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The Context of Augustine's Early Theology of the Imago Dei

BOERSMA, GERALD,PETER (2013) The Context of Augustine's Early Theology of the Imago Dei. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Abstract: The Context of Augustine’s Early Theology of the Imago Dei
Gerald Peter Boersma

This thesis engages with Augustine’s early thought to analyze what sources influenced and shaped the African Doctor’s initial theology of the imago dei and allowed him to affirm the “image of God” of both Christ and the human person. My thesis is attentive to two significant sources of influence. First, I argue that Augustine’s early theology of image builds on that of Hilary of Poitiers, Marius Victorinus, and Ambrose of Milan. Latin pro-Nicene theology was committed to an articulation of the “image of God” that was aligned with the doctrine of the homoousion. Defenders of the Nicene cause considered anathema any expression of “image of God” that suggested that as image Christ was secondary, subordinate, or different from his source in substance. Latin pro-Nicene theology could envision the imago dei only as equality with God. Unsurprisingly, therefore, it was difficult for such theology to link the imago dei with the notion that the human person was created in the image of God.

The second significant source of influence on Augustine’s early theology of the imago dei is a Plotinian philosophical conception of the world. At the heart of Plotinus’s cosmogony and metaphysics lies a philosophy of image. In this framework, an image is derived, revelatory, and, ultimately, ordered to return to its primary source. By definition, this conception of an image entails subordination and is ideally suited to articulate the human person as imago dei.

The genius of Augustine’s theology, evident already clearly in his early writings, is his synthesis of these two influences. By drawing on Plotinian thought, Augustine articulates a theology of the imago dei that had eluded his Latin pro-Nicene predecessors. My thesis suggests that this achievement was the result of Augustine’s early deep engagement with Plotinian philosophy.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Augustine, image of God, Plotinus, Ambrose, Hilary, Victorinus
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:27 Jan 2014 09:57

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