2.24.1 The philosopher: “What the Holy Spirit has uttered through you is truly divine and full of light. Since your words of holy instruction are lovely to me, I ask you to give me your undivided attention and instruct me as I ask questions so that God will grant you a lavish reward for my salvation.”

2.24.2 The holy fathers’ answer through the same Bishop Leontius: “Ask your questions. We want to lead you to maturity, and now you are entirely ready to accept the evidence in the passages because the Holy Spirit has enlightened you.”

2.24.3 The philosopher expresses gratitude and inquires about the incarnation of the Lord: “Thanks be to your holiness. Tell me, most holy ones: How does one understand that God the Word, the Son of God, appeared on the earth and lived with humans? He is invisible to every created being, both perceivable and only conceivable. Please also teach me why he did this.”

2.24.4 The holy fathers’ answer to the philosopher through Bishop Leontius: “He came to carry out the plan of salvation because of the apostasy of the first humans, Adam and Eve, in Paradise. This apostasy infected the whole human race.

2.24.5 Therefore, since they had forfeited God’s gift of grace by breaking his command, the craftsman wanted to return this grace to the human race. Here one must understand that just as ‘God said, “Let us make man in our image and likeness,”’ and ‘God made man’ (according to the explanations given above), so the same God said, ‘Let us save lost man, whom we made in our image and likeness.’

2.24.6 Just as God the Father said, ‘Let us make,’ and the Son created, being God from God, so the same Son wanted to redeem man in himself by the Father’s will.”

2.24.7 The philosopher inquires about the same topic: “How did he ‘appear on the earth and live’ as a human ‘with humans’ when he is unchangeable God?”

2.24.8 The holy fathers’ answer through Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem: “According to blessed Paul, ‘The mystery of godliness is great.’ The Son of God ‘was revealed in the flesh,’ then ‘was seen by angels’ [1 Timothy 3:16]. The only-begotten is not visible to angels, archangels, or any heavenly powers, for ‘no one has ever seen God’ [John 1:18].

2.24.9 When you hear of his descent from heaven, you should not think of his unconfinable divine nature moving from one place to another. Rather, understand this whole truly great ‘mystery of godliness,’ by which we were renewed, with respect to the plan of salvation.

2.24.10 Renewal is a restoration of newness. Therefore the Word of God himself descended to our likeness to restore his likeness to us.

2.24.11 It was impossible for God to be become like us without taking on flesh, for he did not take on a bodiless form of a bodiless entity (which he himself was), but a bodily form. He could not come without taking on bodily substance. Therefore he truly took on a body so that, having fallen from initial brotherhood due to the change of bodiless form which occurred when we lost the Spirit’s grace through Adam and Eve, the first humans, we might be restored to brotherhood through his taking on of a body and might again receive the bodiless divine form.

2.24.12 He took on flesh from woman. Thus he became like us to share his glory with us as members of the same race and to save woman through his birth. For it says woman ‘will be saved through childbearing’ [1 Timothy 2:15].

2.24.13 He took on flesh, which is naturally full of life. No flesh lacks that which gives life, which Scripture specifically calls the soul.”

2.24.14 The philosopher: “Who would not be amazed at these wonderful deeds of God you have described? How did he take on flesh from woman, as you just said?”

2.24.15 The holy fathers’ answer through the same Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem: “We have already told you, most excellent man, not to speak of ‘how’ with the mysteries of God, for they are indescribable and beyond comprehension. But as we have been taught from Holy Scripture, we will say as much as speech can express.

2.24.16 No human nor angel can fully grasp the mystery of the Lord’s incarnation. Not even Gabriel himself, who was the servant of that mystery, nor the all-pure, chaste, holy Virgin Mary could present a complete picture of the divine Word’s incarnation. The only-begotten Son of God himself is the only one who knows the precise nature of his incarnation for our sake.

2.24.17 Granted, ‘the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed traditions down to us’ [Luke 1:2], as Luke says, about his incarnation—he was ‘a descendant of David’ and Abraham ‘according to the flesh’ [Romans 1:3]; ‘from her’ (the virgin) ‘was born Jesus, who is called Christ’ [Matthew 1:16]; ‘theirs are the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, came the Christ’ [Romans 9:5]; ‘he did not help angels but the seed of Abraham’ [Hebrews 2:16]; he became like us in every respect except for sin.1 We know these things.

