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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. VIII:
De Spiritu Sancto.: In how many ways “Through whom” is used; and in what sense “with whom” is more suitable.  Explanation of how the Son receives a commandment, and how He is sent.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VIII.

In how many ways “Throughwhom” is used; and in what sense “with whom” is more suitable.  Explanation of how the Son receives a commandment, and how He is sent.

17.  When, then, the apostle “thanks God through Jesus Christ,” 827 and again says that “through Him” we have “received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations,” 828 or “through Him have access unto this grace wherein we stand and rejoice,” 829 he sets forth the boons conferred on us by the Son, at one time making the grace of the good gifts pass through from the Father to us, and at another bringing us to the Father through Himself.  For by saying “through whom we have received grace and apostleship,” 830 he declares the supply of the good gifts to proceed from that source; and again in saying “through whom we have had access,” 831 he sets forth our acceptance and being made “of the household of God” 832 through Christ.  Is then the confession of the grace wrought by Him to usward a detraction from His glory?  Is it not truer to say that the recital of His benefits is a proper argument for glorifying Him?  It is on this account that we have not found Scripture describing the Lord to us by one name, nor even by such terms alone as are indicative of His godhead and majesty.  At one time it uses terms descriptive of His nature, for it recognises the “name which is above every name,” 833 the name of Son, 834 and speaks of true Son, 835 and only begotten God, 836 and Power of God, 837 and Wisdom, 838 and Word. 839   Then again, on account of the divers manners 840 wherein grace is given to us, which, because of the riches of His goodness, 841 according to his manifold 842 wisdom, he bestows on them that need, Scripture designates Him by innumerable other titles, calling Him Shepherd, 843 King, 844 Physician, 845 Bridegroom, 846 Way, 847 Door, 848 Fountain, 849 Bread, 850 Axe, 851 and Rock. 852   And these titles do not set forth His nature, but, as I have remarked, the variety of the effectual working which, out of His tender-heartedness to His own creation, according to the peculiar necessity of each, He bestows upon them that need.  Them that have fled for refuge to His ruling care, and through patient endurance have mended their wayward ways, 853 He calls “sheep,” and confesses Himself to be, to them that hear His voice and refuse to give heed to strange teaching, a “shepherd.”  For “my sheep,” He says, “hear my voice.”  To them that have now reached a higher stage and stand in need of righteous royalty, 854 He is a King.  And in that, through the straight way of His commandments, He leads men to good actions, and again because He safely shuts in all who through faith in Him betake themselves for shelter to the blessing of the higher wisdom, 855 He is a Door.

So He says, “By me if any man enter in, he shall go in and out and shall find pastare.” 856   Again, because to the faithful He is a defence strong, unshaken, and harder to break than any bulwark, He is a Rock.  Among these titles, it is when He is styled Door, or Way, that the phrase “through Him” is very appropriate and plain.  As, however, God and Son, He is glorified with and together with 857 the Father, in that “at, the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to p. 12 the glory of God the Father.” 858   Wherefore we use both terms, expressing by the one His own proper dignity, and by the other His grace to usward.

