SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Looking for free sermon messages?
Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : Chapter X.--The Creed of Jerusalem: Doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Lectures Of S Cyril Of Jerusalem by St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Chapter X.--The Creed of Jerusalem: Doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

§ 1. The Creed. The ancient Creed which was used by the Church of Jerusalem in the middle of the fourth Century, and which Cyril expounded in his Catechetical Lectures, was recited by him to the Catechumens at the end of the fifth Lecture, to be committed to memory, but not to be written out on paper (§ 12). Accordingly it is not found in any of the MSS., but instead of it the Nicene Creed with the Anathema is there inserted in Codd. Roe, Casaub. This could only have been added after Cyril's time, when the motives for secrecy had ceased.

The Creed which Cyril really taught and expounded may be gathered from various passages in the Lectures themselves, and especially from the Titles prefixed to them.

With the Creed of Jerusalem thus ascertained, it will be instructive to compare the Nicene formula, and for this purpose we print them in parallel columns.



From S. Athanasius, De Decretis Fidei Nicænæ.



Pisteuomen eis hena Theon ,

Patera Pantokratora ,

Poieten ouranou kai ges

Oraton te panton kai aoraton .

Kai eis hena Kurion 'Iesoun Christon ,

ton Pshion tou Theou

ton Monogene,

ton ek tou Patros gennethenta,

Theon alethinon

pro panton ton aionon,

di' hou ta panta egeneto ,

ton sarkothenta kai enanthropesanta ,

staurothenta kai taphenta ,

kai anastanta ek nekron te trite hemera,

kai anelthonta eis tous ouranous,

kai kathisanta ek dexion tou Patros ,

kai palin erchomenon en doxe

krinai zontas kai nekrous,

hou tes basileias ouk estai telos .

Kai eis hen hagion Pneuma

ton Parakleton,

to lalesan en tois prophetais .

kai eis hen baptisma metanoias eis aphesin hamartion ,

kai eis mian hagian katholiken ekklesian,

kai eis sarkos anastasin,

kai eis zoen aionion .

Pisteuomen eis hena Theon,

Patera pantokratora,

panton horaton te

kai aoraton poieten,

kai eis hena Kurion 'Iesoun Christon,

ton Pshion tou Theou,

gennethenta ek tou Patros monogene,

toutestin ek tes ousias tou Patros,

Theon ek Theou, phos ek photos. Theon alethinon ek Theou alethinou,

gennethenta ou toiethenta, homoousion to Patri,

di' hou ta panta egeneto,

ta te en to ourano kai ta epi tes ges,

ton di' hemas tous anthropous kai dia ten hemeteran soterian

katelthonta kai sarkothenta, enanthropesanta, pathonta,

kai anastanta te trite hemera,

anelthonta eis ouranous,

kai erchomenon

krinai zontas kai nekrous,

kai eis to hagion Pneuma.

Tous de legontas; en pote hote ouk en, kai trin gennethenai ouk en, kai hoti ex ouk onton egeneto, e ex heteras hupostaseos e ousias phaskontas einai e ktiston e trepton e alloioton ton Pshion tou Theou. anathematizei he katholike ekklesia.

§ 2. Doctrine of the Holy Trinity. |The doctrinal position of S. Cyril is admirably described, and his orthodoxy vindicated by Cardinal Newman in the following passage of his Preface to the Lectures in the Library of the Fathers. |There is something very remarkable and even startling to the reader of S. Cyril, to find in a divine of his school such a perfect agreement, for instance as regards the doctrine of the Trinity, with those Fathers who in his age were more famous as champions of it. Here is a writer, separated by whatsoever cause from what, speaking historically, may be called the Athanasian School, suspicious of its adherents, and suspected by them; yet he, when he comes to explain himself, expresses precisely the same doctrine as that of Athanasius or Gregory, while he merely abstains from the particular theological term in which the latter Fathers agreeably to the Nicene Council conveyed it. Can we have a clearer proof that the difference of opinion between them was not one of ecclesiastical and traditionary doctrine, but of practical judgment? that the Fathers at Nicæa wisely considered that, under the circumstances, the word in question was the only symbol which would secure the Church against the insidious heresy which was assailing it, while S. Cyril, with Eusebius of Cæsarea, Meletius and others shrank from it, at least for a while, as if an addition to the Creed, or a word already taken into the service of an opposite heresy, and likely to introduce into the Church heretical notions? Their judgment, which was erroneous, was their own; their faith was not theirs only, but shared with them by the whole Christian world .|

