Alloiosis in the Christology of Zwingli.
Any incarnational Christology has to provide some account of how both divine and human attributes can be ascribed to Christ. The doctrine that attempts to provide such an account is known as the communication of properties (communicatio idiomatum). The purpose of this short article is to clarify precisely what Zwingli's view of the communication of properties is. Zwingli, as I hope to show, has a fairly clear account of how we might go about ascribing human and divine attributes to Christ. (1)
Zwingli formulated his distinctive ideas in the context of a debate with Luther about the nature of the eucharistic presence. (2) The debate started in 1525, and occupied Zwingli until his death. (3) He used his doctrine to counter what he saw as the heterodox Christology of Luther. (I discuss below what the precise christological issue at stake between the two theologians was.)
Zwingli used the term alloiosis interchangeably with the Latin phrases communicatio/commutatio idiomatum (or, in his German, 'gemeinschafft/gegenwechsel der eygenschafften'). In the literature about Zwingli we find several different accounts of alloiosis.
1. According to Gottfried Locher, 'It is only with regard to the person of the God-man that one can assert per alloiosim the properties of both natures alike'. (4) This view, if correct, would make Zwingli to be in complete accord with the schoolmen who, as I will discuss below, understood the communication of properties in just this sense. Locher's account of Zwingli would thus agree with Zwingli's own assessment that his position was in accord with that of the schoolmen. (5)
2. According to F. Blanke, (6) Zwingli agrees with the 'traditional Chalcedonian' account. In this account, alloiosis or the communicatio idiomatum is the 'grammatical and real transference of the names and properties of both unconfused natures of Christ on their one person'. (7) Blanke distinguishes the Chalcedonian--and hence Zwingli's--position into three elements: the person of Christ can be designated by the predicates of both natures; the whole God-man can be named even though only one of the natures is meant; one of the natures can be meant even though the other is named. (8) Blanke thus fundamentally agrees with Locher that Zwingli's account of alloiosis entails predicating the natures and their properties of the person; but, as he spells out his account, there is a number of different ways in which this alloiosis can take place.
3. Stephens--like Blanke--bases his account quite closely on Zwingli's text. (Stephens' account is based on Dass diese Worte; Blanke's on Amica Exegesis.) He, too, claims that Zwingli's account is 'in the tradition of Chalcedonian and scholastic theology'. (9) He gives the following definition of alloiosis: 'Where we name the one nature and understand the other, or name what they both are, and yet understand only the one.' (10) As Stephens describes alloiosis, it seems that what is at issue is not, in fact, our ability to predicate the natures and their properties of the one person. Rather, what is at issue is our ability to predicate the natures and their properties of either the whole God-man (including both natures) or each other. Contrary to Stephens' claim, (11) this way of describing the issue is not prima facie one which would have been recognizable by the schoolmen.
There are two possible explanations of this disagreement in the literature. Either Zwingli's account is confused and the literature reflects this confusion, or Zwingli's account is clear and at least one of the writers on Zwingli has misunderstood Zwingli's position. To decide which of these is the case, it is necessary to analyse closely what Zwingli himself has to say on the subject. I shall argue that the second explanation of the disagreement in the literature--i.e, that at least one of the writers on Zwingli has misunderstood his position--is correct. I shall, in fact, make a stronger claim--that none of the three writers on Zwingli that I consider here gives an accurate and unambiguous account of Zwingli's position.
I shall argue that Zwingli did not conceive alloiosis as an attempt to account for our ability to predicate the natures and their properties of the person. To this extent, I shall agree with Stephens' account and with the relevant parts of Blanke's account. Stephens' account suggests that the predication of one nature of the other is merely figurative. (12) But his account does not make clear whether or not the predication of the natures and their properties of the whole God-man is merely figurative, or if it can be construed in some sense as literal. He describes such predications as follows:
In the new testament there are references to Christ (who is God and man) that may refer to him either according to his divine or according to his human nature. (13)
Stephens does not make clear whether these propositions are in any sense literally true. (I shall argue that, according to Zwingli, they are not.) In other words, Stephens does not make clear whether all, or just some, instances of alloiosis are figurative. One of my purposes here is to attempt to provide a solution to this problem.
I hope that my account of Zwingli's position will also do more than just provide a critique of the literature: a proper exposition of Zwingli's account of alloiosis provides, in fact, a good general introduction to Zwingli's Christology and the language he uses to express it.
