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Author Topic: The Incarnate Christ in the Old Testament  (Read 3546 times) Average Rating: 0
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Acolyte
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« on: October 01, 2008, 06:45:01 PM »

When the incarnate God ascended into Heaven, He transcended space and time. Therefore, whenever God speaks to the Hebrews in the Old Testament, it is the incarnate Christ. When God creates man in His own image, it is in the image of the incarnate Christ, the perfect man. I am not advocating the Mormon position, that God is a man who evolved to deity. What I'm saying is that Jesus, in Heaven, is both God and a flesh and blood man, who became man in the incarnation, and transcended space and time in the ascension.
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« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2008, 06:56:04 PM »

^That's a very interesting and difficult topic for me.

Indeed, "eternity" does not, cannot mean "something very-very-very (...) -very-very- (...) -very long." Eternity means extemporality, "atemporality," so that there is no "yesterday," "tomorrow," "in five million years," etc.

So, in the "non-time frame" (so to speak) of God, there is no particular "moment" of Incarnation and Ascention. For us, here, on Earth, there is; but "over there," in "heaven," in God's eternal realm - as long as it really is eternal, - there isn't.

And yet, we say, believe, confess, that Christ BECAME man in a particular moment of time. His human nature is CREATED.

Difficult. Unclear...
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« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2008, 07:07:05 PM »

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Therefore, whenever God speaks to the Hebrews in the Old Testament, it is the incarnate Christ.

Correction, Acolyte. It is the pre-incarnate Word of God who speaks in the OT. Christ, the Word of God, and second person of the Holy Trinity became incarnate (i.e. took on human flesh and appearance) at the Annunciation. Any manifestation of God the Son and Word was a prefiguration, a "type and shadow" of the incarnate, fully revealed, visible God-Man who was to come.
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« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2008, 08:26:05 PM »

Because we are created in the image of the incarnate Christ, to be Christ-like is to be fully human. If we all understood that Christ incarnate created man in His own image, would we be willing to believe that man evolved from apes?
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« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2008, 08:26:27 PM »

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Therefore, whenever God speaks to the Hebrews in the Old Testament, it is the incarnate Christ.

Correction, Acolyte. It is the pre-incarnate Word of God who speaks in the OT. Christ, the Word of God, and second person of the Holy Trinity became incarnate (i.e. took on human flesh and appearance) at the Annunciation. Any manifestation of God the Son and Word was a prefiguration, a "type and shadow" of the incarnate, fully revealed, visible God-Man who was to come.

Again, if Christ transcended space and time, at no point has He not been incarnate. There are Orthodox authors who testify to this. Any time when God is spoken of anthropomorphically in the Old Testament, it is the incarnate Christ.
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« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2008, 09:37:18 PM »

Just wanted to recommend a book on this subject... 

Jesus the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible by Father Eugen Pentiuc.  Father Christos and I took Father Pentiuc's accompanying class at HCHC.  It was a wonderful class.  I highly recommend the book!!!

In Christ,
Presbytera Mari
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« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2008, 10:21:44 PM »

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Therefore, whenever God speaks to the Hebrews in the Old Testament, it is the incarnate Christ.

Correction, Acolyte. It is the pre-incarnate Word of God who speaks in the OT. Christ, the Word of God, and second person of the Holy Trinity became incarnate (i.e. took on human flesh and appearance) at the Annunciation. Any manifestation of God the Son and Word was a prefiguration, a "type and shadow" of the incarnate, fully revealed, visible God-Man who was to come.

Again, if Christ transcended space and time, at no point has He not been incarnate. There are Orthodox authors who testify to this. Any time when God is spoken of anthropomorphically in the Old Testament, it is the incarnate Christ.
1.  Can you provide excerpts of the works of these authors?
2.  Are any of these authors among the Holy Fathers of the Church?  (Authors living physically among us today don't count.)
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« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2008, 10:28:45 PM »

St Hippolytus speaks of Christ weaving his flesh from the Virgin Mary. As in, he created his own flesh. (source: Way to Nicaea by Fr John Behr).
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« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2008, 12:22:09 AM »

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In seeing Christ, we behold the face of God albeit in a human form. That human form makes Him approachable by us. One person, the Word of God, has two natures Π human and divine, one visible to us and the other not visible. It would be impossible for us to live if we were to see the Divinity, but it is very easy for us to look upon a man like ourselves. That man, however, is the very Word of God. This is the humility of God that comes from His love for us.

It is He Whom Moses saw on Sinai. He is the man with Whom Jacob wrestled and asked for His blessing. And when he received it, Jacob said, "I have seen the face of God, and my life has been preserved". (Gen. 32:24-31) Before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, it was to Him and the two angels that Abraham extended hospitality and washed their feet, and "he served them and they ate". (Gen. 18) It is He Who spoke with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: "And they heard the voice of the Lord walking in Paradise at sunset. And Adam and Eve his wife hid from the face of the Lord God". (Gen. 2:8 )

The Incarnation of God was immanent and at hand in the entire history of creation. The Apostle Paul writes that it is Christ "who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things are sustained". (Col. 1:15-17) All things were made by Him and for Him. And He exists before all things, and He sustains in existence all creatures, visible and invisible, angelic and earthly. All things came to be and were created by the Word of God in order to be united with Him, Christ the Incarnate Word, Who, in His person, united creation with Divinity. St. Athanasius says, "In the person of the Word of God, man beholds the image of God the Father, and according to that image was man himself made". (P.G. 25, 8 )

"Firstborn of all creation" does not refer to a fleshless Word, but to the Word in the flesh, to Christ. It is this Incarnate Word Who precedes all creatures; He is "before all things" (Col. 1:17). For Divinity there is no "before", because God does not have His being in time. "Before" refers to creation, because creation exists in time. Therefore He Who is before all creatures, visible and invisible, is the man Christ, the eternal will of God and "firstborn of all creation".

