Athanasius on the reason for the Incarnation

Athanasius’s account of the Incarnation is one of those ideas so logical and simple that, once you get it, you always feel like explaining it takes ten times more words than necessary.

1.) Man, created from nothing, is an animal who was given the likeness to the Logos.

2.) Man lost his likeness to the Logos, and so necessarily fell back to nothing – to corruption and death.

3.) Death therefore became necessary, but the Logos could not stand to lose those who were in his likeness.

4.) Death therefore had to somehow re-establish likeness to the Logos: but the only way death could re-establish likeness to the Logos is if the Logos himself died. 

5.) The Logos could not die if he did not have a body.

(Added later)

6.) The Logos therefore unified a body to his person, such that whatever happened to the body could be said to be done to the person.




  1. October 25, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Why, given the assumptions at hand, was it that (as in 4) death had to re-establish likeness to the logos? Why could it not have been the one (as in 1) who originally gave “man” the likeness to the Logos?

    • October 25, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      Even though it was capitalized, “death” is not being personified here or seen as doing anything. The fact that men have to die is just a fact that somehow has to remake men like the God, or be part of doing so. Christ’s death transforms a man’s dying into something that can make the man like Christ.

      • October 26, 2014 at 6:29 am

        Thank you, but please allow me a follow-up question: How does a man’s dying, even as transformed by Christ’s death, make the man like Christ? I am assuming that the likeness of their both having died is not the likeness at hand.

        I would not push the issue, but it would seem that the topic of the role Christ’s death is an important one.

      • October 26, 2014 at 12:14 pm

        I am assuming that the likeness of their both having died is not the likeness at hand.

        But that’s exactly what one should assume – I think this is Athanasius’s point. Every death gets transformed, not just those of Christians, and not even just those who were born after his death. This likeness might not be enough to save all, but it’s the foundation of salvation in those who are saved.

%d bloggers like this: