Prof. Jaroslav Skira (Regis College) - Trinity & Church to 1054AD Syllabus



Note: The full electronic versions of most of the texts can be found at Early Church Fathers (CCEL). These readings are adapted from the translations found at this site.

Week 7: Nicene Period
Arius, Athanasius, Hilary & Ecumenical Councils

Textbook/Course-Pack Reading:
- Hanson, Richard. Chp. 7: "Semantic Confusion." In The Search for The Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988. 181-207.
- Plus photocopied readings.

Some Study Guidelines / Questions:
Study Questions:
1. Are the authors beginning to use terms such as "nature" and "person"? What are the other ways they describe the reality of humanity and divinity?
2. How is the union of two natures described (eg. a mixture, communion, unclear, etc.) in the authors? Do they teach a form of the communion of properties?
3. Why is rejecting the notion that Christ was a mere "creature" (human) so important? How is this related to the virginity of Mary? And yet, why is a stress on the reality of his humanity also affirmed?
4. Why do they affirm the immpassibility of the divinity? How do they then explain the suffering and death of Christ?
5. Which Scriptural texts to they appeal to the most? Could these texts be interpreted in support of their opponent's positions?
6. Does Hilary think that Christ could raise himself? How does he explain this?



Review & bring to class: Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.


Athanasius of Alexandria (+373)

Letter to Maximus

1. To our beloved and most truly longed-for son, Maximus, philosopher, Athanasius greeting in the Lord. Having read the letter which arrived from you, I approve your piety: but, marvelling at the rashness of those who understand neither what they say nor whereof they confidently affirm, I had really decided to say nothing. For to reply upon matters which are so plain and which are clearer than light, is simply to give an excuse for shamelessness to such lawless men. ... Accordingly for some time I delayed, and have reluctantly yielded to your zeal for the truth, in view of the argumentativeness of men without shame. ... But if even after this they will not give in, yet do you remember the apostolic injunction, and "a man that is heretical after a first and second admonition refuse, knowing that such an one is perverted and sinned being self-condemned (see Titus 2.10-11)." For if they are Gentiles, or of the Judaisers, who are thus daring, let them, as Jews, think the Cross of Christ a stumbling-block, or as Gentiles, foolishness. But if they pretend to be Christians let them learn that the crucified Christ is at once "Lord of Glory," (1 Cor 2.8) and the power of God and wisdom of God ([cf. 1 Cor 1.24).

2. But if they are in doubt whether he is God at all, let them reverence Thomas, who handled the crucified and pronounced him Lord and God [cf. Jn 20.2]). Or let them fear the Lord himself, who said, after washing the feet of the disciples: "You call me Lord and teacher, and you say well, for so I am (Jn 13.13)." But in the same body in which he was when he washed their feet, he also carried up our sins to the Tree (Jn 13.13). And he was witnessed to as Lord of creation, in that the sun withdrew his beams and the earth trembled and the rocks were rent, and the executioners recognized that the crucified was truly Son of God. For the body they beheld was not that of some human being, but of God; since God was in that Body, when he was crucified, he raised the dead. Accordingly it is evil of them to say that the Word of God came into a certain holy man; for this was true of each of the prophets and of the other saints, and on that assumption he would clearly be born and die in the case of each one of them. But this is not so, far be the thought. But once for all "at the consummation of the ages, to put away sin, the Word was made flesh (Heb 8.3 & Jn 1.14) and proceeded forth from Mary the Virgin, human after our likeness, as also he said to the Jews, "Why do you seek to kill Me, a man that has told you the truth (Jn 8.40)?" We are made divine not by participating in the body of some man, but by receiving the body of the Word itself.

3.a. And at this also I am much surprised, how they have ventured to entertain such an idea as that the Word's becoming human was quite simply natural. For if this were so, the commemoration of Mary would be superfluous. For neither does nature know of a Virgin giving birth apart from a man. Because of the Father's good will, being true God, and Word and wisdom of the Father by nature, he became a human being with a true body for our salvation, in order that having something to offer [cf. Heb 8.3] for us he might save us all, who "through fear of death were subject to slavery for our whole life long (Heb 2.15)." For it was not some man that gave himself up for us; since every man is under sentence of death, according to what was said to all in Adam, "You are earth and to earth you shall return (Gen 3.19)." Nor yet was it any other of the creatures, since every creature is liable to change. But the Word himself offered His own Body on our behalf that our faith and hope might not be in human being, but that we might have our faith in the divine Word itself.

b. Why, even now that he is become man we behold His Glory, "glory as of one only- begotten of His Father---full of grace and truth [cf. Jn 1.14]." For what he endured by means of the Body, he magnified as God. And while he hungered in the flesh, as God he fed the hungry. And if anyone is offended by reason of the bodily reality should believe by reason of the actions of God. For as a human he enquires where Lazarus was laid, but raised him up through divine power. Let no one then laugh, calling him a child, and citing his age, his growth, his eating, drinking and suffering, lest while denying what is proper for the body, he deny utterly also his sojourn among us. And just as he has not become human in consequence of his nature, in like manner it was consistent that when he had taken a body he should display what was proper to it, lest the imaginary incarnation-theory of Manichaeus should prevail. Again it was consistent that when he went about in the body, he should not conceal his divinity, lest he [Paul] of Samosata should find an excuse to call him man, as distinct in person from God the Word.

4. Let then the unbelievers perceive this, and learn that while as a babe he lay in a manger, he was worshipped by the Magi and made them subject to him; and while as a child he came down to Egypt, he brought to nought the handmade objects of its idolatry: and crucified in the flesh, he raised the dead long since turned to corruption. And it has been made plain to all that not for his own sake but for ours he underwent all things, so that we, by his sufferings, might put on freedom from suffering and incorruptibility, and might live eternal life.


