Friday, December 28, 2012

Citations of Wisdom 2.23 in Clement and Methodius

Only two early Church Fathers (besides Origen whom Methodius is here attaching) use Wisdom 2:23 - Methodius and Clement of Alexandria.  Here is Methodius's use of the passage:

But you people will probably not back off because of what I just said, Aglaophon, and will reply, "If the creature was immortal from the beginning, as you say, how has he become mortal? An immortal thing must remain unalterably what it is without changing or degenerating into something inferior and mortal. That cannot be since, [it is not possible] for an immortal [thing to come to die]." [But it did], I shall say, because the enemy of all good came, and from envy bewitched the man who had been created free to choose the good, and had received this ordinance. "For God created man for immortality and made him an image of his own eternity. " (Wisdom 2.23) Indeed, "God made not death, nor doth he rejoice in the destruction of the living, "(Wisdom 1.13) "but through envy of the devil death entered the world, (Wisdom 2.24) as Wisdom testified through Solomon." [Methodius in Panarion 64.28.3]

Here is Clement's:

But one man applies less, one more, to learning and training. Wherefore also some have been competent to attain to perfect virtue, and others have attained to a kind of it. And some, on the other hand, through negligence, although in other respects of good dispositions, have turned to the opposite. Now much more is that knowledge which excels all branches of culture in greatness and in truth, most difficult to acquire, and is attained with much toil. But, as seems, they know not the mysteries of God. For God created man for immortality, and made him an image of His own nature; according to which nature of Him who knows all, he who is a Gnostic, and righteous, and holy with prudence, hastes to reach the measure of perfect manhood. For not only are actions and thoughts, but words also, pure in the case of the Gnostic: You have proved mine heart; You have visited me by night, it is said; You have subjected me to the fire, and unrighteousness was not found in me: so that my mouth shall not speak the works of men. And why do I say the works of men? He recognises sin itself, which is not brought forward in order to repentance (for this is common to all believers); but what sin is. Nor does he condemn this or that sin, but simply all sin; nor is it what one has done ill that he brings up, but what ought not to be done. Whence also repentance is twofold: that which is common, on account of having transgressed; and that which, from learning the nature of sin, persuades, in the first instance, to keep from sinning, the result of which is not sinning.[Clement 6.12]

Methodius cites the text as τῆς ἰδίας ἀιδιότητος or 'of his own eternity' while Clement 'of his own nature' (τῆς ἰδίας ἰδιότητος).  Methodius's argument is that Origen was wrong for understanding man to have been created immortal.  Clement seems to share the view of Origen.

But compare Clement's apparent citation of

In contradistinction, therefore, to the older people, the new people are called young, having learned the new blessings; and we have the exuberance of life's morning prime in this youth which knows no old age, in which we are always growing to maturity in intelligence, are always young, always mild, always new: for those must necessarily be new, who have become partakers of the new Word. And that which participates in eternity (ἀιδιότητος) is wont to be assimilated to the incorruptible: so that to us appertains the designation of the age of childhood, a lifelong spring - time, because the truth that is in us, and our habits saturated with the truth, cannot be touched by old age; but Wisdom is ever blooming, ever remains consistent and the same, and never changes. "Their children," it is said, "shall be borne upon their shoulders, and fondled on their knees; as one whom his mother comforteth, so also shall I comfort you." The mother draws the children to herself; and we seek our mother the Church. [Paedagogue 1.5]

This would imply that Clement not only originally had the same reading as Methodius (cmp. similar transformations of 'chrestos' to 'christos')  but also that Wisdom 2.23 was specifically applied to the Christian mysteries where the nature of man was 'created.'  In other words, Origen's specific claim of Adam's immortality was being challenged.

This seems to be reinforced by Clement's use of

But since these falsely named calumniate the body, let them learn that the harmonious mechanism of the body contributes to the understanding which leads to goodness of nature. Wherefore in the third book of the Republic, Plato, whom they appeal to loudly as an authority that disparages generation, says, that for the sake of harmony of soul, care must be taken for the body, by which, he who announces the proclamation of the truth, finds it possible to live, and to live well (ὀρθῶς βιοῦν). For it is by the path of life and health that we learn gnosis. But is he who cannot advance to the height without being occupied with necessary things, and through them doing what tends to knowledge, not to choose to live well? In living, then, living well (τὸ εὖ ζῆν) is secured. And he who in the body has devoted himself to a good life (εὐζωίαν), is being sent on to immortality (ἀιδιότητος). [Stromata 4.4]

It is also worth noting that a difference of opinion exists to this day between the churches of the East and West on the question of whether Adam was made perfect in the beginning.  The Roman Church says essentially that Adam was perfect before the Fall but the Greek Church disagrees saying that Christ made man better than Adam because he was not perfect in the beginning.

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