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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:
Dogmatic Treatises.: Section 1

Early Church Fathers  Index     


§1. The sixth book shows that He Who came for man’s salvation was not a mere man, as Eunomius, falsely slandering him, affirmed that the great Basil had said, but the Only-begotten Son of God, putting on human flesh, and becoming a mediator between God and man, on Whom we believe, as subject to suffering in the flesh, but impassible in His Godhead; and demonstrates the calumny of Eunomius.

But I perceive that while the necessities of the subject compelled me to follow this line of thought, I have lingered too long over this passage 747 . I must now resume the train of his complaints, that we may pass by none of the charges brought against us without an answer. And first I propose that we should examine this point, that he charges us with asserting that an ordinary man has wrought the salvation of the world. For although this point has been to some extent already cleared up by the investigations we have made, we shall yet briefly deal with it once more, that the mind of those who are acting as our judges on this slanderous accusation may be entirely freed from misapprehension. So far are we from referring to an ordinary man the cause of this great and unspeakable grace, that even if any should refer so great a boon to Peter and Paul, or to an angel from heaven, we should say with Paul, “let him be anathema 748 .” For Paul was not crucified for us, nor were we baptized into a human name 749 . Surely the doctrine which our adversaries oppose to the truth is not thereby strengthened when we confess that the saving power of Christ is more potent than human nature 750 :—yet it may seem to be so, for their aim is to maintain at all points the difference of the essence of the Son from that of the Father, and they strive to show the dissimilarity of essence not only by the contrast of the Generated with the Ungenerate, but also by the opposition of the passible to the impassible. And while this is more openly maintained in the last part of their argument, it is also clearly shown in their present discourse 751 . For if he finds fault with those who refer the Passion to the Human Nature, his intention is certainly to subject to the Passion the Godhead Itself. For our conception being twofold, and admitting of two developments, accordingly as the Divinity or the Humanity is held to have been in a condition of suffering, an attack on one of these views is clearly a maintaining of the other. Accordingly, if they find fault with those who look upon the Passion as concerning the Man, they will clearly approve those who say that the Godhead of the Son was subject to passion, and the position which these last maintain becomes an argument in favour of their own absurd doctrine. For if, according to their statement, the Godhead of the Son suffers, while that of the Father is preserved in absolute impassibility, then the impassible Nature is essentially different from that which admits passion. Seeing, therefore, that the dictum before us, though, so far as it is limited by number of words, it is a short one, yet affords principles and hypotheses for every kind of doctrinal pravity, it would seem right that our readers should require in our reply not so much brevity as soundness. We, then, neither attribute our own salvation to a man, nor admit that the incorruptible and Divine Nature is capable of suffering and mortality: but since we must assuredly believe the Divine utterances which declare to us that the Word that was in the beginning was God 752 , and that afterward the Word made flesh was seen upon the earth and conversed with men 753 , we admit in our creed those conceptions which are consonant with the Divine utterance. For when we hear that He is Light, and Power, and Righteousness, and Life, and Truth, and that by Him all things were made, we account all these and such-like statements as things to be believed, referring them to God the Word: but when we hear of pain, of slumber, of need, of trouble, of bonds, of nails, of the spear, of blood, of wounds, of burial, of the sepulchre, and all else of this kind, even if they are somewhat opposed to p. CLXXXIII what has previously been stated, we none the less admit them to be things to be believed, and true, having regard to the flesh; which we receive by faith as conjoined with the Word. For as it is not possible to contemplate the peculiar attributes of the flesh as existing in the Word that was in the beginning, so also on the other hand we may not conceive those which are proper to the Godhead as existing in the nature of the flesh. As, therefore, the teaching of the Gospel concerning our Lord is mingled, partly of lofty and Divine ideas, partly of those which are lowly and human, we assign every particular phrase accordingly to one or other of these Natures which we conceive in the mystery, that which is human to the Humanity, that which is lofty to the Godhead, and say that, as God, the Son is certainly impassible and incapable of corruption: and whatever suffering is asserted concerning Him in the Gospel, He assuredly wrought by means of His Human Nature which admitted of such suffering. For verily the Godhead works the salvation of the world by means of that body which encompassed It, in such wise that the suffering was of the body, but the operation was of God; and even if some wrest to the support of the opposite doctrine the words of the Apostle, “God spared not His own Son, 754 ” and, “God sent His own Son 755 ,” and other similar phrases which seem to refer, in the matter of the Passion, to the Divine Nature, and not to the Humanity, we shall none the less refuse to abandon sound doctrine, seeing that Paul himself declares to us more clearly the mystery of this subject. For he everywhere attributes to the Human element in Christ the dispensation of the Passion, when he says, “for since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead 756 ,” and, “God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, condemned sin in the flesh 757 ” (for he says, “in the flesh,” not “in the Godhead”); and “He was crucified through weakness” (where by “weakness” he means “the flesh”), “yet liveth by power 758 ” (while he indicates by “power” the Divine Nature); and, “He died unto sin” (that is, with regard to the body), “but liveth unto God 759 ” (that is, with regard to the Godhead, so that by these words it is established that, while the Man tasted death, the immortal Nature did not admit the suffering of death); and again; “He made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin 760 ,” giving once more the name of “sin” to the flesh.



The passage in S. Peter’s speech (Acts ii. 36) discussed in the preceding book.


Cf. Gal. 1:8, 9


1 Cor. i. 13.


The sense of this passage is rather obscure. S. Gregory intends, it would seem, to point out that, although an acknowledgment that the suffering Christ was more than man may seem at first sight to support the Eunomian view of the passibility of the Godhead of the Son, this is not its necessary effect. Apparently either οὐ μὴν must be taken as equivalent to οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ, or a clause such as that expressed in the translation must be supplied before τοῖς μὲν γὰρ κ.τ.λ.


Altering Oehler’s punctuation, which here follows that of the earlier editions.


Cf. S. John i. 1


Cf. Bar. iii. 37


Rom. viii. 32.


Cf. Rom. viii. 3


1 Cor. xv. 21.


Cf. Rom. viii. 3


2 Cor. xiii. 4.


Rom. vi. 10.


2 Cor. v. 21.

Next: Then he again mentions S. Peter's word, “made,” and the passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which says that Jesus was made by God “an Apostle and High Priest”: and, after giving a sufficient answer to the charges brought against him by Eunomius, shows that Eunomius himself supports Basil's arguments, and says that the Only-begotten Son, when He had put on the flesh, became Lord.

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