A Small Portion

From “Letter to John, Bishop of Jerusalem” (ca. 400)

Some of them say that the image of God which Adam had previously received was lost when he sinned. Others surmise that the body which the Son of God was destined to take of Mary was the image of the Creator. Some identify this image with the soul, others with sensation, others with virtue…

Like drunkards in their cups, they spout now this, now that, when they ought rather to avoid so serious a risk and obtain salvation by simple faith, not denying the words of God. To God they ought to have left the sure and exact knowledge of his own gift, and of the particular way in which he has created human beings in his image and after his likeness. Forsaking this course, they have involved themselves in many subtle questions, and through these subtle questions they have been plunged into the mire of sin.

But we, dearly beloved, believe the words of the Lord, and know that God’s image remains in all people, and we leave it to God to know in what respect a person is created in his image. And let no one be deceived by that passage in John’s epistle, which some readers fail to understand, where he says, “Now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” For this refers to the glory which will be revealed to his saints; just as also in another place we read the words “from glory to glory,” of which glory the saints have even in this world received an earnest and a small portion. At their head stands Moses, whose face shone exceedingly, and was bright with the brightness of the sun. Next to him comes Elijah, who was caught up into heaven in a chariot of fire, and did not feel the effects of the flame. Stephen, too, when he was being stoned, had the face of an angel visible to all.

St. Epiphanius (ca. 310-403) was a Palestinian Jewish bishop and theologian, one of the most important controversialists of his time. After many years of life as a monk, he became Bishop of Salamis on Cyprus, and was the author of the Panarion, a handbook for combatting heresy. His feast day is May 12.


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