Hilary - Damascus 16

16 Hilary then makes a direct appeal to the Western bishops. They might forget the contents of the word while retaining the sound, but provided that the meaning was granted, what objection could be made to the word? Was the word oJoiouvsion free from all possible objections? Hilary (c. 72–75) shews that really like means really equal. Scripture is appealed to as proving the assertion that the Son is both like God and equal to God. This essential likeness can alone justify the statement that the Father and the Son are one. It is blasphemous to represent the similarity as a mere analogy. The similitude is a similitude of proper nature and equality. The conclusion of the argument is that the word oJoiouvsio", if understood, leads us to the word oJoouvsio" which helps to guard it, and that it does not imply any separation between the Persons of the Trinity.

The saint now turns to the Eastern bishops, a small number of whom still remained faithful. He bestows upon them titles of praise, and expresses his joy at the decisions they had made, and at the Emperor’s repudiation of his former mistake. With Pauline fervour Hilary exclaims that he would remain in exile all his life, if only truth might be preached.

Then, in a chapter which displays alike his knowledge of the Bible and his power of refined sarcasm, he unveils his suspicions concerning Valens and Ursacius. He doubts whether they could have been so inexperienced as to be ignorant of the meaning of the word oJmoouvsioi when they signed the third Sirmian Creed. Furthermore he is obliged to point out a defect in the letter which the Oriental bishops wrote at the Synod of Ancyra. The word oJmoouvsion is there rejected. The three grounds for such rejection could only be that the word was thought to imply a prior substance, or the teaching of Paul of Samosata, or that the word was not in Scripture. The first two grounds were only illusions, the third was equally fatal to the word oJmoiouvsion. Those who intelligibly maintained oJmoouvsion or oJoiouvsion , meant the same thing and condemned the same impiety (c. 82). Why should any one wish to decline the word which the Council of Nicaea had used for an end which was unquestionably good ? The argument is enforced by the insertion of the Nicene Creed in full. True, the word or oJoouvsion is quite capable of misconstruction. But the application of this test to the difficult passages in the Bible would lead to the chaos of all belief. The possible abuse of the word does not abolish its use. The authority of the eighty bishops who condemned the Samosatene abuse of it does not affect the authority of the three hundred and eighteen who ratified its Nicene meaning Hilary adds a statement of great importance. Before he was acquainted with the term he had personally believed what it implied. The term has merely invigorated his previous faith (c. 88, cf. c. 9I). In other words, Hilary tells his contemporaries and tells posterity that the word oJmoouvsion, is Scripture because it is the sense of Scripture, and is truly conservative because it alone adequately preserves the faith of the fathers. The argument is interwoven with a spirited appeal to the Eastern bishops to return to that faith as expressed at Nicaea.

The last chapter (c. 92) is addressed to the Western bishops. It modestly defends the action of Hilary in writing, and urges a corresponding energy on the part of his readers. The whole concludes with a devout prayer.

The Liber de Synodis, like other works in which Catholicism has endeavoured to be conciliatory, did not pass unchallenged. It satisfied neither the genuine Arian nor the violently orthodox. The notes or fragments which we call Hilary’s Apology throw light upon the latter fact. Hilary has to explain that he had not meant that the Eastern bishops had stated the true faith at Ancyra, and tells his Lord and brother Lucifer that it was against his will that he had mentioned the word oJmoiouvsion. We must ourselves confess that Hilary puts an interpretation on the meaning of the Eastern formulae which would have been impossible if he had written after the Synod of Ariminum. Speaking when he did, his arguments were not only pardonable but right.


On the Councils, or the Faith of the Easterns


To the most dearly loved and blessed brethren our fellow-bishops of the province of Germania Prima and Germania Secunda, Belgica Prima and Belgica Secunda, Lugdunensis Prima and Lugdunensis Secunda, and the province of Aquitania, and the province of Novempopulana, and to the laity and clergy of Tolosa in the Provincia Narbonensis, and to the bishops of the provinces of Britain, Hilary the servant of Christ, eternal salvation in God our Lord.

