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Basil the Great

On the Holy Spirit

From: Schaff - Wace, (ed)., Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Series II, v. 8, tr. by the Rev. Blomfield Jackson, London 1894.


That "through whom" is said also in the case of the Father, and "of whom" in the case of the Son and of the Spirit.

7. After thus describing the outcome of our adversaries' arguments, we shall now proceed to shew, as we have proposed, that the Father does not first take "of whom" and then abandon "through whom" to the Son; and that there is no truth in these men's ruling that the Son refuses to admit the Holy Spirit to a share in "of whom" or in "through whom," according to the limitation of their new-fangled allotment of phrases. "There is one God and Father of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom are all things."

Yes; but these are the words of a writer not laying down a rule, but carefully distinguishing the hypostases.

The object of the apostle in thus writing was not to introduce the diversity of nature, but to exhibit the notion of Father and of Son as unconfounded. That the phrases are not opposed to one another and do not, like squadrons in war marshalled one against another, bring the natures to which they are applied into mutual conflict, is perfectly, plain from the passage in question. The blessed Paul brings both phrases to bear upon one and the same subject, in the words "of him and through him and to him are all things." That this plainly refers to the Lord will be admitted even by a reader paying but small attention to the meaning of the words. The apostle has just quoted from the prophecy of Isaiah, "Who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor, and then goes on, "For of him and from him and to him are all things." That the prophet is speaking about God the Word, the Maker of all creation, may be learnt from what immediately precedes: "Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him?" Now the word "who" in this passage does not mean absolute impossibility, but rarity, as in the passage "Who will rise up for me against the evil doers?" and "What man is he that desireth life?" and "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" So is it in the passage in question, "Who hath directed [lxx., known] the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath known him?" "For the Father loveth the Son and sheweth him all things." This is He who holds the earth, and hath grasped it with His hand. who b,'ought all things to order and adornment, who poised the hills in their places, and measured the waters, and gave to all things in the universe their proper rank, who encompasseth the whole of heaven with but a small portion of His power, which, in a figure, the prophet calls a span. Well then did the apostle add "Of him and through him and to him are all things." For of Him, to all things that are, comes the cause of their being, according to the will of God the Father. Through Him all things have their continuance and constitution, for He created all things, and metes out to each severally what is necessary for its health and preservation. Wherefore to Him all things are turned, looking with irresistible longing and unspeakable affection to "the arthur" and maintainer" of" their "life," as it is written "The eyes of all wait upon thee," and again, "These wait all upon thee," and "Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing."

8. But if our adversaries oppose this our interpretation, what argument will save them from being caught in their own trap?
For if they will not grant that the three expressions "of him" and "through him" and "to him" are spoken of the Lord, they cannot but be applied to God the Father. Then without question their rule will fall through, for we find not only "of whom," but also "through whom" applied to the Father. And if this latter phrase indicates nothing derogatory, why in the world should it be confined, as though conveying the sense of inferiority, to the Son? If it always and everywhere implies, ministry, let them tell us to what superior the God of glory and Father of the Christ is subordinate.
They are thus overthrown by their own selves, while our position will be on both sides made sure. Suppose it proved that the passage refers to the Son, "of whom" will be found applicable to the Son. Suppose on the other hand it be insisted that the prophet's words relate to God, then it will be granted that "through whom" is properly used of God, and both phrases have equal value, in that both are used with equal force of God. Under either alternative both terms, being employed of one and the same Person, will be shewn to be equivalent. But let us revert to our subject.

9. In his Epistle to the Ephesians the apostle says, "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; from whom the whole body filly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body." '
And again in the Epistle to the Colossians, to them that have not the knowledge of the Only Begotten, there is mention of him that holdeth "the head," that is, Christ, "from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered increaseth with the increase of God." And that Christ is the head of the Church we have learned in another passage, when the apostle says "gave him to be the head over all things to the Church," and "of his fulness have all we received." And the Lord Himself says "He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you." In a word, the diligent reader will perceive that "of whom" is used in diverse manners. For instance, the Lord says, "I perceive that virtue is gone out of me." Similarly we have frequently observed "of whom" used of the Spirit. "He that soweth to the spirit," it is said, "shall of the spirit reap life ever!asting." John too writes, "Hereby we know that he abideth in ns by(e

10. It must now be pointed out that the phrase "through whom" is admitted by cripture in the case of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost alike. It would indeed be tedious to bring forward evidence of this in the case of the Son, not only because it is perfectly well known, but because this very point is made by our opponents. We now show that "through whom" is used also in the case of the Father. "God is faithful," it is said, "by whom (di ou) ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son," and "Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ by (dia) the will of God;" and again, "Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God." And "like as Christ was raised up from the dead by (dia) the glory of God the Father." Isaiah, moreover, says, "Woe unto them that make deep counsel and not through the Lord; " and many proofs of the use of this phrase in the-case of the Spirit might be adduced. "God hath revealed him to us," it is said, "by (dia) the spirit;" and in another place, "That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by (dia) the Holy Ghost;" and again, "To one is given by (dia) the spirit the word of wisdom."

11. In the same manner it may also be said of the word "in," that Scripture admits its use in the case of God the Father. In the Old Testament it is said through (en) God we shall do valiantly, and, "My praise shall be Continually of (en) thee;" and again, "In thy name will I rejoice." In Paul we read, "In God who created all things," and, I "Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father; " and "if now at length I might have a prosperous journey by (en) the will of God to come to you;" and, "Thou makest thy boast of God." Instances are indeed too numerous to reckon; but what we want is not so much to exhibit an abundance of evidence as to prove that the conclusions of our opponents are unsound. I shall, therefore, omit any proof of this usage in the case of our Lord and of the Holy Ghost, in that it is notorious. But I cannot forbear to remark that "the wise hearer" will find sufficient proof of the proposition before him by following the method of contraries. For if the difference of language indicates, as we are told, that the nature has been changed, then let identity of language compel our adversaries to confess with shame that the essence is unchanged.

12. And it is not only in the case of the theology that the use of the terms varies, but whenever one of the terms takes the meaning of the other we find them frequently transferred from the one subject to the other. As, for instance, Adam says, "I have gotten a man through God," meaning to say the same as from God; and in another passage "Moses commanded ... Israel through the word of the Lord," and, again, "Is not the interpretation through God?" Joseph, discoursing about dreams to the prisoners, instead of saying "from God" says plainly "through God." Inversely Paul uses the term "from whom" instead of "through whom," when he says "made from a woman" (A.V., "of" instead of "through a woman"). And this he has plainly distinguished in another passage, where he says that it is proper to a woman to be made of the man, and to a man to be made through the woman, in the words "For as the woman is from [A.V., of] the man, even so is the man also through [A.V., by] the woman." Nevertheless in the passage in question the apostle, while illustrating the variety of usage, at the same time corrects obiter the error of those who supposed that the body of the Lord was a spiritual body, and, to shew that the God-bearing flesh was formed out of the common lump of human nature, gave precedence to the more emphatic preposition.
The phrase "through a woman" would be likely to give rise to the suspicion of mere transit in the generation, while the phrase "of the woman" would satisfactorily indicate that the nature was shared by the mother and the offspring. The apostle was in no wise contradicting himself, but he shewed that the words can without difficulty be interchanged. Since, therefore, the term "from whom" is transferred to the identical subjects in the case of which "through whom" is decided to be properly used, with what consistency can these phrases be invariably distinguished one from the other, in order that fault may be falsely found with true religion?

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