NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTOLOGY IS NICENE CHRISTOLOGY: AN ORTHODOX PERSPECTIVE
BY MINA FOUAD TAWFIKE
St Francis Magazine Vol 8, No 4 | August 2012
St Francis Magazine is a publication of Interserve and Arab Vision
In his book The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History, Michael Baigent states that the aim of the Council of Nicaea‘was to get support for the idea that Jesus Christ was “of one being” with God the Father, a claim that Arius and others disputed; for them, Jesus was not divine’ (p. 83). Princeton’s Elaine Pagels dryly observes: “Those who opposed this phrase pointed out that it occurs neither in the Scriptures nor in Christian tradition” (Beyond Belief, p.173). In this paper I will argue that such ideas, which argue that Christ was deified in the Council of Nicaea, are incoherent and indefensible. They completely ignore three centuries of written tradition (writings of the Fathers, the New Testament, tombstones and songs of praise) and oral tradition (which is shown in the liturgical practices), of both which completely support Nicaea.
Michael Baigent在他的书，耶稣报告：探索历史中最大的骗局中宣称尼西亚大会的目的就是『要支持耶稣基督与父神是‘同一个存有（of one being）’，这是亚流并其他人士所否定的；对于他们，耶稣不是神』（P.83）。普林斯顿的Elaine Pagel干巴巴的观察到：『那些反对这个句子的人支持，这个关键既没有出现在经文，也没有出现在基督教传统中』（Beyond Belief, p.173）。我将在本文中争辩基督在尼西亚大会中被神化的观念，是语无伦次并站不住脚的。他们完全无视于三个世纪的书写传统（教父、新约、墓碑并赞美诗的文字）并口述传统（表明在礼拜仪式中），两者都完全支持尼西亚。
1 Jesus Christ: A Deified Man, or an Incarnate God?
Baigent, Pagels and others suggest that Christ’s so-called Nicene deification was due to the direct effect of the Greco-Roman civilization, especially on the Jewish culture in Palestine. The evidences provided for this idea are the characteristics or properties given to the Roman emperors, like “the god”, “the lord”, and “the giver”. For instance, in an inscription dating back to the third century BC we read, “Ptolemy the savior and god: （希腊文）.” We may see various inscriptions and texts that give the same meaning and the first question we pose is, could these ideas about divinity be related to the godhead of Christ? Or, more specifically, was it this sort of concept that led to the Nicene doctrine of the Word being “of one substance” with the Father, as authors like Pagels and Baignet have suggested?
Beigent，Pagels和其他认为基督所谓的尼西亚定义乃是希腊—罗马文化影响的直接结果，特别是对于在巴勒斯坦的犹太文化。支持这个观点的证据乃是罗马皇帝所提供的特征和属性，就像『神（the god）』、『主（the lord）』，『赐予者（the giver）』。例如，在一份三世纪的碑文上，我们读到，『托勒密是救主与神（Ptolemy the savior and god）：（希腊文）』我们或许看见许多碑文和文字对于我们的第一个题目提出相同的意义，那些关于基督神性的观念是否与基督的神格有关呢？或，更为特别的是，这种观念是否导致尼西亚关于道与父『同质（of one substance）』的教义，就像Pagels和Baignet那些作者所认为的吗？
2 The Theology of Christ’s Incarnation
Against Pagels and other like-minded thinkers, I argue that the theology of God Incarnate goes far beyond the idea of an “incarnated god”. In biblical thought, the key concept is related to salvation and redemption, i.e. its main purpose is redeeming and saving humanity. This theological theme is seen in the Old Testament and the Jewish rabbinic writings. It completely and fundamentally differs from the idea of gods’ incarnations in mystery cults and the Greco-Roman thought. This Biblical presentation, which implies a soteriological dimension, contrasts with the idea of Christ being deified in the sense that Greek and Roman humans could be deified; indeed a doctrine of the “deification of Christ” could not serve the Christian doctrine of salvation presented by the New Testament and as understood in the Orthodox Tradition.
