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CHAPTER VIIIExplanation of the Texts which Arius used to allege for himself

THAT they may know thee, the only true God (John xvii, 3) is not to be taken to mean that the Father alone is true God, as though the Son were not true God, but that the one sole true Godhead belongs to the Father, without however the Son being excluded from it. Hence John, interpreting these words of the Lord, attributes to the true Son both these titles which here our Lord ascribes to His Father: That we may know the true God, and be in his true Son Jesus Christ: this is the true God and life everlasting (1 John v, 20).891891The text in the Epistle evidently points to that in the Gospel. The question is whether it outruns the Gospel in explicitness, as St Thomas argues, or keeps close within the textual lines of the former writing. The Vulgate, which St Thomas follows, differs from the Greek text in three particulars. (a) For the true God, the Greek is simply τὸν ἀληθινόν, him who is true. (b) For and be, the Greek is καὶ ἐσμέν, and we are. (c) For in his true Son, the Greek is ἐν τῷ ἀληθινῷ, ἐν τῷ ὑιῷ αὐτοῦ, in him who is true, in his Son. The literal rendering of the Greek, et sumus in vero, in filio ejus, would easily slip into the present Vulgate, et sumus in vero, filio ejus. Critically, the Greek is the true reading. It means, ‘and we are united with Him who is true, by being united with His Son,’ or, ‘through His Son.’ But in the next clause, Hic est verus Deus, what is the antecedent of the pronoun this? The Fathers, in controversy with the Arians, refer the pronoun to his Son Jesus Christ. Others take the clause for a summing of and repetition of what has been said, much in the manner of St John. They refer the pronoun οὗτος therefore to τὸν ἀληθινόν and τῷ ἀληθινῷ, him who is true. They point to the next clause, Keep yourselves from idols, and will have it that St John is not occupied here with the divinity of the Son, but with the divinity of the one true God in contradiction with idols, by worshipping which the whole world then lay in the power of the evil one. A Catholic’s faith in the divinity of his Lord is not all staked on one pronoun. He can afford to be just, or even generous, to an Arian. But even though the Son had confessed that the Father alone is true God, He should not for that be understood Himself as Son to be excluded from Godhead; for since the Father and the Son are one God, whatever is said of the Father by reason of His Divinity is as though it were said of the Son, and conversely. Thus the Lord’s saying: No one knoweth the Son but the Father, nor does any one know the Father but the Son (Matt. xi, 27), is not to be understood as excluding the Father from knowledge of Himself, or the Son either.


2. In the text, Whom in his own time he will show forth, who is blessed and alone powerful, King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Tim.. vi, 15), it is not the Father that is named, but that which is common to the Father and the Son. For that the Son also is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, is manifestly shown in the text: He was clad in a garment sprinkled with blood, and his name was called, the Word of God: and he hath on his garment and on his thigh written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Apoc. xix, 13, 16).

3. The sense of the text, the Father is greater than I (John xiv, 28), is taught us by the Apostle (Phil. ii, 6). For since ‘greater’ is relative to ‘less,’ this must be understood of the Son according as He is made less; and He was made less in His taking the form of a servant, yet withal being equal to God the Father in the form of God. And no wonder if on this account the Father is said to be greater than Him, since the Apostle says that He was even made less than the angels: That Jesus, who was made a little less than the angels, we have seen crowned with glory and honour for his suffering of death (Heb. ii, 9.: cf. Ps. viii, 4-6).

4. Then the Son also himself shall be subject to him who subjected to him all things.892892For a detailed study of this glorious passage, 1 Cor. xv, 24-25, see Notes on St Paul pp. 121-124. The context here shows that this is to be understood of Christ as man: for as man He died, and as man He rose again: but in His divinity, doing all things that the Father does (John v, 19), He too has subjected to Himself all things: for we look for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will reform the body of our lowliness, made conformable to the body of his glory, by the act of his power of subjecting all things to himself (Phil. iii, 20).

5. By the Father being said to give to the Son (John iii, 35: Matt. xi, 27), nothing else is understood than the generation of the Son, whereby the Father has given the Son His own nature And this may be gathered from the consideration of that which is given: for the Lord says: That which my Father hath given me is greater than all (John x, 29): where that which is greater than all is the divine nature, wherein the Son is equal to the Father.893893So the text is explained by SS. Hilary, Ambrose and Augustine. But from passages in the same gospel, where the phrase That which my Father hath given me recurs (John vi, 37, 39: xvii, 2, 11, 12, 24: xviii, 9), it is argued to mean the elect. The meaning then would be: ‘The elect are stronger than all the world beside,’ — the sentiment of 1 John v, 4: All that is born of God overcometh the world. In this interpretation, our Lord speaks, not as the Eternal Son, but as Man and Redeemer: in which capacity many understand him to speak also in the other passages, John iii, 35: Matt. xi, 27.

