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Chapter VII.—On the Arian Symbol “Unoriginate.” This term afterwards adopted by them; and why; three senses of it. A fourth sense. Unoriginate denotes God in contrast to His creatures, not to His Son; Father the scriptural title instead; Conclusion.

28. This in fact was the reason, when the unsound nature of their phrases had been exposed at that time, and they were henceforth open to the charge of irreligion, that they proceeded to borrow of the Greeks the term Unoriginate 946 , that, under shelter of it, they might reckon among the things originated and the creatures, that Word of God, by whom these very things came to be; so unblushing are they in their irreligion, so obstinate in their blasphemies against the Lord. If then this want of shame arises from ignorance of the term, they ought to have learned of those who gave it them, and who have not scrupled to say that even intellect, which they derive from Good, and the soul which proceeds from intellect, though their respective origins be known, are notwithstanding unoriginated, for they understand that by so saying they do not disparage that first Origin of which the others come 947 . This being the case, let them say the like themselves, or else not speak at all of what they do not know. But if they consider they are acquainted with the subject, then they must be interrogated; for 948 the expression is not from divine Scripture 949 , but they are contentious, as elsewhere, for unscriptural positions. Just as I have related the reason and sense, with which the Council and the Fathers before it defined and published ‘of the essence,’ and ‘one in essence,’ agreeably to what Scripture says of the Saviour; so now let them, if they can, answer on their part what has led them to this unscriptural phrase, and in what sense they call God Unoriginated? In truth, I am told 950 , that the name has p. 170 different senses; philosophers say that it means, first ‘what has not yet, but may, come to be;’ next, ‘what neither exists, nor can come into being;’ and thirdly, ‘what exists indeed, but was neither originated nor had origin of being, but is everlasting and indestructible 951 .’ Now perhaps they will wish to pass over the first two senses, from the absurdity which follows; for according to the first, things that already have come to be, and things that are expected to come to be, are unoriginated; and the second is more absurd still; accordingly they will proceed to the third sense, and use the word in it; though here, in this sense too, their irreligion will be quite as great. For if by unoriginated they mean what has no origin of being, nor is originated or created, but eternal, and say that the Word of God is contrary to this, who comprehends not the craft of these foes of God? who but would stone 952 such madmen? for, when they are ashamed to bring forward again those first phrases which they fabled, and which were condemned, the wretches have taken another way to signify them, by means of what they call unoriginate. For if the Son be of things originate, it follows, that He too came to be from nothing; and if He has an origin of being, then He was not before His generation; and if He is not eternal, there was once when He was not 953 .

29. If these are their sentiments they ought to signify their heterodoxy in their own phrases, and not to hide their perverseness under the cloke of the Unoriginate. But instead of this, the evil-minded men do all things with craftiness like their father, the devil; for as he attempts to deceive in the guise of others, so these have broached the term Unoriginate, that they might pretend to speak piously of God, yet might cherish a concealed blasphemy against the Lord, and under a veil might teach it to others. However, on the detecting of this sophism, what remains to them? ‘We have found another,’ say the evildoers; and then proceed to add to what they have said already, that Unoriginate means what has no author of being, but stands itself in this relation to things originated. Unthankful, and in truth deaf to the Scriptures! who do everything, and say everything, not to honour God, but to dishonour the Son, ignorant that he who dishonours the Son, dishonours the Father. For first, even though they denote God in this way, still the Word is not proved to be of things originated. For again, as being an offspring of the essence of the Father, He is of consequence with Him eternally. For this name of offspring does not detract from the nature of the Word, nor does Unoriginated take its sense from contrast with the Son, but with the things which come to be through the Son; and as he who addresses an architect, and calls him framer of house or city, does not under this designation allude to the son who is begotten from him, but on account of the art and science which he displays in his work, calls him artificer, signifying thereby that he is not such as the things made by him, and while he knows the nature of the builder, knows also that he whom he begets is other than his works; and in regard to his son calls him father, but in regard to his works, creator and maker; in like manner he who says in this sense that God is unoriginate, names Him from His works, signifying, not only that He is not originated, but that He is maker of things which are so; yet is aware withal that the Word is other than the things originate, and alone a proper offspring of the Father, through whom all things came to be and consist 954 .