I had determined, beloved brethren, to send no letter to you concerning the affairs of the Church in consequence of your prolonged silence. For when I had by writing from several cities of the Roman world frequently informed you of the faith and efforts of our religions brethren, the bishops of the East, and bow the Evil One profiting by the discords of the times had with envenomed lips and tongue hissed out his deadly doctrine, I was afraid. I feared lest while so many bishops were involved in the serious danger of disastrous sin or disastrous mistake, you were holding your peace because a defiled and sin-stained conscience tempted you to despair. Ignorance I could not attribute to you; you had been too often warned. I judged therefore that I also ought to observe silence towards you, carefully remembering the Lord’s saying, that those who after a first and second entreaty, and in spite of the witness of the Church, neglect to hear, are to be unto us as heathen men and publicans1 .

2. But when I received the letters that your blessed faith inspired, and understood that their slow arrival and their paucity were due to the remoteness and secrecy of my place of exile, I rejoiced in the Lord that you had continued pure and undefiled by the contagion of any execrable heresy, and that you were united with me in faith and spirit, and so were partakers of that exile into which Saturninus, fearing his own conscience, had thrust me after beguiling the Emperor, and after that you had denied him communion for the whole three years ago until now. I equally rejoiced that the impious and infidel creed which was sent straightway to you from Sirmium was not only not accepted by you, but condemned as soon as reported and notified. I felt that it was now binding on me as a religious duty to write sound and faithful words to you as my fellow-bishops, who communicate with me in Christ. I, who through fear of what might have been could at one time only rejoice with my own conscience that I was free from all these errors, was now bound to express delight at the purity of our common faith. Praise God for the unshaken stability of your noble hearts, for your firm house built on the foundation of the faithful rock, for the undefiled and unswerving constancy of a will that has proved immaculate! For since the good profession at the Council of Biterrae, where I denounced the ringleaders of this heresy with some of you for my witnesses, it has remained and still continues to remain, pure, unspotted and scrupulous.

3. You awaited the noble triumph of a holy and steadfast perseverance without yielding to the threats, the powers and the assaults of Saturninus: and when all the waves of awakening blasphemy struggled against God, you who still remain with me faithful in Christ did not give way when threatened with the onset of heresy, and now by meeting that onset you have broken all its violence. Yes, brethren, you have conquered, to the abundant joy of those who share your faith: and your unimpaired constancy gained the double glory of keeping a pure conscience and giving an authoritative example. For the fame of your unswerving and unshaken faith has moved certain Eastern bishops, late though it be, to some shame for the heresy fostered and supported in those regions: and when they heard of the godless confession composed at Sirmium, they contradicted its audacious authors by passing certain decrees themselves. And though they withstood them not without in their turn raising some scruples, and inflicting some wounds upon a sensitive piety, yet they withstood them so vigorously as to compel those who at Sirmium yielded to the views of Potamius and Hosius as accepting and confirming those views, to declare their ignorance and error in so doing; in fact they had to condemn in writing their own action. And they subscribed with the express purpose of condemning something else in advance2 .

4. But your invincible faith keeps the honourable distinction of conscious worth, and content with repudiating crafty, vague, or hesitating action, safely abides in Christ, preserving the profession of its liberty. You abstain from communion with those who oppose their bishops with their blasphemies and keep them in exile, and do not by assenting to any crafty subterfuge bring yourselves under a charge of unrighteous judgment. For since we all suffered deep and grievous pain at the actions of the wicked against God, within our boundaries alone is communion in Christ to be found from the time that the Church began to be harried by disturbances such as the expatriation of bishops, the deposition of priests, the intimidation of the people, the threatening of the faith, and the determination of the meaning of Christ’s doctrine by human will and power. Your resolute faith does not pretend to be ignorant of these facts or profess that it can tolerate them, perceiving that by the act of hypocritical assent it would bring itself before the bar of conscience.

5. And although in all your actions, past and present, you bear witness to the uninterrupted independence and security of your faith; yet in particular you prove your warmth and fervour of spirit by the fact that some of you whose letters have succeeded in reaching me have expressed a wish that I, unfit as I am, should notify to you what the Easterns have since said in their confessions of faith. They affectionately laid the additional burden upon me of indicating my sentiments on all their decisions. I know that my skill and learning are inadequate, for I feel it most difficult to express in words my own belief as I understand it in my heart; far less easy must it be to expound the statements of others.

