Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: After expounding the high estate of the Almighty, the Eternity of the Son, and the phrase “being made obedient,” he shows the folly of Eunomius in his assertion that the Son did not acquire His sonship by obedience.
§11. After expounding the high estate of the Almighty, the Eternity of the Son, and the phrase “being made obedient,” he shows the folly of Eunomius in his assertion that the Son did not acquire His sonship by obedience.
What, moreover, is the high estate of the Almighty in which Eunomius affirms that the Son has no share? Let those, then, who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight 389 , utter their groundling opinions—they who, as the prophet says, “speak out of the ground 390 .” But let us who reverence the Word and are disciples of the Truth, or rather who profess to be so, not leave even this assertion unsifted. We know that of all the names by which Deity is indicated some are expressive of the Divine majesty, employed and understood absolutely, and some are assigned with reference to the operations over us and all creation. For when the Apostle says “Now to the immortal, invisible, only wise God 391 ,” and the like, by these titles he suggests conceptions which represent to us the transcendent power, but when God is spoken of in the Scriptures as gracious, merciful, full of pity, true, good, Lord, Physician, Shepherd, Way, Bread, Fountain, King, Creator, Artificer, Protector, Who is over all and through all, Who is all in all, these and similar titles contain the declaration of the operations of the Divine loving-kindness in the creation. Those then who enquire precisely into the meaning of the term “Almighty” will find that it declares nothing p. CXX else concerning the Divine power than that operation which controls created things and is indicated by the word “Almighty,” stands in a certain relation to something. For as He would not be called a Physician, save on account of the sick, nor merciful and gracious, and the like, save by reason of one who stood in need of grace and mercy, so neither would He be styled Almighty, did not all creation stand in need of one to regulate it and keep it in being. As, then, He presents Himself as a Physician to those who are in need of healing, so He is Almighty over one who has need of being ruled: and just as “they that are whole have no need of a physician 392 ,” so it follows that we may well say that He Whose nature contains in it the principle of unerring and unwavering rectitude does not, like others, need a ruler over Him. Accordingly, when we hear the name “Almighty,” our conception is this, that God sustains in being all intelligible things as well as all things of a material nature. For this cause He sitteth upon the circle of the earth, for this cause He holdeth the ends of the earth in His hand, for this cause He “meteth out leaven with the span, and measureth the waters in the hollow of His hand 393 ”; for this cause He comprehendeth in Himself all the intelligible creation, that all things may remain in existence controlled by His encompassing power. Let us enquire, then, Who it is that “worketh all in all.” Who is He Who made all things, and without Whom no existing thing does exist? Who is He in Whom all things were created, and in Whom all things that are have their continuance? In Whom do we live and move and have our being? Who is He Who hath in Himself all that the Father hath? Does what has been said leave us any longer in ignorance of Him Who is “God over all 394 ,” Who is so entitled by S. Paul,—our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, as He Himself says, holding in His hand “all things that the Father hath 395 ,” assuredly grasps all things in the all-containing hollow of His hand and is sovereign over what He has grasped, and no man taketh from the hand of Him Who in His hand holdeth all things? If, then, He hath all things, and is sovereign over that which He hath, why is He Who is thus sovereign over all things something else and not Almighty? If heresy replies that the Father is sovereign over both the Son and the Holy Spirit, let them first show that the Son and the Holy Spirit are of mutable nature, and then over this mutability let them set its ruler, that by the help implanted from above, that which is so overruled may continue incapable of turning to evil. If, on the other hand, the Divine nature is incapable of evil, unchangeable, unalterable, eternally permanent, to what end does it stand in need of a ruler, controlling as it does all creation, and itself by reason of its immutability needing no ruler to control it? For this cause it is that at the name of Christ “every knee boweth, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth 396 .” For assuredly every knee would not thus bow, did it not recognize in Christ Him Who rules it for its own salvation. But to say that the Son came into being by the goodness of the Father is nothing else than to put Him on a level with the meanest objects of creation. For what is there that did not arrive at its birth by the goodness of Him Who made it? To what is the formation of mankind ascribed? to the badness of its Maker, or to His goodness? To what do we ascribe the generation of animals, the production of plants and herbs? There is nothing that did not take its rise from the goodness of Him Who made it. A property, then, which reason discerns to be common to all things, Eunomius is so kind as to allow to the Eternal Son! But that He did not share His essence or His estate with the Father—these assertions and the rest of his verbiage I have refuted in anticipation, when dealing with his statements concerning the Father, and shown that he has hazarded them at random and without any intelligible meaning. For not even in the case of us who are born one of another is there any division of essence. The definition expressive of essence remains in its entirety in each, in him that begets and in him who is begotten, without admitting diminution in him who begets, or augmentation in him who is begotten. But to speak of division of estate or sovereignty in the case of Him Who hath all things whatsoever that the Father hath, carries with it no meaning, unless it be a demonstration of the propounders impiety. It would therefore be superfluous to entangle oneself in such discussions, and so to prolong our treatise to an unreasonable length. Let us pass on to what follows.
