Christological Contention and Tolerance in the Syriac Church Traditions: A Case for Ecumenism / Abdul Massih Saadi Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

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The discussion concerning Christology has been one of the most crucial
and sensitive subjects among churches. While diversity in Christology existed
right from the dawn of Christianity, after the fifth century this subject
increasingly became politicized and negatively damaged Christ’s message.
Christ himself, according to Matthew (7:21), taught with respect to Christology:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only he who does the will of my Father.”
In this article, we will survey the biblical background for the diversity
among Christological doctrines. Then we will review the Christological
approach of the Syriac churches as opposed to the Greek churches. We will also
demonstrate the diversity of Christologies within the Syriac churches after the
4th century when the Syriac churches (both in the East and the West) adopted
the Greek Christologies at the expense of their own. Following our review of
their diversity, and after we demonstrate both the contention and tolerance the
churches had towards each other, we will address the following question: Given
the spirit of both contention and tolerance which has existed within each church
throughout history, what can we learn about becoming a truly ecumenical

Biblical background for the diverse Christologies
In the Bible itself, there are at least four different Christological
approaches. Mathematically speaking, one can generate and validate some 24
(4!=4x3x2x1) literal, biblical Christologies. The main biblical Christologies,
however, are that of Adoption, of Identity, of Distinction and of Derivation.
The Christology of Adoption conveys that at a certain time, at baptism or
resurrection, God conferred on the man Jesus the status of God.1 Its biblical
1 Among the early sources of the Christology of Adoption are: The Shepherd of Hermans
(2nd century), see Aolf Harnack, History of Dogma (tr. N. Buchanan; New York: 1931)
1:211; the alleged doctrines of Paul of Samosata, the deposed Patriarch of Antioch (3rd
century), had been credited (or accused) of being adoptionist, see Eusebius, The History
of the Church From Christ to Constantine (tr. G. Williamson; Minneapolis: Augsburg,
1965) 313-4; additionally, the Ebionites, according to Hippolyitus (3rd century), believed
48 Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies
support, as some scholars argue, according to its adherents, is grounded on
biblical passages such as: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”( Ps. 2:7),
and ”God had made Jesus.. Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:32-36)..etc.The Christology
of Identity speaks of Christ as God, Yahweh.2 Its biblical support comes from
Isaiah 63:9 (LXX) which reads: “Not an intercessor, nor an angel, but the Lord
himself;” Psalm 96:10 “the Lord reigns from the tree;” Isa. 44:6 “Thus says the
Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts; “I am the first and I
am the last, besides me there is no God;” Romans 9:5 “..who is God, blessed
The Christology of Distinction speaks of One Lord and another Lord.3 The
biblical support comes from Gen. 19:24 “and the Lord rained…from before the
Lord from heaven,” Psalm 110:1 “The Lord said to my Lord.”
The Christology of Derivation refers to the Father as “the greater” or “the
generator”, or concerning the use of Christ’s titles such as angel, Spirit, Logos,
and Son.4 The biblical support comes from John 1:1-14; Proverbs 8:22-31

