Apollinarianism by C E Raven

p. 90

For some thirty years Christology disappears from the writings of the chief combatants; and it is only from the scattered allusions that we can trace the content of thought on the subject. Athanasius’ position which is important both from his representative character and from his relation to Apollinarius can, however, be stated with considerable clearness. The De Incarnatione, surely the most amazing piece of theology ever produced by a boy still in his teens, shows us his views before the controversy opened: but throughout his earlier writings against the Arians we find the same ideas expressed with one significant change of terminology. The only allusion to the doctrine of the Incarnation in the Creed of Nicaea is contained in the assertion of the words ” and was made man” to explain “incarnate.” This at first seems to overthrow our contention that Greek thought was essentially Apollinarian. As a matter of fact the addition was due solely to a quibble of which Athanasius explains the character, and which illustrates the change referred to in his statement of doctrine. The Arians, denying the human soul of Christ, refused to describe Him except as the Logos incarnate or made flesh, σαρκωθείς; “made man” they could not accept.


p. 116

“John,” writes Lucius, “proclaims the truth ‘the Word became flesh,’ meaning that He was compacted with flesh but not with soul as these hucksters of the faith declare. He was united with the body and became one with it. How can Christ be anything but one person, one nature compacted as we know that soul and body are compacted to form man? If He possessed a soul, the impulses of God and of the soul would be conflicting; for each of them is self-impelled and led to display different forms of activity.”


p. 169

Nevertheless, there is one charge against him which cannot be neglected. Rufinus declares that Apollinarius began by teaching that Christ “assumed only a body and not a soul at all,” but that being controverted by such passages as “I lay down my soul that I may take it up again” and “My soul is sad even unto death,” “he changed his opinion, and to disguise his change and conceal his discomfiture said that He did indeed possess a soul but only its animating and not on its rational side, and that to supply the place of a rational soul there was the Word of God.” This account is copied by Socrates and by Augustine; and Lietzmann suggests that it is supported by Epiphanius on the strength of his statement that these two theories were held by different people who may or may not have been pupils of Apollinarius. Dräseke, Voisin and Lietzmann accept the story, attempting to prove from that Apollinarius was a “dichotomite” before his condemnation, or at least that there are two distinct phases in his teaching, and using it as a guide in the dating of the fragments. The final belief of the heresiarch was certainly that Christ possessed human body (σῶμα or σάρξ) and soul (ψυχή) but that the highest element in His nature, His mind (νοῦς) or spirit (πνεῦμα) was divine. Was this only an elaborate afterthought?

In view of the concurrence of the three monographs whose authors with the greatest authority, it may be rash to maintain that Rufinus and they with him are doing Apollinarius a grave injustice. But the arguments against their view is very strong; and, as the matter is important, must be fully stated.

In the first place, the principle that the earlier books are likely to be less technical and that in them soul may sometimes be found used in a general and popular sense, may be readily admitted as plausible. For Apollinarius developed his theory out of the current conception held by his friend Athanasius and his predecessors that the Logos in the Incarnation took upon Himself our flesh. Moreover, the early books are controversial, and their author would necessarily accept the ordinary usage: he was attacking the Antiochene doctrine of an inspired man, not setting out his own faith in detailed terms, and to provoke discussion on psychology would have been beside the mark. But, as a matter of fact, even in these earlier books there is remarkably little evidence that he used “soul” in a different sense from that which it bore in the Apodeixis.

Furthermore, if we set aside his Christological writings, there is conclusive proof that his psychology from the first to the last was based upon a triple division of man’s nature. It is the universal testimony of antiquity and of the fragments that he was a traducian. Jerome and Nemesius definitely state that he believed that souls were generated from souls even as bodies were from bodies. The words of the De Unione, which Voisin and Lietzmann declare to be dichotomite and early, “From the will of flesh and the will of man ordinary human beings receive souls and life,” prove that this was his opinion at the time when he first wrote of Christology. It is on general grounds exceedingly unlikely that he meant by soul what Tertullian, the other great traducianist, meant by anima: for no Greek ever believed in so lowly a source for man’s intellectual and spiritual faculty. And in Apollinarius’ case we know that he never did so from a series of passages quoted by Mai from his commentary on Ezekiel. In them he maintains that the animating soul is an earthly element bound up with matter and transmitted by procreation: but in addition there is another element in man, natural and to him indeed but specially bestowed by God, the mind and will. “The intellectual faculty is not from the world but from above”: Voison quotes the saying, and refuses to recognise that it is fatal to his hypothesis.. If he was a traducian, he was also a “trichotomite”: and trichotomy supplied, as Nemesius tells us, the basis of his Christology.

