The Church Fathers

Introducing the Church Fathers – Jerome


Jerome was a mid 4th to early 5th century church father widely known for his linguistic skill which he utilized to translate the Bible into Latin (the common language of the time). This translation is known as the “Vulgate.” In addition to being a linguist, he was also a historian and theologian. He began a historical work called “Chronicle” in 380 AD. This work was mentioned in my previous post on “Prosper of Aquitaine” as Prosper was a legacy contributor to this work. Jerome was born in Stridon (Dalmatia) in 347 AD and died in 420 AD at Bethlehem. He was a voracious writer and much of his body of work has survived antiquity. His writings consisted many commentaries, letters, homilies and both canonical and extra-canonical translations. The selections for today are taken from “Letter 53.4” and “Homilies on Mathew 85.” I selected these two pieces because they give a good overview of the purpose and focus of the biblical office of prophet/seer, which is simply the revelation of Christ.

The church has real eyes: manifestly its churchmen and teachers who see in the holy Writ the mysteries of God, and to them applies that scriptural appelation of “seer.” It is correct, then, to call these seers the eyes of the church. Homilies on Matthew 85

In him [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He also who was hidden in a mystery is the same that was foreordained before the world. Now it was in the law and in the prophets that he was foreordained and prefigured. For this reason too the prophets were called seers, because they saw him who others did not see. Letter 53.4

As stated earlier, Jerome was a prolific writer and thus will be a regular guest in the “Introducing the Church Fathers” series.

Introducing the Church Fathers – Cyril of Alexandria

CyrilCyril was an early fifth century Patriarch of Alexandria, serving from 412 to 444. Cyril was most known for his Christological disputes with Nestorius which lead to his involvement at the first council of Ephesus (431) and resulted the in deposition of Nestorius as Patriarch of Constantinople. The dispute dealt with the hypostatic union and centered on whether the virgin Mary could be called Theotokos (God-bearer) or Christotokos (Christ-bearer). Nestorius coined Christotokos (Christ-bearer) seeking to find middle ground between those who deny the full deity of Jesus and those who affirm it. This view lead to both Nestorius and his phrase Christotokos being ruled as heretical in Canon’s 1-5 at the first Council of Ephesus. Cyril was known to be a prolific writer and thankfully, many of his works have survived antiquity. He wrote much on the trinity and the hypostaic union as well as several commentaries on the Old Testament, the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John. The first volume of a modern English translation of his commentary on the Gospel of John (translated by David R. Maxwell and edited by Joel C. Elowsky) was recently released (and can be found here). Today’s selection is taken from this very work as found in “Book 1” on pages 4 through 6. (more…)

Introducing the Church Fathers – Isidore of Seville (Part 4)

Isadore of Seville

This week is the last post in the series on Isidore of Seville and his work on the many names of the God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit and the Trinity taken from his work titled “The Etymologies.” Once again, this work can be found completely free online here.

iv. The Trinity (De Trinitate)

The Trinity (Trinitas) is so named because from a certain three (tres) is made one (unum) whole, as it were a ‘Tri-unity’ (Triunitas) – just like memory, intelligence, and will, in which the mind has in itself a certain image of the divine Trinity. Indeed, while they are three, they are one, because while they persist in themselves as individual components, they are all in all. Therefore the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are a trinity and a unity, for they are both one and three. They are one in nature (natura), three in person (persona). One because of their shared majesty, three because of the individuality of the persons. For the Father is one person, the Son another, the Holy Spirit another – but another person (alius), not another thing (aliud), because they are equally and jointly a single thing (simplex), immutable, good, and coeternal. Only the Father is not derived from another; therefore he is called Unbegotten (Ingenitus). Only the Son is born of the Father; therefore he is called Begotten (Genitus). Only the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son; therefore it alone is referred to as ‘the Spirit of both the others.’

For this Trinity some names are appellative (appellativus), and some are proper (proprius). The proper ones name the essence, such as God, Lord, Almighty, Immutable, Immortal. These are proper because they signify the very substance by which the three are one. But appellative names are Father and Son and Holy Spirit, Unbegotten and Begotten and Proceeding. These same are also relational (relativus) because they have reference (referre, ppl. relatus) to one another. When one says “God,” that is the essence, because he is being named with respect to himself. But when one says Father and Son and Holy Spirit, these names are spoken relationally, because they have reference to one another. For we say ‘Father’ not with respect to himself, but with respect to his relation to the Son, because he has a son; likewise we speak of ‘Son’ relationally, because he has a father; and so ‘Holy Spirit,’ because it is the spirit of the Father and the Son. This relationship is signified by these ‘appellative terms’ (appellatio), because they have reference to one another, but the substance itself, in which the three are one, is not thus signified.

Hence the Trinity exists in the relational names of the persons. Deity is not tripled, but exists in singleness, for if it were tripled we would introduce a plurality of gods. For that reason the name of ‘gods’ in the plural is said with regard to angels and holy people, because they are not his equal in merit. Concerning these is the Psalm (81:6 Vulgate), “I have said: You are gods.” But for the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, because of their one and equal divinity, the name is observed to be not ‘gods’ but ‘God,’ as the Apostle says (I Corinthians 8:6): “Yet to us there is but one God,” or as we hear from the divine voice (Mark 12:29, etc.), “Hear, O Israel: the Lord thy God is one God,” namely inasmuch as he is both the Trinity and the one Lord God.

