Prior to Cyril, McGuckin claims (Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy, 224-5), Christian theology oscillated between an unstable “semitic” anthropology that understood human nature as a fragile, unstable combination of soul and flesh, and a philosophical “hellenistic” view that claimed that man was not truly anything bodily but “merely a captive in this alien bodily form, quintessentially a pure mind.”
Cyril redefined anthropology in terms of incarnation and arrived at a synthesis of biblical and Hellenistic insights. The “person” became the “locus of the true self, and the holy place of the encounter with the divine.” In Cyril McGuckin sees an “emerging concept of Person as a dynamic agent of conscious action, spiritually exemplified in the hypostasis of Christ.” He captures the hellenistic insight that human beings are centered, but at the same time does justice to the semitic emphasis on “evident bodily reality and culture.” He claims that “To locate such an optimistic and religiously powerful concept of person at the living heart of Christianity was a factor that shaped the psychological structure of subsequent christian society, and formed its moral values around the concept of a self-giving personal identity and authenticity.”
McGuckin’s discussion of Seminic and Hellenistic anthropologies is schematic, and he may be claiming more for Cyril’s own concept of “person” than is warranted. But he is right to stress how the Christological focus on the unified Person of Jesus was the source for later developments of the concept of personality.