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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Introduction.

Early Church Fathers  Index     


Twelve names of the Son of God are recounted, being distributed into three classes. These names are so many proofs of the eternity not only of the Son, but of the Father also. Furthermore, they are compared with the twelve stones in the High Priest’s breastplate, and their inseparability is shown by a new distribution of them. Returning to the comparison with the High Priest’s breastplate, the writer sets forth the beauty of the woven-work and the precious stones of the mystic raiment, and the hidden meaning of that division into woven-work and precious stones, which being done, he expounds the comparison drawn by him, showing that faith must be woven in with works, and adds a short summary of the same faith, as concerning the Son.

1. Enough hath been said, as I think, your sacred Majesty, in the book preceding to show that the Son of God is an eternal being, not diverse from the Father, begotten, not created: we have also proved, from passages of the Scriptures, that God’s true Son is God, 1894 and is declared so to be by the evident tokens of His Majesty.

2. Wherefore, albeit what hath already been set forth is plentiful even to overflowing for maintaining the Faith—seeing that the greatness of a river is mostly judged of from the manner in which its springs rise and flow forth—still, to the end that our belief may be the plainer to sight, the waters of our spring ought, methinks, to be parted off into three channels. There are, then, firstly, plain tokens declaring essential inherence in the Godhead; secondly, the expressions of the likeness of the Father and the Son; and lastly, those of the undoubtable unity of the Divine Majesty. Now of the first sort are the names “begetting,” “God,” “Son,” “The Word;” 1895 of the second, “brightness,” “expression,” “mirror,” “image;” 1896 and of the third, “wisdom,” “power,” “truth,” “life.” 1897

3. These tokens so declare the nature of the Son, that by them you may know both that the Father is eternal, and that the Son is not diverse from Him; for the source of generation is He Who is, 1898 and as begotten of the Eternal, He is God; coming forth from the Father, He is the Son; 1899 from God, He is the Word; He is the radiance of the Father’s glory, the expression of His substance, 1900 the counterpart of God, 1901 the image of His majesty; the Bounty of Him Who is bountiful, the Wisdom of Him Who is wise, the Power of the Mighty One, the Truth of Him Who is true, 1902 the Life of the Living One. 1903 In agreement, therefore, stand the attributes of Father and Son, that none may suppose any diversity, or doubt but that they are of one Majesty. For each and all of these names would we furnish examples of their use were we not constrained by a desire to maintain our discourse within bounds.

4. Of these twelve, as of twelve precious stones, is the pillar of our faith built up. For these are the precious stones—sardius, jasper, smaragd, chrysolite, and the rest,—woven into the robe of holy Aaron, 1904 even p. 224 of him who bears the likeness of Christ, 1905 that is, of the true Priest; stones set in gold, and inscribed with the names of the sons of Israel, twelve stones close joined and fitting one into another, for if any should sunder or separate them, the whole fabric of the faith falls in ruins.

5. This, then, is the foundation of our faith—to know that the Son of God is begotten; if He be not begotten, neither is He the Son. Nor yet is it sufficient to call Him Son, unless you shall also distinguish Him as the Only-begotten Son. If He is a creature, He is not God; if He is not God, He is not the Life; if He is not the Life, then is He not the Truth.

6. The first three tokens, therefore, that is to say, the names “generation,” “Son,” “Only-begotten,” do show that the Son is of God originally and by virtue of His own nature.

7. The three that follow—to wit, the names “God,” “Life,” “Truth,” reveal His Power, whereby He hath laid the foundations of, and upheld, the created world. “For,” as Paul said, “in Him we live and move and have our being;” 1906 and therefore, in the first three the Son’s natural right, 1907 in the other three the unity of action subsisting between Father and Son is made manifest.