II. Zwingli's Christology
Zwingli's Christology is, as the commentators acknowledge, (14) Chalcedonian in its basic structure. In the incarnation, the divine person retains numerical identity, and Zwingli emphasizes that the incarnate person is one and the same as the second person of the Trinity. (15) At the incarnation, this person assumes a human nature. (16) The divine and human natures are united in the one person. (17) The two natures, thus united, are not confused: each remains distinct, and retains all the properties and qualities that are proper to it. (18)
This Christology seems to entail a fairly strong distinction between person and nature. More precisely, it entails that the incarnate person is not in any way identical with either his divine nature or his human nature. Zwingli also points out, rightly, that the assumed human nature does not in any way constitute an independent human person. (19) This again underlines his distinction between person and nature. Very loosely, we might claim that a person--and a fortiori the incarnate person--will be something that has a nature, not something that is a nature. In the incarnation, a person (the second person of the Trinity) has a human nature in addition to his divine nature. As Zwingli puts it, 'He who is God is also man, and he who is man is also God.' (20) The parallelism between these two propositions would enable us to infer that--at least in the context of the incarnation--he who has divine nature also has human nature. (21) Zwingli's use of the pronoun 'he' enables him to avoid reference to any nature at all when referring to the incarnate person. The person is what we might call 'nature-neutral': the person is construed to be something underlying the natures. (22)
Zwingli also uses--less frequently--a different model to understand the incarnation. This model is that of two parts making up one whole. Zwingli uses the example of the union of body and soul in one human person. (23) This analogy has, of course, a respectable background in the pseudo-Athanasian creed. But the formulation lays open the possibility of interpreting Zwingli's Christology in terms of two parts constituting some new person. That Zwingli does not intend the analogy to be used in this way can be inferred from his strong insistence that the divine person retains numerical identity over the 'change' of becoming incarnate, and remains a person: indeed, he remains the only person in Christ.
Equally misleading is Zwingli's talk of an assumed man (homo assumptus). (24) But since Zwingli glosses 'assumed man' by 'assumed nature', I take it that his use of 'assumed man' is not supposed to have any heterodox sense. Rather, it just means that Zwingli distinguishes between the proper referents of 'man' and 'person' in the context of the hypostatic union. When used of Christ's human nature, 'man' does not refer to a human person. By using the term 'man' to refer to Christ's human nature, Zwingli makes it quite clear that he sees Christ's human nature as an individual (though not as an individual person): a position for which there is patristic and medieval precedent, and a position from which Zwingli's opponent, Luther, would not dissent. Since Zwingli's talk of the two natures as two parts of a whole is alien to his real intention, it would be wrong to describe his views on the communication of properties in these terms. I shall thus ignore the part--whole Christology in my discussion of alloiosis.
Finally, it is worth pointing out that Zwingli makes a distinction--not clearly delineated--between a nature and its properties or qualities. (25) It is not clear just what relationship might hold between a nature and its properties. Intuitively, we might suppose that Zwingli would claim that a property could be a part of a nature, while a nature (or a property) could never likewise be a part of a person. (I shall proceed on this assumption.) Equally, Zwingli seems to use 'property' (proprietas; (rarely) idioma) and 'quality' (ingenium) synonymously.
III. Zwingli's terminology
One of the most confusing aspects of Zwingli's discussions is that he does not make clear just what terms we should use to differentiate between the subject--predicate relation that holds in propositions that are literally true and that which holds in propositions that are not literally true. This failure is significant, since Zwingli holds that, in those propositions that are literally true, there is an exact correspondence between the (grammatical) subject-predicate relation and the (real) subject--property relation. The fact that Zwingli thus holds a quite clear distinction between the subject-predicate relations in propositions that are literally true and those in propositions that are not literally true is, on a surface level, obscured by Zwingli's language. I will show what I mean by some examples, since I want to block a latent confusion that does not reflect Zwingli's actual theory and which makes it sometimes difficult for a careful reader to see exactly what Zwingli's actual theory is.
Zwingli picks out two types of real (i.e. extra-linguistic) entity that can be referred to by a substantive appearing as the subject term of a proposition. First, the whole Christ can be referred to by a substantive appearing as the subject term of a proposition; secondly, one of the natures can be referred to by a substantive appearing as the subject term of a proposition. This second usage can be further divided into two types: first, a term referring to one of the natures is the subject of a proposition in which the predicate term refers to a property of the other nature; secondly, a term referring to one of the natures is the subject of a proposition in which the predicate term refers to a property of the nature referred to by the subject term. This gives us three possible sentence-types: (1) a noun referring to the whole Christ is the subject term; (2) a noun referring to just one of the natures is the subject term, and the predicate term refers to a property of the other nature; (3) a noun referring to just one of the natures is the subject term, and the predicate term refers to a property of the nature referred to by the subject term. As I will make clear below, only this third type of sentence is literally true, corresponding to some real state of affairs. The other two sentence-types do not yield literally true propositions. (Zwingli also picks out one type of entity which can only be referred to by a pronoun: I discuss this fourth type of entity below. A sentence of this fourth type will, like the third type of sentence, also be literally true.)
There is a number of verbs (and other grammatical structures) that Zwingli uses to pick out these relations of predicate to subject: (a) 'predicated of'; (b) 'said of'; (c) 'attributed to' (tribuitur ad); (d) 'of' (genitive); (e) 'posited for'; (f) 'taken for' (accipitur pro, genommen fur); (g) 'taken of' (accipitur + genitive); (h) 'pertain to'; (j) 'applied to' (dargelihen + dative). (I have constructed this list just from Amica Exegesis, Dass diese Worte, Fidei Ratio, and Expositio Fidei; it could easily be extended to include other works.)
