• 20 May, 2024 03:08



Theodore of Mopsuestia, Commentary on the Nicene Creed – Chapter II / On Faith


Dec 26, 2020

Translation. By Alphonse Mingana

Yesterday we spoke to your love sufficiently, and in the measure granted to us by the grace of God, of faith which is the foundation of the principle of religion. We approached the words of our profession of faith and showed how through faith in one God all the error of the polytheism of the Gentiles vanishes completely. We learned from the holy Books of the prophets to shake off from us all the aberrations of pagans, whose gods are different and numerous, and to believe that Divine nature which ought to be called God and Lord is one, because He alone is from eternity and is the cause of everything.

All the created beings are very remote from this nature, as it is impossible to admit that a created being is from eternity, and the created beings themselves will not suffer to be called rightfully Lord and God by nature. A being who is created by another cannot by any means create another being from nothing, or be called God with justice, but the one who created him is God by necessity. This is the reason why we say that there is only one God as the blessed prophets taught us; and by the grace of the Holy Spirit they spoke and defined the kind of nature which belongs to God. Beyond this they did not teach us anything clearly.

The doctrine concerning the Father and the Son was kept (to be promulgated) by Christ our Lord, who taught His disciples that which was unknown before and was not revealed to men, and ordered them to teach it to others also in saying to them plainly: “Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” As the blessed Moses said when he promulgated his doctrine: “The Lord, Thy God is one Lord”—a doctrine that was taught and handed down by all the prophets—so the Christ our Lord gave His teaching in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, but did not say what we had to learn and to teach others concerning the Lord and God, as this had been clearly done by the prophets. He ordered His disciples to teach all the nations that which was lacking to make the teaching of the prophets perfect, and for this He said: “Go ye and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” not that we should think that one of these is not God nor that there is a God beside them, but that we should believe that they alone constitute Divine nature, which we had formerly learnt from the prophets to be one.

Because the Gentiles had previously taught the doctrine of the plurality of gods, who were numerous and different in youth and old age, in weakness and strength, so that some of them were able to do this and some others that—Christ ordered His disciples against this to teach all the nations to turn from all the error of paganism, and to believe in the unity of nature in the Godhead, as was the case with the doctrine first taught to mankind, from which the knowledge of religion was received; and also to learn that the one who is from eternity and is the cause of everything is one Divine nature known in the three persons of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

He would not have induced the Gentiles to turn away from names of false gods to the knowledge of the Father if He did not know that He (the Father) was truly Divine nature, nor would He have brought them to the knowledge of the Son if He did not know that He (the Son) was truly of the same Divine nature, nor would He have inculcated to them the knowledge of the Holy Spirit if He knew that He (the Holy Spirit) was alien to that nature, otherwise He would have caused them to turn from one falsehood to the knowledge of another falsehood. It is known that it is from false gods, who were wrongly called gods, that He ordered His disciples in His teaching to turn the Gentiles to the knowledge of the true God, which consists in the faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each one of these persons is a true God, but the Divine nature of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit which we believe to be eternal and the cause of everything, is one.

In this way the teaching of the Old Testament is in harmony with the teaching of the New Testament, and the words which the prophets uttered concerning God are not foreign nor contradictory to those which Christ our Lord delivered to the Gentiles through the Apostles, as His words are in full harmony with the true knowledge of religion according to the teaching of the prophets. Through the prophets we only understood God and the being to whom an uncreated nature belongs, but the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ gave us also with certainty the persons in whom is Divine nature. This is the reason why our blessed Fathers placed first the doctrine of the belief in one God as it was written in the Old Testament in order to destroy the error of polytheism, and then imparted to us the knowledge of the persons according to the teaching of Christ. They were in a position—and it was easy for them—to repeat the words of our Lord “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” but because they wrote this profession of faith against the teaching of the heretics, they taught it as succinctly as possible with more words than those uttered by our Lord, for the demolition of error and the construction of the doctrine of the Church, so that by their meaning they should reprove those who contradict the true faith. For this reason they added with justice the name of the Father after they had said, I believe in one God.

After the words concerning God they proceeded to the teaching of the persons, which is the true teaching of the Christian faith and the true knowledge for those who become disciples of Christ. Because the sentence denotes Divine nature, it refers to the three persons, but as the teaching concerning the persons could not be considered as referring to one of them only, they rightly spoke to us of what is due to each person separately. At the beginning of their sentence they placed the Father from whom are the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father is truly the one who is a Father alone, but we hold each one of the three persons to be God, because Christ included this true doctrine in His teaching concerning these three persons.

