Chapter XIII. -- Texts Explained; Thirdly, Hebrews i.4. Additional texts brought as objections; e.g. Heb. i.4; vii.22. Whether the word better' implies likeness to the Angels; and made' or become' implies creation. Necessary to consider the circumstances under which Scripture speaks. Difference between better' and greater;' texts in proof. Made' or become' a general word. Contrast in Heb. i.4, between the Son and the Works in point of nature. The difference of the punishments under the two Covenants shews the difference of the natures of the Son and the Angels. Become' relates not to the nature of the Word, but to His manhood and office and relation towards us. Parallel passages in which the term is applied to the Eternal Father.
53. But it is written, say they, in the Proverbs, The Lord created me the beginning of His ways, for His Works ;' and in the Epistle to the Hebrews the Apostle says, Being made so much better than the Angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent Name than they .' And soon after, Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him that made Him .' And in the Acts, Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ .' These passages they brought forward at every turn, mistaking their sense, under the idea that they proved that the Word of God was a creature and work and one of things originate; and thus they deceive the thoughtless, making the language of Scripture their pretence, but instead of the true sense sowing upon it the poison of their own heresy. For had they known, they would not have been irreligious against the Lord of glory ,' nor have wrested the good words of Scripture. If then henceforward openly adopting Caiaphas's way, they have determined on judaizing, and are ignorant of the text, that verily God shall dwell upon the earth , let them not inquire into the Apostolical sayings; for this is not the manner of Jews. But if, mixing themselves up with the godless Manichees , they deny that the Word was made flesh,' and His Incarnate presence, then let them not bring forward the Proverbs, for this is out of place with the Manichees. But if for preferment-sake, and the lucre of avarice which follows , and the desire for good repute, they venture not on denying the text, The Word was made flesh,' since so it is written, either let them rightly interpret the words of Scripture, of the embodied presence of the Saviour, or, if they deny their sense, let them deny that the Lord became man at all. For it is unseemly, while confessing that the Word became flesh,' yet to be ashamed at what is written of Him, and on that account to corrupt the sense.
54. For it is written, So much better than the Angels;' let us then first examine this. Now it is right and necessary, as in all divine Scripture, so here, faithfully to expound the time of which the Apostle wrote, and the person , and the point; lest the reader, from ignorance missing either these or any similar particular, may be wide of the true sense. This understood that inquiring eunuch, when he thus besought Philip, I pray thee, of whom doth the Prophet speak this? of himself, or of some other man ?' for he feared lest, expounding the lesson unsuitably to the person, he should wander from the right sense. And the disciples, wishing to learn the time of what was foretold, besought the Lord, Tell us,' said they, when shall these things be? and what is the sign of Thy coming ?' And again, hearing from the Saviour the events of the end, they desired to learn the time of it, that they might be kept from error themselves, and might be able to teach others; as, for instance, when they had learned, they set right the Thessalonians , who were going wrong. When then one knows properly these points, his understanding of the faith is right and healthy; but if he mistakes any such points, forthwith he falls into heresy. Thus Hymenæus and Alexander and their fellows were beside the time, when they said that the resurrection had already been; and the Galatians were after the time, in making much of circumcision now. And to miss the person was the lot of the Jews, and is still, who think that of one of themselves is said, Behold, the Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and they shall call his Name Emmanuel, which is being interpreted, God with us ;' and that, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up to you ,' is spoken of one of the Prophets; and who, as to the words, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter ,' instead of learning from Philip, conjecture them spoken of Isaiah or some other of the former Prophets .