The diversity within the Greek Churches
that Jesus was a man endowed with special powers of the Spirit” See Hippolytous of
Rome, On Heresies; and Cf. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the
Development of Doctrine (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1971) esp. 175-6. However,
among the adoptionists, there was a range of differences about the nature of the Adoption
which extends from ontological union unto analogical one.
2 There were many churches in the first four centuries whose Christology was that of
Identity with its various approaches, such as the Monarchians, Modalists..etc., and among
its prominent figures are Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107), Melito of Sardis (d. 190), and
Tertullian (d. 225). Tertulian, for example, called for protecting the ‘monarchy’ of the
Godhead by stressing the identity of the Son with the Father without specifying the
distinction between them with equal precision. See J. Pelikan, 176-180.
3 Among the earlier figures who stressed the Christology of Distinction were Justin
Martyr (d. 165), and Irenaeus (d. 200). Justin explains Gen. 19:24, saying that there had
to be some distinction between “the Father and Lord of all” and “the Lord.” Cf. J. van
Winden, An early Christian Philosopher: Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho (Leiden:
Brill, 1971) 127.5. See a similar argument of John of Sedreh (d. 648), by the present
author, “The Letter of John of Sedreh: A New Perspective on Nascent Islam,” JAAS 11.1
(1997) 68-84.
4 While there is no specific churches whose Christology is that of Derivation, many of the
earlier Christian authors explained certain Christological notions as Derivation. Among
these, we refer to the Shepherd of Herm (Herm. Sim 8.3.3), Justin Martyr (Dial. 56.4),
Clement of Alexandria, who writes: “the Lord Jesus, that is, the Word of God, the Spirit
incarnate, the heavenly flesh sanctified;” Wood, S. P., Clement of Alexandria: Christ the
Educator (New York: Fathers of the Chruch, 1954) 16.43.3.
Christological Contention and Tolerance in the Syriac Church Traditions. 49
Among many other challenges, the churches in the Roman world faced the
challenge of the Greek (pagan) philosophers who accused nascent Christianity of
inferior knowledge.5 In reaction, the early Christian apologists responded to
these philosophers in their own terms and language, proving the vitality of
Christian knowledge. Among various Greek philosophical approaches, most of
the Christian apologists adopted platonism, with its contemplating focus, in
Alexandria, or Aristotelianism, with its focus on matter, history and grammar, in
the region of Antioch.
As time went on, the Christians developed various explanations of the
doctrine of Christology based on the various schools of thought. The Platonic
philosophy, accordingly, concluded that Christ must have One Nature. The
Aristotlean philosophy, on the other hand, concluded that Christ must have Two
Natures. As mentioned above, although conflicts and disputations concerning
this subject emerged right from the time of the Apostles, it was well within its
accepted limits.6 However, after the 4th century, certain Christological
statements were politicized and weakened Christendom.

The diversity within the Syriac Churches
Prior to the 4th century, the Syriac churches found themselves at home with
regard to the biblical proclamation. Far from Greek culture, early Syriac
Christianity integrated the Christian message in its Semitic understanding to
which the Old and most of the New Testament belong. It is widely recognized
by modern scholars that unlike Greek Christianity, which developed an
ontological interpretation of God and Christ, Syriac Christianity was
uninterested in dogmatic strife. Syriac Christianity conceived its faith rather as a
Way, a way of daily life and continual mission.7
By way of example, let us refer to the creed of faith of Aphrahat (4th
century) and the creed in the Acts of Judas Thomas (2nd or 3rd century), which
represent Syriac Christology before adopting (or being imposed upon by) the
5 Celsus (d. 178) is one of several Greek philosophers who describes Christianity as “
hodgepodge of superstition and fanaticism,” see Quasten, J., Pathology ( Vol. 1;
Westminster: Newman, 1950)86; Robert M. Grant, Greek Apologists of the Second
Century (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1988) 78, 85, 133-139.
6 David Roahd, The Challenge of Diversity: The Witness of Paul and the Gospels
(Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996) esp. the Introduction.
7 G. Quispel, “The Discussion on Judaic Christianity,” Vigiliae Christianae 22 (1968) 81-
93, esp. 81-2; J. Neusner, Aphrahat and Judaism: The Christian-Jewish Argument in
Fourth-Century Iran (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1971) esp. 6-7.
50 Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies
Greek Christology.8 In fact, the Syriac creeds have no equivalent to any of those
Greek Christological terms, such as hypostasis, physis, ousia, and the like, which
later caused all the misunderstanding within each church, and between the
However, Greek Christology began to permeate the Syriac churches
through the late writings of St. Ephrem. Although most of Ephrem’s writings are
genuinely Semitic, several passages speak about the way of union between the
humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ in terms of mixture. Ephrem says: “In a
new way, his body has been mixed in our bodies. And his pure blood has been
poured into our veins. … The whole of him with the whole of us is mixed by his
Ephrem was so fortunate that he escaped the harsher criteria set by later
generations who determined who were the faithful and who were the heretical.
Ultimately, neither of the Syriac church traditions accepted the concept of
mixture; on the contrary, both of them vehemently opposed it.

