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The Liturgical Argument in Apollinarius: Help and Hindrance on the Way to Orthodoxy*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2011

Kelley McCarthy Spoerl
St. Anselm College, New Hampshire


In the essay “Creed or Chaos?” written in the midst of the turmoil of World War II, British mystery novelist Dorothy L. Sayers defended the relevance of the creeds produced during the doctrinal debates of the fourth and fifth centuries to the lives of modern Christians. The theological dogmas contained in such documents as the Nicene Creed (325) or the Chalcedonian Definition (451) are not, she notes wittily, “a set of arbitrary regulations invented a priori by a committee of theologians enjoying a bout of all-in dialectical wrestling,” but were “hammered out under pressure of urgent practical necessity” to resolve theological controversies that had real impact on the discipleship of ordinary Christians. To put matters at their simplest, the trinitarian controversies revolved around the question of whether Christ was divine, and so capable of saving humankind from sin and death. The christological controversies, at least in their earliest stage, debated whether Christ was really human, truly the God-made-man capable of healing wounded humanity and providing aviable role model for Christians to follow in the living of a redeemed life. At stake in both controversies was a convincing explanation of the central Christian tenet that “Jesus saves” for those who profess to be his followers.

Research Article
Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 1998

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1 Dorothy L. Sayers, “Creed or Chaos?” in idem, Creed or Chaos? (London: Methuen, 1947) 40.

2 For information on Apollinarius's biography and ecclesiastical career, see Kelley McCarthy Spoerl, “A Study of theκατὰ Μέροѕ πíστιѕ by Apollinarius of Laodicea” (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1991) 6-66.

3 , ApollinariusEp. ad Diocaesareenses1.255.2425.References to all Apollinarian works here are to the edition ofGoogle ScholarLietzmann, Hans, Apollinaris von Laodicea und seine Schule (1904: reprinted Hildesheim: O1ms, 1970)Google Scholar and denote respectively chapter, page and line number in that edition. For more on Apollinarius'sclose and well-attested friendship with Athanasius, see , Spoerl, “Study,” 76 n. 19Google Scholar.

4 The prehistory of the relationship between Basil and Apollinarius prior to Basil's break with the latter in the mid-370s is discussed in Prestige, George Leonard, St. Basil the Great and Apollinaris of Laodicea (London: SPCK, 1956)Google Scholar.

5 Apollinarius uses the Nicene watchword ὁμοοúσιοѕ in κατὰ Μέροѕ πíστιѕ 34.180.22. He also sent monks to the Council of Alexandria in 362, which upheld the Nicene creed as the standard of trinitarian orthodoxy (, AthanasiusTomus ad Antiochenos 9).Google Scholar Both Epiphanius of Salamis (Pan. 77) and Basil of Caesarea (Ep. 129) expressed dismay and surprise when Apollinarius's views gained notorietyin the late 370s, indicating that his reputation for orthodoxy was unexceptionable prior to that time. Again, Epiphanius emphasizes how close Apollinarius and Athanasius were.

6 This is a particular emphasis on Mühlenberg, Ekkhard, Apollinaris von Laodicea (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1969)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 Looking at the evolution of Apollinarius's thought against the background of the trinitarian controversies is the subject of the present author's research, in her Toronto dissertation (“Study”) and in the following articles: Spoerl, Kelley McCarthy, “Apollinarius and the Response to Early Arian Christology,” StPatr 36 (1993) 421–27Google Scholar and idem, “Apollinarian Christology and the Anti-Marcellan Tradition,” JTS 45 (1994) 545-68.

8 On the dating of the κατὰ Μέροѕ πíστιѕ, see Spoerl, “Study,” 363-67.

9 As quoted in , Athanasius, De synodis 15.3Google Scholar.

10 PGL s.v. θρησκεíα.

11 κατὰ Μέροѕ πíστιѕ 9.170.11-21.

