V. On St. Cyril's Formula [mia physis sesarkomene]

(From the Atlantis of July, 1858.)

Analysis of the argument

{331} THE inquiry—turns upon the use of terms—Phraseology of science gradually perfected—especially in the province of Revelation—Mistakes during the process—Reluctance of early Catholics to pursue it—illustrated by the Homoüsion—and by other terms—especially the hypostasis.

Yet this no proof of carelessness about dogma—Athanasius dogmatic, though without science—his varying application of hypostasis—One hypostasis taught in fourth century—and in third—Three by Alexandrians—both One and Three by Athanasius,—who innovates on the Alexandrian usage,—yet without changing the general sense of the term—which denotes the One Supreme Being—as individual, personal—and the God of natural theology—and also as being any or each of the Three divine Persons—Latitude in the sense of the term—illustration from Athanasius.

Usia has a like meaning—and is preferred by Athanasius,—as a synonyme for hypostasis—and physis also—and eidos.—These terms are inapplicable in their full sense to the Word's humanity—yet they are so applied—e.g. hypostasis—and usia—and physis—but not in their full sense.

Especially not physis—first on Scripture grounds—next on grounds of reason—The divine physis must retain the fulness of its attributes—therefore the human physis must have a restricted meaning—How then is there a human physis at all?—Hence the form and the force of Cyril's Formula.

Illustration from the Council of Antioch—which teaches the unalterableness of the divine usia—together with the Catholic Doctors generally—with Athanasius—and other Fathers—some of whom therefore attribute the human conception to the operation of the Word—Thus Cyril {332} too by the "One Nature" denotes—the Word's eternity,—unity,—unalterableness.

The same Council teaches that the Word's usia occupies the humanity—and that the humanity is taken up into the Word's usia—as, analogously, the creation also is established in His usia—Contrast between physis and usia—The proper meaning of physis—shows the delicacy of applying the term to His humanity—which is in a state above nature—and therefore was not commonly called a physis—till Leo and the Council of Chalcedon.

This is clear from the early Fathers—who appropriate the term to the divinity—and describe the humanity as an envelopment—as an adjunct—as a first-fruit—not, as homoüsion with us—and omit the obvious contrast of the Two Natures—The term "man" equivalent to "nature."

Recapitulation—The Word's Nature—is One—and is Incarnate—Fortunes of the Formula.





[Mia Physis tou Theou Logou Sesarkomene]


{333} THIS celebrated Formula of St. Cyril's, perhaps of St. Athanasius's, was, as is well known, one of the main supports of the Monophysites, in controversy with the Catholics of the fifth and following centuries. It has been so fully discussed by theologians from his day to our own, that it hardly allows of any explanation, which would be at once original and true; still, room is left for collateral illustration and remarks in detail; and so much shall be attempted here.

upon the
use of

First of all, and in as few words as possible, and ex abundanti cautela:—Every Catholic holds that the Christian dogmas were in the Church from the time of the Apostles; that they were ever in their substance what they are now; that they existed before the formulas were publicly adopted, in which, as time went on, they were defined and recorded, and that such formulas, when sanctioned by the due ecclesiastical acts, are binding on the faith of Catholics, and have a dogmatic authority. With {334} this profession once for all, I put the strictly theological question aside; for I am concerned in a purely historical investigation into the use and fortunes of certain scientific terms.


logy of


Even before we take into account the effect which would naturally be produced on the first Christians by the novelty and mysteriousness of doctrines which depend for their reception simply upon Revelation, we have reason to anticipate that there would be difficulties and mistakes in expressing them, when they first came to be set forth by unauthoritative writers. Even in secular sciences, inaccuracy of thought and language is but gradually corrected; that is, in proportion as their subject-matter is thoroughly scrutinised and mastered by the co-operation of many independent intellects, successively engaged upon it. Thus, for instance, the word Person requires the rejection of various popular senses, and a careful definition, before it can serve for philosophical uses. We sometimes use it for an individual as contrasted with a class or multitude, as when we speak of having "personal objections" to another; sometimes for the body, in contrast to the soul, as when we speak of "beauty of person." We sometimes use it in the abstract, as when we speak of another as "insignificant in person;" sometimes in the concrete, as when we call him "an insignificant person." How divergent in meaning are the derivatives, personable, personalities, personify, personation, personage, parsonage! This variety arises partly from our own {335} carelessness, partly from the necessary developments of language, partly from the exuberance of human thought, partly from the defects of our vernacular tongue.

in the
of  revela-

Language then requires to be refashioned even for sciences which are based on the senses and the reason; but much more will this be the case, when we are concerned with subject-matters, of which, in our present state, we cannot possibly form any complete or consistent conception, such as the Catholic doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation. Since they are from the nature of the case above our intellectual reach, and were unknown till the preaching of Christianity, they required on their first promulgation new words, or words used in new senses, for their due enunciation; and, since these were not definitely supplied by Scripture or by tradition, nor for centuries by ecclesiastical authority, variety in the use, and confusion in the apprehension of them, were unavoidable in the interval. This conclusion is necessary, admitting the premisses, antecedently to particular instances in proof.