55. (3.) Such has been the state of mind under which Christ's enemies have fallen into their execrable heresy. For had they known the person, and the subject, and the season of the Apostle's words, they would not have expounded of Christ's divinity what belongs to His manhood, nor in their folly have committed so great an act of irreligion. Now this will be readily seen, if one expounds properly the beginning of this lection. For the Apostle says, God who at sundry times and divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son ;' then again shortly after he says, when He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the Angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent Name than they .' It appears then that the Apostle's words make mention of that time, when God spoke unto us by His Son, and when a purging of sins took place. Now when did He speak unto us by His Son, and when did purging of sins take place? and when did He become man? when, but subsequently to the Prophets in the last days? Next, proceeding with his account of the economy in which we were concerned, and speaking of the last times, he is naturally led to observe that not even in the former times was God silent with men, but spoke to them by the Prophets. And, whereas the prophets ministered, and the Law was spoken by Angels, while the Son too came on earth, and that in order to minister, he was forced to add, Become so much better than the Angels,' wishing to shew that, as much as the son excels a servant, so much also the ministry of the Son is better than the ministry of servants. Contrasting then the old ministry and the new, the Apostle deals freely with the Jews, writing and saying, Become so much better than the Angels.' This is why throughout he uses no comparison, such as become greater,' or more honourable,' lest we should think of Him and them as one in kind, but better' is his word, by way of marking the difference of the Son's nature from things originated. And of this we have proof from divine Scripture; David, for instance, saying in the Psalm, One day in Thy courts is better than a thousand :' and Solomon crying out, Receive my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it .' Are not wisdom and stones of the earth different in essence and separate in nature? Are heavenly courts at all akin to earthly houses? Or is there any similarity between things eternal and spiritual, and things temporal and mortal? And this is what Isaiah says, Thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep My sabbaths, and choose the things that please Me, and take hold of My Covenant; even unto them will I give in Mine house, and within My walls, a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off .' In like manner there is nought akin between the Son and the Angels; so that the word better' is not used to compare but to contrast, because of the difference of His nature from them. And therefore the Apostle also himself, when he interprets the word better,' places its force in nothing short of the Son's excellence over things originated, calling the one Son, the other servants; the one, as a Son with the Father, sitting on the right; and the others, as servants, standing before Him, and being sent, and fulfilling offices.
56. Scripture, in speaking thus, implies, O Arians, not that the Son is originate, but rather other than things originate, and proper to the Father, being in His bosom. (4.) Nor does even the expression become,' which here occurs, shew that the Son is originate, as ye suppose. If indeed it were simply become' and no more, a case might stand for the Arians; but, whereas they are forestalled with the word Son' throughout the passage, shewing that He is other than things originate, so again not even the word become' occurs absolutely , but better' is immediately subjoined. For the writer thought the expression immaterial, knowing that in the case of one who was confessedly a genuine Son, to say become' is the same with saying that He had been made, and is, better.' For it matters not even if we speak of what is generate, as become' or made;' but on the contrary, things originate cannot be called generate, God's handiwork as they are, except so far as after their making they partake of the generate Son, and are therefore said to have been generated also, not at all in their own nature, but because of their participation of the Son in the Spirit . And this again divine Scripture recognises; for it says in the case of things originate, All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be ,' and, In wisdom hast Thou made them all ;' but in the case of sons which are generate, To Job there came to be seven sons and three daughters ,' and, Abraham was an hundred years old when there came to be to him Isaac his son ;' and Moses said , If to any one there come to be sons.' Therefore since the Son is other than things originate, alone the proper offspring of the Father's essence, this plea of the Arians about the word become' is worth nothing.
(5.) If moreover, baffled so far, they should still violently insist that the language is that of comparison, and that comparison in consequence implies oneness of kind, so that the Son is of the nature of Angels, they will in the first place incur the disgrace of rivalling and repeating what Valentinus held, and Carpocrates, and those other heretics, of whom the former said that the Angels were one in kind with the Christ, and Carpocrates that Angels are framers of the world . Perchance it is under the instruction of these masters that they compare the Word of God with the Angels.