8. The Son of God is also called the “image” and “effulgence” and “expression” [of God], for these names have disclosed the Father’s incomprehensible and unsearchable Majesty dwelling in the Son, and the expression of His likeness in Him. These three names, then, as we see, refer to [the Son’s] likeness [to the Father]. 1908

9. We have yet the operations of Power, Wisdom, and Justice left, wherewith, severally, to prove [the Son’s] eternity. 1909

10. This, then, is that robe, adorned with precious stones; this is the amice of the true Priest; this the bridal garment; here is the inspired weaver, who well knew how to weave that work. No common woven work is it, whereof the Lord spake by His Prophet: “Who gave to women their skill in weaving?” 1910 No common stones again, are they—stones, as we find them called, “of filling;” 1911 for all perfection depends on this p. 225 condition, that there be nought lacking. They are stones joined together and set in gold—that is, of a spiritual kind; the joining of them by our minds and their setting in convincing argument. Finally Scripture teaches us how far from common are these stones, inasmuch as, whilst some brought one kind, and others another, of less precious offerings, these the devout princes brought, wearing them upon their shoulders, and made of them the “breastplate of judgment,” that is, a piece of woven work. Now we have a woven work, when faith and action go together.

11. Let none suppose me to be misguided, in that I made at first a threefold division, each part containing four, and afterwards a fourfold division, each part containing three terms. The beauty of a good thing pleases the more, if it be shown under various aspects. For those are good things, whereof the texture of the priestly robe was the token, that is to say, either the Law, or the Church, which latter hath made two garments for her spouse, as it is written 1912 —the one of action, the other of spirit, weaving together the threads of faith and works. Thus, in one place, as we read, she makes a groundwork of gold, and afterwards weaves thereon blue, and purple, with scarlet, and white. Again, [as we read] elsewhere, she first makes little flowerets of blue and other colours, and attaches gold, and there is made a single priestly robe, to the end that adornments of diverse grace and beauty, made up of the same bright colours, may gain fresh glory by diversity of arrangement.

12. Moreover (to complete our interpretation of these types), it is certain that by refined gold and silver are designated the oracles of the Lord, whereby our faith stands firm. “The oracles of the Lord are pure oracles, silver tried in the fire, refined of dross, purified seven times.” 1913 Now blue is like the air we breathe and draw in; purple, again, represents the appearance of water; scarlet signifies fire; and white linen, earth, for its origin is in the earth. 1914 Of these four elements, again, the human body is composed. 1915

13. Whether, then, you join to faith already present in the soul, bodily acts agreeing thereto; or acts come first, and faith be joined as their companion, presenting them to God—here is the robe of the minister of religion, here the priestly vestment.

14. Faith is profitable, therefore, when her brow is bright with a fair crown of good works. 1916 This faith—that I may set the matter forth shortly—is contained in the following principles, which cannot be overthrown. If the Son had His origin in nothing, He is not Son; if He is a creature, He is not the Creator; if He was made, He did not make all things; if He needs to learn, He hath no foreknowledge; if He is a receiver, He is not perfect; if He progress, 1917 He is not God. If He is unlike (the Father) He is not the (Father’s) image; if He is Son by grace, He is not such by nature; 1918 if He have no part in the Godhead, He hath it in Him to sin. 1919 “There is none good, but Godhead.” 1920



or “that God’s Son is true God.” “very God.”


John 1:14, 18, Heb. 1:5, Rom. 9:5, Rom. 1:3, John 1:1, 14.


Heb. 1:3, John 14:9, Col. 1:15.


1 Cor. 1:24, John 14:6, John 11:25.


i.e., ὤν. Ex. iii. 14 (LXX.)—καῒ εἶπεν ὁ Θεὸς πρὸς Μωυσῆν, λέγων ᾽Εγώ εἰμι ὁ ῍Ων. Cf. S. John 8:58, John 18:6, Rev. 1:4, 8, Rev. 4:8.