The confusion is brought about by the fact that Zwingli basically uses these verbs indifferently to refer both to the grammatical relation holding between subject and predicate, and to the real relation holding (in type (3) propositions) between subject and property. Thus, Zwingli's point is that the uses classified under (1) and (2) will have no real correlate: they will not correspond to any real state of affairs. But, as will become clear, he does not distinguish (1) and (2) from (3) by any consistent use of the verbs (a)-(j), which he uses on the whole equivocally, for both the grammatical relation of subject-predicate and the real relation of subject-property. (26)
Perhaps we would be wrong to insist on too strong a distinction here. After all, Zwingli's discussions are almost invariably exegetical in character, and he often clarifies what a proposition refers to by using one of the verbs (a)-(j) in the context of showing whether the grammatical relation corresponds to any real (extra-linguistic) relation. I shall assume that Zwingli intends to pick out the 'meaning' of a scriptural passage by trying to determine what the real state of affairs, to which it corresponds, actually is. Indeed, he criticizes Luther, as we shall see, for not taking enough care in determining what the real state of affairs, to which the proposition corresponds, actually is. Zwingli thinks that Luther's willy-nilly exegesis of christological passages leads to some false conclusions about the real state of affairs holding in the incarnate Christ.
The following is intended just to show some of the variety of Zwingli's usage--it is not intended to be an exhaustive table of references. The numbers (1)-(3) and the letters (a)-(j) correspond to the terms given above. Where there are empty categories (e.g. there is no (ie)), this is because Zwingli did not use the specified term in the required way. I keep quite close to Zwingli's usage in the list below: my purpose is to show just how careless Zwingli is, in his usage, in distinguishing the level of the grammatical from the level of the real.
The usages listed under (1) can be divided into two groups: (1.1) 'Christ' refers to the whole God-man who is improperly the subject of just one of the natures; (1.2) 'Christ' is improperly taken as referring to just one of the natures.
(1.1) (a) Terms referring to properties can be (improperly) predicated of the term 'Christ'; (27) (b) they can be said of 'Christ'; (28) (c) they are attributed to 'Christ'; (29) (d) they are of 'Christ' (genitive). (30) In these cases, 'Christ' refers to the whole God-man, and Zwingli often (misleadingly) talks as if the propositions correspond to some real state of affairs as well. But I shall argue, on the basis of claims that Zwingli makes elsewhere, that they do not correspond literally to any extra-linguistic state of affairs. Their meaning, for Zwingli, will be merely figurative: a grammatical predication to which no state of affairs literally corresponds.
(1.2) (f) 'Christ' is taken for just one of the natures. (31) (A further usage, which will not fit into the basic categorizations I have outlined, is 'Christ according to his divine nature/human nature is F' where 'F' denotes a property or a description of the nature. (32) I take this usage as an instance of predicating something, or saying something, of the whole Christ.)
(2) (a) Terms referring to properties of one nature can be predicated of a term referring to the other nature; (33) (b) they can be said of a term referring to the other nature; (34) (c) they can be at-tributed to a term referring to the other nature; (35) (e) they can be posited for a term referring to the other nature; (36) (f) they can be taken for a term referring to the other nature; (37) (j) they can be applied to a term referring to the other nature. (38) Again, the terms Zwingli uses do not make it at all clear whether he is limiting his discussion to the grammatical level, or whether he is claiming that the propositions refer to some real state of affairs as well. I will argue that we can find a clear account in Zwingli, but that it is not located in any systematic use of terms used to describe christological propositions.
(3) (c) Properties are attributed to their proper nature; (39) (d) properties are of their proper nature; (40) (f) a nature is taken for itself; (41) (g) properties are taken of their proper nature; (42) (h) properties pertain to their proper nature. (43) Zwingli also allows that the natures can do things. (44) We can establish from other aspects of Zwingli's discussion that these usages refer both to the grammatical and the real level, but Zwingli's use of these constructions, again, does not make this clear.
Thus, Zwingli basically uses the same set of verbs to describe both the (grammatical) subject--predicate relation, and the (ontological) subject--property relation. This linguistic feature of Zwingli's discussion should not mislead us into thinking that Zwingli does not make a clear distinction between these various cases. But it should alert our attention to a terminological flexibility that does not reflect Zwingli's real position. In what this position consists will be the subject of the next section. (Perhaps Zwingli's terminological flexibility has helped to cause the differing accounts found in the commentators.)
As I suggested above, there is a fourth usage found in Zwingli: (4) Zwingli happily forms propositions in which the one person is the real subject of the natures. The person is picked out as something prior to either of the natures. Zwingli refers to the person by means of the pronouns is ('he'), ille ('he'), and qui ('who'): Is/ille qui deus est, homo est and is/ille qui homo est, deus est. (45) This usage is quite clear: Zwingli himself consistently predicates the natures of the one person, and in so doing he (rightly) ignores the fact that one of the natures (the divine) is essential to the person in a way that the other (the human) is not. The context here is quite different from that of the first three sentence-types: the fourth type of proposition is not scriptural, but is used as a means for explicating propositions which we find in Scripture. I shall return to this below.
