The Center for Hellenic Studies

On The Name of the Father: The Platonic Pollen in Orthodox Triadology [1]

Archbishop Demetrios of America, Ph.D., Th.D.
It is well known that the early Christian theologians lived in a state of considerable tension with respect to the pagan world around them. On the one hand, they deplored the sensuality and violence of the dominant culture and religion; on the other hand, they admired the rational achievements, unique in the ancient world, of Hellenic philosophy and Greco-Roman law. Ironically, the passage of time has proven the most influential Christian thinkers to be those best steeped in classical Hellenic learning. So thoroughly familiar with Greek philosophy, the early Fathers would have been hard pressed to express themselves except in concepts and categories of the very culture they held in suspicion.
The proper, truly eclectic, attitude of the great Fathers of Orthodoxy vis-à-vis the Greek literature and philosophy is exemplified in St. Basil’s warning for young scholars who read the great epics. The great Cappadocian Father adduces Homer to assail Homer!
But when they treat of wicked men, you ought to avoid such imitation, stopping your ears no less than Odysseus did, according to what those same poets say, when he avoided the songs of the Sirens. For familiarity with evil words is, as it were, a road leading to evil deeds. [2]
Eclecticism was ever the watchword of the early Christian scholars, an attitude expressed with exquisite parabolic aptness in another statement of Basil the Great:
For just as in the case of other beings enjoyment of flowers is limited to their fragrance and color, but the bees, as we see, possess the power to get honey from them as well, so it is possible here also for those who are pursuing not merely what is sweet and pleasant in such writings to store away from them some benefit also for their souls. It is, therefore, in accordance with the whole similitude of the bees, that we should participate in the pagan literature. For these neither approach all flowers equally, nor in truth do they attempt to carry off entire those upon which they alight, but taking only so much of them as is suitable for their work, they suffer the rest to go untouched. [3]
This essay explores how a small but significant speck of philosophical “pollen” from Plato’s Cratylus became an important ingredient of the Orthodox victory over neo-Arianism in the Trinitarian controversies of the 4th century.

1. Introduction—Two Schools of Theology

The two leading Neo-Arian theologians were Aetius (d. ca. 370) and his disciple Eunomius (d. 394), who were active in Antioch and Alexandria. They subscribed to the doctrine that the Godhead was a single pure essence, termed in Neo-Arian theology the “Unbegotten” (ἀγέννητον). This essence was not God the Father; the Father was understood rather as an overflowing energy of the Godhead which begot the Word, the generated one (γεννητόν), who in turn was the ground for the creation of all other things, including the Holy Spirit. Neo-Arianism revived in a strange way the doctrine of Arius of Alexandria that the Son is not divine in essence as is the Father.
The Cappadocian Fathers—St. Basil the Great of Caesarea (330-379), St. Gregory of Nyssa (330-395), and St. Gregory of Nazianzen the Theologian (329-389) —all wrote detailed treatises attacking Neo-Arian doctrine and upholding the Nicene dogma that the Father and the Son are “of the same essence” (ὁμoούσιος). Although the two sides in the Neo-Arian controversy argued over the exegesis of specific texts, the heart of the debate was about the nature of language itself, and especially theological language. Crucial to the Cappadocian refutation of Neo-Arian metalinguistics was the theory of names that Plato articulated in his dialogue Cratylus. Although the Fathers do not openly acknowledge their debt to Plato, none can doubt that they (like St. Basil’s proverbial bees) visited often the intellectual garden of the myriad-minded pagan, and that their exposition of Nicene Trinitarianism depends crucially on his understanding of language.

