Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Monarchianism and Origen's Early Trinitarian Theology – a dissertation by Stephen Edward Waers (Part 1)

A couple of weeks ago (04-22-21), I received an email that brought to my attention the following scholarly article:

The Christology of Callistus

Shortly after reading Haine’s essay, I discovered the following germane dissertation by Stephen Edward Waers:

Monarchianism and Origen's Early Trinitarianism

This dissertation precipitated a renewed interest and investigation into the cause and rise of the theological movement that Waers has termed “monarchianism”. [Personally, I prefer ‘modalistic monarchianism’; other folk have used ‘patripassianism’, ‘Sabellianism’ and ‘modalism’ when referencing the movement.]

To make sure that his readers fully understand what he believes constitutes one as a monarchian, Waers provides the following working definition:

…the monarchians had two core commitments: (1) God is one alone; (2) Jesus is God. These two core commitments led them to conclude that the Father and the Son are “one and the same” (ἓν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ). This is the heart of the theological position I am calling monarchianism. (Page 13)

The above definition is given towards the end of the section, “Major Scholarship on Monarchianism” (pages 6-14). Though brief, this section is a solid overview that begins with, Hermann Hagemann’s, Die römische Kirche und ihr Einfluss auf Disciplin und Dogma in den drei ersten Jahrhunderten (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1864), and is immedieately followed by Dr. Adolf Harnack’s substantive contributions. It also includes Heine’s above refenced, “The Christology of Callistus,” Journal of Theological Studies 49 (1998): 56–91, and ends with  Wolfgang A. Bienert, “Sabellius und Sabellianismus als historisches Problem,” in Logos: Festschrift für Luise Abramowski (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1993), 124–39; idem, “Wer war Sabellius?,” Studia patristica 40 (Leuven: Peeters, 2006), 359-65. 

Chapter 1, “Models of the Father/Son Relationship in the Second Century” (pages 26-94), examines a number of texts produced by the Church Fathers of the second century. From the opening of the chapter we read:

Scholars frequently refer to figures from the second century as “modalists” or “monarchians” without first defining what either of those terms means. For example, Campbell Bonner called Melito of Sardis’ theology “naïve modalism.” More recently, Reinhard Hübner has argued that Ignatius of Antioch was a monarchian. As I noted in the introduction and develop in the later chapters on the monarchian controversy, I prefer a restrictive and specific definition of monarchianism. Using my definition, monarchianism is restricted to those who explicitly claim that the Father and the Son are “one and the same” in an effort to maintain that there is only one God. (Page 26)

Though I certainly understand Waers’ motive for “a restrictive and specfic defintion of monarchianism”, I believe that other criteria than an explicit "statement that the Father and Son are ‘one and the same'", can be used to determine if ones theology is monarchian. As such, Reinhard Hübner's claim "that Ignatius of Antioch was a monarchian" needs to be taken seriously. Interestingly enough, John Henry Newman in his An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine states that, St. Ignatius may be considered Patripassian” (University of Notre Dame Press, 1989, p. 17). As for Campbell Bonner’s assertion that Meltio of Sardis’ theology was “naïve modalism”, I believe he was accurate. [See my post, James White's (mis)use of Melito of Sardis, for support of this assessment.]

Yet, even with the above observations in mind, Waers survey of the second century writers remains quite valuable. He divides the second century writings he exmamines into three categories. First, the authors that made a ‘soft distinction’ between the Father and the Son—i.e. the distinction made is primarly via the use of names and titles. Second, a “hard distinction”—i.e. those who provide an explicit explanation on how the Father and Son are essentially distinct. And third, those writers whose reflections lie in between the soft and hard distinctions. The following are the authors and writings, that are surveyed and categorized by Waers:

Soft Distinction -

1 Clement (Pages 35, 36)

2 Clement (Pages 36, 37)

Ignatius (Pages 38-41)

Polycarp (Pages 41, 42)

Didache, Epistle of Barnabas, and Shepherd of Hermas (Pages 42-45)

Epistle to Diognetus (Pages 46, 47)

Melito (Pages 48-52)


The Ambiguous Middle -

Theophilus of Antioch (Pages 52-57)

Irenaeus (Pages 58-61)

Clement of Alexandria (Pages 61-73)

Athenagoras (Pages 73-78)


Hard Distinction -

Justin Martyr (Pages 79-91)


Given my recent threads on Justin Martyr, I was particularly interested in reading Waers’ analysis of Justin’s theology on the relationship between the Father and Son. The following is from the middle of that section:

Justin unabashedly asserts that there is another God alongside the Creator God whom his dialogue partners acknowledge. Trypho and his coreligionists were pleased that Justin had clearly stated that there was no God above the Creator of all, but they remained unconvinced by Justin’s argument that there was another God alongside the Creator. This exchange between Justin and Trypho signals one of the chief points of disagreement that frequently recurs as the dialogue progresses. Justin again and again claims that the Son is another God alongside the Father. Other second-century authors spoke of Christ as God, but they did not clarify that he was another God. Justin carries on the tradition of maintaining the Son’s divinity, but he couples it with an equally strong affirmation that the Son is a God distinct from, and even different than, the Father. (Pages 85, 86)

Waers reiterates the above in his conclusion of the section; note the following:

Of all of the writings surveyed in this chapter, Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho stands out because of its strong concern to show that the Father and Son are distinct, even different. He argues that the Son is another God and that he is distinct from the Father in number. Justin’s descriptions of the difference between the Father and the Son offer a sharp contrast to the other second-century theologies that did not take care to distinguish them so strongly. Even more, while Justin uses an abundance of scripture from the Old Testament to support his positions, he does not shy away from using Greek philosophical concepts in a way that we do not see in the Apostolic Fathers. (Page 93)

In chapters 2 and 3, Waers provides, “a detailed analysis of the main texts of the period that bear witness to monarchian theology” (p. 96). He correctly points out that, “we do not possess any texts from the monarchians themselves”; as such, “[w]e are thus left with the difficult task of reconstructing monarchian theology using only the fragmentary evidence we can extract from hostile witnesses.” The following is his introduction to the texts he utilizes:

Although it is the latest of the texts I survey, I begin with an overview of passages relevant to monarchianism in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History. He has little to say about monarchianism itself, but his work does elucidate the state of the church in Rome at the time when monarchianism made its appearance. Next, I discuss Hippolytus’ Contra Noetum, which I take to be the earliest of the sources attesting to monarchiansim. Then, I examine Tertullian’s Adversus Praxean, which I consider to be dependent on Contra Noetum. These two sources are the earliest attestation to monarchianism, and they show that there was a stable core to monarchian theology. At the same time, there was also variation and development within monarchian theology, early signs of which can be seen in Adversus Praxean. In chapter three, I undertake a similar analysis of the Refutatio omnium haeresium and Novatian’s De Trinitate, which give us later portraits of monarchianism. (Page 96)

I shall end part 1 of my look into Waers dissertation with the following selection:

The most foundational tenet of monarchian theology, and the one that remains stable across all witnesses, is the strong affirmation that there is only one God. At the beginning of the third century, such claims were common. Both the monarchians and their opponents claimed to believe in only one God. The distinctive thing about the monarchian commitment to belief in only one God was that it interpreted the oneness of God in a manner that rejected the position held by their opponents, namely, that Jesus and the father were distinct realities and both God. The monarchians supported their understanding of the oneness of God with references to classic biblical affirmations of monotheism, like Isaiah 44:6.

