Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Against the Arians. (Orationes contra Arianos IV.): That the Son is Eternal and Increate. These attributes, being the points in dispute, are first proved by direct texts of Scripture. Concerning the 'eternal power' of God in Rom. i. 20, which is shewn to mean the Son. Remarks on the Arian formula, 'Once the Son was not,' its supporters not daring to speak of 'a time when the Son was not.'
Chapter IV.—That the Son is Eternal and Increate. These attributes, being the points in dispute, are first proved by direct texts of Scripture. Concerning the eternal power of God in Rom. i. 20, which is shewn to mean the Son. Remarks on the Arian formula, Once the Son was not, its supporters not daring to speak of a time when the Son was not.
11. At his suggestion then ye have maintained and ye think, that there was once when the Son was not; this is the first cloke of your views of doctrine which has to be stripped off. Say then what was once when the Son was not, O slanderous and irreligious men 1881 ? If ye say the Father, your blasphemy is but greater; for it is impious to say that He was once, or to signify Him by the word once. For He is ever, and is now, and as the Son is, so is He, and is Himself He that is, and Father of the Son. But if ye say that the Son was once, when He Himself was not, the answer is foolish and unmeaning. For how could He both be and not be? In this difficulty, you can but answer, that there was a time when the Word was not; for your very adverb once naturally signifies this. And your other, The Son was not before His generation, is equivalent to saying, There was once when He was not, for both the one and the other signify that there is a time before the Word. Whence then this your discovery? Why do ye, as the heathen, rage, and imagine vain phrases against the Lord 1882 and against His Christ? for no holy Scripture has used such language of the Saviour, but rather always and eternal and coexistent always with the Father. For, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God 1883 . And in the Apocalypse he thus speaks 1884 ; Who is and who was and who is to come. Now who can rob who is and who was of eternity? This too in confutation of the Jews hath Paul written in his Epistle to the Romans, Of whom as concerning the flesh is Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever 1885 ; while silencing the Greeks, he has said, The visible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal Power and Godhead 1886 ; and what the Power of God is, he teaches us elsewhere himself, Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God 1887 . Surely in these words he does not designate the Father, as ye often whisper one to another, affirming that the Father is His eternal power. This is not so; for he says not, God Himself is the power, but His is the power. Very plain is it to all that His is not He; yet not something alien but rather proper to Him. Study too the context and turn to the Lord; now the Lord is that Spirit 1888 ;and you will see that it is the Son who is signified.
p. 313 12. For after making mention of the creation, he naturally speaks of the Framers Power as seen in it, which Power, I say, is the Word of God, by whom all things have been made. If indeed the creation is sufficient of itself alone, without the Son, to make God known, see that you fall not, from thinking that without the Son it has come to be. But if through the Son it has come to be, and in Him all things consist 1889 , it must follow that he who contemplates the creation rightly, is contemplating also the Word who framed it, and through Him begins to apprehend the Father 1890 . And if, as the Saviour also says, No one knoweth the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him 1891 , and if on Philips asking, Shew us the Father, He said not, Behold the creation, but, He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father 1892 , reasonably doth Paul,—while accusing the Greeks of contemplating the harmony and order of the creation without reflecting on the Framing Word within it (for the creatures witness to their own Framer) so as through the creation to apprehend the true God, and abandon their worship of it,—reasonably hath he said, His Eternal Power and Godhead 1893 , thereby signifying the Son. And where the sacred writers say, Who exists before the ages, and By whom He made the ages 1894 , they thereby as clearly preach the eternal and everlasting being of the Son, even while they are designating God Himself. Thus, if Isaiah says, The Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth 1895 ; and Susanna said, O Everlasting God 1896 ; and Baruch wrote, I will cry unto the Everlasting in my days, and shortly after, My hope is in the Everlasting, that He will save you, and joy is come unto me from the Holy One 1897 ; yet forasmuch as the Apostle, writing to the Hebrews, says, Who being the radiance of His glory and the Expression of His Person 1898 ; and David too in the eighty-ninth Psalm, And the brightness of the Lord be upon us, and, In Thy Light shall we see Light 1899 , who has so little sense as to doubt of the eternity of the Son 1900 ? for when did man see light without the brightness of its radiance, that he may say of the Son, There was once, when He was not, or Before His generation He was not. And the words addressed to the Son in the hundred and forty-fourth Psalm, Thy kingdom is a kingdom of all ages 1901 , forbid any one to imagine any interval at all in which the Word did not exist. For if every interval in the ages is measured, and of all the ages the Word is King and Maker, therefore, whereas no interval at all exists prior to Him 1902 , it were madness to say, There was once when the Everlasting was not, and From nothing is the Son. And whereas the Lord Himself says, I am the Truth 1903 , not I became the Truth; but always, I am,—I am the Shepherd,—I am the Light,—and again, Call ye Me not, Lord and Master? and ye call Me well, for so I am, who, hearing such language from God, and the Wisdom, and Word of the Father, speaking of Himself, will any longer hesitate about the truth, and not forthwith believe that in the phrase I am, is signified that the Son is eternal and without beginning?