2. Correctness of Names in the Cratylus

The two sides of an ancient debate are staked out in the Cratylus by Hermogenes and Cratylus; the former holding that names are purely a matter of arbitrary convention, and the latter insisting that a name corresponds to the very essence of its referent. Hermogenes propounds the view that names are true or false depending on whether they conform to societal usage. Cratylus regards a name as a unique linguistic embodiment of the thing in itself: “As the name is, so is the thing; and that he who knows the one will also know the other,” as Plato sums it up through Socrates. [4]
Socrates introduces a third way of understanding the connection between word and object: one might label this iconicity. Words constitute verbal images of the things to which they refer. Like any image, words may vary in their similitude to the object depicted. A name therefore can be partly true and partly false, an incomplete likeness, or a resemblance faithful in one aspect and complementary to others. A thing, therefore, can have more than one name, just as a person might be depicted by several images.
The linchpin of Plato’s argument is found in Socrates’ assertion that a thing may be known aside from its name. [5] That is, direct experience of a non-verbal nature is available to humankind, and it is through this experience that one comes to learn the names of things; one does not learn the essence of things through their names. Otherwise, he asks, how would one first come to know the meaning of any name? The naturalism of Cratylus has an epistemological problem equivalent to trying to pick oneself up by one’s bootstraps: a language could not be learned except by one who already knows the language, i.e. the correspondence between words and objects. Plato’s conclusion is that language, like all earthly things, is subject to flux and can be only a relative guide to absolute and eternal truths about the nature of reality.
Classical scholars and philosophers still debate what exactly was Plato’s notion of the connection between meaning and language. What cannot be debated is that Plato staked out a position between complete absolutism and complete relativism of languages. In clearing the intellectual ground for a position in the middle of these two, Plato opened up a way for Christianity to resolve one of the most heated dogmatic debates in its early history.

3 . The Neo-Arian view of Language and Dogma

The Neo-Arian movement arose from a philosophy of language very much like that espoused by the character of Cratylus. Eunomius endorsed the claim of his teacher Aetius that his arguments for Neo-Arian theology were “based on the mind of the Holy Scriptures.” [6] Indeed, it is Eunomius’ absolutism about the meaning of Scriptural language that underlies his theology and his insistence that “the inerrancy of the scriptures … be preserved.” [7] He understands language about God, especially the language of revelation, to be semantically unequivocal: the words and phrases pertaining to God have a positive, straightforward, and unique meaning that is immediately accessible to all minds. There is no possibility for ambiguity or relativism. Characteristic is Eunomius’ remark preserved by the church historian Socrates:
God knows no more of His own substance than we do; nor is this more known to Him, and less to us: but whatever we know about the Divine Substance, that precisely is known to God; on the other hand, whatever He knows, the same also you will find without any difference in us. [8]
That is to say, since the Church holds it as axiomatic that “God has revealed Himself to us” through the Scriptures, these words can only be a direct unveiling of divine reality which unfailingly communicates God in a definite and unequivocal way. “We do not understand his essence to be one thing and the meaning of the word which designates it to be something else. [9] Without this understanding, Eunomius might say, Scripture cannot truly be an illumination, but merely a shadow of truths divine.
Eunomius advances the idea that all words, common and proper, have a single, basic meaning which underlies the variety of their usages. [10] In all occurrences of a given word there must be, he believes, a fundamental unity of meaning, so that the words “eye” or “Father” or “Son” have the very same semantic value, regardless of whether they refer to things mundane or celestial. In order to maintain this, Eunomius must resort to somewhat abstract definitions for words. [11] Thus, the names “Father” and “Son” in connection with the Godhead do not denote physical reproduction via bodily organs as when applied to humans, but rather an analogical relationship of dependency, causality, and priority as exists in human fatherhood and sonship. Those who accept the titles for God given through revelation “must of necessity keep their real meaning undistorted along with the words.” [12]
Eunomius therefore considers there to be a one-to-one correspondence between word and reality, precisely as a naturalistic theory of language would require. Wherever there is a distinction in word, there must also be a distinction in being as well. If “the names are different, the essences are different as well,” [13] for “each name pulls in its own direction and the other has no common meaning with it at all.” [14] It does not matter whether one argues from the text of the Creed to the meaning or from meaning to text—the result will necessarily be the same. [15] A sort of linguistic determinism prevails: apprehension of the Faith depends not on ecstatic experience or intellectual insight, but proceeds from the very nature of things—κατὰ φύσιν. The plain sense of any creedal formula conveys the very knowledge of God to the hearer, since the signification of such words is available to all as “innate knowledge.” [16] This led Eunomius to the unprecedented conclusion that “the specific content of ‘the mystery of our religion’ was ‘exactness of doctrines’ rather than ‘the distinctive character of customs and sacramental tokens’,” since the words sufficed to shape the hearer into conformity with divine reality. [17] Eunomius allowed that some names are conventional (“based on invention”), but these dissipate like the breath that utters them. [18]
The concept of a κατὰ φύσινrelation between word and object is the sword by which Eunomius banishes all paradox from the Garden of Theology. Words cannot fail, cannot be inadequate for the task of revelation. If one accepts that God by nature had no beginning or cause, one must then affirm that by nature the uniquely proper name for the Divinity in any language is not ‘God’ or ‘Father’ but ‘Unbegotten’ or ‘Ungenerate’. [19] Word and reality march in lockstep. Moreover, Unbegottenness is the one and only divine attribute that is incommunicable, even (or rather, especially) to the only-begotten Son. God may share his incorruptibility, his energy, his goodness, but it is by nature impossible for the Ungenerate to make the Begotten also to be ungenerate. [20]
Of all possible terms, why did Eunomius choose the extra-Scriptural word “Ungenerate” as the verbal form of the divine essence? Perhaps the reason lay in the Neo-Platonic metaphysics which was common philosophical ground for both sides of the Christological debates. In the philosophical term ἀγέννητον there is a possibility for an incontestable point of reference from which to derive his exegetical principles and so to work out the rest of the descending Triadology in Neo-Platonic terms as well.
According to Neo-Arianism, God is the first principle, resting as the monad in perfect isolation, utterly apart, incomparable, and a-relational. His essence is Unbegottenness, which he cannot share with any other. (It would be a change, a “passion” in the impassionate One, for God to communicate his essence to another, since this could take place only by division or diminution. [21] He is entirely apart from all else that might be. Yet somehow, through the super-abundance of His Being, in the course of time some energy of his overflowing fullness begets an Other. It is this energy (and not the Monad) that is to be identified with the “Father” of Scriptures; the thing made by the overflowing Energy becomes its “Begotten.” The created nature of this entity is plainly stated in the Scriptures, according to the literalistic readings of neo-Arian exegesis. There exists an unbridgeable conceptual abyss between the transcendent infinitude of the Unbegotten and the derived divinity of the Begotten. [22] This second principle, the Son, is the one through whom “all things were made,” and since nothing was made except by him (John 1:3), it follows that the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, was also one of the productions of the Begotten. The Paraclete assumes the role of the Neo-Platonic feminine third principle, which forms the ground or space for the material creation. There is a fundamental distinction between the energies of the Unbegotten, the Begotten, and the Paraclete; this distinction in energies forces recognition of a distinction in essences. If they had the same essence, they must of course have the same operations ad extra; but Eunomius insisted, they do not.
The Son is like the Father (but not like the Unbegotten) in that the Son also produces an Other: the Paraclete and all created things. It is in this sense that the Son is the image of the Father. The Son and the Father are one (John 10:30) in the same way that humans may be one (cf. John 17:11, 22-23), namely, by a concurrence of energies and operations. It is noteworthy that Eunomius gleaned from the revelational names “Father” and “Son” not the connotations of loving relationship, familial affection, or the like, but simply the mechanical process of dependence and priority. His soteriology likewise lacks the personal, mystical flavor of the historic, Orthodox sacramental and ascetic thought. For Eunomius, right words lead to right comprehension of the Divinity, and so religion boils down to simply a matter of creedal formulation, not a direct experience of God. [23]

