Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Chapter X. The objection that Christ, on the showing of St. John, lives because of the Father, and therefore is not to be regarded as equal with the Father, is met by the reply that for the Life of the Son, in respect of His Godhead, there has never been a time when it began; and that it is dependent upon none, whilst the passage in question must be understood as referring to His human life, as is shown by His speaking there of His body and blood. Two expositions of the passage are given, the one of which is shown to refer to Christ's Manhood, whilst the second teaches His equality with the Father, as also His likeness with men. Rebuke is administered to the Arians for the insult which they are seeking to inflict upon the Son, and the sense in which the Son can be said to live “because of” the Father is explained, as also the union of life with the divine Life. A further objection, based upon the Son's prayer that He may be glorified by the Father, is briefly refuted.
The objection that Christ, on the showing of St. John, lives because of the Father, and therefore is not to be regarded as equal with the Father, is met by the reply that for the Life of the Son, in respect of His Godhead, there has never been a time when it began; and that it is dependent upon none, whilst the passage in question must be understood as referring to His human life, as is shown by His speaking there of His body and blood. Two expositions of the passage are given, the one of which is shown to refer to Christs Manhood, whilst the second teaches His equality with the Father, as also His likeness with men. Rebuke is administered to the Arians for the insult which they are seeking to inflict upon the Son, and the sense in which the Son can be said to live “because of” the Father is explained, as also the p. 278 union of life with the divine Life. A further objection, based upon the Sons prayer that He may be glorified by the Father, is briefly refuted.
118. There are not a few who raise this further objection, that it is written: “As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth Me, liveth also by Me.” 2438 “How,” ask they, “is the Son equal with the Father, when He has said that He lives by the Father?”
119. Let those who oppose us on this ground tell us first what the Life of the Son is. Is it a life bestowed by the Father upon one lacking life? But how could the Son ever fail to possess life, He Himself being the Life, as He says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” 2439 Truly, His life is eternal, even as His power is eternal. Was there a time, then, when (so to speak) Life possessed not itself?
120. Bethink you what is read this day concerning the Lord Jesus, that “He died for our sakes, to the end that whether we wake or whether we sleep, we may live with Him.” 2440 He Whose Death is Life, is not His Godhead Life, seeing that the Godhead is Life eternal?
121. But is His Life truly in the Fathers power? Why, He showed that even His bodily life was not in the power of any other, as we have it on record: “I lay down My life, that I may take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and again I have power to take it. This commandment have I received of My Father.” 2441
122. Is His divine Life then to be regarded as depending upon the power of another, when His bodily life was subject to no other power but His own? For it would have been the power of another, but for the Unity of power. But just as He gives us to understand that His laying down His life was done of His own power, and of His free Will, so also He teaches us, in laying it down in obedience to His Fathers command, the unity of His own with the Fathers Will.
123. If, then, there has neither been a time when the Life of the Son took a commencement, nor any power to which it has been subjected, let us consider what His meaning was when He said: “Even as the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father”? Let us expound His meaning as best we can; nay, rather let Him expound it Himself.
124. Take notice, then, what He said in an earlier part of His discourse. “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” He first teaches thee how thou oughtest to listen. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye shall have no life in you.” 2442 He first premised that He was speaking as Son of Man; dost thou then think that what He hath said, as Son of Man, concerning His Flesh and His Blood, is to be applied to His Godhead?
125. Then He added: “For My Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink [indeed].” 2443 Thou hearest Him speak of His Flesh and of His Blood, thou perceivest the sacred pledges, [conveying to us the merits and power] of the Lords death, 2444 and thou dishonourest His Godhead. Hear His own words: “A spirit hath not flesh and bones.” 2445 Now we, as often as we receive the Sacramental Elements, which by the mysterious efficacy of holy prayer are transformed into the Flesh and the Blood, “do show the Lords Death.” 2446
126. Then, after calling on us to take notice that He speaks as Son of Man, and frequent repeated mention of His Flesh and His Blood, He adds: “Even as the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth Me, he also liveth by Me.” How then do they suppose that we are to understand these words?—for the comparison can be shown as a double one. The first comparison being after the following manner: “Even as the living Father hath sent Me, I live by the Father;” the second: “Even as the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father, so also he that eateth Me, he too liveth by Me.”
