Ante-nicene fathers



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2. If, however, they maintain that the shadow spoken of does not exist as being produced by the shade of [those above], but simply in this respect, that [the things below] are far separated from those [above], they will then charge the light of their Father with weakness and insufficiency, as if it cannot extend so far as these things, but fails to fill that which is empty, and to dispel the shadow, and that when no one is offering any hindrance. For, according to them, the light of their Father will be changed into darkness and buried in obscurity, and will come to an end in those places which are characterized by emptiness, since it cannot penetrate and fill all things. Let them then no longer declare that their Bythus is the fulness of all things, if indeed he has neither filled nor illuminated that which is vacuum and shadow; or, on the other hand, let them cease talking of vacuum and shadow, if the light of their Father does in truth fill all things.

3. Beyond the primary Father, then—that is, the God who is over all—there can neither be any Pleroma into which they declare the Enthymesis of that Aeon who suffered passion, descended (so that the Pleroma itself, or the primary God, should not be limited and circumscribed by that which is beyond, and should, in fact, be contained by it); nor can vacuum or shadow have any existence, since the Father exists beforehand, so that His light cannot fail, and find end in a vacuum. It is, moreover, irrational and impious to conceive of a place in which He who is, according to them, Propator, and Proarche, and Father of all, and of this Pleroma, ceases and has an end. Nor, again, is it allowable, for the reasons38 already stated, to allege that some other being formed so vast a creation in the bosom of the Father, either with or without His consent. For it is equally impious and infatuated to affirm that so great a creation was39 formed by angels, or by some particular production ignorant of the true God in that territory which is His own. Nor is it possible that those things which are earthly and material could have been formed within their Pleroma, since that is wholly spiritual. And further, it is not even possible that those things which belong to a multiform creation, and have been formed with mutually opposite qualities [could have been created] after the image of the things above, since these (i.e., the Aeons) are said to be few, and of a like formation, and homogeneous. Their talk, too, about the shadow of kenoma—that is, of a vacuum—has in all points turned out false. Their figment, then, [in what way soever viewed, ] has been proved groundless,40 and their doctrines untenable. Empty, too, are those who listen to them, and are verily descending into the abyss of perdition.

Chapter IX.—There is But One Creator of the World, God the Father: This the Constant Belief of the Church.

1. That God is the Creator of the world is accepted even by those very persons who in many ways speak against Him, and yet acknowledge Him, styling Him the Creator, and an angel, not to mention that all the Scriptures call out [to the same effect], and the Lord teaches us of this Father41 who is in heaven, and no other, as I shall show in the sequel of this work. For the present, however, that proof which is derived from those who allege doctrines opposite to ours, is of itself sufficient,—all men, in fact, consenting to this truth: the ancients on their part preserving with special care, from the tradition of the first-formed man, this persuasion, while they celebrate the praises of one God, the Maker of heaven and earth; others, again, after them, being reminded of this fact by the prophets of God, while the very heathen learned it from creation itself. For even creation reveals Him who formed it, and the very work made suggests Him who made it, and the world manifests Him who ordered it. The Universal Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the apostles.

2. This God, then, being acknowledged, as I have said, and receiving testimony from all to the fact of His existence, that Father whom they conjure into existence is beyond doubt untenable, and has no witnesses [to his existence]. Simon Magus was the first who said that he himself was God over all, and that the world was formed by his angels. Then those who succeeded him, as I have shown in the first book,42 by their several opinions, still further depraved [his teaching] through their impious and irreligious doctrines against the Creator. These [heretics now referred to],43 being the disciples of those mentioned, render such as assent to them worse than the heathen. For the former “serve the creature rather than the Creator,”44 and “those which are not gods,”45 notwithstanding that they ascribe the first place in Deity to that God who was the Maker of this universe. But the latter maintain that He, [i.e., the Creator of this world, ] is the fruit of a defect, and describe Him as being of an animal nature, and as not knowing that Power which is above Him, while He also exclaims, “I am God, and besides Me there is no other God.”46 Affirming that He lies, they are themselves liars, attributing all sorts of wickedness to Him; and conceiving of one who is not above this Being as really having an existence, they are thus convicted by their own views of blasphemy against that God who really exists, while they conjure into existence a god who has no existence, to their own condemnation. And thus those who declare themselves “perfect,” and as being possessed of the knowledge of all things, are found to be worse than the heathen, and to entertain more blasphemous opinions even against their own Creator.

