De Moor V:28: The Sublimity of the Doctrine of the Trinity, Part 3

Tarquin and the Sibyl

They Object, 2. the Authority of Hermes Trismegistus,[1] the Sibyls,[2] Plato, etc. Thus ATHANASIUS KIRCHER[3] out of HERMES TRISMEGISTUS sets forth what things he believes to have regard to this: yet Kircher does not hence conclude in favor of the natural knowledge of this Mystery; but he maintains that Hermes Trismegistus was of Canaanite stock, a σύγχρονον/contemporary to Abraham, instructed in the more divine doctrines of the first Patriarchs, with whom he was living. Similarly this doctrine is observed to have been clearly delivered by the SIBYLS. And also in PLATO, Epistle II ad Dionysium, are found things that are able to be referred to this, concerning the first, second, and third principio or God: compare ALTING’S Dissertation V Heptadis Sextæ, Dissertationibus Academicis, § 27-36, where he contends that Plato and the Platonists did not draw their knowledge of the Trinity from Moses, but from nature, and especially from their soul, which was contemplated internally.

Responses: α. If some of these knew the doctrine of the Trinity by Tradition, their words are of no value in proving that this Mystery is also known naturally without Revelation.

β. Nevertheless, learned Men judge that the words of PLATO do not have regard to this, but rather are to be understood either concerning three Essences, or concerning three Ideas, which are not true hypostases: compare PETAVIUS’ Dogmata theologica, volume I, tome 2, book I, chapter I, pages 15-18; WALCH’S Miscellanea Sacra, book III, Exercitation III, § 20, page 595, where in the notes several that deserve to be consulted concerning the Platonic Trinity are commended. But even if some things, clearer and manifestly to be referred to this, occur in Plato and Platonic Porphyry,[4] these things, by no means rightly understood by the Philosopher himself with his followers, undoubtedly ought to be referred to Tradition received from Moses and the Prophets: see TRIGLAND’S Dissertationum Syllogen, Dissertationem in Hebrew 1:3, § 15, 16, pages 278-281; BULL’S primitivam et Apostolicam Traditionem de Divinitate Jesu Christi, chapter V, pages 24-29; BUDDEUS’ Institutiones Theologiæ dogmaticæ, book II, chapter I, § 55, tome 1, pages 434-438, and his Isagogen ad Theologiam universam, book II, chapter III, § 5, tome 2, pages 556-558.

γ. That the twofold writing that is circulated under the name of HERMES TRISMEGISTUS, entitled Poimander ad Adlocuta ad Asclepium, in the former of which the Trinity and several Mysteries of the Christian faith are clearly discussed, is full of fraudulent material, learned Men have already shown. Seeing that, a. that most ancient Mercury, the son of Menes, first King of the Egyptians, wrote no Books, but engraved only certain pillars or columns in the sacred dialect. From which, b. the second Mercury, more recent than Moses, is said to have patched together his books, which were teaching Medicine, Astrology, and the Sacred Rites of the Egyptians, that is, the trappings of the vainest superstition; in which there is nothing close to those things that Kircher asserts with such zeal. c. Indeed, those things show themselves to be of no Mercury, from which Kircher drew his things concerning Unity and Trinity. While the genuine books of Mercury, if there were any, perished long ago; fraudulent were also some time ago obtruded upon the world under that name; which is not strange, since all the sciences are believed to have proceeded from Mercury Trismegistus. But Poimander has very evident signs of νοθείας/spuriousness; and CASAUBON, in Exercitation I in Baronium, chapter X, pages 65-80, shows that the teaching contained in this Book is not of the Egyptians; but partly Greek, drawn from the books of Plato and the Platonists; partly Christian, taken from the Sacred Books: whence it is judged to have been written by a Christian Platonist, so that under this fictitious title he might commend the Mysteries of Christianity. Indeed, if all those things that are contained in Poimander were declared to the Egyptians by Mercury with in such plain words, learned Men note that the Israelites would have had nothing surpassing the other Nations in the Knowledge of true Religion. Seeing that those things that the Egyptians philosophized concerning the comparison of the Trinity to a Triangle, rather show that they acknowledged no other Divinity than the World; since they say that a more excellent and divine nature, τὴν κρείττονα καὶ θειοτέραν φύσιν, consists of three, ἐκ τριῶν εἶναι, the intelligible, τῷ νοητῷ, and the material, καὶ τῇ ὕλῃ, and the composite of these, καὶ τῷ ἐκ τούτων, which is called the World, κόσμος: see WITSIUS, in Ægyptiacis, book I, chapters II, III, book II, chapters IV, V; PETAVIUS’ Dogmata theologica, volume I, tome 2, book I, chapter II, pages 18-20; SALDENUS’ Otia Theologica, book I, Exercitation I, § 6, 16; BUDDEUS’ Historiam ecclesiasticam Veteris Testamenti, period I, section III, § 22, tome I, pages 343-349.