History of Dogma - Volume III
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§ 1. Christ’s Death as Ransom and Sacrifice.

The Greek Fathers did not go beyond, nor could they give a more consistent form to, the views on this subject already expounded by Irenæus and Origen.599599See Vol. II., pp. 286 ff., 365 ff. The fact of the incarnation was so closely and exclusively connected, at least in the East, with the conception of the result of redemption, that everything else had to yield in importance to the latter. Of course at all times and in all directions the attempt was made, after the example of Irenæus and the indications of Holy Scripture, to insert the facts of Jesus’ history in the work of redemption. This can be seen especially in Athanasius and the two Cyrils—“Whatever happened to his humanity has happened to us.” Again, the death of Christ was frequently recalled when the forgiveness of sins was taken into account; but it is difficult here to draw the line between exegesis, rhetoric, and dogmatics. As a rule, we obtain the impression that theology could have dispensed with all the facts of Christ’s life.600600The two Cappadocians doubted, not without reserve, the necessity of Christ’s death. G. of Nazianzus says that the divine Logos could also have redeemed us θελήματι μόνον, and G. of Nyssa (Orat. cat. 17) thought that the method of redemption was to be considered as arbitrary as the remedies of physicians. In other places, indeed, they expressed themselves differently, and Athanasius connected the death of Christ closely with the incarnation (see above). On the other hand, the death of Christ always appeared so tragic and wonderful an event, that men were compelled to attribute a special saving value to it. But just as it was not represented in art up to the fifth century, so the majority of the Greeks really regarded it, along with Christ’s whole passion, as a sacred mystery, and that not only in the intellectual sense. Here thought yielded to emotion, and imposed silence on itself. Goethe said towards the close of his life, “We draw a veil over the sufferings of Christ simply because we revere them so deeply; we hold it to be reprehensible presumption to play and trifle with and embellish those profound mysteries in which the divine depths of suffering lie hidden, never to rest until even the noblest seems mean and tasteless.” That exactly represents the Greek feeling. It also gives the key to the saying of Gregory of Nazianzus (Orat. XXVII. 10) that the appreciation of the sufferings of Christ was one of those points on which it was possible to make a mistake with impunity (cf. Iren. I. 10). By this he meant, not only that the specific result of the passion was uncertain, but also that it was inexpressible.601601See the great importance laid already by Justin on the Cross, an importance which it still has for the piety of the Greek Church. It was reserved for the Middle Ages and our modern times to cast off all modesty and reverence here.

Yet a few theologians and exegetes could not refrain from speculating about the death of Christ, though they did not yet use frivolous arithmetical sums. The death of Christ was, in the first place, connected, following Rom. VIII. 3, with the condemnation of sin—death—in the flesh (κατακρίνειν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν (τὸν θάνατον) ἐν τῇ σαρκί). That constituted the strongest connection of Ensarkosis (embodiment in the flesh), death, resurrection, and redemption, reached within the Greek Church. In Christ’s final agony the Ensarkosis first came to some extent to its end, for by death the flesh was purified from sin and mortality, and was presented in Christ’s resurrection pure, holy, and incorruptible. This thought was worked out in various ways by Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, and Cyril of Jerusalem, as well as, especially, by Apollinaris.602602Apollinaris who was the strictest dogmatist of the fourth century, substantially limited the significance of Christ’s death, so far as I know, to this effect. But in later times the conception of the complete hypostatic union forbade the vanquishing of corruption (ϕθρά) and death being dated a moment later than the assumption of human nature. Therefore it was held that Christ had even at the incarnation destroyed corruption and death (the penalty of sin) from the flesh; but his death was wholly voluntary and economic.

