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"Fallen nature" vs. "Fallen persons"

person nature original sin

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#1 Bill Turri

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 11:55 AM

Hello! I think this is the right subforum for this topic, please forgive me if it isn't :)

 

I was hoping that somebody with deep patristic knowledge could help me sort through something. And that is, what is meant when a phrase like "fallen human nature" or "sin nature" is used? 

 

Coming from a Reformed/Calvinistic background, it was taught explicitly that our human nature fell into sin and corruption when Adam sinned. For instance, note this language from the Canons of Dordt:

 

 
Article 2: The Spread of Corruption

Man brought forth children of the same nature as himself after the fall. That is to say, being corrupt he brought forth corrupt children. The corruption spread, by God’s just judgment, from Adam to all his descendants– except for Christ alone–not by way of imitation (as in former times the Pelagians would have it) but by way of the propagation of his perverted nature.

Article 3: Total Inability

Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform.

 

It was always taught to me that, after the fall, man sins by nature. That is, the very essence of what it is to be human became corrupted, and sin and death became part of the makeup of man. Therefore Christ became man to restore our nature. The problem I've always had with understanding this sort of language, is that if our nature changed from what it was before the fall, then it would seem that we are ontologically different from humanity before the fall. For that matter, Adam himself changed from "human" to "sinful human." Following Augustine (at least, using his terminology...I really don't know that much about what the man himself taught) they said we became unable to not sin.

 

If that is the case, then if Christ was incarnate as a real human being, "yet without sin" as Hebrews says, then he had a nature that was different from our own. And how can he heal, redeem and glorify us if he is something fundamentally different that we are? 

 

I never did get adequate answers to this from a Reformed perspective. 

 

Since becoming Orthodox, I've discussed this with various people and my understanding is that yes, we do believe that Christ took on the very same humanity that we have, thus shares our very nature. And thus, sin is not natural to us, but rather personal. Humanity as a whole fell into bondage to death and the devil, and humanity as a whole was rescued by Christ. In fact, in Christ, humanity itself rose again (hence the icon of the Resurrection and the raising of Adam and Eve), and humanity itself defeated the devil. 

 

But I still see references to "sinful nature" among Orthodox writers. Including patristics. I recently read the following about St. Gregory of Nyssa:

 

It should here be remarked that for Gregory the Incarnation and the Atonement would appear to be identical. The Incarnation is the union of the Word not merely with human nature as such but with fallen nature, the sarx. Now the state of fallen nature is chiefly characterized by death. Thus:

 

Christ did not suffer death because He had been born; rather, it was because of death that He chose to be born. Eternal Life had no need of life, but He entered our bodily existence in order to restore us from death to life. Our entire nature had to be recalled from death; hence He stretched forth His hand, as it were, to the dead body, and came to see the place where we had fallen. Indeed He came so close to death as to touch mortality itself, that He might make of our own nature, in His body, a principle of resurrection.

 

Thus the Incarnation-Atonement is the union of the Word with man in a state of death to bring about man’s resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is indeed ‘a principle of resurrection’ for all humanity:

 

Just as death was transmitted to all men by a single act, so too, by the action of one Man the  principle of resurrection is extended to all humanity.

 

(Jean Daniélou in From Glory to Glory: Texts from Gregory of Nyssa’s Mystical Writings, pp. 16-17)

 

What exactly is "sarx" to the Greek fathers? If Christ makes "of our own nature...a principle of resurrection," then did he change our nature? And if a nature is changed, doesn't it become something else? I'm terribly confused.

 

How much of this is due to inaccurate translation, or perhaps just insufficient language in English to capture the full range of thought present in Greek terms (like the issues arising from translating nous as heart.)? Were the Fathers consistent in their use of the term "nature?" 

 

Help will be much appreciated. Especially citations from the Fathers or references to things I can read on the topic. 


Edited by Bill Turri, 30 December 2013 - 11:56 AM.


#2 Lakis Papas

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 12:46 PM

Greek word "sarx" is the word "flesh".

 

Christ took our nature in order to restore it. This is not a change of nature. It is a restoration of nature from within.One man produced the fall of human nature, one God-man produced the restoration of human nature.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.

