Thursday, July 4, 2013

Novatian: On Jesus as איש

To all these things, moreover, is added this, that in like manner as the divine Scripture has frequently declared Him both Angel and God, so the same divine Scripture declares Him also both man and God, expressing thereby what He should be, and depicting even then in figure what He was to be in the truth of His substance. “For,” it says, “Jacob remained alone; and there wrestled with him a man even till daybreak. And He saw that He did not prevail against him; and He touched the broad part of Jacob’s thigh while He was wrestling with him and he with Him, and said to him, Let me go, for the morning has dawned. And he said, I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me. And He said, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And He said to him, Thy name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name; because thou hast prevailed with God, and thou art powerful with men.” And it adds, moreover: “And Jacob called the name of that place the Vision of God: for I have seen the Lord face to face, and my soul has been made safe. And the sun arose upon him. Afterwards he crossed over the Vision of God, but he halted upon his thigh.”

A man, it says, wrestled with Jacob. If this was a mere man, who is he? Whence is he? Wherefore does he contend and wrestle with Jacob? What had intervened? What had happened? What was the cause of so great a dispute as that, and so great a struggle? Why, moreover, is Jacob, who is found to be strong enough to hold the man with whom he is wrestling, and asks for a blessing from Him whom he is holding, asserted to have asked therefore, except because this struggle was prefigured as that which should be between Christ and the sons of Jacob, which is said to be completed in the Gospel? For against this man Jacob’s people struggled, in which struggle Jacob’s people was found to be the more powerful, because against Christ it gained the victory of its iniquity: at which time, on account of the crime that it committed, hesitating and giving way, it began most sorely to halt in the walk of its own faith and salvation; and although it was found the stronger, in respect of the condemnation of Christ, it still needs His mercy, still needs His blessing. But, moreover, the man who wrestled with Jacob says, “Moreover, thy name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name;” and if Israel is the man who sees God, the Lord was beautifully showing that it was not only a man who was then wrestling with Jacob, but God also.

Certainly Jacob saw God, with whom he wrestled, although he was holding the man in his own struggle. And in order that there might still be no hesitation, He Himself laid down the interpretation by saying, “Because thou hast prevailed with God, and art powerful with men.” For which reason the same Jacob, perceiving already the force of the Mystery, and apprehending the authority of Him with whom he had wrestled, called the name of that place in which he had wrestled, the Vision of God. He, moreover, superadded the reason for his interpretation being offered of the Vision of God: “For I have seen,” said he, “God face to face, and my soul has been saved.” Moreover, he saw God, with whom he wrestled as with a man; but still indeed he held the man as a conqueror, though as an inferior he asked a blessing as from God. Thus he wrestled with God and with man; and thus truly was that struggle prefigured, and in the Gospel was fulfilled, between Christ and the people of Jacob, wherein, although the people had the mastery, yet it proved to be inferior by being shown to be guilty.

Who will hesitate to acknowledge that Christ, in whom this type of a wrestling was fulfilled, was not man only, but God also, since even that very type of a wrestling seems to have proved Him man and God? And yet, even after this, the same divine Scripture justly does not cease to call the Angel God, and to pronounce God the Angel. For when this very Jacob was about to bless Manasseh and Ephraim, the sons of Joseph, with his hands placed across on the heads of the lads, he said, “The God which fed me from my youth even unto this day, the Angel who delivered me from all evils, bless these lads.” Even to such a point does he affirm the same Being to be an Angel, whom he had called God, as in the end of his discourse, to express the person of whom he was speaking as one, when he said “bless these lads.” For if he had meant the one to be understood as God, and the other as an angel, he would have comprised the two persons in the plural number; but now he defined the singular number of one person in the blessing, whence he meant it to be understood that the same person is God and Angel. But yet He cannot be received as God the Father; but as God and Angel, as Christ He can be received. And Him, as the author of this blessing, Jacob also signified by placing his hands crossed upon the lads, as if their father was Christ, and showing, from thus placing his hands, the figure and future form of the passion. Let no one, therefore, who does not shrink from speaking of Christ as an Angel, thus shrink from pronouncing Him God also, when he perceives that He Himself was invoked in the blessing of these lads, by the sacrament of the passion, intimated in the type of the crossed hands, as both God and Angel. [Novatian, On the Trinity 19]

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