Struggling with christology: Apolinarius of Laodicea and st Gregory of Nyssa
The argument in the 380s between Gregory and Apolinarius, as set out Gregory’s Antirrheticus adversus Apolinarium, can be seen as a significant step in the development of the Church’s Christological teaching. Apolinarius’s notion that the eternal Logos took the place of Jesus Christ’s human mind is designed to establish the unity of his person, by providing a basis for the ontic continuity between the Second Person of the Trinity and Christ in his two natures. Commendably, he wants to counter any suggestion of separation between the human and divine natures (“two Christs”), which he sees as inevitably leading to an “adoptionist” view of Christ as a “God-filled man”; that would put Christ on the same level as the Old Testament prophets and could not form the basis of an adequate soteriology. Gregory argues convincingly however that Apolinarius’s “enfleshed mind” Christology would mean that Jesus Christ was not fully human and could not therefore save humankind. But in the face of Apolinarius’s challenge he cannot give an adequate account of Christ’s unity during his earthly career. He remains open to Apolinarius’s charge of a “divisive” Christology by in effect postponing the complete unity until after Christ’s glorification, when his divinity overwhelmed his humanity and removed all his human characteristics, in the same way as the water of the sea overwhelms a drop of vinegar dropped into it. On this basis he has, anachronistically but not unreasonably, been accused of taking a Nestorian view of Christ before his glorification and a monophysite one after it. Both Apolinarius’s stress on the unity of Christ and Gregory’s on the notion that ‘what is not assumed is not healed’ (Nazianzen’s phrase) were essential elements in what emerged seventy years later in the Chalcedonian definition.
Christology; Gregory of Nyssa; Apolinarius of Laodicea
Gregorius Nyssenus, Antirrheticus adversus Apollinarium, ed. F. Müller, GNO 3/1, Leiden 1958, 131-233.
Gregorius Nyssenus, De oratione dominica, ed. J. Callahan, GNO VII/2, Leiden 1992, 5-74.
Gregorius Nyssenus, Dialogus de anima et resurrectione, PG 46, 11-160.
Gregory of Nyssa, Anti-Apollinarian Writings, translated with an introduction, commentary and notes by R. Orton, The Fathers of the Church 131, Washington DC 2015.
Irenaeus Lugdunensis, Adversus haereses, PG 7, 437-1224.
Alexopoulos T., Die Christologie Gregors von Nyssa in Contra Eunomium III 3-4: Die Beweisführung Gregors zur Einheit der Person Christi und das Problem des Verhältnisses der zwei Naturen zueinander in Ihm. Ist der Verdacht des Monophysitismus bei Gregor berechtigt?, in: Gregory of Nyssa Contra Eunomium III, An English Translation with Commentary and Supporting Studies, Proceedings of the12th International Colloquium on Gregory of Nyssa (Leuven, 14-17 September 2010), ed. J. Leemans – M. Cassin, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 124, Leiden 2014, 477-488.
Grelier H., L’argumentation de Grégoire de Nysse contre Apolinaire de Laodicée: Étude littéraire et doctrinale de l’Antirrheticus adversus Apolinarium et de l’Ad Theophilum adversus apolinaristas, Lyon 2008; thèse en langues, histoire et civilisations des mondes anciens, sous la direction de Olivier Munnich, présentée et soutenue publiquement le 19 novembre 2008, Lyon: Université Lumière, Institut Fernand Courby et Institut des sources chrétiennes (http://theses.univ-lyon2.fr/documents/getpart. php?id=1183&action=pdf [22.10.2016]).
Gunton C., The Barth Lectures, ed. P.H. Brazier, Edinburgh 2007.
Kelly J.N.D., Early Christian Doctrines, London 1993.
Raven Ch.E., Apollinarianism: An Essay on the Christology of the Early Church, Cambridge 1923.
Young F.M. – Teal A., From Nicaea to Chalcedon: A Guide to the Literature and Its Background, London 2010.