Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.22 Book VIII Part 1

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.22 Book VIII Part 1

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 25.01.22 Book VIII Part 1

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§1. The Eighth Book Very Notably Overthrows the Blasphemy of the Heretics Who Say that the Only-Begotten Came from Nothing, and that There Was a Time When He Was Not, and Shows the Son to Be No New Being, But from Everlasting, from His Having Said to Moses, "I Am He that Is," And to Manoah, "Why Askest Thou My Name? It Also is Wonderful";-Moreover David Also Says to God, "Thou Art the Same, and Thy Years Shall Not Fail;" And Furthermore Isaiah Says, "I Am God, the First, and Hereafter Am I:" And the Evangelist, "He Was in the Beginning, and Was with God, and Was God:"-And that He Has Neither Beginning Nor End: and He Thrones that Those Who Say that He is New and Comes Front Nothing are Idolaters. And Herein He Very Finely Interprets "The Brightness of the Glory, and the Express Image of the Person."

These, then, are the strong points of Eunomius' case; and I think that when those which promised to be powerful are proved by argument to be so rotten and unsubstantial, I may well keep silence concerning the rest, since the others are practically refuted, concurrently with the refutation of the stronger ones; just as it happens in warlike operations that when a force more powerful than the rest has been beaten, the remainder of the army are no longer of any account in the eyes of those by whom the strong portion of it has been overcome. But the fact that the chief part of his blasphemy lies in the later part of his discourse forbids me to be silent. For the transition of the Only-begotten from nothing into being, that horrid and godless doctrine of Eunomius, which is more to be shunned than all impiety, is next maintained in the order of his argument. And since every one who has been bewitched by this deceit has the phrase, "If He was, He has not been begotten, and if He has been begotten, He was not," ready upon his tongue for the maintenance of the doctrine that He Who made of nothing us and all the creation is Himself from nothing, and since the deceit obtains much support thereby, as men of feebler mind are pressed by this superficial bit of plausibility, and led to acquiesce in the blasphemy, we must needs not pass by this doctrinal "root of bitterness," lest, as the Apostle says, it "spring up and trouble ushyperlink " Now I say that we must first of all consider the actual argument itself, apart from our contest with our opponents, and thus afterwards proceed to the examination and refutation of what they have set forth.

