The Human Factor: ‘Deification’ as Transformation in the Theology of Hilary of Poitiers. By Janet Sidaway

The Human Factor: ‘Deification’ as Transformation in the Theology of Hilary of Poitiers. By... Contributing to the rapidly growing ranks of English-language monographs on Hilary (Weedman, 2007; Beckwith, 2009; Burns, 2012; Scully, 2015; Abogado, 2016; Image, 2017), Sidaway’s book joins the trend of interest in pre-Augustinian Latin theology. This book is a revised version of her dissertation under Oliver Davies at King’s College London. Through an extended commentary on Hilary’s exegesis of 1 Cor. 15:24–8 in Book 11 of his De Trinitate, Sidaway argues that Hilary’s deification model of salvation emphasizes the enduring humanity of the deified. Although the substance of Sidaway’s argument takes place in the 20-page chapter 6, the preceding chapters lay the groundwork for this argument through a study of: details of ecclesiastical politics during Hilary’s lifetime (ch. 2); influences on Hilary’s understanding of deification (ch. 3); the rhetorical structure of the De Trinitate (ch. 4); and the important theological themes of the De Trinitate such as eternal generation and profectus (ch. 5). The final chapter briefly traces out Hilary’s influence and highlights Dante and the recent movement of Transformation Theology at King’s College London as the most noteworthy recipients (ch. 7). Sidaway’s main argument is that Hilary believes that when humans are deified they become not a theophany (a manifestation of God), but an ‘anthropophany’ (a manifestation of perfect glorified humanity) because he views the model for humans ‘becoming God’ not as God understood in a general sense, but specifically as the humanity of Christ (p. 10). Certainly the term ‘anthropophany’ applied to Hilary is novel. However, Sidaway’s presentation of ‘anthropophany’ in Hilary’s theology follows a well-trodden trajectory of Hilary scholarship. She emphasizes the scriptural centrality of 1 Cor. 15 (like Pelland and Ladaria) in Hilary’s presentation of humanity’s eschatological future, as well as the significance of profectus (like Fierro, Burns, and many others), which, for Hilary, defines the human condition as constantly progressing towards the goal of deification. Sidaway derives two main conclusions about deification (both of which manifest the current scholarly consensus as found in Burns, Orazzo, Ladaria, and others): first, Hilary insists that humans retain human nature in the eschaton (p. 124); second, he argues that they remain eternally corporeal (p. 115). While Sidaway’s presentation of deification in Hilary’s thought as an eternal continuation of human corporeal nature is commonplace, her argument that the deification of humanity so dominates both the content and the structure of the De Trinitate that it ‘is therefore not in fact about the Trinity per se’ is not (p. 7). Though Sidaway is correct to see soteriological motivations in Hilary’s trinitarian theology, her claim that such a motivation means that Hilary is not doing trinitarian theology in the De Trinitate is overstated. In terms of historical methodology, Sidaway demonstrates a problematic penchant for using chronologically later concepts and terminology to understand Hilary. First, the decisive term for Sidaway’s understanding of Hilary’s deification soteriology is ‘anthropophany’, a term she explicitly derives from the kenotic Christology of Frank Weston’s The One Christ (1907). In fact, Sidaway cites only three scholars (Burns, Doignon, Smulders) more frequently than she cites Frank Weston. That Weston himself proposes his Christology as a significant never-before-seen development of the tradition should give Sidaway pause in applying Weston’s distinctive term to Hilary, but it does not. I hazard, based on Sidaway’s clear approval of the experiential emphasis of Transformation Theology (whose founder, her dissertation director Davies, also ‘helps to explain what Hilary was trying to say’ [p. 136]), that Sidaway herself had a transformative experience in reading Weston and Hilary together and hopes to allow others to have a similarly noteworthy experience. Second, throughout the book she uses the ‘exchange formula’, which she summarizes with phrases from Gregory Nazianzus (‘the unassumed is the unhealed’) and Irenaeus (‘God become man so man could become God’) as a framework for understanding deification in Hilary and in the patristic tradition in general. Since Gregory of Nazianzus is chronologically later than Hilary, clearly Hilary was not influenced by him. As for Irenaeus, although Sidaway criticizes J. R. Meyer for positing a dependence of Hilary on Irenaeus without argument or proof and for reading Hilary ‘through the lens of the later divinization tradition’ (p. 57) she manifests a similarly flawed methodology in her consistent use of the Irenaean formula as a lens to view Hilary even while correctly admitting that ‘whether Hilary actually read Irenaeus is unknown’ (p. 52). Throughout her book, Sidaway reflects a wide knowledge of secondary sources on both Hilary and deification. Despite this wide knowledge, she manifests a frustrating tendency of failing to dialogue with the right work at the right moment in her argument. For example, her treatment of Hilary’s eschatological use of 1 Cor. 15 makes no mention of the three articles (Pelland, 1979, 1983; Ladaria, 1985) dedicated to the same task. Likewise her sections on the nativitas and eternal generation of the Son never mention Weedman (2007), whose book revolves around these concepts in the De Trinitate. She also sometimes rejects the conclusions of other scholars without providing any argument or evidence for her rejection, as, for example, in her one-sentence dismissal of Doignon’s meticulous and textually based argument about Hilary’s lack of knowledge of Greek (p. 32). In conclusion, Sidaway’s book is most useful to the Hilary scholar in two ways. First, while her summary (in ch. 2) of the fourth-century theological controversies as they relate to Hilary includes nothing that cannot be found elsewhere, she sifts through broader narratives (i.e. Ayres) and collects the insights of more pointed articles (i.e. Williams) to offer for the first time something of a comprehensive reference guide to all the major events, figures, and theological movements related to Hilary. Second, while Sidaway’s emphasis on the ‘human factor’ in her presentation of deification as ‘anthropophany’ does not result in a theological reading of Hilary that is markedly unique, nevertheless her human-centred approach to Hilary’s theology joins the important movement of recent Hilary scholarship that seeks to add christological and soteriological dimensions to a figure whose contribution has historically been judged as limited to the realm of trinitarian theology. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Theological Studies Oxford University Press