Moreover, there is a presumption equally strong, that the variety and confusion which I have anticipated, would in matter of fact issue here or there in actual heterodoxy, as often as the language of theologians was misunderstood by hearers or readers, and deductions were made from it which the teacher did not intend. Thus, for instance, the word Person, used in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, would on first hearing suggest Tritheism to one who made the word synonymous with individual; and Unitarianism to another, who accepted it in the classical sense of a mask or character. {336}

Even to this day our theological language is wanting in accuracy: thus, we sometimes speak of the controversies concerning the Person of Christ, when we mean to include in them those which belong to the two natures which are predicated of Him.


of early
Catholics to
pursue it


Indeed, the difficulties of forming a theological phraseology for the whole of Christendom were obviously so great, that we need not wonder at the reluctance which the first age of Catholic divines showed in attempting it, even apart from the obstacles caused by the distraction and isolation of the churches in times of persecution. Not only had the words to be adjusted and explained which were peculiar to different schools or traditional in different places, but there was the formidable necessity of creating a common measure between two, or rather three languages,—Latin, Greek, and Syriac. The intellect had to be satisfied, error had to be successfully excluded, parties the most contrary to each other, and the most obstinate, had to be convinced. The very confidence which would be felt by Christians in general that Apostolic truth would never fail,—and that they held it themselves, each in his own country, and the orbis terrarum with them, in spite of all verbal contrarieties,—would indispose them to define it, till definition became an imperative duty.

by the hom-

I think this plain from the nature of the case; and history confirms me in the instance of the imposition of the homoüsion, which, as one of the first and most necessary {337} steps, so again was apparently one of the most discouraging, in giving a scientific expression to doctrine. This formula, as Athanasius, Hilary, and Basil affirm, had been disowned as consistent with heterodoxy by the Councils of Antioch, A.D. 264-72, yet, in spite of this disavowal on the part of bishops of the highest authority, it was imposed on all the faithful to the end of time in the Ecumenical Council of Nicæa, A.D. 325, as the best and truest safeguard, as it really is, of orthodox teaching. The misapprehensions and protests, which, after such antecedents, its adoption occasioned for many years, may be easily imagined. Though above three hundred bishops had accepted it, large numbers of them in the next generation were but imperfectly convinced of its expedience; and Athanasius himself, whose imperishable name is bound up with it, showed himself most cautious in putting it forward, though it had the sanction of an Ecumenical Council. He introduces the word, I think, only once into his three celebrated Orations, and then rather in a formal statement of doctrine than in the flow of his discussion, viz. Orat. i. 4. Twice he gives utterance to it in the Collection of Notes which make up what is called his fourth Oration (Orat. iv. 9, 12.) We find it indeed in his de Decretis Nic. Conc. and his de Synodis; but there it constitutes his direct subject, and he discusses it in order, when challenged, to defend it. And in his work against Apollinaris he says [homoousios he trias], i. 9. But there are passages of his Orations in which he omits it, when it was the natural word to use; vid. the notes on Orat. i. 20, 21, and 58 fin. Oxf. transl. Moreover, the word does not occur in the {338} Catecheses of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, A.D. 347, nor in the recantation made before Pope Julius by Ursacius and Valens, A.D. 349, nor in the cross-questionings to which St. Ambrose subjected Palladius and Secundianus, A.D. 381. At Seleucia, A.D. 359, a hundred and fifty Eastern Bishops (with the exception of a few Egyptians) were found to abandon it, while at Ariminum in the same year the celebrated scene took place of four hundred bishops of the West being worried and tricked into a momentary act of the same character. They had not yet got it deeply fixed into their minds, as a sort of first principle, that to abandon the Formula was to betray the faith. We may think how strong and general the indisposition was thus to regard the matter, when even Pope Liberius consented to sign a creed in which it was omitted (vid. Athan. Histor. Arian. 41 fin.)

and by

This disinclination on the part of Catholics to dogmatic definitions was not confined to the instance of the [homoousion]. It was one of the successful stratagems of the Arians to urge upon Catholics the propriety of confining their statement of doctrine to the language of Scripture, and of rejecting [hypostasis, ousia], and similar terms, which when once used in a definite sense, that is, scientifically, in Christian teaching, would become the protection and record of orthodoxy.