12 This is further complicated by textual difficulties. On these, see , Spoerl, “Study,” 208 n. 64Google Scholar.

13 κατὰ Μέροѕ πíστιѕ 10.170.23-28.“Therefore the man who supposes that the life of the Son and ofthe Holy Spirit has a beginning in time by the same token separates the Son and the Spirit from their reckoning with the Father. For it is necessary that, just as we confess one glory, so also we confess one substance or godhead and one eternity of the Trinity.” Apollinarius specifically refers to the inclusion of the Holy Spirit in the baptismal formula as proof of his codivinity with the Father and the Son in two other passages in the κατὰ Μέροѕ πíστιѕ:8.170.4-10 and 24.175.15-19.

14 κατὰ Μέροѕ πíστιѕ43.184.23-25, my emphasis.

15 Ibid. 1.167.15-17, my emphasis.

16 See Finn, Thomas M., ed., Early Christian Baptism and the Catechumenate: Italy, North Africa, and Egypt (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1992) 25:Google Scholar “The early Christian catechists saw the liturgy … as the ongoing biblical history of salvation narrated — more accurately, enacted — inmyth, symbol, and ritual drama. Although the events of the old dispensation werelinked indissolubly to those of the new, both were linked to the sacraments, which rendered accessible the God who saves.”

17 Hanson, R. P. C., The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1988) 783.Google Scholar One should note, however, that while liturgical arguments became particularly important in the trinitarian controversy for the reasons discussed above, this is not to suggest that this was the first time such arguments were used to resolve doctrinal questions, nor would it be the last. The principle of lex orandi, lex credendi had already been invoked on numerous occasions prior to the fourth-century trinitarian debates and to establish other doctrines. For moreexamples of the use of liturgical practice as evidence in arguments concerning doctrine, see Wainwright, Geoffrey, Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine, and Life (London: Epworth, 1980) 224–35;Google Scholar and Wiles, Maurice, The Making of Christian Doctrine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967) 6293CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

18 Williams, Rowan, “Baptism and the Arian Controversy,” in Barnes, Michel R. and Williams, Daniel H., eds., Arianism after Arius: Essays on the Development of the Fourth-Century Trinitarian Conflicts (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1993) 155.Google Scholar

19 Certainly by the mid-to late-fourth century, all baptisms regarded as canonically valid were trinitarian in form. See Whitaker, E. C. in “The History of the Baptismal Formula,” JEH 16 (1965) 112;Google Scholar and , idem, The Baptismal Liturgy (2d ed.; London: SPCK, 1981) 128.Google Scholar See also the use of trinitarian formulas in baptismal rites described by a representative collection of Church Fathers from the mid-fourth to the early-fifth centuries in Riley, Hugh M., Christian Initiation (Catholic Universityof America Studies in Christian Antiquity 17; Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press,1974) 144–50.Google Scholar

By the late fourth-century doxologies had a basic trinitarian format that still allowed variations in prepositional use and other respects. This is evident from Basil's discussion in the opening chapters of De Spiritu Sancto.See also the trinitarian doxologies in the Apostolic Tradition of the Roman presbyter Hippolytus in Deiss, Lucien, Early Sources of the Liturgy (New York: Alba House, 1967) 41 and 61;Google Scholar in the Didaskalia Apostolorum (ibid., 96); in the Euchology of Serapion of Thmuis (ibid., 101); and the Testamentum DominiMcKenna, John H., Eucharist and Holy Spirit [Alcuin Club Collections 57; Great Wakering, England: Mayhew-McCrimmon, 1975] 22).Google Scholar

20 , AthanasiusOrationes contra Arianos 2.41.Google Scholar

21 1.28-30

22 2.22 and 3.5

23 , BasilDe Spiritu Sancto 18,Google Scholar on the doxology and 12 on baptism.

24 , Williams, “Baptism and the Arian Controversy,” 152.Google Scholar

25 , Spoerl, “Study,” 212318.Google Scholar

26 Although the chronology of Apollinarius's career is not well documented, one major scholar has placed his debates with Diodore after his condemnation by Damasus in the late 370s. See Richard, Marcel, “L'introduction du mot ‘hypostase’ dans la théologie de l'incarnationMScRel 2 (1945) 12Google Scholar.