In regard to the doctrine of the Trinity in general the two great heresies which distracted the Church in S. Cyril's day were Sabellianism and Arianism, the one |confounding the Persons,| the other |dividing the substance| of the indivisible Unity of the Godhead. Both these opposite errors Cyril condemns with equal energy: |Do thou neither separate the Son from the Father, nor by making a confusion believe in a Son-Fatherhood .| Again he says: |Our hope is in Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost. We preach not three Gods: let the Marcionites be silenced; but with the Holy Ghost through One Son we preach One God. The Faith is indivisible; the worship inseparable. We neither separate the Holy Trinity, like some (that is the Arians); nor do we, as Sabellius, work confusion .| |He says not, I am the Father, but the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father. And again He said not, I and the Father am one, but, I and the Father are One, that we should neither separate them, nor make a confusion of Son-Father .|

In the sequel of this last passage Cyril proceeds to argue that this unity of the Father and the Son lies in their Nature, |since God begat God,| in their Kingdom , in their Will , and in their joint Creation , thus at each step rejecting some prominent heretical tenet.

The question, however, of Cyril's orthodoxy depends especially upon his supposed opposition to the Creed of Nicæa, of which no evidence is alleged except his attendance at the Council of Seleucia, and the absence from his Lectures of the word homoousion.

The purpose of Cyril's attendance at Seleucia was to appeal against his deposition by Acacius, and there is apparently no evidence of his having taken part in the doctrinal discussions, or signed the Creed of Antioch . What is certain is that Cyril's bitterest enemies who refused to sit with him in the Council were Acacius and his Arian allies, who expressly rejected both homoousios and homoiousios and |altogether denied the Nicene formula and censured the Council, while the others, who were the majority, accepted the whole proceedings of the Council, except that they complained of the word Co-essential,' as obscure, and so open to suspicion .| It thus appears that Cyril's friends at Seleucia were partly those who approved the word | Co-essential,| and partly those of whom Athanasius speaks as |brothers, who mean what we mean, and dispute only about the word .| It needed in fact the profound insight of an Athanasius to foresee that in the end that word must triumph over all opposition, and be accepted by the Universal Church as the one true safeguard of the Christian Faith. Meanwhile it was the standard round which debate, and strife, and hatred, and persecution, were to rage for fifty years with unexampled fury.

Was Cyril to be blamed, ought he not rather to be commended, for not introducing such a war-cry into the exposition of an ancient Creed, in which it had no place, the Creed of his own Church, the Mother of all the Churches, whose Faith he as a youthful Presbyter was commissioned to teach to the young Candidates for Baptism?

But if we compare his doctrine with that of the Nicene formula, we shall find that, as Dr. Newman says, |His own writings are most exactly orthodox, though he does not in the Catechetical Lectures use the word homoousion .|

The first point to be noticed in the comparison is the use of the title |Son of God.| For this Eusebius in his Creed had substituted |Word of God.| Athanasius explains the significance of the change: |Uniting the two titles, Scripture speaks of Son' in order to herald the natural and true offspring of His essence (ousias); and on the other hand that none may think of the offspring as human, in again indicating His essence it calls Him Word, and Wisdom, and Radiance, for from this we infer that the generation was impassible (apathes), and eternal, and becoming to God .|

Cyril is here in full accord with Athanasius: in his Creed he found |Son of God,| and in his exposition he states that the Father is |by nature and in truth Father of One only, the Only-begotten Son :| |One they are because of the dignity pertaining to the Godhead, since God begat God :| |The Son then is Very God, having the Father in Himself, not changed into the Father .| When he says that the Son is in all things like (homoios en pasin) to Him who begat Him; begotten Life of Life, and Light of Light, Power of Power, God of God, and the characteristics of the Godhead are unchangeable (aparallaktoi ) in the Son ,| he is using in all good faith the very words of the orthodox Bishops at Nicæa, |homoion te kai aparallakton auton kata panta to Patri .|

