Thursday, May 12, 2016

Gregory of Nazinazus on the Father as "greater" than the Son (John 14:28)


I have been rereading the Orations of Gregory Nazianzen (Nazianzus). I started with the 19 orations translated into English by Martha Vinson, published by the Catholic University of America Press (volume 107 in the Fathers of the Church series - Google preview). None of these orations are included in the collection of Gregory's works published in volume VII of The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (second series - PDF copy).

From Oration 20 we read:

We must neither be so partial to the Father that we actually strip him of his fatherhood, for whose father would he in fact be if his son were different in nature and estranged from him along with the rest of creation? Nor by the same token, should we be so partial to Christ that we fail to preserve this very distinction, his Sonhood, for whose son would he in fact be if there were no causal relationship between his Father and himself? Nor again should we diminish the Father's status as source, proper to him as Father and generator, since he would be the source of small and worthless things were he not the cause of deity contemplated in the Son and Spirit. It is our duty then both to maintain the oneness of God and to confess three individual entities, or Persons, each with his distinctive property.

The oneness of God [i.e. the Father] would, in my view, be maintained if both the Son and Spirit are causally related to him alone without being merged or fused into him and if they all share one and the same divine movement and purpose. And all three individually existing entities will be maintained if we do not think of them as fusing or dissolving or mingling, lest those with an excessive devotion to unity end up destroying the whole. And the individual properties will be maintained if, in the case of the Father, we think and speak of him as being both source and without source (I use the term in the sense of causal agent, fount, and eternal light)...The Father, then, is without source: his existence is derived neither outside nor from within himself. In turn, the Son is not without source if you understand "Father" to mean causal agent, since the Father is the source of the Son as causal agent... (Pages 111, 112.)

The teaching of Gregory that the Father is the "causal agent", "source", "fount" of the Son (and Spirit) is a foundational aspect of his doctrine of the Trinity, and is found in a number of his works. Directly related to this teaching is his understanding of the Father as "greater" (John 14:28) than the Son. Note the following from Oration 30:

As your third point you count the Word Greater ; and as your fourth. To My God and your God. And indeed, if He had been called greater, and the word equal had not occurred, this might perhaps have been a point in their favour. But if we find both words clearly used what will these gentlemen have to say? How will it strengthen their argument ? How will they reconcile the irreconcilable? For that the same thing should be at once greater than and equal to the same thing is an impossibility; and the evident solution is that the Greater refers to origination, while the Equal belongs to the Nature ; and this we acknowledge with much good will. But perhaps some one else will back up our attack on your argument, and assert, that That which is from such a Cause is not inferior to that which has no Cause ; for it would share the glory of the Unoriginate, because it is from the Unoriginate. And there is, besides, the Generation, which is to all men a matter so marvellous and of such Majesty. For to say that he is greater than the Son considered as man, is true indeed, but is no great thing. For what marvel is it if God is greater than man ? Surely that is enough to say in answer to their talk about Greater. (NPNF 7.312.)

Gregory follows the majority of pre-Nicene Church Fathers that the Biblical description of the Father being "greater" than the Son (John 14:28) should not be limited to the Son's incarnation; and that, the Father is in a very concrete sense "greater" than the Son because he is the "causal agent" of the Son.

My rereading of Gregory's orations has impressed upon me some important aspects of his reflections on the doctrine of the Trinity: first, the monarchy of God the Father, which includes His function as the "causal agent", "source", "fount" of the Son and Holy Spirit; second, his emphasis on the individuality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, without diminishing their equality of nature; and third, his ability to refute both Sabellianism and Arianism at the same time while engaged in the process of expounding his own Trinitarian thought.


Grace and peace,

David

8 comments:

Vicki DePalma said...

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We list it on our website > > > www.Gods-Catholic-Dogma.com

The Dogmas have in fact ... been hidden from you.

The Catholic God knows . . . what we think and believe . . .

Catholic writing of Romans 1:21 >
"They ... became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened."

Catholic Faith (pre-fulfillment) writing of Job 21:27 >
"Surely I know your thoughts, and your unjust judgments against Me."

