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Author Topic: The Term Ousia in the Nicene Creed  (Read 4146 times) Average Rating: 0
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EkhristosAnesti
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« on: August 06, 2006, 01:00:55 AM »

I'm curious to know what people's opinions are as to the precise manner in which the term ousia was employed in the Nicene Creed. There are three instances where the term is found:

1) "only-begotten, that is, from the essence of the father (ek tis ousias to patros)..."

2) "of the same essence as the Father (homoousios to patri)..."

3) "But those who say....'He is of another substance (hypostasis) or essence (ousias)'...they are condemned by the Catholic and Apostolic Church"

Instance number 1) seems to contradict an interpretation of ousia that deems it the generic divine "stuff" which makes God Who He is--God, for St. Athanasius makes it clear in his post-Nicean writings that the The Son's being is grounded in the individual subsistence of the Father, and not that "stuff" that defines the Father's existence as Divine.

On the other hand, instance number two surely contradicts an understanding of ousia as individual subsistence, since that would imply the doctrine of modalism, whereby the individual subsistence of the Father is identified with the individual subsistence of the Son, thereby deeming the Father and Son to be the same one individual subsistence.

The third instance is tricky, for it opens a new can of worms with its introduction of the term hypostasis and its apparent equation of the term with ousia.

Although I have, in consultation with various scholars, figured out my own resolution to this problem, I thought I would see what others on this site have to say first.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2006, 01:03:30 AM by EkhristosAnesti » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2006, 01:48:41 AM »

Quote
The third instance is tricky, for it opens a new can of worms with its introduction of the term hypostasis and its apparent equation of the term with ousia.

Only if one misunderstands hypostasis as meaning 'substance' in an elemental sense rather than its literal meaning of under-footing, foundation, or basis (sub-stance or sometimes called sub-sistence).

As to όυσια, I will await our two or three classical experts first because volumes have been written on the various meanings of that word dependent on context, dialect, and period or era of use. (Meaning I'm interested in others thoughts)
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EkhristosAnesti
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« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2006, 02:02:49 AM »

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Only if one misunderstands hypostasis as meaning 'substance' in an elemental sense rather than its literal meaning of under-footing, foundation, or basis (sub-stance or sometimes called sub-sistence).

But to say that such is a misunderstanding of the term hypostasis kind of begs the question in light of the Creed's implicit equation of the term with the term ousia in the appended anathema, doesn't it?

I understand what your saying with respect to the "literal" meaning of hypostasis (i.e. considering the term on strictly etymological grounds), but according to the manner in which the term has been historically applied, it seems to have been just as fluid in meaning in its original Greek (putting aside Latin/English translations) as ousia itself. According to Lampe's Patristic Greek Lexicon, the term hypostasis has indeed, in certain contexts, denoted the basic "stuff" out of which a thing is made.
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« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2006, 02:15:41 AM »

But to say that such is a misunderstanding of the term hypostasis kind of begs the question in light of the Creed's implicit equation of the term with the term ousia in the appended anathema, doesn't it?

I do not disagree with you really here. Note I begged off the όυσια discussion (for the tiime being).
Quote
I understand what your saying with respect to the "literal" meaning of hypostasis (i.e. considering the term on strictly etymological grounds), but according to the manner in which the term has been historically applied, it seems to have been just as fluid in meaning in its original Greek (putting aside Latin/English translations) as ousia itself. According to Lampe's Patristic Greek Lexicon, the term hypostasis has indeed, in certain contexts, denoted the basic "stuff" out of which a thing is made.

Yeah, I used to use Lampe too. And perhaps he is correct in 'certain contexts", but I don't think those apply here. I read the literal in this case.

I know, I know...clear as mud.
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« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2006, 05:54:09 AM »

Bump.
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« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2006, 06:41:39 AM »

No one wants to play with me huh?
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« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2006, 08:43:40 PM »

3) "But those who say....'He is of another substance (hypostasis) or essence (ousias)'...they are condemned by the Catholic and Apostolic Church"

I think the erroneous assumption has been made that the words "another hypostasis or ousia" refer to "another hypostasis or ousia other than the Father's". This assumption seems to have be made by modern non-Orthodox theologians such as Msgnr. Phillip Hughes in his book "The Church in Crisis", and Msgr. Hughes original error was, I believe, carried on by others such as Dr. Paul Halsall, and it is also the way the sentance is translated on the online translation in the ccel (which even goes so far as to add the words "from the Father" which are non-existent in the original).

However, if we look at the wording of the anathema, and structure the sentance the way I believe it was meant to be read, it becomes apparent that the intention is not to say that hypostasis and ousia mean the same thing, nor does it refer to the hypostasis or ousia of the Father, but rather, it is referring to the fact that Christ's hypostasis (Person) and ousia (Being/Essence) have never changed, nor were they ever different in Time or Eternity.
The full wording of the anathema structured as I mentioned is:

And those who say:
   1. "there once was when He was not", and "before He was begotten He was not",
      and that
   2. "He came to be from
          * things that were not", or
          * "from another hypostasis or ousias", affirming that the Son of God is subject to change or alteration;
these the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematises.

Note the words in bold. Point #1 in the anathema condemns those who deny the Eternal Begottenness of the Son, and point #2 continues this by condemning those who say the Son is a creature created from "things that were not", and adds a condemnation of the teaching that the Son's hypostasis or ousia, even if uncreated, were somehow altered by the Incarnation. The text in bold clearly seems to indicate to me that what is being condemned is the false teaching that Christ's hypostasis and/or ousia underwent alteration. It is talking about the false teaching of "a different hypostasis or ousia of the Son in time" (i.e. that the Hypostasis and/or ousia of the Pre-Incarnate Christ is different to the hypostasis and/or ousia of the Incarnate Christ). It is not talking about a distinction between the hypostases and ousias of the Father and the Son, which seems to me to be a later Latin misunderstanding of the meaning of the text.
The anathema is condemning those who teach either that:
1. The Hypostasis and/or Ousia of the Second Person of the Trinity was created,
and/or
2. The Hypostasis and/or Ousia of the Second Person of the Trinity are different after the Incarnation to what they were prior to the Incarnation.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2006, 05:51:09 AM by ozgeorge » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2006, 07:17:47 AM »

Have I perhaps misunderstood what you are asking EA?
Do you not read the anathema as meaning "another hypostasis or ousias other than the Father's"?
« Last Edit: August 16, 2006, 07:21:04 AM by ozgeorge » Logged

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