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[111] constantly alternates examples drawn from Christian and Pagan tradition or mythology.1 He had conceived a unity in the human race, all of whose branches had worshipped the same God under divers names and aspects, had arrived at the same truth by different roads. We cannot understand a passage in the twenty-sixth Paradiso, where Dante inquires of Adam concerning the names of God, except as a hint that the Chosen People had done in this thing even as the Gentiles did.2 It is true that he puts all Pagans in Limbo, ‘where without hope they live in longing,’ and that he makes baptism essential to salvation.3 But it is noticeable that his Limbo is the Elysium of Virgil, and that he particularizes Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, and others as prisoners there with the rest till the descent of Christ into hell.4 But were they altogether without hope and did baptism mean an immersion of the body or a purification of the soul? The state of the heathen after death had evidently been to Dante one of those doubts that spring up at the foot of every truth. In the De Monarchia he says: ‘There are some judgments of God to which, though human reason cannot attain by its own strength, yet is it lifted to them by the help of faith and of those things which are said to us in Holy Writ,—as to this, that no one, however perfect in the ’

1 See, for example, Purgatorio, XX. 100-117.

2 We believe that Dante, though he did not understand Greek, knew something of Hebrew. He would have been likely to study it as the sacred language, and opportunities of profiting by the help of learned Jews could not have been wanting to him in his wanderings. In the above-cited passage some of the best texts read I s' appellava, and others Un s' appellava. God was called I (the Je in Jehovah) or One, and afterwards El,—the strong,—an epithet given to many gods. Whichever reading we adopt, the meaning and the inference from it are the same.

3 Inferno, IV.

4 Dante's ‘Limbo,’ of course, is the older ‘Limbus Patrum.’

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