S. John 8:42, John 16:27.


Heb. i. 3. ἀπαυγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοὑ. ᾽ ἱπόστασις is rendered “person” in the A.V. The R.V. 1881 has “effulgence of His glory and very image of His substance,” and in the margin “the impress of His substance.” The Son does not reproduce the person of the Father—otherwise there would be no distinction, but confusion, of Persons, but He does reproduce or represent the substance, or essence, of the Father—i.e., the λόγος τῆς οὐσίας is the same for both Persons.


speculum Dei”—lit. “mirror of God.”


Jer. 10:10, John 14:6, John 17:3, 1 John 5:20.


Deut. 5:26, Rom. 14:11, John 11:25, John 5:26, 1 John 1:2, 1 John 5:20.


See Ex. xxviii. 15-21. The precious stones set in the breastplate are named as follows:

Septuagint           Vulgate               A.V. 1611             R.V. 1881

                                                                                       text          margin

 i. σάρδιον       i. lapis sardius  i. sardius (m. ruby)     i. sardius or ruby

    τοπάζιον          topazius           topaz                           topaz

    σμάραγδος      smaragdus.       carbuncle                    carbuncle or emerald

ii. νθραξ        ii. carbunculus  ii. emerald                 ii. emerald or carbuncle

    σάπφειρος        sapphirus          sapphire                    sapphire

   ἴασπις                 jaspis               diamond                    diamond or sardonyx

iii. λιγύριον      iii. ligurius        iii. ligure                   iii. jacinth or amber

     ἀχάτης              achates              agate                        agate

     ἀμεθυστος       amethystus         amethyst                   amethyst

iv. χρυσόλιθος  iv. chrysolitus    iv. beryl                     iv. beryl or chalcedony

     βηρύλλιον      β. beryllus           onyx                           onyx or beryl

     ὀνύχιον          α. onychinus        jasper                         jasper

With the mystic jewel-work of the High Priest’s breastplate—the λογεῖον κρίσεως, rationale judicii—compare the “covering of the King of Tyrus.” —Ezek. xxviii. 13.

  Septuagint         Vulgate                  A.V. 1611                          R.V. 1881

                                                           text    margin                    text    margin

1.  σάρδιον.      1. sardius           1. sardius or ruby               1. sardius or ruby

2.  τοπάζιον     2. topazius        2. topaz                                2. topaz

3.  σμάραγδος  6. jaspis             ? diamond                          ? diamond

4.  ἃνθραξ        10. chrysolitus   11. beryl or chrysolite 10     11. beryl

5.  σάπφειρος  12. onyx             12. onyx                              12. onyx

6.  ἴασπις         11. berillus         ? jasper                                 ? jasper

7.  λιγύριος      5. sapphirus       5. sapphire                           5. sapphire

8. χάτης          4. carbunculus  3. emerald or chrysoprase    3. emerald or carbuncle 4

9. μέθυστος    3. smaragdus      4. carbuncle                        4. carbuncle or emerald 3

10. χρυσόλιθος

11. βηρύλλιον

12. νύχιον

Also the foundations of the Heavenly City.— Rev. xxi. 19 f.


i. ασπις                                 jasper

ii. σαπφειρος                         sapphire

iii. χαλκηδών                         chalcedony

iv. σμάραγδος                        emerald

v. σαρδόννξ                            sardonyx   

vi. σάρδιον                              sardius

vii. χρυσόλιθος                       chrysolyte

viii. βήρυλλος                         beryl

ix. τοπάζιον                           topaz

x. χρυσόπρασος                     chrysoprasus

xi. ὐάκινθος                            jacinth

xii. μέθυστος                        amethyst

The Heavenly City had 12 gates—each one a pearl—inscribed with the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The foundations were inscribed with the names of the Twelve Apostles.

These precious stones have been identified as follows, taking the High Priest’s breastplate:

i. 1. Red carnelian    2. Chrysolite (greenish-yellow)    3. Emerald

ii. 4. Carbuncle         5. Lapis Lazuli (blue)                    6. Jasper (Greek chalcedony, dark green) 

iii. 7. Jacinth             8. Agate (white, with red or green grain)    9. Amethyst (blue transparent quartz)

iv. 10. Topaz (gold -brown)   11. Aquamarine (dark blue)    12. Banded Carnelian  (black and white, or

                                                                                                          brown and white )


Aaron the type of Christ the Priest. See Heb. 4:15, Heb. 5:1, Heb. 7:28, Heb. 8:7.


