The Role of the Unitary Model of Anthropology in Patristic Apologetics

Debates among Christians concerning the composition of man date back to early Christianity. Broadly speaking, there have been two major models on the relationship between the material and immaterial aspects of man. These are, first, the instrumentality model of anthropology, which locates the person in the soul with the body serving as its instrument, and, second, the unitary model which sees the person as a unity of the body and the soul.
The thesis of this paper is that, for the early church fathers who held the unitary model of anthropology, it provided them with a better arsenal to defend the doctrines of creation and resurrection against the views of Gnosticism because it viewed the body (and matter at large) positively. In other words, those who held to the unitary model of anthropology insisted on the indispensability of the body with the corollary doctrine of bodily (perhaps sometimes overly materialistic) resurrection and the enjoyment of life in a literal millennium and the new heaven and earth thereafter. The thesis will be defended through a close examination of the pertinent sections of the writings of the fathers who held the unitary model of anthropology. These include Irenaeus (Adv. haer. 2.29.1–2), Tertullian (Adv. Prax. 16), and Theodore of Mopsuestia (Adv. Apoll.)

3 thoughts on “The Role of the Unitary Model of Anthropology in Patristic Apologetics”

  1. theology of the body
    This paper will likely be of good quality based on past contributions from this scholar; I find the thesis to be less significant than I might hope in that it seems to focus on “which view provided better arsenal of defense” rather than evaluating the perspective either theologically or in terms of their impact on later interpretations (i.e. reception history or influence). I’m not sure if there is a subtext here (i.e. “because this view provided a better arsenal, x is true”), and the fact that the proposal raises this question is a concern in terms of the paper’s focus or contribution, but on the whole, this looks like a strong entry that I would likely recommend for the general sessions.

  2. Good fit for thematic session
    This presenter usually does well, and has presented several times in our section. His paper would do well in either a Patristics/ Church History or anthropology-themed general session.


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