Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

Chapter IV.—Proof of the Catholic Sense of the Word Son. Power, Word or Reason, and Wisdom, the names of the Son, imply eternity; as well as the Father’s title of Fountain. The Arians reply, that these do not formally belong to the essence of the Son, but are names given Him; that God has many words, powers, &c. Why there is but one Son and Word, &c. All the titles of the Son coincide in Him.

15. This then is quite enough to expose the infamy of the Arian heresy; for, as the Lord has granted, out of their own words is irreligion brought home to them 848 . But come now and let us on our part act on the offensive, and call on them for an answer; for now is fair time, when their own ground has failed them, to question them on ours; perhaps it may abash the perverse, and disclose to them whence they have fallen. We have learned from divine Scripture, that the Son of God, as was said above, is the very Word and Wisdom of the Father. For the Apostle says, ‘Christ the power of God and the Wisdom of God 849 ;’ and John after saying, ‘And the Word was made flesh,’ at once adds, ‘And we saw His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth 850 ,’ so that, the Word being the Only-begotten Son, in this Word and in Wisdom heaven and earth and all that is therein were made. And of this Wisdom that God is Fountain we have learned from 851 Baruch, by Israel’s being charged with having forsaken the Fountain of Wisdom. If then they deny Scripture, they are at once aliens to their name, and may fitly be called of all men atheists 852 , and Christ’s enemies, for they have brought upon themselves these names. But if they agree with us that the sayings of Scripture are divinely inspired, let them dare to say openly what they think in secret that God was once wordless and wisdomless 853 ; and p. 160 let them in their madness 854 say, ‘There was once when He was not,’ and, ‘before His generation, Christ was not 855 ;’ and again let them declare that the Fountain begat not Wisdom from itself, but acquired it from without, till they have the daring to say, ‘The Son came of nothing;’ whence it will follow that there is no longer a Fountain, but a sort of pool, as if receiving water from without, and usurping the name of Fountain 856 .

16. How full of irreligion this is, I consider none can doubt who has ever so little understanding. But since they mutter something about Word and Wisdom being only names of the Son 857 , we must ask then, If these are only names of the Son, He must be something else beside them. And if He is higher than the names, it is not lawful from the lesser to denote the higher; but if He be less than the names, yet He surely must have in Him the principle of this more honourable appellation; and this implies his advance, which is an irreligion equal to anything that has gone before. For He who is in the Father, and in whom also the Father is, who says, ‘I and the Father are one 858 ,’ whom he that hath seen, hath seen the Father, to say that He has been exalted 859 by anything external, is the extreme of madness. However, when they are beaten hence, and like Eusebius and his fellows, are in these great straits, then they have this remaining plea, which Arius too in ballads, and in his own Thalia 860 , fabled, as a new difficulty: ‘Many words speaketh God; which then of these are we to call Son and Word, Only-begotten of the Father 861 ?’ Insensate, and anything but Christians 862 ! for first, on using such language about God, they conceive of Him almost as a man, speaking and reversing His first words by His second, just as if one Word from God were not sufficient for the framing of all things at the Father’s will, and for His providential care of all. For His speaking many words would argue a feebleness in them all, each needing the service of the other. But that God should have one Word, which is the true doctrine, both shews the power of God, and the perfection of the Word that is from Him, and the religious understanding of them who thus believe.

