Ante-nicene fathers



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3. Their talk also about shadow and vacuity, in which they maintain that the creation with which we are concerned was formed, will be brought to nothing, if the things referred to were created within the territory which is contained by the Father. For if they hold that the light of their Father is such that it fills all things which are inside of Him, and illuminates them all, how can any vacuum or shadow possibly exist within that territory which is contained by the Pleroma, and by the light of the Father? For, in that case, it behoves them to point out some place within the Propator, or within the Pleroma, which is not illuminated, nor kept possession of by any one, and in which either the angels or the Demiurge formed whatever they pleased. Nor will it be a small amount of space in which such and so great a creation can be conceived of as having been formed. There will therefore be an absolute necessity that, within the Pleroma, or within the Father of whom they speak, they should conceive19 of some place, void, formless, and full of darkness, in which those things were formed which have been formed. By such a supposition, however, the light of their Father would incur a reproach, as if He could not illuminate and fill those things which are within Himself. Thus, then, when they maintain that these things were the fruit of defect and the work of error, they do moreover introduce defect and error within the Pleroma, and into the bosom of the Father.

Chapter V.—This World Was Not Formed by Any Other Beings Within the Territory Which is Contained by the Father.

1. The remarks, therefore, which I made a little while ago20 are suitable in answer to those who assert that this world was formed outside of the Pleroma, or under a “good God; “and such persons, with the Father they speak of, will be quite cut off from that which is outside the Pleroma, in which, at the same time, it is necessary that they should finally rest.21 In answer to those, again, who maintain that this world was formed by certain other beings within that territory which is contained by the Father, all those points which have now22 been noticed will present themselves [as exhibiting their] absurdities and incoherencies; and they will be compelled either to acknowledge all those things which are within the Father, lucid, full, and energetic, or to accuse the light of the Father as if He could not illuminate all things; or, as a portion of their Pleroma [is so described], the whole of it must be confessed to be void, chaotic, and full of darkness. And they accuse all other created things as if these were merely temporal, or [at the best], if eternal,23 yet material. But24 these (the Aeons) ought to be regarded as beyond the reach of such accusations, since they are within the Pleroma, or the charges in question will equally fall against the entire Pleroma; and thus the Christ of whom they speak is discovered to be the author of ignorance. For, according to their statements, when He had given a form so far as substance was concerned to the Mother they conceive of, He cast her outside of the Pleroma; that is, He cut her off from knowledge. He, therefore, who separated her from knowledge, did in reality produce ignorance in her. How then could the very same person bestow the gift of knowledge on the rest of the Aeons, those who were anterior to Him [in production], and yet be the author of ignorance to His Mother? For He placed her beyond the pale of knowledge, when He cast her outside of the Pleroma.

2. Moreover, if they explain being within and without the Pleroma as implying knowledge and ignorance respectively, as certain of them do (since he who has knowledge is within that which knows), then they must of necessity grant that the Saviour Himself (whom they designate All Things) was in a state of ignorance. For they maintain that, on His coming forth outside of the Pleroma, He imparted form to their Mother [Achamoth]. If, then, they assert that whatever is outside [the Pleroma] is ignorant of all things, and if the Saviour went forth to impart form to their Mother, then He was situated beyond the pale of the knowledge of all things; that is, He was in ignorance. How then could He communicate knowledge to her, when He Himself was beyond the pale of knowledge? For we, too, they declare to be outside the Pleroma, inasmuch as we are outside of the knowledge which they possess. And once more: If the Saviour really went forth beyond the Pleroma to seek after the sheep which was lost, but the Pleroma is [co-extensive with] knowledge, then He placed Himself beyond the pale of knowledge, that is, in ignorance. For it is necessary either that they grant that what is outside the Pleroma is so in a local sense, in which case all the remarks formerly made will rise up against them; or if they speak of that which is within in regard to knowledge, and of that which is without in respect to ignorance, then their Saviour, and Christ long before Him, must have been formed in ignorance, inasmuch as they went forth beyond the Pleroma, that is, beyond the pale of knowledge, in order to impart form to their Mother.

3. These arguments may, in like manner, be adapted to meet the case of all those who, in any way, maintain that the world was formed either by angels or by any other one than the true God. For the charges which they bring against the Demiurge, and those things which were made material and temporal, will in truth fall back on the Father; if indeed the25 very things which were formed in the bosom of the Pleroma began by and by in fact to be dissolved, in accordance with the permission and good-will of the Father. The [immediate] Creator, then, is not the [real] Author of this work, thinking, as He did, that He formed it very good, but Hef who allows and approves of the productions of defect, and the works of error having a place among his own possessions, and that temporal things should be mixed up with eternal, corruptible with incorruptible, and those which partake of error with those which belong to truth. If, however, these things were formed without the permission or approbation of the Father of all, then that Being must be more powerful, stronger, and more kingly, who made these things within a territory which properly belongs to Him (the Father), and did so without His permission. If again, as some say, their Father permitted these things without approving of them, then He gave the permission on account of some necessity, being either able to prevent [such procedure], or not able. But if indeed He could not [hinder it], then He is weak and powerless; while, if He could, He is a seducer, a hypocrite, and a slave of necessity, inasmuch as He does not consent [to such a course], and yet allows it as if He did consent. And allowing error to arise at the first, and to go on increasing, He endeavours in later times to destroy it, when already many have miserably perished on account of the [original] defect.

