W. (William) Sanday.

Christology and personality : containing: I. Christologies ancient and modern, II. Personality in Christ and in ourselves / by William Sanday online

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Online LibraryW. (William) SandayChristology and personality : containing: I. Christologies ancient and modern, II. Personality in Christ and in ourselves / by William Sanday → online text (page 1 of 18)
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35 West Thirty-second Street
New York




R 1930 L

Copyright, 1910, 1911, by

Oxford University Press



As the brief tract on Personality is really a con-
tinuation and supplement of Christologies Ancient
and Modern^ it has been thought that it might be
convenient to some readers to have the smaller
work bound up with the larger.





Slilfological ifaculc^ of t\)c t]anit)ei;0it^ of ^oettingen








I. Ancient Christologies . .

II. Ancient Christologies (continued)
III. jVIodern Christologies

IV. Two Types of Christology
V. Comparison of the Two Types
VI. Presuppositions of a Modern Christology
VII. A Tentative Modern Christology
VIII. The Present Position

Postscript 212


IX, The Guiding Principle of Symbolism . 219




I HOPE this is the last of the preliminary studies
which I have found myself compelled to make in
approaching the larger task which lies before me of
writing, or attempting to write, what is commonly
called a Life of Christ. It is necessary that I should
make clear, as much to myself as to others, the
broad lines of the conception which I have formed
of the most central portion of my subject — that
portion round which everything else really revolves.

That is my main purpose in this book. It may
perhaps justify — it is very possibly the only con-
sideration that will justify — the particular scale and
method adopted. My object is to bring out leading
principles, unencumbered by details; and leading
principles in a form in which they can be appre-
hended by that wide general public to which I
must ultimately address myself.

The book consists of eight lectures, five of which
were delivered before, and the remaining three
after, Christmas of last year (1909). I intentionally
made a break in the middle, because I found the
argument developing in a direction which I had not
myself exactly anticipated at the outset, and which
is indeed to the best of my belief as yet rather new
and unexplored. I was anxious to give to this the

vi Preface

most careful consideration I could. I have added to
these eight lectures the substance of a University
sermon, removing the sermonic form and adapting
it to its place in the present volume. I was not
satisfied with the latter part of the sermon as it was
preached, and I have substituted an extract from
a paper read at the Swansea Church Congress
which, if I am not mistaken, expresses the thought
that was in my mind with greater clearness and

This discourse on 'The Guiding Principle of
Symbolism' takes up a subject to which I had
devoted one of the essays in my last book {The Life
of Christ in Recent Research, Oxford, 1907). It may
be taken as an apologia for the whole position of
which these writings of mine are the outcome. One
of the most sympathetic and generous, though at the
same time also one of the most penetrating critics
of the book of which I have just been speaking,
seemed not a little puzzled to understand how I
could accept so much as I did of modern criticism
and yet work round so nearly to the position implied
in the ancient Creeds. It is this apparent paradox
which I have now done my best to explain. In the
last resort the key to the position is that there is a
God in heaven, who really shapes our ends, rough-
hew them how we will. I believe that in His hand
is the whole course of human history, and especially
the history of those who deliberately seek His
guidance. I therefore trace His influence in the

Preface vii

ultimate decisions, the fundamental decisions, of
the Church of the Fathers ; and it is to me incredi-
ble that He should intend the course of modern
development to issue in direct opposition to them.
If I find my own thought leading me into such oppo-
sition, I at once begin to suspect that there is some-
thing wrong, and I retrace my steps and begin
again. On the other hand I am well aware that I
must not play fast and loose with criticism; I be-
lieve that it must be looked fairly in the face, and
that we must assimilate its results as best we can.
Here, too, I quite admit that, if I can be shown to be
wrong, I have also no choice but to retrace my steps
and begin again. Of course the difficulty is to make
these two processes meet. But, so far as my expe-
rience goes, I have never found the results of the
two processes finally conflicting. I have tried in
the last paper to describe to the best of my ability
that principle of continuity which runs through the
two processes and binds them together. I think
that I have been honest with myself; I am not
conscious of any real forcing on either side. But of
that others must judge.

