Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

§6. Thereafter he expounds the appellation of “Son,” and of “product of generation,” and very many varieties of “sons,” of God, of men, of rams, of perdition, of light, and of day.

But our discourse has diverged too far from the subject before us, in following out the questions which arise from time to time by way of inference. Let us therefore once more resume its sequence, as I imagine that the phrase under examination has been sufficiently shown, by what we have said, to be contradictory not only to the truth, but also to itself. For if, p. CXLVIII according to their view, the natural relation to the Father is established by the appellation of “the Son,” and so with that of the “product of generation” to Him Who has begotten Him (as these men’s wisdom falsely models the terms significant of the Divine nature into a verbal arrangement, according to some grammatical frivolity), no one could longer doubt that the mutual relation of the names which is established by nature is a proof of their kindred, or rather of their identity of essence. But let not our discourse merely turn about our adversaries’ words, that the orthodox doctrine may not seem to gain the victory only by the weakness of those who fight against it, but appear to have an abundant supply of strength in itself. Let the adverse argument, therefore, be strengthened as much as may be by us ourselves with more energetic advocacy, that the superiority of our force may be recognized with full confidence, as we bring to the unerring test of truth those arguments also which our adversaries have omitted. He who contends on behalf of our adversaries will perhaps say that the name of “Son,” or “product of generation,” does not by any means establish the fact of kindred in nature. For in Scripture the term “child of wrath 593 ” is used, and “son of perdition 594 ,” and “product of a viper 595 ;” and in such names surely no community of nature is apparent. For Judas, who is called “the son of perdition,” is not in his substance the same with perdition, according to what we understand by the word 596 . For the signification of the “man” in Judas is one thing, and that of “perdition” is another. And the argument may be established equally from an opposite instance. For those who are called in a certain sense “children of light,” and “children of the day 597 ,” are not the same with light and day in respect of the definition of their nature, and the stones are made Abraham’s children 598 when they claim their kindred with him by faith and works; and those who are “led by the Spirit of God,” as the Apostle says, are called “Sons of God 599 ,” without being the same with God in respect of nature; and one may collect many such instances from the inspired Scripture, by means of which deceit, like some image decked with the testimonies of Scripture, masquerades in the likeness of truth.

Well, what do we say to this? The divine Scripture knows how to use the word “Son” in both senses, so that in some cases such an appellation is derived from nature, in others it is adventitious and artificial. For when it speaks of “sons of men,” or “sons of rams 600 ,” it marks the essential relation of that which is begotten to that from which it has its being: but when it speaks of “sons of power,” or “children of God,” it presents to us that kinship which is the result of choice. And, moreover, in the opposite sense, too, the same persons are called “sons of Eli,” and “sons of Belial 601 ,” the appellation of “sons” being easily adapted to either idea. For when they are called “sons of Eli,” they are declared to have natural relationship to him, but in being called “sons of Belial,” they are reproved for the wickedness of their choice, as no longer emulating their father in their life, but addicting their own purpose to sin. In the case, then, of this lower nature of ours, and of the things with which we are concerned, by reason of human nature being equally inclined to either side (I mean, to vice and to virtue), it is in our power to become sons either of night or of day, while our nature yet remains, so far as the chief part of it is concerned, within its proper limits. For neither is he who by sin becomes a child of wrath alienated from his human generation, nor does he who by choice addicts himself to good reject his human origin by the refinement of his habits, but, while their nature in each case remains the same, the differences of their purpose assume the names of their relationship, according as they become either children of God by virtue, or of the opposite by vice.

But how does Eunomius, in the case of the divine doctrines at least—he who “preserves the natural order” (for I will use our author’s very words), “and abides by those things which are known to us from the beginning, and does not refuse to call Him that is begotten by the name of ‘product of generation,’ since the generated essence itself” (as he says) “and the appellation of ‘Son’ makes such a relation of words appropriate”,—how does he alienate the Begotten from essential kindred with Him that begat Him? For in the case of those who are called “sons” or “products” by way of reproach, or again where some praise accompanies such names, we cannot say that any one is called “a child of wrath,” being at the same time actually begotten by wrath; nor again had any one the day for his mother, in a corporeal sense, that he should be called its son; but it is the difference of their will which gives occasion for names of such relationship. Here, however, Eunomius says, “we do not refuse to call the Son, seeing He is begotten, by the name of ‘product of generation,’ since the generated essence,” he tells us, “and the appellation of ‘Son,’ makes such a relation of words appropriate.” If, then, he confesses that such a relation of words is p. CXLIX made appropriate by the fact that the Son is really a “product of generation,” how is it opportune to assign such a rationale of names, alike to those which are used inexactly by way of metaphor, and to those where the natural relation, as Eunomius tells us, makes such a use of names appropriate? Surely such an account is true only in the case of those whose nature is a border-land between virtue and vice, where one often shares in turn opposite classes of names, becoming a child, now of light, then again of darkness, by reason of affinity to the good or to its opposite. But where contraries have no place, one could no longer say that the word “Son” is applied metaphorically, in like manner as in the case of those who by choice appropriate the title to themselves. For one could not arrive at this view, that, as a man casting off the works of darkness becomes, by his decent life, a child of light, so too the Only-begotten God received the more honourable name as the result of a change from the inferior state. For one who is a man becomes a son of God by being joined to Christ by spiritual generation: but He Who by Himself makes the man to be a son of God does not need another Son to bestow on Him the adoption of a son, but has the name also of that which He is by nature. A man himself changes himself, exchanging the old man for the new; but to what shall God be changed, so that He may receive what He has not? A man puts off himself, and puts on the Divine nature; but what does He put off, or in what does He array Himself, Who is always the same? A man becomes a son of God, receiving what he has not, and laying aside what he has; but He Who has never been in the state of vice has neither anything to receive nor anything to relinquish. Again, the man may be on the one hand truly called some one’s son, when one speaks with reference to his nature; and, on the other hand, he may be so called inexactly, when the choice of his life imposes the name. But God, being One Good, in a single and uncompounded nature, looks ever the same way, and is never changed by the impulse of choice, but always wishes what He is, and is, assuredly, what He wishes: so that He is in both respects properly and truly called Son of God, since His nature contains the good, and His choice also is never severed from that which is more excellent, so that this word is employed, without inexactness, as His name. Thus there is no room for these arguments (which, in the person of our adversaries, we have been opposing to ourselves), to be brought forward by our adversaries as a demurrer to the affinity in respect of nature.



Cf. Eph. ii. 3


S. John xvii. 12.


Cf. S. Matt. iii. 7


Reading κατὰ τὸ νοούμενον, for κατὰ τὸν νοούμενον as the words stand in the text of Oehler, who cites no mss. in favour of the change which he has made.


Cf. 1 Thess. v. 5.


Cf. S. Matt. iii. 9


Rom. viii. 14.


Ps. xxix. 1 (LXX.).


1 Sam. ii. 12. The phrase is υἱοὶ λοιμοί, or “pestilent sons,” as in the LXX. Gregory’s argument would seem to require the reading υἱοὶ λοιμοῦ.

Next: Then he ends the book with an exposition of the Divine and Human names of the Only-Begotten, and a discussion of the terms “generate” and “ungenerate.”