In Partial Praise of Apollinarian Christology

Post by
Tyler Cohen

Apollinaris was ubiquitously understood to be teaching that the flesh of Christ was eternal with the Son and descended in the incarnation, passing through Mary. Contemporary scholarship dispels this notion revealing that Apollinaris taught that the flesh was acquired through Mary, and not derived eternally.


Apollinaris of Laodicea[1] is infamous for his ‘heavenly man’ Christology which entailed the assumption of a partial human nature lacking a human mind (sine mente/spiritu) or intellective part of the soul (rather than merely a sensitive soul); in its place was the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Logos, the Son, as the replacement for the governing “hegemonic (ἡγεμονικός) principle.” The reason for this replacement or combination was precisely because, by a certain Stoic principle, a human could have only one nature and one governing principle (mind). Apollinaris was ubiquitously understood to be teaching that the flesh of Christ was eternal with the Son and descended in the incarnation, passing through Mary.

Contemporary scholarship dispels this notion revealing that Apollinaris taught that the flesh was acquired through Mary, and not derived eternally. What is lost in these accounts, however, is the robust nature of Apollinaris’ Christology which is likely the reason for the common misapprehension of Apollinarian Christology in his own day. What follows is my demonstration and portrayal of his Christology and its consequences for the spatio-temporal dimension of Christ’s flesh.

As a brief historical summary, the Apollinarian controversy marks a distinct shift from debates around the ad intra relations and statuses of the persons of the Trinity, inaugurated most acutely by the Arian controversy and the First Council of Nicaea (325), towards the ad intra filii or the inner constitution of the Son as divine and human as well as their respective relation(s) and economy. Apollinaris himself, while denounced at Constantinople I (381) and hotly refuted by Gregory of Nyssa in ca. 386 or later in his Antirrheticus [2]  and both implicitly and explicitly lambasted in later councils and polemical writings during the Monophysite/Dyophysite controversy of the 5th century, his view, to a more or less vague degree, gave expression to a common Christological conception represented in many earlier thinkers (but with some development), no less than Athanasius of Alexandria. [3]  For further elaboration on the context and particularities of Apollinaris and the Apollinarian controversy as well as its reception and associations, I suggest Orton’s thorough introduction of his translation and commentary on Gregory of Nyssa’s Antirrheticus as well as the relevant chapters in Daley’s God Visible. [4]

Contemporary scholarship argues that even if Apollinaris Christology was ultimately defective and appropriately deemed heretical, Apollinaris and his theology were misunderstood and consequently misjudged in his own era. Modern scholarship has attempted to defend Apollinaris on the appropriate points starting with Hans Lietzmann in 1904 (Apollinaris und seine Schule: Text und Untersuchungen) in German scholarship and in the texts of a number of other figures: Charles E. Raven (Apollinarianism: An Essay on the Christology of the Early Church, 1923), J.N.D. Kelly (Early Christian Doctrines, 1950), Aloys Grillmeier (Christ in Christian Tradition, 1965), Robin Orton (St. Gregory of Nyssa: The Anti-Apollinarian Writings, 2015) and Brian Daley, SJ. (God Visible: Patristic Christology Reconsidered, 2018) as well as a number of others.

The typical scholarly defense tends to revolve around the misapprehension, and thus subsequent criticism, of Apollinaris’ Christology typified by two of the Cappadocians, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa as well as Athanasius in his Epistle to Epictetus (Letter 59) – which Apollinaris apparently procured, read, and to which criticisms he responded directly. [5] In fact, it appears that the misunderstandings of Apollinarian Christology during the era were ubiquitous and frequently responded to by not only Apollinaris but also by his devotees in subsequent years. The scholarly defense of Apollinaris typical centers on one point: that Apollinaris did not teach that the flesh was eternal with the Logos, descended in the incarnation and merely passed through Mary. This defense usually proceeds by proffering that Apollinaris taught that the flesh was not consubstantial to the divinity as well as showing those explicit passages in which Apollinaris affirms that the flesh originated from Mary. We see that the explanations trend around readings of Apollinaris which speak of a condescension of the “heavenly man”; while this may be true to some extent, it is still far from explaining the late fourth-century ubiquity of this misconception in the context of Apollinaris’ very clear and careful language, present even in the Apodeixis. The misconception is precisely this: that so many believed that Apollinaris Christology included that the flesh of Christ was pre-temporal and eternal and descended with the Logos in the incarnation passing through Mary. If this is not the case, as is properly articulated and defended in contemporary scholarship, why exactly was this understanding ubiquitous?

