Friday, August 14, 2015

Chrysostom on John 1:1c (A Dialogue)

Edgar: Contrary to popular belief, EN ARXH (John 1:1a) does not necessarily mean that the LOGOS is eternal. The complexities of understanding the Greek words in the opening verse of the Johannine Prologue are demonstrated by Origen in his notable Commentary on John. If the apostle John had in mind Genesis 1:1 (LXX) when using this construction, then it is almost certain that John 1:1a is not saying that the LOGOS is eternal or co-eternal with God. Rather, as articulated by Origen and the Shepherd of Hermas, the Word is "the most ancient of all creation" (Contra Celsum 5.37). The Greek there in Contra Celsum is PRESBUTATON PANTWN TWN DHMIOURGHMATWN. See Proverbs 8:22; Revelation 3:14.

Interlocutor Quoting Chrysostom: "for that you may not, when you hear 'In the beginning was the Word,' suppose Him to be Eternal, and yet imagine the life of the Father to differ from His by some interval and longer duration, and so assign a beginning to the Only-Begotten, he adds, 'was in the beginning with God'; so eternally even as the Father Himself, for the Father was never without the Word, but He was always God with God, yet Each in His proper Person.(1)"

MY RESPONSE: Chrysostom (like other Trinitarians) goes beyond Scripture when asserting that God has always been Father and Son. Psalm 90:2 states that YHWH is God (not Father) from eternity to eternity. Tertullian makes a similar point in Adversus Hermogenem 3.4 Waszink Latin text) by arguing that there was a time when God was neither Father nor Judge. And even though Novatian writes that God is always "Father," he feels the need to contend that the Father is "prior" to the Son in some sense or to some degree (De Trinitate 31). It is possible that Novatian has in mind causal or even temporal priority when discussing the relationship between God and his Word:

"He, then, when the Father willed it, proceeded from the Father, and He who was in the Father came forth from the Father; and He who was in the Father because He was of the Father, was subsequently with the Father, because He came forth from the Father, that is to say, that divine substance whose name is the Word, whereby all things were made, and without whom nothing was made. For all things are after Him, because they are by Him. And reasonably, He is before all things, but after the Father, since all things were made by Him, and He proceeded from Him of whose will all things were made" (De Trinitate 21).

Interlocutor Still Quoting Chrysostom: "how then, one says, does John assert, that He was in the world, if He was with God? Because He was both(2) with God and in the world also. For neither Father nor Son are limited in any way. Since, if 'there is no end of His greatness' (Ps. cxlv. 3), and if 'of His wisdom there is no number' (Ps. cxlvii. 5), it is clear that there cannot be any beginning in time(3) to His Essence. Thou hast heard, that 'In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth' (Gen. i. 1); what dost thou understand from this 'beginning'? clearly, that they were created before all visible things. So, respecting the Only-Begotten, when you hear that He was 'in the beginning,' conceive of him as before all intelligible things,(4) and before the ages."

MY RESPONSE: There are two problematic assertions that Chrysostom makes here. The first is that the LOGOS was both in the world and with God at the same time. Athanasius makes a similar argument in his work on the Incarnation. Yet, where does the Bible say that Christ simultaneously was with God and on earth? Where are we even led to believe that Christ was infinite or limitless while he dwelled on earth and in the flesh? Second, the belief that God is timeless has been seriously challenged on biblical and logical grounds. The biblical text certainly does not suggest that God is timeless.


Sean Killackey said...

"Rather, as articulated by Origen and the Shepherd of Hermas, the Word is "the most ancient of all creation."

I think that John is referring to Genesis 1:1 and from that verse and its account we see that "the beginning" isn't just a moment, but is a prolonged time in that God made the heavens and the earth. If we take the heavens to mean (as they seem) the universe and the skies, then it is no problem in stating that Jesus was in the beginning, for the angels (who everyone agrees were created) were also in the beginning and they applauded when God founded the earth.

And if we assume that even the spiritual realm is mean in both places we see that if Moses could write "Now the earth WAS formless [in the beginning]" there is no problem in saying that Jesus was created at the start of "the beginning" and therefore "was" "in the beginning" as John says.

That was my thought, similar to my blog post (

Matt13weedhacker said...