The image of God, the image according to which man was made, is not the new-born Christ in the manger, or the one who hungered, or the man who thirsted and perspired and needed sleep, but the risen Christ, the incorruptible God-Man as He appeared in glory in His Kingdom when He took His disciples up to Thabor. The true grandeur of man does not exist in man as we see him and know him now, no matter how special he may be. The grandeur of man is in his prototype and in what we have all been invited to become in the new earth and the new heavens, in the New Jerusalem, in His eternal Kingdom.
http://www.zephyr.gr/STJOHN/sixdawn2.htm

Another thing to consider is John 1:1 in the Syriac Peshitta. Rather than "Logos," the Syriac has "Miltha," which means Word but also "Manifestation," as in God being manifest in the flesh.


Fixed a couple of automatic smileys and made them what you intended.  The 2-character series '8 )' turns automatically into a Cool when you don't put a space between the '8' and the ')'.  Just a bug in the forum's string parser.  -PtA
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« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2008, 12:22:18 AM »

St Hippolytus speaks of Christ weaving his flesh from the Virgin Mary. As in, he created his own flesh. (source: Way to Nicaea by Fr John Behr).

As I said before, Jesus became incarnate in the incarnation, and transcended time in the ascension.
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« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2008, 12:31:26 AM »

Quote
In seeing Christ, we behold the face of God albeit in a human form. That human form makes Him approachable by us. One person, the Word of God, has two natures Π human and divine, one visible to us and the other not visible. It would be impossible for us to live if we were to see the Divinity, but it is very easy for us to look upon a man like ourselves. That man, however, is the very Word of God. This is the humility of God that comes from His love for us.

It is He Whom Moses saw on Sinai. He is the man with Whom Jacob wrestled and asked for His blessing. And when he received it, Jacob said, "I have seen the face of God, and my life has been preserved". (Gen. 32:24-31) Before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, it was to Him and the two angels that Abraham extended hospitality and washed their feet, and "he served them and they ate". (Gen. 18) It is He Who spoke with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: "And they heard the voice of the Lord walking in Paradise at sunset. And Adam and Eve his wife hid from the face of the Lord God". (Gen. 2:8 )

The Incarnation of God was immanent and at hand in the entire history of creation. The Apostle Paul writes that it is Christ "who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things are sustained". (Col. 1:15-17) All things were made by Him and for Him. And He exists before all things, and He sustains in existence all creatures, visible and invisible, angelic and earthly. All things came to be and were created by the Word of God in order to be united with Him, Christ the Incarnate Word, Who, in His person, united creation with Divinity. St. Athanasius says, "In the person of the Word of God, man beholds the image of God the Father, and according to that image was man himself made". (P.G. 25, 8 )

"Firstborn of all creation" does not refer to a fleshless Word, but to the Word in the flesh, to Christ. It is this Incarnate Word Who precedes all creatures; He is "before all things" (Col. 1:17). For Divinity there is no "before", because God does not have His being in time. "Before" refers to creation, because creation exists in time. Therefore He Who is before all creatures, visible and invisible, is the man Christ, the eternal will of God and "firstborn of all creation".

The image of God, the image according to which man was made, is not the new-born Christ in the manger, or the one who hungered, or the man who thirsted and perspired and needed sleep, but the risen Christ, the incorruptible God-Man as He appeared in glory in His Kingdom when He took His disciples up to Thabor. The true grandeur of man does not exist in man as we see him and know him now, no matter how special he may be. The grandeur of man is in his prototype and in what we have all been invited to become in the new earth and the new heavens, in the New Jerusalem, in His eternal Kingdom.
http://www.zephyr.gr/STJOHN/sixdawn2.htm

Another thing to consider is John 1:1 in the Syriac Peshitta. Rather than "Logos," the Syriac has "Miltha," which means Word but also "Manifestation," as in God being manifest in the flesh.
A lengthy quote from Dr. Alexander Kalomiros--much too recent to be considered a Father.  I notice the excerpt you provided also quotes very little material from the Fathers.
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« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2008, 12:33:07 AM »

Again, if Christ transcended space and time, at no point has He not been incarnate. There are Orthodox authors who testify to this. Any time when God is spoken of anthropomorphically in the Old Testament, it is the incarnate Christ.

If Christ is eternally incarnate, as in having been incarnate (having a material, human body and nature, as well as being fully God) "in the beginning", then where does the Annunciation fit in? Did the Word of God become flesh twice? Or more than twice? And whose flesh did He take on before the events of the Annunciation? Or was this "old" flesh discarded when He became incarnate by the Virgin?

This is a mighty theological pickle you're getting yourself into, my friend. You may be confusing the prefigurative OT appearances of God the Word (the three strangers at the Oak of Mamre, the angel of God who wrestled with Jacob, etc etc) with the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, which is an entirely different proposition to the types and shadows of the OT.
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« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2008, 12:33:39 AM »

St Hippolytus speaks of Christ weaving his flesh from the Virgin Mary. As in, he created his own flesh. (source: Way to Nicaea by Fr John Behr).

As I said before, Jesus became incarnate in the incarnation, and transcended time in the ascension.
With little more outside support than you've posted here, you're still advancing this thesis solely from your own authority.  Again, what patristic sources do you have to back up your Christological assertion?
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« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2008, 12:39:22 AM »

Again, if Christ transcended space and time, at no point has He not been incarnate. There are Orthodox authors who testify to this. Any time when God is spoken of anthropomorphically in the Old Testament, it is the incarnate Christ.

If Christ is eternally incarnate, as in having been incarnate (having a material, human body and nature, as well as being fully God) "in the beginning", then where does the Annunciation fit in? Did the Word of God become flesh twice? Or more than twice? And whose flesh did He take on before the events of the Annunciation? Or was this "old" flesh discarded when He became incarnate by the Virgin?