Athanasius, Letter to Adelphius

1. We have read what your reverence has written to us, and genuinely approve your piety toward Christ. And above all we glorify God, who has given you such grace as not only to have right opinions, but also, so far as that is possible, not to be ignorant of the devices of the devil. But we marvel at the perversity of the heretics, seeing that they have fallen into such a pit of impiety that they no longer retain even their senses, but have their understanding corrupted on all sides. ... How have they even ventured to utter this new blasphemy against the Saviour? ... For formerly, while denying the Godhead of the only-begotten Son of God, they pretended at any rate to acknowledge his coming in the Flesh. But now, gradually going from bad to worse, they have fallen from this opinion of theirs, and become godless on all hands, so as neither to acknowledge him as God, nor to believe that he has become man. For if they believed this they would not have uttered such things as your reverence has reported against them.

2. You, however, beloved and most truly longed-for, have done what befitted the tradition of the Church and your piety toward the Lord, in refuting, admonishing, and rebuking such men. ...[Let] them learn from your piety that this error of theirs belongs to Valentinus and Marcion, and to Manichaeus, of whom some substituted [the idea of] appearance for reality, while the others, dividing what is indivisible, denied the truth that "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (Jn 1.14)." Why then, as they hold with those people, do they not also take up the heritage of their names? For it is reasonable, as they hold their error, to have their names as well. And for the future to be called Valentinians, Marcionists, and Manichaeans.

3. a. We do not worship a creature: that would be impossible. For such an error belongs to heathens and Arians. But we worship the Lord of creation, the Word of God become flesh. For if the flesh also is in itself a part of the created world, it has nonetheless become God's body. And we neither divide the body, being such, from the Word, and worship it by itself, nor when we wish to worship the Word do we set him far apart from the flesh, but knowing, as we said above, that "the Word was made flesh," we recognize him as God, even after its coming into being in flesh.

b. Who, accordingly, is so senseless as to say to the Lord: "Leave the body that I may worship you" or so impious as to join the Jews in saying, on account of the body, "Why do you, being a man, make yourself God (Jn 10.33)?" But the leper was not one of this sort, for he worshipped God in the body, and recognize that he was God, saying, "Lord, if you will it you can make me clean (Mt 8.2)." Neither by reason of the flesh did he think the Word of God a creature: nor because the Word was the maker of all creation did he despise the flesh which he had put on. But he worshipped the Creator of the universe as dwelling in a created temple, and was cleansed. So also the woman with an issue of blood, who believed, and only touched the hem of his garment, was healed (Mt 9.20ff.), and the sea with its foaming waves heard the incarnate Word, and ceased its storm (Mt 8.26), while the man blind from birth was healed by the fleshly spitting of the Word (Jn 9.6ff.). And, what is greater and more startling (for perhaps this even offended those most impious men), even when the Lord was hanging upon the actual cross---for it was his body and the Word was in it---the sun was darkened and the earth shook, the rocks were rent, and the veil of the temple rent, and many bodies of the saints who had died arose [cf. Mt 27.51-52; Lk 23.45].

4. a. These things then happened, and no one doubted, as the Arians now venture to doubt, whether one is to believe the incarnate Word; but even from beholding the man, they recognize that he was their maker, and when they heard a human voice, they did not, because it was human, say that the Word was a creature. On the contrary, they trembled, and recognized nothing less than that it was being uttered from a holy temple. How then can the impious fail to fear lest "as they refused to have God in their knowledge, they may be given up to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting (Rom 1.28)?" For creation does not worship a creature. Nor again did she on account of his flesh refuse to worship her Lord. But she beheld her maker in the body, and "in the name of Jesus every knee" bowed, and "shall bow,"of those in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess," whether the Arians approve or not, "that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2.10-11)."

b. For the flesh did not diminish the glory of the Word---far be the thought. On the contrary, it was glorified by him. Nor did the divinity diminish, when the Son, who was in the form of God, assumed the form of a slave [kenosis: Phil 2.6-7]. On the contrary, he became the liberator of all flesh and of all creation. And if God sent the Son brought forth from a woman, this fact causes us no shame but rather glory and great grace. For he has become man, that he might deify us in himself, and he has been born of a woman, and begotten of a Virgin, in order to transfer to himself our erring generation, and that we may become henceforth a holy race, and "sharers in the divine nature," as blessed Peter wrote (2 Pet 1.4). And "what the law could not do, in that it was weak because of the flesh, God [did] sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, and he condemned sin in the flesh (Rom 8.3)."

8.a. ... Therefore he that dishonours the temple dishonours the Lord in the temple; and he that separates the Word from the body rejects the grace given to us through the Word. And let not the most impious Arian madmen suppose that, since the body is created, the Word also is a creature, nor let them, because the Word is not a creature, disparage his body. For their error is matter for wonder, in that they at once confuse and disturb everything, and devise pretexts only in order to number the Creator among the creatures.

b. But let them listen. If the Word were a creature, he would not assume the created body to give life to it. For what help can creatures derive from a creature that itself needs salvation? But since the Word being Creator has himself made the creatures, therefore also at the consummation of the ages he put on the creature, that he as Creator might once more consecrate it, and be able to recover it. But a creature could never be saved by a creature, any more than the creatures were created by a creature, if the Word was not creator.

c. Accordingly, let them not lie against the divine Scriptures nor give offence to simple brethren; but if they are willing, let them change their minds, and no longer worship the creature instead of God who created all things. But if they wish to abide by their impieties, let them alone take their fill of them, and let them gnash their teeth like their father the devil, because the faith of the catholic Church knows that the Word of God is creator and maker of all things; and we know that while "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God" (Jn 1.1), now that he has become also man for our salvation, we worship him, not as though he had become an equal in an equal body, but as Lord, assuming the form of the servant, and as maker and Creator coming in a creature in order that, in it delivering all things, he might bring the world closer to the Father, and make all things to be at peace, things in heaven and things on the earth. For thus also we acknowledge the divinity he shares with the Father, and worship his presence in the flesh, even if the Arian madmen burst themselves in sunder.