the hypo-

In the instance of the word [hypostasis], we find Athanasius, Eusebius of Vercelli, and other Catholic Confessors of the day, recognizing and allowing the two acceptations then in use, in the Council which they held in Alexandria, A.D. 362. {339}


yet this
no proof
of care-


Such a reluctance to fix the phraseology of doctrine cannot be logically taken to imply an indisposition towards dogma itself; and in matter of fact it is historically contemporaneous with the most unequivocal dogmatic statements. Scientific terms are not the only token of science. Distinction or antithesis is as much a characteristic of it as definition can be, though not so perfect an instrument. The Epistles of Ignatius, for instance, who belongs to the Apostolical age of the Church, are in places unmistakeably dogmatic, without any use of technical terms. Such is the fragment preserved by Athanasius (de Syn. 47): [Heis iatros esti sarkikos kai pneumatikos, genetos kai agenetos], &c. I refer the reader to the remarks on those Epistles made in Tract ii. in this volume; also supra, p. 51; but the subject would admit of large illustration.


Indeed no better illustration can be given of that intrinsic independence of a fixed terminology which belongs to the Catholic Creed, than the writings of Athanasius himself, the special Doctor from whom the subsequent treatises of Basil, the two Gregories, and Cyril are derived. This great author scarcely uses any of the scientific phrases which have since been received in the Church and have become dogmatic; or, if he introduces them, it is to give them senses which have long been superseded. A good instance of his manner is afforded by the long passage, Orat. iii. 30-58, which is full of {340} theology, with scarcely a dogmatic word. The case is the same with his treatment of the Incarnation. No one surely can read his works without being struck with the force and exactness with which he lays down the outlines and fills up the details of the Catholic dogma, as it has been defined since the controversies with Nestorius and Eutyches, who lived in the following century; yet the word [theotokos], which had come down to him, like [homoousios], by tradition, is nearly the only one among those which he uses, which would now be recognized as dogmatic.


His varying
of hy-


One hypo-
in 4th


Sometimes too he varies the use which he makes of such terms as really are of a scientific character. An instance of this is supplied by hypostasis, a word to which reference has already been made. It was usual, at least in the West and in St. Athanasius's day, to speak of one hypostasis, as of one usia, of the Divine Nature. Thus the so-called Sardican Creed, A.D. 347, speaks of [mia hypostasis, hen autoi hoi hairetikoi ousian prosagoreuousi]. Theod. Hist. ii. 8; the Roman Council under Damasus, A.D. 371, says that the Three Persons are [tes autes hypostaseos kai ousias]; and the Nicene Anathematism condemns those who say that the Son [egeneto ex heteras hypostaseos e ousias]; for that the words are synonymes I have argued, after Petavius against Bull, in one of the Dissertations to which I have already referred, vid. supr. p. 78. Epiphanius too speaks of [mia hypostasis], Hær. 74, 4, Ancor. 6 (and though he has [hai hypostaseis] Hær. 62, 3. 72, 1, yet he is {341} shy of the plural, and prefers [pater enupostatos, huios enupostatos], etc., ibid. 3 and 4. Ancor. 6, and [tria] as Hær. 74, 4, where he says [tria enupostata tes autes hypostaseos]. Vid. also [en hypostasei teleiotetos]. Hær. 74, 12. Ancor. 7 et alibi); and Cyril of Jerusalem of the [monoeides hypostasis] of God, Catech. vi. 7, vid. also xvi. 12 and xvii. 9 (though the word may be construed one out of three in Cat. xi. 3), and Gregory Nazianzen, Orat. xxviii. 9, where he is speaking as a natural, not as a Christian theologian.

and in 3rd

In the preceding century Gregory Thaumaturgus had laid it down that the Father and Son were [hypostasei hen]; and the Council of Antioch, between A.D. 264 and 272, calls the Son [ousiai kai hypostasei theon theou huion]. Routh, Reliq. t. 2, p. 466. Accordingly Athanasius expressly tells us, "Hypostasis is usia, and means nothing else but [auto to on]," ad Afros, 4. Jerome says that "Tota sæcularium litterarum schola nihil aliud hypostasin nisi usiam novit." Epist. xv. 4. Basil, the Semi-Arian, that "the Fathers have called hypostasis usia." Epiph. Hær. 73, 12 fin. And Socrates says that at least it was frequently used for usia, when it had entered into the philosophical schools. Hist. iii. 7.

Three by

On the other hand the Alexandrians, Origen (in Joan. ii. 6 et alibi), Ammonius (ap. Caten. in Joan. x. 30, if genuine), Dionysius (ap. Basil. de Sp. S. n. 72), and Alexander (ap. Theod. Hist. i. 4), speak of more hypostases than one in the Divine Nature, that is, of three; and apparently without the support of the divines of any other school, unless Eusebius, who is half an Alexandrian, be an exception. Going down beyond the middle of the {342} fourth century and the Council of A.D. 362 above referred to, we find the Alexandrian Didymus committing himself to bold and strong enunciations of the three Hypostases, beyond what I have elsewhere found in patristical literature.