为了驳斥Pagels和其他观点一致的思想家，我争辩神成为肉身的神学远远超过一位『成为肉身的神（an incarnated god）』的观念。在圣经的思想中，关键的观念乃是与救恩和救赎有关的，例如：它的主要目的是救赎并拯救人类。我们能够在旧约和犹大拉比作品中看见这个神学的主题。它完全并从根本上与神（god）在神秘邪教和系列—罗马思想中成为肉身的观念不同。这个圣经的说法，暗示一个救赎论的向度，与基督在希腊和罗马人被神化的意义上被神化的观点是完全向悖逆的；的确，『基督被神化』的教育不能符合新约展现的基督教救赎教义并正统传统的认知。
Christianity is considered a compound philosophy in the shape of coordinated systems of dogma and liturgical rituals that communicate the Word of God and his death on the cross as recorded in the Holy Bible. The rituals are nothing without these dogmatic bases. On the contrary, the bases of the Greco-roman cults are totally the opposite. Their rituals do not express written texts or even oral ones, or dogmas or any philosophical justifications. In fact the GrecoRoman religions are related to rites more than faith. This is totally different from Christianity, which identifies a communal, ecclesiastical relationship with God in Christ, made known graciously by God and appropriated by faith in this message. The dogmas are lived out and experienced in the rituals of the Church, which in Orthodoxy are called mysteries (Arabic, asraar).
Incarnation was not an aim itself, but it was a means of fulfilling an aim. This aim was humanity. It shows how incarnation expresses the deepest relationship between God and man. Because God, who is Spirit, became flesh for us, so his salvation did not remain purely theoretical—only to be believed in the heart and assented to in the mind—but physical, to be participated in. Because of this, Orthodoxy, like Jesus and St Paul, sees no tension between a strong affirmation of the real, physical rituals of the sacraments as salvific participations in the Trinitarian fellowship, while also affirming that salvation is purely gift and grace. Greco-Roman cults had no way of bringing together these aspects of the human experience—ritual and faith—because they did not have a way of bringing together the human and the divine in a man. Orthodox Christianity does.
3 Patristic Testimony and Ante-Nicene Christology
Ante-Nicene Christology was not any different from that of Nicaea, which is what Pagels suggests. Both are the same and are based on the Biblical Christology. Two important concepts of this Christology can be found in the Bible: the concept of Logos (the Word Incarnate) and the concept of the Son of God.
Here are some relevant verses on the Logos, the Word Incarnate: Mt 5:37, 28:15, Mk 4:15, Lk4:32, 4:36, 5:15, Jn.1:1, 4:37, Ac 6:5, 11:22, Rom 6:6, 9:9, 1Cor1:18, 2:4, 2Cor 1:18, 10:10, Eph 4:29, 6:19, Co. 3:16, 4:6, 1Thes1:8, 2Thes 1:8, 3:1, 1Tim 1:15, 2Tim 2:9, Ti 2:5, Heb 2:2, 4:2, 1Jn 1:10, 2:7, and Rev 19:13.
此处是一些与道并道成为肉身相关的经文： Mt 5:37, 28:15, Mk 4:15, Lk4:32, 4:36, 5:15, Jn.1:1, 4:37, Ac 6:5, 11:22, Rom 6:6, 9:9, 1Cor1:18, 2:4, 2Cor 1:18, 10:10, Eph 4:29, 6:19, Co. 3:16, 4:6, 1Thes1:8, 2Thes 1:8, 3:1, 1Tim 1:15, 2Tim 2:9, Ti 2:5, Heb 2:2, 4:2, 1Jn 1:10, 2:7, and Rev 19:13。
Son of God: the cries of the unclean spirits, and those with evil spirits, “You are the son of God,” (Mr 3:11, 5:7, Lk4:41) cannot be considered a pagan influence, but this title reminds us of the texts of Qumran. For example, codec 4Q246 which is known as Aramaic Apocalypse (dating back to 25 BC) is of a Jewish origin, and much older than the NT. The text speaks about a man entitled “son of God” or “son of the High” and “his rule will be an eternal kingdom.” The text sees that person as a universal savior, so this apocalypse affirms that the concept of “son of god” in the New Testament is not derived from some pagan origins.
