Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Prolegomena.: Section 1
Writings and Personal Characteristics of S. Athanasius
§1. It will be attempted to give a complete list of his writings in chronological order; those included in this volume will be marked with an asterisk and enumerated in this place without remark. The figures prefixed indicate the probable date.
(1) 318: *Two books contra Gentes, viz. c. Gent. and De Incarn. (2) 321–2: *Depositio Arii (on its authorship, see Introd.) (3) 328–373: *Festal Letters. (4) 328–335? *Ecthesis or Expositio Fidei. (5) Id.? *In Illud Omnia, etc. (6) 339: *Encyclica ad Episcopos ecclesiæ catholicæ. (7) 343: *Sardican Letters (46, 47, in this vol.). (8) 351? *Apologia Contra Arianos. (9) 352? *De Decretis Concilii Nicæni, with the *Epistola Eusebii (a.d. 325) as appendix. (10) Id.? *De Sententia Dionysii. (11) 350–353? *Ad Amun, (Letter 48). (12) 354: *Ad Dracontium (Letter 49 in this vol.). (13) 356–362? *Vita Antoni. (14) 356: *Epistola ad Episc. Ægypti et Libyæ. (15) 356–7: *Apol. ad Constantium. (16) 357: *Apol. de Fuga. (17) 358: *Epist. ad Serapionem de Morte Arii (Letter 54). (18) ID. *Two Letters to Monks (52, 53). (19) 358? *Historia Arianorum ad monachos. (20) Id. *Orationes adversus Arianos IV. (21) 359? *Ad Luciferum (Letters 50, 51). (22) Id.? Ad Serapionem Orationes IV. (Migne xxvi. 529, sqq.). These λόγοι or dogmatic letters are the most important work omitted in the present volume. Serapion of Thmuis, who appears from the silence respecting him in the lists of exiles to have escaped banishment in 356–7, reported to Athanasius the growth of the doctrine that, while the Son was co-essential with the Father, the Spirit was merely a creature superior to Angels. Athanasius replied in a long dogmatic letter, upon receiving which Serapion was begged to induce the author to abridge it for the benefit of the simple. After some hesitation Athanasius sent two more letters, the second drawing out the proofs of the Godhead of the Son, the third restating more concisely the argument of the first. The objections by which these letters were met were replied to in a fourth letter which Athanasius declared to be his last word. The persons combated are not the Macedonians, who only formed a party on this question at a later date, and whose position was not quite that combated in these letters. Athanasius calls them Τροπικοί, or Figurists, from the sense in which they understood passages of Scripture which seemed to deify the Holy Spirit. It is not within our compass to summarise the treatises, but it may be noted that Ath. argues that where πνεῦμα is absolute or anarthrous in Scripture it never refers to the Holy Spirit unless the context already supplies such reference (i. 4, sqq.). He meets the objection that the Spirit, if God and of God, must needs be a Son, by falling back upon the language of Scripture as our guide where human analogies fail us. He also presses his opponents with the consequence that they substitute a Dyad for a Trinity. p. lxiv In the fourth letter, at the request of Serapion, he gives an explanation of the words of Christ about Sin Against the Spirit. Rejecting the view (Origen, Theognostus) that post-baptismal sin is meant (§§9, sqq.), as favouring Novatianist rigour, he examines the circumstances under which our Lord uttered the warning. The Pharisees refused to regard the Lord as divine when they saw His miracles, but ascribed them to Beelzebub. They blasphemed the Spirit, i.e. the Divine Personality of Christ (§19, cf. Lam. iv. 20, LXX.). So far as the words relate to the Holy Spirit, it is not because the Spirit worked through Him (as through a prophet) but because He worked through the Spirit (20). Blasphemy against the Spirit, then, is blasphemy against Christ in its worst form (see also below, ch. iv., §6). It may be noted lastly that he refers to Origen in the same terms of somewhat measured praise (ὁ πολυμαθὴς καὶ φιλόπονος), as in the De Decretis.
