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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IX:
John of Damascus: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.: Regarding the things said concerning Christ.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XVIII.—Regarding the things said concerning Christ.

The things said concerning Christ fall into four generic modes. For some fit Him even before the incarnation, others in the union, others after the union, and others after the resurrection. Also of those that refer to the period before the incarnation there are six modes: for some of them declare the union of nature and the identity in essence with the Father, as this, I and My Father are one 2535 : also this, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father 2536 : and this, Who being in the form of God 2537 , and so forth. Others declare the perfection of subsistence, as these, Son of God, and the Express Image of His person 2538 , and Messenger of great counsel, Wonderful Counsellor 2539 , and the like.

Again, others declare the indwelling 2540 of the subsistences in one another, as, I am in the Father and the Father in Me 2541 ; and the inseparable foundation 2542 , as, for instance, the Word, Wisdom, Power, Effulgence. For the word is inseparably established in the mind (and it is the essential mind that I mean), and so also is wisdom, and power in him that is powerful, and effulgence in the light, all springing forth from these 2543 .

And others make known the fact of His origin from the Father as cause, for instance My Father is greater than I 2544 . For from Him He derives both His being and all that He has 2545 : His being was by generative and not by creative means, as, I came forth from the Father and am come 2546 , and I live by the Father 2547 . But all that He hath is not His by free gift or by teaching, but in a causal sense, as, The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He seeth the Father do 2548 . For if the Father is not, neither is the Son. For the Son is of the Father and in the Father and with the Father, and not after 2549 the Father. In like manner also what He doeth is of Him and with Him. For there is one and the same, not similar but the same, will and energy and power in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Moreover, other things are said as though the Father’s good-will was fulfilled 2550 through His energy, and not as through an instrument or a servant, but as through His essential and hypostatic Word and Wisdom and Power, because but one action 2551 is observed in Father and Son, as for example, All things were made by Him 2552 , and He sent His Word and healed them 2553 , and That they may believe that Thou hast sent Me 2554 .

Some, again, have a prophetic sense, and of these some are in the future tense: for instance, He shall come openly 2555 , and this from Zechariah, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee 2556 , and this from Micah, Behold, the Lord cometh out of His place and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth 2557 . But others, though future, are put in the past tense, as, for instance, This is our God: Therefore He was seen upon the earth and dwelt among men 2558 , and The Lord created me in the beginning of His ways for His works 2559 , and Wherefore God, thy God, anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows 2560 , and such like.

The things said, then, that refer to the period before the union will be applicable to Him even after the union: but those that refer to the period after the union will not be applicable at all before the union, unless indeed in a prophetic sense, as we said. Those that refer to the time of the union have three modes. For when our discourse deals with the higher aspect, we speak of the deification of the flesh, and His assumption of the Word and exceeding exaltation, and so forth, making manifest the riches that are added to the flesh from the union and natural conjunction with the most high God the Word. And when our discourse deals with the lower aspect, we speak of the incarnation of God the Word, His becoming man, His emptying of Himself, His poverty, His humility. For these and such like are imposed upon the Word and p. 91b God through His admixture with humanity. When again we keep both sides in view at the same time, we speak of union, community, anointing, natural conjunction, conformation and the like. The former two modes, then, have their reason in this third mode. For through the union it is made clear what either has obtained from the intimate junction with and permeation through the other. For through the union 2561 in subsistence the flesh is said to be deified and to become God and to be equally God with the Word; and God the Word is said to be made flesh, and to become man, and is called creature and last 2562 : not in the sense that the two natures are converted into one compound nature (for it is not possible for the opposite natural qualities to exist at the same time in one nature) 2563 , but in the sense that the two natures are united in subsistence and permeate one another without confusion or transmutation. The permeation 2564 moreover did not come of the flesh but of the divinity: for it is impossible that the flesh should permeate through the divinity: but the divine nature once permeating through the flesh gave also to the flesh the same ineffable power of permeation 2565 ; and this indeed is what we call union.

