Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: Section 1
p. CXCI Book VII.
§1. The seventh book shows from various statements made to the Corinthians and to the Hebrews, and from the words of the Lord, that the word “Lord” is not expressive of essence, according to Eunomius exposition, but of dignity. and after many notable remarks concerning “the Spirit” and the Lord, he shows that Eunomius, from his own words, is found to argue in favour of orthodoxy, though without intending it, and to be struck by his own shafts.
Since, however, Eunomius asserts that the word “Lord” is used in reference to the essence and not to the dignity of the Only-begotten, and cites as a witness to this view the Apostle, when he says to the Corinthians, “Now the Lord is the Spirit 811 ,” it may perhaps be opportune that we should not pass over even this error on his part without correction. He asserts that the word “Lord” is significative of essence, and by way of proof of this assumption he brings up the passage above mentioned. “The Lord,” it says, “is the Spirit 812 .” But our friend who interprets Scripture at his own sweet will calls “Lordship” by the name of “essence,” and thinks to bring his statement to proof by means of the words quoted. Well, if it had been said by Paul, “Now the Lord is essence,” we too would have concurred in his argument. But seeing that the inspired writing on the one side says, “the Lord is the Spirit,” and Eunomius says on the other, “Lordship is essence,” I do not know where he finds support for his statement, unless he is prepared to say again 813 that the word “Spirit” stands in Scripture for “essence.” Let us consider, then, whether the Apostle anywhere, in his use of the term “Spirit,” employs that word to indicate “essence.” He says, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit 814 ,” and “no one knoweth the things of a man save the Spirit of man which is in him 815 ,” and “the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life 816 ,” and “if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live 817 ,” and “if we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit 818 .” Who indeed could count the utterances of the Apostle on this point? and in them we nowhere find “essence” signified by this word. For he who says that “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit,” signifies nothing else than the Holy Spirit Which comes to be in the mind of the faithful; for in many other passages of his writings he gives the name of spirit to the mind, on the reception by which of the communion of the Spirit the recipients attain the dignity of adoption. Again, in the passage, “No one knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him,” if “man” is used of the essence, and “spirit” likewise, it will follow from the phrase that the man is maintained to be of two essences. Again, I know not how he who says that “the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life,” sets “essence” in opposition to “letter”; nor, again, how this writer imagines that when Paul says that we ought “through the Spirit” to destroy “the deeds of the body,” he is directing the signification of “spirit” to express “essence”; while as for “living in the Spirit,” and “walking in the Spirit,” this would be quite unintelligible if the sense of the word “Spirit” referred to “essence.” For in what else than in essence do all we who are alive partake of life?—thus when the Apostle is laying down advice for us on this matter that we should “live in essence,” it is as though he said “partake of life by means of yourselves, and not by means of others.” If then it is not possible that this sense can be adopted in any passage, how can Eunomius here once more imitate the interpreters of dreams, and bid us to take “spirit” for “essence,” to the end that he may arrive in due syllogistic form at his conclusion that the word “Lord” is applied to the essence?—for if “spirit” is “essence” (he argues), and “the Lord is Spirit,” the “Lord” is clearly found to be “essence.” How incontestable is the force of this attempt! How can we evade or resolve this irrefragable necessity of demonstration? The word “Lord,” he says, is spoken of the essence. How does he maintain it? Because the Apostle says, “The Lord is the p. CXCII Spirit.” Well, what has this to do with essence? He gives us the further instruction that “spirit” is put for “essence.” These are the arts of his demonstrative method! These are the results of his Aristotelian science! This is why, in your view, we are so much to be pitied, who are uninitiated in this wisdom! and you of course are to be deemed happy, who track out the truth by a method like this—that the Apostles meaning was such that we are to suppose “the Spirit” was put by him for the Essence of the Only-begotten!
Then how will you make it fit with what follows? For when Paul says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit,” he goes on to say, “and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” If then “the Lord is the Spirit,” and “Spirit” means “essence,” what are we to understand by “the essence of the essence”? He speaks again of another Spirit of the Lord Who is the Spirit,—that is to say, according to your interpretation, of another essence. Therefore in your view the Apostle, when he writes expressly of “the Lord the Spirit,” and of “the Spirit of the Lord,” means nothing else than an essence of an essence. Well, let Eunomius make what he likes of that which is written; what we understand of the matter is as follows. The Scripture, “given by inspiration of God,” as the Apostle calls it, is the Scripture of the Holy Spirit, and its intention is the profit of men. For “every scripture,” he says, “is given by inspiration of God and is profitable”; and the profit is varied and multiform, as the Apostle says—“for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness 819 .” Such a boon as this, however, is not within any mans reach to lay hold of, but the Divine intention lies hid under the body of the Scripture, as it were under a veil, some legislative enactment or some historical narrative being cast over the truths that are contemplated by the mind. For this reason, then, the Apostle tells us that those who look upon the body of the Scripture have “a veil upon their heart 820 ,” and are not able to look upon the glory of the spiritual law, being hindered by the veil that has been cast over the face of the law-giver. Wherefore he says, “the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life,” showing that often the obvious interpretation, if it be not taken according to the proper sense, has an effect contrary to that life which is indicated by the Spirit, seeing that this lays down for all men the perfection of virtue in freedom from passion, while the history contained in the writings sometimes embraces the exposition even of facts incongruous, and is understood, so to say, to concur with the passions of our nature, whereto if any one applies himself according to the obvious sense, he will make the Scripture a doctrine of death. Accordingly, he says that over the perceptive powers of the souls of men who handle what is written in too corporeal a manner, the veil is cast; but for those who turn their contemplation to that which is the object of the intelligence, there is revealed, bared, as it were, of a mask, the glory that underlies the letter. And that which is discovered by this more exalted perception he says is the Lord, which is the Spirit. For he says, “when it shall turn to the Lord the veil shall be taken away: now the Lord is the Spirit 821 .” And in so saying he makes a distinction of contrast between the lordship of the spirit and the bondage of the letter; for as that which gives life is opposed to that which kills, so he contrasts “the Lord” with bondage. And that we may not be under any confusion when we are instructed concerning the Holy Spirit (being led by the word “Lord” to the thought of the Only-begotten), for this reason he guards the word by repetition, both saying that “the Lord is the Spirit,” and making further mention of “the Spirit of the Lord,” that the supremacy of His Nature may be shown by the honour implied in lordship, while at the same time he may avoid confusing in his argument the individuality of His Person. For he who calls Him both “Lord” and “Spirit of the Lord,” teaches us to conceive of Him as a separate individual besides the Only-begotten; just as elsewhere he speaks of “the Spirit of Christ 822 ,” employing fairly and in its mystic sense this very term which is piously employed in the system of doctrine according to the Gospel tradition. Thus we, the “most miserable of all men,” being led onward by the Apostle in the mysteries, pass from the letter that killeth to the Spirit that giveth life, learning from Him Who was in Paradise initiated into the unspeakable mysteries, that all things the Divine Scripture says are utterances of the Holy Spirit. For “well did the Holy Spirit prophesy 823 ,”—this he says to the Jews in Rome, introducing the words of Isaiah; and to the Hebrews, alleging the authority of the Holy Spirit in the words, “wherefore as saith the Holy Spirit 824 ,” he adduces the words of the Psalm which are spoken at length in the person of God; and from the Lord Himself we learn the same thing,—that David declared the heavenly mysteries not “in” himself (that is, not speaking according to human nature). For how could any one, being but man, know the supercelestial converse of the Father with the Son? But being “in the Spirit” he said that the Lord spoke to the Lord those words which He has uttered. For if, He says, “David in the Spirit calls him Lord, how is He then his p. CXCIII son 825 ?” Thus it is by the power of the Spirit that the holy men who are under Divine influence are inspired, and every Scripture is for this reason said to be “given by inspiration of God,” because it is the teaching of the Divine afflatus. If the bodily veil of the words were removed, that which remains is Lord and life and Spirit, according to the teaching of the great Paul, and according to the words of the Gospel also. For Paul declares that he who turns from the letter to the Spirit no longer apprehends the bondage that slays, but the Lord which is the life-giving Spirit; and the sublime Gospel says, “the words that I speak are spirit and are life 826 ,” as being divested of the bodily veil. The idea, however, that “the Spirit” is the essence of the Only-begotten, we shall leave to our dreamers: or rather, we shall make use, ex abundanti, of what they say, and arm the truth with the weapons of the adversary. For it is allowable that the Egyptian should be spoiled by the Israelites, and that we should make their wealth an ornament for ourselves. If the essence of the Son is called “Spirit,” and God also is Spirit, (for so the Gospel tells us 827 ), clearly the essence of the Father is called “Spirit” also. But if it is their peculiar argument that things which are introduced by different names are different also in nature, the conclusion surely is, that things which are named alike are not alien one from the other in nature either. Since then, according to their account, the essence of the Father and that of the Son are both called “Spirit,” hereby is clearly proved the absence of any difference in essence. For a little further on Eunomius says:—“Of those essences which are divergent the appellations significant of essence are also surely divergent, but where there is one and the same name, that which is declared by the same appellation will surely be one also”:—so that at all points “He that taketh the wise in their own craftiness 828 ” has turned the long labours of our author, and the infinite toil spent on what he has elaborated, to the establishment of the doctrine which we maintain. For if God is in the Gospel called “Spirit,” and the essence of the Only-begotten is maintained by Eunomius to be “Spirit,” as there is no apparent difference in the one name as compared with the other, neither, surely, will the things signified by the names be mutually different in nature.