30. In like manner, when the Prophets spoke of God as All-ruling, they did not so name Him, as if the Word were included in that All; (for they knew that the Son was p. 171 other than things originated, and Sovereign over them Himself, according to His likeness to the Father); but because He is Ruler over all things which through the Son He has made, and has given the authority of all things to the Son, and having given it, is Himself once more the Lord of all things through the Word. Again, when they called God, Lord of the powers 955 , they said not this as if the Word was one of those powers, but because while He is Father of the Son, He is Lord of the powers which through the Son have come to be. For again, the Word too, as being in the Father, is Lord of them all, and Sovereign over all; for all things, whatsoever the Father hath, are the Son’s. This then being the force of such titles, in like manner let a man call God unoriginated, if it so please him; not however as if the Word were of originated things, but because, as I said before, God not only is not originated, but through His proper Word is He the maker of things which are so. For though the Father be called such, still the Word is the Father’s Image, and one in essence with Him; and being His Image, He must be distinct from things originated, and from everything; for whose Image He is, His property and likeness He hath: so that he who calls the Father unoriginated and almighty, perceives in the Unoriginated and the Almighty, His Word and His Wisdom, which is the Son. But these wondrous men, and prompt for irreligion, hit upon the term Unoriginated, not as caring for God’s honour, but from malevolence towards the Saviour; for if they had regard to honour and reverent language, it rather had been right and good to acknowledge and to call God Father, than to give Him this name; for in calling God unoriginated, they are, as I said before, calling Him from things which came to be, and as a Maker only, that so they may imply the Word to be a work after their own pleasure; but he who calls God Father, in Him withal signifies His Son also, and cannot fail to know that, whereas there is a Son, through this Son all things that came to be were created.

31. Therefore it will be much more accurate to denote God from the Son and to call Him Father, than to name Him and call Him Unoriginated from His works only; for the latter term refers to the works that have come to be at the will of God through the Word, but the name of Father points out the proper offspring from His essence. And whereas the Word surpasses things originated, by so much and more also doth calling God Father surpass the calling Him Unoriginated; for the latter is non-scriptural and suspicious, as it has various senses; but the former is simple and scriptural, and more accurate, and alone implies the Son. And ‘Unoriginated’ is a word of the Greeks who know not the Son: but ‘Father’ has been acknowledged and vouchsafed by our Lord; for He knowing Himself whose Son He was, said, ‘I in the Father and the Father in Me 956 ;’ and, ‘He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father;’ and, ‘I and the Father are one 957 ;’ but nowhere is He found to call the Father Unoriginated. Moreover, when He teaches us to pray, He says not, ‘When ye pray, say, O God Unoriginated,’ but rather, ‘When ye pray, say, Our Father, which art in heaven 958 .’ And it was His Will, that the Summary of our faith should have the same bearing. For He has bid us be baptized, not in the name of Unoriginate and Originate, not into the name of Uncreate and Creature, but into the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit 959 , for with such an initiation we too are made sons verily 960 , and using the name of the Father, we acknowledge from that name p. 172 the Word in the Father. But if He wills that we should call His own Father our Father, we must not on that account measure ourselves with the Son according to nature, for it is because of the Son that the Father is so called by us; for since the Word bore our body and came to be in us, therefore by reason of the Word in us, is God called our Father. For the Spirit of the Word in us names through us His own Father as ours, which is the Apostle’s meaning when he says, ‘God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father 961 .’

32. But perhaps being refuted as touching the term Unoriginate also, they will say according to their evil nature, ‘It behoved, as regards our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ also, to state from the Scriptures what is there written of Him, and not to introduce non-scriptural expressions.’ Yes, it behoved, say I too; for the tokens of truth are more exact as drawn from Scripture, than from other sources 962 ; but the ill disposition and the versatile and crafty irreligion of Eusebius and his fellows, compelled the Bishops, as I said before, to publish more distinctly the terms which overthrew their irreligion; and what the Council did write has already been shewn to have an orthodox sense, while the Arians have been shewn to be corrupt in their phrases, and evil in their dispositions. The term Unoriginate, having its own sense, and admitting of a religious use, they nevertheless, according to their own idea, and as they will, use for the dishonour of the Saviour, all for the sake of contentiously maintaining, like giants 963 , their fight with God. But as they did not escape condemnation when they adduced these former phrases, so when they misconceive of the Unoriginated which in itself admits of being used well and religiously, they were detected, being disgraced before all, and their heresy everywhere proscribed. This then, as I could, have I related, by way of explaining what was formerly done in the Council; but I know that the contentious among Christ’s foes will not be disposed to change even after hearing this, but will ever search about for other pretences, and for others again after those. For as the Prophet speaks, ‘If the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots 964 ’, then will they be willing to think religiously, who have been instructed in irreligion. Thou however, beloved, on receiving this, read it by thyself; and if thou approvest of it, read it also to the brethren who happen to be present, that they too on hearing it, may welcome the Council’s zeal for the truth, and the exactness of its sense; and may condemn that of Christ’s foes, the Arians, and the futile pretences, which for the sake of their irreligious heresy they have been at the pains to frame among themselves; because to God and the Father is due the glory, honour, and worship with His co-existent Son and Word, together with the All-holy and Life-giving Spirit, now and unto endless ages of ages. Amen.