Thirdly, the evidence on which the theory of a change depends is not only inconclusive but can be met by equally strong passages on the other side. Voisin relies principally upon an extract from the De Unione and three saying in the Contra Diodorum in which Apollinarius uses the union of the body and soul in man to illustrate the union of the flesh and Godhead in Christ. In all of these the point is not any parallelism between the soul and the Godhead, but simply a comparison of the method by which the two combine without losing their peculiar attributes: as soul remains invisible, so Godhead remains divine. The words in the De Unione compare the union of God and man into one nature to the union of the “two imperfect parts of man” whereby soul and body become a single nature and are spoken of interchangeably, each being called the whole. There is nothing here to imply dichotomy; and the passage is explained by the first fragment of the Contra Diodorum which is fatal to a dichomotomite interpretation. For in it Apollinarius argues that soul and body are of a common origin and growth (that is’ they both arise from procreation), and therefore might be expected to fuse together and lose their distinctive qualities, whereas Godhead and flesh are not of common origin and are less likely to do so. The allusion to his traducianism seems plain enough, and the two shorter passage can be explained in the light of it. There is a saying in the Apodeixis which seems meant to apply to his whole use of the word “body”: “The flesh is not soulless (or inanimate); for it is said to wage war with the spirit and against the law of our mind; and we speak of the bodies of irrational creatures as possessing soul.” No doubt this passage from the latest of his works is inadmissible as direct evidence: but it draws attention to several earlier sayings which clearly imply trichotomy, such as that in the Contra Diodorum, in which he claims that “men are consubstantial with the irrational creatures according to the body which is irrational, but different in substance inasmuch as the are rational.” We may also note that in no single passage early or late does Apollinarius say that Christ did not assume a human soul. Even in the earliest of his writings he is always careful to specify that it is His spirit or mind that is divine; and thus though he speaks of the human element by the terms body or flesh, he may fairly be assumed to include by implication the lower of the earthly element, especially as in one place he actually defines the flesh as “a living organ adapted by its affections for the divine purpose”__words equivalent to those of the Apodeixis. Moreover, when we consider the circumstances under which these earlier works have been preserved, it becomes obvious that we cannot expect to find in them a developed psychology. For Theodoret quotes them in order to confute a Eutychian, and heretical passages would be irrelavent; and the pseudepigraphic documents could not have been unnoticed if they had contained the heresiarch’s most characteristic definitions. Rufinus’ statement is unsupported by the evidence of Apollinarius’ own words; indeed, they show that the charge is unfounded.p. 188

The contrast between God and man as between the sinless and the sinful is fundamental to his position, and is inconsistent with Dorner’s hypothesis. Very many passages can be quoted to prove his emphasis upon it: “If there be the same nature in Christ as in ourselves, He is but the old man, a living soul not a life-giving spirit: Christ gives life and is therefore not of our nature:” “God is consubstantial with men according to the flesh, different in substance as Logos and God:” and even more forcibly in the Apodeixis, the treatise from which support of the belief has been drawn, “He is not man though like man; for He is not consubstantial with man in the most important element.” His meaning is perhaps best summarised in the syllogism “God dwelling in man is not man, spirit united to flesh is man: Christ is man as has been said titularly, for He is divine spirit united to flesh.”


