Also known as the “Father of Orthodoxy”, Athanasius (295-373 AD) was bishop of the Egyptian city Alexandria between 328–373 AD. He was involved in a number of controversies during his lifetime, due to his defence of the Nicene faith and his warnings against Arian errors, and was even banished to Trier by Constantine I because of intrigues against him from other parties (Arian and parties involved in the Miletian schism). After a successful appeal to Julius I, Athanasius returned to his see, but was forced from it a further 4 times during 335-366.
This book is a translation of his most famous work De Incarnatione (On the Incarnation). In which Athanasius writes to his friend Macarius (possibly Macarius of Alexandria, died c. 394?)—continuing from his previous writing on heathen idolatry— on the reasons for God becoming incarnate in Christ; citing the theological motivations for God revealing himself in such a unique way and exploring the proofs of this appearing which should be obvious to both the Jewish and Greek objectors.
It’s important to note that what Athanasius cites as “proofs” and “facts” within his writing would hardly be enough to convince today. However, it is important to remember the context in which he writes and the arguments he is addressing. His writing clearly engages with the opposition’s questions and rebuttals of his time, and his apologetic discourse flows with a clear enthusiasm. Also his reasons for God’s appearing in flesh are still good considerations and important contributors to theology two millennia on.
Overall, this short text makes for an interesting read and is an important text from the Church Father era.
Some of my favourite lines from this work:
“By man, death has gained its power over men; by the Word made Man, death has been destroyed and life raised up anew.”
“Like seeds cast into the earth, we do not perish in our dissolution, but like them shall rise again, death having been brought to nought by the grace of the Saviour.”
“A marvellous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonour and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death’s defeat.”
This edition (printed by Fig; fig-books.com), also comes with an excellent introduction from C. S. Lewis, where he states the importance of reading early texts (old books) directly and not just reading modern ones. We need both the old and the new. Which is great advice.
The only downside with regards to this edition is this; it would have been nice to have a small introduction into who St Athanasius was and a quick glance at his era.
Tristan Sherwin is the author of Love: Expressed