The term alloiosis is derived from Plutarch. (46) It is, according to Zwingli, a rhetorical device (47) in which the customary meaning or order of words is changed. (48) Zwingli claims that many propositions about Christ exhibit this device. Important for Zwingli is that the meaning of some christological propositions is not what it seems. As I will show below, Zwingli uses his analysis as part of an argument against Luther's Christology. Zwingli claims that Luther takes some scriptural passages about Jesus as literally true, with theologically damaging consequences. By pointing out that some scriptural passages might be justified instances of a rhetorical device (alloiosis), Zwingli shows how we might avoid making Luther's mistakes (which result, according to Zwingli, from Luther's penchant for taking all scriptural passages about Jesus as literally true).
Zwingli typically picks out three different types of scriptural christological propositions. These three types correspond to those I have marked (1)-(3) above. Zwingli claims that, unless a proposition is just straightforwardly true as it stands, then it will require interpretation. And this interpretation will reveal just in what ways the proposition is true, and in what ways false. Thus, the real meanings of these propositions will not be those suggested by their surface meanings. Zwingli takes all non-straightforwardly true christological propositions to be examples of alloiosis. Alloiosis, or the communication of properties, occurs when there is a breakdown between the proposition and the reality it represents. Here are some definitions:
Alloiosis is ... that jump [desultus] or change [transitus] or alteration [permutatio] by which, speaking of one nature in him [viz. Christ], we use words [vocibus] [which are] of the other. (49)
This way of speaking--where the one nature is named, but the other understood--is called the communicatio idiomatum--i.e., the communication of properties [die gemeinschafft der eygenschafften]--since that which is proper to one nature is applied also to the other. We have referred to this rhetorically as the exchange of natures. (50)
Alloiosis is thus a way of speaking which does not have a true literal sense. It is in this sense that the meaning of the proposition is not to be identified with its surface meaning. Zwingli's point is that we must not take such propositions at face value, because they are in some sense untrue or misleading. (51) They will be true figuratively, but not literally. There is no extra-linguistic state of affairs to which the proposition corresponds literally. This is what I mean when I claim that a proposition is not straightforwardly true.
How does Zwingli apply these definitions? There seems to be little problem in assessing the truth value of propositions formed along the lines of (3). We can properly attribute, for example, a human property to the human nature. Zwingli correctly sees that such propositions are straightforwardly true:
Each nature is often taken properly for itself: e.g., Mt. 26: 'The Son of Man will be betrayed or delivered up to be crucified' [Matt. 26:2]. Here 'The Son of Man' is taken properly for the human nature, for this could be delivered up and killed. The divine [nature] is also taken for itself without exchange (on gegenwechsel): e.g., Jn. 1: 'And the Word was God' [John 1:1]. Here 'the Word' is taken for the living Son of God. (52)
Zwingli's (correct) presupposition is that no concrete substantive that can be used to refer to Christ is 'nature-neutral'. It is impossible to use a substantive to refer to Christ (except, as we shall see, by using the word 'Christ') in some way which does not imply one (and just one) of the natures. But Zwingli makes it quite clear that--as we would expect--when we refer to Christ by means of a concrete substantive (more precisely, any concrete substantive with the exception of 'Christ'), and predicate of the nature implied by the substantive either the nature itself or a property of it, the proposition will be straightforwardly true. Such propositions can be taken literally and at face value. As he puts it, the predication is 'on gegenwechsel' (where 'gegenwechsel' corresponds to alloiosis and communicatio). These propositions are not instances of alloiosis.
Type (2) propositions are more clearly problematic. Again, Zwingli's starting point is that there are no 'nature-neutral' nouns that we can use to refer to Christ. Even concrete substantives--e.g. 'God', 'man'--refer to the person in so far as he has a particular nature. But the predicate term might refer to some property which is attributed to the nature to which the subject term does not refer; or it might be a term which simply refers to the other nature itself. In either case, the proposition will not be straightforwardly true. So all propositions in which the subject term is some concrete substantive referring to just one nature, and in which the predicate term refers to Christ's other nature, are instances of alloiosis:
[Sometimes] one of the natures is taken for the other: the divine [nature] for the human [nature], and the human [nature] for the divine [nature]. All of this is by exchange [durch gegenwechsel]. The reason for this is that he who is true man is also true God; not that the divine nature is the human [nature], or that the human [nature] is the divine [nature]. (53)
The second part of the last sentence here makes it clear that the literal sense of such propositions is simply false; the first two sentences make it clear that such propositions should be understood figuratively. They are instances of alloiosis.
