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I. (a.) The Adoptian Controversy.622622See Bach, l.c. Walch, Ketzerhistorie, Vol. IX.; Hefele, Concil. Gesch. III.,2 p. 642 ff. (628 ff.); Helfferrich, D. westgothische Arianismus u. die spanische Ketzergeschichte 1860; Gams, Kirchengesch. Spaniens, Vol. II.; Dorner, Entwickel. Gesch. Vol. II.; Hauck, K.-Gesch. Deutschlands, Vol. II., p. 256; Opp. Alcuini ed. Froben; Mansi, T. XII., XIII.; Migne, T. XCVI.-CI.

After the Western Christological formula of the two natures had been forced on the East at the fourth Council, the latter had at the fifth Council given the formula a Cyrillian interpretation, which it confirmed by condemning the Three Chapters. Since the Roman Bishop had to accede to the new definition, which was regarded in the West as a revolt from that of Chalcedon, a schism took place in Upper Italy, which was only got over with difficulty, extending into the seventh century, and damaging the Pope’s prestige in the West. The Monothelite controversies brought the schism to an end,623623Yet not yet everywhere. and the sixth Council restored the formula of Chalcedon in the new version .af the problem—the question as to the will in Christ. But men were far from drawing the consequences of the formula in the East, or in Rome itself. Mysticism, which taught the complete and inseparable union of the divine and human, and celebrated its triumph in all the ritual institutions of the Church, had long overgrown the intractable dogmatic formula and stifled its influence. But the case was different with many Western Bishops, so long as they had not yet been reached by Greek mysticism, and still were under the influence of the ancient Western tradition, especially Augustine. They held the Christological theory that the Holy Trinity had effected the Incarnation by the second Person of the Godhead, the Son, selecting a man (homo) in virtue of eternal election—without antecedent 279merits on the part of the man—by uniting with him to form a personal unity, and by thus adopting him to perfect sonship.624624See Augustine’s Christology above, p. 127 ff. The idea of the adoptio of the man Jesus, or human nature, also occurs in Tertullian, Novatian, Marius Victorinus, and Hilary. This scheme is distinguished toto coelo from the Greek one (received in Rome) of the fifth Council, even if—as happened—the whole of human nature was also understood by the homo. For, according to the prevailing Greek conception, the God-Logos; in the moment of the Incarnation, so assumed human nature and received it into the unity of his being (ἰδιοποιεῖν), that it participated completely in the dignity, and accordingly in the sonship, of the Son, the incarnate Logos thus being in every respect as much the one real Son of God as the pre-existent. To hold Jesus Christ as Son of Man to be merely the adopted Son of God destroyed, according to Greek ideas, the whole mystery of the Incarnation, and took the Church back to the abyss of Nestorianism. Conversely, it was possible for one who took his stand on Augustinian Christology to feel that the contention that the Son of Man was as essentially Son of God as the Logos, was a relapse into Docetism or even Pantheism—the fusion of divine and human. The great claim of Cyril’s conception consisted in its maintenance of the perfect unity of the Redeemer’s personality,625625So far as the retention of this is the condition of understanding Jesus Christ, the Greek conception is superior to the Adoptian. the justification of the other in its adherence to Christ’s real humanity. This humanity was to the opposite party in truth only a theorem, whose avowal permitted them to deify in concreto everything human in Christ,626626The defenders of the anti-Adoptian Christology (Alcuin’s) have not latered their tactics at the present day. Thus Bach says (l.c. I., p. 109 ff.): “The Adoptians had no presentiment of that which the (Greek) Fathers call the pneumatic quality of Christ’s flesh. Christ’s body is to them that of common human nature in every respect. In this kenotic (!!) we have the basis of Adoptian dualism. . . . Felix, like Elipandus, does not understand the pneumatic human nature in Christ.” If these words suggest any meaning at all, they show that the modern historian of dogma is as honest a Docetic as the orthodox after Justinian’s heart. while the Adoptians were only able to postulate the unity of the Son of God and Son of Man.627627The case is precisely the same as in Christological conflicts generally from the days of Apollinaris. There is right and wrong on both sides, but after all on neither, because the conception of a divine nature in Christ leads either to Docetism or the double personality. All speculations that seek to escape these consequences can display at most their good intentions.


