2017.10.23. Ramelli, Evagrius’s Kephalaia Gnostika

Ilaria L. E. Ramelli, Evagrius’s Kephalaia Gnostika: A New Translation of the Unreformed Text from the Syriac
Reviewed by Jonathan Douglas Hicks

1 comment:

  1. Warmest thanks for the praiseful and perceptive reading of my essay, translation, commentary, and critical textual notes.

    Some points may be helpful to readers. I agree that KG4.86 “should be interpreted to mean that the intellect will be completely bodiless” (3). I think Evagrius here is advancing his doctrine of “unified nous,” the condition that was before the fall and has to be recovered. This envisages not so much the body’s elimination and destruction as the subsumption of body into soul and soul into nous—a unified nous. Eriugena recognized this doctrine as inspired by Nyssen and took it up (see my “Nyssen’s and Evagrius’ Biographical and Theological Relations,” in: Evagrius between Origen, the Cappadocians, and Neoplatonism, Peeters 2017: http://oxfordpatristics.blogspot.it/2017/08/proceedings-of-xvii-international.html).

    Regarding KG6.14 (3-4), I am glad Hicks accepts that “there are numerous statements in the KG [and, I add, in the Letter on Faith] that point in the opposite direction [to subordinationism]: the Son is seen as wholly divine with the Father and the Spirit”—what many critics deny, speaking of Evagrius’ subordinationism. What I propose is to read either the first sentence of KG6.14 as that of an objector (which is attested elsewhere in Evagrius), or the whole kephalaion as an internal dialectics of thesis, antithesis, and discussion (what Evagrius repeatedly uses, in a “zetetic” fashion inherited from Origen). This is the only way to understand KG6.14 in a non-contradictory manner, since it first states: “Christ is not homoousios with the Trinity,” and then: “Christ is homoousios with the Father.” The subject is always “Christ”—in two sentences that form a ‘contradictio in adiecto.’

    If in KG4.9;4.18 Evagrius distinguishes Christ from the Logos, in KG6.14 he considers both together as a unity: “in union, Christ is homoousios with the Father” and “is the Lord” God. In KG3.1, Christ is considered in his divine nature as Son, and thereby God: “The Father—only he—knows Christ, and the Son—only he—the Father”. Christ and the Son occupy the same position in the equation: Father:Christ = Son:Father. This implies the identity between Son and Christ in his divine nature. Evagrius, like Origen, calls Christ sometimes the logikon alone, sometimes the union of this logikon with God’s Logos/Son. In Skemmata 1, Evagrius treats Christ as a compound of creatural and divine nature, claiming that Christ qua Christ possesses the essential knowledge, i.e. God, who constitutes his own divine nature. Consistently, Palladius in his biography of Evagrius depicts him as supporting, against “heretics” such as “Arians” and Eunomians, the full divinity of Christ-Logos, God’s Son, who also assumed a human body, soul, and nous. Thus, Christ is both God and a logikon. If the issue is a dichotomic Christology (4), this is the same that Nyssen had—not surprising to me, as I think Gregory exerted more influence on Evagrius than is commonly assumed. More on KG6.14 and Evagrius’ Christology is in my “Nyssen’s and Evagrius’ Relations” (and further study, eventually, in a monograph on Evagrius).
    Statements such as “Evagrius’s Christology does not point in the direction of Chalcedon” (4) judge Evagrius from the perspective of posterior theological developments. Paradoxically, though, precisely in KG6.14, the adverb “inseparably,” in reference to Christ, who possesses “inseparably” the “essential knowledge,” i.e. God, is the same as the adverbs that at Chalcedon will describe the inseparability of Christ’s two natures: ἀχωρίστως, ἀδιαιρέτως. And “inseparable” is used here by Evagrius exactly to describe the union of Christ’s divine and human natures: “Christ is the only one who always and inseparably possesses the essential knowledge in himself.” (“Always” may be taken to anticipate Chalcedon’s ἀτρέπτως, "without change over time"). Christ is both God and a logikon.

    I am grateful for Hick’s attentive reading and appreciation of this work, which indeed cost many years of exacting labour (2).

    — Ilaria L. E. Ramelli


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