Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Defence of the Nicene Definition. (De Decretis.): Authorities in Support of the Council. Theognostus; Dionysius of Alexandria; Dionysius of Rome; Origen.
Chapter VI.—Authorities in Support of the Council. Theognostus; Dionysius of Alexandria; Dionysius of Rome; Origen.
25. This then is the sense in which they who met at Nicæa made use of these expressions. But next that they did not invent them for themselves (since this is one of their excuses), but spoke what they had received from their predecessors, proceed we to prove this also, to cut off even this excuse from them. Know then, O Arians, foes of Christ, that Theognostus 922 , a learned man, did not decline the phrase of the essence, for in the second book of his Hypotyposes, he writes thus of the Son:—
“The essence of the Son is not one procured p. 167 from without, nor accruing out of nothing 923 , but it sprang from the Fathers essence, as the radiance of light, as the vapour 924 of water; for neither the radiance, nor the vapour, is the water itself or the sun itself, nor is it alien; but it is an effluence of the Fathers essence, which, however, suffers no partition. For as the sun remains the same, and is not impaired by the rays poured forth by it, so neither does the Fathers essence suffer change, though it has the Son as an Image of Itself 925 .”
Theognostus then, after previously investigating in the way of an exercise 926 , proceeds to lay down his sentiments in the foregoing words. Next, Dionysius, who was Bishop of Alexandria, upon his writing against Sabellius and expounding at large the Saviours Economy according to the flesh, and thence proving against the Sabellians that not the Father but His Word became flesh, as John has said, was suspected of saying that the Son as a thing made and originated, and not one in essence with the Father; on this he writes to his namesake Dionysius, Bishop of Rome, to allege in his defence that this was a slander upon him. And he assured him that he had not called the Son made, nay, did confess Him to be even one in essence. And his words ran thus:—
“And I have written in another letter a refutation of the false charge they bring against me, that I deny that Christ was one in essence with God. For though I say that I have not found this term anywhere in Holy Scripture, yet my remarks which follow, and which they have not noticed, are not inconsistent with that belief. For I instanced human birth as being evidently homogeneous, and I observed that undeniably parents differed from their children only in not being the same individuals, otherwise there could be neither parents nor children. And my letter, as I said before, owing to present circumstances I am unable to produce; or I would have sent you the very words I used, or rather a copy of it all, which, if I have an opportunity, I will do still. But I am sure from recollection that I adduced parallels of things kindred with each other; for instance, that a plant grown from seed or from root, was other than that from which it sprang, yet was altogether one in nature with it 927 : and that a stream flowing from a fountain, gained a new name, for that neither the fountain was called stream, nor the stream fountain, and both existed, and the stream was the water from the fountain”
26. And that the Word of God is not a work or creature, but an offspring proper to the Fathers essence and indivisible, as the great Council wrote, here you may see in the words of Dionysius, Bishop of Rome, who, while writing against the Sabellians, thus inveighs against those who dared to say so:—
“Next, I may reasonably turn to those who divide and cut to pieces and destroy that most sacred doctrine of the Church of God, the Divine Monarchy 928 , making it as it were three powers and partitive subsistences 929 and god-heads three. I am told that some among you who are catechists and teachers of the Divine Word, take the lead in this tenet, who are diametrically opposed, so to speak, to Sabelliuss opinions; for he blasphemously says that the Son is the Father, and the Father the Son, but they in some sort preach three Gods, as dividing the sacred Monad into three subsistences foreign to each other and utterly separate. For it must needs be that with the God of the Universe, the Divine Word is united, and the Holy Ghost must repose 930 and habitate in God; thus in one as in a summit, I mean the God of the Universe, must the Divine Triad 931 be gathered up and brought together. p. 168 For it is the doctrine of the presumptuous Marcion, to sever and divide the Divine Monarchy into three origins,—a devils teaching, not that of Christs true disciples and lovers of the Saviours lessons. For they know well that a Triad is preached by divine Scripture, but that neither Old Testament nor New preaches three Gods. Equally must one censure those who hold the Son to be a work, and consider that the Lord has come into being, as one of things which really came to be; whereas the divine oracles