Chapter X.—Perverse Interpretations of Scripture by the Heretics: God Created All Things Out of Nothing, and Not from Pre-Existent Matter.

1. It is therefore in the highest degree irrational, that we should take no account of Him who is truly God, and who receives testimony from all, while we inquire whether there is above Him that [other being] who really has no existence, and has never been proclaimed by any one.For that nothing has been clearly spoken regarding Him, they themselves furnish testimony; for since they, with wretched success, transfer to that being who has been conceived of by them, those parables [of Scripture] which, whatever the form in which they have been spoken, are sought after [for this purpose], it is manifest that they now generate another [god], who was never previously sought after. For by the fact that they thus endeavour to explain ambiguous passages of Scripture (ambiguous, however, not as if referring to another god, but as regards the dispensations of [the true] God), they have constructed another god, weaving, as I said before, ropes of sand, and affixing a more important to a less important question. For no question can be solved by means of another which itself awaits solution; nor, in the opinion of those possessed of sense, can an ambiguity be explained by means of another ambiguity, or enigmas by means of another greater enigma, but things of such character receive their solution from those which are manifest, and consistent and clear.

2. But these [heretics], while striving to explain passages of Scripture and parables, bring forward another more important, and indeed impious question, to this effect, “Whether there be really another god above that God who was the Creator of the world? ”They are not in the way of solving the questions [which they propose]; for how could they find means of doing so? But they append an important question to one of less consequence, and thus insert [in their speculations] a difficulty incapable of solution. For in order that they may47 know “knowledge” itself (yet not learning this fact, that the Lord, when thirty years old, came to the baptism of truth), they do impiously despise that God who was the Creator, and who sent Him for the salvation of men. And that they may be deemed capable of informing us whence is the substance of matter, while they believe not that God, according to His pleasure, in the exercise of His own will and power, formed all things (so that those things which now are should have an existence) out of what did not previously exist, they have collected [a multitude of] vain discourses. They thus truly reveal their infidelity; they do not believe in that which really exists, and they have fallen away into [the belief of] that which has, in fact, no existence.

3. For, when they tell us that all moist substance proceeded from the tears of Achamoth, all lucid substance from her smile, all solid substance from her sadness, all mobile substance from her terror, and that thus they have sublime knowledge on account of which they are superior to others,—how can these things fail to be regarded as worthy of contempt, and truly ridiculous? They do not believe that God (being powerful, and rich in all resources) created matter itself, inasmuch as they know not how much a spiritual and divine essence can accomplish. But they do believe that their Mother, whom they style a female from a female, produced from her passions aforesaid the so vast material substance of creation. They inquire, too, whence the substance of creation was supplied to the Creator; but they do not inquire whence [were supplied] to their Mother (whom they call the Enthymesis and impulse of the Aeon that went astray) so great an amount of tears, or perspiration, or sadness, or that which produced the remainder of matter.

4. For, to attribute the substance of created things to the power and will of Him who is God of all, is worthy both of credit and acceptance. It is also agreeable [to reason], and there may be well said regarding such a belief, that “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”48 While men, indeed, cannot make anything out of nothing, but only out of matter already existing, yet God is in this point proeminently superior to men, that He Himself called into being the substance of His creation, when previously it had no existence. But the assertion that matter was produced from the Enthymesis of an Aeon going astray, and that the Aeon [referred to] was far separated from her Enthymesis, and that, again, her passion and feeling, apart from herself, became matter—is incredible, infatuated, impossible, and untenable.

