New Advent
 Home   Encyclopedia   Summa   Fathers   Bible   Library 
 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
Home > Fathers of the Church > Against Eunomius (Gregory of Nyssa) > Book VI

Against Eunomius (Book VI)

1. The sixth book shows that He Who came for man's salvationwas not a mere man, as Eunomius, falsely slandering him, affirmed that the great Basil had said, but the Only-begotten Son of God, putting on human flesh, and becoming a mediator between Godand man, on Whom we believe, as subject to suffering in the flesh, but impassible in His Godhead; and demonstrates the calumny of Eunomius.

But I perceive that while the necessities of the subject compelled me to follow this line of thought, I have lingered too long over this passage. I must now resume the train of his complaints, that we may pass by none of the charges brought against us without an answer. And first I propose that we should examine this point, that he charges us with asserting that an ordinary man has wrought the salvation of the world. For although this point has been to some extent already cleared up by the investigations we have made, we shall yet briefly deal with it once more, that the mind of those who are acting as our judges on this slanderous accusation may be entirely freed from misapprehension. So far are we from referring to an ordinary man the cause of this great and unspeakable grace, that even if any should refer so great a boon to Peter and Paul, or to an angel from heaven, we should say with Paul, let him be anathema. For Paul was not crucified for us, nor were we baptized into a human name. 1 Corinthians 1:13 Surely the doctrine which our adversaries oppose to the truth is not thereby strengthened when we confess that the saving power of Christ is more potent than human nature :— yet it may seem to be so, for their aim is to maintain at all points the difference of the essence of the Son from that of the Father, and they strive to show the dissimilarity of essence not only by the contrast of the Generated with the Ungenerate, but also by the opposition of the passible to the impassible. And while this is more openly maintained in the last part of their argument, it is also clearly shown in their present discourse. For if he finds fault with those who refer the Passion to the Human Nature, his intention is certainly to subject to the Passion the Godhead Itself. For our conception being twofold, and admitting of two developments, accordingly as the Divinity or the Humanity is held to have been in a condition of suffering, an attack on one of these views is clearly a maintaining of the other. Accordingly, if they find fault with those who look upon the Passion as concerning the Man, they will clearly approve those who say that the Godhead of the Son was subject to passion, and the position which these last maintain becomes an argument in favour of their own absurd doctrine. For if, according to their statement, the Godhead of the Son suffers, while that of the Father is preserved in absolute impassibility, then the impassible Nature is essentially different from that which admits passion. Seeing, therefore, that the dictum before us, though, so far as it is limited by number of words, it is a short one, yet affords principles and hypotheses for every kind of doctrinal pravity, it would seem right that our readers should require in our reply not so much brevity as soundness. We, then, neither attribute our own salvation to a man, nor admit that the incorruptible and Divine Nature is capable of suffering and mortality: but since we must assuredly believe the Divine utterances which declare to us that the Word that was in the beginning was God , and that afterward the Word made flesh was seen upon the earth and conversed with men , we admit in our creed those conceptions which are consonant with the Divine utterance. For when we hear that He is Light, and Power, and Righteousness, and Life, and Truth, and that by Him all things were made, we account all these and such-like statements as things to be believed, referring them to God the Word: but when we hear of pain, of slumber, of need, of trouble, of bonds, of nails, of the spear, of blood, of wounds, of burial, of the sepulchre, and all else of this kind, even if they are somewhat opposed to what has previously been stated, we none the less admit them to be things to be believed, and true, having regard to the flesh; which we receive by faith as conjoined with the Word. For as it is not possible to contemplate the peculiar attributes of the flesh as existing in the Word that was in the beginning, so also on the other hand we may not conceive those which are proper to the Godhead as existing in the nature of the flesh. As, therefore, the teaching of the Gospel concerning our Lord is mingled, partly of lofty and Divine ideas, partly of those which are lowly and human, we assign every particular phrase accordingly to one or other of these Natures which we conceive in the mystery, that which is human to the Humanity, that which is lofty to the Godhead, and say that, as God, the Son is certainly impassible and incapable of corruption: and whatever suffering is asserted concerning Him in the Gospel, He assuredly wrought by means of His Human Nature which admitted of such suffering. For verily the Godhead works the salvation of the world by means of that body which encompassed It, in such wise that the suffering was of the body, but the operation was of God; and even if some wrest to the support of the opposite doctrine the words of the Apostle, God spared not His own Son, Romans 8:32 and, God sent His own Son , and other similar phrases which seem to refer, in the matter of the Passion, to the Divine Nature, and not to the Humanity, we shall none the less refuse to abandon sound doctrine, seeing that Paul himself declares to us more clearly the mystery of this subject. For he everywhere attributes to the Human element in Christ the dispensation of the Passion, when he says, for since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead 1 Corinthians 15:21, and, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, condemned sin in the flesh (for he says, in the flesh, not in the Godhead); and He was crucified through weakness (where by weakness he means the flesh), yet lives by power 2 Corinthians 13:4 (while he indicates by power the Divine Nature); and, He died unto sin (that is, with regard to the body), but lives unto God Romans 6:10 (that is, with regard to the Godhead, so that by these words it is established that, while the Man tasted death, the immortal Nature did not admit the suffering of death); and again; He made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin 2 Corinthians 5:21, giving once more the name of sin to the flesh.

