Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: He declares falsely that 'the manner of the generation is to be known from the intrinsic worth of the generator'.
§33. He declares falsely that the manner of the generation is to be known from the intrinsic worth of the generator.
He goes back, for instance, to the begetting being, and from thence takes a survey of the begotten; “for,” says he, “the manner of the generation is to be known from the intrinsic worth of the generator.” Again, we find this bold unqualified generalization of his causing the thought of the inquirer to be dissipated in every possible direction; it is the nature of such general statements, to extend in their meanings to every instance, and allow nothing to escape their sweeping assertion. If then the manner of the generation is to be known from the intrinsic worth of the generator, and there are many differences in the worth of genep. LXXVIII rators according to their many classifications 168 to be found (for one may be born Jew, Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond, free), what will be the result? Why, that we must expect to find as many “manners of generation” as there are differences in intrinsic worth amongst the generators; and that their birth will not be fulfilled with all in the same way, but that their nature will vary with the worth of the parent, and that some peculiar manner of birth will be struck out for each, according to these varying estimations. For a certain inalienable worth is to be observed in the individual parent; the distinction, that is, of being better or worse off according as there has fallen to each race, estimation, religion, nationality, power, servitude, wealth, poverty, independence, dependence, or whatever else constitutes the life-long differences of worth. If then “the manner of the generation” is shown by the intrinsic worth of the parent, and there are many differences in worth, we shall inevitably find, if we follow this opinion-monger, that the manners of generation are various too; in fact, this difference of worth will dictate to Nature the manner of the birth.
But if he should not 169 admit that such worth is natural, because they can be put in thought outside the nature of their subject, we will not oppose him. But at all events he will agree to this; that mans existence is separated by an intrinsic character from that of brutes. Yet the manner of birth in these two cases presents no variation in intrinsic character; nature brings man and the brute into the world in just the same way, i.e. by generation. But if he apprehends this native dignity only in the case of the most proper and supreme existence, let us see what he means then. In our view, the native dignity of God consists in godhead itself, wisdom, power, goodness, judgment, justice, strength, mercy, truth, creativeness, domination, invisibility, everlastingness, and every other quality named in the inspired writings to magnify his glory; and we affirm that everyone of them is properly and inalienably found in the Son, recognizing difference only in respect of unoriginateness; and even that we do not exclude the Son from, according to all its meanings. But let no carping critic attack this statement as if we were attempting to exhibit the Very Son as ungenerate; for we hold that one who maintains that is no less impious than an Anomœan. But since the meanings of origin are various, and suggest many ideas, there are some of them in which the title unoriginate is not inapplicable to the Son 170 . When, for instance, this word has the meaning of deriving existence from no cause whatever, then we confess that it is peculiar to the Father; but when the question is about origin in its other meanings (since any creature or time or order has an origin), then we attribute the being superior to origin to the Son as well, and we believe that that whereby all things were made is beyond the origin of creation, and the idea of time, and the sequence of order. So He, Who on the ground of His subsistence is not without an origin, possessed in every other view an undoubted unoriginateness; and while the Father is unoriginate and Ungenerate, the Son is unoriginate in the way we have said, though not ungenerate.
What, then, is that native dignity of the Father which he is going to look at in order to infer thereby the manner of the generation. “His not being generated, most certainly,” he will reply. If, then, all those names with which we have learnt to magnify Gods glory are useless and meaningless to you, Eunomius, the mere going through the list of such expressions is a gratuitous and superfluous task; none of these other words, you say, expresses the intrinsic worth of the God over all. But if there is a peculiar force fitting our conceptions of the Deity in each of these words, the intrinsic dignities of God must plainly be viewed in connexion with this list, and the likeness of the two beings will be thereby proved; if, that is, the characters inalienable from the beings are an index of the subjects of those characters. The characters of each being are found to be the same; and so the identity on the score of being of the two subjects of these identical dignities is shown most clearly. For if the variation in a single name is to be held to be the index of an alien being, how much more should the identity of these countless names avail to prove community of nature!
What, then, is the reason why the other names should all be neglected, and generation be indicated by the means of one alone? Why do they pronounce this Ungeneracy to be the only intrinsic character in the Father, and thrust all the rest aside? It is in order that they may establish their mischievous mode 171 of p. LXXIX unlikeness of Father and Son, by this contrast as regards the begotten. But we shall find that this attempt of theirs, when we come to test it in its proper place, is equally feeble, unfounded, and nugatory as the preceding attempts.
Still, that all his reasonings point this way, is shown by the sequel, in which he praises himself for having fittingly adopted this method for the proof of his blasphemy, and yet for not having all at once divulged his intention, nor shocked the unprepared hearer with his impiety, before the concatenation of his delusive argument was complete, nor displayed this Ungeneracy as Gods being in the early part of his discourse, nor to weary us with talk about the difference of being. The following are his exact words: “Or was it right, as Basil commands, to begin with the thing to be proved, and to assert incoherently that the Ungeneracy is the being, and to talk about the difference or the sameness of nature?” Upon this he has a long intervening tirade, made up of scoffs and insulting abuse (such being the weapons which this thinker uses to defend his own doctrines), and then he resumes the argument, and turning upon his adversary, fixes upon him, forsooth, the blame of what he is saying, in these words; “For your party, before any others, are guilty of this offence; having partitioned out this same being between Begetter and Begotten; and so the scolding you have given is only a halter not to be eluded which you have woven for your own necks; justice, as might have been expected, records in your own words a verdict against yourselves. Either you first conceive of the beings as sundered, and independent of each other 172 ; and then bring down one of them, by generation, to the rank of Son, and contend that One who exists independently nevertheless was made by means of the Other existence; and so lay yourselves open to your own reproaches: for to Him whom you imagine as without generation you ascribe a generation by another:—or else you first allow one single causeless being, and then marking this out by an act of causation into Father and Son, you declare that this non-generated being came into existence by means of itself.”
᾽Επίνοια is the opposite of ἔννοια, the intuitive idea. It means an “afterthought,” and, with the notion of unnecessary addition, a conceit. Here it is applied to conventional, or not purely natural difference. See Introduction to Book XIII. for the fuller meaning of ᾽Επίνοια.LXXVIII:169
μὴ δέχοιτο. This use of the optative, where the subjunctive with ἐαν might have been expected, is one of the few instances in Gregorys Greek of declension from Classic usage; in the latter, when ει with the optative does denote subjective possibility, it is only when the condition is conceived of as of frequent repetition, e.g. 1 Peter iii. 14. The optative often in this Greek of the fourth century invades the province of the subjunctive.LXXVIII:170
See Note on ᾽Αγέννητος, p. 100.LXXIX:172
Next: The Passage where he attacks the ῾Ομοούσιον, and the contention in answer to it.
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: http://St-Takla.org / Contact us at