The further significance which Athanasius ascribes to the title |Logos,| is also expressed fully and repeatedly by Cyril: |Whenever thou hearest of God begetting, sink not down in thought to bodily things, nor think of a corruptible generation, lest thou be guilty of impiety .|

The |passionless generation,| to which so much importance was attached at Nicæa and by Athanasius, is also asserted by Cyril when he says that God |became a Father not by passion (ou pathei Pater genomenos) .| The eternal generation is most emphatically declared again and again: the Son, he says, |began not His existence in time, but was before all ages eternally and incomprehensibly begotten of the Father; the Wisdom, and the Power of God, and His Righteousness personally subsisting :| |Throughout His being (ex houper en), a being by eternal generation, He holds His royal dignity, and shares His Father's seat .| Believe that of One God there is One Only-begotten Son, who is before all ages God the Word; not the uttered word diffused into the air, nor to be likened to impersonal words; but the Word, the Son, Maker of all who partake of reason, the Word who heareth the father, and Himself speaketh .|

The importance of such language is better understood when we remember that Marcellus, |another head of the dragon lately sprung up in Galatia ,| entirely rejected the word |Begotten,| as implying a beginning, and |contradicting the eternity of the Logos, so distinctly proclaimed by S. John.| An eternal generation, as stated by Athanasius and others, was to him unimaginable. The Logos in His pre-existence was unbegotten, and could not be called Son, but only the Logos invested with human nature was Son of God and begotten .| These heretical opinions of Marcellus had been condemned in several Councils within a few years preceding Cyril's Lectures.

The next supposed proof of Cyril's opposition to the Nicene doctrine is that he has not adopted in his Lectures the phrases |of the essence (ousias) of the Father,| and |of one essence (homoousion) with the Father.| This omission is the chief ground of the reproaches cast upon the memory of Cyril by the writers of Ecclesiastical History; for this he was described by Jerome as an Arian, and by Rufinus as a waverer, while his formal acceptance of the terms used at Nicæa is called by Socrates and Sozomen an act of repentance. By others he was denounced as 'Areianophron because he had addressed his letter to Constantius as |the most religious king,| and never used the word homoousion in his Lectures.

We shall be better able to estimate the justice of these reproaches, if we consider first the history of these words ousia and homoousios, and the reasons which Cyril may have had for not employing them in the instruction of youthful Candidates for Baptism.

It is strange to find that seven hundred years before the great controversy at Nicæa on the introduction of the word Ousia into the Creed, it had been the war-cry of almost as fierce a conflict between rival schools of philosophy.

|There appears,| says Plato in the person of the Eleatic stranger, |to be a sort of war of the giants going on between them because of the dispute concerning ousia. Some of them are dragging all things down from heaven and from the invisible to earth, grasping rocks and oaks in their hands; for of all such things they lay hold, in obstinately maintaining that what can be touched and handled alone has being (einai), because they define being' and body' as one; and if any one else says that what is not a body has being, they altogether despise him, and will hear of nothing but body....Therefore their opponents cautiously defend themselves from above out of some invisible world, mightily contending that certain intelligible and incorporeal ideas are the true essence (ousian) .|

It is apparently to this passage of Plato that Aristotle refers in describing the ambiguity of the word ousia : |Now Ousia seems to belong most manifestly to bodies: wherefore animals and plants and their parts we say are ousiai, also natural bodies as fire and water and earth and all such things, and all either parts of these, or products either of parts or the whole, as the heaven and its parts, stars, moon, and sun. But whether these are the only ousiai or there are others also, or none of these but others of a different kind, is a matter for inquiry. Some think that the boundaries of bodies, as a surface, and a line and a point and a unit (monas), are ousiai, even more so than body and solid. Further, one class of persons thinks that besides things sensible there is no ousia, and another that there are many things, and these more enduring (aidia), as Plato thinks that the ideas (eide) and the mathematical elements are two kinds of ousia, and that the ousia of sensible bodies is a third.|

In proceeding to define the term, Aristotle says that ousia is used in four senses if not more: the essential nature (to ti en einai), the universal (to katholon) the genus, and a fourth the subject (to hupokeimenon). Under, this fourth sense he proceeds to discuss the application of the term ousia to the matter, the form, and the resulting whole. Without going further we may see that the use of the word in philosophy was full of difficulty and ambiguity.

