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On the Conception of Pre-existence.
On account of the importance of the question, we may be here permitted to amplify a few hints given in Chap. II., § 4, and elsewhere, and to draw a clearer distinction between the Jewish and Hellenic conceptions of pre-existence.
According to the theory held by the ancient Jews and by the whole of the Semitic nations, everything of real value that from time to time appears on earth has its existence in heaven. In other words, it exists with God, that is God possesses a knowledge of it; and for that reason it has a real being. But it exists beforehand with God in the same way as it appears on earth, that is with all the material attributes belonging to its essence. Its manifestation on earth is merely a transition from concealment to publicity (φανεροῦσθαι). In becoming visible to the senses, the object in question assumes no attribute that it did not already possess with God. Hence its material nature is by no means an inadequate expression of it, nor is it a second nature added to the first. The truth rather is that what was in heaven before is now revealing itself upon earth, without any sort of alteration taking place in the process. There is no assumptio naturæ novæ, and no change or mixture. The old Jewish theory of pre-existence is founded on the religious idea of the omniscience and omni-potence of God, that God to whom the events of history do not come as a surprise, but who guides their course. As the whole history of the world and the destiny of each individual are recorded on his tablets or books, so also each thing is ever present before him. The decisive contrast is between God and the creature. In designating the latter as “foreknown” by God, the primary idea is not to ennoble the creature, but 319rather to bring to light the wisdom and power of God. The ennobling of created things by attributing to them a pre-existence is a secondary result (see below).
According to the Hellenic conception, which has become associated with Platonism, the idea of pre-existence is independent of the idea of God; it is based on the conception of the contrast between spirit and matter, between the infinite and finite, found in the cosmos itself. In the case of all spiritual beings, life in the body or flesh is at bottom an inadequate and unsuitable condition, for the spirit is eternal, the flesh perishable. But the pre-temporal existence, which was only a doubtful assumption as regards ordinary spirits, was a matter of certainty in the case of the higher and purer ones. They lived in an upper world long before this earth was created, and they lived there as spirits without the “polluted garment of the flesh.” Now if they resolved for some reason or other to appear in this finite world, they cannot simply become visible, for they have no “visible form.” They must rather “assume flesh,” whether they throw it about them as a covering, or really make it their own by a process of transformation or mixture. In all cases—and here the speculation gave rise to the most exciting problems—the body is to them something inadequate which they cannot appropriate without adopting certain measures of precaution, but this process may indeed pass through all stages, from a mere seeming appropriation to complete union. The characteristics of the Greek ideas of pre-existence may consequently be thus expressed. First, the objects in question to which pre-existence is ascribed are meant to be ennobled by this attribute. Secondly, these ideas have no relation to God. Thirdly, the material appearance is regarded as something inadequate. Fourthly, speculations about phantasma, assumptio naturæ humanæ, transmutatio, mixtura, duæ naturæ, etc., were necessarily associated with these notions.
We see that these two conceptions are as wide apart as the poles. The first has a religious origin, the second a cosmological and psychological; the first glorifies God, the second the created spirit.320
However, not only does a certain relationship in point of form exist between these speculations, but the Jewish conception is also found in a shape which seems to approximate still more to the Greek one.
Earthly occurrences and objects are not only regarded as “foreknown” by God before being seen in this world, but the latter manifestation is frequently considered as the copy of the existence and nature which they possess in heaven, and which remains unalterably the same, whether they appear upon earth or not. That which is before God experiences no change. As the destinies of the world are recorded in the books, and God reads them there, it being at the same time a matter of indifference, as regards this knowledge of his, when and how they are accomplished upon earth, so the Tabernacle and its furniture, the Temple, Jerusalem, etc., are before God and continue to exist before him in heaven, even during their appearance on earth and after it.
This conception seems really to have been the oldest one. Moses is to fashion the Temple and its furniture according to the pattern he saw on the Mount (Exod. XXV. 9. 40: XXVI. 30: XXVII. 8: Num. VIII. 4). The Temple and Jerusalem exist in heaven, and they are to be distinguished from the earthly Temple and the earthly Jerusalem; yet the ideas of a φανεροῦσθαι of the thing which is in heaven and of its copy appearing on earth, shade into one another and are not always clearly separated.