Athanasius, Against the Arians

Chapter 26

26. a. For behold, as if not wearied in their words of irreligion, but hardened with Pharaoh, while they hear and see the Saviour's human attributes in the Gospels, they have utterly forgotten, like the Samosatene, the Son's paternal Godhead, and with arrogant and audacious tongue they say, "How can the Son be from the Father by nature, and be like him in essence, who says, 'All power is given unto Me' [Mt 28.18]; and 'The Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son' [Jn 5.22]; and 'The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand; he that believeth in the Son has everlasting life' [Jn 3.35-36]; and again, 'All things were delivered unto Me of My Father, and no one knows the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him' [Mt 11.27]; and again, 'All that the Father has given unto Me, shall come to Me [Jn 6.37].'" On this they observe, "If he was, as you say, Son by nature, he had no need to receive, but he had by nature as a Son."

b. Or how can he be the natural and true Power of the Father, who near upon the season of the passion says, "'Now is My soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour; but for this came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy Name.' Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, 'I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again [Jn 12.27-8].'" And he said the same another time; "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me;" [Mt 26.39] and "When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit and testified and said, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me.'" [Jn 13.21] Then these perverse men argue; "If he were Power, he had not feared, but rather he had supplied power to others."

c. Further they say; "If he were by nature the true and own Wisdom of the Father, how is it written, 'And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man?'" [Lk 2.52] In like manner, when he had come into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked the disciples whom men said that he was; and when he was at Bethany he asked where Lazarus lay; and he said besides to His disciples, "How many loaves have ye? [Mk 6.38] "How then," say they, "is he Wisdom, who increased in wisdom and was ignorant of what he asked of others?"

d. This too they urge; "How can he be the own Word of the Father, without whom the Father never was, through whom he makes all things, as ye think, who said upon the Cross 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' [Mt 27.46] and before that had prayed, 'Glorify Thy Name,' [Jn 12.28] and, 'O Father, glorify Thou Me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.'" [Jn 17.5] And he used to pray in the deserts and charge his disciples to pray lest they should enter into temptation; and, "The spirit indeed is willing," he said, "but the flesh is weak." And, "Of that day and that hour knows no man, no, nor the Angels, neither the Son." [Mk 13.32]

e. Upon this again say the miserable men, "If the Son were, according to your interpretation, eternally existent with God, he had not been ignorant of the Day, but had known as Word; nor had been forsaken as being coexistent; nor had asked to receive glory, as having it in the Father; nor would have prayed at all; for, being the Word, he had needed nothing; but since he is a creature and one of things originate, therefore he thus spoke, and needed what he had not; for it is proper to creatures to require and to need what they have not."

27. a. This then is what the irreligious men allege in their discourses; and if they thus argue, they might consistently speak yet more daringly; "Why did the Word become flesh at all?" and they might add; "For how could he, being God, become man?" or, "How could the Immaterial bear a body?" or they might speak with Caiaphas still more Judaically, "Wherefore at all did Christ, being a man, make himself God?" [cf. Jn 10.33] for this and the like the Jews then muttered when they saw, and now the Ariomaniacs disbelieve when they read, and have fallen away into blasphemies.

b. If then a man should carefully parallel the words of these and those, he will of a certainty find them both arriving at the same unbelief, and the daring of their irreligion equal, and their dispute with us a common one. For the Jews said; "How, being a man, can he be God?" And the Arians, "If he were very God from God, how could he become man?"

c. And the Jews were offended then and mocked, saying, "Had he been Son of God, he had not endured the 'Cross.'" And the Arians standing over against them, urge upon us, "How dare ye say that he is the Word proper to the Father's Essence, who had a body, so as to endure all this?" ... Again, whereas the Jews said, "Is not this the Son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?" How then is it that he said, "Before Abraham was, I am, and I came down from heaven?" [Jn 8.58] The Arians on the other hand make response and say conformably, "How can he be Word or God who slept as man, and wept, and inquired?" Thus both parties deny the Eternity and Godhead of the Word in consequence of those human attributes which the Saviour took on him by reason of that flesh which he bore.

28. a. ... [The truth will illuminate you once you see it], then at once will truth shine on you out of darkness, and ye will no longer reproach us with holding "two Eternals," but ye will yourselves acknowledge that the Lord is God's true Son by nature, and not as merely eternal, but revealed as co-existing in the Father's eternity. For there are things called eternal of which he is Framer; for in the twenty-third Psalm it is written, "Lift up your gates, O you rulers, and be lifted up, everlasting gates;" [Ps 24.7] and it is plain that through him these things were made; but if even of things everlasting he is the Framer, who of us shall be able henceforth to dispute that he is anterior to those things eternal, and in consequence is proved to be Lord not so much from His eternity, as in that lie is God's Son; for being the Son, he is inseparable from the Father, and never was there when he was not [v.s Arius], but he was always; and being the Father's Image and Radiance, he has the Father"s eternity.

b. Now what has been briefly said above may suffice to show their misunderstanding of the passages they then alleged; and that of what they now allege from the Gospels they certainly give an unsound interpretation, we may easily see, if we now consider the scope of that faith which we Christians hold, and using it as a rule, apply ourselves, as the Apostle teaches, to the reading of inspired Scripture. For Christ's enemies, being ignorant of this scope, have wandered from the way of truth, and have stumbled on a stone of stumbling, thinking otherwise than they should think.