This is a mighty theological pickle you're getting yourself into, my friend. You may be confusing the prefigurative OT appearances of God the Word (the three strangers at the Oak of Mamre, the angel of God who wrestled with Jacob, etc etc) with the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, which is an entirely different proposition to the types and shadows of the OT.

What is it about transcending space and time that one cannot understand? You are thinking about this too linearly, something which God is above and beyond.
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« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2008, 12:40:40 AM »

Again, if Christ transcended space and time, at no point has He not been incarnate. There are Orthodox authors who testify to this. Any time when God is spoken of anthropomorphically in the Old Testament, it is the incarnate Christ.

If Christ is eternally incarnate, as in having been incarnate (having a material, human body and nature, as well as being fully God) "in the beginning", then where does the Annunciation fit in? Did the Word of God become flesh twice? Or more than twice? And whose flesh did He take on before the events of the Annunciation? Or was this "old" flesh discarded when He became incarnate by the Virgin?

This is a mighty theological pickle you're getting yourself into, my friend. You may be confusing the prefigurative OT appearances of God the Word (the three strangers at the Oak of Mamre, the angel of God who wrestled with Jacob, etc etc) with the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, which is an entirely different proposition to the types and shadows of the OT.

What is it about transcending space and time that one cannot understand? You are thinking about this too linearly, something which God is above and beyond.
Again, whose authority are you citing?
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« Reply #15 on: October 02, 2008, 12:45:13 AM »

A lengthy quote from Dr. Alexander Kalomiros--much too recent to be considered a Father.  I notice the excerpt you provided also quotes very little material from the Fathers.

Website looks abandoned - no one has done anything to said website for more than a decade.  The two individuals with the same last name and associated with the printing business in Thessaloniki, Greece are renewing the domain registration.
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« Reply #16 on: October 02, 2008, 12:48:01 AM »

What is it about transcending space and time that one cannot understand? You are thinking about this too linearly, something which God is above and beyond.

Most of us do not understand Physics (well, I do and I'm not most people on this forum), especially the theory of relativity.  Why are you taking Christ and imposing a time/space intractable problem on His Worship?   Huh

Why are you making these points?   Huh
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« Reply #17 on: October 02, 2008, 12:49:43 AM »

Again, whose authority are you citing?

The curse of the cascading quotes ....  Wink  To whom is your question directed, PtA?
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« Reply #18 on: October 02, 2008, 02:10:11 AM »

The curse of the cascading quotes ....  Wink  To whom is your question directed, PtA?
To Acolyte, whose name is on the outermost quote in the post to which you just referred.  Sorry to confuse you like that. Embarrassed
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« Reply #19 on: October 02, 2008, 02:15:12 AM »

What is it about transcending space and time that one cannot understand? You are thinking about this too linearly, something which God is above and beyond.

Most of us do not understand Physics (well, I do and I'm not most people on this forum), especially the theory of relativity.  Why are you taking Christ and imposing a time/space intractable problem on His Worship?   Huh

Why are you making these points?   Huh

I making these points for you to understand Scripture. What does it mean to be created in God's image? To be created in the image of the incarnate Christ. Why is God spoken of anthropomorphically in the Old Testament? It's speaking of the incarnate Christ. How is Jesus the first-born of all Creation? Since ascending into Heaven, He's always been a man. Just because you don't understand it, that doesn't mean what I'm saying isn't true. Jesus, in His ascension, surpassed all physical limitations and all restrictions of time. How is that possible? He's God.
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« Reply #20 on: October 02, 2008, 02:22:14 AM »

I making these points for you to understand Scripture. What does it mean to be created in God's image? To be created in the image of the incarnate Christ. Why is God spoken of anthropomorphically in the Old Testament? It's speaking of the incarnate Christ. How is Jesus the first-born of all Creation? Since ascending into Heaven, He's always been a man. Just because you don't understand it, that doesn't mean what I'm saying isn't true. Jesus, in His ascension, surpassed all physical limitations and all restrictions of time. How is that possible? He's God.
When are you going to answer my question?  Whose authority are you citing?

If you want to advance a particular theological idea as truth, you need to cite authorities outside of yourself to be effective; otherwise, you're just spouting your own opinion.  On this forum, proof of the soundness of your reasoning comes from an authority we consider definitive, which would be mostly the Holy Fathers.  So I ask again, where in the patristic literature do you see support for your thesis?
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« Reply #21 on: October 02, 2008, 02:30:13 AM »

I would assume that Alexandre Kalomiros has based his writing on the church fathers, as he is one of the premier Orthodox Christian writers of our time. Scripturally and logically, I've already shown why what he says makes sense. Why else is God spoken of anthropomorphically in the Old Testament? What does it mean to be created in the image of God? How is Christ the first-born of Creation? 
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« Reply #22 on: October 02, 2008, 02:42:30 AM »

I would assume that Alexandre Kalomiros has based his writing on the church fathers, as he is one of the premier Orthodox Christian writers of our time.
Sorry, your personal assumption doesn't cut it.  What hard evidence do we have that Dr. Kalomiros did base his writing on the Church Fathers?  Fr. Alexander Schmemann--I personally think very highly of him, so don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way--did more to incorporate the wisdom of the Fathers and of Holy Tradition in his writings, yet he was often criticized for apparently not basing his writing on the Fathers.

Quote
Scripturally and logically, I've already shown why what he says makes sense.
Maybe so.  Maybe so.  But merely making logical sense does not make your ideas larger than mere opinion.

Quote
Why else is God spoken of anthropomorphically in the Old Testament? What does it mean to be created in the image of God? How is Christ the first-born of Creation? 
I'm hoping you can answer these questions more from patristic teaching and less from logic.


