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Natural theology was so wide in its scope as understood by the Greek Church, that, as indications in the preceding chapter will have already shown, only a historical fact absolutely unparallelled could make headway against it. The Greek Fathers knew of such a fact—“the newest of the new, yea, the only new thing under the sun”; it was the Incarnation of the Son of God. It alone balanced the whole system of natural theology, so far as it was balanced, and exerted a decisive influence upon it. But the incarnation could only be attached with complete perspicuity to that point in the natural system which seemed the more irrational, the more highly the value of human nature was rated—this point of contact being death. The dreadful paradox of death was destroyed by the most paradoxical fact conceivable the incarnation of the Deity.

This at once implied that the fact could not but be capable of a subsequent explanation, nay, even of a kind of a priori deduction. But its glory, as an expression of the unfathomable goodness of God, was not thereby to be diminished. The necessity of redemption, whether that consisted in the restoration or the perfection of the human race, was based by the Fathers, as a rule, on the actual state of wretchedness of mankind under the dominion of death and sin. So far, however, as this condition was compared with the original state or destiny of man, redemption was already thought of as intrinsically necessary, 289and was no longer merely regarded as a postulate of man’s need of salvation. In this connection the Fathers often lost sight of the capacity left to man of being and doing good. In innumerable passages they speak of the helplessness and irredeemableness of mankind, using expressions which could without difficulty be inserted in Augustine’s doctrine of sin. But just as often a phrase occurs which betrays the fact that the whole view is nevertheless quite different; in other words, that the outward condition characterised by feebleness and death, and the sensuousness of corruptible human nature are thought of as the source of all evil and all sin. This state is accompanied by a darkening of knowledge which could not fail to subject man to the influence of the demons and lead him into idolatry.

The divine act of grace in Christ applied to death, the demonic rule, sin, and error. In Homilies, Biblical commentaries, and devotional writings, these points of view interchange, or are apparently regarded as equivalent.566566Perhaps the most comprehensive passage is Eusebius, Demonstr. ev. IV. 12. But it also shows how far Eusebius still was from the thorough-going view of Athanasius: Τῆς οἰκονομίας οὐ μίαν αἰτίαν ἀλλὰ καὶ πλείους εὕροι ἄν τις ἐθελήσας ζητεῖν, πρώτην μὲν γὰρ ὁ λόγος διδάσκει, ἵνα καὶ νεκρῶν καὶ ζώντων κυριεύσῃ· δευτέραν δέ ὅπως τὰς ἡμετέρας ἀπομάξοιτο ἁμαρτίας, ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν τρωθεὶς καὶ γενόμενος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν κατάρα· τρίτην ὡς ἂν ἱερεῖον Θεοῦ καὶ μεγάλη θυσία ὑρὲρ σύμπαντος κόσμον προσαχθείη τῷ ἐπὶ πάντων Θεῷ· τετάρτην ὡς ἂν αὐτὸς τῆς πολυπλανοῦς καὶ δαιμονικῆς ἐνεργείας ἀπορρήτοις λόγοις καθαίρεσιν ἀπεργάσαιτο· πέμπτην ἐπὶ ταυτῇ, ὡς ἂν τοῖς αὐτοῦ γνωρίμοις καὶ μαθηταῖς τῆς κατὰ τὸν θάνατον παρὰ Θεῷ ζωῆς τὴν ἐλπίδα μὴ λόγοις μηδὲ ῥήμασιν καὶ φωναῖς ἀλλὰ αὐτοῖς ἔργοις παραστήσας, ὀφθαλμοῖς δὲ παραδοὺς τὴν διὰ τῶν λόγων ἐπαγγελίαν, εὐθαρσεῖς αὐτοὺς καὶ προθυμοτέρους ἀπεργάσαιτο καὶ πᾶσιν Ἕλλησιν ὁμοῦ καὶ βαρβάροις τὴν πρὸς αὐτοῦ καταβληθεῖσαν εὐσεβῆ πολιτείαν κηρύξαι. But since natural theology formed the background of their conceptions, the absolute necessity of the form assumed by the act of grace in the incarnation could be demonstrated neither in relation to sin nor to error. The whole question turned here on support, example, and illumination, or, if this line was crossed, theology ceased to be systematic and consistent. The importance of Athanasius and the Cappadocians consisted in the strenuous emphasis laid by them on the impressive connection existing between the incarnation and the restoration of the human race 290to the divine life, and in their consequent escape to some extent from the rationalistic scheme of doctrine; for the reference of the incarnation to sin did not carry the Greeks beyond it. The above combination had been made in the Church long before this (see Irenæus), but in the theology of Origen it had been subordinated to, and obscured by, complicated presuppositions.

