Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Early Church Fathers on John 8:58

Sam Shamoun

In this particular article we will be quoting from the writings of the early church fathers, the disciples of the Apostles and those that came after them, to see how they understood the words that the Lord Jesus uttered in response to the Jews’ shock that he had actually seen Abraham:

“Yeshua said to them, ‘Yes, indeed! Before Avraham came into being, I AM!’” John 8:58 Complete Jewish Bible

Suffice it to say, the insight and interpretation of these godly men is simply amazing, as the quotes themselves amply testify. The way in which they explained not only this verse, but other passages from both the Old and New Testaments, in regards to the Lord Jesus’ eternal prehuman existence and essential Deity is simply breathtaking, and highlights the depth and wisdom which God had blessed them with in order to proclaim and defend the teachings which Christ and his Apostles revealed to the Churches. These men are a testimony to the power and faithfulness of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to raise up teachers and apologists to preserve and contend for the true faith (cf. Jude 1:3), which has been once and for delivered unto the saints, until he returns in glory from heaven.      




The sacred books acknowledge with regard to Christ, that as He is the Son of man, so is the same Being not a [mere] man; and as He is flesh, so is He also spirit, and the Word of God, and God. And as He was born of Mary in the last times, so did He also proceed from God as the First-begotten of every creature; and as He hungered, so did He satisfy [others]; and as He thirsted, so did He of old cause the Jews to drink, for the Rock was Christ 1 Corinthians 10:4 Himself: thus does Jesus now give to His believing people power to drink spiritual waters, which spring up to life eternal. John 4:14 And as He was the son of David, so was He also the Lord of David. And as He was from Abraham, so did He also exist before Abraham. John 8:58 And as He was the servant of God, so is He the Son of God, and Lord of the universe. And as He was spit upon ignominiously, so also did He breathe the Holy Spirit into His disciples. John 20:22 And as He was saddened, so also did He give joy to His people. And as He was capable of being handled and touched, so again did He, in a non-apprehensible form, pass through the midst of those who sought to injure Him, John 8:59 and entered without impediment through closed doors. John 20:26 And as He slept, so did He also rule the sea, the winds, and the storms. And as He suffered, so also is He alive, and life-giving, and healing all our infirmity. And as He died, so is He also the Resurrection of the dead. He suffered shame on earth, while He is higher than all glory and praise in heaven; who, though He was crucified through weakness, yet He lives by divine power; 2 Corinthians 13:4 who descended into the lower parts of the earth, and who ascended up above the heavens; Ephesians 4:9-10 for whom a manger sufficed, yet who filled all things; who was dead, yet who lives for ever and ever. Amen. (Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus; underline emphasis ours)

4. Inasmuch, then, as all natural precepts are common to us and to them (the Jews), they had in them indeed the beginning and origin; but in us they have received growth and completion. For to yield assent to God, and to follow His Word, and to love Him above all, and one's neighbour as one's self (now man is neighbour to man), and to abstain from every evil deed, and all other things of a like nature which are common to both [covenants], do reveal one and the same God. But this is our Lord, the Word of God, who in the first instance certainly drew slaves to God, but afterwards He set those free who were subject to Him, as He does Himself declare to His disciples: I will not now call you servants, for the servant knows not what his lord does; but I have called you friends, for all things which I have heard from My Father I have made known. John 15:15 For in that which He says, I will not now call you servants, He indicates in the most marked manner that it was Himself who did originally appoint for men that bondage with respect to God through the law, and then afterwards conferred upon them freedom. And in that He says, For the servant knows not what his lord does, He points out, by means of His own advent, the ignorance of a people in a servile condition. But when He terms His disciples the friends of God, He plainly declares Himself to be the Word of God, whom Abraham also followed voluntarily and under no compulsion (sine vinculis), because of the noble nature of his faith, and so became the friend of God. James 2:23 But the Word of God did not accept of the friendship of Abraham, as though He stood in need of it, for He was perfect from the beginning (Before Abraham was, He says, I am John 8:58), but that He in His goodness might bestow eternal life upon Abraham himself, inasmuch as the friendship of God imparts immortality to those who embrace it. (Against Heresies, Book IV, Chapter 13)



Chapter 12

In what follows, some may imagine that he says something plausible against us. If, says he, these people worshipped one God alone, and no other, they would perhaps have some valid argument against the worship of others. But they pay excessive reverence to one who has but lately appeared among men, and they think it no offense against God if they worship also His servant. To this we reply, that if Celsus had known that saying, I and My Father are one, and the words used in prayer by the Son of God, As You and I are one, he would not have supposed that we worship any other besides Him who is the Supreme God. For, says He, My Father is in Me, and I in Him. And if any should from these words be afraid of our going over to the side of those who deny that the Father and the Son are two persons, let him weigh that passage, And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul, that he may understand the meaning of the saying, I and My Father are one. We worship one God, the Father and the Son, therefore, as we have explained; and our argument against the worship of other gods still continues valid. And we do not reverence beyond measure one who has but lately appeared, as though He did not exist before; for we believe Himself when He says, Before Abraham was, I am. Again He says, I am the truth; and surely none of us is so simple as to suppose that truth did not exist before the time when Christ appeared. We worship, therefore, the Father of truth, and the Son, who is the truth; and these, while they are two, considered as persons or subsistences, are one in unity of thought, in harmony and in identity of will. So entirely are they one, that he who has seen the Son, who is the brightness of God's glory, and the express image of His person, has seen in Him who is the image of God, God Himself.

