Friday with the Fathers – Infant Baptism

I’ll give you two…

“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age” (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).

“Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).

Even Zwingli allowed infant baptism.

Christus Victor in Hippolytus?

LastSupper
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As part of Hippolytus’ liturgy, which included the Eucharist, he displays an image of atonement which I believe is similar to the Christus Victor approach – and one familiar at the time.

Who, when he was deliveredb to voluntary suffering,
in order to dissolve death,
and break the chains of the devil,
and tread down hell,
and bring the just to the light,
and set the limit,
and manifest the resurrection,

What say you? Does this view of atonement fit with your view? Further, can different views fit into prayers and liturgies more easily than other or perhaps even co-exist with others?

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Earliest Song of Songs Commentary now Online

Mike Aquilina alerts us to a freebie:

The earliest Christian commentary on the Song of Songs is, at long last, available in English. Yancy Smith embedded a translation in his doctoral dissertation, Hippolytus’ Commentary on the Song of Songs in Social and Critical Context, which is available free online. You can also get to it by going to the TCU website, lib.tcu.edu. Then input either the author name or title.

Creeds: Second Century

We are continuing our week of examining early Church creeds with two creedal statements from the 2nd Century. The below creed is from Justin Martyr (Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldon, New York: The Christian Literature Company). We know that Justin generally referred to Christ as ‘another God’ (Trypho, 56).

We worship the God of the Christians, whom we consider One from the beginning, the creator and maker of all creation, visible and invisible.

And the Lord Jesus Christ, the Servant of God, who had also been proclaimed beforehand by the prophets as about to be present with race of men, the herald of salvation and teacher of good instructions.

Justin forcefully distinguishes the Servant of God from the God of the Christians.

During Hippolytus’ schism with the Church at Rome, during the trouble Modalism, he enlisted the aid of past Elders who seemingly issued a creedal statement against Noetus

We also know in truth one God, we know Christ, we know the Son, suffering as he suffered, dying as he died, and risen on the third day, and abiding at the right hand of the Father, and coming to judge the living and the dead. And in saying this we say what has been handed down to us.

According to Hippolytus, Noetus had stated,

“When indeed, then, the Father had not been born, He yet was justly styled Father; and when it pleased Him to undergo generation, having been begotten, He Himself became His own Son, not another’s.” (Book IX Refutation of All Heresies)

It should be remembered that while Justin had proclaimed Heraclitus as a ‘Christian’ although he lived some 600 years before Christ, Hippolytus accused the same deceased as being the progenitor of the heresy of Noetus. The heresy of Noetus is that the Father produced the Son and declared the Son the Father, creating a paradox and troublesome thought of patripassianism.

Unlike Justin in Europe, the Asians carried from God to Christ to the Son without removing Christ from God, but assigning the suffering to the Son.

Hippolytus and the Baptismal Ceremony of the 3rd century Roman Church

Chronicon has posted a digitalization of Hippolytus‘ work, Apostolic Tradition. Here are a few of the highlights:

Hippolytus, the first ‘antipope’ (although he later was taken back into the Church before his death), begins his work with:

We have duly completed what needed to be said about “Gifts”, describing those gifts which God by His own counsel has bestowed on men, in offering to Him­self His image which had gone astray. But now, moved by His love to all His saints, we pass on to our most im­portant theme, “The Tradition”, our teacher. And we address the churches, so that they who have been well trained, may, by our instruction, hold fast that tradition which has continued up to now and, knowing it well, may be strengthened. This is needful, because of that lapse or error which recently occurred through ignor­ance, and because of ignorant men. And [the] Holy Spirit will supply perfect grace to those who believe aright, that they may know how all things should be transmitted and kept by them who rule the church.

The writer is setting forth the proper way for bishops and elders, as well as other minor offices, to be ordained, but he touches on two issues of importance to me. First, we note that Hippolytus no where refers to Christ as God, as Ignatius had done two generations earlier; however, holding to what is later Marcellus’ thought, Hippolytus declares a distinction between the Incarnate Son and the Preincarnate Word.

