Data for discussing the meaning of pseudos and Eusebius in PE XII, 31.

In his Vindication, in order to justify an attack on the honesty of Eusebius of Caesarea, Gibbon alleged:

I shall only observe, that the Bishop of Caesarea seems to have claimed a privilege of a still more dangerous and extensive nature. In one of the most learned and elaborate works that antiquity has left us, the Thirty-second Chapter of the Twelfth Book of his Evangelical Preparation bears for its title this scandalous Proposition, "How it may be lawful and fitting to use falsehood as a medicine, and for the benefit of those who want to be deceived." "**Ancient Greek**" (P 356, Edit. Graec. Rob. Stephani, Paris 1544.) In this chapter he alleges a passage of Plato, which approves the occasional practice of pious and salutary frauds; nor is Eusebius ashamed to justify the sentiments of the Athenian philosopher by the example of the sacred writers of the Old Testament. 

This page contains all the data I could gather relevant to the discussion, except the Greek.  It would be very nice to have this - I simply lack the time.  

This page contains:

These portions have been included for the following reasons.

The problem seems to be that pseudos can mean 'lie, deceive, falsehood' (see Liddell & Scott, for instance) but also has the meaning of 'fiction'. (The French mensonge seems also to have both meanings and is used in the Sources Chrétiennes translation).  The former words imply ill-intent; the latter is more neutral, and is employed by the translator of The Laws.  I would suggest that it is in fact the word we want.

I hope this is  helpful.  Gibbon's attack in general is described and discussed by Lightfoot, here.  Some curious forms of the allegation in circulation are available here.

EUSEBIUS, PRAEPARATIO EVANGELICA, BOOK XII (chapter titles, chapters 1-5 and chapters 30-32), in Gifford's translation.



I.        That the Hebrews, according to Plato, were right in imparting to beginners the belief in their instructions in a simple form because of their incapacity

II.       That faith, according even to Plato, is the greatest of  virtues

III. That we ought to believe what is said concerning the soul, and the other statements concerning things of this kind. From the eleventh Book of The Laws

IV. That it will be necessary to deliver the first introductory lessons to children in the form of fables. From the second Book of The Republic

V. That no hurtful fables must be recited to children, but only those that are beneficial   

VI. That Plato accepted the Faith not only in word, but also confessed that with true disposition of mind he believed and was persuaded of these things which we also believe 

VII.      That it would not be right to publish the solemn doctrines of the truth to all  

VIII. What kind of rulers Plato says should be appointed: simple and illiterate men, if only they were well ordered in moral character. From the sixth Book of The Laws  

IX. That one should decline offices. From the first Book of The Republic            

X.        On Plato's idea of Justice

XI.       On the Paradise described by Moses

XII. How the woman is said to have been taken out of the man 

XIII.     On the mode of life of mankind at first

XIV.      That they associated even with irrational animals 

XV.       How they mention the Flood                       

XVI.    That the course of doctrine rightly begins with things divine and ends with things human. From Plato's first Book of The Laws

XVII.    That it is good to train children from a still early age in habits of religion

XVIII.    That we should regard as education only that which leads to virtue, not that which leads to moneyÂ-making or any pursuit for earning a livelihood

XIX.      That Plato agreed with the Hebrews in thinking that this world is an image of one more divine

XX.       That the young should be prepared for the acquirement of virtue by learning proper hymns and odes. From the second Book of The Laws 

XXI.    What kind of thoughts the odes should contain

XXII.     That it is not every one that can compose the proper odes and songs, but either God alone, or some godlike man

XXIII.    Concerning those who are capable of judging the odes composed according to the mind of God 

XXIV.     That even in banquets the odes should be adopted for laws as it were of the banquet

XXV.     That drinking of wine is not to be permitted to all

XXVI.     That Plato was not ignorant that his enactments were in use among certain Barbarians 

XXVII.    That our warfare is against ourselves and our inward passions

XXVIII.   That it is not the body but the soul that is the cause of our evil deeds

XXIX.     Of the pure philosopher. From the Theaetetus

XXX.      Of all the sophistry in man

XXXI.     That it will be necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a remedy for the benefit of those who require such a mode of treatment