 

Restoration of human nature is not a new creation, it is a return back to its ancient beauty.

 

Let me suggest St Athanasius work: "On the Incarnation of the Word"  http://www.ccel.org/...ius/incarnation


Edited by Lakis Papas, 30 December 2013 - 12:48 PM.


#3 Owen Jones

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 03:00 PM

But as we have seen in previous threads, salvation is more than restoration.



#4 Bill Turri

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 04:03 PM

Greek word "sarx" is the word "flesh".

 

Christ took our nature in order to restore it. This is not a change of nature. It is a restoration of nature from within.One man produced the fall of human nature, one God-man produced the restoration of human nature.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.

 

Restoration of human nature is not a new creation, it is a return back to its ancient beauty.

 

Let me suggest St Athanasius work: "On the Incarnation of the Word"  http://www.ccel.org/...ius/incarnation

 

According to a lexicon, at least, "sarx" can have a wide range of meaning...anywhere from physical skin and bone, to "carnal appetites." 

 

My confusion probably stems from this: I'm accustomed to thinking of "nature" or "essence" as "what something is." A philosophy professor once phrased it as "the is-ness of something." So whatever is in something's "nature" will then be common to all who share that nature. So there's something one might call "cat nature" that is shared in common among all cats, though every individual cat is different. 

 

So, if sin is, or was, a constituent element of human nature, and Jesus took on human nature, then how could we say that he was without sin? Hebrews says he was like his brothers (fellow humans) in every way, yet without sin. I thought that could be resolved by saying that sin is not, and never was, part of human nature. But rather it belonged to the corrupted order of things after the fall, the "world" or the "flesh" (sarx?). So all humans share nature, of which sin is not a part, although free will (in the sense of volition) is. Yet every person who comes into the world is fallen, and sinful, and subject to death and fear of death. So every person born into the fallen creation begins to sin personally and shares in the results of the first sin, namely death and corruption. 

 

Am I right about this? Am I misunderstanding? Am I just making this up as I go?  :lol:

 

I have St. Athanasius' work several times. And to be honest I'm not sure how he's using the term "nature."



#5 Lakis Papas

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 10:33 PM

The Conception of Christ is unique and provides a human nature offered by Virgin Mary being sinless by the Holy Spirit. This is a Mystery! Being sinless makes Christ's human nature clean and pure but as human as His mother's nature, which was cleaned by Spirit at conception's moment.

#6 Lakis Papas

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 10:56 PM

From "An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith" by St John Damaskene

Chapter 2. — Concerning the manner in which the Word was conceived, and concerning His divine incarnation.

The angel of the Lord was sent to the holy Virgin, who was descended from David's line. Luke 1:27 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah, of which tribe no one turned his attention to the altar Hebrews 7:14, as the divine apostle said: but about this we will speak more accurately later. And bearing glad tidings to her, he said, Hail thou highly favoured one, the Lord is with you. Luke 1:28 And she was troubled at his word, and the angel said to her, Fear not, Mary, for you have found favour with God, and shall bring forth a Son and shall call His name Jesus ; for He shall save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21 Hence it comes that Jesus has the interpretation Saviour. And when she asked in her perplexity, How can this be, seeing I know not a man Luke 1:34? The angel again answered her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you. Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35 And she said to him, Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to Your word.
So then, after the assent of the holy Virgin, the Holy Spirit descended on her, according to the word of the Lord which the angel spoke, purifying her , and granting her power to receive the divinity of the Word, and likewise power to bring forth. And then was she overshadowed by the enhypostatic Wisdom and Power of the most high God, the Son of God Who is of like essence with the Father as of Divine seed, and from her holy and most pure blood He formed flesh animated with the spirit of reason and thought, the first-fruits of our compound nature : not by procreation but by creation through the Holy Spirit: not developing the fashion of the body by gradual additions but perfecting it at once, He Himself, the very Word of God, standing to the flesh in the relation of subsistence. For the divine Word was not made one with flesh that had an independent pre-existence , but taking up His abode in the womb of the holy Virgin, He unreservedly in His own subsistence took upon Himself through the pure blood of the eternal Virgin a body of flesh animated with the spirit of reason and thought, thus assuming to Himself the first-fruits of man's compound nature, Himself, the Word, having become a subsistence in the flesh. So that He is at once flesh, and at the same time flesh of God the Word, and likewise flesh animated, possessing both reason and thought. Wherefore we speak not of man as having become God, but of God as having become Man. For being by nature perfect God, He naturally became likewise perfect Man: and did not change His nature nor make the dispensation an empty show, but became, without confusion or change or division, one in subsistence with the flesh, which was conceived of the holy Virgin, and animated with reason and thought, and had found existence in Him, while He did not change the nature of His divinity into the essence of flesh, nor the essence of flesh into the nature of His divinity, and did not make one compound nature out of His divine nature and the human nature He had assumed.

