(Note: There is a nice little tie-in to the word as wisdom in this post.)
My dialogue with John Starke began last December when he picked up a comment I made on Denny Burk's blog
and ran with it.
(I am excerpting here a very small part of the interaction, but John may refer back to other points that he raised),
On Denny's blog, I had written.
Since, in Greek “power” and “authority” are one and the same word, how can Christ be equal to God in power, but not in authority. If the Son is eternally in submission, he is not equal in power and glory.
This is sort of a perplexing argument since the Greek word for power is usually “dunamis” and authority is “exousia”. The common way of expressing the power of Christ or God the Father is using the word “dunamis” , not “exousia”.
At the time I was not sure of the reason why "power" in English means the same thing as "authority" in Biblical texts. However, I did finally realize that the creeds come to us through Latin, and in Latin the Greek word exousia
was translated as potestas
, and this word was then translated into English as "power."
Therefore, in any creed which descends from an original Latin creed, or through Latin from the Greek, the word "power" is a translation of exousia
, which we now would translate as "authority." In the Latin Vulgate, exousia
was always translated as potestas
, and dunamis
was almost always translated as virtus
In Theodore Beza's Latin translation of the NT exousia
was translated as auctoritas
. In the KJV then, we can see that exousia
was translated into English as both "power" and "authority." There was no apparent attempt to differentiate the two. Here is an example,
And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matt. 7: 28-29). KJV
Compare this with the parallel text in Luke, again from the KJV:
And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. (Luke 4:32)
In Greek, both of these passages have the Greek word exousia
. And this is why I claim that "power" and "authority" are the same word in Greek - exousia
. Perhaps I could have phrased it better. I would say that in the KJV both "power" and "authority" translate the Greek word exousia
. I also claim that since the creeds are descendent of Latin documents, "power" has the meaning that it had in the underlying Latin. And that would be potestas - exousia
Last fall I expressed surprise and some incredulity that many of those who sign the doctrinal statement of the ETS,
which says "equal in power and glory," do not believe that Christ is equal to the Father in authority.
A further part of our discussion relates to Bruce Ware's claim, in Father, Son and Holy Spirit
page 80, that Augustine affirms the subordination of the Son with the trinity. Ware writes,
Augustine affirmed, the distinction of Persons is constituted precisely by the differing relations among them, in part manifested by the inherent authority of the Father and inherent submission of the Son.
I claim just the opposite, that Augustine, De Trinitate iv:20
, affirms that the Son is equal in authority to the Father,
because He was not sent in respect to any inequality of power*, or substance, or anything that in Him was not equal to the Father; but in respect to this, that the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son; for the Son is the Word of the Father, which is also called His wisdom.
*Since the underlying Latin for "power" is potestas
, I understand it to mean "authority."
In conclusion, I understand the dialogue between John Starke and myself in this way. I suggest that the early church fathers and the doctrinal statement of the ETS affirm that the son is equal to the father in authority within the trinity. John does not.
From my point of view, this limits the discussion enough that we don't have to wrangle over every exegetical point, or make extravagant truth claims about the trinity; but simply discover whether there is any support in the early church fathers for the relationship of authority and submission existing eternally within the Godhead.
John commented recently on this post,
I am convinced that when the early fathers spoke of eternal generation, this would be equivalent to our understanding of authority in function.
John has also suggested that I read Peter Schemm on this topic, and I intend to do that, as possible.