Thursday, October 20, 2005

Lactantian Angelomorphic Christology

Lactantius contends that before God produced the world and other angels, he “created a holy and incorruptible spirit whom he called his son,” since this spirit was firstborn and distinguished by “a name of divine significance” in that God granted the Son possession of God the Father’s authority and supremacy.[1] Bowen and Garnsey believe that Lactantian thinking here “smacks of Arianism.”[2] Conversely, others like Mary McDonald exhibit sympathy toward the Lactantian writings, presuming that they are a reflection of the cultural situation in which he articulated them.[3] Moreover, history shows that there were angels postulated in ancient Judaism who seemingly possessed the holy name of God ex officio (Exodus 23:20-22).[4] Lactantius may observe a correlation between the status of angels in Judaism and the position of the Logos in Christian circles when he argues that God the Father vouchsafed the divine name to the Son. In fact, he appears to believe that the Son is an angel whom God promotes to the status of Son and God. His concepts, as in other instances, also find their provenance in Hermes Trimegistus and the ancient Hebrew prophets.

[1] DI 4.6.1-4.

[2] Divine Institutes, 232.

[3] Document.

[4] See Bock, Blasphemy and Exaltation; S. Olyan, A Thousand Thousands Served Him: Exegesis and the Naming of Angels in Ancient Judaism. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1993.

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