The classing of things as original and copy was at first no more meant to glorify them than was the conception of a pre-existence they possessed within the knowledge of God. But since the view which in theory was true of everything earthly, was, as is naturally to be expected, applied in practice to nothing but valuable objects—for things common and ever recurring give no impulse to such speculations—the objects thus contemplated were ennobled, because they were raised above the multitude of the commonplace. At the same time the theory of original and copy could not fail to become a starting point for new speculations, as soon as the contrast between the spiritual and material began to assume importance among the Jewish people.321
That took place under the influence of the Greek spirit; and was perhaps also the simultaneous result of an intellectual or moral development which arose independently of that spirit. Accordingly, a highly important advance in the old ideas of pre-existence appeared in the Jewish theological literature belonging to the time of the Maccabees and the following decades. To begin with, these conceptions are now applied to persons, which, so far as I know, was not the case before this (individualism). Secondly, the old distinction of original and copy is now interpreted to mean that the copy is the inferior and more imperfect, that in the present æon of the transient it cannot be equivalent to the original, and that we must therefore look forward to the time when the original itself will make its appearance, (contrast of the material and finite and the spiritual).
With regard to the first point, we have not only to consider passages in Apocalypses and other writings in which pre-existence is attributed to Moses, the patriarchs, etc., (see above, p. 102), but we must, above all, bear in mind utterances like Ps. CXXXIX. 15, 16. The individual saint soars upward to the thought that the days of his life are in the book of God, and that he himself was before God, whilst he was still unperfect. But, and this must not be overlooked, it was not merely his spiritual part that was before God, for there is not the remotest idea of such a distinction, but the whole man, although he is בָּשָׂר.
As regards the second point, the distinction between a heavenly and an earthly Jerusalem, a heavenly and an earthly Temple, etc., is sufficiently known from the Apocalypses and the New Testament. But the important consideration is that the sacred things of earth were regarded as objects of less value, instalments, as it were, pending the fulfilment of the whole promise. The desecration and subsequent destruction of sacred things must have greatly strengthened this idea. The hope of the heavenly Jerusalem comforted men for the desecration or loss of the earthly one. But this gave at the same time the most powerful impulse to reflect whether it 322was not an essential feature of this temporal state, that everything high and holy in it could only appear in a meagre and inadequate form. Thus the transition to Greek ideas was brought about. The fulness of the time had come when the old Jewish ideas, with a slightly mythological colouring, could amalgamate with the ideal creations of Hellenic philosophers.
These, however, are also the general conditions which gave rise to the earliest Jewish speculations about a personal Messiah, except that, in the case of the Messianic ideas within Judaism itself, the adoption of specifically Greek thoughts, so far as I am able to see, cannot be made out.
Most Jews, as Trypho testifies in Justin’s Dialogue 49, conceived the Messiah as a man. We may indeed go a step further and say that no Jew at bottom imagined him otherwise; for even those who attached ideas of pre-existence to him, and gave the Messiah a supernatural background, never advanced to speculations about assumption of the flesh, incarnation, two natures and the like. They only transferred in a specific manner to the Messiah the old idea of pre-terrestrial existence with God, universally current among the Jews. Before the creation of the world the Messiah was hidden with God, and, when the time is fulfilled, he makes his appearance. This is neither an incarnation nor a humiliation, but he appears on earth as he exists before God, viz., as a mighty and just king, equipped with all gifts. The writings in which this thought appears most clearly are the Apocalypse of Enoch (Book of Similitudes, Chap. 46-49) and the Apocalypse of Esra (Chap. 12-14). Support to this idea, if anything more of the kind had been required, was lent by passages like Daniel VII. 13 f. and Micah, V. 1. Nowhere do we find in Jewish writings a conception which advances beyond the notion that the Messiah is the man who is with God in heaven; and who will make his appearance at his own time. We are merely entitled to say that, as the same idea was not applied to all persons with the same certainty, it was almost unavoidable that men’s minds should have been led to designate the Messiah as the man from heaven. This thought was adopted by Paul (see below), but I know of no Jewish writing which gave clear expression to it.323
Jesus Christ designated himself as the Messiah, and the first of his disciples who recognised him as such were native Jews. The Jewish conceptions of the Messiah consequently passed over into the Christian community. But they received an impulse to important modifications from the living impression conveyed by the person and destiny of Jesus. Three facts were here of pre-eminent importance. First, Jesus appeared in lowliness, and even suffered death. Secondly, he was believed to be exalted through the resurrection to the right hand of God, and his return in glory was awaited with certainty. Thirdly, the strength of a new life and of an indissoluble union with God was felt issuing from him, and therefore his people were connected with him in the closest way.
