Texts Explained; Sixthly...
Chapter XIX. -- Texts explained; Sixthly, Proverbs viii.22. Proverbs are of a figurative nature, and must be interpreted as such. We must interpret them, and in particular this passage, by the Regula Fidei. He created me' not equivalent to I am a creature.' Wisdom a creature so far forth as Its human body. Again, if He is a creature, it is as a beginning of ways,' an office which, though not an attribute, is a consequence, of a higher and divine nature. And it is for the works,' which implied the works existed, and therefore much more He, before He was created. Also the Lord' not the Father created' Him, which implies the creation was that of a servant.

44. We have gone through thus much before the passage in the Proverbs, resisting the insensate fables which their hearts have invented, that they may know that the Son of God ought not to be called a creature, and may learn lightly to read what admits in truth of a right [2496] explanation. For it is written, The Lord created me a beginning of His ways, for His works [2497] ;' since, however, these are proverbs, and it is expressed in the way of proverbs, we must not expound them nakedly in their first sense, but we must inquire into the person, and thus religiously put the sense on it. For what is said in proverbs, is not said plainly, but is put forth latently [2498] , as the Lord Himself has taught us in the Gospel according to John, saying, These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs, but the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but openly [2499] .' Therefore it is necessary to unfold the sense [2500] of what is said, and to seek it as something hidden, and not nakedly to expound as if the meaning were spoken plainly,' lest by a false interpretation we wander from the truth. If then what is written be about Angel, or any other of things originate, as concerning one of us who are works, let it be said, created me;' but if it be the Wisdom of God, in whom all things originate have been framed, that speaks concerning Itself, what ought we to understand but that He created' means nothing contrary to He begat?' Nor, as forgetting that It is Creator and Framer, or ignorant of the difference between the Creator and the creatures, does It number Itself among the creatures; but It signifies a certain sense, as in proverbs, not plainly,' but latent; which It inspired the saints to use in prophecy, while soon after It doth Itself give the meaning of He created' in other but parallel expressions, saying, Wisdom made herself a house [2501] .' Now it is plain that our body is Wisdom's house [2502] , which It took on Itself to become man; hence consistently does John say, The Word was made flesh [2503] ;' and by Solomon Wisdom says of Itself with cautious exactness [2504] , not I am a creature,' but only The Lord created me a beginning of His ways for His works [2505] ,' yet not created me that I might have being,' nor because I have a creature's beginning and origin.'

45. For in this passage, not as signifying the Essence of His Godhead, nor His own everlasting and genuine generation from the Father, has the Word spoken by Solomon, but on the other hand His manhood and Economy towards us. And, as I said before, He has not said I am a creature,' or I became a creature,' but only He created [2506] .' For the creatures, having a created essence, are originate, and are said to be created, and of course the creature is created: but this mere term He created' does not necessarily signify the essence or the generation, but indicates something else as coming to pass in Him of whom it speaks, and not simply that He who is said to be created, is at once in His Nature and Essence a creature [2507] . And this difference divine Scripture recognises, saying concerning the creatures, The earth is full of Thy creation,' and the creation itself groaneth together and travaileth together [2508] ;' and in the Apocalypse it says, And the third part of the creatures in the sea died which had life;' as also Paul says, Every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving [2509] ;' and in the book of Wisdom it is written, Having ordained man through Thy wisdom, that he should have dominion over the creatures which Thou hast made [2510] .' And these, being creatures, are also said to be created, as we may further hear from the Lord, who says, He who created them, made them male and female [2511] ;' and from Moses in the Song, who writes, Ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee since the day that God created man upon the earth, and from the one side of heaven unto the other [2512] .' And Paul in Colossians, Who is the Image of the Invisible God, the Firstborn of every creature, for in Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created through Him, and for Him, and He is before all [2513] .'