This tenet of faith concerning the Trinity is put in this way in Greek: ‘one οὐσία,’ as if one were to say ‘one nature’ (natura) or ‘one essence’ (essentia); ‘three ὑποστάσεις,’ which in Latin means “three persons” (persona) or “three substances” (substantia). Now Latin does not speak of God properly except as ‘essence’; people say ‘substance,’ indeed, but metaphorically, for in Greek the term ‘substance’ actually is understood as a person of God, not as his nature.

Introducing the Church Fathers – Isidore of Seville (Part 3)

Isadore of Seville

This is Part 3 of the series on Isidore of Seville. Today’s post, on “The Holy Spirit” was supposed to be the last in this series, however, I have decided to continue one week further by adding Part 4 which will include Isidore’s work on “The Trinity.” The selection for today, as is the case with the entire Isidore Series, is taken from his work “The Etymologies” and can be found in it’s entirety here. I highly encourage you all to invest some time to making your acquaintance with this vast and historically important work.

iii. The Holy Spirit (De Spiritu Sancto)

The Holy Spirit is proclaimed to be God because it proceeds from the Father and the Son, and has God’s substance, for no other thing could proceed from the Father than what is itself the Father. It is called the Spirit (spiritus, i.e. ‘breath’ or ‘spirit’) because when it is breathed (spirare, ppl. spiratus) it is transferred to something else; moreover, its action inspires with its breath, so to speak, and consequently it is called the Spirit. It is called the Holy Spirit for a certain appropriate reason, in that the term is related to the Father and the Son, because it is their spiritus. Now this name ‘Spirit’ is also conferred not because of what is imparted to something, but because of what signifies some kind of nature. Indeed, every incorporeal nature in Holy Scripture is called spirit, whence this term suits not only the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, but also every rational creature and soul. Therefore the Spirit of God is called Holy, because it is the holiness of the Father and Son. Although the Father is spirit and the Son is spirit, and the Father is holy and the Son is holy, properly nevertheless this one is called Holy (sanctus) Spirit, as the co-essential and consubstantial holiness (sanctitas) of both the others.

The Holy Spirit is not spoken of as begotten (genitus) lest it should be thought that there are two Sons in the Trinity. It is not proclaimed as unbegotten (ingenitus), lest it should be believed that there are two Fathers in that same Trinity. It is spoken of, however, as proceeding (procedere), by the testimony of the Lord’s saying (cf. John 16:12–15), “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot hear them now. But he, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, will come, and he shall receive of mine; he shall show everything to you.” This Spirit moreover proceeds not only by its nature, but it proceeds always in ceaselessly performing the works of the Trinity. Between the Son who is born and the Holy Spirit who proceeds is this distinction, that the Son is born from one, the Holy Spirit proceeds from both. Therefore the Apostle says (Romans 8:9), “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

In its work the Holy Spirit is also understood to be an angel, for it is said of it (John 16:13), “And the things that are to come, he shall announce (adnuntiare) to you” – and the Greek term‘angel’ means “messenger” (nuntius) in Latin. Hence also two angels appeared to Lot, and to these the name ‘Lord’ was given in the singular; we understand them to have been the Son and the Holy Spirit, for we never read that the Father is ‘sent.’

The Holy Spirit, because it is called the Paraclete, is named from‘consolation,’ for theGreek term!7  in Latin means “consolation.” Thus Christ sent the Spirit to the mourning apostles, after he ascended from their eyes to heaven. For it is sent as a consoler to those who grieve, and according to the saying of the same Lord (Matthew 5:5), “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be consoled.” Again he said (Matthew 9:15), “Then the children of the bridegroom shall mourn, when the bridegroom shall have been taken away from them.” Again, Paraclete, because it offers consolation to souls that have lost temporal joy. Others say that ‘Paraclete’ in Latin means “orator” or “advocate,” for one and the same Holy Spirit speaks; it teaches; through it are given words of wisdom; by it Holy Scripture has been inspired.

The Holy Spirit is named the Sevenfold (septiformis) because of the gifts that all have a claim to attain from the fullness of its unity, one by one, according as they deserve. Thus it is the Spirit of wisdom and intellect, the Spirit of counsel and courage, the Spirit of knowledge and holiness, the Spirit of the fear of theLord(Isaiah 11:2– 3). 14. Further, we read of the ‘perfect Spirit’ (principalis Spiritus) in the fiftieth Psalm, where because spiritus is repeated thrice, some understand the Trinity, since it is written (John 4:24), “God is a spirit.” Indeed, because he is not a body, and yet he exists, it seems to remain that he is a spirit. Some understand that the Trinity is signified in Psalm 50: in the “perfect Spirit” (vs. 14) the Father, in the “right Spirit” (vs. 12) the Son, in the “holy spirit” (vs. 13) the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is called a Gift because it is given, for ‘gift’ (donum) takes its name from ‘giving’ (dare). Now it is very well known that our Lord Jesus Christ, when he had ascended into heaven after his resurrection from the dead, gave the Holy Spirit, and filled with this Spirit the believers spoke in the tongues of all nations. Moreover it is a gift of God to the extent that it is given to those who love God through the Spirit. In itself, it is God; with regard to us, it is a gift – but the Holy Spirit is forever a Gift, handing out the gifts of grace to individuals as it wishes. It imparts the gift of prophecy to whomever it wishes, and it forgives sins for whomever it wishes – for sins are not pardoned without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is appropriately named Charity (caritas) either because by its nature it joins with those from whom it proceeds and shows itself to be one with them, or because it brings it about in us that we remain in God and he in us. Whence among the gifts of God nothing is greater than charity, and there is no greater gift of God than the Holy Spirit. It is also Grace (gratia), and has this name because it is given freely (gratis) not according to our merits, but according to divine will.

