Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Creating Jesus 22: God's psyche

I have been home doing improvement projects lately, so the blog has been quiet on my end. Back in the office for the day today, so here is the next post.

There has been some activity in the comments to my last post about whether or not the Logos is really God or just sharing his nature. This discussion is a Nicene discussion, and is reading John in light of those later theological wars. John was read and claimed to support both the Arians and the anti-Arians and the marginal Arians. It was read to be a subordinianist document - that the Son was the Logos (lesser or other than God), a mediator between God the Father and humanity. And it was read to be a homoousian document, identifying the Father with the Son. It came to be read as a document that supports the two-natures doctrine that prevailed at Chalcedon, as well as the monophysite position.

So John is a difficult document to work with, especially if we are trying to understand the text as a pre-Nicene document. But if we look internally, we see that the author appears to have understood Jesus to be the pre-existent Logos, God's very mind, and that this mind came to exist in flesh. So what we have here is an ensoulment Christology. In other words, God's mind or psyche (=soul in English translation) took on flesh and became a human being. Thus Jesus didn't have his own normal human soul or psyche like you and I have. His soul or psyche was God's mind. Quite literally he was God manifested as a human being.

Again, Sophia traditions cannot explain Jesus' equivalence with the eternal God. It appears that we are dealing again with the Angel of YHWH traditions, the manifestation of God that bears his NAME, the Tetragrammaton. The NAME in Jewish traditions was understood to be a hypostasis of God's eternal nature, and thus, was viewed as equivalent to him. The NAME was instrumental in creation and was present in the Angel of YHWH. So what we seem to be seeing in the Johannine gospel is retrospective thinking about the embodiment model. Jesus' identification with the Angel of YHWH is pushed back pretemporally, from pre-existent to precosmogonic.

This traditional Jewish thinking is combined with Hellenistic-Greek understanding about the origin of the human being, particularly the origin of the psyche or rational aspect of the human being. The psyche or soul fell from the heavens into the material body. This becomes a human being and is birthed from the womb. So what we have in John is the idea that God's Logos, his mind becomes a soul embodied as Jesus.

More on this in the next post.

5 comments:

Pastor Bob said...

Interesting. As we all talked about John 1:1 we left out the "I am" statements by Jesus. You have just brought out that connection with the name of God. Thanks!

Frank McCoy said...

There perhaps is a difficulty to the hypothesis that the Logos in Jn is the mind (nous) of God.
In Philonic thought, while the Logos is Mind, he is not the mind of God.
See Heres (230-31), "He gives the name of birds to the two words or forms of reason (duo logous), both of which are winged and of a soaring nature. One is the archetypal reason above us (i.e., the Logos), the other the copy of it we possess. Moses calls the first the 'Image of God,' the second the cast of that Image. For God, he says, made man not 'the Image of God' but 'after the Image'. And thus the mind (noun) in each of us, which in the true and full sense is the 'man (anthrwpos),' is an expression at third hand from the Maker."
So, what we have are: Original--GOD/MAN/MIND,Image--Logos/Man/Mind, and after the Image--human/man/mind.
So, the Logos is Mind, the Image of God, who is MIND. Again, the Logos is the Man (Anthropos), the Image of God, who is the MAN. Too, since the Logos is God's Son, he is, as the Man, the Son of the MAN.
Compare Jn 19:5, "Therefore, Jesus came forth outside, wearing the thorny crown and the purple garment and he says to them, 'Behold the Man (Anthrwpos)!'" That is to say, Jesus came forth as the Logos, the Man, incarnate in the flesh as the Davidic Messiah, the true King of Israel.
Also compare Jn 1:49,51, "Nathaniel answered him, 'You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!'...And he says to him, 'Amen. Amen. Truly I say to you, you will see heaven having been opened and the angels ascending and descending on the Son of the MAN.'" That is to say, Jesus is the Logos, God's Son, incarnate in the flesh as the Davidic Messiah--the true King of Israel. When he returns to heaven, he, the Son of the MAN, will resume his role as the chief angel, their ruler.
This possibly indicates that, in Johannine thought, Jesus, as the Logos, is the Man, the Image of the MAN. In this case, by implication, he also is, as the Logos, the Mind, the Image of the MIND. In this case, then, the Johannine Logos is not the mind of God but, rather, the Mind that is the Image of the MIND.
Frank McCoy--BA History, Univ. of MN

RobKash said...

April, a quick question.

You say,

"But if we look internally, we see that the author appears to have understood Jesus to be the pre-existent Logos, God's very mind, and that this mind came to exist in flesh."

I'm trying to figure the jump from "pre-existent logos" to "God's very mind." I haven't read all of your posts, so I may have missed your argument for how the two are equated.

Also, could you explain what you mean by 'mind'? This of course is a bit abstract since we're dealing with metaphors. Do you mean that Christ is the decision maker for the Father?

Geoff Hudson said...

"Again, Sophia traditions cannot explain Jesus' equivalence with the eternal God. It appears that we are dealing again with the Angel of YHWH traditions, the manifestation of God that bears his NAME, the Tetragrammaton. The NAME in Jewish traditions was understood to be a hypostasis of God's eternal nature, and thus, was viewed as equivalent to him."

I would suggest we are dealing with another idea (tradition if you like), that had very deep roots going a long way back. It was what the prophets of the New Testament argued with the priests about. For the prophets, the Spirit was God who could cleanse without the need of animal sacrifice. There was thus one group of Jews who had already worked that idea out. They were one step ahead of the game, until the Romans came along with their Jesus.

Leon said...

Much of the philosophizing that takes place here about God and God's mind reminds me of how far this is from Jesus and his original Jewish context. The Pharisees and early rabbis, and this includes Jesus, were not philosophers (not that there is anything wrong with that). They related to God on a more basic level. What does God want, what are his most basic qualities? These included compassion, a concern for justice, and reason, but not abstract philosophical reasoning, rather the kind of reasoning when you are trying to figure out what justice and due process require. It was reasoning for the very specific purpose of creating a more just society.

So, e.g., the rabbis associated the name YHWH with God's highest quality which was compassion. That was the essential God you can always appeal to. Thus, the saying that the gate of prayer to God may sometimes be closed, but the gate of tears or a broken heart is always open, i.e., God will always listen to the cries of a broken heart. This was Jesus' world.

Now I would not deny that all this other stuff about the Logos and the mind of God and making Jesus divine came later on, and may help to explain the development of later Christianity. But Jesus and his fellow Pharisees and rabbis related to God more on the level of the plain and beautiful storytelling that elucidated the meaning of compassion and justice. Those stories, not philosophical ideas, get us back closer to the historical Rabbi Joshua from Nazareth.

Leon Zitzer