Epiphanius Against all Heresies 57

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Against Noetians

1,1 Another one, whose name was Noetus, arose in his turn after Bardesanes, not many years ago but about 130 years before our time, an Asian from the city of Ephesus. (2) By the inspiration of a strange spirit he chose to say and teach things on his own authority which neither the prophets nor the apostles <had proclaimed>, and which the church from the beginning had neither held nor conceived of. On his own authority he dared to say, with manic elation, that the Father suffered. (3) And then, from further delirious conceit he called himself Moses, and his brother, Aaron.

1,4 In the meantime, however, the blessed presbyters of the church sent for Noetus because of the rumor about him, and questioned him about all these things, and whether he had put forth this blasphemy of the Father. (5) At first he denied it when brought before the presbytery, since no one before him had belched out this frightful, deadly bitterness. (6) But later, after, as it were, infecting certain others with his madness and winning about ten men over, inspired to greater pride and insolence <and> grown bold, he began to teach his heresy openly. (7) The same presbyters summoned him once more, and the men who unfortunately had become acquainted with him, and asked again about the same things. (8) But now, with his followers in error, Noetus struck his forehead and openly opposed them. “What wrong have I done,” he demanded, “because I glorify one God? I know one God and none other besides him, and he has been born, has suffered, and has died!”

1,9 Since he held to this they expelled him from the church, with the men he had instructed in his own doctrine. He himself has died recently as has his brother, but not in glory like Moses; nor was his brother buried with honor like Aaron. They were cast out as transgressors, and none of the godly would lay them out for burial.

1,10 Those whose minds he had corrupted confirmed this doctrine after- wards under the influence of the following texts, which had influenced their false teacher to begin with. (11) (For when he said under questioning by the presbytery that he glorified one God, they told him truthfully, “We too glorify one God, but in the way we know is right. (12) And we hold that Christ is one, but as we know the one Christ—the Son of God who suffered as he suffered, died as he died, has risen, has ascended into heaven, is at the right hand of the Father, will come to judge the quick and the dead. We say these things because we have learned them from the sacred scriptures, which we also know.”)

2,1 Those, then, who are offshoots of Noetus himself, and those who derive from them, make much of this doctrine, and try to establish their insane teaching from the following texts. Among them are God’s words to Moses, “I am the God of your fathers. I am the first and I am the last. Thou shalt have none other gods,” and so on. (2) They said accordingly, “We therefore know him alone. If Christ came and was born, he himself is the Father; he himself is the Son. Thus the same God is the God who <is> forever, and who has now come—(3) as the scripture says, ‘This is thy God, none other shall be accounted God besides him. He hath found out every way of understanding and given it to Jacob his servant and Israel his beloved. Afterwards he appeared on earth and consorted with men.’ (4) Again, they say, “do you see how, by saying that God himself is <the> only God and appeared later himself, the sacred scriptures give us the wisdom not to believe first in one God and then in another?”

2,5 Again, they make use of this further text: “Egypt hath wearied and the merchandise of the Ethiopians, and the lofty men of Saba shall pass over unto thee and be thy servants. And they shall walk behind thee bound with chains, and shall bow down to thee and pray through thee—for in thee is God and there is no God beside thee—Thou art God and we knew it not, O God of Israel, the Savior.” (6) “Do you see,” they say, “how the sacred scriptures state that God is one, and declare that he <has become> visible? And he is admittedly one, forever the same. (7) We therefore say that there are not many gods but one God, the same Impassible, himself the Father of the Son and himself the Son, who has suffered to save us by his suffering. And we cannot say that there is another”— having supposedly learned this confession of faith, and this impious conjecture and ruinous madness, from their master.

2,8 Next they cite other texts in their support—as their teacher said, “The apostle also bears witness in the following words and says, ‘Whose are the fathers, of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for evermore. Amen.’” (9) But their account [of Christ] is as one-sided as Theodotus’. Theodotus actually went to one extreme and described him as a mere man. Noetus has one-sidedly described another extreme in his own turn, with his belief that the same God the Father is both the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that he has suffered in the flesh, and been born. (10) Theodotus’ followers have not told the truth, then, and neither have this “Brainy” (Νόητος)—“Brainless,” actually—and his, since the sacred scriptures refute them both, and all the erring.

