Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: Section 1
p. CC Book VIII.
§1. The eighth book very notably overthrows the blasphemy of the heretics who say that the Only-begotten came from nothing, and that there was a time when He was not, and shows the Son to be no new being, but from everlasting, from His having said to Moses, “I am He that is,” and to Manoah, “Why askest thou My name? It also is wonderful”;—moreover David also says to God, “Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail;” and furthermore Isaiah says, “I am God, the first, and hereafter am I:” and the Evangelist, “He was in the beginning, and was with God, and was God:”—and that He has neither beginning nor end: —and he proves that those who say that He is new and comes from nothing are idolaters. And herein he very finely interprets “the brightness of the glory, and the express image of the Person.”
These, then, are the strong points of Eunomius case; and I think that when those which promised to be powerful are proved by argument to be so rotten and unsubstantial, I may well keep silence concerning the rest, since the others are practically refuted, concurrently with the refutation of the stronger ones; just as it happens in warlike operations that when a force more powerful than the rest has been beaten, the remainder of the army are no longer of any account in the eyes of those by whom the strong portion of it has been overcome. But the fact that the chief part of his blasphemy lies in the later part of his discourse forbids me to be silent. For the transition of the Only-begotten from nothing into being, that horrid and godless doctrine of Eunomius, which is more to be shunned than all impiety, is next maintained in the order of his argument. And since every one who has been bewitched by this deceit has the phrase, “If He was, He has not been begotten, and if He has been begotten, He was not,” ready upon his tongue for the maintenance of the doctrine that He Who made of nothing us and all the creation is Himself from nothing, and since the deceit obtains much support thereby, as men of feebler mind are pressed by this superficial bit of plausibility, and led to acquiesce in the blasphemy, we must needs not pass by this doctrinal “root of bitterness,” lest, as the Apostle says, it “spring up and trouble us 850 .” Now I say that we must first of all consider the actual argument itself, apart from our contest with our opponents, and thus afterwards proceed to the examination and refutation of what they have set forth.
One mark of the true Godhead is indicated by the words of Holy Scripture, which Moses learnt by the voice from heaven, when He heard Him Who said, “I am He that is 851 .” We think it right, then, to believe that to be alone truly Divine which is represented as eternal and infinite in respect of being; and all that is contemplated therein is always the same, neither growing nor being consumed; so that if one should say of God, that formerly He was, but now is not, or that He now is, but formerly was not, we should consider each of the sayings alike to be godless: for by both alike the idea of eternity is mutilated, being cut short on one side or the other by non-existence, whether one contemplates “nothing” as preceding “being 852 ,” or declares that “being” ends in “nothing”; and the frequent repetition of “first of all” or “last of all” concerning Gods non-existence does not make amends for the impious conception touching the Divinity. For this reason we declare the maintenance of their doctrine as to the non-existence at some time of Him Who truly is, to be a denial and rejection of His true Godhead; and this on the ground that, on the one hand, He Who showed Himself to Moses by the light speaks of Himself as being, when He says, “I am He that is 853 ,” while on the other, Isaiah (being made, so to say, the instrument of Him Who spoke in him) says in the person of Him that is, “I am the first, and hereafter am I 854 ,” so that hereby, whichever way we consider it, we conceive eternity in God. And so, too, the word that was spoken to Manoah shows the fact that the Divinity is not comprehensible by the significance of His name, because, when Manoah asks to know His name, that, when the promise has come actually to pass, he may by name glorify his benefactor, p. CCI He says to him, “Why askest thou this? It also is wonderful 855 ”; so that by this we learn that there is one name significant of the Divine Nature—the wonder, namely, that arises unspeakably in our hearts concerning It. So, too, great David, in his discourses with himself, proclaims the same truth, in the sense that all the creation was brought into being by God, while He alone exists always in the same manner, and abides for ever, where he says, “But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail 856 .” When we hear these sayings, and others like them, from men inspired by God, let us leave all that is not from eternity to the worship of idolaters, as a new thing alien from the true Godhead. For that which now is, and formerly was not, is clearly new and not eternal, and to have regard to any new object of worship is called by Moses the service of demons, when he says, “They sacrificed to devils and not to God, to gods whom their fathers knew not; new gods were they that came newly up 857 .” If then everything that is new in worship is a service of demons, and is alien from the true Godhead, and if what is now, but was not always, is new and not eternal, we who have regard to that which is, necessarily reckon those who contemplate non-existence as attaching to Him Who is, and who say that “He once was not,” among the worshippers of idols. For we may also see that the great John, when declaring in his own preaching the Only-begotten God, guards his own statement in every way, so