Friday, August 25, 2017

Hippolytus (Contra Noetum 8, 10-11)

Henry Barclay Swete provides an extensive quote from church father Hippolytus' Contra Noetum 8. He then writes:

"It must be confessed that this, perhaps the earliest
apologia for the Church doctrine of the Trinity, halts
here and there; neither of the terms 'economy' and
'person,' which Hippolytus uses perhaps for the first
time, suggests the existence of *eternal relations in
the life of God*, and the Divine Unity appears to be
secured by a *subordinationism* which it is difficult
to reconcile with the essential equality of the
persons" (The Holy Spirit in the Ancient Church: A
Study of Christian Teaching in the Age of the
. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966), page 103.

Hippolytus also believed that God once existed alone, having nothing contemporaneous with himself (Contra Noetum 10.1-2); however, he declares that "alone though he was," God was "manifold" (autos de monos wn polus hn) in the sense that "he was not Word-less (oute alogos) nor Wisdom-less (oute asofos) nor Power-less (oute adunatos) nor Mind-less (oute abouleutos). But everything was in him, and he was himself the All."

So his words indicate that the Logos residing in God from all eternity was not a distinct persona. Furthermore, according to Hippolytus, God voluntarily wills the Logos into existence (Contra Noet 10.3). That also suggests the Logos was not an eternal person, and one historian (W.H.C. Frend) even says that Hippolytus thought of the Son as a "creature."

Granted, Hippolytus does consider Christ to be "God." The question, however, is what he means by this term. As Robert Wilkens observed some years ago, the pre-Nicenes believed that Christ was in some sense "God," but they did not think that he was "fully God."

So in Contra Noetum 11, we read:

"And thus there appeared another beside Himself. But when I say another, I do not mean that there are two Gods, but that it is only as light of light, or as water from a fountain, or as a ray from the sun. For there is but one power, which is from the All; and the Father is the All, from whom comes this Power, the Word. And this is the mind which came forth into the world, and was manifested as the Son of God."


Duncan said...

Matt13weedhacker said...

Edgar, many Tri{3}nitarian's (as you are well aware) point to this passage as proof of an eternal Poly-Personal existence of God.

HIPPOLYTUS OF ROME (circa. 170-236 C.E.): “...It is enough for us to know only this, that contemporaneous with God there was nothing besides Him-Self; and that He being sole [πολὺς ἦν] was many; for not word-less (intellect-less) or wisdom-less, or power-less, or purpose-less was He, but all things were in Him, and He was the whole...” - (Chapter 14, “Against Noetus,” Translated by John Henry Newman)

HIPPOLYTUS OF ROME (circa. 170-236 C.E.): “...For us, then, it is sufficient simply to know that there was nothing contemporaneous with God. Beside Him there was nothing; but He, while existing alone, yet existed [πολὺς ἦν] in plurality. For He was neither [ἄλογος] without reason, nor [ἄσοφος] wisdom, nor [ἀδύνατος] power, nor [ἀβούλευτος] counsel. And all things were in Him, and He was the All...” - (Chapter 14, “Against Noetus,” Translated by J.H. MacMahon. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.)

Pointing to πολὺς [masculine plural] as proof of this.

I've translated this differently, for the following reasons:

HIPPOLYTUS OF ROME (circa. 170-236 C.E.): “...It is sufficient, therefore, for us to know that He was alone - that there was not a single [person] who is of equal-age with God. Not one [person] was in existence besides Him. Though He was alone, He existed as many [things]. For He did not lack reason, nor was He without wisdom, nor was He without power, nor did He exist without purpose. Rather, all things were [Or: “everything was”] with-in Him, thus, He was - THE ALL HIM-SELF!...” - (Chapter 14, “Against Noetus,” Translated by Matt13weedhacker)

I believe the context strongly indicates "many things" neuter sense, though the Greek is masculine.

Firstly, the text is singular masculine "He", up to, and before πολὺς ἦν "many [plural masculine] He was [singular]", and continues to be so (i.e. third person singular "He") afterwards. All references to "He" obviously being the Father.

Secondly, the following context is basically a qualifying list of im-person-al qualities/things:

* "For He did not [ἄλογος] lack reason"
* "nor was He [ἄσοφος] without (or lack) wisdom"
* "nor was He [ἀδύνατος] without (or lack) power"
* "nor did He exist [ἀβούλευτος] without (or lack) purpose"

Thirdly, it continues with:

* Πάντα "all THINGS" (or every-thing) ἐν αὐτῷ "was with-in Him", as you point out.

Matt13weedhacker said...

A comparison with an almost identical passage in AH (Against Heresies) is not consistent with AN (Against Noetus):

AH 10.29 Θεὸς εἷς, ὁ πρῶτος καὶ μόνος καὶ ἁπάντων ποιητὴς καὶ κύριος, σύγχρονον ἔσχεν οὐδέν

There is no hint of πολὺς ἦν in this work, which is suspicious to me.

σύγχρονον ἔσχεν οὐδέν is clearly a person-al comparison (i.e. comparison of persons) and ὁ πρῶτος καὶ μόνος is a temporal comparison.

GREEK TEXT: “...Θεὸς εἷς, ὁ πρῶτος καὶ μόνος καὶ ἁπάντων ποιητὴς καὶ κύριος, σύγχρονον ἔσχεν οὐδέν, οὐ χάος ἄπειρον, οὐχ ὕδωρ ἀμέτρητον ἢ γῆν στερράν, οὐχὶ ἀέρα πυκνόν, οὐ πῦρ θερμόν, οὐ πνεῦμα λεπτόν, οὐκ οὐρανοῦ μεγάλου κυανέαν ὀροφήν· ἀλλ᾿ ἦν εἷς μόνος ἑαυτῷ, ὃς θελήσας ἐποίησε τὰ ὄντα οὐκ ὄντα πρότερον, πλὴν ὅτι ἠθέλησε ποιεῖν ὡς ἔμπειρος ὢν τῶν ἐσομένων· πάρεστι γὰρ αὐτῷ καὶ πρόγνωσις..." - (Book 10, Chapter 33, Section 1-2, “Against All Heresies” MPG)

HIPPOLYTUS OF ROME (circa. 170-236 C.E.): “...God [is] one [Perhaps: “God [is] one [Person]”], the first and only [Person] [Or: “One God, Who is first and alone”], and [Or: “even”] Maker and Lord of all. There did not exist a single [person] of equal-age with Him [Or: “co-aeval with Him”] ; no infinite [Lit., “limit-less” ] chaos ; no immeasurable water ; nor was there a solid earth ; there was definitely no condensed air ; no boiling hot fire ; no fine [Or: “thin” “small-scale” “refined”] spirit ; no sky-blue [Or: “lapis lazuli colored”] canopy [Or: “vault” “firmament”] of a great heaven. Rather He existed as one [Person], alone by Him-Self [Or: “He was existing as one [Person] on His own”] ; Who by His willing, causes to exist [Lit., “makes to exist”] the things that did not exist previously [Or: “formerly” “before” “prior to that” “antecedently”], except in the sense that He was fully aware of [Or: “He had a full knowledge of” “He was fully acquainted with”] what He had willed to make, as the things that were going exist in the future were present in His foreknowledge...” - (Book 10, Chapter 33, Section 1-2, “Against All Heresies” Translated by Matt13weedhacker)

Matt13weedhacker said...

My translation, with text according to the only existing manuscript of Book 10:

GREEK TEXT: “...[33.1] Οὗτος οὖν μόνος καὶ κατὰ πάντων θεὸς[. full stop P] Λόγον πρῶτον ἐννοηθεὶς ἀπογεννᾷ Λόγον ὡς φωνήν[. full stop P] ἀλλ' ἐνδιάθετον τοῦ Παντὸς λογισμόν[. full stop P] τοῦτον μόνον ἐξ ὄντων ἐγέννα[. full stop P] τὸ γὰρ ὃν[. full stop P] αὐτὸς ὁ Πατὴρ [33.2] ἦν[. full stop P] ἐξ οὗ τὸ γεννηθῆναι αἴτιον τοῖς γινομένοις[. full stop P] Λόγος ἦν ἐν αυτῷ φέρων τὸ θέλειν τοῦ γεγενηκότος[. full stop P] οὐκ ἄπειρός τῆς τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐννοίας. ἅμα γὰρ τὸ [τῷ ?] ἐκ τοῦ γεννήσαντος προελθεῖν, πρωτότοκος τούτου γενόμενος[. full stop P] φωνὴν εἶχεν ἐν ἑαυτῷ τὰς ἐν τῷ Πατρικῷ ἐννοηθείσας [Or: ἐν νοηθείσας] ἰδέας[. full stop P]...” - (Book 10, Chapter 33, Section 1-2, [BnF grec. 464])
[Folio 133r] []
[Folio 133v] []