13. It is plain then from the above that the Scriptures declare the Sons eternity; it is equally plain from what follows that the Arian phrases He was not, and before and when, are in the same Scriptures predicated of creatures. Moses, for instance, in his account of the generation of our system, says, And every plant of the field, before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew; for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground 1904 . And in Deuteronomy, When the Most High divided to the nations 1905 . And the Lord said in His own Person, If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice p. 314 because I said, I go unto the Father, for My Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass, ye might believe 1906 . And concerning the creation He says by Solomon, Or ever the earth was, when there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth 1907 . And, Before Abraham was, I am 1908 . And concerning Jeremiah He says, Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee 1909 . And David in the Psalm says, Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made, Thou art, God from everlasting and world without end 1910 . And in Daniel, Susanna cried out with a loud voice and said, O everlasting God, that knowest the secrets, and knowest all things before they be 1911 . Thus it appears that the phrases once was not, and before it came to be, and when, and the like, belong to things originate and creatures, which come out of nothing, but are alien to the Word. But if such terms are used in Scripture of things originate, but ever of the Word, it follows, O ye enemies of God, that the Son did not come out of nothing, nor is in the number of originated things at all, but is the Fathers Image and Word eternal, never having not been, but being ever, as the eternal Radiance 1912 of a Light which is eternal. Why imagine then times before the Son? or wherefore blaspheme the Word as after times, by whom even the ages were made? for how did time or age at all subsist when the Word, as you say, had not appeared, through whom all things have been made and without whom not one thing was made 1913 ? Or why, when you mean time, do you not plainly say, a time was when the Word was not? But while you drop the word time to deceive the simple, you do not at all conceal your own feeling, nor, even if you did, could you escape discovery. For you still simply mean times, when you say, There was when He was not, and He was not before His generation.
Athan. observes that this formula of the Arians is a mere evasion to escape using the word time. vid. also Cyril. Thesaur. iv. pp. 19, 20. Else let them explain,—There was, what when the Son was not? or what was before the Son? since He Himself was before all times and ages, which He created, de Decr. 18, note 5. Thus, if when be a word of time, He it is who was when He was not, which is absurd. Did they mean, however, that it was the Father who was before the Son? This was true, if before was taken, not to imply time, but origination or beginning. And in this sense the first verse of S. Johns Gospel may be interpreted In the Beginning, or Origin, i.e. in the Father was the Word. Thus Athan. himself understands that text, Orat. iv. §1. vid. also Orat. iii. §9; Nyssen. contr. Eunom. iii. p. 106; Cyril. Thesaur. 32. p. 312.312:1882
Ps. ii. 1.312:1883
John i. 1.312:1884
Rev. i. 4. τάδε λέγει. [On λέγει, &c., in citations, see Lightf. on Gal. iii. 16, Winer, Gram. §58, 9 γ, Grimm-Thayer, s.v. II. 1. e.]312:1885
Rom. ix. 5.312:1886
1 Cor. i. 24. Athan. has so interpreted this text supr. de Decr. 15. It was either a received interpretation, or had been adduced at Nicæa, for Asterius had some years before these Discourses replied to it, vid. de Syn. 18, and Orat. ii. §37.312:1888