“Glorified,” he says, “by the Father before the worlds.” The word of truth hath been demonstrated, confirmed by the testimony of its adversaries. For this is the sum of our faith, that the Son is from all eternity, being glorified by the Father: for “before the worlds” is the same in sense as “from all eternity,” seeing that prophecy uses this phrase to set forth to us Gods eternity, when it speaks of Him as “He that is from before the worlds 397 .” If then to exist before the worlds is beyond all beginp. CXXI ning, he who confers glory on the Son before the worlds, does thereby assert His existence from eternity before that glory 398 : for surely it is not the non-existent, but the existent which is glorified. Then he proceeds to plant for himself the seeds of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; not with a view to glorify the Son, but that he may wantonly outrage the Holy Ghost. For with the intention of making out the Holy Spirit to be part of the angelic host, he throws in the phrase “glorified eternally by the Spirit, and by every rational and generated being,” so that there is no distinction between the Holy Spirit and all that comes into being; if, that is, the Holy Spirit glorifies the Lord in the same sense as all the other existences enumerated by the prophet, “angels and powers, and the heaven of heavens, and the water above the heavens, and all the things of earth, dragons, deeps, fire and hail, snow and vapour, wind of the storm, mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars, beasts and all cattle, worms and feathered fowls 399 .” If, then, he says, that along with these the Holy Spirit also glorifies the Lord, surely his God-opposing tongue makes out the Holy Spirit Himself also to be one of them.
The disjointed incoherencies which follow next, I think it well to pass over, not because they give no handle at all to censure, but because their language is such as might be used by the devout, if detached from its malignant context. If he does here and there use some expressions favourable to devotion it is just held out as a bait to simple souls, to the end that the hook of impiety may be swallowed along with it. For after employing such language as a member of the Church might use, he subjoins, “Obedient with regard to the creation and production of all things that are, obedient with regard to every ministration, not having by His obedience attained Sonship or Godhead, but, as a consequence of being Son and being generated as the Only-begotten God, showing Himself obedient in words, obedient in acts.” Yet who of those who are conversant with the oracles of God does not know with regard to what point of time it was said of Him by the mighty Paul, (and that once for all), that He “became obedient 400 ”? For it was when He came in the form of a servant to accomplish the mystery of redemption by the cross, Who had emptied Himself, Who humbled Himself by assuming the likeness and fashion of a man, being found as man in mans lowly nature—then, I say, it was that He became obedient, even He Who “took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses 401 ,” healing the disobedience of men by His own obedience, that by His stripes He might heal our wound, and by His own death do away with the common death of all men,—then it was that for our sakes He was made obedient, even as He became “sin 402 ” and “a curse 403 ” by reason of the dispensation on our behalf, not being so by nature, but becoming so in His love for man. But by what sacred utterance was He ever taught His list of so many obediences? Nay, on the contrary every inspired Scripture attests His independent and sovereign power, saying, “He spake the word and they were made: He commanded and they were created 404 ”:—for it is plain that the Psalmist says this concerning Him Who upholds “all things by the word of His power 405 ,” Whose authority, by the sole impulse of His will, framed every existence and nature, and all things in the creation apprehended by reason or by sight. Whence, then, was Eunomius moved to ascribe in such manifold wise to the King of the universe the attribute of obedience, speaking of Him as “obedient with regard to all the work of creation, obedient with regard to every ministration, obedient in words and in acts”? Yet it is plain to every one, that he alone is obedient to another in acts and words, who has not yet perfectly achieved in himself the condition of accurate working or unexceptionable speech, but keeping his eye ever on his teacher and guide, is trained by his suggestions to exact propriety in deed and word. But to think that Wisdom needs a master and teacher to guide aright Its attempts at imitation, is the dream of Eunomius fancy, and of his alone. And concerning the Father he says, that He is faithful in words and faithful in works, while of the Son he does not assert faithfulness in word and deed, but only obedience and not faithfulness, so that his profanity extends impartially through all his statements. But it is perhaps right to pass in silence over the inconsiderate folly of the assertion interposed between those last mentioned, lest some unreflecting persons should laugh at its absurdity when they ought rather to weep over the perdition of their souls, than laugh at the folly of their words. For this wise and wary theologian says that He did not attain to being a Son as the result of His obedience! Mark his penetration! with what cogent force does he lay it down for us that He was not first obedient and afterwards a Son, and that we ought not to think that His obedience was prior to His generation! Now if he had not added this defining clause, who without it would have been sufficiently silly and p. CXXII idiotic to fancy that His generation was bestowed on Him by His Father, as a reward of the obedience of Him Who before His generation had showed due subjection and obedience? But that no one may too readily extract matter for laughter from these remarks, let each consider that even the folly of the words has in it something worthy of tears. For what he intends to establish by these observations is something of this kind, that His obedience is part of His nature, so that not even if He willed it would it be possible for Him not to be obedient.
