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Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, Etc
Works on Analytical Criticism, History, and Bibliography, Consulted.
Dates of Treatises, &c., Here Translated.
His General Character as a Theologian.
His Teaching on the Holy Trinity.
MSS. And Editions.
To his most pious brother Gregory. Peter greeting in the Lord.
We have been justly provoked to make this Answer, being stung by Eunomius' accusations of our brother.
We see nothing remarkable in logical force in the treatise of Eunomius, and so embark on our Answer with a just confidence.
Eunomius displays much folly and fine writing, but very little seriousness about vital points.
His peculiar caricature of the bishops, Eustathius of Armenia and Basil of Galatia, is not well drawn.
A notice of Aetius, Eunomius' master in heresy, and of Eunomius himself, describing the origin and avocations of each.
Eunomius himself proves that the confession of faith which He made was not impeached.
Facts show that the terms of abuse which he has employed against Basil are more suitable for himself.
In charging Basil with not defending his faith at the time of the 'Trials,' he lays himself open to the same charge.
All his insulting epithets are shewn by facts to be false.
The sophistry which he employs to prove our acknowledgment that he had been tried, and that the confession of his faith had not been unimpeached, is feeble.
His charge of cowardice is baseless: for Basil displayed the highest courage before the Emperor and his Lord-Lieutenants.
Résumé of his dogmatic teaching. Objections to it in detail.
He did wrong, when mentioning the Doctrines of Salvation, in adopting terms of his own choosing instead of the traditional terms Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
He does wrong in making the being of the Father alone proper and supreme, implying by his omission of the Son and the Spirit that theirs is improperly spoken of, and is inferior.
Examination of the meaning of 'subjection:' in that he says that the nature of the Holy Spirit is subject to that of the Father and the Son. It is shewn that the Holy Spirit is of an equal, not inferior, rank to the Father and the Son.
Discussion as to the exact nature of the 'energies' which, this man declares, 'follow' the being of the Father and of the Son.
He has no reason for distinguishing a plurality of beings in the Trinity. He offers no demonstration that it is so.
His acknowledgment that the Divine Being is 'single' is only verbal.
He does wrong in assuming, to account for the existence of the Only-Begotten, an 'energy' that produced Christ's Person.
The blasphemy of these heretics is worse than the Jewish unbelief.
He has no right to assert a greater and less in the Divine being. A systematic statement of the teaching of the Church.
These doctrines of our Faith witnessed to and confirmed by Scripture passages.
His elaborate account of degrees and differences in 'works' and 'energies' within the Trinity is absurd.
He who asserts that the Father is 'prior' to the Son with any thought of an interval must perforce allow that even the Father is not without beginning.
It will not do to apply this conception, as drawn out above, of the Father and Son to the Creation, as they insist on doing: but we must contemplate the Son apart with the Father, and believe that the Creation had its origin from a definite point.
He falsely imagines that the same energies produce the same works, and that variation in the works indicates variation in the energies.
He falsely imagines that we can have an unalterable series of harmonious natures existing side by side.
He vainly thinks that the doubt about the energies is to be solved by the beings, and reversely.
There is no Word of God that commands such investigations: the uselessness of the philosophy which makes them is thereby proved.
The observations made by watching Providence are sufficient to give us the knowledge of sameness of Being.
His dictum that 'the manner of the likeness must follow the manner of the generation' is unintelligible.
He declares falsely that 'the manner of the generation is to be known from the intrinsic worth of the generator'.
The Passage where he attacks the ῾Ομοούσιον, and the contention in answer to it.
Proof that the Anomœan teaching tends to Manichæism.
A passing repetition of the teaching of the Church.
Defence of S. Basil's statement, attacked by Eunomius, that the terms 'Father' and 'The Ungenerate' can have the same meaning.
Several ways of controverting his quibbling syllogisms.
Answer to the question he is always asking, “Can He who is be begotten?”
His unsuccessful attempt to be consistent with his own statements after Basil has confuted him.
The thing that follows is not the same as the thing that it follows.
Explanation of 'Ungenerate,' and a 'study' of Eternity.
Gregory then makes an explanation at length touching the eternal Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Gregory proceeds to discuss the relative force of the unnameable name of the Holy Trinity and the mutual relation of the Persons, and moreover the unknowable character of the essence, and the condescension on His part towards us, His generation of the Virgin, and His second coming, the resurrection from the dead and future retribution.
He next skilfully confutes the partial, empty and blasphemous statement of Eunomius on the subject of the absolutely existent.
He next marvellously overthrows the unintelligible statements of Eunomius which assert that the essence of the Father is not separated or divided, and does not become anything else.
He then shows the unity of the Son with the Father and Eunomius' lack of understanding and knowledge in the Scriptures.
Gregory further shows that the Only-Begotten being begotten not only of the Father, but also impassibly of the Virgin by the Holy Ghost, does not divide the substance; seeing that neither is the nature of men divided or severed from the parents by being begotten, as is ingeniously demonstrated from the instances of Adam and Abraham.
He further very appositely expounds the meaning of the term “Only-Begotten,“ and of the term “First born,“ four times used by the Apostle.
Gregory again discusses the generation of the Only-Begotten, and other different modes of generation, material and immaterial, and nobly demonstrates that the Son is the brightness of the Divine glory, and not a creature.
He explains the phrase “The Lord created Me,” and the argument about the origination of the Son, the deceptive character of Eunomius' reasoning, and the passage which says, “My glory will I not give to another,” examining them from different points of view.
After expounding the high estate of the Almighty, the Eternity of the Son, and the phrase “being made obedient,” he shows the folly of Eunomius in his assertion that the Son did not acquire His sonship by obedience.
He thus proceeds to a magnificent discourse of the interpretation of “Mediator,” “Like,” “Ungenerate,” and “generate,” and of “The likeness and seal of the energy of the Almighty and of His Works.”
He expounds the passage of the Gospel, “The Father judgeth no man,” and further speaks of the assumption of man with body and soul wrought by the Lord, of the transgression of Adam, and of death and the resurrection of the dead.
He proceeds to discuss the views held by Eunomius, and by the Church, touching the Holy Spirit; and to show that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are not three Gods, but one God. He also discusses different senses of “Subjection,” and therein shows that the subjection of all things to the Son is the same as the subjection of the Son to the Father.
Lastly he displays at length the folly of Eunomius, who at times speaks of the Holy Spirit as created, and as the fairest work of the Son, and at other times confesses, by the operations attributed to Him, that He is God, and thus ends the book.
He then once more excellently, appropriately, and clearly examines and expounds the passage, “The Lord Created Me.“
He then shows, from the instance of Adam and Abel, and other examples, the absence of alienation of essence in the case of the “generate” and “ungenerate.”
He thus shows the oneness of the Eternal Son with the Father the identity of essence and the community of nature (wherein is a natural inquiry into the production of wine), and that the terms “Son” and “product” in the naming of the Only-Begotten include a like idea of relationship.
He discusses the incomprehensibility of the Divine essence, and the saying to the woman of Samaria, “Ye worship ye know not what.“
Thereafter he expounds the appellation of “Son,” and of “product of generation,” and very many varieties of “sons,” of God, of men, of rams, of perdition, of light, and of day.
Then he ends the book with an exposition of the Divine and Human names of the Only-Begotten, and a discussion of the terms “generate” and “ungenerate.”
He convicts Eunomius of having used of the Only-begotten terms applicable to the existence of the earth, and thus shows that his intention is to prove the Son to be a being mutable and created.
He then again admirably discusses the term πρωτότοκος as it is four times employed by the Apostle.
He proceeds again to discuss the impassibility of the Lord's generation; and the folly of Eunomius, who says that the generated essence involves the appellation of Son, and again, forgetting this, denies the relation of the Son to the Father: and herein he speaks of Circe and of the mandrake poison.
He again shows Eunomius, constrained by truth, in the character of an advocate of the orthodox doctrine, confessing as most proper and primary, not only the essence of the Father, but the essence also of the Only-begotten.
He then exposes argument about the “Generate,” and the “product of making,” and “product of creation,” and shows the impious nature of the language of Eunomius and Theognostus on the “immediate” and “undivided” character of the essence, and its “relation to its creator and maker.”
He then clearly and skilfully criticises the doctrine of the impossibility of comparison with the things made after the Son, and exposes the idolatry contrived by Eunomius, and concealed by the terminology of “Son” and “Only-begotten,” to deceive his readers.
He proceeds to show that there is no “variance” in the essence of the Father and the Son: wherein he expounds many forms of variation and harmony, and explains the “form,” the “seal,” and the “express image.”
Then, distinguishing between essence and generation, he declares the empty and frivolous language of Eunomius to be like a rattle. He proceeds to show that the language used by the great Basil on the subject of the generation of the Only-begotten has been grievously slandered by Eunomius, and so ends the book.
