342 To Athanasius the Incarnation of the Son of God, and especially his Death on the Cross, is the centre of faith and theology (Incar. 19, kefalaion th" pistew", cf. 9. 1 and 5, 20. 2, &c).. ‘For our salvation’ (Incar. 1) the Word became Man and died. But how did Athanasius conceive of ‘salvation’? from what are we saved, to what destiny does salvation bring us, and what idea does he form of the efficacy of the Saviour’s death? Now it is not too much to say that no one age of the Church’s existence has done full justice to the profundity and manysidedness of the Christian idea of Redemption as effected in Christ and as unfolded by S. Paul. The kingdom of God and His Righteousness; the forgiveness of sins and the adoption of sons as a present gift; the consummation of all at the great judgment;—Christian men of different ages, countries, characters and mental antecedents, while united in personal devotion to the Saviour and in the sanctifying Power of His Grace, have interpreted these central ideas of the Gospel in terms of their own respective categories, and have succeeded in bringing out now one, now another aspect of the mystery of Redemption rather than in preserving the balance of the whole. Who will claim that the last word has yet been said on S. Paul’s deep conception of God’s (not mercy but) Righteousness as the new and peculiar element (Rm 1,17 Rm 3,22 Rm 3,26) of the Gospel Revelation? to search out the unsearchable riches of Christ is the prerogative of Christian faith, but is denied, save to the most limited extent, to Christian knowledge (1Co xiii. 9). The onesidedness of any given age in apprehending the work of Christ is to be recognised by us not in a censorious spirit of self-complacency, but with reverent sympathy, and with the necessity in view of correcting our own: panta dokimazte, to kalon katecete.
Different ages and classes have necessarily thought under different categories. The categories of the post-apostolic age were mainly ethical; the Gospel is the new law, and the promise of eternal life, founded on true knowledge of God, and accepted by faith. Those of the Asiatic fathers from Ignatius downwards were largely physical or realistic. Mankind is brought in Christ (the physician) from death to life, from fqora to afqarsia (Ign). passim); to euaggelion …apartioma afqarsia" (Ign., Melit).; human nature is changed by the Incarnation, man made God. Tertullian introduced into Western theology forensic categories. He applied them to the Person, not yet to the Work, of Christ: but the latter application, pushed to a repellent length in the middle ages, and still more so since the Reformation, may without fancifulness be traced back to the fact that the first Latin Father was a lawyer. Again, Redemption was viewed by Origen and others under cosmological categories, as the turning point in the great conflict of good with evil, of demons with God, as the inauguration of the deliverance of the creation and its reunion with God. The many-sidedness of Origen combined, indeed, almost every representation of Redemption then current, from the propitiatory and mediatorial, which most nearly approached the thought of S. Paul, to the grotesque but widely-spread view of a ransom due to the devil which he was induced to accept by a stratagem. It may be said that with the exception of the last-named every one cf the above conceptions finds some point of contact in the New Testament; even the forensic idea, thoroughly unbiblical in its extremer forms, would not have influenced Christian thought as it has done had it not corresponded to something in the language of S. Paul.
Now Athanasius does not totally ignore any one of these conceptions, unless it be that of a transaction with the devil, which he scarcely touches even in Orat. 2,52 (see (note there). Of the forensic view he is indeed almost clear. His reference to the ‘debt’’ (to ofeilomenon, Incar. 20, Orat. 2,66) which had to be paid is connected not so much with the Anselmic idea of a satisfaction due, as with the fact that death was by the divine word (Gn iii)., attached to sin as its penalty.
The aspect of the death of Christ as a vicarious sacrifice (anti pantwn, de Incar. 9; prosforaand qusia, 10) is not passed over. But on the whole another aspect predominates. The categories under which Athanasius again and again states the soteriological problem are those of zwh and qanato", and afqarsia. So far as he works the problem out in detail it is under physical categories, without doing full justice to the ideas of guilt and reconciliation, of the reunion of will between man and God. The numberless passages which bear this. out cannot be quoted in full, but the point is of sufficient importance to demand the production of a few details.
(a) The original state of man was not one of ‘nature,’ for man’s nature is fqora; (thn enqanatw kata fusin fqoran, Incar. 3, cf. 8, 10, 44) the Word was imparted to them in that they were made kata thn tou qeou eikona (ib ). Hence what later theology marks off as an exclusively supernatural gift is according to Athanasius inalienable from human nature, i.e. it can be impaired but not absolutely lost (Incar. 14, and apparently Orat. 3,10 fin.; the question of the teaching of Athan. upon the natural endowments of man belongs specially to the Introd to de Incarnatione, where it will be briefly discussed). Accordingly their infraction of the divine command (by turning their minds, c. Gent. 3, to lower things instead of to the qewria twn qeiwn), logically involved them in non-existence (de Incar. 4), but actually, inasmuch as the likeness of God was only gradually lost, in fqora, regarded as a process toward non-existence. This again involved men in increasing ignorance of God, by the gradual obliteration of the eikwv, the indwelling Logos, by virtue of which alone men could read the open book (c. Gent-34 fin). of God’s manifestation of Himself in the Universe. It is evident that the pathological point of view here prevails over the purely ethical: the perversion of man’s will mergesin the general idea of fqora, the first need of man is a change in his nature; or rather the renewed infusion of that higher and divine nature which he has gradually lost. (Cf. de Incar. 44, crhzontwn th" autou qeothto" dia tou omoiou).
