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PHRONEMA, VOL. 29(2), 2014, 173-218

Adam`s Holiness: Athonite and Alexandrine
Doru Costache, ThD
Senior Lecturer
St Andrews Greek Orthodox Theological College
!"#$%&'$( The paper considers a particular interpretive strand
within patristic tradition, for which the paradise narrative in
Genesis constituted a metaphor of the spiritual life with Adam
as a hesvchast saint virtuous, directlv connected with God and
transformed bv this experience. The authors and the texts discussed
herein, from St Silouan the Athonites diarv to a Palamite chapter,
from St Cvril of Alexandrias Against the Anthropomorphites and
St Athanasius Against the Gentiles to the Sayings oI the Fathers,
represented the experience of Adam both contextuallv and in
various terms, such as image and likeness, vision, union and the
breath of life, all converging toward the notion of the paradise
narrative as signifving the experience of holiness in general. This
contextual interpretation of Genesis, from the vantage point of
holiness, reveals uncommon aspects of the traditional construal of
Adam and likewise savs something about the personal character
of the interpreters.
ithin the wide range oI patristic interpretations oI Adam`s
experience in paradise, one particularly deserves more
attention than has been allocated so Iar. Thus, contrary to
the widespread notion oI the paradisal condition oI humankind as unique
and extraordinary, which supposedly was lost Iorever, on occasion
patristic tradition depicts Adam as an ascetic and a deifed saint, a genuine
hesychast, albeit a Iailed one, whose experience signifes holiness and not
the path oI the ungodly. This interpretive strand, which has never come to
I am grateful to Pauline Allen, Carole Cusack and the Phronema reviewers for
their competent advices.
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prominence within the ecclesial tradition and still remains largely ignored,
changes in a dramatic Iashion our understanding oI the patristic approaches
to the paradise narrative. It is precisely this view oI Adam as a holy man
that constitutes the object oI the current study, an undertaking Ior which
I borrow Irom the methodology outlined by Bishop Alexander Golitzin.
To be sure, in recent years Golitzin has undertaken important work in
this area
by exploring the Second Temple roots oI this tradition, and its
rabbinic and pseudepigraphic oIIshoots, together with certain pre-Nicene
traditions and their Syro-Mesopotamian and Coptic ramifcations. In what
Iollows, alongside building on Golitzin`s presupposition that within various
ascetic milieus Adam was construed as a saint, I move past those roots
and connections to several representatives oI the mainstream Alexandrine
and Athonite traditions. My interest is motivated by the Iact that, whilst
undeniably Semitic in origin, within the traditions here considered the
notion oI Adam`s holiness drew on various other sources. I agree with
Golitzin`s conclusion that these other sources were not opposite to the
Second Temple roots and their oIIshoots,
yet they defnitely led to new
ways oI articulating the same understanding.
In this order, below I look at the spiritual diary oI St Silouan
the Athonite (d. 1938); a passage Irom On the Divine and Deifving
See Ior instance Alexander Golitzin, Heavenly Mysteries: Themes Irom
Apocalyptic Literature in the Macarian Homilies and Selected Other Fourth-
Century Ascetical Writers` in ed. Robert Daly, Apocalvptic Themes in Earlv
Christianitv (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009) 174-92; idem, Recov-
ering the 'Glory oI Adam: Divine Light Traditions in the Dead Sea Scrolls
and the Christian Ascetical Literature oI Fourth-Century Syro-Mesopotamia`
in ed. James R. Davila, The Dead Sea Scrolls as Background to Postbiblical
Judaism and Earlv Christianitv, Studies on the Texts oI the Desert oI Judah
46 (Leiden: Brill, 2003) 275-308; idem, The Vision oI God and the Form oI
Glory: More Refections on the Anthropomorphite Controversy oI AD 399`
in ed. John Behr, Andrew Louth, Dimitri Conomos, Abba. The Tradition of
Orthodoxv in the West (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir`s Seminary Press, 2003)
273-97; idem, 'The Demons Suggest an Illusion oI God`s Glory in a Form:
Controversy over the Divine Body and Vision oI Glory in Some Late Fourth,
Early FiIth Century Monastic Literature` Studia Monastica 44 (2002) 13-43.
See Golitzin, 'The Demons Suggest an Illusion oI God`s Glory in a Form`
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Participation by St Gregory Palamas (d. 1359); a chapter Irom St Cyril oI
Alexandria`s (d. 444) treatise Against the Anthropomorphites; and select
passages Irom Against the Gentiles, by St Athanasius the Great (d. 373), the
latter considered in connection with the Life of St Antonv and the Savings of
the Fathers. One could wonder at this choice oI authors and texts. Initially,
it was a matter oI circumstance; as it happens, I accidentally discovered
a reIerence to St Cyril`s work in the Palamite treatise. What captured my
attention was that both Iathers construed the breath oI liIe in Genesis 2 not
as signiIying the animation oI a human being, as is commonly thought,
but as metaphor oI the typically hesychast ( the Byzantine way oI peace
or serenity) experience with God, unmediated and supernatural. This
discovery prompted me, on the one hand, to dig up the antecedents oI this
unusual interpretation, and so I looked at St Cyril`s most probable sources,
St Athanasius and the desert ascetics, and on the other hand it inspired me to
seek more recent reiterations oI this approach, Ior which reason I examined
the writings oI St Silouan the Athonite, a modern hesychast. At the end oI
my investigation I gathered that whilst the agendas
oI these Iathers, their
approaches, sensitivities, themes and immediate goals diIIered, they were
agreed on two related matters. First, they perceived the paradise narrative
as an outline oI saintly liIe in general, at least as accepted in the ascetic
circles within the traditions here considered. Second, they construed it as
a landmark in relation to which saints oI diIIerent times and places can
authenticate their own experiences. I realised, Iurthermore, that these
understandings entailed a contextual approach to the adamic experience,
which was conditioned by the very circumstances oI the interpreters and
the intended readership oI their writings. Beyond the possible antecedents
in the Second Temple and pre-Nicene traditions, the interpretation oI
Adam as a holy man was made possible Ioremost by the holiness oI the
interpreters themselves.
There is a renewed interest among recent scholars, in identiIying the undis-
closed agendas behind the early Christian ascetical texts. CI. Rebecca Krawiec,
Asceticism` in ed. Susan Ashbrook Harvey and David G. Hunter, The Oxford
Handbook of Earlv Christian Studies (New York: OxIord University Press,
2008) 764-85 esp. 773.
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Together with bringing to the Iore this neglected tradition oI
Adam`s sanctity, my primary purpose is to prove that in addressing either
the image oI God or the breath oI liIe in Genesis, the authors and the texts
reviewed herein took holiness as hermeneutical criterion. Correlatively,
I will show that in the light oI this criterion Adam appeared as the frst
exemplar in a saintly series and not an exceptional character. Furthermore
and related, I aim to show that this approach, hagiographical in nature,
had an inbuilt hortatory dimension insoIar as it was meant to inspire the
readers towards embracing a similar liIestyle, namely, the liIe oI holiness.
Here I take on Rapp`s note that the actual purpose oI a hagiographer is to
make the readers saints.
Without this constituting a goal oI the present
study, I hope moreover that the above elements will make plain that there
is more to the patristic approaches to the paradise narrative than a drawing
oI symmetries between the primal man and the recommencement oI the
human race in Christ.

BeIore turning to the Alexandrine and Athonite witnesses oI this
tradition, I have to clariIy several more aspects. First, when speaking oI
Adam` herein I reIer both to the mysterious character made in the image
oI God (Genesis 1) and the one who experienced the divine breath oI
liIe (Genesis 2), which, Iollowing the Iathers mentioned above, I see as
one. Second, in most oI the texts analysed in what Iollows this complex
character is taken both as one human being and as humankind an
aspect abundantly illustrated by the cases analysed below, and elsewhere
Claudia Rapp, The origins oI hagiography and the literature oI early monasti-
cism: purpose and genre between tradition and innovation` in ed. Christopher
Kelly, Richard Flower and Michael Stuart Williams, Unclassical Traditions,
vol. 1: Alternatives to the Classical Past in Late Antiquitv, Cambridge Clas-
sical Journal, Supplementary Volume 34 (Cambridge University Press, 2010)
119-30 esp. 130.
For the customary Adam-Christ rapports, see e.g. Robert L. Wilken, Exegesis
and the History oI Theology: Refections on the Adam-Christ Typology in Cyril
oI Alexandria` Church Historv 35:2 (1966) 139-56, and Daniel Keating, The
Baptism oI Jesus in Cyril oI Alexandria: The Re-creation oI the Human Race`
Pro Ecclesia 8:2 (1999) 201-22.
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in tradition.
The main particularity attached here to the concept is that
whether taken as a person or a group, Adam is construed as shaped by the
Maker in order to reach perIection in virtue and, above all, to commune
with God and be divinely transIormed within that experience. In other
words, called to a holy liIe.
As already pointed out, my presentation shall Iollow a reverse
chronology, thus beginning with the more recent witnesses beIore
addressing those that are increasingly remote in time.
!" !$%&'() "*+ ,"*&)$"+
A modern representative oI the philokalic tradition and a hesychast, St
Silouan the Athonite was acknowledged by the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
in 1987, as an 'apostolic and prophetic teacher worthy oI the company oI
the 'holy and divine men; in other words, a Church Iather.
His Iascinating
autobiographical writings take the reader by surprise in that they Irequently
and reverently reIer to Adam and the paradisal experience. This uncommon
Iorm oI devotion, to my knowledge both unparalleled within the Christian
tradition and usually unnoticed by the explorers oI St Silouan`s writings,

concerns me in what Iollows.
St Silouan construed Adam as a holy man, indeed a hesychast saint,
in whose story he identifed typical Ieatures oI the saintly profle and stages
CI. Peter C. BouteneII, Beginnings. Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical
Creation Narratives (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008) 14-16, 25-26,
44-46 etc.
My various attempts to retrieve the Patriarchal act oI canonisation in the
original Iailed. I could fnd only a Romanian translation oI the document in
Cuviosul Siluan Athonitul, Intre iadul de:ndefdii si iadul smereniei. Insemnri
duhovnicesti, revised Iourth edition with an introductory study and translation
(Irom the Russian) by Ioan I. Ic jr (Sibiu: Deisis, 2001) 5-6.
The only exception that I know oI is the work oI Jean-Claude Larchet, Saint
Silouane de LAthos (Paris: CerI, 2001), which I could consult in its Romanian
version, Dumne:eu este iubire. Mrturia Sfantului Siluan Athonitul, trans.
Marinela Bojin (Bucuresti: , 2003) esp. 174-75.
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oI his own spiritual journey. He was convinced,
Ior instance, that like
many other saints the paradisal ancestor strayed only Ior a while Irom the
spiritual path, to which he returned through the gates oI repentance and
As we shall discover within this study, this positive appraisal oI
the paradisal ancestor together with the perception oI the adamic experience
as common are not entirely new; unique about St Silouan`s approach,
however, is that alongside the traditional meditation on the ancestor`s
experience, it entailed recurrent conversations with the latter. The chapter
Adam`s Lament,` which mainly consists in a dialogue between our saint
and the IoreIather,
contains supplications such as these:
O Adam, sing unto us the song oI the Lord,
that my soul may rejoice in the Lord
and be moved to praise and gloriIy Him
as the Cherubim and Seraphim praise Him in the heavens,
and all the hosts oI heavenly angels sing to Him the thrice-holy

O Adam, our Iather, tell us, your children, oI the Lord.
Your soul knew God on earth,
Knew paradise, too, and the sweetness and gladness thereoI,
And now you live in heaven
And behold the glory oI the Lord.

