“But the Word is said to be and is alone from the Father because he is not a creature”

The council wished to banish the impious phrases of the Arians and to inscribe the words confessed by the Scriptures: that the Son is not from non-being but from God; that he is Word and Wisdom, neither creature nor something made, but from the Father as his own (idion) offspring. But the party of Eusebius, compelled by their longstanding perversity, wished the designation of his being “from God” to be taken as something in common with us and the Word of God to be no different from us in this respect, as it is written: “one God from whom are all things” (1 Cor 8:6) and “the old things have passed away; behold all that is new has come to be; and all this is from God” (2 Cor 5:17, 18). So the fathers of the council, seeing their deceit and the machinations of their impiety, finally found it necessary to proclaim the “from God” more clearly and to write “the Son is from the essence of the Father” (ek tes ousias tou theou), so that “from God” may not be considered to be the same and equal in the case of the Son as it is with things that have come to be; but that it may be confessed that while all others are creatures, the Word is uniquely from the Father. For even if all things are said to be from God, this is altogether otherwise than how the Son is. In the case of created things, they are said to be from God in that they do not exist randomly and unaccountably; neither do they attain their origination by chance, as those who speak of an origination that comes about from the intertwining of atoms and of like parts; nor, as certain heretics say, is there another creator, nor, as again others say, do all things have their subsistence through some angels. Rather, all things are said to be from God because the existent God, by himself and through the Word, brought all things that formerly did not exist into being. But the Word is said to be and is alone from the Father because he is not a creature; and the Son’s being “from the essence of the Father” is indicative of this sense, which does not pertain to anything that has come into being.

Yet again, when the bishops said that it is necessary to proclaim the Word as true power and image of the Father and unchangeably like the Father in all things (homoion te kai aparallakton auton kata panta to patri) and inalterable and that he is always and inseparably in the Father—for never was he not, but rather, the Word is always with the Father, as the radiance and the light—the party of Eusebius persevered, though because of their shame at the refutations leveled against them, they did not dare to contradict. Instead, they were caught winking their eyes and murmuring among themselves that “like” (homoion) and “always” and the name of “Power” and “in him” are also common to us and the Son, so that it would not hurt them to agree with us. As to “like,” because it is written of us also, “the human being is the image and glory of God” (1 Cor 11: 7); as to “always,” because it is written, “we who live are always…” (2 Cor 4: 11); “in him,” because “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17: 28); “inalterable,” because it is written, “Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ” (Rom 8:39); as to “Power,” because the caterpillar and the locust are called “power” and “great power” (cf. Joel 2:25) whereas it is often written in reference to the people, as “all the power of God came out from the land of Egypt” (Ex 12:41); and there are other heavenly powers, for it says, “the Lord of powers is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob” (Ps 46:8).

Asterius, who is called “the sophist,” has written these things, having learned from them and, along with him, Arius also, as has been said. But the bishops, perceiving their hypocrisy here also and seeing that, according to what is written, “deceit is in the hearts of the impious who plot evil” (Prov 12:20), found it necessary again to gather together the sense of the Scriptures and to speak more clearly the things which they said before, and to write, “the Son is one in essence (homoousion) with the Father,” in order to signify that the Son is not only like, but from the Father as the same in likeness (tauton te homoiosei), and in order to show that the likeness and inalterability of the Son is other than the imitative likeness that is ascribed to us and which we attain through virtue by keeping the commandments. For it is possible for bodies which are like each other to become in some way separated and distant from one another, which happens with the sons of human beings in relation to their begetters, as it is written concerning Adam and Seth, who was begotten of Adam and who was like him “according to his kind” (Gen 5:3). But since the generation of the Son from the Father is other than that which pertains to the nature of human beings and he is not only like (homoios) but also inseparable from the essence (ousia) of the Father and he and the Father are one, as he himself said (Jn 10:30), and the Word is always in the Father and the Father in the Word (cf. Jn 10:38)—as is the radiance in relation to the light (for this is what the phrase means)—the council, understanding all this, aptly wrote “one in essence” (homoousion). They did this in order to overturn the perversity of the hypocrites and to show that the Word is other than the things which come to be. For immediately after writing it, they added: “But those who say that the Son of God is from non-being or is a creature or changeable or made or from another essence (ousia), these the holy and catholic Church anathematizes.” In saying this, they made it manifestly clear that “from the essence” and “of one essence” are abrogations of the trite slogans of the impious: such as that he is a “creature” and “made” and something which has come into being (geneton) and changeable and that he was not before he was generated. The one who thinks such things is contradicting the council. But the one who does not think along with Arius necessarily holds and takes to mind the teachings of the council and views them appropriately, as indicating a relation like that of the radiance to the light, and in this way attains to an image of the truth.

St Athanasius of Alexandria

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3 Responses to “But the Word is said to be and is alone from the Father because he is not a creature”

  1. Which of St. Athanasius’s works is this from?

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  2. Fr. Dale Coleman says:

    Its one thing to read this in Chadwick or J. N. D. Kelly or Prestige or MacCulloch, all favorite Church historians of mine. It is thrilling to read this right out of St. Athanasius! And the praise of God by witnessing from Scripture to the truth is delightful!

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