2. Then he again mentions St. Peter's word, made, and the passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which says that Jesus was made by God an Apostle and High Priest: and, after giving a sufficient answer to the charges brought against him by Eunomius, shows that Eunomius himself supports Basil's arguments, and says that the Only-begotten Son, when He had put on the flesh, became Lord.

And although we make these remarks in passing, the parenthetic addition seems, perhaps, not less important than the main question before us. For since, when St. Peter says, He made Him Lord and Christ Acts 2:36, and again, when the Apostle Paul says to the Hebrews that He made Him a priest , Eunomius catches at the word made as being applicable to His pre-temporal existence, and thinks thereby to establish his doctrine that the Lord is a thing made , let him now listen to Paul when he says, He made Him to be sin for us, Who knew not sin 2 Corinthians 5:21 . If he refers the word made, which is used of the Lord in the passages from the Epistle to the Hebrews, and from the words of Peter, to the pretemporal idea, he might fairly refer the word in that passage which says that God made Him to be sin, to the first existence of His essence, and try to show by this, as in the case of his other testimonies, that he was made, so as to refer the word made to the essence, acting consistently with himself, and to discern sin in that essence. But if he shrinks from this by reason of its manifest absurdity, and argues that, by saying, He made Him to be sin, the Apostle indicates the dispensation of the last times, let him persuade himself by the same train of reasoning that the word made refers to that dispensation in the other passages also.

