Part 4
Chapter 3—Of Original Sin

Section 11—Arnobius. A.D. 290.

Arnobius flourished under Dioclesian, taught rhetoric at Sicca in Africa, and was preceptor to Lactantius. He wrote seven books against the Gentiles, which are his only genuine works extant. There is a Commentary upon the Psalms which goes under his name, but is none of his. Bellarmine thinks it was written by Arnobius junior, who lived about the year 445, and after Pelagianism was broached, of which that writer seems to be a favorer, and either to deny, or at least to extenuate original sin;[1] which was far from the true Arnobius, who asserts the corruption of human nature, and the impotence of men to spiritual things. Thus speaking of the prayers and supplications of the Christians to their master Christ, he observes,[2] that “these are not made to him for his sake, but for our profit and advantage; non quia proni ad culpas, et ad libidinis varios appetitus, vitio sumus infirmitatis ingenitae, ‘for because we are prone to faults, and to various lustful desires, and are in the vice of inbred weakness,' he suffers himself to be always conceived in our thoughts.” And in another place he says,[3] “Natural infirmity makes a man a sinner.” Addressing himself to the heathens, he thus speaks:[4] “You place the salvation of your souls in yourselves, and trust that you may be made gods by your inward endeavor; but truly we promise ourselves nothing, de nostra infirmitate, ‘from our weakness,' looking upon our nature virium esse nullarum, ‘to have no strength,' and in every strife about matters to be overcome by its own affections; you, as soon as you shall go away being loosed from the members of the body, think ye shall have easy wings by which you can fly to the stars and reach heaven; but we dread such boldness, nee in nostra ducimus esse positum potestate res superas petere, nor do we reckon it is in our power to reach things that are above.” And elsewhere he says,[5] “that the nature of men is blind, neque ullam posse comprehendere veritatem, ‘nor can it comprehend any truth,' nor find out certainly, and know things that are set before their eyes.” And a little after he observes,[6] that “none but the Almighty God can save souls, nor is there any besides him who can make a long-lived perpetuity, and put a spirit in the room of another, but he who is alone immortal and perpetual, and is not bounded by any circumscription of time.” And a little after,[7] “It is of our High-priest to give salvation to souls, and to put by or in them a spirit of perpetuity” It is true, indeed, he asserts from Plato,[8] that the liberty of the will lies in the power of him that wills, ‘which being understood of the natural liberty of the will, is not denied.


[1] Vide Rivet. Critic. Saer. 1. 2, c. 17, p. 220, 221.

[2] Arnob. adv. Gentes, 1. 1, p. 25.

[3] Arnob. adv. Gentes. p. 42.

[4] Ibid.l. 2, p. 83, 84.

[5] Ibid. p. 106.

[6] Ibid. p. 108.

[7] Ibid. p. 109.

[8] Ibid. p. 110, 111.