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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:
Dogmatic Treatises.: 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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p. CLXVIII §8. 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.”

But what need is there in our discourse to reveal his hidden deceit by mere guesses at his intention, and possibly to give our hearers occasions for objection, on the ground that we make these charges against our enemies untruly? For lo, he sets forth to us his blasphemy in its nakedness, not hiding his guile by any veil, but speaking boldly in his absurdities with unrestrained voice. What he has written runs thus:—“We, for our part,” he says, “as we find nothing else besides the essence of the Son which admits of the generation, are of opinion that we must assign the appellations to the essence itself, or else we speak of ‘Son’ and ‘begotten’ to no purpose, and as a mere verbal matter, if we are really to separate them from the essence; starting from these names, we also confidently maintain that the essences are variant from each other 667 .”

There is no need, I imagine, that the absurdity here laid down should be refuted by arguments from us. The mere reading of what he has written is enough to pillory his blasphemy. But let us thus examine it. He says that the essences of the Father and the Son are “variant.” What is meant by “variant”? Let us first of all examine the force of the term as it is applied by itself 668 , that by the interpretation of the word its blasphemous character may be more clearly revealed. The term “variance” is used, in the inexact sense sanctioned by custom, of bodies, when, by palsy or any other disease, any limb is perverted from its natural co-ordination. For we speak, comparing the state of suffering with that of health, of the condition of one who has been subjected to a change for the worse, as being a “variation” from his usual health; and in the case of those who differ in respect of virtue and vice, comparing the licentious life with that of purity and temperance, or the unjust life with that of justice, or the life which is passionate, warlike, and prodigal of anger, with that which is mild and peaceful—and generally all that is reproached with vice, as compared with what is more excellent, is said to exhibit “variance” from it, because the marks observed in both—in the good, I mean, and the inferior—do not mutually agree. Again, we say that those qualities observed in the elements are “at variance” which are mutually opposed as contraries, having a power reciprocally destructive, as heat and cold, or dryness and moisture, or, generally, anything that is opposed to another as a contrary; and the absence of union in these we express by the term “variation”; and generally everything which is out of harmony with another in their observed characteristics, is said to be “at variance” with it, as health with disease, life with death, war with peace, virtue with vice, and all similar cases.