Note, too, that in the case of the first and second modes of those that belong to the period of the union, reciprocation is observed. For when we speak about the flesh, we use the terms deification and assumption of the Word and exceeding exaltation and anointing. For these are derived from divinity, but are observed in connection with the flesh. And when we speak about the Word, we use the terms emptying, incarnation, becoming man, humility and the like: and these, as we said, are imposed on the Word and God through the flesh. For He endured these things in person of His own free-will.

Of the things that refer to the period after the union there are three modes. The first declares His divine nature, as, I am in the Father and the Father in Me 2566 , and I and the Father are one 2567 : and all those things which are affirmed of Him before His assumption of humanity, these will be affirmed of Him even after His assumption of humanity, with this exception, that He did not assume the flesh and its natural properties.

The second declares His human nature, as, Now ye seek to kill Me, a man that hath told you the truth 2568 , and Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up 2569 , and the like.

Further, of the statements made and written about Christ the Saviour after the manner of men, whether they deal with sayings or actions, there are six modes. For some of them were done or said naturally in accordance with the incarnation; for instance, His birth from a virgin, His growth and progress with age, His hunger, thirst, weariness, fear, sleep, piercing with nails, death and all such like natural and innocent passions 2570 . For in all these there is a mixture of the divine and human, although they are held to belong in reality to the body, the divine suffering none of these, but procuring through them our salvation.

Others are of the nature of ascription 2571 , as Christ’s question, Where have ye laid Lazarus 2572 ? His running to the fig-tree, His shrinking, that is, His drawing back, His praying, and His making as though He would have gone further 2573 For neither as God nor as man was He in need of these or similar things, but only because His form was that of a man as necessity and expediency demanded 2574 . For example, the praying was to shew that He is not opposed to God, for He gives honour to the Father as the cause of Himself 2575 : and the question was not put in ignorance but to shew that He is in truth man as well as God 2576 ; and the drawing back is to teach us not to be impetuous nor to give ourselves up.

Others again are said in the manner of association and relation 2577 , as, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me 2578 ? and He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin 2579 , and being made a curse for us 2580 ; also, Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him 2581 For neither as God nor as man 2582 was He ever forsaken by the Father, nor did He become sin or a curse, nor did He require to be made subject to the Father. For as God He is equal to the Father and not opposed to Him nor subjected to Him; and as God, He was never at any time disobedient to His Begetter to make it necessary for Him to make Him subject 2583 . Appropriating, then, our person and ranking Himself with us, He used these words. For we are bound in the fetters of sin and the curse as faithless and disobedient, and therefore forsaken.

Others are said by reason of distinction in thought. For if you divide in thought things that are inseparable in actual truth, to cut the flesh from the Word, the terms p. 92b ‘servant’ and ‘ignorant’ are used of Him, for indeed He was of a subject and ignorant nature, and except that it was united with God the Word, His flesh was servile and ignorant 2584 . But because of the union in subsistence with God the Word it was neither servile nor ignorant. In this way, too, He called the Father His God.

Others again are for the purpose of revealing Him to us and strengthening our faith, as, And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with the glory which I had with Thee, before the world was 2585 . For He Himself was glorified and is glorified, but His glory was not manifested nor confirmed to us. Also that which the apostle said, Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead 2586 . For by the miracles and the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit it was manifested and confirmed to the world that He is the Son of God 2587 . And this too 2588 , The Child grew in wisdom and grace 2589 .

Others again have reference to His appropriation of the personal life of the Jews, in numbering Himself among the Jews, as He saith to the Samaritan woman, Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship, far salvation is of the Jews 2590 .

The third mode is one which declares the one subsistence and brings out the dual nature: for instance, And I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me 2591 . And this: I go to My Father and ye see Me no more 2592 . And this: They would not have crucified the Lord of Glory 2593 . And this: And no man hath ascended up to heaven but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven 2594 , and such like.

