The date of this highly interesting document is quite uncertain, but there is every ground for placing it earlier than the explicitly anti-Arian treatises. Firstly, the absence of any express reference to the controversy against Arians, while yet it is clearly in view in §§3 and 4, which lay down the rule afterwards consistently adopted by Athanasius with regard to texts which speak of the Saviour as created. Secondly, the untroubled use of omoto" (§I, note 4) to express the Son’s relation to the Father. Thirdly, the close affinity of this Statement to the Sermo Major de Fide which in its turn has very close points of contact with the pre-Arian treatises. But see Prolegg. ch. 3,§I (37).
If we are to hazard a conjecture, we may see in this "ekqesi"" a statement of faith published by Athanasius upon his accession to the Episcopate, a.d. 328. The statement proper (Hahn §119) consists of §1. §§2—4 are an explanatory comment insisting on the distinct Existence of the Son, and on His essential uncreatedness.
The translation which follows has been carefully compared with one made by the late Prof. Swainson in his work on the Creeds, pp. 73—76. Dr. Swainson there refers to a former ‘imperfect and misleading’ translation (in Irons’ Athanasius contra Mundum) which the present editor has not seen. Dr. Swainson expresses doubts as to the Athanasian authorship of the Ecthesis, but without any cogent reason. The only point of importance is one which acquaintance with the usual language of Athanasius shews to make distinctly in favour of, and not against, the genuineness of this little tract. Three times in the course of it the Human Body, or Humanity of the Lord is spoken of as o Kuriako" anqrwpu". Dr. Swainson exaggerates the strangeness of the expression by the barbarous rendering ‘Lordly man’ (How would he translate kuriakon deipnon?). But the phrase certainly requires explanation, although the explanation is not difficult. (1) It is quoted by Facundus of Hermiane from the present work (Def Tr. Cap. xi 5), and by Rufinus from an unnamed work of Athanasius (‘libellus’), probably the present one. Moreover, Athanasius himself uses the phrase, frequently in the Sermo Major de Fide, and in his exposition of Psalm 40,(xli).. Epiphanius uses it at least twice (Ancor. 78 and 95); and from these Greek Fathers the phrase (‘Dominicus Homo’) passed on to Latin writers such as Cassian and Augustine (below, note 5), who, however, subsequently cancelled his adoption of the expression (Retr. I. 19,8). The phrase, therefore, is not to be objected to as un-Athanasian. In fact (2) it is founded upon the profuse and characteristic use by Ath. of the word anqrwpo" to designate the manhood of our Lord (see (Orat. c. Ar. 1,4I, 45, 2,45, note 2. Dr. Swainson appears unaware of this in his unsatisfactory paragraph p. 77, lines I4 and foll).. If the human nature of Christ may be called anqrwpo" (1Tm 2,5) at all, there is no difficulty in its being called o anqp. tou swthpo" (Serm. M. de F. 24 and 30), or kuriako" anqrwpo", a phrase equated with to [kuriakon] swma in Serm. M. de F. 19 and 28—31 (see (also a discussion in Thilo Athan. Opp. Dogm. select. p. 2). This use of the word anqrwpo", if carelessly employed, might lend itself to a Nestorian sense. But Athanasius does not employ it carelessly, nor in an ambiguous context; although of course he might have used different language had he foreseen the controversies of the fifth century. At any rate, enough has been said to shew that its use in the present treatise does not expose its genuineness to cavil).