XXXII.    That not men only, but also women and every race of mankind, ought to be admitted to the education above described

XXXIII.   That it is not right to accuse the whole nation from the cases of those who live disorderly among us

XXXIV.    How Plato changed the oracles in Proverbs into a more Hellenic form

XXXV.     Of riches and poverty

XXXVI.    Of honour to parents

XXXVII.   Of purchasing slaves

XXXVIII.  How he altered the saying, 'Remove not ancient landmarks which were set by thy fathers'

XXXIX.    A saying like, Visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me

XL.       Of thieves

XLI.      Of slaying a thief

XLII.     Of a beast of burden

XLIII.    That Plato uses the same examples as the Hebrew Scriptures

XLIV.     Further concerning the like examples

XLV.      Further concerning the same

XLVI.     Further concerning the same

XLVII.    That Plato also enacts that the citizens should be divided into twelve tribes in imitation of the Hebrew nation

XLVIII.   In what kind of place Plato enacts that the city should be founded: he describes certain features like the site of Jerusalem

XLIX.     How Plato deprecates the preparatory teaching of the Greeks as being injurious  

L.        On the opinion of the Atheists, from the tenth Book of The Laws 

LI.       How Plato arranges the argument concerning God

LII.      How he discourses on God's universal providence. In the tenth Book of The Laws


OUR twelfth Book of the Preparation for the Gospel will now from this point supply what was lacking in the preceding Book in proof of Plato's accordance with the Hebrew Oracles, like the harmony of a well-tuned lyre. We shall begin with a defence of our Faith, that is reviled among the multitude.

PLATO 'It would be another question therefore whether one is right or wrong in finding fault with the constitutions of Lacedaemon and Crete: perhaps, however, I should be better able than either of you to tell what most people say of them. For if your laws are even moderately well framed, one of the best of them must be a law allowing none of the young to inquire what is right or wrong in them, but bidding all with one voice and one mouth to agree that everything is well settled by the appointment of the gods; and if any one says otherwise, they must not endure to listen to him at all. But if an old man observes any fault in your laws, he may discuss such subjects with a ruler and one d of his own age, no young man being present.'

'What you enjoin, Stranger, is perfectly right.'

With good reason then the Hebrew Scriptures at an earlier time require faith before either the understanding or examination of the sacred writings, where it says, 'If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not understand,' and again, 'I believed, and therefore have I spoken.'

For which cause also among us those who are newly admitted and in an immature condition, as if infants in soul, have the reading of the sacred Scriptures imparted to them in a very simple way, with the injunction that they must believe what is brought forward as words of God. But those who are in a more advanced condition, and as it were grown grey in mind, are permitted to dive into the deeps, and test the meaning of the words: and these the Hebrews were wont to name 'Deuterotists,' as being interpreters and expounders of the meaning of the Scriptures.

[ Plato, Laws, i. 634 D] [Isa. vii. 9][Ps. cxv. i ]


PLATO  'IN the next place therefore we should say: It seems, Tyrtaeus, that you praise most highly those who distinguish themselves in foreign and external war. He would admit this, I suppose, and agree?

'Of course.

'But we say that, though these are brave, those are far braver who show their valour conspicuously in the greatest of all wars. And we too have a poet as witness on our side, Theognis, a citizen of Megara in Sicily, who says: 

"Cyrnus, when factions rage, a faithful man 
Is worth his weight in silver and in gold."

'Such a man then, we say, is very much braver than the other in a harder warfare, almost as much as justice and temperance and wisdom combined with valour are better than valour by itself alone. For a man would never be found faithful and true in civil wars without possessing all virtue. But there are very many mercenaries who are willing to die in war, standing firm and fighting, as Tyrtaeus says, the greater part of whom, with very few exceptions, are violent and unjust and insolent and the d most senseless of mankind.