It is the old antagonism of Monophysitism and Nestorianism, toned down, indeed, in phraseology, but not lessened in substance—how could it be lessened? It is not wonderful that it broke out once more after the sixth Council, and that in connection with the term “adoptio.” It is only surprising that it arose at the outskirts of Christendom; and that the controversy occasioned by it in the Church was so rapidly and thoroughly quieted. If we reflect that Augustine had unhesitatingly taught that Christ, on his human side, was the adopted Son of God and the supreme example of prevenient free grace (gratia gratis data præveniens), that he was read everywhere, that many passages in the Western Fathers gave evidence of Adoptianism,628628This was bluntly asserted by Marius Victorinus (adv. Arium I.) to whom is entirely due the Augustinian view of Christology sub specie prædestinationis. and that even Isidore of Seville had written without being questioned: “he is called sole-begotten from the excellence of his divinity, because he is without brothers, first-begotten on account of the assumption of a man, in which act he has deigned to have brothers by the adoption of grace, with regard to whom he should be the first-begotten,”629629Migne, CI., p. 1322 sq.: “Unigenitus vocatur secundum divinitatis excellentiam, quia sine fratribus, primogenitus secundum susceptionem hominis, in qua per adoptionem gratiæ fratres habere dignatus est, de quibus esset primogenitus.” we are seized with astonishment at the secret, energetic counter-action of the Christological mysticism of Cyril and the Areopagite. It captivated thoughtful and superstitious Christians in Rome, and thence in England, Upper Italy, and France. It succeeded in doing so, because it was allied both with the philosophical speculation of the time and the superstitious craving for mysteries. Plato and Aristotle, as they were understood, were its evangelists, and, again, every celebration of the Lord’s Supper, yea, every relic, was a silent missionary for it. In this men experienced the identity of the heavenly and earthly; accordingly, that identity had to be recognised above all in Christ himself. Thus the Western and Augustinian Christology, 281with its last, and yet so significant, remnant of a historical view of Christ—his subjection to divine grace—was effaced, not by a conflict, but much more certainly by a silent revolution.630630Western Augustinian Christology, like Nestorianism, deserved its fall; for since it taught that the God-Logos existed behind the man Jesus who was supported by divine grace, the relation of the work of redemption to that homo was extremely uncertain. The result was a duplicity of view which could only produce confusion, and which had to come to an end, until the conception of faith should be thoroughly accepted, unhampered by pernicious speculations as to the two natures, that God himself was in the man Jesus.

But Augustinian Christology was advocated in Arabian Spain about A.D. 780 by Elipandus, Metropolitan of Toledo, and soon afterwards in Frankish Spain by Felix, Bishop of Urgel; it being also supported by the Mozarabian liturgy.631631See the seven, though not equally valuable passages in Hefele, l.c., p. 650 f.: “adoptivi hominis passio”—“adoptivi hominis non horruisti vestimentum”—“salvator per adoptionem carnis sedem repetiit deitatis,” etc. They strongly emphasised the view that Christ was adopted as man, and the redeemed were accordingly, in the fullest sense, brothers of the man Jesus. There has been a good deal of argument as to how the two bishops, who, for the rest, had the approval of the majority of their colleagues in Spain, were influenced thus to emphasise the adoptio. After what we have observed above we ought rather to ask why the other Western Bishops did not do the same. In any case, the hypothesis that this Adoptianism is to be explained from Ancient West Gothic Arianism632632So Helfferich, l.c.; also Hauck, R.-Encyklop I3., p. 185, leaves it open. is still less tenable than its derivation from Arab influences.633633Gfrörer, K.-Gesch. III., p. 644 ff. Graf. Baudissin, Eulogius und Alvar 1872, p. 61 f. The traces cited of a connection between Elipandus and Felix with the Saracens are very slight; besides, the objections felt by the latter to the doctrine of the Trinity are not lessened by Adoptianism. Elipandus defended the doctrine with peculiar emphasis. Nor do we obtain much enlightenment from the reference to the controversy which Elipandus had previously waged with a heretic named Migetius,634634Hefele, Op. cit., p. 628 ff. since the doctrines ascribed to him do not seem to have been the reverse of Adoptianism, while the whole figure is obscure.635635Besides his enthusiasm for Rome, Migetius’ main heresy seems to have been that he conceived God strictly as a single person, and maintained that he had revealed himself in three persons, namely, David (Father?), Jesus, and Paul (the Holy Ghost?). Besides this “Sabellianism,” one might be tempted to discover “Priscillian” errors in him. But the slight information we possess (see Hadrian and Elipandus’ letters) do not warrant a confident decision. All that is clear is that at that date the 282Spanish Church possessed no connection with Rome, that it rejected the alliance sought by Hadrian I., and, while relatively uninfluenced by the Roman and Byzantine Church tradition,636636This explains the uninterrupted prestige of Augustinian theology. Isidore of Seville, e.g., felt it so strongly, that he even taught twofold predestination (Sentent. II. 