In some old Christian writings found in the New Testament and emanating from the pen of native Jews, there are no speculations at all about the pre-temporal existence of Jesus as the Messiah, or they are found expressed in a manner which simply embodies the old Jewish theory and is merely distinguished from it by the emphasis laid on the exaltation of Jesus after death through the resurrection. 1. Pet. I. 18 ff. is a classic passage: ἐλυτρώθητε τιμίῳ αἵματι ὼς ἀμνοῦ ἀμώμου καὶ ἀσπίλου Χριστοῦ, προεγνωσμένου μὲν πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, φανερωθέντος δὲ ἐπ᾽ ἐσχάτου τῶν χρόνων δι᾽ ὑμᾶς τοὺς δι᾽ αὐτοῦ πιστοὺς εἰς θεὸν τὸν ἐγείραντα αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν καὶ δόξαν αὐτῷ δόντα, ὥστε τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν καὶ ἐλπίδα εἶναι εἰς θεόν. Here we find a conception of the pre-existence of Christ which is not yet affected by cosmological or psychological speculation, which does not overstep the boundaries of a purely religious contemplation, and which arose from the Old Testament way of thinking, and the living impression derived from the person of Jesus. He is “fore-known (by God) before the creation of the world,” not as a spiritual being without a body, but as a Lamb without blemish and without spot; in other words, his whole personality together with the work which it was to carry out, was within God’s eternal knowledge. He “was manifested in these last days for our sake,” that is, he is now visibly what he already was before God. What is meant here is not an incarnation, but a revelatio. Finally, he appeared in order that our faith and 324hope should now be firmly directed to the living God, that God who raised him from the dead and gave him honour. In the last clause expression is given to the specifically Christian thought, that the Messiah Jesus was exalted after crucifixion and death; from this, however, no further conclusions are drawn.
But it was impossible that men should everywhere rest satisfied with these utterances, for the age was a theological one. Hence the paradox of the suffering Messiah, the certainty of his glorification through the resurrection, the conviction of his specific relationship to God, and the belief in the real union of his Church with him did not seem adequately expressed by the simple formulæ προεγνωσμένος, φανερωθείς. In reference to all these points, we see even in the oldest Christian writings, the appearance of formulæ which fix more precisely the nature of his pre-existence, or in other words his heavenly existence. With regard to the first and second points there arose the view of humiliation and exaltation, such as we find in Paul and in numerous writings after him. In connection with the third point the concept “Son of God” was thrust into the fore-ground, and gave rise to the idea of the image of God (2 Cor. IV. 4; Col. I. 15; Heb. I. 2; Phil. II. 6). The fourth point gave occasion to the formation of theses, such as we find in Rom. VIII. 29: πρωτότοκον ἐν πολλοῖς ἀδελφοῖσ, Col. I. 18: πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν (Rev. I. 5), Eph. II. 6: συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, I. 4: ὁ θεὸς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν Χριστῷ πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, I. 22: ὁ θεὸς ἔδωκεν τὸν Χριστὸν κεφαλὴν ὑπὲρ πάντα τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἥτις ἐστὶν τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ, etc. This purely religious view of the Church, according to which all that is predicated of Christ is also applied to his followers, continued a considerable time. Hermas declares that the Church is older than the world, and that the world was created for its sake (see above, p. 103), and the author of the so-called 2nd Epistle of Clement declares (Chap. 14) . . . . . . . ἔσομεθα ἐκ τῆς ἐκκλησίας τῆς πρώτης τῆς πνευματικῆς, τῆς πρὸ ἡλίου καὶ σελήνης ἐκτισμένης . . . . , οὐκ οἴομαι δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν, ὅτι ἐκκλησία ζῶσα σῶμά ἐστιν Χριστοῦ. λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή. Ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ. τὸ ἄρσεν ἐστὶν ὁ Χριστός τὸ 325θῆλυ ἡ ἐκκλησία. Thus Christ and his Church are inseparably connected. The latter is to be conceived as pre-existent quite as much as the former; the Church was also created before the sun and the moon, for the world was created for its sake. This conception of the Church illustrates a final group of utterances about the pre-existent Christ, the origin of which might easily be misinterpreted unless we bear in mind their reference to the Church. In so far as he is προεγνωσμένος πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, he is the ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ (Rev. III. 14), the πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως, etc. According to the current conception of the time, these expressions mean exactly the same as the simple προεγνωσμένος πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, as is proved by the parallel formulæ referring to the Church. Nay, even the further advance to the idea that the world was created by him (Cor. Col. Eph. Heb.) need not yet necessarily be a μετάβασις εἰς ἄλλο γένος; for the beginning of things (ἀρχή) and their purpose form the real force to which their origin is due (principle ἀρχή). Hermas indeed calls the Church older than the world simply because “the world was created for its sake.”
All these further theories which we have quoted up to this time need in no sense alter the original conception, so long as they appear in an isolated form and do not form the basis of fresh speculations. They may be regarded as the working out of the original conception attaching to Jesus Christ προεγνωσμένος πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, φανερωθείς κ.τ.λ.; and do not really modify this religious view of the matter. Above all, we find in them as yet no certain transition to the Greek view which splits up his personality into a heavenly and an earthly portion; it still continues to be the complete Christ to whom all the utterances apply. But, beyond doubt, they already reveal the strong impulse to conceive the Christ that had appeared as a divine being. He had not been a transitory phenomenon, but has ascended into heaven and still continues to live. This post-existence of his gave to the ideas of his pre-existence a support and a concrete complexion which the earlier Jewish theories lacked.
We find the transition to a new conception in the writings of Paul. But it is important to begin by determining the relationship 326between his Christology and the views we have been hitherto considering. In the Apostle’s clearest trains of thought everything that he has to say of Christ hinges on his death and resurrection. For this we need no proofs, but see, more
especially Rom. I. 3 f.: περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυεὶδ κατὰ σάρκα, τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἀγιωςύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν. What Christ became and his significance for us now are due to his death on the cross and his resurrection. He condemned sin in the flesh and was obedient unto death. Therefore he now shares in the δόξα of God. The exposition in 1 Cor. XV. 45, also (ὁ ἔσχατος Ἀδὰμ εἰς πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν, ἀλλ᾽ οὐ πρῶτον τὸ πνευματικὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ ψυχικόν, ἔπειτα τὸ πνευματικόν. ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος ἐκ γῆς χοϊκός ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ) is still capable of being understood as to its fundamental features, in a sense which agrees with the conception of the Messiah, as κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν, the man from heaven who was hidden with God. There can be no doubt, however, that this conception, as already shewn by the formulæ in the passage just quoted, formed to Paul the starting-point of a speculation, in which the original theory assumed a completely new shape. The decisive factors in this transformation were the Apostle’s doctrine of “spirit and flesh,” and the corresponding conviction that the Christ who is not be known “after the flesh,” is a spirit, namely, the mighty spiritual being (πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν), who has condemned sin in the flesh, and thereby enabled man to walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.
