Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Minucius Felix/The Octavius of Minucius Felix/Chapter 9

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Minucius Felix, The Octavius of Minucius Felix
by Minucius Felix, translated by Robert Ernest Wallis
Chapter 9
155897Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Minucius Felix, The Octavius of Minucius Felix — Chapter 9Robert Ernest WallisMinucius Felix

Chapter IX.—Argument:  The Religion of the Christians is Foolish, Inasmuch as They Worship a Crucified Man, and Even the Instrument Itself of His Punishment.  They are Said to Worship the Head of an Ass, and Even the Nature of Their Father.  They are Initiated by the Slaughter and the Blood of an Infant, and in Shameless Darkness They are All Mixed Up in an Uncertain Medley.

“And now, as wickeder things advance more fruitfully, and abandoned manners creep on day by day, those abominable shrines of an impious assembly are maturing themselves throughout the whole world.  Assuredly this confederacy ought to be rooted out and execrated.  They know one another by secret marks and insignia, and they love one another almost before they know one another.  Everywhere also there is mingled among them a certain religion of lust, and they call one another promiscuously brothers and sisters, that even a not unusual debauchery may by the intervention of that sacred name become incestuous:  it is thus that their vain and senseless superstition glories in crimes.  Nor, concerning these things, would intelligent report speak of things so great and various,[1] and requiring to be prefaced by an apology, unless truth were at the bottom of it.  I hear that they adore the head of an ass, that basest of creatures, consecrated by I know not what silly persuasion,—a worthy and appropriate religion for such manners.  Some say that they worship the virilia of their pontiff and priest,[2] and adore the nature, as it were, of their common parent.  I know not whether these things are false; certainly suspicion is applicable to secret and nocturnal rites; and he who explains their ceremonies by reference to a man punished by extreme suffering for his wickedness, and to the deadly wood of the cross, appropriates fitting altars for reprobate and wicked men, that they may worship what they deserve.  Now the story about the initiation of young novices is as much to be detested as it is well known.  An infant covered over with meal, that it may deceive the unwary, is placed before him who is to be stained with their rites:  this infant is slain by the young pupil, who has been urged on as if to harmless blows on the surface of the meal, with dark and secret wounds.  Thirstily—O horror!—they lick up its blood; eagerly they divide its limbs.  By this victim they are pledged together; with this consciousness of wickedness they are covenanted to mutual silence.[3]  Such sacred rites as these are more foul than any sacrileges.  And of their banqueting it is well known all men speak of it everywhere; even the speech of our Cirtensian[4] testifies to it.  On a solemn day they assemble at the feast, with all their children, sisters, mothers, people of every sex and of every age.  There, after much feasting, when the fellowship has grown warm, and the fervour of incestuous lust has grown hot with drunkenness, a dog that has been tied to the chandelier is provoked, by throwing a small piece of offal beyond the length of a line by which he is bound, to rush and spring; and thus the conscious light being overturned and extinguished in the shameless darkness, the connections of abominable lust involve them in the uncertainty of fate.  Although not all in fact, yet in consciousness all are alike incestuous, since by the desire of all of them everything is sought for which can happen in the act of each individual.


  1. Otherwise read “abominable.”
  2. This charge, as Oehler thinks, refers apparently to the kneeling posture in which penitents made confession before their bishop.
  3. This calumny seems to have originated from the sacrament of the Eucharist.
  4. Scil. Fronto of Cirta, spoken of again in ch. xxxi.  [A recent very interesting discovery goes to show that our author was the chief magistrate of Cirta, in Algeria, from a.d. 210 to 217.  See Schaff, vol. iii. p. 841.]