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3. Results to ecclesiastical Christianity.

As we have shown, Irenæus, Tertullian, and Hippolytus had no strictly systematised theology; they formulated theological propositions because their opponents were theologians. Hence the result of their labours, so far as this was accepted by the Western Church of the third century, does not appear in the adoption of a systematic philosophical dogmatic, but in theological fragments, namely, the rule of faith fixed and interpreted in an antignostic sense.651651In addition to this, however, they definitely established within the Church the idea that there is a “Christian” view in all spheres of life and in all questions of knowledge. Christianity appears expanded to an immense, immeasurable breadth. This is also Gnosticism. Thus Tertullian, after expressing various opinions about dreams, opens the 45th chapter of his work “de anima” with the words: “Tenemur hic de somniis quoque Christianam sententiam expromere”. Alongside of the antignostic rule of faith as the “doctrine” we find the casuistic system of morality and penance (the Church “disciplina”) with its media of almsgiving, fasting, and prayer; see Cypr, de op. et eleemos., but before that Hippol., Comm. in Daniel (Ἐκκλ. Ἀληθ. 1886, p. 242): οἱ εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Θεοῦ πιστεύοντες καὶ δι᾽ ἀγαθοεργίας τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ἐξιλασκόμενοι. As yet the rule of faith and theology nowhere came into collision in the Western Churches of the third century, because Irenæus and his younger contemporaries did not themselves notice any such discrepancies, but rather imagined all their teachings to be expositions of the faith itself, and did not trouble their heads about inconsistencies. If we 313wish to form a notion as to what ideas had become universally prevalent in the Church in the middle of the third century let us compare Cyprian’s work “Testimonia”, written for a layman, with Novatian’s work “De Trinitate”.

In the “Testimonia” the doctrine of the two Testaments, as developed by Irenæus, forms the framework in which the individual dogmas are set. The doctrine of God, which should have been placed at the beginning, has been left out in this little book probably because the person addressed required no instruction on the point. Some of the dogmas already belong to philosophical theology in the strict sense of the word; in others we have merely a precise assertion of the truth of certain facts. All propositions are, however, supported by passages from the two Testaments and thereby proved.652652In the case of Irenæus, Hippolytus, and Tertullian we already find that they observe a certain order and sequence of books when advancing a detailed proof from Scripture. The theological counterpart to this is Novatian’s work “De Trinitate”. This first great Latin work that appeared in Rome is highly important. In regard to completeness, extent of Biblical proofs, and perhaps also its influence on succeeding times, it may in many respects be compared with Origen’s work περὶ ἀρχῶν. Otherwise indeed it differs as much from that work, as the sober, meagre theology of the West, devoid of philosophy and speculation, differs in general from that of the East. But it sums up in classic fashion the doctrines of Western orthodoxy, the main features of which were sketched by Tertullian in his antignostic writings and the work against Praxeas. The old Roman symbol forms the basis of the work. In accordance with this the author gives a comprehensive exposition of his doctrine of God in the first eight chapters. Chapters 9-28 form the main portion; they establish the correct Christology in opposition to the heretics who look on Christ as a mere man or as the Father himself; the Holy Scriptures furnish the material for the proofs. Chapter 29 treats of the Holy Spirit. Chapters 30 and 31 contain the recapitulation and conclusion. The whole is based on Tertullian’s treatise against Praxeas. No important argument in that work has escaped Novatian; but everything is extended, and made more systematic 314and polished. No trace of Platonism is to be found in this dogmatic; on the contrary he employs the Stoic and Aristotelian syllogistic and dialectic method used also by his Monarchian opponents. This plan together with its Biblical attitude gives the work great outward completeness and certainty. We cannot help concluding that this work must have