Thursday, July 20, 2017

Danielou and Tertullian's Christology

Jean Danielou tellingly writes these words about Tertullian's doctrine of God and Christ:

"The Son and the Spirit are distinguished, therefore, from the Father in that they have their own subsistent being, which is not, however, based on their eternal specific individuality, but rather on their function in relation to God's creation. Tertullian does not manage to get beyond the combination of a modalism with regard to the distinctness of the individual persons and a subordinationism with regard to their existential plurality" (Danielou, The Origins of Latin Christianity, 364).


Matt13weedhacker said...

Hi Edgar.

Been meaning to engage in conversation about this for a while, but have been to busy.

What do you think Danielou means when he says that Tertullian did not manage to get beyond:

[1.] "the combination of a modalism with regard to the distinctness of the individual persons"?


[2.] "a subordinationism with regard to their existential plurality"?

Your thoughts?

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Matt13:

I understand how easy it can be to have a full schedule.

I argued this point in my masters thesis on Tertullian, but what I take Danielou to be saying is that Tertullian's language or formulation of the Father and Son relationship (or the holy spirit) is unsatisfactory on two levels from a Catholic perspective. 1) Tertullian does not clearly distinguish the Son from the spirit when he discusses the Word prior to his first generation from the Father. Moreover, prior to the Word's first generation, he is not made to be fully distinct from the Father, but is the reason/wisdom of God--not a distinct res et persona.

2) While Tertullian uses "Trinitarian" language, he subordinates the Son to the Father per essentiam (by essence) and not just in functional or role terms. For instance, Adv Prax 9 and how Tertullian explains Jn 14:28.