Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, Chapter 8, “Refutation of the Gentiles (Part 2)”

A Disclaimer on Book Synopses

46. The idolatry of the nations began to decline after Christ’s coming. “When did people abandon the worship of idols… [and] oracles ceased and become void of meaning, among Greeks and everywhere, except since the Saviour has revealed Himself on earth?” “But now all over the world men are forsaking the fear of idols and taking refuge with Christ; and by worshipping Him as God they come through Him to know the Father also, Whom formerly they did not know.”

47. Athanasius proceeds to list examples of this cessation: the oracles of Delphi and Dordona, the deception of demons, belief in Zeus, Kronos, and Apollo, the practice of magic, regard for Greek wisdom. But because of “the soujourn of the Word” Christ is proclaimed instead of oracles, demons are driven out by the sign of the cross, Christ is “recognized as true God, Word of God, God Himself,” magic has been confuted by the Truth, and Christ through “common speech” has convinced multitudes  to despise death and look to eternal things.

48. This leavening effect of Christ is known by experience– young men who practice chastity and the “glad company of martyrs,” as but two examples. Who is He who has had such an effect on the world? Not mere man, for he has proved stronger than the ‘gods;’ not a magician, because he has destroyed the magical arts; not a demon for he has driven out demons. In light of his works, “it must be manifest and will be owned by all that He is in truth Son of God, Existent Word and Wisdom and Power of the Father.”

49-50. Christ’s works show him to be God. What man has ever formed his own body in the womb, healed diseases, restored limbs, and caused those who were blind since birth to see? What man’s death has ever caused the sun to darken and the earth to shake? “Has any man’s teaching, in any place or at any time, ever prevailed everywhere as one and the same, from one end of the earth to the other, so that his worship has fairly flown through every land?”

51. What man has ever been able to teach virginity and did not account it “impossible for human beings?” Christ has “so prevailed” in this teaching that “even children not yet of lawful age promise that virginity which transcends the law.”  Whose teaching has ever been able to penetrate into Scythia, Ethiopia, Parthia, Armenia, Hyrcania, Egypt, Chaldea– people ensalved to idolatry, magic, savagery, and demons– and preach virtue and the rejection of idols, as has “the Lord of all, the Power of God, our Lord Jesus Christ?” Cruel and murderous men who have “[come] over to the school of Christ” have laid aside their violence and “war-mindedness.”

52. Who has created such peace, except “the beloved Son of the Father, the common Saviour of all, Jesus Christ, Who by His own love underwent all things for our salvation?”

53. Did anyone ever fight against so many things as successfully as did the Saviour: the whole system of idol-worship, the whole host of daemons, all magic, and all the wisdom of the Greeks at a time when these flourished as did our Lord, the very Word of God? “[E]ven now he [is] invisibly exposing every man’s error, and singled-handed is carrying off all men from them all, so that those who used to worship idols now tread them under foot, reputed magicians burn their books and the wise prefer to all studies the interpretation of the gospels.”

54. The doubter is asked to examine these works. If they are merely human works, “then let him scoff; but if they be of God… let him recognise the fact and marvel that things divine have been revealed to us by such humble means…”

55. Athanasius concludes, “Now this is the proof that Christ is God, the Word and Power of God. For whereas human things cease and the fact of Christ remains, it is clear to all that the things which cease are temporary, but that He Who remains is God and very Son of God, the sole-begotten Word.”

Chapter 1          Chapter 2          Chapter 3          Chapter 4          Chapter 5          Chapter 6          Chapter 7          Chapter 9

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