Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: He then exposes argument about the “Generate,” and the “product of making,” and “product of creation,” and shows the impious nature of the language of Eunomius and Theognostus on the “immediate” and “undivided” character of the essence, and its “relation to its creator and maker.”
§6. He then exposes argument about the “Generate,” and the “product of making,” and “product of creation,” and shows the impious nature of the language of Eunomius and Theognostus on the “immediate” and “undivided” character of the essence, and its “relation to its creator and maker.”
Let us listen, then, to what he says. “One might reasonably say that the most proper and primary essence, and that which alone exists by the operation of the Father, admits for itself the appellations of product of generation, product of making, and product of creation.” Who knows not that what separates the Church from heresy is this term, “product of creation,” applied to the Son? Accordingly, the doctrinal difference being universally acknowledged, what would be the reasonable course for a man to take who endeavours to show that his opinions are more true than ours? Clearly, to establish his own statement, by showing, by such proofs as he could, that we ought to consider that the p. CLXIII Lord is created. Or omitting this, should he rather lay down a law for his readers that they should speak of matters of controversy as if they were acknowledged facts? For my own part, I think he should take the former course, and perhaps all who possess any share of intelligence demand this of their opponents, that they should, to begin with, establish upon some incontrovertible basis the first principle of their argument, and so proceed to press their theory by inferences. Now our writer leaves alone the task of establishing the view that we should think He is created, and goes on to the next steps, fitting on the inferential process of his argument to this unproved assumption, being just in the condition of those men whose minds are deep in foolish desires, with their thoughts wandering upon a kingdom, or upon some other object of pursuit. They do not think how any of the things on which they set their hearts could possibly be, but they arrange and order their good fortune for themselves at their pleasure, as if it were theirs already, straying with a kind of pleasure among non-existent things. So, too, our clever author somehow or other lulls his own renowned dialectic to sleep, and before giving a demonstration of the point at issue, he tells, as if to children, the tale of this deceitful and inconsequent folly of his own doctrine, setting it forth like a story told at a drinking-party. For he says that the essence which “exists by the operation of the Father” admits the appellation of “product of generation,” and of “product of making,” and of “product of creation.” What reasoning showed us that the Son exists by any constructive operation, and that the nature of the Father remains inoperative with regard to the Personal existence 649 of the Son? This was the very point at issue in the controversy, whether the essence of the Father begat the Son, or whether it made Him as one of the external things which accompany His nature 650 . Now seeing that the Church, according to the Divine teaching, believes the Only-begotten to be verily God, and abhors the superstition of polytheism, and for this cause does not admit the difference of essences, in order that the Godheads may not, by divergence of essence, fall under the conception of number (for this is nothing else than to introduce polytheism into our life)—seeing, I say, that the Church teaches this in plain language, that the Only-begotten is essentially God, very God of the essence of the very God, how ought one who opposes her decisions to overthrow the preconceived opinion? Should he not do so by establishing the opposing statement, demonstrating the disputed point from some acknowledged principle? I think no sensible man would look for anything else than this. But our author starts from the disputed points, and takes, as though it were admitted, matter which is in controversy as a principle for the succeeding argument. If it had first been shown that the Son had His existence through some operation, what quarrel should we have with what follows, that he should say that the essence which exists through an operation admits for itself the name of “product of making”? But let the advocates of error tell us how the consequence has any force, so long as the antecedent remains unestablished. For supposing one were to grant by way of hypothesis that man is winged, there will be no question of concession about what comes next: for he who becomes winged will fly in some way or other, and lift himself up on high above the earth, soaring through the air on his wings. But we have to see how he whose nature is not aerial could become winged, and if this condition does not exist, it is vain to discuss the next point. Let our author, then, show this to begin with, that it is in vain that the Church has believed that the Only-begotten Son truly exists, not adopted by a Father falsely so called, but existing according to nature, by generation from Him Who is, not alienated from the essence of Him that begat Him. But so long as his primary proposition remains unproved, it is idle to dwell on those which are secondary. And let no one interrupt me, by saying that what we confess should also be confirmed by constructive reasoning: for it is enough for proof of our statement, that the tradition has come down to us from our fathers, handed on, like some inheritance, by succession from the apostles and the saints who came after them. They, on the other hand, who change their doctrines to this novelty, would need the support of arguments in abundance, if they were about to bring over to their views, not men light as dust, and unstable, but men of weight and steadiness: but so long as their statement is advanced without being established, and without being proved, who is so foolish and so brutish as to account the teaching of the evangelists and apostles, and of those who have successively shone like lights in the churches, of less force than this undemonstrated nonsense?
