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The Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Vol.

64, Pt 2, October 2013

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE


ANTHONY BRIGGMAN
Candler School of Theology and the Graduate Division of Religion, Emory
University
abriggm@emory.edu

FIFTY years ago Albert Houssiau observed that previous studies


of Irenaeus Christology focused upon soteriological problems
rather than Christology proper.1 Houssiaus objective was to
provide a counterbalance by focusing his work on Irenaeus
conception of the person of Christ. He succeeded, providing
the best study of Irenaeus Christology to date. Even
Houssiau, however, missed the fundamental logic that Irenaeus
utilizes to explain the unity of the human and divine in Christ
namely, Stoic mixture theory.
In Against Heresies 4.20.4 Irenaeus refers to the christological
union as a blending (commixtio) of the human and divine. It is
the only time he does so.2 He oVers no explanation for what, if
In memory of Ralph Del Colle, teacher, whose thoughts about the person
of Christ will always influence my own. Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine. Et
lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace.
1
A. Houssiau, La Christologie de Saint Irenee (Universitas Catholica
Lovaniensis Dissertationes 3.1; Louvain: Publications Universitaires and
Gembloux: J. Duculot, 1955), p. x.
2
J. A. Robinson reads mixing and blending the Spirit of God the Father
with the handiwork of God in Prf 97 as a reference to the incarnation
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Abstract
Many studies have been written on Irenaeus Christology, but almost all
focus upon soteriological problems rather than Christology proper.
A. Houssiau attempted to rectify this imbalance, providing the best study
of Irenaeus Christology to date, but even he missed the fundamental logic
that Irenaeus utilizes to explain the christological union. In this article I
contend that Irenaeus uses Stoic mixture theory to conceptualize the
christological union, including the relationship between the human and
divine in the experiences and activities of Christ. In so saying, I challenge
H. A. Wolfsons position that Irenaeus use of mixture language accords
with Aristotelian mixture theory, and I stand against those, including
Wolfson and A. Grillmeier, who maintain that Irenaeus conception of
the person of Christ is devoid of philosophical reasoning.

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

517

I. STOIC MIXTURE THEORY


In order to recognize the role that the concept of mixture plays
in Irenaeus thought a basic understanding of Stoic mixture
theory (and specifically, the theory of blending) is necessary. Our
two most important sources for Stoic mixture theory are
Alexander of Aphrodisias (Mixt. 3, 216.14217.2 and 4,
217.2636) and Arius Didymus (fr. 28, ap. Stobaeum Eclogae
1.17.4), but two passages in Nemesius (Nat. 78.779.2 and
81.610) helpfully supplement their accounts. Prior to delving
into the details of the Stoic theory of blending it is important to
locate blending within the larger Stoic concern to arrive at a
(St Irenaeus, The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, trans. J. A.
Robinson [London: S.P.C.K., 1920], pp. 645). I have disagreed with this
reading elsewhere, arguing that this text refers to the commixture and union
of the soul and body of the believer with the Holy Spirit (Irenaeus of Lyons
and the Theology of the Holy Spirit [OECS; Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2012], pp. 18890.

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anything, the term reveals about his conception of the


christological union. Neither does he indicate if the concept of
blending occupies a place of significance in his thought more
broadly considered. These observations alone are suYcient to
explain the minimal attention paid to the place of the concept
of blending or mixture in Irenaeus Christology. Instead of
regarding this description as anomalous or at least atypical,
and therefore relatively insignificant, it is my belief that his identification of the christological union as a blend in the middle of
AH 4 reflects an incorporation of Stoic mixture theory that
begins as early as Book 2. Moreover, it is my contention that
Irenaeus uses Stoic mixture theory not only to conceptualize the
union of the human and divine in Christ, but also to explain the
relationship between the human and divine in the experiences
and activities of Christ. Inasmuch as this is the case, Stoic
mixture theory is the logic fundamental to Irenaeus conception
of the christological union.
This article is divided into three sections. The first oVers a
brief discussion of the aspects of Stoic mixture theory most relevant to this investigation. The second considers pertinent scholarship on the appropriation of Stoic and Aristotelian mixture
theories in the Christologies of early Christianity. The last
argues that Irenaeus incorporated Stoic mixture theory into
various aspects of his theological account, including his
Christology.

518

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

3
R. Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion: Theories in Antiquity and their
Sequel (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988), p. 83; Diogenes
Laertius, Lives 7.1346.
4
Mixt. 3, 21417; unless otherwise noted, the text and translation of Mixt.
comes from R. B. Todd, Alexander of Aphrodisias on Stoic Physics (SMAP 28;
Leiden: Brill, 1976).
5
Mixt. 11, 226.303; the parenthetical remark would seem to reflect
Alexanders understanding, but if so, his understanding agrees with Stoic
thought. Cf. Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, pp. 938.
6
E.g. Cicero, Acad. 1.39.
7
Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 3, 216.14217.2; 4, 217.2636; Arius Did., fr. 28,
ap. Stob. Eclogae 1.17.4.
8
Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, p. 37.

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physical theory that explains how the active principle


(God/Pneuma/Logos) and passive principle (matter) relate to
each other.3
The narrative construction of Alexanders consideration of the
Stoic theory of blending in Mixt. reflects this relationship, for
references to the larger Stoic concern frame his analysis of the
theory of blending. Alexanders discussion of blending in Mixt. 3
begins with Chrysippus interest in explaining how the whole of
substance (the passive principle) is unified because pneuma
(the active principle) pervades or permeates its entirety, causing it
to hold together, be stable, and interact (sympathize/sump0scw)
with itself.4 He then returns to this fundamental Stoic interest in
the active and passive principles at the very end of his discussion
of Stoic mixture theory. In arguing against the theory of blending,
he writes: the bodies that are being blended with another must be
reciprocally acted on by one another (2ntip0scein 3p 2ll0lwn
2n0gkh) (that is why neither is destroyed, since the one acted on by
the other reacts in the process of being acted on).5
A distinctive feature of the Stoic attempt to understand the
relationship between the active and passive principles was the
belief that the principles must be corporeal: only bodies can act or
be acted on.6 According to Stoic theory bodies pervade each other,
bodies mutually coextend throughout one another, and substances
and qualities proper to bodies are preserved in a blend.7 Richard
Sorabji summarizes Stoic materialism well: they believed that
matter was something real and something acted on, that acting or
being acted on was the criterion for being fully real, and that only
body would satisfy this criterion.8 The particular theory of
mixture proper to the Stoics that they articulated to explain the
relationship between corporeal active and passive principles is
blending.

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

519

Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 3, 216.14217.2.


Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, pp. 66, 79.
Ibid., p. 80.
12
Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 3, 216.1417.
13
In addition to Mixt. 3, see also Mixt. 4, 217.2636 and Arius Did., fr. 28,
ap. Stob. Eclogae 1.17.4.
14
Arius Did., fr. 28, Dox. Gr. 464.12. Arius reference to the showing
forth of qualities in a blend occurs in the midst of his diVerentiation between
m8xi" and kra' si", such that the latter specifically speaks of the type of mixture
that occurs between fluid bodies. The more thorough discussion of Alexander,
however, reveals that the Stoics did not delimit kra' si" so strictly.
15
Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, esp. pp. 679; Aristotle, GC 1.10,
327b2231. E. Lewis argues that the references to the coextension of bodies
in Alexander of Aphrodisias and Stobaeus are due to an Aristotelian reading of
Stoic sources, and that the Stoics did not maintain that the constituent ingredients themselves were preserved but only the substances and qualities belonging to them (Diogenes Laertius and the Stoic Theory of Mixture, Bulletin of
the Institute of Classical Studies 34 [1987], pp. 8490, esp. 89). In my judgement Sorabjis reading better accounts for the entirety of the extant sources,
especially the examples oVered by Stoics to illustrate the theory of blending.
10
11

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Blending might be best understood in the light of other theories


of ancient chemistry. Alexander records Chrysippus as identifying
mixture as a category containing three diVerent types of union:
juxtaposition (par0qesi"), fusion (s0gcusi"), and blending (kra' si").9
In juxtaposition particles of the ingredients remain unaltered and
simply exist alongside each other, such as in a mixture of beans
and wheat. The Stoics followed Aristotle in rejecting juxtaposition
as not producing a genuine mixture.10 In fusion both ingredients
are destroyed in the process of forming an entirely new kind of
stuV, a resultant that is a tertium quid. The Stoics did not consider
fusion to be a genuine mixture either,11 preferring instead the idea
of blending (kra' si"). In a blend of two or more ingredients, the
ingredients spread out or mutually coextend (2ntiparekte0nw/
2ntipar0kw) through the entirety of one another. This coextension
produces a union in which the active principle pervades the
passive principle, causing it to hold together, be stable, and
interact with (sump0scw) itself.12 Yet, in the resultant produced
from blending, the original substances and qualities proper to each
of the constituent ingredients persist,13 and the qualities of each
show forth (sunekfa0nw).14 Thus, constituent ingredients that have
been blended together continue to actually exist; they do not just
exist in potential as in Aristotelian mixture theory.15 Proof of the
preservation of each of the original substances and their qualities
lies in the ability to separate the constituent ingredients from each
other, such as in Arius Didymus example of dipping an

520

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

16

Fr. 28, ap. Stob. Eclogae 1.17.4.


Todd contends that these illustrations are merely fictitious aids to the
Stoic argument, not direct examples of blending (Alexander of Aphrodisias, pp.
456), but Sorabji has persuasively argued that Alexanders own view was that
these illustrations provide clear testimony, to persuade and establish the fact
of blending (Matter, Space and Motion, p. 84).
18
Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 4, 217.36.
19
Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 3, 217.1112; cf. Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion,
p. 66.
20
Nemesius, On the Nature of Man (De Natura Hominis) 78.779.2 (text
and translation in A. A. Long and D. N. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers
[Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987], vol. 1, p. 272; vol. 2, p. 269).
21
Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 4, 217.325.
17

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oil-drenched sponge into a blend of water and wine in order to


draw out the water.16
The Stoics provide three examples from everyday cases that
illustrate blending. The blending of a cup of wine that has been
mixed with a lot of water, of a soul that goes throughout the whole
of the body in mixture with it, and fire that pervades iron.17 The
blending of wine with water is pertinent to other aspects of
Irenaeus theology; for now I would like to highlight the blending
of the soul and body.
As with the constituent ingredients in a blend, the soul pervades
the entirety of the body such that their mutual coextension is
complete. As a result of their mutual coextension every part of the
body partakes in the soul and vice versa.18 This thoroughgoing
mutual partaking that occurs between the ingredients of a blend
distinguishes blending from juxtaposition, for it demonstrates the
unity of a product of blending in distinction to the aggregate nature
of a product of juxtaposition in which the ingredients remain
unaltered.19 A portion of Cleanthes thought recorded by Nemesius
further illustrates the mutual partaking of the soul and body using
the term sump0scw, which features at the beginning of Alexanders
account of Chrysippus thought in Mixt. 3. According to Cleanthes,
the soul interacts with (sump0scei) the body when it is sick and being
cut, and the body with the soul; thus when the soul feels shame and
fear the body turns red and pale respectively.20 The union of two
bodies joined to each other, as in a blend, is such that they interact
with (sump0scw) each other as do the body and soul. Though the
soul itself is neither sick nor cut it experiences or participates in the
sickness or cutting of the body in some way; likewise the body turns
red and pale when the soul feels shame and fear.
Yet, while the interaction or mutual partaking of the body and
soul demonstrate their unity, the soul and body preserve the
substantiality and qualities proper to each of them,21 and, as in a

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

521

22

Chrysippus says that death is the separation of soul from body.


