Anthropomorphism

ANTHROPOMORPHISM

The that God possesses a bodily form like that of human beings. The belief derives from a literal reading of the many references to the eyes, face, and hands of God.

This seems to have been widely held by the monks of Egypt in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. THEOPHILUS, patriarch of Alexandria (385-412), refuted this belief in his letter of 399 and aroused a great deal of resentment among the monks. It is not clear how widespread the anthropomorphite beliefs were. John Cassian’s account (Collationes 10.2ff.) indicates that the majority of the monks in SCETIS (Wadi al-Natrun) were anthropomorphites. Sozomen ( ecclesiastica 8.11) states that a delegation of angry, threatening monks visited Theophilus, who did not retract his criticism of anthropomorphism but accommodated the monks by condemning Origenism and attacking suspected Origenist monks.

The Audians, a fourth-century anthropomorphite sect, were condemned and exiled to Scythia by Constantine. It is not clear whether there is any connection between the Audians of Syria and the anthropomorphite monks of Egypt. The Egyptian monks suffered no persecution for their beliefs, perhaps because of their numerical strength.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Augustine. De haeresibus. In PL 42, cols. 21-50. Paris, 1841. See sec. 50.76.
  • Drioton, E. “La discussion d’un moine anthropomorphite audien avec le patriarche Théophile d’Alexandrie en année 399.” Revue de l’Orient chrétien 20 (1915/1917):92-100, 113-32.
  • Gennadius. de scriptoribus ecclesiasticis. In PL 58, cols. 1059-1120. Paris, 1847. See sec. 34.
  • Orlandi, T. “Il dossiere di Agatonico di Tarso: Studio letterario e storico.” In Studies Presented to Hans Jacob Polotsky, ed. D. W. Young, pp. 269-99. East Gloucester, Mass., 1981.

JANET TIMBIE