Athanasius wrote a treatise “Concerning the incarnation of the Logos” (περὶ ἐνανθρωπήσεως τοῦ λόγου), an early writing whose value is so great because it dates before the outbreak of the Arian controversy.567567Draescke has attempted to show in a full discussion (Athanasiana i. d. Stud. u. Krit., 1893, pp. 251-315 that the writings “Against the Greeks” and the “Incarnation of the Logos” belong, not to Athanasius, but to Eusebius of Emesa, and were written A.D. 350. But after a close examination of his numerous arguments I find none of them convincing, and I am rather confirmed in my belief that no important objection can be raised against the authenticity of the two tractates. An accurate analysis of “De incarn.” is given by Kattenbusch, l. c. I., p. 297 ff. In this work he went a step further: for he strove to prove that the redemption was a necessity on the part of God. He based this necessity on the goodness (ἀγαθότης) of God. This goodness, i.e., God’s consistency and honour, involved as they were in his goodness, were necessarily expressed in the maintenance and execution of decrees once formed by him. His decrees, however, consisted, on the one hand, in his appointment of rational creatures to share in the divine life, and, on the other, in the sentence of death on transgressions. Both of these had to be established. God’s intention could not be allowed to suffer shipwreck through the wickedness of the devil and the sad choice of humanity. If it were, God would seem weak, and it would have been better if he had never created man at all. Then the transgression occurred. “What was God now to do? Ought he to have demanded penitence on the part of man? For one could have deemed that worthy of God and said, that as men had become mortal through the transgression, they should in like manner recover immortality through repentance (change of mind). But repentance (in itself) did not retain the true knowledge as regards God; God accordingly would in his turn have shown himself 291untruthful, if death had not compelled men;568568This sentence does not seem to me quite clear; the meaning is probably: since repentance does not convey the true knowledge of God, but death resulted from loss of the latter, God would have broken his word if he had abolished death in consequence of mere repentance. nor did repentance deliver from the physical, but only put an end to sins. Therefore, if the transgression had alone existed, and not its consequence, mortality, repentance would have been all very well. But when, the transgression having occurred, men were fettered to the mortality that had become natural to them, and were robbed of the grace which corresponded to their creation in the divine image, what else should have happened? Or what was needed for this grace and renewal except (the coming of) him who also in the beginning made all things of nothing, the Logos of God? For it was his part once more to restore the corruptible to incorruption.”569569De incarn. 7: Τί οὖν ἔδει καὶ περὶ τούτου γενέσθαι ἢ ποιῆσαι τὸν Θεόν; μετάνοιαν ἐπὶ τῇ παραβάσει τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἀπαιτῆσαι; τοῦτο γὰρ ἄν τις ἄξιον φήσειεν Θεοῦ, λέγων, ὅτι ὥσπερ ἐκ τῆς παραβάσεως εἰς φθορὰν γεγόνασιν, οὕτως ἐκ τῆς μετανοίας γένοιντο πάλιν ἂν εἰς ἀφθαρσίαν. Ἀλλ᾽ ἡ μετάνοια οὔτε τὸ εὔλογον τὸ πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν ἐφύλαττεν· ἔμενε γὰρ πάλιν οὐκ ἀληθής, μὴ κρατουμένων ἐν τῷ θανάτῳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων· οὔτε δέ ἡ μετάνοια ἀπὸ τῶν κατὰ φύσιν ἀποκαλεῖται, ἀλλὰ μόνον παύει τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων. Εἰ μὲν οὖν μόνον ἦν πλημμέλημα καὶ μὴ φθορᾶς ἐπακολούθησις, καλῶς ἂν ἦν ἡ μετάνοια· εἰ δὲ ἅπαξ προλαβούσης τῆς παραβάσεως, εἰς την κατὰ φύσιν φθορὰν ἐκρατοῦντο οἱ ἄνθρωποι, καὶ τὴν τοῦ κατ᾽ εἰκόνα χάριν ἀφαιρεθέντες ἦσαν, τί ἄλλο ἔδει γενέσθαι; ἢ τίνος ἦν χρεία πρὸς τὴν τοιαύτην χάριν καὶ ἀνάκλησιν, ἢ τοῦ καὶ κατὰ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐκ τοῦ μὴ ὄντος πεποιηκότος τὰ ὅλα τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγου; αὐτοῦ γὰρ ἦν πάλιν καὶ τὸ φθαρτὸν εἰς ἀφθαρσίαν ἐνεγκεῖν καὶ τὸ ὑπὲρ πάντων εὔλογον ἀποσῶσαι πρὸς τὸν πατέρα. Compare Orat. c. Arian. II. 68.

