Perhaps the most important theological contribution to Orthodoxy ever made in the English language is Father Emmanuel Hatzidakis’ textbook, Jesus Fallen. The reason the book is this important because it teaches the theology of the Church as laid out in the first six ecumenical councils in a fundamentally accurate way, summing up their anthropology and Christology. The fact that no one else has done this with such depth makes Hatzidakis, in my own mind, a character of macrohistorical importance and unappreciated genius (both of which, I am sure, he would never characterize himself). He has done the dirty work of reading the sixth ecumenical council (which is not translated) as well as other fathers in the Greek, and he shares his immense knowledge of the Scriptures, fathers, and recent scholarship with his readers. One can read this book, and no other, and walk away with every essential Orthodox doctrine concerning anthropology and Christology.
Typical of genius, especially when it is unintentional, the book itself is hard to understand. It essentially states everything of importance in its first part (in about 160 pages). The remainder of the book, though organized tediously to tease out every important facet of he first part, feels repetitious. Hatizdakis will repeat quotes he cites earlier, giving the reader the impression, “Haven’t I already read this?” He often will go into pages of Biblical exegesis, similar to the saints, expecting the reader to be convinced by the authority of the Scriptures. Then, at a sudden turn of a page, the book is academic in its focus, block quoting recent scholars from all different traditions, then mining Patristic data. The modern reader simply does not know what he is reading–is this a book meant to mimic those who teach in the Patristic sense and does not feel wed to academic facades, or is this book academic and should be a manual in seminaries? It appears Hatzidakis was trying to bridge the gap being the two, but being that this is rare (or non-existent) in literature, it could be jarring to the reader.
The book begins by offering a lay of the land. It teases out the view of liberal, generally Protestant (with sympathetic Roman Catholics and Orthodox such as Meyendorf and Kallistos Ware) theologians who believe that Christ had fallen, postlapsarian flesh and that this was necessary so that the fallen condition could be undone in Christ.
Hatzidakis minces no meat in his disagreement and gets right to the point:
He chose with both of His wills to suffer and dies in the flesh voluntarily, by allowing the blameless passions to act on Him, although He did not have to, because His body was sinless and the source of deification…He had embraced oeconomically the blameless passions through conscious, voluntary acts of His human will acting in perfect harmony with His divine will. (p. 25)
Elsewhere he states: “Christ experienced such natural weaknesses as they had entered human nature unnaturally after the fall, but He activated them feely by His human will, in order to free us from them.” (p. 148) Following Damascene, the preceding is presented as “spontaneous” (Expos., Book 3, Chap 23) on behalf of Christ’s human will.
Hatzidakis is often accused of being an athartodocetist. Yet, one must be carefully to note how he defines athartodocetism as the idea that Adam was “naturally impassible, immortal, and incorruptible.” (p. 20) And so, Christ’s body was “incapable of corruption” and “only appeared to be subject” to blameless passions and corruption. Hatzidakis’ definition is fundamentally accurate and follows the elucidation of its views that Severus of Antioch speaks of in his response to Theodosios of Alexandria’s encyclical.
Yet, he does seem to make statements which would confuse people as to his views. For example he states that:
The basis difference between the two monophystic factions was that according to Julian, Christ voluntarily underwent those same things that were contrary to His human nature, whereas according to Severus, Christ underwent voluntarily those things that were natural to His humanity. (p. 20-21)
But this is not precisely true if taken literally. These things were “natural” as in “not impossible” as He had a non-glorified human nature and so it was possible and capable of corruption and blameless passions if He permitted it.
