ON THE ERRORS OF THE TRINITY

by

Michael Servetus

Book VII

1. With regards to filiation among divine beings, and the divinity of CHRIST, and hypostasis of the Word, questions are usually asked which I shall clear with a few words. I say that from the beginning there was amoung the divine beings a filiation, not real but personal. The Son was the Word; the Son was not real but personal, in so far as it was the Person of CHRIST. Nor is he in Scripture ever called Son, but an eternal kind of generation is attributed to CHRIST, and the things that were in the law were a shadow of the body of Christ. Yet some dream here of an emanation of a conception, or a Word, from the divine mind, by means of an emanating filiation. But their dreams carry little conviction unless they prove by Scripture that the Word was a real Son; and these emanations are remains left over from the emissions of the Valentinians [2nd century Gnostics]; these emissions or emanations from within are mathematical, and unknown to the Scriptures. Even the word emanation smacks somewhat of the philosophical, which can not be included in the Nature of God. For that which has emanated from God is CHRIST himself, who came forth from the Father. But in God, within, there are no goings forth, nor emanations; but CHRIST was formed beforehand in the divine mind. There was a certain way of keeping himself which God arranged in himself in order that he might manifest himself to us; namely, by representing in himself the likeness of JESUS CHRIST, for all this was foreordained for exhibiting the glory of CHRIST. And John did not say that the Word emanated from God, but it was in God, the Word was God. [John 1:1] {The logos, a way of speaking.}And logos does not signify reason, that is an inner and philosophical conception of the understanding, or a mental concept, as some fanciful say; but the logos is called a sort of speaking, it means a vocal reason, as it were, and oral reasoning, corresponding to the nature of the word Lego [to speak, as etymologically related to logos]. Nor is it otherwise ever found in place of reason among Greeks of approved speeh; which you should note constantly. For the deception consist solely in the imaginary nature of the word logos. {The end of the disposition of the Word : that God may manifest himself.} And consider well what the word lego properly signifies, and you shall see that it means oracle, of which I have made mention above.

2. Again, their false imagination is seen in consequence of the establishment of the divine economy; for God, of his mere good pleasure, employed this kind of word for the purpose of disclosing himself to us, just as he formerly disclosed himself (though dimly) through it. For the Word was visible[According to Irenaeus the Word is visible]; and to all this John has regard, adding at once, No man hath seen God at any time [John 1:18]. For he related the progress in the Old Testament, comparing Moses with CHRIST; and you, unless you have regard to the Old Testament, will never understand the New, because it is wholly derived from the Old. But why do I search for other proofs, when it has been shown in the preceding Book [Book VI, paragraph 8] that these conceptions of the philosophers are nothing but imaginatively mathematical delusions; and to any man of sense this will be the strongest of reasons; so that it is necessary here to look upon the face of Elohim. There was, then, an oracle, a hypostasis of God, a Person of CHRIST, the divinity which was Son to God alone. Yet to us Christ alone is called Son. The being was future to us; but to God nothing is future. There was in God the very image of a being that to us was future; as if I now saw in a mirror a being that is not, but will be tomorrow. For this is the height and the depth of the divine economy; and the Word, which formerly was with God, has to us become the Son. And it makes no difference, even if you say that the Son was with God; indeed, I say that Christ was with God, who afterwards came and was incarnated.

3. {As to the second question} Paul is forever trying to explain to us the deity in CHRIST, even with greater fulness than can be thought out; but not through the union with a metaphysical Son. For why should the Apostle exclaim at the great fulness and breadth, the unsearchable brightness of the Godhead, the riches, glory, etc., that are in CHRIST? What need would there have been of so many words, except to say that the second being was carnally united with CHRIST, although this was never heard of in the Scriptures? If therefore consider well, an investigation of Paul condemns their metaphysics. But that I may the better explain this matter, I shall relate the origin of these fancies about the Godhead. {Two very serious plauges, a leaven of Aristotle, and ignorance of the Hebrew language, deprived us of Christ. And then we lost Christ.} Paul of Samosata, previous to Arian and the trinitarian [Book 1, paragraph 48, note 2] philosophers, being entirely ignorant of the mysteries of CHRIST which are hidden in the Hebrew, by maintaining that CHRIST was a mere man, not God, and that he first existed then and not previously, scandalized the Greek philosophers, who were ignorant of Hebrew, and infected by the contagion of Aristotle, and force them to ascend to heaven without wings, where any one who would begin to hunt for divinities in his own sense; and immediately there arose a countless swarm of heretics. And I suppose it was a sentence of divine punishment that the Pope was made King at the same time at which the Trinity arose; even as God also raised up many adversaries against Solomon at just the time of his sin [1 Kings 11:14, 23].