4. The Cappadocian Theory of Language and Dogma

St. Gregory the Theologian maps out a fairly complete picture of the Orthodox view of theological language and human capacity for theological understanding in the course of his five Theological Orations. Without making reference to Plato, St. Gregory throughout his treatment makes patent use of the iconic theory of language expounded in the Cratylus.
Stepping back for a moment from the technical philosophical points, the reader of these five Orations is struck by the fervency with which St. Gregory endeavors to pry free the conceptual stranglehold which his Neo-Arian counterparts have fastened on the literal sense of the Scriptures. They have accused St. Gregory and his party of playing fast and loose with Holy Writ, and so St. Gregory attempts simultaneously throughout the Orations to show both his serious and intimate knowledge of the Scriptures, and yet his freedom in Christ from the dead letter of the text. [24] He proclaims on the one hand that the true theologian is one who is “being molded and molding others by Holy Scripture.” [25] He avers that—far from being linguistically careless—his followers “pay the highest honor to the Word” of all divine titles, and therefore observe silence when talk would be cheap. On the other hand, he mocks his foes for their “strong attachment to the written word” [26] and declares that though they “fight so hard for the letter, . . . their love for the letter is but a cloak for their impiety.” [27] Elsewhere he scoffs at their Scriptural proof-texting, calling them “sacrilegious robbers of the Bible and thieves of the sense of its contents.” [28] He bludgeons them with scorn for not following out their nitpicking adherence to the text of Holy Write to its logical conclusions and calls them “slaves to the letter, … and a follower of syllables at the expense of facts.” [29]
For St. Gregory, the Scriptures are a reliable guide unto God, but they cannot lead one the whole way. The cornerstone of his argument, often repeated, is that human language is in the final analysis inadequate to convey the Godhead. “To define Him in words is an impossibility” [30] —even for the Scriptures, we are to understand; knowledge of the divine through the Scriptures has only a “relative superiority,” [31] and is not absolute in comprehension; simply put, “the Deity cannot be expressed in words,” as even the onomastic taboos of the ancient Hebrews show. [32] “It is impossible to express Him, and yet more impossible to conceive Him.” [33]
Language, the Theologian says, is an imperfect medium, able to convey only partially that which the mind can conceive of God. [34] But if the conception of the mind bears only a faint resemblance to the reality of God, and language a faint resemblance to the mental conception, what firm hope dare we attach to language at all? And most certainly, St. Gregory tells us, the mind cannot conceive the fullness of the being of God: “the Divine Nature cannot be apprehended by human reason”; [35] “the darkness of the body has been placed between us and God.” [36] “All truth, all philosophy, to be sure, is obscure, hard to trace out. It is like employing a small tool on big constructions, if we use human wisdom in the hunt for the knowledge of reality.” [37] It is as if the reality of God (and indeed all things) is a three-dimensional entity, but our minds can conceive only of two dimensions, and human language is able to express only one-dimensional realities. [38] The Bible therefore is not and cannot be a set of gnomic statements, a textbook of universal truths. In order to reveal anything about the greater truth of God, the Bible must resort to nonfactual expressions while omitting other factual ones. [39]
But if this is so, what stops us from a free fall into complete subjectivity in Bible interpretation? Simply put, not every person is fit for the work of exegesis, says St. Gregory. Only some are found suitable for enlightenment as to the inner meaning of the text; [40] these are the true theologians, “masters in meditation, who have been previously purified in soul and body.” [41] Reading the Bible is not about filling the mind with data but about receiving an experience of the Three-Personed God by the guidance of the Spirit. [42] Walk through the titles of the Son and you may thereby become a god, ascending from below as He descended from above for our sake. [43]
St. Gregory, then, understands language as a means to an end only, having equivocal force: it is merely provisional, tentative, incomplete, contradictory even when true. [44] Different expressions such as “ten” and “two times five” may have equivalent meanings, [45] and identical expressions may be used with different senses: context is everything. [46] But language is not illogical, “without logos”: when identical predicates and substantives are used similarly, they should be construed as having a similar communicative content. [47] One cannot, as the Neo-Arians do, distinguish synonymous and homonymous usages of a word like “light” on the basis of a priori premises. [48] Proper linguistic usage is determined by common convention and cannot be proactively prescribed: [49] the terms “God” and “Unbegotten” are not used as grammatical equivalents, since the former acts as a relational term and the latter as an absolute, and so it is erroneous to treat them as absolutely synonymous. [50]
