Friday, September 14, 2012

Basil 'the Great': Letter XXXVIII - a clarification of terms


As the opening title of this thread states, this is another letter from the pen of St. Basil. (IMO, this letter needs to be read in conjunction with his 125th epistle, provided in the previous thread.)

Given the length of this letter, I am only going to provide the first few paragraphs, and an important section that identifies the monarchy of God the Father (though I highly recommend to everyone that they take the time to read the entire epistle - see link provided below.) I think all will immediately identify the close relationship (doctrinally speaking) that this letter has with his 125th epistle.

LETTER XXXVIII

TO GREGORY HIS BROTHER, ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUBSTANCE AND PERSON

Seeing that many, in treating of the mysterious doctrine of the Trinity, because they fail to discern any difference between the general conception of substance and that of the persons, come to like notions and think that it matters not whether they use the term "substance" or "person" (and for this reason some of those who accept such things without investigation are pleased to attribute one person to God just as they do one substance ; and vice versa, those who profess three persons feel obliged to assert as a consequence of this truth the same number of divine substances ) : for this reason, in order that you too may not fall into the same error, I have composed this brief discussion of the subject by way of a memorandum for you. Now, the meaning of these words, to explain it in brief, is as follows.

Those nouns which are predicated of subjects plural and numerically diverse have a more general meaning, as for example '' man." For when you say "man," you thereby signify the general class, and do not specify any man who is particularly known by that name. For "man" is no less applicable to

Peter than to Andrew, John, or James. This common element of the thing predicated, seeing that it refers to all alike who are included under the same term, demands a further note of distinction if we are to understand, not merely man in general, but " Peter" or "John" in particular.

Other nouns have a very specific denotation, whereby it is not the common property of the class that is indicated by the term employed, but rather a limitation to a particular thing, this delimitation implying no participation in the genus so far as the individuality of the object is concerned ; for example, "Paul" or "Timothy." For such expressions no longer have reference to the properties common to the nature of the objects, but, by setting apart certain delimited objects from the comprehensive term, specify what they are by means of these names. Now when a name is sought for two or more similar objects, as, for example, "Paul," "Silvanus," and ''Timothy," which will indicate the substance of these men, you will not apply one term to the substance of Paul, but a different one to that of Silvanus, and still another to that of Timothy ; but whatever terms indicate the substance of Paul will apply to the two others as well ; and those who are described with reference to their substance by the same terms are consubstantial with one another. And when you have learnt the common element and turn your investigation to the individual characteristics whereby the one is differentiated from the other, then the description which conveys knowledge of each will not agree in all respects with that which describes the other, even if in certain respects it is found to include the element common to all.

This, then, is our statement of the matter; that which is specifically referred to is indicated by the expression "hypostasis " (person). For if you say "man" by the indefiniteness of the term used you have produced in our minds a sort of vague concept, so that, although the nature of the thing is indicated by the noun, yet the thing which subsists in that nature and is specifically indicated by the noun is not made evident to us. But if you say "Paul," you have indicated by the noun the nature subsisting in the particular object. (English translation by Roy Joseph  Deferrari, Loeb Classical Libaray, St. Basil - The Letters, 1926, vol. 1,  pp. 197-201 - online pdf copy.)

And a bit later, Basil makes a clear reference to the monarchy of God the Father:

As for the Son, who through Himself and with Himself makes known the Spirit which proceeds from the Father, and who shines forth as the onlybegotten from the unbegotten light, He in the matter of the individual tokens which distinguish Him has nothing in common with the Father or with the Holy Spirit, but alone is recognized by the note just named. And God, who is over all, alone has an exceptional note of His person, in that He is Father and proceeds from no other principle ; and by this note again He is also recognized individually Himself. Therefore we assert that in the community of substance there is no accord or community as regards the distinguishing notes assigned by faith to the Trinity, whereby the individuality of the persons of the Godhead, as they have been handed down in our faith, is made, known to us, for each is apprehended separately by means of its own particular distinguishing notes. It is by means of the marks just mentioned that the distinction of the Persons is ascertained ; but regarding attributes denoted by the terms infinite, incomprehensible, uncreated, uncircumscribed by space, and all others of like nature, there is no variation in the life-giving natureI mean in the case of the Father, or of the Son, or of the Holy Spiritbut a certain continuous and uninterrupted community appears in them. (Ibid., pp. 207, 208 - bold emphasis mine.)

There is so much more in this exceptional letter, including an interpretation of Heb. 1:3 (pp. 219 ff.); and so, I would like to end here by urging all, once again, to take the time to read the entire epistle.


Grace and peace,

David

19 comments:

Jnorm said...

Thanks for posting this David! This was excellent!

David Waltz said...

Hi Jnorm,

You wrote:

==Thanks for posting this David! This was excellent!==

My pleasure! And thank you for your continued interest, and especially for the charity you extend to others in your posts. From my side, you are a dear brother in Christ.

God bless,

David

Drake Shelton said...

David,

The first quotation is clear and I agree with it. The second seems too ambiguous to make a judgment on.

Max said...

Also see Basil's letter 236 for more vindication of the Monarchy doctrine through commentary on Mark 13:32.

David Waltz said...

Hi Drake,

Last Saturday, you posted:

==The first quotation is clear and I agree with it. The second seems too ambiguous to make a judgment on.==

Interesting...would you my clarifying what you find to be "ambiguous" ?

Thanks much.