In what follows I will attempt to clarify this disconnect from a particular angle, while setting aside the details of the proliferation of each of the various key texts of Apollinaris at certain stages. [6]  My answer revolves around the particular question of the soterio-economic relationship of the Logos and human nature – particularly the flesh – united in a single composite nature. Just how deified does the flesh become? It is in answering this question which will explain how Apollinaris was misapprehended in his day and how he is now rightfully defended today against his detractors while proffering a more robust depiction of his Christology. What is needful in answering these questions, then, is to demonstrate just what the union of the flesh with the Logos accomplished for the flesh, teasing out Apollinaris’ highest and most sublime predications concerning Christ’s flesh, explicating the metaphysical structure and economy of the human and divine in Christ, as well as the qualifications or limitations he makes concerning the flesh. From there the spatio-temporal possibilities will be explored.

Apollinaris’ Eternalization of the Flesh of Christ

Apollinaris does affirm a descent from heaven of the Logos ubiquitously. However, this will be highly qualified below. Similarly, Apollinaris does indeed affirm that Christ took the flesh from Mary in a multitude of passages. [7]  These two points are indeed indisputable. Furthermore, Apollinaris affirms not only the non-consubstantiality of the flesh with divinity but also, and simultaneously, a kind of consubstantiality of the flesh with divinity in his Letter to Serapion:

…We observe much madness [from] the ones who have spoken of the consubstantiality of the flesh with God. For by the union to the Word is the flesh divinenot by nature. Thus, in the union [the flesh] also possesses permanence, just as he himself [Christ] says, “The Spirit is the one giving life” to the flesh (Jn 6:63)…And even you [Serapion] yourself speak properly [saying], “We and Christ are not equal.” But to say that, “The flesh is not consubstantial with us since it is the flesh of God” is in want of a little articulation. For it is better to say that, ‘he took on flesh consubstantial with us by nature and by union he demonstrated [the flesh to be] divine.’…And even you [Serapion] yourself say that, “According to this [principle of union] it is not consubstantial with us, since it is God’s flesh.” But in this way it would be more articulately said [that], ‘On the one hand the flesh is consubstantial to us by nature and [on the other, the flesh is] divine by the union and having what is different because of the union.’ [8]

He affirms Serapion’s sensibility which says that the flesh of Christ is not like our flesh. Apollinaris helps him in articulating just in what way it is and is not consubstantial to us. Christ’s flesh is not consubstantial to God by nature (but to us), while the divinity of the Son is consubstantial to God by nature. Therefore, because of the composite union and speaking of the ‘whole Christ’ (for Apollinaris, the single yet composite nature), Christ is simultaneously consubstantial (in part) and non-consubstantial (in part) with us, and of course consubstantial and non-consubstantial to divinity. [9] But partial consubstantiality of the whole Christ, that is the flesh’s consubstantiality, does not a true consubstantiality make since consubstantiality just is the identicality of the two natures in question. But one will notice above some peculiar qualities which seem to imply more than a mere formal predicative consubstantiality of the flesh via the whole Christ with God (and thus not truly the flesh) – something which will be developed below.

The purpose for the affirmation of the non-consubstantiality of flesh and divinity is not merely logical and rational, but also soteriologically necessary: “If the Word is consubstantial with the body, it united nothing to itself [that is, no union occurred]. But it was united to the body, thus it is not consubstantial to it.” [10]  If there is no union then there is no salvation – nor any salvation needed (if the flesh is consubstantial to divinity). And if the body was by nature consubstantial to the Word, then the body could not be touched nor seen and a mere docetic Christology emerges contradictorily to the Scriptural testimony. But if the flesh does not become something more by Christ’s incarnation, how then can we say that it has been saved and deified?

Apollinaris will closely and powerfully tie the non-origination of the flesh from heaven with the non-consubstantiality of the flesh. The flesh is not consubstantial “in itself” (καθ᾽ ἑαυτὸ) nor is the divine aspect of Christ ‘flesh in itself’ (τῆς σαρκός… καθ᾽ ἑαθτὸν): [11]

No one should belittle the lordly and saving flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ with allegations of [its] consubstantiality [to God]. For neither we, nor our synod, nor anyone possessing human reason says or thinks the body is consubstantial according to itself (καθ᾽ ἑαυτὸ). But neither do we say the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ [is] from heaven, but we confess God the Word became incarnate by the Holy Virgin Mary and we do not divide him from his flesh. But there is one person (ἕν πρόσωπον), one hypostasis (μία ὑπόστασις), entirely man (ὅλος ἄνθρωπος), entirely God (ὅλος θεός). [12]

