Agen(n)êtos and the Identity Thesis: Justin, Dionysius of Alexandria, and Athanasius

Andrew Radde‐Gallwitz

in Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780199574117
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722110 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies

Agen(n)êtos and the Identity Thesis: Justin, Dionysius of Alexandria, and Athanasius

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Chapter 3 sets the stage for the subsequent discussion of Eunomius of Cyzicus and his opponents. It outlines the background to his view that ingeneracy, that is, having no cause, is the essential characteristic of God. Two theologians are examined on this issue: Justin Martyr and Dionysius of Alexandria, the latter of whom comes closest to Eunomius' position, though in the context of a late third‐century argument about whether matter is also ingenerate. A second section investigates the background to Eunomius' view, labelled the ‘identity thesis’, that God's essence and God's attributes are identical. It is suggested that Athanasius of Alexandria, though far removed doctrinally from Eunomius, articulated a similar position in a text Eunomius likely knew. One common theme in the two is a concern to avoid construing the attributes of God as essential complements, that is as parts of God's essence. Clearly if God's essence has parts, it is not simple. Some background is given on essential complements, which Eunomius will accuse Basil of maintaining.

Keywords: ingeneracy; incorruptibility; Justin Martyr; Dionysius of Alexandria; Athanasius of Alexandria; identity thesis; essential complements; divine simplicity

Chapter.  8177 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity ; Christian Theology

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