Tuesday, 21 May 2019
Jason Gehrke: Rectus Status-Cultor Dei: Christology and Exegesis in The Divine Institutes
Antonie Wlosok observed that Lactantius coupled the philosophical topos of humanity’s “upright stance”(rectus status)with some notion of the human being as “worshiper of God” (cultor dei)to articulate his conception of the human problem and its solution revealed in Christ. Wlosok took Lactantius’s explicit citations of platonic and hermetic literature as primary points of reference for interpreting this theme in his work. However, recent contributions from Jochen Walter and Blandine Colot suggest that biblical references inform the substantial content of Lactantius’s thought. In light of their contributions, this paper argues that key allusions to Romans 1:23-26 and Colossians 1:9-10 anchor his pivotal invocations of the rectus status-cultor deitheme. Parallel to these references, Lactantius draws verbally upon John 1:1-5 and Isaiah 9 to articulate Christ’s saving work. Such references frame an emerging portrait of Christ himself, who appears as the achetypical cultor dei, and thusthe head of a greater human body restored to the worship of God. With this narrative, I will argue, Lactantius updates central themes of pre-Nicene Latin christology and apologetic as reflected in the works of Tertullian and Cyprian.