Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Early Church Fathers Nota Bene Sacred Doctrine

Zanchi on the Trinity (5)

This, too, is a passage I’ve noted before. In it, Zanchi builds on what he has said in sec. IV, which is to say that he draws out the implications of affirming that God’s essence is identical with his “essential properties.”

Text and Translation

V. Nihil simpliciter tale esse aut fieri posse, qualis est Deus, nisi et simpliciter Deus esse possit.

Quapropter, qui aliquam creatam substantiam volunt fieri potuisse aut posse divinarum proprietatum, quibus talis sit, qualis est et Deus, ut simpliciter omnipotens et huiusmodi, participem, hanc quoque fateantur esse aut esse posse Deo ὁμοούσιον necesse est, quando neque Filius ipse simpliciter omnipotens est, nisi quia ὁμοούσιος est Patri, atque ita etiam Spiritus sanctus.

V. That nothing is or is able to become simply what God is, unless it is also able to be God simply.

Therefore, it is necessary that those who wish for it to have been possible or to be possible for any created substance to become a partaker of the divine properties, by which it would be what God also is (as simply omnipotent, and things of this kind), confess that this [created substance] is or is able to be homoousios with God, since not even the Son himself is simply omnipotent, except because he is homoousios with the Father; and so also the Holy Spirit [is omnipotent in this way].1


  1. Whatever being a “partaker of the divine nature” means, it does not mean that the creature essentially shares in the “divine properties.” For a creature to be a particeps of God in this way would mean that the creature is what God is.
  2. Thus if the creature is good as God is good, or powerful as God is powerful, or just as God is just, then the creature is homoousios with God, because in God the essence is identical to the essential properties (via divine simplicity).
  3. For the Son and Spirit themselves have (or, rather, are) goodness, power, and justice (e.g.) by their being homousioi with the Father.
  4. If, then, we affirm that creatures can share in these properties in the same way, we have affirmed polytheism and have added every redeemed creature to the Godhead. Bad juju.
  5. Therefore, we need to think a little harder about patristic statements like the following: “For [the Word of God] was made man that we might be made God” (Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word 54.3); “While His inferior Nature, the Humanity, became God, because it was united to God, and became One Person because the Higher Nature prevailed in order that I too might be made God so far as He is made Man” (Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 29.19); “For [Christ] still pleads even now as Man for my salvation; for He continues to wear the Body which He assumed, until He make me God by the power of His Incarnation” (Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 30.14); “Walk through them, those that are lofty in a godlike manner; those that belong to the body in a manner suitable to them; or rather, altogether in a godlike manner, that you may become a god, ascending from below, for His sake Who came down from on high for ours” (Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 30.21). Again, as in [1.] above, whatever they mean, they cannot mean what Zanchi here denies. Perhaps more on this anon; I’ve touched on it before here.
  1. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

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