But the godless call for Death with deed and word, counting him friend, they wear themselves out for him; with him they make a pact, worthy as they are to belong to him. And this is the false argument they use, ‘Our life is short and dreary, there is no remedy when our end comes, no one is known to have come back from Hades. We came into being by chance and afterwards shall be as though we had never been. The breath in our nostrils is a puff of smoke, reason a spark from the beating of our hearts; extinguish this and the body turns to ashes, and the spirit melts away like the yielding air.
In time, our name will be forgotten, nobody will remember what we have done; our life will pass away like wisps of cloud, dissolving like the mist that the sun’s rays drive away and that its heat dispels. For our days are the passing of a shadow, our end is without return, the seal is affixed and nobody comes back. ‘Come then, let us enjoy the good things of today, let us use created things with the zest of youth: take our fill of the dearest wines and perfumes, on no account forgo the flowers of spring but crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither, no meadow excluded from our orgy; let us leave the signs of our revelry everywhere, since this is our portion, this our lot!
‘As for the upright man who is poor, let us oppress him; let us not spare the widow, nor respect old age, white-haired with many years. Let our might be the yardstick of right, since weakness argues its own futility. Let us lay traps for the upright man, since he annoys us and opposes our way of life, reproaches us for our sins against the Law, and accuses us of sins against our upbringing. He claims to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. We see him as a reproof to our way of thinking, the very sight of him weighs our spirits down; for his kind of life is not like other people’s, and his ways are quite different.
In his opinion we are counterfeit; he avoids our ways as he would filth; he proclaims the final end of the upright as blessed and boasts of having God for his father.
Let us see if what he says is true, and test him to see what sort of end he will have. For if the upright man is God’s son, God will help him and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies. Let us test him with cruelty and with torture, and thus explore this gentleness of his and put his patience to the test. Let us condemn him to a shameful death since God will rescue him — or so he claims.’ This is the way they reason, but they are misled, since their malice makes them blind.
They do not know the hidden things of God, they do not hope for the reward of holiness, they do not believe in a reward for blameless souls. For God created human beings to be immortal, he made them as an image of his own nature; Death came into the world only through the Devil’s envy, as those who belong to him find to their cost.