Both one
and three
by Athan-

It is remarkable that Athanasius should so far innovate on the custom of his own Church, as to use the word in each of these two applications of it. In his In illud Omnia he speaks of [tas treis hypostaseis teleias]. He says, [mia he theotes, kai heis theos en trisin hypostasesi], Incarn. c. Arian. if the work be genuine. In contr. Apoll. i. 12, he seems to contrast [ousia] and [physis] with [hypostasis], saying [to homoousion henosin kath' hypostasin ouk epidechomenon esti, alla kata physin]. Parallel instances occur in Expos. Fid. 2, and in Orat. iv. 25, though the words may be otherwise explained. On the other hand, he makes usia and hypostasis synonymous in Orat. iii. 65, 66. Orat. iv. 1 and 33 fin. Vid. also Quod Unus est Christus, and the fragment in Euthym. Panopl. p. 1, tit. 9; the genuineness of both being more than doubtful.

who inno-
vates on
the Alexan-

There is something more remarkable still in this innovation, in which Athanasius permits himself, on the practice of his Church. Alexander, his immediate predecessor and master, published, A.D. 320-324, two formal letters against Arius, one addressed to his namesake of Constantinople, the other encyclical. It is scarcely possible to doubt that the latter was written by Athanasius; it is so unlike the former in style and diction, so like the writings of Athanasius. Now it is observable that in the former the word hypostasis occurs in its Alexandrian {343} sense at least five times; in the latter, which I attribute to Athanasius, it is dropt, and usia is introduced, which is absent from the former. That is, Athanasius has, on this supposition, when writing in his Bishop's name a formal document, pointedly innovated on his Bishop's theological language, and that the received language of his own Church. I am not supposing he did this without Alexander's sanction. Indeed, the character of the Arian polemic would naturally lead Alexander, as well as Athanasius, to be jealous of the formula of the [treis hypostaseis], which Arianism was using against them; and the latter would be confirmed in this feeling by his subsequent familiarity with Latin theology, and the usage of the Holy See, which, under Pope Damasus, as we have seen, A.D. 371, spoke of one hypostasis, and in the previous century, A.D. 260, protested by anticipation, in the person of Pope Dionysius, against the use which might be made, in the hands of enemies, of the formula of the three hypostases. Still it is undeniable that Athanasius does at least once speak of three, though his practice is to dispense with the word and to use others instead of it.

sense of 
the term,

Now then we have to find an explanation of this difference of usage amongst Catholic writers in their application of the word. It is difficult to believe that so accurate a thinker as Athanasius really used an important term in two distinct, nay, contrasted senses; and I cannot but question the fact, so commonly taken for granted, that the divines of the beginning of the fourth century had appropriated any word whatever definitely to express either the idea of Person as contrasted with that of Essence, or of {344} Essence as contrasted with Person. I altogether doubt whether we are correct in saying that they meant by hypostasis, in one country Person, in another Essence. I think such propositions should be carefully proved, instead of being taken for granted, as at present is the case. Meanwhile, I have an hypothesis of my own. I think they used the word in East and West with only such a slight variation in its meaning, as would admit of Athanasius speaking of one hypostasis or three, without any great violence to that meaning, which remained substantially one and the same. What this sense is I proceed to explain.


which de-
notes the


The Schoolmen are known to have insisted with great earnestness on the numerical unity of the Divine Being; each of the Three Divine Persons being one and the same God, unicus, singularis, et totus Deus. In this, however, they did but follow the recorded doctrine of the Western theologians of the fifth century, as I suppose will be allowed by critics generally. So forcible is St. Austin upon the strict unity of God, that he even thinks it necessary to caution his readers against supposing that he could allow them to speak of One Person as well as of Three in the Divine Nature, de Trin. vii. 11. Again, in the Creed Quicunque, the same elementary truth is emphatically insisted on. The neuter unum of former divines is changed into the masculine, in enunciating the mystery. "Non tres æterni, sed unus æternus." I suppose this means, that Each Divine Person is to be received as the one God as entirely and absolutely as He would be held to be, if {345} we had never heard of the other Two, and that He is not in any respect less than the one and only God, because They are Each that same one God also; or in other words, that, as each human individual being has one personality, the Divine Being has three.

