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Truth and Communion


The Truth is also

The Eucharistic perspective

The triadologic perspective

Negative perspective

The Christological perspective

The perspective of the "image" (icon)

Truth and Salvation -
the existential importance of the synthesis of the Greek Fathers

Truth and person

Truth and the

Truth and the Church - Ecclesiastical consequences
emerging from the synthesis of the Greek Fathers

The Eucharist as a place of the

II. The Truth is also History
The Synthesis of the Greek Fathers

1.     The perspective of the "word" 

One of the most significant approaches in the reconciliation of the Greek term of the truth with the Christian claim, that Christ is the truth, was during the three first centuries the resort to the idea of the "word". It was probably the Greeks Apologetics who first undertook this effort, and mainly Justin; he had also found in the Alexandrian theology bolder representatives: Climes and Origen.

As we know, the sense "word" was to Philon a means to bring into coordination the Greek cosmology with the Old Testament (Gen. 1: The world was created through the Word of God). Justin based on the prologue of John, transferred this idea into Christ and thus succeeded in creating the basis, on which he could bring closer to the Greeks the allegation that Christ is the truth. This offered the capability to convert the Greek thought into Christianity, a capability that all Christians owe to the Apologetics. However there was in it a danger to the Christian Gospel. This becomes clear when one examines the question regarding the truth.

With the allegation that Christ is the Truth, precisely because this is the Word into which and through which the world was created and in which its cause and meaning the being finds, Justin developed the sense of truth, which is similar to that of Platonism or is rather synonymous to it. God, the Supreme Truth, is understood as "what always remains the same facing itself and all things"[i] and "what only through the mind"[ii] is understood. Thus, the truth in its platonic sense is understood as something, which rests in itself (does not move), that its relation with the world is created in the mind and through the mind. This mind is clearly, according to Justin, given "so as to see the very being («καθοράν»), which is the cause of all that is perceivable"[iii].

The characteristic point in this way towards the meeting of the truth lies, in the fact that for Justin the capability to recognize God as the truth exists in the relation (that is the ontological connection) of God and soul or mind[iv]. It is characteristically platonic, that Justin the error or lie does not link it to any other cause, than to the presence of the perceptible things and mainly the body. The mind exists in the same way in all humans and the relation between the truth of God and man is stable. To release man from the influences of the body is enough, in order to see the truth[v].

From the so far mentioned it has started to become clear, that not only the dualism between perceivable and understood, but also –and this is particularly important- the necessary ontological relation of God and man relies in Justin on the understanding of the truth[vi]. The stable relevance between God and man, transmitted through the mind, makes the sense of the word, as used by Justin in a Christological meaning, as the link between God and man, truth and mind, able to be understood. Christ, the Word of God, becomes the very link between truth and mind and the truth of Philosophy is no more than a part of this Word[vii].

We should not overlook the similar danger of an ontological monism; of course, in the time of Justin this was not a problem for the Church. The cause possibly lied in that Justin did not develop a theology in the basis of such a monism and out of it did not claim for philosophy any official place in the life of the Church.

Furthermore, it was Climes of Alexandria, who introduced officially philosophy into the Church[viii] and Origen, who tried to draw on the base of Greek philosophy a theological doctrine. The use of the term word in this relation became the cause for the aryanic dispute, which later forced the Church into a thorough examination of the term.

In Climes the understanding of the truth evolves in the same line that we ascertained in Justin[ix]. The influence of the Greek thought appears in Climes in the way that he conceives the idea of God-the Truth as the nature of being. This point of view was of decisive importance for the Theology that followed so much in the East as much in the West, as we can see till now[x]. In the extracts of Climes, which have been rescued in the works of St. Maximus the Confessor, the "nature" has the same meaning with the "truth of things"[xi]. With this understanding of the truth as "nature", Climes concludes to conceiving the nature of God as the "mind" (here he counts on John 4, 24)[xii]. Consequently, the "mind" is defined as "nature" and this leads to the idea Origen developed, according to which the mind creates the "bodiness" of God[xiii].