He then explains the phrase of S. Peter, “Him God made Lord and Christ.” And herein he sets forth the opposing statement of Eunomius, which he made on account of such phrase against S. Basil, and his lurking revilings and insults.
A remarkable and original reply to these utterances, and a demonstration of the power of the Crucified, and of the fact that this subjection was of the Human Nature, not that which the Only-Begotten has from the Father. Also an explanation of the figure of the Cross, and of the appellation “Christ,” and an account of the good gifts bestowed on the Human Nature by the Godhead which was commingled with it.
He shows the falsehood of Eunomius' calumnious charge that the great Basil had said that “man was emptied to become man,” and demonstrates that the “emptying” of the Only-begotten took place with a view to the restoration to life of the Man Who had suffered.
Thereafter he shows that there are not two Christs or two Lords, but one Christ and one Lord, and that the Divine nature, after mingling with the Human, preserved the properties of each nature without confusion, and declares that the operations are, by reason of the union, predicated of the two natures in common, in the sense that the Lord took upon Himself the sufferings of the servant, and the humanity is glorified with Him in the honour that is the Lord's, and that by the power of the Divine Nature that is made anew, conformably with that Divine Nature Itself.
Then he again mentions S. Peter's word, “made,” and the passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which says that Jesus was made by God “an Apostle and High Priest”: and, after giving a sufficient answer to the charges brought against him by Eunomius, shows that Eunomius himself supports Basil's arguments, and says that the Only-begotten Son, when He had put on the flesh, became Lord.
He then gives a notable explanation of the saying of the Lord to Philip, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father;” and herein he excellently discusses the suffering of the Lord in His love to man, and the impassibility, creative power, and providence of the Father, and the composite nature of men, and their resolution into the elements of which they were composed.
Then returning to the words of Peter, “God made Him Lord and Christ,” he skilfully explains it by many arguments, and herein shows Eunomius as an advocate of the orthodox doctrine, and concludes the book by showing that the Divine and Human names are applied, by reason of the commixture, to either Nature.
He then declares that the close relation between names and things is immutable, and thereafter proceeds accordingly, in the most excellent manner, with his discourse concerning “generated” and “ungenerate.”
Thereafter he discusses the divergence of names and of things, speaking, of that which is ungenerate as without a cause, and of that which is non-existent, as the Scindapsus, Minotaur, Blityri, Cyclops, Scylla, which never were generated at all, and shows that things which are essentially different, are mutually destructive, as fire of water, and the rest in their several relations. But in the case of the Father and the Son, as the essence is common, and the properties reciprocally interchangeable, no injury results to the Nature.
He says that all things that are in creation have been named by man, if, as is the case, they are called differently by every nation, as also the appellation of “Ungenerate” is conferred by us: but that the proper appellation of the Divine essence itself which expresses the Divine Nature, either does not exist at all, or is unknown to us.
After much discourse concerning the actually existent, and ungenerate and good, and upon the consubstantiality of the heavenly powers, showing the uncharted character of their essence, yet the difference of their ranks, he ends the book.
He then discusses the “willing” of the Father concerning the generation of the Son, and shows that the object of that good will is from eternity, which is the Son, existing in the Father, and being closely related to the process of willing, as the ray to the flame, or the act of seeing to the eye.
Then, thus passing over what relates to the essence of the Son as having been already discussed, he treats of the sense involved in “generation,” saying that there are diverse generations, those effected by matter and art, and of buildings,--and that by succession of animals,--and those by efflux, as by the sun and its beam. The lamp and its radiance, scents and ointments and the quality diffused by them,--and the word produced by the mind; and cleverly discusses generation from rotten wood; and from the condensation of fire, and countless other causes.
He further shows the operations of God to be expressed by human illustrations; for what hands and feet and the other parts of the body with which men work are, that, in the case of God, the will alone is, in place of these. And so also arises the divergence of generation; wherefore He is called Only-begotten, because He has no community with other generation such as is observed in creation, but in that He is called the “brightness of glory,” and the “savour of ointment,” He shows the close conjunction and co-eternity of His Nature with the Father.
Then, after showing that the Person of the Only-begotten and Maker of things has no beginning, as have the things that were made by Him, as Eunomius says, but that the Only-begotten is without beginning and eternal, and has no community, either of essence or of names, with the creation, but is co-existent with the Father from everlasting, being, as the all-excellent Wisdom says, “the beginning and end and midst of the times,” and after making many observations on the Godhead and eternity of the Only-begotten, and also concerning souls and angels, and life and death, he concludes the book.