27 κατὰ Μέροѕ πíστιѕ31.178.17-179.10.

28 Fragment 82.224.25-26.

29 This is reported in , TheodoretHist. eccl. 2.19.Google Scholar I have always been struck by the “antiphonal” character of the following passage from Diodore (preserved in Severus of , Antioch, Contra impium grammaticum 3.25):Google Scholar “We worship the purple because of the one who wears it, the Temple becauseof the one who indwells it, the form of a servant because of the form of God, the lamb because of the High Priest, the one who was assumed because of the one who assumed, the one who was fashioned in the Virgin's womb because of the Creator of all.” Translation from Greer, Rowan A.The Antiochene Christology of Diodore of Tarsus,”JTS 17 (1966) 338Google Scholar.

30 It is possible that canon 15 of the Council of Laodicea, held sometime between 343 and 381, contains some criticism of the practice of antiphonal chanting, but Grosdidier de Matons, who discusses this, admits that the evidence could well admit of other interpretations. See Matons, José Grosdidier de, Romanos le Mélode etles origines de la poésie religieuse à Byzance (Paris: Editions Beauchesnes, 1977) 10.Google Scholar Grosdidier de Matons goes on in the same work to recount resistance to the use of newly developed hymnforms in the fourth century and later (pp.10-14), especially within monastic circles. Nonetheless, he concludes (p.14) that the very environment in which Apollinarius was active, i.e., Syria-Palestine, was the area in which the most hymnographical innovation took place in the early Christian world. In addition, he cites (p.15) Basil of , Caesarea'sEp. 207Google Scholar as evidence that antiphonal chanting had become standard practice in Palestine, Phoenicia, and Syria by the third quarter of the fourth century. Given this and Apollinarius's literary creativity in the service of the church attested elsewhere (see , SozomenHist. eccl. 5. 18Google Scholar and , SocratesHist. eccl. 3.16,Google Scholar regarding Apollinarius's composition of Christianized classics based on theBible to be used in rhetorical education when Christians were barred from the profession under Julian the Apostate), it is unlikely that the practice of antiphonal chanting per se was a practice to which he objected and whichhe attacked in theκατὰ Μέροѕ Πíστιѕ.

31 Apollinarius κατὰ Μέροѕ Πíστιѕ 28.177.4-178.3, my emphasis.

32 De fide et incarnatione 4.195.22-24.

33 Ibid. 5.195.24-25.

34 Ibid. 5.196.18-22.

35 Ibid. 5.196.22.

36 On the cult of the Virgin in th e early church, see Graef, Hilda, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion (2 vols.; New York: Sheed & Ward, 1963) 1. 32100.Google Scholar Vasiliki Limberis describes a variety of evidence for formal devotion to the Virgin, including sermons, memorials, the building of churches and vigils, initiated under the auspices of the Theodosian Augusta Pulcheria (399-453) in the early-to mid-fifth century in Divine Heiress: The Virgin Mary and the Creation of Christian Constantinople (London: Routledge, 1994) 4761Google Scholar.

37 Aside from Apollinarius's close friendship with Athanasius, Socrates reports that the former's father was originally from Alexandria. See , SocratesHist. eccl. 2.26.Google Scholar Origen is alleged to have been the first to use the title. (See Graef, Mary, 46, discussing Greek Fragments 41 and 80 of Origen's commentary on Luke.) See also Alexander of Alexandria in PG 18.568C. The title is invoked in this instance with clear anti-docetic import, to prove the reality of the Word's bodily incarnation. The occurrences in , AthanasiusContra Arianos 3.14Google Scholar (PG 26.349C) and Vita Antonii 36 (PG 26.897A) both appear without further comment within discussions of the Lucan account of theAnnunciation and the Visitation. Interestingly, Cyril of Alexandria reports that by the mid-fourth century the title Theotokos was commonplace; he reports that Julian the Apostate mocked the Christians for always calling Mary by this title (Contra Julianum 8 [PG 76.901C]).