18.  For “through Him” comes every succour to our souls, and it is in accordance with each kind of care that an appropriate title has been devised.  So when He presents to Himself the blameless soul, not having spot or wrinkle, 859 like a pure maiden, He is called Bridegroom, but whenever He receives one in sore plight from the devil’s evil strokes, healing it in the heavy infirmity of its sins, He is named Physician.  And shall this His care for us degrade to meanness our thoughts of Him?  Or, on the contrary, shall it smite us with amazement at once at the mighty power and love to man 860 of the Saviour, in that He both endured to suffer with us 861 in our infirmities, and was able to come down to our weakness?  For not heaven and earth and the great seas, not the creatures that live in the water and on dry land, not plants, and stars, and air, and seasons, not the vast variety in the order of the universe, 862 so well sets forth the excellency of His might as that God, being incomprehensible, should have been able, impassibly, through flesh, to have come into close conflict with death, to the end that by His own suffering He might give us the boon of freedom from suffering. 863   The apostle, it is true, says, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” 864   But in a phrase of this kind there is no suggestion of any lowly and subordinate ministry, 865 but rather of the succour rendered “in the power of his might.” 866   For He Himself has bound the strong man and spoiled his goods, 867 that is, us men, whom our enemy had abused in every evil activity, and made “vessels meet for the Master’s use” 868 us who have been perfected for every work through the making ready of that part of us which is in our own control. 869   Thus we have had our approach to the Father through Him, being translated from “the power of darkness to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” 870   We must not, however, regard the œconomy 871 through the Son as a compulsory and subordinate ministration resulting from the low estate of a slave, but rather the voluntary solicitude working effectually for His own creation in goodness and in pity, according to the will of God the Father.  For we shall be consistent with true religion if in all that was and is from time to time perfected by Him, we both bear witness to the perfection of His power, and in no case put it asunder from the Father’s will.  For instance, whenever the Lord is called the Way, we are carried on to a higher meaning, and not to that which is derived from the vulgar sense of the word.  We understand by Way that advance 872 to perfection which is made stage by stage, and in regular order, through the works of righteousness and “the illumination of knowledge;” 873 ever longing after what is before, and reaching forth unto those things which remain, 874 until we shall have reached the blessed end, the knowledge of God, which the Lord through Himself bestows on them that have trusted in Him.  For our Lord is an essentially good Way, where erring and straying are unknown, to that which is essentially good, to the Father.  For “no one,” He says, “cometh to the Father but [“by” A.V.] through me.” 875   Such is our way up to God “through the Son.”

19.  It will follow that we should next in order point out the character of the provision of blessings bestowed on us by the p. 13 Father “through him.”  Inasmuch as all created nature, both this visible world and all that is conceived of in the mind, cannot hold together without the care and providence of God, the Creator Word, the Only begotten God, apportioning His succour according to the measure of the needs of each, distributes mercies various and manifold on account of the many kinds and characters of the recipients of His bounty, but appropriate to the necessities of individual requirements.  Those that are confined in the darkness of ignorance He enlightens:  for this reason He is true Light. 876   Portioning requital in accordance with the desert of deeds, He judges:  for this reason He is righteous Judge. 877   “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son.” 878   Those that have lapsed from the lofty height of life into sin He raises from their fall:  for this reason He is Resurrection. 879   Effectually working by the touch of His power and the will of His goodness He does all things.  He shepherds; He enlightens; He nourishes; He heals; He guides; He raises up; He calls into being things that were not; He upholds what has been created.  Thus the good things that come from God reach us “through the Son,” who works in each case with greater speed than speech can utter.  For not lightnings, not light’s course in air, is so swift; not eyes’ sharp turn, not the movements of our very thought.  Nay, by the divine energy is each one of these in speed further surpassed than is the slowest of all living creatures outdone in motion by birds, or even winds, or the rush of the heavenly bodies:  or, not to mention these, by our very thought itself.  For what extent of time is needed by Him who “upholds all things by the word of His power,” 880 and works not by bodily agency, nor requires the help of hands to form and fashion, but holds in obedient following and unforced consent the nature of all things that are?  So as Judith says, “Thou hast thought, and what things thou didst determine were ready at hand.” 881   On the other hand, and lest we should ever be drawn away by the greatness of the works wrought to imagine that the Lord is without beginning, 882 what saith the Self-Existent? 883   “I live through [by, A.V.] the Father,” 884 and the power of God; “The Son hath power [can, A.V.] to do nothing of himself.” 885   And the self-complete Wisdom?  I received “a commandment what I should say and what I should speak.” 886   Through all these words He is guiding us to the knowledge of the Father, and referring our wonder at all that is brought into existence to Him, to the end that “through Him” we may know the Father.  For the Father is not regarded from the difference of the operations, by the exhibition of a separate and peculiar energy; for whatsoever things He sees the Father doing, “these also doeth the Son likewise;” 887 but He enjoys our wonder at all that comes to pass out of the glory which comes to Him from the Only Begotten, rejoicing in the Doer Himself as well as in the greatness of the deeds, and exalted by all who acknowledge Him as Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, “through whom [by whom, A.V.] are all things, and for whom are all things.” 888   Wherefore, saith the Lord, “All mine are thine,” 889 as though the sovereignty over created things were conferred on Him, and “Thine are mine,” as though the creating Cause came thence to Him.  We are not to suppose that He used assistance in His action, or yet was entrusted with the ministry of each individual work by detailed commission, a condition distinctly menial and quite inadequate to the divine dignity.  Rather was the Word full of His Father’s excellences; He shines forth from the Father, and does all things according to the likeness of Him that begat Him.  For if in essence He is without variation, so also is He without p. 14 variation in power. 890   And of those whose power is equal, the operation also is in all ways equal.  And Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 891   And so “all things are made through [by, A.V.] him,” 892 and “all things were created through [by, A.V.] him and for him,” 893 not in the discharge of any slavish service, but in the fulfilment of the Father’s will as Creator.

