Category Archives: Quotes

Gregory the Theologian on Athanasius

“He was the first and only one, or with the concurrence of but a few, to venture to confess in writing and with entire clearness and distinctness the unity of Godhead and essence of the three Persons and thus to attain in later days, under the influence of inspiration, to the same faith in regard to the Holy Spirit as had been bestowed at an earlier time on most of the Fathers in regard to the Son.”

Oration 21.33 as quoted in Athanasius (The Early Church Fathers), 24.

B”H

 

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Gregory the Theologian on the Divine Monarchy

29.2. The three most ancient opinions concerning God are Anarchia, Polyarchia, and Monarchia. The first two are the playthings of the children of Hellas, and may they continue to be so. For Anarchy is a thing without order; and the Rule of Many is factious, and thus anarchical, and thus disorderly. For both these theological positions tend to the same thing, namely disorder; and thus to dissolution, for disorder is the first step to dissolution. But Monarchy is that axiom which we hold in honor. It is, however, a Monarchy that is not limited to one person, for it is possible for unity, if at variance with itself, to come into a condition of plurality; but we hold it to be made out of an equality of nature and a union of mind, and an identity of motion, and a consilience of its elements to unity (a thing which is impossible for created natures) so that though it is numerically distinct there is no severance of essence involved. Therefore Unity having from all eternity arrived by motion at Duality, found its rest in Trinity. This is what we mean by Father and Son and Holy Spirit. The Father is the Begetter and the Emitter; though without passion, of course, and without reference to time, and not in a corporeal manner. The Son is the Begotten, and the Holy Spirit the Emission; (I say this since I do not know how else this can be expressed in terms that wholly exclude material conceptions). But we shall not venture to speak of “An overspill of goodness,” as one of the Greek Philosophers dared to say, as if God were like a wine-bowl filled to overflowing, saying this in plain words in his oration on the First and Second Causes. Let us never look on this matter of divine generation as being involuntary, like some natural overflow, hard to be retained, for it is by no means fitting to our conception of the Godhead. Therefore let us confine ourselves within our proper limits, and speak of the “Unbegotten” and the “Begotten” and that which “Proceeds from the Father,” as in one place God the Word himself expressed it.

Oration 29 as reproduced in The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, 699.

B”H

Quote of the Day

Matthew W. Bates:

Accordingly, despite the I-am-merely-a-historian claim offered by some working in this field, I am grateful that we live in an era in which it is increasingly recognized that there is no neutral, objective, independent ground that is unsullied by prior commitments and worldviews upon which any historian might stand when examining these matters. With respect to the study of anything, Christian origins included, everyone is equally intellectually positioned while undertaking the task–those outside, inside, on the fence, self-avowedly neutral, bitter, “in love with Jesus,” intrigued, congenial, hostile. Yet, this inescapable perspectivalism when doing historical theology must not become an excuse for lack of fair-mindedness or intellectual rigor in seeking the truth. The best we can do is to try to be honest with ourselves and with others about the lenses that we bring, exercise a healthy self-suspicion, and then to pursue the truth wherever it might lead.

The Birth of the Trinity, 11.

B”H

Boyarin on the Jewishness of High Christology

Daniel Boyarin starts his article “Enoch, Ezra, and the Jewishness of ‘High Christology’,” in Fourth Ezra and Second Baruch: Reconstruction after the Fall (ed. Matthias Henze and Gabriele Boccaccini; JSJSup 164; Leiden: Brill, 2013) saying:

The proposal being advanced in this paper is that at least since Daniel and almost surely earlier, there had been a tradition within Israel that saw God as doubled in the form of an old man and a younger human-like figure, sharing the divine throne (or sharing, rather, two equal thrones). Although not necessary for the present argument, my guess is that this doubling of the godhead within much of Israel’s tradition goes back to the original El/Yʾ merger. The vision of Daniel 7, which represents this tradition, has been eventually suppressed (but not entirely successfully) by the author of Daniel 7 in his pesher on the vision rendering it a metaphor for the faithful of Israel. We find the same divine human figure in both the Similitudes of Enoch as well as in 4Ezra 13, where again the import of the image as a second anthropomorphic divine figure has been “suppressed” in the pesher to this vision as well (as seen already by Michael Stone and Jonas Greenfield). Only in the Similitudes has this religious position been “allowed,” as it were, free rein. In the two apocalypses (both c. 1st cent. ce), moreover, we see how the second younger divine “man” has been associated with the Messiah. According to all of these traditions the Messiah is a kind of divine man or man-God. These texts, which, of course, have not in any way “influenced” the Gospels, provide, nonetheless, strong evidence for the Jewish religious background of the divinity of Jesus. It is this view of God, given full rein in Enoch, that explains the development of High Christology as fully explicable within Jewish religious history, with the enormous innovation on the part of the Gospels being only the insistence that the divine man is already here as a historical human being and not as a prophecy for the future. Apocalypse now! This provides, on my view, a much more appropriate historical explanatory model than one that depends on visionary experiences of Jesus on the Throne allegedly ungrounded in prior speculation, as per the view of, e.g. Larry Hurtado and others who advance similar views. Finally, as a coda, it is suggested that the figure of Metatron as well as the efforts of suppression of that figure in late ancient rabbinic and associated literature continue the ongoing history of inner-Jewish conflict around the human-like divine figure that is evidenced in the earlier literature as well.

This point of view contributes to a way of conceiving of ancient and late ancient Jewish religious history that is not dependent on the notion of discrete and bounded Judaisms (including even Christian Judaism!). When I lectured on this topic recently at Lehrhaus Judaica in Berkeley, one of my audience asked me why I rely so much on the “out takes” of Judaism, Enoch, and Baruch, and Ezra. I answered that I am interested in Judaism, the Director’s Cut. My overall contention is that a historical description of the disputatious religious practices (including textual practices) of the Israelites of the first century can accommodate the Gospels (and even Paul) and the very highest of New Testament Christologies within the borders of what can be historically, phenomenologically described as Jewry. I thus disagree with views that see “early Christianity” as something other than “Judaism” or, alternatively, in order to save the phenomena, deny the originary nature of high Christologies altogether, seeing them as later and externally motivated mutations. The “out-takes” of the extracanonical apocalypses, the Similitudes of Enoch and Fourth Ezra, are crucial to my argument. (pp. 337-38)

It’s a fascinating piece. I don’t know how convinced people will be by it but if these couple of paragraphs don’t have you curious to read it then I don’t know what will!

B”H

Emphasis

I just started C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and he explains in the preface that the book was originally a series of talks that he gave. Apparently in the first edition of the book he tried to maintain the conversational tone and leave the writing as close to the way he spoke as possible. Upon further reflection he decided to change that. He said:

A ‘talk’ on the radio should, I think, be as like real talk as possible, and should not sound like an essay being read aloud. In my talks I had therefore used all the contractions and colloquialisms I ordinarily use in conversation. In the printed version I reproduced this, putting don’t and we’ve for do not and we have. And wherever, in the talks, I had made the importance of a word clear by the emphasis of my voice, I printed it in italics. I am now inclined to think that this was a mistake—an undesirable hybrid between the art of speaking and the art of writing. A talker ought to use variations of voice for emphasis because his medium naturally lends itself to that method: but a writer ought not to use italics for the same purpose. He has his own, different, means of bringing out the key words and ought to use them. (Mere Christianity, vii)

I’ve never had a problem with italics for emphasis but Lewis raises an interesting point. A writer’s task is descriptive. The writer is supposed to make us see and hear and feel certain things through the use of the written word. Italics show emphasis but not necessarily the type of emphasis intended. A good writer will find a way to make the proper emphasis felt by allowing words to emphasize other words. This simple statement will revolutionize the way I read, and hopefully, the way I write.

B”H

Quote of the Day

Harry Austryn Wolfson:

In battling with each other, the Fathers did not battle as partisans of certain opposing schools of Greek philosophy; they battled only as advocates of opposing interpretations of Scripture

“Philosophical Implications of Arianism and Apollinarianism,” 13.

B”H