Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: Gregory again discusses the generation of the Only-Begotten, and other different modes of generation, material and immaterial, and nobly demonstrates that the Son is the brightness of the Divine glory, and not a creature.
§9. Gregory again discusses the generation of the Only-Begotten, and other different modes of generation, material and immaterial, and nobly demonstrates that the Son is the brightness of the Divine glory, and not a creature.
And now let us return once more to the precise statement of Eunomius. “We believe also in the Son of God, the only begotten God, the first-born of all creation, very Son, not Ungenerate, verily begotten before the worlds.” p. CXIV That he transfers, then, the sense of generation to indicate creation is plain from his expressly calling Him created, when he speaks of Him as “coming into being” and “not uncreate”. But that the inconsiderate rashness and want of training which shows itself in the doctrines may be made manifest, let us omit all expressions of indignation at his evident blasphemy, and employ in the discussion of this matter a scientific division. For it would be well, I think, to consider in a somewhat careful investigation the exact meaning of the term “generation.” That this expression conveys the meaning of existing as the result of some cause is plain to all, and I suppose there is no need to contend about this point: but since there are different modes of existing as the result of a cause, this difference is what I think ought to receive thorough explanation in our discussion by means of scientific division. Of things which have come into being as the results of some cause we recognize the following differences. Some are the result of material and art, as the fabrics of houses and all other works produced by means of their respective material, where some art gives direction and conducts its purpose to its proper aim. Others are the result of material and nature; for nature orders 350 the generation of animals one from another, effecting her own work by means of the material subsistence in the bodies of the parents; others again are by material efflux. In these the original remains as it was before, and that which flows from it is contemplated by itself, as in the case of the sun and its beam, or the lamp and its radiance, or of scents and ointments, and the quality given off from them. For these, while remaining undiminished in themselves, have each accompanying them the special and peculiar effect which they naturally produce, as the sun his ray, the lamp its brightness, and perfumes the fragrance which they engender in the air. There is also another kind of generation besides these, where the cause is immaterial and incorporeal, but the generation is sensible and takes place through the instrumentality of the body; I mean the generation of the word by the mind. For the mind being in itself incorporeal begets the word by means of sensible instruments. So many are the differences of the term generation, which we discover in a philosophic view of them, that is itself, so to speak, the result of generation.
And now that we have thus distinguished the various modes of generation, it will be time to remark how the benevolent dispensation of the Holy Spirit, in delivering to us the Divine mysteries, imparts that instruction which transcends reason by such methods as we can receive. For the inspired teaching adopts, in order to set forth the unspeakable power of God, all the forms of generation that human intelligence recognizes, yet without including the corporeal senses attaching to the words. For when it speaks of the creative power, it gives to such an energy the name of generation, because its expression must stoop to our low capacity; it does not, however, convey thereby all that we include in creative generation, as time, place, the furnishing of matter, the fitness of instruments, the design in the things that come into being, but it leaves these, and asserts of God in lofty and magnificent language the creation of all existent things, when it says, “He spake the word and they were made 351 , He commanded and they were created.” Again when it interprets to us the unspeakable and transcendent existence of the Only-begotten from the Father, as the poverty of human intellect is incapable of receiving doctrines which surpass all power of speech and thought, there too it borrows our language and terms Him “Son,”—a name which our usage assigns to those who are born of matter and nature. But just as Scripture, when speaking of generation by creation, does not in the case of God imply that such generation took place by means of any material, affirming that the power of Gods will served for material substance, place, time and all such circumstances, even so here too, when using the term Son, it rejects both all else that human nature remarks in generation here below,—I mean affections and dispositions and the co-operation of time, and the necessity of place,—and, above all, matter, without all which natural generation here below does not take place. But when all such material, temporal and local 352 existence is excluded from the sense of the term “Son,” community of nature alone is left, and for this reason by the title “Son” is declared, concerning the Only-begotten, the close affinity and genuineness of relationship which mark His manifestation from the Father. And since such a kind of generation was not sufficient to implant in us an adequate notion of the ineffable mode of subsistence of the Only-begotten, Scripture avails itself also of the third kind of generation to indicate the doctrine of the Sons Divinity,—that kind, namely, which is the result of material efflux, and speaks of Him as the “brightness of glory 353 ,” the “savour of ointment 354 ,” the “breath p. CXV of God 355 ;” illustrations which in the scientific phraseology we have adopted we ordinarily designate as material efflux.
But as in the cases alleged neither the birth of the creation nor the force of the term “Son” admits time, matter, place, or affection, so here too the Scripture employing only the illustration of effulgence and the others that I have mentioned, apart from all material conception, with regard to the Divine fitness of such a mode of generation, shows that we must understand by the significance of this expression, an existence at once derived from and subsisting with the Father. For neither is the figure of breath intended to convey to us the notion of dispersion into the air from the material from which it is formed, nor is the figure of fragrance designed to express the passing off of the quality of the ointment into the air, nor the figure of effulgence the efflux which takes place by means of the rays from the body of the sun: but as has been said in all cases, by such a mode of generation is indicated this alone, that the Son is of the Father and is conceived of along with Him, no interval intervening between the Father and Him Who is of the Father. For since of His exceeding loving-kindness the grace of the Holy Spirit so ordered that the divine conceptions concerning the Only-begotten should reach us from many quarters, and so be implanted in us, He added also the remaining kind of generation,—that, namely, of the word from the mind. And here the sublime John uses remarkable foresight. That the reader might not through inattention and unworthy conceptions sink to the common notion of “word,” so as to deem the Son to be merely a voice of the Father, he therefore affirms of the Word that He essentially subsisted in the first and blessed nature Itself, thus proclaiming aloud, “In the Beginning was the Word, and with God, and God, and Light, and Life 356 ,” and all that the Beginning is, the Word was also.