One mark of the true Godhead is indicated by the words of Holy Scripture, which Moses learnt by the voice from heaven, when He heard Him Who said, "I am He that ishyperlink ." We think it right, then, to believe that to be alone truly Divine which is represented as eternal and infinite in respect of being; and all that is contemplated therein is always the same, neither growing nor being consumed; so that if one should say of God, that formerly He was, but now is not, or that He now is, but formerly was not, we should consider each of the savings alike to be godless: for by both alike the idea of eternity is mutilated, being cut short on one side or the other by non-existence, whether one contemplates "nothing" as preceding "beinghyperlink ," or declares that "being" ends in "nothing"; and the frequent repetition of "first of all" or "last of all" concerning God's non-existence does not make amends for the impious conception touching the Divinity. For this reason we declare the maintenance of their doctrine as to the non-existence at some time of Him Who truly is, to be a denial and rejection of His true Godhead; and this on the ground that, on the one hand, He Who showed Himself to Moses by the light speaks of Himself as being, when He says, "I am He that ishyperlink ," while on the other, Isaiah (being made, so to say, the instrument of Him Who spoke in him) says in the person of Him that is, "I am the first, and hereafter am Ihyperlink ," so that hereby, whichever way we consider it, we conceive eternity in God. And so, too, the word that was spoken to Manoah shows the fact that the Divinity is not comprehensible by the significance of His name, because, when Manoah asks to know His name, that, when the promise has come actually to pass, he may by name glorify his benefactor, He says to him, "Why askest thou this? It also is wonderfulhyperlink "; so that by this we learn that there is one name significant of the Divine Nature-the wonder, namely, that arises unspeakably in our hearts concerning It. So, too, great David, in his discourses with himself, proclaims the same truth, in the sense that all the creation was brought into being by God, while He alone exists always in the same manner, and abides for ever, where he says, "But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not failhyperlink ." When we hear these sayings, and others like them, from men inspired by God, let us leave all that is not from eternity to the worship of idolaters, as a new thing alien from the true Godhead. For that which now is, and formerly was not, is clearly new and not eternal, and to have regard to any new object of worship is called by Moses the service of demons, when he says, "They sacrificed to devils and not to God, to gods whom their fathers knew not; new gods were they that came newly uphyperlink ." If then everything that is new in worship is a service of demons, and is alien from the true Godhead, and if what is now, but was not always, is new and not eternal, we who have regard to that which is, necessarily reckon those who contemplate non-existence as attaching to Him Who is, and who say that "He once was not," among the worshippers of idols. For we may also see that the great John, when declaring in his own preaching the Only-begotten God, guards his own statement in every way, so that the conception of non-existence shall find no access to Him Who is. For he sayshyperlink that He "was in the beginning," and "was with God," and "was God," and was light, and life, and truth, and all good things at all times, and never at any time failed to be anything that is excellent, Who is the fulness of all good, and is in the bosom of the Father. If then Moses lays down as a law for us some such mark of true Godhead as this, that we know nothing else of God but this one thing, that He is (for to this point the words, "I am He that ishyperlink "); while Isaiah in his preaching declares aloud the absolute infinity of Him Who is, defining the existence of God as having no regard to beginning or to end (for He Who says "I am the first, and hereafter am I," places no limit to His eternity in either direction, so that neither, if we look to the beginning, do we find any point marked since which He is, and beyond which He was not, nor, if 'we turn our thought to the future, can we cut short by any boundary the eternal progress of Him Who is),-and if the prophet David forbids us to worship any new and strange Godhyperlink (both of which are involved in the heretical doctrine; "newness" is clearly indicated in that which is not eternal, and "strangeness" is alienation from the Nature of the very God),-if, I say, these things are so, we declare all the sophistical fabrication about the non-existence at some time of Him Who truly is, to be nothing else than a departure from Christianity, and a turning to idolatry. For when the Evangelist, in his discourse concerning the Nature of God, separates at all points non-existence from Him Who is, and, by his constant repetition of the word "was," carefully destroys the suspicion of non-existence, and calls Him the Only-begotten God, the Word of God, the Son of God, equal with God, and all such names, we have this judgment fixed and settled in us, that if the Only-begotten Son is God, we must believe that He Who is believed to be God is eternal. And indeed He is verily God, and assuredly is eternal, and is never at any time found to be non-existent. For God, as we have often said, if He now is, also assuredly always was, and if He once was not, neither does He now exist at all. But since even the enemies of the truth confess that the Son is and continually abides the Only-begotten God, we say this, that, being in the Father, He is not in Him in one respect only, but He is in Him altogether, in respect of all that the Father is conceived to be. As, then, being in the incorruptibility of the Father, He is incorruptible, good in His goodness, powerful in His might, and, as being in each of these attributes of special excellence which are conceived of the Father, He is that particular thing, so, also, being in His eternity, He is assuredly eternal. Now the eternity of the Father is marked by His never having taken His being from nonexistence, and never terminating His being in non-existence. He, therefore, Who hath all things that are the Father'shyperlink , and is contemplated in all the glory of the Father, even as, being in the endlessness of the Father, He has no end, so, being in the unoriginateness of the Father, has, as the Apostle says, "no beginning of dayshyperlink ," but at once is "of the Father," and is regarded in the eternity of the Father:and in this respect, more especially, is seen the complete absence of divergence in the Likeness, as compared with Him Whose Likeness He is. And herein is His saying found true which tells us, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Fatherhyperlink ." Moreover, it is in this way that those words of the Apostle, that the Son is "the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His Personhyperlink ," are best understood to have an excellent and close application. For the Apostle conveys to those hearers who are unable, by the contemplation of purely intellectual objects, to elevate their thought to the height of the knowledge of God, a sort of notion of the truth, by means of things apparent to sense. For as the body of the sun is expressly imaged by the whole disc that surrounds it, and he who looks on the sun argues, by means of what he sees, the existence of the whole solid substratum, so, he says, the majesty of the Father is expressly imaged in the greatness of the power of the Son, that the one may be believed to be as great as the other is known to be: and again, as the radiance of light sheds its brilliancy from the whole of the sun's disc (for in the disc one part is not radiant, and the rest dim), so all that glory which the Father is, sheds its brilliancy from its whole extent by means of the brightness that comes from it, that is, by the true Light; and as the ray is of the sun (for there would be no ray if the sun were not), yet the sun is never conceived as existing by itself without the ray of brightness that is shed from it, so the Apostle delivering to us the continuity and eternity of that existence which the Only-begotten has of the Father, calls the Son "the brightness of His glory."

