ON THE ERRORS OF THE TRINITY

by

Michael Servetus

Book VI

1.         You will (if you have examined your capacity with the sober judgement of reason) easily recognize the knowledge of God which we obtain through CHRIST. For in himself God is incomprehensible; he can be neither imagined, nor understood, nor discovered by thinking, unless you contemplate some aspect [vultis] in him. And the likeness of Christ and the Person of the Word are just this. For the impersonated oracle of God, the Person of Christ, as I have said above [Book IV paragraph 6], which was with God, was God himself; nor was there in him any other aspect than that. And the face of Jesus Christ is just this. And the other conceptions which the Sophists boast of having concerning indivisible beings mean nothing. It is foolishness in the sigh of God; they are bewitched by their own phantasms and phantoms, as I shall please God, show elsewhere [paragraph 8]. For this is the most certain truth, and evident to any man of sense, that we can have no conception of anything in the world, unless we observe some aspect or appearance in it. And if you force me to come down to fine points, a conception is not said to alter a thing by representing it in living form, except in so far as the image of that thing is presented to the mind by the phantasm itself. Again, everyone knows that it is necessary for a thinking man to examine his phantasms. Let them tell me, then, what sort of figure it is, or what resemblance that phantasm has, which they examine when they have a conception of God. For it is quite certain that the phantasm, whatever it is, manifest a visible likeness, because there is no phantasm in the world which is not limited to a visible thing, just as they are also produced in us by visible things. Nor do they grasp how, by means of these visible things, things invisible are said to be understood in a mirror, darkly. As by means of a visible likeness of the Word we understand God, so from effects we argue that there is one first cause, from movements we reason that there is a prime mover, although of this Aristotle never had any real conception. These, says Paul, are things that can be known about God [1 Cor. 2:11-12], yet not that God himself is therefore known. Indeed, the whole discussion is nothing else than a shifting about of visible phantasms. But waiving these matters, this becomes quite clear to us from Scriptures alone; that God is manifested to us through his Word. And you ought to acknowledge this face in god, that you may know the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [2 Cor. 4:6], and may now know God, whom you never knew before, nor ever saw his form. And Eidos [form], here means the outward appearance and form and face of God, so that Christ here says that God can not be known save in his face. But in the face of Jesus Christ he is known, as though God manifested himself to me without a veil, with that visible countenance with which he appeared to Moses face to face. And if he plainly manifested to me that face which Moses did not see, I should see nothing else than the face of Jesus Christ. And this itself was the likeness of the Word, and in this way the invisible God manifests himself to us through the visible Word. And for this reason Christ is called the face of God, for that is called the face of anything through which that thing is seen and known. And, consideration of the Word apart, God is entirely invisible and unimaginable; nor would all the philosophers in the world be enough to form any conception of him; and all that they say about these things are blasphemies against Christ. For it ought to be found simply and frankly true, that God is seen through his Word, and, He that seeth me seeth the Father; and, no man hath seen him but through the Son [John 1:18, 5:37, 6:40, 8:19, 12:45, 14:9].

2.         But just as the accursed philosophers would have God is a Spirit [John 4:24] understood in a metaphysical sense, so they suppose that when it says, No man hath seen God at any time [John 1:18], it is understood only of the vision of God with the bodily eye. Nor can they grasp the fact that the meaning of the Gospel aims at anything else when mention is so often made of the vision of God, who is seen through JESUS CHRIST, and who was never before either seen or heard. Do not wrest the meaning of the words in the raw way of the sophists, but always keep the order of the process. Bear in mind that the Apostles were as yet untaught men; and Christ says that they had already seen the Father. It says the same in 1 John 1:1-3, yet he had seen nothing else than the face of CHRIST. Notice in what sense they were asking these things, and the reply of Christ to the question they had put. And when it says, He that seeth me seeth the Father, note the expression, seeth the Father, and call this mental vision a conception, a knowledge, or an understanding, or whatever you will; and in a corresponding sense admit to me that God was never seen before. Otherwise CHRIST would have brought us nothing new, would claim in vain that the Father was seen through him. If, then, God is seen in a new way through CHRIST (indeed, a complete vision of God was never had before through God himself), what can this vision be but the person of Elohim, which now shines forth in the face of JESUS CHRIST? And he expressly said he was seen, in order to disapprove the imaginary conceptions of the philosophers. Would that God might give them a mind that they might know him, and might say with John, We have seen his glory whom no man hath seen at any time [John 1:14, 18]. Nor did John ever see anything else than this Person that was with God, and was God himself. And through the contrivance of God this reasoning is sound; by visibly looking into his face, God was seen, because God was just this, and the face of CHRIST is now just this; therefore God is seen in the face of CHRIST; and so strictly speaking, JESUS CHRIST is now in God, just as that Word, just as that Word which was God himself was with God. And for this reason CHRIST proves that the Father is seen through him, because the Father is in him, and he is in the Father [John 14:11]. For you ought always to reflect upon what the looking at the oracle of God once was, and you should compare it with the face of CHRIST. And now say that God is seen more clearly, never forget, hear him still crying from heaven to-day, In seeing me you see God, in seeing me you see the Father.