127. If our adversaries choose the former, the meaning is this, that, “as I am sent by the Father and am come down from the Father, so (in accordance therewith) I live by the Father.” But in what character was He sent, and came down, save as Son of Man, even as He Himself said before: “No man hath ascended into heaven, save He that hath come down from heaven as Son of Man.” 2447 Then, just as He was sent and came down as Son of Man, so as Son of Man He lives by the Father. Furthermore, he that eateth Him, as eating the Son of Man, doth himself also live by the Son of Man. Thus, He has compared the effect of His Incarnation to His coming.
p. 279 128. But if they choose the second method, do we not infer both the equality of the Son with the Father, and His likeness to men, together, though in clear mutual distinction? For what is the meaning of the words, “Even as He Himself liveth by the Father, so we also live by Him,” but that the Son so quickeneth a man, as the Father hath in the Son quickened human nature? 2448 “For as the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth them, so also the Son quickeneth whom He will,” 2449 as the Lord Himself hath already said.
129. Thus the equality of the Son to the Father is established simply upon unity in the action of quickening, since the Son so quickeneth as the Father doth. Acknowledge therefore the eternity of His Life and Sovereignty. Again, our likeness with the Son is discovered, and a certain unity with Him in the flesh, 2450 because that, like as the Son of God was quickened in the flesh 2451 by the Father, so also is man quickened; for thus it is written, that as God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, so we also, as men, are quickened by the Son of God. 2452
130. According to this interpretation, then, immortality is not only applied to our condition by grace of bounty, but is also proclaimed as the property of Godhead—the latter, because it is the Godhead which quickeneth; the former, because manhood is quickened in Christ.
131. But if any would apply the force of either comparison to Christs Godhead, then the Son of God is put on one footing with men, so that the Son of God lives by the Father just as we live by the Son of God. But the Son of God bestows eternal life by free gift, we cannot so do. If then He be placed on a level with us, He too does not bestow this gift. Let Arius disciples then have the due reward of their faith—which is, not to obtain eternal life of the Son.
132. I would now go further. If our opponents are pleased to apply the teaching of this passage to the principle of the eternity of the Divine Substance, let them hear a third exposition: Does not our Lord plainly appear to say that as the Father is a living Father, so too the Son also lives?—and who can but observe that here we must understand a reference to unity of Life, forasmuch as the same Life is the Life of the Father and the Life of the Son? “For as the Father hath Life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son also to have Life in Himself.” 2453 He hath given—by reason of unity with Him. He hath given, not to take away, but that He may be glorified in the Son. He hath given, not that He, the Father, might keep guard over it, but that the Son might have it in possession.
133. But the Arians think that they must oppose hereto the fact that He had said, “I live by the Father.” Of a certainty (suppose that they conceive the words as referring to His Godhead) the Son lives by the Father, because He is the Son begotten of the Father,—by the Father, because He is of one Substance with the Father,—by the Father, because He is the Word given forth from the heart of the Father, 2454 because He came forth from the Father, because He is begotten of the “bowels of the Father,” 2455 because the Father is the Fountain and Root of the Sons being.
134. But peradventure they may urge: “If you hold that the Son, in saying, And I live by the Father, spoke of the unity of life subsisting between the Father and the Son, does it not follow that He discovered the unity of life between the Son and mankind in saying that he that eateth Me, the same liveth by Me?”
135. Even so. Just as I confess the unity of celestial Life subsisting in Father and Son by reason of the unity of the substance of the Godhead, so too, save as concerns the prerogatives of the Divine Nature or those which are the effect of the Incarnation of our Lord, I affirm of the Son a participation of spiritual life with us by virtue of the unity of His Manhood with ours, for “as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” 2456 Further, even as in Him we sit at the right hand of the Father, not in the sense that we share His throne, but that we rest in the Body of Christ—even as, I say, we have part in Christs session by reason of corporal unity, so too we live p. 280 in Christ by reason of unity of our bodies with His Body.
