Athanasius Ad Ep. Aeg., 2

Home / Athanasius Ad Ep. Aeg., 2

2. Satan pretending to be holy, is detected by the Christian.

Thus he deceived Eve, not speaking his own, but artfully adopting the words of God, and perverting their meaning. Thus he suggested evil to the wife of Job, persuading her to feign affection for her husband, while he taught her to blaspheme God. Thus does the crafty spirit mock men by false displays, deluding and drawing each into his own pit of wickedness. When of old he deceived the first man Adam, thinking that through him he should have all men subject unto him, he exulted with great boldness and said, ‘My hand has found as a nest the riches of the people; and as one gathers eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there is none that shall escape me or speak against me. ‘ But when the Lord came upon earth, and the enemy made trial of His human Economy, being unable to deceive the flesh which He had taken upon Him, from that time forth he, who promised himself the occupation of the whole world, is for His sake mocked even by children: that proud one is mocked as a sparrow. For now the infant child lays his hand upon the hole of the asp, and laughs at him that deceived Eve ; and all that rightly believe in the Lord tread under foot him that said, ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the Most High Isaiah 14:14.’ Thus he suffers and is dishonoured; and although he still ventures with shameless confidence to disguise himself, yet now, wretched spirit, he is detected the rather by them that bear the Sign on their foreheads ; yea, more, he is rejected of them, and is humbled, and put to shame. For even if, now that he is a creeping serpent, he shall transform himself into an angel of light, yet his deception will not profit him; for we have been taught that ‘though an angel from heaven preach unto us any other gospel than that we have received, he is anathema Galatians 1:8-9.’

4. For whence do Marcion and Manichæus receive the Gospel while they reject the Law? For the New Testament arose out of the Old, and bears witness to the Old; if then they reject this, how can they receive what proceeds from it? Thus Paul was an Apostle of the Gospel, ‘which God promised afore by His prophets in the holy Scriptures Romans 1:2:’ and our Lord Himself said, ‘ye search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me John 5:39.’ How then shall they confess the Lord unless they first search the Scriptures which are written concerning Him? And the disciples say that they have found Him, ‘of whom Moses and the Prophets did write John 1:45.’ And what is the Law to the Sadducees if they receive not the Prophets ? For God who gave the Law, Himself promised in the Law that He would raise up Prophets also, so that the same is Lord both of the Law and of the Prophets, and he that denies the one must of necessity deny the other also. And again, what is the Old Testament to the Jews, unless they acknowledge the Lord whose coming was expected according to it? For had they believed the writings of Moses, they would have believed the words of the Lord; for He said, ‘He wrote of Me John 5:46.’ Moreover, what are the Scriptures to him of Samosata, who denies the Word of God and His incarnate Presence , which is signified and declared both in the Old and New Testament? And of what use are the Scriptures to the Arians also, and why do they bring them forward, men who say that the Word of God is a creature, and like the Gentiles ‘serve the creature more than’ God ‘the Creator Romans 1:25?’ Thus each of these heresies, in respect of the peculiar impiety of its invention, has nothing in common with the Scriptures. And their advocates are aware of this, that the Scriptures are very much, or rather altogether, opposed to the doctrines of every one of them; but for the sake of deceiving the more simple sort (such as are those of whom it is written in the Proverbs, ‘The simple believes every word Proverbs 14:15),’ they pretend like their ‘father the devil John 8:44 ‘ to study and to quote the language of Scripture, in order that they may appear by their words to have a right belief, and so may persuade their wretched followers to believe what is contrary to the Scriptures. Assuredly in every one of these heresies the devil has thus disguised himself, and has suggested to them words full of craftiness. The Lord spoke concerning them, that ‘there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, so that they shall deceive many Matthew 24:24.’ Accordingly the devil has come, speaking by each and saying, ‘I am Christ, and the truth is with me;’ and he has made them, one and all, to be liars like himself. And strange it is, that while all heresies are at variance with one another concerning the mischievous inventions which each has framed, they are united together only by the common purpose of lying. For they have one and the same father that has sown in them all the seeds, of falsehood. Wherefore the faithful Christian and true disciple of the Gospel, having grace to discern spiritual things, and having built the house of his faith upon a rock, stands continually firm and secure from their deceits. But the simple person, as I said before, that is not thoroughly grounded in knowledge, such an one, considering only the words that are spoken and not perceiving their meaning, is immediately drawn away by their wiles. Wherefore it is good and needful for us to pray that we may receive the gift of discerning spirits, so that every one may know, according to the precept of John, whom he ought to reject, and whom to receive as friends and of the same faith. Now one might write at great length concerning these things, if one desired to go into details respecting them; for the impiety and perverseness of heresies will appear to be manifold and various, and the craft of the deceivers to be very terrible. But since holy Scripture is of all things most sufficient for us, therefore recommending to those who desire to know more of these matters, to read the Divine word, I now hasten to set before you that which most claims attention, and for the sake of which principally I have written these things.