His convictions were ultimately Iounded on his personal experience. See Ior
this Hilarion AlIeyev, St. Svmeon the New Theologian and Orthodox Tradi-
tion (OxIord University Press, 2000) 284-85; Ioan I. Ic jr, Cuviosul Siluan
Athonitul: ntre iadul dezndejdii si iadul smereniei si iubirii lui Hristos` in Intre
iadul de:ndefdii si iadul smereniei 5-49, 34-5; Sister Magdalen, St Silouan,
A Modern Athonite Saint` in ed. Dimitri Conomos and Graham Speake, Mount
Athos, the Sacred Bridge. The Spiritualitv of the Holv Mountain (Bern: Peter
Lang, 2005) 123-40 esp. 133.
See St Silouan the Athonite, Writings 1: Yearning Ior God` in Archimandrite
Sophrony, Saint Silouan the Athonite, trans. Irom the Russian by Rosemary
Edmonds (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir`s Seminary Press, 1991) 270, 271. All
reIerences to the writings oI St Silouan are to this edition.
Writings 18: Adam`s Lament` 448-56 esp. 452-56.
Writings 18: Adam`s Lament` 451.
Writings 18: Adam`s Lament` 452. Slightly altered.
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Such entreaties and prayerIul conversations with Adam, together with
the latter`s portrait as a holy person in St Silouan`s writings, challenge
the customary understanding oI the ancestor as typiIying the path oI the
ungodly. The Iact oI the matter is that our Athonite Iather consistently
disregarded the standard interpretation oI Adam, namely, as a sinIul and
unwholesome person whose actions caused cataclysmic aItershocks Ior
humankind and the creation. The passages quoted above show the belieI
oI St Silouan that aIter experiencing the divine glory in this liIe ('your
soul knew God on earth, knew paradise, too) the ancestor remains Ior
evermore in the presence oI God ('now you live in heaven and behold the
glory oI the Lord). It is precisely due to his participation in the divine
Iellowship that Adam`s 'song oI the Lord has the power to stir one to
doxology in the company oI the celestial hosts. For this same reason, oI all
the saints our Athonite Iather seems to have chosen Adam as both criterion
and spiritual guide as illustrated by the plea 'tell us, your children, oI the
Lord. Furthermore, and interestingly, the plural subject oI this plea points
to the Iact that St Silouan took the experience oI Adam as paradigmatic
Ior the quest oI any seeker oI sanctity.
Thus, Ior him the Iall was the ancestor`s temporary lapse Irom
grace and glory, completely Iree oI juridical connotations
a state oI
existential impoverishment which Adam dramatically resented and which
only the saints could Iully comprehend, given their similar experiences.
For instance, Adam appears as having shed sorrowIul tears Ior the loss
oI God`s vision, a vision which amounted to experiencing eternal joy,
'|w|eeping, Adam cried to God: My soul yearns aIter You, O Lord, and I
seek You in tears. Look upon my aIfiction, and lighten my darkness, that
my soul may rejoice again.
Typically, St Silouan accompanied such
reIerences to Adam by evoking the saints that happened to lose the holy
grace. In his words, 'the soul which has known God through the Holy
Spirit but has aIterwards lost grace experiences the torment that Adam
Whilst without reIerring to juridical connotations, still Archimandrite Sophrony
reduced the saint`s teaching about Adam to the responsibility Ior sin. See his
The Staretz` LiIe and Teaching` in !"#$% !#'()"$ %*+ ,%*($#%+ 9-259 here 121.
-.#%#$/0 1: Yearning Ior God` 278. Slightly altered. See also 18: Adam`s
Lament` 448, 450.
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This kind oI general statements, which relativise the standard
view that the adamic experience was exceptional, are supplemented by very
personal notes: 'I, too, have lost grace and call with Adam: Be merciIul
unto me, O Lord!`
Looking more closely at the rapports between St
Silouan and Adam, one discovers that our Athonite Iather took Adam`s
journey as anticipating his own experience whilst being convinced that
his experience both repeated and clarifed the meaning oI Adam`s journey.
The complementarity, iI not identity, oI the two experiences is so perIectly
rendered that when reading the notes oI the Athonite saint one cannot
easily tell oI whom they speak, Adam or Silouan? The story oI Adam is
that oI Silouan as much as the story oI Silouan is that oI Adam; somehow,
Silouan was Adam redivivus. As such, the Athonite saint established a
hermeneutical bridge between his own experience and that oI the ancestor.
Writings 18: Adam`s Lament` 448. See also 5: On Grace` 326. Without men-
tioning the torment oI the saints, St Basil the Great already pointed out that
whilst ever present in them the Holy Spirit is not always obvious to them. CI. On
the Holv Spirit 26.16-19, in Basile de Cesaree, Sur le Saint-Esprit, introduction,
texte, traduction et notes par Benot Pruche, Sources chretiennes 17, deuxieme
edition entierement reIondue (Paris: CerI, 1968) 460. For a similar yet more
detailed account, see St Diadochos oI Photiki, ,
, , , in

, , ,
vol. 1, second edition ( : , 1893)
140-64 here 159. For a detailed analysis oI this topic in St Silouan and other
Church Iathers, see Larchet, Dumne:eu este iubire (chapter fve) 160-228.
Writings 18: Adam`s Lament` 449. CI. Larchet, Dumne:eu este iubire 35-36.
Whilst the conversational approach oI St Silouan is, as stated above, unique,
Byzantine hymnography (with which our Athonite Iather was well acquainted,
like any other Orthodox monk) oIIers a range oI examples oI personal iden-
tifcation with Adam. For instance, in his Great Canon St Andrew oI Crete
construes himselI as reiterating the ancestral experience. CI. Doru Costache,
Byzantine Insights into Genesis 1-3: St Andrew oI Crete`s Great Canon`
Phronema 24 (2009) 35-50 esp. 38-44; Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent,
revised edition (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir`s Seminary Press, 1974) 64;
Elizabeth TheokritoII, Praying the Scriptures in Orthodox Worship` in ed.
S. T. Kimbrough, Jr., Orthodox and Weslevan Scriptural Understanding and
Practice (Crestwood: St Vladimir`s Seminary Press, 2005) 73-87 esp. 84.
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This hermeneutical rapport, which takes holiness as a common
denominator, oIIers important glimpses oI the interpretive processes that
lead both St Silouan and earlier Iathers, such as those whose thinking is
studied below, to interpret the paradisal events as typiIying the experiences
oI the saints. In the light oI St Silouan`s case, I propose that these authors
were able to read Adam`s story as an account on holiness primarily due
to their own saintly lives or at least by having had the opportunity oI
contemplating the lives oI certain holy people. This hermeneutical rapport
seems to draw on the apostolic interpretation oI the Scriptures post hoc
in the light oI the Christ event and the apostolic preaching about Christ
according to the Scriptures.
As the apostles construed the messianic
dimension oI the Old Testament Irom the vantage point oI their experience
with Jesus Christ, St Silouan and his traditional precursors recognised
the sanctity oI Adam due to known,
or even their own, experiences oI
In what Iollows, I attempt a brieI reconstruction oI the story oI
Adam as rewritten by St Silouan. The latter presented the paradisal
ancestor, along the lines oI Genesis 2:7, as both created oI the earth and
linked to God through the Holy Spirit. In awe, he exclaimed, '|w|ondrous
are the works oI the Lord! Out oI the dust oI the ground He created man,
and gave this creature oI dust to know Him in the Holy Spirit.
in this passage the reIerence to the Spirit as mediating the knowledge oI
God and not as indicative oI the soul`s insertion in a supposedly inanimate
human body; the import oI this reIerence will become obvious Iurther down
within this study. Whilst elaborating in the same parameters, the saint`s
For the complexities pertaining to Christ and the Scriptures in the apostolic
hermeneutic, see e.g. John Behr, The Formation of Christian Theologv, vol.
1: The Wav To Nicaea (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir`s Seminary Press, 2001)
17-48, and John Breck, Scripture in Tradition. The Bible and Its Interpreta-
tion in the Orthodox Church (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir`s Seminary Press,
2001) 21-31, 33-44.
Interesting Irom this viewpoint, and as a possible antecedent, is St Neilos the
Ascetic`s interpretation oI Adam and Joseph, both important characters in
Genesis, in monastic or ascetic terms. See his ,
, in , vol. 1, 111-39 esp. 135.
Writings 1: Yearning Ior God` 273.
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earlier enthusiasm Ior the mystery oI the earthling made participant in
the divine liIe was curved by a realistic appraisal oI the human condition:
'without the Holy Spirit man is but sinIul dust,
and we could recognise
here an allusion to Genesis 3:19. By all accounts, alongside paraphrasing
the Scriptures St Silouan reiterated in both instances, we shall soon
discover, the traditional perception that the adamic experience entailed
two dimensions, one natural, signifed by the dust, and one supernatural,
signifed by the Spirit. Regarding the latter, we Iound above that our
Athonite Iather identifed it as mystical vision or an experiential knowledge
Iacilitated by the gracious activity oI the Spirit. In turn, this activity was
beckoned by an ineIIable sweetness. 'It is sweet Ior the soul to be with
the Lord: Adam tasted the sweetness oI this bliss in paradise when he saw
the Lord with open eyes.
This sweet and blissIul vision constituted,
however, but one aspect oI the paradisal experience, which ultimately
represented an event oI unIathomable love.
.the love oI God is that sweet paradise in which our Iather Adam
dwelt beIore the Iall. O Adam, our Iather, tell us how your soul
loved the Lord in paradise! This is past understanding, and only
the soul that has been touched by the love oI God can in part
comprehend it.
The above passage is oI great importance Ior the scope oI this paper.
Whilst Adam did experience the love oI God !" paradise he experienced
it #$ paradise, and so the same experience is at hand Ior all those who
are aware oI or 'touched by the love oI God, namely, the saints. It is
thereIore saIe to inIer that our passage renders paradise as a metaphor oI
the transcendental experience oI God`s love an experience irreducible
%&!'!"($ 1: Yearning Ior God` 281.
%&!'!"($ 3: On Humility` 307. For other reIerences to this mystical sweetness
see his %&!'!"($ 5: On Grace` 321 and 7: On Repentance` 346 etc. The render-
ing oI God`s presence as sweetness in the hesychast tradition is not new. See
e.g. St Diadochos oI Photiki, 33 ( ,
vol. 1, 145) and St Hesychios the Presbyter, ,
, 87-88, in
, vol. 1, 82-101 here 90.
%&!'!"($ 1: Yearning Ior God` 289. Slightly altered.
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to a single event in time and space. It Iollows that the story oI Adam
corresponds to that oI any 'soul that has a grasp oI God`s compassion.
In the light oI this evidence one can better understand the interplay oI
St Silouan and Adam, addressed above, whose stories overlapped. More
relevant here is that the paradisal events are taken as typical Ior the liIe
oI holiness, which primarily consists in the participation oI the saints in
God`s love. St Silouan was proIoundly convinced that the experience oI
divine love, mediated by the Holy Spirit, was accessible both to Adam
and the saints oI old, and remains so Ior all who wholeheartedly seek God.
O Lord, send down to us Your Holy Spirit, Ior knowledge oI You
|.| comes solely through the Holy Spirit, Whom in the beginning
You gave to Adam, and aIter him to the holy prophets, and then
to the Christian people.
More signifcant than his being the frst exemplar oI humankind, Adam
was the frst among the very important people indeed the aristocrats oI
the mystical liIe that knew and continue to know God in the Holy Spirit,
an appraisal that seems to echo St Maximus the ConIessor`s notion oI a
tradition oI the saints directly initiated Irom above in the mysteries oI the
There is no room in St Silouan Ior the popular acceptance
oI the adamic experience as unique and impossible to replicate. More
precisely, in suggesting the repeatability oI this experience our Athonite
Iather did not mean the inordinate number oI those that ever emulated
the Iailure oI the ancestor; he meant the liIe oI holiness that was ardently
pursued by the ancestor as is pursued by all the saints aIter him. Whilst
the frst one recorded in the Scriptures, the mystical experience oI Adam
was thereIore no diIIerent Irom that oI any other saint aIter him. And in
Iact, we have seen, our Athonite Iather believed that in the story oI Adam
any saint could recognise Ieatures oI his or her own journey. It comes
as no surprise thereIore that at times St Silouan rendered the paradisal
Writings 1: Yearning Ior God` 274. Slightly altered.
CI. Ambiguum 41.2.1-5, in Maximos the ConIessor, On Difhculties in the
Church Fathers. The Ambigua, vol. 2, edited and translated by Nicholas
Constas, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library (Cambridge, Massachusetts and
London, England: Harvard University Press, 2014) 102.
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narrative in standard monastic terms, namely, oI the necessity oI proving
one`s spiritual Iortitude through watchIulness and ascetic struggle.
Adam`s soul was perIect in the love oI God, and he knew the
sweetness oI paradise, but his soul was unpractised, and he did not
resist when Eve tempted him, as the sorely-aIficted Job resisted
when tempted by his wiIe.