(23) 359–60. *De Synodis Arimini et Seleuciæ celebratis. (24) 362: *Tomus Ad Antiochenos. (25) Id. Syntagma Doctrinæ (?) see chapter ii. §9, above. (26) 362: *Letter to Rufinianus (Letter 55). (27) 363–4: *Letter to Jovian (Letter 56). (28) 364? *Two small Letters to Orsisius (57, 58). (29) 369? *Synodal Letter Ad Afros. (30) Id.? *Letter to Epictetus (59). (31) Id.? *Letters to Adelphius and Maximus (60, 61). (32) 363–372 ? *Letter to Diodorus of Tyre (fragment, Letter 64). (33) 372: *Letters to John and Antiochus and to Palladius (62, 63). (34) 372? Two books against Apollinarianism (Migne xxvi. 1093, sqq. Translated with notes, &c., in Bright, Later Treatises of St. Athan.). The two books are also known under separate titles: Book I. as De Incarnatione D.N.J.C. contra Apollinarium, Book II. as De Salutari Adventu D.N.J.C. The Athanasian authorship has been doubted, chiefly on the ground of certain peculiar expressions in the opening of Book I.; a searching investigation of the question has not yet been made, but on the whole the favourable verdict of Montfaucon holds the field. He lays stress on the affinity of the work to letters 59–61. I would add that the studious omission of any personal reference to Apollinarius is highly characteristic.) In the first book Athanasius insists on the reality of the human nature of Christ in the Gospels, and that it cannot be co-essential with the Godhead. We do not worship a creature? No; for we worship not the Flesh of Christ as such but the Person who wears it, viz. the Son of God. Lastly, he urges that the reality of redemption is destroyed if the Incarnation does not extend to the spirit of man, the seat of that sin which Christ came to atone for (§19), and seeks to fasten upon his opponents a renewal (§§20, 21) of the system of Paul of Samosata.
The second book is addressed to the question of the compatibility of the entire manhood with the entire sinlessness of Christ. This difficulty he meets by insisting that the Word took in our nature all that God had made, and nothing that is the work of the devil. This excludes sin, and includes the totality of our nature.
This closes the list of the dated works which can be ascribed with fair probability to Athanasius.
The remainder of the writings of Athanasius may be enumerated under groups, to which the dated works will also be assigned by their numbers as given above. Works falling into more than one class are given under each.
a. Letters. (Num. 3:0, Num. 7:0, Num. 11:0, Num. 12:0, Num. 17:0, Num. 18:0, Num. 21:0, Num. 26:0–28, 30–33; spurious letters, see infr. p. 581.)
b. Dogmatic. (2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 14, 20, 22–24, 26, 27, 29–31, 34.)
(35.) De Trinitate et Spiritu Sancto (Migne xxvi. 1191). Preserved in Latin only, but evidently from the Greek. Pronounced genuine by Montfaucon, and dated (?) 365.
(36) De Incarnatione et Contra Arianos (ib. 984). The Athanasian authorship of this short tract is very questionable. It is quoted as genuine by Theodoret Dial. ii. and by Gelasius de duabus naturis. In some councils it is referred to as On the Trinity against Apollinarius; by Facundus as On the Trinity. The tract is in no sense directed against Apollinarius. In reality it is an argument, mainly from Scripture, for the divinity of Christ, with a digression (13–19) on that of the Holy Spirit. On the whole the evidence is against the favourable verdict of Montfaucon, Ceillier, &c. That Athanasius should, at any date possible for this tract, have referred to the Trinity as the three Hypostases is out of the question (§10): his explanation of Prov. viii. 22 in Orat. ii. 44 sqq. is in sharp contrast with its reference to the Church in §6; at a time when the ideas of Apollinarius were in the air and were combated by Athanasius (since 362) he would not have used language savouring of that system (§§2, 3, 5, 7, &c.). It has been thought that we have here one of the Apollinarian tracts which were so industriously and successfully circulated under celebrated names (infra, on No. 40); the express insistence on two wills in Christ (§21), if not in favour of Athanasian might seem decisive against Apollinarian authorship, but the peculiar turn of the passage, which correlates the one will with σάρξ the other with πνεῦμα and θεός is not incompatible with the latter, which is, moreover, supported by the constant insistance on God having come, ἐν σαρκὶ and ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπου. The ἄνθρωπος τέλειος of §8 and the ὡμοιώθη κατὰ πάντα of §11 lose their edge in the context of those passages. The first part of §7 could scarcely have been written by an earnest opponent of Apollinarianism. This evidence is not conclusive, but it is worth considering, and, at any rate, leaves it very difficult to meet the strong negative case against the genuineness of the Tract. (Best discussion of the latter in Bright, Later Treatises of St. A., p. 143; he is supported by Card. Newman in a private letter.)
(37) The Sermo Maior de Fide. (Migne xxvi. 1263 sqq., with an additional fragment p. 1292 from Mai Bibl. nov.). This is a puzzling document in many ways. It has points of contact with the earliest works of Ath. (especially pieces nearly verbatim from the de Incarn., see notes there), also with the Expos. Fid. Card. Newman calls it with some truth Hardly more than a set of small fragments from Ath.s other works. However this may be, it is quoted by Theodoret as Athanasian more than once. The peculiarity lies in the constant iteration of ῎Ανθρωπος for the Lords human nature (see note on Exp. Fid.), and in some places as though it were merely the equivalent to σῶμα or σάρξ, while in others the ῎Ανθρωπος might be taken as the seat of Personality (26, 32). Accordingly the tract might be taken advantage of either by Nestorians, or still more by Apollinarians. The syllogistic method, praised in the work by Montfaucon, was not unknown to the last-mentioned school. (Prov. viii. 22 is explained in the Athanasian way. For a fuller discussion, result unfavourable, see Bright, ubi supr. p. 145.)
