Wisdom, CHAPTER 13
DIGRESSION ON FALSE WORSHIP
Foolish by nature were all who were in ignorance of God,
and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing the one who is,
and from studying the works did not discern the artisan;
Instead either fire, or wind, or the swift air,
or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water,
or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world, they considered gods.
Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods,
let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these;
for the original source of beauty fashioned them.
Or if they were struck by their might and energy,
let them realize from these things how much more powerful is the one who made them.
For from the greatness and the beauty of created things
their original author, by analogy, is seen.
But yet, for these the blame is less;
For they have gone astray perhaps,
though they seek God and wish to find him.
For they search busily among his works,
but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair.
But again, not even these are pardonable.
For if they so far succeeded in knowledge
that they could speculate about the world,
how did they not more quickly find its Lord?
But wretched are they, and in dead things are their hopes,
who termed gods things made by human hands:
Gold and silver, the product of art, and images of beasts,
or useless stone, the work of an ancient hand.
THE CARPENTER AND WOODEN IDOLS
A carpenter may cut down a suitable tree
and skillfully scrape off all its bark,
And deftly plying his art
produce something fit for daily use,
And use the scraps from his handiwork
in preparing his food, and have his fill;
Then the good-for-nothing refuse from these remnants,
crooked wood grown full of knots,
he takes and carves to occupy his spare time.
This wood he models with mindless skill,
and patterns it on the image of a human being
or makes it resemble some worthless beast.
When he has daubed it with red and crimsoned its surface with red stain,
and daubed over every blemish in it,
He makes a fitting shrine for it
and puts it on the wall, fastening it with a nail.
Thus he provides for it lest it fall down,
knowing that it cannot help itself;
for, truly, it is an image and needs help.
But when he prays about his goods or marriage or children,
he is not ashamed to address the thing without a soul.
For vigor he invokes the powerless;
for life he entreats the dead;
For aid he beseeches the wholly incompetent;
for travel, something that cannot even walk;
For profit in business and success with his hands
he asks power of a thing with hands utterly powerless.