Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lactantius Unmasks Jupiter

One major claim of Divinae institutiones is that if discourse agents spurn the omnipotent fatherly deity above, then pacific conditions among human communities cannot obtain. The treatise subsequently will posit that the key to unifying humanity or eradicating chaos is deferential awe for the true Father and God of all. In view of Jupiter’s apparently impious actions, however, neither the title “Best and Greatest” nor the designation “Father” befit him since the Roman god not only commits “virtual parricide” against his father, but he also is a disingenuous philanderer intent on having coitus with both males and females (including human wives)—some of whom Jupiter impregnates.[1] Lactantius thereby attempts to unmask the professed divinity of Jupiter. He conatively divests Rome’s fatherly patron of the honorific appellation “Best and Greatest” by enumerating in detail his sordid affairs and notable but finite theogonic development.[2] Lactantius finally appeals to the theory of euhemerism in order that Jupiter’s non-divine status might be exposed thoroughly. He argues that Jupiter was once a man, whom some Romans mistakenly deified. In any event, the apologist is convinced that Jupiter does not merit the soubriquet Father. That designation belongs exclusively to the holy God-Creator of the cosmos.

[1] DI 1.10.11-14.

[2] Ibid. 1.11.1-17. Appealing to the consensus omnium, indicating Stoic influence, Arnobius of Sicca reasons similarly: “For by the unanimous judgment of all, and by the common consent of the human race, the omnipotent God is regarded as having never been born, as having never been brought forth to new light, and as not having begun to exist at any time or century. For He Himself is the source of all things, the Father of ages and of seasons. For they do not exist of themselves, but from His everlasting perpetuity, they move on in unbroken and ever endless flow. Yet Jupiter indeed, as you allege, has both father and mother, grandfathers, grandmothers, and brothers: now lately conceived in the womb of his mother, being completely formed and perfected in ten months, he burst with vital sensations into light unknown to him before. If, then, this is so, how can Jupiter be God supreme, when it is evident that He is everlasting, and the former is represented by you as having had a natal day, and as having uttered a mournful cry, through terror at the strange scene?” (Adversus Nationes 1.34)