Let us, however, return to the point from which we digressed; for we might gather together from the same Scripture countless other passages, besides those quoted, which bear upon the matter. And let no one think that the divine Apostle is divided against himself in contradiction, and affords by his own utterances matter for their contentions on either side to those who dispute upon the doctrines. For careful examination would find that his argument is accurately directed to one aim; and he is not halting in his opinions: for while he everywhere proclaims the combination of the Human with the Divine, he none the less discerns in each its proper nature, in the sense that while the human weakness is changed for the better by its communion with the imperishable, the Divine power, on the other hand, is not abased by its contact with the lowly form of nature. When therefore he says, He spared not His own Son, he contrasts the true Son with the other sons, begotten, or exalted, or adopted (those, I mean, who were brought into being at His command), marking the specialty of nature by the addition of own. And, to the end that no one should connect the suffering of the Cross with the imperishable nature, he gives in other words a fairly distinct correction of such an error, when he calls Him mediator between God and men 1 Timothy 2:5 and man 1 Timothy 2:5, and God , that, from the fact that both are predicated of the one Being, the fit conception might be entertained concerning each Nature— concerning the Divine Nature, impassibility, concerning the Human Nature, the dispensation of the Passion. As his thought, then, divides that which in love to man was made one, but is distinguished in idea, he uses, when he is proclaiming that nature which transcends and surpasses all intelligence, the more exalted order of names, calling Him God over all Romans 9:5, the great God Titus 2:13, the power of God, and the wisdom of God 1 Corinthians 1:24, and the like; but when he is alluding to all that experience of suffering which, by reason of our weakness, was necessarily assumed with our nature, he gives to the union of the Natures that name which is derived from ours, and calls Him Man, not by this word placing Him Whom he is setting forth to us on a common level with the rest of nature, but so that orthodoxy is protected as regards each Nature, in the sense that the Human Nature is glorified by His assumption of it, and the Divine is not polluted by Its condescension, but makes the Human element subject to sufferings, while working, through Its Divine power, the resurrection of that which suffered. And thus the experience of death is not referred to Him Who had communion in our passible nature by reason of the union with Him of the Man, while at the same time the exalted and Divine names descend to the Man, so that He Who was manifested upon the Cross is called even the Lord of glory 1 Corinthians 2:8, since the majesty implied in these names is transmitted from the Divine to the Human by the commixture of Its Nature with that Nature which is lowly. For this cause he describes Him in varied and different language, at one time as Him Who came down from heaven, at another time as Him Who was born of woman, as God from eternity, and Man in the last days; thus too the Only-begotten God is held to be impassible, and Christ to be capable of suffering; nor does his discourse speak falsely in these opposing statements, as it adapts in its conceptions to each Nature the terms that belong to it. If then these are the doctrines which we have learned from inspired teaching, how do we refer the cause of our salvation to an ordinary man? And if we declare the word made employed by the blessed Peter to have regard not to the pre-temporal existence, but to the new dispensation of the Incarnation, what has this to do with the charge against us? For this great Apostle says that that which was seen in the form of the servant has been made, by being assumed, to be that which He Who assumed it was in His own Nature. Moreover, in the Epistle to the Hebrews we may learn the same truth from Paul, when he says that Jesus was made an Apostle and High Priest by God, being faithful to him that made Him so Hebrews 3:1-2 . For in that passage too, in giving the name of High Priest to Him Who made with His own Blood the priestly propitiation for our sins, he does not by the word made declare the first existence of the Only-begotten, but says made with the intention of representing that grace which is commonly spoken of in connection with the appointment of priests. For Jesus, the great High Priest (as Zechariah says ), Who offered up his own lamb, that is, His own Body, for the sin of the world; Who, by reason of the children that are partakers of flesh and blood, Himself also in like manner took part with them in blood (not in that He was in the beginning, being the Word and God, and being in the form of God, and equal with God, but in that He emptied Himself in the form of the servant, and offered an oblation and sacrifice for us), He, I say, became a High Priest many generations later, after the order of Melchisedech. Surely a reader who has more than a casual acquaintance with the discourse to the Hebrews knows the mystery of this matter. As, then, in that passage He is said to have been made Priest and Apostle, so here He is said to have been made Lord and Christ—the latter for the dispensation on our behalf, the former by the change and transformation of the Human to the Divine (for by making the Apostle means making anew). Thus is manifest the knavery of our adversaries, who insolently wrest the words referring to the dispensation to apply them to the pretemporal existence. For we learn from the Apostle not to know Christ in the same manner now as before, as Paul thus speaks, Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now know we Him no more , in the sense that the one knowledge manifests to us His temporary dispensation, the other His eternal existence. Thus our discourse has made no inconsiderable answer to his charges:— that we neither hold two Christs nor two Lords, that we are not ashamed of the Cross, that we do not glorify a mere man as having suffered for the world, that we assuredly do not think that the word made refers to the formation of the essence. But, such being our view, our argument has no small support from our accuser himself, where in the midst of his discourse he employs his tongue in a flourishing onslaught upon us, and produces this sentence among others: This, then, is the conflict that Basil wages against himself, and he clearly appears neither to have 'applied his own mind to the intention of the Apostles,' nor to be able to preserve the sequence of his own arguments; for according to them he must, if he is conscious of their irreconcilable character, admit that the Word Who was in the beginning and was God became Lord, or he fits together statements that are mutually conflicting. Why, this is actually our statement which Eunomius repeats, who says that the Word that was in the beginning and was God became Lord. For, being what He was, God, and Word, and Life, and Light, and Grace, and Truth, and Lord, and Christ, and every name exalted and Divine, He did become, in the Man assumed by Him, Who was none of these, all else which the Word was and among the rest did become Lord and Christ, according to the teaching of Peter, and according to the confession of Eunomius;— not in the sense that the Godhead acquired anything by way of advancement, but (all exalted majesty being contemplated in the Divine Nature) He thus becomes Lord and Christ, not by arriving at any addition of grace in respect of His Godhead (for the Nature of the Godhead is acknowledged to be lacking in no good), but by bringing the Human Nature to that participation in the Godhead which is signified by the terms Christ and Lord.

3. He then gives a notable explanation of the saying of the Lord to Philip, He that has seen Me has seen the Father; and herein he excellently discusses the suffering of the Lord in His loveto man, and the impassibility, creative power, and providence of the Father, and the composite nature of men, and their resolution into the elements of which they were composed.

