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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IX:
John of Damascus: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.: Further concerning volitions and free-wills: minds, too, and knowledges and wisdoms.

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Chapter XVIII.—Further concerning volitions and free-wills: minds, too, and knowledges and wisdoms.

When we say that Christ is perfect God 2185 and perfect man, we assuredly attribute to Him all the properties natural to both the Father and mother. For He became man in order that that which was overcome might overcome. For He Who was omnipotent did not in His omnipotent authority and might lack the power to rescue man out of the hands of the tyrant. But the tyrant would have had a ground of complaint if, after He had overcome man, God should have used force against him. Wherefore God in His pity and love for man wished to reveal fallen man himself as conqueror, and became man to restore like with like.

But that man is a rational and intelligent animal, no one will deny. How, then, could He have become man if He took on Himself flesh without soul, or soul without mind? For that is not man. Again, what benefit would His becoming man have been to us if He Who suffered first was not saved, nor renewed and strengthened by the union with divinity? For that which is not assumed is not remedied. He, therefore, assumed the whole man, even the fairest part of him, which had become diseased, in order that He might bestow salvation on the whole. And, indeed, there could never exist a mind that had not wisdom and was destitute of knowledge. For if it has not energy or motion, it is utterly reduced to nothingness.

Therefore, God the Word 2186 , wishing to restore that which was in His own image, became man. But what is that which was in His own image, unless mind? So He gave up the better and assumed the worse. For mind 2187 is in the border-land between God and flesh, for it dwells indeed in fellowship with the flesh, and is, moreover, the image of God. Mind, then, mingles with mind, and mind holds a place midway between the pureness of God and the denseness of flesh. For if the Lord assumed a soul without mind, He assumed the soul of an irrational animal.

But if the Evangelist said that the Word was made flesh 2188 , note that in the Holy Scripture sometimes a man is spoken of as a soul, as, for example, with seventy-five souls came Jacob into Egypt 2189 : and sometimes a man is spoken of as flesh, as, for example, All flesh shall see the salvation of God 2190 . And accordingly the Lord did not become flesh without soul or mind, but man. He says, indeed, Himself, Why seek ye to kill Me, a Man that hath told you the truth 2191 ? He, therefore, assumed flesh animated with the spirit of reason and mind, a spirit that holds sway p. 67b over the flesh but is itself under the dominion of the divinity of the Word.

So, then, He had by nature, both as God and as man, the power of will. But His human will was obedient and subordinate to His divine will, not being guided by its own inclination, but willing those things which the divine will willed. For it was with the permission of the divine will that He suffered by nature what was proper to Him 2192 . For when He prayed that He might escape the death, it was with His divine will naturally willing and permitting it that He did so pray and agonize and fear, and again when His divine will willed that His human will should choose the death, the passion became voluntary to Him 2193 . For it was not as God only, but also as man, that He voluntarily surrendered Himself to the death. And thus He bestowed on us also courage in the face of death. So, indeed, He said before His saving passion, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me 2194 ,” manifestly as though He were to drink the cup as man and not as God. It was as man, then, that He wished the cup to pass from Him: but these are the words of natural timidity. Nevertheless, He said, not My will, that is to say, not in so far as I am of a different essence from Thee, but Thy will be done 2195 , that is to say, My will and Thy will, in so far as I am of the same essence as Thou. Now these are the words of a brave heart. For the Spirit of the Lord, since He truly became man in His good pleasure, on first testing its natural weakness was sensible of the natural fellow-suffering involved in its separation from the body, but being strengthened by the divine will it again grew bold in the face of death. For since He was Himself wholly God although also man, and wholly man although also God, He Himself as man subjected in Himself and by Himself His human nature to God and the Father, and became obedient to the Father, thus making Himself the most excellent type and example for us.

Of His own free-will, moreover, He exercised His divine and human will. For free-will is assuredly implanted in every rational nature. For to what end would it possess reason, if it could not reason at its own free-will? For the Creator hath implanted even in the unreasoning brutes natural appetite to compel them to sustain their own nature. For devoid of reason, as they are, they cannot guide their natural appetite but are guided by it. And so, as soon as the appetite for anything has sprung up, straightway arises also the impulse for action. And thus they do not win praise or happiness for pursuing virtue, nor punishment for doing evil. But the rational nature, although it does possess a natural appetite, can guide and train it by reason wherever the laws of nature are observed. For the advantage of reason consists in this, the free-will, by which we mean natural activity in a rational subject. Wherefore in pursuing virtue it wins praise and happiness, and in pursuing vice it wins punishment.

So that the soul 2196 of the Lord being moved of its own free-will willed, but willed of its free-will those things which His divine will willed it to will. For the flesh was not moved at a sign from the Word, as Moses and all the holy men were moved at a sign from heaven. But He Himself, Who was one and yet both God and man, willed according to both His divine and His human will. Wherefore it was not in inclination but rather in natural power that the two wills of the Lord differed from one another. For His divine will was without beginning and all-effecting, as having power that kept pace with it, and free from passion; while His human will had a beginning in time, and itself endured the natural and innocent passions, and was not naturally omnipotent. But yet it was omnipotent because it truly and naturally had its origin in the God-Word.



Against the Apollinarians and the Monotheletes. Cf. Max., ut supra, II. p. 151.


Greg. Naz., Carm. sen. adv. Apollin., Epist. ad Cled., and elsewhere.


See also ch. 6 above, and Gregory’s lines against the Apollinarians.


St. John i. 14.


Gen. 46:27, Acts 7:14.


Isa. 40:5, Luke 3:6.


St. John viii. 40.


Sophron., Epist. Synod.


See Cyril, In Joann., ch. x.


Matt. 26:39, Luke 22:22.


Matt. 26:39, Luke 22:22


Max., Dial. cum Pyrrh.; Greg. Naz., Ep. 1, ad Cledon.

Next: Concerning the theandric energy.