3.         From this it appears that the Word impersonated in such a countenance was not an articulate voice, and that it has no actual existence [Subsistentia]. For John would not have said of it in itself, The Word was; but he said, Was, for the reason that it appeared to be self-existent [Per se subsistens]. Indeed, nothing else than the oracle seemed to exist, as though the invisible God lay concealed in it. And agreeably to the thought of John I would rather say oracle than word or speech [Oraculum, verbum, sermo]; and the thought of John is this: In the beginning there was a certain oracle with God, and this itself was the light that could not be comprehended by those that were in darkness. But we saw him after he became flesh, because this itself is to-day the shining countenance of CHRIST. Moreover, the word oracle is appropriate to this subject, for this itself was the oracle which was covered and overshadowed by angels' wings [Exodus 25:20, 37:6-9], and the oracle through which God made answer to Moses [Numbers 7:89]; and so this oracle was in the secret place of the house, just as CHRIST was hidden in the shadow of the Almighty. Again, the Hebrew word confirms this interpretation of the mystery; for from Dabar which means logos, comes [Debir, sanctuary (Vulg. oraculum)], which means the oracle of the temple [Ps. 28:2, 2 Chron. 5:7, 9; 1 Kings 6:5, 19-22]. For Christ is the true oracle, through which we receive God's answers, even he is also called the propitiatory, that is, the propitiation for our sins [1 John 2:2; 4:10]; a covering, on whose account blessed are they whose sins are covered [Ps. 32:1 (Vulg.); Rom. 4:7]. And just as Christ is now the oracle, so once not only in the temple, but before that in the tabernacle, and even before the construction of the tabernacle, his person was the oracle whence Moses within the cloud received answers. There, moreover, was the light which according to John shone within the darkness of the cloud [John 1:5], which ought to elicit all things from the law, through we care little for it.

4.         In consequence of this, notice that CHRIST is improperly called the image of God. Indeed he is more than an image; for an image is when two things are formed in a similar way, and either one is called the image of the other. But in the case of CHRIST and God it is not just as if the angel Gabriel came to me in the form of a flying eagle. Should I say, This is the image of Gabriel? Even if it be truly called an image, it is more than an image, that is, a likeness or character representing, nay containing his hypostasis. And the oracle could not properly be called the image of the Father, but more than an image; for it was its very self the face of God, and God himself was the likeness or a kind of form containing the very being of God. Likewise CHRIST is more than an image, though words fail me in which I can clearly explain this with my slow tongue. Nor can I say more clearly than Paul did, the character [Heb. 1:3, in the Greek] of the hypostasis of God; that is, the carving in which the very being itself shines forth as if with its own face. David and Moses call it Temunah [image, form; Ps. 17:15; Deut. 4:12, 15]. And mark well in what sense it is there called an image, when it says, ye saw no image [Deut. 4:12]; for if you take image here in that sense, you will judge rightly. For the image was there the very form of the face, with no regard to its resemblance to another imagined being. And in this sense CHRIST will be called Eikon [image], that is the image of God, because he is the likeness, is a kind of representation of his hypostasis, or the very exhibition of a being by its outward appearance [John 5:37]. CHRIST is therefore properly called the Eikon [image], that is the likeness, or a kind of carving-in, exhibiting the very being of God [2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15]. In the like manner he is called the Charakter [an engraved or stamped figure; Heb. 1:3], that is, the especial mark, of the hypostasis, that is, the existence, of God, by seeing which I am said to see God, just as in seeing the Eagle I should be said to see Gabriel. Otherwise God would not be able to reveal himself to us in visible form. For if this could have been done, it has been done through a veiled view of the oracle, and at length through the unveiled face of JESUS CHRIST. For the very vision of his face is a vision of God, just as to Tobias himself the vision of the youth was the vision of an angel [Tobit 5:4]; and when the dove was seen John said, I have seen the Spirit of God descending [John 1:32].