To add to what I've said before, if all you want to do is share your opinion with us, that's fine.  We encourage you to offer your opinion for discussion and debate.  Just let us know that that's what you're doing (by soliciting our feedback) and stop hiding behind this "thus saith the Lord" bit.
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« Reply #23 on: October 02, 2008, 04:25:53 AM »

How can God, who is Other, infinite, incomprehensible, unknowable in His fullness to our own feeble and puny little human minds, be described or talked about, other than in the limited, human languages we have? Anthropomorphic terms are woefully inadequate, but that's the best we've got. This is but one of many liturgical passages illustrating this human inadequacy:

Ikos 9 from the Akathist to the Mother of God:

We behold the most eloquent orators mute as fish before you, O Theotokos; for they are at a loss to explain how you could remain a virgin and yet give birth. But as for us, marvelling at this mystery, we cry with faith:

God the Son and Word, Himself infinite and unknowable "in the beginning", fully revealed Himself to us when He became incarnate at a fixed point in history, and "dwelled among us". He even gave three of His disciples a brief glimpse of His divine glory at His Transfiguration.

The Word is indeed begotten of the Father before all ages, but this in no way means that he took flesh before the ages. Show us a troparion, kontakion, stikheron, apostikhon, Theotokion or any liturgical material from any menaion, triodion, okhtoik or other Orthodox liturgical reference which states or teaches this. Why do I raise the matter of liturgical texts? Because they represent the consensus patrum, the distillation of scripture and patristic writings and Traditions which the Church teaches in all places and at all times. Different Fathers may hold a variety of views on any given matter, as they are not themselves infallible.

Allow me to ask you this, Acolyte: Did the Archangel Gabriel become incarnate when he visited Zachariah in the temple? Or when he visited the Mother of God at the Annunciation?
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« Reply #24 on: October 02, 2008, 06:11:02 AM »

The Word took flesh in the incarnation, and transcended time in the ascension. Do you understand this?
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« Reply #25 on: October 02, 2008, 07:16:14 AM »

The Word took flesh in the incarnation, and transcended time in the ascension. Do you understand this?

Maybe we are "over-rating" this convenient expression, "transcended time." One can, indeed, go way too far if one tries to take OUR EARTHLY time frame "out of the parentheses," so to say. According to the Chalcedon dogmat, indeed, Christ has been eternally existing as the Logos, as God the Son, and also born as a human being at a fixed moment of time. I agree that when He ascended, He went "to the Father," or, in other words, into another realm, another reality where there is no time as we know it. Yet, when we think about Him, it is perhaps more pious and accurate to use expressions based on OUR reality, on OUR human, eartly time frame. After all, having gone "to the Father," He ALSO mystically remains among us, in our time, and BODILY at that (that's why we believe that the Eucharist is His body and blood). Before His incarnation, He was not present among us bodily, because deity is bodiless.
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« Reply #26 on: October 02, 2008, 02:16:22 PM »

Jesus was present for us bodily in the Old Testament, which explains why God  is described anthropomorphically. How can God have hands? How can he wrestle a man? How can God appear as an angelic humanoid? The Jews didn't know God was incarnate, since it hadn't yet happened according to our sense of time. But God's time is beyond our time.
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« Reply #27 on: October 02, 2008, 05:14:36 PM »

Acolyte, as everyone else is saying, you should read up on the Holy Fathers.

Perhaps, you should read what the Holy Fathers say about those particular Old Testament instances, like the appearance of the three men to Abraham and the appearance of the Son of God to the Three Youth in the fiery furnace.  Do not quote from contemporary theologians unless they have quotes from the Holy Fathers as well.

Be an investigator.  Don't believe unless you've done the full research.  Challenge what Kolomiros wrote even if you might agree with him.  Make sure he's right.  And if he's not right, then this is a time for you to reassess, or else you might find yourself in disagreement with the ancient Church.

God bless.
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« Reply #28 on: October 02, 2008, 06:24:22 PM »

Jesus was present for us bodily in the Old Testament, which explains why God  is described anthropomorphically.
So you would offer that there's no other way to explain this anthropomorphism?

Quote
How can God have hands? How can he wrestle a man? How can God appear as an angelic humanoid? The Jews didn't know God was incarnate, since it hadn't yet happened according to our sense of time. But God's time is beyond our time.
So you would straitjacket God by forcing Him to fit your theology?

What does your vain speculation have to do with our salvation, anyway?
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« Reply #29 on: October 02, 2008, 08:09:08 PM »

What I'm writing isn't vain speculation. It isn't me who thought of it. It relates to our salvation only in the sense of gaining a better understanding and appreciation of the Old Testament.
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« Reply #30 on: October 05, 2008, 10:27:57 PM »

Hello Acolyte,

If I may, I would like to add some clarification into this discussion.

When it comes to the Incarnation, St. Ephrem the Syrian, for example, saw the event as unique in that it was a day that shared no precedent in the past. He articulates this very beautifully in his normal poetic manner as he goes on to mention,

On this day on which the Lord of all came among servants, let the lords also bow down to their servants lovingly. On this day when the rich One was made poor for our sake, let the rich man also make the poor man a sharer at his table. On this day a gift came out to us without our asking for it; let us then give alms to those who cry out and beg from us…This Lord of natures today was transformed contrary to his nature; it is not too difficult for us also to overthrow our evil will. Bound is the body by its nature for it cannot grow larger or smaller; but powerful is the will for it may grow to all sizes. Today the Deity imprinted itself on humanity, so that humanity might also be cut into the seal of Deity.” (Hymns on the Nativity, 1.93-99, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (John 1-10), p.44)

Also, St. Athanasius in his work ‘On the Incarnation of the Word’ is extremely blunt in stating that the Word of God remained incorporeal before the Incarnation. He goes on to mention that:

“…the Word's becoming Man, and to His divine appearing amongst us, which Jews traduce and Greeks laugh to scorn, but we worship…to treat this subject it is necessary to recall what has been previously said; in order that you may neither fail to know the cause of the bodily appearing of the Word of the Father, so high and so great, nor think it a consequence of His own nature that the Saviour has worn a body; but that being incorporeal by nature, and Word from the beginning, He has yet of the loving-kindness and goodness of His own Father been manifested to us in a human body for our salvation.” (Chapter 1, source: http://www.monachos.net/library/Athanasius_of_Alexandria,_On_the_Incarnation_of_the_Word)

Now how would one reconcile the belief that the Incorporeal and Eternal Word of God who became Incarnate of the Holy Theotokos was also physically present to the Prophets and Patriarchs of old as well? Wouldn’t this mean that the Christ was incarnate from eternity, or at least, before the period of first century Roman occupied Judea? How can one state that the Incarnation was unique in time and history wherein God took on human flesh, when on the other hand, God also appeared in human form many a time throughout Israel’s past pages of salvation-history?

