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After long absence: The Word
December 11, 2015
For those of you who are new to the Christian History for Everyman newsletter, here's my health update.
In November 2014 I was diagnosed with lymphoma, my second cancer. (Read about the first at "Thrilled to Death" at http://yippee-leukemia.blogpot.com). Chemotherapy put it in remission quickly, but apparently my bone marrow was fragile from the marrow transplant that cured my leukemia. One part of my immune system did not recover from treatment.
All my friends now know the word "neutrophil." It's the cell of the immune system that my body refused to produce from February of this year until last month. Oddly enough, my neutrophils returned on the one-year anniversary of my lymphoma diagnosis.
Having a damaged immune system meant regular trips to a cancer clinic that gave me a shot (Neupogen), which would give me a small amount of neutrophils for a day or two. The low neutrophils (neutropenia) meant recurring infections, and I was in the hospital every two to three weeks throwing up or with fever.
This problem really got in the way of keeping up with my web sites, blogging, and this newsletter.
Now, though, I am in the odd position of being somewhat healthy for the first time in a year. I spent a couple weeks catching up on emails and business, and now here I am, back on Christian-history.org. I hope you missed me.
Let's provide a lesson today as fast as I can. There's a lot here, so you don't get transitions, just a blast of information.
The Septuagint, also known as the LXX, is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). At least half the quotes in the New Testament are from this translation. It was the preferred Bible of the early churches, and it is still the text used to translate to English in the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
It reads different from our Hebrew "Masoretic" text in some places. Some of these are key to what is known as "the Logos doctrine" to historians. Most historians say that only the "apologists" of the last half of the second century--Justin Martyr, Tatian, Tertullian, and perhaps Irenaeus--held to the Logos doctrine.
I don't agree. I think it is obvious that all the early Christians, and even the Council of Nicea, held to the Logos doctrine.
The Logos [Greek for "Word"] doctrine says that the Son of God was born of God before the beginning. He was not created in the sense the Jehovah's Witnesses give, but he was born in some manner we don't understand. That is why the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed say "begotten, not made."
In eternity past, God's Logos (his Word) was inside him, then in some manner beyond our understanding he generated/begat/emitted his Word as the Son of God.
Theophilus, bishop of Antioch around AD 170, wrote, "John says, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,' showing that at first God was alone and the Word in him." (To Autolycus. II:22.)
Tertullian, who wrote just after AD 200, said, "Before all things, God was alone ... Yet even then he was not alone because he had with him that which he possessed in himself, that is to say, his own Reason." (Against Praxeas. Ch. 5. Tertullian wrote in Latin, and he preferred "Reason" to "Word" when translating Logos.)
This did not divide God into two. The Son was begotten like a stream issues forth from a spring, or a beam comes from the sun. The spring and stream are one and of the same substance, but they are also two, a spring and a stream.
The early Christians did not use the apple or egg illustration like modern Christians do. The shell, white, and yolk of the egg are indeed three parts making up one whole, but they can be separated. You can take the shell off the egg, then separate the yolk from the white. This would have been unacceptable to them.
They liked the spring/stream illustration. They also used the sun and its beam as an illustration and a tree that grows up from the root. All of these illustrations are of a relationship that cannot be divided. The connection and the flow from the Father to the Son goes on always.
Back to the Septuagint.
The Septuagint, though it is a translation, predates our Hebrew Masoretic text by a thousand years. Whether a newer but original language text is more reliable than a much older translation is debated among scholars, but the differences can be very interesting.
For example, Psalm 110:3 in the LXX reads "I begot you from the womb before the morning." (The LXX numbers this Psalm as 109, not 110.) This is a Messianic psalm that begins with "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.'"
Proverbs 8:22 applies to the Logos doctrine in both the LXX and the Masoretic. In the LXX it reads, "The Lord created me in the beginning of his ways for his work. He established me in the beginning before time." (From the Orthodox Study Bible.)
That passage goes on to make it obvious that it was the Logos of God, through whom all things were created, that was speaking.