1). We believe in one Unbegotten1 God, Father Almighty, maker of all things both visible and invisible, that hath His being from Himself. And in one Only-begotten Word, Wisdom, Son, begotten of the Father without beginning and eternally; word not pronounced2 nor mental, nor an effluence3 of the Perfect, nor a dividing of the impassible Essence, nor an issue4 ; but absolutely perfect Son, living and powerful (He 4,12), the true Image of the Father, equal in honour and glory. For this, he says, ‘is the will of the Father, that as they honour the Father, so they may honour the Son also’ (Jn 5,23): very God of very God, as John says in his general Epistles, ‘And we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ: this is the true God and everlasting life’ (1Jn 5,20): Almighty of Almighty. For all things which the Father rules and sways, the Son rules and sways likewise: wholly from the Whole, being like5 the Father as the Lord says, ‘he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father’ (Jn 14,9). But He was begotten ineffably and incomprehensibly, for ‘who shall declare his generation?’ (Is 53,8), in other words, no one can. Who, when at the consummation of the ages (He 9,26), He had descended from the bosom of the Father, took from the undefiled Virgin Mary our humanity (anqpqton), Christ Jesus, whom He delivered of His own will to suffer for us, as the Lord saith: ‘No man taketh My life from Me. I have power to lay it down, and have power to take it again’ (Jn 10,18). In which humanity He was crucified and died for us, and rose from the dead, and was taken up into the heavens, having been created as the beginning of waysfor us (Pr 8,22), when on earth He shewed us light from out of darkness, salvation from error, life from the dead, an entrance to paradise, from which Adam was cast outq and into which he again entered by means of the thief, as the Lord said, ‘This day shalt thou be with Me in paradise’ (Lc 23,43), into which Paul also once entered). [He shewed us] also a way up to the heavens, whither the humanity of the Lord6 , in which He will judge the quick and the dead, entered as precursor for us. We believe, likewise, also in the Holy Spirit that searcheth all things, even the deep things of God (1Co 2,10), and we anathe-matise doctrines contrary to this.
2. For neither do we hold a Son-Father, as do the Sabellians, calling Him of one but not of the same7 essence, and thus destroying the existence of the Son. Neither do we ascribe the passible body which He bore for the salvation of the whole world to the Father. Neither can we imagine three Subsistences separated from each other, as results from their bodily nature in the case of men, lest we hold a plurality of gods like the heathen. But just as a river, produced from a well, is not separate, and yet there are in fact two visible objects and two names. For neither is the Father the Son, nor the Son the Father. For the Father is Father of the Son, and the Son, Son of the Father. For like as the well is not a river, nor the river a well, but both are one and the same water which is conveyed in a channel from the well to the river, so the Father’s deity passes into the Son without flow and without division. For the Lord says, ‘I came out from the Father and am come’ (Jn 16,28). But He is ever with the Father, for He is in the bosom of the Father, nor was ever the bosom of the Father void of the deity of the Son. For He says, ‘I was by Him as one setting in order’ (Pr 8,30). But we do not regard God the Creator of all, the Son of God, as a creature, or thing made, or as made out of nothing, for He is truly existent from Him who exists, alone existing from Him who alone exists, in as much as the like glory and power was eternally and conjointly begotten of the Father. For ‘He that hath seen’ the Son ‘hath seen the Father (Jn 14,9). All things to wit were made through the Son; but He Himself is not a creature, as Paul says of the Lord: ‘In Him were all things created, and He is before all’ (Col 1,16). Now He says not, ‘was created’ before all things, but ‘is’ before all things. To be created, namely, is applicable to all things, but ‘is before all’ applies to the Son only.
3. He is then by nature an Offspring, perfect from the Perfect, begotten before all the hills (Pr 8,25), that is before every rational and intelligent essence, as Paul also in another place calls Him ‘first-born of all creation’ (Col 1,I5). But by calling Him First-born, He shews that He is not a Creature, but Offspring of the Father. For it would be inconsistent with His deity for Him to be called a creature. For all things were created by the Father through the Son, but the Son alone was eternally begotten from the Father, whence God the Word is ‘first-born of all creation,’ unchangeable from unchangeable. However, the body which He wore for our sakes is a creature: concerning which Jeremiah says, according to the edition of the seventy translators8 (Jr 31,22): ‘The Lord created for us for a planting a new salvation, in which salvation men shall go about:’ but according to Aquila the same text runs: ‘The Lord created a new thing in woman.’ Now the salvation created for us for a planting, which is new, not old, and for us, not before us, is Jesus, Who in respect of the Saviour9 was made man, and whose name is translated in one place Salvation, in another Saviour. Butsalvation proceeds from the Saviour, just as illumination does from the light. The salvation, then, which was from the Saviour, being created new, did, as Jeremiah says, ‘create for us a new salvation,’ and as Aquila renders: ‘The Lord created a new thing in woman,’ that is in Mary. For nothing new was created in woman, save the Lord’s body, born of the Virgin Mary without intercourse, as also it says in the Proverbs in the person of Jesus: ‘The Lord created me, a beginning of His ways for His works’ (Pr 8,22). Now He does not say, ‘created me before His works,’ lest any should take the text of the deity of the Word.