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello Max,

Thanks much for taking the time to comment; you wrote:

==Also see Basil's letter 236 for more vindication of the Monarchy doctrine through commentary on Mark 13:32.==

I only have Jackson's translation of #236 in NPNF 8.276-279. Having found Jackson to be less than accurate in a number of his translations, coupled with the fact that do not own Deferrari's translation (3rd vol.) to compare it with, I have refrained for mentioning this letter. Migne's online PG editions are not that clean, making it difficult to work with the Greek, so until I obtain the Loeb edition, I am going to reserve judgment.

[BTW if anyone reading this has Deferrari's 3rd vol., please let me know; the copyright it up, and you can share the entire volume with the world.]


Grace and peace,

David

Max said...

"Having found Jackson to be less than accurate in a number of his translations..."

Off topic question: Where exactly was he inaccurate? Was the reason for it a theological bias?

I heard many translators of the NPNF were biased towards Anglicanism... do you think so?

David Waltz said...

Hi Max,

Earlier today, you posted:

==Off topic question: Where exactly was he inaccurate? Was the reason for it a theological bias?==

I have some written notes from an older reading of Jackson's translation wherein I encountered some somewhat 'odd' renderings; for instance, he would sometimes translate θεότης as "God". But, most recently, I was troubled by his omission of anathemas from the original Nicene Creed (though, to his credit, he at least informs his readers that he had done so).

==I heard many translators of the NPNF were biased towards Anglicanism... do you think so?==

I think that is a 'fair' assessment; but, with that said, both 'high' and 'low' church Anglicans contributed to the series, some as editors, some as translators, some as both.

Oh, and there is the issue of the American edition; I am pretty sure that there were some important changes in the notes of the American edition (at least, that is what I remember, but I am getting old [grin]).


Grace and peace,

David

Drake Shelton said...

David,

I guess I will; ask it this way: Do you believe that the Godhead has three minds or one? And by mind I do not mean one agenda or perception. I mean intellectual faculty.

David Waltz said...

Hi Drake,

Three distinct "minds", for sure; and yet, they are 'one', just as we (believers) are to be 'one'.


Grace and peace,

David

Drake Shelton said...

Good.

Jnorm said...

Drake said:
"
I guess I will; ask it this way: Do you believe that the Godhead has three minds or one?"



Do you believe the Godhead to be Indivisible and Undivided? Yes or no


One problem I see isn't really your 3 minds view. It's your 3 minds view of separateness. Which makes me think you might believe in 3 independent ghost/human spirit gods.

Drake Shelton said...

Jnorm,

Your question is ambiguous as are most of your comments here. I have already stated my position in detail. I don't really care to discuss anything more with you.

Lvka said...

Oh, come on, guys! Don't tell me you still believe in the Trinity! That's, like, sooooo fourth century! ;-)

Jnorm said...

Drake said:
"Jnorm,

Your question is ambiguous as are most of your comments here. I have already stated my position in detail. I don't really care to discuss anything more with you."



My questions aren't ambiguous, and there are a number of things about your triadology that don't seem right and so I would like to ask some more questions if you don't mind.

1.) Can you call both Jesus and the Holy Spirit God at all? Yes or no

2.) Does your triadology allow you to pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Yes or no

3.) Does your triadology allow you to worship both Jesus and the Holy Spirit?

4.) In adhering to Aristotle's and Origen's view of the inter-changeableness of Person and Nature, aren't you setting yourself up for either some kind of tri-theism or some form of new Arianism? Also, wouldn't this change your Christology?



I know you think you're following Nicea, but your not. However, I do know who you are following (probably unknowingly). But I will keep it to myself for now.

Drake Shelton said...

Jnorm,

"1.) Can you call both Jesus and the Holy Spirit God at all? Yes or no"

Define the term "God".

"2.) Does your triadology allow you to pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Yes or no"

>>No.

"3.) Does your triadology allow you to worship both Jesus and the Holy Spirit?"

>>> Absolutely and ultimately, No.

"4.) In adhering to Aristotle's and Origen's view of the inter-changeableness of Person and Nature"

>>By interchangeable do you mean logically or ontologically pertaining to subject?

"aren't you setting yourself up for either some kind of tri-theism or some form of new Arianism?"

>>Aren't you needing to actually connect the dots there before you make that conclusion? Write out your syllogism and i will take it under consideration.

"Also, wouldn't this change your Christology?"

>>I don't have ESP Jnorm. Why don't you just untwist your tongue and say what you mean?

"I know you think you're following Nicea, but your not."

>>>A statement you have failed to prove.

"However, I do know who you are following (probably unknowingly). But I will keep it to myself for now."

>>>You are probably going to mention Curcellaeus.

Lvka said...

"3.) Does your triadology allow you to worship both Jesus and the Holy Spirit?"

>>> Absolutely and ultimately, No.

"I know you think you're following Nicea, but your not."

>>> A statement you have failed to prove.




Since Nicaean Creed makes it clear that "the Holy Spirit [...] is worshipped and glorified together with the Father and the Son", I think you've proven it yourself that you're not in agreement with the Fathers on this, as JNorm said.

Drake Shelton said...

Lvka,

That statement appears nowhere in the Nicene Creed

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.vii.iii.html

?

You guys baffle me. Don't expect me to ever reply to anything you or Jnorm ever say again.

Lvka said...

The Nicene Creed was composed by two consecutive synods: Nicaea and Constantinople, both in the fourth century. [You linked to the first and incomplete version].