#7 Anna Stickles

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 02:39 AM

We got into a discussion of this on this thread http://www.monachos....e-un-patristic/  you may want to check it out. 

 
Here are some quotes from Tertullian, On the Soul - notice how he discusses fallenness as something that is not part of our essential nature as created, but as a distortion that has come upon us due to the fall, and our obedience to Satan. Our nature as created by God is good and in His image.  However, Tertullian goes on to say that this fallness has become so embedded that it is now appears natural to us. We don't question it, we accept it as natural even though it is unnatural.

 

 

It is the rational element which we must believe to be its natural condition, impressed upon it from its very first creation by its Author, who is Himself essentially rational. For how should that be other than rational, which God produced on His own prompting; nay more, which He expressly sent forth by His own afflatus or breath?"...
 
From then on (after the Fall) the irrational element became imbedded in the soul, developed with the soul, and, as it happened at the very beginning gave every appearance of being an essential element of the soul. .... We are in danger of attributing irrationality to God ... if we say that irrationality is natural to the soul. Now the impulse to sin proceeds from the Devil and since all sin is irrational, the irrational therefore proceeds from the Devil whence comes
sin."
(16.1)

 

 

Edited by Anna Stickles, 01 January 2014 - 02:48 AM.


#8 Phoebe K.

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 04:56 PM

hi,

 

The distinction between human nature as created (and how it is restored as the image in baptism, then being our work with the Holy Spirit to grow into the likeness of God) and the soiled human nature which resulted from the fall.  Even at the point of creation as I understand Adam was in the image of God with the potential to grow into the full likeness rather than being created into perfection.  Sin was described to me as a sickness with which all of creation has become sick, since when humanity fell we brought creation with us, which is why we see creation responding positively to Christ in the Gospels and to the saints who have reached theoses.  This understanding as sin as a sickness is what underpins the image of Church as a Hospital and the mysteries as essentially for healing.  The sickness is seen in the passions in our lives, theses are not created as part of us as we now find them in our lives, but a miss-ordering of our created nature.

 

The uneek thing about Christ is that he was born with the image of the father intact, the passions present in his life but under control, this is part of what is meant by being like us in nature but without sin.  This is seen especially in the hymns we have been singing in the last few weeks over the feast of the nativity, with the hymns of the cercomstion today and the Theophony ones in the next few days.  It is difficult to explain but attending the cyical of services brings to life the theology in a way which explaining it cannot, even if you cannot get to the services reading them at home especially Vespers and Matins brings the trodition to life.

 

I would not say I am an expert, I have just tried to say what I understand young as I am in the faith.

 

Phoebe



#9 Antonios

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 06:55 PM

Great question Bill and excellent responses so far!  To echo what has already been said, Christ took upon Himself our fallen nature which was in spiritual and physical sickness.  Part of this falleness included not only the potential to sin but also the propensity to sin.  The difference with Christ is that He became Master over this potentiality and propensity to sin and vanquished it by His perfect and humble obedience to the Father.  By doing this, He too teaches us how we ourselves may overcome the world and grow in communion with God in the process which is called theosis.

