i. De Civitate Dei, xxiii.; Hoffmann (E.), i. 392 (Vienna, 1899-1900). 1
Augustine is arguing against the views of Appuleius (first half of the second century) on the cult of the “daimones,” and in so doing introduces a long disquisition on the doctrine of “Egyptian Hermes, whom they call Thrice-greatest,” concerning image-worship, or the consecrated and “ensouled,” or “animated,” statues of the gods.
In the course of his remarks the Bishop of Hippo quotes at length from a current Latin version 2 of “The Perfect Sermon” or “Asclepius” (though without himself giving any title), which we see at once must have been the very same text that has come down to us in its entirety. It is precisely the same text, word for word, with ours; the variants being practically of the most minute character.
First of all Augustine quotes from P. S. A., xxiii. 3, xxiv. 2. This “prophecy” of the downfall of the Egyptian religion Augustine naturally takes as referring to the triumph of Christianity, and so he ridicules Hermes “[qui] tam impudenter dolebat, quam imprudentur sciebat.”
ii. Ibid., xxiv.; Hoffmann, i. 396.
The Bishop of Hippo begins his next chapter with a quotation from P. S. A., xxxvii. 1, 2, on the same subject, and proceeds scornfully to criticise the statements of the Trismegistic writer.
iii. Ibid., xxvi.; Hoffmann, i. 402.
After quoting the sentence, from P. S. A., xxiv. 3, in which Hermes says that the pure temples of Egypt will all be polluted with tombs and corpses, Augustine proceeds to contend that the gods of Egypt are all dead men, and in support of his contention he quotes P. S. A., xxxvii. 3, 4.
249:1 Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, vol. xxx. (Imp. Acad. of Vienna). The date of the writing of the treatise, De Civitate Dei, is fixed as being about 413-426 A.D.
249:2 Hujus Ægyptii verba, sicut in nostram linguam interpretata sunt.