witness to a generation suitable to Him and becoming, but not to any fashioning or making. A blasphemy then is it, not ordinary, but even the highest, to say that the Lord is in any sort a handiwork. For if He came to be Son, once He was not; but He was always, if (that is) He be in the Father, as He says Himself, and if the Christ be Word and Wisdom and Power (which, as ye know, divine Scripture says), and these attributes be powers of God. If then the Son came into being, once these attributes were not; consequently there was a time, when God was without them; which is most absurd. And why say more on these points to you, men full of the Spirit and well aware of the absurdities which come to view from saying that the Son is a work? Not attending, as I consider, to this circumstance, the authors of this opinion have entirely missed the truth, in explaining, contrary to the sense of divine and prophetic Scripture in the passage, the words, The Lord created me a beginning of His ways unto His works 932 . For the sense of He created, as ye know, is not one, for we must understand He created in this place, as He set over the works made by Him, that is, made by the Son Himself. And He created here must not be taken for made, for creating differs from making. Is not He thy Father that hath bought thee? hath He not made thee and created thee 933 ?says Moses in his great song in Deuteronomy. And one may say to them, O reckless men, is He a work, who is the First-born of every creature, who is born from the womb before the morning star 934 , who said, as Wisdom, Before all the hills He begets me 935 ? And in many passages of the divine oracles is the Son said to have been 936 generated, but nowhere to have 937 come into being; which manifestly convicts those of misconception about the Lords generation, who presume to call His divine and ineffable generation a making 938 . Neither then may we divide into three Godheads the wonderful and divine Monad; nor disparage with the name of work the dignity and exceeding majesty of the Lord; but we must believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Christ Jesus His Son, and in the Holy Ghost, and hold that to the God of the universe the Word is united 939 . For I, says He, and the Father are one; and, I in the Father and the Father in Me. For thus both the Divine Triad, and the holy preaching of the Monarchy, will be preserved.”
27. And concerning the everlasting co-existence of the Word with the Father, and that He is not of another essence or subsistence, but proper to the Fathers, as the Bishops in the Council said, you may hear again from the labour-loving 940 Origen also. For what he has written as if inquiring and by way of exercise, that let no one take as expressive of his own sentiments, but of parties who are contending in investigation, but what he 941 definitely declares, that is the sentiment of the labour-loving man. After his prolusions then (so to speak) against the heretics, straightway he introduces his personal belief, thus:—
“If there be an Image of the Invisible God, it is an invisible Image; nay, I will be bold to add, that, as being the likeness of the Father, never was it not. For when was that God, who, according to John, is called Light (for God is Light), without a radiance of His proper glory, that a man should presume to assert the Sons origin of existence, as if before He was not? But when was not that Image of the Fathers Ineffable and Nameless and Unutterable subsistence, that Expression and Word, and He that knows the Father? for let him understand well who dares to say, Once the Son was not, that he is saying, Once Wisdom was not, and Word was not, and Life was not.”
And again elsewhere he says:—
“But it is not innocent nor without peril, if because of our weakness of understanding we deprive God, as far as in us lies, of the Only-begotten Word ever co-existing with Him; and the Wisdom in which He rejoiced; else He must be conceived as not always possessed of joy.”
See, we are proving that this view has been transmitted from father to father; but ye, O modern Jews and disciples of Caiaphas, how many fathers can ye assign to your phrases? Not one of the understanding and wise; for all abhor you, but the devil alone 942 ; none but he is your father in this apostasy, who both in the beginning sowed you with the seed of this p. 169 irreligion, and now persuades you to slander the Ecumenical Council 943 , for committing to writing, not your doctrines, but that which from the beginning those who were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word have handed down to us 944 . For the faith which the Council has confessed in writing, that is the faith of the Catholic Church; to assert this, the blessed Fathers so expressed themselves while condemning the Arian heresy; and this is a chief reason why these apply themselves to calumniate the Council. For it is not the terms which trouble them 945 , but that those terms prove them to be heretics, and presumptuous beyond other heresies.
