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§ 145. The Divinity of Christ.


The dogma of the Divinity of Christ is the centre of interest. It comes into the foreground, not only against rationalistic Monarchianism and Ebionism, which degrade Christ to a second Moses, but also against Gnosticism, which, though it holds him to be superhuman, still puts him on a level with other aeons of the ideal world, and thus, by endlessly multiplying sons of God, after the manner of the heathen mythology, pantheistically dilutes and destroys all idea of a specific sonship. The development of this dogma started from the Old Testament idea of the word and the wisdom of God; from the Jewish Platonism of Alexandria; above all, from the Christology of Paul, and from the Logos-doctrine of John. This view of John gave a mighty impulse to Christian speculation, and furnished it ever fresh material. It was the form under which all the Greek fathers conceived the divine nature and divine dignity of Christ before his incarnation. The term Logos was peculiarly serviceable here, from its well-known double meaning of "reason" and "word," ratio and oratio; though in John it is evidently used in the latter sense alone.987987    On the Logos doctrine of Philo, which probably was known to John much has been written by Gfrörer (1831), Dähne (1834), Grossmann (1829 and 1841), Dorner (1845), Langen, (1867), Heinze (1872), Schürer (1874), Siegfried (1875), Soulier, Pahud, Klasen, and others.87

Justin Martyr developed the first Christology, though not as a novelty, but in the consciousness of its being generally held by Christians.988988    For thorough discussions of Justin’s Logos doctrine see Semisch. Justin der Märtyrer, 11. 289 sqq.; Dorner, Entwicklungsgesch. etc. I. 415-435; Weizsäcker. Die Theologie des Märt. Justinus, in Dorner’s "Jahrbücher für deutsche Theol." Bd XII. 1867, p. 60 sqq.; and M. von Engelbardt, Das Christenthum Justins des Märt. (1878), p. 107-120, and his art. in the revised ed. of Herzog, vol. VII. (1880), p. 326.88 Following the suggestion of the double meaning of Logos and the precedent of a similar distinction by Philo, be distinguishes in the Logos, that is, the divine being of Christ, two elements: the immanent, or that which determines the revelation of God to himself within himself;989989    Λόγος ἐνδιάθετος.89 and the transitive, in virtue of which God reveals himself outwardly.990990    Λόγος προφορικός .90 The act of the procession of the Logos from God991991    προέρχεσθαι.91 he illustrates by the figure of generation,992992    γεννᾶν, γεννᾶσθαι–ϊ.–ͅϊ92 without division or diminution of the divine substance; and in this view the Logos is the only and absolute Son of God, the only-begotten. The generation, however, is not with him an eternal act, grounded in metaphysical necessity, as with Athanasius in the later church doctrine. It took place before the creation of the world, and proceeded from the free will of God.993993    He calls Christ "the first begotten of God,"πρωτότοκος τοῦ θεοῦ and the πρῶτον γέννημα (but not κτίσμα or ποίημα τοῦ θεοῦ). See Apol. I. 21, 23, 33, 46, 63; and Engelhardt, l.c. p. 116-120: "Der Logos ist vorweltlich, aber nicht ewig."93 This begotten ante-mundane (though it would seem not strictly eternal) Logos he conceives as a hypostatical being, a person numerically distinct from the Father; and to the agency of this person before his incarnation994994    Λόγος ἄσαρκος .94 Justin attributes the creation and support of the universe all the theophanies (Christophanies) of the Old Testament, and all that is true and rational in the world. Christ is the Reason of reasons, the incarnation of the absolute and eternal reason. He is a true object of worship. In his efforts to reconcile this view with monotheism, he at one time asserts the moral unity of the two divine persons, and at another decidedly subordinates the Son to the Father. Justin thus combines hypostasianism, or the theory of the independent, personal (hypostatical) divinity of Christ, with subordinationism; he is, therefore, neither Arian nor Athanasian; but his whole theological tendency, in opposition to the heresies, was evidently towards the orthodox system, and had he lived later, he would have subscribed the Nicene creed.995995    See the proof in the monograph of Semisch.95 The same may be said of Tertullian and of Origen.