Acts xvii. 28.


sc. to the name and title of God.


See Heb. i. 3. “Splendor” is St. Ambrose’s rendering of ἀπαύγασμα. Theodoret says: “The radiance” (or “effulgence”) “of a fire comes from it and accompanies it. The fire causes the radiance, but the radiance is inseparable from the fire. Also the radiance of the fire is of the same nature with it; so also is the Son of the same nature with the Father.” Theophylact—“The sun is never seen without his radiance, and we cannot think of a father without his child.” Delitzsch—“It is no nimbus around God that is here called His “glory,” but God’s own inconceivable, spiritual fire and brightness (die übersinnliche geistige Feuer und Lichtnatur Gottes selber), which He, in order to reveal Himself to Himself, makes an object to Himself” (aus sich heraussetzt).


“The act of knowing and comprehending all things necessarily includes the expression of mind-work or wisdom, that is, the Word, and without this it cannot even be conceived of. Rightly, then, did the Fathers deduce the eternity of the Word from the eternity of the Father.”—Hurter, ad loc.


St. Ambrose’s rendering of this passage (Job xxxviii. 36) agrees with the LXX.—τίς δὲ ἔδωκε γυναιξὶν ὑφάσματος σοφίαν, ἤ ποικιλτικὴν ἐλιστήμην. The A.V. 1611 has: “Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?” R.V. has “dark clouds” and “meteor” as marginal substitutes for “inward parts” and “heart.” Vulgate—Quis posuit in visceribus hominis sapientiam? vel quis dedit gallo intelligentiam?


Ex. xxxv. 27. καὶ οἱ ἄρχοντες ἤνεγκαν τοὺς λίθους τῆς σμαράγδου καί τοὺς λίθους της πληρωσεως εἰς τὴν ἐπωμίδα καὶ τὸ λογεῖον.— LXX. Lapides onycninos et gemmas ad superhumerale et rationale.—Vulg. “Stones to be set.”—A.V. & R.V. The LXX. gives the closest rendering of the Hebrew.


Prov. 31:21, 22. St. Ambrose appears to follow the LXX., whose rendering of the passage is different from the Vulgate, with which our English versions agree. With what follows in the text, cf. Exod. 28:33, 34, 5, 6.


Ps. 12:6, 7, Prov. 30:5.


These colours entered into the fashioning of the High Priest’s Ephod (Exod. 28:5, 6) and the Vail of the Tabernacle. Probably a little symbolism was attached to the ornaments of Ahasuerus’ palace of Susa, “where were white, green, and blue” (or violet) “hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver upon a pavement of red and blue and white and black marble.” White and green might represent the earth, blue the air, purple the sea and water generally, in the curtains: whilst in the variegated marble pavement, red would naturally symbolize fire, blue the air, white water (as colourless when pure), black earth (the soil). Notice “the air we breathe,” etc.—“Aëris quem spiramus et cujus carpimus flatum.” Compare Virgil, Æn. I. 387, 388.


This was supposed by some of the Ionic philosophers to be the explanation of perception. We perceived earth, they supposed, by reason of the earthly constituent of our organism.


S. James ii. 14-26.


i.e. if it is possible for Him to ascend to a higher plane of existence.


i.e. He is a son “by adoption,” as one of ourselves.


i.e.He may not have as yet actually sinned, but it is within the range of possibility for Him—He is, as Hurter expresses it in his note, “auctor malitiæ si non actu, saltem potentia.


S. Mark x. 18.

Next: Chapter I. The Arian argument from S. Mark x. 18, “There is none good but one, that is, God,” refuted by explanation of these words of Christ.

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