Saturday, June 15, 2019

Monoousios vs. Homoousios - further reflections

In the previous AF thread which dealt with the topic of monoousios vs. homoousios (link), I provided selections from Christian theologians and historians who acknowledged that the term homoousion, used in the Nicene Creed and by a number of subsequent Church Fathers, was most likely understood in a generic sense, rather than an absolute numeric sense. In this new post, I hope to establish beyond any reasonable doubt that the generic understanding is the most viable option.

At the end of the opening post of the above referenced thread, I mentioned that the generic understanding of homoousios, "is the dominant understanding of many Eastern Orthodox theologians". Interestingly enough, a LDS author back in 2004 provided substantial support for my reflections—the following quote is from the book, Prelude to the Restoration (2004):

Christos Yannaras proposes that “schematically: God is a Nature and three Persons; man is a nature and ‘innumerable’ persons. God is consubstantial and in three hypostases, man is consubstantial and in innumerable hypostases.” Essence could thus be characterized as that nature which, for the Trinity, is divinity, and that nature which, for humans, is humanity. (J. B. Haws, "Defenders of the Doctrine of Deification", p. 77) [The quote that Haws provided from the EO theologian Yannaras, is from the book Elements of Faith, p, 36.]

Haws' understanding of the Yannaras quote, brings to mind the Christology delineated in the Chalcedonian Definition (451)—the germane portion is provided below:

Following therefore the holy Fathers, we all with one accord teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Divinity (theotēti) and also perfect in humanity (anthrōpotēti); truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and body; same essence (homoousion) with the Father according to the Divinity (theotēta), and same essence (homoousion) with us according to the humanity (anthrōpotēta) ...

Ἑπόμενοι τοίνυν τοῖς ἁγίοις πατράσιν ἕνα καὶ τὸν αὐτὸν ὁμολογεῖν υἱὸν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν συμφώνως ἅπαντες ἐκδιδάσκομεν, τέλειον τὸν αὐτὸν ἐν θεότητι καὶ τέλειον τὸν αὐτὸν ἐν ἀνθρωπότητι, θεὸν ἀληθῶς καὶ ἄνθρωπον ἀληθῶς τὸν αὐτὸν, ἐκ ψυχῆς λογικῆς καὶ σώματος, ὁμοούσιον τῷ πατρὶ κατὰ τὴν θεότητα, καὶ ὁμοούσιον τὸν αὐτὸν ἡμῖν κατὰ τὴν ἀνθρωπότητα ...

Clearly we have before us an application of the term homoousion in a generic sense. As such, we can add the Chalcedonian Definition to the list of examples wherein the term homoousion is used in the generic sense—e.g. Nicene Creed, numerous post-Nicene Church Fathers and EO theologians.

The concept that "man is consubstantial and in innumerable hypostases" means all the members of mankind share one and the same nature/essence. When the same type of concept is applied to the Godhead, it means that all members of the Godhead share one and the same nature/essence; or as Haws states it:

Essence could thus be characterized as that nature which, for the Trinity, is divinity, and that nature which, for humans, is humanity.

For one to be human from human, one has to be fully human—possessing the nature of humanity in its fullness—not partially human, or even mostly human. For one to be God from God, one has to be fully God—possessing the nature of divinity in its fullness—not partially God, or even mostly God.

To end, I would like to submit that when the related concepts of 'God from God', 'homoosion with the Father', and 'begotten not made' are applied to Jesus Christ, two early theological errors are avoided: first, modalism, which changed the understanding of homoosios into monoousios, and denied the causality of the Son from the Father; and second, Arianism, which denied that the Son of God was fully God.

Grace and peace,


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Todd Lawson's, The Crucifixion and the Qur'an, now available online for free download

Back on November 21, 2009, I published the following post:

Does the Qur'an deny the crucifixion and physical death of Jesus?

This post introduced AF readers to Dr. Todd Lawson's definitive work concerning the controversial issue of the crucifixion Jesus in the Qur'an and early Islamic interpretation.