Unlike Job, Adam reached virtue and holiness without being able to stay the
course in times oI temptation; the Iact that he was weak or inexperienced
does not exclude however his acquiring virtues through ascetic eIIorts,
as reiterated within philokalic tradition.
That being said, relevant is that
St Silouan`s remark echoes the recurrent exhortations to watchIulness
that pervade !"# $"%&'()&%),
thus pointing to the ascetic dimension oI
this particular interpretive strand oI the ancestral experience, a dimension
Iurther confrmed by the evidence produced within the present study. To
bring this section to a close, it is noteworthy that St Silouan`s rendition
oI the adamic experience oIIers important hints as to how the saints read
the paradise narrative. More precisely, St Silouan perceived the paradise
narrative Irom the vantage point oI his own state oI grace, a state that,
according to his own conIessions, he could not maintain Ior too long and
which he unceasingly yearned. In this context, Adam`s journey typifed
the experience oI holiness an experience oI God`s love mediated by the
Holy Spirit and which can be replicated anywhere and anytime. For all
these reasons, the *+%,%-./ oI St Silouan are an inestimable source Ior the
understanding oI the earlier interpretive engagements with the paradise
narrative, to which I must now turn. The object oI the next section is
a particular passage in perhaps the most celebrated Athonite Iather, St
Gregory Palamas, which discusses a text Irom St Cyril oI Alexandria. In
analysing this passage, we shall rediscover Ieatures already encountered
in St Silouan, which would suggest a traditional connection yet nothing
oI the latter`s daring devotion to Adam.
*+%,%-./ 5: On Grace` 327.
CI. St Neilos the Ascetic, 135.
See e.g. St Isaiah the Solitary, 2 and 3, in
, vol. 1, 17-21 esp. 17-18.
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!" $%&'(%) *+,+-+.
Acknowledged as the champion oI Byzantine hesychasm, St Gregory
Palamas was equally, in the words oI Chrestou, 'the great synoptic
presenter oI the views oI the Iathers.
His writings, indeed, abound in
explicit patristic citations intended to illustrate the traditional roots oI the
hesychast theory and practice. OI interest is that in his On the Divine and
Deifving Participation ( Part.),
which discusses the virtues oI the saints
and the deiIying giIt oI the Holy Spirit,
Palamas included a passage Irom
St Cyril oI Alexandria. Just beIore addressing the Cyrilline text in question
St Gregory either reIerred by name to or quoted Irom St Athanasius the
St Basil the Great,
St John Chrysostom,
the author known as
CI. Panagiotes K. Chrestou, Greek Orthodox Patrologv. An Introduction to the
Studv of the Church Fathers (RollinsIord: Orthodox Research Institute, 2005)
111. See also John A. McGuckin, Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Triads in
Defense of the Holv Hesvchasts in ed. Arthur Holder, Christian Spiritualitv.
The Classics (London and New York: Routledge, 2010) 136-47 esp. 136, 141.
The original title is o . The text utilised herein is
that oI , vol. 3, ed. Panagiotes Chrestou,
61 (:
, 1983) 212-60.
For descriptions and analyses oI this treatise, see Chrestou, to
, vol. 3, 49-73 esp. 60-61; Doru Costache,
Experiencing the Divine LiIe: Levels oI Participation in St Gregory Pala-
mas` On the Divine and Deifving Participation Phronema 26:1 (2011) 9-25;
Norman Russell, The Doctrine of Deihcation in the Greek Patristic Tradition
(OxIord: OxIord University Press, 2004) 308. Dumitru Stniloae oIIered the
frst modern analysis oI the historical circumstances within which the work
was written, i.e. the controversy with Akindynos, together with a synopsis oI
St Gregory`s ideas at the time. See his 1938 book, Jiata si invttura Sfantului
Grigorie Palama, cu patru tratate traduse, second edition (Bucuresti: Scripta,
1993) esp. chapters 7 and 8. For an historical reconstruction oI the events but
without reIerence to the treatise under consideration, see also John MeyendorII,
A Studv of Gregorv Palamas, trans. by George Lawrence (Crestwood, NY: St
Vladimir`s Seminary Press, 1998) 56-85.
Part. 8, 9, 12 (Chrestou 224, 228, 230-32).
Part. 3, 8, 12 (Chrestou 214-16, 226, 232).
Part. 12 (Chrestou 234).
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St Dionysius the Areopagite
and St Maximus the ConIessor.
Turning to
St Cyril`s wisdom at this particular instance, Palamas produced excerpts
Irom the second chapter oI Against the Anthropomorphites ( Anthrop.),

which, commenting upon the paradise narrative in Genesis, speak about
God breathing the breath oI liIe upon the human person the latter being
designated as 'animal or 'living being ().
We shall see immediately
that, together with the Alexandrine theologian, St Gregory rejected the
interpretation oI Genesis 2:7 as being about the making oI the human
soul, and that both Iathers took the scriptural narrative as reIerring to the
experience oI holiness. Continuing the argument oI the previous sections,
the relevant passage Irom Part. reads as Iollows.
Whilst reIuting those who say that the divine breath ( )
became a soul Ior the human being, the divine Cyril expounds in
greater detail the same |perception noticed in other Iathers|. For in
concluding Iorthwith his words, he said, 'one understands that what
was breathed upon () Irom him |i.e. God| undoubtedly
belongs wholly to him or to his essence. ThereIore, how could the
Spirit Irom God be transIormed into the nature oI the soul
? At any
rate, he |i.e. St Cyril| said, the living being received a soul by the
ineIIable power oI God and inasmuch as it kept growing good and
righteous, and in all virtue ( ), it
Part. 5, 7, 9 (Chrestou 220, 222, 226).
Part. 2, 11 (Chrestou 214, 230).
Anthrop. 2 (PG 76, 1081AB). The Cyrilline text available to Palamas was
virtually identical to the one oI PG 76. The writing in its entirety is Iound in
PG 76, 1065-1132.
This designation is common in St Cyril`s writings. See Ior instance his Gla-
phvra or Polished Comments on Genesis ( Glaph.) 1.2 (PG 69, 20A), where
the human being appears as a rational or thinking animal ( ). For a
similar designation, see Commentarv on John ( On John) 2.1 (on John 1:32-
33) in P. E. Pusey, Sancti patris nostri Cvrilli archiepiscopi Alexandrini in D.
Joannis evangelium accedunt fragmenta varia necnon tractatus ad Tiberium
diaconum duo, 3 vols. (OxIord: Clarendon Press, 1872) vol. 1, 182.31-183.1.
The version oI Anthrop. given in PG 76, 1081A includes here, beIore the
question mark, the phrase ('or become the |human| mind).
Moreover, between the question mark and the new sentence, which begins
with (translated above as 'at any rate), there are a Iew sentences in
PG 76, 1081AB, covering almost ten lines, which St Gregory ignores.
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became like him |i.e. like God| ( )
to the best
oI its ability. Furthermore, in being proven a partaker () oI
the divine Spirit, it was sanctifed (). This |latter aspect| is
what it lost through sin.
Where are, then, those who consider the
deiIying giIt oI the Spirit ( ) a created
and natural imitation ( ) instead oI a
divine and ineIIable, or an ineIIably essential, energy |oI God|?
Neither this chapter nor in Iact the whole writing provides a Iurther
reIerence to St Cyril; thus, the original context oI the excerpts included in
the above passage remains elusive. What matters is that St Gregory read
the Cyrilline text as signiIying the hesychast experience. Several elements
within the above passage are oI particular interest Irom this viewpoint.
BeIore anything else, the excerpts Irom Anthrop. outline a tripartite
anthropology that distinguishes, frst, the human nature represented by
the living being that received a soul; second, the ethical achievements
pertaining to the likeness oI God (cI. );
and, third, the supernatural liIe illustrated by sanctifcation (cI. )
and the participation (cI. ) in the Holy Spirit. The Iact that Palamas
was Iascinated by this passage should not come as a surprise. St Cyril
presented therein a tripartite schema (although within the broader context
oI the relevant chapter this schema was Iurther nuanced) that corresponded
to the hesychast anthropology delineated by Palamas himselI. For instance,
both in the treatise oI interest
and elsewhere
St Gregory advocated a
triple schema reIerring to the sensorial, the rational and the noetic levels
oI perception within the human being, where the frst level related to the
In PG 76, 1081B the phrase is preceded by ('in), which is missing in the
version available to Palamas.
For the variant oIIered by Wickham, see Doctrinal Questions and Answers
( Doctr.) 2.7-9,18-22 at 190. See Cyril oI Alexandria, Select Letters, ed. and
trans. by Lionel R. Wickham (OxIord: Clarendon Press, 1983) 190.
Part. 13.8-22 (Chrestou 234).
CI. Part. 14.5 (Chrestou 236).
CI. One Hundred and Fiftv Chapters 63.4-6. Robert E. Sinkewicz, Saint
Gregorv Palamas. The One Hundred and Fiftv Chapters A Critical Edition,
Translation and Studv, Studies and Texts 83 (Toronto: Pontifcal Institute oI
Mediaeval Studies, 1988) 156.
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parameters oI nature, the second to existential achievements in terms
oI virtue and knowledge, and the last one to the mystical experience.

The similarity oI the two patristic views, apart Irom their terminological
variance, is unquestionable and it is doubtIul that Palamas encountered
diIfculties in recognising this correspondence. AIter all, it is he that quoted
the passage Irom St Cyril in the frst place.
Another common element to both patristic interpreters is their
understanding oI the breath oI liIe as experienced by a human being who
reached a state oI existential compatibility with God (cI.
), in the Cyrilline text, or a 'created and natural imitation (cI.
) oI God`s way, in the Palamite comment; a
state which reIers to virtue. It is apparent that Ior both St Cyril and St
Gregory the adamic experience oI the breath oI liIe was Iacilitated by the
virtuous compatibility established between the human being and God.
This understanding entails a distinction between nature/virtue and grace,
or what was naturally achieved and what was supernaturally given within
the paradisal condition.
In turn, and more relevant to this study, the two Iathers identifed
in the metaphor oI the breath oI liIe the culminating experience oI
deifcation through participation in the Holy Spirit. This perception is
obvious in the last line oI the Cyrilline passage, which reIers to the Spirit
For more on this triple distinction, see Stniloae, Jiata si invttura Sfantului
Grigorie Palama 138. See also Costache, Experiencing the Divine LiIe` 15-
17 and idem, Queen oI the Sciences? Theology and Natural Knowledge in
St Gregory Palamas` One Hundred and Fiftv Chapters` Transdisciplinaritv in
Science and Religion 3 (2008) 27-46 esp. 40-44.
It is signifcant that St Gregory included the passage Irom St Cyril not long
aIter his crucial statement, 'those who are deifed ( ) do not simply
improve ( ) their nature ( ); they actually receive the
divine energy ( ) or indeed the Holy Spirit. Part. 3.28-30
(Chrestou 214). Improvement reIers to the virtues, which are achieved within
the limits oI nature. On the signifcance oI this distinction, see David Brad-
shaw, Aristotle East and West. Metaphvsics and the Division of Christendom
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) 275-76. Briefy on the ir-
reducibility oI deifcation to the virtues, see MeyendorII, A Studv of Gregorv
Palamas 175-76.
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and the sanctifcation that were lost by the 'living being a loss which
St Silouan dramatically depicted, we have seen above, as an existential
impoverishment or, verbatim, the human being`s reduction to the state oI
'sinIul dust.
Palamas described the same loss as removal oI the divine
inbreathing ( ) Irom Adam because oI his disobedience.

Elsewhere St Gregory reIerred to the same happening as the ancestors`
() deprivation oI 'the luminous and living raiment oI the supernal
radiance ( ).
patristic consensus on the deiIying activity oI the Spirit as the content oI
the breath oI liIe complements the Cyrilline ruminations, in !" $%&", about
the Spirit as gained and lost, which made the object oI Keating`s analysis.

