Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: He again shows Eunomius, constrained by truth, in the character of an advocate of the orthodox doctrine, confessing as most proper and primary, not only the essence of the Father, but the essence also of the Only-begotten.
§5. He again shows Eunomius, constrained by truth, in the character of an advocate of the orthodox doctrine, confessing as most proper and primary, not only the essence of the Father, but the essence also of the Only-begotten.
It might, however, be useful to look at the sense of the utterance of Eunomius that is set before us in orderly sequence, recurring to the beginning of his statement. For the points we have now examined were an obvious incitement to us to begin our reply with the last passage, on account of the evident character of the contradiction involved in his words.
This, then, is what Eunomius says at the beginning:—
p. CLXII “Now, as these things are thus divided, one might reasonably say that the most proper and primary essence, and that which alone exists by the operation of the Father, admits for itself the appellations of product of generation, product of making, and product of creation.” First, then, I would ask those who are attending to this discourse to bear in mind, that in his first composition he says that the essence of the Father also is “most proper,” introducing his statement with these words, “The whole account of our teaching is completed with the supreme and most proper essence.” And here he calls the essence of the Only-begotten “most proper and primary.” Thus putting together Eunomius phrases from each of his books, we shall call him himself as a witness of the community of essence, who in another place makes a declaration to this effect, that “of things which have the same appellations, the nature also is not different” in any way. For our self-contradictory friend would not indicate things differing in nature by identity of appellation, but it is surely for this reason, that the definition of essence in Father and Son is one, that he says that the one is “most proper,” and that the other also is “most proper.” And the general usage of men bears witness to our argument, which does not apply the term “most proper” where the name does not truly agree with the nature. For instance, we call a likeness, inexactly, “a man,” but what we properly designate by this name is the animal presented to us in nature. And similarly, the language of Scripture recognizes the appellation of “god” for an idol, and for a demon, and for the belly: but here too the name has not its proper sense; and in the same way with all other cases. A man is said to have eaten food in the fancy of a dream, but we cannot call this fancy food, in the proper sense of the term. As, then, in the case of two men existing naturally, we properly call both equally by the name of man, while if any one should join an inanimate portrait in his enumeration with a real man, one might perhaps speak of him who really exists and of the likeness, as “two men,” but would no longer attribute to both the proper meaning of the word, so, on the supposition that the nature of the Only-begotten was conceived as something else than the essence of the Father, our author would not have called each of the essences “most proper.” For how could any one signify things differing in nature by identity of names? Surely the truth seems to be made plain even by those who fight against it, as falsehood is unable, even when expressed in the words of the enemy, utterly to prevail over truth. Hence the doctrine of orthodoxy is proclaimed by the mouth of its opponents, without their knowing what they say, as the saving Passion of the Lord for us had been foretold in the case of Caiaphas, not knowing what he said 648 . If, therefore, true propriety of essence is common to both (I mean to the Father and the Son), what room is there for saying that their essences are mutually divergent? Or how is a difference by way of superior power, or greatness, or honour, contemplated in them, seeing that the “most proper” essence admits of no diminution? For that which is whatever it is imperfectly, is not that thing “most properly,” be it nature, or power, or rank, or any other individual object of contemplation, so that the superiority of the Fathers essence, as heresy will have it, proves the imperfection of the essence of the Son. If then it is imperfect, it is not proper; but if it is “most proper” it is also surely perfect. For it is not possible to call that which is deficient perfect. But neither is it possible, when, in comparing them, that which is perfect is set beside that which is perfect, to perceive any difference by way of excess or defect: for perfection is one in both cases, as in a rule, not showing a hollow by defect, nor a projection by excess. Thus, from these passages Eunomius advocacy in favour of our doctrine may be sufficiently seen—I should rather say, not his earnestness on our behalf, but his conflict with himself. For he turns against himself those devices whereby he establishes our doctrines by his own arguments. Let us, however, once more follow his writings word for word, that it may be clear to all that their argument has no power for evil except the desire to do mischief.
S. John xi. 51
Next: He then exposes argument about the “Generate,” and the “product of making,” and “product of creation,” and shows the impious nature of the language of Eunomius and Theognostus on the “immediate” and “undivided” character of the essence, and its “relation to its creator and maker.”
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