I have copy and pasted a exert from a old essay I did which summarizes the first 3 chapters of Athanasius’ piece. If we take this early patristic view on original sin and our inherited spiritual corruption, does this not have very real implications on the immaculate conception of mary and Jesus’ incarnation? If Jesus inherited his human flesh from Mary but if she did not have any of the effects of the fall then how could Jesus have saved us all like athanasius points out below?
(exert from essay) “If the theme of Athanasius’ writing in the first 3 chapters had to be summarized in one sentence it would sound something along the lines that Jesus being fully God, assumed a human body in order that in His death He may atone for the deaths of all others, the penalty for which owed its sentence to Adam’s initial transgression. This theme resonates throughout the entire piece, not just the first 3 chapters. Athanasius argues from what seems like a Pauline standpoint on this issue of death, for Paul says that by “one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men” and by the death of His Son we are reconciled to God. It is from this standpoint that Athanasius seems to approach the issue. He says that the commandment given in Genesis 3:19, which warns Adam that if he eats from the tree of knowledge of good and evil he will surely die, and its following breach is what caused mans’ nature to fall into a state of death and corruption. God, being a God of Love, could not allow his creation to continue in this downward spiral of death and corruption, yet he could not go back on his word, this being that death was the penalty for transgression. It would be unthinkable for God to go back on his decree, for He is Truth itself and there is no falsity in God, but at the same time He is all Goodness so he could not let his creation suffer; this would be a limitation on His goodness and totally unfitting of Himself. God laid down the principle that sin leads to death, and He doesn’t lie. The mercy of God is seen not by making Himself a liar, in breaking his decree by providing an alternative but rather through the acceptance of the penalty of death being and then fulfilling the decree Himself. When taking this all into consideration we can then see that the crucifixion reconciles us to God, resetting the balance, in an action that shows His justice and mercy in a single event.
Athanasius is quite clear that this state of death and corruption inherited from Adam is a spiritual condition that changed our very nature. He points out that if it was only a trespass then repentance might cover the blot and bring us back to our initial state, but because the actions of Adam changed our inner nature, bereaving us of His grace that sheaved us with incorruptibility, then repentance will not change anything. Only through death could this ontological crisis be eternally satisfied.
For this soteriological event to occur God Himself had to appear among us in the flesh, for only His death could satisfy the decree. Jesus by nature was immortal and above all, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all. By his death, which would then also be above all other deaths, would be a sufficient exchange for the death of all sinners. The taking on of corruptible flesh was needed preciously because when the Word of God attached Himself to our flesh and sacrificed it to the Father he could restore mans nature back to incorruptibility:
He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word, Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all
As we can see from this statement because the Word (Christ) is “above all” and thus coincidently also implicitly implying His death is also “above all,” His death therefore is sufficient exchange for the deaths of all other sinners. Thus, Christ’s Incarnation and Crucifixion satisfied the decree of Gods Justice on death (brought about by Adam’s sin). It is by the Divine union with the human nature of Christ that His death is able to accomplish this, to take on death for us all:
Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men
So, by the Gods indwelling in the flesh death lost its sting, for men were now clothed in incorruption via the hope and promise of the resurrection to come. ’