Earlier today, I discovered that Dr. Lawson has made this book available on his website for free download—link for PDF provided below:

The Crucifixion and the Qur'an - PDF

Enjoy !!!

Grace and peace,


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Monoousios vs. Homoousios

Back on May 11th, a good friend of mine began posting again in the Terminology: trinitarianism, unitarianism, monotheism, polytheism... thread, after an extended hiatus. The conversation between the two us continued over the next few days; and then on the 22nd, Tom contributed three consecutive, interrelated posts that would have been a bit difficult to adequately address in the combox. As such, I have created this new thread in an attempt to do justice to the cogent concerns and questions that he raised in those posts.

Now, a bit of background information. For a number of years now, I have maintained that the Greek term homoousion in the Nicene Creed and Chalcedonian Definition was used in a generic sense and not a strict numeric sense—in other words, homoousion is to be understood as 'same essence' rather than 'one essence'. And so, on my May 21st post to Tom, I wrote:

The Greek of the Chalcedonian Definition (451) strongly suggests a generic sense for both. My studies indicate that the numeric sense was not adopted until much later when homoousia began to be interpreted as monoousia. [Note: I had quickly typed up the above response and posted it before realizing that I had misspelled both homoousia and monoousia—should read homoousios and monoousios—sorry Tom, I am getting old.]

Tom on the 22nd responded with:

I would agree that homoousia began to be interpreted as monoousia, but what scholars usually say is “homoousia in the numeric sense.” I have not seen folks who suggest that traditional Christian Trinitarian teachings are true use the term monoousia to describe what they believe. Folks like Plantinga might be inclined to point to the developed equivalence of monoousia and homoousia in the numeric sense, but I don’t see things like this from Father Don Davis or Phillip Schaff.

I first encountered the distinction between monoousios and homoousios in Dr. Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology. Dr. Hodge wrote:

The ambiguity of the word μοούσιος has already been remarked upon. As ούσια may mean generic nature common to many individuals, not unum in numero, but ens unum in multis, so μοούσιος (consubstantial) may mean nothing more than sameness of species or kind. (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981 reprint, 1.463.)

Dr. Hodge then provides two important quotes from the famous Christian historian, Philip Schaff:

It is therefore said, that “the term homoousion, in its strict grammatical sense differs from monoousion or toutoousion, as well as from heteroousion, and signifies not numerical identity, but equality of essence or community of nature among several beings.” “The Nicene Creed,” Dr. Schaff adds, “does not expressly assert the singleness or numerical unity of the divine essence (unless it be in the first article: ‘we believe in one God’), and the main point with the Nicene fathers was to urge against Arianism the strict divinity and essential equality of the Son and Holy Ghost with the Father. (Ibid.)

In the next paragraph, Hodge continues with:

Gieseler goes much further, and denies that the Nicene fathers held the numerical identity of essence in the persons of the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Spirit were the same in substance as having the same nature, or same kind of substance. This he infers was their doctrine not only from the general style of their teaching, and from special declarations, but from the illustrations which they habitually employed. The Father and the Son are the same in substance as among men father and son have the same nature; or as Basil says, Father and Son differ in rank, as do the angels, although they are the same in nature. Gieseler says that the numerical sameness of nature in the three divine persons, was first asserted by Augustine. It was he, according to Gieseler, who first excluded all idea of subordination in the Trinity. “Athanasius and Hilary understood the proposition, ‘There is one God’ of the Father. Basil the Great and the two Gregories understood by the word God a generic idea (Gattungsbegriff), belonging equally to the Father and the Son. (Ibid.)

Though Hodge and Schaff acknowledge that homoousios can be understood in a generic sense, they maintain—contra Gieseler—that it's use in the Nicene Creed should be interpreted in the numeric sense.

Moving from 19th century writers to those of the 20th century, we find the following from the pen of J.N.D. Kelly:

It is reasonable to suppose, pace Eusebius, that a similar meaning, viz. 'of the same nature', was read into the homoousion. But if this is granted, a further question at once arises: are we to understand 'of the same nature' in the 'generic' sense in which Origen, for example, had employed ὁμοούσιος, or are we to take it as having the meaning accepted by later Catholic [i.e. Western] theology, viz. numerical identity of substance? The root word ούσια could signify the kind of substance or stuff common to several individuals of a class, or it could connote an individual thing as such. (Early Christian Doctrine, 2nd ed. 1960, p. 234.)