γένητον. Opportunity will occur for noticing this celebrated word on Orat. i. 30–34. where the present passage is partly rewritten, partly transcribed. Mention is also made of it in the De Syn. 46, 47. Athanasius would seem to have been but partially acquainted with the writings of the Anomœans, whose symbol it was, and to have argued with them from the writings of the elder Arians, who had also made use of it. [On Newman’s unfortunate confusion of γένητον and γέννητον, see Lightfoot, as quoted in the note on Exp. Fid. §1. Newman’s reasons are stated in note 7 to Orat. i. 56.]


Montfaucon quotes a passage from Plato’s Phædrus, in which the human soul is called ‘unoriginate and immortal [246 a.];’ but Athan. is referring to another subject, the Platonic, or rather the Eclectic [i.e. Neo-Platonic] Trinity. Thus Theodoret, ‘Plotinus, and Numenius, explaining the sense of Plato, say, that he taught Three principles beyond time and eternal, Good, Intellect, and the Soul of all,’ de Affect. Cur. ii. p. 750. And so Plotinus himself, ‘It is as if one were to place Good as the centre, Intellect like an immoveable circle round, and Soul a moveable circle, and moveable by appetite.’ 4 Ennead. iv. c. 16. vid. Porphyry in Cyril. contr. Julian. viii. t. ult. p. 271. vid. ibid. i. p. 32. Plot. 3 Ennead. v. 2 and 3. Athan.’s testimony that the Platonists considered their three ποστάσεις all unoriginate is perhaps a singular one. In 5 Ennead. iv. 1. Plotinus says what seems contrary to it, δὲ ἀρχὴ ἀγέννητος, speaking of his τἀγαθόν. Yet Plato, quoted by Theodoret, ibid. p. 749, speaks of εἴτε ἀρχὴν εἴτε ἀρχάς.


πεὶ μάλισται, ὅτι μάλιστα, Orat. 1. §36. de Syn. §21. fin. ταν μάλιστα, Apol. ad Const. 23. καὶ μάλιστα, de Syn. §42, 54.


Cf. §18, n. 8.


And so de Syn. §46. ‘we have on careful inquiry ascertained, &c.’ Again, ‘I have acquainted myself on their account [the Arians’] with the meaning of γένητον.’ Orat. i. §30. This is remarkable, for Athan. was a man of liberal education, as his Orat. contr. Gent. and de Incarn. shew, especially, his acquaintance with the Platonic philosophy. Sulpicius too speaks of him as a jurisconsultus, Sacr. Hist. ii. 50. S. Gregory Naz. says, that he gave some attention, but not much, to the subjects of general education, τῶν ἐγκυκλίων, that he might not be altogether ignorant, of what he nevertheless despised, Orat. 21. 6. In the same way S. Basil, whose cultivation of mind none can doubt, speaks slightingly of his own philosophical knowledge. He writes of his ‘neglecting his own weakness, and being utterly unexercised in such disquisitions;’ contr. Eunom. init. And so in de Sp. §5. he says, that ‘they who have given time’ to vain philosophy, ‘divide causes into principal, cooperative,’ &c. Elsewhere he speaks of having ‘expended much time on vanity, and wasted nearly all his youth in the vain labour of pursuing the studies of that wisdom which God has made foolishness,’ Ep. 223. 2. In truth, Christianity has a philosophy of its own. Thus in the commencement of his Viæ Dux Anastasius says, ‘It is a first point to be understood, that the tradition of the Catholic Church does not proceed upon, or follow, the philosophical definitions in all respects, and especially as regards the mystery of Christ, and the doctrine of the Trinity, but a certain rule of its own, evangelical and apostolical.’ p. 20.


Four senses of γένητον are enumerated, Orat. i. §30. 1. What is not as yet, but is possible; 2. what neither has been nor can be; 3. what exists, but has not come to be from any cause; 4. what is not made, but is ever. Only two senses are specified in the de Syn. §46. and in these the question really lies; 1. what is, but without a cause; 2. uncreate.


Βαλλέσθωσαν παρὰ πάντων, Orat. ii. §28. An apparent allusion to the punishment of blasphemy and idolatry under the Jewish Law. vid. [Exod. 19:13, Exod. 21:17Ex. xix. 13. and] reference to Ex. xxi. 17, in §27, note 2. Thus, e.g. Nazianzen: ‘While I go up the mount with good heart, that I may become within the cloud, and may hold converse with God, for so God bids; if there be any Aaron, let him go up with me and stand near. And if there be any Nadab or Abihu, or of the elders, let him go up, but stand far off, according to the measure of his purification.…But if any one is an evil and savage beast, and quite incapable of science and theology; let him stand off still further, and depart from the mount: or he will be stoned and crushed; for the wicked shall be miserably destroyed. For as stones for the bestial are true words and strong. Whether he be leopard, let him die spots and all,’ &c. &c. Orat. 28. 2.


