Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 38

The Nicene Creed~ Part 24

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

WE BELIEVE IN ONE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH ~ The Church.

Recall that I prefer to call the “church” the kehillah, which means “community” in Hebrew. I think that it is much easier to think of “church” as “a community” and not as “a building.” So, I will take some liberty to change the word “church” from now on in this post to kehillah. You will also note that I have used numerous quotes from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) instead of my “go-to” version of the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). There is a simple explanation for doing so. This year, I am using the CSB for my reading to see what new gems I might discover for my daily devotions this year.

In our profession of faith, we proclaim, “We believe in … the kehillah.” Rufinus explains why in Latin, we say, “We believe the kehillah,” and not we believe “in the kehillah.” He writes:

“We believe the holy kehillah,” not as God but as the kehillah gathered together to God. And we believe that there is “forgiveness of sins”; we do not say “We believe in the forgiveness of sins.” And we believe that there will be a “resurrection of the flesh”; we do not say, “We believe in the resurrection of the flesh.” By this monosyllabic preposition, therefore, the Creator is distinguished from the creatures, and things divine are separated from things human. [1]

Understanding the Fathers of the significance and the nature of the kehillah is grounded on Scripture, especially on the Brit Hadashah. The strong images of Sha’ul support their explanation: the Messianic community as the body of Messiah, as his bride, as a mother. Because she is a bride, she can generate sons and daughters for the Father. Sha’ul, in describing the nature of the Messianic community, introduces the image of the kehillah as the body of Messiah and expounds it in the Pastoral Letters. Messiah is the head of that body: “He is the head of the body, the kehillah.… Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I complete what is lacking in Messiah’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the kehillah.”[2] There is a mystical identification between believers and Messiah, as is shown in the conversion of Sha’ul: “As he journeyed, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’”[3]

To belong to Messiah, have a personal relationship with Him, and have union with Him implies the result of union with other believers. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Messiah?… But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.[4] The same faith and love unify individuals in Messiah: “So we, though many, are one body in Messiah, and individually members one of another.” [5] According to Sha’ul, believers are members of a body and are connected, serving different functions. It is not only a visible unity, a society with all members in harmony; the unity is of a higher order. It is not only a social or a moral unity but a mystical body. Mystical does not mean something strange or hidden; it means that Messiah binds, guides, ties, unites us to Himself. It is a reality that is not obvious to our intelligence and is beyond our senses, and involves a unique union of all the members with Messiah, who is the head. John uses the image of the vine and the branches:

“I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who stay united with me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from me, you can’t do a thing. Unless a person remains united with me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Such branches are gathered and thrown into the fire, where they are burned up. “If you remain united with me, and my words with you, then ask whatever you want, and it will happen for you. This is how my Father is glorified—in your bearing much fruit; this is how you will prove to be my talmidim.~  John 15:5-8 (CJB)

The members are bound through faith, love, and sacraments to Messiah, who endows us with His gifts: “holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” [6] In the force of this union, the kehillah is the fullness or complement of Messiah: the Father “has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the kehillah, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.”  [7] It forms one whole with him: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Messiah.” [8] This body is nourished by the Eucharist: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” [9]

The visible kehillah is a human, mixed company, with shadows and spots. It is the visible sign of the presence of the kingdom of God among human beings, sustained by hope, whose soul is the Ruach. [10]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Rufinus Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed. In other words, we believe in God and things divine. We do not believe in things human; we simply believe them.

[2] Colossians 1:18, 24 (CSB)

[3] Acts 9:3-5 (CSB)

[4] 1 Cor 6:15, 17 (CSB).

