Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V/Novatian/A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity/Part 6
Chapter VI. Argument.—And That, Although Scripture Often Changes the Divine Appearance into a Human Form, Yet the Measure of the Divine Majesty is Not Included Within These Lineaments of Our Bodily Nature.
And although the heavenly Scripture often turns the divine appearance into a human form,—as when it says, “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous;” or when it says, “The Lord God smelled the smell of a good savour;” or when there are given to Moses the tables “written with the finger of God;” or when the people of the children of Israel are set free from the land of Egypt “with a mighty hand and with a stretched out arm;” or when it says, “The mouth of the Lord hath spoken these things;” or when the earth is set forth as “God’s footstool;” or when it says, “Incline thine ear, and hear,”—we who say that the law is spiritual do not include within these lineaments of our bodily nature any mode or figure of the divine majesty, but diffuse that character of unbounded magnitude (so to speak) over its plains without any limit. For it is written, “If I shall ascend into heaven, Thou art there; if I shall descend into hell, Thou art there also; and if I shall take my wings, and go away across the sea, there Thy hand shall lay hold of me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.” For we recognise the plan of the divine Scripture according to the proportion of its arrangement. For the prophet then was still speaking about God in parables according to the period of the faith, not as God was, but as the people were able to receive Him. And thus, that such things as these should be said about God, must be imputed not to God, but rather to the people. Thus the people are permitted to erect a tabernacle, and yet God is not contained within the enclosure of a tabernacle. Thus a temple is reared, and yet God is not at all bounded within the restraints of a temple. It is not therefore God who is limited, but the perception of the people is limited; nor is God straitened, but the understanding of the reason of the people is held to be straitened. Finally, in the Gospel the Lord said, “The hour shall come when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father;” and gave the reasons, saying, “God is a Spirit; and those therefore who worship, must worship in spirit and in truth.” Thus the divine agencies are there exhibited by means of members; it is not the appearance of God nor the bodily lineaments that are described. For when the eyes are spoken of, it is implied that He sees all things; and when the ear, it is set forth that He hears all things; and when the finger, a certain energy of His will is opened up; and when the nostrils, His recognition of prayers is shown forth as of odours; and when the hand, it is proved that He is the author of every creature; and when the arm, it is announced that no nature can withstand the power of His arm; and when the feet it is unfolded that He fills all things, and that there is not any place where God is not. For neither members nor the offices of members are needful to Him to whose sole judgment, even unexpressed, all things serve and are present. For why should He require eyes who is Himself the light? or why should He ask for feet who is everywhere? or why should He wish to go when there is nowhere where He can go beyond Himself? or why should He seek for hands whose will is, even when silent, the architect for the foundation of all things? He needs no ears who knows the wills that are even unexpressed; or for what reason should He need a tongue whose thought is a command? These members assuredly were necessary to men, but not to God, because man’s design would be ineffectual if the body did not fulfil the thought. Moreover, they are not needful to God, whose will the works attend not so much without any effort, as that the works themselves proceed simultaneously with the will. Moreover, He Himself is all eye, because He all sees; and all ear, because He all hears; and all hand, because He all works; and all foot, because He all is everywhere. For He is the same, whatever it is. He is all equal, and all everywhere. For He has not in Him any diversity in Himself, being simple. For those are the things which are reduced to diversity of members, which arise from birth and go to dissolution. But things which are not concrete cannot be conscious of these things. And what is immortal, whatever it is, that very thing is one and simple, and for ever. And thus because it is one it cannot be dissolved; since whatever is that very thing which is placed beyond the claim of dissolution, it is freed from the laws of death.
- Ps. xxxiv. 15. [Anthropopathy, p. 611.]
- Gen. viii. 21.
- Ex. xxxi. 18.
- Ps. cxxxvi. 12.
- Isa. i. 20.
- Isa. lxvi. 1. [Capp. v. and vi. are specimens of vigorous thought.]
- 2 Chron. xix. 16.
- Ps. cxxxix. 8, 9, 10.
- John iv. 21.
- John iv. 24.
- sc. in the Old Testament.
- That is to say, “of Birth and dissolution.” [He is the Now.]