He then ingeniously shows that the generation of the Son is not according to the phrase of Eunomius, “The Father begat Him at that time when He chose, and not before:” but that the Son, being the fulness of all that is good and excellent, is always contemplated in the Father; using for this demonstration the support of Eunomius' own arguments.
He further shows that the pretemporal generation of the Son is not the subject of influences drawn from ordinary and carnal generation, but is without beginning and without end, and not according to the fabrications constructed by Eunomius, in ignorance of His power, from the statements of Plato concerning the soul and from the sabbath rest of the Hebrews.
Then, having shown that Eunomius' calumny against the great Basil, that he called the Only-begotten “Ungenerate,” is false, and having again with much ingenuity discussed the eternity, being, and endlessness of the Only-begotten, and the creation of light and of darkness, he concludes the book.
He then wonderfully displays the Eternal Life, which is Christ, to those who confess Him not, and applies to them the mournful lamentation of Jeremiah over Jehoiakim, as being closely allied to Montanus and Sabellius.
He then shows the eternity of the Son's generation, and the inseparable identity of His essence with Him that begat Him, and likens the folly of Eunomius to children playing with sand.
After this he shows that the Son, who truly is, and is in the bosom of the Father, is simple and uncompounded, and that, He Who redeemed us from bondage is not under dominion of the Father, nor in a state of slavery: and that otherwise not He alone, but also the Father Who is in the Son and is One with Him, must be a slave; and that the word “being” is formed from the word to “be.” And having excellently and notably discussed all these matters, he concludes the book.
He also ingeniously shows from the passage of the Gospel which speaks of “Good Master,” from the parable of the Vineyard, from Isaiah and from Paul, that there is not a dualism in the Godhead of good and evil, as Eunomius' ally Marcion supposes, and declares that the Son does not refuse the title of “good” or “Existent,” or acknowledge His alienation from the Father, but that to Him also belongs authority over all things that come into being.
He then exposes the ignorance of Eunomius, and the incoherence and absurdity of his arguments, in speaking of the Son as “the Angel of the Existent,” and as being as much below the Divine Nature as the Son is superior to the things created by Himself. And in this connection there is a noble and forcible counter-statement and an indignant refutation, showing that He Who gave the oracles to Moses is Himself the Existent, the Only-begotten Son, Who to the petition of Moses, “If Thou Thyself goest not with us, carry me not up hence,” said, “I will do this also that thou hast said”; Who is also called “Angel” both by Moses and Isaiah: wherein is cited the text, “Unto us a Child is born.”
After this, fearing to extend his reply to great length, he passes by most of his adversary's statements as already refuted. But the remainder, for the sake of those who deem them of much force, he briefly summarizes, and refutes the blasphemy of Eunomius, who says of the Lord also that He is what animals and plants in all creation are, non-existent before their own generation; and so with the production of frogs; alas for the blasphemy!
Eunomius again speaks of the Son as Lord and God, and Maker of all creation intelligible and sensible, having received from the Father the power and the commission for creation, being entrusted with the task of creation as if He were an artizan commissioned by some one hiring Him, and receiving His power of creation as a thing adventitious, ab extra, as a result of the power allotted to Him in accordance with such and such combinations and positions of the stars, as destiny decrees their lot in life to men at their nativity. Thus, passing by most of what Eunomius had written, he confutes his blasphemy that the Maker of all things came into being in like manner with the earth and with angels, and that the subsistence of the Only-begotten differs not at all from the genesis of all things, and reproaches Him with reverencing neither the Divine mystery nor the custom of the Church, nor following in his attempt to discover godliness any teacher of pious doctrine, but Manichæus, Colluthus, Arius, Aetius, and those like to them, supposing that Christianity in general is folly, and that the customs of the Church and the venerable sacraments are a jest, wherein he differs in nothing from the pagans, who borrowed from our doctrine the idea of a great God supreme over all. So, too, this new idolater preaches in the same fashion, and in particular that baptism is “into an artificer and creator,” not fearing the curse of those who cause addition or diminution to the Holy Scriptures. And he closes his book with showing him to be Antichrist.
Then referring to the blasphemy of Eunomius, which had been refuted by the great Basil, where he banished the Only-begotten God to the realm of darkness, and the apology or explanation which Eunomius puts forth for his blasphemy, he shows that his present blasphemy is rendered by his apology worse than his previous one; and herein he very ably discourses of the “true” and the “unapproachable” Light.
