“The Transparence of God”1
Thorleif Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1960).2
“Ever since ancient times, God’s overall relation to the world has been designated simultaneously as that of transcendence and immanence; in the two notions, God’s being as well as his activity have been brought into prominence. God’s relationship to the world, however, is represented by these two concepts neither clearly nor exhaustively. One gets the impression that something is lacking, so that dogmatic theologians have had to subsume, under either transcendence or immanence, motifs which have little to do with these concepts. What has been lacking up until now in the doctrine of God’s relation to the world is a third term of relationship or a third dimension in the relation. God is not only above the world and in the world, but he is also through the world; as the Apostle has already said: . . . [“one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all”] (Eph. 4:6). God’s being through the world is a separate category which expresses what is most characteristic of God’s relation to the world in Greek as well as in Israelite terms. God reveals his . . . will through the circumstances and occurrences of the world, which then appears as a system of action-mediations. . . .
“In Israelite religion the world and its content form an instrument in God’s hand whereby in consciousness of purpose he performs his acts. Accordingly, God’s relation to the world could be called God’s instrumentality, which best expresses the Hebrew kind of thinking. God reveals himself to men in the world through his deeds, which are accomplished naturally by means of things in the world (Rom. 1:20). This same relationship could be rendered in the Greek manner by means of the concept of God’s transparence. God’s transparence thus asserts that God is known through the world as the one who really is. Things operate as symbols. . . .
Jesus and God’s Transparence
“We have found, therefore, that the overall relationship between God and the world is three-sided, or perhaps better, it is triadic, which is precisely what we should have expected in a trinitarian religion.6 Perhaps this throws some light on the doctrine of the Trinity and particularly on Christology, for as the First Person of the Trinity corresponds to the transcendence and the Third Person to the immanence, so the Second Person of the Trinity corresponds to the transparence.7 That God was in the Person Jesus Christ and revealed his essence through him is conceived in a Greek way; that he sent his Son and through him actualized his will is conceived in an Israelite way. For Greek as well as for Hebrew thinking, the peculiar scandalon [scandal] of Christology does not lie so much in the transparence of God in itself, but partly in the fact that both ways of thinking were confused with one another. So, for example, St Paul preached the transparence of God in Christ chiefly as a divine act; in this mode it was presented to the Greeks in a form that was foreign to them and therefore difficult of access. In part also, and obviously principally, the scandalon of Christology consists in the fact that the man Jesus of Nazareth was designated as the highest expression of God’s transparence: Jesus, who was externally unimposing and whose earthly fate, viewed in terms of ordinary experience, was shocking. On the other hand, in the very confusion of the ways of thinking lay one of the most important preconditions of Christianity’s victory in the world of that day . . . ”8
- Thorleif Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1960), pp. 190-192. (go back)
- Thorleif Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek, is available from Barnes & Noble at www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hebrew-thought-compared-with-greek-thorleif-boman/1100879506. (go back)
- Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek, overview, at www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hebrew-thought-compared-with-greek-thorleif-boman/1100879506. (go back)
- Bernard J. Lee, The Galilean Jewishness of Jesus: Retrieving the Jewish Origins of Christianity (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1988). (go back)
- Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek, pp. 190-192. (go back)
- “Luther recognized the three dimensions in the overall relationship between God and the world. After creation God is intra, extra et super omnes creaturas (Genesis-Vorlesung, D. Martin Luthers Werke [Weimar: Hermann Bohlaus Nachfolger, 1883-]) . . . Here, God’s being extra omnes creaturas corresponds to what we have called the third dimension in the relation of God to the world, for as one who is extra God is neither immanent nor transcendent.” — Quoted in ibid. (go back)
- The Latin word persona, from which three “Persons” evolved, was employed to describe the mask or role an actor used on stage. However, with the evolution of language, “three persons” has come to mean three people. Yet no good theologian of the church catholic has ever taught that God is three different people. (go back)
- See note 5. (go back)