Madeline Stickler
January 29, 2016
Religion 1350-Christian Heritage
Professor Ryan

Reading Response #2: Athanasius of Alexandria

Thesis: Saint Athanasius, theologian, ecclesiastical statesman, and Egyptian national leader, was the chief defender of Christian orthodoxy in the 4th-century battle against Arianism. Athanasius attended the Council of Nicaea and shortly thereafter became bishop of Alexandria. For the rest of his life he was engaged in theological and political struggles with the Emperor and Arian churchmen, being banished from Alexandria multiple times and wrote many significant works such as On the Incarnation of the Word and his Easter Letter of 367.

Athanasius writes that the redeemer is also the Creator and God became incarnate to redeem fallen humankind and renew all the world\'s creation. Also, the redeeming word is the creating word, who made the universe in the very beginning for the universe was not preexistent, but made by God\'s Word; he spoke creation. Through free will, the fall of humanity brought about God\'s everlasting love and goodness sent through his redeeming Word. According to Athanasius, the Word, who received his humanity from a virgin, thought that he might break the hold that death had over the human race, so the Word restored the ravaged nature of humankind. Athanasius argues that to accomplish this restoration of man, the Word needs to assume a human body. First, as He Himself is immortal and incapable of death, then He must take a human body capable of death in order that He might die as sufficient and proper substitution for human\'s death as penalty of their sins. Second, through this union of the immortal Son of God with our human nature, all men are clothed with incorruption in the promise of resurrection. Another reason for the incarnation is that even though humans were made in the image of God, some chose not to know their creator and turned to worshipping false "gods." By sacrificing His own body, the incarnate Word did two things: put an end to the law of death in human nature and simultaneously made a new beginning by giving us a hope of resurrection. This is the first reason why the Word becomes man that Athanasius explores. In his later Easter Letter of AD 367, the 39th of his total 45 festal letters, is of particular interest in the biblical canon. It was a landmark letter because it contained the same list of 27 books of the New Testament that are found in our Bibles today. To this day, Athanasius is known as the first Christian leader to compile a list of New Testament books exactly as we know them today. "Let no man add to these, neither let him take anything from them" stands out in the text because of how closely it resembles Deuteronomy 4:2, "Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you." God provided us with His word to teach us and to bless us, so that we could know and worship the one true God. Deuteronomy 6:1-3 says that by keeping His commandments and teaching them to our children and grandchildren, we would receive blessing and prolong our days. Matthew 4:4 tells us that we need God\'s Word to live on, that living by bread is not enough. We can, like Jesus, use it to guard our hearts against the devil\'s schemes. Psalms indicate that the word of God is like a light to our path and useful for maintaining a pure life. Mark 4:20 promises that those who follow the Word will bear much fruit. Athanasius sets the stepping stones for the whole human race to walk on for the rest of time and by following the Word of God, how to obey his statues and be His glory on display.