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...
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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