Let us further look at the most remarkable instance of our authors cleverness; how, by the abundance of his dialectic skill, he ingeniously draws over to the contrary view the more simple sort. He throws in, as an addition to the title of “product of making,” and that of “product of creation,” the further phrase, “product of generation,” saying that the essence of the Son p. CLXIV “admits these names for itself”; and thinks that, so long as he harangues as if he were in some gathering of topers, his knavery in dealing with doctrine will not be detected by any one. For in joining “product of generation” with “product of making,” and “product of creation,” he thinks that he stealthily makes away with the difference in significance between the names, by putting together what have nothing in common. These are his clever tricks of dialectic; but we mere laymen in argument 651 do not deny that, so far as voice and tongue are concerned, we are what his speech sets forth about us, but we allow also that our ears, as the prophet says, are made ready for intelligent hearing. Accordingly, we are not moved, by the conjunction of names that have nothing in common, to make a confusion between the things they signify: but even if the great Apostle names together wood, hay, stubble, gold, silver, and precious stones 652 , we reckon up summarily the number of things he mentions, and yet do not fail to recognize separately the nature of each of the substances named. So here, too, when “product of generation” and “product of making” are named together, we pass from the sounds to the sense, and do not behold the same meaning in each of the names; for “product of creation” means one thing, and “product of generation” another: so that even if he tries to mingle what will not blend, the intelligent hearer will listen with discrimination, and will point out that it is an impossibility for any one nature to “admit for itself” the appellation of “product of generation,” and that of “product of creation.” For, if one of these were true, the other would necessarily be false, so that, if the thing were a product of creation, it would not be a product of generation, and conversely, if it were called a product of generation, it would be alienated from the title of “product of creation.” Yet Eunomius tells us that the essence of the Son “admits for itself the appellations of product of generation, product of making, and product of creation”!
Does he, by what still remains, make at all more secure this headless and rootless statement of his, in which, in its earliest stage, nothing was laid down that had any force with regard to the point he is trying to establish? or does the rest also cling to the same folly, not deriving its strength from any support it gets from argument, but setting out its exposition of blasphemy with vague details like the recital of dreams? He says (and this he subjoins to what I have already quoted)—“Having its generation without intervention, and preserving indivisible its relation to its Generator, Maker, and Creator.” Well, if we were to leave alone the absence of intervention and of division, and look at the meaning of the words as it stands by itself, we shall find that everywhere his absurd teaching is cast upon the ears of those whom he deceives, without corroboration from a single argument. “Its Generator, and Maker, and Creator,” he says. These names, though they seem to be three, include the sense of but two concepts, since two of the words are equivalent in meaning. For to make is the same as to create, but generation is another thing distinct from those spoken of. Now, seeing that the result of the signification of the words is to divide the ordinary apprehension of men into different ideas, what argument demonstrates to us that making is the same thing with generation, to the end that we may accommodate the one essence to this difference of terms? For so long as the ordinary significance of the words holds, and no argument is found to transfer the sense of the terms to an opposite meaning, it is not possible that any one nature should be divided between the conception of “product of making,” and that of “product of generation.” Since each of these terms, used by itself, has a meaning of its own, we must also suppose the relative conjunction in which they stand to be appropriate and germane to the terms. For all other relative terms have their connection, not with what is foreign and heterogeneous, but, even if the correlative term be suppressed, we hear spontaneously, together with the primary word, that which is linked with it, as in the case of “maker,” “slave,” “friend,” “son,” and so forth. For all names that are considered as relative to another, present to us, by the mention of them, each its proper and closely connected relationship with that which it declares, while they avoid all mixture of that which is heterogeneous 653 . For neither is the name of “maker” linked with the word “son,” nor the term “slave” referred to the term “maker,” nor does “friend” present to us a “slave,” nor “son” a “master,” but we recognize clearly and distinctly the connection of each of these with its correlative, conceiving by the word “friend” another friend; by “slave,” a master; by “maker,” work; by “son,” a father. In the same way, then, “product of generation” has its proper relative sense; with the “product of generation,” surely, is linked the generator, and with the “product of creation” the creator; and we must certainly, if we are not prepared by a substitution of names to p. CLXV introduce a confusion of things, preserve for each of the relative terms that which it properly connotes.
