May 28, 2011
From John Kyparissiotes, Decades, PG 152, 769 B – 771 B.
Chapter Seven. Upon what basis, then, must we theologize, and out of what things?
Dionysius the Great, in chapter 7 of his On the Divine Names, says:
“In addition, we must examine how we know God, who is an object neither of intellectual nor of sensible perception, nor is absolutely any one of the things that are. We must examine, then, whether it is not true to say that we know God, not from his own nature (for that is unknown, and surpasses all reason and mind); but, from his ordering of all things that are, as being projected from himself, and as containing certain images and similitudes of his divine exemplars, we ascend to that which is beyond all, as far as lies in our power, by a way and by order, namely, by way of abstracting all things, and by his pre-eminence over all things, and by his being the cause of all things.”
[2.7.1] Ps.-Dionysius, De divinis nominibus VII.3; PG 3, 869 C - 872 A.
And Gregory the Theologian, in his Second Theological Oration, says:
“Thus reason that is from God, that is implanted in everything from the beginning and is the first law in us, and is bound up in all, leads us up to God through visible things.”
[2.7.2] Gregory of Nazianzus, or. 28.16; PG 26, 48 B.
And again, the same author says that what is divine is
“only adumbrated by the mind, and that very dimly and scantily, not out of those things he is in himself, but out of those things that are around him, one image being got from one source and another from another, and combined into some sort of presentation of the truth.”
[2.7.3] Gregory of Nazianzus, or. 38.7; PG 36, 317 B-C = or. 45.3; PG 36, 625 C.
And those who, after him, expound this passage say that
“God is not understood from those things which he is in himself, that is, from his substance, but from the things which are around him, that is, from the creatures.”
[2.7.4] Not found; but cf. Meletius Medicus, De natura hominis, ed. J. A. Cramer, Anecdota Graeca e codd. manuscriptis bibliothecarum Oxoniensium, vol. 3 (Oxford 1836; repr. Amsterdam 1963), p. 143: "Since 'No one has seen God at any time,' that is to say, according to his substance -- not from those things which he is in himself, but from those things which are around him. But the person who says that he has not seen God's substance does not confess that he does not know God; but he knows him out of his activities (or, energies, ἐνεργειῶν): as, that he is all-powerful," etc. And a little further down: "But, as for us, we confess that God exists, and we say that we recognize him out of his works; but, as for approaching his substance, we do not make it our business to do this."
And St. Maximus, in his Centuries on Theology, says that:
“[God] can in no way whatsoever be comprehended by anything that is; rather, he can only be known by faith; and this [is a knowledge] that he is, from the things that have been made; it is not a knowledge of him in respect of what he is.”
[2.7.5] Not yet found.
And again, the same father, in Century Three:
“That which exists, in an absolute sense, is known from that which exists in a non-absolute sense. It is not by the relation [it has] towards them that it is known that it exists — for how shall anyone in any way ever bring together what exists absolutely with things which do not exist absolutely? — but, in its incomparable superiority in respect of cause, it is known in an unknown way, since we can in no other way [know] what is beyond substance than by the obscure claim about it — that is, the mere claim that it exists — being demonstrated out of the things that are.”
[2.7.6] Not yet found.
And again, the same author, in the second century of his sayings on Love, in chapter 27:
“When you intend to speak about divinity, you should not seek for reasons according to [what it is] in itself, for no human mind can ever find this, nor can the mind of any other being that comes after God; but look carefully, so far as you are able, to those things that are around him: such as, the reasons concerning eternity and infinity and indefinability, and concerning goodness and power and wisdom, and concerning his abilities in creating and providing for and judging beings. For it is the person who finds out the reasons for these things, even if only to a limited extent, who is a great theologian among men.”
[2.7.7] Not yet found.
And again, the same author, in chapter 71 in his fourth Century:
“From the things that are, we know the cause of the things that are. And, from the diversity of the things that are, we are taught the enhypostatic Wisdom of He Who Is. And, from the natural motion of the things that are, we learn the enhypostatic Life of He Who Is, the life-creating power of the things that are, the Holy Spirit.”
[2.7.8] Not yet found.
From these things it becomes clear that God is known only from those things which are around him, which are the creatures, and that it is from this source also that he is theologized. Or, in other words, from images and likenesses of his divine exemplars, and those things which earlier were described as mirrors and enigmas. And so that no one may be at a loss to know how things which have the nature of images and likenesses and of things lacking in the real truth of being are fully suitable [bases] for theologizing of God, and lest anyone should go looking for greater things: it is necessary also, in the present investigation, to demonstrate that even those theologians who are most eminent do not go beyond that theology which is based upon the creation.
