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

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philosophy. St. John, I need not say, taught a
doctrine of the Logos; and St. Ignatius taught
a very similar doctrine after him. But the Apolo-

^ The ultimate source of much of this criticism is probably
von Engelhardt's Das Christenthum Justins des Mdrtyrers
(Erlangen, 1878).



16 Ancient and Modern Christologies

gists gave it a rather different turn by assimilating
it more completely to the popular philosophy of
the day. St. John and St. Ignatius both identified
the historical Person of Jesus Christ with the pre-
existent Divine Word. They regarded the Incar-
nation as primarily a revelation of the Father.
The Apologists took this idea and developed their
doctrine of the Logos in the sense of the divine
reason. For them the Logos was especially the
creative reason, the divine intelligence as expressed
in creation. They thus showed a tendency to lay
a one-sided stress upon cosmology. They empha-
sized cosmology at the expense of soteriology, the
work of Christ in creation at the expense of His
work in redemption. This is the main count in the
indictment against them.

Prof. Loofs sums up the effect of the Apologists'
teaching thus — and the passage is the more note-
worthy because it is quoted at length and endorsed
by Harnack: —

The Apologists laid the foundation for the trans-
formation of Christianity into a revealed doctrine.
In particular, their Christology had a fatal influence
upon the subsequent development. By taking for
granted the transference of the conception of ' Son '
to the pre-existent Christ, they facilitated the rise
of the Christological problem of the fourth century;
they displaced the stai ting-point of Christological
thought (from the historical Christ into the region
of pre-existence) ; they threw into the shade the
actual life of Jesus as compared with the doctrine
of the Incarnation; they combined their Christology



/. Ancient Christologies 17

with cosmology, but they were not able to combine
it with soteriology/ Their doctrine of the Logos is
not a 'higher' Christology than was in vogue;
rather, it falls behind the genuinely Christian
estimate of Christ: it is not God who reveals
Himself in Christ, but the Logos, the depotentiated
God, a Godwhoa^Goc^ is subordinated to the highest
God (Inferiorism or Subordinationism). Moreover,
the depreciation of the idea of an economical Trinity
in favour of metaphysical conceptions of pluralism
in the Divine Triad goes back to the Apologists.^

The facts are capable of being stated in this way;
and it is perhaps right that they should be so stated.
Measured by the rule of the two German professors,
that is no doubt the light in which the Apologists
would have to be ultimately regarded. And yet,
even from that point of view one would have liked
to see a little more recognition of the services and
merits of the Apologists in relation to their own
time. Sooner or later, it was inevitable that Chris-
tianity should be brought into relation with the
contemporary philosophy. And, if that was to be
done at all, was there any grander idea, already
coined and current, than that of the Logos, that
could be used for the purpose ? Was there any idea

^ It is fair to remember that the Apologists were addressing
pagans, and that it therefore was not likely that they would
lay bare the arcana of their own religion; see p. 24 below.
The really fundamental defect in all patristic theology was the
imperfect understanding of O. T., and of the O. T. antece-
dents of N. T.

- Loofs, Dogmengesch.\ p. 129; cp. Harnack, Grundriss d.
Dogmengesch.,p. 110; Hist, of Dogma (E. T.),ii. 220 tf.,225 ff.
2



18 Ancient and Modern Chrwtologics

with anything Hke the same sweep and range?
Was it not a noble thought on the part of Justin
which led him to see 'seeds' of the Divine Word
at work in the Gentile thinkers of old, in men
like Heraclitus and Socrates or Plato and Pythag-
oras, while the Divine Word as a whole was in-
carnate in Christ ?