made a deep impression wherever it was read, although the real difficulties of the matter are not at all touched upon, but veiled by distinctions and formulæ. It probably contributed not least to make Tertullian’s type of Christology the universal Western one. This type, however, as will be set forth in greater detail hereafter, already approximates closely to the resolutions of Nicæa and Chalcedon.653653It is worthy of note that there was not a single Arian ecclesiastic of note in the Novatian churches of the 4th century, so far as we know. All Novatian’s adherents, even those in the West (see Socrates’ Ecclesiastical History), were of the orthodox Nieman type. This furnishes material for reflection. Novatian adopted Tertullian’s formulæ “one substance, three persons” (“una substantia, tres personæ”), “from the substance of God” (“ex substantia dei”), “always with the Father” (“semper apud patrem”), “God and man” (“deus et homo”), “two substances” (“dux substantiæ”), “one person” (“una persona”), as well as his expressions for the union and separation of the two natures adding to them similar ones and giving them a wider extension.654654Owing to the importance of the matter we shall give several Christological and trinitarian disquisitions from the work “de trinitate”. The archaic attitude of this Christology and trinitarian doctrine is evident from the following considerations. (1) Like Tertullian, Novatian asserts that the Logos was indeed always with the Father, but that he only went forth from him at a definite period of time (for the purpose of creating the world). (2) Like Tertullian, he declares that Father, Son, and Spirit have one substance (that is, are ὁμοόυσιοι, the homoousia of itself never decides as to equality in dignity); but that the Son is subordinate and obedient to the Father and the Spirit to the Son (cc. 17, 22, 24), since they derive their origin, essence, and function from the Father (the Spirit from the Son). (3) Like Tertullian, Novatian teaches that the Son, after accomplishing his work, will again become intermingled with the Father, that is, will cease to have an independent existence (c. 31); whence we understand why the West continued so long to be favourable to Marcellus of Ancyra; see also the so-called symbol of Sardika). Apart from these points and a few others of less consequence, the work, in its formulæ, exhibits a type which remained pretty constant in the West down to the time of Augustine, or, till the adoption of Johannes Damascenus’ dogmatic. The sharp distinction between “deus” and “homo” and the use that is nevertheless made of “permixtio” and synonymous words are also specially characteristic. Cap. 9: “Christus deus dominus deus noster, sed dei filius”; c. 11: “non sic de substantia corporis ipsius exprimimus, ut solum tantum hominem illum esse dicamus, sed ut divinitate sermonis in ipsa concretione permixta etiam deum illum teneamus”; c. 11 Christ has auctoritas divina, “tam enim scriptura etiam deum adnuntiat Christum, quam etiam ipsum hominem adnuntiat deum, tam hominem descripsit Iesum Christum, quam etiam deum quoque descripsit Christum dominum.” In c. 12 the term “Immanuel” is used to designate Christ as God in a way that reminds one of Athanasius; c. 13: “præsertim cum animadvertat, scripturam evangelicam utramque istam substantiam in unam nativitatis Christi foederasse concordiam”; c. 14: “Christus ex verbi et carnis coniunctione concretus”; c. 16: “. . . ut neque homo Christo subtrahatur, neque divinitas negetur . . . utrumque in Christo confoederatum est, utrumque coniunctum est et utrumque connexum est . . . pignerata in illo divinitatis et humilitatis videtur esse concordia . . . qui mediator dei et hominum effectus exprimitur, in se deum et hominem sociasse reperitur . . . nos sermonem dei scimus indutum carnis substantiam . . . lavit substantiam corporis et materiam carnis abluens, ex parte suscepti hominis, passione”; c. 17: “. . . nisi quoniam auctoritas divini verbi ad suscipiendum hominem interim conquiescens nec se suis viribus exercens, deiicit se ad tempus atque deponit, dum hominem fert, quem suscepit”; c. 18: “. . . ut in semetipso concordiam confibularet terrenorum pariter atque cælestium, dum utriusque partis in se connectens pignora et deum homini et hominem deo copularet, ut merito filius dei per assumptionem carnis filius hominis et filius hominis per receptionem dei verbi filius dei effici possit”; c. 19: “hic est enim legitimus dei filius qui ex