[5] 1 Cor 6:15ans 12:5 (CSB)

[6] Colossian 2:19 (CSB)

[7] Eph 1:22–23 (CSB)

[8] 1 Cor 12:12 (CSB)

[9] 1 Cor 10:17

[10] Di Berardino, A., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2010). We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Vol. 5, pp. 1–3).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 37

The Nicene Creed~ Part 23

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase He has spoken through the Prophets in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

HE HAS SPOKEN THROUGH THE PROPHETS

In 2 Kefa 1:21, we read, for never has a prophecy come as a result of human willing – on the contrary, people moved by the Ruach HaKodesh spoke a message from God. From the earliest days of the kehillah, the Ruach has been known as the one who spoke through the prophets and writings of the Tanakh. The Ruach is the giver of revelation. Yeshua refers to David as one inspired by the Ruach, as does Kefa. Elizabeth, Simeon, and Zechariah were all filled with the Ruach when they spoke the words recorded in the Gospels. Yeshua, quoting Isaiah, spoke of the Ruach being on Him and anointing Him to preach good news to the poor. He also told the emissaries that when they would be called to speak, it would not be they who speak but the Ruach that He would give to them. Shavuot (Pentecost) and the subsequent life of the kehillah testified to the fulfillment of the prophecy in Yo’el that the Ruach would descend on the kehillah enlivening it and its message. Sha’ul speaks in his first letter to the Corinthians of his preaching, and words have come from the Ruach. Kefa refers to Sha’ul’s writings as difficult to understand and sometimes being twisted out of context, as also happens to the other Scriptures, no doubt including Sha’ul’s writings in what was considered the Scriptures. Here, as well as in what Sha’ul has to say about those who spoke in tongues, we begin to get a picture of the kehillah and its leaders struggling to get a handle on which prophecies and writings were to be understood as authoritative since some claimed the Ruach. Still, neither their words nor their actions were enlightening for the kehillah. Not everyone who claimed inspiration was necessarily received by the kehillah. A sifting process began by which the kehillah decided what was normative for the kehillah’s faith and life.

The challenges of Gnosticism and the teaching of such heretics as Marcion made it all the more important to confess that the Ruach by whom Yeshua was conceived and who was operative in the ministry of Yeshua and the Gospel message was the same Ruach who acted in the Tanakh. Messianic writers from very early on, however, emphasized the normative role of the Ruach and the rule of faith in revelation. At times, the Ruach made itself known in extraordinary ways, such as speaking in tongues as the apostles did at Shavuot. The kehillah, such as the one in Corinth, continued to utilize. These tongues and other signs were viewed as a witness to unbelievers, and they continued as long as there was a need for them in the kehillah. After a time, however, most, although not all, early Messianic writers believed this gift slowly ceased to exist. (I happen to be in the group that does not believe that speaking in tongues has ceased as a gift of the Ruach.) But the work of the Ruach continued and continues to live and work in the life of the kehillah.[1]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Vol. 4, pp 266–267).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 35

The Nicene Creed~ Part 21

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase who proceeds from the Father and the Son in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

WHO PROCEEDS FROM THE FATHER AND THE SON

It would be placing far too great a burden on the Creed confessed at Constantinople in 381CE to say that the holy fathers gathered to establish the dogma of the procession of the Ruach HaKodesh in all its precision and fullness. In their writings, the Cappadocians had noted that the Ruach was distinguished from the Father and the Son by his procession. Thus, the Creed uses the language of John 15:26, which speaks most directly of the procession of the Ruach from the Father: When the Counselor comes, whom I will send you from the Father – the Spirit of Truth, who keeps going out from the Father – He will testify on My behalf. (CJB) The phrase, who keeps going out from the Father distinguishes the Ruach from the Father and the Son, even as the following phrase of the Creed demonstrates that the Ruach is to be worshiped and glorified along with the Father and the Son. Thus, the present phrase provides a distinguishing scriptural characteristic while also tying the Ruach’s procession to the Father.

To a certain extent, both Eastern and Western traditions have emphasized what is known as the Father’s monarchy in speaking of the Ruach’s origin. The Father’s monarchy implies that the Father is the source, principle, cause of the Ruach HaKodesh and the Son. One might even note that both the Son and the Ruach are spoken of as proceeding from the Father in our English Bibles and Latin ones. However, this was part of the problem between East and West that arose beginning around the fifth century, when working in both Latin and Greek was not as expected. In Greek, the origin of the Ruach HaKodesh from the Father is based on the Greek word ekporeuetai, which alone is used of the Ruach HaKodesh in John 15:26. The Greeks acknowledge the Latin Church that the Son too is spoken of as proceeding from the Father. But this does not occur with the Greek word ekporeuomai but the Greek word proiēmi – an important distinction that Latin does not make. The Father was unbegotten, the Son was begotten, which was a procession from the Father, but not the same as how the Ruach proceeds.