29. a. Now the scope and character of Holy Scripture, as we have often said, is this,—it contains a double account of the Saviour; that he was ever God, and is the Son, being the Father's Word and Radiance and Wisdom; and that afterwards for us he took flesh of a Virgin, Mary Bearer of God [Theotokos-Mother of God], and was made man.

b. And this scope is to be found throughout inspired Scripture, as the Lord himself has said, "Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me." [Jn 5.39] But lest I should exceed in writing, by bringing together all the passages on the subject, let it suffice to mention as a specimen, first John saying, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was made not one thing." [Jn 1.1-3] Next, "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of one Only- begotten from the Fathers;" and next Paul writing, "Who being in the form of God, thought it not a prize to be equal with God, but emptied himself [kenosis], taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion like a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross." [Phil 2.6-8]

c. Any one, beginning with these passages and going through the whole of the Scripture upon the interpretation which they suggest, will perceive how in the beginning the Father said to him, "Let there be light," and "Let there be a firmament," and "Let us make man;" [cf. Genesis] but in fulness of the ages, he sent him into the world, not that he might judge the world, but that the world by him might be saved, and how it is written "Behold, the Virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call his Name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us." [Mt 1.23]

30.a. The reader then of divine Scripture may acquaint himself with these passages from the ancient books; and from the Gospels on the other hand he will perceive that the Lord became a human being; for "the Word," he says, "became flesh, and dwelt among us." [Jn 1.14]

b. And he became human, and did not come into human being [v.s. an "adoptionism"]; for this it is necessary to know, lest perchance these irreligious men fall into this notion also, and beguile any into thinking, that, as in former times the Word was used to come into each of the Saints, so now he sojourned in a man, hallowing him also, and manifesting himself as in the others. For if it were so, and he only appeared in a man, it were nothing strange, nor had those who saw him been startled, saying, "Where does he come from?" [Mk 4.41] and "wherefore do you, being a man, make yourself God?" [Jn 10.33] for they were familiar with the idea, from the words, "And the Word of the Lord came" to this or that of the Prophets.

c. But now, since the Word of God, by whom all things came to be, endured to become also Son of man, and humbled himself, taking a servant's form [kenosis], therefore to the Jews the Cross of Christ is a scandal, but to us Christ is "God"s power" and "God"s wisdom;" [1 Cor 23-34] for "the Word," as John says, "became flesh" (it being the custom of Scripture to call man by the name of "flesh," as it says by Joel the Prophet, "I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh;" [Joel 2.28] and as Daniel said to Astyages, "I do not worship idols made with hands, but the Living God, who has created the heaven and the earth, and has sovereignty over all flesh;" for both he and Joel call mankind flesh).

31.a. In former times he came to be with the Saints individually, and to hallow those who rightly received him; but neither, when they were begotten was it said that he had become man, nor, when they suffered, was it said that he himself suffered. But when he came among us from Mary once and for all for the summing up [recapitulation-anakephalaiosis] of all ages and for the abolition of sin [Heb 9.26] (for so it was pleasing to the Father, to send His own Son made of a woman, made under the Law [cf. Gal 4.4]), then it is said, that he took flesh and became man, and in that flesh he suffered for us (as Peter says, "Christ therefore having suffered for us in the flesh" [1 Pet 4.1], that it might be shewn, and that all might believe, that whereas he was ever God, and hallowed those to whom he came, and ordered all things according to the Father's will, afterwards for our sakes he became human, and "the Godhead dwelt bodily" [Col 2.9], as the Apostle says, in the flesh. This is as much as to say, "Being God, he had his own body, and using this as an instrument, he became human for our sakes."

b. And on account of this, the properties of the flesh are said to be his, since he was in it, such as to hunger, to thirst, to suffer, to weary, and the like, of which the flesh is capable; while on the other hand the works proper to the Word himself, such as to raise the dead, to restore sight to the blind, and to cure the woman with an issue of blood, he did through His own body. And the Word bore the infirmities of the flesh, as his own, for his was the flesh; and the flesh ministered to the works of the Godhead, because the Godhead was in it, for the body was God's. [the above is an expression of the "communion of properties"].

c. And well has the Prophet said "carried [or bore];" and has not said, "He remedied our infirmities," [Mk 8.17] lest, as being external to the body, and only healing it, as he has always done, he should leave humanity subject still to death; but he carries our infirmities, and he himself bears our sins, [Is 53.4] that it might be shown that he has become man for us, and that the body which in him bore them, was his own body; and, while he received no hurt himself by "bearing our sins in His body on the tree," [1 Pet 2.24] as Peter speaks, we men were redeemed from our own affections, and were filled with the righteousness of the Word.

32.a. Whence it was that, when the flesh suffered, the Word was not external to it; and therefore is the passion said to be his: and when he did divinely His Father's works, the flesh was not external to him, but in the body itself did the Lord do them. Hence, when made human, he said, "If I do not the works of the Father, believe Me not; but if I do, though you believe not Me, believe the works, that you may know that the Father is in me and I in him." [Jn 10.37-38] And thus when there was need to raise Peter's wife's mother, who was sick of a fever, he stretched forth his hand humanly, but he stopped the illness divinely. And in the case of the man blind from the birth, human was the spittle which he gave forth from the flesh, but divinely did he open the eyes through the clay. And in the case of Lazarus, he gave forth a human voice as human; but divinely, as God, did he raise Lazarus from the dead. These things were so done, were so manifested, because he had a body, not in appearance, but in truth [v.s. docetism]; and it became the Lord, in putting on human flesh, to put it on whole with the affections proper to it; that, as we say that the body was His own, so also we may say that the affections of the body were proper to him alone, though they did not touch him according to His Godhead.

b. If then the body had been another's, to him too had been the affections attributed; but if the flesh is the Word's (for "the Word became flesh"), of necessity then the affections also of the flesh are ascribed to him, whose the flesh is. And to whom the affections are ascribed, such namely as to be condemned, to be scourged, to thirst, and the cross, and death, and the other infirmities of the body, of him too is the triumph and the grace. For this cause then, consistently and fittingly such affections are ascribed not to another, but to the Lord; that the grace also may be from him, and that we may become, not worshippers of any other, but truly devout towards God, because we invoke no originate thing, no ordinary human, but the natural and true Son from God, who has become human, yet is not the less Lord and God and Saviour.