(b) Accordingly the mere presence of the Word in a human body, the mere fact of the Incarnation, is the essential factor in our restoration (simile of the city and the king, ib 9 3, &c., cf). Orat.ii. 67, 70). But if so, what was the special need of the Cross? Athanasius felt, as we have already mentioned, the supremacy of the Cross as the purpose of the Saviour’s coming, but he does not in fact give to it the central place in his system of thought which it occupies in his instincts. Man had involved himself in the sentence of death; death must therefore take place to satisfy this sentence (Orat. 2,69; de Incar. 20. 2, 5); the Saviour’s death, then, put an end to death regarded as penal and as symptomatic of man’s gqora (cf). ib.21. I, &c).. It must be confessed that Athanasius does not penetrate to the full meaning of S. Paul. The latter also ascribed a central import to the mere fact of the Incarnation (Rm 8,3, pemya"), but primarily in relation to sin (yet see Athan. c). Apoll. 2,6); and the destruction of the practical power of sin stands indissolubly correlated (Rm 8,1) with the removal of guilt and so with the Righteousness of God realising itself in the-propitiation of the blood of Christ (ib. 3,21—26).
To Athanasius nature is the central, will a secondary or implied factor in the problem. The aspect of the death of Christ most repeatedly dwelt upon is that in it death spent its force (plhrwqeish" th" exousia" en tw kuriakw rwuati ib 8) agains human nature, that the ‘corruption’ of mankind might run its full course and be spent in the Lord’s body, and so cease for the future. Of this Victory over death and the demons the Resurrection is the trophy. His death is therefore to us (ib 10) the arch, zwh" we are henceforth afqarti dia th" anastasew" (27. 2, 32. 6, cf. 34. 1, &c)., and have a portion in the divine nature, are in fact deified (cf). de Incarn. 54, and note there). This last thought, which became (Harnack, vol. ii. p. 46) the common property of Eastern theology, goes back through Origen and Hippolytus to Irenaeeus. On the whole, its presentation in Athanasius is more akin to the Asiatic than to the Origenist form of the conception. To Origen, man’s highest destiny could only be the return to his original source and condition: to Irenaeeus and the Asiatics, man had been created for a destiny which he had never realised; the interruption in the history of our race introduced by sin was repaired by the Incarnation, which carried back the race to a new head, and so carried it forward to a destiny of which under its original head it was incapable. To Origen the Incarnation was a restoration to, to Irenaeeus and to Athanasius (Or. 2,67), an advance upon, the original state of man. (Pell, pp. 167—17, labours to prove the contrary, but he does not convince).
(c) This leads us to the important observation that momentous as are to Athanasius the consequences of the introduction of sin into the world, he yet makes no such vast difference betweenthe condition of fallen and unfallen men as has commonly been assumed to exist. The latter state was inferior to that of the members of Christ (Orat. 2,67, 68), while the immense (c. Gent. 8,de Incar. 5) consequences of its forfeiture came about only by a gradual course of deterioration (de Incar. 6. 1, hfanizeto; observe the tense), and in different degrees in different cases. The only difference of kind between the two conditions is in the universal reign of Death since the (partial) forfeiture of the kat eikona cari": and even this difference is a subtle one; for man’s existence in Paradise was not one of afqarsia except prospectively (de Incar. 3. 4). He enjoyed present happiness, alupo" anwdun" amerimno" zwh, with promise of afqarsia in heaven. That is, death would have taken place, but not death as unredeemed mankind know it (cf. de Incar. 21. 1). In other words, man was created not so much in a state of perfection (teleio" ktisqei",p. 384) as with a capacity for perfection (and for even more than perfection, p. 385 sq.) and with a destiny to correspond with such capacity. This destination remains in force even after man has failed to correspond to it, and is in fact assigned by Athanasius as the reason why the Incarnation was a necessity on God’s part (de Incar. 6. 4—7, 10. 3, 13. 2—4, Orat. 2,66, &c., &c).. Accordingly, while man was created (Orat. 2,59) through the Word, the Word became Flesh that man might receive the yet higher dignity of Sonship92 ; and while even before the Incarnation some men were de facto pure from sin (Orat. 3,33) by virtue of the cari" th" klhsew" involved in Jto kat eikonaAE (see (ib 10, fin.; Orat. 1,39 is even stronger, cf. 4,22), they were yet qnhtoi and fqartoi; whereas those in Christ die, no longer kata thn proteran genesin en tw AEAdam, but to live again logwqeish" th" sarko" (Orat. 3,33,fin., cf). de Incar. 21. 1).
