Nature and the ‘Mode of Union’: Late Patristic Models for the Personal Unity of Christ

Brian E. Daley

in The Incarnation

Published in print May 2002 | ISBN: 9780199248452
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600524 | DOI:
 Nature and the ‘Mode of Union’: Late Patristic Models for the Personal Unity of Christ

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Daley observes how contemporary theologians are often puzzled by the language and concepts of later patristic discussions about the person of Christ, especially by the Council of Chalcedon's teaching that he is one hypostasis or persona subsisting ‘in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation’. This chapter looks again at the significance of this classical christological vocabulary, in the light of an assertion made by the sixth‐century Leontius of Byzantium and echoed by Maximus Confessor and John of Damascus in the centuries that followed: that it is ‘the mode of union, rather than the intelligible structure of nature, which contains the great Mystery of our religion’. After sketching the background and apparent implications of the ancient language of ‘modality’ and of ‘union’, the paper looks more closely at the Christology of these three post‐Chalcedonian writers. It argues that for classical Greek Christology in its later stages, the unity and distinctiveness of Christ as a person, who is at once human and divine, are grounded in the unique way in which the divine and human realities condition and express each other in the historical Jesus of Nazareth. In the light of this ‘relational’ or ‘modal’ Christology, these late patristic authors also present human salvation as the beginning of a new mode of our own natural existence, and a new relationship with the triune that God modelled on that of God the Son.

Keywords: Chalcedon; Christology; Daley; historical Jesus; Leontius of Byzantium; modality

Chapter.  15417 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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