The Arche of All Things

According to Simplicius, the neoplatonic commentator on Aristotle, and similarly Hippolytus in his Refutatio omnium haeresium, Anaximander was the first to describe the ground of things he found in the ἀπειρον (the unbounded) with the term ἀρχη (beginning, origin, foundation, or source). By doing this, however, he may have meant only that the ἀπειρον was the beginning and first of all things. But in the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle this word acquired the meaning of the ultimate cause of things. Plato already speaks of the principle of motion, of becoming, and of proof, and Aristotle understands ἀρχαι in general to refer to the first things in a series and particularly the first causes that cannot be traced to other causes…

This terminology was adopted in theology as well. In Scripture ἀρχη not only often has a temporal meaning (Mark 1:1; John 1:1, etc.) but also, a few times, a causative meaning. In the Septuagint the fear of the Lord is called the ἀρχη of wisdom (Prov. 1:7), and in Colossians 1:18 and Revelation 3:14 Christ is called the ἀρχη of creation and of the resurrection. The church fathers frequently spoke of the Father as ἀρχη (origin), πηγη (source), and αἰτιον (cause) of the Son and Spirit, just as Augustine calls the Father “the principle of the whole divinity” (principium totius divinitatis). Thus God was the essential foundation (principium essendi) or the principle of existence (principium existendi) of all that has been created, hence also of science and specifically again of theology.

Source: Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena


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Jojo Agot

Pastor at Victory. Teacher and writer at Every Nation Leadership Institute (ENLI). MA in Theology and Mission at Every Nation Seminary.

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