57. Though surely amid such speculations, they will be moved by the sacred poet, saying, Who is he among the gods that shall be like unto the Lord ,' and, Among the gods there is none like unto Thee, O Lord .' However, they must be answered, with the chance of their profiting by it, that comparison confessedly does belong to subjects one in kind, not to those which differ. No one, for instance, would compare God with man, or again man with brutes, nor wood with stone, because their natures are unlike; but God is beyond comparison, and man is compared to man, and wood to wood, and stone to stone. Now in such cases we should not speak of better,' but of rather' and more;' thus Joseph was comely rather than his brethren, and Rachel than Leah; star is not better than star, but is the rather excellent in glory; whereas in bringing together things which differ in kind, then better' is used to mark the difference, as has been said in the case of wisdom and jewels. Had then the Apostle said, by so much has the Son precedence of the Angels,' or by so much greater,' you would have had a plea, as if the Son were compared with the Angels; but, as it is, in saying that He is better,' and differs as far as Son from servants, the Apostle shews that He is other than the Angels in nature.
(6.) Moreover by saying that He it is who has laid the foundation of all things ,' he shews that He is other than all things originate. But if He be other and different in essence from their nature, what comparison of His essence can there be, or what likeness to them? though, even if they have any such thoughts, Paul shall refute them, who speaks to the very point, For unto which of the Angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee? And of the Angels He saith, Who maketh His Angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire .'
58. Observe here, the word made' belongs to things originate, and he calls them things made; but to the Son he speaks not of making, nor of becoming, but of eternity and kingship, and a Framer's office, exclaiming, Thy Throne, O God, is for ever and ever;' and, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thine hands; they shall perish, but Thou remainest.' From which words even they, were they but willing, might perceive that the Framer is other than things framed, the former God, the latter things originate, made out of nothing. For what has been said, They shall perish,' is said, not as if the creation were destined for destruction, but to express the nature of things originate by the issue to which they tend . For things which admit of perishing, though through the grace of their Maker they perish not, yet have come out of nothing, and themselves witness that they once were not. And on this account, since their nature is such, it is said of the Son, Thou remainest,' to shew His eternity; for not having the capacity of perishing, as things originate have, but having eternal duration, it is foreign to Him to have it said, He was not before His generation,' but proper to Him to be always, and to endure together with the Father. And though the Apostle had not thus written in his Epistle to the Hebrews, still his other Epistles, and the whole of Scripture, would certainly forbid their entertaining such notions concerning the Word. But since he has here expressly written it, and, as has been above shewn, the Son is Offspring of the Father's essence, and He is Framer, and other things are framed by Him, and He is the Radiance and Word and Image and Wisdom of the Father, and things originate stand and serve in their place below the Triad, therefore the Son is different in kind and different in essence from things originate, and on the contrary is proper to the Father's essence and one in nature with it . And hence it is that the Son too says not, My Father is better than I ,' lest we should conceive Him to be foreign to His Nature, but greater,' not indeed in greatness, nor in time, but because of His generation from the Father Himself , nay, in saying greater' He again shows that He is proper to His essence.
59. (7). And the Apostle's own reason for saying, so much better than the Angels,' was not any wish in the first instance to compare the essence of the Word to things originate (for He cannot be compared, rather they are incommeasurable), but regarding the Word's visitation in the flesh, and the Economy which He then sustained, he wished to show that He was not like those who had gone before Him; so that, as much as He excelled in nature those who were sent afore by Him, by so much also the grace which came from and through Him was better than the ministry through Angels . For it is the function of servants, to demand the fruits and no more; but of the Son and Master to forgive the debts and to transfer the vineyard.
(8.) Certainly what the Apostle proceeds to say shews the excellence of the Son over things originate; Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by Angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him .' But if the Son were in the number of things originate, He was not better than they, nor did disobedience involve increase of punishment because of Him; any more than in the Ministry of Angels there was not, according to each Angel, greater or less guilt in the transgressors, but the Law was one, and one was its vengeance on transgressors. But, whereas the Word is not in the number of originate things, but is Son of the Father, therefore, as He Himself is better and His acts better and transcendent, so also the punishment is worse. Let them contemplate then the grace which is through the Son, and let them acknowledge the witness which He gives even from His works, that He is other than things originated, and alone the very Son in the Father and the Father in Him. And the Law was spoken by Angels, and perfected no one , needing the visitation of the Word, as Paul hath said; but that visitation has perfected the work of the Father. And then, from Adam unto Moses death reigned ; but the presence of the Word abolished death . And no longer in Adam are we all dying ; but in Christ we are all reviving. And then, from Dan to Beersheba was the Law proclaimed, and in Judæa only was God known; but now, unto all the earth has gone forth their voice, and all the earth has been filled with the knowledge of God , and the disciples have made disciples of all the nations , and now is fulfilled what is written, They shall be all taught of God .' And then what was revealed was but a type; but now the truth has been manifested. And this again the Apostle himself describes afterwards more clearly, saying, By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament;' and again, But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.' And, For the Law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did.' And again he says, It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these .' Both in the verse before us, then, and throughout, does he ascribe the word better' to the Lord, who is better and other than originated things. For better is the sacrifice through Him, better the hope in Him; and also the promises through Him, not merely as great compared with small, but the one differing from the other in nature, because He who conducts this economy, is better' than things originated.
