Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V/Novatian/A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity/Part 24
Chapter XXIV. Argument.—That These Have Therefore Erred, by Thinking that There Was No Difference Between the Son of God and the Son of Man; Because They Have Ill Understood the Scripture.
But the material of that heretical error has arisen, as I judge, from this, that they think that there is no distinction between the Son of God and the Son of man; because if a distinction were made, Jesus Christ would easily be proved to be both man and God. For they will have it that the self-same that is man, the Son of man, appears also as the Son of God; that man and flesh and that same frail substance may be said to be also the Son of God Himself. Whence, since no distinction is discerned between the Son of man and the Son of God, but the Son of man Himself is asserted to be the Son of God, the same Christ and the Son of God is asserted to be man only; by which they strive to exclude, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” “And ye shall call His name Emmanuel; which is, interpreted, God with us.” For they propose and put forward what is told in the Gospel of Luke, whence they strive to maintain not what is the truth, but only what they want it to be: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also the Holy Thing which is born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” If, then, say they, the angel of God says to Mary, “that Holy Thing which is born of thee,” the substance of flesh and body is of Mary; but he has set forth that this substance, that is, that Holy Thing which is born of her, is the Son of God. Man, say they, himself, and that bodily flesh; that which is called holy, itself is the Son of God. That also when the Scripture says that “Holy Thing,” we should understand thereby Christ the man, the Son of man; and when it places before us the Son of God, we ought to perceive, not man, but God. And yet the divine Scripture easily convicts and discloses the frauds and artifices of the heretics. For if it were thus only, “The Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore that Holy Thing which is born of thee shall be called the Son of God,” perchance we should have had to strive against them in another sort, and to have sought for other arguments, and to have taken up other weapons, with which to overcome both their snares and their wiles; but since the Scripture itself, abounding in heavenly fulness, divests itself of the calumnies of these heretics, we easily depend upon that that is written, and overcome those errors without any hesitation. For it said, not as we have already stated, “Therefore the Holy Thing which shall be born of thee;” but added the conjunction, for it says, “Therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee,” so as to make it plain that that Holy Thing which is born of her—that is, that substance of flesh and body—is not the Son of God primarily, but consequently, and in the secondary place; but primarily, that the Son of God is the Word of God, incarnate by that Spirit of whom the angel says, “The Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.” For He is the legitimate Son of God who is of God Himself; and He, while He assumes that Holy Thing, and links to Himself the Son of man, and draws Him and transfers Him to Himself, by His connection and mingling of association becomes responsible for and makes Him the Son of God, which by nature He was not, so that the original cause of that name Son of God is in the Spirit of the Lord, who descended and came, and that there is only the continuance of the name in the case of the Son of man; and by consequence He reasonably became the Son of God, although originally He is not the Son of God. And therefore the angel, seeing that arrangement, and providing for that order of the mystery, did not confuse every thing in such a way as to leave no trace of a distinction, but established the distinction by saying, “Therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God;” lest, had he not arranged that distribution with his balances, but had left the matter all mixed up in confusion, it had really afforded occasion to heretics to declare that the Son of man, in that He is man, is the same as the Son of God and man. But now, explaining severally the ordinance and the reason of so great a mystery, he evidently set forth in saying, “And that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God;” the proof that the Son of God descended, and that He, in taking up into Himself the Son of man, consequently made Him the Son of God, because the Son of God associated and joined Him to Himself. So that, while the Son of man cleaves in His nativity to the Son of God, by that very mingling He holds that as pledged and derived which of His own nature He could not possess. And thus by the word of the angel the distinction is made, against the desire of the heretics, between the Son of God and man; yet with their association, by pressing them to understand that Christ the Son of man is man, and also to receive the Son of God and man the Son of God; that is, the Word of God as it is written as God; and thus to acknowledge that Christ Jesus the Lord, connected on both sides, so to speak, is on both sides woven in and grown together, and associated in the same agreement of both substances, by the binding to one another of a mutual alliance—man and God by the truth of the Scripture which declares this very thing.
- According to Pamelius, ch. xix.
- John i. 14.
- Matt. i. 23.
- Luke i. 35.
- “The miraculous generation is here represented as the natural, but by no means as the only cause for which He who had no human father was to receive the name of God’s Son.”—Oosterzee, in loco, on Luke.—Tr.
- The edition of Pamelius reads: ut sequela nominis in Filio Dei et hominis sit. The words Dei et were expelled by Welchman, whom we have followed.