Theodoret of Cyrus on The Mash-up of Tiered Cosmology and Philosophical Theology, with An Eye to The Ascension, 6

This is the fifth follow-up to the post, “Gagarin and the Seven Heavens“. The first follow-up post is here. The second follow-up post is here. The third follow-up post is here. The fourth follow-up post is here. The fifth follow-up post will be broken up into several parts; follow-up post five-one is here, post five-two is here, post five-three is here, post five-four is here, and post five-five is here.

~8~

Even if these theophanies are not allowed to be an appearance of a form (with the exception of the incarnation, it seems [Theodoret, Commentary on the Psalms 73-150, 64-65]), because of his theology of divine simplicity, it appears that Theodoret is committed to God’s dwelling being in the heaven in some sense, as we saw in his commentary on Psalm 115, above. This is all the more so with Jesus’ ascension:

11. The divine nature is invisible; but the thrice-blessed Stephen said that he saw the Lord. The Lord’s body is a body, therefore, even after the ascension. For this is what the victorious Stephen saw, since the divine nature is invisible. 12. According to what the Lord himself said, all human nature will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven; and he also said to Moses, “No one will see my face and live” [Exod 33:20]; if both these sayings are true, then he will come with the body with which he went up into heaven, for it is visible. [Theodoret, Eranistes transl. Gerard Ettlinger (Washington, D.C.: CUA Press, 2003), 260]

Just as heaven is a real location above the dome of the sky, and paradise is a physical location, they are represented in the form of the tabernacle.

The tabernacle was a representation of creation. When he created heaven and earth, the Lord God stretched a firmament in the midst and separated things above from things below. Just so, he ordered the building of one tabernacle, thirty cubits long and ten [317] cubits wide, and in the middle he stretched the veil, which, as an image of the firmament, divided the tent in two. […] Inside were the likenesses of the cherubim presenting an image of incorporeal powers […]. [Theodoret, Questions on the Octateuch vol. 1, 315, 317]

The contents of the sky and the contents of the holy of holies may overlap in the figure of the cherubim, but the rest of the contents of the holy of holies does not allow us to think of God as having a form:

Since the divine nature is without form or shape, invisible, and incomprehensible, and it is utterly impossible to devise an image of such a being, he commanded symbols of his greatest gifts be placed there [Theodoret, Questions on the Octateuch vol. 1, 317]

–those “greatest gifts” being, namely, the Law, the priesthood, the prophecy, and manna/the Eucharist. For

Just as “the Creator is to some extent discerned from the magnitude and beauty of the creation” [Wis of Sol 13:5], so the generous giver was made known in these gifts. [Theodoret, Questions on the Octateuch vol. 1, 317]

It should be noted that Theodoret thinks of the holy of holies as representing an image of heaven, whereas the holy place represented the earth for him. Theodoret looks down on the corporeality of the symbols as being a divine accommodation to the people of the time, whom he characterizes as “quite materialistic and incapable of attaining to spiritual realities”. [Theodoret, Questions on the Octateuch vol. 1, 325] This suggests that the “location” of heaven, though containing the physical luminaries, and a physically ascended Jesus, was seemingly otherwise populated by immaterial things.

~9~

One questioner asked about the location of paradise, since Genesis says that the Tigris and Euphrates flow from paradise, but some commentators say that they “rise in the mountains of Armenia?” [Theodore, Questions on the Octateuch vol. 1, 67] Theodore thinks that Paradise is a real place in the physical world, but that God has hidden it, so that anyone looking for it would never be able to find it.

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Header image found here.

8 thoughts on “Theodoret of Cyrus on The Mash-up of Tiered Cosmology and Philosophical Theology, with An Eye to The Ascension, 6

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