6. Now I beseech you by the mercy of the Lord, that as I will in this letter according to your desire write to you of divine things and of the witness of a pure conscience to our faith, no one will think to judge me by the beginning of my letter before he has read the conclusion of my argument. For it is unfair before the complete argument has been grasped, to conceive a prejudice on account of initial statements, the reason of which is yet unknown, since it is not with imperfect statements before us that we must make a decision for the sake of investigation, but on the conclusion for the sake of knowledge. I have some fear, not about you, as God is witness of my heart, but about some who in their own esteem are very cautious and prudent but do not understand the blessed apostle’s precept not to think of themselves more highly than they ought3 : for I am afraid that they are unwilling to know all those facts, the complete account of which I will offer at the end, and at the same time they avoid drawing the true conclusion from the aforesaid facts. But whoever takes up these lines to read and examine them has only to be consistently patient with me and with himself and peruse the whole to its completion. Perchance all this assertion of my faith will result in those who conceal their heresy being unable to practise the deception they wish, and in true Catholics attaining the object which they desire.

7. Therefore I comply with your affectionate and urgent wish, and I have set down all the creeds which have been promulgated at different times and places since the holy Council of Nicaea, with my appended explanations of all the phrases and even words employed. If they be thought to contain anything faulty, no one can impute the fault to me: for I am only a reporter, as you wished me to be, and not an author. But if anything is found to be laid down in right and apostolic fashion, no one can doubt that it is no credit to the interpreter but to the originator. In any case I have sent you a faithful account of these transactions: it is for you to determine by the decision your faith inspires whether their spirit is Catholic or heretical.

8. For although it was necessary to reply to your letters, in which you offered me Christian communion with your faith, (and, moreover, certain of your number who were summoned to the Council which seemed pending in Bithynia did refuse with firm consistency of faith to hold communion with any but myself outside Gaul), it also seemed fit to use my episcopal office and authority, when heresy was so rife, in submitting to you by letter some godly and faithful counsel. For the word of God cannot be exiled as our bodies are, or so chained and bound that it cannot be imparted to you in any place. But when I had learnt that synods were to meet in Ancyra and Ariminum, and that one or two bishops from each province in Gaul would assemble there, I thought it especially needful that I, who am confined in the East, should explain and make known to you the grounds of those mutual suspicious which exist between us and the Eastern bishops, though some of you know those grounds; in order that whereas you had condemned and they had anathematized this heresy that spreads from Sirmium, you might nevertheless know with what confession of faith the Eastern bishops had come to the same result that you had come to, and that I might prevent you, whom I hope to see as shining lights in future Councils, differing, through a mistake about words, even a hair’s-breadth from pure Catholic belief, when your interpretation of the apostolic faith is identically the same and you are Catholics at heart.

9. Now it seems to me right and appropriate, before I begin my argument about suspicions and dissensions as to words, to give as complete an account as possible of the decisions of the Eastern bishops adverse to the heresy compiled at Sirmium. Others have published all these transactions very plainly, but much obscurity is caused by a translation from Greek into Latin, and to be absolutely literal is to be sometimes partly unintelligible.

10. You remember that in the Blasphemia, lately written at Sirmium, the object of the authors was to proclaim the Father to be the one and only God of all things, and deny the Son to be God: and while they determined that men should hold their peace about oJmoiouvsion and oJmoiouvsion, they determined that God the Son should be asserted to be born not of God the Father, but of nothing, as the first creatures were, or of another essence than God, as the later creatures. And further that in saying the Father was greater in honour, dignity, splendour and majesty, they implied that the Son lacked those things which constitute the Father’s superiority. Lastly, that while it is affirmed that His birth is unknowable, we were commanded by this Compulsory Ignorance Act not to know that He is of God: just as if it could be commanded or decreed that a man should know what in future he is to be ignorant of, or be ignorant of what he already knows. I have subjoined in full this pestilent and godless blasphemy, though against my will, to facilitate a more complete knowledge of the worth and reason of the replies made on the opposite side by those Easterns who endeavoured to counteract all the wiles of the heretics according to their understanding and comprehension.

