The Fathers and Theosis
19-08-2008, 09:50 AM
Theosis: From Clement to Justin Martyr
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Having tried to outline the background to the developing understanding of theosis in the first post, I want to move on to examine what Clement of Alexandria, St. Ignatius and Justin Martyr had to say on this theme.
Two key texts for the Fathers were Psalm 82:6, which the last post looked at; another one is 2 Peter 1:4:
Quote:by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature. (2Peter (RSV) 1)In what way could we become 'partakers of the divine nature' and 'become gods'? How did such thoughts fit with what St. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 about becoming a 'new creation' in Christ? How did it fit with what he told the Galatians ( Galatians 3: 26-9) here:
Quote:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians (RSV) 3)How do we 'put on Christ' and become 'one' in Him? It was these Pauline and Petrine texts which, along with Psalm 82, exercised the thoughts of the Early Church Fathers.
The first of the Fathers we see engaging with the task of exegesis here is St. Ignatius. In his Epistle to the Ephesians (4.2), he offers us this explanation of what is is to be one in Christ:
Quote:Wherefore it is fitting that ye should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also ye do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And do ye, man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, ye may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that ye are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus ye may always enjoy communion with God.whilst in 9:2 he calls them:
Quote:God-bearers, temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, bearers of holiness, adorned in all respects with the commandments of Jesus Christ, in whom also I exult ..In addition to participating in God, and being God-bearers, Christians are 'full of God' (Magnesians 14:1) and 'have God in themselves' (Romans 6:3).
But these all seem straightforward statements about authentic Christianity being complete obedience to the will of God, and about that will being expressed through the bishop (Philadelphians 3):
Quote:For as many as are of Christ are also with the bishop; but as many as fall away from him, and embrace communion with the accursed, these shall be cut off along with them. For they are not Christ's husbandry, but the seed of the enemy, from whom may you ever be delivered by the prayers of the shepherd, that most faithful and gentle shepherd who presides over you.The blessed martyr writes as a pastor, with a tender concern for the cure of souls. For him, attaining God is a future possibility, one to which he aspires through obedience and suffering.
So we don't see with him any engagement with St. Paul's sense of participation in a personal union with Christ; indeed he does not use the characteristically Pauline words: 'in Christ'. But he does see that the individual is, in some way, transformed by being a true disciple of the Lord. But the nature of that transformation, and how it relates to a personal relationship with the Risen Lord, had to wait for the writings of Justin Martyr c.150, and Irenaeus, writing about the same time.
It is these two who first see the importance of Psalm 82:6 in connection with the Pauline writings.
In his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin argues that the Christians have supplanted the Jews as the true Israel because they have inherited the divine promises (Isaiah 42:1-4 in the LXX) by a spiritual birth. When Trypho denies that the Christians are the children of God, Justin responds by citing Psalm 82:6 [Dialogue CXXIV)
Quote:And when I saw that they were perturbed because I said that we are the sons of God, I anticipated their questioning, and said, "Listen, sirs, how the Holy Ghost speaks of this people, saying that they are all sons of the Highest; and how this very Christ will be present in their assembly, rendering judgment to all men. The words are spoken by David, and are, according to your version of them, thus: `God standeth in the congregation of gods; He judgeth among the gods. How long do ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Judge for the orphan and the poor, and do justice to the humble and needy. Deliver the needy, and save the poor out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither have they understood; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth shall be shaken. I said, Ye are gods, and are all children of the Most High. But ye die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O God! judge the earth, for Thou shalt inherit all nations.' But in the version of the Seventy it is written, `Behold, ye die like men, and fall like one of the princes, ' in order to manifest the disobedience of men,-I mean of Adam and Eve,-and the fall of one of the princes, i.e., of him who was called the serpent, who fell with a great overthrow, because he deceived Eve. But as my discourse is not intended to touch on this point, but to prove to you that the Holy Ghost reproaches men because they were made like God, free from suffering and death, provided that they kept His commandments, and were deemed deserving of the name of His sons, and yet they, becoming like Adam and Eve, work out death for themselves; let the interpretation of the Psalm be held just as you wish, yet thereby it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming "gods," and of having power to become sons of the Highest; and shall be each by himself judged and condemned like Adam and Eve. Now I have proved at length that Christ is called God.In fact, the text does not necessarily prove Justin?s point; it actually proves only that all human beings have failed in their vication to become sons of the Most High.
But what Justin does is to provide a connection between this text and 1 John 3:1, and the Pauline kergymatic verses. (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philadelphians 2: 6-8 )
It was St. Irenaeus who first makes explicit the identification of ?the gods? with those who have been incorporated into Christ by baptism.
I'd welcome any comments and discussion.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
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Theosis: From Clement to Justin Martyr - John Charmley - 19-08-2008 09:50 AM