Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: Then, after showing that the Person of the Only-begotten and Maker of things has no beginning, as have the things that were made by Him, as Eunomius says, but that the Only-begotten is without beginning and eternal, and has no community, either of essence or of names, with the creation, but is co-existent with the Father from everlasting, being, as the all-excellent Wisdom says, “the beginning and end and midst of the times,” and after making many observations on the Godhead and eternity of the Only-begotten, and also concerning souls and angels, and life and death, he concludes the book.
§5. Then, after showing that the Person of the Only-begotten and Maker of things has no beginning, as have the things that were made by Him, as Eunomius says, but that the Only-begotten is without beginning and eternal, and has no community, either of essence or of names, with the creation, but is co-existent with the Father from everlasting, being, as the all-excelp. CCVI lent Wisdom says, “the beginning and end and midst of the times,” and after making many observations on the Godhead and eternity of the Only-begotten, and also concerning souls and angels, and life and death, he concludes the book.
I will now once more subjoin the actual language of my opponent, word for word. It runs thus:—“While there are,” he says, “two statements which we have made, the one, that the essence of the Only-begotten was not before its own generation, the other, that, being generated, it was before all things—”What kind of generation does our dogmatist propose to us? Is it one of which we may fittingly think and speak in regard to God? And who is so godless as to pre-suppose non-existence in God? But it is clear that he has in view this material generation of ours, and is making the lower nature the teacher of his conceptions concerning the Only-begotten God, and since an ox or an ass or a camel is not before its own generation, he thinks it proper to say even of the Only-begotten God that which the course of the lower nature presents to our view in the case of the animals, without thinking, corporeal theologian that he is, of this fact, that the predicate “Only-begotten”, applied to God, signifies by the very word itself that which is not in common with all begetting, and is peculiar to Him. How could the term “Only-begotten” be used of this “generation,” if it had community and identity of meaning with other generation? That there is something unique and exceptional to be understood in His case, which is not to be remarked in other generation, is distinctly and suitably expressed by the appellation of “Only-begotten”; as, were any element of the lower generation conceived in it, He Who in respect of any of the attributes of His generation was placed on a level with other things that are begotten would no longer be “Only-begotten.” For if the same things are to be said of Him which are said of the other things that come into being by generation, the definition will transform the sense of “Only-begotten” to signify a kind of relationship involving brotherhood. If then the sense of “Only-begotten” points to absence of mixture and community with the rest of generated things, we shall not admit that anything which we behold in the lower generation is also to be conceived in the case of that existence which the Son has from the Father. But non-existence before generation is proper to all things that exist by generation: therefore this is foreign to the special character of the Only-begotten, to which the name “Only-begotten” bears witness that there attaches nothing belonging to the mode of that form of common generation which Eunomius misapprehends. Let this materialist and friend of the senses be persuaded therefore to correct the error of his conception by the other forms of generation. What will you say when you hear of the “brightness of glory” or of the “savour of ointment 881 ?” That the “brightness” was not before its own generation? But if you answer thus, you will surely admit that neither did the “glory” exist, nor the “ointment”: for it is not possible that the “glory” should be conceived as having existed by itself, dark and lustreless, or the “ointment” without producing its sweet breath: so that if the “brightness” “was not,” the “glory” also surely “was not,” and the “savour” being non-existent, there is also proved the non-existence of the “ointment.” But if these examples taken from Scripture excite any mans fear, on the ground that they do not accurately present to us the majesty of the Only-begotten, because neither is essentially the same with its substratum—neither the exhalation with the ointment, nor the beam with the sun—let the true Word correct his fear, Who was in the Beginning and is all that the Beginning is, and existent before all; since John so declares in his preaching, “And the Word was with God, and the Word was God 882 .” If then the Father is God and the Son is God, what doubt still remains with regard to the perfect Divinity of the Only-begotten, when by the sense of the word “Son” is acknowledged the close relationship of Nature, by “brightness” the conjunction and inseparability, and by the appellation of “God,” applied alike to the Father and the Son, their absolute equality, while the “express image,” contemplated in reference to the whole Person 883 of the Father, marks the absence of any defect in the Sons proper greatness, and the “form of God” indicates His complete identity by showing in itself all those marks by which the Godhead is betokened.
