« AnteriorContinuar »
who cannot be limited by any place, could not appear a visible form.* From this time the Logos became the advocate of men with God. God sends him into virtuous souls, who are instructed by hiin. He is the secondary God, who is subordinate to the Supreme.g
Here then, before the new Testament was written, we find nearly every speculation, which was adopted by the early fathers and applied to the Logos of the Evangelist John. The philosophy which presented these speculations, had a predominant overwhelming influence, in their times. Most of them had not only been disciples, but teachers of it. And besides this, it was the universal belief among speculating Christians of that period, that the Logos of whom John speaks was the very same spirit of wisdom, which operated partially in all the better part of the heathen philosophers, and that these had borrowed all their most valuable truths from the sacred writings of the Jews.
What now could be more natural, than for these fathers to apply the attributes of their philosophical Logos to the Logos of John? And specially so, when one and all agreed, that Wisdom, as described in the eighth chapter of Proverbs, must be the same as the Logos mentioned by the Evangelist. The predicates of wisdom, mentioned in this chapter, certainly bear a very strong resemblance to those ascribed to the Logos, by the book of Wisdom, and by Philo Judaeus in his works.
* Legg. Allegor. Tom. I. p. 362, 363. De Somn. Tom. V. p. 30. 104. Quis rer. divin, haeres ? Tom IV. p.
90. | De Somn. Tom. V. p. 204. Comp. De Gigant. T. II. p. 366.
§ Legs. Allegor. T. I. p. 228. Ib. pp. 362, 363. Vide etiam in Euseb. Praep. Evang. Lib. VII. c. 13.
Specially is the resemblance strong, when the Septuagint Version is regarded as the true text of the Scriptures; and it is almost superfluous to say that this was the Bible of the Antenicene fathers, for none of them could read the original text, if Origen be excepted. Even his personal knowledge of the Hebrew is very questionable,
One remarkable mistake either in the original Version itself of the Septuagint, or in those MSS. which the fathers used, contributed greatly to encourage the speculations of the Antenicene fathers about the origin of the Logos (ngopopixos.) Instead of translating as the He
• The Lord POSSESSED me in the beginning of his way,” (Κυριος εκτησατο με την αρχην της οδου αυτου,) they read in their copies, “ The Lord CREATED (EXTIGE) me in the beginning of his ways."
Moreover, it is afterwards said, in the same chapter, (v. 25,)“ Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was 1 brought forth.” The question does not seem even to have been debated, whether the Logos of John was actually the same as this Wisdom; or whether a mere poetic personification of Wisdom, and not a real hypostasis is meant; all taking it for granted, that the point admitted of no debate. What then could be more natural, than to apply the doctrines of the philosophy, which then prevailed so generally, to the explanation of the New Testament Logos ; when they thought themselves fully authorized to do it, by the according voice of the Jewish Scriptures? It would have been next to miraculous, if they had not done so.
3. One other consideration should be stated. Most of the early fathers were employed, more or less, in defending Christianity against the attacks of heathen philosophers, or in recommending it to the consideration of the heathen. The polytheistic philosophers were continually reproaching Christians, with reverencing and adoring only a crucified malefactor. The reply to this was very natural. 66 We adore no mere mortal. The Logos incarnate, is what we adore. The existence of this very Logos, your best philosophers and you yourselves admit. You cannot, therefore, reproach us with forming an imaginary being, whom we hold to be the object of religious reverence. On your own principles, our religion contains nothing that is absurd.”
How natural and acceptable such a reply was to the fathers, may be easily understood from the nature of the case, and specially from the frequency with which it was used. Almost every man in vindicating his side of a disputed question, is satisfied if he can find arguments pro re nata, If they are effectual to silence his opponent, they must needs be a good kind of arguments. The fathers, in the full sincerity of their hearts, checked the contumelies of the heathen in such a way; and as they felt themselves to be building on the Jewish Scriptures, they hardly could have a suspicion, that there was any thing improper, in accepting all the aid which Platonism offered. Thus they at once stopped the mouths of gainsayers, and commended the religion which they had embraced to the heathen, who loved the study of philosophy
4. One other suggestion must not be omitted. The great body of the Antenicene fathers were, in early life, educated as heathen. The genealogics of the gods had made a deep impression on their minds; and they were, before conversion to Christianity, at a great remove from rational and spiritual ideas of the divine nature. After
conversion, we cannot suppose that all the remains of their former notions and habits would at once be completely annihilated. Emanation or generation, applied to the divine nature, presented nothing revolting to them; as all their old habits of thinking had been in that way. Removing, then, from the generation of the Logos all that was carnal and corporeal, and understanding it only in a spiritual, mental, or metaphysical sense, there was nothing repulsive to their minds in it; even after they were taught by Christianity better views than they had formerly entertained, respecting the nature of the Divinity. Can we wonder at this, when we know how long the Apostles persisted in their Jewish notions about the temporal kingdom of the Messiah, and how far removed they were, for a long time, from admitting either the necessity or the possibility of his death?
Thus prepared by early education, by all the prejudices of youth, and by all the influence of philosophy to admit of derived Divinity, and to find it in the Logos, as the philosophers themselves had done ; it would have · been truly wonderful, if they had not been tinctured with
the views which they did entertain. They did indeed believe that God was a Spirit. But a Spirit, in the view of that age, was far less removed from a corporeal being, than we are accustomed to believe. Let us hear Tertullian, for a moment on this subject. “Quis negavit Deum corpus esse, etsi Deus spiritus est —-spiritus enim corpus sui generis in sua effigie. * In like manner he asserts that souls are corporeal.f The difference between spiritual and material beings, seems, in that age, to have been considered as rather modal than essential.
Spirits were regarded as bodies impalpable to * Lib. advers. Prax. c. 7. † De anima. c. 7.
corporeal view, and made up of infinitely attenuated particles of matter, too subtile to be detected by the senses. *
With such views of the nature of God and of spirits, is it strange that they admitted the notions respecting the Logos, of which an account has been given in the preceding letter?
We, who are taught from infancy to believe in the simplicity, spirituality, self-existence, independence, and immutability of the divine nature, can be brought only by violence to reason as the fathers did. Still this does not criminate them. With all our light and all our privileges, it is very doubtful whether we exhibit more of the Christian temper, and more devotedness to the service of the Redeemer, than they did.
It must be remembered, however, that the philosophical speculations of the fathers about the nature and origin of the Logos, or Son of God, never affected the mass of unlearned Christians. They continued in the more simple belief of Father, Son and Holy Ghost; as all the popular Creeds, before the council of Nice, abundantly testify. It would be just as rational, to suppose that the metaphysical subtilties of the School-divines and of philosophizing theologians affect the great mass of the common people now, as that the subtilities of the Fathers affected the unlearned at that period. How often this obvious principle has been overlooked by modern disputants, must be evident to every one, who is well informed of the state of polemic theology.
A moderate acquaintance with the sacred exegesis
* See Travels of younger Anacharsis, Part VII. note 1. Muenscher, Dogmengeschichte, Th. I. S. 364, &c. Martini, Geschichte des Logos, S. 100.