5.         From this it is plain that the philosophers are far astray in their investigation about this character. This argument, which they supposed was an Achillean [i.e. unanswerable] one against me, has become a sword of Goliath [1 Sam. 17:51] for them; nor were they ever able to prove why the Son is called the character of the hypostasis of God. They are strangely deceived when they speak of the hypostasis of the Father, and not of the hypostasis of God; {We ought to imagine some face in him who is called the image} as if they were speaking of a metaphysical likeness of another being, and not of an image of God, although this is nevertheless the Gospel way of speaking, and even that of the Old Testament. Yet they avoid scripture ways of speaking by deriding everything. Nor is a image of the Father spoken of in their sense of the word, but a likeness of God, a character of God; indeed, Paul adds significantly, the likeness of the invisible God [Col. 1:15], as though he said that in a visible man there was an Eikon [image] of the invisible God. And all this tends to explain the words of the Master, He that hath seen me hath seen the Father [John 14:9]; and, If ye had known me, ye would have known my Father also [John 14:7]. And to these sayings the Old Testament also gives the fullest testimony in the passages quoted above, in which mention is made of this image. And God calls this image ours [Gen. 1:26], because the one and the same face of CHRIST is that of both, and the very person of the oracle was the face and countenance of God.

6.         CHRIST, therefore is called an aspect, a face, a likeness, a sign, a character, a seal, a distinguishing mark, a kind of engraving, of the hypostasis, that is, of the being, of God; because in him alone God exist, nor can God be known through any one else. And just as the face of the sun appears in the midst of immensity and of light unapproachable, so in the midst of the heights and depths of God has appeared his oracle, the Person of JESUS CHRIST. This itself was God, this itself is now the vision of God, this has been appointed to us for a sign, and in none other is there salvation [Acts 4:12], nor is there any other vision of God, nor did john see anything else when he said, En pros ton theon, [was with God, John 1:1]. This is the height and depth of the knowledge of CHRIST. This is the power, disposition, and economy, of God which wrought everything in the world, even as John also said, All things were made through him [John 1:3]. And to this end CHRIST ascended, was made the power and might of God, as the Master himself well taught us, saying, Without me ye can do nothing [John 15:5]; even as without God we can do nothing. For all the might of God si through him, all things were made through CHRIST in power, all things were made through CHRIST in Person--not only made, that is, created from the beginning, but the whole process and order of the world was carried through his economy. His own glorious face, which was once covered by a cloud in the midst of the light unapproachable, to-day shines forth revealed. And with equal propriety [it may be said that] CHRIST is now God, even in reality, just as he was formerly with him in Person. And the energy flowing from that oracle, as it were the breathe of Elohim CHRIST [Gen. 1:2], since to-day it is holy to us, flowing from the mouth of CHRIST [John 20:22]. And in the same book [Gen. 2:7], he gave a natural spirit of life, even as also to-day by his own inspiration he has given us a supernatural one. And more mysteries yet lie concealed here; for after the likeness of this oracle, the Holy Spirit proceeds in us from the oracles of Scripture, as rivers of living water. For it is the same spirit of his mouth, from the eternal oracle, and from the mouth of CHRIST, and from the oracles of Scripture; and this very energy and power of the oracle is the eternal spirit of CHRIST, of which I have spoken above [paragraph 3].

7.         If you ask why we speak of God, and say so much about him, if we do not know him, nor have any conception of him, Paul replies to this that the Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God [1 Cor. 2:10]; and those things which are invisible God reveals unto us through his Spirit [1 Cor. 2:7-10], which is hidden in the sacred Scriptures. For I endeavor to learn those things which are contained in the Bible concerning God. But the things that I have acquired through philosophical conceptions are of no value for instructing us. A book has been given us from heaven, so that in it we may search after God, faith assisting us to this end, which is not the superficial assent of sophists, but an emotion of the heart; as the Scripture says, With the heart man believeth [Rom. 10:10], and If thou believest with all thy heart [Acts 8:37]. And for the object of this faith any outward manifestation of God suffices, without the philosophical conception of God. This consideration alone destroys the philosophical conception, because any man has his own imagination of God, and one different from any other man. Again, faith in CHRIST helps wonderfully toward this end, because through it we receive the Spirit; and unless you have first believed that JESUS CHRIST is the Son of God, you will never understand yourself. This is foolishness, or rather, the heavenly philosophy, which is derived not from Aristotle, but most fully and clearly from divine sources. {Nor are we capable of understanding a single letter, except he reveal it by his Spirit} For in the words themselves lie hidden the Spirit and wisdom, as well as the style of wisdom; for every word, every Scripture inspired of God, is profitable for teaching, correction, and instruction [2 Tim. 3:16].