'To what conclusion then does our present argument lead? And what does it wish to make clear by these statements? Evidently this, that before all things both the heaven-sent lawgiver in this country, and every other of the least usefulness, will always enact his laws with a view chiefly to the greatest virtue: and this is, as Theognis says, faithfulness in dangers, which one might call perfect justice.'

Among us also the Word of salvation, joining wisdom with faith, commends the man who is adorned with both, saying, in His own words: `Who then is the faithful and wise steward?' and again, ' Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things.' Certainly in these passages He clearly shows that He approves not unreasoning faith, but that which is combined with the greatest virtues, such certainly being wisdom and goodness.

[ Plato, Laws, i. 629 E] [Theognis, Elegiac  Gnomes, v. 77 f.] [Tyrtaeus, 1. 16] [Matt. xxiv. 45; ibid. xxv. 21]


'FOR indeed it seems to me that in our former arguments we stated opportunely that the souls of the dead have a certain power after death, and take an interest in human affairs. There are tales treating of these matters, which are tedious though true but on such subjects besides the other reports which we ought to believe, as being so many and so ancient, we must also believe the lawgivers who say that these things are true, unless they are shown to be utter fools.'

In the Book of the Maccabees also it is said that Jeremiah the Prophet after his departure from life was seen praying for the people, as one who took thought for men upon earth. And Plato also says that we ought to believe these stories.  

[Plato, Laws, xi. 926 E] [2 Macc. xv. 12] 


PLATO  ' THERE are two kinds of stories, the one true, and the other false ?
   'And we must instruct children in both, and in the false first ?
   'I do not understand, said he, what you mean.
   'Do you not understand, said I, that what we first tell children is a fable? And this, I suppose, is, generally speaking, fiction, though there is also some truth in it. And we use fables with children earlier than gymnastics.
   'That is true.'

So Plato writes. And among the Hebrews also it is the custom to teach the histories of the inspired Scriptures to those of infantine souls in a very simple way just like any fables, but to teach those of a trained mental habit the more profound and doctrinal views of the histories by means of the so-called Deuterosis and explanation of the thoughts that are unknown to the multitude.

[Plato, Republic, ii. 376 E]  [See Desmond Lee's note on the use of the word 'fiction' here]


PLATO    'Do you not know then that the beginning is the chief part of every work, especially for any young and tender mind? For at that age any character that one wishes to impress on each is most easily formed and imparted.  
    ' Quite so.
    'Shall we then just carelessly permit our children to listen to casual fables (composed by casual persons), and to receive into their souls opinions for the most part opposite to those which, when they are grown up, we shall think they ought to hold?
    'We must by no means permit it.
    ' In the first place then, it seems, we must supervise the writers of fables, and approve any good fable they may compose, and reject any that are not good. And we must persuade nurses and mothers to tell their children those which are approved, and d to form their souls by the fables much more carefully than their bodies with their hands. But the greater number of the tales which they tell them now must be rejected.'

These precautions also had been taken by the Hebrews before Plato's time. For those who had a divine spirit fit for discerning of spirits approved what was rightly said or written with help from the Holy Spirit, and the contrary they rejected, just as they rejected the words of the false prophets. Moreover it was the custom of parents and nurses to soothe their infant children by singing the most edifying narratives from the divine Scriptures, just like any fables, for the sake of preparing beforehand for the religion which they were to learn when approaching to manhood.

[Plato, Republic, ii. 377 B]




AMONG US also there is this saying concerning all sophistry practised among men: 'For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will set at nought the prudence of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world?'

Moreover that those who study a divine philosophy ought to have no narrow-minded thoughts, we are taught in the saying: 'While we look not at the things which are seen, but at those which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.'

