Thursday, January 7, 2016

Quirky Christology: Theophilus of Antioch and the Logos' Preincarnate Peformance

For my current project, which focuses on how early Christians understood Moses' visions, I have been delving much into Second and Third Century Christian sources.  During the past week, I have been playing a lot with Theophilus of Antioch with his treatise/letter/apology to Autolycus.  Theophilus, let's say, has a fairly unique Christology in many ways.  Much of this was explicitly rejected by his rough contemporary Irenaeus and has been discussed at length by modern scholars.  But there is one aspect of his Christology that has been largely ignored and is, well, quirky.  

ὁ μὲν θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τῶν ὅλων ἀχώρητὸς ἐστιν καὶ ἐν τόπῳ οὐχ εὑρίσκεται· οὐ γὰρ ἐστιν τόπος καταπαύσεως αὐτοῦ. ὁ δὲ Λόγος αὐτοῦ, δι᾽οὗ τὰ πάντα πεποίκηκεν, δύναμισ ὤν καὶ σοφία αὐτοῦ, ἀναλαμβάνων τὀ πρόσωπον τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ κυρίου τῶν ὅλων, οὗτος παρεγίνετο εἰς τὸν παράδεισον ἐν προσώπῳ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ὁμίλει τῷ Ἀδάμ. Καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ ἡ θεία γραφὴ διδάσκει ἡμᾶς τὸν Ἀδὰμ λέγοντα τῆς φωνῆς ἀκηκοέναι.  Φωνὴ δὲ τί ἄλλο ἐστὶν ἀλλ᾽ἢ ὁ Λόγος ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅς ἐστιν και υἱὸς αὐτοῦ; 
The God and Father, indeed, of all cannot be contained, and is not found in a place, for there is no place of His rest; but his Word, through whom he made all things, being his power and his wisdom, assuming the person of the Father and Lord of all, went to the garden in the person of God, and conversed with Adam. For the divine writing itself teaches us that Adam said that he had heard the voice. But what else is this voice but the Word of God, who is also his Son? (2.22.2-3)
Theophilus is clearly trying to explain away those embarrassing anthropomorphisms in the Bible.  Like nearly everyone else in the Greco-Roman world, he assumes the primal God, the first principle of the universe is completely invisible.  So, all those places in the Bible where God walks, comes down, or even speaks are awkward for a second-century apologist of Christianity (and Judaism). While nearly every second and third century apologist in the wake of Justin Martyr (especially Dialogue with Trypho) will assume that all of the anthropomorphisms in the Bible refer to the pre-incarnate Logos in order to resolve this problem, Theophilus is rather unique in his language surrounding this exegetical solution.  “Person” in “the person of the Father” (τὀ πρόσωπον τοῦ πατρὸς) appears in its more ancient sense, as a "mask," (and here I am following standard translations which mask the mask); its meaning is much like we think of putting on a “persona.”  We could translate the phrase "taking up the persona of the Father."  It is an acting term.  While in the fourth century, such language of "person" will become standard thinking of the relationship between the divine essence and the three persons of the Trinity, here it operates differently.  The Son does not appear to Adam as Son; the Son pretends to be the Father.  It is all on the level of performance.  For figures like Justin or Irenaeus, all theophany in the scriptures is also Christophany - the appearance of the preincarnate Logos to Abraham, Jacob, and Moses (and anyone else who claims to see God and live).  But for other early Christian thinkers, the Logos appears as himself; he appears as Son and not Father.  For Theophilus, one is left to presume that any other anthropomorphism in scripture, including any place where God is seen, moves, or speaks, must also be the Word’s masquerade.

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