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Personality

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The word person is derived from the Latin "persona," originally a term of the theater, and signifying the mask worn of old by actors. Hence it signified a dramatic character, and in Cicero a personage; in Suetonius an individual, as also in law Latin. Tertullian seems to use the word in its original sense, where he says "Personae Dei, Christus Dominus," for he immediately interprets the words by the apostle's expression, "Qui est imago Dei" i.e. Christ is the eternal manifestation of the Deity (Adv. Marc. v, ii); he uses it also in its conventional meaning, "personam nominis," the personage to whom the name attaches (ibid. 4:14); but elsewhere he applies the word in its true ecclesiastical sense of an intelligent individual Being, "Videmus duplicem statum non confusum sed conjunctum in una persona Deum et hominemn Jesum" (Adv. Proef: 28 Similarly the adverb "personaliter" means with him relative individuality in contrast with absolute being: "Hunc substantialiter quidem αἰῶνα τελειον appellant; personaliter vero πρὸ ἀρχήν et, τὴν ἀρχήν i.e. the first absolutely, the second in antecedent relation with every after- emanation. It is important to ascertain the meaning of ecclesiastical Latin terms in Tertullian, for when he wrote the language of the Church at Rome was Greek; and the Latinity of the Western Church, as well as the barbarisms of its version of Scripture, were imported shortly afterwards from Africa. "Persona" in Latin bore the same relation to "substantia" as ὑπόστασις to οὐσία in Greek theology; but ὑπόστασις in the sense of person was etymologically equivalent for the very different theological idea of "substantia" in Latin; hence arose the confusion that has been noticed under the article HYPOSTASIS (See HYPOSTASIS).

Hilary first coined the term "essentia," to convey the meaning of οὐσία ; " novo quiden? nomine," as says Augustine, "quo usi non slunt veteres Latini auctores, sed jam nostris terimporibus usitato, ne deesset etiam linguae nostrae quod Grseci appellant οὐσιάν " (Civ. Dei, 12:2), and "persona" was retained as the equivalent for ὑποστασις.

The meaning of "person" in theology is as Locke has defined it in metaphysics: "A person is a thinking, intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing in different times and places." There must be a continuous intelligence and a continuous identity, as well as individuality. The memorable axiom of Descartes, "Cogito, ergo sum." may be applied not only to the reality of thinking substance, but also to the true personality of that intelligent being. "I am a conscious being, therefore in that consciousness I have a personal existence." But "personality," as applied to the divine substance, involves a contradiction that defines in this direction, as Dr. Mansel has observed, the limits of human thought (Limits of Religious Thought, p. 59). We are compelled to apply to the Absolute our own insufficient human terms of finite relation. The idea of personality must always involve limitation; one person is invested with acqidents that another has not. Yet God, as the designer and creator of the universe, must have a personal existence; as Paley has well stated it, "The marks of design are too strong to be gotten over, and design must have had a designer; that designer must have been a person. That person is God." But how is substance thus affected with personality? Analogy in such a matter cannot lead us through the difficulty, for God is one, and such a test is an impossibility for want of any true means of comparison. Yet thus much may be said: So far as it reaches, analogy shows that the personality of the Deity is very possible; for if beings of another world could watch the growing results of human civilization, without having the power of tracing out the individual efforts that produce it, they would find themselves in a somewhat similar difficulty. Humanity, they might reason, is certainly an intelligent substance; but substance is something vague and undetermined; yet the intelligence that is developing all terrestrial works must be the result of personal design and personal skill: therefore this world-wide humanity must have a definite, personal substance. Adam, in the first instance, was that personal substance. Christ in the end shall recapitulate (Irenaeus) all humanity in himself, we know not how. Therefore in some way that is a present mystery, but of certain future solution, God may be Substance that is All-wise and Absolute, and personality may attach to his being, limiting the Unlimited, and defining the Indefinite (ibid. p. 56-59). In the mean time the idea of personality is mixed up intimately with all man's highest and noblest notions of the Deity (ibid. p. 57, 240), neither is it possible to form the faintest possible conception of a non-personal God. The religious idea revolts against the negation, which, in fact, would be its annihilation. The sense of personal individual responsibility to a personal God and Father of all would pass away, and a "caput mortuum" of pantheism would be all that would remain an illusive Maya for the present, a hopeless Nirvana for the future. Next, with respect to a plurality of persons in the Deity, Hooker excellently defines the properties that determine this phase of the divine nature; and his generalization may serve to impress upon the mind the impossibility of expressing the mutual relations of three hypostases in one substance by any adequate term that human language can supply. That which transcends thought can never find expression by the tongue. The personality of the Father and Holy Spirit is affected by nothing without the divine nature; the personality of the Son has been modified since the incarnation by taking the manhood into God; and a second definition by Locke exactly covers this modification; "Person," he says, "belongs only to intelligent agents, capable of a law and happiness and misery," all of which accidents of personality pertain to Christ, though not to the person of the Son of (God as pre-existing eternally in the Word. (See HYPOSTATICAL UNION); (See SUBSTANCE).

