Antiocheneand Alexandrine Positions
Antiochand Alexandria are two of the most ancient cities in the RomanEmpire. Rome was the capital while Alexandria was the leading city inthe Greek-speaking world. Antioch, on the other hand, was a verycrucial city in the Greek-speaking world. The cities were responsiblefor the development of the two most common schools of theology,Antiochene and Alexandrian. Each of these schools is reflective of aunique cultural influence in the way they approach the Christianfaith, which often displayed ideological differences. The differencesranged from fairly benign ones to really severe differences thatrequired arbitration by Ecumenical Councils1.
Giventhe two schools the modern day Christian would more likely leantowards the Alexandrian school due to the views and principlesrepresented by the ‘school’. To start with, the Alexandrian viewassumed a metaphysical approach. This relates to things which arethought to exist despite the fact that they cannot be seen. ModernChristianity believes in a God that is invisible. The Alexandriantheory also favored allegory in reading and interpreting scripture,which reflects today’s manner of reading scriptures ridden with thedesire to interpret and get the real meaning behind the biblicalverses. The school also supports the tendency to focus on the innermetaphysical composition of Christ so as to understand his teachings,just like in the modern day church2.In general, the basis of the Alexandrian school lay on theontological unity of Christ. According to this belief, they believedthat there was oneness in the human and divine natures of Christ, abelief that could be shared by the believers of today’s church. Theunity was so emphasized that to a certain extent, it seemed like thehuman nature was engulfed by the divinity3.The Antiochene School focused its attention on the historical/factual aspect of Christ’s human life. This meant that theyconcentrated more on the things he did, words he said and hisachievements. In essence, their concern was more on the historicaland physical figure of Christ, as opposed to the Alexandrine viewwhose main focus lay on the inner, metaphysical composition andactivities of Christ. This view is more reflective of the modernchurch whose focus is concentrated on the spiritual and Godly natureof Christ as opposed to his physical being. If necessary, theAlexandrines would have readily denied the human nature of Christ ina bid to affirm the union existing between his divine and humannatures. Apollinarianism, a view that vehemently denied the fact thatChrist had a human soul was borne of this school of thought. However,the Council of Constantinople rejected this position in 381. This isclearly indicative of Alexandrines’ similarity with today’sChristian beliefs.
Incontrast, the Antiochene view was more inclined towards safeguardingthe notion that Christ was fully human, often claiming that hishumanity existed devoid of his divinity. Theodore, the last of themajor Antiochene theologians, sought to push for a middle positionbetween Christ into two persons (son of God and son of man), blurringthe two natures into one4.Scholars have referred to this as the Dyophyseis of Christ. Accordingto the New Testament, the early Hellenistic Jewish Christians saw thebeginning of the Antiochene church after being forcefully evictedfrom Jerusalem5.Finally, the notions of sanctity and divinization, which are verymuch part of today’s church were part of the beliefs that theAlexandrian school supported by the Alexandrines6.
Brock,Sebastian. Firefrom Heaven: Studies in Syriac Theology and Liturgy.Burlington: Ashgate Publishing, 2006
Gonzalez,Justo. EssentialTheological Terms.London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.
Lane,Tony. AConcise History of Christian Thought.Michigan: Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, 2006
WilsonDouglas and Fischer Ty.Omnibus II: Church Fathers through the Reformation. Lancaster:Veritas Press, 2005
1Gonzalez Justo. Essential theological Terms (London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 35-36
2 Wilson Douglas and Fischer Ty. Omnibus II: Church Fathers through the reformation (Lancaster, Veritas Press, 2007), 79
3 Brock, S.P. Fire from heaven: Studies in Syriac Theology and Liturgy (Burlington, Ashgate Publishing), 163-164
4 Lane, T. A Concise history of Christian Thought (Michigan: Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, 2006), 57
5 Acts 11: 19- 30
6 Gonzalez, J.L. Essential theological Terms (London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 40