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Essential Writings on the Incarnation

by Justin McClain

Essential Writings on the Incarnation
Publication date: 2020-05-29
ISBN: 9780870613173
Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, is perhaps the most important figure in the Christological debates of the early‐ to mid‐fourth century. In writings that span nearly four decades, Athanasius developed the foundations for the Church’s account of Christ—his divinity and human life and their role in the spiritual life of Christians. This volume presents four works, in a revised translation by John Henry Newman, that have not been available together for more than a century. The work of Athanasius of Alexandria is a prime example of how early Christian doctrine developed by being forced to articulate the Christian faith in the face of philosophical questions. We see in Athanasius not a triumph of Hellenism but a revision of Hellenistic categories to accommodate the Christian belief described in Philippians 2: for our sake, the divine Son of God came into the world and lived an authentic human life without compromise to his divinity, and that from Christ’s humanity Christians receive the divine life that he lived in the flesh. The selection of writings gives an overview of Athanasius’s thought both in its development and in its striking consistency. From Against the Nations through On the Incarnation we can see Athanasius develop a biblical and philosophical narrative for his audience of Hellenistic Christians, probably before or shortly after the Council of Nicaea (325). The Discourses Against the Arians, written between 339 and 343 during Athanasius’s exile in Rome, reply to specific philosophical and exegetical objections lodged by Arius’s followers. Drawing on previous tradition, Athanasius presents Christ’s reality as both fully human and fully divine, developing the trinitarian dimensions of salvation, in a manner that is thoroughly biblical, philosophically innovative, and speculatively insightful. On the Decrees of the Council of Nicaea, written in the 350s, defends the Nicene definition against the charge that its central term, “consubstantial,” conveys an unscriptural idea. This light revision of Newman’s translation removes archaisms and clarifies obscure passages while preserving his elevated prose.Justin McClain