Athanasius shows that the Logos who originally created all things from nothing required to assume a body and thus to secure the restoration of man from corruptibility to incorruption (ἀφθαρσία). How this happened Athanasius discusses in various, to some extent inconsistent, lines of thought, in which he speaks especially of a removal of men’s guilt through the death of Christ, as well as of an exhaustion of the sentence of death in the sacrifice of his body presented by the Logos. From these premises it follows that Athanasius had the death of Christ in view, whenever he thought of the incarnation of the Logos. “The Logos could not suffer τὴν τοῦ θανάτου κράτησιν (‘the power of death’ in mankind), and therefore took up the 292fight with death. He assumed a body and so became mortal. This body he surrendered to death on behalf of all. His body could not be really overcome, ‘kept’, by death. In it all died, and for this very reason the law of death (νόμος τοῦ Θανάτου) is now abrogated; its power was exhausted on the body of the Lord (κυριακὸν σῶμα); it had no further claim on his fellow-men (κατὰ τῶν ὁμοίων ἀνθρώπων) . . . The body assumed by the Logos came to share in the universal meaning of the Logos. The resurrection of the body and of the Logos guaranteed the general resurrection and incorruption (ἀφθαρσία).”570570Kattenbusch, p. 298. Here follows the place assigned to the sacrifice. It presented that which was due (ὀφειλόμενον) to God in place of death. But the pervading and prominent thought of Athanasius is that the incarnation itself involved the Christian’s passage from the fate of death to incorruption (ἀφθαρσία), since the physical union of the human with the divine nature in the midst of mankind raised the latter to the region of divine rest and blessedness.571571L. c., ch. IX.: Ὥσπερ μεγάλου βασιλέως εἰσελθόντος εἴς τινα πόλιν μεγάλην, καὶ οἰκήσαντος εἰς μίαν τῶν ἐν αὐτῇ οἰκιῶν, πάντως ἡ τοιαύτη πόλις τιμῆς πολλῆς καταξιοῦται, καὶ οὐκέτι τις ἐχθρὸς αὐτὴν οὔτε λῃστὴς ἐπιβαίνων καταστρέφει, πάσης δὲ μᾶλλον ἐπιμελείας ἀξιοῦται διὰ τὸν εἰς μίαν αὐτῆς οἰκίαν οἰκήσαντα βασιλέα· σὕτως καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ πάντων βασιλέως γέγονεν. Ελθόντος γὰρ αὐτοῦ ἐπί τὴν ἡμετέραν χώραν καὶ οἰκήσαντος εἰς ἓν τῶν ὁμοίων σῶμα, λοιπὸν πᾶσα ἡ κατὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων παρὰ τῶν ἐχθρῶν ἐπιβουλὴ πέπαυται, καὶ ἡ τοῦ θανάτου ἡφάνισται φθορὰ ἡ πάλαι κατ᾽ αὐτῶν ἰσχύουσα. Kattenbusch is right in considering Ritschl (l. c., I., p. 10, 11) to have gone too far in his assertion that “Athanasius’ interpretation of the death and resurrection of Christ is a particular instance of the main thought that the Logos of God guarantees all redemptive work, using the human body in which he dwells as the means.” Athanasius certainly did not regard the death and resurrection as merely particular instances. They formed the object of the incarnation; not that they were added or supplementary to it; they were bound up with it. The result of the incarnation consisted accordingly, first, in the eradication of corruption (φθορά)—by the existence of the divine in its midst, but, finally, by the death of Christ, in which the truthfulness of God was justified—and in the corresponding transformation into incorruptibility—renewal, or completion of the divine image by participation in the nature, free from all suffering, of the Deity.572572Yet the view of Athanasius was not simply naturalistic; incorruptibleness rather included the elements of goodness, love, and wisdom; a renewal affecting the inner nature of man was also involved. But it was not possible for Athanasius to expound this systematically; therefore Schultz seems to me to have asserted too much (Gottheit Christi, p. 80). But, secondly, the incarnation also resulted, 293as indeed had been long before held by the Apologists, in the restoration of the correct knowledge of God, which embraced the power of living rightly, through the incarnate Logos. But while Athanasius kept firmly in view this restoration of the knowledge of God through the Logos, he was not thinking merely of the new law, i.e., the preaching of Christ; he held it to have been given in the contemplation of the Person of Christ. In his work, that of a man, God came down to us. The dullest eye was now in a position to perceive the one true God—viz., in Christ—and to escape from the error of demon-worship. This thought is very significant; it had already been expressed by Clement and Origen, having received a deeper meaning from the latter, though he had not yet given it so central a place in his system. Athanasius expressly notes that creation was not sufficient to let us perceive the Creator and Father; we needed a man to live and work among us before we could see clearly and certainly the God and Father of all.573573The chief passages occur l. c., XIV-XVI., chap. XIV. fin: One might suppose that the fitting way to know God was to recover our knowledge of him from the works of creation. It is not so, for men are no longer capable of directing their gaze upward; they look down. “Therefore, when he seeks to benefit men, he takes up his dwelling among us as man, and assumes a body like the human one, and instructs men within their own lower sphere, i.e., through the works of the body, that those who would not perceive him from his care for all and his rule might at least from the works of the body itself know the Logos of God in the body, and through him the Father.” C. 15: Ἐπειδὴ οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἀποστραφέντες τὴν πρὸς τὸν Θαεὸν θεωρίαν. καὶ ὡς ἐν βύθῳ βυθισθέντες κάτω τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἔχοντες, ἐν γενέσει καὶ τοῖς αἰσθητοῖς τὸν Θεὸν ἀνεζήτουν, ἀνθρώπους θνητοὺς καὶ δαίμονας ἑαυτοῖς θεοὺς ἀνατυπούμενοι· τούτου ἕνεκα ὁ φιλάνθρωπος καὶ κοινὸς πάντων σωτήρ, ὁ τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγος, λαμβάνει ἑαυτῷ σῶμα καὶ ὡς ἄνθρωπος ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἀναστέφεται καὶ τὰς αἰσθήσεις πάντων ἀνθρώπων προσλαμβάνει, ἵνα οἱ ἐν σωματικοῖς νοοῦντες εἶναι τὸν Θεόν, αφ᾽ ὧν ὁ κύριος ἐργάζεται διά τῶν τοῦ σώματος ἔργων, ἀπ᾽ αὐτῶν νοήσωσι τὴν ἀλήθειαν, καὶ δι᾽ αὐτοῦ τὸν πατέρα λογίσωνται. The sequel shows, indeed, that Athanasius thought above all of Jesus’ miraculous works. He has summarised his whole conception of the result of redemption in the pregnant sentence (ch. XVI.): Ἀμφότερα γὰρ ἐφιλανθρωπεύετο ὁ σωτὴρ διὰ τῆς ἐνανθρωπήσεως, ὅτι καὶ τὸν θάνατον ἐξ ἡμῶν ἡφάνιζε καὶ ἀνεκαίνιζεν ἡμᾶς· καὶ ὅτι ἀφανὴς ὢν καὶ ἀόρατος διὰ τῶν ἔργων ἐνέφαινε καὶ ἐγνώριζεν ἑαυτὸν εἶναι τὸν λόγον τοῦ πατρός, τὸν τοῦ παντὸς ἡγεμόνα καὶ βασιλέα. Origen had already laid stress on the perception of God in Christ, and set it above philosophical knowledge (analytic, synthetic, and analogical, against Alcinous, Maximus of Tyre, and Celsus): see c. Cels. VII. 42, 44; De princip. I. 1. For Clement see Protrept. I. 8: ὁ λόγος ὁ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος γενόμενος, ἵνα δὴ καὶ σὺ παρὰ ἀνθρώπου μάθῃς, πῆ ποτὲ ἄρα ἄνθρωπος γένηται Θεός.