The Syriac Christologies in the West Syriac tradition
By the turn of the fifth century, most of the West Syriac churches adopted
the Alexandrian Christology. However, because of the loose definition of Greek
Christological terms, such as hypostasis (person, or QENUMA), ousia (essence),
and physis (nature), even within the Greek schools of thought, the Syriac
theologians faced difficulties in expressing their Christological understandings.
The translation of these Greek terms into Syriac added further difficulties. But
the Greek terms, concepts and formulas posed a greater obstacle in developing
and studying their own Syriac Christology.
To illustrate Christological diversity, we have selected three prominent
figures in the West Syriac church in the sixth century. The first one is Severus
of Antioch (d. 539), who is Greek in origin, thought and language. The other
two are native to the Syriac culture and language, but inheritors of the Greek
Christology of the Alexandrian school, the are Philoxenus of Mabugh (d. 523),
and Jacob of Sarugh (d. 521). In order to make it succinct and clear, we will
introduce the basic components of their Christology and compare and contrast
their understanding.

Severus of Antioch
Hypostasis and Nature
8 Patrologia Syriaca (ed. D. I. Parisot; Vol. 1; Paris: Instituti Francici Typographi, 1894)
44-45, 788; Judas Thomas, The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles (ed. W. Wright; London:
1871); Doctrine of Addai (ed. G. Howard; Chico: Scholoars, 1981).
9 Des Heiligen Epheam des Syres: Hymnen de Virginitate (ed. E. Beck; CSCO, Vol.
133/94; Louvain: Secretariat du CorpusSCO, 1962) 133.
Christological Contention and Tolerance in the Syriac Church Traditions. 51
In a clear and consistent way, Severus discusses his Christology based on
the theology of the school of Alexandria. For Severus, the concepts of
Hypostasis (Qenuma), and Nature (Keyana), are synonyms, except that the term
Nature could refer either to the specific (individual) or to the generic (nonindividual),
while the term Hypostasis always refers to an individual.10
Severus argues for two kinds of hypostases: the self-existent (complete
hyp.), and the non-self-existent (incomplete hyp.) hypostasis. To use a man as
an example, Shabo, is a combination of two non-self-existents, i.e., the body and
the soul.11 The combination or union of these two makes one complete
hypostasis. A simple self-existent hypostasis is one that exists in its own right
and is not composite: the Father or the Holy Spirit is a simple self-existent
hypostasis.12 Christ, on the other hand, is one self-existent composite
hypostasis, the product of a union of a simple self-existent with a non-selfexistent
hypostasis. The simple self-existent hypostasis is the divinity of Christ,
and the simple non-self-existent hypostasis is the humanity of Christ.
The term Prosopon, according to Severus is equivalent to self-existent
hypostasis, and implies existing in an individual being.13 Accordingly, the
Prosopon is a concrete reality, and bears a proper name, such as Shabo, Gallo, or
Christ. The non-self-existent is not a Prosopon: this is why Severus never called
humanity in the Incarnation “the man.” Thus Severus speaks of One Nature, One
Hypostasis, and One Prosopon of God, the Word Incarnated.
According to Severus, there is only one operation arising from self-existent
hypostasis. Ephrem, for example, may eat (body) or think (soul). In both cases,
we say Ephrem does it, not Ephrem’s body or Ephrem’s soul.
In the case of Christ, we should not speak of two operations: We should not say
that “the man wept,” and “God raised Lazarus,” but “the Incarnated Word did
Prosoponic Union
10 E. W. Brooks, “A Collection of Letters of Severus of Antioch, from Numerous
Syriac Manuscripts (Letters I to LXI),” Patrologia Orientalis 12 (1919) , Letter VII,
200; Letters XV, 210-11.
11 Brooks, Letter II, 190; Letter XXV, 230ff.
12 Severi Antiocheni, Liber Contra Impium Grammaticum: Oratio et Secunda (ed.
Iosephus Lebon; CSCO, Vol. 111/58; Louvain: Secretariat du CorpusSCO, 1965) 76.
13 Brooks, Letter XVI, 211.
14 Brooks, Letter I, 180-2;
52 Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies
Prosoponic union is a union of two prosopa, two self-existent hypostases.
For example, the union of Ephrem and Warda in friendship, partnership, etc., is a
prosopic union. In prosopic union, the two partners can exist apart from each
other. Thus the members of a prosopic union are not in an iconic relationship to
each other. Severus describes the prosopic union in various phrases such as,
“partnership”, “union of brotherhood”, “conjunction in honor”, “union by
assumption”, and “presence”.15
Hypostatic Union
Hypostatic union is a “natural” union, where although the two hypostases
remain, they have no individual, separate existence of their own. The union of
the body and the soul is a clear example.
The actual union of the divinity and humanity in Christ, according to
Severus, was not Prosoponic but hypostatic union, the union of self-existent
(Divine Hypostasis) with non-self-existent (human) hypostasis. The members of
hypostatic union are in an iconic relationship to each other.
In hypostatic union, the hypostases (non + self-), are in composition
(brukobo), and perfect, they do not continue as an individual existence so as to
number them two.16