The Human Factor: ‘Deification’ as Transformation in the Theology of Hilary of Poitiers. By Janet Sidaway

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Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0022-5185
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1477-4607
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10.1093/jts/fly046
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Abstract

Contributing to the rapidly growing ranks of English-language monographs on Hilary (Weedman, 2007; Beckwith, 2009; Burns, 2012; Scully, 2015; Abogado, 2016; Image, 2017), Sidaway’s book joins the trend of interest in pre-Augustinian Latin theology. This book is a revised version of her dissertation under Oliver Davies at King’s College London. Through an extended commentary on Hilary’s exegesis of 1 Cor. 15:24–8 in Book 11 of his De Trinitate, Sidaway argues that Hilary’s deification model of salvation emphasizes the enduring humanity of the deified. Although the substance of Sidaway’s argument takes place in the 20-page chapter 6, the preceding chapters lay the groundwork for this argument through a study of: details of ecclesiastical politics during Hilary’s lifetime (ch. 2); influences on Hilary’s understanding of deification (ch. 3); the rhetorical structure of the De Trinitate (ch. 4); and the important theological themes of the De Trinitate such as eternal generation and profectus (ch. 5). The final chapter briefly traces out Hilary’s influence and highlights Dante and the recent movement of Transformation Theology at King’s College London as the most noteworthy recipients (ch. 7). Sidaway’s main argument is that Hilary believes that when humans are deified they become not a theophany (a manifestation of God), but an ‘anthropophany’ (a manifestation of perfect glorified humanity) because he views the model for humans ‘becoming God’ not as God understood in a general sense, but specifically as the humanity of Christ (p. 10). Certainly the term ‘anthropophany’ applied to Hilary is novel. However, Sidaway’s presentation of ‘anthropophany’ in Hilary’s theology follows a well-trodden trajectory of Hilary scholarship. She emphasizes the scriptural centrality of 1 Cor. 15 (like Pelland and Ladaria) in Hilary’s presentation of humanity’s eschatological future, as well as the significance of profectus (like Fierro, Burns, and many others), which, for Hilary, defines the human condition as constantly progressing towards the goal of deification. Sidaway derives two main conclusions about deification (both of which manifest the current scholarly consensus as found in Burns, Orazzo, Ladaria, and others): first, Hilary insists that humans retain human nature in the eschaton (p. 124); second, he argues that they remain eternally corporeal (p. 115). While Sidaway’s presentation of deification in Hilary’s thought as an eternal continuation of human corporeal nature is commonplace, her argument that the deification of humanity so dominates both the content and the structure of the De Trinitate that it ‘is therefore not in fact about the Trinity per se’ is not (p. 7). Though Sidaway is correct to see soteriological motivations in Hilary’s trinitarian theology, her claim that such a motivation means that Hilary is not doing trinitarian theology in the De Trinitate is overstated. In terms of historical methodology, Sidaway demonstrates a problematic penchant for using chronologically later concepts and terminology to understand Hilary. First, the decisive term for Sidaway’s understanding of Hilary’s deification soteriology is ‘anthropophany’, a term she explicitly derives from the kenotic Christology