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NPNF2-04. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters
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§§26–36. That the Son is the Co-existing Word, argued from the New Testament. Texts from the Old Testament continued; especially Ps. cx. 3. Besides, the Word in Old Testament may be Son in New, as Spirit in Old Testament is Paraclete in New. Objection from Acts x. 36; answered by parallels, such as 1 Cor. i. 5. Lev. ix. 7. &c. Necessity of the Word’s taking flesh, viz. to sanctify, yet without destroying, the flesh.

26. But that the Son has no beginning of being, but before He was made man was ever with the Father, John makes clear in his first Epistle, writing thus: ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of Life; and the Life was manifested, and we have seen it; and we bear witness and declare unto you that Eternal Life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us33873387    1 John i. 1, 2..’ While he says here that ‘the Life,’ not ‘became,’ but ‘was with the Father,’ in the end of his Epistle he says the Son is the Life, writing, ‘And we are in Him that is True, even in His Son, Jesus Christ; this is the True God and Eternal Life33883388    Ib. v. 20..’ But if the Son is the Life, and the Life was with the Father, and if the Son was with the Father, and the same Evangelist says, ‘And the Word was with God33893389    John i. 1.,’ the Son must be the Word, which is ever with the Father. And as the ‘Son’ is ‘Word,’ so ‘God’ must be ‘the Father.’ Moreover, the Son, according to John, is not merely ‘God’ but ‘True God;’ for according to the same Evangelist, ‘And the Word was God;’ and the Son said, ‘I am the Life33903390    Ib. xiv. 6..’ Therefore the Son is the Word and Life which is with the Father. And again, what is said in the same John, ‘The Only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father33913391    Ib. i. 18.,’ shews that the Son was ever. For whom John calls Son, Him David mentions in the Psalm as God’s Hand33923392    ii. 31, n. 4., saying, ‘Why stretchest Thou not forth Thy Right Hand out of Thy bosom33933393    Ps. lxxiv. 11, LXX.?’ Therefore if the Hand is in the bosom, and the Son in the bosom, the Son will be the Hand, and the Hand will be the Son, through whom the Father made all things; for it is written, ‘Thy Hand made all these things,’ and ‘He led out His people with His Hand33943394    Vid. Is. lxvi. 2; Deut. vii. 8.;’ therefore through the Son. And if ‘this is the changing of the Right Hand of the Most Highest,’ and again, ‘Unto the end, concerning the things that shall be changed, a song for My Well-beloved33953395    Ps. lxxvii. 10, LXX.; xlv. title.;’ the Well-beloved then is the Hand that was changed; concerning whom the Divine Voice also says, ‘This is My Beloved Son.’ This ‘My Hand’ then is equivalent to ‘This My Son.’

27. But since there are ill-instructed men who, while resisting the doctrine of a Son, think little of the words, ‘From the womb before the morning star I begat Thee33963396    Ib. cx. 3, LXX.;’ as if this referred to His relation to Mary, alleging that He was born of Mary ‘before the morning star,’ for that to say ‘womb’ could not refer to His relation towards God, we must say a few words here. If then, because the ‘womb’ is human, therefore it is foreign to God, plainly ‘heart’ too has a human meaning33973397    §24., for that which has heart has womb also. Since then both are human, we must deny both, or seek to explain both. Now as a word is from the heart, so is an offspring from the womb; and as when the heart of God is spoken of, we do not conceive of it as human, so if Scripture says ‘from the womb,’ we must not take it in a corporeal sense. For it is usual with divine Scripture to speak and signify in the way of man what is above man. Thus speaking of the creation it says, ‘Thy hands made me and fashioned me,’ and, ‘Thy hand made all these things,’ and, ‘He commanded and they were created33983398    Ps. cxix. 73; cxlviii. 5..’ Suitable then is its language about everything; attributing to the Son ‘propriety’ and ‘genuineness,’ and to the creation ‘the beginning of being.’ For the one God makes and creates; but Him He begets from Himself, Word or Wisdom. Now ‘womb’ and ‘heart’ plainly declare the proper and the genuine; for we too have this from the womb; but our works we make by the hand.

