Appeared in Spring 1979, Vol. V, No. 1
Some of the most ferocious debates about the faith of early Christians center around the presumption that second and third century theologians held views which were not conceived by the apostles, thereby showing an early distortion of Christianity (usually in the direction of modern orthodoxy). In the article below, William Marshner takes up an important Christological text in Ignatius of Antioch, a text which is often taken to anticipate, in contradistinction to New Testament faith, the two-natures-in-one-person Christology of the Council of Chalcedon. Marshner argues, however, that a close analysis of the Greek reveals the Ignatian text to have close affinities to pre-Pauline formulae which address a question different from that settled at Chalcedon–namely, whether the man born of Mary and the glorious Being who appeared to the apostles after Easter were one and the same Jesus. Marshner argues that this question of identity through diverse stages, once settled in the affirmative, led naturally to the two-natures controversy. The Ignatian text, when placed alongside the pre-Pauline material in the New Testament, allows us to reconstruct the pre-history of the manner of speaking known as the communicatio idiomatum. Thus an alleged break in thought between the earliest kerygma and later orthodoxy is shown not to exist, without however forcing the Chalcedonic perspective onto the pre-Pauline texts, and another case of homogeneous development is revealed.
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