When we hear the name “Father” we do not hear it to no purpose, but we understand that God is a Father, and a true Father, because He is Father alone; and we hold that God is Father in a way that belongs only to Divine nature. All the created beings obtain the power of being fathers after their creation, and there is no human being that has the attribute of fatherhood concomitantly with his existence. Even Adam, the first man, who was not born of another man, had not the attribute of fatherhood concomitantly with his existence. He came first into existence by the will of God the Creator and afterwards received the power of becoming a father, as it is said: “Adam knew his wife, and she conceived and bore a son.” 38 He became and was called a father after his intercourse with Eve, after a long time of gestation, after pangs of travail, and after the birth of his child. It is iniquitous to attribute any of those functions to Divine nature. He who had no need of time to exist was in no need of time to become a Father. Because He was from eternity, He was also a Father from eternity.

God the Father is truly a father; and He did not receive this in time, because He did not have a Son after a time, but the latter was with Him from eternity and was from Him as a Son also from eternity. It is for this that when our Lord gave this wonderful teaching to His disciples He said, “Teach in the name of the Father,” and did not need to add another sentence in order to show whom He was calling “Father.” It was sufficient for Him to say, “Teach and baptize” to show whom He was calling Father. He called God the Father in whom they had to believe and in whose name they had to be baptized, the God who was from eternity according to the teaching of the prophets.

It is not possible that the one who is from eternity should become Father after a time. The very name Father shows this without further addition. If like us He became Father later, He would also be identical with us in attribute and in the meaning of the word. Now since this vocable “father” is one and the same with many men, we should rightly inquire as to whom He called Father. Because He is a true Father, He is Father alone. As He is eternal by nature so He is eternally a Father. Since He is alone called by this name and in the full meaning of the word, we do not feel any necessity to inquire who is the one who is called Father, as His very name indicates to us the true Father. When He says: “I am that I am,” this is my name for ever and this is my memorial unto generations,” we understand that God is called by this name, because He is truly “I am that I am” while all the created beings are not truly “I am that I am,” because they were created from nothing according to the will of their Maker. Because He is the true being, He is called I am that I am, and He is not made by another.

As He is not like us He is not a Father like us, because He did not receive the power of becoming a Father in time. So when we hear the word “father” we should rightly think of that true Father who did not acquire the power of becoming a Father in time, nor was He in need of an intercourse. He is a Father in truth and from eternity, a complete nature, with whom His child exists also from eternity.

The sentence: I believe in one God the Father taught us all these things. It is rightly followed by the phrase Creator of all things visible and invisible, so that we should understand that He is not only the Father of the Son but also the Creator of all the creatures, and think of the difference which exists between Father and Creator, and between Son and creatures. He is the Father of the Son and the Creator of the creatures. The creatures were created later while the Son was from the beginning with Him and from Him. This is the difference between Father and Creator. He is called the Father of the one who was born of Him, and the Creator of all the natures which are outside Him and which were created from nothing by His will. This is the reason why they added nothing to the doctrine concerning the Father; indeed the very word Father sufficed to indicate the Son, as there is no father without a son, and as wherever there is a father there is also a son. As to the Son they were going to teach us as much as possible concerning Him later.

Because He is Creator they added, Of all things visible and invisible in order to show in this also the difference between the Son and the creatures: that He is the Father of the Son only, while He is the Creator of everything visible and invisible, as everything was created from nothing. He would not have been called Father of the Son and Creator of the creatures if there was not a great difference between the two: the difference that should exist between a Son and creatures. He is called and He is the Father of the Son, because He is of the same nature as the one who is said to be His Son, but He is the Creator of everything because everything was created from nothing; and although the natures of the visible and invisible things differ among themselves yet all these created things, whether visible or invisible, came into existence by the will of their Maker. The fact that they were made from nothing is common to all of them, as all were created from nothing by the will of their Maker.

This is the reason why the blessed David said: “Praise ye the Lord from the heavens. Praise ye Him all His angels. Praise ye Him all His hosts. Praise ye Him sun and moon.” And he gradually enumerated all other creatures found in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, mortal and immortal, rational and irrational, material and immaterial, those with life and those without life. When he invited them to the praise of God he gave one reason which holds good for all of them: “For He commanded, and they were created. He hath established them for ever and ever. He hath made a decree which shall not pass.” Because everything was created by Him and is sustained by His will, everything whether visible or not owes praise to the Creator.

