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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Manichæan Controversy.: Chapter 25

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 25.—This Last Expression Misunderstood by Some.

For no attention should be paid to the ravings of men who think that nothing should be understood to mean something, and moreover think to compel any one to vanity of this kind on the ground that nothing is placed at the end of the sentence.  Therefore, they say, it was made, and because it was made, nothing is itself something.  They have lost their senses by zeal in contradicting, and do not understand that it makes no difference whether it be said:  "Without Him was made nothing," or "without Him nothing was made."  For even if the order were the last mentioned, they could nevertheless say, that nothing is itself something because it was made.  For in the case of what is in truth something, what difference does it make if it be said "Without him a house was made," so long as it is understood that something was made without him, which something is a house?  So also because it is said:  "Without Him was made nothing," since nothing is assuredly not anything, when it is truly and properly spoken, it makes no difference whether it be said:  "Without Him was made nothing or Without Him nothing was made," or "nothing was made."  But who cares to speak with men who can say of this very expression of mine "It makes no difference," "Therefore it makes some difference, for nothing itself is something?"  But those whose brains are not addled, see it as a thing most manifest that this something is to be understood when it says "It makes no difference," as when I say "It matters in no respect."  But these, if they should say to any one, "What hast thou done?" and he should reply that he has done nothing, would, according to this mode of disputation, falsely accuse him saying, "Thou hast done something, therefore, because thou hast done nothing; for nothing is itself something."  But they have also the Lord Himself placing this word at the end of a sentence, when He says:  "And in secret have I spoken nothing."  1102   Let them read, therefore, and be silent. 1103



John xviii. 20.


It is difficult for us to understand why Augustin should have thought it worth while to refute so elaborately an argument so puerile.  But it is his way to be prolix in such matters.—A.H.N.

Next: Chapter 26

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