6): “gemina predestinatio . . . sive reproborum ad mortem.” was in a state of great confusion internally.637637The comparatively slight influence exerted by the great main current of Church development is also shown by the fact that the opposition of the Spaniard Vigilantius to saints and relics continued to influence Spain, as is evidenced, e.g., by the attack made upon him by Faustus of Rhegium (see above, p. 244, note 1). Paradoxical as it sounds, the veneration of these objects lay in the van of Church evolution, in so far as it was most closely connected with the development of Christology. Those who resisted this worship soon ceased to do so on evangelical grounds, but because ecclesiastically they were “laggards.” The dislike to relics and pictures, however, is as closely connected with the Adoptian theory, as their worship and the materialistic dogma of the Lord’s Supper are with the Christology of Cyril, Justinian, and Alcuin (see under). But even after Reccared passed over to Catholicism, the Spanish Church showed its disorderly state, not only in the persistent mingling of Pagan and Christian morals, and (in some circles) the continuance of certain Arian leanings, but still more in numerous heretical intrigues. To this class belong Priscillianism, degenerated into dualism, Migetius, that Marcus who rejuvenated Basilidianism, and above all the sect of Bonosians that held its ground in Spain—phenomena that were profoundly opposed to Catholicism, and prove how hard it was for the rising Roman Catholic Church in Spain to adopt the sentiments of Roman Catholicism. No other Western Church had at this date still to strive so keenly with powerful heresies as the Spanish. Hence is explained the growth in this Church, especially after contact with Islam, of the cold, determined fanaticism of its orthodoxy and persecution of heretics. Wherever it arises, this is a sign that men have forced themselves after severe sacrifices to submit to the sacred cause, and that they now seek to compensate themselves by making others do the same. As regards the sect of Bonosians in particular, their founder, Bonosus, Bishop of Sardica, advanced from a denial of Mary’s perpetual virginity to the doctrine of Photinus (see the Synod of Capua, A.D. 391; Ambrose’s letters, Siricius, and Innocent I., and Marius Mercator). Strange to say, he found adherents in South Gaul, and especially in Spain, up till into the eighth century; in Spain, as it appears, they were numerous; see the 2 Synod of Arles (443?) c. 17, Synod of Clichy (626) c. 5, Synod of Orleans (538) c. 31, Gennad. de vir. inl. 4, Avitus Vienn., Isidore de script. eccl. 20, de hær. 53. In the sixth century Justinian of Valentia opposed them in Spain, and in the seventh the Synod of Toledo (675), referred in the Symbol to the doctrine of the Bonosians that Christ had only existed after Mary bore him, and was merely a filius adoptivus, by confessing: “hic etiam filius dei natura est filius, non adoptione.” Naturally Elipandus and Felix were conjoined by their opponents with the Bonosians, but with the greatest injustice; they were rather their most implacable enemies, since they never denied that Christ as Son of God was filius dei naturalis. They even tried to hurl back the charge of Bonosianism at their enemies (Beatus and Eterius), an attempt, indeed, that could not succeed. It was at any rate prejudicial, seeing that men cling to catchwords, to place in the Toledan Symbol of 675 the words “non filius adoptione,” although by them the Photinian error, which Elipandus himself “condemned to hell,” was exclusively meant. We may, indeed, say of Bonosianism, but not of Elipandus’ teaching, that its circulation in Spain is explained by the Arian leanings of the Western Goths; for not only in the Arianism of scholarly theologians, but still more in its popular form, there lurked an element of the doctrine of Paul of Samosata and Photinus. It is further evident that Elipandus gladly seized the opportunity to extend the sphere of his metropolitan power to Asturia under the sure protection of the unbelievers. A dogmatic Spanish formula was 283welcome to him as a means of doing this. It is probable, finally, that Latin translations of Nestorian writings (i.e., of Theodore of Mopsuestia) were read in Spain. This cannot, indeed, be proved; but there can be no doubt that Felix of Urgel gave a Nestorian (Theodorian) development to Augustine’s Christology, and thus went beyond Augustine, and it is on the other hand certain that from the sixth century Latin translations of works by Nestorian (and Syrian) writers were current in the West.638638Since the Three Chapter controversy. We have to remember, further, that Theodore’s commentary on Paul’s Epistles still exists in a Latin translation, and that the work of Junilius comes from a Syrian copy; see Neander’s Dogmengesch. II., p, 25 f., and Jacobi’s note there, p. 26 f. Möller (Art. Adoptianism in Herzog’s R.-E., 2nd Ed.) has stated, on the basis of Gam’s discoveries, a conjecture that is worth noting: “Perhaps we ought to regard the orthodox brethren in Cordova extolled by Elipandus (Er). ad Felic. in Alcuin’s letters, ep. 123), who provided him with scholarly material, and to whom Alcuin (ep. ad Leidrad. 141) supposes the evil originally to have been due, as Eastern Christians of Nestorian culture who had come in the train of the Arabs, and who, if they did not produce, supported the Adoptian tendency.” It is further important that Elipandus has not mentioned Nestorianism among the ancient heresies rejected by him.