And from Ivor J. Davidson:

Homoousios was, however, a word with a difficult history. For a start, it was not biblical, which meant that the council [i.e. Nicaea 325] was proposing to talk about the nature of the Godhead in terms that were philosophical or conceptual rather than in language drawn directly from the Scriptures. 

the outcome of the council was virtually unanimous. All but two of the bishops agreed to sign the creed. The dissenters, Theonas of Marmarica and Secundus of Ptolemais, were both from Libya, where Arius had particularly loyal support. They suffered exile, as did Arius himself. The rest, it seemed, were at one, and Constantine had got his way; the church was united in its opposition to the teaching of Arius [i.e. that the Son was a created being, created ex nihilo, and that there was “a time he was not”].

The reality, however, was for more complex. The apparently all-important homoousios could in fact be understood in a variety of ways. Literally, it meant “same being.” But what was the “sameness” here? To be “the same as” can be “identical to” in a specific sense or “exactly like” in a generic sense. The “being” in question is also vague: a human and animal may both be described as “beings,” but one has on form of “being” (or “nature” or “substance”) and the other another. For staunch enemies of Arius, such as Eustanthius and Marcellus, homoousios meant “one and the same being.” For Eusebius of Caesarea, on the other hand, it meant “exactly like in being”—potentially a very significant difference. Is the Son, the same as God in his being, or is he exactly like God in his being? To Eusebius and many other Greek bishops it seemed better to say that he is like God.
(The Baker History of the Church, Vol. 2 – A Public Faith: From Constantine to the Medieval World, AD 312-600, 2005, pp. 35, 36.)

In the selections provided above, our esteemed authors identify four prominent 4th century Church Fathers who interpreted homoousios in the generic sense—Eusebius of Caesarea, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus. I would now like to introduce a fifth Church Father from the 4th century who affirmed the generic understanding, and also explicitly differentiated between monoousios and homoousiosAthanasius. From his Expositio Fidei we read:

For neither do we hold a Son-Father, as do the Sabellians, calling Him of one but not of the same essence, and thus destroying the existence of the Son. (Statement of Faith, 2.2 - A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers - Second Series, Vol. 4.84)

The phrase, "calling Him of one but not of the same essence", is a non-literal translation of the Greek, and a bit misleading. The Greek reads as follows:

λέγοντες μονοούσιον καὶ οὐχ ὁμοούσιον  (legontes monoousion kai ouch homoousion)

My translation: saying [he is of] one essence and not [of the] same essence

[Full Greek text of 2.2—οὔτε γὰρ υἱοπάτορα φρονοῦμεν ὡς οἱ Σαβέλλιοι λέγοντες μονοούσιον καὶ οὐχ ὁμοούσιον καὶ ἐν τούτῳ ἀναιροῦντες τὸ εἶναι υἱόνMigne, PG 25, 204.]

Athanasius identifies the strict numeric understanding of the relationship between the Father and the Son with the Sabellians, contrasting the term monoousion from that of homoousion to drive home his point.

This generic understanding found in Athanasius, Eusebius of Caesarea, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus (and other Church Fathers), is the dominant understanding of many Eastern Orthodox theologians—theologians who adamantly maintain that it is the only consistent understanding of the use of homoousion in the Nicene Creed and Chalcedonian Definition.

More later, the Lord willing...

Grace and peace,


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Is Pope Francis guilty of heresy ???

I am a subscriber to The Catholic World Report—as such, on May 1, 2019 I became aware of a "group of nineteen Catholics, including some prominent academics" who "published an open letter to the bishops of the world accusing Pope Francis of heresy" (see this link). 

[Online copy of the letter here; PDF copy here.]

Numerous websites over the last few days have been analyzing and discussing this provocative letter. As expected, some folk fully concur with charges of the letter, whilst others take issue with it.