Now nothing incorporeal (2s0maton) is separated from a body
(s0mato"). For an incorporeal does not even make contact with a
body. But the soul both makes contact with and is separated from a
body. Therefore the soul is a body.24

Though not explicitly mentioned, the ability to separate the


body and soul at the time of death is surely connected to the
Stoic understanding of the body and soul as being blended
together. The logic of this selection, though, provides further
insight into Stoic thinking. According to Chrysippus the separation of the soul from the body is only possible because the soul
and body are both bodies, are both corporeal. His reasoning is
straightforward: separation requires previous contact, but contact
can only occur between two bodies, therefore separation is contingent upon the corporeality of the things united to each other.
Materialism is fundamental to Stoic thought.
According to the Stoics, then, the blending of two bodies
explains how the active principle (God/Pneuma/Logos) and
passive principle (matter) relate to each other. The active principle
pervades the passive principle such that both ingredients in a
blend mutually coextend throughout each other. The interaction
or mutual partaking of the ingredients with each other is the result
of their blending, and demonstrates their union. At the same time,
ingredients are not destroyed in a blend, for the substances and
qualities proper to them persist, and their qualities show forth in
the resultant. The actual existence of constituent ingredients in a
blend is corroborated by the possibility of separating them out
22

Arius Did., fr. 28, Dox. Gr. 464.12.


Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, p. 80.
Nemesius, Nat. 81.610 (text and translation Long and Sedley, Hellenistic
Philosophers, vol. 1, p. 272; vol. 2, p. 270).
23
24

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blend, their qualities show forth. Thus there is never a question


of the soul and body having formed a tertium quid, for we are
always able to distinguish the actual existence of each of them
through the manifest existence of their proper qualities. Proof of
the preservation of each of the original substances and their
qualities, as I already mentioned, lies in the ability to separate the
constituent ingredients from each other.23 The illustration
provided by Arius Didymus is the dipping of an oil-drenched
sponge into a blend of water and wine in order draw out the water,
but the body and soul are also separated from each other at the
time of death. As Nemesius writes:

522

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

from the resultant. All of which is illustrated by the blending of


the soul with the body.
II. THE APPROPRIATION OF MIXTURE THEORY
CHRISTIANITY

IN

EARLY

25
H. A. Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, vol. 1: Faith, Trinity,
Incarnation (2nd edn; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964), p. 396.
26
Ibid., p. 385.
27
Wolfson prefers some diVerent titles, identifying unions involving juxtaposition as composition and unions involving fusion as confusion (Philosophy
of the Church Fathers, vol. 1, pp. 3856).
28
Ibid., p. 382.
29
Ibid., pp. 3757, 3845. For an extended discussion of Aristotelian mixture theory, see Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, pp. 36772.
30
Wolfson, Philosophy of the Fathers, vol. 1, p. 386.

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The presence of mixture language in Irenaeus has not gone


entirely unnoticed, but the suggestion that Irenaeus mixture
language is Stoic in origin has not always been received positively,
or even with equanimity. In his well-known The Philosophy of the
Church Fathers H. A. Wolfson maintained that Irenaeus mixture
language accords not with Stoic mixture theory but Aristotelian
conceptions of mixture. In particular, Wolfson identifies two
passages in Irenaeus (AH 3.19.1 and 4.20.4) which he thinks align
with a category of Aristotelian mixture theory that he identifies as
unions of predominance.25
Wolfson posits that when taken together Aristotelian and Stoic
thought recognize five possible kinds of union of physical
things.26 Moreover, he contends that of these five kinds of
union four would not have suited early Christian conceptions of
the unity of the humanity and divinity of Christ. Early accounts of
the unity of Christ could not have drawn upon unions involving
the juxtaposition of ingredients (par0qesi"), unions based upon
either Aristotelian or Stoic conceptions of mixture (m8xi" or
kra' si"), and still less unions involving the fusion of ingredients
(s0gcusi").27 According to Wolfson, unions of juxtaposition and
unions of blending (the Stoic conception of mixture; kra' si")
produce resultants that are merely aggregates of the constituent
ingredientsresultants that lack real unity.28 On the other hand,
Wolfson maintains that unions of mixture in the Aristotelian sense
and unions of fusion result in a tertium quid29their resultants are
an entirely new kind of thing. Having dismissed these four
theories as incompatible with early Christian conceptions of
Christ, Wolfson forwards a fifth kind of unitythe union of
predominance.30 According to Wolfson unions of predominance

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

523

31

Ibid., pp. 377, 386.


Ibid., p. 386.
Ibid. In his analysis of Theodoret of Cyrus Eranistes Wolfson recognizes
the use of the Stoic conception of mixture by the orthodox believer in the
dialogue but still concludes that it could have been used to forward the position of predominance (pp. 4438). The only time Wolfson finds the use of
Stoic mixture theory is in reference to the exchange of properties belonging to
the two naturesperichoresis (pp. 41828).
34
Indeed, Sorabjis more recent work brings into question the very existence of unions of predominance as a subset of Aristotles mixture theory.
Wolfson oVers four examples in support of his category of predominance.
Each example is meant to illustrate that the resultant is the greater or more
powerful ingredient, but in such a way that the smaller or less powerful ingredient remains in some fashioneither as a quantitative or qualitative accident (Philosophy of the Fathers, vol. 1, pp. 3779). Sorabjis reading of
Aristotle, however, suggests that neither the quantitative accident (an increase
in volume or bulk) nor the qualitative accident (the presence of colour) of
these examples indicate the continuing existence of the smaller ingredient in
the resultant (Matter, Space and Motion, pp. 667, 71 for the quantitative
accident, p. 70 for the qualitative).
32
33

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are a subset of Aristotles unions of mixture in which the resultant


is one of the two constituents, the one which happens to be greater
or more powerful, and in which also the smaller is not completely
destroyed but is related to the greater as matter to form.31
Early Christian authors utilized this theory of union, Wolfson
believes, in order to describe the christological union.32 Wolfson
argues that because no special term for this union of predominance existed in philosophy it was loosely described as a
mixture or as a composition terms utilized in Aristotles
discussions of mixture theory. He then claims, mixture and
composition are therefore terms used by the Fathers only in the
sense of predominance .33 But this is a logical non sequitur. For
even if Wolfson has correctly identified occasional philosophical
uses of mixture and composition to express a union of
predominance, and Sorabjis study suggests he has not,34 it is
not necessary to conclude that early Christians understood and
used the terms mixture and composition only in the sense of
predominance .
It seems to me that Wolfson allows his understanding of the
logic of early Christian Christology to overly influence his analysis
of ancient chemical and physical theory, as well as his conclusions
with regard to the usage of those theories by early Christians.
Early in his discussion he writes that when it came to thinking
about the incarnation the problem before [the Fathers] was to find
an analogy for the belief that two persons, the Logos and the

524

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

35

Wolfson, Philosophy of the Church Fathers, vol. 1, p. 374.


Ibid., p. 382; for Nemesius see esp. pp. 4023.
Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, p. 66.
38
Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 3, 216.14217.2 and Arius Did., fr. 28, Dox. Gr.
463.14464.8.
39
Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, p. 102; rather than reaching an infinite
limit, Chrysippus maintained that division is merely for ever capable of being
continued. The passage under discussion is Diogenes Laertius Lives 7.1501,
in which Chrysippus explicitly denies that mixture is juxtaposition, for in a
mixture particles of the substances involved do not merely surround those of
the other or lie beside them (m1 kat1 perigraf1n ka1 par0qesin) (Loeb 185; tr.
R. D. Hicks, ed. J. Henderson).
36
37

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manfor man ordinarily is a personin their union, which took


place in Jesus, were so joined together that only the Logos
continued to be a person, whereas the man, though not completely
destroyed, was not a person.35 Having established as his starting
place that early Christians actively sought an analogy for a
christological model of predominance, Wolfson finds what they,
and he, sought in unions of predominance. His starting
place inordinately aVects his analysis and his conclusion, such
that he found what he was looking for and only what he was
looking for.
Two more recent works further expose the inadequacies of
Wolfsons account. First, Sorabjis study of ancient chemistry and
physics shows that Wolfson was incorrect to believe that Stoics
understood the resultant of blending as merely an aggregate of its
constituent ingredients, the implication being that blending does
not produce a real unity. According to Wolfson, while it is true
that the Stoics deny that blending is a mere juxtaposition they do
not specify whether that denial includes the juxtaposition of
imperceptible parts. This, he believes, leaves open the possibility
of interpreting the Stoic theory of blending as involving the
juxtaposition of imperceptible parts, an interpretative move which
he contends was not only made by Nemesius but was prevalent
within early Christianity.36
Sorabji, however, points out that the Stoics followed Aristotle in
rejecting juxtaposition as not producing a genuine mixture.37 This
point is borne out by the fact that the two most important
discussions of Stoic theories of union articulate their theory of
blending (kra' s i") in contradistinction to the theory of
juxtaposition (par0qesi").38 More importantly, Sorabji calls attention to Chrysippus explicit denial that division can reach an
infinite limit because there is no infinitely small thing (o2 g0r 2st0
ti 4peiron) to which that division could extend.39 Chrysippus

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

525

40
An important point, since Wolfson notes this very passage (DL, Lives
7.151) concerning Chrysippus to support his own reading (Philosophy of the
Church Fathers, vol. 1, p. 382, n. 76).
41
Aristotle (GC 1.10, 328a15; 1517) and then Alex. Aphrodisias (Mixt. 8,
221.25222.26) attack the notion that mixture could be due to infinite division.
In the course of Alexanders argument he states that if the Stoics understand
mixture to occur by an infinite division of ingredients, then they would not be
speaking of a mixture but of a mere juxtaposition (221.2534). Sorabji highlights the conditional nature of Alexanders argument (if the Stoics understand
mixture to occur by division), and proceeds to call into question the very
notion that Stoic mixture theory involved division. Thus, Stoic thought
would seem to diVer from that of Anaxagoras, who may well have envisaged
ingredients as infinitely divided (Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, p. 102; see
p. 64 for more on Anaxagoras).
42
Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 4, 217.279.
43
R. E. Heine, The Christology of Callistus, JTS, NS 49 (1998), pp.
5691.

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position goes against Wolfsons belief that the Stoic denial of


juxtaposition left open the possibility of a juxtaposition of
imperceptible parts,40 for the very notion of imperceptible parts
is a corollary of the idea that division can reach an infinite limit
(the point at which something infinitely small exists, and could be
juxtaposed with other infinitely small things).41 Therefore, when
Chrysippus disallows the latter he disallows the possibility of the
former.
If, then, it is no longer appropriate for Wolfson to regard Stoic
mixture as juxtaposition, then neither is it appropriate for him to
consider the resultant of a Stoic mixture an aggregate. Even more
so given that Alexander of Aphrodisiasa leading advocate of
Aristotelianism, and hence a hostile witnessunderstood Stoic
mixture theory to assert the production of a resultant in which the
constituent ingredients are united together in their entirety
(3noAsqai di 7lwn) so that being preserved along with their
qualities they have a complete mutual coextension through one
another (2ntiparekte0nesqai 2ll0loi" di 7lwn 7la).42 If Wolfsons
contention that ingredients in a Stoic mixture do not form a real
unity is no longer persuasive, then it can no longer be regarded as
a viable basis for excluding the possibility that early Christians
appropriated the Stoic theory of blending to explain the unity of
the human and divine in Jesus.
This brings us to the second work that exposes the inadequacies
of Wolfsons account: Ronald Heines analysis of the Christology
of Callistus.43 Callistus was Bishop of Rome and a leading
proponent of monarchianism at the beginning of the third century.
Heine demonstrates that Stoic mixture theory was of critical
importance to the Christology of Roman monarchianism, for

526

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

For I will not, he says, speak of two Gods, Father and Son, but of
one. For the Father who was in him (John 14:10) assumed the flesh
and made it God by uniting it with himself, and made it one, so that
Father and Son are designated one God, and this unity, being a
person, cannot be two, and so the Father suVered with (sumpeponqe#nai)
the Son.48

In early Christian texts sump0scw usually meant to die with,


often referring to martyrdom, or to suVer with or the same as.49
This meaning does not fit this usage of Callistus, however, for
Roman monarchianism denied that the Father died.50
44
For a brief discussion of Noetus theology, see ibid., pp. 7889; for the
attempt to avoid patripassianism by the Roman monarchians, see pp. 778, 89.
45
According to Callistus, the spirit which was made flesh in the virgin is
not diVerent from the Father . . . For that which is seen (1 John 1:1), which is
man, is the Son, but the Spirit contained in the Son is the Father.
Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 9.12.1718 (tr. Heine, Callistus, pp.
63, 69). The identification of the author of the Refutation is debated; I shall
follow Heine in using Hippolytus as an eYcient way to refer to the author of
this treatise. For a recent discussion of Hippolytan authorship of various texts,
see R. E. Heine, Hippolytus, Ps.-Hippolytus and the Early Canons, in F.
Young, L. Ayres, and A. Louth (eds.), The Cambridge History of Early
Christian Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp.
14251.
46
This union results in a divinehuman distinction within the Son. Heine,
Christology of Callistus, p. 71.
47
Ibid.
48
Hippolytus, Ref. 9.12.18; text from Hippolytus, Refutatio Omnium
Haeresium, ed. M. Marcovich (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter,
1986), p. 354; trans. Heine, Christology of Callistus, p. 63.
49
W. Michaelis, p0scw, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 5
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans,1967), pp. 9256; sump0scw seldom means to
sympathize. See also, Heine, Christology of Callistus, p. 75.
50
Heine, Christology of Callistus, p. 75.