Then,

Jesus Christ … Who is thy Word, inseparable from thee; through whom thou didst make all things and in whom thou art well pleased. Whom thou didst send from heaven into the womb of the Virgin, and who, dwelling within her, was made flesh, and was manifested as thy Son, being born of [the] Holy Spirit and the Virgin.

Hippolytus, in this work, rarely calls Jesus Christ anything by ‘your Servant Jesus Christ.’

For the baptism, which for Hippolytus has developed into a far reaching ceremony, surely not intended by even the most pretentious of the Apostles,

Then, after these things, let him give him over to the  presbyter who baptizes, and let the candidates stand in the water, naked, a deacon going with them likewise. And when he who is being baptized goes down into the  water, he who baptizes him, putting his hand on him, shall say thus:

Dost thou believe in God, the Father Almighty?

And he who is being baptized shall say:

I believe.

Then holding his hand placed on his head, he shall baptize him once. And then he shall say:

Dost thou believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and was dead and buried, and rose again the third day, alive from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the quick and the dead?

We see the early creed, the early rule of faith stated by Hippolytus, but we also see how later doctrine was developed from this creed. For the first one hundred years, baptism was done in the name of Christ, but sometime before Justin, as the baptism formula changed, it became more developed, as we see here – before it would be contracted in later centuries to what we have in Matthew 28.19.

And when he says:

I believe,

he is baptized again. And again he shall say:

Dost thou believe in [the] Holy Ghost, and the holy church, and the resurrection of the flesh?

He who is being baptized shall say accordingly:

I believe,

and so he is baptized a third time.

Note that nothing in Scripture allows for this baptismal formula (note as well, that baptism was considered a sacrament for the remission of sins (Acts 2.38; Romans 6.1-7))

And afterward, when he has come up [out of the water], he is anointed by the presbyter with the oil of thanksgiving, the presbyter saying:

The next step connects both baptismal traditions (Matthew 28.19 and the book of Acts)

I anoint thee with holy oil in the name of Jesus Christ. And so each one, after drying himself, is immediately 20 clothed, and then is brought into the church.

Then the bishop, laying his hand upon them, shall pray, saying:

O LORD GOD, who hast made them worthy to obtain remission of sins through the laver of re­generation of [the] Holy Spirit, send into them thy grace, that they may serve thee according to thy will; for thine is the glory, to the Father and the Son, with [the] Holy Spirit in the holy church, both now and world without end. Amen.

As with the final baptism (of the three), the holy Spirit is here connected with the holy Church, perhaps in reference to

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 NKJV)

Unus Deus – The Apology of Aristides

The Apology of Aristides was written in relation to the Emperor Hadrian sometime 117 and 138 (bringing it within the time frame of the Epistle of Diognetus), and not long after John’s Apocalypse. It details to the Emperor the attempts by others to find the true God, and their subsequent failures. Fore 1500 years, we had only the mention of Eusebius concerning the Apology, but it was found in the waning years of the 19th century by Armenian monks; it was then found in the Syriac version by Orthodox monks at Mt. Sinai. The Greek exists in a modified form, and cannot be trusted in the differences. Of interesting note to the discussion of the doctrinal development is from Book II. The The English translation from the Syriac reads,

The Christians, then, reckon the beginning of their religion from Jesus Christ, who is named the Son of God most High; and it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin took and clad Himself with flesh, and in a daughter of man there dwelt the Son of God. This is taught from that Gospel which a little while ago was spoken among them as being preached; wherein if ye also will read, ye will comprehend the power that is upon it. This Jesus, then, was born of the tribe of the Hebrews; and He had twelve disciples, in order that a certain dispensation of His might be fulfilled. He was pierced by the Jews; and He died and was buried; and they say that after three days He rose and ascended to heaven; and then these twelve disciples went forth into the known parts of the world, and taught concerning His greatness with all humility and sobriety; and on this account those also who to-day believe in this preaching are called Christians, who are well known. There are then four races of mankind, as I said before, Barbarians and Greeks, Jews and Christians

This statement rings true of a Modalistic viewpoint, that God robed Himself with flesh as the Son of God.