4. Let us then, that we may avoid such labyrinths of errors, speak of his divinity more soberly; and we have above in many ways searched into these riches in CHRIST, although I seem to myself to have said nothing in comparison with his worth; nor could Paul set this forth otherwise than by exclaiming, Length, breadth, treasures, mysteries [Eph. 3:18; Col. 1:27]! Nevertheless I shall recall to mind certain things that proclaim his divinity, of which the root is that you keep in memory that he was Elohim. And from this you will consider the depth of the mystery, how he was in the oracle with the Father from the beginning, and in what way he is really the Father now, as he was personally in him before. {Christ makes angels of this light, for it was not the quality, but the natural splendor of God.} We have mentioned above the brightness of his face, from which the whole world is to be lighted; although the philosophers consider that the face of his human nature, like that of another man, is now in heaven, and superfluous. But the divine transfiguration on the mount, and the vision of Paul, confounds them. They close their eyes, lest they see him shouting from heaven and saying, He that seeth me seeth the Father [John 14:9]. This vision alone, if you often enjoy it, will transport you quite to heaven, and cleanse you from all error.

5. Another proclamation of his divinity, which surpasses all these, is the Father abiding in him, who is seen by him alone. He himself is the face of the Father, nor is there any other Person of God but CHRIST; there is no other hypostasis of God but him. {There is no other face, nor person, nor hypostasis of God, save Christ} Christ is honored by the presence of the Father more than he can be honored through their metaphisics. They say that one portion, I say that the whole Nature, of God is in him. In him is the whole Deity of the Father, in so much that even the angels marvel at this. {Here are two Natures in Christ; the whole Nature and power of God are in the man.}And not only is God present in him, but the whole authority of God has been given him. Although they ascribe none of these things to the man, yet I say that he is God and Lord of the world. The glory of the Father is in his spirit to a much more exceptional degree than the light can appear in his face. It would then dim this manifold fulness of Deity to be contented with a mere union with the second being; nor can this be done, unless you make the Son separate from the Father, or remove the Father from CHRIST; for there is in him nothing that can be called Son save the Father himself alone; therefore CHRIST is called the Son, and the Father is in the Son. If they speak to you of some ray [As the say to the sun, was one of the illustrations by which was explained the relation of the Son to the Father.] in the man, you may quote against them the words of the Master, namely: The Father is in me; the Father abiding in me [John 10:38; 14:10, 11; 17:21]. And in heeding these words no one can ever be deceived; nor have they been able to find out like words against you. And their error as to the mathematical ray arises from the Word of John not being understood. They believe that the ray was united, another to become flesh. Again, John did not say, The Word became flesh [John 1:14], as they take it; but The Word was flesh, the Word existed as flesh; and this the proper meaning of Ho logos sarx egeneto [the Word became flesh]. For that which was the Person of the Word is now Christ himself. Would that we had read, The Word was flesh; just as it says in the same place, There was a man sent from God [John 1:6]; for it is the same word in the Greek eyeveto {forgive my limitations, there should be a ’ over the first e and a over the second e, RDH} [became, or was; also in the three references following]. Likewise, all things were through him, and without him there was nothing [John 1:3]; as also, He spake and they were [Ps. 33:9]; God said, Let there be light, and light was [Gen. 1:3]. For the Hebrew word here has this perfectly clear meaning; and John used the word which God used at the beginning of the world; and in place of Hahyah [was] he uses eyeveto [because or was], as the Greek translation also clearly shows; even as he also used Logos [word] in place of Dabar [word]. The older writers say that man was blended, rather than united, with God. But even if you say that man was united with God, or God united with man, or that a kind of Deity was united with CHRIST, I shall not condemn you; this, however, is not by way of filiation, for this Idiotes [peculiar quality.] or kind of filiation is in man alone, nor was this Idiotes [peculiar quality] naturally appropriate To Logos [to the Word], except in so far as it was a figure [Caelatura, a figure carved in releif; and so where the word is used below.] of the man. And this is the view of Irenaeus [Adv. Haer. V, I, 3], and also of Tertullian [Adv. Praxean xxvii], who say that the change was made from the Word to flesh, and that along with this a kind of Deity was blended and united with the man, because God in CHRIST is just this.

