God and the Gods
This chapter explores Arnobius' understanding of the relationship between God and the gods. One of the most controversial debates related to Arnobiana concerns the exact meaning of the relationship between the Supreme God and the gods of Graeco-Roman paganism. Some have suggested that Arnobius develops a hypothetical argument about the existence of the gods. Others believe that their existence is affirmed only for polemical purposes. A good number have maintained that he believed in the existence of inferior deities. With the exception of Le Bonniec, who has studied epithets which imply the existence of subordinate deities, these scholars have not clarified exactly what Arnobius means by gods and the criteria which allow one to disengage polemics from personal views. This is important because Arnobius conveys a fine distinction between the gods of pagan religious literature and the divine beings of the Platonic tradition. If there is a pre-Christian philosophical stratum discernible in the Adversus nationes, as Le Bonniec supposes, then it is mandatory to distinguish between criticism of the Graeco-Roman gods and an intellectual acceptance of, and philosophical belief in, the Platonic gods. This is the basic methodological procedure of the present chapter.
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