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Roman monarchian theology found in the theory of blending a


way to avoid the charges of patripassianism that had plagued its
precursor and source, the Asian monarchianism of Noetus.44
Roman monarchians identified that which is divine in Jesus as
the Father or Spirit (pneAma) and that which is human as the Son.45
The flesh, which is identified as Son, becomes divine when the
indwelling Father/Spirit unites it to himself (Ref. 9.12.18b).46
In this way, Callistus could refer to the Son as one God with the
Father.47 This union of the Father/Spirit with the Son as one
God becomes problematic when it comes to the passion of Jesus,
for in order to avoid patripassianism Callistus must be able to say
that the Son suVers while the Father/Spirit does not. This brings
us to an important christological statement of Callistus:

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

527

III. MIXTURE

IN

IRENAEUS

Irenaeus never provides a discussion of his understanding of


mixture theory abstracted from its theological appropriation, nor
51

Ibid., pp. 758.


Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 4, 217.326; Heine, Christology of Callistus, p. 76.
53
As found in Nemesius, Nat. 78.779.2: the soul interacts with (sump0scei)
the body when it is sick and being cut, and the body with the soul; thus when
the soul feels shame and fear the body turns red and pale respectively (text
and translation in Long and Sedley, Hellenistic Philosophers, vol. 1, p. 272; vol.
2, p. 269).
54
Heine, Christology of Callistus, p. 78.
55
Certain scholars have considered aspects of Irenaeus theological account
to be monarchian or similar to the theological accounts of those often regarded
as monarchian (see below, n. 138). I disagree with these readings of Irenaeus.
52

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Heine argues that we can see how the Roman monarchians


avoided patripassianism by understanding Callistus use of
sump0scw in terms of its Stoic usage to explain the interaction of
the soul and body in a human being51an interaction that, the
reader will recall, is based on Stoic mixture theory. As I discussed in
the first section, the Stoics maintained that the soul pervades
(di0kw) the whole human body just as constituent ingredients in a
mixture pervade each other, such that every part of the body
partakes of the soul while both the soul and body maintain their
own substantiality (3p0stasi"/o2s0a).52 This pervading of the soul
through the entirety of the body is the basis for the mutual
interaction of the soul and the body that we saw in Cleanthes.53 By
modelling the union of the humanity and divinity of Christ upon
the Stoic understanding of the union of the soul and body in human
beings, the Roman monarchians would have been able to maintain
that the Father/Spirit participated in the experience of the suVering
and death of the Son/flesh while not itself suVering and dying as did
the Son/flesh. So Heine writes: Just as the soul, though it interacts
(sump0scei) with the body when the latter is cut, does not bleed, so
the Roman monarchians could have thought of the Fathers
interaction with the Son in the Sons suVering.54
The works of Sorabji and Heine demonstrate that not only is it
inappropriate to exclude the possibility that early Christians used
Stoic mixture theory to explain the unity of Christ, but even that
the Stoic conception of mixture played a prominent role in the
Christology of some early Christians, namely the Roman
monarchians. The rest of this article will demonstrate that the
use of Stoic mixture theory was not limited to the Roman
monarchians, for it featured in Irenaeus theology as well.55

528

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

3.1. Mixtures Union


As I stated a few pages ago, the Stoic theory of blending was
regarded as producing a resultant in which the constituent ingredients are wholly united. The first step in demonstrating
Irenaeus appropriation of mixture theory is to determine
whether he recognized mixture as a means of union. If he did
not, then mixture theory would be insuYcient for the needs of
his christological account, for one of Irenaeus chief concerns
when it comes to the person of Christ was to establish the
unity of the divine and human.57
The passage that contains the most straightforward statement
of Irenaeus thinking is AH 2.17.23. In this portion of his work
Irenaeus is criticizing Gnostic thinking about the production of

56

AH 2.33.1, 4.
See e.g. A. Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 1: From the
Apostolic Age to Chalcedon, trans. J. Bowden (Atlanta, GA: John Knox
Press, 1965; 2nd edn. 1975), pp. 1034, and esp. Houssiau, Christologie
dIrenee, pp. 163235.
57

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does he discuss how mixture theory functions across theological


categories. As a result, it is necessary to read a number of passages
together in order to recognize his use of Stoic mixture theory and
in order to understand the role mixture theory plays in his
theology.
Irenaeus use of mixture language and his incorporation of
concepts belonging to mixture theory progresses over the course
of Against Heresies. The first indication of his interest in mixture
theory occurs in AH 2.17.3, where he uses mixture language to
speak of the union of two things in contrast to the separation of
two things. We next find an unmistakable use of Stoic mixture
theory in his explanation of the mixture of and interaction
between the soul and body in human beings.56 The use of
concepts belonging to Stoic mixture theory is discernible in
Irenaeus discussion of the interaction between the human and the
divine that takes place in AH 3.19.1 and 3, both with regard to the
salvific joining of human beings to the Word of God and with
regard to the interaction between the divine and human in Jesus
himself. It is at this point in the progression that we find his use of
mixture language in AH 4.20.4 to characterize the union of the
divine and human in Jesus. The following examination will
generally follow the progression set out here.

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

529

the aeons. Gnostic logic fails, he argues, because Gnostics maintain at one and the same time that a unity of substance exists
between the aeons and their Author or Father (Propator), and
that the aeons are susceptible to passion while the Author or
Father is not. In the course of his argument he contrasts
things that are completely separated with those that are
mixed or united:

In this passage Irenaeus builds his argument upon the contrast


he establishes between the kinds of products that result from
certain courses of production. On the one hand, there are
those products that are united with that which produced
58
Greek and Latin quotations of Against Heresies are taken from Irenee de
Lyon: Contre les Heresies, ed. A. Rousseau et al., 10 vols. (Sources
ditions du Cerf, 196582). Translations of AH are
Chretiennes; Paris: Les E
mine, with reference made to the translations of Robert and Rambaut in ANF
1 and Unger and Dillon in ACW 65. Armenian quotations of Proof of the
Apostolic Preaching are taken from Irenaeus, E2" 2p0deixin toA 2postolikoA
khr0gmato"; The Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, with Seven Fragments, ed.
and Eng. trans. K. Ter-Mekerttschian and S. G. Wilson; Fr. trans. J.
Barthoulot (PO 12.5; Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1919). Unless otherwise noted,
translations of Prf are from St Irenaeus of Lyons: On the Apostolic
Preaching, trans. J. Behr (New York: St. Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1997).

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(2.17.2) It shall be asked, then, how were the rest of the aeons
emitted? Did they remain united (uniti) to the one who emitted
them, as the rays to the sun, or (were they emitted) as distinct and
separated (eYcabiliter et partiliter), so that each of them [exists] separately and has its own form (separatim et suam figurationem), as a
human being [comes] from another human being and an animal
from another animal? . . . And [are they] simple and uniform, and in
every way equal and similar among themselves, as spirit and light are
emitted, or [are they] composite and diVerent, dissimilar in their
members? (2.17.3) But, if each of them was indeed emitted distinctly
and according to its own generation (eYcabiliter et secundum suam
genesim), after the likeness of human beings, then either those generated by the Father will be of the same substance with him and similar to the one who generated them, or if they appear dissimilar, then
it is necessary to confess them to be of some other substance . . .
Furthermore, according to this reasoning each of them will be understood (to exist) separately, divided from one another (separatim divisus
ab altero), just as human beings, not mixed with nor united the one to
the other (non admixtus neque unitus alter altero), but in a distinct
form and with a defined area, each one of them has been delineated
by a magnitude of size[all of] which are characteristic of a body,
and not of a spirit. Let them, therefore, no longer speak of the
Pleroma as spiritual . . .58

530

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

59

Irenaeus use of the analogy of a ray from the sun to illustrate a course of
production in which the product remains united with that which produced it
seems to stand against his previous understanding of this analogy. In AH
2.13.2 he identifies the analogy as a Gnostic illustration for the production
of aeons, in particular the production of Intelligence by the Father. In 2.13.5
the analogy is used as an example of, or at least in the context of discussing, a
course of production that results in the separation of a product from its
sourcenamely, the intelligence of God. Rather than challenging the suitability
of the analogy as an illustration for this type of production, Irenaeus contends
it is not suitable because it implies a medium that exists prior to the intelligence of God. As a result, it seems that Irenaeus understands the analogy to
illustrate contrary courses of production in 2.13.5 and 2.17.2. The simplest
explanation for this dissonance is that his understanding of the analogy in
2.13.5 reflects his polemic against Gnostic thought, while his use of the analogy in 2.17.2 reflects his own constructive thought. The emission of a ray
from the sun as an example of a type of production in which the product
remains united to its source does have a history prior to Irenaeus that seems
to be distinct from its Gnostic usage. Several passages in Philo utilize an
analogy of the sun and its rays (On Giants 1.3, On the Special Laws 1.7.40,
and On Dreams 1.14.77), but the analogy is not as close to Irenaeus as that
found in Justins Dial 128.3. Justin is critical of the analogy, though for different reasons from Irenaeus in 2.13.5.

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them, as rays are united to the sun.59 On the other hand, there
are those produced as distinct and separated so that they exist
separately from that which produced them. Building upon this
distinction, Irenaeus states that if aeons are produced after the
manner of men then they must be regarded as existing separately, divided from one another, just as human beings, not mixed
with nor united the one to the other.
Those things that are united (unio) with that which produced
them in 2.17.2 correspond to those things that are mixed or
united (admisceo/unio) in 2.17.3. The logic of AH 2.17.23
reveals Irenaeus understanding of mixture. He sets that which
is mixed in opposition to that which exists separately, divided
from one another, while also placing that which is mixed in the
same category as or identifying it with that which is united the
one to the other. As a result, it is clear that Irenaeus conceives
of mixture as producing a unified resultant.
The production of a unified resultant by means of mixture fits
the Stoic theory of blending, but Irenaeus discussion also fits
Aristotelian mixture theory. He never specifies whether the constituent ingredients persist in the resultant in actuality or in
potentiality, or whether the resultant diVers from the ingredients
in kind (i.e. whether it is a tertium quid), positions that distinguish the two systems. This ambiguity does not characterize his

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

531

discussion of the mixture of the soul with the body in a human


being.

Their claim about the transmigration from body to body we may


overthrow by the fact that souls have no recollection at all of previous
events . . . For the admixture/embracing [admixtio/prosplok1] of the
body (with the soul) could not altogether extinguish the memory
and contemplation of what they had known beforehand, precisely because they were coming for that purpose. For as at this time when
the body is asleep and at rest, whatever things the soul sees by itself
and does in a vision, many of these it remembers and communicates
to the body; and as it happens that upon waking one relates, even
after a long time, what he saw in a dream, in this way one would
remember also those things he did before coming into the body. For
if that which was seen for just a moment of time or was conceived in
a vision by it (the soul) alone while sleeping is remembered after it is
blended again (2nakraq8nai/commixta) with the body and is dispersed
(diaspar8nai/dispersa) through all the members, it would much more
remember those things with which it lived for so long a time, even
for the whole period of a past life.

