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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:
Dogmatic Treatises.: Then he ends the book with an exposition of the Divine and Human names of the Only-Begotten, and a discussion of the terms “generate” and “ungenerate.”

Early Church Fathers  Index     

§7. Then he ends the book with an exposition of the Divine and Human names of the Only-Begotten, and a discussion of the terms “generate” and “ungenerate.”

But as, I know not how or why, they hate and abhor the truth, they give Him indeed the name of “Son,” but in order to avoid the testimony which this word would give to the community of essence, they separate the word from the sense included in the name, and concede to the Only-begotten the name of “Son” as an empty thing, vouchsafing to Him only the mere sound of the word. That what I say is true, and that I am not taking a false aim at the adversaries’ mark, may be clearly learnt from the actual attacks they make upon the truth. Such are those arguments which are brought forward by them to establish their blasphemy, that we are taught by the divine Scriptures many names of the Only-begotten—a stone, an axe, a rock, a foundation, bread, a vine, a door, a way, a shepherd, a fountain, a tree, resurrection, a teacher, light, and many such names. But we may not piously use any of these names of the Lord, understanding it according to its immediate sense. For surely it would be a most absurd thing to think that what is incorporeal and immaterial, simple, and without figure, should be fashioned according to the apparent senses of these names, whatever they may be, so that when we hear of an axe we should think of a particular figure of iron, or when we hear of light, of the light in the sky, or of a vine, of that which grows by the planting of shoots, or of any one of the other names, as its ordinary use suggests to us to think; but we transfer the sense of these names to what better becomes the Divine nature, and form some other conception, and if we do designate Him thus, it is not as being any of these things, according to the definition of His nature, but as being called these things while He is conceived by means of the names employed as something else than the things themselves. But if such names are indeed truly predicated of the Only-begotten God, without including the declaration of His nature, they say that, as a consequence, neither should we admit the signification of “Son,” as it is understood according to the prevailing use, as expressive of nature, but should find some sense of this word also, different from that which is ordinary and obvious. These, and others like these, are their philosophical arguments to establish that the Son is not what He is and is called. Our argument was hastening to a different goal, namely to show that Eunomius’ new discourse is false and inconsistent, and argues neither with the truth nor with itself. Since, however, p. CL the arguments which we employ to attack their doctrine are brought into the discussion as a sort of support for their blasphemy 602 , it may be well first briefly to discuss his point, and then to proceed to the orderly examination of his writings.

