Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 463
The sun veiled his face, the earth quaked, the mountains were rent asunder, all men were stricken with awe. These things showed that Christ on the cross was God, and that all creation was His slave and was bearing witness by its fear to the presence of its Master.
Athanasius clung strongly to the idea that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine, entering squarely into debates swirling at the time about the nature of Jesus' divinity. Against those, like the Arianians, who described Jesus as a "creature" created by God, Athanasius asserted that Jesus was "begotten," rather than made as a creature, and was of one and the same substance as God the father. These may seem like fine points to us, but they were important in establishing the divinity of Jesus. In the above quote, Athanasius argues that although Jesus was fully human in dying on the cross, there is gospel testimony pointing to him being simultaneously divine, such as that the sun and the earth itself (both part of creation) show awe at his death. Jesus was not just the son of God, but also a part of God himself.
Some may then ask, why did He not manifest Himself by means of other and nobler parts of creation, and use some nobler instrument, such as sun or moon or stars or fire or air, instead of mere man? The answer is this. The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men.
In the above quote, Athanasius responds to critics who attacked him for asserting that Jesus was divine. He has been asked if Jesus were so divine, why didn't he come to earth dazzling people as a powerful god? Athanasius replies that Jesus' purpose was not to dazzle but was more profound: he came to heal and teach suffering people and needed to do so in a form to which people could relate.
to be manifested according as they could bear it, not vitiating the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.
Finishing the thought above, Athanasius argues that Jesus came to earth as a humble person because that was what humans could bear too see. If Jesus had come too much as a divinity it would have vitiated (weakened) the human ability to receive what he had to say.
Christ was made man that we might be made God.
Athanasius makes a bold claim in the statement above. If Jesus, who was wholly human (along with being divine) could be divine, so can all creatures who are wholly human (all of us) if we follow in Jesus' footsteps. This has come to mean in Christian theology that we too can achieve eternal life.