3,1 To anyone whose mind is <sound> in God, and who is enlightened in sacred scripture and the Holy Spirit, their argument will appear easy to refute and full of all sorts of nonsense. (2) The idea of claiming that the Father, the Son, and the One who suffered are the same, is the result of impudence and is <full> of blindness. (3) How can the same person be father and son [at once]? If he is a son he must be the son of some person by whom he has been begotten. (4) But if he is a father, he cannot possibly beget himself. In turn something called a son didn’t beget itself; it was begotten by a father. How crazy people are, with their fallacious reasoning! (5) For the fact is that the logical conclusion is not as they suppose, but as the truth tells us through the sacred scripture. The Lord states it at once by saying, “Lo, my beloved Son shall understand, he whom I have chosen, whom my soul hath loved. I will put my Spirit upon him.” (6) And you see how the Father’s voice declares that there is an actual Son upon whom he is putting his Spirit. (7) Next the Only-begotten himself says, “Glorify thou me, Father, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” But someone who says, “Father, glorify me,” is not calling himself father; he knows that the “father” is his father. (8) And again, in another passage, “There came a voice from heaven, This is my Son; hear ye him.” And it did not say, “I am my Son, hear me,” or again, “I have become a Son,” but, “This is my Son; hear him.”

3,9 And when he said, “I and the Father are one,” he did not say, “I and the Father am one,” but, “I and the Father are one.” “I and the Father,” with the definite article, and with “and” in the middle, means that the Father is actually a father, and the Son actually a son.

4,1 And of the Holy Spirit, in turn, he says, “If I depart he shall come, the Spirit of truth.” This statement, “I am going and he is coming,” is by far the clearest. Christ did not say, “I am going and I shall come,” but with “I” and “he” showed that the Son is subsistent and the Holy Spirit is subsistent. (2) And again, “The Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father and receiveth of the Son” is intended to show that the Father is subsistent, the Son is subsistent, and the Holy Spirit is subsistent. (3) And again, at the Jordan the Father spoke from above, the Son stepped into the Jordan, and the Spirit appeared between them in the form of a dove and came upon the Son, even though the Spirit had not taken flesh or assumed a body. (4) But to avoid giving the impression that the Spirit is identical with the Son, the Holy Spirit is portrayed in the form of a dove, to ensure the perception of the Spirit as truly subsistent. (5) But where else can I not find other arguments against these people who have infected themselves with insanity? If there is any truth in their notion, and in their worthless argument with no proof or force and no coherent reasoning or meaning, the scriptures will have to be discarded—the scriptures, which on every page know the Father as a father, the Son as a son, and the Holy Spirit as a holy spirit.

4,6 But what do you mean, Mister? Can those who truly worship the Trinity be polytheists, the sons of the truth and of the only apostolic and catholic church? That is not so! (7) Who will not say that the God of truth is one, the Father almighty, the Source of the Only-begotten Son who is truly the divine Word, a Word subsistent, truly begotten of the Father without beginning and not in time? (8) Hence the church proclaims with certainty that God is one, a Father and a Son: “I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and we two are one”—that is, one Godhead, one will, and one dominion.

4,9 From the Father himself the Spirit also proceeds—subsistent and truly perfect, the Spirit of truth, who enlightens all, who receives of the Son, the Spirit of the Father, the Spirit of Christ. (10) The church, then, knows one Godhead. There is one God, the Father of truth, a Father who is perfect and subsistent; and a Son who is a perfect Son and subsistent; and a Holy Spirit who is a perfect Holy Spirit and a subsistent—one Godhead, one sovereignty, one dominion. (11) Thus the sacred scriptures have everywhere plainly declared that God is one—that is, a co-essential Trinity, forever of the same Godhead, the same dominion.

4,12 And your brainless argument has collapsed, in all respects, Brainy! And now that this has been said, and in direct contradiction to Brainy’s allegations, it is time to examine these from the beginning and to counter his propositions, as follows.

5,1 First, since he advanced the proposition, “ ‘God is one, of whom are all things and we in him, and the Lord Jesus Christ is one, for whom are all things and we by him,’” don’t you see how, by saying, “God is one, of whom are all things and we for him?” Paul is pointing out the oneness of the first principle so as not to direct attention to many first principles and lead men’s minds, [already] deceived about the nonsense of polytheism, back to a plurality of gods. (2) For do you see how he has used one name and one title, but without denying the Only-begotten God? For he knows that he is Lord and knows that he is God; and he says, to certify this, “And one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things.”