Justin Martyr argues for a temporal beginning as well.

2nd Apology Chapter 6.3

The Son Gk., ( γενόμενος ) "came into existence" [= Codex Claromontanus reading] at a temporal point in time = Gk., ( ὅτε τὴν ἀρχὴν ) “when at the beginning”.

Both the Codex Regius Parisinus Graecus 450, or Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, gr. 451, and the Codex Claromontanus, (a direct copy of the Regius), read Gk., ( ὅτε ).

Gk., ( ὅτε ) = “when” or: “at the time when”.

See Codex Claromontanus 82, later Mediomontanus, now British Library MS Add. 82951.

Folio 152r

There is also more supporting evidence that Justin believed the Logos was created, (and therefore not eternal), in the same context.

Justin Martyr, reasoned that the Father cannot have a proper name. Why? Because He, (according to Justin's logic), would have to have someone who is older than He is, in order for Him to be, (or have been), given such a name.

Yet, in comparison, (both in the Bible and in Justin's theology), the Son, does indeed have, and has been given a name.

What are the obvious implications of this reasoning?

Implications = Justin is effectively saying that:

[1.] There is no person that is Gk., ( πρεσβύτερον ) older than the Father.

[2.] This is because the Father is Gk., ( ἀγεννήτῳ ὄντι ) which can be translated as either: “an un-generated (or begotten) Being” or perhaps: “by [reason of Him] being an un-generated [Person]”.

[3.] Therefore, there was, and is, no prior existing person who could have caused or generated the Father's life or existence, (let alone a name), i.e. He is not “generated” or “begotten” out of, from, or of someone else.

[4.] Life only comes from, or is CREATED (of, from, out of, or by) pre-existing life, or a prior, (i.e. Gk., πρεσβύτερον "older"), living Person.

Therefore, we must conclude that the Father is older than the Son in Justin's reasoning.

Because, (to Justin), the Son, (= implied and/or direct comparison), has been given a name.

See the immediate context in 2nd Apol. 6.4(A), Gk., ( Ἰησοῦς ) “Jesus”, 2nd Apol. 6.6(C), Gk., ( τοῦ ὀνόματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ) “of the name of Jesus Christ”.

To Justin, the Son is Gk., ( λεγόμενος κυρίως ) “rightly called” such.

Because the Son Gk., ( γενόμενος ) “began existence” or “came into existence” or “was created”, according to the Codex Claromontanus, (later Mediomontanus now British Library MS Add. 82951), reading.

The Son came into existence at a temporal point in time Gk., ( ὅτε τὴν ἀρχὴν ) “when at the beginning”. Gk., ( ὅτε ) = “when” or: “at the time when”.

JUSTIN MARTYR (circa. 110-165 C.E.): “...But for the Father of all, being Un-Born, there is no set name; for whoever has a name - has an OLDER person who - gave them the name. But the word “Father,” and “God,” and “Creator,” and “Lord,” and “Master,” are not names, but designations drawn from His beneficial acts. But His Son, the only one rightfully called “Son,” the Logos, existing [ = present tense ] with Him and being brought forth before the things made – ( when ) – ( He ) [ = the Father ] – had created and arranged all things through Him, was called “Christ” with reference to His being anointed and God having arranged{12} all things through Him. The name itself holds an unknown significance, just as the title “God” is not a name but a notion about a thing hard to describe implanted in the nature of men...” - (Chapter 6:3, 2nd Apology, Page 23-24, “The Second Apology of Justin Martyr: with Text and Translation,” By Kyle Pope, Ancient Road Publications, © 2001.)
[FOOTNOTE 12]: Justin appears to suggest a two-fold etymology for the name Christ: 1. The word kechristhai meaning “to be annointed,” and (the unusual suggestion,) 2. The word kosmesai meaning “to have arranged.”

Sean Killackey said...

Hello Edgar,

I have a question to ask about 1 Timothy 6:15,16, which is: who is it taking about as "the one alone having immortality, of whom men have not seen or can see?" Of course it is either Jesus or Jehovah, but personally (while I lean toward Jehovah) am not sure.

I wrote some thoughts I had on it (, but since I unsure on it I would like to get a second opinon. Thanks for the time.