28. What means then, say they, ‘Before the morning star?’ I would answer, that if ‘Before the morning star’ shews that His birth from Mary was wonderful, many others besides have been born before the rising of the star. What then is said so wonderful in His instance, that He should record it as some choice prerogative33993399    ἐξαιρέτου, ii. 19, n. 6., when it is common to many? Next, to beget differs from bringing forth; for begetting involves the primary foundation, but to bring forth is nothing else than the production of what exists. If then the term belongs to the body, let it be observed that He did not then receive a beginning of coming to be when he was evangelized to the shepherds by night, but when the Angel spoke to the Virgin. And that was not night, for this is not said; on the contrary, it was night when He issued from the womb. This difference Scripture makes, and says on the one hand that He was begotten before the morning star, and on the other speaks of His proceeding from the womb, as in the twenty-first Psalm, ‘Thou art he that drew Me from the womb34003400    Ps. xxii. 9..’ Besides, He did not say, ‘before the rising of the morning star,’ but simply ‘before the morning star.’ If then the phrase must be taken of the body, then either the body must be before Adam, for the stars were before Adam, or we have to investigate the sense of the letter. And this John enables us to do, who says in the Apocalypse, ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are they who make broad their robes, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever maketh and loveth a lie. I Jesus have sent My Angel, to testify these things in the Churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star. And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come; and let him that heareth say, Come; and let him that is athirst, Come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely34013401    Rev. xxii. 13–17.’ If then ‘the Offspring of David’ be the ‘Bright and Morning Star,’ it is plain that the flesh of the Saviour is called ‘the Morning Star,’ which the Offspring from God preceded; so that the sense of the Psalm is this, ‘I have begotten Thee from Myself before Thy appearance in the flesh;’ for ‘before the Morning Star’ is equivalent to ‘before the Incarnation of the Word.’

29. Thus in the Old also, statements are plainly made concerning the Son; at the same time it is superfluous to argue the point; for if what is not stated in the Old is of later date, let them who are thus disputatious, say where in the Old is mention made of the Spirit, the Paraclete? for of the Holy Spirit there is mention, but nowhere of the Paraclete. Is then the Holy Spirit one, and the Paraclete another, and the Paraclete the later, as not mentioned in the Old? but far be it to say that the Spirit is later, or to distinguish the Holy Ghost as one and the Paraclete as another; for the Spirit is one and the same, then and now hallowing and comforting those who are His recipients; as one and the same Word and Son led even then to adoption of sons those who were worthy34023402    Cf. i. 39, n. 4.. For sons under the Old were made such through no other than the Son. For unless even before Mary there were a Son who was of God, how is He before all, when they are sons before Him? and how also ‘First-born,’ if He comes second after many? But neither is the Paraclete second, for He was before all, nor the Son later; for ‘in the beginning was the Word34033403    John i. 1..’ And as the Spirit and Paraclete are the same, so the Son and Word are the same; and as the Saviour says concerning the Spirit, ‘But the Paraclete which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My Name34043404    Ib. xiv. 26.,’ speaking of One and Same, and not distinguishing, so John describes similarly when he says, ‘And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of one Only-begotten from the Father34053405    Ib. i. 14..’ For here too he does not distinguish but witnesses the identity. And as the Paraclete is not one and the Holy Ghost another, but one and the same, so Word is not one, and Son another, but the Word is Only-Begotten; for He says not the glory of the flesh itself, but of the Word. He then who dares distinguish between Word and Son, let him distinguish between Spirit and Paraclete; but if the Spirit cannot be distinguished, so neither can the Word, being also Son and Wisdom and Power. Moreover, the word ‘Well-beloved’ even the Greeks who are skilful in phrases know to be equivalent with ‘Only-begotten.’ For Homer speaks thus of Telemachus, who was the only-begotten of Ulysses, in the second book of the Odyssey:

O’er the wide earth, dear youth, why seek to run,

An only child, a well-beloved34063406    μοῦνος ἐ& 241·ν ἀγαπητός, line 365. son?