The second core component of monarchian theology was the unwavering confession that Jesus was divine. The acceptance of the divinity of Jesus demarcated them from the psilanthropists, who also sought to preserve the oneness of God by denying that Jesus was God. Because the monarchians had an interpretation of monotheism that did not allow for two distinct realities to be God, they argued that the Father and Son were one and the same. In their monotheistic reasoning, if the Father was God, and the Son was God, then they were necessarily the same. Any argument affirming that both were distinct and divine was tantamount to ditheism in the eyes of the monarchians. Using this same logic, the monarchians focused on biblical theophanies and argued that one and the same God was both invisible and visible. This approach was a stark rejection of the way someone like Justin interpreted the Old Testament theophanies. (Pages 213, 214)

Should have part 2 up soon. Until then, I hope folk who have taken the time to read part 1 will also read the entire dissertation.


Grace and peace,

David

Sunday, April 4, 2021

An interesting assessment of Justin Martyr's Christology

My continuing studies into Justin Martyr’s Christology are providing some interesting assessments. Note the following from the Reformed author, Harry R. Boer:

With the Apologists, Greek philosophy became associated with Christianity. The best known of them was Justin Martyr, a man from Samaria whose parents were Roman. He was a student and teacher of philosophy before his conversion. He remained a philosopher, regarding Christianity as the highest philosophy. He died a martyr for the faith between 163 and 167. Justin taught that before the creation of the world God was alone and that there was no Son. Within God, however, there was Reason, or Mind (Logos). When God desired to create the world, he needed an agent to do this for him. This necessity arose out of the Greek view that God cannot concern himself with matter. Therefore, he begot another divine being to create the world for him. This divine being was called the Logos or Son of God. He was called Son because he was born; he was called Logos because he was taken from the Reason or Mind of God. However, the Father does not lose anything when he gives independent existence to the Logos. The Logos that is taken out of him to become the Son is like a flame taken from a fire to make a new fire. The new fire does not lessen the older fire.

Justin and the other Apologists therefore taught that the Son is a creature. He is a high creature, a creature powerful enough to create the world but, nevertheless, a creature. In theology this relationship of the Son to the Father is called subordinationism. The Son is subordinate, that is, secondary to, dependent upon, and caused by the Father. The Apologists were subordinationists. (A Short History of the Early Church, p. 110 – Google Books link.)

Boer’s take on Justin’s Christology is an interesting one; it contains two important aspects that are rarely combined in the Christological evaluations of Justin's thought I have read. First, the preexistent Jesus Christ is created by God the Father, and as such is a “creature”. Second, this creative act by the Father is from Himself, and not ex nihilo.

Now, I suspect some folk are going to be quite eager to critique Boer’s assessment; but before doing so, I think it is very important to keep in mind that Justin on two occasions approvingly cites the LXX translation of Proverbs 8:22 which states that Wisdom was ‘created’ (ἔκτισέ), and then applies this verse to the preexistent Jesus Christ. (For the two quotations, see Dialogue With Trypho, chapters 61 and 129—both are provided in English and Greek in THIS THREAD.)

Back to my studies…


Grace and peace,

David

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Is Jesus Christ autotheos?

Is Jesus Christ autotheos (αὐτόθεος)? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. Like many other theological terms, autotheos can be—and has been—used in more than one sense. Personally speaking, I first became aware of the term via B. B. Warfield’s reflections on John Calvin’s controversial elucidations on the doctrine of the Trinity.

Back in the fall of 2015 I published a three-part series—part 1; part 2, part 3—that delved into John Calvin's novel concepts concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, which included the denial of the communication/generation of the Son of God’s essence/substance from God the Father. To defend this view, Calvin placed a heavy emphasis on the aseity of the Son—i.e. that the Son is autotheos. An excellent introduction concerning this aspect of Calvin’s Trinitarian thought has been provided by Brannon Ellis, who wrote:

the heart of Calvin’s approach [concerning the doctrine of the Trinity] was exactly what his traditionalist opponents also embraced. Calvin and his classical critics were in agreement against all forms of antitrinitarianism, regarding the principal role of the affirmation of both ways of speaking of God through careful distinction. They did not agree, however, on the extent to which this shared conviction should be pressed when it came to one of the central claims of Calvin’s position—one that drew explicit attention to the nexus between Unity and Trinity, between the divine processions and the consubstantiality of the Father, Son, and Spirit. A constant element in all Calvin’s controversies was his assertion of the aseity (or self-existence) of God the Son, and denial of the legitimacy of this language by all his opponents—both orthodox and heterdodox.

Against antitrinitarians who more or less conflated personal and essential language, making the Son other than the one true God the Father or else indistinguishable from the Father in God, Calvin argued along with classical tradition, that, though the Son is not who the Father is, he is all that which the Father is. But, against some Trinitarians uncomfortable with his strong claim that the Son exists in and of himself, Calvin asserted in a similar manner that we must be able to say everything of the only-begotten Son that we say of the Father with respect to essence. The Son is therefore rightly confessed to be essentially self-existent, possessing deity ‘of himself’ (a se) as the one true God together with the Father and the Spirit.

Calvin’s affirmations along these lines, explicitly employing what I call autothean language, arose in 1588 in response to Valentine Gentile’s exclusive attribution of underived deity to the Father. The adjective autothean was first applied to Calvin’s views by a Roman Catholic polemicist shortly after Calvin’s death. It derives from his appropriation of Gentile’s language in order to claim against Gentile that the Son together with the Father possesses αὐτοθεὸτης (divine aseity), and therefore is αὐτοθεὸς (‘God of himself’, self-existent God). Again, however, Calvin had employed synonymous language—drawing similar criticism—from the beginning of his career. (Calvin, Classical Trinitarianism, and the Aseity of the Son, p. 2)

Calvin was not the first individual to apply autothean language to the Son. However, he was the first to use autothean language in a sense that eliminated the communication/generation of the Son’s essence from the Father; a sense that evoked the "denial of the legitimacy of this language by all his opponents—both orthodox and heterdodox." It is a sense that stands in contrast with the original Nicene Creed, which states:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things seen and unseen.  And in one Lord, Jesus Christ the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only-begotten, that is, of the essence of the Father

One of the most proficient defenders of the Nicene Creed was the Anglican priest/theologian George Bull. In volume 2 of his Defensio Fidei Nicænæ - A Defence of the Nicene Creed, he specifically addressed the application of αὐτόθεος to the Son. His introduction to chapter 1 of Book IV is reproduced below:

THE FIRST PROPOSITION TOUCHING THE SUBORDINATION OF THE SON TO THE FATHER AS TO HIS ORIGIN AND PRINCIPLE, STATED. THIS IS ALSO CONFIRMED BY THE UNANIMOUS CONSENT OF THE ANCIENTS. IT IS SHEWN, THAT THAT EXPRESSION OF CERTAIN MODERN WRITERS, BY WHICH THEY DESIGNATE THE SON, αὐτόθεος, THAT IS, OF HIMSELF GOD, IS QUITE REPUGNANT TO THE JUDGMENT OF THE NICENE COUNCIL ITSELF, AND ALSO TO THAT OF ALL THE CATHOLIC DOCTORS, BOTH THOSE WHO WROTE BEFORE, AND THOSE WHO WROTE AFTER, THAT COUNCIL  (1852 Oxford ed., p. 556 – link to PDF)

He then writes:

...the Son has indeed the same divine nature in common with the Father, but communicated by the Father; in such sense, that is, that the Father alone hath the divine nature from Himself, in other words, from no other, but the Son from  the Father; consequently that the Father is the fountain, origin, and principle, of the Divinity which is in the Son. (Ibid. p. 557)

Bull immediately follows the above with numerous quotations from the Church Fathers that clearly support his ‘FIRST PROPOSITION’. In paragraph #7 on page 565 he begins his examination “of certain moderns, who obstinately contend that the Son may properly be called αὐτόθεος, i.e God of Himself.” He then writes:

This view is inconsistent both with the hypotheses of those who maintain it, and with catholic consent. They say,  I mean, that the Son is from God the Father, as He is Son, and not as He is God; that He received His Person, not His essence, or Divine Nature, from the Father. But this is self contradictory; for, as Petavius rightly says, "The Son of God cannot be begotten by the Father, unless He receive from Him His nature and Godhead." For what else is it ' to be begotten,' than to be sprung from another, so as to have a like nature ? he who is begotten must necessarily have [his] nature in such wise communicated by him [who begets,] as in it to be like him who begets [him.] Unless indeed Christ, in that He is the Son of God, is not God; or receives a relation only from the Father without [receiving] Godhead. I add, that in this case Person cannot be conceived of without essence, unless you lay down Person in the Godhead to be nothing else than a mere mode of existence, which is simple Sabellianism. (Ibid. p. 565)

On the next page, he cogently sums up his argument against those who maintain that the Son is ‘God of Himself’:

...if essence is communicated to the Son by generation, He plainly has His essence from the Father, not from Himself; otherwise either He would not be begotten, or He would not be begotten by another. Hence Damascene, on the Orthodox Faith, i. 10, rightly observes, "All things which the Son and the Spirit severally have, They have of the Father, even being itself." And in what way this opinion of theirs is repugnant to catholic consent, I have shewn a little before. The council of Nice itself certainly decreed that the Son is God of God; He, however, who is God of God, cannot, without manifest contradiction, be said to be God of Himself. (Ibid. p. 566- bold emphasis mine.)

In the last paragraph of chapter 1 (#10), Bull acknowledges a sense in which αὐτόθεος can legitimately be applied to the Son; note the following:

...no Catholic would deny that the Son both may and ought to be called αὐτόθεος, that is to say, true and veriest God. Hence, even Eusebius, who (if any one) acknowledged the subordination of the Son to the Father, as to His origin and principle, yet still did not hesitate to declare, that the Saviour is "worshipped, and rightly worshipped, as the genuine Son of the supreme God, and αὐτόθεος (very God)." Where by the word αὐτόθεος, is clearly meant, not one who is God of Himself, but one who is truly God; as may be gathered both from the fact that it is the Son of God, who is here called αὐτόθεος, as well as from the fact that in the same breath the Father is designated the supreme God; (Ibid. p. 569)

It is now time to answer the opening question of this post: Is Jesus Christ autotheos (αὐτόθεος)? If one defines αὐτόθεος as ‘God of Himself’, then NO; but, if one defines αὐτόθεος as ‘very God’ (i.e. God of God/God from God), then YES.


Grace and peace,

David


P.S. This post was prompted by this comment posted on March 13, 2021.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Justin Martyr – “one of the most enigmatic passages in 1 Apol.”

My last thread focused on Justin Martyr’s Christological passages that emphasized the Son's causality and numerical distinction from the Father. This post will delve into a single chapter from Justin’s extant writings that has been termed by Leslie William Barnard as, “one of the most enigmatic passages in 1 Apol.(The First and Second ApologiesAncient Christian Writers, 56.110). Barnard’s English translation of the entire chapter is reproduced below, followed by Blunt’s Greek text:

Hence we are called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists with reference to gods such as these [i.e. the demons worshipped by the Greeks], but not with reference to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is unmixed with evil. But we worship and adore both Him and the Son who came from Him, and taught us these things, and the army of the other good angels,[36] who follow Him and are made like Him, and the prophetic Spirit, giving honor [to Him] in reason and truth; and to everyone who wishes to learn handing over without grudging, what we have been taught. (Leslie William Barnard, The First Apology, ch. 6 – Ancient Christian Writers, 56.26)

6. 1. Ἔνθεν δὲ καὶ ἄθεοι κεκλήμεθα· καὶ ὁμολογοῦμεν τῶν τοιούτων νομιζομένων θεῶν ἄθεοι εἶναι, ἀλλ' οὐχὶ τοῦ ἀληθεστάτου καὶ πατρὸς δικαιοσύνης καὶ σωφροσύνης καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἀρετῶν ἀνεπιμίκτου τε κακίας θεοῦ· 2. ἀλλ' ἐκεῖνόν τε καὶ τὸν παρ' αὐτοῦ υἱὸν ἐλθόντα καὶ διδάξαντα ἡμᾶς ταῦτα, καὶ τὸν τῶν ἄλλων ἑπομένων καὶ ἐξομοιουμένων ἀγαθῶν ἀγγέλων στρατόν, πνεῦμά τε τὸ προφητικὸν σεβόμεθα καὶ προ σκυνοῦμεν, λόγῳ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ τιμῶντες, καὶ παντὶ βουλομένῳ μαθεῖν, ὡς ἐδιδάχθημεν, ἀφθόνως παραδιδόντες. (A.W.F. Blunt, The Apologies of Justin Martyr, pp. 9, 10)


From Barnard’s note #36 on chapter 6, we read:

This is one of the most enigmatic passages in 1 Apol. Attempts have been made to avoid the sudden and embarrassing introduction of angels before the prophetic Spirit. Thus straton has been taken as the object of didaxanta, either parallel to hēmas, i.e., “and taught us and taught the army of the good angels,” or parallel to tauta, i.e., “and taught us these things and [belief in] the army of good angels.” Both of these are unconvincing and are strained interpretations of the text. Straton has also been emended to stratēgon, so as to refer to Christ as the Head of the angels. See Otto’s note (Otto, 21-23). If, however, the text is taken as stands, worship and adoration, in a liturgical context, are addressed to God the Father of Righteousness, the Son who came from Him, the army of the good angels, and the prophetic Spirit. Justin closely connects the good angels with Jesus as the messengers of God who would accompany Him in His glory at the last day. In a remarkable passage in Dial. 128 he states that, as the logos has a separate, permanent existence from the Father, so there are angels who have a permanent existence…So here Justin does not withhold worship and adoration from the good angels who, like Jesus, have a permanent existence. (Ibid. p. 110)

Enigmatic indeed! Now, Barnard is not the only scholar to point out the attempts by a number of interpreters/translators “to avoid the sudden and embarrassing introduction of angels before the prophetic Spirit.” Back in 1831, the Anglican patristic scholar Edward Burton, devoted eight pages of his Testimonies of the Ante-Nicene Fathers to the Doctrine of the Trinity (pp. 15-23 – link to PDF) to the enigmatic chapter 6. He begins this section of the book with:

I must depart from my usual plan of giving a translation of the passage, and adding the original in a note: for the Greek words have been cited with such opposite views, and translated in so many different ways, that it is absolutely necessary to lay them in the first instance before the reader.