of Frank Weston’s The One Christ (1907). In fact, Sidaway cites only three scholars (Burns, Doignon, Smulders) more frequently than she cites Frank Weston. That Weston himself proposes his Christology as a significant never-before-seen development of the tradition should give Sidaway pause in applying Weston’s distinctive term to Hilary, but it does not. I hazard, based on Sidaway’s clear approval of the experiential emphasis of Transformation Theology (whose founder, her dissertation director Davies, also ‘helps to explain what Hilary was trying to say’ [p. 136]), that Sidaway herself had a transformative experience in reading Weston and Hilary together and hopes to allow others to have a similarly noteworthy experience. Second, throughout the book she uses the ‘exchange formula’, which she summarizes with phrases from Gregory Nazianzus (‘the unassumed is the unhealed’) and Irenaeus (‘God become man so man could become God’) as a framework for understanding deification in Hilary and in the patristic tradition in general. Since Gregory of Nazianzus is chronologically later than Hilary, clearly Hilary was not influenced by him. As for Irenaeus, although Sidaway criticizes J. R. Meyer for positing a dependence of Hilary on Irenaeus without argument or proof and for reading Hilary ‘through the lens of the later divinization tradition’ (p. 57) she manifests a similarly flawed methodology in her consistent use of the Irenaean formula as a lens to view Hilary even while correctly admitting that ‘whether Hilary actually read Irenaeus is unknown’ (p. 52). Throughout her book, Sidaway reflects a wide knowledge of secondary sources on both Hilary and deification. Despite this wide knowledge, she manifests a frustrating tendency of failing to dialogue with the right work at the right moment in her argument. For example, her treatment of Hilary’s eschatological use of 1 Cor. 15 makes no mention of the three articles (Pelland, 1979, 1983; Ladaria, 1985) dedicated to the same task. Likewise her sections on the nativitas and eternal generation of the Son never mention Weedman (2007), whose book revolves around these concepts in the De Trinitate. She also sometimes rejects the conclusions of other scholars without providing any argument or evidence for her rejection, as, for example, in her one-sentence dismissal of Doignon’s meticulous and textually based argument about Hilary’s lack of knowledge of Greek (p. 32). In conclusion, Sidaway’s book is most useful to the Hilary scholar in two ways. First, while her summary (in ch. 2) of the fourth-century theological controversies as they relate to Hilary includes nothing that cannot be found elsewhere, she sifts through broader narratives (i.e. Ayres) and collects the insights of more pointed articles (i.e. Williams) to offer for the first time something of a comprehensive reference guide to all the major events, figures, and theological movements related to Hilary. Second, while Sidaway’s emphasis on the ‘human factor’ in her presentation of deification as ‘anthropophany’ does not result in a theological reading of Hilary that is markedly unique, nevertheless her human-centred approach to Hilary’s theology joins the important movement of recent Hilary scholarship that seeks to add christological and soteriological dimensions to a figure whose contribution has historically been judged as limited to the realm of trinitarian theology. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

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Journal of Theological StudiesOxford University Press

Published: Apr 20, 2018

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