The question remained to be asked: What is the relationship of the Ruach to the Son in this procession, since Scripture, especially the Gospel of John, speaks of the Ruach of the Son, the Son giving the Ruach, breathing out the Ruach, etc.? This the Creed did not answer. As noted, at least up through the fifth century but even beyond, all the way to the time before the great schism of 1054, the dominant patristic understanding is that the monarchy of the Father is what binds and grounds the Trinity in its unity. And so, more often than not, the question of the Ruach’s procession is first of all addressed in the sense of His procession from the Father. But in no way does this exhaust all that the fathers had to say about the procession. The doctrine of the Ruach HaKodesh and His procession is not limited to His relation to the Father. Still, it is extended to His relation to the Son in a way that is not always so easily distinguished or held distinct from that of the Father.

One can distinguish different emphases or tendencies between East and West on the Ruach’s procession even as there are also areas of overlap. The later addition in the West of the Ruach’s procession from the Son began locally in Spain at the Council of Toledo in 589CE. However, it is preceded as early as the third century by writers such as Tertullian and then later with Marius Victorinus, Ambrose, and Augustine. The addition eventually received papal authority and became the standard creedal confession in the Western Roman Catholic and later Protestant traditions. The East has always considered it as a unilateral addition to the Creed without ecumenical consensus. But it is worth asking why the West perceived the phrase and the Son as a necessary addition in the first place? From the Western perspective, if the Ruach proceeded from the Father alone, this could appear that the Son did not have everything the Father had. Thus, the Son would appear as a subordinate being – especially to the new converts coming from barbarian tribes in the hinterlands of the West who had been heavily influenced by Arian Christology, which tended to subordinate the person of the Son. Thus, the original purpose of the addition was to protect the Son against such subordination by establishing the procession equally from Father and Son. And so, it is not surprising that the phrase filioque began to appear in the Creed spoken in the liturgy of the church. How the church worships is an expression of its faith. However, a change in something as basic as the ecumenical Creed shared by all the faithful was inadvisable – even if the doctrine itself, charitably and adequately understood, was true. It did not help that the West had no vocabulary for distinguishing the different types of the procession as the East had, even though theologians such as Augustine did speak of the Ruach proceeding principally from the Father. Thus, misunderstandings were inevitable. But neither East nor West was interested in denigrating the Godhead of Father, Son, or Ruach HaKodesh.

Rather than speaking of the Ruach as proceeding from the Father and the Son, the East spoke in terms of the Ruach proceeding from the Father through the Son, in effect guarding against any understanding that the Ruach HaKodesh derived his existence from the Son which would thus cause Him to appear as a lesser being. Perhaps it is an oversimplification to describe the emphasis in the East as that of safeguarding the Ruach’s full divinity. At the same time, the West emphasized a concern to guard the Son’s full divinity. No doubt other issues such as authority, both of popes and councils, are intertwined in these discussions and have complicated ecumenical discussions far beyond the issue of the Ruach’s procession. [1]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version

[1] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Vol. 4, pp 217-220).​

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 34

The Nicene Creed~ Part 20

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase the giver of life in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

THE GIVER OF LIFE ~ In Sanctification

Sanctification is made up of two Latin words: Sanctus, meaning Holy, and the verb Facere, meaning to make. The primary work of the Ruach HaKodesh in the Trinity’s interaction with the world is to make us Holy, that is, sanctified. From its inception, the ancient church was concerned with the Holiness of the Believer. Clement of Rome, for instance, lauds the Corinthian congregation for its Messianic piety and character while also calling on the congregation to persevere in Holiness in the face of division. Polycarp exhorts the Philippian congregation to Holy living, good works, and a faith that remains steadfast. Holiness as a way of life was considered so important that, should the baptized depart from it, there was a minimal possibility for return. Baptism was the point of entry into the life of faith and Holiness, leaving behind sin and being conformed to the divine image. With its considerations as to whether one could sin after baptism and still be called a child of God, one might get the impression that the early church believed in salvation by sanctification, or, more concretely, salvation by good works. This would, however, place a sixteenth-century dichotomy onto the texts of the early centuries of the church they were not meant to bear.