Chapter 13

He further supposes, that because we join along with the worship of God the worship of His Son, it follows that, in our view, not only God, but also the servants of God, are to be worshipped. If he had meant this to apply to those who are truly the servants of God, after His only-begotten Son,— to Gabriel and Michael, and the other angels and archangels, and if he had said of these that they ought to be worshipped,— if also he had clearly defined the meaning of the word worship, and the duties of the worshippers,— we might perhaps have brought forward such thoughts as have occurred to us on so important a subject. But as he reckons among the servants of God the demons which are worshipped by the heathen, he cannot induce us, on the plea of consistency, to worship such as are declared by the word to be servants of the evil one, the prince of this world, who leads astray from God as many as he can. We decline, therefore, altogether to worship and serve those whom other men worship, for the reason that they are not servants of God. For if we had been taught to regard them as servants of the Most High, we would not have called them demons. Accordingly, we worship with all our power the one God, and His only Son, the Word and the Image of God, by prayers and supplications; and we offer our petitions to the God of the universe through His only-begotten Son. To the Son we first present them, and beseech Him, as the propitiation for our sins, and our High Priest, to offer our desires, and sacrifices, and prayers, to the Most High. Our faith, therefore, is directed to God through His Son, who strengthens it in us; and Celsus can never show that the Son of God is the cause of any sedition or disloyalty in the kingdom of God. We honour the Father when we admire His Son, the Word, and Wisdom, and Truth, and Righteousness, and all that He who is the Son of so great a Father is said in Scripture to be. So much on this point. (Against Celsus; italic and underline emphasis ours)



Topic 5

If any one affirms that the Son of God who is before the ages is one, and He who has appeared in these last times is another, and refuses to acknowledge that He who is before the ages is the same with Him who appeared in these last times, even as it is written, let him be anathema.


How could it be said that the Son of God who is before the ages, and He who has appeared in these last times, are different, when the Lord Himself says, Before Abraham was, I am; John 8:58 and, I came forth from God, and I come, and again I go to my Father? (Twelve Topics on the Faith; italic and underline emphasis ours)



20. For godliness it suffices you to know, as we have said, that God has One Only Son, One naturally begotten; who began not His being when He was born in Bethlehem, but Before All Ages. For hear the Prophet Micah saying, And thou, Bethlehem, house of Ephrata, art little to be among the thousands of Judah. Out of you shall come forth unto Me a Ruler, who shall feed My people Israel: and His goings forth are from the beginning, from days of eternity. Think not then of Him who is now come forth out of Bethlehem, but worship Him who was eternally begotten of the Father. Suffer none to speak of a beginning of the Son in time, but as a timeless Beginning acknowledge the Father. For the Father is the Beginning of the Son, timeless, incomprehensible, without beginning. The fountain of the river of righteousness, even of the Only-begotten, is the Father, who begot Him as Himself only knows. And would you know that our Lord Jesus Christ is King Eternal? Hear Him again saying, Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad. John 8:56 And then, when the Jews received this hardly, He says what to them was still harder, Before Abraham was, I am. And again He says to the Father, And now, Father, glorify Thou Me with Your own self, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. He says plainly, before the world was, I had the glory which is with You. And again when He says, For You loved Me before the foundation of the world John 17:24, He plainly declares, The glory which I have with you is from eternity.

21. We believe then In One Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, Begotten of His Father, Very God Before All Worlds, by Whom All Things Were Made. For whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things were made through Him Colossians 1:16, and of things created none is exempted from His authority. Silenced be every heresy which brings in different creators and makers of the world; silenced the tongue which blasphemes the Christ the Son of God; let them be silenced who say that the sun is the Christ, for He is the sun's Creator, not the sun which we see. Silenced be they who say that the world is the workmanship of Angels, who wish to steal away the dignity of the Only-begotten. For whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or anything that is named, all things were made by Christ. He reigns over the things which have been made by Him, not having seized another's spoils, but reigning over His own workmanship, even as the Evangelist John has said, All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made. John 1:3 All things were made by Him, the Father working by the Son. (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 11; bold emphasis ours)



Orth.— The nature of God the Word made flesh is different from that of the flesh, by assumption of which the nature of the divine Word was made flesh and became man.