Now that we have thus analyzed these expressions, let us also consider in regard to our author in what sense he says that the essences of the Father and the Son are “variant from each other.” What does he mean by it? Is it in the sense that the Father is according to nature, while the Son “varies” from that nature? Or does he express by this word the perversion of virtue, separating the evil from the more excellent by the name of “variation,” so as to regard the one essence in a good, the other in a contrary aspect? Or does he assert that one Divine essence also is variant from another, in the manner of the opposition of the elements? or as war stands to peace, and life to death, does he also perceive in the essences the conflict which so exists among all such things, so that they cannot unite one with another, because the mixture of contraries exerts upon the things mingled a consuming force, as the wisdom of the Proverbs saith of such a doctrine, that water and fire never say “It is enough 669 ,” expressing enigmatically the nature of contraries of equal force and equal balance, and their mutual destruction? Or is it in none of these ways that he sees “variance” in the essences? Let him tell us, then, what he conceives besides these. He could not say, I take it, even if he were to repeat his wonted phrase 670 , “The Son is variant from Him Who begat Him”; for thereby the absurdity of his statements is yet more clearly shown. For what mutual relation is so closely and concordantly engrafted and fitted together as that meaning of relation to p. CLXIX the Father expressed by the word “Son”? And a proof of this is that even if both of these names be not spoken, that which is omitted is connoted by the one that is uttered, so closely is the one implied in the other, and concordant with it: and both of them are so discerned in the one that one cannot be conceived without the other. Now that which is “at variance” is surely so conceived and so called, in opposition to that which is “in harmony,” as the plumb-line is in harmony with the straight line, while that which is crooked, when set beside that which is straight, does not harmonize with it. Musicians also are wont to call the agreement of notes “harmony,” and that which is out of tune and discordant “inharmonious.” To speak of things as at “variance,” then, is the same as to speak of them as “out of harmony.” If, therefore, the nature of the Only-begotten God is at “variance,” to use the heretical phrase, with the essence of the Father, it is surely not in harmony with it: and inharmoniousness cannot exist where there is no possibility of harmony 671 . For the case is as when, the figure in the wax and in the graying of the signet being one, the wax that has been stamped by the signet, when it is fitted again to the latter, makes the impression on itself accord with that which surrounds it, filling up the hollows and accommodating the projections of the engraving with its own patterns: but if some strange and different pattern is fitted to the engraving of the signet, it makes its own form rough and confused, by rubbing off its figure on an engraved surface that does not correspond with it. But He Who is “in the form of God 672 ” has been formed by no impression different from the Father, seeing that He is “the express image” of the Father’s Person 673 , while the “form of God” is surely the same thing as His essence. For as, “being made in the form of a servant 674 ,” He was formed in the essence of a servant, not taking upon Him the form merely, apart from the essence, but the essence is involved in the sense of “form,” so, surely, he who says that He is “in the form of God” signified essence by “form.” If, therefore, He is “in the form of God,” and being in the Father is sealed with the Father’s glory, (as the word of the Gospel declares, which saith, “Him hath God the Father sealed 675 ,”—whence also “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father 676 ,”) then “the image of goodness” and “the brightness of glory,” and all other similar titles, testify that the essence of the Son is not out of harmony with the Father. Thus by the text cited is shown the insubstantial character of the adversaries’ blasphemy. For if things at “variance” are not in harmony, and He Who is sealed by the Father, and displays the Father in Himself, both being in the Father, and having the Father in Himself 677 , shows in all points His close relation and harmony, then the absurdity of the opposing views is hereby overwhelmingly shown. For as that which is at “variance” was shown to be out of harmony, so conversely that which is harmonious is surely confessed beyond dispute not to be at “variance.” For as that which is at “variance” is not harmonious, so the harmonious is not at “variance.” Moreover, he who says that the nature of the Only-begotten is at “variance” with the good essence of the Father, clearly has in view variation in the good itself. But as for what that is which is at variance with the good—“O ye simple,” as the Proverb saith, “understand his craftiness 678 !”



The whole passage is rather obscure, and Oehler’s punctuation renders it perhaps more obscure than that which is here adopted. The argument seems to be something like this:—“The generated essence is not compared with any of the things made by it, or after it, because being only-begotten it leaves no room for a common basis of comparison with anything else, and the operation of its maker is also peculiar to itself (since it is immediate, the operation in the case of other things being mediate). The essence of the Son, then, being so far isolated, it is to it that the appellations of γέννημα, ποίημα, and κτίσμα are to be assigned; otherwise the terms ‘Son’ and ‘Only-begotten’ are meaningless. Therefore the Son, being in essence a ποίημα or κτίσμα, is alien from the Father Who made or created Him.” The word παρηλλάχθαι, used to express the difference of essence between the Father and the Son, is one for which it is hard to find an equivalent which shall suit all the cases of the use of the word afterwards instanced: the idea of “variation,” however, seems to attach to all these cases, and the verb has been translated accordingly.


Following Oehler’s suggestion and reading φ᾽ ἑαυτῆς.


Cf. Prov. xxx. 15 (LXX.).


The sense given would perhaps be clearer if we were to read (as Gulonius seems to have done) συνήθη for συνήθη. This might be interpreted, “He could not say, I take it, even if he uses the words in an unwonted sense, that the Son is at variance with Him Who begat Him.” The συνήθη would thus be the senses already considered and set aside: and the point would be that such a statement could not be made without manifest absurdity, even if some out-of-the-way sense were attached to the words. As the passage stands, it must mean that even if Eunomius repeats his wonted phrase, that can suggest no other sense of “variance” than those enumerated.


The reading of Oehler is here followed: but the sense of the clause is not clear either in his text or in that of the Paris editions.


Phil. ii. 6.


Heb. i. 3.


Phil. ii. 7.


S. John vi. 27


S. John xiv. 9


Cf. S. John xiv. 10


Prov. viii. 5 (LXX.).

Next: Then, distinguishing between essence and generation, he declares the empty and frivolous language of Eunomius to be like a rattle. He proceeds to show that the language used by the great Basil on the subject of the generation of the Only-begotten has been grievously slandered by Eunomius, and so ends the book.

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