Thursday, July 20, 2017

Danielou and Tertullian's Christology

Jean Danielou tellingly writes these words about Tertullian's doctrine of God and Christ:

"The Son and the Spirit are distinguished, therefore, from the Father in that they have their own subsistent being, which is not, however, based on their eternal specific individuality, but rather on their function in relation to God's creation. Tertullian does not manage to get beyond the combination of a modalism with regard to the distinctness of the individual persons and a subordinationism with regard to their existential plurality" (Danielou, The Origins of Latin Christianity, 364).

Tertullian's Understanding of Psalm 8:5

Tertullian's understanding of Psalm 8:5 is "lower than the angels"--he views the psalm as a reference to spirit creatures and applies the verse to Christ.

"Modicum quid citra angelos" (Adv Prax 9)

"propter hoc minoratus a patre modicum citra angelos"" (Adv Prax 16.11)

"minoravit filium modico citra angelos" (Adv Prax 23.19)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Part 3 of Genesis Rabba Comments

"When the Jews returned from Babylon, their wives had become brown, and almost black, during the years of captivity, and a large number of men divorced their wives. The divorced women probably married black men, which would, to some extent, account for the existence of black Jews."--Gen. Rabba 18.

[One finds all kinds of stories in midrashic homilies, many of which are quite incredible. More importantly, I was taken aback by the "racist" content of this work. EGF]

"If a man has entertained you only with lentils, do you entertain him with flesh. If one shows you small favours, bestow on him great ones when an opportunity occurs."--Gen. Rabba 38.

"There is not an evil which fails to bring benefit to some one."--Gen. Rabba A

[Based on Scripture, I believe that God is able to bring good from evil, and he often does. Does that mean all evil acts somehow confer benefit to someone? EGF]

"The pure of heart are God's friends."--Gen. Rabba 41.

[Reminds me of Ps. 73:1; Matthew 5:8. EGF]

John Calvin--An Advocate of Eternal Subordination for the Opera Trinitatis Ad Intra?

Did John Calvin believe that the Son and the Holy Spirit are eternally subordinate to the Father per their "divine" roles or functions in the Godhead?

Calvin evidently thinks of the three persons (tres personae) as three subsistences, persons who are distinguished from one another "by an incommunicable quality" (ibid, 53) which is ostensibly "subsistence." An incommunicable quality is an attribute that cannot be transferred or passed on to someone/something else. E.g., parents communicate certain traits to their offspring; unfortunately, some diseases are communicable too. However, Calvin reckons that each divine person within the triune Godhead possesses some quality that cannot be communicated by the bearer of said property.

Subsistence in Calvin's theology possibly does not mean "essence" (essentia). He asserts that there is a "characteristic mark" that sets the LOGOS apart from God [the Father] so that the Word can "be" God and simultaneously "be with God" (Jn 1:1b-c). That defining "characteristic mark," Calvin argues, is not the Son's essence but his subsistence.

It is unfortunate that Calvin does not appear to explain, at least in a thorough or analytic sense, what he means by "subsistence." At any rate, Kevin Giles believes he does not imply that the Son or the Holy Spirit are subordinate to the Father qua being or qua function. Giles then provides various lines of evidence for this claim on page 54 of The Trinity and Subordinationism. One such line of evidence is that Calvin reasons that both prayers and worship should be directed not only "through" the Son but "to the Son." Admittedly, Calvin does accept an "order" (taxis) in the Trinity insofar as he believes that the Deus Trinitas is structured and functions in an orderly manner. However, Calvin does not think of the Trinity in hierarchical terms and rejects any talk of one person being before or after the other person "within the Godhead" (ibid, 55). Maybe he accepts logical priority, but eschews temporality priority.

At any rate, Calvin's non-subordinationist stance appears to be demonstrated when we note his exegetical comments regarding Jn 14:28 and 1 Cor 11:3. For Calvin, 14:28 is contrasting Christ's earthly state with his "present state" and "his heavenly glory to which he was shortly to be received" (Giles, 56). Furthermore, 1 Cor 11:3 (says Calvin) appertains to Christ in the flesh since "apart from that, being of one essence with the Father, he is equal with him" (ibid). Calvin's exegesis of 1 Cor 15:24ff is also worth reading.