Unus Deus – Verus Doctrina, Pt 11

The Right Hand of God

The term, right hand of God is an anthropomorphic expression[1]. The use of this anthropomorphism occurs 60[2] times in Scripture (39 times in the OT; 21 times in the NT). Hebrew Idiom behind this language denotes power and strength. Let us take note of the Old Testament visions of God at this time. In Genesis 28.13-16, Jacob saw “the LORD…” (a theophany, as all OT visions are). 1 Kings 22.19 and 2 Chron. 18.18, Micaiah said, “I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left;” noticeably absent is Son or the Spirit. Throughout the entire Old Testament and Deuterocanon, there is only mention of “the LORD,” as a single Deity (numerical singleness, not unified). In Isa. 6.1, only “the LORD” is seen. Ezk. 1.26-28, 2.1. Ezekiel saw “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.”

The Greek δεξιός (dexios) means the ‘right’, indicating a direction. Usually, the word ‘hand’ is supplied, and not unjustly. The issue is, what is meant by ‘the right hand’ and is their a particular emphases on the action (sitting, standing, at or by). In Acts 2.33, we read “τη δεξια ουν του θεου υψωθεις την τε επαγγελιαν του αγιου πνευματος λαβων παρα του πατρος εξεχεεν τουτο ο νυν υμεις βλεπετε και ακουετε.” The phrase “τη δεξια ουν του θεου” is translated in the KJV as ‘by the right hand of God’ with the margin note reading ‘at.’ This translation makes it the instrumental case, while the ‘at’ translation refers to the locative case. Robertson suggests that it only makes sense in the dative case, which reads ‘to the right hand of God.’ The issue here is that depending on the translation, a different theology can develop. For example, if Christ was exalted to the right hand, then a form of dynamic Monarchianism could develop. The proper method is translating this verse as ‘at the right hand of God,’ which still allows the idiom to come out. The same can be said for Acts 5.31. In Acts 7.55-56, Stephen saw Christ ‘on’ the right hand of God. (εκ δεξιων εστωτα του θεου)(See Col 3.1 which reads εν δεξια του θεου )

We read in the much discussed Hebrews 1.3, ‘εν δεξια της μεγαλωσυνης εν υψηλοις. Simply, after word of God had been fulfilled, with the price of redemption was paid, Christ resumed His glory and dignity, fully and without separation; he assumed the glory that He had before the Incarnation without distinction Christ is here pictured as the King (Prophet and Priest also) Messiah seated on the throne of God as God.

John says the following about Christ: “But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him, that the saying of Isaiah the Prophet, might be fulfilled, which he spoke: The Lord, who has believed our report and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'” (John 12.37-38) echoing the Song of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. The “Arm” of the Lord denotes the “power” of the Lord. A thorough study of this term and it’s usage in the Bible, will reflect a similarity in the meanings and usage of the words: power, might, strength, hand, right side and arm, when referring to this designation of Christ. Christ, as is often done in the Gospels, attributes a prophecy in the Old Testament to Himself.

A question that is begged relates to the issue of ‘co-equality’ and power. In Matthew 28:18, Christ tells His disciples that He has been given all power in heaven and in earth. If Christ is the Almighty, the ruler of both heaven an earth, and He alone sits on the throne, then where does the Father and the Spirit stand in relation to him? Throughout the final book of the New Testament, we find references to a throne in heaven and only one sitting on that throne. We find no mention, when John describes the throne room, of either the Son or Spirit standing in conjunction with God on the throne. In 3.21, Christ says that He has taken His seat on the throne of the Father. (The vision of which is easily understood of the Incarnation is seen as providing a temporary difference between the Father and His Word.) Throughout the remaining verses, we see but one sitting on the throne.

In 2nd Temple Judaism, it was common to use idioms to express God, thus we have the development of Throne, Majesty and other words to describe God without saying God. We have to be careful in understanding the phrase literally. Since the right hand (or side) is a place of honour, to literally say that Christ is at the right hand of God, is to demote the deity of Christ and bring about the adoptionist doctrine of the Arians. We also will see that a contradiction in scripture exists between the phrases ‘at the right hand’ and ‘on the throne’. To understand this phrase in a completely idiom free translation, we would generally read that Christ is on the throne.