17. O that they would consent to confess the truth from this their own statement! for if they once grant that God produces words, they plainly know Him to be a Father; and acknowledging this, let them consider that, while they are loth to ascribe one Word to God, they are imagining that He is Father of many; and while they are loth to say that there is no Word of God at all, yet they do not confess that He is the Son of God,—which is ignorance of the truth, and inexperience in divine Scripture. For if God is Father of a word at all, wherefore is not He that is begotten a Son? And again, who should be Son of God, but His Word? For there are not many words, or each would be imperfect, but one is the Word, that He only may be perfect, and because, God being one, His Image too must be one, which is the Son. For the Son of God, as may be learnt from the divine oracles themselves, is Himself the Word of God, and the Wisdom, and the Image, and the Hand, and the Power; for God’s offspring is one, and of the generation from the Father these titles are tokens 863 . For if you say the Son, you have declared what is from the Father by nature; and if you think of the Word, you are thinking again of what is p. 161 from Him, and what is inseparable; and, speaking of Wisdom, again you mean just as much, what is not from without, but from Him and in Him; and if you name the Power and the Hand, again you speak of what is proper to essence; and, speaking of the Image, you signify the Son; for what else is like God but the offspring from Him? Doubtless the things, which came to be through the Word, these are ‘founded in Wisdom’ and what are ‘founded in Wisdom,’ these are all made by the Hand, and came to be through the Son. And we have proof of this, not from external sources, but from the Scriptures; for God Himself says by Isaiah the Prophet; ‘My hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand hath spanned the heavens 864 .’ And again, ‘And I will cover thee in the shadow of My Hand, by which I planted the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth 865 .’ And David being taught this, and knowing that the Lord’s Hand was nothing else than Wisdom, says in the Psalm, ‘In wisdom hast Thou made them all; the earth is full of Thy creation 866 .’ Solomon also received the same from God, and said, ‘The Lord by wisdom founded the earth 867 ,’ and John, knowing that the Word was the Hand and the Wisdom, thus preached, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the same was in the beginning with God: all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made 868 .’ And the Apostle, seeing that the Hand and the Wisdom and the Word was nothing else than the Son, says, ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the Fathers by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, by whom also He made the ages 869 .’ And again, ‘There is one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through Him 870 .’ And knowing also that the Word, the Wisdom, the Son Himself was the Image of the Father, he says in the Epistle to the Colossians, ‘Giving thanks to God and the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the Saints in light, who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son; in whom we have redemption, even the remission of sins; who is the Image of the Invisible God, the First-born of every creature; for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him; and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist 871 .’ For as all things are created by the Word, so, because He is the Image, are they also created in Him 872 . And thus anyone who directs his thoughts to the Lord, will avoid stumbling upon the stone of offence, but rather will go forward to the brightness in the light of truth; for this is really the doctrine of truth, though these contentious men burst with spite 873 , neither religious toward God, nor abashed at their confutation.



The main argument of the Arians was that our lord was a Son, and therefore was not eternal, but of a substance which had a beginning. [Prolegg. ch. ii. §3 (2) a.] Accordingly Athanasius says, ‘Having argued with them as to the meaning of their own selected term “Son,” let us go on to others, which on the very face make for us, such as Word, Wisdom, &c.’


1 Cor. i. 24.


John i. 14.


Vid. supr. §12.


Vid. supr. §1. note 2, bis.


λογος, ἄσοφος. Vid. infr., §26. This is a frequent argument in the controversy, viz. that to deprive the Father of His Son or substantial Word (λόγος), is as great a sacrilege as to deny His Reason, λόγος, from which the Son receives His name. Thus Orat. i. §14. fin. Athan. says, ‘imputing to God’s nature an absence of His Word (λογίαν or irrationality), they are most irreligious.’ Vid. §19. fin. 24. Elsewhere, he says, ‘Is a man not mad himself, who even entertains the thought that God is word-less and wisdom-less? for such illustrations and such images Scripture hath proposed, that, considering the inability of human nature to comprehend concerning God, we might even from these, however poorly and dimly, discern as far as is attainable.’ Orat. ii. 32. vid. also iii. 63. iv. 12. Serap. ii. 2.


Vid. above, §1, note 6.


These were among the original positions of the Arians; for the former, see above, note 1; the latter is one of those specified in the Nicene Anathema.


And so πηγὴ ξηρά. Serap. ii. 2. Orat. i. §14 fin. also ii. §2, where Athanasius speaks as if those who deny that Almighty God is Father, cannot really believe in Him as a Creator. If the divine substance be not fruitful (καρπογόνος), but barren, as they say, as a light which enlightens not, and a dry fountain, are they not ashamed to maintain that He possesses the creative energy?’ Vid. also πηγὴ θεότητος, Pseudo-Dion. Div. Nom. c. 2. πηγὴ ἐκ πηγῆς, of the Son, Epiphan. Ancor. 19. And Cyril, ‘If thou take from God His being Father, thou wilt deny the generative power (καρπογόνον) of the divine nature so that It no longer is perfect. This then is a token of its perfection, and the Son who went forth from Him apart from time, is a pledge (σφραγίς) to the Father that He is perfect.’ Thesaur. p. 37.


Arius said, as the Eunomians after him, that the Son was not really, but only called, Word and Wisdom, which were simply attributes of God, and the prototypes of the Son. Vid. Socr. i. 6. Theod. H. E. i. 3, and infr. Orat. ii. 37, 38.


John x. 30.




Vid. de Syn. §15.


As the Arians took the title Son in that part of its earthly sense in which it did not apply to our Lord, so they misinterpreted the title Word also; which denoted the Son’s immateriality and indivisible presence in the Father, but did not express His perfection. Vid. Orat. ii. §34–36. contr. Gent. 41. ad Ep. Æg. 16. Epiph. Hær. 65. 3. Nyss. in Eun. xii. p. 349. Origen (in a passage, however, of questionable doctrine), says, ‘As there are gods many, but to us one God the Father, and many lords, but to us one Lord Jesus Christ, so there are many words, but we pray that in us may exist the Word that was in the beginning, with God, and was God.’ In Joan. tom. ii. 3. ‘Many things, it is acknowledged, does the Father speak to the Son,’ say the Semiarians at Ancyra, ‘but the words which God speaks to the Son, are not sons. They are not substances of God, but vocal energies; but the Son, though a Word, is not such, but, being a Son, is a substance.’ Epiph. Hær. 73. 12. The Semiarians are speaking against Sabellianism, which took the same ground here as Arianism; so did the heresy of the Samosatene, who according to Epiphanius, considered our Lord as the internal Word, or thought. Hær. 65. The term word in this inferior sense is often in Greek μα. Epiph. supr. and Cyril, de Incarn. Unig. init. t. v. i. p. 679.


‘If they understood and acknowledged the characteristic idea (χαρακτῆρα) of Christianity, they would not have said that the Lord of glory was a creature.’ Ad Serap. ii. 7. In Orat. i. §2, he says, Arians are not Christians because they are Arians, for Christians are called, not from Arius, but from Christ, who is their only Master. Vid. also de Syn. §38. init. Sent. D. fin. Ad Afros. 4. Their cruelty and cooperation with the heathen populace was another reason. Greg. Naz. Orat. 25. 12.


All the titles of the Son of God are consistent with each other, and variously represent one and the same Person. ‘Son’ and ‘Word,’ denote His derivation; ‘Word’ and ‘Image,’ His Similitude; ‘Word’ and ‘Wisdom,’ His immateriality; ‘Wisdom’ and ‘Hand,’ His coexistence. ‘If He is not Son, neither is He Image’ Orat. ii. §2. ‘How is there Word and Wisdom, unless He be a proper offspring of His substance? ii. §22. Vid. also Orat. i. §20. 21. and at great length Orat. iv. §20, &c. vid. also Naz. Orat. 30. n. 20. Basil. contr. Eunom. i. 18. Hilar. de Trin. vii. 11. August. in Joan. xlviii. 6. and in Psalm. xliv. (xlv.) 5.


Is. xlviii. 13.


Is. li. 16.


Ps. civ. 24.


Prov. iii. 19.


John i. 1-3.


Heb. 1:1, 2.


1 Cor. viii. 6.


Col. i. 12-17


Vid. a beautiful passage, contr. Gent. 42, &c. Again, of men, de Incarn. 3. 3; also Orat. ii. 78. where he speaks of Wisdom as being infused into the world on its creation, that it might possess ‘a type and semblance of its Image.’


διαῤ& 191·αγῶσιν, and so Serap. ii. fin. διαῤ& 191·ηγνύωνται. de Syn. 34. διαῤ& 191·ηγύωσιν ἑαυτούς. Orat. ii. §23. σπαραττέτωσαν ἑαυτούς. Orat. ii. §64. τριζέτω τοὺς ὀδόντας. Sent. D. 16.

Next: Defence of the Council's Phrases, “from the essence,” And “one in essence.” Objection that the phrases are not scriptural; we ought to look at the sense more than the wording; evasion of the Arians as to the phrase “of God” which is in Scripture; their evasion of all explanations but those which the Council selected, which were intended to negative the Arian formulæ; protest against their conveying any material sense.