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Book Review

 

St. Athanasius: On the Incarnation

With an Introduction by C. S. Lewis

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Tell others about Jesus like Athanasius of Alexandria did:

 Though we are not all called to the ministry of a Pastor or Christian Writer, we are all called by God to share our faith (witness) with those who are not Christians.  Some Bible verses that you will find helpful for doing this, and that you may want to commit to memory are found on other pages on our  web site (see: Memory Verses; 2nd Set: Salvation!, Plan of Salvation, and Statement of Faith). ______________

Popular Patristics Series

C. S. Lewis' Introduction 1944 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd.  All Rights Reserved.

Published by: St Vladimir's Seminary Press _____________

 

Author: Athanasius of Alexandria

(Probably written before 313 A.D.)

St. Athanasius Contra Mundum (Against the World)

"This is a good translation of a very great book...St. Athanasius stood contra mundum for the Trinitarian doctrine, "whole and undefiled," when it looked as if all the civilized world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius---one of those "sensible," synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which then, as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. 

"I soon discovered I was reading a masterpiece..."  

-C. S. Lewis 

It is the glory of St. Athanasius that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away.

When I first opened his De Incarnatione I soon discovered I was reading a masterpiece...for only a mastermind could have written so deeply on a subject with such classical simplicity.

-from the Introduction by C. S. Lewis ______________________________

Our Comments:

This is an amazing little book in so many ways.   

Written probably before 313 A.D. by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, it is translated and edited by a member of a Roman Catholic Religious Order, has an introduction written by the Anglican C. S. Lewis, and is published by an Orthodox Seminary!

On the Interpretation of the Psalms

We quite frankly bought it for the Appendix: The Letter of St. Athanasius to Marcellinus On the Interpretation of the Psalms.  This is a twenty-one and one-half page letter from Athanasius to Marcellinus on the Psalms (you can read a 3-page excerpt of Athanasius' Letter on our page: Athanasius: Praying the Psalms).  This is so excellent, and so "in-depth" that we will be reading it over and over, and using it as a reference work.  Athanasius even throws in a translation of Psalm 151 from the Septuagint (the Jewish Rabbis pre-Christian translation of the Old Testament into Greek).  Psalm 151 isn't one of the 150 Psalms of Holy Scripture, but it purports to be a Psalm of David that tells of his battle with Goliath.

An Introduction by C. S. Lewis

"Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books.  But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old...

...It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one until you have read an old one in between.  If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one for every three new ones." 

-C. S. Lewis

This is also by itself worth getting the book.  Not only does C. S. Lewis talk about Athanasius' work, and what a genius he was as a Christian writer in explaining the most important teachings of the Christian faith; (high praise indeed, considering the source); those dealing with the nature and work of Christ, but Lewis also gives us his thoughts on reading old classics in general and his thoughts on everything from Plato and Xenophon to Thomas Aquinas, H. G. Wells, Karl Barth, and even Roosevelt and Hitler!  What a mind!  What a joy to read! ______________________________

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Translator's Preface

"...the modern reader should approach the mystery of Christ as St. Athanasius did, 'not as a theologian, but as a believing soul in need of a Saviour.' "

The Life of St. Athanasius

Those interested in Christian History (like us) will greatly enjoy the short summary of Athanasius' life and times: how he was present at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. (Nicene Creed); how he was banished several times during the great persecution of the Church by some of the still-pagan Roman Emperors. 

How he was several times re-instated as Bishop of Alexandria; his fight against the Arian heresy's attempted takeover of the Church, and how Athanasius met Antony of the Desert ("the first monk"--that's what he's called, but he wasn't, really) and wrote the story of his life in another book (Life of St. Antony) that inspired European monasticism, and especially Irish Celtic monasticism.  

Then there's the story of how Athanasius took the first two monks to Rome ever to go there (up until that time Rome had no interest in monasticism), and laid the groundwork for the later inspiration of Benedict of Nursia who would live in a cave, found the monastery of Monte Cassino, the oldest continuously inhabited monastery in Europe, and become the author of The Rule of St. Benedict.

On the Incarnation

Oh yes, and if all that weren't enough, we also have the little book that Athanasius wrote, On the Incarnation.  It is basic Christianity, or as C. S. Lewis would say, mere Christianity, and covers such subjects as:

  • The Creation and the Fall

  • The Divine Dilemma and its Solution in the Incarnation

  • The Death of Christ

  • The Resurrection 

  • Refutation of the Jews

  • Refutation of the Gentiles

How wonderful it is to see how Christ-centered and Bible-believing the Christians of the fourth century (300's A.D.) were.

Suffering some of the most extreme persecution in all of history, they are an inspiring example to we who are believers today.

-The Prayer Foundation __________________________________

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