Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology

By Vladimir Kharlamov and Stephen Finlan (editors)

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 the first volume 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.

The second volume offers a variety of innovative approaches to the issue of theosis – the name by which this process of transformation has become known. The interconnections between the theology of deification and the doctrines of the Trinity, Christology, anthropology, protology, hamartiology, soteriology, and eschatology are made manifest in these fascinating new studies.

This two-volume collection provides a wealth of fresh thinking on a topic of considerable interest to modern theologians. It is aimed both at those who are already students of theosis and at those who are looking for an introductory text. It also contains a comprehensive and up-to-date bibliography for those seeking further resources on the theme.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 194 (Volume 1), 296 (Volume 2)


Volume 1  |  Volume 2  |  2 Volume Set

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Vladimir Kharlamov has taught at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Sioux Falls Seminary. He is the author of The Beauty of the Unity and the Harmony of the Whole: The Concept of Theosis in the Theology of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (2009).

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.


Volume 1

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

Volume 2

List of Contributors
Introduction / Vladimir Kharlamov

1. Deification in Jesus’ Teaching / Stephen Finlan
2. The Idea of Deification in the Early Eastern Church / Ivan V. Popov (trans. Boris Jakim)
3. Clement of Alexandria on Trinitarian and Metaphysical Relationality in the Context of Deification / Vladimir Kharlamov
4. Basil of Caesarea and the Cappadocians on the Distinction between Essence and Energies in God and Its Relevance to the Deification Theme / Vladimir Kharlamov
5. Bridging the Gap: Theosis in Antioch and Alexandria / Joel C. Elowsky
6. Theosis, Texts and Identity: the Philokalia (1782) – A Case Study / Paul M. Collins
7. Between Creation and Salvation: Theosis and Theurgy / Paul M. Collins
8. Participation in God: The Appropriation of Theosis by Contemporary Baptist Theologians / Mark S. Medley

Resources for Deification in Christian Theology / Vladimir Kharlamov
Bibliography for Sources Cited in This Volume


Volume 1

Volume 2

Endorsements and Reviews

Volume 1

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

Volume 2

Theosis is back, and it is here to stay – no longer as the focus solely of one stream of the Christian tradition, but as a fully biblical and ecumenical account of salvation. Vladimir Kharlamov, with his colleagues, offers us another volume of significant essays on theosis/deification in the Christian tradition, from the evangelists to contemporary Baptists. They add to the burgeoning literature on the central reality of Christian faith: transformative participation in the very life of the Triune God.
Michael J. Gorman, Ecumenical Institute of Theology, St Mary’s Seminary & University

Vladimir Kharlamov has successfully gathered a lively collection of studies covering foundational aspects of the ancient concept of theosis. The chapters range from the teachings of Jesus and the Fathers, to contemporary attempts to appropriate the notion today (its relevance to the Reformed tradition, its importance to Christian ecology). The book is an exciting example of the energy that still exists in putting the ancient tradition in discussion with the pressing concerns of the world.
Very Revd John A. McGuckin, Nielsen Professor of Ancient & Byzantine Christian History, Union Theological Seminary

Vladimir Kharlamov has assembled a rich and remarkable volume that will offer profound gifts to the church’s theological reflection. Whether one is already a student of the doctrine of theosis or is seeking an introduction to its riches, s/he will do well to take this volume and read it carefully.
Philip E. Thompson, Professor of Systematic Theology & Christian Heritage, Sioux Falls Seminary

Altogether, the volume represents solid and careful scholarship …
Ashish Varma, in Theological Book Review, Vol 24, No 2