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Novatian - A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity

Moreover Also, from the Fact that He Who Was Seen of Abraham is Called God; Which Cannot Be Understood of the Father, Whom No Man Hath Seen at Any Time; But of the Son in the Likeness of an Angel.

Chapter XVIII. [5146] Argument.--Moreover Also, from the Fact that He Who Was Seen of Abraham is Called God; Which Cannot Be Understood of the Father, Whom No Man Hath Seen at Any Time; But of the Son in the Likeness of an Angel.

Behold, the same Moses tells us in another place that "God was seen of Abraham." [5147] And yet the same Moses hears from God, that "no man can see God and live." [5148] If God cannot be seen, how was God seen? Or if He was seen, how is it that He cannot be seen? For John also says, "No man hath seen God at any time;" [5149] and the Apostle Paul, "Whom no man hath seen, nor can see." [5150] But certainly the Scripture does not lie; therefore, truly, God was seen. Whence it may be understood that it was not the Father who was seen, seeing that He never was seen; but the Son, who has both been accustomed to descend, and to be seen because He has descended. For He is the image of the invisible God, as the imperfection and frailty of the human condition was accustomed sometimes even then to see God the Father in the image of God, that is, in the Son of God. For gradually and by progression human frailty was to be strengthened by the image to that glory of being able one day to see God the Father. For the things that are great are dangerous if they are sudden. For even the sudden light of the sun after darkness, with its too great splendour, will not make manifest the light of day to unaccustomed eyes, but will rather strike them with blindness.

