trinitarian or unitarian? 11 – a trinitarian passage in Hippolytus? (Dale)

mrs-butterworthsWas Hippolytus a trinitarian or a unitarian? In the last two posts, I’ve argued that he was the latter.

In the most recent translation of his Against Noetus, though, the translator thinks he is a trinitarian. He entitles this section, “The three Persons of the Trinity are One God”. (p. 74) Is he right? Here’s the passage, pretty much the whole chapter:

Well then, brethren, all this is what the Scriptures point out to us. This economy that blessed John, too, passes on to us through the witness of his Gospel, and he maintains that this Word is God… [John 1:1]

But then, if the Word, who is God, is with God, someone might well say: “What about this statement that there are two gods?” While I will not say that there are two gods – but rather one – I will say there are two persons; and that a third economy is the grace of the Holy Spirit. For though the Father is one, there are two persons – because there is the Son as well: and the third too, – the Holy Spirit. The Father gives orders, the Word performs the work, and is revealed as Son, through whom belief is accorded to the Father. By a harmonious economy the result is a single God. This is because there is one God. [Another translator here has: "The economy of harmony is led back to the one God; for God is One." (Vol 5, p. 228)] For the one who commands is the Father, the one who obeys is the Son, and the one who promotes mutual understanding is the Holy Spirit. He who is Father is over all things, and the Son is through all things, and the Holy Spirit is in all things. (cf. Eph 4,6) We can get no idea of the one God other than by really believing in Father and Son and Holy Spirit. Of course the Jews glorified the Father, but they offered no thanksgiving (cf. Rom 1,21), since they had no knowledge of the Son. The disciples did have knowledge of the Son, but not in the Holy Spirit, so they even denied [him].

Now the Father’s own Word was aware of the economy and the will of the Father – that the Father is determined to be glorified in no other way than this. So after the resurrection he passed this on to his disciples with the words: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28,19) – showing that all those who miss out any one of these did not glorify God perfectly. For it is by means of this Triad that the Father is glorified. For the Father willed, the Son brought it about, the Spirit made it clear. Now the whole of the Scriptures are a proclamation about this. (Contra Noetum 14, pp. 74-6, trans. Robert Butterworth, bold added, parenthentic references added by translator)

The translator strains here to find trinitarianism – to find three equally divine persons within the one God. He wants the one God here which is mentioned several times to be the Trinity. But it’s the Father, throughout, as his translation makes clear. (The one sentence excepted – the one in the middle I give another, surely trinitarian, translator’s rendering of.)

Correctly, I think, he translates the Greek word triados as Triad – meaning a plurality of three entities – as “Triad” and not “Trinity,” which would tend to suggest the anachronism of a tripersonal deity here. I’ve always thought the idea of “economy” was obscure; but the basic idea is that God, the Father, has a plan for his working in history, and that is through these lesser deities of Son and Spirit. The coordination of the actions of these three beings shows that it is all the plan of one being, the one God, the Father. As Paul has it in Ephesians 4:6, which the translator sees Hippolytus referencing above:

There is one Lord [Jesus], one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, over all, through all and within all. (Eph 4:6, New Jerusalem)

If Hippolytus does have this in mind, note that he’s assigned the “through” and “within/in” to the Son and Spirit. But his idea is that it is God, the Father, working through them, as to his economy. This leaves him as “the one God and Father of all, over all.”

Trinitarian or unitarian?

About Dale

Dale Tuggy is a Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.

35 Responses to trinitarian or unitarian? 11 – a trinitarian passage in Hippolytus? (Dale)

  1. villanovanus says:

    @ Dale

    First, I wonder why, after you had provided your quotations from Hippolytus’ Against Noetus at your post “Hippolytus two-stage logos theory” from Schaff’s translation (see Against the Heresy of One Noetus , § 10-11, 16) you now feel the need of providing quotations from Butterworth’s translation. Schaff’s “trinitarian spin” (see Against the Heresy of One Noetus , § 14) is just as strong as Butterworth’s is.

