Monday, June 11, 2012

Justin on the Logos; Distance from God

For my write-up today on The Cambridge History of Christianity: Origins to Constantine, I'll use as my starting point some things that Markus Vinzent says on pages 409-410:

"Justin could speak of the logos as a second God, created by the will of the superior creator God whom he revealed to other creatures...

"At least since the third century BCE, Greek and Roman philosophers had emphasised a monistic view of the world.  The Middle Platonists especially taught a supreme, transcendent first principle, the unknown God, who is beyond reach and above all matter of creation.  Although below him various gods exist as assistance creator(s), like the world soul, or demons, the further away they are from the one God, the less divine they are, becoming in the end counter-gods.  Like the Stoics, the Middle Platonists, however, believed in just one overarching providence, directing the world.  How then could this absolute God of providence create a world where light and dark meet, where good and evil are so intrinsically linked?"

Here are some thoughts:

1.  Regarding the first quote, I talk some about Justin's view on the logos in my post here.  In terms of primary sources for that, you can check here, though I am disappointed that the exact reference is not provided for that sample text.  I have read the text in Justin's works, however.  I'm not sure if the issue is as cut-and-dry as Vinzent says----that Justin indeed regarded the logos who became Jesus Christ as created.  But I'm interested in learning.

2.  On the second quote, I'm intrigued by the Middle Platonist idea that, the further away things are from God, the less divine they are.  It reminded me of another passage I read in this book, about the views of the Valentinian Gnostics.  On pages 442-443, Gerhard May refers to the Valentinian myth that the aeon Sophia sought to be independent of God and to generate another aeon.  The result was a miscarriage, the second sophia.  This is somehow associated with the origin of matter, meaning that the material world is a byproduct of a miscarriage by one seeking to be independent of God.  Then there's Marcion, who is discussed frequently in this book.  Marcion believed that there was a high God of benevolence, and a lower deity who created the world and who was the God of the Old Testament.  Marcion did not regard this lower deity as evil, per se, but as overly strict.  These themes stood out to me because they reflect a sense that we are distant from God, and, in the case of Marcion's views, that even religion enhances that distance.

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