Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hippolytus Of Rome

Hippolytus was a presbyter in the Church in Rome who flourished circa 170-236 A.D. He was involved in the schism that took place in the church of Rome for some time, attacked the theologies of Zephyrinus and bishop Callistus. He is most known for his magnum opus, Refutation of All Heresies. He was eventually martyred in Rome, whose statue survives to this day.

Apparently, he was amongst the first to use the word "person" to describe the relationship between the three members of the Trinity. I will provide excerpts of it below, followed by the Greek text, and a passage from the later Boethius to add to the point.

  “For the Father indeed is One, but there are two Persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit.”  

πατηρ μεν γαρ εις, προσωπα δε δυο οτι και ο υιος, το δε τριτον το αγιον πνευμα. 

"For that is what, brethren, the Scriptures signify to us. This is the economy (dispensation) that the blessed John gives us his testimony in his Gospel, and acknowledging that this Word is God, thus saying: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God". - For therefore if "the Word" was with God, being God, what then? Should anyone say that there are two gods? Indeed, I shall not speak of two gods, but of one, of two persons however, and also of the third economy, the grace of the Holy Spirit. For the Father is indeed one, but indeed there are two persons because the Son also, and also the third, the Holy Spirit. The Father commands, the Logos executes, and the Son is shown (i.e. manifested), through whom the Father is believed. the economy of the harmony is led back to One God."

  For if He alleges of his own account when he said "I and the Father are one," let him attend his mind and learn that he did not say, "I and the Father am one," but "are one." For "are one" is not said of one person but of two. He indicated two persons but one power.
 The next excerpt that would confer with Hippolytus' use of the word prosopon = person, is a Latin writer of the sixth century under the Gothic King of Rome, Theoderic, named Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius: 
"For the word 'person' seems to be borrowed from a different source, namely from the masks (personae) which in comedies and tragedies used to represent the people concerned...The Greeks, too, call these masks 'prosopa' from the fact that they are placed over the face and conceal the countenance in front of the eyes: παρα του προς τους ωπας τιθεσθαι (from being put up against the face).  But since, as we have said, it was by the masks they put on that actors respresented the individual concerned in a tragedy or comedy - Hecuba or Medea or Simo or Chremes, - so also of all other men who could be clearly recognized by their appearance the Latins used the name 'persona', the Greeks 'prosopa'."

There are few theories on the etymology of the English word person. One possible derivative as per Boethius is that it derives from the Latin persona, which means a "personage," "an assumed character," coming from the earlier sense of the "mask," "false charade," made either of clay or wood, elaborately decorated with exaggerated facial expressions that were first used in Roman theatres. It eventually came down to mean a distinct personality. Some say it ultimately derives from the verb personare - "to sound through," whilst others allege that the word persona is inherited from the Etruscan corruption of the Greek word prosopon, which could mean either a "face" or even a "staged mask" of Greek theatres. Either way, it's theatrical derivative is beyond dispute.  

P.S. Forgive my sloppy translation of the Greek text 

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