To see the doctrine of the Logos at its best, we
may look at it for a moment in stronger hands than
those of Justin. The following is Origen's reply to
a scoff by Celsus directed against the late date and
local character of the Incarnation, which Celsus
compared to Zeus awaking out of sleep and sending
off Hermes in the comedy ^ : —

Observe here too Celsus's want of reverence when
he most unphilosophically brings in a comic poet,
whose object is to raise a laugh, and compares our
God the Creator of the Universe with the god in his
play who on awaking dispatches Hermes. We have
said above that, when God sent Jesus to the human
race, it was not as though He had just awoken from
a long sleep, but Jesus, though He has only now
for worthy reasons fulfilled the divine plan of His
incarnation, has at all times been doing good to the
human race. For no noble deed among men has
ever been done without the Divine Word visiting
the souls of those who even for a brief space were
able to receive such operations of the Divine Word.
Nay, even the appearance of Jesus in one corner of
the world (as it seems) has been brought about for

^ The extract is from Orig. c. Cels. vi. 78, 79; I avail myself
of a quotation in Dr. Hort's Ante-Nicene Fathers, pp. 133 ff.



/. Ancient Christologies 19

a worthy reason: since it was necessary that He of
whom the f)rophets spoke should appear among
those who had learnt one God, who read His
prophets, and recognized Christ preached in them,
and that He should appear at a time when the
Word was about to be diffused from one corner
to the whole world.

Wherefore also there was no need that many
bodies should be made everywhere, and many spirits
like to that of Jesus, in order that the whole world
of men might be illumined by the Word of God.
For it sufficed that the one Word rising like the
Sun of Righteousness from Judaea should send
forth His speedy rays into the soul of them that
were willing to receive Him. And if anyone does
wish to .see inany bodies filled with a divine Spirit,
ministering like Him the one Christ to the salvation
of men in every place, let him take note of those
who in all places do honestly and with an upright
life teach the word of Jesus, who are themselves
too called 'Christs' ['anointed ones'] in the passage
' Touch not mine anointed ones and do my prophets
no harm.' For even as we have heard that anti-
christ comes, and nevertheless have learnt that there
are many antichrists in the world, even so, when
we recognize that Christ has come, we observe that
owing to Him many Christs have been born in the
world, to wit all those that like Him have loved
righteousness and hated iniquity: and for this
reason God, the God of Christ, anointed them too
with the oil of gladness. . . . Wherefore, since Christ
is the head of the Church, so that Christ and His
Church are one body, the ointment has descended
from the head to the beard [the symbol of the full-
grown man x\aron], and this ointment in its descent
reached to the skirts of his clothing. This is my
answer to Celsus's impious speech when he says



20 Ancient and Modern Christologies

that *God ought to have breathed His Spirit into
many bodies in Hke manner and to have sent them
forth throughout the world.' So then while the
comic poet to raise a laugh has represented Zeus as
asleep and as waking up and sending Hermes to
the Greeks, let the Word which knows that the
nature of God is sleepless teach us that God with
regard to seasons orders the affairs of the world as
reason demands. But it is not to be wondered at, if,
seeing that the judgements of God are sublime and
hard to interpret, uninstructed souls do err, and
Celsus among them.

There is then nothing absurd in the fact that to
the Jews, with whom were the prophets, the Son of
God was sent; so that beginning with them in
bodily form He might arise in power and spirit
upon a world of souls desiring to be no longer
bereft of God.

I would ask you to observe the largeness of view,
the enthusiastic vision, with which the Christian
writer follows out the permeative penetrative influ-
ence of the Divine Word, not limited to Christian
times, not requiring a multitude of reiterated super-
natural interventions, but developing itself at once
naturally and progressively, and as it were by its
own momentum, through the agency of duly com-
missioned teachers, carried into the furthest corners
of the earth.

A philosopher has recently propounded and an-
swered for us the question :

What does the existence of God, or the personal-
ity of God, mean for the religious thinker save the



/. Ancient Christologies 21

intense conviction of the rationality and the right-
eousness of the universe ? And is it not strange to
say of faith in God that ' it will only give us light on
one particular dogma^ that the world is wisely and
righteously governed ' ? Surely this is the sum and
substance of all religious faith and of all philosophi-
cal construction/

And may not we in turn ask: Is not this just what
the doctrine of the Logos as the Apologists employed
it stood for — -with the further addition that they
saw in it the whole of the world's history culminat-
ing in the manifestation of Jesus Christ ? For the
Apologists certainly did not conceive of the activity
of the Logos as purely intellectual, but \hef saw in
it the source of all moral and spiritual excellence
as well.-

There are two figures which standout in the period
immediately following the Apologists — Irenaeus and
Tertullian. These two writers have exercised a pro-
found influence, not only over subsequent theology
in general, but in particular over the subsequent
course of Christological doctrine. In different ways
they contributed much to shape the conception of
the Person of Christ which has prevailed within the

^ Prof. A. S. Pringle-Pattison, The Philosophical Radicals,
p. 211 calc.