60. (9.) Moreover the words He is become surety' denote the pledge in our behalf which He has provided. For as, being the Word,' He became flesh ' and become' we ascribe to the flesh, for it is originated and created, so do we here the expression He is become,' expounding it according to a second sense, viz. because He has become man. And let these contentious men know, that they fail in this their perverse purpose; let them know that Paul does not signify that His essence has become, knowing, as he did, that He is Son and Wisdom and Radiance and Image of the Father; but here too he refers the word become' to the ministry of that covenant, in which death which once ruled is abolished. Since here also the ministry through Him has become better, in that what the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh ,' ridding it of the trespass, in which, being continually held captive, it admitted not the Divine mind. And having rendered the flesh capable of the Word, He made us walk, no longer according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, and say again and again, But we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit,' and, For the Son of God came into the world, not to judge the world, but to redeem all men, and that the world might be saved through Him .' Formerly the world, as guilty, was under judgment from the Law; but now the Word has taken on Himself the judgment, and having suffered in the body for all, has bestowed salvation to all . With a view to this has John exclaimed, The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ .' Better is grace than the Law, and truth than the shadow.
61. (10.) Better' then, as has been said, could not have been brought to pass by any other than the Son, who sits on the right hand of the Father. And what does this denote but the Son's genuineness, and that the Godhead of the Father is the same as the Son's ? For in that the Son reigns in His Father's kingdom, is seated upon the same throne as the Father, and is contemplated in the Father's Godhead, therefore is the Word God, and whoso beholds the Son, beholds the Father; and thus there is one God. Sitting then on the right, yet He does not place His Father on the left ; but whatever is right and precious in the Father, that also the Son has, and says, All things that the Father hath are Mine .' Wherefore also the Son, though sitting on the right, also sees the Father on the right, though it be as become man that He says, I saw the Lord always before My face, for He is on My right hand, therefore I shall not fall .' This shews moreover that the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son; for the Father being on the right, the Son is on the right; and while the Son sits on the right of the Father, the Father is in the Son. And the Angels indeed minister ascending and descending; but concerning the Son he saith, And let all the Angels of God worship Him .' And when Angels minister, they say, I am sent unto thee,' and, The Lord has commanded;' but the Son, though He say in human fashion, I am sent ,' and comes to finish the work and to minister, nevertheless says, as being Word and Image, I am in the Father, and the Father in Me;' and, He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father;' and, The Father that abideth in Me, He doeth the works ;' for what we behold in that Image are the Father's works.
(11.) What has been already said ought to shame those persons who are fighting against the very truth; however, if, because it is written, become better,' they refuse to understand become,' as used of the Son, as has been and is ;' or again as referring to the better covenant having come to be , as we have said, but consider from this expression that the Word is called originate, let them hear the same again in a concise form, since they have forgotten what has been said.