    Second, the ONLY reason why Hippolytus used the Greek word trias, is because … he wrote in Greek. So he would not have use for the Latin word trinitas (which, BTW, was first used by Tertullian). So the reason why Butterworth did not use the English word “trinity” in his translation is NOT because it “would tend to suggest the anachronism of a tripersonal deity”, BUT because he simply wanted to be more literally faithful to the Greek original.

    Third, the whole point, once again, is NOT your “trinitarian or unitarian” question, BUT whether Hippolytus had a personal understanding of the Word, prior to its incarnation in/as the true, literal Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, and whether he had at all a personal understanding of the Spirit.

    I have no time to go into this in detail, but ALL your problems with the trinity would vanish like snow on the water IF you managed to see the radical difference of the terms on the left and on the right of this series of correspondences:

    God as Wholly Other from the world Great Chain of Being
    Creatio ex nihilo Emanation
    Word and Spirit as God’s eternal “hands” Personal (pre)existing subordinated hypostases

    (The “trinity” is God with eternal “hands” gone sour …)

    MdS

  2. Dale says:

    ” the whole point, once again, is NOT your “trinitarian or unitarian” question, BUT whether Hippolytus had a personal understanding of the Word, prior to its incarnation in/as the true, literal Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, and whether he had at all a personal understanding of the Spirit.”

    As I’m made clear several times, I do not think that is the whole point. The central or main issue between trinitarian and unitarian Christians is this: is the one God Yahweh the Trinity, or the Father? Is the one true God tripersonal or rather a perfect self. That is my topic. Christology is another matter, which I will not focus on in this series.

  3. villanovanus says:

    P.S. For the sake of clarity:

    God as Wholly Other from the world ? Great Chain of Being
    Creatio ex nihilo ? Emanation
    Word and Spirit as God’s eternal “hands” ? Personal (pre)existing subordinated hypostases

  4. villanovanus says:

    @ Dale [#2, April 3, 2013 at 9:34 am]

    [a] The central or main issue between trinitarian and unitarian Christians is this: is the one God Yahweh the Trinity, or the Father? [b] Is the one true God tripersonal or rather a perfect self. [c] That is my topic. Christology is another matter, which I will not focus on in this series.

    [a] You are deluded if you insist believing that there is a logical-philosophical answer to that question. The ONLY available answer is that the “trinity” is unsupported in the Scripture (OR and NT): one can only see it there if one projects it there a posteriori.

    [b] As you know perfectly well, Moreland and Craig, with their “Trinity Monotheism” deny that your dilemma is a proper dilemma: from a logical-philosophical it isn’t, it is a false dilemma.

    [c] The question of the “trinity” would be entirely irrelevant to Christians (a mere toy for theologians – as Kant must have said somewhere) if it was not inextricably tied to the question of Jesus’ divinity, and how he is related to the Eternal God.

    MdS

  5. Mark says:

    Dale,

    Even JND Kelly acknowledges that Noetus taught the Father and Son are one identical being, which is Sabellienism. This very same Sabellienism is the doctrine held by the Reformed and Catholic alike, although they use the word three “persons” one essence or what have you, they actual mean one essence and three modes. Coeternal, coeesential are abusive words, as one thing cannot really be coeternal or coeesential with itself.

    If you are interested, please visist our facebook page at Nicene Headquarters, We believe the One God is the Father alone, not a complex notion of three persons, as the Nicene Creed teaches.

    Thanks,

    Mark

  6. villanovanus says:

    @ Mark [#5, April 3, 2013 at 10:29 am]

    This is how the Nicene Head-Quarters Open Group welcomes you at Facebook:

    Welcome to the Nicene Head-Quarters; A theological discussion group dedicated to the promotion of biblical and historic Trinitarianism as set forth in Scripture and in the original Nicene Creed of 325 AD.

    Are you perchance suggesting that “historic Trinitarianism as set forth in Scripture and in the original Nicene Creed of 325 AD” is nothing but Sabellianism (or, modalism, or modalistic monarchianism) in disguise?

    Thanks,

    MdS

  7. Mark says:

    Hi Mds,

  8. Mark says:

    Hi MdS,

    No, what I am saying, is the Augustinian model, or traditional Latin model, simply known as three persons in one being, and One God is the essence or Trinity, this is Sabellienism. In evangelical groups, they simply call it three whos and one what, in reformed group, where people are more sophisticated, they will say, it is one essence, in three modes of subsistence, but whatever they say, it is the same as the Sabellienism taught by Noetus, (Father Son are one identical being, etc.,)

    We in Nicene Headquarters, affirms the original Creed, and affirm the One God to be the Father alone. We are showing our reformed or other friends, in the Bible, and in the early Fathers, whatever different opinions they may have regarding the Son, metaphysical durations, potential existence, in the father, or another person, whatever it may be, one thing is certain, that we have One God, Yahweh Elohim Yahweh One, this is the Father.

    Welcome to you check it out.

    Mark

  9. villanovanus says:

    @ Mark [#5, April 3, 2013 at 4:30 pm]

    you cannot say, that you uphold “historic Trinitarianism as set forth in Scripture and in the original Nicene Creed of 325 AD” AND, at the same time, say that coessential (homoousios) is an “abusive word” …

    … for the simple reason that the ” original Nicene Creed of 325 AD” says, precisely …

    [We believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father the only-begotten; that is, of the essence [ousia] of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance [viz. "coessential", homoousios] with the Father.

    I trust you see the manifest inconsistency of your position.

    MdS

  10. Mark says:

    MdS,

    “Co-essential” and “of one substance” are abusive words indeed. The original “homoousios” does not mean “of one substance” (co-essential), but as the very word itself suggest, it mean sameness not numerical identity as if the Father and Son are really one being.

    By Historical trinitarianism, we simply mean, we believe in three things One God the Father and two other persons beside him. The later Augustinian model is not what we intended by our word “historical trinitarianism”. I know it is a mess.

    My main point is this, the so called “trinitarianism of one being three person or one essence three modes” is nothing bu Sabellienism. By that I mean, all the reformed churches, evangelicals or so are Sabellinist.

  11. villanovanus says:

    @ Mark [#10, April 4, 2013 at 9:46 am]

    You are desperately clasping at straws.

    First, far from being “abusive words”, “of one substance” (or “co-essential”) are perfectly adequate and legitimate English translations of the Greek homoousios. It would be interesting to know what alternative translation you have come up with at the Nicene Head-Quarters Open Group …

    Second, what do you mean by “sameness not numerical identity”? How, from your POV, would Father and Son be the “same”?

    MdS

  12. Mark says:

    MdS,

    Hang on brother, the greek word ought to be translated as “consubstanliali” to be accurate, but it was translated as “unius substantiae” by Hosius and then the later English translation.

    “Unius substantiae” means monoousios that is same numerical identity, Father and Son are one being.

    “Same essence” or “Consubstantial” mean Father and Son are two beings, but of the same kind or type, this is to affirm the Son’s real sonship, he is really an offspring from God.

    Of one substance can mean 1) Two things are same type of things or 2) Same thing or same being in cardinal numeric. What I mean by abusive is people generally force meaning #2 to this “one”

    Thanks for the scrunity!

    Mark

  13. villanovanus says:

    @ Mark [#12, April 4, 2013 at 9:17 pm]

    Let’s get to the bottom of this.

    1. You share the POV of the “Nicene Head-Quarters”, a “theological discussion group dedicated to the promotion of biblical and historic Trinitarianism as set forth in Scripture and in the original Nicene Creed of 325 AD”. So, if words make any sense at all, you approve of the phrasing of the “original Nicene Creed of 325 AD”.

    2. The Greek original of the “original Nicene Creed of 325 AD” contains this phrase, homoousion tô patri, of which the Latin liturgical version is consubstantiálem Patri, although there are also other Latin translations, viz. unius substantiae cum patre and eiusdem substantiae cum patre.

