Monday, September 12, 2022

Sonship and “Learning” and “Authority” Entelechies (Gospels 5)

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

(Luke 2:52 NKJV)




The Learning Entelechy


Did Jesus (on Earth) have less knowledge than God?  I have never yet met a person who argues that Jesus understood and spoke perfect Aramaic on the day he was born—the day when the Logos “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father (John 1:14 NKJV).  Not only did Jesus not know Aramaic at birth, neither did he know and speak every other language and dialect ever spoken in the world.  Nevertheless, there is no evangelical Christian alive who would suggest that the Father THEN and Jesus NOW do not understand and communicate in every language and dialect ever spoken in the world, since they hear and answer the prayers of all. Why did Jesus say, in Mark 13:32 (NKJV): “But of that day and hour [of his Second Coming] no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”?  There was, therefore, something that Jesus did NOT know concerning his Coming; yet, Jesus DID know that “this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Mark 13:30 NKJV). Was Jesus’ knowledge “partial” at this point in his life?  Hebrew 5:8 (NKJV) states: “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”  Jesus’ “suffering” was at the end of his earthly life.  Was he still “learning” at that point? 

Needless to say, Jesus apparently experienced a “learning” entelechy while on Earth.  Learning is an entelechy of

the same variety as filling the grain tank at the top of the combine and filling time, described in the previous post.  Learning involves “filling” something up to completeness—namely, the mind.  I observe on page 31 of my book Implicit Rhetoric:  Kenneth Burke’s Extension of Aristotle’s Concept of Entelechy: 

Aristotle offers examples of entelecheia:  "When the buildable [oikodomêton] . . . is fully real [entelecheia], it is being built [oikodomeitai], and this is building [oikodomêsis]" (201a16-18).  Likewise, he offers the terms learning (mathêsis), doctoring (iatreusis), rolling (kulisis), leaping (alsis), ripening (andrunsis), and aging (gêransis) (cf. also Metaphysics 1065b20).  All of these examples of entelecheia end in -sis as does the term kinêsis, itself.  The Greek term kinêsis (which Hardie and Gaye have translated "motion") is Aristotle's key term for describing something that is in a continuous process of change.

When Luke 2:52 states that “Jesus increased in wisdom,” Luke indicates that Jesus was in a continuous process of changing (kinêsis) from less wisdom to more wisdom—filling up his mind with wisdom and knowledge.  Luke makes the just-mentioned observation following Jesus’ trip to the temple, as a twelve-year-old, where Luke 1:46-47 (NKJV) reports: “Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.”  This point in time, recorded by Luke, is somewhere in the “middle” of the learning entelechy for Jesus—with the Logos becoming flesh at the archē/ἀρχή and Jesus’ resurrection and/or ascension to Heaven at the telos/τέλος.  Once Jesus was resurrected and ascended, he is presented by John in Revelation as knowing all truth.  (See my blogpost Apocalyptic?  #19:  Does Absolute Truth Exist?)

“Sonship” is Not an Entelechy


In the Jewish mind, one does not gradually “become” a son; one “is” a son.  The son even has a pre-existence in the loins of his father.  Refer back to my previous blogposts, Amoeba/Protozoa Theology (Gospels 1) and Genealogies and Entelechy (Gospels 4).  Sonship, on the other hand, is a state of being (not a “process,” with a beginning, middle, and end).  One NEVER STOPS being a son, for example.  Therefore, sonship is not an entelechy, yet, all “sons” go through entelechial processes.  Human sons go, of course, through the growth entelechy, just the same as grains of wheat do, when planted.  You will recall that growth is an entelechy of substance (morphê), and, once Mary became pregnant, Jesus’earthly body morphed in utero, until he became an infant at Bethlehem.  Then, just as Luke reports, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52 NKJV).  Therefore, the

entelechy of substance (morphê) was a first type of entelechy that Jesus experienced on Earth.  Physical growth is almost entirely devoid of “free will,” except for such matters as intentionally getting proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep.  Kenneth Burke would call growth an entelechy of “motion,” as opposed to “action.”  No thought process is necessary in “motion”; whereas, “action” requires thought and conscious purpose.  One can “grow” while one is asleep or unconscious.  Jesus begins “growing” from the point of his conception in Mary’s womb.  As an aside, this discussion of the growth entelechy is also an argument that Aristotle’s entelechy supplies for the pro-life position.  As I discuss on page 67 (and elsewhere) in my book Implicit Rhetoric: “Once kinêsis [growth] begins (at conception), I believe that Aristotle would classify the entity as entelecheia.”  In other words, life begins at conception, according to Aristotle.  Remember, however, that Jesus, in the Jewish mind, existed in the (metaphorical) loins of his father.  It was only his earthly, human, body that experienced growth.


The Authority Entelechy

As discussed in the first section of this post, a second type of entelechy that Jesus experienced on Earth was the entelechy of “learning”—something that definitely involves “action.”  One “chooses” to learn.  Learning is one example of an entelechy of quantity (completeness or filling), as was the grain tank “filling” on the combine.  Another example of an entelechy of quantity experienced by sons, to which we now turn, is the entelechy of “authority.”  Did Jesus exercise control over his own bodily functions as a baby?  Did Jesus exercise authority over Mary and Joseph from the point of his birth?  No.  Did he exercise authority over them from the time he was twelve years old?  No.  Luke 2:48-51 (NKJV) reports on the situation:

His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”  And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.  Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. 

