Monday, January 12, 2015

ANF 5: Hippolytus Against Noetus

Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 5

Hippolytus: Works and Fragments II.--Dogmatical and Historical: Against the Heresy of One Noetus

Noetus reportedly is guilty of "paterpassionism", that is, "He alleged that Christ was the Father Himself, and that the Father Himself was born, and suffered, and died." Of course, Noetus also "alleged that he was himself Moses, and that Aaron was his brother." Upon being investigated by the by the church, Noetus was excommunicated--only to go and found his own school. The goal of this school is to maintain the unity of Divinity, which is of course a good thing! But in doing so, "they make use only of one class of passages." When the whole counsel of Scripture is taken into account, we see that the Trinity is clearly the fundamental nature of God, which Hippolytus proceeds to prove from numerous texts concerning the Father, the Son, and the Spirit:
A man, therefore, even though he will it not, is compelled to acknowledge God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus the Son of God, who, being God, became man, to whom also the Father made all things subject, Himself excepted, and the Holy Spirit; and that these, therefore, are three. But if he desires to learn how it is shown still that there is one God, let him know that His power is one. But as far as regards the economy there is a threefold manifestation... In these things, however, which are thus set forth by use, we are at one. For these is one God in whom we must believe, but unoriginated, impassible, immortal, doing all things as He wills, in the way He wills, and when He wills. 
So Hippolytus defends the Unity and the Trinity of God. But that's not all--God is known only through Scripture:
There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man, if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practice piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them.
 The truths of God essential to salvation and the holy life can be found nowhere other than in His Word. And so we ought to dedicate ourselves fully to its study and to obedience to the truth we find there.

And what do we find in God's Word? 1) That God created all things by His power as expressed in a Word, according to His will and wisdom, for His own purpose and pleasure; 2) That God is Trinity, "not... that there are two Gods, but that it is only as light of light, or as water from a fountain, or as a ray of light from the sun;" 3) That God reveals Himself to the world through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and through the Incarnate person of Jesus Christ; 4) this is not two separate revelations, but a preparatory revelation (the OT) and the revelation itself (as expressed in the NT); 5) "For it is through the Trinity that the Father is glorified. For the Father willed, the Son did, the Spirit manifested."

Hippolytus ends with a Scriptural defense of the Incarnation and an articulation of what we believe when we confess this truth, including that:
He does not refuse the conditions proper to Him as man, since He hungers and toils and thirsts in weariness, and flees in fear, and prays in trouble. And He who as God has a sleepless nature, slumbers on a pillow. And He who for this end came into the world, begs off from the cup of suffering. And in an agony He sweats blood, and is strengthened by an angel, who Himself strengthens those who believe on Him, and taught men to despise death by His work. And He who knew what manner of man Judas was, is betrayed by Judas. And He, who formerly was honoured by him as God, is contemned by Caiaphas. And He is set at nought by Herod, who is Himself to judge the whole earth. And He is scourged by Pilate, who took upon Himself our infirmities. And by the soldiers He is mocked, at whose behest stand thousands of thousands and myriads of myriads of angels and archangels. And He who fixed the heavens like a vault is fastened to the cross by the Jews. And He who is inseparable from the Father cries to the Father, and commends to Him His spirit; and bowing His head, He gives up the ghost, who said, “I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again;” and because He was not overmastered by death, as being Himself Life, He said this:  “I lay it down of myself.” And He who gives life bountifully to all, has His side pierced with a spear. And He who raises the dead is wrapped in linen and laid in a sepulchre, and on the third day He is raised again by the Father, though Himself the Resurrection and the Life. For all these things has He finished for us, who for our sakes was made as we are. For “Himself hath borne our infirmities, and carried our diseases; and for our sakes He was afflicted,” as Isaiah the prophet has said. This is He who was hymned by the angels, and seen by the shepherds, and waited for by Simeon, and witnessed to by Anna. This is He who was inquired after by the wise men, and indicated by the star; He who was engaged in His Father’s house, and pointed to by John, and witnessed to by the Father from above in the voice, “This is my beloved Son; hear ye Him.” He is crowned victor against the devil. This is Jesus of Nazareth, who was invited to the marriage-feast in Cana, and turned the water into wine, and rebuked the sea when agitated by the violence of the winds, and walked on the deep as on dry land, and caused the blind man from birth to see, and raised Lazarus to life after he had been dead four days, and did many mighty works, and forgave sins, and conferred power on the disciples, and had blood and water flowing from His sacred side when pierced with the spear. For His sake the sun is darkened, the day has no light, the rocks are shattered, the veil is rent, the foundations of the earth are shaken, the graves are opened, and the dead are raised, and the rulers are ashamed when they see the Director of the universe upon the cross closing His eye and giving up the ghost. Creation saw, and was troubled; and, unable to bear the sight of His exceeding glory, shrouded itself in darkness. This (is He who) breathes upon the disciples, and gives them the Spirit, and comes in among them when the doors are shut, and is taken up by a cloud into the heavens while the disciples gaze at Him, and is set down on the right hand of the Father, and comes again as the Judge of the living and the dead. This is the God who for our sakes became man, to whom also the Father hath put all things in subjection. To Him be the glory and the power, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in the holy Church both now and ever, and even for evermore.  Amen.
In other words, this little essay is excellent, and well worth your time.

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