Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bonaventure on the Distinction between Person and Nature

In III Sententiarum d.5 a.2 q.2:

"In hunc autem errorem pessimum decidit Nestorius, ut dicit Boethius, pro eo quod nescivit distinguere inter personam et naturam. Pro eo enim quod vidit in Christo duplicem esse naturam, intellexit duplicem esse personam. Eutyches vero ex eadem causa erravit, sed non eodem modo. Quia enim nescivit discernere inter personam et naturam et vidit quod in Christo non poterat esse nisi una persona, ex hoc compulsus est ponere quod in Christo non est nisi una natura. Et ideo sicut duo fuerunt errores in divinis, scilicet Arii et Sabellii, pro eo quod nesciverunt distinguere inter naturam et personam, sic duo fuerunt errores circa incarnationem Christi, videlicet Eutychis et Nestorii. Catholica vero Ecclesia per medium istorum errorum pertransiit, dicens in deitate plures esse personas et unam naturam, et in Christo plures naturas et unam personam. Et ideo simpliciter concedit personam assumsisse naturam et negat personam assumsisse personam, sicut Magister dicit in littera."

Nestorius fell into this worst error, as Boethius says, becuase he did not know to distinguish between person and nature. For because of the fact that he saw in Christ a double nature, he understood there to be a double person. Eutyches erred for the same reason, but not in the same way; for because he did not know to distinguish between nature and person and saw that in Christ there could only be one person he was compelled to claim that in Christ there was only one nature. And therefore just as tehre were two errors in divine matters, namely of Arius and Sabellius, because they did not know to distinguish between nature and person, so there were two errors about the incarnation of Christ, namely of Eutychis and Nestorius. But the Catholic Church passes through the middle of those errors saying that there are many persons and one nature in deity, and in Christ manynatures and one person. And therefore she grants unqualifiedly that a person has assumed a nature and denies that a person has assumed a person, just as the Master says in the text.

14 comments:

Michael said...

I remember throwing this passage at the E.P.'s a couple of years ago. No response.

energeticprocession said...

That because it doesn't deal with the problem. It's just a restatement of John of Damascus or similar. It's almost verbatim what John says in the Exact Exposition Chapter III.

The fact is that your tradition is inconsistent. That's the claim. What he says here is perfectly Orthodox, but it isn't consistent with belief in the Lyon and Florence filioque doctrine. Two persons share a property that the other doesn't have.

Too bad Bonaventure doesn't follow this out in every aspect of theology including most importantly Triadology.

Anthony said...

"Two persons share a property that the other doesn't have."

You know, this is addressed in ST, I, Q. 36, Art. 4 (http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1036.htm#article4). I don't know if I find Aquinas' reply particularly convincing, but surely the scholastics were aware that this was a potential difficulty.

I offer this not as a rebuttal, which I leave to the more learned, but merely a rhetorical correction of what I feel is the insinuation that the scholastics (Bonaventure among them) weren't even aware of this and similar issues, about which the scholastics are frequently accused of being "inconsistent." In any case, "inconsistent" is an easy charge to make, probably impossible to prove.

Michael said...

" What he says here is perfectly Orthodox, but it isn't consistent with belief in the Lyon and Florence filioque doctrine."

Yes, that's certainly the claim, but the claim is false. You have yet to demonstrate an adequate grasp of Bonaventure's or Scotus' (merely to speak of the scholastics we here know the best) triadology such as to enable you to make the claim with any force.

Bonaventure echoes Damascene as he echoes all the Fathers--because he shares the same faith with them.

energeticprocession said...

"You have yet to demonstrate an adequate grasp of Bonaventure's or Scotus' (merely to speak of the scholastics we here know the best) triadology such as to enable you to make the claim with any force."

I know what the Latins of Florence taught. I know the arguments put forward by the interlocutors in the original. Last time I checked there is only one filioque doctrine that was established. If you think they have something to pur forward that is different then those interlocutors, then you'll have to produce it.

Damascene knows nothing of the Latin filioque, and in fact argues against the idea.

Anthony,
Thomas says in that context, "Therefore, as the Father and the Son are one God, by reason of the unity of the form that is signified by this word "God"; so they are one principle of the Holy Ghost by reason of the unity of the property that is signified in this word "principle."

If the Father and Son are one God, by having the One Essence, then they are the one principle because of that One _____ ?

The same answers have given over and over and over since the 9th century. We're told the divine essence isn't the one principle, but yet when pressed it looks very much like this is the case. The same stuff was put forward at Florence. We're not convinced, so the same critiques as Sts. Photios and Mark of Ephesus apply.

Anthony said...

Mr. Jones,

Well, that's pretty much what I got out of that passage, too. It does seem like a silly mistake by Aquinas if that's all there is to it, which is why I'm reluctant to interpret it along those lines, and also reluctant to accuse him or the other medieval Western theologians of inconsistency or confusing nature and person. But I'm still learning, and I find both the filioque and its absence somewhat problematic.

I'm also still skeptical if Aquinas' theory really was adopted wholesale at Florence, whatever the literal wording is. What about the Franciscans of the time? It would be nice is there were accessible translations of Scotus's writings on The Trinity (i.e., disparate relations).

--Anthony Roberts

energeticprocession said...

"It does seem like a silly mistake by Aquinas if that's all there is to it, which is why I'm reluctant to interpret it along those lines, and also reluctant to accuse him or the other medieval Western theologians of inconsistency or confusing nature and person."