He then goes on to mention the interpretations of Bellermin, Prudentius Maranus, Scultetus, Bull, Stephen Le Moyne, Le Nourry, Grabe, Cave, Langus, Dr. Ashton, Lowe, Dr. Milner, and ‘the bishop of Lincoln’ [John Kaye].

Interestingly enough, some of interpretations proposed by a number of the Protestant authors included in Burton’s list had a clear apologetic bias behind them. It seems they wanted to avoid any notion of honor/worship being given to the ‘good angels’ because, “Roman catholic writers have quoted them as supporting the worship of angels” (p. 16). As for Burton’s own interpretation, given the length, I think it is best that one read it for themselves.

In ending, the passage remains an enigma to me, requiring a good deal more study on my part before I attempt to adopt an interpretation. With that said, I would appreciate to hear from any folk who may have reached some sort of conclusion concerning what Justin was trying to convey.


Grace and peace,

David

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Justin Martyr – on the causality and numerical distinction of the Son of God from the Father

It has been well over a year since I have utilized Greek—in a comprehensive sense—during my studies. To rectify this hiatus, I have been examining a number of Christological passages found in the writings of Justin Martyr, comparing English translations with the Greek texts. I chose Justin because he “developed the first Christology" (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 2.549). An important theme that emerges from Justin’s Christological passages is the causality of the Son of God from the Father. From Justin’s Apologies and Dialogue With Trypho we read:

1st Apology, ch. 21

And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth[1] of God... (The First Apology, 21 - ANF 1.170)

And when we say also that the Word, who is the First-begotten[1] of God… (Leslie William Barnard, The First Apology, 21 – Ancient Christian Writers, 56.37)

[1] πρῶτον γέννημα (prōton gennēma)

Τῷ δὲ καὶ τὸν λόγον, ὅ ἐστι πρῶτον γέννημα τοῦ θεοῦ (A.W.F. Blunt, The Apologies of Justin Martyr, p. 34)

1st Apology, ch. 23

Jesus Christ is the only proper Son who has been begotten[1] by God, being His Word and first-begotten[2], and power… (The First Apology, 23 - ANF 1.170)

Jesus Christ alone was really begotten[1] as Son of God, being His Word and First-begotten[2] and Power; (Leslie William Barnard, The First Apology, 23 – Ancient Christian Writers, 56.39)

[1] γεγέννηται (gegennētai)

[2] πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos)

Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς μόνος ἰδίως υἱὸς τῷ θεῷ γεγέννηται, λόγος αὐτοῦ ὑπάρχων καὶ πρωτότοκος καὶ δύναμις (A.W.F. Blunt, The Apologies of Justin Martyr, p. 38)

1st Apology, ch. 33

It is wrong, therefore, to understand the Spirit and the power of God as anything else than the Word, who is also the first-born[1] of God, as the foresaid prophet Moses declared; (The First Apology, 33 - ANF 1.174)

The Spirit and Power from God cannot therefore be understood as anything else than the Word, who is also the First-begotten[1] of God, as Moses the above-mentioned prophet testified; (Leslie William Barnard, The First Apology, 33 – Ancient Christian Writers, 56.46)

[1] πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos)

τὸ πνεῦμα  οὖν καὶ τὴν δύναμιν τὴν παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐδὲν ἄλλο νοῆσαι θέμις ἢ τὸν λόγον, ὃς καὶ πρωτότοκος τῷ θεῷ ἐστι Μωυσῆς (A.W.F. Blunt, The Apologies of Justin Martyr, p. 53)

1st Apology, ch. 46

We have been taught that Christ is the first-born[1] of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men were partakers; (The First Apology, 46 - ANF 1.178)

We have been taught that Christ is the First-born[1] of God, and we have suggested above that He is the logos of whom every race of men and women were partakers. (Leslie William Barnard, The First Apology, 46 – Ancient Christian Writers, 56.55)

[1] πρωτότοκον (prōtotokon)

τὸν Χριστὸν πρωτότοκον τοῦ θεοῦ εἶναι ἐδι δάχθημεν καὶ προεμηνύσαμεν λόγον ὄντα, οὗ πᾶν γένος ἀν θρώπων μετέσχε. (A.W.F. Blunt, The Apologies of Justin Martyr, p. 70)

1st Apology, ch. 53

we believe of a crucified man that He is the first-born[1] of the unbegotten[2] God(The First Apology, 53 - ANF 1.180)

we believe of a crucified man that He is the First-begotten[1] of the Unbegotten[2] God(Leslie William Barnard, The First Apology, 53 – Ancient Christian Writers, 56.60)

[1] πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos)

[2] ἀγεννήτῳ (agennētō)

γὰρ ἂν λόγῳ ἀν θρώπῳ σταυρωθέντι ἐπειθόμεθα, ὅτι πρωτότοκος τῷ ἀγεννήτῳ θεῷ ἐστι (A.W.F. Blunt, The Apologies of Justin Martyr, p. 78)

1st Apology, ch. 58

For they who are called devils attempt nothing else than to seduce men from God who made them, and from Christ His first-begotten[1]; (The First Apology, 53 - ANF 1.182)

[1] πρωτογόνου (prōtogonou)

οὐ γὰρ ἄλλο τι ἀγωνίζονται οἱ λεγόμενοι δαίμονες, ἢ ἀπάγειν τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἀπὸ τοῦ ποιήσαντος θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ πρωτογόνου αὐτοῦ Χριστοῦ· (A.W.F. Blunt, The Apologies of Justin Martyr, p. 86)

1st Apology, ch. 63

For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son ; who also, being the first-begotten[1] Word of God, is even God. (The First Apology, 63 - ANF 1.184)

For they who affirm that the Son is the Father are shown neither to have known the Father, nor to know that the Father of the Universe has a Son;  who being the logos and First-begotten[1] is also God. (Leslie William Barnard, The First Apology, 63 – Ancient Christian Writers, 56.69)

[1] πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos)

οἱ γὰρ τὸν υἱὸν πατέρα φάσκοντες εἶναι ἐλέγχονται μήτε τὸν πατέρα ἐπιστάμενοι, μηθ' ὅτι ἐστὶν υἱὸς  τῷ πατρὶ τῶν ὅλων γινώσκοντες· ὃς καὶ λόγος πρωτότοκος ὢν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ θεὸς ὑπάρχει. (A.W.F. Blunt, The Apologies of Justin Martyr, pp. 95, 96)

