Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V/Novatian/A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity/Part 4

Chapter IV. Argument.—Moreover, He is Good, Always the Same, Immutable, One and Only, Infinite; And His Own Name Can Never Be Declared, and He is Incorruptible and Immortal.

Him alone the Lord rightly declares good, of whose goodness the whole world is witness; which world He would not have ordained if He had not been good. For if “everything was very good,”[1] consequently, and reasonably, both those things which were ordained have proved that He that ordained them is good, and those things which are the work of a good Ordainer cannot be other than good; wherefore every evil is a departure from God. For it cannot happen that He should be the originator or architect of any evil work, who claims to Himself the name of “the Perfect,” both Parent and Judge, especially when He is the avenger and judge of every evil work; because, moreover, evil does not occur to man from any other cause than by his departure from the good God. Moreover, this very thing is specified in man, not because it was necessary, but because he himself so willed it. Whence it manifestly appeared also what was evil; and lest there should seem to be envy in God, it was evident whence evil had arisen. He, then, is always like to Himself; nor does He ever turn or change Himself into any forms, lest by change He should appear to be mortal. For the change implied in turning from one thing to another is comprehended as a portion of a certain death.  Thus there is never in Him any accession or increase of any part or honour, lest anything should appear to have ever been wanting to His perfection, nor is any loss sustained in Him, lest a degree of mortality should appear to have been suffered by Him. But what He is, He always is; and who He is, He is always Himself; and what character He has, He always has.[2] For increasing argues beginning, as well as losses prove death and perishing. And therefore He says, “I am God, I change not;”[3] in that, what is not born cannot suffer change, holding His condition always. For whatever it be in Him which constitutes Divinity, must necessarily exist always, maintaining itself by its own powers, so that He should always be God. And thus He says, “I am that I am.”[4] For what He is has this name, because it always maintains the same quality of Himself. For change takes away the force of that name “That I Am;” for whatever, at any time, is changed, is shown to be mortal in that very particular which is changed. For it ceases to be that which it had been, and consequently begins to be what it was not; and therefore, reasonably, there remains always in God His position, in that without any loss arising from change, He is always like and equal to Himself. And what is not born cannot be changed: for only those things undergo change which are made, or which are begotten; in that those things which had not been at one time, learn to be by coming into being, and therefore to suffer change by being born. Moreover, those things which neither have nativity nor maker, have excluded from themselves the capacity of change, not having a beginning wherein is cause of change. And thus He is declared to be one, having no equal. For whatever can be God, must as God be of necessity the Highest. But whatever is the Highest, must certainly be the Highest in such sense as to be without any equal. And thus that must needs be alone and one on which nothing can be conferred, having no peer; because there cannot be two infinites, as the very nature of things dictates. And that is infinite which neither has any sort of beginning nor end. For whatever has occupied the whole excludes the beginning of another. Because if He does not contain all which is, whatever it is—seeing that what is found in that whereby it is contained is found to be less than that whereby it is contained—He will cease to be God; being reduced into the power of another, in whose greatness He, being smaller, shall have been included. And therefore what contained Him would then rather claim to be God. Whence it results that God’s own name also cannot be declared, because He cannot be conceived. For that is contained in a name which is, in any way, comprehended from the condition of His nature. For the name is the signification of that thing which could be comprehended from a name. But when that which is treated of is such that it cannot be worthily gathered into one form by the very understanding itself, how shall it be set forth fittingly in the one word of an appellation, seeing that as it is beyond the intellect, it must also of necessity be above the significancy of the appellation? As with reason when He applies and prefers from certain reasons and occasions His name of God, we know that it is not so much the legitimate propriety of the appellation that is set forth, as a certain significancy determined for it, to which, while men betake themselves, they seem to be able thereby to obtain God’s mercy. He is therefore also both immortal and incorruptible, neither conscious of any kind of loss nor ending.  For because He is incorruptible, He is therefore immortal; and because He is immortal, He is certainly also incorruptible,—each being involved by turns in the other, with itself and in itself, by a mutual connection, and prolonged by a vicarious concatenation to the condition of eternity; immortality arising from incorruption, as well as incorruption coming from immortality.


  1. Gen. i. 31.
  2. In other words, God is always the same in essence, in personality, and in attributes.
  3. Mal. iii. 6.
  4. Ex. iii. 14. [The ineffable name of the Self-Existent.]