Sunday, 3 May 2015

Zachary Keith: The Problem of ἐνυπόστατον in John Damascene: Why Is Jesus Not a Human Person?

Much recent scholarship has addressed the full meaning of ἐνυπόστατον, with no general consensus on the term’s proper understanding. This paper presents John Damascene’s alternate uses of the term: John firstly defines ἐνυπόστατον simply as ‘subsistent’, following earlier Christian tradition, but he also uses the term to mean ‘indwelling’.
In this paper, I compare the different instances of ἐνυπόστατον throughout the Dialectica andExpositio fidei, recognizing John’s Christological, Trinitarian, and philosophical uses. While there is symmetry between John’s definitions in the Dialectica and the term as it is used elsewhere in the Expositio fidei, this symmetry is not simply a result of John’s pro-Chalcedonian Christology. Instead, John’s works betrays an Aristotelian ontology, inherited through Porphyry and John Philoponus: he focuses on the distinction between primary and secondary essences.
Building on the work of U.M. Lang, C. Erismann, and B. Gleede—who conclude that ἐνυπόστατον cannot be used synonymously with ὑπόστασις—I aim to show that the impetus for John’s use of ἐνυπόστατον as it is in the Expositio fidei and elsewhere is to describe the personhood of Jesus, particularly in relation to us. Its primary function is not as doctrinal proof, but as explanation of the relation between Christ’s humanity and divinity as transmitted by the consensus patrum.

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