I wouldn't say he's making a silly mistake. I'm saying the man is stuck, forced to deny what he implicitly affirms. He's put in a bad position defending a tradition that is foisted on the west by the germans in the 8th/9th century.

Photios

Lee Faber said...

Anthony,
Michael and I discussed the relation between Thomas and Florence in the combox several posts ago. I did translate Scotus' filioque question, in which he rejects the dominant western argument for the filioque but holds it anyway on the authority of the Church (which is probably worse to the easterners. Here is a "truthy" comment of his that while it will not make them happy, is good to bear in mind:

"But perhaps, if two wise ones – one Greek and the other Latin – each a true lover of truth and not of his own manner of speaking [propriae dictionis], insofar as it is his own, should investigate about this seeming contradiction, it would appear to each at last that that contradiction is not truely real, just as it is in speech; otherwise either those Greeks or we Latins truly are heretics. But will anyone dare to claim that these authors, namely, blessed Basil, Gregory the Theologian and Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril, and all other Greek fathers are heretics? Likewise, who indeed would dare to call Jerome, Augustine, Hilary, and the other Latin doctors heretics?"

Anthony said...

Mr. Jones wrote:

"He's put in a bad position defending a tradition that is foisted on the west by the germans in the 8th/9th century."

So goes the claim. But I have seen little evidence that the Latin filioque Maximus the Confessor defended was radically different from the post-Franks, or post-schism, filioque.

Mr. Faber:

Thank you for the translated commment by Scotus. I have read the combox exchange you refer to and it is part of what has gotten me thinking about Florence and Aquinas.

There is still much I am ignorant about.

--Anthony Roberts

energeticprocession said...

"But I have seen little evidence that the Latin filioque Maximus the Confessor defended was radically different from the post-Franks, or post-schism, filioque."

The evidence is in a dissertation written by a Roman Catholic scholar: Dr. Edward Siecienski.

http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3201137/

Photios

Anthony said...

"The evidence is in a dissertation written by a Roman Catholic scholar: Dr. Edward Siecienski."

Heh. I wonder how I'd justify that $34 to my wife -- I am not, after all, one of those rich grad students. I also question the recommendation of someone's PhD. dissertation in this context, but thanks anyway.

Michael said...

E.P. seems to be claiming here that the problem is the Filioque, but Faber's point is rather that Bonaventure (and the scholastic tradition in general) does not suffer from that confusion between person and nature which E.P. so often claims.

"That because it doesn't deal with the problem."

It doesn't if the problem is the consistency of the Filioque, but it certainly does if the problem is the distinction between person and nature, such that E.P. is still arguing as of the past few days that Latin doctrine implies a multiplication of persons in Christ and/or a unicity of persons in the Godhead.

I posted this there today, but since they have been known to be very free in deleting comments in the past, I preserve it here also:

Photios: ". . . If essence is prescriptive and entails having person, then Christ who has two natures, must also have two person’s that are prescriptive of those two essences (that’s logical order of his thinking). The union must be conjunctive."

Me: "Your logic is bad. Consider the following argument:

Having an eye entails having a head.
Bob has two eyes.
Therefore Bob has two heads.

Having a personal nature entails being a personal supposit. This says nothing either way about the possibility of there being many persons in one nature or many natures in one person.

We do not identify persons with natures. Consider the quote from Bonaventure on my blog:

“Nestorius fell into this worst error, as Boethius says, becuase he did not know to distinguish between person and nature. For because of the fact that he saw in Christ a double nature, he understood there to be a double person. Eutyches erred for the same reason, but not in the same way; for because he did not know to distinguish between nature and person and saw that in Christ there could only be one person he was compelled to claim that in Christ there was only one nature. And therefore just as tehre were two errors in divine matters, namely of Arius and Sabellius, because they did not know to distinguish between nature and person, so there were two errors about the incarnation of Christ, namely of Eutychis and Nestorius. But the Catholic Church passes through the middle of those errors saying that there are many persons and one nature in deity, and in Christ manynatures and one person. And therefore she grants unqualifiedly that a person has assumed a nature and denies that a person has assumed a person, just as the Master says in the text.”

As pointed out there, I showed this passage to you over two years ago and you ignored it, continuing to insist that the West does not have this distinction. Instead of admitting the fact you claimed that it was irrelevant and turned it into an argument about the Filioque. Whatever."

Colonix said...

this is such a wonderful,well-written post! I havent been able to enjoy a post like that in a very long time! This is definitely genius. 'Bonaventure was one of a group of Parisian theologians, including the Dominicans Albert and Thomas, who attempted to set up Christian theology as an Aristotelian science. He therefore approached the issue of the existence of God with a sharp distinction between principles and conclusions in mind. The question he asks is not “Does God exist?” but “Is the divine being so true that it cannot be thought not to be?” This Anslemian formulation offers two options: God's existence is either a principle or a demonstrated conclusion. Philosophers are inclined to pick one route to God and reject all others, but Bonaventure had learned from Francis, the poor man of Assisi, that the world is filled with signs of God that even the simplest peasant can grasp. Bonaventure's response to the problem of the existence of God was therefore most unusual. He pursued all three routes to God; and he even ranked them: Illumination arguments make us “certain” of God's existence; aitiological arguments give us “more certain” knowledge of God's existence; while ontological arguments show that God's existence is “a truth that is most certain in itself, in as far as it is the first and most immediate truth'

Cheers,
Genevieve
dr natura

Michael said...

That might be the weirdest spam I've ever seen.