Logos Christology

The stage for both the later trinitarian controversy and the christological controversies, in which the doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation were forged and given creedal form, was set by the early Greek Apologists of the second century, such as Justin Martyr, Tatian, Theophilus and Athenagoras. Connecting the divine Word (Logos) of the prologue of John's Gospel (Jn 1:1—5) with the divine Logos (Reason) as it played a role in the system of the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 B.c.-c. a.d. 50), the Apologists sought to explain Christian doctrine in Philonic categories. For good or ill, their appropriation of Hellenistic thought is one of the most striking examples of the profound and enduring influence of philosophy on Christian theology. For Philo, the Logos was God's reason, which is the creative principle behind the creation of the world and which, in turn, informs the world with its rational structure. Similarly, for the Christian Apologists, God the Father, existing alone without the world, had within himself his Word or Reason or Wisdom (cf. Prov 8:22—31), which somehow proceeded forth from him, like a spoken word from a speaker's mind, to become a distinct individual who created the world and ultimately became incarnate as Jesus Christ. The procession of the Logos from the Father was variously conceived as taking place either at the moment of creation or, alternatively, eternally. Although christological concerns occupied center stage, the Holy Spirit too might be understood to proceed from God the Father's mind. Here is how Athenagoras describes it:

The Son of God is the Word of the Father in Ideal Form and energizing power; for in his likeness and through him all things came into existence, which presupposes that the Father and the Son are one. Now since the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son by a powerful unity of Spirit, the Son of God is the mind and reason of the Father He is the first begotten of the Father. The term is used not because he came into existence (for God, who is eternal mind, had in himself his word or reason from the beginning, since he was eternally rational) but because he came forth to serve as Ideal Form and Energizing Power for everything material The... Holy Spirit... we regard as an effluence of God which flows forth from him and returns like a ray of the sun. (A Plea for the Christians, 10)

According to this doctrine, then, there is one God, but he is not an undiflEr-entiated unity. Rather, certain aspects of his mind become expressed as distinct individuals. The Logos doctrine of the Apologists thus involves a fundamental reinterpretation of the fatherhood of God: God is not merely the Father of mankind or even, especially, of Jesus of Nazareth; rather, he is the Father from whom the Logos is begotten before all worlds. Christ is not merely the only-begotten Son of God in virtue of his Incarnation; rather, he is begotten of the Father even in his preincarnate divinity.

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