Propositions of type (1.1)--i.e. those where the subject is the whole Christ--cannot be taken at face value, either. Even though Zwingli does not include these propositions in the definitions of alloiosis given above, it is clear that he regards them to be instances of alloiosis; it is equally clear that he does not regard them as literally true. Zwingli discusses these propositions as follows:
In Holy Scripture all the references to Christ are said of the whole and undivided Christ, even when it can easily be seen to which nature what is said should be referred. (54)
Elsewhere, (55) Zwingli makes it quite clear that he regards this type of proposition as an instance of alloiosis. His reason for this is that 'Christ' refers to the person with both divine and human natures; and it is not true--not literally true--that, for example, the divine nature (implied by the term 'Christ') suffered. The term 'Christ' is thus not nature-neutral, but entails a reference to both natures. As the quotation above makes clear, such propositions require interpretation--and the reason for this is that they are not literally true.
An analogous position is taken with regard to propositions of type (1.2):
Often in the Gospel ... Christ (who is God and man) is taken for just one of the natures: e.g., Lk. 24: 'Was it not thus necessary that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory' [Luke 24:36]. Here, 'Christ' is taken just for the human nature, which could suffer and die (whereas the divine [nature could] not). (56)
As Zwingli analyses type (1.2) propositions, they involve using a word ('Christ') that refers to the whole, to refer improperly to just a part--i.e, one of the natures--of the whole to which 'Christ' properly refers. This is classified by Zwingli as an example of alloiosis. (57) On this reading, also, 'Christ' is not nature-neutral: rather, it involves both natures. Thus, the point is that we are using a word that refers to the whole, but picking out just a part of it--i.e, one of its natures. Zwingli is anxious to underline the fact that what we say of the one nature will be untrue of the other nature. But 'Christ' properly picks out both natures: therefore a proposition that has 'Christ' as its subject will not be straightforwardly true. For example, the claim that the whole Christ has died would involve the false claim that the divine nature had died: hence, the proposition cannot be straightforwardly true. Hence this type of proposition is an instance of alloiosis. The proposition is figurative: in reality, properties pertain to only one of the natures.
I do not think that there is a significant difference between cases (1.1) and (1.2), and I treat them as making the same basic point: i.e. that propositions which have 'Christ' as subject are always instances of alloiosis, on the grounds of the non-identity of a part of Christ with the whole Christ. In (1.1), 'Christ' is used correctly, but the predication is improper; in (1.2), 'Christ' is misused to refer to just one of the natures.
What about type (4) christological propositions? As I will show below, Zwingli seems to be quite clear that these are straightforwardly true. He never refers to type (4) propositions as instances of alloiosis. The reason is that the pronouns is, ille, and qui are properly nature-neutral. By using these pronouns, we do not refer to either of the natures, and are able just to pick out the nature-neutral subject.
Zwingli very often claims that the reason why propositions which make use of alloiosis are true is that Christ's two natures are united in one person. He uses this fact to explain alloiosis. Put another way, the fact that both natures can be properly predicated of a nature-neutral pronoun like is, ille, or qui (where these pronouns refer properly to the nature-neutral person) is what allows alloiosis. The fact that the nature-neutral person has two distinct natures is what accounts for our ability to formulate propositions that involve improper predication:
One and the same Christ did all of these things [i.e. divine and human actions], even though he had diverse natures and qualities: and he remained the one person of the Son of God, such that those things which are of the divine nature are sometimes attributed to the human [nature] on account of the unity and perfection of the person; and things that are of the human [nature] are sometimes said of the divine [nature]. (58)
The reason why we more readily use this commutation of idioms, or alloiosis, is that he who is the Son of God from eternity is made the Son of man by the assumption of a man. (59)
One [nature] is sometimes posited for the other: since he who is God is also man; and he who is man is also true God. (60)
In the second passage, Zwingli expressly states that the communication of properties is the positing of one nature for the other. What all these passages make clear is that what is said by alloiosis can be 'cashed out' in terms of predicating natures or properties of the nature-neutral person. But predicating natures or properties of the nature-neutral person is not itself an instance of alloiosis. When we predicate natures or properties of the nature-neutral person, we are not predicating by alloiosis, because alloiosis is the improper attribution of the properties of one nature to the other, made on the grounds that concrete substantives are not nature-neutral.
This discussion enables us to reject Locher's account of alloiosis. According to Locher, (61) type (4) propositions would be just what Zwingli means when he talks about alloiosis or the communication of properties. Locher holds that alloiosis means that we properly predicate everything of the person. But I hope that I have shown that this is not the case.
As I will show below, it is in just the sense that Locher attributes to Zwingli that the schoolmen use the term 'communication of properties'. Thus, in favour of Locher's view is Zwingli's frequent claim that his usage conforms to that of the schoolmen. But this cannot be true of at least those cases covered by proposition types (1) and (2) above. So we must be prepared to take seriously the possibility that Zwingli's view of the term communication of properties does not in fact conform with the usage of the schoolmen.