The pneumatological take on the breath oI liIe shows, moreover, that the
two Iathers, and St Silouan, construed the paradise narrative as addressing
the spiritual remaking oI a human being and not its natural making a
view that corresponds, Iurthermore, to St Gregory oI Nyssa`s perception
oI the same scriptural account as sketching a 'mystical anthropogony
( ).
Irrespective oI the immediate meaning oI
Genesis, thereIore, it was not the making oI man that primarily interested
the Iathers. It was the Iact that, by becoming existentially compatible with
God through virtue, a human person had become worthy oI being deifed
through participation.
The Iact that this experience was variously expressed, namely, by
the metaphor oI the breath oI liIe in Genesis, the pneumatological notes
oI St Cyril on the same metaphor, as well as the tradition oI the saints that
Iormed the object oI Palamas` own investigation,
opens up interesting
St Silouan, '()*)"+, 1: Yearning Ior God` 281.
-.(*. 14.31-33 (Chrestou 234).
!"/ 01"2(/2 ."2 3)4*5 6&.7*/(, 46.1,5-6 (Sinkewicz 136). We shall see below
that this vocabulary oI light` in relation to the glory oI the saints Ieatures in
Iar earlier sources than the witnesses oI the Iourteenth century hesychasm.
CI. Keating, The Baptism oI Jesus in Cyril oI Alexandria` 206.
!" *&/ 8.9)"+ %4 8." 30.33 (PG 44, 256B).
Stniloae, Jiata si invttura Sfantului Grigorie Palama 137-38, noted that
precisely the experiences oI the saints ultimately represented the object and
source oI Palamas` teaching.
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avenues. Like with St Silouan,
Palamas possibly perceived Adam as
having experienced the same holiness or rather the same Holy Spirit
that was and is attained by many others. This commonality was obvious
to St Gregory to such an extent that he construed these illustrations as
mutually clariIying. Indeed, the passage quoted above shows that he
read the Cyrilline comments on the breath oI liIe simply as endorsing the
hesychast experience and, likewise, that his own articulation oI hesychasm
merely reiterated St Cyril`s understanding oI the paradise narrative. It is not
unsaIe thereIore to inIer that St Gregory believed in the possibility oI the
same experience as being at hand in other times and places. Corresponding
to the Athonite saying, 'what matters is the manner, not the place, this
interpretation oI the adamic experience as replicated through the centuries
in the lives oI the saints is by no means an isolated case. Indeed, whilst
this interpretation draws explicitly on St Cyril oI Alexandria, it actually
reiterates a widespread early Christian perception oI the paradise as
regained within the ecclesial environment.
That being said, in order to
test the accuracy oI the Palamite reading oI St Cyril`s thoughts I shall soon
turn to the relevant context Irom Anthrop. BeIore doing so, however, it
should be pointed out that, except Ior St Silouan`s very personal notes,
there seems to be complete agreement between the two Athonite Iathers
in relation to Adam as typiIying the experience oI holiness in general
an experience that can be replicated irrespective oI one`s time and place.
Could this agreement be taken as a clue that only the saintly theologians
can read the paradise narrative in this Iashion, and that iI they so read it
they are saints, too? The answer to this question may cast a surprising
light upon the slandered personality oI St Cyril, to whose perception oI
Adam I must now turn.
See St Silouan, Writings 1: Yearning Ior God` 274.
CI. H. S. Benjamins, Paradisiacal LiIe: The Story oI Paradise in the Early
Church` in ed. Gerald P. Luttikhuizen, Paradise Interpreted. Representations
of Biblical Paradise in Judaism and Christianitv, Themes in Biblical Narrative
(Leiden and Boston: Brill, 1999) 153-67.
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!" $%&'( )* +(,-./0&'.
In his pastoral letter to a suIIragan bishop, Calosirius,
St Cyril addressed
the matter oI a group oI monks Irom Mount Calamon who were preaching
that since human beings are created in God`s image it Iollows that God
himselI has to share somehow in the shape oI our bodies.
The letter,
which preIaces Anthrop. in Migne`s Patrologia Graeca 67, contains a
summary oI the orthodox reIutation oI this 'latest irreverence.
In brieI,
the letter dismisses any corporeality oI the divine image and likeness
the grounds oI God having no share in the biological Ieatures common
to both humans and the animal kingdom;
Iurthermore, being spirit and
having no shape, God cannot be circumscribed or measured.
It appears
that in making these points St Cyril tacitly reiterated the opinions oI the
Origenist monks whom Theophilus who ended up, at least Ior the eyes
oI the public, a supporter oI the anthropomorphites had previously exiled
Letter to Calosirius ( Calos.) (PG 76, 1065A-1077B). The critically edited
text can be Iound, with a rendition into English, in Cyril oI Alexandria, Select
Letters, ed. and trans. by Lionel R. Wickham (cited above, n.41) 214-221. See
also the notes oI Wickham on the letter, Introduction` xxx-xxxi.
Calos. (PG 76, 1068A; Wickham 214.12-14). The monks believed 'the divine
to be in a human shape or Iorm (
Ibidem (Wickham 214.15). Wickham (215) translates as
'extreme blasphemy.
Calos. (PG 76, 1068A; Wickham 214.17-18). Lit. 'the likeness is not bodily,
Ior God is incorporeal ( ). On
the nuanced approach oI St Cyril to the theme oI the image oI God, see John
J. O`KeeIe, Incorruption, Anti-Origenism, and Incarnation: Eschatology in
the Thought oI Cyril oI Alexandria` in ed. Thomas G. Weinandy and Daniel
A. Keating, The Theologv of St Cvril of Alexandria. A Critical Appreciation
(London and New York: T & T Clark, 2003) 187-204 esp. 199-200. We shall
see below that by image and likeness St Cyril understood an existential state
oI compatibility with God, namely, the virtuous liIe.
Calos. (PG 76, 1068C; Wickham 214.22-216.2).
Calos. (PG 76, 1068A; Wickham 214.21-22). Lit. 'the divine is indefnite and
unshaped ( ).
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Irom Egypt.
Relevant here is that the views outlined in Calos. reappear
identically within the treatise, which in addition addresses topical aspects oI
the anthropomorphite teaching, such as the diIIerence between image and
and the idea that human beings are created in the image oI the
This is not the place to discuss the whole content oI the treatise.
BeIore turning to the aspects oI interest, it is noteworthy that, Iollowing
Wickham literarily dissociated the letter Irom the treatise and
showed that Anthrop. is a later compilation oI St Cyril`s two collections
oI answers to a deacon Tiberius
(oI which the most important here is the
second one, Doctr.).
Wickham nevertheless confrmed the consistency
oI Calos. and the two series oI answers to Tiberius, and thus, implicitly,
the compilation known as Anthrop., in relation to their approaches to the
matters at hand.
That being said, given that St Gregory Palamas cited Irom
Anthrop., I shall utilise herein the text Iound in Patrologia Graeca, which,
For an introduction to the circumstances oI this aIIair and the relevant texts
in Theophilus, see Norman Russel, Theophilus of Alexandria (London and
New York: Routledge, 2007) 89-174. For more on the complexities oI the
anthropomorphite controversy under Theophilus, see Georges Florovsky,
Theophilus oI Alexandria and Apa Aphou oI Pemdje` in Aspects of Church
Historv (Belmont, Mass: Nordland Publishing Co, 1975) 97-129. For analyses
oI Cassian`s account oI the same matters, see Florovsky, The Anthropomor-
phites in the Egyptian Desert` in Aspects of Church Historv (quoted above)
89-96, and Mark DelCogliano, Situating Sarapion`s Sorrow: The Anthropo-
morphite Controversy as the Historical and Theological Context oI Cassian`s
Tenth ConIerence on Pure Prayer` Cistercian Studies Quarterlv 38:4 (2003)
377-421. For the reasons behind Theophilus` apparent change oI heart, with
a reconstruction oI the anthropomorphite position, see Golitzin, The Vision
oI God and the Form oI Glory` 286-94 and idem, 'The Demons Suggest an
Illusion oI God`s Glory in a Form` 23-28, 29-30.
Anthrop. 5 (PG 76, 1086B-88C).
Anthrop. 6 (PG 76, 1088C-89B). Meijering noted that in Iact this idea could
not ft in the anthropomorphite schema. See E. P. Meijering, Some Refec-
tions on Cyril oI Alexandria`s Rejection oI Anthropomorphism` Nederlands
Theologisch Tifdschrift 28 (1974) 297-301 esp. 297.
CI. Pusey, vol. 3, viii and 545-47.
Wickham, Introduction` xlviii-xlix.
The treatise can be Iound in Wickham, 180-213 (text and translation).
Wickham, Introduction` xxviii-xxxi.
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as pointed out earlier, is almost identical to the one that was available to
the Athonite theologian.
Turning to the second chapter oI !"#$%&'(,
Irom which Palamas
excerpted the lines analysed above, we discover that among other
matters it examines the divine breath in Genesis 2:7, which the suspected
monks, it seems, identifed with the Holy Spirit who supposedly changed
into a human soul or the vital Iactor within the human organism.

BeIore considering this topic in detail, however, the chapter addresses
hermeneutical aspects pertaining to a respectIul approach to Genesis.
In short, the passage points out that in Scripture one can fnd both plain
statements, like the Iact that God made all things, which do not pose
serious diIfculties, and more mysterious matters, which Scripture runs
over in silence
and the readers receive through Iaith.
Such hermeneutical
precautions being taken, St Cyril proposed the Iollowing as a saIe approach
to the making oI the human being.
II we are to set a rule by considering |the matter| with the aid oI
correct reasoning, we aIfrm that the Maker oI all moulded the
human being, more precisely the body, Irom the earth, and that he
animated it with a living and intelligent soul the way only he knew.
Furthermore, he naturally () set into it the thrust toward
every good deed and knowledge. This was clearly proclaimed by
the blessed evangelist John: 'He was the true light that illumines
every human being that comes into the world.
The living being
is born thereIore with a natural penchant ( ... )
toward the good. This is what the most-wise Paul will simply teach
when writing, 'We are his creation, made Ior good deeds, which
God prepared Ior us beIorehand to walk in them.
the human being entrusts the controlling reins oI its own conscience
to the Iree choice, so that it runs as it wishes either toward the
!"#$%&'. 2 (PG 76, 1080B-81C). CI. )&*#%. 2 (Wickham 186.16-192.2).
!"#$%&'. 2 (PG 76, 1080AB). CI. )&*#%. 2 (Wickham 186.16-25).
!"#$%&'. 2 (PG 76, 1080C). CI. )&*#%. 2 (Wickham 188.11-12).
!"#$%&'. 2 (PG 76, 1080B). CI. )&*#%. 2 (Wickham 188.7).
John 1:9.
Ephesians 2:10.
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good or toward the opposite. On the other hand, implanted within
nature there is an inclination toward all Iorms oI goodness and
kindness whatsoever, together with a desire to pursue goodness
and righteousness. We aIfrm that in this way |i.e. by Ireely
choosing the good| the human being arrives to be in the image
and likeness oI God,
Ior the living being is made to become good
and righteous. Moreover, |God| breathed () the breath
oI liIe into |the human being| Ior it to be a partaker () oI
the Holy Spirit, which thus possesses the radiant marks oI divine
nature ( ... ) within
itselI, and not just a reasoning being.
This |breath| is the Spirit
who is given by the Son to the reasoning creature and who shapes
() the latter into the highest Iorm ( ),
namely, the divine one ( ). Hence it is obvious that the Spirit
was breathed neither in order to become |the human being`s| soul
nor its mind, as some suppose.