神的儿子：这是污灵并那些被邪灵附身之人的呼喊，『你是神的儿子，』（Mr 3:11, 5:7, Lk4:41）不能被认为是一种异教的影响，这乃是昆兰文献所留给我们的称为。例如，4Q246抄本被视为亚兰文的启示录（日期可以追溯到25BC）是源自于雅威的传统，也远比新约古老。本文论点一个人被称作『神的儿子（son of God）』或『至高者的儿子（son of the High）』，并『他的政权是永恒的国度（his rule will be an eternal kingdom）』。本文看见一个人是宇宙的救助，所以这个启示录肯定了新约中『神的儿子』并不具有某种异教的起源。
The Biblical theological vision closely identifies God and his Christ, the Word Incarnate. This is the faith we find among the Apostolic Fathers and the Ante-Nicene era.
The Epistle of Barnabas (likely written after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and before rebuilding the city by Hadrian – 132-135 AD) refers to Christ as the Son of God who will execute the final judgment: “he will execute judgment…he revealed himself to be God’s Son.” (5.7-9) Barnabas repeats this idea in several places: in 7.2 he says:
If, therefore, the Son of God, who is Lord and is destined to judge the living and the dead, suffered in order that his wounds might give us life, let us believe that the Son of God could not suffer except for our sake.
The Didache is a catechism written in Greek and is dated around 60-80 AD. This manual quotes from Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, Thessalonians, and 1 Peter. It quotes more than 22 times from the book of Matthew. Concerning baptism, the Didache says:
As regards baptism, baptize in this manner, having first given all the preceding instruction baptize in the name of the father, and of the son and of the Holy Spirit and immerse 3 times in running water.
The second epistle of Clement is the oldest complete Greek homily still existent outside the New Testament; it is likely that the epistle was written between 100 and 120 AD: “Brothers and sisters, we ought to think of Jesus Christ as we do of God, as judge of the living and the dead. And we ought not to belittle the one who is our salvation” (2 Clement 1.1).
革利免二书是在新约外，最古老的希腊文宣道文；这篇文章可能写于100到120AD之间：『兄弟姐妹们，我们应当用思考神的方式思考耶稣基督，祂将会审判活人和死人。我们不能贬低那是我们救恩的那位。』(2 Clement 1.1)
Ignatius of Antioch (martyred 110), says: “There is one only physician, of flesh and of spirit, generate and ingenerate, God in man, true Life in death, Son of Mary and Son of God, first passible and then impassible, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:2). He clarifies this further in one of his epistles to the church in Ephesus: “…God Himself appearing in the form of a man, for the renewal of eternal life” (Epistle to the Ephesians 4:13). And: “For our God Jesus Christ was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost” (ibid 4:9).
安提阿的英格那丢（111年殉道）说：『唯有一位肉身和灵的大医生，祂是被生的也是非受生的，是身在人里面，在死亡中的真生命，玛利亚的儿子也是人的儿子，是受苦的并是不可受苦的，是耶稣基督我们的主』（Rom 7:2）他在他写给以弗所教会的一封信中进一步澄清这个观念：『神自己显现在人的形式中，为了用永远的生命更新我们』（Epistle to the Ephesians 4:13）。并且，『因为我们的神耶稣基督，根据神的安排，成孕在玛利亚腹中，出于戴维的后裔，但是是借着圣灵而成孕的。』（ibid 4:9）
Irenaeus (died 202), in Ad. Her. 2.17.4, says: “The Father is God revealing himself, the Son is God revealed (the appearing revelation)”… “But he, Jesus, is himself in his own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, Lord, and king eternal, and the incarnate word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles …The Scriptures would not have borne witness to these things concerning him, if, like everyone else, he were mere man” Ad. Her. 3:19.1-2.