4. It is not seemly, however, to say of Him who is God over all, since He is free and independent, that He was a slave to necessity, or that anything takes place with His permission, yet against His desire; otherwise they will make necessity greater and more kingly than God, since that which has the most power is superior26 to all [others]. And He ought at the very beginning to have cut off the causes of [the fancied] necessity, and not to have allowed Himself to be shut up to yielding to that necessity, by permitting anything besides that which became Him. For it would have been much better, more consistent, and more God-like, to cut off at the beginning the principle of this kind of necessity, than afterwards, as if moved by repentance, to endeavour to extirpate the results of necessity when they had reached such a development. And if the Father of all be a slave to necessity, and must yield to fate, while He unwillingly tolerates the things which are done, but is at the same time powerless to do anything in opposition to necessity and fate (like the Homeric Jupiter, who says of necessity, “I have willingly given thee, yet with unwilling mind”), then, according to this reasoning, the Bythus of whom they speak will be found to be the slave of necessity and fate.

Chapter VI.—The Angels and the Creator of the World Could Not Have Been Ignorant of the Supreme God.

1. How, again, could either the angels, or the Creator of the world, have been ignorant of the Supreme God, seeing they were His property, and His creatures, and were contained by Him? He might indeed have been invisible to them on account of His superiority, but He could by no means have been unknown to them on account of His providence. For though it is true, as they declare, that they were very far separated from Him through their inferiority [of nature], yet, as His dominion extended over all of them, it behoved them to know their Ruler, and to be aware of this in particular, that He who created them is Lord of all. For since His invisible essence is mighty, it confers on all a profound mental intuition and perception of His most powerful, yea, omnipotent greatness. Wherefore, although “no one knows the Father, except the Son, nor the Son except the Father, and those to whom the Son will reveal Him,”27 yet all [beings] do know this one fact at least, because reason, implanted in their minds, moves them, and reveals to them [the truth] that there is one God, the Lord of all.

2. And on this account all things have been [by general consent] placed under the sway of Him who is styled the Most High, and the Almighty. By calling upon Him, even before the coming of our Lord, men were saved both from most wicked spirits, and from all kinds of demons, and from every sort of apostate power. This was the case, not as if earthly spirits or demons had seen Him, but because they knew of the existence of Him who is God over all, at whose invocation they trembled, as there does tremble every creature, and principality, and power, and every being endowed with energy under His government. By way of parallel, shall not those who live under the empire of the Romans, although they have never seen the emperor, but are far separated from him both by land and sea, know very well, as they experience his rule, who it is that possesses the principal power in the state? How then could it be, that those angels who were superior to us [in nature], or even He whom they call the Creator of the world, did not know the Almighty, when even dumb animals tremble and yield at the invocation of His name? And as, although they have not seen Him, yet all things are subject to the name of our Lord,28 so must they also be to His who made and established all things by His word, since it was no other than He who formed the world. And for this reason do the Jews even now put demons to flight by means of this very adjuration, inasmuch as all beings fear the invocation of Him who created them.

3. If, then, they shrink from affirming that the angels are more irrational than the dumb animals, they will find that it behoved these, although they had not seen Him who is God over all, to know His power and sovereignty. For it will appear truly ridiculous, if they maintain that they themselves indeed, who dwell upon the earth, know Him who is God over all whom they have never seen, but will not allow Him who, according to their opinion, formed them and the whole world, although He dwells in the heights and above the heavens, to know those things with which they themselves, though they dwell below, are acquainted. [This is the case], unless perchance they maintain that Bythus lives in Tartarus below the earth, and that on this account they have attained to a knowledge of Him before those angels who have their abode on high. Thus do they rush into such an abyss of madness as to pronounce the Creator of the world void of understanding. They are truly deserving of pity, since with such utter folly they affirm that He (the Creator of the world) neither knew His Mother, nor her seed, nor the Pleroma of the Aeons, nor the Propator, nor what the things were which He made; but that these are images of those things which are within the Pleroma, the Saviour having secretly laboured that they should be so formed [‘by the unconscious Demiurge], in honour of those things which are above.