(d) The above slight sketch of the Athanasian doctrine of man’s need of redemption and of the satisfaction of that need brings to light a system free from much that causes many modern thinkers to stumble at the current doctrine of the original state and the religious history of mankind. That mankind did not start upon their development with a perfect nature, but have fought their way up from an undeveloped stage through many lower phases of development that this development has been infinitely varied and complex, and that sin and its attendant consequences have a pathological aspect which practically is as important as the forensic aspect, are commonplaces of modern thought, resting upon the wider knowledge of our age, and hard to reconcile with the (to us) traditional theological account of these things. The Athanasian account of them leaves room for the results of modern knowledge, or at least does not rudely clash with the instincts of the modern anthropologist. The recovery of the Athanasian point of view is prima facie again. At what cost is it obtained? Does its recognition involve us in mere naturalism veiled under religious forms of speech? That was certainly not the mind of Athanasius, nor does his system really lend itself to such a result. To begin with, the divine destiny of man from, the first is an essential principle with our writer. Man was made and is still exclusively destined for knowledge of and fellowship with his Creator. Secondly the means, and the only means, to this end is Christ the Incarnate Son of God. In Him the religious history of mankind has its centre, and from Him it proceeds upon its new course, or rather is enabled once more to run the course designed for it from the first. How far Athanasius exhausted the significance of this fact may be a question; that he placed the fact itself in the centre is his lasting service to Christian thought.
(e) The categories of Athanasius in dealing with the question before us are primarily physical, i.e., on the one hand cosmological, on the other pathological. But it is well before leaving the subject to insist that this was not exclusively the case. The purpose of the Incarnation was at once to renew us, and to make known the Father (de Incarn. 16); or as he elsewhere puts it (ib 7 fin.), anaktisai ta ola, uper pantn, paqein, and peri pantwn presbeusui proston Patera. The idea of afqarsia which so often stands with him for the summum bonum93 imparted to us in Christ, involves a moral and spiritual restoration of our nature, not merely the physical supersession of fqora by aqanasia (de Incarn. 47, 51, 52, &c., &c)..
92 The above is strikingly illustrated by the discussion (pp. 381–383) of prwtotoko" pash" ktisew" (Col. i. 15). At first sight Ath. appears to contradict himself, explaining prwtotoko" as he does first solely of the Saviour as Incarnate, and then of the cosmic and creative function of the Word. But closer examination brings out his view of creation itself (p. 383) as an act of Grace, demanding not (as the current Eastern theology held, in common with Arius) the mediation of a subordinate Creator, but an act of absolutely Divine condescension analogous to, and anticipatory of, the Incarnation. The apparently disturbing persistence in the argument of the cosmological explanation of prwtotoko" is really therefore due to a subtle change in it, by virtue of which it comes into relation with the Soteriological idea,—which is the pivot of the entire anti-Arian position of Athanasius on this question,—and with the ultimate scheme in which (cf. Rm 8). the effects of the Incarnation are to embrace the whole creation. Because creation as such involves the promise of adoption, and tends to deification as its goal, the Son is prwtotoko" in the region of Grace and of Creation alike).
93 On the subject of §2, see also Pell. Lehre des h. Athan. and Shedd 2,pp. 37, sqq., 237, sqq. The former demonstrates his full accord with modern Roman Catholic teaching, the latter, his exact harmony with the modern Protestant view of the doctrine. It is at least a tribute to the greatness of Athan. that advocates of all sides are so eager to claim him).
