Pathway to the Truth: the Doctrine of Recapitulation

“At the center of St. Maximus’ theological and christological universe is the doctrine of Recapitulation. It is this doctrine which forms the basis of all that the New Testament and the Fathers have to say in connection with the Incarnation. While the term “recapitulation” itself appears only twice in the New Testament, the concept itself occurs repeatedly; one has only to recognize its principles of operation in order to know when it is being applied. These may be categorized as follows: 1) preeminence 2) repetition and recontextualization, 3) reversal, and 4) fulfillment.

“The Confessor elegantly summarizes this doctrine and its principles of operation in a compact sentence: “The One Logos is the many logoi, and the many logoi are the One Logos.” (Ambigua 7, PG 91:1081C). In other words, in His incarnation and enhominzation, Jesus Christ possesses and is all the fullness of the universals common both to deity and humanity. In terms of the four principles enumerated above, then, this works itself out in a multitude of ways. In terms of preeminence, it means that Christ is both the presupposition, the method, the paradigm, and the summit of whatever might be said either about God or about man. God is truly, uniquely, ultimately, and finally revealed in the Word Incarnate. And man, perfect humanity, is also only understood properly in its union with the Word. In scriptural terms, Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega of all that can be said about God and man, and thus has the preeminence “in all things” (Col. 1:18). Being thus, preeminent in all things, Christ becomes the final context, the ultimate and perfect “recontextualization” and repetition, of the logoi, understood here as both the words of the Old Testament Scriptures and the principles of nature: of creation as a whole and man in particular. That is, not only are the typological themes of Scripture repeated in His Incarnate Economy from His conception of His Second Advent, but He also repeats all of the natural stages of humanity as a whole, and the stages of life of each individual human being in particular. In doing so, he reverses the effects of the Fall. As the Second Adam, the entire drama of the Fall is replayed, this time to an opposite conclusion. Instead of a Fall into passions and corruption, mankind in Christ is raised and exalted. Deification and the spiritual life, in other words, are integral components and implications of the doctrine of Recapitulation. By thus repeating, and in some cases reversing, the typological themes of Holy Scripture and the natural laws and stages of humanity, Christ is not only preeminent in all things, but fulfills all Old Testament prophecy and expectation concerning His Coming, there being nothing more that can be said about them outside of and without reference to Christ.”

–Dr. Joseph P. Farrell (+Photios), Introduction to The Disputation with Pyrrhus Of Our Father Among The Saints Maximus the Confessor, p. iii-iv

12 Responses to Pathway to the Truth: the Doctrine of Recapitulation

  1. Rosie says:

    I thank you for your comment.

  2. acolyte says:

    The logoi are plans of action, blueprints if you will, predestinations or predeterminations of what a thing is to be.

    The enrgies are the logoi come to fruition or God actually bringing them about. Energies = activities.

    How’s that for starters?

  3. D-Roc says:

    A question.

    What is the relationship between God’s energies and “logoi”? Are the “logoi” a variation of divine energies?

    My initial thought is that “logoi” are contingent, divergent forms of **expressing** the reality of the Second Hypostasis as “dispositional tendencies”…and that the concrescence of these contingent, divergent forms of expression ARE God’s energies in a particular form.

    I’m probably wrong. Could you please help me understand more?

  4. Seraphim says:

    I would be most appreciative if you could explain in simple terms “how” – based on the definition of “recapitulation” offered – the individual is able to achieve “renewal”? Christ as the second Person of the Trinitarian hypostasis “possess and is all the fullness of the universals common both to deity and humanity”. How do we appropriate them? Is this through the spiritual disciplines – faith, prayer, fasting, virtues, baptism, the sacraments, etc.?

  5. Photios Jones says:

    When you feel especially well you can go read the paper on Nyssa too.

  6. William Ballow says:

    “Try and get your hands on the book above translated by Dr. Farrell.”

    I bought it off Amazon, but those guys are taken their time shipping it to me. I can’t wait until I get my thinking on this straight and I don’t need to take my aspirin before reading your “Synergy in Christ.” 🙂

  7. Dan D says:

    Thanks for sending my regards to Dr. Farrell. I spent some one-on-one time with him back in 2004 when we were both invited to speak at a conference in MS. It turned out to be among the most intellectually stimulating conversations of my life

  8. Photios Jones says:


    Try and get your hands on the book above translated by Dr. Farrell. The Introduction of that book is about that doctrine. Recapitulation as Dr. Farrell states above has many different aspects. One thing to note is that it is also the means by which we are united to Christ. Christ’s baptism becomes the archetype for our baptism. We recontextualize that event for our own life in renewal and repetition. Virtue is actualized; the divine is known. Recapitulation is also a method and technique of recognizing and answering theological questions. It deals with the particular and concrete, which is why it starts with Persons (a Who) and then considers what they do. Once the method is down, one starts to recognize when someone is speculating outside of the patristic phronema. I hint at much of this in my paper on Gregory of Nyssa. Do some digging there and see if you can pick up on it. What are Gregory’s first principles, where does he start from? What are Eunomius’s starting points?


  9. Photios Jones says:

    The Logos is the Second Hypostasis of the Trinity. The logoi are the principles and operations that exist in the Person.

    In a kind of logical order, they exist as a capacity (or power; e.g. the power to create). As actualized by a Person, they subsist as energeiai.


  10. William Ballow says:

    Photius or Perry,

    I started reading Maximus. Could you elaborate on what exactly “Logos” and “logoi” mean for him? (And maybe more on “recapitulation if you have the time.)

  11. Photios Jones says:

    Thank you for stopping by Dr. Dunlap. Let’s just say I’ve unlearned and relearned much from Dr. Farrell. I email him often so I will send the regards.

  12. Dan D says:

    Read your comment over at Al Kimel’s blog: “one, nous, soul.” Good diagnosis!

    My regards to Dr. Farrell, if you happen to cross paths with him. 😉

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