Sunday, July 31, 2005

Minucius Felix and God's Gender

Appealing to the familiar Platonic passage in Timaeus 28C, Minucius Felix recognizes God as the parent of the world, the one who constructed all things in heaven and on earth. This Father-Creator, nevertheless is ineffable and incognoscible for the legal advocate. Yet, somehow, he maintains that acknowledging God as a parent and becoming one of his spiritual children promotes unity:

Thus, in short, we do not distinguish our people by some small bodily mark, as you suppose, but easily enough by the sign of innocency and modesty. Thus we love one another, to your regret, with a mutual love, because we do not know how to hate. Thus we call one another, to your envy, brethren: as being men born of one God and Parent, and companions in faith, and as fellow-heirs in hope. You, however, do not recognize one another, and you are cruel in your mutual hatreds; nor do you acknowledge one another as brethren, unless indeed for the purpose of fratricide.[1]

It seems that Minucius does not think of God the Father in gendered terms. First, he believes “Father” is a referring expression that one can clear away and achieve a more perspicuous vision of the divine one in se. It does not predicate what God is quoad se. Second, Minucius prefers the designation “Parent” to Father. Even when employing these appellations, he qualifies his usage by associating Parent or Father with creation or spiritual redemption. This study therefore submits that he appears to view “Father” as a metaphor for the divine one.

[1] Octavius 31: “Sic nos denique non notaculo corporis, ut putatis, sed innocentiae ac modestiae signo facile dinoscimus; sic mutuo, quod doletis, amore diligimus, quoniam odisse non novimus; sic nos quod invidetis, fraters vocamus, ut unius dei parentis homines, ut consortes fidei, ut spei coheredes. Vos enim nec invicem adgnoscitis et in mutual odia saevitis nec fraters vos nisi sane ad parricidium recognoscitis.”

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