Monday, July 26, 2004

Preliminary Palamas Perusal

I just finished reading the Paulist Press edition of St. Gregory Palamas, and I have a few preliminary thoughts:

1) This guy was really smart--we should read him more.

2) It would be useful to recover the theology of the Byzantine Empire, especially since their method seems to have stayed very close to the actual Greek text of the New Testament. It was, after all, their spoken language, and so they take their terminology largely from the text itself.

3) When St. Gregory Palamas talks about a distinction between the essence and energies of God, he means by "essence" something very different than what St. Thomas Aquinas means by "essence." I think much of the apparent disagreement between the two theologies could be minimized by taking the time to translate the one metaphysics into the other. Here's my attempt: Aquinas means essence as that by which something has being (thus God's essence is his existence), but Palamas seems to mean essence as something like substance. Thus we can talk with Palamas of distinctions between the hidden substance of God and the visible, eternal, and divine actions of God, whereas it doesn't make sense for the Thomist to speak of divisions in "that by which God has being." Palamas speaks with the focus on Divine Action, Thomas speaks with the focus on Divine Being.

Maybe more later. I'm still thinking through it.

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