One of the most common words to describe salvation until the Middle Ages was deification. Deification describes how someone can by grace become like God. The African Christian Athanasius famously summarized the doctrine by saying, “God became man, so that we could become God.”
Now, the language of “become God” ruffles our feathers today. But these Christians did not mean that we possess God’s being or something like that. They basically meant the same thing that we mean by the word sanctification.
The reason why the language of deification troubles us today is possibly because we divide the human and divine realms sharply in the West. God is up there; we are down here. And there is no connection (see Bart Ehrman, How Jesus Became God, 2014: 3–4). In this paradigm, the term deification seems especially unhelpful and misleading: why say deification if you simply mean that you become like God?
Part of the answer lies in how ancient peoples (including Jews and Greco-Roman peoples) conceived of the divine-human divide. [Read more…] about Greco-Roman Deification as a Possible Backdrop to the Early Christian Doctrine of Deification