ipso deo est, qui, dum sanctum illud (Luke I. 35) assumit, sibi filium hominis annectit et illum ad se rapit atque transducit, connexione sua et permixtione sociata præstat et filium illum dei facit, quod ille naturaliter non fuit (Novatian’s teaching is therefore like that of the Spanish Adoptionists of the 8th century), ut principalitas nominis istius “filius dei” in spiritu sit domini, qui descendit et venit, ut sequela nominis istius in filio dei et hominis sit, et merito consequenter hic filius dei factus sit, dum non principaliter filius dei est, atque ideo dispositionem istam anhelus videns et ordinem istum sacramenti expediens non sic cuncta confundens, ut nullum vestigium distinctionis collocavit, distinctionem posuit dicendo. ‘Propterea et quod nascetur ex te sanctum vocabitur filius dei’. Ne si distributionem istam cum libramentis suis non dispensasset, sed in confuso permixtum reliquisset, vere occasionem hæreticis contulisset, ut hominis filium qua homo est, eundum et dei et hominis filium pronuntiare deberent . . . Filius dei, dum filium hominis in se suscepit, consequenter illum filium dei fecit, quoniam illum filius sibi dei sociavit et iunxit, ut, dum filius hominis adhæret in nativitate filio dei, ipsa permixtionem fœneratum et mutuatum teneret, quod ex natura propria possidere non posset. Ac si facta est angeli voce, quod nolunt hæretici, inter filium dei hominisque cum sua tamen sociatione distinctio, urgendo illos, uti Christum hominis filium hominem intelligant quoque dei filium et hominem dei filium id est dei verbum deum accipiant, atque ideo Christum Iesum dominum ex utroque connexum, et utroque contextum atque concretum et in eadem utriusque substantiæ concordia mutui ad invicem fœderis confibulatione sociatum, hominem et deum, scripturæ hoc ipsum dicentis veritate cognoscant”. c. 21: “hæretici nolunt Christum secundam esse personam post patrem, sed ipsum patrem;” c. 22: “Cum Christus ‘Ego’ dicit (John X. 30), deinde patrem infert dicendo, ‘Ego et pater’, proprietatem personæ suæ id est filii a paterna auctoritate discernit atque distinguit, non tantummodo de sono nominis, sed etiam de ordine dispositæ potestatis . . . unum enim neutraliter positum, societatis concordiam, non unitatem personæ sonat . . . unum autem quod ait, ad concordiam et eandem sententiam et ad ipsam charitatis societatem pertinet, ut merito unum sit pater et filius per concordiam et per amorem et per dilectionem. Et quoniam ex patre est, quicquid illud est, filius est, manente tamen distinctione . . . denique novit hanc concordiæ unitatem est apostolus Paulus cum personarum tamen distinctione.” (Comparison with the relationship between Paul and Apollos! “Quos personæ ratio invicem dividit, eosdem rursus invicem religionis ratio conducit; et quamvis idem atque ipsi non sint, dum idem sentiunt, ipsum sunt, et cum duo sint, unum sunt”); c. 23: “constat hominem a deo factum esse, non ex deo processisse; ex deo autem homo quomodo non processit, sic dei verbum processit”. In c. 24 it is argued that Christ existed before the creation of the world and that not merely “predestinatione”, for then he would be subsequent and therefore inferior to Adam, Abel, Enoch etc. “Sublata ergo prædestinatione quæ non est posita, in substantia fuit Christus ante mundi institutionem”; c. 31: “Est ergo deus pater omnium institutor et creator, solus originem nesciens(!), invisibilis, immensus, immortalis, æternus, unus deus(!), . . . ex quo quando ipse voluit, sermo filius natus est, qui non in sono percussi aëris aut tono coactæ de visceribus vocis accipitur, sed in substantia prolatæ a deo virtutis agnoscitur, cuius sacræ et divinæ nativitatis arcana nec apostolus didicit . . . , filio soli nota sunt, qui patris secreta cognovit. Hic ergo cum sit genitus a patre, semper est in patre. Semper autem sic dico, ut non innatum, sed natum probem; sed qui ante omne tempus est, semper in patre fuisse discendus est, nec enim tempus illi assignari potest, qui ante tempus est; semper enim in patre, ne pater non semper sit pater: quia et pater illum etiam præcedit, quod necesse est, prior sit qua pater sit. Quoniam antecedat necesse est eum, qui habet originem, ille qui originem nescit. Simul ut hic minor sit, dum in illo esse se scit habens originem quia nascitur, et per patrem quamvis originem habet qua nascitur, vicinus in nativitate, dum ex eo patre, qui solus originem non habet, nascitur . . . , substantia scilicet divina, cuius nomen est verbum . . . , deus