A copy of the Blasphemia composed at Sirmium by Osius and Polamius.

11. Since there appeared to be some misunderstanding respecting the faith, all points have been carefully investigated and discussed at Sirmium in the presence of our most reverend brothers and fellow-bishops, Valens, Ursacius and Germinius.

It is evident that there is one God, the Father Almighty, according as it is believed throughout the whole world; and His only Son Jesus Christ our Saviour, begotten of Him before the ages. But we cannot and ought not to say that there are two Gods, for the Lord Himself said, I will go unto My Father and your Father, unto My God and your God4 . So there is one God over all, as the Apostle hath taught us, Is He God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith. And in all other things they agreed thereto, nor would they allow any difference.

But since some or many persons were disturbed by questions concerning substance, called in Greek oujsiva, that is, to make it understood more exactly, as to ojmoouvsion, or what is called ojmoiouvsion, there ought to be no mention made of these at all. Nor ought any exposition to be made of them for the reason and consideration that they are not contained in the divine Scriptures, and that they are above man’s understanding, nor can any man declare the birth of the Son, of whom it is written, Who shall declare His generation5 ? For it is plain that only the Father knows how He begot the Son, and the Son how He was begotten of the Father. There is no question hat the Father is greater. No one can doubt hat the Father is greater than the Son in honour, dignity, splendour, majesty, and in the very name of Father, the Son Himself testifying, (He that sent Me is greater than I6 . And no one is ignorant that it is Catholic doctrine that there are two Persons of Father and Son; and that the Father is greater, and that the Son is subordinated to the Father, together with all things which the Father has subordinated to Him, and that the Father has no beginning and is invisible, immortal and impassible, but that the Son has been begotten of the Father God of God, Light of Light, and that the generation of this Son, as is aforesaid, no one knows but His Father, And that the Son of God Himself, our Lord and God, as we read took flesh, that body, that is, man of the womb of the Virgin Mary, of the Angel announced. And as all the Scriptures teach, and especially the doctor of the Gentiles himself, He took of Mary the Virgin, man, through whom He suffered. And the whole faith is summed up and secured in this, that the Trinity must always be preserved, as we read in the Gospel, Go ye and baptize all nations in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost7 . Complete and perfect is the number of the Trinity. How the Paraclete, the Spirit, is through the Son: Who was sent and came according to His promise in order to instruct, teach and sanctify the apostles and all believers.

18 12. After these many and most impious statements had been made, the Eastern bishops on their side again met together and composed definitions of their confession. Since, however, we have frequently to mention the words essence and substance, we must determine the meaning of essence, lest in discussing facts we prove ignorant of the signification of our words. Essence is a reality which is, or the reality of those things from which it is, and which subsists inasmuch as it is permanent. Now we can speak of the essence, or nature, or genus, or substance of anything. And the strict reason why the word essence is employed is because it is always. But this is identical with substance, because a thing which is, necessarily subsists in itself, and whatever thus subsists possesses unquestionably a permanent genus, nature or substance. When, therefore, we say that essence signifies nature, or genus, or substance, we mean the essence of that thing which permanently exists in the nature, genus, or substance. Now, therefore, let us review the definitions of faith drawn up by the Easterns.

I. “If any one hearing that the Son is the image of the invisible God, says that the image of God is the same as the invisible God, as though refusing to confess that He is truly Son: let him be anathema.”

13. Hereby is excluded the assertion of those who wish to represent the relationship of Father and Son as a matter of names, inasmuch as every image is similar in species to that of which it is an image. For no one is himself his own image, but it is necessary that the image should demonstrate him of whom it is an image. So an image is the figured and indistinguishable likeness of one thing equated with another. Therefore the Father is, and the Son is, because the Son is the image of the Father: and he who is an image, if he is to be truly an image, must have in himself his original’s species, nature and essence in virtue of the fact that he is an image.

II. “And if any one hearing the Son say, As the Father hath life in Himself, so also hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself8 , shall say that He who has received life from the Father, and who also declares, I live by the Father9 , is the same as He who gave life: let him be anathema.”