p. 182

Unlike most of his orthodox critics, he accepted the Antiochene estimate of the importance of the human mind and would not consent to empty it of meaning representing it as present indeed but swallowed up in the divine like a drop of vinegar in the ocean. His desire for real, that is, for organic and physical union is effected by the coincidence of human and divine in pursuit of a common goal: and his conception of mind will not allow belief in a distinction without a difference between the two minds. In both respects he is a typical Greek, and as such, while shrinking from the Antiochene theology, he cannot quite accept the Cappadocian. To him a human mind implied ” a self-determinating subject, impelled naturally by its own volition” and supplying the motive power to the flesh which is purely passive. It is this power of the self-determination or freedom of will which to him constitutes the very essence of mind: without it mind ceases to be mind: “It is the destruction of a self-determinating creature to deprive it of its self-determination”: and this conception made it impossible for him to believe that two minds could coexist in a single person. “Two separate principles of mind and will cannot dwell together without one striving against the other.”


p. 202

He met it by the theory derived from the words of his favourite St Paul, words now so familiar in this connection that we may easily do less than justice to him for his use of them, “He emptied Himself of His glory and assumed the form of a servant” was the text that had already been employed by Origen to explain the infancy and growth of Christ; and it is possible that Apollinarius may have had it suggested to him from his study of his great predecessor. But, if so, the theory which he based upon it was very different from that of Origen and represents a notable discovery of dogmatic theology. To Origen the kenosis had been a single act of submission to a state of temporary ignorance: to Apollinarius it . was identical with the whole condition of Christ’s life upon earth, a continuous process of voluntary renunciation. “Incarnation is self-emptying.” he writes in the Contra Diodorum, “and the self-emptying revealed Him who emptied Himself to be not man but Son of Man, by way of limitation not of change.” He even urges the words of St Paul in a syllogism against the Antiochene Christology: “If God dwelt in a man, He was not limited: but He who was in the form of God was limited by receiving the form of a servant: He did not therefore dwell in a man”: and repeats the argument in the Apodeixis: “If the Logos was not mind incarnate but only wisdom in the mind, the Lord did not descend nor limit Himself.”


p. 203

“God is invisible changed in form by His visible body, God uncreate made manifest by a created limitation, self-limited in assuming the form of a servant, unlimited, unaltered, unimpaired in His divine essence”


p. 205

“Evidently it depends upon His heavenly will whether Christ suffers of not, just as it depends on the presence or absence of light whether man sees or not. It follows that, in so far as His heavenly and divine will repels it, suffering cannot affect Christ: it only appears in proportion to the restraint and withdrawal of the divine will.”


pp. 208-210

Having thus avoided making the Godhead of Christ the seat of His human weakness, Apollinarius was at once confronted by a second objection, from the side of his opponents at Antioch. His insistence upon the need for a real union, and his use of words like “mixture” and “combination” to express it, laid him open to the charge, later deservedly brought against the Monophysites, of confusing together human and divine. In his book against Diodore he draws express attention to this criticism, quoting what may well be an actual saying of his opponent: The union of God to the flesh was an event remarkable, wondrous, unique, never to be repeated. You and the predecessors who led you to this impious and unchristian misbelief do not in the least recognise this. You make a mock of the perfect union and say ‘If there be a union, the attributes of God and the attributes of the flesh no longer remain distinct’; and you urge that the perfect union is dissolved if we confess a perfect union according to the flesh which is David’s seed.” Such an argument is unjust as against the kenotic theory; for nothing it is suggested a confusion, except the injudicious language which compared the self-limited Christ to other intermediates, the mule, the colour grey, and the season of spring, and spoke of Him as neither man only nor God only but a mixture between them. But it was very necessary for Apollinarius to make the point more clear; and to do so he had only to turn the kenotic theory round and show that what was from the one side a process of self-emptying was, from the other, a transference of the human attributes to the Godhead. His great definition, “Incarnation is self-emptying,” implies his response to the Antiochenes. Christ’s limitation consists in the assumption of the conditions of human existence. Christ incarnate takes up manhood into God: the flesh by union in Christ receives the qualities of deity. The whole is explained when it is realised that the kenosis is the union, and the union is Communicatio Idiomatum [exchange of properties]. The two terms are only complementary descriptions of the single fact that in the one Christ God and man are one.

