XXXVIII. (224) Having already spoken of four commandments which, both as to the order in which they are placed and as to their importance, are truly the first; namely, the commandment about the lenity of that sovereign authority by which the world is governed, and that which commands that man should not look upon any representation or figure of anything as God, and that which forbids the swearing falsely, or indeed the swearing carelessly and vainly at all, and that concerning the sacred seventh day–all which commandments tend to piety and holiness. I now proceed to the fifth commandment, relating to the honour due to parents; which is, as I showed in the mention I made of it separately before, on the borders between those which relate to the affairs of men and those which relate to God. (225) For parents themselves are something between divine and human nature, partaking of both; of human nature, inasmuch as it is plain that they have been born and that they will die; and of divine nature, because they have engendered other beings, and have brought what did not exist into existence: for, in my opinion, what God is to the world, that parents are to their children; since, just as God gave existence to that which had no existence, they also, in imitation of his power, as far at least as they were able, make the race of mankind everlasting.
XXXIX. (226) And this is not the only reason why a man’s father and mother are deserving of honour, but here are also several other reasons. For among all those nations who have any regard for virtue, the older men are esteemed above the younger, and teachers above their pupils, and benefactors above those who have received kindnesses from them, and rulers above their subjects, and masters above their slaves. (227) Accordingly, parents are placed in the higher and superior class; for they are the elders, and the teachers, and the benefactors, and the rulers, and the masters. And sons and daughters are placed in the inferior class; for they are the younger, and the pupils, and the persons who have received kindnesses, and subjects, and slaves. And that every one of these assertions is correct is plain from the circumstances that take place, and proofs derived from reason will establish the truth of them yet more undeniably.