Further, just as we speak of the unique Word of God properly by the name of Wisdom, although generally both the Holy Spirit and the Father himself are wisdom, so the Holy Spirit is properly named by the word Charity, although both the Father and the Son are in general charity.  The Holy Spirit is very clearly declared in the books of the Gospel to be the Finger (Digitus) of God, forwhen one Evangelist said (Luke 11:20), “I by the finger of God cast out devils,” another said the same thing in this way (Matthew 12:28), “I by the Spirit of God cast out devils.”Wherefore also the law was written by the finger of God, and it was granted on the fiftieth day after the slaughter of the lamb, and on the fiftieth day after the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ came the Holy Spirit. Moreover it is called the Finger of God to signify its operative power with the Father and the Son. Whence also Paul says (I Corinthians 12:11), “But all these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will.” Just as through Baptism we die and are reborn in Christ, so we are sealed by the Spirit,which is the Finger of God and a spiritual seal. The Holy Spirit is written to have come in the form of a dove (columba) in order that its nature might be expressed through a bird of simplicity and innocence.Whence the Lord said (Matthew 10:16), “Be ye simple as doves” – for this bird is without bile in its body, and has only innocence and love.

The Holy Spirit is referred to by the name of Fire (ignis) because it appeared as fire in the distribution of tongues in the Acts of the Apostles (2:3), and it settled on each of them. Moreover it gave the gift of diverse tongues to the apostles so that they might be made capable of instructing the faithful people. But the Holy Spirit is remembered as having settled upon each of them so that it may be understood not to have been divided into many, but to have remained whole with respect to each one, as is generally the way with fire. For a kindled fire has this nature, that however many should behold it, however many should behold that mane of purple splendor, to that same number would it impart the sight of its light, and offer the ministry of its gift, and still it would persist in its integrity. The Holy Spirit is referred to by the name Water (aqua) in the Gospel, as the Lord cries out and says (John 7:37–38), “If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. He that believeth in me, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”Moreover, the Evangelist explained his words, for in the following sentence he says, “Now this he said of the Spirit which they should receive, who believed in him.” But the water of the sacrament (i.e. of Baptism) is one thing, and the water that signifies the Spirit of God is another, for the water of the sacrament is visible, the water of the Spirit is invisible. The former cleanses the body, and symbolizes what takes place in the soul; but through the latter, the Holy Spirit, the soul itself is purified and fed.

As the apostle John witnesses, the Holy Spirit is called Unction (unctio) because, just as oil floats above every liquid because of its physical weight, so in the beginning the Holy Spirit floated above the waters (Genesis 1:2). Whence we read that the Lord was anointed with the ‘oil of gladness’ (Hebrews 1:9, etc.), that is with the Holy Spirit. But the apostle John also calls the Holy Spirit ‘unction,’ saying (I John 2:27): “And as for you, let the unction, which you have received from him, abide in you. And you have no need that any man teach you; but as his unction teacheth you of all things.” Now that is the Holy Spirit, an invisible unction.

Introducing the Church Fathers – Isidore of Seville (Part 2)

Isadore of Seville

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting Isidore of Seville and a selection from his massive work called Etymologies on the many names of God the Father. I decided to carry Isidore of Seville forward two more weeks to allow him the space to cover the names of both God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, this week will function as Part 2 and deal with the many names of God the Son. Next week will function as Part 3 and will cover the many names of the God the Holy Spirit.  His work is so fantastically in depth that it would be a tragedy not to release them as a series.  And now with no further adieu, Part 2, the many names of God the Son…

ii. The Son of God (De Filio Dei)

In the divine writings Christ is also found to be named in many ways, for he, the only-begotten Son of God the Father, although he was the equal of the Father, took the form of a slave (Philippians 2:7) for our salvation. Whence some names are given to him with regard to the substance of his divinity, and some with regard to the dispensation of his assumed humanity.

He is named ‘Christ’ (Christus) from ‘chrism’ (chrisma), that is, ‘anointed one,’ for it was a precept among the Jews that they would confect a sacred ointment by which those who were called to the priesthood or the kingship might be anointed. Just as nowadays for kings to be clothed in the purple is the mark of royal dignity, so for them anointing with sacred ointment would confer the royal title and power. Hence they are called ‘anointed ones’ (christus) from chrism, which is unction, for the Greek chrisma is ‘unction’ (unctio) in Latin. When this anointing was done spiritually, it accommodated the name ‘Christ’ to the Lord, because he was anointed by the Spirit from God the Father, as in Acts (4:27): “For there assembled together in this city against thy holy child . . . whom thou hast anointed” – by no means with visible oil, but by the gift of grace, for which visible ointment is a sign. ‘Christ’ is not, however, a proper name of the Savior, but a common-noun designation of his power. When he is called ‘Christ,’ it is a common designation of his importance, but when he is called ‘Jesus Christ’ it is the proper name of the Savior. Further, the name of Christ never occurred at all elsewhere in any nation except in that kingdom alone where Christ was prophesied, and whence he was to come. Again, in Hebrew he is called ‘Messiah’ (Messias), in Greek ‘Christ,’ in Latin ‘the anointed’ (unctus).

