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'Hypostasis' and 'prosopon'


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#1 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 11:20 PM

Could someone please explain the difference between hypostasis and prosopon.

If possible how would this difference be described in terms of a human being?

This applies to Christology but I thought it would be helpful to start with this.

I'm really painting with rough strokes here but I thought that prosopon was an early term for 'person'; except that it didn't involve a proper concrete understanding of person so that hypostasis was used to correct this. I may be wrong in the definitions but I seem to recall the main idea being of hypostasis replacing prosopon.

Now however in an article on Christology I am reading there is reference to a clear difference between the two. But I'm not really catching what the difference consists of.

Thanks for any help.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#2 Kris

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 11:43 PM

Your blessing Father,

I believe prosopon literally means "face" or something of a similar nature (hence its use by the Sabellians), whereas hypostasis is related to substantive existance.

Anyone know if that's along the right lines?

In XC,
Kris

#3 Peter Farrington

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 11:51 PM

Hypostasis and Prosopon have had different meanings at different times and in different contexts. There is not 'one' meaning I'm afraid, though there is probably one meaning used in modern EOxy.

In my own tradition, which is rooted in St Cyril of course, hypostasis stands for an individual, a particular instance, and so we speak of 'one incarnate nature or hypostasis of the Word' meaning that the individual who is the Word of God is now incarnate.

In the case of humans each hypostasis or instance of the human nature has its own prosopon or person. It is this person who owns his own hypostasis or particular instance of what is general in nature. Of course a person cannot exist without a hypostasis, which is a particular instance of a nature.

Except, in my own tradition from St Cyril, in the case of the incarnate Word, for in Him the humanity is real, that is hypostatic, but it belongs to the Word and does not have its own human person attached to it. It is truly the prosopon or person of the Word who is this real human while remaining what He was.

The humanity is hypostatic, in our terms, that is it is a real instance of the human nature, but it is not an individual hypostasis with its own person. The person of the humanity is the Word.

Now I believe that some of the EO have tended to make hypostasis a synonym for prosopon, but in the OO tradition from St Cyril it is not quite synonymous. It stands for a real instance of a nature but does not necessarily stand for the presence of a new prosopon for that particular instance. The person or prosopon is the one who owns the hypostasis.

Just to be more complete, in the OO tradition, again rooted in pre-Chalcedonian thought, physis stands for both ousia and hypostasis, though it does not normally stand for prosopon. When we say that Christ is 'of two natures' we take this to mean that a union has been made of two realities, two particular natures, a real humanity and a real Divinity. Indeed this is still, as far as I have understood also the language use of the Assyrians, and it is clear that it was the language use of many/most Chalcedonians.

So when the phrase 'in two natures' was used by Diodore and Theodore, and then at Chalcedon, it was easy to confuse what was being meant, since the phrase was exactly the same. Diodore and Theodore meant that Christ remains in two hypostases, which means two individuals. Chalcedon seems to have meant something different.

When St Cyril and all the OO after him speak of 'one incarnate nature' they also mean 'one hypostasis or individual who has become incarnate'. This is clearly shown by the use of the phrase in the form 'one incarnate nature OR hypostasis of the Word'.

So the OO have a term we use for the general - ousia. We have two terms we use for the particular - physis and hypostasis; and we have a term for the person who owns the hypostasis - prosopon.

I would also be interested in present EO use since I have not clearly understood what term the EO use for a particular instance of an ousia which has not yet had a person associated with it - since this is what the humanity is in Christ.

I can see that you use ousia and physis as synonymous. And that you use hypostasis and prosopon as synonymous. But I am confused as to what you would call the humanity of Christ? It certainly does not have a human prosopon but you do not seem to have a term which allows you to describe a human individual without a human person?

Severus of Antioch answered this question very comprehensively as far as I am concerned, and was essentially followed by Leontius later on. I wish they could have sat down together, their positions are extremely close. It is well known know that the idea of enhypostasis was a misreading in the 19th century by Loofs I think, and this is rejected by modern scholars. But he did seem to have the same idea as Severus, which is that it is possible for a particular instance to be in two states, one without a prosopon of its own ousia, and more normally one with. This he also speaks of the humanity as being hypostatic - which means a real instance - without being an hypostasis. This is what enhypostasis means - as far as all the modern scholars seem to say.