9. But when they proceed from those who are hired to advocate the cause of heresy, and since, according to the divine proverb, ‘The words of the wicked are to lie in wait,’ and ‘The mouth of the wicked pours out evil things,’ and ‘The counsels of the wicked are deceit :’ it becomes us to watch and be sober, brethren, as the Lord has said, lest any deception arise from subtlety of speech and craftiness; lest any one come and pretend to say, ‘I preach Christ,’ and after a little while he be found to be Antichrist. These indeed are Antichrists, whosoever come to you in the cause of the Arian madness. For what defect is there among you, that any one need to come to you from without? Or, of what do the Churches of Egypt and Libya and Alexandria stand so much in need, that these men should make a purchase of the Episcopate instead of wood and goods, and intrude into Churches which do not belong to them? Who is not aware, who does not perceive clearly, that they do all this in order to support their impiety? Wherefore although they should make themselves dumb, or although they should bind on their garments larger borders than the Pharisees, and pour themselves forth in long speeches, and practise the tones of their voice , they ought not to be believed; for it is not the mode of speaking, but the intentions of the heart and a godly conversation that recommend the faithful Christian. And thus the Sadducees and Herodians, although they have the law in their mouths, were put to rebuke by our Saviour, who said unto them, ‘You do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God Matthew 22:29:’ and all men witnessed the exposure of those who pretended to quote the words of the Law, as being in their minds heretics and enemies of God. Others indeed they deceived by these professions, but when our Lord became man they were not able to deceive Him; ‘for the Word was made Flesh,’ who ‘knows the thoughts of men that they are vain.’ Thus He exposed the carping of the Jews, saying, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth from the Father, and have come to you. ‘ In like manner these men seem now to act; for they disguise their real sentiments, and then make use of the language of Scripture for their writings, which they hold forth as a bait for the ignorant, that they may inveigle them into their own wickedness.