 

Christ in His human nature experienced the effects of our fallen state (which is why He experienced hunger, thirst, temptations etc.) except He did not succumb to those things but rather overcame them.  As the ascetic Fathers explain, being attacked by the demons and being bombarded with sinful thoughts that arise in us is 'natural' in this fallen and sick state we are in, but these things alone are not sins for which we are responsible for.  Rather, this is the 'natural' condition for us in the state we currently are born into.  When we begin to entertain or mentally and/or physically ascent to these thoughts however, that is when we sin and when we become culpable.  Christ never allowed Himself to get to that point and therein is the key.  Whereas our potentiality and propensity to sin is a consequence of our falleness, Christ's perfect obedience and perfect mastery over the passions has rendered the consequences of sin (namely death and separation from God) to be rendered powerless and become obsolete.  Thus, our fallen nature is healed not simply to the original state created by God, but even brought to a greater state of being and communion with God, of which Christ is the firstfruits of.

 

Happy New Year!


Edited by Antonios, 01 January 2014 - 06:55 PM.


#10 Anna Stickles

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Posted 03 January 2014 - 12:53 PM

One thing I think that it is important to grasp is that in the West nature is a substance, thus "flesh" ( in the Jewish meaning of the word, which includes what for the Greeks were two distinct things, body and soul, see St Paul's writings in particular) is at times used in a way practically synonymous with nature.

 

In the East though, nature is not so much a substance as it is a shared existence. The Latin "substantia" and the Greek "ousia" do not have quite the same focus.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 03 January 2014 - 12:56 PM.


#11 Anna Stickles

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Posted 03 January 2014 - 01:25 PM

The consequence of this is that in the west, sin tends to be seen as a distortion of this substance. (not that the substance exists accept as persons)  Persons, are then understood as the concrete subsisting instances of this distorted substance.  This is the theology Calvin inherited from the Catholic church.

 

In the East, it is our shared existence that is distorted by sin, and as persons (as concrete existences within this shared existence) we each have a certain freedom in how we participate in this shared existence. 

 

Starting with this way of looking at things it is easier to understand the Greek Fathers. Going back to St Gregory of Nyssa quoted above, Our fallen existence is characterized by death and sin. Christ's existence was without sin, but he underwent death in order that life might conquer it. The distortion that entered our existence at the fall is removed. His resurrected existence is now available for us to participate in, and this changes humanity's shared existence.

 

This isn't to deny that there is a substantial element to our existence, (After all our sharing with Christ involves partaking of His Body, His Sarx) just as Latin theology does not deny our shared existence, but you can see how shifting the focus makes a difference in the overall way things are conceptualized.



#12 Olga

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Posted 03 January 2014 - 09:27 PM

After all our sharing with Christ involves partaking of His Body, His Sarx

 

This is not correct. The word consistently used liturgically to refer to Christ's body, particularly when it refers to the Eucharist, is not sarx/sarka, but soma. The difference is significant.



#13 Anna Stickles

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Posted 03 January 2014 - 11:43 PM

That is really interesting. What is the difference? Do you know the history or theological context of this?



#14 Lakis Papas

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 08:42 AM

The word flesh (sarx in Greek) is used repeatedly in John 6: 

On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered,and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone— however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks— when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?”
 
Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
 
Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
 
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
 
Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
 
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
 
Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”
 
And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
 
 
The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
 
Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.  Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Mehas everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
 
The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”
 
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
 
These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

 

 
 
 
The word body (soma in Greek) was used  at the Last Supper (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22):
 

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

 

 

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

 

 

 

 

At the Eucharist we use the word that was used at the Last Supper, that is "body".
 
At the "Preparatory Prayers for Holy Communion" and at the "Thanksgiving After Holy Communion" both "flesh" and "body" words are used.


#15 Lakis Papas

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 09:29 AM

There is the question: "what am I ?". And there is the question: "who am I ?".
 
The Church distinguishes the two questions. For the Church, all people answer the first question in the same way: "I'm a human", and answer the second question with a distinctive way for each one person.
 
The answer to the question "what am I ?" changed after the sin, that is, Adam and Eve suffered a substantial alteration in their nature.
 
The difference between sinless - sinner is determined as the difference of healthy-sick, that is as a physical analogy. Another analogy is standing-fallen, also a physical analogy.
 
Being in another state of "what I am", has impact on "who I am" state. For example, state of "being sick" determines my self-awareness as "I am sick Lakis". Also, state of "being fallen" determines my self-awareness as "I am fallen Lakis".
 
My natural state identifies the state of "who am I ?". I remain the same person, but in different state of being. This is the peculiarity of human: comes from nothingness, is complex and made ​​with potential to change. That is, human being is a nature gifted to develop. Development, being genuinely free, has two versions: the evolution and decline.
 
As it is written in the Psalms (Psalm 82):  

I said, “You are gods, 
And all of you are children of the Most High.
But you shall die like men,
And fall like one of the princes.

 

 
This paradox, of being a child of the Most High and to die as a man, is what is described by the Orthodox patristic theology.


#16 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 09:39 AM

http://www.dyordy.co...ewTestament.pdf

 

This link gives (it says) the occasions when sarx and soma are used in the NT. I don't know about the introduction, though. The question we have is: what meanings should we ascribe to each word?



#17 Lakis Papas

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 04:56 PM

Excerpt from the book: "Phenomenology of religion" by Prof. Marios Begzos, Dean of the School of Theology, University of Athens
 
A remarkable aspect of Byzantine anthropology is the distinction between two related terms: the "body" and "flesh". The body is distinguished from the flesh. While the body is considered anthropologically neutral, the flesh takes a negative meaning. Flesh is considered sinful, evil, unethical. The body believed to be sin-neutral, receptive of both good and evil, just as the spirit or soul is receptive of both good and evil. But, flesh has a negative connotation.
 
However equally remarkable fact is the following: the flesh is not limited to the body, but extends to the spirit. Carnally minded is the sinful morale, which is not limited to body nor is exhausted on it, rather it necessarily extends to the mental realms of existence and encompasses the spiritual natures of man. Eventually, the body is exempt from any co-responsibility for the appearance of evil in the world. The body is not responsible, but the responsibility rests to flesh, that is to the sinful mentality.


#18 Anna Stickles

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 05:51 PM

This quote by Prof. Begoz cannot be right, considering the quote you gave from John ch 6 and what you said about the communion prayers.  It sounds from post 14 like Scriptural context has determined the language we use.   

 

The body is considered anthropologically neutral in the ascetic literature, where the context is that the Fathers are trying to say that sin does not originiate in the body, but only in the soul, although the body participates in the sin or the righteousness of the soul. 

 

I would suggest that for the use of these words, context is everything.



#19 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 07:21 PM

I would suggest that for the use of these words, context is everything.

 

I'm sure this is so, which makes the words of Christ at John 6:51-56 and Matthew 26:26 so difficult - they seem to refer to the same thing.



#20 Anna Stickles

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 09:50 PM

I think we have to see them as referring to the same thing in these particular verses, (however not in other verses) Tradition is clear that this chapter in John is a reference to the Eucharist, and likewise the verses in Matt.  The fact that the two evangelists used different words makes no difference. Also, the fact that these passages are to be understood as referring to the same thing is reinforced by the fact that both words are used in the prayers. 

 

I think the important points theologically is what I mentioned above -obviously when Christ says to the crowd that he gives them his flesh to eat, this is not something sinful or evil but Christ's sinless flesh, His pure Body.

 

Likewise, as noted above, it is clear in Scriptural usage that "sarx" (flesh) often refers to our nature as a whole - not just our body, but our body and soul.  Usually sarx has a wider meaning then soma when it comes to an anthropological context.  And yet, when we talk about partaking of Christ's Body in the context of the Eucharist, we have to understand that we are not partaking of just his physical body but rather we partake of Christ Himself- fully man, and fully God.  The typical anthropological definition of body as only part of our nature is not appropriate in this context.

 

Words are often used in a wide variety of ways, and it is only those few words where serious theological debate has forced the issue that we get something more precise.  Early on before the theological debates, ousia and hypostasis were used nearly interchangeably. This didn't cause a problem until, because of the heresies, it became an issue and the Church decided it needed something more precise.

 

There is a section of John Cassian's writings where one of the desert fathers lists about 6-8 different definitions for sarx that can be found in Scripture.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 04 January 2014 - 09:57 PM.






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