Now, seeing that the tendency of the meaning of these words is manifest, how comes it that one who advances his doctrine by the aid of logical system failed to perceive in these names their proper relative sense? But he thinks that he is linking on the “product of generation” to “maker,” and the “product of making” to “generator,” by saying that the essence of the Son “admits for itself the appellations of product of generation, product of making, and product of creation,” and “preserves indivisible its relation to its Generator, Maker, and Creator.” For it is contrary to nature, that a single thing should be split up into different relations. But the Son is properly related to the Father, and that which is begotten to him that begat it, while the “product of making” has its relation to its “maker”; save if one might consider some inexact use, in some undistinguishing way of common parlance, to overrule the strict signification.
By what reasoning then is it, and by what arguments, according to that invincible logic of his, that he wins back the opinion of the mass of men, and follows out at his pleasure this line of thought, that as the God Who is over all is conceived and spoken of both as “Creator” and as “Father,” the Son has a close connection with both titles, being equally called both “product of creation” and “product of generation”? For as customary accuracy of speech distinguishes between names of this kind, and applies the name of “generation” in the case of things generated from the essence itself, and understands that of “creation” of those things which are external to the nature of their maker, and as on this account the Divine doctrines, in handing down the knowledge of God, have delivered to us the names of “Father” and “Son,” not those of “Creator” and “work,” that there might arise no error tending to blasphemy (as might happen if an appellation of the latter kind repelled the Son to the position of an alien and a stranger), and that the impious doctrines which sever the Only-begotten from essential affinity with the Father might find no entrance—seeing all this, I say, he who declares that the appellation of “product of making” is one befitting the Son, will safely say by consequence that the name of “Son” is properly applicable to that which is the product of making; so that, if the Son is a “product of making,” the heaven is called “Son,” and the individual things that have been made are, according to our author, properly named by the appellation of “Son.” For if He has this name, not because He shares in nature with Him that begat Him, but is called Son for this reason, that He is created, the same argument will permit that a lamb, a dog, a frog, and all things that exist by the will of their maker, should be named by the title of “Son.” If, on the other hand, each of these is not a Son and is not called God, by reason of its being external to the nature of the Son, it follows, surely, that He Who is truly Son is Son, and is confessed to be God by reason of His being of the very nature of Him that begat Him. But Eunomius abhors the idea of generation, and excludes it from the Divine doctrine, slandering the term by his fleshly speculations. Well, our discourse, in what precedes, showed sufficiently on this point that, as the Psalmist says, “they are afraid where no fear is 654 .” For if it was shown in the case of men that not all generation exists by way of passion, but that that which is material is by passion, while that which is spiritual is pure and incorruptible, (for that which is begotten of the Spirit is spirit and not flesh, and in spirit we see no condition that is subject to passion,) since our author thought it necessary to estimate the Divine power by means of examples among ourselves, let him persuade himself to conceive from the other mode of generation the passionless character of the Divine generation. Moreover, by mixing up together these three names, of which two are equivalent, he thinks that his readers, by reason of the community of sense in the two phrases, will jump to the conclusion that the third is equivalent also. For since the appellation of “product of making,” and “product of creation,” indicate that the thing made is external to the nature of the maker, he couples with these the phrase, “product of generation,” that this too may be interpreted along with those above mentioned. But argument of this sort is termed fraud and falsehood and imposition, not a thoughtful and skilful demonstration. For that only is called demonstration which shows what is unknown from what is acknowledged; but to reason fraudulently and fallaciously, to conceal your own reproach, and to confound by superficial deceits the understanding of men, as the Apostle says, “of corrupt minds 655 ,” this no sane man would call a skilful demonstration.