Chapter XI.—The Heretics, from Their Disbelief of the Truth, Have Fallen into an Abyss of Error: Reasons for Investigating Their Systems.

1. They do not believe that He, who is God above all, formed by His Word, in His own territory, as He Himself pleased, the various and diversified [works of creation which exist], inasmuch as He is the former of all things, like a wise architect, and a most powerful monarch. But they believe that angels, or some power separate from God, and who was ignorant of Him, formed this universe. By this course, therefore, not yielding credit to the truth, but wallowing in falsehood, they have lost the bread of true life, and have fallen into vacuity49 and an abyss of shadow. They are like the dog of Aesop, which dropped the bread, and made an attempt at seizing its Shadow, thus losing the [real] food. It is easy to prove from the very words of the Lord, that He acknowledges one Father and Creator of the world, and Fashioner of man, who was proclaimed by the law and the prophets, while He knows no other, and that this One is really God over all; and that He teaches that that adoption of sons pertaining to the Father, which is eternal life, takes place through Himself, conferring it [as He does] on all the righteous.

2. But since these men delight in attacking us, and in their true character of cavillers assail us with points which really tell not at all against us, bringing forward in opposition to us a multitude of parables and [captious] questions, I have thought it well, on the other side, first of all to put to them the following inquiries concerning their own doctrines, to exhibit their improbability, and to put an end to their audacity. After this has been done, [I intend] to bring forward the discourses of the Lord, so that they may not only be rendered destitute of the means of attacking us, but that, since they will be unable reasonably to reply to those questions which are put, they may see that their plan of argument is destroyed; so that, either returning to the truth, and humbling themselves, and ceasing from their multifarious phantasies, they may propitiate God for those. blasphemies they have uttered against Him, and obtain salvation; or that, if they still persevere in that system of vainglory which has taken possession of their minds, they may at least find it necessary to change their kind of argument against us.

Chapter XII.—The Triacontad of the Heretics Errs Both by Defect and Excess: Sophia Could Never Have Produced Anything Apart from Her Consort; Logos and Sige Could Not Have Been Contemporaries.

1. We may50 remark, in the first place, regarding their Triacontad, that the whole of it marvellously falls to ruin on both sides, that is, both as respects defect and excess. They say that to indicate it the Lord came to be baptized at the age of thirty years. But this assertion really amounts to a manifest subversion of their entire argument. As to defect, this happens as follows: first of all, because they reckon the Propator among the other Aeons. For the Father of all ought not to be counted with other productions; He who was not produced with that which was produced; He who was unbegotten with that which was born; He whom no one comprehends with that which is comprehended by Him, and who is on this account [Himself] incomprehensible; and He who is without figure with that which has a definite shape. For inasmuch as He is superior to the rest, He ought not to be numbered with them, and that so that He who is impassible and not in error should be reckoned with an Aeon subject to passion, and actually in error. For I have shown in the book which immediately precedes this, that, beginning with Bythus, they reckon up the Tricontad to Sophia, whom they describe as the erring Aeon; and I have also there set forth the names of their [Aeons]; but if He be not reckoned, there are no longer, on their own showing, thirty productions of Aeons, but these then become only twenty-nine.