Interestingly enough, Jimmy Akin—a conservative Catholic convert and well known apologist—is one of those folk who takes issue with the letter. On May 2, 2019 his following article was published online:

On May 5, 2019 another conservative Catholic convert and well known apologist, Dave Armstrong, defends Jimmy Akin in the following post:

Websites that side with the charges of the open letter, include:

Directly related to the issue at hand was an earlier, "25-page letter signed by 40 Catholic clergy and lay scholars [that] was delivered to Pope Francis on August 11th [2017]". (Link to quote here ; link to letter here.)

So, is Pope Francis guilty of heresy? The two above letters are compelling; but then, Jimmy Akin's analysis raises some serious questions. For now, I have not been able to reach a conclusion on the matter. Would be very interested in hearing from those folk who have...

Grace and peace,


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Apostasy That Wasn't - an interesting, multi-dimensional book by Rod Bennett

The Apostasy That Wasn't was published back in 2015, and though I own, and have read Bennett's earlier work, Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words (link), I did not become aware of The Apostasy That Wasn't until November 2018, whilst I was engaged in research for my Unity and the Christian Church series.

The Apostasy That Wasn't is fairly unique in that it is a multi-dimensional contribution. In one sense, it is in part a more traditional historical work; in another, it is a historical narrative with some speculative material; and lastly, it has apologetic elements. The historical aspect of the book primarily covers a period of history from Diocletian's persecution (303 A.D.) through first Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381 A. D.), though it also touches on certain events in the third century prior to Diocletian's persecution. The more traditional historical part takes it's form in extensive quotations from the extant works of ancient Christian historians. The historical narrative comes via the use of a number of historical persons in the period being covered. As for the apologetic dimension of the book, it is a defense of the historic Catholic Church against the claims advanced by a number of sects that this historic Catholic Church became apostate. In the introduction (pages 13-27), some of the sects he mentions include: Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Seventh-day Adventists, The Church of God of Prophecy, and Bennett's former "Baptist church".

The balance between the three aforementioned dimensions is quite good—keeping in mind that the book is not an in depth historical treatment—with the flow of the book making it very readable. (But with that said, I found the interaction between the footnotes and endnotes to be a bit cumbersome at times.) Bennett's narrative format 'brings to life' a number of key historical figures—e.g. Anthony of the Desert, Athanasius, emperors Constantine and Julian (the Apostate), Basil the Great—prompting one to engage in more extensive research via the extant, ancient sources provided in the footnotes and endnotes.

I suspect a number of AF's readers would benefit from reading this engaging contribution. For those folk who have some interest in the topic, but do not wish to obtain book, I recommend the following YouTube video:

Grace and peace,


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Divine Embodiment in Jewish Antiquity: Rediscovering The Jewishness of John’s Incarnate Christ - a doctoral dissertation

Beginning with my January 20, 2019 post (link), I began to explore the issue of divine embodiment, creating a new LABEL—Corporeality and God— specifically for the topic (link). This post will be the sixth contribution included under that label/topic.

The first five threads concerning 'Corporeality and God' have to date roused 99 comments. I suspect/hope that the dissertation I am about to introduce will stimulate some continued interest and discussion on this topic.

It was just a few days ago that I discovered Deborah L. Forger's 2017 doctoral dissertation— Divine Embodiment in Jewish Antiquity: Rediscovering The Jewishness of John’s Incarnate Christ—whilst engaged in online research (PDF). The following excerpts will serve as an introduction to this engaging and thought provoking contribution:

At the heart of this dissertation is my definition of the notion of divine embodiment. Divine embodiment for my purposes encompasses a wide variety of ways in which an aspect, or attribute, or personification of Israel’s supreme God enters into the created world, though much of my work centers on how these manifestations became localized or mediated through humans. These entities are not synonymous with Israel’s supreme deity, but they participate in the divinity of that ineffable and uncreated One, and thereby can also be considered divine. As a close corollary, I define human apotheosis as instances in which created humans, or human-like figures, either undergo the process of deification or are presented as being divine themselves. These figures, though created, also participate in the divinity of Israel’s supreme deity, and thus can also be considered divine.