136. Not only, then, have I no fears of the text, “I live by the Father,” but I should have none, even though Christ had said, “I live by help of the Father.” 2457
137. Now another objection commonly urged by them starts from the text: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, to the end that His Son may be glorified by Him.” 2458 But not only is the Son glorified through the Father and by the Father, as it is written: “Glorify Me, Father;” 2459 and again: “Now hath the Son of Man been glorified, and God hath been glorified in Him, and God glorifieth Him,” 2460 but the Father also is glorified through the Son and by the Son, for Truth hath said: “I have glorified Thee upon earth.” 2461
138. Even as the Son, therefore, is glorified through the Father, so too He lives by the Father. There are some who have been led by consideration of these words to the supposition that [the Greek] “δόξα” means “opinion, belief,” rather than “glory,” and therefore have interpreted as follows: “I have given thee a δόξα upon earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do, and now, O Father, give me a δόξα;” that is to say: “I have taught men so to believe concerning Thee, as to know that Thou art the true God; do Thou also establish in them, concerning Me, the belief that I am Thy Son, and very God.”
S. John vi. 58.278:2439
Isa. xiv. 6.278:2440
1 Thess. v. 10.278:2441
S. John x. 17 ff.278:2442
S. John vi. 54.278:2443
S. John vi. 56.278:2444
S. John vi. 52.278:2445
S. Luke xxiv. 39.278:2446
1 Cor. xi. 26. St. Ambroses term for “are transformed” is “transfigurantur.”278:2447
S. John iii. 13.279:2448
S. John v. 21.279:2450
Or “is discovered to be a certain unity, etc.”279:2451
i.e. in respect of His Body of flesh and blood.279:2452
Rom. iv. 24.279:2453
S. John v. 26.279:2454
Ps. xlv. 1.279:2455
Ps. cx. 3.279:2456
1 Cor. xv. 40. On this place H. observes: “As the Son, by reason of a nature numerically identical with the Fathers, lives together with Him the same Divine Life, so we by virtue of a manhood specifically the same as Christs have power to live the life which the Man Christ lives; which life indeed resides in its greatest fulness in Him as its Head and Fountain, and from His Person overflows into us, His members—yet not without a certain difference, for the comparison is incomplete, by reason, namely, of the reservation of prerogatives attaching to the Divine Nature or to the Lords Incarnation. The Godhead is numerically One, the Life of the Father and the Life of the Son is numerically one, but Christs Life and ours are not so. Moreover, this (Divine) Life subsistent in the Son is united to His Manhood in and by the unity of His Person, but is not communicated to us in so close an alliance, overflowing rather into us only by a certain participation.…But perhaps the sainted Doctors meaning here is that we live and abide in Christ by a corporal unity, because, Christ having Manhood specifically the same as ours, whatsoever is fittingly predicted of manhood as existing in Christ is applicable to all His fellow-men. The first construction, however, explains St. Ambroses analogy more fully.”280:2457
St. Ambrose quotes the words from St. John vi. 58, thus: “propter Patrem.” This seeming expression of dependence, he says, does not in the least disturb his belief in the co-eternity and co-equality of the Son with the Father; which belief would indeed remain unshaken even though Christs words had been still more expressive, to all appearance, of dependence and inferiority.280:2458
S. John xi. 4.280:2459
S. John xvii. 5.280:2460
S. John 13:31, 32.280:2461
S. John xvii. 4.
Next: Chapter XI. The particular distinction which the Arians endeavoured to prove upon the Apostle's teaching that all things are “of” the Father and “through” the Son, is overthrown, it being shown that in the passage cited the same Omnipotence is ascribed both to Father and to Son, as is proved from various texts, especially from the words of St. Paul himself, in which heretics foolishly find a reference to the Father only, though indeed there is no diminution or inferiority of the Son's sovereignty proved, even by such a reference. Finally, the three phrases, “of Whom,” “through Whom,” “in Whom,” are shown to suppose or imply no difference (of power), and each and all to hold true of the Three Persons.
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