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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 3

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 3.—Of the Son of God, and His Peculiar Designation as the Word.

—Since this is the case, I repeat, we bep. 323 lieve also in Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Only-Begotten of the Father, that is to say, His Only Son, our Lord. This Word however, we ought not to apprehend merely in the sense in which we think of our own words, which are given forth by the voice and the mouth, and strike the air and pass on, and subsist no longer than their sound continues. For that Word remains unchangeably: for of this very Word was it spoken when of Wisdom it was said, “Remaining in herself, she maketh all things new.” 1533 Moreover, the reason of His being named the Word of the Father, is that the Father is made known by Him. Accordingly, just as it is our intention, when we speak truth, that by means of our words our mind should be made known to him who hears us, and that whatever we carry in secrecy in our heart may be set forth by means of signs of this sort for the intelligent understanding of another individual; so this Wisdom that God the Father begot is most appropriately named His Word, inasmuch as the most hidden Father is made known to worthy minds by the same. 1534

4. Now there is a very great difference between our mind and those words of ours, by which we endeavor to set forth the said mind. We indeed do not beget intelligible words, 1535 but we form them; and in the forming of them the body is the underlying material. Between mind and body, however, there is the greatest difference. But God, when He begot the Word, begot that which He is Himself. Neither out of nothing, nor of any material already made and founded did He then beget; but He begot of Himself that which He is Himself. For we too aim at this when we speak, (as we shall see) if we carefully consider the inclination 1536 of our will; not when we lie, but when we speak the truth. For to what else do we direct our efforts then, but to bring our own very mind, if it can be done at all, in upon the mind of the hearer, with the view of its being apprehended and thoroughly discerned by him; so that we may indeed abide in our very selves, and make no retreat from ourselves, and yet at the same time put forth a sign of such a nature as that by it a knowledge of us 1537 may be effected in another individual; that thus, so far as the faculty is granted us, another mind may be, as it were, put forth by the mind, whereby it may disclose itself? This we do, making the attempt 1538 both by words, and by the simple sound of the voice, and by the countenance, and by the gestures of the body,—by so many contrivances, in sooth, desiring to make patent that which is within; inasmuch as we are not able to put forth aught of this nature [in itself completely]: and thus it is that the mind of the speaker cannot become perfectly known; thus also it results that a place is open for falsehoods. God the Father, on the other hand, who possessed both the will and the power to declare Himself with the utmost truth to minds designed to obtain knowledge of Him, with the purpose of thus declaring Himself begot this [Word] which He Himself is who did beget; which [Person] is likewise called His Power and Wisdom, 1539 inasmuch as it is by Him that He has wrought all things, and in order disposed them; of whom these words are for this reason spoken: “She (Wisdom) reacheth from one end to another mightily, and sweetly doth she order all things.” 1540


Footnotes

323:1533

Wisdom 7.27Wisd. vii. 27

323:1534

Adopting the Benedictine version per ipsam innotescit dignis animis secretissimus Pater. There is, however, great variety of reading here. Some mss. give ignis for dignis = the most hidden fire of the Father is made known to minds. Others give signis = the most hidden Father is made known by signs to minds. Others have innotescit animus secretissimus Patris, or innotescit signis secretissimus Pater = the most hidden mind of the Father is made known by the same, or = the most hidden Father is made known by the same in signs.

323:1535

Sonantia verba = sounding, vocal words.

323:1536

Appetitum

323:1537

Nostra notitia = our knowledge.

323:1538

Reading conantes et verbis, etc. Three good mss. give conante fetu verbi = as the offspring of the word makes the attempt. The Benedictine editors suggest conantes fetu verbi = making the attempt by the offspring of the word.

323:1539

1 Cor. 1.241 Cor. i. 24

323:1540

Wisdom 8.1Wisd. viii. 1


Next: Chapter 4

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