And of the fact that wickedness gathers close around the earth and this mortal life, the word of God says somewhere: 'Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.' And: 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.' The prophet also says: 'Cursing, and stealing, and adultery, and murder, are poured out upon the earth, and they mingle blood with blood.'

And with regard to escaping from this world to God, Moses says: 'Thou shalt walk after the Lord thy God, and to b Him shalt thou cleave.' And the same Moses teaches us to imitate God, saying: 'Ye shall be holy, for the Lord your God is holy.'

David also knowing that God is righteous, and urging us to become imitators of Him ourselves, says: 'Righteous is the Lord, and loveth righteousness.' The same David taught us to despise wealth, saying: 'If riches increase, set not your heart upon them'; and, 'Be not thou afraid, when a man is made rich, and when the glory of his house is increased: for when he dieth, he shall carry nothing away, nor shall his glory descend with him.'

Also in the following words he taught us not to admire the ruling powers among mankind: 'Put not your trust in princes, nor in any sons of men, in whom there is no safety. His breath will go forth, and he will return to his earth: in that day shall all his thoughts perish.'

[1 Cor. iii. 19; ibid. i. 19,20; 2 Cor. iv. 18; Eph. v. 16; Matt. VI. 34; Hos. iv. 2; Deut. i. 20; Lev. xi. 45; Ps. xi. 7; Ps.lxii.10; Ps. xlix.16; Ps.cxlvi. 3]


PLATO  'BUT even if the case were not such as our argument has now proved it to be, if a lawgiver, who is to be of ever so little use, could have ventured to tell any falsehood at all to the young for their good, is there any falsehood that he could have told more beneficial than this, and better able to make them all do everything that is just, not by compulsion but willingly?

'Truth, O Stranger, is a noble and an enduring thing; it seems, however, not easy to persuade men of it.'

Now you may find in the Hebrew Scriptures also thousands of such passages concerning God as though He were jealous, or sleeping, or angry, or subject to any other human passions, which passages are adopted for the benefit of those who need this mode of instruction.

[ Plato, Laws, 663 D]


PLATO 'ARE we then agreed as to our former statements?   

'About what?

'That every one, man and boy, free and slave, male and female, and the whole city, should never cease from reciting to themselves these charms which we have just described, changed from time to time in some way or other, and presenting every kind of variation, so that the singers may have an insatiable desire for the hymns, and pleasure in them.

'How could there be any doubt that this practice ought to be adopted?'

 In the fifth Book also of the Republic he writes to the like effect, saying as follows:

'Do you then know any human occupation, in which the male sex is not superior in all these respects to the female? Or need we waste time by mentioning the art of weaving, and the making of pancakes and preserves, in which the female sex is thought forsooth to be great, and in which their utter inferiority is most ridiculous?

  'You say with truth, said he, that the one sex is far surpassed by the other, I might almost say, in everything. Many women, no doubt, are better than many men in many points, but the general truth is as you say.

'No occupation then, my friend, of those who manage the affairs of the state belongs to a woman as woman nor to a man as man; but the natural qualities are found here and there in both sexes alike, and while woman has by nature a share in all pursuits, and man in all, yet woman is in all weaker than man.

'Yes, certainly.

'Are we then to assign all employments to men, and none to women?

'How can we?

'In fact, we shall say, I suppose, that among women also one has a natural gift of healing and another has not, and one is musical and another unmusical?


'Also one fit for gymnastics and for war, and another unwarÂ-like and with no taste for gymnastics?

'So I suppose.

'Again, one woman is a philosopher, another hates philosophy?

'And one is high-spirited, another spiritless?

'This too is true

'So there is one woman fit for a guardian, and another unfit.

'Or was not such the nature which we selected as that of men who were fit for guardians?

'Yes, it was such.

'Both woman and man therefore have the same natural fitness for guardianship of the state, except in so far as one is weaker and another stronger.

'So it appears.

'We must then select women also who are of this character to live with men of the same character, and to share in their guardianship, since they are competent, and akin to them in nature.'

