15 February 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

“Death came to His body, therefore, not from Himself but from enemy action, in order that the Savior might utterly abolish death in whatever form they offered it to Him.” -- St. Athanasius, *On the Incarnation of the Word of God*, Par 24


Wartburg said...

This is preached that you may believe that Christ the Lord became man because of sin, as the articles of the Christian Creed declare. Martin Luther

Anonymous said...

Is Luther saying the same thing here as is St. Athanasius?

William Weedon said...

I would say, close but no cigar. Luther is fundamentally seeing the work of Christ in terms of sin as the biggy; Athanasius fundamentally sees the work of Christ in terms of death as the biggy. Obviously neither one denies the involvement of the other problem, but it makes a difference which one comes out as the source of the pickle we find ourselves in as fallen human beings.

I remember the first time I read *On the Incarnation* donkey years ago being so utterly confused. This was a great work? It didn't even sound CHRISTIAN to me in parts. I had trouble recognizing it as discussing the faith that I thought we shared! Probably a lot of that was due to my own immaturity, I don't dispute. Now it has become one of my all time favorite works and I return to it constantly. St. Athanasius, if you let him, will lead you to see the faith in a way that will lead you to cry with all your heart: Glory to Your condescension, O Lover of Man!

William Weedon said...

A passage to ponder in light of St. Athanasius' statement is 2 Timothy 1:10:

but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ who has abolished DEATH and brought IMMORTALITY to light THROUGH THE GOSPEL.

A proclamation of the "Gospel" then that leaves the abolition of death and the joy of immortality in the backseat as secondary is not the Gospel that Paul proclaimed, is it?

Note, too, that Athanasius would likely (I believe) see those two things as corresponding to the Cross and then the Resurrection: the Cross is the abolition of death ("trampling down death by death") and the Resurrection is the joy of immortality - a body forever beyond the reach of the grave.

Ronnie said...

There's a great quote from an Orthodox mystic vagabond who lives out in the wild near the outskirts of New Zealand who once wrote the following in a Ph.D dissertation for some major university:

"Tread lightly and don't be trampled. Remember that death cannot take hold of you".

I have often found those words to be deeply and highly profound. If I am not mistaken, there are several referneces to ideas like this in the works of Charles Butterfield Krauth, the great Lutheran dogmatician of yesteryear.

Chris Jones said...

Another passage to ponder in light of St Athanasius's statement is Hebrews 2:14-15:

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death (that is, the devil), and deliver them who through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

This passage is pretty clear that it is death that is the linchpin of "original sin" and that it is how Satan keeps us in bondage. I don't recall ever seeing these verses included in any Protestant exposition of original sin. It is an interesting omission.

William Weedon said...

Yes, indeed, Chris, and of course Athanasius explicitly turns to that passage in par. 20:

Death there had to be, and death for all, so that the due of all might be paid. Wherefore, the Word, as I said, being Himself incapable of death, assumed a mortal body, that He might offer it as His own in place of all, suffering for the sake of all through HIs union with it, "might bring to nought Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might deliver them who all their lifetime were enslaved by the fear of death."

William Weedon said...


I love that: Remember, death cannot take hold of you! What comfort indeed!!!

Wartburg said...

Pastor WEEDON,
I really enjoyed reading this tonight. Thank you for your keen insight.
“If my mind is blank, and I cannot read or think, and no one is at home, I read a Psalm and get new ideas.” ML

Ronnie said...

Wartburg, Yes! I propose, and have proposed, and will propose, that the keen spiritual insights of Dr. King are consistent with the Orthodox mystical tradition, especially as they have taken shape in New Zealand.

Yes, good quote, sir.