I have once again to thank my friend Dr. Lock
for his great kindness in looking through the proofs
and helping me with his criticisms.

OxFOED, March, 1910.




It is not surprising that there should be some
tension between Theology and ReHgion. When
one thinks of the difference between the two, one is
constantly reminded of a group of poems in which
Wordsworth drives home the difference between
Poetry and Science — 'The Poet's Epitaph,' the
Matthew series, including 'Expostulation and Re-
ply ' and ' The Tables Turned,' and especially of the
crowning malediction in the last of these:

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;

Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous form of things;

We murder to dissect.

For the infinite tenderness and subtly blended
variety and delicacy of nature, we have only to think
of the no less infinite tenderness and subtly blended
variety and delicacy of Religion, and by the side of
it of what to many no doubt will seem the grim
skeleton of Theology, to have irresistibly recalled to
us those damnatory lines. And yet, in spite of
Wordsworth and all the poets, there is such a thing
as a science of Anatomy, and it has after all its
justification and its necessity; it is the indispensa-
ble foundation of a vast field of knowledge and of

4 Ancient and Modern Christologies

innumerable practical applications of priceless value
for the amelioration of the conditions of human life.
And so, just in like manner, though we may de-
nounce Theology to our heart's content and with
much satisfaction to ourselves in certain contexts
and circumstances, nevertheless Theology too has its
deep justifications, and indeed its inner necessity to
a sound and masculine and strongly based religion.
We may keep up the analogy, and it will help to
remind us that for the mass of mankind the science
of Anatomy, however indispensable, is better kept
out of sight; and in the same way it is perhaps
expedient that for most of us Theology also should
at least not be too obtrusive. We should not bring
it forward where it is apt to jar, any more than we
should bring forward science under inappropriate
conditions. For many of us at most times, and even
for the few among us at many times, it is enough to
know that we have a theology in the background.
And yet we cannot wholly do without it; consciously
or unconsciously, it must be there. Theology is after
all only reasoned and connected belief; and belief is
certainly not the worst for being reasoned and con-
nected. Some of us, by the circumstances in which
we are placed, have a greater call than others to
make, or to try to make, our religion rational. That
is, I suppose, the main object for which Universities
exist — to try to make all things rational. And so
here in a University I trust that I shall only be
regarded as discharging, or doing my best to dis-

/. Ancient Christologies 5

charge, my proper function, if I ask you to follow
me in an attempt to map out one difficult and impor-
tant, and at the present time no doubt insistent,
branch of theology.

Perhaps I cannot describe better than in these
terms the object that I have in view. I shall endea-
vour just to map out on a broad scale the main
outlines of my theme. It would be out of place in
a course of public lectures, and I need not say
impossible, to go into any minute detail. I shall
not try to do so, any more than is necessary to give
some concrete grasp of the subject and to present
it in such a way as to make the few suggestions
that I may have to offer at the end intelligible and
helpful. The last thing that I should wish to do is
to lay down conclusions dogmatically. Indeed I
think it is sufficiently known by this time what my
method really is. I am like an older 'Clerk of
Oxenford,' of whom it was said :

And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche.

— learn and teach together at the same time ; teach
a little, if I can, in the process of learning, which
I know will never end for me till life itself ends.

The outline of these lectures that is in my mind
is: (1) to sketch the course of ancient Christological
speculation, so far as it is necessary for my purpose;
(2) in like manner to sketch the course of specu-
lation — which will be, in this case, mainly German

6 Ancient and Modern Christologies

speculation, for Germany is the only country in
which the study of the subject has had a continuous
history during the last century and up to the
present time — with some remarks at the end upon
more isolated Christologies here and in America;

(3) to dwell at somewhat greater length on two
forms or aspects of Christology which appear to
have a special interest at the present time; and

(4) to throw out tentatively some suggestions which
may perhaps be a help to us in clearing up our own
ideas and in presenting the subject to our minds.