And lest this should occur to the injury of human eyes, the darkness is broken up and scattered by degrees; and the rising of that luminary, mounting by small and unperceived increments, gently accustoms men's eyes to bear its full orb by the gentle increase of its rays. Thus, therefore, Christ also--that is, the image of God, and the Son of God--is looked upon by men, inasmuch as He could be seen. And thus the weakness and imperfection of the human destiny is nourished, led up, and educated by Him; so that, being accustomed to look upon the Son, it may one day be able to see God the Father Himself also as He is, that it may not be stricken by His sudden and intolerable brightness, and be hindered from being able to see God the Father, whom it has always desired. [5151] Wherefore it is the Son who is seen; but the Son of God is the Word of God: and the Word of God was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and this is Christ. What in the world is the reason that we should hesitate to call Him God, who in so many ways is acknowledged to be proved God? And if, moreover, the angel meets with Hagar, Sarah's maid, driven from her home as well as turned away, near the fountain of water in the way to Shur; asks and learns the reason of her flight, and after that offers her advice that she should humble herself; and, moreover, gives her the hope of the name of mother, and pledges and promises that from her womb there should be a numerous seed, and that she should have Ishmael to be born from her; and with other things unfolds the place of his habitation, and describes his mode of life; yet Scripture sets forth this angel as both Lord and God--for He would not have promised the blessing of seed unless the angel had also been God. Let them ask what the heretics can make of this present passage. Was that the Father that was seen by Hagar or not? For He is declared to be God. But far be it from us to call God the Father an angel, lest He should be subordinate to another whose angel He would be. But they will say that it was an angel. How then shall He be God if He was an angel? Since this name is nowhere conceded to angels, except that on either side the truth compels us into this opinion, that we ought to understand it to have been God the Son, who, because He is of God, is rightly called God, because He is the Son of God. But, because He is subjected [5152] to the Father, and the Announcer of the Father's will, He is declared to be the Angel of Great Counsel. [5153] Therefore, although this passage neither is suited to the person of the Father, lest He should be called an angel, nor to the person of an angel, lest he should be called God; yet it is suited to the person of Christ that He should be both God because He is the Son of God, and should be an angel because He is the Announcer of the Father's mind. And the heretics ought to understand that they are setting themselves against the Scriptures, in that, while they say that they believe Christ to have been also an angel, they are unwilling to declare Him to have been also God, when they read in the Old Testament that He often came to visit the human race. To this, moreover, Moses added the instance of God seen of Abraham at the oak of Mamre, when he was sitting at the opening of his tent at noon-day. And nevertheless, although he had beheld three men, note that he called one of them Lord; and when he had washed their feet, he offers them bread baked on the ashes, with butter and abundance of milk itself, and urges them that, being detained as guests, they should eat. And after this he hears also that he should be a father, and learns that Sarah his wife should bring forth a son by him; and acknowledges concerning the destruction of the people of Sodom, what they deserve to suffer; and learns that God had come down on account of the cry of Sodom. In which place, if they will have it that the Father was seen at that time to have been received with hospitality in company with two angels, the heretics have believed the Father to be visible. But if an angel, although of the three angels one is called Lord, why, although it is not usual, is an angel called God? Unless because, in order that His proper invisibility may be restored to the Father, and the proper inferiority [5154] be remitted to the angel, it was only God the Son, who also is God, who was seen by Abraham, and was believed to have been received with hospitality. For He anticipated sacramentally what He was hereafter to become. He was made a guest of Abraham, being about to be among the sons of Abraham. And his children's feet, by way of proving what He was, He washed; returning in the children the claim of hospitality which formerly the Father had put out to interest to Him. Whence also, that there might be no doubt but that it was He who was the guest of Abraham on the destruction of the people of Sodom, it is declared: "Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrha fire and brimstone from the Lord out of heaven." [5155] For thus also said the prophet in the person of God: "I have overthrown you, as the Lord overturned Sodom and Gomorrha." [5156] Therefore the Lord overturned Sodom, that is, God overturned Sodom; but in the overturning of Sodom, the Lord rained fire from the Lord. And this Lord was the God seen by Abraham; and this God was the guest of Abraham, certainly seen because He was also touched. But although the Father, being invisible, was assuredly not at that time seen, He who was accustomed to be touched and seen was seen and received to hospitality. But this the Son of God, "The Lord rained from the Lord upon Sodom and Gomorrha brimstone and fire." And this is the Word of God. And the Word of God was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and this is Christ. It was not the Father, then, who was a guest with Abraham, but Christ. Nor was it the Father who was seen then, but the Son; and Christ was seen. Rightly, therefore, Christ is both Lord and God, who was not otherwise seen by Abraham, except that as God the Word He was begotten of God the Father before Abraham himself. Moreover, says the Scripture, the same Angel and God visits and consoles the same Hagar when driven with her son from the dwelling of Abraham. For when in the desert she had exposed the infant, because the water had fallen short from the pitcher; and when the lad had cried out, and she had lifted up her weeping and lamentation, "God heard," says the Scripture, "the voice of the lad from the place where he was." [5157] Having told that it was God who heard the voice of the infant, it adds: "And the angel of the Lord called Hagar herself out of heaven," saying that that was an angel [5158] whom it had called God, and pronouncing Him to be Lord whom it had set forth as an angel; which Angel and God moreover promises to Hagar herself greater consolations, in saying, "Fear not; for I have heard the voice of the lad from the place where he was. Arise, take up the lad, and hold him; for I will make of him a great nation." [5159] Why does this angel, if angel only, claim to himself this right of saying, I will make of him a great nation, since assuredly this kind of power belongs to God, and cannot belong to an angel? Whence also He is confirmed to be God, since He is able to do this; because, by way of proving this very point, it is immediately added by the Scripture: "And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of running water; and she went and filled the bottle from the well, and gave to the lad: and God was with the lad." [5160] If, then, this God was with the Lord, who opened the eyes of Hagar that she might see the well of running water, and might draw the water on account of the urgent need of the lad's thirst, and this God who calls her from heaven is called an angel when, in previously hearing the voice of the lad crying, He was rather God; is not understood to be other than angel, in like manner as He was God also. And since this cannot be applicable or fitting to the Father, who is God only, but may be applicable to Christ, who is declared to be not only God, but angel also, [5161] it manifestly appears that it was not the Father who thus spoke to Hagar, but rather Christ, since He is God; and to Him also is applied the name of angel, since He became the "angel of great counsel." [5162] And He is the angel, in that He declares the bosom of the Father, as John sets forth. For if John himself says, that He Himself who sets forth the bosom of the Father, as the Word, became flesh in order to declare the bosom of the Father, assuredly Christ is not only man, but angel also; and not only angel, but He is shown by the Scriptures to be God also. And this is believed to be the case by us; so that, if we will not consent to apprehend that it was Christ who then spoke to Hagar, we must either make an angel God, or we must reckon God the Father Almighty among the angels. [5163]