With good reason then our Word also admits to its divine instruction and philosophy every class not only of men but also of women, and not only of free men and slaves, but also of Barbarians and Greeks.

[Plato, Laws, 665 B;  Plato, Republic, 455 C]



PLATO, THE LAWS, BOOK II, 663C,D,E (Loeb edition p.125, tr. R.G.Bury, 1926)

ATH. In point of truth, which of the two judgments shall we say is the more authoritative,—that of the worse soul or that of the better?

CLIN. That of the better, undoubtedly.

ATh. Undoubtedly, then, the unjust life is not only more base and ignoble, but also in very truth more unpleasant, than the just and holy life.

CLIN. It would seem so, my friends, from our present argument.

ATH. And even if the state of the case were different from what it has now been proved to be by our argument, could a lawgiver who was worth his salt find any more useful fiction than this (if he dared to use any fiction at all in addressing the youths for their good), or one more effective in persuading all men to act justly in all things willingly and without constraint?

CLIN. Truth is a noble thing, Stranger, and an enduring; yet to persuade men of it seems no easy matter.

ATLI. Be it so; yet it proved easy to persuade men of the Sidonian fairy-tale,1 incredible though it was, and of numberless others.

CLIN. What tales?

ATH. The tale of the teeth that were sown, and how armed men sprang out of them. Here, indeed, the lawgiver has a notable example of how one can, if he tries, persuade the souls of the young of anyÂ- [...]

1 About Cadmus; op. Rep. 4140.

PLATO, THE REPUBLIC, Book II, 376D-377D, Penguin edition, pp.129-131. Tr. Desmond Lee, 1955.


In reading what follows it is important to have in mind one or two of the main features of Greek education in Plato's day. It was, normally, a matter for the private individual: and in making it the concern of the state, Plato was doing something that to the Athenian (though not to the Spartan; and Plato was to some extent influenced by Sparta) was an innovation. Education had three principal subÂ-divisions: reading and writing, physical education, and what we may call secondary or literary education. This last consisted mainly in a study of the works of the poets, which were learnt to be recited and, where necessary, sung to the lyre, so that it included a knowledge of music; it corresponded, broadly, to the secondary stage of our own system, and was followed by two years' military training which began at eighteen. It must also be remembered that the Greeks had no Bible, and what the Bible has been to us as a source of theology and morals, the poets were to the Greeks. And if Plato seems very preoccupied with the moral and theological aspect of the poets it is because it was from them that the ordinary Greek was expected to acquire his moral and theological notions.



Since the minds of the young are very impressionable we must, if we are to educate them properly, make sure that the poetry on which they are brought up is suitable for the purpose. Most existing poetry is unsuitable: (a) theologically, because it misrepresents God. God is perfectly good, and therefore changeless and incapable of deceit, and must never be otherwise represented.

'THAT then would be our Guardians' basic character. But how are they to be brought up and educated? If we try to answer this question, I wonder whether it will help us at all in our main inquiry into the origin of justice and injustice in society? We do not want to leave out anything relevant but we don't want to embark on too long a discussion.'

To which Adeimantus replied, 'I expect the discussion will help our inquiry all right.'

'Then, my dear Adeimantus, we must certainly pursue question,' I rejoined, 'even though it proves a long business.'

'We must.'

'So let us tell the tale of the education of our imaginary guardians as if we had all the leisure of the traditional story-teller.'

'Let us by all means.'

'What kind of education shall we give them then? We shall find it difficult to improve on the time-honoured distinction between the physical training we give to the body and the education1 we give to the mind and character.'


'And we shall begin by educating mind and character, shall we not?'

'Of course.'

'In this education you would include stories, would you not?'


'These are of two kinds, true stories and fiction.2 Our education must use both, and start with fiction.'

'I don't know what you mean.'

'But you know that we begin by telling children stories. These are, in general, fiction, though they contain some truth. And we tell children stories before we start them on physical training.'