When Athanasius placed the knowledge of God side by side with the deliverance from death, the transition was obtained from the fact of redemption to the doctrine of the appropriation, and to the explanation of the particular result, of the work of love done by the Logos. This only benefited those who voluntarily appropriated the divine knowledge made accessible by the incarnate Logos, and who regulated their conduct by the standards and with the power thus given them.574574Parallel with this view and intertwined with it we undoubtedly have the other, that eternal life is mystically appropriated by means of sacred rites and the holy food. In this conception, which is extremely ancient, Christianity seems degraded to the level of the nature-religions of the East or the Græco-oriental mysteries (see Schultz, Gottheit Christi, p. 69). But as even the earliest Alexandrians (also Ignatius) constantly resolved the naturalistic view into a spiritual and moral one, so also hardly any one of the theologians of the following centuries can be named who would have purely and simply defended the former. In any case the transformation of the corruptible into the incorruptible (the Theopoiesis) remained under this conception the ultimate and proper result of the work of the Logos, being ranked higher than the other, the knowledge of God.575575See esp. Orat. c. Arian. II. 67-70, where the final designs of Athanasius’ Christianity are revealed. It is at the same time to be noted that while redemption meant restoration, it was the transference into a still higher grace. We experience all that was done to the body of Christ. We are baptised, as Christ was in Jordan, we next received the Holy Spirit, and so also our flesh has died, and been renewed, sanctified and raised to eternal life in his resurrection. Accordingly, Athanasius sums up at the close of his work, ch. 54: Αὐτὸς γὰρ ἐνηνθρώπησεν, ἵνα ἡμεῖς θεοποιηθῶμεν· καὶ αὐτὸς ἐφανέρωσεν ἑαυτὸν διὰ σώματος. ἵνα ἡμεῖς τοῦ ἀοράτου πατρὸς ἔννοιαν λάβωμεν· καὶ αὐτὸς ὑπέμεινε τὴν παρ᾽ ἀνθρώπων ὕβριν, ἵνα ἡμεῖς ἀθανασιαν κληρονομήσωμεν. ἐβλάπτετο μὲν γὰρ αὐτὸς οὐδέν, ἀπαθὴς καὶ ἄφθαρτος καὶ αὐτολόγος ὢν καὶ Θεός· τοὺς δὲ πάσχοντας ἀνθρώπους, δι᾽ οὓς καὶ ταῦτα ὑπέμεινεν, ἐν τῇ ἑαυτοῦ ἀπαθείᾳ ἐτήρει καὶ διέσωζε. But here we find the greatest difference between Athanasius and like-minded theologians on the one hand, and Arius, the Eusebians, etc., on the other. The elements contained in their views are the same; but the order is different. For these “conservative” theologians saw the work of the Logos primarily in the communication of the true and complete knowledge which should be followed by a state of perfection. But Athanasius made everything 295tend to this consummation as the restoration and the communication of the divine nature. Accordingly, it was to him a vital theological question how the incorruptible was constituted which was represented in the Logos, and what kind of union it had formed with the corruptible. But while he put the question he was sure of the answer. His opponents, however, could not at all share in his interest in this point, since their interest in Christ as the supreme teacher did not lead them directly to define more precisely the kind of heavenly manifestation which he represented even for them. When they did give such definitions, they were influenced by theoretical, or exegetical considerations, or were engaged in refuting the propositions of their opponents by setting up others.

