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Commentary On The Gospel According To Saint John Volumes 1&2

That the Son is both God by Nature and in no wise either inferior to or unlike the Father.

And the Word was God.

HE who bare within him the Spirit was not ignorant that there should arise some in the last times who should accuse the Essence of the Only Begotten and deny the Lord that bought them, by supposing that the Word Who appeared from God the Father is not by Nature God, but should bring in besides Him some so to speak spurious and false-called god, having about him the name of Sonship and Deity, but not so in truth. Such do they, who give the Jewish impiety of Arius an abode in their own mind; wherefore they put forth out of a dead heart, no life-giving word of pious thought, but that which looketh and tendeth unto death. Their tongue verily is as an arrow shot out; deceitful the words of their mouth.

As though then some one were already resisting the words of truth, and were almost saying to the Holy Evangelist; The Word was with God, Sir, be it so, we agree fully to what you have written as to this. Be the Father and Exist He separately, and the Son likewise. What now ought one to suppose that the Word is by Nature? for His Being with God, does not at all reveal His Essence. But since the Divine Scriptures proclaim One God, we will allot this to the Father only, with Whom the Word was. What then replies Truth’s herald? Not only was the Word with God, but He was also God, that through His being with God, He might be known to be Other than the Father and might be believed to be Son distinct and by Himself; through being God, He might be conceived of as Consubstantial and of Him by Nature, as being both God and coming forth from God. For it were inconceivable, since the Godhead is by all confessed to be One, that the Holy Trinity should not in every wise arrive at Sameness of Essence and so reach one relation of Godhead. He was then also God. He did not become so at last, but He was, if indeed eternal being will most specially and surely follow on being God: for that which became in time, or was at all brought from not being into being, will not be by Nature God.

Seeing then that God the Word has Eternity through the word was, Consubstantiality with the Father through being God, how great punishment and vengeance must we needs think that they shall be found to incur, who think that He is in ought whatever inferior, or unlike Him who begat Him, and shudder not to go forward to that height of impiety, as even to dare to utter such things to others also, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm?

But that the Son Who is of Him of a truth is in no wise inferior to the Father, we shall know again from the accompanying considerations.

Another. By many and varied names do the Divine Scriptures call the Son. For they say that He is the Wisdom and Power of the Father, according to what is said by Paul, Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God. He is called again both His Light and His Truth, as is sung in the Psalms by one of the Saints, O send out Thy Light and Thy Truth. He is called also Righteousness, as, Quicken me in Thy Righteousness: for the Father quickens in Christ those who believe on Him. He is called also the Counsel of the Father, as it is said, Thou shalt guide me with Thy Counsel, and again, The Counsel of the Lord standeth for ever. Since then the Son is all these to God the Father, let them tell us who fawn on the error of Arius and are filled with that man’s folly, how He is lesser than He. For if they be right, it is time to say that the Father is not wholly wise, not wholly Mighty, not wholly Light, not wholly Truth, not wholly Righteous, yea, not even Perfect in Counsel, if the Son Who is all these to Him, by reason of being inferior is shewn to be not Perfect. But to think or say thus is impious. Perfect is the Father, because He has all things perfectly in Himself: Perfect then clearly the Son too, the Wisdom and the Power, the Light and the Truth, the Righteousness and the Counsel of the Father. But He Who fulfilleth Perfection in His own Father, how can He be conceived of as inferior?

Another. If the Son having inferiority to God the Father, is worshipped both by us and by the Holy Angels, we. shall be taken in the act of serving two gods, since that which lacks perfection will never attain to sameness of essence with the Perfect; but vast is the difference sundering unto alienship things unlike as regards their nature. But the faith is not in plurality of gods, but One is God the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost attaining unto unity with Him. The charge against the Son then comes to nothing. For how yet will that which is inferior be admitted into unity with the Perfect Father, and be united as to Nature in unity of Essence?

Another. If the Son is fulness (for of His fulness have all we received) how will what is inferior have a place? for things that are contrary to one another are irreconcileable in one subject at the same time.

Another. If the Son who has the lesser filleth all things, where will the greater of the Father have place? For the argument shall be used in more corporeal form, in the way of example, while the superiority and inferiority in the un-embodied is otherwise conceived of.

Another. If God is That Which is above every name, and the Son Who is His Heir attains not to be Perfect by reason of the lesser, there is no greatness in that which is above all things, that is God. But it is absurd either to think or to say this: Perfect therefore is the Son, as being above every name, and God.

Another. If the Divine Nature is without quantity, and the lesser is cognizant of degree, how can the Son Who is by Nature God be conceived of as inferior? For He will not be beyond the province of quantity, if they say that He has inferiority to the Father.