Philoxenus of Mabugh
Unlike Severus, whose thoughts, vocabulary and language are those of the
Alexandrian school, Philoxenus expresses his Christology in more Syriac
(=Semitic) thought and language. Although Philoxenus remains loyal to the One
Nature formula, his explanation is drastically different than that of Severus. Far
from technical Greek vocabulary and philosophical explanations, Philoxenus
states that Christ, the Word of God, simultaneously exists in two modes of being,
as God by nature, and as a man by a miracle. In a similar way, the baptized
believers also exist in two modes of beings, as human by nature, and as sons of
God by a miracle.
Nature and Hypostasis
Philoxenus uses the term Nature and Hypostasis interchangeably. He
defines nature as the basic unchangeable characteristics that belong to a certain
species (being). For example, in the incarnation, God remains God by Nature,
immortal, invisible, intangible, in spite of undergoing birth, death and tangibility.
At the same time, God, the divine hypostasis of the Word, becomes man by
15 Brooks, Letters II, 189-90; Letter X, 20; Letter XVI, 211; Letter XXV, 244;
Homily. LVII (P.O. viii 221-2).
16 Brooks, Letter XV, 210; Letter XVI, 211; Letter XXV, 232; Lebon, 78.
Christological Contention and Tolerance in the Syriac Church Traditions. 53
miracle, which takes place in accordance with God’s will within the hypostasis of
the Word himself.17
Philoxenus does not regard the existence by miracle as a change
(shuhlapha), but as additional. He states that “We became sons of God, although
our nature was not changed, and Christ became a man by his mercy, although his
essence was not changed.”18
Ultimately, Philoxenus chooses to reject the expression of Two-Natures
without sufficient reasoning, since his logical argument, based on the power of
miracle, does not conclude in either of the two “standard” Christological
formulas, namely, the One Nature, or the Two Natures . However, he chooses to
reaffirm the formula of the Alexandrian school, i.e. One Nature, One Hypostasis,
One Prosopon, One Ousia.

