Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: Then, distinguishing between essence and generation, he declares the empty and frivolous language of Eunomius to be like a rattle. He proceeds to show that the language used by the great Basil on the subject of the generation of the Only-begotten has been grievously slandered by Eunomius, and so ends the book.
§9. Then, distinguishing between essence and generation, he declares the empty and frivolous language of Eunomius to be like a rattle. He proceeds to show that the language used by the great Basil on the subject of the generation of the Only-begotten has been grievously slandered by Eunomius, and so ends the book.
I will pass by these matters, however, as the absurdity involved is evident; let us examine what precedes. He says that nothing else is found, “besides the essence of the Son, which admits of the generation.” What does he mean when he says this? He distinguishes two names from each other, and separating by his discourse the things signified by them, he sets each of them individually apart by itself. “The generation” is one name, and “the essence” is another. The essence, he tells us, “admits of the generation,” being therefore of course something distinct from the generation. For if the generation were the essence (which is the very thing he is constantly declaring), so that the two appellations are equivalent in sense, he would not have said that the essence “admits of the generation”: for that would amount to saying that the essence admits of the essence, or the generation the generation,—if, that is, the generation were the same thing as the essence. He understands, then, the generation to be one thing, and the essence to be another, which “admits of generation”: for that which is taken cannot be the same with that which admits it. Well, this is what the sage and systematic statement of our author says: but as to whether there is any sense in his words, let him consider who is expert in judging. I will resume his actual words.
He says that he finds “nothing else besides p. CLXX the essence of the Son which admits of the generation”; that there is no sense in his words however, is clear to every one who hears his statement at all: the task which remains seems to be to bring to light the blasphemy which he is trying to construct by aid of these meaningless words. For he desires, even if he cannot effect his purpose, to produce in his hearers by this slackness of expression, the notion that the essence of the Son is the result of construction: but he calls its construction “generation,” decking out his horrible blasphemy with the fairest phrase, that if “construction” is the meaning conveyed by the word “generation,” the idea of the creation of the Lord may receive a ready assent. He says, then, that the essence “admits of generation,” so that every construction may be viewed, as it were, in some subject matter. For no one would say that that is constructed which has no existence, so extending “making” in his discourse, as if it were some constructed fabric, to the nature of the Only-begotten God 679 . “If, then,” he says, “it admits of this generation,”—wishing to convey some such meaning as this, that it would not have been, had it not been constructed. But what else is there among the things we contemplate in the creation which is without being made? Heaven, earth, air, sea, everything whatever that is, surely is by being made. How, then, comes it that he considered it a peculiarity in the nature of the Only begotten, that it “admits generation” (for this is his name for making) “into its actual essence,” as though the humble-bee or the gnat did not admit generation into itself 680 , but into something else besides itself. It is therefore acknowledged by his own writings, that by them the essence of the Only-begotten is placed on the same level with the smallest parts of the creation: and every proof by which he attempts to establish the alienation of the Son from the Father has the same force also in the case of individual things. What need has he, then, for this varied acuteness to establish the diversity of nature, when he ought to have taken the short cut of denial, by openly declaring that the name of the Son ought not to be confessed, or the Only-begotten God to be preached in the churches, but that we ought to esteem the Jewish worship as superior to the faith of Christians, and, while we confess the Father as being alone Creator and Maker of the world, to reduce all other things to the name and conception of the creation, and among these to speak of that work which preceded the rest as a “thing made,” which came into being by some constructive operation, and to give Him the title of “First created,” instead of Only-begotten and Very Son. For when these opinions have carried the day, it will be a very easy matter to bring doctrines to a conclusion in agreement with the aim they have in view, when all are guided, as you might expect from such a principle, to the consequence that it is impossible that He Who is neither begotten nor a Son, but has His existence through some energy, should share in essence with God. So long, however, as the declarations of the Gospel prevail, by which He is proclaimed as “Son,” and “Only-begotten,” and “of the Father,” and “of God,” and the like, Eunomius will talk his nonsense to no purpose, leading himself and his followers astray by such idle chatter. For while the title of “Son” speaks aloud the true relation to the Father, who is so foolish that, while John and Paul and the rest of the choir of the Saints proclaim these words,—words of truth, and words that point to the close affinity,—he does not look to them, but is led by the empty rattle of Eunomius sophisms to think that Eunomius is a truer guide than the teaching of these who by the Spirit speak mysteries 681 , and who bear Christ in themselves? Why, who is this Eunomius? Whence was he raised up to be the guide of Christians?