These questions are of crucial importance since the answers to these questions touch upon the very genesis of our salvation, which is the Incarnation. Far from producing a sense of bewilderment and confusion, these questions were answered quite definitively within the time of the early Church. Before we get into the answer, we need to, first of all, define what the Incarnation meant within the early Church. Since this is the main area of doubt, we need to setup a clear sense of understanding as to what the early church meant by the words, ‘The Incarnation’. This has already been touched upon briefly in the snippets provided above, but it needs to be stated again that the Incarnation was understood by the early Fathers and Historians of the Church as an activity, initiated by God to bring about the salvation of mankind by ushering in the Word of God, who will become Incarnate of the Holy Virgin Mary. The purpose of the Incarnation was then, quite bluntly, to both facilitate and begin the salvation of all mankind through birth, life, death and the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since there are too many early church fathers and historians to quote here, I will only select a few among the many to simply reflect a common consensus on this subject:

Eusebius of Caesarea:

“All mankind being then, thus (circumstanced), the Increment of wickedness, that envious (being), the hater of every good, and deceiver as to every thing lovely, in conjunction with the wicked Demons, became their waylayer: this same, in his wicked zeal, prepared the nets, and snares, and riches,----the abundant means of every sort (of sin,)----against the salvation of all; and so drove them down from above into the depths of evil, that none on earth could see, but transgressed the law of their nature: and (thus), the germ of wickedness, instead of the seed of excellence, sprung up within them; and he that was more peaceful, more wise, and more rational, than all that were on the earth, so fell into the last stage of brutality and irrationality, that one of those beloved of God wept over this overthrow of their fall, and cried out saying; "Man understood not his own honour; but was given up to be as the brute, and became assimilated to it."  On these accounts therefore, a mighty Savior, greater than any son of man, was evidently needful to them. And such is He who anxiously undertook to provide for all, THE WORD OF GOD: He who has, like a good and loving Father, shewn by deeds His providential care over the rational souls that are on the earth; and who hastened, in the mission of Himself, to the call, and for the healing, of those who were thus fallen and perishing.” (Theophania, Book 1, 78-79. Source: http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/eusebius_theophania_02book1.htm)

St. John Chrysostom:

“It is that “the Word became flesh,” that the Master took on him the form of a servant. For he became Son of man, who was God’s own Son, in order that he might make the sons of men [humankind] to be children of God. For when the high associates with the low, it does not touch its own honor at all. Instead, it raises up the other from its excessive lowness.” (Homilies on the Gospel of John, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (John 1-10) p.40)

St. Basil the Great:

“Let us strive to comprehend the mystery. The reason God is in the flesh is to kill the death that lurks there. As diseases are cured by medicines assimilated by the body, and as darkness in a house is dispelled by the coming of light, so death, which held sway over human nature, is done away with by the coming of God. And as ice formed on water covers its surface as long as long as night and darkness last but melts under the warmth of the sun, so death reigned until the coming of Christ; but when the grace of God our Savior appeared and the Sun of justice rose, death was swallowed up in victory, unable to bear the presence of true life. How great is God’s goodness, how deep his love for us! (Homily on Christ’s Ancestry 2.6, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (John 1-10) p.42)

St. Cyril of Alexandria

“Humanity…is a creature who is rational but also composite. It consists of a soul that exists as well as this perishable and earthly flesh. And when it was made by God and was brought into being, not having of its own nature incorruption and immortality (for these things pertain essentially to God alone), it was sealed with the spirit of life by participation with the Divinity. In doing so, it gained the good that transcends nature. For he “breathed,” it says, “into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” But when he was punished for his transgressions, then with justice he heard, “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” He was denuded of the grace. The “breath of life,” that is, the Spirit of him who says, “I am the life,” departed from the earthly body, and the creatures fell into death through the flesh alone, the soul being kept in immortality, since to the flesh alone it was said, “Dust you are, and to the dust you will return.” It was necessary, therefore, that what in us was especially endangered should more urgently be restored, and by intertwining again with what is Life by nature, [our flesh] should be recalled to immortality. It was necessary that the sentence, “Dust you are, and to dust you will return” should be overturned, the fallen body being united ineffably to the Word that enlivens all things. For it was necessary that, becoming to the flesh, it should partake of the immortality that is from him…the Word of God which is over all, would work into our flesh, his own good, that is life…”the Word of God became flesh,” so that we might see at once the wound and the medicine; [at once] the sick and the Physician; what had fallen into death and him who raised it to life; what was overcome by corruption and him who chased away the corruption. What was trapped in death and him who is superior to death; what was bereft of life and the Giver of life. (Commentary on the Gospel of John. 1.9, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (John 1-10) p.43)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria

He was made man that we might be made god. He manifested himself by a body that we might receive a conception of the unseen Father. He endured the hubris of humanity that we might inherit incorruptibility. For on the one hand, he himself was in no way injured, being impassible and incorruptible and very Word and God; but on the other hand, in his own impassibility he maintained and preserved those human beings who were suffering and for whose sakes he endured all this. (On the Incarnation, 54.3, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (John 1-10) p.43)