Another. The blessed John says of the Son that He giveth not the Spirit by measure, to those that is who are worthy. Since then there is not measure in the Son, He is immeasurable, and surpasses all comprehension in quantity as being God. How then is the not-measured less?

Another. If the Son is lesser, the Father greater, differently, it is plain, and in proportion to the measures that Either hath, will they contribute to our sanctification. And the Father will sanctify in a greater degree, the Son in a less and separately. The Spirit therefore will be twofold, and less in the Son, greater in the Father. And they who are sanctified by the Father will be sanctified perfectly, they who by the Son, not perfectly. But great is the absurdity of reasoning herein. For One is the Holy Ghost, one and perfect the Sanctification, freely given by the Father through the Son Naturally. Not lesser then is He Who has the same operation with the Perfect Father, and Who has the Spirit of Him Who begat Him, a good of His own Nature, Living and inexisting, even as the Father hath.

Another. the Son were in the Form and Equality of God, as Paul saith, how is He lesser that He? For the mode of the dispensation with Flesh and the humiliation thereupon mentioned, which has the Second Appearance from Heaven as its termination, will not, I suppose, bare the Son of the dignity by Nature belonging to Him. For He will surely come, as we heard Him say, in the glory of His Father. How then is he at all in the glory of the Perfect Father who is inferior to Him?

Another. God the Father is somewhere found to say by one of the prophets, I will not give My glory unto another. We must ask therefore those who impiously dishonour the Son, nay rather through Him the Father too (for he that honoureth not the Son, neither doth he honour the Father), whether the Son being, as they suppose, less than God the Father is Consubstantial with Him, or no? If then they shall say that He is Consubstantial, why do they for nought put on Him the less? For things that are of the same essence and nature, will never have the greater in themselves, as regards the mode of their being: for this altogether is it that is under consideration.

But they will not perhaps agree, nor will grant that the Son is Consubstantial with the Father, He being according to them less: He will therefore be wholly other and alien from the Father. How then has He His glory? For there was given Him, says blessed Daniel, glory and a kingdom. For either God the Father will lie in saying, I will not give My glory unto another: or if He is true, and did give His glory to the Son, then is He not other than He, the Fruit of His Essence and His True Offspring. And He Who is so situated towards the Father in regard of Essence, how will He be less than He?

Others, simple and without connection. If the Father is Almighty, and the Son likewise Almighty, how is He lesser than He? for I do not suppose that according to the law of sequence, the imperfect will mount up to the measure of the perfect. And if the Father is Lord, and the Son likewise Lord; how is He less than He? For He will be not perfectly free, if He be less in lordship, and have not the full dignity in Himself. And if the Father be Light, and the Son likewise Light, how is He less than He? For He will be not perfectly Light, but will be in part comprehended by darkness, and the Evangelist will lie in saying, The darkness comprehended it not. And if the Father is Life, and the Son likewise Life, how is He less than He? For in us life will not exist in perfect measure, even if Christ dwell in the inner man: but they who believe are still to some degree dead, if so be that the Son having the less, is not perfectly life. But since one must needs put as far away as possible the absurdity of this, we say that Perfect is the Son, being made equal to the Perfect Father by reason of the exact Likeness of His Essence.

Another. If the Son be less than the Father, and therefore not Consubstantial; He is as a consequence other by nature and wholly alien: hence He is not Son, yea not even God at all. For how will he be called Son who is not of the Father, or how will he be any longer God who is not of God by Nature? But since our faith is in the Son, we are still it seems in error, not knowing the True God. But this is absurd. Believing therefore in the Son, we believe in the Father too and in the Holy Ghost. The Son is not therefore alien from God the Father as lesser, but has unity with Him, by reason of being of Him by Nature, and is therefore both Equal and Perfect.

Another. If God the Word Who beamed forth from God the Father is in truth Son, of necessity must our opponents even against their will confess that He is of the Essence of the Father; for this is what sonship in truth means. Then how is Such inferior to the Father, if He be Fruit of His Essence, Which is nowise receptive of the lesser within Itself? For all things are in perfect degree in God. But if He be not of the Essence of the Father, neither is He Son, but some counterfeit and falsely-called: yea neither will the Father Himself be rightly and truly called Father. For if there be no Son by Nature, on account of Whom He is Father, how is He conceived of as Father? But this is absurd, for God is Very Father; for so do all the Divine Scriptures cry aloud. He Who is of Him by Nature is therefore surely Son: if so, not lesser; for He is Consubstantial as Son.

