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§3. Then, thus passing over what relates to the essence of the Son as having been already discussed, he treats of the sense involved in “generation,” saying that there are diverse generations, those effected by matter and art, and of buildings,—and that by succession of animals,—and those by efflux, as by the sun and its beam. The lamp and its radiance, scents and ointments and the quality diffused by them,—and the word produced by the mind; and cleverly discusses generation 866 from rotten wood; and from the condensation of fire, and countless other causes.

Now that we have thus thoroughly scrutinized our doctrine, it may perhaps be time to set forth and to consider the opposing statement, examining it side by side in comparison with our own opinion. He states it thus:—“For while there are,” he says, “two statements which we have made, the one, that the essence of the Only-begotten was not before its own generation, the other that, being generated, it was before all things, he 867 does not prove either of these statements to be untrue; for he did not venture to say that He was before that supreme 868 generation and formation, seeing that he is opposed at once by the Nature of the Father, and the judgment of sober-minded men. For what sober man could admit the Son to be and to be begotten before that supreme generation? and He Who is without generation needs not generation in order to His being what He is.” Well, whether he speaks truly, when he says that our master 869 opposed his antitheses to no purpose, all may surely be aware who have been conversant with that writer’s works. But for my own part (for I think that the refutation of his calumny on this matter is a small step towards the exposure of his malice), I will leave the task of showing that this point was not passed over by our master without discussion, and turn my argument to the discussion, as far as in me lies, of the points now advanced. He says that he has in his own discourse spoken of two matters,—one, that the essence of the Only-begotten was not before Its own generation, the other, that, being generated, It was before all things. Now I think that by what we have already said, the fact has been sufficiently shown that no new essence was begotten by the Father besides that which is contemplated in the Father Himself, and that there is no need for us to be entangled in a contest with blasphemy of this kind, as if the argument were now propounded to us for the first time; and further, that the real force of our argument must be directed to one point, I mean to his horrible and blasphemous utterance, which clearly states concerning God the Word that “He was not.” Moreover, as our argument in the foregoing discourse has already to some extent dealt with the question of his blasphemy, it would perhaps be superfluous again to establish by like considerations what we have proved already. For it was to this end that we made those former statements, that by the earlier impression upon our hearers of an orthodox mode of thought, the blasphemy p. CCIV of our adversaries, who assert that non-existence preceded existence in the case of the Only-begotten God, might be more manifest.

It seems at this point well to investigate in our argument, by a more careful examination, the actual significance of “generation.” That this name presents to us the fact of being as the result of some cause is clear to every one, and about this point there is, I suppose, no need to dispute. But since the account to be given of things which exist as the result of cause is various, I think it proper that this matter should be cleared up in our discourse by some sort of scientific division. Of things, then, which are the result of something, we understand the varieties to be as follows. Some are the result of matter and art, as the structure of buildings and of other works, coming into being by means of their respective matter, and these are directed by some art that accomplishes the thing proposed, with a view to the proper aim of the results produced. Others are the results of matter and nature; for the generations of animals are the building 870 of nature, who carries on her own operation by means of their material bodily subsistence. Others are the result of material efflux, in which cases the antecedent remains in its natural condition, while that which flows from it is conceived separately, as in the case of the sun and its beam, or the lamp and its brightness, or of scents and ointments and the quality they emit; for these, while they remain in themselves without diminution, have at the same time, each concurrently with itself, that natural property which they emit: as the sun its beam, the lamp its brightness, the scents the perfume produced by them in the air. There is also another species of “generation” besides these, in which the cause is immaterial and incorporeal, but the generation is an object of sense and takes place by corporeal means;—I speak of the word which is begotten by the mind: for the mind, being itself incorporeal, brings forth the word by means of the organs of sense. All these varieties of generation we mentally include, as it were, in one general view. For all the wonders that are wrought by nature, which changes the bodies of some animals to something of a different kind, or produces some animals from a change in liquids, or a corruption of seed, or the rotting of wood, or out of the condensed mass of fire transforms the cold vapour that issues from the firebrands, shut off in the heart of the fire, to produce an animal which they call the salamander,—these, even if they seem to be outside the limits we have laid down, are none the less included among the cases we have mentioned. For it is by means of bodies that nature fashions these varied forms of animals; for it is such and such a change of body, disposed by nature in this or that particular way, which produces this or that particular animal; and this is not a distinct species of generation besides that which is accomplished as the result of nature and matter.



To make the grammar of the sentence exact τὴν should here be substituted for τὸν, the object of the verb being apparently γέννησιν not λόγον. The whole section of the analysis is rather confused, and does not clearly reproduce S. Gregory’s division of the subject. A large part of this section, and of that which follows it, is repeated with very slight alteration from Bk. II. §9 (see pp. 113–115 above). The resemblances are much closer in the Greek text than they appear in the present translation, in which different hands have been at work in the two books.


i.e.S. Basil.


νωτάτω may be “supreme,” in the sense of “ultimate” or “most remote,” or in the more ordinary sense of “most exalted.”


i.e.S. Basil.


Or (reading as proposed above, p. 114, οἰκονομεῖ for οἰκοδομεῖ), “the ordering of nature.”

Next: He further shows the operations of God to be expressed by human illustrations; for what hands and feet and the other parts of the body with which men work are, that, in the case of God, the will alone is, in place of these. And so also arises the divergence of generation; wherefore He is called Only-begotten, because He has no community with other generation such as is observed in creation, but in that He is called the “brightness of glory,” and the “savour of ointment,” He shows the close conjunction and co-eternity of His Nature with the Father.