In short, Calvin possibly applies Paul's words in 1 Cor 15:24ff to the soteriological-mediatorial office of Christ. If this conclusion is accurate, then Calvin does not apply the Pauline account to what he would identify as Christ's eternally timeless divinity.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Thomas Aquinas on Demonstrating the Trinity Is A Genuine Object of Faith

As many of you may know, Thomas Aquinas ("the Angelic
Doctor") was a devout Medieval theologian, who
effected an influential Trinitarian synthesis
by combining thoughts from Scripture with ancient Greek thought.
What Thomas has to say about the demonstrability of the
Trinity doctrine is noteworthy. The following quotes can be found in
Edmund J. Fortman's The Triune God: A Historical
Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity
. See pp.

"that God is triune is uniquely an object of belief,
and one cannot prove it in any demonstrative way. Some
reasons can be advanced but they are not
necessitating, and they have probability only for the
believer" (In Boeth de Trin 1.4).

"we can only know what belongs to the unity of the
essence, but not what belongs to the distinction of
the persons" (Summa Theologiae 1a.32.1).

Thomas contends that the Trinity is not irrational, but
transrational: it is a divine mystery that surpasses
all human understanding.

The Doctor has subsequently been criticized for making an
unnecessary distinction between God de Uno
and God de Trino. Observe how Thomas professes that
while the one essence of Deity can be known by means of natural reason, the personal distinctions of the Godhead cannot be known via ratio.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Athanasius, the Quicunque Vult, and Kevin Giles

Some people are convinced that Athanasius of Alexandria wrote the Athanasian Creed (the Quicunque Vult). There's just one problem with this conviction: Athanasius' dates are ca. 296-373 CE. So he did not live in the fifth century CE when the Quicunque Vult was possibly written. But there are other reasons to reject Athanasian authorship of the famed creed.

Edmund Fortman (The Triune God) writes these words pertaining to the Quicunque Vult:

"Its author, date, and source of origin are still matters of controversy. From the 7th century on it was generally ascribed to Athanasius, but in the 17th century it was realized that it was later than Athanasius and of Latin origin" (page 159).

"Many decades later [than Origen] the great Athanasius (c. 293-373) rose to a position of leadership in Alexandria" (Howard Vos, Exploring Church History, page 22).

"The creed [Quicunque Vult] was certainly not composed by its namesake, the famed Athanasius of Alexandria (293[?]-373), but by a later hand (or, hands)--the date of which, as mentioned in the text, has been variously assigned to anywhere from the fifth to the eighth centuries" (Matthew Alfs, Concepts of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 3).

For further information concerning Athanasius' dates and activities, see Richard Rubenstein's When Jesus Became God and W.H.C. Frend's The Rise of Christianity.

J.N.D. Kelly composed a major work dealing with the Quicunque Vult. See

Additionally, Kevin Giles maintains that the Quicunque Vult was probably composed in southern France circa 500 CE as a touchstone of orthodoxy. Despite the fact that the symbol (i.e., creed) was not composed by its namesake, Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Anglicans have traditionally viewed the document as doctrinally binding or normative for faith. Essentially, Giles explains, this is because the famed symbol is evidently rooted in Augustinian and Athanasian thought--it is thought to be the continuation of a venerable ecclesiastical tradition that stretches back to the ancient and formative Christian church.

According to Giles, the Quicunque Vult excludes all forms of subordination(ism) within the Godhead and he quotes Leonard Hodgson and J.N.D. Kelly to buttress this statement. Giles avers that the three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are distinct insofar as they bear "differing relations" to one another because of their "differing origins," namely, innascibility, filiation and spiration (eternal procession). Nevertheless, he asserts that the "differing origins" do not provide the basis for positing dependent eternal functions "within the Godhead."

In view of the language contained in the Quicunque Vult, Giles concludes that the Son is only subordinate to the Father vis-a-vis his humanity; the Son is not subordinate to the Father per his eternal role, function or essence. Giles therefore sternly emphasizes that the Athanasian Creed "condemns" the theological position of those who espouse and advocate eternal subordination(ism) within the triune Godhead. Giles pretty much views subordinationist positions as heretical. And that is an understatement!

See Giles, The Trinity and Subordinationism, page 50ff.

Quotes from Genesis Rabba-Part 2

Man should look upon the birth of a daughter as a blessing from the Lord.--Gen. Rabba 26.

For seven days the Lord mourned (or deplored) the necessity of destroying His creatures by the deluge.--Gen. Rabba 27.

God will wipe away tears from off all faces (Isa. 25. 8). This means from the faces of non-Jews as well as Jews.--Gen. Rabba 26.