14. The person of the recipient and of the giver are distinguished so that the same should not be made one and sole. For since he is under anathema who has believed that, when recipient and giver are mentioned one solitary and unique person is implied, we may not suppose that the selfsame person who gave received from Himself. For He who lives and He through whom He lives are not identical, for one lives to Himself, the other declares that He lives through the Author of His life, and no one will declare that He who enjoys life and He through whom His life is caused are personally identical.

III. “And if any one hearing that the Only-begotten Son is like the invisible God, denies that the Son who is the image of the invisible God (whose image is understood to include essence) is Son in essence, as though denying His true Sonship: let him be anathema.”

15. It is here insisted that the nature is indistinguishable and entirely similar. For since He is the Only-begotten Son of God and the image of the invisible God, it is necessary that He should be of an essence similar in species and nature. Or what distinction can be made between Father and Son affecting their nature with its similar genus, when the Son subsisting through the nature begotten in Him is invested with the properties of the Father, viz., glory, worth, power, invisibility, essence? And while these prerogatives of divinity are equal we neither understand the one to be less because He is Son, nor the other to be greater because He is Father; since the Son is the image of the Father in species, and not disssimilar in genus; since the similarity of a Son begotten of the substance of His Father does not admit of any diversity of substance, and the Son and image of the invisible God embraces in Himself the whole form of His Father’s divinity both in kind and in amount: and this is to be truly Son, to reflect the truth of the Father’s forth by the perfect likeness of the nature imaged in Himself.

IV. “And if any one hearing this text, For as the Father hath life in Himself so also He hath given to the Son to have life in Himself10 ; denies that the Son is like the Father even in essence, though He testifies that it is even as He has said; let him be anathema. For it is plain that since the life which is understood to exist in the Father signifies substance, and the life of the Only-begotten which was begotten of the Father is also understood to mean substance or essence, He there signifies a likeness of essence to essence.”

16. With the Son’s origin as thus stated is connected the perfect birth of the undivided nature. For what in each is life, that in each is signified by essence. And in the life which is begotten of life, i.e. in the essence which is born of essence, seeing that it is not born unlike (and that because life is of life), He keeps in Himself a nature wholly similar to His original, because there is no diversity in the likeness of the essence that is born and that besets, that is, of the life which is possessed and which has been given. For though God begat Him of Himself, in likeness to His own nature, He in whom is the unbegotten likeness did not relinquish the property of His natural substance. For He only has what He gave; and as possessing life He gave life to be possessed. And thus what is born of essence, as life of life, is essentially like itself, and the essence of Him who is begotten and of Him who begets admits no diversity or unlikeness.

V. “It any one hearing the words formed or created it and begat me spoken by the same lips11 , refuses to understand this begat me of likeness of essence, but says that begat me and formed me are the same: as if to deny that the perfect Son of God was here signified as Son under two different expressions, as Wisdom has given Us to piously understand, and asserts that formed me and begat me only imply formation and not sonship: let him be anathema.”

17. Those who say that the Son of God is only a creature or formation are opposed on the fact that they say they have read The Lord formed or created me, which seems to imply formation or creation; hot they omit the following sentence, which is the key to the first, and from the first wrest authority for their impious statement that the Son is a creature, because Wisdom has said that she was created. But if she were created, how could she be also born? For all birth, of whatever kind, attains its own nature from the nature that begets it: but creation takes its beginning from the power of the Creator, the Creator being able to form a creature from nothing. So Wisdom, who said that she was created, does in the next sentence say that she was also begotten, using the word creation of the act of the changeless nature of her Parent, which nature, unlike the manner and wont of human parturition, without any detriment or change of self created from itself what it begat. Similarly a Creator has no need of passion or intercourse or parturition. And that which is created out of nothing begins to exist at a definite moment. And He who creates makes His object through His mere power, and creation is the work of might, not the birth of a nature from a nature that besets it. But because the Son of God was not begotten after the manner of corporeal childbearing, but was born perfect God of perfect God; therefore Wisdom says that she was created, excluding in her manner of birth every kind of corporeal process.

