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§ 135. General View. Alexandrian and Antiochian Schools.


The Trinity and Christology, the two hardest problems and most comprehensive dogmas of theology, are intimately connected. Hence the settlement of the one was immediately followed by the agitation and study of the other. The speculations on the Trinity had their very origin in the study of the person of Christ, and led back to it again. The point of union is the idea of the incarnation of God. But in the Arian controversy the Son of God was viewed mainly in his essential, pre-mundane relation to the Father; while in the Christological contest the incarnate historical Christ and the constitution of his divine-human person was the subject of dispute.

The notion of redemption, which forms the centre of Christian thinking, demands a Redeemer who unites in his person the nature of God and the nature of man, yet without confusion. In order to be a true Redeemer, the person must possess all divine attributes, and at the same time enter into all relations and conditions of mankind, to raise them to God. Four elements thus enter into the orthodox doctrine concerning Christ: He is true God; be is true man; he is one person; and the divine and human in him, with all the personal union and harmony, remain distinct.

The result of the Arian controversies was the general acknowledgment of the essential and eternal deity of Christ. Before the close of that controversy the true humanity of Christ at the same time came in again for treatment; the church having indeed always maintained it against the Gnostic Docetism, but now, against a partial denial by Apollinarianism, having to express it still more distinctly and lay stress on the reasonable soul. And now came into question, further, the relation between the divine and the human natures in Christ. Origen, who gave the impulse to the Arian controversy, had been also the first to provoke deeper speculation on the mystery of the person of Christ. But great obscurity and uncertainty had long prevailed in opinions on this great matter. The orthodox Christology is the result of powerful and passionate conflicts. It is remarkable that the notorious rabies theologorum has never in any doctrinal controversy so long and violently raged as in the controversies on the person of the Reconciler, and in later times on the love-feast of reconciliation.

The Alexandrian school of theology, with its characteristic speculative and mystical turn, favored a connection of the divine and human in the act of the incarnation so close, that it was in danger of losing the human in the divine, or at least of mixing it with the divine;15371537   Even Athanasius is not wholly free from this leaning to the monophysite view, and speaks of an ἕνωσις φυσική of the Logos with his flesh, and of one incarnate nature of the divine Logos, μία φύσις τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγου σεσαρκωμένη, which with his flesh is to be worshipped; see his little tract De incarnatione Dei Verbi (περὶ τῆς σαρκώσεως τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγου) in the 3d tom. of the Bened. ed. p. 1. But in the first place it must be considered that this tract (which is not to be confounded with his large work De incarnatione Verbi Dei, περὶ τῆς ἐνανθρωπήσεως τοῦ λόγου, in the first tom. P. i. of the Bened. ed. pp. 47-97), is by many scholars (Montfaucon, Möhler, Hefele) denied to Athanasius, though on insufficient grounds; and further, that at that time φύσις,οὐσίαand ὑπόστασιςwere often interchanged, and did not become sharply distinguished till towards the end of the Nicene age. “In the indefiniteness of the notions of φύσις and ὑπόστασις,” says Neander (Dogmengeschichte, i. p. 340), “the Alexandrians were the more easily moved, for the sake of the one ὑπόστασις, to concede also only one φύσιςin Christ, and set the ἕνωσις φυσικήagainst those who talked of two natures.” Comp. Petavius, De incarn. Verbi, lib. ii. c. 3 (tom. iv. p. 120, de vocabulis φύσεωςet ὑποστάσεως); also the observations of Dorner, l. c. i. p. 1072, and of Hefele, Conciliengesch. ii. p. 128 f. The two Gregories speak, indeed, of δύο φύσειςin Christ, yet at the same time of a σύγκρασις, and ἀνάκρασις, i.e., mingling of the two. while, conversely, the Antiochian or Syrian school, in which the sober intellect and reflection prevailed, inclined to the opposite extreme of an abstract separation of the two natures.15381538   Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia, the head of the Antiochian school, compares the union of the divine and human in Christ with the marriage union of man and woman, and says that one cannot conceive a complete nature without a complete person (ὑπόστασις). Comp. Neander, l.c. i. p. 343; Dorner, ii. p. 39 ff.; Fritzsche: De Theodori Mopsvest. vita et scriptis, Halae, 1837, and an article by W. Möller in Herzog’s Encycl. vol. xv. P. 715 ff. Of the works of Theodore of Mopsuestia we have only fragments, chiefly in the acts of the fifth ecumenical council (in Mansi, Conc. tom. ii. fol. 203 sqq.), and a commentary on the twelve Prophets, which cardinal Angelo Mai discovered, and edited in 1854 at Rome in his Nova Bibliotheca SS. Patrum, tom. vii. Pars i. pp. 1-408, together with some fragments of commentaries on New Testament books, edited by Fritzsche, jun., Turici, 1847; and by Pitra in Spicileg. Solesm. tom. i. Par. 1852. In both cases the mystery of the incarnation, the veritable and permanent union of the divine and human in the one person of Christ, which is essential to the idea of a Redeemer and Mediator, is more or less weakened or altered. In the former case the incarnation becomes a transmutation or mixture (σύγκρασις) of the divine and human; in the latter, a mere indwelling (ἐνοίκησις) of the Logos in the man, or a moral union (συνάφεια) of the two natures, or rather of the two persons.

It was now the problem of the church, in opposition to both these extremes, to assert the personal unity and the distinction of the two natures in Christ with equal solicitude and precision. This she did through the Christological controversies which agitated the Greek church for more than two hundred years with extraordinary violence. The Roman church, though in general much more calm, took an equally deep interest in this work by some of its more eminent leaders, and twice decided the victory of orthodoxy, at the fourth general council and at the sixth, by the powerful influence of the bishop of Rome.

We must distinguish in this long drama five acts:

1. The Apollinarian controversy, which comes in the close of the Nicene age, and is concerned with the full humanity of Christ, that is, the question whether Christ, with his human body and human soul (anima animans), assumed also a human spirit (νοῦς, πνεῦμα, anima rationalis).

2. The Nestorian controversy, down to the rejection of the doctrine of the double personality of Christ by the third ecumenical council of Ephesus, a.d. 431.

3. The Eutychian controversy, to the condemnation of the doctrine of one nature, or more exactly of the absorption of the human in the divine nature of Christ; to the fourth ecumenical council at Chalcedon, a.d. 451.

4. The Monophysite dispute; the partial reaction towards the Eutychian theory; down to the fifth general council at Constantinople a.d. 553.

5. The Monothelite controversy, a.d. 633–680, which terminated with the rejection of the doctrine of one will in Christ by the sixth general council at Constantinople in 680, and lies this side of our period.



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