« Prev “Refutation and Defence” Next »

“Refutation and Defence”
(Eus., Præp. Evang. vii. 19)

(1) They are not pious, who hand over matter to God as a thing without beginning for His orderly disposition,243243These are probably some sort of Gnostics who took over Manichean views of God and Matter, but not of the worst kind, for they recognized that God had the control and disposition of matter. maintaining that, being subject to treatment and change, it yields to the modifications imposed by God. For they should explain how both the like and the unlike belong both to God and to matter. For some one must be imagined superior to either,244244Some one, i. e. who could give them the property of being without beginning. and that may not be entertained about God. For whence came it that there is in them both 102 the being without beginning, which is what is said to be “like” in both and which is also conceived of as different from both?245245“Different from both,” because the being without beginning is not of the very essence of both. See further on. For if God is of Himself without beginning and the being without beginning is, as some would say, His very essence, matter will not be without beginning, too: for matter and God are not identical. But, if each is what it is independently, and to both belongs in addition the property of being without beginning, it is clear that the being without beginning is different from either and older and higher than both. And thus the difference between their opposing states is entirely subversive of their co-existence, or rather of the one, viz. matter existing of itself. Otherwise let them state the reason why, both being without beginning, God is not subject to treatment, unchangeable, immovable, productive, and matter is the opposite, subject to treatment, changeable, mobile, varying.

Again, how is it that God and matter came in contact and combined? Was it that God adapted Himself to match the nature of matter and exercised His craft upon it? Nay, that is absurd that God, like men, should work in gold and stone and busy Himself in the other handicrafts which the various materials can give shape and form to.246246A curious expression, for which one would have expected the opposite statement, viz. that the handicrafts can shape and form the materials they deal with rather than that the materials give the necessary methods and designs to the handicrafts which deal with them. Up to this point Dionysius has been combating the view with which the extract begins. The rest of the extract proceeds to show what amount of truth there is in it.

But if God endowed matter with the qualities which He in His own wisdom determined, impressing 103 on it as with a seal the multiform and diverse shape and fashion of His own workmanship, this account of it is both proper and true, and yet further proves that God, who is the fundamental principle on which the universe exists, is without beginning. For to its being (according to them) without beginning God add its bearing certain qualities. So, then, there is still much to be said in answer to these views, but we do not propose to say it now. Nevertheless they are expressed with more propriety than those who are absolutely atheistical polytheists.247247The reference here is to Manichean views of the worst kind, i. e. that matter is not only without beginning, but the source of evil and altogether independent of God.

(2) (Athan., de sent. Dion., 18). However, when I spoke of certain things that had an origin (γενητά) and certain things that were made (ποιητά), I did indeed casually mention examples of such things, recognizing that they were not altogether useful for my purpose: for instance, I said that neither was the plant the same as the husbandman, nor the boat as the shipwright. But afterwards I dwelt at length on those which were more to the point and cognate to the subject, and went more into detail about these truer examples, seeking out various additional evidences which I set out for you248248i. e. Dionysius of Rome, to whom this treatise was addressed. This particular “other letter” does not seem to have been known to Eusebius, and when Athanasius quotes this extract in another of his treatises he omits the words “to thee.” also in another letter: and in them I refuted as false the accusation also which they bring against me, as not stating that Christ is of one substance (ὁμοούσιος)249249Athanasius himself was sparing in his use of the term, and the Synod of Antioch (A.D. 264) refused to accept it, as liable to misconstruction. with 104 the Father. For even if I say250250i. e. in the letter to Euphranor (about Sabellianism in Libya) which had given rise to the Bishop of Rome’s intervention. that this word is not found nor read anywhere in Holy Writ, yet these later attempts of mine to explain which they have ignored are not inconsistent with this conception. For I compared human generation, which is clearly a transmission of the parents’ own nature (ὁμογενής), saying that the parents were different from their children in this single point, that they were not themselves the children: or else it must needs be that neither parents nor children should exist. The letter itself I cannot, as I have said before, owing to circumstances,251251It looks as if Dionysius was in exile when he wrote this. See above, p. 19. lay my hand on: otherwise I would have sent you my exact words, or rather a copy of the whole letter: and I will do so, if I have the opportunity. But I know from memory that I added several illustrations from things kindred to one another: for instance, I said that a plant coming up from a seed or a root was different from that whence it sprang and yet was absolutely of one nature (ὁμοφυές) with it: and a river flowing from a source partakes of a different shape and name; for neither is the source called river nor the river source, and both these things exist,252252i. e. each of the two is itself and not the other, as was said above in the case of parents and children. and the source is, in a sense, the father and the river is the water from the source. But these and similar remarks they pretend never to have seen written, but act as if they were blind. They only try to pelt me from afar253253i. e. they had gone or sent to Rome, in order to attack him. with those poor ill-fitting phrases of mine254254Viz. about the plant and the ship, which he has already apologized for as not quite appropriate. 105 as with stones, failing to recognize that where a subject is obscure and requires to be brought within our understanding, not only do diverse but even quite contradictory illustrations convey the meaning sought for.