4. Each text then which refers to the creature is written with reference to Jesus in a bodily sense. For the Lord’s Humanity10 was created as ‘a beginning of ways,’ and He manifested it to us for our salvation. For by it we have our access to the Father. For He is the way (Jn 14,6) which leads us back to the Father. And a way is a corporeal visible thing, such as is the Lord’s humanity. Well, then, the Word of God created all things, not being a creature, but an offspring. For He created none of the created things equal or like unto Himself. But it is the part of a Father to beget, while it is a workman’s part to create. Accordingly, that body is a thing made and created, which the Lord bore for us, which was begotten for us11 , as Paul says, ‘wisdom from God, and sanctification and righteousness, and redemption;’ while yet the Word was before us and before all Creation, and is, the Wisdom of the Father. But the Holy Spirit, being that which proceeds from the Father, is ever in the hands12 of the Father Who sends and of the Son Who conveys Him, by Whose means He filled all things. The Father, possessing His existence from Himself, begat the Son, as we said, and did not create Him, as a river from a well and as a branch from a root, and as brightness from a light, things which nature knows to be indivisible; through whom to the Father be glory and power and greatness before all ages, and unto all the ages of the ages. Amen).
1 See de Syn. §§3, 46, 47, and the Excursus in Lightfoot’s Ignatius, vol. 2,pp. 90 and foll (first ed)..
2 Cf. note by Newman on de Synodis, §26(5).
3 Cf. Newman’s note (8) on de Decr. §II.
4 Or ‘development’ (Gr). probolh) a word with Gnostic and Sabellian antecedents, cf. Newman’s note 8 on de Synodis, §16.
5 This word, which became the watchword of the Acacian party, the successors of the Eusebians, marks the relatively early date of this treatise. At a later period Athanasius would not use it without qualification (see (Orat. 2,§22, note 4), and later still, rejected the Word entirely as misleading (de Synodis, §53. note 9). Vet see ad Afros. 7, and Orat. 2,34.
6 o kuriako" anqrwpo" (see (above, introductory remarks). The expression is quoted as used by Ath., apparently from this passage, by Rufinus (Hieron. Opp. 9,p. 131, ed. 1643), Theodoret, Dial. 3, and others. The expression ‘Dominicus Homo’ used by St. Augustine is rendered ‘Divine Man’in Nicene and P. N. Fathers, Series 1,vol. 6,p. 40 b.
7 monoousion kai ouc omoousion (see (Prolegg. ch. 2,§3 (2) b sub fin).. The distinction cannot (to those accustomed to use the ‘Nicene’ Creed in English) be rendered so as to imply a real difference. The real distinction lies, not in the prefixes mono- and omo-, but in the sense to be attached to the ambiguous term ousia).
8 (He For the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall encompass a man.’ Cf). Orat. 2,46, note 5.
9 The same phrase also in Serm. M. de Fid. 18.
10 kuriako" anqrwpo", see above.