The total net result of the Apostolic Age — or we
may say, of the preaching and life of two genera-
tions of Christians — was that the Church at large
thought of its Founder as divine. Those who had
occasion to inquire into Christianity from without,
as the younger Pliny had, in his administration of
the province of Bithynia about the year 112, soon
discovered that it was a leading and distinctive
characteristic of the new sect that its members sang
hymns to Christ as a God. And a Christian homilist,
writing about the middle of the second century,
begins his address by laying down that Christians
ought to think of Jesus Christ as of God, as of the
Judge of quick and dead (2 Clem. i. 1).

This general confession was no doubt for the
great mass of the faithful quite simple and unre-
flective. The Church possessed an ample body of
theology — the product of strenuous and severe and,

/. Ancient Christ ohgies 7

we may well say, inspired thinking — in the Epistles
of St. Paul and St. John and of some other leaders
of the first generation. But it was, if we may say
so, theology held in solution, not yet precipitated
in the form of systematic doctrine. The average
Christian was only just beginning to formulate his
own ideas. He did so under the impulse and
influence of Apostolic thought; but it was not to
be expected that he should be able to reproduce
this with perfect balance and insight, when he tried
to express either it or the facts which lay behind it
in his own words. A child, when it begins to
walk, naturally staggers and stumbles a little until
it has found the use of its limbs.

The first definite experiment which some early
Christians made, in the effort to realize to them-
selves the divine nature of Christ, was that which
we call Docetism. The ancients, and in particular
the early Christians who were familiar with the
Old Testament, had the idea of Theophany. Did
not God walk in the garden of Eden in the cool
of the day.^ Did not three men pay a visit to
Abraham before the destruction of Sodom, and
predict to him what was to happen in the future.^
Did not the Captain of the Lord's host stand before
Joshua and encourage him, when he was baffled
and depressed by the ineffectual siege of Jericho.?
Were not these really divine manifestations on
earth ? Did they not offer some analogy for the far

8 Ancient and Modern C hristologies

greater manifestation which had taken place in the
latter days ? Speculation had not gone so far as to
determine the exact relation in which the earthly
appearance stood to the divine act which was its
cause. The older appearances in any case were
only transitory and evanescent; but might there
not be one that was more prolonged? Was it so
very strange that there should be some who thought
that the manifestation of Jesus Christ in the flesh
was to be explained in this way? Was not the
human form which He wore — for one year, for
three years, for three and thirty years — ^just assumed
for the time ? Was it not a disguise, a semblance —
if we will, a phantom ?

Doubtless there is something naive — some would
say perhaps childish — in such reasoning. But, as
in childhood, simple things and deep things often
lie near together. It would be a mistake to suppose
that these Docetae had quite taken leave of their
senses. I will give just one specimen of a Docetic
work, the apocryphal Acts of John w^hich date from
about the middle of the second century. In these
Acts the Lord is represented as holding converse
with the Apostle John in a cave on the Mount of
Olives at the very time when to the eyes of the
multitude He was being mocked and crucified on
Calvary. But before His departure there is a scene
in which Jesus, as a kind of mystagogue, leads in
a rhythmic hymn with His disciples. This is part
of it:—

J. Ancioit Christologies 9

I have no house and I have houses. Amen.
I have no place and I have places. Amen.
I have no temple and I have temples. Amen.
I am a lamp to thee who beholdest Me. Amen.
I am a mirror to thee who perceivest Me. Amen.
I am a door to thee who knockest at Me. Amen.
I am a way to thee, a wayfarer.
Now respond thou to My dancing.
See thyself in Me who speak and when thou hast
seen what I do, keep silent about My mysteries.

Who am I ? Thou shalt know when I go away.
What I am now seen to be, that am I not: but what

I am thou shalt see when thou comest.
If thou hadst known how to suffer, thou wouldst

have had the j^oiver not to suffer.
Know thou suffering, and thou shalt have the poiver

not to suffer.
That which thou knowest not, I Myself will teach


We see what it means. In the New Jerusalem
there is no temple, for the Lord God Almighty and
the Lamb are the temple thereof. There is no cir-
cumscribed and local abode of the Godhead. And
yet Christ as Spirit dwells in 'the upright heart
and pure.' In Him the soul sees itself transfigured,
and takes the impress of that divine ideal.

