Recall the last quote from Aristotle that even error is a witness. Here we learn from them, just as we do from paradox.
1 Since, however, truth cannot be truth’s contrary, it is obvious that the points of Scriptural truth introduced by the Arians to confirm their error cannot be helpful to their teaching. For, since it was shown from divine Scripture that the essence and divine nature of the Father and Son are numerically identical, and according to this each is called true God, it must be that the Father and Son cannot be two gods, but one God.
For, if there were many gods, a necessary consequence would be the partition in each of the essence of divinity, just as in two men the humanity differs in number from one to the other; and the more so because the divine nature is not one thing and God Himself another. This was shown above. From this it follows necessarily that, since there exists one divine nature in the Father and the Son, the Father and the Son are one God. Therefore, although we confess that the Father is God and the Son God, we are not withdrawing from the teaching which sets down that there is one only God, which we established both by reasonings and by authorities in Book I. Hence, although there is one only true God, we confess that this is predicated of the Father and of the Son.
2 When our Lord, therefore, speaking to the Father, says “that they may know You the only true God,” it is not so to be understood that the Father alone is true God, as though the Son is not true God (the contrary is proved clearly by Scriptural testimony); but it must be understood that the one sole true deity belongs to the Father, in such wise, nonetheless, that the Son is not excluded therefrom. Hence, it is significant that our Lord does not say: “that they may know the one only true God,” as though He alone be God, but said: “that they may know You,” and added “the only true God” to show that the Father, whose Son He insisted He was, is the God in whom one finds that only true divinity.
And because a true son must be of the same nature as his father, it follows that the only true divinity belongs to the Son, rather than that the Son is excluded from it. Wherefore John, also, at the end of his first canonical Epistle (5:20)—expounding, as it were, these words of our Lord—attributes to the true Son each of the things which our Lord here says of the Father; namely, that He is true God and that in Him is eternal life. John says (5:20): “That we may know the true God, and may be in His true Son. He is the true God and life eternal.”
If the Son had nevertheless confessed that the Father alone is true God, one would not for this reason need to understand that the Son is excluded from true divinity. For, since the Father and Son are one God, as was shown, whatever is said of the Father by reason of divinity is the same as if it were said of the Son, and conversely. For, by reason of the fact that our Lord says: “No one knows the Son but the Father: neither does any one know the Father but the Son” (Mat. 11:27), it is not understood that the Father is excluded from knowledge of Himself, or that the Son is.
3 It is also clear from this that the true divinity of the Son is not excluded by the words of the Apostle: “Which in His times He shall show who is the Blessed and only Mighty, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” In these words the Father is not named, but that which is common to the Father and the Son. That the Son is the King of kings and Lord of lords is manifestly shown in the Apocalypse (19:13), which says: “He was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and His name is called THE WORD OF GOD”; and adds below: “And He has on His garment and on His thigh written: KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (19:16). Nor is the Son excluded from that which is added: “Who only has immortality,” since He also bestows immortality on those who believe in Him. Thus, John (11: 26) says: “Who believes in Me shall not die for ever.”
But what is added,” “Whom no man has seen, nor can see,” certainly is also suitable to the Son, since our Lord says: “No one knows the Son but the Father” (Mat. 11:27). To this it is not an objection that He appeared visibly, for this was according to the flesh. However, He is invisible in His deity just as the Father is; wherefore the Apostle says in the same Epistle (1 Tim. 3:16): “Evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh.” Nor are we forced to understand these sayings of the Father alone because it is said that there must be one who shows and another who is shown. The Son also shows Himself, for He says: “He that loves Me shall be loved of My Father: and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21.). Accordingly, we also say to Him: “Show us your face, and we shall be saved” (Ps. 79:4).
4 But how the saying of our Lord, “The Father is greater than I” must be understood we are taught by the Apostle. Since “greater” is referred to ‘lesser,” one must understand that this is said of the Son so far as He is lessened. Now, the Apostle shows that He is lessened by taking on the servile form—in such wise, however, that in the divine form He exists the equal of God the Father, for he says: “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7). Nor is it wondrous if for this reason the Father be said to be greater than He, since He was even made lesser than the angels; the Apostle says: “We see Jesus, who was made a little lesser than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour” (Heb. 2:9).
From this it is also clear that in the same way the Son is said to be “subject to the Father”; namely, in His human nature. This is to be gathered from the very context of the expression. For the Apostle had already said: “For by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead”; and afterwards he had subjoined: “Everyone shall rise in his own order: the firstfruits Christ, then they that are of Christ”; and later he added: “Afterwards the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father”; and when he has shown what sort of kingdom this is, namely, that things must be subject to it, he consequently subjoins: “When all things shall be subdued unto Him, then the Son also Himself shall be subject unto Him that put all things under Him” (1 Cor. 15:23-28).