20.  When then He says, “I have not spoken of myself,” 894 and again, “As the Father said unto me, so I speak,” 895 and “The word which ye hear is not mine, but [the Father’s] which sent me,” 896 and in another place, “As the Father gave me commandment, even so I do,” 897 it is not because He lacks deliberate purpose or power of initiation, nor yet because He has to wait for the preconcerted key-note, that he employs language of this kind.  His object is to make it plain that His own will is connected in indissoluble union with the Father.  Do not then let us understand by what is called a “commandment” a peremptory mandate delivered by organs of speech, and giving orders to the Son, as to a subordinate, concerning what He ought to do.  Let us rather, in a sense befitting the Godhead, perceive a transmission of will, like the reflexion of an object in a mirror, passing without note of time from Father to Son.  “For the Father loveth the Son and sheweth him all things,” 898 so that “all things that the Father hath” belong to the Son, not gradually accruing to Him little by little, but with Him all together and at once.  Among men, the workman who has been thoroughly taught his craft, and, through long training, has sure and established experience in it, is able, in accordance with the scientific methods which now he has in store, to work for the future by himself.  And are we to suppose that the wisdom of God, the Maker of all creation, He who is eternally perfect, who is wise, without a teacher, the Power of God, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” 899 needs piecemeal instruction to mark out the manner and measure of His operations?  I presume that in the vanity of your calculations, you mean to open a school; you will make the one take His seat in the teacher’s place, and the other stand by in a scholar’s ignorance, gradually learning wisdom and advancing to perfection, by lessons given Him bit by bit.  Hence, if you have sense to abide by what logically follows, you will find the Son being eternally taught, nor yet ever able to reach the end of perfection, inasmuch as the wisdom of the Father is infinite, and the end of the infinite is beyond apprehension.  It results that whoever refuses to grant that the Son has all things from the beginning will never grant that He will reach perfection.  But I am ashamed at the degraded conception to which, by the course of the argument, I have been brought down.  Let us therefore revert to the loftier themes of our discussion.

21.  “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; 900 not the express image, nor yet the form, for the divine nature does not admit of combination; but the goodness of the will, which, being concurrent with the essence, is beheld as like and equal, or rather the same, in the Father as in the Son. 901

What then is meant by “became subject”? 902   What by “delivered him up for us all”? 903   It is meant that the Son has it of the Father that He works in goodness on behalf of men.  But you must hear too the words, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law;” 904 and “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 905

Give careful heed, too, to the words of the Lord, and note how, whenever He instructs us about His Father, He is in the habit of using terms of personal authority, saying, “I will; be thou clean;” 906 and “Peace, be still;” 907 and “But I say unto you;” 908 and “Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee;” 909 and all other expressions of the same kind, in order that by these we may recognise our Master and Maker, and by the former may be taught the Father of our Master and Creator. 910   p. 15 Thus on all sides is demonstrated the true doctrine that the fact that the Father creates through the Son neither constitutes the creation of the Father imperfect nor exhibits the active energy of the Son as feeble, but indicates the unity of the will; so the expression “through whom” contains a confession of an antecedent Cause, and is not adopted in objection to the efficient Cause.



