In the next chapter of Aristotle East and West, “The formation of the eastern tradition”, Dr. Bradshaw shifts sources in his discussion of energeia from the Neoplatonists to the Old and New Testaments and the eastern Fathers, St. Athanasius and the Cappadocians: Sts. Basil, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory Nazianzen. Here’s the transition:
Most of the texts discussed in the previous chapter remained unknown to the West during the Middle Ages. It is not surprising that the magical papyri, Hermetica, and the works of Iamblichus and Proclus went untranslated; rather more surprising is that the same is true of the works of Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Clement, Origen, and Athansius, with the exception of Origen’s De Principiis and some exegetical treatises. All told, of the works we have discussed the only one that played a role in the formative stages of western thought was the New Testament, which of course was available in the Vulgate of Jerome. There we find energeia translated as operatio and energeia as operari. Although these renderings were probably the best available, they do not possess the same fluidity of meaning as the original. To think of the divine operations as forces or active powers that can be shared in by human activity would not normally occur to a Latin reader. This is not only because the major works in which the expansion of meaning took place were not translated into Latin; it is also because operatio does not share the association of energeia with actuality, much less with the fusion of activity and actuality that we have traced in earlier chapters. This is why, when the works of Aristotle were translated in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, energeia had to be rendered in different contexts by three different terms: operatio, actus, and actualitas. Although this division was inescapable given the resources of Latin, it tended to obscure the unity of the single concept (or family of concepts) underlying these diverse terms.
Because of these limitations, the notion of participation in the divine energeia made little impression on western thought. In the Greek-speaking East, however, it took on increasing importance. This becomes particularly clear when it is viewed in conjunction with more directly metaphysical uses of the concept of energeia. We have already seen examples of the interplay between metaphysical and religious conceptions in the Hermetica, Iamblichus, and Proclus. The parallel developments among Christian authors are even more complex. They begin during the Trinitarian debates fo the fourth century. There we find energeia coming into prominence as a key term for understanding God’s activity in the world particularly in opposition to the divine ousia. At about the same time there is a renewed and more vigorous application of the Pauline teaching about participation in the divine energeia. Since this renewal occurs in a context established by the contrast between energeia and ousia, it takes on resonances not envisioned by St. Paul; in particular, to participate in the divine energeia comes to be understood as a kind of divinization. The union thus achieved between the more directly metaphysical (or Trinitarian) and religious (or Pauline) strands oof thought ultimately becomes a distinguishing work of Dionysius the Areopagite, who incorporates these themes from the fourth century into a hierarchical vision of reality derived largely from Proclus. (p. 154,155)
I have not done, nor intended to do justice to full explanations of any of the terms or teachings of those mentioned above. I commend this comprehensive book to anyone seeking to understand the divine energies, the divine essence, and in this chapter, the apophatic knowledge of the Trinity better. After discussing the neo-Arianism of Eunomius and St. Athanasius’ then the Cappadocian Fathers’ awesome responses in the section called ‘The Trinitarian Controversy’, ‘The Divine Names’ goes into these same Fathers’ explanations of how we know God, who is unknowable. For Gregory of Nyssa, “a name is not an arbitrary label but conveys a positive impression of the thing named. […] (p. 161) Again, he goes much deeper into this, but I can only give a glimpse. One of the things that has repeatedly puzzled me in studying the philosophical designation of God as above being in contrast to the “being verb” used in the burning bush is explained!
The question of whether and how God can be named is thus tantamount to the question of what can be known about God. Philo of Alexandria had already reached the conclusion that because God is unknowable He has no proper name, and a similar teaching may be found in the Hermetica. It is an idea with both Biblical and philosophical roots. Biblically, it is grounded in the mysterious nature of the divine name revealed in Exodus 3:14, “He Who Is,” as well as other passages that treat the divine name as a mystery. Philosophically, it is grounded in the principle that God as the source of being for other things must Himself be “beyond being,” and therefore has no form that would enable a name to gain descriptive purchase. Philo seems to have been particularly influenced by the statement of the Parmenides that the One which does not partake of being has no name. He understands the name revealed from the burning bush to Moses, not as an obstacle to this view, but as conferming [typo?] it: what this name indicates is that God alone has true (that is, underivative) being, and hence that He has no name. Among Christians prior to the Cappadocians, a similar view can be found in Clement of Alexandria, who devotes a chapter of his Stromata to the unknowability of God. Among his arguments is that since God is indivisible, He is without dimensions and has no limit, and is therefore “without form or name.” (p. 162)
Dr. Bradshaw just gets better after this in explaining the relationship to names and powers and essence and condescension. I’m not finished with this section yet, and in a few more pages there’s another section on “Participation Revisited” that I am looking forward to.