In contrast to Climes, Origen does not consider himself a philosopher, but a man of the Church and representative of tradition. For this reason, he tried to draw a system based on belief without abandoning something of what the Church taught and confessed; and yet he was trying with this to interpret the tradition philosophically. Whether he succeeded or not, preserving at the same time the biblical understanding of the truth, one can decide, once he has examined two basic positions of his teachings: the creation and the interpretation of the Scripture.

Origen represents the teaching on the creation "ex nihilo", and yet links so close the sense of God with that of creation, that he starts talking on an eternal creation and claims that God cannot eternally be Almighty without having an object on which he could force his authority[xiv]. Thus God is eternally the creator and the connection between the Word of God and the words of creation become in this way something organic and unbreakable, something characteristic to the Greek understanding of the truth as well[xv]. The interpretation of the Scripture includes according to Origen an understanding of the truth, which in its core is Greek. Origen does not deny the reality or historicity of the biblical facts; but what is definitive in the end on the interpretation of the Bible is the meaning of these facts. Even the cross of the Christ is just a symbol of a magnificent thing and only the simpliciores can be satisfied with the simple fact of the Crucifixion[xvi]. The truth lies in the meaning of things; but if someone understands this truth then things lose their importance[xvii]. It is exceptionally interesting, how Origen now marks the eschatology; but this does not aim at a completion of history, but the eternal meaning of each fact.

This viewing of things has very clear consequences, if we are to understand the allegation of Christ, that He is the Truth. Christ is then the "self-truth"[xviii], but this does not have its cause in his humanity: "nobody between us is that naive to think that the substance of truth would not have existed already before the time of its appearance in Christ"[xix]. With this of course the humanity of Christ is not rejected, but as far as the truth is concerned, He exists just in a relation of participation into it[xx].

The decisive point, in which one can judge the attitude of Origen in this delicate problem, is precisely the question on the importance of the historical Christ on truth. Origen interprets John 1,17 –"the truth was created through Jesus Christ"- and tries with John 14,6 –"I am the truth"- to raise them into a common level. So he writes: "nothing is created by itself. So this –that is the word "created"- has to be understood like this, that it means the truth in itself, the essential truth … , the original of truth, which lies in the intellectual souls, this truth, whose one kind emerged through Jesus Christ as a means, not through another means but was realized (created) through God[xxi]. Obviously Origen does not understand the verb "created" of John 1,17 as a historical fact under the sense of incarnation, but with cosmological representations[xxii]: The truth is imprinted directly from God and this obviously happened in the eternal creation of the world. Because of Him the truth exists as the nature of the very being (substantially)[xxiii]: "Every wise man in the measure he participates in the truth, he participates in Christ, who is the Truth"[xxiv]. Inevitable is the important ascertainment that the "wisdom" does not depend from the fact of Christ, but inversely Christ participates in some way in wisdom. We cannot simply say, "the truth is Christ"; then the historical Christ seems to be the truth exactly and just because of this, because he participates in the truth and is the Word of creation and not because he is Jesus of Nazareth.

The decisive problem, which Origen and all the relevant to theology of the word current, leave unanswered, lies on the question: how can the historical Jesus be the truth? If the historical Jesus is the truth just for that, because he is at the same time the Word of God and the Word of creation, this seems to suggest that the incarnation does not realize the truth in an essential way, but just reveals an already existing truth. This sense of revelation seems to lead into the heart of the problem; because revelation is a unique sense and at the same time a broad characterization, with which the created being and the uncreated reason are connected. An objection of today's theology towards Origen should be constituted by the fact that he undermined the historical Jesus and furthermore, because he was occupied with the revelation[xxv]. This point is essential and this objection is completely justified, because here seems to exist a more internal comparison between revelation and history[xxvi]. The revelation aims at the unity of the being in order to understand the meaning; history, on the contrary, reveals the being in the form of breaches and contrasts. When the interest on truth as a revelation, overshadows the interest on the truth as history, then emerges inevitably, that the human mind becomes the God of truth and the decisive link between truth and creation. So we are here again in the question that was put in the introduction, about a composition of the representations of the truth as a being and the truth as history. According to the so far observations we can ascertain, that in the way the Apologetics and Origen were engaged to the problem, such a composition cannot be successful. So, let us turn to other currents of the thought of the Greek Fathers in order to see how that composition is formed.

