`All we can know about the Divine Nature is, that it is not to be known; and whatever positive statements we make concerning God, relate not to His Nature, but to the accompaniments of His Nature.' Damasc F.O. i. 4; S. Basil c. Eunom. i. 10, `Totum ab animo rejicite; quidquid occurrerit, negate .... dicite non est illud.' August. Enarrat. 2. in Psalm xxvi. 8. Cyril, Catech. xi. 11. Anonym. in Append. Aug. Oper. t. 5. p. 383. [Patr. Lat. xxxix. 2175.]
14 "On this celebrated text, as it may be called, which is cited so frequently by the Fathers, vid. Coteler. in Const. Apol. ii. 36. in Clement Hom. ii. 51. Potter in Clem. Strom. i. p. 425. Vales. in Euseb. Hist. vii. 7." [Westcott, Introd. to Study of Gospels, Appendix C.]
1 This short letter, like those to Lucifer, was printed at first in Latin, evidently the almost servile rendering of a Greek original. The latter was discovered by Montfaucon after the completion of the Benedictine edition, and printed in his `Nova Collectio Patrum' (1706). (Migne xxvi. 1185.)
The date is fixed a parte post in an interesting manner. We read in the Life of Pachomius, §88 (the story is also found in the Coptic documents in the collection of Zoega p. 36), that when Duke Artemius came to the monastery of Pabau in search of Athanasius, the steward of the community replied, `Although Athanasius is our Father under God, we have never seen his face.' The Duke answered by a request for the prayers of the brethren before he left. The `abbat Psarphi' replied that the `Father' had forbidden the monks to pray with strangers who consorted with the Arians,-a clear allusion to the letter before us. Now Duke Artemius was in search of Athanasius in 359-60 (Fest. Ind.). Accordingly our letter was issued before that date.
The Greek text is evidently imperfect: the square brackets in the translation denote passages supplied from the Latin. The first part of the letter (down to the words `along with' ...) is preserved in a contemporary inscription (Boeckh. C.I G. iv. 8607) on the walls of an ancient Egyptian tomb at Abd-el-Kurna, which in those later days had become a monastic cell. The remainder is effaced. (See Fialon, p. 134, who has failed to notice the identity of the inscription with our present letter.)
2 This first heading is from the inscription mentioned above, note 1. and is important as recording a very early use of the title `archbishop.' See also Letter 55, note 1, supr. p. 137, note 6, and Epiph. vol. ii. p. 188 c (Migne).
1 On this letter (Migne xxv. 686) in relation to other writings, see above, Letter 52, note 1, and pp. 267, 268. Serapion would seem to have been the right-hand man of Athan. among the bishops of Egypt. The dates of his birth and episcopate are not certain, but the tone of the letters to him imply that he is junior to Athanasius. The theory of Ceillier, based on a precarious inference from the words of an untrustworthy writer (Philip of Side) that this Serapion (the name was very common) had presided over the catechetical school before Peter, i.e. at the end of the third century, is quite out of the question. Moreover, no Serapion appears among the Egyptian bishops at Tyre in 335 (p. 142), but the name occurs among the Alexandrian presbyterate of the same date (pp. 139, 140), while two bishops of the name sign the Sardican decrees (p. 127). It is then not unlikely that Athan, selected Serapion for the very important (Amm. Marc. xxii. 16) see of Thmuis in the Delta between 337 and 339 (supr. Letter 12, note 1). In 353 the trusted suffragan is chosen for a difficult and perilous mission to Constantius (supr. pp. 497, 504). For some reason we miss his name from the list of exiles in 356-7 (pp. 257, 297), nor is he named as present at the `Council of Confessors' in 362. During the third exile, however, Ath. addressed to him our present letter, and an important dogmatic treatise (Prolegg. ch. iii. §1, no. 22). Serapion was a friend and legatee of S. Antony (supr. p. 220). The date of Serapion's death is not known, but he is said to have been living after 368 (Leont. adv. fraud. Apoll. in Galland. xii. 701, see Bright, Later Treat. p. 44). For further details, and for writings ascribed to him, see D.C.B. iv. 613 (9). On the death of Arius, see Prolegg, ch. ii. §5.
1 This letter (Migne xxvi. 1180) deals with one of the questions which occupied the council of 362 (supr. p. 481), and was probably written not long after, although the contents furnish no precise terminus ad quem. The personality and see of Rufinianus are uncertain. The latter must have been distant from Alexandria: the Coptic documents call him `Rufinus the archbishop,' which seems to place him outside Egypt. The mention of Eudoxius and Euzoius sub. fin. possibly points to Syria. I suspect that he is the `Lucinianus' associated with `Eusebius' (of Vercellae?) in the little fragment (4) quoted in note 7 below, which comes from a letter of Ath. dealing with the same subject. The Coptic `Acts' of Revillout, p. 462 (as referred to supr. p. 188) give part of a letter of Rufinianus himself, which shews that the correspondence of which our letter is the principal relic bore on the Christological decision of the Council of 362: `Sound is the idea of perfection for the Divinity, as for the Economy of the Manhood: Sound is the doctrine of the Divinity in a single essence. Pure, and wholesome for the souls of the faithful, is the Confession of the Holy Triad. Perfect then is the Economy of the Manhood of the Saviour, and Perfect is His Soul also; nothing is lacking to Him. It is thus that It was manifested to us.'
5 These unnamed councils are all connected with the general return of the exiled orthodox bishops on Julian's accession. They are possibly the same as are referred to again in the opening of the letter to Epict. below, p. 570.
7 `Do you, then, who confess all this, abstain, I pray, from condemning those who confess the same. But explain the words they use, nor, ignoring the latter, repel their authors. Nay, entreat and advise them, that they be willing to come to one mind.' ad Eus. Lucin., &c., supr. note 1.
1 Cf. Prolegg, ch. ii. §9, and ch. v. §3, h. and supr. p. 487. Athanasius, on the first news of Julian's death, by a secret and rapid journey, succeeded in meeting Jovian, when still beyond the Euphrates on his return from the East. He thus secured the ear of the new Emperor before the Arian deputation from Alexandria could reach him. The letter before us (Migne xxvi. 813) was drawn up at Antioch, as it would seem in response to a request from Jovian on a doctrinal statement. The short letter of Jovian prefixed to the Epistle is a formal authorisation for the bishop's return to his see, with which, taught by his experience under Julian, he was careful to arm himself. The documents given as an appendix are notes made at Antioch, and carefully preserved, of the reception given by Jovian to the Arian deputation. They are probably the `exemplaria' referred to in Hist. Aceph. §14 (see note there). They are characteristic, and interesting in many ways; among others, as shewing how accurately Jovian had been primed by Athanasius with the leading facts of his case.
2 Prov. xxi. 1. The letter as given by Theodoret adds, `and you will peacefully enjoy a long reign:' probably the words were erased from our text on account of Jovian's premature death. If genuine, they stamp the prediction supr. p. 487, as, at least in part, a vaticinium ex eventu.
7 'Autoi, i.e. adding this, as a feature of their own, to the Arianism they shared with their predecessors. Acacius seems to be specially referred to; he had just signed the Homousios with explanations; cf. Pseudo-Ath. de Hypocr. Melet. et Euseb.