117 S. John i. 1 f. St. Ambrose notices especially the quadruple "was" as unmistakably signifying the Son's eternity. We may also notice the climax "The Word was in the beginning. ...was with God . ...was God."
119 Hurter cites similar passages from the Fathers of the Church, proving the Son's pre-existence and eternity. "What is the force of those words `In the beginning0'? Centuries are o'erleaped, ages are swallowed up. Take any beginning you will, yet you cannot include it in time, for that, whence time is reckoned, already was."-Hilary.
"Although the word `was0' contains the notion of time past, frequently with a beginning, here it must be understood without the thought of a beginning, inasmuch as the text runs `was in the beginning.0'"-Victorinus.
If we render the Greek en arxh and the Latin in principio by "at the beginning," in place of the phrase used in the A. V. "in the beginning," we shall perhaps better apprehend its full force and understand these Patristic interpretations.
Other passages cited by Hurter are:
"Thought cannot escape the dominion of the word `was,0' nor can the imagination pass beyond the `beginning,0' for however far back you press in thought, you find no point where the `was0' ceases to hold away, and however diligently you set yourself to see what is beyond the Son, you will not any the more be able to get to aught above the beginning."-Basil.
"For this which was, without any beginning of existence, was truly at the beginning, for if it had begun to be, it would not have been `at the beginning,0' whereas that in which absolute existence without beginning is essential, is truly spoken of as existing `at the beginning.0' And so the Evangelist in saying `In the beginning was the Word0' said much the same as if he had said `The Word was in eternity.0'"-Fulgentius.
"If the Word Was, the Word was not made: if the Word was made, He was not" [absolutely existent]. "But since He `was0' He was not made: for whatsoever already is and subsists and so is `in the beginning0' cannot be said to become or to have been made."-Cyril.
"Nothing before a beginning, so the beginning be one really and truly, for of a beginning there can in no way be any beginning, and if anything else before it is supposed or arises, it ceases to be a true beginning.
"If the Word was `in the beginning,0' what mind, I would ask, can prevail against the power of that verb `was0'? When, indeed, will that verb find its limit, and there, as it were, come to a halt, seeing that it even eludes the pursuit of thought and outstrips the fleetness of the mind."-Cyril.
120 The Arian teaching concerning the Son was-hn pote ote ouk hn.'' "There was a time when He was not." This, St. Ambrose says, is irreconcilable with St. John's en arxh hn o logoj. "The Word was `in0' or `at the beginning.0'"
121 Sabellianism reduced the distinction of three Persons in the Godhead to a distinction of several aspects of the same Person. They did not "divide the substance," but they "confounded the Persons."
122 Non in prolatione sermonis hoc Verbum est. That is to say, the Divine Word or Logos was not such in the sense of logoj proforikoj-i.e. uttered spoken word, and so a creature, but rather in the sense of logoj endiaqetoj-the inherent eternal object of the Divine Consciousness.
Cf. Eunomius (v. s. §44), was a leading Arian teacher. The argument levelled against him here would also have been fitly directed against Arius himself.
123 The heresy of Manes or Maul made its first appearance in Persia, in the reign of Shapur I. (240-272 a.d.). According to the Persian historian Mirkhond, Mani was a member of an ancient priestly house which had preserved the holy fire and the religion of Zoroaster during the dark age of Parthian domination. He attracted the notice of Shapur by pretensions to visions and prophetic powers, and sought to establish himself as another Daniel at the Persian Court. When the king, however, discovered Mani's hostility to the established Zoroastrianism and the Magian hierarchy, the prophet was obliged to flee. Northern India appears to have been Mani's refuge for a season, and thence, after some years of retirement, he reappeared, with an illustrated edition of his doctrines, composed and executed, as he said, by divine hands. Shapur was now dead and his successor Hormuz (272-274) was favourably disposed to Mani. But Hormuz only reigned two years, and was succeeded by a king who was a sworn foe to the new doctrine. Mani was challenged to a public disputation by the Magi. The king presided, so that Mani doubtless knew from the first what the issue would be. He was rayed alive, but he left numerous converts, and his death, which cast a certain halo of martyrdom around him, and their sufferings in persecution, really proved-as in the case of Christianity-conducive to the spread of Manichaean doctrine. The fundamental principle of Mani's system was Dualism-the opposition of mind and matter, and the hypothesis of two co-eternal co-existent powers of good and of evil. In opposition to the Divine Essence, the Good Principle, was placed uncreated Evil, and thus the problem of sin and evil was solved. The purposes of creation and redemption were, in the Manichaean view, entirely self-seeking on the part of the Deity. The world was created by God, not out of free love, but out of the wish to protect Himself against evil, embodied in matter, which in its essence is chaotic. Redemption was the rescue of particles of the ethereal Light, buried amidst the gross darkness of matter, and yet leavening and informing it. Christ was identified with the Divine Principle and the sufferings of His members, the particles of divine Light buried in matter, were the Crucifixion, thus represented as an age-long agony. Jesus Christ was "crucified in the whole world." Mani adopted the story of Eden, but he represented the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge not as the cause of Man's fall, but as the first step in redemption, for Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, was not the true God, but the evil Demon, from whose tyranny man had to be rescued. In order to attain salvation, the body, material and therefore essentially evil, must be mortified and starved. Man really fell when Eve tempted him to indulge fleshly lust, not when he ate the forbidden fruit. The stricter sort of the Manichaeans practised a severe asceticism, abstaining from flesh meat and marriage. They would not even grind corn or make bread, for in grain there was life-i.e. an emanation of the Divine Light-though they would eat bread, quieting their conscience, however, by saying before they took it, "It was not I who reaped or ground the corn to make this bread." At the end of time they held the world was to be destroyed by fire, but matter being, on the Manichaean hypothesis, eternal, the proper inference appears to be that the conflict of Light and Chaotic Darkness would recommence, and proceed usque ad infinitum. The Manichaean system was a strange eclectic farrago, embodying, in chimerical monstrosity, features of Zoroastrianism, Judaism (in so far as the story of Eden was taken over), Gnosticism (appearing in the theory that Jehovah was the Demon and that the eating of forbidden fruit did not cause the Fall), Christianity, and Pantheism (the last, doubtless, an importation from Hindostan). The disciples of the school made their way into the Roman Empire, and we find them, 150 years after the death of Mani, opposed by Augustine of Hippo, who indeed had at one time actually numbered himself amongst them.
125 The Arians fell into the popular error of supposing that a father, as a father, existed before his son. They also required men to apply to Divine Persons, what only holds good of human beings-to impose on the Being of God those limits to which human existences (as objective facts) are subjected. The existence of the Divine Father and the Divine Son is without, beyond, above time-with the Godhead there is neither past nor future, but an everlasting present. But with man, time-categories are necessary forms of thought-everything is seen as past, present, or to come-and to the human consciousness all objects are presented in time, though the spiritual principle in man which perceives objects as related in succession, is itself supra-temporal, beholding succession, but not itself in succession.
Now it can hardly be denied with any show of reason that a man is not a father until his son begins to exist, is born, though the father, as a person distinct from his son, is in existence before the latter. Again, father and son must be of the same nature-they must both possess the elementary, essential attributes of humanity. Otherwise there is no fatherhood no sonship, properly speaking.
God has revealed Himself as a Father-even in the pagan mythologies we see the idea of Fatherhood implicit in Godhead. If the gods of the heathen did not beget after their kind, they begat heroes and demigods. But created existences cannot claim to be the first and proper object of the Divine Father's love. They are for a time only, and with them Eternal Love could not be satisfied. If God be a true Father, then, He must beget His Like-His Son must be equal to Him in nature, that is, what is true of the Father, what is essential in the Father, as God, must be true or essential in the Son also. Therefore the son must be divine, eternal. But the generation (gennhsij) of the Son is not an event in time. It is a fact, a truth, out of, beyond time, belonging to the divine and eternal and spiritual, not to the temporal and created, order. "To whom amongst the angels does He ever say, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee? and again, I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me? when, again, He brings His first-be-gotten into the world" (i.e., reveals Him to the created universe as its King), He says: "And let all God's angels worship Him" (Heb. i. 5-6). Since the Divine Son, then, is eternal, even as the Divine Father, the one cannot be before or after the other; the two Persons are co-existent, co-eternal, co-equal. And the mysterious genesis, also, is not an event that happened once, taking place in a series of events, it is ever happening, it is always and for ever.
126 i.e., how do you deal with such Scriptures as "Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail."-"I am the Lord: I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."-"The Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
128 Rom. i. 20-"His eternal power and Godhead." 1 Cor. i. 23-24-"We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, and to none other, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."
135 Cf. Is. vi. 2; Exod. iii 6. But perhaps the reference is to Job xxxi. 26-28-"If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, and my mouth hath kissed my hand, this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge, for I should have denied the God that is above." Another passage to which reference may be made is Job xl. 4-"Behold, I am vile, what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand on my mouth."