Rom. i. 8.


Rom. i. 5.


Rom. v. 2.


Rom. i. 5.


Rom. v. 2.


cf. Eph. ii. 19.


Phil. ii. 9.


Two mss., those in the B. Museum and at Vienna, read here Ιησοῦ.  In Ep. 210. 4, St. Basil writes that the name above every name is αὐτὸ τὸ καλεῖσθαι αὐτὸν Υιον τοῦ Θεοῦ.


cf. Matt. 14:33, Matt. 27:54.


John i. 18cf. note on p.  .


1 Cor. i. 24, and possibly Rom. i. 16, if with D. we read gospel of Christ.


1 Cor. i. 24.


e.g., John i. 1cf. Ps. cvii. 20; Wis. 9:1, Wis. 18:15, Sir. 43:20.


Τὸ πολύτροπονcf. Heb. i. 1.


Τὸν πλοῦτον τῆς ἀγαθότητοςcf. Rom. ii. 4, τοῦ πλούτου τῆς χρηστότητος.


Eph. iii. 10.


e.g., John x. 12.


e.g., Matt. xxi. 5.


e.g., Matt. ix. 12.


e.g., Matt. ix. 15.


e.g., John xiv. 6.


e.g., John x. 9.


cf. Rev. xxi. 6.


e.g., John vi. 21.


cf. Matt. iii. 10.


e.g., 1 Cor. x. 4.


I translate here the reading of the Parisian Codex called by the Benedictine Editors Regius Secundus, τὸ εὐμετάβολον κατωρθωκότας.  The harder reading, τὸ εὐμετάδοτον, which may be rendered “have perfected their readiness to distribute,” has the best manuscript authority, but it is barely intelligible; and the Benedictine Editors are quite right in calling attention to the fact that the point in question here is not the readiness of the flock to distribute (cf. 1 Tim. vi. 18), but their patient following of their Master.  The Benedictine Editors boldly propose to introduce a word of no authority τὸ ἀμετάβολον, rendering qui per patientiam animam immutabilem præbuerunt.  The reading adopted above is supported by a passage in Ep. 244, where St. Basil is speaking of the waywardness of Eustathius, and seems to fit in best with the application of the passage to the words of our Lord, “have fled for refuge to his ruling care,” corresponding with “the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (St. John x. 4), and “have mended their wayward ways,” with “a stranger will they not follow,” John 10.5.  Mr. Johnston, in his valuable note, compares Origen’s teaching on the Names of our Lord.


So three mss.  Others repeat πιστασία, translated “ruling care” above.  ννομος is used by Plato for “lawful” and “law-abiding.”  (Legg. 921 C. and Rep. 424 E.)  In 1 Cor. ix. 21, A.V. renders “under the law.”


Τὸ τῆς γνώσεως ἀγαθόν:  possibly “the good of knowledge of him.”


John x. 9.


cf. note on page 3, on μετά and σόν.


Phil. 2:10, 11.


Eph. v. 29.


φιλανθρωπία occurs twice in the N.T. (Acts 28:2, Titus 3:4) and is in the former passage rendered by A.V. “kindness,” in the latter by “love to man.”  The φιλανθρωπία of the Maltese barbarians corresponds with the lower classical sense of kindliness and courtesy.  The love of God in Christ to man introduces practically a new connotation to the word and its cognates.


Or to sympathize with our infirmities.


ποικιλη διακόσμησις διακόσμησις was the technical term of the Pythagorean philosophy for the orderly arrangement of the universe (cf. Arist. Metaph. I. v. 2. “ ὅλη διακόσμησις); Pythagoras being credited with the first application of the word κόσμος to the universe.  (Plut. 2, 886 c.)  So mundus in Latin, whence Augustine’s oxymoron, “O munde immunde!”  On the scriptural use of κόσμος and ιών vide Archbp. Trench’s New Testament Synonyms, p. 204.


