Perichoresis 17.1

Perichoresis 17.1 (2019)


Imitatio Christi and Imitatio Dei: High Christology and Ignatius of antioch’s Ethics

Paul A. Hartog


Scholars have long noted Ignatius of Antioch’s statements of high christology. Jesus, who as God appeared in human form (Eph. 19.3), is ‘God in man’ (Eph. 7.2) and is ‘our God’ (Eph. inscr.; 15.3; 18.2; Rom. inscr.; 3.3; Polyc. 8.3). Jesus Christ is included in such ‘nas-cent trinitarian’ passages as Eph. 9.1 and Magn. 13.1-2. Yet further treasures remain to be mined, and the specific vein I will explore is the integration of Ignatius’ high christology with his ethics. His paraenesis is rooted in ‘the mind of God’, also described as ‘the mind of Christ’ (Eph. 3.2; Phld. inscr.), who is ‘the God who made you so wise’ (Smyrn. 1.1; cf. Eph. 17.2). Ignatian moral instruction combines ‘the will of God and Jesus Christ’ (Trall. 1.1), ‘the honor of the Father and the honor of Jesus Christ’ (Trall. 12.2), and ‘the love of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Phld. 1.1). Believers are to be ‘imitators of God’ (Trall. 1.2) as well as ‘imitators of Jesus Christ’ (Phld. 7.2). Ignatius even prayed that he would be ‘an imitator of the suffering of my God’ (Rom. 6.3; cf. Eph. 10.3). Ignatian exhortation thus merges an imitatio Christi with an imitatio Dei. Arising from his particular experiences and specific circumstances, Ignatius’ contextualized paraenesis elevates the Son to an authoritative status parallel to that of the Father. The interplay of christology and ethics also underscores a multi-leveled understanding of ‘unity’ and a multivalent use of ‘flesh and spirit’.  PDF

Trinitarianism In Didache, Barnabas, and the Shepherd: Sketchy, Scant, or Scandalous?

Michael J. Svigel


A survey of works on the development of nascent trinitarianism, especially in the last several decades, reveals that most treatments cut a wide path around three of the earliest Christian writings: Didache, Barnabas, and Shepherd of Hermas. Because these writings straddle the apostolic/post-apostolic eras (c. AD 50-150), they should be regarded as essential links in any historical account of the development of trinitarian theology. Nevertheless, these writings have sometimes been regarded as having sketchy, scant, or scandalous christologies and pneumatologies. This article argues that the typical critical estimations of these writings as nontrinitarian are under-supported by the textual evidence. Rather, Didache, Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas may very well presuppose a basic christocentric and trinitarian creation-redemption narrative. Far from scandalous, these texts provide a positive link in the continuity from seminal apostolic trinitarian thought to the later trinitarian growth of the second century. PDF

Reassessing Justin Martyr’s Binitarian Orientation In 1 Apology 33

Stephen O. Presley


Many scholars argue that Justin is either inconsistent or confused in his view of the Spirit in relation to the Logos. The most decisive section in this discussion is 1Apol. 33, where Justin appears to confuse the titles and unify the functions of the Logos and the Spirit. This essay argues that this apparent confusion is conditioned by Justin’s particular christological reading of Isaiah 7:14 in order to meet the demands of his own understanding of the apostolic faith. The interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 is a unique case with multiple external hermeneutical pressures imposing upon his exegesis, including those coming from competing Jewish exegesis, Greco-Roman mythology, and Marcionite interpretations. At the same time, Justin reads scripture within his own Christian community. Justin’s exegesis of Isaiah 7:14 attempts to account for these external pressures by focusing upon the particular Lukan terminology of ‘Power’ rather than ‘Spirit’ in Luke 1:35, which downplays the function of the Spirit in the incarnation in order to demonstrate that the Logos has come in power. This exegetical move exposes him to binitarian allegations, but does not suggest that Justin is, in fact, a binitarian. What this suggests, however, is that in 1Apol. 33 Justin actually resists confusing the Logos and the Spirit even when a text uses the language of ‘Spirit’, because his exegetical concern is focused on the Logos coming in power. Justin’s exegetical treatment of Isaiah 7:14 and Luke 1:35 reflects the way he is reasoning through the textual and theological complexities of the christological interpretation of scripture and does not suggest that he confuses the functions of the Logos and the Spirit. PDF