Eran.— Agreed.

Orth.— Was He then changed into flesh?

Eran.— Certainly not.

Orth.— If then He was made flesh, not by mutation, but by taking flesh, and both the former and the latter qualities are appropriate to Him as to God made flesh, as you said a moment ago, then the natures were not confounded, but remained unimpaired. And as long as we hold thus we shall perceive too the harmony of the Evangelists, for while the one proclaims the divine attributes of the one only begotten— the Lord Christ— the other sets forth His human qualities. So too Christ our Lord Himself teaches us, at one time calling Himself Son of God and at another Son of man: at one time He gives honour to His Mother as to her that gave Him birth; at another He rebukes her as her Lord. At one time He finds no fault with them that style Him Son of David; at another He teaches the ignorant that He is not only David's Son but also David's Lord. He calls Nazareth and Capernaum His country, and again He exclaims Before Abraham was I am. You will find the divine Scripture full of similar passages, and they all point not to one nature but to two. (Dialogues, Dialogue 2; bold emphasis ours)



But wherefore said He not, Before Abraham was, I was, instead of I Am? As the Father uses this expression, I Am, so also does Christ; for it signifies continuous Being, irrespective of all time. On which account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous . Now if they could not bear the comparison with Abraham, although this was but a trifling one, had He continually made Himself equal to the Father, would they ever have ceased casting stones at Him? (Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homily 55)

No man has seen God at any time. By what connection of thought does the Apostle come to say this? After showing the exceeding greatness of the gifts of Christ, and the infinite difference between them and those ministered by Moses, he would add the reasonable cause of the difference. Moses, as being a servant, was minister of lower things, but Christ being Lord and King, and the King's Son, brought to us things far greater, being ever with the Father, and beholding Him continually; wherefore He says, No man has seen God at any time. What then shall we answer to the most mighty of voice, Esaias, when he says, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up Isaiah 6:1; and to John himself testifying of Him, that he said these things when he had seen His glory? John 12:41 What also to Ezekiel? For he too beheld Him sitting above the Cherubim. Ezekiel 1 and 10 What to Daniel? For he too says, The Ancient of days did sit Daniel 7:9 What to Moses himself, saying, Show me Your Glory, that I may see You so as to know You. Exodus 33:13, partly from Septuagint And Jacob took his name from this very thing, being called Israel; for Israel is one that sees God. And others have seen him. How then says John, No man has seen God at any time? It is to declare, that all these were instances of (His) condescension, not the vision of the Essence itself unveiled. For had they seen the very Nature, they would not have beheld It under different forms, since that is simple, without form, or parts, or bounding lines. It sits not, nor stands, nor walks: these things belong all to bodies. But how He Is, He only knows. And this He has declared by a certain prophet, saying, I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes by the hands of the prophets Hosea 12:10, that is, I have condescended, I have not appeared as I really was. For since His Son was about to appear in very flesh, He prepared them from old time to behold the substance of God, as far as it was possible for them to see It; but what God really is, not only have not the prophets seen, but not even angels nor archangels. If you ask them, you shall not hear them answering anything concerning His Essence, but sending up, Glory to God in the Highest, on earth peace, good will towards men. Luke 2:14 If you desire to learn something from Cherubim or Seraphim, you shall hear the mystic song of His Holiness, and that heaven and earth are full of His glory. Isaiah 6:3 If you enquire of the higher powers, you shall but find that their one work is the praise of God. Praise Him, says David, all His hosts. Psalm 148:2 But the Son only Beholds Him, and the Holy Ghost. How can any created nature even see the Uncreated? If we are absolutely unable clearly to discern any incorporeal power whatsoever, even though created, as has been often proved in the case of angels, much less can we discern the Essence which is incorporeal and uncreated. Wherefore Paul says, Whom no man has seen, nor can see. 1 Timothy 6:16 Does then this special attribute belong to the Father only, not to the Son? AWAY WITH THE THOUGHT. It belongs also to the Son; and to show that it does so, hear Paul declaring this point, and saying, that He is the Image of the invisible God. Colossians 1:15 Now if He be the Image of the Invisible, He must be invisible Himself, for otherwise He would not be an image. And wonder not that Paul says in another place, God was manifested in the Flesh 1 Timothy 3:16; because the manifestation took place by means of the flesh, not according to (His) Essence. Besides, Paul shows that He is invisible, not only to men, but also to the powers above, for after saying, was manifested in the Flesh, he adds, was seen of angels