His statement of the argument can be seen most clearly in the fragments of the Contra Diodorum, and was evidently a constituent part of his Christology from the beginning. He first justifies his use of mixture by a vigorous affirmation of the entire distinctness of the body and the (p. 210) Godhead, in the course of which he quotes Origen’s illustration of the red-hot iron: “If the combination of iron (with fire) makes the iron itself look like fire and enables it to work the works of fire and yet does not change its nature, so the union of God to the body causes no change in the body, although the body offers to those who can touch it the energy of the Godhead.” Such a saying ought to acquit Apollinarius of the monstrous insinuation of his ancient and modern opponents that he taught the consubstantiality of the flesh and the Godhead; and in the same book he supports it by a series of arguments in which he uses the union of the soul and body wherein there is no confusion in spite of their common origin__“the commingling does not make the soul visible, nor change it into the other qualities of the body so that it can be pierced or mutilated”__to prove that a fortiori there will be no confusion between the Godhead and body which are not of common origin. This is, however, only by way of safeguard. The doctrine of transference is summed up in a single sentence which is a definite reply to Diodore’s accusation, “if the body of the Lord has become one with the Lord, the attributes of the body have His attributes on account of the body”; and this is expanded in the same book, “The properties of God and the body are united in Him: He is eternally Creator, object of worship, Wisdom, Power; these He derives from His Godhead: Son of Mary, born in this last time, a worshipper of God, progressing in wisdom, growing stronger in power; these from His body.” In one person the two series and qualities are fully and perfectly united, so that Apollinarius in the exposition of his teaching to Dionysius can summarise it in the words: “We maintain both of these, that the whole from heaven because of the Godhead, and the whole from a woman because of the flesh: we recognise no distinction in the one person, nor do we divide the earthly from the heavenly, nor do we divide the heavenly from the earthly: such division is impious.” In view of the subsequent history perhaps the most interesting of the results follow from the use of this principle of transference is the bestowal upon the Blessed Virgin of the title θεοτόκος or Mother of God. In the confession of faith called the De Fide et Incarnatione Apollinarius and his synod protest that neither they nor any sane person speak of the flesh as consubstantial with God in itself, but only as indivisibly united with the Logos to form “one person, one hypostasis, wholly man, wholly God,” and urge that in consequence of this inseparable union not of any divinity if the body apart from such union the Virgin is θεοτόκος and that if this belief in the reality and results of the union is rejected “she will no be believed to be θεοτόκος which would be an injustice and impiety foreign to every reverent soul”__words which, when taken in connection with the special allusions of Theodore to the subject, intimate that the title had already become the topic of party strife.


p. 217

To prove that this was Apollinarius’ position we need only to refer to the specific disavowals of belief in the “heavenly flesh”. “We condemn the utter madness of those who say that the flesh is consubstantial with God” had been his comment in 359 upon the Gnosticism attacked in Athanasius’ letter to Epictetus. In 363 he appended certain anathemas to his own letter to Jovian in which the Antiochene and the Gnostic position are alike repudiated, “If anyone teach contrary to this from the Holy Scriptures, and say that the Son of God is one and the man from Mary, adopted Son by grace as we are, is another, so that there are two Sons, one by nature Son of God who is from God, and the other by grace, the man from Mary; or if any say that the flesh of our Lord is from above and not from the Virgin Mary, or that the Godhead has been changed or confused or altered into flesh, or that the Godhead of the Son is passible, or that the flesh of our Lord as being the flesh of man must not be worshipped as the flesh of him who is Lord and God; such persons the Catholic Church anathematises obeying the Apostle’s words ‘If any man preach to you a gospel contrary to that which ye have received, let him be anathema.’ ” In spite of this express statement he has t return to the same subject in both his letters to Dionysius, protesting against those who “blaspheme us as if we said that the flesh was from heaven, when we read the words of Scripture which speak of Him who is from heaven as Son of Man,” and claiming that “it is manifest from what we have always written that no one can bring against us these charges that are made against some: for we do not say that the flesh of the Saviour was from heaven, nor that His flesh is consubstantial with God inasmuch as it is flesh and not God, but only God in so far as it has been united into one person with God.” And in his letter to Terentius, who came as Comes to Antioch in 375, he again anathematises “anyone who says that the Son is two persons, or that His flesh is consubstantial with God and not with ours, or that it has come down from heaven and not that it has been assumed by Him who is from heaven.” Evidently by this time there were some who assumed the crude errors condemned in the Ad Epictum were derived from Apollinarius, and the principle of the transference of attributes was being misinterpreted as it was by the Gregories. Polemon had already begun to develop the exaggerated Monophysitism doctrine which led him into conflict with the Apollinarians, and to the formation of a separate sect. And so in the formal confession of the Apollinarian Synod, which is perhaps the last writing of the Bishop of Laodicea, he returns to the anathema of the letter to Jovian, and closes his life’s work with the words: “Flesh consubstantial with our flesh, has the living Logos assumed from Mary in union with the Godhead from His first conception by the Virgin; and so He became man . . . . Anathema therefore be he who denies that the flesh is from Mary and says that it is of the uncreated nature and consubstantial with God; and also he who says that the Godhead is passible and that the sufferings which come from the soul (τὰ πάθη τὰ ψυχικά) come form it.”