In the second place Irenæus had already, in a connected argument, emphasised the necessity of tracing the incarnation of the Logos and his passion to the goodness and righteousness of God, and he further insisted that Christ had delivered us not from a state of infirmity, but from the power of the devil, redeeming those estranged from God, and unnaturally imprisoned, not by force, but with due regard to justice. Origen, however, was the first to explain the passion and death of Christ with logical precision under the points of view of ransom and sacrifice. With regard to the former he was the first to set up the theory that the devil had acquired a legal claim on men, and therefore to regard the death of Christ (or his soul) as a ransom paid to the devil. This Marcionite doctrine of price and barter was already supplemented by Origen with the assumption of an act of deceit on the part of God. It was, in spite of an energetic protest, taken up by his disciples, and afterwards carried out still more offensively. It occurs in Gregory of Nyssa who (Catech. 15-27), in dealing with the notion of God, treats it broadly and repulsively. We find it in Ambrose, who speaks of the pia fraus, in Augustine and Leo I. It assumes its worst form in Gregory I.: the humanity of Christ was the bait; the fish, the devil, snapped at it, and was left hanging on the invisible hook, Christ’s divinity. It proves that the Fathers had gradually lost any fixed conception of the holiness and righteousness of God; but on the other hand, it expresses the belief that the devil’s power will not first be broken by the future appearing of Christ, but has been already shattered by his death. In this sense it is the epitaph of the old dogmatics which turned on eschatology.603603Irenæus held that men were God’s debtors, but in the power (unjustly) of the devil. Origen held a different view. The devil had a claim on men, and Christ paid him his soul as the price, but the devil could not keep it. The devil acted unjustly to Christ, he was not entitled to take possession of one who was sinless; see passages given in Münscher, p. 428 ff. Leo I, following Ambrose, gives the deception theory in a crude form. For the rest, Gregory of Nazianus604604See Ullman, Gregor, p. 318 f. and John of Damascus felt scruples about admitting God and the devil to have been partners in a legal transaction.

With reference to the sacrifice of Christ, Origen was of epoch-making importance. On the one hand, he started from Rom. III. 25 and similar texts, on the other, he was strongly influenced by the Græco-oriental expiatory mysteries, and was the first to introduce into the Church, following the precedent set by the Gnostics, a theology of sacrifice or propitiation based on the death of Christ. He thereby enriched, but at the same time confused, Greek theology. He taught that all sins required a holy and pure sacrifice in order to be atoned for, in other words, to be forgiven by God; this sacrifice was the body of Christ, presented to the Father. This thought which, as expounded, approximates to the idea of a vicarious suffering of punishment, was adopted by Athanasius who combined it with the other ideas that God’s veracity required the threat of death to be carried out, and that death accordingly was accepted by Christ on behalf of all, and by him was destroyed.605605De incarnat. 9: Συωιδὼν γὰρ ὁ λόγος, ὅτι ἄλλως οὐκ ἂν λυθείη τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἡ φθορά, εἰ μὴ διὰ τοῦ πάντως ἀποθανεῖν, οὐχ οἷόν τε δὲ ἦν τὸν λόγον ἀποθανεῖν, ἀθάνατον ὄντα καὶ τοῦ πατρὸς υἱόν, τούτου ἕνεκεν τό δυνάμενον ἀποθανεῖν ἑαυτῷ λαμβάνει σῶμα, ἵνα τοῦτο τοῦ ἐπὶ πάντων λόγου μεταλαβόν, ἀντὶ πάντων ἱκανὸν γένηται τῷ θανάτῳ καὶ διὰ τὸν ἐνοικήσαντα λόγον ἄφθαρτον διαμείνῃ, καὶ λοιπὸν ἀπὸ πάντων ἡ φθορὰ παύσηται τῇ τῆς ἀναστάσεως χάριτι· ὅθεν ὡς ἱερεῖον καὶ θῦμα παντός ἐλεύθερον σπίλου, ὃ αὐτὸς ἑαυτῷ ἔλαβε σῶμα προσάγων εἰς θάνατον, ἀπὸ πάντων εὐθὺς τῶν ὁμοίων ἡφάνιζε τὸν θάνατον τᾕ προσφορᾷ τοῦ καταλλήλου. We see how the conceptions of the vicarious endurance of punishment, and of a sacrifice, meet here; indeed, generally speaking, it was difficult to keep them apart. Athanasius throughout lays greater stress on the former; Origen, as a Hellenist, on the