Friday, October 05, 2012

Question Regarding Athenagoras

Hello Matt13,

My replies will appear below. You wrote:

Hello Edgar.

I would like to ask your advice on a translation question once again please.

GREEK TEXT: “...πρῶτον γέννημα εἶναι τῷ πατρί, οὐχ ὡς γενόμενον...” - (Legatio Chapter 10, MPG)

ATHENAGORAS (circa 177 C.E.): “...the first offspring of the Father. I do not mean that he was created...” ” - (Legatio Chapter 10. Library Of Christian Classics)

ATHENAGORAS (circa 177 C.E.): “...the first product of the Father, not as having been brought into existence...” - (Chapter X. Pages 133-134, Roberts & Donaldson ANF.)

It is in regard to this word Gk., ( γενόμενον ) in particular.

The Persus Lexicon gives this information:

come into a new state of being
part sg aor mid neut acc
part sg aor mid neut nom
part sg aor mid neut voc
part sg aor mid masc acc

My question is, could Gk., ( γενόμενον ) be translated as:

“...[then] coming-into-a-new-state-of-being/existence...”

I'm not sure how the aorist tense works in this construction.

Is adding "...then..." inaccurate?

REPLY: Of course, you have to account for the presence of οὐχ. Therefore, the translation must include some form of negation. With aorist participles, translated woodenly literal, the rule is usually "having Xed" or "having been Xed" as in Philippians 2:6-7 (see the KIT). So, "having come into being" or "having come into a new state of being" might work. James A. Brooks and Carlton Winbery (Syntax of New Testament Greek, page 146) also point out that aorist participles may be rendered by "when," "since" or "after." We could use "as" or "while" to render aorist participles too. But I'm wondering what the reason might be for using "then" in translation. It could be possible, but I just wonder about the rationale for using it.

You wrote further:
One reason I think that Athenagoras ( possibly ) meant this ( sense ) is the close context where he quotes Proverbs 8:22 LXX just a few lines later saying the Logos was Gk., ( ekitzen ) "....created..."!

Which appears to be self-contradictory.

A second reason is perhaps the text has been tinkered with. Although I'm pushing that.

REPLY: I'm not sure that Athenagoras is alluding to Proverbs 8:22 in order to establish the created status of Christ. According to Donaldson's rendition, "The Lord," it says, "made me, the beginning of His ways to His works." It seems that Athenagoras understands the Son to have been generated rather than created (strictly speaking). He believes that the Son of God is also the beginning of God's works. Notice his statement regarding the holy spirit being "an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun." The ideals found in Athenagoras are reflected in other early writings as well.

A third reason for my interpretation is the internal ( non )-personal existence with-in the mind of God --- verses --- the external-projection theory which is shared among the Apologists. In which he, (the Logos), ( then ) with-in God's mind, did not have a real or substantial ( personal ) existence, but ( later ) before the creation of the Universe/Kosmos came into existence as an inteligent living being when he was projected.

REPLY: It does seem that this kind of distinction can be ascertained in Athenagoras. There is probably a difference in his mind between the internal and external Logos.


Matt13weedhacker said...

Dear Edgar.

Thank you for your post.

I must point out a blunder of mine.

I meant to say:

"...I'm ( not ) pushing that..."

With regard to possible tinkering.

Sorry, that was just a typo.

Thank you for your grammatical insight.

I will read your post carefully, and think about it, and get back to you.

Enjoy your day.

Βασίλειος said...

I agree with Edgar, even though I feel more sure that Athenagoras believes in a two-mode existence of Logos.

What is absolutely sure is that the distinction between "begotten" and "created" should not be understood in the Nicean way, since Logos, or Son of God, is not considered equal to God the Father. The Son is always the instrument for the creation of the world and not the cause of existence. Got the Father is always the Creator of all.

Matt13weedhacker said...

Hi Edgar.

Thank you for your input. Most appreciated.

I'm working on a multi-translation study of Chapter 10 of Athenagoras.

Interesting, is one translation by the Rev. Dr. Giles 1857 who renders, the above discussed passage:

"...not as having been ( born )..."

Which is an interesting alternative.

I hope to do a side by side comparison, line by line, with Justin, Tatian, Theophilus, Irenaeus, and Tertullian at some stage too.

Which will no doubt be put on my blog