p. 228f

In considering his terminology we must not forget that he was a pioneer, investigating a subject which not yet received any scientific treatment, and interpreting his results in formulae for which there was not precedent to guide him. He found the Christological doctrine of the Church in a state of chaos. The Arians, accepting the general position of the Origenists and of Greek Orthodoxy that Christ was the Logos made flesh, had shown that this naturally led, Eusebius of Caeserea had admitted, to the belief that He was a second and inferior deity. Their opponents were being driven either to Adoptionism of Antioch which saved the divinity of Christ, or to the Gnosticism of Athanasius’ Orations against them, which saved it by explaining away the reality of His human experiences. Meanwhile, a variety of crude and incoherent speculations was flourishing unchecked. Apollinarius set himself to the creation of a clear-cut and logical theory which should express in definite form the convictions of his compatriots and of the Christian conscience. he accepted as axiomatic the principle that Christ was Saviour and therefore God, that He was on single person possessing both unbroken communion with the Father and also a full human life on earth, and that, therefore, however it might be defined, the very God had entered into and shared the sufferings and limitation proper to humanity. That he also started from the conviction that God and man were naturally opposites and that their relationship could best be described in a series of antitheses, a conviction from which, in spite of his devotion to the Fourth Gospel, he was never able to escape, made the task infinitely difficult, if not in the long run impossible. But in fulfilling it by his theories of kenosis and of the transference of attributes he laid down the lines along which Catholic Christendom has been content to find a solution ever since his time. The centre of personality in Christ was divine not human: yet by a voluntary act of humiliation He took upon Himself our flesh and all the experiences of manhood: there is no confusion between God and man, although in the Incarnate they are verily one: by the completeness of this union man is redeemed and made one with God. That was his faith. In defining it he emphasised especially the points on which he felt that the Antiochenes were mistaken, employing terms οὐσία and φὺσις, which subsequent ages regard as inappropriate, in his desire to enforce the unity of person, and giving too great a precision to his belief that the manhood of Christ was impersonal by his doctrine of the “heavenly mind.” 


p. 244

“Then they say ‘Instead of the inner man in us there was in Christ a heavenly mind: He used the form which veiled His as His instrument: He could not have been a complete man, for where there is a complete man, there is sin: to complete entities cannot become one, else there will be in Christ the strife against sin which there is in us: there will need for Him of purification like ours, if Christ  has taken upon Himself the element which thinks and directs the flesh in us when He becomes man: rather He assumed the mindless, that He might be mind in it and be wholly without the taste of sin owing to the godlike and mindless nature of His flesh: for His flesh would not sin if that which guided the flesh or was the spring of His thought had not conceived the purpose of sin beforehand and did not work through the body the fulfilment of sin: whence Christ has displayed the newness of flesh by His likeness to us, and each of us displays in himself the newness of his intellect through imitation and likeness and ceasing to sin: so Christ is received to be sinless.”