343 The Athanasian idea of God has been singled out for special recognition in recent times; he has been claimed, and on the whole with justice, as a witness for the immanence of God in the universe in contrast to the insistence in many Christian systems on God’s transcendence or remoteness from all created things. (Fiske, Idea of God, discussed by Moore in Lux Mundi (ed. 1) pp. 95—102). The problem was one which Christian thought was decisively compelled to face by the Arian controversy (supra, p. 29,sq.). The Apologists and Alexandrians had partially succeeded in the problem expressed in the dying words of Plotinus, ‘to bring the God which is within into harmony with the God which is in the universe,’ or rather to reconcile the transcendence with the immanence of God. But their success was only partial: the immanence of the Word had been emphasised, but in contrast with the transcendence of the Father. This could not be more than a temporary resting-place for the Christian mind, and Arius forced a solution. That solution was found by Athanasius. The mediatorial work of the Logos is not necessary as though nature could not bear the untempered hand of the Father. The Divine Will is the direct and sole source of all things, and the idea of a mediatorial nature is inconsistent with the true idea of God (pp. 87, 155, 362, comparing carefully p. 383). ‘All things created are capable of sustaining God’s absolute hand. The hand which fashioned Adam now also and ever is fashioning and giving entire consistence to those who come after him.’ The immanence, or intimate presence and unceasing agency of God in nature, does not belong to the Word as distinct from the Father, but to the Father in and through the Word, in a word to God as God (cf). de Decr. 11, where the language of de Incarn. 17 about the Word is applied to God as such). This is a point which marks an advance upon anything that we find in the earliest writings of Athanasius, and upon the theology of his preceptor Alexander, to whom, amongst other not very clear formulae, the Word is a uesiteuusa fusi" mngenh" (Thdt. H.E. 2,4; Alexander cannot distinguish fusi" from upstasi" or usia; Father and Son are du acrista pragmata, but yet th upstasei du fusei"). This is indeed the principal particular in which Athanasius left the modified Origenism of his age, and of his own school, behind. If on the other hand he resembled Arius in drawing a sharper line than had been drawn previously between the one God and the World, it must also be remembered that his God was not the far off purely transcendent God of Arius, but a God not far from every one of us (Orat. 2,p. 361 sq)..
That God is beyond all essence uperkeina pash" usia" (c. Gent. 2. 2, 40. 2, 35. I genhth" usia") is a thought common to Origen and the Platonists, but adopted by Athanasius with a difference, marked by the addition of genhth". That God created all things out of pure bounty of being (c. Gent. §2. 2, §41. 2, de Incarn. §3. 3, and note there) is common to Origen and Philo, being taken by the latter from Plato’s Timoeus. The Universe, and especially the human soul, reflects the being of its Author (c. Gent. passim). Hence there are two main paths by which man can arrive at the knowledge of God, the book of the Universe (c. Gent. 34 fin)., and the contemplation or self-knowledge of the soul itself (ib 33,34). So far Athanasius is on common ground with the Platonists (cf. Fialon, pp. 270, sqq.); but he takes up distinctively Christian ground, firstly, in emphasising the insufficiency of these proofs after sin has clouded the soul’s vision, and, above all, in insisting on the divine Incarnation as the sole remedy for this inability, as the sole means by which man as he is can reach a true knowledge of God. Religion not philosophy is the sphere in which the God of Athanasius is manifest to man. Here, again, Athanasius is ‘Christo-centric.’ With Origen, Athanasius refuses to allow evil any substantive existence (c. Gent. §§2, 6, de Incarn. §4. 5); evil resides in the will only, and is the result of the abuse of its power of free choice (c. Gent. 5 and 7). The evil in the Universe is mainly the work of demons, who have aggravated the consequences of human sin also (de Incarn. 52. 4). On the other hand, the evil does not extend beyond the sphere of personal agency, and the Providence of God (upon which Athanasius insists with remarkable frequency, especially in the de Fuga and c. Gent. and de Incarn.,also in Vit. Anton.) exercises untiring care over the whole. The problem of suffering and death in the animal creation is not discussed by him; he touches very incidentally, Orat. 2,63, on the deliverance of creation in connection with Ro viii 19–21.
344 (a) The supreme and unique revelation of God to man is in the Person of the Incarnate Son. But though unique the Incarnation is not solitary. Before it there was the divine institution of the Law and the Prophets, the former a typical anticipation (de Incarn. 40. 2) of the destined reality, and along with the latter (ib 12 2 and 5) ‘for all the world a holy school of the knowledge of God and the conduct of the soul.’ After it there is the history of the life and teaching of Christ and the writings of His first Disciples, left on record for the instruction of all ages. Athanasius again and again applies to the Scriptures the terms qeia and qeopneusta (e.g). de Decr. 15, de Incarn. 33. 3, &c.; the latter word, which he also applies to his own martyr teachers, is, of course, from 2 Ti 3,16). The implications of this as bearing on the literal exactness of Scripture he nowhere draws out. His strongest language (de Decr. ubi supra) is incidental to a controversial point: on Ps lii (liii). 2, he maintains that ‘there is no hyperbola in Scripture; all is strictly true,’ but he proceeds on the strength of that principle to allegorise the verse he is discussing. In c. Gent. 2, 3, he treats the account of Eden and the Fall as figurative. But in his later writings there is, so far as I know, nothing to match this. In fact, although he always employs the allegorical method, sometimes rather strangely (e.g. De 28,66, in de Incarn. 35, Orat. 2,19, after Irenaeus, Origen, &c)., we discern, especially in his later writings, a tendency toward a more literal exegesis than was usual in the Alexandrian school. His discussion, e.g., of the sinlessness of Christ (c). Apol. i. 7, 17, 2,9, 10) contrasts in this respect with that of his master Alexander, who appeals, following Origen’s somewhat startling allegorical application, to Pr 30,19, a text nowhere used by Ath. in this way (Thdt. H.E. 1,4). This is doubtless largely due to the pressure of the controversy with the Arians, who certainly had more to gain than their opponents from the prevalent unhistorical methods of exegesis, as we see from the use made by them of 2 Co iv.11 at Nicaea, and of Pr 8,22 throughout94 . Accordingly Athanasius complains loudly of their exegesis (Ep. Aeg. 3–4, cf). Orat. i. 8, 52), and insists (id. 1,54, cf. already de Decr. 14) on the primary necessity of always conscientiously studying the circumstances of time and place, the person addressed, the subject matter, and purpose of the writer, in order not to miss the true sense. This rule is the same as applies (de Sent. Dion. 4) to the interpretation of any writings whatever, and carries with it the strict subordination of the allegorical to the historical sense, contended for by the later school of Antioch, and now accepted by all reasonable Christians (see (Kihn in Wetzer-Hergenrother’s Kirchen-Lex. vol. 1,pp. 955–959, who calls the Antiochene exegesis ‘certainly a providential phenomenon;’ also supra, p. xxviii., note 1).