The Roman Road: Jesus is God

Before we move to the profession of faith found in Romans 10, let us first examine chapter 9, verse 5, where Paul writes, “Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” (KJV) The NET reads, “To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever! Amen.” The NRSV has “to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” There is doctrine here decided by the correct placement of commas.

Paul, in the original Greek wrote, “ων οι πατερες και εξ ων ο χριστος το κατα σαρκα ο ων επι παντων θεος ευλογητος εις τους αιωνας αμην.” Vincent, noting the difference that arises by punctuation notes, “Authorities differ as to the punctuation; some placing a colon, and others a comma after flesh. This difference indicates the difference in the interpretation; some rendering as concerning the flesh Christ came. God who is over all be blessed for ever; thus making the words God, etc., a doxology: others, with the comma, the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever; i.e., Christ is God.” Robertson writes, “A clear statement of the deity of Christ following the remark about his humanity. This is the natural and the obvious way of punctuating the sentence. To make a full stop after sarka (or colon) and start a new sentence for the doxology is very abrupt and awkward. See note on Acts 20:28[3] and note on Titus 2:13[4] for Paul’s use of theos applied to Jesus Christ,” clearly indicating that He believes that Paul applied the θεος to Christ in this instance.

Several commentators have stated that the closing phrase should be a separate sentence (God who is blessed forever), however, in scriptural doxologies the word “Blessed” precedes the name of God on whom the blessing is invoked[5].

To understand our profession in 10.9 of Romans, we have to read further to verse 13, where Paul quotes Joel 2:32, which reads, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.” (KJV). Here, the word for LORD in Hebrew is יהוה, the Tetragammon, which is commonly understood to be the proper name of God in the Old Testament.

Would Paul use a theological drenched title in two different ways, especially in such a short distance from one another?

In verse 13, we understand the LORD to be the God of the Old Testament, so therefore we must understand Paul to mean in verse 9 to the God of the Old Testament as well. The construction of the passage leads us to translate the phrase found in the KJV as ‘profess the Lord Jesus’ to profess that ‘Jesus is Lord.’. With the understanding that the ‘Lord’ in verse 13 is the same ‘Lord’ in verse 9, in order to be saved, we must profess with our my mouth that Jesus is God.


[1] The attribution of human characteristics to non-human beings or things

[2] Ex. 15:6, 12, De. 33:2, 1 Ki. 22:19, 2 Ch. 18:18, Job 23:9, 40:14, Ps. 16:11, 17:3, 18:35, 20:6, 21:8, 44:3, 45:4, 48:10, 60:5, 63:8, 73:23, 74:11, 77:10, 78:54, 80:15, 17, 89:13, 25, 98:1, 108:6, 110:1, 118:15, 16, 138:7, 139:10, Is. 41:10, 48:13, 62:8, Je. 22:24, La. 2:3, 4, Hab. 2:16, Mt. 22:44, 26:64, Mk. 12:36, 14:62, 16:19, Lk. 20:42, 22:69, Ac. 2:33, 34, 5:31, 7:55, 56, Ro. 8:34, Ep. 1:20, Col. 3:1, He. 1:3, 13, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2, 1 Pe. 3:22

[3] Robertson’s note here states, “With his own blood (dia tou haimatos tou idiou). Through the agency of (dia) his own blood. Whose blood? If tou theou (Aleph B Vulg.) is correct, as it is, then Jesus is here called “God” who shed his own blood for the flock. It will not do to say that Paul did not call Jesus God, for we have Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13 where he does that very thing, besides Colossians 1:15-20; Philippians 2:5-11.

[4] Here, he notes “This is the necessary meaning of the one article with theou and sōtēros just as in 2Peter 1:1, 2Peter 1:11.

[5] Psalms 68:35; Psalms 72:18

Unus Deus – Writings of Athenagoras

Below is chapter 10 of a work produced around 177ad, sometime before Tertullian and right around the Muratorian Canon, which included the Book of Wisdom.

