Epiphanius Against all Heresies 62

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Against Sabellians.

1,1 Sabellius did not arise very long ago in ancient times, for his date is recent. The so-called Sabellians are derived from him. (2) He <taught> very similarly to the Noetians, except for a few further doctrines of his own. (3) Many in Mesopotamia and Rome are of his persuasion, due to some stupidity of theirs.

1,4 For he, and the Sabellians who derive from him, hold that the Father is the same, the Son is the same, and the Holy Spirit is the same, so that there are three names in one entity. (5) Or, as there are a body, a soul and a spirit in a man, so the Father, in a way, is the body; the Son, in a way, is the soul; and as a man’s spirit is in man, so is the Holy Spirit in the Godhead. (6) Or it is as in the sun, which consists of one entity but has three operations, I mean the illumining, the warming, and the actual shape of the orb. (7) The warming, or hot and seething operation is the Spirit; the illumining operation is the Son; and the Father is the actual form of the whole entity. (8) And the Son was once sent forth like a ray, accomplished the entire dispensation of the Gospel and men’s salvation in the world, and was taken up to heaven again, as though a ray had been sent by the sun and had returned to the sun. (9) But the Holy Spirit is sent into the world both once and for all, and in the individual case of each person so privileged. He quickens this person and makes him fervent, and, as it were, warms and heats him by the power of the Spirit and his communion with him. And these are their doctrines.

2,1 They use all the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, but [especially] certain texts which they select themselves in keeping with the idiocy and stupidity of their own which they have introduced. (2) First, God’s words to Moses, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God, the Lord is one.” “Thou shalt not make to thyself other gods.” “There shall not be unto thee new gods,” for “I am God, the first and the last, and beside me there is no other.” (3) And whatever of this sort <they find, < they alter> to suit themselves, and advance it as proof of these doctrines. Again, [they use] the saying from the Gospel, “I am in the Father and the Father in me, and we two are one.”

2,4 But they have taken all of their error, and the sense of their error, from certain apocryphal works, especially the so-called Egyptian Gospel, as some have named it. (5) There are many such passages in it, purporting to be delivered privately in the person of the Savior as mysteries, as though he is telling his disciples that the Father is the same, the Son is same, and the Holy Spirit is the same.

2,6 Then, when they encounter simple or innocent persons who do not understand the sacred scriptures clearly, they give them this first fright: “What are we to say, gentlemen? Have we one God or three gods?” (7) But when someone who is devout but does not fully understand the truth hears this, he is disturbed and assents to their error at once, and comes to deny the existence of the Son and the Holy Spirit.

3,1 Man’s ancient adversary has inspired all these sectarians in order to deceive people—one in one way and one in another, but deceive most of them and deflect them from the way of the truth. (2) That God is truly one and there is no other, is plainly confessed in God’s holy church, and it is agreed that we do not inculcate polytheism, but proclaim a single sovereignty. (3) However, we do not err in proclaiming this sovereignty but confess the Trinity—Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, and one Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (4) For the Son did not beget himself, and the Father was not changed from his fatherhood < into being > a Son. Nor did the Holy Spirit ever call himself Christ; he called himself Spirit of Christ and given through Christ, proceeding from the Father and receiving of the Son.

(5) The Father is an entity, the Son is an entity, the Holy Spirit is an entity. But the Trinity is not an identity as Sabellius thought, nor has it been altered from its own eternity and glory, as Arius foolishly held. (6) The Trinity was always a Trinity, and the Trinity never receives an addi- tion. It is one Godhead, one sovereignty and one glory, but is enumerated as a Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and not as one entity with three names; the names are truly complete and the entities are complete.

3,7 But nothing has been changed. The Father is always a father and there was no time when the Father was not a father. Because he is per- fect, he is forever an actual Father. And the Son is forever perfect, forever actual, truly begotten of the Father without beginning, not in time, and ineffably. He is not brother to the Father. (8) He has had no beginning and will never come to an end, but co-exists with the Father forever as his true Son, begotten of the Father outside of time, the equal of the Father—God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made. But he is not the Father himself, and the Father is not the Son himself; there is one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

4,1 For the Spirit is forever with the Father and the Son—not brother to the Father, not begotten, not created, not the Son’s brother, not the Father’s offspring. He proceeds from the Father and receives of the Son, and is not different from the Father and the Son, (2) but is of the same essence, of the same Godhead, of the Father and the Son, with the Father and the Son, forever an actual Holy Spirit—divine Spirit, Spirit of glory, Spirit of Christ, Spirit of the Father. For < scripture says >, “It is the Spirit of the Father that speaketh in you,” and, “My Spirit is in the midst of you.” He is third in name but equal in Godhead, not different from the Father and the Son, bond of the Trinity, seal of the confession of it.