Docetism was not all folly. Rather we may
regard it as one primitive form of the assertion of
that mystical element which has never been wanting
to Christianity from the first days until now, and
we may be sure never will be wanting to it.
' Acts ofS. John (ed. James), p. 13 f.

10 Ancient and Modern Christologies

The leaders of the Church, no less than the
Docetae, insisted on this element; and yet they
would have nothing to do with Docetism. Here
again I think that we are apt to do less than justice.
We take the action of these leaders as though it
were just a matter of course and there were no merit
in it. It is one of the titles to fame of Ignatius of
Antioch that he was the great opponent of Docetism.
Probably no one did more to kill it. It was against
the Docetists that Ignatius formulates his creed in
singularly compact and weighty phrase:

Be ye deaf therefore, when any man speaketh to
you apart from Jesus Christ, who was of the race
of David, who was the Son of Mary, who w^as truly
born and ate and drank, was truly persecuted under
Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the
sight of those in heaven and those on earth and
those under the earth; who moreover was truly
raised from the dead. His Father having raised Him,
who in like fashion will so raise us also who
believe on Him — His Father, I say, will raise us
in Christ Jesus, apart from whom we have not true
life (Trail. 9).

Again :

There is one only physician, of flesh and of spirit,
generate and ingenerate, God in man, true Life in
death. Son of Mary and Son of God, first passible
and then impassible, Jesus Christ our Lord (Eph. 7).

Ignatius uses language which is not always
exactly in keeping with the rules of the later
theology (e.g. atjaa 6eov, TrdOoq Beov) : but the
striking thing about him is the way in which he

/. Ancient Christologiets 11

seems to anticipate the spirit of the later theology;
the way in which he singles out as central the
points which it made central, and the just balance
and proportion which he observes between them.
He has a broad and simple view of the mission of
the Son by the Father, which is more like that of
the prologue to the Fourth Gospel than anything
else. The leading thought is that of revelation.
The Son is the unerring mouthpiece or spokes-
man of the Father (Rom. viii. 2) ; He is the Word
of God proceeding out of silence, i.e. breaking the
silence of ages (Magn. viii. 2). It is to the credit of
Ignatius that he writes like one who still feels the
immense personal impression of the life of Christ.
But it must not for a moment be supposed that he
lays stress on the incarnate Christ in any sort of
contrast to the exalted or glorified Christ, the Christ
who is Spirit and who holds sway over mankind as
Spirit. Another leading idea with him is that of
the indwelling Christ, as the source of life for all
believers (Eph. iii. 2yMagn. i. 2, Smyrn. iv. l,Magn.
XV ; for the indwelling compare Eph. xv. 3, Magn.
viii. 2, xii). Ignatius speaks indifferently of the
indwelling of Christ and of God; such phrases as
'in God' 'in Christ' occur frequently; in one place
{Magn. xiii. 1) we have 'in the Son and Father and
in the Spirit.' This triadic formula also occurs or
is implied more than once. The Apostolic Fathers
do not expound Trinitarian doctrine, but they
steadily use the language which gave rise to it in the

12 Ancient and Modern Christologies

same way in which it is used in the Apostles' Creed
(e. g. 1 Clem. xlvi. 6, Iviii. 2). There is indeed no
rigidity. It is well known that Hermas equates Son
and Spirit (Sim. v. 5, 6,^ where the pre-existent Son
is Spirit, as in 2 Clem. ix. 5). There is also the same
alternation of Trinitarian and Binitarian language
(the conjunction of Father, Son, and Spirit by the
side of Father and Son) that we find in St. Paul and
elsewhere in the New Testament. The doctrine of
the Trinity is not Tritheism. The Church doctrine
embraces these varieties of usage and does not
regard them as in any sense contradictory.^

The group that is commonly known as the Apos-
tolic (really Sub-Apostolic) Fathers marks a period
of transition. There is no conscious speculation
or systematizing; and yet thought is at work; lan-
guage and usage are in process of becoming more
fixed; the foundations of more developed doctrine
are really being laid, but laid, as it were, under-
ground. I do not think that we need stay to
discuss Gnosticism, which is not so much a move-
ment within Christianity as a movement from

^ It seems to me to be pressing a passage like this too hard
to treat it as representing a distinct type of doctrine. From
the later point of view it is loose, inaccurate, and unguarded ;
but there is no deliberate divergence from ordinary Christian

^ There is a specially interesting discussion of the so-called
Binitarian language in Moberly, Atonement and Personality,
p. 192.

