XXXV. (187) Since, therefore, I have now stated that in the absolutely perfect governor there ought to be four things, royal power, the legislative disposition, and the priesthood, and the prophetic office (in order that by his legislative disposition he may command such things as are right to be done, and forbid such things as are not proper to be done, and that by his priesthood he may arrange not only all human but likewise all divine things; and that by his prophetic office he may predict those things which cannot be comprehended by reason): having fully discussed the first three, and having shown that Moses as a most excellent king, and lawgiver, and high priest, I come in the last place to show that he was also the most illustrious of prophets. (188) I am not unaware then that all the things which are written in the sacred books are oracles delivered by him; and I will set forth what more peculiarly concerns him, when I have first mentioned this one point, namely, that of the sacred oracles some are represented as delivered in the person of God by his interpreter, the divine prophet, while others are put in the form of question and answer, and others are delivered by Moses in his own character as a divinely-prompted lawgiver possessed by divine inspiration. (189) Therefore, all the earliest oracles are manifestations of the whole of the divine virtues, and especially of that merciful and bounteous character by means of which he trains all men to virtue, and especially the race which is devoted to his service, to which he lays open the road leading to happiness. (190) The second class have a sort of admixture and communication in them, the prophet asking information on the subjects as to which he is in difficulty, and God answering him and instructing him. The third sort are attributed to the lawgiver, God having given him a share of his prescient power, by means of which he will be able to foretell the future. (191) Therefore, we must for the present pass by the first; for they are too great to be adequately praised by any man, as, indeed, they could scarcely be panegyrised worthily by the heaven itself and the nature of the universe; and they are also uttered by the mouth, as it were, of an interpreter. But interpretation and prophecy differ from one another. And concerning the second kind I will at once endeavour to explain the truth, connecting with them the third species also, in which the inspired character of the speaker is shown, according to which it is that he is most especially and appropriately looked upon as a prophet.
XXXVI. (192) And we must here begin with the promise. There are four places where the oracles are given by way of question and answer, being contained in the exposition of the law, and having a mixed character. For, first, the prophet feels inspiration and asks questions, and then the father prophesies to him, giving him a share of his discourse and replies. And the first case where this occurs is one which would have irritated, not only Moses, who was the most holy and pious man that ever lived, but even any one who had only had a slight taste of piety. (193) A certain man, illegitimately born of two unequal parents, namely, an Egyptian father and a Jewish mother, and who disregarded the national and hereditary customs which he had learnt from her, as it is reported, inclined to the Egyptian impiety, being seized with admiration for the ungodly practices of the men of that nation; (194) for the Egyptians, almost alone of all men, set up the earth as a rival of the heaven considering the former as entitled to honours equal with those of the gods, and giving the latter no especial honour, just as if it were proper to pay respect to the extremities of a country rather than to the king’s palace. For in the world the heaven is the most holy temple, and the further extremity is the earth; though this too is in itself worthy of being regarded with honour; but if it is brought into comparison with the air, is as far inferior to it as light is to darkness, or night to day, or corruption to immortality, or a mortal to God. (195) For, since that country is not irrigated by rain as all other lands are, but by the inundations of the river which is accustomed every year to overflow its banks; the Egyptians, in their impious reason, make a god of the Nile, as if it were a copy and a rival of heaven, and use pompous language about the virtue of their country.