latter; see Athan., l. c., 6-10, but esp. Ch. XX: ὡφείλετο πάντας ἀποθανεῖν . . . ὑπὲρ πάντων τὴν θυσίαν ἀνέφερεν, ἀντὶ πάντων τὸν ἑαυτοῦ ναὸν εἰς θάνατον παραδιδούς, ἵνα τοὺς μὲν πάντας ἀνυπευθύνους καὶ ἐλευθέρους τῆς ἀρχαίας παραβάσεως ποιήσῃ . . . ὁ πάντων θάνατος ἐν τῷ κυριακῷ σώματι ἐπληροῦτο καὶ ὁ θάνατος καὶ ἡ φθορὰ διὰ τὸν συνόντα λόγον ἐξηφανίζετο. θανάτου γὰρ ἦν χρεία, καὶ θάνατον ὑπὲρ πάντων ἔδει γενέσθαι, ἵνα τὸ παρὰ πάντων ὀφειλόμενον γένηται, c. Arian. I. 60, II. 7, 66 sq. The idea that only the sacrificial death of God could vanquish death which was decreed by him, and thus conciliate God, occurs also in other Greek Fathers of the fourth century.606606See esp. Cyril, Catech. XIII. 33, but also the Cappadocians; cf. Ullmann, l. c., p. 316 ff. Following the estimate formed of the infinite value of the final passion of the God-man,607607Even Cyril of Jerusalem says, l. c.: οὐ τοσαύτη ἦν τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν ἡ ἀνομία, ὅση τοῦ ὑπεραποθνήσκοντος ἡ δικαιοσύνη. οὐ τοσοῦτον ἡμάρτομεν, ὅσον ἐδικαιοπράγνσεν ὁ τὴν ψυχὴν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν τεθεικώς. Similarly Chrysostom in the Ep. ad Rom., Hom. 10, T. X., p. 121. But the idea is emotional, and not the starting-point of a philosophical theory. It is different with the Westerns. we constantly find in them also traces, sometimes more, sometimes less, distinct, of the thought of substitution in connection with satisfaction; but it remains obscure,608608The expiation of our guilt is more infrequently thought of than the taking over of sin’s punishment; that is guilt is only indirectly referred to. nay, it is frequently again withdrawn. In other words, it was sometimes twisted, as already in Irenæus, into the idea of example pure and simple. Thus the Antiochene school especially, who held his death to have been a natural event, considered that Christ’s final passion influenced our freely-formed resolutions, but this version is not entirely wanting in any Greek Father. Others, e.g., Gregory of Nazianzus, explained that God did not demand the sacrifice—or ransom—but received it δι᾽ οἰκονομίαν.609609See Ullmann, l. c., p. 319. In this case, as much as in earlier times, δι᾽ οἰκονομίαν meant “that the Scriptures might be fulfilled”; that is, it was tantamount to abandoning a direct explanation of the fact itself. In any case Cyril of Alexandria shows most clearly the vicarious idea of the passion and death of the God-man in connection with the whole Christological conception.610610The idea of sacrifice falls into the background, which was only to be expected in the case of this energetic spokesman of genuine Greek Christian theology. Substitution passed naturally into, or rather grew out of, the idea of mystical mediation. Because all human nature was purified and transfigured really and physically in Christ, he could, regarded as an individual, be conceived as substitute or ἀντίλυτρον; see Cyril on John I. 29 and Gal. III. 13. Meanwhile Cyril also says that Christ outweighed all in merit. For the rest, he does not venture to affirm that Christ became a curse, but explains that he endured what one burdened with a curse must suffer. Compare also the exposition in the Orat. de recta fide ad reginas (Mansi IV., p. 809). The points of voluntariness and substitution were emphasised more strongly by orthodox theologians after Cyril, in order not to compromise the perfectly hypostatic deification—from the moment of the incarnation—of Christ’s human nature. Eusebius’ method of formulating the idea comes nearest Paul’s, but it is only a paraphrase;611611Demonstr. X. 1: ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν κολασθεὶς καὶ τιμωρίαν ὑποσχών, ἣν αὐτὸς μὲν οὐκ ὤφειλεν, ἀλλ᾽ ἡμεῖς τοῦ πλήθους ἕνεκεν τῶν πεπλημμελημένων, ἡμῖν αἴτιος τῆς τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων ἀφέσεως κατέστη . . . τὴν ἡμῖν προστετιμημένην κατάραν ἐφ᾽ ἑαυτὸν ἑλκύσας, γενόμενος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν κατάρα. and the inability of theologians to recognise, expose and dispute the differences in their divergent conceptions is the strongest proof that they were not clearly aware of the bearing and weight of their own propositions.

§ 2. Christ as man the Mediator.