The very context of the expression, therefore, shows that this ought to be understood of Christ so far as He is man, for thus did He die and rise again. Now, in His divinity, since “whatever He does the Father does,” as was shown, He Himself also subjects all things to Himself; wherefore the Apostle says: “We look for the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, who will reform the body of our lowliness, made like to the body of His glory, according to the operation whereby also He is able to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).
5 From the fact that the Father is said in the Scriptures “to give!” to the Son—from which it follows that He “receives”—one cannot show any indigence in Him.” But this is required by His being the Son, for He could not be called Son if He were not begotten by the Father. For everything which is generated receives from the generator the nature of the generator. Therefore, by this giving of the Father to the Son is understood nothing but the generation of the Son in which the Father gave the Son His nature. This very thing can be understood from that which is given. For our Lord says: “That which My Father has given Me is greater than all” (John 10:29).
But that which is greater than all is the divine nature, in which the Son is equal to the Father. And this our Lord’s very words show, for He had said before that no man should pluck His sheep from His hand (John 10:28-30). For proof of this He introduces the word stated; namely, that which is given to Him by the Father is greater than all, and that “out of the hand of My Father”, as He adds, “nothing can be plucked.” From this it follows that neither can it be plucked from the hand of the Son. But this would not follow unless through that which is given to Him by the Father He were equal to the Father. And so, to explain this more clearly, He adds: “I and the Father are one.”
Similarly, the Apostle also says that God “has given Him a name which is above all names: that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth” (Phil. 2:9-10). But the name higher than all names which every creature venerates is none other than the name of divinity. By this giving, therefore, the generation itself is understood in which the Father gave the Son true divinity. The same thing is shown by His saying that “all things are delivered to Me by My Father” (Mat. 11:27). But all things would not be given to Him unless “all the fullness of the Godhead” (Col. 2:9) which is in the Father were in the Son.
Notes “I and the Father are one.” The simplest verse to memorize.
6 Thus, by asserting that the Father has given to Him He therefore confesses that He is the true Son, against Sabellius. Yet, from the greatness of that which is given He confesses that He is equal to the Father, so Arius is confounded. Clearly, therefore, such gift-giving does not indicate indigence in the Son. He was not the Son before He was given to Himself, since His generation is the very gift-giving. Nor does the fullness of the given allow that He can be in need to whom this gift was clearly made.
7 Nor is this an obstacle to what has been said: that one reads in Scripture that the Father has given to the Son at a point in time; our Lord after the Resurrection, for example, says to the disciples: “All power has been given to Me in heaven and in earth” (Mat. 28:18); and the Apostle speaks of the cause for which God “exalted” Christ and “gave Him a name which is above all names” (Phil. 2:8-9), that is, He had become “obedient unto death,” as though He has not had this name from eternity. For it is usual of Scripture to say that some things are or are made when they begin to be known.
Now, the fact that the Son has from eternity received all power and the divine name was made known to the world after the Resurrection by the preaching of the disciples. And this, too, the words of our Lord reveal. For our Lord says: “Glorify Me, O Father, with Thyself, with the glory which I had, before the world was” (John 17:5). For He asks that His glory which eternally He has received from the Father as God be declared to be in Him now made man.
8 Now, from this it is manifest how the Son is taught, although He is not ignorant. For it was shown in Book II that in God to understand and to be are identical. Wherefore, communication of the divine nature is also the communication of understanding. Now, the communication of understanding can be called “showing” or “speech” or “teaching.” By reason of the fact, then, that the Son received the divine nature in His birth from the Father, it is said that He has “heard something from the Father,” or that the Father “has shown Him something,” or one reads something else like this in the Scriptures; but not that first the Son was ignorant or did not know and afterward the Father taught Him. For the Apostle confesses: “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). Now, it is not possible that wisdom be ignorant, nor that power be feeble.
Notes Again, let’s not forget metaphorical language. “I can read you like a book” is taken by no one to argue a person is made of pages and glue.
9 The saying also, then, “the Son cannot do anything of Himself,’” does not point to any Weakness of action in the Son. But, because for God to act is not other than to be, and His action is not other than His essence, as was proved above, so one says that the Son cannot act from Himself but only from the Father, just as He is not able to be from Himself but only from the Father. For, if He were from Himself, He would no longer be the Son. Therefore, just as the Son cannot not be the Son, so neither can He act of Himself.
