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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
On Christian Doctrine: Chapter 37

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 37.—The Seventh Rule of Tichonius.

55.  The seventh rule of Tichonius and the last, is about the devil and his body.  For he is the head of the wicked, who are in a sense his body, and destined to go with him into the punishment of everlasting fire, just as Christ is the head of the Church, which is His body, destined to be with Him in His eternal kingdom and glory.  Accordingly, as the first rule, which is called of the Lord and His body, directs us, when Scripture speaks of one and the same person, to take pains to understand which part of the statement applies to the head and which to the body; so this last rule shows us that statements are sometimes made about the devil, whose truth is not so evident in regard to himself as in regard to his body; and his body is made up not only of those who are manifestly out of the way, but of those also who, though they really belong to him, are for a time mixed up with the Church, until they depart from this life, or until the chaff is separated from the wheat at the last great winnowing.  For example, what is said in Isaiah, “How he is fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the morning!” 1932 and the other statements of the context which, under the figure of the king of Babylon, are made about the same person, are of course to be understood of the devil; and yet the statement which is made in the same place, “He is ground down on the earth, who sendeth to all nations,” 1933 does not altogether fitly apply to the head himself.  For, although the devil sends his angels to all nations, yet it is his body, not himself, that is ground down on the each, except that he himself is in his body, which is beaten small like the dust which the wind blows from the face of the earth.

56.  Now all these rules, except the one about the promises and the law, make one meaning to be understood where another is expressed, which is the peculiarity of figurative diction; and this kind of diction, it seems to me, is too widely spread to be comprehended in its full extent by any one.  For, wherever one thing is said with the intention that another should be understood we have a figurative expression, even though the name of the trope is not to be found in the art of rhetoric.  And when an expression of this sort occurs where it is customary to find it, there is no trouble in understanding it; when it occurs, however, where it is not customary, it costs labor to understand it, from some more, from some less, just as men have got more or less from God of the gifts of intellect, or as they have access to more or fewer external helps.  And, as in the case of proper words which I discussed above, and in which things are to be understood just as they are expressed, so in the case of figurative words, in which one thing is expressed and another is to be understood, and which I have just finished speaking of as much as I thought enough, students of these venerable documents ought to be counselled not only to make themselves acquainted with the forms of expression ordinarily used in Scripture, to observe them carefully, and to remember them accurately, but also, what is especially and before all things necessary, to pray that they may understand them.  For in these very books on the study of which they are intent, they read, “The Lord giveth wisdom:  out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding;” 1934 and it is from Him they have received their very desire for knowledge, if it is wedded to piety.  But about signs, so far as relates to words, I have now said enough.  It remains to discuss, in the following book, so far as God has given me light, the means of communicating our thoughts to others.



Isa. 14.12 (LXX.).  “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” (A.V.).


Isa. 14.12 (LXX.).  “How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (A.V.).


Prov. 2.6.

Next: Book IV

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