11 egennhqh (1Co 1,30,egenhqh). The two words are constantly confused in mss., and I suspect that egenhqh, which (pace Swainson p. 78, note) the context really requires, was what Ath, wrote
12 See also de Sent. Dionys. 17.
This memorandum or short article was written, as its first sentence shews, during the lifetime of Eusebius of Nicomedia, and therefore not later than the summer of a.d. 342. The somewhat abrupt beginning, and the absence of any exposition of the latter portion of the text, have led to the inference that the work is a fragment: but its conclusion is evidently perfect, and the opening words probably refer to the text itself. The tract is a reply to the Arian argument founded upon Lc 10,22 (Mt 11,27). If ‘all things’ had been delivered to the Son by the Father, it would follow that once He was without them. Now ‘all things’ include His Divine Sonship. Therefore there was a time when the Son was not. Athanasius meets this argument by totally denying the minor premise. By ‘all things,’ he argues, Christ referred to His mediatorial work and its glories, not to His essential nature as Word of God. He then adduces Jn 16,15, to shew at once the Son’s distinctness from the Father, and that the Father’s attributes must also be those of the Son.
The interpretation of the main text given in this tract was not subsequently maintained by Athanasius: in Orat. 3,35, he explains it of the Son, as safeguarding His separate personality against the Sabellians. It should, however, be noted that this change of ground does not involve any concession to the Arian use of the passage: it merely transfers the denial of Athanasius from their minor to their major premise.
Beyond the fact that the tract was written before 342 there is no conclusive evidence as to its date. But it is generally placed (Montfaucon, Ceillier, Alzog) before the ‘Encyclical,’ which was written in 339, and in several particulars it differs from the later anti. Arian treatises: perhaps then we may conjecturally place it about 335, i.e. before the first exile of the ‘Pope.’
6000 Lc 10,22 Mt 11,27
§1. This Text Refers Not to the Eternal Word But to the Incarnate.
“All things were delivered to Me by My Father. And none knoweth Who the Son is, save the Father; and Who the Father is, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him.”
And from not perceiving this they of the sect of Arius, Eusebius and his fellows, indulge impiety against the Lord. For they say, if all things were delivered (meaning by ‘all’ the Lordship of Creation), there was once a time when He had them not. But if He had them not, He is not of the Father, for if He were, He would on that account have had them always, and would not have required to receive them. But this point will furnish all the clearer an exposure of their folly. For the expression in question does not refer to the Lordship over Creation, nor to presiding over the works of God, but is meant to reveal in part the intention of the Incarnation (th" oikonomia"). For if when He was speaking they ‘were delivered’ to Him, clearly before He received them, creation was void of the Word. What then becomes of the text “in Him all things consist” (Col 1,17)? But if simultaneously with the origin of the Creation it was all ‘delivered’ to Him, such delivery were superfluous, for ‘all things were made by Him’ (Jn 1,3), and it would be unnecessary for those things of which the Lord Himself was the artificer to be delivered over to Him. For in making them He was Lord of the things which were being originated. But even supposing they were ‘delivered’ to Him after they were originated, see the monstrosity. For if they ‘were delivered,’ and upon His receiving them the Father retired, then we are in peril of falling into the fabulous tales which some tell, that He gave over [His works] to the Son, and Himself departed. Or if, while the Son has them, the Father has them also, we ought to say, not ‘were delivered,’ but that He took Him as partner, as Paul did Silvanus. But this is even more monstrous; for God is not imperfect1 , nor did He summon the Son to help Him in His need; but, being Father of the Word, He makes all things by His means, and without delivering creation over to Him, by His means and in Him exercises Providence over it, so that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father (Mt 10,29), nor is the grass clothed without God (Mt 6,30), but at once the Father worketh, and the Son worketh hitherto (Jb 5,17). Vain, therefore, is the opinion of the impious. For the expression is not what they think, but designates the Incarnation.
§2). Sense in Which, and End Far Which All Things Were Delivered to the Incarnate Son.