2nd Apology, ch. 6

But to the Father of all, who is unbegotten[1], there is no name given. For by whatever name He be called, He has as His elder the person who gives Him the name. But these words. Father, and God, and Creator, and Lord, and Master, are not names, but appellations derived from His good deeds and functions. And His Son, who alone is properly called Son, the Word, who also was with Him and was begotten[2] before the works, when at first He created and arranged all things by Him, is called Christ, in reference to His being anointed and God's ordering all things through Him; (The Second Apology, 6 - ANF 1.190)

[1]  γεννήτ(agennētō)

[2] γεννώμενος (gennōmenos)

Ὄνομα δὲ τῷ πάντων πατρὶ θετόν, ἀγεννήτῳ ὄντι, οὐκ ἔστιν· ᾧ γὰρ ἂν καὶ ὄνομά τι προσαγορεύηται, πρεσβύ τερον ἔχει τὸν θέμενον τὸ ὄνομα. τὸ δὲ πατὴρ καὶ θεὸς καὶ κτίστης καὶ κύριος καὶ δεσπότης οὐκ ὀνόματά ἐστιν, ἀλλ' ἐκ τῶν εὐποιϊῶν καὶ τῶν ἔργων προσρήσεις. ὁ δὲ υἱὸς ἐκεί νου, ὁ μόνος λεγόμενος κυρίως υἱός, ὁ λόγος πρὸ τῶν ποιη μάτων καὶ συνὼν καὶ γεννώμενος, ὅτε τὴν ἀρχὴν δι' αὐτοῦ πάντα ἔκτισε καὶ ἐκόσμησε, Χριστὸς μὲν κατὰ τὸ κεχρῖσθαι καὶ κοσ μῆσαι τὰ πάντα δι' αὐτοῦ τὸν θεὸν λέγεται … (A.W.F. Blunt, The Apologies of Justin Martyr, pp. 112, 113)

Dialogue with Trypho, ch, 61

 "I shall give you another testimony, my friends," said I, "from the Scriptures, that God begat[1] before all creatures a Beginning, [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos ; and on another occasion He calls Himself Captain, when He appeared in human form to Joshua the son of Nave (Nun). For He can be called by all those names, since He ministers to the Father's will, and since He was begotten of the Father by an act of will ; just as we see happening among ourselves : for when we give out some word, we beget the word ; yet not by abscission, so as to lessen the word  [which remains] in us, when we give it out : and just as we see also happening in the case of a fire, which is not lessened when it has kindled [another] , but remains the same ; and that which has been kindled by it likewise appears to exist by itself, not diminishing that from which it was kindled. The Word of Wisdom, who is Himself this God begotten[2] of the Father of all things, and Word, and Wisdom, and Power, and the Glory of the Begetter, will bear evidence to me, when He speaks by Solomon the following : 'If I shall declare to you what happens daily, I shall call to mind events from everlasting, and review them. The Lord made me the beginning of His ways for His works[3]. From everlasting He established me in the beginning, before He formed the earth, and before He made the depths, and before the springs of waters came forth, before the mountains were settled ; He begets me[4]. (Dialogue with Trypho, 61 - ANF 1.227, 228.)

[1] γεγέννηκε - Migne PG, 6.616

[2] γεννηθείς -  Migne PG, 6.616

[3] Prov. 8.22 (LXX): Κύριος ἔκτισέ με ἀρχὴν ὁδῶν αὐτοῦ εἰς ἔργα αὐτοῦ - Migne PG, 6.616

[4] Prov. 8.25b (LXX): γεννᾷ με - Migne PG, 6.616

Μαρτύριον δὲ καὶ ἄλλο ὑμῖν, ὦ φίλοι, ἔφην, ἀπὸ τῶν γραφῶν δώσω, ὅτι ἀρχὴν πρὸ πάντων τῶν κτισμάτων ὁ  θεὸς γεγέννηκε δύναμίν τινα ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ λογικήν, ἥτις καὶ δόξα  κυρίου ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ ἁγίου καλεῖται, ποτὲ δὲ υἱός,  ποτὲ δὲ σοφία, ποτὲ δὲ ἄγγελος, ποτὲ δὲ θεός, ποτὲ δὲ κύριος  καὶ λόγος, ποτὲ δὲ ἀρχιστράτηγον ἑαυτὸν λέγει, ἐν ἀνθρώπου  μορφῇ φανέντα τῷ τοῦ Ναυῆ Ἰησοῦ· ἔχει γὰρ πάντα προσονο  μάζεσθαι ἔκ τε τοῦ ὑπηρετεῖν τῷ πατρικῷ βουλήματι καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς θελήσει γεγεννῆσθαι.  ἀλλ' οὐ τοιοῦτον  ὁποῖον καὶ ἐφ' ἡμῶν γινόμενον ὁρῶμεν; λόγον γάρ τινα προ  βάλλοντες, λόγον γεννῶμεν, οὐ κατὰ ἀποτομήν, ὡς ἐλαττωθῆ  ναι τὸν ἐν ἡμῖν λόγον, προβαλλόμενοι. καὶ ὁποῖον  ἐπὶ πυρὸς ὁρῶμεν ἄλλο γινόμενον, οὐκ ἐλαττουμένου ἐκείνου  ἐξ οὗ ἡ ἄναψις γέγονεν, ἀλλὰ τοῦ αὐτοῦ μένοντος, καὶ τὸ ἐξ  αὐτοῦ ἀναφθὲν καὶ αὐτὸ ὂν φαίνεται, οὐκ ἐλαττῶσαν ἐκεῖνο ἐξ  οὗ ἀνήφθη. μαρτυρήσει δέ μοι ὁ λόγος τῆς σοφίας, αὐτὸς  ὢν οὗτος ὁ θεὸς ἀπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς τῶν ὅλων γεννηθείς, καὶ λόγος  καὶ σοφία καὶ δύναμις καὶ δόξα τοῦ γεννήσαντος ὑπάρχων, καὶ  διὰ Σολομῶνος φήσαντος ταῦτα· Ἐὰν ἀναγγείλω ὑμῖν τὰ καθ' ἡμέραν γινόμενα, μνημονεύσω τὰ ἐξ αἰῶνος ἀριθμῆσαι. κύριος  ἔκτισέ με ἀρχὴν ὁδῶν αὐτοῦ εἰς ἔργα αὐτοῦ. πρὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος  ἐθεμελίωσέ με ἐν ἀρχῇ, πρὸ τοῦ τὴν γῆν ποιῆσαι καὶ πρὸ τοῦ  τὰς ἀβύσσους ποιῆσαι, πρὸ τοῦ τὰς πηγὰς προελθεῖν τῶν ὑδά  των, πρὸ τοῦ τὰ ὄρη ἑδρασθῆναι· πρὸ δὲ πάντων τῶν βουνῶν  γεννᾷ με. (Migne PG, vol. 6.616)

Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 62

But this Offspring, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with Him ; even as the Scripture by Solomon has made clear, that He  whom Solomon calls Wisdom, was begotten as a Beginning before all His creatures and as Offspring by God(Dialogue with Trypho, 62 - ANF 1.228.)

