Saturday, September 24, 2022

The “Form” of God and Entelechy (Gospels 6)

“And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.”

\(John 5:37 NKJV)




The Importance of “Form” in Entelechy


When John calls Jesus and/or God the ἀρχή/”beginning” and the τέλος/”end” (Revelation 21:6, 22:13), he

appears to be tapping into Aristotle’s four causes of entelechy.  The Greek word εἶδος/eidos (translated “form” in the John 5:37 passage, just cited) is one of the four causes of change/kinēsis/κίνησις and of entelechy/entelecheia/ἐντέλεχεια according to Aristotle.  Change/kinēsis/κίνησις, is effected by four potential (dunamis/dunamai) causes:

(1) archē/ἀρχή or “efficient cause,” translated “beginning” in Revelation,

(2) telos/τέλος or “final cause,” translated “end” in Revelation,

(3) eidos/εἶδος (aka, morphē/μορφή) or “formal cause,” and

(4) hulē/ὕλη or “material cause.”

While archē/ἀρχή and telos/τέλος feature prominently in the Book of Revelation (usually translated “the beginning and the end”), the term form/eidos/εἶδος is completely missing from Revelation.  Nevertheless, it is present in Luke’s description of the “form” of the Spirit at Jesus’ baptism (3:22) and in Luke’s description of the transfigured Jesus (9:29) in addition to the John 5:37 discussion of the “form” of God, cited above.  The term material/hulē/ὕλη is also missing from Revelation.  This term only occurs once in the New Testament, in James 3:5, where it refers to the amount of “material/wood/timber” that is kindled by a small fire (in a metaphor of the power of the tongue).  It is never used to refer to the “material” of God.  For the New Testament use of μορφή/form, see μεταμορφόω (metamorphosis/transfiguration) in Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2, and Romans 12:2, plus μορφή/form  in Mark 16:12 (of Jesus) and Philippians 2:6-7.  Henry A. Fischel frequently asserted that New Testament writers knew Rabbinic teachings, Rabbinic writers knew Christian teachings, and they all knew Greek teachings.  Fischel states: “It is fortunate that at this stage of scholarship no further defense has to be made for the assumption that Greco-Roman situations were well-known.”


Why Do “Form” and “Material” Get Overlooked in Revelation?



the terms “form/eidos/εἶδος” and “material/hulē/ὕληshould be missing from any discussion of God's characteristics.  The writer of Revelation appears to be aware of that fact.  Even though Jesus as God’s Son (in the flesh) on Earth experienced physical entelechies, God Almighty did not experience a physical entelechy.  It might be useful to point out, here, that Aristotle used the terms “physical” and “physics/φυσική” to refer to any “natural” object or occurrence.  Nature includes not only biology, but also geology, and astrology.  The Logos of God was NOT “natural” or “physical” (yet, Jesus on Earth WAS physical).  The Logos “created” the natural/physical world.  John 1:2-3 (NKJV) says the Logos “was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”  Hence, all (natural) material/hulē/ὕλη (including “flesh”) was “made” by (or through) the Logos.  At this point, then we are presented with three logical absurdities: (1) If God were composed of material/hulē/ὕλη, God would have been “made” by the Logos.  (2)  Likewise, if the “Logos-become-flesh” were solely composed of material/hulē/ὕλη, the “Logos-become-flesh” would have been “made” by the Logos.  (3)  Furthermore, if we treat the earliest mentions of Logos in John as indicating “Jesus,” we have the strange situation of Jesus creating his own “flesh.”  Now, let’s try to dig our way out of this quandary. 