33.a. Who will not admire this? or who will not agree that such a thing is truly divine? for if the works of the Word's Godhead had not taken place through the body, humanity had not been deified; and again, had not the properties of the flesh been ascribed to the Word, humanity had not been thoroughly delivered from them; but though they had ceased for a little while, as I said before, still sin had remained in him and corruption, as was the case with mankind before him. This is obvious.

b. Many for instance have been made holy and clean from all sin; nay, Jeremiah was hallowed even from the womb, and John, while yet in the womb, leapt for joy at the voice of Mary Bearer of God; nevertheless "death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression;" [Rom 5.14] and thus man remained mortal and corruptible as before, liable to the affections proper to their nature.

c. But now the Word having become man and having appropriated what pertains to the flesh, no longer do these things touch the body, because of the Word who has come in it, but they are destroyed by him, and henceforth men no longer remain sinners and dead according to their proper affections, but having risen according to the Word's power, they abide ever immortal and incorruptible.

d. Whence also, whereas the flesh is born of Mary Bearer of God, he himself is said to have been born, who furnishes to others an origin of being; in order that he may transfer our origin into himself, and we may no longer, as mere earth, return to earth, but as being knit into the Word from heaven, may be carried to heaven by him. Therefore in like manner not without reason has he transferred to himself the other affections of the body also; that we, no longer as being men, but as proper to the Word, may have share in eternal life. For no longer according to our former origin in Adam do we die; but henceforward our origin and all infirmity of flesh being transferred to the Word, we rise from the earth, the curse from sin being removed, because of him who is in us, and who has become a curse for us [Gal 3.13]. And with reason; for as we are all from earth and die in Adam, so being regenerated from above of water and Spirit [1 Cor 15.22; Jn 3.5], in the Christ we are all quickened; the flesh being no longer earthly, but being henceforth made Word, by reason of God's Word who for our sake "became flesh."

34.a. And that one may attain to a more exact knowledge of the impassibility [= divine apatheia] of the Word's nature and of the infirmities ascribed to him because of the flesh, it will be well to listen to the blessed Peter; for he will be a trustworthy witness concerning the Saviour. He writes then in his Epistle thus; "Christ then having suffered for us in the flesh." [1 Pet 4.1] Therefore also when he is said to hunger and thirst and to toil and not to know, and to sleep, and to weep, and to ask, and to flee, and to be born, and to deprecate the cup, and in a word to undergo all that belongs to the flesh, let it be said, as is congruous, in each case "Christ then hungering and thirsting 'for us in the flesh;'" and saying he did not know, and being buffeted, and toiling "for us in the flesh;" and being exalted too, and born, and growing "in the flesh;" and "fearing and hiding "in the flesh;" and saying, "If it be possible let this cup pass from Me," and being beaten, and receiving, "for us in the flesh;" and in a word all such things "for us in the flesh." For on this account has the Apostle himself said, "Christ then having suffered," not in His Godhead, but "for us in the flesh," that these affections may be acknowledged as, not proper to the very Word by nature, but proper by nature to the very flesh.

b. Let no one then stumble at what belongs to man, but rather let a man know that in nature the Word himself is impassible, and yet because of that flesh which he put on, these things are ascribed to him, since they are proper to the flesh, and the body itself is proper to the Saviour. And while he himself, being impassible in nature, remains as he is, not harmed by these affections, but rather obliterating and destroying them, men, their passions as if changed and abolished in the impassible, henceforth become themselves also impassible and free from them for ever, as John taught, saying, "And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in him is no sin." [1 Jn 3.5] ...

35.a. These points we have found it necessary first to examine, that, when we see him doing or saying taught divinely through the instrument of His own body, we may know that he so works, being God, and also, if we see him speaking or suffering humanly, we may not be ignorant that he bore flesh and became a human being, and hence he so acts and so speaks. For if we recognise what is proper to each, and see and understand that both these things and those are done by one [agent], we are fight in our faith, and shall never stray. But if a man looking at what is done divinely by the Word, deny the body, or looking at what is proper to the body, deny the Word's presence in the flesh, or from what is human entertain low thoughts concerning the Word, such a one, as a Jewish vintner, mixing water with the wine, shall account the Cross an offence, or as a Gentile, will deem the preaching folly. This then is what happens to God's enemies the Arians; for looking at what is human in the Saviour, they have judged him a creature. Therefore they ought, looking also at the divine works of the Word, to deny the origination of His body, and henceforth to rank themselves with Manichees. But for them, learn they, however tardily, that "the Word became flesh;" and let us, retaining the general scope of the faith, acknowledge that what they interpret ill, has a right interpretation.


Chapter 27

35 a. Consider these texts: For, "The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand" [Jn 3.35]; and, "All things were given unto Me of My Father;" [Mt 11.27] and, "I can do nothing of Myself, but as I hear, I judge;" [Jn 5.30] and the like passages do not show that the Son once had not these prerogatives—for had not he eternally what the Father has, who is the only Word and Wisdom of the Father in essence, who also says, "All that the Father has are mine," [Jn 16.15] and what are mine, are the Father's? For if the things of the Father are the Son's and the Father has them ever, [cf Jn 16.15; 17.10] it is plain that what the Son has, being the Father's, were ever in the Son,—not then because once he had them not, did he say this, but because, whereas the Son has eternally what he has, yet he has them from the Father.