May 25, 2011
Some while ago, Dr. William Tighe recommended to me the book The Church in Rome in the First Century by George Edmundson, published in 1913. I found the book on-line on Google Books, and began reading it; it is, indeed, a very persuasive study. I finally decided that I would like to own a physical copy of the book, and, last week, ordered such a copy from Amazon.com. My copy arrived yesterday; today, I plan to send it back. Below I give my reasons why, in a review of the book which is still pending publication on Amazon.com’s website. (Note: I gave the book one star, mainly because I thought that, if I gave it no stars at all, someone might think I had simply overlooked that section of the evaluation; also, because there was no procedure for registering negative stars.)
I received this book yesterday, delivered by UPS. When I opened the box and began reading the enclosed reprint of Edmundson’s book, I was shocked at what I found. Edmundson’s book is, itself, an intelligent, persuasive study, and very worth reading; but this printed edition of it is not what he wrote. It is essentially an OCR of a scan of the original text that has been hastily printed out, put between covers, and sold, without even a minimal attempt at proofreading. The first thing I noticed was that the Greek, in the original book, appeared as gibberish; here is a random example, from p. 18:
“5 Compare Rom. ix. 3: Tfox MI “f p andflf/ta eleai ainbs iyu air!/ rov virep ruv asf ipiav ov, Tuv ffvyytvuv fiov Kata ffdpka, otrivfs fiffiv Iffpa At 3 liffiraffaffsf vspdvatov Kai Iovviov Tovs irtryytifls ov Kal ffvvaixfia otriwl flfftv iiriffrifiol Iv To?! iiroo-rijAoir, ot /to! irpb ifiov ytyovav iv Xpiffrif. It is possible that lovviav might be feminine = Junia, but it is generally taken as masculine, Junias being an abbreviation for Junianus.”
The second thing I noticed is that all the original footnotes in the book appear within the body of the text; that is true of the above citation; here is another example, from p. 32:
“The language of Clement of Rome2 in his Epistle to the Corinthians leaves no doubt-for it is the witness of a contemporary-that Peter was martyred at Rome. But leaving ancient examples let us come to the athletes who were very near to our own times, let us take the illustrious examples of our own generation. Peter who through unjust jealousy endured not one or two but many sufferings and so having borne witness-/j ptvp a-ai-departed to the place of glory that was his due. The 48 ASCENSION OF ISAIAH 1 Lanciani, Pagan and Christian Rome, p. 125.
2 In that portion of the fifth book of the Sibylline Oracles which was probably written 71-74 A. d. the flight of Nero from Rome is thus described; V. 143 4ifv etai Ik Ba0v uvos andva tpofifpbs icol
Clement Rom. 1 Cor, v.
statement in the apocalyptic Ascension of IsaiahiI-also the work of a contemporary-that a lawless king, the slayer of his mother, will persecute the plant which the Twelve Apostles of the Beloved have planted.”
And so on. The whole book reads in this vein; it is, quite literally, a piece of junk, and a scam.
The book was printed in the year 2010 by an outfit named “General Books,” Memphis, Tennessee, USA (website: www.General-Books.net). On the page behind the title page, one finds, along with the legally required information about the publication, explanatory comments. Under the section titled “How We Made This Book for You,” one reads that the book was made “exclusively for you” using patented Print on Demand technology, and then learns that a robot flipped and scanned each page of the original, rare book, and that the “typing, proof reading and design” of the book were automated using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software.
Further down on the page, there is a section titled “Frequently Asked Questions.” The first “Frequently Asked Question” is the following: “Why are there so many typos in my paperback?” The answer provided is the following:
“We created your book using OCR software that includes an automatic spell check. Our OCR software is 99 percent accurate if the book is in good condition. Therefore, we try to get several copies of a book to get the best possible accuracy (which is very difficult for rare books more than a hundred years old). However, with up to 3,500 characters per page, even one percent is an annoying number of typos. We would really like to manually proof read and correct the typos. But since many of our books only sell a couple of copies that could add hundreds of dollars to the cover price. And nobody wants to pay that. If you need to see the original text, check our website for a downloadable copy.”
Thank you, but I have a downloadable copy already, from Google Books. I ordered this paperback copy of the book because I wished to be able to read the book when I am not at the computer. The copy you have so lovingly and carefully prepared for me does not allow me to do that; as mentioned above, it is a piece of junk. I will send it back to Amazon.com, and ask for my $19.42 to be refunded.
That Amazon is willing to be the go-between for such publishing scams lessens my trust in it. It needs to clean up its act.