6. For there are two things to be considered, the being and the Person. {Elohim, in Person man, and in Nature God; which you should keep perpetually in mind.} God is the being itself, and the Word is the disposition, and the Word was God; and every quality in the Nature of the Word has passed over to the man, who is now in God in the same way in which the Word was formerly with God. And with this the being itself is altogether united and blended [Assuming that innixa in the text is a misprint for immixta, as used in the preceding paragraph.]; because God was in CHRIST, reconciling the world [2 Cor. 5:19]. Again, consider what the expression, figure means, and you shall see that you have been deceived by you mathematical fancy, for the very thing was, was a figure of CHRIST. A text is clear which to former ages was unintelligible: I will carve, he says, his figure [Zech. 3:9]. In the Hebrew this is what it says: Hinneni mephatteach pittuchah, [Behold, I will engrave his engraving.], that is Behold I, carving, or laying bare, his figure or image, just as an artificer fashions a statue by carving a stone and laying it bare. For Pathach [to open, hence to carve] means, as it were, to carve a stone by laying bare, and a graving-tool to uncover a hidden form; and in this way, when the divine stone was cutout of the mountain [Dan. 2:45], the form in it which formerly lay hidden in darkness was laid bare. With this the Chaldee interpreter [i.e. Targum, the Aramaic version of the Old Testament] agrees, who renders it, Who turns his face to be revealed; for thus the Targum of Jonathan has it, Ha ana laley hezyathaha [Aram.], that is, Behold, I reveal, or open, his vision. And, to say it in a word, both the law and all the prophets very frequently mingle with their histories and prophecies of CHRIST the words face, statue, hidden, concealed, habitation, shadow, because the Spirit of the Lord has carved these words (which CHRIST says [Luke 24:27; Matt. 11:13], were written of him in the law and all the prophets), that under the silver figure may be hidden the golden word which by the secret purpose of God is concealed in historic types as if under a kind of covering even as CHRIST himself was covered under figures; and to wish, apart form this consideration, to apply the prophecies to CHRIST is to be wanting in sense, in which matter the Jews accuse us with good reason.

7. {To the third question.} It is nothing to the prejudice of the hypostasis of the Word that I have said that it is the voice of God. For even Peter says that there was a foreknowledge of CHRIST, by which he was foreknown and foreordained before the foundation of the world, and was manifest afterwards [1 Pet. 1:20]. And this is just what Jeremiah calls the intents of his heart [Jer. 23:20; 30:24]. Yet the Sophists here will hear of nothing else, generally speaking, than that CHRIST was predestined even as one of us. But far from me be such folly. They will not marvel at miracles of divine contrivance, so that they prefer to admit that God can not have especial regard to one particular being rather than another without any qualities. The Son was begotten of God by a distinct and special word, as truly begotten as the world was created. Indeed, by the same power of utterance by which he begot him, he created the world, made light, and gave beings their life; {Light and life are through him. John 1:4.} and in no other way will he give us life than by the generation of the Son. Again, God made himself visible according to the likeness of CHRIST; and he governed the world by that oracle just as CHRIST now governs it. CHRIST was then with God in power, in the Word, and in Person. If all these things apply to them as well as to CHRIST let the Sophists say that they were predestined to be Christs.