12. Now the Bishop Alexander of blessed memory cast Arius out of the Church for holding and maintaining the following opinions: ‘God was not always a Father: The Son was not always: But whereas all things were made out of nothing, the Son of God also was made out of nothing: And since all things are creatures, He also is a creature and a thing made: And since all things once were not, but were afterwards made, there was a time when the Word of God Himself was not; and He was not before He was begotten, but He had a beginning of existence: For He has then originated when God has chosen to produce Him: For He also is one among the rest of His works. And since He is by nature changeable, and only continues good because He chooses by His own free will, He is capable of being changed, as are all other things, whenever He wishes. And therefore God, as foreknowing that He would be good, gave Him by anticipation that glory which He would have obtained afterwards by His virtue; and He is now become good by His works which God foreknew.’ Accordingly they say, that Christ is not truly God, but that He is called God on account of His participation in God’s nature, as are all other creatures. And they add, that He is not that Word which is by nature in the Father, and is proper to His Essence, nor is He His proper wisdom by which He made this world; but that there is another Word which is properly in the Father, and another Wisdom which is properly in the Father, by which Wisdom also He made this Word; and that the Lord Himself is called the Word (Reason) conceptually in regard of things endued with reason, and is called Wisdom conceptually in regard of things endued with wisdom. Nay, they say that as all things are in essence separate and alien from the Father, so He also is in all respects separate and alien from the essence of the Father, and properly belongs to things made and created, and is one of them; for He is a creature, and a thing made, and a work. Again, they say that God did not create us for His sake, but Him for our sakes. For they say, ‘God was alone, and the Word was not with Him, but afterwards when He would produce us, then He made Him; and from the time He was made, He called Him the Word, and the Son, and the Wisdom, in order that He might create us by Him. And as all things subsisted by the will of God, and did not exist before; so He also was made by the will of God, and did not exist before. For the Word is not the proper and natural Offspring of the Father, but has Himself originated by grace: for God who existed made by His will the Son who did not exist, by which will also He made all things, and produced, and created, and willed them to come into being.’ Moreover they say also, that Christ is not the natural and true power of God; but as the locust and the cankerworm are called a power , so also He is called the power of the Father. Furthermore he said, that the Father is secret from the Son, and that the Son can neither see nor know the Father perfectly and exactly. For having a beginning of existence, He cannot know Him that is without beginning; but what He knows and sees, He knows and sees in a measure proportionate to His own measure, as we also know and see in proportion to our powers. And he added also, that the Son not only does not know His own Father exactly, but that He does not even know His own essence.

13. For maintaining these and the like opinions Arius was declared a heretic; for myself, while I have merely been writing them down, I have been cleansing myself by thinking of the contrary doctrines, and by holding fast the sense of the true faith. For the Bishops who all assembled from all parts at the Council of Nicæa, began to hold their ears at these statements, and all with one voice condemned this heresy on account of them, and anathematized it, declaring it to be alien and estranged from the faith of the Church. It was no compulsion which led the judges to this decision, but they all deliberately vindicated the truth : and they did so justly and rightly. For infidelity is coming in through these men, or rather a Judaism counter to the Scriptures, which has close upon it Gentile superstition, so that he who holds these opinions can no longer be even called a Christian, for they are all contrary to the Scriptures. John, for instance, says, ‘In the beginning was the Word John 1:1;’ but these men say, ‘He was not, before He was begotten.’ And again he wrote, ‘And we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ; this is the true God, and eternal life 1 John 5:20;’ but these men, as if in contradiction to this, allege that Christ is not the true God, but that He is only called God, as are other creatures, in regard of His participation in the divine nature. And the Apostle blames the Gentiles, because they worship the creatures, saying, ‘They served the creature more than’ God ‘the Creator. ‘ But if these men say that the Lord is a creature, and worship Him as a creature, how do they differ from the Gentiles? If they hold this opinion, is not this passage also against them; and does not the blessed Paul write as blaming them? The Lord also says, ‘I and My Father are One:’ and ‘He that has seen Me, has seen the Father ;’ and the Apostle who was sent by Him to preach, writes, ‘Who being the Brightness of His glory, and the express Image of His PersonHebrews 1:3.’ But these men dare to separate them, and to say that He is alien from the essence and eternity of the Father; and impiously to represent Him as changeable, not perceiving, that by speaking thus, they make Him to be, not one with the Father, but one with created things. Who does not see, that the brightness cannot be separated from the light, but that it is by nature proper to it, and co-existent with it, and is not produced after it? Again, when the Father says, ‘This is My beloved Son Matthew 17:5,’ and when the Scriptures say that ‘He is the Word’ of the Father, by whom ‘the heavens were established ,’ and in short, ‘All things were made by Him John 1:3;’ these inventors of new doctrines and fictions represent that there is another Word, and another Wisdom of the Father, and that He is only called the Word and the Wisdom conceptually on account of things endued with reason, while they perceive not the absurdity of this.