Irenaeus reference to the mixture of the body and soul occurs in


the midst of his argument against the transmigration of souls.
There may, in fact, be two references but the first is uncertain.
In the first he challenges the notion that souls do not remember
60
W. R. Schoedel, Philosophy and Rhetoric in the Adversus Haereses of
Irenaeus, VC 13 (1959), pp. 2232, at 246.
61
I am not the first to argue that the end of AH 2 reveals Stoic influence.
In the middle of the last century, M. Spanneut argued that Irenaeus conception of dreams in AH 2.33.3 is Stoic in origin (Le Stocisme des Pe`res de
glise: De Clement de Rome a` Clement dAlexandre [Paris: E
ditions du
lE
Seuil, 1957], pp. 21617).

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3.2. The Mixture of Body and Soul


Several passages at the end of Against Heresies 2 reveal that
Irenaeus conception of the union of the body and soul corresponds to that of Stoic theory. We first encounter signs of
Irenaeus appropriation of Stoic thought in AH 2.33.1 and 4,
where he constructs an argument against the transmigration of
souls. Some time ago, William Schoedel recognized that
Irenaeus argument against Plato in AH 2.33.24 incorporates
arguments from a peripatetic philosophical tradition that may
be traced back to Strato.60 Eluding Schoedel, however, was the
recognition that Irenaeus argument in AH 2.33.1 and 4 also
appropriates the Stoic notion of the mixture of the body and
soul.61 AH 2.33.1 reads:

532

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

For the body is not more powerful than the soul, since indeed from
that one is (given to the body) breath, and life, and increase, and
cohesion, but the soul possesses and rules over the body. It is certainly retarded in its speed, to the degree in which the body
62
Alexander of Aphrodisias: the soul . . . pervades (di0kein) the whole of the
body while preserving its own substantiality (o2s0an) in the mixture (tI m0xei)
with it (for there is nothing in the body possessing the soul that does not
partake (4moiron) of the soul) (Mixt. 4, 217.326); and Arius Didymus: the
souls within us . . . are mutually spread out (2ntiparekte0nousin) along with our
bodies through and through (5di4 7lwn) (fr. 28, Dox. Gr. 463.278; trans.
Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, p. 82).

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events that took place in previous existences by arguing that the


admixture/embracing (admixtio/prosplok1) of the body with the
soul could not remove from the soul the memories and contemplation about the past. It is unclear whether we should follow the
Latin text or the later Greek fragment. If the Latin reflects the
primitive text, then the mixture of the body and soul of which it
speaks fits the Stoic theory of blending. Even so, little else can be
said of this first reference. The second reference, however, is
more informative.
Irenaeus argues that because a soul remembers the brief happenings of a dream once it is blended again with a body, it would
surely remember that which happened throughout the whole
course of a past life when blended with a new body. Of particular
interest are the phrases that describe the reunion of the soul with
the body after the completion of the dream: after it is blended
again (commixta/2nakraq8nai) with the body and is dispersed (dispersa/diaspar8nai) through all the members. Two aspects of
these phrases indicate Irenaeus thought is Stoic in origin.
First, a fragment has preserved 2nakerann0w as the term used
to speak of the blending again of the body and the soul. The
verb belongs to the same word family as does kra' si", the technical term for the Stoic theory of blending. Secondly, the notion
that this blending involved the dispersal of the soul through all
the members of the body corresponds to the pervading or mutual
coextension of the active principle through the passive principle
that occurs in blending. Both Alexander of Aphrodisias and
Arius Didymus use the soul and body as an example of this
mutual coextension.62
These observations establish Irenaeus understanding of the
union of the body and soul in AH 2.33.1 as Stoic in orientation.
A few paragraphs later, in AH 2.33.4, he further appropriates
Stoic thought:

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

533

This pericope does not explicitly refer to the mixture or blending


of the body and soul, but rather speaks of the participation (participare) of the soul with the body. The language of participation,
however, also fits Stoic thought. In the selection from Alexander
of Aphrodisias provided in the note above we see that because
the soul pervades the entirety of the body, there is nothing in
the body possessing the soul that does not partake (4moiron) of
the soul.63 The blending of two ingredients results in their participation with or partaking of each other, just as the soul and
body partake of each other in their union. Moreover, this participation, as Alexander indicates prior to the sentence just
quoted, never jeopardizes the continued existence of the substance and qualities proper to each ingredient. These concepts
come through in Irenaeus description of the mixing of the operations of the soul and body. The mixing (admiscere) of the
rapid operation of the soul with the slower operation of the
body is an aspect of the participation of the soul and body that
results from their blending. Furthermore, the moderation of the
souls rapidity of operation does not mean that the soul loses
altogether its own powers (suas virtutes), a statement that corresponds well to the preservation of the qualities proper to constituent ingredients in a blend.
At this point, the fundamental piece of Stoic thought concerning the blending of the body and soul that we have not discussed
with regard to Irenaeus is the identification of the soul as a body.
The impediment of the souls operation by that of the body
could, in fact, reflect the conception of the soul as a body. For
the very idea that the motion or speed of the soul may be subject
63

Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 4, 217.36; see also 3, 217.1013.

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participates in its motion; but it does not lose its own knowledge. For
the body is like an instrument, whereas the soul stands in the place of
the reason of the artist. As, therefore, the artist quickly conceives of
the work in himself, but carries it out slowly by means of an instrument because of the immobility of what is being acted on, so too the
speed of the mind having been mixed with the slowness of the instrument results in a temperate operation. So also the soul by participating (participans) with its body is hindered to a certain degree, its
speed being mixed (admixta) with the slowness of the body. Yet it
does not lose altogether its own powers (suas virtutes): indeed as it is
sharing (participans) life with the body, it does not itself cease to live.
Thus, too, when it is communicating other things to the body, it loses
neither the knowledge of them, nor the memory of the things which
have been considered.

534

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

to resistance suggests the corporeality of the soul, since resistance is typically construed as belonging to the interaction of
material things.64 Other passages, however, more clearly indicate
that Irenaeus thinks of the soul as being corporeal.
The first two passages I would like to highlight occur in the
latter half of Against Heresies 2. In AH 2.19.6 we read:

Massuet remarked long ago that we may infer from this passage
that Irenaeus believed souls to be corporeal, insofar as they possess a circumscribed figure.65 The same inference may be drawn
from another passage that occurs towards the end of the book. In
AH 2.34.1 Irenaeus argues that the rich man is able to recognize
Lazarus and Abraham for several reasons, one of which is that
after death the soul preserves the figure of the body to which it
had once been adapted.66 This logic follows closely upon that
which we saw in AH 2.19.6 and the same inference may be
drawn: the ascription of a circumscribed figure to the soul suggests Irenaeus believed the soul to be corporeal.
Understanding Irenaeus attribution of figure to the soul as
presupposing the corporeality of the soul garners significant
64
Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, p. 99. Sorabji points out that the
resistance that would occur in blending as one body pervades another would
be a function of the diVerent densities belonging to the two bodies.
65
Sancti Irenaei episcopi Lugdunensis et martyris Detectionis et eversionis falso
cognominatae agnitionis, ed. R. Massuet (Paris, 1710; repr. PG 7; Paris, 1857),
col. 774, n. 34.
66
AH 2.34.1: souls not only continue to exist . . . but retain the same form
(characterem) of the body to which they are adapted (adaptantur), and souls
continue to exist . . . and have the figure (figuram) of a human being, so that
they may still be recognized. Grabe directs the reader to Tertullians argument for the corporeality of the soul in On the Soul (de Anima) 7 (Sancti
Irenaei episcopi Lugdunensis Contra omnes haereses libri quinque, ed. J. E. Grabe
[Oxford: E. Theatro Sheldoniano, 1702], p. 192, n. 2). Interestingly, given his
reading of AH 2.19.6, Massuet argues that Irenaeus does not express an opinion like Tertullian, contending that character refers to individual spiritual
properties (PG 7, cols. 8334, n. 93). This interpretation is unconvincing because the passage is speaking of the physical recognition of Lazarus and
Abraham by the rich man.

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For he (the aeon Saviour) will not have the likeness and appearance
(speciem) of angels, but of those souls in whom also he is formed
(formatur)just as water when it is poured into a vessel takes the
form (formam) of that vessel, and if at some point it should freeze
in it, it will have the shape (speciem) of the vessel in which it has
frozensince souls themselves possess the figure (figuram) of the body
(in which they dwell), for they themselves have been adapted (adaptatae sunt) to the vessel, as I have said before.

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

535

support from a statement he makes earlier in Book 2. In AH


2.7.6 Irenaeus defines that which is created in contradistinction
to that which is spiritual:

The characteristics ascribed to that which is createdbeing corruptible, earthly, compound, circumscribedindicate that by
created Irenaeus means material. Included among the characteristics that he ascribes to created, material things is figuratio,
having a figure or shape. The possession of figure is proper to
that which is material, in contrast to that which is spiritual. That
being the case, Irenaeus ascription of figure (figura) to the soul
in AH 2.19.6 and 2.34.1 presupposes the materiality or corporeality of the soul.
The final text that bears on this discussion manifests a striking
similarity to Nemesius Nat. 81.61068 insofar as it speaks of the
soul as corporeal while also defining death as the departure or
separation of the soul from the body. In AH 5.7.1 Irenaeus
writes:
What, then, are mortal bodies? Could they be souls? On the contrary,
souls are incorporeal (incorporales) when put in comparison (quantum
ad comparationem) to mortal bodies (mortalium corporum): for God
breathed into the face of man the breath of life, and man became
a living soul (Gen 2:7). Now the breath of life is incorporeal (incorporalis). But neither can they call it mortal, since it is the breath of
life. And for this reason David says, My soul also shall live to Him
(Ps 21:30, LXX), as much as its substance is immortal. Neither,
though, can they say that the mortal body is spirit. What, then, is
there left to call the mortal body, except that which was formed,
that is, the flesh, of which it is also said that God will vivify it? For
this it is which dies and is decomposed (moritur et solvitur), but not
the soul nor the spirit. For to die is to lose vital capacity, and then to
become breathless, and inanimate, and devoid of motion, and to dissolve (deperire) into those [elements] from which one has derived the
beginning of [ones] substance. But this happens neither to the soul,
67
Following Rousseaus suggestion that eVusa et locupletia appears to be a
doublet (SC 293, p. 224).
68
Quoted in the first section.

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those things which are corruptible (corruptibilia), and earthly (terrena),


and compound (composita), and transitory (praetereuntia) cannot be the
images of those which according to them are spiritual, unless these
very things also are admitted to be compound (composita), circumscribed (circumscriptione), and having a shape (figuratione), and thus
no longer spiritual, and diVusive (eVusa),67 and incomprehensible
(incomprehensibilia).

536

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

for it is the breath of life, nor to the Spirit, for uncompounded


(incompositus) and simple (simplex) is the Spirit, which cannot be
decomposed (resolvi) and is itself the life of those who receive it.
As it stands, then, death is shown to be a matter of the flesh,
which, after the soul has departed, becomes breathless and inanimate,
and is decomposed little by little into the earth from which it was
taken. This, then, is what is mortal.

69
Scholars have disagreed over whether Irenaeus holds a trichotomous or
dichotomous anthropology. I have argued elsewhere that Irenaeus holds a dichotomous anthropology, according to which the human being is composed of
body and soul. The reference to the Spirit in AH 5.7.1 refers to the reception
of the Holy Spirit by the perfect human being. See Briggman, Irenaeus and the
Holy Spirit, pp. 149, 1656, 17381.
70
Strictly speaking, animation or temporal life is not proper to the soul.
The soul possesses life because it has pleased God to bestow life upon the
soul (AH 2.34.4; cf. Briggman, Irenaeus and the Holy Spirit, pp. 16773).