    Question: which English translation of the Greek original, homoousion tô patri (that, please confirm, you agree with) do you consider (the only one) acceptable?

    MdS

    P.S. Are you at all aware that the phrase pro pantôn tôn aiônôn (“before all ages/aeons”) does NOT appear in the original Nicene Creed of 325 AD, BUT was added at Constantinople, 381 AD?

  14. The central or main issue between trinitarian and unitarian Christians is this: is the one God Yahweh the Trinity, or the Father? Is the one true God tripersonal or rather a perfect self.

    My line in “Trinity, Filioque and Semantic Ascent” here http://philpapers.org/rec/BABTFA was that “Father” is ambiguous. In economic contexts it refers to a Trinitarian Person; in theological contexts, in particular those concerning Trinitarian processions, it refers to the Trinity in toto. So (next move) I’ll argue that the “processions” really concern the ontological dependence of Trinitarian Persons in the Trinity. One way of working this account is that when OT talks about Yahweh = God doing this that or the other thing in the world it’s talking about the Father–and also maybe when Paul in Athens talks about the Unknown God. However when theologians talk about God in three persons they’re talking about the Trinity in toto. As you know, this systematic ambiguity line has figured in work on other identity puzzles. I’d be interested in thoughts. I’m also intersted in any info about the ambiguity of “Father.” I think it’s in the literature and would appreciated references.

    I think you’re setting the bar for Trinitarianism too high. At least so I say as a revisionary metaphysician who holds that ordinary language isn’t theory-laden, and that we just want to make ordinary talk, including ordinary religious talk, come out true. Think of Berkeley representing himself as a champion of commonsense and of the plain man, who had no notion of Lockean “material substance.” Or PvI holding, in the ontology room, that tables don’t exist, even though in Casa de Bandini he’s perfectly prepared to affirm that there’s a Margharita on the table.

    Maybe there’s a metatheological issue. I think the aim is to see what logical tricks we can play to make church-noises come out true, or at least justify making church-noises, while minimizing metaphysical commitments. We don’t want theology to disrupt our secular worldviews. Theological minimalism!

  15. Abel says:

    Ms Baber
    Correspondents have been trying every logical trick in the book to make their ‘church noises’ come out’ right’ – and to date have failed dismally.
    It seems that once the .virus. of trinitarian thinking has become ‘imbedded in the DNA’ – no amount of clear thinking will erase it.
    This is particularly true of Roman Catholics and ex-Catholics.!!!
    Best Wishes
    Abel

  16. villanovanus says:

    @ H. E. Baber [#14, April 8, 2013 at 5:52 pm]

    Your paper is well worth reading, so I take the liberty of providing the link to the (free albeit unofficial) full text of your Trinity, Filioque and Semantic Ascent

    While I reserve to comment on your paper more in depth, I will, for the moment. make few comments on what you’ve written here.

    I don’t see how your approach of “systematic ambiguity”, viz. that, in the Bible, “’Father’ is ambiguous” is of much help, because, clearly, in ALL passages where God is referred to as “Father” (‘ab) in the OT (see, in particular: Ex. 4:22; Deut. 14:1; Deut. 32:5, 6; 2 Sam. 7:14; 1 Chr. 28:6; 1 Chr. 29:10; Psa. 68:5; Psa. 89:26; Isa. 1:2; Isa. 8:18; Isa. 9:6; Isa. 63:16; Isa. 64:8; Jer. 3:19; Hos. 1:10; Hos. 11:1) YHWH God is “Father” of His “peculiar people”, Israel, and/or of the King of Israel, and/or, in a looser sense, the protector of the weak ones (“father of the fatherless”).