Athanasius elsewhere calls him the admirable and excellent. ad Serap. iv. 9. He was Master of the Catechetical school of Alexandria towards the end of the third century, being a scholar, or at least a follower of Origen. His seven books of Hypotyposes treated of the Holy Trinity, of angels, and evil spirits, of the Incarnation, and the Creation. Photius, who gives this account, Cod. 106, accuses him of heterodoxy on these points; which Athanasius in a measure admits, as far as the wording of his treatise went, when he speaks of his investigating by way of exercise. Eusebius does not mention him at all. [His remains in Routh, Rell. iii. 409–414.]167:923
Vid. above §15. fin. God was alone, says Tertullian, because there was nothing external to Him, extrinsecus; yet not even then alone, for He had with Him, what He had in Himself, His Reason. in Prax. 5. Non per adoptionem spiritus filius fit extrinsecus, sed naturâ filius est. Origen. Periarch. i. 2. n. 4.167:924
From Wisdom vii. 25. and so Origen, Periarch. i. 2. n. 5. and 9. and Athan. de Sent. Dionys. 15.167:925
It is sometimes erroneously supposed that such illustrations as this are intended to explain how the Sacred Mystery in question is possible, whereas they are merely intended to shew that the words we use concerning it are not self-contradictory, which is the objection most commonly brought against them. To say that the doctrine of the Sons generation does not intrench upon the Fathers perfection and immutability, or negative the Sons eternity, seems at first sight inconsistent with what the words Father and Son mean, till another image is adduced, such as the sun and radiance, in which that alleged inconsistency is seen to exist in fact. Here one image corrects another; and the accumulation of images is not, as is often thought, the restless and fruitless effort of the mind to enter into the Mystery, but is a safeguard against any one image, nay, any collection of images being supposed sufficient. If it be said that the language used concerning the sun and its radiance is but popular not philosophical, so again the Catholic language concerning the Holy Trinity may, nay must be, economical, not adequate, conveying the truth, not in the tongues of angels, but under human modes of thought and speech.167:926
ἐν γυμνασί& 139· ἐξέτασας. And so §27. of Origen, ξητῶν καὶ γυμνάζων. Constantine too, writing to Alexander and Arius, speaks of altercation, φυσικῆς τινος γυμνασίας ἕνεκα. Socr. i. 7. In somewhat a similar way, Athanasius speaks of Dionysius writing κατ᾽ οἰκονομίαν, economically, or with reference to certain persons addressed or objects contemplated, de Sent. D. 6. and 26.167:927
The Arians at Nicæa objected to this image, Socr. i. 8. as implying that the Son was a προβολὴ, issue or development, as Valentinus taught. Epiph. Hær. 69. 7. Athanasius elsewhere uses it himself.167:928
By the Monarchy is meant the doctrine that the Second and Third Persons in the Ever-blessed Trinity are ever to be referred in our thoughts to the First as the Fountain of Godhead, vid. §15. note 9, and §19, note 6. It is one of the especial senses in which God is said to be one. Cf. Orat. iii. §15. vid. also iv. §1. The Father is union, ἕνωσις, says S. Greg. Naz. from whom and unto whom are the others. Orat. 42. 15. also Orat. 20. 7. and Epiph. Hær. 57. 5. Tertullian, before Dionysius, uses the word Monarchia, which Praxeas had perverted into a kind of Unitarianism or Sabellianism, in Prax. 3. Irenæus too wrote on the Monarchy, i.e. against the doctrine that God is the author of evil. Eus. Hist. v. 20. [see S. Iren. fragment 33, Ante-Nic. Lib.] And before him was Justins work de Monarchia, where the word is used in opposition to Polytheism. The Marcionites, whom Dionysius presently mentions, are also specified in the above extract by Athan. vid. also Cyril. Hier. Cat. xvi. 3. Epiphanius says that their three origins were God, the Creator, and the evil spirit. Hær. 42, 3. or as Augustine says, the good, the just, and the wicked, which may be taken to mean nearly the same thing. Hær. 22. The Apostolical Canons denounce those who baptize into Three Unoriginate; vid. also Athan. Tom. ad Antioch. 5. Naz. Orat. 20. 6. Basil denies τρεῖς ἀρχικαὶ ὑποστάσεις, de Sp. S. 38. which is a Platonic phrase.167:929
