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On the Incarnation

(Popular Patristics Series #44)

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  10,367 ratings  ·  662 reviews
A universally acknowledged masterpiece of fourth-century patristic theology. As C. S. Lewis observes in his introduction: "When I first opened De Incarnatione I soon discovered by a very simple test that I was reading a masterpiece, for only a master mind could have written so deeply on such a subject with such classical simplicity." ...more
Paperback, 120 pages
Published June 28th 1977 by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press (first published 318)
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Bill Kerwin
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I was pleased to find On the Incarnation remarkably fresh and engaging, still fierce and still passionate too. Such is rarely the case with works of theology, particularly when orthodoxy has robbed them even of the novelty of heresy, for dry-as-dust disquisitions on settled questions often summon our slumber, not our thoughts. But this work is an exception, for the intellect, honesty, and force of personality of St. Athanasius of Alexandria still blaze like a beacon after more than seventeen hun
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Just checking, and yup - St Athanasius is still my FAVOURITE Church Father.


(Review originally posted on Vintage Novels)

Sometime in the 290s was born a child whose stature in the annals of history would far outstrip his physical stature. In his day, he was known as The Black Dwarf, and to the heretic Arius, his lifelong nemesis, probably something even less sensitive. St Athanasius of Alexandria is known most famously, of course, for standing contra mundum (against the world)--for standing up f
Lewis's Preface/Introduction (available here) also appears in God in the Dock under the title "On the Reading of Old Books" (title given by Walter Hooper). I read this short preface on June 12, 2018, but I had heard much of it already. I teach Lewis's preface in ENGL 102.

Lewis's Preface
9: Humility can lead you astray if you think that you're not smart enough to read old books. Older books ("firsthand knowledge") are often better and more delightful than modern books about old books ("secondhand
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful book!

I am currently studying and preaching through the Gospel of John, and have given 35 sermons on the gospel that clearly declares the deity of Jesus Christ. After seeing a couple of my GR friends had read or reading this (Nick and Bill), I thought that this little book would fit perfectly into my personal study of the fourth gospel.

On the whole, Anathasius does an admirable job of explaining why God had to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth so that sinful man could be redee
I am not giving this book a rating because the subject of this book can get very complex.

I will admit after reading this book, I have some knots in my brain.
A tiny volume but incredibly powerful.
The 7-page introduction by C.S. Lewis is worth the price of this book alone. He describes a propensity in students to seek out books about a classic work instead of reading the work itself. I am so guilty of this myself I almost winced. To use Lewis's own example, it seems much easier to read a book about Plato's philosophy than it does to actually read the Symposium. And yet the very thing that makes the Symposium so worth reading is that it continues to co
Joseph Louthan
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, favorites
Am I giving this extra stars because it was written in the 4th century and thus, getting some sort of extra credit for a very readable translation? Perhaps.

But it is what it is and what it is, is this: a simple, wonderful, foundational, Biblically-doctrinal book of great importance.

Easy to read.

Thick with Biblical truth.

Glorifies Christ in the highest.

I read this at the same time as Advent and I can't think of a better book to read during the holidays.

There is a lot of books that Christians sho
Carol Bakker
2020: five stars

Death is no longer terrible.

I want to read this every Advent for the rest of my life. It is a gem of an essay bookended by C.S. Lewis's impeccable introduction and Athanasius's letter about interpreting the psalms, both of which are worth the price of the book.

Like Handel's Messiah, On the Incarnation develops a full-orbed view of the life and death of Christ. It truly is comfort and joy. Someone I love just received a terminal diagnosis. Reading this book in this season gave me
Classic reverie
I found Athanasius of Alexandria case for Christ in his Incarnation extremely well thought and convincing. Spiritually awakening!💖
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A breath of fresh air from our 4th century Father amidst a theologically turbulent and culturally hostile time--a letter I find myself reading over and over again.

For Athanasius, soteriology appears less forensic in nature, but more ontological. The incarnation is primarily concerned with the entrance of corruptibility in human nature rather than humanity’s sin guilt. A reminder to present-day evangelicals who are preoccupied with cross-centric penal atonement, when it is the entirety of Christ
Becky Pliego
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. From the introduction by C.S. Lewis to the appendix, this book is a jewel.
Samuel Parkison
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's frankly embarrassing to admit how little I've read from the Patristics directly. This is the first time I've read Athanasius, "On the Incarnation," and wow, what have I been doing with my life??

What I found most striking about this little work is clear Athanasius is. Somehow, I've been led to believe that the early Church Fathers are too cryptic and mysterious for modern readers to understand (I don't know where I got that idea, so there's no one to blame but myself), but Athanasius writes
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
Athanasius, a 4th century Christian, wrote this as a long letter to a recent convert to help him understand Christ's Incarnation. It is ripe with orthodox Christian doctrine, and one of the more powerful sections of the book is how he ties the passage in 1 Cor. 15:55 (O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?) to the martyrdom of the early Christian church. That in Christ's conquest of death, He not only provided reconciliation with the Father, culminating in eternal life, bu ...more
Feb 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read this book with others in a lunchtime discussion group. Our meetings were led by a local Orthodox minister.

This book, at first glance, is easier to read than you might expect. The sentences (a translation from Greek) are in simple structures. The vocabulary is fairly ordinary, and the chapters are short - but the content goes much, much deeper.

