Patristic and Medieval Atonement Theory

A Guide to Research

The notion of atonement, a process by which humans are made right before God, is central to the logic of Christian theology. In spite of this, major thinkers in the Christian traditions have held vastly different understandings of both the way atonement works and what it means. These differing accounts have become intellectual traditions which continue to influence both academic theology and spiritual practice today. In spite of the strong dependence of much contemporary thought on early ideas, linguistic and cultural barriers often preclude serious study of the original materials.

Patristic and Medieval Atonement Theory takes a close look at the doctrines that depend on and influence views of atonement in order to make clear what place atonement occupies within the larger system of Christian theology. Johnson also considers key concepts and tensions within the doctrine of atonement itself, which may be emphasized or glossed over to create the shape of particular doctrines. Johnson’s guide briefly discusses major figures in the development of Christian doctrines of atonement to the end of the Middle Ages. Johnson then turns to the major primary and secondary sources and provides an orientation to the rich literature existing on this topic.

The attention given to the anatomy of the concepts involved, the introduction to the ideas of major thinkers, and the survey of available literature makes this an essential guide for students and scholars of Christian theology of any period, as well as those who research the Middle Ages but are not specialists in theology.

Table of Contents

Part I: Atonement Theory Explained

Chapter 1: Introduction to Atonement Theory

Defining the Terms: What is Meant by Atonement?

The Logic of Atonement
Atonement Claims Generated by Reflection on the Nature of Human Sin
Atonement Claims Generated by Reflection on the Nature of Christ
Atonement Claims Generated by Reflection on the Nature of God
Claims Generated Internal to the Doctrine of Atonement
The Tension Within the Doctrine

Chapter 2: Illuminating the Context

Conceptual Continuity and Discontinuity Between Patristic and Medieval Thought

Key Ancient and Medieval Concepts
Doctrine of God
A Word About Sacrifice

Scriptural Interpretation

Chapter 3: Christ our Brother: Likeness and Unlikeness in Christ’s Human Nature

Christ’s Likeness to Our Human Nature
Genetic Models of Likeness
Participatory Models of Likeness
The Attractiveness of Likeness

Christ’s Unlikeness to Us
Divinity and the One Savior
Super-Excellent Human Nature
The Attractiveness of Unlikeness

Part II: Key Thinkers in Atonement Theory

Chapter 4: Athanasius (296-373): The Image of God in Us

Chapter 5: Gregory Nazianzen (329-390): Deification

Chapter 6: Gregory of Nyssa (335-395): Ransom theory

Chapter 7: Augustine (354-430): Legal Conceptuality

Chapter 8: Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109): Satisfaction Theory

Chapter 9: Peter Abelard (1079-1142): Moral Influence

Chapter 10: Bonaventure (1221-1274): Nuanced Anselmianism

Chapter 11: Aquinas (1225-1274): Christ’s Merits

Chapter 12: Julian of Norwich (1342-1416): Courtesy and At-onement

Part III: Annotated Bibliography of Selected Resources

Chapter 13: Patristic Period: Primary Sources

Chapter 14: Patristic Period: Secondary Sources
Gregory Nazianzen
Gregory of Nyssa
Select Patristic Authors Not Treated in This Text
General Patristic Sources

Chapter 15: Medieval Period: Primary Sources

Chapter 16: Medieval Period: Secondary Sources
Anselm of Canterbury
Peter Abelard
Thomas Aquinas
Julian of Norwich
General Medieval Sources

Chapter 17: Secondary Sources Common to the Patristic and Medieval Periods

Name Index

Subject Index

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