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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Chapter XI. It cannot be proved from Scripture that the Father existed before the Son, nor yet can arguments taken from human reproduction avail to this end, since they bring in absurdities without end. To dare to affirm that Christ began to exist in the course of time is the height of blasphemy.

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Chapter XI.

It cannot be proved from Scripture that the Father existed before the Son, nor yet can arguments taken from human reproduction avail to this end, since they bring in absurdities without end. To dare to affirm that Christ began to exist in the course of time is the height of blasphemy.

68. You ask me whether it is possible that He Who is the Father should not be prior in existence. I ask you to tell me when the Father existed, the Son as yet being not; prove this, gather it from argument or evidence of Scripture. If you lean upon arguments, you have doubtless been taught that God’s power is eternal. Again, you have read the Scripture that saith: “O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto Me, there shall be no new God in thee, neither shalt thou worship a strange God.” 1809 The first of these commands betokens [the Son’s] eternity, the second His possession of an identical nature, so that we can neither believe Him to have come into existence after the Father, nor suppose Him the Son of another Divinity. For if He existed not always with the Father, He is a “new” [God]; if He is not of one Divinity with the Father, He is a “strange” [God]. But He p. 213 is not after the Father, for He is not “a new God;” nor is He “a strange God,” for He is begotten of the Father, and because, as it is written, He is “God above all, blessed for ever.” 1810

69. But if the Arians believe Him to be a strange God, why do they worship Him, when it is written: “Thou shalt worship no strange God”? Else, if they do not worship the Son, let them confess thereto, and the case is at an end,—that they deceive no one by their professions of religion. This, then, we see, is the witness of the Scriptures. If you have any others to produce, it will be your business to do so.

70. Let us now go further, and gather the truth in conclusion from arguments. For although arguments usually give place, even to human evidence, 1811 still, heretic, argue as thou wilt. “Experience teaches us,” you say, “that the being which generates is prior to that which is generated.” I answer: Follow our customary experience through all its departments, and if the rest agree herewith, I oppose not your claim that your point be granted; but if there be no such agreement, how can you claim assent on this one point, when in all the rest you lack support? Seeing, then, that you call for what is customary, it comes about that the Son, when He was begotten of the Father, was a little child. You have seen Him an infant, crying in the cradle. As the years passed, He has gone forward from strength to strength—for if He was weak with the weakness of things begotten, He must also have fallen under the weakness, not only of birth, but of life also.

71. But perchance you run to such a pitch of folly as not to flinch from asserting these things of the Son of God, measuring Him, as you do, by the rule of human infirmity. What, then, if, while you cannot refuse Him the name of God, you are bent to prove Him, by reason of weakness, to be a man? What if, whilst you examine the Person of the Son, you are calling the Father in question, and whilst you hastily pass sentence upon the Former, you include the Latter in the same condemnation!

72. If the Divine Generation has been subject to the limits of time,—if we suppose this, borrowing from the custom of human generation, then it follows, further, that the Father bare the Son in a bodily womb, and laboured under the burden whilst ten months sped their courses. But how can generation, as it commonly takes place, be brought about without the help of the other sex? You see that the common order of generation was not the commencement, and you think that the courses of generation, which are ruled by certain necessities whereunto bodies are subject, have always prevailed. You require the customary course, I ask for difference of sex: you demand the supposition of time, I that of order: you enquire into the end, I into the beginning. Now surely it is the end that depends on the beginning, not the beginning on the end.

73. “Everything,” say you, “that is begotten has a beginning, and therefore because the Son is the Son, He has a beginning, and came first into existence within limits of time.” Let this be taken as the word of their own mouth; as for myself, I confess that the Son is begotten, but the rest of their declaration makes me shudder. Man, dost thou confess God, and diminish His honour by such slander? From this madness may God deliver us.



Ps. 81:9, 10.


Rom. ix. 5.


i.e. à priori determinations respecting any matter cannot be maintained if they are traversed by the statements of eye-witnesses and participators in the affair.

Next: Chapter XII. Further objections to the Godhead of the Son are met by the same answer--to wit, that they may equally be urged against the Father also. The Father, then, being in no way confined by time, place, or anything else created, no such limitation is to be imposed upon the Son, Whose marvellous generation is not only of the Father, but of the Virgin also, and therefore, since in His generation of the Father no distinction of sex, or the like, was involved, neither was it in His generation of the Virgin.

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