4,3 For the Son says, “I and the Father, < we two > are one.” He did not say, “I am one,” but with “I” and “the Father” indicates that the Father is an entity and the Son is an entity. And he said, “the two,” not “the one”; and again, he said, “We are one,” not, “I am one.”

4,4 < He > likewise < says >, “Go baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” But by inserting the conjunctions, that is, the syllable “and” [between the names], he refutes Sabellius, with his futile introduction of an identity. (5) For by <inserting> “and” he shows that there is truly a Father, truly a Son, and truly a Holy Spirit—but since the Trinity are of equal rank, and are called ‘Trinity” as one name, he refutes Arius, with his notion of a subordination, difference or change in the Trinity.

4,6 For even though the Father is declared to be greater than the Son who glorifies him, the Father, with perfect propriety, preserves the < equal > glory for the Son. For who else but the true Son should glorify his < own > Father? (7) But when, again, he desires to state his equality [with the Father], to prevent certain persons from going wrong by think- ing less of the Son he says, “Whoso honoreth not the Son as he honoreth the Father hath not life in himself,” and, “All things that the Father hath are mine.” But what can “All things that the Father hath are mine” mean but, “The Father is God; I am God. The Father is life; I am life. The Father is eternal; I am eternal. All things that the Father hath are mine?”

5,1 See and understand, Sabellius! Open the eyes of your heart, and cease from your blindness! Let your mind, and the minds of your dupes, go with St. John to the Jordan. (2) Open your ears and hear the prophet’s voice say, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Hear the Lord’s fore-runner, privileged to be called “angel,” who received the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb and leaped when Mary entered Elizabeth’s dwelling. (3) While still in the womb he knew his Master’s coming in and leaped for joy. To him was given the preparatory announcement of the Gospel, and the readying of the way of the Lord. Believe him, and you cannot miss the mark of the truth.

5,4 See here, John himself testifies by saying first, on recognizing his Lord, “I have need of thee, and comest thou to me?” And when the Savior said, “Suffer it to be so now, that all righteousness may be fulfilled,” (5) and was himself baptized by John, “John bare record,” as the divine Gospel says, and said, “The heavens were opened. And I saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending and coming upon him. And a voice from heaven, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (6) The Father was in heaven, you trouble-maker, the voice came from heaven! If the voice came from above, expound your false notion to me! To whom was the Father saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased?” And who was it?

5,7 And why did Spirit descend in the form of a dove, although he had no body? For the Only-begotten alone assumed a body, and was made perfect man of the ever-virgin Mary, by the Holy Spirit, (8) not by a man’s seed. The Word, the Master Builder, formed his own body from Mary, took the human soul and mind and everything human, all in its perfection, and united it with his divinity. It was not as though he inhabited a man, nothing like that! He himself is the holy Word, the divine Word incarnate.

6,1 But why does the Spirit appear in the form of a dove? Why but to convince you not to blaspheme, you would-be sage without a correct idea in your head, to keep you from thinking that the Spirit is identical with the Father or the Son? (2) Although the Spirit himself has never had a body, he is portrayed in the form of a dove to indicate and expose your error. For the Spirit is an entity in himself, and the Father is an entity, and the Only-begotten is an entity, but there is no division of the Godhead, or subordination of its glory. (3) And you see how the Trinity is enumerated, with the Father calling from on high, the Son baptized in the Jordan, and the Holy Spirit arriving next in the form of a dove.

6,4 Tell me, who was it that said, “Behold, my beloved Son shall under- stand, in whom I am well pleased, he whom my soul hath chosen. I shall put my Spirit upon him, and he will declare judgment to the gentiles. He will not strive nor cry, nor will his voice be heard in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break and smoking flax shall he not quench until he bring forth judgment into victory,” and so on? (5) Doesn’t this convey the meaning of the Trinity, you trouble-maker? Or did the Father say all this in the prophet about himself?

