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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:
Life and Works of Rufinus with Jerome's Apology Against Rufinus.: Explanation of Origen's words “The Son does not see the Father.”

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17. But I have said that these men would have been unable to find grounds for accusation on the points I have mentioned, however they may take them, unless they had first falsified them. It appears to me therefore desirable that the chief matter on which they have laid their forgers’ hands should be inserted in this Apology, lest they should think that I am intentionally withdrawing it from notice because they after making their own additions to it allege it as a ground of false accusation. In the book which I translated there is a passage in which I examine the tenets of those who believe that God has a bodily shape and who describe him as clothed with human members and dress. This is openly asserted p. 443 by the heretical sects of the Valentinians and Anthropomorphites, and I see that those who are now our accusers have been far too ready to hold out the hand to them. Origen in this passage has defended the faith of the church against them, affirming that God is wholly without bodily form, and therefore also invisible; and then, following out his scrutiny in a logical manner, he says a few words in answer to the heretics, which I thus translated into Latin. 2847

“But these assertions will perhaps be held to have little authority by those whose desire is to be instructed out of the Holy Scriptures in the things of God, and who require that from that source should be drawn the proof of the preïminence of the nature of God over that of the human body. Consider whether the Apostle does not say the same thing when he speaks thus of Christ: 2848 “Who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature.” The nature of God is not, as some think, visible to some and not to others, for the Apostle does not say The image of God who is invisible to men, or to sinners; but he speaks quite distinctly of the nature of God in itself, where he says “The image of the invisible God.” John also says in his Gospel, 2849 “No man hath seen God at any time,” by which he distinctly declares: to all who can understand, that there is no being to whom God is visible; not as if he were naturally visible and, like a being of attenuated substance, escaped and eluded our glance; but that, in his own nature it is impossible for him to be seen. But perhaps you will ask me my opinion as to the Only begotten himself. Well, if I should say that even to him the nature of God is invisible, since it is its very nature to be invisible, do not dismiss my answer as if it were impious or absurd, for I will at once give you my reason for it. Observe that seeing is a different thing from knowing. Seeing and being seen belong to bodies; to know and to be known belong to the intellectual nature. Whatever then is merely a property of bodies, this we must not attribute to the Father or the Son; but that which belongs to the nature of Deity governs the relations of the Father and the Son. Moreover, Christ himself in the Gospel 2850 did not say “No man seeth the Son but the Father nor the Father but the Son,” but “No man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither doth any one know the Father but the Son.” By this it is clearly shown that what is called seeing and being seen in the case of bodily existence is called knowledge in the case of the Father and the Son: their intercourse is maintained through the power of knowledge not through the weakness of visibility. Since, therefore, an incorporeal nature cannot properly be said to see or to be seen, therefore in the Gospel it is not said either that the Father is seen by the Son or the Son by the Father but that each is known by the other. And if any one should ask how it is that it is said 2851 “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,” I think that this text will confirm my assertion still more. For what else is it to see God with the heart than, according to the explanation I have given above, to understand Him with the mind and to know Him?”



Περὶ ᾽Αρχῶν Book I. c. 1.


Col. i. 15


John i. 18


Matt. xi. 27


Matt. v. 8

Next: Difference between seeing and knowing.

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