The Byzantine Christ (Bathrellos)

Bathrellos, Demetrios.  The Byzantine Christ: Person, Nature, and Will in Maximus the Confessor.  Oxford.

Cappadocian View of person and nature:  ousia has the same relation to hypostasis as common has to particular.  A nature/essence becomes a person/hypostasis by possessing particular idioms.  Problem with this:  if the human nature of Christ lacked particular characteristics, it would not be a real nature (38-39).  For Leontius, however, to nature applies the logos of being while to hypostasis applies the logos of being by itself (41). 

 anhypostasis:  without a person/hypostasis.  The anti-Chalcedonians wanted to prove that without a nature there is not a person, and to introduce a human nature of Christ is to introduce a human person of Christ, which is sheer Nestorianism.  What Leontius wanted to say is that if the human nature existed apart from the Logos, it would exist as a human person.  But it doesn’t exist apart from the Logos. 

 Leontius of Jerusalem defines hypostasis as “distance, separation, and subsisting by itself” (45). 

 We must reject the claim that a human nature cannot exist without a human person.  The human nature of Christ is an authentic human nature.  It never existed as a human person because it never existed apart from the Divine Logos (46). 

 Unity of the Logos and Monotheletism:  It is true that an overemphasis on the divine hypostasis of the Logos in Christology may overshadow and eventually undermine the completedness of Christ’s humanity.  Two points need to be made:  there is no necessary connection between accepting that Christ has a divine hypostasis, on the one hand, and monotheletism on the other hand.  If the will and energy are natural faculties–faculties of the nature–the divinity of the Person does not endanger them (53). 


 Actually than rather denying a human will to Christ, monotheletism resigned it to a merely passive state (66, incidentally, this is the view of hyper-Calvinism). 

 The humanity of Christ is more or less a passive instrument (71). 

 The monothelites operated under the presupposition that a difference of wills necessarily equals an opposition of wills.  This is the same reasoning by today’s postmodern thinkers regarding an ontology of violence:  differance is perceived as violence/opposition. 

 Organon concept:  Is the fact that the Logos moves the human flesh of Christ necessarily a monotheletite statement?  No.  One can say this (per Cyril and Athanasius) as long as one doesn’t undermine the human will (93).  

 The Dyothelite Christology of St Maximus the Confessor

Maximus sought the unity of Christ not on the level of nature but on the level of hypostasis (101). 

Hypostasis: it is an essence with idioms, or the essence of an individual man that includes all his idioms (102).  Mode of existence = it is impossible for beings to exist without their mode of the existence.  However, person is not identical with mode of existence (else we turn the humanity of Christ into a person).  Hypostasis responds to the question “who” and indicates an “I” (104; cf. von Balthasar).  Hypostasis is an ontological category.  It does not have to do with the existential domain in the modern sense nor with the unity of consciousness (104). 

Maximus distinguishes the human nature of Christ from the human person:  a hypostasis subsists by itself.  The humanity of Christ was never a hypostasis because it never subsisted by itself (104). 

Hypostatic (a)Symmetry

In Christ the divine nature exists prior to the human, whereas for man the soul comes into existence simultaneously with the body.  In Christ the divine hypostasis is personal. 

Maximus and Essence

Maximus identifies the divine essence with the three persons of the Trinity, but this is aimed not at erasing the all-important distinction between nature and hypostasis, but rather at excluding any sort of tetra-theistic conception of God which would make the essence would be a fourth God beside the three Persons (109).  Accordingly, Maximus identifies Christ with the two natures, in order to prevent a tertium quid existing alongside the natures (e.g., this is what Bulgakov meant by Sophia).   The “who” is identified with the “whats” without being reduced to them (109-110). 

The Ontological Priority of Person/hypostasis over nature/essence

Hypostasis is necessarily nature but nature is not necessarily hypostasis (111). 

The Logos is identifiable with the Divine Nature according to Nature and with both Natures according to Hypostasis

The flesh differs with the Logos according to essence.  “Therefore, it is clear, that for Maximus, whereas the Logos is identical with both natures according to hypostasis–since both natures are united in one hypostasis, which is identical with the incarnate logos, who is their hypostasis–he is identical wtih the incarnate Logos–he is identical only with the divine nature according to nature (112).