The West, which had a scheme of its own in Christology, (see below) also possessed characteristic features in its conception of the work of Christ.612612See fuller details in next book. Here we only give a sketch. Comp. Wirth, Der verdienstbegriff bei Tertullian, 1892. Here, as in almost all departments of activity in the Latin Church, it was of the highest moment that Tertullian, the jurist, and Cyprian, the ecclesiastical ruler, were the first Latin theologians. Disinclined for philosophical and strictly religious speculation, and dominated by a prosaic but powerful moralism, the Latins were possessed from the first of an impulse to carry religion into the legal sphere. The sacred authorities, or the Symbol, were regarded as the “law” (lex) of God; divine service was the place where the censure of God was pronounced; the deity was thought of as judge. Father, Son, and Spirit were held to be “personæ” who possessed a common property (“substantia” not “natura”). Christ as the “persona” who controlled a two-fold “property,” one inherited from his Father (his divinity) and one from his mother (his humanity). Christ required to be obedient to God, and—as Tertullian first said613613See Vol. II., p. 294. and Cyprian repeated—had to satisfy God (deo satisfacere).614614This notion was afterwards one of the most common in the West. In this phrase everything was comprised: man—the Christian—was to give God that which he owed him, i.e., he was to satisfy God’s legal claims. After this came the “promereri deum”, i.e., rendering services to God, gaining God’s favour by our merits. But in Tertullian and Cyprian “satisfacere deo” meant more precisely to atone for wrongs inflicted on God by acts of penitence, and to appease him (placare deum, satisfacere deo per hostias: Arnobius). Further “promereri” was applied above all to bona opera, works (fasting) and alms-giving (Cypr., De oper. et eleemos.). Even from the middle of the third century an ecclesiastical system was drawn out in the Latin West of works to be rendered to God (order of penance);615615It occurs already in Tertullian; but we do not yet perceive its full extent in the Church in his time; it has not even the full significance that it possesses in Cyprian. and this system gradually took in, like a net, all man’s relations to God. It was throughout governed by the idea that the magnitude of transgressions and that of the works rendered to God, the penitential offerings, were to have a strictly legal relation, and, similarly, that what a man’s merits entitled him to from God had a fixed and regulated value. It is not the case, as has been supposed, that this idea first arose in the Church in the Romano-German period, and is therefore to be described as a result of German criminal law. On the contrary, the idea of satisfactiones and merita already belonged in its entirety to the Roman age, and during it was strictly worked out. From the days of Tertullian and Cyprian the Latins were familiar with the notion that the Christian had to propitiate God, that cries of pain, sufferings, and deprivations were means, sacrificial means, of expiation, that God took strict account of the quantity of the atonement, and that, where there was no guilt to be blotted out, those very means were represented as merits. All those trivial definitions, which betray a low state of legal and moral views, and which one would gladly attribute to barbarous nations, had become the property of the Church before the incursion of the Germans; and Anselm’s principle, “Every sin must be followed either by satisfaction or punishment”,616616Necesse est ut omne peccatum satisfactio aut pœna sequatur. can be already shown in Sulpicius Severus,617617See Sulp. Sev., Dial. II. 10: Fornicatio deputetur ad pœnam, nisi satisfactione purgetur. and corresponds to the thought of Cyprian and his successors.618618For fuller details see a later Vol.