Elipandus was a loyal adherent to the Augustinian and Chalcedonian Christology; this is attested by his epistles; see also the two books written against him by Beatus and Eterius of Asturia, as well as Alcuin’s writings. He meant to maintain the unity of person throughout; but this unity did not, in his view, do away with the strict distinction of natures. The human nature remained human, being thence raised to the dignity of divinity, and for this reason he held the term “adoptio” to be peculiarly fitting: “the son adoptive in his humanity but not in 284his divinity” (filius adoptivus humanitate nequaquam divinitate). Everyone in the West (even Alcuin) still spoke at that time of the assumtio hominis, and not merely of the assumtio humanæ naturæ (assumption of a man not of human nature). It was a correct inference that assumtio hominis = adoptio hominis. If the word “adoptio” was not exactly common in the more ancient literature,639639Alcuin says too much when he exclaims (adv. Elip. IV. 2): “Ubi latuit, ubi dormivit hoc nomen adoptionis vel nuncupationis de Christo?” or Ep. 110: “Novitas vocum in adoptione, nuncupatione, omnino fidelibus omnibus detestanda est.” the matter designated by it was correctly expressed in Augustine’s sense.640640Compare how also Facundus of Hermiane (pro defens. trium capp. p. 708, ed. Paris, 1616, II.) acknowledges that Christ accepted the “Sacrament of Adoption.” The sonship of Christ was therefore twofold; as God he was son by race and nature (genere et natura), as man by adoption and grace. Elipandus quoted texts in support of this, and inferred quite correctly that he who disputed the Redeemer’s adoptio had to deny the reality of his human nature, and consequently to suppose that Christ derived his humanity, which would be unlike ours, from the substance of the Father. Elipandus therefore designates his opponents Docetics or Eutychians.

If we find that even he was interested really in Christ’s complete humanity for his work’s sake, the same fact shows much more clearly in the important case of Felix (see the writings directed against him by Paulinus and Alcuin). He has also left the God-Logos resting in the background; but his theory of religion deals with the second Adam in a way that had not been heard of in the Church since the days of Theodore. Since the Son of Man was actually a man, the whole stages of his humiliation were not voluntarily undertaken, but were necessary. It was only the resolve of the Son of God to adopt a man that was freely made. After this resolve was realised the Son of Man had to be a servant, had to be subject to the Father in everything, had to fulfil his will and not his own. Like all men he was only good so far as, and because, he was subject to the Father’s grace; he was not omniscient and omnipotent, but his wisdom and power were bounded by the limits imposed on humanity. He derived his life from the Father, and to him he also prayed for 285himself.641641See passages cited by Bach, Opp. cit., p. 110 ff. Felix’s final interest consisted in the fact that only thus can we be certain of our adoption. He insisted very strongly on raising to the central place in the conception of redemption the thought that the adoption of believers is only certain if Christ adopted a man like other men, or humanity: we are only redeemed if Christ is our oldest brother. The assurance of the redemption of humanity rests, as with Augustine, on the sole-begotten (in the divine sphere) having united with himself the first-begotten (in the human) [“adoptivi cum adoptivo, servi cum servo, Christi cum Christo, deus inter deos” ]. Christ, who as man was sacrificed for sakes, was the head of humanity, not by his divinity, but by his humanity. For this very reason the members are only certain of their adoption if the head is adopted.642642The clearest passages—Felix’s own words—occur in Agobard, lib. adv. Fel. 27-37. If we are not dealing in Christ’s case with an adoption as in our own, the then Incarnation was enacted outside of our sphere, and is of no benefit to us. But Felix went a step farther. He did not, like Augustine, satisfy himself with stopping at the simple contention that the man (homo) Christ was adopted in virtue of the prevenient grace of predestination, and with combining, by a mere assertion, this contention with the thesis of personal unity. On the contrary he rigidly separated the natures, and sought to form a clear idea of the way in which the adoption was accomplished (see the Antiochenes.)