Again of the affirmations that refer to the period after the resurrection some are suitable to God, as, Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost 2595 , for here ‘Son’ is clearly used as God; also this, And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world 2596 , and other similar ones. For He is with us as God. Others are suitable to man, as, They held Him by the feet 2597 , and There they will see Me 2598 , and so forth.

Further, of those referring to the period after the Resurrection that are suitable to man there are different modes. For some did actually take place, yet not according to nature 2599 , but according to dispensation, in order to confirm the fact that the very body, which suffered, rose again; such are the weals, the eating and the drinking after the resurrection. Others took place actually and naturally, as changing from place to place without trouble and passing in through closed gates. Others have the character of simulation 2600 , as, He made as though He would have gone further 2601 . Others are appropriate to the double nature, as, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and My God and your God 2602 , and The King of Glory shall come in 2603 , and He sat down on the right hand of the majesty on High 2604 . Finally others are to be understood as though He were ranking Himself with us, in the manner of separation in pure thought, as, My God and your God 2605 .

Those then that are sublime must be assigned to the divine nature, which is superior to passion and body: and those that are humble must be ascribed to the human nature; and those that are common must be attributed to the compound, that is, the one Christ, Who is God and man. And it should be understood that both belong to one and the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. For if we know what is proper to each, and perceive that both are performed by one and the same, we shall have the true faith and shall not go astray. And from all these the difference between the united natures is recognised, and the fact 2606 that, as the most godly Cyril says, they are not identical in the natural quality of their divinity and humanity. But yet there is but one Son and Christ and Lord: and as He is one, He has also but one person, the unity in subsistence being in nowise broken up into parts by the recognition of the difference of the natures.



St. John x. 30.


John 14.9.


Phil. ii. 6.


Heb. i. 3.


Is. ix. 6.




St. John xiv. 10.


τὴν ἀνεκφοίτητον ἵδρυσιν.


Cyril, Thes., bk. xxxiv., p. 341.


St. John xiv. 28.


Greg. Naz., Orat. 36, and other Greeks.


St. John xvi. 28.


John 6.57.


John 5.19.


Text, μετά. Various reading, κατά.


Text, πληρούμενα. Variant, πληρουμένης.


κίνησιν, motion.


St. John xi. 42.


Ps. cvii. 20.


St. John xvii. 2.


Ps. l. 3.


Zech. ix. 9.


Mic. i. 3.


Bar. iii. 38.


Prov. viii. 22.


Ps. xlv. 7.


Greg. Naz., Orat. 39.


Is. xlviii. 12.


Supr. bk. iii., ch. 2.


Or, inhabitation, mutual indwelling.




St. John xiv. 1.


John 10.30.


John 7:19, John 8:40.


John 3.14.


Vide supr., bk. iii., ch. 21, 22, 23.


προσποίησις, feigning.


St. John. xi. 34.


St. Luke xxiv. 28.


Greg. Naz., Orat. 36.


Supr. bk. iii. 24.


Text, μετὰ τοῦ εἶναι Θεός. Variant, μεῖναι.


οἰκείωσις καὶ ἀναφορά.


St. Matt. xxvii. 46.


2 Cor. v. 21.


Gal. iii. 13.


1 Cor. xv. 28.


Greg. Naz., Orat. 36.




Supr., bk. iii. ch. 21.


St. John. xvii. 5.


Rom. i. 4.


Chrysost., Hom. 1 in Epist. ad Rom., and others.


St. Luke ii. 40.


Text, χάριτι. Reg 1, συνέθει.


St. John. iv. 22.


John 16.10.


John 16.10


1 Cor. ii. 8.


St. John. iii. 13.


St. Matt. xxviii. 19.


Matt. 28.20.


Matt. 28.9.


Matt. 28.10.


κατὰ θύσιν


κατὰ προσποίησιν


St. Luke xxiv. 28.


St. John xx. 17.


Ps. xxiv. 7.


Heb. i. 3.


St. John xx. 17.


Epist. apologetica ad Acacium Melitinæ Episcopum.

Next: That God is not the cause of evils.

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