as indivi-
dual, per-



as the God
of natural

Returning then to Athanasius, I consider that this same mystery is implied in his twofold application of the word hypostasis. The polytheism and pantheism of the heathen world imagined,—not the God whom natural reason can discover, conceive, and worship, one, individual, living, and personal,—but a divinitas, which was either a quality, whether energy or life, or an extended substance, or something else equally inadequate to the real idea which the word, God, conveys. Such a divinity could not properly be called an hypostasis or said to be in hypostasi (except indeed as brute matter in one sense may be called an hypostasis), and therefore it was, that that word had some fitness, especially after the Apostle's adoption of it, Hebr. i. 3, to denote the Christian's God. And this may account for the remark of Socrates, that it was a new word, strange to the schools of ancient philosophy, which had seldom professed pure theism, or natural theology. "The teachers of philosophy among the Greeks," he says, "have defined usia in many ways; but of hypostasis they have made no mention at all. Irenæus the grammarian affirms that the word is barbarous." Hist. iii. 7. The better then was it fitted to express that highest object of thought, of which the "barbarians" of Palestine had been the special witnesses. When the divine hypostasis was confessed, the {346} word expressed or suggested the attributes of individuality, self-subsistence, self-action, and personality, such as go to form the idea of the Divine Being to the natural theologian; and, since the difference between the theist and the Catholic divine in their idea of His nature is simply this, that, in opposition to the Pantheist, who cannot understand how the Infinite can be Personal at all, the one ascribes to Him one personality and the other three, it will be easily seen how a word, thus characterized and circumstanced, would admit of being used, with but a slight modification of its sense, of the Trinity as well as of the Unity.

and also as
being any
and each
of the

Let us take, by way of illustration, the word [monas], which, when applied to intellectual beings, includes idea of personality. Dionysius of Alexandria, for instance, speaks of the [monas] and the [trias]: now, would it be very harsh, if, as he has spoken of "three hypostases [en monadi]," so he had instead spoken of "the three [monades]," that is, in the sense of [trisupostatos monas], as if the intrinsic force of the word monas would preclude the possibility of his use of the plural [monades] being mistaken to imply that be held more monads than one? To take an analogous case, it would be about the same improper use of plural for singular, if we said that a martyr by his one act gained three victories, instead of a triple victory, over his three spiritual foes.

This then is what I conceive Athanasius to mean, by sometimes speaking of one, sometimes of three hypostases. The word hypostasis neither means Person nor Essence exclusively; but it means the one personal God {347} of natural theology, the notion of whom the Catholic corrects and completes as often as he views Him as a Trinity; of which correction Nazianzen's language ([on autos kata ten physin kai ten hypostasin], Orat. xxviii. 9), completed by his usual formula (vid. Orat. xx. 6) of the thee hypostases, is an illustration. The specification of thee hypostases does not substantially alter the sense of the word itself, but is a sort of catachresis by which this Catholic doctrine is forcibly brought out (as it would be by the phrase "three monads"), viz. that each of the Divine Persons is simply the Unus et Singularis Deus. If it be objected, that by the same mode of reasoning, Athanasius might have said catachrestically not only three monads or three hypostases, but three Gods, I deny it, and for this reason; because hypostasis is not equivalent to the simple idea of God, but is rather a definition of Him, and that in some special elementary points, as essence, personality, &c., and because such a mere improper use or varying application of the term would not tend to compromise a truth, which never must even in forms of speech be trifled with, the absolute numerical unity of the Supreme Being. Though a Catholic could not say that there are three Gods, he could say that the definition of God applies to unus and tres. Perhaps it is for this reason that Epiphanius speaks of [tria enupostata, sunupostata, tes autes hypostaseos]. Hær. lxxii. 4 (vid. Jerome, Ep. xv. 3), in the spirit in which St. Thomas, I believe, interprets the "non tres æterni, sed unus æternus," to turn on the contrast of adjective and substantive. {348}

in the
sense of
the term

Petavius makes a remark which is apposite to my present purpose. "Nomen Dei," he says, de Trin. iii. 9, §10, "cum sit ex eorum genere quæ concreta dicuntur, formam significat, non abstractam ab individuis proprietatibus, ... sed in iis subsistentem. Est enim Deus substantia aliqua divinitatem habens. Sicut homo non humanam naturam separatam, sed in aliquo individuo subsistentem exprimit, ita tamen ut individuum ac personam, non certam ac determinatam, sed confuse infiniteque representet, hoc est, naturam in aliquo, ut diximus, consistentem ... sic nomen Dei proprie ac directe divinitatem naturamve divinam indicat, assignificat autem eundem, ut in quapiam persona subsistentem, nullam de tribus expresse designans, sed confuse et universe." Here this great author seems to say, that even the word "Deus" may stand, not barely for the Divine Being, but besides "in quapiam persona subsistentem," without denoting which Person; and in like manner I would understand hypostasis to mean the monas with a like undeterminate notion of personality (without which attribute the idea of God cannot be), and thus, according as one hypostasis is spoken of, or three, the word may be roughly translated, in one case "personal substance," or "being with personality," in the other "substantial person," or "person which is in being." In all cases it will be equivalent to the [theotes], the [monas], the divine [ousia], &c., though with that peculiarity of meaning which I have insisted on.

from Atha-
nasius, &c. 

