*Excerpts*, Volume 9

Gregory of Nazianzus – Oration on the Holy Spirit


The Fifth Theological Oration
On the Holy Spirit

Gregory of Nazianzus

Parts XVI – XX

XVI.  Nor do those whom the Greeks worship as gods, and (to use their own expression) dæmons, need us in any respect for their accusers, but are convicted upon the testimony of their own theologians, some as subject to passion, some as given to faction, and full of innumerable evils and changes, and in a state of opposition, not only to one another, but even to their first causes, whom they call Oceani and Tethyes and Phanetes, and by several other names; and last of all a certain god who hated his children through his lust of rule, and swallowed up all the rest through his greediness that he might become the father of all men and gods whom he miserably devoured, and then vomited forth again.  And if these are but myths and fables, as they say in order to escape the shamefulness of the story, what will they say in reference to the dictum that all things are divided into three parts, and that each god presides over a different part of the Universe, having a distinct province as well as a distinct rank?  But our faith is not like this, nor is this the portion of Jacob, says my Theologian. But each of these Persons possesses Unity, not less with that which is United to it than with itself, by reason of the identity of Essence and Power. And this is the account of the Unity, so far as we have apprehended it.  If then this account is the true one, let us thank God for the glimpse He has granted us; if it is not let us seek for a better.


XVII.  As for the arguments with which you would overthrow the Union which we support, I know not whether we should say you are jesting or in earnest.  For what is this argument?  “Things of one essence, you say, are counted together,” and by this “counted together,” you mean that they are collected into one number. But things which are not of one essence are not thus counted…so that you cannot avoid speaking of three gods, according to this account, while we do not run any risk at all of it, inasmuch as we assert that they are not consubstantial.  And so by a single word you have freed yourselves from trouble, and have gained a pernicious victory, for in fact you have done something like what men do when they hang themselves for fear of death.  For to save yourselves trouble in your championship of the Monarchia you have denied the Godhead, and abandoned the question to your opponents.  But for my part, even if labor should be necessary, I will not abandon the Object of my adoration.  And yet on this point I cannot see where the difficulty is.


XVIII.  You say, Things of one essence are counted together, but those which are not consubstantial are reckoned one by one.  Where did you get this from?  From what teachers of dogma or mythology?  Do you not know that every number expresses the quantity of what is included under it, and not the nature of the things?  But I am so old fashioned, or perhaps I should say so unlearned, as to use the word Three of that number of things, even if they are of a different nature, and to use One and One and One in a different way of so many units, even if they are united in essence, looking not so much at the things themselves as at the quantity of the things in respect of which the enumeration is made.  But since you hold so very close to the letter (although you are contending against the letter), pray take your demonstrations from this source.  There are in the Book of Proverbs three things which go well, a lion, a goat, and a cock; and to these is added a fourth;–a King making a speech before the people, to pass over the other sets of four which are there counted up, although things of various natures.  And I find in Moses two Cherubim counted singly.  But now, in your technology, could either the former things be called three, when they differ so greatly in their nature, or the latter be treated as units when they are so closely connected and of one nature? For if I were to speak of God and Mammon, as two masters, reckoned under one head, when they are so very different from each other, I should probably be still more laughed at for such a connumeration.


XIX.  But to my mind, he says, those things are said to be connumerated and of the same essence of which the names also correspond, as Three Men, or Three gods, but not Three this and that.  What does this concession amount to?  It is suitable to one laying down the law as to names, not to one who is asserting the truth.  For I also will assert that Peter and James and John are not three or consubstantial, so long as I cannot say Three Peters, or Three Jameses, or Three Johns; for what you have reserved for common names we demand also for proper names, in accordance with your arrangement; or else you will be unfair in not conceding to others what you assume for yourself.  What about John then, when in his Catholic Epistle he says that there are Three that bear witness, the Spirit and the Water and the Blood?  Do you think he is talking nonsense?  First, because he has ventured to reckon under one numeral things which are not consubstantial, though you say this ought to be done only in the case of things which are consubstantial.  For who would assert that these are consubstantial? Secondly, because he has not been consistent in the way he has happened upon his terms; for after using Three in the masculine gender he adds three words which are neuter, contrary to the definitions and laws which you and your grammarians have laid down.  For what is the difference between putting a masculine Three first, and then adding One and One and One in the neuter, or after a masculine One and One and One to use the Three not in the masculine but in the neuter, which you yourself disclaim in the case of Deity?  What have you to say about the Crab, which may mean either an animal, or an instrument, or a constellation?  And what about the Dog, now terrestrial, now aquatic, now celestial?  Do you not see that three crabs or dogs are spoken of? Why of course it is so.  Well then, are they therefore of one substance?  None but a fool would say that.  So you see how completely your argument from connumeration has broken down, and is refuted by all these instances.  For if things that are of one substance are not always counted under one numeral, and things not of one substance are thus counted, and the pronunciation of the name once for all is used in both cases, what advantage do you gain towards your doctrine?


XX. I will look also at this further point, which is not without its bearing on the subject. One and One added together make Two; and Two resolved again becomes One and One, as is perfectly evident.  If, however, elements which are added together must, as your theory requires, be consubstantial, and those which are separate be heterogeneous, then it will follow that the same things must be both consubstantial and heterogeneous.  No:  I laugh at your Counting Before and your Counting After, of which you are so proud, as if the facts themselves depended upon the order of their names.  If this were so, according to the same law, since the same things are in consequence of the equality of their nature counted in Holy Scripture, sometimes in an earlier, sometimes in a later place, what prevents them from being at once more honorable and less honorable than themselves?  I say the same of the names God and Lord, and of the prepositions Of Whom, and By Whom, and In Whom, by which you describe the Deity according to the rules of art for us, attributing the first to the Father, the second to the Son, and the third to the Holy Ghost.  For what would you have done, if each of these expressions were constantly allotted to Each Person, when, the fact being that they are used of all the Persons, as is evident to those who have studied the question, you even so make them the ground of such inequality both of nature and dignity.  This is sufficient for all who are not altogether wanting in sense.  But since it is a matter of difficulty for you after you have once made an assault upon the Spirit, to check your rush, and not rather like a furious boar to push your quarrel to the bitter end, and to thrust yourself upon the knife until you have received the whole wound in your own breast; let us go on to see what further argument remains to you.


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