Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Sacred Doctrine

Zanchi on the Trinity (4)

I’ve remarked on Zanchi’s fourth section on the Trinity previously, so I will be brief here.

Text and Translation

IIII. Essentiales proprietates in Deo reipsa non differe ab essentia. Agnoscimus enim in Deo propter eius simplicitatem essentiales proprietates re ipsa non differre ab essentia ac proinde illas sine hac communicari non posse ulli creaturae, eoque nec ullam creaturam vere esse dicive posse simpliciter (exempli causa) omnipotentem, simpliciter bonam, iustam, sapientem et id genus alia. Quemadmodum et Dominus Iesus de uno attributo loquens de omnibus docuit, dicendo: ‘Nemo bonus (simpliciter) nisi Deus’.

IIII: That in God, the essential properties in fact do not differ from the essence.

For we recognize that in God, on account of his simplicity, the essential properties do not in fact differ from the essence; and that, consequently, they are not able to be communicated to any creature without it; and that, for that reason, no creature truly is, or is able to be called, simply omnipotent (for example), simply good, just, wise, and other things of this kind, just as the Lord Jesus too, though speaking about only one attribute, taught about them all, when he said, “No one is good (simply) but God.”1


  1. Zanchi continues to affirm simplicity to maintain strict monotheism and the notion of God as First Cause. In the classical understanding, to say that God has parts implies that he is dependent on those parts; if that is so, he cannot be the First Cause and cannot be the Absolute.
  2. But if that is the case, just as God’s essence and existence are the same, so God’s essential properties and essence must be the same.
  3. But if that is the case, no creature can share in God’s essential properties or attributes as God has (or, rather, is) them.
  4. Therefore, while creatures might be able to be called “good,” “wise,” “just,” and so on analogously to God, they can never be good, wise, or just as God is.
  5. Again, it is important to note that Zanchi believes this to be required by Scripture: this must be, he thinks, what Jesus meant when he said in Mark 10.18/Luke 18.19 that no one is good but God alone (Baschera and Moser give Matt. 19.17 as the reference, but the text is slightly different there; Zanchi’s phrasing seems to be drawn from Mark/Luke). Thus he glosses Jesus’ meaning as “No one is good simply but God,” that is, no creature is good in precisely the same way as God is. That one attribute is taken to be generalizable to the rest.
  6. For patristic support of Zanchi’s doctrine, Baschera and Moser refer in their notes to this section to Augustine, On Faith and the Creed 9.20, a text Lewis Ayres (Nicaea and Its Legacy, 370-2), discusses briefly as illustrative of the position of “the early Augustine.” There Augustine says: “But men like these should make their heart pure, so far as they can, in order that they may have power to see that in the substance of God there is not anything of such a nature as would imply that therein substance is one thing, and that which is accident to substance (aliud quod accidat subsantiœ) another thing, and not substance; whereas whatsoever can be taken to be therein is substance. These things, however, can easily be spoken and believed; but seen, so as to reveal how they are in themselves, they absolutely cannot be, except by the pure heart.”
  1. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.

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