The Christological Problem And T
The Arian controversy in bringing about the affirmation of the true deity
of the Son, or Logos, left the Church with the problem of the unity of the
divine and human natures in the personality of Jesus. It seemed to not a
few that to combine perfect deity with perfect humanity would result in
two personalities. Holding fast, therefore, to the reality of the human
nature, a solution was attempted by Apollinarius, or Apollinaris, by
making the divine Logos take the place of the human logos or reason.
Mankind consisted of three parts: a body, an animal soul, and a rational
spirit. The Logos was thus united to humanity by substituting the divine
for the human logos. But this did violence to the integrity of the human
nature of Christ. This attempt on the part of Apollinaris was rejected at
Constantinople, but also by the Church generally. The human natures must
be complete if human nature was deified by the assumption of man in the
incarnation. On this basis two tendencies showed themselves quite early:
the human nature might be lost in the divinity, or the human and the
divine natures might be kept distinct and parallel or in such a way that
certain acts might be assigned to the divine and certain to the human
nature. The former line of thought, adopted by the Cappadocians, tended
toward the position assumed by Cyril of Alexandria and in a more extreme
form by the Monophysites. The latter line of thought tended toward what
was regarded as the position of Nestorius. In this position there was such
a sharp cleavage between the divine and the human natures as apparently to
create a double personality in the incarnate Son. This divergence of
theological statement gave rise to the christological controversies which
continued in various forms through several centuries in the East, and have
reappeared in various disguises in the course of the Church's theological
Additional source material: There are several exegetical works of
Cyril of Alexandria available in English, see Bardenhewer, § 77,
also a German translation of three treatises bearing on
christology in the Kempten Bibliothek der Kirchenvaeter, 1879.
For the general point of view of the Cappadocians and the relation
of the incarnation to redemption, see Gregory of Nyssa, The Great
Catechism (PNF, ser. II, vol. V), v. infra, § 89 and references
in Seeberg, § 23.
(a) Apollinaris, Fragments. Ed. H. Lietzmann.
The following fragments of the teaching of Apollinaris are from H.
Lietzmann, Apollinaris von Laodicea und seine Schule. Texte und
Untersuchungen, 1904. Many fragments are to be found in the
Dialogues which Theodoret wrote against Eutychianism, which he
traced to the teaching of Apollinaris. The first condemnation of
Apollinaris was at Rome, 377, see Hefele, § 91; Theodoret, Hist.
Ec., V, 10, gives the letter of Damasus issued in the name of the
P. 224 . If God had been joined with a man, one complete being with
another complete being, there would be two sons of God, one Son of God by
nature, another through adoption.
P. 247 . They who assume a twofold spirit in Christ pull a stone out
with their finger. For if each is independent and impelled by its own
natural will, it is impossible that in one and the same subject the two
can be together, who will what is opposed to each other; for each works
what is willed by it according to its own proper and personal motives.
P. 248 . They who speak of one Christ, and assert that there are two
independent spiritual natures in Him, do not know Him as the Logos made
flesh, who has remained in His natural unity, for they represent Him as
divided into two unlike natures and modes of operation.
P. 239 . If a man has soul and body, and both remain distinguished in
unity, how much more has Christ, who joins His divine being with a body,
both as a permanent possession without any commingling one with the other?
P. 209 [21, 22]. The Logos became flesh, but the flesh was not without a
soul, for it is said that it strives against the spirit and opposes the
law of the understanding. [In this Apollinaris takes up the trichotomy of
human nature, a view which he did not apparently hold at the beginning of
P. 240 . John [John 2:19] spoke of the destroyed temple, that is, of
the body of Him who would raise it up again. The body is altogether one
with Him. But if the body of the Lord has become one with the Lord, then
the characteristics of the body are proved to be characteristics of Him on
account of the body.
(b) Apollinaris, Letter to the Emperor Jovian. Lietzmann, 250 ff.
We confess the Son of God who was begotten eternally before all times, but
in the last times was for our salvation born of Mary according to the
flesh; and we confess that the same is the Son of God and God according
to the spirit, Son of man according to the flesh; we do not speak of two
natures in the one Son, of which one is to be worshipped and one is not to
be worshipped, but of only one nature of the Logos of God, which has
become flesh and with His flesh is worshipped with one worship; and we
confess not two sons, one who is truly God's Son to be worshipped and
another the man--who is of Mary and is not to be worshipped, who by the
power of grace had become the Son of God, as is also the case with men,
but one Son of God who at the same time was born of Mary according to the
flesh in the last days, as the angel answered the Theotokos Mary who
asked, "How shall this be?"--"The Holy Ghost will come upon thee." He,
accordingly, who was born of the Virgin Mary was Son of God by nature and
truly God only according to the flesh from Mary was He man, but at the
same time, according to the spirit, Son of God; and God has in His own
flesh suffered our sorrows.