38 The use of arguments from mariology and eucharistic piety in the debates between Cyril and Nestorius are analyzed by Chadwick, Henry in “Eucharist and Christology in the Nestorian Controversy,” JTS 2 (1951) 145–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar The analysis in the present paper further confirms the affinity Chadwick posits (156) between the thought of Apollinarius and Cyril.

39 , ApollinariusDe fide et incarnatione 5.196.2324.Google Scholar

40 A parallel appears in a passage in Gregory of Nazianzus, a contemporary of Apollinarius, who, like him, makes the acceptance of Mary as Theotokos a test of orthodox belief. Ironically, he does so in a letter condemning the Apollinarians. He writes: “If anyone does not accept Mary as Theotokos, he is separated fro m divinity.” (Ep. 101.16 in Galley, Paul and Jourjon, Maurice, eds., Grégoire de Naziane: Lettres théologiques [SC 208; Paris: Cerf, 1974] 42Google Scholar.

41 , ApollinariusDe fide et incarnatione 5.196.26197.15.Google Scholar The idea that baptism is “into the Lord's death” was a common feature of the “West Syrian” liturgical tradition in Asia Minor and the Mediterranean seaboard at this time; see , Williams, “Baptism and the Arian Contro-versy,” 173–74Google Scholar.

42 See κατὰ Μέροѕ Πíστιѕ 28.177.4-9: “We confess … that the same is perfect Son of God” (τέλειον αùτὸν υιὸν θεοû)“and the same Son of Man” (αύτòν τòν ἀνθρώπου). Compare with the Chalcedonian Definition: “We confess one and the same Son” (ἒνα καì τòν αúτòν ὁμολογεîν υíóν), “who is our Lord Jesus Christ, and we all agree in teaching that this very same Son is complete in his divinity and complete—the very same—in his humanity” (τέλειον τòν αùτòν ὲν θεὁτητι, καì τέλειον τὸν αúτòν ἑν άνθπωπóτπτι). Translation from Norris, Richard A. Jr, ed., The Christological Controversy (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980) 159.Google Scholar The Greek text is readily available in Denzinger, Henry and Schönmetzer, Adolf, eds., Enchiridion Symbolorum (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1973) 108Google Scholar.

43 Apollinarius's doctrine of the Eucharist is discussed elsewhere in Bates, W. H., “The Background of Apollinarius' Eucharistic Teaching,” JEH 12 (1961) 139–54,Google Scholar and Riedmatten, Henri de, “Some Neglected Aspects of Apollinarist Christology,” Dominican Studies 1 (1948)248–50Google Scholar.

44 Apollinarius Fragment 6.205.18-27.

45 Apollinarius Fragment 7.205.29-30.

46 Fragments 112-16.

47 Apollinarius Fragment 116.235.8–11.

48 Apollinarius Fragments 153-6.

49 Ibid., 155.249.3-8

50 See , ApollinariusEp. ad Diocaesareenses 2.256.57:Google Scholar “The Word did not become flesh by taking on a human mind, a mind that is changeable and subject to filthy thoughts, but by being a divine unchangeable heavenly mind.

51 My intuition about the monophysite import of the term συμΦυήѕ receives support from Enzo Bellini's Italian translation of the phrase: “came santa che costituisce un'unica natura con la divinità” (“holy flesh, which constitutes a single nature with the divinity”). In Bellini, Enzo, ed., Su Cristo: Il grande dibattito nel quarto secolo (De Fronte e Attraverso 35; Milan: Jaca Book, 1977) 93Google Scholar.

52 The connection in Apollinarius's mind between the one divine principle of vitality and the unity of person and nature in Christ is elsewhere illustrated in Fragment 85.225.19-20: “For (he says) the flesh of the Lord is worshiped, because it is one person and one living thing (ἒν ζωóν) with him;” and also De fide et incarnatione 6 (199.16-17), which asserts the one life of the Word and his flesh (6.1916) and concludes with the assertion that Christ is úπóσταοιѕμíα Φúσιѕ μία … ἓν πρóσωπον.”