The sexes of both man and the lower animals were meant to be separated in the ark during the deluge. This is clear from the way in which they entered the ark: first Noah and his three sons went in, and then their wives separately (Gen. 7. 7). But when they came out of the ark after the flood, God commanded Noah, 'Go out of the ark, thou and thy wife, thy sons and their wives' (Gen. 8. 16), thus putting the sexes together again. Ham among the human beings, and the dog among the lower animals, disregarded this injunction and did not separate from the opposite sex in the ark. The dog received a certain punishment, and Ham became a black man; just as when a man has the audacity to coin the king's currency in the king's own palace his face is blackened as a punishment and his issue is declared counterfeit --Gen. Rabba 37-

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Continuation of "Gold": The Biblical Usage

Isaiah 40:19 (LXX): μὴ εἰκόνα ἐποίησεν τέκτων ἢ χρυσοχόος χωνεύσας χρυσίον περιεχρύσωσεν αὐτόν ὁμοίωμα κατεσκεύασεν αὐτόν

Brenton Translation: "Has not the artificer made an image, or the goldsmith having melted gold, gilt it over, and made it a similitude?"

Knox Translation: "Hath the workman cast a graven statue? or hath the goldsmith formed it with gold, or the silversmith with plates of silver?"

Isaiah Scroll: "The idol?-a craftsman made the image, and a smith with gold and hammered it out and cast silver chains" (Flint and Ulrich)

Revelation 4:4: καὶ κυκλόθεν τοῦ θρόνου θρόνοι εἴκοσι τέσσαρες, καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς θρόνους εἴκοσι τέσσαρας πρεσβυτέρους καθημένους περιβεβλημένους ἱματίοις λευκοῖς, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς κεφαλὰς αὐτῶν στεφάνους χρυσοῦς.

Robertson's WP: Crowns of gold (stepanou crusou). Accusative case again like presbuterou after eidon (Ephesians 4:1), not idou. In Ephesians 19:14 ecwn (having) is added. John uses diadhma (diadem) for the kingly crown in Ephesians 12:3 ; Ephesians 13:1 ; Ephesians 19:12 , but it is not certain that the old distinction between diadem as the kingly crown and stepano as the victor's wreath is always observed in late Greek.

Revelation 17:4: καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἦν περιβεβλημένη πορφυροῦν καὶ κόκκινον, καὶ κεχρυσωμένη χρυσίῳ καὶ λίθῳ τιμίῳ καὶ μαργαρίταις, ἔχουσα ποτήριον χρυσοῦν ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτῆς γέμον βδελυγμάτων καὶ τὰ ἀκάθαρτα τῆς πορνείας αὐτῆς,

Barnes Notes on the Bible: "And decked with gold - After the manner of an harlot, with rich jewelry."

JFB: "decked—literally, 'gilded.'"

Expositor's GT provides this reference: "The harlot in Test. Jud. 13:5 was also decked ἐν χρυσίῳ καὶ μαργαρίταις and poured out wine for her victims."

G.K. Beale argues that the similarities emphasized in Revelation between Babylon the Great and the High Priest of ancient Israel are not coincidental: the language of Revelation perfectly mirrors Pentateuchal language while preserving a contrast between the figurative harlot and Jehovah's sacerdotal representative. See Beale, The Book of Revelation, 886.

John Lange: "And gilded with gold and precious stone and pearls.—'The κεχρυσωμένη is zeugmatical' (Düsterdieck). Both precious stones and pearls, however, must have been set in gold."

Henry Alford agrees that κεχρυσωμένη is "zeugmatically carried on" (see his GNT)

NET Bible footnote: "tn Grk 'gilded with gold' (an instance of semantic reinforcement, see L&N 49.29."

For 49.29, Louw-Nida have "χρυσόω be adorned with gold."

LSJ: "χρυσόω to make golden, gild, Luc.:—Pass. to be gilded, Hdt., Ar."

Compare Exodus 25:3-7; 28:5-9, 36; Jeremiah 51:7; Ezekiel 16:13; 28:13; Habakkuk 2:16; Revelation 21:11.

Short Note Regarding Proverbs 8:22-23

The LXX has κύριος ἔκτισέν με (Prov. 8:22) and the Aramaic Targum reads: "God created me at the beginning of his creation, before his works from the beginning." See The Targums of Job, Proverbs, Qohelet (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1991).

Concerning Prov. 8:23, NSK (NACAK) at times denotes: "to be poured out" (hophal stem): that is possibly the sense it bears at 8:23 although the verb probably means "to set, install" within the context under discussion. The construction is also morphologically passive.

