August 2007


On the surface the terms seem to be identical translations: theosis (θέωσις, Greek), deification (Latin). However, as Normal Russel’s book carefully shows, theosis was only first used in 363 with Gregory of Nazianzus. However, the cognate term theopoieo (θεοποιἐω) was used as early as Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c.215) and Hippolytus of Rome (d.235). Theosis was not used regularly until byzantine times, with Ps. Dionysius and Maximus the Confessor laying the foundation for its popularity.

On the other hand, deification was not as popular in the Latin church (Russell only mentions Tertullian, Hilary of Poitiers, and Augustine), so there was not a comparable evolution of terminology surrounding the theology as with the Greek writers. Divinization is also a Latin term that carries a similar significance but has not been used as often. As to the distinction between divinization and deification, it seems there is a former debate over divinization (theosis) by Energy [good] vs. deification (apotheosis) by Essence [bad]. However, many use deification (e.g., Andrew Louth) and understand it as deification by energy.

Conclusion: 1) As we speak about the development of the doctrine it best to use ‘deification’ as a more generic term. Specifically, it does not employ an anachronistic, byzantine term–theosis–for the early development of the doctrine in the Greek fathers. This is exactly how Russell treats the terminology in his analysis of the Greek tradition. 2) However, if we are speaking of the concept from a systematic theological point of view, it seems to me that theosis or deification would be virtually equivalent (like, for example, kavod [Heb.] and doxa [Gk.]).

I recently had a very helpful email exchange with Carl Mosser, who also promoted conclusion #1 but not #2. He made a distinction between ‘deification’ as the proper Christian view of salvation and ‘theosis’ which is a later (inappropriate) mystical turn influenced by philosophical thought (e.g., Ps. Dionysius and Maximus). I would lean more towards a thesis recently promoted by Donald Fairbairn in the recent version of JETS on “Patristic Soteriology: Three Trajectories?”, where the mystical has roots much earlier in Clement and Origen and so is not technically a ‘later’ turn. I, however, have many more primary sources to read to develop my own informed opinion.

I had a meeting today with John Barclay to get his thoughts on my BNTS paper on ‘glory’ in Romans. He had some good comments about methodology the difference between doing a ‘concept’ study vs. a ‘word’ study. See, James Barr’s, The Semantics of Biblical Language (who is critical of Kittel’s naive biblical theology in TDNT)–he argues that meanings are more tied up in sentences rather than words themselves. The distinction then for me was that the section of my paper that deals with the generic concept of giving glory to God really falls under a larger concept heading of giving honor to God, praising God, etc., which is not that unique. The unique piece is the more loaded aspects where there is an ontological status that is tied up. For example, in Rom 3.23: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ So that just means that I rearrange the sections a little and set up the distinction, but otherwise the content will stay the same.

The more important aspect is that he only asked for clarification of some of my language and that I convinced him that immortality is closely linked to glory. After seeing his critique of others when they have weaker arguments, I was expecting something like that, but the case does seem fairly straight forward. Once I clean it up some more, I’ll post sections for your feedback.

I’ve come across this link before, but I found a booklet by Oscar Cullmann on resurrection recently that reminded me about this site: Religion Online

I’ve got a page listing (almost) all the UK New Testament postgrad programs and their lecturers, along with tuition costs. I got a helpful note about corrections to the St. Andrew’s faculty, so I went through and updated a handful of links and lecturers at different universities. However, I didn’t have time to check all of them. If you see any places for corrections, please pass them along. Thanks.

Mark Bonnington, a Durham local who is associated with a local church–King’s Church–and also St. John’s College, pointed me to a very helpful post he did on Resurrection and Atonement in Paul. It helps clarify some of the questions I had with my Resurrection and Justification post and offers some good thought on the role of resurrection in Paul’s thought. The two goat, one living and one dead–in levitical atonement is an analogy well worth further thought. Definitely check it out.

Mark asked if I knew any resources. I’ve just started thinking about this, so haven’t done much reading. I just picked up David Michael Stanley’s Christ’s Resurrection in Pauline Soteriology, 1961, but I haven’t read it yet. I’m sure there’s got to be something more recent. Anybody else got good biblical or sytematic theology books that develop these connections?

We officially made it to England 1 year ago on 1 August. We flew into Dublin, connected to Edinburgh, and then drove down to Durham. A long and tiring trip, but it could have been much more difficult. We beat the liquid bomb plot by a week or so, so we didn’t have to deal with all that stuff.

We love it here. I would say that we’ve all settled in very well. The people in Durham are very nice and as welcoming as the people in the South ever are. We love our house and we’ve got plenty of neighborhood kids for the boys. The boys love school and the fact that it’s never too hot to be outside. We needed a break from big city life, and Durham is a great place to find it. We drove through Newcastle (~1 mil pop), and were reminded of how nice it is to be in a smaller town. My studies are going well, and it feels like I’m making slow but sure progress–just got to finish this BNTS paper… I’ve got some good study mates–Kristian and Nijay, and I’m looking forward to the new people coming in the autumn. Church is different but the people are friendly.

I’d say that very few things are negatives here. The difference of expectation in customer service type stuff takes an adjustment. The ever decreasing value of the dollar requires a little more financial juggling. Being away from family for so long does take some work. But, none of those things are deal breakers.

In the end we’re all happy and healthy. We thank God for a very enjoyable adventure in the UK.

I just saw that Sky will give £30 gift cards to new subscribers and referers. If you are moving to the UK and are interested in Sky, give me a shout and I’ll refer you. (fyi, there is no cable here in Durham like in other parts of the UK, so Sky is pretty much the only way to go, at least as far as I know.)

Also, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me talk about Vonage, but we both get discounts (currently 2 months free each) through them if I refer you as well.

With both, I just need an email address.

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