46. That to be called creatures, then, and to be created belongs to things which have by nature a created essence, these passages are sufficient to remind us, though Scripture is full of the like; on the other hand that the single word He created' does not simply denote the essence and mode of generation, David shews in the Psalm, This shall be written for another generation, and the people that is created shall praise the Lord [2514] ;' and again, Create in me a clean heart, O God [2515] ;' and Paul in Ephesians says, Having abolished the law of commandments contained in ordinances, for to create in Himself of two one new man [2516] ;' and again, Put ye on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness [2517] .' For neither David spoke of any people created in essence, nor prayed to have another heart than that he had, but meant renovation according to God and renewal; nor did Paul signify two persons created in essence in the Lord, nor again did he counsel us to put on any other man; but he called the life according to virtue the man after God,' and by the created' in Christ he meant the two people who are renewed in Him. Such too is the language of the book of Jeremiah; The Lord created a new salvation for a planting, in which salvation men shall walk to and fro [2518] ;' and in thus speaking, he does not mean any essence of a creature, but prophesies of the renewal of salvation among men, which has taken place in Christ for us. Such then being the difference between the creatures' and the single word He created,' if you find anywhere in divine Scripture the Lord called creature,' produce it and fight; but if it is nowhere written that He is a creature, only He Himself says about Himself in the Proverbs, The Lord created me,' shame upon you, both on the ground of the distinction aforesaid and for that the diction is like that of proverbs; and accordingly let He created' be understood, not of His being a creature, but of that human nature which became His, for to this belongs creation. Indeed is it not evidently unfair in you, when David and Paul say He created,' then indeed not to understand it of the essence and the generation, but the renewal; yet, when the Lord says He created' to number His essence with the creatures? and again when Scripture says, Wisdom built her an house, she set it upon seven pillars [2519] ,' to understand house' allegorically, but to take He created' as it stands, and to fasten on it the idea of creature? and neither His being Framer of all has had any weight with you, nor have you feared His being the sole and proper Offspring of the Father, but recklessly, as if you had enlisted against Him, do ye fight, and think less of Him than of men.

47. For the very passage proves that it is only an invention of your own to call the Lord creature. For the Lord, knowing His own Essence to be the Only-begotten Wisdom and Offspring of the Father, and other than things originate and natural creatures, says in love to man, The Lord created me a beginning of His ways,' as if to say, My Father hath prepared for Me a body, and has created Me for men in behalf of their salvation.' For, as when John says, The Word was made flesh [2520] ,' we do not conceive the whole Word Himself to be flesh [2521] , but to have put on flesh and become man, and on hearing, Christ hath become a curse for us,' and He hath made Him sin for us who knew no sin [2522] ,' we do not simply conceive this, that whole Christ has become curse and sin, but that He has taken on Him the curse which lay against us (as the Apostle has said, Has redeemed us from the curse,' and has carried,' as Isaiah has said, our sins,' and as Peter has written, has borne them in the body on the wood [2523] '); so, if it is said in the Proverbs He created,' we must not conceive that the whole Word is in nature a creature, but that He put on the created body [2524] and that God created Him for our sakes, preparing for Him the created body, as it is written, for us, that in Him we might be capable of being renewed and deified. What then deceived you, O senseless, to call the Creator a creature? or whence did you purchase for you this new thought, to parade it [2525] ? For the Proverbs say He created,' but they call not the Son creature, but Offspring; and, according to the distinction in Scripture aforesaid of He created' and creature,' they acknowledge, what is by nature proper to the Son, that He is the Only-begotten Wisdom and Framer of the creatures, and when they say He created,' they say it not in respect of His Essence, but signify that He was becoming a beginning of many ways; so that He created' is in contrast to Offspring,' and His being called the Beginning of ways [2526] ' to His being the Only-begotten Word.

48. For if He is Offspring, how call ye Him creature? for no one says that He begets what He creates, nor calls His proper offspring creatures; and again, if He is Only-begotten, how becomes He beginning of the ways?' for of necessity, if He was created a beginning of all things, He is no longer alone, as having those who came into being after Him. For Reuben, when he became a beginning of the children [2527] , was not only-begotten, but in time indeed first, but in nature and relationship one among those who came after him. Therefore if the Word also is a beginning of the ways,' He must be such as the ways are, and the ways must be such as the Word, though in point of time He be created first of them. For the beginning or initiative of a city is such as the other parts of the city are, and the members too being joined to it, make the city whole and one, as the many members of one body; nor does one part of it make, and another come to be, and is subject to the former, but all the city equally has its government and constitution from its maker. If then the Lord is in such sense created as a beginning' of all things, it would follow that He and all other things together make up the unity of the creation, and He neither differs from all others, though He become the beginning' of all, nor is He Lord of them, though older in point of time; but He has the same manner of framing and the same Lord as the rest. Nay, if He be a creature, as you hold, how can He be created sole and first at all, so as to be beginning of all? when it is plain from what has been said, that among the creatures not any is of a constant [2528] nature and of prior formation, but each has its origination with all the rest, however it may excel others in glory. For as to the separate stars or the great lights, not this appeared first, and that second, but in one day and by the same command, they were all called into being. And such was the original formation of the quadrupeds, and of birds, and fishes, and cattle, and plants; thus too has the race made after God's Image come to be, namely men; for though Adam only was formed out of earth, yet in him was involved the succession of the whole race.