He whom you mourn, divine Ulysses, fell

Far from his country, where the strangers dwell.

Therefore he who is the only son of his father is called well-beloved.

30. Some of the followers of the Samosatene, distinguishing the Word from the Son, pretend that the Son is Christ, and the Word another; and they ground this upon Peter’s words in the Acts, which he spoke well, but they explain badly34073407    Cf. ii. 1, n. 13.. It is this: ‘The Word He sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ; this is Lord of all34083408    Acts x. 36..’ For they say that since the Word spoke through Christ, as in the instance of the Prophets, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ the prophet was one and the Lord another. But to this it is parallel to oppose the words in the first to the Corinthians, ‘waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you unto the end unblameable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ34093409    1 Cor. i. 7, 8..’ For as one Christ does not confirm the day of another Christ, but He Himself confirms in His own day those who wait for Him, so the Father sent the Word made flesh, that being made man He might preach by means of Himself. And therefore he straightway adds, ‘This is Lord of all;’ but Lord of all is the Word.

31. ‘And Moses said unto Aaron, Go unto the altar and offer thy sin-offering, and thy burnt-offering, and make an atonement for thyself and for the people; and offer the offering of the people, and make an atonement for them, as the Lord commanded Moses34103410    Lev. ix. 7..’ See now here, though Moses be one, Moses himself speaks as if about another Moses, ‘as the Lord commanded Moses.’ In like manner then, if the blessed Peter speak of the Divine Word also, as sent to the children of Israel by Jesus Christ, it is not necessary to understand that the Word is one and Christ another, but that they were one and the same by reason of the uniting which took place in His divine and loving condescension and becoming man. And even if He be considered in two ways34113411    Cf. iii. 29, init., still it is without any division of the Word, as when the inspired John says, ‘And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us34123412    John i. 14..’ What then is said well and rightly34133413    ii. 44, n. 1. by the blessed Peter, the followers of the Samosatene, understanding badly and wrongly, stand not in the truth. For Christ is understood in both ways in Divine Scripture, as when it says Christ ‘God’s power and God’s wisdom34143414    1 Cor. i. 24..’ If then Peter says that the Word was sent through Jesus Christ unto the children of Israel, let him be understood to mean, that the Word incarnate has appeared to the children of Israel, so that it may correspond to ‘And the Word became flesh.’ But if they understand it otherwise, and, while confessing the Word to be divine, as He is, separate from Him the Man that He has taken, with which also we believe that He is made one, saying that He has been sent through Jesus Christ, they are, without knowing it, contradicting themselves. For those who in this place separate the divine Word from the divine Incarnation, have, it seems, a degraded notion of the doctrine of His having become flesh, and entertain Gentile thoughts, as they do, conceiving that the divine Incarnation is an alteration of the Word. But it is not so; perish the thought.

32. For in the same way that John here preaches that incomprehensible union. ‘the mortal being swallowed up of life34153415    2 Cor. v. 4.,’ nay, of Him who is Very Life (as the Lord said to Martha, ‘I am the Life34163416    John xi. 25.’), so when the blessed Peter says that through Jesus Christ the Word was sent, he implies the divine union also. For as when a man heard ‘The Word became flesh,’ he would not think that the Word ceased to be, which is absurd, as has been said before, so also hearing of the Word which has been united to the flesh, let him understand the divine mystery one and simple. More clearly however and indisputably than all reasoning does what was said by the Archangel to the Bearer of God herself, shew the oneness of the Divine Word and Man. For he says, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God34173417    Luke i. 35..’ Irrationally then do the followers of the Samosatene separate the Word who is clearly declared to be made one with the Man from Mary. He is not therefore sent through that Man; but He rather in Him sent, saying, ‘Go ye, teach all nations34183418    Matt. xxviii. 19..’