    OTOH, when we read about “the Father” in the NT (see, in particular: Matt. 3:17; Matt. 5:45; Matt. 6:4 [v. 6.] Matt. 6:8, 9 Luke 11:2. Matt. 7:11; Matt. 10:20, 29, 32, 33; Matt. 11:25-27; Matt. 12:50; Matt. 13:43; Matt. 15:13; Matt. 16:17, 27; Matt. 18:10, 14, 19; Matt. 20:23; Matt. 26:29, 39 v. 42.; Mark 8:38; Mark 11:25, 26; Mark 13:32; Luke 2:49; Luke 10:21, 22; Luke 11:13; Luke 22:29; Luke 23:46; Luke 24:49; John 1:14, 18; John 2:16; John 4:21, 23; John 5:17-23, 36, 37, 43; John 6:27, 32, 44-46; John 8:19, 27, 38, 41, 42, 49; John 10:15, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36-38; John 12:26-28, 50; John 13:3; John 14:2, 6-13, 16, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 31; John 15:8-10, 16, 23, 24, 26; John 16:3, 10, 15, 23, 25-28; John 17:1, 5, 11, 21, 24; John 20:17, 21; Acts 1:4; Acts 2:33; Rom. 1:3, 4, 7 1 Cor. 1:3; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; 6:23; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; Tit. 1:4. Rom. 8:15; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Cor. 15:24; 2 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 6:18; Gal. 1:1, 4; Gal. 4:4-7; Eph. 1:3, 17; Eph. 2:18; Eph. 3:14; Eph. 4:6; Eph. 5:20; Col. 1:3, 12; Col. 2:2; Col. 3:17; 1 Thess. 1:1, 3; 1 Thess. 3:11, 13; 2 Thess. 1:1, 2; 2 Thess. 2:16; Heb. 1:5, 6; Heb. 12:9; Jas. 1:17, 27; Jas. 3:9; 1 Pet. 1:2, 3, 17; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 2:1, 13, 15, 22-24; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 4:14; 2 John 3, 4, 9; Jude 1; Rev. 1:5, 6; Rev. 3:5; Rev. 14:1) it is, invariably either spoken by Jesus, or associated with Jesus.

    So, both in the OT and in the NT, the “unitarian” may feel entitled to read “Father” in a “unitarian” sense and the “trinitarian” may feel entitled to read “Father” in a “trinitarian” sense. A bit too “ambiguous”, methinks …

    Another problem with trying to make sense of God as “Father” against the Scripture is that your approach makes it virtually impossible to establish what is the semantic/metaphysical/theological import of dabar and ruwach (see Psalm 33:6). Are they YHWH’s (im-personal) “arms” (see Deut 33:27)? Are they obscure “anticipations” of the “trinitarian” Son and Holy Spirit? I really don’t think one can have it both ways …

    Yet another problem with trying to make sense of God as “Father” against the OT is that I don’t see how theophanies could be possibly interpreted as christophanies, because to interpret OT theophanies as christophanies would require to admit a personal (albeit pre-human) revelation of the “Son”, which would, I believe, be fatal to your “trinitarian ambiguity”. While the rejection of OT theophanies as christophanies is absolutely fine by me, a large portion of “trinitarians” would object to that rejection …

    I believe the above should be enough, for now. More to come (perhaps) …

    MdS

    P.S. I find it rather paradoxical that you speak of “Berkeley representing himself as a champion of commonsense and of the plain man”. If there is someone who corresponds to that profile, it is the arch-critic of Berkeley, on behalf of “commonsense and of the plain man”: Thomas Reid …

  17. Mark says:

    MdS,

    Thanks for your reply.

  18. Mark says:

    The English translation of the word “homoousion” should be “consubstantial”, I do not accept, the translation of “one in substance” which implies “monoousion”, the reason why I tell you the evangelical and reformed folks are Sabellianists is because they actually hold to a “monoousion”, ie, the Father and Son is one identical being.

    Yes, there are additions or deletions in 381, and I noted that post Nicae, stuff gets really messy. 381 does not necessary teaches things contrary to 325, but with their modification, it can easily be interpretated as against 325.

    So if you have time, please do visist the FB and we can have some discussion. I also have some sincere questions to ask you guys.

  19. villanovanus says:

    @ Mark [#18, April 10, 2013 at 3:34 pm]

    Thank you for your reply.