Blanke's account of alloiosis is essentially the same as that of Locher, and is thus open to just the same criticism as Locher's account. He distinguishes three elements in Zwingli's account, but he fails to note that propositions involving alloiosis are not literally true. The same problem arises in Stephens' account. Stephens rightly sees that what is at issue is our ability to predicate a nature or property of a nature (not a person), but he fails to make clear that no instances of alloiosis will be literally true. I hope that my account has shown how important this aspect of Zwingli's theory actually is.
V. Zwingli and Luther
Zwingli accuses Luther of taking these figurative propositions as literally true:
You [Luther] confuse all these things, attributing to the humanity those things which are proper to the divinity. (62)
And there is in fact no doubt that Luther's distinctive Christology involves just such a move: (63)
The communication of properties is made on account of the united conjunction of unity of the two natures, that whatever is attributed to one nature is also attributed to the other, since there is made one person. (64)
To be crucified is a property [idioma] of the human nature. But because the two natures are united in the unity of person, [this property] is attributed to each nature. (65)
The true Catholic Church of Christ ... believes not only that the human nature but also that the divine [nature] (or the true God) suffered and died for us ... These two natures in Christ communicate their properties between each other: i.e., what is proper to one nature is also communicated to the other, on account of their inseparable mutual indwelling [cohaerentia]. (66)
There is thus a clear sense in which Luther sees the natures as real (and not just grammatical) subjects: and he suggests that, while a nature is identical with its own properties, it is nevertheless (in virtue of the union in one person) also a real subject of the properties of the other nature. Zwingli, on the other hand, believes that one of the natures can never be a real subject of the properties of the other nature. His criticism of Luther for taking the propositions as literally true confirms my thesis that alloiosis occurs for Zwingli only in propositions which fail to be literally true.
VI. Zwingli and Scholasticism
The schoolmen would have agreed with Zwingli that no concrete substantive is nature-neutral. But they would have thought that this fact is in itself irrelevant to the truth-value assigned to a proposition in which the substantive occurs. In other words, the fact that no concrete substantive is nature-neutral does not prevent a proposition in which the substantive occurs from being literally true, even if the predicate term refers to some nature not signified by the subject. Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham all believe that a proposition such as 'God is man', when used in the context of the incarnation, is literally true; and I have not come across any scholastic theologian who thinks otherwise. That they believe this is a direct result of their analyses of the logic of subject-predicate sentences. They do not think that the literal sense is one which does not require explaining: but the explanation will be of the reasons why the proposition is literally true. This contrasts with the Zwinglian exegesis of such propositions, where the explaining consists in giving an account of a metaphor (i.e. a figurative proposition).
According to Thomas Aquinas, a concrete substantive appearing as the subject of a sentence refers properly to a property-bearer (i.e. a subject of properties). His word for a property-bearer is suppositum. The predicate term asserts that the suppositum has some property or nature. His discussion of the communication of properties is full of passages which make just this point:
Concrete nouns refer to the hypostasis [i.e. suppositum] of a nature. (67)
A noun that signifies a common nature concretely can refer to any of the things that are contained within this nature: for example, the noun 'man' can refer to any individual man; and the noun 'God', just in terms of what it means, can refer to the Son of God. A noun signifying some nature concretely can be predicated of any suppositum of that nature. (68)
When applied to christological propositions, Aquinas' position entails that, whatever the subject term is, it will refer properly to the person; and that the predicate will just assert that the person has some nature or property. For example, Aquinas discusses the proposition 'God is man' as follows:
Since the person of the Son of God--to whom the noun 'God' refers--is a suppositum of human nature, the noun 'man' is truly and properly predicated of the noun 'God' inasmuch as it [the noun 'God'] refers to the person of the Son of God. (69)
Likewise, the proposition 'man is God' is also true, on the grounds that the noun 'man' refers to the suppositum:
The noun 'man' can refer to any hypostasis [i.e., suppositum] of human nature. Hence, it can refer to the person of the Son, whom we claim to be a hypostasis of human nature. And it is clear that the noun 'God' can be truly and properly predicated of the Son of God. (70)
Aquinas summarizes his position as follows:
The Catholics hold that the things that can be said of Christ, whether according to his divine nature or according to human nature, can be said equally of God and of man. (71)
Aquinas' position clearly implies that we can take both of these christological propositions (i.e. 'God is man' and 'man is God') as literally true. Aquinas makes it quite clear that the truth or falsehood of the proposition can be assessed just in terms of whether or not the suppositum has the nature referred to by the predicate term (irrespective of any other nature that the suppositum might have): and the reason for this is that, in any subject-predicate sentence, the subject term is taken as referring to the suppositum irrespective of any nature that the suppositum might have.
