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De Moor on God's Essential Vindicatory Righteousness: The Testimony of Conscience, Part 2


Now, this voice of Conscience, seated deeply within all mortals, compelled the Gentiles firmly to establish that the Vengeance of the Divine Nature sooner or later pursues shameful acts, and that the impious certainly pay the penalty for them; whence they often introduce the very God as foretelling vengeance, and they invented Nemesis as the Goddess divinely punishing the wicked (the Goddess Nemesis, says AMMIANUS,[1] is an avenger of impious deeds, and a rewarder of good deeds[2]), and also Δίκην/Dike,[3] presiding over punishments; both of which are held to be daughters of Jove, the highest God and Governor of the world (although others relate that Nemesis was descended from Oceanus and Nyx[4]), because they thought that vengeance belongs to him, which we, having been divinely instructed, believe of the true God out of Romans 12:19;[5] etc. Now, Δίκη/Dike is named from Righteousness: Νέμεσις/ Nemesis either from νεμεσάω, to feel resentment at undeserved fortune, because she is provoked to anger over the outrages of the impious; or from νέμω, to dispense, because she distributes to each both rewards and punishments according to merit: and she is also called Adrastea perhaps from a privative α/a and δράω/drao, to flee, because no wicked one is able to flee the vengeance of God; although some, like the Poet Antimachus,[6] derive this denomination from King Adrastus, who was the first to build a temple to Nemesis,[7] others from other sources; as in the Mythological History many things, uncertain and variously related, are wont to occur everywhere. Thus certainly indeed, ARISTOTLES, de Mundo, chapter VII, Νέμεσις δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς ἑκάστῳ διανεμήσεως. Ἁδράστειαν δὲ ἀναπόδραστον αἰτίαν οὖσαν κατὰ φύσιν, which words GUILIELMUS BUDÆUS[8] translated, and Nemesis, as if a Divine power, distributor to each of that which seemed right: Adrastea also, as if a certain cause disposed by nature, which no one is able to deceive or to avoid. Concerning the Vengeance of the Deity pursuing sin, there are a great man passages among approved Authors, of whom TOBIAS PFANNERUS has gathered an entire series in his erudite work, Systemate theologiæ Gentilis purioris, chapter II, § 24. From the many things that have regard to this, we shall set forth a few: indeed, PLATO wrote consummately well, as he is cited by GROTIUS, de Jure Belli et Pacis, book II, chapter 20, Ἐκεῖνο οὐδεὶς οὔτε θεῶν οὔτ᾽ ἀνθρώπων τολμᾷ λέγειν, ὡς οὐ τῷ γε ἀδικοῦντι δοτέον δίκην, Not one of the Gods or men would say this, that punishment is not to be suffered by one acting unjustly. PLATO himself confirms this his own opinion in book IV de Legibus, tome II, page 716, Τῷ δ᾽ (namely, Θεῷ) ἀεὶ ξυνέπεται δίκη τῶν ἀπολειπομένων τοῦ θείου νόμου τιμωρός, this one (namely, God) is always accompanied by Dike/Justice as an avenger of those that forsake the divine law. CLEMENT of Alexandria cites this passage of Plato in his Protreptico, page 46, and PLUTARCH has nearly the same things in de Exsilio, page 601. To this also pertain those words of Philoctetes in SOPHOCLES’[9] Philoctetes,[10] verse 1047 and following:

Κακῶς ὀλοῖσθ᾽, ὀλοῖσθε δ᾽ ἠδικηκότες

Τὸν ἄνδρα τόνδε, θεοῖσιν εἰ δίκης μέλει.

Εὖ οἶδα δ᾽ ὡς μέλει γε.

Die, die miserably, ye that caused injury to me,

If only the Gods be just avengers,

Which I know them to be.