The consubstantiality of the flesh occurs by means of the union, but the flesh never is divine by nature. Thus, we can speak, perhaps hesitantly, of the flesh’s participation in the divinity of the Logos, such that it gains the whole of divinity, but never possesses it within itself as part of its nature. “Therefore, the flesh is divine because [it is] joined together with God.” [13]  And as above in Ad Serapionem, it is “by the union to the Word” (τῇ… ἑνώσει τῇ πρὸς τὸν λόγον) by which “the flesh is divine” (θεία σάρξ) and “not by nature” (οὐ τῇ φύσει). And the flesh of Christ is “consubstantial with us by nature” (φύσει… ὁμοούσιον ἡμῖν) but “by union he demonstrated [the flesh to be] divine” (ἑνώσει δὲ θείαν ἀπέδειξεν). This means that the flesh, divine by union, “possesses what is different [from typical human flesh] by means of the union” (δὶα τῆς ἑνώσεως ἔχουσαν τὸ διάφοραν). [14]  This last point is crucial: that the flesh does indeed ‘possess,’ ‘hold’ or ‘have’ what is ‘different’ – that is, divine qualities – by means of the union.

This union is so thorough that the entirety of what is divine is ascribed to the body and flesh, not in a merely formal or linguistic way akin to a strict classic communicatio idiomatum. In fact, Apollinaris proffers a number of predicates that can be properly attributed to the divinity. Again, the key to grasping this is that this predication comes not by way of the flesh’s containment of a respective divine quality by nature but rather by union. The body is made greater than the angels and “equal to God” (ἐξισοῦται πρὸς θεὸν; ἐξισοῖ τῷ θεῷ) such that the body becomes “identical (ταὐτον ἐκείνῳ)” to the Son because of the unity in nature and thus is “divine” and “God.” [15] And this deification of Christ’s flesh is to the point that Apollinaris takes time in various places to defend the notion (from Scripture) that worshipping Christ includes worshipping him as flesh. [16]  Yet, Apollinaris’ own statements denying the consubstantiality of the flesh with divinity should be read as a qualifier – that the flesh never possesses these divine qualities by nature, but in the union, they are really there in the flesh, just not as natural to the flesh. Hence, to read such negations of consubstantiality as the final word would be necessarily misleading.

 Apollinaris, interestingly, shares the same Christological language of ᾽mixture᾽ which Gregory of Nyssa and other contemporaries proffered. Christ the word was “mixed with the flesh (τῇ σαρκὶ συκεκραμενός)” and “the uncreated (is) in a commixture with the created (τὸ δὲ ἄκτιστον ἐν συγκράσει τοῦ κτιστοῦ)” and that “the union (is) a mixture, mind you (τὴν… [σύγκρασιν ἤτοι] ἕνωσιν)” and the whole Christ is “in the singularity of a commixed divine incarnate nature (ἐν μονότητι σθγκράτου φύσεως θεϊκῆς σεσαρκωμένης)” and this is a “divinely decreed mingling (μἰξις θεσπεσία)” and many others. [17]  This language of mixture allows one to grasp that Apollinaris did not conceive of a composite nature as a hermetically sealed union of the two in which they do not mingle.

The incarnation, however, is “middle (μεσότης)” of God and man, being fully unique to both. In this middle the “mean [of each] become one from differing qualities in [their] coming together (μεσότητες γίνονται ἰδιοτήτων διαφόρων εἰς ἕν συνελθουσῶν)” which excludes the extreme qualities of each from being mixed entirely: “But no middle has each of the extremes of the entirety but [only] partially mixed in (οὐδεμία δὲ μεσότης ἑκατέρας ἔχει τὰς ἀκρότητας ἐξ ὁλοκλήρου ἀλλὰ μερικῶς ἐπιμεμιωμένας).” [18]  It is not entirely clear here what Apollinaris means in saying that some extremes are left out, but he gives examples of a mule born from a donkey and a horse, the color gray from black and white, and Spring from Winter and Summer. This would seem to indicate something akin to not only a mediatorial role of Christ (such as that found in Justin Martyr’s mediator-Logos Christology) but also something not quite divine and not quite human. But in conjunction with much else Apollinaris says, as noted above and ubiquitously throughout fragments and writings, this would be a hasty conclusion. The language of ‘partial mixture’ of these ‘extreme qualities’ should not be read as a means of denying that in Christ is fully the Word as he says elsewhere, but it ought to be read only as a means of saying that Christ’s composite nature partially bears qualities of both, such that, for example, he could not be (contradictorily) fully incorporeal and fully corporeal.