When we speak of one nature we do not mean one ousia, when you speak of two natures you do not mean two hypostases. This is the main confusion. Otherwise hypostasis means an instance of an ousia and prosopon means the person who owns that collection of attributes which define the individual.

I have thought of the following continuum, which I am not convinced is true but which I think is.

We can speak of:

i. Men stand at bus stops (meaning the generality or ousia). We could say men have two legs as well. We mean the general.

ii. There is a man at the bus stop (I would use the term physis. I am speaking about an individual but I have not defined anything about him)

iii. There is that man at the bus stop. The one with a funny hair cut. (I would use the term hypostasis, it is describing something about the particular attributes which mark this individual out from others).

iv. There is John at the bus stop. (I would use the term prosopon because I am referring to the owner of the hypostasis).

So again for the OO when we speak of one we mean at the level of individuality. There is one individual in Christ not two. We never mean ousia. We are clear that Christ is of two ousia, eternally uniting them in Himself, not in a static, bolted together way, but in a dynamic, lived out unity of being without confusion but without division.

I will be very interested to see the answers you get from EO folk.

Best wishes

Peter

#4 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 08:25 AM

Dear friends,

Just a note that this thread will not be used to discuss varying views on the terms hypostasis and prosopon in modern day churches (e.g. EO/OO). There are varying readings within all traditions historically, and it is these that are the focus of discussion here.

Just a prod so that we keep to the focus.

INXC, Matthew

#5 John Charmley

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 10:48 AM

Could someone please explain the difference between hypostasis and prosopon.
In Christ- Fr Raphael


Dear Father Raphael,

I liked Peter's clarity, and on a website where one M.C. Steenberg is to be found, saying anything on this runs the risk of being thought to be trying to teach one's moderator to suck eggs, but a few contributions via my study of St. Cyril might not be out of place, I hope.

From St. Cyril's Second Letter to Nestorius

We do not say that the nature of the Word was changed and became flesh, not that he was transformed into a perfect man of soul and body. We say, rather, that the Word, in an ineffable and incomprehensible manner, ineffably united to himself flesh animated with a rational soul, and thus became man and was called the Son of Man.


The God-guided Cyril went on to write:

For this reason, even though he existed and was begotten of the Father from before all ages, he is also said to have been begotten of a woman according to the flesh. This does not mean that his divine natire received the beginning of its existence in the holy virgin or that it necessarily needed a second generation for its own sake after its generation from the Father. It is completely foolish and stupid to say that he who existed before all ages and is coeternal with the Father stood in need of a second beginning of existence.

Nonetheless, because the Word hypostatically united human reality to himself, 'for us and for our salvation', and came forth of a woman, this is why he is said to have been begotten in a fleshly manner. The Word sis not subsequently descend upon an ordinary man previously born of the holy virgin, but is made one from his mother's womb, and is thus said to have undergone a fleshly birth in so far as he appropriated to himself the birth of his own flesh.


This thought lay at the heart of St. Cyril's Christology because it was at the centre of his soteriology. As he writes in On the Unity of Christ

As I have said, if the Word has not become flesh then neither has the dominion of death been overthrown, and in no way has sin been abolished, and we are still held captive in the ransgressions of the first man, Adam, deprived of any return to a better condition; a return which I would say has been gained by Christ the Saviour of us all.


This last was put most pithily by St. Gregory of Nazanianus: That which is unassumed is unhealed.'

St. Cyril used the word 'hypostasis' to try to explain how 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us'. He acknowledged, as we all must, that there is an ineffable mystery here which words cannot capture, but his concern was to ensure that the attempt to do so ensured that the Incarnate Word's full humanity was recognised, but recognised in a way that did not leave him open to an allegation of Appolinarianism - hence the jibe at adoptionism in the letter to Nestorius.