§2. He Then Discusses the "Willing" Of the Father Concerning the Generation of the Son, and Shows that the Object of that Good Will is from Eternity, Which is the Son, Existing in the Father, and Being Closely Related to the Process of Willing, as the Ray to the Flame, or the Act of Seeing to the Eye.

After these distinctions on our part no one can well be longer in doubt how the Only-begotten at once is believed to be "of the Father," and is eternally, even if the one phrase does not at first sight seem to agree with the other,-that which declares Him to be "of the Father" with that which asserts His eternity. But if we are to confirm our statement by further arguments, it may be possible to apprehend the doctrine on this point by the aid of things cognizable by our senses. And let no one deride our statement, if it cannot find among existing things a likeness of the object of our enquiry such as may be in all respects sufficient for the presentation of the matter in hand by way of analogy and resemblance. For we should like to persuade those who say that the Father first willed and so proceeded to become a Father, and on this ground assert posteriority in existence as regards the Word, by whatever illustrations may make it possible, to turn to the orthodox view. Neither does this immediate conjunction exclude the "willing" of the Father, in the sense that He had a Son without choice, by some necessity of His Nature, nor does the "willing" separate the Son from the Father, coming in between them as a kind of interval: so that we neither reject from our doctrine the "willing" of the Begetter directed to the Son, as being, so to say, forced out by the conjunction of the Son's oneness with the Father, nor do we by any means break that inseparable connection, when "willing" is regarded as involved in the generation. For to our heavy and inert nature it properly belongs that the wish and the possession of a thing are not often present with us at the same moment; but now we wish for something we have not, and at another time we obtain what we do not wish to obtain. But, in the case of the simple and all-powerful Nature, all things are conceived together and at once, the willing of good as well as the possession of what He wills. For the good and the eternal will is contemplated as operating, indwelling, and co-existing in the eternal Nature, not arising in it from any separate principle, nor capable of being conceived apart from the object of will: for it is not possible that with God either the good will should not be, or the object of will should not accompany the act of will, since no cause can either bring it about that which befits the Father should not always be, or be any hindrance to the possession of the object of will. Since, then, the Only-begotten God is by nature the good (or rather beyond all good), and since the good does not fail to be the object of the Father's will, it is hereby clearly shown, both that the conjunction of the Son with the Father is without any intermediary, and also that the will, which is always present in the good Nature, is not forced out nor excluded by reason of this inseparable conjunction. And if any one is listening to my argument in no scoffing spirit, I should like to add to what I have already said something of the following kind.

Just as, if one were to grant (I speak, of course, hypothetically) the power of deliberate choice to belong to flame, it would be clear that the flame will at once upon its existence will that its radiance should shine forth from itself, and when it wills it will not be impotent (since, on the appearance of the flame, its natural power at once fulfils its will in the matter of the radiance), so that undoubtedly, if it be granted that the flame is moved by deliberate choice, we conceive the concurrence of all these things simultaneously-of the kindling of the fire, of its act of will concerning the radiance, and of the radiance itself; so that the movement by way of choice is no hindrance to the dignity of the existence of the radiance,-even so, according to the illustration we have spoken of, you will not, by confessing the good act of will as existing in the Father, separate by that act of will the Son from the Father. For it is not reasonable to suppose that the act of willing that He should be, could be a hindrance to His immediately coming into being; but just as, in the eye, seeing and the will to see are, one an operation of nature, the other an impulse of choice, yet no delay is caused to the act of sight by the movement of choice in that particular directionhyperlink ,-(for each of these is regarded separately and by itself, not as being at all a hindrance to the existence of the other, but as both being somehow interexistent, the natural operation concurring with the choice, and the choice in turn not failing to be accompanied by the natural motion)-as, I say, perception naturally belongs to the eye, and the willing to see produces no delay in respect to actual sight, but one wills that it should have vision, and immediately what he wills is, so also in the case of that Nature which is unspeakable and above all thought, our apprehension of all comes together simultaneously-of the eternal existence of the Father, and of an act of will concerning the Son, and of the Son Himself, Who is, as John says, "in the beginning," and is not conceived as coming after the beginning. Now the beginning of all is the Father; but in this beginning the Son also is declared to be, being in His Nature that very thing which the Beginning is. For the Beginning is God, and the Word Who "was in the Beginning." is God. As then the phrase "the beginning" points to eternity, John well conjoins "the Word in the Beginning," saying that the Word was in It; asserting, I suppose, this fact to the end that the first idea present to the mind of his hearer may not be "the Beginning" alone by itself, but that, before this has been impressed upon him, there should also be presented to his mind, together with the Beginning the Word Who was in It, entering with It into the hearer's understanding, and being present to his heating at the same time with the Beginning.