And now that I have exposed this futile and pointless sham-argument, it seems to me that I may well pass by without discussion what he next puts together by way of attack upon our masters statement. For a sufficient proof of the folly of his remarks is to be found in his actual argument, which of itself proclaims aloud its feebleness. To be entangled in a contest with such things as this is like trampling on the slain. For when he sets forth with much confidence some passage from our master, and treats it with preliminary slander and contempt, and promises that he will show it to be worth nothing at all, he meets with the same fortune as befalls small children, to whom their imperfect and immature intelligence, and the untrained condition of their perceptive faculties, do not give an accurate understanding of what they see. Thus they often imagine that the stars are but a little way above their heads, and pelt them with clods when they appear, in their childish folly; and then, when the clod falls, they clap their hands and laugh and brag to their comrades as if their throw had reached the stars themselves. Such is the man who casts at the truth with his childish missile, who sets forth like the stars those splendid sayings of our master, and then hurls from the ground,—from his downtrodden and grovelling understanding,—his earthy and unstable arguments. And these, when they have gone so high that they have no place to fall from, turn back again of themselves by their own weight 829 . Now the passage of the great Basil is worded as follows 830 :—
“Yet what sane man would agree with the statement that of those things of which the names are different the essences must needs be divergent also? For the appellations of Peter and Paul, and, generally speaking, of men, are different, while the essence of all is one: wherefore, in most respects we are mutually identical, and differ one from another only in those special properties which are observed in individuals: and hence also appellations are not indicative of essence, but of the properties which mark the particular individual. Thus, when we hear of Peter, we do not by the name understand the essence (and by essence I here mean the material substratum), but we are impressed with the conception of the properties which we contemplate in him.” These are the great mans words. And what skill he who disputes this statement displays against us, we learn,—any one, that is, who has leisure for wasting time on unprofitable matters,—from the actual composition of Eunomius.
From his writings, I say, for I do not like to insert in my own work the nauseous stuff our rhetorician utters, or to display his ignorance and folly to contempt in the midst of my own arguments. He goes on with a sort of eulogy upon the class of significant words which express the subject, and, in his accustomed style, p. CXCIV patches and sticks together the cast-off rags of phrases: poor Isocrates is nibbled at once more, and shorn of words and figures to make out the point proposed,—here and there even the Hebrew Philo receives the same treatment, and makes him a contribution of phrases from his own labours,—yet not even thus is this much-stitched and many-coloured web of words finished off, but every assault, every defence of his conceptions, all his artistic preparation, spontaneously collapses, and, as commonly happens with the bubbles when the drops, borne down from above through a body of waters against some obstacle, produce those foamy swellings which, as soon as they gather, immediately dissolve, and leave upon the water no trace of their own formation—such are the air-bubbles of our authors thoughts, vanishing without a touch at the moment they are put forth. For after all these irrefragable statements, and the dreamy philosophizing wherein he asserts that the distinct character of the essence is apprehended by the divergence of names, as some mass of foam borne downstream breaks up when it comes into contact with any more solid body, so his argument, following its own spontaneous course, and coming unexpectedly into collision with the truth, disperses into nothingness its unsubstantial and bubble-like fabric of falsehood. For he speaks in these words:—“Who is so foolish and so far removed from the constitution of men, as, in discoursing of men to speak of one as a man, and, calling another a horse, so to compare them?” I would answer him,—“You are right in calling any one foolish who makes such blunders in the use of names. And I will employ for the support of the truth the testimony you yourself give. For if it is a piece of extreme folly to call one a horse and another a man, supposing both were really men, it is surely a piece of equal stupidity, when the Father is confessed to be God, and the Son is confessed to be God, to call the one created and the other uncreated, since, as in the other case humanity, so in this case the Godhead does not admit a change of name to that expressive of another kind. For what the irrational is with respect to man, that also the creature is with respect to the Godhead, being equally unable to receive the same name with the nature that is superior to it. And as it is not possible to apply the same definition to the rational animal and the quadruped alike (for each is naturally differentiated by its special property from the other), so neither can you express by the same terms the created and the uncreated essence, seeing that those attributes which are predicated of the latter essence are not discoverable in the former. For as rationality is not discoverable in a horse, nor solidity of hoofs in a man, so neither is Godhead discoverable in the creature, nor the attribute of being created in the Godhead: but if He be God He is certainly not created, and if He be created He is not God; unless 831 , of course, one were to apply by some misuse or customary mode of expression the mere name of Godhead, as some horses have mens names given them by their owners; yet neither is the horse a man, though he be called by a human name, nor is the created being God, even though some claim for him the name of Godhead, and give him the benefit of the empty sound of a dissyllable.” Since, then, Eunomius heretical statement is found spontaneously to fall in with the truth, let him take his own advice and stand by his own words, and by no means retract his own utterances, but consider that the man is really foolish and stupid who names the subject not according as it is, but says “horse” for “man,” and “sea” for “sky,” and “creature” for “God.” And let no one think it unreasonable that the creature should be set in opposition to God, but have regard to the prophets and to the Apostles. For the prophet says in the person of the Father, “My Hand made all these things” 832 , meaning by “Hand,” in his dark saying, the power of the Only-begotten. Now the Apostle says that all things are of the Father, and that all things are by the Son 833 , and the prophetic spirit in a way agrees with the Apostolic teaching, which itself also is given through the Spirit. For in the one passage, the prophet, when he says that all things are the work of the Hand of Him Who is over all, sets forth the nature of those things which have come into being in its relation to Him Who made them, while He Who made them is God over all, Who has the Hand, and by It makes all things. And again, in the other passage, the Apostle makes the same division of entities, making all things depend upon their productive cause, yet not reckoning in the number of “all things” that which produces them: so that we are hereby taught the difference of nature between the created and the uncreated, and it is shown that, in its own nature, that which makes is one thing and that which is produced is another. Since, then, all things are of God, and the Son is God, the creation is properly opposed to the Godhead; while, since the Only-begotten is something else than the nature of the universe (seeing that not even those who fight against the truth contradict this), it follows of necessity that the Son also is equally opposed to the creation, unless the words of the saints are untrue which testify that by Him all things were made.
2 Cor. iii. 17.CXCI:812
2 Cor. iii. 17.CXCI:813
It is not quite clear whether πάλιν is to be constructed with λέγοι or with κεῖσθαι, but the difference in sense is slight.CXCI:814
Rom. viii. 16.CXCI:815
1 Cor. ii. 11.CXCI:816
2 Cor. iii. 6.CXCI:817
Rom. viii. 13.CXCI:818
Gal. v. 25.CXCII:819
2 Tim. iii. 16.CXCII:820
2 Cor. iii. 15.CXCII:821
2 Cor. 3:16, 17.CXCII:822
Rom. viii. 9.CXCII:823
Cf. Acts xxviii. 25.CXCII:824
Heb. iii. 7.CXCIII:825
Matt. 22:45, Ps. 110:1CXCIII:826
Cf. S. John vi. 63CXCIII:827
S. John iv. 24CXCIII:828
1 Cor. 3:19, Job 5:131 Cor. iii. 19; cf. Job v. 13.CXCIII:829
Altering Oehlers punctuation slightly.CXCIII:830
S. Basil adv. Eunomium II. 4 (p. 240 C.). The quotation as here given is not in exact verbal agreement with the Benedictine text.CXCIV:831
Altering Oehlers punctuation.CXCIV:832
Is. lxvi. 2. Not verbally from the LXX.CXCIV:833
Cf. 1 Cor. viii. 6.
Next: He then declares that the close relation between names and things is immutable, and thereafter proceeds accordingly, in the most excellent manner, with his discourse concerning “generated” and “ungenerate.”
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: http://St-Takla.org / Contact us at