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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IX:
John of Damascus: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.: In answer to those who enquire whether the holy Mother of God bore two natures, and whether two natures hung upon the Cross.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VII.—In answer to those who enquire whether the holy Mother of God bore two natures, and whether two natures hung upon the Cross.

ἀγένητον and γενητόν, written with one ‘ν’ 2279 and meaning uncreated and created, refer to nature: but ἀγέννητον and γεννητόν, that is to say, unbegotten and begotten, as the double ‘ν’ indicates, refer not to nature but to subsistence. The divine nature then is ἀγένητος, that is to say, uncreate, but all things that come after the divine nature are γένητα, that is, created. In the divine and uncreated nature, therefore, the property of being ἀγέννητον or unbegotten is contemplated in the Father (for He was not begotten), that of being γέννητον or begotten in the Son (for He has been eternally begotten of the Father), p. 77b and that of procession in the Holy Spirit. Moreover of each species of living creatures, the first members were ἀγέννητα but not ἀγένητα: for they were brought into being by their Maker, but were not the offspring of creatures like themselves. For γένεσις is creation, while γέννησις or begetting is in the case of God the origin of a co-essential Son arising from the Father alone, and in the case of bodies, the origin of a co-essential subsistence arising from the contact of male and female. And thus we perceive that begetting refers not to nature but to subsistence 2280 . For if it did refer to nature, τὸ γέννητον and το ἀγέννητον, i.e. the properties of being begotten and unbegotten, could not be contemplated in one and the same nature. Accordingly the holy Mother of God bore a subsistence revealed in two natures; being begotten on the one hand, by reason of its divinity, of the Father timelessly, and, at last, on the other hand, being incarnated of her in time and born in the flesh.

But if our interrogators should hint that He Who is begotten of the holy Mother of God is two natures, we reply, “Yea! He is two natures: for He is in His own person God and man. And the same is to be said concerning the crucifixion and resurrection and ascension. For these refer not to nature but to subsistence. Christ then, since He is in two natures, suffered and was crucified in the nature that was subject to passion. For it was in the flesh and not in His divinity that He hung upon the Cross. Otherwise, let them answer us, when we ask if two natures died. No, we shall say. And so two natures were not crucified but Christ was begotten, that is to say, the divine Word having become man was begotten in the flesh, was crucified in the flesh, suffered in the flesh, while His divinity continued to be impassible.”


Footnotes

76b:2279

Supr., bk. i. ch. 9.

77b:2280

Euthym., p. 2, tit. 8.


Next: How the Only-begotten Son of God is called first-born.

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