2. Next, with respect to the first production Ennoea, whom they also term Sige, from whom again they describe Nous and Aletheia as having been sent forth, they err in both particulars. For it is impossible that the thought (Ennoea) of any one, or his silence (Sige), should be understood apart from himself; and that, being sent forth beyond him, it should possess a special figure of its own. But if they assert that the (Ennoea) was not sent forth beyond Him, but continued one with the Propator, why then do they reckon her with the other Aeons—with those who were not one [with the Father], and are on this account ignorant of His greatness? If, however, she was so united (let us take this also into consideration), there is then an absolute necessity, that from this united and inseparable conjunction, which constitutes but one being, there51 should proceed an unseparated and united production, so that it should not be dissimilar to Him who sent it forth. But if this be so, then just as Bythus and Sige, so also Nous and Aletheia will form one and the same being, ever cleaving mutually together. And inasmuch as the one cannot be conceived of without the other, just as water cannot [be conceived of] without [the thought of] moisture, or fire without [the thought of] heat, or a stone without [the thought] of hardness (for these things are mutually bound together, and the one cannot be separated from the other, but always co-exists with it), so it behoves Bythus to be united in the same way with Ennoea, and Nous with Aletheia. Logos and Zoe again, as being sent forth by those that are thus united, ought themselves to be united, and to constitute only one being. But, according to such a process of reasoning, Homo and Ecclesia too, and indeed all the remaining conjunctions of the Aeons produced, ought to be united, and always to coexist, the one with the other. For there is a necessity in their opinion, that a female Aeon should exist side by side with a male one, inasmuch as she is, so to speak, [the forthputting of] his affection.

3. These things being so, and such opinions being proclaimed by them, they again venture, without a blush, to teach that the younger Aeon of the Duodecad, whom they also style Sophia, did, apart from union with her consort, whom they call Theletus, endure passion, and separately, without any assistance from him, gave birth to a production which they name “a female from a female.” They thus rush into such utter frenzy, as to form two most clearly opposite opinions respecting the same point. For if Bythus is ever one with Sige, Nous with Aletheia, Logos with Zoe, and so on, as respects the rest, how could Sophia, without union with her consort, either suffer or generate anything? And if, again, she did really. suffer passion apart from him, it necessarily follows that the other conjunctions also admit of disjunction and separation among themselves,—a thing which I have already shown to be impossible. It is also impossible, therefore, that Sophia suffered passion apart from Theletus; and thus, again, their whole system of argument is overthrown. For they have yet52 again derived the whole of remaining [material substance], like the composition of a tragedy, from that passion which they affirm she experienced apart from union with her consort.

4. If, however, they impudently maintain, in order to preserve from ruin their vain imaginations, that the rest of the conjunctions also were disjoined and separated from one another on account of this latest conjunction, then [I reply that], in the first place, they rest upon a thing which is impossible. For how can they separate the Propator from his Ennoea, or Nous from Aletheia, or Logos from Zoe, and so on with the rest? And how can they themselves maintain that they tend again to unity, and are, in fact, all at one, if indeed these very conjunctions, which are within the Pleroma, do not preserve unity, but are separate from one another; and that to such a degree, that they both endure passion and perform the work of generation without union one with another, just as hens do apart from intercourse with cocks.

5. Then, again, their first and first-begotten Ogdoad will be overthrown as follows: They must admit that Bythus and Sige, Nous and Aletheia, Logos and Zoe, Anthropos and Ecclesia, do individually dwell in the same Pleroma. But it is impossible that Sige (silence) can exist in the presence of Logos (speech), or again, that Logos can manifest himself in the presence of Sige. For these are mutually destructive of each other, even as light and darkness can by no possibility exist in the same place: for if light prevails, there cannot be darkness; and if darkness, there cannot be light, since, where light appears, darkness is put to flight. In like manner, where Sige is, there cannot be Logos; and where Logos is, there certainly cannot be Sige. But if they say that Logos simply exists within53 (unexpressed), Sige also will exist within, and will not the less be destroyed by the Logos within. But that he really is not merely conceived of in the mind, the very order of the production of their (Aeons) shows.

6. Let them not then declare that the first and principal Ogdoad consists of Logos and Sige, but let them [as a matter of necessity] exclude either Sige or Logos; and then their first and principal Ogdoad is at an end. For if they describe the conjunctions [of the Aeons] as united, then their whole argument fails to pieces. Since, if they were united, how could Sophia have generated a defect without union with her consort? If, on the other hand, they maintain that, as in production, each of the Aeons possesses his own peculiar substance, then how can Sige and Logos manifest themselves in the same place? So far, then, with respect to defect.