These remarks might be illustrated by a number of passages from Athanasius, in which he certainly implies {349} that the [monas], that is, the indivisible, numerically one God, is at once Father and Son; that the Father, who is the [monas], gives to the Son also to be the [monas]; and to have His (the Father's) hypostasis, i.e. to be that hypostasis, which the Father is. For instance, he says that the [monas theotetos] is [adiairetos], though Father and Son are two;—Orat. iv. 1, 2. He speaks of the [tautotes tes theotetos], and the [henotes tes ousias], Orat. iii. 3; of the [henotes tes homoioseos], de Syn. 45; of the [tautotes tou photos], de Decr. 24; of "the Father's hypostasis being ascribed to the Son," Orat. iv. 33; of the [patrike theotes] being [to einai tou huiou], Orat, iii. 3; of [to einai tou huiou] being [tes tou patros ousias idion]. ibid.; of the Son being the [patrike idiotes], Orat. i. 42; of the Father's [theotes] being in the Son, de Syn. 52 (whereas the Arians made the two [theotetes] different in kind); of the Son's [theotes] being the Father's, Orat. iii. 36; of the Son's [patrike theotes], Orat. i. 45, 49; ii. 18, 73; iii. 26; of the Son's [patrike physis], Orat. i. 40; of the Son being [to patrikon phos], iii. 53; and of the Son being the [pleroma tes theotetos], Orat. iii. 1. Vid. also Didym. Trin. i. 15, p. 27; 16, p. 41; 18, p. 45; 27, p. 80; iii. 17, p. 377; 23, p. 409. Nyss. Test. c. Jud. i. p. 292; Cyril, c. Nest. iii. p. 80 b.


Usia has
a like


Since, as has been said above, hypostasis is a word more peculiarly Christian than usia, I have judged it best to speak of it first, that the meaning of it, as it is ascertained {350} on inquiry, may serve as a key for explaining other parallel terms. Usia is one of these the most in use, certainly in the works of Athanasius, and we have his authority, as well as St. Jerome's, for stating that it had been simply synonymous with hypostasis. Moreover, in Orat. iii. 65, he uses the two words as equivalent to each other. If this be so, what has been said above, in explanation of the sense he put on the word hypostasis, will apply to usia also.

This conclusion is corroborated by the proper meaning of the word usia itself, which answers to the English word "being." But, when we speak of the Divine Being, we mean to speak of Him, as what He is, [ho on], including generally His attributes and characteristics, and among them, at least obscurely, His personality. By the "Divine Being" we do not commonly mean a mere anima mundi, or first principle of life, or system of laws. Usia then, thus considered, agrees very nearly in sense, from its very etymology, with hypostasis. Further, this was the sense in which Aristotle used it, viz. for what is "individuum," and "numero unum;" and it must not be forgotten that the Neo-Platonists, who exerted so great an influence on the Alexandrian Church, professed the Aristotelic logic. Nay, to St. Cyril himself, the successor of Athanasius, whose formula these remarks are intended to illustrate, is ascribed a definition, which makes usia to be an individual essence: [ousia, pragma authuparkton, me deomenon heterou pros ten heautou sustasin]. Vid. Suicer. Thes. in voc.

and is pre-
ferred by

Yet this is the word, and not hypostasis, which Athanasius {351} commonly uses, in controversy with the Arians, to express the divinity of the Word. In one passage alone, as far as I recollect, does he use hypostasis: [ou ten hypostasin chorizon tou theou logou apo tou ek Marias anthropou]. Orat. iv. 35. His usual term is usia:—for instance, [ten theian ousian tou logou henomenon physei toi heautou patri]. In Illud Omnia, 4. Again, [he ousia haute tes ousias tes patrikes esti gennema]. de Syn. 48;—two remarkable passages, which remind us of the two [ousiai] and two [physeis], used by the Alexandrian Pierius (Phot. Cod. 119), and of the words of Theognostus, another Alexandrian, [he tou huiou ousia ek tes tou patros ousias ephu]. ap. Athan. de Decr. Nic. c. 25. Other instances of the usia of the Word in Athanasius are such as the following, though there are many more than can be enumerated:—Orat. i. 10, 45, 57, 59, 62, 64 fin.; ii. 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 18, 22, 47, 56.

as a syn-
onyme for

In all these instances usia, I conceive, is substantially equivalent to hypostasis, as I have explained it, viz. expressing the divine [monas] with an obscure intimation of personality inclusively; and here I think I am able to quote the words of Father Passaglia, as agreeing (so far) in what I have said. "Quum hypostasis," he says, de Trinitate, p. 1302, "esse nequeat sine substantia, nihil vetabat quominus trium hypostasum defensores hypostasim interdum pro substantia sumerent, præsertim ubi hypostasis opponitur rei non subsistenti, ac efficientiæ." I should wish to complete his admission by adding, "Since an intellectual usia ordinarily implies an hypostasis, there was nothing to hinder usia being used, when {352} hypostasis had to be expressed." Nor can I construe usia in any other way in the two passages from In Illud Omnia, 4, and de Syn. 48, quoted above, to which may be added Orat. ii. 47, init. where Athanasius speaks of the Word as [ten ousian heautou ginoskon monogene sophian kai gennema tou patros]. Again he says, Orat. iv. 1, that he is [ex ousias ousiodes kai enousios, ex ontos on].