Athenagoras on the Divine Nature: The Father, the Son, and the Rational

D. Jeffrey Bingham


This essay demonstrates that Athenagoras’ theology is primarily concerned, not with the creative activity of God, as L.W. Barnard has argued, but rather with the immateriality of the divine nature and the unity of the Father and the Son. It is this two-fold basis of distinction and unity that makes the apprehension of God possible only by mind and reason. Since the divine nature is heavenly and immaterial, such apprehension cannot occur in the physical realm as promoted in pagan worship, but must take place in the mind through the Son, who is the Logos or Mind, the Reason and Wisdom of the Father. Athenagoras’ assertion that the immaterial God can only be apprehended by reason emphasizes the distinction between God and matter, while the unity of the Father and Son in God’s acts and teachings highlights the role of reason in the soul’s apprehension of the divine. One must be conformed to the Son, who is the Reason of God, in order to apprehend God the Father, and Athenagoras evokes the ethical dimension of reason in the soul’s apprehension of the divine. As the soul follows the Son in obeying his teachings, it is conformed to the Son, thereby becoming rational and engaging in rational worship, focusing on the heavenly rather than the earthly. Thus it is in ethical conduct that Christians are essentially pure in spirit and rational in worship, as they are directed by the Son, who is unified with the Father, to apprehend the immaterial God.  PDF

Baptism in Irenaeus of Lyons: Testimony to and Participation with the Triune God

 Christopher A. Graham


Irenaeus of Lyons wrote Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching (Epideixis) to encourage his readers of the solidity of their faith, especially as this faith was connected to baptism under the threefold seal: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The threefold nature of the baptismal formula drives Irenaeus’ discussion in Epid. 3-7 and is the point with which he concludes the work, saying, ‘error, concerning the three heads of our seal, has caused much straying from the truth’ (Epid. 100). Irenaeus structures the intervening chapters to show how Christian baptism is both a testimony to and participation with the Triune God referenced in the baptismal formula. The lack of explicit structural markers within the body of the text has resulted in a neglect of the trinitarian character of its structure. This article explores the manner in which Irenaeus of Lyons’ Demonstration provides insight into his understanding of the nature and activity of the Triune God based on his conviction that Christian baptism is both a testimony to and a participation with that Triune God. PDF

Tertullian on the Trinity

Bryan M. Litfin


Tertullian is often portrayed as a prescient figure who accurately anticipated the Nicene consensus about the Trinity. But when he is examined against the background of his immediate predecessors, he falls into place as a typical second-century Logos theologian. He drew especially from Theophilus of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus of Lyons. At the same time, Tertullian did introduce some important innovations. His trinitarian language of ‘substance’ and ‘person’, rooted in Stoic metaphysics, offered the church a new way to be monotheistic while retaining the full deity and consubstantiality of the Word. Tertullian also significantly developed the concept of a divine oikonomia, God’s plan to create and redeem the world. The Son and Spirit are emissaries of the Father’s will—not ontologically inferior to him, yet ranked lower in the way that the sent are always subordinate to the sender. For this reason, Tertullian denied that a Father/Son relationship was eternal within the Trinity, seeing it rather as a new development emerging from God’s plan to make the world. Such temporal paternity and filiation distances Tertullian from the eventual Nicene consensus, which accepted instead the eternal generation theory of Origen. While Tertullian did propose some important terms that would gain traction among the Nicene fathers, he was also marked by a subordinationist tendency that had affinities with Arianism. Tertullian’s most accurate anticipation of Nicaea was his insistence on three co-eternal and consubstantial Persons. Historical theologians need to start admitting that Tertullian was a far cry from being fully Nicene. Rather, he offered a clever but still imperfect half-step toward what would become official orthodoxy.. PDF