The Trinitarian and Christological problems which had occupied the ancient Church for more than three centuries here rise before us. That their decision was so long delayed, and only slowly found a more general acceptance, was not merely due to outward circumstances, such as the absence of a clearly marked tradition, the letter of the Bible, or the politics of Bishops and Emperors. It was, on the contrary, owing chiefly to the fact that large circles in the Church felt the need of subordinating even the doctrine of redemption to rational theology, or of keeping it within the framework of moralism. The opposite conviction, that nature was transformed through the incarnate Logos, resulted here and there in a chaotic pantheism;576576Not in Athanasius himself—Kattenbusch says rightly (p. 299): The θεοποίησις is for A. an enhancement of human life physically and morally; his idea of it does not look forward to man being pantheistically merged in God, but to the renewal of man after his original type. but that was the least danger. The gravest hindrance to the acceptance of the view of Athanasius consisted in the paradoxical tenets which arose regarding the Deity and Jesus Christ. Here his opponents found their strength; they were more strongly supported by the letter of Scripture and tradition, as well as by reason.

Supplement I.—No subsequent Greek theologian answered the question, why God became man, so decidedly and clearly as Athanasius. But all Fathers of unimpeached orthodoxy followed in his footsteps, and at the same time showed that his doctrinal 296ideas could only be held on the basis of Platonism. This is at once clear in the case of Gregory of Nyssa, who in some points strengthened the expositions given by Athanasius. Yet his model was Methodius rather than Athanasius.577577See Vol. III., p. 104 ff.

Gregory sought, in the first place, to give a more elaborate defence of the method of redemption—by means of the incarnation,—but in doing so he obscured Athanasius’ simple combination of the incarnation and its effect. According to Gregory, God is boundless might, but his might was never divorced from goodness, wisdom, and righteousness. He next shows in detail (Catech. magn. 17-26) against Jews and heathens —as Anselm did afterwards—that the incarnation was the best form of redemption, because the above four fundamental attributes of God came clearly to light in it. Especially interesting in these arguments is the emphasis laid on God’s treatment of those who had passed over to his enemies, his respect for their freedom in everything, and his redemption of men without wronging the devil, their master, who possessed a certain claim upon them. This account of the matter indeed had strictly an apologetic purpose.578578The Apologetic argument also includes the treatment of the question, why the redemption was not accomplished sooner. Apologists from Justin to Eusebius and Athanasius had put it and attempted to answer it. Gregory also got rid of it by referring to the physician who waits till illness has fully developed before he interferes (Catech. magn., ch. 29 ff.). In the second place, Gregory, while following Athanasius, still more strongly identified the state from which God has delivered us with death. The state of sin was death. He taught, with the Neoplatonists, that God alone was Being. Therefore all revolt from God to the sensuous, i.e., to not-being, was death. Natural death was not the only death; it might rather mean deliverance from the bonds of the body become brutal (l. c., ch. 8). Sensuousness was death. In the third place, although he also saw the redemption in the act of incarnation, Gregory held that it was not perfected until the resurrection of Jesus. That is, he was more thoroughly influenced than Athanasius by the conviction that the actual redemption presupposed renunciation of the body. We are first 297redeemed, when we share in the resurrection which the human nature assumed by Christ experienced through the resurrection (l. c., ch. 16). The mystery of the incarnation only becomes clear in this resurrection. The Deity assumed human nature, in order by this union to exhaust, until it had wholly disappeared, that which was liable to death in this nature, viz., evil. This result was only perfected in the resurrection of the human nature of Christ; for in it that nature was first shown completely purified and rendered capable of being possessed of eternal life.579579L. c., ch. 16. For, since our nature in its regular course changed also in him into the separation of body and soul, he reunited that which had been divided by his divine power as if by a kind of cement, and rejoined in an indissoluble union the severed parts (comp. Irenæus and Methodius). And that was the resurrection, viz., the return after dissolution and division of the allies to an indissoluble union, both being so bound together, that man’s original state of grace was recalled, and we return to eternal life, after the evil mingled with our nature has been removed by our dissolution (!); just as it happens with liquids, which, the vessel being broken, escape and are lost, because there is nothing now to hold them. But as death began in one man and from him passed to the whole of nature and the human race, in the same way the beginning of the resurrection extended through one man to the whole of humanity.” In the fourth place, Gregory was able to demonstrate the application of the incarnation more definitely than Athanasius could with his figure of the king and the city. But he does so by the aid of a thoroughly Platonic idea which is only slightly suggested in Athanasius, and is not really covered by a Biblical reference (to the two Adams; see Irenæus). Christ did not assume the human nature of an individual person, but human nature. Accordingly, all that was human was intertwined with the Deity; the whole of human nature became divine by intermixture with the Divine. Gregory conceives this as a strictly physical process: the leaven of the Deity has pervaded the whole dough of humanity, through and in Christ; for Christ united with himself the whole of human nature with all its characteristics.580580See conclusion of the preceding note, and Herrmann, Gregorii Nyss. sententias de salute adipis., p. 16 ff. Underlying all the arguments of the: “Great Catechism” we have the thought that the incarnation was an actus medicinalis which is to be thought of as strictly natural, and that extends to all mankind. See Dorner (Entwick.-Gesch. d. L. v. d. Person Christi, I., p. 958 f.), who, besides, regards Gregory’s whole conception as strictly ethical. This conception, which was based on the Platonic universal 298notion “humanity”, differed from that of Origen; but it also led to the doctrine of Apokatastasis (universalism), which Gregory adopted. Meanwhile, in order to counterbalance this whole “mystical”, i.e., physical, conception, he emphasised the personal and spontaneous fulfilment of the law as a condition, in the same way as the later Antiochenes. The perfect fulfilment of the law was, however, according to Gregory, only possible to ascetics.581581See Herrmann, l. c., p. 2 sq.

