Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume III/Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin/A Treatise on Faith and the Creed/Chapter 4
Chapter 4.—Of the Son of God as Neither Made by the Father Nor Less Than the Father, and of His Incarnation.
5. Wherefore The Only-Begotten Son of God was neither made by the Father; for, according to the word of an evangelist, “all things were made by Him:” nor begotten instantaneously; since God, who is eternally wise, has with Himself His eternal Wisdom: nor unequal with the Father, that is to say, in anything less than He; for an apostle also speaks in this wise, “Who, although He was constituted in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” By this catholic faith, therefore, those are excluded, on the one hand, who affirm that the Son is the same [Person] as the Father; for [it is clear that] this Word could not possibly be with God, were it not with God the Father, and [it is just as evident that] He who is alone is equal to no one. And, on the other hand, those are equally excluded who affirm that the Son is a creature, although not such an one as the rest of the creatures are. For however great they declare the creature to be, if it is a creature, it has been fashioned and made. For the terms fashion and create mean one and the same thing; although in the usage of the Latin tongue the phrase create is employed at times instead of what would be the strictly accurate word beget. But the Greek language makes a distinction. For we call that creatura (creature) which they call κτίσμα or κτίσις; and when we desire to speak without ambiguity, we use not the word creare (create), but the word condere (fashion, found). Consequently, if the Son is a creature, however great that may be, He has been made. But we believe in Him by whom all things (omnia) were made, not in Him by whom the rest of things (cetera) were made. For here again we cannot take this term all things in any other sense than as meaning whatsoever things have been made.
6. But as “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” the same Wisdom which was begotten of God condescended also to be created among men. There is a reference to this in the word, “The Lord created me in the beginning of His ways.” For the beginning of His ways is the Head of the Church, which is Christ endued with human nature (homine indutus), by whom it was purposed that there should be given to us a pattern of living, that is, a sure way by which we might reach God. For by no other path was it possible for us to return but by humility, who fell by pride, according as it was said to our first creation, “Taste, and ye shall be as gods.” Of this humility, therefore, that is to say, of the way by which it was needful for us to return, our Restorer Himself has deemed it meet to exhibit an example in His own person, “who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant;” in order that He might be created Man in the beginning of His ways, the Word by whom all things were made. Wherefore, in so far as He is the Only-begotten, He has no brethren; but in so far as He is the First-begotten, He has deemed it worthy of Him to give the name of brethren to all those who, subsequently to and by means of His pre-eminence, are born again into the grace of God through the adoption of sons, according to the truth commended to us by apostolic teaching. Thus, then, the Son according to nature (naturalis filius) was born of the very substance of the Father, the only one so born, subsisting as that which the Father is, God of God, Light of Light. We, on the other hand, are not the light by nature, but are enlightened by that Light, so that we may be able to shine in wisdom. For, as one says, “that was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Therefore we add to the faith of things eternal likewise the temporal dispensation of our Lord, which He deemed it worthy of Him to bear for us and to minister in behalf of our salvation. For in so far as He is the only-begotten Son of God, it cannot be said of Him that He was and that He shall be, but only that He is; because, on the one hand, that which was, now is not; and, on the other, that which shall be, as yet is not. He, then, is unchangeable, independent of the condition of times and variation. And it is my opinion that this is the very consideration to which was due the circumstance that He introduced to the apprehension of His servant Moses the kind of name [which He then adopted]. For when he asked of Him by whom he should say that he was sent, in the event of the people to whom he was being sent despising him, he received his answer when He spake in this wise: “I Am that I Am.” Thereafter, too, He added this: “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, He that is (Qui est) has sent me unto you.”
7. From this, I trust, it is now made patent to spiritual minds that there cannot possibly exist any nature contrary to God. For if He is,—and this is a word which can be spoken with propriety only of God (for that which truly is remains unchangeably; inasmuch as that which is changed has been something which now it is not, and shall be something which as yet it is not),—it follows that God has nothing contrary to Himself. For if the question were put to us, What is contrary to white? we would reply, black; if the question were, What is contrary to hot? we would reply, cold; if the question were, What is contrary to quick? we would reply, slow; and all similar interrogations we would answer in like manner. When, however, it is asked, What is contrary to that which is? the right reply to give is, that which is not.
8. But whereas, in a temporal dispensation, as I have said, with a view to our salvation and restoration, and with the goodness of God acting therein, our changeable nature has been assumed by that unchangeable Wisdom of God, we add the faith in temporal things which have been done with salutary effect on our behalf, believing in that Son of God Who Was Born Through the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary. For by the gift of God, that is, by the Holy Spirit, there was granted to us so great humility on the part of so great a God, that He deemed it worthy of Him to assume the entire nature of man (totum hominem) in the womb of the Virgin, inhabiting the material body so that it sustained no detriment (integrum), and leaving it without detriment. This temporal dispensation is in many ways craftily assailed by the heretics. But if any one shall have grasped the catholic faith, so as to believe that the entire nature of man was assumed by the Word of God, that is to say, body, soul, and spirit, he has sufficient defense against those parties. For surely, since that assumption was effected in behalf of our salvation, one must be on his guard lest, as he believes that there is something belonging to our nature which sustains no relation to that assumption, this something may fail also to sustain any relation to the salvation. And seeing that, with the exception of the form of the members, which has been imparted to the varieties of living objects with differences adapted to their different kinds, man is in nothing separated from the cattle but in [the possession of] a rational spirit (rationali spiritu), which is also named mind (mens), how is that faith sound, according to which the belief is maintained, that the Wisdom of God assumed that part of us which we hold in common with the cattle, while He did not assume that which is brightly illumined by the light of wisdom, and which is man’s peculiar gift?