The fact that "islam" is not a religion is on Section 113.1 of the site. Mohammed in the "koran" wrote exactly the opposite of the Old Testament Prophets.

Proverbs 30:4 > "Who hath ascended up into Heaven ... what is the name of His Son."
koran - maryam 19:35 > "It is not befitting ... Allah that He should beget a son."

ANNOYED PINOY said...

David, is there a resource you would recommend to your readers which would list as well as explain all the various options, formulas and permutations regarding the Triad? I think part of source of the heated disagreements among the differing views is precisely because the people of the differing views are often ignorant of the other options and the details. For example, I myself don't understand the difference between Social Trinitarianism and Latin Trinitarianism. Or the difference between Nicene Monarchism and the Eastern Orthodox view of the Trinity. Maybe you have a specific blog that gives such an outline already in your archives?

Regarding my plans to write a blogpost on the Archangel Michael being the same person as Jesus, in one sense I have plenty to write (by commenting on relevant passages), yet in another sense not much to say. So, I haven't written it yet (if ever). All I would end up saying would be that the the exegetical and theological case isn't decisive, though the hypothesis is consistent with all the facts. And therefore I would caution people in asserting with confidence the truth of the hypothesis.

However, a strong case can be made that one of the angels of Jehovah is a special one. Even THE Angel of the Jehovah and that that person does appear to be the pre-incarnate Christ. Exegetically and theologically I can't bring myself to say decisively that THE Angel of Jehovah is also Michael the Archangel.

David Waltz said...

Hi Annoyed,

Thanks much for taking the time to comment. In your post, you asked:

==David, is there a resource you would recommend to your readers which would list as well as explain all the various options, formulas and permutations regarding the Triad?==

I am not aware of any site, article and/or book that lists "all the various options, formulas and permutations regarding the Triad". However, Dale Tuggy's "Trinity" entry for the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy lists and describes 9 options under what he terms "Three-self Theories" (LINK), and is a good starting point.

==For example, I myself don't understand the difference between Social Trinitarianism and Latin Trinitarianism. Or the difference between Nicene Monarchism and the Eastern Orthodox view of the Trinity. Maybe you have a specific blog that gives such an outline already in your archives?==

Alas, I do not. However, your questions have planted a 'seed'; I think perhaps that I should address the void and start working on a thread which lists and delves into the various Trinitarian options I am aware of.

==Regarding my plans to write a blogpost on the Archangel Michael being the same person as Jesus, in one sense I have plenty to write (by commenting on relevant passages), yet in another sense not much to say. So, I haven't written it yet (if ever). All I would end up saying would be that the the exegetical and theological case isn't decisive, though the hypothesis is consistent with all the facts. And therefore I would caution people in asserting with confidence the truth of the hypothesis.==

Well said Annoyed. I think both sides of the argument have certain strengths, but also certain weaknesses; as such, each side needs to exercise a good dose of charity when evaluating the other.


Grace and peace,

David

ANNOYED PINOY said...

David thanks for taking time to respond, and quickly too. :-)

Also, thanks for the link to Dale Tuggy's article on the Trinity at the SEP website. You're right, it does look like a good place to start. I've interacted with Dale Tuggy a number of times and I wonder if you would ever consider interacting with him yourself. I've mentioned you a few times and he didn't recognize you. Your combined knowledge (both you and Dale) on such issues would truly make for an interesting dialogue.

However, your questions have planted a 'seed'; I think perhaps that I should address the void and start working on a thread which lists and delves into the various Trinitarian options I am aware of.

I'm sure your other regular readers are looking forward to that like I am.

Well said Annoyed. I think both sides of the argument have certain strengths, but also certain weaknesses; as such, each side needs to exercise a good dose of charity when evaluating the other.

Agreed. One of my concerns is that if Michael and Christ are two different persons, then that takes away from the respective dignity of each. Christ's dignity would unintentionally be lowered by being identified with a created angel. While the archangel Michael wouldn't be acknowledge as a distinct person in his own right.

