Department/School of the Primary Author

Biblical and Theological Studies


Impassibility, patristics




This paper explores the concept of impassibility in the early Greek apologists and Irenaeus. The paper focuses on impassibility as related to emotion in the divine nature, and individually examines Justin Martyr, Athenagoras and Irenaeus. This paper attempts to present a nuanced and faithful interpretation of impassibility in these fathers contra the assumption that impassibility equates to static emotionlessness. The author argues that the early Greek fathers used impassibility as an apophatic qualifier tied to God's immutability, virtuousness, and status as creator and further used impassibility to indicate that God was not overwhelmed by passions like the pagan and gnostic deities. This thesis is substantiated by briefly noting the lexical and philosophical backgrounds of the terms for impassibility used by the early Greek fathers and by an individual examination of each of the fathers mentioned above.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


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© 2016 J. Caleb Little. All rights reserved



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