Jacob of Sarugh
We have already found significant differences in the explanation of the
Christological doctrine between Severus and Philoxenus. Jacob of Sarugh, on
the other hand, is very different from either of them. Far from Greek philosophy
and theology, Jacob’s theology is more mythological and symbolic.19
After introducing the history of the world in a mythological way, Jacob
speaks about the appointed time when the Word of God, the “Hidden One”,
made himself visible to men. From his birth, Jacob maintains, the Word remains
disguised for many, “in appearance he was a man, though by nature he was
Nature and Hypostasis
17 Philoxène de Mabbog: Lettre aux Moines de Senoun (ed. A. Halleus; CSCO, Vol.
231/98; Louvain: Secrétariat du CorpusSCO, 1963) 57.
18 Three Letters of Philoxenus, Bishop of Mabbogh (ed. And tr. A. Vaschalde,; CUA,
Dissertation for PhD; Rome: 1902) 164-5. The Philoxenus statement contradicts
Alexandrian and Cappadosian Writers who said, “God became man in order for a man to
become god.”
19 Sebastian Brock, “From Antagonism to Assimilation: Syriac Attitudes to Greek
Learning,” Syriac Perspectives on Late Antiquity (London: Variorum, 1984) V-17.
Elsewhere, Brock considers Jacob of Sarugh has a significant impact on the Hudra, the
standard prayer book in the Church of East; see S. Brock, OCA, 55 (1989) 339-343.
Furthermore, according to Brock, Jacob’s writings reflect the Edessan School, and thus he
comes closer to Theodore than Ephrem or Narsai; see S. Brock, “Baptismal Themes in
the Writings of Jacob of Sarugh,” OCA, 205 (1976)325-326.
20 Letter 13, 53.
54 Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies
Confirming the Alexandrian Christological formula, Jacob states that Jesus
is “one Son, one Nature, one Hypostasis, one in number.”21 Distancing himself
from Severus, Jacob uses the term Nature to refer to a concrete being, an entity
which can be counted. Equally, he equates the term Nature with Hypostasis.
Therefore, one Nature and one Hypostasis means one being, one actual identity.
It was for this reason that Jacob rejected the doctrine of Two Natures because,
according to him, that means two beings and two entities.22
In opposition to Severus but in agreement with Philoxenus, Jacob speaks of
two births as an alternative to the hypostatic union of Severus.23
In another instance, Jacob refers to the human nature of Christ as Schema.
Commenting on the term Schema found in Philippians, 2, Jacob argues that Jesus
is God by nature, but in the image and Schema of man. While “nature”, Jacob
explains, is a concrete being, Schema, is something that can be chosen or
rejected or changed. For example, Ephrem’s human nature did not change when
he was a child, young, or old; however, his Schema changed according to his
growth and career. Jesus, on the other hand, is God in nature, but he has come
into being in the Schema of man.
By comparing these three theologians, one can easily recognize the drastic
differences in their understanding of the adopted Alexandrian Christological
formula. We can easily notice that the only common idea among these three
Christologies was the repeated formula of “One Nature, One hypostasis, One
Prosopon, One Ousia,”..etc.

Christologies from the Church of the East
After the fourth century, and as in the West Syriac churches, the Syriac
churches of the East offered various explanations for the Christological formulas
which originated in the Greek school of Antioch. Unlike the formula of
Alexandrian Christology, the Antiochene Christology accepts the duality of
some Christological terms, such as Nature and hypostasis. Because of such
duality, and their inaccurate definition, in addition to their treatment in the
Syriac language, its Christological statements vary. In the following section I
will briefly review five Christological statements dating to the 5th – 7th century,
beginning with Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 428), who was of Greek origin, both
in thought and language.

Theodore of Mopsuestia
21 Letter 3, 19.
22 Letter 14, 61; Letter 27, 137and 139; Letter 33, 249.
23 Letter 2, 3; 3,18; 6, 32-33; 13, 53; 14, 60; 29, 233..etc.
Christological Contention and Tolerance in the Syriac Church Traditions. 55
Like Severus in the West Syriac church, Theodore was of Greek origin and
wrote only in Greek. Theodore’s writings were soon translated into Syriac and
propagated in the School of Edessa. This very translation posed further
difficulties and confusion. These Christological terms were not well defined
even in the Greek language, and were explained variously by the Greek scholars,
and their translation into Syriac carried the confusion a step further. Theodore’s
Christological position, based on Aristotelian philosophy, is as follows:24
Two Persons, by which he meant hypostases,
Two Natures (physes), in voluntary union.
Babai (d. 628), the Catholicos of the Church of the East, clarifies that Theodore
spoke of “One Parsupa” of Christ.25 Additionally, the Syriac translators
rendered Qenuma for persons sometimes, and/or hypostaes. For the word
Nature, physis, the Syriac translators render Keyane26

Synod of Aqaq (486) and Synod of Yeshu`Yab (585)
Unlike Theodore of Mopsuestia, both Synods, of the Catholicos Aqaq and
of Yeshu`Yab stated the following Christology:
One person (parsopa),
Two natures (keyane: physes),
in voluntary union
As stated, both Synods distinguished, in their Syriac expression, between the
Greek term of Prosopon to which they rendered the Syriac word Parupha i.e.
person, and the Greek term for Hypostasis to which they rendered the Syriac
word Qenuma. In so doing, the church of the East presented the closest
Christological formula to the Christology of Chalcedon.27

