The Veil : Contemplating the Christian Tradition


Against the Arians

St Athenasius

If God be, and be called, the Fountain of wisdom and lifečas He says by Jeremiah, 'They have forsaken Me the Fountain of living waters ;' and again, 'A glorious high throne from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary; O Lord, the Hope of Israel, all that forsake You shall be ashamed, and they that depart from Me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the Fountain of living waters;' and in the book of Baruch it is written, 'You have forsaken the Fountain of wisdom Baruch 3:12,'čthis implies that life and wisdom are not foreign to the Essence of the Fountain, but are proper to It, nor were at any time without existence, but were always. Now the Son is all this, who says, 'I am the Life John 14:6,' and, 'I Wisdom dwell with prudence Proverbs 8:12.' Is it not then irreligious to say, 'Once the Son was not?' for it is all one with saying, 'Once the Fountain was dry, destitute of Life and Wisdom.' But a fountain it would then cease to be; for what begets not from itself, is not a fountain. What a load of extravagance! for God promises that those who do His will shall be as a fountain which the water fails not, saying by Isaiah the prophet, 'And the Lord shall satisfy your soul in drought, and make your bones fat; and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not Isaiah 58:11.' And yet these, whereas God is called and is a Fountain of wisdom, dare to insult Him as barren and void of His proper Wisdom. But their doctrine is false; truth witnessing that God is the eternal Fountain of His proper Wisdom; and, if the Fountain be eternal, the Wisdom also must needs be eternal. For in It were all things made, as David says in the Psalm, 'In Wisdom have You made them all;' and Solomon says, 'The Lord by Wisdom has formed the earth, by understanding has He established the heavens Proverbs 3:19.' And this Wisdom is the Word, and by Him, as John says, 'all things were made,' and 'without Him was made not one thing.' And this Word is Christ; for 'there is One God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we for Him; and One Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through Him 1 Corinthians 8:6.' And if all things are through Him, He Himself is not to be reckoned with that 'all.' For he who dares to call Him, through whom are things, one of that 'all,' surely will have like speculations concerning God, from whom are all. But if he shrinks from this as unseemly, and excludes God from that all, it is but consistent that he should also exclude from that all the Only-Begotten Son, as being proper to the Father's essence. And, if He be not one of the all, it is sin to say concerning Him, 'He was not,' and 'He was not before His generation.' Such words may be used of the creatures; but as to the Son, He is such as the Father is, of whose essence He is proper Offspring, Word, and Wisdom. For this is proper to the Son, as regards the Father, and this shows that the Father is proper to the Son; that we may neither say that God was ever without Word, nor that the Son was non-existent. For wherefore a Son, if not from Him? or wherefore Word and Wisdom, if not ever proper to Him?