The passage continues with the lines cited by St Gregory Palamas within
his discourse on the supernatural and uncreated character oI the grace
bestowed upon the saints, including Adam. Looking at the text and bearing
in mind its interpretation by Palamas, we notice that the latter oIIered a very
accurate summary oI the Cyrilline teaching on the paradisal experience,
which distinguishes the natural and supernatural elements pertaining to
the edenic morphology oI the human being, to which I must now turn.
The text under consideration reveals the complexity oI St Cyril`s
anthropology, which unIolds by way oI Iour aspects, namely, the natural
That the human being is created to be in the image and likeness oI God, without
the distinction oI the two aspects, was apparently a common Cyrilline under-
standing. For instance, the two terms Ieature again without discrimination in
his On John 2.1 (Pusey, vol. 1, 183.21-23). In making no distinction between
image and likeness, St Cyril Iollowed St Athanasius. CI. Norman Russell,
Cvril of Alexandria (London and New York: Routledge, 2000) 211, n.35.
Wickham`s text includes here the phrase 'with an aptitude Ior doing good and
right ( ). CI. Doctr. 2 (Wickham
188.31-32; 189).
Anthrop. 2 (PG 76, 1080C-81A). CI. Doctr. 2 (Wickham 188.13-190.6). The
phraseologies oI the two versions diIIer signifcantly yet the ideas presented are
identical. This passage is passed over in silence within Russell`s overview oI
the Cyrilline teaching on deifcation; cI. The Doctrine of Deihcation 191-204.
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constitution oI the human being; the latter`s natural disposition toward
the good; its capability oI choosing Ireely and its virtuous exercise
'in the image and likeness oI God; and, fnally, the giIt oI divine liIe
and a superior reshaping. Interesting Irom the viewpoint oI theological
anthropology, the passage is unequivocal in maintaining that all Iour
aspects presuppose the divine activity: 'the Maker oI all moulded ()
the human being, 'animating () it with a living and intelligent
'he naturally set into it () the thrust toward every good
deed and knowledge;
'he has produced it () in order to be good
and righteous;
'he inbreathed () the breath oI liIe Ior it to
be a partaker oI the Holy Spirit.
These theological nuances correspond
to the overall and richly soteriological vocabulary oI St Cyril in relation
to creation and re-creation, as discussed by Wilken.
More importantly,
this consistent reIerence to the divine activity confrms Papadopoulos`
assessment regarding !" $%&" 2.1 that the Cyrilline teaching construed
the 'frst moulded human beings as charismatically constituted (cI.
I shall return later to the
signifcance oI this theological emphasis.
What matters Ior now is that the broader context oI the Cyrilline
passage cited by Palamas displays a more detailed and nuanced view oI the
human existence than the ternary schema which we studied above. Having
said this, when comparing the two outlines, namely, the threeIold schema
and the IourIold one, it becomes obvious that the frst two aspects i.e. the
natural constitution and disposition oI the latter correspond to the frst
element i.e. nature oI the Iormer. It can be saIely surmised thereIore
that whilst the triadic outline summarises the quaternary schema, the latter
'"(&)%*. 2 (PG 76, 1080C).
'"(&)%*. 2 (PG 76, 1080D).
'"(&)%*. 2 (PG 76, 1080D-1081A).
For a list oI relevant terms in +,-*&. and !" $%&", see Wilken, Exegesis and
the History oI Theology` 143.
. , , ,
(: , 2010) 474. Lit. 'the charismatic constitution
oI the frst made/moulded humans.
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displays the content oI the Iormer in a developed manner. As such, the
structure oI Cyrilline anthropology appears analogous to, iI not building
upon, other and Iar better known triadic patterns sketched in previous ages,
typical Ior what Hadot designated as pvramide conceptuelle and svsteme
Such patterns are, Ior instance, the Platonic pedagogical
schema consisting in ethics, natural knowledge and the contemplation
oI the loItier aspects oI reality; Clement`s and Origen`s curriculum oI
ethics, physics and epoptics; the Evagrian map (which builds on Origen`s
perception) oI the spiritual pursuit that reIers to practical philosophy,
natural contemplation and theological vision etc. Even more closely, the
Cyrilline approach echoes the epistemology oI Aristotle, which proceeds,
at least according to the ancient editors oI the Stagirite`s catalogue oI
writings, Irom the exploration oI nature to ethics and then theology.
instance, to take on the last example, the Aristotelian natural knowledge
corresponds in Cyrillian anthropology to what human beings are made
oI and their natural inclination toward the good; ethics to the appropriate
exercise oI Iree will in choosing the good (virtue, kindness, righteousness);
and, fnally, theology to the divine participation and supernatural reshaping
oI the virtuous human being. Similar to the views oI St Gregory Palamas on
the three levels oI perception, addressed above, it is thereIore very likely
that Cyrilline anthropology Iollowed the epistemology oI the Stagirite. One
way or the other, apart Irom the variations in ordering the items within
the above Irameworks, it appears that Ior both St Cyril and his cultural
antecedents the human being appears as impossible to construe outside
the complex, ternary pattern oI nature, ethics and/or axiology, and the
relationship with the divine.
CI. Pierre Hadot, Les divisions des parties de la philosophie dans l`Antiquite`
Museum Helveticum 36:4 (1979) 201-23 at 201, 206 etc.
For these and other ternary philosophical approaches yet without reIerence
to St Cyril, see Hadot, Les divisions des parties de la philosophie` 203, 206-
207, 210-11, 212, 218-20, 222; Andrew Louth, The Origins of the Christian
Mvstical Tradition. From Plato to Denvs, second edition (New York: OxIord
University Press, 2007) 56-60; Bogdan Gabriel Bucur, Angelomorphic Pneu-
matologv. Clement of Alexandria and Other Earlv Christian Witnesses (Leiden
and Boston: Brill, 2009) 18-24.
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To be more truthIul to the spirit oI the above text, the same IourIold
anthropological schema can be likewise rendered as a double structure,
which reIers, on the one hand, to nature, Iree will and the virtuous or
ethical accomplishments within the confnes oI nature, and on the other
hand to what tradition usually designates as deifcation, divine participation
or holiness. When he reIerred to the human capacity to 'exercise virtues
(especially goodness, righteousness, and holiness), Meijering has not
noticed this nuance.
Nevertheless, we have encountered this double
structure both in St Silouan`s reIerence to the moulding oI the human
being oI earth Iollowed by the bestowal oI the Spirit,
and in St Gregory`s
discrimination between natural virtues and supernatural deifcation.
propose that just like Ior the Athonite Iathers, in St Cyril virtue, achieved
within nature, and holiness, as a supernatural dimension, belonged to
diIIerent levels oI experience. The twoIold representation fnds support,
frstly, in the Cyrilline aIfrmation that God implanted naturally ()
within the human makeup the drive toward a virtuous liIe, so that the
human being displays a natural propensity ( ... ) toward
the good or virtue. When consistently pursuing this inclination, the human
being reaches the state oI being 'in the image and likeness oI God, a state
which Ior St Cyril, within this context and elsewhere,
appeared as a task
Meijering, Some Refections` 297.
CI. !"#$#%&' 1: Yearning Ior God` 273.
CI. ()"$. 3.28-30 (Chrestou 214).
For a similar, yet not identical, reIerence to image and likeness as connected
with the paradisal commandment and its upholding by the human beings, see
St Cyril`s *% ,-.% 2.1. Here, whilst the marks or 'characters ()
oI the Spirit are 'put into () the human being Irom above (Pusey, vol.
1, 182.29-31), the sense oI these marks being in need oI the human virtuous
maintenance is inescapable (Pusey, vol. 1, 182.31-183.1-4). CI. also the notes
on this passage by Keating, The Baptism oI Jesus in Cyril oI Alexandria` 205-
206, repeated in idem, Divinization in Cyril: The Appropriation oI Divine
LiIe` in ed. Weinandy and Keating, /.0 /.0-1-&2 -3 4$ 52"#1 -3 6107)%8"#)
(quoted above, n.58) 149-85 esp. 154; likewise, Papadopoulos, , vol.
3, 474. Neither author identifes however the virtuous liIe with the Iact oI being
in the image oI God. For a diIIerent approach in St Cyril, see 91):.. 1.2 (PG
69, 20B), where the human being Ieatures as 'truly an animal oI good natural
disposition and very much Godlike ( );
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to perIorm rather than a given. OI course, neither nature nor the virtuous
achievements within its parameters are deprived oI the gracious activity oI
as stated in the beginning oI the passage under consideration and as
pointed out above in terms oI a theological and charismatic conditioning oI
human existence. Secondly, this twoIold reading fnds support in St Cyril`s
interpretation oI the breath oI liIe as a metaphor oI the supernal activity
oI the Holy Spirit. As signalled by the superlatives which accompany its
description, the breath oI liIe reIers to an experience above nature that
signifes both the human being as participant () in the divine liIe,
and its loIty, Godlike reshaping (cI. , , )
through which it receives the radiant Ieatures oI God (cI. ...
For St Cyril, thereIore, the breath oI
liIe in Genesis 2:7 represented the metaphor oI an experience not oI this
world. He confrmed this understanding somewhere else in a reIerence
to the breath oI the Spirit as engraving an immortal character within the
human being, a mark which provides the latter with the possibility oI
transcending nature`s limitations.
Thus, whilst not explicitly aIfrmed, the
distinction oI the two layers emerges with clarity within our text. It does
so likewise within another setting where, however, St Cyril maintained
somehow diIIerently that the two aspects, namely, the biological liIe and the
here, being like God appears as a given and not a task to perIorm or a goal to
Whilst the passage under consideration does not use the word grace,` the latter
Ieatures in the related section Irom !" $%&" 2.1 (Pusey, vol. 1, 183.7).
'"(&)%*. 2 (PG 76, 1080D-1081A). CI. +%,(). 2 (Wickham 188.30-190.4). See
also !" $%&" 2.1 (Pusey, vol. 1, 182.27-28, 183.3-4), where the divine breath
or the indwelling oI the Spirit (cI. ) is again
associated with the human being 'having been sealed toward the divine image
( ) and endowed with 'resplendent Ieatures
( ).
See -./*&. 1.2 (PG 69, 20BC): ,
, , ,
('He made a statue out oI earth, completed
it as a rational animal, and engraved within it directly an incorruptible and
liIe-giving spirit so that it can exceed the principles oI its own nature. For it
is written, and he breathed in his Iace the breath oI liIe, and the human being
was made into a living soul`.).
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'Ieatures oI the Spirit, have their origin in the divine breath.
granted, this assertion introduces a tension within the perspective discussed
above which reIers the divine breath to the supernatural liIe no absolute
chasm oI contradiction separates the two passages. There is, indeed, a
common ground shared by the two texts, namely, the theological vantage
point oI Cyrilline anthropology Irom the angle oI which the distinction
between natural and supernatural, together with all the layers within the
human being and experience, ultimately reIer to God.
BeIore moving any Iurther with this analysis, another point on
the above is noteworthy. In operating with the distinction between what
is natural, namely, the virtuous accomplishments, and what is above
nature or irreducible to it, namely, the deiIying grace, St Cyril proved to
be a signifcant contributor to the articulation oI perIection in terms oI a
divinehuman experience, which entails precisely the aspects oI virtuous
likeness and divine participation, or union through grace. This concept
oI perIection was Iurther considered, well into the Byzantine era, by such
teachers oI the mystical theology as the author known as St Dionysius the
Iollowed by St Maximus the ConIessor
and St Gregory
No wonder, thereIore, the interest oI the latter in the Cyrilline
On John 2.1 (Pusey, vol. 1, 182.28-31). Here he was possibly Iollowing St
Gregory the Theologian, who, in one oI his most celebrated Iestal orations,
aIfrmed something similar, namely, that whilst taking the body Irom a 'pre-
Iormed matter ( ) the Logos put into it Irom himselI (
) the 'breath (), which signifes both the 'noetic soul
and the image oI God ( ). See Oration 38 On the
Theophanv 11.10-13, in Gregorie de Na:ian:e. Discours 38-41, introduction,
texte critique et notes par Claudio Moreschini, trad. par Paul Gallay, Sources
chretiennes 358 (Paris: CerI, 1990) 124.
See e.g. Ecclesiastical Hierarchv 1.3 (PG 3, 376A).
See e.g. To Thalassius 59.12-54 in Maximi Confessoris Quaestiones ad
Thalassium II Quaestiones LVI-LXV, una cum latina interpretatione Ioannis
Scotti Eriugenae iuxta posita, ediderunt Carl Laga et Carlos Steel, Corpus
Christianorum Series Graeca 22 (Turnhout and Leuven: Brepols and Leuven
University Press, 1990) 45-47.
See e.g. Part. 3 (Chrestou 214.28-30).
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Returning to St Cyril, in the light oI the above it emerges that our
Alexandrine Iather considered the paradisal experience a deiIying event
and that he construed Adam as a saint who reached the level oI theology`
or the divine participation in which Palamas could discern typical Ieatures
pertaining to the hesychast experience, such as the supernatural character
oI the union with God. Indeed, and apart Irom the variation introduced by
the passage Irom his On John 2.1, discussed above, we have Iound that
in interpreting Genesis 2:7 in Anthrop. 2 St Cyril reIused to identiIy the
divine breath with the source oI either a biological existence or the virtuous
liIe. Certainly, we have seen, St Cyril questioned neither the making oI
the human being by God nor that the Creator brought humanity to liIe and
reason. Our text is clear on these matters, as proven by the statement that
although in a Iashion beyond comprehension 'the Maker oI all moulded
() the human being, more precisely the body, Irom the earth, and
animated () it with a living and intelligent soul.
Likewise, as
noted above, our holy Iather was convinced that, whilst providing it with
the capacity to Ireely choose its path in liIe, God conditioned humankind
to seek the good.
What mattered more Ior St Cyril, however, is that
the worth oI humankind could not be reduced to the defnition oI being
'reasoning ()
either by nature or due to virtuous profciency.
What crowned humankind with glory were neither its intellectual prowess
nor its ethical achievements it was the bestowal by the Spirit oI a giIt
above nature and irreducible to nature, theological par excellence, which
consisted in both a share in the liIe oI God and a divine reIashioning oI the
Anthrop. 2 (PG 76, 1080C). CI. Doctr. 2 (Wickham 188.14-17).
The passage under consideration contains recurrent reIerences to this natural
conditioning oI the human being on the part oI God toward the good and/or
righteousness: (PG 76, 1080C; Wickham 188.16);
... (PG 76, 1080C; Wickham 188.20-21);
(PG 76, 1080D; Wickham 188.27-28); (PG 76,
1080D; Wickham 188.30). There is also, oI course, the reIerence to the need
Ior the human being to choose between the good ( ) and its opposite
( ) (PG 76, 1080D; Wickham 188.25-26). For Iurther notes on God
as source oI the virtuous liIe in Anthrop., see Meijering, Some Refections`
Anthrop. 2 (PG 76, 1080D).
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human being. Illustrating this very understanding, in the Cyrilline reading
oI the paradise narrative, Adam, aIter committing himselI to the good, or
the virtuous path, experienced a divine remaking through a culminating
participation in the liIe oI God. Becoming a saint, a hesychast, Adam was
glorifed. We have Iound out earlier that both Palamas and St Silouan
shared this understanding oI human dignity as irreducible to any natural
condition and accomplishment.
Another important aspect reIers to the possibility that here St Cyril
did not solely envisage the hesychastic experience oI the characters in
Genesis 2. Looking again at the passage,
one notices that it knits together
the past and the present tenses, alongside speaking alternately, on the one
hand, oI the paradisal human being ( , ) that God made,
produced and ensouled (, , ), within which God set
() 'the thrust toward every good deed and knowledge and
upon which God breathed () the breath oI liIe and on the
other hand oI the human being in general ( , ,
, ), which is born () to do good or being made to be
() 'good and righteous, yet who 'entrusts () the controlling
reins oI its own conscience to the Iree choice, so that it runs () as it
wishes, having to choose rightly so that it becomes () what it is
meant to be, namely, 'in the image and likeness oI God. Obviously, St
Cyril took the experience oI the ancestors as typical Ior that oI the entire
race and more specifcally that oI any other saint the way he presented
events oI Christ`s earthly liIe, such as his baptism and crucifxion, as typical
Ior the whole oI humankind and as recapitulating all human beings.