And so Dionysius Alex. in a fragment preserved by S. Basil, If because the subsistences are three, they say that they are partitive, μεμερισμένας, still three there are, though these persons dissent, or they utterly destroy the Divine Trinity. de Sp. S. n. 72. Athan. expresses the same more distinctly, οὐ τρεῖς ὑποστάσεις μεμερισμένας, Expos. Fid. §2. In S. Greg. Naz. we find ἀμέριστος ἐν μεμερισμένοις ἡ θεότης. Orat. 31. 14. Elsewhere for μεμ. he substitutes ἀπεῤ& 191·ηγμένας. Orat. 20. 6. ἀπεξενωμένας ἀλλήλων καὶ διεσπασμένας. Orat. 23. 6. as infr. ξένας ἀλλήλων παντάπασι κεχωρισμένας. The passage in the text comes into question in the controversy about the ἐξ ὑποστάσεως ἢ οὐσίας of the Nicene Creed, of which infr. on the Creed itself in Eusebiuss Letter.167:930
The word τριὰς, usually translated Trinity, is first used by Theophilus, ad Autol. ii. 15. Gibbon remarks that the doctrine of a numerical rather than a generical unity, which has been explicitly put forth by the Latin Church, is favoured by the Latin language; τριὰς seems to excite the idea of substance, trinitas of qualities. ch. 21. note 74. It is certain that the Latin view of the sacred truth, when perverted, becomes Sabellianism; and that the Greek, when perverted, becomes Arianism; and we find Arius arising in the East, Sabellius in the West. It is also certain that the word Trinitas is properly abstract; and expresses τριὰς or a three, only in an ecclesiastical sense. But Gibbon does not seem to observe that Unitas is abstract as well as Trinitas; and that we might just as well say in consequence, that the Latins held an abstract unity or a unity of qualities, while the Greeks by μονὰς taught the doctrine of a one or a numerical unity. Singularitatem hanc dico (says S. Ambrose), quod Græce μονότης dicitur; singularitas ad personam pertinet, unitas ad naturam. de Fid. v. 1. It is important, however, to understand, that Trinity does not mean the state or condition of being three, as humanity is the condition of being man, but is synonymous with three persons. Humanity does not exist and cannot be addressed, but the Holy Trinity is a three, or a unity which exists in three. Apparently from not considering this, Luther and Calvin objected to the word Trinity, It is a common prayer, says Calvin: Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us. It displeases me, and savours throughout of barbarism. Ep. ad Polon. p. 796.168:932
Prov. viii. 22.168:933
Deut. xxxii. 6.168:934
Col. 1:15, Ps. 110:3Col. i. 15, and Ps. cx. 3.168:935
Prov. viii. 25.168:936
This extract discloses to us (in connexion with the passages from Dionysius Alex. here and in the de Sent. D.) a remarkable anticipation of the Arian controversy in the third century. 1. It appears that the very symbol of ἦν ὅτε οὐκ ἦν, once He was not, was asserted or implied; vid. also the following extract from Origen, §27. and Origen Periarchon, iv. 28. where mention is also made of the ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων, out of nothing, which was the Arian symbol in opposition to of the substance. Allusions are made besides, to the Father not being always Father, de Sent. D. 15. and the Word being brought to be by the true Word, and Wisdom by the true Wisdom; ibid. 25. 2. The same special text is used in defence of the heresy, and that not at first sight an obvious one, which is found among the Arians, Prov. viii. 22. 3. The same texts were used by the Catholics, which occur in the Arian controversy. e.g. Deut. 32:6, Prov. 8:22, Ps. 110:3, Prov. 8:25, John 10:30, John 14:10Deut. xxxii. 6. against Prov. viii. 22. and such as Ps. cx. 3. Prov. viii. 25. and the two John x. 30. and xiv. 10. 4. The same Catholic symbols and statements are found, e.g. begotten not made, one in essence, Trinity, ἀδιαίρετον, ἄναρχον, ἀειγενες, light from light, &c. Much might be said on this circumstance, as forming part of the proof of the very early date of the development and formation of the Catholic theology, which we are at first sight apt to ascribe to the 4th and 5th centuries. [But see Introd. to de Sent. Dion.]168:940
φιλοπόνου, and so Serap. iv. 9. [This place is referred to by Socr. vi. 13.]168:941