In the fifth place, Gregory set the sacraments in the closest relation to the incarnation, recognising (l. c., ch. 33-40) Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as the only means by which mortal man was renewed and became immortal. It undoubtedly appears superfluous to a rigorous thinker to require that something special should happen to the individual when all mankind has been deified in the humanity assumed by Christ. But the form given to his ideas by Gregory was in keeping with the thought of his time, when mysterious rites were held to portray and represent that which was inconceivable. Sixthly, and lastly, Gregory gave a turn to the thought of the incarnation in which justice was done to the boldest conception of Origen, and “the newest of the new” was subordinated to a cosmological and more general view. Origen had already, following the Gnostics, taught—in connection with Philipp. II. 10 and other texts—that the incarnation and sacrificial death of Christ had an importance that went beyond mankind. The work of Christ extended to wherever there were spiritual creatures; wherever there was alienation from God, there was restoration through Christ. He offered himself to the Father for angels and æons (see Valentine). To all orders of spiritual beings he appeared in their own shape. He restored harmony to the whole universe. Nay, Christ’s blood was not only shed on earth at Jerusalem “for sin” (pro peccato); but also “for a gift on the high altar which is in the heavens” (pro munere in superno altari quod est in cœlis).582582Passages in Bigg, l. c. p. 212 f. Gregory took up this thought. The reconciliation and restitution extend to all rational creation.583583See περὶ ψυχ. κ. ἀναστάσ., p. 66 sq., ed. Oehler. Orat. cat. 26. Christ came down to all spiritual creatures, 299tures, and adopted the forms in which they lived, in order to bring them into harmony with God: οὐ μόνον ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἄνθρωπος γίνεται, ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὸ ἀκόλουθον πάντως καὶ ἐν ἀγγέλοις γινόμενος πρὸς τὴν ἐκείνων φύσιν ἑαυτὸν συγκατάγει.584584Orat. in ascens. Christi in Migne T. XLVI., p. 693; on the other hand, Didymus (De trinit. II. 7, ed. Mingarelli, p. 200): ὁ Θεὸς λόγος οὐ διὰ τοὺς ἁμαρτήσαντας ἀγγέλους ἄγγελος· ἀλλὰ διὰ τοὺς ἐν ἁμαρτίᾳ ἀνθρώπους ἄνθρωπος ἀτρέπτως, ἀσυγχύτως, ἀναμαρτήτως, ἀφράστως. Yet in other places he has expressed himself like Origen. The latter was attacked by Jerome and Theophilus on account of this doctrine. The Synod of Constantinople condemned it. This thought, far from enriching the work of the historical Christ, served only, as in the case of the Gnostics, to dissipate it. And, in fact, it was only as an apologist of Catholic Christianity that Gregory held closely to the historical personality of Christ. When he philosophised and took his own way, he said little or nothing of the Christ of history.585585Compare the whole dialogue with Macrina on the soul and the resurrection, where the historical Christ is quite overlooked. It is almost with him as with Origen. He also reveals a supreme view of the world, according to which that which alienates the Kosmos from God forms part of its plan as much as that which restores it to him, the Kosmos being, from its creation, full of God, and, because it is, existing in God. The incarnation is only a particular instance of the universal presence of the divine in creation. Gregory contributed to transmit to posterity the pantheistic conception, which be himself never thought out abstractly, or apart from history. A real affinity existed between him and the pantheistic Monophysites, the Areopagite, and Scotus Erigena, and even modern “liberal” theology of the Hegelian shade may appeal to him. In the “Great Catechism” (ch. XXV.), which was meant to defend the historical act of the incarnation, he has an argument which is in this respect extremely significant.586586To Athanasius also it was not unknown; see De incarn.41: τὸν κόσμον σώμα μέγα φασὶν εἶναι οἱ τῶν Ἑλλήνων φιλόσοφοι καὶ ἀληθεύουσι λέγοντες. Ὁρῶμεν γὰρ αὐτὸν καὶ τὰ τούτου μέρη ταῖς αἰσθήσεσι ὑποπίπτοντα. Εἰ τοίνυν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ σώματι ὄντι ὁ τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγος ἐστί, καὶ ἐν ὅλοις καὶ τοῖς κατὰ μέρος αὐτῶν πᾶσιν ἐπιβέβηκε. τί θαυμαστὸν ἢ τί ἄτοπον εἰ καὶ ἐν ἀνθρώπω φαμὲν αὐτὸν ἐπιβεβηκέναι κ.τ.