(38) Fragments against Paul of Samosata, Macedonians, Novatians (Migne xxvi. 1293, 1313–1317). The first of these may well be genuine. It repeats the (mistaken) statement of Hist. Ar. 71, that Zenobia was a Jewess. Of the second, all that can be said is that it attacks the Macedonians in language borrowed p. lxv from Ep. Æg. 11. The third, consisting of a somewhat larger group of five fragments, comprise a short sentence comparing the instrumentality of the priest in absolving to his instrumentality in baptizing.
It may be observed that fragments of this brevity rarely furnish a decisive criterion of genuineness.
(39) Interpretatio Symboli (ib. 1232, Hahn, §66). Discussed fully by Caspari, Ungedruckte u.s.w. Quellen i. pp. 1–72, and proved to be an adaptation of a baptismal creed drawn up by Epiphanius (Ancor. ad fin.) in 374. It may be Alexandrian, and, if so, by Bishop Peter or Theophilus about 380. It is a ῾Ερμηνεία, or rather an expansion, of the Nicene, not as Montf. says, of the Apostles(!), Creed.
(40) De Incarnatione Verbi Dei (Migne xxviii. 25–29). Quoted as Athanasian by Cyril of Alex., &c., and famous as containing the phrase Μίαν φύσιν τοῦ Λόγου σέσαρκωμένην Apollinarian; one of the many forgeries from this school circulated under the names of Athanasius, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Julius, &c. See Caspari, ubi supra 151, Loofs, Leontius, p. 82, sqq. Casparis proof is full and conclusive. See also Hahn, §120.
(41) Verona Creed (Hahn, §41, q.v.), a Latin fragment of a Western creed; nothing Athanasian but the ms. title.
(42) Damasine Creed (Opp. ed. Ben. ii. 626, Migne P.L lxii. 237 in Vig. Thaps.) forms the eighth of the Libri de Trinitate ascribed now to Athan. now to Damasus, &c., &c.: see Hahn, §128 and note.
(43) de Incarnatione (Migne xxviii. 89), Anti-Nestorian: fifth century.
c. Historical, or historico-polemical (6, 8–10, 13–19, 23).
(44) Fragment concerning Stephen and the Envoys at Antioch (Migne xxvi. 1293). Closely related (relative priority not clear) to the account in Thdt. H. E., ii. 9.
d. Apologetic. To this class belong only the works under No. (1).
e. Exegetical (5). The other exegetical works attributed to Athan. are mainly in Migne, vol. xxvii.
(45) Ad Marcellinum de Interpretatione Psalmorum. Certainly genuine. A thoughtful and devout tract on the devotional use of the Psalter. He lays stress on its universality, as summing up the spirit of all the other elements of Scripture, and as applying to the spiritual needs of every soul in all conditions. He remarks that the Psalms are sung not for musical effect, but that the worshippers may have longer time to dwell upon their meaning. The whole is presented as the discourse τινὸς φιλοπόνου γέροντος, possibly an ideal character.
(46) Expositiones in Psalmos, with an Argumentum (ὑπόθεσις) prefixed. The latter notices the arrangement of the Hebrew Psalter, the division into books, &c., and accounts for the absence of logical order by the supposition that during the Captivity some prophet collected as best he could the Scriptures which the carelessness of the Israelites had allowed to fall into disorder. The titles are to be followed as regards authorship. Imprecatory passages relate to our ghostly enemies. In the Expositions each Psalm is prefaced by a short statement of the general subject. He occasionally refers to the rendering of Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus.
(47) Fragmenta in Psalmos. Published by Felckmann from the Catena of Nicetas Heracleota, who has used his materials somewhat freely, often combining the comments of more than one Father into a single whole.
(48) De Titulis Psalmorum. First published by Antonelli in 1746. This work, consisting of very brief notes on the Psalter verse by verse, is spoken of disparagingly by Alzog, Patrol., p. 229, and regarded as spurious, on good prima facie grounds, by Gwatkin, p. 69, note. Eichhorn, de Vit. Ascet., p. 43, note, threatens the latter (1886) with a refutation which, however, I have not seen.
(49) Fragmentum in Cantica. (Photius mentions a Commentary on Eccles. and Cant.) From a Catena published by Meursius in 1617. Very brief (on Cant. 1:6, 7, Cant. 3:1, 2, Cant. 6:1). A spurious homily is printed (pp. 1349–1361) as an appendix to it.
