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Reading: Human Souls as Consubstantial Sons of God: The Heterodox Anthropology of Leontius of Jerusalem


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Human Souls as Consubstantial Sons of God: The Heterodox Anthropology of Leontius of Jerusalem


Dirk Krausmüller


In his treatise Contra Nestorianos Leontius of Jerusalem refers to the human soul as “divine inbreathing”, which he understands as a consubstantial emanation from God. This paper argues that Leontius was confronted with the Nestorian claim that a composition between an uncreated and a created entity is impossible and that he refuted this claim by arguing that the soul is divine and that the composition of a human soul with a human body is therefore a strict parallel for the incarnation. One of Leontius’ starting points was the traditional view that Adam’s soul was endowed with the Holy Spirit and not merely with a derivative grace. This model had the advantage that it located “God” in the human being but the disadvantage that this presence remained extrinsic to the human compound. To make it function as a precedent for the Incarnation Leontius substituted the Son for the Spirit and reduced the human nature to the body thereby indicating that the soul must be equated with the divine Son. In order to distinguish the case of Christ from that of Adam and other human beings he employed the Biblical motif of the “pledge”, which was traditionally used to contrast the partial spiritual endowment of the believers in this world with their complete spiritual endowment in the world to come but which he now applied to Adam and Christ. This permitted him to claim that in Adam the Son was only partially present while in Christ he was present completely. Thus he conceptualised the Incarnation not as the composition of the divine Word with a human nature consisting of body and soul but as a composition of the divine Word as soul and a human body. Consequently the divine component of traditional Christology could no longer be given a satisfactory role in the salvation of humankind. One reason for this shift, it is argued in this paper, was a too great dependence on the conceptual framework of his Nestorian opponent whose focus had been on the endowment of the human being Jesus with the Holy Spirit, who thus assumed a crucial role in the incarnation. Leontius accepted this framework as well as the Nestorian custom to see the difference between the Spirit in Jesus and the Spirit in other human beings in quantitative terms, and merely modified it by identifying the Holy Spirit with the Son on the one hand and with the soul on the other. However, it is suggested in this paper, Leontius may have believed in the divinity and timelessness of the soul independently of his Nestorian opponent. His interpretation of Philippians 2:6-7 suggests that he was a latter-day Origenist who could express his ideas more freely than his forebears because the political circumstances of the early seventh century made enforcement of orthodoxy impossible in the Eastern provinces.
How to Cite: Krausmüller, D., 2010. Human Souls as Consubstantial Sons of God: The Heterodox Anthropology of Leontius of Jerusalem. Journal for Late Antique Religion and Culture, 4, pp.43–67. DOI:
Published on 15 Dec 2010.
Peer Reviewed


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