that the conception of non-existence shall find no access to Him Who is. For he says 858 that He “was in the beginning,” and “was with God,” and “was God,” and was light, and life, and truth, and all good things at all times, and never at any time failed to be anything that is excellent, Who is the fulness of all good, and is in the bosom of the Father. If then Moses lays down as a law for us some such mark of true Godhead as this, that we know nothing else of God but this one thing, that He is (for to this point the words, “I am He that is 859 ”); while Isaiah in his preaching declares aloud the absolute infinity of Him Who is, defining the existence of God as having no regard to beginning or to end (for He Who says “I am the first, and hereafter am I,” places no limit to His eternity in either direction, so that neither, if we look to the beginning, do we find any point marked since which He is, and beyond which He was not, nor, if we turn our thought to the future, can we cut short by any boundary the eternal progress of Him Who is),—and if the prophet David forbids us to worship any new and strange God 860 (both of which are involved in the heretical doctrine; “newness” is clearly indicated in that which is not eternal, and “strangeness” is alienation from the Nature of the very God),—if, I say, these things are so, we declare all the sophistical fabrication about the non-existence at some time of Him Who truly is, to be nothing else than a departure from Christianity, and a turning to idolatry. For when the Evangelist, in his discourse concerning the Nature of God, separates at all points non-existence from Him Who is, and, by his constant repetition of the word “was,” carefully destroys the suspicion of non-existence, and calls Him the Only-begotten God, the Word of God, the Son of God, equal with God, and all such names, we have this judgment fixed and settled in us, that if the Only-begotten Son is God, we must believe that He Who is believed to be God is eternal. And indeed He is verily God, and assuredly is eternal, and is never at any time found to be non-existent. For God, as we have often said, if He now is, also assuredly always was, and if He once was not, neither does He now exist at all. But since even the enemies of the truth confess that the Son is and continually abides the Only-begotten God, we say this, that, being in the Father, He is not in Him in one respect only, but He is in Him altogether, in respect of all that the Father is conceived to be. As, then, being in the incorruptibility of the Father, He is incorruptible, good in His goodness, powerful in His might, and, as being in each of these attributes of special excellence which are conceived of the Father, He is that particular thing, so, also, being in His eternity, He is assuredly eternal. Now the eternity of the Father is marked by His never having taken His being from nonexistence, and never terminating His being in non-existence. He, therefore, Who hath all things that are the Fathers 861 , and is contemplated in all the glory of the Father, even as, being in the endlessness of the Father, He has no end, so, being in the unoriginateness of the Father, has, as the Apostle says, “no beginning of days 862 ,” but at once is “of the Father,” and is regarded in the eternity of the Father: and in this respect, more especially, is seen the complete absence of divergence in the Likeness, as compared with Him Whose Likeness He is. And herein is His saying found true which tells us, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father 863 .” Moreover, it is in this way that those words of the Apostle, that the Son is “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His Person 864 ,” are best understood to have an excellent and close application. For p. CCII the Apostle conveys to those hearers who are unable, by the contemplation of purely intellectual objects, to elevate their thought to the height of the knowledge of God, a sort of notion of the truth, by means of things apparent to sense. For as the body of the sun is expressly imaged by the whole disc that surrounds it, and he who looks on the sun argues, by means of what he sees, the existence of the whole solid substratum, so, he says, the majesty of the Father is expressly imaged in the greatness of the power of the Son, that the one may be believed to be as great as the other is known to be: and again, as the radiance of light sheds its brilliancy from the whole of the suns disc (for in the disc one part is not radiant, and the rest dim), so all that glory which the Father is, sheds its brilliancy from its whole extent by means of the brightness that comes from it, that is, by the true Light; and as the ray is of the sun (for there would be no ray if the sun were not), yet the sun is never conceived as existing by itself without the ray of brightness that is shed from it, so the Apostle delivering to us the continuity and eternity of that existence which the Only-begotten has of the Father, calls the Son “the brightness of His glory.”
Cf. Heb. xii. 15CC:851
Exod. iii. 4.CC:852
Reading προθεωροίη for προσθεωροίηCC:853
Exod. iii. 4.CC:854
See note 4 on Book V. §1, where these words are also treated of.CCI:855
Cf. Judges xiii. 18 (LXX.).CCI:856
Ps. cii. 27.CCI:857
Cf. Deut. xxxii. 17 (LXX.). The quotation is not exact.CCI:858
Cf. S. John iCCI:859
Exod. iii. 4.CCI:860
Cf. Ps. lxxxi. 10.CCI:861
S. John xvi. 15CCI:862
Heb. vii. 3.CCI:863
S. John xiv. 8CCI:864
Heb. i. 3.
Next: He then discusses the “willing” of the Father concerning the generation of the Son, and shows that the object of that good will is from eternity, which is the Son, existing in the Father, and being closely related to the process of willing, as the ray to the flame, or the act of seeing to the eye.
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