(c) Gregory of Nazianzus, Ep. I ad Cledonium. (MSG, 37:181.)
In this epistle Gregory attacks Apollinaris, basing his argument
on the notion of salvation by incarnation, which formed the
foundation of the most characteristic piety of the East, had been
used as a major premise by Athanasius in opposition to Arianism,
and runs back to Irenaeus and the Asia Minor school; see above, §
If any one trusted in a man without a human mind, he is himself really
bereft of mind and quite unworthy of salvation. For what has not been
assumed has not been healed; but what has been united to God is saved. If
only half of Adam fell, then that which is assumed and saved may be half
also; but if the whole, it must be united to the whole of Him that was
begotten and be saved as a whole. Let them not, then, begrudge us our
complete salvation, or clothe the Saviour only with bones and nerves and
the semblance of humanity. For if His manhood is without soul,
even the Arians admit this, that they may attribute His passion to the
godhead, as that which gives motion to the body is also that which
suffers. But if He had a soul and yet is without a mind, how is He a man,
for man is not a mindless animal? And this would necessarily
involve that His form was human, and also His tabernacle, but His soul was
that of a horse, or an ox, or some other creature without mind. This,
then, would be what is saved, and I have been deceived in the Truth, and
have been boasting an honor when it was another who was honored. But if
His manhood is intellectual and not without mind, let them cease to be
thus really mindless.
But, says some one, the godhead was sufficient in place of the human
intellect. What, then, is this to me? For godhead with flesh alone is not
man, nor with soul alone, nor with both apart from mind, which is the most
essential part of man. Keep, then, the whole man, and mingle godhead
therewith, that you may benefit me in my completeness. But, as he asserts
[i.e., Apollinaris], He could not contain two perfect natures. Not if
you only regard Him in a bodily fashion. For a bushel measure will not
hold two bushels, nor will the space of one body hold two or more bodies.
But if you will look at what is mental and incorporeal, remember that I
myself can contain soul and reason and mind and the Holy Spirit; and
before me this world, by which I mean the system of things visible and
invisible, contained Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. For such is the nature
of intellectual existences that they can mingle with one another and with
bodies, incorporeally and invisibly.
Further, let us see what is their account of the assumption of the
manhood, or the assumption of the flesh, as they call it. If it was in
order that God, otherwise incomprehensible, might be comprehended, and
might converse with men through His flesh as through a veil, their mask is
a pretty one, a hypocritical fable; for it was open to Him to converse
with us in many other ways, as in the burning bush [Ex. 3:2] and in the
appearance of a man [Gen. 18:5]. But if it was that He might destroy the
condemnation of sin by sanctifying like by like, then as He needed flesh
for the sake of the condemned flesh and soul for the sake of the soul, so
also He needed mind for the sake of mind, which not only fell in Adam but
was first to be affected, as physicians say, of the illness. For that
which received the commandment was that which failed to observe the
commandment, and that which failed to observe the commandment was that
also which dared to transgress, and that which transgressed was that which
stood most in need of salvation, and that which needed salvation was that
which also was assumed. Therefore mind was taken upon Him.
(d) Council of Constantinople, A. D. 382, Epistula Synodica. Hefele, §
Condemnation of Apollinarianism.
At the Council of Constantinople held the year after that which is
known as the Second General Council, and attended by nearly the
same bishops, there was an express condemnation of Apollinaris and
his doctrine, for though Apollinaris had been condemned in 381,
the point of doctrine was not stated. The synodical letter of the
council of 382 is preserved only in part in Theodoret, Hist.
Ec., V, 9, who concludes his account with these words:
Similarly they openly condemn the innovation of Apollinarius [so Theodoret
writes the name] in the phrase, "And we preserve the doctrine of the
incarnation of the Lord, holding the tradition that the dispensation of
the flesh is neither soulless, nor mindless, nor imperfect."
(e) Theodore of Mopsuestia, Creed. Hahn, § 215.