The early church was more fluid in its discussion of sanctification and justification. It did not always use terms consistently. It did not have a well-established order of salvation that consistently worked out the logical sequencing of the various components of salvation. This at times can create misunderstanding or lack of clarity in what the church meant concerning sanctification. It is clear that when it came to the issue of standing before the judgment seat of the throne of God or when they were in trials or tribulations, it was not to their good works that they turned for certainty. When ruminating on the effects of sin or the coming judgment, they put their faith and trust in Yeshua alone and not on the works they had done. But they obviously spoke favorably of good works and the life of sanctification and demonstrated a fear and reverence for God often lacking today. Sanctification was integral to Messianic faith and life. It was not just a series of acts that takes place, nor did it simply imply the betterment of human life or moral improvement – although these will take place in those who are being brought to maturity in the faith.

Sanctification was considered to be the entire process of indwelling by the Ruach HaKodesh by which one is conformed to the image of God, a process that begins in baptism when sin is drowned and left behind so that a new life can begin. That new life grows and matures in people as they are joined to the community of faith centered around Word and sacrament, which were deemed essential to a life of Holiness for its members. [1]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Vol. 4, pp. 37–38).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 33

 

The Nicene Creed~ Part 19

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase the giver of life in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

THE GIVER OF LIFE ~ Christ’s Life in Us Through the Spirit – Theosis [1]

The Nicene Creed~ Part 19

is the primary source for the kehillah’s teaching on Justification and its teaching of incorporation and union with Yeshua via the Ruach. Sha’ul often uses the phrase in Yeshua or in Yeshua Messiah to indicate a change in our relationship with God and a change in us through our incorporation into Yeshua. However, it is the apostle Kefa who has provided the kehillah with the clearest text concerning our participation in the divine nature. This concept has been found predominantly in the East, although the selections here will demonstrate that this was teaching in the West. In the first chapter of his second letter, Kefa writes:

3 God’s power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowing the One who called us to His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us valuable and superlatively great promises so that through them you might come to share in God’s nature and escape the corruption which evil desires have brought into the world. ~2 Kefa 1:3-4 (CJB)

Kefa and Sha’ul no doubt took this idea from Yeshua as inspired writers. But what did they have in mind when they spoke of Believers being in Yeshua and partakers of the divine nature? This teaches the kehillah of which many in the West, including evangelicals and some Roman Catholics, are unaware. What follows is an attempt to introduce what this teaching is about and to explore the significant place and influence this teaching exerted in the early kehillah’s understanding of the Ruach’s work in us.

The ancient writers believed that the apostles were speaking of deification. Their choice of such terminology was not cavalier. It was a bold and deliberate move meant to evoke and challenge the pagan language of exaltation. Human beings, especially heroes, sages, and ultimately emperors, advanced to the rank of deity. However, those writers avoided the term deification because it fundamentally transgressed on the divine prerogative, something that some present-day Believers believe occurs in the doctrine of Theosis, although such a transgression could not have been further from the patristic mind. Early Believers chose a polemical term and concept in a deliberate confrontation with the paganism of their day to differentiate what it truly meant to partake of the divine nature of the one true God. They were careful to note that it was not the polytheism of their pagan neighbors they were espousing. Instead, as Athanasius states, “it is as ‘sons,’ not as the Son”; as ‘gods,’ not as God himself that we partake of the divine nature. This is an important distinction since the Greek kehillah emphasized only one God by nature over classical religion with its deified men and women and its anthropomorphic gods and goddesses.

According to the orthodox, scriptural understanding of Theosis, we are given the right to become children of God by grace as we are born of God through the waters of baptism. We thus become sons and daughters of God at our baptism. What follows, then, is an ongoing process of sanctification by which we, through the indwelling of the Ruach, become more and more conformed to the image of our God and Father in which we were created. This conforming process ultimately realizes its full potential as the just receive their promised inheritance in heaven when their own glorious transfiguration takes place in the new heavenly kingdom. It is both a moral and ontological ascent toward the fullness of life and, ultimately, eternal life in communion with the divine, which was God’s original intention for humanity all along. [2]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Theosis is the belief, mostly found within the Eastern Orthodox Church, that a Believer can experience a union with God and become like Him so much that they participate in the divine nature. This concept is also known as “deification.” Theosis does not mean that they become Gods or merge with God but that they are deified. They participate in the “energies” of God with which He reveals Himself to us in creation.