According to one of the Apostle’s ways of regarding the matter, Christ, after the accomplishment of his work, became the πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν through the resurrection. But the belief that Jesus always stood before God as the heavenly man, suggested to Paul the other view, that Christ was always a “spirit,” that he was sent down by God, that the flesh is consequently something inadequate and indeed hostile to him, that he nevertheless assumed it in order to extirpate the sin dwelling in the flesh, that he therefore humbled himself by appearing, and that this humiliation was the deed he performed.327
This view is found in 2 Cor. VIII. 9: Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς δι᾽ ὑμᾶς ἐπτώχευσεν πλούσιος ὤν; in Rom. VIII. 3: ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἑαυτοῦ ὑιὸν πόμψας ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας κατέκρινεν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐν τῆ σαρκί; and in Phil. II. 5 f.: Χριστος Ἰησοῦς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων . . . . . ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μόρφην δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος, καὶ σχήματι εὐρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν κ.τ.λ. In both forms of thought Paul presupposes a real exaltation of Christ. Christ receives after the resurrection more than he ever possessed (τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα). In this view Paul retains a historical interpretation of Christ, even in the conception of the πνεῦμα Χριστός. But whilst many passages seem to imply that the work of Christ began with suffering and death, Paul shews in the verses cited, that he already conceives the appearance of Christ on earth as his moral act, as a humiliation, purposely brought about by God and Christ himself, which reaches its culminating point in the death on the cross. Christ, the divine spiritual being, is sent by the Father from heaven to earth, and of his own free will he obediently takes this mission upon himself. He appears in the ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας, dies the death of the cross, and then, raised by the Father, ascends again into heaven in order henceforth to act as the κύριος ζώντων and νεκρῶν, and to become to his own people the principle of a new life in the spirit.
Whatever we may think about the admissibility and justification of this view, to whatever source we may trace its origin and however strongly we may emphasise its divergencies from the contemporaneous Hellenic ideas, it is certain that it approaches very closely to the latter; for the distinction of spirit and flesh is here introduced into the concept of pre-existence, and this combination is not found in the Jewish notions of the Messiah.
Paul was the first who limited the idea of pre-existence by referring it solely to the spiritual part of Jesus Christ, but at the same time gave life to it by making the pre-existing Christ (the spirit) a being who, even during his pre-existence, stands independently side by side with God.
He was also the first to designate Christ’s σάρξ as “assumpta,” 328and to recognise its assumption as in itself a humiliation. To him the appearance of Christ was no mere φανεροῦσθαι, but a κενοῦσθαι, ταπεινοῦσθαι, πτωχεύειν.
These outstanding features of the Pauline Christology must have been intelligible to the Greeks, but, whilst embracing these, they put everything else in the system aside, Χριστὸς ὁ κύριος ὁ σώσας ἡμᾶς, ὣν μὲν τὸ πρῶτον πνεῦμα, ἐγένετο σάρξ καὶ οὕτως ἡμᾶς ἐκάλεσεν, says 2 Clem. (9. 5), and that is also the Christology of 1 Clement, Barnabas and many other Greeks. From the sum total of Judæo-Christian speculations they only borrowed, in addition, the one which has been already mentioned: the Messiah as προεγνωσμένος πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου is for that very reason also ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, that is the beginning, purpose and principle of the creation The Greeks, as the result of their cosmological interest, embraced this thought as a fundamental proposition. The complete Greek Christology then is expressed as follows: Χριστὸς, ὁ σώσας ἡμᾶς, ὣν μὲν τὸ πρῶτον πνεῦμα καὶ πάσης κτίσεως ἀρχὴ, ἐγένετο σάρξ καὶ οὕτως ἡμᾶς ἐκάλεσεν. That is the fundamental, theological and philosophical creed on which the whole Trinitarian and Christological speculations of the Church of the succeeding centuries are built, and it is thus the root of the orthodox system of dogmatics; for the notion that Christ was the ἀρχὴ πάσης κτίσεως necessarily led in some measure to the conception of Christ as the Logos. For the Logos had long been regarded by cultured men as the beginning and principle of the creation.452452These hints will have shewn that Paul’s theory occupies a middle position between the Jewish and Greek