utique procedens ex deo secundam personam efficiens, sed non eripiens illud patri quod unus est deus . . . Cuius sic divinitas traditur, ut non aut dissonantia aut inæqualitate divinitatis duos deos reddidisse videatur . . . Dum huic, qui est deus, omnia substrata traduntur et cuncta sibi subiecta filius accepta refert patri, totam divinitatis auctoritatem rursus patri remittit, unus deus ostenditur verus et æternus pater, a quo solo hæc vis divinitatis emissa, etiam in filium tradita et directa rursus per substantiæ communionem ad patrem revolvitur.” Taking his book in all we may see 315that he thereby created for the West a dogmatic vademecum, which, from its copious and well-selected quotations from Scripture, must have been of extraordinary service.

The most important articles which were now fixed and transferred 316 to the general creed along with the necessary proofs, especially in the West, were: (1) the unity of God, (2) the identity of the supreme God and the creator of the world, that is, the identity of the mediators of creation and redemption, (3) 317the identity of the supreme God with the God of the Old Testament, and the declaration that the Old Testament is God’s book of revelation, (4) the creation of the world out of nothing, (5) the unity of the human race, (6) the origin of evil from freedom, and the inalienable nature of freedom, (7) the two Testaments, (8) Christ as God and Man, the unity of his personality, the truth of his divinity, the actuality of his humanity, the reality of his fate, (9) the redemption and conclusion of a covenant through Christ as the new and crowning manifestation of God’s grace to all men, (10) the resurrection of man in soul and body. But the transmission and interpretation of these propositions, by means of which the Gnostic theses were overthrown, necessarily involved the transmission of the Logos doctrine; for the doctrine of the revelation of God and of the two Testaments could not have prevailed without this theory. How this hypothesis gained acceptance in the course of the third century, and how it was the means of establishing and legitimising philosophical theology as part of the faith, will be shown in the seventh chapter. We may remark in conclusion that the religious hope which looked forward to an earthly kingdom of Christ was still the more widely diffused among the Churches of the third century;655655If I am not mistaken, the production or adaptation of Apocalypses did indeed abate in the third century, but acquired fresh vigour in the 4th, though at the same time allowing greater scope to the influence of heathen literature (including romances as well as hagiographical literature). but that the other hope, viz., that of being deified, was gaining adherents more and more. The latter result was due to men’s increasing indifference to daily life and growing aspiration after a higher one, a longing that was moreover nourished among the more cultured by the philosophy which was steadily gaining ground. The hope of deification is the expression of the idea that this world and human nature do not correspond to that exalted world which man has built up within his own mind and which he may reasonably demand to be realised, because it is only in it that he can come to himself. The fact that Christian teachers like Theophilus, Irenæus, and Hippolytus expressly declared this to be a legitimate Christian hope and held out a sure prospect of its fulfilment 318through Christ, must have given the greatest impulse to the spread and adoption of this ecclesiastical Christianity. But, when the Christian religion was represented as the belief in the incarnation of God and as the sure hope of the deification of man, a speculation that had originally never got beyond the fringe of religious knowledge was made the central point of the system and the simple content of the Gospel was obscured.656656I did not care to appeal more frequently to the Sibylline oracles either in this or the preceding chapter, because the literary and historical investigation of these writings has not yet made such progress as to justify one in using it for the history of dogma. It is well known that the oracles contain rich materials in regard to the doctrine of God, Christology, conceptions of the history of Jesus, and eschatology; but, apart from the old Jewish oracles, this material belongs to several centuries and has not yet been reliably sifted.


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