λ., c. 42. “The assumption of our nature by the deity should, however, excite no well-founded surprise on the part of those who view things (τα ὄντα) with any breadth of mind, (not too 300μικροψύχως). For who is so weak in mind as not to believe when he looks at the universe that the divine is in everything, pervading and embracing it, and dwelling in it? For everything depends on the existent, and it is impossible that there should be anything not having its existence in that which is. Now, if all is in it and it in all, why do they take offence at the dispensation of the mystery taught by the incarnation of God, of him who, we are convinced, is not even now outside of mankind? For if the form of the divine presence is not now the same, yet we are as much agreed that God is among us to-day as that he was in the world then. Now he is united with us as the one who embraces nature in his being, but then he had united himself with our being, that our nature, snatched from death, and delivered from the tyranny of the Adversary, might become divine through intermixture with the divine. For his return from death was for the mortal race the beginning of return to eternal life.” The pantheistic theory of redemption appeared in after times in two forms. In one of these the work of the historical Christ was regarded as a particular instance, or symbol, of the universal, purifying and sanctifying operations continuously carried out through sanctifying media—the sacraments—by the Logos in combination with, as in their turn on behalf of, the graded orders of supersensuous creatures; this was the view of Dionysius the Areopagite. The other form of the theory included in the very idea of the incarnation the union of the Logos with those individual believing souls in whom he was well pleased. The latter conception which was already prominent in Methodius is especially marked in Macarius. In Homily IV. e.g., (ch. 8, 9), his first words lead us to expect an exposition of the one historical incarnation. Instead of that we read: “Thus in his love the infinite, inscrutable God humbled himself and assumed the members of our bodily nature . . . and transformed in love and benevolence to men he incorporates and unites himself with the holy and faithful souls in whom he is well pleased, etc.” In each a Christ is born.587587A third form of the pantheistic conception of the incarnation can be perceived in the thesis, that the humanity of Christ was heavenly; in other words, that the Logos had always borne humanity in himself, so that his body was not of later origin than his divinity. This Gnostic view, which, however, is not necessarily pantheistic, had supporters, e.g., in Corinth in the time of Athanasius, who himself opposed it. (Ep. ad Epictetum Corinth.: see Epiphan.. p. 77, c. Dimoeritas). They said that the body born of Mary was ὁμοούσιον τῇ τοῦ λόγου θεότητι, συναΐδιον αὐτῷ διὰ παντὸς γεγενῆσθαι, ἐπειδὴ ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας τῆς Σοφίας συνέστη. They taught, accordingly, that humanity itself sprang from the Logos; he had for the purpose of his manifestation formed for himself by metamorphosis a body capable of suffering. He had, therefore, on one side of his being given up his immutability, departed from his own nature (ἠλλάγη τῆς ἰδίας φύσεως) and transformed himself into a sensuous man. The point of interest here was the perfect unity of Christ. Those whom Hilary opposed (De trinit. X. 15 sq.) did not maintain the heavenly and eternal humanity of the Logos. On the other hand, this thesis occurs in Apollinaris, in whom, however, it is not to be explained pantheistically, although pantheistic inferences can hardly be averted. The heavenly humanity of Christ is also opposed by Basil in Ep. ad Sozopol. (65); it re-emerged in the circles of the most extreme Monophysites; but it was at the same time openly affirmed there by Stephen Bar Sudaili: “everything is of one nature with God”; “all nature is consubstantial with the divine essence” (Assem., Biblioth. II, 30, 291); see Dorner, l. c., II., p. 162 f., and Frothingham, Stephen Bar Sudaili (1886) who has printed, p. 28 sq., the letter of Xenaias which warns against the heresy “that assimilates the creation to God.” Finally, a kind of subtilised form of this phenomenon is found in the old-catholic conception, that the Son of God came down to men immediately after the Fall, that he repeatedly dwelt among them, and thus accustomed himself to his future manifestation (see Irenæus’ conception, Vol. II., p. 236). In the later Fathers, when they were not writing, apologetically, this old conception does not, so far as I know, occur often, or, it is very strictly distinguished from the incarnation; see, e.g., Athan., Orat. III. 30.