Let us now set forth Eunomius statement once more. “He was not,” he says, “before His own generation.” Who is it of Whom he says “He was not”? Let him declare the Divine names by which He Who, according to Eunomius, “once was not,” is called. He will say, I suppose, “light,” and “blessedness,” “life” and “incorruptibility,” and “righteousness” and “sanctification,” and “power,” and “truth,” and the like. He who says, then, that “He was not before His generation,” absolutely proclaims this,—that when He “was not” there was no truth, no life, no light, no power, no incorruptibility, no other of those pre-eminent qualities which are conceived of Him: and, p. CCVII what is still more marvellous and still more difficult for impiety to face, there was no “brightness,” no “express image.” For in saying that there was no brightness, there is surely maintained also the non-existence of the radiating power, as one may see in the illustration afforded by the lamp. For he who speaks of the ray of the lamp indicates also that the lamp shines, and he who says that the ray “is not,” signifies also the extinction of that which gives light: so that when the Son is said not to be, thereby is also maintained as a necessary consequence the non-existence of the Father. For if the one is related to the other by way of conjunction, according to the Apostolic testimony—the “brightness” to the “glory,” the “express image” to the “Person,” the “Wisdom” to God—he who says that one of the things so conjoined “is not,” surely by his abolition of the one abolishes also that which remains; so that if the “brightness” “was not,” it is acknowledged that neither did the illuminating nature exist, and if the “express image” had no existence, neither did the Person imaged exist, and if the wisdom and power of God “was not,” it is surely acknowledged that He also was not, Who is not conceived by Himself without wisdom and power. If, then, the Only-begotten God, as Eunomius says, “was not before His generation,” and Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God 884 ,” and the “express image” 885 and the “brightness 886 ,” neither surely did the Father exist, Whose power and wisdom and express image and brightness the Son is: for it is not possible to conceive by reason either a Person without express image, or glory without radiance, or God without wisdom, or a Maker without hands, or a Beginning without the Word 887 , or a Father without a Son; but all such things, alike by those who confess and by those who deny, are manifestly declared to be in mutual union, and by the abolition of one the other also disappears with it. Since then they maintain that the Son (that is, the “brightness of the glory,”) “was not” before He was begotten, and since logical consequence involves also, together with the non-existence of the brightness, the abolition of the glory, and the Father is the glory whence came the brightness of the Only-begotten Light, let these men who are wise over-much consider that they are manifestly supporters of the Epicurean doctrines, preaching atheism under the guise of Christianity. Now since the logical consequence is shown to be one of two absurdities, either that we should say that God does not exist at all, or that we should say that His being was not unoriginate, let them choose which they like of the two courses before them,—either to be called atheist, or to cease saying that the essence of the Father is un-originate. They would avoid, I suppose, being reckoned atheists. It remains, therefore, that they maintain that God is not eternal. And if the course of what has been proved forces them to this, what becomes of their varied and irreversible conversions of names? What becomes of that invincible compulsion of their syllogisms, which sounded so fine to the ears of old women, with its opposition of “Generated” and “Ungenerate”?