If we want a later instance, and from another school, of usia and hypostasis being taken as practically synonymous, when contrasted with the economia, we may find one in Nyssen c. Eunom. Orat. v. p. 169.


and physis


After what I have said of usia and hypostasis, it will not surprise the reader if I consider that physis also, in the Alexandrian theology, was equally capable of being applied to the Divine Being viewed as one, or viewed as three, or as each of the three separately. Thus Athanasius says, [mia he theia physis]. contr. Apoll. ii. 13. fin, and de Incarn. V. fin. Alexander, on the other hand, calls the Father and Son [tas tei hypostasei duo physeis] (as Pierius, to whom I have already referred, uses the word), Theod. Hist. i. 4, p. 15; and so Clement, also of the Alexandrian school, [he huiou physis he toi monoi pantokratori prosechestate], Strom. vii. 2. In the same epistle Alexander speaks of the [mesiteuousa physis monogenes]; and Athanasius speaks of the [physis] of the Son being less divisible from the Father than the radiance from the sun, de Syn. 52, vid. also Orat. i. 51. Cyril too, Thesaur. xi. p. 85, speaks of [he gennesasa physis] and [he gennetheisa ex autes]; and in one {353} passage, as Petavius, de Trin. iv. 2, observes, implies three [physeis] in one [ousia]. Cyril moreover explains as well as instances this use of the word. The [physis tou logou], he says, signifies neither hypostasis alone, nor what is common to the hypostases, but [ten koinen physin en tei tou logou hypostasei holikos theoroumenen]. ap. Damasc. F. O. iii. 11. And thus Didymus speaks of the [analloiotos physis en tautoteti ton prosopon hestosa]. Trin. i. 9.


[Eidos] is a word of a similar character. As it is found in John v. 37, it may be interpreted of the Divine Essence or of Person; the Vulgate translates "neque speciem ejus vidistis." In Athan. Orat. iii. 3, it is synonymous with [theotes] or usia; as ibid. 6 also; and apparently ibid. 16, where the Son is said to have the [eidos] of the Father. And so in de Syn. 52. Athanasius says that there is only one [eidos theotetos]. Yet, as taken from Gen. xxxii. 31, it is considered to denote the Son; e.g. Athan. Orat. i. 20, where it is used as synonymous with Image, [eikon]. In like manner He is called "the very [eidos tes theotetos]." Ep. Æg. 17. But again in Athan. Orat. iii. 6, it is first said that the [eidos] of the Father and Son are one and the same, then that the Son is the [eidos] of the Father's [theotes], and then that the Son is the [eidos] of the Father.


terms in-
in their
full sense
to the


So much on the sense of the words [ousia, hypostasis, physis], and [eidos], among the Alexandrians of the fourth and fifth centuries, as denoting fully and absolutely all that the natural theologian attaches to the notion of the Divine Being,—as denoting the God of natural theology, with {354} only such variation of sense in particular passages as the context determines, and as takes place when we say, "God of heaven," "God of our fathers," "God of armies," "God of peace;" (all of which epithets, as much as "one" or "three," bring out respectively different aspects of one and the same idea,) and, when applied to the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, meaning simply that same Divine Being, Deus singularis et unicus, in persona Filii. Now then the question follows, which brings us at once upon the Formula, which I have proposed to illustrate; viz., since the Word is an [ousia, hupostasis], or [ousia], can the man, [anthropos],—manhood, humanity, human nature, flesh,—which He assumed, be designated by these three terms in a parallel full sense, as meaning that He became all that "a human being" is, man with all the attributes and characteristics of man? Was the Word a man in the precise and unrestricted sense in which any one of us is a man? The Formula denies it, for it calls Him [mia physis sesarkomene], not [duo physeis]; and in the sense which I have been ascribing to those three terms, it rightly denies it; for in the sense in which the Divine Being is an usia, etc., His human nature is not an usia, etc.; so that in that sense there are not two [physeis], but one only, and there could not be said to be two without serious prejudice to the Catholic dogma.


yet they
are so


I have said, "in the sense in which the Divine Being is an usia;" for doubtless this and the other terms in question {355} need not be, and are not always taken in the sense which attaches to them in the above passages.