Chapter VII.—Created Things are Not the Images of Those Aeons Who are Within the Pleroma.

1. While the Demiurge was thus ignorant of all things, they tell us that the Saviour conferred honour upon the Pleroma by the creation [which he summoned into existence] through means of his Mother, inasmuch as he produced similitudes and images of those things which are above. But I have already shown that it was impossible that anything should exist beyond the Pleroma (in which external region they tell us that images were made of those things which are within the Pleroma), or that this world was formed by any other one than the Supreme God. But if it is a pleasant thing to overthrow them on every side, and to prove them vendors of falsehood; let us say, in opposition to them, that if these things were made by the Saviour to the honour of those which are above, after their likeness, then it behoved them always to endure, that those things which have been honoured should perpetually continue in honour. But if they do in fact pass away, what is the use of this very brief period of honour,—an honour which at one time had no existence, and which shall again come to nothing? In that case I shall prove that the Saviour is rather an aspirant after vainglory, than29 one who honours those things which are above, For what honour can those things which are temporal confer on such as are eternal and endure for ever? or those which pass away on such as remain? or those which are corruptible on such as are incorruptible?—since, even among men who are themselves mortal, there is no value attached to that honour which speedily passes away, but to that which endures as long as it possibly can. But those things which, as soon as they are made, come to an end, may justly be said rather to have been formed for the contempt of such as are thought to be honoured by them; and that that which is eternal is contumeliously treated when its image is corrupted and dissolved. But what if their Mother had not wept, and laughed, and been involved in despair? The Saviour would not then have possessed any means of honouring the Fulness, inasmuch as her last state of confusion30 did not have substance of its own by which it might honour the Propator.

2. Alas for the honour of vainglory which at once passes away, and no longer appears! There will be some31 Aeon, in whose case such honour will not be thought at all to have had an existence, and then the things which are above will be unhonoured; or it will be necessary to produce once more another Mother weeping, and in despair, in order to the honour of the Pleroma. What a dissimilar, and at the same time blasphemous image! Do you tell me that an image of the Only-begotten was produced by the former32 of the world, whom33 again ye wish to be considered the Nous (mind) of the Father of all, and [yet maintain] that this image was ignorant of itself, ignorant of creation,—ignorant, too, of the Mother,—ignorant of everything that exists, and of those things which were made by it; and are you not ashamed while, in opposition to yourselves, you ascribe ignorance even to the Only-begotten Himself? For if these things [below] were made by the Saviour after the similitude of those which are above, while He (the Demiurge) who was made after such similitude was in so great ignorance, it necessarily follows that around Him, and in accordance with Him, after whose likeness be that is thus ignorant was formed, ignorance of the kind in question spiritually exists. For it is not possible, since both were produced spiritually, and neither fashioned nor composed, that in some the likeness was preserved, while in others the likeness of the image was spoiled, that image which was here produced that it might be according to the image of that production which is above. But if it is not similar, the charge will then attach to the Saviour, who produced a dissimilar image,—of being, so to speak, an incompetent workman. For it is out of their power to affirm that the Saviour had not the faculty of production, since they style Him All Things. If, then, the image is dissimilar, he is a poor workman, and the blame lies, according to their hypothesis, with the Saviour. If, on the other hand, it is similar, then the same ignorance will be found to exist in the Nous (mind) of their Propator, that is, in the Only-begotten. The Nous of the Father, in that case, was ignorant of Himself; ignorant, too, of the Father; ignorant, moreover, of those very things which were formed by Him. But if He has knowledge, it necessarily follows also that he who was formed after his likeness by the Saviour should know the things which are like; and thus, according to their own principles, their monstrous blasphemy is overthrown.

3. Apart from this, however, how can those things which belong to creation, various, manifold, and innumerable as they are, be the images of those thirty Aeons which are within the Pleroma, whose names, as these men fix them, I have set forth in the book which precedes this? And not only will they be unable to adapt the [vast] variety of creation at large to the [comparative] smallness of their Pleroma, but they cannot do this even with respect to any one part of it, whether [that possessed by] celestial or terrestrial beings, or those that live in the waters. For they themselves testify that their Pleroma consists of thirty Aeons; but any one will undertake to show that, in a single department of those [created beings] which have been mentioned, they reckon that there are not thirty, but many thousands of species. How then can those things, which constitute such a multiform creation, which are opposed in nature to each other, and disagree among themselves, and destroy the one the other, be the images and likenesses of the thirty Aeons of the Pleroma, if indeed, as they declare, these being possessed of one nature, are of equal and similar properties, and exhibit no differences [among themselves]? For it was incumbent, if these things are images of those Aeons,—inasmuch as they declare that some men are wicked by nature, and some, on the other hand, naturally good,—to point out such differences also among their Aeons, and to maintain that some of them were produced naturally good, while some were naturally evil, so that the supposition of the likeness of those things might harmonize with the Aeons. Moreover, since there are in the world some creatures that are gentle, and others that are fierce, some that are innocuous, while others are hurtful and destroy the rest; some have their abode on the earth, others in the water, others in the air, and others in the heaven; in like manner, they are bound to show that the Aeons possess such properties, if indeed the one are the images of the others. And besides; “the eternal fire which the Father has prepared for the devil and his angels,”34 —they ought to show of which of those Aeons that are above it is the image; for it, too, is reckoned part of the creation.