Since, then, these kinds of generation, those, I mean, which arise as the result of some cause, and are recognized in our every-day experience, are also employed by Holy Scripture to convey its teaching concerning transcendent mysteries in such wise as each of them may reasonably be transferred to the expression of divine conceptions, we may now proceed to examine Eunomius statement also, to find in what sense he accepts the meaning of “generation.” “Very Son,” he says, “not ungenerate, verily begotten before the worlds.” One may, I think, pass quickly over the violence done to logical sequence in his distinction, as being easily recognizable by all. For who does not know that while the proper opposition is between Father and Son, between generate and ungenerate, he thus passes over the term “Father” and sets “ungenerate” in opposition to “Son,” whereas he ought, if he had any concern for truth, to have avoided diverting his phrase from the due sequence of relationship, and to have said, “Very Son, not Father”? And in this way due regard would have been paid at once to piety and to logical consistency, as the nature would not have been rent asunder in making the distinction between the persons. But he has exchanged in his statement of his faith the true and scriptural use of the term “Father,” committed to us by the Word Himself, and speaks of the “Ungenerate” instead of the “Father,” in order that by separating Him from that close relationship towards the Son which is naturally conceived of in the title of Father, he may place Him on a common level with all created objects, which equally stand in opposition to the “ungenerate 357 .” “Verily begotten,” he says, “before the worlds.” Let him say of Whom He is begotten. He will answer, of course, “Of the Father,” unless he is prepared unblushingly to contradict the truth. But since it is impossible to detach the eternity of the Son from the eternal Father, seeing that the term “Father” by its very signification implies the Son, for this reason it is that he rejects the title Father and shifts his phrase to “ungenerate,” since the meaning of this latter name has no sort of relation or connection with the Son, and by thus misleading his readers through the substitution of one term for the other, into not contemplating the Son along with the Father, he opens up a path for his sophistry, paving the way of impiety by slipping in the term “ungenerate.” For they who according to the ordinance of the Lord believe in the Father, when they hear the name of the Father, receive the Son along with Him in their thought, as the mind passes from the Son to the Father, without treading on an unsubstantial vacuum interposed between them. But those who are diverted to the title “ungenerate” instead of Father, get a bare notion of this name, learning only the fact that He did not at any time come into being, not that He is Father. Still, even with this mode of conception, the faith of those who read with discernment remains free from confusion. For the expression “not to come into being” is used in an identical sense of all uncreated nature: and Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are equally uncreated. For it has ever been believed by p. CXVI those who follow the Divine word that all the creation, sensible and supramundane, derives its existence from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. He who has heard that “by the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth 358 ,” neither understands by “word” mere utterance, nor by “breath” mere exhalation, but by what is there said frames the conception of God the Word and of the Spirit of God. Now to create and to be created are not equivalent, but all existent things being divided into that which makes and that which is made, each is different in nature from the other, so that neither is that uncreated which is made, nor is that created which effects the production of the things that are made. By those then who, according to the exposition of the faith given us by our Lord Himself, have believed in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, it is acknowledged that each of these Persons is alike unoriginate 359 , and the meaning conveyed by “ungenerate” does no harm to their sound belief: but to those who are dense and indefinite this term serves as a starting-point for deflection from sound doctrine. For not understanding the true force of the term, that “ungenerate” signifies nothing more than “not having come into being,” and that “not coming into being” is a common property of all that transcends created nature, they drop their faith in the Father, and substitute for “Father” the phrase “ungenerate:” and since, as has been said, the Personal existence of the Only-begotten is not connoted in this name, they determine the existence of the Son to have commenced from some definite beginning in time, affirming (what Eunomius here adds to his previous statements) that He is called Son not without generation preceding His existence.