[2] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Vol. 4, pp. 37–38).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 29

The Nicene Creed ~ Part 15

 

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Lord

The time between the first iteration of the Creed and its second in 381CE proved to be a tumultuous time in understanding the short phrase of the Creed of 325CE meant when it confessed, We believe in the Ruach. Around the middle of the fourth century, challenges began to emerge from the Arians, the Pneumatomachians (or “Spirit-fighters”), and from Eunomius as to what this confession meant. They spoke of belief in the Ruach as a creature and as less than God. In working out the implications of its confession of belief in the Ruach, the ancient Messianic writers of the mid-fourth century—as well as their opponents -began to understand that whatever happened with the doctrine of the Son also affected the doctrine of the Ruach and vice versa. If the Son is not fully God, the Ruach is not fully God; and if the Ruah is not fully God, then neither is the Son. It was no longer enough to confess belief in the Ruach. If an Arian or a Pneumatomachians could profess belief in the Ruach just as quickly as an orthodox Believer, then the time had come to clarify what the Kehillah believed about the Ruach.

By the time of the Second Ecumenical Council in 381CE, there is every indication that the Council found itself somewhat divided in its articulation of belief about the Ruach. Although we have less information about the discussions that went on at the Second Ecumenical Council than of any other, we know thirty-six Macedonian bishops at the Council would not have affirmed anything more than the Ruach was a creature, albeit a high and holy creature. Their presence and subsequent departure may explain the reaction of Gregory of Nazianzus, who presided at the Council for a time, who asked directly in one of his orations at the time if the Ruach is God. His frustration in getting a clear answer to this question perhaps explains why he offered his resignation in the middle of the Council.

Politically speaking, the bishops had learned their lesson from the previous Council’s discussion of the term of the same essence, which the Arians had charged was an invalid term because it was not found in Scripture. Although the Cappadocians soundly answered this objection, the wording that ultimately won the day in speaking of the Ruach was decidedly and deliberately Scriptural.

This was a delicate political time in the life of Kehillah and state, both of which were looking for a united front against threats from without. The language of the third article of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381CE, in language that some might consider a compromise, nowhere explicitly calls the Ruach God. And yet, the terminology they used can lead to no other conclusion.

Thus, other phrases were added to the Creed to clarify the Kehillah’s understanding of the Ruach. The way had been prepared for these additions earlier in the middle of the century by Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechetical Lectures, Athanasius, and his Four Letters to Serapion (371CE) as well as his Synodal letters, Basil of Caesarea, and his treatise On the Ruach (374CE).[1]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Vol. 4, pp. 1–2).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 28

The Nicene Creed~ Part 14

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we begin to dig into the third article of faith in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

WE BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

The Council of Nicaea in 325 CE provided a short, concise confession of the Ruach in its Creedal formulation. It simply said: We believe in the Holy Spirit. It said this, however, in the context of a trinitarian structure that Yeshua first established Himself when He listed the Ruach along with Himself and the Father in the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19: Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim, immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son, and the Ruach HaKodesh. These words, along with the other words recorded in John and the other Gospels, contain an implicit confession by Yeshua, and by the Kehillah, which followed him, that the Ruach exists along with the Father and the Son as a personal being- what the Cappadocians came to refer to later as a hypostatic being. This being has His individual and complete identity, in and of itself.

The subsequent history of the Kehillah in Acts bears out the truth of Yeshua’s words. The wind that blew at Shavuot (Pentecost) was not an impersonal force or an act of nature or some amorphous spiritual creature. The Ruach was the living God, personally present as the Paraclete, the Comforter, strengthening and encouraging, living among, and giving life to a thriving community of Believers in the first century and beyond. The recorded history of the Gospels and the letters of Sha’ul and Kefa paint the picture of a personal Ruach who can be lied to and resisted. The Ruach is called God. He is referred to as a witness to Yeshua alongside the apostles and as collaborating in decisions such as those at the council of Jerusalem. He fills the faithful. He is given by grace and received by faith. The Ruach speaks to individuals such as Philip, Kefa, and Sha’ul as well as to groups. The Ruach also prevents Sha’ul from entering Asia or Bythinia. He appoints bishops for the Kehillah. We hear of the Ruach’s work in Corinth manifested in the speaking of tongues, which Sha’ul himself experienced. Thus, the Ruach was experienced as God interacting with His people and His Kehillah.

And yet, it is safe to say that the person of the Ruach was perceived as the most mysterious of the three persons of the Trinity. Father and Son are easy to picture as persons. Not so the Ruach. Athanasius called the Ruach the image of the Son even as the Son was the image of the Father. As Torrance notes, it may seem rather strange at first to think of the Ruach as the “Image” of the Son until one begins to realize that the Ruach himself is imageless. But if the Father and the Son and the Ruach are exact, “it must be in an ineffable, imageless and wholly spiritual way that we are to think of them and of their relations with one another in the Holy Trinity.”

The Nicene Creed of 325 CE reflected this perception of the Ruach as a kind of imageless enigma about whom the Scriptures were relatively silent. But up until that time, there was no impetus to speak further about Ruach in defining who or what he was. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 CE expanded on what the Kehillah believed about the Ruach primarily because of the challenge of heretical groups such as the Eunomians and Pneumatomachians who considered the Ruach a divine created being, but nothing more. Before the controversy over the Ruach erupted, however, a simple confession of belief in the Ruach, along with the Father and the Son, in the Creed and the liturgical and sacramental life of the Kehillah was considered adequate, as the Ruach was worshiped along with the Father and the Son in the Kehillah’s hymns, prayers, blessings, baptisms, and doxology.[1]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit(Vol. 4, pp. 1–2).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 27

The Nicene Creed~ Part 13

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. This post digs a little deeper into the actual articles of faith in the Nicene Creed. As you can see below,  I have skipped several clauses that we previously examined in the Apostle’s Creed.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through Him, all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
He came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered death and was buried.
On the third day, He rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and His kingdom will have no end.

HIS KINGDOM WILL HAVE NO END

Of the clauses from the Creed of 381 encompassed by the present volume, this is the most substantial addition to the Nicene Creed of 325. A heresy based on 1 Corinthians 15:28 had declared that in the last days Yeshua and all that belonged to Him would be taken into the Father, so that God, in being, all in all, would cease to be a Trinity. Now when everything has been subjected to the Son, then He will subject Himself to God, who subjected everything to Him; so that God may be everything in everyone. (The heretic who was alleged to have maintained this was Marcellus of Ancyra, a friend of Athanasnius, though he incurred no ecumenical condemnation in his lifetime and would probably have considered the charge unjust.) The purpose of this clause, then, is to make it clear that just as the second person of the Trinity has existed from eternity, so He will continue to exist for all eternity after the end of the created order – in willing submission to God the Father but without surrendering either His own identity or the individuality of the saints.[1]

The ESV Study Bible explains the apparent heresy this way: Yeshua is one with God the Father and equal to the Father in deity (8:6; John 10:30; 14:9; Heb. 1:8) yet functionally subordinate to Him (Mark 14:36; John 5:19, 26–27, 30; 17:4), and this verse shows that His subjection to the Father will continue for all eternity. God will be all in all, not in the sense that God will be everything and everything will be God, as some Eastern religions imagine, but in the sense that God’s supreme authority over everything will be eternally established, never to be threatened again.[2]

In my next post, we begin to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Edwards, M. J., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Crucified and Risen Lord(Vol. 3, p. 171).

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2214).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 25

The Nicene Creed~ Part 11

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. This post digs a little deeper into the actual articles of faith in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through Him, all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
He came down
from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered death and was buried.
On the third day, He rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and His kingdom will have no end.