This understanding is in fact the cornerstone of the Orthodox position eloquently expressed by the Cappadocian Fathers. The common usage of Scripture and liturgical tradition leads us to make similar statements about the attributes of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the Creed we profess belief in each person distinctly, and in Baptism we are immersed once in each name. [51] Where all three Persons are said in Scripture to be “light,” we must understand the force of the usage to have the same meaning in each case. [52] It matters not that the Scriptures make no clear, positive statements about the divinity of the Spirit. Their inner meaning inspires the people of God to send up the same honor and glory and worship to all three by saying the same things about each. [53] This equality of treatment constitutes a demonstration of the common divinity of the Trinity.
St. Gregory’s a posteriori, descriptive view of language leads to some exegetical corollaries. First, he offers his Christological heuristic for understanding texts regarding the Son: the lofty predicates apply to the Godhead in Christ and the lowlier ascriptions to His compound theanthropic condition. [54] That is, one cannot decide what the force of a predication of Christ entails without considering the context, i.e., whether the statement applies to his divine or human nature. Second, St. Gregory affirms that conventional usage has many times determined that the same word may have several meanings: “can” and “cannot” admit of many meanings, and the preposition “until” is used in distinct senses. [55] Unremarkable verbs like “sleeps,” “is angry,” “walks,” lose their usual meanings when applied to God and take on loose, figurative senses only. St. Gregory’s rejection of unequivocal word meanings (and his embrace of metaphor) is integral to his understanding of exegesis.
The power of the apt figure appeals greatly to St. Gregory’s sensibilities. Whereas the writings of Eunomius and Aetius are purposefully metaphor-free, reveling instead in a precise calculus of abstract philosophical nouns and verbs, St. Gregory resorts freely to images and concrete models to build a progressive understanding of his point (which is not so much to define what the Trinity is as to clear out a common conceptual space for agreement as to how the Trinity might be). Do you want for an example of sharing of substance without begetting? Think of Adam, Eve, and Seth. [56] Does your mind boggle at the idea of unity of essence but distinction of hypostasis that implies no temporal separation? Think of a source, a spring, and a river. [57] Does the unity of will and energy in division of persons confuse you? Think of a triple sun mingling one light, or of a single Sun whose ray and light are inseparable yet distinguishable. [58]
Nonetheless, St. Gregory does not shrink from hardheaded grammatical analysis. He gladly handles questions about the difference between relative and absolute substantives. [59] He readily addresses the issue of the denotation of “Father” as a name that signifies a kind of relationship above all. [60] He handily imports observations about Hebrew word structure and grammar when it suits his argument. [61] Thus, St. Gregory, unlike the Neo-Arians, is comfortable both as a poet and as a rhetorician.
St. Gregory, then, does not hide behind his Orthodox imagery and apophaticism. He acknowledges that there is a time for saying what God is not and a time for saying what God is. [62] And with this intent he makes his checkmating move to end the five Theological Orations: he analyzes the general sweep of salvation history, considering the plan within the plan of redemption. [63] Revelation is progressive. God has not overwhelmed humankind by revealing too much truth too quickly. He tolerated blood sacrifices while rooting out base idolatry. Then He abolished sacrifice while permitting circumcision. Finally He undid the rest of the ritual system of the Old Covenant. All the while the truth of the Godhead shone more clearly. In the Old Testament the Father was made known; in the New Testament the Son is revealed. Now in the era of the Church, the divinity of the Holy Spirit is gradually being made known, not in a single blinding flash, but by “piecemeal additions,” or “ascents,” if you will. It is therefore irrelevant that the Scriptures of the first century contain little clear evidence for the Godhead of the Spirit—though they contain enough to settle the issue for those whose eyes have been enlightened to read with understanding. In the life of the Church the revelation is shining forth: in Her baptism, in Her doxology, in Her sanctification. The locus of truth is not to be found in the letter of a text, but in direct experience of the divine energies by the Spirit-bearing theologian. [64]