Absurdity #1 is easily resolved: God is not an entelechy, since God does not consist of material/hulē/ὕλη. Nor has anyone seen His form/eidos/εἶδος, as confirmed by John 5:37.  This is one reason the second Commandment says: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5 NKJV).  God is incorporeal.  When the Jews were commanded to build the Ark of the Covenant (containing the Ten Commandments), they made images of Cherubim to place on top of the Ark.  In the “invisible” area just above where the wings of the Cherubim touch each other was what was known as the “mercy seat.”  This invisible area symbolically identified the location of God.  I state on page 64 of my book Disneology: Religious Rhetoric at Walt Disney World:

Logically speaking, a God who created nature cannot be restricted to the laws of nature . . . Judaism adds to the description of God . . . “invisible.”  The Ark of the Covenant (as presented visually in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark) was designed to symbolically make this point.  All other gods presented at WDW are visible.  The Hebrew God is invisible. 

            Absurdities #2 and #3 are more difficult, but might be resolved by understanding that God is spirit, not flesh.  I had mentioned in my blogpost The Logos and Entelechy (Gospels 3):

On page 150 of my book Angels and Demons:  The Personification of Communication, I write: 


Jewish scholar G. F. Moore links . . . three terms . . . together quite easily.  In his chapter entitled, "The Word of God:  The Spirit," Moore states, "God's will is made known or effectuated in the world not only through personal agents (ANGELS), but directly by his WORD or by his SPIRIT" (emphases mine).


Since John himself (quoting Jesus) emphasizes that God IS spirit (John 4:24) and the facts that the “Spirit of God” is hovering over the face of the waters and God is speaking “words” are all found in Genesis 1:1-3, the possibility of the Logos being identified as the Spirit of God is a very definite possibility.  Identifying the Logos-become-flesh as Jesus may be a later development in the entelechy [of creation].

Identifying the Logos as the Spirit of God seems to have some corroboration in Matthew’s description of the virgin birth.  Matthew 1:18 (NKJV) states: “His mother Mary . . . was found with child of the Holy Spirit.”  Matthew 1:20 (NKJV) has the angel saying: “Joseph . . . do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” Luke 1:35 agrees: “And the angel . . . said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”  If the Logos is the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, then the statement that the Logos/Spirit of God/Holy Spirit “became flesh and dwelt among us” would be very consistent.  The logic would look like this:

Premise 1: The Logos discussed by John in 1:1-5 is the incorporeal Word or Spirit of God that existed simultaneously with God.   

Premise 2: The Logos was God and the Logos (God’s Word) created all matter (=material), including “flesh.”  

Premise 3: “Flesh” was what the Logos, in the fullness of time, “became” (an entelechial action) during the time God’s Son dwelt on Earth. 

Deduction: In contrast to the absurdity #2 listed above, the “Logos-become-flesh” would NOT entirely have been “made”

by the Logos; only his “flesh” would have been made by the Logos.  The Logos, then, would only have “dwelt” (an entelechial action) in the fleshly (material) tabernacle, which he had created (just as humans dwell in houses those humans have made).  The only part of Jesus that was corporeal was the “flesh” (material/hulē/ὕλη) that he acquired from his mother, Mary, while he was growing in her womb and up until the time he was resurrected.  In contrast to the absurdity #3 listed above, we would NOT have the strange situation of Jesus creating his own “flesh.”  This view is entirely “monotheistic” in the sense that God and His Word are a unity (just as my words that come out of my mouth are a part of me); whatever Word/Logos God speaks is very much a part of Him.  For example, my words have a power of their own.  If I severely criticize someone, but not to his/her face, my words might still be very damaging to that person when someone else conveys my words to that person.  Just so, God’s Words (Logos), once they leave His mouth have tremendous power, in themselves, to create light, firmament, seas, vegetation, etc.  Now, we find God’s Word (Logos) has the power to not only create “flesh” but also to “become (or put on) flesh.” In view of the use of the “tabernacle” metaphor, it might be preferable to translate the words “became flesh” as “put on flesh” (i.e., in the sense of becoming one who came to exist in a fleshly tabernacle).