§3. Then, Thus Passing Over What Relates to the Essence of the Son as Having Been Already Discussed, He Treats of the Sense Involved in "Generation," Saying that There are Diverse Generations, Those Effected by Matter and Art, and of Buildings,-And that by Succession of Animals,-And Those by Efflux, as by the Sun and Its Beam. The Lamp and Its Radiance, Scents and Ointments and the Quality Diffused by Them,-And the Word Produced by the Mind; And Cleverly Discusses Generationhyperlink From Rotten Wood; And from the Condensation of Fire, and Countless Other Causes.

Now that we have thus thoroughly scrutinized our doctrine, it may perhaps be time to set forth and to consider the opposing statement, examining it side by side in comparison with our own opinion. He states it thus:-"For while there are," he says, "two statements which we have made, the one, that the essence of the Only-begotten was not before its own generation, the other that, being generated, it was before all things, hehyperlink does not prove either of these statements to be untrue; for he did not venture to say that He was before that supremehyperlink generation and formation, seeing that he is opposed at once by the Nature of the Father, and the judgment of sober-minded men. For what sober man could admit the Son to be and to be begotten before that supreme generation? and He Who is without generation needs not generation in order to His being what He is." Well, whether he speaks truly, when he says that our masterhyperlink opposed his antitheses to no purpose, all may surely be aware who have been conversant with that writer's works. But for my own part (for I think that the refutation of his calumny on this matter is a small step towards the exposure of his malice), I will leave the task of showing that this point was not passed over by our master without discussion, and turn my argument to the discussion, as far as in me lies, of the points now advanced. He says that he has in his own discourse spoken of two matters,-one, that the essence of the Only-begotten was not before Its own generation, the other, that, being generated, It was before all things. Now I think that by what we have already said, the fact has been sufficiently shown that no new essence was begotten by the Father besides that which is contemplated in the Father Himself, and that there is no need for us to be entangled in a contest with blasphemy of this kind, as if the argument were now propounded to us for the first time; and further, that the real force of our argument must be directed to one point, I mean to his horrible and blasphemous utterance, which clearly states concerning God the Word that "He was not." Moreover, as our argument in the foregoing discourse has already to some extent dealt with the question of his blasphemy, it would perhaps be superfluous again to establish by like considerations what we have proved already. For it was to this end that we made those former statements, that by the earlier impression upon our hearers of an orthodox mode of thought, the blasphemy of our adversaries, who assert that non-existence preceded existence in the case of the Only-begotten God, might be more manifest.