    Have you ever considered that, before the pro pantôn tôn aiônôn (“before all ages/aeons”) was added to the original Nicene Creed of 325 AD, the phrase homoousion tô patri (“of the same substance as the Father”), which is (in the original Nicene Creed of 325 AD) explicitly referred to Jesus Christ (born in Palestine ca. 6 BCE), meant something entirely different from what it came to mean in the revised and expanded Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 AD, viz. that the divinity of Jesus Christ (NOT of some un-scriptural “eternal Son”) is essentially the same as that of God, the Father Almighty?

    MdS

  20. Mark says:

    MdS,

    I do feel like things have been messed up in 381, although I don’t have hard evidence for it, but with the changes, I believe this creed can be interpreted to go alone with a Triune God, the concept of triune God, we in Nicene Headquarter strongly oppose. What do you suggest this word “consubstantial” mean in 325? Do you agree with Eusibius?

    Thanks,

    Mark

  21. villanovanus says:

    @ Mark [#20, April 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm]

    [a] I do feel like things have been messed up in 381, although I don’t have hard evidence for it, but with the changes, I believe this creed can be interpreted to go alone with a Triune God, the concept of triune God, we in Nicene Headquarter strongly oppose. [b] What do you suggest this word “consubstantial” mean in 325? [c] Do you agree with Eusibius?

    [a] First, if you “believe this creed [of 318] can be interpreted to go alone [sic] with a Triune God, the concept of triune God”, while you hold on to the original Nicene Creed of 325 AD, then OBVIOUSLY you believe that the two have some essential differences.

    Second, the “hard evidence” for all the things that had been changed between the original Nicene Creed of 325 AD and the heavily revised Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 AD is here: Comparison between Creed of 325 and Creed of 381. Essentially, from 325 to 381, Jesus Christ had been construed into a pre-existing person (pro pantôn tôn aiônôn, “before all ages/aeons”), and the Holy Spirit, which (which …), at Nicea 325 AD was no more than mentioned (“And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost”), in 381 AD was explicitly proclaimed to be the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.

    Third, there is no doubt that, by 381, the “co-equal, co-eternal, tri-personal trinity” had been accepted by (imposed on?) the overwhelming majority of the Church bishops and theologians, and that, already the previous year, the Edict of Thessalonica, jointly issued by Theodosius I, Gratian, and Valentinian II on 27 February 380, established that “the title of Catholic Christians” would be conferred ONLY on those who “believe in the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity”.

    [b] I have already explained this in my previous post. Anyway, let me repeat it here.

    Contrary to Arius’ claim that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was a creature (albeit the first and most perfect of creatures), but also contrary to the (heavily Hellenistic) Subordinationism of the status quo for which Christianity had gradually settled, by the time of the break of the Arian Controversy (ca. 318 AD), the Nicene Council Fathers, by affirming that Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father Almighty, was homoousion tô patri (“of the same substance/essence as the Father”), without mentioning his pre-existence (the pro pantôn tôn aiônôn, “before all ages/aeons” which was added ONLY later), affirmed (whether it was their clear intention or not) that the divinity of Jesus Christ (NOT of some un-scriptural “eternal Son”) is essentially the same as that of God, the Father Almighty.

    [c] Presumably you are referring to Eusebius of Caesarea. If so, I most definitely (with Marcellus of Ancyra), reject his theology. While he disagreed with Arius’ breach of the status quo and open affirmation of the creation of the “Son of God”, OTOH he shared Arius’ Subordinationism. Essentially, we may say that he was very close to Origen’s peculiar mixture of emanationism and subordinationism (see J. Lyons The Cosmic Christ in Origen and Teilhard de Chardin, 1982, p. 124), whereby the “Son” and the “Holy Spirit” were two hypostases emanated from the Father, and co-eternal with the Father, although NOT co-equal.

    MdS

  22. Mark says:

    MdS,

    Thanks for taking your time and showing me in detail your opinion, I agree with your understanding of “consubstantial”.