Observe, therefore, with what fullness the Evangelist speaks; for having said that no man has seen God at any time, he does not go on to say, that the Son who has seen, has declared Him, but adds something beyond seeing by the words, Who is in the bosom of the Father; because, to dwell in the bosom is far more than to see. For he that merely sees has not an in every way exact knowledge of the object, but he that dwells in the bosom can be ignorant of nothing. Now lest when you hear that none knows the Father, save the Son, you should assert that although He knows the Father more than all, yet He knows not how great He is, the Evangelist says that He dwells in the bosom of the Father; and Christ Himself declares, that He knows Him as much as the Father knows the Son. Ask therefore the gainsayer, Tell me, does the Father know the Son? And if he be not mad, he will certainly answer Yes. Then ask again; Does He see and know Him with exact vision and knowledge? Does He know clearly what He Is? He will certainly confess this also. From this next collect the exact comprehension the Son has of the Father. For He says, As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father John 10:15; and in another place, Not that any man has seen the Father, save He which is of God. John 6:46 Wherefore, as I said, the Evangelist mentions the bosom, to show all this to us by that one word; that great is the affinity and nearness of the Essence, that the knowledge is nowise different, that the power is equal. For the Father would not have in His bosom one of another essence, nor would He have dared, had He been one among many servants, to live in the bosom of his Lord, for this belongs only to a true Son, to one who has much confidence towards His Father, and who is in nothing inferior to Him.

Would you learn also His eternity? Hear what Moses says concerning the Father. When he asked what he was commanded to answer should the Jews enquire of him, Who it was that had sent him, he heard these words: Say, I AM has sent me. Exodus 3:14 Now the expression I AM, is significative of Being ever, and Being without beginning, of Being really and absolutely. And this also the expression, Was in the beginning, declares, being indicative of Being ever; so that John uses this word to show that the Son Is from everlasting to everlasting in the bosom of the Father. For that you may not from the sameness of name, suppose that He is some one of those who are made sons by grace, first, the article is added, distinguishing Him from those by grace. But if this does not content you, if you still look earthwards, hear a name more absolute than this, Only-Begotten. If even after this you still look below, I will not refuse, says he, (St. John,) to apply to God a term belonging to man, I mean the word 'bosom,' only suspect nothing degrading. Do you see the lovingkindness and carefulness of the Lord? God applies to Himself unworthy expressions, that even so you may see through them, and have some great and lofty thought of Him; and do you tarry below? For tell me, wherefore is that gross and carnal word bosom employed in this place? Is it that we may suppose God to be a body? Away, he by no means says so. Why then is it spoken? For if by it neither the genuineness of the Son is established, nor that God is not a body, the word, because it serves no purpose, is superfluously thrown in. Why then is it spoken? For I shall not desist from asking you this question. Is it not very plain, that it is for no other reason but that by it we might understand the genuineness of the Only-Begotten, AND HIS CO-ETERNITY WITH THE FATHER?

3. He has declared Him, says John. What has he declared? That no man has seen God at any time? That God is one? But this all the other prophets testify, and Moses continually exclaims, The Lord your God is one Lord Deuteronomy 6:4; and Esaias, Before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. Isaiah 43:10 What more then have we learned from the Son which is in the bosom of the Father? What from the Only-Begotten? In the first place, these very words were uttered by His working; in the next place, we have received a teaching that is far clearer, and learned that God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth John 4:24; and again, that it is impossible to see God; that no man knows Him, save the Son Matthew 11:27; that He is the Father of the true and Only-Begotten; and all other things that are told us of Him. But the word has declared shows the plainer and clearer teaching which He gave not to the Jews only but to all the world, and established. To the prophets not even all the Jews gave heed, but to the Only-Begotten Son of God all the world yielded and obeyed. So the declaration in this place shows the greater clearness of His teaching, and therefore also He is called Word, and Angel of great Counsel. (Homily 15; bold emphasis ours)

2. They thought that He, thus speaking, did so with a view to the abrogation of the ancient institutions. This suspicion therefore He heals; nor here only does He so, but elsewhere also again. Thus, since they accounted Him no less than an adversary of God, from this sort of reason, namely, His not keeping the sabbath; He, to heal such their suspicion, there also again sets forth His pleas, of which some indeed were proper to Himself; as when He says, My Father works, and I work; John 5:17 but some had in them much condescension, as when He brings forward the sheep lost on the sabbath day, Matthew 12:11 and points out that the law is disturbed for its preservation, and makes mention again of circumcision, as having this same effect. John 7:23

Wherefore we see also that He often speaks words somewhat beneath Him, to remove the semblance of His being an adversary of God.

