The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Index Database
Home About Network of subjects Linked subjects heatmap Book indices included Search by subject Search by reference Browse subjects Browse texts

Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database

Gregory Of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, 10.4

nanBut not yet has the most grievous part of his profanity been examined, which the sequel of his treatise goes on to add. Well, let us consider his words sentence by sentence. Yet I know not how I can dare to let my mouth utter the horrible and godless language of him who fights against Christ. For I fear lest, like some baleful drugs, the remnant of the pernicious bitterness should be deposited upon the lips through which the words pass. He that comes unto God, says the Apostle, must believe that He is Hebrews 11:6 . Accordingly, true existence is the special distinction of Godhead. But Eunomius makes out Him Who truly is, either not to exist at all, or not to exist in a proper sense, which is just the same as not existing at all; for he who does not properly exist, does not really exist at all; as, for example, he is said to run in a dream who in that state fancies he is exerting himself in the race, while, since he untruly acts the semblance of the real race, his fancy that he is running is not for this reason a race. But even though in an inexact sense it is so called, still the name is given to it falsely. Accordingly, he who dares to assert that the Only-begotten God either does not properly exist, or does not exist at all, manifestly blots out of his creed all faith in Him. For who can any longer believe in something non-existent? Or who would resort to Him Whose being has been shown by the enemies of the true Lord to be improper and unsubstantial? But that our statement may not be thought to be unfair to our opponents, I will set side by side with it the language of the impious persons, which runs as follows:- He Who is in the bosom of the Existent, and Who is in the beginning and is with God, not being, or at all events not being in a strict sense, even though Basil, neglecting this distinction and addition, uses the title of 'Existent' interchangeably, contrary to the truth- What do you say? That He Who is in the Father is not, and that He Who is in the beginning, and Who is in the bosom of the Father, is not, for this very reason, that He is in the beginning and is in the Father, and is discerned in the bosom of the Existent, and hence does not in a strict sense exist, because He is in the Existent? Alas for the idle and irrational tenets! Now for the first time we have heard this piece of vain babbling - that the Lord, by Whom are all things, does not in a strict sense exist. And we have not yet got to the end of this appalling statement; but something yet more startling remains behind, that he not only affirms that He does not exist, or does not strictly speaking exist, but also that the Nature in which He is conceived to reside is various and composite. For he says not being, or not being simple. But that to which simplicity does not belong is manifestly various and composite. How then can the same Person be at once non-existent and composite in essence? For one of two alternatives they must choose: if they predicate of Him non-existence they cannot speak of Him as composite, or if they affirm Him to be composite they cannot rob Him of existence. But that their blasphemy may assume many and varied shapes, it jumps at every godless notion when it wishes to contrast Him with the existent, affirming that, strictly speaking, He does not exist, and in His relation to the uncompounded Nature denying Him the attribute of simplicity:- not existing, not existing simply, not existing in the strict sense. Who among those who have transgressed the word and forsworn the Faith was ever so lavish in utterances denying the Lord? He has stood up in rivalry with the divine proclamation of John. For as often as the latter has attested was of the Word, so often does he apply to Him Who is an opposing was not. And he contends against the holy lips of our father Basil, bringing against him the charge that he neglects these distinctions, when he says that He Who is in the Father, and in the beginning, and in the bosom of the Father, exists, holding the view that the addition of in the beginning, and in the bosom of the Father, bars the real existence of Him Who is. Vain learning! What things the teachers of deceit teach! What strange doctrines they introduce to their hearers! They instruct them that that which is in something else does not exist! So, Eunomius, since your heart and brain are within you, neither of them, according to your distinction, exists. For if the Only-begotten God does not, strictly speaking, exist, for this reason, that He is in the bosom of the Father, then everything that is in something else is thereby excluded from existence. But certainly your heart exists in you, and not independently; therefore, according to your view, you must either say that it does not exist at all, or that it does not exist in the strict sense. However, the ignorance and profanity of his language are so gross and so glaring, as to be obvious even before our argument, at all events to all persons of sense: but that his folly as well as his impiety may be more manifest, we will add thus much to what has gone before. If one may only say that that in the strict sense exists, of which the word of Scripture attests the existence detached from all relation to anything else, why do they, like those who carry water, perish with thirst when they have it in their power to drink? Even this man, though he had at hand the antidote to his blasphemy against the Son, closed his eyes and ran past it as though fearing to be saved, and charges Basil with unfairness for having suppressed the qualifying words, and for only quoting the was by itself, in reference to the Only-Begotten. And yet it was quite in