5,3 However, by saying this of the Lord he did not mean that the Father and the Son are the same, but showed that the Father is truly a father and the Son truly a son. (4) For when he said “one God” of the Father, <he did> not <say it> to deny the Godhead of the Son. (For if the Son is not God he is not “Lord” either; but as he is “Lord,” he is also God.) Though the holy apostle was compelled by the Holy Spirit to refer to one title, he explained the faith for us by stating clearly that Christ is “one Lord,” and so must surely be God.

5,5 But because he says, “one,” and [then] “one” [again, but does not say “one” a third time], no one need think that he has left the number of the Trinity unmentioned by failing to name the Holy Spirit. When he named the Father and the Son “God” and “Lord,” he named them in the Holy Spirit. (6) For by saying, “God is one, of whom are all things,” of the Father, he did not deny the Father’s Lordship; nor, again, did he deny Christ’s Godhead by saying, “and one Lord Jesus Christ” (7) As he was content with the one title in the Father’s case, and said “one God” although it is plain that “Lord” is implied by “God”—so, in the case of the Son, he was content with “one Lord,” but “God” is implied by “Lord.” (8) Thus he did not jettison the Holy Spirit by mentioning [only] “Father” and “Son;” as I said, he spoke in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit never <speaks> in commendation of himself, or he might set us an example <of speaking> of ourselves and commending <ourselves>. (9) Thus “God the Father, of whom are all things, is one, and the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, is one.” And the Holy Spirit is one, not different from God and still subsistent, because he is Spirit of God, Spirit of truth, Spirit of the Father, and Spirit of Christ.

6,130 But I suppose we also need to speak of “Egypt hath wearied, and the merchandise of the Ethiopians. And the lofty men of Saba shall pass over unto thee and be thy servants. They shall walk behind thee, bound with chains. They shall bow down to thee and pray through thee—for in thee is God and there is no God beside thee—For thou art God and we knew it not, O God, the God of Israel, the Savior.” (2) Noetus will say, “From so many texts that I’ve shown you, don’t you see that God is one?” But not understanding what has been said, he villainously mutilates the scriptures, gives crooked explanations, cites the lines out of sequence and does not quote them consistently and exactly—he or the Noetians who stem from him—or expound them in order. (3) As some <will name> a bad dog “Leo,” call the totally blind keen-sighted, and say that gall is candy—and as some have termed vinegar honey, and some have named the Furies the Eumenides—so it is with this man and his followers. (4) He has been named Brainy, but he is brainless as are his brainless followers, and he has no idea of the consequences of his statements and their assertions. To them the holy apostle’s words, “Understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm,” are applicable.

7,133 For you see what the sacred scriptures said earlier on, brothers, or rather, what the Lord himself said, as we read at the beginning of the passage. It is from this that we must explain the whole of the truth in the passage itself, and the whole of the subject of it. We read, (2) “Inquire of me concerning my sons and my daughters, and < concerning > the works of my hands command ye me. I made the earth and man upon it; with my hand I established the heavens. I gave commandment to all the stars; I raised up a king with righteousness, and all his paths are straight. He shall build my city and restore my captivity, not with ransoms nor with gifts; the Lord of hosts hath spoken.”34 (3) Only then does he say, “Egypt hath wearied and the merchandise of the Ethiopians,” and so on [until] “that God is in thee.”

7,4 But in whom, should we say? In whom but the Father’s Word? For the divine Word is truly the Son, and the Father is known in him, as he says, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,” and, “I have glorified thy name on the earth.”

7,5 Then again, “I have raised up a king.” Don’t you see that this is the Father’s own voice, which raised up the true Word from itself to be king over all—the Word truly begotten of him, without beginning and not in time? (6) And it raised him up again, this very king, as the holy apostle says, “If the Spirit of him that raised up Christ dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies.” (7) Thus the prophet’s words agree with the apostle’s, and the apostle’s with the Gospels’, and the Gospels’ with the apostle’s, and the apostle’s with the prophet’s; for Isaiah says, “I have raised up a king,” and Paul says, “He that raiseth up Christ from the dead.”