In this connection we must also mention Justin’s remarkable doctrine of the "Logos spermatikos," or the Divine Word disseminated among men. He recognized in every rational soul something Christian, a germ (σπέρμα) of the Logos, or a spark of the absolute reason. He therefore traced all the elements of truth and beauty which are scattered like seeds not only among the Jews but also among the heathen to the influence of Christ before his incarnation. He regarded the heathen sages, Socrates, (whom he compares to Abraham), Plato, the Stoics, and some of the poets and historians as unconscious disciples of the Logos, as Christians before Christ.996996    Comp. Apol. II. 8, 10, 13. He says that the moral teaching of the Stoics and some of the Greek poets was admirable on account of the seed of the Logos implanted in every race of men (διὰ τὸ ἔμφυτον παντὶ γένει ἀνθρώπων σπέρμα τοῦ λόγου), and mentions as examples Heraclitus, Musonius, and others, who for this reason were hated and put to death.96

Justin derived this idea no doubt from the Gospel of John 1:4, 5, 9, 10, though he only quotes one passage from it (3:3–5). His pupil Tatian used it in his Diatessaron.997997    On the relation of Justin to John’s Gospel, see especially the very careful examination of Ezra Abbot, The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel (Boston, 1880), pp. 29-56. He says (p. 41) While Justin’s conceptions in regard to the Logos were undoubtedly greatly affected by Philo and the Alexandrian philosophy, the doctrine of the incarnation of the Logos was utterly foreign to that philosophy, and could only have been derived, it would seem, from the Gospel of John. He accordingly speaks very often in language similar to that of John (1:14) of the Logos as ’ made flesh,’ or as ’having become man.’That in the last phrase he should prefer the term ’man’ to the Hebraistic ’flesh’ can excite no surprise. With reference to the deity of the Logos and his instrumental agency in creation, compare also especially Apol. II. 6, ’through him God created all things’ (δι’ αὐτοῦ πάντα ἔκτισε) Dial. c. 56, and Apol. I. 63, with John 1:1-3. Since the Fathers who immediately followed Justin, as Theophilus, Irenaeus Clement, Tertullian, unquestionably founded their doctrine of the incarnation of the Logos on the Gospel of John, the presumption is that Justin did the same. He professes to hold his view, in which he owns that some Christians do not agree with him ’because we have been comminded by Christ himself not to follow the doctrines of men, but those which were proclaimed by the blessed prophets and taught by Him.’(Dial. c. 48). Now, as Canon Westcott observes, ’the Synoptists do not anywhere declare Christ’s pre-existence.’ And where could Justin suppose himself to have found this doctrine taught by Christ except in the Fourth Gospel? Compare Apol. I. 46: ’That Christ is the first-born of God, being the Logos [the divine Reason] of which every race of men have been partakers [Comp. John 1:4, 5, 9], we have been taught and have declared before. And those who have lived according to Reason are Christians, even though they were deemed atheists; as for example, Socrates and Heraclitus and those like them among the Greeks.’’97

The further development of the doctrine of the Logos we find in the other apologists, in Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, and especially in the Alexandrian school.

Clement of Alexandria speaks in the very highest terms of the Logos, but leaves his independent personality obscure. He makes the Logos the ultimate principle of all existence, without beginning, and timeless; the revealer of the Father, the sum of all intelligence and wisdom, the personal truth, the speaking as well as the spoken word of creative power, the proper author of the world, the source of light and life, the great educator of the human race, at last becoming man, to draw us into fellowship with him and make us partakers of his divine nature.

Origen felt the whole weight of the Christological and trinitarian problem and manfully grappled with it, but obscured it by foreign speculations. He wavered between the homo-ousian, or orthodox, and the homoi-ousian or subordinatian theories, which afterwards came into sharp conflict with each other in the Arian controversy.998998    Comp. here Neander, Baur, Dorner (I. 635-695), the monographs on Origen by Redepenning (II. 295-307), and Thomasius, H. Schultz, Die Christologie des Origenes, in the "Jahrb. f. Protest. Theol." 1875, No. II. and III, and the art. of Möller in Herzog2 XI. 105 sqq.98 On the one hand he brings the Son as near as possible to the essence of the Father; not only making him the absolute personal wisdom, truth, righteousness, reason,999999    αὐτοσοφία, αὐτοαλήθεια, αὐτοδικαιοσύνη, αὐτοδύναμις, αὐτόλογος, etc. Contra Cels. III. 41; V. 39. Origen repeatedly uses the term "God Jesus," θεὸσ Ἰησοῦς, without the article, ibid. V. 51; VI. 66.99 but also expressly predicating eternity of him, and propounding the church dogma of the eternal generation of the Son. This generation he usually represents as proceeding from the will of the Father; but he also conceives it as proceeding from his essence and hence, at least in one passage, he already applies the term homo-ousios to the Son, thus declaring him coëqual in essence or nature with the Father.10001000    In a fragment on the Ep. to the Hebrews (IV. 697, de la Rue): ἀπόρροια ὁμοούσιος.000 This idea of eternal generation, however, has a peculiar form with him, from its close connection with his doctrine of an eternal creation. He can no more think of the Father without the Son, than of an almighty God without creation, or of light without radiance.10011001    De Princip. IV. 28: "Sicut lux numquam sine splendore esse potuit, ita nec Filius quidem sine Patre intelligi potest "001 Hence he describes this generation not as a single, instantaneous act, but, like creation, ever going on.10021002    De Princ. I. 2, 4: "Est aeterna et sempiterna generatio, sicut splendor generatur a luce."Horn. in Jerem. IX. 4. ἀεί γεννᾶ ὁ Πατὴρ τὸν Υἱόν002 But on the other hand he distinguishes the essence of the Son from that of the Father; speaks of a difference of substance;10031003    ἑτιρότης τῆς οὐσίας or τοῦ ὑποκειμένου, which the advocates of his orthodoxy, probably without reason, take is merely opposing the Patripassian conception of the ὁμοουσία. Redepenning, II. 300-306, gives the principal passages for the homo-ousia and the hetero-ousia.003 and makes the Son decidedly inferior to the Father, calling him, with reference to John 1:1, merely θεός without the article, that is, God in a relative or secondary sense (Deus de Deo) also δεύτερος θεός–ϊ, –ͅϊbut the Father God in the absolute sense, ὁ θεός (Deus per se), or αὐτόθεος , also the fountain and root of the divinity.10041004    πηγή, ῥίζα τῆς θεότητος.004 Hence, he also taught, that the Son should not be directly addressed in prayer, but the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.10051005    De Orat. c. 15.005 This must be limited, no doubt, to absolute worship, for he elsewhere recognizes prayer to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.10061006    For example, Ad Rom. I. p. 472: "Adorare alium quempiam praeter Patrem et Filium et Spiritum sanctum, impietatis est crimen."Contra Cels. VIII. 67. He closes his homilies with a doxology to Christ.006 Yet this subordination of the Son formed a stepping-stone to Arianism, and some disciples of Origen, particularly Dionysius of Alexandria, decidedly approached that heresy. Against this, however, the deeper Christian sentiment, even before the Arian controversy, put forth firm protest, especially in the person of the Roman Dionysius, to whom his Alexandrian namesake and colleague magnanimously yielded.

In a simpler way the western fathers, including here Irenaeus and Hippolytus, who labored in the West, though they were of Greek training, reached the position, that Christ must be one with the Father, yet personally distinct from him. It is commonly supposed that they came nearer the homo-ousion than the Greeks. This can be said of Irenaeus, but not of Tertullian. And as to Cyprian, whose sphere was exclusively that of church government and discipline, he had nothing peculiar in his speculative doctrines.