For he says that He was so constituted that His nature was adapted to obedience alone 406 , just as among instruments that which is fashioned with regard to a certain figure necessarily produces in that which is subjected to its operation the form which the artificer implanted in the construction of the instrument, and cannot possibly trace a straight line upon that which receives its mark, if its own working is in a curve; nor can the instrument, if fashioned to draw a straight line, produce a circle by its impress. What need is there of any words of ours to reveal how great is the profanity of such a notion, when the heretical utterance of itself proclaims aloud its monstrosity? For if He was obedient for this reason only that He was so made, then of course He is not on an equal footing even with humanity, since on this theory, while our soul is self-determining and independent, choosing as it will with sovereignty over itself that which is pleasing to it, He on the contrary exercises, or rather experiences, obedience under the constraint of a compulsory law of His nature, while His nature suffers Him not to disobey, even if He would. For it was “as the result of being Son, and being begotten, that He has thus shown Himself obedient in words and obedient in acts.” Alas, for the brutish stupidity of this doctrine! Thou makest the Word obedient to words, and supposest other words prior to Him Who is truly the Word, and another Word of the Beginning is mediator between the Beginning and the Word that was in the Beginning, conveying to Him the decision. And this is not one only: there are several words, which Eunomius makes so many links of the chain between the Beginning and the Word, and which abuse His obedience as they think good. But what need is there to linger over this idle talk? Any one can see that even at that time with reference to which S. Paul says that He became obedient (and he tells us that He became obedient in this wise, namely, by becoming for our sakes flesh, and a servant, and a curse, and sin),—even then, I say, the Lord of glory, Who despised the shame and embraced suffering in the flesh, did not abandon His free will, saying as He does, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up 407 ;” and again, “No man taketh My life from Me; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again 408 ”; and when those who were armed with swords and staves drew near to Him on the night before His Passion, He caused them all to go backward by saying “I am He 409 ,” and again, when the dying thief besought Him to remember him, He showed His universal sovereignty by saying, “To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise 410 .” If then not even in the time of His Passion He is separated from His authority, where can heresy possibly discern the subordination to authority of the King of glory?
Is. v. 21.CXIX:390
Is. xxix. 4.CXIX:391
Cf. 1 Tim. i. 17CXX:392
Cf. S. Matt. ix. 12, and parallel passages.CXX:393
Cf. Isa. 40:12, 24Is. xl. 12 and 24. The quotation is not verbally from the LXX.CXX:394
Rom. ix. 5.CXX:395
S. John xvi. 15CXX:396
Cf. Phil. ii. 10CXX:397
Ps. lv. 19 (LXX.).CXXI:398
Reading αὐτῆς, with Oehler. The general sense is the same, if αὐτῷ be read; “does yet more strongly attest His existence from all eternity.”CXXI:399
Cf. Ps. cxlviii. 2-10.CXXI:400
Phil. ii. 8.CXXI:401
Cf. S. Matt. viii. 17.CXXI:402
2 Cor. v. 21.CXXI:403
Gal. iii. 13.CXXI:404
Ps. cxlviii. 5.CXXI:405
Heb. i. 3.CXXII:406
If this phrase is a direct quotation from Eunomius, it is probably from some other context: its grammatical structure does not connect it with what has gone before, nor is it quite clear where the quotation ends, or whether the illustration of the instrument is Eunomius own, or is Gregorys exposition of the statement of Eunomius.CXXII:407
S. John ii. 19CXXII:408
S. John x. 18CXXII:409
S. John xviii. 5-6.CXXII:410
S. Luke xxiii. 43.
Next: He thus proceeds to a magnificent discourse of the interpretation of “Mediator,” “Like,” “Ungenerate,” and “generate,” and of “The likeness and seal of the energy of the Almighty and of His Works.”
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: https://st-takla.org / Contact us at