§2. He then ingeniously shows that the generation of the Son is not according to the phrase of Eunomius, “The Father begat Him at that time when He chose, and not before:” but that the Son, being the fulness of all that is good and excellent, is always contemplated in the Father; using for this demonstration the support of Eunomius own arguments.
However, though there is no interval between them, he does not admit that their communion is immediate and intimate, but condescends to the measure of our knowledge, and converses p. CCXIII with us in human phrase as one of ourselves, himself quietly confessing the impotence of reasoning and taking refuge in a line of argument that was never taught by Aristotle and his school. He says, “It was good and proper that He should beget His Son at that time when He willed: and in the minds of sensible men there does not hence arise any questioning why He did not do so before.” What does this mean, Eunomius? Are you too going afoot like us unlettered men? are you leaving your artistic periods and actually taking refuge in unreasoning assent? you, who so much reproached those who take in hand to write without logical skill? You, who say to Basil, “You show your own ignorance when you say that definitions of the terms that express things spiritual are an impossibility for men,” who again elsewhere advance the same charge, “you make your own impotence common to others, when you declare that what is not possible for you is impossible for all”? Is this the way that you, who say such things as these, approach the ears of him who questions about the reason why the Father defers becoming the Father of such a Son? Do you think it an adequate explanation to say, “He begat Him at that time when He chose: let there be no questioning on this point”? Has your apprehensive fancy grown so feeble in the maintenance of your doctrines? What has become of your premises that lead to dilemmas? What has become of your forcible proofs? how comes it that those terrible and inevitable syllogistic conclusions of your art have dissolved into vanity and nothingness? “He begat the Son at that time when He chose: let there be no questioning on this point!” Is this the finished product of your many labours, of your voluminous undertakings? What was the question asked? “If it is good and fitting for God to have such a Son, why are we not to believe that the good is always present with Him 910 ?” What is the answer he makes to us from the very shrine of his philosophy, tightening the bonds of his argument by inevitable necessity? “He made the Son at that time when He chose: let there be no questioning as to why He did not do so before.” Why, if the inquiry before us were concerning some irrational being, that acts by natural impulse, why it did not sooner do whatever it may be,—why the spider did not make her webs, or the bee her honey, or the turtle-dove her nest,—what else could you have said? would not the same answer have been ready—“She did it at that time when she chose: let there be no questioning on this matter”? Nay, if it were concerning some sculptor or painter who works in paintings or in sculptures by his imitative art, whatever it may be (supposing that he exercises his art without being subject to any authority), I imagine that such an answer would meet the case of any one who wished to know why he did not exercise his art sooner,—that, being under no necessity, he made his own choice the occasion of his operation. For men, because they do not always wish the same things 911 , and commonly have not power co-operating with their will, do something which seems good to them at that time when their choice inclines to the work, and they have no external hindrance. But that nature which is always the same, to which no good is adventitious, in which all that variety of plans which arises by way of opposition, from error or from ignorance, has no place, to which there comes nothing as a result of change, which was not with it before, and by which nothing is chosen afterwards which it had not from the beginning regarded as good,—to say of this nature that it does not always possess what is good, but afterwards chooses to have something which it did not choose before,—this belongs to wisdom that surpasses us. For we were taught that the Divine. Nature is at all times full of all good, or rather is itself the fulness of all goods, seeing that it needs no addition for its perfecting, but is itself by its own nature the perfection of good. Now that which is perfect is equally remote from addition and from diminution; and therefore, we say that perfection of goods which we behold in the Divine Nature always remains the same, as, in whatsoever direction we extend our thoughts, we there apprehend it to be such as it is. The Divine Nature, then, is never void of good: but the Son is the fulness of all good: and accordingly He is at all times contemplated in that Father Whose Nature is perfection in all good. But he says, “let there be no questioning about this point, why He did not do so before:” and we shall answer him,—“It is one thing, most sapient sir, to lay down as an ordinance some proposition that you happen to approve 912 , and another to make converts by reasoning on the points of controversy. So long, therefore, as you cannot assign any reason why we may piously say that the Son was “afterwards” begotten by the Father, your ordinances will be of no effect with sensible men.”
Thus it is then that Eunomius brings the truth to light for us as the result of his scientific attack. And we for our part shall apply his argument, as we are wont to do, for the establishment of the true doctrine, so that even by this p. CCXIV passage it may be clear that at every point, constrained against their will, they advocate our view. For if, as our opponent says, “He begat the Son at that time when He chose,” and if He always chose that which is good, and His power coincided with His choice, it follows that the Son will be considered as always with the Father, Who always both chooses that which is excellent, and is able to possess what He chooses. And if we are to reduce his next words also to truth, it is easy for us to adapt them also to the doctrine we hold:—“Let there be no questioning among sensible men on this point, why He did not do so before”—for the word “before” has a temporal sense, opposed to what is “afterwards” and “later”: but on the supposition that time does not exist, the terms expressing temporal interval are surely abolished with it. Now the Lord was before times and before ages: questioning as to “before” or “after” concerning the Maker of the ages is useless in the eyes of reasonable men: for words of this class are devoid of all meaning, if they are not used in reference to time. Since then the Lord is antecedent to times, the words “before” and “after” have no place as applied to Him. This may perhaps be sufficient to refute arguments that need no one to overthrow them, but fall by their own feebleness. For who is there with so much leisure that he can give himself up to such an extent to listen to the arguments on the other side, and to our contention against the silly stuff? Since, however, in men prejudiced by impiety, deceit is like some ingrained dye, hard to wash out, and deeply burned in upon their hearts, let us spend yet a little time upon our argument, if haply we may be able to cleanse their souls from this evil stain. After the utterances that I have quoted, and after adding to them, in the manner of his teacher Prunicus, 913 some unconnected and ill-arranged octads of insolence and abuse, he comes to the crowning point of his arguments, and, leaving the illogical exposition of his folly, arms his discourse once more with the weapons of dialectic, and maintains his absurdity against us, as he imagines, syllogistically.
Cf. S. Basil adv. Eun. II. 12, quoted above, p. 207.CCXIII:911
Reading ταὐτὰ for ταῦτα, which appears in the text of Oehler as well as in the earlier editions.CCXIII:912
Reading τι τῶν κατὰ γνωμὴν, for τι τῶν καταγνωμῶν, which is the reading of the editions, but introduces a word otherwise apparently unknown.CCXIV:913
So in Book I. πρῶτον μὲν τῆς Προυνίκου σοφίας γίνεται μαθητὴς, and Book XIII. p. 844 (Paris Edit.). It may be questioned whether the phrase in Books I. and XIII., and that here, refers to a supposed connection of Eunomius with Gnosticism. The Προύνικος Σοφία of the Gnostics was a “male-female,” and hence the masculine τὸν παιδεύτην might properly be applied to it. If this point were cleared up, we might be more certain of the meaning to be attached to the word ὀκτάδας, which is also possibly borrowed from the Gnostic phraseology, being akin to the form ὀγδοάδας. [On the Gnostic conception of “Prunicus,” see the note on the subject in Harveys Irenæus (vol. I. p. 225), and Smith and Waces Dict. Chr. Biogr. s.v. On the Gnostic Ogdoads, see Mansels Gnostic Heresies, pp. 152 sqq., 170 sqq., and the articles on Basilides and Valentinus in Dict. Chr. Biogr.]