When Mary stated to Jesus, “your father and I have sought you,” Jesus discreetly corrected his mother’s explicit mis-identification of his father as Joseph: “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  Jesus knew who his Father was by age twelve.  Nevertheless, Jesus “actively chose” to be subject to his mother and her husband, Joseph.  At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was still demonstrating submission to his mother.  John 2:3-7 (NKJV) records the account of the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee:   

[W]hen they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”  Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.  Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.

Though Jesus (remaining totally in character with his twelve-year-old incident) is still gently resisting his mother’s implicit commands, he complies.  Why does an earthly mother appear to be exercising authority over her thirty-year-old son, who is the Son of God?  It probably has something to do with the Fifth Commandment: “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, Matthew 15:4 and 19:19, Luke 18:20, and Ephesians 6:1) even if your father and mother are not completely wise in certain matters.  Jesus is voluntarily “choosing” to submit.  Does it not, then, make sense that, as a Son, Jesus would also voluntarily “choose” to submit to his true Father?  Therefore, Jesus defers to his Father’s authority in the matter of who would sit on his right and left hands, in Matthew 20:23 (ESV): “to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.  He also, in John 12:49 (ESV) asserts: “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.  Of course, since Jesus IS God’s Word/Logos-become-flesh, his “words” ARE God’s Words.  Even though Jesus chose to submit to his mother and to his Father, his own personal “authority,” by the time he began his ministry, was very much in evidence. 

Jesus had power over the winds and waves; “even the wind and the sea obey[ed] him” (Matthew 28:27).  He had the power to “bring forth bread from the earth” (feeding of 5000) and he “created the fruit

of the vine” (at the wedding feast in Cana).  These two feats (creating bread and wine) are the basis of the Jewish prayer at meals in the Mishnah—capabilities that are attributed only to God, whom the Jews bless.  He had the power to heal the sick, raise the dead, curse the fig tree, walk on water, etc.

Matthew 7:29 (NKJV, also Mark 1:22 and Luke 4:32) observes: “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.  Jesus, in Matthew 9:6, Mark 2:10, and Luke 5:24 (NKJV) asserts: “the Son of Man has power [authority] on earth to forgive sins.”  In Mark 1:27 (NKJV, also Luke 4:36) bystanders observed, “For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.  Then, in Matthew 10:1 (NKJV, also Mark 3:15 and 6:7 and Luke 9:1 and 10:19), Jesus gave his twelve apostles “power [authorityover unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.  John 5:27 (NKJV) reports that God “has given Him authority to execute judgment.”  Jesus even has the authority/power over his own life, according to John 10:17-18 (NKJV): “I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power [authority] to lay it down, and I have power [authority] to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”  These actions are matters of “choice” and “free will” for Jesus.  He is not the passive victim of someone else’s will.  He is “voluntarily” submitting to death, even though Jesus prayed in Matthew 26:39 (NKJV): “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.  Jesus had the authority and free will to forego the crucifixion, but he executed the plan as the Father designed it.  It clearly was a very gut-wrenching choice. 

Certainly, by the end of his ministry, Jesus was claiming complete authority.  In John 17:2, towards the end of his life, Jesus prayed to God: “You have given Him [God’s Son] authority over all flesh.”  In Matthew 28:18, Jesus asserts: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  The telos/τέλος of the entelechy of quantity (the filling up of Jesus’ authority) had now been reached.

“Sonship” is the Key to Understanding these “Filling” Entelechies

            Paul’s comment in Galatians 4:1-2 (NKJV) is very helpful in understanding these entelechies: “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.  When the Logos “became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory . . . as of the only-begotten of the Father,” he voluntarily entered into some earthly entelechies.  Among those entelechies were the “growth” entelechy, what Aristotle called a change of “substance” or “form,” as he “grew” in stature.  The second kind of entelechy, what Aristotle called a change of “quantity, complete and incomplete,” was the “filling”

entelechy.  Jesus’ mind “filled” with knowledge, as he “grew” in wisdom.  Meanwhile, his power/authority was also increasing until, ultimately, he claimed that “all authority” had been given to him.  As Paul observes, when Jesus was “a child, [he did] not differ at all from a slave, though he [was] master of all, but [was] under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the Father.”  Indeed, Jesus saw his role on earth as that of a servant.  Entelechially speaking, the “essence” of his Sonship –being master of all (based on his preexistence “in” the Father)—was “spread out” over time.  Kenneth Burke refers to such a factor in entelechy as the “temporizing [the process of spreading out over time] of essence” (See Philosophy of Literary Form, 19).    While the growth (in stature) entelechy and the filling entelechy (learning wisdom and gaining authority) occur gradually over time, entelechially, one sees them as a time-condensed snapshot of sorts, all existing “en archē” (ἐν ἀρχῇ).  Refer back to the first post in this series.  Hence, entelechially-speaking (since the end/telos/τέλος is implicit in the beginning/ἐν ἀρχῇ), Jesus has always possessed (entelechially) all wisdom, knowledge, and power/authority.  The “earthly” concept of entelechy helps us to understand the “heavenly” concepts of theology, just as Jesus was teaching Nicodemus (John 3:12).

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