For whereas man sinned, and is fallen, and by his fall all things are in confusion: death prevailed from Adam to Moses (Rm 5,14), the earth was cursed, Hades was opened, Paradise shut, Heaven offended, man, lastly, corrupted and brutalised (Ps 49,12), while the devil was exulting against us;—then God, in His loving-kindness, not willing man made in His own image to perish, said, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go?’ (Is 6,8). But while all held their peace, the Son2 said, ‘Here am I, send Me.’ And then it was that, saying ‘Go Thou,’ He ‘delivered’ to Him man, that the Word Himself might be made Flesh, and by taking the Flesh, restore it wholly. For to Him, as to a physician, man ‘was delivered’ to heal the bite of the serpent; as to life, to raise what was dead; as to light, to illumine the darkness; and, because He was Word, to renew the rational nature (to logikon). Since then all things ‘were delivered’ to Him, and He is made Man, straightway all things were set right and perfected. Earth receives blessing instead of a curse, Paradise was opened to the robber, Hades cowered, the tombs were opened and the dead raised, the gates of Heaven were lifted up to await Him that ‘cometh from Edom’ (Ps 24,7 Is 63,1). Why, the Saviour Himself expressly signifies in what sense ‘all things were delivered’ to Him, when He continues, as Matthew tells us: ‘Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Mt 11,28). Yes, ye ‘were delivered’ to Me to give rest to those who had laboured, and life to the dead. And what is written in John’s Gospel harmonises with this: ‘The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand’ (Jn 3,35). Given, in order that, just as all things were made by Him, so in Him all things might be renewed. For they were not ‘delivered’ unto Him, that being poor, He might be made rich, nor did He receive all things that He might receive power which before He lacked: far be the thought: but in order that as Saviour He might rather set all things right. For it was fitting that while ‘through Him’ all things came into being at the beginning, ‘in Him’ (note the change of phrase) all things should be set right (cf. Jn 1,3 Ep 1,10). For at the beginning they came into being ‘through’ Him; but afterwards, all having fallen, the Word has been made Flesh, and put it on, in order that ‘in Him’ all should be set right. Suffering Himself, He gave us rest, hungering Himself, He nourished us, and going down into Hades He brought us back thence. For example, at the time of the creation of all things, their creation consisted in a fiat, such as ‘let [the earth] bring forth,’ ‘let there be’ (Gn 1,3 Gn 1,11), but at the restoration it was fitting that all things should be ‘delivered’ to Him, in order that He might be made man, and all things be renewed in Him. For man, being in Him, was quickened for this was why the Word was united to man, namely, that against man the curse might no longer prevail. This is the reason why they record the request made on behalf of mankind in the seventy-first Psalm: ‘Give the King Thy judgment, O God’ (Ps 72,1): asking that both the judgment of death which hung over us may be delivered to the Son, and that He may then, by dying for us, abolish it for us in Himself. This was what He signified, saying Himself, in the eighty-seventh Psalm: ‘Thine indignation lieth hard upon me’ (Ps 88,7). For He bore the indignation which lay upon us, as also He says in the hundred and thirty-seventh: ‘Lord, Thou shalt do vengeance for me’ (Ps 138,8, LXX)..
§3). By ‘All Things’ Is Meant the Redemptive Attributes and Power of Christ.