7,8 But the words, “God is in thee,” <show> how mysteriously and marvelously the sacred scripture describes everything. The Godhead’s <dwelling> in the flesh as in a temple was foreseen and foretold to the hope of mankind through its turning to God. (9) For the Son of God, the divine Word who dwells as God in his holy humanity and human nature as in a sacred city and holy temple, says of this holy temple, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (10) For < the > divine Word who has been sent from the Father in the flesh mystically reveals all things. To show a bond of spiritual love he embraced the flesh, shrinking himself despite his divine vastness—the Word himself, born of a virgin through the Holy Spirit; the Son of God who is one and has made himself one, in flesh and spirit, as the scripture says, “He that descended is the same also as he that ascended, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”

8,1 What will Brainy say, then, in his brainlessness? Was there flesh in heaven? Obviously not. Then how can the One who descended from heaven be the same as the One who ascended? This is meant to show that the Word who has come is not from below but has descended from on high, since he was made man in the flesh, not by a man’s seed but by making his complete human nature of spirit and flesh. (2) And so, to show the oneness of the union of the Word and his manhood, he said that He who came from on high has ascended on high in the perfection of Godhead. (3) For now the Word, which once was not flesh but spirit, has been made flesh of the Spirit and the Virgin—He who was offered to the Father as a perfect Word, though before this, in heaven, he was not flesh.

8,4 What was the One who was in heaven, then, but the Word who was sent from heaven? To show that he was the same divine Word on earth and < in > heaven, changeless and unalterable, he possessed his oneness with the one Godhead, united with it by the Father’s might. (5) For he was the Word, was God forever, was spirit, was might; and he adopted the name which was common and comprehensible to men, and was called Son of Man though he was Son of God. (6) And the name was pronounced beforehand in the prophets because it was to apply to him, although it was not yet in the flesh. Thus Daniel said, “I saw one like unto a Son of Man coming upon the clouds.” (7) And the prophet was right to give the Word this name < when he was > in heaven, and call him whom he saw by the Holy Spirit Son of Man, since he observed the future before its arrival and named the Word Son of Man before he was in the flesh. (8) And thus, putting the earlier event later, the Only-begotten says, “No man hath ascended up to heaven save he that came down from heaven, the Son of Man.” He did not mean that he was flesh in heaven but < that > he was to descend from heaven, and was to be known by this name.

9,1 But what is it that you’re about to say, Mister? “‘This is our God, and none can be accounted God besides him?’” And that was quite right! The apostle too affirms it by saying, “Whose are the fathers and of whom, according to the flesh, came Christ, who is God over all.” Since Christ teaches us this himself by saying, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father,” this makes him God over all. (2) And he expounds it marvelously: Christ is He Who Is (ὁ ὤν), God over all (ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων θεός). (3) For John testifies to this by saying, “That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes and our hands have handled.” And again, in Revelation he says, “He who is from the beginning and is to come, the Almighty.” He was absolutely right; for when he said, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father,” he appended <“the Father”> precisely as he should have. Though he is God over all, he has a Father of his own. And < this becomes apparent* > when he says, “I go unto my Father.” To which Father could he go, Brainless, if he were the Father himself?

10,1 Or again, he says, “That they may be one, as thou and I are one.” The scripture constantly guards against men’s falls into extremes, and recalls their minds from all places to the middle way of the truth. (2) To those who think that the Son is different from the Father—I mean as Arius and other sects do—it says, “I and the Father are one.” (3) But to those who think that the Father and the Son are the same because it has said, “I and the Father are one,” the scripture says, “Make them to be one as I and thou are one,” shaming Noetus and his school by the reference to oneness of the disciples. (4) For how could Peter, John and the rest be identically one? But since he [is one with the Father] in one unity of Godhead and in purpose and power, <he indicated as much>, to allay any suspicion that arises against the truth from either standpoint. (5) And the holy apostle Philip < witnesses to this* > by saying, “Show us the Father.” And the Lord replied, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” But he did not say, “I am the Father.” (6) He meant himself when he said, “me,” but did not mean himself when he said, “hath seen the Father.” “The Father” is one thing, “me” is something else, and “I” is something else. (7) If he himself were the Father, he would say, “I am.” But since he is not the Father himself but the Son, he truthfully says, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,” to refute the blasphemy of Arius, which separates the Son from the Father.

10,8 And so, since every scripture has plainly laid down our way with regard to the truth, let us halt <here>. Along with the other sects we have maimed Noetus and his sect, I mean of Noetians, like the so-called agate dragon, which cannot turn either right or left when it pursues someone. (9) <And> since we have escaped his unsound teachings and his school’s, let us give our attention to the rest by the power of God, to describe and refute the heretical sayings against the truth which they have invented.