Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume VIII/The Letters/Letter 126
A transcript of the faith as dictated by Saint Basil, and subscribed by Eustathius, bishop of Sebasteia.
1. Both men whose minds have been preoccupied by a heterodox creed and now wish to change over to the congregation of the orthodox, and also those who are now for the first time desirous of being instructed in the doctrine of truth, must be taught the creed drawn up by the blessed fathers in the Council which met at Nicæa. The same training would also be exceedingly useful in the case of all who are under suspicion of being in a state of hostility to sound doctrine, and who by ingenious and plausible excuses keep the depravity of their sentiments out of view. For these too this creed is all that is needed. They will either get cured of their concealed unsoundness, or, by continuing to keep it concealed, will themselves bear the load of the sentence due to their dishonesty, and will provide us with an easy defence in the day of judgment, when the Lord will lift the cover from the hidden things of darkness, and “make manifest the counsels of the hearts.” It is therefore desirable to receive them with the confession not only that they believe in the words put forth by our fathers at Nicæa, but also according to the sound meaning expressed by those words. For there are men who even in this creed pervert the word of truth, and wrest the meaning of the words in it to suit their own notions. So Marcellus, when expressing impious sentiments concerning the hypostasis of our Lord Jesus Christ, and describing Him as being Logos and nothing more, had the hardihood to profess to find a pretext for his principles in that creed by affixing an improper sense upon the Homoousion. Some, moreover, of the impious following of the Libyan Sabellius, who understand hypostasis and substance to be identical, derive ground for the establishment of their blasphemy from the same source, because of its having been written in the creed “if any one says that the Son is of a different substance or hypostasis, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes him.” But they did not there state hypostasis and substance to be identical. Had the words expressed one and the same meaning, what need of both? It is on the contrary clear that while by some it was denied that the Son was of the same substance with the Father, and some asserted that He was not of the substance and was of some other hypostasis, they thus condemned both opinions as outside that held by the Church. When they set forth their own view, they declared the Son to be of the substance of the Father, but they did not add the words “of the hypostasis.” The former clause stands for the condemnation of the faulty view; the latter plainly states the dogma of salvation. We are therefore bound to confess the Son to be of one substance with the Father, as it is written; but the Father to exist in His own proper hypostasis, the Son in His, and the Holy Ghost in His, as they themselves have clearly delivered the doctrine. They indeed clearly and satisfactorily declared in the words Light of Light, that the Light which begat and the Light which was begotten, are distinct, and yet Light and Light; so that the definition of the Substance is one and the same. I will now subjoin the actual creed as it was drawn up at Nicæa.
2. πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα Θεὸν Πατέρα παντοκράτορα, πάντων ὁρατῶν τε καὶ ἀοράτων ποιητήν· [ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων·]
καὶ εἰς ἕνα Κύριον Ιησοῦν Χριστόν, τὸν υἱ& 232·ν τοῦ Θεοῦ [τὸν μονογενῆ] γεννηθέντα ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς μονογενῆ. [τὸν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς γεννηθέντα πρὸ πάντων τών αἰ& 240·νων.]
τουτέστιν ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας τοῦ Πατρός, Θεὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ [omit], Φῶς ἐκ Φῶτος, Θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα οὐ ποιηθέντα, ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρι, δι᾽ οἷ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο, τά τε ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ καὶ τὰ ἐν τῇ γῇ [omit].
τὸν δι᾽ ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρωποὺς καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμέτεραν σωτηρίαν, κατελθόντα [ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν] καὶ σαρκωθέντα. [ἑκ πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου.]
καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα [σταυρωθέντα τε ὑπὲρ ημῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου, καὶ], παθόντα [καὶ ταφέντα], καί ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρα [κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς καὶ], ἀνελθόντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς. [καὶ καθεζόμενον ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ Πατρός.]
καί πάλιν ἐρχόμενον [μετὰ δόξης] κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς· [οὗ τῆς βασιλείας οὐκ ἔσται τέλος·]
καί εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον. [τὸ Κύριον καὶ τὸ ζωοποιὸν τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον, τὸ σὺν Πατρὶ καὶ Υἱ& 254· συμπροσκυνούμενον καὶ συνδοξαζόμενον, τὸ λαλῆσαν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν· εἰς μίαν ἁγίαν καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν, ὁμολογοῦμεν ἓν βάπτισμα εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν, προσδοκῶμεν ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν, καὶ ζωὴν τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰ& 242·νος. ᾽Αμὴν.]
τοῦς δὲ λέγοντας, ἦν ποτε ὅτε οὐκ ἦν, καὶ πρὶν γεννηθῆναι οὐκ ἦν, καὶ ὅτι ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων ἐγένετο, ἢ ἐξ ἑτέρας ὑποστάσεως ἢ οὐσίας φάσκοντας εἶναι, ἢ κτιστὸν ἢ τρεπτὸν ἢ ἀλλοιωτὸν τὸν Υἱ& 232·ν τοῦ Θεοῦ, τουτοὺς ἀναθεματίζει ἡ καθολικὴ καὶ ἀποστολικὴ ἐκκλησια. [Omit all the Anathemas.]
