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Chapter XXIV.—Texts Explained; Eighthly, John xvii. 3. and the Like. Our Lord’s divinity cannot interfere with His Father’s prerogatives, as the One God, which were so earnestly upheld by the Son. ‘One’ is used in contrast to false gods and idols, not to the Son, through whom the Father spoke. Our Lord adds His Name to the Father’s, as included in Him. The Father the First, not as if the Son were not First too, but as Origin.
7. Now that this is the sense of the Prophet is clear and manifest to all; but since the irreligious men, alleging such passages also, dishonour the Lord and reproach us, saying, ‘Behold God is said to be One and Only and First; how say ye that the Son is God? for if He were God, He had not said, “I Alone,” nor “God is One28452845 Deut. xxxii. 39; vi. 4, &c.;”’ it is necessary to declare the sense of these phrases in addition, as far as we can, that all may know from this also that the Arians are really contending with God28462846 θεομάχοι. vid. Acts v. 39.. If there then is rivalry of the Son towards the Father, then be such words uttered against Him; and if according to what is said to David concerning Adonijah and Absalom28472847 2 Sam. xv. 13; 1 Kings i. 11., so also the Father looks upon the Son, then let Him utter and urge such words against Himself, lest He the Son, calling Himself God, make any to revolt from the Father. But if he who knows the Son, on the contrary, knows the Father, the Son Himself revealing Him to him, and in the Word he shall rather see the Father, as has been said, and if the Son on coming, glorified not Himself but the Father, saying to one who came to Him, ‘Why callest thou Me good? none is good save One, that is, God28482848 Luke xviii. 19, and vid. Basil. Ep. 236, 1.;’ and to one who asked, what was the great commandment in the Law, answering, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord28492849 Mark xii. 29.;’ and saying to the multitudes, ‘I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me28502850 John vi. 38; xiv. 28.;’ and teaching the disciples, ‘My Father is greater than I,’ and ‘He that honoureth Me, honoureth Him that sent Me28512851 John v. 23, cf. xiii. 20.;’ if the Son is such towards His own Father, what is the difficulty28522852 §58, note., that one must need take such a view of such passages? and on the other hand, if the Son is the Father’s Word, who is so wild, besides these Christ-opposers, as to think that God has thus spoken, as traducing and denying His own Word? This is not the mind of Christians; perish the thought; for not with reference to the Son is it thus written, but for the denial of those falsely called gods, invented by men.
8. And this account of the meaning of such passages is satisfactory; for since those who are devoted to gods falsely so called, revolt from the True God, therefore God, being good and careful for mankind, recalling the wanderers, says, ‘I am Only God,’ and ‘I Am,’ and ‘Besides Me there is no God,’ and the like; that He may condemn things which are not, and may convert all men to Himself. And as, supposing in the daytime when the sun was shining, a man were rudely to paint a piece of wood, which had not even the appearance of light, and call that image the cause of light, and if the sun with regard to it were to say, ‘I alone am the light of the day, and there is no other light of the day but I,’ he would say this, with regard, not to his own radiance, but to the error arising from the wooden image and the dissimilitude of that vain representation; so it is with ‘I am,’ and ‘I am Only God,’ and ‘There is none other besides Me,’ viz. that He may make men renounce falsely called gods, and that they may recognise Him the true God 398instead. Indeed when God said this, He said it through His own Word, unless forsooth the modern28532853 οἱ νῦν, cf. Or. ii. 1, note 6, and Hist. Ar. 61, fin. Jews add this too, that He has not said this through His Word; but so hath He spoken, though they rave, these followers of the devil28542854 διαβολικοί. vid. supr. p. 187, and de Decr. 5, note 2. vid. also Orat. ii. 38, a. 73, a. 74 init. Ep. Æg. 4 and 6. In the passage before us there seems an allusion to false accusation or lying, which is the proper meaning of the word; διαβάλλων occurs shortly before. And so in Apol. ad Const. when he calls Magnentius διάβολος, it is as being a traitor, 7. and soon after he says that his accuser was τὸν διαβόλου πρόπον ἀναλαβών, where the word has no article, and διαβέβλημαι and διεβλήθην have preceded. vid. also Hist. Ar. 52 fin. And so in Sent. D. his speaking of the Arians’ ‘father the devil,’ 3, c. is explained 4, b. by τοὺς πατέρας διαβαλλόντων and τῆς εἰς τὸν ἐπίσκοπον διαβολῆς.. For the Word of the Lord came to the Prophet, and this was what was heard; nor is there a thing which God says or does, but He says and does it in the Word. Not then with reference to Him is this said, O Christ’s enemies, but to things foreign to Him and not from28552855 παρά, vid. §24 end, and John xv. 26 Him. For according to the aforesaid illustration, if the sun had spoken those words, he would have been setting right the error and have so spoken, not as having his radiance without him, but in the radiance shewing his own light. Therefore not for the denial of the Son, nor with reference to Him, are such passages, but to the overthrow of falsehood. Accordingly God spoke not such words to Adam at the beginning, though His Word was with Him, by whom all things came to be; for there was no need, before idols came in; but when men made insurrection against the truth and named for themselves gods such as they would28562856 οὓς ἤθελον, infr. §10, n. 1., then it was that need arose of such words, for the denial of gods that were not. Nay I would add, that they were said even in anticipation of the folly of these Christ-opposers28572857 Who worship one whom they themselves call a creature, vid. supr. Or. i. 8, n. 8, ii. 14, n. 7, 21, n. 2, and below, §16 notes., that they might know, that whatsoever god they devise external to the Father’s Essence, he is not True God, nor Image and Son of the Only and First.
