Recapitulation in Christ

views updated


In profane usage recapitulation (Greek, νακεφαλαίωσις; Latin, recirculatio ) had the meaning, among other things, of a summary, a restatement of the main point, a repetition. St. Paul used the term of Christ in Eph1.10: "This his good pleasure he [the Father] purposed in him [Christ] to be dispensed in the fullness of the times: to reestablish all things in Christ, both those in the heavens and those on the earth." The cognate term head (Greek, κεφολή; Latin, caput ) occurs in the proximate context of Eph 1.22: "And all things he made subject under his feet, and him he gave as head over all the Church, which indeed is his body, the completion [πλήρωμα] of him who fills all with all."

In Pauline theology recapitulation refers both to the headship of Christ over His body, the Church, and to the unity of all things, the whole cosmos, under Christ: the latter meaning being probably intended in reply to a Gnostic myth of a primitive first man, lord of creation (where κεφαλή was ρχή, power, as in Col 2.10).

St. Irenaeus . To St. Irenaeus (d. 202), more than to any other ancient author, belongs the credit for first developing in Christian theology the scriptural teaching of the recapitulation of all things in Christ. He enriched his Christology with various uses of recapitulation.

Historical Recapitulation. Historical recapitulation is the record of the interventions of the Incarnate Word for mankind. This is the salvation history outlook, where the coming of the Word is the last and supreme act of God, condensing all previous interventions. Christ gains salvation for all men (ν συντόμ). Irenaeus regarded all Biblical events from creation onward as "mysteries," and this mysterycontent in human history is centered and depends for its meaning on Christ. The primordial mysteries are repeated and fulfilled in Him. The fullness of the divinely decisive times is achieved in Christ. The three covenants with Adam, Noah, and Abraham are included and surpassed by the Word made man. Mankind was in its infancy in Adam; hence Christ came as an infant to gather the whole course of human history and raise it up to the vision of God. The faith that comes through Christ is a renewal of the faith of Abraham, Old Testament champion of faith.

Redemptive Recapitulation. The mystery of redemptive recapitulation for Irenaeus is not simply the repairing of a plan that had gone wrong in the fall of man. Even before the world began, all men and indeed all creation were preordained, predestined for the Incarnation of the Logos. In taking up again the substance of the first creation, Christ recreates, renews His creation. He came unto His own. As man He is not only head of the Church but also king of material creation and keystone of the universe. In place of the "earthly man," Christ the "heavenly man" (1 Cor 15.47) has come to lead humanity back home and with mankind all the cosmos.

Primacy of Christ. The incarnate Word by His human existence reestablished His primacy over all visible beings, especially over men. He joined together again heaven and earth, invisible creation and men. The recapitulation of invisible creation (the angels) has been accomplished already, but the work of the Word, the extending of the primacy of Christ to all men, is an ongoing process of transformation. The recapitulation of man fallen in Adam is realized through renewal in grace and the final full restoration in the resurrection of the flesh (the concept of "recirculation" in Irenaeus). Only they achieve this goal who are one with Christ, the firstborn from the dead (Col 1.18), i.e., only those who have followed Him in obedience.

Recapitulation in Irenaeus was part of a unified theological outlook that included likewise continuity (restoration) and transformation (perfection). Irenaeus is often regarded as an early example of the physical theory of redemption, which roots the mystery of redemption in the Incarnation, and his theology of recapitulation (new Adam, new head of humanity, etc.) is offered as evidence. In fact, the death of Christ in obedience is also a core part of Irenaeus's theory of recapitulation, as it is of his redemptive outlook.

Other Early Authors . Recapitulation is explained by other authors also: Hippolytus, Methodius, Athanasius, Hilary, Ambrose, and Augustine. Indeed the theme of recapitulation runs through almost all patristic attempts to explain the redemptive work of Christ; all men were present in the first Adam, all are present too, or can be, in the second Adam. Hippolytus teaches that the Word was born from the Virgin in order to restore and recapitulate in Himself the original Adam. Methodius takes up Irenaeus's recapitulation in attenuated form, to the neglect of the atoning death. Hilary combines the language of recapitulation with a strong stress on the voluntary sacrifice of Christ. St. Ambrose joins recapitulation to substitution: because He shares human nature, Christ can substitute for sinful men, undergo punishment in their place. Greek authors of the 5th century bring out realist theories of redemption in a recapitulation setting, e.g., Theodore of Mopsuestia.

Later Theology . In postpatristic thought the East remained aware of the relationship of the Logos to the cosmos. In the West the accent shifted from the work of Christ to His Person. A Christocentric recapitulation was not a significant concept in scholastic theology, in spite of such exceptions as St. Bernard, Richard of SaintVictor, Eckhart, and Nicholas of Cusa. The deep piety toward Christ of postReformation saints and thinkers (Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Pascal) had little effect on contemporary theology. Reformed theology did not concern itself with the recapitulation of all things in Christ as God's plan. In K. Barth, Protestant theology of the 20th century has been given a Christocentric emphasis. In recent Catholic thought, through investigation of the Scriptures and the Fathers, there has been an intense revival of interest in recapitulation.

The writings of Teilhard de Chardin are another factor in the reawakened interest in the recapitulation of the cosmos in Christ. It was the peculiar genius of de Chardin, "pilgrim of the future on my way back from a journey made entirely in the past" (as he wrote from China in 1923, where he was exploring traces of primitive man), to capture again the Christocentric concept of recapitulation and to restate it in keeping with the evolutionary dimensions of the universe in contemporary thought.

Bibliography: r. haubst, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765); suppl., Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil: Dokumente und Kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al., pt. 1 (1966) 1:466467. h. kÜng, ibid. 2:116974. h. schlier, "Kephale, Anakephalaioomai," g. kittel, theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart 1935 ) 3:681682; Der Brief an die Epheser (3d ed. Düsseldorf 1962). j. i. hochban, "St. Irenaeus on the Atonement," Theological Studies 7 (1946) 525557. j. quasten, Patrology, 3 v. (Westminster, Md. 1950 ) v.1. l. s. thornton, "St. Irenaeus and Contemporary Theoloy," Studia patristica 2 (1957) 317347. d. unger, "Christ's Role in the Universe according to St. Irenaeus," Franciscan Studies 26 (1945) 320, 114137. p. teilhard de chardin, The Divine Milieu (New York 1960); The Phenomemon of Man, tr. b. wall (New York 1959). c. f. mooney, "The Body of Christ in the Writings of Teilhard de Chardin," Theological Studies 25 (1964) 576610; "Teilhard de Chardin and the Christological Problem," Harvard Theological Review 58 (1965) 91126.

[e. r. carroll]