Let us proceed, however, to what follows in order. He says that the generation of the essence is “without intervention,” and that it “preserves indivisible its relation to its Generator, Maker, and Creator.” Well, if he had spoken of the immediate and indivisible character of the essence, and stopped his discourse there, it would not have swerved from the orthodox view, since we too confess the close p. CLXVI connection and relation of the Son with the Father, so that there is nothing inserted between them which is found to intervene in the connection of the Son with the Father, no conception of interval, not even that minute and indivisible one, which, when time is divided into past, present, and future, is conceived indivisibly by itself as the present, as it cannot be considered as a part either of the past or of the future, by reason of its being quite without dimensions and incapable of division, and unobservable, to whichever side it might be added. That, then, which is perfectly immediate, admits we say, of no such intervention; for that which is separated by any interval would cease to be immediate. If, therefore, our author, likewise, in saying that the generation of the Son is “without intervention,” excluded all these ideas, then he laid down the orthodox doctrine of the conjunction of Him Who is with the Father. When, however, as though in a fit of repentance, he straightway proceeded to add to what he had said that the essence “preserves its relation to its Generator, Maker, and Creator,” he polluted his first statement by his second, vomiting forth his blasphemous utterance upon the pure doctrine. For it is clear that there too his “without intervention” has no orthodox intention, but, as one might say that the hammer is mediate between the smith and the nail, but its own making is “without intervention,” because, when tools had not yet been found out by the craft, the hammer came first from the craftsmans hands by some inventive process, not 656 by means of any other tool, and so by it the others were made; so the phrase, “without intervention,” indicates that this is also our authors conception touching the Only-begotten. And here Eunomius is not alone in his error as regards the enormity of his doctrine, but you may find a parallel also in the works of Theognostus 657 , who says that God, wishing to make this universe, first brought the Son into existence as a sort of standard of the creation; not perceiving that in his statement there is involved this absurdity, that what exists, not for its own sake, but for the sake of something else, is surely of less value than that for the sake of which it exists: as we provide an implement of husbandry for the sake of life, yet the plough is surely not reckoned as equally valuable with life. So, if the Lord also exists on account of the world, and not all things on account of Him, the whole of the things for the sake of which they say He exists, would be more valuable than the Lord. And this is what they are here establishing by their argument, where they insist that the Son has His relation to His Creator and Maker “without intervention.”
At a later stage Gregory points out that the idea of creation is involved, if the thing produced is external to the nature of the Maker.CLXIV:651
This phrase seems to be quoted from Eunomius. The reference to the “prophet” may possibly be suggested by Is. vi. 9-10: but it is more probably only concerned with the words ὠτία and ἀκοὴν, as applied to convey the idea of mental alertness.CLXIV:652
Cf. 1 Cor. iii. 12.CLXIV:653
E.g.“A thing made” suggests to us the thought of a “maker,” “a maker” the thought of the thing made; and they suggest also a close connection as existing between the two correlative terms of one of which the name is uttered; but neither suggests in the same way any term which is not correlative, or with which it is not, in some manner, in pari materia.CLXV:654
Cf. Ps. liii. 6CLXV:655
2 Tim. iii. 8.CLXVI:656
It seems necessary for the sense to read οὐ δι᾽ ἑτέρου τινὸς ὀργάνου, since the force of the comparison consists in the hammer being produced immediately by the smith: otherwise we must understand δι᾽ ἑτέρου τινὸς ὀργάνου to refer to the employment of some tool not properly belonging to the τέχνη of the smith: but even so the parallel would be destroyed.CLXVI:657
Theognostus, a writer of the third century, is said to have been the head of the Catechetical School at Alexandria, and is quoted by S. Athanasius as an authority against the Arians. An account of his work is to be found in Photius, and this is extracted and printed with the few remaining fragments of his actual writings in the 3rd volume of Rouths Reliquiæ Sacræ.
Next: He then clearly and skilfully criticises the doctrine of the impossibility of comparison with the things made after the Son, and exposes the idolatry contrived by Eunomius, and concealed by the terminology of “Son” and “Only-begotten,” to deceive his readers.
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: https://st-takla.org / Contact us at