Emanation



The idea of a divine emanation comes from Plato and was influential in Hellenistic (i.e. Greek) and Roman philosophy/theology at the time of Jesus. To emanate means to "flow from." God extends himself into the world, like a beam of sunlight extending to the earth.

The notion of emanation was a solution to the problem of the relationship between the transcendent, perfect God and the flawed material world. God was thought to be too spiritually pure and perfect to have direct contact with the material world. The material world was viewed as flawed and impure. Evil exists in the world because of the imperfect nature of the world.

At the same time there was the idea that both spiritual and material "stuff" had always existed. The creation of the material world was the fashioning of the formless and chaotic material stuff based on the image of the spiritual world. The material world is an imperfect copy of the spiritual world. These concepts are developments based on Plato's theory of the Forms

God emanates a demiurge (Greek for "master worker" or "craftsman") in order to be an intermediary between God and the material stuff. The demiurge was a part of God, an extension of God into the World. Emanation allows God, who is perfect, to be separate from the flawed material world and yet also to be involved in the world. God creates the world indirectly through the agency of the demiurge

The idea of the Logos (Greek for "word") as an emanation from God that he used to to create the world was common in Hellenistic theology, especially Middle Platonism. The Logos was sometimes thought to be a semi-independent divine being or god (or an angel in Hellenistic Jewish thought).

In Stoic philosophy the Logos is the organizing principle of the universe. Logos can also mean "mind" and "reason." The Logos is the cosmic principle of mind/reason that is intertwined throughout the world. The Logos was thought to be the divine principal that gave order to the world. Middle Platonism adopted this understanding of the Logos as well.

Middle Platonism was influential among some Jewish philosophers/theologians, especially in Alexandria. Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish Middle Platonist philosopher, describes how God created the world through the Logos. He also uses biblical descriptions about God creating the world through Wisdom (Sophia in Greek: Proverbs 8:22-24, Sirach 24:9, Wisdom of Solomon 6:22). For Philo the Word and Wisdom are the same emanation and he uses the terms interchangeably.

In the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and Sirach (a writing from the Jewish Bible in Greek), Wisdom is personified and described as being with God at creation and God creating the world through Wisdom (e.g. Proverbs 8:22-24, Sirach 24:9). In the Wisdom of Solomon, another writing from the Jewish Bible in Greek, Wisdom (Greek: Sophia) is an emanation. God creates the world through Wisdom and she mediates or connects God to the world (Wisdom of Solomon 6:22) .

Philo uses the the idea of the Logos as an intermediary between God and the world as the the means that God used to create the world. Both Philo and the author of the Wisdom of Solomon thought of the Word or Wisdom as being like an angel, except that as emanations, the Word/Wisdom would not be a separate being from God.

The writer of the Gospel of John has a similar theology. Jesus Christ is the Word (Greek: Logos), which is the same emanation/being/person as Wisdom in the Wisdom of Solomon. John puts together Jewish ideas about Wisdom with Greco-Roman ideas about the Word in a similar way as Philo does. Jesus Christ is the incarnation of the Logos in this understanding. God's creation of the world through the Logos (Word) is also based on the creation story in Genesis 1, where God creates by speaking: e g. "Let there be light." God creates through his Word.



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