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DYNAMIS – ENERGEIA

Du,namij and evne,rgeia are pivotal concepts in Aristotle’s metaphysics and were taken up by patristic authors. However, the Fathers’ use of these terms did not always also imply the acceptance of the Aristotelian dialectic of potentiality and actuality. The most important use of these concepts in patristic authors is related to the theme of the knowledge of God, apophaticism, and the relationship between theologia and oikonomia. Philo had developed the doctrine of the powers of God, the dynameis, as expressions of the unknowable divinity, and surely at least Clement, Origen and Gregory of Nyssa were indebted to him in their reflections on apophaticism. But the notion of dynamis plays an important role in the doctrine of creation as well, esp. in Justin, Bardesanes, Clement, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa and some other patristic thinkers.

According to Bardesanes, the Christian philosopher of Edessa who was a contemporary of Clement of Alexandria, Christ-Logos, who created this world, is as he puts it in a fragment preserved by Ephrem “the power of the primordial Logos.” “Power” corresponds to Greek dynamis. The Logos’s being primordial and original is related to his divinity. Precisely because he is God, the Logos was “in the beginning” Jn 1:1, echoing Gen 1:1, and the dynamis to which Bardesanes’s formula alludes is nothing but an aspect of Christ-Logos. Indeed, in Origen too, dynamis is one of the main epinoiai of Christ, besides Logos and SophiaWisdom, and plays a core role in the doctrine of creation.

This conception is already clear in Justin, one of the very first patristic philosophers, and influenced by Platonism as well. In his Dialogue with Trypho, written when Bardesanes was a child or shortly earlier, Justin calls Christ precisely Dynamis, Logos and Sophia: “God begot him from himself in the beginning, before all creatures, Power of Logos du,namij logikh, Son, Wisdom Sofi,a God, Lord, and Logos” 61.1. Most remarkably, Justin’s expression, “Power of Logos begotten in the beginning,” in reference to Christ, exactly corresponds to Bardesanes’s designation of Christ in the aforementioned fragment preserved by Ephrem: “Power of the primordial Logos.” I wonder whether this impressive correspondence might indicate that Bardesanes knew Justin’s work and thought.

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