To me, arguing over the different words has never been useful, as different traditions use the words differently.
But the question is why
are the words understood differently, most Assyrians I know would like the other churches to take this into consideration. It is possible to do this without arguing, but it requires what Prof. Brock did, putting aside all pre-conceived notions and listening to the ACE explain their beliefs in the own words and their own terminology, while continually asking "what do you mean/please clarify?" and so on.
What is useful is seeing what a Church actually believes. One gets a better idea as to what a Church really believes by seeing what a Church is willing to say about the Incarnate Word of God.
I agree but it doesn't explain why
they believe what they state, it doesn't tell us what factors contributed to their conclusions. Nestorius and Theodore's writings fit in somewhere for sure, but does that necessarily mean that their writings made the greatest contribution? From the impression I get from my friends, no, when they explain their Christological beliefs to me, they don't quote Nestorius or Theodore, they quote the Peshitta.
Both the OO's and EO's will say that One of the Trinity suffered in the flesh. The Church of the East won't say that. I think they prefer to say that One of the Trinity became man, and that the man suffered. There is the same issue with calling the Virgin Mary "Mother of God." The OO's and EO's have no problem with saying that the Word of God was born of the Virgin Mary, and that she is therefore truly the Mother of God. The Church of the East prefers (if I understand them correctly) to say that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, and that she is the Mother of Christ.
Yes, but there is much more to this, the issue runs deep into their cultural mindset, which is very different from the Greek cultural mindset, but is very similar to the Jewish cultural mindset. The imagery associated with divinity and humanity in ancient Hebraic thought is very different to those which are associated in Greek thought. I'm not a qualified theologian or a professor of linguistics, but from what I have learnt about the ACE's theology concerning the Godhead and the Incarnation, I've seen that it has very little in common with Greek philosophy but tons in common with Jewish mystism.
It may sound like a small difference in language, but it is more than that. The issue comes down to how much separation we believe there is between Christ's divinity and humanity. Thus even though our Churches all use language differently, it can be said that the OO's and EO's believe basically the same thing about Christ, but the Church of the East is different.
Yes the Church of the East is different, but does different always mean wrong, or does different sometimes just mean different? I don't think the issue is separation but rather distinction. Yes the Assyrians go to great lengths to distinguish between what's human and what is divine, and everything associated with those two concepts. But what you may not know is that this same mentality of distinguishing humanity and divinty which borders on, and often crosses over into, paranoia, is found among Jews as well. This leads me to believe that the majority of the early Christians east of the Eurphrates were converts from Judaism. And there's a book about this too, which is worth a read: Nestorians or the Lost Tribes?
I must add that evidently the Assyrians never correctly understood the extent of Nestorius' errors (and most of them still don't),
I don't think you give the Assyrians enough credit. I think they will tell you they understand him better than we do, as he is a saint in their Church. Their Church's Christology is Theodorean. Nestorius was a Theodorean. Babai the Great relied on the writings of Theodore in formulating his Christology. Their language today may be more subtle than it was during the time of Nestorius, but their Christology is the same.
Their theological terminology today is the same as it was even before Nestorius, Prof. Brock has made it clear that it was the SOC who changed their terminology while the ACE never changed theirs.
Leaving aside qnuma for a moment, what is your opinion on the ACE's Christology?
I don't really have a solid judgment one way or another. But a lot of what I hear about the Christology of the ACE sounds like it has not been properly protected from the Christology of Theodore of Mopsuestia.
I haven't studied Theodore or Nestorius' writings in depth, I will but I want deal with the ACE's actual Aramaic terminology first, only then (I think) will I be able to determine why the ACE regards their writings as Orthodox. Misunderstanding on their part perhaps? I don't know, I'll deal with it when I get there.
It seems like they have a highly different understanding of what a person or self is in general.
Yes indeed they do.
For example, one expert of Syriac claimed that a differentiation in qnome isn't even enough to establish a differentiation in person.
I'm not sure if I'm understanding this. Do you have a quote handy or can you elaborate?
In both Greek and English this is not understood to be the same case. The three hypostases of the Trinity are understood to each be their own prosopon. In English, if we think of each of the three as individuated instances of the one divinity, we also understand each of these individuations to be individually personal. As such, I have often seen ACE Syriac speakers speak of three qnome in the Trinity, but not willing to admit that there are three parsopa, using that term only in reference to the oneness of Jesus Christ.
Here's the thing, in Hebraic thought (which the ACE seem to have inherited) to describe the Godhead as consisting of "persons" or that the 3 Qnume of YHWH are "distinct personalities" is to turn the Godhead into 3 different gods! I'm dead serious, tell an Orthodox Jew that you believe in "3 persons in 1 God" and he will interpret that to mean that you believe in 3 gods, whether he tells you that to your face or not. I'm sorry, but while it's possible to do this in English or Greek without being idolatrous it's not possible in Hebrew or Aramaic, that is the truth. This is why Rony said "it's okay in English but not in Aramaic". Actually if you search the Hebrew Tanakh you will find no Hebrew cognate for prosopon, the closest word you'll find is panim
which means "face" (if I'm correct this is the basic meaning of prosopon). Tell a Rabbi that Elohim has "3 panim" and he'll probably go balistic! This is why the ACE (and Nazarenes) can't apply parsopa to the Trinity, for us that means we are commiting idolatry, that's just the way it is. For us parsopa can only ever be associated with the material realm (as Rony already explained), never with spiritual realm otherwise YHWH Elohim becomes just another false god like Zeus created in the image of man.
But just because YHWH is not a "person" or the 3 Qnume are not "persons" it does not mean that they are impersonal. Paul Younan once explained this quite well on his forum in response to Malankara Syrian Orthodox Christian:
If God is not a person, does that mean He is impersonal?
God is God, we are persons. In Aramaic, the word "person" is attributed to a human nature. Human beings are persons. (We don't speak of individual dogs, cats or pet goldfish in a bowl as "persons", either.)
I'm not sure what you mean by "impersonal"? "Impersonal" as an adjective could describe an entity that isn't alive, does not feel emotions, is unknowable, lacks the ability to communicate or lacks "personality." Kind of like a dead or inanimate object, like a rock.
God lives, God is and God is knowable. God loves. God creates. God heals. God speaks. God saves.
We can certainly observe things within God's Nature, certain aspects of His Being that are familiar to our human experience. Certainly, we are created in His Image, so we might expect that we have certain things in our individual person that reflect certain aspects of our Creator. Is that what you mean by "personal?"
I do not think of God as a "person" or "three persons", but if I were forced to assign a label in English I would utilize a word like Being - that is the essence of the name YHWH in Hebrew.
Quote from: http://www.peshitta.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1715&p=10415#p10415
See the differences are linguistic and cultural.
This is my major problem with the way the ACE phrases their Christology, is that there is seemingly no identification of the Man Jesus with God the Word. There is no level at which they are one. They are two distinct kyana and two distinct qnome, only sharing on parsopa, leaving no identification. It seems the EO and OO are capable of doing this when speaking of one theanthropic hypostasis. But I'm left not seeing any solid evidence that they do not adhere to the Christology of Theodore of Mopsuestia. Perhaps if they were willing to admit that each of the three qnome of the Trinity possesses its own parsopa, and that the parsopa of Christ is the same parsopa as that eternally possessed by the qnome of the Word I would be more willing to consider that maybe they are orthodox.
Can you give me a more thorough explanation on Orthodox Churche's definition of the Incarantion - that being when St. John wrote that the Logos "became flesh", what exactly do you mean by that? I'd rather read an explanation by an Orthodox Christian before I attempt to answer this.
Qnuma, to me, is similar to the Arabic word "Shaqes".
Well I can understand why that is, but Prof. Brock has already documented that the SOC definition of qnuma evolved but the ACE's has retained the original meaning, and the SOC representitives who were present at that particular dialogue acknowledged this fact. In any case, what matters is that the ACE's definition of qnuma is not the same as the SOC's.
Anyway, as a layperson and a Syriac Christian I would urge all (esp. our our clergy who are the leaders of their respective congregations) to find common ground and ways to unite as opposed to finding differences.
I agree with you here, and I do believe that common ground can be found. But where differences are concerned, I'm afraid I don't think they can be ignored in this case, but common ground can be found by understanding
the differences. The RCC and the ACE have already acheived this.
I can tell you that lay people mostly don't understand the subtlety of the language that caused the Schism between the Syriac Churches (and orthodoxy as well). As evidenced here, even some very theologically thoughtful people find it difficult to grasp. Chalcedon was a very destructive event for the Syriac church as it caused its division into 3 branches.
Yes that is so true.
The intriguing thing about it all is that Arabic-speaking Christians of whatever faction use the Arabic cognate of qnoma/qnomo to refer to hypostasis, Arabic Uqnoum: as we say, Ilaahun waahidun fee thalaathati aqaaneem, 'one God in three Hypostases'. Our word for person, shakhs, is distinct from this and used when referring to the two natures ('nature' being tabee`a), and so we say tabee`atayn fee shakhsis-Say'yid il-Maseeh, 'two natures in the Person of the Master Christ'. The Arabic cognate of kyaana could be kaa'in, kayaan, kaynouna, etc., generally conveying being, entity, or one's self (i.e. nature in Aramaic?) as the general meaning. We would speak of one Kaa'in (being) fee thalaathati aqaneem, in three Hypostases, and of tabee`atayn, two natures, fee shakhsil-Maseeh, in the Person of Christ.
Interesting. Any idea how qnuma entered the Arabic language? I'm only asking because according to Brock and other Aramaic experts, there no cognate for qnuma in any language, not even Hebrew which is closer to Aramaic than Arabic. The original meaning of qnuma, which Brock states the ACE has retained, is similar to hypostasis but not an exact match. If Brock is correct then uqnoum would be a loan word from Aramaic much like parsopa is a loan word from Greek, but not all the imagery within qnuma was retained. Still I'm interested in any info you can give me.