ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA

Dates Lived: 298-373

Most important works:

  • On the Incarnation (317)
  • The Nicene Creed (325)

Biggest Contributions:

  • Untiring advocate for Trinitarian theology against Arianism. In fact, much of the way we think about the Trinity goes back to his efforts.
  • A biography of Anthony the Great that inspired the monastic movement
  • First to identify the 27 books currently in our New Testament
  • Main author of the Nicene Creed, unarguably the most important creed in Christian history.

Favorite Quotes

“The Jesus whom I know as my Redeemer cannot be less than God.”

“The Son of God became man so that men might become sons of God.”

“You cannot put straight in others what is warped in yourself.”

“[We believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the essence of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father, through Whom all things came into being, things in heaven and things on earth, Who because of us men and because of our salvation came down and became incarnate, becoming man, suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended to the heavens, and will come again to judge the living and the dead…” - from the 325 version of The Nicene Creed

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8 thoughts on “Top 5 Christian Theologians: Athanasius”

  1. m slater says:

    Excellent call Trevin,

    I think Athanasius very much deserves a place in the top 5, probably the top 3 in fact for me. I would not have said that before taking classes in church history and reading in that area though. It would seem that, unfortunately, for all that Athanasius did, and for how incredible his personal narrative is through the tides of these controversies, that he does not get a lot of attention in non-historical theology (systematics etc). Curious who else you will include but I’ll find that out soon enough I suppose.

  2. trevinwax says:

    It was a toss-up between Athanasius and Irenaeus. I eventually went with Athanasius (at Scot McKnight’s behest) due to the influence of Trinitarianism. Irenaeus definitely deserves an “honorable mention” – most especially for his refutation of Gnosticism and his atonement theory of “recapitulation”.

    Athanasius, I believe, has the most lasting influence however. Every time we talk about the Trinity in a biblical way, we are carrying on the legacy that Athanasius bequeathed us.

  3. Matt Privett says:

    I agree wholeheartedly that Athanasius belongs in the top five. If God doesn’t use him the way He did, the church might very well have delved even further into the Arian heresy, and the church would not be worshipping God as He has revealed Himself. Athanasius is a wonderful example of the faithfulness of God to the church: that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

  4. So … how are you defining “top”? Based on influence only?

  5. trevinwax says:

    No… Lasting influence and worldwide impact and importance too.

  6. Justin says:

    Great call. Can’t disagree w/ this pick.

  7. Michael says:

    Irenaeus or Athanasius… tough call, but I would probably made the same choice. Well, I’m all for bumping someone else out of the top five to make room for them both – affection clouding the decision-making process and all!

  8. Alex says:

    Trevin,

    Agreed that Athanasius should be on the list. But to me his work on the incarnation has been more insightful and impactful than anything on the trinity.

    Thanks,
    Alex

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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