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Contra Haereticos et Gentiles
Saint Patriarch of Alexandria Athanasius (293-373)
Impressum Vicentiae: a Leonardo basilensi, Feb. 1 (cal. Februarias), 1482
Editio princeps
BT1350 A8162 1482

A collection of letters, speeches and tracts written against heretical beliefs.

“The Father of Orthodoxy,” Athanasius conducted a life-long battle against Arianism. Before the outbreak of the Arian controversy, which began in 319, Athanasius became known for his two essays addressed to a convert to Christianity, one of them entitled Against the Gentiles, the other On the Incarnation of the Word. The treatises argue such questions as monotheism and the necessity of divine interposition for the salvation of the world.

Contra Gentiles is an explanation of the Incarnation and the doctrine of the Trinity. In Contra Gentiles, Athanasius discusses the means by which God can be known. These are principally two: the soul and nature. God may be known through the human soul, for “although God Himself is above all, the road which leads to Him is not far, nor even outside ourselves, but is within us, and it is possible to find it by ourselves” (30.1). A study of the soul reveals something about the nature of God. Sin prevents the soul from perfectly attaining the vision of God, but the soul was made according to the divine image and it was intended to be like a mirror in which that image, which is the Word of God, would shine. The soul is invisible and immortal; therefore, the true God must be invisible and immortal. God may be known through his creation, which, “as though in written characters, declares in a loud voice, by its order and harmony, its own Lord and Creator” (34.4).

This is the only edition of this work printed in the 15th century.