Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tertullian's Exegesis of Isaiah 44:24 (Adversus Praxean 19)

"By thus attaching the Son to Himself, He becomes His own interpreter in what sense He stretched out the heavens alone, meaning alone with His Son, even as He is one with His Son. The utterance, therefore, will be in like manner the Son's, 'I have stretched out the heavens alone,' because by the Word were the heavens established. Inasmuch, then, as the heaven was prepared when Wisdom was present in the Word, and since all things were made by the Word, it is quite correct to say that even the Son stretched out the heaven alone, because He alone ministered to the Father's work. It must also be He who says, 'I am the First, and to all futurity I AM.' The Word, no doubt, was before all things. 'In the beginning was the Word'; and in that beginning He was sent forth by the Father. The Father, however, has no beginning, as proceeding from none; nor can He be seen, since He was not begotten. He who has always been alone could never have had order or rank. Therefore, if they have determined that the Father and the Son must be regarded as one and the same, for the express purpose of vindicating the unity of God, that unity of His is preserved intact; for He is one, and yet He has a Son, who is equally with Himself comprehended in the same Scriptures."


Matt13weedhacker said...

Hi Edgar.

I came accross a comment online that got me thinking.

Someone suggested that Irenaeus may have been the "Praxaes" whom Tertullian wrote against in an un-named book written by "Hall (1992)."

It immediately made me think of Eusebius Ecc. Hist. Book IV. Chaps. 14-21. where he speaks of Florinus and Blastus being "Cheif" heretics at Rome in the context of Montantism.

Is it possible that Irenaeus old friend Florinus was a Montantist aswell as being Gnostic?

Or was Irenaeus trying to warn Florinus against Blastus Montantist views aswell as Gnostic Polythiesm in his letter "On Monarchy"?

Is this the same "Monarchy" of the Father which the "majority of [Christian] believers" in Adv Prax c. 3, believed in that both Justin Martyr and Irenaeus and others defended?

Whats your views?

Edgar Foster said...

Good question, Mt 13:

I'll have time to offer a reply on Friday.



Edgar Foster said...

Hi Matthew13:

Firstly, I'll note that in my study on Tertullian (Angelomorphic Christology and the Exegesis of Psalm 8:5), I suggested (based on my research at the time) that "Praxeas" could have been Zephyrinus or Callistus. In endnote 6 on page 48 of the publication, I allude to Hall. What I say there is that Hall sets forth the idea that Irenaeus was actually Praxeas. (See p. 70 of Hall's book.) I no longer own Hall's study, so I could be mistaken. But that's what I got from his book when I wrote mine.

Regarding Florinus: As Johann Lorenz Mosheim suggests (based on Walch), we have indications that Florinus was a Gnostic, but it's not so clear that Blastus was; Irenaeus may have opposed Blastus for other reasons. Based on the available evidence, I don't think we can be sure about the identity of Praxeas. Timothy Barnes writes: "Certainty is unattainable." I also wonder if Blastus would have adhered to Montanist views. One argument against Zephrinus and Callistus is that they were not from Asia. Could the same objection apply to Blastus?

Best regards,


Edgar Foster said...

I checked Hall's book on Googlebooks and he writes that it's "not even out of the question" that Irenaeus could have been Praxeas. Glad to know I did not flub that endnote. :)

Anonymous said...

realise this blog post is quite old - But what would you say to someone who says this establishes God (The trinity) alone and ruling out the use of an active agent?
G-d often says "I alone [something on creation]"

Personally I favour - looking at the expressions used dia + genitive and the passive verb used in John 1:3, Heb 1:2 and Col 1:16

rather than the active in Gen 1:1

But then Hebrews 1:10 contradicts that theory.

but I also find these interesting: 1 Kings 6:2; 6:14; 7:1; 8:27; 9:10; 15:23; 22:39; 2 Chron. 26:9; Ezra 5:11

Edgar Foster said...

First, I think the passive is significant in the verses about Jesus and scholars have pointed this out. Two other things are that Jesus is never called Creator in the Bible, he does not have the preposition hupo applied to him, and he credits the creation of Adam and Eve to his Father (Matthew 19:4-6). Jesus is the agent of creation but not the Creator himself.

As for Isaiah 44:24, I'm wondering how anyone can rule out an active agent for the world's creation. If one accepts the Judeo-Christian view of things, someone had to actively create the cosmos. Secondly, nothing in the context of Isaiah 44:24 suggests a Trinity. YHWH is the speaker throughout the account and he's contrasting himself with the gods of the nations. That has to be taken into account when exegeting Isaiah 44:24. Jehovah is the sole Creator but that does not mean he can't act through an agent/mediator.

Edgar Foster said...

I would also recommend the book, Drama of the Divine Economy: Creator and Creation in Early Christian Theology and Piety by Paul M. Blowers. See page 199ff.

Among other things, he references Proverbs 8:27 which speaks about wisdom being with YHWH at creation.

Anonymous said...