9. Moreover, those parties also are to be abhorred who deny that our Lord Jesus Christ had in Mary a mother upon earth; while that dispensation has honored both sexes, at once the male and the female, and has made it plain that not only that sex which He assumed pertains to God’s care, but also that sex by which He did assume this other, in that He bore [the nature of] the man (virum gerendo), [and] in that He was born of the woman. Neither is there anything to compel us to a denial of the mother of the Lord, in the circumstance that this word was spoken by Him: “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.” But He rather admonishesus to understand that, in respect of His being God, there was no mother for Him, the part of whose personal majesty (cujus majestatis personam) He was preparing to show forth in the turning of water into wine. But as regards His being crucified, He was crucified in respect of his being man; and that was the hour which had not come as yet, at the time when this word was spoken, “What have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come;” that is, the hour at which I shall recognize thee. For at that period, when He was crucified as man, He recognized His human mother (hominem matrem), and committed her most humanely (humanissime) to the care of the best beloved disciple. Nor, again, should we be moved by the fact that, when the presence of His mother and His brethren was announced to Him, He replied, “Who is my mother, or who my brethren?” etc. But rather let it teach us, that when parents hinder our ministry wherein we minister the word of God to our brethren, they ought not to be recognized by us. For if, on the ground of His having said, “Who is my mother?” every one should conclude that He had no mother on earth, then each should as matter of course be also compelled to deny that the apostles had fathers on earth; since He gave them an injunction in these terms: “Call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven.”
10. Neither should the thought of the woman’s womb impair this faith in us, to the effect that there should appear to be any necessity for rejecting such a generation of our Lord for the mere reason that worthless men consider it unworthy (sordidi sordidam putant). For most true are these sayings of an apostle, both that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men,” and that “to the pure all things are pure.” Those, therefore, who entertain this opinion ought to ponder the fact that the rays of this sun, which indeed they do not praise as a creature of God, but adore as God, are diffused all the world over, through the noisomenesses of sewers and every kind of horrible thing, and that they operate in these according to their nature, and yet never become debased by any defilement thence contracted, albeit that the visible light is by nature in closer conjunction with visible pollutions. How much less, therefore, could the Word of God, who is neither corporeal nor visible, sustain defilement from the female body, wherein He assumed human flesh together with soul and spirit, through the incoming of which the majesty of the Word dwells in a less immediate conjunction with the frailty of a human body! Hence it is manifest that the Word of God could in no way have been defiled by a human body, by which even the human soul is not defiled. For not when it rules the body and quickens it, but only when it lusts after the mortal good things thereof, is the soul defiled by the body. But if these persons were to desire to avoid the defilements of the soul, they would dread rather these falsehoods and profanities.
- John i. 3
- According to the literal meaning of the phrase ex tempore. It may, however, here be used as = under conditions of time, or in time.
- Reading sempiterne: for which sempiternus = the eternal wise God, is also given.
- Phil. ii. 6
- Condita et facta est
- Condere and creare.
- John i. 14
- Adopting in hominibus creavi. One important ms. gives in omnibus = amongst all.
- Prov. viii. 22, with creavit me instead of the possessed me of the English version.
- Various editions give principium et caput Ecclesiæ est Christus = the beginning of His ways and the Head of the Church is Christ.
- For via certa others give via recta = a right way.
- Gen. iii. 5
- Phil. ii. 6, 7
- Per ejus primatum = by means of His standing as the Firstborn. We follow the Benedictine reading, qui post ejus et per ejus primatum in Dei gratiam renascuntur. But there is another, although less authoritative, version, viz. qui post ejus primitias in Dei gratia nascimur = all of us who, subsequently to His first-fruits, are born in the grace of God.
- Luke viii. 21; Rom. viii. 15–17; Gal. iv. 5; Eph. i. 5; Heb. ii. 11
- Id existens quod Pater est, etc. Another version is, idem existens quod Pater Deus = subsisting as the same that God the Father is.
- John i. 9
- The term dispensatio occurs very frequently as the equivalent of the Greek οἰκονομία = economy, designating the Incarnation.
- Ex. iii. 14
- Deserens. With less point, deferens has been suggested = bearing it, or delivering it.
- Or it may = he should fail to have any relation to the salvation.
- Referring to the Manicheans.
- John ii. 4
- John xix. 26, 27
- Matt. xii. 48
- Matt. xxiii. 9
- 1 Cor. i. 25
- Tit. i. 15
- In reference to the Manicheans.
- The Benedictine text gives, quibus intervenientibus habitat majestas Verbi ab humani corporis fragilitate secretius. Another well-supported version is, ad humani corporis fragilitatem, etc. = more retired in relation to the frailty of the human body.