AND FOR OUR SALVATION

Here as in other places in the Creed, we find parallel phrases juxtaposed. The first of the pair, for our sake, is mirrored with and for our salvation. The reason for these parallels was a perceived need for increasing specification because of more particular contexts of controversy as the fourth century unfolded. The motive of the incarnation as an act of concern from the part of God toward the human race was a Creedal element of the ancient rule of faith that was designed to offset Gnostic belief in a divine power that stood away from this world. In the Gnostic system, the supreme deity was interested only in liberating souls from a material world that evil and alien power had created. The rule of faith had taught, to the contrary, that the supreme God is, in fact, the Creator of the visible as well as the invisible cosmos, and the sending of the Son of God to earth was for our sake, motivated by love for God’s own creation.

For our salvation, the second clause came about because the Arian crisis had necessitated a deeper clarification of what that motive of God’s advent might entail. What did salvation mean, and how was it affected by the descent of the Son of God? Arian theology tended to see the Son of God as one of the chief angelic powers of God, who had come to serve an educational mission: to give examples and correct teachings to a race that had gone astray. This was a one-sided development of one of the many themes found in the works of Origen in the third century. In the response of the Nicene fathers to the Arian movement, we see a continual focus on the status of the incarnate Word as true God come among humankind. The advent of the deity in the flesh to the human race is not merely seen to be an educational activity. However, there is much reflection on how the teachings of Yeshua were essential.

Consequently, there is a reiterated affirmation that salvation is not affected merely through an example. The incarnate Word is seen to bring a life-giving power back to the human race, which had lost the vital energy of life and immortality that had initially been given to it by the very Logos who made humankind. The Word returns to His own to immortalize and deify fallen humanity.

HE CAME DOWN

The Creedal phrase came down from heaven is solely based on Yeshua’s words in the Gospel of John, describing Himself as the living bread that came down from heaven. Ancient Messianic witness to the incarnation as an act of the saving God is organized around this great verb that is found throughout the scriptural record but mainly organizes the thought of the Johannine Gospel as a grand drama of salvation worked out in the twin axes of epiphanies of the Word’s coming down and ascending on high: His exaltation and return to transcendent glory. In the Greek translation of the Tanakh, the term katabasis (coming down) could signify a rich range of meanings. A katabasis could be that of the mother stooping down to her child (an image used in the psalms and the prophets to describe the compassion of the God of Isra’el) or the vigorous and swift descent to aid a friend against the attacks of a foe. Perhaps the most dynamic meaning of all was to connote the fantastic descent of God to reveal His energy and action among humankind. The coming down was thus a cipher for the great theophanic epiphanies of God in the Tanakh, notably at Sinai and in the pillar of fire that God used to symbolize His presence leading the Isra’eli through the desert. For such reasons, the idea of coming down to His people to save and illuminate was inherent in this weighty biblical phrase. We find it used in the early church as a keynote description of the act of the Word’s incarnation: the typical example, for the Messianics, of God’s self-revelation and His compassionate stooping down to humankind.

The early Fathers are quite clear among themselves, and more or less unanimous, that there is only a movement of salvific [1] energy from above to our side, from God to humankind, never a movement the other way around, such as the ascent of a blessed person to the throne of God. The initiative is entirely that of the divine Savior. This is perhaps one of the most striking differences between the Christology of the ancient church and that of recent times. The coming down of the Word of God into embodiment is described with great reverence among the Fathers as an act of profound compassion on the part of God, an act of humility and endurance, motivated by the desire to save and comfort His people. [2]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the second article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in One Lord Yeshua Christ.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Having the intent or power to save or redeem. Merriam-Webster Dictionary/

[2] McGuckin, J. A., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ (Vol. 2, pp. 96–97).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 19

The Nicene Creed~ Part 5

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. This post digs a little deeper into the actual articles of faith in the Nicene Creed.

THE ALMIGHTY

Centuries of Creedal repetition have made it seem natural to associate the words Father and Almighty, and it now takes special effort to realize that this was not so in the early days of the church. The title Almighty is used many times in the Tanakh and the book of Revelation, but it occurs only once elsewhere in the Brit Hadashah, and in no instance is it ever coupled with the word Father. No doubt, the early Believers were happy to make this identification. However, although they did so almost unconsciously, a case can still be made for saying that there should be a comma between the two words in the first article of the Creed to emphasize that the terms are of independent origin.