(50) Fragmenta in Evang. Matthæi. Also from ms. catenæ. Contain a remarkable reference to the Eucharist (p. 1380, on Matt. vii. 6) and a somewhat disparaging reference to Origen (infr. p. 33) in reference to Matt. xii. 32, which passage is explained as in Serap. iv. (vide supra 22). The extracts purport in some cases to be taken from a homiletical or expository work of Athanasius divided into separate λόγοι. The passage on the nine incurable diseases of Herod is grotesque (Migne xxvi. 1252), but taken from Joseph., B. J. I. xxiii. 5. Cf. Euseb. H. E. i. 8.
(51) Fragmenta in Lucam. Also from ms. catenæ. At the end, a remarkable passage on the extent to which prayers can help the departed.
(52) Fragmenta in Job. From Nicetas and ms. catenæ. Contains little remarkable. Behemoth is Satan, as elsewhere in Athan.
(53) Fragmentum in I. Cor. A short paragraph on 1 Cor. vii. 1, or rather on 1 Cor. 6.18, somewhat inadequately explained.
f. Moral and Ascetic, (11–13, , 28).
(54) Sermo de Patientia. (Migne xxvi. 1295.) Of doubtful genuineness (Montf., Gwatkin).
(55) De Virginitate. (Migne xxviii. 251). Pronounced dubious by Montf., spurious by Gwatkin, genuine by Eichhorn (ubi supr., pp. 27, sqq.), who rightly lays stress on the early stage of feminine asceticism which is implied. But I incline to agree with Mr. Gwatkin as to its claims to come from Athanasius. Three hypostases are laid down in a way incompatible with Athanasius way of speaking in later life.
(56) Miscellaneous Fragments. These are too slight and uncertain to be either classed or discussed here. De Amuletis (xxvi. 1319); de Azymis, (1327), very dubious; In Ramos palmarum (1319), also dubious; various small homiletical and controversial pieces (pp. 1224–1258) of various value and claims to genuineness. (See also Migne xxv. p. xiv. No. xx.)
(57) Of Lost Works (in addition to those of which fragments have been mentioned above) a Refutation of Arianism is referred to in Letter 52. We also hear of a treatise against heresies (a fragment above, No. 56). A Synodicon, with the names of all Bishops present at Nicæa, is quoted by Socr. i. 13, but is referred by Revillout to his alleged Acts of the Synod of Alexandria in 362, which he supposes to have reissued the Acts of Nicæa. See above, p. lix. A consolatory address to the Virgins maltreated by George is mentioned by Theodoret, H. E. ii. 14; he quotes a few words, referring to the fact that the Arians would not even allow them peaceable burial, but sit about the tombs like demons to prevent it. The Oratio de defunctis (infra, ch. iv. §6, fragment above, 56) is ascribed to him by John Damasc., but by others to Cyril of Alexandria. p. lxvi Many of his letters must have been lost. The Festal Letters are still very incomplete, and his letters to S. Basil would be a welcome discovery if they exist anywhere. A doctrinal letter against the Arians, not preserved to us, is mentioned de Decr. 5. (See also Montfaucons Præf. ii. (Migne xxv. p. xxv., sqq), and Jerome, de Vir. illustr. 87, a somewhat careless and scanty list.)
The above enumeration includes all the writings attributed with any probability to S. Athanasius. The fragmentary character of many of them is no great presumption against their genuineness. The Abbat Cosmas in the sixth century advised all who met with anything by Athanasius to copy it, and if they had no paper, to use their clothes for the purpose. This will readily explain (if explanation is needed) the transmission of such numerous scraps of writing under the name of the great bishop. It will also partly explain the large body of Spurious Works which have sheltered themselves under his authority. To this class we have already assigned several writings (25, 36, 37? 39–43, 44? 48? 53? 55, 56 in part). Others whose claims are even less strong may be passed over, with only the mention of one or two of the more important. They are all printed in Migne, vol. xxviii., and parallels to some, especially the dubious In passionem et crucem Domini, are marked in Williams notes to the Festal Letters, partly incorporated in this volume. The epistola catholica and Synopsis Scripturæ sacræ are among the better known, and are classed with a few others as dubia by Montfaucon, the fictitious Disputatio habita in concilio Nicæno contra Arium, among the spuria. The silly tale de Imagine Berytensi seems to have enjoyed a wide circulation in the middle ages. Of the other undoubtedly spurious works the most famous is the Athanasian Creed or Quicunque Vult. It is needless to say that it is unconnected with Athanasius: its origin is still sub judice. The second part of it bears traces of the period circa 430 a.d., and the question which still awaits a last word is whether the Symbol is or is not a fusion of two originally independent documents. Messrs. Lumby, Swainson and others have ably maintained this, but the difficulties of their hypothesis that the fusion took place as late as about 800 a.d. are very great, and I incline to think will eventually prove fatal to it. But the discussion does not belong to our present subject.
Next: Athanasius as an Author. Style and Characteristics.
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