For this cause He who had raised thousands of the dead with a word only, when He was calling Lazarus, added also a prayer; and then, lest this should make Him appear less than Him that begot Him, He, to correct this suspicion, added, I said these things, because of the people which stands by, that they may believe that you have sent me. And neither does He work all things as one who acted by His own power, that He might thoroughly correct their weakness; nor does He all things with prayer, lest He should leave matter of evil suspicion to them that should follow, as though He were without strength or power: but He mingles the latter with the former, and those again with these. Neither does He this indiscriminately, but with His own proper wisdom. For while He does the greater works authoritatively, in the less He looks up unto Heaven. Thus, when absolving sins, and revealing His secrets, and opening Paradise, and driving away devils, and cleansing lepers, and bridling death, and raising the dead by thousands, He did all by way of command: but when, what was much less than these, He was causing many loaves to spring forth out of few, then He looked up to Heaven: signifying that not through weakness He does this. For He who could do the greater with authority, how in the lesser could He need prayer? But as I was saying, He does this to silence their shamelessness. The same reckoning, then, I bid you make of His words also, when you hear Him speak lowly things. For many in truth are the causes both for words and for actions of that cast: as, for instance, that He might not be supposed alien from God; His instructing and waiting on all men; His teaching humility; His being encompassed with flesh; the Jews' inability to hear all at once; His teaching us to utter no high word of ourselves. For this cause many times, having in His own person said much that is lowly of Himself, the great things He leaves to be said by others. Thus He Himself indeed, reasoning with the Jews, said, Before Abraham was, I Am: John 8:58 but His disciple not thus, but, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

Again, that He Himself made Heaven, and earth, and sea, and all things visible and invisible, in His own person He nowhere expressly said: but His disciple, speaking plainly out, and suppressing nothing, affirms this once, twice, yea often: writing that all things were made by Him; and, without Him was not one thing made; and, He was in the world, and the world was made by Him.

And why marvel, if others have said greater things of Him than He of Himself; since (what is more) in many cases, what He showed forth by His deeds, by His words He uttered not openly? Thus that it was Himself who made mankind He showed clearly even by that blind man; but when He was speaking of our formation at the beginning, He said not, I made, but He who made them, made them male and female. Matthew 19:4 Again, that He created the world and all things therein, He demonstrated by the fishes, by the wine, by the loaves, by the calm in the sea, by the sunbeam which He averted on the Cross; and by very many things besides: but in words He has nowhere said this plainly, though His disciples are continually declaring it, both John, and Paul, and Peter…

For this same cause, neither do we find Him teaching everywhere clearly concerning His own Godhead. For if His adding to the law was sure to perplex them so greatly, much more His declaring Himself God. (Homily 16 on Matthew; bold emphasis ours)



“… But from the tribe of Judah there came Our Lord Jesus Christ. For He is, as the Scripture says, and as you have but now heard, out of the seed of David born of Mary. 2 Timothy 2:8 But as regards the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, wherein He is equal with the Father, He is not only before the Jews, but also before Abraham himself; John 8:58 nor only before Abraham, but also before Adam; nor only before Adam, but also before Heaven and earth and before ages: for all things by Himself were made, and without Him there was made nothing. John 1:3… Nevertheless because Christ Himself is of the seed of David after the flesh, but God above all things blessed for ever, Romans 9:5 He is Himself our King and our God; our King, inasmuch as born of the tribe of Judah, after the flesh, was Christ the Lord, the Saviour; but our God, who is before Judah, and before Heaven and earth, by whom were made all things, John 1:3 both spiritual and corporal. For if all things by Himself were made; even Mary herself, out of whom He was born, by Himself was made….” (Exposition on Psalm 76; bold emphasis ours)

5. Your throne is established from thence, O Lord Psalm 92:2. What is, from thence? From that time. As if he said, What is the throne of God? Where does God sit? In His Saints. Do you wish to be the throne of God? Prepare a place in your heart where He may sit. What is the throne of God, except where God dwells? Where does God dwell, except in His temple? What is His temple? Is it surrounded with walls? Far from it. Perhaps this world is His temple, because it is very great, and a thing worthy to contain God. It contains not Him by whom it was made. And wherein is He contained? In the quiet soul, in the righteous soul: that is it that contains Him…. He who said, Before Abraham was, I am: John 8:58 not before Abraham only, but before Adam: not only before Adam, but before all the angels, before heaven and earth; since all things were made through Him: he added, lest you, attending to the day of our Lord's nativity, might think He commenced from that time, Your throne is established, O God. But what God? You are from everlasting: for which he uses Greek version; that word being sometimes used for an age, sometimes for everlasting. Therefore, O Thou who seemest to be born from thence, You are from everlasting! But let not human birth be thought of, but Divine eternity. He began then from the time of His birth; He grew: Luke 2:40, 52 you have heard the Gospel. He chose disciples, He replenished them, His disciples began to preach. Perhaps this is what he speaks of in the following verse. (Exposition on Psalm 93; bold emphasis ours)



Chapter 15. Again He Proves from the Gospel that Christ is God.

If Christ is only man, how is it that He says, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: because I know whence I came, and whither I go; you know not whence I came, and whither I go. You judge after the flesh? Behold, also He says, that He shall return there whence He bears witness that He came before, as being sent—to wit, from heaven. He came down therefore from whence He came, in the same manner as He goes there from whence He descended. Whence if Christ were only man, He would not have come thence, and therefore would not depart there, because He would riot have come thence. Moreover, by coming thence, whence as man He could not have come, He shows Himself to have come as God. For the Jews, ignorant and untaught in the matter of this very descent of His, made these heretics their successors, seeing that to them it is said, You know not whence I come, and whither I go: you judge after the flesh. As much they as the Jews, holding that the carnal birth of Christ was the only one, believed that Christ was nothing else than man; not considering this point, that as man could not come from heaven, so as that he might return there, He who descended thence must be God, seeing that man could not come thence. If Christ is only man, how does He say, You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world? But therefore if every man is of this world, and Christ is for that reason in this world, is He only man? God forbid! But consider what He says: I am not of this world. Does He then speak falsely when He says of this world, if He is only man? Or if He does not speak falsely, He is not of this world; He is therefore not man only, because He is not of this world. But that it should not be a secret who He was, He declared whence He was: I, said He, am from above, that is, from heaven, whence man cannot come, for he was not made in heaven. He is God, therefore, who is from above, and therefore He is not of this world; although, moreover, in a certain manner He is of this world: wherefore Christ is not God only, but man also. As reasonably in the way in which He is not of this world according to the divinity of the Word, so He is of this world according to the frailty of the body that He has taken upon Him. For man is joined with God, and God is linked with man. But on that account this Christ here laid more stress on the one aspect of His sole divinity, because the Jewish blindness contemplated in Christ the aspect alone of the flesh; and thence in the present passage He passed over in silence the frailty of the body, which is of the world, and spoke of His divinity alone, which is not of the world: so that in proportion as they had inclined to believe Him to be only man, in that proportion Christ might draw them to consider His divinity, so as to believe Him to be God, desirous to overcome their incredulity concerning His divinity by omitting in the meantime any mention of His human condition, and by setting before them His divinity alone. If Christ is man only, how does He say, I proceeded forth and came from God, when it is evident that man was made by God, and did not proceed forth from Him? But in the way in which as man He proceeded not from God, thus the Word of God proceeded, of whom it is said, My heart has uttered forth a good Word; which, because it is from God, is with reason also with God. And this, too, since it was not uttered without effect, reasonably makes all things: For all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made. But this Word whereby all things were made (is God). And God, says he, was the Word. Therefore God proceeded from God, in that the Word which proceeded is God, who proceeded forth from God. If Christ is only man, how does He say, If any man shall keep my word, he shall not see death for ever? Not to see death for ever! What is this but immortality? But immortality is the associate of divinity, because both the divinity is immortal, and immortality is the fruit of divinity. For every man is mortal; and immortality cannot be from that which is mortal. Therefore from Christ, as a mortal man, immortality cannot arise. But, says He, whosoever keeps my word, shall not see death for ever; therefore the word of Christ affords immortality, and by immortality affords divinity. But although it is not possible to maintain that one who is himself mortal can make another immortal, yet this word of Christ not only sets forth, but affords immortality: certainly He is not man only who gives immortality, which if He were only man He could not give; but by giving divinity by immortality, He proves Himself to be God by offering divinity, which if He were not God He could not give. If Christ was only man, how did He say, Before Abraham was, I Am? For no man can be before Him from whom he himself is; nor can it be that any one should have been prior to him of whom he himself has taken his origin. And yet Christ, although He is born of Abraham, says that He is before Abraham. Either, therefore, He says what is not true, and deceives, if He was not before Abraham, seeing that He was of Abraham; or He does not deceive, if He is also God, and was before Abraham. And if this were not so, it follows that, being of Abraham, He could not be before Abraham. If Christ was only man, how does He say, And I know them, and my sheep follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish? And yet, since every man is bound by the laws of mortality, and therefore is unable to keep himself for ever, much more will he be unable to keep another for ever. But Christ promises to give salvation for ever, which if He does not give, He is a deceiver; if He gives, He is God. But He does not deceive, for He gives what He promises. Therefore He is God who proffers eternal salvation, which man, being unable to keep himself for ever, cannot be able to give to another. If Christ is only man, what is that which He says, I and the Father are one? For how can it be that I and the Father are one, if He is not both God and the Son?— who may therefore be called one, seeing that He is of Himself, being both His Son, and being born of Him, being declared to have proceeded from Him, by which He is also God; which when the Jews thought to be hateful, and believed to be blasphemous, for that He had shown Himself in these discourses to be God, and therefore rushed at once to stoning, and set to work passionately to hurl stones, He strongly refuted His adversaries by the example and witness of the Scriptures. If, said He, He called them gods to whom the words of God were given, and the Scriptures cannot be broken, you say of Him whom the Father sanctified, and sent into this world, You blaspheme, because I said, I am the Son of God. By which words He did not deny Himself to be God, but rather He confirmed the assertion that He was God. For because, undoubtedly, they are said to be gods unto whom the words of God were given, much more is He God who is found to be superior to all these. And nevertheless He refuted the calumny of blasphemy in a fitting manner with lawful tact. For He wishes that He should be thus understood to be God, as the Son of God, and He would not wish to be understood to be the Father Himself. Thus He said that He was sent, and showed them that He had manifested many good works from the Father; whence He desired that He should not be understood to be the Father, but the Son. And in the latter portion of His defence He made mention of the Son, not the Father, when He said, You say, You blaspheme, because I said, I am the Son of God. Thus, as far as pertains to the guilt of blasphemy, He calls Himself the Son, not the Father; but as pertaining to His divinity, by saying, I and the Father are one, He proved that He was the Son of God. He is God, therefore, but God in such a manner as to be the Son, not the Father. (Treatise Concerning the Trinity; italic and underline emphasis ours)