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At first glance one might read this passage as standing against


my argument for the souls corporeality, for Irenaeus states that
the breath of lifewhich is the soulis incorporeal (incorporalis). Such a reading overlooks, however, the crucial qualification
that occurs in the previous sentence: souls are incorporeal when
put in comparison to (quantum ad comparationem) mortal bodies.
Irenaeus does not think of the incorporeality of the soul absolutely but relatively: the soul is incorporeal when compared to
the corporeality of the body.
The ascription of incorporeality to the soul when considered in
comparison to the body suggests that Irenaeus might consider
the soul to be corporeal when compared to something else, such
as the Spirit.69 Just such a comparison may take place a few
sentences later when Irenaeus attributes simplicity to the Spirit
but not the soul, leaving open the possibility that the soul is
composite. According to Irenaeus, the body is that which dies
and is decomposed (moritur et solvitur), not the soul or the
Spirit. To die would be to lose vital power, to become breathless,
inanimate, devoid of motion, and to dissolve or decompose into a
things constituent elements. The soul, as the breath of life,
could not be that which dies because it is not subject to the
loss of vital power, to becoming breathless, inanimate, and
devoid of motion. Indeed, these are proper to the soul,70
which bestows them upon the body. The Spirit, as that which
is simple (simplex) and not composite (incompositus), could not be
that which dies because it is not subject to dissolving (deperire)
or decomposing (resolvi) into constituent elements. The attribution of simplicity to the Spirit but not the soul is not incidental;

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

537

71

AH 5.12.2.
D. Minns is correct when he writes: In Irenaeus view, only material things are
made up of bits and pieces. I do not believe, however, that his next sentence represents the thought of Irenaeus: Souls are immaterial and therefore simple: they
have no parts to come unstuck and therefore they are incorruptiblethey have no
innate capacity for corruption as bodies do (Irenaeus: An Introduction [Washington,
DC: Georgetown University Press, 1994; London and New York: T & T Clark,
2010 ], p. 95). Not only is it incorrect to think of the soul as immaterial and simple, as
I have shown above, but it is also wrong to assert that souls do not have an innate
capacity for corruption, such that they are incorruptible. Incorruptibility, or immortality, does not belong to the soul by nature, but comes to human beings who
receive power or grace from the Holy Spirit (e.g. AH 5.8.12). This is true of Adam
and Eve prior to the Fall, who depend upon the power/grace of the Spirit to sustain
eternal life, as well as postlapsarian human beings, who depend upon the power/
grace of the Spirit to restore eternal life (Briggman, Irenaeus and the Holy Spirit, esp.
pp. 16673, 7980).
73
This reading of Irenaeus also has a basis in Stoic thought, which recognized some things to be more material than others. See Sorabji, Matter, Space
and Motion, p. 116; Sorabji refers to Calcidius, in Tim. ch. 289.
74
As we have seen, e.g. in AH 5.7.1, which quotes Gen. 2:7.
75
E.g. AH 3.21.10.
72

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it accords with Irenaeus understanding of the nature of each.


Irenaeus regards the nature of the Spirit as being simple and not
composite, while earlier we read in AH 2.7.6 that created beings
are composite or compound (composita). Irenaeus connects these
two statements when, in AH 5.12.2, he says that the Holy Spirit
creates the soul/breath of life.71 Reading these passages together
allows us to see that the soul, as that which is created, is composite, while the Holy Spirit, as the uncreated Creator, is simple
and not composite.72
It is clear that whether something is simple or composite differentiates the uncreated from the created, but I would like to
suggest that in Irenaeus mind the degree to which something is
composite diVerentiates created things from each other.73 We
could say that the created order is defined by a scale of complexity. I believe this understanding explains his ascription of
relative but not absolute incorporeality to the soul. The soul is
incorporeal when compared to the body because it is less composite or more simple than the bodythe soul is the breath
breathed by God,74 whereas the body is formed from the dust
of the ground.75 DiVerentiating between the complexity of the
soul and body is possible, and only possible, because both the
soul and body are created. Complexity belongs to the created
order alone. Uncreated divinity, as has just been demonstrated
with regard to the Holy Spirit, is defined by its simplicity. If,
then, the soul is incorporeal relative to the body because it is less

538

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

3.3. Mixture Christology


For the character of the mixture involved, one would expect orthodox
believers in two natures to draw on Stoic, rather than Aristotelian
theory. For the ingredients in a Stoic mixture persist actually, not
76
AH 5.7.1: As it stands, then, death is shown to be a matter of the flesh,
which, after the soul has departed, becomes breathless and inanimate, and is
decomposed little by little into the earth from which it was taken.
77
Phaedo 64C, 67CD.
78
This is not to say that deathand here I am speaking of the loss of
temporal lifeis simply a mechanistic separation of the soul from the body,
for that would neglect the will of God in the bestowal and preservation of that
life (AH 2.33.4; see also 5.12.2).

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composite or more simple than the body, then it would make


sense for Irenaeus to think of the soul as being corporeal relative
to the Holy Spirit, because the soul is composite whereas the
Spirit is simple.
As I said at the beginning of my discussion of AH 5.7.1, this
text is similar to Nemesius Nat. 81.610 because it speaks of the
soul as corporeal while also defining death as the departure or
separation of the soul from the body.76 Chrysippus explanation
that death is due to the departure of a corporeal soul builds upon
the Platonic understanding that death is the separation of the
soul from the body77 to arrive at the un-Platonic conclusion
that the soul is corporeal. Unlike Chrysippus, Irenaeus does
not go so far as to say that two objects must be corporeal in
order to conceive of their separation. Nevertheless, Chrysippus
explanation of death as the separation of two corporeal objects,
the soul from the body, would seem to fit Irenaeus logic in this
passage.78
To this point I have shown that Irenaeus recognized mixture
to produce a unified resultant such that what is mixed is united
the one to the other (AH 2.17.3). Moreover, Irenaeus conception of the union of the body and soul corresponds to the Stoic
understanding of the blending of the body and soul, an understanding that includes the identification of the soul as corporeal.
It is clear, then, that Irenaeus incorporates both the language
and the concepts belonging to the Stoic theory of blending
into his theological account. As we have seen, this appropriation
of Stoic theory appears as early as AH 2 and persists at least
through the beginning of AH 5. Between these two books, in
AH 3 and 4, Irenaeus uses the theory of blending to explain the
union of the divine and human in Christ.

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

539

potentially, and one can be dominant, as the divine nature was supposed to be, without obliterating the other.79

they wander from the truth, because their thought departs from him who is
truly God, being ignorant that his only-begotten Word, who is always
present with the human race, united to and interspersed in his own formation (unitus et consparsus suo plasmati), according to the pleasure of the
Father, and was made flesh, is himself Jesus Christ our Lord . . .

Previous consideration of this text has been concerned with two


questions: whether unitus et consparsus suo plasmati refers to the
incarnation or the presence of the Word to his creatures, and
what Greek term lies behind consparsus.
As to the first, Albert Houssiau questioned whether unitus et
consparsus suo plasmati refers to the incarnation or the creation of
human beings. He ultimately decided in favor of the incarnation
but with the reservation that the question is diYcult to settle.80
Neither J. Armitage Robinson nor Aloys Grillmeier were as
troubled over the passage as Houssiau, both reading it as a reference to the incarnation. Robinson compared the text to Prf 40,
where Irenaeus writes of the Word: this One came to Judaea
engendered of God by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin
) transMary. He observed that the Armenian term (
lated as engendered in Prf 40 means sown, and suggested that
AH 3.16.6 also refers to the Word that the Father sows by his
Holy Spirit.81 The fact that Irenaeus argument in 3.16.6 has
nothing to do with the Holy Spirit keeps me from following that
aspect of Robinsons argument; on the other hand, his reference
to Prf 40 does reveal that language similar to consparsus has a
place in Irenaeus theology of the incarnation. Grillmeier, for his
79
80
81

Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, p. 120.


Houssiau, Christologie dIrenee, p. 225.
Robinson, Demonstration, p. 65.

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Several passages in Against Heresies 3 and 4 combine to reveal


that Irenaeus utilizes the Stoic theory of blending to explain the
manner in which the divine and human are united in Christ and
the manner in which they relate within that union. My approach
of proceeding according to the literary chronology of Against
Heresies will establish the development of Irenaeus thought,
and, therefore, the context in which we should read his reference
in AH 4.20.4 to the blending (commixtio) of the human and
divine in the christological union.
The first possible sign in Book 3 of a christological interest in
the Stoic theory of blending occurs in AH 3.16.6:

540

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

82

Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 1, p. 104, n. 230.


S. Irenaei, ed. Grabe, p. 241, n. 6. Houssiau (Christologie dIrenee, p. 225,
n. 2) follows Grabe in proposing pefurme#no", contending the Latin, Syriac, and
Armenian terms all suggest it.
84
Rousseau oVers this term in his Greek retroversion (SC 211, p. 313).
85
K. Prumm, Gottliche Planung und menschliche Entwicklung nach
Irenaus Adversus haereses, Scholastik 13 (1938), pp. 20624, 34266, at 343.
The possibility of this reading is noted by Grillmeier, Christ in Christian
Tradition, vol. 1, p. 104, n. 230, and Houssiau, Christologie dIrenee, p. 225,
n. 2.
86
It seems that Irenaeus modified Justins concept of L0go" spermatik0" in
order to contend that Christ was disseminated in Scripture (J. Behr, Irenaeus
on the Word of God, Studia Patristica 36 [2001], pp. 1637, at 164.) See also
J. Lashier, The Trinitarian Theology of Irenaeus of Lyons (Ph.D. diss.,
Marquette University, 2011), p. 147.
83

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part, classed this phrase among others that reveal the rich language Irenaeus uses about the union of God and man in the
incarnation.82 Though I agree with Houssiau that the placement
of the phrase between references to a more general presence of
the Word to human beings and references to his peculiar presence in the incarnation could bring into question whether the
phrase refers to the incarnation, the broader argument of the
passage concerning the unity of Jesus person strongly indicates
that it has to do with the union of the Word and humanity in the
incarnation. The decisiveness of Robinson and Grillmeier are
instructive.
As for the term that lies behind consparsus, no consensus has
emerged. Suggestions have included pefurme#no",83 sumfuraqe1",84
and sunesparme#no".85 The first two belong to the same word
family and would be translated along the lines of mixed or
mingled with and kneaded or blended together. The third
would be translated along the lines of interspersed with and
its presence would likely entail an allusion to Stoic concept of
l0go" spermatik0". This concept, however, is foreign to Irenaeus
thought,86 rendering the originality of sunesparme#no" highly
improbable.
Unless we recover the original Greek, no final determination
will be possible. At the same time it is worth pointing out that
the meanings of each of these terms are compatible with the
Stoic theory of blending, with which Irenaeus is familiar at
this point in his writing. When read in the light of the theory
of blending, unitus et consparsus suo plasmati would refer to the
union that results when the Word pervades or extends throughout (conspargere) the created human substance (plasma). Such a
reading would support Houssiaus insistence that when speaking

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

541

But, again, those who assert that he is just a mere man who was
begotten by Joseph remain in the bondage of the old disobedience,
and are dying, having not yet been blended (nondum commixti) with
the Word of God the Father, nor receiving liberty through the Son . . .
For it was for this reason that the Word of God [was made] man, and
he who is the Son of God was made the Son of man, that man,
having been blended (commixtus) with the Word of God, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God.

Irenaeus twice uses commiscere with reference to the union between human beings and the Word of God. In the first instance
those who have not yet been blended (nondum commixti) with the
Word remain in a state of death, while in the second instance
those who have been blended (commixtus) with the Word become
children of God.88
87

Houssiau, Christologie dIrenee, p. 247; see also p. 205.


