Volume 14, 2014
Apophaticism and Deification in the Alexandrian and Antiochene Tradition
The aim of this paper is to analyse certain aspects of the Christian tradition, namely, the doctrines of apophasis (also known as negative theology) and theosis (deification). These are surveyed together because they often complement one another in Christian thought. Although the later Byzantine fathers, of the hesychast tradition, solved the theological questions of apophaticism and deification, the problematic was already articulated in early Christianity through conceptualising the vision of God. The contention of this paper is that although the Alexandrine and Antochene traditions appropriated two diverse ways of understandings of the doctrine of vision of God, the two theological methods were in fact interrelated. In short, whereas for the Alexandrians the vision and knowledge of God stressed the ascent of the human being to God (apophasis), and the Antiochenes were more interested in the divine condescension (kataphasis), both traditions had the same practical goal, union by grace with God or theosis. Both paradigms, too, reveal the paradoxical or antinomical nature of Christian God-transcendent and immanent at the same time. After exploring some of the general characteristics of the Alexandrian and Antiochene though, this paper will address the particularities of the two interpretive strands.