The Hebrew ‘Jesus’ is translated σωτήρ in Greek, and “healer” (salutaris) or “savior” (salvator) in Latin, because he has comefor all nations as the ‘bearer of salvation’ (salutifer). The Evangelist renders the etymology of his name, saying (Matthew 1:21), “And thou shalt call his name Savior (salvator ; cf. Vulgate Iesus), for he shall save his people.” Just as ‘Christ’ signifies a king, so ‘Jesus’ signifies a savior. Not every kind of king saves us, but a savior king. The Latin language did not have this word salvator before, but it could have had it, seeing that it was able to when it wanted. The Hebrew Emmanuel in Latin means “God is with us,” undoubtedly because, born of a Virgin, God has appeared to humans in mortal flesh, that he might open the way of salvation to heaven for the inhabitants of earth.

Christ’s names that pertain to the substance of his divinity are as follows: God (Deus), Lord (Dominus). He is called God because of his unity of substance with the Father, and Lord because of the creation subservient to him. And he is God and man, for he is Word and flesh.Whence he is called the Doubly-Begotten (bis genitus), because the Father begot (gignere, ppl. genitus) him without amotherin eternity,andbecause amotherbegot him without a father in the temporal world. But he is called the Only-Begotten (unigenitus) according to the peerless quality of his divinity, for he is without brothers; he is called the First-Begotten (primogenitus) with regard to his assuming of human nature, in which he deigned through the grace of adoption to have brothers, among whom he was the first begotten.

He is called ‘of one substance’ (homousion, i.e. ὁμοούσιος ) with the Father because of their unity of substance, because in Greek substance or essence is called ὄνομα and ὁμο – means “one.” The two joined together therefore denote ‘one substance.’ For this reason he is called Homousion, that is (John 10:30), “I and the Father are one” – that is, of the same substance with the Father. Although this name is not written in Sacred Scripture, nevertheless it is supported in the formal naming of the whole Trinity because an account is offered according to which it is shown to be spoken correctly, just as in those books we never read that the Father is the Unbegotten (Ingenitus), yetwe have no doubt that he should be spoken of and believed to be that.2 Homoeusion (i.e. ὁμοιούσιος ), that is “similar in substance,” because as God is, so also is God’s image. Invisible is God, and invisible his image (i.e. the divinity latent in Jesus).

The Beginning (Principium), because all things are from him, and before him nothing was. The End (Finis), either because he deigned at the end (finis) of time to be born and to die humbly in the flesh and to undertake the Last Judgment, or because whatever we do we refer to him, and when we have come to him we have nothing further to seek. He is the ‘Mouth of God’ (Os Dei) because he is hisWord, for just as we often say ‘this tongue’ and ‘that tongue’ for ‘words,’ which are made by the tongue, so ‘Mouth’ is substituted for the ‘Word of God,’ because words are normally formed by the mouth. Further, he is called the Word (Verbum) because through him the Father established or commanded all things. Truth (Veritas), because he does not deceive, but gave what he promised. Life (Vita) because he created. He is called the Image (Imago) because of his equivalent likeness to the Father. He is the Figure (Figura) because although he took on the formof a slave, he portrayed in himself the Father’s image and immeasurable greatness by his likeness to the Father in his works and powers.

He is the ‘Hand of God’ (Manus Dei) because all things were made through him. Hence also the ‘Right Hand’ (Dextera) because of his accomplishment of the work of all creation, which was formed by him. The Arm (Brachium), because all things are embraced by him. The Power (Virtus), because he contains in himself all the authority of the Father, and governs, holds, and rules thewhole creation of heaven and earth. Wisdom (Sapientia), because he himself reveals the mysteries of knowledge and the secrets of wisdom. But although the Father and the Holy Spirit may be ‘Wisdom’ and ‘Power’ and ‘Lamp’ and ‘Light,’ nevertheless strictly speaking it is the Son who is designated by these names. Again, he is called Clarity (Splendor) because of what he plainly reveals. Lamp (Lumen), because he illuminates (illuminare). Light (Lux), because he unlocks the eyes of the heart for gazing at the truth. Sun (Sol), because he is the illuminator. The Orient (Oriens, i.e. “East,” “Sunrising”) because he is the source of light and the brightener of things, and because he makes us rise (oriri) to eternal life. The Fount (Fons), because he is the origin of things, or because he satisfies those who thirst.

He is also the Α and Ω. He is Alpha because no letter precedes it, for it is the first of the letters, just as the Son of God is first, for he answered the Jews interrogating him that he was the beginning (John 8:25). Whence John in the Apocalypse, properly putting down the letter itself, says (22:13), “I am Α and Ω, first and last.” First, because before him nothing is. Last, because he has undertaken the Last Judgment. Mediator (Mediator), because he has been constituted a mean (medius) between God and humanity, so that he might lead humanity through to God – whence the Greeks also call him μεσίτης (“mediator”). Paraclete, that is, advocate, because he intercedes for us with the Father, as John says of him (I John 2:1), “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just.” For Paraclete (Paracletus) is a Greek word that means “advocate” in Latin. This name is ascribed to both the Son and the Holy Spirit, as the Lord says in the Gospel (John 14:16), “I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete.”