The thought that Christ assumed the general concept of humanity occurs, though mingled with distinctive ideas, in Hilary, who was dependent on Gregory.588588See, e.g., Hilary, Tract. in Ps. LI, ch. 16: “Ut et filius hominis esset filius dei, naturam in se universæ carnis assumpsit, per quam effectus vera vitis genus in se universæ propaginis tenet.” Ps. LIV. ch. 9: “Universitatis nostræ caro est factus.” Other passages are given in Dorner, Entw-Gesch. der Lehre v. d. Person Christi, I., p. 1067, and Ritschl, l. c., I. p. 15. We find it also in Basil,589589Hom. 25, T. I. p. 504 sq. This exposition coincides completely with Gregory’s thought. Ephræm,590590Dorner, l. c., p. 961. Apollinaris,591591>Dorner, l. c., the κατά μέρος πίστις. See besides the passage given in Vol. II., p. 223, n. 1. Cyril of Alexandria, etc. Throughout these writers the conception is clearly marked that in Christ our nature is sanctified and rendered divine, that what it has experienced benefits us, as a matter of course, in our 302individual capacity, and that we in a very real way have risen with Christ.

Even in the Antiochenes passages occur which are thus to be interpreted—exegesis led them to this view;592592See Theodore on Rom. VI. 6: τῷ Χριστῷ φησίν, ἐσταυρωμένῳ ὥσπερ ἄπασα ἡμῶν ἡ ὑπὸ τὴν θνητότητα κειμένη φύσις συνεσταυρώθη, ἐπειδὴ καὶ πᾶσα αὐτῷ συναν έστη, πάντων ἀνθρώπων αὐτῷ συμμετασχεῖν ἐλπιζόντων τῆς ἀναστάσεως· ὡς ἐντεῦθεν συναφανισθῆναι μὲν τὴν περὶ τὸ ἁμαρτάνειν ἡμῶν εὐκολίαν, διὰ τῆς ἐπὶ τὴν ἀνθανασίαν τοῦ σώματος μεταστάσεως. but they exist, so far as I know, even in Chrysostom,593593Förster, Chrysostomus, p. 126 ff. and they are so phrased in general as to show that according to them this suffering and dying with Christ, as an independent fact, was not merely a supplementary condition of the actual union with Christ, but the only form in which it was accomplished. In them the general concept of humanity does not occur; accordingly, the humanity of Christ is conceived much more concretely. He is really a fighting, striving man who reaches victory through free-will.594594See Kihn, Theodor., p. 180 ff. As this man himself is united morally with the deity, the moral element must never be left out of account in our union with him. But in so far as the incarnation of Christ produces a new state (Katastasis), one not included in the plan of humanity, it undoubtedly results in our glorification, a state not involved in the moral element per se.

When we come to John of Damascus we no longer find any definitive conception of the incarnation. The clear intention assigned to it by Athanasius has escaped him; even of the ideas of Gregory of Nyssa only a part, and that the apologetic part, are reproduced (De fide Orth. III. 1, 6). At this point also the attempt to unite the Aristotelian tradition of the school of Antioch with the Alexandrian only led to a combination of fragments. Yet the sentence, “Christ did not come to this or that one, but to our common nature”,595595Χριστὸς οὐ πρὸς ἕνα καὶ δεύτερον ἦλθεν, ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὴν κοινὴν φύσιν. never wholly became a dead letter in the Greek Church. But everything taught in that Church as to the incarnation is already to be found either developed, or in germ, in Irenæus; not the simple exposition of Athanasius, but a mixture of the thought of the historical 303with that of the mystical redemption, is to be traced in the majority of the Fathers. It is the Christ in us, the cosmical Christ, as we already saw in Methodius.

Supplement II.—Those Fathers, and they were in the majority, who found the cause of the incarnation in the intention of God to rehabilitate the human race, knew of no necessity for the incarnation apart from the entrance of sin. While they almost all explained that what Christ conferred was more and greater than what man had lost, yet they did not use this idea in their speculations, and they attached as a rule no special significance to it. But even Irenæus had also looked at the incarnation as the final and supreme means of the divine economy by which God gradually brought the original creation, at first necessarily imperfect, to completion.596596See Vol. II., p. 272, 307; the thought is not wanting in Tertullian. Where this idea occurred, it also involved the other, that Christ would have come even if there had been no sin. Accordingly, those Fathers who laid no special stress on sin, seeing it appeared to them to be more or less natural, and who conceived redemption rather as a perfecting than restitution, maintained the necessity of the incarnation even apart from sin: so Theodore of Mopsuestia, Pelagius and others.597597See Dorner, l. c. II., p. 432 ff. Kihn, Theodor., p. 179 f. The incarnation was regarded by them as forming the basis of the life in which man is raised above his nature and common virtue, that is, the ascetic and angelic life. Clement of Alex., starting from quite different premises, expressed the same thought. Abstinence from evil was the perfection that had been attained even by Greeks and Jews; on the other hand, the perfect Gnostic, only possible after the complete revelation of the Logos, found perfection in the ascetic life of intuition, a life resting on faith, hope, and love.598598Strom. VI. 7, 60. Therefore in order to institute this life, the complete revelation of the Logos was required; it was unnecessary to bring sin into the question. However, the proposition that Christ would have come even if Adam had not sinned was, so far as I know, bluntly asserted by no Greek theologian; the combination of Adam and Christ in the Bible stood in the way.

Supplement III.—On the ground of Biblical texts like Matt. XXV. 24, Eph. I. 3-5, 11, II. Tim. I. 8-10, the Greeks have also spoken (e.g., Athan. c. Arian. II. 75-77) of an election of believers in Christ before the foundation of the world, and of the decree of redemption framed by God, with reference already to sin, before the creation. Athanasius even says that our future eternal life in Christ is conditioned by the fact that our life was founded on Christ even before time was. But the idea of predestination, like the thought that Christ is the head of his Church, is confined to the lines of a Biblical doctrine, which for that very reason is true. Neither the doctrine of the work of Christ, nor of the appropriation of his work, is influenced by those conceptions. As a rule, however, the idea of predestination takes the form that God having foreseen men’s attainments in virtue elected them. This version is especially clear in the school of Antioch, and even enters into their Christology; but it is the opposite of what Paul meant.

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