However, because the Son receives the same nature as the Father and, consequently, the same power, although the Son neither is of Himself nor operates of Himself, He nevertheless is through Himself and operates through Himself, since just as He is through His own nature received from the Father, so He operates through His own nature received from the Father. Hence, after our Lord had said: “the Son cannot do anything of Himself,” to show that, although the Son does not operate of Himself, He does operate through Himself, He adds: “Whatever He does”, namely the Father, “these the Son does likewise.”
10 From the foregoing it also is clear how “the Father commands the Son” or “the Son obeys the Father” or “the Son prays to the Father” or “is sent by the Father.” For, all these things are suitable to the Son inasmuch as He is subject to the Father. And this is only according to the humanity He has assumed, as was shown. The Father, therefore, commands the Son as subject to Him in His human nature. The very words of our Lord make this clear. For, when our Lord says “that the world may know that I love the Father: and as the Father has given Me commandment, so do I,” (John 24:31), what the commandment is is shown by what is added: “Arise, let us go hence.” He said this approaching His passion. But the commandment to suffer clearly pertains to the Son only in His human nature. In the same way, where He says: “If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love; as I also have kept My Father’s commandments, and do abide in His love,” (John 15:10), these precepts clearly pertain to the Son as He is loved by the Father as man; just as He loved His disciples as men.
That the Father’s commandments to the Son must be understood as pertaining to the human nature assumed by the Son is shown by the Apostle. He calls the Son obedient to the Father in the things which belong to His human nature, for he says: “He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). The Apostle also shows that praying belongs to the Son in His human nature, for he says: “Who in the days of His flesh, with a strong cry and tears, offering up prayers and supplications to Him that was able to save Him from death, was heard for His reverence” (Heb. 5:7). The way in which He “was sent” by the Father is also shown by the Apostle. “God sent His Son, made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). He is, therefore, said to be sent in that He was made of a woman, and certainly this belongs to Him in the flesh He has assumed. Clearly, then, in none of these can it be shown that the Son is subject to the Father except in His human nature. For all that, one should recognize that the Son is said to be sent by the Father invisibly and as divine, without prejudice to His equality to the Father, as will he shown below when we deal with the sending of the Holy Spirit.
11 It is clear, and in the same way, that from the fact that “the Son is glorified by the Father” or “raised up” or “exalted” one cannot show that the Son is less than the Father except in His human nature. For, the Son needs no glory as one who receives new glory, since He professes that He had it “before the world was” (John 17:5). But His glory, hidden under the weakness of the flesh, necessarily had to be manifested by the glorification of the flesh, and the working of miracles, in the faith of peoples believing. Hence, of His glory being hidden, Isaiah (53:3) says: “His look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not.” And the way in which Christ was raised up is like the way He s ere and died, that is, in the flesh. For it says in 1 Peter (4:1): “Christ having suffered in the flesh, be you also armed with the same thought.” To be exalted also became Him in the way in which He was humiliated, for the Apostle says: “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death…. For which cause God also has exalted Him” (Phil. 2:8-9).
12 Thus, then, the fact that the Father glorifies, raises up, and exalts the Son does not show that the Son is less than the Father, except in His human nature. For, in the divine nature by which He is equal to the Father, the power of the Father and the Son is the same and their operation is the same. Hence, the Son Himself exalts Himself by His own power, as the Psalmist says: “Be Thou. exalted, O Lord, in your own strength” (Ps. 70:14). He Himself raises Himself up, because He says of Himself: “I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it up again!” (John 10:18). He also glorifies not Himself alone, but the Father as well, for in John (17:1) He says: “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify You.” T
his is not because the Father is hidden by the veil of flesh He has assumed, but by the invisibility of His nature. In this way the Son also is hidden according to the divine nature, for common to both Father and Son is the saying of Isaiah (45:35): “Verily You are a bidden God, the God of Israel, the savior.” The Son, of course, glorifies the Father, not by giving Him glory, but by manifesting Him to the world; for He Himself says in the same place: “I have manifested your name to men” (John 17:6).
13 One must not, however, believe that in the Son of God there is any failure of power, since He Himself says: “All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth” (Mat. 28:18). Hence, His own saying, “To sit on My right or left hand is not Mine to give to you, but to those for whom it is prepared by My Father” (cf. Mat. 20:23), does not show that the Son lacks the power of distribution over the seats of heaven, since by seating of this kind one understands participation in eternal life, and that its bestowal belongs to Him He shows when He says: “My sheep hear My voice: and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them life everlasting” (John 10: 27).
