Two Ancient Christologies p. 22f

Home / Two Ancient Christologies p. 22f

Let us now consider the doctrine of the union of God and man in Christ. Though possessing its own freedom of choice, the soul of Jesus he asserts, has always elected to love righteousness, and in its “firmness of purpose” and “immensity of affection” possessed immutability.1 So it was completely at one with the Logos.2 To designate this unity Origen uses the term “unification” and “mixture” (ἕνωσις, ἀνάκρασις)3__for the body and soul were not merely “associated” (κοινωνίᾳ) with the Logos.His conception is that just as “he that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit” (1Cor. 6.17) so, though in this case in a more divine and far greater degree, is the soul joined to the Logos, with the consequence that Jesus Christ is “one composite Being” (ἓν σύνθετον):5 the Incarnate Logos is ὁ σύθετος, and σύθετόν τι χρῆμα.6  Such language, especially when it is taken in conjunction with the statement that the soul of the body, “after sharing in the divinity of the Logos, were changed into God,”may seems to indicate that Origen teaches the absorption of the human into the divine element in Christ, but, as we shall see when we consider the way in which he develops the principle that Christ is “man,” this is evidently not the case__though his teaching on the glorified Christ is another matter.  Here what he would emphasise is the thought of the closeness and indivisibility of the union of the two elements in the Person of the Logos: the human soul, which is perpetually in God and inseparable from Him, and, indeed, “is God in all that it does, feels and understands,” is like iron placed in placed in the fire__the iron is in the fire, and the fire in the iron, the properties of the one becoming those of the other, but they still remain iron and fire.8  We shall see that the same thought, and the terms which he employs in order to express it, together with his famous simile, are to be found in Apollinarius and his disciple and in Cyril Himself, as these uphold the doctrine of the “one Person” against the Nestorian position__a position which, it will be understood, Origen has already condemned.9 

We must also notice how in two other directions Origen anticipates the thought of the later Alexandrine teachers as he develops the principle that God Himself has become man. In the first place, it will be recognised that he is but upholding this truth when, for instance, he says that it ought to be believed that God was born an infant,10 or when he justifies the use of the expression, “the Son of God died,”11 or when he exclaims: Qui immortalis est moritur, et impassibilis patitur et invisibilis videtur.12  But, like his successors, he is careful to explain what he means when he writes in this way. Thus he speaks f the Virgin as “Theotokos,” but, as we know, “he interprets how (πῶς) he uses the title, and discusses the matter at some length”.13 Again, he points out that the Son of God is said to have died. “according to that nature which could admit of death”  (pro ea scilicet natura quae mortem utique recipere poterat),14 and when he says that the Immortal died, that the Impassible suffered, and that Christ who knew no sin became sin for us, he explains that these things can be said quia (Dominus majestatisvenit in carne: it was dum in carne positus, he says, that Christ became sin and could be slain as the Victim.15  It would seem, then, that Origen distinguishes between the Logos in His eternal being and the Logos as He has become man: as Logos, He is impassible, but as the Logos incarnate, He can be said to be passible.  A distinction of the is order, we shall notice, is made by the later theologians of the school.

1. De princ II. vi. 5

2. “That which formerly depended upon the will was changed by the power of long custom into nature” (longi usus affectu jam versum sit in naturam), says Origen.

3. C. Celsum iii. 41

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid. ii. 9.

6. Ibid. i. 66.

7. Ibid. iii. 41.

8. De princ. II. vi. 6.

9. It is interesting to note that in his Comm. in Johan. xxxii 17 (ed. Brooke, ii. page 199). Origen appealing to the text 1Cor 6.17, says that the humanity of Jesus and the Logos are not “two.” Cf. also de Princ. IV. i 31: “We do not assert that the Son of God was in the souls as He in the soul of Paul or Peter and the other saints, in whom Christ is believed to speak as He does in Paul.”

10. De princ. II. vi. 2

11. Ibid II. vi. 3

12. Hom. In Lev., iii. I

13. So Socrates (H. E. vii. 32), referring to the first tome of Origen’s Comm. in Rom., the original of which is lost.

14. De Princ., II. vi. 3

15. Hom. in Lev., iii. I.