Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: He then shows, from the instance of Adam and Abel, and other examples, the absence of alienation of essence in the case of the “generate” and “ungenerate.”
§3. He then shows, from the instance of Adam and Abel, and other examples, the absence of alienation of essence in the case of the “generate” and “ungenerate.”
Now seeing that Eunomius conflict with himself has been made manifest, where he has been shown to contradict himself, at one time saying, “He ought to be called Son, according to nature, because He is begotten,” at another that, because He is created, He is no more called “Son,” but a “product,” I think it right that the careful and attentive reader, as it is not possible, when two statements are mutually at variance, that the truth should be found equally in both, should reject of the two that which is impious and blasphemous—that, I mean, with regard to the “creature” and the “product,” and should assent to that only which is of orthodox tendency, which confesses that p. CXLIII the appellation of “Son” naturally attaches to the Only-begotten God: so that the word of truth would seem to be recommended even by the voice of its enemies.
I resume my discourse, however, taking up that point of his argument which we originally set aside. “We do not refuse,” he says, “to call the Son, seeing He is generate, even by the name of product of generation 574 , since the generated essence itself, and the appellation of Son, make such a relation of words appropriate.” Meanwhile let the reader who is critically following the argument remember this, that in speaking of the “generated essence” in the case of the Only-begotten, he by consequence allows us to speak of the “ungenerate essence” in the case of the Father, so that neither absence of generation, nor generation, can any longer be supposed to constitute the essence, but the essence must be taken separately, and its being, or not being begotten, must be conceived separately by means of the peculiar attributes contemplated in it. Let us, however, consider more carefully his argument on this point. He says that an essence has been begotten, and that the name of this generated essence is “Son.” Well, at this point our argument will convict that of our opponents on two grounds, first, of an attempt at knavery, secondly, of slackness in their attempt against ourselves. For he is playing the knave when he speaks of “generation of essence,” in order to establish his opposition between the essences, when once they are divided in respect of a difference of nature between “generate” and “ungenerate”: while the slackness of their attempt is shown by the very positions their knavery tries to establish. For he who says the essence is generate, clearly defines generation as being something else distinct from the essence, so that the significance of generation cannot be assigned to the word “essence.” For he has not in this passage represented the matter as he often does, so as to say that generation is itself the essence, but acknowledges that the essence is generated, so that there is produced in his readers a distinct notion in the case of each word: for one conception arises in him who hears that it was generated, and another is called up by the name of “essence.” Our argument may be made clearer by example. The Lord says in the Gospel 575 that a woman, when her travail is drawing near, is in sorrow, but afterwards rejoices in gladness because a man is born into the world. As then in this passage we derive from the Gospel two distinct conceptions,—one the birth which we conceive to be by way of generation, the other that which results from the birth (for the birth is not the man, but the man is by the birth),—so here too, when Eunomius confesses that the essence was generated, we learn by the latter word that the essence comes from something, and by the former we conceive that subject itself which has its real being from something. If then the signification of essence is one thing, and the word expressing generation suggests to us another conception, their clever contrivances are quite gone to ruin, like earthen vessels hurled one against the other, and mutually smashed to pieces. For it will no longer be possible for them, if they apply the opposition of “generate” and “ungenerate” to the essence of the Father and the Son, to apply at the same time to the things themselves the mutual conflict between these names 576 . For as it is confessed by Eunomius that the essence is generate (seeing that the example from the Gospel explains the meaning of such a phrase, where, when we hear that a man is generated, we do not conceive the man to be the same thing as his generation, but receive a separate conception in each of the two words), heresy will surely no longer be permitted to express by such words her doctrine of the difference of the essences. In order, however, that our account of these matters may be cleared up as far as possible, let us once more discuss the point in the following way. He Who framed the universe made the nature of man with all things in the beginning, and after Adam was made, He then appointed for men the law of generation one from another, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply 577 .” Now while Abel came into existence by way of generation, what reasonable man would deny that, in the actual sense of human generation, Adam existed ungenerately? Yet the first man had in himself the complete definition of mans essential nature, and he who was generated of him was enrolled under the same essential name. But if the essence that was generated was made anything other than that which was not generated, the same essential name would not apply to both: for of those things whose essence is different, the essential name also is not the same. Since, then, the essential nature of Adam and of Abel is marked by the same characteristics, we must certainly agree that one essence is in both, and that the one and the other are exhibited in the same nature. For Adam and Abel are both one so far as the p. CXLIV definition of their nature is concerned, but are distinguished one from the other without confusion by the individual attributes observed in each of them. We cannot therefore properly say that Adam generated another essence besides himself, but rather that of himself he generated another self, with whom was produced the whole definition of the essence of him who generated him. What, then, we learn in the case of human nature by means of the inferential guidance afforded to us by the definition, this I think we ought to take for our guidance also to the pure apprehension of the Divine doctrines. For when we have shaken off from the Divine and exalted doctrines all carnal and material notions, we shall be most surely led by the remaining conception, when it is purged of such ideas, to the lofty and unapproachable heights. It is confessed even by our adversaries that God, Who is over all, both is and is called the Father of the Only-begotten, and they moreover give to the Only-begotten God, Who is of the Father, the name of “begotten,” by reason of His being generated. Since then among men the word “father” has certain significances attaching to it, from which the pure nature is alien, it behoves a man to lay aside all material conceptions which enter in by association with the carnal significance of the word “father,” and to form in the case of the God and Father a conception befitting the Divine nature, expressive only of the reality of the relationship. Since, therefore, in the notion of a human father there is included not only all that the flesh suggests to our thoughts, but a certain notion of interval is also undoubtedly conceived with the idea of human fatherhood, it would be well, in the case of the Divine generation, to reject, together with bodily pollution, the notion of interval also, that so what properly belongs to matter may be completely purged away, and the transcendent generation may be clear, not only from the idea of passion, but from that of interval. Now he who says that God is a Father will unite with the thought that God is, the further thought that He is something: for that which has its being from some beginning, certainly also derives from something the beginning of its being, whatever it is: but He in Whose case being had no beginning, has not His beginning from anything, even although we contemplate in Him some other attribute than simple existence. Well, God is a Father. It follows that He is what He is from eternity: for He did not become, but is a Father: for in God that which was, both is and will be. On the other hand, if He once was not anything, then He neither is nor will be that thing: for He is not believed to be the Father of a Being such that it may be piously asserted that God once existed by Himself without that Being. For the Father is the Father of Life, and Truth, and Wisdom, and Light, and Sanctification, and Power, and all else of a like kind that the Only-begotten is or is called. Thus when the adversaries allege that the Light “once was not,” I know not to which the greater injury is done, whether to the Light, in that the Light is not, or to Him that has the Light, in that He has not the Light. So also with Life and Truth and Power, and all the other characters in which the Only-begotten fills the Fathers bosom, being all things in His own fulness. For the absurdity will be equal either way, and the impiety against the Father will equal the blasphemy against the Son: for in saying that the Lord “once was not,” you will not merely assert the non-existence of Power, but you will be saying that the Power of God, Who is the Father of the Power, “was not.” Thus the assertion made by your doctrine that the Son “once was not,” establishes nothing else than a destitution of all good in the case of the Father. See to what an end these wise mens acuteness leads, how by them the word of the Lord is made good, which says, “He that despiseth Me despiseth Him that sent Me 578 :” for by the very arguments by which they despise the existence at any time of the Only-begotten, they also dishonour the Father, stripping off by their doctrine from the Fathers glory every good name and conception.
γέννημα. This word, in what follows, is sometimes translated simply by the word “product,” where it is not contrasted with ποίημα (the “product of making”), or where the argument depends especially upon its grammatical form (which indicates that the thing denoted is the result of a process), rather than upon the idea of the particular process.CXLIII:575
Cf. S. John xvi. 21CXLIII:576
If, that is, they speak of the “generated essence” in contra-distinction to “ungenerate essence” they are precluded from saying that the essence of the Son is that He is begotten, and that the essence of the Father is that He is ungenerate: that which constitutes the essence cannot be made an epithet of the essence.CXLIII:577
Gen. i. 28.CXLIV:578
S. Luke x. 16
Next: He thus shows the oneness of the Eternal Son with the Father the identity of essence and the community of nature (wherein is a natural inquiry into the production of wine), and that the terms “Son” and “product” in the naming of the Only-Begotten include a like idea of relationship.
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