Thus, then, we may understand all things to have been delivered to the Saviour, and, if it be necessary to follow up understanding by explanation, that hath been delivered unto Him which He did not previously possess. For He was not man previously, but became man for the sake of saving man. And the Word was not in the beginning flesh, but has been made flesh subsequently (cf. Joh. 1,1) sqq)., in which Flesh, as the Apostle says, He reconciled the enmity which was against us (Col 1,20 Col 2,14 Ep 2,15-16) and destroyed the law of the commandments in ordinances, that He might make the two into one new man, making peace, and reconcile both in one body to the Father. That, however, which the Father has, belongs also to the Son, as also He says in John, ‘All things whatsoever the Father hath are Mine’ (Jn 16,15), expressions which could not be improved. For when He became that which He was not, ‘all things were delivered’ to Him. But when He desires to declare His unity with the Father, He teaches it without any reserve, saying: ‘All things whatsoever the Father hath are Mine.’ And one cannot but admire the exactness of the language. For He has not said ‘all things whatsoever the Father hath, He hath given to Me,’ lest He should appear at one time not to have possessed these things; but ‘are Mine.’ For these things, being in the Father’s power, are equally in that of the Son. But we must in turn examine what things ‘the Father hath.’ For if Creation is meant, the Father had nothing before creation, and proves to have received something additional from Creation; but far be it to think this. For just as He exists before creation, so before creation also He has what He has, which we also believe to belong to the Son (Jn 16,15). For if the Son is in the Father, then all things that the Father has belong to the Son. So this expression is subversive of the perversity of the heterodox in saying that ‘if all things have been delivered to the Son, then the Father has ceased to have power over what is delivered, having appointed the Son in His place. For, in fact, the Father judgeth none, but hath given all judgment to the Son’ (Jn 5,22). But ‘let the mouth of them that speak wickedness be stopped’ (Ps 63,2), (for although He has given all judgment to the Son, He is not, therefore, stripped of lordship: nor, because it is said that all things are delivered by the Father to the Son, is He any the less over all), separating as they clearly do the Only-begotten from God, Who is by nature inseparable from Him, even though in their madness they separate Him by their words, not perceiving, the impious men, that the Light can never be separated from the sun, in which it resides by nature. For one must use a poor simile drawn from tangible and familiar objects to put our idea into words, since it is over bold to intrude upon the incomprehensible nature [of God].
§4). The Text Jn 16,15, Shews Clearly the Essential Relation of the Son to the Father.
As then the light from the Sun which illumines the world could never be supposed, by men of sound mind, to do so without the Sun, since the Sun’s light is united to the Sun by nature; and as, if the Light3 were to say: I have received from the Sun the power of illumining all things, and of giving growth and strength to them by the heat that is in me, no one will be mad enough to think that the mention of the Sun is meant to separate him from what is his nature, namely the light; so piety would have us perceive that the Divine Essence of the Word is united by nature to His own Father. For the text before us will put our problem in the clearest possible light, seeing that the Saviour said, ‘All things whatsoever the Father hath are Mine;’ which shews that He is ever with the Father. For ‘whatsoever He hath’ shews that the Father wields the Lordship, while ‘are Mine’ shews the inseparable union. It is necessary, then, that we should perceive that in the Father reside Everlastingness, Eternity, Immortality. Now these reside in Him not as adventitious attributes, but, as it were, in a well-spring they reside in Him, and in the Son. When then you wish to perceive what relates to the Son, learn what is in the Father, for this is what you must believe to be in the Son. If then the Father is a thing created or made, these qualities belong also to the Son. And if it is permissible to say of the Father ‘there was once a time when He was not,’ or ‘made of nothing,’ let these words be applied also to the Son. But if it is impious to ascribe these attributes to the Father, grant that it is impious also to ascribe them to the Son. For what belongs to the Father, belongs to the Son. For he that honoureth the Son, honoureth the Father that sent Him, and he that receiveth the Son, receiveth the Father with Him, because he that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father (Mt 10,40 Jn 14,9). As then the Father is not a creature, so neither is the Son; and as it is not possible to say of Him ‘there was a time when He was not,’ nor ‘made of nothing,’ so it is not proper to say the like of the Son either. But rather, as the Father’s attributes are Everlastingness, Immortality, Eternity, and the being no creature, it follows that thus also we must think of the Son. For as it is written (Jn 5,26), ‘As the Father hath life in Himself, so gave He to the Son also to have life in Himself.’ But He uses the word ‘gave’ in order to point to the Father who gives. As, again, life is in the Father, so also is it in the Son, so as to shew Him to be inseparable and everlasting. For this is why He speaks with exactness, ‘whatsoever the Father hath,’ in order namely that by thus mentioning the Father He may avoid being thought to be the Father Himself. For He does not say ‘I am the Father,’ but ‘whatsoever the Father hath.’
