The Imitatio Naturae Christi: A Study of the Imitation of Christ in Kierkegaard's Thought

Dissertation, University of Virginia (1999)

In his later work, Kierkegaard calls for the outward expression of one's Christianity in the imitation of Christ. The purpose of this dissertation is to determine whether imitation of the prototype differs qualitatively or quantitatively from the prototype himself. In order to do this we must determine first whether the human nature of Jesus is qualitatively different from that of an ordinary human or essentially the same. If his human nature is essentially the same as any other human being's, then it is possible to expect activity done in imitation of Christ to be qualitatively the same as the activity of Christ himself. If his human nature is qualitatively different from any ordinary human's, then no ordinary human being can completely imitate Christ in every aspect of existence. This dissertation seeks to determine which of these possibilities is the case according to Kierkegaard. ;We will begin this task with an investigation of the idea of imitation in Christian literature, primarily that of the New Testament. Since Kierkegaard does not systematically develop a Christology, instead adopting the orthodox position of the Christian Church, we must understand what is involved in proclaiming that Christ was both divine and human by looking at the history of that development in the Church. We will then turn to Augustine for an understanding of the Christian anthropology that would have been handed on to Kierkegaard via Luther to set the background for understanding Kierkegaard's own position on what constitutes ordinary human nature. Finally, we will turn to the writings of Kierkegaard himself to see how he understands the humanity of Christ, the humanity of the ordinary human being, and how he defines the imitation of Christ in order to determine whether the difference between the imitator and the prototype is qualitative or merely quantitative as it would be between any two human beings. ;I argue that Kierkegaard believes that Christ's human nature was essentially the same as any other human thus making any difference between the activity of the prototype and that of the imitator merely quantitative, not qualitative
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