'That is so.'

'That is what I meant by saying that we must start to educate the mind before training the body.'

'You are right,' he said.

'And the first step, as you know, is always what matters most,3 particularly when we are dealing with those who are young and tender. That is the time when they are easily moulded and when any impression we choose to make leaves a permanent mark.'

'That is certainly true.'

'Shall we therefore readily allow our children to listen to any stories made up by anyone, and. to form opinions that are for the most part the opposite of those we think they should have when they grow up?'

'We certainly shall not.'

'Then it seems that our first business is to supervise the production of stories, and choose only those we think suitable, and reject the rest. We shall persuade mothers and nurses to tell, our chosen stories to their children, and by means of them to mould their minds and characters which are more important than their bodies.4 The greater part of the stories current today we shall have to reject.'

'Which are you thinking of?'

'We can take some of the major legends as typical. For all, whether major or minor, should be cast in the same mould and have the same effect. Do you agree?.'

'Yes: but' I'm not sure which you refer to as major.'

'The stories inHomer and Hesiod and the poets. For it is the poets who have always made up fictions and stories to tell to men.'

'What sort of stories do you mean and what fault do you find in them?'



1. Greek mousice. There is no English equivalent. The word covers the secondary or literary education referred to in the opening heading to Part III, p. 129. Shorey, in the Loeb translation, comments that the word covers 'playing the lyre, music, poetry, letters, culture, philosophy according to the context'. Throughout this Part it is translated as 'education' or 'stage of education' (to distinguish it from the further stage described in Part viii) because it is with its educational aspect that Plato is concerned. But the reader should remember the wider overtones behind the Greek word so translated. Mousice is the sphere of the Muses, of whom there were nine, presiding between them over all the arts, literary, plastic, graphic, musical, and even (in philosophy) intellectual. 'Mind and character' in this passage translates psuche.

2. The Greek word pseudos and its corresponding verb meant not only 'fiction' — stories, tales — but also 'what is not true' and so, in suitable contexts, 'lies': and this ambiguity should be borne in mind.

3. There is a Greek proverb, 'The beginning is everything'.

4. Lit: 'rather than their bodies with their hands'. A rather obscure phrase, but the intention seems to be to emphasize the importance of training mind and character (psuche) as against body (soma).

Richard Carrier's online translation, as part of a repetition of the same idea

This is from his article at

That it is necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a medicine for those who need such an approach. [As said in Plato's Laws 663e by the Athenian:] 'And even the lawmaker who is of little use, if even this is not as he considered it, and as just now the application of logic held it, if he dared lie to young men for a good reason, then can't he lie? For falsehood is something even more useful than the above, and sometimes even more able to bring it about that everyone willingly keeps to all justice.' [then by Clinias:] 'Truth is beautiful, stranger, and steadfast. But to persuade people of it is not easy.' You would find many things of this sort being used even in the Hebrew scriptures, such as concerning God being jealous or falling asleep or getting angry or being subject to some other human passions, for the benefit of those who need such an approach.

On the basis of this, he says:

So in a book where Eusebius is proving that the pagans got all their good ideas from the Jews, he lists as one of those good ideas Plato's argument that lying, indeed telling completely false tales, for the benefit of the state is good and even necessary. Eusebius then notes quite casually how the Hebrews did this, telling lies about their God, and he even compares such lies with medicine, a healthy and even necessary thing. Someone who can accept this as a "good idea" worth both taking credit for and following is not the sort of person to be trusted.

I understand from Mr. Carrier that he translated from the Thesaurus Lingua Graeca text, as the relevant portion of his copy of Gifford was lacking.

The differences are interesting, not in the portion of Eusebius, but rather in the unusual version of Plato's comments, different from both Gifford and the Loeb, and meaning something radically different.  

Placed online 28th September 2001. 
Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse.

This page has been online since 28th September 2001.

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