"We attribute personality," says Ahrens (Cours de Theologie, 2:272) "to every being which exists, not solely for others, but which is in the relation of unity with itself in existing, or for itself. Thus we refuse personality to a mineral or a stone, because these things exist for others, but not for themselves. An animal, on the contrary, which exists for itself, and stands in relation to itself, possesses a degree of personality. But man exists for himself in all his essence, in a manner more intimate and more extensive; that which he is, he is for himself, he has consciousness of it. But God alone exists for himself in a manner infinite and absolute. God is entirely in relation to himself; for there are no beings out of him to whom he could have relation. His whole essence is for himself, and this relation is altogether internal; and it is this intimate and entire relation of God to himself in all his essence which constitutes the divine personality." It should be observed, however, that personality implies limitation. "Infinite personality," therefore, would be a contradiction in terms. The term "person," as applied to the Godhead, is not used in its ordinary sense, as denoting a separate being, but represents the Latin persona or the Greek hypostasis, which means that which stands under or is the subject of certain attributes or properties. Three persons are not thus three parts of one God, nor are they three Gods; nor yet are Father, Son, and Spirit only three names, but distinct hypostases with characteristic attributes. In modern times, especially in Germany, and through a prevalent philosophical mysticism, opinions are propagated about the person of Christ which are quite opposed to the doctrines of all the orthodox and evangelical confessions. The second article of the Church of England, and the eighth of the Westminster Confession, express the general view. So does the Quicunque vult of the Liturgy. But the modern theory teaches a different dogma, thus: Martensen and Ebrard seem to adopt a view very similar to that of Beron in the early ages, who held that the Logos assumed the form of a man, that is, subjected himself to the limitations of humanity.

The infinite became finite, the eternal and omnipresent imposed on himself the limitations of time and space; God became man. The statement of Ebrard is, "The eternal Son of God, by a free act of self-limitation, determined to assume the existenceform of a center of human life, so that he acted as such from the conception onward, and having assumed this form, he fashioned for himself a body," etc. According to this view there are not two natures in Christ, in the established sense of the word nature, but only two forms of existence, a prior and posterior form of one and the same nature. The most common mode of presenting the doctrine is to say that the Logos assumed our fallen humanity. But by this, we are told, is not to be understood that he assumed an individual body and soul, so that he became a man, but that he assumed generic humanity, so that he became the man. By generic humanity is to be understood a life-power, that peculiar law of life, corporeal and incorporeal, which develops itself outwardly as a body and inwardly as a soul. The Son, therefore, became incarnate in humanity, in that objective reality, entity, or substance in which all human lives are one. Thus, too, Olshausen, in his comment on John 1:14, says, "It could not be said that the Word was made man, which would imply that the Redeemer was a man by the side of other men, whereas, being the second Adam, he represented the totality of human nature in his exalted comprehensive personality." To the same effect he says, in his remarks on Romans 5:15, "If Christ were a man among other men, it would be impossible to conceive how his suffering and obedience could have an essential influence on mankind: he could then only operate as an example. But he is to be regarded, even apart from his divine nature, as the man, i.e. as realizing the absolute idea of humanity, and including it potentially in himself spiritually as Adam did corporeally." To this point archdeacon Wilberforce devotes the third chapter of his book on The incarnation, and represents the whole value of Christ's work as depending upon it. If this be denied he says, "the doctrines of atonement and sanctification, though confessed in words, become a mere empty phraseology." In fine, Dr. Nevin, in his Mystical Presence, p. 210, says, "The Word became flesh; not a single man only, as one among many; but flesh, or humanity, in its universal conception. How else could he be the principle of a general life, the origin of a new order of existence for the human world as such? How else could the value of his mediatorial work be made over to us in a real way by a true imputation, and not a legal fiction only? "The hypostatic union, on these hypotheses, is the assumption on the part of the eternal Son of God, not simply or primarily of a true body and a reasonable soul, as the Church has always held, but of humanity as a generic life, of our fallen humanity, of that entity or substance in which all human lives are one. The effect of this union is that humanity is taken into divinity: it is exalted into a true divine life. The life of Christ is one, and it may be designated as divine or as human. On this point, more than any other, its advocates are specially full and earnest. Schleiermacher ignores all essential difference between God and humanity, holding that they differ in our conception, and functionally, but are essentially one. Dorner, also, the historian of the doctrine concerning Christ's person, avows that the Church view of two distinct substances in the same person involves endless contradictions, and that no true Christoloy can be framed which does not proceed on the assumption of the essential unity of God and man; while Ullmann makes this essential oneness between the divine and human the fundamental idea of Christianity.

The term person, when applied to Deity, is certainly used in a sense somewhat different from that in which we apply it to one another; but when it is considered that the Greek words' ὑπόστασις and πρόσωπον , to which it answers, are, in the New Testament applied to the Father and Son (Hebrews 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6), and that the personal pronouns are used by our Lord (John 14:26), it can hardly be condemned as unscriptural and improper. There have been warm debates between the Greek and Latin churches about the words hypostasis and persona: the Latin, concluding that the word hypostasis signified substance or essence, thought that to assert that there were three divine hypostases was to say that there were three Gods. On the other hand, the Greek Church thought that the word person did not sufficiently guard against the Sabellian notion of the same individual Being sustaining three relations. Thus each part of the Church was ready to brand the other with heresy, till, by a free and mutual conference in a synod at Alexandria, A.D. 362, they made it appear that it was a mere contention about the grammatical sense of a word; and then it was allowed by men of moderation on both sides that either of the two words might be indifferently used., See Beza, Principles of the Christian Religion; Owen, On the Spirit; Marci Medulla, 1:5, § 3; Ridgley, Divinity, qu. 11; Hurrion, On the Spirit, p. 140; Doddridge, Lectures, lec. 159; Gill, On the Trinity, p. 93; Watts, Works, v. 48, 208; Gill, Body of Divinity (8vo), 1:205; Edwards, History of Redemption, p. 51, note; Horoe Sol. 2:20; Stuart, Letters to Charming; Keith, Norton, and Winslow, On the Trinity; Knapp, Theology, p. 325; Bibliotheca Sacra, Feb. 1844, p. 159; Oct. 1850, p. 696; July, 1867, p. 570; New Englander, July, 1875, art. iii; Stud. u. Kritiken, 1838, 1847. Older monographs on the subject are cited by Volbeding, Index Programmatum, p. 82. (See TRINITY).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Personality'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/p/personality.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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