The Christian God <i>v</i>. Passionate Pagan Deities:Impassibility as an Apophatic Qualifier of Divine Emotions

Paul L. Gavrilyuk

in The Suffering of the Impassible God

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780199269822
Published online November 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191601569 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies

The Christian God v. Passionate Pagan Deities:Impassibility as an Apophatic Qualifier of Divine Emotions

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The author shows that by calling the Christian God impassible the Fathers sought to distance God the creator from the gods of mythology. At the same time the Fathers viewed divine impassibility as compatible with select emotionally coloured characteristics, such as love, mercy, and compassion. Especially revealing in this regard is the patristic treatment of divine anger, an issue that first came to the fore in the debate with Marcionism. The author argues that instead of the context of Hellenistic philosophy the divine impassibility must be located in the conceptual sphere of apophatic theology, where it functioned as an apophatic qualifier of the divine emotions. The divine impassibility was first of all an ontological term, expressing God’s unlikeness to everything created, his transcendence and undiminished divinity, rather than a psychological term implying the absence of emotions.

Keywords: apophatic qualifier; apophatic theology; Augustine; Cyril of Alexandria; divine anger; divine emotions; Irenaeus; John Cassian; Marcionism; Tertullian

Chapter.  7048 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity

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