The Arians argued that the word unoriginate implied originate or creature as its correlative, and therefore indirectly signified Creator; so that the Son being not unoriginate, was not the Creator. Athan. answers, that in the use of the word, whether there be a Son does not come into the question. As the idea of Father and Son does not include creation, so that of creator and creature does not include generation; and it would be as illogical to infer that there are no creatures because there is a Son as that there is no Son because there are creatures.


The whole of this passage is repeated in Orat. i. 32. &c. vid. for this particular argument, Basil also, contr. Eunom. i. 16.


i.e. of hosts.


John 14:9, 10.


John 10.30.


Matt. vi. 9.


And so S. Basil, ‘Our faith was not in Framer and Work, but in Father and Son were we sealed through the grace in baptism.’ contr. Eunom. ii. 22. And a somewhat similar passage occurs Orat. ii. §41.


υἱοποιούμεθα ἀληθῶς. This strong term ‘truly’ or ‘verily’ seems taken from such passages as speak of the ‘grace and truth’ of the Gospel, John i. 12-17. Again S. Basil says, that we are sons, κυρίως, ‘properly,’ and πρώτως ‘primarily,’ in opposition to τροπικῶς, ‘figuratively,’ contr. Eunom. ii. 23. S. Cyril too says, that we are sons ‘naturally’ φυσικῶς as well as κατὰ χάριν, vid. Suicer Thesaur. v. υἱ& 231·ς. i. 3. Of these words, ληθῶς, φυσικῶς, κυρίως, and πρώτως, the first two are commonly reserved for our Lord; e.g. τὸν ἀληθῶς υἱ& 232·ν, Orat. ii. §37. μεῖς υἱοὶ, οὐκ ὡς ἐκεῖνος φύσει καὶ ἀληθεία, iii. §19. Hilary seems to deny us the title of ‘proper’ sons; de Trin. xii. 15; but his ‘proprium’ is a translation of διον, not κυρίως. And when Justin says of Christ μόνος λεγόμενος κυρίως υἱ& 232·ς, Apol. ii. 6. κυρίως seems to be used in reference to the word κύριος, Lord, which he has just been using, κυριολογεῖν being sometimes used by him as others in the sense of ‘naming as Lord,’ like θεολογεῖν. vid. Tryph. 56. There is a passage in Justin’s ad Græc. 21. where he (or the writer) when speaking of γώ εἰμι ὁ ὣν, uses the word in the same ambiguous sense; οὐδὲν γὰρ ὄνομα ἐπὶ θεοῦ κυριολογεῖσθαι δυνατὸν, 21; as if κύριος, the Lord, by which ‘I am’ is translated, were a sort of symbol of that proper name of God which cannot be given. But to return; the true doctrine then is, that, whereas there is a primary and secondary sense in which the word Son is used, primary when it has its formal meaning of continuation of nature, and secondary when it is used nominally, or for an external resemblance to the first meaning, it is applied to the regenerate, not in the secondary sense, but in the primary. S. Basil and S. Gregory Nyssen consider Son to be ‘a term of relationship according to nature’ (vid. supr. §10, note 1.), also Basil in Psalm xxviii. 1. The actual presence of the Holy Spirit in the regenerate in substance (vid. Cyril, Dial. 7. p. 638.) constitutes this relationship of nature; and hence after the words quoted from S. Cyril in the beginning of the note, in which he says, that we are sons, φυσικῶς, he proceeds, ‘naturally, because we are in Him, and in Him alone.’ vid. Athan.’s words which follow in the text at the end of §31. And hence Nyssen lays down, as a received truth, that ‘to none does the term “proper,” κυριώτατον, apply, but to one in whom the name responds with truth to the nature,’ contr. Eunom. iii. p. 123. And he also implies, p. 117, the intimate association of our sonship with Christ’s, when he connects together regeneration with our Lord’s eternal generation, neither being διὰ πάθους, or, of the will of the flesh. If it be asked, what the distinctive words are which are incommunicably the Son’s, since so much is man’s, it is obvious to answer, διος υἱ& 232·ς and μονογενὴς, which are in Scripture, and the symbols ‘of the essence,’ and ‘one in essence,’ of the Council; and this is the value of the Council’s phrases, that, while they guard the Son’s divinity, they allow full scope, without risk of entrenching on it, to the Catholic doctrine of the fulness of the Christian privileges. vid. supr. §19, note.


Gal. iv. 6.


Cf. contr. Gent. init. Incarn. 57. ad Ep. Æg. 4. Vit. Ant. 16. And passim in Athan.


And so, Orat. ii. §32, κατὰ τοὺς μυθευομένους γίγαντας. And so Nazianzen, Orat. 43. 26. speaking of the disorderly Bishops during the Arian ascendancy. Also Socr. v. 10. Sometimes the Scripture giants are spoken of, sometimes the mythological.


Jer. xiii. 23.

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