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The word cause (aítios) used in this passage, as substitute for that use of Origin which peculiarly applies to the Father as the Fount of Divinity, is found as early as the time of Justin Martyr, who in his dialogue with Trypho, declares the Father is to the Son the airlos, or cause of His being; and it was resumed by the PostNicene writers, when the Arian controversy was found to turn in no small degree on the exact application of such terms. Thus Gregory Nazianzen says, “There is One God, seeing that the Son and Spirit are referred to One Cause
The Ante-Nicene history of the word homoüsion or consubstantial, which the Council of Nicæa adopted as its test, will introduce a more important discussion.
It is one characteristic of Revelation, that it clears up all doubts about the existence of God, as separate from, and independent of nature; and shows us that the course of the world depends not merely on a system, but on a Being, real, living, and individual. What we ourselves witness, evidences to us the operation of laws, physical and moral; but it leaves us unsatisfied, whether or not the principle of these be a mere nature or fate, whether the life of all things be a mere Anima Mundi, a spirit connatural with the body in which it acts, or an αίτιον τον Πατέρα λαμβάνης, ουκ άναρχος: αρχή γάρ Yίου Πατήρ, ώς attios. Bull, Defens. iv. 2, § 8.1; $ 3. Petav. i. 4, § i. Suicer, ibid.
9 However, here too we have a variation in the use of the word : attios being sometimes applied to the Son in the sense of åpx). The Latin word answering to attios is sometimes causa, more commonly principium or auctor. Bull, Defens. iv. 1, § 2; § 4. Petav. v. 5, § 10.
Agent powerful to make or unmake, to change or supersede, according to His will. It is here that Revelation supplies the deficiency of philosophical religion ; miracles are its emblem, as well as its credentials, forcing on the imagination the existence of an irresponsible self-dependent Being, as well as recommending a particular message to the reason. This great truth, conveyed in the very circumstances under which Revelation was made, is explicitly recognized in its doctrine. Among other modes of inculcating it, may be named the appellation under which Almighty God disclosed Himself to the Israelites; Jehovah (or, as the Septuagint translates it, ó óv) being an expressive appellation of Him, who is essentially separate from those variable and perishable beings or substances, which creation presents to our observation. Accordingly, the description of Him as tò öv, or in other words, the doctrine of the ovo la of God, that is, of God viewed as Being and as the one Being, became familiar to the minds of the primitive Christians; as embodying the spirit of the Scriptures, and indirectly witnessing against the characteristic error of pagan philosophy, which considered the Divine Mind, not as a reality, but as a mere abstract name, or generalized law of nature, or at best as a mere mode, principle, or an animating soul, not a Being external to creation, and possessed of individuality. Cyril of Alexandria defines the word oùola, (usia, being, substance,) to be “ that which has existence in itself, independent of every thing else to constitute it?;" that is, an individual.
1 πράγμα αυθύπαρκτον, μή δεόμενον ετέρου προς την εαυτού σύστασιν. Suicer, Thesaur. verb. ovola.
This sense of the word must be carefully borne in mind, since it was not that in which it is used by philosophers, who by it denoted the genus or species, or the
ens unum in multis,”—a sense which of course it could not bear when applied to the One Incommunicable God. The word, thus appropriated to the service of the God of Revelation, was from the earliest date used to express the reality and subsistence of the Son; and no word could be less metaphorical and more precise for this purpose, although the Platonists chose to refine, and from an affectation of reverence refused to speak of God except as hyperusios 2. Justin Martyr, for instance, speaks of heretics, who considered that God put forth and withdrew His Logos when it pleased Him, as if He were an influence, not a Person, somewhat in the sense afterwards adopted by Paulus of Samosata and others. To meet this error, he speaks of Him as inseparable from the substance or being, usia, of the Father; that is, in order to exclude all such evasions of Scripture, as might represent the man Christ as inhabited by a divine glory, power, nature, and the like, evasions which in reality lead to the conclusion that He is not God at all.
For this purpose the word homoüsion or consubstantial was brought into use among Christian writers; viz. to express the real divinity of Christ, and that, as being derived from, and one with the Father's. Here again, as in the instance of its root, the word was adopted, 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,
2 [Or émékeiva ovolas] Petav. [t. i. i. 6] t. ii. iv. 5, § 8. [Brucker, t. 2, p. 395. Plot. Enn. v. lib. i. We find imepovolos or ééKELVA ovolas in Orig. c. Cels. vi. 64. Damasc. F. O. i. 4, 8, and 12.]
3 Justin, Tryph. 128.
and 'I am Jehovah, God,' or uses the plain word. God, we understand by such statements nothing but His incomprehensible oủoía (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 ex his ovolas (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 ovo la aŭtoll Toû 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 graces.”
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 åmaúyaoua, 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 Atha
5 Athan. de Decr. Nic. 22.