Early commentators upon this text often read or oVered interpretations
that encouraged reading these words as speaking of the christological union,
such as F. Feuardent as quoted in Sancti Irenaei episcopi Lugdunensis Quae
supersunt Omnia, ed. A. Stieren (Leipzig: T. O. Weigel, 1853), vol. 2, p.
903; S. Irenaei, ed. Massuet, cols. 93940, n. 55; and Sancti Irenaei episcopi
Lugdunensis libros quinque adversus haereses, ed. W. W. Harvey (2 vols.;
Cambridge, 1857), vol. 2, p. 103, n. 4. The interpretation of these words as
referring to the salvific union began at least as early as Grabes edition (S.
Irenaei, p. 249, n. 6), but consensus formed around this interpetation at the
turn of the twentieth century with the writings of F. R. M. Hitchcock,
Irenaeus of Lugdunum: A Study of his Teaching (Cambridge, 1914; repr.
Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2004), p. 136, n. 1; The Treatise of Irenaeus
of Lugdunum Against the Heresies (London: S.P.C.K., 1916), vol. 1, p. 133, n.
1; and J. A. Robinson, Selected Notes of Dr. Hort on Irenaeus Book III,
JTS, OS 33 (1932), pp. 15166, at 162. Years later Houssiau also aYrmed this
reading (Christologie dIrenee, p. 192, n. 3).
88

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of the union of the Word with his plasma Irenaeus implicitly


compares the unity of Christ to the union of the soul and
body in human beings,87 for he would be thinking of both in
terms of the Stoic theory of blending.
If it is correct to read this passage in terms of Stoic mixture
theory, then AH 3.16.6 shows the expansion of Irenaeus use of
the theory of blending. His initial use of the theory to characterize the union of the soul and body at the end of Against
Heresies 2 has expanded by the middle of Book 3 to include an
explanation of the union of the divine and human in Christ.
Whatever the case, AH 3.19.1 does reveal progression in
Irenaeus thought, for we find there another development in
his appropriation of mixture languageits use to characterize
the salvific union between God and human beings:

542

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

89
Theodoret of Cyrus, Eranistes, 1, Flor. 1, ed. G. H. Ettlinger (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1975), p. 98, line 20.
90
S. Irenaei, ed. Grabe, p. 249, n. 6. Feuardent seems to have been the first
to notice the contrast between Theodorets Greek and the Latin text of
Irenaeus (as quoted by Stieren in S. Irenaei, vol. 2, p. 903). Grabes explanation for the contrast builds upon Feuardents earlier note.
91
Of particular interest to this study is the fact that Massuet never connects
his observations with regard to Theodorets understanding of kra' si" to the
Stoic theory of blending.
92
S. Irenaei, ed. Massuet, cols. 93940, n. 55. Grabe, too, admits the possibility that Theodoret was working from memory but quickly turns to his
suggestion of Theodorets polemical alteration of the text behind commixtus
(S. Irenaei, p. 249, n. 6).
93
The debate continued over a century later in Harvey (S. Irenaei, vol. 2, p.
102, n. 5), Hitchcock (Irenaeus of Lugdunum, p. 136, n. 1), P. Nautin (Le
Dossier dHippolyte et de Meliton dans les florile`ges dogmatiques et chez les his ditions du Cerf, 1953], pp. 2931),
toriens modernes [Patristica, 1; Paris: Les E
and Houssiau (Christologie dIrenee, p. 192, n. 3).
94
S. Irenaei, ed. Massuet, col. 939, n. 55.
95
S. Irenaei, ed. Stieren, vol. 1, p. 525, n. 2.
96
Robinson, Notes of Hort on Irenaeus, p. 162. Horts suggestion is
printed beside commixti Verbo.
97
Hitchcock, Irenaeus of Lugdunum, p. 136, n. 1.
98
Rousseau, SC 210, p. 343.

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The presence of the language of blending or mixture in this


text has been the source of confusion and concern over the years.
In fact, Irenaeus mixture language may have been controversial
as early as the fifth century. Theodoret of Cyrus quotes the portion of this passage containing the second use of commiscere, but
the Greek text he provides, t1n l0gon cwr0sa", does not correspond to the Latin commixtus verbo.89 Grabe was the first to oVer
an explanation, suggesting that Theodoret altered the Greek
word that commixtus is rendering in an eVort to not lend any
encouragement to the proponents of Eutyches Christology.90
Massuet disagreed, noting that Theodoret recognized that
kra' si" can express a union without confusion (s0gcusi").91 He
then arrived at a more reserved judgement: Theodoret had
either worked from memory or used an interpolated text.92
Whatever the cause of the alterationabout which consensus
may never be possible93Massuets examination led him to
identify the word behind commixtus as either sugkerasqe1" or
sugkekrame#no".94 Stieren seems to follow Massuet, listing the
same possibilities.95 Hort believed it was probably sugkekerasme#noi,96 while Hitchcock maintained it was either sugkraqe0"
or sugkekrame#no".97 More recently, Rousseau gives the original
as sugkraqe0".98 Whatever the particular form of the verb, all
agree that the original term Irenaeus used belongs to the same

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

543

99

word family as does kra' si", the technical term for the Stoic
theory of blending.100
Irenaeus discussion of the union between God and human
beings continues at the end of AH 3.19.1, where he bases the
benefits of the salvific union upon the attainments of the christological union. He writes:

The union (adunare) to which Irenaeus refers here is the blending (commiscere) of the Word and human beings of which he
spoke in the first part of AH 3.19.1. We have cause, then, to
utilize Stoic mixture theory as an interpretative lens when considering this discussion of the salvific union. Two features of
Stoic thought are relevant to the interpretation of this text.
First, as I have mentioned, the constituent ingredients in a
blend preserve the substances and qualities proper to them.101
The union, then, between human beings and the divine Word
does not jeopardize their distinction; they remain diVerent in
kind, and, therefore, always distinguishable even when
united.102 Second, blending is designed to explain how the
active principle (God/Pneuma/Logos) and the passive principle
relate to each other.103 The absorption of the corruptibility and
mortality of post-lapsarian human beings by the incorruptibility
and immortality of the divine Word should be recognized as the
action of the divine Word upon the passive human being with
whom it is blended.
99
Harvey is the sole exception (S. Irenaei, vol. 2, p. 102, n. 5), preferring
the Greek given by Theodoret, but his reasoning seems to be driven by his
theological predetermination that commixtus is inadmissable.
100
This would also hold for the term behind the earlier use of commiscere in
this passage, since the second usage builds on the first.
101
E.g. Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 3, 21417.
102
Irenaeus is ever concerned to maintain a distinction between the uncreated God and created beings. In AH 4.38.1, 3 believers, as created beings,
grow increasingly perfect, ever closer to the nature of God, but never arriving,
always limited to an approximation of God, the uncreated One, the perfect
One (Briggman, Irenaeus and the Holy Spirit, pp. 1789).
103
Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 3, 216.1417; Diogenes Laertius, Lives 7.1346.

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For by no other way could we have received incorruptibility and


immortality, except by having been united (aduniti) to incorruptibility
and immortality. But how could we be united (adunari possemus) to
incorruptibility and immortality, unless, first, incorruptibility and immortality had become that which we also are, so that the corruptible
might be absorbed (absorberetur) by incorruptibility, and the mortal by
immortality, that we might receive (perciperemus) the adoption of sons?

544

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

For just as he was man so that he might be tempted, so also was he


the Word so that he might be glorified: the Word remaining quiescent
(requiescente/3suc0zonto"), that he might be capable of being tempted,
dishonoured, crucified, and of suVering death, but the human nature
(homine) being absorbed (absorto)105 in it, when he was conquering,
104

Briggman, Irenaeus and the Holy Spirit, esp. pp. 16673.


Theodoret (Eranistes, 3, Flor. 3, ed. Ettlinger, p. 230, line 13) has sugginome#nou. Theodorets text is followed by Grabe (S. Irenaei, p. 250, n. a),
Massuet (S. Irenaei, col. 941, n. 64), and F. Loofs, who suggests the Latin
translator altered the text (Theophilus von Antiochien Adversus Marcionem und
die anderen theologischen Quellen bei Irenaeus [TU 46.2; Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs
Buchhandlung, 1930], p. 91, n. 1). The Latin is held to be correct by Stieren
on the basis of internal textual comparison (S. Irenaei, vol. 1, p. 526, n. 6),
and Harvey on the basis of sense (S. Irenaei, vol. 2, p. 104, n. 6). Houssiau
follows the Latin, which he sees as translating katapoqe#nto", on the basis of
internal textual comparison and Theodorets tendency to correct passages that
may be read as a challenge to diophysite Christology (Christologie dIrenee, pp.
1923). According to Rousseau, sugginome#nou makes little sense and is without
doubt an accidental corruption of katapinome#nou, which is well supported by
comparison with other passages in Irenaeus (SC 210, p. 344). It is diYcult for
me to see how such a corruption could be accidental; it makes more sense for
the alteration to be the result of Theodorets polemic, as Houssiau has suggested. As for the particular form of katap0nw, the present tense (katapinome#nou)
forms a grammatical parallel with 3suc0zonto" and suits the relational dynamic
under discussion better than the aorist (katapoqe#nto").
105

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These two points combine to yield the understanding that the


absorption of corruptibility and mortality by incorruptibility and
immortality does not involve the diminution or transformation of
the substance or qualities of the human being. This corresponds,
for instance, to Irenaeus conception of temporal life and eternal
life as two modalities of the one physical or biological life of
human beings. The union of human beings with the incarnate
Word through the Holy Spirit involves the bestowal of additional
grace or power upon the believer, resulting in the modulation of
temporal life to eternal life. The eternal life of the believer,
characterized by incorruptibility and immortality, is not diVerent
in kind from temporal life, characterized by corruptibility and
mortality, but diVerent in strength or order. There is always one
and the same human life, capable of modulation, but ever
human.104
The Stoic conception of the relationship between the active
principle and passive principle can be recognized not only in
aspects of Irenaeus conception of the relationship between
God and human beings, but also in the relationship between
the divine and human in the person of Christ. Just a paragraph
or two later, in AH 3.19.3, Irenaeus writes:

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

545

and enduring (suVering), and performing acts of kindness, and rose


again, and was taken up (into heaven). This one, therefore, the Son of
God, our Lord, being the Word of the Father, and the Son of man,
because from Marywho was descended from human beings and who
was herself a human beinghe has received a generation proper to a
human being, and was made the Son of man.

106
Rousseau provides a succinct explanation of the first line of this text in
SC 210, p. 344.
107
This discussion is an aspect of Irenaeus argument for identifying Jesus
as the Godman, an argument that occupies all of AH 3.19.
108
Loofs follows Theodorets text; see n. 105.
109
Loofs, Theophilus von Antiochien, p. 91.
110
Irenee de Lyon: Contre les Heresies, ed. F. Sagnard (Sources Chretiennes
ditions du Cerf, 1952), p. 337, n. 1. The simple distinction
34; Paris: Les E
between a personal and natural union does not fit Irenaeus thought.
Hitchcock was correct long ago to say: Irenaeus does not represent the
Word or Son of God as taking a second Personality, but a second Nature to
Himself. His manhood had no personality of its own (Irenaeus of Lugdunum,
pp. 1545). This taking of human substance by the Word/Son involves a union
of the divine and human natures or substances.
111
Houssiau and Rousseau follow the Latin text; see n. 105.
112
Rousseau, SC 210, pp. 3445; Houssiau, Christologie dIrenee, pp. 1915.
Houssiau goes so far as to suggest that Irenaeus is not here concerned with
the union between the Word and his humanity, but just two momentsglorious and ingloriousin the life of Christ (p. 195, n. 2).

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Irenaeus takes but a moment to aYrm the necessity of both the


human and divine natures to the existence of the incarnate
Word;106 he then moves to his primary concern of explaining
how the human and divine exist as one.107 Previous scholars
have disregarded the straightforward reading of this text as referring to a dynamic involving the divine and human natures of
Jesus. According to Loofs the dynamic expressed by the terms
3suc0zwn and sugginome#no"108 does not indicate a natural union
(5 nwsi" fusik0) but an energetic (energetische) union between
the Word and his humanity.109 Sagnard maintains that the titles
Son of God and Son of man indicate that the union takes place
at a personal rather than natural level.110 Houssiau and
Rousseau, for their part, believed that 3suc0zwn and katapinome#no"111 refer to a dynamic interaction of the qualities belonging to the human and divine natures.112
A straightforward reading of this passage, however, understands 3suc0zwn and katapinome#no" to describe an interaction
that takes place within the christological union at the level of
the two natures: it is the divine Word who remains quiescent
(3suc0zonto" toA L0gou) and his humanity that is absorbed or
swallowed up by the Word (katapinome#nou toA 2nqr0pou). This

546

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

113
Some texts, including the 1526 editio princeps of Erasmus, have absorpto
(see S. Irenaei, ed. Grabe, p. 250, n. a).
114
Wolfson points out that katap0nw plays an important role in later monophysite logic, as represented in Theodorets Dialogues, for the monophysites
held that Jesus humanity was absorbed by his divinity in the christological
union (Philosophy of the Church Fathers, vol. 1, pp. 4456). While Irenaeus also
uses katap0nw, his logic is not monophysite. Unlike the monophysites, Irenaeus
is not speaking of a constant or absolute absorption which results in the existence of only one nature. Rather, he is speaking of a dynamic by which the
divine nature recedes or advances in accordance with the particular activity or
experience in which Jesus is engaged. This dynamic does not threaten or
jeopardize the existence of the human nature but in fact guarantees it, for
the human nature is always required, even if only for Jesus to be seen and
heard by earthly, material creatures (e.g. AH 5.1.1).
115
I believe this reading will bear out Horts position that the sense [of this
passage] seems to be that the Word was in active harmony with the Man in
these acts or triumphs, while not abandoning both the Greek and Latin texts
as Hort believes it is necessary to do (Robinson, Notes of Hort on Irenaeus,
p. 162). Houssiau is mistaken when he says this text furnishes . . . a well equilibrated antithesis in which the Word and his humanity are respectively subjects (Christologie dIrenee, p. 193).

