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Xenophanes on the Appearance of the Divine

Xenophanes on the Appearance of the Divine October 6, 2015

Xenophanes, a Greek thinker (fl. 540 BCE), is quoted by later writers as having said the following about the divine:

Recumbent Lion Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, ca. 2575-2465 B.C. Granite, muzzle reconstructed From Ihnasya el-Medina (Herakleopolis Magna) photo by Wally Gobetz - 2007 (cc)
Recumbent Lion
Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, ca. 2575-2465 B.C.
Granite, muzzle reconstructed
From Ihnasya el-Medina (Herakleopolis Magna)
photo by Wally Gobetz – 2007 (cc)

If cattle or lions had hands, so as to paint with their hands and produce works of art as humans do, they would paint their gods and give them bodies in form like their own — horses like horses, cattle like cattle. [Diels-Kranz fr. 15.]

Mortal [humans] suppose that the gods are born as they themselves are, and that they wear human clothing and have human voice and body. [Diels-Kranz fr. 14.]

— trans. Arthur Fairbanks [and altered slightly by me], The First Philosophers of Greece: An Edition and Translation… (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trubner Co., 1898), p. 67.

[This article’s author, Dan Harper, is the Assistant Minister of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, California (UUCPA). He writes: I live with my partner of more than twenty years, Carol Steinfeld, who is a writer specializing in ecological pollution prevention issues, particularly water and wastewater. Before I became a minister, I worked as sculptor’s apprentice, warehouse help, salesperson, carpenter, clerk in a health food store, and director of religious education.  I sing regularly at Bay area Sacred Harp singings, and with the San Francisco Rockin’ Solidarity Labor Heritage Chorus.]

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