§5). The Same Text Further Explained.
For His Only-begotten Son might, ye Arians, be called ‘Father’ by His Father, yet not in the sense in which you in your error might perhaps understand it, but (while Son of the Father that begat Him) ‘Father of the coming age’ (Is 9,6, LXX). For it is necessary not to leave any of your surmises open to you. Well then, He says by the prophet, ‘A Son is born and given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Angel of Great Counsel, mighty God, Ruler, Father of the coming age’ (Is 9,6). The Only-begotten Son of God, then, is at once Father of the coming age, and mighty God, and Ruler. And it is shewn clearly that all things whatsoever the Father hath are His, and that as the Father gives life, the Son likewise is able to quicken whom He will. For ‘the dead,’ He says, ‘shall hear the voice of the Son, and shall live’ (Jn 5,25), and the will and desire of Father and Son is one, since their nature also is one and indivisible. And the Arians torture themselves to no purpose, from not understanding the saying of our Saviour, ‘All things whatsoever the Father hath are Mine.’ For from this passage at once the delusion of Sabellius can be upset, and it will expose the folly of our modern Jews. For this is why the Only begotten, having life in Himself as the Father has, also knows alone Who the Father is, namely, because He is in the Father and the Father in Him. For He is His Image, and consequently, because He is His Image, all that belongs to the Father is in Him. He is an exact seal, shewing in Himself the Father; living Word and true, Power, Wisdom, our Sanctification and Redemption (1Co 1,30). For ‘in Him we both live and move and have our being’ (Ac 17,28), and ‘no man knoweth Who is the Father, save the Son, and Who is the Son, save the Father’ (Lc 10,22).
§6). The Trisagion Wrongly Explained by Arians. Its True Significance.
And how do the impious men venture to speak folly, as they ought not, being men and unable to find out how to describe even what is on the earth? But why do I say ‘what is on the earth?’ Let them tell us their own nature, if they can discover how to investigate their own nature? Rash they are indeed, and self-willed, not trembling to form opinions of things which angels desire to look into (1P 1,12), who are so far above them, both in nature and in rank. For what is nearer [God] than the Cherubim or the Seraphim? And yet they, not even seeing Him, nor standing on their feet, nor even with bare, but as it were with veiled faces, offer their praises, with untiring lips doing nought else but glorify the divine and ineffable nature with the Trisagion. And nowhere has any one of the divinely speaking prophets, men specially selected for such vision, reported to us that in the first utterance of the word Holy the voice is raised aloud, while in the second it is lower, but in the third, quite low,—and that consequently the first utterance denotes lordship, the second subordination, and the third marks a yet lower degree. But away with the folly of these haters of God and senseless men. For the Triad, praised, reverenced, and adored, is one and indivisible and without degrees (aschmatisto"). It is united without confusion, just as the Monad also is distinguished without separation. For the fact of those venerable living creatures (Is 6; Ap 4,8) offering their praises three times, saying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy,’ proves that the Three Subsistences4 are perfect, just as in saying ‘Lord,’ they declare the One Essence. They then that depreciate the Only-begotten Son of God blaspheme God, defaming His perfection and accusing Him of imperfection, and render themselves liable to the severest chastisement. For he that blasphemes any one of the Subsistences shall have remission neither in this world nor in that which is to come. But God is able to open the eyes of their heart to contemplate the Sun of Righteousness, in order that coming to know Him whom they formerly set at nought, they may with unswerving piety of mind together with us glorify Him, because to Him belongs the kingdom, even to the Father Son and Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen).