Sufficient defence has been offered on these points, and as for that which Eunomius says by way of calumny against our doctrine, that Christ was emptied to become Himself there has been sufficient discussion in what has been said above, where he has been shown to be attributing to our doctrine his own blasphemy. For it is not one who confesses that the immutable Nature has put on the created and perishable, who speaks of the transition from like to like, but one who conceives that there is no change from the majesty of Nature to that which is more lowly. For if, as their doctrine asserts, He is created, and man is created also, the wonder of the doctrine disappears, and there is nothing marvellous in what is alleged, since the created nature comes to be in itself. But we who have learned from prophecy of the change of the right hand of the Most High ,— and by the Right Hand of the Father we understand that Power of God, which made all things, which is the Lord (not in the sense of depending upon Him as a part upon a whole, but as being indeed from Him, and yet contemplated in individual existence)—say thus: that neither does the Right Hand vary from Him Whose Right Hand It is, in regard to the idea of Its Nature, nor can any other change in It be spoken of besides the dispensation of the Flesh. For verily the Right Hand of God was God Himself; manifested in the flesh, seen through that same flesh by those whose sight was clear; as He did the work of the Father, being, both in fact and in thought, the Right Hand of God, yet being changed, in respect of the veil of the flesh by which He was surrounded, as regarded that which was seen, from that which He was by Nature, as a subject of contemplation. Therefore He says to Philip, who was gazing only at that which was changed, Look through that which is changed to that which is unchangeable, and if you see this, you have seen that Father Himself, Whom you seek to see; for he that has seen Me— not Him Who appears in a state of change, but My very self, Who am in the Father— will have seen that Father Himself in Whom I am, because the very same character of Godhead is beheld in both John 14:9-10 . If, then, we believe that the immortal and impassible and uncreated Nature came to be in the passible Nature of the creature, and conceive the change to consist in this, on what grounds are we charged with saying that He was emptied to become Himself, by those who keep prating their own statements about our doctrines? For the participation of the created with the created is no change of the Right Hand. To say that the Right Hand of the uncreated Nature is created belongs to Eunomius alone, and to those who adopt such opinions as he holds. For the man with an eye that looks on the truth will discern the Right Hand of the Highest to be such as he sees the Highest to be—Uncreated of Uncreated, Good of Good, Eternal of Eternal without prejudice to Its eternity by Its being in the Father by way of generation. Thus our accuser has unawares been employing against us reproaches that properly fall upon himself.

