The Good begrudges no-one: Athanasius and Plato

I recently tweeted (yes, that dying star-system) that I had recognised an allusion to Plato’s Timaeus while reading Athanasius recently. I don’t at all think that I am the first to notice this particular allusion, but it was a thrill to recognise it just from the happenstance of working through both authors in Greek at the same time and being able to see the connection.

Athanasius, On the Incarnation 3

Ὁ Θεὸς γὰρ ἀγαθὸς ἐστι, μᾶλλον δὲ πηγὴ τῆς ἀγαθότητος ὑπάρχει· ἀγαθῷ δὲ περὶ οὐδενὸς ἂν γένοιτο φθόνος·
For God is good, or rather exists as the font of goodness; and the Good would have no begrudging about anything.

Plato, Timaeus 29ε:

ἀγαθὸς ἦν, ἀγαθῷ δὲ οὐδεὶς περὶ οὐδενὸς οὐδέποτε ἐγγίγνεται φθόνος
For he was good, and the Good has no begrudging about anything ever.

It is particularly ironic, because Athanasius has just spent a section in 2 laying out the position of Plato and (Platonists) that creation took place from pre-existent matter, a position that appears relatively consistent with the preceeding section of the Timaeus, and now Athanasius is articulating his own Christian position on creation, and sees fit to directly allude to Plato. With, no doubt, the expectation that any educated reader of his own work would make that connection. This is just one small reminder that (i) a large bulk of Greek patristic texts are in dialogue with the whole tradition of Greek philosophy, (ii) reading in Greek pays off.