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On the Incarnation

On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius


Athanasius of Alexandria, known by Oriental Orthodox as the Apostolic, was a defender of the Orthodox faith against Arianism (the belief that the Son was not of the same essence as the Father and that He had a beginning in time). There are discrepancies in terms of whether he was born to a pagan or a Christian family. It is likely that he became a Christian in the beginning of his life. He was the secretary of Alexander of Alexandria, the Patriarch preceding him and the disciple of Anthony of Egypt. He assisted in formulating the Nicene Creed and was involved in the Council of Nicaea though the level of his involvement is disputed. Athanasius became the 20th Patriarch of Alexandria and combatted Arianism for the duration of his papacy in which he was exiled five times. He reposed in the Lord in AD 373.  


            Some argue that this book was written in the early years of Athanasius’ life while others argue it was toward the end of his life. What is known is that this discourse acts as part II to another discourse Against the Heathens written earlier by Athanasius. Though the book is titled On the Incarnation, it does not strictly expand on the incarnation but rather extends to the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ.


            The book contains 57 chapter with each chapter spanning for half a page to a page and a half. There are two editions of this book in the Popular Patristics Series: an English translation and an English translation combined with the Greek original.


            Christians are often asked questions such as: Why did God have to become man? Why did He have to die? Why did the method of death have to be the Cross? How could anyone believe He rose from the dead? This book answers these questions. It begins with the condition of creation and man and how the fall caused disharmony to creation and man. The coming of Christ ensured that this would be undone and that man my be reconciled with God once more. This reconciliation was conducted through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ. Through His incarnation, He was manifested and made known to men that they may learn from the mouth of God directly. Through His crucifixion, Christ was between heaven and earth reconciling both in Himself and reconciling Jews and Gentiles as if He is drawing them closer to Himself with His stretched forth arms. The Resurrection was the consummation of the salvific work of Christ as it made man no longer fear immortality and know that His destiny is to rise with and in Christ.  

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