Friday, January 6, 2012

Clement Identifies Jesus as Philo's ὁ χρηστὸς θεός

As is well known in scholarship, Philo identifies two powers in heaven - 'theos' the power of mercy and kindness and 'kurios' the power of fear and judgment.  Philo gives as a title of the merciful power ὁ χρηστὸς θεός = the god Chrestos as we already saw from his discussion of Genesis chapter 17:

Since the, the virtuous man has been bred up among and practised in these and similar divisions and discriminations of things, does he not rightly appear to pray that Ishmael may live, if he is not as yet able to become the father of Isaac? What then does the Good God say [τί οὖν ὁ χρηστὸς θεός]? To him who asks for one thing he gives two, and on him who prays for what is less he bestows what is greater; for, says the historian, he said unto Abraham, "Yea, behold, Sarrah thy wife shall bring forth a Son." Very felicitous and significant is this answer, "Yea;" for what can be more suitable to and more like the character of God, than to promise good things and to ratify that promise with all speed! But what God promises every foolish man repudiates; therefore the sacred scriptures represent Leah as hated, and on this account it is that she received that name; for Leah, being interpreted, means "repudiating and labouring," because we all turn away from virtue and think it a laborious thing, by reason of its very often imposing commands on us which are not pleasant. But nevertheless, she is thought worthy of such an honourable reception from the prince, that her womb is opened by him, so as to receive the seed of divine generation, in order to cause the production of honourable pursuits and actions. Learn therefore, O soul, that Sarrah, that is, virtue, will bring forth to thee a son; and that Hagar, or intermediate instruction, is not the only one who will do so; for her offspring is one which has its knowledge from teaching, but the offspring of the other is entirely self-taught. And do not wonder, if God, who brings forth all good things, has also brought forth this race, which, though rare upon the earth, is very numerous in heaven. [De Mutione Nomimum 1.253]

The Marcionite identified Jesus as ὁ χρηστὸς θεός and Clement identifies this same power of mercy referenced in the previous discussion of Philo by this title as 'Jesus':

Again, when He speaks in His own person, He confesses Himself to be the Instructor: "I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt." Who, then, has the power of leading in and out? Is it not the Instructor? This was He who appeared to Abraham, and said to him, "I am thy God, be accepted before Me;" and in a way most befitting an instructor, forms him into a faithful child, saying, "And be blameless; and I will make My covenant between Me and thee, and try seed." There is the communication of the Instructor's friendship. [Paed. 1.56.2] 

My assumption is that Marcionitism is the most primitive Alexandrian Christianity, developed from the original Jewish community of Egypt shortly after the Passion.

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