12. For after making mention of the creation, he naturally speaks of the Framer's Power as seen in it, which Power, I say, is the Word of God, by whom all things have been made. If indeed the creation is sufficient of itself alone, without the Son, to make God known, see that you fall not, from thinking that without the Son it has come to be. But if through the Son it has come to be, and 'in Him all things consist Colossians 1:17,' it must follow that he who contemplates the creation rightly, is contemplating also the Word who framed it, and through Him begins to apprehend the Father. And if, as the Saviour also says, 'No one knows the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him Matthew 11:27,' and if on Philip's asking, 'Show us the Father,' He said not, 'Behold the creation,' but, 'He that has seen Me, has seen the Father John 14:8-9,' reasonably does Paul—while accusing the Greeks of contemplating the harmony and order of the creation without reflecting on the Framing Word within it (for the creatures witness to their own Framer) so as through the creation to apprehend the true God, and abandon their worship of it—reasonably has he said, 'His Eternal Power and Godhead Romans 1:20,' thereby signifying the Son. And where the sacred writers say, 'Who exists before the ages,' and 'By whom He made the ages Hebrews 1:2,' they thereby as clearly preach the eternal and everlasting being of the Son, even while they are designating God Himself. Thus, if Isaiah says, 'The Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth Isaiah 40:28;' and Susanna said, 'O Everlasting God;' and Baruch wrote, 'I will cry unto the Everlasting in my days,' and shortly after, 'My hope is in the Everlasting, that He will save you, and joy has come unto me from the Holy One;' yet forasmuch as the Apostle, writing to the Hebrews, says, 'Who being the radiance of His glory and the Expression of His Person Hebrews 1:3;' and David too in the eighty-ninth Psalm, 'And the brightness of the Lord be upon us,' and, 'In Your Light shall we see Light ,' who has so little sense as to doubt of the eternity of the Son? For when did man see light without the brightness of its radiance, that he may say of the Son, 'There was once, when He was not,' or 'Before His generation He was not.' And the words addressed to the Son in the hundred and forty-fourth Psalm, 'Your kingdom is a kingdom of all ages,' forbid any one to imagine any interval at all in which the Word did not exist. For if every interval in the ages is measured, and of all the ages the Word is King and Maker, therefore, whereas no interval at all exists prior to Him, it were madness to say, 'There was once when the Everlasting was not,' and 'From nothing is the Son.' And whereas the Lord Himself says, 'I am the Truth,' not 'I became the Truth.' but always, 'I am—I am the Shepherd,— I am the Light,'— and again, 'Call Me not, Lord and Master? And you call Me well, for so I am,' who, hearing such language from God, and the Wisdom, and Word of the Father, speaking of Himself, will any longer hesitate about the truth, and not immediately believe that in the phrase 'I am,' is signified that the Son is eternal and without beginning?

13. It is plain then from the above that the Scriptures declare the Son's eternity; it is equally plain from what follows that the Arian phrases 'He was not,' and 'before' and 'when,' are in the same Scriptures predicated of creatures. Moses, for instance, in his account of the generation of our system, says, 'And every plant of the field, before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew; for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground Genesis 2:5.' And in Deuteronomy, 'When the Most High divided to the nations Deuteronomy 32:8.' And the Lord said in His own Person, 'If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, I go unto the Father, for My Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it has come to pass, you might believe John 14:28-29.' And concerning the creation He says by Solomon, 'Or ever the earth was, when there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth Proverbs 8:23.' And, 'Before Abraham was, I am John 8:58.' And concerning Jeremiah He says, 'Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you Jeremiah 1:5.' And David in the Psalm says, 'Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made, You are, God from everlasting and world without end. ' And in Daniel, 'Susanna cried out with a loud voice and said, O everlasting God, that know the secrets, and know all things before they be. ' Thus it appears that the phrases 'once was not,' and 'before it came to be,' and 'when,' and the like, belong to things originate and creatures, which come out of nothing, but are alien to the Word. But if such terms are used in Scripture of things originate, but 'ever' of the Word, it follows, O you enemies of God, that the Son did not come out of nothing, nor is in the number of originated things at all, but is the Father's Image and Word eternal, never having not been, but being ever, as the eternal Radiance of a Light which is eternal. Why imagine then times before the Son? Or why blaspheme the Word as after times, by whom even the ages were made? For how did time or age at all subsist when the Word, as you say, had not appeared, 'through' whom 'all things have been made and without' whom 'not one thing was made John 1:3?' Or why, when you mean time, do you not plainly say, 'a time was when the Word was not?' But while you drop the word 'time' to deceive the simple, you do not at all conceal your own feeling, nor, even if you did, could you escape discovery. For you still simply mean times, when you say, 'There was when He was not,' and 'He was not before His generation.' (Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 1; bold emphasis ours)

