Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: 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.
§7. 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.
In the remainder of the passage, however, he becomes conciliatory, and says that the essence “is not compared with any of the things that were made by it and after it 658 .” Such are the gifts which the enemies of the truth offer to the Lord 659 , by which their blasphemy is made more manifest. Tell me what else is there of all things in creation that admits of comparison with a different thing, seeing that the characteristic nature that appears in each absolutely rejects community with things of a different kind 660 ? The heaven admits no comparison with the earth, nor this with the stars, nor the stars with the seas, nor water with stone, nor animals with trees, nor land animals with winged creatures, nor four-footed beasts with those that swim, nor irrational with rational creatures. Indeed, why should one take up time with individual instances, in showing that we may say of every single thing that we behold in the creation, precisely what was thrown to the Only-begotten, as if it were something special—that He admits of comparison with none of the things that have been produced after Him and by Him? For it is clear that everything which you conceive by itself is incapable of comparison with the universe, and with the individual things which compose it; and it is this, which may be truly said of any creature you please, which is allotted by the enemies of the truth, as adequate and sufficient for His honour and glory, to the Only-begotten God! And once more, putting together phrases of the same sort in the remainder of the passage, he dignifies Him with his empty honours, calling Him “Lord” and “Only-begotten”: but that no orthodox meaning may be conveyed to his readers by these names, he p. CLXVII promptly mixes up blasphemy with the more notable of them. His phrase runs thus:—“Inasmuch,” he says, “as the generated essence leaves no room for community to anything else (for it is only-begotten 661 ), nor is the operation of the Maker contemplated as common.” O marvellous insolence! as though he were addressing his harangue to brutes, or senseless beings “which have no understanding 662 ,” he twists his argument about in contrary ways, as he pleases; or rather he suffers as men do who are deprived of sight; for they too behave often in unseemly ways before the eyes of those who see, supposing, because they themselves cannot see, that they are also unseen. For what sort of man is it who does not see the contradiction in his words? Because it is “generated,” he says, the essence leaves other things no room for community, for it is only-begotten; and then when he has uttered these words, really as though he did not see or did not suppose himself to be seen, he tacks on, as if corresponding to what he has said, things that have nothing in common with them, coupling “the operation of the maker” with the essence of the Only-begotten. That which is generated is correlative to the generator, and the Only-begotten, surely, by consequence, to the Father; and he who looks to the truth beholds, in co-ordination with the Son, not “the operation of the maker,” but the nature of Him that begat Him. But he, as if he were talking about plants or seeds, or some other thing in the order of creation, sets “the operation of the maker” by the side of the existence 663 of the Only-begotten. Why, if a stone or a stick, or something of that sort, were the subject of consideration, it would be logical to pre-suppose “the operation of the maker”; but if the Only-begotten God is confessed, even by His adversaries, to be a Son, and to exist by way of generation, how do the same words befit Him that befit the lowest portions of the creation? how do they think it pious to say concerning the Lord the very thing which may be truly said of an ant or a gnat? For if any one understood the nature of an ant, and its peculiar ties in reference to other living things, he would not be beyond the truth in saying that “the operation of its maker is not contemplated as common” with reference to the other things. What, therefore, is affirmed of such things as these, this they predicate also of the Only-begotten, and as hunters are said to intercept the passage of their game with holes, and to conceal their design by covering over the mouths of the holes with some unsound and unsubstantial material, in order that the pit may seem level with the ground about it, so heresy contrives against men something of the same sort, covering over the hole of their impiety with these fine-sounding and pious names, as it were with a level thatch, so that those who are rather unintelligent, thinking that these mens preaching is the same with the true faith, because of the agreement of their words, hasten towards the mere name of the Son and the Only-begotten, and step into emptiness in the hole, since the significance of these titles will not sustain the weight of their tread, but lets them down into the pitfall of the denial of Christ. This is why he speaks of the generated essence that leaves nothing room for community, and calls it “Only-begotten.” These are the coverings of the hole. But when any one stops before he is caught in the gulf, and puts forth the test of argument, like a hand, upon his discourse, he sees the dangerous downfall of idolatry lying beneath the doctrine. For when he draws near, as though to God and the Son of God, he finds a creature of God set forth for his worship. This is why they proclaim high and low the name of the Only-begotten, that the destruction may be readily accepted by the victims of their deceit, as though one were to mix up poison in bread, and give a deadly greeting to those who asked for food, who would not have been willing to take the poison by itself, had they not been enticed to what they saw. Thus he has a sharp eye to the object of his efforts, at least so far as his own opinion goes. For if he had entirely rejected from his teaching the name of the Son, his falsehood would not have been acceptable to men, when his denial was openly stated in a definite proclamation; but now leaving only the name, and changing the signification of it to express creation, he at once sets up his idolatry, and fraudulently hides its reproach. But since we are bidden not to honour God with our lips 664 , and piety is not tested by the sound of a word, but the Son must first be the object of belief in the heart unto righteousness, and then be confessed with the mouth unto salvation 665 , and those who say in their hearts that He is not God, even though with their mouths they confess Him as Lord, are corrupt and became abominable 666 , as the prophet says,—for this cause, I say, we must look to the mind of those who put forward, forsooth, the words of the faith, and not be enticed to follow their sound. If, then, one who speaks of the Son does not by that word refer to a creature, he is on our side and not on the enemys; but if any one applies the name of Son to the creation, he is to be ranked among idolaters. For they too gave the name of God to Dagon and Bel and the Dragon, but they did not on that account worship God. For the wood and the brass and the monster were not God.
Oehlers proposal to read “vel invitis libris quod sententia flagitat τῶν δἰ ἀυτοῦ καὶ μετ᾽ αῦτὸν” does not seem necessary. αὐτῆς and αὐτὴν refer to οὐσία, the quotation being made (not verbally) from Eunomius, not from Theognostus, and following apparently the phrase about “preserving the relation,” etc. If the clause were a continuation of the quotation from Theognostus, we should have to follow Oehlers proposal.CLXVI:659
Reading, according to Cotelerius suggestion, (mentioned with approval by Oehler, though not followed by him,) δωροφοροῦσιν for δορυφοροῦσινCLXVI:660
That is to say, because there is no “common measure” of the distinct natures.CLXVII:661
Altering Oehlers punctuation; it is the fact that the essence is μονογενὴς which excludes all other things from community with it.CLXVII:662
Ps. xxxii. 9.CLXVII:663
Cf. Is. xxix. 13CLXVII:665
Cf. Rom. x. 10CLXVII:666
Cf. Ps. xiii. 2
Next: He proceeds to show that there is no “variance” in the essence of the Father and the Son: wherein he expounds many forms of variation and harmony, and explains the “form,” the “seal,” and the “express image.”
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