It seems at this point well to investigate in our argument, by a more careful examination, the actual significance of "generation." That this name presents to us the fact of being as the result of some cause is clear to every one, and about this point there is, I suppose, no need to dispute. But since the account to be given of things which exist as the result of cause is various, I think it proper that this matter should be cleared up in our discourse by some sort of scientific division. Of things, then, which are the result of something, we understand the varieties to be as follows. Some are the result of matter and art, as the structure of buildings and of other works, coming into being by means of their respective matter, and these are directed by some art that accomplishes the thing proposed, with a view to the proper aim of the results produced. Others are the results of matter and nature; for the generations of animals are the buildinghyperlink of nature, who carries on her own operation by means of their material bodily subsistence. Others are the result of material efflux, in which cases the antecedent remains in its natural condition, while that which flows from it is conceived separately, as in the case of the sun and its beam, or the lamp and its brightness, or of scents and ointments and the quality they emit; for these, while they remain in themselves without diminution, have at the same time, each concurrently with itself, that natural property which they emit: as the sun its beam, the lamp its brightness, the scents the perfume produced by them in the air. There is also another species of "generation" besides these, in which the cause is immaterial and incorporeal, but the generation is an object of sense and takes place by corporeal means;-I speak of the word which is begotten by the mind: for the mind, being itself incorporeal, brings forth the word by means of the organs of sense. All these varieties of generation we mentally include, as it were, in one general view. For all the wonders that are wrought by nature, which changes the bodies of some animals to something of a different kind, or produces some animals from a change in liquids, or a corruption of seed, or the rotting of wood, or out of the condensed mass of fire transforms the cold vapour that issues from the firebrands, shut off in the heart of the fire, to produce an animal' which they call the salamander,-these, even if they seem to be outside the limits we have laid down, are none the less included among the cases we have mentioned. For it is by means of bodies that nature fashions these varied forms of animals; for it is such and such a change of body, disposed by nature in this or that particular way, which produces this or that particular animal; and this is not a distinct species of generation besides that which is accomplished as the result of nature and matter.

§4. He Further Shows the Operations of God to Be Expressed by Human Illustrations; For What Hands and Feef and the Other Parts of the Body with Which Men Work Are, That, in the Case of God, the Will Alone Is, in Place of These. And So Also Arises the Divergence of Generation; Wherefore He is Called Only-Begotten, Because He Has No Community with Other Generation Such as is Observed in Creationhyperlink , But in that He is Called the "Brightness of Glory," And the "Savour of Ointment," He Shows the Close Conjunction and Co-Eternity of His Nature with the Fatherhyperlink .

Now these modes of generation being well known to men, the loving dispensation of the Holy Spirit, in delivering to us the Divine mysteries, conveys its instruction on those matters which transcend language by means of what is within our capacity, as it does also constantly elsewhere, when it portrays the Divinity in bodily terms, making mention, in speaking concerning God, of His eye, His eyelids, His ear, His fingers, His hand, His right hand, His arm, His feet, His shoeshyperlink , and the like,-none of which things is apprehended to belong in its primary sense to the Divine Nature,-but turning its teaching to what we can easily perceive, it describes by, terms well worn in human use, facts that are beyond every name, while by each of the terms employed concerning God we are led analogically to some more exalted conception. In this way, then, it employs the numerous forms of generation to present to us, from the inspired teaching, the unspeakable existence of the Only-begotten, taking just so much from each as may be reverently admitted into our conceptions concerning God. For as its mention of "fingers," "hand," and "arm," in speaking of God, does not by the phrase portray the structure of the limb out of bones and sinews and flesh and ligaments, but signifies by such an expression His effective and operative power, and as it indicates by each of the other words of this kind those conceptions concerning God which correspond to them, not admitting the corporeal senses of the words, so also it speaks indeed of the forms of these modes of coming into being as applied to the Divine Nature, yet does not speak in that sense which our customary knowledge enables us to understand. For when it speaks of the formative power, it calls that particular energy by the name of "generation," because the word expressive of Divine power must needs descend to our lowliness, yet it does not indicate all that is associated with formative generation among ourselves,-neither place nor time nor preparation of material, nor the co-operation of instruments, nor the purpose in the things produced, but it leaves these out of sight, and greatly and loftily claims for God the generation of the things that are, where it says, "He spake and they were begotten, He commanded and they were createdhyperlink ." Again, when it expounds that unspeakable and transcendent existence which the Only-begotten has from the Father, because human poverty is incapable of the truths that are too high for speech or thought, it uses our language here also, and calls Him by the name of "Son,"-a name which our ordinary use applies to those who are produced by matter and nature. But just as the word, which tells us in reference to God of the "generation" of the creation, did not add the statement that it was generated by the aid of any material, declaring that its material substance, its place, its time, and all the like, had their existence in the power of His will, so here too, in speaking of the "Son," it leaves out of sight both all other things which human nature sees in earthly generation (passions, I mean, and dispositions, and the co-operation of time and the need of place, and especially matter), without all which earthly generation as a result of nature does not occur. Now every such conception of matter and interval being excluded from the sense of the word "Son," nature alone remains, and hereby in the word "Son" is declared concerning the Only-begotten the close and true character of His manifestation from the Father. And since this particular species of generation did not suffice to produce in us an adequate idea of the unspeakable existence of the Only-begotten, it employs also another species of generation, that which is the result of efflux, to express the Divine Nature of the Son, and calls Him "the brightness of gloryhyperlink ," the "savour of ointmenthyperlink ," the "breath of Godhyperlink ," which our accustomed use, in the scientific discussion we have already made, calls material efflux. But just as in the previous cases neither the making of creation nor the significance of the word "Son" admitted time, or matter, or place, or passion, so here also the phrase, purifying the sense of "brightness" and the other terms from every material conception, and employing only that element in this particular species of generation which is suitable to the Divinity, points by the force of this mode of expression to the truth that He is conceived as being both from Him and with Him. For neither does the word "breath" present to us dispersion into the air from the underlying matter, nor "savour" the transference that takes place from the quality of the ointment to the air, nor "brightness" the efflux by means of rays from the body of the sun; but this only, as we have said, is manifested by this particular mode of generation, that He is conceived to be of Him and also with Him, no intermediate interval existing between the Father and that Son Who is of Him. And since, in its abundant loving-kindness, the grace of the Holy Spirit has ordered that our conceptions concerning the Only-begotten Son should arise in us from many sources, it has added also the remaining species of things contemplated in generation,-that, I mean, which is the result of mind and word. But the lofty John uses especial foresight that the hearer may not by any means by inattention or feebleness of thought fall into the common understanding of "Word," so that the Son should be supposed to be the voice of the Father. For this reason he prepares us at his first proclamation to regard the Word as in essence, and not in any essence foreign to or dissevered from that essence whence It has Its being, but in that first and blessed Nature. For this is what he teaches us when he says the Word "was in the beginninghyperlink ," and "was with Godhyperlink ," being Himself also both God and all else that the "Beginning" is. For thus it is that he makes his discourse on the Godhead, touching the eternity of the Only-begotten. Seeing then that these modes of generation (those, I mean, which are the result of cause) are ordinarily known among us, and are employed by Holy Scripture for our instruction on the subjects before us, in such a way as it might be expected that each of them would be applied to the presentation of Divine conceptions, let the reader of our argument "judge righteous judgementhyperlink ," whether any of the assertions that heresy makes have any force against the truth.


