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Gregory Of Nyssa Dogmatic Treatises Etc by Gregory of Nyssa

Section 3. He then exposes the ignorance of Eunomius

Section 3. He then exposes the ignorance of Eunomius, and the incoherence and absurdity of his arguments, in speaking of the Son as |the Angel of the Existent,| and as being as much below the Divine Nature as the Son is superior to the things created by Himself. And in this connection there is a noble and forcible counter-statement and an indignant refutation, showing that He Who gave the oracles to Moses is Himself the Existent, the Only-begotten Son, Who to the petition of Moses, |If Thou Thyself goest not with us, carry me not up hence,| said, |I will do this also that thou hast said|; Who is also called |Angel| both by Moses and Isaiah: wherein is cited the text, |Unto us a Child is born.| But that the research and culture of our imposing author may be completely disclosed, we will consider sentence by sentence his presentment of his sentiments. |The Son,| he says, |does not appropriate the dignity of the Existent,| giving the name of |dignity| to the actual fact of being: -- (with what propriety he knows how to adapt words to things!) -- and since He is |by reason of the Father,| he says that He is alienated from Himself on the ground that the essence which is supreme over Him attracts to itself the conception of the Existent. This is much the same as if one were to say that he who is bought for money, in so far as he is in his own existence, is not the person bought, but the purchaser, inasmuch as his essential personal existence is absorbed into the nature of him who has acquired authority over him. Such are the lofty conceptions of our divine: but what is the demonstration of his statements?....|the Only-begotten,| he says, |Himself ascribing to the Father the title due of right to Him alone,| and then he introduces the point that the Father alone is good. Where in this does the Son disclaim the title of |Existent|? Yet this is what Eunomius is driving at when he goes on word for word as follows: -- |For He Who has taught us that the appellation good' belongs to Him alone Who is the cause of His own goodness and of all goodness, and is so at all times, and Who refers to Him all good that has ever come into being, would be slow to appropriate to Himself the authority over all things that have come into being, and the title of the Existent.'| What has |authority| to do with the context? and how along with this is the Son also alienated from the title of |Existent|? But really I do not know what one ought rather to do at this, -- to laugh at the want of education, or to pity the pernicious folly which it displays. For the expression, |His own,| not employed according to the natural meaning, and as those who know how to use language are wont to use it, attests his extensive knowledge of the grammar of pronouns, which even little boys get up with their masters without trouble, and his ridiculous wandering from the subject to what has nothing to do either with his argument or with the form of that argument, considered as syllogistic, namely, that the Son has no share in the appellation of |Existent| -- an assertion adapted to his monstrous inventions , -- this and similar absurdities seem combined together for the purpose of provoking laughter; so that it may be that readers of the more careless sort experience some such inclination, and are amused by the disjointedness of his arguments. But that God the Word should not exist, or that He at all events should not be good (and this is what Eunomius maintains when he says that He does not |appropriate the title| of |Existent| and |good|), and to make out that the authority over all things that come into being does not belong to him, -- this calls for our tears, and for a wail of mourning.