He affirms that that corporeality of the flesh/body is not, and cannot be, revoked, “For obviously even the body cannot become bodiless, as others foolishly say….” [19]  And more strongly, “The one saying the body is consubstantial to God blasphemes the bodiless [God] as having a body.” [20] But in further clarity, he elucidates his meaning in De Fide et Incarnatione Contra Adversarios (Pseudo-Julius I):

For even this body and God are one, whose body [this] is, the flesh having not transformed into [something] incorporeal (το ἀσώματον), but possessing even its own distinctive (ἴδιον) from us according to the birth by the Virgin and even the things beyond us [divine qualities] according to the union of God the Word, (a mixture mind you). [21]

The body’s nature is not “altered (οὐκ ἀλλαττομένης)” into becoming consubstantial in the union – even though it shares the name ‘consubstantial.’ Nor is the divine nature altered (οὐδὲ… ἤλλακται) in its unity with the flesh. [22]  The mixing mentioned above relates directly to this relationship. “The qualities of mixed things are diluted and not destroyed, so that some things are even distinguished from the things which have been mixed – just as wine from water.” [23]  The wine from water, presumably, mirrors an analogy quoted nearby from its source in Theodoret, that seeing an “iron mixed with fire ( πρὸς σίδηρον ἀνάκρασις πῦρ)” shows us that while it appears to be one thing, two things are discernible in the one. [24]  And just as humans are both soul and body, without either being destroyed and becoming either incorporeal or corporeal respectively, so it is with the Logos and the flesh of Christ. [25]  The body remains corporeal and the bodiless (Logos) remains incorporeal even in the union. That which is specific to (each part of) the composite nature remains (μένει τὸ τῆς φύσεως τῶν ἑνωθέντων). [26]

It is not clear just how he conceives that in Christ the flesh is not changed by the union. He clearly speaks in many ways about the salvific effect. And his statements about a lack of change in the flesh or human nature, tend to occur alongside the negation that the body could become bodiless. Despite this partial immutability of the flesh, there is still a unilateral relationship between the Word and the Flesh. He states this as a means to guard divine impassibility as well as all the detrimental predications which would follow. This unilaterality is such that even in the unity of a single nature the Word does not become passible but effects the salvation of the flesh. [27]  Apollinaris tells us that the Word takes the flesh and its passibility to Himself while remaining identical (ταυτότητι) to Himself and impassible; furthermore, the flesh gained “perpetual impassibility (ἀπάθεια διηνεκὴς)” and “ceaseless immortality (ἄτρεπτος ἀθανασία)” which came upon the flesh of Christ after the death (upon the resurrection). [28] This union and unilateral sharing of divinity is to the effect that the body cannot be called a “creature” but must be called “uncreated.” [29]  Even the mixing, while thorough, and the flesh comes to hold the divine qualities, it still retains this unilaterality. [30]

Furthermore, this does not negate the lower qualities of the body, either the “inglorious” qualities, such as being called ‘man’ or the messiness of being born in human fashion.

While Apollinaris seeks to venture just how many things of the divine we can predicate of the flesh of Christ, this is all highly qualified. And his qualification seems to be that we must retain the distinction (not disunion) while predicating the bodily and the divine to the whole. His warning is to, and we might say by a Nyssene term, guard the diastema (or the difference of the two natures) and the union simultaneously:

And the one unable to see in the united differences (τοῖς ἡνωμένοις διαφόροις) what the distinctive (ἴδιον) of each (is) will fall cacophonously into contradiction. But the one knowing even the distinctives (τὰ ἴδια) and guarding the union will neither falsify the [composite] nature nor misunderstand the union. [31]

Apollinaris’ Christology, on the whole, maintains that the union achieves some sort of real predication of divine things to the flesh, but not according to its own nature; it is something which is achieved only by union, and only in the union. And the unilaterality of influence of the Word over flesh in the mixture and union is maintained (sanctification, divinization) [32]  to stave off the notion that the divinity could become passible in the union, while simultaneously being the grounds for the flesh’s deification by union. We have reason to believe based on the statements and overall contour of Apollinaris’ Christology that the flesh receives everything proper to the divinity in the qualified manner that the reception does not negate the nature of the body only that it sanctifies or perfects it. Thus, we turn to the temporal dimension of the Flesh.

Eternal Heavenly Flesh?

