Human Nature as Christ’s “Instrument”

Alexandrian Christology frequently spoke of the human nature which the Word assumed as an “instrument” (organon) of the divinity. For instance, this description appears in Athanasius’ On the Incarnation in, among others, sections 8, 9, 43, 44, and 45.

In his magisterial work on Christology, Aloys Grillmeier, S.J., writes of this view that if it is actually taken to mean “that the Logos is the principle of all life in Christ,” then it “seems to be rather dangerously exaggerated.”:”(Christ in the Christian Tradition, Vol. 1: From the Apostolic Age to Chalcedon [451], second revised edition, [London and Oxford: Mowbrays, 1975], pg. 318.)”: How? It seems to downgrade the full humanity of Christ’s soul. This conclusion seems to be a result of Grillmeier’s preceding discussion of the Stoic influences on Athanasius’ doctrine. That is, Athanasius used the Stoic concept of the “world-soul” to frame his understanding of the relationship of the Logos (Word) and the sarx (flesh) in Christ.

In Stoicism the Logos, like a soul, uses the soma (body) as its means of material expression. However, contrary to Stoicism, Athanasius understands the Logos as being personal. In Stoicism, “the human, rational soul is the most perfect copy of the Logos within the earthly, corporeal creation.”:”(Ibid., 311.)”: The human soul-body relationship mimics the Logos-world relationship. But this seems to imply that the Logos in some way takes over the functions of Christ’s human soul: “where the original itself appears with all its power, the copy, with its secondary and derived power, must at least surrender its function, even if it does not give place altogether.”:”(Ibid.)”: While Athanasius does not deny that Christ had a human soul (that denial would be the Apollinarian heresy), “his attention is immediately caught up by the Logos and his relationship to the body of Christ. This relationship is regarded as being quite analogous to the other, that of Logos-world, soul-body.”:”(Ibid.)”: Again, “The Logos dwells in this his body as in a temple, and moreover, in all his fullness.”:”(Ibid., 312.)”: Thus, the human body is an “instrument” of the Logos, and all psychological and emotional operations in Christ belong to the Logos.

I’m not entirely sure I understand Grillmeier here, and I know I don’t fully understand Athanasius. If anyone has any helpful comments, please do give them.

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