ἀλλὰ τοῦτο τὸ τῷ ὄντι ἀπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς προβληθὲν  γέννημα πρὸπάντων τῶν ποιημάτων συνῆν τῷ πατρί, καὶ τούτῳ  ὁ πατὴρ προσομιλεῖ, ὡς ὁ λόγος διὰ τοῦ Σολομῶνος ἐδήλωσεν,  ὅτι καὶ ἀρχὴ πρὸ πάντων τῶν ποιημάτων τοῦτ' αὐτὸ καὶ γέννημα  ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐγεγέννητο … (Migne PG, vol. 6.617, 620)

Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 84

the first-begotten[1] of all creation (Dialogue with Trypho, 84 - ANF 1.241.)

[1] πρωτότοκον (prōtotokos)

τὸν πρωτότοκον τῶν πάντων ποιημάτων (Migne PG, vol. 6.673)

Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 85

 ...this very Son of God—who is the Firstborn[1] of every creature(Dialogue with Trypho, 85 - ANF 1.241.)

κατὰ γὰρ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ τούτου τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πρωτοτόκου πάσης κτίσεως  (Migne PG, vol. 6.676)

Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 100

we know Him to be the first-begotten[1] of God, and to be before all creatures(Dialogue with Trypho, 100 - ANF 1.249.)

[1] πρωτότοκον (prōtotokon)

γνόντες αὐτὸν πρωτότοκον μὲν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πρὸ πάντων τῶν κτισμάτων (Migne PG, vol. 6.709)

Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 105

For I have already proved that He was the only-begotten[1] of the Father of all things, being begotten[2] in a peculiar manner Word and Power by Him, and having afterwards become man through the Virgin, as we have learned from the memoirs. (Dialogue with Trypho, 105 - ANF 1.251.)

[1] Μονογενὴς (Monogenēs)

[2] γεγεννημένος (gegennēmenos)

Μονογενὴς γὰρ ὅτι ἦν τῷ πατρὶ τῶν ὅλων οὗτος, ἰδίως ἐξ αὐτοῦ λόγος καὶ δύναμις γεγεννημένος, καὶ ὕστερον ἄνθρωπος διὰ τῆς παρθένου γενόμενος, ὡς ἀπὸ τῶν ἀπομνη μονευμάτων ἐμάθομεν, προεδήλωσα. (Migne PG, vol. 6.720, 721)

Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 125

 yet nevertheless is God, in that He is the first-begotten[1] of all creatures. (Dialogue with Trypho, 125 - ANF 1.262.)

 [1] πρωτότοκον (prōtotokon)

θεοῦ δὲ ἐκ τοῦ εἶναι τέκνον πρωτότοκον τῶν ὅλων κτισμάτων (Migne PG, vol. 6.768)

Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 128

And that this power which the prophetic word calls God, as has been also amply demonstrated, and Angel, is not numbered [as different] in name only like the light of the sun, but is indeed something numerically distinct[1], I have discussed briefly in what has gone before ; when I asserted that this power was begotten from the Father[2], by His power and will, but not by abscission, as if the essence of the Father were divided ; as all other things partitioned and divided are not the same after as before they were divided : and, for the sake of example, I took the case of fires kindled from a fire, which we see to be distinct from it, and yet that from which many can be kindled is by no means made less, but remains the same. (Dialogue with Trypho, 128 - ANF 1.264.)

[1] ἀριθμῷ ἕτερόν (arithmō eteron)

[2] γεγεννῆσθαι ἀπὸ τοῦ Πατρός (gegennēsthai apo tou Patros)

καὶ ὅτι δύναμις αὕτη, ἣν καὶ θεὸν καλεῖ  ὁ προφητικὸς λόγος, διὰ πολλῶν ὡσαύτως ἀποδέδεικται, καὶ  ἄγγελον, οὐχ ὡς τὸ τοῦ ἡλίου φῶς ὀνόματι μόνον ἀριθμεῖται,  ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀριθμῷ ἕτερόν τί ἐστι, καὶ ἐν τοῖς προειρημένοις διὰ  βραχέων τὸν λόγον ἐξήτασα, εἰπὼν τὴν δύναμιν ταύτην γεγεν  νῆσθαι ἀπὸ τοῦ πατρός, δυνάμει καὶ βουλῇ αὐτοῦ, ἀλλ' οὐ κατὰ  ἀποτομήν, ὡς ἀπομεριζομένης τῆς τοῦ πατρὸς οὐσίας, ὁποῖα τὰ ἄλλα πάντα μεριζόμενα καὶ τεμνόμενα οὐ τὰ αὐτά ἐστιν ἃ καὶ πρὶν τμηθῆναι· καὶ παραδείγματος χάριν παρειλήφειν ὡς τὰ ἀπὸ πυρὸς ἀναπτόμενα πυρὰ ἕτερα ὁρῶμεν, οὐδὲν ἐλαττουμένου ἐκείνου, ἐξ οὗ ἀναφθῆναι πολλὰ δύνανται, ἀλλὰ ταὐτοῦ μένοντος. (Migne PG, vol. 6.776)

Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 129

The Lord created me[1] the beginning of His ways for His works. From everlasting He established me in the beginning, before He formed the earth, and before He made the depths, and before the springs of waters came forth, before the mountains were settled ; He begets[2] me before all the hillsthat the Scripture has declared that this Offspring[3] was begotten[4] by the Father before all things created ; and that that which is begotten[5] is numerically distinct[6] from that which begets[7], any one will admit. (Dialogue with Trypho, 129 - ANF 1.264.)

[1] Prov. 8.22 (LXX): Κύριος ἔκτισέ με (Kurios ektise me)

[2] Prov. 8.25b (LXX): γεννᾷ (genna)

[3] γεγεννῆσθαι (gegennēsthai)

[4] γέννημα (gennēma)

[5] γεννώμενον (gennōmenon)

[6] ἀριθμῷ ἕτερόν (arithmō eteron)

[7] γεννῶντος (gennōntos)

Κύριος ἔκτισέ με ἀρχὴν ὁδῶν αὐτοῦ εἰς ἔργα αὐτοῦ. πρὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐθεμελίωσέ με, ἐν ἀρχῇ, πρὸ τοῦ τὴν γῆν ποιῆσαι καὶ πρὸ τοῦ τὰς ἀβύσσους ποιῆσαι καὶ πρὸ τοῦ προελθεῖν τὰς πηγὰς τῶν ὑδάτων, πρὸ τοῦ ὄρη ἑδρασθῆ ναι· πρὸ δὲ πάντων βουνῶν γεννᾷ με…καὶ ὅτι γεγεννῆσθαι ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς τοῦτο τὸ γέννημα πρὸ πάντων ἁπλῶς τῶν κτισμάτων ὁ λόγος ἐδήλου, καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον τοῦ γεννῶντος ἀριθμῷ ἕτερόν ἐστι, πᾶς ὁστισοῦν ὁμολογήσειε. (Migne PG, vol. 6.777)

As already mentioned, there is an emphasis on the causality of the Son of God from the Father in the above referenced passages. In the last two, Justin also makes mention of a ‘numerical’ distinction between the Father and the Son. Those two passages are not the only instances he does so—note the following:

1st Apology, ch. 13

Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judaea, in the times of Tiberius Caesar; and that we reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second Place[1], and the prophetic Spirit in the third, we will prove. (First Apology, 13 – ANF 1.166, 167.)