Apollinaris affirms that the flesh ascends with Christ receiving the uncreated eternal glory of the Godhead [33]  and that his body awaits there (while he simultaneously is present with us spiritually) [34]  and that it (he) will return again. [35]  And it is the very ascension which is the historical locus of the exaltation and glorification of humans [36]  via the glorification of the clothing that is the body (αὐτὸ τὸ ἔνδυμα δοξασθέν). [37]  But he emphatically states that the flesh of Christ is not from heaven. [38]  He anathematizes (ἀναθεματιζέσθω) any who profess not only that Christ’s flesh is consubstantial with divinity (by nature), but also any who say that the flesh descended from heaven. [39] But can we nonetheless say that Apollinaris taught a heavenly flesh of Christ? I argue, “Yes”: with the qualification that this is neither by origin (at least as we understand it) nor by nature. We can even say that the flesh is from heaven only because of its union to that which is from heaven. [40]

J. N. D. Kelly notes the union in one in which there is a “real exchange of attributes” even while the two parts remain distinct. [41]  While Grillmeier only notes that the flesh “only becomes divine through union…” [42]

There is a notable lack of consideration of just what the union means or achieves for the flesh in Apollinaris’ Christology in modern scholarship – which is part of what I have tried to remedy here. In fact, in contemporary scholarship, it is Daley who allows for a more open interpretation stating, “…Apollinarius strenuously denies that the flesh of Christ is heavenly or eternal of itself…” [43] which allows for the implications of what Christ’s flesh might attain or become in the union, in regards to its temporality or atemporality.

Apollinaris does not help himself in many of his statements, speaking in such a way which, while intended to show the continuity of the pre-incarnate Word as well as the union itself, opens him to lambasting misinterpretations. [44]

This misapprehension is partly located in Apollinaris’ own preference for St. Paul’s terminology in 1 Corinthians 15:47 concerning Christ as a “heavenly man.” But as noted above, it is not merely the statements about the descent from heaven that caused the confusion but also those strong predications concerning the flesh, such as ‘uncreated,’ ‘heavenly,’ ‘divine,’ etc. Although later disciples denied that Christ’s body became eternal Apollinaris has some promising statements concerning this. [45]  One such predication in Apollinaris’ De Unione Corporis et Divinitatis in Christo is crucial to my argument here: that the flesh, in the union, receives what is heavenly. [46]  

The flesh’s reception of heavenly things (τὸ οὐράνιον) appear to operate as a contrary to not only the earth but also to the διατριβῆς of the earth which can refer to many things; perhaps in view here, as I suggest, would be something akin to “passage of time,” thus my translation:

Just as the flesh receiving which things it does not possess impassibility beyond sufferings, the heavenly things from beyond the passage of time on the earth [followed thereafter by predications of the reception of royal qualities rather than servile ones, and being worshipped rather than worshipping]. [47]

This would then demonstrate an explicit statement of the flesh/body of Christ going beyond the created temporal flow – or at least this particular created temporality, perhaps opening up to an angelic or heavenly temporality, which is still yet above this one, but not entirely the eternality of the Godhead. But this is not quite clear as Apollinaris does state that the Trinity shares one eternity, so perhaps, the Son now irrevocably united to the flesh possesses an entirely eternal flesh. [48]  Relatedly, Apollinaris has no clear statements concerning Christophanies under the Old Covenant, so one is left open to speculation here. But the flesh possessing either a supra-temporality independent of this one or the eternality of the Trinity would allow for temporal manifestation/condescension to different times and places before the incarnation. Theoretically then, a truly fleshly Christophany in the Old Testament (such as the three ‘children’ in the furnace in Daniel), could constitute the understanding of the Disciple’s understanding of Christ’s deifying flesh in the incarnation as it is occurring.

Gregory of Nyssa’s own Christology, in its striking dissimilarity on key points, arises as a helpful contrast. Nyssen seems to acknowledge this Apollinarian supra-temporal heavenly temporality but not-quite-eternal-existence as God is eternal stating that it is ridiculous to conceive of heavenly flesh placed around God (not being nor becoming the divine essence itself). [49]  But there are troubling aspects to Gregory of Nyssa’s Christology which has been noted in scholarship; [50] namely, that Nyssen appears to conceive of a complete abrogation of all the qualities of human nature, to be dissolved as ‘a drop of vinegar in the ocean,’ [51]  losing “weight, form, color, hardness, softness, quantity,” and anything else visible is abrogated as “the mixture with the divine takes up the lowliness of the fleshly nature into the divine attributes.” [52]

We say that he was always Christ, both before and after God’s providential dispensation for humankind. As man, he existed neither beforehand nor afterwards, but only at the time of the dispensation. For there was no man before the birth from the Virgin, nor after his return to heaven did the flesh retain its own characteristics. Scripture says, “Even though we once knew Christ according to the flesh, we know him no longer in that way.” The flesh does not remain, just because God appeared in the flesh; rather, since what is human is mutable, and what is divine is immutable, the divinity is not susceptible to any change, nor can it be changed into something worse or something better (for it will not admit of what is worse, but, on the other hand, it has nothing better than it); but Christ’s human nature experiences a change for the better, that is, from corruption to incorruptibility, from mortality to immortality, from temporal to eternal existence, and from bodily appearance to an incorporeal existence that cannot be manifested in any form. [53]

Thus, ‘no distinction between the two natures can be perceived’ after the assumption of the flesh into divinity. [54]  Gregory of Nyssa can conceive of no ultimate union of the finite and infinite in the one person of Christ. The infinite necessarily must fill up the finite such that the finite no longer remains as such. Apollinaris is very critical of those, like Nyssen, who would deny that the flesh of Christ remains even still (after the resurrection and ascension). [55]  And his Christology suffers no such abrogation of the human but fully maintains those qualities while offering what appears to be a simultaneously temporal and supra-temporal flesh of Christ, such that the flesh can be supra-temporal but also be temporal in its return to earth in the Dread Judgment.