Enough, however, of these matters. But it might be well not to leave his next point unanswered; yet let us pass over in silence the comic interlude, where our clever orator shows his youthful conceit, whether in jest or in earnest, under the impression that he will thereby have an advantage in his argument. For certainly no one will force us to join either with those whose eyes are set askance in distorting our sight, or with those who are stricken with strange disease in being contorted, or in their bodily leaps and plunges. We shall pity them, but we shall not depart from our settled state of mind. He says, then, turning his discourse upon the subject to our master, as if he were really engaging him face to face, “Thou shalt be taken in thine own snare.” For as Basil had said 888 that what is good is always present with God Who is over all, and that it is good to be the Father of such a Son,—that so what is good was never absent from Him, nor was it the Fathers will to be without the Son, and when He willed He did not lack the power, but having the power and the will to be in the mode in which it seemed good to Him, He also always possessed the Son by reason of His always willing that which is good (for this is the direction in which the intention of our fathers remarks tends), Eunomius pulls this in pieces beforehand, and puts forward to overthrow what has been said some such argument as this, introduced from his extraneous philosophy:—“What will become of you,” he says, “if one of those who have had experience of such arguments should say, If to create is good and agreeable to the Nature of God, how is it that what is good and agreeable to His Nature was not present with Him unoriginately, seeing that God is unoriginate? and that when there was no hindrance of ignorance or impediment of weakness or of age in the matter of creation,”—and all the rest that he collects together and pours out upon himself,—for I may not say, upon God. Well, if it were possible for our master to answer the question in person, he would have shown Eunomius what would have become of him, p. CCVIII as he asked, by setting forth the Divine mystery with that tongue that was taught of God, and by scourging the champion of deceit with his refutations, so that it would have been made clear to all men what a difference there is between a minister of the mysteries of Christ and a ridiculous buffoon or a setter-forth of new and absurd doctrines. But since he, as the Apostle says, “being dead, speaketh 889 ” to God, while the other puts forth such a challenge as though there were no one to answer him, even though an answer from us may not have equal force when compared with the words of the great Basil, we shall yet boldly say this in answer to the questioner:—Your own argument, put forth to overthrow our statement, is a testimony that in the charges we make against your impious doctrine we speak truly. For there is no other point we blame so much as this, that you 890 think there is no difference between the Lord of creation and the general body of creation, and what you now allege is a maintaining of the very things which we find fault with. For if you are bound to attach exactly what you see in creation also to the Only-begotten God, our contention has gained its end: your own statements proclaim the absurdity of the doctrine, and it is manifest to all, both that we keep our argument in the straight way of truth, and that your conception of the Only-begotten God is such as you have of the rest of the creation.
Concerning whom was the controversy? Was it not concerning the Only-begotten God, the Maker of all the creation, whether He always was, or whether He came into being afterwards as an addition to His Father? What then do our masters words say on this matter? That it is irreverent to believe that what is naturally good was not in God: for that he saw no cause by which it was probable that the good was not always present with Him Who is good, either for lack of power or for weakness of will. What does he who contends against these statements say? “If you allow that God the Word is to be believed eternal, you must allow the same of the things that have been created”—(How well he knows how to distinguish in his argument the nature of the creatures and the majesty of God! How well he knows about each, what befits it, what he may piously think concerning God, what concerning the creation!)—“if the Maker,” he says, “begins from the time of His making: for there is nothing else by which we can mark the beginning of things that have been made, if time does not define by its own interval the beginnings and the endings of the things that come into being.”
On this ground he says that the Maker of time must commence His existence from a like beginning. Well, the creation has the ages for its beginning, but what beginning can you conceive of the Maker of the ages? If any one should say, “The beginning which is mentioned in the Gospel”—it is the Father Who is there signified, and the confession of the Son together with Him is there pointed to, nor can it be that He Who is in the Father 891 , as the Lord says, can begin His being in Him from any particular point. And if any one speaks of another beginning besides this, let him tell us the name by which he marks this beginning, as none can be apprehended before the establishment of the ages. Such a statement, therefore, will not move us a whit from the orthodox conception concerning the Only-begotten, even if old women do applaud the proposition as a sound one. For we abide by what has been determined from the beginning, having our doctrine firmly based on truth, to wit, that all things which the orthodox doctrine assumes that we assert concerning the Only-begotten God have no kindred with the creation, but the marks which distinguish the Maker of all and His works are separated by a wide interval. If indeed the Son had in any other respect communion with the creation, we surely ought to say that He did not diverge from it even in the manner of His existence. But if the creation has no share in such things as are all those which we learn concerning the Son, we must surely of necessity say that in this matter also He has no communion with it. For the creation was not in the beginning, and was not with God, and was not, God, nor life, nor light, nor resurrection, nor the rest of the Divine names, as truth, righteousness, sanctification, Judge, just, Maker of all things, existing before the ages, for ever and ever; the creation is not the brightness of the glory, nor the express image of the Person, nor the likeness of goodness, nor grace, nor power, nor truth, nor salvation, nor redemption; nor do we find any one at all of those names which are employed by Scripture for the glory of the Only-begotten, either belonging to the creation or employed concerning it,—not to speak of those more exalted words, “I am in the Father, and the Father in Me 892 ,” and, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father 893 ,” and, “None hath seen the Son, save the Father 894 .” If indeed our doctrine allowed us to claim for the creation things so many and so great as these, he might have been right in thinking that we ought to attach what we observe in it to our conceptions of the Only-begotten also, p. CCIX since the transfer would be from kindred subjects to one nearly allied. But if all these concepts and names involve communion with the Father, while they transcend our notions of the creation, does not our clever and sharp-witted friend slink away in shame at discussing the nature of the Lord of the Creation by the aid of what he observes in creation, without being aware that the marks which distinguish the creation are of a different sort? The ultimate division of all that exists is made by the line between “created” and “uncreated,” the one being regarded as a cause of what has come into being, the other as coming into being thereby. Now the created nature and the Divine essence being thus divided, and admitting no intermixture in respect of their distinguishing properties, we must by no means conceive both by means of similar terms, nor seek in the idea of their nature for the same distinguishing marks in things that are thus separated. Accordingly, as the nature that is in the creation, as the phrase of the most excellent Wisdom somewhere tells us, exhibits “the beginning, ending, and midst of the times 895 ” in itself, and extends concurrently with all temporal intervals, we take as a sort of characteristic of the subject this property, that in it we see some beginning of its formation, look on its midst, and extend our expectations to its end. For we have learnt that the heaven and the earth were not from eternity, and will not last to eternity, and thus it is hence clear that those things are both started from some beginning, and will surely cease at some end. But the Divine Nature, being limited in no respect, but passing all limitations on every side in its infinity, is far removed from those marks which we find in creation. For that power which is without interval, without quantity, without circumscription, having in itself all the ages and all the creation that has taken place in them, and over-passing at all points, by virtue of the infinity of its own nature, the unmeasured extent of the ages, either has no mark which indicates its nature, or has one of an entirely different sort, and not that which the creation has. Since, then, it belongs to the creation to have a beginning, that will be alien from the uncreated nature which belongs to the creation. For if any one should venture to suppose the existence of the Only-begotten Son to be, like the creation, from any beginning comprehensible by us, he must certainly append to his statement concerning the Son the rest also of the sequence 896 ; for it is not possible to avoid acknowledging, together with the beginning, that also which follows from it. For just as if one were to admit some person to be a man in all 897 the properties of his nature, he would observe that in this confession he declared him to be an animal and rational, and whatever else is conceived of man, so by the same reasoning, if we should understand any of the properties of creation to be present in the Divine essence, it will no longer be open to us to refrain from attaching to that pure Nature the rest of the list of the attributes contemplated therein. For the “beginning” will demand by force and compulsion that which follows it; for the “beginning,” thus conceived, is a beginning of what comes after it, in such a sense, that if they are, it is, and if the things connected with it are removed, the antecedent also would not remain 898 . Now as the book of Wisdom speaks of “midst” and “end” as well as of “beginning,” if we assume in the Nature of the Only-begotten, according to the heretical dogma, some beginning of existence defined by a certain mark of time, the book of Wisdom will by no means allow us to refrain from subjoining to the “beginning” a “midst” and an “end” also. If this should be done we shall find, as the result of our arguments, that the Divine word shows us that the Deity is mortal. For if, according to the book of Wisdom, the “end” is a necessary consequence of the “beginning,” and the idea of “midst” is involved in that of extremes, he who allows one of these also potentially maintains the others, and lays down bounds of measure and limitation for the infinite Nature. And if this is impious and absurd, the giving a beginning to that argument which ends in impiety deserves equal, or even greater censure; and the beginning of this absurd doctrine was seen to be the supposition that the life of the Son was circumscribed by some beginning. Thus one of two courses is before them: either they must revert to sound doctrine under the compulsion of the foregoing arguments, and contemplate Him Who is of the Father in union with the Fathers eternity, or if they do not like this, they must limit the eternity of the Son in both ways, and reduce the limitless character of His life to non-existence by a beginning and an end. And, granted that the nature both of souls and of the angels has no end, and is no way hindered from going on to eternity, by the fact of its being created, and having the beginp. CCX ning of its existence from some point of time, so that our adversaries can use this fact to assert a parallel in the case of Christ, in the sense that He is not from eternity, and yet endures everlastingly,—let any one who advances this argument also consider the following point, how widely the Godhead differs from the creation in its special attributes. For to the Godhead it properly belongs to lack no conceivable thing which is regarded as good, while the creation attains excellence by partaking in something better than itself; and further, not only had a beginning of its being, but also is found to be constantly in a state of beginning to be in excellence, by its continual advance in improvement, since it never halts at what it has reached, but all that it has acquired 899 becomes by participation a beginning of its ascent to something still greater, and it never ceases, in Pauls phrase, “reaching forth to the things that are before,” and “forgetting the things that are behind 900 .” Since, then, the Godhead is very life, and the Only-begotten God is God, and life, and truth, and every conceivable thing that is lofty and Divine, while the creation draws from Him its supply of good, it may hence be evident that if it is in life by partaking of life, it will surely, if it ceases from this participation, cease from life also. If they dare, then, to say also of the Only-begotten God those things which it is true to say of the creation, let them say this too, along with the rest, that He has a beginning of His being like the creation, and abides in life after the likeness of souls. But if He is the very life, and needs not to have life in Himself ab extra, while all other things are not life, but are merely participants in life, what constrains us to cancel, by reason of what we see in creation, the eternity of the Son? For that which is always unchanged as regards its nature, admits of no contrary, and is incapable of change to any other condition: while things whose nature is on the boundary line have a tendency that shifts either way, inclining at will to what they find attractive 901 . If, then, that which is truly life is contemplated in the Divine and transcendent nature, the decadence thereof will surely, as it seems, end in the opposite state 902 .
Now the meaning of “life” and “death” is manifold, and not always understood in the same way. For as regards the flesh, the energy and motion of the bodily senses is called “life,” and their extinction and dissolution is named “death.” But in the case of the intellectual nature, approximation to the Divine is the true life, and decadence therefrom is named “death”: for which reason the original evil, the devil, is called both “death,” and the inventor of death: and he is also said by the Apostle to have the power of death 903 . As, then, we obtain, as has been said, from the Scriptures, a twofold conception of death, He Who is truly unchangeable and immutable “alone hath immortality,” and dwells in light that cannot be attained or approached by the darkness of wickedness 904 : but all things that participate in death, being far removed from immortality by their contrary tendency, if they fall away from that which is good, would, by the mutability of their nature, admit community with the worse condition, which is nothing else than death, having a certain correspondence with the death of the body. For as in that case the extinction of the activities of nature is called death, so also, in the case of the intellectual being, the absence of motion towards the good is death and departure from life; so that what we perceive in the bodiless creation 905 does not clash with our argument, which refutes the doctrine of heresy. For that form of death which corresponds to the intellectual nature (that is, separation from God, Whom we call Life) is, potentially, not separated even from their nature; for their emergence from non-existence shows mutability of nature; and that to which change is in affinity is hindered from participation in the contrary state by the grace of Him Who strengthens it: it does not abide in the good by its own nature: and such a thing is not eternal. If, then, one really speaks truth in saying that we ought not to estimate the Divine essence and the created nature in the same way, nor to circumscribe the being of the Son of God by any beginning, lest, if this be granted, the other attributes of creation should enter in together with our acknowledgment of this one, the absurd character of the teaching of that man, who employs the attributes of creation to separate the Only-begotten God from the eternity of the Father, is clearly shown. For as none other of the marks which characterize the creation appears in the Maker of the creation, so neither is the fact that the creation has its existence from some beginning a proof that the Son was not always in the Father,—that Son, Who is Wisdom, and Power, and Light, and Life, and all that is conceived of in the bosom of the Father.
