This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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The meaning of the prohibition against casting pearls before swine

When we come to Origen we see an undeniable struggle as to what it is appropriate to teach and when:

For the sake of the worthy, I want to speak so as not to be guilty of defrauding of the Word those able to hear it. Because of the unworthy I hesitate to speak…so as not to throw holy things to the dogs and cast pearls before swine. It was for Jesus alone to know how to distinguish among his hearers between those without and those within…I hesitate to put off speaking, and when I do speak I change my mind again. What is it I really want? To treat the matter in a way that heals the souls of my hearers.[1]

This inner turmoil reinforces a twofold thesis:

First, that the Church Fathers knew that the Christian gnosis could not be conveyed openly to all, and yet knew at the same time that their mission—the Church’s mission—was to teach all that they could to as many as they could; and secondly that this mission would work itself through the development of the liturgy, dogma, and sacramental discipline over a period of centuries, not changing the content of the teaching or its meaning, but crystalizing it into a comprehensive means of grace, a true ‘traditional form’ that relieved the future leaders of the Church from having to wonder how to bring all of the Baptized into direct participation in the Christian mysteries.

Origen first recalls the true meaning of the prohibition against casting pearls before swine, a prohibition which has in mind the well-being of the swine as much as care for the pearls themselves. A truth misunderstood is a falsehood, and in this way, ‘the same foods that nourish the good choke the bad; what is life for pious souls is death for impious ones.’[2] For this reason, ‘the mysteries of God are ever hidden under some veils for the sake of listeners who are still children.’[3]

Again:

But if we say that some know that which is beyond what is written, we do not mean that these things can be known to the majority…[4]

You see, therefore, how this most learned priest [Paul] when he is within, among the perfect ones as in the ‘holy of holies,’ uses one robe of doctrine, but when he ‘goes out’ to those who are not capable he changes the robe of the word and teacher lesser things.[5]

[1] Dialogue with Heraclides, 15.

[2] Hom. In Jud., v. 6.

[3] Hom. in Ezech., I, 3.

[4] Com. on John, XIII, 33.

[5] Hom. in Lev., IV, 6.

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