5. The Lasting Legacy of the Platonic Philosophy of Language

A modern reader can only marvel at the remarkable currency of the Cappadocian approach to language. In many ways their thought—as exemplified by the remarks of St. Gregory the Theologian in the Theological Orations—anticipates several of the contributions of twentieth-century descriptive linguistics. [65] The central insight of the Cappadocian philosophy of language is the tenet that the relationship between language and reality, between form and meaning, cannot be dictated on the basis of a priori considerations, but is determined in no small part from usage and convention. Names and predicates derive their truthfulness, as it were, not from conformity to some abstract propositional calculus, but from their usefulness in living experience. For example, God is revealed under the name of “Father” because this word has an appropriate personal resonance (that the clinical abstraction “Unbegotten” can never have) and not because of an abstract similarity between His fatherhood and human paternity.
This understanding—the importance of the context and convention of the Christian community—is in fact the heart of Cappadocian theology and of St. Basil’s argument in On the Holy Spirit. The Cappadocian Fathers in their struggles with Neo-Arianism developed an a posteriori, descriptive, iconic view of language and an understanding of Truth as personal, not merely propositional (cf. John 14:6, I Tim. 3:15). Their very notion of right-thinking, of ortho-doxy, depends on a respect for the conventions that develop within the community; even their love for Holy Tradition does not prevent them from advancing the boundaries of the traditional language when the communal consciousness allows.
And yet one must not think that the Orthodox Fathers operated in an intellectual vacuum. The honeycomb of the Cappadocian philosophy of language is clearly connected to the intellectual pollen of the Cratylus. There can be no doubt that the relativistic, experiential, iconic view of language underlying Orthodox exegesis comes from Plato: “He being dead yet speaketh” through the lasting legacy of Christianized Hellenism.
Platonic-Cappadocian linguistics are more significant than ever, with the rise of fundamentalist religions around the globe. Fundamentalism of every stripe depends on an absolutist view of revelation, reading sacred texts as rigid expressions of the divine will and nature, untouched by conditions of culture or the flux of language. Great harm has come to humanity from such ideologies. More than ever, the middle way between utter relativism and utter absolutism, first charted by the Greek philosophers, must be propounded and defended for the good of all peoples.
It is not only fitting, therefore, but also morally necessary—καλὸν καὶ ἀγαθόν—to properly honor a scholar and teacher, like Professor Gregory Nagy, whose life’s work makes the flowering of classical Hellenism accessible to the eclectic and enlightened spirits of this generation and of those to come.


