Saturday, November 5, 2011

On the Person of Christ: The Christology of Emperor Justinian

Translated by Kenneth P. Wesche

On the Person of Christ: The Christology of Emperor Justinian
From the preface:
"The documents of Justinian included in this volume represents a Cyrillian interpretation of the Christology of the Council of Chalcedon upheld by Orthodox theologians even today. For that reason these documents are important as a source for understanding the philosophical principles of Orthodox theology, particularly as Orthodox and other christian theologians come together in ecumenical dialogue. The principles of Orthodox philosophy find their starting point in the confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the Divine Logos himself. The consequences of this confession of faith as a philosophical starting point are presented in brief both in the General Introduction and in the notes scattered throughout the text. Sixth century thought presents the student of christian doctrine with a dogmatic philosophy still in the process of attaining full clarification. The principal contribution made by sixth century thought towards a fully articulated "Christological philosophy" is the clear, unambiguous affirmation that the hypostasis or prosopon used in Chalcedon's definition of faith is not the product, but the foundation of the union between God and man in Jesus Christ: this is because the hypostasis of Jesus Christ is none other than the eternally existing Divine Logos, the Second Hypostasis of the Holy Trinity. These documents, therefore, are also of historical interest for they provide us with a glimps of christian philosophical thought moving closer to a full articulation of its belief in Jesus Christ." [1]


From the General Intoduction
Quote: “Nestorius was vigorously opposed by Cyril of Alexandria who insisted that the one who was born of Mary, Jesus of Nazareth, was none other than the Divine Logos himself. For that reason, Mary must be called “Theotokos” for Jesus whom she bore is himself God by nature and by hypostasis. This is the same as Justinian’s view and provides the background for understanding his freguent charges that the Nestorians call Christ a mere man. In fact, Nestorian Christology can indeed call Christ Christ God and man, but this is because “Christ” is the meeting point of the human and divine natures, and if we look at Christ in one direction we see the Divine Logos, or the divine nature, and if we look in another direction we see Jesus, or the human nature. The crucial point, however, is that in the Nestorian way of thinking, Jesus is the human nature in Christ and is therefore not himself identical to the Divine Logos. This latter point is what Justinian has in mind when he makes his charge, for with St. Cyril he wishes to emphasize that Jesus is not someone else than the Divine Logos but that he is one and the same Divine Logos; “Christ,” in other words, is the Divine Logos only who as the incarnate Divine Logos is both human and divine in nature, but divine only in identity or person.” [2]


quote: “It is most important to note how this view of Christ’s particularity distinquishes Justinian’s “Cyrillian Chalcedonianism from Nestorianism and from many Christologies one encounters in Western Christian thought. At issue is “who” lies inside the particular prosopon of Christ, and what is the starting point for determining that. Both Nestorianism and Cyrillian Chalcedonianism acknowledge that there is one Christ who is one particular or hypostasis or prosopon, and that furthermore this one Christ is divine and human in his natures. Many contemporary theologians who have sought to vindicate Nestorius from his condemnation at the Council of Ephesus in 431 base their defense of Nestorius precisely on this point: Nestorius, as also the Council of Chalcedon in 451, taught that Christ is one particular who is both God and man. But many of these scholars fail to grasp the significance of the fundamentally different starting points characterizing these two Christologies which lead to radically different notions of hypostasis and the content and identity of Christ.” [3]


Quote: “These different starting points yield radically different confessions concerning the philosophical content of the particular or hypostasis of Christ: the former understands hypostasis in terms of identity, i.e the subjective core, the “self” (autos in Greek) or “who” of Christ, which is one, and is seen to be the Divine Logos himself so that the terms “Jesus,” “Christ,” and “Divine Logos” are identical, referring to one and the same subject. The hypostasis, then, is the foundation, not the product, of the union, for it is the eternally existing Divine Logos, the one through whom all things came into being in the first place. The latter, on the other hand, starting from the “undivided appearence” of the historical Jesus, understands hypostasis as the product rather than the foundation of the coming together of the two natures. These two natures, moreover, are each seen as two fully intact subjects: Jesus is the human nature and so is a “someone other” than the Divine Logos, for the Divine Logos is the divine nature. On the basis of this Cyrillian Christology Justinian published the condemnation of the Three Chapters in 543, which was confirmed by the Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 553. The Three chapters were “Nestorian” documents from the late fourth and fifth centuries. They included the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia (and Theodore himself was included in the condemnation, which proved to be so controversial that Justinian was compelled to justify posthumous condemnations, which he does in the second and third documents presented here):” [4]




> [1] page 9,[2] pages 16-17,[3] page 17,[4] pages 18-19 from the book "On the Person of Christ: The Christology of Emperor Justinian" as translated by Kenneth P. Wesche

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