Page images
PDF
EPUB

from the necessity of the case, in a sense different from the ordinary philosophical use of it. Homoüsion properly means of the same nature, or under the same general nature, or species ; that is, it is applied to things, which are but similar to each other, and are considered as one by an abstraction of our minds; or, it may mean of the same material. Thus Aristotle speaks of the stars being consubstantial with each other; and Porphyry of the souls of brute animals being consubstantial to ours*. When, however, it was used in relation to the incommunicable Essence of God, there was obviously no abstraction possible in contemplating Him, who is above all comparison with His works. His nature is solitary, peculiar to Himself, and one; so that whatever was accounted to be consubstantial or co-essential with Him, was necessarily included in His individuality, by all who would avoid recurring to the vagueness of philosophy, and were cautious to distinguish between the incommunicable Essence of Jehovah and all created intelligences. And hence the fitness of the term to denote without metaphor the relation which the Logos bore in the orthodox creed to His eternal Father. Its use is explained by Athanasius as follows. “Though,” he says, “we cannot understand what is meant by the usia, being, or substance of God, yet we know as much as this, that God is, which is the way in which Scripture speaks of Him; and after this pattern, when we wish to designate Him distinctly, we say God, Father, Lord. When then He says in Scripture, 'I am ó óv,' the Being,

[ocr errors]

and 'I am Jehovah, God,' or uses the plain word 'God,' we understand by such statements nothing but His incomprehensible oủola (being or substance), and that He, who is there spoken of, is. Let no one then think it strange, that the Son of God should be said to be Tņs ovo ias (from the being or substance) of God; rather, let him agree to the explanation of the Nicene fathers, who, for the words of God'substituted of the divine being or substance. They considered the two phrases substantially the same, because, as I have said, the word ‘God’denotes nothing but the oủola aŭtoll Toll ÖVTOS, the being of Him who is. On the other hand, if the Word be not in such sense of God, as to be the true Son of the Father according to His nature, but be said to be of God,' merely as all creatures are such because they are His work, then indeed He is not ‘from the being of the Father, nor Son 'according to being or substance,' but so called from His virtue, as we may be, who receive the title from grace.”

The term homoüsios is first employed for this purpose by the author of the Pæmander, a Christian of the beginning of the second century. Next it occurs in several writers at the end of the second and the beginning of the third. In Tertullian, the equivalent phrase, “ unius substantiæ," " of one substance,” is applied to the Trinity. In Origen's comment on the Hebrews, the homoüsion of the Son is deduced from the figurative title απαύγασμα, or radiance, there given to Him. In the same age, it was employed by various writers, bishops and historians, as we learn from the testimonies of Eusebius and Athanasiuso. But at this era, the middle of the third century, a change took place in the use of it and other similar words, which is next to be explained.

5 Athan. de Decr. Nic. 22.

The oriental doctrine of Emanations was at a very early period combined with the Christian theology. According to the system of Valentinus, a Gnostic heresiarch, who flourished in the early part of the second century, the Supreme Intelligence of the world gave existence to a line of Spirits or Eons, who were all more or less partakers of His nature, that is, of a nature specifically the same, and included in His glory (Talýpwma), though individually separate from the true and sovereign Deity. It is obvious, that such a teaching as this abandons the great revealed principle above insisted on, the incommunicable character and individuality of the Divine Essence. It considers all spiritual beings as like God, in the same sense that one man resembles or has the same nature as another: and accordingly it was at liberty to apply, and did actually apply, to the Creator and His creatures the word homoüsion or consubstantial, in the philosophical sense which the word originally bore. We have evidence in the work of Irenæus that the Valentinians did thus employ it. The Manichees followed, about a century later; they too were Emanatists, and spoke of the human soul as being consubstantial or co-essential with God, of one substance with God. Their principles evidently allowed of a kind of Trinitarianism ; the Son and Spirit being considered Eons of a superior order

6 [Vide Ath. Tr. p. 35, t. Also Archelaus speaks of our Lord as “ de substantiâ Dei.” Routh, t. iv. p. 228.]

to the rest, consubstantial with God because Eons, but one with God in no sense which was not true also of the soul of man. It is said, moreover, that they were materialists; and used the word consubstantial as it may be applied to different vessels or instruments, wrought out from some one mass of metal or wood. However, whether this was so or not, it is plain that anyhow the word in question would become unsuitable to express the Catholic doctrine, in proportion as the ears of Christians were familiarized to the terms employed in the Gnostic and Manichean theologies ; nor is it wonderful that at length they gave up the use of it.

The history of the word probole or offspring is parallel to that of the consubstantial?. It properly means any thing which proceeds, or is sent forth from the substance of another, as the fruit of a tree, or the rays of the sun; in Latin it is translated by prolatio, emissio, or editio, an offspring or issue. Accordingly Justin employed it, or rather a cognate phrase ", to designate what Cyril calls above the self-existence of the Son, in opposition to the evasions which were necessary for the system of Paulus, Sabellius, and the rest. Tertullian does the same ; but by that time, Valentinus had given the word a material signification. Hence Tertullian is obliged to apologize for using it, when writing against Praxeas, the forerunner of the Sabellians. “Can the Word of God,” he asks, “be unsubstantial, who is called the Son, who is even named God ? He is said

7 Beausobre, Hist. Manich. iii. 7, § 6. [Vide Ath. Tr. p. 97, h.] 8 apoßano èv yévunua. Justin. Tryph. 62. 9 ajdú apkrov.

to be in the form or image of God. Is not God a body [substance], Spirit though He be? . . Whatever then has been the substance of the Word, that, I call a Person, and claim for it the name of Son, and being such, He comes next to the Father. Let no one suppose that I am bringing in the notion of any such probole (offspring) as Valentinus imagined, drawing out his Eons the one from the other. Why must I give up the word in a right sense, because heresy uses it in a wrong? besides, heresy borrowed it from us, and has turned truth into a lie. .... This is the difference between the uses of it. Valentinus separates his probola from their Father; they know Him not. But we hold that the Son alone knows the Father, reveals Him, performs His will, and is within Him. He is ever in the Father, as He has said; ever with God, as it is written; never separated from Him, for He and the Father are one. This is the true probole, the safeguard of unity, sent forth, not divided off.” Soon after Tertullian thus defended his use of the word probole, Origen in another part of the Church gave it up, or rather assailed it, in argument with Candidus, a Valentinian. “If the Son is a probole of the Father," he says, “who begets Him from Himself, like the birth of animals, then of necessity both offspring and original are of a bodily nature?.” Here we see two writers, with exactly the same theological creed before them, taking opposite views as to the propriety of using a word which heresy had corrupted'.

1 Tertull. in Prax. 7, 8, abridged. 3 [Periarch. iv. p. 190.]

3 [Vide an apposite note of Coustant. Epp. Pont. Rom. p. 496, on Damasus's Words : “nec prolativum, ut generationem ei demas.]

« PreviousContinue »