From Apollinaris’ schema we can perhaps constructively and speculatively speak of a double origination of Christ’s flesh beyond the traditional double origination of the Son generally: first from heaven as the eternally begotten, and a temporal origination gaining flesh from Mary, which is not a true origin per se. Thus, a double origination of Christ’s flesh (human nature) may be spoken of as well: first through Mary and then in its entrance into a supra-temporal mode, placing it before and above all times here below. A few things should be noted here: the second shared origin of each to the other cannot properly be called an origin (the Logos through Mary and the flesh into a supra-temporal mode. Yet is the question not begged about what constitutes an origin in the first place? Christ’s own eternal begottenness of the Father already shatters any notions of origin learned through phenomena here below. The flesh entering a supra-temporal mode – perhaps even an eternity of sorts – would be to begin existing in a mode in which no beginning is discernible; the question simply could not be posed of the supra-temporal mode just when Christ’s flesh became eternal, being that in such an existence a ‘now’ and a ‘then’ find no referent to the eternal simultaneity. Much of this rests on whether Apollinaris conceived of some sort of angelic supra-temporality which transcends this time or some eternity as God is eternal, or perhaps further still an experience of God’s eternity, but in a way other than God experiences his own eternity in himself.

Nevertheless, the flesh’s becoming supra-temporal opens up paths which might offer explanation of the Church’s commitment concerning the Christophanies in the Old Testament as well as to how Christ uttered that the bread and wine which he offered on Great and Holy Thursday were his body and blood before he was crucified and raised and fully transfigured in body. The origination then of the whole Christ is at once above and below not merely of the flesh on the one hand and the Logos on the other but in their unity and sharing of the respective modes and thus their respective origins – not by nature but by the mixture in their union.

And lastly, this Christological schema of double origination brings the irrevocable seriality of temporality and thus human temporal existence into question as a rich and vibrant path for Christian theology to tread. Additionally, it must be said that this recovery is not tied to any of the heretical notions of Apollinaris as it does not require the limitations of a single nature nor a single divine-(partial) human composite. It may clearly and resonantly operate in harmony with the Chalcedonian definition and Neo-Chalcedonian Christology – which truly maintained and enhanced the best and higher sensibilities of Apollinarian Christology. Thus, Apollinaris’ Christology just may be the first conceptual and contemplative dawning on the historical horizon upon which Christo-logic’s own implication may begin to manifest in the doctrine of deification/theosis. And this so in human transcendence of not only seriality/temporality (as Nyssen articulates) but also of the essential diastemic opposition itself between the two in a single coinhaerentia or co-inherent existence.

[Source: Macrina Magazine]


[1] Spellings of “Apollinaris” vary; reflecting the Greek spelling is “Apollinarios,” and a more latinized version popular in scholarly literature is “Apollinarius.”undefined

[2] Robin Orton, Gregory of Nyssa: Anti-Apollinarian Writings, The Fathers of the Church, vol. 131, (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press) 36. See 35-38 for an exposition on the dating of the work.

[3] Brian E. Daley SJ, God Visible: Patristic Christology Reconsidered (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2018), 128; “But in the scale of ancient invective, it must be said that the reproaches heaped on Apollinarius in his own time for his understanding of Christ are relatively light. Although his way of conceiving Christ – as a single, organic unity of Logos and sentient flesh, as the divine and universal mind controlling a living, ensouled human body as one organism – was generally understood to be defective from the 380s on, Greek-speaking theologians seem to have recognized that his position was not so radically different from that of the mainstream, as found in Irenaeus and Eusebius and Athanasius, to say nothing of Arius and Marcellus, as to make its author into a major heresiarch. It was expressed too badly, perhaps; but it was more or less the way most Christians, up to the 370s, tended to imagine their savior.”

[4] Orton, Gregory of Nyssa, 3- 88; Daley, God Made Visible, 126-49.

[5] Apollinaris, Ad Serapionem, Fr. 159-161 (253-4, Lietzmann) Apollinaris notes that he has received a letter from Serapion calling him his “Master (δέσποτα).” Apparently with Serapion’s letter to Apollinaris, was attached a letter from another “Master (τοῦ δεσπότου)” of Apollinaris’s which was originally addressed to one in Corinth. Presumably, the ‘Master’ here is Athanasius who had a cordial relationship with Apollinaris up unto a certain point, and the addressee was Epictetus, the Bishop of Corinth at the time of composition. If this is so, Apollinaris doesn’t seem to have his feathers ruffled in the slightest, and Athanasius seems to have omitted Apollinaris

[6] I leave this to the scholarly work of others. In short, we do know that it seems that the Apodeixis of Apollinaris, which Gregory of Nyssa responds to, seemed to be the one text which was disseminated far and wide, as was, perhaps, the Fides Secundum Partem (of popularly named, Kata Meros Pistis or KMP). The Apodeixis survives for us in fragments and paraphrases, some polemical characterizations rather than citations, in Gregory of Nyssa’s polemical work Antirrheticus adversus Apollinarium.

[7] Apollinaris, Fides Secundum Partem 1, 2, 28, 32, 34, 35, 36 (167-8, 177, 179-81 Lietzmann), De Unione Corporis et Divinitatis in Christo, 1, 3, 6, 9, 13 (185-9, 191 Ibid.), De Fide et Incarnatione Contra Adversarios, 3-6, 9 (194-9, 201 Ibid.), et al. There is hardly a text that refrains from noting this.

[8] Apollinaris, Ad Serapionem, Fr 159-161 (253-4 Lietzmann).

[9] Apollinaris, De Unione Corporis et Divinitatis in Christo, 8 (188 Lietzmann).

[10] Apollinaris, Syllogismoi, Fr 112 (233-4 Lietzmann).

[11] Apollinaris, Sermones, Fr 153 (248 Lietzmann).

[12] Apollinaris, De Fide et Incarnatione Contra Adversarios 3 (194 Lietzmann).

[13] Apollinaris, Syllogismoi, Fr 116 (235 Lietzmann) “θεἴκὴ ἄρα <ἡ> σάρξ, ὅτι θεῷ συνήφθη”.

[14] Apollinaris, Ad Serapionem, Fr 159-161 (253-4 Lietzmann).

[15] Apollinaris, Laudatio Mariae et de Incarnatione, 11, 12 (207-8 Lietzmann). Daley’s translation: “…And when you realize that the Spirit is working in you, with a kind of activity that can be taken away again, do you consider yourself divine, so that the robe around your flesh can heal the sick? [expecting a ‘yes’] Do you not, then, consider that body to be divine, even to be God, which is inseparably joined to God and has become one with him through substantial union – for he says, “The word became flesh?” Leontius, and Brian E Daley, Leontius of Byzantium: Complete Works, Oxford Early Christian Texts (Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2017), 548-9.

[16] Namely the two sets of fragments entitled Concerning the Incarnation collected by Theodoret and Leontius of Byzantium, respectively.

[17] Apollinaris, Fides Secundum Partem, 11 (171 Lietzmann); De Unione Corporis et Divinitatis in Christo 5 (187 Lietzmann); De Fide et Incarnatione contra Adversarios, 7 (199 Lietzmann); De Incarnatione, 9, 11 (206-7 Lietzmann); Laudatio Mariae et de Incarnatione Fr 11 (207 Lietzmann); Demonstratio Fr 93 (228 Lietzmann); Syllogismi Fr 113 (234 Lietzmann); Ad Diodorum Fr 127-129, 134 (238-40 Lietzmann); Ad Flavianum, Fr 143 (246 Lietzmann). Ad Petrum Fr 149 (247 Lietzmann); Et al.

[18] Apollinaris, Syllogismi Fr 113 (234 Lietzmann).

[19] Apollinaris, Ad Serapionem 160 (254 Lietzmann).

[20] Apollinaris, Syllogismi Fr 112 (234 Lietzmann).

[21] Apollinaris, De Fide et Incarnatione Contra Adversarios 7 (199 Lietzmann).

[22] Apollinaris, De Unione Corporis et Divinitatis in Christo 8 (188 Lietzmann).

[23] Apollinaris, Ad Diodorum Fr 127 (238 Lietzmann).

[24] Apollinaris, Ad Diodorum Fr 128 (238 Lietzmann).

[25] Apollinaris, Ad Diodorum Fr 129 (239 Lietzmann).

[26] Apollinaris, Ad Flavianum (246 Lietzmann).

[27] Apollinaris, Fides Secundum Partem 30 (178 Lietzmann).