Irenaeus even went on to present a clear belief in the Triune God:
The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: …one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father ‘to gather all things in one,’ and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, ‘every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess, to him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all…’ (Ad. Her. 10.l)
教会虽然分散在全世界，甚至达到地级，从使徒并他们的门徒们领受了这个信仰。。。一位神，全能的父，天、地、海并其中一切生物的创造者；在一位基督耶稣，神的儿子，为我们的救恩成为肉身中；并透过被众先知在圣灵中所宣告之神的诸多分赐，并道的临及，透过童女降生，受苦，并从死人中复活，在悲哀的耶稣基督，我们的的主的肉身中升到天上，并祂从天在父的荣耀中向显现，『将万有归附到一位中，』 并让整个人类在新样中富含，好叫基督耶稣、我们的主、神、救主、王，根据不可见之父的旨意，『让天上、地上并地底下所有的万有屈膝，让所有的语言承认祂，让祂能够公义的执行审判。。。』（Ad. Her. 10.l）
Melito of Sardis identified Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man in his writings around 177 AD: “Being God and likewise perfect man, he gave positive indications of his two natures: of his deity, by the miracles during the three years following after his baptism… he concealed the signs of his deity, although he was the true God existing before the ages” Anastasius of Sinai’s, The Guide 13.
撒迪的Melito在他写于177AD左右的著作中认为耶稣基督是完全的神并完整的人：『同时作为神并完全的人，祂为祂的两个性质提供了积极的记号：对于祂的神性，借着在祂受浸后三年中行的神迹。。。祂隐藏了祂神性的表号，虽然祂是在万世之前就存在的真神。』Anastasius of Sinai’s, The Guide 13。
Athenagoras wrote in 160 AD: “…they [the Christians] hold the Father to be God, and the Son God, and the Holy Spirit, and declare their union and their distinction in order.” A Plea for the Christians 10.3.
Athenagoras在60AD写到：『。。。他们（基督徒）坚称父、神的儿子并圣灵都是神，并宣称他们的合一，并在次序中的分别。』A Plea for the Christians 10.3。
Clement of Alexandria in 190 AD makes a strong case for Christ’s deity and the Trinity in several writings: “I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father.” Stromata, Book 5, ch. 14. “This Word, then, the Christ, the cause of both our being at first (for He was in God) and of our well-being, this very Word has now appeared as man, He alone being both, both God and man.” Exhortation to the Heathen, ch 2
亚历山大的革利免在190AD在好几篇作品中强烈的指出基督的神性并三位一体：『除了神圣的三位一体外，我不知道别的事物；因为第三位是圣灵，第二位是子，万有借着祂们，根据父的旨意被造』Stromata, Book 5, ch. 14。『这点道就是基督，乃是我们存在的起因（因为祂在身里面）并我们能够存有的起因，这位道如今显现为人，唯有祂是神又是人。』Exhortation to the Heathen, ch 2
Alexander of Alexandria (died 326 AD) wrote:
Thus concerning this, we believe——as it seems best to the apostolic church——in one unbegotten Father, who of his being has no cause, who is immutable and unchangeable, always according to the same things in the same state, neither receiving progress nor diminution, who is giver of the Law, Prophets, and Gospels, who is Lord of patriarchs, apostles, and all the saints; and in one Lord Jesus Christ the only-begotten Son of God, begotten not from nothing but from the Father who is, not according to the likenesses of bodies by dissections or emanations from divisions, as it appears to Sabellius and Valentinus, but inexplicably and indescribably, according to him who said, as we set forth above, ‘Who will describe his generation?’ (Isa. 53:8). Letter to Alexander of Thessalonica, 46
虽然关于我们所相信的——它看起来乃是属于使徒教会——一位非受生的神，他的存在没有起因，祂是不可变化并不快改变的，没有任何的过程也不会减少，祂赐下了律法、限制和福音，祂也是列祖、使徒并所有圣徒的主；并在以为主耶稣基督和神独生的儿子中，祂是不是从虚无中生的，而是从父而生，祂不是如果撒伯流和瓦伦天奴认为的，是从分割某种事物产生之身体的样式，而是以无可说明并无法被描述的方式，根据那位我们前面提及的说，『谁能诉说祂的出生』（Isa.53:8）而生的。』Letter to Alexander of Thessalonica, 46
Those confessions of faith were never mere theoretical writings, but were also repeated and recited throughout the liturgies for baptism and the Eucharist. The oldest Coptic baptismal formula says: “I believe in One God, the Father, Almighty, Jesus Christ our Lord.” There is also a Roman baptismal formula that dates back to 125-135 AD: “I believe in God, Almighty, (the Father), and in Jesus Christ His only Son, who dominates us, born of the Holy Spirit and Virgin Mary, who is crucified in the time of Pilate of Pontus and buried and raised in the third day.”