Anastos, Milton V. “Basil’s Kata; Eujnomivou: A Critical Analysis.” In Fedwick, Basil of Caesarea, 67-136.
Barnes, Michael R. 1993. “The Background and Use of Eunomius’ Causal Language.” In Michael R. Barnes and Daniel H. Williams (eds.), Arianism After Arius: Essays on the Fourth Century Trinitarian Conflicts. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. Pp. 217-236.
Deferrari, Roy J. (trans.) 1961-1962 Saint Basil: Letters. In the Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Fedwick, Paul J. (ed.) 1981. Basil of Caesarea: Christian, Humanist, Ascetic. Toronto: PIMS.
Jowett, B. (trans.) 1937. The Dialogues of Plato. Volume One. New York: Random House.
Norris, Frederick W. 1991. Faith Gives Fullness to Reasoning: The Five Theological Orations of St. Gregory Nazianzen. Leiden: E.J. Brill.
_________________. 1993. “Theology as Grammar: Nazianzen and Wittgenstein.” In Michael R. Barnes and Daniel H. Williams (eds.), Arianism After Arius: Essays on the Fourth Century Trinitarian Conflicts. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. Pp. 237-249.
Pelikan, Jaroslav. 1993. Christianity and Classical Culture. The metamorphosis of Natural Theology in the Christian Encounter with Hellenism. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Rousseau, Philip. 1994. Basil of Caesarea. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Ruhl, Charles. 1989. On Monosemy. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Stiver, Dan R. 1996. The Philosophy of Religious Language. London: Blackwell.
Vaggione, Robert (trans. and ed.). 1987. Eunomius: The Extant Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wickham, Lionel. 1968. “The Syntagmation of Aetius the Anomean.” Journal of Theological Studies. Vol. 19, pp. 532-569.