4. If, however, they say that these things are the images of the Enthymesis of that Aeon who fell into passion, then, first of all, they will act impiously against their Mother, by declaring her to be the first cause of evil and corruptible images. And then, again, how can those things which are manifold, and dissimilar, and contrary in their nature, be the images of one and the same Being? And if they say that the angels of the Pleroma are numerous, and that those things which are many are the images of these—not in this way either will the account they give be satisfactory. For, in the first place, they are then bound to point out differences among the angels of the Pleroma, which are mutually opposed to each other, even as the images existing below are of a contrary nature among themselves. And then, again, since there are many, yea, innumerable angels who surround the Creator, as all the prophets acknowledge,—[saying, for instance, ] “Ten thousand times ten thousand stood beside Him, and many thousands of thousands ministered unto Him,”35 —then, according36 to them, the angels of the Pleroma will have as images the angels of the Creator, and the entire creation remains in the image of the Pleroma, but so that the thirty Aeons no longer correspond to the manifold variety of the creation.

5. Still further, if these things [below] were made after the similitude of those [above], after the likeness of which again will those then be made? For if the Creator of the world did not form these things directly from His own37 conception, but, like an architect of no ability, or a boy receiving his first lesson, copied them from archetypes furnished by others, then whence did their Bythus obtain the forms of that creation which He at first produced? It clearly follows that He must have received the model from some other one who is above Him, and that one, in turn, from another. And none the less [for these suppositions], the talk about images, as about gods, will extend to infinity, if we do not at once fix our mind on one Artificer, and on one God, who of Himself formed those things which have been created. Or is it really the case that, in regard to mere men, one will allow that they have of themselves invented what is useful for the purposes of life, but will not grant to that God who formed the world, that of Himself He created the forms of those things which have been made, and imparted to it its orderly arrangement?

6. But, again, how can these things [below] be images of those [above], since they are really contrary to them, and can in no respect have sympathy with them? For those things which are contrary to each other may indeed be destructive of those to which they are contrary, but can by no means be their images—as, for instance, water and fire; or, again, light and darkness, and other such things, can never be the images of one another. In like manner, neither can those things which are corruptible and earthly, and of a compound nature, and transitory, be the images of those which, according to these men, are spiritual; unless these very things themselves be allowed to be compound, limited in space, and of a definite shape, and thus no longer spiritual, and diffused, and spreading into vast extent, and incomprehensible. For they must of necessity be possessed of a definite figure, and confined within certain limits, that they may be true images; and then it is decided that they are not spiritual. If, however, these men maintain that they are spiritual, and diffused, and incomprehensible, how can those things which are possessed of figure, and confined within certain limits, be the images of such as are destitute of figure and incomprehensible?

7. If, again, they affirm that neither according to configuration nor formation, but according to number and the order of production, those things [above] are the images [of these below], then, in the first place, these things [below] ought not to be spoken of as images and likenesses of those Aeons that are above. For how can the things which have neither the fashion nor shape of those [above] be their images? And, in the next place, they would adapt both the numbers and productions of the Aeons above, so as to render them identical with and similar to thoseth at belong to the creation [below]. But now, since they refer to only thirty Aeons, and declare that the vast multitude of things which are embraced within the creation [below] are images of those that are but thirty, we may justly condemn them as utterly destitute of sense.

Chapter VIII.—Created Things are Not a Shadow of the Pleroma.

1. If, again, they declare that these things [below] are a shadow of those [above], as some of them are bold enough to maintain, so that in this respect they are images, then it will be necessary for them to allow that those things which are above are possessed of bodies. For those bodies which are above do cast a shadow, but spiritual substances do not, since they can in no degree darken others. If, however, we also grant them this point (though it is, in fact, an impossibility), that there is a shadow belonging to those essences which are spiritual and lucent, into which they declare their Mother descended; yet, since those things [which are above] are eternal, and that shadow which is cast by them endures for ever, [it follows that] these things [below] are also not transitory, but endure along with those which cast their shadow over them. If, on the other hand, these things [below] are transitory, it is a necessary consequence that those [above] also, of which these are the shadow, pass away; while; if they endure, their shadow likewise endures.




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