Friday, March 24, 2006

Justin Martyr and God's Namelessness

Nevertheless, in order to apprehend Justin’s doctrine of innominability, it is necessary to make a distinction between names (onomata) and forms of address (prosresis). Expressions such as patjr or kuriov, according to Justin Martyr, are not onomata but prosreseis.[1] They do not designate what God is, but simply permit finite rational existents to invoke God with reverential awe. Justin indicates that God is a person to whom one may speak “but of whom one may not speak.” God is known as “thou” but never as “he.”[2] For the Martyr, consequently, not even the lexeme “God” is a name since it has neither a known nor an unknown meaning.[3] Osborn also maintains that Justin’s use of the word prosreseis is “much more perceptive” than Clement of Alexandria’s theory which suggests that the human mind utilizes divine titles as a form of support.[4] In the final analysis, the Martyr’s God is strictly innominable since he thinks that not even theos is his name.

Elsewhere, Justin writes: “And we have been taught, and are convinced, and do believe, that He accepts those only who imitate the excellences which reside in Him, temperance, and justice, and philanthropy, and as many virtues as are peculiar to a God who is called by no proper name.”[5] Affirmations such as these move Eric Osborn to observe: “The similarity of these statements with those of contemporary Platonism is clear. Albinus speaks in similar terms of the inapplicability of names to the One. God is ineffable and to be grasped by mind alone because he is neither genus, species nor differentia.”[6] It thus appears evident that Middle Platonism shaped Justin’s doctrine of innominability. He too conceived of God in a particular cultural milieu and a specific Christian matrix informed by contemporary Platonic thought. God has no name, according to Justin: he is anonymous. It is not difficult to perceive a conceptual nexus between Justinian innominability and Lactantian apophaticism. Both writers forged their individual theistic notions in the same milieu.

[1] E. Osborn, Justin, 22

[2] Osborn, ibid.

[3] Osborn, Justin, 22-23.

[4] Osborn, ibid.

[5] Apology 1.10.

[6] Osborn, Justin Martyr, 22. Cf. R.M. Grant’s Gods and the One God; Erwin Goodenough, The Theology of Justin Martyr (Jena: Frommannische Buchhandlung, 1923).

Friday, March 17, 2006

Comments on Ephesians 6:12 and PALH


Paul writes to the Ephesians: ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἡμῖν ἡ πάλη πρὸς αἷμα καὶ σάρκα, ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὰς ἀρχάς, πρὸς τὰς ἐξουσίας, πρὸς τοὺς κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους τούτου, πρὸς τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις. (Ephesians 6:12 UBS5).

H.I. Marrou (A History of Education in Antiquity) reports that physical training was the "most characteristic part" of Greek education "at least at the beginning of the Hellenistic period" (p. 116). One activity that was used to educate young Greeks in times of antiquity was "wrestling" (ἡ πάλη) or hand to hand grappling. Marrou points out that ancient Greek wrestling was more popular than running. For the Greeks, wrestling in the strictest sense was "standing wrestling" (ORQIA PALH or STADIAIA PALH) in which a wrestler would try throwing his opponent to the ground "without falling himself" (p. 122). If one of the grapplers did fall, the throw would not be counted.

Other points about πάλη are "πάλη (#4097) struggle, wrestling. The word refers particularly to a hand-to-hand fight (Barth). Wrestling was a fight characterized by trickery, cunning, and strategy (Rogers, Cleon L., Jr. and Cleon L. Rogers III. The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998, page 446).

"PALH, PALHS, hH (PALAIW 'wrestle'; Hom. et. al.; ins; Sb 678, 6) engagement in a challenging contest (orig. 'wrestling' Il. 23, 635 al., then of fights or battles Aeschyl., Ch. 866; Eur., Heracl. 159) struggle against . . . of Christians' fight against powers of darkness Eph 6:12 (the opponent is introduced by PROS w. the acc. as in Philo above [Sobr. 65], but the context suggests military imagery" (BDAG).

"Our wrestling is not (οὐκ ἔστιν ἡμῖν ἡ πάλη). 'To us the wrestling is not.' πάλη is an old word from PALLW, to throw, to swing (from Homer to the papyri, though here only in N.T.), a contest between two till one hurls the other down and holds him down (KATECW). Note PROS again (five times) in sense of 'against,' face to face conflict to the finish" (Robertson's WP).

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Justin Martyr and Free Will


In Dialogus cum Tryphone, Justin Martyr declares that angels and humans possess free will. However, what does free will entail? What does Justin mean by the expression?

First, it is important to define free will, which is by no means an easy task. William Ockham defined free will as "That power whereby I can do diverse things indifferently and contingently, such that I cause, or not cause, the same effect, when all conditions other than this power are the same." William Hasker calls this definition both exact and exacting. He prefers to define (libertarian) free will as "the power to perform A (i.e. a particular act under given circumstances) or to refrain from performing A" (See _God, Time, and Knowledge_, p. 66).

On the other hand, others think of free will as the ability to act in accord with one's nature. As mentioned earlier, saying exactly what free will is, is not a facile task. Critical for the present discussion is what Justin Martyr thinks of free will. Some passages from the Dialogus provide insight respecting this issue:

"For God, wishing both angels and men, who were endowed with freewill, and at their own disposal, to do whatever He had strengthened each to do, made them so, that if they chose the things acceptable to Himself, He would keep them free from death and from punishment; but that if they did evil, He would punish each as He sees fit" (Dial. 88).

"He created both angels and men free to do that which is righteous, and He appointed periods of time during which He knew it would be good for them to have the exercise of free-will; and because He likewise knew it would be good, He made general and particular judgments; each one's freedom of will, however, being guarded" (Dial. 102).

"But that you may not have a pretext for saying that Christ must have been crucified, and that those who transgressed must have been among your nation, and that the matter could not have been otherwise, I said briefly by anticipation, that God, wishing men and angels to follow His will, resolved to create them free to do righteousness; possessing reason, that they may know by whom they are created, and through whom they, not existing formerly, do now exist; and with a law that they should be judged by Him, if they do anything contrary to right reason: and of ourselves we, men and angels, shall be convicted of having acted sinfully, unless we repent beforehand. But if the word of God foretells that some angels and men shall be certainly punished, it did so because it foreknew that they would be unchangeably [wicked], but not because God had created them so" (Dial. 141).

In 1 Apology 43, Justin argues that a lack of free volition negates human blame, merit or responsibility. While some persons claiming to be Christian may not have a problem with vitiating human merit, arguing that man is not free but determined also seems to eviscerate human responsibility or blame. There can be no legal concept of MENS REA nor any divine concept of wickedness unless humans are free to choose good or evil. This is, at least, how Justin reasons. Justin contends that God gave humans and angels free will in order to choose the good. However, being free also means that one could freely elect to do that which is unpleasing to the Father and God of all. Since, God created angels and humans with free will, however, those who unrepentantly turn aside from the righteous commandment of Jehovah God will be justly punished. Justin thus appears to define free will in the following terms: "For neither would any of them [i.e. humans or angels] be praiseworthy unless there were power to turn to both (virtue and vice)."

Regards, Edgar