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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IX:
John of Damascus: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.: Chapter I

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 45b

Book III.

Chapter I.—Concerning the Divine Œconomy and God’s care over us, and concerning our salvation.

Man, then, was thus snared by the assault of the arch-fiend, and broke his Creator’s command, and was stripped of grace and put off his confidence with God, and covered himself with the asperities of a toilsome life (for this is the meaning of the fig-leaves 1924 ); and was clothed about with death, that is, mortality and the grossness of flesh (for this is what the garment of skins signifies); and was banished from Paradise by God’s just judgment, and condemned to death, and made subject to corruption. Yet, notwithstanding all this, in His pity, God, Who gave him his being, and Who in His graciousness bestowed on him a life of happiness, did not disregard man 1925 . But He first trained him in many ways and called him back, by groans and trembling, by the deluge of water, and the utter destruction of almost the whole race 1926 , by confusion and diversity of tongues 1927 , by the rule 1928 of angels 1929 , by the burning of cities 1930 , by figurative manifestations of God, by wars and victories and defeats, by signs and wonders, by manifold faculties, by the law and the prophets: for by all these means God earnestly strove to emancipate man from the wide-spread and enslaving bonds of sin, which had made life such a mass of iniquity, and to effect man’s return to a life of happiness. For it was sin that brought death like a wild and savage beast into the world 1931 to the ruin of the human life. But it behoved the Redeemer to be without sin, and not made liable through sin to death, and further, that His nature should be strengthened and renewed, and trained by labour and taught the way of virtue which leads away from corruption to the life eternal and, in the end, is revealed the mighty ocean of love to man that is about Him 1932 . For the very Creator and Lord Himself undertakes a struggle 1933 in behalf of the work of His own hands, and learns by toil to become Master. And since the enemy snares man by the hope of Godhead, he himself is snared in turn by the screen of flesh, and so are shown at once the goodness and wisdom, the justice and might of God. God’s goodness is revealed in that He did not disregard 1934 the frailty of His own handiwork, but was moved with compassion for him in his fall, and stretched forth His hand to him: and His justice in that when man was overcome He did not make another victorious over the tyrant, nor did He snatch man by might from death, but in His goodness and justice He made him, who had become through his sins the slave of death, himself once more conqueror and rescued like by like, most difficult though it seemed: and His wisdom is seen in His devising the most fitting solution of the difficulty 1935 . For by the good pleasure of our God and Father, the Only-begotten Son and Word of God and God, Who is in the bosom of the God and Father 1936 , of like essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Who was before the ages, Who is without beginning and was in the beginning, Who is in the presence of the God and Father, and is God and made in the form of God 1937 , bent the heavens and descended to earth: that is to say, He humbled without humiliation His lofty station which yet could not be humbled, and condescends to His servants 1938 , with a condescension ineffable and incomprehensible: (for that is what the descent signifies). And God being perfect becomes perfect man, and brings to perfection the newest of all new things 1939 , the only new thing under the Sun, through which the boundless might of God is manifested. For what greater thing is there, than that God should become Man? And the Word became flesh without being changed, of the Holy Spirit, and Mary the holy and ever-virgin one, the mother of God. And He acts as mediator between God and man, He the only lover of man conceived in the Virgin’s chaste womb without will 1940 or desire, or any connection with man or pleasurable generation, but through the p. 46b Holy Spirit and the first offspring of Adam. And He becomes obedient to the Father Who is like unto us, and finds a remedy for our disobedience in what He had assumed from us, and became a pattern of obedience to us without which it is not possible to obtain salvation 1941 .



Gen. iii. 7; cf. Greg. Naz., Orat. 38 and 42; Greg. Nyss., Orat. Catech. c. 8.


Text, παρεῖδεν. Variant, περιεῖδεν.


Gen. vi. 13.


Gen. 11.7.


ἐπιστασία, care, or dominion.


Gen. xviii. 1 seqq.


Gen. 19.1 seqq.


Wisd. ii. 24.


Greg. Naz., Orat. 12 and 38.


Text, πάλην. Variant, πλάσιν, cf. “plasmationem” (Faber).


Text, παρείδε. Variant, περιεῖδεν.


Greg. Nyss., Orat. Cathec., ch. 20 et seqq.


St. John i. 18.


Phil. ii. 6.


“Condescends to His servants” is absent in some mss.


Eccles. i. 10.


Greg. Nyss., Cat. ch. 16.


Athan., De salut. adv. Christi.

Next: Concerning the manner in which the Word was conceived, and concerning His divine incarnation.