Irenaeus after Polycarp, the most faithful representative of the Johannean school, keeps more within the limits of the simple biblical statements, and ventures no such bold speculations as the Alexandrians, but is more sound and much nearer the Nicene standard. He likewise uses the terms "Logos"and "Son of God" interchangeably, and concedes the distinction, made also by the Valentinians, between the inward and the uttered word,10071007    The λόγος ἐνδιάθετος and λόγος προφορικός .007 in reference to man, but contests the application of it to God, who is above all antitheses, absolutely simple and unchangeable, and in whom before and after, thinking and speaking, coincide. He repudiates also every speculative or a priori attempt to explain the derivation of the Son from the Father; this be holds to be an incomprehensible mystery.10081008    Adv. Haer. II. 28, 6 "Si quis nobis dixerit: quomodo ergo Filius prolatus a Patre est? dicimus ei—nemo novit nisi solus, qui generavit Pater et qui natus est Filius."008 He is content to define the actual distinction between Father and Son, by saying that the former is God revealing himself, the latter, God revealed; the one is the ground of revelation, the other is the actual, appearing revelation itself. Hence he calls the Father the invisible of the Son, and the Son the visible of the Father. He discriminates most rigidly the conceptions of generation and of creation. The Son, though begotten of the Father, is still like him, distinguished from the created world, as increate, without beginning, and eternal. All this plainly shows that Irenaeus is much nearer the Nicene dogma of the substantial identity of the Son with the Father, than Justin and the Alexandrians. If, as he does in several passages, he still subordinates the Son to the Father, be is certainly inconsistent; and that for want of an accurate distinction between the eternal Logos and the actual Christ.10091009    The λόγος ἄσαρκος and the λόγος ἔνσαρκος .009 Expressions like "my Father is greater than I," which apply only to the Christ of history, he refers also, like Justin and Origen, to the eternal Word. On the other hand, he has been charged with leaning in the opposite direction towards the Sabellian and Patripassian views, but unjustly.10101010    As Duncker in his monograph: Die Christologie des heil. Irenaeus, p. 50 sqq., has unanswerably shown010 Apart from his frequent want of precision in expression, he steers in general, with sure biblical and churchly tact, equally clear of both extremes, and asserts alike the essential unity and the eternal personal distinction of the Father and the Son.

The incarnation of the Logos Irenaeus represents both as a restoration and redemption from sin and death, and as the completion of the revelation of God and of the creation of man. In the latter view, as finisher, Christ is the perfect Son of Man, in whom the likeness of man to God, the similitudo Dei, regarded as moral duty, in distinction from the imago Dei, as an essential property, becomes for the first time fully real. According to this the incarnation would be grounded in the original plan of God for the education of mankind, and independent of the fall; it would have taken place even without the fall, though in some other form. Yet Irenaeus does not expressly say this; speculation on abstract possibilities was foreign to his realistic cast of mind.

Tertullian cannot escape the charge of subordinationism. He bluntly calls the Father the whole divine substance, and the Son a part of it;10111011    Adv. Prax. c. 9 "Pater tota subsiantia est, Filius vero derivatio totius et portio, sicut ipse profitetur Quia Pater major Me est " (John 14:28).011 illustrating their relation by the figures of the fountain and the stream, the sun and the beam. He would not have two suns, he says, but he might call Christ God, as Paul does in Rom 9:5. The sunbeam, too, in itself considered, may be called sun, but not the sun a beam. Sun and beam are two distinct things (species) in one essence (substantia), as God and the Word, as the Father and the Son. But we should not take figurative language too strictly, and must remember that Tertullian was specially interested to distinguish the Son from the Father in opposition to the Patripassian Praxeas. In other respects he did the church Christology material service. He propounds a threefold hypostatical existence of the Son (filiatio): (1) The pre-existent, eternal immanence of the Son in the Father; they being as inseparable as reason and word in man, who was created in the image of God, and hence in a measure reflects his being;10121012    Hence he says (Adv. Prax. c. 5), by way of illustration: "Quodcunque cogitaveris, sermo est; quodcunque senseris ratio est. Loquaris illud in animo necesse est, et dum loqueris, conlocutorem pateris sermonem, in quo inest haec ipsa ratio qua cum eo cogitans loquaris, per quem loquens cogitas."012 (2) the coming forth of the Son with the Father for the purpose of the creation; (3) the manifestation of the Son in the world by the incarnation.10131013    In German terminology this progress in the filiation (Hypostasirung) may, be expressed: die werdende Persönlichkeit, die gewordene Persönlichkeit, die erscheinende Persönlichkeit.013

With equal energy Hippolytus combated Patripassianism, and insisted on the recognition of different hypostases with equal claim to divine worship. Yet he, too, is somewhat trammelled with the subordination view.10141014    See the exposition of Döllinger, Hippol. p. 195 sqq.014

On the other hand, according to his representation in the Philosophumena, the Roman bishops Zephyrinus and especially Callistus favored Patripassianism. The later popes, however, were firm defenders of hypostasianism. One of them, Dionysius, a.d. 262, as we shall see more fully when speaking of the trinity, maintained at once the homo-ousion and eternal generation against Dionysius of Alexandria, and the hypostatical distinction against Sabellianism, and sketched in bold and clear outlines the Nicene standard view.



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