Let's clear up the word "created" before we all panic together. Proverbs 8--and the early Christians--did not mind the word "created" because they knew it was just one more term for the incomprehensible way in which the Word of God was "begotten, not made" in the beginning. Neither the Holy Spirit, in Proverbs 8, nor the early Christians ever conceived of the idea that Jesus was created from nothing like everything else. Instead, they always had the idea of a stream coming from a spring. The spring, in a sense, "creates" the stream, but not from nothing. No, the stream flows from out of the spring, never divided from it.
Later, Arius would corrupt the word "created" into something it was never meant to be, and the church both stopped using it and condemned Arius.
Condemning Arius was a good idea, but never using the word "created" again leaves the Septuagint of Proverbs 8:22 a mystery to those who run across it. Remember, the Orthodox churches, hundreds of millions of people, still use the LXX.
Why does the Logos doctrine matter?
Have you ever wondered why Jesus calls the Father the only true God in John 17:3? Have you ever wondered why 1 Corinthians 8:6 says that there is one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ? Have you ever wondered about 1 Timothy 2:5, which says there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus?
Have you ever noticed or wondered why the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed say we believe in "one God, the Father Almighty ... and one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God"?
Despite repeatedly referring to the Father as the one God, the Scripture also says things like "of whom [the Jews] in regard to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever." (Rom. 9:5)
So the Father is the one God, yet Jesus is called God several times. How is that not a contradiction?
Tertullian explained this biblical and early Christian terminology by saying, "I will follow the apostle [Paul]. If the Father and Son are both mentioned, I call the Father 'God' and Jesus 'Lord.' When I mention Christ alone, I can call him 'God.' ... For example, I would call a sunbeam 'sun' when mentioned by itself; however, if I mentioned the sun itself, I would stop calling the sunbeam 'sun.' Although I do not make two suns, I will consider the sun and its ray to be as much two things, and two forms of one divided substance, as God and his Word, as the Father and the Son." (Against Praxeas. ch. 13. I did some minor updating to the wording for ease of reading.)
You can search the New Testament and see the truth of this. Jesus is called God several times, as long as he is mentioned by himself. If the Father and Son are mentioned together, then the Father is called God (and sometimes the one God), while the Son is called Lord.
This is different than us. If we refer to the one God, we are always careful to clarify that the one God is the Father, Son, and Spirit. The Bible, the early Christians, and the most accepted creeds (Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed) all say the one God is the Father, and the one Lord is Jesus the Son.
How can this be if the Son is deity and divine?
It's a puzzle to us, but it was no puzzle to the apostles and early Christians. The one God had within him his Word. Before the beginning he begot his Word as the Son, like a stream from a spring or a beam from the sun. They are undivided, and one substance, God and his Word.
I wrote a book on the Council of Nicea called _Decoding Nicea_. It is impossible to understand the Council of Nicea, perhaps the most important event in Christian history, unless you understand the Logos doctrine, which was confirmed at Nicea.
What was the opposite side? Arius taught that the Son was created from nothing in the beginning. According to Arius, he did not exist prior to his beginning.
This idea was condemned at Nicea, but it was not our coequal, exactly the same Father-Son-Spirit Trinity that was confirmed, but the Logos doctrine. God begat his Word in eternity past.
The nice thing about all of this is that it makes every verse on the Trinity fall right into place. The fact that Jesus calls the Father the only true God in John 17:3 does not cause a stir to those who hold the Logos doctrine. They know that although the one God is the Father, nonetheless the Son was begotten by the Father like a stream runs from a spring. They are one divine substance, the Father the Source, the Son the Power and Outworking of the Source, eternally one, never divided. Thus, though the Word is with God, yet the Word is divine.
I have a lot of early Christian quotes on this subject at https://www.christian-history.org/trinity-quotes.html. I have even more quotes along with explanations and introductions in chapter 16 and 17 of my Decoding Nicea book. Those two chapters are provided free at https://www.christian-history.org/support-files/chapter-16-17.pdf.
I hope this hasn't been overwhelming. One of my greatest joys is seeing formerly difficult Scriptures become easy once the original teachings of the church are applied to them.
Paul Pavao, Webmaster of Christian History for Everyman, Twice a Cancer Survivor
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