36. a. For lest a human, perceiving that the Son has all that the Father has, from the exact likeness and identity of that he has, should wander into the irreligion of Sabellius [=modalism], considering him to be the Father, therefore he has said "Was given unto Me," and "I received," and "Were delivered to Me," only to show that he is not the Father, but the Father's Word, and the Eternal Son, who because of His likeness to the Father, has eternally what he has from him, and because he is the Son, has from the Father what he has eternally.

b. Moreover that "Was given" and "Were delivered," and the like, do not impair the Godhead of the Son, but rather shew him to be truly Son, we may learn from the passages themselves. For if all things are delivered unto him, first, he is other than that all which he has received; next, being heir of all things, he alone is the Son and proper according to the Essence of the Father. For if he were one of all, then he were not "heir of all," but every one had received according as the Father willed and gave. But now, as receiving all things, he is other than them all, and alone proper to the Father.

c. Moreover that "Was given" and "Were delivered" do not show that once he had them not, we may conclude from a similar passage, and in like manner concerning them all; for the Saviour himself says, "As the Father has life in himself, so has he given also to the Son to have life in himself." [Jn 5.26] Now from the words "Has given," he signifies that he is not the Father; but in saying "so," he shows the Son's natural likeness and propriety towards the Father. If then once the Father had not, plainly the Son once had not; for as the Father, "so" also the Son has. But if this is irreligious to say, and religious on the contrary to say that the Father had ever, is it not unseemly in them when the Son says that, "as" the Father has, "so" also the Son has, to say that he has not "so," but otherwise? Rather then is the Word faithful, and all things which he says that he has received, he has always, yet has from the Father; and the Father indeed not from any, but the Son from the Father. For as in the instance of the radiance, if the radiance itself should say, "All places the light has given me to enlighten, and I do not enlighten from myself, but as the light wills," yet, in saying this, it does not imply that it once had not, but it means, "I am proper to the light, and all things of the light are mine;" so, and much more, must we understand in the instance of the Son. For the Father, having given all things to the Son, in the Son still has all things; and the Son having, still the Father has them; for the Son"s Godhead is the Father"s Godhead, and thus the Father in the Son exercises his Providence over all things. ...

40.a. Furthermore, the power which he said he received after the resurrection, that he had before he received it, and before the resurrection. For he of himself rebuked Satan, saying, "Get thee behind Me, Satan" [Mt 4.10]; and to the disciples he gave the power against him, when on their return he said, "I beheld Satan, as lightning, fall from heaven." [Lk 10.18]

b. And again, that what he said that he had received, that he possessed before receiving it, appears from His driving away the demons, and from His un-binding what Satan had bound, as he did in the case of the daughter of Abraham; and from His remitting sins, saying to the paralytic, and to the woman who washed His feet, "Thy sins be forgiven thee;" [Mt 9.5; Lk 7.48]and from His both raising the dead, and repairing the first nature of the blind, granting to him to see. And all this he did, not waiting till he should receive, but being "possessed of power."

c. From all this it is plain that what he had as Word, that when he had become man and was risen again, he says that he received humanly; that for His sake men might henceforward upon earth have power against demons, as having become partakers of a divine nature; [2 Pet 1.4] and in heaven, as being delivered from corruption, might reign everlastingly. [Rom 8.21] Thus we must acknowledge this once for all, that nothing which he says that he received, did he receive as not possessing before; for the Word, as being God, had them always; but in these passages he is said humanly to have received, that, whereas the flesh received in him, henceforth from it the gift might abide surely for us. For what is said by Peter, "receiving from God honour and glory, Angels being made subject unto him," [2 Pet 1.17; 1 Pet 3.22] has this meaning. As he inquired humanly, and raised Lazarus divinely, so "he received" is spoken of him humanly, but the subjection of the Angels marks the Word's Godhead.

41.a. Cease then, O abhorred of God, and degrade not the Word; nor detract from His Godhead, which is the Father's, as though he needed or were ignorant; lest ye be casting your own arguments against the Christ, as those who once stoned him. For these belong not to the Word, as the Word; but are proper to men and, as when he spat, and stretched forth the hand, and called Lazarus, we did not say that the triumphs were human, though they were done through the body, but were God's, so, on the other hand, though human things are ascribed to the Saviour in the Gospel, let us, considering the nature of what is said and that they are foreign to God, not impute them to the Word's Godhead, but to His manhood. For though "the Word became flesh," yet to the flesh are the affections proper; and though the flesh is possessed by God in the Word, yet to the Word belong the grace and the power. He did then the Father's works through the flesh; and as truly contrariwise were the affections of the flesh displayed in him; for instance, he inquired and he raised Lazarus, he chid His Mother, saying, "My hour is not yet come," and then at once he made the water wine. For he was verily God in the flesh, and he was true flesh in the Word. Therefore from His works he revealed both himself as Son of God, and his own Father, and from the affections of the flesh he showed that he bore a true body, and that it was His own.


Hilary of Poitiers (+366)

On the Trinity

Book 2

24. In what remains we have the appointment of the Father's will. The virgin, the birth, the body, then the cross, the death, the visit to the lower world; these things are our salvation. For the sake of mankind the Son of God was born of tile virgin and of the Holy Spirit. In this process he ministered to himself; by His own power---the power of God---which overshadowed her, he sowed the beginning of his body, and entered on the first stage of his life in the flesh. He did it that by his incarnation he might take to himself from the virgin the fleshly nature, and that through the association produced by this mixture there might come into being a hallowed body of all humanity; that so through that Body which he was pleased to assume all mankind might be hid in him, and he in return, through His unseen existence, be reproduced in all. Thus the invisible image of God [cf. Col 1.15] did not reject not the shame which marks the beginnings of human life. He passed through every stage; through conception, birth, wailing, cradle and each successive humiliation.