The Tabernacle of Flesh/Material/Hulē/ὕλη


John 1:14 says that God’s Word/Logos (having become or put on flesh) “dwelt among us.”  Picture this:  God’s Word (Logos) dwelling in a fleshly “tabernacle.”  That is how John describes Jesus.  The Greek word translated “dwelt” actually means “tabernacled” (σκηνόω).  Jesus “dwelt” in a tabernacle, just as God “dwelt” in a tabernacle, following the Exodus.  It does not diminish the divinity of either God or Jesus to say that they “dwelt” in “tabernacles.”  Yet, the tabernacles of both God and Jesus

were constructed of physical/earthly/material/hulē/ὕλη.  One difference between God’s tabernacle and Jesus’ tabernacle is that, despite both of them being composed primarily of organic matter/material/hulē/ὕλη. Jesus’ tabernacle was living (his flesh), while God’s tabernacle was built of no-longer-living timbers, flax fibers/linen, etc. and also included such non-living geological materials as gold overlays.  Another difference is that, God’s tabernacle was made “with human hands” in the wilderness, whereas Jesus’ tabernacle was not made with human hands.  It was made by the Logos. 

In a possibly-related passage, Hebrews 9:11 (NKJV) reports: “Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands.”  Even so, Stephen, in Acts 7:48-50 (NKJV), says:

The Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool.  What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? Has My hand not made all these things?’

            Paul and Peter both understood their own bodies to be “tabernacles.”  Peter, in 2 Peter 1:13-14 (NKJV), anticipating his own death, described his impending death as a putting off of his tabernacle: “I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent [tabernacle], to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent [tabernacle], just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.”  Paul’s comments in 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 (NKJV) are further instructive. Although Paul is speaking of his own body (=tabernacle), which he predicts will be “destroyed” and in which he now “groan[s],” he looks forward to having God’s new kind of tabernacle—one not made with human hands, in which mortality is swallowed up by life (i.e., immortality/“eternal in the heavens”).

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent [tabernacle], is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.  For we who are in this tent [tabernacle] groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

Surely, in the heavens, Jesus is no longer living in a fleshly/physical/earthly/material/hulē/ὕλη tabernacle.  How his new body (and/or form/eidos/εἶδος”) is apprehended and experienced will be grist for the next blogpost.  Rather, as Paul suggests for himself, Jesus is now clothed with a habitation immortal, “eternal in the heavens.”  Having undergone the earthly entelechies of growth, learning, and authority (and even birth and death), the Son has reverted to the heavenly majesty he experienced as part of God and His Word/Logos (in the beginning) “en archē/ἐν ἀρχῇ.”

This entelechial understanding of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—as all one person “en archē/ἐν ἀρχῇ” in John 1—illustrates how there can be one monotheistic God whose Son pre-existed with him (and “acted” with Him) in His loins and whose Word/Logos/Spirit created all things.  His Word/Logos/Spirit, then “tabernacled” with us in a fleshly/physical/earthly/material/hulē/ὕλη body made by the Logos.  The Logos, while dwelling in that tabernacle, took on Earthly “entelechies” in his “flesh.”  As I mentioned in the previous post, “‘Sonship’ is Not an Entelechy . . . one does not gradually ‘become’ a son; one ‘is’ a son.  The son even has a pre-existence in the loins of his father . . . Sonship . . . is a state of being (not a ‘process,’ with a beginning, middle, and end).  One NEVER STOPS being a son.”  Therefore, Jesus’ “entelechies” were limited to the time when he was on Earth in his fleshly/physical/earthly/material/hulē/ὕλη tabernacle.  There remain undiscussed, so far, some embryological issues in Jesus’ “male” existence that should be considered.  For example, Mary could not have contributed a Y chromosome to Jesus’ flesh, thus, making him a male embryo.  Such entelechial matters pertaining to Jesus’ earthly form/morphē/μορφή will be addressed in the next blogpost.  Also, next time, we will consider what Paul means when he says that Jesus was found “in the form/morphē/μορφή of God” in Philippians 2:6-7.

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