As regards the first point, he applied the phrase “true and peculiar son” (verus et proprius filius) to the God-Logos alone, and did not shrink from the proposition “the son is believed one in two forms” (duobus modis unus creditur filius); he distinguished between “the one” and “the other” (alter and alter), “this one” and “that” (ille and ille), nay, he called the Son of Man “God by adoption” (nuncupativus deus: meaning that he became God). He speaks, like the Antiochenes, of a “dwelling” of God in man, of the man who is united (conjunctus; applicatus) with deity, or bears deity. He has, indeed, compared the union of the two natures in Christ with the relation of soul and body; but the figure is still more inapt from his standpoint than 286from Augustine’s; for the community of attributes is to him not real, but nominal, and “we must by no means believe that the omnipotent divine Father, who is a spirit, begets the body from himself” (nullo modo credendum est, ut omnipotens deus pater, qui spiritus est, de semetipso carnem generet). The man Christ has two fathers, one natural (David), and the other by his adoption.

With reference to the second point, Felix taught that the Son of Man underwent two births: he was born of the virgin—that was his natural birth, and of grace or adoption in baptism—his spiritual birth. Christ, accordingly, like all Christians, experienced a twofold birth. His spiritual birth, as indispensable for him as for the rest, was accomplished, as in every other case, in baptism; but in this instance also baptism was only the beginning. It was not completed till the Resurrection.643643Alcuin adv. Felic. II. 16 (Felix says): “Christus qui est secundus Adam, accepit has geminas generationes, primam vid. quæ secundum carnem est, secundam vero spiritualem, quæ per adoptionem fit, idem redemptor noster secundum hominem complexus in semetipso continet: primam vid. quam suscepit ex virgine nascendo, secundam vero quam initiavit in lavacro a mortuis resurgendo.” As the Son of Man, therefore, was subject to the different stages of divine grace arising from his election, he was also originally, though sinless,644644Alcuin indeed does not believe that Felix was sincere in professing to hold the sinlessness of Christ, for, if he had been, he would not have spoken of a regeneration of Christ (l.c., c. 18). the “old man” (vetus homo), and passed through the process of regeneration until he reached complete adoption—undergoing everything that and as we do. But we follow the Head, and it is only because he experienced this that he can be our redeemer and intercessor. For the rest, it is besides to be held that the Son of God also accepted human birth for himself, as in that case he is further to be conceived as sharing in all the acts of the Son of Man.645645Felix’s words in Agobard 33: “Propter singularitatem personæ, in qua divinitas filii dei cum hurnanitate sua communes habeat actiones, qua ex causa aliquando ea quæ divina sunt referuntur ad humana, et ea quæ humana fiunt interdum adscribuntur ad divina, et hoc ordine aliquando dei filius in hominis filio filius hominis appellari dignatur et hominis filius in dei filio filius dei nuncupatur.” The Nestorians, too, maintained such a double personality.