7. But again, their Triacontad is overthrown as to excess by the following considerations. They represent Horos (whom they call by a variety of names which I have mentioned in the preceding book) as having been produced by Monogenes just like the other Aeons. Some of them maintain that this Horos was produced by Monogenes, while others affirm that he was sent forth by the Propator himself in His own image. They affirm further, that a production was formed by Monogenes—Christ and the Holy Spirit; and they do not reckon these in the number of the Pleroma, nor the Saviour either, whom they also declare to be >totum54 (all things). Now, it is evident even to a blind man, that not merely thirty productions, as they maintain, were sent forth, but four more along with these thirty. For they reckon the Propator himself in the Pleroma, and those too, who in succession were produced by one another. Why is it, then, that those [other beings] are not reckoned as existing with these in the same Pleroma, since they were produced in the same manner? For what just reason can they assign for not reckoning along with the other Aeons, either Christ, whom they describe as having, according to the Father’s will, been produced by Monogenes, or the Holy Spirit, or Horos, whom they also call Soter55 (Saviour), and not even the Saviour Himself, who came to impart assistance and form to their Mother? Whether is this as if these latter were weaker than the former, and therefore unworthy of the name of Aeons, or of being numbered among them, or as if they were superior and more excellent? But how could they be weaker, since they were produced for the establishment and rectification of the others? And then, again, they cannot possibly be superior to the first and principal Tetrad, by which they were also produced; for it, too, is reckoned in the number above mentioned. These latter beings, then, ought also to have been numbered in the Pleroma of the Aeons, or that should be deprived of the honour of those Aeons which bear this appellation (the Tetrad).

8. Since, therefore, their Triacontad is thus brought to nought, as I have shown, both with respect to defect and excess (for in dealing with such a number, either excess or defect [to any extent] will render the number untenable, and how much more so great variations? ), it follows that what they maintain respecting their Ogdoad and Duodecad is a mere fable which cannot stand. Their whole system, moreover, falls to the ground, when their very foundation is destroyed and dissolved into Bythus,56 that is, into what has no existence. Let them, then, henceforth seek to set forth some other reasons why the Lord came to be baptized at the age of thirty years, and [explain in some other way] the Duodecad of the apostles; and [the fact stated regarding] her who suffered from an issue of blood; and all the other points respecting which they so madly labour in vain.

Chapter XIII.—The First Order of Production Maintained by the Heretics is Altogether Indefensible.

1. I now proceed to show, as follows, that the first order of production, as conceived of by them, must be rejected. For they maintain that Nous and Aletheia were produced from Bythus and his Ennoea, which is proved to be a contradiction. For Nous is that which is itself chief, and highest, and, as it were, the principle and source of all understanding. Ennoea, again, which arises from him, is any sort of emotion concerning any subject. It cannot be, therefore, that Nous was produced by Bythus and Ennoea; it would be more like the truth for them to maintain that Ennoea was produced as the daughter of the Propator and this Nous. For Ennoea not the daughter of Nous, as they assert, but Nous becomes the father of Ennoea. For how can Nous have been produced by the Propator, when he holds the chief and primary place of that hidden and invisible affection which is within Him? By this affection sense is produced, and Ennoea, and Enthymesis, and other things which are simply synonyms for Nous himself. As I have said already, they are merely certain definite exercises in thought of that very power concerning some particular subject. We understand the [several] terms according to their57 length and breadth of meaning, not according to any [fundamental] change [of signification]; and the [various exercises of thought] are limited by [the same sphere of] knowledge, and are expressed together by [the same] term, the [very same] sense remaining within, and creating, and administering, and freely governing even by its own power, and as it pleases, the things which have been previously mentioned.




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