Scotus is in fundamental agreement with Aquinas (although he develops his position in a rather different way). (72) Ockham has a rather different theory concerning the logic of subject-predicate sentences. According to Ockham, the predicate term refers to the suppositum in just the same way as the subject term does. The truth condition that Ockham thus proposes for a subject-predicate proposition is that the subject and predicate terms both refer to just the same thing. If this condition is met, then the proposition will be literally true, and its truth value will not be affected by whatsoever nature the terms in the proposition 'connote' (Ockham's word: it means 'imply'). For example, according to Ockham, the proposition 'God is man' will be true just if 'God' and 'man' refer to the same suppositum. In the case of Christ, the two nouns do so refer; hence the proposition will be true. (73)
Zwingli's account agrees that no concrete noun can be nature-neutral. But, according to Zwingli, this fact necessarily makes a difference to the truth-value of the proposition. For example, Zwingli would claim that the proposition 'God is man' is only figuratively true, not literally true. His reason for this, as I have tried to make clear above, is the fact that the noun 'God' refers to the person with his divine nature and, while it may be true of the person that he is man, it is not true of the divine nature. Hence, 'God is man' cannot be literally true.
It is admittedly difficult, on the basis of Zwingli's discussion, to see what his theory of the logic of subject-predicate sentences might be. On the other hand, I have no doubt that it would be wrong to look for a consistent theory of the logic of subject-predicate sentences in Zwingli. His immediate aims and concerns surely lay elsewhere. It is relatively easy to reconstruct the genesis of his theory as an attempt to deny, against Luther, that all christological propositions in the New Testament can be taken as literally true. Nevertheless, I hope that my account has made it clear that we can locate the theological differences between Zwingli and the schoolmen at least partly in different theories about the logic of subject-predicate sentences--even though it is difficult, on the limited information available, to provide an accurate description of Zwingli's (implied) theory. I also hope that my account has made it reasonably clear just how Zwingli's theory of alloiosis differs radically from scholastic theories of the communication of properties--even though the Christologies of both Zwingli and the later schoolmen are Chalcedonian in their basic shape. (74)
(1) I make use of the following works of Zwingli: Amica Exegesis, id est: Expositio Eucharistiae Negocii ad Martinum Lutherum; Dass diese Worte: 'Das ist mein Leib' etc. ewiglich den alten Sinn haben werden; Fidei Ratio; Fidei Christianae Expositio; Adnotationes in Evangelium Marci. The first three of these appear in the critical edition of Zwingli's works (Huldreich Zwingli's samtliche Werke, edited by Emil Egli and others, Corpus Reformatorum, volumes 88-101, 14 volumes to date (Berlin, Leipzig, Zurich, 1982-)). I refer to this series by the letter Z, followed by the volume number, page number, and line number. Volume six is in three parts; I refer to part two of volume six as Z VI/ii. (Amica Exegesis=Z V, 548-758; Dass diese Worte=Z V, 795-977; Expositio Fidei=Z VI/ii, 753-817.) The remaining two works are not in the critical edition, and for them I have used the edition of Schuler and Schulthess (Huldrich Zuingli Opera, edited by M. Schuler and J. Schulthess, 8 volumes (Zurich, 1939-42)). I refer to this edition by the letter S, followed by the volume number and page number. Volume six is in two parts; I refer to part one of volume six as S VI/i. (Fidei Christianae Expositio = S IV, 42-78; Adnotationes in Evangelium Marci=S VI/i, 483-538. There is an accessible translation of Fidei Christianae Expositio in Zwingli and Bullinger, Library of Christian Classics, 24, edited by G. W. Bromiley (London, 1953), pp. 239-70. I refer to this as LCC, followed by the page number.)
(2) See W. P. Stephens, The Theology of Huldrych Zwingli (Oxford, 1986), 112-13.
(3) See Stephens, 235-36, 241 n. 73.
(4) G. Locher, Zwingli's Thought. New Perspectives (Leiden, 1981), 176 (person in Locher's italics); see also G. Locher, Die zwinglische Reformation im Rahmen der europdischen Kirchengeschichte (Gottingen, 1979), 206. Importantly, Locher's opinion is repeated by Karl-Heinz zur Muhlen in Theologische Realenzyklopadie XVI, 762 (article 'Jesus Christus IV').
(5) Z V, 679.13-14. I discuss the schoolmen in section six of this article.
(6) In a footnote to Z V, 679-81.
(7) In Z V, 680, footnote.
(8) In Z V, 680, footnote.
(9) Stephens, 113.
(10) Stephens, 113.
(11) Stephens, 113; Zwingli, as noted above, makes the same claim.
(12) See Stephens, 114.
(13) Stephens, 114.
(14) Blanke, footnote in Z V, 680; Stephens, 113.
(15) Z V, 681.14-15,682.6-7; Z VI/ii, 793.2-3,793.8-9, 793.27; S IV, 48, 52 (= LCC, 251, 256); S VI/i, 538.
(16) Z V, 684.2-4; Z VI/ii, 792.17-793.2; S IV, 48 (= LCC, 251).
(17) Z V, 682.6-9.
(18) Z V, 681.15-682.4, 682.6-9, 927.15-16, 927.26-29; Z VI/ii, 793.5-9, 793.15-17; S IV, 48, 52 (= LCC, 251, 256); S VI/i, 538.
(19) Z VI/ii, 793.2-5.