(b) The Canon of Scripture accepted by Athanasius has long been known from the fragments of the thirty-ninth Festal Letter (Easter, 367). The New Testament Canon comprises all the books received at the present day, but in the older order, viz., Gospels, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Pauline Epistles (Hebrews expressly included as S. Paul’s between Thess. and Tim)., Apocalypse. The Old Testament canon is remarkable in several ways. The number of books is 22, corresponding to the Alexandrian Jewish reckoning, not to the (probably) older Jewish or Talmudic reckoning of 24 (the rolls of Rt and Lam. counted separately, and with the Hagiographa). This at once excludes from the Canon proper the so-called ‘Apocrypha,’ with the exception of the additions to Daniel, and of Baruch and ‘the Epistle,’ which are counted as one book with Jeremiah. The latter is also the case with Lamentations, while on the other hand the number of 22 is preserved by the reckoning of Rt as a separate book from Judges to make up for the exclusion of Esther. This last point is archaic, and brings Athanasius into connection with Melito (171 a.d.), who gives (Eus. H.E. 4,26. 14, see also vol. 1P 144, note 1, in this series) a Canon which he has obtained by careful enquiry in Palestine. This Canon agrees with that of Athanasius except with regard to the order assigned to ‘Esdras’ (i.e. Esd and Nehemiah, placed by M. at the end), to ‘the twelve in one book’ (placed by M. after Jer)., and Daniel (placed by M. before Ezekiel). Now, Est is nowhere mentioned in the N.T., and the Rabbinical discussions as to whether Est ‘defiled the hands’ (i.e. was ‘canonical’) went on to the time of R. Akiba (†135), an older, and even of R. Juda ‘the holy’ (150–210), a younger, contemporary of Melito (see (Wildeboer, Ontstaan van den Kanon, pp. 58, sq., 65, &c).. The latter, therefore, may represent the penultimate stage in the history of the Hebrew canon before its close in the second century, (doubted by Bleek, Einl. , §242, but not unlikely). Here, then, Ath. represents an earlier stage of opinion than Origen (Eus. H.E. 6,25), who gives the finally fixed Hebrew Canon of his own time, but puts Est at the end. As to the number of books, Athan. agrees with Josephus, Melito, Origen, and with Jerome, who, however, knows of the other reckoning of 24 (’nonnulli’ in Prol. ). Athansius enumerates, as ‘outside the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us,’ Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Esther, Judith, and Tobit, as well as what is called the Teaching of the Apostles and the Shepherd. In practice, however, he quotes several of the latter as ‘Scripture’ (Wisdom repeatedly so, see index to this vol).; ‘The Shepherd’ is ‘most profitable,’ and quoted for the Unity of the Creator (and cf). de Decr. 4), but not as ‘Scripture;’ the ‘Didache’ is not used by him unless the Syntagma (vide supra, p. lix). be his genuine work. He also quotes 1 Esdras for the praise of Truth, and 2 Esdras once, as a ‘prophet.’ ‘Daniel’ includes Susanna and Bel and the Dragon.
(c) On the sufficiency of Scripture for the establishment of all necessary doctrine Athanasius insists repeatedly and emphatically (c. Gent. 1, de Incarn. 5, de Decr. 32, Vit. Ant. 16, &c., &c).; and he follows up precept by example. ‘His works are a continuous appeal to Scripture.’ There is no passage in his writings which recognises tradition as supplementing Scripture, i.e., as sanctioning articles of faith not contained in Scripture. Tradition is recognised as authoritative in two ways: (1) Negatively, in the sense that doctrines which are novel are prima acie condemned by the very fact (de Decr. 7, note 2, ib. 18, Orat. 1,8, 10, 2,34, 40, de Syn. 3, 6, 7, and Letter 59, §3); and (2) positively, as furnishing a guide to the sense of Scripture (see (references in note on Orat. 3,58, end of ch. xxix).. In other words, tradition with Athanasius is a formal, not a material, source of doctrine. His language exemplifies the necessity of distinguishing, in the case of strong patristic utterances on the authority of tradition, between different senses of the word. Often it means simply truth conveyed in Scripture, and in that sense ‘handed down’ from the first, as for example c. Apol. 1,22, ‘the Gospel tradition,’ and Letter 60. 6 (cf. Cypr). Ep. 74. 10, where Scripture is ‘divinae traditionis caput et origo.’). Moreover, tradition as distinct from Scripture is with Athanasius not a secret unwritten body of teaching handed down orally95 , but is to be found in the documents of antiquity and the writings of the Fathers, such as those to whom he appeals in de Deer., &c. That ‘the appeal of Athanasius was to Scripture, that of the Arians to tradition’ (Gwatkin) is an overstatement, in part supported by the pre-Nicene history of the word omoousion (supra, p. 31,sq.). The rejection of this word by the Antiochene Council (in 268–9) is met by Athanasius, de Synod. 43, sqq., partly by an appeal to still older witnesses in its favour, parly by the observation (§45) that ‘writing in simplicity [the Fathers] arrived not at accuracy concerning the omoousion, but spoke of the word as they understood it,’ an argument strangely like that of the Homoeans (Creed of Nike, ib. §30) that the Fathers [of Nicoea] adopted the word ‘in simplicity.’
(d) Connected with the function and authority of tradition is that of the Church. On the essential idea of the Church there is little or nothing of definite statement. The term ‘Catholic Church’ is of course commonly used, both of the Church as a whole, and of the orthodox body in this or that place. The unity of the Church is emphatically dwelt on in the opening of the encyclical written in the name of Alexander (infr., p. 69 and supr.,p. xvi). as the reason for communicating the deposition of Arius at Alexandria to the Church at large. ‘The joyful mother of children’ (Exp. in Ps. cxiii. 9) is interpreted of the Gentile Church, ‘made to keep house,’ ate ton kurion enoikon ecousa, joyful ‘because her children are saved through faith in Christ,’ whereas those of the ‘synagogue’ are apwleia paradedomena: the ‘strong city’ poli" perioch" and ‘Edom’ of Ps 60,11 are likewise interpreted of the Church as gathered from all nations; similarly the Ethiopians of Ps 87,4 (where the de Tt pss. gives a quite different and more allegorical sense, referring the verse to baptism). The full perfection of the Church is referred by Athanasius not to the (even ideal) Church on earth but to the Church in heaven. The kingdom of God’ (Mt 6,33) is explained as ‘the enjoyment of the good things of the future, namely the contemplation and knowledge of God so far as man’s soul is capable of it,’ while the city of is h anw `Ierousalhm in the de Titulis, but in the Expositio the Church glorified by ‘the indwelling of the Only-begotten.’ In all this we miss any decisive utterance as to the doctrinal authority of the Church except in so far as the recognition of such authority is involved in what has been cited above in favour of tradition. It may be said that the conditions which lead the mind to throw upon the Church the weight of responsibility for what is believed were absent in the case of Athanasius as indeed in the earlier Greek Church generally.
But Athanasius was far from undervaluing the evidence of the Church’s tradition. The organ by which the tradition of the Church does its work is the teaching function of her officers, especially of the Episcopate (de Syn. 3, &c).. But to provide against erroneous teaching on the part of bishops, as well as to provide for the due administration of matters affecting the Church generally, and for ecclesiastical legislation, some authority beyond that of the individual bishop is necessary. This necessity is met, in the Church as conceived by Athanasius, in two ways, firstly by Councils, secondly in the pre-eminent authority of certain sees which exercise some sort of jurisdiction over their neighbours. Neither of these resources of Church organisation meets us, in Athanasius, in a completely organised shape. A word must be said about each separately, then about their correlation.