  23. Mark says:

    It appears you know about many resources and history, it will be nice if you can do some discussion with folks at Nicene Headquarter, so that we may mutually benefit from each other and grow together, I know folks there disagree strongly with you guys’ view, but I think there can be some friendly discussion for mutual benefit.

    The view at Nicene Headquarter is pretty much that of Eusibius and Origen but not Origen’s Neo-platonism.

  24. villanovanus says:

    @ Mark [#23, April 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm]

    The view at Nicene Headquarter is pretty much that of Eus[e]bius and Origen but not Origen’s Neo-platonism.

    I am afraid that, as already explained, Eusebius’ and Origen’s emanationism and subordinationism, even if you (try to) ignore how imbued they are with Neo-Platonism, are a Hellenistic distortion of Christianity.

    Thank you for your replies and repeated invitation.

    MdS

  25. Mark says:

    MdS, can you email me your email address? I know you guys are sincere people, and I would like to see how certain OT passages are interpreted by you stripping away all denominational confession but just the Bible.

  26. villanovanus says:

    Mark,

    I can do that, when you let me know your email address. :)

  27. Mark says:

    xuyigang@gmail.com By the way, MdS, how do you view the fact that the Hebrew Chp. 1 concept of an exact image of God’s hypostasis was directly taken from Wisdom of Solomon Chp. 7 (exact same word nowhere in NT but Wisdom of Solomon)?

  28. villanovanus says:

    @ Mark [#23, April 13, 2013 at 12:14 pm]

    I am not sure what you mean by “exact same word”.

    We read in Hebrews that the Son of God is apaugasma tês doxês kai charactêr tês hypostaseôs autou (lit. “the brightness of the glory and the [express] image of the person of Him” – Heb 1:3)

    In the Wisdom of Solomon, we read that Wisdom is apaugasma phôtos aidiou kai esoptron akêlidôton tês tou theou energeias kai eikôn thes agathotêtos autou (lit. “[the] brightness of the everlasting light and [the] unspotted mirror of the power activity of God, and the image of His goodness” – Wis 7:26).

    So, while certainly there is close affinity between the notions of God’s logos (which “became flesh” in/as Jesus, the Son of God) and of God’s sophia, there are (at least) two relevant differences in the above verses:

    1. There are two words in Greek that are translated in English as “image”: eikôn and charactêr. eikôn means “image” in the (looser) sense of “representation, resemblance or likeness”. charactêr means “image” in the (stricter) sense of “faithful image of the original” like the impression of a seal on wax is faithful to the seal itself.

    2. Wisdom 7:26 does NOT use, referring to God, the Father Almighty, of Whom Jesus is the “[faithful] image”, the word hypostasis (person) BUT the word agathotês (“goodness”).

    MdS

  29. @villanovanus, sorry for not checking back sooner–I appreciate your comments on my paper. I really can’t assess the import of the Biblical passages you cited. In any case this is out of the scope of what I want to do. The Trinity doctrine isn’t in the Bible: it’s an invention of later writers, who pretended that it was there at least implicitly. But I’m not a Biblical scholar. I’m interested in the later writers, particularly those whose doctrines were blessed by councils and whose terminology found it’s way into liturgy and church talk. If the kind of account I suggest is inconsistent with the Bible, it doesn’t bother me: my project is just trying to see what kind of machinery we can contrive to make sense of church talk, liturgy and the metaphysical speculation of theologians.

    As far as the Berkeley remark, what I’m suggesting is that ordinary language, including ordinary religious language is not theory laden. This was Berkeley’s claim–that commonsensical talk about ordinary things didn’t assume an external world, material substance, Newtonian space or whatever. I suspect that Berkeley himself knew that representing himself as a champion of commonsense would sound screwy and enjoyed being perverse.

    What I am looking for however, if anyone can help, is material from the early tradition that indicates that “God” was in some contexts used to refer to the Father, understood in some sense as the primary Trinitarian Person and in other contexts to the Trinity in toto. I think I’ve seen it, but I need references.