In Hom. on Ps. lxv. Section 5, St. Basil describes the power of God the Word being most distinctly shewn in the œconomy of the incarnation and His descent to the lowliness and the infirmity of the manhood.  cf. Ath. on the Incarnation, sect. 54, “He was made man that we might be made God; and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality.  For while He Himself was in no way injured, being impassible and incorruptible and the very Word and God, men who were suffering, and for whose sakes He endured all this, He maintained and preserved in His own impassibility.”


Rom. viii. 37.


πηρεσία.  Lit. “under-rowing.”  The cognate πηρέτης is the word used in Acts xxvi. 16, in the words of the Saviour to St. Paul, “to make thee a minister,” and in 1 Cor. iv. 1, “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ.”


Eph. vi. 10.


cf. Matt. xii. 29.


2 Tim. ii. 21.


This passage is difficult to render alike from the variety of readings and the obscurity of each.  I have endeavoured to represent the force of the Greek κ τῆς ἑτοιμασίας τοῦ ἐφ᾽ ἡμῖν, understanding by “τὸ ἐφ᾽ ἡμῖν,” practically, “our free will.”  cf. the enumeration of what is φ᾽ ἡμῖν, within our own control, in the Enchiridion of Epicetus, Chap. I.  “Within our own control are impulse, desire, inclination.”  On Is. vi. 8, “Here am I; send me,” St. Basil writes, “He did not add ‘I will go;’ for the acceptance of the message is within our control (φ᾽ ἡμῖν), but to be made capable of going is of Him that gives the grace, of the enabling God.”  The Benedictine translation of the text is “per liberi arbitrii nostri præparationem.”  But other readings are (i) τῆς ἑτοιμασίας αὐτοῦ, “the preparation which is in our own control;” (ii) τῆς ἑτοιμασίας αὐτοῦ, “His preparation;” and (iii) the Syriac represented by “arbitrio suo.”


Col. 1:12, 13.


cf. note on page 7.


προκοπήcf. Luke ii. 52, where it is said that our Lord προέκοπτε, i.e., “continued to cut His way forward.”


1 Cor. iv. 6, R.V. marg.


There seems to be here a recollection, though not a quotation, of Phil. iii. 13.


John xiv. 6.


John i. 9.


2 Tim. iv. 8.


John v. 22.


John xi. 25.


Heb. i. 3.


Jdt. 9:5, 6.


ναρχος.  This word is used in two senses by the Fathers.  (i) In the sense of διος or eternal, it is applied (a) to the Trinity in unity.  e.g., Quæst. Misc. v. 442 (Migne Ath. iv. 783), attributed to Athanasius, κοινον ἡ οὐσια·  κοινὸν το ἄναρχον.  (b) To the Son.  e.g., Greg. Naz. Orat. xxix. 490, ν τὴν ἀπὸ χρόνον νοῇς ἀρχὴν καὶ ἄναρχος ὁ υἱ& 232·ς, οὐκ ἄρχεται γὰρ ἀπὸ χρόνου ὁ χρόνων δεσπότης.  (ii) In the sense of ναίτιος, “causeless,” “originis principio carens,” it is applied to the Father alone, and not to the Son.  So Gregory of Nazianzus, in the oration quoted above, υἱ& 232·ς, ἐ& 129·ν ὡς αἴτιον τὸν πατέρα λαμβάνῃς, οὐκ ἄναρχος, “the Son, if you understand the Father as cause, is not without beginning.”  ρχη γὰρ υἱοῦ πατὴρ ὡς αἴτιος.  “For the Father, as cause, is Beginning of the Son.”  But, though the Son in this sense was not ναρχος, He was said to be begotten νάρχως.  So Greg. Naz. (Hom. xxxvii. 590) τὸ ἴδιον ὄνομα τοῦ ἀνάρχως γεννηθέντος, υὶ& 231·ςCf. the Letter of Alexander of Alexandria to Alexander of Constantinople.  Theod. Ecc. Hist. i. 3.  τὴν ἄναρχον αὐτῷ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς γέννησιν ἀνατί θενταςcf. Hooker, Ecc. Pol. v. 54.  “By the gift of eternal generation Christ hath received of the Father one and in number the self-same substance which the Father hath of himself unreceived from any other.  For every beginning is a father unto that which cometh of it; and every offspring is a son unto that out of which it groweth.  Seeing, therefore, the Father alone is originally that Deity which Christ originally is not (for Christ is God by being of God, light by issuing out of light), it followeth hereupon that whatsoever Christ hath common unto him with his heavenly Father, the same of necessity must be given him, but naturally and eternally given.”  So Hillary De Trin. xii. 21.  “Ubi auctor eternus est, ibi et nativatis æternitas est:  quia sicut nativitas ab auctore est, ita et ab æterno auctore æterna nativitas est.”  And Augustine De Trin. v. 15, “Naturam præstat filio sine initio generatio.”