49. And from the visible creation, we clearly discern that His invisible things also, being perceived by the things that are made [2529] ,' are not independent of each other; for it was not first one and then another, but all at once were constituted after their kind. For the Apostle did not number individually, so as to say whether Angel, or Throne, or Dominion, or Authority,' but he mentions together all according to their kind, whether Angels, or Archangels, or Principalities [2530] :' for in this way is the origination of the creatures. If then, as I have said, the Word were creature He must have been brought into being, not first of them, but with all the other Powers, though in glory He excel the rest ever so much. For so we find it to be in their case, that at once they came to be, with neither first nor second, and they differ from each other in glory, some on the right of the throne, some all around, and some on the left, but one and all praising and standing in service before the Lord [2531] . Therefore if the Word be creature He would not be first or beginning of the rest; yet if He be before all, as indeed He is, and is Himself alone First and Son, it does not follow that He is beginning of all things as to His Essence [2532] , for what is the beginning of all is in the number of all. And if He is not such a beginning, then neither is He a creature, but it is very plain that He differs in essence and nature from the creatures, and is other than they, and is Likeness and Image of the sole and true God, being Himself sole also. Hence He is not classed with creatures in Scripture, but David rebukes those who dare even to think of Him as such, saying, Who among the gods is like unto the Lord [2533] ?' and Who is like unto the Lord among the sons of God?' and Baruch, This is our God, and another shall not be reckoned with Him [2534] .' For the One creates, and the rest are created; and the One is the own Word and Wisdom of the Father's Essence, and through this Word things which came to be, which before existed not, were made.

50. Your famous assertion then, that the Son is a creature, is not true, but is your fantasy only; nay Solomon convicts you of having many times slandered him. For he has not called Him creature, but God's Offspring and Wisdom, saying, God in Wisdom established the earth,' and Wisdom built her an house [2535] .' And the very passage in question proves your irreligious spirit; for it is written, The Lord created me a beginning of His ways for His works.' Therefore if He is before all things, yet says He created me' (not that I might make the works,' but) for the works,' unless He created' relates to something later than Himself, He will seem later than the works, finding them on His creation already in existence before Him, for the sake of which He is also brought into being. And if so, how is He before all things notwithstanding? and how were all things made through Him and consist in Him? for behold, you say that the works consisted before Him, for which He is created and sent. But it is not so; perish the thought! false is the supposition of the heretics. For the Word of God is not creature but Creator; and says in the manner of proverbs, He created me' when He put on created flesh. And something besides may be understood from the passage itself; for, being Son and having God for His Father, for He is His proper Offspring, yet here He names the Father Lord; not that He was servant, but because He took the servant's form. For it became Him, on the one hand being the Word from the Father, to call God Father: for this is proper to son towards father; on the other, having come to finish the work, and taken a servant's form, to name the Father Lord. And this difference He Himself has taught by an apt distinction, saying in the Gospels, I thank Thee, O Father,' and then, Lord of heaven and earth [2536] .' For He calls God His Father, but of the creatures He names Him Lord; as shewing clearly from these words, that, when He put on the creature [2537] , then it was He called the Father Lord. For in the prayer of David the Holy Spirit marks the same distinction, saying in the Psalms, Give Thy strength unto Thy Child, and help the Son of Thine handmaid [2538] .' For the natural and true child of God is one, and the sons of the handmaid, that is, of the nature of things originate, are other. Wherefore the One, as Son, has the Father's might; but the rest are in need of salvation.

51. (But if, because He was called child, they idly talk, let them know that both Isaac was named Abraham's child, and the son of the Shunamite was called young child.) Reasonably then, we being servants, when He became as we, He too calls the Father Lord, as we do; and this He has so done from love to man, that we too, being servants by nature, and receiving the Spirit of the Son, might have confidence to call Him by grace Father, who is by nature our Lord. But as we, in calling the Lord Father, do not deny our servitude by nature (for we are His works, and it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves [2539] '), so when the Son, on taking the servant's form, says, The Lord created me a beginning of His ways,' let them not deny the eternity of His Godhead, and that in the beginning was the Word,' and all things were made by Him,' and in Him all things were created [2540] .'