The ambiguity is thus expressed by Mr. Robertson : |We may look at a concrete term as denoting either this or that individual simply (tode ti), or as expressing its nature, and so as common to more individuals than one. Now properly (protos) ousia is only appropriate to the former purpose. But it may be employed in a secondary sense to designate the latter, in this sense species and genera are deuterai ousiai, the wider class being less truly ousiai than the former.| Perhaps the earliest use of ousia in Christian writings is in Justin M. , where he describes the Logos as |having been begotten from the Father, by His power and will, but not by abscission (apotomen), as if the ousia of the Father were divided, as all other things when divided and cut are no longer the same as before.| His example was fire, from which other fires are kindled, while it remains undiminished and unchanged. According to Dr. Newman , ousia here means |substance, or being.|

In Clement of Alexandria , ousia means a |nature| common to many, for he speaks of the Gnostic Demiurge as creating an irrational soul homoousion with the soul of the beasts;| and again as implanting in man |something co-essential (homoousion) with himself, inasmuch as he is invisible and incorporeal; his essence (ousian) he called |the breath of life,| but the thing formed (morphothen) became |a living soul,| which in the prophetic Scriptures he confesses himself to be. Again in §42 of the same Fragment, according to the Valentinians, |the body of Jesus is co-essential (homoousion) with the Church.|

So Hippolytus speaks of the Son Incarnate as being |at one and the same time Infinite God and finite Man, having the nature (ousian) of each in perfection:| and again, |There has been effected a certain inexpressible and irrefragable union of the two (the Godhead and the Manhood) into one subsistence (hupostasin).|

In Origen we find the two words ousia (essence, or substance) and hupostasis (individual subsistence) accurately distinguished. Quoting the description of Wisdom, as being the breath (atmis) of the power of God, and pure effluence (aporroia) from the glory of the Almighty, and radiance (apaugasma) of the Eternal Light ,| he says that |Wisdom proceeding from Him is generated of the very substance of God,| and adds that |these comparisons most manifestly shew that there is community of substance between Father and Son. For an effluence appears to be homoousios, that is, of one substance with that body from which it is an effluence or vapour.|

On the other hand he writes, |We worship the Father of the Truth, and the Son who is the Truth, being in subsistence (te hupostasei) two .| On this passage Bishop Bull remarks: |The words hupostasis and ousia in ancient times were variously used, at least by the Christians. That is to say, sometimes hupostasis was taken by them for what we call ousia, and vice versa, ousia for what we call hupostasis: sometimes the ancients even before the Council of Nicæa used hupostasis for what we now call person' or subsistence '.| This Bishop Bull presently explains again as |an individual thing subsisting by itself, which in rational beings is the same as person.|

For examples of these interchanges of meaning, we may notice that the Synod of Antioch (a.d.269), in the Epistle addressed to Paul of Samosata before his deposition, speaking of the unity of Christ's Person, says that |He is one and the same in His ousia .| On this passage Routh remarks that |The words ousia and phusis are sometimes employed by the ancients for a personal subsistence (persona subsistente), as is plainly testified by Photius.|

In the earlier part of the same Epistle the Son is described as |being before all ages, not in foreknowledge, but in essence and subsistence (en ousia kai hupostasei).|

The confusion arising from the uncertainty in the use of these two words is well illustrated in the account which Athanasius himself gives of this same Synod of Antioch: |They who deposed the Samosatene, took Co-essential (homoousios) in a bodily sense, because Paul had attempted sophistry and said, Unless Christ has of man become God, it follows that He is Co-essential with the Father; and if so, of necessity there are three essences (ousiai), one the previous essence, and the other two from it;' and therefore guarding against this they said with good reason, that Christ was not Co-essential (homoousion).| Athanasius then explains on what grounds the Bishops at Nicæa |reasonably asserted on their part, that the Son was Co-essential.| Athanasius himself states that, in giving this explanation of the rejection of ousion by the Bishops who condemned the Samosatene, he had not their Epistle before him ; and his statement, that Paul used the term not to express his own view, but to refute that of the Bishops, is thought to be opposed to what Hilary says , |Male homoousion Samosatenus confessus est: sed numquid melius Ariani negaverunt?|