[1] δευτέρᾳ χώρᾳ (deutera chōra) - Migne, PG vol. 6.348

1st Apology, ch. 6o

For he gives the second place[1] to the Logos which is with God(First Apology, 60 – ANF 1.183.)

[1] Δευτέραν μὲν γὰρ χώραν (Deuteran men gar chōran) - (Migne, PG vol. 6.420)

Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 56

I shall attempt to persuade you, since you have understood the Scriptures, [of the truth] of what I say, that there is, and that there is said to be, another God and Lord[1] subject to the Maker of all things ; who is also called an Angel, because He announces to men whatsoever the Maker of all thingsabove whom there is no other God—wishes to announce to them. (Dialogue With Trypho, 56 – ANF 1.223.)

[1] Θεὸς καὶ Κύριος ἔτερος (theos kai kurios eteros) - (Migne, PG vol. 6.597)


It is now time to bring up a question that I suspect is on the minds of some of folk who have taken the time to read the above selections from the writings of Justin: was Justin a Trinitarian?

Ultimately, the answer depends on how one defines the doctrine of the Trinity. One ‘popular’ definition of the Trinity is provided by the Reformed Baptist apologist James R. White in his book The Forgotten Trinity:

Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Page 26)

Mr. White in his above book makes no mention of Justin at all. However, another Reformed Baptist (and former frequent poster here at AF), Ken Temple, published a post back on March 7, 2017 that directly answers our question: Justin Martyr was Trinitarian

Unfortunately for Ken, Justin did not adhere to at least one key component of White’s definition: the coequality of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Justin held to what patristic scholars have termed ‘subordinationism’—i.e. the Son is not coequal to the Father.

Note the following from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

The Word is numerically distinct from the Father (Dial., cxxviii, cxxix; cf. lvi, lxii). He was born of the very substance of the Father, not that this substance was divided, but He proceeds from it as one fire does from another at which it is lit (cxxviii, lxi); this form of production (procession) is compared also with that of human speech (lxi). The Word (Logos) is therefore the Son: much more, He alone may properly be called Son (II Apol., vi, 3); He is the monogenes, the unigenitus (Dial., cv). Elsewhere, however, Justin, like St. Paul, calls Him the eldest Son, prototokos (I Apol., xxxiii; xlvi; lxiii; Dial., lxxxiv, lxxxv, cxxv). The Word is God (I Apol., lxiii; Dial., xxxiv, xxxvi, xxxvii, lvi, lxiii, lxxvi, lxxxvi, lxxxvii, cxiii, cxv, cxxv, cxxvi, cxviii). His Divinity, however, seems subordinate, as does the worship which is rendered to Him (I Apol., vi; cf. lxi, 13; Teder, "Justinsdes Märtyrers Lehre von Jesus Christus", Freiburg imBr., 1906, 103-19). (The Catholic Encyclopedia – 1910, VIII.585 – bold emphasis mine.)

And from John Behr’s, Formation of Christian Theology-Volume One: The Way to Nicaea, we read:

Although Justin speaks in the traditional manner of Jesus Christ, as the Word, revealing God, he shares the common philosophical presupposition of his day that as God is so totally transcendent to created reality he needs an intermediary, his Word, to act for him and to mediate between himself and creation. (p. 103)

As it is not God himself who thus appeared and spoke with man, the Word of God who did all of these things is, for Justin, “another God and Lord besides (ἔτερος παρὰ) the Maker of all," who is also called his "Angel," as he brings messages from the Maker of all, "above whom there is no other God" (Dial. 56.4)….The divinity of Jesus Christ, an “other God,” is no longer that of the Father himself, but subordinate to it, a lesser divinity(p.104 – bold emphasis mine.)

But then, if one begins their definition of the Trinity with the Monarchy of God the Father—which includes a strong emphasis on the causality of the Son from the Father and the teaching that the Father alone is autotheos—I would argue that the term ‘Trinitarian’ could legitimately be applied to Justin’s theology.

[Migne PG = Jacques-Paul Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus Series Graeca – vol. 6 PDF HERE; ANF = The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Roberts and Donaldson – vol. 1 PDF HERE; PDF of Blunt’s, The Apologies of Justin Martyr, HERE; for an excellent bibliography of works on and/or by Justin see the Early Church.org.uk entry HERE.]

 

Grace and peace,

David 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

An enlightened assessment of modernity

Radical modernity is parasitic. It will fail to the extent to which it succeeds. It cannot survive its own erasure of natural law and Christianity. We can avoid the cataclysm anytime we choose to, by returning to reality, to reason, to the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. Reality is resilient because, as Plato said, it is what is—not whatever one fancies. Logos wins in the end. (Robert Reilly, America on Trial, p. 331; link - bold emphasis mine.)


Grace and peace,

David

Monday, January 4, 2021

Origen of Alexandria – a lengthy selection from his Homily #8 on Leviticus

Given the ongoing discussion in the combox of the previous thread concerning Origen’s negative comments about birthdays, I thought it best to provide a larger context for the quote I had provided in the opening post of that thread. From Origen’s, Homily 8 on Leviticus we read:

 Homily 8

Concerning the statement, "Every woman who conceives and bears a male child will be unclean for seven days."[1] And concerning the varieties of leprosy and the purification of a leper.[2]

WE ARE taught by a statement of the Lord himself that our Lord Jesus Christ is called a doctor in divine Scriptures as he says in the Gospels, "The healthy need not a physician but those who are sick. For I came not to call the just but sinners to repentance.”[3]

(2) Now every physician prepares useful medicines for the body from potions of herbs or trees or even from veins of minerals or the organs of animals. But if perchance someone beholds these herbs before they are prepared by the understanding of science, if they are indeed in the fields or mountains, he crushes and passes by these herbs like cheap hay. But if he were to see these arranged in proper order within the school of medicine, then he would believe these to contain something of a cure or a remedy although they give off a harsh and bitter odor, even if he should not yet know what kind of health or remedy is in them. We said these things about ordinary physicians.

(3) Come now to Jesus, the heavenly physician. Enter into this medical clinic, his Church. See, lying there, a multitude of feeble ones. The woman comes who was made "unclean" from birth.[4] "A leper" comes who was segregated "outside the camp" for the uncleanness of his leprosy.[5] They seek a cure from the physician: how they may be healthy, how they may be cleansed. Because this Jesus, who is a doctor, is himself the

[1] Lev. 12.2

[2] Cf. Lev 13 and 14

[3] Matt. 9.12-13

[4] Cf. Mark 5.25; Lev. 12.2f.