^ I am glad to see the Apologists defended by Dr. Orr,
Progress of Dogma (1901), pp. 37 ff., 49 ff., 78 ff.;'Dr. James
Lindsay, Studies in European PJiilosophy (1909), pp. 53 ff.;
and (but less directly as thinkers) by Prof. Gwatkin, Early Cli.
Hist., i. 173-211.



22 Ancient mid Modern Christologies

Church down to the present day : Irenaeus, we may
say, especially with reference to the Person of Christ
in itself, as the meeting-point of human and divine ;
and Tertullian, especially with reference to the place
of Christ in the doctrine of the Trinity.

At this point I want a word which is one of
a group that has been so horribly misused that as a
rule I avoid it as much as possible. The three words
'orthodox,' 'heterodox,' and 'heresy' have come
to have an ugly sound and to mean ugly things
which often do serious injustice. Much that we call
heresy was only in its origin experimental thinking
which was sure to be tried sooner or later, and
which did not imply moral obliquity in those who
had recourse to it. And in the reaction against this
unfair use of names on the one side, 'orthodoxy,'
which ought to be a term of praise, has come to be
with many almost a term of reproach. But in the
present instance I want to use it in the best sense
of which it is capable. We need a word to express a
deep centrality and balance of thought, undisturbed
by extraneous influences of any kind and resting
on a basis of genuine religion. I think we might
say that Ignatius had this, and that Athanasius
had it, and Leo; but it seems to me to be pre-emi-
nently characteristic of Irenaeus. I should describe
him as representing the best type of orthodoxy.

Irenaeus was a thinker almost in spite of himself.
He did not like speculation. He shrank from it,
and deprecated its too free employment. His own



/. Ancient Christologies 23

outlook upon the world was full of a deep sense
of awe at the mystery of things. There is truth
in the criticism that his thinking was determined
by various influences — the scriptures of both Testa-
ments, the baptismal confession which by this
time was becoming a rule of faith, the Apostles'
Creed in its simplest and most primitive form, as
well as by certain current ideas and categories —
which were not completely fused and harmonized.
But he was one of those whom instinct seems to
y draw towards that which is really central. Take, for
instance, that glorious sentence (Adv. Haer, v.
Praef. ad fin.) in which he speaks of following the
one true and sure Teacher, the Word of God, Jesus
Christ our Lord, wdio for His infinite love was made
as we are in order that He might make us to be as
He is (qui propter immensam suam dilectionem f actus
est quod sumus 7ios, uti nos perficeret esse quod est
ipse). For Irenaeus, the whole history of redemp-
tion culminates in Christ. He imagines the ques-
tion asked. What new thing did the Lord bring at His
coming ? And the answer is that He brought every-
thing that is new by bringing Himself (omnem novi-
iatem attulit semetipsum a ff evens, iv. 34. 1).

It enables us to do rather better justice to Justin,
and to see that in part the limitations which we
observe in him are due to the fact that only apolo-
getic or controversial writings of his have come
down to us, when we remember that the most char-
acteristic doctrine that we associate with Irenaeus,



24 Ancient and Modern Christologies

the doctrine of the recapitulatio, was apparently sug-
gested by Justin, in a passage which Irenaeus quotes
(iv. 6. 2). This doctrine of 'recapitulation' goes
back ultimately to St. Paul: it is the summing up
of all things in Christ — in particular, the summing
up of all humanity, so that what had been lost at the
Fall might be recovered through Christ. This doc-
trine meets us at the threshold of our inquiry, and
it will also meet us at the end of it (see pp. 124 ff.
inf.). It will be well to bear in mind this early
phase of its history.