19 18. Moreover, to shew that she possesses a nature that was born and not created, Wisdom has added that she was begotten, that by declaring that she was created and also begotten, she might completely explain her birth. By speaking of creation she implies that the nature of the Father is changeless, and she also shews that the substance of her nature begotten of God the Father is genuine and real. And so her words about creation and generation have explained the perfection of her birth: the former that the Father is changeless, the latter the reality of her own nature. The two things combined become one, and that one is both in perfection: for the Son being born of God without any change in God, is so born of the Father as to be created; and the Father, who is changeless in Himself and the Son’s Father by nature, so forms the Son as to beget Him. Therefore the heresy which has dared to aver that the Son of God is a creature is condemned because while the first statement shews the impossible perfection of the divinity, the second, which asserts His natural generation, crushes the impious opinion that He was created out of nothing.

VI. “And if any one grant the Son only a likeness of activity, but rob Him of the likeness of essence which is the corner-stone of our faith, in spite of the fact that the Son Himself reveals His essential likeness with the Father in the words, For as the Father hath life in Himself, so also hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself12 , as well as His likeness in activity by teaching us that What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise13 , such a man robs himself of the knowledge of eternal life which is in the Father and the Son, and let him be anathema.”

19. The heretics when beset by authoritative passages in Scripture are wont only to grant that the Son is like the Father in might while they deprive Him of similarity of nature. This is foolish and impious, for they do not understand that similar might can only be the result of a similar nature. For a lower nature can never attain to the might of a higher and more powerful nature. What will the men who make these assertions say about the omnipotence of God the Father, if the might of a lower nature is made equal to His own? For they cannot deny that the Son’s power is the same, seeing that He has said What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

No, a similarity of nature follows on a similarity of might when He says, As the Father hath life in Himself, so also hath He given to the Son to have lift in Himself. In life is implied nature and essence; this, Christ teaches, has been given Him to have as the Father hath. Therefore similarity of life contains similarity of might: for there cannot be similarity of life where the nature is dissimilar. So it is necessary that similarity of essence follows on similarity of might: for as what the Father does, the Son does also, so the life that the Father has He has given to the Son to have likewise. Therefore we condemn the rash and impious statements of those who confess a similarity of might but have dared to preach a dissimilarity of nature, since it is the chief ground of our hope to confess that in the Father and the Son there is an identical divine substance.

VII. “And if any one professing that he believes that there is a Father and a Son, says that the Father is Father of an essence unlike Himself but of similar activity; for speaking profane and novel words against the essence of the Son and nullifying His true divine Sonship, let him be anathema.”

20. By confused and involved expressions the heretics very frequently elude the truth and secure the ears of the unwary by the mere sound of common words, such as the titles Father and Son, which they do not truthfully utter to express a natural and genuine community of essence: for they are aware that God is called the Father of all creation, and remember that all the saints are named sons of God. In like manner they declare that the relationship between the Father and the Son resembles that between the Father and the universe, so that the names Father and Son are rather titular than real. For the names are titular if the Persons have a distinct nature of a different essence, since no reality can be attached to the name of father unless it be based on the nature of his offspring. So the Father cannot be called Father of an alien substance unlike His own, for a perfect birth manifests no diversity between itself and the original substance. Therefore we repudiate all the impious assertions that the Father is Father of a Son begotten of Himself and yet not of His own nature. We shall not call God Father for having a creature like Him in might and activity, but for begetting a nature of an essence not unlike or alien to Himself: for a natural birth does not admit of any dissimilarity with the Father’s nature. Therefore those are anathema who assert that the Father is Father of a nature unlike Himself, so that something other than God is born of God, and who suppose that the essence of the Father degenerated in begetting the Son. For so far as in them lies they destroy the very birthless and changeless essence of the Father by daring to attribute to Him in the birth of His Only-begotten an alteration and degeneration of His natural essence.

VIII. “And if any one understanding that the Son is like in essence to Him whose Son He is admitted to be, says that the Son is the same as the Father, or part of the Father, or that it is through an emanation or any such passion as is necessary for the procreation of corporeal children that the incorporeal Son draws His life from the incorporeal Father: let him be anathema.”

