Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology (Volume 1)

By Stephen Finlan and Vladimir Kharlamov (editors)

First of two volumes of essays on deification, the process of becoming like God, discussing the biblical and theological development of the concept.

ISBN: 9780227173299


Deification is the transformation of believers into the likeness of God. While Christian monotheism does not support the notion of any literal ‘god making’ of believers, the New Testament often speaks of a transformation of mind, a metamorphosis of character, a redefinition of selfhood, and an imitation of God. Most of these passages are tantalisingly brief, and none spell out the concept in detail.

This idea was very important in the early Church, but it took a long time for one term to emerge as the standard label for the process. Eventually, the great fourth-century theologian Gregory of Nazianzus coined the term “theosis”. Nowadays, theologians use “theosis” to designate all instances where any idea of taking on God’s character or being made divine occurs, even when the term “theosis” is not explicitly used. Quite naturally though, different Christian authors understood deification differently.

While some of the articles in this collection discuss pre-Christian antecedents of theosis, the majority of them focus on specific Christian understandings. Gregory Glazov in particular examines Old Testament covenant theology, with an emphasis on divine adoption, and on bearing the fruit of knowledge or attaining the stature of a tree of righteousness in Proverbs, Isaiah, and Sirach. The article by Stephen Finlan on 2 Peter 1:4 (“You may become participants of the divine nature”) examines the epistle’s apparent borrowings from Middle Platonic spirituality, Stoic ethics and Jewish apocalyptic expectation.

This collection provides a wealth of fresh thinking on a topic of considerable interest to modern theologians.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Stephen Finlan is a research assistant on the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture at Drew University and Adjunct Professor at Seton Hall University. He is the author of The Background and Content of Paul’s Cultic Atonement Metaphors and Problems with Atonement: The Origins of, and Controversy About, The Atonement Doctrine.

Vlandimir Kharlamov teaches at Fairleigh Dickinson University and works as a research assistant on the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture at Drew. He is the editor of a second volume of Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, to be published by James Clarke and Co Ltd in 2012.


Introduction / Stephen Finlan and Vladimir Kharlamov

1. Theosis, Judaism, and Old Testament Anthropology / Gregory Glazov
2. Second Peter’s Notion of Divine Participation / Stephen Finlan
3. Emergence of the Deification Theme in the Apostolic Fathers / Vladimir Kharlamov
4. Deification in the Apologists of the Second Century / Vladimir Kharlamov
5. Irenaeus on the Christological Basis of Human Divinization / Jeffrey Finch
6. Athanasius on the Deifying Work of the Redeemer / Jeffrey Finch
7. Augustine’s Conception of Deification, Revisited / Robert Puchniak
8. Divinization and Spiritual Progress in Maximus the Confessor / Elena Vishnevskaya
9. Reforming Theosis / Myk Habets
10. The Comedy of Divinization in Soloviev / Stephen Finlan

List of Contributors


Endorsements and Reviews

If one were to seek a single volume constituting an up-to-date and learned coverage of the subject, this is the book
J. Robert Wright, General Theological Seminary, in Religious Studies Review

An extraordinary collaboration of scholars examining the neglected theme of deification in the classic Christian tradition from its biblical roots through Irenaeus, Augustine, and Maximus, to contemporary reconstructions of Torrance and Soloviev.
Thomas C. Oden, General Editor, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture

Here is a wonderfully comprehensive and academically careful presentation of theosis from the Bible until Vladimir Soloviev. It is a superb contribution to fresh Christian thinking.
Ellen T. Charry, Princeton Theological Seminary and editor of Theology Today

… a fine collection of essays which reintroduce theosis into the contemporary theological discourse, and compellingly emphasizes its significance for theological and spiritual work … The text is very well written and is a good introduction to the topic and conversation … They have given an excellent overview of what is and is not meant be divinization, its use and emergence within the patristic fathers, and the role it plays in current theological reflection.
Joe McGarry, in Theological Book Review

These twin volumes are a scintillating gift to Christianity’s ongoing revelation in the third millennium. Taste and see that the Lord is good!
Alastair McIntosh, in The Expository Times, Vol 126, No 2

A big achievement of this miscellany is that it offers a good overview of different aspects of the Theosis-Concept in compact manner.
Christoph Muehl, in Theologische Revue, Jahrgang 109, No 4