(3) (Ibid., 17.) It has been already said that God is the Fountain of all good things: and the Son is described255255i. e. in Scripture, e. g. in such passage as Wisd. vii. 25, to which he refers in the next sentence. as the stream flowing forth from Him. For the Word is “the effluence” of mind, and, to use human phraseology, is conveyed from the heart through the mouth, i. e. the mind that finds expression by means of the tongue, being differentiated from the word in the heart. For the one having sent it forth remains and is still what it was; but the other being sent forth issues and is carried in all directions: and thus each is in each, being different one from the other: and they are one, being two. And it was in this way that the Father and the Son also were said to be one and in one another.256256Sc. in Dionysius’s letter to Euphranor: cf. John x. 30, xvii. 11, 21, 22. The extract on p. 106 below deals with the same thought more fully. In both places Dionysius’s language is based on Philo’s discussion of the λόγος ἐνδιάθετος and the λόγος προφορικός (the conceived and the expressed word), de vita Mosis, p. 230, Cohn.

Each of the titles employed by me is indivisible and inseparable from its neighbour. I spoke of the Father, and before introducing the Son I implied Him, too, in the Father. I introduced the Son: even if I had not already mentioned the Father He would, of course, have been presupposed in the Son. I added the Holy Spirit: but at the same time I intimated both from Whom and through Whom257257i. e. from the Father and through the Son: Dionysius seems to have derived this view of the Holy Spirit’s Procession from his master, Origen, though he is thinking here rather of the Mission of the Spirit into the Church and its members than of the eternal and necessary relations of the three Persons in the Holy Trinity to one another, as the sentences that follow indicate. 106 He came. But they are not aware that the Father is not separated from the Son qua Father—for the title (Father) is suggestive of such connexion (as Son with Father)—nor is the Son cut off from the Father; for the appellation “Father” denotes their common bond. And the Spirit is the object of their dealings,258258Lit. in their hands: a striking expression which Athanasius borrows from Dionysius in his Exposition of the Faith. being incapable of desertion by either Him that sends, or Him that conveys. How then can I, who use these titles, hold that They are wholly divided and separated?259259This is what Dionysius of Rome had imputed to our Dionysius, though without the word “wholly” he would not have altogether discarded the position.

(4) (Ibid., 23). For, as our mind overflows with speech260260Λόγος is translated throughout this passage by “speech” (i. e. uttered words), except in the last clause, where it refers to the Son Himself and where it must be rendered by “Word” as usual: but obviously “speech” is only part of the full meaning of λόγος. The whole passage should be compared with the preceding extract. of itself, as says the prophet: “My heart overfloweth with good speech,”261261Ps. xliv. (xlv.) 1: here R.V. translates λόγον ἀγαθόν, “a goodly matter,” in accordance with A.V. and each is diverse from the other, each occupying its proper place distinct from the other, the one dwelling and moving in the heart and the other on the tongue and in the mouth, and yet they are not entirely unconnected nor deprived of one another; the mind is not speechless, nor the speech mindless, but the mind produces the speech, revealing itself thereby; and the speech shows the mind, having been gendered therein; the 107 mind is, as it were, the inlying speech and the speech is the issuing mind; the mind is transferred into the speech and the speech displays262262The word used (ἐγκυκλεῖν) suggests the scenic device of the ἐγκύκλημα, by which some kind of change of scene was brought on to the stage in the Greek theatre: see Classical Dict., s.v. the mind to the hearers; and thus the mind through the speech gains a lodgment in the souls of those that hear, entering together with the speech, and the mind is, as it were, the father of the speech, having an independent existence withal; and the speech is, as it were, the son of the mind, being an impossibility prior to the mind, yet brought into association with it from any outside source, but springing from the mind; even so the Father, who is the Almighty and Universal Mind, has the Son, the Word as the Interpreter and Messenger of Himself.

« Prev “Refutation and Defence” Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection