Athanasius on the Incarnation  

Posted by Joe Rawls in ,

Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria (298-May 2, 373), was a towering figure in the 4th-century church.  As a young deacon he attended the Council of Nicea and was a lifelong opponent of Arianism.  While patriarch he defined the list of 27 books which was eventually accepted universally as the New Testament canon.  He wrote a life of St Antony the Great that greatly stimulated the growth of monasticism.  And his tenure as a church leader was anything but placid; he was deposed and sent into exile by imperial edict a total of five times, as Arianism fell into or out of favor with various emperors. 

Among other things, Athanasius is famous for having said, "God became man that man might become God."  I thought it would be interesting to see the context in which this aphorism occurs.  It is found towards the end of his treatise On the Incarnation and is tied in with Athanasius' conception of the Incarnation, which has a decidedly kenotic cast. 


54  As, then, he who desires to see God Who by nature is invisible and not to be beheld may yet perceive and know Him through His works, so too let him who does not see Christ with his understanding at least consider Him in His bodily works, and test whether they be of man or God.  If they be of man, then let him scoff, but if they be of God, let him not mock at things which are not fit subject for scorn, but rather let him recognize the fact and marvel that things divine have been revealed to us by such humble means, that through death deathlessness has been made known to us, and through the Incarnation of the Word the Mind whence all things proceed has been declared, and its Agent and Ordainer, the Word of God Himself.  He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God.  He manifested Himself by means of a body in order that we might perceive the Mind of the unseen Father.  He endured shame from men that we might inherit immortality.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at Wednesday, May 02, 2012 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .



Dear Mr. Rawls:

Thank you for this post! I have often wondered where that particular quotation came from.

I subscribe to your blog via feed to my iGoogle page and enjoy your posts on Christian spirituality very much.

Robin Elizabeth Margolis

May 12, 2012 at 5:05 AM

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