These nuances are enIorced, frst oI all, by the choice oI scriptural texts
that accompany the Cyrilline analysis oI the paradise narrative, namely,
John 1:9 and Ephesians 2:10, oI which the Iormer reIers to the experience
Anthrop. 2 (PG 76, 1080C-1081A).
For Christ as typiIying and recapitulating humankind in St Cyril, see Wilken,
Exegesis and the History oI Theology` 143-44, 151, and Keating, The
Baptism oI Jesus in Cyril oI Alexandria` 207, 210-11, 212. See also Keating,
The Appropriation of Divine Life in Cvril of Alexandria, OxIord Theological
Monographs (OxIord University Press, 2004) 33-35, where the author reiter-
ates the same line oI argument.
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oI humankind as a whole whereas the latter to the experience oI God`s
people; one way or the other, both scriptural texts consider humanity in
the plural, corresponding to the reIerence to humankind in general within
the Cyrilline passage. Second, the possibility that the passage takes Adam
as typiIying the experience oI holiness occurs through the ascetical
component suggested by the text, with the human being having to grapple
with the choice between the good and its opposite, and having to sustain its
commitment to the path oI virtue and righteousness a struggle in which
we recognise the Ieatures oI both Adam and all the saints aIter him. Third,
this interpretation fnds endorsement in St Cyril`s use, with reIerence to
the adamic experience, oI the established terminology and imagery Ior the
glory bestowed upon the saints, an aspect already pointed out in relation
to St Silouan the Athonite and St Gregory Palamas, and to which I shall
return in the next section.
Taking in consideration the aspects discussed above, one can
confdently conclude that St Cyril construed the ancestral experience as
epitomising holy liIe in general, and that he arrived at this interpretation
by looking at Genesis through the lens oI what was later called hesychasm;
whence the interest oI St Gregory Palamas in the passage Irom !"#$%&'(
2. An unexpected outcome oI my investigation, to be Iurther ruminated, is
the impact oI these discoveries on the current understanding oI the Adam-
Christ typology in St Cyril, to which I reIerred only tangentially; it seems
that a revisiting oI this typological rapport, within the Iramework oI St
Cyril`s broader interest in the experience oI holiness, is in order. What
matters Ior the time being is that similar Ieatures, such as the criterion oI
holiness in the interpretation oI the paradise narrative, appeared, wholly
unsurprisingly, in the Alexandrine`s revered predecessor, St Athanasius the
Great, and in the monastic tradition on which both theologians certainly
drew. To these sources I must now turn.
!" $"%&'&()*( "%+ ,-+&" &'. "%+ /+(+-" 0-&.)")1'
Earlier on I proposed that in alternating the past and the present tenses when
it discusses paradise, the second chapter oI !"#$%&'( portrays the experience
oI Adam in terms that are applicable to the general typology oI holiness.
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Furthermore, I inIerred that St Cyril understood Adam`s experience as
one among many such occurrences, which later tradition, as represented
by the Athonite saints, associated with hesychasm. In what Iollows, I
turn to one oI the most probable literary sources oI this understanding, St
Athanasius` Against the Gentiles ( Gent.), which I shall consider together
with the Life of St Antonv ( Ant.) and the Apophthegmata or Savings
of the Fathers ( Apoph.). Any attempt to prove here the devotion oI St
Cyril Ior St Athanasius, which is extensively documented,
would be
Iutile. Since the latter represented Ior the Iormer the very embodiment oI
tradition, it is very likely that St Cyril looked toward the great Athanasius
Ior guidance even in matters regarding the adamic experience. In turn,
the insight oI St Athanasius in such matters largely drew on the wisdom
oI the desert
(which had its roots deeply planted in older traditions, as
repeatedly pointed out by Golitzin).
See e.g. John A. McGuckin, St Cvril of Alexandria. The Christological Con-
troversv, Its Historv, Theologv, and Texts (Crestwood: St Vladimir`s Seminary
Press, 2004) 3; Russell, The Doctrine of Deihcation 191; idem, Cvril of Alex-
andria 5-6, 21, 41, 219 n.89, 235 n.44.
CI. William Harmless, SJ, Desert Christians. An Introduction to the Literature
of Earlv Monasticism (New York: OxIord University Press, 2004) 33-36. ReI-
erences to St Athanasius and his rapports with the desert ascetics in Harmless`
book are in Iact ubiquitous. For earlier discussions oI the same connection,
with an emphasis on ecclesiastical politics, see David Brakke, Athanasius and
the Politics of Asceticism, OxIord Early Christian Studies (OxIord: Claren-
don Press, 1995) 80-141, 201-65, and Uwe Khneweg, Athanasius und das
Mnchtum` Studia Patristica 32 (Leuven: Peeters, 1997) 25-32. Recently,
Brakke expressed doubts in relation to the desert awareness oI St Athanasius,
and specifcally in matters concerning the biography oI St Antony. See David
Brakke, Macarius`s Quest and Ours: Literary Sources Ior Early Egyptian
Monasticism` Cistercian Studies Quarterlv 48:2 (2013) 239-51 esp. 240.
CI. Golitzin, 'The Demons Suggest an Illusion oI God`s Glory in a Form`
20-28, 33-37; idem, Heavenly Mysteries: Themes Irom Apocalyptic Literature`
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Immediately aIter its prologue, Gent.,
a complex writing oI both
apologetic and catechetical signifcance,
oIIers a series oI stunning
propositions, which may have inspired the Cyrilline approach to the
paradise narrative, more specifcally the interpretation oI the adamic
experience as signiIying holiness in general. For instance, the second
chapter oI the treatise
aIfrms at the outset an identity between what was
'Irom the beginning ( ) or in the paradisal experience oI Adam, as
clarifed later on,
and what someone contemplates 'nowadays () in
the lives oI the saints ( ), namely, their complete strangeness to
This initial sentence oI the chapter presupposes a kinship oI Adam
and the saints in terms oI holiness, an understanding Iurther signifed by
the reIerence to their commitment to the 'good and most beautiIul God.

We shall see below that alongside interpreting the scriptural narrative as
signiIying holiness, this presupposition reveals sainthood, particularly in
The edition utilised herein is that oI Robert W. Thomson, Athanasius. Contra
Gentes and De Incarnatione (OxIord: Clarendon Press, 1971).
CI. E. P. Meijering, Orthodoxv and Platonism in Athanasius. Svnthesis or
Antithesis? Reprint with corrections (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1974) 107-108; idem,
Athanasius. Contra Gentes Introduction, Translation and Commentarv
(Leiden: Brill, 1984) 154-55; John Behr, The Formation of Christian Theol-
ogv, vol. 2: The Nicene Faith, part 1: True God of True God (Crestwood, NY:
St Vladimir`s Seminary Press, 2004) 168.
For comprehensive analyses oI Gent. 2, with rich parallels to the Christian
and classical literature, see Meijering, Orthodoxv and Platonism in Athanasius
5-9, and idem, Athanasius. Contra Gentes 15-20. For a detailed analysis oI
Adam`s purifed and contemplative soul, see Alvyn Pettersen, Athanasius,
Outstanding Christian Thinkers (London: GeoIIrey Chapman, 1995) 40-44.
For a summary oI the adamic experience as sketched in Gent. 2 and parallels in
On the Incarnation, see Russell, The Doctrine of Deihcation 179-80, and Behr,
True God of True God 172-73. For a very brieI consideration oI the chapter
alongside related Athanasian passages, see BouteneII, Beginnings 122-23.
Gent. 2.27-29, 3.14-15 (Thomson 6, 8).
Gent. 2.1-2 (Thomson 4). See also the end oI 5.23-26 (Thomson 14), which
reIers to evil as Ioreign to 'the blessed Paul, the Christ-bearer man. Neither
place reIers to evil in an ontological sense, as believed by Weinandy, very likely
by assimilation with Gent. 7.14-16 (Thomson 18). CI. Thomas G. Weinandy,
Athanasius. A Theological Introduction, Great Theologians Series (Aldershot:
Ashgate Publishing, 2007) 13.
Gent. 2.7 (Thomson 6).
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its ascetic or monastic Iorm, as the vantage point Ior the whole Athanasian
The notion oI an aIfnity between Adam and the saints is implicit
in a series oI assertions which reIer to both oI them, namely, that God
made () the human race through 'his own Logos, our Saviour
Jesus Christ, in the very image ( ) oI God, Ior it to know
its maker; that God structured () the human being toward (cI.
) God`s likeness () so that it can make sense oI the world;