[2496] kalos anaginoskein....orthen echon ten dianoian, i.e. the text admits of an interpretation consistent with the analogy of faith, and so met' eusebeias just below. vid. 1. n. 13. Such phrases are frequent in Athan.

[2497] Proverbs 8:22. Athanasius follows the Sept. rendering of the Hebrew Qanâ. by ektise. The Hebrew sense is appealed to by Eusebius, Eccles. Theol. iii. 2, 3. S. Epiphanius, Hær. 69. 25. and S. Jerome in Isai. 26. 13. Cf. Bas. c. Eun. ii. 20, and Greg. Nyss. c. Eun. 1. p. 34.

[2498] This passage of Athan. has been used by many later fathers.

[2499] John 16:25.

[2500] Here, as in so many other places, he is explaining what is obscure or latent in Scripture by means of the Regula Fidei. Cf. Vincentius, Commonit. 2. Vid. especially the first sentence of the following paragraph, ti dei noein k.t.l. vid. supr. note 1.

[2501] Proverbs 9:1.

[2502] Ut intra intemerata viscera ædificante sibi Sapientia domum, Verbum caro fieret. Leon. Ep. 31, 2. Didym. de Trin. iii. 3. p. 337. (ed. 1769.) August. Civ. D. xvii. 20. Cyril in Joann. p. 384, 5. Max. Dial. iii. p. 1029. (ap. Theodor. ed. Schutz.) vid. supr. Or. i. 11, note 8. Hence S. Clement. Alex. ho logos heauton genna. Strom. v. 3.

[2503] John 1:14.

[2504] 12, n. 4.

[2505] The passage is in like manner interpreted of our Lord's human nature by Epiph. Hær. 69, 20-25. Basil. Ep. 8. 8. Naz. Orat. 30, 2. Nyss. contr. Eunom. i. p. 34. et al. Cyril. Thesaur. p. 154. Hilar. de Trin. xii. 36-49. Ambros. de Fid. i. 15. August. de Fid. et Symb. 6.

[2506] He seems here to say that it is both true that The Lord created,' and yet that the Son was not created. Creatures alone are created, and He was not a creature. Rather something belonging or relating to Him, something short of His substance or nature, was created. However, it is a question in controversy whether even His Manhood can be called a creature, though many of the Fathers (including Athan. in several places) seem so to call it. On the whole it would appear, (1.) that if creature,' like Son,' be a personal term, He is not a creature; but if it be a word of nature, He is a creature; (2.) that our Lord is a creature in respect to the flesh (vid. infr. 47); (3.) that since the flesh is infinitely beneath His divinity, it is neither natural nor safe to call Him a creature (cf. Thom. Aq. Sum. 1 Thessalonians 3.xvi. 8, non dicimus, quod Æthiops est albus, sed quod est albus secundum dentes') and (4.) that, if the flesh is worshipped, still it is worshipped as in the Person of the Son, not by a separate act of worship. Cf. infr. Letter 60. ad Adelph. 3. Epiph. has imitated this passage, Ancor. 51. introducing the illustration of a king and his robe, &c.

[2507] to legomenon ktizesthai te phusei kai te ousi& 139; ktisma. also infr. 60. Without meaning that the respective terms are synonymous, is it not plain that in a later phraseology this would have been, not simply that He is in His Person a creature,' or that His Person is created?' Athan.'s use of the phrase ousia tou logou has already been noticed, supr. i. 45, and passages from this Oration are given in another connexion, supr. p. 70, note 15. The term is synonymous with the Divine Nature as existing in the Person of the Word. [Cf. Prolegg. ch. ii. 3 (2) b.] In the passage in the text the ousia of the Word is contrasted to the ousia of creatures; and it is observable that it is implied that our Lord has not taken on Him a created ousia. He said not, Athan. remarks, I became a creature, for the creatures have a created essence;' he adds that He created' signifies, not essence, but something taking place in Him peri ekeinon, i.e. some adjunct or accident (e.g. notes on de Decr. 22), or as he says supr. 8, envelopment or dress. And infr. 51, he contrasts the ousia and the anthropinon of the Word; as in Orat. i. 41. ousia and he anthropotes; and phusis and sarx, iii. 34. init. and logos and sarx, 38. init. And He speaks of the Son taking on Him the economy,' infr. 76, and of the hupostasis tou logou being one with ho anthropos, iv. 25, c. It is observed, 8, note, how this line of teaching might be wrested to the purposes of the Apollinarian and Eutychian heresies; and, considering Athan.'s most emphatic protests against their errors in his later works, as well as his strong statements in Orat. iii. there is no hazard in this admission. His ordinary use of anthropos for the manhood might quite as plausibly be perverted on the other hand into a defence of Nestorianism. Vid. also the Ed. Ben. on S. Hilary, præf. p. xliii. who uses natura absolutely for our Lord's Divinity, as contrasted to the dispensatio, and divides His titles into naturalia and assumpta.

