January 19, 2011

Zero Understanding

So goes the traditional, humorous addendum to the celebrated "5, 4, 3, 2, 1" theology student's mnemonic for remembering trinitarian doctrine:

5 notions, 4 relations, 3 persons, 2 processions, 1 substance

So, in all of the obscurity of theological study, one should celebrate a moment when one of the great doctors admits that it ain't so easy to understand this stuff:

"The Greeks also have another word, hypostasis, but they make a distinction that is rather obscure to me between ousia and hypostasis..."

~Augustine, De trinitate, V:10, in Edmund Hill's translation in this edition from New City Press.

Obscure, indeed, not in the least because hypostasis transliterates to substantia, even though we Latins use persona to describe what the Greeks call hypostasis while they use ousia to indicate what we call substantia. That's way beyond terminological drift; it's quite literally confused.


Cole Matson said...

Love it. I also find it amusing when they use the sharpest ad hominem attacks, especially when a writer has been so carefully polite in his previous letter to his opponent. They didn't pull their punches, those guys.

Today's essay assignment in my theology program, in case you're interested, was, "How can it be maintained that what Jesus did 2,000 years ago on the cross secures reconciliation between God and humanity now?"

Next week: "Does Christian faith require Jesus to be confessed as human and divine? What does this mean?"

Theology is fun.

Brother Charles said...

Great assignments! Let me try:

1. Because divine eternity is identical to divine being.

2. Yes. Everything.

Cole Matson said...

My answer to essay #1 ended up being along the same lines as your most recent blog post (partly because the professor from the faculty who was on the reading list is an exemplarist).

And I'm going to give pretty much the same answer as you did to #2.

But right now, to finish an essay for a different course on the imagery of St Teresa's Interior Castle! @mtjofmcap is right, theology reading does go better in the Presence. Spent 4 hours in our chapel with St Teresa yesterday.