that the above are graciously (cI. ) and perhaps
simultaneously bestowed
upon the human being; that the grace oI being
in the image and likeness makes it possible Ior the human being to be
glorifed in the presence oI God and able to speak to God;
and that the
human mind properly exercises its contemplative capability only when
unhindered by the passions.
Adam and the saints shared these marks
oI holiness, as suggested by the interplay oI the past and present tenses,
or what was 'Irom the beginning and what is experienced 'nowadays.
Interestingly, and Iurthermore, this complex narrative that combines the
Genesis account oI paradise and elements oI hagiography employs a rich
scriptural and philosophical vocabulary oI knowledge, representation and
terms that signiIy a gradual Iamiliarisation with the divine. Three
main stages are prominent, namely, the contemplation oI things created,
God`s providence in the universe and God`s eternity.
These levels oI
Gent. 2.7-10 (Thomson 6).
Gent. 2.13 (Thomson 6). This is the frst reIerence to grace within the chapter,
which may suggest its employment as an alternative expression Ior the state oI
being in the image and likeness. It is possible that this utilisation oI grace as an
alternative expression determined Meijering, Athanasius. Contra Gentes 17,
to speak oI the simultaneity oI image and likeness in the paradisal condition.
Gent. 2.14-15 (Thomson 6).
Gent. 2.15-27 (Thomson 6).
CI. Gent. 2.6,9,11,12,16,18,21,26,31,33 (Thomson 6): ,
, , , , , ,
, , and . The display oI this complex vocabulary
on a single page is impressive.
Gent. 2.9-11,15-19 (Thomson 6). For some reason, in commenting upon this
passage Meijering, Athanasius. Contra Gentes 17, reIers only to the knowl-
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contemplation correspond to the portIolio oI any saint, or, paraphrasing
Meijering, any 'Platonic mystic and 'Christian ascetic.
It appears
thereIore that St Athanasius deliberately presented the paradisal experience
through the lens oI the ideal Christian philosopher, the saint, a topic in
which he was deeply interested, as likewise proven by Ant.,
in line with
his agenda oI providing a Christian counterweight Ior the paradigm oI the
classical philosopher.
St Athanasius did not bother to explain the distinctions, apparent
in the text, between being created in` the image oI God and being
structured toward` (or, with reIerence to`) the likeness oI God. SuIfce it
to remember that he must have considered these aspects as simultaneously
and graciously constituted an understanding later appropriated, to some
extent, by St Cyril. The major variance between the two Alexandrine
approaches consists in the diIIerent Iunctions associated with the Iact oI
being in God`s image and likeness. More precisely, where St Athanasius
reIers to knowing God, his providence in creation and the nature oI
things created, St Cyril, we have seen above, whilst not discarding the
contemplative aspect,
gives priority to righteousness, gentleness and
virtue. All things considered, the Athanasian rendition oI the paradise
narrative as signiIying the experience oI holiness Iinds an explicit
edge oI the created beings. On a diIIerent note, it is very likely that whereas
he quoted St Athanasius on another matter Evagrius borrowed Irom Gent. 2
his notion oI the three stages oI contemplation, which appear as such in his
The Gnostic 48-49. CI. Evagre le Pontique. Le Gnostique ou A celui qui est
devenu digne de la science, edition critique des Iragments grecs, traduction
integrale etablie au moyen des versions syriaques et armenienne, commentaire
et tables par Antoine Guillaumont et Claire Guillaumont, Sources chretiennes
356 (Paris: CerI, 1989) 186-91.
Meijering, Athanasius. Contra Gentes 17; idem, Orthodoxv and Platonism in
Athanasius 5, 8-9 (here he uses the phrase 'Platonic philosopher). See also
Brakke, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism 146-47.
CI. Arthur Urbano, Jr., 'Read It Also to the Gentiles: The Displacement and
Recasting oI the Philosopher in the Jita Antonii` Church Historv 77:4 (2008)
877-914. Without reIerring to philosophy, see Brakke, Athanasius and the
Politics of Asceticism 239-40, Ior a connection between the portrayal oI Adam
and that oI St Antony.
See Anthrop. 2 (PG 76, 1080C).
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confrmation and dramatically increases in intensity when it asserts
that to be in the image and likeness oI God entails the perseverance oI
human beings in Iellowship with the saints. Two sentences within !"#$%
2 address this matter. The topic occurs frst oI all within the statement on
our divine confguration as Iacilitating the knowledge oI God Ior humanity.
God, the demiurge oI the universe and king oI all, the one who
exists beyond all nature and the human perception, Ior being
good and most beautiIul, created the human race in conIormity
with his own image ( )
through his own Logos, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Furthermore,
he structured () it () |i.e. the human being| with
reIerence to the likeness to him ( ) so
that it can contemplate and know the |created| beings, and gave
it also the concept and knowledge oI his own eternity. These have
been done so that, by preserving its integrity, it neither leaves the
|true| representation oI God one day nor abandons the company
oI the saints ( ... ,
For both humankind (cI. ) and a given human person (cI.
to respect the grammatical layout oI the passage, the ultimate
outcome oI this association with God and the saints, reIerred to in the last
line, is the Iact oI being granted 'to live an immortal liIe, Iull and truly
blessed ( ).
Whilst the
chapter as a whole and this particular passage are very rich in meaning,
only a couple oI aspects are immediately relevant here. Noteworthy is,
beIore all else, the alternating reIerence to the human race and an individual
being, a play oI plurals and singulars or general and particular categories
that we have already encountered in St Cyril. The passage is so craIted,
indeed, that its message can be applied not only to the character in the
paradise narrative but likewise to all human beings that maintain their
wholeness (cI. )
intact throughout history. Second, our text
!"#$. 2.5-13 (Thomson 6).
!"#$. 2.8-9 (Thomson 6).
!"#$. 2.15 (Thomson 6).
!"#$. 2.11 (Thomson 6). Lit. identity` or integrity.`
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points out that in remaining wholly in the image and likeness oI God the
human being can both maintain a proper representation oI God (cI.
) and abide in the company oI the saints (cI.
St Athanasius made no Iurther comments on this mysterious
Iellowship oI the saints, other than mentioning it once more within the
same chapter; he must have taken it thereIore as commonplace, perhaps
Ior the reasons that shall soon become apparent.
The second occurrence oI the topic, Iurther down in the same
chapter, includes a reIerence to Adam by name whilst alluding to his
experience as matched by those pure in heart. Let us look more closely
at this passage.
The Holy Scriptures reIer to the one called Adam in the language
oI the Hebrews, the frst human person that was brought into being,
as having Irom the beginning ( ) his mind Iocused
upon God ( ) with an unembarrassed
boldness, and
as being set together with the saints ( ) in
perceiving the intelligible things. He experienced these in that place
that Moses fguratively () designated as paradise. Thus,
the purity oI the soul ( ) is in itselI able to mirror
() God, as the Lord says, 'Blessed are the pure in
heart, Ior they shall see God.
As much as the previous one, this passage is puzzling on a number oI
levels. For instance, it takes Ior granted that Adam lived Irom the outset
a God-centred liIe
and that he gazed upon the invisible entirely like the
saints and together with them both these latter nuances being entailed
!"#$. 2.12-13 (Thomson 6). Pettersen, %$&'#'()*( 37, reIers to the company
oI the saints as a Iuture reward Ior consistency in communion with God. In
turn, Weinandy, %$&'#'()*( 14, altogether ignores this reIerence to the saints.
I borrowed here Thomson`s excellent rendition oI (Thomson 7).
It is, oI course, about a proIound Iamiliarity between the human being and
!"#$. 2.27-35 (Thomson 6-8).
This assertion corresponds to the indirect portrayal oI Adam as virtuous in
!"#$. 4.9-12 (Thomson 9-12).
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by the verb ,
translated above as 'set together with, which
Iurther qualifes the statement concerning the human being`s abiding in
the company oI the saints (cI. ).
This reiteration oI
the topic strengthens the suggestion, discussed above, that Adam and the
saints display the same Ieatures oI holiness. That said, there is something
challenging about the passage oI interest. True, Genesis 2 aIfrms a special
relationship between God and Adam, albeit more on the part oI the Iormer
than the latter, but it nonetheless makes no mention oI other human beings
in paradise, let alone saints, other than Adam`s wiIe. One could legitimately
wonder as to the signifcance oI these two reIerences to the company oI the
saints. Was St Athanasius oI the opinion that the story oI the garden, which
he qualifed as a fgurative account (cI. ),
represents a metaphor
that generally reIers to the liIe oI holiness or, in a more restrictive sense,
a group oI ascetics that reached a measure oI perIection? The phrasing oI
the passage does not leave room Ior doubt, expressing the author`s views
in Iactual terms, which give Iurther substance to Brakke`s observation
that the imitation oI the saints and their company represent recurrent
themes in St Athanasius.
For the great Alexandrine, Adam was a saint
who experienced the paradise oI the spiritual liIe in Iellowship with other
saints and like them, with whom he shared the purity oI the soul/heart;
there is nothing in the above passage to support the interpretation oI ioi
(saints) as angels, proposed by Meijering and Brakke.
Incidentally, this
evidence would require a reconsideration oI the Athanasian sketch oI the
paradisal experience in the context oI the established portrayals oI Adam
in early Christian literature.
Returning to the association oI Adam and
Gent. 2.30-31 (Thomson 6).
CI. Gent. 2.12 (Thomson 6).
Gent. 2.31-32 (Thomson 6).
See Brakke, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism 163.
CI. Meijering, Athanasius. Contra Gentes 15; Brakke, Athanasius and the
Politics of Asceticism 161. But see Brakke, Athanasius and the Politics of
Asceticism 198, where no reIerence to angels is made.
For the representation oI Adam as typiIying the spiritual path in early Christian
encratite sources, but without more than a feeting reIerence to St Athanasius,
see Giulia SIameni Gasparro, Asceticism and Anthropology: Enkrateia and
'Double Creation in Early Christianity` in ed. Vincent L. Wimbush, Richard
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the saints, would it be Iar Ietched, thereIore, to surmise that the purity oI
the IoreIather`s heart, as implied by the conclusion oI the passage, was
construed Irom the vantage point oI the wholesomeness reached by the
desert ascetics known to St Athanasius? In what Iollows, we shall discover
that this appears as the most plausible explanation Ior the depiction oI
the adamic experience in Gent. 2, even though, as Golitzin has proven,

literary antecedents oI this depiction can be Iound in earlier rabbinic and
pre-Nicene traditions. Whilst I do not discard the possibility Ior such
antecedents to have been known to St Athanasius, Ior now I would say
that albeit very obvious in the desert representations oI Adam their
infuence in his writings does not immediately show.
When it reIers to the contemplation oI God and the Iellowship oI
the saints as pertaining to the paradisal circumstances oI Adam,
Athanasian narrative echoes the classical quest Ior perIection as both
emulation oI the divine liIe by the philosopher and an experience that
takes place in the company oI other seekers oI holiness.
The relevance
oI this cultural parallel consists in that the philosophical quest undoubtedly
shaped the Christian liIestyle oI the monks in Egypt and Sinai,
Valantasis et al., Asceticism (New York: OxIord University Press, 1998) 127-
46 esp. 136-38. For a positive appraisal oI the Athanasian Adam see Brakke,
Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism 146-47.
See Golitzin, Recovering the 'Glory oI Adam` 275-308.
This double aspect is reIerred to within both passages considered here. CI.
Gent. 2.11-13,29-31 (Thomson 6).
See Dominic J. O`Meara, Platonopolis. Platonic Political Philosophv in Late
Antiquitv (OxIord: Clarendon Press, 2005) 32-34. I am grateIul to Mario Bag-
hos Ior this reIerence. Regarding the philosophical quest Ior a noble liIe, see
Pierre Hadot, Forms oI LiIe and Forms oI Discourse in Ancient Philosophy`
(trans. by A. I. Davidson and P. Wissing) Critical Enquirv 16:3 (1990) 483-505
esp. 493-96.
See e.g. Les Apophtegmes des Peres. Collection svstematique chapitres I-IX,
texte critique, traduction et notes par Jean-Claude Guy, S.J., Sources chre-
tiennes 387 (Paris: CerI, 2005) 7.6.2 at 338. See also, Irom the same timeIrame,
St Neilos the Ascetic, 111-12. For the useIulness oI 'abiding
and exercising in the company oI the virtuous ones (
), see St John Cassian, ,
in , vol. 1, 35-47, here (on grieI) at 43.
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the medium oI which, in turn, it must have conditioned the understanding
oI our Alexandrine Iather. It should not come as a surprise thereIore that
typical Ieatures oI the philosophical liIe could be traced within the portrayal
oI Adam in Gent. 2, very likely in the guise oI monastic asceticism, an
approach which we have discovered likewise in St Silouan. In Iact the
chapter oI interest is not the only text that shows St Athanasius borrowing
Irom the philosophical` tradition oI monasticism.
For instance, and as pointed out earlier, his depiction oI Adam
in Gent. anticipated the fgure oI the true Christian philosopher, i.e. the
saintly ascetic,
which he sketched in the vita oI St Antony the Great.

On monasticism as Christian exemplar oI the philosophical liIe, see Samuel
Rubenson, Christian Asceticism and the Emergence oI the Monastic Tradition`
and Bernard McGinn, Asceticism and Mysticism in Late Antiquity and the
Early Middle Ages` in ed. Wimbush, Valantasis et al., Asceticism 49-57, 58-74.
See also Henrik Rydell Johnsen, Renunciation, Reorientation and Guidance:
Patterns in Early Monasticism and Ancient Philosophy` Studia Patristica 55:3
(Leuven Paris Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2013) 79-94.
Athanase d`Alexandrie, Jie dAntoine, introduction, texte critique, traduction,
notes et index par G. J. M. Bartelink, Sources chretiennes 400 (Paris: CerI,
1994) 80.1-7 at 338-40. CI. Brakke, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism
253-65; Russell, The Doctrine of Deihcation 184; Urbano, 'Read It Also to
the Gentiles` 910-12.
For overviews oI the vita, see Brakke, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceti-
cism 201-65, with emphasis on the political` Athanasian reconstruction oI the
hermit`s legacy; Weinandy, Athanasius 129-32, where the hermit`s portrait is
interpreted in the light oI the New Adam, Christ; Behr, True God of True God
253-59, with emphasis on the incarnational` construction oI the Athanasian
spirituality oI the body; William A. Clebsch, PreIace` to Athanasius. The Life
of Antonv and the Letter to Marcellinus, trans. and intro. by Robert C. Gregg,
The Classics oI Western Spirituality (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980) xiii-xxi
esp. xiv-xviii, which takes the vita as mapping the trajectory oI holiness within
the context oI St Athanasius` Nicene theology; Robert C. Gregg, Introduction`
to Athanasius. The Life of Antonv and the Letter to Marcellinus 1-26 esp. 2-17,
emphasising the spirituality oI the Athanasian Antony, his rapports with Nicene
orthodoxy and the enduring legacy oI the vita. See Krawiec, Asceticism` 772,
Ior St Athanasius` interest in articulating a 'coherent ascetic ideology. For
the status quaestionis in Antonian scholarship, see J. William Harmless, SJ,
Monasticism` in ed. S. A. Harvey and D. G. Hunter, The Oxford Handbook
of Earlv Christian Studies (OxIord University Press, 2008) 493-517 esp. 498-
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Albeit the term philosopher` occurs only twice in the biography oI the
saintly hermit,
both times associated with paganism, the journey oI St
Antony Iollows the pattern oI a classic philosophical hagiography.
begin with, Abba Antony learnt Irom other ascetics the ways oI the virtuous
and then, through a sustained practice oI prayer and asceticism,