For it is not as if he had but let fall something of the kind just once under some headlong and inconsiderate impulse, and in what followed had striven to retrieve his error: no, he dallies lingeringly with the malignity, striving in his later statements to surpass what had gone before. For as he proceeds, he says that the Son is the same distance below the Divine Nature as the nature of angels is subjected below His own, not indeed saying this in so many words, but endeavouring by what he does say to produce such an impression. The reader may judge for himself the meaning of his words: they run as follows, -- |Who, by being called Angel,' clearly showed by Whom He published His words, and Who is the Existent, while by being addressed also as God, He showed His superiority over all things. For He Who is the God of all things that were made by Him, is the Angel of the God over all.| Indignation rushes into my heart and interrupts my discourse, and under this emotion arguments are lost in a turmoil of anger roused by words like these. And perhaps I may be pardoned for feeling such emotion. For whose resentment would not be stirred within him at such profanity, when he remembers how the Apostle proclaims that every angelic nature is subject to the Lord, and in witness of his doctrine invokes the sublime utterances of the prophets: -- |When He bringeth the first-begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him,| and, |Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever,| and, |Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail |? When the Apostle has gone through all this argument to demonstrate the unapproachable majesty of the Only-begotten God, what must I feel when I hear from the adversary of Christ that the Lord of Angels is Himself only an Angel, -- and when he does not let such a statement fall by chance, but puts forth his strength to maintain this monstrous invention, so that it may be established that his Lord has no superiority over John and Moses? For the word says concerning them, |This is he of whom it is written, Behold I send my angel before thy face .'| John therefore is an angel. But the enemy of the Lord, even though he grants his Lord the name of God, yet makes Him out to be on a level with the deity of Moses, since he too was a servant of the God over all, and was constituted a god to the Egyptians . And yet this phrase, |over all,| as has been previously observed, is common to the Son with the Father, the Apostle having expressly ascribed such a title to Him, when he says, |Of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, Who is God over all .| But this man degrades the Lord of angels to the rank of an angel, as though he had not heard that the angels are |ministering spirits,| and |a flame of fire .| For by the use of these distinctive terms does the Apostle make the difference between the several subjects clear and unmistakable, defining the subordinate nature to be |spirits| and |fire,| and distinguishing the supreme power by the name of Godhead. And yet, though there are so many that proclaim the glory of the Only-begotten God, against them all Eunomius lifts up his single voice, calling the Christ |an angel of the God over all,| defining Him, by thus contrasting Him with the |God over all,| to be one of the |all things,| and, by giving Him the same name as the angels, trying to establish that He no wise differs from them in nature: for he has often previously said that all those things which share the same name cannot be different in nature. Does the argument, then, still lack its censors, as it concerns a man who proclaims in so many words that the |Angel| does not publish His own word, but that of the Existent? For it is by this means that he tries to show that the Word Who was in the beginning, the Word Who was God, is not Himself the Word, but is the Word of some other Word, being its minister and |angel.| And who knows not that the only opposite to the |Existent| is the nonexistent? so that he who contrasts the Son with the Existent, is clearly playing the Jew, robbing the Christian doctrine of the Person of the Only-begotten. For in saying that He is excluded from the title of the |Existent,| he is assuredly trying to establish also that He is outside the pale of existence: for surely if he grants Him existence, he will not quarrel about the sound of the word.

But he strives to prop up his absurdity by the testimony of Scripture, and puts forth Moses as his advocate against the truth. For as though that were the source from which he drew his arguments, he freely sets forth to us his own fables, saying, |He Who sent Moses was the Existent Himself, but He by Whom He sent and spake was the Angel of the Existent, and the God of all else.| That his statement, however, is not drawn from Scripture, may be conclusively proved by Scripture itself. But if he says that this is the sense of what is written, we must examine the original language of Scripture. Moreover let us first notice that Eunomius, after calling the Lord God of all things after Him, allows Him no superiority in comparison with the angelic nature. For neither did Moses, when he heard that he was made a god to Pharaoh , pass beyond the bounds of humanity, but while in nature he was on an equality with his fellows, he was raised above them by superiority of authority, and his being called a god did not hinder him from being man. So too in this case Eunomius, while making out the Son to be one of the angels, salves over such an error by the appellation of Godhead, in the manner expressed, allowing Him the title of God in some equivocal sense. Let us once more set down and examine the very words in which he delivers his blasphemy. |He Who sent Moses was the Existent Himself, but He by Whom He sent was the Angel of the Existent| -- this, namely |Angel,| being the title he gives his Lord. Well, the absurdity of our author is refuted by the Scripture itself, in the passage where Moses beseeches the Lord not to entrust an angel with the leadership of the people, but Himself to conduct their march. The passage runs thus: God is speaking, |Go, get thee down, guide this people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold Mine Angel shall go before thee in the day when I visit .| And a little while after He says again, |And I will send Mine Angel before thee .| Then, a little after what immediately follows, comes the supplication to God on the part of His servant, running on this wise, |If I have found grace in Thy sight, let my Lord go among us ,| and again, |If Thou Thyself go not with us, carry me not up hence |; and then the answer of God to Moses, |I will do for thee this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee above all men .| Accordingly, if Moses begs that the people may not be led by an angel, and if He Who was discoursing with him consents to become his fellow-traveller and the guide of the army, it is hereby manifestly shown that He Who made Himself known by the title of |the Existent| is the Only-begotten God.