Elipandus had given currency to his teaching in letters. His 287first opponents were the Abbot Beatus and the youthful Bishop Eterius. Their opposition inflamed the anger of the ageing Metropolitan, jealous of his orthodoxy. All who refused to see in the two natures more than one filius proprius he called “servants of Antichrist” (A.D. 785). Those he attacked, however, did not keep silent, but exposed the heretical character of Adoptianism in an elaborate document; they also noted the fact that the controversy had already excited the Bishops of all Spain, and had extended into France.646646See the analysis of this writing in Bach, p. 116 ff. It follows Cyril. The old charge formerly made against the Nestorians is also urged against the Adoptians, that by making the Son of Man independent they expanded the Trinity into a Quaternity. A few western reminiscences are, however, not wanting, although the human nature is substantially conceived to be the impersonal caro; see e.g., II. 68, where the filius secundum carnem is named as mediator (“reconciliati sumus per solum filium secundum carnem, sed non soli filio secundum divinitatem”); also II. 40: “dominus ac redemptor noster cum sancta ecclesia, quam redemit secundum carnem, una substantia est.” Hadrian I. entered into the dispute at this time. He could not but welcome the chance of proving to the Spanish Metropolitan, whose independence rendered him obnoxious, that he had fallen into the heresy of Nestorius, and that the Spanish Bishops were therefore bound to adhere to the teaching of Rome and the Fathers.647647Ep. 97 in the Cod. Carol. in Migne, T. CII., see analysis in Hefele III., p. 661 ff., which is also to be compared with what follows.

Soon afterwards Felix of Urgel energetically championed the thesis laid down by Elipandus. Thereby the question at issue became important for the kingdom of the Franks. The Synod of Regensburg (792), whose transactions are unfortunately lost, was convened to deal with Adoptianism. Felix himself required to appear. He defended himself before Charlemagne,648648In the controversy the King proved that he felt fully his responsibility as a Christian ruler, and was at the same time thoroughly anxious to be just. He was really convinced by the propositions of his theologians. They extolled him highly as protector of the faith, as a David and a Solomon. Alcuin says of the King (adv. Elipand. I. 16): “Catholicus in fide, rex in potestate, pontifex in prædicatione, judex in æquitate, philosophus in liberalibus studiis, inclytus in moribus (?) et omni honestate præcipuus.” Ep. 100 ad dominum regem: “hoc mirabile et speciale in te pietatis dei donum prædicamus, quod tanta devotione ecclesias Christi a perfidorum doctrinis intrinsecus purgare tuerique niteris, quanta forinsecus a vastatione paganorum defendere vel propagare conaris. His duabus gladiis vestram venerandam excellentiam dextra lævaque divina armavit potestas.” but is 288said to have ultimately recanted, since all the Bishops declared his teaching to be erroneous. The recantation is, indeed, supported by several witnesses, but is not placed beyond doubt, for we hear that Felix was sent to Rome, and was kept in prison by the Pope until he yielded to swear to an orthodox confession. He now returned to Spain (to his bishopric?) but soon renounced his forced recantation, and withdrew to Toledo in Saracen territory, in order to escape the censorship of the Franks. Alcuin’s attempt to recover for the Church its highly prized bishop by means of a very friendly letter that breathed Augustine’s spirit (A.D. 793) perhaps crossed the effort made by the heads of the Adoptianists to maintain their teaching in the Church by an encyclical to the Bishops of the Frankish kingdom. and a letter to Charlemagne, which took the form of a remonstrance, and contained a petition for a new investigation. Elipandus always regarded the “sleek” Beatus as the chief enemy, who had instilled his poison into the Church and seduced the Bishops. He adjures the King to judge justly; to reinstate Felix, and be warned by Constantine’s revolt to Arianism. The heresy that through Beatus now threatened the whole Church was nothing less than the denial that Christ received his body from the Virgin. At the brilliant Synod of Frankfurt, Charlemagne, after reporting to the Pope, set on foot a new investigation (794). Learned bishops and theologians were summoned from all quarters. The assembly rejected Adoptianism in two Synodal deeds—the Italian Bishops under Paulinus of Aquileia voted separately. The same course was followed by a Synod assembled contemporaneously at Rome. All these resolutions were transmitted, along with a letter of his own, by Charlemagne to Elipandus.