  30. Dale says:

    Hey Harriet,

    In my view, one never, pre-Nicea, sees “God” referring to the Trinity. They typically, as in the NT, reserved the title for the one true God, Yahweh, aka the Father. But they were aware that Jesus is a few times called or adressed as “God” in the NT, and they insisted on applying “theos” to him.

    But in Greek, often with out the definite article. So when they insist that Jesus “is theos” – grammatically, this could mean that he is God himself (Jesus = God), that Jesus is “God” – i.e. that that word properly applies to him, or that he’s *a god*.

    The first of these interpretations is nearly always ruled out by other things they clearly say, emphasizing the differences between the one God and all others, or calling Jesus “a second god,” saying the worship him in the second place, and so on. I think a lot of it is vague between the second and third readings. There is a clear concern with words, particularly from the 3rd c. on. And yet, there is a Platonic assumption that if the word “theos” applies to him, this must be because of the form/idea/universal *divinity* is present in him. And, if he’s a god, then this must be his essential nature – again, divinity is in him. BUT they all assume that he gets it from the Father, who they emphasize is the ultimate source of all else. Their divinity is one, in that it’s one universal (had in two ways or to two degrees??) and in that it comes from the one true God.

    When they start talking of the “Trinity” in the late 2nd c., this is pretty clearly a plural referring term, for the one God, his divine Son, and the Spirit (the status of which is none too clear). Reification eventually follows – that is kind of what I’m driving at in my most recent post. But I don’t find references to the Trinity as the one true God until after Nicea, and it doesn’t become common till the latter part of the century. Even Nicea has the one God – the one who is divine in the highest and underived sense – being the Father, as had always before been confessed.

  31. villanovanus says:

    @ H. E. Baber [#29, April 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm]

    Pity that you “can’t assess the import of the Biblical passages”, and that “[i]f the kind of account [you] suggest is inconsistent with the Bible, it doesn’t bother [you] “, because my view is that any speculation on the “trinity” that is not ultimately grounded in the Scripture is an idle exercise. We fully agree, obviously, that “[t]he Trinity doctrine isn’t in the Bible”, but one would at least expect that it is not entirely arbitrary vis à vis the Bible, as otherwise the entirety of patristic trinitarian theology would be. And, contra Dale, I find it simply laughable to insist that ALL pre-Nicene patristic speculation on Father, Son and Spirit “unitarian”.

    As for Berkeley (and Reid), contrary to what you say, I believe that Berkeley was perfectly aware that the standard approach “of commonsense and of the plain man” is that when one says “that dog”, one does indeed take it for granted that “that dog” is part of “an external world”. Only philosophical speculation may lead one to consider that the immediate datum is an “idea of the mind”, in the peculiar sense in which Berkeley used the word “idea”.

    Finally, while you can easily find material, NOT ONLY from the “early tradition” BUT from the NT itself where “God” was in used to refer to (the One to Whom Jesus referred as) the Father, I believe that the first Christian source where you will find “God” used, ambiguously, to refer to THE God and also to the Logos as deuteros theos is Justin Martyr.

    I seriously doubt that you will ever find any source using the word “God” to refer to “the Trinity in toto” (“co-equal, co-eternal, tri-personal”, that is) before the mumbo-jumbo of the Cappadocian scoundrels.

    MdS

  32. Thanks, Dale. Makes sense because prior to Nicaea I suspect subordinationism was the industry standard. And thank you Villanovanus for the reference–bout to look at Justin Martyr. And I agree that my speculation on the Trinity is an idle exercise–that’s what I got into philosophy for! ;-)

  33. villanovanus says:

    H. E. Baber [#32, April 22, 2013 at 2:18 pm] I agree that my speculation on the Trinity is an idle exercise–that’s what I got into philosophy for!

    You mean, to have full freedom of idle exercise …? ;)

    MdS

  34. It’s called tenure.

  35. villanovanus says:

    Is it something like sinecure? ;)

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