HIPPOLYTUS OF ROME (circa. 170-236 C.E.): “...Thus this One [was] alone, and accordingly God of all. First He causes from a process of in-ward reflection [the] generation of a Logos, - a Logos - not in the sense of an audible word [Lit., “sound”], but as an internal-ized concept of [Or: “as an internal-ized thought with-in”] the All's rational thinking faculty. This one alone has a generation from out of existing things [Perhaps: “[prior] existing things”]. For that which was in existence [Lit., “which was existing”] was the Father Him-Self. From out of Whom originate the things which receive generation, as [being the] ultimate cause of things which begin to exist [Or: “as [being the] ultimate cause of created things”]. [This] Logos exists [for the purpose of] carrying into effect in himself the will of the Creator. Not as one [Or: “someone”] ignorant of what the Father had in mind [Or: “the Father's inward thinking” “plan” “had intended”]. (ἅμα) At this very same time this one [i.e. the Logos] is ejected forth in advance from out of the Begetter as [the] first one born of the things which are caused to begin existence [Or: “as [the] first one born of those things which are created”] . Who [Or: “He” [i.e. the Logos]] has with-in himself as an audible voice [the] archetypal patterns of the things thought up [Or: “thought out” “conceived of”] with-in the Father...” - (Book 10, Chapter 33, Section 1-2, “Against All Heresies” Translated by Matt13weedhacker)

Matt13weedhacker said...

The text in Contra Noetum 11, is actually: "And thus there appeared (ἕτερος) beside Him."

"Another" ἕτερος of a different kind, or nature.

Matt13weedhacker said...

Hippolytus Greek text has been heavily edited in the printed versions of the last three centuries.

Other Apologists propose the same im-personal theory of ἐνδιάθετον τοῦ Παντὸς λογισμόν. Tatian, Theophilus, and Athenagoras are almost identical.

Theophilus uses an interesting phrase ἐγέννησεν αὐτὸν μετὰ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ σοφίας ἐξερευξάμενος πρὸ τῶν ὅλων concerning the generation and externalizing of the Father's "Logos". This hints at his meaning I think.

ἐγέννησεν αὐτὸν μετὰ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ σοφίας could be interpreted two ways.

[1.] "along-with His own wisdom", or
[2.] "after [the manner] of His own wisdom."

The context of the Father's eternal IM-personal quality of wisdom (capacity of/for being wise), referred to in this passage slightly earlier as τὸν ἑαυτοῦ λόγον "the Logos of Himself" or: "His [very] own Logos", on which Theophilus' contemporaries, Justin, Tatian, Athenagoras all with similar theories, elaborate on as never being severed from, amputated, or chopped off the Father, nor diminished/lessened in any way, indicates possibly (to me at least) that the SENSE that Theophilus likely meant in this passage that a Person (intelligent living being) began finite existence under the name (styled after substantively) "the Logos" as exhibiting the image (Heb. 1.3; 2Cor 4.4; Prov. 8:22-30 LXX) of the Father's invisible attribute of "wisdom" (compare Rom. 1.20 where the "Godhead" is comprehended by the things He has made).

Adding that Theophilus identifies the Logos as "the Spirit of God" in the very same context.

Those are my thoughts Edgar. Been quietly working on translations of, and studying similar passages to Hippolytus etc for a couple of years now.

Please keep posting things on this topic, it helps me tremendously, and inspires me.

Edgar Foster said...


Always appreciate your thoughts and research. Lots of irons in the fire right now as school just began from summer break, but I will keep posting on the fathers and will maybe have some input regarding this subject one day.

All the best,