Elsewhere Hatzidakis reveals an accurate understanding. He quotes Saint Cyril (and Severus, who is quoting him) in the affirmative stating:
these things [the blameless passions] did not happen to Him just as they do to us in accordance with the compulsory ordinances of nature; but He himself voluntarily permitted His flesh to walk according to the laws of nature, for sometimes He allowed it even to undergo its own passions. (p. 23, quoting Letter 1)
Later, he clears Saint Hilary of Poitiers from the charge of athartodocetism by pointing out simply that Hilary taught Christ really felt pain, corrupted, and died. (p. 96)
Sometimes, Hatzidakis makes other statements which with care can be interpreted in a right way, but otherwise when read plainly are confusing and seem incorrect. For example:
-“[T]he first Man must be the prototype of every human being, both male and female.” (p. 105)
-“He [Christ] gladly embraced not a glorified humanity as that of Adam prior to the fall (to which He was entitled being sinless.)” (p. 312; cf p. 434-435)
-“He smiles with kindness, but did not laugh, because He was not startled of surprised.” (p. 233)
-A prolonged assertion that the Eucharist contains the flesh and blood of Christ before His resurrection. (p. 447-449) This is in opposition to Saint Ignatius of Antioch: “the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father by his goodness raised up.” (Smyrnaeans 6.2)
-Throughout the book he uses the academic term “divine hypostasis” with meaning that Christ solely had a divine hypostasis. It should be noted that the canonical language of the Church is “Composite Hypostasis” (Constantinople II, Canon 4) and the teaching of Saint Maximus: “He became composite according to hypostasis.” (QT 62.3) While their intended meaning appears to be the same, it unnecessarily confuses matters.
The reader’s confusion can be compounded when Hatzidakis quotes saints making difficult statements hard to square with other saints, such as Saint John Maximovitch: “[T]he Son of God voluntarily allows His human nature to feel the horror of estrangement from God.” (p. 190) What the difference is between a fallen psychology and the preceding is honestly hard to say, and though resolutions can be attempted, we can simply concede that there are difficulties with harmonizing precisely what aspects of psychology are fallen and which are not. If even laughing (due to a punchline or something clever and unexpected) was beyond a prelapsarian human nature which has no gnomic willing, what is the “horror of estrangement?”
On a more positive note, Hatzidakis takes to time unpack all the essential doctrines necessary to understand Jesus Christ’s divine and human natures, because understanding these solves the pre-postlapsarian debate. This is of use to all students of Christianity. He starts with prelapsarian man, teasing out how Adam was tentatively immortal, “naturally alterable and changeable” (i.e. passible) according to Saint Symeon the New Theologian. (p. 47) “All he needed to do was to exercise wisely his precious freedom of choice and remain attached to God” and Adam would have never died. (Ibid.) So, disobedience brought death, because the default was obedience and life–but death was possible as long as disobedience was possible. “Spiritual death immediately followed Adam’s transgression, which in turn caused physical death.” (p. 53)
Hatzidakis presents the preceding as hereditary: “we do not inherit sin per se, but its consequences, chiefly suffering, corruption, and death, and a proclivity to fall into sin (inordinate passions).” (p. 60) Death only exists because of sin: “Since our Lord Jesus Christ was without sin…He was not subject to death.” (Damascene quoted in p. 194) “In order to remain in existence it is necessary to remain in communion with God.” (p. 271) This has ramifications upon original sin, quoting Saint Symeon the New Theologian: “[S]ince the first-created Adam lost the garment of sanctity…and became corruptible and mortal, all people who came from the seed of Adam are participants of the ancestral sin.” (p. 305)
Contrary to us, Jesus Christ’s human nature was prelapsarian, quoting several saints to this effect. (p. 64) He explicitly says this is true of Christ alone and not even the Theotokos. (p. 65) So how did He experience the blameless effects of the fall? By voluntarily assuming them. “[S]uffering could not touch Him, unless He allowed it with His human will, always in full cooperation with His divine will.” (p. 96) Also, “Christ suffered death unnaturally in His humanity…it was not possible that the author of life would be dominated by corruption.” (p. 99) Ironically, Hatzidakis is juxtaposing two different ideas–the natural state, which is true of un-divinized prelapsarian man (as well as deified prelapsarian man), and the state of deified humanity by default, which can never permit any effects of the Fall with the exception of the miraculous, such as Christ’s voluntary assumption of corruptibility (i.e. “economic conversation” as its called in the sentence of Constantinople III).