his power to see what Basil saw and what every one who has eyes sees. And herein the sublime John seems to me to have been prophetically moved, that the mouths of those fighters against Christ might be stopped, who on the ground of these additions deny the existence, in the strict sense, of the Christ, saying simply and without qualification The Word was God, and was Life, and was Light, not merely speaking of Him as being in the beginning, and with God, and in the bosom of the Father, so that by their relation the absolute existence of the Lord should be done away. But his assertion that He was God, by this absolute declaration detached from all relation to anything else, cuts off every subterfuge from those who in their reasonings run into impiety; and, in addition to this, there is moreover something else which still more convincingly proves the malignity of our adversaries. For if they make out that to exist in something is an indication of not existing in the strict sense, then certainly they allow that not even the Father exists absolutely, as they have learned in the Gospel, that just as the Son abides in the Father, so the Father abides in the Son, according to the words of the Lord. For to say that the Father is in the Son is equivalent to saying that the Son is in the bosom of the Father. And in passing let us make this further inquiry. When the Son, as they say, was not, what did the bosom of the Father contain? For assuredly they must either grant that it was full, or suppose it to have been empty. If then the bosom was full, certainly the Son was that which filled the bosom. But if they imagine that there was some void in the bosom of the Father, they do nothing else than assert of Him perfection by way of augmentation, in the sense that He passed from the state of void and deficiency to the state of fullness and perfection. But they knew not nor understood, says David of those that walk on still in darkness. For he who has been rendered hostile to the true Light cannot keep his soul in light. For this reason it was that they did not perceive lying ready to their hand in logical sequence that which would have corrected their impiety, smitten, as it were, with blindness, like the men of Sodom. But he also says that the essence of the Son is controlled by the Father, his exact words being as follows:- For He Who is and lives because of the Father, does not appropriate this dignity, as the essence which controls even Him attracts to itself the conception of the Existent. If these doctrines approve themselves to some of the sages who are without, let not the Gospels nor the rest of the teaching of the Holy Scripture be in any way disturbed. For what fellowship is there between the creed of Christians and the wisdom that has been made foolish ? But if he leans upon the support of the Scriptures, let him show one such declaration from the holy writings, and we will hold our peace. I hear Paul cry aloud, There is one Lord Jesus Christ 1 Corinthians 8:6 . But Eunomius shouts against Paul, calling Christ a slave. For we recognize no other mark of a slave than to be subject and controlled. The slave is assuredly a slave, but the slave cannot by nature be Lord, even though the term be applied to Him by inexact use. And why should I bring forward the declarations of Paul in evidence of the lordship of the Lord? For Paul's Master Himself tells His disciples that He is truly Lord, accepting as He does the confession of those who called Him Master and Lord. For He says, You call Me Master and Lord; and you say well, for so I am John 13:13 . And in the same way He enjoined that the Father should be called Father by them, saying, Call no man master upon earth: for one is your Master, even Christ: and call no man father upon earth, for one is your Father, Which is in heaven Matthew 23:8-10 . To which then ought we to give heed, as we are thus hemmed in between them? On one side the Lord Himself, and he who has Christ speaking in him 2 Corinthians 13:3, enjoin us not to think of Him as a slave, but to honour Him even as the Father is honoured, and on the other side Eunomius brings his suit against the Lord, claiming Him as a slave, when he says that He on Whose shoulders rests the government of the universe is under dominion. Can our choice what to do be doubtful, or is the decision which is the more advantageous course unimportant? Shall I slight the advice of Paul, Eunomius? Shall I deem the voice of the Truth less trustworthy than your deceit? But if I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin. Since then, He has spoken to them, truly declaring Himself to be Lord, and that He is not falsely named Lord (for He says, I am, not I am called), what need is there that they should do that, whereon the vengeance is inevitable because they are forewarned? But perhaps, in answer to this, he will again put forth his accustomed logic, and will say that the same Being is both slave and Lord, dominated by the controlling power but lording it over the rest. These profound distinctions are talked of at the cross-roads, circulated by those who are enamoured of falsehood, who confirm their idle notions about the Deity by illustrations from the circumstances of ordinary life. For since the occurrences of this world give us examples of such arrangements (thus in a wealthy establishment one may see the more active and devoted servant set over his fellow-servants by the command of his master, and so invested with superiority over others in the same rank and station), they transfer this notion to the doctrines concerning the Godhead, so that the Only-begotten God, though subject to the sovereignty of His superior, is no way hindered by the authority of His sovereign in the direction of those inferior to Him. But let us bid farewell to such philosophy, and proceed to discuss this point according to the measure of our intelligence. Do they confess that the Father is by nature Lord, or do they hold that He arrived at this position by some