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St. Cyril of Alexandria's Metaphysics of the Incarnation


Sergey Trostyanskiy

Cyril of Alexandria is one of the major intellectuals of the early Byzantine Christian world. His approach to Christ is at the core of the classical Christian tradition, however, because his works were not translated into English in the post-Reformation environment, the precise implications of his "science of Christ" have been extensively misunderstood. This work seeks to reposition Cyril in the precise philosophical context to which he belonged, seeking, as he did, for a deliberate bridge-building between ecclesiastical biblical presuppositions and the semantic terms central to the Late Antique philosophical Academy, with which he understands the Church must communicate. This book seeks to lay bare the fundamental philosophical axioms of Cyril’s metaphysics of the Incarnation. To illuminate this, it investigates the fifth-century curriculum of metaphysical studies as followed in the academies of both Alexandria and Athens. Common to both Cyril and his Hellene contemporaries are the terms of theological speculation prevalent in the Commentaries on the Parmenides. This monograph applies the schema of theological analysis offered by the Commentators to Cyril’s metaphysics of the Incarnation to see how well it accounts for the precise terms of the Incarnational doctrine posited by Cyril. This study also endeavors to expound and evaluate the many previous (and heavily conflicting) scholarly accounts of Cyril’s intellectual agenda. It outlines various cognitive gaps associated with the macro arguments of the different positions, which by and large have underestimated Cyril’s philosophical acumen and ignored his own immediate academic context.

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In this book I looked at Cyril as a philosopher-theologian who spoke to his contemporaries (both pagan and Christian) in the language of the Alexandrian Academy. In a sense, I attempted to bring (a much-disputed) Cyril back to where he belongs. So, where does Cyril really belong conceptually and doctrinally? My answer was that as a philosopher-theologian he had emerged out of the intellectual horizon of fifth century Alexandria with its great intellectual traditions. Therefore, I argue, Cyril’s training was predominantly in rhetoric and philosophy. It was a rhetoric from his early days dedicated to the exegesis of Scripture, and thus set in the service of the larger Christian tradition, the “science of Christ.” His philosophical horizons helped Cyril sustain the Christian conception of the Incarnation in the most intricate and philosophically subtle way. This, in turn, was crucial for Cyril and allowed him to become a great, indeed oikoumenical, advocate of Christianity.

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