Antonio Jerez wrote:
> << It is quite true that both sides in the controversy over Jesus divinity
> influenced by Platonism, Stoicism and other greek notions. Were I differ
> with Leonard is in his interpretation that the Holy Spirit must have had
> to do with the making of Jesus into God.>>
Leonard Maluf replied:
> I don't of course hold that the Holy Spirit, or anyone else for that matter,
> made Jesus into God. A Catholic-Orthodox interpretation insists, however,
> that the Spirit was still present with the Church when a realization of the
> divinity of Jesus became more explicitly formulated in the 3rd and 4th
> centuries than it was in the first. This involved the use of precise language
> from Greek philosophy to clarify who Jesus was (and is), not to make him
> anything he wasn't.
I'm not an expert on the Catholic cathechesis (although as a former Catholic
I had a thoroughly Catholic upbringing) but I do think that the standard
position is that the Holy Spirit was not only present but also guided the Church
into its statement that Jesus is God. As a historian I try to stay out of metaphysics,
so I'm not going to quibble with you about wether Jesus IS actually God. But as
a historian I would very much argue that the greek church Fathers clarifications
about the nature of Jesus were very much out of sync with most of the NT writers.
To judge by the writings and the theology of people like Matthew, James, Paul,
Luke and others the greeks very much turned Jesus into something he wasn't in
the first century among the earliest Christians.
>The substance of the Nicene doctrine is present,
> arguably, in most of the New Testament writings.
So where is Jesus called God in the NT? Certainly not in
"most of the New Testament writings". John is the exception
and I wouldn't call his theology representative of early Jewish
Christianity. John was at odds with both Jews and other Jewish
Christians (see chapter 6) who thought that he had gone much too
far. Actually, if it wasn´t for John I doubt that the later trinitarian creeds
would ever have lifted off the ground. John is a religious extremist,
a wellknown type among us who study comparative religion. Robert
M. Price has an excellent chapter in his latest book "Deconstructing
Jesus" where he compares the Johannites and other early Christians
with the modern Jewish Lubbavitcher sect in Brooklyn.The parallels
are striking. Just like in early Christianity the Lubbavitchers have a
whole spectrum of more or less ardent believers - from those who
think rabbi Schneerson is a special teacher sent by God to those who
have already turned Schneerson into the Messiah and an incarnation of
the divine. The fanatics among the Lubbavitchers sneer at the others who
don't want to exalt the rabbi enough. Sounds very much like modern
Johannites to me at least.
> << As a historian I find much simpler
> explanations like Imperial opportunism, powerhungry priests, fanaticism,
> misguided idealism, pure ignorance about Christianitys judaic roots among
> some folks and a lot of other factors blended into a very unholy mix.>>
> Statements like this really make me wonder if you have read Athanasius or any
> other of the orthodox fathers who defended the Nicene position. If you had,
> it seems to me you would be less inclined to accept as of any relevancy at
> all some of the factors you list above. One can make a plausible case for the
> presence and influence of these factors only if one is very unfamiliar with
> the primary sources (I would think).
By their deeds you shall know them. You have to be very selective in
your reading of all the relevant material if you are going to claim that
the factors I mentioned earlier were not involved to a very high degree.
I'm sure many will find that a saintly personality shines trough in the writings
of a man like Athanasius, although I usually try to see beyond what a person
says about himself. What he does to others is often more important in judging
the character of a person, and in my opinion Athanasius deeds (not the least
against Arius) were far from saintly. This discussion reminds me of Augustine,
another one of those twisted personalities who can easily deceive you by their
writings, but who show their true face by their deeds and not the least their
treatment of fellow Christians. Read his discussion with Julian of Ecclanum again
and tell me who is the nobler and saner character?
> << For anybody interested in the
> subject I heartily recommend a recent book by Richard E. Rubenstein: When
> Jesus became God: the epic fight over Christ's divinity in the last days of
> (Harcourt Brace & Co, NY, 1999).>>
> The sensationalism of the title itself is sufficient to suggest the author's
> innocence of the real issues. May I suggest that those who wish to give
> Rubenstein a fair hearing simply balance that time-expenditure by reading the
> De Incarnatione of Athanasius on the side. The exercise will make clear who
> has an axe to grind.
Leonard, you are talking nonsense. How can you be so confident about
an author having an axe to grind when you haven't read a single verse of
his book? Personally I think the title is a good one - it was an epic fight
that led to Jesus becoming God. Rubenstein's wellresearched and balanced
book reads like a thriller, a thriller were crooks blinded by religious fanaticism
abound on all sides of the controversy.
Göteborg University, Sweden