The position of the Nestorians.
The following extracts are from the creed which was presented at
the Council of Ephesus, 431, and was written by Theodore of
Mopsuestia, the greatest theologian of the party which stood with
Nestorius. Although it does not state the whole doctrine of
Theodore, yet its historical position is so important that its
characteristic passages belong in the present connection.
Bibliographical and critical notes in Hahn, loc. cit.
Concerning the dispensation which the Lord God accomplished for our
salvation in the dispensation according to the Lord Christ, it is
necessary for us to know that the Lord God the Logos assumed a complete
man, who was of the seed of Abraham and David, according to the statement
of the divine Scriptures, and was according to nature whatsoever they were
of whose seed He was, a perfect man according to nature, consisting of
reasonable soul and human flesh, and the man who was as to nature as we
are, formed by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin,
born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem us all from the
bondage of the law [Gal. 4:4] who receive the adoption of sonship which
was long before ordained, that man He joined to himself in an ineffable
And we do not say that there are two Sons or two Lords, because there is
one God [Son?] according to substance, God the Word, the only begotten Son
of the Father, and He who has been joined with Him is a participator in
His deity and shares in the name and honor of the Son; and the Lord
according to essence is God the Word, with whom that which is joined
shares in honor. And therefore we say neither two Sons nor two Lords,
because one is He who has an inseparable conjunction with Himself of Him
who according to essence is Lord and Son, who, having been assumed for our
salvation, is with Him received as well in the name as in the honor of
both Son and Lord, not as each one of us individually is a son of God
(wherefore also we are called many sons of God, according to the blessed
Paul), but He alone in an unique manner having this, namely, in that He
was joined to God the Word, participating in the Sonship and dignity,
takes away every thought of two Sons or two Lords, and offers indeed to us
in conjunction with the God the Word, to have all faith in Him and all
understanding and contemplation, on account of which things also He
receives from every creature the worship and sacrifice of God. Therefore
we say that there is one Lord, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom all
things were made, understanding principally God the Word, who according to
substance is Son of God and Lord, equally regarding that which was
assumed, Jesus of Nazareth, who God anointed with the Spirit and power, as
in conjunction with God the Lord, and participating in sonship and
dignity, who also is called the second Adam, according to the blessed
Apostle Paul, as being of the same nature as Adam.
(f) Theodore of Mopsuestia, Fragments. Swete, Theodori epis. Mops. in
epistulas b. Pauli commentarii, Cambridge, 1880, 1882.
In the appendix to the second volume of this work by Theodore
there are many fragments of Theodore's principal dogmatic work,
On the Incarnation, directed against Eunomius. The work as a
whole has not been preserved. In the same appendix there are also
other important fragments. The references are to this edition.
P. 299. If we distinguish the two natures, we speak of one complete nature
of God the Word and a complete person. But we name complete
also the nature of the man and also the person. If we think on the
conjunction then we speak of one person.
P. 312. In the moment in which He [Jesus] was formed [in the womb of the
Virgin] He received the destination of being a temple of God. For we
should not believe that God was born of the Virgin unless we are willing
to assume that one and the same is that which is born and what is in that
which is born, the temple, and God the Logos in the temple. If God had
become flesh, how could He who was born be named God from God [cf.
Nicene Creed], and of one being with the Father? for the flesh does not
admit of such a designation.
P. 314. The Logos was always in Jesus, also by His birth and when He was
in the womb, at the first moment of his beginning; to His development He
gave the rule and measure, and led Him from step to step to perfection.
P. 310. If it is asked, did Mary bear a man, or is she the bearer of God
[Theotokos], we can say that both statements are true. One is true
according to the nature of the case; the other only relatively. She bore a
man according to nature, for He was a man who was in the womb of Mary.
She is Theotokos, since God was in the man who was born; not enclosed in
Him according to nature, but was in Him according to the relation of His
(g) Nestorius, Fragments. Loofs, Nestoriana.
The fragments of Nestorius have been collected by Loofs,
Nestoriana, Halle, 1905; to this work the references are made.
It now appears that what was condemned as Nestorianism was a
perversion of his teaching and that Nestorius was himself in
harmony with the definition which was put forth at Chalcedon, a
council which he survived and regarded as a vindication of his
position after the wrong done him at Ephesus by Cyril; cf.
Bethune-Baker, Nestorius and His Teaching, Cambridge, 1908.