We are not interested in following the controversy further, for new phases did not appear. But we have the impression that Adoptianism made advances in Saracen Spain and the neighbouring province until about A.D. 799. Even the personal influence of famous doctors (Benedict of Aniane, Leidrad of Lyons) met at first with little success. But Frankish Spain could not resist the influence of the whole empire, and Felix himself was ultimately induced once more to recant at the 289Synod of Aachen (799). At this date, besides Paulinus,649649See on his polemics, Bach, p. 121 ff. Alcuin was indefatigable in producing works, some of them extensive, against the heresy (Libell. adv. Felic. hair., IV. lib. adv. Elipandum, VII. lib. adv. Felic.). It is interesting to notice how this Anglo-Saxon, the disciple of Bede, was entirely dependent in his Christology on the Greeks, and had abandoned the Augustinian tradition. Augustine as well as Græco-Roman speculative theology had become domesticated in England through the Romanising of that country. But in those questions on which the Greeks had pronounced their views, they were ever regarded as the more honourable, reliable, and learned. They were the representatives of the sublime theology of the mystery of the Incarnation.650650This is true above all of Cyril. The Latins were only after all to be considered in so far as they agreed with the Greeks. How great is the imposing prestige and power of an ancient culture, and how cogent is every “advance” that it experiences, even if that advance passes imperceptibly into a refinement which produces a new barbarianism! Alcuin’s arguments might have occurred just as well in the works of Cyril, Leontius, or John of Damascus, and they are sometimes actually to be found there word for word:—Christ is the personal God-Logos who assumed impersonal human nature, and fused it into the complete unity of his being. Accordingly, even apart from sin, Christ’s humanity was by no means like ours in all points, but was very different. Since it acquired all the attributes of deity, all human limitations shown in the life of Jesus were voluntarily accepted, in other words were due to accommodation, were pedagogic or illusory. Alcuin dissipates the records of the gospels as thoroughly as the Monophysite and Crypto-Monophysite Greeks. This form of piety had ceased to regard Christ in any sense as a human person; nay, it felt itself gravely hurt if it was told that it ought to suppose a really human consciousness in Christ. Not only was the dismemberment of the one Christ disowned as blasphemous, but still more the application to him of categories that were held to describe believers.651651See the analysis of Alcuin’s Christology in Bach, p. 128 ff. Alcuin seeks to show (1) that all the statements of Scripture and the Fathers regarding Christ have for their subject the concrete person in two natures; (2) that the notion of adoption occurs neither in Scripture nor the Fathers, and is thus novel and false; and (3) that the Adoptianist theory is inconsistent, and upsets the basis of faith. He tries to show that adoptio, if taken to mean anything different from assumptio, leads to heresy. Assumption is held to express the natural relation in which humanity is connected with deity by the Incarnation, and which is annulled by the adoptio that designates a relation due to grace. Alcuin indeed also speaks (following Augustine) of grace having been in Christ, for it does not, like adoptio, exclude the natural relation of sonship. But his strongest argument consists in his explanation that passive adoption was impossible, because the Son of Man did not exist at all before he was actual Son of God. Neither he nor Paulinus supposes that the man Christ was a person before the God-man. He certainly possessed his personality from the first in the Son of God. Accordingly, if we think abstractly, we may not conceive of a man (homo) Christ who existed before the Incarnation, but of human nature, which only became personal by its assumption, and was at once made an essential constituent of the person of the God-man. Therefore this nature, even apart from sin, was infinitely superior to and unlike ours. Therefore the doctrine of the Agnoetes, who had besides been already strongly assailed by Gregory I. in his letters, was to be condemned; and the servile form of the Son of God was in every respect worthy of adoration, because it was not necessary to his nature, but was at every point freely undertaken. Accordingly Christ required neither baptism nor adoption, and even as man was no ordinary creature, but always the God-man. “In spite of the assumption of human nature, the God-man retained sole property in the person of the Son.” Humanity was merely added like something impersonal to this unity of person of the Son of God, “and there remained the same property in two natures in the name of the Son that formerly existed in one substance.” But Alcuin adds very inaptly (c. Felic. II. 12): “in adsumtione carnis a deo persona petit hominis, non natura;” for he certainly did not assume that a “persona hominis” had existed previously. We can only explain this lapse by supposing that Alcuin had not yet let Cyril’s Christology expunge from his mind every reminiscence of Augustine’s. Bach rightly remarks (p. 136 f.: against Donner) “that no opponent of the Adoptians imagined that personality was essential to the completeness of the human nature; (like Bach himself) they taught exactly the opposite.” Bach’s own explanation of the above passage, which is only intelligible as a lapse, is, for the rest, wholly incorrect. By persona he