2 Cor. 3:16, 17. S. Athanasius observes, Serap. i. 4–7, that the Holy Ghost is never in Scripture called simply Spirit without the addition of God or of the Father or from Me or of the article, or of Holy, or Comforter, or of truth, or unless He has been spoken of just before. Accordingly this text is understood of the third Person in the Holy Trinity by Origen, contr. Cels. vi. 70; Basil de Sp. S. n. 32; Pseudo-Athan. de comm. ess. 6. On the other hand, the word πνεῦμα, Spirit, is used more or less distinctly for our Lords Divine Nature whether in itself or as incarnate, in Rom. 1:4, 1 Cor. xv. 45, 1 Tim. iii. 16, Heb. 9:14, 1 Pet. iii. 18, John vi. 63, &c. [But cf. also Milligan Resurr. 238 sq.] Indeed the early Fathers speak as if the Holy Spirit, which came down upon S. Mary might be considered the Word. E.g. Tertullian against the Valentinians, If the Spirit of God did not descend into the womb “to partake in flesh from the womb,” why did He descend at all? de Carn. Chr. 19. vid. also ibid. 5 and 14. contr. Prax. 26, Just. Apol. i. 33. Iren. Hær. v. 1. Cypr. Idol Van. 6. Lactant. Instit. iv. 12. vid. also Hilar. Trin. ii. 27; Athan. λόγος ἐν τῷ πνεύματι ἔπλαττε τὸ σῶμα. Serap. i. 31 fin. ἐν τῷ λόγῳ ἦν τὸ πνεῦμα ibid. iii. 6. And more distinctly even as late as S. Maximus, αὐτὸν ἀντὶ σπορᾶς συλλαβοῦσα τὸν λόγον, κεκύηκε, t. 2. p. 309. The earliest ecclesiastical authorities are S. Ignatius ad Smyrn. init. and S. Hermas (even though his date were a.d. 150), who also says plainly: Filius autem Spiritus Sanctus est. Sim. v. 5, 2, cf. ix. 1. The same use of Spirit for the Word or Godhead of the Word, is also found in Tatian. adv. Græc. 7. Athenag. Leg. 10. Theoph. ad Autol. ii. 10. Iren. Hær. iv. 36. Tertull. Apol. 23. Lact. Inst. iv. 6, 8. Hilar. Trin. ix. 3, and 14. Eustath. apud Theod. Eran. iii. p. 235. Athan. contr. Apoll. i. 8. Apollinar. ap. Theod. Eran. i. p. 71, and the Apollinarists passim. Greg. Naz. Ep. 101. ad Cledon. p. 85. Ambros. Incarn. 63. Severian. ap. Theod. Eran. ii. p. 167. Vid. Grot. ad Marc. ii. 8; Bull, Def. F. N. i. 2, §5; Coustant. Præf. in Hilar. 57, &c. Montfaucon in Athan. Serap. iv. 19. [see also Tertullian, de Orat. init.]313:1889
Col. i. 17.313:1890
Vid. contr. Gent. 45–47.313:1891
Matt. xi. 27.313:1892
John 14:8, 9.313:1893
Rom. i. 20.313:1894
Heb. i. 2.313:1895
Is. xl. 28.313:1896
Hist. Sus. 42.313:1897
Bar. 4:20, 22.313:1898
Heb. i. 3.313:1899
Ps. xc. 17; xxxvi. 9.313:1900
de Decr. 12, 27.313:1901
Ps. cxlv. 13.313:1902
Vid. de Decr. 18, note 5. The subject is treated at length in Greg. Nyss. contr. Eunom. i. t. 2. Append. p. 93–101. vid. also Ambros. de Fid. i. 8–11. As time measures the material creation, ages were considered to measure the immaterial, as the duration of Angels. This had been a philosophical distinction, Timæus says εἰκών ἐστι χρόνος τῷ ἀγεννάτῳ χρόνῳ, ὃν αἰωνα ποταγορεύομες. vid. also Philon. Quod Deus Immut. 6. Euseb. Laud. C. 1 prope fin., p. 501. Naz. Or. 38. 8.313:1903
John xiv. 6; x. 14; viii. 12; xiii. 13313:1904
Gen. ii. 5.313:1905
Deut. xxxii. 8.314:1906
John 14:28, 29.314:1907
Prov. viii. 23.314:1908
John viii. 58.314:1909
Jer. i. 5.314:1910
Ps. xc. 2.314:1911
Hist. Sus. 42.314:1912
de Decr. 23, note 4.314:1913
John i. 3.
Next: Subject Continued. Objection, that the Son's eternity makes Him coordinate with the Father, introduces the subject of His Divine Sonship, as a second proof of His eternity. The word Son is introduced in a secondary, but is to be understood in real sense. Since all things partake of the Father in partaking of the Son, He is the whole participation of the Father, that is, He is the Son by nature; for to be wholly participated is to beget.
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