33. And this is usual with Scripture34193419    Cf. ii. 53, n. 4., to express itself in inartificial and simple phrases. For so also in Numbers we shall find, Moses said to Raguel the Midianite, the father-in-law of Moses; for there was not one Moses who spoke, and another whose father-in-law was Raguel, but Moses was one. And if in like manner the Word of God is called Wisdom and Power and Right-Hand and Arm and the like, and if in His love to man He has become one with us, putting on our first-fruits and blended with it, therefore the other titles also have, as was natural, become the Word’s portions. For that John has said, that in the beginning was the Word, and He with God and Himself God, and all things through Him, and without Him nothing made, shews clearly that even man is the formation of God the Word. If then after taking him, when enfeebled34203420    σαθρωθέντα, cf. ii. 66, n. 7., into Himself, He renews him again through that sure renewal unto endless permanence, and therefore is made one with him in order to raise him to a diviner lot, how can we possibly say that the Word was sent through the Man who was from Mary, and reckon Him, the Lord of Apostles, with the other Apostles, I mean prophets, who were sent by Him? And how can Christ be called a mere man? on the contrary, being made one with the Word, He is with reason called Christ and Son of God, the prophet having long since loudly and clearly ascribed the Father’s subsistence to Him, and said, ‘And I will send My Son Christ34213421    Vid. 2 Esdr. vii. 28, 29; Acts iii. 20.,’ and in the Jordan, ‘This is My Well-beloved Son.’ For when He had fulfilled His promise, He shewed, as was suitable, that He was He whom He said He had sent.

34. Let us then consider Christ in both ways, the divine Word made one in Mary with Him which is from Mary. For in her womb the Word fashioned for Himself His house, as at the beginning He formed Adam from the earth; or rather more divinely, concerning whom Solomon too says openly, knowing that the Word was also called Wisdom, ‘Wisdom builded herself an house34223422    Prov. ix. 1.;’ which the Apostle interprets when he says, ‘Which house are we34233423    Heb. iii. 6.,’ and elsewhere calls us a temple, as far as it is fitting to God to inhabit a temple, of which the image, made of stones, He by Solomon commanded the ancient people to build; whence, on the appearance of the Truth, the image ceased. For when the ruthless men wished to prove the image to be the truth, and to destroy that true habitation which we surely believe His union with us to be, He threatened them not; but knowing that their crime was against themselves, He says to them, ‘Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up34243424    John ii. 19.,’ He, our Saviour, surely shewing thereby that the things about which men busy themselves, carry their dissolution with them. For unless the Lord had built the house, and kept the city, in vain did the builders toil, and the keepers watch34253425    Vid. Ps. cxxvii. 1.. And so the works of the Jews are undone, for they were a shadow; but the Church is firmly established; it is ‘founded on the rock,’ and ‘the gates of hades shall not prevail against it34263426    Vid. Matt. vii. 25; xvi. 18..’ Theirs34273427    ἐκείνων, John x. 33 it was to say, ‘Why dost Thou, being a man, make Thyself God34283428    De Decr. 1; Or. i. 4, iii. 27; de Syn. 50.?’ and their disciple is the Samosatene; whence to his followers with reason does he teach his heresy. But ‘we did not so learn Christ, if so be that we heard’ Him, and were taught from Him, ‘putting off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,’ and taking up ‘the new, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness34293429    Eph. iv. 20–24.’ Let Christ then in both ways be religiously considered.