(a) Synods. Synods as a part of the machinery of the Church grew up spontaneously. The meeting of the ‘Apostles and Eiders’ at Jerusalem (Ac xv). exemplifies the only way in which a practical resolution on a matter affecting a number of persons with independent rights can possibly be arrived at, viz., by mutual discussion and agreement. Long before the age of Athanasius it had been recognised in the Church that the bishops were the persons exclusively entitled to represent their flocks for such a purpose; in other words, Councils of bishops had come to constitute the legislative and judicial body in the Church (Eus). V.C. 1,51). Both of these functions, and especially the latter, involved the further prerogative of judging of doctrine, as in the case of Paul of Samosata. But the whole system had grown up out of occasional emergencies, and no recognised laws existed to define the extent of conciliar authority, or the relations between one Council and another should their decisions conflict. Not even the area covered by the jurisdiction of a given Council was defined (Can. Nic. 5). We see a Synod at Arles deciding a case affecting Africa, and reviewing the decision of a previous Synod at Rome; a Council at Tyre trying the case of a bishop of Alexandria; a Council at Sardica in the West deposing bishops in the East, and restoring those whom Eastern Synods had deposed; we find Acacius and his fellows deposed at Seleucia, then in a few weeks deposing their deposers at Constantinople; Meletius appointed and deposed by the same Synod at Antioch in 361, and in the following year resuming his see without question. All is chaos. The extent to which a Synod succeeds in enforcing its decisions depends on the extent to which it obtains de facto recognition. The canons of the Council of Antioch (341) are accepted as Church law, while its creeds are condemned as Arian (de Syn. 22–25).
We look in vain for any statement of principle on the part of Athanasius to reduce this confusion to order. The classical passage in his writings is the letter he has preserved from Julius of Rome to the Eastern bishops (Apol. c. Ar. 20–35). The Easterns insist strongly on the authority of Councils, in the interests of their deposition of Athanasius, &c., at Tyre. Julius can only reply by invoking an old-established custom of the Church, ratified, he says, at Nicaea (Can. 5?), that the decisions of one Council may be revised by another; a process which leads to no finality. The Sardican canons of three years later drew up, for judicial purposes only, a system of procedure, devolving on Julius (or possibly on the Roman bishop for the time being) the duty of deciding, upon the initiative of the parties concerned, whether in the case of a deposed bishop a new trial of the case was desirable, and permitting him to take part in such new trial by his deputies. But Athanasius never alludes to any such procedure, nor to the canons in question. (Compare above, pp. xlii., xlvi)..
The absence of any a priori law relating to the authority of Synods applies to general as well as to local Councils. The conception of a general Council did not give rise to Nicaea, but vice versa (see (above, p. xvii).. The precedent for great Councils had already been set at Antioch (268–9) and Arles (314); the latter in fact seems to be indirectly called by S. Augustine plenarium universoe ecclesioe concilium; but the widely representative character of the Nicene Council, and the impressive circumstances under which it met, stamped upon it from the first a recognised character of its own. Again and again (de Decr. 4, 27, Orat. i. 7, Ep. Aeg. 5, &c., &c). Athanasius presses the Arians with their rejection of the decision of a ‘world-wide’ Council, contrasting it (e.g. de Syn. 21) with the numerous and indecisive Councils held by them. He protests (Ep. Aeg. 5, Tom. ad Ant., &c). against the idea that any new creed is necessary or to be desired in addition to the Nicene. But in doing so, he does not suggest by a syllable that the Council was formally and a priori infallible, independently of the character of its decision as faithfully corresponding to the tradition of the Apostles. Its authority is secondary to that of Scripture (de Syn. 6, sub. fin.), and its scriptural character is its justification (ib ). In short, Mr. Gwatkin speaks within the mark when he disclaims for Athan. any mechanical theory96 of conciliar infallibility. To admit this candidly is not to depreciate, but to acknowledge, the value of the great Synod of Nicaea; and to acknowledge it, not on the technical grounds of later ecclesiastical law, but on grounds which are those of Athanasius himself. (On the general subject see D.C.A. 475–484, and Hatch, B.L. vii).