kind of election? I do not think that a man who has any share whatever of intellect could come to such a pitch of madness as not to acknowledge that the lordship of the God of all is His by nature. For that which is by nature simple, uncompounded, and indivisible, whatever it happens to be, that it is throughout in all its entirety, not becoming one thing after another by some process of change, but remaining eternally in the condition in which it is. What, then, is their belief about the Only-begotten? Do they own that His essence is simple, or do they suppose that in it there is any sort of composition? If they think that He is some multiform thing, made up of many parts, assuredly they will not concede Him even the name of Deity, but will drag down their doctrine of the Christ to corporeal and material conceptions: but if they agree that He is simple, how is it possible in the simplicity of the subject to recognize the concurrence of contrary attributes? For just as the contradictory opposition of life and death admits of no mean, so in its distinguishing characteristics is domination diametrically and irreconcilably opposed to servitude. For if one were to consider each of these by itself, one could not properly frame any definition that would apply alike to both, and where the definition of things is not identical, their nature also is assuredly different. If then the Lord is simple and uncompounded in nature, how can the conjunction of contraries be found in the subject, as would be the case if servitude mingled with lordship? But if He is acknowledged to be Lord, in accordance with the teaching of the saints, the simplicity of the subject is evidence that He can have no part or lot in the opposite condition: while if they make Him out to be a slave, then it is idle for them to ascribe to Him the title of lordship. For that which is simple in nature is not parted asunder into contradictory attributes. But if they affirm that He is one, and is called the other, that He is by nature slave and Lord in name alone, let them boldly utter this declaration and relieve us from the long labour of answering them. For who can afford to be so leisurely in his treatment of inanities as to employ arguments to demonstrate what is obvious and unambiguous? For if a man were to inform against himself for the crime of murder, the accuser would not be put to any trouble in bringing home to him by evidence the charge of blood-guiltiness. In like manner we shall no longer bring against our opponents, when they advance so far in impiety, a confutation framed after examination of their case. For he who affirms the Only-begotten to be a slave, makes Him out by so saying to be a fellow-servant with himself: and hence will of necessity arise a double enormity. For either he will despise his fellow-slave and deny the faith, having shaken off the yoke of the lordship of Christ, or he will bow before the slave, and, turning away from the self-determining nature that owns no Lord over it, will in a manner worship himself instead of God. For if he sees himself in slavery, and the object of his worship also in slavery, he of course looks at himself, seeing the whole of himself in that which he worships. But what reckoning can count up all the other mischiefs that necessarily accompany this pravity of doctrine? For who does not know that he who is by nature a slave, and follows his avocation under the constraint imposed by a master, cannot be removed even from the emotion of fear? And of this the inspired Apostle is a witness, when he says, You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear Romans 8:15 . So that they will be found to attribute, after the likeness of men, the emotion of fear also to their fellow-servant God. Such is the God of heresy. But what we, who, in the words of the Apostle, have been called to liberty by Christ, Who has freed us from bondage, have been taught by the Scriptures to think, I will set forth in few words. I take my start from the inspired teaching, and boldly declare that the Divine Word does not wish even us to be slaves, our nature having now been changed for the better, and that He Who has taken all that was ours, on the terms of giving to us in return what is His, even as He took disease, death, curse, and sin, so took our slavery also, not in such a way as Himself to have what He took, but so as to purge our nature of such evils, our defects being swallowed up and done away with in His stainless nature. As therefore in the life that we hope for there will be neither disease, nor curse, nor sin, nor death, so slavery also along with these will vanish away. And that what I say is true I call the Truth Himself to witness, Who says to His disciples I call you no more servants, but friends. If then our nature will be free at length from the reproach of slavery, how comes the Lord of all to be reduced to slavery by the madness and infatuation of these deranged men, who must of course, as a logical consequence, assert that He does not know the counsels of the Father, because of His declaration concerning the slave, which tells us that the servant knows not what his lord does ? But when they say this, let them hear that the Son has in Himself all that pertains to the Father, and sees all things that the Father does, and none of the good things that belong to the Father is outside the knowledge of the Son. For how can He fail to have anything that is the Father's, seeing He has the Father wholly in Himself? Accordingly, if the servant knows not what his lord does, and if He has in Himself all things that are the Father's, let those who are reeling with strong drink at last become sober, and let them now, if never before, look up at the truth, and see that He who has all things that the Father has is lord of all, and not a slave. For how can the personality that owns no lord over it bear on itself the brand of slavery? How can the King of all fail to have His form of like honour with Himself? How can dishonour - for slavery is dishonour - constitute the brightness of the true glory? And how is the King's son born into slavery? No, it is not so. But as He is Light of Light, and Life of Life, and Truth of Truth, so is He Lord of Lord, King of King, God of God, Supreme of Supreme; for having in Himself the Father in His entirety, whatever the Father has in Himself He also assuredly has, and since, moreover, all that the Son has belongs to the Father, the enemies of God's glory are inevitably compelled, if the Son is a slave, to drag down to servitude the Father as well. For there is no attribute of the Son which is not absolutely the Father's. For all Mine are Yours, He says, and Yours are Mine John 17:10 . What then will the poor creatures say? Which is more reasonable - that the Son, Who has said, Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them John 17:10, should be glorified in the sovereignty of the Father, or that insult should be offered to the Father by the degradation involved in the slavery of the Son? For it is not possible that He Who contains in Himself all that belongs to the Son, and Who is Himself in the Son, should not also absolutely be in the slavery of the Son, and have slavery in Himself. Such are the results achieved by Eunomius' philosophy, whereby he inflicts upon his Lord the insult of slavery, while he attaches the same degradation to the stainless glory of the Father. Let us however return once more to the course of his treatise. What does Eunomius say concerning the Only-begotten? That He does not appropriate the dignity, for he calls the appellation of being a dignity. A startling piece of philosophy! Who of all men that have ever been, whether among Greeks or barbarian sages, who of the men of our own day, who of the men of all time ever gave being the name of dignity? For everything that is regarded as subsisting is said, by the common custom of all who use language, to be: and from the word be has been formed the term being. But now the expression dignity is applied in a new fashion to the idea expressed by being. For he says that the Son, Who is and lives because of the Father, does not appropriate this dignity, having no Scripture to support his statement, and not conducting his statement to so senseless a conclusion by any process of logical inference, but as if he had taken into his intestines some windy food, he belches forth his blasphemy in its crude and unmethodized form, like some unsavoury breath. He does not appropriate this dignity. Let us concede the point of being being called dignity. What then? Does He Who is not appropriate being? No, says Eunomius, because He exists by reason of the Father. Do you not then say that He Who does not appropriate being is not? For not to appropriate has the same force as to be alien from, and the mutual opposition of the ideas is evident. For that which is proper is not alien, and that which is alien is not proper. He therefore Who does not appropriate being is obviously alien from being: and He Who is alien from being is nonexistent. But his cogent proof of this absurdity he brings forward in the words, as the essence which controls even Him attracts to itself the conception of the Existent. Let us say nothing about the awkwardness of the combination here: let us examine his serious meaning. What argument ever demonstrated this? He superfluously reiterates to us his statement of the Essence of the Father having sovereignty over the Son. What evangelist is the patron of this doctrine? What process of dialectic conducts us to it. What premises support it? What line of argument ever demonstrated by any logical consequence that the Only-begotten God is under dominion? But, says he, the essence that is dominant over the Son attracts to itself the conception of the Existent. What is the meaning of the attraction of the existent? And how comes the phrase of attracting to be flung on the top of what he has said before? Assuredly he who considers the force of words will judge for himself. About this, however, we will say nothing: but we will take up again that argument that he does not grant essential being to Him to Whom he does not leave the title of the Existent. And why does he idly fight with shadows, contending about the non-existent being this or that? For that which does not exist is of course neither like anything else, nor unlike. But while granting that He is existent he forbids Him to be so called. Alas for the vain precision of haggling about the sound of a word while making concessions on the more important matter! But in what sense does He, Who, as he says, has dominion over the Son, attract to Himself the conception of the Existent? For if he says that the Father attracts His own essence, this process of attraction is superfluous: for existence is His already, without being attracted. If, on the other hand, his meaning is that the existence of the Son is attracted by the Father, I cannot make out how existence is to be wrenched from the Existent, and to pass over to Him Who attracts it. Can he be dreaming of the error of Sabellius, as though the Son did not exist in Himself, but was painted on to the personal existence of the Father? Is this his meaning in the expression that the conception of the Existent is attracted by the essence which exercises domination over the Son? Or does he, while not denying the personal existence of the Son, nevertheless say that He is separated from the meaning conveyed by the term the Existent? And yet, how can the Existent be separated from the conception of existence? For as long as anything is what it is, nature does not admit that it should not be what it is.

Intertexts (texts cited often on the same page as the searched text):

None available Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
angels Cain (2016) 20
encomium Cain (2016) 20
eusebius of caesarea Cain (2016) 20
jerome Cain (2016) 20
macarius of egypt Cain (2016) 20
miracles Cain (2016) 20
nitria Cain (2016) 20
theodosius i' Cain (2016) 20