SELECTIONS FROM EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITERS: ILLUSTRATIVE OF CHURCH HISTORY TO THE TIME OF CONSTANTINE by Henry Melvill Gwatkin, M.A. First Edition, Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1893. Reprinted with additions and corrections, 1897, 1902, 1905. Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram, 2013.
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XLVIII. LACTANTIUS, Div.Inst.v.1.


Lactantius criticizing earlier Apologists


Ex iis qui mihi noti sunt Minucius Felix non ignobilis inter causidicos loci fuit. Huius liber, cui Octavio titulus est, declarat quam idoneus veritatis assertor esse potuisset, si se totum ad id studium contulisset. Septimius quoque Tertullianus fuit omni genere litterarum peritus, sed in eloquendo parum facilis et mi us comptus et multum obscurus fuit. Ergo ne hie quidem satis celebritatis invenit. Unus igitur praecipuus et clarus exstitit Cyprianus, quoniam et magnam sibi gloriam ex artis oratoriae professione quaesierat et admodum multa conscripsit in suo genere miranda. Erat enim ingenio facili copioso suavi et, quae sermonis maxima est virtus, aperto, ut discernere non queas, utrumne ornatior in eloquendo an felicior in explicando an potentior in persuadendo fuerit. Hic tamen placere ultra verba sacramentum ignorantibus non potest, quoniam mystica sunt quae locutus est et ad id praeparata, ut a solis fidelibus audiantur: denique a doctis huius saeculi, quibus forte scripta eius innotuerunt, derideri solet.

Of those who are known to me, Minucius Felix was of no mean rank among pleaders. His book, which is entitled Octavius, shows how doughty a champion of the truth he could have been, if he had devoted himself entirely to that occupation. Septimius Tertullianus too was skilled in every sort of literature, but in eloquence he had little readiness, with small polish and much obscurity. So neither did he find much popularity. Cyprianus therefore was the one more than others conspicuous and eminent, for he had won to himself much glory from his profession of the art of oratory, and he has written a great number of things in their own sort worthy of admiration. For he was of a ready spirit, fluent, agreeable, and (what is a very great excellence of language) plain, so that you cannot decide whether he was more elegant in language, or happier in explanation, or stronger in persuasion. Yet even he cannot please – further than his words – those who do not know the mystery, since the words he has spoken are mystical, and shaped to the end that they may be understood of the faithful only: in short, by the learned of this world to whom his writings have by chance become known, he is commonly ridiculed.


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