Two things render it obligatory for us to praise God: because He is God and because He is Creator. We must, however, understand the difference between the two. It is not because He is Father that He is also Creator, and it is not because He is Creator that He is also Father. Indeed He is not the Creator of the One whose Father He is, nor is He the Father of those whose Creator He is. He is only the Father of the true and only Son who is in His Father’s bosom, because He was born of Him and is with Him from eternity, but He is the Creator of all the things which are created and made, which are very remote from His essence and which were created by His will when He pleased. He is called and He is the Father of the Son because the latter is from Him and consubstantial with Him, and He is the Maker and the Creator of the creatures because He brought them to existence from nothing.

If He is called Father of men, He is not called their Father because He created them, but because of their proximity to Him and relation with Him. This is the reason why He is not called Father of all men but only of those who have relation with Him, such as “I have nourished and brought up children.” To these He granted by special favour to be called in this way. As such also is the sentence: “Israel is my son, even my first-born,” because the others were not sons.

Since we know the difference in our calling God: the Father of the Only Begotten Son who alone is the true Son because consubstantial with Him, and the Creator of everything which was created and came into being from nothing—we should retain this meaning in our faith. When, therefore, we say “Father,” “Maker” we ought not to conceive of God that which we conceive of men when we call them fathers and makers, but we ought to understand the difference between Father and Maker from the way they may be applied to us. Indeed, as with God so with us, a father is one thing and a maker another thing. We are called the fathers of those who are from us and are born of our nature, but the makers of those things which are not of our nature but which were made and came into existence outside us. A house, a ship and similar things are not of our nature, and are made by us.

Such being the case with us, we ought to think with a clear mind of the differences in God between the two terms of Father and Creator, and to understand that He is the Father of the Only Begotten Son who was born of His nature, and the Creator of all the creatures, which were created and came into existence from nothing. For this He did not need any matter but He created the natures through which they are seen and exist.

Since we were created in the image of God, we picture to ourselves the higher things that are said of God through an image taken from things that belong to us. In this way it is possible also to picture to ourselves what and how great is the difference in the belief in God as Father and as Creator from things belonging to us, although it is clear that there is a great difference between us and God; and this difference we ought not to overlook when thinking of Divine nature and the works done by it. Indeed when we speak of Divine nature we must remove completely from our mind all things that happen to us through weakness. When we do a work we are in need of labour, matter and time; but God is above all these, because the moment He wished it, His works were completed out of nothing. From the fact also that we are born in labour and through human agency, when we become fathers we need the nature of a female as matter, and a long period of time. Without these we cannot become fathers. As to God He is a Father without all these, because He did not experience labour nor did He make use of any material agency nor did He need intercourse, nor did He wait for any lapse of time, but He was at once Father from eternity.

We should, therefore, rightly remove from God all unbecoming thoughts of things which happen to us through weakness whether in the domain of offspring or of work. We do everything in labour, and our nature itself emanates and suffers from it. As to God, He is above all these. Even when we reign, when we become governors, when we judge, when we work, when we speak, when we look, and do any other thing, we do all with labour; and when fatigue is protracted, it is followed by sweat; and because our nature is mortal and corruptible, it will perish through labour. As to God He does all things ascribed to Him, such as governing, providing, judging, reigning and the like without fatigue, without material agency and without injury.

It is such an idea that we must have of God, and it is such a faith that we ought to possess concerning God the Father. When we call Him Father, we mean Father of the Son; and He is truly a Father by nature, as we are. It is impossible to understand how He is truly a Father if He were not a Father by nature. He is eternally a Father because His nature, in which He is a Father, is eternal. When we call Him Creator we mean that He created everything in wisdom as it is said: “In wisdom Thou hast made them all,” as we also do things in the wisdom of the skill that we possess. God is creator in the sense that when He wished, the creatures came fully into existence, and He was in no need of time or any other intervening thing between His wish and the coming into existence of His creatures. Immediately after He wishes to create a thing, it comes into existence from nothing.

It is in this kind of profession of faith and with this meaning that our blessed Fathers gave us the belief in one God, Father and Creator, whom we have tried to explain to your love in a long teaching, which you should keep without modification, so that you should flee from the iniquitous opinions of the heretics, while your faith is sound, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to whom, in conjunction with His Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory and honour for ever and ever. Amen.

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