Patristic Christology Reconsidered
by brian e. daley, s.j.
oxford, 312 pages, $88
The great liberal Protestant theologian Adolf von Harnack argued that the simple, wholly ethical message of Christ was obscured over time by being mixed with Greek ideas. This corruption, he said, culminated in the Council of Chalcedon’s definition of Christ as one person with two natures, divine and human. In response, the Jesuit Aloys Grillmeier argued that Chalcedon’s use of Greek language preserved the faith of Christ and the apostolic age and served as the culmination of patristic theology, according to which previous Christology should be judged.
In God Visible, Brian E. Daley, S.J. seeks to correct Grillmeier’s narrative: “Chalcedon was neither an end nor a beginning. . . . It is one stage in a much longer process of staking out the course for orthodox Christology.” Daley therefore offers a full account of patristic Christology, from the second century to the Iconoclastic Controversy, and includes those authors whose works did not square easily with the Chalcedonian definition. He does not diminish Chalcedon’s dogmatic authority, but fleshes out the rich thought that led to its pronouncements and shows how subsequent conciliar definitions built on it. His work is imbued with a deep conviction that Christology reveals the means of our union with God: “The Mystery of Christ’s identity is the mystery of one who transforms our life, even now in the community of faith and worship, teaching us to anticipate a final, endless transformation that exceeds all our power of imagination.” God Visible is the fruit of a life immersed in the thought of the Church fathers and their reflections on how we should understand who Jesus is.