Also the Son is called Intercessor (Intercessor), because he devotes care to remove our sins, and he exerts effort to wash away our crimes. Bridegroom (Sponsus), because descending from heaven he cleaves to the Church, so that by the grace of the New Covenant they might be two in one flesh. He is called an Angel (Angelus, i.e. ‘messenger’) because of his announcing of his Father’s and his own will. Whence it is read in the Prophet (cf. Isaiah 9:6), “Angel of great counsel,” although he is God and Lord of the angels. He is called the ‘One Sent’ (Missus) because he appeared to this world as the Word made flesh, whence also he says (John 16:28), “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world.” He is also called the ‘Human Being’ (Homo)because hewas born. Prophet (Propheta), because he revealed future things. Priest (Sacerdos), because he offered himself as a sacrifice for us. Shepherd (Pastor), because he is a guardian. Teacher (Magister), because he shows the way. Nazarene (Nazarenus) from his region, but Nazarite (Nazareus) is an earned title meaning “holy” or “clean,” because he did no sin.

Further, Christ attracts to himself types of names from other lesser things so that he might more easily be understood. For he is called Bread (Panis) because he is flesh. Vine (Vitis), because we are redeemed by his blood. Flower (Flos), because he was picked. The Way (Via), because by means of him we come to God. The Portal (Ostium), because through him we make our approach to God. Mount (Mons), because he is mighty. Rock (Petra), because he is the strength of believers. Cornerstone (Lapis angularis), because he joins two walls coming from different directions, that is from the circumcised and the uncircumcised, into the one fabric of the Church, or because he makes peace in himself for angels (angelus) and humans. The Stumbling-stone (Lapis offensionis), because when he came in humility unbelievers stumbled (offendere) against him and he became a ‘rock of scandal’ (Romans 9:33), as the Apostle says (I Corinthians 1:23), “Unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block (scandalum).”

Further he is called the Foundation (Fundamentum) because faith on him is most firm, or because the Catholic Church was built upon him. Now Christ is the Lamb (Agnus) for his innocence, and the Sheep (Ovis) for his submissiveness, and the Ram (Aries) for his leadership, and Goat (Haedus) for his likeness to sinful flesh, and the Calf (Vitulus) because he was made a sacrificial victim for us, and Lion (Leo) for his kingdom and strength, and Serpent (Serpens) for his death and his sapience (sapientia), and again Worm (Vermis) because he rose again, Eagle (Aquila) because after his resurrection he returned to the stars.

Nor is it a wonder that he should be figured forth by means of lowly signs, he who is known to have descended even to the indignities of our passions or of the flesh. For although he is coeternal with God the Father before worldly time, when the fullness of time arrived, the Son for our salvation took the form of a slave (Philippians 2:7), and the Son of God became a son of humankind. For this reason some things are said of him in Scripture according to the form of God, some according to the form of a slave. Two of these should be kept in mind for an example, so that particular instances may severally be connected with these particular forms. So, he spoke of himself according to the formof God (John 10:30), “I and the Father are one”; according to the formof a slave (John 14:28), “For the Father is greater than I.”

But people who little understand how one thing may be said for another wish to transfer to the Son’s character as God what has been said with regard to his character as a slave. Again, they want what has been said relating the Persons to one another to be names for God’s nature and substance, and they make an error in their faith. For human nature was so conjoined to the Son of God that one Person was made from two substances. Only the man endured the cross, but because of the unity of Person, the God also is said to have endured it. Hence we find it written (I Corinthians 2:8), “For if they had known it, they never would have crucified the Lord of glory.” Therefore we speak of the Son of God as crucified, not in the power of his divinity but in the weakness of his humanity, not in his persistence in his own nature but in his acceptance of ours.

Introducing the Church Fathers – Isidore of Seville (Part 1)

Isadore of Seville

Isidore of Seville was born in 560AD in Cartagena, Spain and served as the Archbishop of Seville for over 30 years.  He is typically regarded as the “last scholar of the ancient world.”  He was born into a wealthy family of high social rank and thus received a proper education. Many of his works have survived antiquity with the largest and most popular being “Etymologiae.” Etymologiae was the first attempt to develop a collection of universal knowledge from a Christian worldview.  The work is 448 chapters in 20 volumes and deals with language, math science, theology, grammar, medicine, laws, architecture, space, etc. It is a fascinatingly detailed work. Isidore died in 636AD in Seville, Spain. The selection from today is taken from “Etymologiae” Book 7 on “God, angels and saints” and excavates the meanings behind the many names of God. Jerome also wrote an exhaustive piece on this very topic that Isidore both acknowledges and utilizes in this work.  Today’s selection is taken from the 2006 Cambridge University Press release found here.

i. God(Dedeo)

The most blessed Jerome, a most erudite man and skilled in many languages, first rendered the meaning of Hebrew names in the Latin language. I have taken pains to include some of these in this work along with their interpretations, though I have omitted many for the sake of brevity. Indeed, exposition of words often enough reveals what they mean, for some hold the rationale of their names in their own derivations.

First, then, we present the ten names by which God is spoken of in Hebrew. The first name of God in Hebrew is El. Some translate this as “God,” and others as ἰσχυρός, that is, “strong” (fortis), expressing its etymology, because he is overcome by no infirmity but is strong and capable of accomplishing anything. The second name is Eloi (i.e. Elohim), and the third Eloe, either of which in Latin is ‘God’ (Deus). The name Deus in Latin has been transliterated from a Greek term, for Deus is from θεός in Greek, which means φόβος, that is, “fear,” whence is derived Deus because those worshipping him have fear. Moreover ‘God’ is properly the name of the Trinity, referring to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. To this Trinity are referred the remaining terms posited below of God.