6. Hence it appears how the Son is said to be taught (John v, 20: xv, 15), although He is not ignorant. It has been shown above that, in God, understanding and being are the same (B. I, Chap. XLV): hence the communication of the divine nature is also a communication of intelligence. But a communication of intelligence may be called a ’showing,’ or ’speaking,’ or ‘teaching.’ By the fact, then, of the Son having received the divine nature of His Father at His birth, He is said to have ‘heard’ from His Father, or the Father to have ’shown’ Him: not that the Son was in ignorance before, and afterwards the Father taught Him: for the Apostle confesses Christ the power of God and wisdom of God (1 Cor. i, 24); and wisdom cannot be ignorant, or power weak.

7. The text, The Son cannot do anything of himself (John v, 19), argues no weakness in the Son; but since with God to act is no other thing than to be, it is here said that the Son cannot act of Himself, but has His action of the Father, as He cannot be of Himself, but only of the Father. Were He to be ‘of Himself,’ He could not be the Son. But because the Son receives 348the same nature that the Father has, and consequently the same power, therefore though He neither is ‘of Himself’ (a se) nor acts of Himself, still He is ‘by Himself’ (per se) and acts by Himself, since He at once is by His own nature, which He has received from the Father, and acts by His own nature received from the Father.894894This is the usual style of the Fathers and of St Paul, appropriating ἐξ to the Father and διά to the Son, 1 Cor. viii, 6: Rom. xi, 36. Hence, to show that though the Son does not act ‘of Himself,’ nevertheless He acts ‘by Himself,’ the verse goes on: Whatsoever things he (the Father) doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner.

8. All the texts about the Father giving commandment to the Son, and the Son obeying the Father, or praying to the Father, are to be understood of the Son as He is subject to His Father, which is only in point of the humanity which He has assumed (John xiv, 31: xv, 10: Phil. ii, 8), as the Apostle shows (Heb. v, 7: Gal. iv, 4).

10. His saying, To sit on my right or left hand is not mine to give you, but to them for whom it is prepared (Matt. xx, 23), does not show that the Son has no power of distributing the seats in heaven, or the participation of life everlasting, which He expressly says does belong to Him to bestow: I give them life everlasting (John x, 27); and again it is said: The Father hath given all judgement to the Son (John v, 22): He will set the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left (Matt. xxv, 33): it belongs then to the power of the Son to set any one on His right or on His left, whether both designations mark different degrees of glory; or the one refers to glory, the other to punishment. We must look to the context, whereby it appears that the mother of the sons of Zebedee rested on some confidence of kindred with the man Christ.895895The ‘kindred’ is not easy to trace: but on John xix, 25, some take his mother’s sister to be the mother of the sons of Zebedee of Matt. xxvii, 56, i.e., Salome, Mark xv, 40. If there was not kindred, there was certainly friendship, which is enough for the argument. The Lord then by His answer did not mean that it was not in His power to give what was asked, but that it was not in His power to give to them for whom it was asked:896896This would emphasise the pronoun, to give TO YOU. Unfortunately that pronoun is absent in the Greek, which may be rendered: It is not mine to give: it is only for them for whom it is prepared. We may perhaps accommodate St Thomas thus: ‘It is not in my power to give on the title on which it is asked,’ — namely the title of personal friendship and family connexion. for it did not belong to Him to give inasmuch as He was the Son of the Virgin, but inasmuch as He was the Son of God; and therefore it was not His to give to any for their connexion with Him according to fleshly kindred, as He was the Son of the Virgin, but it belonged to Him as Son of God to give to those for whom it was prepared by His Father according to eternal predestination.

11. Nor from the text: Of that day and hour no one knoweth, no, not the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but my Father alone (Mark xiii, 32):897897St Thomas (Chap. VI), or his editor, quotes this as Matt. xxiv, 36, where in the Sinaitic and Vatican manuscripts, and in the Revised Version, the clause, nor the Son, appears. can it be understood that the Son did not know the hour of His coming, seeing that in Him are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. ii, 3), and seeing that He perfectly knows that which is greater still, namely, the Father (Matt. xi, 27898898Without denial of the fulness of knowledge in the divine nature of Christ, there is a well-known current speculation as to how far His human nature participated in His divine knowledge, and whether any shade of ignorance was permitted to rest upon His human soul, as part of the self-imposed kenosis mentioned in Phil. ii, 7. This idea of kenosis may be wrong, but it is not Arianism. There never was kenosis of the Eternal Son, as such. but the meaning is that the Son, as a man in His place amongst men, behaved Himself after the manner of one ignorant in not revealing that day to His disciples. For it is a usual mode of speaking 349in Scripture for God to be said to know a thing, if He makes it known: thus, Now I know that thou fearest the Lord (Gen. xxii, 12), means ‘I have made it known.’ And contrariwise the Son is said not to know that which He does not make known to us.

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