3. Here then all points but one are satisfactorily and exactly defined, some for the correction of what had been corrupted, some as a precaution against errors expected to arise. The doctrine of the Spirit, however, is merely mentioned, as needing no elaboration, because at the time of the Council no question was mooted, and the opinion on this subject in the hearts of the faithful was exposed to no attack. Little by little, however, the growing poison-germs of impiety, first sown by Arius, the champion of the heresy, and then by those who succeeded to his inheritance of mischief, were nurtured to the plague of the Church, and the regular development of the impiety issued in blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Under these circumstances we are under the necessity of putting before the men who have no pity for themselves, and shut their eyes to the inevitable threat directed by our Lord against blasphemers of the Holy Ghost, their bounden duty. They must anathematize all who call the Holy Ghost a creature, and all who so think; all who do not confess that He is holy by nature, as the Father is holy by nature, and the Son is holy by nature, and refuse Him His place in the blessed divine nature. Our not separating Him from Father and Son is a proof of our right mind, for we are bound to be baptized in the terms we have received and to profess belief in the terms in which we are baptized, and as we have professed belief in, so to give glory to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to hold aloof from the communion of all who call Him creature, as from open blasphemers. One point must be regarded as settled; and the remark is necessary because of our slanderers; we do not speak of the Holy Ghost as unbegotten, for we recognise one Unbegotten and one Origin of all things, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: nor do we speak of the Holy Ghost as begotten, for by the tradition of the faith we have been taught one Only-begotten: the Spirit of truth we have been taught to proceed from the Father, and we confess Him to be of God without creation. We are also bound to anathematize all who speak of the Holy Ghost as ministerial, inasmuch as by this term they degrade Him to the rank of a creature. For that the ministering spirits are creatures we are told by Scripture in the words “they are all ministering spirits sent forth to minister.” But because of men who make universal confusion, and do not keep the doctrine of the Gospels, it is necessary to add yet this further, that they are to be shunned, as plainly hostile to true religion, who invert the order left us by the Lord, and put the Son before the Father, and the Holy Spirit before the Son. For we must keep unaltered and inviolable that order which we have received from the very words of the Lord, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
I, Eustathius, bishop, have read to thee, Basil, and understood; and I assent to what is written above. I have signed in the presence of our Fronto, Severus, the chorepiscopus, and several other clerics.
- Placed in 373.
- On Basil’s relations with Eustathius of Sebasteia (Siwas in Armenia Minor), the Vicar of Bray of the Arian controversies, who probably subscribed more creeds than any other prominent bishop of his age, see Letters cxxx. and ccxliv., and p. 171, n.
- 1 Cor. i. 5.
- Marcellus of Ancyra (Angora) was represented to teach that the Son had no real personality, but was only the outward manifestation (Πορφορικὸς Λόγος) of the Father, but he could always defend himself on the ground that he was in communion with Julius and Athanasius, popes of Rome and Alexandria. cf. Jer., De Vir. Ill. chap. lxxxvi.
- cf. Letters xxxviii. and xcii. Basil is anxious to show that his own view is identical with the Nicene, and does not admit a development and variation in the meaning of the word hypostasis; but on comparing such a passage as that in Athan. c. Afros, “hypostasis is substance, and means nothing else but very being” (ἡ δὲ ὑπόστασις οὐσία ἐστὶ καὶ οὐδὲν ἀλλὸ σημαινόμενον ἔχει ἢ αὐτὸ τὸ ὄν) with St. Basil’s words in the text it appears plain that hypostasis is not used throughout in the same sense. An erroneous sense of “three hypostases” was understood to be condemned at Nicæa, though Athanasius, e.g. “In illud omnia,” etc., Schaff and Wace’s ed., p. 90, does himself use the phrase, writing probably about ten years after Nicæa; but he more commonly treats ουσία and ὑπόστασις as identical. See specially the Tomus ad Antiochenos of a.d. 362 on the possible use of either “three hypostases” or “one hypostasis.” cf. also n. on p. 179.
- I give the creed in the original Greek. The passages in brackets indicate the alterations of the Constantinopolitan revision according to the text of Chalcedon.
- “Deum de Deo” is inserted in the Sarum Breviary.
- cf. pp. 27 and 39, notes.
- cf. De Sp. S. § 25, p. 17. On those who described the Spirit as merely a ministering spirit, vide Athan., Ad Serap. i. (λεγόντων αὐτὸ μὴ μόνον κτίσμα, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν λειτουργικῶν πνευμάτων ἓν αὐτὸ εἶναι). This new party arose in the Delta about 362, and was first known as “Tropici.” They were condemned at the synod held at Alexandria on the return of Athanasius from his third exile. Its Synodical Letter is the Tomus ad Antiochenos.
- Heb. i. 14.
- Matt. xxviii. 14.