§ 12. The Alexandrian School

{237} That the Logos existed with God from eternity, and, I will add, in an hypostasis, [enupostatos], is confessed or implied by the Ante-Nicene writers generally; that the Logos was also the Son, and, as the Son, was begotten of the Father before all things, is also their general doctrine. But the question before us relates to His eternal pre-existence, considered as Son, or the eternity of the gennesis; and, whatever we shall have to say about certain other theologians, this fundamental truth was held and taught without a dissentient voice by the Fathers of the Alexandrian School, so far as their writings have come down to us, taught by them with a prominence, clearness and consistency, which is decisive of Catholic Tradition on the subject.

By writers of the Alexandrian School, I mean such as the following:—Athenagoras, Clement, Origen, Dionysius, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Theognostus, Pamphilus, Alexander, and Athanasius.

1. ATHENAGORAS, the earliest of them, is the least explicit; for, while he says that the Divine Being is [aidios logikos], he does not directly speak of an [aidios huios]. However, if he does not affirm the eternal gennesis, at least he speaks as if he did not hold the temporal. He speaks of the Son, after the act of creation, as being "in the Father;" this is to dissociate the gennesis from the act of creation, and to disclaim the "Logos Prophoricus." He {238} says: "The Son of God is the Father's Word, in conception and action, [ideai kai energeiai], for by Him and through Him all things came to be, the Father and the Son being one, the Son being in the Father, and the Father in the Son, in the unity and power of the Spirit." Leg. 10. This passage teaches also the homoüsion, for it teaches the circumincessio. Elsewhere he speaks of the Word's going forth; but retaining the word [idea] as well as [energeia], he guards against the error, afterwards Semi-Arian, which I have noticed above in Novatian and Methodius, of supposing the Son to create after a pattern in the Father, whereas He is Himself the Archetype of the Universe. That office of Archetype involved a Syncatabasis, and Athenagoras uses language of it quite in accordance with that of Athanasius. In that office He is not simply the Son of God, but, as Athenagoras says, His [pais], as if His minister and is the [proton gennema], not of, but for the purposes of the Father; and, as he hastens to explain, for the ministry of creation, as being its Idea and Motive Power, bringing order into chaos, [idea kai energeia proelthon], and Himself in the creation the first-fruits of His own work. Such a doctrine, such phraseology is identical with the thought and language of Athanasius about the "First-born."

2. CLEMENT:—"Everything which excels the Gnostic (or Christian philosopher) accounts precious according to its worth, and estimable. Among things sensible, rulers and parents and every elder. In matters of learning, the oldest philosophy and the most primitive prophecy. In things intellectual, that which is most ancient in origin ([genesei]); viz. Him who is apart from time and beginning {239} ([achronon kai anarchon]), the Beginning and Firstfruits of all things, the Son." Strom. vii. init. Here the Son, not simply the Word, is both [anarchos arche] and [aparche]; both the first origin and the first-born, the Unigenitus and the Primogenitus, and, not only beyond time, but actually without beginning.

3. ORIGEN:—I have lately quoted a passage of Origen's, in which he speaks of "the Only-begotten Word as ever co-existing with God," supra, p. 233, vid. also p. 155, and considers it a misbelief to say that "Once the Son was not;" thus by anticipation denouncing the Arian formula, as Pope Dionysius did, with more authority, shortly after him. Again he says In Jerem. Hom. ix. 4. [ho soter aei gennatai] (Routh, t. iv. p. 304), as St. Augustine "semper nascitur Filius," Ep. 238, 24. And in the same sense Origen interprets "This day have I begotten Thee," as meaning the ever-present Now of eternity. In Joan. t. i. 32.

4. ST. DIONYSIUS was accused before the Pope just named, of saying that "God was not always a Father and the Son was not always a Son;" that "the Son was not before His gennesis," and that "once He was not, for He was not everlasting," which were afterwards the Arian formulę. He answers:—"Never was it that God was not a Father ... Whereas the Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, being Light from Light. Since there is a parent, there is also a child. They both are and are ever ... The Son only was ever co-existing with the Father, and is full of Him who exists, and is Himself from the Father." Vid. Athan. De S. Dion. 13-15. {240}

5. ST. GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, in his Creed, speaks of "One God, Father of a Living Word, of Substantive Wisdom and Power, and Eternal Likeness; a Father, Perfect of Perfect, of an Only-begotten Son." And of "One Lord ... True Son of True Father, Invisible of Invisible ... Eternal of Eternal." ap. Galland. t. iii. p. 385.

6. THEOGNOSTUS, in the sole fragment of his Hypotyposes extant, does not indeed use the word "eternal" as a predicate of the Son, but he applies to Him those images, which the other Fathers adduce in proof of His eternity, and of the eternity of the Word, viz. that He is like a ray from the sun, the vapour from water, and the like. He says:—"The substance of the Son sprang from the Father's substance, as the radiance of light, as the vapour of water ... Nor does the Father's substance suffer change, though It has the Son as an Image of Itself." ap. Athan. de Decr. 25.

7. PAMPHILUS, in the fact of his defending the theology of Origen, subscribes to it himself. Now one of the points of faith which he brings forward from Origen's comment on Genesis, is the eternity of the Son. "On the point that the Father is not before the Son, but that the Son is co-eternal with the Father, Origen speaks thus in his first book on Genesis:—'God had no beginning of being a Father, impeded, as men who become fathers, by incapacity of becoming such till a certain time. For, if God is always perfect, and can be a Father, and it is an excellence to be the Father of such a Son, why does He delay and withhold Himself from {241} what is in itself an excellence, and being, so to say, as soon as He can, Father of a Son?" ap. Routh, Reliqu. t. iv. p. 302.

8. ALEXANDER, at the first rise of Arianism:—"They say that once the Son of God did not exist; and that He who did not first exist came into being afterwards … and by the hypothesis of 'He was from nothing,' they also overthrow the Scripture record that He existed ever … Since that hypothesis is evidently most impious, it is of necessity that the Father was always Father; for He is Father of the ever-present Son, on account of whom He has the name of Father, &c. ... To the Son we must pay the due honour, ascribing to Him the gennesis without beginning ([ten anarchon gennesin]), from the Father, and using of Him only the words 'was' and 'always,' and 'before all time.'" ap. Theod. Hist. i.

9. Lastly, ATHANASIUS:—"If He be called the eternal Offspring of the Father, He is rightly so called. For never was the substance of the Father imperfect, that what is proper to It should be added afterwards; nor as man from man, has the Son been begotten, so as to be later than the Father's existence; but He is God's Offspring, and, as being proper Son of God, who is ever, He exists eternally." Orat. i. 14.

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