If any one gainsays this, he will show himself to be a supporter of the Jewish persuasion in not associating the Son with the deliverance of the people. For if, on the one hand, it was not an angel that went forth with the people, and if, on the other, as Eunomius would have it, He Who was manifested by the name of the Existent is not the Only-begotten, this amounts to nothing less than transferring the doctrines of the synagogue to the Church of God. Accordingly, of the two alternatives they must needs admit one, namely, either that the Only-begotten God on no occasion appeared to Moses, or that the Son is Himself the |Existent,| from Whom the word came to His servant. But he contradicts what has been said above, alleging the Scripture itself which informs us that the voice of an angel was interposed, and that it was thus that the discourse of the Existent was conveyed. This, however, is no contradiction, but a confirmation of our view. For we too say plainly, that the prophet, wishing to make manifest to men the mystery concerning Christ, called the Self-Existent |Angel,| that the meaning of the words might not be referred to the Father, as it would have been if the title of |Existent| alone had been found throughout the discourse. But just as our word is the revealer and messenger (or |angel|) of the movements of the mind, even so we affirm that the true Word that was in the beginning, when He announces the will of His own Father, is styled |Angel| (or |Messenger|), a title given to Him on account of the operation of conveying the message. And as the sublime John, having previously called Him |Word,| so introduces the further truth that the Word was God, that our thoughts might not at once turn to the Father, as they would have done if the title of God had been put first, so too does the mighty Moses, after first calling Him |Angel,| teach us in the words that follow that He is none other than the Self-Existent Himself, that the mystery concerning the Christ might be foreshown, by the Scripture assuring us by the name |Angel,| that the Word is the interpreter of the Father's will, and, by the title of the |Self-Existent,| of the closeness of relation subsisting between the Son and the Father. And if he should bring forward Isaiah also as calling Him |the Angel of mighty counsel ,| not even so will he overthrow our argument. For there, in clear and uncontrovertible terms, there is indicated by the prophecy the dispensation of His Humanity; for |unto us,| he says, |a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name is called the Angel of mighty counsel.| And it is with an eye to this, I suppose, that David describes the establishment of His kingdom, not as though He were not a King, but in the view that the humiliation to the estate of a servant to which the Lord submitted by way of dispensation, was taken up and absorbed into the majesty of His Kingdom. For he says, |I was established King by Him on His holy hill of Sion, declaring the ordinance of the Lord.| Accordingly, He Who through Himself reveals the goodness of the Father is called |Angel| and |Word,| |Seal| and |Image,| and all similar titles with the same intention. For as the |Angel| (or |Messenger|) gives information from some one, even so the Word reveals the thought within, the Seal shows by Its own stamp the original mould, and the Image by Itself interprets the beauty of that whereof It is the image, so that in their signification all these terms are equivalent to one another. For this reason the title |Angel| is placed before that of the |Self-Existent,| the Son being termed |Angel| as the exponent of His Father's will, and the |Existent| as having no name that could possibly give a knowledge of His essence, but transcending all the power of names to express. Wherefore also His name is testified by the writing of the Apostle to be |above every name ,| not as though it were some one name preferred above all others, though still comparable with them, but rather in the sense that He Who verily is is above every name.

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