Therefore, TERTULLIAN argues for a future Universal Judgment from the confirmation of the Conscience of all continually insisting that God is Judge, libro de Resurrectione Carnis, chapter III, I may make use of the Conscience of a people, attesting the God of gods: I may also make use all our other common senses, which proclaim God as Judge; God sees, and I commend thee to God: on which passage it is worth the labor to consult the Notes of PAMELIUS.[11] Almost identical to these are those that are found in Tertullian’s Apologia, chapter XVII, And this is apex of the sin of those that are unwilling to acknowledge Him of whom they cannot possibly be ignorant…. Would ye have us to prove it from the testimony of the soul itself? which, although under the oppressive bondage of the body, although led astray by depraved customs, although weakened by lusts and passions, although in slavery to false gods; yet, when the soul comes to itself, as out of drunkenness, or sleep, or any sickness, and attains something of its natural soundness, calls upon God, in this alone, that this is properly the one true God, great and good. Which may God give, are the words on every lip. It also bears witness that God is Judge, exclaiming, God sees, and, I commend myself to God, and, God will repay me. O noble testimony of the soul by nature Christian! Moreover, the response of the Delphic Oracles is well-known, which Ælian exhibits in his Various History, book III, chapter XLIII, where these things are also read:

Οὔ σε θεμιστεύσω, Μουσῶν θεράποντα κατέκτας

Ἥρης πρὸς βωμοῖσι, Θεῶν τίσιν οὐκ ἀλεείνας.

Τοῖς δὲ κακῶς ῥέξασι δίκης τέλος οὐχὶ χρονιστὸν,

Οὐδ᾽ ἀπαραίτητον, οὐδ᾽ εἰ Διὸς ἔγγονοι εἶεν.

Ἀλλ᾽ αὐτῶν κεφαλῇσι, καὶ ἐν σφετέροισι τέκεσσιν

Εἰλεῖται, καὶ πῆμα δόμοις ἐπὶ πήματι βαίνει.

Which the Most Illustrious PERIZONIUS thus translates:

I will not recite oracles to thee: indeed, thou hast laid out the lifeless body of the attendant of the Muses, struck down at the altars of Juno herself; and this thou didst, neither fearing nor avoiding the vengeance of the Gods. But with these ill deserts the delay of punishment is not long, neither is there hope of pardon, not even if they were born to Jove himself. But it will fall upon their heads, and the heads of their children, and after this disaster a fresh disaster will soon happen to thoses houses.


In like manner, Diana, conducting herself as a Goddess, in EURIPIDES’[12] Hippolytus, Act V, verses 1339-1341.

—Τοὺς γὰρ εὐσεβεῖς θεοὶ

Θνήσκοντας οὐ χαίρουσι, τούς γε μὴν κακοὺς

Αὐτοῖς τέκνοισι καὶ δόμοις ἐξόλλυμεν.

For the Gods do not rejoice

in the funerals of the pious: but they overthrow

the wicked with their children and whole houses.

[1] Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 330-c. 390) was Roman noble, soldier, and historian. His Res Gestæ covered the period of Roman history from the reign of Nerva in 96 to the Battle of Adrianople in 378; unhappily, only the last portion (353-378) survives.

[2] Res Gestæ, book XIV, chapter 2.

[3] Which means vindicatory righteousness.

[4] In Greek mythology, Oceanus and Nyx are the primordial gods of the ocean and night respectively.

[5] Romans 12:19: “Dearly beloved, avenge (ἐκδικοῦντες) not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance (ἐκδίκησις) is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

[6] From Strabo’s Geography, book XIII. Antimachus (fl. circa 400 BC) was a Greek epic poet and grammarian.

[7] Adrastus was the legendary king of Argos. After his victory over Thebes, he built a temple to Nemesis near its ruins.

[8] Guillaume Budé (1467-1540) was a French classical scholar and antiquarian.

[9] Sophocles (c. 495-406) was a Greek playwright. Of his one hundred and twenty-three plays, only seven tragedies survive.

[10] In the play, Philoctetes, a master-archer, having been bitten by a snake, was abandoned by Odysseus on the island of Lemnos. Ten years later, it is prophesied that Odysseus will need Philoctetes to win the Trojan War, so Odysseus returnes to Lemnos to fetch Philoctetes. The play is about Odysseus’ attempt to recover a bitter and resentful Philoctetes.

[11] Jacobus Pamelius (1536-1587) was a Flemish theologian. He produced edited works of Cyprian, Tertullian, and Rabanus Maurus.

[12] Euripides (c. 480-406) was a Greek playwright, one of the great tragedians.

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