What can we say, then, to such things without relevance? That while, as they say, the names which Scripture applies to the Only-begotten are many, we assert that none of the other names is closely connected with the reference to Him that begat Him. For we do not employ the name “Stone,” or “Resurrection,” or “Shepherd,” or “Light,” or any of the rest, as we do the name “Son of the Father,” with a reference to the God of all. It is possible to make a twofold division of the signification of the Divine names, as it were by a scientific rule: for to one class belongs the indication of His lofty and unspeakable glory; the other class indicates the variety of the providential dispensation: so that, as we suppose, if that which received His benefits did not exist, neither would those words be applied with respect to them 603 which indicate His bounty. All those on the other hand, that express the attributes of God, are applied suitably and properly to the Only-begotten God, apart from the objects of the dispensation. But that we may set forth this doctrine clearly, we will examine the names themselves. The Lord would not have been called a vine, save for the planting of those who are rooted in Him, nor a shepherd, had not the sheep of the house of Israel been lost, nor a physician, save for the sake of them that were sick, nor would He have received for Himself the rest of these names, had He not made the titles appropriate, in a manner advantageous with regard to those who were benefited by Him, by some action of His providence. What need is there to mention individual instances, and to lengthen our argument upon points that are acknowledged? On the other hand, He is certainly called “Son,” and “Right Hand,” and “Only-begotten,” and “Word,” and “Wisdom,” and “Power,” and all other such relative names, as being named together with the Father in a certain relative conjunction. For He is called the “Power of God,” and the “Right Hand of God,” and the “Wisdom of God,” and the “Son and Only-begotten of the Father,” and the “Word with God,” and so of the rest. Thus, it follows from what we have stated, that in each of the names we are to contemplate some suitable sense appropriate to the subject, so that we may not miss the right understanding of them, and go astray from the doctrine of godliness. As, then, we transfer each of the other terms to that sense in which they may be applied to God, and reject in their case the immediate sense, so as not to understand material light, or a trodden way, or the bread which is produced by husbandry, or the word that is expressed by speech, but, instead of these, all those thoughts which present to us the magnitude of the power of the Word of God,—so, if one were to reject the ordinary and natural sense of the word “Son,” by which we learn that He is of the same essence as Him that begat Him, he will of course transfer the name to some more divine interpretation. For since the change to the more glorious meaning which has been made in each of the other terms has adapted them to set forth the Divine power, it surely follows that the significance of this name also should be transferred to what is loftier. But what more Divine sense could we find in the appellation of “Son,” if we were to reject, according to our adversaries’ view, the natural relation to Him that begat Him? I presume no one is so daring in impiety as to think that, in speech concerning the Divine nature, what is humble and mean is more appropriate than what is lofty and great. If they can discover, therefore, any sense of more exalted character than this, so that to be of the nature of the Father seems a thing unworthy to conceive of the Only-begotten, let them tell us whether they know, in their secret wisdom, anything more exalted than the nature of the Father, that, in raising the Only-begotten God to this level, they should lift Him also above His relation to the Father. But if the majesty of the Divine nature transcends all height, and excels every power that calls forth our wonder, what idea remains that can carry the meaning of the name “Son” to something greater still? Since it is acknowledged, therefore, that every significant phrase employed of the Only-begotten, even if the name be derived from the ordinary use of our lower life, is properly applied to Him with a difference of sense in the direction of greater majesty, and if it is shown that we can find no more noble conception of the title “Son” than that which presents to us the reality of His relationship to Him that begat Him, I think that we need spend no more time on this topic, as our argument has sufficiently shown that it is not proper to interpret the title of “Son” in like manner with the other names.

But we must bring back our enquiry once more to the book. It does not become the same persons “not to refuse” (for I will use p. CLI their own words) “to call Him that is generated a ‘product of generation,’ since both the generated essence itself and the appellation of Son make such a relation of words appropriate,” and again to change the names which naturally belong to Him into metaphorical interpretations: so that one of two things has befallen them,—either their first attack has failed, and it is in vain that they fly to “natural order” to establish the necessity of calling Him that is generated a “product of generation”; or, if this argument holds good, they will find their second argument brought to nought by what they have already established. For the person who is called a “product of generation” because He is generated, cannot, for the very same reason, be possibly called a “product of making,” or a “product of creation.” For the sense of the several terms differs very widely, and one who uses his phrases advisedly ought to employ words with due regard to the subject, that we may not, by improperly interchanging the sense of our phrases, fall into any confusion of ideas. Hence we call that which is wrought out by a craft the work of the craftsman, and call him who is begotten by a man that man’s son; and no sane person would call the work a son, or the son a work; for that is the language of one who confuses and obscures the true sense by an erroneous use of names. It follows that we must truly affirm of the Only-begotten one of these two things,—if He is a Son, that He is not to be called a “product of creation,” and if He is created, that He is alien from the appellation of “Son 604 ,” just as heaven and sea and earth, and all individual things, being things created, do not assume the name of “Son.” But since Eunomius bears witness that the Only-begotten God is begotten (and the evidence of enemies is of additional value for establishing the truth), he surely testifies also, by saying that He is begotten, to the fact that He is not created. Enough, however, on these points: for though many arguments crowd upon us, we will be content, lest their number lead to disproportion, with those we have already adduced on the subject before us.



The meaning of this seems to be that the Anomœan party make the same charge of “inconsistency” against the orthodox, which Gregory makes against Eunomius, basing that charge on the fact that the title “Son” is not interpreted in the same figurative way as the other titles recited. Gregory accordingly proceeds to show why the name of “Son” stands on a different level from those titles, and is to be treated in a different way.


π᾽ ἀυτῶν: perhaps “with reference to man,” the plural being employed here to denote the race of men, spoken of in the preceding clause collectively as τὸ εὐεργετόυμενον


Oehler’s punctuation here seems faulty, and is accordingly not followed.

Next: Book IV

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