This book is a logical, reasoned proof for the incarnation of the Creator God in the person of Jesus Christ. Athanasius moves through the objections
Mark Rizk Farag
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
The first half was excellent. Athanasius dedicated a lot of time to (in relatively simple terms) explain the narrative and internal logic of Christianity, which is still highly relevant today and elucidates a lot of of common misconceptions about Christianity. I loved this first half, which used simple but effusive language and actually learned a lot. Athanasius was like the kind, passionate, engaging teacher many of us had in school.

The second half took a strange turn. Athanasius transformed f
David Harris
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: patristics, theology
In the fourth century work, On the Incarnation, Athanasius' defense of Christ's advent encompasses a much broader scope than a surface level brush with the title may suggest. The book is not limited to the event of the incarnation, but ties this to the story of Scripture - the story of redemption. Creation, fall, and revelation through law and prophets are all explored in reference to the Word’s appearing in flesh, and his life, death and resurrection. There are three themes, or lines of defense ...more
Matt Pitts
This was at least my second time through and I definitely enjoyed and appreciated it more this time around. Five stars.

Previous review: The introduction by C.S. Lewis is superb. The treatise by Athanasius is not merely about the incarnation but also the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is followed by an appendix where Athanasius recounts wise counsel he received about reading the psalms. All three are worth reading. Four stars.
James Bunyan
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you think modern man is smarter than our fathers, read this and you shall be put right. Fantastic little book.
C. S. Lewis had it right in his introduction to this spiritual classic dating from the 4th century. He pointed out how our fear causes us to shy away from reading these classics directly and instead we read commentaries on them and what other people "think" they mean. According to Lewis, "It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more ...more
Patrick Williams
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding! Athanasius wrote "On the Incarnation" to explain why Christ became a human (thus,it was the earliest writing we have soley dedicated to answer this question - it is like Anselm's "Cur Deo Homo" but about 700 years earlier!). Athansius explains that humans fell into death, through sin, because of the deception of the devil. God, who loves humankind, could not idly sit by and watch His creation crumble and be subject to the bondage of death so He sent His son, to become a human, and t ...more
Aaron Ventura
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Always interesting to read books this old. I enjoyed it.

*Read again in January 2020
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal. This is a must read for every Christian!
George P.
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There are three good reasons to read this edition of Athanasius’On the Incarnation.

First, the Introduction by C. S. Lewis is worth the price of the book. “There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by professionals,” he writes, “and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books.” He goes on to give reasons why that “strange idea” is a mistake, as well as to make the case for the importance of reading old books. “The only palliative
Sarah Myers
Jan 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Every Christian
I cannot speak highly enough of this great work on the Incarnation of Christ. The doctrine and the mystery of Word become flesh, God become man, and Creator taking the form of His creation to restore it unto Himself is presented by Athanasius in a form that is short, direct, and overflowing with insight conveyed in simple language.

"Now, Macarius, true lover of Christ, we must take a step further in the faith of our holy religion, and consider also the Word's becoming Man and His divine Appearin
Dan Glover
[Just read for the 2nd time (Sept. 2017) and liked it even more this time around. This is a clear, concise, and often quite beautiful defense and explanation of the Word/Son of God taking on flesh for the salvation of fallen humanity. Athanasius makes it clear why this had to happen and why salvation could only happen in the way it did, accomplished by God incarnate and no other.]

C.S. Lewis's introductory essay on the reading of old books is excellent and worth the price of this little book sev
Daniel Wright
Frankly, for a C. S. Lewis fan, this was edition was worth buying just for his introduction. His essay expounds on the difficulties of approaching ancient texts generally with his customary acuity.

As for Athanasius himself, well, there's no denying that his whole way of thinking and approach to argument are unfamiliar to modern readers. If you want to learn about the Incarnation on your own level, then look elsewhere. But then you risk, as Lewis points out, losing your historic grounding, becomi
Amy Hughes
I think this is my third time through but Athanasius never ceases to amaze with his clarity and pinpoint theology of why the Incarnation was necessary. His prose bleeds with passion to express the love of God for humanity and swaggers with a confidence in the Christian hope that is so shocking in its purity that it breezes over the hurdles of cynicism that we have placed unawares.

Not to mention C. S. Lewis's introduction. I have dedicated my life to "reading old books" but he makes me want to r
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This short book has had a long life. Written in the 4th century, it continues to speak wisdom and hope and life to the church of every age, including our own. This is my fourth or fifth time reading it. And won’t be my last. It is largely due to Athanasius that the church was rescued from the various and widely popular anti-trinitarian heresies of his day. He was said to be the man who stood against the world. If you’ve never read him, start here. You won’t stop.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A 4th century defense of orthodox Christology that both precise and pastoral. Athanasius knows that the rock on which he has planted his feet does not move, but instead moves everything around it. This informs his optimistic view of history and the way he builds his arguments: the light has come and the darkness will not overcome it. No wonder C. S. Lewis spoke so highly of him.
Akash Ahuja
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was my first time reading a primary source from the early church, and I loved it. Athanasius challenges me, even today, and reading 1,600 year old material is less intimidating than it sounds. I’ll definitely be looking for more books from the “popular patristics series”
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Athanasius of Alexandria (Greek: Ἀθανάσιος Ἀλεξανδρείας, Athanásios Alexandrías)(Arabic: البابا أثناسيوس الرسولي) (b. ca. 296-298 – d. 2 May 373), also referred to as St. Athanasius the Great, St. Athanasius I of Alexandria, St Athanasius the Confessor and (primarily in the Coptic Orthodox Church) St Athanasius the Apostolic, was the 20th bishop of Alexandria. His episcopate lasted 45 years (c. 8 ...more

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