VII. (36) Again, even if it is very difficult to ascertain and very hard properly to comprehend, we must still, as far as it is possible, investigate the nature of his essence; for there is no employment more excellent than that of searching out the nature of the true God, even though the discovery may transcend all human ability, since the very desire and endeavour to comprehend it is able by itself to furnish indescribable pleasures and delights. (37) And the witnesses of this fact are those who have not merely tasted philosophy with their outermost lips, but who have abundantly feasted on its reasonings and its doctrines; for the reasoning of these men, being raised on high far above the earth, roams in the air, and soaring aloft with the sun, and moon, and all the firmament of heaven, being eager to behold all the things that exist therein, finds its power of vision somewhat indistinct from a vast quantity of unalloyed light being poured over it, so that the eye of his soul becomes dazzled and confused by the splendour. (38) But he does not on that account faint and renounce the task which he has undertaken, but goes on with invincible determination towards the sight which he considers attainable, as if he were a competitor at the games, and were striving for the second prize, though he has missed the first. And guess and conjecture are inferior to true perception, as are all those notions which are classed under the description of reasonable and plausible opinions. (39) Though, therefore, we do not know and cannot accurately ascertain what each of the stars is as to its pure and real essence, still we are eager to investigate the subject, delighting in probable reasonings, because of the fondness for learning which is implanted in our nature. (40) And so in the same way, though we cannot attain to a distinct conception of the truly living God, we still ought not to renounce the task of investigating his character, because even if we fail to make the discovery, the very search itself is intrinsically useful and an object of deserved ambition; since no one ever blames the eyes of the body because they are unable to look upon the sun itself, and therefore shrink from the brilliancy which is poured upon them from its beams, and therefore look down upon the earth, shrinking from the extreme brilliancy of the rays of the sun.

VIII. (41) Which that interpreter of the divine word, Moses, the man most beloved by God, having a regard to, besought God and said, “Show me thyself”–all but urging him, and crying out in loud and distinct words–“that thou hast a real being and existence the whole world is my teacher, assuring me of the fact and instructing me as a son might of the existence of his father, or the work of the existence of the workman. But, though I am very desirous to know what thou art as to thy essence, I can find no one who is able to explain to me anything relating to this branch of learning in any part of the universe whatever. (42) On which account, I beg and entreat of thee to receive the supplication of a man who is thy suppliant and devoted to God’s service, and desirous to serve thee alone; for as the light is not known by the agency of anything else, but is itself its own manifestation, so also thou must alone be able to manifest thyself. For which reason I hope to receive pardon, if, from want of any one to teach me, I am so bold as to flee to thee, desiring to receive instruction from thyself.” (43) But God replied, “I receive, indeed, your eagerness, inasmuch as it is praiseworthy; but the request which you make is not fitting to be granted to any created being. And I only bestow such gifts as are appropriate to him who receives them; for it is not possible for a man to receive all that it is easy for me to give. On which account I give to him who is deserving of my favour all the gifts which he is able to receive. (44) But not only is the nature of mankind, but even the whole heaven and the whole world is unable to attain to an adequate comprehension of me. So know yourself, and be not carried away with impulses and desires beyond your power; and let not a desire of unattainable objects carry you away and keep you in suspense. For you shall not lack anything which may be possessed by you.” (45) When Moses heard this he betook himself to a second supplication, and said, “I am persuaded by thy explanations that I should not have been able to receive the visible appearance of thy form. But I beseech thee that I may, at all events, behold the glory that is around thee. And I look upon thy glory to be the powers which attend thee as thy guards, the comprehension of which having escaped me up to the present time, worketh in me no slight desire of a thorough understanding of it.” (46) But God replied and said, “The powers which you seek to behold are altogether invisible, and appreciable only by the intellect; since I myself am invisible and only appreciable by the intellect. And what I call appreciable only by the intellect are not those which are already comprehended by the mind, but those which, even if they could be so comprehended, are still such that the outward senses could not at all attain to them, but only the very purest intellect. (47) And though they are by nature incomprehensible in their essence, still they show a kind of impression or copy of their energy and operation; as seals among you, when any wax or similar kind of material is applied to them, make an innumerable quantity of figures and impressions, without being impaired as to any portion of themselves, but still remaining unaltered and as they were before; so also you must conceive that the powers which are around me invest those things which have no distinctive qualities with such qualities, and those which have no forms with precise forms, and that without having any portion of their own everlasting nature dismembered or weakened. (48) And some of your race, speaking with sufficient correctness, call them ideas (ideai), since they give a peculiar character (idiopoiousi) to every existing thing, arranging what had previously no order, and limiting, and defining, and fashioning what was before destitute of all limitation, and defination, and fashion; and, in short, in all respects changing what was bad into a better condition. (49) “Do not, then, ever expect to be able to comprehend me nor any one of my powers, in respect of our essence. But, as I have said, I willingly and cheerfully grant unto you such things as you may receive. And this gift is to call you to the beholding of the world and all the things that are in it, which must be comprehended, not indeed by the eyes of the body, but by the sleepless vision of the soul. (50) The desire of wisdom alone is continual and incessant, and it fills all its pupils and disciples with famous and most beautiful doctrines.” When Moses heard this he did not cease from his desire, but he still burned with a longing for the understanding of invisible things. […]{7}{mangey thinks that there is a considerable hiatus here. What follows relates to the regulations respecting proselytes, which as the text stands is in no way connected with what has gone before about the worship of God.}