The fourth name of God is Sabaoth, which is rendered in Latin “of armies” or “of hosts,” of whom the angels speak in the Psalm (23:10 Vulgate): “Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts.” Now there are in the ordination of this world many hosts, such as angels, archangels, principalities, and powers, and all the orders of the celestial militia, of whom nevertheless he is Lord,for all are under him and are subject to his lordship. Fifth, Elion, which in Latin means “lofty” (excelsus), because he is above the heavens (caelum), as was written of him (Psalm 112:4 Vulgate): “The Lord is high (excelsus). . . his glory above the heavens (caelus).” Further, excelsus is so called from‘very lofty’ (valde celsus), for ex is put for valde, as in eximius (“exceptional”), as it were valde eminens (“very eminent”).

Sixth, Eie, that is, ‘He who is.’ For only God, because he is eternal, that is, because he has no origin, truly holds the name of Being. Now this name was reported to the holy Moses by an angel, for when Moses asked what was the name of the one who was
commanding him to proceed with the liberation of his people from Egypt, he answered him (Exodus 3:14): “I am who I am: and thou shalt say to the children of Israel: ‘He who is’ hath sentmeto you.” It is just as if in comparison with him, who truly ‘is’ because he is immutable, those things that aremutable become as if theywere not. That of which it is said, “it was,” ‘is’ not, and that of which it is said, “it will be,” ‘is’ not yet. Further, God has known only ‘is’, and does not know‘was’ and ‘will be.’ For only the Father, with the Son and Holy Spirit, truly ‘is.’ Compared with his being, our being is not being. And for this reason we say in conversation, “God lives,”
because his Being lives with a life that death has no hold over.

Seventh, Adonai, which broadly means “Lord” (Dominus), because he has dominion (dominari) over every creature, or because every creature is subservient to his lordship (dominatus). Lord, therefore, and God, either because he has dominion over all things, or because he is feared by all things. Eighth, Ia (i.e. Yah), which is only applied to God, and which sounds as the last syllable of ‘alleluia.’ Ninth, the Tetragrammaton, that is, the ‘four letters’ that in Hebrew are properly applied to God – iod, he, iod, he – that is, ‘Ia’ twice, which when doubled forms that ineffable and glorious name of God. The Tetragrammaton is called ‘ineffable’ not because it cannot be spoken, but because in no way can it be bounded by human sense and intellect; therefore,because nothing can be saidworthy of it, it is ineffable. Tenth, Shaddai, that is, “Almighty.” He is called Almighty (omnipotens) because he can do all things (omnia potest), but by doing what he will, not by suffering what he does not will. If that were to happen to him, in no way would he be Almighty – for he does whatever he wishes, and therein he is Almighty. Again, ‘Almighty’ because all things in every place are his, for he alone has dominion over the whole world.

Certain other names are also said for God substantively, as immortal, incorruptible, immutable, eternal. Whence deservedly he is  placed before every creature. Immortal, as was written of him (I Timothy 6:16): “Who only hath immortality,” because in his nature
there is no change, for every sort of mutability not improperly is called mortality. From this it follows that the soul also is said to die, not because it is changed and turned into body or into some other substance, but because everything is considered mortal that in its very substance is now, or once was, of a different sort, in that it leaves off being what it once was. And by this reasoning only God is called immortal, because he alone is immutable. He is called incorruptible (incorruptibilis) because he cannot be broken up (corrumpere,
ppl. corruptus) and dissolved or divided.Whatever undergoes division also undergoes passing away, but he can neither be divided nor pass away; hence he is incorruptible.

He is immutable (incommutabilis)because he remains forever and does not change (mutare). He neither advances, because he is perfect, nor recedes, because he is eternal. He is eternal because he is without time, for he has neither beginning nor end. And hence he is ‘forever’ (sempiternus), because he is ‘always eternal’ (semper aeternus). Some think that ‘eternal’ (aeternus) is so called from ‘ether’ (aether), for heaven is held to be his abode.Whence the phrase (Psalm 113:16 Vulgate), “The heaven of heaven is the Lord’s.” And these four terms signify one thing, for one and the same thing is meant, whether God is called eternal or immortal or
incorruptible or immutable.

‘Invisible,’ because the Trinity never appears in its substance to the eyes of mortals unless through the form of a subject corporeal creature. Indeed, no one can see the very manifestation of the essence of God and live, as it was told toMoses (Exodus 33:20), whence the Lord says in the Gospel (John 1:18), “No man hath seen God at any time.” Indeed, he is an invisible thing,
and therefore should be sought not with the eye, but with the heart. ‘Impassible,’ because he is affected by none of the disturbances to which human fragility succumbs, for none of the passions touch him, not desire, wrath, greed, fear, grief, envy, and the other things with which the human mind is troubled. But when it is said that God is angry or jealous or sorrowful, it is said from the human point of view, for with God, in whom is utmost tranquillity, there is no disturbance.

Further he is called ‘single’ (simplex), either from not letting go of what he has, or because what he is and what is in him are not distinct, in the way that being and knowing are distinct for a human. A human can be, and at the same time not have knowledge.God has being, and he also has knowledge; but what God has he also is, and it is all one. He is ‘single’ because there is nothing accidental in him, but both what he is and what is in him are of his essence, except for what refers to each of the three persons. He is the ‘ultimately good’ (summe bonus) because he is immutable.What is created is good, to be sure, but it is not consummately good because it is mutable. And although it may indeed be good, it still cannot be the highest good. God is called ‘disembodied’ (incorporeus) or ‘incorporeal’ (incorporalis) because he is believed or understood to exist as spirit, not body (corpus, gen. corporis). When he is called spirit, his substance is signified.