(20) S VI/i, 538; see Z V, 681.14-15, 683.19-21; Z VI/ii, 794.5-8.
(21) Whether or not Zwingli would elsewhere want to claim that the second person of the Trinity is not identical with the divine nature does not affect my discussion of his usage in christological contexts.
(22) When Zwingli uses the word 'man' to refer to the incarnate person, he is clear that this reference involves alloiosis; I defer discussion of this to section four. In section four it will also become clearer why I construe Zwingli's Christology in just the way that I have in the present section.
(23) Z V, 683.14-17; Z VI/ii, 793.9-12, 794.13-17; S IV, 48 (= LCC, 251).
(24) Z V, 681.15,683.19-20; Z VI/ii, 792. 18-793.3.
(25) Z VI/ii, 793.5-9.
(26) The only verb that applies exclusively to words or propositions is refero ad, or refero+dative: a proposition or term 'is referred' (properly) to one or other of the natures. This usage occurs exclusively in Expositio Fidei, and I shall ignore it in what follows. I shall likewise ignore any instance where it is quite clear that Zwingli is talking just about a word or sentence, as opposed to an actually existing property.
(27) Z V, 683.12; ZVI/ii, 794.15.
(28) S IV, 48 (= LCC, 251).
(29) S IV, 52 (= LCC, 265).
(30) Z VI/ii, 794.16.
(31) Z V, 926.12-17.
(32) Z V, 684.18-19; Z VI/ii, 793.17-25,794.5-8.
(33) Z V, 681.8.
(34) Z V, 927.24; Z VI/ii, 793.29-794.1.
(35) Z VI/ii, 793.29; S IV, 52 (= LCC, 251).
(36) S VI/i, 538.
(37) Z V, 681.6-7, 927.11.
(38) Z V, 942.20.
(39) Z V, 685.33.
(40) Z V, 681.2, 942.19; Z VI/ii, 793.27-29.
(41) Z V, 926.21-22.
(42) S IV, 48 (= LCC, 251).
(43) Z V, 683.13,683.16, 684.22, 685.26.
(44) Z V, 683.1-4, 684.22; Z VI/ii, 794.3-4; S IV, 49 (= LCC, 252).
(45) See Z V, 681.14-15, 683.19-21; Z VI/ii, 794.5-8; S VI/i, 538.
(46) Z V, 679.8; according to Blanke (Z V, 680), the source is probably ps.-Plutarch, De Vita et Poesi Homeri 2.41 (Plutarch, Moralia, ed. Gregorius N. Bernardakis, 7 volumes (Leipzig, 1888-96), VII, 356).
(47) Z V, 679.8, 679. 15-680.1.
(48) Z V, 679.8-9; according to ps.-Plutarch, alloiosis is another name for asyntak ton, a rhetorical device which involves a change in the customary order of words.
(49) Z V, 680.1-681.1.
(50) Z V, 642.16-21.
(51) Z V, 685.33-686.1, 928.6-11.
(52) Z V, 926.21-927.3 (my italics).
(53) Z V, 927. 11-16.
(54) S IV, 52 (= LCC, 256).
(55) Z V, 683.11-14.
(56) Z V, 926.11-17.
(57) Z V, 925.17-926.1.
(58) Z VI/ii, 793.25-794.1 (my italics).
(59) Z V, 681.13-15; see Z V, 927.11 (my italics).
(60) S VI/i, 538 (my italics).
(61) Locher, Zwingli's Thought, 176.
(62) Z V, 685.33-686.1.
(63) I use the following two works of Luther: Disputatio ... de Divinitate et Humanitate Christi (1540) and the version of the Table Talk found in volume 48 of the critical edition. (The critical edition is D. Martin Luthers Werke. Critische Gesamtausgabe (Weimar, 1883-), referred to as WA, followed by volume number (in Arabic numerals), page number, and line number. Volume 39 is in two parts: I refer to the second part as WA 39/ii. Disputatio de Divinitate et Humanitate Christi=WA 39/ii, 92-121; Table Talk=WA 48, 365-719.)
(64) WA 39/ii, 98.8-10.
(65) WA 39/ii, 102.24-25.
(66) WA 48, 646. 18-27.
(67) Sum. Theol. 3. 16.5.
(68) Sum. Theol. 3.16.1.
(69) Sum. Theol. 3.16.1.
(70) Sum. Theol. 3.16.2.
(71) Sum. Theol. 3.16.5.
(72) See e.g. Opus Oxoniense 3.7.1, n. 3 (Duns Scotus, Opera Omnia, Wadding-Vives edition, 26 vols. (Paris, 1891-95), XIV, 333a).
(73) See Reportatio 3.10.un. (William of Ockham, Opera Theologiea, ed. Iuvenalis Lalor and others, 10 vols. (New York, 1967-86), VI, 315.7-15).
(74) I would like to thank Tim Gorringe and the Oxford Society of Historical Theology for discussing an earlier version of this paper.
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|Publication:||The Journal of Theological Studies|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Apr 1, 1996|
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