Perichoresis 12.2

Perichoresis 12.2 (2014)


Context, Context, Context: Athanasius’ Biblical Interpretation in Contra Arianos

Donald Fairbairn


This article examines Athanasius’ argument in his work Contra Arianos, focusing on the reasons for the order in which he addresses the biblical texts he considers. While the choice of which texts to discuss is dictated by the need to consider those texts that were evidently important in the Arians’ own exegetical arguments, the order in which Athanasius discusses them derives from his desire to begin with biblical texts that clearly describe the whole sweep of biblical redemption. Texts such as Philippians 2:5-11 and Hebrews 1-2 describe in some detail the movements of humiliation and exaltation which the Son undergoes as he becomes man, and thus these texts demonstrate the need to apply any given assertion about the Son either to his eternal existence as God or to his temporal existence as man. In such texts, the literary context-the subject of the passage itself-explicitly describes the broader redemptive context. As a result, these texts constitute the starting point from which to develop interpretive principles applicable to other biblical texts in which the redemptive context is not as obvious. The article concludes with reflection on the significance of Athanasius’ starting point: the story of redemption begins not with the Gospels or even with Genesis 1, but with the eternal relationship of Father to Son, a relationship we were created to share and redeemed that we might share it anew. PDF

The Christology of the Martyrdom of Polycarp: Martyrdom as Both Imitation of Christ and Election by Christ

Paul Hartog


The Martyrdom of Polycarp narrates a martyrdom ‘according to the Gospel’. Numerous facets of the text echo the passion materials of the Gospels, and Polycarp is directly said to imitate Christ. Various scholars have discussed the imitatio Christi theme within the work. Such an approach focuses upon Christ as an exemplar of suffering to be imitated, through specific events of similar suffering. But the Christology of the Martyrdom of Polycarp is far richer than this focus alone. Jesus Christ is also the Son, Savior, eternal high priest, teacher, elector, king, and alternative to Caesar. As the sovereign , he actively coordinates events and chooses martyrs from among his servants. PDF

The First Adam-Second Adam Typology in John Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria

Ashish J. Naidu


Patristic scholars have commented on the early church’s common practice of drawing catechetical instructions from the creation account in Genesis. One of the recurring motifs in such discussions is the fathers’ use of the Adam-Christ typology with its soteriological and sacramental implications. The present study briefly explores this theme in John Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria with particular reference to the baptism of Jesus and the theological challenge it posed to the early church: Did Jesus the Lord receive the Spirit at his baptism? Why did he need to be baptized? What is the relationship between the baptism of Jesus and Christian baptism? Both Cyril and Chrysostom make insightful use of the Adamic typology in this context as they discuss how Christ’s work restores fallen humanity from corruption and death that followed Adam’s sin. First, the study examines how the aforementioned fathers from two distinct traditions view the baptism of Jesus in the recovery of God’s grace that was lost in Adam’s fall. Second, the study will demonstrate that both Chrysostom and Cyril had much in common in their understanding of the transforming grace and work of the Spirit in refashioning the believer into a new creation at baptism. And third, it will be shown that there was a consensus on soteriological and sacramental perspectives among the Alexandrians and the Antiochenes. PDF

Divine Acceptance of Sinners: Augustine’S Doctrine of Justification

Dongsun Cho


I argue that the bishop of Hippo taught sola fide, declarative justification, and the divine acceptance of sinners based on faith alone although he presented these pre-Reformational thoughts with strong emphasis on the necessity of growth in holiness (sanctification). Victorinus and Ambrosiaster already taught a Reformational doctrine of justification prior to Augustine in the fourthcentury Latin Christianity. Therefore, the argument that sola fide and justification as an event did not exist before the sixteenth-century Reformation, and these thoughts were foreign to Augustine is not tenable. For Augustine, justification includes imputed righteousness by Christ’s work, which can be appreciated by faith alone and inherent righteousness assisted by the Holy Spirit at the same time of forgiveness in justification. Nonetheless, the sole ground of the divine acceptance does not depend on inherent righteousness, which is real and to increase. The salvation of the confessing thief and the remaining sinfulness of humanity after justification show Augustine that faith alone is the ground of God’s acceptance of sinners. Augustine’s relatively less frequent discussion of sola fide and declarative justification may be due to his need to reject the antinomian abusers who appealed to the Pauline understanding of justification even when they do not have any intentional commitment to holiness after their confessions. Augustine’s teaching on double righteousness shows considerable theological affinity with Bucer and Calvin who are accustomed to speak of justification in terms of double righteousness. Following Augustine, both Bucer and Calvin speak of the inseparability and simultaneity of justification and sanctification. Like Augustine, Bucer also maintains a conceptual, not categorical, distinction between the two graces of God in their doctrines of justification. PDF

Loftier Doctrine: The use of Scripture in Justin Martyr’S Second Apology

Stephen O. Presley


Over the past century many scholars have questioned integrity and composition of Justin Martyr’s Second Apology. One frequent criticism is that Justin quotes from a variety of sources in Greco- Roman philosophy, but never once quotes scripture. As a result scholars assume that the Second Apology reveals Justin’s real indebtedness to philosophy that diverges from his broader theological and scriptural concerns expressed in his other works. This article challenges these notions by arguing that scripture is essential Justin’s Second Apology and that the lack of any extended quotations of scripture is no basis to disparage his theological perspective. Careful analysis of Justin’s Second Apology demonstrates that he regularly appeals to the authority of scripture and provides numerous echoes and allusions to scriptural passages. Furthermore, in terms of his theological framework, these echoes and allusions are actually more important than mere quotations. They demonstrate that Justin does not simply quote scripture, but absorbs the scriptural content and applies it to particular theological debates and particular issues of Christian practice. PDF

Circumcision And Soteriology In Cyril Of Alexandria’S Old Testament Commentaries

Jonathan Morgan


Cyril of Alexandria was a prolific biblical commentator who underscored the meaning and relevance of the Old Testament for Christian theology by employing a typological method of interpretation. His exegetical concern was to demonstrate that everything associated with the old covenant- people, events, commandments, institutions-were types and shadows foretelling the ‘mystery of Christ’. The key to understanding the types of the Old Testament is to recognize their soteriological fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Throughout his exegetical writings, Cyril draws particular attention to the Jewish rite of circumcision, showing how the physical operation signifies the saving work of Christ through the Spirit. Cyril does not interpret circumcision in a monolithic sense, but derives multiple soteriological meanings from it. Insofar as circumcision represents a variety of saving realities for Cyril, it helps us understand his complex, multi-faceted doctrine of salvation. PDF