Augustine on the Sinfulness of Greek Gods

Augustine says that by making the Greek gods imperfect, Homer is actually attributing divine attributes to sinful men (not the other way around)—so that men can commit the same sins and say they are just imitating the gods.

But woe unto you, O torrent of human custom! Who shall stay your course? When will you ever run dry? How long will you carry down the sons of Eve into that vast and hideous ocean, which even those who have the Tree (for an ark) can scarcely pass over? Do I not read in you the stories of Jove the thunderer—and the adulterer? How could he be both? But so it says, and the sham thunder served as a cloak for him to play at real adultery. Yet which of our gowned masters will give a tempered hearing to a man trained in their own schools who cries out and says: “These were Homer’s fictions; he transfers things human to the gods. I could have wished that he would transfer divine things to us.” But it would have been more true if he said, “These are, indeed, his fictions, but he attributed divine attributes to sinful men, that crimes might not be accounted crimes, and that whoever committed such crimes might appear to imitate the celestial gods and not abandoned men.”

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