That the statement of Athanasius himself is not free from difficulty is clear from the way in which so great a Theologian as Bishop Hefele endeavours to explain it: |Athanasius says that Paul argued in this way: If Christ is Omoousios with the Father, then three subsistences (ousiai) must be admitted -- one first substance (the Father), and two more recent (the Son and the Spirit); that is to say, that the Divine Substance is separated into three parts .| The logical subtlety of Paul was better understood by Basil the Great : |For in truth they who met together about Paul of Samosata found fault with the phrase, as not being distinct; for they said that the word homoousios gave the idea of an ousia and of those derived from it, so that the title homoousion assigned the ousia separately to the subjects to which it was distributed: and this notion has some reason in the case of copper and the coins made from it; but in the case of God the Father, and God the Son, there is no substance conceived to be antecedent and superior to both: for to say and to think this surpasses all bounds of impiety.|

The confusion arising from the uncertainty in the use of these words had been the cause of strife throughout the Christian Church for more than twenty years before the date of Cyril's Lectures; and though it was declared at the Council of Alexandria (362) to be but a controversy about words , it had long been and long afterwards continued to be a fruitful cause of dissension between men who, when forced to explain their meaning, were found to be in substantial agreement. That Cyril abstained from introducing into his elementary teaching terms so provocative of dangerous controversy, is a reason for commendation, not for censure. But if it is alleged that he denied or doubted or failed to assert the essential Godhead of the Son, the suspicion is unfounded and easily refuted. To the many passages already quoted concerning the eternal generation of the Son, it will be enough to add one single sentence which ought to dispel all doubt of his orthodoxy. |The Only-begotten Son, together with the Holy Ghost, is partaker of the Godhead of the Father (tes theotetos tes Patrikes koinonos).| The word chosen by Cyril to express the Divine Essence (theotes) common to the three Persons of the Godhead is at least as appropriate as ousia.

If we now look at the particular errors mentioned in the Anathema of the Nicene Council, we shall find that every one of them is earnestly condemned by Cyril.

|Once He was not (En pote hote ouk en). This famous Arian formula is expressly rejected in Cat. xi. § 17: |Neither let us say, There was a time when the Son was not.| The eternity of the Son is asserted again and again, in reference, for instance, to His generation , His Priesthood , and His throne .

|Before His generation He was not| (prin gennethenai ouk en). Compare with this Cyril's repeated assertions that |the Son is eternally begotten, by an inscrutable and incomprehensible generation ,| |the Son of God before all ages, without beginning ,| that |time intervenes not in the generation of the Son from the Father .|

|He came to be from nothing| (ex ouk onton egeneto). Cyril's language is emphatic: |As I have often said, He did not bring forth the Son from non-existence (ek tou me ontos) into being, nor take the non-existent into Sonship .|

|That He is of other subsistence or essence| (ex heteras hupostaseos e ousias). It is certain that Cyril has given no countenance to the error or errors condemned in this clause, but is in entire agreement with the Council.

On the question whether upostasis and ousia have in this passage the same or different meanings, see Bull, Def. Fid. Nic. II.9, 11, p.314 (Oxf. Ed.). Athanasius expressly states that they are perfectly equivalent: |Subsistence (hupostasis) is essence (ousia), and means nothing else but very being, which Jeremiah calls existence (huparxis).| Basil distinguishes them, and is followed by Bishop Bull, whose opinion is controverted by Mr. Robertson in an Excursus on the meaning of the phrase, on p.77 of his edition of Athanasius in this Series. The student who desires to pursue the subject may consult in addition to the works just named, and the authorities therein mentioned, Dr. Newman's Arians of the Fourth Century, especially chap. v. sect. i.3, and Appendix, note iv., on |the terms ousia and hupostasis as used in the early Church;| Mr. Robertson's Prolegomena, ch. ii. § 3 (2) (b); and the Rev. H. A. Wilson's Prolegomena to Gregory of Nyssa, ch. iv., in this Series.

<<  Contents  >>

Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Privacy Policy