Throughout this dissertation I intentionally employ the phrase “divine embodiment,” instead of “God’s embodiment” or “incarnation.” With respect to the notion of “God’s embodiment,” I draw a distinction between the words God and divine, because although Jews had a conceptualization of one supreme God who was uncreated himself, there were many other entities that could participate in that high God’s divinity and thereby be conceived of as divine as well. (Pages 8,  9)

A bit later we read:

...I suggest that within the period of Jewish Antiquity which I investigate, there were a number of ways that the “divine” could became “embodied,” and thus the notion of incarnation emerged out of the matrix of and not as a significant deviation from, other Jewish thought. Specifically, I claim that the description found in John 1:14 that the divine word became flesh (ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο) was just one of the many ways that Jews in the early centuries of the Common Era understood that God, or an aspect of God, was embodied, or took on a corporeal form. Thus, in the first century CE, both immediately before and in the aftermath of the destruction of the Second Temple, the notion of divine embodiment was not antithetical to Jewish religious thought, but rather integral to it. (Page 13)


The primary question that I ask throughout this dissertation is why it is at this particular time in Jewish history that so many Jewish texts present a manner by which God can become embodied or humans can become deified. I do not assume that the authors of these texts necessarily knew one another. Nor do I claim that they were dependent upon one another. What I do observe, however, is the wide variety of ways that Jews in this period thought about how God and humanity could be connected through embodiment. Thus, though I posit a number of different ways that first-century Jews conceived of divine embodiment, I demonstrate how the Gospel of John’s description of this phenomenon both stands in continuity with other Jewish descriptions and is distinct from them as well. (Page 44)

Forger has cogently, and importantly, identified that more than one interpretation of what divine embodiment entailed was in existence during the life of Jesus Christ, and the subsequent emergence of Christianity as new religion. Forger also advances a somewhat provocative understanding of the term 'monotheism'; a term which is inextricably related to the issue of divine embodiment—note the following:

My dissertation makes this argument in three primary parts. In the first part, which also comprises chapter two, I re-contextualize one pivotal term—namely, the notion of ancient Jewish monotheism—with respect to my broader investigation of divine embodiment in the Second Temple Period. Such re-contextualization enables me to move past debates that have stymied progress in this arena, particularly the question of how early Christians, who were Jewish monotheists themselves, could have believed in a Jesus who was also divine. Wouldn’t that move have implied a step towards ditheism? My work in this chapter complicates and ultimately dismantles this assumption from two primary perspectives: First, I challenge the appropriateness of the term “monotheism” to describe Jewish belief during this period by showing that “monotheism” and its derived adjective “monotheistic” did not exist in antiquity. It was only in the midst of seventeenth-century CE philosophical debates that Henry Moore first coined the term. To impose it onto the ideological imagination of Jews living in the first-century CE is anachronistic and does not fully encapsulate the complexity of ancient Jewish beliefs about God. Second, I suggest that to use descriptors of a supreme uncreated God from whom all other reality flows is a better way of conceiving of God in the Second Temple Period, because this is the language that ancient Jews actually employed when describing God. I argue that though Jewish monotheism did not exist per se, since ancient Jews conceived of the oneness of the godhead in a complex and hierarchical manner, they did understand there to be a clear separation between the one uncreated God and all other reality. (Page 47)

Before ending this introduction to Forger's dissertation, I would like point out one more important aspect directly related to the issue of divine embodiment: the development of doctrine. Forger's contribution clearly demonstrates that the 'traditional' understanding of divine embodiment—contra the competing Stoic and cruder anthropomorphic views—emerged within a Jewish matrix, rather than a Hellenistic one.

Looking forward to further discussion on these important topics...

Grace and peace,


Friday, March 29, 2019

New narrative history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The entire first volume of the new narrative history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now available in a PDF format, for online reading and/or download:

Saints - The Standard of Truth - 1815-1846 

I found out about this new—700+ pages—book yesterday, and began reading it last night. I may share some of my musings once I have finished the tome.

Grace and peace,