Athanasius wrote the following Epistle in the year 339. In the winter at the beginning of that year the Eusebians held a Council at Antioch. Here they appointed Gregory to the see of Alexandria in the place of Athanasius (see (Prolegg. ch. ii.6). ‘Gregory was by birth a Cappadocian, and (if Nazianzen speaks of the same Gregory, which some critics doubt) studied at Alexandria, where S. Athanasius had treated him with great kindness and familiarity, though Gregory afterwards took part in propagating the calumny against him of having murdered Arsenius. Gregory was on his appointment dispatched to Alexandria’ (Newman). The proceedings on his arrival, Lent, 339, are related in the following Encyclical Epistle, which Athanasius forwarded immediately before his departure for Rome to all the Bishops of the Catholic Church. ‘It is less correct in style, as Tillemont observes, than other of his works, as if composed in haste. In the Editions previous to the Benedictine, it was called an “Epistle to the Orthodox everywhere;” but Montfaucon has been able to restore the true title. He has been also able from his mss. to make a far more important correction, which has cleared up some very perplexing difficulties in the history. All the Editions previous to the Benedictine read “George” throughout for “Gregory,” and “Gregory” in the place where “Pistus” occurs. Baronius, Tillemont, &c., had already made the alterations from the necessity of the case’ (Newman). After comparing the violence done to the Church with the outrage upon the Levite’s wife in Judges, ch. xix., he appeals to the bishops of the universal Church to regard his cause as their own (§1). He then recounts the details of what has happened; the announcement by the Prefect Philagrius of the supersession of Ath. by Gregory, the popular indignation, and its grounds (§2); the instigation of the heathen mob by Philagrius to commit outrages upon the sacred persons and buildings (§3); the violent intrusion of Gregory (§4); the proceedings against himself (§5). He warns them against Gregory as an Arian, and asks their sympathy for himself (§6), and that they will refuse to receive any of Gregory’s letters (§7). The ‘Encyclical’ was written just before his departure from Alexandria, where he must have been in retirement for three weeks (Index to Festal Letter, 339) previously, as he appears (§5) to have remained in the town till after Easter-day. Dr. Bright (p. 15,note) sees here a proof of the inaccuracy of the ‘Index:’ but there are other grounds for regarding it as correct (see (Prolegg. ch. 5,§3, c, and Introd. to Letters): its chronology is therefore adopted by the present editor. The events which led up to the scenes described in the letter are more fully dealt with in Prolegg. ch. 2,§6 (I), sub fin. and (2). It may be added that Sozomen, 3,6 in describing this escape of Athan., inserts the scene in the Church which really took place in Feb. 356, while Socrates 2,II confuses the two occasions even more completely. Internal evidence shews that Soz. partially corrected Socr. by the aid of the Hist. Aceph. The confusion of Gregory with George (especially easy in Latin), to which almost every historian from Socrates and Theodoret to Neander and Newman has fallen an occasional victim, appears to have vitiated the transcription of this encyclical from very early times. But Sievers (p. 104) goes too far in ascribing to that cause the insertion of a great part of §§3–5).
1 See Orat. 2,§24, 25, De Decr. §8, and Harnack, Dogmgesch. (ed. 2) vol. 2. p. 208, note.
2 This dramatic representation of the Mission of the Son stands alone in the writings of Athanasius, and, if pressed, lends itself to a conception of the relation of the Son to the Father which, if not Arian, is at least contrary to the more explicit and mature conception of Athanasius as formulated for example in Orat. 2,31 (and see note 7 there). The same idea appears in Milton’s Paradise Lost (e.g. Book X). See Newman, Arians 4, p. 93, note).
3 Cf). Orat. 3,36).
4 trei" upostasei". This expression is a link between this tract and the Expositio (§2), and is one of the indications it bears of an early date. At this time we see that Athanasius speaks of Three ‘Hypostases,’ but qualifies his language by the caveat (Expos. 2) that they are not memerismenai. In this he follows his Origenist predecessor Dionysius, and the language of the present passage is that of Basil or the Gregories. But it is not the language of Athan. himself in his later years. See above, Prolegg. ch. 2,§3 (2) b, and Introd. to Tom. ad Ant. and to Ad Afr.