The Theological Anthropology of Eustathius of Antioch

Reddit icon
e-mail icon
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Google icon
LinkedIn icon
Sophie Cartwright
Oxford Early Christian Studies
  • New York, NY: 
    Oxford University Press
    , December
     294 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


All ancient thinkers of note need corresponding contemporary scholarly works which present their thought and significance both systematically and contextually. For Eustathius of Antioch, this is that book. Author Sophie Cartwright stands at the forefront of centuries of scholarship in which, despite Eustathius’s centrality for understanding the politics of the early fourth century’s Arian controversy, he has escaped careful scrutiny. Eustathius has become increasingly important since the ascription of the Ariomanitas to him. Cartwright proposes to fill this gap by tracing the threads connecting Eustathius to both Origenism and Irenaeus’s thought. Posting her coordinates relative to José Declerck’s recent edition of Eustathius’ work, Cartwright sets a course to remap via Eustathius’s “vision of humankind in history,” the theological environment of the Arian controversy, and “the tumultuous theological, philosophical, and political environment of the early-fourth century Roman Empire” (9).

Chapter 1 is a reassessment of Eustathius’s life and episcopal career. Entrenched in the dissonant scholarly fracas surrounding key dates in Eustathius’s life, Cartwright carves out space for her contribution by uniquely dating Eustathius’ episcopacy from early 324 to 327 CE, and possibly into early 328, and she has good reasons to do so—numerous texts and dates figure in establishing this timeframe—which casts Eustathius as a competing bishop to Paulinus. Cartwright credits Eustathius’s deposition to various factors surrounding Helen’s eastern visit in 327 and to the Queen Mother’s possessing a pro-Arian proclivity herself. Finally, Cartwright dates Eustathius’s death to before 337—some ancient authors have him active as late as the 370s. Her portrait of Eustathius’s life is one of a Christian leader optimistically entering the “brave new world” of the early 320s before being exiled in 327—his optimism perhaps crushed under the weight of Constantine’s politics.

Cartwright’s second obligatory chapter outlines Eustathius’s largely fragmentary corpus which, for Cartwright, number twelve extant writings, and includes her introduction to the provenance and textual issues attached to each. The most space here is afforded the Ariomanitas, an important text in understanding Eustathius’s anthropological-Christological problems with “Arianism.” In introducing Engastrimytho, Cartwright makes the crucial point that Eustathius’s writing against Origen was not motivated by Origen’s exegetical method, a postulate which makes sense given Eustathius’s both building upon and departing from Origenian exegesis. Cartwright further establishes that Eustathius’s “profound” concern with Christ’s full humanity predated the Arian controversy; this means that, rather than an anti-Arian polemic, Eustathius’s Christology was actually a preexistent doctrine that he deployed in argument. It also means that Cartwright has found in Eustathius’s anthropological concerns “a unifying theme across Engastrimytho and his anti-Arian works” (74)—a theme substantial enough to fill a book.

Chapter 3 discusses Eustathius’s conception of the soul, which is redolent of philosophical language and engages both Peripatetic thought and various late antique permutations of Platonism. Eustathius’s rejects explicitly the Platonic configurations that detach the soul from the body, and this lengthy chapter explores various angles of Eusthatius’s “holistic psychophysical account of the human being as body and soul” (138), which includes discussion of transmigration, resurrection, and embodiment. Eustathius often rejects/attacks Eusebius’s and Origen’s anthropology, which denigrates embodiment, although Eustathius then uses Origen’s Christology (and even components of his anthropology) to make the point that the soul is human—Eustathius is intricately Origenist and anti-Origenist at once. Eustathius’s anthropology is thus, deeply engaged with the Christian Platonism of his day, and his Aristotelian bent within that Platonism produces a unique contribution to fourth-century Christian anthropological discourse. Chapter 4 charts Eustathius’s sometimes paradoxical idea of the “Image of God,” in which he finds various levels of common ground with Irenaeus, Origen, Methodius, and Marcellus of Ancyra. Cartwright argues that Eutathius radically separates divine and human ontology, but maintains that the body is integral to human being’s “images” of God—he calls Adam a “statue of God” and insists that Christ, inasmuch as he is an “image” of God, is a physical image. Inasmuch as human beings are “conformed to Christ’s image,”—per Paul—Eustathius’s “image theology” has serious soteriological implications.

Chapter 5 treats the soteriology to which the previous chapter brings attention. Eustathius’s is a worldview in which humans are complicit in the catastrophic fall that accompanied Adam’s sin, although the Devil is also responsible for human sin. This led to a state of affairs in which the Devil is a tyrant over humanity, a tyrant who must be overthrown by a human. Predictably, for Eustathius that human is Christ, and the redemption of the world—and individuals—involves Christ’s overthrowing the Devil’s kingship. All of this is, moreover, for Cartwright parallels imperial power relations which contextualize Eustathius’s thinking, even if he did not intend “an extended and explicit analogy” between imperial power and the power of the Devil, likely adopted “conceptual resources for his writing about the devil’s power” from his experience of imperial authority (183). Chapter 6 naturally extends the discussion to Eustathius’s eschatology. Eustathius’s eschatology as much as anything else shows him negotiating both Irenaean and Origenian thought-worlds: from bits of Eustathius’s exegesis Cartwright pieces together an eschatology, emphasizing the human aspect of Christ’s coming reign on earth in God’s Kingdom, a re-reality both continuous with and distinct from the “fallen” history that precedes it. Cartwright also sees in the anthropological tone of Eustathius’s eschatology a political element betraying “an eschatology negotiating the treacherous waters of the Constantinian revolution” (238), where the “Christian future” became an unstable battleground. A short conclusion then ends the book.

Cartwright’s book offers a thorough introduction to Eustathius by focusing on his anthropology. She also shows that understanding Eustathius is integral to understanding the early Arian controversy and the fourth century’s related “Origenist” controversy, as well as Christian thinking surrounding Constantine’s novel involvement with the Church. The density of Cartwright’s analysis in showing these things makes the book appropriate for specialists. Moreover, it should be noted that while Cartwright’s work is textually derived, the texts with which she works are predominantly partial: epitomes, fragments, or filled with lacunae. Nevertheless, she has filled an important scholarly void in producing the most complete, and a quite reasonable, treatment of an important thinker whom scholarship can hardly ignore.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Carson Bay is a doctoral candidate in Religions of Western Antiquity at Florida State University.

Date of Review: 
May 10, 2017
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Sophie Cartwright is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Heythrop College, London.

Add New Comment

Reading Religion welcomes comments from AAR members, and you may leave a comment below by logging in with your AAR Member ID and password. Please read our policy on commenting.

Log in to post comments