Chapter X.—The Christians Worship the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

That we are not atheists, therefore, seeing that we acknowledge one God, uncreated, eternal, invisible, impassible, incomprehensible, illimitable, who is apprehended by the understanding only and the reason, who is encompassed by light, and beauty, and spirit, and power ineffable, by whom the universe has been created through His Logos, and set in order, and is kept in being—I have sufficiently demonstrated. [I say “His Logos”], for we acknowledge also a Son of God. Nor let any one think it ridiculous that God should have a Son. For though the poets, in their fictions, represent the gods as no better than men, our mode of thinking is not the same as theirs, concerning either God the Father or the Son. But the Son of God is the Logos of the Father, in idea and in operation; for after the pattern of Him and by Him were all things made, the Father and the Son being one. And, the Son being in the Father and the Father in the Son, in oneness and power of spirit, the understanding and reason (νοῦς καὶ λόγος) of the Father is the Son of God. But if, in your surpassing intelligence, it occurs to you to inquire what is meant by the Son, I will state briefly that He is the first product of the Father, not as having been brought into existence (for from the beginning, God, who is the eternal mind [νοῦς], had the Logos in Himself, being from eternity instinct with Logos [λογικός]); but inasmuch as He came forth to be the idea and energizing power of all material things, which lay like a nature without attributes, and an inactive earth, the grosser particles being mixed up with the lighter. The prophetic Spirit also agrees with our statements. “The Lord,” it says, “made me, the beginning of His ways to His works.” The Holy Spirit Himself also, which operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun. Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists? Nor is our teaching in what relates to the divine nature confined to these points; but we recognise also a multitude of angels and ministers whom God the Maker and Framer of the world distributed and appointed to their several posts by His Logos, to occupy themselves about the elements, and the heavens, and the world, and the things in it, and the goodly ordering of them all. (translated by Translated by the Rev. B. P. Pratten)

Easily noticed are the phrases “God the Father” and the “God the Son” but what is lacking is “God the Holy Spirit;” (It would not be until Tertullian’s time that such a heavy emphasis was placed on the person of the holy spirit) however, Athenagoras goes out of his way to address the issue that the Son is the Logos of God and that they are in ‘oneness’. He also says that the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son. The author then goes on to use the emanation doctrine found in Hebrews and Wisdom but transfer it to the Spirit.

We can look at this writing several ways. We can see a seed of a Father-Son substance which a pointing to a development of the a third part. We can see that Athenagoras was fighting (most likely pagans) the idea that the the Son was begotten, by drawing attention to the fact that the Son was in idea only, since the Son was the Logos which had existed with God as God since the beginning. There is no distinction for this author in the Deity.

Below are excerpts from his book, A Plea for Christians.

Chapter VIII.—Absurdities of Polytheism.

And indeed Socrates was compounded and divided into parts, just because he was created and perishable; but God is uncreated, and, impassible, and indivisible—does not, therefore, consist of parts.

Chapter XII.—Consequent Absurdity of the Charge of Atheism.

while men who reckon the present life of very small worth indeed, and who are conducted to the future life by this one thing alone, that they know God and His Logos, what is the oneness of the Son with the Father, what the communion of the Father with the Son, what is the Spirit, what is the unity of these three, the Spirit, the Son, the Father, and their distinction in unity

Taken apart, it presents a contradiction in the mind of Athenagoras, however, taken together, we see that the author is still promoting oneness and promoting those that know the ‘distinction in unity’ which contrary to the pagan thought at the time, is none. One cannot hold to a ‘oneness of the Son with the Father’ and that God does not ‘consist of parts’ while maintaining a ‘distinction in unity.’

Unus Deus – Stone-Campbellite Thoughts

Alexander Campbell was an American Religious reformer in the early 19th century. Here is a resource for him. For him, his greatest desire was to return to the New Testament Church, meaning that he attempted to rid himself of 1800 years of theology and made an effort to seek Theology from the Apostles. I am not endorsing the Church of Christ here, but I do think that he made a serious effort to right the ship and truly restore the Church. Where as Calvin and Luther attempted to reform Rome, Campbell and his ilk attempted to restore the New Testament Church.

