Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A 'Person' according to the teaching of St. John of Damaskos


From the book The Person in the Orthodox Tradition by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos, and translated by Esther Williams


""A 'person' according to the teaching of St. John of Damaskos, is "one who by reason of his own operations and properties exhibits to us an appearance which is distinct and set off from those of the same nature as he", that is to say a person is one who appears as somebody in particular among the many of his kind. And St. John of Damaskos mentions two examples to make it clear. The archangel Gabriel who appeared to the Panagia and talked with her, while he was one of the angels and belonged to a particular species, was at the same time a particular individual "distinct from the angels consubstantial with them".
 That is to say, it is a matter of a particular individual who belonged to a choir of angels. Likewise we have the other example, that of the Apostles Paul. When the Apostle was speaking to the people, "while he was one among the number of men, by his characteristics and operations he was distinct from the rest of men". While he was a man, at the same time he was distinguished from the other men by the particular gifts and merits which he had.

It must be emphasized that, according to St. John of Damaskos, hypostasis, person and individual are the samething. At one point he says: "hypostasis or individuals", and in another place he says: "One should know that the holy Fathers used the terms 'hypostasis' and 'person' and 'individual' for the same thing".

From this brief analysis by St. John of Damaskos it appears that the essence is associated with the nature and the hypostasis is associated with the person. And yet it appears that essence or nature cannot subsist without the person or hypostasis. When we speak of hypostasis or person, we mean the essence or nature with its distinctive features. And of course, as we mentioned before, the teaching about the person was formulated by the holy Fathers with regard to the Trinitarian God in order to clarify the relations between the persons of the Holy Trinity, because of the appearance of various heretical doctrines, which falsified the teaching of the Revelation.""


 

Pages 74-75 from the book The Person in the Orthodox Tradition by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos, and translated by Esther Williams

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