trinity


I’ve decided to try my hand at a bit more from Gregory’s “On the Spirit.” (cf. here). This portion describes the Divine nature:

It is Triune Union,

It is Threefold Unity.

Neither stream, nor sea, nor rushing river,

One threefold flow rushing down against the earth.

Nor as a gleam of light, returning to its flame,

Nor as a word proceeding from the mind

        yet therein abides—

Nor as a ray of the sun dances

Upon the waters and the walls:

It whirls off before the approach,

Yet arrives before leaping away.

Divine nature knows no flux:

It neither flows apart nor returns to itself,

Eternal center, age to age it is.

And the Greek:

ἐκ μονάδος Τρίας ἐστι, καὶ ἐκ Τριάδος μονὰς αὖθις,     (60)

οὔτε πόρος, πηγή, ποταμὸς μέγας, ἕν τε ῥέεθρον

ἐν τρισσοῖσι τύποισιν ἐλαυνόμενον κατὰ γαίης·

οὔτε δὲ πυρκαϊῆς λαμπὰς πάλιν εἰς ἓν ἰοῦσα,

οὔτε λόγος προϊών τε νόου καὶ ἔνδοθι μίμνων,

οὔτε τις ἐξ ὑδάτων κινήμασιν ἡλιακοῖσι     (65)

μαρμαρυγή, τοίχοισι περίτρομος, ἀστατέουσα,

πρὶν πελάσαι φεύγουσα, πάρος φυγέειν πελάουσα,

οὐδὲ γὰρ ἄστατός ἐστι θεοῦ φύσις ἠὲ ῥέουσα

ἠὲ πάλιν συνιοῦσα· τὸ δ᾽ἔμπεδόν ἐστι θεοῖο.

The Homeric references are fewer. We do have some common homeric words show up (like the verb ἐλαύνω), and Homer does use similar language when discussing rivers. In its place, though, we get a series of negative descriptions; that is, they describe what God is not. Gregory tells us that the godhead is not like a rushing river, flowing in three parts. Nor is it a ray of light, that shoots forth and returns, or a beam of light dancing on the water. His point is stated at the end of the excerpt: the divine nature is not subject to change or flux. But even when describing what God is not, he uses lovely images. One vividly pictures light bouncing against the water off the walls of a city. Gregory is fond of employing light imagery for the trinity, and a few lines laters he says, “one nature, firmly established in three lights.” But here he paints a delightful picture, even as a negative description.

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ

For my term paper in my Homer class, I’ll be examining the Homeric influences in Gregory of Nazianzus’s Poemata Arcana. These are the first eight of his dogmatic poems.  Written in the epic hexameter of Homer, the poems are exquisite statements of Christian dogma and aesthetics.  The third poem, entitled “On the Spirit” commences in dramatic fashion.  Indulge me as I translate a few lines (with suitable poetic license):


“O Soul, why are you troubled?
Sing the boast of the Spirit,
Lest you divide the one not made so by nature.
Let us tremble at this great Spirit,
My God, by whom I know God;
The Spirit of God in the Heavens,
Who yet makes me a god here on the Earth.
Almighty, All-giving, the Song of the Sacred Dance,
Bearer of Life, both seen and unseen;
Divine counselor, He proceeds from the Father;
Divine Spirit he goes un-bidden.
He is not the Child;
But one is worthy of such honor,
Yet apart from God he is not;
Divine, he is equal in nature.”

Θυμέ, τί δηθύνεις; καὶ Πνεύματος εὖχος ἄειδε,
μηδὲ τέμῃς μύθοισιν ὃ μὴ φύσις ἐκτὸς ἔθηκε.
Πνεῦμα μέγα τρομέωμεν, ὅ μοι θεός, ᾧ θεὸν ἔγνων,
ὃς θεός ἐστιν ἔναντα, καὶ ὅς Θεὸν ἐνθάδε τεύχει·
πανσθενές, αἰολόδωρον, ἁγνῆς ὕμνημα χορείης,>
οὐρανίων χθονίων τε φερέσβιον, ὑψιθόωκον,
Πατρόθεν ἐρχόμενον, θεῖον μένος, ἀυτοκέλευστον,
οὔτε Πάϊς (μοῦνος γὰρ ἑνὸς Πάϊς ἐσθλὸς ἀρίστου)
οὔτ᾽ ἐκτὸς θεότητος ἀειδέος, ἀλλ᾽ ὁμόδοξον.

If you look at the Greek, you’ll see quite a few differences: I make no apologies here. Translating poetry demands poetic license. Of course, I’m hardly a competent English poet. Hopefully, my translation brings out some of what is truly beautiful in the original. Gregory’s poetry is difficult, but stunning in its erudition and loveliness.