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interaction is dynamic and according to Irenaeus explains how


the two realities of Jesus are able to exist as one. The Word
remains quiescent when it is necessary for Jesus to take part in
certain activities or experiences (being tempted, dishonoured,
crucified, suVering death), and the Word absorbs or swallows
up his human nature when it is necessary for Jesus to take
part in others (conquering, enduring, performing acts of kindness, rising again, being taken up into heaven).
A cogent interpretation of this passage, then, must explain this
dynamic interaction in terms of Christs human and divine natures. It must also account for a particular aspect of Irenaeus
logic that is fundamental to his conception of this dynamic interaction. According to Irenaeus, the Word alone is the subject of
the activity that determines the relationship between the human
and divine in the christological union. This restriction of activity
to the Word is evident in the grammatical construction of the
text. The active participle 3suc0zonto" indicates the Word is the
agent of activity when it comes to remaining quiescent, and the
passive participle katapinome#nou, the term likely behind absorto,113
indicates that the Word is once again the agent of activity when
it comes to absorbing or swallowing up his humanity.114 The
Word remains quiescent and the Word absorbs or swallows up
his humanityhis humanity does not act upon the Word.115
In so saying, Irenaeus is not aYrming the one reality of the
incarnate Word by identifying the Word as the subject of every

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

547

116
For Irenaeus goal of safeguarding the unity of Christ, see Houssiau,
Christologie dIrenee, pp. 1945.
117
The relational dynamic between the humanity and divinity of Christ in
this passage reminds Grillmeier of Athanasius, about whom he writes, unlike
Irenaeus, we must in his case take Stoic ideas of the work of the Logos into
account (Christ in Tradition, vol. 1, p. 104, n. 231). Grillmeier provides no
explanation for why such Stoic ideas should not be taken into account for
Irenaeus.
118
Reading this passage in terms of the Stoic theory of blending is also
encouraged by its context, for instance Irenaeus appropriation of the theory of
blending earlier in this argument, in AH 3.19.1.
119
Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 3, 216.1417; Diogenes Laertius, Lives 7.1346.

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activity of Jesus, which would undermine his commitment to the


full humanity of Jesus. Jesus Christthe unity that is the incarnate Word, the Godmanis the subject of every action ad
extra, so to speak. Rather, Irenaeus is here aYrming the one
reality of the incarnate Word by identifying the Word as the
subject of the activity that takes place between the humanity
and divinity within the union that is the person of Christ.
This account of the person of Jesus presents its own challenges. Indeed, it appears that a logical dilemma prevents
Irenaeus portrait of Christ from adequately accounting for
either the distinction of the incarnate Words humanity and divinity or their unity. In order to understand how the Word can act
upon his humanity, it would seem that either the divinity and
humanity of Christ must be separate from each other, thus compromising his unity, or the incarnate Word must be acting upon
himself, thus compromising the distinction of his humanity and
divinity. Either way, it seems that Irenaeus depiction of the
interaction between the Word and his humanity contradicts his
goal of safeguarding the unity of Jesus Christ as the God
man.116 Recognizing an engagement with the Stoic theory of
blending, however, enables us to see that what appears to be a
dilemma for Irenaeus is in fact only a dilemma in appearance.117
Moreover, Stoic mixture theory not only enables us to fulfil the
interpretative requirement I previously identified, of explaining
this dynamic at the level of Christs natures, but also enables us
to explain the place of the qualities belonging to each nature in
the experiences and activities of Christ.118
Three aspects of Stoic thought are recognizable in
Irenaeus account of the person of Christ. First, the Stoics
understood blending as a union in which the active principle
(God/Pneuma/Logos) acts on the passive principle.119 In terms
of Irenaeus Christology, the christological union is one in which
the divine Word acts on his humanity but the humanity does not

548

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

120
Presumably Irenaeus does not mean to suggest that the movement to the
fore of one nature necessarily excludes the involvement of the other nature,
but that in certain instances the emphasis of one nature over the other is a
question of causality or primacy. He is not, however, as clear on this point as
one would like.
121
Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, p. 83.
122
Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 4, 217.36; Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, p. 83.
123
Sorabji, Matter, Space and Motion, p. 83.
124
Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 3, 216.1417.
125
Alex. Aphrod., Mixt. 4, 217.279.

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act on the divine Word. When it is necessary for Jesus to take


part in activities or experiences befitting his human nature, the
Word remains quiescent, still permitting his humanity and its
qualities to come to the fore. When it is necessary for Jesus to
take part in activities or experiences befitting his divine nature,
the Word absorbs or swallows up his human nature in order to
come to the fore with its own qualities.120
Second, according to Stoic thought, things that act and are
acted upon are often not separate from each other.121 The coextension of the soul throughout the body on which it acts is an
example of this logic.122 The fundamental role the Stoics ascribe
to the gas called pneuma is an even more important instance of
this thinking.123 As I pointed out at the beginning of this study,
the theory of blending develops out of the Stoic interest in
explaining how the active principle (Pneuma/God/Logos) and
passive principle (matter) relate to each other. Pneuma pervades
or permeates the whole of substance, causing it to hold together
(sune#cw), be stable (summe#nw), and interact (sump0scw) with
itself.124 The action of the active principle upon the passive in
a blend produces a resultant in which the constituent ingredients
are united together in their entirety (3noAsqai di 7lwn) so that
being preserved along with their qualities they have a complete
mutual coextension through one another (2ntiparekte0nesqai
2ll0loi" di 7lwn 7la).125 Therefore, Stoic mixture theory
enables us to understand how Irenaeus interest in maintaining
the unity of Christ is not threatened by his statement that the
Word acts upon his human nature. In terms of Irenaeus
Christology, not only does the action of the Word upon his humanity not threaten the unity of the person of Christ, it is the
very action of the divine Word upon his humanity that eVects
and guarantees the unity of the person of Christ.
Third, as I have stated several times now, the Stoics believed
that blending produces a union in which the original substances
and qualities proper to each of the constituent ingredients persist

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

549

126

Now this is his Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the last times
was made a man among men, so that (6na/ut) he might join the end to
126

Arius Did., fr. 28, Dox. Gr. 464.12.


See e.g. Irenaeus comments in AH 4.33.11, discussed below.
128
Contra Sagnard, who asserts that the coexistence of the two natures in
Christ, of which this passage speaks, is not a mixture because of this dynamic
(SC 34, p. 337, n. 1).
127

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and the qualities of each show forth.


In terms of Irenaeus
Christology, the substances and qualities proper to the Word and
his humanity persist in the union that is the incarnate Word, and
each shows forth when Jesus takes part in activities or experiences proper to his divinity and his humanity. As a result, understanding the union of the incarnate Word as a blend not only
secures the unity of the incarnate Word as discussed in the last
paragraph, but also secures the distinction of his humanity and
divinity.127
Therefore, recognizing the incorporation of concepts belonging to the Stoic theory of blending enables us to comprehend the
dynamic Irenaeus posits to explain how the humanity and divinity of Christ exist as one.128 When Jesus takes part in a given
experience or activity the Word either remains quiescent or
absorbs his human nature. A fundamental aspect of this dynamic
is the determination of which of the qualities belonging to Jesus
natures show forth at any given moment in his life. When the
Word remains quiescent the qualities belonging to Jesus human
nature show forth, such as the capacity to die. When the Word
absorbs his humanity the qualities belonging to Jesus divine
nature show forth, such as the capacity to conquer. This dynamic does not threaten the unity of Jesus Christ. In fact, the
opposite is true. Because it explains how the qualities belonging
to Jesus natures come to the fore in order to enable him to
participate in the full spectrum of activities and experiences belonging to his life and mission, the dynamic provides a logical
basis for understanding how the one incarnate Word, the one
Godman, is the subject of all his experiences and actions.
Incorporating Stoic mixture theory, then, enables Irenaeus to
aYrm, at one and the same time, the distinction of the two
natures and their unity.
Though my reading of Irenaeus maintains that his understanding of the union of Christs person is founded upon the Stoic theory
of blending by the end of Against Heresies 3, he does not explicitly
identify the christological union as a mixture until the middle of
Book 4, where he does so just once, in AH 4.20.4:

550

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

I first must note that it is possible to read per quem commixtio et


communio Dei et hominis . . . facta est (by which the blending and
communion of God and man . . . took place) as a reference to the
salvific union between God and human beings rather than the
christological union.129 Such a reading, however, would go
against the basic argument of the passage. As Robinson identified it long ago: The general thought here is that the restoration
of man takes place after the pattern of the Incarnationthe
intermingling of human flesh with the Spirit of God.130 For
this to be the case, the blending and communion of God and
man must have as its referent the christological union in order
for it to be the model of and basis for Irenaeus description of
the salvific union as man embracing the Spirit of God (complexus
homo Spiritum Dei; man, entwined with the Spirit of God).131
Support for this reading can be found in the structure of the
passage. The first sentence of the selection introduces and summarizes the thoughts contained in the following discussion.
Irenaeus thought in the first sentence is straightforward: the
joining of divinity and humanity in the christological union
makes possible the joining of divinity and humanity in the salvific union. The sentences that follow expand upon the idea we
find in the first sentence. The question is which of the following
sentences have as their subject the christological union and
which the salvific union. A comparison of the opening sentence
to the following discussion aids in this determination because the
129

Rousseau does not comment upon this topic, but his translation suggests
he reads the text in this way (SC 100, p. 635).
130
Robinson, Demonstration, pp. 645.
131
For my reading of complexus homo Spiritum Dei as referring to the
salvific union, see my Irenaeus and the Holy Spirit, pp. 18890.

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the beginning, that is, man to God. And on account of this, the
prophets, receiving the prophetic gift from the same Word, proclaimed his advent according to the flesh, by which the blending
and communion (commixtio et communio) of God and man took
place (factus est) according to the good pleasure of the Father, the
Word of God foretelling from the beginning that God would be seen
by men, and would dwell with them on the earth, and would talk
[with them], and would be present with his own workmanship, saving
it, and becoming capable of being perceived by it, and freeing us
from the hands of all who hate us (Luke 1:71), that is from the
whole spirit of transgression, and causing us to serve Him in holiness
and righteousness all our days (Luke 1:745), in order that (uti) man,
entwined (complexus) with the Spirit of God, might pass into the
glory of the Father.

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

551

132
Commixtio et communio are also read as referring to the christological
union by Grabe, who connects commixtio in this text with consparsus in AH
3.16.6, seemingly reading both as referring to Christ (S. Irenaei, p. 331, n. 5);
Robinson, Demonstration, pp. 645, 149, n. 2); N. Bonwetsch, who notes the
text with reference to the coming of the Word in visible form (Theologie des
Irenaus [Gutersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1925], p. 64, n. 2); Wolfson, Philosophy of
the Church Fathers, vol. 1, p. 396; and A. Orbe, Gloria Dei vivens homo
(Analisis de Ireneo, adv. haer. IV, 20, 17), Gregorianum 73/2 (1992), pp.
20568, at 231.