On the Trinity, he said,

“This God is never called a person. The word person was never applied to God in the Middle ages. The reason for this is that the three members of the trinity were called personae (faces or countenances): The Father is persona, the Son is persona, and the Spirit is persona. Persona here means a special characteristic of the divine ground, expressing itself in an independent hypostasis.

“Thus, we can say that it was the nineteenth century which made God into a person, with the result that the greatness of the classical idea of God was destroyed by this way of speaking… but to speak of God as a person would have been heretical for the Middle Ages; it would have been to them a Unitarian heresy, because it would have conflicted with the statement that God has three personae, three expressions of his being. (Tillich, Paul, A History of Christian Thought, p. 190)

Barton Stone, a fellow Restorer said,

“The word Trinity is not found in the Bible. This is acknowledged by the celebrated Calvin, who calls the Trinity “a popish God, or idol, a mere human invention, a barbarous, insipid, and profane word; and he utterly condemns that prayer in the litany–O holy, glorious, and blessed Trinity, &c. as unknown to the prophets and apostles, and grounded upon no testimony of God’s holy word.” Admon. 1st. ad Polonos–Cardale’s true Doct.–The language, like the man, I confess is too severe

Unus Deus – Verus Doctrina, Pt 10

The ‘I am.’ (γ εμι)

In Exodus 3: 13-14, God introduces Himself to Moses by His Name “I AM”.

κα επεν θες πρς Μωυσν γ εμι ν· κα επεν Οτως ρες τος υος Ισραηλ ν πσταλκν με πρς μς. – LXX

The Beloved Apostle writes the scene in the Garden this way, “Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am (εγω ειμι). And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am, they went backward, and fell to the ground. (18:3-7)”

Before that that tense moment, John writes of another occasion, when Jewish leaders told Christ, “You are not even fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus answered them, saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” In the Modalist view, this passage as well as the above, makes sense. This does not point to the pre-existence of the Son, since that has already been proven an erroneous assumption, but to the very truth that Christ was God manifested in the flesh.

In John 8:24, Christ says, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am (οτι εγω ειμι), ye shall die in your sins.” ‘He’ is inserted in many translations, but no word exists in Greek for the pronoun after the copula ειμι. It simply means ‘that I am’. The Jews (Deuteronomy 32:39[1]) used the language when speaking about the LORD (In Septuagint Isaiah 43:10 the very words occur πιστεσητε κα συντε τι γ εμι). The phrase εγω ειμι occurs three times here (John 8:24, John 8:28, John 8:58) and also in John 13:19 and 18:5.

Vincent says,

‘He’ is inserted in the versions and is not in the text. By retaining it, we read, I am the Messiah. But the words are rather the solemn expression of His absolute divine being, as in John 8:58 : “If ye believe not that I am.” See Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10; and compare John 8:28, John 8:58 of this chapter, and John 13:19.”

Kittel remarks,

‘Already in the LXX γ εμι is used for God (Ex. 3:14). Philo has it too, and it is a divine predicate in Josephus. In the NT Revelation uses it in the formulas in 11:17; 1:4, 8; 4:8 — formulas of worship, salutation, and self-predication. The nondeclinability of γ εμι and the quasi-participial use of εμι preserve the sanctity of the divine self-predication. The formulas express God’s deity and supratemporality. Similar formulas occur in Judaism. The Greeks also use two- and three-tense formulas to express eternity (cf. Homer, Plato, and an Eleusinian inscription). These possibly came into Revelation by way of the Jewish tradition, though a common source may lie behind the Greek and Jewish traditions.” Kittel further says that γ εμι is a self-designation of Christ which ‘stands in contrast to the genésthai applied to Abraham’.

The point of γ εμι is not Christ is identifying himself as the Messiah or a second part of a Trinity, but as the Absolute Deity Himself.