2.24.18 But the way this happened surpasses the understanding of every rational being. The prophet Jeremiah says about this: ‘He is a man, but who will know him?’” [Jeremiah 17:9].2

While the philosopher and the entire crowd which gathered to listen were amazed, the holy fathers added through Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem:

2.24.19 “We have already proven through numerous arguments that as God, the only-begotten Son of God became man because of his love of mankind, becoming flesh and being incomprehensibly born of the Virgin Mary.

2.24.20 Since, as our discussion has already demonstrated, he wanted to renew what was destroyed by the apostasy of the first-formed humans, he became equal to us to make us equal to him, condescending to our weakness as an excellent physician.

2.24.21 We again say that ‘condescend,’ ‘come down,’ and ‘be sent’ must be used in the sense of his incarnation, as we previously demonstrated. As regards his divine nature, he always fills the universe with the Father as described before.

2.24.22 So listen: We are begotten of woman. He came for this purpose because of his love for mankind. We are begotten of the pleasure of sleep and the seed of man,3 but he alone was begotten of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. We are nourished with milk. He who by his deity nourishes all flesh came for this also in flesh. We mature and grow older. Nor did he despise this bodily growth, as is written: ‘Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men’ [Luke 2:52].

2.24.23 When he was thirty years old, to bless every stage of life, he got baptized. John, the son of Zechariah, preached to the people ‘a baptism of repentance’ [Mark 1:4]. John could not give the gift of forgiveness of sins or adoption to sonship, for they were not his to give, nor even an angel’s; only God the Word himself, who was incarnate and became human, could give them.

2.24.24 He received the baptism destined for us. Although as God he is sinless, he was baptized physically like a human, not because he needed baptism, but to glorify our baptism, that we might believe the Holy Spirit descends on us who are baptized into him, just as the Spirit descended on him.

2.24.25 Then he lived with humans, conveying his divine commands and performing miraculous signs for three years and the beginning of a fourth. He thus willingly entered upon his bodily suffering for our sake. We had earned the penalty of the cross, but even if we had all been crucified, we could not have rescued ourselves from death.

2.24.26 Rather, ‘death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin’ [Romans 5:14]. There were many saints, prophets, and righteous persons, but none of them could redeem himself from the power of death. But the Savior of all came and took the penalty due us into his sinless flesh, from us, in our place, for our sake.

2.24.27 After death we sink down to the grave. He undertook this also and willingly descended to the grave. He did not sink down like we do; he descended. He was not subject to death, but lord of death. He descended by himself, but he returned with a multitude.

2.24.28 He was the spiritual grain of wheat which fell to the ground and died in the flesh for our sake. By the power of his divine nature he made his bodily temple rise, according to the Scriptures, which produced the fruit of the resurrection of the entire human race. After three days of burial and his resurrection from the dead, he appeared to his disciples and showed them the marks of his bodily suffering on the cross: ‘Touch me and see that it is I myself’ [Luke 24 39], the miracle-worker, who received these marks of suffering in my flesh for your race.

2.24.29 Then he lived with them for forty days, instructed them concerning his saving commands, and ascended into heaven as they watched. The Holy Scriptures teach that he is seated at the right hand of the Father. We await his coming at the end of the age to judge the living and the dead, when he will reign forever and ever with the Father for infinite ages.

2.24.30 This is the apostolic, blameless faith of the church, which the Lord himself entrusted to it from the beginning4 through the apostles, from parents to children. The church preserves it and adheres to it up to now and forever, as the Lord told the disciples: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’” [Matthew 28:19].

 

Next Chapter – 2.25 Everyone is in harmony concerning the homoousius

Previous Chapter – 2.23 The holy fathers continue to speak to the philosopher about a fount and river and water through Bishop Leontius

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Created by RR 7-28-21

  1. Cf. Hebrews 4:15.
  2. The consonants of the MT may be read either as a noun meaning “man” (so LXX) or as an adjective meaning “incurable” (so Masoretic pointing). The latter is clearly the correct reading in the context of the whole verse.
  3. Cf. Wisdom of Solomon 7:2
  4. Or “from above.”

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