The central position of Irenaeus is the assertion
of the true deity and true humanity of Christ. He
speaks of a commixtio et communio dei et hominis
(iv. 20. 4), and he does not distinguish between the
working of the two sides as they are distinguished
in the doctrine of the Two Natures.

In this respect Tertullian goes a step further.
With his peculiar gift of formulation, we constantly
come across phrases in him which find their echoes
in later Western theology. We observe that he uses
the term substantia instead of natura; but he speaks,
just as the later Latins spoke, of the proprietas
substantiae, deus et homo, . . . secundum utramque
substantiam in sua proprietate distans; videmus dup-
licem statum, 7ion confusum sed coniunctum, in una
persona, deum et hominem lesum. He is careful to
guard against the idea that the nature of Christ was
a tertium quid, compounded of divine and human;
the proper attributes of each must be preserved in-



/. Ancient C/tri.siologies '^5

tact, id et spiritus res suas egerit in illo, id esi virtutes
. . . , et caro passiones suas functa sit, . . . denique et
mortua est, quodsi tertium qiiid csset, ex utroque
confusum, ut electruniy non tain distincta docinneiita
par event utriusque substantiae.^ We might easily
suppose ourselves to be reading the Epistle of Leo.
Even more important was the work of Tertullian
in fixing the phraseology of the doctrine of the
Trinity. Even his language is still inevitably to
some extent fluid; a conception at once so difiicult
and so novel as that which we now call a distinc-
tion of Persons without separation could not be
expressed otherwise than tentatively and with
a certain amount of verbal experiment. And yet
here again we cannot help being conscious of the
effort by which this powerful mind is creating
a new vocabulary, the leading terms in which
were destined to be permanent. The following
is one of the most prominent passages from the
treatise * Against Praxeas ' : —

All are One, inasmuch as all are of One; by
unity, that is, of substance; and yet notwithstand-
ing there is guarded the mystery of the divine
appointment, which distributes the Unity into a
Trinity [this is the first known place in which the
word occurs], ranging in their order the Three,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ; three, that is, not in
essence but in degree, not in substance but in form,
not in power but in manifestation, but of one sub-
stance and of one essence and of one power, foras-

^ Adv. Prax. 27.



26 Ancient and Modern Christologies

much as there is One God, from whom these de-
grees and forms and manifestations are set down
under the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
(\quasi non sic quoque] units sit omnia^ dum ex uno
omnia, per substantiae scilicet unitatem, et nihilomi-
nus custodiatur olKovofMias sacramentumy quae unita-
tem in trinitatem disponit, tres dirigens, patrem et
filium et spiritum sanctum, tres autem, non statu sed
graduy nee substantia sed forma, nee potestate sed
specie, unius autem substantiae et unius status et
unius potestatis, quia unus deus, ex quo et gradus isti
et formae et species in nomine patris et filii et spiritus
sancti deputantur (§ 2)).

Tertulhan sees, rightly, that the unity of the God-
head comes first, as dominant and fundamental;
the trinitarian distinctions are distinctions within
this unity. He repudiates with energy anything
of the nature of Tritheism: *any mention of two
Gods or two Lords we do not suffer to escape our
lips' (§ 13), though Father, Son, and Spirit are each
severally God and Lord. We observe how this
language of Tertullian is echoed in the Quicumque.

The Trinity of Tertullian is what is called an
' economic Trinity,' i.e. a Trinity of dispensation or
of function, like the assignment of parts or duties in
a household ; the work of the Father has special re-
lation to the creation, conservation, and government
of the universe; the work of the Son has special
relation to the redemption of man ; and the work of
the Holy Spirit is the continuation of this. The
three modes of activity succeed each other, and they
are something more than the modes of action of a



/. Ancient Christologies 27

single subject. Tertullian was (so far as we know)
the first to use the Latin word persona in this con-
nexion, though it is hardly Hkely that he attached
to it the full sense that came to be attached later.
His great coinage was that of the tres personae and
una substantia, which after much vacillation the East
also accepted in the form rpet? v7ro(TToi(reL


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