I'm curious, how would you respond to the argument that 1 Thess. 4:16 distinguishes three things 1. the Lord (Jesus) who gives a cry of command, 2. the voice of the archangel (probably Michael, who alone is called an archangel in Scripture) and 3. the sound of the trumpet of God? Admittedly, Michael may not be the archangel mentioned here, but assuming he is, doesn't this suggest that he's distinct from Christ? BTW, John Gill (whom you cited as supporting your thesis) does say in his commentary that the Greek could be read to possibly mean Jesus is the archangel.

CONT.

ANNOYED PINOY said...

Gill wrote in his commentary: "with the voice of the archangel"; so Michael is called, in Jud_1:9 with which compare Rev_12:7 and who perhaps is no other than Christ himself, who is the head of all principality and power; and the sense be, that Christ shall descend from heaven with a voice, or shall then utter such a voice, as will show him to be the archangel; or as the Syriac version renders it, "the head", or "prince of angels"; and which whether, it will be an articulate voice, such as was expressed at the grave of Lazarus; or a violent clap of thunder, which is the voice of God; or the exertion of the power of Christ, is not certain: it is added.....

Also, doesn't Jude 1:9 suggest Michael isn't Christ because he's described as not being presumptuous enough to pronounce a blasphemous judgment on Satan; whereas the Angel of the Jehovah is called and apparently identified as Jehovah in Zech. 3:1-2?

Admittedly, the Angel of Jehovah who is identified as Jehovah says "Jehovah rebuke you, O Satan!" in Zech. 3:2. Which is pretty much the same thing Michael is said to have said in Jude 1:9, "The Lord rebuke you." Which may suggest it's the same person. Though, one would expect that NT Apostles would have known that Jesus was THE Angel of Jehovah in the Old Testament as well as being the archangel Michael. Yet, Jude's phraseology suggests he didn't believe Jesus was Michael in two ways. 1. By how he lowered Michael's authority below that of Jehovah and; 2. By not explicitly or implicitly teaching that Jesus is the Michael of the OT. Though, admittedly, merely because a particular apostle didn't believe a deeper or hidden truth doesn't mean it's not true. For example, whichever view on predestination might be true (e.g. conditional vs. unconditional election), it seems to me that it's logically/theologically possible that an individual Apostle didn't personally hold to the true position (being ignorant of it). In which case, Michael could still be Jesus.

It's also strange to me that Rev. 12:7 refers to Michael but also doesn't seem to imply he's Christ. It seems (to me) at least two NT Apostles (Jude and John) didn't believe Michael and Christ are the same person. And possibly a third Apostle in Paul in his statement in 1 Thess. 4:16. Maybe they just didn't see the connections, that's possible. Even Paul said "we prophesy in part," meaning even NT revelation is partial before the eschaton.

ANNOYED PINOY said...

Last admission. It's also true that the NT authors didn't given any indication that they believed that Jesus was the Angel of Jehovah. If any believed it, it's not recorded in Scripture. Maybe none of them did even though it's (IMO) probably true. If so, then that also goes to show that not only was NT revelation partial, but so was the NT Apostles' exegesis of the OT partial and progressive/developing. The Apostolic church did seem to be growing in it's understanding of the Gospel and its implications for other theological issues during the lifetime of the Apostles (e.g. whether Gentiles are included in salvation, the believer's relationship to the Law, what of circumcision, the dietary laws, the sabbath etc.).

I do think however that the connection between the Angel of Jehovah and the Word (Memra/Debar) of Jehovah with Christ is fairly strong based on their descriptions, behavior and prerogatives. Yet, we don't see Michael being linked with or identified with the Angel of Jehovah, the Word of Jehovah or even to Christ implicitly in a similar fashion. It's likely that the Targumim eventually influenced the later Christian community in making the connection with Christ and the Word of Jehovah (assuming the truth of the "Two Powers" thesis of Alan Segal and later Michael Heiser). But I'm not aware of where Jews during the intertestamental period or the 2nd Temple Judaism connected Michael with The Word, or with Metatron or any other beings that were precursors to NT Christology. Maybe such instances exist, but I don't know since I'm not a scholar. As far as I know, Michael is always just an angel in such literature.