e.g. Hypo-

1. Hypostasis, for instance, is used for substance as opposed to appearance or imagination, in Hebr. xi. 1. And in like manner Epiphanius speaks of the Word's [sarkos hypostasin alethinen]. Hær. 69, 59. And Irenæus, of "substantia carnis," Hær. iii. 22, which doubtless in the original was hypostasis, as is shown by the [ou dokesei, all' hypostasei aletheias], ibid. v. 1. In a like sense Cyril of Jerusalem seems to use the word, Cat. vii. 3, ix. 5, 6, x. 2. And Gregory Nyssen, Antirrh. 25 fin. and apparently in the abstract for existence, c. Jud. p. 291. And Cyril of Alexandria, whose Formula is in question, in his controversy with Theodoret. [Sustasis] is used for it by Athan. c. Apoll. i. 5, ii. 5, 6, etc. Vid. also Max. Opp. t. 2, p. 303, and Malchion ap. Routh. Rell. t. 2, p. 484. The two words are brought together in Hippol. c. Noët. 15 fin. (where the word hypostasis is virtually denied of the human nature), and in Nyss. Test. c. Jud. i. p. 292. Also, [he sarx ouk hypostasis idiosustatos egegonei]. Damasc. c. Jacob. 53. For [idiosustatos], vid. Didym. Trin. iii. 23, p. 410. Ephraëm, ap. Phot. Cod. 229, p. 785 fin. Max. Opp. t. 2, pp. 281 and 282.

and usia,

2. If even hypostasis may be found of the Word's humanity, there is more reason to anticipate such an application of the other terms which I have classed with it. Thus as regards usia: [theos on homou te kai anthropos teleios ho autos, tas duo autou ousias epistosato hemin], says Melito ap. Routh. Rell. t. 1, p. 115. And Chrysostom, [ouchi tas ousias suncheon], in Psalm. 44, p. 166; also in {356} Joann. Hom. ii. 2. Vid. also Basil. in Eunom. i. 18. Nyssen, Antirrh. 30. Cyril. 2 ad Succ. p. 144. But the word (i.e. substantia) is more common in this sense in Latin writers:—e.g. Tertullian. de Carn. Christ. 13, 16, etc. Præscr. 51. Novat. de Trin. 11 and 24. Ambros. de Fid. ii. 77. Augustin. Epist. 187, 10. Vincent. Commonit. 13. Leon. Epist. 28, p. 811. As to Alexandrian writers, Origen calls the Word's soul, substantia, Princip. ii. 6, n. 3, as Eusebius, [noera ousia], de Const. L., p. 536. Petavius quotes Athanasius as saying, [to soma koinen echon tois pasi ten ousian], de Incarn. x. 3, § 9, t. 6, p. 13, but this may be external to the union, as [aparchen labon ek tes ousias tou anthropou], Athan. de Inc. et c. Ar. 8 fin.

and physis;  

3. The word physis has still more authorities in its favour than usia; e.g. [physeis duo, theos kai anthropos], Greg. Naz. Orat. xxxvii. 11. Epist. 101, pp. 85, 87. Epist. 102, p. 97. Carm. in Laud. Virg. v. 149. de Vit. sua, v. 652. Greg. Nyssen. c. Apoll. t. 2, p. 696. c. Eunom. Orat. 5, p. 168. Antirrh. 27. Amphiloch. ap. Theod, Eran. i. 66. Theod. Hær. v. 11. p. 422. Chrysostom, in 1 Tim. Hom. 7, 2. Basil. Seleuc. Orat. 33, p. 175. And so natura, in Hilar. Trin. xi. 3, 14, in Psalm. 118, lit. 14, 8. Vid. also Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, etc. For other instances, vid. Conc. Chalc. Act. 2, t. 2, p. 300. Leon. Epist. 165. Leont. c. Nestor. ap. Canis. t. 1, p. 548. Anastas. Hodeg. x. p. 154 (ed. 1606), Gelas. de D. N. (in Bibl. P. Paris. Quart. 1624), t. 4, p. 423. As for Alexandrian writers, I do not cite Origen (e.g. in Matth. t. 3, pp. 852, 902, t. 4, Append. p. 25, etc.), because we cannot be sure that the word was found in the original Greek. But we have [theos {357} en physei, kai gegonen anthropos physei], Petr. Alex. ap. Routh. Rell. t. 3, p. 344-346. And [En ekaterais tais physesi huios tou theou] Isid. Pelus. Epist. i. 405. And Athanasius himself, [he morphe tou doulou] is [he noera tes anthropon sustaseos physis sun tei organikei katastasei]. c. Apoll. ii. 1. Vid. also i. 5, ii. 11. Orat. ii. 70, iii. 43. Nor must it be forgotten that Cyril himself accepted the two [physeis]; vid. some instances at the end of Theod. Eran. ii. Vid. also c. Nest. iii. p. 70, d. e. and his Answers to the Orientals and Theodoret.


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