Perichoresis and Personhood: God, Christ, and Salvation in John of Damascus

Perichoresis and Personhood: God, Christ, and Salvation in John of Damascus


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Perichoresis (mutual indwelling) is a concept used extensively in the so-called Trinitarian revival; and yet no book-length study in English exists probing how the term actually developed in the "classical period" of Christian doctrine and how it was carefully deployed in relation to Christian dogma. Consequently, perichoresis is often used in imprecise and even careless ways.
This path-breaking study aims at placing our understanding of the term on firmer footing, clarifying its actual usage in relation to doctrines of God, Christ, and salvation in the thought of John of Damascus, the eighth-century theologian, monk, and hymn writer who gave it its historically influential application.
Since John summed up a whole theological tradition, this work provides not only an introduction to his theological vision but also to the key themes of Greek patristic thought generally and thereby lays an essential foundation for those who would dig deeper into the present-day usefulness of perichoresis.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620321805
Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Publication date: 02/05/2015
Series: Princeton Theological Monograph , #216
Pages: 134
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Charles C. Twombly (PhD, Emory) is a historical theologian who has taught theological courses at Wesleyan College (Georgia), the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, Erskine Theological Seminary (Augusta campus), and the Pacific Association for Theological Studies (Seattle). He has published essays, reviews, and poetry in several different journals, including Crux, Christianity Today, and First Things.

Table of Contents

Foreword Myk Habets ix

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Abbreviations xv

1 Introduction 1

2 Perichoresis and the Trinity 8

The Scope of Book One

Tine Inner Logic of John Damascenes Trinitarian Theology

3 Perichoresis and Christ 47

Chalcedon and After: A Brief Sketch

Perichoresis in John Damascene's Christology

4 Perichoresis and Salvation 88

Perichoresis or Participation?

Humanity's Original Union with God

The Loss of Union with God through the Fall

Union Regained through Christ's Redemption

Final Union with God in the Life to Come

Epilogue 104

Bibliography 107

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Those who have delved deep in the resources of patristic theology for the sake of theological renewal have long seen the concept of perichoresis as a vein of gold. But few have explored to sufficient degree the term's complexity and versatility. Twombly's book shows us how much potential treasure lies hidden by offering an extended meditation on the most fundamental structures of John Damascene's 'perichoretic theology.' His study is greatly to be welcomed and offers much to any student of early Christian thought."

—Lewis Ayres, Professor of Historical Theology, Durham University, Durham, UK

"I recently set out looking for a reliable guide to the concept of perichoresis in the thought of John of Damascus, only to discover with surprise and disappointment that such a book seemed not to exist. How could that be given the concept's popularity and John's undisputed importance in its shaping? I still have no answer to that question, so far as the past is concerned, but I am delighted to report that on this score the future is brighter. There is a sure-footed, intelligent, and thorough guide on this topic. You are holding it in your hands."

—Kendall Soulen, Professor of Systematic Theology, Wesley Theological Semimary, Washington D.C.

"Perichoresis is an inexhaustibly attractive idea, invoked in Trinitarian revivals, and essential, some believe, to an understanding of the divine fellowship for which we humans were made. In this wonderfully lucid study of John Damascene, Charles Twombly provides what is most needed to ground contemporary reflection: a discerning account of what perichoresis has historically meant, not only to this 'last of the Fathers' but to the cumulative tradition he bequeathed to Christendom, East and West."

—Carol Zaleski, Professor of World Religions, Smith College, Northampton, MA

"St. John Damascene famously said, 'I shall say nothing of my own,' and much modern scholarship has taken him at his word. Yet, as Charles Twombly shows, John Damascene was a truly original theologian. His notion of perichoresis, 'co-inherence,' though it has precedents in earlier Fathers, becomes in his theology a golden thread, drawing together his understanding of the Trinity, the incarnation, and our union with God, our deification. This lucid and profound study makes a major contribution to our understanding of John and his enduring significance."

—Andrew Louth, Professor emeritus of Patristic and Byzantine Studies, Durham University, Darlington, UK

"For a long time now, the looser sort of constructive theology has been afflicted with a bad case of 'galloping perichoresis,' and it has become trendy to say that just about anything mutually indwells just about anything else—perichoretically. This book recovers the witness of John of Damascus to help restore a great theological category to its proper place. Equal parts historical reconstruction and dogmatic clarification, Twombly's book celebrates the vast systematic scope of perichoretic unity in the classic doctrinal tradition, simultaneously demonstrating that a concept with so much to offer for Trinitarian and christological discourse will only be distorted if stretched beyond those topics."

—Fred Sanders, Professor of Theology, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University, La Mirada, CA

''It is a great piece of work both because of the subject matter and also due to the limpid prose which makes it an ideal introduction as well as a clear, precise,, and reliable exposition. I have already recommended it to a number of people and will do so again...''

—Robert Letham, West Evangelical School of Theology

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