On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius of Alexandria

Summary

St. Athanasius’ second treatise written to Marcarius, On the Incarnation, is an apologetic work in which Athanasius considers “the Word’s becoming Man and His divine Appearing in our midst.” The work is not intended to be a doctrinal explanation of the incarnation but a defense of it against its 4th century critics.

First, Athanasius addresses the creation of man and his fall into sin, which is necessary background for a proper understanding of the incarnation. As Athanasius argues, humankind’s dilemma caused the Word to take human form.Through transgression man had broken fellowship with God and faced corruption and death. However, the same agent through whom the world and mankind was created would become the agent of its deliverance and re-creation. “For this purpose, then,” to maintain God the Father’s consistency in regards to his sentence of death on all due to sin and His ultimate purpose in creating the world and a humanity in His image, “the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world.” The Word took on a body capable of death to face humanity’s corruption in death for the sake of all. “Yet He Himself, as the Word, being immortal and the Father’s Son, was such as could not die.” And, therefore, death could not hold Him and He emerged victorious from the grave, defeating death and obtaining incorruption through His resurrection. As Athanasius states,

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