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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

St Athanasius Against the Arians: That the Son is eternal and increate

That the Son is eternal and increate

These attributes, being the points in dispute, are first proved by direct texts
of Scripture. Concerning the "eternal power" of God in Rom. i. 20, which
is shewn to mean the Son. Remarks on the Arian formula, "Once the Son
was not," its supporters not daring to speak of "a time when the Son was not."
§ 11.

1. AT his suggestion then ye have maintained and ye think, that "there was once when the Son was not;" this is the first cloke of your views of doctrine which has to be stripped off. Say then what was once when the Son was not, O slanderous and irreligious men [Note A]? If ye say the Father, your blasphemy is but greater; for it is impious to say that He was "once," or to signify Him by the word "once." For He is ever, and is now, and as the Son is, so is He, and is Himself He that is, and Father of the Son. But if ye say that the Son was once, when He Himself was not, the answer is foolish and unmeaning. For how could He both be and not be? In this difficulty, you can but answer, that there was a time, when the Word was not; for your very adverb "once" naturally signifies this. And your other, "The Son was not before his generation," is equivalent to saying, "There was once when He was not," for both the one and the other signify that there is a time before the Word.

2. Whence then this your discovery? Why do ye, as the heathen rage, and imagine vain words against the Lord and {196} against His Christ [Ps. ii. 1.]? for no holy Scripture has used such language of the Saviour, but rather "always" and "eternal" and "co-existent always with the Father." For, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [John i. 1.]. And in the Apocalypse he [Note B] thus speaks; Who is and who was and who is to come [Apoc. i. 4.]. Now who can rob "who is" and "who was" of eternity? This too in confutation of the Jews hath Paul written in his Epistle to the Romans, Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever [Rom. ix. 5.]; while silencing the Greeks, he has said, The visible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal Power and Godhead [Ib. i. 20.]; and what the Power of God is [Note C], he teaches us elsewhere himself, Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God [1 Cor. i. 24.]. Surely in these words he does not designate the Father, as ye often whisper one to another, affirming that the Father is His eternal power. This is not so; for he says not, "God Himself is the power," but "His is the power." Very plain is it to all that "His" is not "He;" yet not something alien but rather proper to Him.
§ 12.
3. Study too the context and turn to the Lord [2 Cor. iii. 16, 17.]; now the Lord is that Spirit [Note D]; and ye will see that it is the Son who {197} is signified. For after making mention of the creation, he naturally speaks of the Framer's Power as seen in it, which Power, I say, is the Word of God, by whom all things were made. If indeed the creation is sufficient of itself alone, without the Son, to make God known, see that you fall not into the further opinion that without the Son it came to be. But if through the Son it came to be, and in Him all things consist [Col. i. 17.], it must follow that he who contemplates the creation rightly, is contemplating also the Word who framed it, and through Him begins to apprehend the Father [Note 1]. And if, as the Saviour also says, No one knoweth the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him [Matt. xi. 27.], and if on Philip's asking, Shew us the Father [John xiv. 8. 9.], He said not, "Behold the creation," but, He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father, reasonably doth Paul, while accusing the Greeks of contemplating the harmony and order of the creation without reflecting on the Framing Word within it; (for the creatures witness to their own Framer;) and wishing that through the creation they might apprehend the true God, and abandon their worship of it, reasonably hath he said, His Eternal Power and Godhead [Rom. i. 20.], thereby signifying the Son.
4. And where the sacred writers say, "Who exists before the ages," and By whom He made the ages [Heb. i. 2.], they thereby as clearly preach the eternal and everlasting being of the Son, even while they are designating God Himself. Thus, if Esaias says, The Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth [Is. xl. 28.]; and Susanna said, O Everlasting God [Hist. Sus. 42.]; and {198} Baruch wrote, I will cry unto the Everlasting in my days, and shortly after, My hope is in the Everlasting, that He will save you, and joy is come unto me from the Holy One [Bar. iv. 20, 22.]; yet forasmuch as the Apostle, writing to the Hebrews, says, Who being the radiance of His glory and the Expression of His Person [Heb. i. 3.]; and David too in the eighty-ninth Psalm, And the brightness of the Lord be upon us [Ps. xc. 17.], and, In Thy Light shall we see Light [Ib. xxxvi. 9.], who has so little sense as to doubt of the eternity of time Son [Note 2]? for when did man see light without the brightness of its radiance, that he may say of the Son, "There was once, when He was not," or "Before His generation He was not."
5. And the words addressed to the Son in the hundred and forty-fourth Psalm, Thy kingdom is a kingdom of all ages [Ps. cxlv. 13.], forbid any one to imagine any interval at all in which the Word did not exist. For if every interval is measured by ages, and of all the ages [Note 3] the Word is King and Maker, therefore, whereas no interval at all exists prior to Him [Note E], it were madness to say, "There was once when the Everlasting [Note 4] was not," and "From nothing is the Son."
6. And whereas the Lord himself says, I am the Truth [John xiv. 6.], not "I became the Truth;" but always, I am,—I am the Shepherd [Ib. x. 14.],—I am the Light [Ib. viii. 12.],—and again, Call ye me not, Lord and Master? and call ye Me well, for so I am [Ib. xiii. 13.], who, hearing such language from God, and Wisdom, and Word of the Father, speaking of Himself, will any longer hesitate about its truth, and not forthwith believe that in the phrase I am, is signified that the Son is eternal and unoriginate?
§ 13.
7. It is plain then from the above that the Scriptures declare the Son's eternity; it is equally plain from what follows that the Arian phrases "He was not," and "before" and "when," are in the same Scriptures predicated of creatures. Moses, for instance, in his account of the generation of our system, says, And every plant of the field, before it was in the {199} earth, and every herb of the field before it grew; for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground [Gen. ii. 5.]. And in Deuteronomy, When the Most High divided to the nations [Deut. xxxii. 8.]. And the Lord said in His own Person [Note 5], If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice because I said, I go unto the Father, for My Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass, ye might believe [John xiv. 28, 29.]. And concerning the creation He says by Solomon, Or ever the earth was, when there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth [Prov. viii. 23.]. And, Before Abraham was, I am [John 58.]. And concerning Jeremias He says, Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee [Jer. i. 5.]. And David in the Psalm says, Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made, Thou art God from everlasting and world without end [Ps. xc. 2.]. And in Daniel, Susanna cried out with a loud voice and said, O everlasting God, that knowest the secrets, and knowest all things before they be [Hist. Sus. 42.]. Thus it appears that the phrases "once was not," and "before it came to be," and "when," and the like, belong to things generate and creatures, which come out of nothing, but are alien to the Word. But if such terms are used in Scripture of things generate, but, "ever" of the Word, it follows, O ye God's enemies, that the Son did not come out of nothing, nor is in the number of generated things at all, but is the Father's Image and Word eternal, never having not been, but being ever, as the eternal Radiance [Note 6] of a Light which is eternal. Why imagine then times before the Son? or wherefore blaspheme the Word as after times, by whom even the ages were made [Note 7]? for how did time or age at all subsist when the Word, as you say, had not appeared, through whom all things were made and without whom not one thing was made [John i. 3.]? Or why, when you mean time, do you not plainly say, "a time was when the Word was not?" but you drop the word "time" to deceive the simple, why you do not at all conceal your own feeling, nor, even if you did, could you escape discovery. For you still simply mean times, when you say, "There was when He was not," and "He was not before His generation." {200}