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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

St Cyril of Alexandria Commentary on John (First Part)

Translated by P. E. Pusey

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And let no one deem, himself astray, that the exposition of the above is astray, or otherwise of false reasoning. For Divine Scripture does sometimes, as we said before, call the thoughts of Holy Scripture wood. And indeed the God Who is over all says something on this sort through the all-wise Moses to those at that time: When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them, for thou mayest eat of them and thou shalt not cut them down: (is the tree of the forest a man, to go before thee unto the palisade?) Only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down, But that the God of all would not have deemed it worth to prescribe to us such things, if it were to be understood only of trees of the earth, is I suppose clear to every one, yet I think one ought to shew from another command also that He is very unsparing of these, and takes not account of them. For what I pray does He enjoin should be done to the false-called gods? Ye shall destroy their altars, saith He, and break down their images, and cut down their groves. And by His own altar He no way suffers any tree to be cultivated. For He plainly declares: Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the Lord thy God. And if one must add anything to this, I will speak after the manner of most wise Paul. Both God take care for trees? or saith He it altogether for our sakes? by grosser examples leading us by the hand to the idea of spiritual things.

Let us now say that the writings of the unholy heretics may be considered as cities, and fortified, haply not without skill, by the wisdom of the world, and the intricate deceits of their cogitations. There comes to storm them, and in some sort environs and sits round them taking the shield of the faith and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, every one who agonizes for the holy dogmas of the Church, and sets himself in array with all his strength against their false-speaking, studying to cast down imaginations, as Paul saith, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. When then, He says, such a soldier of Christ compasses, as a land of aliens, the bitter writings of heresies, and lights upon the best cultivated trees, that is, if he find words from the Divinely-inspired Scripture, or things spoken by the Prophets or even testimonies from the New Testament, wrested unto their own purpose, let him not apply his mental acumen, like a sort of tool, to destroy and cut them down. For not because taken hold of by those who know not to interpret it aright, is therefore that which proceeds of the Mouth of God to be wholly rejected too: but since it is fruit-bearing, it shall be to thee rather as a help and for food. For turning round unto the right argument of the faith that which is sometimes foolishly taken by them, not only shall we not be caught unstrung, but rather are we nerved into words against heresy.

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