Augustine

“…“And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” It is by this poverty of his that we have been enriched, because by this blood, which flowed from his flesh, the flesh the Word became in order to dwell among us, the sacking of our sins was torn up. Through that blood we have cast off the rags of iniquity, in order to clothe ourselves in the robes of immortality.” (Sermon 36.3, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (John 1-10) p.44)

Now that we have described the understanding and purpose of the Incarnation, we then move forward into distinguishing this event in history from the past appearance of Christ to the Prophets and Patriarchs of the Hebrew Scriptures. Is there a difference? Yes, there is, and it is one primarily based on purpose. This argument, I find, is lucidly outlined by Tertullian in his dogmatic work titled “De Carne Christi”. In this book, he goes on to defend the Incarnation of Christ from the teachings of the Gnostic Docetists, who taught that Christ never had a real, physical body. Docetism taught that the Lord’s body was in actuality, an illusion and his suffering on the cross was therefore, also an illusion since he was from the very beginning, an incorporeal spirit and could not physically die. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docetism) It is in this particular piece of work that we find our answer to the question in discussion. Tertullian, in his work against the Docetists gives a great explanation on the difference between the pre-Incarnate Logos and the Incarnate Christ. He goes on to mention that,

“Therefore I would that these who claim that the flesh of Christ followed the precedent of the angels, alleging that though flesh it was not born, would compare also the reasons, Christ's no less than the angels', for which they made their appearance in flesh. No angel ever came down with the intention of being crucified, of obtaining experience of death, of being raised again from death. If there never was this kind of reason for angels becoming embodied, you have the very reason why they took to them flesh without being born. They had not come to die, and consequently had no need to be born. Christ, on the other hand, being sent to die, had of necessity also to be born, so that he might die. For customarily nothing dies except what is born. Nativity and mortality have a debt they owe each to the other. The project of dying is the reason for being born. If Christ died on behalf of that which does die, and if that does die which also is born, it followed--or rather, it preceded--that he no less must be born on behalf of that which is born, since he had to die on behalf of that which, because it is born, does die: it was not competent for him not to be born on behalf of that for which it was competent for him to die. Moreover, on the occasion in question, the Lord himself was one of those angels who appeared to Abraham:1 he appeared without nativity, but certainly with flesh, for the same difference of purpose--though you do not accept this, since you do not accept that Christ who as early as this was habituating himself both to address and to liberate and to judge the human race,2 in the guise of flesh not as yet born because not yet to die, except first there should be an annunciation both of his nativity and of his mortality.” (De Carne Christi, Chapter 6, source: http://www.tertullian.org/articles/evans_carn/evans_carn_04eng.htm) (Note: While I agree that he indeed became a schismatic for becoming a part of the Montanist movement later on in his life, this piece of literature comes from a time in his earlier life which, even the Orthodox Church acknowledges, was known for his greatest achievements in clarifying the dogma of the Church in the midst of Gnostic and heretic doctrines.)

So as one can clearly see, there is a stark difference between the pre-incarnate Logos and the Incarnate Christ, in that, its purpose is radically different. As already outlined, the purpose of the Incarnation was to save mankind through the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The beginning point of the Incarnation is logically then, “The Word became Flesh” by becoming born of the Holy Theotokos. The end result of the Incarnation would then be the salvation of mankind through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. As per the logic of Tertullian’s (and mine, as well), one cannot die if one has not yet been born. The pre-Incarnate Logos throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, while being the unique messenger and the Angel of God’s high counsel, was always characterized and depicted within Holy Scripture as an entity without birth or death. Since the Incarnation is characterized by the very birth and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is thus safe to assume then, that the pre-Incarnate and Incarnate Christ, while being the one and the same Word of God, was however different due to its purpose and mission in God’s world. The flesh taken on by the pre-Incarnate Logos was thus, temporary and was a foreshadowing of the Incarnation, which truly allowed for the merging of the Divine and the Human worlds through God’s full participation in the human cycle of life and by doing so, saving it.

Another church father, St. Irenaeus has written on this subject quite a bit. In his work titled, “Against Heresies” he maintains that there remained a difference in between the theophanic or Christophanic appearances with the great prophets, Moses and Elijah and that of the appearance of the Incarnate Christ. He maintains that the appearances of the pre-Incarnate Christ to the Prophets were partial in nature, only to become fulfilled at the actual moment in history when God the Word will indeed become truly incarnate in the flesh and walk the earth. He goes on to mention that,

“And the Word spake to Moses, appearing before him, “just as any one might speak to his friend.” But Moses desired to see Him openly who was speaking with him, and was thus addressed: “Stand in the deep place of the rock, and with My hand I will cover thee. But when My splendour shall pass by, then thou shalt see My back parts, but My face thou shalt not see: for no man sees My face, and shall live.” Two facts are thus signified: that it is impossible for man to see God; and that, through the wisdom of God, man shall see Him in the last times, in the depth of a rock, that is, in His coming as a man. And for this reason did He [the Lord] confer with him face to face on the top of a mountain, Elias being also present, as the Gospel relates, He thus making good in the end the ancient promise.” (Against Heresies, Chapter 20.9. Source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.vi.xxi.html)

The Blessed Saint goes on to mention that the appearances of the pre-Incarnate (and post-Ascension) Christ took on many forms and thus, wasn’t relegated to just one mode or form of appearance. This would make any pinning down on a particular “type” or “image” of the pre-Incarnate Christ very impossible to achieve. He goes on to mention, in the same work, that,

The prophets, therefore, did not openly behold the actual face of God, but [they saw] the dispensations and the mysteries through which man should afterwards see God….neither Moses, nor Elias, nor Ezekiel, who had all many celestial visions, did see God…what they did see were similitudes of the splendour of the Lord, and prophecies of things to come; it is manifest that the Father is indeed invisible, of whom also the Lord said, “No man hath seen God at any time.” But His Word, as He Himself willed it, and for the benefit of those who beheld, did show the Father’s brightness, and explained His purposes (as also the Lord said: “The only-begotten God, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared [Him];” and He does Himself also interpret the Word of the Father as being rich and great); not in one figure, nor in one character, did He appear to those seeing Him, but according to the reasons and effects aimed at in His dispensations, as it is written in Daniel. For at one time He was seen with those who were around Ananias, Azarias, Misaël, as present with them in the furnace of fire, in the burning, and preserving them from [the effects of] fire: “And the appearance of the fourth,” it is said, “was like to the Son of God.” At another time [He is represented as] “a stone cut out of the mountain without hands,” and as smiting all temporal kingdoms, and as blowing them away (ventilans ea), and as Himself filling all the earth. Then, too, is this same individual beheld as the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, and drawing near to the Ancient of Days, and receiving from Him all power and glory, and a kingdom. “His dominion,” it is said, “is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom shall not perish.” John also, the Lord’s disciple, when beholding the sacerdotal and glorious advent of His kingdom, says in the Apocalypse: “I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And, being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the candlesticks One like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment reaching to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle; and His head and His hairs were white, as white as wool, and as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if He burned in a furnace. And His voice [was] as the voice of waters; and He had in His right hand seven stars; and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and His countenance was as the sun shining in his strength.” For in these words He sets forth something of the glory [which He has received] from His Father, as [where He makes mention of] the head; something in reference to the priestly office also, as in the case of the long garment reaching to the feet. And this was the reason why Moses vested the high priest after this fashion. Something also alludes to the end [of all things], as [where He speaks of] the fine brass burning in the fire, which denotes the power of faith, and the continuing instant in prayer, because of the consuming fire which is to come at the end of time. But when John could not endure the sight (for he says, “I fell at his feet as dead;” that what was written might come to pass: “No man sees God, and shall live”), and the Word reviving him, and reminding him that it was He upon whose bosom he had leaned at supper, when he put the question as to who should betray Him, declared: “I am the first and the last, and He who liveth, and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of death and of hell.” And after these things, seeing the same Lord in a second vision, he says: “For I saw in the midst of the throne, and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing as it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth.” And again, he says, speaking of this very same Lamb: “And behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True; and in righteousness doth He judge and make war. And His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; having a name written, that no man knoweth but Himself: and He was girded around with a vesture sprinkled with blood: and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies of heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in pure white linen. And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He may smite the nations; and He shall rule (pascet) them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of God Almighty. And He hath upon His vesture and upon His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Thus does the Word of God always preserve the outlines, as it were, of things to come, and points out to men the various forms (species), as it were, of the dispensations of the Father, teaching us the things pertaining to God.” (Against Heresies, Chapter 20.10-11. Source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.vi.xxi.html)

So, to summarize our position, based on the available proof from the writings of the Church Fathers, we can thus say, with confidence that:

a) The Incarnation was an event like no other. It was truly unique in that God, entered into the human cycle of life by becoming Incarnate of the Holy Virgin Mary, the Theotokos. The purpose of the Incarnation was to redeem and save humanity through the birth, life, death and glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
b) Appearances of the pre-Incarnate Christ are different in its purpose. The pre-Incarnate Christ took on a temporary bodily form to signify the One, Transcendent and Holy God’s wish and plan of action for his people. These appearances, due to their difference in purpose and mission than that of the Incarnation, did not involve a full participation of human life (i.e. birth and/or death) and is therefore cannot be considered as something similar to the Incarnation. It can therefore be stated that prior to the Incarnation, the pre-Incarnate Word of God was just that. Pre-Incarnate and Incorporeal.
c) Even if one were to try and pin a “type” of appearance of sorts for the pre-Incarnate Christ (or of the post-Ascension Christ), one would find the endeavor quit impossible to carry out since the pre-Incarnate Christ, just like the post-Ascension Christ, has been seen in various different forms to his chosen Apostles and Prophets throughout history. Therefore, this means that there can be no logical correlation or similarity between the “form” of the pre-Incarnate Logos and the Incarnate Christ. Consequently, the “process” or the “how-to” of the appearances of Christ and its final renderings, both before and after the Incarnation are very much like God itself: a mystery that will remain unexplained for generations to come. 

In Christ,

The Pilgrim +
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« Reply #31 on: October 13, 2008, 04:48:27 AM »

^Wow! Excellent post! Thank you for taking the time to put it together!
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« Reply #32 on: October 13, 2008, 09:31:59 AM »

When the incarnate God ascended into Heaven, He transcended space and time. Therefore, whenever God speaks to the Hebrews in the Old Testament, it is the incarnate Christ. When God creates man in His own image, it is in the image of the incarnate Christ, the perfect man. I am not advocating the Mormon position, that God is a man who evolved to deity. What I'm saying is that Jesus, in Heaven, is both God and a flesh and blood man, who became man in the incarnation, and transcended space and time in the ascension.

This is an interesting take on the issue, and you're right, it actually does pull the rug out from under the Mormon's interpretation of some Church Fathers.  Sort of like movies where people in time machines meet themselves.

It is not, however, without its problems.  For instance, it could also be used to bolster the argument for the Immaculate Conception as a foretaste of the Redemption, and bring into question the whole idea "Why didn't God save us immediately after the Fall?"

Quote
Therefore, whenever God speaks to the Hebrews in the Old Testament, it is the incarnate Christ.

Correction, Acolyte. It is the pre-incarnate Word of God who speaks in the OT. Christ, the Word of God, and second person of the Holy Trinity became incarnate (i.e. took on human flesh and appearance) at the Annunciation. Any manifestation of God the Son and Word was a prefiguration, a "type and shadow" of the incarnate, fully revealed, visible God-Man who was to come.

Again, if Christ transcended space and time, at no point has He not been incarnate. There are Orthodox authors who testify to this. Any time when God is spoken of anthropomorphically in the Old Testament, it is the incarnate Christ.

Can you cite said authors?

Just wanted to recommend a book on this subject... 

Jesus the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible by Father Eugen Pentiuc.  Father Christos and I took Father Pentiuc's accompanying class at HCHC.  It was a wonderful class.  I highly recommend the book!!!

In Christ,
Presbytera Mari

Another is "Christ in the Psalms" by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon.

Again, if Christ transcended space and time, at no point has He not been incarnate. There are Orthodox authors who testify to this. Any time when God is spoken of anthropomorphically in the Old Testament, it is the incarnate Christ.

If Christ is eternally incarnate, as in having been incarnate (having a material, human body and nature, as well as being fully God) "in the beginning", then where does the Annunciation fit in? Did the Word of God become flesh twice? Or more than twice? And whose flesh did He take on before the events of the Annunciation? Or was this "old" flesh discarded when He became incarnate by the Virgin?

This is a mighty theological pickle you're getting yourself into, my friend. You may be confusing the prefigurative OT appearances of God the Word (the three strangers at the Oak of Mamre, the angel of God who wrestled with Jacob, etc etc) with the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, which is an entirely different proposition to the types and shadows of the OT.

And herein lies the problem with the OP's solution: the Three Angels have always been seen as the image of the Trinity, and Two Persons, the Father and the Spirit, have never (and I would assume will never) become Incarnate.  The Spirit did not become True God and True Dove at the Theophany on the Jordan, nor did the Father use vocal cords to speak.  Since we know that being the case, why do we need to assume that the Son/Logos did not similarly appear in the OT?  For one thing, God knew what the Risen Jesus would be, and could easily make man in that Image by his foreknowledge.

Another problem you are going to run into is the Prologue (or as our priest calls it "the Overture") of St. John: the verb tense changes when the Incarnation is involved.  He was being God, but He became man.

Again, whose authority are you citing?
The curse of the cascading quotes ....  Wink  To whom is your question directed, PtA?
To Acolyte, whose name is on the outermost quote in the post to which you just referred.  Sorry to confuse you like that. Embarrassed

What about the confusion of the cascading Incarnations. Shocked

What is it about transcending space and time that one cannot understand? You are thinking about this too linearly, something which God is above and beyond.

Most of us do not understand Physics (well, I do and I'm not most people on this forum), especially the theory of relativity.  Why are you taking Christ and imposing a time/space intractable problem on His Worship?   Huh

Why are you making these points?   Huh

I making these points for you to understand Scripture. What does it mean to be created in God's image? To be created in the image of the incarnate Christ. Why is God spoken of anthropomorphically in the Old Testament? It's speaking of the incarnate Christ. How is Jesus the first-born of all Creation? Since ascending into Heaven, He's always been a man. Just because you don't understand it, that doesn't mean what I'm saying isn't true. Jesus, in His ascension, surpassed all physical limitations and all restrictions of time. How is that possible? He's God.

This is beginning to remind me of a Dr. Who episode, when they land on the ship whose explosion was the Big Bang.   Or the one where a ship explosion jump startes evolution on earth, and the one who causes it is thrown into time, where he goes on to become Leonardo Da Vinci, Alexander the Great, etc. to propel humanity's progress to the point when he can make a time machine to go back and stop himself from mistake that blew up the ship.

How can God, who is Other, infinite, incomprehensible, unknowable in His fullness to our own feeble and puny little human minds, be described or talked about, other than in the limited, human languages we have? Anthropomorphic terms are woefully inadequate, but that's the best we've got. This is but one of many liturgical passages illustrating this human inadequacy:

Ikos 9 from the Akathist to the Mother of God:

We behold the most eloquent orators mute as fish before you, O Theotokos; for they are at a loss to explain how you could remain a virgin and yet give birth. But as for us, marvelling at this mystery, we cry with faith:

God the Son and Word, Himself infinite and unknowable "in the beginning", fully revealed Himself to us when He became incarnate at a fixed point in history, and "dwelled among us". He even gave three of His disciples a brief glimpse of His divine glory at His Transfiguration.

The Word is indeed begotten of the Father before all ages, but this in no way means that he took flesh before the ages. Show us a troparion, kontakion, stikheron, apostikhon, Theotokion or any liturgical material from any menaion, triodion, okhtoik or other Orthodox liturgical reference which states or teaches this. Why do I raise the matter of liturgical texts? Because they represent the consensus patrum, the distillation of scripture and patristic writings and Traditions which the Church teaches in all places and at all times. Different Fathers may hold a variety of views on any given matter, as they are not themselves infallible.

Allow me to ask you this, Acolyte: Did the Archangel Gabriel become incarnate when he visited Zachariah in the temple? Or when he visited the Mother of God at the Annunciation?

I'm having a time trying to find out how this would be different from the view that Christ brought His Body from Heaven, a view the Fathers very much condemned.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2008, 10:01:11 AM by ialmisry » Logged

Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth
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Lord, have mercy on the Christians in Mosul!


« Reply #33 on: October 13, 2008, 03:53:40 PM »

Or the one where a ship explosion jump startes evolution on earth, and the one who causes it is thrown into time, where he goes on to become Leonardo Da Vinci, Alexander the Great, etc. to propel humanity's progress to the point when he can make a time machine to go back and stop himself from mistake that blew up the ship.
"City of Death" (1979), starring Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, and Julian Glover (who would also play some villainous roles in Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)

Correction:  Glover's character in "City of Death" did not become Leanardo da Vinci; rather, he commissioned Da Vinci to secretly paint another six copies of the Mona Lisa so he could pawn them off as originals several centuries later.  (The Doctor secretly wrote with a felt pen on the backs of the canvases for the extra paintings, "THIS IS A FAKE" and told Da Vinci to paint over the writing.)  This episode shows Tom Baker at his comedic best--truly one of the funniest and best of the classic Doctor Who episodes.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...
« Last Edit: October 13, 2008, 03:54:12 PM by PeterTheAleut » Logged
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