ideas of pre-existence. In the canon, however, we have another group of writings which likewise gives evidence of a middle position with regard to the matter, I mean the Johannine writings. If we only possessed the prologue to the Gospel of John with its “ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος” the “πάντα δι᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο” and the “ὁ λόγος σάρξ ἐγένετο” we could indeed point to nothing but Hellenic ideas. But the Gospel itself, as is well known, contains very much that must have astonished a Greek, and is opposed to the philosophical idea of the Logos. This occurs even in the thought, “ὁ λόγος σάρξ ἐγένετο,” which in itself is foreign to the Logos conception. Just fancy a proposition like the one in VI. 44, οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐλθεῖν πρὸς με, εἄν μὴ ὁ πατὴρ ὁ πέμψας με ἑλκύση αὐτὸν, or in V. 17. 21, engrafted on Philo’s system, and consider the revolution it would have caused there. No doubt the prologue to some extent contains the themes set forth in the presentation that follows, but they are worded in such a way that one cannot help thinking the author wished to prepare Greek readers for the paradox he had to communicate to them, by adapting his prologue to their mode of thought. Under the altered conditions of thought which now prevail, the prologue appears to us the mysterious part, and the narrative that follows seems the portion that is relatively more intelligible. But to the original readers, if they were educated Greeks, the prologue must have been the part most easily understood. As nowadays a section on the nature of the Christian religion is usually prefixed to a treatise on dogmatics, in order to prepare and introduce the reader, so also the Johannine prologue seems to be intended as an introduction of this kind. It brings in conceptions which were familiar to the Greeks, in fact it enters into these more deeply than is justified by the presentation which follows; for the notion of the incarnate Logos is by no means the dominant one here. Though faint echoes of this idea may possibly be met with here and there in the Gospel—I confess I do not notice them—the predominating thought is essentially the conception of Christ as the Son of God, who obediently executes what the Father has shewn and appointed him. The works which he does are allotted to him, and he performs them in the strength of the Father. The whole of Christ’s farewell discourses and the intercessory prayer evince no Hellenic influence and no cosmological speculation whatever, but shew the inner life of a man who knows himself to be one with God to a greater extent than any before him, and who feels the leading of men to God to be the task he had received and accomplished. In this consciousness he speaks of the glory he had with the Father before the world was (XVII. 4 f.: ἐγώ σε ἐδόξασα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς τὸ ἔργον τελειώσας ὁ δέδωκας μοι ἵνα ποιήσω· καὶ νῦν δόξασον με σύ, πάτερ, παρὰ σέαυτῷ τῇ δόξῃ ῇ εἶχον πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι παρὰ σοι). With this we must compare verses like III. 13: οὐδεὶς ἀναβέβηκεν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εἰ μὴ ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς, ὁ ὑιὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, and III. 31: ὁ ἄνωθεν ὲρχόμενος ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστιν. ὁ ὤν ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐστιν καὶ ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλεῖ ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐρχόμενος ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστιν (see also I. 30: VI. 33, 38, 41 f. 50 f. 58, 62: VIII. 14, 58; XVII. 24). But though the pre-existence is strongly expressed in these passages, a separation of τνεῦμα (λόγος) and σάρξ in Christ is nowhere assumed in the Gospel except in the prologue. It is always Christ’s whole personality to which every sublime attribute is ascribed. The same one who “can do nothing of himself” is also the one who was once glorious and will yet be glorified. This idea, however, can still be referred to the προεγνωσμένος πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, although it gives a peculiar δοξα with God to him who was foreknown of God, and the oldest conception is yet to be traced in many expressions, as, for example, I. 31: κάγὼ οὐκ ἤδειν αὐτόν, ἀλλ᾽ ἵνα φανερωθή τῷ Ἰσρὰηλ διὰ τοῦτο ἦλθον, V. 19: οὐ δύναται ὁ ὐιὸς ποιεῖν ἀφ᾽ εἀυτοῦ οὐδὲν ἄν μή τι βλέπῃ τὸν πατέρα ποιοῦντα, V. 36: VIII. 38: ἅ ἐγὼ ἕωρακα παρὰ τῷ πατρὶ λαλῷ, VIII. 40: τὴν ἀλήθειαν ὑμῖν λελάληκα ἥν ἤκουσα παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, XII. 49: XV. 15: πάντα ἅ ἤκουσα παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου ἔγνώρισα ὐμῖν.329