What is this vain juggling with words? Is he aware that it is God of Whom he speaks, Who was in the beginning and is in the Father, nor was there any time when He was not? He knows not what he says nor whereof he affirms 360 , but he endeavours, as though he were constructing the pedigree of a mere man, to apply to the Lord of all creation the language which properly belongs to our nature here below. For, to take an example, Ishmael was not before the generation that brought him into being, and before his birth there was of course an interval of time. But with Him Who is “the brightness of glory 361 ,” “before” and “after” have no place: for before the brightness, of course neither was there any glory, for concurrently with the existence of the glory there assuredly beams forth its brightness; and it is impossible in the nature of things that one should be severed from the other, nor is it possible to see the glory by itself before its brightness. For he who says thus will make out the glory in itself to be darkling and dim, if the brightness from it does not shine out at the same time. But this is the unfair method of the heresy, to endeavour, by the notions and terms employed concerning the Only-begotten God, to displace Him from His oneness with the Father. It is to this end they say, “Before the generation that brought Him into being He was not Son:” but the “sons of rams 362 ,” of whom the prophet speaks,—are not they too called sons after coming into being? That quality, then, which reason notices in the “sons of rams,” that they are not “sons of rams” before the generation which brings them into being,—this our reverend divine now ascribes to the Maker of the worlds and of all creation, Who has the Eternal Father in Himself, and is contemplated in the eternity of the Father, as He Himself says, “I am in the Father, and the Father in Me 363 .” Those, however, who are not able to detect the sophistry that lurks in his statement, and are not trained to any sort of logical perception, follow these inconsequent statements and receive what comes next as a logical consequence of what preceded. For he says, “coming into being before all creation,” and as though this were not enough to prove his impiety, he has a piece of profanity in reserve in the phrase that follows, when he terms the Son “not uncreate.” In what sense then does he call Him Who is not uncreate “very Son”? For if it is meet to call Him Who is not uncreate “very Son,” then of course the heaven is “very Son;” for it too is “not uncreate.” So the sun too is “very Son,” and all that the creation contains, both small and great, are of course entitled to the appellation of “very Son.” And in what sense does He call Him Who has come into being “Only-begotten”? For all things that come into being are unquestionably in brotherhood with each other, so far, I mean, as their coming into being is concerned. And from whom did He come into being? For assuredly all things that have ever come into being did so from the Son. For thus did John testify, saying, “All things were made by Him 364 .” If then the Son also came into being, according to Eunomius creed, He p. CXVII is certainly ranked in the class of things which have come into being. If then all things that came into being were made by Him, and the Word is one of the things that came into being, who is so dull as not to draw from these premises the absurd conclusion that our new creed-monger makes out the Lord of creation to have been His own work, in saying in so many words that the Lord and Maker of all creation is “not uncreate”? Let him tell us whence he has this boldness of assertion. From what inspired utterance? What evangelist, what apostle ever uttered such words as these? What prophet, what lawgiver, what patriarch, what other person of all who were divinely moved by the Holy Ghost, whose voices are preserved in writing, ever originated such a statement as this? In the tradition of the faith delivered by the Truth we are taught to believe in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If it were right to believe that the Son was created, how was it that the Truth in delivering to us this mystery bade us believe in the Son, and not in the creature? and how is it that the inspired Apostle, himself adoring Christ, lays it down that they who worship the creature besides the Creator are guilty of idolatry 365 ? For, were the Son created, either he would not have worshipped Him, or he would have refrained from classing those who worship the creature along with idolaters, lest he himself should appear to be an idolater, in offering adoration to the created. But he knew that He Whom he adored was God over all 366 , for so he terms the Son in his Epistle to the Romans. Why then do those who divorce the Son from the essence of the Father, and call Him creature, bestow on Him in mockery the fictitious title of Deity, idly conferring on one alien from true Divinity the name of “God,” as they might confer it on Bel or Dagon or the Dragon? Let those, therefore, who affirm that He is created, acknowledge that He is not God at all, that they may be seen to be nothing but Jews in disguise, or, if they confess one who is created to be God, let them not deny that they are idolaters.
Reading οἰκονομεῖ or οἰκοδομεῖCXIV:351
Or “were generated.” The reference is to Ps. cxlviii. 5.CXIV:352
διαστηματικῆς seems to include the idea of extension in time as well as in space.CXIV:353
Heb. i. 3.CXIV:354
The reference may be to the Song of Solomon i. 3.CXV:355
Wisd. vii. 25.CXV:356
Cf. S. John i. 1 sqq.CXV:357
That is, by using as the terms of his antithesis, not “Son” and “Father,” but “Son” and “Ungenerate,” he avoids suggesting relationship between the two Persons, and does suggest that the Second Person stands in the same opposition to the First Person in which all created objects stand as contrasted with Him.CXVI:358
Ps. xxxiii. 6.CXVI:359
τὀ μὴ γενέσθαι τι τούτων ἐπίσης ὁμολογεῖται. This may possibly mean “it is acknowledged that each of those alternatives” (viz. that that which comes into being is uncreate, and that that which creates should itself be created) “is equally untrue.” But this view would not be confined to those who held the Catholic doctrine: the impossibility of the former alternative, indeed, was insisted upon by the Arians as an argument in their own favour.CXVI:360
Cf. 1 Tim. i. 7CXVI:361
Cf. Heb. i. 3CXVI:362
Ps. cxiv. 4, in Septuagint.CXVI:363
S. John xiv. 10CXVI:364
S. John i. 3CXVII:365
Rom. i. 25, where παρὰ τὸν κτίσαντα may be better translated “besides the Creator,” or “rather than the Creator,” than as in the A.V.CXVII:366
Rom. ix. 5.
Next: He explains the phrase “The Lord created Me,” and the argument about the origination of the Son, the deceptive character of Eunomius' reasoning, and the passage which says, “My glory will I not give to another,” examining them from different points of view.
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