Adam Made in Christ: Time, Bodies, and Eternity According to Cyril of Alexandria’s Scriptural Commentaries

Alexander B Miller, Fordham University


Modern descriptions of Cyril’s anthropology emphasize the rational aspect of human nature. In Walter J. Burghardt’s view, Cyril defines the human being as a “mortal, rational (λογικός), animal”, and in keeping with the Aristotelian notion of human virtue, Cyril locates the image of God in the rational faculty. At the same time, studies of Cyril have also attempted to account for his emphasis on sacramental participation in his soteriology and, more recently, in his theology of theosis. Nonetheless, the theological anthropology presented in these studies consistently takes Burghardt’s conclusions as its starting point, and there is a tendency to portray Cyril’s liturgical theology as primarily pedagogical in nature. In this dissertation, I apply network theory to Cyril’s use of scriptural allusions expand the study of Cyril’s theological anthropology beyond direct citations of Genesis 1:26-27 to identify other scriptural passages equally as important to Cyril’s thought. I argue that Cyril of Alexandria’s theological anthropology is rooted in the conviction that the “image of God” in which humanity is made (Gen. 1:26-27) is Christ. In his commentaries, Cyril responds to pastoral challenges posed by theological and ecclesial opponents such as anthropomorphite monks, extreme Origenists, and the “two-son christology” favored by the fourth- and fifth-century Antiochene theological tradition. An analysis that is attentive to Cyril’s network of allusions, the unique genre of scriptural commentary, and his polemical context(s), yields a more robust theological anthropology that allows one to distinguish Cyril’s thought from that of Aristotle and later Neo-Scholasticism. Central to his response is the conviction that Christ is the “image of God” is not merely a matter of divine foreknowledge of humanity’s restoration in Christ. Rather, Cyril claims that even Adam and humans who lived before the incarnation were created in the incarnate Christ. Two conclusions follow from this identification of the imago Dei with Christ. First, Cyril’s theological anthropology is grounded upon the incarnation as a disruption of the classical distinction between linear time/matter and eternity/spirit. Second, human nature is essentially characterized as a liturgical being, by which it is incorporated or fully made in Christ.

Subject Area

Religious history|Theology|Spirituality

Recommended Citation

Miller, Alexander B, "Adam Made in Christ: Time, Bodies, and Eternity According to Cyril of Alexandria’s Scriptural Commentaries" (2020). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI27959237.