He further proceeds notably to interpret the language of the Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word,” and “Life” and “Light,” and “The Word was made flesh,” which had been misinterpreted by Eunomius; and overthrows his blasphemy, and shows that the dispensation of the Lord took place by loving-kindness, not by lack of power, and with the co-operation of the Father.
He then again charges Eunomius with having learnt his term ἀγεννησία from the hieroglyphic writings, and from the Egyptian mythology and idolatry, and with bringing in Anubis, Osiris, and Isis to the creed of Christians, and shows that, considered as admitting His sufferings of necessity and not voluntarily, the Only-begotten is entitled to no gratitude from men: and that fire has none for its warmth, nor water for its fluidity, as they do not refer their results to self-determining power, but to necessity of nature.
Then, again discussing the true Light and unapproachable Light of the Father and of the Son, special attributes, community and essence, and showing the relation of “generate” and “ungenerate,” as involving no opposition in sense, but presenting an opposition and contradiction admitting of no middle term, he ends the book.
Answer to Eunomius' Second Book.
Answer to Eunomius' Second Book.
On the Holy Spirit.
On the Holy Trinity, and of the Godhead of the Holy Spirit.
On 'Not Three Gods.'
On the Faith.
Ascetic and Moral Treatises.
On Infants' Early Deaths.
On the Making of Man.
Note on the Treatise “On the Making of Man.”
On the Making of Man.
Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, to his brother Peter, the servant of God.
Why man appeared last, after the creation.
That the nature of man is more precious than all the visible creation.
That the construction of man throughout signifies his ruling power.
That man is a likeness of the Divine sovereignty.
An examination of the kindred of mind to nature: wherein, by way of digression, is refuted the doctrine of the Anomœans.
Why man is destitute of natural weapons and covering.
Why man's form is upright; and that hands were given him because of reason; wherein also is a speculation on the difference of souls.
That the form of man was framed to serve as an instrument for the use of reason.
That the mind works by means of the senses.
That the nature of mind is invisible.
An examination of the question where the ruling principle is to be considered to reside; wherein also is a discussion of tears and laughter, and a physiological speculation as to the inter-relation of matter, nature, and mind.
A Rationale of sleep, of yawning, and of dreams.
That the mind is not in a part of the body; wherein also is a distinction of the movements of the body and of the soul.
That the soul proper, in fact and name, is the rational soul, while the others are called so equivocally; wherein also is this statement, that the power of the mind extends throughout the whole body in fitting contact with every part.
A contemplation of the Divine utterance which said--“Let us make man after our image and likeness”; wherein is examined what is the definition of the image, and how the passible and mortal is like to the Blessed and Impassible, and how in the image there are male and female, seeing these are not in the prototype.
What we must answer to those who raise the question--“If procreation is after sin, how would souls have come into being if the first of mankind had remained sinless”.
That our irrational passions have their rise from kindred with irrational nature.
To those who say that the enjoyment of the good things we look for will again consist in meat and drink, because it is written that by these means man at first lived in Paradise.
What was the life in Paradise, and what was the forbidden tree?
That the resurrection is looked for as a consequence, not so much from the declaration of Scripture as from the very necessity of things.
To those who say, “If the resurrection is a thing excellent and good, how is it that it has not happened already, but is hoped for in some periods of time?”
That he who confesses the beginning of the world's existence must necessarily also agree as to its end.
An argument against those who say that matter is co-eternal with God.
How one even of those who are without may be brought to believe the Scripture when teaching of the resurrection.
That the resurrection is not beyond probability.
That it is possible, when the human body is dissolved into the elements of the universe, that each should have his own body restored from the common source.
To those who say that souls existed before bodies, or that bodies were formed before souls; wherein there is also a refutation of the fables concerning transmigration of souls.
An establishment of the doctrine that the cause of the existence of soul and body is one and the same.
A brief examination of the construction of our bodies from a medical point of view.
On the Soul and the Resurrection.
On the Soul and the Resurrection.
The Great Catechism.
Funeral Oration on Meletius.
On the Baptism of Christ.
To the City of Sebasteia.
To a Friend.
To a Student of the Classics.
On his work against Eunomius.
To the Church at Nicomedia.
To the Bishop of Melitene.
To Adelphius the Lawyer.
To Eustathia, Ambrosia, and Basilissa.
Index of Scripture References
Greek Words and Phrases
Index of Pages of the Print Edition
E.C.F. INDEX & SEARCH