Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

§4. He says that all things that are in creation have been named by man, if, as is the case, they are called differently by every nation, as also the appellation of “Ungenerate” is conferred by us: but that the proper appellation of the Divine essence itself which expresses the Divine Nature, either does not exist at all, or is unknown to us.

But Peter and Paul, he says, were named by men, and hence it comes that it is possible in their case to change the appellations. Why, what existing thing has not been named by men? I call you to testify on behalf of my argument. For if you make change of names a sign of things having been named by men, you will thereby surely allow that every name has been imposed upon things by us, since the same appellations of objects have not obtained universally. For as in the case of Paul who was once Saul, and of Peter who was formerly Simon, so earth and sky and air and sea and all the parts of the creation have not been named alike by all, but are named in one way by the Hebrews, and in another way by us, and are denoted by every nation by different names. If then Eunomius’ argument is valid when he maintains that it was for this reason, to wit, that their names had been imposed by men, that Peter and Paul were named afresh, our teaching will surely be valid also, starting as it does from like premises, which says that all things are named by us, on the ground that their appellations vary according to the distinctions of nations. Now if all things are so, surely the Generate and the Ungenerate are not exceptions, for even they are among the things that change their name. For when we gather, as it were, into the form of a name the conception of any subject that arises in us, we declare our concept by words that vary at different times, not making, but signifying, the thing by the name we give it. For the things remain in themselves as they naturally are, while the mind, touching on existing things, reveals its thought by such words as are available. And just as the essence of Peter was not changed with the change of his name, so neither is any other of the things we contemplate changed in the process of mutation of names. And for this reason we say that the term “Ungenerate” was applied by us to the true and first Father Who is the Cause of all, and that no harm would result as regards the signifying of the Subject, if we were to acknowledge the same concept under another name. For it is p. CXCVIII allowable instead of speaking of Him as “Ungenerate,” to call Him the “First Cause” or “Father of the Only-begotten,” or to speak of Him as “existing without cause,” and many such appellations which lead to the same thought; so that Eunomius confirms our doctrines by the very arguments in which he makes complaint against us, because we know no name significant of the Divine Nature. We are taught the fact of Its existence, while we assert that an appellation of such force as to include the unspeakable and infinite Nature, either does not exist at all, or at any rate is unknown to us. Let him then leave his accustomed language of fable, and show us the names which signify the essences, and then proceed further to divide the subject by the divergence of their names. But so long as the saying of the Scripture is true that Abraham and Moses were not capable of the knowledge of the Name, and that “no man hath seen God at any time 839 ,” and that “no man hath seen Him, nor can see 840 ,” and that the light around Him is unapproachable 841 , and “there is no end of His greatness 842 ”;—so long as we say and believe these things, how like is an argument that promises any comprehension and expression of the infinite Nature, by means of the significance of names, to one who thinks that he can enclose the whole sea in his own hand! for as the hollow of one’s hand is to the whole deep, so is all the power of language in comparison with that Nature which is unspeakable and incomprehensible.



S. John i. 18


1 Tim. vi. 16.


1 Tim. vi. 16.


Ps. cxlv. 3.

Next: After much discourse concerning the actually existent, and ungenerate and good, and upon the consubstantiality of the heavenly powers, showing the uncharted character of their essence, yet the difference of their ranks, he ends the book.