would understand “the person of man as such, of humanitas, and not of the man Christ.” In 290fact, we are correct in saying that faith in Christ as Redeemer had no interest in expounding broadly wherein Christ is like us.652652Epist. ad Carol. M.: “Quid enim prodest ecclesiæ dei Christum appellare adoptivum filium vel deum nuncupativum? But the Adoptians had, consistently with this likeness, which they asserted, characterised him as head of the community, and demonstrated a way in which the man Christ could be apprehended as redeemer and intercessor.653653The explanations given by Felix as to the man Christ as sacerdos, sacrificium, caput ecclesiæ are Augustinian, and in part more precise than they occur in Augustine. The part played in the controversy by the thought of Christ as head of the Church is worthy of note. We are not prepared for it, if we start from the more ancient tradition. The greater emphasis laid on Christ as priest and sacrifice was already determined by the all-prevailing reference to the Mass. But then, as now, 291no one who had once been initiated into the mysteries was influenced by this. He who has once but sipped the intoxicating cup of that mysticism, which promises to transform every worthless stone into gold, sees everywhere the mystery of deification, and then it is not easy for the watchman to recall the dreamer to life.654654Adoptianism, like Nestorianism, necessarily remained a half thing, because it did not correct this pseudo-Christian motive. This is the ultimate cause of its speedy death. Adoptianism and the Eucharistic Christ do not suit each other. For this is the last motive of this speculation: from the transformation of the impersonal human substance into the divine (in the case of Christ) to derive the divino-human means of ea joyment in this world. Even in the instance of Beatus, the realistic conception of the Lord’s Supper turns out to be a decisive motive against Adoptianism,655655See Bach, p. 119 f. Beatus has pointed out, like Cyril, that the concrete unity of Christ’s person is shown most clearly in the fact that in the Lord’s Supper the whole Christ is adored, and that his flesh is the principle of eternal life. Bach (p. 120) has eloquently evolved as his own view the cause for which the opponents of the Adoptians ultimately contended. “Beatus and Eterius, in opposition to the externality of Elipandus, pointed with a profoundly realistic glance to the central significance of Christ in the collective ethical and sacramental constitution of Christianity, and the morally free life of humanity. The organic and physical relation of Christ to humanity, and the physiology of grace in its inner relation to human freedom, which has its living roots in the concrete God-man, are hereby indicated. A divided Christ cannot be a new physical ethical ferment of life to mankind.” This materialistic ghost unfortunately also announces its presence in Protestant Christianity. and this motive can also be demonstrated in Alcuin’s works.656656With him and Paulinus, only indeed in unimportant hints, wherefore Each calls Paulinus “less profound and thorough” than Beatus. How the speculation reached the latter is not known. Thus the Christological controversy is closely connected with the magical conceptions of the Lord’s Supper as the centre of Church doctrine and practice. It is all the more instructive that, as we shall see, images were not yet thought of, while the East had long had them in view, as well as the Lord’s Supper, in connection with its Crypto-Monophysite Christology. In this matter the Anglo-Saxon and Frankish Church still “lagged” behind its guide.


Felix secluded himself with Leidrad in Lyons. The re-conversion of the Frankish Adoptians now made great strides, and Felix himself had to exhort his congregation to abandon the error which he had formerly taught them. But he was by no means thoroughly convinced at heart, as is shown by papers found, after the death of the unfortunate Bishop, by Leidrad’s successor, Agobard. Agobard held it necessary to refute the dead Felix. If aggressive Adoptianism soon expired in the Frankish kingdom, it was revived by the daring dialectic of the eleventh and twelfth centuries as a doctrine of the schools,657657See Bach, II., p. 390 ff. and it afterwards continued during all centuries of the Middle Ages, though without rousing more than a theological dispute. Little is known of how the “heresy” gradually died out in Saracen Spain. Even in the time of Elipandus it did not escape censure. It still had power to attract about A.D. 850;658658See the letters of Alvar, Bandissin, 1.c. Bach I., p. 146 ff. but then there came times when it was necessarily worth more to Christian Spaniards to feel that they were in agreement with the whole Church than to defend the legitimacy of a distinctive position.

The decisive result of the whole controversy was that the West set aside its own earlier Christological system, and—for the sake of the Lord’s Supper and the imposing tradition of the Greeks—thought like the latter within the sphere of dogma. Christ’s unity was maintained; but this unity absorbed his humanity, and removed far off the dread incarnate Son of God (dei filius incarnatus tremendus). Strict dogmatic only permitted him to be approached in the Lord’s Supper. But that did not prevent the vision of the lowly Man of Sorrows continuing, still secretly at first, to make its way side by side with dogmatic theory, that vision that had dawned upon Augustine, and was in ever-increasing vividness to form the strength of piety in the future.

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