Another. The name of family or fathership not God has of right from us, but we rather clearly received it from Him. And trusty is the word of Paul crying on this wise, Of Whom every family in heaven and earth is named. But since God is that which is most ancient of all, by imitation are we fathers, who are called to His Pattern by reason of our being made after His Image. Then how, tell me, are we who are made after His Likeness, by nature fathers of our own children, if this be not the case in the Archetype, after Which we too have been formed? How will any one grant that the name of family or fathership passed even unto the rest from God, if He be not in very deed a Father? For, if it were so, the nature of the thing would be wholly overturned and we should rather give to Him to be called Father in imitation of us, than He give it to us. For this the argument will compel the heretic even against his will to admit. The witness therefore of the truth lies in saying that from Him is every family both in heaven and earth. But to say this is most absurd: for true is he who is bold to say, Do ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me? and from God does the name of family flow down to us also. He is therefore by Nature the Father of the Word, He begat Him in all respects not unlike Himself, through His having the lesser than whatever Himself has. For we who are made after an imitation of Him, do not so have those that are begotten of us, but altogether equal, as regards the nature.

Another. Let not the heretic manifold in arguments deal subtilly with the truth, nor confessing that the Word of God is Son, honour Him in mere words, saying that He is not of the Essence of the Father. For how is He Son at all, except He be so by Nature? Let them then either, stripping off the mask of hypocrisy, blaspheme openly, confessing that He is neither God nor Son: or if convicted by the whole Divine Scripture and wounded by the words of the Saints as by sling-stones they feel shame in presence of the truth, and say that He is Son and God, let them not think that He is lesser than He Who begat Him. For how will the Word, being God, admit of the lesser, compared to God the Father? although man too is both called and is son of man, yet will he not be inferior to his father so far as he is man. For man will not be greater or less than man, in respect of his being man, nor yet angel than angel, in regard of his being angel, nor ought else of things that are that is con-natural to any-thing whatsoever, and has a share of the same essence allotted to it. Therefore if He is truly Son, one must needs say that He is of the Essence of the Father, having all His Father’s properties in Himself of Nature. And if the Father be God by Nature, God by Nature plainly is also the Word Who is begotten of That Nature. How then will God be less than God in regard to being God?

Another. Whence, sirs, did ye get the daring to say that the Son is in lesser condition than He Who begat Him? How will He admit the lesser? As regards the date of being, no one I suppose, even though exceeding silly, would surmise. For before the ages is the Son, and Himself is the Maker of the ages: and it will be with reason conceived that He Who has His Generation elder than all time, will not be defined by time. But neither is He lesser than He in the dimension that belongs to size: for the Divine Nature is conceived of and is without size, dimension and body. How then is the lesser to be taken of Him Who is begotten? In glory, perhaps one will say, in power, in wisdom. Let them say then, how great and large the Father is herein (if one must speak thus), in order that the Son may be conceived of as less, when measured with Him? Or if the Father is in good inconceiveable and immeasurable, and that far outstrips the measure of our understanding, whence do the Arians, readily daring all things, say that the Son is lesser, to the overthrow of the dignity that belongs to Him by nature? For the lesser is proved by the juxtaposition of the greater; but if the Dignity of the Father is unmeasured, what is the proof of its diminution in the Son?

Another. One may indeed with truth reply to the abomination of the unholy heretics, Our enemies are without understanding. For how are they not full of all unlearning, understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm, as Paul saith? The reason why we think it needful to accuse them is this. If they say that the Son is of a truth begotten God of God the Father, and so believe, how is He lesser than the Father? For great absurdity of ideas will hence be generated, on every side containing blasphemy, and such that one would refuse only to hear them. For if the Son being God by Nature can any whit admit in Himself the lesser, we must needs at length conceive that there is something greater than God. The Essence then of the Father is not conceived of as being in Perfection of every thing, even though He be by Nature God, but He will Himself progress in some direction towards the greater, convicted in the Son His Image that He Himself too is of the essence that admits the lesser. And He will suffer this virtually, even if He have not yet suffered it; since things that are capable of ought, will altogether admit the things whereof they are capable, and when the time calls them to suffer it, they will not refuse it. But great is the blasphemy that is apparent herein. For neither will the Father advance in any direction towards the greater, nor yet will He admit of the lesser, by reason that He is by Nature God. Therefore neither will the Son admit in Himself the lesser, in that He too is God by Nature, lest the syllable or two which was devised by the unlearning of the heretics, should be imagined to be an accusal of the Essence that is above all.

Another. If the Word of God the Father being by Nature His Son is lesser than He, either in regard of God-befitting Dignity, or as not by Nature Unchangeable, or in any sort of inferiority, the accusal will be not so much of Him as of the Essence Whereof He is believed to be, if It altogether generate the lesser, or the worse, than Itself, although the originate and constructed creation would not endure to do such a thing. For everything that is fruit-bearing, brings forth what is wholly like itself. But if they say that the Divine Nature of the Father is above all passion, It will manifestly be beyond this charge, and being the Archetype of the good things that are in us, will beget the Son not lesser, but Equal and Consubstantial, lest the God That is so far above us be inferior even to us.

Another by the method of reductio ad absurdum. Christ shewing that He is Equal with God the Father says to His own Disciples, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. Then how will He that is by Nature Such, and so IS as Himself with truth declares, have the lesser, according to the uncounsel of some? For if being lesser He shews in Himself the Father, without any intervening change, the lesser will reach to the Father, as appearing in His Unchanged Image, the Son. But this is absurd: therefore not lesser is the Son, in whom the Father being Perfect is imaged.

Another. And how will the Son admit the lesser, than wherein is the Father, seeing that He says without blame, All things that the Father hath are Mine: and again, as to God the Father, All Mine are Thine and Thine are Mine? For if indeed the Son is, according to the uncounsel of some, lesser; since He speaks truth in saying to the Father, Mine are Thine and Thine are Mine, the lesser will make its way to the Father too, and likewise the greater to the Son, the order of things being indifferent, if what belongs to either are seen in the other, and whatsoever is the Father’s, this is the Son’s also, and again whatever appears as the special property of the Son, this is the Father’s too. Nothing then will hinder our saying that the Father is lesser than the Son, and the Son greater than the Father. But this is most absurd only to conceive of: Equal therefore and not lesser is He Who hath the Prerogatives of Essence in common with the Father.

Another of the same. If all that the Father hath, are wholly the Son’s, and the Father hath Perfection, Perfect will be the Son too, Who hath the properties and excellencies of the Father. Therefore is He not lesser, according to the impiety of the heretics.

Another by the method of reductio ad absurdum, with combination of arguments. Let them tell us who are pouring down the flame unquenchable on their own head, and who reject the uprightness that is in the Divine Dogmas, devising wiles of many-coloured arguments unto the deceiving and overthrow of the simpler, whether the Father is superior to the Son, having the greater in comparison with Him, if He be less, as they in their silly talk say, or not? But I entirely suppose that they will say, He is superior: or let them say what advantage the Father hath in possessing the greater, if He be not superior. For if nothing at all, the whole charge against the Son immediately comes to nought: but if there is any great difference, He is then superior, as having the greater. Let them answer then and tell us, if they are indeed wise, why the Father begetting the Son, begat Him not Equal to Himself but lesser. For if it were clearly better to beget the Son in all things Equal to Himself, who hindered His doing it? For if there is ought that hindered as of necessity, they will admit even against their will, that there is somewhat greater than the Father. But if there were nothing at all to hinder, but having the power and knowing that it is better to beget the Son equal He begot Him lesser, this is plainly envy towards Him and an evil eye: for He chose not to give equality to the Son. Either then the Father is impotent in regard to His Begetting, or it will be evil eye, according to the result collected out of the arguments, if the Son have the lesser according to their account. But this is absurd; for the Divine and Untaint Nature is above all passion. Therefore not less is the Son, that He lose not the equality, the Father being in no wise powerless to beget His Offspring equal to Himself, nor yet hindered by evil eye from choosing the better.

Another. The Saviour Himself somewhere says that He is in the Father and the Father likewise in Him. But it is plain to every one, that we are not to suppose that like as one body is in another, or one vessel in another, so the Father is contained in the Son, or the Son again in some way placed in the Father: but One appears in the Other, and He in Him in the Unchanged Sameness of Essence, and in the Unity and Likeness that belongs to Nature. As though a person beholding his own form in an image were to say truly to any, and marvelling at the finished likeness of his figure to cry out, I am in this picture and this picture in me.

Or in another way:—As if the sweetness of the honey when laid on the tongue should say of itself, I am in the honey and the honey in me; or as though again the heat that proceeds naturally from fire, emitting a voice were to say, I am in the fire and the fire in me. For each of the things mentioned is I suppose divisible in idea, but one in nature, and the one proceeding by a sort of indivisible and continuous forthcome from the other, so as to seem to be even severed from that wherein it is. Yet though the force of ideas regarding these things takes this form, still one appears in the other and both are the same as regards essence. If then by reason of the unchangeableness of Their Essence, and the entire exactness in express Image, the Father is in the Son, how will the greater find place and appear in the Son Who is according to them lesser? But since He is wholly in Him, altogether Perfect is the Son, Who is able to contain the Perfect and is the express Image of the Mighty Father.

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