But with reference to those who stumble at the idea of passion, and on this ground maintain the diversity of the Essences,— arguing that the Father, by reason of the exaltation of His Nature, does not admit passion, and that the Son on the other hand condescended, by reason of defect and divergence, to the partaking of His sufferings—I wish to add these remarks to what has been already said:— That nothing is truly passion which does not tend to sin, nor would one strictly call by the name of passion the necessary routine of nature, regarding the composite nature as it goes on its course in a kind of order and sequence. For the mutual concurrence of heterogeneous elements in the formation of our body is a kind of a combination harmoniously conjoined out of several dissimilar elements; but when, at the due time, the tie is loosed which bound together this concurrence of the elements, the combined nature is once more dissolved into the elements of which it was composed. This then is rather a work than a passion of the nature. For we give the name of passion only to that which is opposed to the virtuous unimpassioned state and of this we believe that He Who granted us salvation was at all times devoid, Who was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin Hebrews 4:15 . Of that, at least, which is truly passion, which is a diseased condition of the will, He was not a partaker; for it says He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth 1 Peter 2:22 ; but the peculiar attributes of our nature, which, by a kind of customary abuse of terms, are called by the same name of passion,— of these, we confess, the Lord did partake,— of birth, nourishment, growth, of sleep and toil, and all those natural dispositions which the soul is wont to experience with regard to bodily inconveniences,— the desire of that which is lacking, when the longing passes from the body to the soul, the sense of pain, the dread of death, and all the like, save only such as, if followed, lead to sin. As, then, when we perceive His power extending through all things in heaven, and air, and earth, and sea, whatever there is in heaven, whatever there is beneath the earth, we believe that He is universally present, and yet do not say that He is any of those things in which He is (for He is not the Heaven, Who has marked it out with His enfolding span, nor is He the earth, Who upholds the circle of the earth, nor yet is He the water, Who encompasses the liquid nature), so neither do we say that in passing through those sufferings of the flesh of which we speak He was subject to passion, but, as we say that He is the cause of all things that are, that He holds the universe in His grasp, that He directs all that is in motion and keeps upon a settled foundation all that is stationary, by the unspeakable power of His own majesty, so we say that He was born among us for the cure of the disease of sin, adapting the exercise of His healing power in a manner corresponding to the suffering, applying the healing in that way which He knew to be for the good of that part of the creation which He knew to be in infirmity. And as it was expedient that He should heal the sufferings by touch, we say that He so healed it; yet is He not, because He is the Healer of our infirmity, to be deemed on this account to have been Himself passible. For even in the case of men, ordinary use does not allow us to affirm such a thing. We do not say that one who touches a sick man to heal him is himself partaker of the infirmity, but we say that he does give the sick man the boon of a return to health, and does not partake of the infirmity: for the suffering does not touch him, it is he who touches the disease. Now if he who by his art works any good in men's bodies is not called dull or feeble, but is called a lover of men and a benefactor and the like, why do they slander the dispensation to usward as being mean and inglorious, and use it to maintain that the essence of the Son is divergent by way of inferiority, on the ground that the Nature of the Father is superior to sufferings, while that of the Son is not pure from passion? Why, if the aim of the dispensation of the Incarnation was not that the Son should be subject to suffering, but that He should be manifested as a lover of men, while the Father also is undoubtedly a lover of men, it follows that if one will but regard the aim, the Son is in the same case with the Father. But if it was not the Father Who wrought the destruction of death, marvel not—for all judgment also He has committed unto the Son, Himself judging no man ; not doing all things by the Son for the reason that He is unable either to save the lost or judge the sinner, but because He does these things too by His own Power, by which He works all things. Then they who were saved by the Son were saved by the Power of the Father, and they who are judged by Him undergo judgment by the Righteousness of God. For Christ, as the Apostle says, is the Righteousness of God Romans 1:17, which is revealed by the Gospel; and whether you look at the world as a whole, or at the parts of the world which make up that complete whole, all these are works of the Father, in that they are works of His Power; and thus the word which says both that the Father made all things, and that none of these things that are came into being without the Son, speaks truly on both points; for the operation of the Power bears relation to Him Whose Power It is. Thus, since the Son is the Power of the Father, all the works of the Son are works of the Father. That He entered upon the dispensation of the Passion not by weakness of nature but by the power of His will, one might bring countless passages of the Gospel to show; but these, as the matter is clear, I will pretermit, that my discourse may not be prolonged by dwelling on points that are admitted. If, then, that which comes to pass is evil, we have to separate from that evil not the Father only, but the Son also; but if the saving of them that were lost is good, and if that which took place is not passion , but love of men, why do you alienate from our thanksgiving for our salvation the Father, Who by His own Power, which is Christ, wrought for men their freedom from death?

4. Then returning to the words of Peter, Godmade Him Lord and Christ, he skilfully explains it by many arguments, and herein shows Eunomius as an advocate of the orthodox doctrine, and concludes the book by showing that the Divine and Human names are applied, by reason of the commixture, to either Nature.

But we must return once more to our vehement writer of speeches, and take up again that severe invective of his against ourselves. He makes it a complaint against us that we deny that the Essence of the Son has been made, as contradicting the words of Peter, He made Him Lord and Christ, this Jesus Whom you crucified Acts 2:36 ; and he is very forcible in his indignation and abuse upon this matter, and moreover maintains certain points by which he thinks that he refutes our doctrine. Let us see, then, the force of his attempts. Who, pray, you most reckless of men, he says, when he has the form of a servant, takes the form of a servant? No reasonable man, shall be our reply to him, would use language of this kind, save such as may be entirely alien from the hope of Christians. But to this class you belong, who charge us with recklessness because we do not admit the Creator to be created. For if the Holy Spirit does not lie, when He says by the prophet, 'All things serve You ,' and the whole creation is in servitude, and the Son is, as you say , created, He is clearly a fellow-servant with all things, being degraded by His partaking of creation to partake also of servitude. And Him Who is in servitude you will surely invest with the servant's form: for you will not, of course, be ashamed of the aspect of servitude when you acknowledge that He is a servant by nature. Who now is it, I pray, my most keen rhetorician, who transfers the Son from the servile form to another form of a servant? He who claims for Him uncreated being, and thereby proves that He is no servant, or you, rather, who continually cry that the Son is the servant of the Father, and was actually under His dominion before He took the servant's form? I ask for no other judges; I leave the vote on these questions in your own hands. For I suppose that no one is so shameless in his dealings with the truth as to oppose acknowledged facts out of sheer impudence. What we have said is clear to any one, that by the peculiar attributes of servitude is marked that which is by nature servile, and to be created is an attribute proper to servitude. Thus one who asserts that He, being a servant, took upon Him our form, is surely the man who transfers the Only-begotten from servitude to servitude.

He tries, however, to fight against our words, and says, a little further on (for I will pass over at present his intermediate remarks, as they have been more or less fully discussed in my previous arguments), when he charges us with being bold in saying or thinking things uncontrivable, and calls us most miserable ,— he adds, I say, this:— For if it is not of the Word Who was in the beginning and was God that the blessed Peter speaks, but of Him Who was 'seen,' and Who 'emptied Himself,' as Basil says, and if the man Who was 'seen' 'emptied Himself' to take 'the form of a servant,' and He Who 'emptied Himself' to take the form of a servant,' 'emptied Himself' to come into being as man, then the man who was 'seen' 'emptied himself,' to come into being as man. It may be that the judgment of my readers has immediately detected from the above citation the knavery, and, at the same time, the folly of the argument he maintains: yet a brief refutation of what he says shall be subjoined on our side, not so much to overthrow his blundering sophism, which indeed is overthrown by itself for those who have ears to hear, as to avoid the appearance of passing his allegation by without discussion, under the pretence of contempt for the worthlessness of his argument. Let us accordingly look at the point in this way. What are the Apostle's words? Be it known, he says, that God made Him Lord and Christ Acts 2:36 . Then, as though some one had asked him on whom such a grace was bestowed, he points as it were with his finger to the subject, saying, this Jesus, Whom you crucified. What does Basil say upon this? That the demonstrative word declares that that person was made Christ, Who had been crucified by the hearers—for he says, you crucified, and it was likely that those who had demanded the murder that was done upon Him were hearers of the speech; for the time from the crucifixion to the discourse of Peter was not long. What, then, does Eunomius advance in answer to this? If it is not of the Word Who was in the beginning and was God that the blessed Peter speaks, but of Him Who was 'seen,' and Who 'emptied Himself,' as Basil says, and if the man who was 'seen' 'emptied himself' to take 'the form of a servant'— Hold! Who says this, that the man who was seen emptied himself again to take the form of a servant? Or who maintains that the suffering of the Cross took place before the manifestation in the flesh? The Cross did not precede the body, nor the body the form of the servant. But God is manifested in the flesh, while the flesh that displayed God in itself, after having by itself fulfilled the great mystery of the Death, is transformed by commixture to that which is exalted and Divine, becoming Christ and Lord, being transferred and changed to that which He was, Who manifested Himself in that flesh. But if we should say this, our champion of the truth maintains once more that we say that He Who was shown upon the Cross emptied Himself to become another man, putting his sophism together as follows in its wording:— If, quoth he, the man who was 'seen' 'emptied himself' to take the 'form of a servant,' and He Who 'emptied Himself' to take the 'form of a servant,' 'emptied Himself' to come into being as man, then the man who was 'seen' 'emptied himself' to come into being as man.

How well he remembers the task before him! How much to the point is the conclusion of his argument! Basil declares that the Apostle said that the man who was seen was made Christ and Lord, and this clear and quick-witted over-turner of his statements says, If Peter does not say that the essence of Him Who was in the beginning was made, the man who was 'seen' 'emptied himself' to take the 'form of a servant,' and He Who 'emptied Himself' to take the 'form of a servant, emptied Himself to become man. We are conquered, Eunomius, by this invincible wisdom! The fact that the Apostle's discourse refers to Him Who was crucified through weakness 2 Corinthians 13:4 is forsooth powerfully disproved when we learn that if we believe this to be so, the man who was seen again becomes another, emptying Himself for another coming into being of man. Will you never cease jesting against what should be secure from such attempts? will you not blush at destroying by such ridiculous sophisms the awe that hedges the Divine mysteries? will you not turn now, if never before, to know that the Only-begotten God, Who is in the bosom of the Father, being Word, and King, and Lord, and all that is exalted in word and thought, needs not to become anything that is good, seeing that He is Himself the fullness of all good things? What then is that, by changing into which He becomes what He was not before? Well, as He Who knew not sin becomes sin , that He may take away the sin of the world, so on the other hand the flesh which received the Lord becomes Christ and Lord, being transformed by the commixture into that which it was not by nature: whereby we learn that neither would God have been manifested in the flesh, had not the Word been made flesh, nor would the human flesh that compassed Him about have been transformed to what is Divine, had not that which was apparent to the senses become Christ and Lord. But they treat the simplicity of what we preach with contempt, who use their syllogisms to trample on the being of God, and desire to show that He Who by creation brought into being all things that are, is Himself a part of creation, and wrest, to assist them in such an effort to establish their blasphemy, the words of Peter, who said to the Jews, Be it known to all the house of Israel that God made Him Lord and Christ, this Jesus Whom you crucified Acts 2:36 . This is the proof they present for the statement that the essence of the Only-begotten God is created! What? Tell me, were the Jews, to whom the words were spoken, in existence before the ages? Was the Cross before the world? Was Pilate before all creation? Was Jesus in existence first, and after that the Word? Was the flesh more ancient than the Godhead? Did Gabriel bring glad tidings to Mary before the world was? Did not the Man that was in Christ take beginning by way of birth in the days of Cæsar Augustus, while the Word that was God in the beginning is our King, as the prophet testifies, before all ages ? See you not what confusion you bring upon the matter, turning, as the phrase goes, things upside down? It was the fiftieth day after the Passion, when Peter preached his sermon to the Jews and said, Him Whom you crucified, God made Christ and Lord. Do you not mark the order of his saying? Which stands first, which second in his words? He did not say, Him Whom God made Lord, you crucified, but, Whom you crucified, Him God made Christ and Lord: so that it is clear from this that Peter is speaking, not of what was before the ages, but of what was after the dispensation.