David Waltz said...

Hi Annoyed,

Over the weekend, you posted:

==Also, thanks for the link to Dale Tuggy's article on the Trinity at the SEP website. You're right, it does look like a good place to start. I've interacted with Dale Tuggy a number of times and I wonder if you would ever consider interacting with him yourself. I've mentioned you a few times and he didn't recognize you.==

I have dialogued with Dale on a number of occasions. I a pretty sure that our interactions began shortly after I posted the following thread:


Dr. Dale Tuggy vs. Steve Hays

A few days later, Dr. Tuggy linked to the above thread in the following post at his blog:

Obsession

In addition to our subsequent comments at the Triablogue site, we have both posted in the comboxes of our respective blogs. One of Dale's comments that comes to mind can be found HERE.

Now, with the above in place, I am a bit puzzeled that Dr. Tuggy, " didn't recognize" me in your interactions with him.

Moving on, I greatly appreciated your reflections on Michael the archangel and the Angel of Jehovah. You began with:

== I'm curious, how would you respond to the argument that 1 Thess. 4:16 distinguishes three things 1. the Lord (Jesus) who gives a cry of command, 2. the voice of the archangel (probably Michael, who alone is called an archangel in Scripture) and 3. the sound of the trumpet of God? Admittedly, Michael may not be the archangel mentioned here, but assuming he is, doesn't this suggest that he's distinct from Christ? BTW, John Gill (whom you cited as supporting your thesis) does say in his commentary that the Greek could be read to possibly mean Jesus is the archangel.==

Here is the passage in question:

ὅτι αὐτὸς ὁ κύριος ἐν κελεύσματι, ἐν φωνῇ ἀρχαγγέλου καὶ ἐν σάλπιγγι θεοῦ, καταβήσεται ἀπ' οὐρανοῦ, καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναστήσονται πρῶτον

The ASV translate the Greek as follows:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first;

A couple of observations: first, the ASV translators (as well as the KJV, NAS, NIV, RSV, NRS, et al.) use the definite article with "archangel", though the Greek is anarthrous; and second, "the voice of the archangel", is from the one who descends from heaven—"the Lord himself"—i.e. Jesus Christ. Just because Jesus uses "the voice of the archangel", this does not necessarily mean that he IS "the archangel". However, with that said, one cannot exclude Dr. Gill's interpretation.

As for the Jude 1:9 passage, I think it is more difficult to support that Michael is the pre-existent Jesus from the passage itself (though not beyond the realm of possibility). Personally, I think "The Lord" who is invoked is God the Father, which leaves open the possibility that the Son of God could have been Michael.

You ended your last post with:

==...I'm not aware of where Jews during the intertestamental period or the 2nd Temple Judaism connected Michael with The Word, or with Metatron or any other beings that were precursors to NT Christology. Maybe such instances exist, but I don't know since I'm not a scholar. As far as I know, Michael is always just an angel in such literature.==

I have a couple of scholarly works that I would like to consult before I comment on the above; but alas, due to time constraints, it will have to wait until tomorrow (the Lord wlling).


Grace and peace,

David

ANNOYED PINOY said...

Now, with the above in place, I am a bit puzzeled that Dr. Tuggy, " didn't recognize" me in your interactions with him.

It might be a memory lapse on the part of one or both of us. I have a (false?) memory of him saying he didn't recognize you, yet I can't find it on the relevant blogs/blogposts. I did mention you in my blogpost HERE. Looking back, I might be misremembering his lack of understanding of what Nicene Monarchism teaches in the place of his not recognizing your name (as can be seen in part 1 of his 5 part response to my blogpost above).

Anyway, I mentioned Dale just because I would liked to have seen you two interact. Apparently you have and I plan on reading those interactions.

I have a couple of scholarly works that I would like to consult before I comment on the above; but alas, due to time constraints, it will have to wait until tomorrow (the Lord wlling).

Yeah, that that would be an interesting long term research project for those of us who are interested in Christology. Have a great week David. :-)