53 This question is also discussed in the treatise De fide et incarnatione cited above (3.194.15-23).

54 See especially Fragment 112.133.32-134.10.

55 See especially Fragment 153.248.18-27.

56 For example, κατὰ Μέροѕ πíστιѕ 27: “We anathematize those who say that either the Son or the Holy Spirit is a creature, and we confess that all other things were made as created and servile (ποιήματα καì δοûλα) beings by God through the Son >and< were sanctified in the Holy Spirit” (27.177.1-4). The same idea is expressed in the citation fromκατὰ Μέροѕ πíστιѕ 9 cited earlier in this paper.

57 Ibid. 6.169.16-21: “But if someone says in this way that the Son is God because he too has received the fullness of divinity and not because he was begotten from divinity, he has denied the Word, he has denied Wisdom, he has destroyed the knowledge of God, he has fallen to worshiping the creation, he has embraced the impiety of the Greeks.”

58 κατὰ Μέροѕ πíστιѕ 7.169.26-170.4; cf. 1.167.5-8, 9.170.11-16, and 26.176.10-13, as well as Fragment 120.236.33-35. “How can the matter not be impious, to hold that the created substance, which is different and servile (δουλικήν) has one and the same worship as He who is the Creator and Master?”

59 , Spoerl, “Study,” 173–80.Google Scholar

60 This is so, not only in polemics with the Arians. One must remember that Apollinarius himself suffered persecution during the reign of the pagan emperor Julian (360-63) (, SozomenHist. eccl. 5.18;Google Scholar, SocratesHist. eccl. 3.16),Google Scholar which may have further piqued his sensitivities concerning the practice of idolatry. I owe this suggestion to Dr. Nicholas Constas of Hellenic College/Holy Cross Seminary.

61 , ApollinariusDe fide et incarnatione 7.199.2327.Google Scholar

62 See, for example, Fragments 112.233.31-234.10; 127-128.238.14-30; 145-146.242.14-22; 148.246.30-249.10.

63 Gregory of , Nazianzus, Ep. 101.53,Google Scholar with his reference to Apollinarius's “geometrical” arguments. The background to the sort of accusation leveled by Gregory against Apollinarius is explored in an illuminating way in Lim, Richard, Public Disputation, Power, and Social Order in Late Antiquity (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995)Google Scholar.

64 I would argue that Apollinarius shares this assessment of the problem that theincarnation must solve with Athanasius, especially in the latter's De incarnatione.

65 Indeed, in Norris's reading, Apollinarius sees the sacramental participation in the church, through which Christians partake of thesanctified body of Christ, as preliminary to any meaningful moral reform for theChristian, and thus partaking of Christ's mind: “To be sure, this self-assimilation of the human soul to the Logos does not and cannot take place apart from the sanctification of the flesh through participation in the divinized flesh of the Logos. The importance of the latter theme in Apollinarius's teaching cannot be overemphasized. For him, Christ became man ‘in order that we might receive the likeness of the heavenly One, and be divinized after the likeness of the true Son of God by nature’ [Fragment 116]. But this process i n turn has its essential condition in man's participation in the body of Christ, which has been brought within the sphere of the divine life.” Norris, Richard A., Manhood and Christ (Oxford: Clarendon, 1963) 120Google Scholar.

66 See above, n. 7.

67 Wiles, Making of Christian Doctrine, 93. Rowan Williams draws a similar conclusion in his paper on baptism and the Arian controversy, remarking insightfully that arguments from liturgy suffered the same problems as arguments from scripture in the fourth century. Contrary to what Apollinarius and his colleagues assumed, “liturgy does not simply determine the shape of doctrine: it is far more the contested material upon which doctrinal reflection must work, the subject of rival ‘bids’ for definition. Or, to put it rather more bluntly, liturgy does not settle arguments…but it does provide the language for argument.” See “Baptism and the Arian Controversy,” 154.

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