Andreas and Matthew,
I think it is a temptation to get bogged down in particular scientific understandings of what Christ did. The focus of the Patristic thought is always soteriological and pastoral not scientific. I think you are both getting bogged down in trying to make a scientific point about how Christ saves us - just the opposite scientific point. ie either focusing on the development of the embryo or it's perfection in Christ as something necessary to salvation.
If we move away from the science and focus on the soteriology - that the Word's advent as a man is what redeems human nature and experience, we will be closer to the mind of the Fathers and in a much better place to understand what they are trying to teach us.
Matthew here is something maybe to think about when we talk about recapitulation
This view originated with Irenaeus
(125-202 AD). He sees Christ as the new Adam, who systematically undoes what Adam did. Thus, where Adam was disobedient concerning God's edict concerning the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Christ was obedient even to death on the wood of a tree. Irenaeus is the first to draw comparisons between Eve and Mary, contrasting the faithlessness of the former with the faithfulness of the latter. In addition to reversing the wrongs done by Adam, Irenaeus thinks of Christ as "recapitulating" or "summing up" human life.^
According to Peter Leithart: In their recent study of patristic interpretation, John O'Keefe and R R Reno ^^ point out that Irenaeus borrows his notion of recapitulation from ancient rhetoric:
Recapitulation is an English form of recapitulans, the Latin translation of anakephalaiosis, which means final repetition, summing up, drawing to conclusion. As a term in rhetoric, it refers to the end of a speech, when the speaker drives home the point with a summary of the strongest arguments
In applying this notion to the life of Jesus, then, Irenaeus is not merely saying that Jesus "repeats" the history of man or of Israel, but that He is "the Father's 'summary statement," as well as the "Logos of the Father, the logic or purpose in and through which the whole divine economy is conceived and implemented." Behind Irenaeus' use, then, is a rhetorical conception of redemptive history as the speech of the Father.
This "summing up" is a spiritual truth that is expressed in different Patristic authors in different ways, just as the perfection of Christ's humanity is expressed in different Patristic authors in different ways.
None of the Fathers try to tie these concepts absolutely to some material and physical aspect of our existence. Yes the idea of a complete body at conception can convey the idea of the perfection of Christ's humanity, and yes the idea of Christ developing as an embryo can convey the idea of recapitulation, but we should not insist that this is the only or necessary way to talk about or understand these things since there is a variety of expressions in tradition.
St Basil himself, comments that the idea of "formed" or "unformed" is not what we should be focusing on. (I can try to find the quote if you like) and St Maximos comments that he is hesitant to put forward his own opinion as formative, allowing for a variety of opinions as long as the basic soteriological point is held to. If the saints themselves who held to varying opinions on this are allowing other variations, why are we so intent on denying the validity of this?
Edited by Anna Stickles, 04 January 2017 - 02:53 AM.