[ back ] 1. This article is dedicated with highest esteem to Dr. Gregory Nagy on the occasion of his 70th birthday, as one who has remained always a true teacher, colleague, scholar, gentlemen, and friend. Χρόνια Πολλά!
[ back ] 2. Basil the Great, To Young Men, On How They Might Derive Profit from Pagan Literature. In Roy J. Deferrari, translator, St. Basil: The Letters, Vol. IV; Loeb Classical Library, 1934, p. 389.
[ back ] 3. Ibid., p. 391.
[ back ] 4. Cratylus, 435.
[ back ] 5. Cratylus, 438.
[ back ] 6. Syntagmation, Introduction (citations are from the edition of Wickham).
[ back ] 7. Apology §17 (citations are from the edition of Vaggione).
[ back ] 8. Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, IV, vii.
[ back ] 9. Apology §12.
[ back ] 10. In modern language study, this is called the “monosemic hypothesis.” Cf. Charles Ruhl, On Monosemy (SUNY Press: Albany, NY, 1989).
[ back ] 11. Apology §17.
[ back ] 12. Apology §6.
[ back ] 13. Apology §18.
[ back ] 14. Apology §12. Contrast St. Gregory of Nyssa’s notion that “all things that exist in the creation are defined by means of their several names,” so that a distinction in names need not support a distinction in being: Nyssa, Contra Eunomius, Book II, §3 (in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series II, Volume V). Cf. also St. Basil’s castigation of Aetius on this point in On the Holy Spirit 4.
[ back ] 15. Apology §6. For more on the causal force of language on essence, see Barnes’ article “The Background and Use of Eunomius’ Causal Language.”
[ back ] 16. Apology §7.
[ back ] 17. Pelikan, Christianity and Classical Culture, 234. Surely the parallels between Eunomian spirituality and Calvinistic thought are apparent. Tatian seems to have a similar idea (Address to the Greeks V) and it would be interesting to trace out the common logocentric thread of such heretical thought.
[ back ] 18. Apology §8.
[ back ] 19. Apology §8, ll. 8–9.
[ back ] 20. Aetius begins his work by questioning the coherence of this very notion: Syntagmation, §1.
[ back ] 21. Apology §16.
[ back ] 22. Apology §28.
[ back ] 23. Apology §19.
[ back ] 24. St. St. Gregory of Nyssa at the beginning of Book II of his Contra Eunomius also makes a strong protestation of his thorough allegiance to the Scriptures: “ . . . reverently accepting the meaning of the things which have been spoken, so as to accord in the faith set forth by the Lord of the whole Scriptures, which faith we guard as we received it, word for word, in purity, without falsification, judging even a slight divergence from the words delivered to us an extreme blasphemy and impiety.”
[ back ] 25. Oration 28.1 (citations are from the edition of Norris).
[ back ] 26. Oration 31.18.
[ back ] 27. Oration 31.3.
[ back ] 28. Oration 30.1 .
[ back ] 29. Oration 31.7, 31.24 .
[ back ] 30. Oration 28.4.
[ back ] 31. Oration 28.17.
[ back ] 32. Oration 30.17.
[ back ] 33. Oration 28.4.
[ back ] 34. Oration 28.4.
[ back ] 35. Oration 28.11.
[ back ] 36. Oration 28.12.
[ back ] 37. Oration 28.21.
[ back ] 38. Oration 28.29.
[ back ] 39. Oration 31.22–26.
[ back ] 40. Oration 31.21.
[ back ] 41. Oration 27.3.
[ back ] 42. Oration 31.33, 29.17–21.
[ back ] 43. Oration 30.21.
[ back ] 44. Oration 29.9. The Cappadocian Fathers to a man took the view that language is equivocal, conveying divine knowledge “through a glass darkly” (cf. Nyssa, Contra Eunomius, Book II §1, §9; Pelikan, Christianity and Classical Culture, 45, 225). This knowledge was not accessible to all minds by way of a universal endowment or “innate knowledge” (Eunomius, Apology §7) but only to those “tempered with the divinity of the Spirit” (Basil, Epistle 233) who are received “on account of their good works into intimacy with” God (Basil, Epistle 235), but even among these “the apprehension of God” operates only up to a limit, “only so far as is conceded to” them (Basil, Epistle 234). Crucially, truth in the Orthodox view resides ultimately not in texts, but in enlightened persons, and is revealed par excellence in the person of Christ. (Recall the arguments of Ignatius and Irenaeus for the importance of conformity to the approved bishop, not simply to creedal formulae. See also Dan R. Stiver, The Philosophy of Religious Language (London: Blackwell, 1996), 14–ff. Citations from Basil’s epistles are from the translation of Deferrari.
[ back ] 45. Oration 31.24 .
[ back ] 46. Oration 29.14, Oration 31.2. Again, the Cappadocians are unified in strongly contesting the monosemic hypothesis. Words, they aver, can have a vastly distinct meaning in one usage over against another. Basil champions polysemy (the idea that words may have multiple meanings) in asserting that the word “knowledge” has many significations, and that his Eunomian foes err in confusing distinct senses: Basil, Epistles 234, 235. Language when applied to God is not to be taken at all literally, but instead taken as clothing an incomprehensible mystery (Anastos, 105).
[ back ] 47. Oration 30.20, 30.12.
[ back ] 48. Cf. Norris 1991:64 .
[ back ] 49. Oration 31.18–19.
[ back ] 50. Oration 29.12.
[ back ] 51. Oration 31.6.
[ back ] 52. Oration 31.3. This point the Neo-Arians explicitly denied: cf. Norris 1991:64 .
[ back ] 53. Oration 30:19–21, 31.29–30.
[ back ] 54. Oration 29:18.
[ back ] 55. Oration 30.10 30.4.
[ back ] 56. Oration 31.11; cf. also Oration 29.10–11.
[ back ] 57. Oration 31.31.
[ back ] 58. Oration 31:14, 32.
[ back ] 59. Oration 30.18, Oration 29.5, 12
[ back ] 60. Oration 29.16
[ back ] 61. Oration 29.5
[ back ] 62. Oration 28.9, Oration 29.11
[ back ] 63. Oration 31.25–28
[ back ] 64. Oration 31.3, Oration 27.3–5.
[ back ] 65. For more on this see Norris’s “Theology as Grammar: Nazianzen and Wittgenstein.”