui nullo modo rationem divinitatis intellegunt, donum est quidquid auro argentoque fabricatur, item quidquid purpura et serico texitur, sacrificiumque victima et quaecumque in ara cremantur. sed utroque non utitur Deus, quia et ipse incorruptus est et illud totum corruptibile. itaque Deo utrumque incorporale offerendum est, quo utitur. donum est integritas animi, sacrificium laus et hymnus; si enim Deus non videtur, ergo his rebus coli debet quae non videntur. nulla igitur alia religio vera est nisi quae virtute ac iustitia constat.
(Lactantius, Div. Inst. 6.25.1-7)

Let us now say a few words about sacrifice. ‘Ivory,’ says Plato, ‘is not a chaste offering to a god.’ Well? Are paintings and cloth precious then? There is no chaste offering to be made to God out of anything that can be spoilt or stolen. But if Plato could see that nothing should be offered to a living being made of dead matter, why did he not see that no corporeal offering should be made to the incorporeal? Seneca put it much better, and more truly: ‘Do you people want to think of god as great, peaceful, reverend in an easy majesty, as a friend and always close by, not someone to worship with sacrificial beasts and quantities of blood—what pleasure is there in the slaughter of the undeserving?—but with a pure heart and a good and honest determination? He needs no temples built with stone piled high; each man must keep him sacred in his heart.’ Anyone thinking that God values clothes and jewels and the other stuff treated as precious clearly does not know what God is; he thinks God finds pleasure in things that a mere man would rightly be praised for disdaining. There is no chaste offering and none worthy of God except what he has required in his famous holy commandment. There are two things which are due as offerings, gifts and sacrifices: a gift is for ever and a sacrifice is for the while. For those people who have no notion of the nature of divinity, a gift is anything made of gold and silver or anything woven of purple and silk, and a sacrifice is a victim and anything burnt upon an altar. But God has use for neither, because he himself is uncorrupt and all that stuff is corruptible. God must therefore be offered the pair of incorruptibles: that pair he can use. Integrity of soul is the gift, and praise and hymns are the sacrifice. Since God is not visible, he must be worshipped with things invisible. The only true religion is the one founded on virtue and justice. (tr. Anthony Bowen & Peter Garnsey)


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