Interesting.. I saw someone say the YHWH (trinity) was alone so no contradiction with the son being present
(quote in next comment when I can find it)

Anonymous said...

page 200 here: https://www.google.co.nz/books/edition/Drama_of_the_Divine_Economy/Q0c3em0SwbYC?hl=en&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover

So did Tertullian consider the Father the creator? I know he applies Proverbs to Logos
in fn 55 a reference is made to psalm 32 (33):6 noticeably again a passive verb is used of the "agent" (cf matt 1:22) Whether Logos is mean't remains unclear - from my look at Witness litrature they dont seem to cite it like that - and Beduhn has said God "spoke" things into existence
- again whether this is 100% true, I'm still unsure
Tertullian wipes out his own argument really - if Jesus is with YHWH, how can he be YHWH? - We know it possible for the writers to write in trinitarian terms (Paul does it in Thess, a passage I'm more than happy to cite) Where he writes in a similar way trinitarians do today.
Like iv said about John 1:1 - Why didn't John define all 3 persons and qualitively apply Theos to them? it wasn't hard for him to do. (unless he was "borrowing" something - but even then it was not unknown for quotations to be altered)
So I raise the same of proverbs - the author just had to add 6 words to make a trinity or write like the verse in Gen which Tet also erroneously uses to prove "2 YHWHs"

Edgar Foster said...

A few quick thoughts:

1) Tertullian dos believe the Father is the Creator. See the quote above in the OP where God stretches out the heavens "alone" with his Son. So Tertullian believes that the Father creates through his Word/Son. Other places in his writings confirm this point.

2) I've never seen Witness literature explain Psalm 33:6 this way, but we do believe that YHWH (Jehovah) created all things by means of his Word/Son.

3) Did God speak things into existence? I've always been leery of that interpretation of Gen. 1 and never read it in WT literature. It might possibly be in the older magazines or books.

4) Tertullian is not a full-blown Trinitarian and other writers have pointed this out, even Trinitarian writers. But it's standard Trinitarian belief to insist that all three persons are YHWH, yet there is only one God. Trinitarians insist that one divine person can be with another divine person (YHWH the Father with YHWH the Son) like a human father can be with his son.

Anonymous said...

"I've never seen Witness literature explain Psalm 33:6 this way" - neither have I, I know some use it that way.
" It might possibly be in the older magazines or books." - having a quick look I can find nothing.

"Did God speak things into existence?" - like I said I'm undecided on that, I know Beduhn thinks so. - while it is possible - other things must also be considered.

" it's standard Trinitarian belief to insist that all three persons are YHWH, yet there is only one God." - sorry kind of not my point, Ill just cite this pauline verse here with regards to the trinitarian language:
1 Corinthians 12:12-31

For just as the body is one but has many members, and all the members of that body, although many, are one body,..For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink one spirit...indeed, the body is made up not of one member but of many...But now they are many members, yet one body...Now you are Christ’s body, and each of you individually is a member

see the full citation, but notice this language is similar to trinitarians - it defines every "member" of said group even if they are "with" each other. not just the "Body" (if you get what I mean)

Edgar Foster said...

1) You're probably right about WT literature not explaining Psalm 33:6 that way as involving the Word. I just know one would have to check over 100 years worth of literature to say definitively.

2) I don't endorse the God speaks all things into existence. As a matter of fact, I've posted arguments against it before. Check out the meaning of the Hebrew, dabar.

3) I think your point is made by the use of 1 Cor. 12. The reason I mentioned Tertullian distinguishing two YHWH's that way pertained to the question you posed about how could he speak of two YHWH's.

You wrote: "Tertullian wipes out his own argument really - if Jesus is with YHWH, how can he be YHWH? - We know it possible for the writers to write in trinitarian terms (Paul does it in Thess, a passage I'm more than happy to cite) Where he writes in a similar way trinitarians do today."

4) I believe I know how a Trinitarian would reply to your query about John 1:1: it amounts to the claim that the Trinity is never revealed in one verse but distributed across many. That is one answer I've seen before. They also invoke progressive revelation.

Anonymous said...

2) an interesting one would be Psalms 33:9 - I have checked the meaning to the Hebrew word, sorry I don't see your point (I'm probably just slow)

4) Then the question I raise (and I'm sure you would as well) Why is Christ always separate from God? (i.e Rev 1:4,5) Why is God only ever made out to be the Father? I could go on.
The problem with that rhetoric is simply we can find no parallel to it in the Bible (progressive revlation) or this trinity in creation - if "eikon" means what they claim, doesn't that mean we should be 3 different things in unison? (plot twist: apparently God has a soul)
If we look at the "revelation" of the messiah in the OT - besides a few minor details (i.e looks, actaul name etc) the people were well infromed on identifying the Messiah.
Even in revelation we have a lot of detail on what will happen, ok the specifics come out over time (hence scholarship) but the foundation is laid in said prophecy - so if this unity is so important why was it not revealed immediatly and explicitly like the rest?

offtopic: I know I ask you to look at alot, what did you think of my research on ktizo and poio? and the lxx usages, not sure if you can find holes - But I think with the NT quotes it proves they pretty much mean the same..

Edgar Foster said...

All I'm saying about dabar is that it could signify a deed in Psalm 33:6 rather than a spoken word. Please see https://fosterheologicalreflections.blogspot.com/2016/09/dabar-psalm-336-creation-by-means-of.html?m=1

I agree with you about the Trinity, but the hardcore Trinitarians will hardly ever change.

I think your research is good, but I would say ktizo and poieo are close in meaning, but might have different shades of meaning. Will try to expand more soon. I'm closing out the school semester now