This Orthodox faith is supported by the testimony of history and theology. It is supported also by the geographical spread of the faith, especially in the first centuries of Christianity, when the church was strongly oppressed.
In conclusion, these ante-Nicene, Patristic texts demonstrate that the confession of the faith of Nicaea did not promulgate any new teaching. The concepts and vocabulary used there were already in wide circulation among the teachers and elders of the churches throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe.
4 The Story of Nicaea: What Really Happened There?
Let us examine the historical facts. The beginning of the controversy was when Arius (a cleric in Alexandria) offered his heretical ideas. This was during the divine war. Constantine saw that this Arian controversy was dividing the bishops of his empire, so in 323 AD he appointed Hosius of Cordova (Spain) to assist in resolving this conflict. Hosius delivered a letter from the Emperor, though it might have been written by Hosius himself, to Alexander bishop of Alexandria and to Arius, but the letter had no effect.
So by an invitation from the emperor himself, a council was held in 325 AD in the town of Nicaea, in Bithynia, which was a vital city near Nicomedia. The council consisted of 318 bishops (we get this figure from Athanasius’ writings. Some other sources claim that the number was 300 or 270). In addition, there was a great number of priests (presbyters), deacons, and assistants present, most of them from the East, to settle the Arian debate and fix the Passover date. Another concern was to discuss the subject of re-baptizing heretics.
There are evidences that the title “pope” or “patriarch” did not exist in the ante-Nicene era, or even in Nicene time. We have primary materials from the Council of Nicaea, like a letter from Eusebius of Caesarea to his church there. (It was kept in the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates, and in Athanasius’ Apology of Nicaea.) The description of the council sessions is kept in Eusebius’ book Life of Constantine, and letters from Constantine and letters from the council to the churches are also present there. Also, we still have the twenty canons issued by the council. Also, the historical writings of Socrates, Sozomen, Rufinus and Eusebius of Caesarea contain many details about the council.
In fact, there is no reference to the subject of fixing the number and identity of the books of the New Testament or the deification of Christ in either of these ancient primary sources (like Socrates, chapter 8, Sozomen, chapters 17 to 21, and Eusebius).
事实上，在那些古代的第一手资料中（如同Socrates, chapter 8, Sozomen, chapters 17 to 21, and Eusebius）并没有如果新约或基督的神化这些主题一样具有固定数目的数据源。
The Available historical sources on the council of Nicaea:
Theodoret, Historia Ecclesia, Book I, ch. 6 .13
Socrates, Historia Ecclesia, Book I, ch. 8 ch 21
Esuebius,Vita Constantini, Book III, ch 6 ff
Eusebius, On the Feast of Easter / De solemnitate paschalis.
Athanasius, Ep. Ad Episcopos Africae, 5.ff
Athanasius, de decretis synodis.
Epinphanius, Haereses or Panarion, 69
Philostorgius, HE I, 7, 7a
Rufinus, Historia Ecclesiastica 10.16
Geasius of Cyzicus, Historia Concilii Nicaeni
Jerome, Prologue to Judith
When the Council Fathers endorsed the ante-Nicene hermeneutical tradition regarding the correct, Orthodox interpretation of Holy Scripture, they denounced Arius’ contention that the Logos had been at some point in time created, and that his essence was not the same as the divine essence. This they did with the memorable words: “We believe […] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father…”
It’s clear now that the Christology of Nicaea was the same faith of the New Testament and the early centuries before Nicaea; it’s “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). Claims by authors like Pagels that Nicaea somehow produced the doctrine of the full divinity of Christ by borrowing from GrecoRoman thought are empty and indefensible.