Narsai (d. 503)
Narsai, the former instructor of the school of Edessa and later the leading
scholar in the school of Nisibis, maintained Theodore’s formulae but clarified it.
Narsai stated that in Christ:
Two persons (i.e. hypostases/ Qenuma),
Two nature (keyane: physes), and
24 Unlike the Platonic philosophy, the Stoic (materialistic) philosophy teaches that in
the union of soul and body, they both preserve their own hypostasis (IDIA UPOSTASIS).
See Alexander of Aphrodisias, de Mixtione 3 (Suppl. Aristot. ii 2, 217.33 Bruns); Henry
Chadwick, History and Thought of Early Church (London: Variorum, 1982) XVI, 160-1.
25 Babai, Histoire de Mar-Jabalaha (ed. P. Bedjan; Paris: np,1895) 499.
26 Arthur Voobus, History of the School of Nisibis (CSCO, Vol. 266, Subsidia 26;
Louvain: 1965) 253, 255.
27 Synodicon Orientale (ed. J. B. Chabot: Paris: 1902) 302, 397, 455.
56 Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies
One prosopon (parsopa).28

Henana (d. 609)
Henana’s Christology, according to the writing of Babai (628) was
expressed as follows:
One person (qenuma: hypostases),
Two natures (keyane: physis).29

Synod of Bishops (612)
The Synod of Bishops at the turn of the seventh century reformulated the
Christological doctrine as follows:
two persons (qenume: hypostasis),
two nature (keyene: physis),
one union or one lordship.30
As stated above, the diversity in Christologies in the Church of the East is
also obvious. While all statements agree on the Two Natures, they vary on
defining the hypostasis and/or prosopon.

Agreement and Disagreement
The diversity of Christologies within each church is well recognized
through the above statements. Ultimately, none of the above Christologies have
continuity with the earlier Syriac (Semitic) Christologies. But in spite of the
diversity within each church tradition, each church lived in harmony with its
diverse Christologies. The fact that each church accepted its diversity or
harmonized it, or at least turned a blind eye to it is commendable. But the
question today is: Since each church lived in harmony with its Christological
diversity, is it not possible today to live in harmony with the Christological
diversity among the churches?
According to a number of medieval, Syriac scholars, such as Arfadi (9th
century),31 Patriarch Keryakus (9th century),32 Moshe bar Kepha (9th cent.),33
28 F. McLeod, Narsai’s Metrical Homilies on the Nativity, Epiphany, Passion,
Resurrection and Ascension: Critical Edition of the Syriac Text (Patrologia Orientalis,
Vol. 40.1.182; Turnhout: np, 1979) I, 274.
29 Baba Magni, Liber de Unione (ed. A. Vaschalde; CSCO, Vol. 79.34; Louvain:
Secretariat du CorpusSCO, 1915) 209.
30 Synodicon Orientale, 575
31 Gerard Troupeau, “Le Livre de L’unaminite de la foi de `Ali Ibn Dawud al-Arfadi”
Pareole de L’Orient (1969) 197-219.
32 W. Wright, Catalogue of Syriac Manuscripts in the Brithish Museum Acquired Since
the Year 1838 (Vol. 1; London: 1878) Add. 17145.
Christological Contention and Tolerance in the Syriac Church Traditions. 57
`Ammar al-Basri (9th cent.),34 Bar Hebraeus (13th cent.),35 and many others, the
answer would have been yes! But what is the answer of the contemporaries?
33 Abdul Massih Saadi, The Commentary of Moshe Bar Kepha on Luke: A Christian
Apology Responding to Muslims (Dissertation; Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago,
34 S. Griffith, “`Ammar al-Basri’s Kitab al-Burhan: Christian Kalam in the First Abbasid
Century,” Le Museon 96 (1983) 145-181.
35 Bar Hebraeus, Kethobo de-Yauno (ed. G. Gardahi; Rome: 1898) 75. In this book,
Bar Hebraeus, who might have been responding to a similar question responded: “But
when I studied and meditated in this field, I realized that the quarrel among the Christians
is baseless. For all confess Christ, our Lord, to be wholly God and wholly man, without
blending, mixture, and confusion in natures. This bilateral likeness is called by some
nature (Keyana), by others hypostasis (Qenuma), by others person (Prosopon).
Therefore, notwithstanding their diversity, I consider all Christians to be of equal,
comparable value.”