(b) Jurisdiction of bishops over bishops. The fully-developed and organised ‘patriarchal’ system does not meet us in the Nicene age. The bishops of important towns, however, exercise a very real, though not definable authority over their neighbours. This is especially true of Imperial residences. The migration of Eusebius to Nicomedia and afterwards to Constantinople broke through the time-honoured rule of the Church, but set the precedent commonly followed ever afterwards. In Egypt, although the name ‘patriarch’ was as yet unheard, the authority of the Bishop of Alexandria was almost absolute. The name ‘archbishop’ is here used for the first time. It is first applied apparently to Meletius (Apol. Ar. 71) in his list of clergy, but at a later date (about 358) to Athanasius in a contemporary inscription (see (p. 564 a, note At the beginning of his episcopate (supra, p. xxxvii). we find him requested to ordain in a diocese of Upper Egypt by its bishop. He sends bishops on deputations (Fest. Ind. xxv., &c)., and exercises ordinary jurisdiction over bishops and people of Libya and Pentapolis (cf. reference to Synesius, supr., p. lxii).. This was a condition of things dating at least from the time of Dionysius (p. 178, note 2). In particular he had practically the appointment of bishops for all Egypt, so that in the course of his long episcopate all the Egyptian sees were manned by his faithful adherents (cf. p. 493). The mention of Dionysius suggests the question of the relation of the see of Alexandria to that of Rome, and of the latter to the Church generally. On the former point, what is necessary will be said in the Introd. to the de Sent. Dion. With regard to the wider question, Athanasius expresses reverence for that bishopric ‘because it is an Apostolic throne,’ and ‘for Rome, because it is the metropolis of Romania’ (p. 282). That is his only utterance on the subject. Such reverence ought, he says, to have secured Liberius from the treatment to which he had been subjected. The language cited excludes the idea of any divinely-given headship of the Church vested in the Roman bishop, for his object is to magnify the outrageous conduct of Constantius and the Arians. Still less can anything be elicited from the account given by Ath. of the case of the Dionysii, or of his own relations to successive Roman bishops. He speaks of them as his beloved brothers and fellow-ministers (e.g., p. 489) and cordially. welcomes their sympathy and powerful support, without any thought of jurisdiction. But he furnishes us with materials, in the letter of Julius, for estimating not his own view of the Roman see, but that held by its occupant. The origin of the proceedings was the endeavour of the Easterns to procure recognition at Rome and in the West for their own nominee to the bishopric of Alexandria. They had requested Julius to hold a Council, ‘and to be himself the judge if he so pleased’ (Apol. c. Ar. 20). This was intended to frighten Athanasius, but not in the least, as the sequel shews, to submit the decisions of a Council to revision by a single bishop. Julius summoned a Council as described above (p. xliii)., and at the end of a long period of delay and controversy sent a letter expressing his view of the case to the Orientals. This document has been already discussed (p. xliv).. It forms an important landmark in the history of papal claims, standing at least as significantly in contrast with those of the successors of Julius, as with those of his predecessors.
(g) Bishops and Councils. The superiority of councils to single bishops (including those of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch) was questioned by no one in this age. Julius claims the support, not of authority inherent in his see, but of canons, and on the basis of them claims a voice in matters affecting the Church at large, not in his own name, but in that of ‘us all, that so a just sentence might proceed from all’ (Apol. c. Ar. 35). Again, just as the judgment of his predecessor Melchiades and his council was revised at Aries in 314 (Augustin). Ep. 105. 8), so the case of Athanasius and Marcellus was reheard at the Council of Sardica three years after the decision of Julius and his council. The council was the supreme organ of the Church for legislative, judicial, and doctrinal purposes; had any other of superior or even equal rank been recognised, or had the authority of councils themselves been defined a priori by a system of Church law, the confusion of the fourth century would not have arisen. Whether or no the age would have gained, we at least should have been the losers.
94 Athanasius is not always innocent of the method of which he complains; e.g. when he uses Is 1,11, plhrh" eimi, as a proof of the Divine Perfection).
95 The idea, of a mysterious unwritten tradition is a legacy ot Gnosticism to the Church. Irenaeus, in order to meet the Gnostic appeal to a supposed unwritten Apostolic tradition, confronts it with the consistency of the public and normal teaching of the Churches everywhere, of which the Roman Church is a convenient microcosm or compendium. The idea of a paradosi" agrafo" is adopted by Clement and Origen, and passes from the latter to Eusebius, and to the Cappadocian Fathers (Basil de Sp. S. 27, applies it only to practical details), Epiphanius, and later writers. Details in Harnack 2,90, note, cf. Salmon, Infallibility, Lect. 9,On the somewhat different subject of the ‘Disciplina Arcani,’ see Herzog-Plitt). s.v. ‘Arkan-Disciplia’
96 What is conspicuously true of the Second General Council is in reality not less true of the First. Its high authority to later ages is due not to its formal character as a council, but to the character of its work; the consent of the Church, and that not readily given, but as the result of a long process of searching and sifting, has given to it its ‘irreformable’ authority. Its authority is expressly put on a par with that of the Antiochene Synod of c. 269, by Ath). de Syn. 43 (consult the whole discussion, pp. 473, 475, &c).. Short of a council which should include every bishop of the entire Church, in unanimous agreement,—an impossible contingency,—the claims of any given council to be truly ecumenical are relative, not absolute; and no consistent theory is possible of the conditions under which a council could by virtue of its constitution claim infallibility for its decisions. The supposed infallibility of general councils lies in reality outside them, in the authority which sanctions and consecrates their decisions. According to the precedent of Nicaea this is the Church ‘diffusive’ (cf. p. 489, and Pusey, Councils, p. 225, sq.), and such consent, again, must necessarily be partial and relative. If a more tangible and expeditious theory is wanted, we have it in the Roman system, according to which a council is infallible if ratified by the Pope. This at once puts all such councils, whether local or general, on one level, and affords a ready criterion. In other words, the only consistent (mechanical) theory of the infallibility of councils is one which makes councils superfluous. If such a theory had been known to the Church in the age of councils, the councils would not have been held).