How comes it, then, that you fail to see that the whole conception of your argument on the subject is being overthrown, and go on making yourself ridiculous with your childish web of sophistry, saying that, if we believe that He who was apparent to the senses has been made by God to be Christ and Lord, it necessarily follows that the Lord once more emptied Himself anew to become Man, and underwent a second birth? What advantage does your doctrine get from this? How does what you say show the King of creation to be created? For my own part I assert on the other side that our view is supported by those who contend against us, and that the rhetorician, in his exceeding attention to the matter, has failed to see that in pushing, as he supposed, the argument to an absurdity, he is fighting on the side of those whom he attacks, with the very weapons he uses for their overthrow. For if we are to believe that the change of condition in the case of Jesus was from a lofty state to a lowly one, and if the Divine and uncreated Nature alone transcends the creation, he will, perhaps, when he thoroughly surveys his own argument, come over to the ranks of truth, and agree that the Uncreated came to be in the created, in His love for man. But if he imagines that he demonstrates the created character of the Lord by showing that He, being God, took part in human nature, he will find many such passages to establish the same opinion which carry out their support of his argument in a similar way. For since He was the Word and was God, and afterwards, as the prophet says, was seen upon earth and conversed with men Baruch 3:37, He will hereby be proved to be one of the creatures! And if this is held to be beside the question, similar passages too are not quite akin to the subject. For in sense it is just the same to say that the Word that was in the beginning was manifested to men through the flesh, and to say that being in the form of God He put on the form of a servant: and if one of these statements gives no help for the establishment of his blasphemy, he must needs give up the remaining one also. He is kind enough, however, to advise us to abandon our error, and to point out the truth which He himself maintains. He tells us that the Apostle Peter declares Him to have been made Who was in the beginning the Word and God. Well, if he were making up dreams for our amusement, and giving us information about the prophetic interpretation of the visions of sleep, there might be no risk in allowing him to set forth the riddles of his imagination at his pleasure. But when he tells us that he is explaining the Divine utterances, it is no longer safe for us to leave him to interpret the words as he likes. What does the Scripture say? God made Lord and Christ this Jesus whom you crucified Acts 2:36 . When everything, then, is found to concur— the demonstrative word denoting Him Who is spoken of by the Name of His Humanity, the charge against those who were stained with blood-guiltiness, the suffering of the Cross— our thought necessarily turns to that which was apparent to the senses. But he asserts that while Peter uses these words it is the pretemporal existence that is indicated by the word made. Well, we may safely allow nurses and old wives to jest with children, and to lay down the meaning of dreams as they choose: but when inspired Scripture is set before us for exposition, the great Apostle forbids us to have recourse to old wives' tattle. When I hear the Cross spoken of, I understand the Cross, and when I hear mention of a human name, I understand the nature which that name connotes. So when I hear from Peter that this one was made Lord and Christ, I do not doubt that he speaks of Him Who had been before the eyes of men, since the saints agree with one another in this matter as well as in others. For, as he says that He Who was crucified has been made Lord, so Paul also says that He was highly exalted , after the Passion and the Resurrection, not being exalted in so far forth as He is God. For what height is there more sublime than the Divine height, that he should say God was exalted thereunto? But he means that the lowliness of the Humanity was exalted, the word, I suppose, indicating the assimilation and union of the Man Who was assumed to the exalted state of the Divine Nature. And even if one were to allow him licence to misinterpret the Divine utterance, not even so will his argument conclude in accordance with the aim of his heresy. For be it granted that Peter does say of Him Who was in the beginning, God made Him Lord and Christ, this Jesus Whom you crucified, we shall find that even so his blasphemy does not gain any strength against the truth. God made Him, he says, Lord and Christ. To which of the words are we to refer the word made? with which of those that are employed in this sentence are we to connect the word? There are three before us:— this, and Lord, and Christ. With which of these three will he construct the word made? No one is so bold against the truth as to deny that made has reference to Christ and Lord; for Peter says that He, being already whatever He was, was made Christ and Lord by the Father.