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grammatical structure of the first sentence seems to establish the


grammatical structure of the discussion that follows.
The first sentence uses 6na/ut to join the clauses referring to
the christological union to the clauses referring to the salvific
union. Uti also occurs in the midst of the following sentences
that elucidate the first. I believe this subsequent presence of uti
is a deliberate reflection of its presence in the first sentence and
that it should guide our reading of the passage. Just as in the first
sentence the content that comes before 6na/ut concerns the christological union while the content that comes after it concerns the
salvific union, so too should we discern that in the subsequent
discussion the sentences that come before uti have the christological union as their subject while the clauses that come after it
have the salvific union as their subject. This being the case, only
the very last portion of the selection has to do with the salvific
union: in order that (uti) man, entwined with the Spirit of God,
might pass into the glory of the Father. The phrase commixtio et
communio Dei et hominis occurs prior to uti, in the midst of those
sentences referring to the christological union.132
According to this reading, then, Irenaeus uses the language of
mixture (commixtio) to explain the manner in which the divine
and human are united in the person of Jesus. It is possible, even
probable, that the Greek term behind commixtio is s0gkrasi",
which would make for a patent connection with the Stoic
theory of blending (kra' si"). As it is, the loss of the original
text places an increased importance upon reading this passage
in the context of the other statements we find in Irenaeus. I
have shown that by this point in his work Irenaeus was familiar
with and had appropriated Stoic mixture theory in AH 2.33.1
and 4 to explain the mixture of and interaction between the soul
and body in human beings, in AH 3.19.1 to explain the interaction that takes place between the human and divine with
regard to the salvific joining of human beings to the Word of
God, and, as just discussed, in AH 3.19.3 to explain the
interaction that takes place between the human and divine in

552

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

they who proclaimed him Emmanuel, [born] of the Virgin, made


known the union (5 nwsin/adunitionem) of the Word of God with his
own workmanship, seeing that (quoniam) the Word will become flesh,
and the Son of God the Son of man . . . and having become this which
we also are, he (nevertheless) is the Mighty God, and has an indescribable generation.

In the light of this conception of the christological union in AH


4.33.11, Irenaeus reference in AH 4.20.4 to the mixture of the
human and divine in the person of Christ is best understood as a
reference to Stoic theory. For, unlike the Aristotelian theory of
mixture, which maintains that constituent ingredients persist
only potentially, not actually, Irenaeus aYrms that both the
human and divine persevere in the union of the incarnation.
Given my reading, it remains to explain why Irenaeus waits to
explicitly identify the union of the human and divine in Jesus as
a blend until the middle of Against Heresies 4 and why he makes
that identification just once while liberally using Stoic mixture
theory elsewhere.134 I believe the answer lies in the immediate
context of AH 4.20.4. Irenaeus comments in 4.20.4 occur just
after 4.20.13, where he establishes the eternality and irreducibility of the Son and Spirit by means of their involvement in
creation as the Hands of God. It is in AH 4.20.3 that Irenaeus
famously establishes the eternality and creativity of the Spirit by
133

Rousseau suggests this term in his Greek retroversion (SC 100, p. 635);
see also his note on commixtus in AH 3.19.1 in SC 210, p. 343.
134
Irenaeus description of the christological union in AH 3.16.6 does not
identify the union as a blend (kra' si"), but rather uses language compatible
with the Stoic theory of blending.

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Jesus himself. The possibility that Irenaeus was thinking of the


unity of Christ in terms of the Stoic theory of blending as early
as AH 3.16.6 should also be taken into consideration. The importance of the Stoic theory of blending to Irenaeus theology
and to his christological account in particular makes it all but
certain that behind commixtio stands the term s0gkrasi", and
with it a clear connection with the Stoic theory of blending.
This determination gains considerable support from Adelin
Rousseaus belief in the originality of s0gkrasi",133 especially
since he does not recognize the importance of Stoic thought to
this determination.
I would like to call attention to one more passage that encourages this reading. AH 4.33.11 supports the interpretation of
commixtio in AH 4.20.4 as a reference to Stoic, rather than
Aristotelian, mixture theory:

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

553

135

Briggman, Irenaeus and the Holy Spirit, pp. 12931.


Heine, Christology of Callistus, pp. 701, 74, 90.
137
To this point consensus has not existed on whether Irenaeus was aware
of the monarchian controversy brewing in Rome. So, for instance, D. Minns
suggests that Irenaeus was not at all interested in the modalist dispute
(Irenaeus: An Introduction, p. 59), while M. R. Barnes suggests Irenaeus
strongest statement of the full divinity of the Son might be the product
of Irenaeus interaction with the modalist dispute (Irenaeuss Trinitarian
Theology, NetV 7 [2009], pp. 67106, at 878).
138
Some scholars have considered Irenaeus theology, or at least aspects of
his theological account, to agree with monarchianism or monarchian modalism,
e.g. W. Bousset, Kyrios Christos: Geschichte des Christusglaubens von den
Anfangen des Christentums bis Irenaeus (Gottingen, 1926), p. 347. More recently, J. Behr has taken a diVerent approach, regarding monarchian thought
as Irenaean, when he contends that Zephyrinus and Callistus maintained the
style of theology developed by Irenaeus (The Way to Nicaea [Crestwood, NY:
St. Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2001], p. 141). Many have argued against a
monarchian/modalist reading of Irenaeus, including F. Vernet, Saint Irenee,
Dictionnaire de theologie catholique (vol. 7; Paris, 1923), pp. 2394535, at 2444;
J. Lebreton, Histoire du dogme de la Trinite (Paris: Beauchesne, 1928), esp. pp.
55860; J. Lawson, The Biblical Theology of Saint Irenaeus (London: Epworth
Press, 1948; repr. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2006), pp. 130, 131; and
M. R. Barnes, Irenaeuss Trinitarian Theology, p. 93, n. 87.
136

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appropriating three Wisdom passages from Proverbs. Though


prior to this point his logic has required understanding the
Spirit as being eternal, he had not yet oVered explicit comments
on the eternality of the Spirit.135
The significance of this moment in Irenaeus pneumatological
account bears upon his determination finally to identify the
christological union as a blend in AH 4.20.4. Roman monarchianism was essentially a heresy of the Spirit. Unlike Sabellius,
Callistus did not believe that Spirit was one of three names for
the one hypostasis of God; rather he simply identified God as the
Father/Spirit.136 God is one undiVerentiated Spirit, wholly identified with the Father. I believe Irenaeus does not identify the
christological union as a blend prior to AH 4.20.4 because he
does not explicitly aYrm the eternality of the Holy Spirit until
AH 4.20.3. His aYrmation of the irreducibility of the Holy
Spirit in AH 4.20.3 distances him from Roman monarchianism,137 creating space for him to speak of the blending of the
human and divine in Christ without the risk of being regarded as
articulating the same christological account as the Roman monarchians.138 An interest in avoiding such an association could
well explain Irenaeus reserve when it comes to the explicit identification of the christological union as a blend.

554

ANTHONY BRIGGMAN

IV. CONCLUSIONS

139
According to Wolfson, Tertullian is the first among the Fathers whose
discussion of the unity of the person in Jesus betrays the influence of the
philosophic discussion of physical union (Philosophy of the Church Fathers,
vol. 1, p. 387). Grillmeier declares: Non-Christian elements find no place in
[Irenaeus] understanding of Christ (cf. Adv. Haer. I, 10, 13). He is not a
philosopher as his master Justin was, but above all a biblical theologian, the
first deliberately biblical theologian of the Christian church, and an interpreter of the traditional creed (Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 1, p. 100).

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This study has shown that Irenaeus identification in AH 4.20.4


of the christological union as a blend is not anomalous and
insignificant but rather reflects the incorporation of Stoic language
and theory into his theological account. His initial use of the Stoic
theory of blending to explain the union of the body and soul in
human beings in Against Heresies 2 expands in Book 3 to include
an explanation of the salvific union between God and human
beings. This expansion is not limited to his conception of the
salvific union, however, for in Against Heresies 3 Irenaeus also uses
Stoic mixture theory to conceptualize the union of the human and
divine in Christ. This development in his thought leads to his
identification of the christological union as a blend (commixtio) in
AH 4.20.4. Stoic mixture theory, then, is nothing less
than fundamental to Irenaeus conception of the christological
union.
I wish to be clear that I am not saying that Irenaeus appropriates Stoic thought wholesale. For instance, his emphasis on the
transcendence of God stands at odds with the Stoic emphasis on
the immanence of the divine as the active principle pervading
all things, and his diVerentiation between the Father, Word, and
Holy Spirit radically diVers from the Stoic identification of
God/Pneuma/Logos as one undiVerentiated active principle. I am
saying that Irenaeus adopts and adapts Stoic thought to further
his own theological agenda and account.
This determination is an important development in our
understanding of Irenaeus. It can no longer be maintained, with
Wolfson and Grillmeier, that Irenaeus conception of the person of
Christ is devoid of philosophical reasoning.139 Nor can we
continue to regard as valid portrayals of Irenaeus as generally
unacquainted with or indisposed towards using philosophical

IRENAEUS CHRISTOLOGY OF MIXTURE

555

140

140
This characterization seems to have its origins in G. Bardys determination:
[Irenaeus] ne combat pas la sagesse profane; il se contente de la dedaigner
(Litterature grecque chretienne [Paris: Bloud & Gay, 1928], p. 36). W. R. Schoedels
early thinking illustrates the portrayals of which I speak: In summary, then, it
would appear that Irenaeus had some acquaintance with rhetoric and less with the
higher discipline of philosophy. His acquaintance with the latter was confined largely to doxographical material which gave him no real understanding of the subject.
And this for the most part was employed in a sceptical fashion for the sole purpose of
refuting the Gnostics. A Peripatetic source critical of Plato may also have been
known to him. But beyond that there seems to have been little or no direct philosophical influence upon him. In any event Irenaeus was himself conscious of little
interest in philosophy (Philosophy and Rhetoric in the Adversus Haereses of
Irenaeus, p. 32).
141
This is not the first article to argue for the influence of philosophy upon
Irenaeus thought. In a later work Schoedel revised his earlier conclusions, contending that the depth of Irenaeus indebtedness to Empiric method and Scepticism
exceeds a mere exploitation of a doxographical source (Theological Method in
Irenaeus, JTS, NS 35 [1984], pp. 3149). Barnes has argued that Stoicism is the
basis for Irenaeus understanding of God as Spirit (Irenaeuss Trinitarian
Theology, esp. pp. 70, 7681.). For a brief consideration of the status quaestionis
and a discussion of the influence of Middle Platonism on Irenaeus, see my
Revisiting Irenaeus Philosophical Acumen, VC 65 (2011), pp. 11524.
142
Heine, Christology of Callistus, pp. 778, 89. H. Chadwick has also
noted that Origen illustrates the christological union by appropriating one of
the three Stoic examples of blending, for he says the unity of the human and
divine in Christ is similar to the union of fire with iron that has been placed
in a furnace (Origen, Celsus, and the Stoa, JTS, OS 48 [1947], pp. 3449, at
3940). Chadwick maintains that this use of Stoic thought is incidental, with
Stoic thought on providence, alone, having a large influence upon Origen.

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concepts. To the contrary, philosophical thought had a considerable influence upon Irenaeus.141
Finally, recognizing the importance of Stoic thought to
Irenaeus Christology enhances our understanding of the early
stages of christological development. Namely, we are able to
appreciate the fundamental importance of the Stoic theory of
blending to widely divergent christological accounts. The theory
of blending oVers the logic by which Irenaeus establishes the unity
and diversity of the person of Christ, and by which he explains
how the two realities of the incarnate Word function as one
realitythe earliest known attempt at such an explanation. The
theory of blending also oVers the logic by which the Roman
monarchians sought to avoid patripassianism.142 It is possible that
the theory of blending had a particular currency in the Roman
church of the second century, for Irenaeus too stayed in Rome for
a time and his interest in the theory could have developed there.
Whatever the case, it is clear that Stoic thought was essential to
prominent christological accounts of the late second and early
third centuries.