Heb. 1:3, Cant. 1:3Heb. i. 3, and Cant. i. 3, referred to above.CCVI:882
S. John i. 1CCVI:883
1 Cor. i. 24.CCVII:885
Heb. i. 3.CCVII:886
Heb. i. 3.CCVII:887
Or perhaps “or an irrational first cause,” (ἄλογον ἀρχήν.)CCVII:888
The reference is to S. Basil adv. Eunomium II. 12 (p. 247 in Ben. ed.)CCVIII:889
Cf. Heb. xi. 4CCVIII:890
Reading ὑμᾶς for ἡμᾶς. If the reading ἡμᾶς, which Oehler follows, is retained, the force would seem to be “that you think we ought not to make any difference,” but the construction of the sentence in this case is cumbrous.CCVIII:891
S. John xiv. 10CCVIII:892
S. John xiv. 10CCVIII:893
S. John xiv. 9CCVIII:894
Apparently an inexact quotation of S. Matt. xi. 27.CCIX:895
Wisd. vii. 18.CCIX:896
That is, he must also acknowledge a “middle” and an “end” of the existence which has a “beginning.”CCIX:897
Oehlers emendation, for which he gives weighty ms. authority, is certainly an improvement on the earlier text, but in sense it is a little unsatisfactory. The argument seems to require the hypothesis not of some one acknowledging a person to be a man in all, but in some attributes. The defect, however, may possibly be in S. Gregorys argument, not in the text.CCIX:898
i.e.“if the middle and end are not admitted, at the beginning, which is the beginning of a sequence, is thereby implicitly denied.” Oehlers punctuation has been somewhat altered here, and at several points in the remainder of the book, where it appears to require emendation.CCX:899
Reading κτηθὲν, with the Paris ed. of 1638. Oehlers reading κτισθὲν hardly seems to give so good a sense, and he does not give his authority for it.CCX:900
Phil. iii. 13.CCX:901
Reading with Oehler, τοῖς κατὰ γνώμην προσκλινομένη. The reading προσκινουμένοις, found in the earlier editions, gives a tolerable sense, but appears to have no ms. authority.CCX:902
Or (if πάντως be constructed with ἀντικείμενον), “will end, as it seems, in that state which is absolutely opposed to life.”CCX:903
Cf. Heb. ii. 14CCX:904
Cf. 1 Tim. iii. 16.CCX:905
i.e.the order of spiritual beings, including angels and human souls. Of these S. Gregory argues that they are capable of an ἀκινησία πρὸς τὸ ἀγαθόν which is death in them, as the absence of motion and sense is bodily death: and that they may therefore be said to have an end, as they had a beginning: so far as they are eternal it is not by their own power, but by their mutable nature being upheld by grace from this state of ἀκινησία πρὸς τὸ ἀγαθόν. On both these grounds therefore—that they have an end, and that such eternity as they possess is not inherent, but given ab extra, and contingent—he says they are not properly eternal, and he therefore rejects the proposed parallel.
Next: Book IX
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