The word Almighty is not an adjective describing a divine attribute, but a title given to the God of Israel, which is unfortunately obscured in translation. In our English Bibles, Almighty is used to translate the Hebrew name El-Shaddai every time it occurs, and its apparent Greek equivalent, Pantocrator. However, the Greek word is used more than 150 times in the Tanakh, where it sometimes translates El-Shaddai but more often Yahweh Sabaoth or the Lord of Hosts. Unfortunately, neither Latin nor English has exact equivalents of these names.

Initially, the word emphasized that God was the ruler of all things, a status that belonged to him because He had created them. The early Believers needed to maintain this essentially Jewish idea. Without it, the door was open to belief in an independent evil deity that could compete with the true God for power and influence. As time went on, the question arose as to whether God’s universal rule implied that He could do anything and everything, and at first, Believers like Origen were inclined to say that it did. This view was modified somewhat later on, as other theologians (like Augustine) realized that God could not do things that contradicted His nature. This was not because He was not omnipotent but because it made no sense to say that God could do such things. They were no more than verbal constructs, with no reality behind them. For example, to ask whether God could commit suicide or do evil was to fall into absurdity since such concepts could not be applied to His being.

The fact that the Brit Hadashah presents Yeshua as the co-creator of the universe quickly led the early Believers to recognize that the Son must also be Almighty God. As the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was developed in the fourth century, the term was naturally extended to Him as well. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that this theological development, which was greatly assisted by the need to react against the claims of Arius, did not find its way into the Nicene Creed.

Maker

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water. ~ Genesis 1:1-2 (CJB)

The doctrine of creation is one that the early church inherited from Judaism, and it is fundamental to any understanding of the Tanakh. Like Jews, Believers have always believed that the world was created by a good God, who is a personal being who cares for His creatures. He governs the universe by His providential care, and nothing can happen in it without His permission. Because of this belief, Believers have always had to face the problems of what theologians call theodicy. These can be stated as the problem of the existence of evil, and second, the degree to which evil can affect those who believe in God.

The early Believers did not have to defend their doctrine of creation against Jews, except insofar as to say that it was the work of all three persons of the Trinity and not of the Father only. This issue became critical in the fourth century after Arius tried to maintain that the Son and the Holy Spirit were the highest of the creatures. [1] Until that time, the bigger problem for the church was explaining and defending its doctrine against the many forms of paganism, including the most sophisticated pagan philosophies, which could not reconcile their understanding of evil with that of a world created by a good and omnipotent God.

As the implications of a divine ordering of the universe sank in, it became clear that God had to be understood as being in complete control of His creation, even when the latter appeared to go against His wishes. This led to an elaborate defense of divine foreknowledge, which included Adam’s (future) sin and eventually to a refined doctrine of predestination, which is associated above all with Augustine. The Church Fathers were determined to avoid saying that God created evil or made it impossible for some people to be saved on the ground that they were not predestined. Still, the logical implications of predestination were hard to escape, and the fundamental dilemma remained for future generations to ponder and attempt to resolve in their own fashion.

Another issue that engaged the Fathers was the distinction between a world fashioned by God (out of preexisting matter) and a world created by Him out of nothing. The Bible emphasizes the former without denying the latter, but things were not so clear to the Greek mind, which was often dualistic in this respect. The Fathers argued that the word make implied that God had created matter out of nothing since it had to come from somewhere. The fact that God had ultimately created it meant that matter must be good, not evil, and it was here that Messianic teaching confronted the most widespread pagan beliefs of the time. At the same time, the Fathers did not deny that it was the fashioning of matter into what the Greeks called the cosmos, which was the true glory of creation, and they often went into this in great detail. Creedal usage oscillated between maker and “creator,” with the latter word emphasizing the origin of matter ex nihilo. Still, it is clear from the comments made on it that both words are meant to convey the same belief in a God who has made everything according to the purpose of His mind and the intention of His will. [2]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the first article of the Nicene Creed.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] This is the controversy that spurred the Council at Nicea.

[2] Bray, G. L., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in One God (Vol. 1, pp. 93–94).