/. Ancient Christologies 13

outside — derived in varying proportions from the
Oriental religions and from some current forms of
Greek philosophy, especially Neo-Platonism — which
intersected the orbit of Christianity, but is only
to that extent Christian. Occasionally we come
across really penetrating and valuable ideas among
the Gnostics. For instance, the essential principle
which underlies the doctrine of the Trinity finds its
first expression in a Valentinian writer — perhaps
Valentinus himself.

There was, he says, at first nothing whatever
that is begotten; the Father was in solitude, un-
begotten, not circumscribed either by space or time,
with none to counsel Him, with no kind of sub-
stance that can be apprehended by any ordinary
mode of apprehension. He was in solitude, as
they say quiescent, and reposing in Himself alone.
But inasmuch as He had the faculty of generation,
it seemed good to Him at last to bring to birth and
to put forth what He had within Himself that was
fairest and most perfect; for He was no lover of
solitude. For He was, the writer says, all Love; but
love is not love, unless there be an object of love/

Do not let us lay stress on the fact that behind
this is the Gnostic theory of 'emanations' or
'aeons,' and that that theory is pure mythology.
It is fair to the Gnostics to remember that there
did not exist at that time any proper conception of
personality, and that even our own idea — as applied
to these transcendent objects — is only approximate

^ Hippolytus, Refut. vi. 29 (ed. Duncker and Schneidewin,
p. 272).

14 Ancient and Modern Christologies

and imperfect. It is not to be supposed that
thinkers Hke BasiHdes and Valentinus intended
their mythological imaginings to be taken quite
literally. The deepest root, the central meaning,
the meaning that we can best grasp and hold
on to, in the doctrine of the Trinity, is just this
development of the truth that God is Love. He
is Love, and Love cannot be solitary, but implies
a response; it implies a perpetual outflow and re-
turn. This is the essence of Trinitarian doctrine.

I find myself, as I go on, constantly impelled to
plead for a lenient and generous judgement on
these old thinkers as against their modern critics,
who with all the advantages of prolonged expe-
rience and improved methods naturally find not
a little to provoke their censures. And this is
I think especially the case with regard to the next
considerable Christian movement of which I shall
have to speak : i. e. the group of writers commonly
known as the Apologists — Aristides, Justin, Tatian,
Theophilus of Antioch, Athenagoras, Melito. In
their case I unwillingly cross the path of just those
among the moderns whom I most admire and to
whom my own obligations are greatest — Harnack,
Loofs, and even a younger writer, Geffcken, whose
more generous treatment of the Latin. Apologists
in his valuable book Zwei Griechische Apologeten
(Leipzig u. Berlin, 1907) I heartily welcome. Of
course there are differences of degree; and I would

/. Ancient Christologies 15

not put (e.g.) Aristides in the same class witli Justin
and Athenagoras. Nor would I detract from the
real importance of the criticism that we owe to
Harnack and Loofs, who have greatly helped us
to put the Apologists in their place in the history
of doctrine.* Only I confess that, when we come
to form an estimate of these writers as a group and
as individuals, it seems to me hard measure to judge
them so predominantly by modern standards and by
the standard of a particular set of modern opinions.
My own belief is that judgements of this kind
should only be (as it were) the last paragraph in
our verdict. In such cases as these, I believe that
our first question should be, what problems did
these men set themselves to solve.? Secondly,
I would ask, what materials, data, or instruments
had they in the thought of the time to enable them
to solve them.P And thirdly, what use did they
make of these materials, and what mental contri-
bution did they make of their own ?

The chief thing that the Apologists did — at least
the chief thing from our present point of view of
Christology — was to apply to Christianity the doc-
trine of the Logos as it stood in the current popular

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