I’ve bolded a few things I found particularly interesting or appealing in the Greek. First, one has acknowledge Gregory’s debt to Homer. The very first word of the poem, θυμός, is extremely common word for soul or spirit in Homer. Likewise, his command to his soul to “sing the boast of the Spirit” uses Homer’s singing and boasting language. One is reminded of the very first line of the Iliad, “Wrath, Goddess, sing!” One thinks too of Homer’s heroes always boasting in their lineage. Before a battle there was usually an exchange of words, each opponent boasting in his family line. So too, Gregory exhorts his soul to boast in the Spirit, so that it may be prepared for battle with those who “divide what by nature is indivisible.”

Of course, Gregory writes as a Christian poet as well. Though Homer has an immeasurable influence on his form and vocabulary, Gregory melds with it a web of Christian influences and theology. One particularly glaring incident comes in the 7th line, where the Spirit is called, θεῖον μένος. Μένος is another extremely common Homeric word. It means something like our english word “spirit,” but a bit more like in our use of “high-spirited.” Sometimes “battle strength” or “battle rage” is more fitting (the flexibility is rather like the Latin animus). But here, the Spirit the divine μένος! Gregory has taken an extremely common Homeric word, and filled it entirely with new content.

The Scriptural resonances are evident as well. The first line, while clearly echoing Greek epic, also echoes the Psalmist, “why are you downcast O Soul!” The Spirit is the “bearer of Life” for both “the heavenly ones and the earthly ones,” which I translated “seen and unseen” to evoke the allusions to the great creed. But my favorite phrase of these lines definitely comes from the fifth line, where the Spirit is the “ἁγνῆς ὕμνημα χορείης,” “the Song of the Sacred Dance.” It is turns of phrase like that that have established Gregory as one of the greatest Christian poets. His use of language so carefully and beautifully exhibits the truth of Christian theology. The two meanings of orthodoxy, which is both true worship and true theology, come together exquisitely in Gregory. Rightly has the Church remembered with the simple epithet, “the Theologian.”

ἐν αὐτῷ
ΜΑΘΠ

If you’re tiring of Eusebius, please skip along :-). I generally have the opposite problem: no posting at all!


Ἐνθάδε μὲν οὖν πνεῦμα στόματος αὐτοῦ ἀναγέγραπται. Εὑρήσομεν δὲ ἀλλαχοῦ καὶ λόγον στόματος αὐτοῦ εἰρημένον, ἵνα νοηθῇ ὁ Σωτὴρ καὶ τὸ ἅγιον αὐτοῦ Πνεῦμα. Ἀμφότερα δὲ συνήργησεν ἐν τῇ κτίσει τῶν οὐρανῶν καὶ τῶν ἐν αὐτοῖς δυνάμεων· διὰ τοῦτο εἴρηται· Τῷ λόγῳ Κυρίου οἱ οὐρανοὶ ἐστερεώθησαν, καὶ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ πᾶσα ἡ δύναμις αὐτῶν. Οὐδὲν γὰρ ἁγιάζεται μὴ τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ Πνεύματος. Ἀγγέλων γοῦν τὴν μὲν εἰς τὸ εἶναι πάροδον ὁ δημιουργὸς Λόγος, ὁ ποιητὴς τῶν ὅλων, παρείχετο· τὸν ἁγιασμὸν δὲ αὐτοῖς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον συνεπέφερεν· οὐ γὰρ νήπιοι κτισθέντες οἱ ἄγγελοι.

“Here we find ‘His Spirit’s mouth’ written, but elsewhere we find ‘His Word’s mouth’ said, in order that the Savior and his Holy Spirit might be known. For both were at work in the creation of the heavens and the angels. For this reason it says, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were stretched out, and by the Spirit of his mouth every one of his angels.” For nothing is consecrated except by the presence of the Spirit. Therefore, although the creative Word, the maker of all, prepared the way for the angels to come into being, the Holy Spirit, together with him, bestowed on them their consecration. For the angels were not created as children.”

I’m not sure what he means by the final bit “for the angels were not created as children.” It’s almost like αγιασμον (holiness or consecration) is functioning as a parallel to “coming of age,” since νηπιος can mean minor.

I feel like busting into elegant Greek praise on the merits of all three. Unfortunately, this is not a skill I yet possess. So I’ll settle for someone else’s praise of the first:

Εν αρχη ην ο λογος,
και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον,
και θεος ην ο λογος.