One reads also: “The Father has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22); and it does belong to judgment that some are to be established in heavenly glory according to their merits. Hence, we read that the Son of Man “shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on His left” (Mat. 25:33). It does, then, belong to the Son’s power to set someone on His. right hand or His left. This is true if each of these acts refers to differing participation in glory, or if the one refers to glory and the other to punishment. Therefore, one must take the meaning of the sentence proposed (Mat. 20: 23) from what went before it Now, this is what went before it (Mat. 20:20-21): The mother of the sons of Zebedee had approached Jesus to ask Him that one of her sons should sit at His right hand and the other at His left. She seems to have been stimulated to this request by a certain confidence in her close blood relationship to the man, Christ.
Our Lord, then, in His answer did not say that it did not belong to His power to give what was asked, but that it did not belong to Him to give it to those for whom it was asked. For He did not say: “To sit on My right hand or My left is not Mine to give anyone.” Indeed, He shows rather that it is His to give to “those for whom it is prepared” by His Father. For to give this was not proper to Him as the Son of the Virgin, but as the Son of God. Accordingly, this favor was not His to give to some just because they belonged to Him in so far as He was the Virgin’s Son, that is, in close blood relationship. It was His to give to those who belonged to Him as the Son of God; namely, to those for whom it had been prepared by the Father through eternal predestination.
But, that this very preparation is included in the power of the Son, our Lord Himself indicates, saying: “In My Father’s house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). The many mansions are the different grades of participation in beatitude, which in predestination God has eternally prepared. When, therefore, our Lord says: “If not,” that is, if there were a deficiency of mansions prepared for the men who are to enter into beatitude, and adds: “I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you,” He is showing that preparation of this sort belongs to His power.
14 Nor, again, can it be understood that the Son is ignorant of the hour of His coming, since in Him “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 7:3), as the Apostle says, and since He knows perfectly that which is greater; namely, the Father (Mat. 11:27). But one must understand here that the Son, set as a man among men, considered Himself as ignoring something so long as He did not reveal it to His disciples. For it is usual in Scripture to say that God knows something if He makes someone know it; so we find in Genesis (22:12): “Now I know that you fear God,” that is, “now I have made men begin to know it.” Thus, conversely, the Son is said not to know that which He does not make us know.
15 Sorrow, of course, and fear, and other things of this sort manifestly belong to Christ so far as He is man. Hence, one cannot apprehend in this fact any lessening of the divinity of the Son.
16 Consider, now, the saying that wisdom “is created.” First of all, one can understand it not of the Wisdom which is the Son of God, but of the wisdom which God bestowed on creatures. For one reads in Sirach (1:9-10): “He created her,” namely, wisdom, “in the Holy Spirit…. and He poured her out upon all His works.” One can also refer this to the created nature assumed by the Son. Then the meaning is: “From the beginning, and before the world, was I created” (Sirach 24:14); that is, “I was foreseen in union with a creature.” Or it may be that Wisdom is named (cf. Prov. 8:24-25), since both “created” and “begotten” suggest to us the mode of divine generation. For in generation the begotten receives the nature of him who begets, and this is a mark of perfection.
But, in the generations which take place among us, he who begets is himself changed, and this is a mark of imperfection. In creation, on the other hand, the creator is not changed, but the created does not receive the nature of the creator. Therefore, the Son is called “created” and “begotten” at the very same time, that from creation one may gather the immutability of the Father, and from generation the unity of nature in the Father and the Son. It was thus that the Synod expounded the meaning of this sort of Scriptural expression. Hilary makes this clear [De synodis, 17-18].
17 However, that the Son is called the “first-born of every creature” is not because the Son is in the order of creatures, but because the Son both is from the Father and receives from the Father, from whom creatures both are and receive. But the Son receives from the Father the very same nature; creatures do not. Hence, the Son is not called merely “first begotten,” but “only-begotten” as well (John 1:18), by reason of His unique manner of receiving from the Father.
18 Now, our Lord says to the Father about the disciples: “that they may be one, as We also are one” (John 17:22). This only shows that the Father and Son are one in the way in which the disciples should be one, namely, through love. Nevertheless, this mode of union does not exclude unity of essence; rather, it points to it, for John (3:35) says. “The Father loves the Son: and He has given all things into His hand.” By this is the fullness of divinity shown to be in the Son, as was said.
19 Thus, then, it is clear that the testimonies of the Scriptures which the Arians were taking for themselves are not hostile to the truth which the Catholic faith maintains.