The Early Christological Controversy: Apollinarius, Diodore, and Gregory Nazianzen

in Vigiliae Christianae
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This article sheds new light on a crucial moment in the emerging Christological controversy. Among the key developments that occurred between 360 and the early 380s, the Christological debate between Apollinarius of Laodicea and Diodore of Tarsus made a significant, though largely misunderstood, impact on the Christological works of Gregory of Nazianzus. The article first characterizes the main Christological concerns of Apollinarius and Diodore and identifies the points of contention between them. It then gives a new interpretation of Gregory’s relationship to this debate. It argues, finally, that Gregory Nazianzen defines his Christology chiefly in opposition to Diodore, rather than to Apollinarius, as is commonly believed, even as he opposes them both in the end.

The Early Christological Controversy: Apollinarius, Diodore, and Gregory Nazianzen

in Vigiliae Christianae



  • 2)

    Most notably J.N.D. KellyEarly Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper & Row1978) 295–301; and Aloi[y]s Grillmeier Christ in Christian Tradition trans. John Bowden (London: Mowbrays 1965) 278–91; rev. ed. (1975) 367–77; new German ed. Jesus der Christus im Glauben der Kirche (Freiburg: Herder 1979) 435–47. Most of the material that I am referring to here (roughly one page) is omitted in the final German edition.

  • 6)

    See esp. Kelly McCarthy Spoerl“A Study of the Κατὰ Μέρος Πίστις by Apollinarius of Laodicea,” (Ph.D diss., University of Toronto, 1991); “Apollinarius and the Response to Early Arian Christology,” Studia Patristica 26 (1993): 421–27; “Apollinarian Christology and the Anti-Marcellan Tradition” Journal of Theological Studies (1994): 545–68; “Apollinarius on the Holy Spirit” Studia Patristica 37 (2001): 571–92; following the seminal works of Lietzmann Raven and Muhlenberg.

  • 7)

    ApollinariusKata Meros Pistis1 6 12. A good portion of this work which begins with an anti-Arian statement of faith is aimed at countering what Apollinarius perceives to be Marcellus’ denial of the distinction between the Father and the Son. Apollinarius’ works are cited according to the edition of Hans Lietzmann Apollinaris von Laodicea und seine Schule: Texte und Untersuchungen (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 1904).

  • 26)

    ApollinKMP 1 9; see also 28 31; Frag. 9 85.

  • 58)

    Maurice Brière“Quelques fragments Syriaques de Diodore, éveque de Tarse (378–394),” Revue de L’Orient Chrétien 30 (1946): 231–83; Rudolf Abramowski “Der theologische Nachlaß des Diodor von Tarsus” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 42 (1949): 19–69. Behr The Case Against Diodore and Theodore. Diodore’s fragments will be cited by brief reference to Behr’s edition: SD = fragments from Severus of Antioch; BD = fragments from the “Blasphemies of Diodore Theodore and the Impious Nestorius” (Brit. Mus. Cod. Add. 12156). I am grateful to Fr. Behr for making available to me his new edition before its publication.

  • 90)

    See Greer“The Antiochene Christology of Diodore of Tarsus” 335.

  • 164)

    On which see John A. McGuckin“Autobiography as Apologia in St Gregory Nazianzen,” Studia Patristica 37 (1999): 160–77.


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