Additionally, ROSH (MRA$) certainly does not signify "head" in 8:23. It almost surely denotes "beginning." The LXX reads: πρὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐθεμελίωσέν με ἐν ἀρχῇ. For purposes of comparison, see Exod 12:2; Deut 32:42; Judges 7:19; Ps 119:160; Eccl 3:11; Isa 40:21; Lam 2:19; Ezek 40:1.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tertullian on the Subject of Eternal Res Et Personae

Concerning Tertullian's fuller statement of God's
existence prior to the generation of His Son, A. Harnack
perspicuously notes that although the ratio et sermo dei
existed within God since "he thought and spoke
inwardly," God the Father was still "the only person"
subsisting prior to the temporal generation of the Son
(Harnack, History of Dogma, 2:259). Edmund Fortman
also concludes that the preeminent Son of God: "was generated, not from
eternity but before and for creation, and then became
a second person." Antecedent to his generation,
however, the Logos was not "clearly and fully
personalized" (Fortman 111). It therefore seems
erroneous to think that the Son was eternally a res et
internal beside God. Tertullian makes this
point clearer in Adv Prax 5.

The Carthaginian believes that God the Father was not completely
alone before He created the world since he had his own
ratio within him (Adv Prax 5). Tertullian's main point,
however, appears to be that just as a man reasons
within himself and discourses inwardly, thus making
himself an object of contemplation, so God (from all
eternity past) discoursed and reasoned internally.
Such inward and rational discourse was apropos for The
Most High God (Summus Deus): "For God is rational, and
reason is primarily in him, and thus from him are all
things: and that Reason is his consciousness"
(rationalis enim deus, et ratio in ipso prius, et ita
ab ipso omnia
: quae ratio sensus ipsius est). Yet the
reason (ratio) dwelling internally beside God the Father ante creation was not an eternal res et persona as Tertullian goes on to demonstrate.

De Trinitate 5.8.9 (by Augustine of Hippo)--Trinitas and Metaphora

But position, and condition, and places, and times, are not said to be in God properly, but metaphorically and through similitudes. For He is both said to dwell between the cherubims, which is spoken in respect to position; and to be covered with the deep as with a garment, which is said in respect to condition; and Your years shall have no end, which is said in respect of time; and, If I ascend up into heaven, You are there, which is said in respect to place. And as respects action (or making), perhaps it may be said most truly of God alone, for God alone makes and Himself is not made. Nor is He liable to passions as far as belongs to that substance whereby He is God. So the Father is omnipotent, the Son omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent; yet not three omnipotents, but one omnipotent: For of Him are all things, and through Him are all things, and in Him are all things; to whom be glory. Whatever, therefore, is spoken of God in respect to Himself, is both spoken singly of each person, that is, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and together of the Trinity itself, not plurally but in the singular. For inasmuch as to God it is not one thing to be, and another thing to be great, but to Him it is the same thing to be, as it is to be great; therefore, as we do not say three essences, so we do not say three greatnesses, but one essence and one greatness. I say essence, which in Greek is called οὐσία, and which we call more usually substance.

Source: Translated by Arthur West Haddan. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

Friday, July 14, 2017

Does God Have All Omni-properties? (Short Thought)

Theists often tick off certain properties that purportedly identify God as the maximal being or greatest possible being, etc. As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I have been taught that God is omnipotent (almighty), omniscient (all-knowing), infinite (though we have to carefully define that term), and he is all-wise and is love (1 John 4:8).

Other properties could be added to the list, but it is common to say that God has all omni-properties and that such properties are compossible, which means that said properties jointly exist. Moreover, if God has one omni-property, then God has all. Otherwise, God (Jehovah) would not be God--the maximal being, who possesses all great-making or deific properties.

While most of the omni-properties don't seem problematic from a Witnesses standpoint, I always have to remember that we do not believe omnipresence is a divine property. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jehovah God resides in one location (as it were)--namely, heaven itself (1 Kings 8:27, 30, 32, 36, 43, 45, 49). By "heaven," I am referring to a realm that apparently transcends the physical spacetime universe: Paul spoke of the third heaven in 2 Cor. 12:2. Although he dwells in heaven along with spirit creatures known as angels, his power and spirit are manifested everywhere.

So is God omnipresent? Does he have all omni-properties? So far, it seems that omnipresence is a divine property, yet God is still God.

Some Quotes from Genesis Rabba (בְְּרֵאשִׁית רַבָּה)

"God designed man for work--work for his own sustenance; he who does not work shall not eat."--Gen. Rabba 14.

[Reminds me of Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:10-12 and many other verses. EGF]

"Sleepiness and laziness in a man are the beginning of his misfortune."--Gen. Rabba 17.

[Compare Prov. 24:30-34. EGF]

"Woman attains discretion at an earlier age than man."--Gen. Rabba 18.

For more information about Genesis Rabba, see