[i] Justin, Διαλ. 3,5: "το κατά τα αυτό και ωσαύτως αεί έχον» also see Plato, Pol. VI, 484b: του αεί κατά τα αυτά ωσαύτως έχοντος. The variation «ον» in the place of «Θεόν» which some people prefer, does not change anything substantial in this one wants to show here.

[ii] Justin, Διαλ. 2, 7: «Το Θείον… μόνον νω καταληπτόν». Also see the idea of the "inconceivable" of the Greek Fathers.

[iii] As above, 4, 1.

[iv] As above, 4, 2.

[v] As above, 4, 3.

[vi] We must mark this against the efforts to separate Justin from Neo-Platonism.

[vii] Where the idea of Justin on spermatic word (Apol. I, 44, 10) comes from. He believes, that the philosophers are separated from the truth just when they disagree with one another (as above). The difference between spermatic word and seeds of the word, which has been ascertained by Holte, Logos spermatikos: Christianity and Ancient Philosophie according to St. Justin's Apologies, in: Studia hellenistique aux II et III Siecles, Tournai, 1961, p. 45 at a kind of "de-platonism" of Justin, must be seen in the confines of the relevance between mind and God, to which Justin seems to attach himself. Whether the Word implants the seeds of truth, or if these seeds belong to the human reason, the fact is that this fundamental relevance sets possible the work of the incarnated Word.

[viii] Also see G. Kretschmar, Le developpement de la doctrine du Saint-Esprit du Nouveau Testament a Nicee, in Verbum Caro 22, 1968, 20.

[ix] The thought that the truth exists outside the Christ "partially" (also see footnote 20), continues to play an important role in Climes of Alexandria. See J. Danielou, the same, pp. 50 and on and 67 and on.

[x] See further down, Part II, 3.

[xi] Maximus the Confessor, Ep. Theol. And pol. (MPG, 254): "nature is the truth of things" also see further up, footnote 13.

[xii] See Fragm. In the edition of O. Staehlin, Clemens Alexandrinus, 1909, 220.

[xiii] Origen, Περί αρχών, I, 4. This is the result of a stoic influence (G. Kretschmar, as above, p. 23), but it signifies clearly the difficulties that connect to reaching God through His "nature".

[xiv] Origen, Περί αρχών, Ι, 4, 3.

[xv] About the stoic influence in Origen on this subject see J. Danielou, Origen, Paris 1948, 258.

[xvi] Comments on John, I, 9, MPG, 14, 36: The teaching about "Christ and the crucified Christ" is the "drugged Gospel", which is destined to be used by the simple people, whereas for the "intellectuals" the Gospel is the one concerning the Word of God from the beginning. Also see G. Florovsky, Origen, Eusebius and the Iconoclastic Controversy, in: Church History 19, 1950, 79-96, esp. 88.

[xvii] This is in fact how the Prophets of the Old Testament met the truth, exactly how the Apostles themselves.

[xviii] Comments on John IV, 6.

[xix] Κατά Κέλσου VII, 12

[xx] On the sense of "participation" and its place in perception, that Origen has on the truth, see H. Crouzel, Origene et la connaissance mystique, Paris 1961, 34.

[xxi] Comments on John VI, Prol. 8.

[xxii] Concerning the fact that the plan of Origen is in its core cosmological see E. von Ivanka, Hellenisches und Christliches in fruehbysantinischen Geistesleben, 1948, chapter I.

[xxiii] One can observe the way that the meaning "nature" appears again, when it approaches the truth from a cosmological point of view, also see footnotes 13, 24, 27.

[xxiv] Comments on John, I, 34.

[xxv] E. de Faye, Origène, sa vie, son oeuvre, sa pensee, III, 1928, 230. Also see H. Koch, Pronoia und Paideusis, Studien ueber Origenes und sein Verhaeltnis zum Platonismus, Berlin 1932, 63.

[xxvi] A remarkable effort to exceed this contrast we find in modern theology of W. Pannenberg. See especially Offenbarrung und Geschichte, Goettingen 1961.


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