[28] Apollinaris, Fides Secundum Partem, 2 (168 Lietzmann). Apollinaris makes the note that this occurs after death, that is in the resurrection, some economic fulfillment occurs between the two natures: “…μετὰ δὲ θανάτου κατάλυσιν περὶ τὴν σάρκα τὴν ἁγίαν ἀπάθεια διηνεκὴς καὶ ἄτρεπτος ἀθανασία…” “And after the dissolution of death, concerning the holy flesh: perpetual impassibility and ceaseless immortality.”

[29] Apollinaris, De Unione Corporis et Divinitatis in Christo 2 (186 Lietzmann).

[30] Apollinaris, De Unione Corporis et Divinitatis in Christo 5, 8 (187 Lietzmann).

[31] Apollinaris, De Unione Corporis et Divinitatis in Christo 17 (192-3 Lietzmann).

[32] Apollinaris, De Unione Corporis et Divinitatis in Christo 11, 15 (190-92 Lietzmann).

[33] Apollinaris, Fides Secundum Partem, 32 (180 Lietzmann); De Unione Corporis et Divinitatis in Christo 14 (191 Lietzmann); Ad Iovianum 2 (251-3 Lietzmann); Ad Flavianum 148 (246-7 Lietzmann).

[34] Apollinaris, Demonstratio de Divina Incarnatione ad Similitudinem Hominis Fr 104 (231 Lietzmann); Typically, this has been referred to as the Demonstration or Apodeixis.

[35] Apollinaris, Fides Secundum Partem 12 (171 Lietzmann); Fides Secundum Partem 29 (178 Lietzmann).

[36] Apollinaris, Fides Secundum Partem 35 (180-1 Lietzmann).

[37] Apollinaris, De Incarnatione 6 (205 Lietzmann).

[38] Apollinaris, De Fide et Incarnatione Contra Adversarios 3 (194 Lietzmann). Ad Dionysium II Fr 164 (262 Lietzmann).

[39] Apollinaris, Ad Terentium Fr 163 (255 Lietzmann); Tomus Synodalis (263 Lietzmann).

[40] Apollinaris, Recapitulatio, 12 (243 Lietzmann).

[41] J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines. 5th ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978), 295.

[42] Aloys Grillmeier, Christ in Christian. Tradition: From the Apostolic Age to Chalcedon (451), vol. 1, trans. by J. S. Bowden (NY: Sheed and Ward, 1965), 223.

[43] Daley, God Made Visible, 132. My emphasis in bold.

[44] Particularly fragments 16-18, 25, 27, 73, 89, 90 (209-11, 221, 227-8 Lietzmann).There are other related fragments, but Lietzmann has called these into question as such fragments, preserved solely in Gregory of Nyssa’s Antirrheticus adversus Apollinarium, may in fact be Nyssen’s own polemical paraphrase, rather than genuinely Apollinarian passages.

[45] Valentine, Capita Apologiae 5 (289 Lietzmann); Valentine states that, “…the body which the lord carried, did not become eternal nor bodiless from the union.”

[46] Apollinaris, De Unione Corporis et Divinitatis in Christo 15 (192 Lietzmann); For a fuller quote: “ὥσπερ τῆς σαρκὸς ὅπερ οὐκ ἔχει λαμβανούσης τὸ ἀπαθὲς ἐκ τῶν παθημάτων, τὸ οὐράνιον ἐκ τῆς κατὰ γῆν διατριβῆς.” “Just as the flesh receiving which things it does not possess: impassibility beyond sufferings, the heavenly things from beyond the passage of time on the earth.”

[47] Apollinaris, De Unione Corporis et Divinitatis in Christo 15 (192 Lietzmann).

[48] Apollinaris, Fides Secundum Partem 10 (170 Lietzmann).

[49] Gregory of Nyssa, Antirrheticus adversus Apollinarium, trans. in Robin Orton, Gregory of Nyssa: Anti-Apollinarian Writings, The Fathers of the Church, vol. 131 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press) 206.

[50] Primarily Brian Daley’s article Divine Transcendence and Human Transformation: Gregory of Nyssa’s Anti-Apollinarian Christology in Sarah Coakley’s Re-Thinking Gregory of Nyssa, originally released in Studia Patristica, Vol. 32 (1997), 87-95. But also noted in Christopher A. Beeley’s chapter Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, and Constantionple (381) in his book The Unity of Christ.

[51] Gregory of Nyssa, Antirrheticus, 207-8; Ad Theophilus, 266.

[52] Gregory of Nyssa, Antirrheticus, 208.

[53] Ibid., 242-3.

[54] Gregory of Nyssa, Ad Theophlius, 267.

[55] Apollinaris, Ad Diodorum Fr 136 (240 Lietzmann); “The ones who do not say that the flesh of the Lord remains – they act godlessly.”

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