8. This hypostasis, therefore, John commends to us by saying, The Word was [John 1:1], and he shows that it was visible. For he declares to us a being that can be perceived, just as he, also, understood it by perception. Nor is it any objection if you say that he knew this by revelation of the Holy Spirit; for the revelation of the Holy Spirit is adapted to the capacity of man, otherwise it were a delusion and not revelation. For John was a man, and had a common intelligence, even as we. Paul also appeals to visions and revelations [2 Cor. 12:1]; and so too always says, The vision of the Prophet, the vision of the Prophecy. Reflect and consider what it is that is representing itself to the mind of john when he begins to relate. For when we relate a deed we say that only that was which we perceive, and only the likeness of the oracle was in the mind of John; hence that was a divinity, he well said, which began to be called a Person by the older writers for the reason that a face was represented. {Consider here why it began to be called a Person.} And the Greek article helps somewhat here, as if pointing out visibly; and a like article is wont to be added in the Hebrew: in the beginning was the speech, the oracle. Lift up your eyes and see.

9. Nor is the case different with the Holy Spirit; for he who feels that there is a spirit in himself speaks of it as distinctly as if he would point it out with his finger. But this being is unknown to the philosophers. Nevertheless, the power of the dispositions of God is in the highest degree admirable, so that they thus exhibit the hypostasis of a visible being. {The very one whom you see with your eyes moves the Spirit within.} And Scripture speaks distinctly of those things that are distinctly perceived; attends rather to our capacity, or ways of perceiveing, than to our philosophies. But we are mad, being unwilling to be instructed from that which adapts itself to us so closely, and bids us try and prove ourselves whether we perceive the Spirit in us, rather than inquire what being it is, or of what Nature. For I have often borne witness that in Scripture there is never any treatment of the Natures. Consider furthermore whether (if you were John the son of Zebedee, and not a philosopher), if you heard the voice of a being whom you do not see, having kept the thought of the voice, you would say, when about to tell of it afterwards, The voice was so and so, and it kept itself thus and so. Much more, then, could this be said of the Word that was visible and had existence. This is the hypostasis of the oracle which John and his elder disciples recommended by the word, being; for there was an existence there which could be perceived by itself, and a clear apprehension of the Person whose brightness, as John says, the darkness did not apprehend [John 1:5]. Indeed, nothing else than the oracle seemed to exist; hence it says of the Word alone, It was. {It never says of the third being, It was.}

10. This same hypostasis David recommends to us by the word, Jah. Speaking of Elohim CHRIST he bids up praise him by his name, which is JAH, that is the existing substance of a hypostasis. Exalt by his name Jah, he says, him that rideth through the deserts [Ps. 68:4]. Likewise, speaking of CHRIST, he says that a people shall be created shall praise Jah [Ps. 102:18], that is, him who exists, who is CHRIST; just as he himself says, I am [Ex. 3:14]. Moses also in his song calls him Jesua, Jah, EL and Elohim [Ex. 15:2]. And because he is called Jah, the Father is called Jehovah; that is, he will give being to him that exists, or will make him to be CHRIST. Elohim CHRIST himself recommends the same hypostasis of himself, saying, I shall be that I shall be [Ex. 3:14 (Pagn.)]. And after he became flesh, CHRIST himself said that he was, and was from the beginning [John 8:58], because the Father caused him to be Jah, that is a hypostasis, even from the beginning. And CHRIST is called Josheb kedem [Ps. 55:19], that is, he that abideth of old, or remaineth from the beginning. Wonderfully well, then, did John, being instructed by the Master, say, He was; since CHRIST said before, I shall be; and David said, being. And once again the Master, I am from the beginning [John 8:58], and in the Apocalypse, Who was, who is, who is to come [Rev. 1:4, 8; 4:8]. See the craftiness of the devilish spirit, by which the truth is nevertheless praised. Simon Magus, in order that he might throw the preaching of Christ into confusion, had himself called, He that standeth, and said that he was He that standeth from the beginning, so that those that did not believe him might not believe Christ either. Indeed, after the likeness of Christ he said that he was the one that had given the law to Moses on Mount Sinia; for all this is very truly said of Christ [Acts 8:9-24].

 


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