These words are not mine: they are those of him who fights against the Word. For he says, in the very passage that is before us for examination, exactly thus:— The blessed Peter speaks of Him Who was in the beginning and was God, and expounds to us that it was He Who became Lord and Christ. Eunomius, then, says that He Who was whatsoever He was became Lord and Christ, as the history of David tells us that he, being the son of Jesse, and a keeper of the flocks, was anointed to be king: not that the anointing then made him to be a man, but that he, being what he was by his own nature, was transformed from an ordinary man to a king. What follows? Is it thereby the more established that the essence of the Son was made, if, as Eunomius says, God made Him, when He was in the beginning and was God, both Lord and Christ? For Lordship is not a name of His being but of His being in authority, and the appellation of Christ indicates His kingdom, while the idea of His kingdom is one, and that of His Nature another. Suppose that Scripture does say that these things took place with regard to the Son of God. Let us then consider which is the more pious and the more rational view. Which can we allowably say is made partaker of superiority by way of advancement— God or man? Who has so childish a mind as to suppose that the Divinity passes on to perfection by way of addition? But as to the Human Nature, such a supposition is not unreasonable, seeing that the words of the Gospel clearly ascribe to our Lord increase in respect of His Humanity: for it says, Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and favour. Which, then, is the more reasonable suggestion to derive from the Apostle's words?— that He Who was God in the beginning became Lord by way of advancement, or that the lowliness of the Human Nature was raised to the height of majesty as a result of its communion with the Divine? For the prophet David also, speaking in the person of the Lord, says, I am established as king by Him , with a meaning very close to I was made Christ: and again, in the person of the Father to the Lord, he says, Be Lord in the midst of Your enemies , with the same meaning as Peter, Be made Lord of Your enemies. As, then, the establishment of His kingdom does not signify the formation of His essence, but the advance to His dignity, and He Who bids Him be Lord does not command that which is non-existent to come into being at that particular time, but gives to Him Who is the rule over those who are disobedient—so also the blessed Peter, when he says that one has been made Christ (that is, king of all) adds the word Him to distinguish the idea both from the essence and from the attributes contemplated in connection with it. For He made Him what has been declared when He already was that which He is. Now if it were allowable to assert of the transcendent Nature that it became anything by way of advancement, as a king from being an ordinary man, or lofty from being lowly, or Lord from being servant, it might be proper to apply Peter's words to the Only-begotten. But since the Divine Nature, whatever it is believed to be, always remains the same, being above all augmentation and incapable of diminution, we are absolutely compelled to refer his saying to the Humanity. For God the Word is now, and always remains, that which He was in the beginning, always King, always Lord, always God and Most High, not having become any of these things by way of advancement, but being in virtue of His Nature all that He is declared to be, while on the other hand He Who was, by being assumed, elevated from Man to the Divinity, being one thing and becoming another, is strictly and truly said to have become Christ and Lord. For He made Him to be Lord from being a servant, to be King from being a subject, to be Christ from being in subordination. He highly exalted that which was lowly, and gave to Him that had the Human Name that Name which is above every name. And thus came to pass that unspeakable mixture and conjunction of human littleness commingled with Divine greatness, whereby even those names which are great and Divine are properly applied to the Humanity, while on the other hand the Godhead is spoken of by human names. For it is the same Person who both has the Name which is above every name, and is worshipped by all creation in the human Name of Jesus. For he says, at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. But enough of these matters.

About this page

Source. Translated by H.A. Wilson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 5. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1893.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/290106.htm>.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

Copyright © 2009 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

CONTACT US