From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Feb 23 1997 - 22:22:40 EST

At 5:39 PM -0600 2/23/97, Edgar Gerard Foster wrote:
>At 08:12 AM 2/23/97 -0600, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>>At 6:19 PM -0600 2/22/97, Edgar Gerard Foster wrote:
>>>Are the words PHUSIS, ONTOS and OUSIA unequivocally synonymous?
>>I should stop there, but I'll at least go on to ask if you mean
>>"unequivocally synonymous in the Aristotelian sense?
>Thanks Carl, for not stopping there. I was pleased with your elucidation of
>the three terms that were the subject of my query. I tried to keep my
>question, concise, and free of all verbosity. I figured I would get to
>expound later. When I posed the above query, I was speaking from _both_ a
>philosophical viewpoint, *and* a theological paradigm. This will become
>clear, in my comments below.
>>Does this question relect any real familiarity with Greek?
>I can assure you, my knowledge of Greek, is not yet equivalent with yours or
>others on this forum, but with study and hard work--I hope that it will be.
>:) Nevertheless, I do understand the ramifications of the question I am
>Oftentimes, in discussions with Trinitarians, I have insisted that Jesus
>Christ is not HOMOOUSIOS with the Father, nor ONTOlogically equal with the
>Father--but that he does partake of _share in_ the QEIAS PHUSIS (FUSIS) of
>AUTOQEOS. My thinking in this matter, was influenced by the use of PHUSIS
>(FUSIS), in 2 Pet. 1:4. There we are told that Christians will one day (or
>already do, depending on your theological paradigm) partake of the QEIAS
>In the past, based on this Scripture, I would have concluded that OUSIA and
>PHUSIS were not unequivocally synonymous. But one day, while reading
>Thayer's--I happened upon this definition for PHUSIS: d. the sum of innate
>properties and powers by which one person differs from others, distinctive
>native peculiarities, natural characteristics...of men, the QUALITIES which
>are PROPER TO THEIR NATURE and necessarily emanate from it..." (p. 661)
>IMHO, this sounds somewhat like the definition for OUSIA, that you gave,
>namely..."(1) "substance"--a real thing intelligible in terms of underlying
>material and distinct form..."
>OUSIA has also been defined as, "fundamental reality, that which makes a
>thing what it is in distinction from something else, that which exists in
>itself independently of anything else, that in which attributes, qualities
>and properties inhere." (Introduction To Theology, Owen Thomas, p. 64)
>Gregory of Nyssa also illustrated the use of OUSIA, when he voiced these
>words: "Peter, James, and John are called three humans, despite the fact
>that they share in a single humanity. And there is nothing absurd in using
>the word for their nature in the plural, if those who are thus united in
>nature be many...For in speaking of the mysteries [of the faith], we
>acknowledge three hypostases and recognize there is no difference in nature
>between them." (Gregory of Nyssa, Tres. dii, 3-!:38)
>Also, in the Chalcedonian Creed, we are told that Christ Jesus is not only
>"the same Christ, Son, Lord, [and] only begotten [of God]," he is also, "EN
>In view of these varied uses of PHUSIS (FUSIS), and OUSIA; how are we to
>understand 2 Pet. 1:4? How are we to comprehend the terminological
>utilization (theologically) of OUSIA, ONTOS, and PHUSIN (FUSIN)? Would it be
>correct _for a non-Trinitarian_ to say that Jesus is unitedly one, as
>regards his FUSIS--with the Father? Or, is this an erroneous statement for a
>non-Trinitarian to make? Also, OUSIA and ONTOS are usually defined
>_theologically_ so as to denote the universals that attend a particular.
>Therefore, if Godhood is the universal, the qualities commensurate with
>Godhood would be the particulars. This means that if Jesus were God (i.e.,
>universally QEOS), he would _ipso facto_ possess the particularities that
>are commensurate with Godhood.
>Would this have to mean however, that the said Son, that possesses a
>consubstantialis with AUTOQEOS, would possess every quality, characteristic,
>and attribute, that his Father possessed, in EQUAL measure? (i.e., equality
>of stregnth, knowledge, comprehension, power, etc.) Do any of the three
>words _PHUSIS, OUSIA or ONTOS denote or connote any such idea? If they do,
>are these terms theologically, or philosophically adquate for our age? Are
>the words of the Chalcedonian Creed applying the plural of FUSIS in the
>proper manner? If PHUSIS is to be regarded as akin to OUSIA, as the
>Chalcedonian Creeed implies, then what ramifications would this have for
>understanding and exegeting 2 Pet. 1:4?

I'm sorry. When I responded to this query this morning, I somehow assumed
it was Aristotelian usage that was being spoken of. I'm not prepared to
address the problems of 2 Peter, and I wonder whether a discussion ofthis
sort, if it is going to be dealing with questions this broad rather than
precisely on the exegesis of a specific Biblical text, doesn't belong
elsewhere, such as the ELENCHUS list, with its focus more upon patristics
and questions of emergent church theology and history. Our focus here is
less the large theological expanse and more the narrow Biblical text.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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