The Representation of Christ by the Priest: A Study of the Antecedents of in persona Christi Theology in the Ancient Tradition

Title: The Representation of Christ by the Priest: A Study of the Antecedents of in persona Christi Theology in the Ancient Tradition
Authors: Ingram, Pierre
Date: 2012-04-30
Abstract: One of the focal points of contemporary theological controversy has been the notion that ordained priests act in persona Christi. Both defenders and critics of this concept are relying on unverified historical assumptions, which can only diminish the credibility of their arguments. The objective of the present dissertation is to provide a credible answer to the question of the existence of historical antecedents to in persona Christi theology. The body of literature studied spans the period from 200 –750 CE. Liturgical sources pertaining to the ordained ministry are analysed first. These include most of the ancient church orders (the Apostolic Tradition, the Didascalia, the Canons of Hippolytus, the Apostolic Constitutions, the Testamentum Domini, and the Statuta Ecclesiae Antiqua), as well as ordination rites from Egypt, Rome, Gaul, Spain, Byzantium, and Georgia. With a few exceptions, these liturgical sources do not contain instances of sacerdotal representation-of-Christ. The study proceeds with an examination of theological sources, which include nineteen church writers: Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian of Carthage, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianzus, Pacian, Ambrose of Milan, Ambrosiaster, John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Augustine, Dionysius the Areopagite, Narses of Edessa, Severus of Antioch, Gregory the Great, Isidore of Seville, Maximus the Confessor, Bede the Venerable, and John Damascene. Ten out of these nineteen writers attribute some form of representativity to the ordained priest. Of those ten, most consistently portray the ordained priest as representing Christ, while for the others the object of representation is occasionally Christ, but more frequently "God" or "the Deity." A few authors—Augustine in particular—fall outside these categories. Notwithstanding the variations and exceptions, it can safely be concluded that (1) there are enough genuine instances of sacerdotal representation-of-Christ in the theological sources of the patristic period, and (2) there is enough logical consistency among these instances, that it can be considered a strong, recognizable current of thought. The findings of our study lead to the conclusion that the emergence of the idea of sacerdotal representation-of-Christ was not an isolated phenomenon and did indeed constitute an element of the church's common tradition, long before the scholastic period.
CollectionThèses Saint-Paul // Saint Paul Theses