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Re: [John_Lit] A Grammatico-theological Question

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  • Antonio Jerez
    In a message dated 9/10/2000 2:57:06 PM Eastern Daylight Time, antonio.jerez@privat.utfors.se writes:
    Message 1 of 76 , Sep 12, 2000
      In a message dated 9/10/2000 2:57:06 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
      antonio.jerez@... writes:

      << This is an interesting topic. I recall having a discussion with Prof. Rene´
      << Kieffer here in Sweden a few months ago about the way the author of
      <<GJohn may have seen the distinction between the hO THEOS and the
      <<LOGOS. We both agreed that it would be apropiate in Johannine theology
      <<to call God the Father the "Big God" and the Logos the "Little God". The
      << God" does not appear be of the same stature as the "Big God". >>

      <Leonard Maluf replied:
      <If this suggestion is serious, I beg to disagree. I really think the
      <Niceo-Chalcedonian solution (two distinct persons, Father and Son, in one
      <divine nature; Jesus, a hypostatic union of two natures) was far more
      <satisfactory, even precisely as a reading of John, and even with its
      <introduction of Greek metaphysical vocabulary not used by John. For one thing
      <the Nicean solution avoided having John hold some kind of naive polytheism.

      Of course I'm serious. And you are fully entitled to disagree. And although you
      may personally be quite pleased with the way the Nicean and Chalcedonian
      solutions tried to avoid "naive polyteism", that doesn't mean that the author of
      GJohn was not a polytheist in a certain sense. Actually I think few firstcentury
      Jews in the first century could properly be called monotheists in the strict sense,
      since the belief in lesser divine beings (angels, exalted patriarchs like Enoch and
      Moses etc.) appears to have been quite common. As somebody also pointed out
      in another message Paul also calls the Devil, "the god of this world". So some Jews
      obviously believed in the existence of lesser divine beings, quite distinct from the high
      God - God the Father.

      In another message Leonard wrote:
      >If he is divine, then Jesus can legitimately be called God. This is in fact
      >the correct orthodox understanding of the expression "Jesus is God". It is
      >assumed, in a Catholic ambiance at least, that this point is made as part of
      >a basic Christian catechetics

      This is certainly the Christian orthodox position today, although I very much
      doubt that people like Paul would have agreed with it. Paul would probably
      have agreed that Jesus is divine although he would have found it abhorrent
      to call Jesus God with a capital G. To Paul there only existed one God with
      a capital G - the Father.

      >This is a standard secular-historical point of view, not made more accurate
      >by the fact that it is standard. An alternative view refuses to accept the
      >idea that the presence of Constantine necessarily meant the absence of the
      >Spirit, who, in John's terminology, was to lead the disciples of Jesus into
      >the whole truth (after the death and resurrection of Jesus). Furthermore, it
      >is naive historically to imagine that Platonism affected only the side of
      >those who supported the divinity of Christ in the strict sense of the term.
      >There was plenty of (and in fact an excess of) Platonic and Aristotelian
      >logic operative in the arguments of the Arian and semi-Arian heretics as
      >well. And it can be argued that in spite of their use of terminology derived
      >from Greek philosophical sources, the "orthodox" Fathers of the Church were
      >principally concerned to maintain the substance of the biblical presentation
      >of Jesus. And that they successfully did so.

      It is quite true that both sides in the controversy over Jesus divinity were
      influenced by Platonism, Stoicism and other greek notions. Were I differ
      with Leonard is in his interpretation that the Holy Spirit must have had anything
      to do with the making of Jesus into God. 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. 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 Rome
      (Harcourt Brace & Co, NY, 1999).

      Best wishes

      Antonio Jerez
      Göteborg University
    • Maluflen@aol.com
      In a message dated 9/18/2000 5:39:26 PM Eastern Daylight Time, antonio.jerez@privat.utfors.se writes: [Responding to Leonard, who wrote:] Antonio, no
      Message 76 of 76 , Sep 18, 2000
        In a message dated 9/18/2000 5:39:26 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
        antonio.jerez@... writes:

        [Responding to Leonard, who wrote:]
        << > Antonio, no matter how highly elevated a creature is, no matter how
        > to God a creature comes, he is still infinitely -- yes, infinitely
        > to God. If this were the case for Jesus it would have been incumbent on
        > NT authors to make this point perfectly clear. Now there are texts in
        > they do not do so, and in fact many of them confound Jesus quite
        > and quite thoroughly with God. If it is true that Jesus is not God, either
        > these writers were terribly misled, or they are terribly misleading.

        The only problem is that Luke and the other synoptic writers did not
        have to contend with a 20th century highly orthodox chap from America
        who is so infatuated with trinitarianism that he has to force it on the texts
        at all price. Leonard, why don't you take a close look at Peter's speech
        in Acts 2:22-36 again and see if you find any support at all for your
        This is as close to Luke's and the early Jerusalem church's Christology as
        we will ever get, and Jesus is never called or likened to God. He is a MAN
        (v.22) SENT by God (v.22) to fullfill God's plan for humanity (v.23). God
        resurrected him (v24) and MADE him into LORD and MESSIAH (v. 36).

        How do you explain that somebody who is God (as you claim Jesus is) has
        to be made Lord and Messiah by God? >>

        Antonio, it seems you didn't read my post carefully enough (which makes me
        wonder how carefully you read the biblical texts that challenge your
        understanding). What I said was that "there are texts" in the NT in which
        Jesus is thoroughly confounded with God. This is quite compatible, logically,
        with the existence of other texts in which he is not (and was carefully
        formulated precisely so as to accommodate these). The Acts text you cite is
        clearly one such, and, in Chalcedonian terms, it could be said that it is
        simply talking about Jesus as man, under which formality he is of course
        thoroughly subordinated to, distinct from and inferior to God. My only point
        is that there are other texts in which the NT authors, or most of them,
        express a kind of fuzzy identity between Jesus and God. So the God-Man
        construct of the later patristic writers and church councils seems to me to
        do justice the whole of the biblical evidence about Jesus while you seem able
        to handle only one side of the paradox. Keep trying though! It is wonderful
        that you invest so much mental effort in the search.

        Leonard Maluf
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