John vi. 57.


John v. 19.


John xii. 49.


John v. 19.


Heb. ii. 10cf. Rom. xi. 36, to which the reading of two manuscripts more distinctly assimilates the citation.  The majority of commentators refer Heb. ii. 10, to the Father, but Theodoret understands it of the Son, and the argument of St. Basil necessitates the same application.


John xvii. 10.


παραλλάκτως ἔχειcf. Jas. i. 17παρ᾽ ῷ οὐκ ἔνι παραλλαγή.  The word παράλλακτος was at first used by the Catholic bishops at Nicæa, as implying μοούσιοςVide Athan. De Decretis, § 20, in Wace and Schaff’s ed., p. 163.


1 Cor. i. 24.


John i. 3.


Col. i. 16.


John xii. 49.


John xii. 50.


John xiv. 24.


John xiv. 31.


John v. 20.


Col. ii. 3, A.V.  cf. the amendment of R.V., “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden,” and Bp. Lightfoot on St. Paul’s use of the gnostic term πόκρυφος


John xiv. 9.


The argument appears to be not that Christ is not the “express image,” or impress of the Father, as He is described in Heb. i. 3, or form, as in Phil. ii. 6, but that this is not the sense in which our Lord’s words in St. John xiv. 9, must be understood to describe “seeing the Father.”  Χαρακτὴρ and μορφὴ are equivalent to θεία φύσις, and μορφή is used by St. Basil as it is used by St. Paul,—coinciding with, if not following, the usage of the older Greek philosophy,—to mean essential attributes which the Divine Word had before the incarnation (cf. Eustathius in Theod. Dial. II. [Wace and Schaff Ed., p. 203]; “the express image made man,”— τῷ πνεύματι σωματοποιηθεὶς ἄνθρωπος χαρακτήρ.)

The divine nature does not admit of combination, in the sense of confusion (cf. the protests of Theodoret in his Dialogues against the confusion of the Godhead and manhood in the Christ), with the human nature in our Lord, and remains invisible.  On the word χαρακτήρ vide Suicer, and on μορφή Archbp. Trench’s New Testament Synonyms and Bp. Lightfoot on Philippians ii. 6.


Phil. ii. 8.


Rom. viii. 32.


Gal. iii. 13.


Rom. v. 8.


Matt. viii. 3.


Mark iv. 39.


Matt. v. 22, etc.


Mark ix. 25.


There is a difficulty in following the argument in the foregoing quotations.  F. Combefis, the French Dominican editor of Basil, would boldly interpose a “not,” and read ‘whenever he does not instruct us concerning the Father.’  But there is no ms. authority for this violent remedy.  The Benedictine Editors say all is plain if we render “postquam nos de patre erudivit.”  But the Greek will not admit of this.

Next: Definitive conceptions about the Spirit which conform to the teaching of the Scriptures.

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