‘Immeasurable’ (immensus) because he encompasses all things and is encompassed by nothing, but all things are confined within his omnipotence. He is called ‘perfect’ (perfectus) because nothing can be added to him. However, ‘perfection’ is said of the completion of some making; how then is God, who is not made (factus), perfect (perfectus)? But human poverty of diction has taken up this termfrom our usage, and likewise for the remaining terms, insofar as what is ineffable can be spoken of in any way – for human speech says nothing suitable about God – so the other terms are also deficient. He is called ‘creator’ because of the matter of the whole world created by him, for there is nothing that has not taken its origin from God. And he is ‘one’ (unus) because he cannot be divided, or because there can be no other thing that may take on so much power. Therefore what things are said of God pertain to the whole Trinity because of its one (unus) and coeternal substance, whether in the Father,or in his only begotten Son in the form of God, or in the Holy Spirit, which is the one (unus) Spirit of God the Father and of his only-begotten Son.

There are certain terms applied to God from human usage, taken from our body parts or from lesser things, and because in his own nature he is invisible and incorporeal, nevertheless appearances of things, as the effects of causes, are ascribed to him, so that he might more easily make himself known to us by way of the usage of our speech. For example, because he sees all things, we may speak of his eye; because he hears all, we may speak of his ear; because he turns aside, he walks; because he observes, he stands. In this way and in other ways like these a likeness from human minds is applied to God, for instance that he is forgetful ormindful.
Hence it is that the prophet says (Jeremiah 51:14), “The Lord of hosts hath sworn by his soul” – not that God has a soul, but he speaks in this way as from our viewpoint. Likewise the ‘face’ of God in Holy Scripture is understood not as flesh, but as divine recognition, in the same way in which someone is recognized when his face is seen. Thus, this is said in a prayer to God (Psalm 79:4 Vulgate), “Shew us thy face,” as if he were to say, “Grant us thy recognition.”

Thus the ‘traces’ of God are spoken of, because now God is known through a mirror (I Corinthians 13:12), but he is recognized as the Almighty at the culmination, when in the future he becomes present face to face for each of the elect, so that they behold his appearance, whose traces they now try to comprehend, that is, him whom it is said they see through a mirror. For in relation to God, position and vesture and place and time are spoken of not properly, but metaphorically, by way of analogy. For instance (Psalm 98:1 Vulgate), “He that sitteth on the cherubims” is saidwith reference to position; and (Psalm 103:6 Vulgate) “The deep like a garment is its clothing,” referring to vesture; and (Psalm 101:28 Vulgate) “Thy years shall not fail,” which pertains to time; and (Psalm 138:8 Vulgate) “If I ascend into heaven, thou art there,” referring to place. Again, in the prophet (Amos 2:13), “As a wain laden with hay,” an image is used of God. All these refer to God figuratively, because nothing of these things refers properly to his underlying being.

Introducing the Church Fathers – Prosper of Aquitaine

Prosper of Acquitaine

Prosper of Aquitaine was a lay theologian born in 390AD.   Although the year of his death is uncertain, many scholars believe it was sometime between 455AD and 465AD.  Prosper was born in Aquitaine which is the southwestern metropolitan region of France.  Following in the footsteps of Hippo of Augustine’s debate with Pelagius and his followers, Prosper primarily wrote against the semi-pelagian heresy that was gaining popularity in the fifth century.  In addition to his contributions on soteriology, he was also a continuator of Jerome’s historical work called “The Universal Chronicle.”  His contributions are viewed as important due to a general lack of historical documentation from his time period.  The selection of today’s post is Chapter 8 from his book “The Call to All Nations.”  This is a fantastic book and one of his later writings. This book was recognized by Caesarius of Arles at the Council of Orange as a positive case in denouncing the semi-pelagian heresy.  Martin Luther found this work very helpful in formulating his reformation view of predestination, grace and the will.  If you haven’t read this work, I highly encourage you to get your hands on a copy and make your acquaintance.

Prosper of Aquitaine – The Call to All Nations – Chapter 8

Grace repairs God’s work in such a manner as not to take away free will but rather to heal it by itself.

