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CHAPTER VRejection of the Opinion of Sabellius concerning the Son of God884884Sabellius, an African from the neighbourhood of Cyrene, in the early third century, an anti-Trinitarian, taught that one and the same divine Being as giving the Old Law was called the Father, as born of Mary was called the Son, as given to the Apostles was called the Holy Ghost, so that there were three manifestations, but not what we should call three Persons; and that when God was under one of these manifestations, He was not under either of the other two.

BECAUSE it is a fixed idea in the mind of all who think rightly of God, that there can be but one God by nature, some, conceiving from the Scriptures the belief that Christ is truly and by nature God and the Son of God, have confessed that Christ, the Son of God, and God the Father are one God; and yet have not allowed that there was any ‘God the Son,’ so called according to His nature from eternity, but have held that God received the denomination of Sonship from the time that He was born of the Virgin Mary. Thus all things that Christ suffered in the flesh they attributed to God the Father. This was the opinion of the Sabellans, who were also called ‘Patripassians,’ because they asserted that the Father had suffered, and that the Father Himself was Christ. The peculiarity of this doctrine was 344the tenet that the term ‘Son of God’ does not denote any existing Person, but a property supervening upon a pre-existing Person.

The falsity of this position is manifest from Scripture authority. For Christ in the Scriptures is not only called the Son of the Virgin, but also the Son of God. But it cannot be that the same person should be son of himself, or that the same should give existence and receive it. We observe also that after the Incarnation the Father gives testimony of the Son: This is my beloved Son (Matt. iii, 17): thereby pointing to His person. Christ therefore is in person other than His Father.885885St Athanasius (Expos. fidei, II) tells us that Sabellius expressed his heresy in a word of his own coining, υἱοπάτωρ, Son-Father.


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