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St Cyril of Alexandria Commentary on John (Fifth Part)

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Page 26

For notice that Paul did not say simply and unreservedly, "We are in God," and nothing more. This was on account of thy ignorance, my good friend, and most naturally so. But he employed different expressions, by way of interpreting the exact meaning of his words. After beginning with the statement: "We live," he added thereto the further idea: "We move" and thirdly he brought in the phrase: "We have our being;" presenting this also, so as to supplement the meaning of the previous words. And I think that the correct argument we shall use concerning this matter will very probably put to shame the ungodly heretic: but if he insists in his opposition, and drags round the words "in God" to the meaning which pleases himself and no one else, we will set forth the common use of the inspired Scripture. Scripture is wont occasionally to use the words "in God" in the sense of "by God." For let that man tell us what is the meaning of a certain Psalmist's declaration, when he says: "In God" let us do valiantly; and again, addressing God: "In Thee" will we push down our enemies. For surely no one will suppose that the Psalmist means this, that he promises to accomplish something valiantly "in the essence of God," nor even that "in that essence" we shall discover our own enemies and push them down: but he uses the words "in God" in the sense of"by [the help of] God," and again, "in Thee" in the sense of "by Thee." And why also did the blessed Paul say in his letter to the Corinthians: I thank my God concerning you all for the grace which was given you "in Christ Jesus," and again: But of Him are ye "in Christ Jesus," Who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption? For will any one reasonably maintain that the Spirit-bearer says that the grace which was bestowed on the Corinthians from above was given "in the actual essence of Christ," or to quote the authority of Paul in support of heterodoxy? Surely such a one would be evidently talking nonsense. Why therefore, setting aside the ordinary usage of terms in the Sacred Scriptures, and misrepresenting the intention of the blessed Paul, dost thou say that we are "in God," that is, "in the essence of the Father," because thou hearest him say to those in Athens, that in Him we live, and move, and have our being?

"Yes," says the defender of the pernicious opinions, "but if it seems to thee right and proper that the words 'in God' should bear and be acknowledged to bear the sense of ' by God,' why dost thou make so much needless ado? And why dost thou bring against us charges of blasphemy when we maintain that the Son was made ' by the Father'? For behold, He Himself says: I am 'in the Father,' in the sense of 'by the Father,' at least according to thy explanation, Sir, and according to the common usage, which thou hast just laid before us in thy quotations from the Sacred Scriptures."

But I say that it is necessary to defend myself again in reply to this, and lay bare their mischievous intentions and pernicious notions. For I am astonished that, after hearing gladly that it is a usage of the Sacred Scripture to use the words "in God" as equivalent to "by God," and after approving and accepting the phrase merely for the sake of being able to say something against the glory of the Only-begotten, they have by no means become conscious of the fact that they will again be convicted of talking as foolishly as before, although they claim to be wise and acute. For if our opponents were the only ones entrusted with the duty of defending from time to time the usage of the inspired Scripture in reference to the essence of the Only-begotten, and of saying that He was made by the Father, because of this, that He says He is "in God," and we have allowed that "in God" is to be understood in the sense of "by God;" then it might have seemed at least probable that their mischievous intention rested on grounds not altogether unreasonable. But if in truth there is nothing which can prevent us also, in our eagerness to refute by a reductio ad absurdum the unsoundness of the sentiments they hold, from carrying on the force of the meaning implied so as to make it refer to the Father Himself, and from saying plainly that since Christ also adds this: The Father is "in Me," we must understand it in the sense of "by Me," so that as a consequence the Father Himself also will be a creature; surely then they, having relied on arguments so very foolish, will be universally condemned as guilty of unmitigated folly. For just as the Son says that He Himself is "in" the Father, so also He said that the Father, is "in" Him: and if they wish the words "in the Father" to be understood in the sense of "by the Father," what is there that prevents us from saying that the words "in the Son" shall be understood in the sense of "by the Son "? But we will not suffer ourselves again to be drawn down with them into such an abyss of folly. For neither will we say that the Son is made by the Father, nor indeed that He from Whom are all things, namely God the Father, was brought into existence by the Son; but rather, referring the usage of the inspired Scripture in due proportion to each occasion or person or circumstance, we shall thus weave together our theory so as to make it on all essential points faultless and indisputable. For with regard to those who out of nothing have been created into being, and have been brought into existence by God, surely it would be most fitting that we should regard them and speak of them as being "in God" in the sense of "by God:" but with regard to Him Who is in His nature Son and Lord, and God and Creator of the universe, this signification could not be specially or truly suitable. The real truth is that He is naturally in the Father, and in Him from the beginning, and has Him in Himself, by reason of His showing Himself to possess identity of essence, and because He is subject to no power that can sever between Them, and divide Them into a diversity of nature.

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