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Re: [John_Lit] A Grammatico-theological Question

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  • Antonio Jerez
    ... 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
    Message 1 of 76 , Sep 13, 2000
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      Antonio Jerez wrote:

      > << 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.>>

      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
      > Rome
      > (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.

      Best wishes

      Antonio Jerez
      Göteborg University, Sweden
    • 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
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        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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