62. If the Son be in the number of the Angels, then let the word become' apply to Him as to them, and let Him not differ at all from them in nature; but be they either sons with Him, or be He an Angel with them; sit they one and all together on the right hand of the Father, or be the Son standing with them all as a ministering Spirit, sent forth to minister Himself as they are. But if on the other hand Paul distinguishes the Son from things originate, saying, To which of the Angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son?' and the one frames heaven and earth, but they are made by Him; and He sitteth with the Father, but they stand by ministering, who does not see that he has not used the word become' of the essence of the Word, but of the ministration come through Him? For as, being the Word,' He became flesh,' so when become man, He became by so much better in His ministry, than the ministry which came by the Angels, as Son excels servants and Framer things framed. Let them cease therefore to take the word become' of the substance of the Son, for He is not one of originated things; and let them acknowledge that it is indicative of His ministry and the Economy which came to pass.
(12.) But how He became better in His ministry, being better in nature than things originate, appears from what has been said before, which, I consider, is sufficient in itself to put them to shame. But if they carry on the contest, it will be proper upon their rash daring to close with them, and to oppose to them those similar expressions which are used concerning the Father Himself. This may serve to shame them to refrain their tongue from evil, or may teach them the depth of their folly. Now it is written, Become my strong rock and house of defence, that Thou mayest save me .' And again, The Lord became a defence for the oppressed ,' and the like which are found in divine Scripture. If then they apply these passages to the Son, which perhaps is nearest to the truth, then let them acknowledge that the sacred writers ask Him, as not being originate, to become to them a strong rock and house of defence;' and for the future let them understand become,' and He made,' and He created,' of His incarnate presence. For then did He become a strong rock and house of defence,' when He bore our sins in His own body upon the tree, and said, Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest .'
63. But if they refer these passages to the Father, will they, when it is here also written, Become' and He became,' venture so far as to affirm that God is originate? Yea, they will dare, as they thus argue concerning His Word; for the course of their argument carries them on to conjecture the same things concerning the Father, as they devise concerning His Word. But far be such a notion ever from the thoughts of all the faithful! for neither is the Son in the number of things originated, nor do the words of Scripture in question, Become,' and He became,' denote beginning of being, but that succour which was given to the needy. For God is always, and one and the same; but men have come to be afterwards through the Word, when the Father Himself willed it; and God is invisible and inaccessible to originated things, and especially to men upon earth. When then men in infirmity invoke Him, when in persecution they ask help, when under injuries they pray, then the Invisible, being a lover of man, shines forth upon them with His beneficence, which He exercises through and in His proper Word. And forthwith the divine manifestation is made to every one according to his need, and is made to the weak health, and to the persecuted a refuge' and house of defence;' and to the injured He says, While thou speakest I will say, Here I am .' Whatever defence then comes to each through the Son, that each says that God has come to be to himself, since succour comes from God Himself through the Word. Moreover the usage of men recognises this, and every one will confess its propriety. Often succour comes from man to man; one has undertaken toil for the injured, as Abraham for Lot; and another has opened his home to the persecuted, as Obadiah to the sons of the prophets; and another has entertained a stranger, as Lot the Angels; and another has supplied the needy, as Job those who begged of him. And then, should one and the other of these benefited persons say, Such a one became an assistance to me,' and another and to me a refuge,' and to another a supply,' yet in so saying would not be speaking of the original becoming or of the essence of their benefactors, but of the beneficence coming to themselves from them; so also when the saints say concerning God, He became' and become Thou,' they do not denote any original becoming, for God is without beginning and unoriginate, but the salvation which is made to be unto men from Him.
64. This being so understood, it is parallel also respecting the Son, that whatever, and however often, is said, such as, He became' and become,' should ever have the same sense: so that as, when we hear the words in question, become better than the Angels' and He became,' we should not conceive any original becoming of the Word, nor in any way fancy from such terms that He is originate; but should understand Paul's words of His ministry and Economy when He became man. For when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ' and came to minister and to grant salvation to all, then He became to us salvation, and became life, and became propitiation; then His economy in our behalf became much better than the Angels, and He became the Way and became the Resurrection. And as the words Become my strong rock' do not denote that the essence of God Himself became, but His lovingkindness, as has been said, so also here the having become better than the Angels,' and, He became,' and, by so much is Jesus become a better surety,' do not signify that the essence of the Word is originate (perish the thought!), but the beneficence which towards us came to be through His becoming Man; unthankful though the heretics be, and obstinate in behalf of their irreligion.