Pseudo-Clement and gMatt, the form (μορψή) of God, and the least

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Pseudo-Clement and gMatt, the form (μορψή) of God, and the least

Post by gryan »

Early on this morning, I wrote various things here on the forum. Later on in the morning, I found an article about Pseudo-Clement, and it featured an odd combination of various motifs that I'd been thinking about. I'm reprinting a portion of the article here, in case anyone else might find it interesting.

IV. Matt. 18:10 in the Ps.-Clementine Homilies

Matt. 18:10
"See that you do not look down on any of these little ones (τῶν μικρῶν). For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father in heaven."

The following passage occurs in Ps.-Clem. Horn. 17:

Of His commandments this is the first and great one, to fear the Lord God, and to
serve Him only. But He meant us to fear that God whose angels they are who are the
angels of the least (των ελαχίστων) of the faith amongst us, and who stand in heaven continually beholding the face of the Father
. For He has shape (μορφήν), and He has even limb primarily and
solely for beauty's sake, and not for use. For He has not eyes that He may see with
them; for He sees on even side, since He is incomparably more brilliant in His body
than the visual spirit which is in us, and He is more splendid than everything, so that
in comparison with Him the light of the sun may be reckoned as darkness. Nor has
He ears that He may hear (for He hears, perceives, moves, energizes, acts on even
side). But He has the most beautiful shape (καλλίστην μορφήν) on account of man,
that the pure in heart may be able to see Him.. .

What affection ought therefore to arise within us if we gaze with our mind on His
beautiful shape (εύμορφίαν)! But otherwise it is absurd to speak of beauty. For beauty
cannot exist apart from shape (μορφής); nor can one be attracted to the love of God
(τον αύτοΰ έρωτα έπισπασθαι), nor even deem that he can see Him, if God has no
form (είδος).

Bogdan G. Bucur, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Novum Testamentum 49 (2007) commented:

"This passage in the Ps.-Clementina was apparently not part of the so-called
Basic Writing (now lost), but was introduced by the author of the Homilies,
who reworked it around 300-320 CE. The homilist used a number of Jewish
and Jewish-Christian traditions. For the passage under discussion, there is
even solid evidence of a literary source, which was also shared by Clement
of Alexandria (more on this in the following section).Before discussing doctrine
of this fragment and its use of Matt. 18:10,
it is necessary to sketch out the polemical context of Ps.-Clem. Horn. 17.7-
10. The apostle Peter and Simon Magus disagree sharply over who or what
constitutes the "true God." To Simon's taste, the divinity of the Bible appears
crude and unsatisfactory, because it does not meet certain standards of perfection derived from metaphysical speculation. Peter rejects Simon's higher God as mere fancy, the result of an imagination harassed by demons, and affirms forcefully his attachment to the Biblical God who made heaven
and earth. The passage from Ps.-Clem. Horn. 17 identifies this "true God":
not Simons abstract "great power," distinct from the Creator, but precisely
the Creator and Lawgiver, the Biblical God whose luminous and beautiful
form is enthroned and worshipped by angels. This anthropomorphic appearance,
which includes "all the limbs," such as eyes and ears, is, however, only
for our sake: God himself does not need eyes, ears, or any form; yet, unless
he showed himself in this most beautiful form, how could anyone long for
him, and gaze on him? Peter's insistence on the "beauty" of Gods body,
the mentioning of various limbs, and the general "erotic" language
(e.g., τον αύτοΰ έρωτα έπισπασθαι) suggest a certain relation
between the passage in Ps.-Clem. Horn. 17 and the mystical exegesis of the Song of Songs in
Jewish Shiur Qomah literature. This has already been noted in scholarship: Gershom Scholem,
fewish Gnosticisyn, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition (New York: Jewish Theological
It is now possible to take a closer look at the use of Matt. 18:10. The
verse is crucial for Peters argument, since it serves as a means of identifying
"the true God." This "true God" is, for Peter, the one who is attended by
"the angels of the least of the faithful... who stand in heaven continually
beholding the face of the Father." Implied in such a description is the image
of an enthroned deity; and, as Peter adds immediately, the throne-imagery
implies that God has a form: "for He has shape and He has every limb."
The wording in Peters statements suggests that Matt. 18:10 is here combined with Matt. 25:40.3
The first and most obvious element to suggest this is the replacement of των μικρών (from Matt. 18:30) by των ελαχίστων, the term used for those whom the Son of Man calls his "brethren" in Matt. 25:40
(των αδελφών τών ελαχίστων)
. Secondly, the final part of Horn. 17.7 (verses 4-6)
also evokes Matt. 25:40, 45.38
By way of consequence, there is an overlap
between the "face of God" in Matt. 18:10, the enthroned Son of Man in
Matt. 25:31-46, and God's "form" or "body" which constitutes the heavenly "model" of the human being.
It appears, in conclusion, that the use of Matt. 18:10 in the Ps.-Clementine
Homilies is not very different from that of Irenaeus' Marcosians. Even though
the theological frameworks of the texts are very different (one is dualistic, the
other rejects dualism, hence terms such as "God" or "Christ" mean different
things), both view the "Face of God" in Matt. 18:10 as the enthroned "form"
or "body" of God, which they identify with Christ.

The fact that the same exegesis of Matt. 18:10 occurs in Clement of Alexandria is very significant, because Clement has read all the material discussed so far: Irenaeus' account of the Marcosians,
the writings of the Oriental branch of Valentinianism,
as well as the source used by the Ps.-Clem. Horn. 17.4

Cf "The argument in Horn. 17.7.4-6 runs as follows: honoring the invisible God is possible
by honoring his "visible image (εικόνα)"; but since this image is quite simply the human
being, honoring God ultimately requires feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc., as
stated in Matt. 25:40, 45. The homilist understands creation "in-the image" to mean that
God "molded (διετυπώσατο) man in His own shape (μορψή)," i.e., he used as a pattern the
beautiful, radiant, divine extent mentioned earlier; what results from this process—the human
being—is the "image"; "likeness" refers to the spiritual growth of the image. The same connection between Gen. 1:26 and Matt. 25:36-45 occurs in Horn. 11:4. The use of "image"
is markedly different from that of Col. 1:15 and the later theology of Irenaeus (Dem. 22;
Adv. haer. 4:33:4), where Christ is the image, while humans are patterned after and oriented towards the image, i.e., Christ."
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