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De Moor IV:2: Is "God" a Name of Essence? or of Office? (Part 1)

What things our AUTHOR briefly mentions here concerning the Etymology of the Latin Name Deus/God, you will see illustrated at length, if you consult MARTINIUS’[1] Lexicon philologicum on the word Deus, page 303b, and VOSSIUS’[2] Etymologicon Linguæ Latinæ, page 209a.

Concerning the Name Deus/God inquiry is made against the Socinians and Anabaptists, whether in Scripture it be only significative of Office, of dignity and Power, or truly of Nature or Essence? Socinus[3] contends for the former in his libro contra Bellarminum[4] et Wiekum,[5] and in his Explicatione initii of John 1, opera, tome I, pages 79b, 80a; and of the Anabaptists Jacobus Ouderman, in Article X of his Confession: see CLOPPENBURG’S[6] Gangrænam Theologiæ Anabaptisticæ, Disputation I, § 5-15, opera, tome 2, pages 109-111. To this tends also the Catechesis Racoviensis, de Cognitione Dei, chapter I, question 4, page 26: “But what is it to know that God is? Response: To acknowledge, or to be firmly persuaded, that He of Himself has divine dominion over us:” on which place compare the Refutationem ARNOLDI,[7] page 80.

The πρῶτον ψεῦδος, fundamental error, of the Socinians is their denial of the true Deity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit.

Their Scope/Goal is to snatch this argument from us, which we form from the divine Names attributed to Christ and to the Holy Spirit, to prove the Deity of these Persons.

Now, this Latin Name, Deus/God, is not to be regarded barely in itself, but especially also in the Greek and Hebrew Synonyms to which it corresponds, which are Θεὸς/Theos, אֵל/El, אֱלֹהַּ/Eloah, אֱלֹהִים/Elohim, אֵל שַׁדַּי/El-Shaddai, since the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, not Latin.

And thus we judge, that the Name of Deus/God primarily, and with the word taken absolutely, has regard to the Essence of God; but secondarily, and because of the Essence and power of God, is also referred to His dignity, authority, and dominion, which things sometimes are connoted with the Essence of God in this Name.

But, that in its primary notion, the Name Deus/God, Θεὸς/ Theos, אֵל/El, אֱלֹהַּ/Eloah, אֱלֹהִים/Elohim, etc., is a Name of Nature, we demonstrate with our AUTHOR,

α. From Paul mentioning those that by Nature are no Gods, Galatians 4:8; and from Peter contemplating a Divine Nature, 2 Peter 1:4. Paul, when he speaks of τοῖς μὴ φύσει οὖσι θεοῖς, those that by nature are no gods, by the force of opposition wants it to be believed of the true God alone, that He is φύσει Θεὸς, God by Nature. But He that is φύσει Θεὸς, God by Nature, and has a Divine Nature, is God by reason of Essence, and not only by reason of office or dignity.

β. From the paronym θεότης/Godhead, Colossians 2:9. For the reason of the etymologically related words is the same here. But Θεὸς/ Theos/God is a concrete noun, of which θεότης/Godhead is an abstract noun. Now, θεότης/Godhead in its primary notion denotes, not office nor dignity, much less the divine Will, as the Catechesis Racoviensis, de Cognitione Personæ Christi, chapter I, question 81, pages 110, 111, maintains, but the Divine Nature: therefore, Θεὸς/God also in its primary notion signifies a subject possessing the divine Essence or Nature: compare ARNOLDI’S Refutationem Catecheseos Racovianæ, on the place cited, § 14, 15, pages 318, 319; BOCHART’S[8] Epistolam post Phaleg et Canaan, columns 1038-1042.

γ. From the epithets, Living and True, added. For He that is the True and Living God is the true God by the truth of living Essence. But the God that is denoted without qualification by this Name is the True and Living God. Therefore.

The rationale of the Major is, that the Truth attributed to God is the essential Life of God or the Life of one actually existing. Now, Life belongs to substance, not to accidents.

The Minor is on record in Jeremiah 10:10, 11; 1 Thessalonians 1:9.

δ. From the Eternity of this Name proper to God without qualification. For, if the word Deus/God is a mark, not of Essence or Nature, but only of Office and Power; it follows that He is called God only relatively and with respect to creatures, but not absolutely and in Himself. The Reason: because, just as that Office and its Dignity are only proper to God with regard to creatures, so also the Name borrowed from this Office and Dignity. But the consequence is false and absurd; therefore also the antecedent. For thus God would only be such in time and not eternally, nor the same God forever and ever: the contrary of which is found in Psalm 90:2.

[1] Matthias Martinius (1572-1630) was a German Reformed Theologian and educator. He was instrumental in the founding of the Gymnasium at Bremen, and taught Johannes Cocceius.

[2] Gerhard Johann Vossius (1577-1649) was a Dutch classical scholar and theologian. In 1619, his Historia Pelagiana brought him into suspicion of Arminianism.

[3] Fausto Paolo Sozzini, or Faustus Socinus (1539-1604), was the father of Socinianism, a rationalistic heresy (denying the Deity of Christ, the satisfaction theory of the atonement, etc.), an aberration of the Reformation.

[4] Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) entered the Order of the Jesuits in his late teens. Bellarmine became one of the great theologians of his era, a Cardinal, and, after his death, a Doctor of the Church.

[5] Jakub Wujek (1541-1597) was a Polish Jesuit and a Doctor of Theology. He translated the Vulgate into Polish.

[6] Johann Cloppenburg (1592-1652) was a Dutch Reformed theologian and controversialist. He studied at the University of Leiden, and held various ministerial posts until his appointment as professor at the University of Harderwijk (1641), and then at Franeker (1643). He was a lifelong friend of Voetius, and colleague of Cocceius at Franeker.

[7] Nicolaus Arnoldi (1618-1680) was Professor of Theology at Franeker (1651-1680).

[8] Samuel Bochart (1599-1667) was a French Protestant pastor and scholar with a wide variety of interests, including philology, theology, geography, and zoology. Indeed his works on Biblical geography (Geographia Sacra) and zoology (Hierozoicon, sive Bipertitum Opus de Animalibus Scripturæ) became standard reference works for generations. He was on familiar terms with many of the greatest men of his age.

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