35. But if Scripture often calls even the body by the name of Christ, as in the blessed Peter’s words to Cornelius, when he teaches him of ‘Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the Holy Ghost,’ and again to the Jews, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God for you34303430    Acts x. 38; ii. 22.,’ and again the blessed Paul to the Athenians, ‘By that Man, whom He ordained, giving assurance to all men, in that He raised Him from the dead34313431    Acts xvii. 31.’ (for we find the appointment and the mission often synonymous with the anointing; from which any one who will may learn, that there is no discordance in the words of the sacred writers, but that they but give various names to the union of God the Word with the Man from Mary, sometimes as anointing, sometimes as mission, sometimes as appointment), it follows that what the blessed Peter says is right34323432    ii. 44, n. 1., and he proclaims in purity the Godhead of the Only begotten, without separating the subsistence of God the Word from the Man from Mary (perish the thought! for how should he, who had heard in so many ways, ‘I and the Father are one,’ and ‘He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father34333433    John x. 30; xiv. 9.?)’ In which Man, after the resurrection also, when the doors were shut, we know of His coming to the whole band34343434    ξυνωρίς. of the Apostles, and dispersing all that was hard to believe in it by His words, ‘Handle Me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have34353435    Luke xxiv. 39..’ And He did not say, ‘This,’ or ‘this Man which I have taken to Me,’ but ‘Me.’ Wherefore the Samosatene will gain no allowance, being refuted by so many arguments for the union of God the Word, nay by God the Word Himself, who now brings the news to all, and assures them by eating, and permitting to them that handling of Him which then took place. For certainly he who gives food to others, and they who give him, touch hands. For ‘they gave Him,’ Scripture says, ‘a piece of a broiled fish and of an honey-comb, and’ when He had ‘eaten before them, He took the remains and gave to them34363436    Ib. xxiv. 42, 43, vid. Wetstein in loc..’ See now, though not as Thomas was allowed, yet by another way, He afforded to them full assurance, in being touched by them; but if you would now see the scars, learn from Thomas. ‘Reach hither thy hand and thrust it into My side, and reach hither thy finger and behold My hands34373437    John xx. 27.;’ so says God the Word, speaking of His own34383438    Cf. iii. 33, n. 5. side and hands, and of Himself as whole man and God together, first affording to the Saints even perception of the Word through the body34393439    Vid. 1 John i. 1, as we may consider, by entering when the doors were shut; and next standing near them in the body and affording full assurance. So much may be conveniently said for confirmation of the faithful, and correction of the unbelieving.

36. And so let Paul of Samosata also stand corrected on hearing the divine voice of Him who said ‘My body,’ not ‘Christ besides Me who am the Word,’ but ‘Him34403440    i.e. τὸν Χρ. vid. Matt. xxvi. 26. with Me, and Me with Him.’ For I the Word am the chrism, and that which has the chrism from Me is the Man34413441    Or. i. 47, n. 11.; not then without Me could He be called Christ, but being with Me and I in Him. Therefore the mention of the mission of the Word shews the uniting which took place with Jesus, born of Mary, Whose Name means Saviour, not by reason of anything else, but from the Man’s being made one with God the Word. This passage has the same meaning as ‘the Father that sent Me,’ and ‘I came not of Myself, but the Father sent Me34423442    John vi. 44, viii. 42..’ For he has given the name of mission34433443    §35, line 8. to the uniting with the Man, with Whom the Invisible nature might be known to men, through the visible. For God changes not place, like us who are hidden in places, when in the fashion of our littleness He displays Himself in His existence in the flesh; for how should He, who fills the heaven and the earth? but on account of the presence in the flesh the just have spoken of His mission. Therefore God the Word Himself is Christ from Mary, God and Man; not some other Christ but One and the Same; He before ages from the Father, He too in the last times from the Virgin; invisible34443444    De Syn. 27 (15). before even to the holy powers of heaven, visible now because of His being one with the Man who is visible; seen, I say, not in His invisible Godhead but in the operation34453445    ἐνεργεία, §14, n. 5. of the Godhead through the human body and whole Man, which He has renewed by its appropriation to Himself. To Him be the adoration and the worship, who was before, and now is, and ever shall be, even to all ages. Amen.


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