ἃ μὲν ὡς ζητῶν καὶ γυμνάζων ἔργαψε, ταῦτα μὴ ὡς αὐτοῦ φρονοῦντος δεχέσθω τις, ἀλλὰ τῶν πρὸς ἔριν φιλονεικούντων ἐν τῷ ζητεῖν, ἀδεῶς ὁρίζων ἀποφαίνεται, τοῦτο τοῦ φιλοπόνου τὸ φρόνημα ἐστι. ῾ἀλλὰ. Certe legendum ἀλλ᾽ ἃ, idque omnino exigit sensus. Montfaucon. Rather for ἀδεῶς read ἃ δὲ ὡς, and put the stop at ζητεῖν instead of δεχέσθω τις.168:942
vid. supr. §4. Orat. i. §7. Ad Afros. 2, twice. Apol. contr. Arian. 7. ad Ep. Æg. 5. Epiph. Hær. 70. 9. Euseb. Vit. Const. iii. 6. The Council was more commonly called μεγάλη, vid. supr. §26. The second General Council, a.d. 381, took the name of ecumenical. vid. Can. 6. fin. but incidentally. The Council of Ephesus so styles itself in the opening of its Synodical Letter.169:944
The profession under which the decrees of Councils come to us is that of setting forth in writing what has ever been held orally or implicitly in the Church. Hence the frequent use of such phrases as ἐγγραφῶς ἐξετέθη with reference to them. Thus Damasus, Theod. H. E. v. 10. speaks of that apostolical faith, which was set forth in writing by the Fathers in Nicæa. On the other hand, Ephrem of Antioch speaks of the doctrine of our Lords perfect humanity being inculcated by our Holy Fathers, but not as yet [i.e. till the Council of Chalcedon] being confirmed by the decree of an ecumenical Council. Phot. 229. p. 801. (ἐγγραφῶς, however, sometimes relates to the act of subscribing; Phot. ibid. or to Scripture, Clement. Strom. i. init. p. 321.) Hence Athan. says ad Afros. 1. and 2. that the Word of the Lord which was given through the ecumenical Council in Nicæa remaineth for ever; and uses against its opposers the texts, Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set (vid. also Dionysius in Eus. H. E. vii. 7.), and He that curseth his father or his mother, shall surely be put to death. Prov. 22:28, Exod. 21:17. vid. also Athan. ad Epict. 1. And the Council of Chalcedon professes to drive away the doctrines of error by a common decree, and renew the unswerving faith of the Fathers, Act. v. p. 452. [t. iv. 1453 ed. Col.] as, they proceed, from of old the prophets spoke of Christ, and He Himself instructed us, and the creed of the Fathers has delivered to us, whereas other faith it is not lawful for any to bring forth, or to write, or to draw up, or to hold, or to teach. p. 456. [1460 ed. Col.] vid. S. Leo. supr. p. 5. note m. This, however, did not interfere with their adding without undoing. For, says Vigilius, if it were unlawful to receive aught further after the Nicene statutes, on what authority venture we to assert that the Holy Ghost is of one substance with the Father, which it is notorious was there omitted? contr. Eutych. v. init.; he gives other instances, some in point, others not. vid. also Eulogius, apud Phot. Cod. 23. pp. 829. 853. Yet to add to the confession of the Church is not to add to the faith, since nothing can be added to the faith. Leo, Ep. 124. p. 1237. Nay, Athan. says that the Nicene faith is sufficient to refute every heresy, ad Max. 5. fin. (also Leo. Ep. 54. p. 956. and Naz. Ep. 102. init.) excepting, however, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit; which explains his meaning. The Henoticon of Zeno says the same, but with the intention of dealing a blow at the Council of Chalcedon. Evagr. iii. 14. p. 345. Aetius at Chalcedon says that at Ephesus and Chalcedon the Fathers did not profess to draw up an exposition of faith, and that Cyril and Leo did but interpret the Creed. Conc. t. 2. p. 428. [t. iv. 1430, 1431 ed. Col. See this whole subject very amply treated in Dr. Puseys On the Clause, And the Son, pp. 76 sqq.] Leo even says that the Apostles Creed is sufficient against all heresies, and that Eutyches erred on a point of which our Lord wished no one of either sex in the Church to be ignorant, and he wishes Eutyches to take the plentitude of the Creed puro et simplici corde. Ep. 31. p. 857, 8.169:945
Supr. §21. init.
Next: On the Arian Symbol “Unoriginate.” This term afterwards adopted by them; and why; three senses of it. A fourth sense. Unoriginate denotes God in contrast to His creatures, not to His Son; Father the scriptural title instead; Conclusion.
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