9. If then the Father be called the only true God, this is said not to the denial of Him who said, ‘I am the Truth28582858 John xiv. 6.,’ but of those on the other hand who by nature are not true, as the Father and His Word are. And hence the Lord Himself added at once, ‘And Jesus Christ whom Thou didst send28592859 Ib. xvii. 3..’ Now had He been a creature, He would not have added this, and ranked Himself with His Creator (for what fellowship is there between the True and the not true?); but as it is, by adding Himself to the Father, He has shewn that He is of the Father’s nature; and He has given us to know that of the True Father He is True Offspring. And John too, as he had learned28602860 μαθὼν ἐδίδαξε, de Decr. 7, n. 8; Or. ii. 1, note 6a., so he teaches this, writing in his Epistle, ‘And we are in the True, even in His Son Jesus Christ; This is the True God and eternal life28612861 1 John v. 20..’ And when the Prophet says concerning the creation, ‘That stretcheth forth the heavens alone28622862 Isai. xliv. 24.,’ and when God says, ‘I only stretch out the heavens,’ it is made plain to every one, that in the Only is signified also the Word of the Only, in whom ‘all things were made,’ and without whom ‘was made not one thing.’ Therefore, if they were made through the Word, and yet He says, ‘I Only,’ and together with that Only is understood the Son, through whom the heavens were made, so also then, if it be said, ‘One God,’ and ‘I Only,’ and ‘I the First,’ in that One and Only and First is understood the Word coexisting, as in the Light the Radiance. And this can be understood of no other than the Word alone. For all other things subsisted out of nothing through the Son, and are greatly different in nature; but the Son Himself is natural and true Offspring from the Father; and thus the very passage which these insensates have thought fit to adduce, ‘I the First,’ in defence of their heresy, doth rather expose their perverse spirit. For God says, ‘I the First and I the Last;’ if then, as though ranked with the things after Him, He is said to be first of them, so that they come next to Him, then certainly you will have shewn that He Himself precedes the works in time only28632863 He says that in ‘I the first’ the question of time does not come in, else creatures would come ‘second’ to the Creator, as if His and their duration admitted of a common measure. ‘First’ then does not imply succession, but is equivalent to ἀρχή; a word which, as ‘Father,’ does not imply that the Son is not from eternity.; which, to go no further, is extreme irreligion; but if it is in order to prove that He is not from any, nor any before Him, but that He is Origin and Cause of all things, and to destroy the Gentile fables, that He has said ‘I the First,’ it is plain also, that when the Son is called First-born, this is done not for the sake of ranking Him with the creation, but to prove the framing and adoption of all things28642864 ii. 62, n. 2. through the Son. For as the Father is First, so also is He both First28652865 It is no inconsistency to say that the Father is first, and the Son first also, for comparison or number does not enter into mystery. Since Each is ὅλος θεὸς, Each, as contemplated by our finite reason, at the moment of contemplation excludes the Other. Though we ‘say’ Three Persons, Person hardly denotes one abstract ‘idea,’ certainly not as containing under it three individual subjects, but it is a ‘term’ applied to the One God in three ways. It is the doctrine of the Fathers, that, though we use words expressive of a Trinity, yet that God is beyond number, and that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, though eternally distinct from each other, can scarcely be viewed together in common, except as ‘One’ substance, as if they could not be generalized into Three Any whatever; and as if it were, strictly speaking, incorrect to speak of ‘a’ Person, or otherwise than of ‘the’ Person, whether of Father, or of Son, or of Spirit. The question has almost been admitted by S. Austin, whether it is not possible to say that God is ‘One’ Person (Trin. vii. 8), for He is wholly and entirely Father, and at the same time wholly and entirely Son, and wholly and entirely Holy Ghost. Some references to the Fathers shall be given on that subject, infr. 36 fin. vid. also supr. §6, n. 11. Meanwhile the doctrine here stated will account for such expressions as ‘God from God,’ i.e. the One God (who is the Son) from the One God (who is the Father); vid. supr. de Syn. 52, note 8. Again, ἡ οὐσία αὕτη τῆς οὐσίας τῆς πατρικῆς ἐστὶ γέννημα. de Syn. 48, b. Vid. also infr. Orat. iv. 1 and 2., as 399Image of the First, and because the First is in Him, and also Offspring from the Father, in whom the whole creation is created and adopted into sonship.
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