P. 252. Is Paul a liar when he speaks of the godhead of Christ and says:
"Without father, without mother, without genealogy"? My good friend, Mary
has not born the godhead, for that which is born of the flesh is flesh. A
creature has not born the Creator, but she bore a man, the organ of
divinity; the Holy Ghost did not create God the Word, but with that which
was born of the Virgin He prepared for God the Word, a temple, in which He
P. 177. Whenever the Holy Scriptures make mention of the works of
salvation prepared by the Lord, they speak of the birth and suffering, not
of the divinity but of the humanity of Christ; therefore, according to a
more exact expression the holy Virgin is named the bearer of Christ
P. 167. If any one will bring forward the designation, "Theotokos,"
because the humanity that was born was conjoined with the Word, not
because of her who bore, so we say that, although the name is not
appropriate to her who bore, for the actual mother must be of the same
substance as her child, yet it can be endured in consideration of the fact
that the temple, which is inseparably united with God the Word, comes of
P. 196. Each nature must retain its peculiar attributes, and so we must,
in regard to the union, wonderful and exalted far above all understanding,
think of one honor and confess one Son. With the one name Christ we
designate at the same time two natures. The essential characteristics in
the nature of the divinity and in the humanity are from all eternity
P. 275. God the Word is also named Christ because He has always
conjunction with Christ. And it is impossible for God the Word to do
anything without the humanity, for all is planned upon an intimate
conjunction, not on the deification of the humanity.
(h) Gregory of Nyssa, Contra Eunomium, V, 5. (MSG, 45:705.)
The Christology of the Cappadocians.
The Cappadocians use language which was afterward condemned when
given its extreme Alexandrian interpretation. Hefele, § 127, may
be consulted with profit.
The flesh is not identical with the godhead before this is transformed
into the godhead, so that necessarily some things are appropriate to God
the Word, other things to the form of a servant. If, then, he [Eunomius]
does not reproach himself with a duality of Words, on account of such
confusion, why are we slanderously charged with dividing the faith into
two Christs, we who say that He who was highly exalted after His passion,
was made Lord and Christ by His union with Him who is verily Lord and
Christ, knowing by what we have learned that the divine nature is always
one and the same mode of existence, while the flesh in itself is that
which reason and sense apprehend concerning it, but when mixed with the
divine it no longer remains in its own limitations and properties, but is
taken up to that which is overwhelming and transcendent. Our
contemplation, however, of the respective properties of the flesh and of
the godhead remains free from confusion, so long as each of these is
considered in itself, as, for example, "The Word was before the ages, but
flesh came into being in the last times." It is not the human nature that
raises up Lazarus, nor is it the power that cannot suffer that weeps for
him when he lies in the grave; the tear proceeds from the man, the life
from the true Life. So much as this is clear that the blows belong to
the servant in whom the Lord was, the honors to the Lord, whom the servant
compassed about, so that by reason of contact and the union of natures the
proper attributes of each belong to both, as the Lord receives the stripes
of the servant, while the servant is glorified with the honor of the Lord.
The godhead "empties" itself that it may come within the capacity of the
human nature, and the human nature is renewed by becoming divine through
its commixture with the divine. As fire that lies in wood, hidden often
below the surface, and is unobserved by the senses of those who see or
even touch it, is manifest, however, when it blazes up, so too, at His
death (which He brought about at His will, who separated His soul from His
body, who said to His own Father "Into Thy hands I commend My spirit"
[Luke 23:46], "who," as He says, "had power to lay it down and had power
to take it again"), He who, because He is the Lord of glory, despised that
which is shame among men, having concealed, as it were, the flame of His
life in His bodily nature, by the dispensation of His death, kindled and
inflamed it once more by the power of His own godhead, warming into life
that which had been made dead, having infused with the infinity of His
divine power those humble first-fruits of our nature; made it also to be
that which He himself was, the servile form to be the Lord, and the man
born of Mary to be Christ, and Him, who was crucified through weakness, to
be life and power, and making all such things as are piously conceived to
be in God the Word to be also in that which the Word assumed; so that
these attributes no longer seem to be in either nature, being, by
commixture with the divine, made anew in conformity with the nature that
overwhelms it; participates in the power of the godhead, as if one were to
say that a mixture makes a drop of vinegar mingled in the deep to be sea,
for the reason that the natural quality of this liquid does not continue
in the infinity of that which overwhelms it.
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