A Question of Pre-Existence and Apparitions
#1
So, I've been reading this book, and she talks about the "conquering" of the New World by the Spanish, and the Lady of Guadalupe and the intrinsic role she played in the conversion of the Americas. So I've been reading more about her (fascinating, btw, why don't they teach us about this stuff?), and it's led me down this rabbit hole about OT apparitions and what they mean.

The explanation I've read is that Christ always existed, even before His conception. I'm thinking this is correct and supported by the Nicene Creed, or am I misunderstanding? There is also this idea that some of the OT appearances, such as the 4th person in the fiery furnace, is in fact Jesus.

Is this in line with Catholic theology? In some respects, it kinda makes sense to me, but I need some solid Catholic sources to figure this out and I'm not sure where to start. I'm sure greater minds than I have sorted this out already. Thanks for your help, Fishies!

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#2
Well, of course, Jesus as a person (a divine person) have existed always. Don't we confess this? et in unum dominum, Iesum Christum, etc. etc., ex Patrem natus ante omnia saecula.
What happened at the incarnation was that this divine person took on human nature, as Dionysius puts t (one could quote any other theologian, but Dionysius is on my mind lately),

Quote:But they [the scripture writers] especially call it [the Trinity] loving towards humanity, because in one of its persons it accepted a true share of what it is we are, and thereby issued a call to man's lowly state to rise up to it. In a fashion beyond words, the simplicity of Jesus became something complex, the timless took on duration of the temporal, and with neither change nor confusion of what constitutes him, he came into our human nature, who totally transcends the natural order of the world

To deny this is to fall back into Arianism: that Jesus had a beginning (even before all else, but not in the transcendently eternal perichoresis of the Trinity). And this is why we can worship Jesus, because He is a divine person and not a created being. And, finally, this is why we call Mary the Mother of God, because she gave birth not to a human person but to a divine person who always existed.

About aparitions in the OT, they could certainly be of one of the persons of the trinity (or God without differentiation in this respect), as there can be theophanies without incarnation.
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#3
The Son always existed, eternally receiving the Holy Ghost from the Father.  The Latins advocated the eternal participation of the Son in eternal procession whereas the Photian/Greek idea (new to the East and most troubling in it's implications) is that the procession was a temporal and passive reception on the part of the Son. 

Recall that the Spanish Arian position before the Council of Toledo denied the participation of the Son in any way. 
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#4
(04-13-2015, 12:51 PM)Uxi Wrote: The Son always existed, eternally receiving the Holy Ghost from the Father.

Here is the distinction to be made:

The Son of God -- i.e. the Second Person of the Trinity -- has always existed. Full Stop. He is as the Creed says: "eternally begotten of the Father".

Jesus Christ -- i.e. the Incarnate Second Person of the Trinity -- has existed (in act -- i.e. in reality) since the Annunciation and the Blessed Virgin Mary's "Fiat".

There is a great deal of more complication that could be added, but that is not necessary.
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#5
(04-13-2015, 11:44 AM)PrairieMom Wrote: There is also this idea that some of the OT appearances, such as the 4th person in the fiery furnace, is in fact Jesus.

Is this in line with Catholic theology?

This is the tradition of the Eastern Church (Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic).  I would say this is a theologoumenon from the Catholic perspective.

I find it to be a beautiful tradition.
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#6
(04-13-2015, 11:44 AM)PrairieMom Wrote: There is also this idea that some of the OT appearances, such as the 4th person in the fiery furnace, is in fact Jesus.

Is this in line with Catholic theology?

Not as described, since, applying what was said above, Jesus did not exist before Mary's "Fiat". The fiery furnace being anterior, it was not Jesus.

However, we could say that there was some manifestation of God, or even of any particular Person in the Trinity. There are several examples in the Old Testament when it appears God appears. An example is Gen 22.11-12. The "angel" speaks to Abraham, seemingly at first speaking of God in the third person ("I know that you fear God"), then speaking of God in the first person ("you have not withheld your only son from Me").