progressed to the point that he was able to keep his mind 'unshaken and
calm, undisturbed in its prayerIul Iocus upon God (cI.
Thus he reached a transfgured, deifed state and became a guide Ior
many disciples in the ways oI the desert.
When the saint emerged Irom
his Iortress aIter twenty years oI seclusion, he appeared to the witnesses as
an accomplished philosopher or rather like one that bears the marks oI Iull
initiation, whose depiction required the suggestive means oI the mysteric
These Ieatures oI the philosophical quest Ior holiness have
become commonplace in later monastic literature, beginning with St
Gregory oI Nyssa`s portrayal oI St Macrina as philosopher.
OI relevance
is that the portrait oI Adam in Gent. 2 proposes very similar traits, such as
the IoreIather`s purity () and his 'becoming Iree oI things sensible
and all bodily representation, together with his capacity to join his mind
Ant. 72.2, 80.5 (Bartelink 320, 338).
CI. Harmless, Monasticism` 498-99; Rapp, The origins oI hagiography`
119-20; Urbano, 'Read It Also to the Gentiles` 894-902.
Ant. 3.3-4.12-20 (Bartelink 136).
Ant. 3.1.6-8,5.20-24, 51.1.1-2 (Bartelink 136, 272).
Ant. 51.4.13-14, 51.5.18-20 (Bartelink 274). CI. Harmless, Desert Christians
90-93; Douglas Burton-Christie, The World in the Desert. Scripture and the
Quest for Holiness in Earlv Christian Monasticism (New York and OxIord:
OxIord University Press, 1993) 214-15.
Ant. 14.5-7.19-33 (Bartelink 174).
CI. , 'being mystically initiated and divinely-
inhabited. Ant. 14.2.6-7 (Bartelink 172).
CI. Urbano, 'Read It Also to the Gentiles` 894. See also Stavroula Con-
stantinou, Male Constructions oI Female Identities: Authority and Power
in the Byzantine Greek Lives oI Monastic Foundresses` in ed. Lioba Theis,
Margaret Mullett and Michael Grnbart et al., Female Founders in Bv:antium
and Bevond (Vienna: Bhlau, 2013) 43-62 esp. 43-44, 46, 48, and Morwenna
Ludlow, Macrina in LiIe and in Letters` in Gregorv of Nvssa, Ancient and
(Post)modern (New York: OxIord University Press, 2007) 202-19.
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with 'things in heaven, divine and intelligible.
In all likelihood, the
ascetic and prayerIul Antony is the paradigm that inspired the account on
the philosophical` Adam called to converse with God.
in reIerring to the same event oI St Antony`s exit Irom the Iortress the
Syriac version oI the vita depicts the hermit as possessed oI a countenance
like that oI an angel oI light.
In this regard, the Syriac rendition is even
more signifcant than the Greek account, given that it establishes a direct
rapport between the glorious portrayal oI St Antony and that oI Adam in
Gent. 2. It Iollows that Adam`s experience was construed one way or
the other in the light oI the desert liIe. But let us consider more closely
the implication oI St Athanasius that the paradisal experience, Iar Irom
unique, was reiterated in the lives oI the desert saints.
Meijering already proposed that the last sentence oI Gent. 2
represents a 'general statement that applies to any human being that
lives in the image oI God, not only Adam.
More precisely, in his words,
'Adam`s liIe and Iall in Paradise are treated as both historical and timeless
events: the Christian who realizes that his soul has been created in God`s
image can live in the same way as Adam beIore the Iall...
Thus, and to
Irame this idea within the passage under consideration, all human beings
who reach the purity oI the heart anytime and anywhere can see God
as Adam did, even as they make sense oI the adamic experience. In making
Gent. 2.17,19-21 (Thomson 6). See also Gent. 2.15-27 (Thomson 6), Ior the
broader Antonian` portrait oI Adam.
CI. Gent. 2.14-15 (Thomson 6).
CI. Tim Vivian, Introduction` to Athanasius oI Alexandria, The Life of Antonv
The Greek LiIe oI Antony, The Coptic LiIe oI Antony, and An Encomium
on Saint Antony bv John of Shmn, and A Letter to the Disciples oI Antony
bv Serapion of Thmuis, trans. by Tim Vivian and Apostolos N. Athanassakis,
with Rowan A. Greer, intro. by T. Vivian, preI. by Benedicta Ward, SLG, and
Ioreword by Rowan Williams, Cistercian Studies 202 (Kalamazoo, Michigan:
Cistercian Publications, 2003) xxii-lxvi here xxxix.
Meijering, Athanasius. Contra Gentes 20.
Meijering, Athanasius. Contra Gentes 19. Rubenson indirectly endorsed this
assessment in a recent essay on the Iormative purpose oI Apoph. See Samuel
Rubenson, The Formation and Re-Iormations oI the Sayings oI the Desert
Fathers` Studia Patristica 55:3 (cited above n.133) 5-22 esp. 19-22.
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explicit reIerence to Meijering`s point,
Behr rehearsed more recently
this very understanding. Nevertheless, he shiIted the interpretive scope by
developing the idea Irom the angle oI another work by our Alexandrine, !"
$%& '"()*")$+,". Thus he asserted that the actual theme oI St Athanasius was
Christ as an illustration oI what the proper human liIe is and not Adam as
a type oI the original liIe.
Whilst this proposition, which operates along
the lines oI the standard Adam-Christ typology, is certainly valid when
the chapter oI interest is considered in the light oI !" $%& '"()*")$+,", in
its immediate setting the text conveys a diIIerent message. We have seen
above that the point oI reIerence Ior the paradisal events, or what was
'Irom the beginning, is the experience oI (desert) saints like Antony,
'nowadays, or in the here and now.
OI course, the saints are such
through the grace oI the Lord, and it is very likely that within the economy
oI the chapter the identifcation oI the Logos oI God with the Saviour Jesus
points to both aspects, namely, that the saints reach perIection
in Christ and that the same Lord is the source oI the paradisal grace. That
being said, it is inescapable that Irom the outset St Athanasius placed the
entire discussion about Adam within a hagiographical, not christological,
context, and that he perceived the paradisal experience through the lens
oI the saints oI his own day.
This approach was shared by the monastic sources oI the time.
Indeed, apart Irom the variance in vocabulary, the message oI -&"$. 2
does not essentially diIIer Irom that oI the /0,0%., which take the exploit
oI one`s purifcation oI the heart as matching the adamic experience. For
instance, the systematic collection oI the desert sayings contains the story
oI a certain Abba Paul who was able to handle asps and scorpions. When
asked by some monks how did that grace come to him, he answered,
'Forgive me, Iathers. II one would acquire purity () all things
would be submitted to him as they were to Adam in paradise (
CI. Behr, 1*2& -,3 ,4 1*2& -,3 174.
CI. ibidem.
-&"$. 2.1 (Thomson 4).
-&"$. 2.7-8 (Thomson 6).
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) beIore he disobeyed the commandment.
explanation oIIered by Abba Paul corresponds to the reIerence in our text
to the 'purity oI the soul that leads to the vision oI God.
This is but
one example that might have determined the great Alexandrine to read the
paradise narrative post hoc through the lens oI the desert experience.
Furthermore, it is very likely due to such reIerences to Adam in the desert
tradition, and possibly its older sources, that St Athanasius Ielt no need
to provide clarifcations regarding his interpretation oI the IoreIather as a
saint and as living in Iellowship with the saints. He believed his reader to
have been Iully acquainted with this interpretation. As a matter oI Iact, the
tradition oI considering Adam a saint whose liIe epitomised the experience
oI holiness was very strong within the monastic milieus oI Egypt, some
oI the desert ascetics, like Abba Pambo, being likened by the alphabetic
collection oI the Apoph. to both Adam and Moses.
They said oI the Iace oI Abba Pambo that it was glorifed ()
as much as Moses` when he |the latter| received the image oI
Adam`s glory ( ). In the same way the Iace oI
Abba Pambo radiated like a lightening ( ) and
he was like an emperor sitting on his throne. Abba Silvanus and
Abba Sisoes experienced a similar |divine| working
The passage displays the same light` imagery pertaining to the glorious
portrayal oI Adam in St Athanasius, which we already noticed in the
articulation oI holiness by St Cyril, St Gregory and St Silouan. Golitzin
dealt with this very passage within his analysis oI a range oI apocalyptic
Les Apophtegmes des Peres. Collection svstematique chapitres XJII-XXI, texte
critique, traduction et notes par Jean-Claude Guy, S.J., Sources chretiennes
498 (Paris: CerI, 2005) 19.15.7-10 at 150. This story about Abba Paul Ieatures
identically in the alphabetic collection. CI. Apoph. Paul 1 (PG 65, 381A).
Gent. 2.32-33 (Thomson 6).
Lit. 'were oI the same working.
Apoph. Pambo 12 (PG 65, 372A). CI. Pambo 1 (PG 65, 368BC). For relevant
passages on the other two ascetics mentioned in the text, see Sisoes 14 (PG
65, 396BC) and Silvanus 12 (PG 65, 412C). See also Joseph oI Panephysis 6
and 7 (PG 65, 229CD).
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texts in the spiritual tradition oI the Iourth century,
oI which I retain the
reIerence to the glory oI Adam that was retrieved not only in Christ but
also by his saints.
I shall not venture into commenting on the content
oI the experience articulated by the above passage and its parallels in
the Apoph., other than by pointing to the angelic Iace oI St Antony in
the Syriac vita, reIerred to above, as a possible correspondent.
matters here is that the adamic portrayal oI Abba Pambo complements the
interpretation oI the paradise narrative in St Athanasius. In establishing
the deiIying experiences oI Adam, Moses, Pambo, Silvanus and Sisoes
as identical, the passage in the Apoph. makes plain, as much as Ant., the
extent to which St Athanasius drew on the desert tradition to interpret
the paradise narrative as signiIying the experience oI holiness in Gent. 2.
To conclude this section, the similarities discussed above in terms
oI Adam`s appraisal as a saint, together with the grammatical plays oI
singulars and plurals, allow one to saIely inIer that in his interpretation oI
the paradise narrative St Cyril drew Irom St Athanasius, who borrowed, in
turn, Irom the desert tradition. This literary aIfliation cannot be ignored
although none oI the passages discussed within this section deals with the
breath oI liIe, instead Iocusing on the theme oI image and likeness. For
both St Cyril and his sources, Adam achieved perIection, at least up until
some point, like any other saintly philosopher or ascetic oI the desert.
Furthermore, through the intermediary oI St Cyril this Iourth century,
Athanasian and monastic perception oI Adam as a holy man reached the
Athonite tradition, thus contributing to the Palamite articulation oI the
Golitzin, Heavenly Mysteries` 179-80. See also idem, 'The Demons Suggest
an Illusion oI God`s Glory in a Form` 34-35. For a similar occurrence in the
Macarian Homilies, see idem, Recovering the 'Glory oI Adam: Divine Light
Traditions` 280 and idem, 'The Demons Suggest an Illusion oI God`s Glory
in a Form` 38-42.
CI. Golitzin, Heavenly Mysteries` 179; idem, Recovering the 'Glory oI
Adam` 301.
A possible indication as to what the angelic Iace oI St Antony could have looked
like appears to be given, indirectly, by Abba Sisoes. CI. Les Apophtegmes des
Peres. Collection svstematique chapitres X-XJI, texte critique, traduction et
notes par Jean-Claude Guy, S.J., Sources chretiennes 474 (Paris: CerI, 2003)
15.62 at 326-28.
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adamic experience as typically hesychastic and through the latter, possibly,
infuenced St Silouan`s appraisal oI Adam as saint. In Iact, any Athonite
monk could have taken St Athanasius` reIerence to Adam as 'brought into
being in order to see God and be enlightened by him (
as integral to the hesychast or
philokalic patrimony. I conclude this section by singling out, once again,
the very signifcant contribution oI St Athanasius, who interpreted the
adamic experience as having unIolded in the company oI the saints an
interpretation which seems to have taken the paradise narrative primarily
as a parable oI the spiritual liIe in the desert.
!"#$%&'(#) +,-./01
The patristic texts reviewed above show the existence oI an interpretive
strand within the ecclesial tradition, according to which, whilst indeed
supernatural, the paradisal experience oI Adam was by no means unique
and exceptional. We have seen that St Athanasius and the !"#$%&' )*
+,- ."+,-/', St Cyril and St Gregory Palamas, and fnally the modern
hesychast St Silouan the Athonite, perceived the paradise narrative
primarily as reporting on the maximal achievement oI humanity in the
spiritual journey, namely, the experience oI holiness or deifcation through
virtuous perIection and divine participation an experience available
to each and everyone who takes this path. OI course, none oI the texts
examined above advances the hypothesis that what we read in Genesis is
not the history oI the frst human being; nevertheless, they all approach
Genesis primarily as a hagiographic piece or a metaphorical account oI
the hesychast experience, which so rendered stimulates in the readers
the yearning Ior this same experience. True, one oI these texts displays
the bewildering perspective oI Adam as having achieved holiness in the
company oI other saints and that only by cultivating their Iellowship could
have the ancestor progressed on the path oI godly liIe. The Athanasian
passage in question is the only one that I know oI, within mainstream
0-%+. 7.27-28 (Thomson 18). For a brieI synopsis oI this Ieature in Athanasian
anthropology, see . , ,
, (: , 1990) 266.
Phronema 2 2014 inside.indd 217 1/09/2014 11:26 am
!"#$%& ()*+,-&&. !/0),+/- #," !*-1#,"2+,- 3-24-5/+),&
tradition, to address the paradisal experience in this sense. What matters
here, however, is that this interpretive strand allows one to read Genesis
in particular and the Scriptures in general as constituting a narrative about
God`s people and not the origins and the historical trajectory oI humankind
a narrative, to echo the argument oI Rapp, that aims less at providing
the readers with accurate data about the past and more at enticing them
to reiterate the same experience.
We have discovered, Iurthermore, that none oI the Iathers reviewed
above Ielt the need to justiIy their respective constructs oI Adam as a holy
person. This tacit consensus oI the Alexandrian and the Athonite saints
points to the existence oI an established tradition (oI which one fnds more
in the contributions oI Golitzin, Brakke and Gasparro, to which I reIerred
in this study), even though, as noted Irom the outset, this tradition never
reached prominence within the Church. In Iact, one might wonder as to
the reasons Ior which this approach remained, as it does today, marginal
within the ecclesial milieus. I propose that this interpretation must have
been subject to the disciplina arcani, being prevented Irom becoming
widespread given the possibility oI its misreading outside the tradition oI
the saints. Another way oI addressing this matter is by considering both
the authors and the targeted readership oI the analysed passages. More
precisely, these texts have been written within various monastic circles
(e.g. the Savings of the Fathers, St Gregory, St Silouan) or by authors under
their infuence (e.g. St Athanasius, St Cyril), being destined as readings
mainly iI not exclusively Ior such environments. One thing is clear though,
namely, all these passages are pervaded by a common thread that oI
holiness as the theme oI both authors and readers. Holiness, precisely,
was the ultimate criterion in the exegesis oI the paradise narrative in the
Alexandrian and the Athonite traditions, which makes unavoidable the
conclusion that whilst unveiling a diIIerent portrait oI Adam, namely as a
holy man instead oI a wretched sinner, the analysed texts reveal something
Iundamental about the character oI their authors. Only saintly persons can
ultimately read the story oI Adam as a report on holiness.
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