Hence, for Cyril, originally, 'hypostasis' was a way of explaining how the two natures of the Incarnation 'prosopa' became one. They were united by a hypostatic union by appropriation, that is a union of natures at the level of hypostasis or subsistent reality. This allowed St. Cyril to refute the allegation often aimed at the so-called Alexandrian school that it taught a mingling of the two natures.

Of course, as we know, even St. Cyril used the terms loosely, and this allowed for much controversy. But to go there might cause some, so I shall confine this to a few contributions from the seal of the Fathers.

In Christ,

John

#6 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 10:53 AM

I liked Peter's clarity, and on a website where one M.C. Steenberg is to be found, saying anything on this runs the risk of being thought to be trying to teach one's moderator to suck eggs, but a few contributions via my study of St. Cyril might not be out of place, I hope.


Nonsense, I have it on good authority he's thick as a brick.

Many thanks for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

INXC, Matthew

#7 John Charmley

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 12:29 PM

Nonsense, I have it on good authority he's thick as a brick.

Many thanks for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

INXC, Matthew


Would that be an Orthodox authority?

Must have been another prosopon who wrote that stuff in the Christological study area!

INXC,

John

#8 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 02:28 PM

Thanks so much for these posts which help to clear up, at least as far as I can understand this, the distinction between prosopon and hypostasis.

At least as far as our tradition goes I will follow what Fr Georges Florovsky has written for the sake of clarity:

The Classical Languages' Lack of Terminology for the Mystery of Personal Being.
A dangerous ambiguity remained in the formulation "three persons," in both Latin and Greek, for the Easterners and even partially for St. Basil the Great. The classical world did not know the mystery of personal being and in the classical languages there was no word which exactly designated individual personality. The Greek προσωπον meant mask rather than person and, moreover, it was tainted through its association with Sabellianism. Therefore, St. Basil the Great considered that it was inadequate and dangerous to speak of “three persons” and not of “three hypostases." "Person" was too weak, as was also the Latin persona.
Around 370 St. Jerome came under suspicion in Antioch for his refusal to confess "three hypostases." He avoided the new term of "three substances" and confessed instead one substance and three persons. Only after the work of St. Gregory the Theologian, who identified the concepts of hypostasis and person, and after the Second Ecumenical Council was an agreement finally reached between the East and West about theological terminology.


This is a very standard interpretation which I sense has a bit of a modern twist- mainly when it comes to "the mystery of personal being" which I am less and less convinced was the preoccupation of the Holy Frs. Not that this was not somehow involved or resulting from their theological efforts. But I do not believe in the Patristic discussion /debate about hypostasis and prosopon such modern preoccupations with what person means was uppermost in their minds.
But not that it has no place in our own discussion; I think it does. But it is important to understand what was the focus of the Patristic attempt in all of this.

I do take the point though that hypostasis has a history in our church which refers to individual reality and of how this can encompass different natures.

Within this history it seems that prosopon largely fell out of use. Was this simply due to the choice of the word hypostasis to describe what was meant by person? Or was it partially also in reaction to other uses of prosopon in the Christological debate?

In any case going back to the reading which caused my original question. I can see now that what caused my confusion was the use of the word prosopon within the Antiochene tradition which I was unfamiliar with. The above posts helped clarify this for which many thanks.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#9 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 03:38 PM

Something I want to add to these comments & this comes from reading the Holy Frs a little more intensively in the past few months.

Often the interpretations of the writings of the Holy Frs are considerably more systematized than the actual writings of the Frs themselves. Maybe this is in the nature of any commentary since it tries to find order and a coherent message in what it reads. Just in order to get the basic point of what a Father may have written one will tend to systematize what one reads.

I think though that we have to be careful here for the writings of the Frs are usually far from systematic- they do make a point- but usually this is found amidst vocabulary and ideas which are far from systematic.

The ways is which hypostasis, prosopon, nature, & essence are used for example even by each individual Father shows this. So I think we need to keep in mind that our presentation should be an attempt in accord with Church tradition to present a coherent account while allowing for some of the unfinished (by our standards) edges. Recognizing this even helps us keep in mind that our coherent presentation is still not complete and perhaps never can be- unless it replicates in spirit the many faceted manner in which the Frs actually express themselves. Which is just to say that the commentaries are useful; but the real commentaries on theologians are only from theologians in the Orthodox sense of praying and deified saints who perceive the Reality of the Kingdom of which they write.

Forgetting this leads us inevitably to slipping from a discussion on the intent of the Frs to us arguing over our own systematic versions of theology. Probably of some use even then- but potentially wrong if we forget what we are doing and even ultimately absurd, like knights jousting for the sake of the game itself or for their own honour when they are convinced it is for their Lady.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#10 John Charmley

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 03:41 PM

Thanks so much for these posts which help to clear up, at least as far as I can understand this, the distinction between prosopon and hypostasis.
In Christ- Fr Raphael


Dear Father Raphael,
St. Cyril tended to use hypostasis as synonymous with physis, and they both referred to a real personal subjectivity, which was the Icarnate Word. He writes in his Defence of the Anathemas against the Orientals:

There is only one nature (physis) of the Word or hypostasis, if you like, and that is the Word himself.


He also used it as a synonym for prosopon (although it was a word he disliked) as in this passage from the Third Letter to Nestorius:

This is why all the sayings in the Gospels are attributed to the one prosopon, and to the one enfleshed hypostasis of the Word.

In the same letter he writes:

We do not divide the sayings of Our Saviour, in the Gospels, as if to two hypostases or prosopa. The one and only Jesus Christ is not twofold, even though he is understood as compounded out of two different elements in an individual unity, just as man is understood as consisting of soul and body, and yet is not twofold, but is rather one from out of both.


Part of the problem of terminology was that the Antiochenes understood physis or prosopon in an Aristotelian sense as defining the natural qualities of something, so they understood St. Cyril to be saying that the Incarnation merged God and Man into a mixed divine-human construct, which would have made him, as they alleged, an Appollinarian. It was only after Ephesus that Cyril realised how he was being read. He made his real meaning plain in his letter to Eulogius:

... if we talk of a union, we confess it to be between a flesh endowed with a rational soul, and the Word, and those who speak of "two natures" understand it in that way.


For St. Cyril 'hypostatic' also denotes the manner of the union that is the Enfleshed Word - it is 'henosis kath' hypostasin'. As he writes in his thrid letter to Nestorius:

but if we reject this hypostatic union as either impossible or unfitting, then we fall into saying there are two Sons

which was, of course, precisely what he thought Nestorius was doing.

In Christ,

John

#11 Scott Pierson

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 05:02 PM

How does hypostasis, prosopon ousia or spirit, nous, etc relate to the concept of self ? What is the true "I" in man? Is it the hypostasis, the Physis, Ousia... ? Maybe the question doesnt make sense I was just wondering. Is John (name used in example a few posts above) a person an essence a prosopon .. If the prosopon owns the hypostasis (or it belongs to it) it sounds like the prosopon would be the self?

Is it possible for something that doesnt have self conciousness (or conciousness at all for that matter) to be/have a hypostasis because If the answer would be yes ,then "Person" must be a really bad translation for the word because then we would have an impersonal person. Most definitions of hypostasis I've read say nothing about conciousness and conciousness seems to be an important element in the defintion of person. I mean you dont say "that rock is a person"

#12 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 05:14 PM

Part of the problem of terminology was that the Antiochenes understood physis or prosopon in an Aristotelian sense as defining the natural qualities of something, so they understood St. Cyril to be saying that the Incarnation merged God and Man into a mixed divine-human construct, which would have made him, as they alleged, an Appollinarian. It was only after Ephesus that Cyril realised how he was being read. He made his real meaning plain in his letter to Eulogius:


For St. Cyril 'hypostatic' also denotes the manner of the union that is the Enfleshed Word - it is 'henosis kath' hypostasin'. As he writes in his thrid letter to Nestorius:

which was, of course, precisely what he thought Nestorius was doing.


I think there were a variety of expressions of the Antiochene view but here is one example from the Letter of Hiba to Mari:

Cyril wishing to overthrow the words of Nestorios, slipped and fell into the dogma of Appolinarios...for he wrote twelve chapters..teaching that there is one nature of both the divinity and the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that one must not, he says, separate the scriptural statements [ie so as to refer to one nature or the other], either those made by the Lord Himself about Himself, or those made by the Evangelist about Him.


Interestingly in reaction to the Reunion Formulary between St Cyril & John of Antioch, Ibas then writes:

St Cyril has anathematized "those who say that the divinity suffered, and those who say there is one nature of the divinity and the humanity".


Of course this is only one expression of the general Antiochene view. But it is representative of that view when Ibas implies that in Christ there cannot be one Divine/human nature without the humanity having no substantial reality or else the Divinity subject to human passion. (From the wording of the objections it seems more emphasis was placed on the latter which alerts us there was a pious concern in the Antiochene perspective to protect the dispassionate nature of the Divinity while maintaining the full humanity of the Incarnate Christ.)

Of course this also points to how physis does not admit of two substances. But I've always wondered if this perspective began with a rational category about nature or only uses this as an illustrative support for a Christological point that in Christ there cannot only be one nature if one is to accept that He is really God and man.

In any case where we begin to see the difference between prosopon and hypostasis I think is in how in the Antiochene perspective prosopon seems to be more along the lines of the expression of the Divine/human union in Christ.
While for the later Byzantine tradition hypostasis refers to the Pre-eternal Logos as the subject to Whom we must always refer within the Incarnate Christ.

I'm not speaking as any expert. But I get the sense from my reading that while the Antiochene prosopon is not necessarily in theological contradiction to hypostasis as we mean it, it lacks the focus of hypostasis which safeguards and points to what we mean by salvation.

If I have time later on I'll try to quote from an interesting meeting between some members of the Byzantine church and those from the Persian church in 562 or 563. I think it shows some of the difficulties from different meanings given the same words which arose from a different theological focus from a different church history.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#13 John Charmley

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 06:20 PM

I think there were a variety of expressions of the Antiochene view but here is one example from the Letter of Hiba to Mari:

........
I'm not speaking as any expert. But I get the sense from my reading that while the Antiochene prosopon is not necessarily in theological contradiction to hypostasis as we mean it, it lacks the focus of hypostasis which safeguards and points to what we mean by salvation.

If I have time later on I'll try to quote from an interesting meeting between some members of the Byzantine church and those from the Persian church in 562 or 563. I think it shows some of the difficulties from different meanings given the same words which arose from a different theological focus from a different church history.

In Christ- Fr Raphael


Dear Father Raphael,
I look forward to reading more about the latter.

Whilst not wishing to be thought to accept the simplicity of any notion of an Antiochene and an Alexandrian 'school', it might be permissible to state that for the 'Word/Man' Christology of Antioch, at its most extreme, in trying to avoid the heresy of Appolinarius, it fell into the adoptionist error of, say, Paul of Samosata. For the Alexandrians, in trying to avoid the heresy of adoptionism, the danger lay in teaching an impaired understanding of the humanity of Christ, as Appolinarius did.

For Cyril, Nestorius' Antiochene understanding of the Incarnation did, indeed, veer too close to the notion of 'two sons', just as, for the Antiochenes, as you quote, Cyril came too close to Appolinarius.

St. Cyril, as my last post shows, was well aware of that charge, but it was only after Ephesus that he seems to have realised that it was actually possible to misinterpret his words in this way if one took hypostasis in a way he did not. Hence his concern to emphasise, always, that the Incarnation was fully man and fully divine.

St. Cyril's frequent citing of Phil. 2: 6-8 is highly relevant here.

One of the bases of Antiochene thinking was that the Divine nature could not suffer, but St. Cyril's answer to this was was of his boldest paradoxes. As he stated in his famous letter to John of Antioch, God:

ever remains what he is and does not change or undergo alteration. Moreover, all of us confess that the Divine Word is impassible. Even if in his all-wise economy of the mystery he is seen to attribute to himself the sufferings that befall all flesh. (1 Peter 4:1) He bears the suffering of his own flesh in an economic appropriation to himself, as I have said, so that we may believe him to be the Saviour of all.


That Ibas could not see these things shows why he was eventually seen not to be Orthodox, which is why I am more comfortable resting on St. Cyril. At the risk of going anywhere near Chalcedon, it is clear that Leo's Tome was only seen as Orthodox when it was explained in Cyrilline terms.

I am unclear why it should be thought that 'physis does not admit of two substances'. St. Cyril sometimes did write about the 'two natures' or 'physeis' or 'ousiai' of the Incarnate Word, but made it plain he meant 'one nature' after the union. As he wrote in his second letter to Nestorius:

While the natures that were brought together into this true unity were different, nonethless there is One Christ and Son from out of both. This did not involve the negation of the differences of natures, rather that the Godhead and manhood by their ineffable consilience into unity achieved One Lord and Christ and Son for us.


In Christ,

John

#14 Peter Farrington

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 08:34 PM

How does hypostasis, prosopon ousia or spirit, nous, etc relate to the concept of self ? What is the true "I" in man? Is it the hypostasis, the Physis, Ousia... ? Maybe the question doesnt make sense I was just wondering. Is John (name used in example a few posts above) a person an essence a prosopon .. If the prosopon owns the hypostasis (or it belongs to it) it sounds like the prosopon would be the self?

Is it possible for something that doesnt have self conciousness (or conciousness at all for that matter) to be/have a hypostasis because If the answer would be yes ,then "Person" must be a really bad translation for the word because then we would have an impersonal person. Most definitions of hypostasis I've read say nothing about conciousness and conciousness seems to be an important element in the defintion of person. I mean you dont say "that rock is a person"


Good questions Scott. This is why I am happy with my own Tradition which understands prosopon as the person, the self, as you describe. And uses hypostasis for the human being that is owned by the person, the being that has all the distinct attributes like hair colour, size of nose etc etc, and also the rational and intelligent traits. Because remember the Word became a complete man, so if the man He became did not also have the faculty of mind and will then it would not be a complete man. So the self, the person, owns these attributes as well.

So we can say John is tall as well as John is intelligent or John is irritable. Because both the physical and rational traits belong to the self, the person, to John.

In Christ the humanity is a hypostasis that does not have a human self, but it has all the human attributes, both physical and rational. We can't actually find a time that the humanity was not personal, but by consideration we can distinguish in our minds between the humanity, a hypostasis that has no person of its own; the divine hypostasis which has its own Person of the Word; and then in the union the human hypostasis which belongs also to the Person of the Word. Of course the human hypostasis without its own person does not exist in time only as a thought in our own minds. From the moment this real and complete human hypostasis without a human person comes into existence it is 'owned' by the Word.

Also we must be clear that using hypostasis in this way must be distinguished, as you seem to have done, from using hypostasis as only a synonym for person. We cannot talk about two persons in Christ, but using hypostasis in the sense of a real instance of something that may or may not have its own person, then we can see that Christ is a real instance of Divinity and a real instance of humanity, but there is only one person, one prosopon, one self, who owns both, and who expresses Himself in both at the same time and in an inconfused union.

I appreciated your post, it was thoughtful and thought-provoking.

Best wishes

Peter

#15 Peter Farrington

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 08:46 PM

I am rather surprised that the letter of Ibas should be quoted with approbation since the Fathers of the Sixth Ecumencial Council have said of it:

In the third place the letter which is said to have been written by Ibas to Maris the Persian, was brought forward for examination, and we found that it, too, should be read. When it was read immediately its impiety was manifest to all.

I would have thought that this would preclude it being used as indicative in a positive sense of the Antiochean and Eastern Orthodox point of view. History shows that many Chalcedonians did receive the Letter of Ibas positively, including Leo of Rome, the Patriarch of Antioch, the entire North African church, and most of the Roman province. But I had expected that after Constantinople 553 the EO would have repudiated it?

Ibas completely misunderstood St Cyril's position, he interpreted St Cyril's charitable reconciliation with John of Antioch as a repudiation of Orthodoxy for his own heretical position. You are correct that he is representative, but of the Theodorean Antiochean position which was finally excluded by the EO at Constantinople.

I cannot understand how he is being presented here as a reference for the Eastern Orthodox. Is he used in such a way normally in the EO? Are there other writers I should consider who use him? If so then I would need to study them to be accurate in my paper on Ibas.

Best wishes

Peter

#16 Scott Pierson

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 11:52 PM

Good questions Scott. This is why I am happy with my own Tradition which understands prosopon as the person, the self, as you describe. And uses hypostasis for the human being that is owned by the person, the being that has all the distinct attributes like hair colour, size of nose etc etc, and also the rational and intelligent traits. Because remember the Word became a complete man, so if the man He became did not also have the faculty of mind and will then it would not be a complete man. So the self, the person, owns these attributes as well.

So we can say John is tall as well as John is intelligent or John is irritable. Because both the physical and rational traits belong to the self, the person, to John.

In Christ the humanity is a hypostasis that does not have a human self, but it has all the human attributes, both physical and rational. We can't actually find a time that the humanity was not personal, but by consideration we can distinguish in our minds between the humanity, a hypostasis that has no person of its own; the divine hypostasis which has its own Person of the Word; and then in the union the human hypostasis which belongs also to the Person of the Word. Of course the human hypostasis without its own person does not exist in time only as a thought in our own minds. From the moment this real and complete human hypostasis without a human person comes into existence it is 'owned' by the Word.

Also we must be clear that using hypostasis in this way must be distinguished, as you seem to have done, from using hypostasis as only a synonym for person. We cannot talk about two persons in Christ, but using hypostasis in the sense of a real instance of something that may or may not have its own person, then we can see that Christ is a real instance of Divinity and a real instance of humanity, but there is only one person, one prosopon, one self, who owns both, and who expresses Himself in both at the same time and in an inconfused union.

I appreciated your post, it was thoughtful and thought-provoking.

.


Thanks for the response it gives me a lot to think about.

#17 Iulian Cabasila

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 01:35 AM

For further clarifications concerning the relation between "prosopon" and "hypostasis," you may want to see John Zizioulas' book Being as Communion, especially its first chapter, titled "Personhood and Being."

As far as I remember, Chrestos Giannaras has some considerations about these notions in his book The Person and the Eros. I don't know whether it is translated in English, though.

#18 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 02:48 AM

I am rather surprised that the letter of Ibas should be quoted with approbation since the Fathers of the Sixth Ecumencial Council have said of it:

In the third place the letter which is said to have been written by Ibas to Maris the Persian, was brought forward for examination, and we found that it, too, should be read. When it was read immediately its impiety was manifest to all.

I would have thought that this would preclude it being used as indicative in a positive sense of the Antiochean and Eastern Orthodox point of view. History shows that many Chalcedonians did receive the Letter of Ibas positively, including Leo of Rome, the Patriarch of Antioch, the entire North African church, and most of the Roman province. But I had expected that after Constantinople 553 the EO would have repudiated it?

Ibas completely misunderstood St Cyril's position, he interpreted St Cyril's charitable reconciliation with John of Antioch as a repudiation of Orthodoxy for his own heretical position. You are correct that he is representative, but of the Theodorean Antiochean position which was finally excluded by the EO at Constantinople.

I cannot understand how he is being presented here as a reference for the Eastern Orthodox. Is he used in such a way normally in the EO? Are there other writers I should consider who use him? If so then I would need to study them to be accurate in my paper on Ibas.

Best wishes

Peter



Certainly as Orthodox Christians we are allowed to examine things in their own light; to show what their intent was & if need be critique them. This is the only way one can understand what was being said and its significance.


As for the Ibas quotes they express some fairly typical Antiochene opinions about St Cyril; both the negative & the positive. These quotes are of interest because they give a glimpse of the reasoning which lay behind these opinions.


There is something deeply wrong with interpreting the actions of an Ecumenical Council; for this is what your post really is- an interpretation; as implying that reading in open-minded fashion a letter which it condemns is a betrayal of the Faith. This completely distorts the intention of the Council.

I hesitate to add this but I feel the implicit suggestions of what is written above to be so troubling on a number of levels that I cannot avoid bringing this up in this way. I strongly believe we need to keep ourselves within certain limits in our comments or critique of each other. If we have a criticism it should be of what is expressed in its own light. The above was part of a discussion on prosopon and hypostasis.

I especially at this point question the increasingly frequent use of arguments which proceed by guilt by association. I consider that it stifles a spirit of real discussion.

I don't say this lightly but considering today's appeal for us to follow certain guidelines- one of which is that this is not the place for EO-OO debates- then I find such a post very troubling.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#19 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 02:43 PM

I look forward to reading more about the latter.


Here is an account of what I was referring to:

It took place in 562 or 563 after peace was restored between Byzantium & Persia. Justinian asked the Persian Khosrau I to send some theologians from the Persian church to discuss matters of the Faith. Six bishops and teachers arrived in Constantinople and took part in a three day discussion.

A Syriac document interestingly enough was found in 1969 which preserves a fragment of these discussions.

The following is a description of what the fragment says, not a quote:

The point at issue in the fragment is whether Christ's human nature has itwo own hypsostasis , as the Persians maintain, or whether it has as its hypostasis that of the divine nature. Both parties agree that the human cannot be strictly anipostatos [this is written in Greek in the book I am quoting from], deprived of a hypostasis, for then it would not even exist, but the dispute is over how the human nature possesses it. Justinian's orthodox theologian expounds the subtle doctrine of of 'enhypostatic existence' adopted during Justinian's reign as the proper explanation of Chalcedon's somewhat vague expression ' one prosopon and one hypostasis': 'We say that the human nature subsists (ie has hypostatic existence) in the hypostasis of the Word of God. It was not seen or known separately on its own, particular hypostasis, but it possesses it subsistence (or, hypostatic existence) in the hypostasis of the Word.'

The Persian interlocutor cannot grasp this concept. Hypostasis is the real, individual existence (subsistence) of a nature; if the nature is human, its individual existence (hypostasis) will likewise be human; a nature and its hypostasis are individually bound: 'Every hypostasis is known according to its nature, and every nature that exists is known, and is manifested to sense, to sight, and to the theoria of the intellect, in its own hypostasis'.

The Byzantine replies that this is so in the natural course of things, but that the human nature does not have its hypostasis in the Word in a natural way, by virtue of the union forged supernaturally in the incarnation.

Unfortunately the Persian reply to this is not recorded, but perhaps one may conjecture the objection that a human nature so endowed with a hypostasis is not really human at all.


There are a number of things striking about this discussion revealed in the way the word hypostasis is used. First off left to themselves the Persians hardly used the word preferring to refer to the two natures (physis, but they had their own Persian word of course) of Christ.

Apparently though, following from St Basil, for the Persians hypostasis refers to an individual, real existence. Personally it took me quite awhile to get a sense of what the Persians meant by this word but the closest I can get is that it implies a nature with a real existence. Again this is just my own take on it, but it seems that when they used the word it was as an adjective to describe how nature manifests itself in concrete existence (ie we can refer to nature en theoria but nature could never exist except hypostatically- the point the Persians were trying to make ot the Byzantines).

How different from the meaning this word took on for us where it increasingly means person.

So do these two understandings contradict each other? It would seem it depends on how one could relate these two understandings to each other. That they are not necessarily contradictory is shown I think by the interesting fact that the Byzantines didn't relate to the Persians as Nestorian heretics.

Anyway this is just one illustration of some interesting questions. There is another account of a future meeting where the Emperor Heraclius shares the Eucharist with another Persian delegation. I'll look at it and see if it has anything of interest theologically or otherwise. If so maybe I can post a quote from it later.

Hopefully these posts won't cause too much confusion. Letting people speak for themselves, examining what they say in their own light, and proceeding on what people actually say and intend seems so basic to a sense of fairness. It's not a principle I am prepared to give up.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#20 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 11:00 PM

Dear all,

The string of posts in this thread that has begun to focus on the nature of EO/OO dialogue in the Community has been moved to: About the Forum > The nature of EO/OO discussions in the Community. We'll reserve the present thread for discussions on the specific topic of the terms 'hypostasis' and 'prosopon'.

INXC, Matthew




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