21. We have always to beware of the vices of particular perversions, and countenance no opportunity for delusion. For many heretics say that the Son is like the Father in divinity in order to support the theory that in virtue of this similarity the Son is the same Person as the Father: for this undivided similarity appears to countenance a belief in a single monad. For what does not differ in kind seems to retain identity of nature.

22. But birth does not countenance this vain imagination; for such identity without differentiation excludes birth. For what is born has a father who caused its birth. Nor because the divinity of Him who is being born is inseparable from that of Him who begets, are the Begetter and the Begotten the same Person; while on the other hand He who is born and He who begets cannot be unlike. He is therefore anathema who shall proclaim a similarity of nature in the Father and the Son in order to abolish the personal meaning of the word Son: for while through mutual likeness one differs in no respect from the other, yet this very likeness, which does not admit of bare union, confesses both the Father and the Son because the Son is the changeless likeness of the Father. For the Son is not part of the Father so that He who is born and He who begets can be called one Person. Nor is He an emanation so that by a continual flow of a corporeal uninterrupted stream the flow is itself kept in its source, the source being identical with the flow in virtue of the successive and unbroken continuity. But the birth is perfect, and remains alike in nature; not taking its beginning materially from a corporeal conception and bearing, but as an incorporeal Son drawing His existence from an incorporeal Father according to the likeness which belongs to an identical nature.

IX. “And if any one, because the Father is never admitted to be the Son and the Son is never admitted to be the Father, when he says that the Son is other than the Father (because the Father is one Person and the Son another, inasmuch as it is said, There is another that beareth witness of Me, even the father who sent Me14 ), does in anxiety for the distinct personal qualities of the Father and the Son which in the Church must be piously understood to exist, fear that the Son and the Father may sometimes be admitted to be the same Person, and therefore denies that the Son is like in essence to the Father: let him be anathema.”

23. It was said unto the apostles of the Lord, Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves15 . Christ therefore wished there to be in us the nature of different creatures: but in such a sort that the harmlessness of the dove might temper the serpent’s wisdom, and the wisdom of the serpent might instruct the harmlessness of the dove, and that so wisdom might be made harmless and harmlessness wise. This precept has been observed in the exposition of this creed. For the former sentence of which we have spoken guarded against the teaching of a unity of person under the cloak of an essential likeness, and against the denial of the Son’s birth as the result of an identity of nature, lest we should understand God to be a single monad because one Person does not differ in kind from the other. In the next sentence, by harmless and apostolic wisdom we have again taken refuge in that wisdom of the serpent to which we are bidden to be conformed no less than to the harmlessness of the dove, lest perchance through a repudiation of the unity of persons on the ground that the Father is one Person and the Son another, a preaching of the dissimilarity of their natures should again take us unawares, and test on the ground that He who sent and He who was sent are two Persons (for the Sent and the Sender cannot be one Person) they should be considered to have divided and dissimilar natures, though He who is born and He who begets Him cannot be of a different essence. So we preserve in Father and in Son the likeness of an identical nature through an essential birth: yet the similarity of nature does not injure personality by making the Sent and the Sender to be but one. Nor do we do away with the similarity of nature by admitting distinct personal qualities, for it is impossible that the one God should be called Son and Father to Himself. So then the truth as to the birth supports the similarity of essence and the similarity of essence does not undermine the personal reality of the birth. Nor again does a profession of belief in the Begetter and the Begotten exclude a similarity of essence; for while the Begetter and the Begotten cannot be one Person, He who is born and He who begets cannot be of a different nature.

20 X. “And if any one admits that God became Father of the Only-begotten Son at any point in times and not that the Only-begotten Son came into existence without passion beyond all times and beyond all human calculation: for contravening the teaching of the Gospel which scorned any interval of times between the being of the Father and the Son and faithfully has instructed us that In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God16 , let him be anathema.”

24. It is a pious saying that the Father is not limited by times: for the true meaning of the name of Father which He bore before times began surpasses comprehension. Although religion teaches us to ascribe to Him this name of Father through which comes the impassible origin of the Son, yet He is not bound in time, for the eternal and infinite God cannot be understood as having become a Father in time, and according to the teaching of the Gospel the Only-begotten God the Word is recognized even in the beginning rather to be with God than to be born.

