This article examines the use of the term κνριακòς ἄνθρωπoς in the works of the fifth-century, ascetical theologian Mark the Monk. It begins with an overview of the findings of Alois Grillmeier, who published the most detailed study of the term to date, and goes on to examine the chronological development of Mark’s use of the term from the Eṗistle to Nicholas to On the Incarnation. It is argued that Grillmeier misinterpreted Mark’s use of the term and, therefore, failed to appreciate the real contribution the study of Mark makes to our understanding of fifth-century christological polemics. In particular, this study demonstrates the way in which this monastic writer adapts his vocabulary to changing polemical exigencies while maintaining a consistent Christology. At the same time it illustrates Mark’s ability to negotiate between the native vocabulary of the Syrian monks to whom he writes and the vocabulary of Cyril of Alexandria. As such, it contributes to our understanding of the rapprochement between the Eastern bishops and monks and Cyril’s party following the Council of Ephesus.
One of the more intriguing elements to be found in post-Nicene Christol-ogy is the term κνριακòς ἄνθρωπoς, the “Lordly” or “Dominical Man.”1 Rejected by Augustine (in the Retractationes) and Gregory of Nazianzus [End Page 381] as unsatisfactory, the term is employed by writers as varied as Didymus the Blind, Epiphanius, Mark the Monk, and Leontius of Jerusalem.2 Mark’s use of the term is particularly interesting because he employs it (or a closely related term) in three different works, each of which is written for a different audience and within a different theological context.3 A close examination of Mark’s use of κνριακòς ἄνθρωπoς reveals the way this fifth-century, monastic writer adapts his vocabulary to differing polemical exigencies, all the while maintaining a consistent Christology. Moreover, it illustrates the delicate art of negotiating between two different christological vocabularies, for one of Mark’s goals in On the Incarnation is to reconcile the Syrian monks to whom he is writing with the single-subject Christology—and attendant vocabulary—of Cyril of Alexandria. Mark’s use of κνριακòς ἄνθρωπoς constitutes a significant aspect of that negotiation.
Mark’s theology is thoroughly christocentric, a fact evident even in his ascetical works such as the Letter to Nicholas (Opsculum 5, henceforth Nicholas). However, he makes his christological commitments explicit only in two polemical works: On Melchizedek (Op. 10, henceforth Melchizedek) and On the Incarnation (Op. 11, henceforth Incarnation). All three documents evince a single-subject Christology consonant with that of Cyril of Alexandria. The differing circumstances that give rise to the latter treatises, however, necessitate a more precise elucidation of his Christology than that found in Nicholas. Mark adapts the term κνριακòς ἄνθρωπoς to meet this challenge. In Nicholas the term functions primarily as an intensive possessive, emphasizing the fact that the humanity of Christ is glorified precisely because of the humiliation of the Logos. In Melchizedek Mark employs the term κνριακòς σμα as a means of indicating how the incarnate Christ can be said to be “without father or mother,” even though he was born of Mary. By the time he writes Incarnation the Dominical Man [End Page 382] becomes for Mark a cipher for a complex of propositions concerning the humanity of Christ that must be affirmed if an orthodox confession is to be maintained. In particular, the term provides Mark with a way to identify the characteristically “Antiochene” motif of the “assumed man” with an unquestionably single-subject Christology: the man assumed by the Logos is no “mere man,” but rather is uniquely and exclusively the κνριακòς ἄνθρωπoς.
This interpretation, however, stands in contrast to that put forth by Alois Grillmeier in what is the most detailed study of the term to date.4 For this reason I shall begin with a brief overview of Grillmeier’s findings before tracing the development of the use of κνριακòς ἄνθρωπoς in Mark’s corpus. I shall conclude with a few observations concerning the nature of fifth-century christological polemics and what the study of Mark contributes to our understanding of the period.