8.         And I reply to the question [raised in previous paragraph], that I have a conception of God, and this conception is the vision of his oracle; and it is the vision itself by which , when I see it, the Father is seen in a mirror darkly. And here is learned the Christians' true faith in CHRIST, which is therefore called an indication of things not seen [Heb. 11:1]. Yet the Philosophers, who know everything, who have conceptions of everything, have no need for faith. Indeed, CHRIST has really become superfluous for them, because they do not know God now otherwise than before. But we know that a visible manifestation of the mystery has been made; we know that God is seen through CHRIST. God determined thus, and wished to regard himself in that mirror, as he had before done through the sight of the oracle. And for Christians this vision of God suffices to the fullest degree, so that through it we enjoy the invisible Spirit of God. For CHRIST is the way, and we ought to approach God in the spirit through him, and not through these conceptions; which is quite the opposite of what they have done. They have seemed to themselves to touch the three mathematical beings with their own senses, although there is nothing of which they had less knowledge than of these. They say that a conception is a sort of quality abstracted from phantasms, and also located in their heels. But God will sometime put an end to this nonsense. It distresses me that it is not only a mathematical delusion of the imagination, but also a horrible slander against the teachings of Christ. Let it suffice for them to pretend to have imagination in their heads, without seeking for conceptions in their heels. Other than those through CHRIST, let them not trifle with visions about God. For even if they saw all the angels in heaven with the open eye, yet God is still more deeply hidden, clad in angelic raiment, like a skin spread out. Nor let the philosophers here assail me regarding the nature of the angels, as to which I have no knowledge; for I do not say spread out in a local sense, for the skill of God is superior to place. Most foolish of men, they reduce to a kind of point all that is outside their bodies. They have reached such folly as to say that God is himself is, as it were, a point many times repeated in the same plane. Is this the conception of God of which they boast? I pray God that his Spirit may touch them when they read these things, lest perchance they be to them a savor of death unto death [2 Cor. 2:16]

9.         If they admit this very plain way of seeing God, they will better understand what the Spirit of God, and the Holy Spirit, is; for it all depends upon knowledge of CHRIST, and if we are ignorant of everything. {All the heresies in the world have arisen from ignorance of Christ} And it should be known that although three hypostasis are commonly admitted, yet more properly speaking I say that in God there were two dispositions, namely, an oracle and a Spirit; and the visible hypostasis was in the oracle alone. {There was but one hypostasis, namely, the Person of the Word.}For no kind of seeing is properly attributed to that which is in nature a spirit, nor is there in it the face of a permanent being as there is in an oracle; nor is the Spirit said to have been made any such thing as the oracle was made flesh. But we know it not by the sole fact that we see a breath, but because we perceive it within [John 14:17]; and, as it were, by hearing, as Christ says [John 3:8]. And so there appeared as it were, tongues of fire; and a mighty sound was heard [Acts 2:2,3]; and it pleased God that the Spirit be poured upon them in a visible Person that we might have the greater certainty concerning this divine disposition. And though that vision does not remain for us, yet we know by experience that it is in us [John 14:17, 2 Cor. 13:3, 5]. Hereby we know, as John says, that we abide in him, because we perceive the working of the Spirit in us [1 John 4:13 ]. Give heed, I beseech you, to CHRIST, and you shall know his Spirit; for the glorious advent of JESUS CHRIST has wrought such great things that all things have been changed, a new heaven, a new earth [Rev. 21:1, 5]. He has made us to ascend into heaven, heaven has been opened, and his oracle having been made visible, God has disclosed himself to us. We have entered the gates of God, seeing the things that lay hidden in him, and touching his Word with our hands, and perceiving his Spirit within ourselves. I have already at the beginning [paragraph 1] said of the oracle that there is no other Person of the oracle in God except Christ Jesus himself, as though the oracle had withdrawn from God when it became flesh; yet it did not really withdraw, but CHRIST ascended to God, and thence he brought heaven with himself to us.

10.       Correspondingly I say of the Spirit, that the Spirit of God, as it were, withdrew from God when it was sent to the Apostles [Acts 2;3,4]. Yet it did not really withdraw, but we ascended to God, and he has made us to sit with CHRIST in the heavenly places [Eph. 2:6]. Nor is the Holy Spirit to us a being placed on high. But by the wonderful contrivance of God a dark being is made bright because of his presence, just as the face of JESUS CHRIST became bright upon the mount, apart from union with any being coming upon him; and his comparison you will find in the Scriptures [Matt. 17:2; 2 Cor. 3:18]. Say then, that the Holy Ghost is a divine impulse in the spirit of man. Thus what God illuminates by impelling, he also sanctifies by illuminating. Nor is any quidditative [Constituting the essence of the thing] definition required here; for the word spirit is used of a kind of movement, by thus moving them, sanctifies those that believe in CHRIST, therefore the Spirit in man is called Holy, and that because of faith in CHRIST.


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