But let all this pass, and let our earnestness about what lies before us calm down our heart, that is swollen with jealousy on behalf of the faith against the blasphemers. For how is it possible not to be moved to wrath and hatred, while our God, and Lord, and Life-giver, and Saviour is insulted by these wretched men? If he had reviled my father according to the flesh, or been at enmity with my benefactor, would it have been possible to bear without emotion his anger against those I love? And if the Lord of my soul, Who gave it being when it was not, and redeemed it when in bondage, and gave me to taste of this present life, and prepared for me the life to come, Who calls us to a kingdom, and gives us His commands that we may escape the damnation of hell,—these are small things that I speak of, and not worthy p. CLXXI to express the greatness of our common Lord—He that is worshipped by all creation, by things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, by Whom stand the unnumbered myriads of the heavenly ministers, to Whom is turned all that is under rule here, and that has the desire of good—if He is exposed to reviling by men, for whom it is not enough to associate themselves with the party of the apostate, but who count it loss not to draw others by their scribbling into the same gulf with themselves, that those who come after may not lack a hand to lead them to destruction, is there any one 682 who blames us for our anger against these men? But let us return to the sequence of his discourse.
He next proceeds once more to slander us as dishonouring the generation of the Son by human similitudes, and mentions what was written on these points by our father 683 , where he says that while by the word “Son” two things are signified, the being formed by passion, and the true relationship to the begetter, he does not admit in discourses upon things divine the former sense, which is unseemly and carnal, but in so far as the latter tends to testify to the glory of the Only-begotten, this alone finds a place in the sublime doctrines. Who, then, dishonours the generation of the Son by human notions? He who sets far from the Divine generation what belongs to passion and to man, and joins the Son impassibly to Him that begat Him? or he who places Him Who brought all things into being on a common level with the lower creation? Such an idea, however, as it seems,—that of associating the Son in the majesty of the Father,—this new wisdom seems to regard as dishonouring; while it considers as great and sublime the act of bringing Him down to equality with the creation that is in bondage with us. Empty complaints! Basil is slandered as dishonouring the Son, who honours Him even as he honours the Father 684 , and Eunomius is the champion of the Only-begotten, who severs Him from the good nature of the Father! Such a reproach Paul also once incurred with the Athenians, being charged therewith by them as “a setter forth of strange gods 685 ,” when he was reproving the wandering among their gods of those who were mad in their idolatry, and was leading them to the truth, preaching the resurrection by the Son. These charges are now brought against Pauls follower by the new Stoics and Epicureans, who “spend their time in nothing else,” as the history says of the Athenians, “but either to tell or to hear some new thing 686 .” For what could be found newer than this,—a Son of an energy, and a Father of a creature, and a new God springing up from nothing, and good at variance with good? These are they who profess to honour Him with due honour by saying that He is not that which the nature of Him that begat Him is. Is Eunomius not ashamed of the form of such honour, if one were to say that he himself is not akin in nature to his father, but has community with something of another kind? If he who brings the Lord of the creation into community with the creation declares that he honours Him by so doing, let him also himself be honoured by having community assigned him with what is brute and senseless: but, if he finds community with an inferior nature hard and insolent treatment, how is it honour for Him Who, as the prophet saith, “ruleth with His power for ever 687 ,” to be ranked with that nature which is in subjection and bondage? But enough of this.
This whole passage, as it stands in Oehlers text, (which has here been followed without alteration,) is obscure: the connection between the clauses themselves is by no means clear; and the general meaning of the passage, in view of the succeeding sentences, seems doubtful. For it seems here to be alleged that Eunomius considered the κατασκεύη to imply the previous existence of some material, so to say, which was moulded by generation—on the ground that no one would say that the essence, or anything else, was constructed without being existent. On the other hand it is immediately urged that this is just what would be said of all created things. If the passage might be emended thus:—ἵν᾽, ὥσπερ ἐν ὑποκειμένῳ τινὶ πράγματι πᾶσα κατασκεύη θεωρεῖται, (οὐ γὰρ ἄν τις ἔιποι κατασκεύασθαι ὃ μὴ ὑφέστηκεν), οὕτως οἷον κατασκευάσματι τῇ τοῦ μονογενοῦς φύσει προτείνῃ τῷ λόγῳ τὴν ποίησιν—we should have a comparatively clear sense—“in order that as all construction is observed in some subject matter, (for no one would say that that is constructed which has not existence) so he may extend the process of making by his argument to the nature of the Only-begotten God, as to some product of construction.” The force of this would be, that Eunomius is really employing the idea of “receiving generation,” to imply that the essence of the Only-begotten is a κατασκεύασμα: and this, Gregory says, puts him at once on a level with the physical creation.CLXX:680
Oehlers punctuation seems faulty here.CLXX:681
Cf. 1 Cor. xiv. 2.CLXXI:682
Reading ἇρά τις for ἆρα τίς of Oehlers text.CLXXI:683
That is, by S. Basil: the reference seems to be to the treatise Adv. Eunomium ii. 24 (p. 260 C. in the Benedictine edition), but the quotation is not exact.CLXXI:684
Cf. S. John v. 23CLXXI:685
Acts xvii. 18.CLXXI:686
Acts xvii. 21.CLXXI:687
Ps. 66:6, 7Ps. lxvi. 6 (LXX.).
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