[2508] Psalm 104:24. LXX.; Romans 8:22.

[2509] Revelation 8:9; 1 Timothy 4:4.

[2510] Wisd. ix. 2.

[2511] Matthew 19:4. (ho ktisas).

[2512] Deuteronomy 4:32.

[2513] Colossians 1:15-17

[2514] Psalm 102:18. LXX.

[2515] Psalm 51:12.

[2516] Ephesians 2:15.

[2517] Ephesians 4:22; vid. Cyr. Thes. p. 156.

[2518] Jeremiah 31:22. vid. also supr. p. 85, where he notices that this is the version of the Septuagint, Aquila's being The Lord created a new thing in woman.' Athan. has preserved Aquila's version in three other places, in Psalm 30:12; lix. 5; lxv. 18.

[2519] Proverbs 9:1.

[2520] John 1:14.

[2521] 10. n. 6.

[2522] Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21.

[2523] Galatians 3:13; Isaiah 53:4; 1 Pet. ii. 24

[2524] Here he says that, though our Lord's flesh is created or He is created as to the flesh, it is not right to call Him a creature. This is very much what S. Thomas says, as referred to in 45, note 1, in the words of the Schools, that Æthiops, albus secundum dentes, non est albus. But why may not our Lord be so called upon the principle of the communicatio Idiomatum (infr. note on iii. 31.) as He is said to be born of a Virgin, to have suffered, &c.? The reason is this:--birth, passion, &c., confessedly belong to His human nature, without adding according to the flesh;' but creature' not implying humanity, might appear a simple attribute of His Person, if used without limitation. Thus, as S. Thomas adds, though we may not absolutely say Æthiops est albus, we may say crispus est,' or in like manner, calvus est.' Since crispus, or calvus, can but refer to the hair. Still more does this remark apply in the case of Sonship,' which is a personal attribute altogether; as is proved, says Petav. de Incarn. vii. 6 fin. by the instance of Adam, who was in all respects a man like Seth, yet not a son. Accordingly, we may not call our Lord, even according to the manhood, an adopted Son.

[2525] pompeuete, infr. 82.

[2526] archen hodon; and so in Justin's Tryph. 61. The Bened. Ed. in loc. refers to a similar application of the word to our Lord in Tatian contr. Gent. 5. Athenag. Ap. 10. Iren. Hær. iv. 20. n. 3. Origen. in Joan. tom. 1. 39. Tertull. adv. Prax. 6. and Ambros. de Fid. iii. 7.

[2527] arche teknon, Genesis 49:3.

[2528] Cf. p. 157, note 7.

[2529] Romans 1:20.

[2530] Vid. Colossians 1:16

[2531] i. 61; ii. 27.

[2532] He says that, though none could be a beginning' of creation, who was a creature, yet still that such a title belongs not to His essence. It is the name of an office which the Eternal Word alone can fill. His Divine Sonship is both superior and necessary to that office of a Beginning.' Hence it is both true (as he says) that if the Word is a creature, He is not a beginning;' and yet that that beginning' is in the number of the creatures.' Though He becomes the beginning,' He is not a beginning as to His essence,' vid. supr. i. 49, and infr. 60. where he says, He who is before all, cannot be a beginning of all, but is other than all,' which implies that the beginning of all is not other than all. vid. 8, note 4, on the Priesthood, and 16, n. 7.

[2533] Psalm 89:6.

[2534] Bar. iii. 35.

[2535] Vid. Proverbs 3:19; ix. 1.

[2536] Matthew 11:25.

[2537] to ktiston, i.e. soma, 47.

[2538] Psalm 86:16.

[2539] Psalm 100:3.

[2540] John 1:1, 3; Colossians 1:16.

chapter xviii introduction to proverbs viii
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