Critique of Dorner’s assessment of Apollinarius by G E Raven pp. 185ff

Home / Critique of Dorner’s assessment of Apollinarius by G E Raven pp. 185ff

This denial to Christ of a human mind or spirit is the sum of Apollinarius’ heresy, and his own statements leave us in no doubt that he realised and intended such a mutilation. At the same time, in order to explain the harshness of the fact, Church historians have represented him as introducing at this point the defence that Christ, in whom the divine Logos took the place of a human mind, was not made thereby less perfect man__indeed, that only the substitution could His manhood attain perfection. Dorner, who is responsible for this theory, writes, “He viewed the Logos in Christ as the eternal humanity probably on the ground of His being the archetype of universal humanity:” and having read this notion into the pages of Apollinarius, is so pleased with it that he devotes several paragraphs to comment on its deeper aspects. He has been followed by most English scholars, even by so recent a writer as Dr. Relton; and in view of the popularity of the idea it will be well to quote the passages upon which it depends before we go on to give their true explanation. There are two groups of sayings which if they stood alone might suggest a doctrine of archetypal manhood. The former consists of certain passages in the Apodeixis, in which the phrase “the man from heaven” predominates: “Christ, because He has Godhead as His Spirit, that is, as His mind, together with soul and body, is naturally called ‘man from heaven’ “: If man consists of three elements and if, furthermore, the Lord is man, He also to be sure consists of three, spirit, soul and body: none the less He is a heavenly man and a life-giving spirit”: If we consist of three and He of four, He is not man but ‘Man-God.’ ” These three passages must be read in connection with another from the same book: “If the heavenly man consists of elements all of which are equal to those composing us earthly men, so that He possesses a spirit equal to the earthly, then is His manhood not heavenly but the receptacle of the heavenly Godhead.” Here, as elsewhere, he is using the words “heavenly” and “life-giving” to emphasise the contrast between the Apollinarian or divine and the Antiochene or human Christ: he is justifying, not without a touch of sophistry, his use of the word “man” on the ground that a threefold being can properly be so called, and ridiculing the Antiochenes for teaching that Christ is a monstrous compound or hybrid who has even less right to the title. The second series of passages which suggest the belief that Christ existed before the ages; and the full interpretation of them must be deferred. Here we may note that they nowhere indicate the idea of archetypical manhood, but are directed against Diodore’s belief that the Incarnation involved a hasty change of plan on God’s part, against which Apollinarius argues that it existed potentially from all eternity in the nature of the Son of God. Both groups of passages are difficult, and were fastened upon by the earliest critics of the heresy. But Dorner’s explanation is not required by either of them, and is on other grounds wholly untenable.

As we have seen, the doctrine of archetypal manhood and of the analogy between the Logos in Christ and the “seeds of Logos” in ourselves can be found in the earliest efforts of Greek thought to formulate a Christology. In Apollinarius there is a complete absence of the traditional phrases of the Logos-theology which treat Christ as the Image of God and men as made after that image__phrases which appear in the De Incarnatione, but seldom later, and are the characteristic of the Apologies. It is of course possible that the Bishop of Laodicea had recourse to them in hi book against Julian: but in none of his extant writing is there a trace of their influence. And in addition there is abundant evidence that they were foreign to his thought. His whole criticism of Diodore is directed against the representation of Christ as differing only quantitatively from the prophets. He sees that if the divine is regarded as inspiration the the distinction between Christ and mankind is endangered; and on this distinction his whole soteriology depends. Seeing this, he, like Athanasius, cannot accept a theory which in effect would mean the same thing; for the relationship of type to archetype implies a degree of resemblance which would expose him, inevitably if not quite justly, to charge of teaching the very belief in a quantitative distinction against which he was specially protesting. The contrast between God and man as sinless and sinful is fundamental to his position, and is consistent 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.”

We are therefore driven to reject as contradictory to the course and expression of his thought the ingenious exposition of it which his modern admirers have so generously placed in his mouth, and to admit, albeit with reluctance, that when he said that Christ was not man, he meant what he said. It is a pity that modern Apollinarians, who like their master, believe in the impersonal humanity, are not equally honest. He, at least, was too fine a spirit to resort to subterfuge and quibbling in the statement of his convictions. He had worked out in the light of the best psychology of the time and of its deepest Christian experience the significance of the Incarnation, and was not afraid to abide by the results of his work. There were certainly two alternative methods by which, without sinking to the level of Cyril and resorting to ambiguities of speech, he could have avoided the mutilation of Christ’s perfect manhood. On the one hand, the Platonic concept of type and antitype which was implied in the Logos-theology and explicitly taught by Heracleon, and which Dorner assigns to him, would have saved him from it: on the other, if he had followed to its logical conclusion the belief in the heavenly origin of mind which appears, as we have seen, in his commentary on Ezekiel, he would have reached the doctrine according to which spirit only exists potentially in man and has no function except receiving and appropriating the divine__a doctrine similar to that of St Paul. The Greek belief that the mind of man and mind of God are alike divine he rejects because in his attitude to sin he is thoroughly Pauline: the Pauline belief that spirit only exists at all in man when he is in relation with the Spirit of God he rejects because his estimate of mind is wholly Greek. An examination of his psychology will explain his reasons for doing so and clear up the significance of his heresy.