Saturday, 21 March 2015

István M. Bugár: Melito and the Body

Melito of Sardis is a key figure in the history of the theological treatment of body. Firstly, he is one of the first genuine theologians of Incarnation. Secondly, he has been accused by Origen as having stated that God is of bodily nature. Thirdly, he has composed a treatise (?) On Body and Soul. In my paper I attempt at a clarification of the emerging questions on the basis of available textual evidence. Besides the Paschal homily and the fragments of Melito, I discuss in detail the Syriac "apology" preserved under the name of "Melito the philosopher". As far as Origen's statement is concerned, in my argument I follow the suggestion made by G. Florovsky, who saw in this debate a preenactment  of the late fourth-century "anthropomorphite" controversy, and this in the sense as being a contest about the question of what it means for humans to be an image of God. Alexandrian theology insisted that this can be referred to human intellect alone, while for Irenaeus of Lyons the image has also a body. Since Irenaeus and Melito are linked in many different ways, it is hardly surprising the two agree on this point as well. It is also telling that, by contrast, the Syriac apology of debated authenticity sides with Alexandrian theology in this issue.

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