This memorandum or short article was written, as its first sentence shews, during the lifetime of Eusebius of Nicomedia, and therefore not later than the summer of a.d. 342. The somewhat abrupt beginning, and the absence of any exposition of the latter portion of the text, have led to the inference that the work is a fragment: but its conclusion is evidently perfect, and the opening words probably refer to the text itself. The tract is a reply to the Arian argument founded upon Luke x. 22 (Matt. xi. 27). If `all things' had been delivered to the Son by the Father, it would follow that once He was without them. Now `all things' include His Divine Sonship. Therefore there was a time when the Son was not. Athanasius meets this argument by totally denying the minor premise. By `all things,' he argues, Christ referred to His mediatorial work and its glories, not to His essential nature as Word of God. He then adduces Joh. xvi. I5, to shew at once the Son's distinctness from the Father, and that the Father's attributes must also be those of the Son.
The interpretation of the main text given in this tract was not subsequently maintained by Athanasius: in Orat. iii. 35, he explains it of the Son, as safeguarding His separate personality against the Sabellians. It should, however, be noted that this change of ground does not involve any concession to the Arian use of the passage: it merely transfers the denial of Athanasius from their minor to their major premise.
Beyond the fact that the tract was written before 342 there is no conclusive evidence as to its date. But it is generally placed (Montfaucon, Ceillier, Alzog) before the `Encyclical,' which was written in 339, and in several particulars it differs from the later anti. Arian treatises: perhaps then we may conjecturally place it about 335, i.e. before the first exile of the `Pope.'