But Cyprian also applied the “satisfacere deo” to Christ himself. As in the Middle Ages the most questionable consequences of the theory and practice of penance reacted on the conception of Christ’s work, so from the time of Cyprian the latter was influenced by the view taken of human acts of penitence. His suffering and death constituted a sacrifice presented by Christ to God in order to propitiate him. This thought, started by Cyprian, was never afterwards lost sight of in the West. The angry God whom it was necessary to propitiate and of whom the Greeks knew so little, became more and more familiar in the West. Jewish and Pauline traditions here joined with those of Roman law. Hilary is especially clear in combining the sacrifice of Christ with the removal of guilt and of punishment.619619On Ps. LIII. 12: “passio suscepta voluntarie est, officio ipsa satisfactura pœnali”; Ch. 13: “maledictorum se obtulit morti, ut maledictionem legis solveret, hostiam se ipsum voluntarie offerendo.” Along with this Hilary has the mystical realistic theory of the Greeks. This combination was repeated by Ambrose,620620A few passages are given in Förster, Ambrosius, pp. 136 ff., 297 f. The “redimere a culpa” is for Ambrose the decisive point. In his work De incarn. dom. he is never tired of answering the question as to the motive of the incarnation with the phrase: “ut caro, quæ peccaverat, redimeretur,” frequently adding “a culpa” He also uses very often the word “offerre” (applied to the death of Christ). In Ps. XLVIII., exp. 17, we read: “quæ major misericordia quam quod pro nostris flagitiis se præbuit immolandum, ut sanguine suo mundum levaret, cuius peccatum nullo alio modo potuisset aboleri.” See Deutsch, Des Ambrosius Lehre von der Sünde und Sündentilgung, 1867. Augustine, and the great popes of antiquity;621621There are many striking passages in Leo I. in which death is described as an expiatory sacrifice which blots out guilt. See, further, Gregory I., Moral. XVII. 46: “delenda erat culpa, sed nisi per sacrificium deleri non poterat. Quærendum erat sacrificium, sed quale sacrificium poterat pro absolvendis hominibus inveniri? Neque etenim iustum fuit, ut pro rationali homine brutorum animalium victimæ cæderentur . . . Ergo requirendus erat homo . . . qui pro hominibus offerri debuisset, ut pro rationali creatura rationalis hostia mactaretur. Sed quid quod homo sine peccato inveniri non poterat, et oblata pro nobis hostia quando nos a peccato inundate potuisset, si ipsa hostia peccati contagio non careret? Ergo ut rationalis esset hostia, homo fuerat offerendus: ut vero a peccatis mundaret hominem, homo et sine peccato. Sed quis esset sine peccato homo, si ex peccati commixtione descenderet. Proinde venit propter nos in uterum virginis filius dei, ibi pro nobis factus est homo. Sumpta est ab illo natura, non culpa. Fecit pro nobis sacrificium, corpus suum exhibuit pro peccatoribus, victimam sine peccato, quæ et humanitate mori et iustitia mundare potuisset.” least certainly, perhaps, by Augustine, who being a Neoplatonic philosopher and profound Christian thinker, was also familiar with other and more productive points of view.622622Whatever occurs in Ambrose is to be found also in Augustine; for the latter has not, so far as I know, omitted to use a single thought of the former; he only adds something new. The distinctive nature, however, of this Latin view of the work of Christ, as the propitiation of an angry God by a sacrificial death, was characteristically expressed in the firmly established thought that Christ performed it as man, therefore, by means, not of his divine, but of his human attributes.623623See Ambrose, De fide III. 5: “Idem igitur sacerdos, idem et hostia, et sacerdotium tamen et sacrificium humanæ condicionis officium est. Nam et agnus ad immolandum ductus est et sacerdos erat secundum ordinem Melchisedech.” This thought recalls Cyprian, although Ambrose has hardly taken it from him; Cypr. Ep. LXIII. 14: “Christus Iesus dominus et deus noster ipse est summus sacerdos dei patris et sacrificium patri se ipsum obtulit.” The same idea is repeated in contents and form, but rendered more profound, by Augustine (Confess. X. 68, 69, see Ritschl, l. c., I., p. 38): “In quantum enim homo, in tantum mediator; in quantum autem verbum, non medius, quia æqualis deo . . . pro nobis deo victor et victor et victima, et ideo victor quia victima; pro nobis deo sacerdos et sacrificium; et ideo sacerdos quia sacrificium;” see De civit. dei IX. 15: “Nec tamen ab hoc mediator est, quia verbum, maxime quippe immortale et maxime beatum verbum longe est a mortalibus miseris; sed mediator per quod homo.” Accordingly, not only was that which Christ presented in sacrifice human— Ambrose, De incarn. VI.: “ex nobis accepit quod proprium offeret pro nobis . . . sacrificium de nostro obtulit”; but Christ as priest and mediator was man. He had to represent man, and that again only a man could do. Very pregnant is the sentence of Ambrose (in Luc. exp. IV. 7) “ut quia solvi non queunt divina decreta, persona magis quam sententia mutaretur.” That is the genuine idea of substitution. Ambrose does not even shrink from saying “quia peccata nostra suscepit, peccatum dictus est” (Expos. in Ps. CXIX., X. 14). The Latins were shut up to this conclusion. Their views regarding the work of Christ had been influenced by the works of penance enjoined by the Church, and on the other hand, the latter owed their value to the voluntary acceptance of suffering. Again, “sacrifices” in