Despite the goodness of human nature, human willing was affected by the Fall from a state of stability to that of dithering (“gnomic will”). For example, “the Damascene, following St. Maximos, [taught] that God does not possess the so-called gnomic will, which is a characteristic of all fallen human beings.” (p. 116) Christ, does not have a gnomic-will (as He has a prelapsarian human nature), but humanly wills what is both naturally good to man and what is divinely willed reflexively. “His human nous was anchored in God. His judgement was clear and His human will was in perfect union and harmony with His divine will and did not vacillate.” (p. 362)
Hatzidakis astutely points out that postlapsarianists are “monoenergists” (I’d say monothelites too) and “monergists.” (p. 133) How? If Christ’s human nature is fallen, then the only reason He does not think fallen things too is because He has only one will, the divine will; the only reason He does not corrupt after His death, because He has only a divine energy; the only reason His humanity acts and moves deified is because His divine nature decides all and there is no cooperation with the human nature (which postlapsarianists, as Chalcedonians, accept).
Hatzadakis points out that suspect Christology has even wormed its way into the Roman Catholic Catechism. For example, the CCC teaches that Christ’s human nature naturally had ignorance and had to “learn by experience” (p. 365), while Saint Maximus taught that “His humanity know[s] all things.” (p. 366) The only ignorance Christ’s human nature had was voluntarily assumed, as the default was that His human mind would have all the knowledge of His divinity. Quoting Saint Hilary of Poitiers: “His ignorance is an economy rather than an ignorance.” (p. 368; cf Cyril of Alexandria on p. 442) Elsewhere, the CCC asserts the Lord said He was forsaken on the cross because “He assumed…our waywardness of sin.” (p. 382) Hatzidakis rejects that Christ experienced any “inward conflict” in His mind. (p. 384) To quote Saint Cyril of Alexandria, “He was entirely free from the stains and emotions natural to our bodies, and from that inclination which leads us to what is not lawful.” (Sermon II on the Gospel of Luke)
Due to the sheer level of content, the book is able to make some very important theological speculations. For example, it discusses the idea of how saints can attain to a state of incorruptibility and sinlessness (an idea elucidated by Romanides). As prooftexts, hagiographies of saints who voluntarily died are employed. Instead of getting into the weeds detailing the importance of the issue, amongst others, it suffices to say that Jesus Fallen offers the depth as well as breadth of information to enable the reader to grapple with the most profound questions of the Christian faith.
Presently, there are no major academic works amongst Orthodox against the Immaculate Conception doctrine of Roman Catholics. However, as mentioned before, the breadth and depth of this book now enables the reader to truly grapple with the issue. In about eight pages correct Mariology is discussed in light of a correct anthropology. Therein Hatzidakis rejects the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. He cites saint Nicodemus the Hagiorite to this effect and the Theotokos’ death as proof. He then proceeds to speak of her purification at the annunciation as evidence that she had original sin. It is fitting Hatzidakis covers this material so far in, because it literally requires that much material to really understand the Orthodox view of Mariology. Ultimately, Mariology is an outgrowth of anthropology, which is an outgrowth of Christology. Those who study the issue with incorrect anthropological and Christological premises simply cannot arrive at the correct conclusions.
In conclusion, it is because of the preceding that those truly seeking to understand the Orthodox faith must read Hatizadkis’ book. Despite its imperfections and even confusing parts, it offers too much of value in an accessible way where it can be ignored. Protestant readers are sure to appreciate its Biblical sentiments. Roman Catholics will find the treasure trove of Patristics invaluable. And, Orthodox, will appreciate Hatizadki’s organic approach to Tradition, weaving all of hymnographies, prayers, and councils into a Christological harmony.
If you would like to follow along with the book, purchase it here. Use coupon code “Truglia” to save 10 percent. Out of full disclosure, the author of this article gets no residuals or commissions from the sales of this book.