Photius 106 [Theognostus of Alexandria, Outlines]

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Read the work by Theognostus of Alexandria,1 entitled The Outlines of the Blessed Theognostus of Alexandria, Interpreter of the Scriptures, in seven books. In the first book he treats of the Father, and endeavours to show that He is the creator of the universe, in opposition to those who make matter coeternal with God; in the second, he employs arguments to prove that it is necessary that the Father should have a Sonand when he says Son, he demonstrates that He is a creation, and has charge of beings endowed with reason. Like Origen, he says other similar things of the Son, being either led astray by the same impiety, or (one might say) eager to exert himself in his defence, putting forward these arguments by way of rhetorical exercise, not as the expression of his real opinion; or, lastly, he may allow himself to depart a little from the truth in view of the feeble condition of his hearer, who is, perhaps, entirely ignorant of the mysteries of the Christian faith and incapable of receiving the true doctrine, and because he thinks that any knowledge of the Son would be more profitable to the hearer than never to have heard of Him and complete ignorance of Him. In oral discussion it would not appear absurd or blameworthy to use incorrect language, for such discussions are generally carried on according to the judgment and opinion and energy of the disputant; but in written discourse, which is to be set forth as a law for all, if any one puts forward the above defence of blasphemy to exculpate himself, his justification is a feeble one. As in the second book, so in the third, in treating of the Holy Spirit, the author introduces arguments by which he endeavours to show the existence of the Holy Spirit, but in other respects talks as much nonsense as Origen in his Principles. In the fourth book, he talks similar nonsense about angels and demons, attributing refined bodies to them. In the fifth and sixth, he relates how the Saviour became incarnate, and attempts, after his manner, to show that the incarnation of the Son was possible. Here, also, he trifles greatly, especially when he ventures to say that we imagine the Son to be confined now to this place, now to that, but that in energy alone He is not restricted. In the seventh book, entitled On God’s Creation, he discusses other matters in a greater spirit of piety—-especially at the end of the work concerning the Son.

His style is vigorous and free from superfluities. He uses beautiful language, as in ordinary Attic, in such a manner that he does not depart from the ordinary style in composition and does not sacrifice its dignity for the sake of clearness and accuracy. He flourished . . .

1 Flourished about the middle of the third century A. D.