So we could say that what appeared to be a 4th man in the fiery furnace was a Theophany -- a manifestation of God, and perhaps specifically the Second Person. We still have to make the distinction, however, between the Second Person and Jesus, even though often when we use the terms we mean the same thing.
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#7
The explanation I've read is that Christ always existed, even before His conception. I'm thinking this is correct and supported by the Nicene Creed, or am I misunderstanding? There is also this idea that some of the OT appearances, such as the 4th person in the fiery furnace, is in fact Jesus.

You are correct. As the second person of teh Blessed Trinity, Christ has always existed. 
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#8
(04-13-2015, 06:35 PM)MagisterMusicae Wrote: We still have to make the distinction, however, between the Second Person and Jesus, even though often when we use the terms we mean the same thing.

Saint Paul makes no such distinction.  He clearly states that "Christ Jesus" emptied Himself and took on human nature.

Phillipians 2. 

[5] For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

[6] Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: [7] But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man.

Saint Paul also stated that "Jesus" was made lower than the angels. 

Hebrews 2:9:  "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour: that, through the grace of God, he might taste death for all."

Neither did Our Lord make such a distinction.  He stated that "the Son of Man" descended from Heaven.

John 3:13.  "And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven."

John 6:63.  "If then you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?"

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#9
(04-14-2015, 01:31 AM)DJR Wrote:
(04-13-2015, 06:35 PM)MagisterMusicae Wrote: We still have to make the distinction, however, between the Second Person and Jesus, even though often when we use the terms we mean the same thing.

Saint Paul makes no such distinction.  He clearly states that "Christ Jesus" emptied Himself and took on human nature.

St. Paul wasn't trying to write a theological treatise specifying all the philosophical and theological distinctions that need to be made in order to not fall into errors, that, by the way, came long after his own time, like Arianism. He was trying to in a few words encourage his flock.

If one reads treatises on St. Paul, for instance Fr. Prat's Theology of St. Paul, we find that those terms like "Christ Jesus" have very specific theological meanings, and not always literal.

Theology and doctrine develop out of necessity, especially when it becomes necessary to fight error. The words St. Paul used may not be fitting for a modern theologian to use because of the possibility of misunderstanding. This is why we are not Sola Scriptura fanatics. We have Scripture, Tradition and the Teaching Authority of the Church. Additionally we have natural philosophy, which since God is the author, must accord with the Faith. The Magisterium and Catholic philosophy provides the framework by which we must understand Scripture, especially the highly analogical and metaphorical language of St. Paul.

We can choose various terms : Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Son of Man, Son of God, Second Person of the Trinity, etc. Each has a nuance, and we have to at least keep in mind what nuance we mean when we speak.

For instance we can call Jesus the Messias, but both the terms "Jesus" and "Messias" have different notes. One denotes the man by his name, the other his office as Savior. Those distinguishing notes are important.

The common practice is that we we mean only the Divine Person (as distinct from the human nature), we speak of "Son of God" or "Second Person of the Trinity" or "The Son" or similar terms. When we speak of the Divine Person after having assumed a human nature we speak of "Our Lord" or "Christ", and sometimes "Jesus Christ". When we speak of the same, but under the particular light of his humanity (as distinct from his divinity), we say such things as "Jesus" or "Son of Man".

It really isn't erroneous to shift between terms, but care must be taken that the wrong doctrine is not communicated. If we do, however, play fast and loose with the common terminology, we do quickly fall into error.

There is a very good reason, then, to use the Magisterium's common usage, even if authors of Scripture are more

When we deal with the time before the Incarnation (as the OP asked), we must deny that the Second Person of the Trinity in any way had a human nature at that time. Once the Annunciation happened, then he assumed a human nature. The man Jesus, began in time, but since that beginning will always have a human nature. The Divine Person, The Son, is, was and always will be eternally existent.
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#10
Wow, thank-you everyone!

It's hard to wrap one's head around pre-existence prior to the fiat. That almost suggests that Christ was, in a sense, a manifestation of God, although I know that's not correct. I don't think?
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