XI. “And if any one says that the Father is older in times than His Only-begotten Son, and that the Son is younger than the Father: let him be anathema”

25. The essential likeness conformed to the Father’s essence in kind is also taught to be identical in time: lest He who is the image of God, who is the Word, who is God with God in the beginning, who is like the Father, by the insertion of times between Himself and the Father should not have in Himself in perfection that which is both image, and Word, and God. For if He be proclaimed to be younger in time, He has lost the truth of the image and likeness: for that is no longer likeness which is found to be dissimilar in times. For that very fact that God is Father prevents there being any times in which He was not Father: consequently there can be no times in the Son’s existence in which He was not Son. Wherefore we must neither call the Father older than the Son nor the Son younger than the Father: for the true meaning of neither name can exist without the other.

XII. “And if any one attributes the timeless substance (i.e. Person) of the Only-begotten Son derived from the Father to the unborn essence of God, as though calling the Father Son: let him be anathema17 .”

26. The above definition when it denied that the idea of time could be applied to the birth of the Son seemed to have given an occasion for heresy (we saw that it would be monstrous if the Father were limited by time, but that He would be so limited if the Son were subjected to time), so that by the help of this repudiation of time, the Father who is unborn might under the appellation of Son be proclaimed as both Father and Son in a single and unique Person. For in excluding times from the Son’s birth it seemed to countenance the opinion that there was no birth, so that He whose birth is not in times might be considered not to have been born at all. Wherefore, lest at the suggestion of this denial of times the heresy of the unity of Persons should insinuate itself, that impiety is condemned which dares to refer the timeless birth to the unique and singular Person of the unborn essence. For it is one thing to be outside times and another to be unborn; the first admits of birth (though outside time), the other, so far as it is, is the one sole author froth eternity of its being what it is.

27. We have reviewed, beloved brethren, all the definitions of faith made by the Eastern bishops which they formulated in their assembly against the recently emerging heresy. And we, as far as we have been able, have adapted the wording of our exposition to express their meaning, following their diction rather than desiring to be thought the originators of new phrases. In these words they decree the principles of their conscience and a long maintained doctrine against a new and profane impiety. Those who compiled this heresy at Sirmium, or accepted it after its compilation, they have thereby compelled to confess their ignorance and to sign such decrees. There the Son is the perfect image of the Father: there under the qualities of an identical essence, the Person of the Son is not annihilated and confounded with the Father: there the Son is declared to be image of the Father in virtue of a real likeness, and does not differ in substance from the Father, whose image He is: there on account of the life which the Father has and the life which the Son has received, the Father can have nothing different in substance (this being implied in life) from that which the Son received to have: there the begotten Son is not a creature, but is a Person undistinguished from the Father’s nature: there, just as an identical might belongs to the Father and the Son, so their essence admits of no difference: there the Father by begetting the Son in no wise degenerates from Himself in Him through any difference of nature: there, though the likeness of nature is the same in each, the proper qualities which mark this likeness are repugnant to a confusion of Persons, so that there is not one subsisting Person who is called both Father and Son: there, though it is piously affirmed that there is both a Father who sends and a Son who is sent, yet no distinction in essence is drawn between the Father and the Son, the Sent and the Sender: there the truth of God’s Fatherhood is not bound by limits of times: there the Son is not later in time: there beyond all time is a perfect birth which refutes the error that the Son could not be born).

28. Here, beloved brethren, is the entire creed which was published by some Easterns, few in proportion to the whole number of bishops, and which first saw light at the very times when you repelled the introduction of this heresy. The reason for its promulgation was the fact that they were bidden to say nothing of the ojmoouvsion. But even in former times, through the urgency of these numerous causes, it was necessary at different occasions to compose other creeds, the character of which will be understood from their wording. For when you are frilly aware of the results, it will be easier for us to bring to a full consummation, such as religion and unity demand, the argument in which we are interested.


An exposition of the faith of the Church made at the Council held an the occasion of the Dedication of the church at Antioch

Hilary - Damascus 16