4. On this account and reasonably, having said before, 'I and the Father are One,' He added, 'I in the Father and the Father in Me, John 10:30' by way of showing the identity of Godhead and the unity of Essence. For they are one, not as one thing divided into two parts, and these nothing but one, nor as one thing twice named, so that the Same becomes at one time Father, at another His own Son, for this Sabellius holding was judged an heretic. But They are two, because the Father is Father and is not also Son, and the Son is Son and not also Father; but the nature is one; (for the offspring is not unlike its parent, for it is his image), and all that is the Father's, is the Son's. Wherefore neither is the Son another God, for He was not procured from without, else were there many, if a godhead be procured foreign from the Father's; for if the Son be other, as an Offspring, still He is the Same as God; and He and the Father are one in propriety and peculiarity of nature, and in the identity of the one Godhead, as has been said. For the radiance also is light, not second to the sun, nor a different light, nor from participation of it, but a whole and proper offspring of it. And such an offspring is necessarily one light; and no one would say that they are two lights, but sun and radiance two, yet one the light from the sun enlightening in its radiance all things. So also the Godhead of the Son is the Father's; whence also it is indivisible; and thus there is one God and none other but He. And so, since they are one, and the Godhead itself one, THE SAME THINGS ARE SAID OF THE SON, WHICH ARE SAID OF THE FATHER, except His being said to be Father:— for instance , that He is God, 'And the Word was God John 1:1;' ALMIGHTY, 'Thus says He which was and is and is to come, the Almighty Revelation 1:8;' Lord, 'One Lord Jesus Christ 1 Corinthians 8:6;' that He is Light, 'I am the Light John 8:12;' that He wipes out sins, 'that you may know,' He says, 'that the Son of man has power upon earth to forgive sins Luke 5:24;' and so with other attributes. For 'all things,' says the Son Himself, 'whatsoever the Father has, are Mine;' and again, 'And Mine are Yours.'… Again, whereas the Jews said, 'Is not this the Son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then is it that He says, Before Abraham was, I am, and I came down from heaven?' the Arians on the other hand make response and say conformably, 'How can He be Word or God who slept as man, and wept, and inquired?' Thus both parties deny the Eternity and Godhead of the Word in consequence of those human attributes which the Saviour took on Him by reason of that flesh which He bore. (Discourse 3; bold and capital emphasis ours)

1. The Word is God from God; for 'the Word was God John 1:1,' and again, 'Of whom are the Fathers, and of whom Christ, who is God over all, blessed for ever. Amen Romans 9:5.' And since Christ is God from God, and God's Word, Wisdom, Son, and Power, therefore but One God is declared in the divine Scriptures. For the Word, being Son of the One God, is referred to Him of whom also He is; so that Father and Son are two, yet the Monad of the Godhead is indivisible and inseparable. And thus too we preserve One Beginning of Godhead and not two Beginnings, whence there is strictly a Monarchy. And of this very Beginning the Word is by nature Son, not as if another beginning, subsisting by Himself, nor having come into being externally to that Beginning, lest from that diversity a Dyarchy and Polyarchy should ensue; but of the one Beginning He is own Son, own Wisdom, own Word, existing from It. For, according to John, 'in' that 'Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,' for the Beginning was God; and since He is from It, therefore also 'the Word was God.' And as there is one Beginning and therefore one God, so one is that Essence and Subsistence which indeed and truly and really is, and which said 'I am that I am Exodus 3:14,' and not two, that there be not two Beginnings; and from the One, a Son in nature and truth, is Its own Word, Its Wisdom, Its Power, and inseparable from It. And as there is not another essence, lest there be two Beginnings, so the Word which is from that One Essence has no dissolution, nor is a sound significative, but is an essential Word and essential Wisdom, which is the true Son. For were He not essential, God will be speaking into the air 1 Corinthians 14:9, and having a body, in nothing differently from men; but since He is not man, neither is His Word according to the infirmity of man. For as the Beginning is one Essence, so Its Word is one, essential, and subsisting, and Its Wisdom. For as He is God from God, and Wisdom from the Wise, and Word from the Rational, and Son from Father, so is He from Subsistence Subsistent, and from Essence Essential and Substantive, and Being from Being. (Discourse 4; bold emphasis ours)