In Adam our nature existed without blemish, but he by his wilful disobedience incurred many evils and transmitted them to his posterity in whom they were to multiply more and more.  The victory over these evils and their utter destruction only springs from the grace of the saviour who restores His own work with His own labour. For, as the Apostle John says For this purpose the Son of God appeared, that He might destroy the works of the devil. He it is who breaks the chains of the prisoner. He clothes the nakedness of the robbed man, He heals the injuries of the wounded, but all this in such a manner that what He works in him is also effected by man himself.  He indeed cannot risk to fight against his enemy without a protector. He has to wage war against one who once defeated him. He should, therefore, not trust in his own strength which, even when it was unimpaired, did not hold out; but let him seek victory through the One who alone is unconquerable and who brought victory to all. And if he does seek victory, he should not doubt that he has received this very desire of seeking it from Him whom he is seeking. And he should not think that, because he is led by the Spirit of God, he no longer has free will. This he did not lose even when he wilfully surrendered himself to the devil. The devil perverted his judgment that goes with the will, but did not take it from him. What was not taken away by the one who inflicted a wound is still less destroyed by the One who comes to heal. He heals the wound. He does not set aside nature. But what was lost in nature cannot be restored except by its Author; in whose sight what was lost in nature did not perish. He is eternal wisdom, eternal truth, eternal goodness, eternal justice, He is, in short, the eternal light of all virtues, and all that is virtue is God. Unless He works in us, we cannot be partakers of any virtue. For indeed without this Good nothing is good, without this Light nothing is bright, without this Wisdom nothing is wise, without this Justice nothing is right. For the Lord says through the mouth of Isaias, I am, I am the Lord, and there is no one besides me who saves; and Jeremias says, I know, O Lord, that the way of a man is not in him; neither is it in a man to direct his way. Mortal man, born according to the flesh from a source that was cursed in Adam, cannot come to the spiritual dignity of the new birth except through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, he cannot even foster any desire for it as long as he has not received from God the ardour of this desire, about which the Lord says, I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I, but that it be burning? That fire is the love of God which a lover of the world cannot conceive in his enslaved heart. He is filled with the love of vain things, and even if he could escape these to some extent, and, rising above temporal and visible goods, attain through his own understanding the eternal and invisible ones; even if he could renounce the worship of idols and give up the adoration of heaven and earth and all the created things of this world; even so he would not conceive the faith and the love of Christ, because he would be upset by His lowliness. He would not with his own insight overcome the scandal of our Lord’s nativity and death. For, as the wisdom of the world resists the wisdom of God, thus blinding the pride of the self-conceited, so it pleased God by the foolishness of our preaching to save them that believe. Hence, those who are made arrogant by their worldly learning, think that the Cross of Christ is something to be laughed at rather than adored; and the higher a man rises in the attainments of the human sciences, the more he scorns the humility and feebleness of our preaching. No wonder either, that pagan philosophy opposes the Gospel of the Cross of Christ, when Jewish learning also resists it. We conclude that neither the learned nor the illiterate of whatever race or rank come to God led by human reason; but every man who is converted to God is first stirred by God’s grace. For man is no light unto himself, nor can he inflame his own heart with a ray of his own light. If Saint John than whom no son of men was greater, was not the light because he did not shine with his own brightness, but had received the power to enlighten others from the true Light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world: what man is there who would give up so many conflicting opinions, so many constraining habits, so many inveterate prejudices, relying only on his own judgment and helped solely by the spoken word of a teacher? Grace would then consist only in the exterior hearing of the doctrine and the whole of a man’s faith would spring from his own will If such were the case, there would be no difference between grace and the Law; and the spirit of forgiveness would enliven no one if the letter that kills remained. For indeed the Law commands things to be done or avoided, but it does not help one to do or to avoid them. Its rigour is complied with not out of free choice but out of fear. But the Lord with a view not to destroy but to fulfill the Law, through the help of His grace, made the command of the Law effective, and through the abundance of His clemency lifted its penal sanction so that He might not avenge sin with punishments, but destroy it through forgiveness. That is why the adulterous woman whom the Law prescribed to be stoned, was set free by Him with truth and grace, when the avengers of the Law frightened with the state of their own conscience had left the trembling guilty woman to the judgment of Him who had come to seek and save what was lost. And for that reason He, bowing down that is, stooping down to our human level and intent on the work of our reformation-wrote with His finger on the ground in order to repeal the Law of the commandments with the decrees of His grace and to reveal Himself as the One who had said, I will give my laws in their understanding and I will write them in their heart. This indeed He does every day when He infuses His will into the hearts of those who are called, and when with the pen of the Holy Spirit the Truth mercifully rewrites on the pages of their souls all that the devil enviously falsified. Whenever, then, the word of God enters into the ears of the body through the ministry of the preachers, the action of the divine power fuses with the sound of a human voice, and He who is the inspirer of the preacher’s office is also the strength of the hearer’s heart. Then the food of the word becomes sweet to the soul; the darkness of old is expelled by the new light; the interior eye is freed from the cataracts of the ancient error; the soul passes from one will to another, and although the will that is driven out lingers on for a while, yet the newborn one claims for itself all that is better in man, so that the law of sin and the law of God do not dwell in the same way and together in the same man. And then, whilst the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit also resists the desires of the flesh, the tempter ventures to ambush man through exterior objects; but the mind strong with God’s help prevails. For, obviously, there are occasions for struggle and these serve the great profit of the faithful: their weakness is buffeted that their holiness may not yield to pride. Hence, too, the Apostle says: Lest in the greatness of the revelations I should be exalted, there was given me . . . an angel of Satan to buffet me. For which thing thrice I besought the Lord that it might depart from me, but He said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee, for power is made perfect in infirmity. Let, then, the Lord seek His image; let the Good Shepherd find His erring sheep and not disdain to bear it, sick and tired for long of the trackless wilds, on His shoulders, and save it not only by calling it back, but also by carrying it along. Let the Lord seek His image, wash away from it all accumulated uncleanness that has stained it and so brighten up the mirror of the human heart. For it is written: Who can make clean that is conceived of unclean seed? Is it not Thou who only art? Let the Lord seek His image that in its renovation and justification the grace of its Reformer may appear, as the Apostle Paul testifies to have happened to himself when he says: And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea, which were in Christ. . . . They had heard only that he who persecuted us in times past doth now preach the faith which . . .he impugned. And they glorified God in me. Such was the conviction of the Christian people at that time, such the belief of the first members of the Church who had but one heart and one soul: when they saw a man converted from his error to the acceptance of the truth, they gave glory to God and confessed that the convert’s faith came from a divine gift. The Lord Himself when instructing His disciples, the teachers of all nations, said: So let your light shine before men, that, seeing your good works, they may magnify your Father who is in heaven.