1 Cf. Heb. xii. 15.

2 Exod. iii. 4.

3 Reading proqewroih for prosqewroih.

4 Exod. iii. 4.

5 See note 4 on Book V. §1, where these words are also treated of.

6 Cf. Judges xiii. 18 (LXX.).

7 Ps. cii. 27.

8 Cf. Deut. xxxii. 17 (LXX.). The quotat on is not exact.

9 Cf. S. John i.

10 Exod. iii. 4.

11 Cf. Ps. lxxxi. 10.

12 S. John xvi. 15.

13 Heb. vii. 3.

14 S. John xiv. 8.

15 Heb. i. 3.

16 Oehler's punctuation here seems faulty.

17 To make the grammar of the sentence exact thn should here be substituted for ton, the object of the verb being apparently gennhsin not logon. The whole section of the analysis is rather confused, and does not clearly reproduce S. Gregory's division of the subject. A large part of this section, and of that which follows it, is repeated with very slight alteration from Bk. II. §9 (see pp. 113-115 above). The resemblances are much closer in the Greek text than they appear in the present translation, in which different hands have been at work in the two books.

18 i.e. S. Basil.

19 anwtatw may be "supreme," in the sense of "ultimate" or "most remote," or in the more ordinary sense of "most exalted."

20 i.e. S. Basil.

21 Or (reading as proposed above, p. 114, oikonomei for oikodomei), "the ordering of nature."

22 This passage is clearly corrupt: the general sense as probably intended is given here.

23 See note 7 in the last section.

24 The reference is probably to Ps. lx. 8, and Ps. cviii. 9.

25 Ps. cxlviii. 5 (LXX.).

26 Heb. i. 3.

27 Perhaps Cant. i. 3.

28 Wisd. vii. 25.

29 Cf. S. John i. 1.

30 Cf. S. John i. 1.

31 S. John vii. 24.