general were something human—God does not render, but receives sacrifices. Finally, mankind was in God’s debt. From all this it necessarily followed that Christ in presenting himself as a sacrifice did so as man. But with this conclusion the Latins severed themselves from the supreme and final interests of Greek piety—for this rather required that the deity should have assumed with human nature all the “passiones” of the latter and made them its own. If the rigid Greek conception, which, indeed, in after times was full of gaps and inconsistencies, represented Christ’s sufferings as a whole to be not voluntary, but the complete acceptance of the Ensarkosis (life in the flesh), yet God is always the subject.624624The subtle distinction between East and West is accordingly to be defined as follows. Both held that the human nature of Christ suffered, for the divine was incapable of suffering; but the East taught that the deity suffered through the human nature which he had made his own, the West that the man suffered and presented his human nature as a sacrifice in death; the latter, however, obtained an infinite value, for the deity was associated with it. From this we have two consequences. First, the idea of substitution could take root on Greek ground only superficially, and in an indefinite form; for the dying God-man really represented no one, but rather received all really into the plenitude of his divinity; it was different in the West. Secondly, the method of computing the value of Christ’s mortal agony could similarly find no footing in the East; for the deity was the subject of the transaction, and precluded all questioning and computing. The striking utterances of Orientals as to the supreme value of Christ’s work are really therefore only rhetorical (see above). If, on the other hand, the means of atonement under discussion, and the substitution are human, the question, of course, arises what value these possess, or what value is lent them by the divinity that is behind this sacrifice and this priest. We must take the statements of the Latin Fathers more literally. Ambrose confesses “Felix ruina quæ reparatur in melius” and “Amplius nobis profuit culpa quam nocuit: in quo redemptio quidem nostra divinum munus invenit. Facta est mihi culpa mea merces redemptionis, per quam mihi Christus advenit . . . Fructuosior culpa quam innocentia; innocentia arrogantem me fecerat—and here indeed the paradox becomes nonsensical—culpa subjectum reddidit.” (Numerous passages are given in Deutsch, l. c., see also Förster, l. c., pp. 136, 297). Augustine often repeats and varies this thought, and other Western writers reproduce it from him. “Felix culpa quæ tantum et talem meruit habere redemptorem.” Lastly, Leo L preaches (Serm. LXI. 3): “validius donum factum est libertatis, quam debitum servitutis.” Sayings like these, apart from the special pleading in which Western writers have always delighted since Tertullian, are to be taken much more seriously than if they had come from the East. And in fact momentous speculations were certainly instituted by them. On the whole, therefore, the conception of sacrifice is really alien in the view of the Greeks to the strict theory of Christ’s significance. It found its way in through exegesis and the mysteries, and threatened the compactness of the dogmatic conception, according to which everything that Christ did was summed up in the complete assumptio carnis (assumption of the flesh). Nor was the alien view able to shake the fundamental conception that the God-Logos was the subject in all that pertained to Christ. Among the Latins, on the other hand, the idea of the atoning sacrifice plus substitution is genuine, and has no general theory against it; for they never were able to rise perfectly to the contemplation of Christ’s work as the assumptio carnis, an expression of the loftiest piety among the Greeks. Those of the latter who, like the Antiochenes, either did not share or only imperfectly shared the realistic idea of redemption, referred, it is worth remarking, the work of Christ, like the Latins, to the human side of his personality.625625An affinity exists between the theology of the Antiochenes and Latins—esp. pre-Augustinian; but it is greater to a superficial than to a more exact observer. The Antiochene conception always had the Alexandrian for a foil; it never emancipated itself sufficiently from the latter to set up a perfectly compact counter-theology; it was in a sense Greek piety and Greek theology watered down. The Latins did not possess this foil. Their theology must not be gauged by Origen and Neoplatonism as if they furnished its starting-point.

Great as are the distinctions here—the West did not possess in antiquity a definite dogmatic theory as to the atoning work of Christ. Greek views exerted their influence;626626So from Hilary down to Augustine. The most important of the Western Fathers accepted the Greek idea of the purchase from the devil, although it flatly contradicted their own doctrine of the atonement; and this proves how uncertain they were. The grotesque conception of the role played by the devil at the death of Christ, had nevertheless something good about it. It reminded men that every knave is a stupid devil, and that the devil is always a stupid knave. and, besides, Western Christians were not yet disposed, with a very few exceptions, to trouble themselves with thoughts that had no bearing on practical life.

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