25. What worthy return can we make for so great a condescension? The One Only-begotten God, ineffably born of God, entered the virgin's womb and grew and took the frame of poor humanity. He who upholds the universe, within whom and through whom are all things, was brought forth by common childbirth; he at whose voice archangels and angels tremble, and heaven and earth and all the elements of this world are melted, was heard in childish wailing. The invisible and incomprehensible, whom sight and feeling and touch cannot gauge, was wrapped in a cradle. If any person believes that this was unworthy of God will admit to being more obliged for such a great gift, to the extent that this is less consistent with God's majesty. He by whom humanity was made, had nothing to gain by becoming man; we need God to become incarnate and dwell among us, making all flesh his home by taking upon him the flesh of one person. We were raised because he was lowered; shame to him was glory to us. He, being God, made flesh his residence, and we in return are reconstituted from flesh to God.

Book 9

3. We will offer later an explanation of these texts in the words of the Gospels and Epistles themselves. But first we hold it right to remind the members of our common faith, that the knowledge of the eternal is presented in the same confession which gives eternal life. One has absolutely no knowledge of one's life, if one does not know that Jesus Christ is true God as well as a true human being. It is equally perilous, whether we deny that Christ Jesus was God the Spirit as to deny that he was flesh of our body: "Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven (Mt 10.32-33)." So said the Word made flesh; so taught the man Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, constituted mediator in His own person for the salvation of the Church, and being in that very mystery of mediatorship between men and God, himself one Person, but both man and God. For he, being of two natures united for that mediatorship, is the full reality of each nature; while abiding in each, he is wanting in neither; he does not cease to be God because he becomes man, nor fail to be man because he remains for ever God. This is the true faith for human blessedness, to preach at once the Godhead and the manhood, to confess the Word and the flesh, neither forgetting the God, because he is man, nor ignoring the flesh, because he is the Word.

4. It is contrary to the nature of our experience, that he should be born man and still remain God; but it accords with the tenor of our expectation, that being born man, he still remained God, for when the higher nature is born into the lower, it is credible that the lower should also be born into the higher one. And, indeed, according to the laws and habits of nature, the working of our expectation even anticipates the divine mystery. For in every tiling that is born, nature has the capacity for increase, but has no power of decrease. Look at the trees, the crops, the cattle. Regard man himself, the possessor of reason. He always expands by growth, he does not contract by decrease; nor does he ever lose the self into which he has grown. He wastes indeed with age, or is cut off by death; he undergoes change by lapse of time, or reaches the end allotted to the constitution of life, yet it is not in his power to cease to be what he is; I mean that he cannot make a new self by decrease from his old self, that is, become a child again from an old man. So the necessity of perpetual increase, which is imposed on our nature by natural law, leads us on good grounds to expect its promotion into a higher nature, since its increase is according to, and its decrease contrary to, nature. It was God alone who could become something other than before, and yet not cease to be what he had ever been---who could shrink within the limits of womb, cradle, anti infancy, yet not depart from the power of God. This is a mystery, not for himself, but for us. The assumption of our nature was no advancement for God, but his willingness to lower himself is our promotion, for he did not resign his divinity but conferred divinity on man.

7. For our sake, therefore, Jesus Christ, retaining all these attributes, and being born man in our body, spoke after the fashion of our nature without concealing that the divinity belonged to his own nature. In his birth, his passion, and his death, he passed through all the circumstances of our nature, but he bore them all by the power of his own. He was himself the cause of his birth, he willed to suffer what he could not suffer, he died though he lives for ever. Yet God did all this not merely through man, for he was born of himself, he suffered of his own free will, and died of himself. He did it also as man, for he was really born, suffered and died. These were the mysteries of the secret counsels of heaven, determined before the world was made. The only-begotten God was to become man of his own will, and man was to abide eternally in God. God was to suffer of his own will, that the malice of the devil, working in the weakness of human infirmity, might not confirm the law of sin in us, since God had assumed our weakness. God was to die of his own will, that no power, after that the immortal God had constrained himself within the law of death, might raise up its head against him, or put forth the natural strength which he had created in it. Thus God was born to take us into himself, suffered to justify us, and died to avenge us; for our humanity abides for ever in him, the weakness of our infirmity is united with his strength, and the spiritual powers of iniquity and wickedness are subdued in the triumph of our flesh, since God died through the flesh [cf. Col 2.15]."

8. The Apostle [Paul], who knew this mystery, and had received the knowledge of the faith through the Lord himself; since he knew that neither the world, nor mankind, nor philosophy could grasp him, he wrote, "Take heed, lest there shall be any one that leads you astray through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Jesus Christ, for in him dwells all the fulness of the divinity bodily, and in him you are made full, who is the head of all principalities and powers (Col 2.8-10)." After the announcement that in Christ dwells all the fulness of the divinity bodily, follows immediately the mystery of our assumption, in the words, "in him you are made full." As the fulness of the divinity is in him, so we are made full in him. The apostle says not merely you are made full, but, in him you are made full; for all who are, or shall be, regenerated through the hope of faith to life eternal, abide even now in the body of Christ; and afterwards they shall be made full no longer in him, but in themselves, at the time of which the apostle says, "Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory (Phil 3.21)." Now, therefore, we are made full in him, that is, by the assumption of his flesh, for in him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily. ... Every tongue shall confess this. But though all things in heaven and earth shall bow their knees to him, yet herein he is head of all principalities and powers, that to him the whole universe shall bow the knee in submission, in whom we are made full, who through the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him bodily, shall be confessed in the glory of God the Father.

9. But after the announcement of the mystery of Christ's nature, and our assumption, that is, the fulness of divinity abiding in Christ, and ourselves made full in him by his birth as man, the apostle continues the dispensation of human salvation in the words: "In whom you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the stripping off of the body of the flesh, but with the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, wherein you were also raised with him through faith through the action of God, who raised him from the dead (Col 2.11-12)." We are circumcised not with a fleshly circumcision but with the circumcision of Christ, that is, we are born again into a new man; for, being buried with him in his baptism, we must die to the old man, because the regeneration of baptism has the force of resurrection [cf. Rom 6.4-6]. The circumcision of Christ does not mean the putting off of foreskins, but to die entirely with him, and by that death to live henceforth entirely to him. For we rise again in him through faith in God, who raised him from the dead; wherefore we must believe in God, by whose action Christ was raised from the dead, for our faith rises again in and with Christ.

10.a. Then is completed the entire mystery of the assumption of humanity, "And you being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you I say, did he give life together with him, having, forgiven you all your trespasses, blotting out the bond written in ordinances, that was against us, which was contrary to us; and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross, and having put off from himself his flesh, he has made a show of powers, triumphing over them in himself (Col 2.13-15)." The worldly man cannot receive the faith of the apostle, nor can any language but that of the apostle explain his meaning. God raised Christ from the dead; Christ in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily. But he also gave us life together with him, forgiving us our sins, blotting out the bond of the law of sin, which stood against us ... , taking it out of the way, and fixing it to his cross, stripping himself of his flesh by the law of death, holding up the powers to display, and triumphing over them in himself. Concerning the powers and how he triumphed over them in himself, and held them up to display, and the bond which he blotted out, and the life which he gave us, we have already spoken.

b. But who can understand or express this mystery? The working of God raises Christ from the dead; the same working of God gives life to us together with Christ, forgives our sins, blots out the bond, and fixes it to the cross; he puts off from himself his flesh, holds up the powers to show, and triumphs over them in himself. We have the working of God raising Christ from the dead, and we have Christ working in himself the very things which God works in him, for it was Christ who died, stripping from himself His flesh. Hold fast then to Christ the man, raised from the dead by God, and hold fast to Christ the God, working out our salvation when he was yet to die. God works in Christ, but it is Christ who strips from himself His flesh and dies. It was Christ who died, and Christ who worked with the power of God before His death, yet it was the working of God which raised the dead Christ, and it was none other who raised Christ from the dead but Christ himself, who worked before His death, and put off his flesh to die.

11. Do you understand already the mysteries of the apostle's faith? Do you think to know Christ already? Tell me, then, who is it who strips from himself His flesh, and what is that flesh stripped off? I see two thoughts expressed by the apostle, the flesh stripped off, and him who strips it off: and then I hear of Christ raised from the dead by the working of God. If it is Christ who is raised from the dead, and God who raises him; who, pray, strips from himself the flesh? Who raises Christ from the dead, and gives us life with him? If the dead Christ be not the same as the flesh stripped off, tell me the name of the flesh stripped off, and expound me the nature of him who strips it off. I find that Christ the God, who was raised from the dead, is the same as he who stripped from himself his flesh, and that flesh, the same as Christ who was raised from the dead; then I see him holding principalities and powers up to show, and triumphing in himself. Do you understand this triumphing in himself? Do you perceive that the flesh stripped off, and he who strips it off, are not different from one another? He triumphs in himself, that is in that flesh which he stripped from himself. Do you see that thus are proclaimed his humanity and his divinity, that death is attributed to the man, and the life-giving of the flesh to the God, though he who dies and he who raises the dead to life are not two, but one person? The flesh stripped off is the dead Christ---he who raises Christ from the dead is the same Christ who stripped from himself the flesh. See his divine nature in the power to raise again, and recognize in his death the dispensation of his manhood. And though either function is performed by its proper nature, yet remember that he who died, and raised to life, was one, Christ Jesus.

12. I remember that the Apostle often refers to God the Father as raising Christ from the dead; but he is not inconsistent with himself or at variance with the Gospel faith, for the Lord himself says: "Therefore does the Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one shall take it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command have I received from the Father (Jn 10.17-18)." And again, when asked to show a sign concerning himself, that they might believe in him, he says of the temple of his body, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up (Jn 2.19)." By the power to take his soul again and to raise the temple up, he declares himself God, and the resurrection his own work: yet he refers all to the authority of his Father's command. This is not contrary to the meaning of the apostle, when he proclaims Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1.24), thus referring all the magnificence of his work to the glory of the Father. For whatever Christ does, the power and the wisdom of God does; and whatever the power and the wisdom of God does, without doubt God himself does, whose power and wisdom Christ is. So Christ was raised from the dead by the working of God; for he himself worked the works of God the Father with a nature indistinguishable from God's. And our faith in the resurrection rests on the God who raised Christ from the dead.

13. It is this preaching of the double aspect of Christ's person which the blessed apostle emphasizes. He points out in Christ his human infirmity, and his divine power and nature. Thus to the Corinthians he wrote, "For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he lives through the power of God" (2 Cor 13.4), attributing his death to human infirmity, but his life to divine power. And again to the Romans, "For the death, that he died unto sin, he died once; but the life, that he lives, he lives unto God. But you consider yourselves as dead to sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus" (Rom 6.10-11), ascribing his death to sin, that is, to our body, but his life to God, whose nature it is to live. We ought, therefore, he says, to die to our body, that we may live to God in Christ Jesus, who after the assumption of our body of sin, lives now wholly unto God, uniting the nature he shared with us with the participation of divine immortality.