With this transition the theories concerning Christ are removed from Jewish and Old Testament soil, and also that of religion (in the strict sense of the word), and transplanted to the Greek one. Even in his pre-existent state Christ is an independent power existing side by side with God. The pre‑existence 330does not refer to his whole appearance, but only to a part of his essence; it does not primarily serve to glorify the wisdom and power of the God who guides history, but only glorifies Christ, and thereby threatens the monarchy of God.453453This is indeed counterbalanced in the fourth Gospel by the thought of the complete community of love between the Father and the Son, and the pre-existence and descent of the latter here also tend to the glory of God. In the sentence “God so loved the world,” etc., that which Paul describes in Phil. II. becomes at the same time an act of God, in fact the act of God. The sentence “God is love” sums up again all individual speculations, and raises them into a new and most exalted sphere. The appearance of Christ is now an “assumption of flesh,” and immediately the intricate questions about the connection of the heavenly and spiritual being with the flesh simultaneously arise and are at first settled by the theories of a naive docetism. But the flesh, that is the human nature created by God, appears depreciated, because it was reckoned as something unsuitable for Christ, and foreign to him as a spiritual being. Thus the Christian religion was mixed up with the refined asceticism of a perishing civilization, and a foreign substructure given to its system of morality, so earnest in its simplicity.454454If it had been possible for speculation to maintain the level of the Fourth Gospel, nothing of that would have happened; but where were there theologians capable of this? But the most questionable result was the following. Since the predicate “Logos,” which at first, and for a long time, coincided with the idea of the reason ruling in the cosmos, was considered as the highest that could be given to Christ, the holy and divine element, namely, the power of a new life, a power to be viewed and laid hold of in Christ, was transformed into a cosmic force and thereby secularised.
In the present work I have endeavoured to explain fully how the doctrine of the Church developed from these premises into the doctrine of the Trinity and of the two natures. I have also shewn that the imperfect beginnings of Church doctrine, especially as they appear in the Logos theory derived from cosmology, were subjected to wholesome corrections—by the Monarchians, by Athanasius, and by the influence of 331biblical passages which pointed in another direction. Finally, the Logos doctrine received a form in which the idea was deprived of nearly all cosmical content. Nor could the Hellenic contrast of “spirit” and “flesh” become completely developed in Christianity, because the belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ, and in the admission of the flesh into heaven, opposed to the principle of dualism a barrier which Paul as yet neither knew nor felt to be necessary. The conviction as to the resurrection of the flesh proved the hard rock which shattered the energetic attempts to give a completely Hellenic complexion to the Christian religion.
The history of the development of the ideas of pre-existence is at the same time the criticism of them, so that we need not have recourse to our present theory of knowledge which no longer allows such speculations. The problem of determining the significance of Christ through a speculation concerning his natures, and of associating with these the concrete features of the historical Christ, was originated by Hellenism. But even the New Testament writers, who appear in this respect to be influenced in some way by Hellenism, did not really speculate concerning the different natures, but, taking Christ’s spiritual nature for granted, determined his religious significance by his moral qualities—Paul by the moral act of humiliation and obedience unto death, John by the complete dependence of Christ upon God and hence also by his obedience, as well as the unity of the love of Father and Son. There is only one idea of pre-existence which no empiric contemplation of history and no reason can uproot. This is identical with the most ancient idea found in the Old Testament, as well as that prevalent among the early Christians, and consists in the religious thought that God the Lord directs history. In its application to Jesus Christ, it is contained in the words we read in 1 Pet. I. 20: προεγνωσμένου μὲν πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, φανερωθεὶς δὲ δι᾽ ὑμᾶς τοὺς δι᾽ αὐτοῦ πιστοὺς εἰς θεὸν τὸν ἐγείραντα αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν καὶ δόξαν αὐτῷ δόντα, ὥστε τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν καὶ ἐλπίδα εἶναι εἰς θεόν.332
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