May 20, 2011
As many readers of this blog may already have heard, tomorrow, according to Family Radio (an Evangelical Christian radio network based in Oakland, California), is the end of the world. Or, more precisely, tomorrow, May 21, 2011, is predicted to be the date of Jesus’ Second Coming and the Rapture; the end of the world is not supposed to occur until October. These predictions, by 89-year-old Harold Camping, founder and president of Family Radio, have been broadcast repeatedly over Family Radio’s many stations, in this country and elsewhere, for many months now, and apparently the message is having an effect upon some people; one hears of anticipatory gatherings taking place in New York subway stations…. For myself, I intend to spend the day doing nothing extraordinary; I will be driving out to Long Island later today and, God willing, will celebrate my 52nd birthday on Sunday. I have heard enough of Mr. Camping to know that, on many points of theology and exegesis, he is simply wrong (e.g., his frequent claim that the Greek verb βαπτίζω means “sprinkle”); moreover, in the early 1990’s, he predicted that the end of the world would occur in the year 1994, which clearly did not happen. One might have thought that, after that, Camping’s followers would have inferred that he is a false prophet, and that his end-of-the-world predictions are not to be trusted; but, apparently, ownership of the means of mass communication is a great help for getting one’s opinions across.
What chiefly troubles me about these matters is that, for many people in America, Harold Camping is Christianity’s public voice; in the New York metropolitan area, Family Radio is one of the few radio stations broadcasting Christian content, and the same thing holds true throughout much of the urban Northeast. This, in spite of the fact that Camping now has no formal church affiliation — or, perhaps, that lack of church affiliation facilitates the spreading of his message: his radio station is his church. The likely effect of the likely non-occurrence of tomorrow’s predicted Rapture is a further discrediting of Christianity in the public eye. But perhaps it will cause some Christians to look elsewhere than Family Radio for a true understanding of the Gospel; one can only hope so.
May 18, 2011
From John Kyparissiotes, Decades, PG 152, 767 A – 769 B.
Chapter Six. That God is neither discerned from a natural representation, nor is he one of those things that think or are thought, such that one might theologize of him out of those things which he is in himself.
The divine Maximus, in chapter one of his Centuries on Theology, says:
“There is one God, without beginning, incomprehensible, possessing absolutely the power of existing, who utterly excludes all notion of existing ‘when’ and ‘how,’ in such a way that none of the things that are has discerned him from a natural representation.”
[2.6.1] Maximus, Centuria I.1; PG 90, 1084 A.
And again, the same author:
“Just as every thought has its basis entirely in substance, as a quality, so also it possesses its motion as something that has been produced around substance. For it is impossible for something completely independent and simple, existing in itself, to admit of thought, since thought is not independent and simple. But God, who exists in both respects as entirely simple, both as a substance without anything in subject, and as thought possessing nothing at all as its object, is not one of the things that think or are thought, since, in fact, he exists above substance and thinking.”
[2.6.2] Maximus, Centuria II.3; PG 90, 1125 D.
And, yet again, the same author, in the eleventh chapter of his first Century:
“All beings are said to be objects of thought, possessing the demonstrable principles whereby they may be known. But God is not named as an object of thought, but it is out of those things which are objects of thought that he is believed to be; for which reason, none of the objects of thought may in any way be compared with him.”
[2.6.3] Maximus, Centuria I.8; PG 90, 1085 C.
And, once more, the same author in the second chapter of his second Century:
“Every thought involves things which think and things which are thought of. But God is not one of those things that think; for that which, qua thinking, is in need of a relationship with the object of thought, is circumscribed; or else, being thought of, it naturally falls subject to the one who thinks, given the terms of that relationship. It therefore follows that God neither thinks nor is thought. For thinking and being thought of naturally pertain to the things which come after him.”
[2.6.4] Maximus, Centuria II.2; PG 90, 1125 C.
And the most theological Dionysius says:
“For, as things intelligible cannot be comprehended and contemplated by things of sense, and things uncompounded and unformed [cannot be comprehended] by things compounded and formed, and the intangible and unshaped formlessness of bodiless things [cannot be comprehended] by things formed according to the shapes of bodies: according to the same analogy of the truth, the supersubstantial indefiniteness stands above substances, and the unity above mind is above minds; and the One above minds is unthinkable to all powers of thought; and the Good above word is unutterable by word — that Henad which makes every henad one, and supersubstantial Substance, and mindless Mind, and unspeakable Word, that irrationality and mindlessness and namelessness, which exists after the manner of no existent thing, and is cause of being to all, but itself is not, as being beyond all substance.”
[2.6.5] Ps.-Dionysius, De divinis nominibus, I.1; PG 3, 588 B.
From these things it becomes clear that no one who has ever been or will be may discern God out of a natural representation. For, in every way, he eludes any notion of being “when” or “how”; nor is God one of the things which think or are thought, for he is substance without anything standing to it as subject, and thinking never once having anything for an object. Upon what then might knowledge be based of that thing which in no way admits of an objective ground for being known? Therefore he is also, fittingly, a “supersubstantial indefiniteness,” and mind not thought by any thinking; or rather, he is “mindless Mind, and unspeakable Word,” being called “irrationality” and “mindlessness” on account of the excess of essence and cognition; just as, similarly, extreme light produces darkness, and extreme sound deafens.