ουτος ην εν αρχη προς τον θεον.

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and what God was, the Word was.

He was, in the beginning, with God.
John 1:1-2

I love the last line of the first verse in Greek. o λογος is put at the end of the sentence. When you’re reading that line, it begins with θεος, which could function as the subject of the sentence. But then just as I’m thinking the sentence is going to be about God, John inverts it and actually places the subject at the end! The phrase actually has ο λογος, the Word, as its subject. The Word was God. I’m ignorant of much in Greek, but when I get little glimpses of God in the Greek text it’s a special thing :-)

αλεξανδρος

[This was composed for and originally posted on my campus ministry’s website: http://xa-ncsu.com/blog/post/38 on August 26, 2009]

A few words are in order before I dive into the text. First, welcome! I’m hoping that this blog will be, among other things, a delightful record of our study of God. More than that, I’m hoping that it will be a challenging record of God’s study of us. As we gaze upon God, we are hopefully challenged, inspired, amazed, and humbled. We feel love and love; receive grace, and give it. What I hope to highlight in this post, primarily through the letter of Galatians, is the familial aspects of the Trinity. More specifically, I want to examine the role the Holy Spirit plays in God’s family. Hopefully this will help us as a group relate better to the person of the Holy Spirit, and better understand his role as a member of the Trinity.

Because I’m drawing mostly from Galatians, a little bit of context for the letter is due. This is one of Paul’s first letters, written to a young and budding group of believers in Galatia, a church which Paul himself had founded. The church was budding, but also had problems. While the church was predominately Gentile (non Jewish), a group of people, presumably Jews, were throwing young Christians into confusion. These people were insisting that faith in Jesus was not enough, that what truly marked God’s family was the Jewish law, especially circumcision. This was causing all sorts of dissension within the church, creating division rather than unity. Paul spent most of his effort addressing this problem.

Paul responds by first establishing his authority. Although he formerly persecuted the church, he had had an experience with the risen Jesus that was separate from those of the 12 apostles. He had received revelation directly from Jesus; he hadn’t made up the gospel or gotten it from someone else. Nevertheless, he was in agreement with the other apostles. He had stayed with them on several occasions.

In chapter 3, Paul launches into a detailed examination of the Old Testament. His goal here is to show that everyone, whether Jew or Gentile, is to be part of God’s family. Nothing more is required. In fact, by going further, one is in danger of separating what God intended to be joined. Paul goes back to Abraham, arguing that the promise given to Abraham is not set aside by the Mosaic law. Rather, the law was “put in charge to lead us to Christ.” His entire is argument is beyond the scope of this post, but I believe his goal in chapter 3 is to get to verse 26: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” He wants the Galatians to realize that they are already members of God’s family. Because of Christ’s work, all of those with faith in Christ Jesus are part of the family. Faith becomes the determining marker of God’s family. It’s not circumcision, gender, or social status: only faith.

Chapter 4 begins by noting that, not only are we children, but we have received an inheritance. This inheritance is the “spirit of his son … by which we call out ‘Daddy! Father!'” By the time he returns to Old Testament discussion in verse 21, he continues to discuss family. This time, he uses the story of Hagar and Sarah to illustrate the fact that they are children of the promise, not the children born into slavery. This in turn launches into a discussion of Christian liberty in chapter 5. Finally, in chapter 6 he exhorts them to keep running the race, to focus on the cross of Christ, to not give up or give in.

And where is the Holy Spirit in this? His activity pervades throughout Paul’s thinking and writing. The aspect I wish to bring light to is the Spirit’s activity in the family of God. For Paul, the Holy Spirit is intimately connected with the becoming a Christian, with becoming part of the family. In chapter 4, he declares that, just as Isaac was born by the power of the Spirit, so were we. Also, the Spirit does what the law cannot, impart life. What strikes me is not only how personal the Holy Spirit is, but how active he is in the family of God. The Eastern Orthodox churches, which have historically had a much fuller view of the Holy Spirit than the West, have sometimes caricatured the Western view of God as “two guys and a bird.” But we see the Holy Spirit birthing us as sons and daughters, imparting our very life in God, our breath in God. We see him bearing witness to this with miracles. We see this all on the basis of faith in the Jesus, and not our background. As we try to walk by the Spirit, may we not view him as a mysterious force, or as somehow less a person that the Father and the Son. Instead, may we walk with him as he is, a vivacious, active God who births, marks, and testifies to our membership in the family of God, who empowers us to overcome the sinful nature, and in whom we eagerly await the judgment day, the day where God will put the whole world to rights and fulfill new creation.