With this said, how can we avoid the Patripassian misunderstanding of Tertullian? We have to still remember that God, preexistent and eternal, manifested Himself in the flesh, creating the Son in His humanity. The Son who revealed to humanity God, who bore the name of God, and who could rightly claim that He was God, was not the Father. It was the human nature of the Son that died and rose again, suffering the agonies of the Cross, and baring upon Himself the sins of the world, of you and me.


[1] δετε δετε τι γ εμι, κα οκ στιν θες πλν μο· γ ποκτεν κα ζν ποισω, πατξω κγ ἰάσομαι, κα οκ στιν ς ξελεται κ τν χειρν μου.

Unus Deus – Verus Doctrina, Pt 9

Alpha and Omega, First and Last

In John’s Apocalypse, we read a much disputed text, but I will still prefer the Byzantine text form and will thus quote it here.

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. (Rev 1.8)

It should be noted that the the Alexandrian copy, the Complutensian edition, and the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions read, ‘the Lord God’ while the Coptic version has only ‘God’. Origen reads, ‘And that you may understand that the omnipotence of Father and Son is one and the same, as God and the Lord are one and the same with the Father, listen to the manner in which John speaks in the Apocalypse: “Thus saith the Lord God, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty,” while Tertullian, writing against Praxeas, quotes it as this, ‘Meanwhile, let this be my immediate answer to the argument which they adduce from the Revelation of John: “I am the Lord which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.’ So, the tradition varies, however, I believe that no matter what, the truth is still the same. It is indeed the Lord who is God who is speaking.

Alpha and Omega is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew phrase, ‘aleph and the tau’, which the Jews used to express God as the first and the last. He is from eternity to eternity. Clarke says, ‘With the rabbis מא ועד ת meeleph vead tau, “from aleph to tau,” expressed the whole of a matter, from the beginning to the end. So in Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 17, 4: Adam transgressed the whole law from aleph to tau; i.e., from the beginning to the end’.

Further, John hears a voice like a trumpet, saying,

“Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. – Rev 1:11-18

The phrase ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last ’are left out in the Alexandrian copy, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Coptic versions; ‘but are very fitly retained, to point out the person that speaks; to express his dignity, deity, and eternity; to excite the attention of John, and to give weight to what he said. (Gill)’ The phrase ‘the first and the last’ is used to describe the God of the Jews in Isaiah 41:4, 44:6, and 48:12 and four times in this book of Christ Himself (Revelation 1:11, 17, 2:8 and 22:13). Richard of St. Victor comments thus: “I am the first and the last; first through creation, last through retribution. First, because before me a God was not formed; last, because after me there shall not be another. First, because all things are from me; last, because all things are to me; from me the beginning, to me the end. First, because I am the cause of origin; last, because I am the judge and the end” (cited by Trench and Vincent).

In Revelation 21:5-7, John writes,

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.’

If we have already established that Christ is the Alpha and Omega, then we know that it is Christ, our Lord and God, who is sitting on the thrown. Throughout John’s book, only one sits on the thrown, and only one is the Alpha and Omega (which is logical and theological). Can one rightly split the speakers of the phrase into distinct person?

Of course, the question is begged: If there is only one First and one Last, One Alpha and one Omega, then how can two (or three if the Spirit is counted) both claim this things?

God, Christ, and the Rock

2 Sam. 22:32, “Who else is God but the LORD; Who else is a Rock but our God?”

1 Sam. 2:2, “There is none Holy as the LORD, for there is none beside Thee, neither is there any Rock like our God.”

The apostle Paul, the well educated former Pharisee, plainly speaks that Christ was that Rock of Israel. In 1st Corinthians 10:1-4, Paul writes,

“Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the Cloud and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized unto Moses in the Cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual meat and did all drink the spiritual Drink, for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ”

Further, in the ninth verse, Paul says, “Neither let us tempt Christ as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents”.

This has to call into question the idea of the preexistent son. Here, Paul used the name of Christ as the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. (This verse as a textual variant, but most scholars except Christ instead of Lord.) How can that be? Remember the prayer in John 17, where Christ reveals that He came to manifest the name of the Father? Paul is not speaking about the Son, but about God.