6,6 Who is it of whom scripture says, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand?” And it didn’t say, “Enter into me.” (7) Or again, why does the Gospel say, “And he ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the quick and the dead? (8) Or again, why have the two men who appeared in white garments not convinced you by saying to the disciples, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him taken up?” (9) And at whom was the blessed Stephen looking when he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God?” But you, you utter boor—you, on the other hand, have done harm to yourself and your followers by not understanding the voice of the holy scriptures and being deprived of the holy faith in God’s truth.

7,1 Certainly he said, “I am the first and I am the last, and beside me there is no other.” (2) For of course there are not many gods! There is one God, the first and the last, Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and the Trinity is not an identification, and not separated from its own identity. It is a Father who has truly begotten a Son; and a Son truly begotten of the Father as an entity, without beginning and not in time; and a Holy Spirit truly of the Father and the Son, of the same divinity, proceeding from the Father and receiving of the Son, forever <an entity>, “one God, the first and the last.”

7,3 But this oracle in its turn is given to serve a different purpose, and in the person of Christ himself. Long ago in the time of the prophets our Lord Jesus Christ often appeared and foretold his incarnation—though some have not received him, but await someone else instead. (4) And it is meant for those who have a superstitious regard for idols and have brought polytheism to the world, to keep the children of Israel from being struck with fear and turned to [the worship of] the idols of the Amorites, Hittites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Girgashites, Jebusites, Arucaeans, and Asanaeans, as they had been prophetically warned. (5) For they worshiped Baal Peor, Chemosh, Astarte, the Mazzuroth, the Neastho, Baal Zebub, and the rest of the idols of the heathen. And this is why the Lord told them, “I am the first and the last”—to turn them away from the error of the polytheist myth-makers.

7,6 And because they would spurn the advent of the Son himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, he told the Jews, “I am the first and the last”—the One who sojourned here first in the flesh, and will come at the last to judge the quick and the dead. He suffered on the cross, was buried and arose, and was taken up in glory in his body itself, but a body united in glory with his Godhead, and made radiant—no longer tangible, no longer mortal, for “Christ is risen,” as the scripture says; “Death,” says the apostle, “hath no more dominion over him.”

7,7 And see how [scripture’s] accuracy guides a person, to keep him from error about either of the parts of the truth. Whenever his mind is inclined to construct a pantheon, he hears, “The Lord is thy God, the Lord is one.” (8) But when the children of Israel await a Christ other than the Christ who has come, they hear, “I am the first and I am the last,” and, “I am alpha and omega”—the alpha which looks down, and the omega which looks up, in fulfillment of scripture’s, “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all rule and authority and dominion, and every name that is named.”

7,9 And <to show what the truth is> when <someone> supposes <that> <only the Father is the true God> because he has said, “I am the first and the last,” “I am alpha and omega,” “The Lord thy God is one Lord,” and “I am he who is,” so that no one will deny the Son and the Holy Spirit (10) he says, “My Father is greater than I,” and, “that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” This is not [said] because the Son is not the true God, but to reduce the name of the Trinity to a single oneness, and redirect men’s thinking from many divinities to one Godhead.

8,1 But if the blunderer Arius gets the notion that only the one, that is, only the Father, is called the “true” God, while the Son is God but not “true God,” Christ refutes him in his turn, in another way. He says [of himself], “I am the true light, that lighteneth every man that cometh into the world,” but of the Father, “God is light.” (2) And he refrained from saying, “true light,” so that we would realize the equality of the Father’s Godhead with the Son’s and the Son’s with the Father’s because of “true God” and “true light,” and not be <misled> because of the Father’s being “light” and the Son’s being “God” without the addition of “true” in those instances. (3) There was no need to say “true” [in these two latter cases], since there was no doubt about it. The one perfection of the same relationship—the Father’s to the Son and the Son’s to the Father—was made plainly evident from the words, “God” and “light.”

8,4 And that demolishes all the idiocy of your error. The Father is a father, the Son is a son, and the Holy Spirit is a holy spirit. They are a Trinity—one Godhead, one glory, one sovereignty, <one God>, to whom be glory, honor and might, the Father in the Son, the Son with the Holy Spirit in the Father, forever and ever. Amen.

8,5 And we have now shaken this sect off, and trampled it in its turn by the power of the Holy Trinity, like a libys or molurus or elops, or one of those snakes which look very alarming but can do no harm with their bites. Let us once more go on to the rest, calling on him to come to the aid of my poverty and mediocrity, <so that> I may have his help in <giving> a proper <account> of each sect’s teachings and activities, <and> composing the refutations of them.