Saturday, July 08, 2017

John Calvin--His Commentary on John 1:1b

I wonder what induced the Latins to render ὁ λόγος by Verbum, (the Word;) for that would rather have been the translation of τὸ ῥη̑μα. But granting that they had some plausible reason, still it cannot be denied that Sermo (the Speech) would have been far more appropriate. Hence it is evident, what barbarous tyranny was exercised by the theologians of the Sorbonne, who teased and stormed at Erasmus in such a manner, because he had changed a single word for the better.

And the Speech was with God. We have already said that the Son of God is thus placed above the world and above all the creatures, and is declared to have existed before all ages. But at the same time this mode of expression attributes to him a distinct personality from the Father; for it would have been absurd in the Evangelist to say that the Speech was always with God, if he had not some kind of subsistence peculiar to himself in God. This passage serves, therefore, to refute the error of Sabellius; for it shows that the Son is distinct from the Father. I have already remarked that we ought to be sober in thinking, and modest in speaking, about such high mysteries. And yet the ancient writers of the Church were excusable, when, finding that they could not in any other way maintain sound and pure doctrine in opposition to the perplexed and ambiguous phraseology of the heretics, they were compelled to invent some words, which after all had no other meaning than what is taught in the Scriptures. They said that there are three Hypostases, or Subsistences, or Persons, in the one and simple essence of God. The word; ὑπόστασις (Hypostasis) occurs in this sense in Hebrews 1:3, to which corresponds the Latin word Substaatia, (substance) as it is employed by Hilary. The Persons (τὰ πρόσωπα) were called by them distinct properties in God, which present themselves to the view of our minds; as Gregory Nazianzen says, “I cannot think of the One (God) without having the Three (Persons) shining around me.



Philip Fletcher said...

It seems to me that with what I read here, Calvin is basing everything on Latin as well as the earlier church "fathers" but not from scripture. So much emphases put on non-scripture. Then all who believe this way, spend the rest of their lives trying to make the scriptures fit this belief that is opposite of what Paul said at Ephesians 1:7,8. Interesting...

Edgar Foster said...

I didn't make it clear in this post, but Calvin read Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. His commentaries make this evident, and we learn about his language proficiency from studying Calvin's biography. He also was not crazy about philosophical minutiae; however, Calvin was largely a product of his environment and he was heavily influenced by Augustine of Hippo and other church fathers, including Athanasius. Calvin's dates are 1509-1564: he is one of the Protestant Reformers.

I am not trying to defend Calvin, but the Bible had also come down in Latin, with the Vulgate being the official Bible of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, the Western Fathers read the Bible in Latin. But I agree that he goes well beyond the limits set by Scripture. Even some Calvinists have found fault with some of his theological views.

On the other hand, Calvin had no problem using the name Jehovah.

Edgar Foster said...

One other thing: there was an ancient discussion as to how hO LOGOS in John 1:1 should be understood. In Latin, does the Greek expression correspond to the Latin SERMO or to the Latin term, VERBUM? In other words, could 1:1 be translated, "in the beginning was Speech . . . etc"