[5] Cf. Mark 1.40; Lev. 13.46

p. 153

Word of God, he prepares medications for his sick ones, not from potions of herbs but from the sacraments of words. If anyone sees these verbal medicines scattered inelegantly through books as through fields, not knowing the strength of individual words, he will overlook them as cheap things, as not having any elegance of word. But the person who in some part learns that the medicine of souls is with Christ certainly will understand from these books which are read in the Church how each person ought to take salutary herbs from the fields and mountains, namely the strength of the words, so that anyone weary in soul may be healed not so much by the strength of the outward branches and coverings as by the strength of the inner juice. Therefore, let us see what diverse and varied medications for purification this present lesson effects against the uncleanness of birth and the infection of leprosy.

2. It says, "And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, 'Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, If any woman conceives and bears a male child, she will be unclean for seven days.' “[6] First, let us consider according to the historical sense if this does not seem to be a superfluous addition, "A woman who conceives and bears a male child." How else could she bear a male child unless she had conceived? But the addition is not superfluous.

(2) For the Lawgiver added this word to distinguish her who "conceived and gave birth" without seed from other women so as not to designate as "unclean" every woman who had given birth but her who "had given birth by receiving seed." There can also be added to this the fact that this Law which is written concerning uncleanness pertains to women. But concerning Mary, it is said that "a virgin"[7] conceived and gave birth. Therefore, let women carry the burdens ofthe Law, but let virgins be immune from them.

(3) But if some cunning person attacks us and says that Mary is also called "a woman" in the Scriptures-for the Apostle says, "But when the fullness of time came, God sent his son,

[6] Lev. 2:1-2

[7] Cf. Mat. 1.13

p. 154

made from woman, made under the law that he might redeem those who were under the Law"[8]—we will respond to him that in this the Apostle called her "a woman," not because of corruption, but because of her sex. When he said "God sent his Son" he explained at the same time that he had come into this world by an entrance common to us all.

(4) Moreover, this term is about an age of life, that is to say, that time when the female sex proceeds from the years of puberty and passes to that time when she seems to be suitable for a man. Just as, on the contrary, the person is called a man who passes the age of adolescence, even if he does not yet have a wife whose husband he may be said to be. Likewise, those whom no blemish of intercourse with a female has touched are usually called by that name.

(5) Therefore, if one who knew no intercourse with a woman is rightly a man by virtue of a manly age alone, by the same logic why is not a virgin who remained chaste called a woman by virtue of the maturity of age alone? Consequently, when Abraham sent his servant to Mesopotamia into the house of Bathuel in order that "from that place he would take a wife for his son Isaac," the "servant" inquired rather carefully and "said to him, 'What if the woman does not want to follow me, should I take your son there?' “[9] He did not say, What if the virgin does not want to follow me.

(6) Therefore, let these words be for us a confirmation of what we observed that the Lawgiver did not add to Scripture superfluously, "If a woman receives seed and bears a son,”[10] but that there is a mystical exception, which separated Mary along from the rest of women whose birth was not by the conception of seed but by the presence "of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High."[11]

3. Now therefore, let us also inquire what may be the reason that a woman, who in this world furnishes a service for those who are born, is said to become "unclean" not only when "she received the seed" but also when "she gave birth.”[12] From this

[8] Gal. 4.4-5

[9] Cf. Gen. 24.4-5

[10] Lev. 12.2

[11] Cf. Luke 1.35

[12] Cf. Lev. 12.2

p. 155

also she is commanded to offer "the young of pigeons or turtledoves for sin at the door of the Tent of Witness,”[13] for her purification that "the priest may make propitiation for her" as if she owes a propitiation and a purification for sin because she furnishes the service of bearing a man into this world. For so it is written, "And the priest will intercede for her and she will be clean.”[14] I myself in such matters dare to say nothing. Yet, I think there are some hidden mysteries contained in these things and there is some hidden secret, for which "the woman" who conceives by the seed and gives birth is called "unclean," just as the one guilty of sin is commanded to offer a sacrifice "for sin" and thus to be purified. [15]

(2) But Scripture also declares that one himself who is born whether male or female is not "clean from filth although his life is of one day.”[16] And that you may know that there is something great in this and such that it has not come from the thought to any of the saints; not one from all the saints is found to have celebrated a festive day or a great feast on the day of his birth. No one is found to have had joy on the day of the birth of his son or daughter. Only sinners rejoice over this kind of birthday. For indeed we find in the Old Testament Pharaoh, king of Egypt, celebrating the day of his birth with a festival,[17] and in the New Testament, Herod.[18] However, both of them stained the festival of his birth by shedding human blood. For the Pharaoh killed "the chief baker,”[19] Herod, the holy prophet John "in prison.”[20] But the saints not only do not celebrate a festival on their birth days, but, filled with the Holy Spirit, they curse that day.

(3) For also such a great prophet—I mean Jeremiah who “in the womb” of his mother “was sanctified” and “was consecrated as a prophet for the nations”[21]—would not have composed something useless in the books destined to be eternal he could preserve some secret, full of profound mysteries,

[13] Cf. Lev. 12.6

[14] Cf. Lev. 12.7

[15] Cf. Lev. 12.7

[16] Job 14.4-5

[17] Cf. Gen. 40.20

[18] Cf. Mark 6.21

[19] Cf. Gen. 40.22

[20] Cf. Mark 6.27

[21] Cf. Jer. 1.5

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where he says, "Cursed be the day in which I was born, and the night in which they said, behold a male child. Cursed be he who announced to my father, saying, 'A male child was born to you.' Let that person rejoice as the cities which the Lord destroyed in anger and did not repent it."[22] Does it appear to you that the prophet could have invoked such severe and oppressive things unless he knew there was something in this bodily birth that would seem worthy of such curses and for which the Lawgiver would blame so many impurities for which he subsequently would impose suitable purifications? But it would be lengthy and better suited to another time to explain the testimony which we have taken from the prophet because now our purpose is to examine the reading of Leviticus, not of Jeremiah…

(5) But if it pleases you to hear what other saints also might think about this birthday, hear David speaking, "In iniquity I was conceived and in sins my mother brought me forth,"[26] showing that every soul which is born in flesh is polluted by the filth "of iniquity and sin"; and for this reason we can say

[22] Cf. Jer. 20.14-16; Job 3.3…

[26] Ps. 50.7

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what we already have recalled above, “No one is pure form uncleanness even if his life is only one day long.”[27] To these things can be added the reason why it is required, since the baptism of the Church is given for the forgiveness of sins, that according to the observance of the Church, that baptism also be given to infants; since, certainly, if there were nothing in infants that ought to pertain to forgiveness and indulgence, then the grace of baptism would be superfluous. [28]

[27] Job 14.4-5

[28] Origen’s understanding of infant baptism in this passage is similar to that of Augustine. Origen’s is a witness to infant baptism contra Tertullian, See J. W. Trigg, “A Fresh Look at Origen’s Understanding of Baptism,” SP 17.2 (1982), 959-965.

p. 158 (Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, trans. Gary Wayne Barkley; Catholic University of America Press – 1990, pp. 153-158)


Hope the above lends some clarity as to why Origen took such a negative view of birthdays.


Grace and peace,

David